Honorius (emperor)

Honorius (emperor)

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Honorius was Western Roman Emperor
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla
Aelia Flaccilla
Aelia Flavia Flaccilla , first wife of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. She was of Hispanian Roman descent. During her marriage to Theodosius, she gave birth to two sons — future Emperors Arcadius and Honorius — and a daughter, Aelia Pulcheria...

, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

.

Even by the standards of the rapidly declining Western Empire, Honorius' reign was precarious and chaotic. His reign was supported by his principal general, Flavius Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

, who was successively Honorius's guardian (during his childhood) and his father-in-law (after the emperor became an adult). Stilicho's generalship helped preserve some level of stability, but with his execution, the Western Roman Empire moved closer to collapse.

Early reign


After holding the consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

ate at the age of two, Honorius was declared Augustus by his father Theodosius I, and thus co-ruler, on 23 January 393 after the death of Valentinian II
Valentinian II
Flavius Valentinianus , commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.-Early Life and Accession :...

 and the usurpation of Eugenius
Eugenius
Flavius Eugenius was an usurper in the Western Roman Empire against Emperor Theodosius I. Though himself a Christian, he was the last Emperor to support Roman polytheism.-Life:...

. When Theodosius died, in January 395, Honorius and Arcadius divided the Empire, so that Honorius became Western Roman Emperor at the age of ten.

During, the first part of his reign Honorius depended on the military leadership of the general Stilicho, who had been appointed by Theodosius and was of mixed Vandal and Roman ancestry. To strengthen his bonds with the young emperor, Stilicho married his daughter Maria
Maria, daughter of Stilicho
Maria was the first Empress consort of Honorius, Western Roman Emperor.-Family:She was a daughter of Stilicho, magister militum of the Western Roman Empire, and Serena. Maria was a sister of Eucherius and Thermantia. "De Consulatu Stilichonis" by Claudian reports that her unnamed paternal...

 to him. The epithalamion written for the occasion by Stilicho's court poet Claudian
Claudian
Claudian was a Roman poet, who worked for Emperor Honorius and the latter's general Stilicho.A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria and probably not a Christian convert, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395. He made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby...

 survives. Honorius was also greatly influenced by the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

s of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, who sought to extend their influence through his youth and weak character. So it was that Pope Innocent I
Pope Innocent I
-Biography:He was, according to his biographer in the Liber Pontificalis, the son of a man called Innocens of Albano; but according to his contemporary Jerome, his father was Pope Anastasius I , whom he was called by the unanimous voice of the clergy and laity to succeed -Biography:He was,...

 contrived to have Honorius write to his brother, condemning the deposition of John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom , Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic...

 in 407.

At first Honorius based his capital in Mediolanum
Mediolanum
Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was an important Celtic and then Roman centre of northern Italy. This article charts the history of the city from its settlement by the Insubres around 600 BC, through its conquest by the Romans and its development into a key centre of Western Christianity and capital...

, but when the Visigoths under King Alaric I
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

 entered Italy in 401 he moved his capital to the coastal city of Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, which was protected by a ring of marshes and strong fortifications. While the new capital was easier to defend, it was poorly situated to allow Roman forces to protect central Italy from the increasingly regular threat of barbarian incursions. It was also historically significant in that it was the emperor's presence here until the overthrow of the last western Roman emperor in 476 that was probably the reason why Ravenna was chosen, not only as the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy, but also for the seat of the Byzantine exarch
Exarch
In the Byzantine Empire, an exarch was governor with extended authority of a province at some remove from the capital Constantinople. The prevailing situation frequently involved him in military operations....

s as well.

Stilicho and the defence of Italy



Honorius' reign was plagued by almost constant barbarian incursions into Gaul, Italy and Hispania, whilst at the same time, a host of usurpers rose up due to the apparent inability of the emperor to see to the empire's defences.

The first crisis faced by Honorius was a revolt led by Gildo
Gildonic revolt
The Gildonic revolt was a rebellion in the year 398 AD led by Comes Gildo against Roman Emperor Honorius. The revolt was subdued by Flavius Stilicho, the magister militum of the Western Roman empire.-Background:...

, the Comes
Comes
Comes , plural comites , is the Latin word for companion, either individually or as a member of a collective known as comitatus, especially the suite of a magnate, in some cases large and/or formal enough to have a specific name, such as a cohors amicorum. The word comes derives from com- "with" +...

 Africae
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

and Magister utriusque militiae per Africam, in Northern Africa, which lasted for two years (397–398). It was eventually subdued by Stilicho, under the local command of Mascezel, the brother of Gildo.

The next crisis was the Visigoth invasion of Italy in 402 under the formidable command of their king, Alaric. Stilicho was absent in Raetia
Raetia
Raetia was a province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian people. It was bounded on the west by the country of the Helvetii, on the east by Noricum, on the north by Vindelicia, on the west by Cisalpine Gaul and on south by Venetia et Histria...

 in the latter months of 401, when Alaric, who was also the eastern empire's magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 in Illyricum
Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium , and, after 379, Thessalonica...

, suddenly marched with a large army to the Julian Alps and entered Italy.

Stilicho hurried back to protect Honorius and the legions of Gaul and Britain were summoned to defend Italy. Honorius, slumbering at Milan was caught unaware and quickly fled to Asti
Asti
Asti is a city and comune of about 75,000 inhabitants located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, about 55 kilometres east of Turin in the plain of the Tanaro River...

, only to be pursued by Alaric, who marched into Liguria
Liguria
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food.-Geography:...

. Stilicho defeated Alaric at Pollentia
Pollentia
thumb|250px|Church of San Vittore at Pollenzo.Pollentia was an ancient city the left bank of the Tanaro, known today as Pollenzo, a frazione of Bra in the Province of Cuneo, Piedmont, northern Italy....

, on the river Tanarus on Easter Day (April 6, 402) Alaric retreated to Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

, where Stilicho attacked him again. The Visigoths, weakened, were allowed to retreat back to Illyricum. In 405 Stilicho met an invasion of Italy led across the Danube by Radagaisus
Radagaisus
Radagaisus was a Gothic king who led an invasion of Roman Italy in late 405 and the first half of 406. A commited Pagan, Radagaisus evidentily planned to sacrifice the Roman Senators to the gods and burn Rome to the ground. Radagaisus was executed after being defeated by the half-Vandal general...

. They brought devastation to the heart of the Empire, until Stilicho defeated them in 406 and recruited most of them into his forces. Then, in 405/6, an enormous barbarian horde, composed of Ostrogoths, Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 and Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

, crossed the frozen Rhine
Crossing of the Rhine
31 December 406, is the often-repeated date of the crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi...

 and invaded Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

.

The situation in Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

 was even more problematic. The British provinces were isolated, lacking support from the Empire, and the soldiers supported the revolts of Marcus
Marcus (usurper)
-Career:He was a soldier in Roman Britain who was proclaimed emperor by the army there some time in 406. He may have risen to power as a reaction to the increasing raids from abroad at a time when the Empire was withdrawing troops from its distant provinces like Britain to protect its heartland...

 (406–407), Gratian
Gratian (usurper)
-Career:Following the death of the usurper Marcus, Gratian was acclaimed as emperor by the army in Britain in early 407. His background, as recorded by Orosius, was that he was a native Briton and one of the urban aristocracy...

 (407), and Constantine III
Constantine III (usurper)
Flavius Claudius Constantinus, known in English as Constantine III was a Roman general who declared himself Western Roman Emperor in Britannia in 407 and established himself in Gaul. Recognised by the Emperor Honorius in 409, collapsing support and military setbacks saw him abdicate in 411...

. Constantine invaded Gaul in 407, occupying Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

, and while Constantine was in Gaul, his son Constans
Constans II (usurper)
Constans II was the eldest son of the Roman usurper Constantine III and was appointed co-emperor by him from 409 to 411. He was killed during the revolts and fighting that ended his father’s reign.- Career :...

 ruled over Britain. By 410, Britain was effectively told to look after its own affairs and expect no aid from Rome.

There was good reason for this as the western empire was effectively overstretched due to the massive invasion of Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, Suevi and Vandals who although they had been repulsed from Italy in 406, moved into Gaul on 31 December 406, and arrived in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 in 409. In early 408, Stilicho attempted to strengthen his position at court by marrying his second daughter, Thermantia
Thermantia
Aemilia Materna Thermantia was the second Empress consort of Honorius, Western Roman Emperor.-Family:She was a daughter of Stilicho, magister militum of the Western Roman Empire, and Serena. Thermantia was a sister of Eucherius and Maria...

, to Honorius after the death of the empress Maria in 407 Another invasion by Alaric was prevented in 408 by Stilicho when he forced the Roman Senate to pay 4,000 pounds of gold to persuade the Goths to leave Italy.

Honorius, in the meantime, was at Bononia
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, on his way from Ravenna to Ticinum
Ticinum
Ticinum was an ancient city of Gallia Transpadana, founded on the banks of the river of the same name a little way above its confluence with the Padus ....

, when the news reached him of his brother's death in May 408. He at first was planning to go to Constantinople to help set up the court in the wake of the accession of Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

. Summoning Stilicho from Ravenna for advice, Stilicho advised Honorius not to go, and proceeded to go himself. In Stilicho’s absence, a minister named Olympius gained the confidence of Honorius. He convinced the emperor that his Arian
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 father-in-law was conspiring with the barbarians to overthrow Honorius. On his return to Ravenna, Honorius ordered the arrest and execution of Stilicho. With Stilicho’s fall, Olympius moved against all of his former father-in-law’s allies, killing and torturing key individuals and ordering the confiscation of the property of anyone who had borne any office while Stilicho was in command. Honorius's wife Thermantia, daughter of Stilicho, was taken from the imperial throne and given over to her mother; Eucherius, the son of Stilicho, was put to death. The conspiracy also massacred the families of Stilicho's federate troops, and the troops defected en masse to Alaric.

In 409, Alaric returned to Italy, finding little effective opposition in the field. With the agreement of the Senate he supported the usurpation of Priscus Attalus
Priscus Attalus
Priscus Attalus was twice Roman usurper , against Emperor Honorius, with Visigothic support.Priscus Attalus was a Greek from Asia whose father had moved to Italy under Valentinian I. Attalus was an important senator in Rome, who served as praefectus urbi in 409...

. In 410, the Eastern Roman Empire sent six Legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s (6,000 men; due to changes in tactics, legions of this period were about 1000 soldiers, down from the 6000-soldier legions of the Republic and early Empire periods) to aid Honorius. To counter Priscus, Honorius tried to negotiate with Alaric. Alaric withdrew his support for Priscus in 410, but the negotiations with Honorius broke down. Alaric again entered Italy in 410 and sacked Rome
Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on August 24, 410. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a...

.

Constantius and the erosion of the Western Empire



The revolt of Constantine III in the west continued through this period. In 409, Gerontius
Gerontius (general)
Gerontius was a general of the Western Roman Empire, who first supported the usurper Constantine III and later opposed him in favour of another usurper, Maximus of Hispania.- Usurpation of Constantine III :Gerontius probably was of Breton origin...

, Constantine III's general in Hispania, rebelled against him, proclaimed Maximus
Maximus of Hispania
Maximus, also called Maximus Tiranus, was Roman usurper in Hispania . He had been elected by general Gerontius, who might have been his father....

 Emperor, and besieged Constantine at Arles. Honorius now found himself an able commander, Constantius
Constantius III
Flavius Constantius , commonly known as Constantius III, was Western Roman Emperor for seven months in 421. A prominent general and politician, he was the power behind the throne for much of the 410s, and in 421 briefly became co-emperor of the Western Empire with Honorius.- Early life and rise to...

, who defeated Maximus and Gerontius, and then Constantine, in 411.

Gaul was again a source of troubles for Honorius: just after Constantius' troops had returned to Italy, Jovinus
Jovinus
Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

 revolted in northern Gaul, with the support of Alans, Burgundians, and the Gallic nobility. Jovinus tried to negotiate with the invading Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 of Ataulf (412), but his proclamation of his brother Sebastianus
Sebastianus
Sebastianus , a brother of Jovinus, was an aristocrat of southern Gaul. After Jovinus usurped in Gaul the throne of the western Roman Emperor Honorius in 411, he named Sebastianus as Augustus in 412...

 as Augustus made Ataulf seek alliance with Honorius. Honorius had Ataulf defeat and execute Jovinus in 413. At the same time, Heraclianus
Heraclianus
Marcus Aurelius Heraclianus was a Roman soldier who rose to the rank of Praetorian Prefect in the latter part of the reign of the Emperor Gallienus. He was a member of the cabal of senior commanders of the Imperial field army that plotted and achieved the assassionation of the Emperor Gallienus....

 raised the standard of revolt in North Africa, but failed to launch an invasion of Italy. Defeated he fled back to Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and was killed.

In 414, Constantius attacked Ataulf, who proclaimed Priscus Attalus emperor again. Constantius drove Ataulf into Hispania, and Attalus, having again lost Visigoth support, was captured and deposed. In the eleventh consulship of Honorius and the second of Constantius, the Emperor entered Rome in triumph, with Attalus at the wheels of his chariot. Honorius punished Attalus by cutting off his right finger and thumb, inflicting the same fate that Attalus threatened Honorius with. Remembering how Attalus had suggested that Honorius should retire to some small island, he returned the favor by banishing Attalus to the island of Lipara.

Northeastern Gaul became subject to even greater Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 influence, while a treaty signed in 418 granted to the Visigoths southwestern Gaul, the former Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania was a province of the Roman Empire, bordered by the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Narbonensis, and Hispania Tarraconensis...

. Under the influence of Constantius, Honorius issued the Edict of 418, which was designed to enable the Empire to retain a hold on the lands which were to be surrendered to the Goths. This edict relaxed the administrative bonds that connected all the Seven Provinces
Septem Provinciae
The Diocese of the Seven Provinces , originally called the Diocese of Vienne after the city of Vienna , was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, under the praetorian prefecture of Gaul...

 (The Maritime Alps, Narbonensis Prima, Narbonensis Secunda, Novempopulania
Novempopulania
Novempopulania was one of the provinces created by Diocletian out of Gallia Aquitania, being also called Aquitania Tertia. The area of Novempopulania was historically the first one to receive the name of Aquitania, as it was here where the original Aquitani dwelt primarily...

, Aquitania Prima, Aquitania Secunda and Viennensis) with the central government. It removed the imperial governors and allowed the inhabitants, as a dependent federation, to conduct their own affairs, for which purpose representatives of all the towns were to meet every year in Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

.

In 417, Constantius married Honorius' sister, Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

, much against her will. In 421, Honorius recognized him as co-emperor Constantius III; however, when the announcement of his elevation was sent to Constantinople, Theodosius refused to recognise him. Constantius, enraged, began preparations for a military conflict with the eastern empire but before he could commence the planned intervention, he died early in 422.

In 420–422, another Maximus (or perhaps the same) gained and lost power in Hispania. By the time of Honorius’s death in 423, Britain, Spain and large parts of Gaul had effectively passed into barbarian control. In his final years, Honorius reportedly developed a physical attraction to his half sister, and in order to escape his unwelcome attentions, Galla Placidia and her children, the future emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

 and his sister, Honoria, fled to Constantinople.

Death


Honorius died of edema
Edema
Edema or oedema ; both words from the Greek , oídēma "swelling"), formerly known as dropsy or hydropsy, is an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in one or more cavities of the body that produces swelling...

 on August 15, 423, leaving no heir. In the subsequent interregnum Joannes
Joannes
Ioannes, known in English as Joannes, was a Roman usurper against Valentinian III.On the death of the Emperor Honorius , Theodosius II, the remaining ruler of the House of Theodosius hesitated in announcing his uncle's death...

 was nominated emperor. The following year, however, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 elected his cousin Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

, son of Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

 and Constantius III
Constantius III
Flavius Constantius , commonly known as Constantius III, was Western Roman Emperor for seven months in 421. A prominent general and politician, he was the power behind the throne for much of the 410s, and in 421 briefly became co-emperor of the Western Empire with Honorius.- Early life and rise to...

, as emperor.

Sack of Rome


The most notable event of his reign was the assault and Sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (410)
The Sack of Rome occurred on August 24, 410. The city was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna. Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a...

 on August 24, 410 by the Visigoths under Alaric
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

.

The city had been under Visigothic siege since shortly after Stilicho's deposition and execution in the summer of 408. Lacking a strong general to control the by-now mostly barbarian Roman Army, Honorius could do little to attack Alaric's forces directly, and apparently adopted the only strategy he could in the situation: wait passively for the Visigoths to grow weary and spend the time marshalling what forces he could. Unfortunately, this course of action appeared to be the product of Honorius' indecisive character and he suffered much criticism for it both from contemporaries and later historians.

Whether this plan could have worked is perhaps debatable. In any case it was overtaken by events. Stricken by starvation, somebody opened Rome's defenses to Alaric and the Goths poured in. The city had not been under the control of a foreign force since an invasion of Gauls some eight centuries before. The sack itself was notably mild as sacks go; Churches and religious statuary went unharmed for example. The psychological blow to the Romans was considerably more painful. The shock of this event reverberated from Britain to Jerusalem, and inspired Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 to write his magnum opus
Magnum opus
Magnum opus , from the Latin meaning "great work", refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of a writer, artist, or composer.-Related terms:Sometimes the term magnum opus is used to refer to simply "a great work" rather than "the...

, The City of God.

The year 410 also saw Honorius reply to a British
Romano-British
Romano-British culture describes the culture that arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest of AD 43 and the creation of the province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture with that of the indigenous Britons, a people of Celtic language and...

 plea for assistance against local barbarian incursions, called the 'Rescript of Honorius'. Preoccupied with the Visigoths, Honorius lacked any military capability to assist the distant province. According to the sixth century Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 scholar Zosimus
Zosimus
Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

, "Honorius wrote letters to the cities in Britain, bidding them to guard themselves." This sentence is located randomly in the middle of a discussion of southern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

; no further mention of Britain is made, which has led some, though not all, modern academics to suggest that the rescript does not apply to Britain, but to Bruttium in Italy.

Judgments on Honorius



In his History of the Wars, Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

 mentions a story (which Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 disbelieved) where, on hearing the news that Rome had "perished", Honorius was initially shocked; thinking the news was in reference to a favorite chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

 he had named "Roma".

"At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, 'And yet it has just eaten from my hands!' For he had a very large cock, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: 'But I thought that my fowl Rome had perished.' So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed."

Procopius, The Vandalic War (III.2.25–26)


Summarizing his account of Honorius' reign, the historian J.B. Bury wrote, "His name would be forgotten among the obscurest occupants of the Imperial throne were it not that his reign coincided with the fatal period in which it was decided that western Europe was to pass from the Roman to the Teuton." After listing the disasters of those 28 years, Bury concludes that Honorius "himself did nothing of note against the enemies who infested his realm, but personally he was extraordinarily fortunate in occupying the throne till he died a natural death and witnessing the destruction of the multitude of tyrants who rose up against him."

Honorius issued a decree during his reign, prohibiting men from wearing trousers in Rome [Codex Theodosianus 14.10.2–3, tr. C. Pharr, "The Theodosian Code," p. 415]. The last known gladiatorial fight took place during the reign of Honorius.

See also

  • Usurpers during Honorius reign:
    • Priscus Attalus
      Priscus Attalus
      Priscus Attalus was twice Roman usurper , against Emperor Honorius, with Visigothic support.Priscus Attalus was a Greek from Asia whose father had moved to Italy under Valentinian I. Attalus was an important senator in Rome, who served as praefectus urbi in 409...

       in Rome (two times);
    • Maximus
      Maximus of Hispania
      Maximus, also called Maximus Tiranus, was Roman usurper in Hispania . He had been elected by general Gerontius, who might have been his father....

       in Hispania;
    • Marcus
      Marcus (usurper)
      -Career:He was a soldier in Roman Britain who was proclaimed emperor by the army there some time in 406. He may have risen to power as a reaction to the increasing raids from abroad at a time when the Empire was withdrawing troops from its distant provinces like Britain to protect its heartland...

      , Gratian
      Gratian (usurper)
      -Career:Following the death of the usurper Marcus, Gratian was acclaimed as emperor by the army in Britain in early 407. His background, as recorded by Orosius, was that he was a native Briton and one of the urban aristocracy...

      , Constantine "III"
      Constantine III (usurper)
      Flavius Claudius Constantinus, known in English as Constantine III was a Roman general who declared himself Western Roman Emperor in Britannia in 407 and established himself in Gaul. Recognised by the Emperor Honorius in 409, collapsing support and military setbacks saw him abdicate in 411...

       and Constans "II"
      Constans II (usurper)
      Constans II was the eldest son of the Roman usurper Constantine III and was appointed co-emperor by him from 409 to 411. He was killed during the revolts and fighting that ended his father’s reign.- Career :...

       in Gaul and Britain;
    • Jovinus
      Jovinus
      Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

       and Sebastianus
      Sebastianus
      Sebastianus , a brother of Jovinus, was an aristocrat of southern Gaul. After Jovinus usurped in Gaul the throne of the western Roman Emperor Honorius in 411, he named Sebastianus as Augustus in 412...

      .
  • Succession to Honorius:
    • Joannes
      Joannes
      Ioannes, known in English as Joannes, was a Roman usurper against Valentinian III.On the death of the Emperor Honorius , Theodosius II, the remaining ruler of the House of Theodosius hesitated in announcing his uncle's death...

       and Valentinian III
      Valentinian III
      -Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

      .

External links