IX THE EMPRESS EUDOXIA From the story of Christian Womanhood in Old Rome on the Tiber we pass naturally to the story of Christian Womanhood in that New Rome on the Bosporus, where Constantine the Great had established an imperial city which was destined to be the centre of the religious and political life of the civilized peoples of the East for over a thousand years, and to keep alive during the Dark Ages the torch of civilization. The victories of the Caesars in the extensive domain Hellenized by Alexander the Great had been surpassed only by the victories of the Christ, and in Constantinople the authority of Church and State blended in one inseparable union and determined the destinies of millions of men and women in Europe, Asia, and Africa. As Greek culture was ever an important factor in the eastern half of the Roman Empire, the story of the Christian women of the East is but a continuation of the story of Greek women. Hence, it is our task to consider how Hellenized womanhood was affected by that new principle which had entered into the world. Christianity, with its emphasis on the affections, naturally appealed to women, who, says Aristotle, |are creatures of passion, as opposed to men, who are capable of living by reason.| And from the days of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the women of antiquity accepted in large numbers the new teaching. They found that their lives were uplifted by it, their activities enlarged, their influence among men strengthened. The status of woman among Oriental peoples was consequently considerably changed. The recognition, so slowly won, that women had immortal souls equalized them with the other sex, and with the permeation of Christianity into the life of paganism began the real emancipation of the female sex. Functions beyond those of housewifery and maternity were conceded to woman. Chrysostom, in a letter to a Roman lady, after speaking of the division of duties assigned by nature to men and women, says that the Christian life had extended woman's sphere beyond the duties of the home, and had given her an important part to perform in the work and struggles of the Church for the elevation of mankind. Her chief function, in his opinion, was that of consoler and ministering angel. Thus woman was acknowledged to have a mission -- a view that has prevailed through all the Christian ages. In the pursuit of this idea, many of the loveliest and most highly endowed women of ancient times devoted themselves to the relief of sickness and suffering and extended the influence of the Church by this exhibition of the spirit of humanity. Christianity was gradually transforming the spirit of the ancient world. But these earlier centuries of the Christian era were a season of twilight during which light and darkness mingled. Paganism and Christianity were waging a silent but determined warfare, and the latter, by absorbing the best that was in the former, left it but a hollow shell, the connotation of worldliness and unbelief. The ethical philosophy of the Greeks and the moral teachings of the Stoics and the Epicureans had found their logical end in the philosophical doctrines of Christianity and had prepared the way for the acceptance of the latter. Christianity continued the idea of conformity to the divine government of the world taught by the Stoics, and the insistence on friendship and brotherly love emphasized by the Epicureans, and had given life to these doctrines by the presentation of a divine example. This evolution of the highest ethical ideas of the ancients in the nobler spirit of Christianity had its logical outcome in the prevailing institutions of the Christian world. Stoicism developed into the asceticism that appealed so strongly to many consecrated men and women, and Christian Epicureanism showed itself in the many brotherhoods and sisterhoods which labored for the betterment of humanity in the care of the sick and the unfortunate. One of the effects of the Stoical idea combined with the new conception of the mission of woman was the prevalence of celibacy. Many women chose to devote their time to good works rather than to the cares of family life. Furthermore, |the horror of unchastity -- the desecration of the body, the temple of the soul -- which had taken possession of the age with a sort of morbid excess led to vows of perpetual virginity.| This emphasis on the unmarried life was unfortunate for the race, as it conduced to degeneracy and depopulation; but it produced many examples of consecrated and devoted women, who have merited the homage bestowed on them by later ages. As regards the relation of the sexes, the greatest contrast lay in the Christian conception of a purified spiritual love, as compared with the carnal and sensual love of the pagan peoples. This is illustrated by the popularity of the celebrated legend of Cyprian and Justina, which was later versified by the Empress Eudoxia. Justina was a young and beautiful maiden of Corinth, who was passionately loved by a handsome pagan youth, Aglaides. Every effort to win the maiden's affections, which were given to Christ, proving of no avail, Aglaides determined to enlist in his cause the powers of darkness. To this end he engaged the services of a powerful magician, Cyprian by name, who was versed in all the magic lore of the Chaldeans and the Egyptians. The wizard's art devised every form of temptation, but the demons who were called up to accomplish the maiden's ruin fled at the sign of the Cross which she made; and Justina emerged from the ordeal pure and spotless, untainted by all