- There were also a Theodosius II of Abkhazia and a Patriarch Theodosius II of Alexandria. Additionally, Pope Theodoros I of Alexandria is also known as Theodosius II in Coptic history.
|Emperor of the Byzantine Empire|
Bust of Theodosius II
|Reign||January 402 - 1 May 408 (with Arcadius);
1 May 408 – 28 July 450
(alone, with Anthemius and later Pulcheria acting as regent from 408 to 416)
|Born||10 April 401|
|Died||28 July 450(aged 49)|
Theodosius II (Latin: Flavius Theodosius Junior Augustus; 10 April 401 – 28 July 450), commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. He also presided over the outbreak of two great christological controversies, Nestorianism and Eutychianism.
Theodosius was born in 401 as the only son of Emperor Arcadius and his Frankish-born wife Aelia Eudoxia. Already in January AD 402 he was proclaimed co-Augustus by his father, thus becoming the youngest person ever to bear this title in Roman history. In 408, his father died and the seven-year-old boy became Emperor of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire.
In 414, Theodosius' older sister Pulcheria was proclaimed Augusta and assumed the regency. By 416 Theodosius was declared Augustus in his own right and the regency ended, but his sister remained a strong influence on him. In June 421, Theodosius married Aelia Eudocia, a woman of Greek origin. The two had a daughter named Licinia Eudoxia.
Theodosius' increasing interest in Christianity, fueled by the influence of Pulcheria, led him to go to war against the Sassanids (421–422), who were persecuting Christians; the war ended in a stalemate, 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. On 23 October 425, Valentinian III was installed as Emperor of the West with the assistance of the magister officiorum Helion, 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, the Corpus Juris Civilis, in the following century.
Wars with the Huns, Vandals, and Persians
The war with Persia proved indecisive, and a peace was arranged in 422 without changes to the status quo. The later wars of Theodosius were generally less successful.
The Eastern Empire was plagued by raids by the Huns. Early in Theodosius II's reign Romans used internal Hun discord to overcome Uldin's invasion of the Balkans. The Romans strengthened their fortifications and in 424 agreed to pay 350 pounds of gold to encourage the Huns to remain at peace with the Romans. In 433 with the rise of Attila and Bleda to unify the Huns, the payment was doubled to 700 pounds.
When Roman Africa fell to the Vandals in 439, both Eastern and Western Emperors sent forces to Sicily, intending to launch an attack on the Vandals at Carthage, but this project failed. Seeing the Imperial borders without significant forces, the Huns and Sassanid Persia both attacked and the expeditionary force had to be recalled. During 443 two Roman armies were defeated and destroyed by the Huns. Anatolius negotiated a peace agreement; the Huns withdrew in exchange for humiliating concessions, including an annual tribute of 2,100 Roman pounds (ca. 687 kg) of gold. In 447 the Huns went through the Balkans, destroying among others the city of Serdica (Sofia) and reaching Athyra (Büyükçekmece) on the outskirts of Constantinople.
During a visit to Syria, Theodosius met the monk Nestorius, who was a renowned preacher. He appointed Nestorius Archbishop 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 who, 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 who rejected that title because God, as an eternal being, could not have been born. Nestorius suggested the title Christotokos ("birth-giver of Christ") as a compromise, but it did not find acceptance with either faction. He was accused of separating Christ's divine and human natures, resulting in "two Christs", a heresy later called Nestorianism. Though initially supported by the emperor, Nestorius found a forceful opponent in Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria. At the request of Nestorius, the emperor called a council, which convened in Ephesus in 431. This council affirmed the title Theotokos and condemned Nestorius, who returned to his monastery in Syria and was eventually exiled to a remote monastery in Egypt.
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 Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople but found a powerful friend in Cyril's successor Dioscurus of Alexandria. Another council was convoked in Ephesus in 449, later deemed a "robber synod" by Pope Leo I because of its tumultuous circumstances. This council restored Eutyches and deposed Flavian, who was mistreated and died shortly afterwards. Leo 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.
References and sources
- Consular diptych of 430
- "Theodosius II" in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1991, p. 2051. ISBN 0195046528
- Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapters 32 & 34
- Duncan, Alistair (1974). The noble heritage: Jerusalem and Christianity, a portrait of the Church of the Resurrection. Longman. p. 28. ISBN 0-582-78039-X.
In 438 the Empress Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II, visited Jerusalem. On her return to Constantinople, after donating towards the building of new churches, she was displaced in court circles by her sister-in-law because of her Greek origin. Only one part of her churches remains.
- Morgan, Robin (1996). Sisterhood is global: the international women's movement anthology. Feminist Press. p. 270. ISBN 1-55861-160-6.
Greek women also were visible during the Byzantine period. In 421 CE, Emperor Theodosius II married a pagan Athenian woman, Athenais; after baptism she became Eudocia.
- Mahler, Helen A. (1952). Empress of Byzantium. Coward-McCann. p. 106. OCLC 331435.
Athenais, daughter of the Athenian scholar, Leontius. Before the wedding she would receive in holy baptism the name of his mother, the exalted Empress Eudoxia but because of Athenais' Greek origin the name would be pronounced Eudocia.
- Cheetham, Nicolas (1981). Mediaeval Greece. Yale University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-300-10539-8.
Immensely proud of her Hellenic ancestry and culture, Eudocia dominated her…
- Cuming, G. J. ; Baker, Derek ; Ecclesiastical History Society (1972). Popular belief and practice: Volume 8 of Studies in church history. CUP Archive. p. 13. ISBN 0-521-08220-X.
Eudocia herself, the daughter of a pagan Athenian philosopher, embraced the new faith in a mood of total acceptance. Very conscious of her Hellenic heritage, as her famous address to the citizens of Antioch showed,
- Warren T. Treadgold, A history of the Byzantine state and society, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8047-2630-2, p. 90.
- Bury, J.B., History of the Later Roman Empire vol. 1, Dover, New York, 1958, p. 271f
- S. Crogiez-Pétrequin, P. Jaillette, J.-M. Poinsotte (eds.), Codex Theodosianus V. Texte latin d'après l'édition de Mommsen. Traduction, introduction et notes, Brepols Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-2-503-51722-3
- Fergus Miller: A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief Under Theodosius II. University of California Press, Berkeley 2006.
- Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress: The Virgin Mary and the Creation of Christian Constantinople (London: Routledge, 1994) has a significant section about Theodosius II and his sister Pulcheria.
- Hugh Elton, "Imperial politics at the court of Theodosius II," in Andrew Cain (ed), The Power of Religion in Late Antiquity: The Power of Religion in Late Antiquity (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2009), 133–142.
Media related to Theodosius II at Wikimedia Commons
- Reign of Theodosius II (chapter of J. B. Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire)
- Theodosian Code: Sections concerning religious observances (English)
- George Long, "Codex Theodosianus"
- Nathan, Geoffrey, "Theodosius II (408–450 A.D.)", De Imperatoribus Romanis
- This list of Roman laws of the fourth century shows laws passed by Theodosius II relating to Christianity.