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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 96-99.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 417-418.

ZOSIMUS, a Grecian, his father’s name Abraham, lived during the reign of Arcadius and Honorius, who succeeded their father Theodosius, in the Empire.

These divided the government between them, Arcadius ruling in the east, and Honorius in the west, though Theodosius had left them to the tuition of three of his generals, who, as their guardians and protectors, were to manage affairs in their minority; Ruffinus in the east, Stilico in the west, and Gildo in Africa. But they, moved with ambition and a thirst after greatness, and not doubting to get the advantage of the young princes, set up every one for himself. 97 Against Gildo, who was engaged in a rebellion in Africa, his injured and incensed brother, Mascezel, is sent with an army, and soon defeats and puts him to flight, who not long after died, either through grief or by poison. And Mascezel himself, being so puffed up with this success, that he falls into a great contempt of God and cruelty towards men, is killed by his own soldiers. Ruffinus also, who endeavoured to possess himself of the empire of the east, is surprised and punished by Arcadius. At this time Rhadaguisus, King of the Goths, invaded Italy, and laid all waste with fire and sword wherever he came; but, by the Roman army, under the command of Stilico, he was vanquished and slain on the mountains of Fiesoli. Him Alaricus succeeded, whom Stilico, to work his own ambitious designs, very much countenanced and assisted, when he might have conquered him. But in the end, Alaricus being now at Polentia, on his way to Gaul, part of which Honorius had granted to him and his followers to inhabit, had disturbance given him by one Saul, a Hebrew by birth and religion, whom Stilico to the foul breach of articles had sent with a party for that purpose. It was an easy matter to surprise and disorder the Goths, who little suspected any such practices, and were peaceably celebrating the feast of Easter. But the day following, Alaricus engaging with them slew Saul, and made a universal slaughter of his men, and then changing his former course towards Gaul, moves against Stilico and the Roman army. These he overcame, and then after a long and grievous siege, takes the city of Rome itself, A.U.C. 1163, A.D. 411. Notwithstanding this success, Alaricus exercised so much moderation and clemency, that he commanded his soldiers to put as few to the sword as might be, and particularly to spare all that should fly for refuge to the churches of St Peter and St Paul. After three days’ plunder he leaves the city (which had suffered less damage than was thought, very little of it being burnt), and marches against the Lucani and Bruti, and having taken and sacked Cosenza, he there dies. Whereupon the Goths with one consent made his kinsman, Athaulphus, his successor; who, returning to Rome with his army, was so wrought upon by the Emperor Honorius’s sister, Galla Placidia, whom he had married, that he restrained his soldiers from committing any further outrages, and left the city to its own government. He had it certainly once in his purpose to 98 have razed to the ground the then city of Rome, and to have built a new one which he would have called Gotthia, and have left to the ensuing emperors his own name, so that they should not any longer have had the title of Augusti, but Athaulphi. But Placidia not only brought his mind off from that project, but also prevailed with him to enter into a league with Honorius and Theodosius the Second, the son of Arcadius.

Zosimus, notwithstanding all these disturbances, made several ecclesiastical constitutions; allowed the blessing of wax-tapers on the Saturday before Easter in the several parishes; forbade the clergy to frequent public drinking-houses (though allowing them all innocent liberty among themselves), or any servant to be made a clergyman, because that order ought to consist of none but free and ingenuous persons. Whereas now, not only servants and bastards, but the vile off-spring of the most flagitious parents are admitted to that dignity, whose enormities will certainly at long-run prove fatal to the Church. It is said that Zosimus at this time sent Faustinus, a bishop, and two presbyters of the city, to the council of Carthage, by them declaring that no debates concerning ecclesiastical affairs ought to be managed anywhere without permission of the Church of Rome. During his pontificate lived Lucius, a bishop of the Arian faction, who wrote certain books upon several subjects. Diodorus also, Bishop of Tarsus, during his being a presbyter of Antioch, was a great writer; following the sense of Eusebius, but not able to reach his style for want of skill in secular learning. Tiberianus likewise, who had been accused together with Priscillian, wrote an apology to free himself from the suspicion of heresy. Evagrius, a man of smart and brisk parts, translated into Latin “The Life of St Anthony,” written in Greek by Athanasius. Ambrosius of Alexandria, a scholar of Didymus, wrote a large volume against Apollinarius. At this time flourished those two famous bishops, Theophilus of Alexandria, and John of Constantinople. For the greatness of his eloquence deservedly surnamed Chrysostom,1 who so far prevailed upon Theodorus and Maximus, two co-disciples of his, that they left their masters, Libanius the rhetorician, and Andragatius the philosopher, and became proselytes to Christianity. This Libanius, lying now at the point of death, being asked 99 whom he would leave successor in his school, made answer, that he desired no other than Chrysostom, were he not a Christian. At this time the decrees of the council of Carthage, being sent to Zosimus, were by him confirmed, and thereby the Pelagian heresy condemned throughout the world. Some tell us that Petronius, Bishop of Bononia, and Possidonius, an African bishop, had now gained a mighty reputation for sanctity; that Primasius wrote largely against the heresies to Bishop Fortunatus; and that Proba, wife to Adelphus the proconsul, composed an historical poem of our Saviour’s life, consisting wholly of Virgilian verse, though others attribute the honour of this performance to Eudoxia, Empress of Theodosius the younger. But certainly the most learned person of the age he lived in was Augustinus, St Ambrose’s convert, Bishop of Hippo in Africa, a most strenuous defender of the Christian faith, both in discourse and writing. As for Zosimus, having ordained ten presbyters, three deacons, eight bishops, he died, and was buried in the Via Tiburtina, near the body of St Laurence the martyr, December 26th. He sat in the chair one year, there months, twelve days, and by his death the see was vacant eleven days.


 1  See note on p. 96. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  42. Innocentius I. 43. Zosimus. Next Pope: 24. Bonifacius I.

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