the arts of the Evil One. Cyprian, overcome by the beauty and innocence and unbounded faith of the maiden, was himself inspired with the purest and most intense love for Justina, and, renouncing all his arts, was converted to Christianity. The devoted pair suffered martyrdom in the persecutions of Diocletian. Such Christian ideals, opposing all that was basest in paganism, naturally developed a new and an exceedingly high type of womanhood. Of the women of the provinces we know almost nothing, for the records of the Eastern Empire centre about the capital city. We may be sure, however, that throughout the Orient Christian womanhood exhibited its characteristic traits of piety and unselfishness. In Constantinople, though an intensely religious city, paganism for centuries continued to exert a marked influence, and the type of woman there varied in accordance with the proportions of the two ingredients -- Christianity and paganism -- in the mental and spiritual aggregate of the individual woman. Some, to avoid the vanities and temptations of the world, lived lives of retirement in secluded monasteries; others, often of prominent social position, partook not of the gay life of the city, but gave themselves up to good works, ministering to the sick, providing for the poor, uplifting the fallen; while others, chiefly in the court circles, knew how to combine with their devotion to all the vanities and frivolities of high life a strict attention to the external duties of Christianity. The religious sisters of the day were an important factor in the society of Constantinople, and the exercise of their spiritual duties often brought them before the public in a manner inconsistent with the prevailing ideas of female retirement. A popular priest or bishop became the target of admiration on the part of enthusiastic women, who would gather about him and espouse his cause in a way that was often more embarrassing than helpful. As Jerome in Old Rome, so Chrysostom in New Rome was the centre of such a spiritual circle.
These various types of Christian womanhood present themselves in the reign of Arcadius, the first independent emperor of the Eastern Empire so called, and we are indebted to the sermons of the patriarch Chrysostom for many glimpses into their lives. Far more than in Old Rome the influence of women made itself felt in the government at Constantinople, and under almost every dynasty and throughout the centuries of its existence we find remarkable ladies of the imperial house playing a prominent part in politics as well as in religion.
The keynote of this new departure was struck by Eudoxia, empress of Arcadius, and the influence of her personality and her example upon her successors was marked. Hence, her career and that of the women of her time constitute the initial stage in the prominence of Christian women of the East.
Owing to the intellectual weakness of Arcadius, who inherited the eastern half of the Empire upon the death of Theodosius the Great in 395, the administration really fell into the hands of his minister, Rufinus, a vicious and avaricious man. Having the entire control of the army and an unbounded influence over the emperor, Rufinus cherished the hope that he might himself become a wearer of the purple as the colleague of Arcadius. To facilitate this end he fostered the scheme of uniting Arcadius in marriage to his only daughter; once the emperor's father-in-law, it would be but a step further to become a sharer of the purple.
While Rufinus, in secret with his confidants, nurtured this idea, the wily head of the opposite party of the court, getting an inkling of it, set everything in motion to turn the eyes of the inexperienced youth toward another maiden. The eunuch Eutropius, the grand chamberlain of the palace, a bold old man with Oriental craftiness, determined that to himself, and not to Rufinus, should the emperor be bound. Hence, while the old warrior was on a journey to Corinth avenging a private injury, Eutropius fixed the attention of the emperor upon Eudoxia, a maiden of singular beauty, the daughter of Bauto, a distinguished Frankish general, and reared since her father's death by the family of the sons of Promotus, an ancient Roman patrician. Eudoxia was at that time at the dawn of perfect womanhood. Her education had been received under the auspices of her rich and noble patrons, and in native gifts, as well as in beauty, she seemed destined by the Fates to be the consort of an emperor. Eutropius, by showing him her portrait and by glowing descriptions of her charms, inflamed the heart of the young ruler with his first passion, and he entered eagerly into the plans of Eutropius to make Eudoxia his wife.
Rufinus meanwhile returned, and prepared the ceremonies of the royal nuptials, as he fancied, of his daughter. |A splendid train of eunuchs and officers issued, in hymeneal pomp, from the gates of the palace, bearing aloft the diadem, the robes and the inestimable ornaments of the future empress. The solemn procession passed through the streets of the city, which were adorned with garlands and filled with spectators; but when it reached the house of the sons of Promotus, the principal eunuch (Eutropius) respectfully entered the mansion, invested the fair Eudoxia with the imperial robes and conducted her in triumph to the palace and bed of Arcadius.| The particulars of the ceremony show that the hymeneal rites of the ancient Greeks, in which the bride was, as it were, forcibly conducted to the house of her husband, were still practised, though without idolatry, by the early Christians.
