Zosimus, New History 5.24

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.


[5.24.1] The number of sycophants was now greater than it had ever formerly been, always attending on the court-eunuchs. Upon the death of any wealthy person they brought information of his estate, as if he had no children or relations. Upon this the emperor's letters were issued, commanding the estate to be put in possession of a particular person. Inheritances were even disposed of to any who begged them, although the children of the party stood by, lamenting and calling on their parent. 

[5.24.2] In fine, every thing combined to fill the cities with grief, and to injure the inhabitants. For the emperor being a mere idiot, his wife, who exceeded in arrogance the restof her sex, and was devoted to the insatiable avarice of eunuchs and her female attendants, who had the greatest influence with her, caused every one to be weary of life; so that to modest persons nothing was then so eligible as death.

[5.24.3] As if these circumstances did not sufficiently heighten the public misery, another inconceivable disaster fell on Constantinople. John, as I have related, having returned from his banishment, and instigating the populace against the empress in his usual sermons, finding himself expelled both from his episcopal see and from the city, embarked and left the city. 

[5.24.4] Those who had espoused his party, endeavoring to prevent any person from succeeding to his bishopric, privately set fire to a church in the night, and left the city at break of day, in order to avoid detection. As soon as it was day, the people discovered the extreme danger in which the city stood. Not only was the church burnt to the ground, but. the adjacent houses were likewise consumed, especially those on which the violence of the wind directed the flames. 

[5.24.5] Besides these, the fire extended to the Senate-house, which stood before the palace, and was a most beautiful and magnificent edifice. It was adorned with statues by the most celebrated artists, which had a most splendid appearance, and with marble of such colors, as are not now to be found in any quarries. 

[5.24.6] It is is said that, the images which were formerly consecrated in Helicon to the muses, and in the time of Constantine suffered by the universal sacrilege, having been erected and dedicated in this place, were burnt at the same time, as if to denote the disregard which all men should one day bear to the muses.

[5.24.7] At that time occurred a miracle which I think not unworthy of being mentioned. Before the doors of the temple of the Senate were the statues of Zeus and Athena, standing on two pedestals, as they still continue. That of Zeus is said to be the Jupiter Dodonaeus, and that of Athena the same which was formerly consecrated in Lindus. When the fire consumed the temple, the lead on its roof melted and ran down on the statues, and all the stones which could not resist the force of the fire likewise fell upon them, until at length the beauty of the building was converted into a heap of rubbish, 

[5.24.8] and it was generally supposed that these two statues were also reduced to ashes. But when the ruins were removed, the statues of these two deities alone appeared to have escaped the general destruction. This circumstance inspired all persons above the ordinary rank with more favorable hopes for the city, as if these deities resolved to afford it their continual protection. Leaving these circumstances, however, to be disposed of at the will of the deity, I return to my narrative.