This post will be the beginning of a much longer project, which I hope to sustain, of translating all of the specifically Roman history from Ioannes Zonaras’ vast Epitome. Books I-VI of the work are primarily concerned with Biblical and Judaic history; the rest of the work is a synopsis of Roman history from the founding of the city. Zonaras draws heavily on other historians, and even preserves substantial information which would have otherwise been lost. He is occasionally faulted for not being the most accurate historian, but this is a charge leveled against ancient writers of history all the way back to Herodotus. Gibbon makes heavy use of Zonaras in his Decline and Fall, and it is perhaps not coincidental that Gibbon himself is censured on occasion for his reliance on sources of dubious reliability.
Nevertheless, there is also (as far as I know) no full-scale English translation of all of Zonaras’ Roman history, and Byzantine chroniclers are not much in fashion (and perhaps never will be), so it may not be entirely out of place here to post it. I can swear no solemn oath that I will complete the project, but I will try to provide small daily updates.
Epitome Historiarum: 6.29-7.1
Since mention has been made of the history of the Romans, including their unconquerable strength, it is absolutely necessary to say and teach, or at least to recall those who are recorded in that book, and who these Romans were, and whence their race originally sprang, how they got their name, what sort of government they employed, what fortunes they enjoyed, and how they progressed to the highest point of happiness when they commanded but a tiny portion of the inhabited world and restrained the power of nearly all others; further, how they proceeded from their original monarchy to an aristocracy (that is, the dictatorship and the consulship), then to democracy, and finally back to monarchy. I must therefore discourse upon these things and set out in detail as much as it is possible for one trying to cut the wide breadth, and manage the tediousness, of such a wide subject, so that all pertaining to the history may be readily intelligible and not escape the memory of posterity.
Following the Trojan War, Aeneas came to the Aborigines, who first inhabited the region where Rome was founded, and where Latinus, the son of Faunus, then ruled. He continued on to Laurentum, near the river Numicium, where it is said that he prepared to found his city in accordance with a certain oracle. But Latinus, who was then the king of that land, prevented Aeneas from establishing a foundation there, and when it came to blows he was beaten. They were then reconciled by dreams which appeared to each of them. Latinus conceded the right of settlement to Aeneas, and even gave him his daughter Lavinia in marriage, for which reason Aeneas named the city which he founded Lavinium. The region was called Latium and the people who lived there were then called Latins.
But the neighboring Rutulians set out from their city of Ardea and since they were previously ill-disposed toward the Latins, they then initiated a war with the help of Turnus, a man both noble and formerly allied with Latinus. He had however become enraged with Latinus on account of Lavinia’s marriage, because she was previously promised to him. During the war, both Turnus and Latinus fell, and Aeneas won both the victory as well as his father-in-law’s throne. After a little time, however, the Rutulians received some aid from the Tyrsenians and came up against Aeneas again, this time winning the war. Aeneas disappeared, and since he was never again seen either living or dead, he was honored among the Latins as a god. Therefore, the Romans consider him their founder, and they boastfully call themselves the children of Aeneas (Aeneidae). Aeneas’ son Ascanius, who had followed his father from Troy, then assumed the throne, for Aeneas had not yet had a child with Lavinia, though he did leave her pregnant at his death. The enemy then surrounded Ascanius and besieged him, but the Latins set upon them at night and ended both the siege and the war.