The secrecy and success of the conspiracy brought great chagrin to the overconfident Rufinus. He felt keenly the insult to himself and his daughter, and he feared the growing power of Eutropius and the new empress. Yet he merely tightened his grip upon the government and continued to be a formidable factor in the intrigues of the palace.
The Empress Eudoxia rapidly adapted herself to her new life and displayed a superiority of sense and spirit which enabled her to maintain over her fond and youthful husband the ascendancy that her beauty had at first created. She soon made it evident that she would be under the control of no intriguing courtier, but that she herself would be a dominant factor in the life of the court. Rufinus continued his plots against the throne of Arcadius, but was constantly thwarted by the empress, assisted by Eutropius, and their counterplays finally brought about the minister's assassination.
After the murder of Rufinus, the empress endeavored to hold the balance of power between the three political parties of the day -- the German party, headed by Gainas the Goth, which largely embraced the military forces of the Empire; the party of Eutropius, who had under his control the civil officers of the state; and the senatorial party, under the leadership of the prefect Aurelian, who abhorred alike the growing influence of the Goths and the bed-chamber administration of Eutropius. Eudoxia naturally inclined to the third of these parties: she strenuously opposed the Germans, who, under the leadership of Gainas, demanded freedom for Arian worship, and she sought to overcome the influence of her quondam benefactor Eutropius, that she herself might have absolute dominion over her imperial husband. Hence, these three, the empress, Eutropius, and Gainas, as Hodgkin remarks, |kept up a vivid game of court intrigue and disputed with varying success for the chief place in that empty chamber which represented the mind of the emperor.|
Eudoxia first combined with Gainas to get rid of their powerful rival Eutropius, though she owed her own position to the machinations of the wily chamberlain. Gainas instigated a revolt among the Ostrogoths under their commander Tribigild, and when sent out against them he took no active measures to suppress their incursions; the Goths, at the instigation of Gainas, finally sent word to the emperor demanding the death of Eutropius as the condition of their retiring. Eudoxia, from the palace, joined in the demand and presenting her infant children, Flacilla and Pulcheria, to their father, with a flood of forced tears, implored his justice for some real or imaginary insult which she attributed to the audacious eunuch. The tears of the empress succeeded where the demand of Tribigild had only caused hesitation, and Arcadius signed the death warrant of his favorite. The people rejoiced at the downfall of the minister, whose venality and injustice had aroused the public hatred. Eutropius fled for refuge to the Church of Saint Sophia, where he was protected by the patriarch Chrysostom. So good an opportunity, however, for impressing the lesson of the fatuity of human greatness was not to be lost, and while the cowering chamberlain lay in humiliation before the altar, Chrysostom preached to a crowded congregation from the text: |Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,| illustrating every argument of his sermon by pointing to the fallen Eutropius -- yesterday prime minister of the emperor -- to-day a hounded criminal. Chrysostom finally gave him up on condition that he be not put to death, and Eutropius was banished to Cyprus; but the empress and his enemies would not be satisfied with anything less than his death, and he was later recalled and executed at Chalcedon in A. D.399.
Not long afterward, Gainas met with a like evil destiny, and Eudoxia was left without a rival to dispute her control over the emperor. The weak Arcadius was permitted to spend the remaining years of his life in ease and tranquillity under her mild but absolute control. Henceforth the empress was the most conspicuous figure of the court. Possessing limitless power, it was natural that she should become haughty and rapacious. Endowed with rare beauty and remarkable cleverness, she gave the tone to the court society of Arcadius's reign. Unfortunately, she was fond of all the frivolities of life, and sought at the same time to promote worldliness and religion. Hence, her influence on the ladies of the court was such as to bring upon her the censure of the austere Patriarch of Constantinople, Chrysostom, to whom we are indebted for many glimpses into the life and manners of the fifth century.
