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Theodosius II - Roman Byzantine Emperor 408-450 A.D. Biography Ancient Coins to Buy from Rare Coin Dealer
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Theodosius II - Roman Emperor: 408-450 A.D. -
Theodosius II (10 April 401 July 28, 450), called the Calligrapher, was a Eastern Roman Emperor (408-450). He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code as well for the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. He also presided over the outbreak of two great christological controversies.
Setting a record for longest-reigning Roman emperor at 48 years (equivalent to a dozen U.S. Presidential terms!), Theodosius II set remarkably few other records in all this time. He was the last emperor to rule both east and west halves, albeit briefly, after the death of Honorius and before the puppet emperor Johannes came onto the scene. As for his own achievements, he wasn't much more than a figurehead esconced in his palace. His sister Pulcheria took the active role in steering the empire. He died a few days after a hunting accident.
Theodosius was born in 401 as the only son of Emperor Arcadius and his Frankish-born wife Aelia Eudoxia. In 408, his father died and the seven-year-old boy became Emperor of the Eastern parts of the Roman Empire.
In 414, Theodosius' older sister Pulcheria was proclaimed Augusta and assumed the regency. By 416 Theodosius was capable of ruling himself, but his sister remained a strong influence on him. She also assisted her brother in procuring marriage to the Athenian Aelia Eudocia in June 421. The two had a daughter named Licinia Eudoxia.
Theodosius' increasing interest in Christianity, fuelled by the influence of Pulcheria, had him start a war against the Sassanids (421-422), who were persecuting Christians; the war ended in a draw, when the Romans were forced to accept peace as the Huns menaced Constantinople.
In 423, the Western Emperor Honorius, Theodosius' uncle, died and the primicerius notariorum Joannes was proclaimed Emperor. Honorius' sister Galla Placidia and her young son Valentinian fled to Constantinople to seek Eastern assistance and after some deliberation in 424 Theodosius opened the war against Joannes. In May 425, Valentinian III was installed as Emperor of the West, with his mother acting as regent. To strengthen the ties between the two parts of the Empire, Theodosius' daughter Licinia Eudoxia was betrothed to Valentinian.
University and Law Code
In 425, Theodosius founded the University of Constantinople with 31 chairs (15 in Latin and 16 in Greek). Among subjects were law, philosophy, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music and rhetoric.
In 429, Theodosius appointed a commission to collect all of the laws since the reign of Constantine I, and create a fully formalized system of law. This plan was left unfinished, but the work of a second commission that met in Constantinople, assigned to collect all of the general legislations and bring them up to date was completed, and their collection published as the Codex Theodosianus in 438. The law code of Theodosius II, summarizing edicts promulgated since Constantine, formed a basis for the law code of Emperor Justinian I in the following century.
Wars with the Huns, Vandals and Persians
The Eastern Empire was also plagued by short raiding attacks by the Huns. The Huns arrived at Athyra (Büyükçekmece) in 447, but an agreement was reached with the Eastern Roman empire, negotiated by Anatolius. The Emperor chose to pay tribute which amounted to 350 Roman pounds (ca. 114.5 kg) of gold until 435 and 700 Roman pounds after that.
When Roman Africa fell to the Vandals in 439, both Eastern and Western Emperors sent forces to Sicily, to launch an attack at the Vandals at Carthage, but this project failed. Seeing the imperial borders without significant forces, the Huns and Sassanid Persia declared war. During 443 two Roman armies were defeated and destroyed by the Huns. In the subsequent peace agreement Roman tribute was tripled to 2,100 Roman pounds (ca. 687 kg) in gold after which the Huns withdrew into the interior of their empire. The war with Persia on the other hand proved indecisive, and a peace was arranged in 422 without changes to the status quo.
