Posted by: ken98 | April 13, 2010

Strong Mothers, Stronger Daughters, and the First True Byzantine Empress

Day 214 – Ken here (T)(4-13-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.32 pp.260-270)(pages read: 1360)

Feeling very tired today – but plowing through another 10 pages – lots to look at today.

We see the death of the Eastern emperor Arcadius, the birth of Theodosius the Younger, three strong women – empresses Eudoxia, Eudocia, and the princess (sister of Arcadius) Pulcheria, and the strange, short Persian War of 422 (more a Romance than a History it seems – we have DEFINITELY left the ancient world and are now in a land of unicorns and flying carpets).

The Story
 
Death of Arcadius (5-1-408)
 
  • Gibbon feels Arcadius was another non-entity – were both the sons of Theodosius simple-minded? A possible hypothesis and a reason why the Empire suffered such a rapid and radical decline in just one generation (380-410)
  • Gibbon notes he finds it hard “to remark one action the properly belongs to (Arcadius)” (DEF II, v.3, ch.32 p.260) – in his customary “epitaph” whenever an emperor expires in his history
  • Gibbon repeats the tale that Theodosius II (the Younger) was actually the son of Eudoxia (empress) and the Count John – not the son of Arcadius and Eudoxia
  •  

    Theodosius the Younger (II) – Arcadius’s unique (mythical?) will, Theodosius’s Minority, his character, and his ministers/protectors (the Persian Emperor, and the minister Anthemius) (408-415)
     
  • Arcadius’s last will supposedly give the Persian emperor (Jezdegerd) power and control over the Eastern Roman Empire during the minority of his son, Theodosius (Theod. is only 7 when his father dies) – considered by many to be a mythical section of Arcardius’s will – more romance than history – although there were no hostilities between Persia and Rome until 422 – 14 years in the future
  • The Prefect Anthemius (rather than the emperor Honorius – in the West) governs the East while Theod. is a child. (well actually – it was Pulcheria – Arcadius’s sister who governs as the power behind the throne for the next 40 years)
  • Uldin – holding Thrace with a band of barbarians (the Scyrri – another name that appears and disappears from history as quickly as it came) – is destroyed by Anthemius through bribing his troops, and attacking him while he retreats
  • The Prefect Anthemius then does what you’d expect a Roman to do – he re-fortifies Constantinople building the Theodosian walls (408-413), and re-fortifies Illyrian cities
  •  

    Three Strong Women – the empress Eudoxia (wife of Arcadius), the Princess Pulcheria (daughter of Arcadius), and the empress Eudocia (wife of Theodosius II – son of Arcadius)
     
  • – see below in last word for notes on Strong Women
  • Empress Eudoxia (wife of Arcadius) runs the empire in the presence of the ineffectual Arcadius
  • On Arcadius’s death, Arcadius’s sister Pulcheria (with Anthemius) runs the empire and assumes effectual control
  • Pulcheria rules through her brother and later, her husband (the Emperor Marcian) for 40 years (414-453)
  • Theodosius’s wife Eudocia (daughter of an Athenian philosopher and a remarkable woman in her own right) rules with Theodosius – conflict with Pulcheria is inevitable
  • Eudocia loses all – she battles with Pulcheria and loses – is condemned to spend the rest of her life in a convent near Jerusalem
  •  

    The Strange, Romantic Persian War of 422
     
  • Fanatical Christians, who are also citizens of the Persian empire and live within the Perisan empire, are inflamed by a fundamentalist bishop and tear down a state-supported Zoroastrian Fire-temple – this causes immediate hostilities on the part of the Persians – Rome does not admit fault (What did the rioters expect? What would Constantinople have done if Zoroastrians had burnt down a cathedral? )
  • The rioters flee to Roman territory, Persia demands their return, the Roman governor refuses, war ensues
  • Gibbon notes (in a very passing manner) that there were probably economic impulses to the start of this war also
  • Many minor skirmishes (including the famous town of Amida) – but no conclusive engagements for either side
  • Acacius of Amida (422) melts down church plate to ransom and take care of PERSIAN prisoners of war (ie Persians who had been captured by the Romans and held by the Romans) – Gibbon notes this as a supreme example of Christian charity and one which might have influenced the Persians to stop the war. Who knows what really happened – anything is possible. Remember Amida is a remote border town – and a such, the Amida Roman Christians probably had more in common with the Persians then with the members of the rest of the empire.
  • At the end, a 100 years Truce is declared. It lasts (with the exception of the divisions of Armenia between Rome and Persia – not unlike the Partitions of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia – 1772-1795) all of 80 years (a remarkable acheivement)
  • Gibbon notes that this war (in 422) became for some reason the subject of many romances and romantic stories about Christians and noble Persian knights
  •  

     

     
     
     

    Modern photo of reconstructed Theodosian Walls of Constantinople (orig. built 408-413, one hundred years or so after the founding of the city - the 2nd set of walls built).   Restored section of the Theodosian Walls at the Selymbria Gate. The Outer Wall and the wall of the moat are visible, with a tower of the Inner Wall in the background.

    Modern photo of reconstructed Theodosian Walls of Constantinople (orig. built 408-413, one hundred years or so after the founding of the city - the 2nd set of walls built). Restored section of the Theodosian Walls at the Selymbria Gate. The Outer Wall and the wall of the moat are visible, with a tower of the Inner Wall in the background.

    The famous Theodosian Walls of Constantinople – Still Standing Today – Built under Anthemius (408-413) – Also a Little on the Spectacular Rise of the Family of Anthemius
     

    During the minority of Theodosius II (the Younger), the Prefect Anthemius ruled, and re-fortified Constantinople and the cities of the Balkans (esp. Illyria). Anthemius performed his job well and diligently, and (as is usual for doing your job and doing it well) is forgotten today – although his walls would shield Constantinople successfully until the Sack by the Venetians in the early 1200’s, and again, until the eventual fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Turk Mehmet II. All in all, an extraordinary achievement, for a man working in the snake-pit which was Roman politics at this time.

    Coin of Anthemius, Tremissus of Western Emperor (467-472).  Anthemius as depicted on a Tremissis, minted during his reign. His title is Our Lord, Anthemius, Pious, Fortunate, Augustus.

    Coin of Anthemius, Tremissus of Western Emperor (467-472). Anthemius as depicted on a Tremissis, minted during his reign. His title is Our Lord, Anthemius, Pious, Fortunate, Augustus.

    Anthemius represents a cord in the rope of Roman society of this time. His grandfather was the son of a sausage-maker (Flavius Philippus) who rose to Praetorian Prefect of the East in the 340’s under Constantius (a spectacular rise – truly the army WAS the great leveller in this period), was made consul and put down one of the rebellions of Magnentius the usurper. His grandson, our Anthemius was again, the highest officer of the land, (Praetorian Prefect). Anthemius’s grandson, the Western Emperor Anthemius (467-472) – made emperor by the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo. Anthemius is considered the last functioning Western Roman Emperor.

    This from Wiki (here) on the walls of Anthemius (the Praetorian Prefect for Theodosius the Younger in the East in the early 400’s). The Wiki article is an amazing gate-by-gate description of the Walls of Constantinople and their long history as the last defense of the Eastern Roman Empire in times of crisis.

    In 408, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408–450), construction began on a new wall, about 1,500 m to the west of the old. The new wall became known as the Theodosian Wall (Greek: τείχος Θεοδοσιακόν, teichos Theodosiakon), and was built under the direction of Anthemius, the Praetorian prefect of the East, being completed in 413. New Rome now enclosed seven hills and justified the appellation Heptalophos (Ἑπτάλοφος, “seven hills”), in imitation of Elder Rome.

    On 7 November 447 however, a powerful earthquake destroyed large parts of the wall, including 57 towers. Subsequent earthquakes, including another major one in January 448, compounded the damage. Theodosius II ordered the urban prefect Constantine to supervise the repairs, made all the more urgent as the city was threatened by the presence of Attila the Hun in the Balkans. Employing the city’s dēmoi (the “Circus factions”) in the work, the walls were restored in a record 60 days, according to the Byzantine chroniclers. The chronicles also suggest that at this point, the second outer wall was added, and a wide ditch opened in front of the walls, but the validity of that information is open to question.

    Throughout their history, the walls were damaged by earthquakes, and repairs were undertaken on numerous occasions, as testified by the numerous inscriptions commemorating the emperors or their servants who undertook to restore them.

    Map - walls of Constantinople - the outermost one is the one Anthemius had built in the space of 5 years.  It was to successfully defend the city for the next 700 years, until the Venetians sacked and took Constantinople in 1204, then, only once more in 1453 when the city fell finally to the Turks.  An impressive achievement for a -forgotten- civil servant and regent - the Prefect Anthemius

    Map - walls of Constantinople - the outermost one is the one Anthemius had built in the space of 5 years. It was to successfully defend the city for the next 700 years, until the Venetians sacked and took Constantinople in 1204, then, only once more in 1453 when the city fell finally to the Turks. An impressive achievement for a -forgotten- civil servant and regent - the Prefect Anthemius

     
     
     

    Movie Poster for the first Godfather film.  When the wife of emperor the young emperor Theodosius II eventually battled Theodosius II's aunt (Pulcheria, the real ruler of the Roman East for 40 years), she lost.  She was sent to a convent (in a very Godfather-like way) near Jerusalem to live out her life

    Movie Poster for the first Godfather film. When the wife of emperor the young emperor Theodosius II eventually battled Theodosius II's aunt (Pulcheria, the real ruler of the Roman East for 40 years), she lost. She was sent to a convent (in a very Godfather-like way) near Jerusalem to live out her life

    Last Word…
    The Long Line of Strong Women in the East, or Six for the Record Books (Justina, Galla, Placidia, Eudoxia, Pulcheria, Eudocia)
     

    The (eventual) empress Justina (wife of Valentinian) must have had very strong imperial genetic material. Her female progeny were formidable.

    I am surprised Gibbon doesn’t comment on the obvious and surprising line of strong women suddenly arising in the Eastern Empire in the mid 300’s and continuing to the present (the present being the first few decades of the 400’s). Beginning with the remarkable Justina (who forced Valentian to divorce and marry her in his old age), continuing with Justina’s daughter, Galla (who married Theodosius the Great and forced him to battle the West to put her brother Valentinian II back on the throne), and continuning with Galla’s daughter Placidia (who defied Roman custom and married a Gothic chieftain Atawulf). Galla’s son, Arcadius became Western Roman Emperor, Galla’s grand-daughter, Pulcheria (Arcadius’s daughter, and the Western Emperor Theodosius’s sister) became the power behind the throne and virtual ruler for 40 years under many emperors (414-453).

    Two women revolved around this line of formidable women in the early 400’s: Eudoxia (wife of Arcadius) was a formidable force in Roman politics for many decades. Eudocia (a philosopher and a daughter of an Athenian philosopher, also wife of the very young Theodosius II (the Younger)) became a power, fought Pulcheria, and lost control of the empire – she was sent (a la The Godfather) to a convent to live out the rest of her life.

    so…

    the direct (imperial) line of strong women runs thus:

    Justina -> Galla -> Arcadius (+ Eudoxia) -> Pulcheria

    with indirect association:
    Placidia (d. of Galla), Empress Eudocia (w. of Theod II)
     
    Justina Forced Valentinian to divorce his first wife to marry her
     
    Galla Forced Theodosius I to war in the West to support her (very weak) brother the Emperor Valentinian II as the price for her hand.
     
    Eudoxia (wife of Theodosius the Great, mother of Pulcheria, Arcadius) – singlehandedly brought down John Chrysostom and the powerful eunuch Eutropius.
     

    The Empress Eudoxia - a power behind the throne as wife of Theodosius, and during her son's reign (Arcadius)

    The Empress Eudoxia - a power behind the throne as wife of Theodosius, and during her son's reign (Arcadius)


     
    Pulcheria (daughter of Theodosius the Great and Eudoxia, sister of the emperor Arcadius, virtual emperor for 40 years, wife of emperor Marcian).
     
    Aelia Pulcheria - sister of Arcadius, wife of Emperor Marcian - virtual empress of the Eastern Empire for 40 years (414-453) - a very strong woman who managed to keep the Eastern Empire afloat during the complete foundering and wreckage of the Western Empire

    Aelia Pulcheria - sister of Arcadius, wife of Emperor Marcian - virtual empress of the Eastern Empire for 40 years (414-453) - a very strong woman who managed to keep the Eastern Empire afloat during the complete foundering and wreckage of the Western Empire


     

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