This article investigates the characterization of women in Orosius' Historiae adversus paganos, a subject long overlooked. The Historiae enjoyed great popularity among medieval and renaissance scholars, and the way in which Orosius portrayed women had lasting literary influence. The representation of women as exempla is also intrinsically tied into the historiographical and biographical traditions of classical Latin literature, requiring examination of both Orosius' text and the classical influences that shape his work. This article begins by analyzing selected representations of women in Orosius' Historiae and then use these representations as a focus to explore his adaptation of the classical tradition.

Paulus Orosius (c.385 CE–c.420 CE) composed his Historiae adversus paganos between 416–17 CE, outlining the history of the world's disasters.2 His work was designed to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian present over the pagan past as a counter to the criticism of Christianity which arose following the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 CE. Orosius composed his opus at the direction of Augustine, and states, in 7.43.19, that he has “set down the lusts and punishments of sinful [presumably pagan] men” as per the instruction of Augustine. To this end, he begins his history, midway through Book 1 and following a prologue and detailed geography of the Mediterranean, with Ninus, the first king of the Assyrians, who introduced war into the world “out of lust for power” (dominationis libidine).3 But the lust of Ninus, he adds, was surpassed by that of his wife.4 While Orosius' writing has been explored in diverse ways including his theology,5 his connection with Augustine and Jerome,6 and his use of geography,7 scholarship on his portrayal of women is not exhaustive.8 This is hardly surprising given that, in his seven books of Historiae, Orosius mentions women in only 105 passages, either individually or as part of a group, compared with well over 1000 similar references to men. In the majority of cases, the women are connected to the virtue of the men with whom they associate, serving to amplify their characterization. To the reader of ancient texts, Orosius' incorporation of these female exempla seems to be adapting methodologies from classical Roman historiography.9 In particular, there is evidence that he was strongly influenced by the popular and widely read biographer Suetonius. While modern scholars have focused on his adaptation of Suetonius' characterization of Nero,10 Orosius' use of broader Suetonian themes has been overlooked. Suetonius adhered to the long-standing traditions of biography and infused his text with female examples who reflected the character of men.11 In addition, Suetonius employed the sexual proclivities of an emperor as a reflection of the way in which they used, and abused, power,12 a theme picked up by Orosius. These issues of women, sexuality, and the historiographical/biographical tradition are inevitably and inextricably linked. Thus, in this article, I begin by investigating Orosius' uses of women, focusing on those that he casts as reflections of the character of men. I then explore what his portrayal of female exempla reveals about his historiographical approach. This reveals a subtlety in Orosius' approach that has often been overlooked.

Any analysis of women within Orosius' Historiae must take into account the overarching message and themes of the broader work, which is apologetic in nature. In his defense of Christianity following the sack of Rome in 410 CE, Orosius offers an interpretation of history as evidence of divine providence. Core to this is Orosius' entwined perception of the Roman empire and the development and spread of Christianity. Unlike Augustine, Orosius is committed to the continuation of the Christian Roman Empire.13 For Orosius, the pax of the Roman Empire is the means by which Christianity is able to flourish. This peace is based on the stability of the empire, which is supplemented by the unity of people under Christian faith.14 Orosius' Christian peace does not reflect the traditional Roman concept as victorious subjugation of the State's enemies,15 but broadens the concept to include conversion and integration into the Christian faith. History, therefore, is a narrative of disunity between peoples until the circumstances of their conversion bring them into unity with the divine.

Debates regarding the role of women in the Christian church took place within the context of wider discussions that sought to systematize Christian beliefs and their social manifestations.16 Women had taken prominent positions with the Church hierarchy, and female patronage was important for male advancement, providing “financial, intellectual, and moral support.”17 Philanthropy became, therefore, as much a feminine virtue as piety, chastity, and modesty.18 Attitudes towards women were not overly positive, however, as they received praise and blame, honor and disparagement from Church Fathers who were still grappling with longstanding, authoritative views (e.g. Aristotle)19 that openly denied the faculty of reason to women and therefore the ability to make ethical decisions.20 It is also important to remember that this perception of the role of women comes to us through texts written almost exclusively by male authors who were imbued in pagan rhetorical education. Their representations of women are therefore largely literary constructs, utilizing certain themes and following certain conventions.21 In this context, the identification of law and custom as masculine and nature as feminine,22 combined with what Dixon refers to as the “sincere horror” of female power,23 continued a gendered discourse on leadership and power during Late Antiquity and beyond. This debate is particularly palpable in Orosius' Historiae.


Gallego Franco's analysis of women in Orosius identified key themes that serve as a useful starting point. She categorizes the depictions of women as active, in that they themselves were the driving force in shaping their lives, or passive, at the mercy of male relatives.24 Active women are either praised for their possession of masculine virtues or condemned as an unnatural intrusion into the public world of men, tainted by the weaknesses of their sex.25 Women Gallego Franco identifies as passive were, for the most part, victims, as the target of sexual desire by powerful men, as collateral damage or bereaved in the power games of men, or as the ones, with children, most likely to suffer during war and other calamities.26 Although Gallego Franco makes a distinction between mythical and historical women, such a distinction can be seen as anachronistic. The women Orosius includes in his work are all part of the antique historiographical tradition. Whether they were real or not is not an important consideration for understanding Orosius' usage. As Eigler argues, the memory of the past cannot be separated from the literary tradition.27 While Gallego Franco correctly concludes that the role of women was secondary,28 her claim that they were used to conceal the errors and weaknesses of celebrated men,29 as I demonstrate below, overlooks the role they play as a reflection of the character of those same men.

Orosius uses the capture of female relatives to reflect on the weaknesses of male rulers. In his portrayal of Darius III of Persia, the capture of the female members of Darius' family by Alexander the Great is a sign of the Persian king's weakness. He had brought his mother, his sister-wife, and at least two of his daughters with him to the battle at Taurus and had proceeded to leave them behind when he fled.30 For Orosius, this symbolized the inevitable fall of the Persians to Alexander. The captivity of Darius' female relatives is extended beyond Darius' death, as Orosius notes that Alexander kept Darius's female relatives “in cruel captivity” (crudeli captivitate retinebat).31 In contrast, Justin, Orosius' source for these events, mitigates the failure of Darius. In his account, Alexander reassures the captive women not only that he does not intend to kill them, but that he will find suitable husbands for Darius' daughters.32 By omitting Alexander's reassurance from his account, Orosius emphasizes the consequences of Darius' failings. Similarly, Ariovistus, leader of the Suebi, is portrayed by Orosius as fleeing from Caesar, leaving his wives and daughters to be captured.33 Here Orosius departs from his source more boldly.34 In Caesar's account, only one daughter was captured, while both wives and his other daughter were slain.35 By changing these details, Orosius is able to emphasize the cowardice of Ariovistus, who deserts his living female relatives to save himself. Orosius also reports that Narseh, the Sasanian ruler of Armenia,36 fled from Galerius, leaving his sisters in addition to his wives and children.37 Orosius emphasizes the flight of Narseh, using “driving to flight” (fugam acto), highlighting the weakness of the Armenian king, while his source, Eutropius, refers to the king's defeat (pulso).38 In each of these cases, the kings traveled to war accompanied by their womenfolk, indicating a dependence and arrogance in the ruler. The poor character of the kings is then further highlighted by their flight, indicating cowardice, and their inability to keep their female relatives safe denotes a corresponding inability to rule. In each instance, the capture of these women is followed by the defeat of the male relative who abandoned them.

Orosius also uses sexuality to comment on the character of a ruler, including several instances of incest. The removal from power of the incestuous ruler becomes a theme in his work. Darius, who as mentioned above, was married to his sister, is defeated by Alexander and then left for dead by his own people.39 In the case of Ptolemy,40 Orosius states that he committed an act “more disgraceful than taking [her] in marriage” (in matrimonium receptam … turpius quam)41 by going on to divorce her and marry her daughter, his step-daughter and niece.42 Combined with the murder of his own sons and the son of his brother, Ptolemy's actions led to rebellion and his exile.43 The depravity of Caligula is emphasized when Orosius accuses him of committing incest with his sisters before ordering their exile and, later, their deaths. Soon after issuing this order, he is killed by his bodyguards.44 Although Orosius does not explicitly link these events, their proximity in his narrative of Caligula is suggestive, implying that the order to kill those in exile provoked the deadly response. Similarly, the vices of Nero are emphasized by his relationships with his mother, his sister, and unnamed men.45 In each of these relationships, only Nero is named, emphasizing his excesses and downplaying the role of his partners. The sexual immorality of Nero is just one of the reasons that, according to Orosius, the last Julio-Claudian emperor was declared an enemy by the Senate and committed suicide while fleeing Rome.46 In each of these cases, incest is used to reflect the sexual immorality of the ruler which, in turn, reflects the tyranny of their reign. Orosius uses incest as an indicator of uncontrolled and excessive emotion as a character weakness evidenced through sexual immorality47 to engage with the classical debate regarding the decline of Rome. In this debate, luxuria, associated with civilizations of the East, combined with unbridled ambitio and avaritia, had led to the fall of the Roman Republic.48 By drawing on this debate, Orosius is able to suggest that the demise of these weak kings is part of the natural order of the world, as ordained by God. This sexual immorality of their leadership creates instability which in turn leads to their overthrow.

Not all the relationships described by Orosius are incestuous in nature. Among the references to women, 11 of the 105 passages serve the purpose of establishing the genealogy or family connections of the men. Rather than indicating instability, these women symbolize potential stability. Theodora, for example, appears as the step-daughter of Maximian Herculius and wife of Constantius.49 In this, she serves to legitimize the promotion of Constantius to Caesar by creating a familial connection between him and Maximian Herculius, the newly promoted Augustus. In the case of marriages, the women are used to establish a peaceful relationship between their male relatives and their new husbands. In this way, Olympias is introduced as the wife of Philip of Macedon, and the sister of Aruba, King of Molossia.50 This marriage appears to reflect well on Aruba, who, Orosius claims, desired an alliance with Philip that he believed was sealed by the marriage.

The stability initiated by these marriages can be undermined by their husband's intentions. Orosius gives the motives of Aruba an imperial slant, changing the phrase “increase his kingdom” (regni incrementa)51 in his source to “enlarging his empire” (imperium … dilataturum).52 This suggests that Aruba was motivated by greed, rather than a desire for peace. The marriage also reflects poorly on Philip, who proceeded to take the kingdom of Molossia from his brother-in-law and send him into exile.53 Here Orosius emphasizes the betrayal by Philip through the insertion of “deceived” (deceptus). In this case, the motives of both men were questionable, but it is the devious actions of Philip that are highlighted. Similarly, Augustus is married to Antony's stepdaughter, who remains unnamed by Orosius, as “a pledge of friendship and reconciliation” (ob fidem reconciliatae gratiae).54 This is the only reference to a marriage for Augustus, giving the impression that he maintained his commitment to a peaceful alliance. The implied stability in his personal life is a reflection of his ability to rule. In contrast, Orosius states of Fulvia, Antony's wife and Augustus' mother-in-law, that “[she] acted with arrogance” (insolesceret agebatur)55 and openly attacks Augustus despite their family connection.56 As Antony's wife, her actions reflect the arrogance Orosius attributes to Antony. A few passages later, Antony, now married to Octavia, divorces Augustus' sister as a starting point for conflict.57 In this case, the marriage serves the opposite purpose — the dissolution of marriage reflects shattered codes of honor and male friendship leading to war.

Antony's failure to remain married also reflects on his potential as a ruler. His inability to maintain the stability of his home reflects a corresponding inability to maintain the stability of the state—he is unfit to rule.58 The actions of Fulvia and Antony reflect poorly against the implied conduct of Augustus, whom we are to appreciate as the better choice for the Roman people, an icon of political determination and a paragon of social stability. Orosius also describes the capture and marriage of Placidia by Athaulf, kinsman of Alaric, during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths, as an act of peace. He states that she acted “as a hostage and, as it were, a special pledge of goodwill” (speciale pignus obsidem).59 Through this marriage, peace developed between Rome and her attackers. In these cases, the women act as mediators of peace, reinforcing the bond between their father or brothers and their husband. This in turn mirrors the commitment of their husbands or relatives to maintaining a peaceful relationship, at least at the time of the marriage.

In addition to promoting peace through marriage, Orosius also uses the mistreatment of women to explain the cause of war. As found in other classical histories,60 Orosius thus positions women as scapegoats for male violence. For example, the war between Messena and Sparta began, according to Orosius, when young women of Sparta were “spurned at a solemn Messenian sacrifice” (propter spretas virgines suas in solemni Messeniorum sacrificio).61 The insult to their daughters provided the Spartans with an excuse to attack their neighbors with “untiring fury” (indefesso furore).62 Orosius' use of “spurned” (spretas) suggests that the daughters were rejected, which differs from the reasoning of his source, Justin, who follows Pausanias, and claims that the girls were raped.63 By changing rape to rejection, Orosius is able to suggest that the Spartans were driven by their passions—the girls by lust and the men by “fury” (furore). These uncontrolled emotions were the underlying cause of the war and highlight the problems associated with this form of weakness.

A similar situation is described by Orosius at the foundation of Rome, when Romulus and his followers took the Sabine women after he had “seduced [the Sabines] by making a treaty and holding games” (foedere ludisque pellexerat),64 leading to war with the Sabines lead by Titus Tatius.65 The abduction of the Sabine women is also symbolic of the character of Romulus. Orosius portrays the founder of Rome as a tyrant, reporting his actions as “cruelty” (crudelitas) (2.4.1) and “criminal” (nefarie) (2.4.5). His reign begins with the violent “seized power” (arripuit imperium),66 and continues with establishing a city from which “external and civil wars mixed together would never be absent” (mixta simul externa civiliaque bella numquam defutura).67 Orosius explains that Romulus and his followers feared that peace would result in “shameful want and dismal famine” (egestas turpis atque obscena fames).68 Combined with the abduction of the Sabine women, this presents an image of Rome's founder suffering from insatiable greed, in keeping with the traditional portrayal of the tyrant.

The treatment of women as evidence of tyranny is also evident in Orosius' recount of the end of the Roman monarchy, which is brought-about by the rape of Lucretia. Again, rape is used to reflect not only the start of a conflict, in this case between the king and his aristocracy, but also the tyrannical nature of the ruler who committed the assault. Orosius explains that Tarquinus Superbus “held onto [his kingdom] through his cruelty towards his citizens, lost it through the shameful rape of Lucretia” (habita in ciues crudelitate detentum, flagitio adulteratae Lucretiae amissum).69 The cruelty displayed by Tarquinus, combined with his inability to protect an aristocratic woman, demonstrates his inability to rule, and leads to his overthrow. Orosius uses the mistreatment of women to reflect the tyrannical characters of Rome's first and last kings.

Orosius also portrays the actions of men provoking violence in the women around them. Following the example of her husband, Ninus, the first king of the Assyrians, Semiramis is the first woman included by Orosius in his Historiae. She learned from her husband's example and continued to expand the boundaries of her kingdom.70 Just as Ninus acted from a “lust to spread his power abroad and lived a bloodstained life” (volunt propagandae dominationis libidine arma foras extulit cruentamque vitam),71 Semiramis was “ablaze with lust and thirsting for blood” (libidine ardens sanguinem sitiens).72 Orosius omits the notable actions which garner praise for this queen in his source, such as the construction of Babylon,73 so to present the rule of Semiramis as one of uncontrolled passion. The excess with which Orosius portrays the queen's rule reflects on her husband, highlighting Ninus' lack of leadership through his wife's lack of control.

Orosius' origins of the Amazons also arise from the actions of men. These women had followed their husbands into exile from Scythia.74 They had then been widowed by the neighbors whom their husbands were raiding. Maddened by grief, they took up arms and became warlike.75 Orosius summarizes their origins, stating “O the sorrow caused by the shame of men's errors! Women, who were exiles from their own land, invaded, passed completely through, and laid waste to Europe and Asia” (Pro dolor, pudet erroris humani. Mulieres patria profugae Europam atque Asiam, id est plurimas fortissimasque mundi partes, intrauerunt peruagatae sunt deleuerunt).76 He clearly places responsibility for the warlike behavior of the Amazons on their husbands and the king who exiled them. Just as the behavior of Semiramis became more extreme than that she had learned from her husband, so too do the Amazons take the violent behavior of their husbands to new extremes. Their actions are equally driven by their emotions. It is their grief and desire for revenge that ultimately leads them to violence. Thamyris of the Scythians, similarly, is inspired by grief. After being tricked by Cyrus into an ambush and losing her son, she is described as assuaging her grief “with the blood of the enemy” (sanguine hostium).77 Thamyris proceeds to use tactics learned from the actions of Cyrus against the invading Persian king and defeats him. She then places his head in a wine-skin full of blood to admonish his thirst for blood and violence.78 These violent reactions to male action highlight the behavior of the men who provoke them through their extreme recreation, and also emphasize the emotional reactions to which women were seen as prone. This excessive emotion meant that leadership by women created a greatly unstable government.

Orosius reflects the ferocity and courage of “barbarian” tribes in his depiction of their women. When the Tigurini and Ambrones were defeated by Marius, their women attempted to negotiate their capture in order to preserve their chastity, demonstrating “a firmness of spirit” (constantiore animo) that Orosius, at first glance, appears to have admired.79 When the Romans refused, the women murdered their children before killing themselves. In a similar situation, the women of the Cimbri and Teutones continued to fight the Romans following the defeat of their men and were able to defend their position.80 When the Romans began scalping the women they were able to capture, the rest of the women turned their stolen swords on their children before killing themselves.81 Again, the women of the Cherusci, Sueves, and Sygambri would continue to fight against the Romans once their men had been defeated.82 These women would not only kill their own children to prevent their capture by their enemy but would then use the corpses of the children as weapons, flinging them at the advancing Romans. The willingness of these women to continue fighting and, when faced with defeat, to commit filicide presents their different peoples as fierce and violent.

Orosius includes references to women who, in themselves, inspire actions from the men around them through their bravery. Orosius reports that Cloelia moved Rome's enemies to admire her by “boldly crossing the river” (transmeati fluminis audacia), ensuring Rome's continued freedom.83 He assumes his audience will know the story of Cloelia, who, during Rome's war against Porsenna of the Etruscans, having been handed over as a hostage, escaped with numerous other girls and swam back to Rome across the Tiber.84 In the account of Florus, Orosius' source, the bravery of Cloelia is a final demonstration of the outstanding virtus of Rome which convinces Porsenna to leave the Romans free.85 Cloelia, as recounted by Orosius, therefore, is used to reflect the bravery of Roman men and the weakness of the Etruscan king who allowed a girl to escape. Artemidora, also known as Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus, is also portrayed possessing manly virtue by Orosius at the Battle of Salamis, who indicates that she motivated her troops by fighting so fiercely on the front line that “it seemed roles were reversed, for feminine caution was seen in the man and a masculine daring in the woman” (ut uersa uice in uiro feminea cautela, in femina uirilis audacia spectaretur).86 Orosius closely follows Justin's account of the Battle of Salamis, who similarly states “in the man womanly fear, so in the woman manly daring” (in uiro muliebrem timorem, ita in muliere uirilem audaciam cerneres).87 Artemidora's bravery is used in juxtaposition with her male counterpart, Xerxes, whom Orosius and Justin describe as fighting at the rear of the army. They have included the brave queen to highlight the effeminate and weak character of the Persian king. In these examples, the physical bravery of the women, arising from their masculine virtues, reflects a lack of similar virtue in the men, creating the impression of effeminate leadership.

With the arrival of Christianity, Orosius also portrays women who inspired through their innate Christian characters. Queen Helena of Adiabene, having converted to Christianity, “generously ministered” (largissime ministrauit) by importing grain from Egypt to feed Christians enduring famine in Syria.88 The actions of Helena reflect the arrival of Christianity in Rome at the start of the reign of Claudius. Orosius testifies to the impact of the new faith in Rome through the actions of the new emperor, who acted with “great clemency” (magna … clementia).89 This divine grace is further attested by Claudius' campaign in Britain. Orosius explicitly quotes Suetonius, stating that “in the words of Suetonius Tranquillus—within a few days he received the surrender of most of the island without having fought a battle and without any blood being shed” (verbis Suetoni Tranquilli loquar—sine ullo proelio ac sanguine intra paucissimos dies plurimam insulae partem in deditionem recepit).90 While Suetonius is disparaging of Claudius' British campaign, which he describes as “restrained” (modicum), Orosius uses the ease of Claudius' conquest as further evidence of divine providence.91

The intervention of Helena in the famine in Jerusalem is further evidence, for Orosius, of the rise of Christianity during the reign of Claudius. Placidia, whose marriage to Athaulf ended the Visigoth invasion of Rome, positively influenced her new husband through her “keen intellect and clear religious virtue” (ingenio acerrimae et religione satis probae).92 As we have seen, the capture of female relatives is usually incorporated to demonstrate the cowardice and weakness of a male ruler. Orosius casts Placidia's capture as “divine justice” (diuino iudicio),93 and it serves as a further step to the universal peace of a universal Christian empire. This negates any suggested weakness on the part of her brothers, Honorius and Arcadius, emperors of the West and East respectively. The selfless actions of these women were, for Orosius, a reflection of the divine providence provided by God. They had improved the lives of others and Orosius sets them up as role models for Christian virtue.

From this survey, we can see that Orosius uses female characters to highlight the innate nature of the men and society with whom he associates them. This is true for individual women, such as Semiramis, whose lusts and bloodthirstiness reflect the character of her deceased husband, Ninus,94 or Artemidora, whose bravery in battle is used to highlight the opposite characteristic in Xerxes as he fights from behind his troops.95 Orosius also applies this strategy when incorporating groups of women. In this way, the fierceness and brutality displayed by the women of various Gallic and German tribes highlights the ferocity and violence of the men.96 Similarly, the capture of multiple female relatives highlights the arrogance and ineffectiveness of their male counterparts.97 Even the apparent notable Christian exceptions are in fact used to reflect on the nature of men. The charity of Helena of Adiabene highlights the impact of Christianity's arrival in Rome,98 and the capture of Placidia during the sack of Rome99 is mitigated by her immediate marriage to Athaulf. Although Orosius incorporated women into his Historiae, they served as a characterization device, rather than as figures of importance in their own right.