The empress was surrounded in the royal palace by a splendor which rivalled that of Persia. Oriental richness and luxury characterized all its appointments. We find exhibited in the court life of the day a blending of the voluptuousness of the East with the refinement of the Greeks and the luxury of the Romans. Thousands of eunuchs, parasites and slaves, carried out the wishes of the empress. In her royal apartments |the doors were of ivory, the ceilings lined with gold, the floors inlaid with mosaics, or strewed with rich carpets; the walls of the halls and bedrooms were of marble, and wherever commoner stone was used the surface was beautified with gold plate. The beds were of ivory or solid silver, or, if on a less expensive scale, of wood plated with silver or gold. Chairs and stools were usually of ivory, and the most homely vessels were often made of the most costly metal; the semicircular tables or sigmas were so heavy that two youths could hardly lift one. Oriental cooks were employed; and at banquets the atmosphere was heavy with the perfumes of the East, while the harps and pipes of the musicians delighted the ears of the feasters.|
Equal attention was paid to the details of dress. The empress was renowned for the gorgeousness of her toilets, which enhanced her personal charms and made her appear the most fascinating lady of her court. Her imperial robes were of the richest character, consisting of purple fabrics, embellished with gold and precious gems.
Such was the external splendor of the court. The Bishop Synesius censures the elaborate court etiquette which surrounded the emperor and empress, keeping them from the knowledge of outside affairs and making them the victims of eunuchs and courtiers. He criticises severely the sensual retirement in which they lived and attributes it to the desire to appear semi-divine.
Some idea of the importance of the empress in affairs of state and of the court etiquette which attended an audience with her can be gained from the extant narrative of Marcus the deacon, who recounts incidents in the visit of Porphyrius, Bishop of Gaza, when he and others came to Constantinople to seek redress from the emperor for injuries inflicted by the heathen on the Christians in Palestine. Knowing that the empress was the real power, the bishop appealed to her, and the narrative tells of his audiences with her and how she obtained for him a favorable answer to his petition. As nothing is more effective in conveying an idea of the ways and manners of an age than the actual words of a contemporary writer, I present a rather free translation of Marcus's narrative.
Upon their arrival at Byzantium, the bishop and his party were honorably received by the Patriarch John Chrysostom, who expressed regret that he could not in person present them to the emperor, because of the royal indignation the empress had excited against him. But he secured the services of the eunuch Amantius, chamberlain of the empress, who arranged for them an audience with Eudoxia.
Amantius took the two bishops and introduced them to the empress, and when she saw them she saluted them first and said: |Give me your blessing, fathers,| and they did obeisance to her. Now she was sitting on a golden sofa, and she said to them: |Excuse me, priests of Christ, on account of my situation, for I was anxious to meet your sanctity in the antechamber. But pray God in my behalf that I may be delivered happily of the child which is in my womb.| And the bishops, wondering at her condescension, said: |May He who blessed the womb of Sarah and Rebecca and Elizabeth, bless and quicken the child in thine.| After further edifying conversation she said to them: |I know why ye came, as the castrensis Amantius explained it to me. But if you are fain to instruct me, fathers, I am at your service.| Thus bidden, they told her all about the idolaters, and the impious rites which they fearlessly practised and their oppression of the Christians, whom they did not allow to perform a public duty, nor to till their lands, |from which produce they pay the dues to your imperial sovereignty.| And the empress said: |Do not despond; for I trust in the Lord Christ, the Son of God, that I shall persuade the emperor to do those things that are due to your saintly faith and to dismiss you hence well treated. Depart, then, to your privacy, for you are fatigued, and pray God to cooperate with my request.| She then commanded money to be brought, and gave three darics apiece to the most holy bishops, saying: |In the meantime take this for your expenses.| And the bishops took the money, and blessed her abundantly, and departed. And when they went out they gave the greater part of the money to the deacons who were standing at the door, reserving little for themselves.
And when the emperor came into the apartment of the empress, she told him all touching the bishops, and requested him that the heathen temples of Gaza should be thrown down. But the emperor was put out when he heard it, and said:
|I know that city is devoted to idols, but it is loyally disposed in the matters of taxation and pays a large sum to the revenue. If then we overwhelm them with terrors of a sudden, they will betake themselves to flight, and we shall lose so much of the revenue. But if it must be, let us afflict them partially, depriving idolaters of their dignities and other public offices, and bid their temples be shut up and be used no longer. For when they are afflicted and straitened on all sides, they will recognize the truth; but an extreme measure coming suddenly is hard on subjects.| The empress was very much vexed at this reply, for she was ardent in matters of faith, but she merely said: |The Lord can assist his servants, the Christians, whether we consent or decline.|
We learned these details from the chamberlain Amantius. On the morrow the Augusta sent for us, and having first saluted the holy bishops according to her custom, she bade them sit down. And after a long spiritual talk, she said: |I spoke to the emperor, and he was rather put out. But do not despond, for, God willing, I cannot cease until ye be satisfied and depart, having succeeded in your holy purpose.| And the bishops made obeisance. Then the saintly Porphynus, pricked by the spirit, and recollecting the word of the thrice-blessed anchoret Procopius, said to the empress: |Exert yourself for the sake of Christ, and in recompense for your exertions he can bestow on you a son whose life and reign you will see and enjoy for many years.|
At these words the empress was filled with joy, and her face flushed, and new beauty beyond that which she already had passed into her face; for the appearance shows what passes within. And she said: |Pray, fathers, that, according to your word, with the will of God, I may bear a male child, and if it so befall, I promise you to do all that ye ask. And another thing, for which ye ask not, I intend to do with the consent of Christ; I will found a church at Gaza in the centre of the city. Depart then in peace, and rest quiet, praying constantly for my happy delivery; for the time of my confinement is near.| The bishops commended her to God and left the palace, and prayer was made that she should bear a male child; for we believed in the words of Saint Procopius the anchoret.
And every day we used to proceed to the most holy Johannes, the archbishop, and had the fruition of his holy words, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. And Amantius the chamberlain used to come to us, sometimes bearing messages from the empress, at other times merely to pay a visit. And after a few days the empress brought forth a male child, and he was called Theodosius, after his grandfather Theodosius, the Spaniard, who reigned together with Gratian. And the child Theodosius was born in the purple, wherefore he was proclaimed emperor at his birth. And there was great joy in the city, and men were sent to the cities of the Empire, bearing the good news, with gifts and bounties.
But the empress, who had only just been delivered and arisen from her chair of confinement, sent Amantius to us with this message: |I thank Christ that God bestowed on me a son on account of your holy prayers. Pray then, fathers, for his life and for my lowly self, in order that I may fulfil those things which I promised you, Christ himself again consenting, through your holy prayers.| And when the seven days of her confinement were fulfilled, she sent for us and met us at the door of the chamber, carrying in her arms the infant in a purple robe. And she inclined her head and said: |Draw nigh, fathers, unto me and the child which the Lord granted to me through your holy prayers.| And she gave them the child that they might seal it with God's signet. And the holy bishops sealed both her and the child with the seal of the cross, and, offering a prayer, sat down. And when they had spoken many words full of heart pricking, the lady said to them: |Do ye know, fathers, what I resolved to do in regard to your affairs?| (Here Porphyrius related a dream which he had dreamed the night before: then Eudoxia resumed:) |If Christ permit, the child will be privileged to receive the holy baptism in a few days. Do ye then depart and compose a petition and insert in it all the requests ye wish to make. And when the child comes forth from the holy baptismal rite, give the petition to him who holds the child in his arms; but I will instruct him what to do. And I trust in the Son of God that He can arrange the whole matter according to the will of His loving kindness.| Having received these instructions we blessed her and the infant and went out. Then we composed the petition, inserting many things in the document, not only as to the overthrow of the idols, but also that privileges and revenues should be granted to the holy Church and the Christians; for the holy Church was poor.
The days ran by, and the day on which the young emperor was to be illuminated (i. e., baptized) arrived. And all the city was crowned with garlands and decked out in garments entirely made of silk and gold jewels and all kinds of ornaments, so that no one could describe the adornment of the city. One might behold the inhabitants, multitudinous as the waves, arrayed in all manner of various dresses. But it is beyond my power to describe the brilliance of that pomp; it is a task for those who are practised writers, and I shall proceed to my present true history. When the young Theodosius was baptized and came forth from the church to the palace, you might behold the excellence of the multitude of the magnates and their dazzling raiments, for all were dressed in white, and you would have thought they were covered with snow. The patricians headed the procession with the illustres and all other ranks, and the military contingents, all carrying wax candles, so that the stars seemed to shine on earth. And close to the infant, which was carried in arms, was the emperor Arcadius himself, his face cheerful and more radiant than the purple robe he was wearing, and one of the magnates carried the infant in brilliant apparel. And we marvelled, beholding such glory. Then the holy Porphyrius said to us: |If the things which vanish possess such glory, how much more glorious are the things celestial, prepared for the elect, which neither eye hath beheld nor ear heard, nor hath it come into the heart of man to consider!|
And we stood at the portal of the church, with the document of our petition, and when he came forth from the baptism we called aloud, saying, |We petition your Piety,| and held out the paper. And he who carried the child seeing this, and knowing our concernment, for the empress had instructed him, and when he received it halted, and he commanded silence, and having unrolled a part he read it, and folding it up, placed his hand under the head of the child, and cried out: |His majesty has ordered the requests contained in the petition to be ratified.| And all having seen did obeisance to the emperor, congratulating him that he had the privilege of seeing his son as emperor in his lifetime; and he rejoiced thereat. And that which had happened for the sake of her son was announced to the empress, and she rejoiced and thanked God on her knees. And when the child entered the palace, she met it and received it and kissed it, and, holding it in her arms, greeted the emperor, saying: |You are blessed, my lord, for the things which your eyes have beheld in your lifetime.| And the emperor rejoiced thereat. And the empress, seeing him in good humor, said: |Please let us learn what the petition contains that its contents may be fulfilled.|
And the emperor ordered the paper to be read; and when it was read, he said: |The request is hard, but to refuse it is harder, since it is the first mandate of our son.| Thus the petition was granted, and the empress herself saw to it that all its provisions were fulfilled; and the bishops returned to Palestine well supplied with funds, having obtained all they desired by working on the superstition of the empress, and through her skill in managing the emperor.
