Irene of Athens
Irene of Athens known as Irene Sarantapechaina, was Byzantine empress consort by marriage to Leo IV from 775 to 780, Byzantine regent during the minority of her son Constantine VI from 780 until 790, sole empress regnant of the Byzantine Empire from 797 to 802. A member of the politically prominent Sarantapechos family, she was selected as Leo IV's bride for unknown reasons in 768. Though her husband was an iconoclast, she harbored iconophile sympathies. During her rule as regent, she called the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, which condemned iconoclasm as heretical and brought an end to the first iconoclast period; as Irene's son Constantine reached maturity, he began to move out from under the influence of his mother. In the early 790s, several attempted revolts tried to proclaim him as sole ruler. In 797, Irene gouged out her son's eyes, maiming him so that he died a few days later. With her son dead, Irene proclaimed herself sole ruler. Irene's unprecedented status as a female ruler of the Roman Empire led Pope Leo III to proclaim Charlemagne emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on Christmas Day, 800 under the pretext that a woman could not rule and so the throne of the Roman Empire was vacant.
A revolt in 802 overthrew Irene and exiled her to the island of Lesbos, supplanting her on the throne with Nikephoros I. Irene died in exile less than a year later. Irene was born in Athens sometime between 750 and 755, she was a member of the noble Greek Sarantapechos family, which had significant political influence in central mainland Greece. Although she was an orphan, her uncle or cousin Constantine Sarantapechos was a patrician and also a strategos of the theme of Hellas at the end of the eighth century. Constantine Sarantapechos's son Theophylact was a spatharios and is mentioned as having been involved in suppressing a revolt in 799. Irene was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on 1 November 768 and was married to his son Leo IV on 17 December, it is unclear why she was selected as the bride for the young Leo IV. Unusual is that, while Constantine V was a militant iconoclast, known for persecuting venerators of icons, Irene herself displayed iconophile predilections; this fact, combined with the limited information available about her family, has led some scholars to speculate that Irene may have been selected in a bride-show, in which eligible young women were paraded before the bridegroom until one was selected.
If this was the case she would have been the first imperial bride to be selected in this manner. However, there is no solid evidence to support this hypothesis other than the apparent bizarreness of Irene's selection as Leo IV's bride. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI, named after his grandfather, Irene's father-in-law, Constantine V; when Constantine V died in September 775, Leo IV ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-five years, with Irene as his empress consort. An unnamed female relative of Irene was married to the Bulgar ruler Telerig in 776. Irene had a nephew. Leo IV, though an iconoclast like his father, pursued a policy of moderation towards iconophiles, he removed the penalties on monasteries, imposed by his father and began appointing monks as bishops. When Patriarch Niketas of Constantinople died in 780, Leo IV appointed Paul of Cyprus, who had iconophile sympathies, as his successor, although he did force him to swear oaths that he would uphold the official iconoclasm.
During Lent of 780, Leo IV's policies on iconophiles became much harsher. He ordered for a number of prominent courtiers to be arrested, scourged and tortured after they were caught venerating icons. According to the historian George Kedrenos, who wrote many centuries after Irene's death, this crackdown on iconophiles began after Leo IV discovered two icons hidden underneath Irene's pillow. Leo IV discovered the courtiers who had brought the icons, he had them tortured and scolded Irene for breaking with her faith. Irene insisted. After the incident, Leo refused to have marital relations with Irene again. Lynda Garland, a historian of the Byzantine Empire, states that this story too resembles a different story told about the empress Theodora, wife of Theophilos to be true. Nonetheless, she maintains that it is possible that Irene may have been trying to fill the palace with supporters of iconophilism, which may have triggered Leo IV's crackdown. Leo IV died on 8 September 780 and Irene became regent for their nine-year-old son Constantine VI.
