Beside the deathbed of the gentle Arcadius, whom destiny snatched from life in the fulness of manhood, stood four weeping orphans of tenderest years, three maidens and a little lad -- all too young to realize the greatness of their loss. These were the seven-year-old Theodosius, heir to the throne, the nine-year-old Pulcheria and her two younger sisters, Arcadia and Marina. In the orphanage of the children, it was natural that the eldest daughter should feel that upon herself rested the responsibility of acting as mother to her brother and sisters; and Pulcheria possessed the mental endowments and the rapidly developing nature which peculiarly fitted her for this task. Fortunately the administration of the Empire was in the hands of the praetorian prefect Anthemius, a wise and able counsellor, who acted as the guardian of the young prince and his sisters and directed their education. He, with the Patriarch Atticus, who was their religious guide and spiritual adviser, provided them with every possible advantage for intellectual and spiritual growth. Pulcheria early exhibited an earnest and almost manly intelligence. Along with the sympathetic and mystical temperament of a saint, she possessed the strong, practical sense of her grandfather, Theodosius the Great. Hence she was quick to turn her attention to problems of statecraft and displayed a precocious capacity for administration. Her duties as guardian of her brother and sisters also developed her innate love of mastery, so that as a child she gradually conceived a longing for the duties and responsibilities of the imperial station.
At the tender age of fourteen, Pulcheria began to win influence in state affairs. Proud and ambitious like her mother Eudoxia, she sought as rapidly as possible to assert her authority; and, as her power and influence grew, that of Anthemius gradually ceased to exert itself. By no other hypothesis can we explain why Anthemius at this time retired from active duties and did not retain his office as regent at least until two years later, when Theodosius, in his fifteenth year, should attain his majority.
On July 4, 414, Pulcheria, the daughter of an emperor, assumed, contrary to all precedent, the title of Augusta, previously reserved exclusively for the wives of emperors, and formally took upon herself the honor and the duties of regent in the name of her brother, who was still a minor. So thoroughly did she gain the ascendency over the young prince that even after he was created Augustus two years later she retained her title and continued to be the real power in the imperial palace; indeed, she was for forty years virtually the ruler of the Eastern Empire.
The children of Arcadius and Eudoxia inherited the religious temperament of their father rather than the worldly disposition of their mother. Consequently, the court of Theodosius the Younger formed a great contrast to that of Arcadius. Pulcheria determined to embrace a life of celibacy. Resolving to remain a virgin, she induced her sisters to join with her in vows of perpetual virginity. They were confirmed in this step by their spiritual father, Atticus, who wrote for the princesses a book in which he dwelt on the beauty of the single life. In the presence of the clergy and the assembled people of Constantinople the three daughters of Arcadius dedicated their virginity to God; and their solemn vows were inscribed on a tablet of gold and jewels, which was publicly offered in the Church of Saint Sophia. Pious souls saw in this vow of Pulcheria only the natural result of her strict piety and her unselfish love for her brother; but profane historians attributed it to her extraordinary prudence, which was with her a gift of nature, and to her unbounded ambition -- on the ground that she could thus maintain permanently her ascendency over the young prince, and, by controlling his marriage, share his power.
In her manner of life, however, Pulcheria emphasized the genuineness of her piety. The imperial palace, as says a contemporary, assumed the character of a cloister. All males, except saintly men who had forgotten the distinction of sexes, were excluded from the holy threshold. Pulcheria and a chosen band of Christian damsels formed a sort of religious community. Spiritual practices were carried on, with strict punctuality, from morning till evening. Whereas richly clad senators and officers in sumptuous raiment had earlier passed in and out of the palace, so now the black robes of priests and the dark cowls of monks were to be seen thronging the entrance, and in place of the joyous songs of banquetings and festivities, one could hear the monotonous intoning of psalms. The vanity of dress which had scandalized the court of Eudoxia was discarded, and the simple garb of nuns was the prevailing fashion of the palace. The princesses did not employ themselves in personal adornment or in the many vanities of royal station, but spent much of their time at the loom, weaving garments for the poor and needy. A frugal diet was adopted, and even this was interrupted by frequent fasts. Thus Pulcheria and her maidens wearied not in their saintly life and in the performance of deeds of mercy.
These outward exercises of piety were attended by sumptuous beneficences for the spread of the Christian religion. Magnificent churches were built in various parts of the Empire at the expense of Pulcheria; charitable foundations for the benefit of the poor and the unfortunate were established in Constantinople and elsewhere, and ample donations were given by her for the perpetual maintenance of monastic societies. This imperial saint, who thus devoted a large part of her time and energies to the performance of religious duties and of charitable undertakings, naturally enjoyed the peculiar favor of the Deity. There is a tradition that the knowledge of the location of sacred relics and intimation of future events were communicated to her in dreams and revelations. The common people attributed healing power to her. Pulcheria's virtues aroused in the populace a feeling of admiration, and the saintly life of the palace awakened and spread a deep spiritual influence throughout the Empire.
Religion, however, was accompanied with culture, and Pulcheria, with the aid of the best masters, had her brother and sisters trained in all the various branches of knowledge acquired up to that time. Under her direction Theodosius became a student of natural science; and so great was his skill in writing and in illuminating manuscripts that he received the name of Calligraphus. Pulcheria acquired an elegant and familiar command of both Greek and Latin; and she displayed her intellectual discipline, and gift of expression on the various occasions of speaking or writing on public business.
Yet Pulcheria's devotion to religion and to learning never diverted her indefatigable attention from public affairs. She strengthened the influence of the senate and supported it in the reform of many abuses which had crept in during the ascendancy of the eunuchs of the palace and the struggles with the German party; but her energies were chiefly directed toward acting as counsellor to the emperor, and protecting him from the intrigues of court officials, to which his weak character made him an easy victim. She instructed her brother in the art of government, yet the tenderness of her discipline seems to have made him rather a willing instrument in her own hands than an independent monarch. Possibly she realized that the elements which go to form a great ruler were lacking in his character; possibly her own love of power blinded her to the right course of action toward her confiding ward. At any rate, |her precepts may countenance some suspicion of the extent of her capacity or the purity of her intention. She taught him to maintain a grave and majestic deportment; to walk, to hold his robe, to seat himself on his throne in a manner worthy of a great prince; to abstain from laughter; to listen with condescension; to return suitable answers; to assume, by turns, a serious or a placid countenance; in a word, to represent with grace and dignity the external figure of a Roman emperor.|
Though so careful and systematic in her training of the young prince, Pulcheria did not deprive his boyhood of those companionships which add zest to youthful pursuits and recreation and stimulate the growth of manly qualities. She gave him as comrades two bright and spirited youths, Paulinus and Placitus, with whom he associated in open-hearted intimacy and who were destined to play a prominent part in his reign. Paulinus especially became his most trusted friend, and the two were united for many years by bonds which resembled those of Damon and Pythias. Amid such surroundings and under such influence, Theodosius grew up. The product of Pulcheria's instruction, however, was a ruler who descended below even the weakness of her father and uncle. Chaste, temperate, merciful, superstitious, pious, he was rich in negative qualities; but, being feeble in energy and lacking all initiative, he became merely a good-hearted and well-meaning, instead of active and courageous, ruler. Consequently in every official act it was Pulcheria who supplied the wisdom and the energy which made the earlier years of Theodosius's reign such happy and peaceful ones. Pulcheria, however, was content to keep her power in the background and to attribute to the genius of the emperor the smoothness with which the wheels of government turned, as well as the mildness and prosperity of his reign.
The choice of a wife for Theodosius naturally lay in the hands of Pulcheria. The young prince, influenced by the example of his father, had expressed to his sister his preference for rare physical perfection and high intellectual endowments over exalted station and royal blood in the choice of a consort; and Pulcheria, in conjunction with his boyhood friend Paulinus, set herself to the task of finding in the capital or in the provinces an ideal corresponding to the wishes of the imperial youth. Yet, while they were engaged in the search, by happy chance a wonderful concatenation of events in the pagan city of Athens determined the destiny of the nineteen-year-old ruler.
