Aelia Flacilla Roman Empress Theodosius I Wife
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Example of Authentic Ancient
Aelia Flacilla - Wife of Roman Emperor Theodosius I
and mother of Emperors Honorius and Arcadius.
Bronze AE2 Cyzicus mint: 383-388 A.D.
Reference: RIC 24; Cohen 6
AEL FLACCILLA AVG, diademed & draped bust right.
SALVS REIPVBLICAE, Empress standing facing, arms folded over chest, SMKΓ
Aelia Flavia Flacilla (died 385), first wife
Theodosius I. She was of
Roman descent. During her marriage to
Theodosius, she gave birth to two sons future Emperors
Honorius and a daughter,
Aelia Pulcheria. She was given the
Augusta, as her coinage shows.
According to Laus Serenae ("In Praise of
Serena"), a poem by
Serena and Flaccilla were from
A passage of
Themistius (Oratio XVI, De Saturnino)
has been interpreted as identifying Flavius Claudius Antonius,
Praetorian prefect of Gaul from 376 to
Roman consul in 382, to be her father.
However the relation is considered doubtful. In 1967, John Robert
Martindale, later one of several article writers in the
Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire,
suggested that the passage actually identifies Antonius as the
brother-in-law of Theodosius. However the passage is vague enough to
Flavius Afranius Syagrius, co-consul of
Antonius in 382, to be the brother-in-law in question.
The only kin clearly identified in primary sources
was her nephew Nebridius, son of an unnamed sister. He married Salvina,
a daughter of
Gildo. Their marriage was mentioned by
Jerome in his correspondence with Salvina. They had a son and a
In about 375-376, Flaccilla married
Theodosius I, a son of
Count Theodosius. At the time
Theodosius had fallen out of favor with
Valentinian I and had withdrawn to
civilian life in
Their first son
Arcadius was born prior to the
elevation of his parents on the throne. Their secold son
Honorius was born on 9 September 384.
Pulcheria has been suggested to have
been born prior to the elevation of her parents to the throne due to
another passage of Laus Serenae. She predeceased her parents as
mentioned in the writings of
Gregory of Nyssa.
A younger Gratian .mentioned alongside the imperial
Ambrose. has at times been suggested as
a third son. However, Gregory of Nyssa reports the existence of only
three imperial children and other sources do not mention Gratian.
Gratian was possibly a relation of some sort but not an actual member of
Valens, emperor of the
Eastern Roman Empire was killed in the
Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378). He
was survived by his wife
Albia Dominica and his daughters
Anastasia and Carosa. He had however survived his only son,
Valentinianus Galates. His nephew
Gratian, Emperor of the
Western Roman Empire, was his heir and
assumed control of the Eastern Empire as well. With his younger
Valentinian II as his nominal co-ruler.
On 19 January, Gratian declared Theodosius,
magister militum per
Illyricum, to be his new colleague in
the Eastern Roman Empire. Theodosius seems to have been the senior
officer of Roman origins available for promotion at the time.
Frigeridus, the two magistri militum in
praesenti were probably not considered due to their
Germanic origins. Several other
equivalent positions remained vacant since the deaths of their last
holders in Adrianople. At this point Flacilla became the Empress
She was a fervent supporter of the
Sozomen reports her preventing a
conference between Theodosius and
Eunomius of Cyzicus who served as
Anomoeanism, a distinct
Arians. Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa
praise her Christian virtue and comment on her role as "a leader of
justice" and "pillar of the Church".
Theodoret reports on her works of
charity, personally tending to the
disabled. He quotes her saying that "To
distribute money belongs to the imperial dignity, but I offer up for the
imperial dignity itself personal service to the Giver."
She died in 385 (or 386). Her death is mentioned by
Joannes Zonaras. According to the
Chronicon Paschale, the palatium
Constantinople was named in her honor.
A statue of her was placed within the
She is commemorated as a saint by the
Eastern Orthodox Church, her feast day
being 14 September.