Zosimus, New History 4.48

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.


[4.48.1] Returning himself to Thessalonica, he found the affairs of Macedonia in the utmost confusion. The barbarians, who had secreted themselves in the fens and woods near the lakes and had escaped from the former incursion of the Romans, having found an opportunity while Theodosius was occupied in the civil war, pillaged Macedonia and Thessaly without opposition.

[4.48.2] Upon hearing of the late victory, and that the emperor was upon his return, they again concealed themselves in the marshes, and issuing privately from thence at break of day, carried off all that they found and returned to their usual abode. To so great degree did they extend these ravages, that the emperor at length thought them to be rather demons than men.

[4.48.3] Being therefore in doubt, he communicated his design to no person. He took with him five horsemen, each of whom he ordered to lead three or four horses, that when any horse became weary, the rider might have another to mount, and the horses might by that means be enabled to endure the fatigue of the enterprise which he intended. He gave no cause to suppose that he was the emperor, but travelled through the country as a private individual. When he or his retinue was in want of food, they procured it from the country people. He arrived at length at a small inn, in which resided an old woman, whom he requested to admit him into her house, and to give him some wine.

[4.48.4] She complied with both these demands. While she was entertaining him very hospitably with wine and the provisions which were then accidentally in the house, the night approached, and he therefore desired her to allow him to sleep there, to which she likewise consented. In the room, where the emperor lay, he perceived a man who remained perfectly silent, and appeared to have no desire to be known.

[4.48.5] The emperor, being surprised at this appearance, called the old woman, and demanded of her who the man was and from whence he came. Her reply was, that she could neither give him that information, nor wherefore he came there, all she knew being, that since the emperor Theodosius and his army had returned home, he had been her guest and had paid her every day for his entertainment, that he had gone out every morning, walked where he pleased, and returned at night as from some hard labor, and after having eaten something had lain down in the position in which he now saw him. The emperor, having heard the story of the woman, judged it convenient to make a further inquiry into the affair and taking hold of the man, commanded him to declare who he was.

[4.48.6] The man not returning any answer, he beat him in order to force him to confess. But the man continuing unmoved by these blows, he commanded the horsemen to prick him with their swords, and told him that he was the emperor Theodosius. He then confessed that he was a spy in the service of the barbarians who were concealed in the fens, and informed him where they were, and in what places he could most conveniently attack them.

[4.48.7] The emperor immediately cut off his head. After this joining his army, which was encamped at no great distance, he brought his forces to the place which he knew to be the residence of the barbarians. He attacked and slew them without distinction of age, dragging some out of the fens in which they were concealed, and killing others in the water, thus causing a great slaughter of the barbarians.