Zosimus, New History 4.59

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.


[4.59.1] The emperor Theodosius after these successes proceeded to Rome, where he declared his son Honorius emperor, and appointing Stilicho to the command of his forces there, left him as guardian to his son. Before his departure, he convened the Senate, who firmly adhered to the ancient rites and customs of their country, and could not be induced to join with those who were inclined to contempt for the gods. In an oration he exhorted them to relinquish their former errors, as he termed them, and to embrace the Christian faith, which promises absolution from all sins and impieties.

[4.59.2] But not a single individual of them would be persuaded to this, nor recede from the ancient ceremonies, which had been handed down to them from the building of their city, and prefer to them an irrational assent; having, as they said, lived in the observance of them almost twelve hundred years, in the whole space of which their city had never been conquered, and, therefore, should they change them for others, they could not foresee what might ensue. Theodosius, therefore, told them, that the treasury was too much exhausted by the expence of sacred rites and sacrifices, and that he should, therefore, abolish them, since he neither thought them commendable, nor could the exigencies of the army spare so much money.note

[4.59.3] The Senate in reply observed, that the sacrifices were not duly performed, unless the charges were defrayed from the public funds. Yet thus the laws for the performance of sacred rites and sacrifices were repealed and abolished, besides other institutions and ceremonies, which had been received from their ancestors. By these means, the Roman Empire, having been devastated by degrees, is become the habitation of barbarians, or rather having lost all its inhabitants, is reduced to such a form, that no person can distinguish where its cities formerly stood.

[4.59.4] That affairs were thus brought into so melancholy a state will be evident from a particular narrative of them. The emperor Theodosius, having consigned Italy, Spain, Celtica, and Libya to his son Honorius, died of a disease on his journey towards Constantinople. His body was embalmed, and deposited in the imperial sepulchres of that city.