Zosimus, New History 2

Zosimus (Greek Ζώσιμος): Early Byzantine, pagan author of a history of the Roman Empire, published in the first quarter of the sixth century CE.

Book 2

Constantine the Great

The first part of the second book is lost. The surviving part begins with a digression on the Secular Games, which Zosimus must have inserted after his account of the resignation of Diocletian and Maximian. After this, Constantine became sole ruler, and with him, the rise of Christianity began. Zosimus says:

When Constantine and Licinius were in their third consulship, ... the festival ought to have been kept according to custom; but it was neglected, and affairs consequently declined to their present unfortunate condition.note

The reign of Constantine is the subject of 2.8-28: after the death of his father, he is made emperor by his soldiers, defeats his rivals Maxentius and Licinius, and is responsible for several important measures and innovations. However, the successful emperor is forced to execute his son Crispus and his wife Fausta, after which he feels extremely guilty and becomes a Christian. He builds Constantinople and reorganizes the Roman Empire. Zosimus is not too happy with these measures:

To speak in plain terms, Constantine was the first cause of the affairs of the Empire declining to their present miserable state.note

The final chapters of the second book deal with Constantine’s sons. Constantius II is responsible for the execution of a great many relatives and wages war against Magnentius (for which Zosimus is our main source). The book ends with a lengthy account of Constantius' campaign against Magnentius and the latter's defeat in the battle of Mursa, and a summary of the career of the caesar Gallus.

Zosimus’ main source in this book is the Universal History by Eunapius. There may be a second source, however, perhaps an epic poem, about the war against Magnentius, but it is not clear whether it is Zosimus or Eunapius who summarizes it.


  1. Mythological origin of the Tarentum
  2. Mythological origin of the Tarentum
  3. Valerius Publicola
  4. Historical Celebrations of the Secular Games
  5. Procedure of the Secular Games
  6. An Oracle about the Secular Games
  7. Importance of the Secular Games
  8. The Second Tetrarchy
  9. Rise of Constantine and Maxentius
  10. Crisis in the Second Tetrarchy
  11. Death of Galerius; fall of Maximian
  12. Revolt of Alexander
  13. Fire in Rome
  14. Downfall of Alexander
  15. War between Maxentius and Constantine
  16. Battle of the Milvian Bridge
  17. Rejoicing in Rome
  18. War between Constantine and Licinius
  19. Constantine defeats Licinius
  20. Peace between Constantine and Licinius
  21. Constantine's Sarmatian war
  22. Second war between Constantine and Licinius
  23. Constantine besieges Byzantium
  24. Naval operations
  25. Licinius retreats from Byzantium
  26. Byzantium surrenders to Constantine
  27. Hormisdas
  28. Death of Licinius
  29. Conversion of Constantine
  30. Foundation of Constantinople
  31. Constantinople
  32. Changes to the praetorian prefecture
  33. Four prefectures
  34. A new strategy
  35. Constantinople is too big
  36. An oracle about Constantinople
  37. Text of this oracle
  38. Constantine's taxes
  39. Death of Constantine
  40. Purges
  41. Dispute between Constantine II and Constans
  42. Coup of Magnentius; death of Constans
  43. Revolt of Nepotianus
  44. The end of Vetranio
  45. Constantius advances against Magnentius
  46. Philip's embassy to Magnentius
  47. Speech of Magnentius
  48. Constantius proceeds to Cibalis
  49. Magnentius proceeds to Mursa
  50. Skirmishes near Mursa
  51. Battle of Mursa
  52. Heroic behavior of Menelaus
  53. End of Magnentius
  54. Retrospect on Magnentius' reign
  55. Fall of Gallus