῾Ρωμαίων δὲ μνησθείσης τῆς ἱστορίας καὶ τούτοις κράτος ἀναθεμένης ἀήττητον, ἀναγκαῖον πάν-
τως εἰπεῖν καὶ διδάξαι ἢ ἀναμνῆσαι τοὺς ἐντευξομένους τούτῳ δὴ τῷ συγγράμματι τίνες τε οἱ ῾Ρωμαῖοικαὶ ὅθεν τὸ τούτων ἔθνος συνέστη τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς, καὶπόθεν τὴν κλῆσιν ἔσχε, καὶ τίσι πολιτείαις ἐχρήσατο,καὶ οἵαις τύχαις ἐνέκυρσε, καὶ ὅπως προύκοψεν εἰςεὐδαιμονίας ἀκρότητα ὡς μικροῦ κυριεῦσαι τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁπάσης καὶ τὸ κράτος κατὰ πάντων σχεδὸν ἀναδήσασθαι, καὶ ὅπως βασιλευθὲν ἐξ ἀρχῆςεἰς ἀριστοκρατίαν ἤτοι δικτατωρείας καὶ ὑπατείαςμετέπεσε, καὶ εἰς δημοκρατίαν αὖθις μετήνεκτο,εἶτα εἰς μοναρχίαν ἐπανελήλυθεν. ῥητέον μοι τοίνυν καὶ περὶ τούτων καὶ διηγητέον ὡς ἐνὸν ἐπιτέμνοντι τὸ πλάτος τῆς διηγήσεως καὶ τὴν μακρηγορίαν συστέλλοντι, ἵν’ εἶεν εὐσύνοπτα τὰ τῆςἱστορίας καὶ τὴν τῶν ἐπιόντων μνήμην μὴ διαφεύγοιεν. Αἰνείας μετὰ τὸν Τρωικὸν πόλεμον ἀφῖκτο πρὸ᾿Αβορίγινας, οἳ πρῴην τὴν χώραν ᾤκουν καθ’ ἣν ἡ῾Ρώμη πεπόλισται, Λατίνου τοῦ Φαύνου τότε τὴν τούτων ἀρχὴν ἔχοντος, καὶ προσέσχε Λαυρεντῷ κατὰτὸν Νουμίκιον ποταμόν, ἔνθα κατά τι δὴ θεοπρόπιον λέγεται παρασκευάζεσθαι ποιήσασθαι τὴν κατοίκησιν. ὁ δὲ τῆς χώρας ἄρχων Λατῖνος ἀπεῖργε τῷ Αἰνείᾳ τὴν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ καθίδρυσιν. καὶ συμβαλὼν ἡττᾶται· εἶτα δι’ ὀνειράτων φανέντων ἀμφοῖν καταλλάττονται· καὶ τῆς κατοικίας αὐτῷ παραχωρεῖ, καὶ τὴν θυγατέρα Λαουινίαν εἰς γάμον ἐκδίδωσιν. ἔνθα πόλιν ὁ Αἰνείας οἰκοδομήσας ὠνόμασε Λαουίνιον· ἥ τε χώρα Λάτιον ἐπεκλήθη καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ἐκεῖ Λατῖνοι προσηγορεύθησαν.
῾Ρουτοῦλοι δὲ ὁμοροῦντες τῇ χώρᾳ ἐκ πόλεως᾿Αρδέας ὁρμώμενοι, καὶ πρόσθεν δυσμενῶς ἔχοντες πρὸς Λατίνους, καὶ τότε πόλεμον ἤραντο, ἐπαρήγοντος αὐτοῖς καὶ Τούρνου ἀνδρὸς ἐπιφανοῦς καὶ τῷΛατίνῳ προσήκοντος, ὃς δι’ ὀργῆς τὸν Λατῖνον πεποίητο διὰ τὸν Λαουινίας γάμον· ἐκείνῳ γὰρ ἡ κόρη προωμολόγητο. μάχης οὖν γενομένης πίπτουσιν ὅ τε Τοῦρνος καὶ ὁ Λατῖνος, τὴν δὲ νίκην ὁ Αἰνείας κεκόμιστο καὶ τὴν τοῦ πενθεροῦ βασιλείαν. μετὰ δέ τινα χρόνον συμμαχίας ἐκ Τυρσηνῶν οἱ ῾Ρουτοῦλοι τυχόντες ἐπῆλθον τῷ Αἰνείᾳ, καὶ τὸν πόλεμον νενικήκασιν· ἀφανὴς δὲ ὁ Αἰνείας γενόμενος, οὔτε γὰρ ζῶν ὤφθη ἔτι οὔτε μὴν τεθνεώς, ὡς θεὸς παρὰ Λατίνοις τετίμητο. ἐντεῦθεν καὶ τοῖς ῾Ρωμαίοις τοῦ σφετέρου γένους ἀρχηγέτης νενόμισται, καὶ Αἰνειάδαι καλεῖσθαι αὐχοῦσι. τὴν δὲ τῶν Λατίνων ἀρχὴν ὁ ἐκείνου υἱὸς ᾿Ασκάνιος διεδέξατο, ὃς οἴκοθεν συνείπετο τῷ πατρί· οὐδέπω γὰρ ἐκ τῆς Λαουινίας παῖδα ἐγείνατο, ἔγκυον δ’ αὐτὴν καταλέλοιπε. τὸν δὲ ᾿Ασκάνιον κατακλείσαντες οἱ πολέμιοι ἐπολιόρκουν· νυκτὸςδ’ οἱ Λατῖνοι αὐτοῖς ἐπιθέμενοι τήν τε πολιορκίαν ἔλυσαν καὶ τὸν πόλεμον.