During a visit to Syria, Theodosius met the preacher Nestorius and appointed him Patriarch of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius quickly became involved in the disputes of two theological factions, which differed in their Christology. Nestorius tried to find a middle ground between those that, emphasizing the fact that in Christ God had been born as a man, insisted on calling the Virgin Mary Theotokos ("birth-giver of God"), and those that rejected that title because God as an eternal being could not have been born. Nestorius suggested the title Christotokos ("birth-giver to Christ"), but did not find acceptance by either faction and was accused of detaching Christ's divine and human natures from each other, a heresy later called Nestorianism. Though initially supported by the Emperor, Nestorius found a forceful opponent in Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria. With the consent of the Emperor and Pope Celestine I, an Ecumenical Council convened in Ephesus in 431, which affirmed the title Theotokos and condemned Nestorius, who was then exiled by the Emperor.
Almost twenty years later, the theological dispute broke out again, this time caused by the Constantinopolitan abbot Eutyches, whose Christology was understood by some to mingle Christ's divine and human nature into one. Eutyches was condemned by Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople but found a powerful friend in Cyril's successor Dioscurus of Alexandria. Another council convoked to Ephesus in 449, deemed "robber synod" because of its tumultuous circumstances, restored Eutyches and deposed Flavian, who was mistreated and died shortly afterwards. Pope Leo I of Rome and many other bishops protested against the outcome, but the Emperor supported it. Only after his death in 450 would the decisions be reversed at the Council of Chalcedon.
Theodosius died in 450 as the result of a riding accident. In the ensuing power struggle, his sister Pulcheria, who had recently returned to court, won out against the eunuch Chrysaphius. She married the general Marcian, thereby making him Emperor.
Flavius Honorius ( 9 September 384 15 August 423 ) was Roman Emperor (393395) and then Western Roman Emperor from 395 until his death. He was the younger son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Eastern Emperor Arcadius.
Even by the standards of the rapidly declining Western Empire, Honorius' reign was precarious and chaotic. His throne was guarded by his principal general, Flavius Stilicho, who was successively Honorius's guardian (during his childhood) and his father-in-law (after the emperor became an adult). Stilicho's generalship helped preserve some level of stability, but with his execution, the Western Roman Empire moved closer to collapse.
After holding the consulate at the age of two, Honorius was declared Augustus, and thus co-ruler, on 23 January 393 after the death of Valentinian II and the usurpation of Eugenius. When Theodosius died, in January 395, Honorius and Arcadius divided the Empire, so that Honorius became Western Roman Emperor at the age of ten.
During the first part of his reign Honorius depended on the military leadership of the general Stilicho, who was of mixed Vandal and Roman ancestry. To strengthen his bonds with the young emperor, Stilicho married his daughter Maria to him. The epithalamion written for the occasion by Stilicho's court poet Claudian survives.
At first Honorius based his capital in Mediolanum, but when the Visigoths entered Italy in 402 he moved his capital to the coastal city of Ravenna, which was protected by a ring of marshes and strong fortifications. While the new capital was easier to defend, it was poorly situated to allow Roman forces to protect central Italy from the increasingly regular threat of barbarian incursions.
Erosion of the Western Roman Empire
Honorius' reign was plagued by many threats: from the barbarians entering within the Empire's borders to several usurpers.
A revolt led by Gildo, comes Africae, in Northern Africa lasted for two years (397-398). In 405, a barbarian army led by Radagaisus invaded Italy, bringing devastation to the heart of the Empire, until Stilicho defeated them in 406.
The situation in Britannia was even more problematic. The British provinces were isolated, lacking support from the Empire, and the soldiers supported the revolts of Marcus (406 - 407), Gratian (407), and Constantine "III". Constantine invaded Gaul in 407, occupying Arles.
An invasion of Alans, Suevi and Vandals moved from Gaul on 31 December 406, and arrived in Hispania in 409. In 408, Stilicho (after forcing the Roman Senate to pay 4,000 pounds of gold) was arrested and executed by the order of Honorius, probably because of a court conspiracy against the Arian general. The Visigoths under their King Alaric I invaded Italy in 408, besieged Rome, and extorted from the city a ransom of 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 silken tunics, 3,000 hides dyed scarlet, and 3,000 pounds of pepper), while Honorius in Ravenna did nothing.
