Honorius (emperor)

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Flavius Honorius[1] (9 September 384 – 15 August 423), commonly known as Honorius, was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius.

Even by the standards of the rapidly declining Western Empire, Honorius' reign was precarious and chaotic. His reign was supported by his principal general, Flavius Stilicho, who was successively Honorius's guardian (during his childhood) and his father-in-law (after the emperor became an adult). Stilicho's generalship helped preserve some level of stability, but with his execution, the Western Roman Empire moved closer to collapse.

Contents

Rule

Early reign

After holding the consulate at the age of two, Honorius was declared Augustus by his father Theodosius I, and thus co-ruler, on 23 January 393 after the death of Valentinian II and the usurpation of Eugenius.[2] When Theodosius died, in January 395, Honorius and Arcadius divided the Empire, so that Honorius became Western Roman Emperor at the age of ten.[3]

During the first part of his reign Honorius depended on the military leadership of the general Stilicho, who had been appointed by Theodosius[4] and was of mixed Vandal and Roman ancestry.[5] To strengthen his bonds with the young emperor, Stilicho married his daughter Maria to him.[6] The epithalamion written for the occasion by Stilicho's court poet Claudian survives.[7] He used these bonds to influence Honorius whenever possible; it was through his suggestion that Honorius ordered a body of troops to travel to Constantinople, ostensibly to help his brother Arcadius, but it reality to assassinate Stilicho’s arch rival, Rufinus in 395.[8] He was also greatly influenced by the Popes of Rome, who sought to extend their influence through his youth and weak character. So it was that Pope Innocent I contrived to have Honorius write to his brother, condemning the deposition of John Chrysostom in 407.[9]

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