In the story of Athenais we have the beautiful romance of a maiden of modest station raised by destiny to the exalted dignity of a throne. She was the favorite child of Leontius, an Athenian philosopher, who devoted most of his time to training his daughter in the religion and philosophy of his native city, and who sought to cultivate in her all that charm of manner and richness of temperament which characterized the Greek women in the best days of ancient Athens. The story goes that the old philosopher was so confident that, because of her beauty and intellectual gifts, a high destiny awaited his daughter, that he bequeathed her as a legacy only a hundred pieces of gold, while he divided the bulk of his estate between his two sons, Valerius and Genesius. The brothers, being avaricious by nature and jealous of the superior qualities of their sister, treated her with neglect and cruelty in her distress. Athenais implored them to repair the obvious injustice and to grant her her rights, representing to them how she did not deserve this disgrace and that the indigence of their sister would be to them, if not a cause of grief, yet certainly a continual reproach; but her brothers would not listen to her appeals, and finally drove her from the paternal mansion. Fortunately, a maternal aunt resided in Athens, who received the disinherited maiden into her home and warmly espoused her cause. She brought Athenais to Constantinople, where another aunt dwelt, and made arrangements for the maiden to bring suit against the hard-hearted brothers. To influence the decision, Athenais and her aunt obtained audience with Pulcheria, and thus the link was formed which joined the destinies of the young emperor and the hapless orphan.
The youthful plaintiff was her own advocate, and so effectually did she argue her case that the Augusta, charmed by the penetration and cleverness which her speech revealed, as well as by the wonderful beauty and modest demeanor of the maiden, was irresistibly forced to the conviction that this girl was the very one who embodied the ideals and longings of the young prince. And, in fact, Athenais was physically and intellectually endowed in a manner seldom equalled. Imagine a maiden of tall and slender proportions of figure, of rare perfection of form, of fair complexion, of dark and luminous eyes which revealed the sweetness and subtlety of the spirit within, while the perfect outline of the countenance was framed by a luxuriant abundance of golden locks, -- and you have some conception of the stranger who stood with queenly grace before the proud Augusta. Furthermore, every word that she uttered revealed the rare subtlety of understanding or warmth of sensibilities of the petitioner, who was in every regard the perfect picture of a symmetrically developed maiden. So soon as Pulcheria ascertained that Athenais was of good family and was still unmarried, she began to carry out her plans as a royal matchmaker. She aroused the curiosity of her brother by her account of the charms of the Greek maiden, and the recital inspired in the young prince a lively impatience to see Athenais. He besought his sister to arrange an opportunity for him, unobserved, to see the maiden, and Pulcheria readily devised a plan. After having concealed Theodosius and Paulinus behind the tapestries in her apartment, she summoned Athenais to come to her for a further interview. Athenais entered the room, and the young men were so charmed by the view that Theodosius, enamored of the maiden at first sight, desired to make her his bride.
What must have been the emotions of the disinherited orphan, when the Augusta, instead of granting her petition, told her that she was chosen to be the bride of an emperor? Only one obstacle to the union presented itself, -- the pagan faith of the beautiful Athenian. While winning her heart for himself, the pious Theodosius longed to win her soul for the Saviour. To the patriarch Atticus was assigned the pleasing task of convincing the beautiful maiden of the errors of paganism and of guiding her spirit into the ways of eternal truth. The pure heart of the gentle Athenais proved readily susceptible to the beauties of Christian teaching; the waters of baptism were supposed to remove from her nature the last vestiges of pagan unbelief; and in accordance with the wishes of her betrothed, the converted Athenais received the baptismal name of Eudocia.
Finally, on June 7, 421, the royal nuptials were celebrated with great pomp, amid the rejoicings of the populace. The prudent Pulcheria, however, withheld from the bride of the emperor the title of Augusta until the union was blessed by the birth of a daughter, who was named Eudoxia, after her grandmother, and who, fifteen years later, became the wife of Valentinian III., ruler of the Western Empire.
The brothers of Eudocia richly deserved the resentment of the new empress. They had fled from Athens when they heard of the elevation of their despised sister, but she had them sought out and brought to Constantinople. They entered into her presence trembling and disconcerted; but instead of punishing them, as they felt they well deserved, Eudocia received them in a friendly manner and forgave them for their base conduct. Regarding them as the unconscious instruments of her elevation, the new empress gave them part in some of the highest offices of state.
Having become a Christian, Eudocia dedicated her talents to the honor of religion and to the glory of her husband. She indited religious poems which were the admiration of the age. She composed a poetical paraphrase of the five books of Moses, of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, and of the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah. She devoted three books of verse to the legend of Saint Cyprian, who was a martyr in the persecution inaugurated by Diocletian. She wrote a panegyric on the Persian victories of Theodosius; and there is extant from her pen a cento of Homeric verse treating the life and miracles of Christ. She also manifestly exerted a strong influence in the founding of the University of Constantinople, if we judge from the preponderance of Greek chairs. She also encouraged in every manner the cultivation of Greek letters; and the support she gave to Greek poets and litterateurs gave umbrage to the narrow religionists, who regarded everything Greek as pagan.
Eudocia, by her beauty and sprightliness, rapidly gained an ascendancy over the weak but noble-hearted emperor, who had now two masters, his sister and his wife. The new empress, in spite of her devotion to religion, still retained some pagan leanings, and the monastic life of the court began to undergo a change. Both the empress -- sister and the empress -- wife were ladies of strong will, and Eudocia by degrees became less sensitive to the gratitude she owed Pulcheria because of her elevation. Hence, as each of the Augustae endeavored to have her own way, there arose discord in the imperial family. Intriguing courtiers and bishops knew how to take advantage of the division of sentiment in the royal household, and, while there was no public outbreak, the wheels of government did not run so smoothly as when Pulcheria held uncontested sway. The rivalry and dissension in the court between the two empresses showed itself particularly in the religious controversies of the time, and especially in the so-called Nestorian heresy regarding the dual nature of Christ. Pulcheria throughout was opposed to Nestorianism, as to every doctrine which flavored of Greek metaphysics, while Eudocia is credited with being an advocate of the new doctrine. Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria and the principal opponent of Nestorius, left no stone unturned to win the favor and support of Pulcheria, while ecclesiastics of the opposite party doubtless attempted the same with Eudocia.
The result of this conflict of opinion between the rival empresses was that the policy of Theodosius was always wavering; he was consistent neither in orthodoxy nor heterodoxy. At first a partisan of Nestorius, he responded rather sharply to the appeals of Cyril; but he afterward went over entirely to the opposite side -- an indication that the influence of Pulcheria was once more paramount.
Thus passed the first decade and a half of Eudocia's reign. Finally in 438 occurred an event of momentous interest to the entire Roman world -- the marriage of the princess Eudoxia with Valentinian III., Emperor of the West. As it seemed likely that Eudocia would never bear a son to Theodosius, the union of the two reigning houses meant possibly the reunion of the Empire under one emperor, should a son be born to the newly married couple. Possibly feeling lonely after the marriage and departure of her daughter; possibly tiring of the intrigues of the court, Eudocia, with the concurrence of the emperor, shortly afterward undertook a solemn pilgrimage to Jerusalem to discharge her vows and to return thanks to the Deity for the welfare of her daughter.
Attended by a royal cortege of courtiers and eunuchs and slaves, the Empress Eudocia set out on her journey. Her ostentatious progress through the East hardly seems in keeping with the spirit of Christian humility. One of the most impressive events of her journey was the sojourn in Antioch, the metropolis of the Far East. Here she pronounced to the senate, from a throne of gold, studded with precious gems, an eloquent Greek oration, which was regarded as a marvel of Hellenic rhetoric. In Antioch, probably far more than in Constantinople or Alexandria, there was a hearty appreciation of Greek culture and art, and many of the renowned rhetoricians of the day had in this city their lecture halls, to which thronged enthusiastic students; and to the most cultivated audience of the metropolis was granted the presence of an empress glorying in her Athenian nativity, trained in all the rhetorical art of the Greek, and combining in her own personality all that was most pleasing in both pagan and Christian culture. The last words of Eudocia's address -- a quotation from Homer -- are said to have occasioned prolonged applause:
tautes toi genees te kai aimatos euchonai einai -- Iliad Z 211.
|I boast to be of your own race and blood.|
Eudocia was also generous in her gifts to the city. She induced the emperor to enlarge its walls, and herself bestowed upon it a donation of two hundred pounds of gold to restore the public baths. She graciously accepted the statues which were decreed to her in gratitude for her munificence -- a statue of gold erected in the Curia, and one of bronze in the museum. To the empress, with her earlier love of the sacred traditions of the city of the violet crown, her enthusiastic reception in the most thoroughly Hellenized city of the Orient must have been a most gratifying occurrence.
From Antioch the empress probably followed the pilgrims highway to the Holy Land. There with doubly chastened soul the cultivated convert visited the places hallowed by the Saviour's sufferings and glory. From Bethlehem, where the Mother found shelter in a stable, and therein |in a manger laid| the newborn Redeemer, to receive the adoration of the shepherds, on through the country which the Lord travelled in His mission, till finally she beheld Mount Calvary and looked upon the place of the Sepulchre, now marked by the Christian temple raised by Helena. Her presence brings to mind the visit of this Helena, the Emperor Constantine's mother, one hundred years before, but the Greek matron must have beheld it with very different emotions. She had been reared in the philosophers' gardens of Athens, amid the glories of the Parthenon and the many wonderful works of art which the Greek genius had created, and in her new home in Constantinople she had not been altogether weaned from the traditions of her youth. In glowing contrast to ancient Athens she now saw a city whose prized monuments were the chapels erected on spots rendered sacred by the footsteps of the Christ and the relics of saints and martyrs. To this city she came as a Christian pilgrim, and her devoutness of spirit showed that her heathen culture, in which she took a pardonable pride, had been consecrated to the religion she professed, and her endeavor to relieve the sufferings of the poor and the unfortunate proved that she had learned the lesson of caring for others from the example of the Master.
Her alms and pious foundations in the Holy Land exceeded even those of the great Helena; and the destitute of the land had reason to be grateful to the empress for her unbounded liberality. In return for her zeal, she had the conscious satisfaction of returning to Constantinople with some of the most sacred relics of the Church -- the chains of Saint Peter, the relics of Saint Stephen, and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, reputed to be from the brush of Saint Luke. The first martyr's relics were deposited with great ceremony in the chapel of Saint Laurence, and the piety of the empress won for her the loving admiration of the devout populace.
But this pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with its many tokens of the affection of her subjects, and her triumphal return to the capital city, marks the termination of the glory of the Athenian maiden as empress of the East. Then began the rivalries and conflicts which finally brought about Eudocia's downfall. To understand these we must first of all take into consideration the difference of temperament of the two empresses. Pulcheria was essentially Roman; Eudocia was essentially Greek. Pulcheria belonged to the orthodox party which strictly condemned everything which savored in the least degree of paganism; Eudocia encouraged Greek art and letters and lent a friendly ear to the heresies which were the product of Greek speculation. Pulcheria was puritanical and austere in her manner of life, while Eudocia had a fondness for dress and for the innocent gayeties of life which characterized the women of her race. It was utterly impossible for two women of such marked difference of temperament to live in perfect harmony under the same roof.
Furthermore, during Eudocia's absence a new factor had entered prominently into the life of the palace. The influence of the eunuchs, which had been so marked during the reign of Arcadius, had not made itself felt during the earlier years of Theodosius's reign, because of the ascendency of the two women, but it gathered strength by degrees as years passed. Antiochus was the first chamberlain to make himself powerful, and upon his fall, the eunuch Chrysaphius, because of his personal beauty and winning manner, won the favor of Theodosius and acquired the art of bending the emperor to his will. Chrysaphius knew also how to play the two empresses off against each other, so as to gain his own ends.
It seems altogether probable that immediately after her return from Jerusalem, the spouse of the emperor more than ever dominated the court at Constantinople. An important indication of this was the prominence of one of her favorites during the years 439-441 -- Cyrus of Panopolis, who was a poet of renown, a |Greek| in faith, and a student of art and literature. He won great popularity during his long tenure of office as prefect of the city. He restored Constantinople on so magnificent a scale, after it had experienced a disastrous earthquake, that the people once cried out in the circus: |Constantine built the city, but Cyrus renewed it.|
The type of culture represented by Cyrus and Eudocia, and the manifest sympathy between them, greatly offended the strictly orthodox, who regarded it in the light of a Christian duty to sever all connection with paganism, and who considered all tolerance of the Muses and Graces of a more beautiful past to be a heinous sin. This religious party found their ideal and their inspiration in Pulcheria, and she in consequence became their natural leader. Hence, both their natural proclivities and the zeal of their followers forced the two empresses into an attitude of rivalry which could only be settled by the retirement or fall of one or the other of them.
