- Theodosius I
Infobox Roman emperor
name =Theodosius I
full name =Flavius Theodosius (from birth to accession); Flavius Theodosius Augustus (as emperor)
title =Emperor of the
caption =Coin featuring Theodosius I
reign =August 378 - May 15 392 (emperor in the East, with
Gratianand Valentinian IIin the West);
May 15 392 - January 17 395 (whole empire)
Valensin the East; Valentinian IIin the West
Arcadiusin the East;
Honorius in the West
spouse 1 =1)
spouse 2 =2) Galla, daughter of
issue =By 1)
Arcadius, Honorius and Pulcheria (?-385)
father =Theodosius the Elder
date of birth =birth date|347|1|11|df=y
place of birth =Cauca, or
Italica, near Seville, modern Spain
date of death =death date|395|1|17|df=y
place of death =
place of burial =
Constantinople, Modern Day Istanbul|
Flavius Theodosius (January 11, 347 – January 17, 395), also called Theodosius I and Theodosius the Great (Greek: Θεοδόσιος Α΄ and Θεοδόσιος ο Μέγας), was
Roman Emperorfrom 379 to 395. Reuniting the eastern and western portions of the empire, Theodosius was the last emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. After his death, the two parts split permanently. He is also known for making Nicene Christianity the official state religionof the Roman Empire. ["Cf. decree, infra".]
Theodosius was born in
Cauca, in Hispania(modern day Coca, Spain) or, more probably, in or near Italica( Seville) [See the Hydatius and Zosimus's critics and other arguments by Alicia M. Canto, «Sobre el origen bético de Teodosio I el Grande, y su improbable nacimiento en Cauca de Gallaecia», "Latomus" ( Brussels) 65.2, 2006, págs. 388–421, cf. [http://users.belgacom.net/latomus/revue.html] ] , to a senior military officer, Theodosius the Elder. [Zos. "Historia Nova" [http://books.google.com/books?id=FSMAAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=zosimus&ei=xzm1R-euDJ6SzQT309jGBQ#PPA200,M1 4.24.4] .] He accompanied his father to Britannia to help quell the Great Conspiracyin 368. He was military commander (" dux") of Moesia, a Roman province on the lower Danube, in 374. However, shortly thereafter, and at about the same time as the sudden disgrace and execution of his father, Theodosius retired to Spain. The reason for his retirement, and the relationship (if any) between it and his father's death is unclear. It is possible that he was dismissed from his command by the emperor Valentinian Iafter the loss of two of Theodosius' legions to the Sarmatiansin late 374.
The death of Valentinian I in 375 created political pandemonium. Fearing further persecution on account of his family ties, Theodosius abruptly retired to his family estates where he adapted to the life of a provincial aristocrat.
From 364 to 375, the Roman Empire was governed by two co-emperors, the brothers
Valentinian Iand Valens; when Valentinian died in 375, his sons, Valentinian IIand Gratian, succeeded him as rulers of the Western Roman Empire. In 378, after Valenswas killed in the Battle of Adrianople, Gratian appointed Theodosius to replace the fallen emperor as "co-augustus" for the East. Gratian was killed in a rebellion in 383, then Theodosius appointed his elder son, Arcadius, his co-ruler for the East. After the death in 392 of Valentinian II, whom Theodosius had supported against a variety of usurpations, Theodosius ruled as sole emperor, appointing his younger son HonoriusAugustus and his co-ruler for the West ( Milan, on January 23, 393) and defeating the usurper Eugeniuson September 6, 394, at the Battle of the Frigidus( Vipavariver, modern Slovenia) he restored peace.
By his first wife, the probably Spanish
Aelia FlaccillaAugusta, he had two sons, Arcadiusand Honorius and a daughter, Aelia Pulcheria; Arcadius was his heir in the East and Honorius in the West. Both Aelia Flaccilla and Pulcheria died in 385.
His second wife (but never declared "Augusta") was Galla, daughter of the emperor
Valentinian Iand his second wife Justina. Theodosius and Galla had three children who were a son, Gratian, born in 388 who died young and a daughter Aelia Galla Placidia(392–450). Placidia was the only child who survived to adulthood and later become an Empress; a third child (a son), John, died with his mother in childbirth in 394.