Orosius' sources have been extensively explored in modern scholarship, and this paper does not set out to recreate this research.100 Instead, I focus on what Orosius' use of women reveals about his historiographical approach. It is important to remember that Orosius himself was a product of his time, deeply entrenched in the contemporary social, historical, and educational standards,101 both pagan and Christian. He expected his work to be read by his patron, Augustine. As such, when adapting his examples, he expected this widely read Christian scholar to recognize not only his sources, but also his adaptation of them. Key sources for his Historiae include Cicero, Justin, Suetonius, and Virgil. In his portrayal of women, he sometimes quotes his source verbatim. For example, in his account of Darius, Orosius directly records the phrases of Justin. In Orosius 3.16.8–9 we read: “In it, both kings, Alexander and Darius, were wounded. For a long time the battle hung in the balance, until finally Darius fled and then the Persians were slaughtered On this field, 80,000 infantrymen and 10,000 cavalrymen were slaughtered, and another 40,000 were captured. On the Macedonian side 130 infantry and 150 cavalry fell. A great quantity of gold and other riches were discovered in the Persian camp. Among those captured were Darius' mother, his wife who was also his sister, and two of his daughters” (in qua ambo reges et Alexander et Darius uulnerantur, ac tam diu certamen anceps fuit, quoad fugeret Darius; exinde caedes Persarum secuta est. ibi tum peditum LXXX milia, equitum X milia caesa, capta autem XL milia fuere. ex Macedonibus uero cecidere pedites CXXX, equites CL. in castris Persarum multum auri ceterarumque opum repertum. inter captiuos castrorum mater et uxor eademque soror et filiae duae Darii fuere). Justin (11.9.9–11) writes “Soon after a battle was fought with great spirit. Both kings were wounded in it. The result remained doubtful until Darius fled, when there ensued a great slaughter of the Persians, of whom there fell sixty-one thousand infantry and ten thousand horse, and forty thousand were taken prisoners. On the side of the Macedonians were killed a hundred and thirty foot and a hundred and fifty horse. In the camp of the Persians was found abundance of gold and other treasures; and among the captives taken in it were the mother and wife, who was also the sister, of Darius, and two of his daughters” (Post haec proelium ingentibus animis committitur; in eo uterque rex uulneratur; tam diu certamen anceps fuit quoad fugeret Darius. exinde caedes Persarum secuta est. caesa sunt peditum sexaginta unum milia, equitum decem milia; capta XL milia; ex Macedonibus cecidere pedestres CXXX, equites CL. in castris Persarum multum auri ceterarumque opum inuentum. inter captiuos castrorum mater et uxor eademque soror et filiae duae Darii fuere).102 These quotations show deliberation and careful selection. The quote from Justin, for example, is redacted from a longer section and Orosius deliberately omits the lines which follow, in which Alexander shows mercy and compassion for Darius' female relatives. Instead, Orosius expounds Alexander's ongoing “cruel captivity” (crudeli captivitate),103 emphasizing the utter failure of Darius to protect his relatives. Similarly, Orosius' account of Ariovistus is summarized from Caesar's account and the details are embellished to include the capture, rather than the death, of his wives and daughters.104 This creates a parallel with the earlier capture of Darius' family and implies a similarity in the depth of the failure of both men.

Orosius not only carefully selects and incorporates exact quotations for his representation of women, but he is also willing to distort his sources through deliberate word changes. In his account of the First Messenian War, he writes “Twenty years before the foundation of the City, the Lacedaemonians waged war against the Messenians because their young women had been spurned at a solemn Messenian sacrifice. They fought for 20 years with untiring fury, entangling all of Greece in their ruin” (Anno XX ante urbem conditam Lacedaemonii contra Messenios propter spretas virgines suas in solemni Messeniorum sacrificio, per annos uiginti indefesso furore bellantes, ruinae suae totas Graeciae uires inplicuerunt).105 Orosius' source for this account is again Justin, who in turn draws on Strabo's version. Justin's account is slightly different. He writes that “Under such a state of manners, the city acquired, in a short time, such a degree of strength, that, on going to war with the Messenians for offering violence to some of their maidens at a solemn sacrifice of that people, they bound themselves under a severe oath not to return till they had taken Messene, promising themselves so much either from their strength or good fortune” (His igitur moribus ita breui ciuitas conualuit ut, cum Messeniis propter stupratas virgines suas in solemni Messeniorum sacrificio bellum intulissent, grauissima se execratione obstrinxerint, non prius quam Messeniam expugnassent reuersuros, tantum sibi uel de uiribus suis uel de fortuna spondentes).106 Orosius changes the tone of the episode completely by replacing the verb “rape” (stupratas) with “scorned” (spretas). The account of Justin gives the rape of the young women as a cause of war, and places the Spartans in the position of legitimate avengers of their women's stolen chastity. Through his verb change, Orosius places the Spartans in the wrong, provoked into war because the Messenians refused the advances of their daughters. Orosius does not limit his inclusion of classical sources to direct quotations. At times, the similarity of phrase and account can be used to extrapolate a knowledge of his sources. This is particularly evident throughout his account of the Julio-Claudians, which draws heavily on Suetonius.107 Elsewhere, Orosius combines his sources to strengthen his narrative focus. In Orosius' account of the Sabines, for example, he combines Virgil's108 portrayal of events with the account of Augustine.109 As Van Nuffelen notes,110 Orosius uses this combination of sources to demonstrate that Rome was built on a foundation of parricide and rape. Orosius has used the repetition and adaptation of traditional Roman literary practice.111 In this way, Orosius uses careful selection of sources, deliberate distortion of the works, and well thought out combinations to emphasize his Christianized view of history.

Orosius composed his narrative following the tradition of classical Roman historiography. Like the Roman historians before him, Orosius focuses on conflict to make his point.112 At this time, there was little to distinguish between Christian and Roman historiography other than a shift towards Christian values. In this, he reveals the influence of Christian views, which regarded history as a reflection of divine providence.113 Good rulers and continuing empires arise, for Orosius, from the will of God. By employing traditional historiographical practices, Orosius uses the traditional purpose of history, to educate the reader through exempla,114 to demonstrate the superiority of Christian historiographical practice, which he promotes as more accurate.115 Orosius' use of women also fits the Roman historiographical practice. For traditional historiography, the appearance of women represented a transgression of public and private space.116 This is also evident in Orosius, as women repeatedly move into the public sphere. Some of these transgressions were linked to the private role of women, such as when the Spartan and Scythian wives' concern with children prompts the return of their husbands from war.117 Elsewhere, the move into the political domain is prompted by the death of their male kin. Semiramis, for example, inherits her husband's role upon his death,118 and the Amazons form in the wake of their husbands' murders.119 Orosius uses transgressions into the political and public arena, unmotivated by a connection to the private sphere, to demonstrate the inability of women to rule.

Orosius' meticulous use of his sources highlights his extensive education, and suggests that, at some point, he had studied rhetoric. Roman historiography had long been influenced by rhetoric,120 and Orosius employs rhetorical devices in the Historiae, particularly in his use of exempla.121 This is the role attributed to the majority of women in Orosius' work. Artemidora of Halicarnassus appears to provide an example of a positive pagan woman. Her bravery in battle is admired by the Persian army in Orosius' account. Her example reflects poorly on Xerxes, who fights from the rear rather than leading the troops. As a result, Artemidora does not act as an exemplum for women, but rather is used to create a negative portrayal of the Persian ruler. In contrast, Queen Helena of Adiabene and Placidia both serve as positive role models in their own right. These women are both Christian, and through their portrayal, Orosius promotes the positive Christian ideal. With Helena, Orosius presents the Christian virtue of charity, as she provides food for those in need.122 The actions of the queen of Adiabene are placed in the fourth year of the reign of Claudius. It is to the start of Claudius' reign that Orosius connects the establishment of Christianity in Rome, with the arrival of the apostle Peter.123 Orosius' account of the emperor is marked by episodes that reveal the divine grace of Claudius' reign, such as his bloodless conquest of Britain,124 which Orosius places in the same year as the famine in the East. Turning to more recent events, which prompted his writing, Orosius provides his account of Galla Placidia, the sister of the emperors Honorius and Arcadius, daughter of Theodosius I. Placidia had been captured by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I, in the sack of Rome in 410 CE, was taken by them to Gaul and married Alaric's successor, Athaulf, in 414 CE.125 Their union is presented as an element of the alliance between Honorius and the Visigoths. Orosius adjusts the timeline of these events, placing Placidia's marriage soon after her capture. By sacrificing herself to a pagan marriage, Placidia, according to Orosius, secured the safety of the city. In this way, she displayed the virtue of the martyr, accepting her fate to ensure the future of her people. Later, Orosius highlights her keen intellect and religious virtue,126 claiming these qualities as Christian. Orosius, therefore, portrays Christian women in power, using their influence to improve the lives of the people.

