1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Honorius, Flavius
HONORIUS, FLAVIUS (384–423), son of Theodosius I., ascended the throne as “emperor of the West” in 395. The history of the first thirteen years of the reign of Honorius is inseparably connected with the name of Stilicho (q.v.), his guardian and father-in-law. During this period the revolt of the African prince Gildo was suppressed (398); Italy was successfully defended against Alaric, who was defeated at Pollentia (402) and Verona (403); and the barbarian hordes under the Goth Radagaisus were destroyed (406). After the downfall and murder of Stilicho (408), the result of palace intrigues, the emperor was under the control of incompetent favourites. In the same year Rome was besieged, and in 410, for the second time in its history, taken and sacked by Alaric, who for a short time set up the city prefect Attalus as a rival emperor, but soon deposed him as incapable. Alaric died in the same year, and in 412 Honorius concluded peace with his brother-in-law and successor, Ataulphus (Adolphus), who married the emperor’s sister Placidia and removed with his troops to southern Gaul. A number of usurpers laid claim to the throne, the most important of whom was Constantine. In 409 Britain and Armorica declared their independence, which was confirmed by Honorius himself, and were thus practically lost to the empire. Honorius was one of the feeblest emperors who ever occupied the throne, and the dismemberment of the West was only temporarily averted by the efforts of Stilicho, and, later, of Constantius, a capable general who overthrew the usurpers and was rewarded with a share in the government. It was only as a supporter of the orthodox church and persecutor of the heathen that Honorius displayed any energy. In 399 the exercise of the pagan cult was prohibited, and the revenues of the temples, which were to be appropriated for the use of the public or pulled down, were confiscated to defray the expenses of the army. Honorius was equally severe on heretics, such as the Donatists and Manichaeans. He is also to be credited with the abolition of the gladiatorial shows in 404 (although there is said to be evidence of their existence later), a reduction of the taxes, improvements in criminal law, and the reorganization of the defensores civitatum, municipal officers whose duty it was to defend the rights of the people and set forth their grievances. Honorius at first established his court at Milan, but, on the
report of the invasion of Italy, fled to Ravenna, where he resided till his death on the 27th of August 423.
See Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chs. 28-33; J. B. Bury, Later Roman Empire, i. chs. 1-5, ii. chs. 4, 6; E. A. Freeman, “Tyrants of Britain, Gaul and Spain” in Eng. Hist. Review (January 1886); T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (Oxford, 1892), i. chs. 13, 15-18.