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With Explanatory and Critical Notes, a Biography of the Author,
and an Account of the Sources of the History
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Sold by LONGMANS, GREEN & Co.
MOMMSEN declares that Paul the Deacon's history of Italy, from the foundation of Rome to the beginning of the time of the Carlovingians, is properly the stepping-stone from the culture of the ancient to that of the modern world, marking the transition and connecting both together; that the Langobards upon their immigration into Italy not only exchanged their own language for that of their new home, but also adopted the traditions and early history of Rome without, however, abandoning their own; that it is in good part this fact which put the culture of the modern world upon the road on which it moves to-day; that no one has felt this in a more living manner than Paul, and that no one has contributed so much through his writings to secure for the world the possession of Roman and Germanic tradition by an equal title as did this Benedictine monk when, after the overthrow of his ancestral kingdom, he wrote its history as part of the history of Italy."
Whatever therefore were his limitations as an author, the writings of Paul the Deacon mark an epoch. They constitute the first step toward the making of modern history, and give him the right to be reckoned as a kind of humbler Herodotus of mediæval times. And in fact, although he is for the most part a compiler and without
I Neues Archiv., V, p. 53.
great originality, his work recalls in several ways the characteristics of the “Father of History.”/ It contains a priceless treasure of legends and quaint tales, having their source, not indeed in Hellenic, Persian, Lydian or Egyptian traditions, but in sagas like those of the Norsemen, and it is written with a naive and picturesque charm that must commend it greatly to the lovers of literary curiosities. Paul has something of the gossipy nature of Herodotus, and although without gross superstition, he has much of the simple credulity and fondness for the marvelous which add to the attractiveness, while they detract from the authority of the work of his great Greek predecessor. As a veracious historian, Paul is perhaps not much better nor worse than the average of the monastic chroniclers of the time, for although he is a man of extensive learning, and although he gives us everywhere proofs of his good faith, and even of his impartiality in respect to the struggles between his own people and their enemies, he has not that critical judgment which the requirements of modern history demand.
Paul the Deacon was one of the best known authors of the Middle Ages. This is shown by the great number of the manuscripts of his works which still exist, by the abundant use made of them by subsequent authors, and by the early editions that appeared shortly after the invention of printing and indeed all through the 16th and 17th centuries.' But amid the more stirring events
"Waitz (M. G. SS. Rer. Langob., p. 28 et, seq.) gives a list of these manuscripts and editions,
of modern times his work became to a large extent overlaid and forgotten. Muratori published Paul's “ History of the Langobards” in the first volume of his Italian series in 1723, but it remained for German scholarship to bring it again to the attention of the world and to subject it to critical treatment in the way its importante deserved. Dr. Bethmann during the early part of the last century began an investigation of Paul's works which extended over a great portion of his life. He examined and compared a vast number of manuscripts, traveling for this purpose through various parts of Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Italy, but died before his edition of the “History of the Langobards" was given to the press.
His work was completed by Waitz in 1876 in the “Monumenta Germania" in an edition in which one hundred and seven manuscripts are referred to and compared, and in which most of the sources of the history are referred to in appropriate foot-notes. In the same year Dahn published a painstaking criticism of Paul's life and writings in his “ Langobardische Studien." A complete discussion by Dr. R. Jacobi of the sources from which Paul derived his-history appeared in the following year, 1877, which for thoroughness and accuracy is a model of German scholarship Mommsen followed in 1879 with an able criticism of some of the most important features of Paul's work, published in the Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, Vol. V., p. 53. Some of his views as to the sources from which Paul
1 Waitz (p. 12).