Zosimus, New History 3.19

Zosimus (Greek Ζώσιμος): Early Byzantine, pagan author of a history of the Roman Empire, published in the first quarter of the sixth century CE.

The translation of ZosimusNew History offered here was printed in 1814 by W. Green and T. Chaplin in London, and was probably prepared by J. Davis of the Military Chronicle and Military Classics Office. The translator is anonymous. The text was found at Tertullian.org. The notes were added by Jona Lendering.


[3.19.1] Meanwhile Surena, advancing with a large army from a town in Assyria, surprised the reconnoitering party in advance of the army, killed one of the three tribunes and some of his men, and put the remainder to flight, carrying off a military ensign which was in the form of a dragon, such as the Romans usually carry in war.

[3.19.2] The emperor on learning this was much displeased, and in his anger attacked the forces of Surena, compelled all to fly that could escape, retook the ensign which the enemy had carried off, and coming immediately to the city where Surena had surprised the party, stormed, took, and burnt it. As the commander of the party, preferring his own safety to the valor and honor of a Roman, had left his standard in the enemy's hands, he deprived him of his girdle, regarding him as a mean and worthless person, together with all who had accompanied him in his flight.

[3.19.3] On his advance beyond the river, he arrived at a place near a city called Phissenia. This was surrounded by a ditch, which, though very deep, the Persians filled with a large quantity of water, which they procured from the neighboring river, called the King's River.note This city he passed without halting, because it shewed no appearance of hostility, and went through a place, where was a morass formed by art, the Persians having imagined that by cutting a sluice to admit the water of the river, they could form an insuperable obstacle to the passage of the army by that route.

[3.19.4] The emperor leading the way, the army followed him though up to their knees in water, being restrained by shame from hesitating to follow the example of the emperor. After sunset, the army halted in the neighborhood; while the emperor commanding some of the soldiers and artificers to follow him, cut down trees, with which he constructed a bridge over the sluice, and throwing earth into the fens filled up the deep places, and widened the narrow passages. He afterwards led his army through with great ease, until he arrived at a town called Bithra, in which was a palace, and room enough for the accommodation both of the emperor and his army.