Aelia Eudocia

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Aelia Eudocia Augusta (c. 401-460) was the wife of East Roman Emperor Theodosius II.


Early life

She was born as Athenais in Athens [1] in c. 401 of Greek origin,[2][3][4][5][6] the daughter of the Greek philosopher[7] and sophist Leontius, from whom she received a thorough training in literature and rhetoric. The traditional story, told by John Malalas and others, is that she had been deprived of her small patrimony by the rapacity of her brothers, and sought redress at court in Constantinople. Her accomplishments attracted the attention of Theodosius' sister Pulcheria, who made her one of her ladies-in-waiting and groomed her to be the emperor's wife. After Pulcheria received Athenais, she remarked that she had found "a young girl, a Greek maid, very beautiful, pure and dainty, eloquent as well, the daughter of a philosopher.”[8]

After receiving baptism and discarding her former name Athenais, for that of Aelia Licinia Eudocia, she was married to Theodosius on June 7, 421; two years later, after the birth of her daughter Licinia Eudoxia, she received the title Augusta. The new empress repaid her brothers by making Valerius a consul and later governor of Thrace and the other, Gessius, prefect of Illyricum.

Other, more contemporary historians like Socrates Scholasticus and John of Panon, confirm many of these details, but omit all mention of Pulcheria's participation in Eudocia's marriage to her brother. This makes other details of Eudocia's activities more understandable, as for example, using her substantial influence at court to protect pagans and Jews.

In the years 438-439 she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and brought back several precious relics; during her stay at Antioch she addressed the senate of that city in Hellenic style and distributed funds for the repair of its buildings. She was very conscious of her Greek heritage,[9] as her famous address to the citizens of Antioch showed. In an official speech to the Greek citizens of Antioch she referred to their Greek ancestry, which she shared with them[10] saying:

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