Zosimus, New History 4

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 4

Valentinian I

The fourth book of ZosimusNew History deals with the House of Valentinian - Valentinian I himself, who ruled from 364 until 375, his brother and co-ruler Valens (r.364-378), and Valentinian’s son and successor Gratian (r.375-383). Zosimus treats them quite fairly, without exaggerating the cruelty of the trials that is, for example, typical of an Ammianus Marcellinus.

After the battle of Adrianople (378), in which Valens is killed in action, Gratian makes Theodosius his co-ruler in the east.note Zosimus’ portrayal of this Christian ruler is extremely hostile. He blames Theodosius for almost everything that can go wrong and for everything the author believes to be wrong. The empire’s army has too many officers,note the units are undisciplined,note eunuchs become too powerful,note and so on. Money is being squandered without consideration,note forcing the emperor to raise the taxes.note The people start to believe that barbarian rule is preferable.note

After the assassination of Gratian, his younger brother Valentinian II flees to Thessaloniki and asks Theodosius to help him in his war against the murderer Magnus Maximus, but Theodosius ignores the boy’s pleas – until he meets his sister Galla. She is beautiful and now Theodosius finally is interested in doing his job.note After an incredible story about Theodosius' war against bandits,note the fourth book ends with his war against the usurper Eugenius.

Zosimus’ main source in this book is the Universal History by Eunapius, but he also refers to the philosopher Syrianus, who wrote about the miraculous way Athens was saved from an earthquake. Herodotus of Halicarnassus is also a source of information.


  1. Beginning of the reign of Valentinian and Valens
  2. Purge among Julian's pagan friends
  3. Division of the empire
  4. Early career of Procopius
  5. Revolt of Procopius
  6. Procopius seizes Constantinople
  7. Valens prepares for war
  8. Valens defeats Procopius
  9. Trouble in the Rhineland
  10. Valens' Scythian war
  11. Valens' Scythian victory
  12. Affairs in the West
  13. Valens in Antioch
  14. Valens suspects the philosophers
  15. Executions
  16. Affairs in the West
  17. Death of Valentinian
  18. Earthquakes; Athens saved
  19. Accession of Gratian and Valentian II
  20. The Huns
  21. An omen
  22. The Saracens repell the Scythians
  23. Sebastianus
  24. Battle of Adrianople
  25. Fighting in Thrace
  26. Massacres in Syria
  27. Theodosius reorganizes the army
  28. Theodosius' misadministration
  29. Suffering of the people
  30. Transfer of units
  31. Undisciplined troops in Macedonia
  32. Fiscal measures
  33. Moral decline
  34. Theodosius restores some order
  35. Magnus Maximus proclaimed emperor
  36. Gratian's refusal of the pontificate
  37. Magnus Maximus recognized
  38. The Greuthinges
  39. Promotus defeats the Greuthinges
  40. The hero Gerontius
  41. Theodosius and Antioch
  42. Magnus Maximus invades Italy
  43. Valentinian II escapes to Thessaloniki
  44. Justina convinces Theodosius to attack Magnus Maximus
  45. Theodosius advances to Italy
  46. The end of Magnus Maximus
  47. Theodosius reinstalls Valentinian II
  48. Banditry
  49. Fight against the bandits
  50. Theodosius' nature
  51. Fall of Promotus
  52. Fall of Tatianus and Proclus
  53. Conflict between Valentinian II and Arbogast
  54. Death of Valentinian; Eugenius emperor
  55. Theodosius considers war
  56. Quarrel between Eriulph and Fravitta
  57. Theodosius prepares for war
  58. Battle of the Frigidus
  59. Death of Theodosius