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    Pulcheria, Backbone of an Empire

    Aelia Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II (Augusta, AD 414-453). AV solidus (21mm, 4.31 gm, 1h). Constantinople, AD 441-450. AEL PVLCHERIA AVG, pearl-diademed bust right, wearing necklace and earrings / IMP XXXXII COS XVII P P, Constantinopolis enthroned facing left, holding globus cruciger in right hand and scepter in left; COMOB in exergue. RIC 288. Depeyrot 84/3. Extremely rare. Good Extremely Fine.

    Aelia Pulcheria, the daughter, sister and wife to three different East Roman emperors, played a critical role in maintaining the stability of the East 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 forceful and 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 dismissed the powerful Praetorian prefects who had been controlling the government and took over the regency herself. She declared her intent to remain a virgin (possibly to avoid a political marriage and an end to her independent power), and devoted herself to the Church, which was playing an increasingly dominant role in the East Roman government. Under her control, the Imperial Palace came to resemble a convent, with Pulcheria playing the Mother Superior. She took her brother's education into her own hands and saw 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 East 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). In the 420s and 430s her influence was eclipsed by Theodosius' brilliant and beautiful wife Aelia Eudocia, an Athenian scholar who fostered a brief swerve toward Pagan philosophy and learning. However, Pulcheria eventually won this Imperial catfight by engineering adultery charges against Eudocia and forcing her exile. Pulcheria was also targeted for criticism by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, who accused her of high living and adulteries with seven courtiers. However the charges were so transparently fictitious that Nestorius lost favor and Pulcheria was able to outmaneuver and exile him as well. 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. Pulcheria died in AD 453, having kept her vows of virginity and defense of her Imperial dynasty for a half-century. 


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2013
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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