The narrative is highly instructive and interesting in the picture it gives of the empress, her outward piety, her joy at the birth of a son, her superstitious acceptance of the prophecy of the anchoret, and her cleverness in the ruse she devised to win the consent of the emperor. It is an altogether pleasing picture of a religious queen and a devoted mother, and we could wish that all her conduct had conformed to these high ideals. The worldly side of Eudoxia's character appeared in the open war between the empress and the patriarch, which disturbed the later years of the reign of Arcadius.
John Chrysostom was an austere and eloquent prelate, who had studied the art of rhetoric under Libanius and had been brought by Eutropius to Constantinople from Antioch, where he had already achieved great popularity and an enviable reputation for holiness and eloquence. He was a man of saintly life and apostolic fervor, but rash and inconsiderate alike in speech and in action. His charity and eloquence made him the idol of the people, but his free speaking offended the court circles, and his austere manners and autocratic methods made him disliked by the clergy. He thundered against the degeneracy of the wealthy classes and enlarged on the peculiar vices of the aristocrats, to the confusion of the empress and her court ladies and to the delight of the populace.
The worldliness and carnal ambitions of Eudoxia can be judged from the sermons of Chrysostom; and she naturally gave the tone to the ladies of her court. She was not above suspicion of criminal intrigues, as can be inferred from the fact of the rumor prevailing that Count John, a nobleman of the court, was the father of her son Theodosius; but whether this was merely a court scandal cannot at this day be ascertained. With the empress given to worldly vanity, we can imagine the nature of the society over which she presided. |One curious trait of manner indicates clearly enough the tone of the court. It was the custom of Christian ladies to wear veils or bands over their foreheads, so as to conceal their hair. Women of meretricious life were distinguished by the way they wore their hair cut and combed over their brows, just like modern fringes. The ladies of Eudoxia's court were so immodest, and had such bad taste, as to adopt this fashion from the courtesans. The next step probably was that the example of the court influenced respectable Christian matrons to wear the obnoxious fringe.| On the other hand, actresses and public prostitutes retaliated by imitating the dress of consecrated virgins, and this abuse had to be suppressed by legislation. In the aristocratic society of Eudoxia three ladies were especially prominent, -- Marsa, the widow of Promotus, a distant relative of the empress; Castricia, the widow of Saturninus; and Eugraphia, who had also lost her husband. These ladies, though no longer young, were rich and fashionable, and endeavored to preserve the appearance of youth by inordinate attention to complexion and to dress. Eugraphia is mentioned as given to using rouge and white lead to preserve her complexion, a habit which was severely condemned by the austere Chrysostom. It was hard to forgive a preacher who reproached the feminine tendency to conceal by cosmetics and dress one's age and ugliness.
Furthermore, the attractions of the theatre and the dissipations of high life engaged the attention of this fashionable set quite as much as did attendance on religious service and outward manifestations of piety. Christianity had not suppressed the licentiousness of the stage or improved the morality of greenrooms. Chrysostom complains of the lawlessness of the theatre and the obscenity of the songs that delighted the audience; he was especially shocked at the exhibitions of women swimming. The professional courtesan, with all the accomplishments of the actress, was the centre of attraction for the habitues of the theatre; and she was even allowed to contaminate fashionable weddings with her presence.
