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Count Theodosius (Latin: Comes Theodosius) was a senior military officer serving in the Western Roman Empire. He is also known as Flavius Theodosius or as Theodosius the Elder, distinguishing him from his son, the Roman emperor Theodosius I. He was granted the title of Comes of the Britains (Comes Britanniarum) for his work there putting down the Great Conspiracy. He afterwards fought against the Alemanni and in Mauretania.
Although the title "Count" is derived from the Roman "Comes", the term "Count Theodosius" is misleading – causing an association with the feudal system, where a Count was often an effectively independent ruler, which was not the case under the Roman Empire.
There is some evidence that Flavius Theodosius's father was called Flavius Julius Honorius, and his uncles Flavius Julius Gerontius and Flavius Julius Eucherius. He himself was called Flavius Julius Theodosius, claimed descending from the gens Julia through Gaius Julius Caesar's cousin Sextus Julius Caesar. Probably sometime in the late 330s or early 340s he married Flavia Thermantia. By her, he had at least two sons, Honorius and Theodosius, born at Cauca (modern Coca, Segovia) in Spain. The family were Orthodox Christians.
Relatives and near relatives
- Ancestor: Sextus Julius Caesar
- Maternal grandparents: Marcus Actius
- Father: Flavius Julius Honorius
- Mother: Flavia Actia
- Uncles: Flavius Julius Theodosius / Flavius Julius Gerontius
- Brother: Flavius Honorius
- Sons: Flavius Theodosius Augustus / Flavius Honorius
- Grandchildren: Flavius Honorius / Flavius Arcadius / Flavius Dydimus / Flavius Lagodius / Flavius Theodosiolus / Flavia Maria / Flavia Serena / Flavia Thermantia
- Cousins: Flavius Valerius Clemens Maximus
- Nephews: Flavius Magnus Maximus Augustus / Flavius Octavius / Flavius Constantinus
- Grandnephews: Flavius Moyne / Flavius Constans / Flavius Ambrosius / Flavius Eucherius
In 368 Flavius Theodosius was first raised to the Roman military rank of comes (akin to a general) and sent to Britannia to recover the lands lost to the Great Barbarian Conspiracy in the previous year. Ammianus Marcellinus records that he put down a rebellion by the Pannonian Valentine. Having done so, he recovered and re-arranged its provinces, although many of its people had been killed or sold into slavery by the invaders. Known to have been with him on this expedition were his younger son Theodosius and his nephew, the future usurper Magnus Maximus.
On his return Count Theodosius succeeded Jovinus as the magister equitum praesentalis at the court of Emperor Valentinian I, in which capacity he prosecuted another successful campaign against the Alemanni in 370/371. In 372 Theodosius was deployed to Illyricum to lead the army there against the Sarmatians.
In 373 Count Theodosius was made commander of the expedition to suppress the rebellion of Firmus in Mauretania, which proved to be yet another victory for the skilled commander. But after this victory he was arrested, taken to Carthage, and put to death in early 376. The reasons for this are not clear, but it is thought to have resulted from a factional power struggle in Italy after the sudden death of Emperor Valentinian in November 375. Shortly before his death Count Theodosius accepted Christian baptism — a common practice at the time, even for lifelong Christians.
After Count Theodosius's death his son Theodosius was sent home to the family estates in Gallaecia (now Galicia in Spain). But two years later, in 378, after the Roman defeat at the Battle of Adrianople, the younger Theodosius was rehabilitated, placed in charge of the Roman armies in the eastern half of the empire, and quickly elevated to the rank of emperor on January 19, 379, following his successes in the field.
- Millar. A Greek Roman Empire. Power and Belief under Theodosius II. University of California Press. pp. 408–450. ISBN 9780520253919.
- Ammianus Marcellinus. Rerum gestarum Libri XXXI [31 Books of Deeds]. a. AD 391. (in Latin) Translated by Charles Yonge. Roman History, Vol. XXVIII, Ch. III. Bohn (London), 1862. Hosted at Wikisource.