Shortly after her return it seems that Eudocia, in union with Chrysaphius, succeeded in lessening the influence of Pulcheria. So thoroughly did she control her weak but fond husband that Pulcheria withdrew from the palace to the retirement of her villa at Hebdomon, and it has even been asserted that Theodosius, at the request of his wife, meditated making his sister take orders as a deaconess, so that she would have to relinquish her secular power. Thus for a time Eudocia experienced the keen delight of sole and uncontested power. But the retirement of the Augusta, who had for so many years exercised the paramount influence in the court, was the very step to arouse the orthodox and to lead them to undertake every form of intrigue for the ruin of Eudocia and the return of Pulcheria. The result was that, after enjoying for a brief period the sole supremacy, Eudocia fell from the loftiest heights of supreme authority into the deepest depths of humiliation and sorrow.
The orthodox party, with a cleverness which discounted the aims of the nobility, utilized the jealousy of Theodosius as the lever to overturn the beautiful and talented empress. Paulinus had been the boyhood friend of Theodosius, and their intimacy had grown with the passing of the years. He had ardently approved the prince's determination to make the Athenian maiden his wife, and had acted as his best man in the wedding festivities. Owing to the affectionate relations between the two men, Paulinus had enjoyed a free association with both emperor and empress, unhindered by the restricting bonds of court etiquette; and his relations with Eudocia were always of the most friendly and open-hearted character. These relations the enemies of Eudocia seized upon for the attainment of their ends, and their attempt succeeded only too well. It is fitting to tell the story in the words of John Malalas, the earliest chronicler who records it:
|It so happened,| says the chronicler, |that as the Emperor Theodosius was proceeding to the church In Sanctis Theophaniis, the master of offices, Paulinus, being indisposed on account of an ailment in his foot, remained at home and made an excuse. But a certain poor man brought to Theodosius a Phrygian apple, of enormously large size, and the emperor was surprised at it, and all his court. And straightway the emperor gave one hundred and fifty nomismata to the man who brought the apple, and sent it to Eudocia Augusta; and the Augusta sent it to Paulinus, the master of offices, as being a friend of the emperor. But Paulinus, not being aware that the emperor had sent it to the empress, took it and sent it to the Emperor Theodosius, even as he was entering the palace. And when the emperor received it, he recognized it and concealed it. And having called Augusta, he questioned her, saying:
|'Where is the apple that I sent you?' And she said, 'I ate it.' -- Then he caused her to swear the truth by his salvation, whether she ate it or sent it to some one; and she swore, 'I sent it unto no man, but ate it.' And the emperor commanded the apple to be brought, and showed it to her. And he was indignant against her, suspecting that she was enamored of Paulinus, and sent him the apple and denied it. And on this account Theodosius put Paulinus to death. And the Empress Eudocia was grieved, and thought herself insulted, for it was known everywhere that Paulinus was slain on account of her, for he was a very handsome young man. And she asked the emperor that she might go the holy place to pray; and he allowed her; and she went down from Constantinople to Jerusalem to pray.|
In the opinion of Gregorovius, Eudocia's apple of Phrygia eludes interpretation as completely as Eve's apple of Eden, but Bury explains the story as an example of Oriental metaphor. He recalls a parallel to it in the Arabian Nights, and fancies that its germ may have been an allegorical mode of expression in which someone covertly told the story of the suspected intrigue. In Hellenistic romance the apple was a conventional love gift, and when presented to a man by a woman signified a declaration of love. Hence, as the basis of the tale was presumed to be the amorous intercourse of Paulinus and the empress, we can conceive one accustomed to Oriental allegory saying or writing that Eudocia had given her precious apple to Paulinus, symbolizing thereby that she had surrendered her chastity.
Such is the legend of the fall of the empress. All we know for certain is that about this time a marked discord between husband and wife was apparent, and that Paulinus, the emperor's boyhood friend and most trusted confidant, was put to death by imperial order during the year 440.
History seems entitled to draw the conclusion that it was probably a charge, whether true or false, of a criminal attachment between Eudocia and Paulinus that led to the disgrace of the empress and the execution of the minister; but the probabilities are all in favor of the innocence of the Augusta. Eudocia had passed the age of forty when the breach with her husband occurred, and Paulinus was an official of mature years. The conduct of both had always been above reproach, and it was almost inconceivable that either would have acted unbecomingly at this late date.
For two or three years after the execution of Paulinus the empress remained at court, under what circumstances and in just what relation to the emperor we are not informed. It is evident, however, that her power was gone. Feeling herself more and more relegated to the background, and ever watched by hostile eyes, it was natural that she should find life at Constantinople unbearable, and should long for a place where, far from the turmoils and intrigues of the world, she might devote herself to retirement and to pious practices. She therefore asked permission of the emperor to be allowed to retire to Jerusalem and there pass the rest of her life. After the tender bond of love which had for twenty years united the Athenian maiden and the royal prince had once been violently broken, there was no reason why her petition should be denied, and Eudocia was granted the privilege of retiring to the sacred scenes whose solitude and religious atmosphere had already appealed to her.
So, some years after her first visit to the holy city, Eudocia withdrew thither for a permanent abode. But what a contrast had a few years wrought! With what different emotions did she now visit the sacred shrines! Then a beloved wife, a happy mother, an all-puissant empress! Now a voluntary exile, a discredited wife, an empress but in name! Theodosius left her her royal honors and abundant means for her station, so that she could not only have a moderate establishment at Jerusalem, but could also adorn the city with charitable institutions. Yet even here the hatred of her enemies and the jealousy of the emperor followed her. Though so far from Constantinople, court spies watched and reported her every movement, and in their malignity they recounted to the emperor such a slanderous picture of her life and doings that he, in the year 444, with newly awakened jealousy, had two holy men -- the presbyter Severus and the deacon John, who had been favorites of Eudocia in Constantinople and had followed her to Jerusalem -- executed by the order of Saturninus, her chamberlain. This cruel deed, however, did not remain unavenged, for Eudocia did not interfere when Saturninus, in a monkish riot, or at the hands of hired murderers, lost his life. Theodosius punished her for this with undue severity, by removing all the officers who attended her and reducing her to private station.
The remainder of the life of Eudocia, sixteen long years, was spent in retirement and in holy exercises. Troubles heaped themselves upon her. Her only daughter, whose future at her marriage with Valentinian had looked so promising, also lost her royal station and was led a captive from Rome to Carthage. She had to endure all the insults which could fall to one who from supreme power had been reduced to private station. But in the consolation of religion and in self-sacrificing devotion to others more unfortunate, Eudocia found solace in her grief. Finally, in the sixty-seventh year of her age, after experiencing all the vicissitudes of human life, the philosopher's daughter expired at Jerusalem, protesting with her dying breath her faithfulness to her marriage vows and expressing forgiveness of all those who had injured her.
In Constantinople, Eudocia's fall and exile had brought Pulcheria and the orthodox party again to the front. The poetry-loving Cyrus, the head of the Greek party, was deprived of his office and compelled to take orders; and there was a return to the austerity which had characterized the earlier years of Pulcheria's supremacy. Pulcheria and orthodoxy from this time on controlled the court life and dominated the Empire. Finally, in 450, Theodosius was fatally wounded while hunting, and upon his demise Pulcheria was unanimously proclaimed Empress of the East. Her first official act was one of popular justice as well as private revenge -- the execution of the crafty and rapacious eunuch, Chrysaphius. In obedience to the murmur of the people, who objected to a woman being sole ruler of the Empire, she selected an imperial consort in Marcian, an aged senator who would respect the virginal vows and superior rank of his wife. He was solemnly invested with the imperial purple, and proved in every way equal to the demands of his exalted station.
Three years later, Pulcheria passed away. Because of her austerity of life, her deeds of charity, her advocacy of orthodoxy, she won the eulogies of the Church; but her controlling attribute had been a love of power, which had wrought much evil. Our sympathies are naturally with the beautiful and gifted Athenais, a Greek by birth, by temperament and by culture, but yet a Christian in religious fervor and pious practices, whose personal fascination had given her the authority she richly merited, until the stronger nature of Pulcheria, by despicable means, had wrought her downfall.
For four years after the death of Pulcheria, Marcian continued to hold supreme power; finally, in 457, he too came to his end, and with Marcian the house of Theodosius the Great ceased to reign in new Rome.