Diplomatic policy with the Goths
Gothsand their allies (Vandali, Taifalae, Bastarnaeand the native Carpi) entrenched in the provinces of Daciaand eastern Pannonia Inferior consumed Theodosious' attention. The Gothic crisis was so dire that his co-Emperor Gratian relinquished control of the Illyrian provinces and retired to Trierin Gaulto let Theodosius operate without hindrance. A major weakness in the Roman position after the defeat at Adrianoplewas the recruiting of barbarians to fight against other barbarians. In order to reconstruct the Roman Army of the West, Theodosius needed to find able bodied soldiers and so he turned to the most capable men readily to hand: the barbarians recently settled in the Empire. This caused many difficulties in the battle against barbarians since the newly recruited fighters had little or no loyalty to Theodosius.
Theodosius was reduced to the costly expedient of shipping his recruits to
Egyptand replacing them with more seasoned Romans, but there were still switches of allegiance that resulted in military setbacks. Gratian sent generals to clear the dioceses of Illyria ( Pannoniaand Dalmatia) of Goths, and Theodosius was able finally to enter Constantinopleon November 24, 380, after two seasons in the field. The final treaties with the remaining Gothic forces, signed October 3, 382, permitted large contingents of primarily Thervingian Goths to settle along the southern Danubefrontier in the provinceof Thraceand largely govern themselves.
The Goths now settled within the Empire had, as a result of the treaties, military obligations to fight for the Romans as a national contingent, as opposed to being fully integrated into the Roman forces. [Williams and Friell, p34.] However, many Goths would serve in Roman legions and others, as "
foederati," for a single campaign, while bands of Goths switching loyalties became a destabilizing factor in the internal struggles for control of the Empire. In the last years of Theodosius' reign, one of their emerging leaders named Alaric, participated in Theodosius' campaign against Eugeniusin 394, only to resume his rebellious behavior against Theodosius' son and eastern successor, Arcadius, shortly after Theodosius' death.
Civil wars in the Empire
After the death of
Gratianin 383, Theodosius' interests turned to the Western Roman Empire, for the usurper Magnus Maximushad taken all the provinces of the West except for Italy. This self-proclaimed threat was hostile to Theodosius' interests, since the reigning emperor Valentinian II, Maximus' enemy, was his ally. Theodosius, however, was unable to do much about Maximus due to his still inadequate military capability and he was forced to keep his attention on local matters. However when Maximus began an invasion of Italy in 387, Theodosius was forced to take action. The armies of Theodosius and Maximus met in 388 at Poetovio and Maximus was defeated. On August 28, 388 Maximus was executed. [Williams and Friell, p64.]
Trouble arose again, after Valentinian was found hanging in his room. It was claimed to be a suicide by the "
magister militum", Arbogast. Arbogast, unable to assume the role of emperor, elected Eugenius, a former teacher of rhetoric. Eugenius started a program of restoration of the Pagan faith, and sought, in vain, Theodosius' recognition. In January of 393, Theodosius gave his son Honorius the full rank of Augustus in the West, citing Eugenius' illegitimacy.Williams and Friell, p129.]
Theodosius campaigned against Eugenius. The two armies faced at the
Battle of Frigidusin September of 394. [Williams and Friell, p134.] The battle began on September 5, 394 with Theodosius' full frontal assault on Eugenius' forces. Theodosius was repulsed and Eugenius thought the battle to be all but over. In Theodosius' camp the loss of the day decreased morale. It is said that Theodosius was visited by two "heavenly riders all in white" who gave him courage. The next day, the battle began again and Theodosius' forces were aided by a natural phenomenon known as the Bora, which produces cyclonic winds. The Bora blew directly against the forces of Eugenius and disrupted the line.
Eugenius' camp was stormed and Eugenius was captured and soon after executed. Thus Theodosius became the only emperor.
