is a Christian name
with Greek roots, rare, but still used in Eastern Christianity
. The name consists of two Greek elements: Eu
, which means good, and doxa
, which can mean teaching, glory, fame, opinion, or belief
. Carrying the name Eudoxia certainly meant fame to several women who lived as the Roman Empire waned. Quite often they had glory, too, but not all of them were reputed to follow the right teachings.
Aelia Eudoxia was the first, most famous, and most infamous of these women. Her father was Bauto, a general of Frankish origin who also served as a consul. Eudoxia was destined for high places, and was given a good education from private tutors.
Eudoxia was said to be extremely beautiful. Little wonder, then, that the new emperor of Eastern Rome took her as his bride. Her marriage to Arcadius in 395 AD may also have been a political move, the result of intrigues at the court, a battle between the grand chamberlain Eutropius and Rufinus, who was the praetorian prefect and Arcadius' guardian. Eudoxia came from a rivaling household to that of Rufinus.
Upon marriage, Eudoxia took the name Aelia after the family of her mother-in-law. Flaccilla, Arcadius' mother with the powerful title Augusta, must have been a role model for Eudoxia. She was made an empress herself in 400 AD, having proven her worth by giving birth to two daughters. Eudoxia became influential at court, often making decisions which went against her husband's wishes.
Coins made after her coronation show Eudoxia dressed in the paludamentum of Roman rulers. This was common regalia for emperors, but the only empress who had worn it beforer her was Flaccilla. In addition to this, Eudoxia was shown with a hand hovering over her head. This symbolized God's selection of her as empress. Finally, official pictures of the empress with the same status as those of an emperor were circulated in the provinces. Honorius, the brother of Arcadius and emperor of Western Rome, protested against so much honour bestowed on an upstart barbarian woman, but Byzantium did not heed his words.
Eudoxia was an important patroness for the Nicene church, both by giving donations and by partaking in vigils. She contributed, for instance, large silver crosses and a eunuch (as choirmaster) to a nighttime procession against the Arian religion. She had the power to convoke synods whenever conflicts arose within the church.
Such power, inappropriateness, or something else really upset the Byzantine bishop John Chrysostom. He began by criticising the lifestyle of the prosperous people of the city, but soon his attacks got more personal. He was particularly upset about a large silver statue of the empress which was erected near a church, and which was celebrated in an orgiastic fashion. In a Sermon on Immorality, John criticised women with too much power and made thinly veiled comparisons between Eudoxia and Jezebel. For this act, he was exiled by a synod arranged by Eudoxia. However, popular demand, as well as an ominous earthquake believed to show God's displeasure, soon recalled him. A few months later, however, he was exiled again, this time after likening Eudoxia with the immoral Herodias and himself with John the Baptist. When John Chrysostom died in exile, Eudoxia got the dubious honour of being the cause of his martyrdom. Later Christian scholars made sure this woman was maligned - not only was she power-hungry, they said, she also had an insatiable appetite for sex and was, in fact, controlled by her courtiers.
Through this sea of rumours, the only fact that remains about Empress Aelia Eudoxia is that she died in 404 AD, following complications in childbirth. She had given birth to four live daughters and one son, and gone through two stillbirths. Her son later became Emperor Theodosius II, while her daughter Pulcheria took a vow of virginity to preserve her power and was later given the title of Empress as well. Eudoxia had succeeded in what every Roman noble seemed to want; ascertaining the power of her children. Considering that, a blackened reputation may have been a small price to pay.
(same name, different spelling
) belonged to the next generation. She was a Greek woman, born about 400 AD, to the non-Christian rhetorician Leontius
. Her father gave her a good education in classical literature
. However, he left her only 100 pieces of gold at his death, alledgedly saying that she would manage, as "her luck was greater than that of all women". She was said to be beautiful, too, which must have helped.
Athenais travelled to Byzantium, where the empress Pulcheria possibly befriended her and decided she would make a suitable bride for her brother. In 421, Athenais was baptised and took the new name Aelia Licinia Eudocia, and in the same year she married Theodosius II. After two years of marriage she had produced a baby daughter and was promptly given the title Augusta.
Athenais Eudocia and Theodosius lived peacefully together for twenty years. They had three children, but only one daughter, Licinia Eudocia, survived to adulthood. Eudocia promoted classical studies and used her influence to protect non-Christians in the empire. She also dedicated herself to her new religion, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where she found and brought back various relics, such as the chains of Saint Peter. On her way to the holy city she stopped over in Antioch, where she so delighted the citizens with her rhetoric skills, and her donation to restore the buildings of the city, that they made a gold statue in her honour.
Rivalry had been growing between the two Byzantine empresses for some time, and about 440 it came to a head. Some later historians say Eudocia was accused of infidelity. Whatever it was, Eudocia left the court and returned to Jerusalem, where she stayed until the end of her days. She spent her time writing poetry and searching her soul. She became a Monophysite for a while, but returned to the Catholic fold when Pope Leo I asked her nicely to do so. Before her death in 460, she was reconciled with Pulcheria - Theodosius had died in 450.
Two of Eudocia's longer poems have survived. The Martyrdom of St. Cyprian of Antioch describes a magician's conversion to the true faith, while the Homeric centos is a re-shuffling of Homer's verses to tell about the life of Christ. She also wrote a poem about her husband's victories in Persia, and paraphrases of the Octateuch, the book of Daniel and the book of Zechariah.
In the meantime, Eudocia's daughter Eudoxia had moved on to become empress of Rome.
married her cousin, the Western Roman emperor Valentinian III
, in 437. She was fifteen years old, and this Eudoxia, too, was praised as being ravishing. She entered Rome's ruling family during a stormy time. The empire wobbled from internal strife and repeated attacks by various barbarian tribes. Attila the Hun
was threatening from the north while Gaiseric
of the Vandals
made his stronghold in Africa.
Valentinian was stabbed in 455, probably on the orders of Petronius Maximus, a powerful nobleman who had been slighted by him. There are two stories about this event. One says that Valentinian, fond of seducing married women as he was, had lured the wife of Petronius to his palace and raped her. Another, and more likely one, is that he refused to give Petronius the prominence in politics that he wanted.
Through bribes and threats Petronius Maximus became emperor, and married Licinia Eudoxia, quite against her will, in order to strengthen his position. He also wedded his son to one of her daughters, probably the one called Eudoxia.
Some historians say Licinia Eudoxia appealed to the king of the Vandals for help. However, Gaiseric most likely didn't need any invitation. Two months after the new emperor had ascended the throne, Rome was threatened by vandals. Petronius Maximus was killed, dismembered and thrown into the Tiber by a mob. A few days later, the Vandals entered an unresisting Rome where they plundered temples, churches, and houses for two weeks. When Gaiseric went back to Carthage, he brought with him the empress and her two daughters, Placidia and Eudoxia.
Some time in the 460s, after much insistence from the various powers in Rome, Placidia and her mother were released. Licinia Eudoxia lived out her life in Byzantium as one of its leading ladies.
Eudoxia the younger, however, had become the wife of Huneric, Gaiseric's eldest son who would succeed him. Together they got the son Hilderic, who would become the second last king of the Vandals.
Huneric happened to be Arian and strongly anti-Catholic. Eudoxia therefore can't have had much chance to practice her own religion. It's an irony of fate, perhaps, that this Eudoxia ended up where her great grandmother had begun; as a pagan barbarian with Roman connections.