Eutropius (consul 399)

Eutropius (Greek: Εὐτρόπιος; died 399) was a fourth-century Eastern Roman official who rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Arcadius. He was the first eunuch to become a consul in the Roman Empire.

Bust of Eutropius inside the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Career edit

Eutropius was born in one of the Roman provinces of the Middle East, either Assyria or on the border of Armenia.[1] According to Honorius' court poet Claudian, who composed a satirical invective against Eutropius due to the latter's hostility to Claudian's patron, Stilicho,[2] Eutropius served successively as a catamite, pimp, and body-servant to various Roman soldiers and nobles, before winding up among the domestic eunuchs of the imperial palace.[3]

He rose to the rank of palace chamberlain, or the praepositus sacri cubiculi.[4][5] After Theodosius' death in 395 he stood at the head of a faction opposed to the powerful Praetorian Prefect of the east, Rufinus. He successfully arranged the marriage of the new emperor, Arcadius, to Aelia Eudoxia, the daughter of general Bauto having blocked an attempt by Arcadius' chief minister to increase his power by marrying the young and weak-willed emperor to his daughter.[6][7]

After Rufinus' assassination in 395, Eutropius rose in importance in the imperial court, and he soon became Arcadius' closest advisor. He also played a role in the revolt of Alaric I and the Gildonic War by encouraging Gildo's revolt against Stilicho's machinations. Eutropius' ascension to power was assisted by his defeat of a Hun invasion in 398. The next year he became the first eunuch to be appointed a consul.[8][9]

Downfall and execution edit

During his rise to the consulship, Eutropius earned a notoriety for cruelty and greed. He may also have played a role in the assassination of his predecessor Rufinus. In 399, the year of his consulship, he sent Gaïnas, the magister militum at the time, to quell Tribigild's rebellion. However, Gainas and Tribigild teamed up to persuade Arcadius to dismiss Eutropius. In the meantime, Eutropius had also been estranged from Eudoxia, the very empress he had installed, who appeared to her husband wailing with her infant daughters about the eunuch's alleged schemes against her. Moved by his subordinates' threats and compassion for his family, Arcadius exiled Eutropius.[10]

After Eutropius's fall from power, his ally John Chrysostom's pleas kept him alive for a short time. He was eventually executed before the year ended. A surviving imperial edict shows that he was subjected to damnatio memoriae and his property was confiscated.[11][12]

Notes edit

  1. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. XXXII., p. 1152, n. 7
  2. ^ Gibbon, p. 1151, n. 3
  3. ^ Gibbon, Ibid. p. 1152, n. 7
  4. ^ Honoré, Tony (1998). "Arcadius (394–408) and Eutropius' Quaestor". Law in the Crisis of Empire 379-455 AD: The Theodosian Dynasty and its Quaestors. Oxford University Press. pp. 77–96. ISBN 978-019-168-215-5.
  5. ^ Martindale, J. R. (12 September 2020). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 1263. ISBN 978-052-120-159-9.
  6. ^ Gibbon, chap. XXIX., p. 1032
  7. ^ Bury, J. B., ed. (2015), "Rufinus and Eutropius", A History of the Later Roman Empire: From Arcadius to Irene (395 A.D. to 800 A.D), Cambridge Library Collection - Classics, vol. 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 61–78, doi:10.1017/CBO9781316219119.008, ISBN 978-1-108-08317-1, retrieved 17 August 2023
  8. ^ Thompson, Edward Arthur; Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G. (7 March 2016), "Alcathous", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.258, ISBN 978-0-19-938113-5, retrieved 17 August 2023
  9. ^ Stewart, Michael Edward (6 December 2022), "Protectors and Assassins: Armed Eunuch-cubicularii and -spatharii, 400–532 CE", Brill’s Companion to Bodyguards in the Ancient Mediterranean, Brill, pp. 274–275, ISBN 978-90-04-52768-3, retrieved 17 August 2023
  10. ^ Cameron and Long, Barbarian and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (1993):7-8
  11. ^ Bury, J. B. A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, Vol. I (1889), 85-86
  12. ^ Bruno, Nicoletta; Filosa, Martina; Marinelli, Giulia (21 February 2022). Fragmented Memory: Omission, Selection, and Loss in Ancient and Medieval Literature and History. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 209. ISBN 978-3-11-074204-6.

References edit

Political offices
Preceded by Consul of the Roman Empire
with Flavius Mallius Theodorus
Succeeded by