Rumors were circulated claiming that Leo IV had died of a fever after putting on the jeweled crown, dedicated by either Maurice or Herakleios. Irene herself may have promoted this rumor in effort to smear her deceased husband's memory. In October, only six weeks after Leo IV's death, Irene was confronted with a conspiracy led by a group of prominent dignitaries that sought to raise Caesar Nikephoros, a half-brother of Leo IV, to the throne. Irene had Bardas and Konstantinos scourged and banished, she replaced all of them with dignitaries. She had Nikephoros and his four brothers ordained as priests, a status which disqualified them from ruling, forced them to serve communion at the Hagia Sophia on Christmas Day 780. On the same day, Irene returned the crown her husband had removed as part of a full imperial procession. Hoping to placate supporters of her husband's family, Irene is reported to have pro
Arcadius was Eastern Roman Emperor from 395 to 408. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, brother of the Western Emperor Honorius. A weak ruler, his reign was dominated by a series of powerful ministers and by his wife, Aelia Eudoxia. Arcadius was born in Hispania, the elder son of Theodosius I and Aelia Flaccilla, brother of Honorius, who would become the first Western Roman Emperor, his father declared him an Augustus and co-ruler for the eastern half of the Empire in January 383. His younger brother was declared Augustus in 393, for the Western half; as emperors, both Theodosius' sons are famous for their extraordinarily weak wills and pliancy to ambitious ministers. At the death of their father, Honorius was under the control of the Romanized Vandal magister militum Flavius Stilicho while Arcadius was dominated by the Praetorian Prefect of the East, Rufinus. Stilicho, alleged by some to have aspired to control both Emperors, set off to the east shortly after beginning his reign, leading back the Gothic mercenaries whom Theodosius had taken west in the civil war with Arbogastes and Eugenius.
Stilicho complied and sent his army on under the command of its general, secretly his ally. When Rufinus greeted Gainas with his army before Constantinople, he was assassinated on the parade ground by the Goths. Arcadius had been on the verge of marrying Rufinus' daughter, when the palace eunuchs under the influence of Eutropius, apprehensive of this increase of the Prefect's power, conspired to switch the bride with the daughter of Bauto, a Frankish general, called Aelia Eudoxia. Aside from the indignity to Rufinus, not informed of the change in Arcadius' plans, and, caught off guard in the middle of the marriage ceremony, when the nuptial procession went to Eudoxia's residence rather than his own, this change hinted at his fall from another aspect, since Eudoxia had been raised, after her father's death, in the home of a general murdered by Rufinus. Subsequently, the eunuch Eutropius and Arcadius' wife, Aelia Eudoxia, would assume Rufinus' place as advisors, or guardians, of the emperor.
Eutropius' influence lasted four years, but he became as unpopular as Rufinus. Claudian, the court poet of Honorius, alleges that the eunuch sold the governorships of the provinces, the civil magistracies, to the highest bidders. New treason laws were enacted under his auspices, by which the thought was not separated from the execution of the crime, by which the sons of the guilty were excluded from the rights of citizenship; the last straw came in 399 when Eutropius, a eunuch and former slave, had himself nominated to the consulship, an unprecedented act. In the same year the Ostrogoths, settled in Asia Minor by Theodosius I revolted, Gainas, Eutropius' personal enemy, appointed to suppress the insurrection after Eutropius' appointees failed persuaded the emperor to give in to their demands, which included, inter alia, the dismissal of Eutropius. Eudoxia, sensing Eutropius' perilous situation deserted her former ally, convinced her husband to give in to the Ostrogoths' demands. Subsequently, Eudoxia alone would have influence over the emperor.
That same year, on 13 July, Arcadius issued an edict ordering that all remaining non-Christian temples should be demolished. After Eutropius' fall, Gainas joined the rebel Ostrogoths, forced Arcadius to make him Magister Militum, or chief general of the Roman armies, therefore the most powerful minister in the state. Additionally, he demanded place for settlement for his troops in Thrace. Arcadius consented, but the Ostrogoths' Arianism and hostile attitude brought them into conflict with the populace of Constantinople, Gainas' garrison in the capital was overpowered and massacred in a general riot. Gainas reacted by declaring open war on Arcadius, advanced on Constantinople before realising it was too strong for him to take. After this the Goths attempted to recross the Hellespont and invade Asia, but were defeated by Fravitta, a loyal Goth in the Roman service who replaced Gainas; the latter fled to the Danube with his remaining followers, intending to establish an independent kingdom in Scythia, but was defeated and killed by Uldin the Hun.
