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The Final Division of the Empire into East and West on the Death of Theodosius I

A.D. 395

Theodosius I was the last emperor of a united Roman Empire. He died early in the year A. D. 395, probably of dropsy or congestive heart failure. On his deathbed, he divided the Roman Empire between his two sons Arcadius and Honorius. We are told that he made Stilicho regent for Honorius in the West because Honorius was young and quite possibly feeble-minded. Arcadius ruled the East from Constantinople but soon fell under the influence of his Praetorian Prefect and Lord Chamberlain. Never again would both halves of the Roman Empire be united again and ruled by a strong Roman Emperor, though Justinian came close to doing so in the middle of the Sixth Century. From this time on, the East grew steadily different, adopting the Greek language and culture more and more. In the West, the Mighty Roman Empire gradually becomes weaker under a series of incompetent rulers. It has been argued that the West would still have been broken up into barbarian kingdoms even if a strong and capable emperor on the throne were to do everything in his power to hold the West together. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the strong hands of two powerful Master of Soldiers Flavius Aetius and Flavius Stilicho, the West might have fallen completely to the Visigoths under Alaric in the early years of the Fifth Century. As it turned out, both of these men were murdered by the emperors they served, probably because they became jealous and suspicious of the power held by these two men. History remains divided on the roles and motives of the two strong men of the Fifth Century. There are those that hold the idea that Stilicho would have eventually disposed of Honorius and Aetius would have done away with Valentinian III in order to gain the throne for themselves. On the other hand, these two men have been praised as selfless patriots, doing everything within their power to keep the Roman Empire in all its power, prestige, and glory alive and finally even sacrificing their own lives for their country, though both men had both Roman and barbarian blood in their veins.

In any case, Rome was to suffer the indignity of being sacked twice, and having her last teenage emperor told to go home, and her imperial regalia, sceptre, and robes sent to the Eastern Emperor with the comment by Odovacer, “We no longer have need of these, or an emperor here in Rome


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