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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

From Constantine to the Early Sixth Century


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After the death of Theodosius his sons Arcadius and Honorius divided the rule of the Empire; Arcadius ruled in the east and Honorius in the west. As in previous instances in the fourth century under the joint rule of Valens and Valentinian I, or of Theodosius, Gratian, and Valentinian II, when the division of power did not destroy the unity of the Empire, so under Arcadius and Honorius that unity was maintained: there were two rulers of one state. Contemporaries viewed the situation precisely in this light. The historian of the fifth century, Orosius, the author of the History Against the Pagans, wrote: Arcadius and Honorius began to keep the common empire, having only divided their seats.

Among the emperors who reigned in the eastern part of the Empire during the period 395-518, the first were from the lineage of Theodosius the Great: his son Arcadius (395-408), who married Eudoxia, the daughter of a German (Frankish) chief; and the son of Arcadius, Theodosius the Younger (408-50), whose wife Athenais was the daughter of an Athenian philosopher and was named Eudocia when she was baptized. After the death of Theodosius II his sister Pulcheria married Marcian of Thrace, who became emperor (450-57). Thus in 450 A.D. ended the male line of the Spanish dynasty of Theodosius. Following Marcian's death Leo I (457-74), born in Thrace or Dacia in Illyricum, i.e. in the prefecture of Illyricum, a military tribune, was chosen emperor. Ariadne, the daughter of Leo I, who was married to the Isaurian Zeno, had a son Leo, who, after the death of his grandfather, became emperor (474) at the age of six. He died a few months later, after he had succeeded in appointing as co-emperor his father, Zeno, of the wild tribe of Isaurians, dwellers of the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor. This Leo is known in history as Leo II the Younger. His father, Zeno, reigned from 474 to 491. When Zeno died his wife, Ariadne, married a silentiary, the aged Anastasius, originally from Dyrrachium (Durazzo) in Illyria (present-day Albania). He was proclaimed emperor in 491 and ruled as Anastasius I until 518.

This list of emperors indicates that from the death of Constantine the Great until 518 A.D. the throne at Constantinople was occupied first by the Dardanian dynasty of Constantine, or rather the dynasty of his father, who probably belonged to some Romanized barbarian tribe of the Balkan peninsula; then by a number of Romans - Jovian and the family of Valentinian I; then by three members of the Spanish dynasty of Theodosius, followed by occasional emperors belonging to various tribes: Thracians, one Isaurian, and an Illyrian (perhaps an Albanian). During this entire period the throne was never occupied by a Greek

Cf. Ancient Greece and Christianity (text in Greek only) ||| Byzantium : heir to the Graeco-roman antiquity 

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