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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Sources > Sozomen

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Sozomen - Historia Ecclesiastica
(AD 439)
Robert Vermaat

Sozomen (Salamanes Hermeias Sozomenus) originated from Gaza in Palestine and became an advocatus in Constantinople ca. 440, when he began writing his Historia Ecclesiastica (Ekklesiastike Historia) . This work spans the years 324-439 and is dedicated to Theodosius II, like that of Olympiodorus, on whose work he is heavily reliant for the events concerning the British usurpers.


Sozomen described very little of the demise of the British provinces. He concentrates on the usurpation of Constantine III, but he adds liitle information to those before him. He is one of the very few though, and he does metion some facts that others do not. His account for the rebellion in Britain is not original in its derigatory account of Constantine III, but in its actually naming of all three tyrant in succession:

Historia Ecclesiastica, Book IX.11
The soldiers in Britain were the first to rise up in sedition, and they proclaimed Mark as tyrant. Afterwards, however, they slew Mark, and proclaimed Gratian. Within four months subsequently they killed Gratian, and elected Constantine in his place, imagining that, on account of his name, he would be able to reduce the empire firmly under his authority; and for no other reason than this, several other persons of the same name were elected to the tyranny.

Sozomen also mentions more than one son, the other being Julian:

Historia Ecclesiastica, Book IX.11 and 15
He then sent his oldest son, Constans, whom he had already nominated Caesar, and whom he afterwards proclaimed emperor, into Spain.
Constantine, with his son Julian, was sent into Italy, but he was waylaid and killed.

Sozomen also mentions details about the rebellious general Gerontius, such as the name of his (presumably British) wife Nonnichia, in describing the events of his death:

Historia Ecclesiastica, Book IX.11
They[Gerontius' rebelling troops] gathered in close ranks and attacked his house at night; but he, with one Alanus, his friend, and a few servants, ascended to the top of the house, and did such execution with their arrows that no less than three hundred of the soldiers fell. When the stock of arrows was exhausted, the servants made their escape by letting themselves down secretly from the building; and Gerontius, although he might have been saved in a similar fashion, did not choose to do so, because he was restrained by his affection for Nonnichia, his wife. At daybreak of the next day, the soldiers cast fire into the house; when he saw that there was no hope of safety left, he cut off the head of his companion, Alanus, in compliance with his wish. After this, his own wife was lamenting, and with tears was pressing herself with the sword, pleading to die by the hand of her husband before she should be subjected to others, and was supplicating for this last gift from him. And this woman by her courage showed herself worthy of her religion, for she was a Christian, and she died thus mercifully; she handed down to time a record of herself, too strong for oblivion. Gerontius then struck himself thrice with his sword; but perceiving that he had not received a mortal wound, he drew forth his poniard, which he wore at his side, and plunged it into his heart.

Nonnichia is almost the same as Ninnocha, which means 'nun'. The stress on her Christianity (although she opts for suicide, surely a sin even then) may be of some significance here. For comparing names, see under Scotnoe.

Finally, it should be mentioned here that though his history encompassed the evnts of 410 and much later, Sozomen did never once mention that Britain was lost to the Roman empire, which may be significant. To the contrary; he makes it clear that, after the arrest of Constantine III, the whole of Gaul returned to the allegiance of Honorius:

Historia Ecclesiastica, Book XV.2
From that period the whole province [Gaul] returned to its allegiance to Honorius, and has since [i.e. 439] been obedient to the rulers of his appointment.

Though this last statement might have been oversimplified, it shows that the part of gaul neighboring Britain was returned to the control of the Roman government, and that we should be cautious to think of Britain as forever lost to that control at that point in time.

A full (English) text can be found at: http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-02/TOC.htm or at http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-02/TOC.htm, see especially book IX.


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