The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

1334

ZOSIMUS.

of the younger Pliny, remarkable for his talents as a comedian and musician, as well as for his ex­cellence as a reader. (Plin. Epist. v. 19.)

2. Prefect of Epeirus under Valentinian and Valens. He is mentioned in connection with some laws promulgated in a. d. 373. (Cod. Theodos. 6. tit. 31, 12. tit. 70.)

3. A Greek historian, who lived in the time of the younger Theodosius (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl. iii. 41). He is described by Photius (Cod. 98, p. 84, ed. Bekker) as ko^s ical a.Trotyio'Koo'vv'fjyopos (comes et exadvocatus-fisci). He may possibly have been the son of Zosimus, the prefect of Epeirus, who is mentioned in the Theodosian Code. Zosimus was the author of a history of the Roman empire in six books, which is still extant. This work must have been written after the year 425, as an event is mentioned in it (v. 27) which took place in that year. How long after cannot be determined with certainty ; but his description of the condition of the Greek empire at the time he wrote accords with the state of things in the latter part of the fifth century. Further biographical particulars have not come down to us.

As Polybius had narrated the events by which the Roman empire had reached its greatness, so Zosimus undertook the task of developing the events and causes which led to its decline (Zosim. i. 57). As the commencement of this decline, he goes back to the change in the constitution of Rome introduced by Augustus. The first book comprises a sketch of the history of the early em­perors, down to the end of the reign of Diocletian (a. d. 305). The second, third, and fourth books are devoted to the history of the fourth century, which is treated much less concisely. The fifth and sixth books embrace the period from a. d. 395 to A. d. 410, when Attalus was deposed. Though the decline of the Roman empire was the main subject which Zosimus selected, it was perhaps his ambition to imitate Polybius, which led him to introduce various matters connected with Persian, Grecian, and Macedonian history, which are not very intimately connected with his main design. It is clear that Photius and Evagrius had not more of the work than we have. Yet it seems likely on some accounts, either that a part of the work has been lost or? what is more likely, that Zosimus did not live to finish it; for as we now have it, it does not embrace all that Zosimus himself tells us he intended to take up (iv. 59. § 4, 5, i. 58. § 9, iv. 28. § 3). There does not seem much probability in the conjecture that the monks and other ecclesi­astics succeeded in suppressing that portion of the work in which the evil influences of their body were to be more especially touched upon (v. 23. § 8 ; Harles. ad Fabr. vol. viii. p. 65 ; comp. Voss. de Hist. Gr. p. 312). If the work was thus left in­complete, that circumstance would account for some carelessness of style which is here and there apparent. There may appear some difficulty at first sight, however, in the statement of Photius, that the work, in the form in which he saw it, appeared to him to be a second edition (veas e/cSd-o-eous). But it would seem that Photius was under some misapprehension. It is called in the MSS. Iffropia vea (in what sense is not quite clear). This may perhaps have misled Photius. He himself remarks that he had not seen the first edition. . The work of Zosimus is mainly (though not

ZOSIMUS.

altogether) an abridgment or compilation of the works of previous historians. As far as the 41 st chapter of the first book he follows Herennius Dexippus. From that point to the llth chapter of the fifth book Eunapius is his guide, though he nowhere makes mention of him. Photius remarks in general terms of the work that it was not so much a history as a compilation from Eunapius. After Eunapius he follows Olympiodorus, sometimes copying from him whole chapters. The style of Zosimus is fairly described by Photius as concise, clear, pure, and not unpleasing. His chief fault as an historical writer is that he neglects to notice the chronology.

Zosimus was a pagan, and is by no means sparing of the faults and crimes of the Christian emperors. In consequence of this his credibility has been fiercely assailed by several Christian writers, and has been sometimes defended merely because his history tended to the discredit of many leading persons in the Christian party. Photius thus ex­presses his opinion: ecrri t^iv &prj(rK€iav acretsfys Kal TroAAa/as ev TroAAeus vXaKrcvv Kara t&v eu(Te-€&v (1. c.). Evagrius (iii. 40, 41) and Nicephorus (xvi. 41, &c.) also speak in the most unfavourable terms. The question does not, as has sometimes been supposed, turn upon the credibility of the historians whom Zosimus followed, for he did not adhere in all cases to their judgment with respect to events and characters. For instance he entirely differed from Eunapius in his account of Stilicho and Serena. Of modern writers, Baronius, Laelius Bisciola, C. v. Barth, J. D. Ritter, R. Bentley, and St. Croix, have taken the derogatory side. Bentley in particular (Remarks upon a lateDiscourse of Freethinking, Part. ii. p. 21) speaks of Zosimus with great contempt. On the other hand, his histo­rical authority has been maintained by Leunclavius, G. B. von Schirach, J. Matth. Schrockh, and Reite-raeier. There are no doubt numerous errors of judgment to be found in the work, and sometimes (especially in the case of Constantine) an intern-perate expression of opinion, which somewhat ex­aggerates, if it does not distort the truth. But he does not seem fairly chargeable with deliberate in­vention, or wilful misrepresentation. One passage in his history in particular has been fastened upon as evident proof of his untrustworthiness, where (ii. 29) he gives his account of the conversion of Constantine, placing it after the murder of his son (a. d. 326), whereas Constantine had declared himself a Christian much earlier. (Sainte-Croix, Mim. de VAcadimie des Inscr. vol. xlix. p. 466). But on the other hand, the common story of the conversion of Constantine does not rest on any authority that is worth much ; and though it is pretty clear that Zosimus has committed an ana­chronism, it is not so gross as has been sometimes supposed ; and there is thus much to be said in excuse for Zosimus, that it was not till the latter part of his life that Constantine received the rite of baptism ; and it appears from Sozomen (i. 3) that a story similar to that told by Zosimus was current some time previously, so that the latter is not at any rate responsible for the origination of the tale. It is not to be wondered at that one who held to the old faith should attribute the downfall of the empire in great part to the religious innovations attendant upon the spread of Christianity.

The history of Zosimus was first printed in the Latin translation of Leunclavius (Lowenklau), ac-

Pages
About | First

1332

1333

1334
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.