Aelia Flavia Flaccilla Augusta (c.350 - c.386) MP

public profile

View Aelia Flavia Flaccilla Augusta's complete profile:

  • See if you are related to Aelia Flavia Flaccilla Augusta
  • Request to view Aelia Flavia Flaccilla Augusta's family tree


Related Projects

Nicknames: "Empress of the Roman Empire", "Augusta"
Birthplace: Spain
Death: Died in Constantinople
Occupation: Augusta
Managed by: Jocelynn Oakes
Last Updated:

About Aelia Flavia Flaccilla Augusta

Aelia Flavia Flaccilla (died 385), first wife of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. She was of Hispanian Roman descent. During her marriage to Theodosius, she gave birth to two sons — future Emperors Arcadius and Honorius — and a daughter, Aelia Pulcheria. She was given the title of Augusta, as her coinage shows. -------------------- Galla was a daughter of Valentinian I and his second wife Justina. She is listed as one of four children of the marriage by Jordanes. Her father was emperor of the Western Roman Empire from 364 to his death on 17 November 375. Her paternal uncle Valens was Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from 364 to his death in the Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378).

Her father was previously married to Marina Severa. The only known child to come from this marriage was Gratian, Western Roman Emperor from 375 to his assassination on 25 August 383. Her mother was previously married to Magnentius, a Roman usurper from 350 to 353. However both Zosimus and the fragmentary chronicle of John of Antioch, a 7th century monk tentatively identified with John of the Sedre, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch from 641 to 648 report that Justina was too young at the time of her first marriage to have children. . Galla thus had no known maternal half-siblings.

Galla had three full-siblings. Her only brother was Valentinian II. He was at first co-emperor with Gratian from 375 and the only legitimate Western Roman Emperor from 383 to his death by hanging on 15 May 392. His death was officially reported as a suicide but Arbogast, his magister militum was suspected to have had a hand in it. The accusation can be found in the writings of Socrates of Constantinople, Orosius, and Zosimus. Sozomen was less certain and mentioned both versions of how Valentinian II died.

Her two sisters were Grata and Justa. According to Socrates both remained unmarried. They were probably still alive in 392 but not mentioned afterwards.


Little is known on Galla and her full name is unknown. Galla is the female cognomen for Gallus. In Latin, Gallus could mean both an inhabitant of Gaul and a rooster. The association through word play would much later inspire the Gallic rooster, a national symbol of France.

She was cast into a role of significance because of conflict between three Roman emperors in the 380s. In 383, Gratian had died while facing a major revolt under Magnus Maximus. Maximus proceeded to establish his control of a portion of the Roman Empire including Britain, Gaul, Hispania and the Diocese of Africa. He ruled from his capital at Augusta Treverorum (Treves, Trier) and was able to negotiate his recognition by Valentinian II and Theodosius I, starting from 384. The area of Valentinian II had effectively been limited to Italia, ruling from Mediolanum (modern Milan).

In 387, the truce between Valentinian II and Maximus ended. The latter crossed the Alps into the Po Valley and threatened Milan. Valentinian and Justina fled their capital for Thessaloniki, capital of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum and at the time chosen residence of Theodosius. Galla had accompanied them. Theodosius was at the time a widower, his first wife Aelia Flaccilla having died in 385 or 386.

Theodosius granted refuge to the fugitives. According to the account of Zosimus, Justina arranged for Galla to appear in tears before Theodosius and appeal to his compassion. Galla was reportedly a beautiful woman and Theodosius was soon smitten with her, requesting to marry her. Justina used this to her advantage, setting a condition for the marriage agreement to be sealed. Under her condition, Theodosius would have to attack Maximus and restore Valentinian II to his throne. Theodosius consented to Justina’s request, the marriage probably taking place in late 387.

The account was questioned by Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont as inconsistent with the piety of Theodosius. Tillemont suggested that the marriage took place in 386, prior to the beginning of hostilities. However The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon considered Zosimus' account more likely and later works, including the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, have followed his example.


When she married Theodosius, Galla became both a Roman Empress and a stepmother to Theodosius’ two sons from his first marriage, Arcadius and Honorius. Arcadius was the eldest and had been declared an Augustus in January, 383. He served as a nominal co-ruler to his father but was still approximately ten-years-old at the time of Galla's marriage.

In July-August, 388, the combined troops of Theodosius I and Vallentinian II invaded the territory of Maximus under the leadership of Richomeres, Arbogast, Promotus and Timasius. Maximus suffered a series of losses and surrendered in Aquileia. He was executed on 28 August 388. His son and nominal co-ruler Flavius Victor was also executed. His wife Elen and two daughters were spared. The condition for Galla's marriage had been met. However Justina died the same year, uncertain if she was able to witness the result of her efforts. .

Theodosius installed Valentinian and his court at Vienne in Gaul, away from Milan and the influence of Ambrose. Theodosius appointed Arbogast as magister militum for the Western provinces. Acting in the name of Valentinian, Arbogast was actually subordinate only to Theodosiu

Theodosius spend the years 388-391 in Italia. In his absence, Galla and her stepsons remained in the Great Palace of Constantinople. In 390, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, Arcadius had her expelled from the Palace. Since Arcadius was only thirteen, the decision could as well belong to those who governed in his name.

Zosimus reports her mourning over the death of her brother in 392. On 22 August 392, Arbogast declared Eugenius as an emperor without the approval of Theodosius. Negotiations with Theodosius to achieve recognition were unsuccessful. On 23 January 393, Theodosius declared his second son Honorius, an Augustus. The implication being that Theodosius alone was legitimate emperor. Conflict between Theodosius and Eugenius begun in 394, resulting in the Battle of the Frigidus (5 September - 6 September 394. Theodosius was victorious while Arbogast committed suicide and Eugenius was executed. The battle left Theodosius in control of the entire Roman Empire.

Whether Galla lived to see the victory is uncertain. According to Zosimus, she died in childbirth within the same year, the exact date not known.

A passage of Philostorgius was interpreted by Tillemont as identifying Galla as an adherent of Arianism. However the passage seems to actually mean that her mother was Arian. Galla herself is hovever identified as an Arian in the Chronicon Paschale.

-------------------- Reference: --------------------