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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 157. Paul the Deacon.


I. Paulus Winfridus Diaconus: Opera omnia in Migne, Tom. XCV., col. 413–1710. Editions of Paul’s separate works: Historia Langobardorum in: Monumenta Germanicae historica. Scriptores rerum langobardorum et italicarum. Saec. VI.-IX. edd. L. Bethmann et G. Waitz, Hannover, 1878, pp. 45–187. Historia romano in: Monum. Germ. Hist. auctor. antiquissimor. Tom. II. ed. H. Droysen, Berlin, 1879. Gesta episcoporum Mettensium in: Mon. Germ. Hist. Script. Tom. II. ed. Pertz, pp. 260–270. Homiliae in: Martène et Durand, Veterum scriptorum collectio, Paris, 1733, Tom. IX. Carmina (both his and Peter’s) in: Poetae latini aevi Carolini, ed. E. Dümmler, Berlin, 1880, I. 1. pp 27–86. Translations: Die Langobardengeschichte, übertsetzt Von Karl von Spruner, Hamburg, 1838; Paulus Diaconus und die übrigen Geschichtschreiber der Langobarden, übersetzt von Otto Abel, Berlin, 1849.

II. Felix Dahn: Paulus Diaconus. I. Abtheilung, Leipzig, 1876. Each of the above mentioned editions contains an elaborate introduction in which the life and works of Paul are discussed, e.g. Waitz ed. Hist. pp. 12–45. For further investigations see Bethmann: Paulus Diaconus’ Leben und Schriften, and Die Geschichtschreibung der Langobarden, both in Pertz’s “Archiv der Gesellsch. für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde.” Bd. X. Hannover, 1851; Bauch: Ueber die historia romana des Paulus Diaconus, eine Quellenuntersuchung, Göttingen, 1873; R. Jacobi: Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus, Halle, 1877; and Mommsen: Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus in: Neues Archiv der Gesellsch. für ältere Geschichtskunde, Bd. V. pp. 51 sqq. Du Pin, VI. 115–116. Ceillier, XII. l141–148. Ebert, II. 36–56.


Paul the Deacon (Paulus Diaconus), the historian of the Lombards, was the son of Warnefrid and Theudelinda. Hence he is frequently called Paul Warnefrid. He was descended from a noble Lombard family and was born in Forum Julii (Friuli, Northern Italy), probably between 720 and 725. His education was completed at the court of King Liutprand in Pavia. His attainments included a knowledge of Greek, rare in that age. Under the influence of Ratchis, Liutprand’s successor (744–749), he entered the church and became a deacon. King Desiderius (756–774) made him his chancellor,10671067    Fabricius in Migne, XCV. col. 413 and entrusted to his instruction his daughter Adelperga, the wife of Arichis, duke of Benevento. In 774 the Lombard kingdom fell, and Paul after residing for a time at the duke’s court entered the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. There he contentedly lived until fraternal love led him to leave his beloved abode. In 776 his brother, Arichis, having probably participated in Hruodgaud’s rebellion, was taken prisoner by Charlemagne, carried into France, and the family estates were confiscated. This brought the entire family to beggary.10681068    . Ebert, l. c. p. 37.

Paul sought Charlemagne; in a touching little poem of twenty-eight lines, probably written in Gaul in 782, he set the pitiful case before him10691069    Migne, l c. col. 1599, Carmen VIII. cf. lines 9, 10:
   “Illius in patria conjux miseranda per omnes

   Mendicat plateas, ore tremente, cibos.”
and implored the great king’s clemency.

He did not plead in vain. He would then at once have returned to Monte Cassino, but Charlemagne, always anxious to retain in his immediate service learned and brilliant men., did not allow him to go. He was employed as court poet, teacher of Greek, and scribe, and thus exerted great influence. His heart was, however, in his monastery, and in 787 he is found there. The remainder of his life was busily employed in literary labors. He died, April 13, probably in the year 800, with an unfinished work, the history of the Lombards, upon his hands.

