Zosimus, New History 2.05

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.


[2.5.1] This is said to be the manner in which these games were observed. The beadles went round at the time, and invited all the people to a spectacle, such as they had never witnessed and never would again. The Quindecimviri, in the summer season, a little before the games began, sat in the Capitol, and in the Palatine temple, upon a tribunal, from which they distributed to the people a kind of purifying preparations, called lustralia, which consisted of torches, brimstone and pitch, of which none but freemen are allowed to participate.

[2.5.2] And when the people assembled in the above mentioned places and in the temple of Diana, which is on Mount Aventine, each person brought wheat, barley, and beans, and kept vigils to the fatal sisters. The time of the festival being arrived, which was celebrated three successive days and nights in the Campus Martius, the victims were consecrated near the bank of the Tiber at Tarentum. There they sacrificed to several deities: to Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Latona, and to the Parcae, Lucinae, Ceres, Pluto, and Proserpine, which was performed in this order.

[2.5.3] The first night that the spectacles were exhibited, the emperor with the Quindecimviri sacrificed three lambs on as many altars purposely placed on the side of the river, where having sprinkled the altars with blood he offered up the victims whole. Then, having prepared a scene without a theater, they placed a great number of lights, and made a large fire, by which they sang a new hymn, to render the games more solemn.

[2.5.4] They who performed these ceremonies were rewarded for their labor with the first fruits of their wheat, barley, and beans. For these were as I stated distributed among the people. The following day they went up to the Capitol, where the usual sacrifices were offered, and going from thence to the appointed place, celebrated games in honor of Apollo and Diana. On the next day, the principal ladies entered the Capitol at the hour appointed by the oracle, where they conducted themselves with due reverence:

[2.5.5] and at the third hour, in the temple of Apollo near the palace, twenty-seven children of each sex, whose parents were all living, sang hymns, and spoke in Greek and Latin, by which the Roman Empire was preserved. Besides these, however, there were other rites observed by the divine command, which as long as they were kept up preserved the Roman empire. And in confirmation of what I have stated, I will add the oracle of the Sibyl, which has been mentioned by others before my time: