Zosimus, New History 4.40

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.


[4.40.1] In the part of Scythia contiguous to Thrace is a town called Tomi, in which was a garrison commanded by Gerontius, a stout and valuable soldier. Before that town was placed a select corps of barbarians, who excelled the rest of their countrymen in strength and courage.

[4.40.2] Although these men were favored by the emperor with a larger allowance of corn and other provisions than any other of the soldiers, they did not repay these distinctions with good will, but with hatred to the governor of the town, and contempt of the Roman soldiers. Gerontius on discovering their design, which was to attack the town, and to confuse the government, consulted with his most prudent soldiers on the method of punishing those insolent barbarians.

[4.40.3] Finding them fearful, and consequently backward in giving their assent, he took his arms, and issued with a few of his guards to engage the whole body of barbarians. Having opened the gates, he marched out against them, while his soldiers were yet asleep, and shackled by fear as by a chain, or had mounted the wall to witness what should occur.

[4.40.4] Meantime the barbarians laughed at the temerity of Gerontius, and thinking him desirous of death, sent against him men of extraordinary strength. Gerontius engaged with the first man whom he encountered, who immediately catching hold of his buckler resolutely opposed him. At length, one of the guards, who saw them closed, coming to his assistance, cut off the arm of the barbarian and caused him to fall from his horse.

[4.40.5] While the barbarians stood in astonishment at his courage and audacity, Gerontius attacked others of the enemy. The soldiers upon the wall, witnessing the exploits of their commander, recollected that they were Romans, and sallying out, killed most of the barbarians, who were astonished at so sudden an eruption. A few only of them escaped to an edifice, which was held in high veneration by the Christians, and esteemed an asylum or sanctuary.

[4.40.6] Gerontius, having delivered this part of Scythia from all impending dangers, and from the barbarians who had formed attempts against it, but were subdued by his remarkable valor and conduct, expected some remuneration from the emperor. On the contrary, Theodosius was offended, that the barbarians, whom he had so much honored, were cut off, although they had been a great annoyance to the public repose. He therefore privately required Gerontius to be brought before him in custody, to plead in defence of his brave achievements for the advantage of the Romans.

[4.40.7] Upon this occasion, Gerontius charged the barbarians with rebellion, and related the depredations and ravages they had committed among the inhabitants of that town. The emperor, however, continued regardless of all he said, and persisted in accusing him of having removed them, not for the public good, but in order to acquire the presents which the emperor had given them.

[4.40.8] Gerontius replied, that he had sent their property to the public treasury after their death. He had only taken from them some golden necklaces which the emperor had presented to them as ornaments. Notwithstanding this justification he had great difficulty in escaping the dangers that surrounded him, though he distributed all he possessed to the eunuchs, and paid a porportionable sum for his goodwill to the Romans.