), co-empress and empress of the East, A. D. 414-453, was the eldest daughter of the emperor Arcadius, who died in A. D. 414, and was succeeded by his son Theodosius the Younger.
But as this prince was then only fourteen years old, Pulcheria took the reins of government in his stead, although she too had scarcely passed the limits of childhood, being born in A. D. 399.
She was created Augusta on the 4th of July, 414, and henceforth reigned in the name of her weak brother with the consent and to the satisfaction of the senate and the people.
The historical and political part of her reign is, however, more properly told in the life of THEODOSIUS Il., and we shall consequently only relate such facts as are more particularly connected with the person and character of this extraordinary woman. Immediately after her accession she took the veil, together with her younger sisters Arcadia and Marina, the latter probably against their will, but Pulcheria decidedly from political motives, although the ceremony took place with a religious solemnity, as if she had parted for ever with earthly affairs.
She probably intended to bar every ambitious scheme upon her and her sisters' hand, leet she should lose her power, or the empire become an object of contest between three brothers-in-law.
But although she lived separated from the world, she did not remain strange to its interests, and her long and peaceful reign, at least in Asia, give evidence of her eminent abilities.
In her personal intercourse she was extremely mild and amiable, her superior education giving additional charms to it: she spoke and wrote Latin and Greek with equal facility and elegance, and was well versed in arts, literature, and science. Her piety was sincere, and although she gave millions to the poor and the distressed, and likewise for the building and embellishment of churches and convents, she was bountiful without ostentation. To her brother Theodosius she was a guardian angel, instilling into his mind the most virtuous principles, and watching his education; and if she could not make an energetic man of him, it was not her fault but that of his original mental and intellectual constitution.
He trusted her with the utmost confidence, and was happier in seeing the administration in her hands, than he would have been had the cares of it devolved upon him. Pulcheria brought about the marriage between her brother and the beautiful and virtuous Athenais (Eudoxia), and she performed her task in so charming a manner that many a modern chaperone would do well to take her for a model (A. D. 421). Theodosius died in 450, and, leaving only a daughter, was succeeded by her husband Valentinian III., who also was unfit for the throne. Pulcheria consequently remained at the head of affairs, and began her second reign by inflicting the punishment of death upon the dangerous and rapacious eunuch Chrysaphius. Fearing lest the ambition of that haughty intriguer should be imitated by others, she resolved to marry, and of course was released from her vows of chastity.
The object of her choice was the excellent Marcian, with whom she continued to reign in common till her death, which took place on the 18th of February, 453, at the age of 54 years and one month.
She was lamented by every body, and was afterwards canonised; her feast is still celebrated in the Greek church.
There is a story told by Suidas that Pulcheria had a lover, Paulinus. and that she had lived in incestuous intercourse with her brother; but we doubt the first, and do not believe the second, because it is not to be reconciled with the well-known character and principles of both Pulcheria and Theodosius. (For authorities see those quoted in the lives of MARCIANCS; THEODOSIUS II.; and VALENTINIANUS III.)