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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Theodosius II, the Younger (408-450) 


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Theodosius II was not a gifted statesman, nor was he particularly interested in matters of government. Throughout his long reign he kept aloof from the actual affairs of government and led a solitary monastic life. Devoting most of his time to calligraphy, he copied many old manuscripts in his very beautiful handwriting. But around Theodosius were very able and energetic people who contributed much to crowning his period with such important events in the internal life of the Empire that historians no longer look upon Theodosius as a weak and ill-fated emperor. One of the most influential persons during the reign of Theodosius was his sister, Pulcheria. It was she who arranged the marriage of Theodosius and Athenais (later baptized Eudocia), the daughter of an Athenian philosopher and a woman of high cultural attainment and some literary genius. Eudocia wrote a number of works, treating chiefly of religious topics, but reflecting also some contemporary political events.

In external struggles the eastern half of the Empire was more fortunate than the western half during the period of Theodosius II. No strenuous campaign had to be organized in the East, but the West was going through a very severe crisis because of the German migrations. The most terrific shock to the Romans was the entrance into Rome, former capital of the pagan Roman Empire, of the commander of the Visigoths, Alaric. Shortly afterwards the barbarians formed their first kingdoms on Roman territory in western Europe and northern Africa. The eastern part of the Empire was for a time endangered by the Huns, who attacked Byzantine territory and raided almost as far as the walls of Constantinople. Before friendly relations were established, the Emperor was forced to pay them a large sum of money and cede the territory south of the Danube. Later, however, an embassy headed by Maximin was sent from Constantinople to Pannonia. His friend, Priscus, who accompanied him, wrote an extremely important and full account of the embassy, describing the court of Attila and many of the customs and manners of the Huns. This description is particularly valuable for the light it throws not only on the Huns but also on the Slavs of the Middle Danube whom the Huns had conquered

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