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Licinia Eudoxia

Wife of Valentinian III, Daughter of Theodosius II

The middle of the Fifth Century was a time of great crisis for the dwindling remnant of the Western Roman Empire. What used to be the most powerful empire on Earth was just a small European state by A. D. 437, when Valentinian married Licinia Eudoxia, a distant relative. The Eastern Roman Empire was still a large and powerful one, ruling the lands from Illyricum (Modern day Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina) to Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Western Empire claimed only Italy and a small part of Gaul (Modern France) by this time.

Licinia Eudoxia was the great granddaughter of Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule over both eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire. Valentinian was the grandson of Theodosius I. Marriage between distant relatives of the imperial family had by this time become commonplace.

After Valentinian III was murdered in 455, Petronius Maximus was elevated to the imperial throne. It was widely believed that he had had something to do with Valentinian's murder, but he was a very wealthy and powerful senator. He forced Valentinian's widow to marry him, and her daughter to marry his son. It is believed that she appealed to Gaiseric, the Vandal ruler of Africa for help. At any rate, that is the excuse Gaiseric offered for the foul deed he now set out to do.

Gaiseric turned his eyes toward the great wealth that remained in the city of Rome. Lacking an adequate army to protect herself, the Eternal City was a tempting target for a raiding warlord or pirate with only modest means. Gambling that Theodosius II in the East had had not the will nor the ability to defend the Western lands, Gaiseric launched his navy led largely by pirate captains and attacked Rome. The citizens of the city panicked when news reached them of the impending invasion. The people and their emperor Petronius Maximus fled. The cowardly emperor was killed by his own frightened and dismayed subjects while attempting to escape the doomed city. Gaiseric found little organized resistance and easily entered the city. He plundered the helpless city and its remaining inhabitants for two weeks, his often drunken troops burning, raping and pillaging at will.

Three of the most valuable prizes captured from the devastated city were Licinia Eudoxia and her two daughters. The eldest daughter, Eudocia (not the empress of the same name), was forced to marry Gaiseric's son Huneric. The three imperial ladies remained captives in Gaiseric's household until the Eastern emperor Leo was able to get Gaiseric to give the ladies up to him sometime in the 460's.

Licinia Eudoxia made her home in the Eastern capital of Constantinople after her release and the events of the rest of her life are lost to history. It is believed that she died sometime in 493.

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