Eudoxia's influence was opposed by John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who felt that she had used her family's wealth to gain control over the Emperor. Eudoxia used her influence to have Chrysostom deposed in 404, but she died that year. Eudoxia gave to Arcadius four children: three daughters, Pulcheria and Marina, one son, the future Emperor Theodosius II. Arcadius was dominated for the rest of his rule by Anthemius, the Praetorian Prefect, who made peace with Stilicho in the West. Arcadius himself was more concerned with appearing to be a pious Christian than he was with political or military matters, he died, only nominally in control of his Empire, in 408. In this reign of a weak Emperor dominated by court politics, a major theme was the ambivalence felt by prominent individuals and the court parties that formed and regrouped round them towards barbarians, which in Constantinople at this period meant Goths. In the well-documented episode that revolved around Gainas, a number of Gothic foederati stationed in the capital were massacred, the survivors fleeing
Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from AD 375 to 392. Flavius Valentinianus was born to his second wife, Justina, he was the half-brother of Valentinian's other son, who had shared the imperial title with his father since 367. He had three sisters: Galla and Justa; the elder Valentinian died on campaign in Pannonia in 375. Neither Gratian nor his uncle Valens were consulted by the army commanders on the scene. Instead of acknowledging Gratian as his father's successor, Valentinian I's generals acclaimed the four-year-old Valentinian augustus on 22 November 375; the army, its Frankish general Merobaudes, may have been uneasy about Gratian's lack of military ability, so raised a boy who would not aspire to military command. Gratian, forced to accommodate the generals who supported his half-brother, governed the trans-alpine provinces, while Italy, part of Illyricum, North Africa were under the rule of Valentinian. In 378, their uncle, the Emperor Valens, was killed in battle with the Goths at Adrianople, Gratian invited the general Theodosius to be emperor in the East.
As a child, Valentinian II was under the influence of his Arian mother, the Empress Justina, the imperial court at Milan, an influence contested by the Nicene bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Justina used her influence over her young son to oppose the Nicean party, championed by Ambrose. In 385 Ambrose refused an imperial request to hand over the Portian basilica for the celebration of Easter by the Imperial court; when he was summoned to be punished to the Imperial palace, the orthodox populace rioted, Justina's Gothic troops were prevented by the arch-bishop himself, standing in the doorway, from entering the Basilica. Justina was forced to back down. Afterwards, Justina ordered legislation to rescind the penalties enacted by Gratian and Valentinian against heresy, proclaiming universal toleration; when Ambrose was found, as no doubt she had intended, to have determinedly infracted the new laws, Justina again tried to have him banished, Ambrose was forced to barricade himself, with the enthusiastic backing of the people, within the walls of the Basilica.
The Imperial troops besieged him, but Ambrose held on, reinforcing the resolution of his followers by unearthing, beneath the foundations of the church, the bodies of two ancient martyrs. Theodosius, the orthodox emperor of the east, forcing Justina to again relent. Magnus Maximus was to use the emperor's heterodoxy against him. Valentinian tried to restrain the despoiling of pagan temples in Rome. Buoyed by this instruction, the pagan senators, led by Aurelius Symmachus, the Prefect of Rome, petitioned in 384 for the restoration of the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, removed by Gratian in 382. Valentinian, at the insistence of Ambrose, refused the request and, in so doing, rejected the traditions and rituals of pagan Rome to which Symmachus had appealed. In 383, Magnus Maximus, commander of the armies in Britain, declared himself Emperor and established himself in Gaul and Hispania. Gratian died. For a time the court of Valentinian, through the mediation of Ambrose, came to an accommodation with the usurper, Theodosius recognized Maximus as co-emperor of the West.
