The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstanby@hakluyt

The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan

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To the White Sea and to the Mouth of the Vistula in the Time of Alfred the Great, with Notes on the Geography of Europe inserted by KING ALFRED, In his Translation of Orosius. KING ALFRED’S OROSIUS. (FROM “ENGLISH WRITERS.”) One of King Alfred’s labours for the enlightenment of his countrymen was a translation of the “Universal History of Orosius, from the Creation to the year of our Lord 416.”  This book had long been in high repute by the familiar name of “Orosius” among students and teachers in the monasteries; and it retained its credit so, that after the invention of printing it was one of the first works put into type, and appeared in numerous editions.  The author was a Spanish Christian of the fifth century.  Born at Tarragona and educated in Spain, he crossed over to Africa about the year 414, and received instruction from St. Augustine upon knotty questions of the origin of the soul and other matters.  In Augustine’s works are contained the “Consultation of Orosius with Augustine on the Error of the Priscillianists and Origenists,” and a letter from Augustine to Orosius against them.  Augustine sent Orosius to consult Jerome, who was in Palestine; and in his letter of introduction said, “Behold, there has come to me a religious young man, in catholic peace a brother, in age a son, in rank a co-presbyter, Orosius—of active talents, ready eloquence, ardent application, longing to be in God’s house a vessel useful for disproving false and destructive doctrines, which have killed the souls of Spaniards much more grievously than the barbarian sword their bodies.”  In Palestine, towards the latter half of the year 415, Orosius attacked the Pelagians by writing against them a treatise on Free Will, and presenting a memorial against them to the Council of Diospolis.  It was at the request of St Augustine that Orosius wrote his History.  The sack of Rome by Alaric having caused the Christians of Rome to doubt the efficacy of their faith, Augustine, while he himself wrote his “De Civitate Dei” to show from the history of the Church that the preaching of the Gospel could not augment the world’s misery, incited Orosius to show the same thing in a compendium of profane history also.  Orosius began his work in the year 410, when Augustine had got through ten books of his, and he finished it about the year 416.  Like a good old-fashioned controversialist, he made very light of the argument of terror from the sack of Rome by Alaric, so representing the event that King Alfred, in his translation, thus abridged the detail:—
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