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Theodo'sius II. or Theodo'sius the Younger or the Younger Theodo'sius

was the only son of the emperor Arcadius, who died on the first of May, A. D. 408. Theodosius was born early in A. D. 401, and was declared Augustus by his father in January A. D. 402. There is a story that Arcadius, by his testament, made Yezdigerd, king of Persia, the guardian of his son; but it hardly deserves notice, and certainly not refutation. On the death of Arcadius, the government was given to or assumed by the praefect Anthemius, the grandson of Philip, a minister of Constantius, and the grandfather of the emperor Anthemius. In A. D. 405 Anthemius was made consul and praetorian praefect of the East. He faithfully discharged his duty as guardian of the empire and the infant emperor. In the year in which Arcadius died. the Huns and the Scyrri entered Thrace under Uldin. who rejected all terms of accommodation, but, being deserted by some of his officers, the recrossed the Danube, after losing a great number of his Huns. The Scyrri, who loitered in his rear, were either killed or made prisoners, and many of the captives were sent to cultivate the lands in Asia. Anthenius strengthened the Illyrian frontiers. and protected Constantinople, by building what were called the great walls, probably in A. D. 413.

Theodosius had a sister, Pulcheria, born A. D. 399, who, in A. D. 414, became the guardian of her brother and the administrator of the empire, before she was sixteen years of age : she was declared Augusta on the fourth of July, A. D. 414. Pulcheria was undoubtedly a woman of some talent, though of a peculiar kind. She superintended the education of her brother, and directed the government at the same time; nor did her influence cease with the minority of Theodosius. [PULCHERIA.] She educated her brother after her own ascetic notions; and though his literary instruction was not neglected, nor the exercises proper to form his health and strengthen his body, his political education was limited to the observance of the forms and ceremonials of the court. It may be that Pulcheria, with some vigour of understanding, had no knowledge of the more important duties of a man who is at the head of a nation. Pulcheria and her sisters, Arcadia and Marina, had publicly dedicated themselves to the service of God and to a life of chastity; and the whole imperial household was regulated in conformity to this principle. " Pulcheria," says Tillemont, a great admirer of this saint, " accustomed Theodosius to pray incessantly, to visit the churches often, and to make them presents; to respect the bishops and other ministers of the altar, &c." But if the young emperor was carefully protected against the dangers to which a youth in an exalted station is exposed, he was not trained in those studies which befit a man and an emperor. To excel in mechanical occupations, to write a fine hand, which, in a private station, may give amusement, and are at least harmless, imply in a prince a want of taste and of talent for more important things, or an illdirected education. Theodosius had, in fact, little talent, and his education was not adapted to improve it. He passed a blameless youth, for he was shut up in his palace, except when he went a hunting ; and he possessed the negative virtues of a retired and austere life. The ecclesiastics extol him for his piety and his respect to the church ; and he prosecuted the work which his grandfather commenced, by demolishing to their foundations the temples of idols, the monuments of the superstition and of the taste of the pagans. It was his ambition not to leave a vestige of the ancient religion behind him.

He published various edicts against heretics, and an edict specially directed against Gamaliel. the last patriarch of the Jews. By an edict of the 16th May, 415, he declared it incest for a widower to marry his wife's sister. and the children of such a marriage were made bastards. Constantius, in A. D. 355, had already enacted the same law, which, though enacted again in our own times, is protested against by the common understanding of mankind.

The great event of the life of an emperor who was a nullity, was his marriage, which was managed by his sister, who managed every thing. The woman whom his sister chose for his wife. and whom Theodosius married (probably in A. D. 421), was the accomplished Athenais, who, after her baptism, for she was a heathen, received the name of Eudocia. Her life from this time is intimately connected with the biography of her husband, and is told at length elsewhere. [EUDOCIA.]

About the close of A. D. 421 war broke out between the emperor of the East and Varanes or Bahram, the successor of Yezdigerd. A Christian bishop had signalized his zeal by burning a temple of the fire-worshippers at Susa, and this excess was followed by a persecution of the Christians by the Magi. This persecution, begun at the close of the reign of Yezdigerd, was continued under his successor ; and some Christian fugitives crossed the frontiers into the Roman territories to seek protection. The Persian king claimed the fugitives, but his demand was refused; and this, added to other causes of dispute, kindled a war between the two empires. Theodosius was not a soldier, and the war was carried on for about two years by his general Ardaburius, with no important results. The defence of Theodosiopolis in Mesopotamia has immortalised the name of its warrior bishop Eunomus. The town had been besieged by the enemy for some time, but the bishop and his flock stoutly held out, and destroyed the wooden towers of the enemy. The obstinate resistance of the place provoked the blasphemy of a Persian prince, who threatened to burn the temple of God when he took the town. The bishop, shocked at his impious threats, pointed at him a balista, which bore the potent name of St. Thomas, and the formidable machine discharged a stone which struck the blasphemer dead. Upon this the king of Persia lost heart, and withdrew his troops. (Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, vol. 6.100.13.)

Socrates, the chief authority for the history of the Persian war, says that Theodosius, notwithstanding his success in the war, was the first to propose terms of peace. A truce for one hundred years was concluded between the Persians and the Romans. The kingdom of Armenia, now extin-guished, was divided between the Persians and the Romans, an arrangement which gave to the empire of the East a new and extensive province. The division of Armenia probably followed the conclusion of a second Persian war, A. D. 441. In A. D. 423 died Honorius the emperor of the West. Placidia, the sister of Honorius, had been sent away from Italy, with her sons Valentinian and Honorius, by the Western emperor, a short time before his death, and she took refuge at Constantinople. The throne of the West was usurped by Joannes, who declared himself emperor. Theodosius refused to acknowledge the usurper, and sent against him a force commanded by Ardaburius. The usurper was taken in Ravenna, and his head was cut off, A. D. 425. Theodosius was enjoying the games of the Circus at Constantinople when the news came, and he showed his piety, as Tillemont remarks, by stopping the entertainment, and inviting all the people to go to the church with him, to return thanks to God for the death of the tyrant. Whether Theodosius had no ambition to keep the empire of the West, or those who governed him determined his conduct, he resolved to confer it on his youthful cousin Valentinian. Eudocia, the daughter of Theodosius, was betrothed to the young emperor, and she was married to him in A. D. 437.

The reign of the younger Theodosius was not free from the religious troubles which had distracted the reign of his grandfather Theodosius. The great dispute which originated with Nestorius, who was made patriarch of Constantinople in A. D. 428, and ended in the Council of Ephesus, A. D. 431, is described at length under NESTORIUS.

The Huns had ravaged the eastern provinces in the reign of Arcadius, the father of Theodosius ; and they were now the formidable neighbours of the empire on the frontier of the Danube. In A. D. 441 the Huns, under Attila and his brother Bleda, crossed the Danube, and took Viminiacum in Moesia; they broke through the Illyrian frontier, the fortresses of which offered only a feeble resistance, destroyed Sirmium, Singidunum (Belgrade), Sardica, and other towns, and extended their ravages into Thrace. Theodosius recalled the troops from Sicily which he had sent against Genseric king of the Vandals, and collected from Asia and Europe all the men that he could muster; but his generals were unable to direct this force efficiently, and after several defeats they retreated towards Constantinople, which alone, of all the cities between the Archipelago and the Euxine, remained for the protection of the emperor. The history of the ravages of Attila comprehends several years, and they were apparently interrupted by intervals of peace, for it was not till A. D. 447, the year of the great earthquake which destroyed part of the walls of Constantinople and threw down fifty seven towers, that the Huns approached, the capital, and peace was finally made. In A. D. 447 448 Theodosius concluded a disgraceful peace with the king of the Huns, to whom was given up a territory on the Danube extending from Singidunum to Novae, in the diocese of Thrace, and fifteen days' journey in breadth. The annual subsidy that had hitherto been paid to Attila, was increased from seven hundred pounds of gold to twenty-one hundred, and six thousand pounds of gold were to be paid on the spot. Theodosius had exhausted his treasury by extravagant expenditure, and his unfortunate subjects, who had been pillaged by the Huns, were pillaged again by this unwarlike and feeble emperor, to supply the demands of the barbarian conqueror. Attila also required all the deserters from his camp to be given up, and he claimed back, without any ransom, all his men who had been taken prisoners.

In A. D. 448 or 449 Theodosius sent an embassy to Attila, at the head of which was Maximin. The ambassador was accompanied by the historian Priscus, who has left a most interesting account of the domestic habits of Attila. [PRISCUS.] The proposed object of the embassy was to maintain the good understanding between the emperor of the East and the king of the Huns; but Theodosius had a private object to accomplish, the execution of which was entrusted only to Vigilius, the interpreter ; and this was the assassination of Attila. The ambassador passed through Sardica, and crossed the Danube; and in some place north of this river he had his first interview with Attila, whom he was obliged to follow in his progress northwards before he could conclude the business on which he was sent. The narrative of Priscus leads us to infer that the place in which the king of the Huns gave his final reception to the ambassador was in the plains of northern Hungary. The proposal to assassinate Attila had been made at Constantinople by the eunuch Chrysaphius, who then reigned in the name of Theodosius, and made to Edecon, a chieftain of the Scyrri. Vigilius was the median of communication between Chrysaphius and Edecon, who was to receive for his reward some of the wealth on which he had gazed with admiration at Constantinople. The scheme was communicated to the emperor, who approved of it. The emperor's conduct was rendered more disgraceful by the fact that Maximin, his ambassador, was exposed to all the danger of the discovery of this treachery, and, being kept in ignorance of it, had not even the choice of refusing to conduct the embassy. Edecon discovered the treachery to Attila, who, more generous than the Christian emperor, disdained to punish Vigilius, though he confessed his guilt; and looking at the affair as a matter of business, the barbarian took two hundred pounds of gold, instead of the life of Vigilius. But he sent two ambassadors to Constantinople, who boldly rebuked the emperor for his guilt, and demanded the head of Chrysaphius. Instead of directly refusing the demand, Theodosius sent a fresh embassy, loaded with presents, to deprecate the wrath of Attila, who preferring gold to vengeance, pardoned the emperor and his guilty associates : he even abandoned all claim to the country south of the Danube; but here his liberality was not great, for he had made it a desert.

