[Medallion of Galla Placidia, 425 CE, Ravenna, source: Wikimedia Commons]
She was the daughter of Emperor Theodosius I and his wife Galla. Both of her parents died by the time she was three and she came into the care of her cousin Serena and her husband Stilicho the Vandal, a high-ranking general. Growing up she learned the traditionally feminine task of weaving and presumably received a classical education.**
In 408, when Placidia was 16, Stilicho was killed in a coup d’état; Serena was executed less than two years later. Placidia was captured by the Goths and taken north shortly before the sack of Rome in 410. She their king Ataulf two years later. Ataulf was assassinated a year later, leaving Placidia to return to Rome and her brother, Emperor Honorius.
In 417, Honorius forced Placidia to marry his general Constantinus III, by whom she had two children. For the next four years she involved herself heavily in politics, particularly in matters of religion. It was she who personally summoned the African bishops to a synod in Rome. Her husband became co-emperor in 421, but died seven months later.
Within a few months, Placidia moved herself and her children to Constantinople. She and the Eastern Roman Empress Eudokia arranged the betrothal and eventual marriage of Placidia’s son Valentinian and Eudokia’s daughter Likinia Eudoxia, an advantageous match for both sides as Valentinian was being groomed to take control of the Western Empire once Honorius died, which he did in 423.
[St. Lawrence or St. Vincent of Saragossa, south lunette, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia]
[5th century CE, source: Wikimedia Commons]
*And wife of yet another, but he only lasted about 7 months as co-emperor before dying in 421.
**That is, learning from the works of well-respected poets and philosophers.
Sivan, Hagith. Galla Placidia: The Last Roman Empress. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Galla Placidia - De Imperatoribus Romanis
Galla Placidia - Wikipedia
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia - Wikipedia
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna - Smart History, Khan Academy, YouTube