1st Edition

In Defiance of History Orosius and the Unimproved Past

By Victoria Leonard Copyright 2022
    194 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    194 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume offers a counterbalance to the dismissal that Orosius’s Histories Against the Pagans has suffered in most recent criticism. Orosius is traditionally considered to be a mediocre scholar and an essentially worthless historian. This book takes his literary endeavour seriously, recognizing the unique contribution the Histories made at a crucial moment of debate and uncertainty, where the present was shaped by restructuring the past. The significance of the Histories is recognised intrinsically rather than only in comparison with other texts and authors, principally Augustine of Hippo, Orosius's mentor. The approach of the book is historiographical, exploring the form, purpose, and meaning of the Histories. The themes of divine providence, monotheism, and imperial authority are examined, and the subjects of war and the sack of Rome receive extended analysis. The book foregrounds Orosius's significant historiographical innovations that are seldom explored, such as the subversion of imperial history within a Christian spectrum in the synchronization of the emperor Augustus and Christ. Each chapter contributes to the progression of knowledge about Orosius’s Histories and the wider literary and historiographical culture of disruption that characterised the late fourth and early fifth centuries CE.


    Mark Humphries




    Chapter 1. Orosius as a Writer of History


    Chapter 2. The Making of Time


    Chapter 3. The Emperor and the Divine


    Chapter 4. Apologetics and the Providence of War


    Chapter 5. The Sack of Rome: Christianizing Disaster


    Victoria Leonard is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University, and at the Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Her research focuses on the late antique and early medieval western Mediterranean. She has published on religious conflict, gender and violence, and ancient historiography. Most recently, she co-edited the volume Bodily Fluids in Antiquity with Mark Bradley and Laurence Totelin, which was published by Routledge in 2021.

    Victoria Leonard has written a spirited defense of Orosius’ originality and impact. Deftly combining contemporary theories with close-reading of the Latin text, the book ranges widely, covering topics such as temporality and imperialism. Demonstrating the intellectual efforts needed to come to terms with the disaster of the sack of Rome in 410, it also nicely illustrates the perennial importance of historical narratives to help us make sense of the present.

    Professor Peter Van Nuffelen, Ghent University


    Victoria Leonard's volume is a wise and balanced book, filled with intellectual depth and intensive discussion. Every sentence is well-thought out and clearly formulated. Her analysis of Orosius’ ‘proto-postcolonial’ discourse and its subsequent deconstruction is thought-provoking and inspiring.'

    Dr Maijastina Kahlos, University of Helsinki / Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, The Classical Review


    In Defiance of History is a nicely produced, well-written and welcome addition to the scholarship. Leonard fully succeeds in her aim of demonstrating why the Spanish priest should no longer be dismissed as an inferior writer ... With In Defiance of History, Leonard has thrown down the gauntlet for an ambitiously systematic and wide-ranging exploration of the Histories. We must all now wait patiently, and eagerly, for this gauntlet to be picked up.

    Dr Michael Wuk, University of Lincoln, Al-Masāq