Negative exempla are far more common. Throughout the Historiae, Orosius portrays female rulers as unchaste and more violent than their male counterparts. Semiramis, the first woman to appear in the work, is described as possessing “her husband's spirit,” taking on the appearance of his son, and as “ablaze with lust and thirsting for blood.”127 For Orosius, her reign was a period of war and misery. The Amazons are depicted as exterminating their neighbors before sleeping with foreigners for the sake of offspring and slaughtering any sons they had borne.128 These women “passed completely through, and laid waste to Europe and Asia.”129 In this way, Orosius depicts the dangers of female power in the absence of appropriate male models.

Orosius' use of women also reflects his understanding of the rhetorical concept of the tyrant or weak ruler. In fact, Orosius highlights this approach in the closing passage of his Historiae, where he states that he has set down “the lusts and punishments of sinful men, the conflicts of the present age and the judgements of God” (cupiditates et punitiones hominum peccatorum, conflictationes saeculi et iudicia Dei).130 Orosius frequently uses traditional language associated with tyranny to portray the “lusts and punishments” of both male and female characters.131 In his portrayal of Ninus and Semiramis, he applies libido and crudelitas to both characters. Both are driven by their lust, as he describes the libidine which drove Ninus to war,132 and depicts Semiramis as libidine ardens.133 Orosius stresses the impact that their lust inspired violence created, stating that “at that time hunting down and slaughtering peoples who lived in peace was a more cruel and serious matter than it is now” (quod eo tempore ideo crudelius grauiusque erat quam nunc est, persequi et trucidare populos in pace uiuentes).134 In this way, from the beginning of his characterization of women, they are associated with the portrayal of tyranny.

As we've seen, the women portrayed by Orosius are used to highlight the nature of the men with whom they are associated. This form of indirect characterization, common to traditional historiography,135 is influenced by Orosius' reading of Suetonius, who also uses women to reflect on the character of the emperors.136 Orosius employs the connection, established by Suetonius,137 between the personality of the ruler and their administration of the state. This is clear, for example, in his portrayal of Antony, further influenced by Cicero's Philippicae.138 Orosius' Antony is unable to control his wife, Fulvia, who “acted with arrogance towards those who had worked to allow her to assume her arrogant position” (in eos insolens, per quos ut insolesceret agebatur).139 Similarly, Cicero portrays Fulvia as “more lucky for herself than for her husbands.” She was putting up to auction provinces and kingdoms; exiles were being restored in guise of law but without law” (sibi felicior quam viris auctionem provinciarum regnorumque faciebat; restituebantur exules quasi lege sine lege).140 In both accounts, Antony is ruled by his wife. Cicero further portrays Antony as [having] always been dragged where lust, where humor, where frenzy, where intoxication, has dragged him” (semper eon tractus est, quo libido rapuit, quo levitas, quo furor, quo vinulentia).141 This is picked up in Orosius' portrayal when Antony divorces Octavia and immediately calls for another woman, Cleopatra,142 implying that he cannot live without a woman. In these ways, the sexual excesses and inability of an individual to maintain one's household was tied to his ability to rule effectively.

Orosius follows Suetonius in the use of sexual excesses as evidence of a tyrannical, unjust, and ineffective leader. A clear example of this appears in their respective negative portrayals of Nero. Suetonius goes into great detail regarding the sexual depravities of Nero, depicting the young emperor as selecting lovers from among taboo groups—free-born boys, married women, and even a Vestal Virgin.143 He goes on to recount the marriage of Nero to Sporus, whom he treated as a wife,144 and to the freedman Doryphorus, whom he treated as a husband.145 Suetonius also introduces the incestuous desire of Nero for his mother, Agrippina the Younger,146 an inclination inherited from his father, who had been charged with incest with his sister, Domitia Lepida, under Tiberius.147 Orosius paints a similar image of Nero. The sexual excess of this emperor goes further than the incest of his uncle, Caligula, and extends to homosexual relationships.148 This sexual immorality is a major cause of the emperor's downfall.149 Gallego Franco rightly notes that the use of sexuality to portray ineffective leadership extends beyond sexual practices to the adoption of feminine gender roles. Men who are portrayed in the activities or attitudes of women are presented as particularly corrupt and ineffective.150


Orosius' use of women reveals a more subtle and nuanced approach than he is generally credited. Modern scholars have often disparaged Orosius' work as superficial, calling his use of sources sloppy, his recounting of facts unimpressive, and have criticized his lack of objectivity and use of rhetoric.151 For these reasons, Rohrbacher argues that Orosius only possessed “the rudiments of a classical education.”152 More recently, however, this criticism has been challenged. Van Nuffelen has pointed out that the poor opinion of Orosius is based on two problematic premises—that his optimism appears misplaced to the hindsight that views this period as the fall of the Roman Empire, and that his Historiae is treated as theology, rather than history, and negatively contrasted with the arguments of Augustine.153 It has been rightly argued that historical works should be examined as histories,154 and Van Nuffelen himself focuses largely on Orosius' rhetorical approach within the historiographical tradition. His study reveals Orosius' rhetorical education,155 and it is important to keep this context in mind when analyzing the work.156 Exploring his use of women has revealed a subtle manipulation of his source material. This is the result of careful selection of quotations and word replacements that shift the meaning of the passages. This implies purposeful and thoughtful use of the source material. The Historiae, therefore, is the result of a careful engagement with and manipulation of Roman historiography.

Orosius' portrayal of female characters in his history emulated and expanded on the literary techniques employed by classical authors, particularly in his portrayal of the rhetorical tyrant. By exploring this work in light of Roman and Christian historiography, and its rhetorical influences, rather than as a theological text, Orosius' use of women highlights a continuity of thought regarding feminine nature—as overly emotional, prone to excess and unsuitable for public life. Regardless of their characterization, however, women serve a similar purpose in the narrative, as a reflection of their male counterparts and society. In this, the influence of Suetonius is suggested. As Pryzwansky argues, Suetonius, following the example of Pliny, used imperial women to “illuminate male subjects.”157 In a similar way, the women in Historiae are used to reflect the virtues of the men. This is particularly evident in the portrayal of Fulvia, whose arrogance and disregard for familial connections reflect similar attributes in Antony. Orosius, however, expands on this previously biographical approach by using groups of women to reflect on their peoples, as the fierceness of the women of “barbarian” tribes reflects the fierceness of the Germanic and Gallic peoples. This suggests that Suetonius had a deeper and more lasting impact on Christian historiography than previously considered.



This paper developed from a presentation at the Australasian Society for Classical Studies annual conference in 2018. I would like to thank Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides, as well as the reviewers and editors, for their ongoing support and feedback on this paper.


