Zosimus, New History. London: Green and Chaplin (1814). Book 6.


ALARIC having thus received insult in return for his reasonable demands, hastened towards Rome with all his forces, designing closely to besiege that city. At the same time Jovius, a man of great learning and virtue, came to Honorius as ambassador from Constantine, who had usurped the government of Gallia Celtica, desiring a confirmation of the peace which had formerly been agreed on, and requesting pardon for the death of Verenianus and Didymius, who were relations of the emperor Honorius. He pleaded in excuse, that they were not killed with the concurrence of Constantine. Finding Honorius in great perplexity, he told him that it was convenient to him to make some concessions, since he was so much embarrassed with the affairs of Italy, and that if be would suffer him to go back to Constantine to inform him of the circumstances in which Italy then stood, he would shortly return with all the forces in Celtica, Spain, and Britain, to the relief of Italy and Rome. On these conditions Jovius was permitted to depart.

Since I have not given a relation.of the occurrences in Celtica, it would here be proper to notice what had previously taken place there. When Arcadius was reigning, Honorius being consul the seventh time and Theodosius the second, the troops in Britain revolted and promoted Marcus to the imperial throne, rendering obedience to him as the sovereign in those countries. Some time subsequently, having put him to death for not complying with their inclinations, they set up Gratian, whom they presented with a diadem and a purple robe, and attended him as an emperor. Being disgusted with him likewise, they four months afterwards deposed and murdered him, delivering the empire to Constantine. He having entrusted to Justinian and Nevigastes the command of the Celtic legions, crossed over from Britain. Having arrived at Bononia, which is the nearest to the sea-side, situated in the lower Germany, and continuing there some days, he conciliated the attachment of all the troops between that place |173 and the Alps, which separate Gaul from Italy, thus appearing now secure in the empire. At the same time Stilico sent Sarus at the head of an army against Constantine. Having encountered with the division commanded by Justinian, he slew that general with the greaterpart of his soldiers. Having acquired great spoils he advanced to besiege Valentia, where he understood that Constantine had placed himself, it being a strong city, well fortified and a secure residence. Nevigastes, the surviving commander, having made overtures of peace to Sarus, was received by him as a friend. But Sarus, although he had both given and received an oath to the contrary, immediately put him to death, without regard to what he had sworn.

Constantine then conferred the command, vacant by the death of Justinian and Nevigastes, on Edobinchus, a Frank by extraction, but a native of Britain, and on Gerontius, a Briton. Sarus, being in dread of the courage and the military experience of these two, raised the siege of Valentia after he had continued in it seven days. The officers of Constantine attacked him so briskly, that he had much difficulty to escape with life, and was under the necessity of giving up all his spoils to the Bacaudae, a tribe of freebooters, to allow him to pass into Italy. When Sarus was thus safely returned to Italy, Constantine, having mustered all his forces, resolved to place a sufficient guard on the Alps in the three passes, which form the passage from Italy into Celtica, commonly termed the Cottian, the Pennine, and the maritime Alps. This was the reason for his taking these precautions. Some years before, Arcadius being in his sixth consulate, and Probus was his colleague, the Vandals, uniting with the Alani and the Suevi, crossed in these places, and plundered the countries beyond the Alps.

Having there occasioned great slaughter they likewise became so formidable even to the armies in Britain, that they were compelled, through fear of their proceeding as far as that country, to choose several usurpers, as Marcus, Gratian, and after them Constantine. A furious engagement ensued between then), in which the Romans gained the victory, and killed most of the barbarians. Yet by not pursuing those who tied, by which means they might have put to death every man, they gave them opportunity to rally, and by collecting an additional number of barbarians, to assume once more a fighting posture. For this cause, Constantine placed guards in these places, that those tribes should not have so free access into Gaul. He likewise secured the Rhine, which had been neglected since the time of the emperor Julian. Having thus arranged affairs throughout all Gaul, he decorated |174 his eldest son, Constans, with the habit of a Caesar, and sent him into Spain. For he wished to obtain the absolute sovereignty of that country, not only through the desire of enlarging his own dominions, but of diminishing the power of the relations of Honorius. He was apprehensive, lest when they had collected together an army of the soldiers who were in that quarter, they might on some occasion cross the Pyrenaean mountains and attack him, while Honorius might send an army from Italy, and by surrounding him on every side, depose him from his throne. Constans therefore went into Spain, having with him Terentius as his general, and Apollinarius as prefect of his court. Having appointed all the officers, both civil and military, he sent his army under their conduct against the relations of the emperor Honorius, who had thrown all Spain into a state of disturbance. These having commenced the first assault against Constans with their Lusitanian soldiers, and finding themselves overpowered, collected an immense number of slaves and peasants, by whose assistance they had nearly reduced him to the most precarious clanger. But even in this emergency their expectations were frustrated, but they with their wives fell into the hands of Constans. This disaster being made known to their brothers, Theodosius and Lagodius, one of them fled into Italy, and the other safely escaped to to the east. After these achievements in Spain, Constans returned to his father, carrying with him Verenianus and Didymius, and leaving there his general Gerontius with the Gallic troops to guard the pass from Celtica into Spain; although the Spanish soldiers desired that charge to be confided to them, as had formerly been the case, and that the safety of their country might not be committed to the care o.f strangers. Verenianus and Didymius, being brought to Constantine, were immediately put to death.

Constans was afterwards a second time sent into Spain, and took with him Justus as his general. Gerontius being dissatisfied at this, and having conciliated the favour of the soldiers in that quarter, incited the barbarians who were in Gallia Celtica to revolt against Constantine. Constantine being unable to withstand these, the greater part of his army being in Spain, the barbarians beyond the Rhine made such unbounded incursions over every province, as to reduce not only the Britons, but some of the Celtic nations also to the necessity of revolting from the empire, and living no longer under the Roman laws but as they themselves pleased. The Britons therefore took up arms, and incurred many dangerous enterprises for their own protection, until they had freed their cities from the barbarians who besieged them. In a |175 similiar manner, the whole of Armorica, with other provinces of Gaul, delivered themselves by the same means ; expelling the Roman magistrates or officers, and erecting a government, such as they pleased, of their own.

Thus happened this revolt or defection of Britain and the Celtic nations, when Constantine usurped the empire, by whose negligent government the barbarians were emboldened to commit such devastations. In the meantime, Alaric, finding that he could not procure a peace on the conditions which he proposed, nor had received any hostages, once more attacked Rome, and threatened to storm it if the citizens refused to join with him against the emperor Honorius. They deferred their answer to this proposal so long, that he besieged the city, and marching to the port, after a resistance of some days, made himself master of it. Finding that all the stores of the city were there, he threatened to distribute them among his men, unless the Romans should accede to his terms. The whole senate having therefore assembled, and having deliberated on what course to follow, complied with all that Alaric required of them. For it would have been impossible to avoid death, since no provisions could be brought from the port to the relief of the city. Accordingly they received the embassy of Alaric, invited him to their city, and, as he commanded, placed Attalus, the prefect of the city, on an imperial throne, with a purple robe and a crown ; who presently declared Lampadius prefect of the court, and Marcianus of the city, and gave the command to Alaric and Valens, who formerly commanded the Dalmatian legions, distributing the other offices in proper order. He then proceeded towards the palace, attended by an imperial guard; although many ill omens occurred in his way. The following day, entering the senate, he made a speech full of arrogance, in which he told them with great ostentation that he would subdue the whole world to the Romans, and even perform greater things than that. For this the gods perhaps were angry and designed soon afterwards to remove him.