Theodosius the patron
Theodosius oversaw the removal in 390 of an Egyptian
obeliskfrom Alexandria to Constantinople. It is now known as the obelisk of Theodosiusand still stands in the Hippodrome, the long racetrackthat was the center of Constantinople's public life and scene of political turmoil. Re-erecting the monolith was a challenge for the technology that had been honed in the construction of siege engines. The obelisk, still recognizably a solar symbol, had been moved from Karnakto Alexandriawith what is now the Lateran obelisk by Constantius II). The Lateran obelisk was shipped to Rome soon afterwards, but the other one then spent a generation lying at the docks due to the difficulty involved in attempting to ship it to Constantinople. Eventually, the obelisk was cracked in transit. The white marblebase is entirely covered with bas-reliefs documenting the Imperial household and the engineering feat of removing it to Constantinople. Theodosius and the imperial family are separated from the nobles among the spectators in the Imperial boxwith a cover over them as a mark of their status. The naturalism of traditional Roman art in such scenes gave way in these reliefs to conceptual art: the "idea" of order, decorum and respective ranking, expressed in serried ranks of faces. This is seen as evidence of formal themes beginning to oust the transitory details of mundane life, celebrated in Pagan portraiture. Christianity had only just been adopted as the new state religion.
The Forum Tauri in Constantinople was renamed and redecorated as the
Forum of Theodosius, including a column and a triumphal archin his honour.
Nicene Christianity becomes the state religion
Theodosius promoted Nicene Trinitarianism within Christianity and Christianity within the Empire. On February 27, 380, he declared "Catholic Christianity" the only legitimate imperial religion, ending state support for the traditional Roman religion.
In the 4th century, the Christian Church was wracked with controversy over the divinity of
Jesus Christ, his relationship to Godthe Father, and the nature of the Trinity. In 325, Constantine Iconvened the Council of Nicea, which asserted that Jesus, the Son, was equal to the Father, one with the Father, and of the same substance ("homoousios" in Greek). The council condemned the teachings of the theologian Arius: that the Son was a created being and inferior to God the Father, and that the Father and Son were of a similar substance ("homoiousios" in Greek) but not identical (see Nontrinitarian). Despite the council's ruling, controversy continued. By the time of Theodosius' accession, there were still several different church factions that promoted alternative Christology.
While no mainstream churchmen within the Empire explicitly adhered to
Arius(a presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt) or his teachings, there were those who still used the "homoiousios" formula, as well as those who attempted to bypass the debate by merely saying that Jesus was like ("homoios" in Greek) God the Father, without speaking of substance ("ousia"). All these non-Nicenes were frequently labeled as Arians(i.e., followers of Arius) by their opponents, though they would not have identified themselves as such. [Lenski, Noel, "Failure of Empire", University of California Press, 2002, ISBN 0-520-23332-8, pp235-237.]
The Emperor Valens had favored the group who used the "homoios" formula; this
theologywas prominent in much of the East and had under the sons of Constantine the Great gained a foothold in the West. Theodosius, on the other hand, cleaved closely to the Nicene Creedwhich was the interpretation that predominated in the West and was held by the important Alexandrian church.
Establishment of Nicene Orthodoxy
On November 26, 380, two days after he had arrived in Constantinople, Theodosius expelled the non-Nicene bishop,
Demophilus of Constantinople, and appointed Meletius patriarch of Antioch, and Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the Cappadocian Fathersfrom Antioch(today in Turkey), patriarch of Constantinople. Theodosius had just been baptized, by bishop Acholius of Thessalonica, during a severe illness, as was common in the early Christian world.
On February 27, 380 he,
Gratianand Valentinian Ipublished an edict in order that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly a thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited. The exact text of this decree, gathered in the "Codex Theodosianus" XVI.1.2, was:
"It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven shall decide to inflict." [The original text in Latin: "Imppp(eratores) Gratianus, Valentinianus et Theodosius AAA(ugusti). Edictum ad populum Urbis Constantinopolitanae. Cunctos populos, quos clementiae nostrae regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum apostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat, quamque pontificem Damasum sequi claret et Petrum Alexandriae episcopum, virum apostolicae sanctitatis; hoc est ut secundum apostolicam disciplinam evangelicamque doctrinam Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti unam deitatem sub parili maiestate et sub pia Trinitate credamus. § 1. "Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum Catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti", reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere, nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere, divina primum vindicta, post etiam motus nostri, quem ex coelesti arbitrio sumpserimus, ultione plectendos. Dat(um) (die) III (ante) Kal(endas) Mart)ias), Thessalonica, Gratiano A(ugusto) V (quinto), et Theodosio A(ugusto) I (primo) Co(n)s(ulibu)s" ("Decreta selecta de religione. Theodosius I", in "Patrologia Latina", Paris 1845, vol. 13, "LIB. XVI. TIT. I. DE FIDE CATHOLICA", coll. 530B-530C), [http://webpages.ull.es/users/mbarral/fontes.html] here.] ( [http://books.google.es/books?id=k9L2UaDJLGkC&dq=%27%27Documents+of+the+Christian+Church%22&pg=PP1&ots=ayVIBh7ZCd&sig=GBu9A8tCgnzlM6ArZOunEQ1bAr4&hl=es&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA22,M1 Henry Bettenson, "Documents of the Christian Church", Oxford University Press, 1967, 2nd. (1st. 1943), p. 22] ) [Anyway, the adjective "catholic" applied to the Christian church, was already used by the first time by Ignace of Antioch in the year 117 A.D.: "The word Catholic (katholikos from katholou -- throughout the whole, i.e., universal) occurs in the Greek classics, e.g., in Aristotle and Polybius, and was freely used by the earlier Christian writers in what we may call its primitive and non-ecclesiastical sense. Thus we meet such phrases as the "the catholic resurrection" (Justin Martyr), "the catholic goodness of God" (Tertullian), "the four catholic winds" (Irenaeus), where we should now speak of "the general resurrection", "the absolute or universal goodness of God", "the four principal winds", etc.... The combination "the Catholic Church" (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110. The words run: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church".", see the [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm Catholic Encyclopaedia] ] .
