Theodosius II was the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire during the first half of the fifth century. He is known for the law code Codex Theodosianus produced during his reign and for the erection of the defensive walls for Constantinople known as the Theodosian Wall.
Flavius Theodosius was born in April 401, the eldest son of Aelia Eudoxia and the Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius. In January 402, he was proclaimed co-Augustus by his father Arcadius and succeeded, under the regency of the praetorian prefect Anthemius, to the throne upon the death of his father in 408. His older sister, Pulcheria influenced his life greatly, particularly pushing him toward Orthodox Christianity. In 414, at the age of fifteen, Pulcheria dismissed Anthemius, having found fault with his tutoring of Theodosius. She then assumed the position of regent and was proclaimed Augusta as well as becoming his tutor. In 416, Theodosius II was proclaimed emperor in his own right while Pulcheria continued to administer the government. While taking a light hand on affairs of government Pulcheria’s influence with Theodosius was visible in ecclesiastical affairs. In June 421, Theodosius married Aelia Eudocia, by whom he had daughter, Licinia Eudoxia.
While significant events occurred during his reign, their accomplishment was most often through the efforts of other people. In response to the invasions of the western parts of the empire by Goths, construction of extensive fortifications was began in 413 by the regent Anthemius. These new fortifications came to be called the Wall of Theodosius.
In 429, Theodosius appointed a commission to collect all the laws issued from the time of the reign of Constantine the Great. The work was published in the Codex Theodosianus in 438. With the agreement of the western emperor Valentinian III, the collection was published in a set of sixteen books. This law code was the basis for the code of law issued by Emperor Justinian in 529.
Theodosius’ sister Pulcheria, a devout Christian, maintained a court with an austere atmosphere. Under her influence Theodosius and his wife Aelia Eudoxia became devout Christians. While seemingly indifferent to Arianism practiced by the German tribes, Pulcheria stood firm against the heretical teachings of Nestorius. Whenever Theodosius wavered toward supporting Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople, Pulcheria, who supported Cyril of Alexandria, would assert her influence over her brother steering him away from Nestorianism. The controversies eventually led to the Council of Ephesus in 431.
In 441, Theodosius, under the influence of the eunuch Chrysaphius, was convinced to dismiss his sister. Theodosius then began to support the Monophysite heresy that was promoted by the archimandrite Eutyches and Dioscorus. Dioscorus was the patriarch of Alexandria and successor to Cyril. Eutyches’ views were validated by the 'Robber Council' of 449. On July 28, 450, Theodosius died when he was thrown from his horse while crossing the River Lycus, severely injuring his spine. The new emperor Marcian returned, with Pulcheria as his wife, and convened the Council of Chalcedon in 351 which found Monophysitism to be heretical.
Other than his initiatives in updating the legal code for the empire, his lengthy reign was relatively devoid of achievements. Civil war was practically non-existent in the eastern empire which enjoyed internal stability, but the west slowly disintegrated under barbarian pressures. In Christian affairs, his actions were strongly influenced by presence of his sister Pulcheria who supported the Orthodox position in the Christological disputes, but in his latter years his support of the monophysitic side temporarily threw the Orthodox Christians into disarray before his death.
|Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor