Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Paulus Diaconus

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(Paulus Diaconus; also called Casinensis, Levita, and Warnefridi).

Historian, born at Friuli about 720; died 13 April, probably 799. He was a descendant of a noble Lombard family, and it is not unlikely that he was educated at the craft of King Rachis at Pavia, under the direction of Flavianus the grammarian. In 763 we find him at the court of Duke Archis at Benevento, after the collapse of the Lombard kingdom, a monk in the monastery of Monte Cassino, and in 782 in the suite of Charlemagne, from whom he obtained by means of an elegy the release of a brother taken prisoner in 776 in consequence of the Friuli insurrection. After 787 he was again at Monte Cassino, where in all probability he died. His first literary work, evidently while he was still at Benevento, and done at the request of the Duchess Adelperga, was the "Historia Romana", an amplified and extended version of the Roman history of Eutropius, whose work he continued independently in Books XI to XVI, up to the time of Justinian. This compilation, now of no value, but during the Middle Ages diffused in many manuscript editions and frequently consulted, was edited with the work of Eutropius by Droysen in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Auct. antiq. II (1879), 4-2224. Furthermore, at the instance of Angilram, Bishop of Metz, he compiled a history of this bishops of Metz "Liber de episcopis Mettensibus , or Liber de ordine et numero episcoporum in civitate Mettensi , extending to 766, in which he gives a circumstantial account of the family and ancestors of Charlemagne, especially Arnulf (P. L., XCV, 699-722).

The most important historical work which has come down to us from his pen is the history of the Lombards, Historia gentis Langobardorum. Libri VI", the best of the many editions of this work being that of Bethmann and Waitz in Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script. rerum Langobardarum , (1878), 45-187; school ed. (Hannover, 1878); Ger. tr. Abel (Berlin, 1849; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1878); Faubert (Paris, 1603); It. tr. Viviani (Udine, 1826). Despite many defects, especially in the chronology, the unfinished work, embracing only the period between 568 and 744, is still of the highest importance, setting forth as it does in lucid style and simple diction the most important facts, and preserving for us many ancient myths and popular traditions replete with an enthusiastic interest in the changing fortunes of the Lombard people. That this work was in constant use until well into the fifteenth century is evident from the numerous manuscript copies, excerpts, and continuations extant. In addition to these historical works, Paulus also wrote a commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, and a widely used collection of homilies entitled "Homiliarium", both of which have been preserved only in revised form. Several letters, epitaphs, and poems are still extant, and have been edited by Dümmler in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Poetae lat. aevi Carolini", I, 1881.

PATRICIUS SCHLAGER