3. GALLA PLACIDIA, so named in coins and inscriptions; but by historians more commonly called simply PLACIDIA, was the daughter of Theodosius the Great by his second wife Galla [No. 2.], The date of her birth does not appear : it must have been not earlier than 388, and not later than 393.
She was at Rome in A. D. 408, and is accused of being one of the parties to the death of her cousin Serena, Stilicho's widow, who was suspected of corresponding with or favouring Alaric, who was then besieging the city.
It appears from this, that Placidia was then old enough to have some influence in public affairs, which consideration would lead us to throw back the date of her birth as far as possible. Gibbon says she was about twenty in 408, which is probably correct. When Alaric took Rome, A. D. 410, Placidia fell into his hands (if indeed she had not been previously in his power), and was detained by him as a hostage, but respectfully treated. After Alaric's death she continued in the power of his brother-in-law and successor, Ataulphus. [ATAULPHUS.] Constantius (afterwards emperor) the Patrician [CONSTANTIUS III.], on the part of the emperor Honorius, half brother of Piacidia, demanded her restoration, having already, as Tillemont thinks, the intention of asking her in marriage. Ataulphus, however, having it also in view to marry her, evaded these demands, and married her (according to Jornandes), at Forum Livii, near Ravenna, but according to the better authority of Olympiodorus and Idatius, at Narbonne, A. D. 4 14. Idatius states that this matter was regarded by some as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel (cb. xi.) respecting the King of the North and the daughterofthle king of the South. Philostorgius considers that another passage of the same prophetical book was fulfilled by the event. Ataulphus treated her with great respect, and endeavored to make an alliance with Honorius, but was not successful, through the opposition of Constantius. In A. D. 415 Ataulphus was killed at Barcelona, leaving no issue by Placidia, their only child, Theodosius, having died soon after its birth. Ataulphus, with his last breath, charged his brother to restore Placidia to Honorius, but the revolutions of the Visi-Gothie kingdom prevented this being done immediately and it was not until after Placidia had suffered from the wanton insolence of Sigeric or Singerich, the ephemeral successor of Ataulphus, that she was restored by Valia or Wallia, who succeeded Sigeric. Her restoration took place in A. D. 41; and on the first day (1st January) of the next year (417) she was married, though against her will, to Constantius, by whom she had two children, a daughter, Justa Grata Honoria, and a son, afterwards the emperor Valentinian III. [VALENTINIANUS III.], born A. D. 419. Constantius was declared Augustus by Honorius, who was, however, somewhat reluctant to take him as colleague in the empire, and Placidia received the title of Augusta; and the infant Valentinian received, through Placidia's influence, the title "Nobilissimus," which was equivalent to his appointment as successor to the throne. Constantius died A. D. 421, about half a year after his elevation.
After his death Honorius showed Placidta such regard and affection as gave rise to discreditable surmises respecting them; but after a time their love was exchanged for enmity, their respective friends raised tumults in Ravenna, where the Gothic soldiers supported the widow of their king, and in the end Placidia and her children fled (A. D. 423) to Theodosius II. at Constantinople to seek his aid.
It was probably in this flight that she experienced the danger from the sea, and made the vow recorded in an extant inscription on the church of St. John the Evangelist at Ravenna. (Gruter, p. 1048, No. 1.)
It is not likely that Theodosius would have believed her against Honorius, as he had never acknowledged Constantius as Augustus, or Placidia as Augusta; but the death of Honorius and the usurpation of Johannes or John, determined him to take up her cause, which had now become the cause of his family.
He therefore authorized Placidia to take or resume the title of Augusta, and the little Valentinian that of Nobilissimus. They were sent back to Italy (A. D. 424), with a powerful army, under Ardaburius, Aspar, and Candidianus. John was taken and put to death; and Valentinian, who had been previously raised to the rank of Caesar, was declared Augustus, or emperor, and left to govern the West, under the tutelage of his mother. Her regency was signalised by her zeal for the church and her intolerance.
She banished from the towns Manichacans and other heretics, and astrologers ; and excluded Jews and heathens from the bar and from public offices; but her lax government and easy disposition in other matters than those of the church left the empire to be torn by the disputes and rivalry of Aetius and Boniface [AETIUS, BONIFACIUS]; and her over-indulgence to her son tended to make him an abandoned profligate.
She died A. D. 450 or 451, at Rome, and was buried at Ravenna. (Zosim. 6.12; Olympiod. apud Phot. Bibl.
cod. 80; Socrat. H. E.
7.23, 24; Philostorg. H. E.
12.4, 12, 13, 14; Marcellin., Idatius, Prosper Aquit., Prosper Tiro, Chronica ;
Procop. de Bell. Vand.
1.3; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp.
vol. v. vi.; Gibbon, ch. 31, 33, and 35; Eckhel, vol. viii. p. 175.)