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Marcian (/ˈmɑːrʃən/; Latin: Flavius Marcianus Augustus; Greek: Μαρκιανός; c. 392 – 26 January 457) was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 450 to 457. Very little of his life before becoming emperor is known, other than that he was a domesticus (personal assistant) who served under Ardabur and his son Aspar for fifteen years. After the death of Emperor Theodosius II on 28 July 450, Marcian was made a candidate to the throne by Aspar, who held much influence due to his military power. After a month of negotiations Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius, agreed to marry Marcian, and Flavius Zeno, a military leader of similar influence to Aspar, agreed to help Marcian to become emperor in exchange for the rank of patrician. Marcian was elected and inaugurated on 25 August 450.

Augustus of the Eastern Roman Empire
An ink illustration of Marcian, mostly in black and brown ink.
Illustration of Marcian, based upon coins bearing his image.
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Accession25 August 450
PredecessorPulcheria (as sole ruler)
SuccessorLeo I
Co-rulerPulcheria (450–453)
Western EmperorsValentinian III (450–455)
Petronius Maximus (455)
Avitus (455–456)
Died26 January 457 (aged 65)
IssueMarcia Euphemia
Full name
Flavius Marcianus
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Marcianus Augustus
DynastyTheodosian dynasty

Marcian reversed many of the actions of his predecessor, Emperor Theodosius II, in religious matters and the Eastern Roman Empire's relationship with the Huns under Attila. Marcian almost immediately revoked all treaties with Attila, ending all subsidy payments to him. In 452, while Attila was raiding Italy, then a part of the Western Roman Empire, Marcian launched expeditions across the Danube into the Hungarian plain, defeating the Huns in their own heartland. This action, accompanied by the famine and plague that broke out in northern Italy, allowed Marcian to bribe Attila into retreating from the Italian peninsula.

After the death of Attila in 453, Marcian took advantage of the resulting fragmentation of the Hunnic confederation, settling numerous tribes within Eastern Roman lands as foederati (subject tribes which gave military service in exchange for various benefits). Marcian also convened the Council of Chalcedon, which reversed the outcome of the previous Second Council of Ephesus, and declared that Jesus had two natures, divine and human. Marcian died on 26 January 457, leaving the Eastern Roman Empire with a treasury surplus of seven million solidi. After his death, Aspar had Leo I elected as Eastern Roman Emperor.

Early lifeEdit

Marcian was born in c. 392,[1][2] in either Thrace[3] or Illyria.[2] He is described by the ancient historian John Malalas as being tall and having some sort of foot impediment.[4] Little of Marcian's early life is known. Marcian's father had served in the military and at a young age, Marcian enlisted at Philippopolis in Thrace. By the time of the Roman–Sasanian War of 421–422, Marcian had reached the rank of tribune but did not see action in the war itself due to becoming ill in Lycia, where he was cared for by Tatianus, who later became praefectus urbi (urban prefect), and his brother Iulius.[2][5][6][7] Marcian eventually rose to become the domesticus (personal assistant) of Aspar,[2][6][7] the magister militum (commander in chief) of the Eastern Roman Empire; who, despite being Alanic, held much influence in the Eastern Roman Empire, comparable to that of Stilicho in the Western Roman Empire.[2][6][7] In the early 430s, Marcian served under Aspar in Roman Africa, where he was captured by the Vandals. Some sources give a likely false account of Marcian, while in captivity, meeting the Vandal King Genseric who predicted he would later become emperor. After his capture, he is not mentioned again until the death of Eastern Emperor Theodosius II.[2]


Reign of Theodosius IIEdit

The Eastern Roman Empire had been plagued by external threats during the reign of Theodosius II. In 429 the Vandals, led by Genseric, began to conquer Roman Africa. Theodosius immediately organised a response, sending Aspar and three other commanders to attempt to repel them in the summer of 431. To the north, the Huns, who had customarily attacked the Eastern Empire whenever its armies were preoccupied and receded whenever those forces returned, send ambassadors to Theodosius in 431, demanding tribute. Theodosius agreed to their demand to pay 350 pounds (160 kg) of gold every year. In 434, the Eastern Roman armies were still campaigning against the Vandals in Africa, having faced initial defeats and the withdrawal of a large number of Western Roman soldiers. In the face of Eastern Roman weakness, the Huns doubled their demand, asking for 700 pounds (320 kg) of gold per year, which Theodosius agreed to; the threat the Huns posed to the weakly protected Eastern Empire was enough that Theodosius recalled a large number of his forces from Africa. With large amounts of the Eastern Roman armies home, and Attila, who had just taken power in the Hunnic Confederation, busy campaigning to the north, Theodosius refused to pay the tribute and continued to refuse to pay tribute until 439. On 19 October 439, the Vandals defeated the weakened Eastern Roman armies and captured Carthage. Both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires began preparing a massive counter-offensive, stripping the Balkan provinces of protection. In the spring of 440, 1,100 ships set sail from Constantinople for Africa, twice the size of the fleet that would be sent by Emperor Justinian a century later.[8]

