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Theodosian Empresses

Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity

KENNETH G. HOLUM
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 325
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnxjj
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  • Book Info
    Theodosian Empresses
    Book Description:

    Theodosian Empressessets a series of compelling women on the stage of history and offers new insights into the eastern court in the fifth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90970-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    K. G. H.
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-5)

    In 434 the Roman empress Justa Grata Honoria, although not officially wed, became unmistakably pregnant. Eugenius, a man of low degree who managed her estates, had also shared her bed. Despite the man’s humble rank, his liaison with an empress shook the foundations of the state. Circles in the western court at Ravenna, where Honoria resided, assumed inevitably that she planned to raise her paramour to imperial rank and to challenge the existing western emperor, her brother Valentinian III. The latter therefore ordered Eugenius executed and banished his wayward sister, sending her to Constantinople, to the court of his eastern...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Theodosius the Great and His Women
    (pp. 6-47)

    On the morning of September 6, 394, in the ultimate confrontation of a Christian emperor with the forces of traditional paganism, Theodosius the Great sent his troops against the army of the usurper Eugenius.¹ The outcome was to settle the future of the Theodosian dynasty and its women.

    On the eve of the battle Theodosius had been trapped. Descending from the Julian Alps above Aquileia, where the road from the East first looked out upon Italy, he had found Eugenius and his troops drawn up near the river Frigidus blocking passage into the plain below. To prevent retreat, another enemy...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Aelia Eudoxia Augusta There was in her no little insolence …
    (pp. 48-78)

    The obligation ofkedeia,which Theodosius the Great employed effectively in his dynastic policy, operated in the next generation when his son Arcadius married Eudoxia. During a brief career (395–404), Aelia Eudoxia embraced the image of womanhood that Gregory of Nyssa had articulated for Flaccilla, and like Flaccilla she received the distinction Augusta. In contrast with her model, however, Eudoxia parlayed the image and the distinction into power she could use. Her ability to do so depended in part on her husband’s dismal character, but also, again, on the miracle of the Frigidus.

    Victory on the Frigidus had left...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Aelia Pulcheria Augusta She conceived a godly resolve …
    (pp. 79-111)

    Eudoxia Augusta died in 404, leaving a worthy successor. During a long career (413–53), her daughter Pulcheria brought femalebasileíato full fruition and employed it to change the course of history. Her ability to do so depended in part on inherited factors—on the Theodosian dynastic impetus, its enhancement of women, and the demilitarization of imperial ideology. But Pulcheria addressed her tasks with a unique and forceful personality, shaped during her childhood in the impressive environment of the eastern court.

    In July or August of less troubled years, the imperial family and the court habitually made their encumbered...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Aelia Eudocia Augusta A girl of wit and intellect …
    (pp. 112-146)

    Imbued with her mother’s imperiousness, drawing on a female form ofbasileíanow two generations old, Aelia Pulcheria had employed influence and power in ways that alarmed traditionalists. The invective of Eunapius proves that her ascendancy deprived many eastern aristocrats of hope of advancement and the means to satisfy their ambition. In the early 420s these aristocrats struck back. Adopting the methods of their enemy, they selected an Athenian maid, one who perfectly embodied their cultural biases, and married her to Theodosius II. When she had received a new name, Aelia Eudocia, and the distinction Augusta, her backers exploited her influence and...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Controversy Over the Mother of God
    (pp. 147-174)

    The heresiarch Nestorius occupied the see of Constantinople for less than four years (428–31), but his unhappy episcopacy and fall merit detailed investigation. On the question of Nestorius and of his attack on theTheotokos,traditionalbasileíawith the accouterments of magisterial power stood against the independentbasileíaof a woman, Theodosius against Pulcheria with her less tangible resources. The outcome permits an estimate of their respective strengths; remarkably, Pulcheria defeated both the bishop and her brother the emperor.

    Born near Germanicia in northern Syria, Nestorius traveled as a youth to Antioch,¹ no doubt aiming at a public career,...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Two Empresses Who Refused to Be One
    (pp. 175-216)

    Pulcheria’s victory at Ephesus tightened her grip on the people of Constantinople, reinforcing an emotional attachment not shared by her sister-in-law. Traditionalists had designed Eudocia’sbasileíafor their own narrow purposes: to regain access to high office and nurture enthusiasm for classical culture. It would be unreasonable to think that baptism for convenience instantly made the former Athenaïs an impassioned Christian and altered her priorities.¹ It is unlikely that she took much interest in the wranglings over Mary and Christ which exercised Theodosius, Pulcheria, and the people of Constantinople.²

    Even so, appearances had to be maintained. The potency ofbasileía,...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN From Dominion to Sainthood
    (pp. 217-228)

    The Augusta Eudocia broke with her husband and left him forever to dwell in the Holy Land, but she retained her imperial distinction. After 443 the sacralbasileíaof women thus made itself felt not only in the dynastic city but also in Palestine, where Christian pilgrims and monks had displaced other claimants to holy places, especially the Jews.¹ In the traditionalist spirit of her uncle Asclepiodotus, Eudocia respected Jewish claims.

    Early in her permanent exile, members of the Jewish community in Palestine came to Eudocia requesting that she permit them to pray at the ruins of Solomon’s Temple. According to...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 229-244)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 245-258)