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|Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.|
THEODOSIVS (Flavius), customarily surnamed by historians (but not so on his coins) Magnus, was born of an illustriously noble family, at Italica, (now Seville), in Spain, AD 346.
Son of Theodosius, one of the ablest generals of his time, Flavius showed his heriditary courage and good soldiership in campaigns against the Sarmatians, and in 374 was created Count of Moesia.
Endangered by the jealousies and unjust suspicion which led to his father's decapitation in Carthage in 376, he retired into Spain, where, by order of Gratian himself (who caused that father to perish), he headed an army against the Goths, whom he defeated in a great battle.
On the death of Valens, he was chosen by Gratian for his colleague, and with the title of Augustus, declared Emperor of the East in early AD 379. This event took place at a time when that portion of the Roman empire was ravaged in every direction by the Goths. Assembling his forces with the utmost expedition, he attacked those barbarian hordes; overthrowing them in several successive engagements, and finally compelling them to sue for peace; and to take refuge within their own wild fortresses. From admiration of his valour and great qualities, Sapor III, king of Persia, renounced his enmity to and entered into a treaty of alliance with the Romans, which lasted a considerable period.
In the year AD 383, Theodosius conferred the title Augustus on his eldest son Arcadius, an object of domestic policy, which he had no sooner accomplished than the conquest of Italy and the deposition of Valentinian Junior, by Magnus Maximus, called the imperial hero once more away from his own capital and dominions. Having vanquished and put to death the invading usurper (AD 387), he re-established Valentinian on the throne of the west, and hastened back to quell an insurrection at Thessalonica, where one of his provincial lieutenants had been slain by the inhabitants of that city. On this occasion he sullied his hitherto irreproachable fame, by an act of the most inhuman cruelty, in permitting his victorious troops to massacre more than seven thousand persons, the greater portion of whom were guiltless of the sedition which had so violently irritated him. It was some time after this frightful atrocity that Theodosius, having presented himself at the portal of Milan cathedral, was denied permission to enter by St. Ambrose.
It is further related that the emperor, under the impression of religious awe and compunction, humbly submitted to the sentence of the venerable arch-prelate, and abstained from again offering himself for admission into the church, until for a term of eight months he had exhibited signs of sincere penitence.
Returned at length to the seat of his own government, he found the Gothic tribes pillaging Macedonia and Thessaly; and he chastised and expelled these barbarians from the confines of his empire.
After the decease of the younger Valentinian, he returned again the the west, and achieved his last military exploit by gaining a decisive victory (though not till after some desperate struggles), near Aquileia, on the 5th of September 394, over the usurper Eugenius, whom Arbogastes, the traitorous general of Valentinian and instigator of his murder, had caused to be proclaimed emperor. On the 17th of January in the following year, having just before obtained the senatorial recognition of his second son Honorius, as emperor in the east, this extraordinary man fell ill of dropsy and died (AD 395) at Milan (Mediolanum), in the 50th year of his age, after an eventful reign of nearly sixteen years. He is recorded to have expired in the arms of St. Ambrose, regretted as one of the greatest and best of princes. For fortitude, sagacity, lion-heartedness, and consummate skill in all the acts of government, he might indeed justly be regarded as "the model for sovereigns;" but as much to his piety, so much lauded by Roman historians, there is more than a doubt of its purity and genuineness, and to speak of his moderation and clemency of character would be an insult alike to humanity and common sense after the horrible proof of his savage vindictiveness at Thessalonica.
Theodosius the Great had two wives- the first was Aelia Flacilla, mother of Arcadius and Honorius; the second was Galla, daughter of Valentinian I and of Justinia, by whom he had Placidia, who was the mother of Valentinian III.
On the medals of this emperor he is constantly styled D N THEODOSIVS P F AVG (or AU), the head diademed with pearls. They are common in silver and gold), except gold quinarii and silver medallions. The middle and small brass of this prince are very common; but his bronze medallions are rare.
On the reverse of a silver medallion he is styled, and with historical truth, TRIVMFATOR GENT BARB.
Before Eckhel's time, there existed an almost insuperable difficulty to distinguish the medals which belong to Theodosius I from those which were struck under Theodosius II. A note of Mionnet, of which Mr. Akerman has given in his Descriptive Catalogue (vol. ii. 330) a translation, furnishes in a condensed form the information on this subject so usefully afforded by the learned and sagacious author of Doctrina Num. Vet., in vol. viii. (pp. 181 et seq.), of that invaluable work, to both of which the reader is referred.
Coin illustrated is from *Alex's FORVM Gallery.