Zosimus, New History 5.39

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.


[5.39.1] However, the death of Serena did not remove Alaric from the siege, but he blocked up the gates all round, and having possessed himself of the river Tiber, prevented the arrival of necessaries from the port to the city. The Romans, on perceiving this, still resolved to persevere in their defence, expecting daily to receive auxiliaries from Ravenna. 

[5.39.2] But none coming to their assistance, and being disappointed in their hopes, they diminished the allowance of grain, and ordered that not more than half of the former quantity of provisions should be dressed each day and afterwards when the scarcity increased, only a third part. Receiving no relief, and all their provisions being consumed, the famine, as might be expected, was succeeded by a pestilence, and all places were filled with dead bodies.

[5.39.3] As the dead could not be interred outside the city, for the enemy was in possession of all the avenues, the city was made their sepulchre. Thus it was in danger of being depopulated by an additional cause, and though no want of provisions had subsisted, yet the stench arising from the putrid corpses was sufficient to infect them with disease. 

[5.39.4] Laeta, the wife of the late emperor Gratian, and her mother Pissamena, supplied great numbers with food for some time. For since they were allowed from the treasury the provisions of an imperial table, through the generosity of Theodosius, who had conferred on then that privilege, many received the bounty of these two ladies, and obtained from their house what preserved them from famine.