Sending away such a large number of the Eastern Roman forces was a huge gamble on Theodosius' part, betting that the fortified cities along the Danube could delay the Huns for long enough that the invasion force could gain a secure foothold in Africa, allowing troops to be withdrawn back to the northern frontier. This gamble worked until 442 when the bishop of Margus led a raiding party into the Huns territory and desecrated the royal tombs of the Huns. In response to this desecration, Attila demanded that the bishop be handed over; in order to ensure his own safety, the bishop struck a deal with Attila, surrendering the city of Margus to Attila in exchange for his own life. With control of Margus, Attila had a foothold across the Danube, which he aggressively exploited, capturing and destroying the cities of Viminacium, Singidunum, and Sirmium. Theodosius recalled Aspar to Constantinople and launched a counterattack. After his force was decisively defeated, Theodosius undertook to pay tribute to the Huns every year, which he did each year until his death in 450.[9]

Rise to throneEdit

After Eastern Emperor Theodosius II died unexpectedly in a riding accident on 28 July 450, the empire faced its first succession crisis in 60 years, as Theodosius did not have any sons, nor had he designated any successor.[2][10] Some later sources state that Theodosius willed the Eastern Empire to Marcian on his deathbed, but this is thought to merely be propaganda created by Marcian's supporters after his election.[2]

Marcian had loyally served Aspar's father Ardabur for fifteen years and had served Aspar for some time, and so Aspar conspired to have Marcian elected, and was able to negotiate with other powerful figures to have Marcian made the emperor, despite Marcian's relative obscurity.[7] There was a one-month delay between the death of Theodosius and the election of Marcian, possibly due to negotiations between Aspar and Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius II, who agreed to marry Marcian. Despite being married to Marcian, Pulchera kept the vow of virginity she had made in 413, at age 14, during her three years of marriage to Marcian.[7] The marriage of Pulcheria and Marcian helped to legitimize Marcian's rule, as her family, the Theodosian dynasty, had direct ties to the throne.[7] It is possible negotiations were also needed between Flavius Zeno, who was similarly in a position of military power, and Aspar. Flavius Zeno was given the prestigious rank of patrician upon the ascension of Marcian in 450, which has led many historians to suggest a deal was made whereby Zeno would be rewarded for supporting Marcian, rather than attempting to have himself made the emperor.[7]

Marcian was elected on 25 August 450, with Pulcheria herself crowning him emperor, a unique event symbolizing that the imperial power was shared, likely to further boost Marcian's legitimacy.[2][11][12][13] Marcian was elected without the consultation of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, which has been viewed as a marker of further separation between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires.[11][12][13] Valentinian III would not recognize Marcian as Eastern Roman Emperor until March 452.[14][a] Marcian had his daughter Marcia Euphemia, who came from a previous marriage, marry Anthemius, future Western Roman Emperor, in 453.[2][16]

The election of Marcian in 450 resulted in large changes to eastern imperial policy: The eunuch and spatharios (guard of the imperial chambers) Chrysaphius, who had exercised much influence over the young Theodosius, was killed by either murder or execution; and Marcian took a much tougher stance against the Huns and a more direct role in ecclesiastical affairs. For these reasons, some historians consider him the strongest, or at least most independent, Eastern Roman emperor, although the fact that both Pulcheria and Flavius Zeno were opposed to Chrysaphius' influence, may have influenced Marcian's actions.[2][11]

Conflict with the HunsEdit

A map of Europe in 450 AD, showing the Hunnic confederation under Attila in orange, and the Roman Empire in yellow

Almost immediately after becoming emperor, Marcian reversed the policies of Theodosius, revoking all treaties with Attila, and proclaiming the end of subsidies, saying he may grant gifts if Attila was loyal, but if he attempted to raid the Eastern Roman Empire, he would be repelled. At this time Attila was preparing to invade the Western Roman Empire, under the guise of helping Valentinian III against the Visigoths. Attila reacted angrily, demanding tribute, but did not alter his invasion plans. He led his horde west from Pannonia in spring 451, into the Western Roman Empire.[6] Flavius Aetius, the Comes et Magister Utriusque Militiae (supreme commander) of the Western Roman Empire, organised a defense and called upon the Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, Alans, Saxons, Celtic Armoricans, and other tribal groups to aid him, numbering about 60,000. Attila's forces were made of Gepids, Alans, Sciri, Heruli, Rugians, some Franks, Burgundians, and Ostrogoths.[17]

Attila sacked Metz, and attempted a siege of Orleans, before meeting Aetius' forces at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, in Northeast Gaul. This battle involved around 100,000 men total, and resulted in massive losses on both sides. After the battle, Attila retreated to the Hungarian plain, and Aetius dismissed his coalition of barbarians, sending them back to their own territories. In spring 452, Attila again launched a raid, this time into the almost entirely undefended Italy, likely motivated by his desire for revenge, along with a need to raid to stabilize his tribal-state, which was dependent upon raiding for loot and resources. Attila captured the city of Aquileia after a long and difficult siege,[18] and then ransacked the city. Attila then raided across Northern Italy, taking Milan and other important cities. There was much fear that Attila would attack Rome itself, whose walls were weaker than some of the cities Attila had already captured. During this period, Aetius was unable to launch an attack on Attila, other than cutting his lines of communication and harassing his rear forces.[19]

Despite the plunder he now had from capturing Aquileia, Milan, and other cities, Attila was quickly placed in a precarious situation, due to the actions of both Eastern and Western Rome. In Italy, he was seriously lacking in funds, due to not receiving subsidies from either Eastern or Western Rome for two years, and his forces were depleted from the constant warfare. Additionally, his homeland was threatened by the Eastern Empire which, despite punitive raids ordered by Attila, took the offensive against the Hungarian plain in mid 452, attacking across the Danube and inflicting a defeat upon the Huns.[19] The area attacked by the Eastern Romans was home to Ostrogoths and Gepids, two groups bitterly opposed to Hunnic rule, and was the breadbasket of the Hunnic Empire. The loss of food supply from Attila's own land was coupled with the famine that Italy was suffering at the time, along with a plague that followed it, which placed yet more strain upon Attila, allowing the Western Roman Empire to bribe him into retreating to his homeland. After returning to the Hungarian plain, he threatened to invade the Eastern Empire in the next spring, and enslave the entirety of it.[19][20] Marcian and Aspar ignored his threats, as they reasoned, based upon the previous treaties which Attila had broken, that Attila could not be permanently deterred by gold, of which the Eastern Empire had given approximately six tons to appease Attila. They reasoned that this gold would be better spent building up armies, than appeasing threats, and that the rich Asiatic and Oriental provinces, which were protected behind Constantinople, were secure enough to allow the Eastern Empire to retake any European provinces it might lose. This campaign never came to fruition, as Attila died unexpectedly in 453, either from hemorrhaging or alcoholic suffocation, after celebrating a marriage to one of his many wives. After the death of Attila, his tribal confederation rapidly fell apart, starting first with the rebellions of the Ostrogoths, but within a year escalating to full-blown fragmentation.[21]

This fragmentation allowed the Eastern Empire to resume its policy of playing off barbarians against each other, to stop any one tribe from becoming too powerful. Quickly, many tribes began to request settlement within the eastern empire in exchange for military service, as had been done before Attila. It is almost certain that the Gepid king Ardaric came to an agreement with Marcian. Ardaric had formed a coalition of the Rugians, Sciri, Heruli, and his own Gepids, which he led against the remaining Hunnic confederation. Ardaric, alongside the Ostrogoth leaders Theodemir, Valamir, and Videmir, decisively defeated Attila's oldest son, Ellac, at the Battle of Nedao in 455, in which Ellac was slain. After this battle, the Hunnic confederation fell apart entirely. Marcian forcibly settled multiple peoples in the recovered European provinces: the Rugians in eastern Thrace, Sciri in Lower Moesia and Scythia, Gepids in Dacia, and others, as foederati. This marked the official abandonment of a rigid Danube barrier, which had been manned by Roman laeti, henceforth replaced by barbarian foederati. Marcian also accepted the Ostrogoths, who had established themselves in Pannonia, the heartland of the former Hunnic confederation, as nominal subjects, to prevent their re-emergence as a powerful group. This network of subject peoples, who were generally reliable and manageable, was beneficial to the Eastern Empire, as the various tribal people generally kept each other's power in check without East Roman intervention, and could be induced to serve the East Empire against its enemies by way of gifts, subsidies, and treaties.[2][22][23] After the death of Attila Marcian enjoyed a relatively peaceful reign, although Marcian won some small campaigns against the Saracens in Syria and against the Blemmyes in Egypt.[2][15]

