Rudolph Arbesmann was born in Fürth, Germany, on July 25, 1895. After graduation from the Augustinian Gymnasium in Münnerstadt, Germany, he served in World War I from December 1914 to December 1918. He received both the Iron Cross and the Bavarian Military Cross in recognition of his service as a lieutenant in the cavalry.
On February 9, 1919, he was received into the novitiate of the Order and was professed on February 10, 1920. After a short period at the University of Würzburg, he was sent to St. Monica’s House of Studies in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood on March 31, 1923. He then studied classical philology at the University of Würzburg, where he obtained a doctorate. Active with youth groups at this time, he brought several young men into the Order. He taught at the Gymnasium in Münnerstadt and for two years served as Provincial Secretary to Father Clement Fuhl. In 1930, he was elected first Definitor of the German Province. Then, in 1933, he was called to be Master of Professed in Rome by Father Fuhl, who had been elected Prior General. In 1934, together with Father Placidus Vollmer and Father Frederick Brossler, he was sent on a special mission to the Province of Chile: to help with the education of the professed and candidates for the Order. While in Chile, he was invited to lecture in Classics at the University of Santiago. After a number of assignments of two year duration in Germany, Italy and Chile, he arrived in New York in 1936. Here, he was to spend the next 46 years of his life.
In 1937, he was invited to become Professor of Classics at Fordham University, an association that lasted until his death. Long after his retirement, revered as the "grand old man of the classics." He continued to keep an office on campus. Later, he was given a special office at the Fordham University Press and was always accorded special privileges by the Fordham University Library staff. During his almost forty years at the University, Father Arbesmann was a most productive scholar. His bibliography includes many books and articles, the last article published in Traditio in 1979 when he was eighty-four years old! Internationally renown, Father Arbesmann was respected for both sound scholarship and genuine insight. In recognition of his erudition, two honorary doctorates were bestowed on him: the degree of Doctor of Laws from Merrimack College and, from Fordham University, the degree of Doctor of Letters. The University also gave him a special bene merenti medal for his service, and the University Press dedicated the 1973 volume of Traditio to him as a festschrift in honor of his golden jubilee of priesthood.
He was concerned with his research right up to the end. One of his final projects was to review the sources of the lives of Augustinian saints which he had written. He suffered a massive stroke on Monday, November 29, 1982. He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Yonkers, New York, on the following Saturday, December 4.
- Der Augustinereremiten-orden und der Beginn der humanistischen Bewegung. Würzburg: Augustiner-Verlag, 1965.
- Die Augustiner-Eremiten in Deutschland. Würzburg: Rita Verlag und Druckerei, 1934.
- Das Fasten bei den Griechen und Römern. Giessen, A. Töpelmann, 1929.
- Jordani de Saxonia, ordinis eremitarum S. Augustini Liber Vitasfratrum. New York: Cosmopolitan Science and Art Service Co., 1943. (Edited with Winfrid Hümpfner, O.S.A.)
- "Aeschuylus: House of Atreus (Agamemnon, The Choephori, The Eumenides." In The Great Books: A Christian Appraisal. Ed. H.C. Gardiner. New York: 1950: II: 17-24
- "Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound." The Great Books: A Christian Appraisal. Ed. H.C. Gardiner (New York: 1951), III: 1-10.
- "Andrea Biglia, Augustinian Friar and Humanist (1435)." Analecta Augustiniana, 28 (1965), 154-218.
- "Asceticism (Non-Christian)." The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), I: 938-941.
- "The Attitude of Saint Augustine Toward Labor." The Heritage of the Early Church: Essays in Honor of G.V. Florovsky, Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 195 (1973), 247-259.
- "Augustine of Hippo, Rule of St." Encyclopedia Britannica (1964), II: 757.
- "Augustinians." Encyclopedia Britannica (1964), II: 757.
- "Augustinian Canons." Encyclopedia Britannica (1964), II: 757.
- "Augustinian Hermits." Encyclopedia Brittanica (1964), II: 757.
- "Augustinus, der vater des nordafrikanischen Mönchtums." St. Augustin: Festschrift der deutschen Provinz der Augustiner-Eremiten zur Jahrhundertfeier (Würzburg 1930), 35-61
- "The Bride of Hades." The Classical Bulletin, 15 (1939), 66-67.
- "The Cervuli and Anniculae in Caesarius of Arles." Traditio, 35 (1979), 89-119.
