The Old English Orosius
: Writing an Anglo-Saxon History of the World

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Old English Orosius (OE Orosius) shares a significant relationship with the fifth-century Latin Historiarum adversum paganos libri septem (Historia) by Paulus Orosius – its principal source of information. But the OE Orosius is also an Anglo-Saxon history of the world on its own terms. This thesis aims to examine, firstly, how the OE Orosius is engaged actively with the historiography and historicity of the Historia and, secondly, how humans of temporal and geographical distance from Anglo-Saxon England are conceptualized. I approach the OE Orosius as a product of an Anglo-Saxon culture that is broadly conceived, considering the intersections of classical influences, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon reception that can be located within the text. Each chapter of this thesis uses a different methodology to ‘read’ the OE Orosius. Chapter 1 interprets the geographical description of the first chapter of the text as a cartographical framework for Anglo-Saxon perspective, knowledge and historiography. Chapter 2 focuses on the role of gender in the establishment of models, bysena, and the movement of power, translatio imperii, using three parallels from the text (Ninus of Assyria and Semiramis and the Amazons, King Cyrus of Persia and the Scythian Queen Thamyris, Babylon and Rome) to appreciate how world and Roman history are rewritten according to Anglo-Saxon hindsight. Chapter 3 addresses how the ‘Matter of Rome’ is negotiated in the OE Orosius through representations of materiality, subject matter and materials. In Chapter 4, I use the theories of queer time and entanglement to explore responses to paganism in the schemes of Christian cosmology and world history. The arguments that are woven through my chapters add to our understanding of the OE Orosius as a piece of historiography. They might also contribute to our knowledge of the historical consciousness of the late Anglo-Saxons.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSarah Salih (Supervisor) & Clare Lees (Supervisor)

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