New at Livius.org: a revised Zosimus translation

Zosimus, “Count of the fisc” in the 6th century, wrote an oddball history in 6 books, which only just reached us.  It was an oddball text because Zosimus was a pagan, and blamed Constantine for everything.  Although he wrote around 550, he had access to lost sources, which make him our only source for events in Britain after the death of Theodosius I in 396.  The sole surviving manuscript was kept on the closed shelves in the Vatican until modern times.

Long ago I placed online an English translation of this work, which I obtained with great difficulty.  My introduction to it is here.

Today I heard from the excellent Jona Lendering of Livius.org, who has tidied this up and added it to his marvellous site:

I have copied your scan of Zosimus and put it online. I have also

  • polished a part of the spelling (as you already indicated, it’s a bad reprint of a cheap book that does not even mention the name of the translator),
  • added chapters and sections according to the Budé edition (anchors for the page numbers have been inserted),
  • linked to relevant pages,
  • and wrote an introduction based on information from the Budé.

You will find it at

The public domain English translation appeared in 1814, but was itself a reprint of a 1684, probably very lax, translation.  A nice modern translation by Ridley exists, done for the Australian Byzantine series, but of course this is not public domain and so is known only to specialists.

Back in 2002 I requested a copy of Zosimus by interlibrary loan.  What arrived after a considerable delay was a bound photocopy of the openings, itself faint, and with the pages effectively back to front.  This I scanned.

A year later I discovered that a copy was in Oxford, in the Bodleian, and I mae a special trip there to find it.  It wasn’t in any normal part of the Bodleian.  I ended up going to a building that I’d never known about; and then being directed to an annex in a house in an obscure part of west Oxford.  The street was narrow and with quite peculiar architecture, and an odd roundabout-park at the end of the road.  I was the only visitor!  I photocopied what I needed, and left.  Years later I saw the street in an episode of Inspector Morse.

That was in 2003, I find.  Back then Google Books did not exist.  Today a copy of the 1814 printing can be found there, at this link.  But so can a copy of the 1684 volume, here!  An 1802 German translation is here.

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