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Theodosius The Great

Hi Guys, I recently came across a figure in the ancient Roman era and his influence and endeavours got me interested into further reading his story. That man is Theodosius I, or Flavius Theodosius (Latin Roman Name), born in Spain circa the 11th of January 347. He was a Roman Emperor who ruled from the 19th of January 379 until he succumbed to a disease involving severe edema in Milan on January 395.


Born in Cauca, Spain circa 11th January 347 to a senior military officer, Theodosius the Elder. Theodosius hone his military expertise by campaigning with his father's staff in Britannia where he aided in quelling the Great Conspiracy in 368. It would take him till around the year 373 to become governor of Upper Moesia and oversaw hostilities against the Sarmatians and thereafter against the Alema.


From the year 364 to 375, the Roman Empire was governed by two emperors, controlling the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire, they are the brothers Valentinian I and Valens, but when Valentinian died in the year 375, subsequently, his sons, Valentinian II and Gratian, succeeded him as rulers of the Western Roman Empire. In 378, after the disastrous Battle of Adrianople where Valens was killed, Theodosius was invited to lead the Illyrian Army, and as Valens had no heir, Theodosius has been appointed as co-Augustus of the Eastern Roman Empire and after the death in 392 of Valentinian II, and Theodosius ruled as sole Emperor.


What made the Theodosius legacy appealing was his actions and policies as emperor, first of many was the diplomatic policy with the Gothic. The Goths and its allies were entrenched in Dacia and eastern Pannonia Inferior, The Gothic crisis was so dire that his co-Emperor Gratian relinquished control of the Illyrian provinces to let Theodosius operate without hindrance. A major weakness in the Roman position was the recruiting of barbarians to fight against other barbarians. In order to reconstruct the Roman Army of the West, Theodosius needed to find able bodied soldiers and so he turned to the most capable men readily at hand, meanwhile, the barbarians recently settled in the Empire. This caused many difficulties in the battle against barbarians since the newly recruited soldiers lack loyalty to Theodosius. In 390 the population of Thessalonica rioted in complaint against the presence of the local Gothic garrison. The garrison commander was killed in the violence, so Theodosius ordered the Goths to kill all the spectators in the circus as retaliation, which subsequently made Theodosius to be excommunicated by the bishop of Milan, it is now known as the Massacre of Thessalonica.


Next up is the civil war in 383, where Theodosius' interests turned to the Western Roman Empire, where Magnus Maximus had taken all the provinces of the West except for Italy. This self-proclaimed threat was hostile to Theodosius' interests, since the reigning emperor Valentinian II, Maximus' enemy, was Theodosius' ally. Theodosius gathered a large army, which includes Goths and other barbarian groups. The armies of Theodosius and Maximus fought at the Battle of the Save in 388, which saw Maximus defeated and executed. Now the de facto ruler of the Western empire as well, Theodosius celebrated his victory in Rome on June 13 389.


In the year of 325, Constantine I had facilitated the Church's bishops to convene the Council of Nicea. The council condemned the teachings of the heterodox theologian Arius: that the Son was a created being and inferior to God the Father. Despite the council's ruling, controversy continued. By the time of Theodosius' accession, there were still several different Church factions that promoted alternative Christology. Theodosius was a Nicene Christian, and using his newfound power, he issued the decree “Cunctos pupolos” which declared that Nicene Christianity to be the sole religion in the Empire. His religious influence reached Egypt in the year of 384, where Theodosius ordered that all Egypt must adhere to Christianity, most likely Nicene Christianity.


Theodosius died, after suffering from a disease involving severe edema, in Milan on 17 January 395. And he was finally buried in Constantinople on 8 November 395. Without his leadership, Theodosius's army rapidly dissolved after his death, with Gothic contingents raiding as far as Constantinople. As his heir in the East he left Arcadius, who was about eighteen years old and in the West Honorius, who was ten. Neither ever showed any sign of fitness to rule, and their reigns were marked by a series of disasters.


Be it for good or bad, Theodosius was an impactful ruler of the Roman Empire, the last ruler who ruled both Eastern and Western halves of Rome and combined it, the ruler who introduced Christianity to the Egyptians and who enforced the religion, thus is why he is now called Theodosius the Great. It is only fitting that I write about this impactful leader of the Roman Empire.