It is often debated in scholarship if the Historiae should be read as a universal history. For arguments in favor, see K. Clarke, “Universal Perspectives in Historiography,” in The Limits of Historiography: Genre and Narrative in Ancient Historical Texts, ed. C. Shuttleworth Kraus (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 277; B. Croke, “Late Antique Historiography, 250–650 CE,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, ed. J. Marincola (Blackwell Publishing, 2017), 545–547, 550–552, doi:10.1002/9781405185110.ch57; A. Mehl, Roman Historiography: An Introduction to its Basic Aspects and Development, trans. H.-F. Mueller, (Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2011), 232; D. Woods, “Late Antique Historiography: A Brief History of Time,” in A Companion to Late Antiquity, ed. P. Rousseau (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009), 357–358, 369–371, doi:10.1002/9781444306101.ch24, challenged by P. Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 170–174, doi:10.1093/acprof.oso/9780199655274.001.0001; and “Theology versus Genre? The Universalism of Christian Historiography in Late Antiquity,” in Historiae Mundi: Studies in Unversal History, ed. P. Liddel and A. Fear (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010), 162–175.


Oros. 1.4.1, ed. M.-P. Arnaud-Lindet, Histoires (Contre les païens), 3 vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1990–1991). Translation based on that of A. T. Fear (Liverpool 2010).


Oros. 1.4.4–5.


V. Leonard, “The Origin of Zealous Intolerance: Paulus Orosius and Violent Religious Conflict in the Early Fifth Century,” Vigiliae christianae 71 (2017): 261–284, doi:10.1163/15700720–12341304; G. W. Trompf, Early Christian Historiography: Narratives of Retributive Justice (London: Continuum, 2000), 292f; Van Nuffelen, “Theology versus Genre?” 162–175.


M. I. Allen, “Universal History 300–1000: Origins and Western Development,” in Historiography in the Middle Ages, ed. D. Mauskopf Deliyannis (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 26; A. T. Fear, “Introduction,” in Orosius, Seven Books against the Pagans, Translated Texts for Historians (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010), 1–6; M. Á. R. Navarro, “Historiadores y poetas citados en las Historias de Orosio: Livio y Tácito, Virgilio y Lucano,” Fortunatae 2 (1991): 277–286, (accessed 27 Mar. 2017); I. W. Raymond, “Introduction,” in Orosius, Seven Books of History against the Pagans: The Apology of Paulus Orosius, ed. I. W. Raymond, Records of Civilization: Sources and Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), 3–5; Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 3.


E. Edson, “Maps in Context: Isidore, Orosius, and the Medieval Image of the World,” in Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Fresh Perspectives, New Methods, ed. R. J. A. Talbert and R. W. Unger (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 219f., doi:10.1163/ej.9789004166639.i-300.22; M. Kominko, “The Map of Cosmas, the Albi Map, and the Tradition of Ancient Geography,” Mediterranean Historical Review 20, no. 2 (2005): 172–174, doi:10.1080/09518960500481057; A. H. Merrills, History and Geography in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 35f.


H. Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua: De Orosio a Isidoro de Sevilla,” Hispania antiqua 28 (2004): 197–222, (accessed accessed 3 Jun. 2019); H. Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua: Las ‘Historias contra los paganos’ de Orosio.” Habis 36 (2005): 459–479, (accessed 3 Jun. 2019). For a detailed bibliography of women in ancient Rome, see N. Criniti, “Donne di Roma antica: bibliografia ragionata,” Ager veleias, 12, no. 14 (2017): 1–37.


Mehl, Roman Historiography, 229.


L. Lefebvre, “Réécrire l'histoire: l'utilisation du matériau suétonien par un historien chrétien, Orose,” Latomus 72 (2013): 492–501; D. Slingerland, “Suetonius Claudius 24.4, Acts 18, and Paulus Orosius' Historiarum Adversus Paganos Libri VII: Dating the Claudian Expulsion(s) of Roman Jews,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 83 (1992): 127–144, doi:10.2307/1455110.


For a detailed exploration of Suetonius' use of imperial women, see M. M. Pryzwansky, “Feminine Imperial Ideals in the Caesares of Suetonius” (PhD diss., Duke University, 2008).


E. Anagnostou-Laoutides and M. B. Charles, “Galba in the Bedroom: Sexual Allusions in Suetonius' ‘Galba,’” Latomus 71 (2012): 1077–87; M. B. Charles and E. Anagnostou-Laoutides, “Unmanning an Emperor: Otho in the Literary Tradition,” The Classical Journal 109 (2013–2014): 199–222, doi:10.5184/classicalj.109.2.0199; M. B. Charles and E. Anagnostou-Laoutides, “The Sexual Hypocrisy of Domitian: Suet., Dom. 8, 3,” L'Antiquité classique 79 (2009): 173–187, (accessed 5 Sept. 2014)


H.-W. Goetz, “Orosius und die Barbaren: Zu den umstrittenen Vorstellungen eines spätantiken Geschichtstheologen,” Historia 29, no. 3 (1980): 367–369, (accessed 3 Jun. 2019).


Goetz, “Orosius und die Barbaren,” 359.


W. C. Greene, “Some Ancient Attitudes Towards War and Peace,” The Classical Journal, 39 (1944): 513; A. Parchami, Hegemonic Peace and Empire: The Pax Romana, Britannica and Americana (New York: Routledge, 2009), 19–23; J. W. Rich, “Augustus, War and Peace,” in Augustus, ed. J. Edmondson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 137–164; P. de Souza, “Parta Victoriis Pax: Roman Emperors as Peacemakers,” in War and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History, ed. P. de Souza and J. France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 76–106.


I. J. Elmer and W. Mayer, “Reading Men and Women in the Early Christian Centuries,” in Men and Women in the Early Christian Centuries, ed. W. Mayer and I. J. Elmer, Early Christian Studies 18 (Strathfield: St Pauls Publications, 2014), 9–10.


J. M. Ferrante, “Women's Role in Latin Letters from the Fourth to the Early Twelfth Century,” in The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women, ed. J. Hall McCash (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 1996), 74.


L. James, Empresses and Power in Early Byzantium (London: Leicester University Press, 2001), 11–12; B. Neil, “An Introduction to Questions of Gender in Byzantium,” in Questions of Gender in Byzantine Society, ed. B. Neil and L. Garland (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 4; K. Wilkinson, Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2015), 1–3, doi:10.1017/CBO9781139343343.


Aristotle, for example, claims that “the male is superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject” (Arist. Pol. 1.1254b, trans. H. Rackham in Aristotle in 23 Volumes [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1944]). To quote Wood, “the influence of Aristotelian biology on Christian theology can hardly be underestimated” (H. Wood, “Feminists and Their Perspectives on the Church Fathers' Beliefs Regarding Women: An inquiry,” Verbum et ecclesia 38, no. 1 [2017)]: a1692, doi:10.4102/ve.v38i1.1692). For Aristotle's reception in Late Antiquity, see further H. J. Blumenthal, Aristotle and Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity: Interpretations of the De Anima (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), esp. 7f.; D. T. Runia, “Festugière Revisited: Aristotle in the Greek Patres,” Vigilae christianae 43, no. 1 (1989): 1–34; L. P. Schrenk, ed., Aristotle in Late Antiquity (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1994); A. Smith, Philosophy in Late Antiquity (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).


E. A. Clark, Women in the Early Church (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1983), 15; E. O'Gorman, “A Woman's History of Warfare,” in Laughing with Medusa, ed. V. Zajko and M. Leonard (Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online, 2010), 191–193, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199237944.003.0008; A. Richlin, “Julia's Jokes, Galla Placidia, and the Roman Use of Women as Political Icons,” in Stereotypes of Women in Power: Historical Perspectives and Revisionist Views, ed. B. Garlick, S. Dixon, and P. Allen, Contributions in Women's Studies, Number 125 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992), 66.