Religious policyEdit

Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, 1876 painting by Vasily Surikov

Shortly before Marcian became emperor, the Second Council of Ephesus was held in 449. The council, despite the intention that it be an ecumenical council, was marred by what both the Eastern and Western Roman Churches saw as heretical beliefs, causing both to refuse to recognize the decisions of the council.[24][25] The decision considered most objectionable by the Eastern and Western Roman Churches was on the matter of Christology, as the council stated that Jesus had one divine united nature, called miaphysis, which went against both churches belief in the hypostatic union.[25][26]

To repudiate the Second Council of Ephesus, Marcian convened the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth council of the early church, in 451. Pulcheria may have influenced this decision, or even made the convention of a council a requirement during her negotiations with Aspar to marry Marcian. The council was to take place near Constantinople so that Marcian and Pulcheria could watch the proceedings closely. Initially, it was to be held at the city of Nicaea, which held enormous religious importance to the early church, as it was the site of their first council, the First Council of Nicaea in 325. However, Marcian successfully requested to transfer the spot to Chalcedon, because it was closer to Constantinople, and would thus allow him to respond quickly to any events along the Danube, which was being raided by the Huns under Attila. The council met in October 451, and was attended by about 370 bishops, most of them Eastern Roman, although four representatives were sent by Pope Leo I. This council reversed the decision of the Second Council of Ephesus that Jesus had one divine united nature, [26] and instead agreed that Jesus had "a divine nature (physis) and a human nature, united in one person (hypostasis), with neither division nor confusion".[27]

The council also agreed to condemn Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria, who had overseen the Second Council of Ephesus and revoke the condemnations of Ibas of Edessa and Theodoret, which had taken place during the Council. The council also repeated the importance of the See of Constantinople, placing it firmly in second place behind the see of Rome, and giving it the right to appoint bishops in the Eastern Roman Empire, over the objection of Pope Leo I. The council was finished in November 451, after which Marcian issued numerous edicts confirming the outcomes of the council.[2][28] One such edict ordered the repression of Eutychianists, barring them from holding state offices, forbidding them from criticizing the Council of Chalcedon, and ordering their literature, alongside that of the Nestorians, to be burned.[29] Marcian suppressed multiple violent religious revolts through military force, sending the military to suppress monks in Palestine and placing troops in Alexandria to ensure the installation of Proterius of Alexandria, who was to replace the deposed Pope Dioscorus I.[2] As a result of the council and the following edicts, a large number of Christians who disagreed with the council, including many Nestorians, migrated to the Sassanid Empire.[30]

Marcian also funded Pulcheria's extensive building projects until her death in July 453, all of which focused on the construction of religious buildings,[2] including the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae, and the Hodegon Monastery.[31] Due to his piety, Marcian was compared to both Paul and David,[32] both by the legates at the Council of Chalcedon, and later religious figures.[33]

Economic and legal policyEdit

At the beginning of Marcian's reign, the Eastern Roman treasury was almost bankrupt, due to the huge tributes paid to Attila by Theodosius. Marcian reversed this near bankruptcy not by levying new taxes, but rather by cutting expenditures.[34] Upon his accession, he declared a remission of all debts owed to the state.[2] Marcian attempted to improve the efficiency of the state in multiple ways, such as mandating that the praetorship must be given to senators residing in Constantinople, attempted to curb the practice of selling administrative offices, and decreed that consuls should be responsible the maintenance of Constantinople's aqueducts. He repealed the follis, a tax on senators' property which amounted to seven pounds of gold per annum.[34] Marcian removed the financial responsibilities of the consuls and praetors, who had since the time of the Roman Republic been responsible for funding the public sports games or giving wealth to the citizens of Constantinople, respectively; additionally, he made it such that only the vir illustris could hold either office.[2] He also partially repealed a marriage law enacted by Constantine I, which decreed that a man of senatorial status could not marry a slave, freedwoman, actress, or woman of no social status (humilis), which had been created in an attempt to preserve the purity of the senatorial class. Marcian adjusted this law by declaring that the law should not exclude a woman of good character, regardless of her social status or wealth.[34] By the time of his death, Marcian's shrewd cutting of expenditures and avoidance of large-scale wars left the Eastern Roman treasury with a surplus of 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of gold.[2]

Marcian laid out many legal reforms in his five novels, or codes of law, many of which were targeted at reducing the corruption and abuses of office that existed during the reign of Theodosius.[35] Marcian decreed in 451 that anyone who performed pagan rites would lose their property and be condemned to death and that no pagan temples, which had previously been closed, could be reopened. In order to ensure his law was implemented, he set a penalty of 50 pounds (23 kg) of gold for any judge, governor, or official who did not enforce the law.[36]


When Marcian became emperor, he was influenced by Flavius Zeno, Pulcheria, and Aspar. Flavius Zeno died soon after Marcian ascended the throne, possibly as early as the end of 451,[2][11] and Pulcheria died in July 453, leaving Aspar as the only major influence in the court of the Eastern Roman Empire. This influence was enhanced by the promotion of his son Ardabur to magister militum per Orientem (master of soldiers in the east).[2][37] Marcian's principal advisors were Pulcheria, Euphemius the magister officiorum (master of offices), Palladius the praetor, and Anatolius of Constantinople.[38]

It is unknown if Aspar and Ardabur directly dictated policy, but if so they were extremely careful to avoid upsetting the ruling elites of Constantinople; despite Aspar's large influence, the Eastern Roman elites retained much of their anti-German sentiment. Marcian patronized the Blues, who were one of the originally four circus teams. The two teams which remained had become more like political parties than sports teams by his time, wielding large influence in the empire, the other being the Greens, with both vying for power. After the Greens responded angrily to his patronage, Marcus censured them, forbidding any of them to hold any public office for three years. Marcian's patronage of the Blues may have had dynastic motivations, as Chrysaphius had been favorable to the Greens.[2]

Foreign relationsEdit

Vardan II Mamikonian, who was leading a revolt against the Sassanian Empire, sent an embassy to Theodosius in 450, composed of his brother Hmayeak Mamikonian, Atom Gnuni, Vardan Amatuni, and Meruzhan Artsruni, in order to ask for assistance, which was received favorably by Theodosius. These plans were cut short upon the death of Theodosius and accession of Marcian. Marcian was counseled by Anatolius and Florentius not to make war with the Sassanians, and thus did not agree to help them.[39] Later on, in c. 456, Marcian risked the anger of the Sassanids to strike against the king of Lazica, which was nominally a vassal state of the Eastern Roman Empire, Gubazes I, who was attempting to form an alliance with the Sassanians to break free of Eastern Roman control. Marcian launched a military campaign against him in 456, forcing him to acknowledge Eastern Roman rule. Marcian also demanded that Gubazes either abdicate or depose his son and co-ruler, Damnazes, as having two joint rulers was against Roman client state traditions. Gubazes chose to abdicate.[40] In 455 Marcian banned the export of weapons, and tools used to manufacture them, to barbarian tribes.[41]

Relationship with the Western Roman EmpireEdit

Marcian came to the throne during a time when the Eastern Roman Empire and Western Roman Empire were increasingly divided from each other, with both effectively acting as independent states. When Marcian was elected in 450, it was done without the consultation of the Western Emperor, Valentinian III,[11][12][13] who would not recognize him until March 452.[14][a] Valentinian also did not recognize the Eastern Roman consul for 451, Marcian, or 452, Sporacius.[42] Marcian also radically changed Eastern Roman policies, especially in relation to the Huns,[11] without consulting the Western Roman Empire, which infuriated Valentinian.[43] Hydatius suggests that Marcian made Eastern Roman troops available to Valentinian to repel the Huns, confusingly led by a man named Aetius, which may simply be a muddling of Aetius' campaign against Attila and Marcian's campaign against the Huns on the Danube.[44]

