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(Aelia) Eudocia, c. 400–460 CE

Originally named Athenais, Eudocia was the daughter of Leontius, a teacher of rhetoric. She was born in Athens (Evagrius Scholasticus Historia ecclesiastica 1.20) and probably followed her father in his career move to Alexandria, before returning to Athens, where Leontius was elected to the chair of rhetoric in 415 ce with the help and intervention of Olympiodorus of Thebes (Olympiodorus fr. 28 FHG). Details of Eudocia’s life are complicated by the novelistic embellishments of the chroniclers (exemplified in Joannes Malalas 272-8 Thurn) and contemporary polemics persisting in later sources,1 but a basic narrative seems secure. Eudocia’s classical education (reported by Malalas 273 Thurn; Phot. Bibl. 183; Tzetz. Chil. 10.48–54) is evident in the nature of her literary output, her use of traditional poetic language, and her classical versification, which reveal formal training despite occasional inconsistencies and non-classical usages. Athenais converted to Christianity and changed her name to Eudocia before her marriage to Theodosius II on 7 June 421. The legend has it that the emperor’s sister, Pulcheria, saw a young Eudocia while she was seeking arbitration in Constantinople over her father’s inheritance, and arranged her marriage to the emperor (Malalas 273-4 Thurn). Eudocia was given the title augusta on 2 January 423 (Chron. Pasch. a. 423, 580 Dindorf), and Constantinopolitan solidi attest that Eudocia’s proclamation of authority from 423 onward was modelled on Pulcheria’s image as augusta (a title that the emperor’s sister held as regent for the young Theodosius from 414).2 Our sources suggest that in later years the relationship between the two empresses grew increasingly fraught.3 Eudocia gave birth to two daughters, Licinia Eudoxia (b. 422 ce) and Flacilla (d. 431), and perhaps to a son, Arcadius.4 She embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 438–439 with Saint Melania the Younger (Life of Melania the Younger 58–59), carrying back relics to Constantinople. Soon after (either in 441 or 443) she was accused of adultery5 and forced to retire to Jerusalem, where she lived until her death in 460.6 She remained an influential figure during her years in Jerusalem, where she was also involved in local resistance to the Council of Chalcedon between 452 and 455.7 Over the course of her life Eudocia sponsored substantial building work in Athens, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem.8

Eudocia is among the best-attested female poets of antiquity. She composed a hexametric panegyric on Theodosius’ war of 421–422 ce against the Persians, which has not survived (mentioned in Socrates Hist Eccl. 7.21.8). She also composed a verse paraphrase of the Octateuch and of the books of Zachariah and Daniel, both again lost (Phot. Bibl. 183–184, who quotes a two-line sphragis from the former). Among her surviving poems, the Homerocentones was probably composed during her second stay in Jerusalem. It is a Christian cento recasting biblical stories in Homeric hexameters, which Eudocia reworked on the basis of a preexisting version composed by the otherwise unknown bishop Patricius. Her verse paraphrase of the martyrdom of Saint Cyprian is based on various prose hagiographic accounts about Saint Cyprian of Antioch, which she versified and recast as one single poem in three books. The first book recounts the failure of the pagan conjurer Cyprian of Antioch to win over the virgin Justina, and his conversion to Christianity. The second book is cast as a first-person confession, in which Cyprian relates his apprenticeship in a wild array of pagan cults, his encounter and pact with Satan, and his eventual conversion to Christianity. The third book survives only in Photius’s paraphrase (Bibl. 184); it included the martyrdom of Cyprian and Justina and an account of their relics being transferred to Rome.9 Evagrius Scholasticus quotes one Homeric hexameter declaimed by Eudocia as part of a panegyric she delivered in Antioch (Evagrius Scholasticus Historia ecclesiastica 1.20): “I boast that I am of your blood and race” (adapted from Hom. Il. 6.211 and 20.241). A short inscriptional poem of seventeen hexameters from the bath complex at Hammat Gader in Israel is also attributed to Eudocia.