In May 381, Theodosius summoned a new ecumenical council at Constantinople to repair the schism between East and West on the basis of Nicean orthodoxy. [Williams and Friell, p54.] "The council went on to define orthodoxy, including the mysterious Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost who, though equal to the Father, 'proceeded' from Him, whereas the Son was 'begotten' of Him."William and Friell, p55.] The council also "condemned the Apollonian and Macedonian heresies, clarified church jurisdictions according to the civil boundaries of dioceses and ruled that Constantinople was second in precedence to Rome."
With the death of Valens, the Arians' protector, his defeat probably damaged the standing of the Homoian faction.
Pagan conflicts during the reign of Theodosius I
Death of Western Roman Emperor Valentinian II
On May 15, 392,
Valentinian IIwas found hanged in his residence in the town of Viennein Gaul. The Frankish soldier and Pagan Arbogast, Valentinian's protector and magister militum, maintained that it was suicide. Arbogast and Valentinian had frequently disputed rulership over the Western Roman Empire, and Valentinian was also noted to have complained of Arbogast's control over him to Theodosius. Thus when word of his death reached Constantinople Theodosius believed, or at least suspected, that Arbogast was lying and that he had engineered Valentinian's demise. These suspicions were further fueled by Arbogast's elevation of a Eugenius, pagan official to the position of Western Emperor, and the veiled accusations which Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, spoke during his funeral oration for Valentinian.
Valentinian II's death sparked a civil war between Eugenius and Theodosius over the rulership of the west in the
Battle of the Frigidus. The resultant eastern victory there led to the final brief unification of the Roman Empire under Theodosius, and the ultimate irreparable division of the empire after his death.
Proscription of Paganism
For the first part of his rule, Theodosius seems to have ignored the semi-official standing of the Christian bishops; in fact he had voiced his support for the preservation of temples or pagan statues as useful public buildings. In his early reign, Theodosius was fairly tolerant of the pagans, for he needed the support of the influential pagan ruling class. However he would in time stamp out the last vestiges of paganism with great severity. ["Theodosius I", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912. [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14577d.htm] ] His first attempt to inhibit paganism was in 381 when he reiterated Constantine's ban on sacrifice. But for the most part in his early reign he was very tolerant on pagans in the Empire.
