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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Journal of Roman Studies
Vol. 9 (1919), pp1‑13

The text is in the public domain:
J. B. Bury died in 1927.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p1 Justa Grata Honoria
By J. B. Bury.

At a critical period of European history a princess of the Theodosian house played a brief but conspicuous and outrageous part. Her relations with Attila have secured a scandalous notoriety to the princess Honoria, who would otherwise have been as mere a name to us as her cousins Arcadia and Marina; for her action, if it did not alter the main course of events, determined the Hun king's policy during three critical years. But the true facts of an extraordinarily interesting episode have been obscured, as I hope to prove, by a curious error in one of our sources. Honoria cannot be dismissed as a perverse or romantic schoolgirl, nor, with Mommsen, as 'eine lüderliche Prinzessin.'

Justa Grata Honoria was the daughter of Galla Placidia and Constantius III, and in conjecturing her character we must take into account the qualities she might have inherited from her parents. The youth of Galla Placidia was stormy enough. She was a woman of strong character and will. In her teens she had voted for the execution — it seems to have been very like a legal murder — of her cousin Serena at Rome. Carried into captivity by the Goths, she had wedded the barbarian Athaulf, to the sore displeasure of her brother Honorius; an alliance which at Constantinople was regarded as a gross scandal, a 'decoloration,' as a contemporary said, of the dignity of the Roman state, aggravating the disgrace of the capture of Rome by Alaric. She had borne a son to the Goth, and had been humiliated by his successor. Afterwards her early adventures were forgotten. She ruled over the West with supreme authority for more than a decade, and a chronicler, recording her death and remembering only her ability as a regent and her blameless piety, could speak of her irreprehensible life.

Restored to Ravenna by king Wallia (A.D. 416), she reluctantly married her wooer Constantius, who was Master of Both Services and virtually ruler of the state, in January 417, when he entered upon his second consulship. Justa Grata Honoria was the elder child of this marriage. Justa and Grata were the names of Placidia's aunt,1 the two sisters of her mother Galla, daughter of Valentinian I and second wife of Theodosius. The date of her birth is not recorded; but as the second child, Placidus Valentinianus, was born on July 3, 419, we can date it as falling between October 417 and September 418. The emperor Honorius was persuaded to co-opt p2Constantius as a colleague on February 8, 421, and Placidia at the same time received the title of Augusta. From the description which the contemporary historian Olympiodorus gives of Constantius, he was evidently a man of unusual temperament. During the seven months of his reign, he endured rather than enjoyed the imperial dignity; its restraints irked him; he was no longer free to come and go as he would. He died September 2, 421.

The August rank of Placidia and her husband, and the nobilissimate which had been bestowed upon their child Valentinian, were not acknowledged by the colleague of Honorius reigning at Constantinople, his nephew Theodosius II. We cannot say whether this attitude was due to personal prejudice against the widow of Athaulf, or to some design of Theodosius eventually to extend his own authority over the western sphere, whenever Honorius should die.

After the death of Constantius, Placidia seems to have exercised unbounded influence over her feebleminded stepbrother, but their intimate relations were succeeded by an estrangement which issued in an open rupture. We have only obscure hints as to the intrigues which went on at the court, but ultimately Ravenna was divided into factions, the partisans of the emperor and the partisans of the empress, and there were street fights.2 We must, I think, connect this breach with the quarrel between Castinus, who had succeeded Constantius as Master of Soldiers, and Boniface, the officer who was afterwards to play such a prominent and ambiguous part in the affairs of Africa. Castinus was setting out for Spain to check the ravages of the Vandals and he ordered Boniface to accompany him. Boniface refused and sailed to Africa (A.D. 422).3 Now Boniface was a strong partisan of Placidia, and Castinus, as the sequel showed, was not her friend. We may fairly conjecture that it was through the influence of Castinus that Placidia and her children were finally compelled to leave the Palace (423). The charge against her was, we are told, that she had invoked the aid of enemies against her brother.4 It is not incredible, and, if it is true, the enemies were probably the Visigoths, now established in southern Aquitaine. Boniface supplied her with money to enable her to reach Constantinople. This journey must have been one of the earliest recollections of Honoria, then five or six years old.

If Theodosius entertained prejudices against his aunt, she overcame them. She was made welcome; her rank as Augusta was recognised; the legitimacy of her husband's imperial status was acknowledged; complimentary coins, of which more will be said below, were issued in her honour. Above all, when Honorius died p3(August 27) a few months after her arrival, and an obscure official John was set up as emperor at Ravenna, Theodosius decided to support the claims of her son.

We may take it as certain that John could not have assumed the purple without the support, open or secret, of the Master of Soldiers, Castinus, and we are expressly told that Castinus connived. The tyrant was not recognised at Rome, and probably had few adherents except at Ravenna and in the army which Castinus controlled. It was not till towards the end of 424 that the forces of the East, commanded by Ardaburius and Aspar, set forth to restore Theodosian dominion in Italy. Placidia and her children accompanied them, under the escort of Helion, the Master of Offices, and at Thessalonica Valentinian was created Caesar, Helion acting for the emperor.5 When they reached Salona, the host divided, Ardaburius and the infantry embarking in ships and crossing the Hadriatic, Aspar and the cavalry proceeding by road to Aquileia. It might be thought that the most natural arrangement would have been for the imperial party to take the sea journey and abide in loyal Rome for the issue of the struggle. As a matter of fact they went with Aspar to Aquileia. But I conjecture that the other plan was the original intention. We know that on one occasion Placidia and her children together suffered shipwreck. This might have happened on their way to Constantinople in 423. But it seems more probable that it was in returning to Italy, for on this occasion we know that there was a storm. I suggest that Placidia embarked at Salona, and that the same storm which shattered the transports of Ardaburius drove her ship back and wrecked it on the Dalmatian coast. Saved from death, she did not wait for calm weather to tempt the sea again, but followed Aspar to Aquileia. We know of the incident from the fact that in her peril she made a vow to St. John the Evangelist, in fulfilment of which she built his Basilica at Ravenna. The dedicatory inscription is preserved by Agnellus:6

Galla Placidia Augusta cum filio suo Placido Valentiniano Aug. et filia sua Justa Grata Honoria Augusta liberationis periculum maris votum solvent (sic).

It would be irrelevant here to discuss the meagre details recorded of the operations which resulted in the execution of John and the sentence of Castinus to exile (Sept. 425). When her cause was won, Placidia hastened to Rome with her children, and on October 23 Valentinian was crowned Augustus, Helion again taking the place of Theodosius in the performance of the ceremony.

It seems almost certain that Honoria was created Augusta about the same time or very soon afterwards. The evidence that she bore p4the title consists of the inscription quoted above and another, and her coins. The inscription suggests that the Augustan rank was conferred within a few years after 425, as we may fairly presume that Placidia did not unduly postpone the fulfilment of her vow to St. John. But coins suggest a date as close as possible to the elevation of Valentinian.

Of gold solidi of Honoria7 we have specimens of two types, and probably no others were ever issued. Both were minted at Ravenna. The obverses with bust and legend DN Ivst Grat Honoria PF Avg are similar. The reverse of (1) has the legend bono reipvblicae and a star in the field. It corresponds to a similar one of Galla Placidia. (2) is a vicennalian coin (with vot XX mvlt XXX) and corresponds to similar coins of Placidia struck at Ravenna, Rome and Aquileia.

At first sight one would imagine that (2) must refer to the vicennalia of Valentinian. We have no record as to that celebration, and, strange to say, there are no vicennalian coins of Valentinian himself, although decennalian and tricennalian are extant, nor of his wife Licinia Eudoxia. Yet it can hardly be believed that he omitted to celebrate his vicennalia. That, however, is a problem which we may put on one side, for there are other reasons for referring the coins of Honoria and Placidia which are in question to the vicennalia of Theodosius II.

In the brilliant article8 in which he solved the problem that baffled Sabatier and Cohen of distinguishing the coins of the elder and the younger Eudoxia, de Salis discussed at length the vicennalian issues of Theodosius. The proper year of celebration was 422, and as there is no particular reason to suppose that it was anticipated (though de Salis suggests 420), we may date to that year the solidi of DN Theodosius PF Avg, Ael Pvlcheria Avg and DN Honorius PF Avg with the same reverse type of a standing Victory, holding a cross, and the vicennalian legend. In January 423 the Athenian wife of Theodosius was created Augusta and to this year we can therefore attribute her coins (Ael Evdocia Avg) of the same set. In the same year Placidia arrived at Constantinople, and complimentary coins of the same type were issued for her (Ael Placidia Avg)9 in 423 or 424. Those of Eudocia and Placidia differed from the others by having a star on the field of the reverse.

Now the Italian coins of Placidia and Honoria, with similar reverse type, cannot be divorced from this group. De Salis concludes that they are copies of the Constantinopolitan solidi 'as is evident from the p5fact that the star which appears on the eastern coins of the married or widowed empresses Eudocia and Placidia is repeated on the Italian imitations of the latter, but not on those of her unmarried daughter, which are copied from the coins of Pulcheria.' It is, however, to be observed that Placidia coins of this type were also issued at Ravenna without a star. There is a specimen in the British museum.

From the argument of de Salis it seems to follow that these coins are unlikely to be much later than 425‑6, and, if he is right in his opinion that the mint of Aquileia was closed about this time, the question would be practically settled.

Besides the solidi, we have a gold semissis, and a small silver coin, of Honoria with the legend salvs reipvblicae, which points to a date prior to 437, the year of Valentinian's marriage, just as the coins of Pulcheria with this legend must be dated before the marriage of Theodosius. That the Bono reipublicae solidi of Honoria and her mother were also prior to 437 can hardly be doubted. There are no similar coins of Valentinian's wife.

At the end of 425 Honoria was eight years old at most. It was a new thing to bestow the diadem on a child princess, and I do not know that it was often repeated. Pulcheria had been created an Augusta only when she was old enough to act as regent for her brother. But it was probably just the regency of Pulcheria that suggested to Theodosius and Placidia (and perhaps Pulcheria herself), who must have arranged the matter in advance, that in case any mishap were to befal the mother before Valentinian's minority expired it might be very convenient if his elder sister were already qualified as Augusta to step into her mother's place as regent. In such an eventuality her prestige would be the greater if she were on an equality in respect of Augustan rank with the emperor and the regent from the very beginning.10

The face in profile of Honoria's coins can give us no idea of her personal appearance. The vicennalian coin represents not a child of eight but an adult. It has a family resemblance to the heads on the coins of the other ladies of the Theodosian house,11 including the wives of Arcadius and Theodosius II, who were not of Theodosian blood. They cannot be taken as portraits. Change the names and it would be difficult to distinguish them. The faces gave no clue for distinguishing the coins of the Eudoxias.

It was in A.D. 434, when she was sixteen, or barely seventeen, that, according to the Chronicle of Marcellinus, Honoria committed the indiscretion which decided her fate and has immortalised her. This writer, who compiled his work at Constantinople early in the sixth p6century, states that in the Second Indiction, in the consulship of Areobindus and Aspar [= A.D. 434]:

Honoria Valentiniani imperatoris soror ab Eugenio procuratore suo stuprata concepit, palatioque expulsa Theodosio principi de Italia transmissa Attilanem contra occidentalem rempublicam concitabat.

So far as the substance of this notice goes, it tells us the two leading facts which we know more fully from the contemporary historian Priscus. Its importance lies in the date, which is, on the face of it, quite inconsistent with the story as told in the fragments of Priscus and by writers who copied from him. That story implies that the episode of Honoria's relations with Attila began in 450 or not earlier than in A.D. 449.

Two different ways have been taken to overcome the discrepancy. Tillemont12 simply accepted the date of Marcellinus for the appeal to Attila, who in 434 had just succeeded to the throne, and tried to bridge the chronological gap by asserting that 'Honorie ne cessa point de solliciter Attila contre son frère', an assumption which has no authority.13

Gibbon saw that Honoria's adventures could not 'be made consistent or probable' if the chronology of Marcellinus were adopted as it stands; he saw that the plain implication of Priscus that it was shortly before the Hun invasion of Gaul that she addressed Attila cannot be rejected. But he was not willing to set aside the date of Marcellinus. He accepted 434 as the year of the intrigue with Eugenius, but supposed that a long interval elapsed between Honoria's disgrace and her message to Attila. Sent (in 434) to Constantinople, 'the unhappy princess passed twelve or fourteen years in the irksome society of the sisters of Theodosius and their chosen virgins.'14 Mommsen, who has touched upon the subject in his study of Aetius,15 adopts the same solution. 'Eine geraume Zwischenzeit,' he says, must be assumed between the affair of Eugenius and the affair of Attila.

But this solution will not do. The two affairs are in close temporal connexion, but in Marcellinus and, as we shall see, in another more important source (John of Antioch) which was not known to Gibbon but was known to Mommsen. The chroniclers sometimes compress under one year connected events which belong to two adjacent years, but I know no instance of events separated by p7fourteen or fifteen being run together. If we accept the date of Marcellinus at all, we must accept it simply and entirely with Tillemont. But the truth is that it is altogether erroneous, and this can be proved to demonstration.

The first glimpse we gain of Honoria after she reached the age of womanhood is very different from that of a princess in disgrace. She is in her early twenties; her brother is married and has already two daughters. The years of their births are not recorded, but can be fixed within certain limits sufficiently narrow. For we know that the younger, Placidia, was married to Olybrius just before Gaiseric carried them both off to Carthage along with their mother in the summer of 455.16 Therefore we can hardly place her birth later than 440, and the probability is that Eudocia, the elder, was born in 438, and Placidia in 439 or 440. It was then not earlier than in 440, perhaps in 441 or 442, that a family group in which the infant Placidia was included, was described by the court poet Merobaudes.17 The greater part of the poem is preserved and contains the following description of the Imperial family:

ipse micans tecti medium cum coniuge princeps

lucida ceu summi possidet astra poli

terrarum veneranda salus; pro praeside nostro

amissas subito flet novus exul opes;

cui natura dedit, victoria reddidit orbem,

claraque longinquos praebuit aula toros.

hic ubi sacra parens placidi18 petit oscula nati

Castalium credas cum genetrice deum.

cum soror adsistit, nitidae candentia lunae

sidera fraterna luce micare putes;

si coniux aderit, dicas Nereia Pelei

Haemonio Thetidos foedera iuncta toro.

hac etiam de prole licet sperare nepotem

cui Larisa suum conferat una virum.19

en nova iam suboles quae vix modo missa sub <auras>

mystica iam tenero pectore sacra gerit

vagitu confessa deum; sentire putares,

mollia sic tremolo moverat ora sono.

According to Vollmer the whole poem celebrates the baptism of Placidia in the Palace of Ravenna. He is surely wrong. To me it seems quite evident that the poet is describing the mosaic decoration p8of a room in the Palace, wrought a short time after Placidia's birth.20 Valentinian with Eudoxia was portrayed in the centre of the roof (5), and around were various scenes from his life. In one place,

pro praeside nostro

amissas subito flet novus exul opes.

These words alone were enough to show that we have to do with an artistic representation, but it is amazing how the editor has managed to misinterpret them. He takes the novus exul to be the tyrant John, and praeside nostro to be Valentinian,21 and assumes that Merobaudes could have imagined that John who had been executed in 425 was alive in 439‑40, bewailing in exile the wealth he had lost; indeed, his astonishing note seems even to dally with the possibility that the tyrant's life was saved after all. Novus and subito he does not attempt to explain. Merobaudes means, and says in his not very admirable way, that the artist represented the child Valentinian, recently exiled by Honorius (novus exul), in the presence of Theodosius (praeside nostro) weeping over the loss of the empire which should be his by the unexpected blow of John's usurpation.

Other scenes showed the Emperor with his mother (11), and with his sister (13); the infant Eudocia (17: hac is deictic like hic in 11), whose betrothal to Huneric is alluded to (the vir of Larisa was Poseidon, and the Vandals had a navy); and the newly-born child Placidia (perhaps her baptism). But the verses which concern us now are 13‑16, of which the purport is: 'When his sister stands beside him (as we see her there) she is like the moon illuminated by the light of the sun. If she marries, the fitting image will be the union of Thetis with Peleus.'22 Thus, about 441, the court poet could write of the Augusta Honoria; and an artist, whose work, if it was begun before Placidia's birth, was certainly not begun before the marriage of Valentinian, could give her a conspicuous place in his decorative scheme. Here we have contemporary evidence which is sufficient to refute the received opinion that 434 was the year of her disgrace.23 The remark of Merobaudes about her eventual marriage hardly shows that any particular alliance was in view, but it shows that then at least there was no question of condemning her to adopt the virginal life of Pulcheria and her sisters.

Honoria had inherited the self-will and ambition of her mother, along with the temperament of her father which chafed against conventionality. She had a stronger character than her fainéant brother who was a worthless man of pleasure, and she was naturally p9conscious of her intellectual superiority. We can understand, too, that, as her nieces grew up and their importance began to overshadow her own, she felt the change from the early days in which she was precious to the state (salus reipublicae), and looked forward with horror to a dull life in which she must always play a minor part. In 449 her discontent issued in action.

The story of her conduct was told by Priscus, the best and most eminent historian of the fifth century, and the most accurately informed on all matters connected with the Huns. We have (1) two fragments from his work, bearing on this episode;24 we have (2) the story of Honoria's acts in what is certainly a transcription (perhaps almost literal if hardly complete) from his account, by John of Antioch;25 and (3) two passages of Jordanes which are partly, though not directly, based on his narrative.26 From these the following story emerges.

Honoria (like the sisters of Theodosius) had a separate establishment of her own, doubtless within the palace precincts at Ravenna, and a steward or comptroller to manage it.27 The name of this man of business was Eugenius, and with him she had an amorous intrigue. It was discovered.28 The paramour was put to death, and Honoria was driven from the palace and was betrothed (κατεγγυᾶται) to a certain Herculanus, a highly respectable senator, who was ready to wed a princess of damaged reputation. He has been identified with Flavius Bassus Herculanus who was afterwards consul (425) and therefore must have been a man of wealth. The choice was made because he was esteemed a safe man who could be depended upon to resist if his wife attempted to draw him into ambitious or revolutionary schemes.29

The idea of this union was hateful to Honoria, and she sent a trusted servant, a eunuch named Hyacinthus, to Attila, with a sum of money and a ring, requesting his assistance against her brother. Attila eagerly espoused her cause. He claimed her as his bride, and demanded that half of the territory over which Valentinian ruled should be surrendered to her.30 At the same time he made preparations to invade the western provinces. It seems that he first addressed his demands and threats to Theodosius. It was the spring p10or summer of 450. Theodosius promptly wrote to his colleague, and apparently advised him to avert the serious danger of a Hun invasion by surrendering Honoria.31 Valentinian was furious. The details of the treasonable communications with the Hun were extorted from Hyacinthus by torture before he was beheaded. Honoria's life was only spared through the intercessions of her mother.32 Attila, when he heard of her treatment, sent an embassy to Ravenna to vindicate her: she had done no wrong, she was affianced to him, and he would come to enforce her right to a share of the imperial power. Again when he was about to march to the Rhine at the beginning of 451, he sent a second embassy demanding her surrender, and gave his envoys her ring to show as a proof of the betrothal. It was as her champion that he invaded Italy in the following year, and, when he retreated, he threatened that he would do worse things unless the Augusta and her rightful inheritance were handed over to him. She was therefore alive in 452.

This is the bare outline of the story. If we had the original text of Priscus throughout, it would be probably be clearer and fuller. But about the time of these events there is no ambiguity. It is incontestably fixed to A.D. 449‑50. The troubles of Honoria, in consequence of her appeal to him, became known to Attila about the time of the accession of Marcian (Aug. 25, 450); therefore it was in the summer (probably June) of the same year that Theodosius wrote to Valentinian; her message to Attila was sent in the spring or winter; and the affair of Eugenius must be placed in 449.

It will be observed that there is not a word of Honoria's being sent in disgrace to Constantinople. We saw that this was stated by Marcellinus. It is also stated by Jordanes. Priscus, as we know, was indirectly a source of Jordanes, and so it might be presumed that on this point Priscus supported Marcellinus, and that the banishment to Constantinople is an established fact. But the banishment is obviously inconsistent with the Priscus story, which implies that Honoria was in Italy, not at Constantinople, when her guilt was disclosed to Theodosius by Attila's envoys; therefore Priscus was not the source of this statement of Jordanes. We know on other grounds that Jordanes made use of Marcellinus, and the probability is that his in Constantinopolim Theodosio principi destinata est33 was taken from the chronicler's Theodosio principi de Italia transmissa. We can only reject this statement of Marcellinus; if it were true, p11Priscus could not have failed to mention it, could not have told the story in a way which excludes it.34

We can now see Honoria and her conduct in a new light. Her audacities were committed when she was a woman past thirty, not when she was a girl of sixteen. Her motive was not profligate passion but political ambition. This comes out quite clearly in the source. It was with designs upon the imperial throne35 that she gave herself to Eugenius; he was to be her instrument in a plot to overthrow Valentinian, whom she detested and despised. If treason had not been in the background, if the affair had been a mere indiscretion, the scandal would have easily been hushed up by allowing her to marry her paramour. The prospect of a union with the respectable Herculanus was intolerable to a woman of her temper, and she was prepared to move Acheron.

In the thought of asking Attila to help her, we may divine that she was inspired by the example of her mother. When Placidia, who was bent on seizing the reins of power, quarrelled mortally with Honorius, she was charged with inviting an enemy to intervene against her brother. Her daughter now appealed to Attila against hers.36 It was purely a request for help (ἐς ἐπικουρίαν ἐπικαλεσαμένης), to deliver her from her brother's power and prevent the dreaded marriage. She sent money — she knew his avidity; and she sent her ring. But the ring was only intended to assure him that the message was authentic (πιστουμένη τὸν βάρβαρον); it was he who interpreted it as a proposal of marriage. She owes it to the imagination of Jordanes (or rather Cassiodorus?) that she has been credited with conceiving a desire for a barbarian whom she had never seen.

Hyacinthus returned, and he must have borne a message from Attila, a promise to espouse her cause on condition that she became his wife. It was a choice between Herculanus, the respectable, commonplace Italian, and the king who was at the moment the most powerful potentate in Europe. Could she hesitate? Attila was a barbarian. But had not her mother married a Goth, and was not her niece Eudocia betrothed to the son of the Vandal king? Yet these Germans were Christians, and Attila was a heathen. Yes, but Athaulf and Huneric were Arians, and was an Arian so much better? But a Hun? Seventy years before, that would have caused shrinking, but in the course of two generations the Huns in Europe had been in many ways half-Germanised; Attila is a German name. The one difference that could really matter from Honoria's point of view was p12that the Hun was a polygamist. To live beyond the Danube as the most honoured lady of his harem was a fate which could not have appealed to her. But that was not the programme. Her original plan had aimed probably at deposing her brother and ruling in his stead with Eugenius; Attila's policy, with which she had now to fall in — for we may assume that she accepted it, — was to divide the empire with Valentinian; Gaul, which he coveted, to be Honoria's portion. In Gaul then she would reign as empress with Attila; there would be no question of banishment to his trans-Danubian huts, for his authority and prestige in Gaul would depend on her, a legitimate empress of the Theodosian house. A woman of her temper was not likely to fear that she could not manage the barbarian.

The intervention of Attila took the business out of Honoria's hands. She could only wait — she was under strict supervision, no doubt — and pray for his success. The design was frustrated, first by the energy of Aetius, then by plague, finally by Attila's sudden death. In 451 he would have been master of Gaul, if Aetius had not succeeded, hardly and at the last moment, in mobilising the Visigoths. In 452 he had Italy at his mercy, and if disease had not broken out in his camp (for that certainly was the cause of his retreat), he could have compelled Valentinian to surrender Honoria. In 453 death only prevented him from coming again, and then he might well have been successful. During these years, however humiliating her position, Honoria's life cannot have been unexciting.

After 452 we hear no more of her. Was she forced to marry Herculanus? Did she survive the murder of the semivir amens whom she hated? One word there is which may be ominous. Having recorded that her mother's entreaties saved her, John of Antioch dismisses her in these words: οὕτως μὲν οὖν Ὁνωρία τότε τῆς . . . ἀπελύετο, where κολάσεως or something of the kind has fallen out. But τότε? Does this imply that she incurred some punishment afterwards, worse even than a dull marriage?

Our investigation has shown that the received view of Honoria as a profligate girl, who could not bridle her unchaste instincts, who appealed to Attila 'in the pursuit of love' or at best of revenge, and in doing so displayed the intelligence of a child playing with fire, that this view cannot be sustained. I have little doubt that it was originated by Cassiodorus; the scandal gave him a welcome opportunity of denigrating a lady of the Theodosian house. From him, it passed into Jordanes: prorsus indignum facinus ut licentiam libidinis malo publico compararet. Modern historians have faithfully followed the lead, and the false date of Marcellinus has helped to maintain the error. Love, for all we know, may have played some part in her intrigue; but, if so, it was only accessory. Her motive was ambition, not licentiousness; her crime was political. Instead of the improper and rather absurd young lady, the rôle she has hitherto filled, she p13stands out as an interesting and important figure. I once agreed with the common view that Attila made use of Honoria merely as a diplomatic pretext. Longer study of the situation has shewn me that she was not a pretext, she was the key to his policy. One does not regret the discomfiture of Attila's plans, but one's sympathy may be with Honoria, not with Valentinian.

I go back to the unlucky date in the chronicle of Marcellinus. It is not always possible when you expose an error to account for it, but it is decidedly more satisfactory if you can. This error admits of a simple enough explanation. We have only to suppose that Marcellinus found in his source the affair of Eugenius rightly dated as occurring in Ind. II (i.e. A.D. 449). His chronicle is arranged under indictions,37 so he duly entered the matter under Ind. II, but through inadvertence pitched upon Ind. II of the preceding cycle (i.e. A.D. 434). It is more than an accident that there are exactly the fifteen years between the true and the erroneous date.


The Author's Notes:

1 Socrates, H.E. IV.31.

2 Olympiodorus, fr. 40.

3 Prosper, sub a. 422; compare Hydatius.

4 Prosper, sub a. 423. Placidia Augusta a fratre Honorio pulsa ad orientem cum [Honoria et Valentiniano] filiis proficiscitur. This is repeated in the Chronicle of Cassiodorus, but with the addition ob suspicionem invitatorum hostium.

5 Olympiodorus, fr. 46; Philostorgius, H.E. XII.13; Prosper sub a.

6 In Muratori, S.R.I. II.68; CIL XI.276. For Honoria Aug. see also Dessau, 817.

7 Cf. Cohen2, VIII, p219. I must acknowledge the valuable help I received from my friend Mr. Mattingly, of the Coin Department of the British Museum, in examining the coins of this period. He agrees, generally, with the deductions of de Salis.

8 Numismatic Chronicle, N.S. vol. VII, 203, sqq. (1867).

9 Galla Placidia and Licinia Eudoxia are always designated by these names on their Italian coinage, but on complimentary coins minted at Constantinople they are Ael. Placidia and Ael. Eudoxia (like Pulcheria, Eudocia, and the elder Eudoxia).

10 Gibbon's explanation is that 'as her marriage might be productive of some danger to the state, she was raised by the title of Augusta above the hopes of the most presumptuous subject.' But if such precaution were deemed necessary in her case, would it not have been deemed necessary also after the death of Arcadius in the case of his daughters?

11 They are all in profile, except in the case of Licinia Eudoxia, who has coins with a full face.

12 Hist. des Empereurs, VI, 144.

13 Perhaps he imagined it was justified by the imperfect tense concitabat. Of recent writers, Hodgkin also accepts 434 for the appeal to Attila.

14 Vol. III (ed. Bury), p481.

15 Historische Schriften, I, p541. There are some mistakes in this article. Fl. Bassus Herculanus (see below) is named Fl. Cassius Herculanus, and the year of his consulate is given as 449. It was 452. I mention these only because such oversights are so rare in Mommsen's essays that they might mislead.

16 So the best authority, Priscus (fr. 10, de leg. Rom. ed. de Boor, p153), and Procopius, Bell. Vand. I.5. See Clinton, F.R. II, p127. Evagrius, H.E. II.7, is in error and has misled Gibbon and others into placing the marriage of Placidia after her restoration to Constantinople.

17 Carm. I, ed. Vollmer (in M.G.H.). Carm. II, a small fragment, seems to have been written for Placidia's baptism.

18 A play on the Emperor's name Placidus.

19 This allusion (see below) to a betrothal of Eudocia to Huneric suggests 442, the year of the treaty with the Vandals, as the date of the poem.

20 The very first line that is preserved indicates this:

— incumbit foribus pictae Concordia mensae.

21 Explaining: It is John, not our Emperor, who has to bewail the loss of wealth.

22 The turn of expression, si coniux aderit, implies the thought that Honoria and her future husband might some day be the subject of a painter's art.

23 Vollmer draws the inference that Honoria, after the escapade of 434, had been received again into favour and returned from Constantinople. He does not think of questioning the date.

24 Excerpta de leg. gentium (ed. de Boor), fr. 7, p582; fr. 8, p583.

25 Excerpta de insidiis (ed. de Boor), fr. 84, p124. The article Ὁνωρία in Suidas is only an extract from John.

26 Getica, 223‑4; Romana, 328. His immediate source was the Gothic History of Cassiodorus. See Preface of Mommsen's ed.

27 Procurator (Jord. and Marcell.) τὴν ἐπιμελείαν τῶν αὐτῆς ἔχοντι πραγμάτων (John Ant.).

28 ἥλω ἐς λαθραῖον ἐρχομένη λὲχοςº (John Ant.). Here there is no suggestion of pregnancy.

29 ὡς μήτε πρὸς βασιλείαν μήτε πρὸς νεωτερισμὸν ὑποτοπεῖσθαι. On a statue found at Aeclanum near Beneventum, on the Via Appia, there is part of the name of the consul Herculanus, CIL IX.1371. Mommsen says that Honoria was married to H., so that Valentinian's ministers could reply to Attila's demands by simply stating the fact. But this is not in our sources.

30 On the principle that the subject territory was the private property of their father Constantius, and that the children, male or female, had a claim to equal portions. Was this sheer ignorance of Roman constitutional law? Attila had Latin secretaries.

31 ἐπιστέλλει τῷ Βαλ. τὴν Ὁν. ἐκπέμπειν τῷ Ἀττήλᾳ.

32 So far John Ant. The embassies and threats of Attila in 450, 451, 42 come from the Priscus fragments and Jord. Get. That Priscus had told the whole story is proved by τὰ τῆς Ὁνωρίας πέρι γεγενημένα in fr. 7. The intercession for her daughter was one of the last acts of Placidia. She died a few months later, on Nov. 27, 450.

33 The whole passage (Rom. 328) perverts both Priscus and Marcellinus, by making the intrigue with Eugenius subsequent to the invitation to Attila; facinusque quod cum Attila non fecerat cum Eugenio procuratori suo committit. Tillemont adopted this reversal of the order of events.

34 We have no data for explaining the error. It may, of course, be conjectured that on some earlier occasion Honoria was sent to the court of her cousins, for the purpose of taming her mutinous temper in their grave society; but such conjectures, where we have nothing to go upon, are futile.

35 τῶν βασιλικῶν καὶ αὐτὴ (as well as Attila, mentioned in the previous sentence) ἐχομένη σκήπτρων (John Ant.).

36 A few years later her sister-in‑law Eudoxia would appeal to Gaiseric to rescue her from Petronius Maximus. The fact has been questioned, for perverse reasons.

37 His indictions are equated with consulships, an awkward method, as only eight months of the year, Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, are common to both.


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