Zosimus, New History 5.19

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.


[5.19.1] Having given these orders to the barbarians under his command, he left the city, pretending that the fatigues of war had impaired his health, and that he was, therefore, in need of being refreshed, which he should never obtain unless he lived some time without anxiety.

[5.19.2] He therefore left the barbarians in the city, who considerably exceeded in number the court-guards, and retired to a villa, about forty stadia from the city, expecting an opportunity of attacking it when the barbarians within should make their attempt. Gainas was filled with these hopes; and had he not been led away by the impetuosity natural to a barbarian, and anticipated the season proper for his enterprise, the barbarians must inevitably have made themselves masters of the city.

[5.19.3] But not waiting for the signal, he led his soldiers to the wall, and caused the sentinels to give an alarm. Upon this a general tumult immediately arose, with shrieks of women and mingled cries, as if the city had already been taken. At length the inhabitants collected together, and fell on the barbarians within the city. Having dispatched these with swords, stones, or whatever weapons they could find, they ran to the wall, and with the assistance of the guards so assailed the troops of Gainas, that they repulsed them from entering the city.

[5.19.4] The city having thus escaped the danger, and the barbarians within being surrounded, more than seven thousand of them fled into a church belonging to the Christians, which stands near the palace, intending by that sanctuary to preserve themselves.

[5.19.5] The emperor commanded them to be slain even in that place; nor would he permit them to be protected by it from the just punishment which their daring actions merited. But although the emperor gave this command, none had courage to lay hands on them, through apprehension that they would defend themselves. They, therefore, deemed it best to take off the roof of the church, over what they term the altar, and to throw down firebrands upon them, until every man should be burnt to death. By these means the barbarians were destroyed. This, in the eyes of some who were zealous for Christianity, appeared a most abominable crime to be committed in the midst of so great a city.

[5.19.6] Gainas, being disappointed in this great attempt, now made open preparation for war against the commonwealth. Attacking first the countries of Thrace, he found the cities well protected by walls, and defended by their magistrates and inhabitants. For having been accustomed to wars, and learned from former incursions how to provide for their own safety, they we're ready to fight with the utmost zeal.

[5.19.7] Gainas, therefore, perceiving nothing left without the walls but grass, for they had collected all the fruits of the country and the cattle, resolved to leave Thrace, and to hasten into Chersonese, intending to return through the streights of the Hellespont into Asia.