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Headword: Theodosios
Adler number: theta,144
Translated headword: Theodosios, Theodosius, Theodosius I, Theodosius the Great
Vetting Status: high
A Roman emperor. After the execution of the tyrant Maximus[1] and the defeat and slaughter of the Scythians hidden in the swamp[2] and the slaughter of the Romans,[3] going to Constantinople, he decided to renounce wars and battles, entrusting these affairs to Promotos.[4] He returned to his former way of life, busying himself with very costly meals and priding himself in luxuries, the theater, and chariot racing.[5] I marvel at the inclination of this man towards two opposite ways of living. For, being careless and inclined to complete laziness,[6] he submitted to this nature when there was no fear whatsoever of difficult campaigning or exertion. But when compelled to act by necessity against some threatening situation, he shrugged off his laziness and, saying farewell to luxury, he became more manly, industrious, and enduring.[7] He demonstrated these qualities during the trial; after he was released from this mindset, he was enslaved to the carelessness inherent in his nature. Among those holding power, Rufinus, a Celt,[8] was especially honored and was the Magister Officiorum.[9] After proclaiming his son Honorius as Augustus,[10] he convoked the Senate [at Rome], which cleaved to ancestral customs and preferred not to submit to those inclined to despise the [pagan] gods.[11] He opened the discussion, calling on the Senators to abandon the error that formerly held them and to embrace the religion of the Christians, the public profession of which is a release from all sin and impiety. None of the senators obeyed the injunction nor chose to denounce their ancestral traditions, which dated to the founding of the city, in favor of honoring Christian beliefs. [The senators said that] by protecting their ancestral customs, they had inhabited a city that had been free from destruction for nearly 1200 years and, exchanging new beliefs for these, they were uncertain of the future.[12] Theodosius responded that the state was oppressed by the expense of the pagan sacrifices and offerings and he recommended that these be discontinued, since he did not approve of their being practiced and, moreover, the military was in need of additional resources. The senators said that the sacrifices could not be practiced according to custom unless supported by public expenditure. Therefore traditional sacrifice was suspended and the Roman Empire was progressively weakened.
Saint Theodosius, the Cenobiarch,[13] lived under Emperor Anastasius 'Dicorus', the heretic.[14]
Greek Original:
Theodosios, basileus Rhômaiôn, meta tên Maximou tou turannou anairesin kai tên hêttan kai sphagên tôn en tois helesi kruptomenôn Skuthôn kai sphagên Rhômaiôn es tên Kônstantinoupolin elthôn polemois men apeipein egnôkei kai machais, epitrepsas ta peri tauta Promôtôi: autos de tês proteras anemimnêsketo diaitês, polutelê deipna deipnôn kai polupragmonôn, tais hêdonais kai tois theatrois kai hippodromiais enabrunomenos. thaumazô de toutou tên eph' hekatera tou biou rhopên: phusei gar ôn ekmelês rhaithumiai te pasêi ekkeimenos, lupêrou men auton oudenos ên deos epagontos ê enochlountos, en- edidou têi phusei. kathistamenos de es anankên saleuein kata tina kathestôta prosdokômenên, apetitheto men tên rhaithumian kai têi truphêi chairein eipôn es to andrôdesteron kai epiponon kai tlêpathes anechôrei. toioutos ex autês apodedeigmenos tês peiras, epeidê pasês ên apêllagmenos phrontidos, tais autôi phusei prosousais ekmeleiais edouleue. tôn de tas archas metiontôn kat' exaireton en timêi êgeto Rhouphinos, Keltos to genos, magistros tôn en têi boulêi taxeôn katastas. ho autos meta to anagoreusai ton huion autou Honôrion en têi Rhômaiôn basileiai sunekalese tên gerousian, tois patriois emmenousan ethesi kai ouch helomenên enechthênai tois peri tôn theôn apoklinasi kataphronêsin, logous te prosêge, parakalôn aphienai men hên proteron heilonto planên, helesthai de tên tôn Christianôn pistin, hês epangelia pantos hamartêmatos kai pasês asebeias apallagê. mêdenos de têi paraklêsei peisthentos mêde helomenou tôn aph' houper hê polis ôikisthê paradedomenôn autois patriôn anachôrêsai kai protimêsai toutôn ta Christianôn: ekeina men phulaxantas diakosiois kai chiliois schedon etesin aporthêton tên polin oikein, hetera de anti toutôn allaxamenous to ekbêsomenon agnoein: ho de barunesthai elege to dêmosion têi peri ta hiera kai tas thusias dapanêi, boulesthai te tauta perielein, oute to prattomenon epainounta, kai allôs tês stratiôtikês chreias pleionôn deomenês chrêmatôn. tôn de apo tês gerousias mê kata thesmon eipontôn prattesthai ta teloumena, mête dêmosiou dapanêmatos ontos, dia touto tou thuêpolikou thesmou lêxantos, hê Rhômaiôn epikrateia kata meros êlattôthê. hoti ho hagios Theodosios, ho Koinobiarchês, epi Anastasiou basileôs ên, tou Dikorou, tou hairetikou.
