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Eudo'cia Augusta

1. Wife of the emperor Theodosius II. She was the daughter of the sophist Leontius, or Leon, or, as he is called in the Paschal Chronicle, Heracleitus of Athens, where she was born. The year of her birth is doubtful. Nicephorus Callisti, who has given the fullest account of her, states (14.50) that she died in the fourth year of the emperor Leo, which corresponds to A. D. 460-61, aged sixty-seven; and that she was in her twentieth year when she married Theodosius. According to this statement, she must have been born A. D. 393-4, and married A. D. 413-14. But the age of Theodosius (born A. D. 401) leads us to prefer, for the marriage, the date given by the Paschal or Alexandrian Chronicle and by Marcellinus (Chron.), viz. the consulship of Eustathius and Agricola, A. D. 421. We must then give up the calculation of Nicephorus as to the time of her death, or as to her age at that time or at her marriage. Possibly she came to Constantinople in her twentieth year, in 413-14, but was not married till 421. She was called originally Athenais, and having excellent natural abilities, was educated by her father and by the grammarians Hyperechius and Orion in every branch of science and learning then cultivated. She was familiar with Greek and Latin literature, rhetoric, astronomy, geometry, and the science of arithmetic. She was also eminent for her beauty; and in consideration of these advantages, natural and acquired, her father at his death left her no share in his property, all of which he bequeathed to her two brothers Valerius and Aetins, called Genesius by Zonaras, or Gesius in the Paschal Chronicle, saying that her good fortune and the fruits of her education would be a sufficient inheritance.

From dissatisfaction either at this arrangement, or at some wrong she had suffered, Athenais went to Constantinople to appeal against her brothers; and Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius, who managed alike him and his empire, fixed on her as a suitable wife for him. Athenais was a heathen; but her heathenism yielded to the arguments or persuasions of Pulcheria and of Atticas. patriarch of Constantinople, by whom she was baptized, receiving at her baptism the name of Eudocia, and being adopted in that ordinance by Pulcheria as a daughter--an expression apparently indicating that she had that princess for a sponsor. The date of her marriage (A. D. 421), given by Marcellinus and the Paschal Chronicle, is probably correct, though Theophanes places it one if not two years earlier.

Most historians mention only one child of this union, Eudoxia, who, according to Marcellinus, was born in the thirteenth consulship of Honorius, and the tenth of Theodosius, i. e. A. D. 422, and betrothed, in the consulship of Victor and Castinus, A. D. 424, to her cousin Valentinian, afterwards emperor of the West as Valentinian III. Tillemont thinks there are notices which seem to show that there was a son, Arcadius, but he must have died young. Marcellinus mentions another daughter of the emperor Theodosius, and therefore (if legitimate) of Eudocia also, Flacilla; but Tillemont suspects that Marcellinus speaks of a sister of Theodosius so named. Flacilla died in the consulship of Antiochus and Bassus, A. D. 431. The marriage of Valentinian with Eudoxia was celebrated, not, as at first appointed, at Thessalonica, but at Constantinople (comp. Socrates, Hist. Eccles. 7.44; Niceph. Call. Hist. 14.23; Marcellin. Chron. Aetio II et Sigisuldo Coss), in the year 436 or 437, most likely the latter. In 438, Eudocia set out for Jerusalem, in discharge of a vow which she had made to visit " the holy places" on occasion of her daughter's marriage; and returned the year following to Constantinople, bringing with her the reputed relics of Stephen the proto-martyr. It was probably in this journey that she visited Antioch, addressed the people of that city, and was honoured by them with a statue of brass, as related by Evagrius. At her persuasion Theodosius enlarged the boundaries and the walls of Antioch, and conferred other marks of favour on that city. She had received the title of Augusta A. D. 423.

Hitherto it is probable that Eudocia had interfered but little with the influence exercised by Pulcheria in public affairs. Nicephorus says, she lived twenty-nine years in the palace, "submitting to (ὑπό) Pulcheria as mother and Augusta." As Nicephorus places Eudocia's marriage in 413-14, he makes 442-43 the period of the termination of Pulcheria's administration. He states, that Eudocia's administration lasted for seven years. which brings us to 449-50 as the date of her last journey to Jerusalem, a date which, from other circumstances, appears to be correct.

