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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Marcian (450-457) and Leo I (457-474); Aspar 


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Theodosius died leaving no heir. His aged sister Pulcheria agreed to become the nominal wife of Marcian, a Thracian by birth, who was later proclaimed Emperor. Marcian was a very capable but modest soldier and rose to the throne only because of the entreaties of the influential general Aspar, of Alan descent.

The Gothic problem, which became a real menace to the state at the end of the fourth, and early part of the fifth century, was settled during the time of Arcadius in favor of the government. However, the Gothic element in the Byzantine army continued to be an influence in the Empire, though in a very reduced measure, and in the middle of the fifth century the barbarian Aspar, supported by the Goths, made a final effort to restore the former power of the Goths. He was successful for a while. Two emperors, Marcian and Leo I, were raised to the throne by the efforts of Aspar, whose Arian leanings were the only obstacle to his own accession to the throne. Once more the capital openly began to express its discontent with Aspar, his family, and the barbarian influence in the army in general. Two events aggravated the tension between the Goths and the population of the capital. The sea expedition to northern Africa against the Vandals, which Leo I undertook with great expenditure of money and effort, proved a complete failure. The population accused Aspar of treason because he had originally opposed it, naturally enough, since the purpose was to crush the Vandals, that is, the Germans. Aspar then obtained from Leo the rank of Caesar for his son, the highest rank in the Empire. The Emperor decided to free himself of Germanic power and with the aid of a number of warlike Isaurians quartered in the capital killed Aspar and part of his family, dealing a final blow to Germanic influence at the court of Constantinople. For these murders Leo I received from his contemporaries the name of Makelles, that is, Butcher, but the historian Th. I. Uspensky affirmed that this alone may justify the surname Great sometimes given Leo, since it was a significant step in the direction of nationalizing the army and weakening the dominance of barbarian troops.

The Huns, who constituted so great a menace to the Empire, moved at the beginning of Marcian's reign from the middle Danube to the western provinces of the Empire, where they later fought the famous Catalaunian battle. Shortly afterwards Attila died. His enormous empire fell to ruin so that the Hunnic danger to the Byzantine Empire disappeared in the latter years of Marcian's reign 

A History of the Byzantine Empire - Table of Contents

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