Zosimus, New History 5.21

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.


[5.21.1] Gainas, having forced his way through the long wall into the Chersonese, had ranged his troops along the whole length of the elevated shore in Thrace, which extends from opposite Parium as far as Lampsacus, Abydos, and the narrowest part of the strait.

[5.21.2] The Roman general, on the other hand, sailed continually about the coast of Asia, to observe the designs of the enemy. Gainas, from the want of provisions, being uneasy at the protraction of the time, cut down a quantity of timber in a wood in the Chersonese, which he fastened together with great accuracy, and rendering it capable to contain both men and horses, placed his troops upon it, and suffered them to float with the stream. These rafts were incapable of being managed with oars, or of admitting of the pilot's art, being hastily constructed by the rude contrivance of barbarians.

[5.21.3] He himself remained on shore, in the hopes of presently acquiring a victory, supposing that the Romans would not be sufficiently strong to contend against his men in an engagement. The prudent Roman general was not incautious, and, therefore, forming a conjecture of what was in agitation, he commanded his ships to put off a little from land. Perceiving the rude vessels of the barbarians to be carried with the current in whatever direction it drove them, he first attacked the foremost of them in front, and his ship, having a stem of brass, overpowered it, not only distressing it with his ship, but throwing darts at the men who were in it, and thus sunk both them and their vessel.

[5.21.4] When the crews of his other ships saw this, they imitated the example, killed some of them with their darts, while others, falling off the rafts, were drowned, and scarcely any of them escaped with life. Gainas, being much grieved by this signal discomfiture, and having lost so many of his troops, removed from the Chersonese into that part of Thrace which is beyond it. Fravitta did not then think it expedient to pursue Gainas, but mustered his forces in the same place, being contented with the victory which fortune had bestowed on him.

[5.21.5] Fravitta was now the subject of general animadversion, for not pursuing Gainas, but sparing him, because those who were escaped with him were the fellow-countrymen of Fravitta. But being conscious of no such intention, he returned to the emperor, proud of his victory, which he openly and boldly ascribed to the favor of the gods whom he worshipped. For he was not ashamed, even in the presence of the emperor, to profess that he worshipped and honored the gods after the ancient custom of his forefathers, and would not in that instance follow the vulgar people.

[5.21.6] The emperor received him with great kindness, and appointed him consul. Meantime Gainas, having lost the greater part of his army as I have related, fled with the remainder to the river Ister. Finding Thrace to be devastated by the former inroads it had sustained, he pillaged every thing that was in his reach. Apprehending, however, that another Roman army would follow him, and attack his barbarians, who were but a small number, and entertaining a suspicion of the Romans who accompanied him, he put every man of them to death, before they were apprized of his intention. He afterwards crossed the Ister with his barbarians, designing to retire into his own country, there to spend the remainder of his days.