The Romans were therefore filled with joy, having not only acquired other magistrates, well acquainted with the management of affairs, but likewise Tertullus, with whose promotion to the consulship they were exceedingly gratified. None were displeased with these occurrences, which were thought conducive to public advantage, except, only the family of the Anicii; because they alone having got into their hands almost all the money in the city, were grieved at the prosperous state, of affairs. Alaric prudently advised Attalus to send a competent force into |176 Africa and to Carthage, in order to depose Heraclianus from his dignity, lest he, who was attached to Honorius, should obstruct their designs. But Attalus would not listen to his admonitions, being filled with expectations given him by the soothsayers, that he should subdue Carthage and all Africa without fighting, and would not send out Drumas, who, with the barbarians under his command, might easily have turned Heraclianus out of his office. Disregarding the counsels of Alaric, he gave the command of all the troops in Africa to Constantine, yet sent along with him no good soldiers. In the mean time, while the affairs of Africa continued uncertain, he undertook an expedition against the emperor, who was at Ravenna. Upon this, the emperor was so terrified and perplexed, that he sent out ambassadors to propose that the empire should be divided between them. Jovius, whom Attalus had made prefect of the court, replied that Attalus would not leave Honorius so much as the bare title of emperor, nor even an entire body ; for that he intended to send him to reside in an island, and to maim him in some of his limbs. Those arrogant expressions excited a general alarm, and Honorius was prepared to fly. When he had for that purpose collected a considerable number of ships into the port at Ravenna, six regiments of auxiliary soldiers arrived there, which were expected when Stilico was living, but did not come from the east until that period ; amounting in number to six thousand. At their arrival, Honorius, as if awaked from a deep sleep, confided the defence of the walls to those who were come from the east, and resolved to remain at Ravenna, until he should receive better intelligence of the affairs of Africa. He intended, indeed, if Heraclianus obtained the ascendancy, when all was settled and secure in that quarter, to make war with all his forces against Alaric and Attalus. On the contrary, if his adherents in Africa should be defeated, he meant to sail into the east to Theodosius, with the, ships which he had in readiness, and to relinquish the empire of the west.

While such were the intentions of Honorius, Jovius, who as I before mentioned was sent ambassador to Honorius, began to entertain treasonable designs, being corrupted by Honorius through means of other persons. He therefore declared to the senate, that he would no longer act as an ambassador, and used reproachful expressions before them, telling them that since those whom they had sent info Africa had failed of success, they ought to send over Barbarians against Heraclianus. For Constantine being slain, their hopes from that part of the world were become very precarious. Attalus being enraged, and having employed other |177 persons to superintend the execution of his orders, others were sent into Africa with money, to assist in the present exigencies there. When Alaric understood this, he was displeased at it, and began to despair of the affairs of Attalus, who formed his projects with the most foolish temerity, without either reason or prospect of advantage. Having therefore made these considerations, he resolved to relinquish the siege of Ravenna, although he had before determined to prosecute it until he took the place. To this he had been persuaded by Jovius, who, when he heard that the commander sent in to Africa by Attalus had totally failed in his purpose, applied himself wholly to the affairs of Honorius, and was continually speaking to Alaric to the prejudice of Attalus, with the design of inducing him to believe, that as soon as Attalus should have secured the empire into his own hands, he would concert the death of Alaric, and all his relations. While Alaric continued faithful to the oath which he had given to Attalus, Valens, the commander of the cavalry, was arrested on suspicion of treason. Alaric in the mean time proceeded with his army to all the cities of Aemilia, which had refused to accept Attalus as their sovereign. Some of these he speedily reduced ; but having besieged Bononia, which resisted him many days, without being able to take it, he advanced towards Liguria, to compel that country likewise to acknowledge Attalus as its emperor.

Honorius, having sent letters to the cities of Britain, counselling them to be watchful of their own security, and having rewarded his soldiers with the money sent by Heraclianus, lived with all imaginable ease, since he had acquired the attachment of the soldiers in all places. Heraclianus having guarded all the ports of Africa in the strictest manner, that neither corn nor oil, nor any other provision, should be conveyed to the port of Rome, the city sustained a famine more grievious than the former. The venders of provisions likewise concealed all their goods, in hope of gaining considerable profit, by fixing on their commodities what price they pleased,. By these means the city was reduced to such extremities, that some persons, as if they wished that human flesh might be eaten, cried out in the Hippodrome, "Fix a certain price on human flesh."