In 409, Alaric returned, and with the agreement of the Senate supported the usurpation of Priscus Attalus. In 410, the Eastern Roman Empire sent six Legions (6,000 men; late Roman legions were small units) to aid Honorius. To counter Priscus, Honorius tried to negotiate with Alaric. Alaric withdrew his support for Priscus in 410, but the negotiations with Honorius broke down. Alaric again entered Italy and sacked Rome.
The revolt of Constantine III in the west continued through this period. In 409, Gerontius, Constantine III's general in Hispania, rebelled against him, proclaimed Maximus Emperor, and besieged Constantine at Arles. Honorius now found himself an able commander, Constantius, who defeated Maximus and Gerontius, and then Constantine, in 411.
Gaul was again a source of troubles for Honorius: just after Constantius' troops had returned to Italy, Jovinus revolted in northern Gaul, with the support of Alans, Burgundians, and the Gallic nobility. Jovinus tried to negotiate with the invading Goths of Ataulf (412), but his proclamation of his brother Sebastianus as Augustus made Ataulf seek alliance with Honorius. Honorius had Ataulf settle the matter with Jovinus, and the rebel was defeated and executed in 413.
In 414, Constantius attacked Ataulf, who proclaimed Priscus Attalus emperor again. Constantius drove Ataulf into Hispania, and Attalus, having again lost Visigoth support, was captured and deposed.
In 417, Constantius married Honorius' sister, Galla Placidia. In 421, Honorius recognized him as co-emperor Constantius III, but he died early in 422.
In 420-422, another Maximus (or perhaps the same) gained and lost power in Hispania.
Honorius died of dropsy in 423, leaving no heir. In the subsequent interregnum Joannes was nominated emperor. The following year, however, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II elected emperor his cousin Valentinian III, son of Galla Placidia and Constantius III.
Sack of Rome
The city had been under Visigothic siege since shortly after Stilicho's deposition and execution in the summer of 408. Lacking a strong general to control the by-now mostly barbarian Roman Army, Honorius could do little to attack Alaric's forces directly, and apparently adopted the only strategy he could in the situation: wait passively for the Visigoths to grow weary and spend the time marshalling what forces he could. Unfortunately, this course of action appeared to be the product of Honorius' indecisive character and he suffered much criticism for it both from contemporaries and later historians.
Whether this plan could have worked is perhaps debatable. In any case it was overtaken by events. Stricken by starvation, somebody opened Rome's defenses to Alaric and the Goths poured in. The city had not been under the control of a foreign force since an invasion of Gauls some eight centuries before. The sack itself was notably mild as sacks go; Churches and religious statuary went unharmed for example. The psychological blow to the Romans was considerably more painful. The shock of this event reverberated from Britain to Jerusalem, and inspired Augustine to write his magnum opus, The City of God.
The year 410 also saw Honorius reply to a British plea for assistance against local barbarian incursions. Preoccupied with the Visigoths, Honorius lacked any military capability to assist the distant province. According to Zosimus, "Honorius wrote letters to the cities in Britain, bidding them to guard themselves."
Judgments on Honorius
In his History of the Wars, Procopius mentions a story (which Gibbon disbelieved) where, on hearing the news that Rome had "perished", Honorius was initially shocked; thinking the news was in reference to a favorite chicken he had named "Roma", he recalled in disbelief that the bird was just recently feeding out of his hand. It was then explained to him that the Rome in question was the city.
Summarizing his account of Honorius' reign, the historian J.B. Bury wrote, "His name would be forgotten among the obscurest occupants of the Imperial throne were it not that his reign coincided with the fatal period in which it was decided that western Europe was to pass from the Roman to the Teuton." After listing the disasters of those 28 years, Bury concludes that Honorius "himself did nothing of note against the enemies who infested his realm, but personally he was extraordinarily fortunate in occupying the throne till he died a natural death and witnessing the destruction of the multitude of tyrants who rose up against him."
Honorius issued a decree during his reign, prohibiting men from wearing trousers in Rome [Codex Theodosianus 14.10.2-3, tr. C. Pharr, "The Theodosian Code," p. 415]. The last known gladiatorial fight took place during the reign of Honorius.