Zosimus, New History 4.23

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.


[4.23.1] Upon hearing of his arrival, Valens, knowing his ability both in civil and military affairs, appointed him to the command of his army, and entrusted him with the whole management of the war. 

[4.23.2] Sebastianus, observing the indolence and effeminacy both of the tribunes and soldiers, and that all they had been taught was only how to fly, and to have desires more suitable to women than to men, requested no more than two thousand men of his own choice. He well knew the difficulty of commanding a multitude of ill-disciplined dissolute men, and that a small number might more easily be reclaimed from their effeminacy, and, moreover, that it was better to risk a few than all. 

[4.23.3] By these arguments having prevailed upon the emperor, he obtained his desire. He selected, not such as had been trained to cowardice and accustomed to flight, but strong and active men who had lately been taken into the army, and who appeared to him, who was able to judge of men, to be capable of any service. He immediately made trial of each of them, and obviated their defects by continual exercise, bestowing commendations and rewards on all who were obedient, but appearing severe and inexorable to those who neglected their duty. 

[4.23.4] Having by these means infused into them the principles of the military art, he took possession of several fortified towns, for the security of his army. From these he frequently surprised the barbarians as they came out for forage. Sometimes, when they were loaded with spoils, he killed them and took what they carried; at other times he destroyed them when they were intoxicated or washing themselves in the river.

[4.23.5] When he had by these methods cut off great part of the barbarians, and the remainder felt such dread of him that they dared not attempt to forage, an extraordinary degree of envy was excited against him. From this envy proceeded hatred, until at length the court eunuchs, at the instigation of those who had lost their command, accused him to the emperor, who by these means was induced to entertain unjust suspicions of him.

[4.23.6] Sebastianus sent a request to the emperor, desiring him to remain where he then was, and not to advance, since it was not easy to bring such a multitude to a regular engagement. He, moreover, observed that it would be better to protract the war in harassing them by ambuscades, until they should be reduced to despair from the want of necessaries, and rather than expose themselves to the misery and destruction of famine, either surrender themselves, or depart from the Roman territory and submit to the Huns.