Kingdom Hero: Theodosius I

Vipava Valley in Italy

Theodosius I , a/k/a Theodosius the Great, was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 379 A.D. to 395 A.D. The Byzantine Empire succeeded the Roman Empire in the east after Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, founded Constantinople. Constantinople would become the heart of Christendom and one of the great cities in history in part because of Theodosius I.

Early in his reign, Theodosius became gravely ill. During that time Theodosius was baptized. Upon recovering he declared himself a Christian who embraced the Nicene Creed. Throughout the rest of his life Theodosius would be a devout follower of Jesus.

Theodosius protected the Church by convening a council which confirmed consubstantiality-the doctrine that the Father and Son were of the same substance-as orthodox and condemned Arianism, which claimed Jesus was created and not coeternal with the Father, as heresy. Since that time, Arianism has never made a serious challenge to orthodoxy in the Church.

Theodosius also protected his people from the cult of paganism. Constantine had ended the persecution of Christians and protected the Church, but he permitted pagans to continue their pagan sacrifices. In 391 A.D., Theodosius closed pagan temples and prohibited public pagan worship. Paganism was never revived in the empire after that.

Theodosius was a man who sought God in all that he did. By 394 A.D. a usurper named Arbogast had arisen in the western part of the empire, set up a man named Eugenius as emperor in the west, and was threatening civil war. On September 5, 394, Theodosius’s army clashed with the army of Eugenius in the Vipava Valley in Italy (see pic above). Theodosius’ army suffered heavy losses.

That night Theodosius prayed to God for divine intervention in the battle. The next day as Theodosius’s army began to engage the army of the usurper, a strong hurricane-like wind swept down from the mountains and blew hard against the opposing army, securing victory for Theodosius’s army

This is not mere legend. Augustine of Hippo, a contemporary of Theodosius writes in his City of God:

“Soldiers who took part in the battle have told us that the javelins were wrenched from their hands as they aimed them, when a violent wind blew from the side of Theodosius towards the enemy and not only whirled away with the utmost rapidity the missiles discharged against the emperor’s forces, but even turned them back on to the bodies of the foe.”

Theodosius was indeed a remarkable man. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and a contemporary of Theodosius wrote of him:

..a pious emperor, a merciful emperor, a faithful emperor, concerning whom the Scripture has spoken…What is more illustrious than the faith of an emperor whom sovereignty does not exalt, pride does not elevate but piety bows down?”

Theodosius’s life is relevant to our upcoming Early Christian, Medieval GSB Tour because his daughter, Galla Placidia, ruled the Western Byzantine Empire from Ravenna 425-437 A.D., as Regent for her minor son, Valentinian III. Galla Placidia’s mausoleum still stands in Ravenna and is one of the sites we hope to visit.

So, to Theodosius I: Welcome to the club of GSB Kingdom Heroes. GS

Leave a Reply