Zosimus, New History 1.05

Zosimus (Greek Ζώσιμος): Early Byzantine, pagan author of a history of the Roman Empire, published in the first quarter of the sixth century CE.

The translation of ZosimusNew History offered here was printed in 1814 by W. Green and T. Chaplin in London, and was probably prepared by J. Davis of the Military Chronicle and Military Classics Office. The translator is anonymous. The text was found at Tertullian.org. The notes were added by Jona Lendering.


[1.5.1] Darius being murdered by Bessus, Alexander, after performing great achievements in India, returned to Babylon, where he died. After his decease, the dominion of the Macedonians being divided into several principalities, which were enfeebled by continual wars against each other, the remaining part of Europe was subdued by the Romans.

[1.5.2] Crossing afterwards into Asia, they contended with the king of Pontus and Antiochus, then with the dynasts or sovereigns of Egypt; thus enlarging their empire every year, so long as their Senate retained its authority, because their consuls were ambitious of emulating each other. But the commonwealth being ruined by the civil wars between Sulla and Marius, and between Julius Caesar and Pompey, the aristocracy, or government of the nobles, was set aside, and Octavian chosen dictator. The entire administration of affairs was thus committed to him alone, without the consideration, that it was like throwing the hopes and interests of all the people on the hazard of a die, and placing that vast empire at the risk of the inclination and authority of a single ruler.

[1.5.3] For were it the inclination of such a ruler to govern according to justice and moderation, he could not hope to give satisfaction to all, not being able to protect such as were at a considerable distance in any convenient time, nor to select so many officers, that would fear the disgrace of not performing their duty; nor could he suit his own disposition to the different humors of so many. But if he should wish to break through the bonds of imperial and regal government, and exercise absolute tyranny, by subverting the existing establishments, conniving at great crimes, selling of justice, and regarding his subjects as slaves (as most, and indeed with a few exceptions, almost all the emperors have done), it must of necessity follow, that his unbounded savage authority would prove a common calamity.

[1.5.4] It is the very nature of such a despotism, that fawning miscreants and parasites are preferred to situations of the greatest trust, whilst modest quiet men, who are averse to so base a manner of living, resent with justice that they themselves cannot enjoy similar benefits. Hence cities are filled with sedition and tumult; for when all offices, both civil and military, are conferred upon ill disposed magistrates, it both renders the citizens restless in peace, and discourages the soldiers in war.