Paul was a Christian scholar, gentle, loving, and beloved; ever learning and disseminating learning. Although not a great man, he was a most useful one, and his homilies and histories of the Lombards are deservedly held in high esteem.

His Works embrace histories, homilies, letters, and poems.

I. Histories. (1) Chief in importance is the History of the Lombards.10701070    De gestis Langobardorum, Migne, XCV. col. 433-672. It is divided into six books, and carries the history of the Lombards from their rise in Scandinavia down to the death of Liutprand in 744. It was evidently Paul’s intention to continue and revise the work, for it has no preface or proper conclusion; moreover, it has manifest slips in writing, which would have been corrected by a final reading. It is therefore likely that he died before its completion. It is not a model of historical composition, being discursive, indefinite as to chronology, largely a compilation from known and unknown sources, full of legendary and irrelevant matter. Nevertheless it is on the whole well arranged and exhibits a love of truth, independence and impartiality. Though a patriot, Paul was not a partisan. He can see some good even in his hereditary foes. The popularity of the History in the Middle Age is attested by the appearance of more than fifteen editions of it and of ten continuations.

(2) Some scholars10711071    Mommsen quoted by Ebert, l.c. p. 45; Weizsäcker in Herzog,2xi. 390. consider the History of the Lombards the continuation of Paul’s Roman History,10721072    Historia romana, with its additions, Migne, XCV. col. 743-1158. which he compiled (c. 770) for Adelperga from Eutropius (Breviarum historiae Romanae);10731073    Best edition by Hartel, Berlin, 1872. Eng. trans. in Bohn’s Class. Lib. Jerome, Orosius (Historia adversus Paganos),10741074    Migne, XXXI. col. 663-1174. Aurelius Victor (De Caesaribus historia), Jordanis (De breviatione chronicorum),10751075    Muratori, Rer. Ital. script. I. 222-242. Prosper (Chronicon),10761076    In Migne, LI. col. 535-608. Bede and others. The Historia is in sixteen books, of which the first ten are mere excerpts of Eutropius, with insertions from other sources. The last six carry the history from Valens, where Eutropius ends, down to Justinian. The plan of these latter books is the same as that of the former: some author is excerpted, and in the excerpts are inserted extracts from other writers. The History is worthless to us, but in the Middle Age it was extremely popular. To the sixteen books of Paul’s were added eight from the Church History of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, and the whole called Historia Miscella, and to it Landulph Sagax wrote an appendix, which brings the work down to 813.

Besides these histories several other briefer works in the same line have come down to us.

(3) Life of St. Gregory the Great,10771077    Vita S. Gregorii Maqni, Migne, LXXV. col. 41-60. a compilation from Bede’s Church History of England, and Gregory’s own works.

(4) A short History of the bishopric of Metz.10781078    Gesta episcoporum Mettensium, Migne, XCV. col. 699-724. It was written about 784, at the request of Angilram, bishop of Metz. It is in good part only a list of names. In order to please Charlemagne, Paul inserted irrelevantly a section upon that monarch’s ancestry.

II. Homilies.10791079    Homilarius, ibid. col. 1159-1584. A collection made by request of Charlemagne, and which for ten centuries was in use in the Roman Church. It is in three series. 1. Homilies upon festivals, two hundred and two in number, all from the Fathers. 2. Homilies upon saints’ days, ninety-six in number. 3. Homilies, five in number. Many of the second series and all of the last appear to be original.

III. Letters,10801080    Epistolae, ibid. 1583-1592. four in number, two to Charlemagne, one each to Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, in France, and to the abbot Theudemar.

IV. Poems, including epitaphs.10811081    Carmina, ibid. col. 1591-1604. Ebert discusses these at length, l.c. pp. 48-56. From the first stanza of De Sancto Joanne Baptista, Guido of Arezzo took the names of the musical notes.



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