On this occasion Attalus went to Rome, and convened the senate. After some debate most of them were of opinion that the Barbarians and the Roman soldiers ought to be sent into Africa, and that Drumas should be their commander, he being a person who had already given proofs of his fidelity and good will. Only Attalus and a few more dissented from the majority of the senate, |178 he being unwilling to send out a Barbarian as commander of a Roman army. This was the first time that Alaric formed a design against Attalus to depose him or deprive him of life ; although Jovius had previously instigated him to it by incessant calumnies, and false accusations. In order therefore to put his design in execution, he led Attalus out before the city of Ariminum, where he then resided, and stripping him of his diadem and purple robe, sent them to the emperor Honorius. But although he reduced Attalus to the condition of a private individual before all the people, he kept him and his son Ampelius at his own house, until he had made peace with Honorius, when he procured their pardon. Placida, the emperor's sister, was also with Alaric, in the quality of an hostage, but received all the honour and attendance due to a princess.

Such was the state of Italy, while Constantine gave a diadem to his son Constans, and from a Caesar raised him to an emperor; after having deprived Apollinarius of his office, and appointed another person prefect of the court in his room. In the meantime Alaric proceeded to Ravenna to confirm the peace with Honorius; but fortune invented another obstacle beyond all expectation, and as it were pointed out what should befal the commonwealth. For while Sarus was stationed with a few Barbarians in Picenum, and joined neither with the emperor nor with Alaric, Ataulphus, who had an animosity against him on the ground of some former difference, came with his whole army to the place where Sarus happened to be. As soon as Sarus perceived him approaching, finding himself not able to centend with him, as he had only three hundred men, he resolved to fly to Honorius, and assist him in the war against Alaric. *  *  *  *  *  *


THE remainder of this Book is lost. Photius in his Bibliotheca mentions, that the history of Zosimus ended with the taking of Rome by Alaric. Since Zosimus is unfortunately deficient in this point, and a particular narrative of the sacking of Rome is not met with in any other author, the following account is extracted from Baptista Egnatius.  [Note: A renaissance writer]

Alaric had besieged Rome for two years successively, and Honorius, who then lay idly at Ravenna, had neither resolution nor power to relieve it. For being in nothing more unconcerned than in the safety of the city after the death of Stilico, he had appointed no person to command the army, and manage the war against the Goths. This determined the Goths on besieging the city, |179 perceiving that the Roman soldiers were either fled or very negligent of their duty, the Barbarians having long endeavoured in vain, and being unable to take it by assault, were obliged to have recourse to stratagem. They pretended to return into their own country, and selected three hundred young men of great strength and courage, whom they bestowed on the Roman nobility as a present, having previously instructed them to oblige their masters by all possible observance, and on a certain day appointed, about noon, when the nobility were either asleep or otherwise unmindful of business, to meet suddenly at the gate called Porta Avinaria, where having surprised and killed the guards, they should open the gate for those who would be there in waiting. Meanwhile the Goths delayed their return home, under pretence of still wanting something, until the three hundred youths, making a good use of their opportunity, opened the gate to their countrymen. The Goths, on being admitted, immediately began to plunder the city, although they committed more dishonour than mischief to the citizens. It is the opinion of some, that the gate was opened by the contrivance of Proba, a lady of great rank and wealth, who compassionated the people of Rome, who were dying of famine and of several distempers, like sheep. There are two circumstances relative to this occasion worthy of being noticed. The one is, that an edict was made by Alaric, that whoever took refuge in the churches of saints, especially in those of Peter and Paul, should receive no injury; which was accordingly observed with great care. The other was, that when Honorius received intelligence at Ravenna that Rome (Roma) was destroyed, he understood by it a certain strong Gaul, whose name was Roma, and thought it very remarkable that he should so soon be cut off, with whom a little before he had so diverted himself.


[Note to the online edition.  The 1814 edition continues for another 70 pages with first a 

"COMPARATIVE VIEW OF ANTIENT AND OF MODERN GEOGRAPHY. In the following Tables, the Countries unknown to the Ancients, or of which the Names are uncertain, are left blank."

and then "A CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE FOR THE BYZANTINE HISTORIANS", consisting of a table of dates and events and rulers from 4004 BC to 1453 AD.  Zosimus is not mentioned.

I am unsure what relevance a list of US states in 1814 has to the study of Zosimus, but they occupy a couple of pages!  Since scanning these would be more labour than they are worth, I have omitted them.]

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts