« Arator Arcadius, Flavius Arcani Disciplina »

Arcadius, Flavius

ARCADIUS, ɑ̄r-kê´-di-Us, FLAVIUS: Eastern Roman emperor 383-408; b. in Spain, about 377; d. at Constantinople May 1, 408. He was the elder son of the emperor Theodosius and the empress Ælia Flavilla, and was educated in secular sciences at Constantinople by the sophist Themistius, and by Arsenius, an ascetic, in the Christian religion. In 383 his father conferred upon him the title of Augustus, and in 384 he was made consul. When in 394 Theodosius went to the West to overthrow the usurper Eugenius, the government was left in care of Arcadius, with the assistance of the minister Rufinus. By the unexpected death of the emperor, Jan. 17, 395, at Milan, Arcadius became emperor of the East. By nature good-hearted and yielding, also without energy and narrow-minded, he became the weak tool of those who knew how to obtain his favor, above all of Rufinus, a cunning and unprincipled Gaul, and, after his murder, of the eunuch Eutropius, who covered his selfish atrocities with the name of the lawful ruler, and finally till his fall (399) united all power in himself. Arcadius was also influenced by his wife Eudocia, the beautiful daughter of Bauto, a Frank. Under him the Byzantine empire assumed that oriental character, which it subsequently retained. His piety was sincere, and he worshiped the relics of saints and martyrs devoutly. Even before he was sole regent he interdicted the public worship, instruction, and organization of the heretics (Cod. Theod., XVI. v. 24; a. 394), and in the following year withdrew all former privileges (XVI. v. 25). Investigations had to be made for heretics in the imperial chancery, and among the court-officials (XVI. v. 29). Closely connected with this was his procedure against polytheism. In 397 he ordered that the material from temples in Syria should be used for the repair or construction of public roads, bridges, aqueducts, and walls (XV. i. 36), and in 399 he issued an order to the prefect of the East to destroy all rural sanctuaries. In all this Chrysostom was his hearty supporter. The most important result was probably the destruction of the Marneion and of seven other temples in Gaza in 401 (cf. the interesting account in Marcus’s life of Porphyrius, bishop of Gaza, and J. Dräseke, Gesammelte patristische Untersuchungen, Leipsic, 1889, pp. 208 sqq.). Yet it can not be said that Hellenism suffered much under Arcadius; compared with the policy of Theodosius, there was even a certain relaxation (cf. V. Schultze, Geschichte des Unterganges des griechisch-römischen Heidentums, i., Jena, 1887, 353 sqq., ii., 1892, passim). Toward the Jews Arcadius was surprisingly friendly, and it has been suspected that they secured the favor of Eutropius by money. They had a jurisdiction of their own similar to that of the bishops, and the right of sanctuary analogous to the ecclesiastical (Cod. Theod., II. i. 10; IX. xlv 2; cf. Grætz, Geschichte der Juden, iv. 387 sqq.). Seditions from within, and inroads of the barbarians from without, made the rule of the weak emperor a sad chapter of Byzantine history, which, however, must not be judged wholly according to the unfriendly or hostile heathen sources (especially Eunapius and Zosimus). Quite a number of reforms were decreed during his government which is also not lacking in other good measures.

Victor Schultze.

Bibliography: The sources are in the writings of Zosimus, Philostorgius, Socrates, Sozomen, and Chrysostom; consult further Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. xxxi.; S. R. Sievers, Studien zur Geschichte der römischen Kaiser, 335 sqq., Berlin, 1870; F. W. Unger, Quellen zur byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte, vol. i., Vienna, 1878; A. Guldenpenning, Geschichte des oströmischen Reiches unter den Kaisern Arcadius und Theodosius II., Halle, 1885; A. Puech. St. Jean Chrysostome et les mœurs de son temps, Paris, 1891; C. W. C. Oman, Story of the Byzantine Empire, London, 1892.

« Arator Arcadius, Flavius Arcani Disciplina »
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