The study and appreciation of Eudocia’s significant literary output has been growing steadily in recent years. The paraphrastic focus of Eudocia’s work is typical of literary production in the early 5th century. Earlier critical approaches that focused on Eudocia’s non-classical metrical and lexical choices as failings are gradually being replaced by a better understanding of Eudocia’s experimentation and dialogues between traditional poetic form and Christian content.10

Bibliography

Realencylopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, s.v. “Aelius 170.”Find this resource:

    Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire II 408–409, s.v. “Aelia Eudocia.”Find this resource:

      Greatrex, Geoffrey. “Aelia Eudocia (Wife of Theodosius II).” In De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors.Find this resource:

        Texts and Translations

        Bevegni, Claudio. “Eudociae Augustae Martyrium S. Cypriani I 1-99.” Prometheus 8 (1982): 249–262.Find this resource:

          Bevegni, Claudio, ed. and trans. Eudocia Augusta: Storia di san Cipriano: Introduzione. With an essay by Nigel G. Wilson. Milan: Adelphi, 2006.Find this resource:

            Green, Judith, and Yoram Tsafrir. “Greek Inscriptions from Ḥammat Gader: A Poem by the Empress Eudocia and Two Building Inscriptions.” Israel Exploration Journal 32 (1982): 77–96.Find this resource:

              Ludwich, Arthur, ed. Eudociae Augustae Procli Lyci Claudiani carminum graecorum reliquiae. Leipzig: Teubner, 1897.Find this resource:

                Plant, Ian M., ed. Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                  Rey, André-Louis. Patricius, Eudocie, Côme de Jérusalem: Centons Homériques. Paris: Du Cerf, 1998.Find this resource:

                    Salvaneschi, Enrica. “De Sancto Cypriano.” In Σύγκρισις‎: Testi e studi di storia e filosofia del linguaggio religioso 1. Edited by Carlo Angelino and Enrica Salvaneschi, 11–80. Genoa: Il Melangolo, 1982.Find this resource:

                      Schembra, Rocco, ed. La prima redazione dei centoni omerici: Traduzione e commento. Alexandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2006.Find this resource:

                        Schembra, Rocco, ed. Homerocentones. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007.Find this resource:

                          Schembra, Rocco, ed. La seconda redazione dei centoni omerici: Traduzione e commento. Alexandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2007.Find this resource:

                            Usher, Mark D., ed. Homerocentones Eudociae Augustae. Stuttgart: Teubner, 1999.Find this resource:

                              Studies

                              Burman, J. “The Athenian Empress Eudocia.” In Post-Herulian Athens: Aspects of Life and Culture in Athens A.D. 267–529. Edited by Paavo Castrén, 63–87. Papers and Monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens 1. Helsinki: Finnish Institute at Athens, 1994.Find this resource:

                                Cameron, Alan. “The Empress and the Poet: Paganism and Poetry at the Court of Theodosius II.” Yale Classical Studies 27 (1982): 217–289.Find this resource:

                                  Drake, H. A. “A Coptic Version of the Discovery of the Holy Sepulchre.” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 20 (1979): 381–392.Find this resource:

                                    Fowden, Garth. “Late Roman Achaea: Identity and Defence.” Jorunal of Roman Archaeology 8 (1995): 549–567.Find this resource:

                                      Harrison, R. M. “The Church of St Polyeuktos.” In The Excavations, Structures, Architectural Decoration, Small Finds, Coins, Bones, and Molluscs. Edited by R. M. Harrison, vol. 1 of Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul, 405–421. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.Find this resource:

                                        Holum, Kenneth G.Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.Find this resource:

                                          Hunt, Edward D., Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire: AD 312–460. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

                                            Kelly, Christopher. “Rethinking Theodosius.” In Theodosius II: Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. Edited by Christopher Kelly, 3–64. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                                              Kent, J. P. C. “AUREAM MONETAM . . . CUM SIGNO CRUCIS.” Numismatic Chronicle 20 (1960): 129–132.Find this resource:

                                                Livrea, Enrico. “L’imperatrice Eudocia e Roma: Per una datazione del De S. Cypr.” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 91 (1998): 70–91.Find this resource:

                                                  Mango, Cyril. “A Fake Inscription of the Empress Eudocia and Pulcheria’s Relic of St Stephen.” Nea Rhome 1 (2004): 23–34.Find this resource:

                                                    Scott, Roger. “From Propaganda to History to Literature: The Byzantine Stories of Theodosius’ Apple and Marcian’s Eagles.” In History as Literature in Byzantium. Edited by Ruth Macrides, 115–132. Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies 15. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2010.Find this resource:

                                                      Sironen, Erkki. “An Honorary Epigram for Empress Eudocia in the Athenian Agora.” Hesperia 59 (1990): 371–374.Find this resource:

                                                        Sowers, Brian, P.Eudocia: The Making of a Homeric Christian. PhD diss., University of Cincinnati, 2008.Find this resource:

                                                          Usher, Mark D.Homeric Stitchings: The Homeric Centos of the Empress Eudocia. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.Find this resource:

                                                            Whitby, Mary. “The Bible Hellenized: Nonnus’ Paraphrase of St John’s Gospel and ‘Eudocia’s’ Homeric centos.” In Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: Inheritance, Authority, Change. Edited by J. H. D. Scourfield, 195–231. Swansea, U.K.: Classical Press of Wales, 2007.Find this resource:

                                                              Whitby, Mary. “Writing in Greek: Classicism and Compilation, Interaction and Transformation.” In Theodosius II: Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. Edited by Christopher Kelly, 195–218. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                                                                Whitby, Michael. The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

                                                                  Whitby, Michael, and Mary Whitby. Chronicon Paschale: 284–628 AD. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

                                                                    Notes:

                                                                    (1.) H. A. Drake, “A Coptic Version of the Discovery of the Holy Sepulchre,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 20 (1979): 381–392; Alan Cameron, “The Empress and the Poet: Paganism and Poetry at the Court of Theodosius II,” Yale Classical Studies 27 (1982): 258–259; and Roger Scott, “From Propaganda to History to Literature: The Byzantine Stories of Theodosius’ Apple and Marcian’s Eagles,” in History as literature in Byzantium, ed. Ruth Macrides (Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies 15. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2010), 115–132.

                                                                    (2.) J. P. C. Kent, “AUREAM MONETAM. . . CUM SIGNO CRUCIS,” Numismatic Chronicle 20 (1960): 129–132.

                                                                    (3.) Kenneth G. Holum, Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 112–146, 175–228; for qualifications on the religious nature of the conflict see Cameron, “Empress,” 270–289.

                                                                    (4.) Cameron, “Empress,” 266–267; contra, Christopher Kelly, “Rethinking Theodosius,” in Theodosius II: Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 34–35, n. 95.

                                                                    (5.) Cameron, “Empress,” 258–263.

                                                                    (6.) Michael Whitby, The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 52–53, n. 186.

                                                                    (7.) Kenneth G. Holum, Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 222–224. For Monophysite lore about Eudocia, see Drake, “A Coptic Version,” 381–392; and Scott, “From Propaganda to History to Literature,” 115–132.

                                                                    (8.) For Eudocia sponsoring public works in Athens, see J. Burman, “The Athenian Empress Eudocia,” in Post-Herulian Athens. Aspects of Life and Culture in Athens A.D. 267–529, ed. Paavo Castrén (Papers and Monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens 1; Helsinki: Finnish Institute at Athens, 1994), 81–83; Garth Fowden, “Late Roman Achaea: Identity and Defence,” Jorunal of Roman Archaeology 8 (1995): 559–562; and Erkki Sironen, “An Honorary Epigram for Empress Eudocia in the Athenian Agora,” Hesperia 59 (1990): 371–374. In Constantinople, AP 1.10 (Church of St Polyeuktos) with R. M. Harrison, “The Church of St Polyeuktos,” in The Excavations, Structures, Architectural Decoration, Small Finds, Coins, Bones, and Molluscs, ed. R. M. Harrison, vol. 1 of Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 405–421; and Cyril Mango, “A Fake Inscription of the Empress Eudocia and Pulcheria’s Relic of St Stephen,” Nea Rhome 1 (2004): 23–34. In Antioch, Jerusalem, and Gadara, Evagrius HE 1.20–22, with Michael Whitby, The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), ad loc.; Chron. Pasch. 585 Dindorff, with Michael Whitby and Mary Whitby, Chronicon Paschale: 284–628 AD (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989), 75, n. 251–252; Judith Green and Yarom Tsafrir, “Greek Inscriptions from Ḥammat Gader: A Poem by the Empress Eudocia and Two Building Inscriptions,” Israel Exploration Journal 32 (1982): 77–96; and Edward D. Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire: AD 312–460 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 228–232.

                                                                    (9.) Enrico Livrea, “L’imperatrice Eudocia e Roma: per una datazione del De S. Cypr.,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 91 (1998): 70–91, argues for dating the poem to 439, in connection with a rededication of the relics of Cyprian and Justina in Rome.

                                                                    (10.) Mary Whitby, “The Bible Hellenized: Nonnus’ Paraphrase of St John’s Gospel and ‘Eudocia’s’ Homeric Centos,” in Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: Inheritance, Authority, Change, ed. J. H. D. Scourfield (Swansea, U.K.: Classical Press of Wales, 2007), 195–231; and Mary Whitby, “Writing in Greek: Classicism and Compilation, Interaction and Transformation,” in Theodosius II: Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, ed. Christopher Kelly (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 205–218.

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