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Monday, June 25, 2007

St. Isidore -- The First and Second ages of the World







St. Isidore of Seville (Isidorus Hispalensis, born ca. 560, d. 636 AD), was the Archbishop of Seville in 600-601.  He was a very industrious author, and exercised an immense influence on medieval Europe.  His works are mainly compilations from earlier authors, but of great value because he was the last author still in touch with antiquity.  Many of his works, especially the exegetical ones, have never been printed.  More details of his works with a limited bibliography can be found in B. Altaner, Patrology, tr. H. Graef, Freiburg:Herder (1960) pp. 594-8.

Isidore wrote two historical works.  His brief Chronicon or Chronicle of the World extends to 615 AD, and is given here.  The work appears in the Patrologia Latina 83: cols. 1017-1058.  There is also a critical text in Mommsen, Chronica Minora saec. IV-VII, 2 vols (Monumenta Germania Historia vols. 9 and 11) vol. 2 pp.391-488, and the text will be reedited in the near future for the Corpus Christianorum series.  His other work, the Historia Gothorum, a chronicle of the Visigoths to 625 with two short appendices on the Vandals and Suevians, can be found in the same sources.

This text was translated recently from the PL text by Dr. Kenneth B. WOLF as a teaching aid for his students.  I came across it online one day, and felt it deserved to be more generally known.  To the best of my knowledge it is the only English translation.  Dr. Wolf has very kindly released this version into the public domain, so that it can appear here, but warns that this is only a first draft.  The master copy can be found at his site, at, with revisions as they are made.

6th February, 2004 

The text above has been edited.

[Translated by Kenneth B. Wolf]


Julius Africanus, under the emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonius, was the first among us to compose, using a simple style of history, a brief chronology organized according to generations and reigns. From there, Bishop Eusebius of Caesaria and the priest Jerome of holy memory edited a multipart history of the canons of chronicles organized according to reigns and times. After these came others, in particular, Bishop Victor of Tunnunna who, having reviewed the histories of the previous times, filled out the deeds of succeeding ages up to the consolate of Justin the Younger. We have recorded here, as briefly as we were able, a summary of the times from the beginning of the world up to the principates of the emperor Heraclius and of King Sisebut of the Goths, laying down, bit by bit, the descending order of times, so that, by means of the information provided, the whole of the past ages might be known.

1. God created everything in six days. On the first day he fashioned light; on the second, the firmament of heaven; on the third, the land and the sea; on the fourth, the stars; on the fifth, the fish and the birds; on the sixth, the animals and the beasts of burden and finally the first man, Adam, in his image.
2. Adam, at age 230, bore Seth, who was born in the place of Abel. Seth means "resurrection" because in him was resuscitated the first seed, that is, the seed of the sons of God. Seth, at age 205, bore Enosh, who was the first to begin invoking the name of God. Enosh, at age 190, bore Kenan, whose name means "the nature of God." At the same time, Cain became the first, before the flood, to build a city, which he filled solely with the multitude of his own descendents.
3. Kenan, at age 170, bore Mahalalel, whose name means "plantation of God." Mahalalel, at age 165, bore Jared, which means "descending" or "beseeching." Jared, at age 162, bore Enoch, who was lifted up by God, and who is reported to have written quite a few things, but which, on account of their antiquity, are refuted by the fathers as of suspect faith.
4. Enoch, at age 165, bore Methuselah, who, according to his lifespan, is discovered to have lived fourteen years after the flood, yet he is not found to have been on the ark. On account of this, some conjecture, with false opinion, that he might have lived after the flood, having spent some time with his father Enoch, who was lifted up. In this generation, the sons of God lusted after the daughters of men. Methuselah, at age 167, bore Lamech. In this generation, giants were born. In this age also, Jubal, from the line of Cain, discovered the art of music and his brother Tubal Cain was the inventor of the arts of copper and iron.
5. Lamech, at age 190, bore Noah who, by divine oracle, was ordered to build the arc in the five-hundredth year of his life. In these times, as Josephus reports, some men, who knew that they were about to die by either fire or water, inscribed their discoveries on two columns made of brick and stone, so that the memory of those things which they had discovered in their wisdom might not be erased. Their stone columns are reported to have withstood the flood and remain in Syria to this very day.
6. In Noah's six-hundredth year, the flood is recorded to have occurred. Josephus reports that his ark came to rest among the mountains of Armenia, which are called Ararat. There were three sons of Noah, out of which seventy-two nations were born, that is, fifteen from Japheth, thirty from Ham, and twenty-seven from Shem.
The first age came to an end in the year 2,242.
7. Shem, in the second year after the flood, when he was 100 years old, bore Arpachshad, from whom the people of the Chaldeans arose. This Shem is reported to have been Melchisedech, who was the first after the flood to build the city of Salem, which now is called Jerusalem.
8. Arphaxad, at age 135, bore Shelah, from whom came the ancient Salamites or Medians. Shelah, at age 130, bore Eber, after whom the Hebrews were named.
9. Eber, at age 134, bore Peleg, in whose time the Tower of Babel was built, and the division of languages was effected. The height of this tower is said to have stretched four miles, starting out wide and becoming narrower so that the immense weight might be more easily sustained. They describe the marble temples there as being unmatched in precious stones and gold and many other things that seem unbelievable. The giant Nimrod constructed this tower. After the confusion of tongues, he departed from there for Persia and taught them to worship fire.
10. Peleg, at age 130, bore Reu. In these times, temples were first constructed. And certain princes of the peoples began to be adored as gods. Reu, at age 132, bore Serug, under whom the kingdom of the Scythians arose, where Tanaus first ruled. Serug, at age 130, bore Nachor. The kingdom of the Egyptians arose for the first time, with Zoes ruling there first.
11. Nachor, at age 79, bore Terah, at the time when the kingdom of the Assyrians and the Sicyonans rose up. The first who ruled in Assyria was Belus, though some consider it to have been Saturnus. And the first in Sicyon was Aegialeus, after whom Aegialea, which today is called the Peloponnesus, is named.
12. Terah, at age 70, bore Abraham. At the same time Ninus ruled as king of the Assyrians. He was the first to institute wars and invented the instruments of weaponry. In this age the art of magic was discovered in Persia by Zoroaster, the king of the Bactrians. He was killed by King Ninus. Also the walls of Babylon were built by Samiramis, queen of the Assyrians. From the flood to the birth of Abraham: 942 years. The second age came to an end in the year 3,184.

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