E. A. Clark, “The Lady Vanishes: Dilemmas of a Feminist Historian after the ‘Linguistic Turn’”, Church History 67 no. 1 (1998): 14–30, (accessed 21 Oct. 2019); S. Dixon, “Conclusion—The Enduring Theme: Domineering Dowagers and Scheming Concubines,” in Stereotypes of Women in Power: Historical Perspectives and Revisionist Views, ed. B. Garlick, S. Dixon, and P. Allen, Contributions in Women's Studies, Number 125 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992), 209–225; L. James, “Ghosts in the Machine: The Lives and Deaths of Constantinian Imperial Women,” in Questions of Gender in Byzantine Society, ed. B. Neil and L. Garland (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 112; Neil, “An Introduction,” 4–5; Richlin, “Julia's Jokes, Galla Placidia, and the Roman Use of Women,” 66; Wilkinson, Women and Modesty, 12–13.


G. McLaughlin, “The Logistics of Gender from Classical Philosophy,” in Women's Influence on Classical Civilization, ed. F. Mchardy and E. Marshall (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 7, doi:10.4324/9780203209653.


Dixon, “Conclusion,” 210.


Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua,” 202–205; Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 461–474.


Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua,” 205–208; Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 467–474.


Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua,” 202; Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 461–466.


U. Eigler, Lectiones vetustatis: römische Literatur und Geschichte in der Spätantike (Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2003), 266.


Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua,” 197, 201; Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 461.


Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 479.


Oros. 3.16.8–9.


Oros. 3.17.7.


Just. Epit. 11.9.15–16, ed. M.P. Arnaud-Lindet, Paris 2003 (trans. J.S. Watson, London 1853).


Presumably following Ariovistus' defeat at the Battle of Vosges in 58 BCE. Oros. 6.7.7.


Although Orosius claims to be epitomizing the account of Suetonius (Oros. 6.7.2), the biographer makes no reference to Ariovistus or the fate of his family. As neither Dio (Cass. Dio. 38.34–50) nor Plutarch (Plut. Vit. Caes. 19.5) refer to Ariovistus' family in their accounts, it seems likely that he was incorporating these details from Caesar's own account.


Caes. BG 1.53 (trans. H. J. Edwards, Cambridge 1919).


For an overview of Narseh's reign, see T. Daryaee, “The Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE)” in The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, ed. T. Daryaee (Oxford University Press, 2012), 191–194, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199732159.013.0008; M. Kia, The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016), 220–21, 233–36.


Oros. 7.25.11.


Eutrop. Brev. 9.25 (trans. Rev. J. S. Watson, London 1853).


Oros. 3.17.6.


Given the dating provided by Orosius, which places these events around 130 BCE, it seems likely he is referring to Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II. Orosius conflates a number of events from Ptolemy VIII's reign into this single year.


Oros. 5.10.6.


Oros. 5.10.6–7.


Oros. 5.10.7.


Oros. 7.5.9.


Oros. 7.7.1–2.


Oros. 7.7.13.


The link between sexual immorality and effeminacy would have been apparent in Orosius' sources, particularly Suetonius. See Anagnostou-Laoutides and Charles, “Galba in the Bedroom,” 1077–87; Charles and Anagnostou-Laoutides, “Unmanning an Emperor,” 199–222; Charles and Anagnostou-Laoutides, “The Sexual Hypocrisy of Domitian,” 173–187.


A. Erskine, “Hellenistic Monarchy and Roman Political Invective,” The Classical Quarterly 41 (1991): 115–20, (accessed 19 Apr. 2019); B. Levick, “Morals, Politics, and the Fall of the Roman Republic,” Greece & Rome 29 (1982): 53–55, (accessed 19 Apr. 2019); A. Wallace-Hadrill, “Pliny the Elder and Man's Unnatural History,” Greece & Rome 37 (1990): 85–88, (accessed 19 Apr. 2019).


Oros. 7.25.5. This is in keeping with Orosius' potential sources for the tetrarchy, Jerome and Eutropius. See Jer. Ab Abr. 2300, Eutrop. Brev. 9.22.


Oros. 3.12.8.


Just. Epit. 7.6.12.


Oros. 3.12.8.


Oros. 3.12.8.


Oros. 6.18.8.


Oros. 6.18.17.


Oros. 6.18.17–18.


Oros. 6.19.4.


There is a similarity between the Antony of Orosius and the Antony found in Cicero's Philippicae. See infra n. 137 and n. 138.


Oros. 7.40.2. For the diplomatic role of Galla Placidia, see A. Becker-Piriou, “De Galla Placidia à Amalsonthe, des femmes dans la diplomatie romano-barbare en Occident?,” Revue historique 310, no. 3 (2008): 507–543. She notes the temporary peace that this relationship created between the Goths and the Romans. While the reality may be that this peace was based on the hopes of Athaulf for the legitimacy and kinship ties of his future children, as Becker-Piriou argues, Orosius suggests that it is the presence of Galla Placidia herself that creates peace with the Gauls. As Leonard argues, the historical accounts of Galla Placidia's marriage supress the “reality” of her experience as a war captive, forcibly wed by her captor. See V. Leonard, “Galla Placidia as ‘Human Gold’: Consent and Autonomy in the Sack of Rome, CE 410,” Gender & History 31, no. 2 (2019): 334–352. For this article, a stereotypical and symbolic interpretation is followed. See further M. Harlow, “Galla Placidia: Conduit of Culture?” in Women's Influence on Classical Civilization, ed. F. McHardy and E. Marshall (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 138–139, doi:10.4324/9780203209653.


O'Gorman, “A Woman's History of Warfare,” 193.


Oros. 1.21.3.


Oros. 1.21.3.


Just. Epit. 3.4.1; Paus. 4.4.2.


Oros. 2.4.5.


Oros. 2.4.2, 5–6.


Oros. 2.4.3.


Oros. 2.4.4.


Oros. 2.4.8.


Oros. 2.4.12.


Oros. 1.4.4–5.


Oros. 1.4.1.


Oros. 1.4.7.


Orosius' source for Semiramis is Just. Epit. 1.2.1–10, which he largely quotes.


Oros. 1.15.1.


Oros. 1.15.2. He faithfully follows the account provided by Just. Epit. 2.4.


Oros. 1.16.1.


Oros. 2.7.1–4.


Oros. 2.7.4–6. He here follows the account of Just. Epit. 1.8.


Oros. 5.16.13.


Oros. 5.16.17.


Gallego Franco (“Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 477) argues that this was in response to the disfiguring nature of the death and is reflective of the vanity of women. While this is plausible, the deciding factor may also be related to the Roman virtue of suicide in the face of inevitable defeat, rather than endure a shameful humiliation.


Oros. 6.21.17.


Oros. 2.5.3.


The story of Cloelia comes to us from Flor. 1.4.10, Livy 2.13.6–11, and Val. Max. 3.2.2.


Flor. 1.4.10.


Oros. 2.10.3.


Just. Epit. 2.12.23.


Oros. 7.6.12.


Oros. 7.6.3–4.


Oros. 7.6.10. He is quoting Suet. Claud. 17.2.


Oros. 7.6.11.


Oros. 7.43.7.


Oros. 7.40.2.


Oros. 1.4.1–4.


Oros. 2.10.3.


Cimbri and Teutones: Oros. 5.16.17; Cherusci, Sueves, and Sygambri: Oros. 6.21.17; Tigurini and Ambrones: Oros. 5.16.13.


Ariovistus: Oros. 6.7.7; Darius: Oros. 3.16.8–9; Narseus: Oros. 7.25.11.


Oros. 7.6.12.


Oros. 7.40.2.