- "Christ the medicus humilis in St. Augustine." Paper presented to the Congrès Interational Augustinien in Paris 1954, and published in Augustinus Magister (Paris 1954), II: 623-629.
- "The Concept of Christus Medicus in St. Augustine." Traditio, 10 (1954), 1-28.
- "The Contribution of the Franciscan College of Ocopa in Peru to the Geographical Exploration of South America." The Americas, 1, No. 4 (1945), 393-417.
- "The Daemonium Meridianum and Greek and Latin Patristic Exegesis." Traditio, 14 (1958), 17-31.
- "Daimon." The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967).
- "The Dead Bridegroom Motif in South American Folklore." Thought, 19, No. 72 (1944), 95-111.
- "Drei Augustinusfragmente aus einem Homiliar des elften Jahrhunderts." Scientia Augustiniana: Festschrift für A. Zumkeller, Cassiciacum, 30 (1975), 3-11.
- "The Edition of the Vita S. Augustini in Boston Public Library MS 1483." Revue des Études Augustiennes, 11, Nos. 1-2 (1965), 43-54.
- "Fasten im antiken Zauber." Blätter zur bayrischen Volkskunde, 11 (1927), 48-50.
- "Fasten." Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (1969), VII: 447-493.
- "A Pioneering Work in Augustinian Iconography." Recherches Augustiennes, 4 (1966), 27-36.
- "Prayer." The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967).
- "Precursores y Representantes del Humanismo." In Los Augustinos en la edad media, 1357-1517 (by D. Gutiérrez.) Vol. I, pt. 2 of Historia de la Orden de San Augustín. Rome: 1977, pp. 122-211. This same chapter appears in the English and Italian editions.
- "Proverbs in the Fathers." The Classical Bulletin, 22 (October, 1945), 2-3.
- "Purification." The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967).
- "The Question of Authorship of the Milleloquium Veritatis S. Augustini." Paradosis: Studies in Memory of Edwin A. Quain. New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1976, pp. 169-87
- "The Question of the Regula Sancti Augustini." Augustinian Studies, 1 (1970), 237-261.
- "Report on the Activity of the Augustinian Historical Institute of the Canadian and Villanova Provinces." In "Relazioni del Secondo Congresso Internazionale di Storia dell’Ordine Agostiniano." Analecta Augustiniana, 37 (1974), 379-423.
- "Some Notes on the Fourteenth-Century History of the Augustinian Order." Miscellanea Ordinis Sancti Augustini Historica: Essays in Honor of D. Gutiérrez. Analecta Augustiniana, 40 (1977), 63-78.
- "Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Antigone." The Great Books: A Christian Appraisal, ed. H.C. Gardiner. New York 1950, II: 25-32.
- "The Temple of Apollo Philesius." Folia, 1 (1946), 36-40.
- "Die Textgeschichte der Regula sancti Augustini im Lichte der jüngsten Forschung." Cor Unum, 32, No. 1 (1974), 53-65.
- "Thesmophoria." Realenzyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 2nd ser., 6, No. 1 (1936), 15-28.
- "The Three Earliest Vitae of St. Galganus." Didascalia: Studies in Honor of Anselm M. Albareda. New York: B.M. Rosenthal, 1961.
- "The Vita Aurelii Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi in Cod. Laurent. Plut. 90 Su.p 48." Traditio, 18 (1962), 319-355.
- Nutzen des Fastens. Trans. of De utilitate jejunii by Aurelius Augustinus. Würzburg: Augustiner- Verlag, 1958.
- Die Sorge für die Tote. Trans. of De cura pro mortuis by Aurelius Augustinus. Würzburg: Augustiner-Verlag, 1975.
- Tertullian: Disciplinary, Moral, and Ascetical Works. The Fathers of the Church 40, E.J. Daly and E.A. Quain), New York, 1959.
- The Testimony of the Soul; To Scapula. Minucius Felix. Octavius. In Tertullian, Apologetical Works, and Minucius Felix, Octavius. The Fathers of the Church, No. 10. New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950.
- "Die Handarbeit der Mönche, übertragen und erläutert von Rudolph Arbesmann O.S.A." Trans. of De opere monachorum by Aurelius Augustinus. Würzburg: Augustiner-Verlag, 1972.
- To the Martyrs; Spectacles. In Tertullian, Disciplinary, Moral and Ascetical Works. The Fathers of the Church, No. 40. New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc. 1959.