In 386 or 387, Maximus threatened Milan. Valentinian II and Justina fled to Theodosius in Thessalonica; the latter came to an agreement, cemented by his marriage to Valentinian's sister Galla, to restore the young emperor in the West. In 388, Theodosius defeated Maximus. Although he was to appoint both of his sons emperor, Theodosius remained loyal to the dynasty of Valentinian I. After the defeat of Maximus, Theodosius remained in Milan until 391. Valentinian took no part in Theodosius's triumphal celebrations over Maximus. Valentinian and his court were installed at Vienne in Gaul, while Theodosius appointed key administrators in the West and had coins minted, which implied his guardianship over the 17-year-old. Justina had died, Vienne was far away from the influence of Ambrose. Theodosius's trusted general, the Frank Arbogast, was appointed magister militum for the Western provinces and guardian of Valentinian. Acting in the name of Valentinian, Arbogast was subordinate only to Theodosius. While the general campaigned on the Rhine, the young emperor remained at Vienne, in contrast to his warrior father and his older brother, who had campaigned at his age.
Arbogast's domination over the emperor was considerable, the general murdered Harmonius, a friend of Valentinian suspected of taking bribes, in the emperor's presence. The crisis reached a peak when Arbogast prohibited the emperor from leading the Gallic armies into Italy to oppose a barbarian threat. Valentinian, in response, formally dismissed Arbogast; the latter ignored the order, publicly tearing it up and arguing that Valentinian had not appointed him in the first place. The reality of where the power lay was displayed. Valentinian wrote to Theodosius and Ambrose complaining of his subordination to his general. In explicit rejection of his earlier Arianism, he invited Ambrose to come to Vienne to baptize him. On 15 May 392, Valentinian was found hanged in his residence in Vienne. Arbogast maintained. Most sources agree, that Arbogast murdered him with his own hands, or paid the Praetorians. Zosimus writing in the early sixth century from Constantinople, states that Arbogast had Valentinian murdered.
Constans II called Constantine the Bearded, was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 641 to 668. He was the last emperor to serve as consul, in 642. Constans is a nickname given to the Emperor, baptized Herakleios and reigned as Constantine; the nickname has become standard in modern historiography. Constans was the son of Constantine Gregoria. After the death of Constantine III's father Heraclius, Constantine ruled with his half-brother Heraklonas through Heraclius' second marriage to Martina. Due to rumors that Heraklonas and Martina poisoned Constantine III, Constans II was named co-emperor; that same year his uncle was deposed, Constans II was left as sole emperor. Constans owed his rise to the throne to a popular reaction against his uncle and to the protection of the soldiers led by the general Valentinus. Although the precocious emperor addressed the senate with a speech blaming Heraklonas and Martina for eliminating his father, he reigned under a regency of senators led by Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople.
In 644 Valentinus failed. Under Constans, the Byzantines withdrew from Egypt in 642, Caliph Uthman launched numerous attacks on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea. A Byzantine fleet under the admiral Manuel occupied Alexandria again in 645, the Alexandrians hailed him as a liberator, since the caliphate levied heavier taxes and showed less respect for their religion, but Manuel squandered his time and popularity in plundering the countryside, the Arab army managed to force him to embark for home. The situation was complicated by the violent opposition to Monothelitism by the clergy in the west and the related rebellion of the Exarch of Carthage, Gregory the Patrician; the latter fell in battle against the army of Caliph Uthman, the region remained a vassal state under the Caliphate until civil war broke out and imperial rule was again restored. Constans attempted to steer a middle line in the church dispute between Orthodoxy and Monothelitism by refusing to persecute either and prohibiting further discussion of the natures of Jesus Christ by decree in 648.
