The Histories Against the Pagans of Orosius, written in 416/7, has been one of the most influential works in the history of Western historiography. Often read as a theology of history, it has been rarely been set against the background of ancient historiography and rhetorical practice in the time of Orosius. Arguing for the closeness of rhetoric and historiography in Antiquity, this book shows how Orosius situates himself consciously in the classical tradition and draws on a variety of rhetorical tools to shape his narrative: a subtle web of interextual allusions, a critical engagement with traditional exempla, a creative rewriting of the sources, and a skilled deployment of the rhetoric of pathos. In this way, Orosius aims at opening the eyes of his adversaries; instead of remaining blinded by the traditional, glorious view of the past, he wishes his readers to see the past and the present in their true colours. The book paints a more complex picture of theHistories, and argues against the tendency to see Orosius as a naive apologist of the Roman empire. In fact, he can be shown to put the Church at the heart of view of Roman history. Setting Orosius in the context of contemporary historiography and literature, it sheds new light on the intellectual life in the early fifth century AD.
Peter Van Nuffelen is research professor at Ghent University, Belgium. His work focuses on Greco-Roman religion and the history and historiography of late Antiquity. Recent publications include the monograph Rethinking the Gods. Philosophical Readings of Religion in the Post-Hellenistic Period (Cambridge, 2011), two edited volumes with S. Mitchell, Monotheism in Late Antiquity Between Christians and Pagans (Leuven, 2010) and One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire (1-4th cent. A.D) (Cambridge, 2010), and the co-edited volume Episcopal Succession in Late Antiquity (Berlin, 2011).
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