Strong Women

Julia Domna, Empress, wife of Emperor Septimus Severus (200′s CE)
Julia Maesa (daughter of Julia Domna), mother of Emperor Elagabulus (200′s CE)
Julia Mamaea (daughter of Julia Domna), mother of Emperor Alexander (200′s CE)
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra (200′s CE)
Fausta
Prisca, Wife of Diocletian (late 200′s CE)
Galeria Valeria (Galeria Valeria), daughter of Diocletian, wife of Galerius (early 300′s CE)
Constantia, sister of Constantine (late 200′s CE)
Fausta, 2nd wife of Constantine (early 300′s CE)
Helena, mother of Constantine (early 300′s CE)
Constantina, daughter of Constantine, sister of Constantius, wife of Gallus (mid 300′s CE)
Helena, daughter of Constantine, wife of Julian the Apostate (died 363) (mid 300′s CE)
Flavia Aurelia Eusebia, Wife of Constantius II (mid 300′s CE)
Hypatia, scientist and philospher (late 300′s, early 400′s)
Justina [empress] + Valentinian I [Emperor-East] (340? – 388) – lured the aging Valentinian to divorce and make her empress (mid 300′s)
Galla (daughter of Justina)[Empress] + Theodosius I the Great [Emperor-East] forces war on West for her brother, marries Western Emperor Theodosius (late 300′s)
Galla Placidia (daughter of Galla) [Empress-West] (+ Constantius III [Co-Emperor-West with Honorius 421] [married Visigothic King Ataulf 1st, then forced to marry Constantius III, force behind the Western throne (late 300's)
Aelia Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius (Western Roman Emperor), power behind the throne (early 400's), daughter of Frankish General
Pulcheria (daughter of Arcadius)[Empress] + Marcian [Emperor-East] – one of the reigning empresses of the Late Roman World – one of the big 3 – virtual ruler of the East (414-453)
Eudocia of Athens, wife of Theodosius II (the Younger) empress – fought Pulcheria for dominance and lost, sent to convent, a philosopher-empress
Justa Grata Honoria, sister of Theodosius II (the Younger) – tried to usurp her brother, lost, asked Attila to marry her to get out of the convent Theod. had sent her to (mid 400′s)
Licinia Eudoxia (daughter of Theodosius II) + Valentinian III [Emperor-West] – Married twice, 1st-Val III, 2nd-”Usurper/Tyrant Maximus”, she summons Vandals to Rome to prevent marriage=Great Sack of 455. (mid 400′s)
Placidia (daughter of Val. III + Licinia Eudoxia) [Empress West (w/Olybrius)] – captured by Vandals, married one of the richest men, most famous families in Rome – Anicii, later Empress (mid 400′s)
Eudocia (daughter of Val. III + Licinia Eudoxia) – captured by Vandals, married Hilderic, (son of Genseric), prince, later King of the Vandals – Justina’s descendants enter royal barbarian bloodlines (mid 400′s)
Anicia Juliana – daughter of Emperor Olybrius + Placidia (daughter of Val. III) – Emperor-West] – Glittering Star of Turn-Of-The-Century Constantinople (Late 400′s, Early 500′s)
Theodora Empress, wife of Justinian I (mid 500′s, f.540′s) (This also begins the run of strong Eastern Roman Empresses (Basilissa or Augusta))
Antonina wife of Patrician and General Belisarius (mid 500′s, f.540′s)
Sophia Empress, wife of Justin II (late 500′s f.570′s)
Anastasia Empress, wife of Tiberius II Constantine (late 500′s f.570′s)
 
 
 

 
 


 

 
 

An amazing portrait of Anicia Juliana (from Vienna Dioscorides Folio6v Donor Portrait) - circa late 400's.  The daunting line of female players in the empire starting from Justina continues - with Anicia Juliana.  Uniting the imperial side (multiple emperors/empresses as her ancestors) with the famously wealthy, inflential old City-of-Rome Senatorial family of the Anicii, Juliana was the widow of the Western Emperor Olybrius, a glittering, immensely wealthy star of the Constantinopolitan (East) court and one of the first significant Patrons of the Arts.  Here she is shown on one of the earliest lavishly decorated manuscripts extant - Juliana Anicia Codex.  She is shown (center) flanked by Magnaminity and Prudence with "Gratitude to the Arts" shown at her feet