In June A. D. 450, Theodosius was thrown from his horse as he was hunting near Constantinople, and received an injury from which he died, in the fiftieth year of his age and the forty-second of his long and inglorious reign. His sister Pulcheria succeeded him, but prudently took for her colleague in the empire the senator Marcian, and made him her husband.


In the reign of Theodosius, and that of Valentinian III., who was emperor of the West from A. D. 425 to 455, was made the compilation called the Codex Theodosianus. In A. D. 429 the administration of the Eastern Empire declared that there should be formed a collection of the Constitutions of the Roman emperors from the time of Constantine to that date, after the model of the two collections of Gregorianus and Hermogenianus. The arrangement of the constitutions was to be determined by the matter to which they referred, and those which treated of several matters were to be divided, and each part placed under its appropriate title. Those constitutions which had been altered by subsequent constitutions were not always to be rejected, but the date of each constitution was to be given, and they were to be arranged in the order of time. Eight functionaries (illustres et spectabiles) and an advocate were appointed to compile this code. Nothing was done till A. D. 435, when a new commission was appointed with the same power as the former commission, and the additional power of making changes in the constitutions. The new commissioners were sixteen, part of whom were of the rank of Illustres, and part of the rank of Spectabiles. On the fifteenth of February, A. D. 438, the Code was published, and it was declared to be from the first of January, A. D. 439, the only authority for the " Jus Principale," or that law which was formed by imperial constitutions, from the time of Constantine. In the same year the Code was published at Rome, as law for the Western Empire also, by Valentinian.

The Code consists of sixteen books, which are divided into titles, with appropriate rubricae or headings; and the constitutions belonging to each title are arranged under it in chronological order. The first five books comprise the greater part of the constitution which relates to Jus Privatum ; the sixth, seventh, and eighth books contain the law that relates to the constitution and administration ; the ninth book treats of criminal law; the tenth and eleventh treat of the public revenue and some matters relating to procedure; the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth books treat of the constitution and the administration of towns and other corporations; and the sixteenth contains the law relating to ecclesiastical matters.

MSS Sources

The Theodosian Code has been preserved in an epitome contained in the Breviarium which was made by order of Alaric II., king of the Visigoths, in A. D. 506, but several constitutions and some entire titles are omitted in this epitome. It has also been preserved in the MSS. of the original Code, yet only in an incomplete form, and we have consequently to refer to the Breviarium for a considerable part of the Theodosian Code. The constitutions in the Code of Justinian, which belong to the period comprised in the Theodosian Code, are taken from the Code of Theodosius, but have undergone considerable alterations.


After the edition of Cujacius, Paris, 1686, fol., the foundation for the text of the last eleven books of the Code was the MSS. of the original Code; but for the first five books and the beginning of the sixth book (tit. 1, and the beginning of title 2) the text of the epitome in the Breviarium was the foundation. The best of these editions, after the time of Cujacius, and that which is invaluable for the commentary, is that of J. Gothofredus. which was edited after his death by A. Marville, Lyon, 1665, 6 vols. folio; and afterwards by Ritter, Leipzig, 1736-1745, fol.

Recent discoveries have added to the last eleven books, and furnished considerable and most important additions to the first five books. The first discoveries which furnished materials for the text of the Code, were made by A. Peyron, at Turin, in a palimpsest : these discoveries have enabled us to make considerable additions to the first five books. These additions were published by Peyron in 1823. In 1820 Clossius discovered, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, a MS. of the Breviarium, into which the copyist has transferred various pieces from a MS. of the original Code : they were published by Clossius in 1824. Wenck published in 1825, Leipzig, 8vo., the first five books of the Code, as we now possess them, with critical and explanatory notes.

The last and most complete edition of the text of the Theodosian Code is that by Hänel in the Corpus Juris Ante-justiniancum, published at Bonn, 1837.


The Theodosian Code, by its adoption in the Western Empire, established a uniformity of law in the East and the West. But as new laws would occasionally be necessary, and it was desirable to maintain this uniformity, it was agreed between the Eastern and the Western emperors, that future constitutions, which might be published in one part of the empire, should be forwarded to the other, and promulgated there also. The new constitutions were called Novellae Leges, or simply Novellae. In A. D. 447 Theodosius sent a number of such Novellae to Valentinian, who in the following year confirmed and promulgated them in the Western Empire. These Novellaee form the first collection of Novellae which followed the compilation of the Theodosian Code.

Further Information

Gibbon, Hist. vol. 5.6.8vo. ed. : Tiliemont, Histoire des Empereurs, vol. vi.; and as to the Theodosian Code, Puchta, Instit. vol. i. ; and Böcking, Instit. i. p. 50.


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