Zosimus, New History 5

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 5


After the death of Theodosius, his sons Arcadius and Honorius become emperors in the east and west, but the real rulers are their regents, Rufinus, Eutropius, and Stilicho, who are also rivals in avarice.

For if any of the subjects had a villa remarkable for elegance, one of them would become its master. If any silver or gold were heard of, it flowed from its former proprietors into their coffers. Great numbers of sycophants being dispersed in all places, who were ordered to give notice of such things.note

There are accounts of several wars and Zosimus describes the career and exile of the Christian leader John Chrysostom. The empress Eudoxia dies.

At this point, beginning with section 26 and the year 404, there is a break in Zosimus’ story, both chronologically (several years are missing) and topographically (he starts to focus on the west). This can be deduced from all kinds of details as well: the river Danube, which Zosimus has until now called Ister, suddenly becomes Danubius, while Illyria becomes Dalmatia.

To be honest, the quality of the narrative also improves: the story of the revolt of Constantine, the fall of Stilicho, Alaric's invasion of Italy, the first siege of Rome, and the helplessness of the emperor Honorius is a great read. The new source has been identified with Olympiodorus’ History. Zosimus also refers to sources named Pisander and Quadratus.

The book ends with Alaric offering favorable terms to the besieged Romans, but they ignore them because they have sworn to the emperor not to negotiate. Zosimus remarks that they were apparently more concerned with the ruler than with the gods, who had given them an opportunity to live in peace.


  1. Arcadius and Honorius, Rufinus and Stilicho
  2. Death of Lucianus
  3. Rivalry between Rufinus and Eutropius
  4. Marriage of Honorius and Serena
  5. Alaric invades Greece
  6. Athens saved
  7. Death of Rufinus
  8. Eutropius expels his rivals
  9. Lawsuit against Timasius
  10. Fall of Abundantius
  11. War against Gildo
  12. Avarice of Stilicho and Eutropius
  13. Tribigild
  14. Gainas' response to Tribigild
  15. The war against Tribigild
  16. Tribigild in Pamphylia
  17. Gainas' double agenda
  18. Death of Eutropius
  19. Barbarians in Constantinople
  20. Fravitta prepares for war against Gainas
  21. Fravitta defeats Gainas
  22. Death of Gainas
  23. John Chrysostom
  24. Fire in Constantinople
  25. Isaurian raids
  26. Barbarian incursions
  27. Revolt of Constantine
  28. Honorius' marriages
  29. Advance of Alaric
  30. Honorius wants to go to Ravenna
  31. Death of Arcadius
  32. Mutiny in Ticinum
  33. Stilicho's response
  34. Death of Stilicho
  35. Stilicho's men join Alaric
  36. Honorius' confusion
  37. Alaric marches on Rome
  38. Sacrileges by Serena and Stilicho
  39. First siege of Rome
  40. Negotiations
  41. Destruction of pagan statues
  42. End of the first siege of Rome
  43. Recognition of Constantine
  44. Honorius' failure to act
  45. Military movements
  46. Recall of Generidus
  47. Execution of two Roman commanders
  48. Alaric's demands
  49. Alaric's second march on Rome
  50. Alaric's reduced demands
  51. Alaric's demands rejected