Other types of contemporary society are of interest, especially instances of the ambitious and fashionable lady, not of the aristocracy, who wished to work her way up into the court circle. Synesius gives us the picture of such a one in a celebrated allegory presenting the career of the noble and high-minded Aurelian, head of a patriot party, and of his unscrupulous adversary, who wished to displace him. The subject of the allegory is the contest between the two sons of Taurus, Osivis and Typhos. Osivis represents Aurelian, the type of everything good and laudable; Aurelian's antagonist is figured in Typhos, a perverse, gross, and ignorant person, who favored the German party. He was a profligate Roman, who had been guilty of malversation in office and hoped by his new alliance to return to power. He had an active, though not very discreet, ally in his wife, whom Synesius depicts in pregnant phrases. Owing to her vanity she was her own tire-woman, a reproach which suggests her excessive attention to the details of her toilet. She liked to show herself in grand array in the market place, fancying that the eyes of all were upon her. Owing to her desire to have her drawing rooms filled and to be the object of notoriety, she did not close her doors even against professional courtesans; and we may infer on that account that select Byzantine society was not desirous of her acquaintance. Synesius contrasts with her the wife of Aurelian, who never left the house, and gives us a reminiscence of Thucydides in his sententious expression that it was the greatest virtue of a woman for neither her body nor her name ever to cross the threshold. Aurelian succeeds in winning political honors in spite of the hostility of Typhos and his wife, much to the disgust of the latter, who saw her intrigues for social laurels defeated.
The ladies of the court and those who wished to be such were in large measure devoted to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life. Chrysostom's austere spirit was naturally offended at the life of such a court and of fashionable and aspiring matrons, and in his pastoral visits to these great ladies he undoubtedly rebuked them for their worldliness. Furthermore, in his pulpit he preached valiantly against luxury and worldliness, and would often add point to his remarks by turning his eyes toward the part of the gallery where sat Eudoxia and the ladies of her court. Great umbrage was aroused against him because of his outspoken condemnation of their vices, petty and otherwise, and he was hated as the wicked Herodias hated John the Baptist. His greatest offence was reached in a sermon in which the empress was openly called Jezebel -- a statement which led to the spread of the unfounded scandal that she had robbed a widow of a vineyard as Ahab robbed Naboth.
The rank and file of the people enjoyed with great zest these attacks on the aristocrats, and that which stung the great ladies most severely was their being made objects of censure before the mob, as their consciences were sufficiently hardened not to be deeply penetrated by the preacher's shafts. Accordingly, the humiliation of their pride led them to form a conspiracy against Chrysostom, the centre of which was the house of Eugraphia. These ladies readily found allies. The archbishop's austerity of life and rigid discipline had made him many enemies among the bishops, monks, and nuns, for he had attacked the corruption of the clergy as well as the corruption of the court. The sensuality, avarice, and selfishness of the clergy laid them open to attack. Women were admitted to the monasteries, or lived in the houses of priests as |spiritual sisters,| a custom that gave rise to much scandal. Still more scandalous was the conduct of the order of deaconesses who, while not following the fashions of the court, yet adorned their austere garb |with an immodest coquetry which made them more piquant than an ordinary courtesan.| Chrysostom was especially severe on the monks, who would linger about Constantinople for the sake of its licentious pleasures instead of betaking themselves to their natural fields of labor.
Though Chrysostom had his enemies among the fair sex, he had also his circle of admirers, who were the more ardent in their attentions because of the persecutions he had to undergo. The most distinguished and the most devoted of these was the aristocratic Olympias, whose mother was at one time betrothed to an emperor, but who was wedded to a king of Armenia, and afterward became the wife of a Roman noble. Olympias was renowned for her benevolence toward the poor and her constancy to Chrysostom in his troubles, while her kindness of heart and sweetness of spirit give her rank among the |good| women of the period. Another constant friend was a Moorish princess, Salvina, who had been placed as a hostage in Theodosius's charge by her father, and had been married to the empress's nephew. In contrast to the restless activity of the ladies about Eudoxia, she led a quiet and peaceful life devoted to good works, and Chrysostom, in a |letter to a young widow,| contrasts the serenity and happiness she enjoyed with the turbulent life of her father.
Chrysostom's sharp reproofs of the worldly minded, his close friendships with Olympias and other ladies, whom he at times received alone in his episcopal residence, and his retired, ascetic life, gave pretext for unwarranted charges. His enemies even went so far as to assert that under the cover of his unsocial habits he conducted |Cyclopean orgies| in his home.
