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Bill Thayer

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Procopius: The Secret History
— or less sensationally,
The Anecdota

This site transcribes the English translation of Procopius' work by H[enry] B[ronson] Dewing as printed in Vol. VI of the Loeb Classical Library edition of that historian, published in 1935. I don't intend for the moment to transcribe the original Greek text since the paucity of readers of ancient Greek out there make it a case of diminishing returns, and at any rate it can be found on Perseus.

There is another English version of the Secret History online: translated by Richard Atwater in 1927, reprinted in 1963 by the University of Michigan, it has been made available at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook (in a single long page) and at (chapter by chapter). Atwater's translation is less stodgy than Dewing's, and to those with no Greek, the intersection of two different translations, both of them good, will be useful. (The on-target "Subject" captions in the index below, which I cannot improve on, are those of the Atwater translation; taken in turn from an unidentified manuscript tradition.) For convenience, in the navigation bar at the bottom of each Chapter, I've provided a link to the corresponding chapter of Atwater.

The Author, the Manuscripts

As with most ancient authors, not that much is known of Procopius; biographical material may appear onsite by and by: for now see the Catholic Encyclopedia article. The Loeb edition gives no information about the manuscripts, at least not in Vol. VI of its edition of Procopius, but the Introduction by H. B. Dewing is a good critique and addresses the dating of the work as well.

Chapter Subject

How the Great General Belisarius Was Hoodwinked by His Wife

How Belated Jealousy Affected Belisarius's Military Judgment

Showing the Danger of Interfering with a Woman's Intrigues

How Theodora Humiliated the Conqueror of Africa and Italy

How Theodora Tricked the General's Daughter

Ignorance of the Emperor Justin, and How His Nephew Justinian Was the Virtual Ruler

Outrages of the Blues

Character and Appearance of Justinian

How Theodora, Most Depraved of All Courtesans, Won His Love

How Justinian Created a New Law Permitting Him to Marry a Courtesan

How the Defender of the Faith Ruined His Subjects

Proving That Justinian and Theodora Were Actually Fiends in Human Form

Perceptive Affability and Piety of a Tyrant

Justice for Sale

How All Roman Citizens Became Slaves

What Happened to Those Who Fell Out of Favor with Theodora

How She Saved Five Hundred Harlots from a Life of Sin

How Justinian Killed a Trillion People

How He Seized All the Wealth of the Romans and Threw It Away

Debasing of the Quaestorship

The Sky Tax, and How Border Armies Were Forbidden to Punish Invading Barbarians

Further Corruption in High Places

How Landowners Were Ruined

Unjust Treatment of the Soldiers

How He Robbed His Own Officials

How He Spoiled the Beauty of the Cities and Plundered the Poor

How the Defender of the Faith Protected the Interests of the Christians

His Violation of the Laws of the Romans and How Jews Were Fined for Eating Lamb

Other Incidents Revealing Him as a Liar and a Hypocrite

Further Innovations of Justinian and Theodora, and a Conclusion

The Factions of the Hippodrome in Constantinople

The Christian Heresies

The Statue of Domitian

The Empire at the end of Justinian's Reign (A.D. 565)

Map of Constantinople, VI Century A.D.



The translation is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1963 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)


Chapter and Section Numbering, Local Links

The small section numbers mark local links, according to a consistent scheme; you can therefore link directly to any passage. Similarly, for citation purposes, the Loeb edition pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are therefore shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme. Should you spot an error, however . . . please do report it.

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Site updated: 9 Jun 20