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Eastern Roman Empire

Ruler: Aelia Pulcheria
Reigned: Augusta 414 - 453 A.D.
Denomination: Gold Tremissis (third of a Solidus)
Mint: Constantinople
Obverse: Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; "AEL. PVLCH-ERIA AVG."
Reverse: Cross within wreath (ties 14); "CONOB*" below
Reference: RIC X 521; Depeyrot 72/4, RCVM 21256
Weight: 1.3 gms
Nominal Weight: 1.5 gms
Diameter: 13.4 mm


Aelia Pulcheria was born on 19th January, 398 or 399 and died in 453 and was the second child of Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius and Empress Aelia Eudoxia. Her mother, Eudoxia, was also powerful influence over the church, and Arcadius' reign was marked by the conflict between his wife and the Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom Sozomen, who had condemned the empress for her grandiose style of ruling over the empire in his sermons, which so enraged the empress that John was deposed.

Eudoxia died in 404 and Arcadius in 408. The emperor left behind four young children, including a seven-year-old Theodosius II, who was made emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire on the death of his father. Two praetorian prefects were selected as regents over him, Anthemius and Antiochus. When Pulcheria came of age, at fifteen, she and her brother felt that Theodosius no longer needed Antiochus any longer and he was dismissed. Pulcheria became her brother's regent. Thereafter, the palace became much more austere. There was much praying, chanting and reciting passages from the scriptures, as well as fasting twice a week. Pulcheria dominated Theodosius and effectively became co-emperor. At the same time Pulcheria proclaimed herself as guardian over her brother she also took a vow of virginity and her sisters did as well.

In 414 the Roman senate made Pulcheria Augusta. Pulcheria involved herself in politics and, although she was a woman, was treated as an equal among men of power. Pulcheria was known for her philanthropic spirit.

She built many churches and buildings for the poor in and around Constantinople. However, she and Theodosius were anti-Semitic. Theodosius enacted a law that forbade the construction of synagogues and ordered the destruction of those in existence as well.

The relationship between Pulcheria and Aelia Eudocia, Theodosius II's wife, was a strained one, despite the fact that Pulcheria had arranged the marriage of Eudocia to Theodosius.

While hunting on horseback in the year 450, Theodosius II fell from his horse and injured his spine, dying two days later from the injuries. Pulcheria rule alone for about a month but although Pulcheria was respected as an authoritative figure in Rome, the Roman senate would not have a woman as sole ruler of the empire. Therefore, Pulcheria was forced to marry and co-rule the empire with her new husband, despite her vow of virginity. Pulcheria married a man of Illyrian origin, named Marcian, who was a tribune and a close associate of the Germanic general Aspar.

Most of time Marcian and Pulcheria spent as rulers was marked by religious conflict such as with Nestorianism and the Council of Chalcedon. Although the Council of Ephesus occurred during Theodosius II's reign, it was of greater influence during Pulcheria and Marcian's reign.

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