Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Theodosius II., emperor

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Theodosius (3) II., emperor, born early in 401, the only son of the emperor Arcadius by EUDOXIA (2), had four sisters, Flaccilla, Pulcheria, Arcadia, and Marina. Pulcheria exercised a predominant influence over Theodosius throughout his life. He was appointed Augustus Jan. 402, and succeeded to the throne at the age of 7 on his father's death in 408. For the secular history of his reign see D. of G. and R. Biogr.; we deal here only with his actions and legislation so far as they bore on the history of the church. His reign was very long, covering the first half of 5th cent., and embracing the origin and rise of two great heresies, the Nestorian and Monophysite. His education was conducted by Pulcheria, who acted as Augusta and his guardian, from July 4, 414, when she was herself little more than 15 years old. Sozomen (ix. 1) tells us that she "superintended with extraordinary wisdom the transactions of the Roman government, concerted her measures well, and allowed no delay to take place in their execution. She was able to write and to converse with perfect accuracy in the Greek and Latin languages. She caused all affairs to be transacted in the name of her brother, and devoted great attention to furnishing him with such information as was suitable to his years. She employed masters to instruct him in horsemanship and the use of arms, in literature, and in science. He was also taught how to maintain a deportment befitting an emperor. . . . But she chiefly strove to imbue his mind with piety and the love of prayer; she taught him to frequent the church regularly, and to be zealous in contributing to the embellishment of houses of prayer. She inspired him with reverence for priests and other good men, and for those who in accordance with the law of Christianity had devoted themselves to philosophical asceticism." Socrates (vii. 22) tells us about his training that "such was his fortitude in undergoing hardships that he would courageously endure both heat and cold; fasting very frequently, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays, from an earnest endeavour to observe with accuracy all the prescribed forms of the Christian religion. His palace was so regulated that it differed little from a monastery; for he, together with his sisters, rose early in the morning and recited responsive hymns in praise of the Deity. By his training he learnt the Holy Scriptures by heart, and would often discourse with the bishops on scriptural subjects as if he had been an ecclesiastic of long standing. He was an indefatigable collector of the sacred books and of expositions written on them, while in clemency and humanity he far surpassed all others." Pope Leo I., in one of his letters to Theodosius, which is intended to be very laudatory (Mansi, v. 1341; cf. Socr. vii. 43), describes him as having "not only the heart of an emperor but also that of a priest." Theodosius delighted in that magnificent ceremonial which gathered round the cultus of relics. He brought the remains of John Chrysostom back to Constantinople, laid his face on the coffin, and entreated that his parents might be pardoned for having persecuted such a holy bishop. He assisted at the discovery and removal of the relics of the Forty Martyrs (Soz. ix. 2), and felt his reign honoured through the simultaneous discovery of the relics of the proto-martyr St. Stephen and Zechariah the prophet (ix. 16, 17). During the latter portion of his reign, terminated by a fall from his horse July 28, 450, his sister lost her power, a comparatively healthy influence, and Theodosius fell completely under the guidance of selfish and tyrannical eunuchs. Pulcheria had vigour and determination. Theodosius seems to have taken refuge from her sway by yielding himself completely to a rapid succession of favourites. He had 15 prime ministers in 25 years, the last of whom, the eunuch Chrysaphius, retained his power longest, a.d. 443–450. Under Theodosius II. paganism became in itself a disability. Some of the highest servants of the state towards the end of cent. iv. had been pagan; now by a law of Dec. 7, 416 (Cod. Theod. xvi. tit. x. 21), pagans were prohibited from entering the military and civil services or attaining any judicial office. This law was followed by 4 others within the next ten years, following closely upon the lines of Western legislation in the same direction as contained in the previous laws; law 25, for instance, passed at Constantinople Nov. 426, orders the cross, "signum venerandae crucis," to be placed on such temples as were allowed to remain intact, while the materials of those pulled down were to be used in repairing bridges, roads, aqueducts, etc. (ib. t. v. lib. xv. tit. 1, leg. 36). These measures seem to have produced an apparent uniformity, as Theodosius, in law 22 passed in 423, refers to the "pagans who remain, though we believe there are none such." The law, however, as yet protected them if they lived peaceably; thus law 24 forbids Christians making attacks on Jews and pagans living among them. Heretics scarcely came off so well. The Novatianists still, as throughout cent. iv., were specially favoured, though occasionally a law was aimed against their rebaptisms and unorthodox celebrations of Easter (lib. xvi. tit. vi. leg. 6, passed on Mar. 21, 413) ; but severe measures of exile, confiscation, and other penalties were dealt out against Montanists, Eunomians, etc., and their employment in the army or civil service was prohibited except apparently in the local militia (xvi. v. 58 and 61). Law 65 (tit. xvi.)

is the most sweeping passed in this reign. Nestorius was its author, and law 66 is a severe one against himself and his party. The Jews were protected, as hitherto, but certain restrictions were by degrees placed upon them. Their synagogues were not to be seized or destroyed, and if destroyed were to be restored, but no new ones were to be built (xvi. tit. viii. 25). They were forbidden to serve in the army, but permitted to be physicians and lawyers (lex 24). Their ecclesiastical and civil organization under their patriarchs was protected. The patriarchs, indeed, c. 415, seem to have advanced so far as to exercise jurisdiction over Christians and to force them to receive circumcision, while the Jewish people mocked the Christian religion and burned the cross (Socr. H. E. vii. 16). Under the influence of Nestorius, however, severer laws were enacted against Jews. In 429 we find one forbidding and confiscating the usual tribute to the patriarchs. This law with Gothofred's commentary is very important as regards the organization of Judaism in cent. v. (cf. the whole series of laws in lib. xvi. tit. viii. leg. 18–29).