Theodosius I the Great [for Theodosius II see theta 145]: 346 - January 17, 395 CE. Crowned Augustus on January 19, 378. See generally OCD(4) s.v. Theodosius(2); PLRE I, s.v. Flavius Theodosius 4; RE 10 and Suppl. 13.837-961; De Imperatoribus Romanis (David Woods) at web address 1.
As typical of entries on historical figures, the Suda presents a highly selective image of Theodosius’ life. This entry essentially consists of two passages from ZosimusNova Historia (4.50-51 and 4.59) and an unrelated appendage on a homonym, Theodosius the Cenobiarch. The passages from Zosimus (zeta 169?) were probably derived from EunapiusChronicle (349 – c.414 CE), which linked the disasters of the fourth and fifth centuries to the abandonment of traditional religious practices. Eunapius’ negative depiction of Theodosius, who to Eunapius completed the destruction of the empire begun by Constantine (Buck 1988, p. 41), undoubtedly influenced Zosimus’ characterization (Mendelssohn 1887, p. 266; Zosimus 1979, vol. 2, p. 447; cf. Jeep, op.cit. ibid.; Cameron 1969, p. 259). This entry follows Zosimus almost exactly, although a few sentences are simplified and some of Zosimus’ overtly anti-Christian rhetoric is suppressed.
[1] Theodosius initially recognized Magnus Maximus (De Imperatoribus Romanis, Walter E. Roberts, at web address 2) as Augustus after he had executed the western Emperor Gratian and occupied Gaul in 383. But when Maximus expelled Valentinian II in 387, Theodosius marched to the West and executed him at Aquila on August 27, 388.
[2] A contingent of Goths ('Scythians'), which may have included Alaric, defected from the Eastern army in 387 when Theodosius joined Valentinian II in the war against Maximus. They plundered the area of Salonica until Theodosius returned in 391 and drove them into Thrace. For the bizarre story of how Theodosius defeated the Goths, see Zosimus NH 4.48-49. The reference to Scythians here undoubtedly derives from the imprecise and confused ethnographic terminology used by the Suda’s sources. See Miteva 1988 for a full account (web address 3).
[3] It seems likely that the cryptic 'slaughter of Romans' refers to Theodosius’ infamous execution (in 390) of 7000 inhabitants of Thessalonica in retribution for the death of his general Butheric and several officers (Ambrose, Ep. 51; Theodoret, HE 5.17-18; Larson 1970). On strict chronological grounds, this notice cannot refer to the defeat of Arbogast (alpha 81) and Eugenius (De Imperatoribus Romanis, Walter E. Roberts, web address 4) at the Battle of Frigidus in 394, as Promotus fell from favor in 392. The 'slaughter of Romans', however, does not appear in Zosimus and it is possible that the Suda or its direct source has mistakenly included the battle of Frigidus at this point.
[4] pole/mois – katasta/s comes nearly verbatim from Zosimus NH 4.50-51; the entry omits Zosimus’ introduction, which implies that exhaustion from campaigning, rather than a venal spirit, contributed to Theodosius’ withdrawal. Promotus commanded Theodosius’ cavalry during the campaign against Maximus (RE VI A, pp. 1240f.; PLRE I, p. 914f.). He was removed from Court in 392 at the order of Theodosius (PLRE I, p. 750-751).
[5] Theodosius’ addiction to luxury was a common element of the portraits constructed by Eunapius and Zosimus: Eunapius frr. 48 and 49 (Exc. de Sent.); Zosimus NH 4.27.1; 4.33; 4.44.1, 4.50. Unsurprisingly, his panegyrist Pacatus praises him for frugality (Pacatus 13).
[6] cf. epsilon 498: e)kmelh\s r(a|qumi/a| te pa/sh| e)kkei/menos.
[7] cf. Zosimus NH 4.43.2.
[8] i.e. in 393 at Constantinople. Rufinus (rho 240) was a native of Aquitaine.
[9] Magister Officiorum: supervised all audiences with the emperor and had extensive authority over both civil and military officers (Cod. 1 tit.31; 12 tit.16; Cod. Theod. 1 tit.9; 6 tit.9; Amm. Marc. 15.5; 20.2, 22.3; Cassiod. Variar. 6.6). At this point the Suda breaks away from Zosimus’ account, which focused on political intrigues surrounding Rufinus’ rise to power and the war against Arbogast and Eugenius (NH 4.51-58).
