Theodosius II and his image: three case studies in imperial presentation, ceremonial and reception
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 02:32 by Alexandra Lee Kujanpaa
Theodosius II (402-450 AD) was a non-campaigning sedentary emperor who lived and ruled the majority of his life within the city walls of Constantinople. He was orphaned and became sole Emperor at aged seven after the death of his father, Arcadius, in 408 and would continue to reign in the East successfully for a further forty-two years. Despite the limitations and anxieties associated with child-emperor rule, there is no clear evidence to suggest his position was ever contested nor his role as emperor ever questioned. This thesis will analyse three key components of the emperor’s reign to consider how the Eastern Theodosian regime first adapted and later developed traditional imperial presentation to better suit their unique situation of an emperor ruling the empire from such a young age without any adult familial support. The first case study examines the contemporary presentation and long-term reception of the public image of the Eastern branch of the Theodosian family. It will highlight the earliest identifiable establishment of this image in 414, after the proclamation of perpetual virginity by the emperor’s sisters and Pulcheria’s elevation to Augusta, and assess how it grew and developed alongside the family. The second case study assesses, through five examples, the active role Theodosius II played in the ceremonial life of Constantinople. It will highlight not only how this emperor reinvented traditional elements in imperial performance, but will also show the consistent portrayal of his behaviour in the sources that range from contemporary accounts to the ninth century. Finally, the third case study analyses the portrayal of Theodosius II as the father figure to Western emperor Valentinian III, his young cousin. This case study assesses three key events, the Eastern military expedition to install Valentinian III onto the Western throne between 424 and 425, the marriage of Theodosius II’s only surviving child, Licinia Eudoxia to the Western emperor in 437, and the proclamation of the Theodosian Code a year later, to show the ongoing development of this image throughout this period. Through these three case studies, this thesis will argue that Theodosius II was not only an active participant in his long reign, but also successfully established a new form of active leadership – one based primarily within the imperial city and amongst its citizenry.