An amazing portrait of Anicia Juliana (from Vienna Dioscorides Folio6v Donor Portrait) - circa 500's. The daunting line of female players in the empire starting from Justina continues - with Anicia Juliana. Uniting the imperial side (multiple emperors/empresses as her ancestors) with the famously wealthy, inflential old City-of-Rome Senatorial family of the Anicii, Juliana was the widow of the Western Emperor Olybrius, a glittering, immensely wealthy star of the Constantinopolitan (East) court and one of the first significant Patrons of the Arts. Here she is shown on one of the earliest lavishly decorated manuscripts extant - the Juliana Anicia Codex. She is shown (center) flanked by Magnaminity and Prudence with - Gratitude to the Arts - shown at her feet. An amazing woman indeed

The Incredible Line of Strong Women Continues – Placidia’s Daughter Juliana – daughter of Olybrius (Western Emperor 472), Incomparably Wealthy, Patroness and Star of the Court of Constantinople
 

Juliana continues the strong line of women who come from the line of women (apparently of strong, willful genetic stock) that originates with Justina, 2nd wife of Valentinian I (wife 370-375, mother of Galla and Emperor Valentinian II).

The Generations of Strong Women (the numbers in parentheses indicate the generation)

(1) Justina [empress] + Valentinian I [Emperor-East] (340? – 388)

(2)  ->Galla (daughter of Justina)[Empress] + Theodosius I the Great [Emperor-East]

(3)     ->Arcadius (son of Galla) [Emperor-East] (+ Aelia Eudoxia [daughter of a Frankish Roman General, a very powerful woman - one of the reigning empresses of the Late Roman World - one of the big 3])

(3)     ->Honorius (son of Galla) [Emperor-West] (+ Maria – daughter of Stilicho. + Thermantia – daughter of Stilicho)

(3)     ->Galla Placidia (daughter of Galla) [Empress-West] (+ Constantius III [Co-Emperor-West with Honorius 421] [married Visigothic King Ataulf 1st, then forced to marry Constantius III, force behind the Western throne]

(4)       ->Pulcheria (daughter of Arcadius)[Empress] + Marcian [Emperor-East] [one of the reigning empresses of the Late Roman World - one of the big 3]

(4)       ->Theodosius II (son of Arcadius)[Emperor-East] + (Aelia Eudocia of Athens [one of the reigning empresses of the Late Roman World - one of the big 3]

(4)       ->Valentinian III (son of Galla Placidia) [Emperor-West] ( + Licinia Eudoxia, daughter of Theodosius II and Eudocia)

(4)       ->Justa Grata Honoria (daughter of Galla Placidia) [Princess, Troublemaker-West] [Invited the Huns into the empire to marry her with a dowry of 1/2 of West. Rome. Val III, her bro, was not pleased]

(5)          ->Licinia Eudoxia (daughter of Theodosius II) + Valentinian III [Emperor-West] [Married twice, 1st-Val III, 2nd-"Usurper/Tyrant Maximus", she summons Vandals to Rome to prevent marriage=Great Sack of 455.

(6)                ->Placidia (daughter of Val. III + Licinia Eudoxia) [Empress West (w/Olybrius)] – captured by Vandals, married one of the richest men, into one of the most famous families in Rome – Anicii, later Empress

(6)                ->Eudocia (daughter of Val. III + Licinia Eudoxia) [captured by Vandals, married Hilderic, (son of Genseric), prince, later King of the Vandals - Justina's descendants enter royal barbarian bloodlines]

(7)                     ->Anicia Juliana (daughter of Olybrius + Placidia (daughter of Val. III) [Emperor-West] [Glittering Star of Turn-Of-The-Century Constantinople (Late 400's, Early 500's)]
 
 
 
So, the incredible line of strong women continues – the late 350′s and onwards were a time of incredible turmoil, and an opportunity to create order where there was only chaos and political ambition/intrigue before. Although Western (male) historians (including Gibbon) often slight the female (and eunuch-dominated) influence of the courts (West and East) of the late 300′s and the 400′s (examples – Licinia Eudoxia and Just Grata Honoria inviting barbarians to invade the empire to solve their personal problems), a case can be made that the most of the powerful women of this time (example: Pulcheria and the emperor Marcian) were able to push out a civilizing space at the center of the hurricane which was Late Roman Political life and allow the empire to reconstruct itself and heal somewhat between expensive invasions and more expensive re-conquests.

These are the women and their histories shown in bold above. Theirs would make a fascinating story of the end of the empire, not from the perspective of men who were desperately trying to squeeze whatever small advantage they could out of a dwindling pile of centuries-old riches, but rather from the perspective of the people left at home in the cities, trying to make and preserve a life in the increasingly crazy and patch-work political world of Late Rome (both East and West).

Here is someone from our own period – she was very young when she was the Empress of the West – she lived out her life in fabulous wealth and artistic turmoil/production as a patroness of art and culture and a hub of social life in the Eastern Empire’s court. This from Wiki about the Princess/widowed Empress Anicia Juliana.

Anicia Juliana (Constantinople, 462 – 527/528) was a Roman imperial princess, the daughter of the Western Roman Emperor Olybrius, of the Anicii, by Placidia. Her maternal grandparents were Valentinian III and Licinia Eudoxia.

With her husband, Flavius Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus, by whom she had issue, she spent her life at the pre-Justinian court of Constantinople, of which she was considered “both the most aristocratic and the wealthiest inhabitant“.

Her glittering genealogy aside, Juliana is primarily remembered as one of the first non-reigning female patrons of art in recorded history. From what little we know about her personal predilections, it appears that she “directly intervened in determining the content, as well, perhaps, as the style” of the works she commissioned.

Juliana’s pro-Roman political views, as espoused in her letter to Pope Hormisdas (preserved in the royal library of the Escorial) are reflected in the chronicle of Marcellinus Comes, who has been associated with her literary circle. Whether she entertained political ambitions of her own is uncertain, but it is known that her husband declined to take up the crown during the 512 riots. Although she resolutely opposed the Monophysite leanings of Emperor Anastasius, she permitted her son Olybrius to marry the Emperor’s niece.

Her name is attached to the outstanding Juliana Anicia Codex (or Vienna Dioscurides), one of the earliest and most lavish illuminated manuscripts still in existence. The frontispiece features her depiction, the first donor portrait in the history of manuscript illumination, flanked by the personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence, with an allegory of the “Gratitude of the Arts” prostrate in front of her. The encircling inscription proclaims Juliana as a great patron of art.

Of her architectural projects, we know only three churches which she commissioned to be erected and embellished in Constantinople. The ornate basilica of St. Polyeuctus was built on her extensive family estates during the last three years of her life, with the goal of highlighting her illustrious pedigree which ran back to Theodosius I and Constantine the Great. Until Justinian’s extension of the Hagia Sophia, it was the largest church in the imperial capital, and its construction was probably seen as a challenge to the reigning dynasty. The dedicatory inscription compares Juliana to King Solomon and overtly alludes to Aelia Eudocia, Juliana’s great grandmother, who founded this church:

“ Eudocia the empress, eager to honor God, first built here a temple of Polyektos the servant of God. But she did not make it as great and beautiful as it is… because her prophetic soul told her that she would leave a family well knowing how to adorn it. Whence Juliana, the glory of her blessed parents, inheriting their royal blood in the fourth generation, did not disappoint the hopes of the empress, the mother of a noble race, but raised this from a small temple to its present size and beauty. (Greek Anthology, I.10)

from Wiki here

The Vienna Dioscurides Folio (the Juliana Anicia Codex)

The Juliana Anicia Codex is a beautiful piece of art – it is an illuminated medical manuscript (De Materia Medica by Dioscurides) , an illustrated treatise on birds (by Dionysius) and a short study on snakebites, all of which were commissioned (and possibly, partly directed artistically) by Juliana.

Interesting point – it is from 515, the earliest, lavishly illustrated manuscript still in existence. It had a long, interesting life – at one point it was apparently used in an Arabic hospital as a working textbook although it was made as a luxury “coffee-table” book (one reason for its survival? what a strange quirk of fate! – see below the annotation in Arabic on one of the illustrations). It used one of the first total-gold-backgrounds known in Eastern Art (something that was going to become a hallmark of iconography – the shimmering beaten-gold background of saints icons – and it started here, or around this time at least). The illustrations are all naturalistic still (strong holdover from Classical times – compare the illustrations with the coins being issued – which are more Expressionist-Modern than naturalistic) – you can actually identify the plants and birds in the illustrations. Art produced in Europe would not reach this point again for many, many centuries.

Overview

The Vienna Dioscurides or Vienna Dioscorides is an early 6th-century illuminated manuscript of De Materia Medica by Dioscorides in Greek. It is an important and rare example of a late antique scientific text. The 491 vellum folios measure 37 by 30 cm and contain more than 400 pictures of animals and plants, most done in a naturalistic style.

In addition to the text by Dioscorides, the manuscript has appended to it the Carmen de herbis attributed to Rufus, a paraphrase of an ornithological treatise by a certain Dionysius, usually identified with Dionysius of Philadelphia, and a paraphrase of Nicander’s treatise on the treatment of snake bites.

The manuscript was created in about 515 and was made for the Byzantine princess Juliana Anicia, the daughter of Emperor Anicius Olybrius. Although it was originally created as a luxury copy, there is some indication that in later centuries it was used daily as a hospital textbook. It includes some annotations in Arabic.

The manuscript was discovered in Instanbul in the 1560s by the Flemish diplomat Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who was in the employ of Emperor Ferdinand I. The Emperor bought the manuscript and it is now held in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. The manuscript was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme Register in 1997 in recognition of its historical significance.

Illustrations

The manuscript has 383 extant full-page illustrations of plants out of the original 435 illustrations. The illustrations fall into two groups. There are those that faithfully follow earlier classical models and present a quite naturalistic illustration of each plant. There are also other illustrations that are more abstract. The majority of the illustrations were painted in a naturalistic style so as to aid a pharmacologist in the recognition of each plant. However, it is believed that these illustrations were made as copies of an earlier herbal and were not drawn from nature.

In addition to the illustrations of the text, the manuscript contains several frontispieces in the form of a series of full-page miniatures. Of special note is the dedication miniature portrait of Anicia Julia on folio 6 verso. (See here.) The manuscript was presented to Anicia out of gratitude for her funding the construction of a church in the suburbs of Constantinople. This portrait is the oldest extant dedication portrait. The portrait has Anicia seated in a ceremonial pose distributing alms. She is flanked by personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence. At her feet, another personification, labeled “Gratitude of the Arts”, kneels. A putto holds a dedication copy up to Anicia. Anicia and her attendants are enclosed within an eight-point star within a circle all formed of intertwined rope. Within the outer spandrels of the star are putti, done in grisaille, working as masons and carpenters. This miniature is an altogether original creation and, with the inclusion of the personifications and the putti, shows the endurance of the classical tradition in Constantinople, despite the fact that Anicia herself was a pious Christian.

The series of frontispieces in the manuscript begins with two full-page miniatures, each having a group of seven noted pharmacologists. In the second picture (folio 3 verso, see here), the most prominent and only one sitting on a chair is Galen. He is flanked by three pairs of other physicians, seated on stones or the ground. Closest to Galen are Crateuas and Dioscurides. The second pair are Apollonius Mys and Nicander. Farthest from Galen are Andreas and Rufus. Each of the figures is a self-contained portrait and was probably modeled on authors’ portraits from the various authors’ treatises. The seven figures are contained within an elaborate decorated frame. The background is solid gold, which places the figures in an abstract space. This is the earliest known manuscript to use a solid gold background.

from Wiki (here)

Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides Folio 483v  - a study of various (very identifiable) birds - remember this is all from the middle 500's - an incredible (and absolutely unique) find - a real Late Roman book.

Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides Folio 483v - a study of various (very identifiable) birds - remember this is all from the early 500's - an incredible (and absolutely unique) find - a real Late Roman book (is that an ostrich in the upper left-hand corner? looks like one - at least one whose head has protruded above his margin)


 
 
Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides  - a Pimpernel.  This book is 1,500 years old.  It survived miraculously, and at one time appears to have been a working text (it contains a medical treatise) for an Arabic hospital.  Note the Arabic notation (certainly centuries and centuries older than the book) in the lower left above the plant. Amazing!  Amazing that it survived to be digitized in the late 20th century - what luck!

Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides - a Pimpernel. This book is 1,500 years old. It survived miraculously, and at one time appears to have been a working text (it contains a medical treatise) for an Arabic hospital. Note the Arabic notation (certainly centuries and centuries younger than the book) in the lower left above the plant. Amazing! Amazing that it survived to be digitized in the late 20th century - what luck!


 
 
Juliana's - Vienna Dioscorides  - Rose Hips?  Another section of a Juliana-sponsored book.  Thanks to her and her exquisite taste we have an example of Late Roman art unparalleled in art history

Juliana's - Vienna Dioscorides - Rose Hips? Another section of a Juliana-sponsored book. Thanks to her and her exquisite taste we have an example of Late Roman art unparalleled in art history

Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides Folio3v - the Seven Physicians.  Note the pure gold background - the 1st recorded use of the solid gold background in literature - something which became a staple in Eastern Roman Art for centuries

Juliana's book - Vienna Dioscorides Folio3v - the Seven Physicians. Note the pure gold background - the 1st recorded use of the solid gold background in literature - something which became a staple in Eastern Roman Art for centuries

 

 

 
 


 

 
 

Coin showing the princess Honoria (sister of Theodosius II) as Augusta.  Honoria continues the line of strong women that started with Justina and the first Valentinian in the mid 300s - these imperial women apparently had a genetic predisposition to consider their brothers weaklings, and run the empire by themselves.  The coin reads - Justa Grata Honoria crowned Augusta by the hand of God

Coin showing the princess Honoria (sister of Theodosius II) as Augusta. Honoria continues the line of strong women that started with Justina and the first Valentinian in the mid 300s - these imperial women apparently had a genetic predisposition to consider their brothers weaklings, and run the empire by themselves. The coin reads - Justa Grata Honoria crowned Augusta by the hand of God

 

 

Incredibly, the Strong Line of Women Continues – Galla Placidia’s daughter Honoria Upsets the Entire Empire
 

 
 
An incredibly strong-willed, sexual, politically-savvy line of women begins with the indomitable Justina and continues with her daughter, Galla, her granddaughter (the famous) Galla Placidia, her great-granddaughter (the First Empress) Pulcheria, and her great-great granddaughter Honoria (who invited Attila the Hun into the empire to get back at her brother the emperor). These were not women to be trifled with (see articles in Strong Women (here) for previous biographies of the Honoria’s formidable female ancestors). Strangely, many of the male ancestors (many of them emperors themselves) are the weak, throw-away emperors of the late 300′s and the 400′s.

Genealogy of the Strong Women of the Late 300’s and Early 400’s (the “Justina” family)

Justina [empress] + Valentinian I [Emperor-East]
  ->Galla (daughter of Justina)[Empress] + Theodosius I the Great [Emperor-East]
     ->Arcadius (son of Galla) [Emperor-East] (+ Eudoxia)
     ->Honorius (son of Galla) [Emperor-West] (+ Maria – daughter of Stilicho. + Thermantia – daughter of Stilicho)
     ->Galla Placidia (daughter of Galla) [Empress-West] (+ Constantius III [Co-Emperor-West with Honorius 421],
       ->Pulcheria (daughter of Arcadius)[Empress] + Marcian [Emperor-East]
       ->Theodosius II (son of Arcadius)[Emperor-East]
         ->Valentinian III (son of Galla Placidia) [Emperor-West]
         ->Honoria (daughter of Galla Placidia) [Princess, Troublemaker-West]

This was the beginning of an era of women taking a stronger role in government. Eudoxia and Eudocia (see Strong Women section again – here) were 2 Empresses who ruled the empire in the stead of their weaker husbands.

This from Wiki (here) on the princess Justa Grata Honoria

Justa Grata Honoria was the sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III. Coins of her attest that she was granted the title of Augusta.

Honoria’s Brothers and Sisters

Honoria was the only daughter of later Emperor Constantius III and Galla Placidia. She had an older, maternal half-brother by the first marriage of Placidia to Ataulf of the Visigoths. Theodosius, her half-brother, was born in Barcelona by the end of 414. Theodosius died early in the following year, thus eliminating an opportunity for a Romano-Visigothic line. Honoria also had a full brother, Valentinian III. He was born in 419. The history of Paul the Deacon mentions Honoria first when mentioning the children of the marriage, suggesting she was the eldest.

Honoria’s Mother

Placidia was the daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I and his second wife Galla.[4] Her older brother Gratian died young. Her mother died in childbirth in 394, giving birth to John, who died with their mother.[5] Placidia was a younger, paternal half-sister of Emperors Arcadius and Honorius. Her older half-sister Pulcheria predeceased her parents as mentioned in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa, placing the death of Pulcheria prior to the death of Aelia Flaccilla, first wife of Theodosius I, in 385. Her paternal grandparents were Count Theodosius and his wife Thermantia, as mentioned in the “Historia Romana” by Paul the Deacon. Her maternal grandparents were Valentinian I and his second wife Justina, as mentioned by Jordanes.