[10] Honorius (omicron 405) was not elevated to Augustus in Rome, as this entry implies, but at Constantinople’s Hebdomon on January 23rd, 393, before Theodosius departed to the West to suppress Eugenius’ insurrection (Consul. Vind. Chron. I p. 298, 393, 521 and Seeck V p. 539). Honorius, however, had been proclaimed Caesar in Rome, with Theodosius in attendance, in 389 (Pacatus 47.3).
[11] The remainder of this entry’s discussion of Theodosius is derived from Zosimus NH 4.59.1-3. While Theodosius’ call on the senators to renounce pagan rites may have been historical (Ridley 1982, p. 204, n. 156), the story of Theodosius’ journey to Rome and his confrontation with a pagan senate in the fall of 394 is fiction (Zosimus 1986, vol. 2, pp. 470-473; Ensslin 1953; Döpp 1975; Buck 1988, p. 50-52; cf. Cameron 1969). It was not Theodosius but Gratian who first abolished state subsides for pagan rites in conjunction with the Altar of Victory controversy in 382. In fact, the subsidies had only been re-instituted by Eugenius and Nicomachus Flavianus in the months before the battle of Frigidus (Cameron 1969, p. 251).
[12] The anacoluthon at the start of this sentence is caused by the substitution of the neutral ta\ *xristianw=n for the anti-Christian a)/logon sugkata/qesin ('absurd submission') of Zosimus’ text.
[13] Theodosius the Cenobiarch: b. 423, Garissus; d. 529 CE; founded a large monastery at Cathismus and three churches before being appointed Cenobiarch – or supervisor - of all religious communities in Palestine; see Wikipedia entry at web address 5.
[14] cf. alpha 2077. Born c. 430 CE; selected by the Empress Ariadne as successor to her husband Zeno; acclaimed emperor on April 11, 491; d. July 9th, 518; nicknamed “Dicoros” (Two-Pupils) because of the color of his eyes: one black, one blue. He believed in Monophysitism, which held that Christ has only one nature, as opposed to the Chalcedonian (orthodox) position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human. Anastasius attempted to bribe Saint Theodosius to gain support for Monophysitism but Theodosius distributed the money to the poor.
Blockley, R.C. The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire: Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. Liverpool: F. Cairns, 1981
Buck, D.F. "Eunapius of Sardis and Theodosius the Great," Byzantion 58 (1988): 36-53
-------- "Eunapius, Eutropius and the Suda," Rheinisches Museum fuer Philologie 135 (1992): 365-366
Cameron, A. "Theodosius the Great and the Regency of Stilicho," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 73 (1969): 247-280
Döpp, S. "Theodosius I. ein zweites Mal in Rom?" Apophoreta. Für Uvo Hölscher zum 60. Geburtstag Ed. A. Patzer. Bonn: Habelt, 1975). 73-83
Ensslin, W. "War Kaiser Theodosius I. zweimal in Rom?" Hermes 81 (1953): 500-507
Ernesti, J. Princeps christianus und Kaiser aller Römer: Theodosius der Grosse im Lichte zeitgenössischer Quellen. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1998
Larson, C.W.R. "Theodosius and the Thessalonian massacre revisited-yet again." Studia patristica, X. Ed. F.L. Cross. Berlin: Akad.-Verl., 1982. 297-301
Lippold, A. Theodosius der Grosse und seine Zeit. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1968
Matthews, J.F. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court AD 364-425. Oxford, 1975
Miteva, Neli. "Some Ethnocultural Problems in the Evidence of the Authors During Late Antiquity About Thracian Lands." Thracia 8 (1988): 12-16
Paschoud, F. Cinq études sur Zosime. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1975
Ridley, R.T. Zosimus' New History. Canberra, 1982
Rohrbacher, D. The Historians of Late Antiquity. New York: Routledge, 2002
Williams, S. and J G.P. Friell. Theodosius: the Empire at Bay. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995
Zosimus, Zosimi Historia Nova edidit Ludovicus Mendelssohn. Leipzig, 1887
------- Histoire Nouvelle; text établi et traduit par François Paschoud. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1979
Associated internet addresses:
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Web address 2,
Web address 3,
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Web address 5
Keywords: athletics; biography; Christianity; chronology; constitution; ethics; food; historiography; history; military affairs; politics; religion
Translated by: Bret Mulligan on 29 November 2003@21:18:51.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (typos, status) on 30 November 2003@00:36:07.
David Whitehead (added x-ref; cosmetics) on 30 November 2003@04:47:07.
Catharine Roth (added keyword) on 2 October 2005@01:46:32.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics; raised status) on 31 December 2012@06:36:21.
David Whitehead on 5 August 2014@06:44:52.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 January 2015@23:42:45.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 4 January 2015@11:27:49.
Catharine Roth (replaced web link 5) on 5 January 2015@00:51:40.
Catharine Roth (expanded references) on 19 October 2018@01:34:45.


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