In 388 he sent a prefect to Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor with the aim of breaking up pagan associations and the destruction of their temples. The Serapeum at Alexandria was destroyed during this campaign. [Socr., V, 16] In a series of decrees called the "Theodosian decrees" he progressively declared that those Pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones were now to be workdays (in 389). In 391, he reiterated the ban of blood sacrifice and decreed "no one is to go to the sanctuaries, walk through the temples, or raise his eyes to statues created by the labor of man" [ [http://www.vinland.org/scamp/grove/kreich/chapter4.html Michael Routery, ©1997, "The First Missionary War. The Church take over of the Roman Empire", Ch. 4, The Serapeum of Alexandria] ] . The temples that were thus closed could be declared "abandoned", as Bishop
Theophilus of Alexandriaimmediately noted in applying for permission to demolish a site and cover it with a Christian church, an act that must have received general sanction, for "mithraea" forming crypts of churches, and temples forming the foundations of 5th century churches appear throughout the former Roman Empire. Theodosius participated in actions by Christians against major Pagan sites: the destruction of the gigantic Serapeumof Alexandria by soldiers and local Christian citizens in 392, according to the Christian sources authorized by Theodosius ("extirpium malum"), needs to be seen against a complicated background of less spectacular violence in the city: (That a large library was resident in the Serapeum, however, which was destroyed along with the temple, is a modern tale, generated by a single sentence in Gibbon; no ancient evidence supports it, and even pagan sources show it to be false: Ammianus, for instance, indicates that the Serapeum library was no longer in existence in 392, and Eunapius of Sardis's angry account of the demolition seems to make it clear that no library was destroyed.) [ [http://www.vinland.org/scamp/grove/kreich/chapter4.html Michael Routery 1997, cit.] ] Eusebius mentions street-fighting in Alexandria between Christians and non-Christians as early as 249, and non-Christians had participated in the struggles for and against Athanasiusin 341 and 356. "In 363 they killed Bishop George for repeated acts of pointed outrage, insult, and pillage of the most sacred treasures of the city." [Ramsay McMullan, "Christianizing the Roman Empire A.D. 100-400" (Yale University Press) 1984, p90.]
By decree in 391, Theodosius ended the subsidies that had still trickled to some remnants of Greco-Roman civic Paganism too. The eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the
Roman Forumwas extinguished, and the Vestal Virginswere disbanded. Taking the auspicesand practicing witchcraftwere to be punished. Pagan members of the Senate in Rome appealed to him to restore the Altar of Victoryin the Senate House; he refused. After the last Olympic Games in 393, it is believed that Theodosius cancelled the games although there is no proof of that in the official records of the Roman Empire, and the reckoning of dates by Olympiads soon came to an end. Now Theodosius portrayed himself on his coins holding the " labarum".
The apparent change of policy that resulted in the "Theodosian decrees" has often been credited to the increased influence of
Ambrose, bishop of Milan. It is worth noting that in 390 Ambrose had excommunicated Theodosius, who had recently ordered the massacre of 7,000 inhabitants of ThessalonicaJ. Norwich, "Byzantium: The Early Centuries", p112.] , in response to the assassination of his military governor stationed in the city, and that Theodosius performed several months of public penance. The specifics of the decrees were superficially limited in scope, specific measures in response to various petitions from Christians throughout his administrationFact|date=February 2007.
Some modern historians question the consequences of the laws against pagans. [R. Malcolm Errington, Christian Accounts of the Religious Legislation of Theodosius I. in Klio 79, 1997, pp. 398ff.]
Theodosius died, after battling the vascular disease
oedema, in Milanon January 17, 395. Ambroseorganized and managed Theodosius's lying in state in Milan. Ambrose delivered a panegyrictitled "De Obitu Theodosii" [Williams and Friell, p.139.] before Stilichoand Honoriusin which Ambrose detailed the suppression of heresy and paganism by Theodosius. Theodosius was finally laid to rest in Constantinople on November 8, 395. [Williams and Friell, p.140.]
Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius
*Serena, niece of Theodosius and wife of
Carranque, Spain, the site of a villa attributed to Maternus Cynegius, relative of Theodosius. The basilicaincludes eight columns of marmor Phrygium, from the Emperor's quarries near Iscehisar.
*Zosimus Pagan Historian from the time of Theodosius.
* Brown, Peter, "The Rise of Western Christendom", 2003, p. 73-74
* Williams, Stephen and Gerard Friell, "Theodosius: The Empire at Bay", Yale University Press, 1994.
* [http://www.roman-emperors.org/theo1.htm De Imperatoribus Romanis, Theodosius I]
* [http://www.bbkl.de/t/theodosios_r_k_i.shtml Kirchenlexikon-Biography and Bibliography]
* This [http://www.fourthcentury.com/index.php/imperial-laws-chart-364 list of Roman laws of the fourth century] shows laws passed by Theodosius I relating to Christianity.
NAME = Theodosius I
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Flavius Theodosius; Θεοδόσιος Α΄
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Roman emperor
DATE OF BIRTH = January 11, 347
PLACE OF BIRTH = Cauca
DATE OF DEATH = January 17, 395
PLACE OF DEATH = Milan
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