Honoria’s Life

She was reputed to have been ambitious and promiscuous, using her sexuality to advance her interests. She regarded her brother as weak and indolent. She seduced his royal chamberlain, Eugenius, and they plotted to murder her brother and take over the crown. However, their plot was discovered and Eugenius was executed while Honoria was sent to live in a convent in Constantinople. Only the influence of their mother Galla Placidia convinced Valentinian to exile Honoria rather than kill her.

Honoria and Attila

Honoria made a number of unsuccessful attempts to escape from the nunnery, and her brother decided to marry her to a Roman senator. Honoria sought the aid of Attila the Hun. She sent the Hunnish king a plea for help – and her engagement ring – in the spring of 450. Though Honoria may not have intended a proposal of marriage, Attila chose to interpret her message as such. He accepted, asking for half of the western Empire as dowry. When Valentinian discovered the plan, again only the influence of his mother Galla Placidia convinced him to exile, rather than kill, Honoria. He also wrote to Attila strenuously denying the legitimacy of the supposed marriage proposal.

For years Attila had been planning to invade Rome and Honoria’s letter gave him the excuse to make his move. Attila sent an emissary to Ravenna to proclaim that Honoria was innocent, that the proposal had been legitimate, and that he would come to claim what was rightfully his. He duly invaded Roman territory in 451 using the excuse that he was a “wronged husband.”
Rome was able to survive the attack with the help of a nomadic tribe, the Visigoths.

Attila never rescued Honoria and she was ultimately sent back to Rome to face her brother. He did not want to cause a scandal by executing her and was not willing to exile her again. In the end Honoria was married off to an elderly Roman senator, Bassus Herculanus, the outcome that she had brought on so much disorder in trying to avoid.

Nothing of her latter life is recorded.

The sources for Honoria’s life are Merobaudes, Carmina, I; Priscus, fragments 2, 7, 8, De legibus gentium; John of Antioch, frag. 84 De insidiis; and Jordanes, Get. 223‑224, Rom. 328.

 
 

 
 


 

Famous Late Roman painting on glass thought to be Aelia Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius the Great and Galla.  Placidia married twice - once to a Gothic chieftain (Atawulf), then to Constantine III.  She led an eventful life and tried to hold the empire together under a (probably) handicapped and very-long-lived Western emperor Honorius.   At one time she was one of three very powerful Imperial women (Eudocia, Pulcheria and Placidia) navigating the empire through barbarian invasions and internal civil wars.  That they managed to hold off the inevitable as long as they did is to their great credit

Famous Late Roman painting on glass thought to be Aelia Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius the Great and Galla. Placidia married twice - once to a Gothic chieftain (Atawulf), then to Constantine III. She led an eventful life and tried to hold the empire together under a (probably) handicapped and very-long-lived Western emperor Honorius. Later, she was regent under her son Valentinian III. At one time she was one of three very powerful Imperial women (Eudocia, Pulcheria and Placidia) navigating the empire through barbarian invasions and internal civil wars. That they managed to hold off the inevitable as long as they did is to their great credit

 


The Love of a Strong Mother – Placidia – Ruler/Regent of the West Under Honorius and Under Her Son Valentinian III

 
 
We earlier charted the long line of strong women, all descendants of the very-strong-willed Justina (2nd wife of Valentinian I), who began this “dynasty” in the 370’s (50 years prior). It will continue at least through the 450s – thirty years in the future. Now we flesh-out the contribution of her great-great-great granddaughter Placidia. Here is a brief paragraph and explanation of these women (and Placidia in particular) up through the present.

Genealogy of the Strong Women of the Late 300’s and Early 400’s

Justina [empress] + Valentinian I [Emperor-East]
->Galla (daughter of Justina)[Empress] + Theodosius I the Great [Emperor-East]
->Arcadius (son of Galla) [Emperor-East] (+ Eudoxia)
->Honorius (son of Galla) [Emperor-West] (+ Maria – daughter of Stilicho. + Thermantia – daughter of Stilicho)
->Galla Placidia (daughter of Galla) [Empress-West] (+ Constantius III [Co-Emperor-West with Honorius 421],
->Pulcheria (daughter of Arcadius)[Empress] + Marcian [Emperor-East]
->Theodosius II (son of Arcadius)[Emperor-East]
->Valentinian III (son of Galla Placidia) [Emperor-West]

One set of noteworthy facts about this line of female political power is that they managed to get a very weak member of their family installed in the highest imperial positions – Galla had Theodosius I (East) fight to install her (losing) brother Valentinian II as Western emperor, Placidia had Arcadius (East)install her son Valentinian III as Western emperor. Not only were they regents and councillors, but they were kingmakers in the most literal sense.