When Marcian settled the Ostrogoths in Pannonia and the Gepids in Tisza, he was accused of encroaching upon the border of Western Roman land.[45] Marcian avoided involving himself with the affairs of the Western Roman Empire when possible. When the Vandals attacked the Western Roman Empire and sacked Rome in 455, after Petronius Maximus assassinated Valentinian III and broke an engagement treaty with the Vandals, Marcian did not respond violently, possibly due to the influence of Aspar, merely sending an envoy demanding that the Vandals return the Eastern Roman Empress Licinia Eudoxia, and her daughters, Placidia and Eudocia.[2][45] A likely false account is given that Marcian, while captured by the Vandals in his youth, was shaded by an eagle while the other prisoners suffered the hot sun, according to this account the Vandal King Genseric recognized that Marcian would later be emperor, and made him pledge not to attack the Vandals should he become emperor, in exchange for being released.[b] This account originates from Priscus, who served as an advisor to Euphemius, the magister officiorum. Due to Euphemius' influence over foreign policy, some historians, such as Edward Arthur Thompson, have suggested that this account was a part of official imperial propaganda, which was generated to excuse Marcian's lack of retribution towards the Vandals, and quell any discontent.[47] There is some circumstantial and direct evidence that Marcian was planning on invading the Vandals should his demand for the hostages to be released be ignored: Marcian made peace with Lazica and settled the Ostrogoths and other tribes along the Danubian frontier, both of which would allow him to direct his attention elsewhere. Theodorus Lector, a Roman historian, states directly that Marcian was preparing to invade Africa shortly before his death. Evagrius Scholasticus, a Roman historian writing a century after the fact, states his belief that Marcian was successful in his demands, and that Genseric released both Licinia Eudoxia, Placidia and Eudocia.[48]

Marcian did not recognize any Western Emperor after Valentinian, denying Maximus when he sent an embassy requesting it, and similarly refusing to recognize Avitus, who succeeded Maximus.[15][49] The exact treatment of Avitus by Marcian is debated, the Roman historian Hydatius states that in 455 Avitus sent "[ambassadors] to Marcian for the sake of unanimity of power," and that "Marcian and Avitus make use of Roman power in concord". The exact usage of concord (concordia in the original Latin) has led to debate among scholars, with some, such as Thomas Hodgkin, J. B. Bury, and William Bayless, considering it grounds for belief that Marcian may have recognized Avitus, with most scholars taking more conservative stances on it; Ernst Stein suggested that it is merely a reflection of West Roman propaganda, Norman Baynes suggests it merely suggests that Marcian was cordial to Avitus, neither hostile nor friendly,[50][51] and C. E. Stevens interprets the phrase as meaning only that the meeting of the diplomats was amicable, rather than reflecting a relationship between the two.[50]


Marcian's reign ended on 26 January 457, when he died, possibly of gangrene;[37][52] according to some legends while at a long religious procession.[2] He was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in Constantinople, next to his wife Pulcheria.[2][52] He left the Eastern Empire with a budget surplus of seven million solidi, an impressive achievement considering the economic ruin inflicted upon Eastern Rome by the Huns, both through warfare and the massive subsidies they received under Theodosius.[53] Although Marcian had a son-in-law, Anthemius, he did not have any connection to the Theodosians, and thus would not be considered legitimate, so Aspar was once again left to play the role of emperor-maker. Aspar selected Leo I, a fifty-year-old officer commanding a unit in the praesental army. A later source claims that the Eastern Roman Senate offered to elect Aspar himself, but he declined, with the cryptic comment "I fear that a tradition in ruling might be initiated through me". This comment has often been interpreted to be a reference to the fact that he was an Arian,[2][37][52] or else to his Alanic heritage.[54]


The Column of Marcian in 2011

Marcian was received favorably by Eastern Roman and Byzantine sources, often compared to Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius I.[55] Marcian's reign was seen by many later Byzantine writers, such as Theophanes the Confessor, as a golden age: Marcian secured the Eastern Empire both politically and financially, set an orthodox religious line that future emperors would follow, and stabilized the capital city politically. Some later scholars attribute his success not just to his skill, but also to a large degree of luck: not only had he been fortunate enough to have Pulcheria to legitimize his rule, for much of his rule the two greatest external threats to Rome, Persia and the Huns, were absorbed with their own internal problems; additionally, no natural disasters or plagues occurred during his reign.[2][31][55] He was remembered fondly by the people of Constantinople, who would shout "Reign like Marcian!" at the installation of future emperors.[45]


