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Theodosius II

Eastern Roman emperor A. D. 402 - 450

Several important events occurred during the reign of Theodosius II but none of them came to pass because Theodosius himself was a particularly competent ruler. During his long reign of forty-eight years, the Church made its influence felt in imperial politics to an even greater extent than before. Bishops at Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople continuously competed for power and prestige. It was during the reign of Theodosius II that the Alexandrian scientist and mathematician Hypatia was murdered by a violent sect of lay brethren with the tacit approval of Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. The East was also blessed with the advantage of having several talented individuals in high government administrative posts during the reign of Theodosius II. Constantinople's triple defense wall was built to protect the city from attack from the landward side. All the Roman laws from the time of Constantine I up until about mid way through the reign of Theodosius II (428 - 435) were reviewed and published in one manuscript, called the Codex Theodosianus. A university was founded at Constantinople to teach philosophy, law, and theology from a Christian perspective. This would be the third university in existence at that time, joining two that had been established several centuries earlier at Athens and Alexandria.

Theodosius II was the son of the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius. He was proclaimed augustus in A. D. 402 but began to rule in his own right after the death of Arcadius in 408. Though only seven years old, he was in good hands. His sister, Pulcheria acted as regent for him and he had a competent praetorian prefect in Anthemius. It was Anthemius who made the city of Constantinople almost totally impervious to attack by constructing its famous triple wall on the landward side. The city never fell to an assault against its walls or an attack by an enemy fleet until the Ottoman Turks breached the walls in 1453. Anthemius also restored friendly relations between the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire after the death of Flavius Stilicho in 408.

During the reign of Theodosius II, the Eastern Roman Empire experienced a period of peace and prosperity even as the West was fighting for its very existence against barbarian chieftains who wanted to carve it up into a patchwork of small Teutonic kingdoms. during most of this reign, Constantinople had the military strength to defend its borders. There was some trouble with Persia early on, but a treaty was signed in the first decade of the century between Constantinople and the Sassanid Persian Empire.

During the last decade of Theodosius II's reign, it The government became lazy and decided it was easier to pay off the Huns rather than chase them down and punish them every time they made an incursion into Roman soil. By 450, the treasury was becoming dangerously depleted.

Theodosius II fell from his horse while out riding one day in A. D. 450. The fall broke his back and the emperor later died from his injuries. Before he died, Theodosius II named Marcian, a former aide de camp to the powerful general Aspar. Theodosius II was the last surviving emperor of the family of his grandfather Theodosius I to reign in the East.


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