During the seven years of her administration, in A. D. 444, according to the Paschal Chronicle, but later according to Theophanes, occurred the incident which was the first step to her downfall. An apple of remarkable size and beauty had been brought to Constantinople, which the emperor purchased and presented to his wife. She sent it to Paulinus, the magister officiorum, who was then confined by a fit of the gout; and Paulinus, deeming it a suitable offering, sent it to the emperor. Theodosius recognized it as the one which he had given to Eudocia; and, without mentioning the reason to her, enquired what she had done with it. She, apprehensive of his displeasure at having parted with his gift, replied that she had eaten it, and confirmed her assertion by an oath. This falsehood increased the emperor's suspicions that Eudocia regarded Paulinus with undue affection; and he banished him to Cappadocia, where he was either then or afterwards put to death. Marcellinus places his death in the fifth consulship of Valentinian A. D. 440; but we prefer the statement of Nicephorus, that his banishment was after 442-3, and are disposed to place his death in A. D. 449-50. Eudocia, however, soothed for a time the jealousy of her husband, but it was not eradicated, as subsequent events shewed. Gibbon rejects the whole story of the apple " as fit only for the Arabian Nights ;" but his scepticism appears unreasonable.

The quarrels of the ecclesiastics were the immediate occasion of her downfall. Chrysaphius, the eunuch and head chamberlain, a supporter of the monk Eutyches, wished to procure the deposition of Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople, who had just been elected, A. D. 447. Chrysaphius, finding that Flavian was supported by Pulcheria, who, though no longer directing the government, retained considerable influence, applied to Eudocia, whom he reminded of the grievances she had sustained "on Pulcheria's account." Eudocia, after a long continued effort, at last succeeded in alienating her husband from his sister. Pulcheria was forbidden the court, and retired from Constantinople; and in the second or pscudo-council of Ephesus (A. D. 449), known as "the council of robbers" (ή ληστρική), Flavian was deposed, and so roughly treated by the assembled prelates, that he died of their violence a few days after. But Theodosius was soon led to take up the cause of the murdered patriarch. He banished Chrysaphius, and stripped him of all his possessions; and shewed his anger with Eudocia by reviving the quarrel about the apple; so that she begged and obtained permission to retire to Jerusalem. Pulcheria was recalled, and resumed the now vacant management of affairs, which she retained during the short remainder of the reign of Theodosius and that of her husband Marcian, who succeeded him.

Eudocia might possibly have been reconciled to her husband, but for an event recorded by Marcellinus, which rendered the breach irreparable. Saturninus, who held the office of comes domesticorum, being sent for the purpose by Theodosius, on what account is not stated, but probably through jealousy, slew two ecclesiastics, Severus, a priest, and Johannes or John, a deacon, who were in the service of Eudocia at Jerusalem. She, enraged, put Saturninus to death, and was in return stripped of the state and retinue of empress, which she had been hitherto allowed to retain. Marcellinus places these sad events in the eighteenth consulship of Theodosius, A. D. 444; but this date is altogether inconsistent with the facts mentioned by Nicephorus. Theophanes placed them in A. M. 5942, Alex. era (A. D. 450), which is probably correct; if so, it must have been before the death of Theodosius, which took place in that year.

