Zosimus, New History 4.20

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.


[4.20.1] Meantime the emperor Valens was inundated with wars on every side. The first of these was with the Isaurians, who are by some called Pisidae, by others Solymi, and by others Cilices Montani, or Mountain Cilicians. They pillaged the towns of Lycia and Pamphylia, and though they could not obtain possession of the walls and houses, yet carried off all that was in the roads and fields. 

[4.20.2] The emperor, who still remained at Antioch, sent a force sufficient to oppose them. The Isaurians then fled with their plunder to the clefts of the mountains, to which the soldiers were either prevented by indolence from pursuing them, or from some cause unable to redress the evils which the towns had suffered.

[4.20.3] While these affairs were so conducted, a barbarous nation, which till then had remained unknown, suddenly made its appearance, attacking the Scythians beyond the Ister. These were the Huns. It is doubtful whether they were Scythians, who lived under regal government, or the people whom Herodotus states to reside near the Ister, and describes as a weak people with flat noses, or whether they came into Europe from Asia.

[4.20.4] For I have met with, a tradition, which relates that the Cimmerian Bosphorus was rendered firm land by mud brought down the Tanais, by which they were originally afforded a land-passage from Asia into Europe. However this might be, they, with their wives, children, horses, and carriages, invaded the Scythians who resided on the Ister, and though they were not capable of fighting on foot, nor understood in what manner even to walk, since they could not fix their feet firmly on the ground, but live perpetually, and even sleep, on horseback, yet by the rapidity with which they wheeled about their horses, by the suddenness of their excursions and retreat, shooting as they rode, they occasioned great slaughter among the Scythians.

[4.20.5] In this they were so incessant, that the surviving Scythians were compelled to leave their habitations to these Huns, and crossing the Ister, to supplicate the emperor to receive them, on their promise to adhere to him as faithful soldiers. 

[4.20.6] The officers of the fortified towns near the Ister deferred complying with this petition, until they should learn the pleasure of the emperor, who permitted them to be received without their arms. The tribunes and other officers therefore went over to bring the barbarians unarmed into the Roman territory; but occupied themselves solely in the gratification of their brutal appetites, or in procuring slaves, neglecting every thing that related to public affairs. A considerable number therefore crossed over with their arms, through this negligence. 

[4.20.7] These, on arriving into the Roman dominion, forgot both their petition and their oaths. Thus all Thrace, Pannonia, and the whole country as far as Macedon and Thessaly were filled with barbarians, who pillaged all in their way.