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Aelia Flaccilla

Wife of Thodosius the Great

Not much is known about the empress Aelia Flaccilla. It is believed that she was a devout Christian and exerted considerable influence in the religious affairs of her husband. Theodosius I was the last really powerful Roman emperor and the last time both East and West were united was during his reign. He kept his court at Constantinople and it is within the Eastern society of this city that Flaccilla functioned as empress.

The one piece of historical evidence we have concerning the life of Aelia Flaccilla is related by Gibbon. During the late Fourth Century, there was a major religious controversy over Arianism, which was the kind of Christianity popular amongst the Goths and other Germanic nations. Theodosius and Flaccilla were devoutly Catholic, and it came about that Theodosius had the opportunity to discuss theology with Bunomius, a prominent Arian scholar. As Theodosius was not an educated man, having a soldier’s background, those close to him felt it would be unwise for Theodosius to converse with a learned leader of the heretics. It was feared that some well - thought out argument put forth by the scholar might actually undermine the faith of the emperor. The empress Flaccilla prayed fervently against such a meeting, and Theodosius subsequently dropped the idea.

Aelia Flaccilla had two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, who both became Roman emperors upon the final division of the Roman Empire. Arcadius began to rule in the East and Honorius in the West after Theodosius’ death in A. D. 395.

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