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Arcadius (Latin: Flavius Arcadius Augustus; Greek: Ἀρκάδιος; 1 January 377 – 1 May 408) was Eastern Roman Emperor from 395 to 408. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius. A weak ruler, his reign was dominated by a series of powerful ministers and by his wife, Aelia Eudoxia.[citation needed]

Augustus of the Eastern Roman Empire
Arcadius Istanbul Museum.PNG
Idealising bust of Arcadius in the Theodosian style combines elements of classicism with the new hieratic style (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)
Emperor of the Roman Empire
ReignJanuary 383 – 395 (Augustus under his father);
395 – 1 May 408 (emperor in the east, with his brother Honorius emperor in the west)
PredecessorTheodosius I
SuccessorTheodosius II
Co-emperorsTheodosius I (383–395)
Honorius (393–408, Western Emperor, 395–408)
Theodosius II (402–408)
Born1 January 377
Died1 May 408 (aged 31)
SpouseAelia Eudoxia
Theodosius II
Full name
Flavius Arcadius
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Arcadius Augustus
FatherTheodosius I
MotherAelia Flaccilla
ReligionNicene Christianity


Arcadius was born in Hispania, the elder son of Theodosius I and Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of Honorius, who would become the Western Roman Emperor. His father declared him an Augustus and co-ruler for the eastern half of the Empire in January 383. His younger brother was also declared Augustus in 393, for the Western half.

As emperors, however, both Theodosius' sons are famous for their extraordinarily weak wills and pliancy to ambitious ministers.[1] At the death of their father, Honorius was under the control of the Romanized Vandal magister militum Flavius Stilicho while Arcadius was dominated by the Praetorian Prefect of the East, Rufinus. Stilicho, who is alleged by some to have aspired to control both Emperors, set off to the east shortly after beginning his reign, leading back the Gothic mercenaries whom Theodosius had taken west in the civil war with Arbogastes and Eugenius;[2] Rufinus, who had meanwhile stained his own rule with marked brutality and corruption,[3] ordered Stilicho to retreat on threat of war, revealing his suspicions. Stilicho complied and sent his army on under the command of its general, Gainas, secretly his ally. When Rufinus greeted Gainas with his army before Constantinople, he was suddenly assassinated on the parade ground by the Goths.[4] Arcadius had been on the verge of marrying Rufinus' daughter, when the palace eunuchs under the influence of Eutropius, apprehensive of this increase of the Prefect's power, conspired to switch the bride with the daughter of Bauto, a Frankish general, called Aelia Eudoxia.[5] Aside from the indignity to Rufinus, who was not informed of the change in Arcadius' plans, and who was caught off guard in the middle of the marriage ceremony, when the nuptial procession went to Eudoxia's residence rather than his own, this change hinted at his fall from another aspect, since Eudoxia had been raised, after her father's death, in the home of a general allegedly murdered by Rufinus.[6] Subsequently, the eunuch Eutropius and Arcadius' wife, Aelia Eudoxia, would assume Rufinus' place as advisors, or guardians, of the emperor.[7]

Eutropius' influence lasted four years, but ultimately, he became as unpopular as Rufinus.[8] Claudian, the court poet of Honorius, alleges that the eunuch openly sold the governorships of the provinces, and the civil magistracies, to the highest bidders; at the same time, many of the upper classes were executed on trumped up charges, and their estates confiscated to swell the coffers of the minister and his accomplices.[9] New treason laws were enacted under his auspices, by which the thought was not separated from the execution of the crime, and by which the sons of the guilty were excluded from the rights of citizenship.[10] The last straw came in 399 when Eutropius, a eunuch and former slave, had himself nominated to the consulship, an unprecedented act.[11] In the same year the Ostrogoths who had been settled in Asia Minor by Theodosius I revolted, and Gainas, Eutropius' personal enemy, who was appointed to suppress the insurrection after Eutropius' appointees failed, ultimately persuaded the emperor to give in to their demands, which included, inter alia, the dismissal of Eutropius.[12] Eudoxia, sensing Eutropius' perilous situation, quickly deserted her former ally, and convinced her husband to give in to the Ostrogoths' demands. Subsequently, Eudoxia alone would have influence over the emperor. That same year, on 13 July, Arcadius issued an edict ordering that all remaining non-Christian temples should be immediately demolished.

After Eutropius' fall, Gainas joined the rebel Ostrogoths, and forced Arcadius to make him Magister Militum, or chief general of the Roman armies, and therefore the most powerful minister in the state.[13] Additionally, he demanded place for settlement for his troops in Thrace. Arcadius consented, but the Ostrogoths' Arianism and hostile attitude brought them into conflict with the populace of Constantinople, and Gainas' garrison in the capital was overpowered and massacred in a general riot. Gainas reacted by declaring open war on Arcadius, and advanced on Constantinople before realising it was too strong for him to take. After this the Goths attempted to recross the Hellespont and invade Asia, but were defeated by Fravitta, a loyal Goth in the Roman service who replaced Gainas. The latter fled to the Danube with his remaining followers, intending to establish an independent kingdom in Scythia, but was ultimately defeated and killed by Uldin the Hun.[14]

Eudoxia's influence was strongly opposed by John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who felt that she had used her family's wealth to gain control over the Emperor. Eudoxia used her influence to have Chrysostom deposed in 404, but she died later that year. Eudoxia gave to Arcadius four children: three daughters, Pulcheria, Arcadia and Marina, and one son, Theodosius, the future Emperor Theodosius II.

Arcadius was dominated for the rest of his rule by Anthemius, the Praetorian Prefect, who made peace with Stilicho in the West. Arcadius himself was more concerned with appearing to be a pious Christian than he was with political or military matters, and he died, only nominally in control of his Empire, in 408.

Solidus of Arcadius.

Character and worksEdit

In this reign of a weak Emperor dominated by court politics, a major theme was the ambivalence felt by prominent individuals and the court parties that formed and regrouped round them towards barbarians, which in Constantinople at this period meant Goths. In the well-documented episode that revolved around Gainas, a number of Gothic foederati stationed in the capital were massacred, the survivors fleeing under the command of Gainas to Thrace, where they were tracked down by imperial troops and slaughtered and Gainas dispatched. The episode has been traditionally interpreted as a paroxysm of anti-barbarian reaction that served to stabilize the East. The main source for the affair is a mythology à clef by Synesius of Cyrene, Aegyptus sive de providentia (400),[15] an Egyptianising allegory that embodies a covert account of the events, the exact interpretation of which continues to baffle scholars. Synesius' De regno, which claims to be addressed to Arcadius himself, contains a tirade against Alaric and the Goths, who had been ravaging Greece before being pacified by Arcadius' offer of peace and independent settlement in Illyricum, in 398.[16]

A new forum was built in the name of Arcadius, on the seventh hill of Constantinople, the Xērolophos, in which a column was begun to commemorate his 'victory' over Gainas (although the column was only completed after Arcadius' death by Theodosius II).

The Pentelic marble portrait head of Arcadius (now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum) was discovered in Istanbul close to the Forum Tauri, in June 1949, in excavating foundations for new buildings of the University at Beyazit.[17] The neck was designed to be inserted in a torso, but no statue, base or inscription was found. The diadem is a fillet with rows of pearls along its edges and a rectangular stone set about with pearls over the young Emperor's forehead.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), ch. XXIX., p. 1038, 1046
  2. ^ Gibbon, pp. 1033-36
  3. ^ Gibbon, pp. 1028-32
  4. ^ Gibbon, p. 1037
  5. ^ Gibbon, p. 1032
  6. ^ Gibbon, p. 1029, 1032
  7. ^ Gibbon, p. 1039
  8. ^ Gibbon, ch. XXXII., p. 1151
  9. ^ Gibbon, p. 1153, 1154
  10. ^ Gibbon, p. 1156, 1157
  11. ^ Gibbon, p. 1153
  12. ^ Gibbon, pp. 1157-59
  13. ^ Gibbon, p. 1161
  14. ^ Gibbon, p. 1162, 1163
  15. ^ The date 400 is argued for by Cameron and Long 1993.
  16. ^ Gibbon, ch. XXX., p. 1052
  17. ^ Nezih Firatli, "A Late Antique Imperial Portrait Recently Discovered at Istanbul" American Journal of Archaeology 55.1 (January 1951), pp. 67–71.


  • A. Cameron and J. Long. 1993. Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (Berkeley/Oxford)
  • Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (The Modern Library, 1932, New York)

External linksEdit

  Media related to Arcadius at Wikimedia Commons

Born: 377/378 Died: 1 May 408
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Theodosius I
Eastern Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Theodosius II
Political offices
Preceded by
Flavius Clearchus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Flavius Bauto
Succeeded by
Flavius Euodius
Preceded by
Eutolmius Tatianus,
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Rufinus
Succeeded by
Theodosius I,
Preceded by
Theodosius I,
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Honorius and Virius Nicomachus Flavianus
Succeeded by
Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius,
Anicius Probinus
Preceded by
Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius,
Anicius Probinus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Honorius
Succeeded by
Nonius Atticus
Preceded by
Flavius Vincentius
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Honorius
Succeeded by
Theodosius II,
Flavius Rumoridus
Preceded by
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Anicius Petronius Probus
Succeeded by
Theodosius II