This live-and-let-live compromise satisfied few passionate participants in the dispute. Meanwhile, the advance of the Caliphate continued unabated. In 647 they had entered sacked Caesarea Mazaca. In the same year, they killed Gregory. In 648 the Arabs raided into Phrygia, in 649 they launched their first maritime expedition against Crete. A major Arab offensive into Cilicia and Isauria in 650–651 forced the Emperor to enter into negotiations with Caliph Uthman's governor of Syria, Muawiyah; the truce that followed allowed a short respite and made it possible for Constans to hold on to the western portions of Armenia. In 654, Muawiyah renewed his raids by sea, plundering Rhodes. Constans led a fleet to attack the Muslims at Phoinike in 655 at the Battle of the Masts, but he was defeated: 500 Byzantine ships were destroyed in the battle, the Emperor himself was killed; the sea battle was so devastating that the emperor escaped only by trading clothes with one of his men. Before the battle, chronicler Theophanes the Confessor says, the Emperor dreamed of being at Thessalonika.
Caliph Uthman was preparing to attack Constantinople, but he did not carry out the plan when the first Fitna broke out in 656. In 658, with the eastern frontier under less pressure, Constans defeated the Slavs in the Balkans, temporarily reasserting some notion of Byzantine rule over them and resettled some of them in Anatolia. In 659 he campaigned far to the east, taking advantage of a rebellion against the Caliphate in Media; the same year he concluded peace with the Arabs. Now Constans could turn to church matters once again. Pope Martin I had condemned both Monothelitism and Constans' attempt to halt debates over it in the Lateran Council of 649. Now the Emperor ordered his Exarch of Ravenna to arrest the Pope. Exarch Olympius excused himself from this task, but his successor, Theodore I Calliopas, carried it out in 653. Pope Martin was brought to Constantinople and condemned as a criminal being exiled to Cherson, where he died in 655. Constans grew fearful that his younger brother, could oust him from the throne.
Constans' sons Constantine and Tiberius had been associated on the throne since the 650s. However, having attracted the hatred of citizens of Constantinople, Constans decided to leave the capital and to move to Syracuse in Sicily. From there, in 663, he launched an assault against the Lombard Duchy of Benevento, which encompassed most of Southern Italy. Taking advantage of the fact that Lombard king Grimoald I of Benevento was engaged against Frankish forces from Neustria, Constans disembarked at Taranto and besieged Lucera and Benevento. However, the latter resisted and Constans withdrew to Naples. During the journey from Benevento to Naples, Constans II was defeated by Mitolas, Count of Capua, near Pugna. Constans ordered Saburrus, the commander of his army, to attack again the Lombards, but he was defeated by the Beneventani at Forino, between Avellino and Salerno. In 663 Constans visited Rome for twelve days—the only empero
Anastasius I Dicorus
Anastasius I was Byzantine Emperor from 491 to 518. He made his career as a government administrator, he came to the throne in his sixties after being chosen by the wife of Zeno. His religious tendencies caused tensions throughout his reign, his reign was characterised by improvements in the government and bureaucracy in the Eastern Roman empire. He is noted for leaving the imperial government with a sizeable budget surplus due to minimisation of government corruption, reforms to the tax code, the introduction of a new form of currency. Anastasius was born at Dyrrachium, he was born into an Illyrian family, the son of Pompeius, a nobleman of Dyrrachium, Anastasia Constantina. His mother was a believer in Arianism. Anastasius had one eye black and one eye blue, for that reason he was nicknamed Dicorus. Before becoming emperor, Anastasius was a successful administrator in the department of finance. Following the death of Zeno, there is strong evidence that many Roman citizens wanted an emperor, both a Roman and an Orthodox Christian.
In the weeks following Zeno's death, crowds gathered in Constantinople chanting "Give the Empire an Orthodox Emperor!" Under such pressure, Zeno's widow, turned to Anastasius. Anastasius was in his sixties at the time of his ascension to the throne, it is noteworthy that Ariadne chose Anastasius over Zeno's brother Longinus, arguably the more logical choice. It was not appreciated by the circus factions, the Blues and the Greens; these groups combined aspects of street gangs and political parties and had been patronised by Longinus. The Blues and Greens subsequently rioted, causing serious loss of life and damage. Religiously, Anastasius' sympathies were with the Monophysites; as a condition of his rule, the Patriarch of Constantinople required that he pledge not to repudiate the Council of Chalcedon. Ariadne married Anastasius on 20 May 491, shortly after his accession, he gained popular favour by a judicious remission of taxation, in particular by abolishing the hated tax on receipts, paid by the poor.
He displayed great energy in administering the affairs of the Empire. Under Anastasius the Eastern Roman Empire engaged in the Isaurian War against the usurper Longinus and the Anastasian War against Sassanid Persia; the Isaurian War was stirred up by the Isaurian supporters of Longinus, the brother of Zeno, passed over for the throne in favour of Anastasius. The battle of Cotyaeum in 492 broke the back of the revolt, but guerrilla warfare continued in the Isaurian mountains for several years; the resistance in the mountains hinged upon the Isaurians' retention of Papirius Castle. The war lasted five years, but Anastasius passed legislation related to the economy in the mid-490s, suggesting that the Isaurian War did not absorb all of the energy and resources of the government. After five years, the Isaurian resistance was broken. During the Anastasian War of 502–505 with the Sassanid Persians, the Sassanids captured the cities of Theodosiopolis and Amida, although the Romans received Amida in exchange for gold.
The Persian provinces suffered and a peace was concluded in 506. Anastasius afterward built the strong fortress of Daras, named Anastasiopolis, to hold the Persians at Nisibis in check; the Balkan provinces were denuded of troops and were devastated by invasions of Slavs and Bulgars. He converted his home city, into one of the most fortified cities on the Adriatic with the construction of Durrës Castle; the Emperor was a convinced Miaphysite, following the teachings of Cyril of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch who taught "One Incarnate Nature of Christ" in an undivided union of the Divine and human natures. However, his ecclesiastical policy was moderate, he endeavoured to maintain the principle of the peace of the church. Yet, in 512 emboldened after his military success against the Persians, Anastasius I deposed the Patriarch of Chalcedon and replaced him with a Monophysite; this violated his agreement with the Patriarch of Constantinople and precipitated riots in Chalcedon. The following year the general Vitalian started a rebellion defeating an imperial army and marching on Constantinople.
With the army closing in, Anastasius gave Vitalian the title of Commander of the Army of Thrace and began communicating with the Pope regarding a potential end to the Acacian schism. Two years General Marinus attacked Vitalian and forced him and his troops to the northern part of Thrace. Following the conclusion of this conflict, Anastasius had undisputed control of the Empire until his death in 518; the Anonymous Valesianus gives an account of Anastasius attempting to predict his successor: Anastasius did not know which of his three nephews would succeed him, so he put a message under one of three couches and had his nephews take seats in the room. He believed. However, two of his nephews sat on the same couch, the one with the concealed message remained empty. After putting the matter to God in prayer, he de
Constantius II was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. His reign saw constant warfare on the borders against the Sasanian Empire and Germanic peoples, while internally the Roman Empire went through repeated civil wars and usurpations, culminating in Constantius' overthrow as emperor by his cousin Julian, his religious policies inflamed domestic conflicts. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, Constantius was made Caesar by his father in 324, he led the Roman army in war against the Sasanian Empire in 336. A year Constantine I died, Constantius became Augustus with his brothers Constantine II and Constans, he promptly oversaw the massacre of eight of his relatives. The brothers divided the empire with Constantius receiving the eastern provinces. In 340, his brothers Constantine and Constans clashed over the western provinces of the empire; the resulting conflict Constans as ruler of the west. The war against the Sasanians continued, with Constantius losing a major battle at Singara in 344. In 350, Constans was assassinated in 350 by the usurper Magnentius.