An official journey which he made for the regulation of the affairs of the churches, during which he removed many unworthy bishops, aroused much umbrage against him, and gave his enemies at home an opportunity to injure him. Severian, whom he left in his place, was an especial favorite of the empress, and joined the court league against his superior. Upon his return, Chrysostom acted with his customary decision. Hearing of the unbecoming conduct of his subordinate, he severely and openly attacked his time-serving relations with the empress, and, when Severian grew defiant, promptly excommunicated him. Owing to the entreaties of the empress and the emperor, however, he withdrew the ban and restored Severian to his office.
Soon afterward a louder storm burst, and from a new quarter. Theophilus, the worldly prelate of Alexandria, was induced by the court ladies to undertake their cause against the patriarch. He came to Constantinople and took up his quarters in the palace of Placidia, and from this centre, as well as from the house of Eugraphia, a violent warfare of words was waged against Chrysostom.
The emperor was prevailed upon to grant a synod for the trial of the patriarch, which was held outside the city, owing to the strength of the latter's adherents. Chrysostom was condemned by the packed assembly, known as the |Synod of the Oak,| and formally deposed. The city was in an uproar. Chrysostom retired to Bithynia, but the people demanded his return, and he was recalled from banishment and restored to his office. Had he now adopted a policy of quiet tolerance, all would have been well, but very soon an occasion arose which led him to make a further attack on Eudoxia. In September, 403, a statue of silver on a column of porphyry was erected to the empress near the precincts of Saint Sophia. Chrysostom took occasion to censure severely the adulation of the populace, and by his remarks he must have mortally offended the pride of the empress, for henceforth even the mild emperor declined to have any communication with the patriarch.
The next year a new synod was held, and the action of the Synod of the Oak was confirmed. The emperor ratified the sentence, and Chrysostom quietly yielded to the inevitable and retired from the city. As soon as the people heard of the occurrence, another uproar followed, which resulted in the conflagration of Saint Sophia and other buildings and in the persecution of many adherents of the exiled patriarch. Olympias and many others were condemned to exile. |Among those who anticipated the sentence by flight was an old maid named Nicarete, who deserves mention as a curious figure of the time. She was a philanthropist who devoted her means to works of charity, and who always went about with a chest of drugs, which she used to dispose of gratuitously, and which rumor said were always effectual.|
Meanwhile, Chrysostom was transported to a remote town among the ridges of Mount Taurus, in Lesser Armenia. He suffered many hardships, but he was sustained by the sympathy of his friends, especially Olympias, with whom he corresponded, and who never told him of the persecutions she herself underwent in his behalf. Her own last years, however, were darkened by her afflictions, and Chrysostom tried to lighten her melancholy by his letters of consolation. Her saintly life cast a halo about her memory after she passed away, and a legend was current in later times that her encoffined body had, by her own directions, been cast into the sea at Nicomedia, whence it was borne to Constantinople, and thence to Brochthi, where it reposed in the Church of Saint Thomas.
Chrysostom's last years were perhaps his most useful ones, being spent in regulating by letter the affairs of the churches. The Pope at Rome never ratified his condemnation, and he was universally beloved as one subjected to unjust persecution. Owing to his undiminished prominence in all Church affairs, the ruthless empress pursued him in his exile, and an order was despatched for him to be transported to Pityus, a desolate place on the south-eastern coast of the Euxine; but on the way thither he expired from exhaustion, in the sixtieth year of his age. He was the last of the patriarchs to stand out against the corruption and the frivolity of the court, and henceforth the archbishops were but subservient adherents of the emperor and the empress.
His innocence and merit were acknowledged by the succeeding generation, and thirty years later, at the earnest solicitation of the people, Chrysostom's remains were brought to Constantinople. The Emperor Theodosius advanced to receive them as far as Chalcedon, and implored the forgiveness of the injured saint in the name of his guilty parents, Arcadius and Eudoxia.
Less than four years after the birth of her son, Theodosius, Eudoxia, in the bloom of her youth and the height of her power, came to her end as the result of a miscarriage; and this untimely death confounded the prophecy of Porphyrius of Gaza, who had foretold that she would live to see the reign of her son. Pious Catholics saw in her untimely death the vengeance of Heaven for the persecution of Saint Chrysostom; and few save the emperor and her children bewailed the loss of the worldly and ambitious empress.