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    Pulcheria: Power Behind Throne

    Aelia Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II, wife of Marcian (Augusta, AD 414-453). AV solidus (21mm, 4.42 gm, 11h). NGC AU 5/5 - 3/5, graffito. Constantinople, 10th officina, AD 423-429. AEL PVLCH-ERIA AVG, pearl-diademed, draped bust of Aelia Pulcheria right, seen from front, wearing necklace and earring, hair elaborately weaved with long plait up the back of head and tucked under diadem, crowned with wreath by hand of God reaching down from above / VOT XX-MVLT XXX I, Victory standing left, long jeweled cross in right hand, folds of skirt in left; star in upper left field, CONOB in exergue. RIC X 226. Depeyrot 75/3. Very rare. An attractive piece, struck on a broad flan, with much residual luster. Tiny graffito X on neck.

    From the Collection of A Scottish Gentleman. Ex Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection (Heritage Auctions, CICF 3032, 10 April 2014), lot 23773; Triton IX (5 December 2000), lot 741.

    Aelia Pulcheria, the daughter, sister and wife to three different East Roman emperors, played a critical role in maintaining the stability of the Eastern Roman regime in the tumultuous early to mid fifth century AD. Born circa AD 398 to Arcadius and Aelia Eudoxia, she had a far more dominating personality than her timid younger brother, Theodosius II. When Arcadius died in AD 408 and Theodosius ascended the throne at the age of seven, Pulcheria took upon herself the role of her brother's protector. In AD 414 she came of age and the Senate declared her Augusta, or Empress, whereupon she took over the regency herself. She declared her intent to remain a virgin (possibly to avoid a political marriage), and took her brother's education into her own hands, seeing to it he learned how to look, act, and perform rituals like an Emperor; however he lacked backbone, which she had to provide to keep the Theodosian regime in undisputed power. Under her guidance, the Eastern Roman Empire successfully intervened in the West and installed her nephew, Valentinian III, on the throne (AD 424-425), while to the East, a brief war against Persia was successfully prosecuted (AD 421). When Theodosius was killed in a riding accident in AD 450, Pulcheria briefly ruled as sole empress before bowing to demands that she marry and thus chose a suitable man to rule as Augustus. She wisely chose the lowborn but capable Marcian, who proved to be the strong, even-handed ruler the Empire needed. The year following her marriage, Pulcheria was instrumental in summoning the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon, which established the basic principles of teaching the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Pulcheria died in AD 453, having kept her vows of virginity and defense of her Imperial dynasty for a half-century and left all of her possessions to the poor. 

    The coinage of Pulcheria closely mirrors that of her brother and she may, indeed, have been responsible for the introduction in AD 422 of the prominent jeweled cross on the 'Victory holding cross' solidus type, and for the Christianization of the globe held by the seated Constantinopolis on the later coinage. 


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    Auction Dates
    August, 2018
    17th Friday
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