Through his connection with Augustine and Jerome, Orosius had access to extensive classical works, as both men were widely read and kept their own libraries. For Augustine's sources, see J. J. O'Donnell, “Augustine's Classical Readings,” Recherches augustiniennes 15 (1980): 145–175; D. Shanzer, “Augustine and the Latin Classics,” in A Companion to Augustine, ed. M. Vessey (Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2012), 161–174. For Jerome's sources, see E. F. Rice Jr., Saint Jerome in the Renaissance (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University, 1985), 19. For Orosius' sources, see M.-P. Arnaud-Lindet, “Introduction,” in Orose: Histoires (Contre les Païens), Vol. 1 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1990), xxv-xxix; Fear, “Introduction,” 15; H.-W. Goetz, Die Geschichtstheologie des Orosius (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980), 25–30; A. Lippold, “Introduction,” in Orosio. Le storie contro i pagani, Vol. 1 (Libri I-IV), ed. A. Bartalucci and A. Lippold (Milan: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1976), xxvi-xl; Navarro, “Historiadores y poetas citados en las Historias de Orosio,” 277–286.


Goetz, “Orosius und die Barbaren,” 357.


Just. Epit. 11.9.9–12


Just. Epit. 11.9; Oros. 3.16.8–9, 17.7.


Caes. BG 1.53; Oros. 6.7.7.


Oros. 1.21.3.


Just. Epit. 3.4.1.


The similarity of Orosius' account of Nero has been well documented by Slingerland, “Suetonius Claudius 24.4, Acts 18, and Paulus Orosius' ‘Historiarum’”, 127–144, and Lefebvre, “Réécrire l'histoire,” 492–501.


Verg. Aen. 8.635–654 (trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, revised by G. P. Goold, Cambridge, 2002).


August. Ciu. 3.13 (trans. G. E. McCracken, Cambridge 1957).


Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 56–57.


G. Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 173–175; E. O'Gorman, “Intertextuality and Historiography,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 236, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.015.


As Marshall and McHardy note, the traditional focus of the ancient historian, both modern and classical, has been politics and warfare (E. Marshall and F. McHardy, “Introduction,” in Women's Influence on Classical Civilization, ed. E. Marshall and F. McHardy [London and New York: Routledge, 2004], 1, doi:10.4324/9780203209653). Mehl notes that Orosius' work is a “universal history of wars and even more the atrocities of wars” (Mehl, Roman Historiography, 232). For the role of conflict in traditional Roman historiography, see also J. Connolly, “Virtue and Violence: The Historians on Politics,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 189–194, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.012; Mehl, Roman Historiography, 9–17.


Goetz notes that the main different between Roman historiography and Orosius' work is one of interpretation (Goetz, Die Geschichtstheologie des Orosius, 17). See also Croke, “Late Antique Historiography,” 548–549; Woods, “Late Antique Historiography,” 360–363.


A. Foucher, Historia proxima poetis: l'influence de la poésie épique sur le style des historiens latins de Salluste à Ammien Marcellin, ed. C. Deroux and J. Dumortier-Bibauw, vol. 255, Collection Latomus (Bruxelles: Latomus Revue d'études, 2000), 89–90; M. Roller, “The Exemplary Past in Roman Historiography and Culture,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 214–215, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.014.


A. Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 84–85; Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History. 92–93.


K. Milnor, “Women in Roman Historiography,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 277, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.018.


Spartans: Oros. 1.21.4; Scythians: Oros. 1.14.4.


Oros. 1.4.4.


Oros. 1.15.1–2.


As Eigler notes, in antiquity, history and literature are not separable (Eigler, Lectiones vetustatis, 266–267) and Woodman views classical historiography as a rhetorical genre (A. J. Woodman, Rhetoric in Classical Historiography: Four Studies [London: Croom Helm, 1988], 197). See further E. A. Clark, History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 157–178; C. Damon, “Rhetoric and Historiography,” in A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, ed. J. M. Hall and W. Dominik (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 439–450; Foucher, Historia proxima poetis, 255, 22–23; A. Laird, “The Rhetoric of Roman Historiography,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 197–213, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.013; Mehl, Roman Historiography, 19–22.


Orosius' use of rhetoric has been extensively explored in Van Nuffelen's Orosius and the Rhetoric of History.


Oros. 7.6.12.


Oros. 7.6.2.


Oros. 7.6.9–11.


PLRE 2 Aelia Galla Placidia 4, Athaulfus.


Oros. 7.43.7.


Oros. 1.4.4, 7.


Oros. 1.15.2–3.


Oros. 1.16.1.


Oros. 7.43.19.


The language of tyranny has been traced by Dunkle. See J. R. Dunkle, “The Greek Tyrant and Roman Political Invective of the Late Republic,” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 98 (1967): 151–171, doi:10.2307/2935871; J. R. Dunkle, “The Rhetorical Tyrant in Roman Historiography: Sallust, Livy and Tacitus,” The Classical World 65 (1971): 12–20, doi:10.2307/4347532.


Oros. 1.4.1.


Oros. 1.4.7.


Oros. 1.4.6.


L. V. Pitcher, “Characterization in Ancient Historiography,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, ed. J. Marincola (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2017), 90–93, doi:10.1002/9781405185110.ch8.


See note 11.


P. Stadter, “Biography and History,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, ed. J. Marincola (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2017), 509, doi:10.1002/9781405185110.ch54.


On the reception of Cicero's work, see A. M. Gowing, “Tully's Boat: Responses to Cicero in the Imperial Period,” in The Cambridge Companion to Cicero, ed. C. Steel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 233–250, doi:10.1017/CCO9781139048750.018; S. MacCormack, “Cicero in Late Antiquity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Cicero, ed. C. Steel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 251–305, doi:10.1017/CCO9781139048750.019.


Oros. 6.18.17.


Cic. Phil. 5.4.11, ed. G. Manuwald, Berlin-New York 2012 (trans. W.C.A. Ker, Cambridge 2001).


Cic. Phil. 6.2.4.


Oros. 6.19.4.


Suet. Ner. 28.


Suet. Ner. 28.


Suet. Ner. 29.


Suet. Ner. 28.


Suet. Ner. 5.


Oros. 7.7.2.


Oros. 7.7.13.


Gallego Franco, “Modelos femeninos en la historigrafía hispana tardoantigua,” 205; Gallego Franco, “Mujer e historiografía cristiana en la Hispania tardoantigua,” 476–477.


Arnaud-Lindet calls Orosius “mediocre” (“Introduction,” xxi) and comments on his lack of objectivity (xxxii-xxxiii). Marrou claims that Orosius imitates Augustine's flaws, and expands on them (H. I. Marrou, “Saint Augustin, Orose et l'augustinisme historique,” in La storiografia altomedievale, tomo primo [Settimane di Studio 17] [Spoleto: Presso la Sede del Centro, 1970], 77) and Straub calls Orosius a political journalist rather than a scholar (J. Straub, Regeneratio imperii: Aufsätze über Roms Kaisertum und Reich im Spiegel der heidnischen und christlichen Publizistik [Dramstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1972], 263). See also D. Rohrbacher, The Historians of Late Antiquity (London: Routledge, 2002), 138, 149. Van Nuffelen provides and overview of these criticisms (Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 1–6).


Rohrbacher, The Historians of Late Antiquity, 135.


Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 2–5.


J. E. Lendon, “Historians without History: Against Roman Historiography,” in Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, ed. A. Feldherr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 42–43, doi:10.1017/CCOL9780521854535.004; Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 6.


Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History, 43–44.


Goetz notes that Orosius is deeply rooted in the society of his time (“Orosius und die Barbaren,” 347), and this applies to his educational background as well. Lendon also notes the importance of the context of time and genre (“Historians without History,” 43).


Pryzwansky, “Feminine Imperial Ideals,” 39.