Unwilling to accept Magnentius as co-ruler, Constantius waged a civil war against the usurper, defeating him at the battles of Mursa Major in 351 and Mons Seleucus in 353. Magnentius committed suicide after the latter battle, leaving Constantius as sole ruler of the empire. In 351, Constantius elevated his cousin Constantius Gallus to the subordinate rank of Caesar to rule in the east, but had him executed three years after receiving scathing reports of his violent and corrupt nature. Shortly thereafter, in 355, Constantius promoted his last surviving cousin, Gallus' younger half-brother Julian, to the rank of Caesar; as emperor, Constantius promoted Arian Christianity, persecuted pagans by banning sacrifices and closing pagan temples and issued laws discriminating against Jews. His military campaigns against Germanic tribes were successful: he defeated the Alamanni in 354 and campaigned across the Danube against the Quadi and Sarmatians in 357; the war against the Sasanians, in a lull since 350, erupted with renewed intensity in 359 and Constantius traveled to the east in 360 to restore stability after the loss of several border fortresses to the Sasanians.
However, Julian claimed the rank of Augustus in 360, leading to war between the two after Constantius' attempts to convince Julian to back down failed. No battle was fought, as Constantius became ill and died of fever on 3 November 361 in Mopsuestia, naming Julian as his rightful successor before his death. Constantius was born in 317 at Pannonia, he was the third son of Constantine the Great, second by his second wife Fausta, the daughter of Maximian. Constantius was made Caesar by his father on 13 November 324. In 336, religious unrest in Armenia and tense relations between Constantine and king Shapur II caused war to break out between Rome and Sassanid Persia. Though he made initial preparations for the war, Constantine fell ill and sent Constantius east to take command of the eastern frontier. Before Constantius arrived, the Persian general Narses, the king's brother, overran Mesopotamia and captured Amida. Constantius promptly attacked Narses, after suffering minor setbacks defeated and killed Narses at the Battle of Narasara.
Constantius captured Amida and initiated a major refortification of the city, enhancing the city's circuit walls and constructing large towers. He built a new stronghold in the hinterland nearby, naming it Antinopolis. In early 337, Constantius hurried to Constantinople after receiving news that his father was near death. After Constantine died, Constantius buried him with lavish ceremony in the Church of the Holy Apostles. Soon after his father's death Constantius ordered a massacre of his relatives descended from the second marriage of his paternal grandfather Constantius Chlorus, though the details are unclear. Eutropius, writing between 350 and 370, states that Constantius sanctioned “the act, rather than commanding it”; the massacre killed two of Constantius' uncles and six of his cousins, including Hannibalianus and Dalmatius, rulers of Pontus and Moesia respectively. The massacre left Constantius, his older brother Constantine II, his younger brother Constans, three cousins Gallus and Nepotianus as the only surviving male relatives of Constantine the Great.
Soon after, Constantius met his brothers in Pannonia at Sirmium to formalize the partition of the empire. Constantius received the eastern provinces, including Constantinople, Asia Minor, Syria and Cyrenaica. Constantius hurried east to Antioch to resume the war with Persia. While Constantius was away from the eastern frontier in early 337, King Shapur II assembled a large army, which included war elephants, launched an attack on Roman territory, laying waste to Mesopotamia and putting the city of Nisibis under siege. Despite initial success, Shapur lifted his siege after his army missed an opportunity to exploit a collapsed wall; when Constantius learned of Shapur's withdrawal from Roman territory, he prepared his army for a counter-attack. Constantius defended the eastern border against invasions by the aggressive Sassanid Empire under Shapur; these conflicts were limited to Sassanid sieges of the major fortresses of Roman Mesopotamia, including Nisibis and Amida. Although Shapur seems to have been vict
Theodora (6th century)
Theodora was empress of the Eastern Roman Empire by marriage to Emperor Justinian I. She was one of the most influential and powerful of the Eastern Roman empresses, albeit from a humble background; some sources mention her as empress regnant with Justinian I as her co-regent. Along with her spouse, she is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, commemorated on November 14; the main historical sources for her life are the works of her contemporary Procopius. The historian offered three contradictory portrayals of the Empress; the Wars of Justinian completed in 545, paints a picture of a courageous and influential empress who saved the throne for Justinian. He wrote the Secret History, which survives in only one manuscript suggesting it was not read during the Byzantine era; the work has sometimes been interpreted as representing a deep disillusionment with the emperor Justinian, the empress, his patron Belisarius. Justinian is depicted as cruel, venal and incompetent. Alternatively, scholars versed in political rhetoric of the era have viewed these statements from the Secret History as formulaic expressions within the tradition of invective.
