The Christian Emperors who ruined the world
House of Constantine - Scramble for Power
Constantine I (307 - 337) - 34 (west) 52 (whole empire). With less than 5% of his subjects professing to be Christian, endorsed Christianity as the most favoured religion. Though his Council of Nicaea was ever after hailed as the lodestone of Catholic Orthodoxy, Constantine himself died an Arian (at 65).
Constantine II (337 - 340) - 21. On accession in Gaul, freed the fiery "Trinitarian" Bishop Athanasius from exile and allowed him to return to Alexandria, causing problems for his brother Constantius II. Killed at 24 in battle with brother Constans, trying to seize more territory.
Constans I (337 - 350)- 17. Under influence of Athanasius, banned pagan sacrifice and waged campaign against Donatists in North Africa. Called Council of Serdica to deal with Arianism. He sold government posts to the highest bidder; was murdered by his army chief at 30.
Constantius II (337 - 361)- 20. On accession, he murdered many of his own family. Early in life influenced by Bishop Arius and his supporters.
"Vain & stupid... he bankrupted the courier service by frequent calls for Church Councils." (Ammianus).
Terrified of sorcery, he persecuted "all the soothsayers and the Hellenists." Monks were exempted from public obligations shortly before his death at 44.
Julian - 29. (360-363). Assassinated at 32.
In vain, attempted to restore religious tolerance and the 'old' gods.
House of Valentinian - Retreat into "Piety"
Valentinian I (364 - 375) - 43 On Julian's murder, (& death of Jovian), this stolid soldier made emperor. Issued edict forbidding pagan officers to command Christian soldiers. He was impressed by Ambrose, whom he made praetorian prefect of Italy, governor of Milan and bishop. Little interested in religion but hostile to the old pagan aristocracy, which cleared the way for Christian ascendancy. Died in a fit of anger, at 54.
His biggest mistake was making his obtuse brother Valens (364 - 378) co-ruler in the east (at 36). A zealous Arian, Valens ordered mass book-burning and persecution of non-Christians throughout the Eastern Empire. His arrogance led him to defeat by the Goths in 378 (aged 50).
Gratian (367 -383)- 8 Tutored by Ausonius, a Christian poet from Gaul. No interest in the rigours of military life; withdrew his capital from Trier to the relative safety of Milan; held in contempt by army; murdered at 24 by Magnus Maximus (usurper emperor of western provinces). Catspaw of Ambrose while he lived (abolished Vestal Virgins, removed Altar of Victory). Preferred hunting to ruling.
Valentinian II (375 -392) - 4 (Regent: Empress Justina ). This child prince relied on Ambrose to negotiate with Maximus and remained a pawn in the power struggle between the Catholic bishop & his Arian mother. Intervention by Theodosius saved his throne, only to leave him under the thumb of generalissimo Arbogastes. Refused appeal to restore Altar of Victory. Murdered (suicide?) at 19.
House of Theodosius - Dissolute and Dissolution
Theodosius I (379 - 395) - 32 Sacked from the army by Valentinian I for cowardice; his seniority led a desperate 19 year old Gratian to appoint him co-ruler for the east after death of his uncle Valens. After a near-death experience at 34, he emerged as Catholic fanatic. Manipulated by Ambrose he issued draconian anti-pagan laws (any disagreement with Christian dogma was declared "insane"). Libraries looted and burned. Temples closed and burned. Appointed general Stilicho as 'governor' in the west for his younger son Honorius. Died at 49. Disastrous legacy.
Arcadius (395 - 408) - 18 Ruled ineffectually under praetorian prefects Tatian, Rufinus and Anthemius, chamberlain Eutropius (who appointed John Chrysostom patriarch) and forceful wife Eudoxia (who deposed Chrysostom). 'Withdrew' on her death, rarely leaving palace. Urged the Goths to invade Italy to save his own skin. Compensated for weak character with pious acts of religious intolerance (ordered that paganism be treated as "high treason" and any remaining temples be demolished); died at 31.
Honorius (395 - 423) - 10 Murdered his protector, the brilliant general Stilicho, in 408, out of petulance and envy, paving the way for capitulation to German tribes migrating into Spain, Visigoths into sw Gaul, and the loss of Britain. The feckless and timid youth abandoned Milan and Italy to the Goths while he cowed in Ravenna. Stirred himself to call a synod of bishops and rule in favour of Boniface against rival pope Eulalius and tried to get Theodosius to return Illyricum sees to papal authority. A synod in Carthage declared the study of pagan books prohibited and issued an approved "canon" of the Church. Honorius died at 38.
Theodosius II (408 - 450) - 7 (Regent: sister Empress Pulcheria) Early life dominated by his resolute and pious sister, his ambitious and pious wife Eudoxia, and the prefect Anthemius (who built the walls of Constantinople). Many edicts of intolerance in his name. When he eventually escaped female fetters, Theodosius disastrously gave in to Hun demands for ever more gold and conceded to the Vandals a fully independent kingdom in North Africa. Meanwhile, concentrating on really important matters, he convened the Council at Ephesus in 449 ("The Robber Council") and declared for the monophysitic position that "Christ had only one nature and it was divine" - alienating Pope Leo I. This infamous book-burner died at 49 - falling from his horse! The Codex Theodosianus preserved his name.
Valentinian III (425 - 455) - 6 (Regent: Empress Galla Placidia). Owed his throne to intervention of Theodosius II in western politics. A religious fanatic, under the influence of astrologers, he was subservient in turns to his mother, generalissimo Aetius and to Pope Leo I. He murdered Aetius, the last able general in the west, and was himself murdered at 36. Lost the provinces of Africa, part of Spain, much of Gaul. The last Western Emperors barely ruled Italy itself.