Eudocia spent the rest of her life in the Holy Land, devoting herself to works of piety and charity. She repaired the walls of Jerusalem, conversed much with ecclesiasties, built monasteteries and hospitals, and a church in honour of the proto-martyr Stephen on the spot where he was said to have been stoned; enriched existing churches with valuable offerings, and bestowed great sums in charity on the priests and the poor. But she was, for some years, obnoxious to the imputation of heresy. The opinion of Eutyches on the union of the two natures in Christ, which she held, and which had triumphed in the " council of robbers" at Ephesus (A. D. 449), was condemned in another council held at Chalcedon (A. D. 451), soon after the death of Theodosius. The decrees of this latter council Eudocia for some years rejected. When, however, she heard of the captivity of her daughter Eudoxia [EUDOXIA], whom, with her two daughters, Genseric, king of the Vandals, had carried into Africa (A. D. 455), sle sought to be reconciled to Pulcheria, that she might interest her and her husband, the emperor Marcian, in behalf of the captives. By the intervention of Olybrius, to whom one of the captive princesses was betrothed, and of Valerius, the reconciliation was effected; and Pulcheria anxiously sought to restore Eudocia to the communion of the church. She engaged her brothers and daughters (according to Nicephorus) to write to her for this purpose: from which it may be gathered that the brothers of Eudocia had become Christians, and were still living. According to the Paschal Chronicle, they had been advanced to high offices, Aetius or Gesius in the provinces, and Valerius at court. Possibly the Valerius who had been one of the mediators between the princesses, was one of them. Who "the daughters," of Eudocia were, is not clear. We read only of two, Eudoxia, now in captivity, and Flacilla, long since dead. If the letters were from the captive princesses, we must understand daughters in the more extended sense of female descendants. These letters and the conversations which Eudocia held with Symeon the Stylite, and Euthymius, an eminent monk of Jerusalem, determined her to renounce Eutychianism; and her conversion led many others to follow her example; but it is honourable to her that she continued her gratuities to those who retained as well as to those who renounced these opinions. She died at Jerusalem in the fourth year of the reign of Leo I. A. D. 460-61, and was buried in the church of St. Stephen, which she herself had built. Theophanes places her death in A. M. 5947 Alex. era (A. D. 455), but this is too early. Her age has been already noticed. She solemnly declared at her death that she was free from any guilty connexion with Paulinus.


Eudocia was an author. She wrote--


A. D. 421 or 422. This was in heroic verse, and is mentioned by Socrates. (Hist. Eccles. 7.21.)

A paraphrase of the Octateuch

also in heroic verse. Photius describes it as consisting of eight books, according to the division of that part of Scripture which it embraced ; and says it was well and perspicuously written, and conformable to the laws of the poetic art; but that the writer had not allowed herself the poetic licences of digression and of mingling fiction with truth, having kept very close to the sense of the sacred books.

A Paraphrase of the Prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah

in the same measure.

A poem on the history and martyrdom of Cyprian and Justina

In the same measure and in three books. Justina suffered in the persecution under Diocletian. Photius gives a pretty full account of this poem.


Zonaras and Joannes Tzetzes ascribe to Eudocia Homero-Centones; and a poem under that title, composed of verses and parts of verses from Homer, and having for its subject the history of the fall and of the redemption of man by Jesus Christ, has been repeatedly published, both in the original and in a Latin version. In one edition, it is said to be by Eudocia Augusta, or Patricius Pelagius. The genuineness of this work is, however, very disputable, and even the fact of Eudocia having ever written anything of the kind, is not quite clear.

Further Information

Socrates, Hist. Eccles. 7.21; Evagrius, Hist. Eccles. 1.20, 21, 22; Nicephorus Callisti, Hist. Eccles. 14.23, 47, 49, 50; Zonaras, Annales, vol. iii. p. 34-37, ed. Basil. 1557; Marcellinus, Chronicon ; Chironicon Alexandrinum sive Paschale; Joannes Malalas, Chronogra/phia, lib. xiv. Theophanes, Chronographia ab A. M. 5911 ad 5947, Alex. era; Joannes Tzetzes, Historiar. Variar Chilias. X Hist. 306; Cedrenus, Compendium, p. 590-91, ed. Bonn; Michael Glycas, Annales, pars iv. pp. 484-5, ed. Bonn; Photius, Biblioth. codd. 183, 184; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. vol. i.; Gibbon, Decl. and Fall. ch. xxxii.; Cave, Hist. Lit. vol. i. p. 403, ed. Oxford, 1740-43; Oudin, De Scriptor. Eccles. vol. i. p. 1258; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. i. p. 552, &c., vol. x. p. 730, &c.

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