Procopius' Buildings of Justinian, written about the same time as the Secret History, is a panegyric which paints Justinian and Theodora as a pious couple and presents flattering portrayals of them. Besides her piety, her beauty is praised within the conventional language of the text's rhetorical form. Although Theodora was dead when this work was published, Justinian was alive, commissioned the work, her contemporary John of Ephesus writes about Theodora in his Lives of the Eastern Saints as the daughter of a pious Monophysite priest. He mentions an illegitimate daughter not named by Procopius. Various other historians presented additional information on her life. Theophanes the Confessor mentions some familial relations of Theodora to figures not mentioned by Procopius. Victor Tonnennensis notes her familial relation to Sophia. Michael the Syrian, the Chronicle of 1234 and Bar-Hebraeus place her origin in the city of Daman, near Kallinikos, Syria, they contradict Procopius by making Theodora the daughter of a priest, trained in the pious practices of Miaphysitism since birth.
These are late Miaphysite sources. The Miaphysites have tended to regard Theodora as one of their own and the tradition may have been invented as a way to improve her reputation and is in conflict with what is told by the contemporary Miaphysite historian John of Ephesus; these accounts are thus ignored in favor of Procopius. Theodora, according to Michael Grant, was of Greek Cypriot descent. There are several indications of her possible birthplace. According to Michael the Syrian her birthplace was in Syria, she was born c. 500 AD. Her father, was a bear trainer of the hippodrome's Green faction in Constantinople, her mother, whose name is not recorded, was an actress. Her parents had two more daughters. After her father's death, when Theodora was four, her mother brought her children wearing garlands into the hippodrome and presented them as suppliants to the Blue faction. From on Theodora would be their supporter. Procopius relates that Theodora from an early age followed her sister Komito's example and worked in a Constantinople brothel serving low-status customers.
In Procopius's account, Theodora purportedly made a name for herself with her salacious portrayal of Leda and the Swan. Lynda Garland in "Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527–1204" notes that there seems to be little reason to believe she worked out of a brothel "managed by a pimp". Employment as an actress at the time would include both "indecent exhibitions on stage" and providing sexual services off stage. In what Garland calls the "sleazy entertainment business in the capital", Theodora earned her living by a combination of her theatrical and sexual skills. During this time she met the future wife of Belisarius, who would become a part of the women's court led by Theodora. At the age of 16, she traveled to North Africa as the companion of a Syrian official named Hecebolus when he went to the Libyan Pentapolis as governor, she stayed with him for four years before returning to Constantinople. Abandoned and maltreated by Hecebolus, on her way back to the capital of the Byzantine Empire, she settled for a while in Alexandria, Egypt.
She is said to have met Patriarch Timothy III in Alexandria, Miaphysite, it was at that time that she converted to Miaphysite Christianity. From Alexandria she went to Antioch, where she met a Blue faction's dancer, an informer of Justinian, she returned to Constantinople in 522 and, according to John of Ephesus, gave up her former lifestyle, settling as a wool spinner in a house near the palace. The extreme and conventional nature of the negative rhetoric of Procopius and the positive rhetoric of John of Ephesus has led most scholars to conclude that the veracity of both sources might be questioned; when Justinian sought to marry Theodora, he could not: he was heir of the throne of his uncle, Emperor Justin I, a Roman law from Constantine's time prevented anyone of senatorial rank from marrying