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Galla Placidia

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Galla Placidia on a coin struck by her son Valentinian III. On the reverse, a cross (typical of all the coinage referring to Galla Placidia) stands for her Christian faith.

Galla Placidia (c.390 - November 27, 450) lived one of the most eventful lives of late antiquity. Daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I and his second wife, Galla, herself daughter of the Emperor Valentinian I, Galla Placidia was half sister of emperors Honorius and Arcadius.

She had spent much time in the household of Stilicho the Vandal and his wife Serena. Stilicho was effectively the military steward of the West, and according to himself also of the East. He was executed by Honorius, however, in 408 apparently with Placidia's consent, or at least lack of objection, causing most of the non-Italians in Roman service to go over to Alaric - who promptly invaded Italy.

In either 409 or 410, during Alaric's siege of Rome, she became the captive of the Visigoths, who kept her with them as they sacked Rome (for three days beginning August 24, 410), then wandered through Italy where Alaric died in the same year, and later Gaul.

She married Athaulf, brother of Alaric, and king of the Visigoths after Alaric's death, at Narbo in January 414, although the historian Jordanes states that they married earlier, in 411 at Forum Livii (Forl์). Jordanes's date may actually be when she and the Gothic king first became more than captor and captive. She had a son, Theodosius, by the Visigothic king, but he died in infancy, was buried in Barcelona. Years later the corpse was exhumed and reburied in the imperial mausoleum in Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome. Athaulf was mortally wounded by a servant of a Gothic chieftain he had slain, and before dying in the late summer of 415, instructed his brother to return Galla to the Romans. It was the Gothic King Wallia who traded her to the Romans in return for a treaty and supplies early in 416.

Her brother Honorius forced her into marriage to the Roman Constantius in January of 417. They had a son who became Valentinian III, and a rather more strong-willed daughter, Justa Grata Honoria. Constantius became emperor in 421, but died shortly afterwards. Galla herself, the former Augusta, was however forced from the Western empire. Whatever the politics or motivations, the public issue was increasingly scandalous public sexual caresses from her own brother Honorius. She left with her young children to find refuge at Constantinople. After Honorius died in 423, and after the suppression of Joannes despite his ally Aetius' attempt to raise troops to his aid, her son Valentinian was elevated as Emperor in Rome in 425.

At first she attempted to rule in her son's name, but as the generals loyal to her one by one either died or defected to Aetius, imperial policy came to rest in his hands by the time he was made patrician. Placidia apparently was the one who made peace with Aetius - he later was pivotal to the defense of the Western Empire against Attila the Hun - who was diverted from his focus on Constantinople towards Italy as his target due to a foolish letter from Placidia's own daughter, Justa Grata Honoria, in spring 450, asking him to rescue her from an unwanted marriage to a senator that the Imperial family, including Placidia, was trying to force on her. Placidia's last notable public act was to convince her brother Valentinian III to exile not kill her for this. She died shortly afterwards at Rome in November 450, and did not live to see Attilla ravage Italy in 451-453 in a much more brutal campaign than the Goths had waged, using Justa's letter as their sole "legitimate" excuse.

Throughout her life Galla remained a devout Catholic, and in her later years endowed or enriched several churches in Ravenna. Her Mausoleum in Ravenna was one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites inscribed in 1996.

A good, modern study of Placidia and the times she lived in can be found in Stewart Irwin Oost, Galla Placidia Augusta, A Biographical Essay (1967).de:Galla Placidia fr:Galla Placidia he:ื’ืืœื_ืคืœืงื™ื“ื™ื” it:Galla Placidia nl:Galla Placidia sv:Galla Placidia

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