Zosimus, New History 3.30

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.


[3.30.1] A meeting of the officers and soldiers was afterwards convened, in order to appoint a successor to the empire, since it would be impossible for them without a ruler to avoid the dangers to which they were exposed in the midst of an enemy's country. The general voice was in favor of Jovian, the son of Varronianus, tribune of the domestic forces.

[3.30.2] When Jovian had assumed the purple and the diadem, he directed his course homewards with all possible speed. Arriving at the castle of Suma, he was attacked by the Persian cavalry, accompanied by a great number of elephants, which committed great devastation in the right wing of the army, in which were placed the Joviani and Herculiani. These were the appellations of two legions, so named from Diocletian and Maximian, the former of whom assumed the surname of Jupiter, and the latter that of Hercules. 

[3.30.3] Although at first they were unable to sustain the shock of the elephants, yet when the Persians with their horses and elephants in one body approached them, and happened to arrive at a rising ground, on which were the carriages of the Romans and those who had the care of them, they availed themselves of the advantage to throw darts from above upon the Persians, with which they wounded the elephants. Upon feeling the smart of their wounds, the elephants, in their usual manner, immediately fled, breaking the line of the cavalry. The soldiers were thus enabled to kill the elephants in their flight, and numbers of the enemy. 

[3.30.4] There fell also on the Roman side, three tribunes, Julianus, Maximianus, and Macrobius. They then marched forward four days, continually harassed by the enemy, who followed them when they were proceeding, but fled when the Romans offered any resistance. At length, having gained some distance of the enemy, they resolved to cross the Tigris

[3.30.5] For this purpose they fastened skins together, and floated over. When the greater part had gained the opposite bank, the commanders crossed over in safety with the remainder. The Persians, however, still accompanied them, and followed them with a large army so assiduously, that the Romans were in perpetual danger, both from the unfavorable circumstances in which they were placed, and from the want, of provisions.