Beyond Rome: Universal History and the Barbarian

Peter Van Nuffelen

in Orosius and the Rhetoric of History

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199655274
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745232 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

Beyond Rome: Universal History and the Barbarian

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This chapter addresses two issues. First, it is traditionally stated that the Historiae are a universal history. Although Orosius suggests a universal geographical scope, this should be understood as another technique that helps to suggest the vastness of the suffering in the past. No continuity with earlier forms of universal history can be asserted. Second, it is debated whether Orosius had a positive or negative view of the barbarian invaders. In fact, we should understand that the barbarian functions as a figure of contrast, much as he did in earlier Roman histories. Depending on the context, Orosius can efface the distinction between barbarians and Romans or stylize pagan barbarians as the archenemies of Rome. Both elements help to destabilize the romanocentric view of traditional education.

Keywords: universal history; barbarians; fall of Rome; geography; rhetorical education

Chapter.  6615 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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