Key to Umbria

Lactantius (died ca. 325 AD)

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus, who came from Africa (possibly Cirta) became an official professor of rhetoric at Nicomedia under Diocletian.  Having converted to Christianity, he resigned his post just before the persecutions of 303 AD.  He won the patronage of Constantine I in ca. 311 AD and subsequently became tutor to his eldest son, Crispus.   His most important work was his ‘De Mortibus Persecutorum’ (On the Deaths of the Persecutors), which described the divine retribution that was suffered by imperial persecutors of Christians, from Nero to his own day (Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Maximinus).

  1. Latin text:

  2. English translation: J. Vanderspoel, University of Calgary

Eusebius of Caesarea (died ca. 340 AD) 

Eusebius became the bishop of Caesaria in ca. 314 AD.  His early literary work was concerned with biblical analysis, but Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians in 303 AD, he directed his attention to the history of Christian martyrdom.  This led him to the history of the Church and finally to the history of the world, which he conceived as having  been pre-ordained to culminate in the victory of Christianity.  Under Constantine I, Eusebius devoted himself to imperial eulogy and the the Arian controversy.

English translations:

  1. Historia Ecclesiastica’ (Church History)

  2. Vita Constantini’ (Life of Constantine)

Constantine I (died 337 AD)

An appendix to Eusebius’ ‘Vita Constantini’ claims to be (and probably is) a Greek translation of a speech delivered by the Emperor Constantine.  It is usually referred to as the ‘Oration to the Assembly of the Saints’ and dated to the period 312-24 AD.  In it, Constantine defends Christianity and Christian values, and reflects on his own life in Christ.

Chronicle of St Jerome (ca. 380AD) 

In this work St Jerome produced a translation into Latin of the “Chronicle” of Eusebius of Caesarea (above), which he also brought up to date.  Eusebius’ original Greek material, which he compiled in ca. 311 AD, no longer survives.

  1. English translation: this page on covers the period from the start of the Roman Republic to the “38th of the Romans”, the Emperors Valentinian and Valens.

Optatus of Milevis (died ca. 390 AD)

Optatus was a Bishop of Milevis in Numidia (modern Mial, Algeria).  He is remembered for his untitled tract that is normally referred to as ‘Against the Donatists’, a non-orthodox Christian sect that took root during the persecution of Christians in the African provinces in the early 4th century.  According to St Jerome (above), who was writing in 392 AD, the tract as he knew it comprised six books and had been written under the Emperors Valens and Valentinian (364-75 AD).  In fact, seven books and a list of popes that ends with Siricius (384-98 AD). It seems that the seventh book and associated episcopal lists were part of a second edition that was published in 385-90 AD.

  1. English translation: this page on

Decimus Magnus Ausonius  (died ca. 395 AD)

Professors of Bordeaux

Kaisergeschichte (4th Century AD)

In 1884, Alexander Enmann demonstrated the existence of a lost work conventionally designated as the ‘Kaisergeschichte’ (History of the Emperors) that had apparently covered the period from Augustus to Constantine.  Enmann and later scholars have shown that it provided a common source for other writers (all discussed below):

  1. Aurelius Victor;

  2. Eutropius;

  3. Festus;

  4. the author of the the ‘Historia Augusta’;

  5. St Jerome;

  6. the author of the ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’.

Aurelius Victor (died ca. 390 AD)

Aurelius Victor was Governor of Pannonia Secunda under the Emperor Julian (361-363 AD) and served as Urban Prefect in Rome in 389 AD.  He is best known for his “De Caesaribus”, which covered the period of the Emperors Augustus to Constantius II.

  1. Original Latin: Liber de Caesaribus

  2. English translation: H. W. Bird, “Aurelius Victor: De Caesaribus”, (1994)  Liverpool

Origo Constantini Imperatoris (ca. 390 AD) 

This is one of two fragmentary Latin texts that were published by Henri Valoisi n 1636.  The earlier of these two fragments covers the life of Constantine from 305 AD until his death in 337 AD.  Its author is sometimes referred to as Anonymous Valesianus I, where Valesianus refers to Henri Vaoisi and ‘I’ distinguishes him from the author of the other, later, fragment.

  1. Latin and English text: LacusCurtius

Eutropius (4th century AD)

Flavius Eutropius was a historian with excellent imperial credentials: he accompanied the Emperor Julian on his expedition against the Persians in 363 AD.  His ‘Breviarium historiae Romanae’, a history in ten books from the the foundation of Rome, ends with the reign of the Emperor Valens (364-78 AD), to whom it was dedicated.

