Seven Books of History against the Pagans

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Seven Books of History against the Pagans. By Paulus Orosius. Translated with an introduction and notes by Andrew T Fear. [Translated Texts for Historians, Vol. 54.] (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Distributed by the University of Chicago Press. 2010. Pp. viii, 456. $3995 paperback. ISBN 978-1-84631-239-7.)

In Paulus Orosius's Historia adversus paganos (c. 418 AD) we possess the only universal history surviving intact from the ancient Greco-Roman world, its narrative starting from Adam himself and ending with the Visigoth king Vallia in 415.To have this monumental work well translated, introduced, and annotated is a timely boon, and not only for historians of antiquity but also for classicists and patrologists.We should not let the previous English translator of the Historia go unappreciated, for Roy Deferrari, who rendered a version for the series The Fathers of the Church that he edited, was surely one of the great Catholic educators of the twentieth century and a brilliant Latinist. But Deferrari completed his account later in life (attempting to better Irving Woodward Raymond's efforts in the 1930s), and Andrew T. Fear's translation is tighter, coming also with a more up-to-date knowledge of research into later antiquity that the newly prestigious series Translated Texts is meant to purvey.

For every name mentioned in the text, readers are provided with short biographical notes or directions to a relevant prosopographic entry, and with most place names clarifications are provided (often with cross-references to mentions in other ancient authors). Whenever Orosius cites his sources or they can be traced, the relevant details are provided, and occasionally one finds incisive comments on his idiosyncratic interpretations. It is not as if Fear were the first to attempt this- and perhaps attention should have been given to Enrique Gallego-Blanco 's and also Rodrigo Furtado's prior forays into this exercise, in Spanish (1983) and Portuguese (2000) respectively- yet the English result is more accomplished. The end product shows the benefits of the massive (largely Anglophone) industry in researching late-antique history over the last half-century. …