This from Wiki (here)on her later life:

Galla herself, the former Augusta, was however forced from the Western Empire. Whatever the politics or motivations, the public issue was increasingly scandalous public sexual caresses from her own brother Honorius. This at least was the interpretation given by Olympiodorus of Thebes, a historian used as a source by Zosimus, Sozomen and probably Philostorgius, as J.F. Matthews has demonstrated.[22] Gibbon had a different opinion. “The power of Placidia; and the indecent familiarity of her brother, which might be no more than the symptoms of a childish affection, were universally attributed to incestuous love.”

According to Gibbon, “On a sudden, by some base intrigues of a steward and a nurse, this excessive fondness was converted into an irreconcilable quarrel: the debates of the emperor and his sister were not long confined within the walls of the palace; and as the Gothic soldiers adhered to their queen, the city of Ravenna was agitated with bloody and dangerous tumults, which could only be appeased by the forced or voluntary retreat of Placidia and her children. The royal exiles landed at Constantinople, soon after the marriage of Theodosius, during the festival of the Persian victories. They were treated with kindness and magnificence; but as the statues of the emperor Constantius had been rejected by the Eastern court, the title of Augusta could not decently be allowed to his widow”. The passage places the arrival of Placidia and her children as following the marriage of Theodosius II to Aelia Eudocia, known to have occurred on June 7, 421.

The “Persian victories” mentioned were probably victory celebrations over a brief Roman-Persian War, under the respective leaderships of Theodosius II and Bahram V of the Sassanid Empire. The conflict took place from c. 420 to 422. “The general Ardaburius operated in Arzanene and gained a victory, autumn 421, which forced the Persians to retreat to Nisibis, which Ardaburius then besieged. He raised the siege on the arrival of an army under Varahran, who proceeded to attack Resaina. Meanwhile the Saracens of Hira, under Al‑Mundhir, were sent to invade Syria, and were defeated by Vitianus. During the peace negotiations the Persians attacked the Romans and were defeated by Procopius, son-in‑law of Anthemius (Socrates, VII.18, 20). The Empress Eudocia celebrated the war in a poem in heroic metre (ib. 21).” The “Saracens of Hira” were the Lakhmids of Al-Hirah.

On August 15, 423, Honorius died of dropsy, perhaps pulmonary edema. With no member of the Theodosian dynasty present at Ravenna to claim the throne, Theodosius II was expected to nominate a Western co-emperor. However, Theodosius hesitated and the decision was delayed. Taking advantage of the power vacuum, Castinus the Patrician proceeded to become a kingmaker. He declared Joannes, the primicerius notariorum (“chief notary”, head of the civil service), to be the new Western Roman Emperor. Among their supporters was Flavius Aetius. Aetius was a son of Flavius Gaudentius, magister militum, and Aurelia. Joannes’ rule was accepted in the provinces of Italia, Gaul, Hispania, but not in Africa Province.

Theodosius II reacted by starting to prepare Valentinian III for eventual promotion to the imperial office. Within 423/424, Valentinian was named nobilissimus. In 424, Valentinian was betrothed to Licinia Eudoxia, his first cousin, once removed. She was a daughter of Theodosius II and Aelia Eudocia. The year of their betrothal was recorded by Marcellinus Comes. At the time of their betrothal, Valentinian was approximately four-years-old, Licinia only two. Gibbon attributes the betrothal to “the agreement of the three females who governed the Roman world”, meaning Placidia and her nieces Eudocia and Pulcheria. Within the same year, Valentinian was proclaimed a Caesar in the Eastern court.

Galla Placidia's tomb in Ravenna.  I've actually stood in this tomb - you have to be there to see the incredible play of light on the mosaics - its truly incredible.  Honorius had moved the capital behind the swamps of Ravenna now, so this would make sense now as an imperial resting place.

Galla Placidia's tomb in Ravenna. I've actually stood in this tomb - you have to be there to see the incredible play of light on the mosaics - its truly incredible. Honorius had moved the capital behind the swamps of Ravenna now, so this would make sense now as an imperial resting place.

