Paul the Deacon

Paul the Deacon
(ca. 720–799)
   Paul the Deacon was a Lombard chronicler originating from a noble family in Friuli in northern Italy. His father,Warnefrid, sent him to the royal court of Ratchis of Pavia for his education, and later he lived at the court of Duke Archis of Benevent (763), until he joined the convent of St. Peter near Civate on the Lake Como. In about 780, he entered the Benedictine convent of Monte Cassino. In 782, Paul secured his brother Arichis’s release from prison—he had rebelled against Charlemagne—by means of an elegy dedicated to Charlemagne, who subsequently invited him to his court. Paul stayed in Francia from 781 until 784 or 785 and composed a history of the bishops of Metz for the king (Liber de episcopis Mettensibus, or Liber de ordine et numero episcoporum in civitate Mettensi), along with a collection of homilies, or sermons. In 785, he returned to Monte Cassino, where he continued with the composition of important chronicle accounts and religious narratives.
   In 787, he began with the work for which he is most famous today, the Historia gentis Langobardorum (History of the Langobards), which provides a chronological overview of the years 568 until 744. He based his chronicle on both oral and written sources, and included a number of Langobardian legends. The large number of extant manuscripts and excerpts (more than 100 still exist today) demonstrates that Paul enjoyed a wide-reaching popularity with his detailed and well-written chronicle. Shortly before 774, Duchess Adalperga of Benevent commissioned him to continue the Historia Romana (Roman history) originally written by Eutropius (d. ca. 610), taking the reader from the emperorship of Valentinian I (364–375) to the times of Emperor Justinian (527–565). Both here and in his Historia Langobardorum, Paul places particular emphasis on the role that women played in history. Paul also wrote a vita of Pope GREGORY THE GREAT (590–604), a commentary of the Rules of St. Benedict, an account of miracle narratives concerning St. Benedict, a collection of homilies (Homiliarium), grammatical studies, riddles, epigrams, poetry, and letters.
   ■ Goffart,Walter. The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988.
   ■ Paul the Deacon. History of the Lombards. Translated by William Dudley Foulke. 1907. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.
   ■ ———. Pauli Historia Langobardorum. Edited by Ludwig Bethmann and Georg Waitz. 1878. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1987.
   ■ ———. Pauli Historia Romana. Edited by Hans Droysen. 1879. Munich: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 1978.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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