The praefectus urbi Tatianus built a column dedicated to Marcian, sometime between 450 and 452,[56][57] which stands in Istanbul, though the statue of Marcian which originally topped it has been lost.[58] Marcian also had a statue in the Forum of Arcadius, which contained the statues of several of the successors of Eastern Emperor Arcadius.[59] Marcian may have been the sponsor of the Chrysotriklinos of the Great Palace of Constantinople; the Patria of Constantinople states that Marcian constructed it, whereas the Suda states that Eastern Emperor Justin II built it and most historians agree. The Byzantine historian Joannes Zonaras states that Justin II actually rebuilt an older construction, which some historians identify as the Heptaconch Hall of Eastern Emperor Justinian.[60]

Ancient sourcesEdit


  1. ^ a b Timothy E. Gegory states that Marcian was recognized by Valentinian III on 30 March 451.[15]
  2. ^ Propaganda involving the story of an eagle blocking the sun, and another figure recognizing they would be emperor, was used by both Byzantine emperors Philippikos Bardanes and Basil I.[46]


  1. ^ Meijer 2004, p. 153.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Nathan.
  3. ^ Vasiliev 1980, p. 104.
  4. ^ Baldwin 1982, p. 98.
  5. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, pp. 714–715.
  6. ^ a b c d Friell & Williams 2005, p. 84.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Lee 2013, p. 96.
  8. ^ Thompson 1950, pp. 60–65.
  9. ^ Thompson 1950, pp. 60–78.
  10. ^ Lee 2013, p. 94.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Lee 2013, p. 97.
  12. ^ a b c Jeffreys, Haldon & Cormack 2008, p. 243.
  13. ^ a b c Cameron, Ward-Perkins & Whitby 2001, p. 42.
  14. ^ a b Cameron, Ward-Perkins & Whitby 2001, p. 43.
  15. ^ a b c Gregory 1991, p. 1296.
  16. ^ Dzino & Parry 2017, p. 258.
  17. ^ Friell & Williams 2005, p. 85.
  18. ^ Friell & Williams 2005, p. 86.
  19. ^ a b c Friell & Williams 2005, p. 87.
  20. ^ Thompson 1950, p. 70.
  21. ^ Friell & Williams 2005, p. 88.
  22. ^ Friell & Williams 2005, p. 89.
  23. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, p. 138.
  24. ^ Vasiliev 1980, p. 105.
  25. ^ a b Vasiliev 1980, p. 99.
  26. ^ a b Lee 2013, p. 145.
  27. ^ Lee 2013, p. 146.
  28. ^ Lee 2013, p. 147.
  29. ^ Bury 2012, p. 380.
  30. ^ Bauer 2010, pp. 122–123.
  31. ^ a b Grant 1985, p. 306.
  32. ^ Herrin 2009, p. 11.
  33. ^ Bjornlie 2016, p. 60.
  34. ^ a b c Bury 2012, pp. 236–237.
  35. ^ Pharr, Davidson & Pharr 2001, p. 562.
  36. ^ Evans 2002, p. 66.
  37. ^ a b c Lee 2013, p. 98.
  38. ^ Grant 1985, p. 305.
  39. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, pp. 85–86.
  40. ^ Dawes 1948, p. 79.
  41. ^ Holmes, Singleton & Jones 2001.
  42. ^ McEvoy 2013, p. 290, note 84.
  43. ^ Potter 2008, p. 302.
  44. ^ McEvoy 2013, p. 294.
  45. ^ a b c Grant 1985, p. 307.
  46. ^ Lilie 2014, p. 193.
  47. ^ Thompson 1950, p. 68.
  48. ^ Mathisen 1981, p. 243.
  49. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 704.
  50. ^ a b Mathisen 1981, p. 237.
  51. ^ Baynes 1922, p. 223.
  52. ^ a b c Meijer 2004, p. 154.
  53. ^ Friell & Williams 2005, p. 127.
  54. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 51.
  55. ^ a b Gregory 1991, p. 1297.
  56. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, pp. 1053–1054.
  57. ^ D'Ayala & Fodde 2008, p. 1167.
  58. ^ Freely & Çakmak 2004, p. 63.
  59. ^ Kazhdan 1991a, p. 1347.
  60. ^ Kostenec 2008.


External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Marcian at Wikimedia Commons
Preceded by
Theodosius II
Eastern Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Leo I