Zosimus: the Manuscripts of "The New History"

The 'New History' in 6 books of Count Zosimus, a Byzantine financial offical, is notable because it was written by a virulent Christian-hater and abuses Constantine and the other founders of the Byzantine empire.  The date of composition is quite uncertain - the history itself finishes before 410, but refers to an edict of 425: but the first person to cite it is Evagrius Scholasticus writing around 590.  Paschoud assigns it a date between 498-518AD.  

The Greek title is i9stori/a ne/a in the only manuscript: Photius reviews the work in the Bibliotheca (codex ), and gives the title ne/a e1kdosij. He supposes that Zosimus revised the book, as Eunapius had done, and that the text he had -- the same as our own -- was a second edition.

The work is extant in a single manuscript.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


Rome: Biblioteca Apostolica, Vatican Codex Vaticanus Graecus 156.   

This was written by four hands, and also has corrections, probably made against the exemplar.  The first portion is written by two scribes in the same scriptorium, in the second part of the 10th century, the third in the 11th century, the remainder is written in the hand of the 12th.  All portions seem to be copied from the same MS. The marginal scholia are few and  unimportant.  The text is generally good and satisfactory.

There are two main lacunae.  a). The fourth quaternion has gone missing in its entirety, which means the lost of the end of book 1 and start of book 2. b) A folio has been cut out after folio 128 (ch. 5:22), with care and deliberate intention, perhaps to remove an insulting passage or to save the effort of copying a passage of interest.  The loss is not accidental, as the MS is generally in very good condition.  It is possible that the first lacuna has the same reason as the second.

The origin of the manuscript is unknown, but the presence of two crosses on the recto of the first folio of the first quaternion is a distinguishing mark of the most celebrated scriptorium in Constantinople, the monastery of the Studios.   However the first two hands are not characteristic of that scriptorium, and date later than those normally used as benchmarks.

The manuscript was listed as present in the Vatican library in 1475.  It was borrowed from 30th April 1488 to 13th January 1492 by a certain Luigi Lotti.  The first mention of the text is in the Miscellanea of Politian (1489), who must have used the MS.  Small extracts were published in the 16th century.  However when Marc-Antoine Muret wanted to read Zosimus in 1572, Cardinal Sirleto, then Prefect of the Vatican Library, placed the MS on closed access (v. a letter from Muret to Dupuy).  A partial copy of the MS was made despite this by Emmanuel Provataris acting for Muret (now Vat. Gr. 1206 and 2351), from the latter portion of which Muret was able to send extracts to Dupuy. 

Because the Ms. was inaccessible, the first three printed editions rely on four very faulty copies of the MS (only one direct copy), and the next four editions are just reprints!  Only editions from 1887 on are based directly on the MS.

A Latin translation was published in 1576 at Bâle by Johannes Löwenklau (Leunclavius) as part of a volume also containing Procopius, Agathius and Jordanes.

MS Vat. Gr. 156 was taken off the closed list of the Vatican during the mid-19th century.

10th, second part. for the first two hands: 11th for the remainder


Indexes, Tables of Contents, Chapter titles

None are shown in PASCHOUD, but summaries at the start of the books are mentioned.


L. MENDELSSOHN, Édition de Zosime, Leipzig (1887).  Not checked. (Details from Paschoud).  Detailed discussion of MS and editions.

L. MENDELSSOHN, Zu Zosimus, Wochenschrift für klassische Philologie 8 (1891), p. 525 ff.  Not checked.  (Details from Paschoud).

[Anon.], Zosimus: The history of Count Zosimus, sometime advocate and chancellor of the Roman Empire / translated from the original Greek, with the notes of the Oxford edition.  London : W. Green & T. Chaplin (1814). (Details from COPAC).  Reprint of 1684 text.  Online at https://www.tertullian.org/fathers 

J. MERCATI & Franchi de'CAVALIERI, Codices Vaticani Graeci, Roma (1923).  Not checked. (Details from Paschoud).  Contains description of MS.

James J. BUCHANAN and Harold T. DAVIS, Zosimus : Historia nova ; the decline of Rome / Zosimus ; translated by James J. Buchanan and Harold T. Davis. San Antonio : Trinity University Press (1967). xi, 274 p : col. map (on lining papers) ; 24 cm.  (Details from COPAC).

François PASCHOUD, Zosime: Histoire Nouvelle, t. 1 (livres I et II).  Paris: Les Belles Lettres/Bude (1971). Checked.

R. RIDLEY, (tr.): Zosimus: New History, Canberra: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies (1982).  English translation.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

This page has been online since 1st November 2002

Return to the Manuscripts Pages             Return to Roger Pearse's Pages