 
 
 

 


 

 
 

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


 
 

 


 

 

The Hot-Blooded, Strong-Willed, Independent Line of Empresses Continues (300′s) (Justina, Galla, Placidia)

 
The (very young) empress Justina lured the aging emperor Valentinian to divorce his wife and marry Justina – all on the hearsay of Valentinian’s current wife, reporting back to her husband how exquisitely beautiful the young Justina was bathing in the nude (in the public baths) (for the full story see here). Justina had a daughter by Valentinian named Galla. Galla ended up marrying the emperor Theodosius and forcing him to go to war with the West to prop up her weak brother Valentinian II (who was most probably only a puppet emperor at this point anyway). Theodosius wins. The line of strong women and their influence on politics continues.

One of Galla’s daughters, Placidia, (sister to the probably handicapped emperor Honorius in the West) decides she is going to wed the newly-acclaimed war-chief of the Goths Adolphus (Atawulf – or noble wolf) – and does. The blood of Justina continues flowing hotly in the veins of her daughters and grand-daughters as these strong women change history in a very restricting environment for women.

Gibbon has an equivocal view of her – he isn’t sure she is entirely clean of blood of her cousin Serena, and hints she may not have been beautiful. But Gibbon is fascinated with her nonetheless. Hers is a strange story – and why was the former puppet emperor Attalus there, singing in the wedding chorus? Curioser and curioser. Wheels within wheels within wheels. We’ll never know the real truth of the Gothic Invasion of Italy, or its aftermath. This, part of Placidia’s story, from Gibbon (quoting Zosimus, and Gibbon’s contemporaries Ducange, and Tillemont):

The professions of Adolphus were probably sincere, and his attachment to the cause of the republic was secured by the ascendant which a Roman princess had acquired over the heart and understanding of the barbarian king. Placidia, the daughter of the great Theodosius, and of Galla, his second wife, had received a royal education in the palace of Constantinople; but the eventful story of her life is connected with the revolutions which agitated the Western empire under the reign of her brother Honorius.

When Rome was first invested by the arms of Alaric, Placidia, who was then about twenty years of age, resided in the city; and her ready consent of the death of her cousin Serena has a cruel and ungrateful appearance, which, according to the circumstances of the action, may be aggravated or excused by the consideration of her tender age. The victorious barbarians detained, either as a hostage or a captive, the sister of Honorius; but while she was exposed to the disgrace of following round Italy the motions of a Gothic camp, she experienced, however, a decent and respectful treatment.

The authority of Jornandes, who praises the beauty of Placidia, may perhaps be counterbalanced by the silence, the expressive silence, of her flatterers: yet the splendour of her birth, the bloom of youth, the elegance of manners, and the dexterous insinuations which she condescended to employ, made a deep impression on the mind of Adolphus; and the Gothic king aspired to call himself the brother of the emperor.

The ministers of Honorius rejected with disdain the proposal of an alliance so injurious to every sentiment of Roman pride; and repeatedly urged the restitution of Placidia as an indispensable condition of the treaty of peace. But the daughter of Theodosius submitted without reluctance to the desires of the conqueror, a young and valiant prince, who yielded to Alaric in loftiness of stature, but who excelled in the more attractive qualities of grace and beauty.

The marriage of Adolphus and Placidia was consummated before the Goths retired from Italy; and the solemn, perhaps the anniversary, day of their nuptials was afterwards celebrated in the house of Ingenuus, one of the most illustrious citizens of Narbonne in Gaul. The bride, attired and adorned like a Roman empress, was placed on a throne of state; and the king of the Goths, who assumed on this occasion the Roman habit, contented himself with a less honourable seat by her side. The nuptial gift, which, according to the custom of his nation, was offered to Placidia, consisted of the rare and magnificent spoils of her country.

Fifty beautiful youths, in silken robes, carried a basin in each hand; and one of these basins was filled with pieces of gold, the other with precious stones of an inestimable value. Attalus, so long the sport of fortune and of the Goths, was appointed to lead the chorus of the Hymeneal song; and the degraded emperor might aspire to the praise of a skilful musician. The barbarians enjoyed the insolence of their triumph; and the provincials rejoiced in this alliance, which tempered, by the mild influence of love and reason, the fierce spirit of their Gothic lord.

(DEF II, v.3, pp.213-214)

 
 
 
 
 
 

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  1. [...] Strong Women Posted by: ken98 | April 22, 2010 [...]


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