  1. Latin and English text:

Festus (4th century AD)

Rufus (or Sextus) Festus is known to have been a proconsul of Africa.  The Emperor Valens commissioned his ‘Breviarium rerum gestarum populi Romani’ (summary of the history of the Rome people), which was completed in ca.379 AD and covers the history of Rome from its foundation until 369 AD. 

  1. Latin text:

  2. English text:

Epitome de Caesaribus (ca. 400 AD)

The ‘Epitome de Caesaribus’ summarises the history of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Theodosius in 48 chapters.  It was written by an anonymous author who was very likely a pagan.  It is sometimes attributed to Aurelius Victor (above), but this is incorrect.

  1. Latin text:

  2. English text:

Historia Augusta (4th century)

The Historia Augusta is the name given to a collection of  biographies of Roman emperors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries.  It claims to have been written by a collection of historians in the 3rd century, but this is a hoax.  In fact, it had a single unknown author, and was written at an unknown date before  before 425 AD, when the Roman author Symmachus made use of it.  The biographies have to be used with caution because much of the content is demonstrably fabricated (as explained in this page in  However, they do throw light of the Roman world in the late Empire.

  1. Latin: 

  2. English translation: and  LacusCurtius

Orosius (died ca. 418 AD)

Paulus Orosius was a Spanish Christian.  St Augustine, who was concerned that the sack of Rome (410 AD) was being blamed on the city’s adherence to Christianity, asked Orosius to write a historical account that would demonstrate that similar disasters had afflicted mankind since the earliest times.  (St Augustine himself wrote his “City of God” for the same purpose).  The result of the request to Orosius was his “Historiae adversum Paganos” (ca. 417), which he dedicated to St Augustine.

  1. English translation: “Historiae adversum Paganos

Zosimus (died early 6th century)

Zosimus was a Byzantine historian who lived and worked in Byzantium.  His ‘Historia Nova’ is in 6 books and covers the period from the Emperor Augustus to the sack of Rome in 410 AD.  The work, which is apparently unfinished, was  probably written in 498-518.  The fifth and sixth books provide the most important surviving non-ecclesiastical source for the period 395-410 AD. 

  1. English translation: Early Church Fathers (search on Zosimus for link)

Paul the Deacon (ca. 720 - 799 AD)

Paulus Diaconus was born in northern Italy to a family that was of Lombard extraction.  He was a scholar at the court of the Lombard King Desiderius at Pavia and then moved to Benevento, probably before Pavia fell to Charlemagne in 774.  He became a monk at Monte Cassino before 782 and died there in 799.  His most important surviving work is the ‘Historia Langobardum’ (ca. 790), which records the history of the Lombards in Italy from 568 to the death of King Liutprand in 744.

  1. English translation: E. Peters  (Ed.), “History of the Lombards: Paul the Deacon. Translated by William Dudley Foulke”(1975/ 2011) Pennsylvania

Paul the Deacon on Diocletian’s Sixth Province

In Book 2, Paul describes the administrative divisions of Italy that the Lombards inherited from the reforms (ca. 300 AD) of the Emperor Diocletian.   Chapter 16 records:

  1. The sixth province is Tuscia (Tuscany) which is thus called from ‘tus’ (frankincense), which its people were wont to burn superstitiously in the sacrifices to their gods.  This includes Aurclia[?] toward the northwest and Umbria on the eastern side.  In this province was situated Rome, which was formerly the capital of the whole world.  In Umbria indeed, which is counted a portion of it, are:

  2. -Perusium; and

  3. -Lake Clitorius; and

  4. -Spoletium;

  5. and it is called Umbria because it remained above the furious rains (imbres) when long ago a watery scourge devastated the nations”.

Joannes Zonaras (12th century)

The Byzantine chronicler Zonaras worked at the court of the Emperor Alexius I Comnenus before retiring to a monastery.  His most important work was  the ‘Epitome Ton Istorion’ (Extracts of History), which covers the period from the the start of history until to the death of Alexius I (1118). 

  1. The website ‘Ancient Worlds’  has published an English translation of the material from the Emperors Diocletian to the Emperor Galerius (284-311 AD). 

  2. Translation into Latin: Latin Library


Diocletian to Constantine (284-337 AD):

Literary Sources

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Links to the individual pages that cite these sources are at the foot of the page