Galla Placidia

388 - 450

Galla Placidia led probably the most dramatic life of any empress. She was the daughter of Theodosius and half-sister of both Honorius and Arcadius. While living in Rome during the sacking of 410, she was kidnapped by Alaric and taken to Carthage. Although Alaric died soon afterwards, his successor, Athaulf, went on to Gaul with the intention of eventually deposing Honorius. In transit he forcibly married Galla, most likely to strengthen his claim to a would-be throne. He was defeated and chased out of Gaul, along with her, into Spain where he died in 415. At this point another rival barbarian leader, Singeric, captured her and the remaining Roman entourage that left Rome five years previously. However, Singeric and his forces were outmaneuvered by Constantius III, key general under Honorius and forced into a treaty which gained Galla's release. She then married Constantius III as part of his reward for his battle successes. But Constantius III died a couple of years later and, in what was to be a scandal not seen since the days of Commodus, Honorius took a rather unhealthy liking to his half sister. The scandal only ended with his death for unrelated reasons.

Galla, who Honorius had exiled just prior to his death (as part of his damage control program), now wandered towards Constantinopolis with her son Valentinian III. She arrived at the court of Theodosius II who saw a perfect pretext to meddle in the affairs of the West. By proclaiming his support of her through Valentinian as the rightful heir to the throne, he moved militarily in a coup that deposed Johannes, Honorius's successor. Johannes was executed and Valentinian III was restored as the nominal emperor although it was understood that Galla was the real power behind the throne. In turn, Theodosius was able to exert considerable influence over both. With Valentinian's growing older and external pressures her influence waned. Not long after Valentinian married she retired from politics and spent the rest of her life devoted to charitable works.


RIC 2085 Siliqua Obv: DNGALLAPLACIDIAPFAVG; Mantled, diademed, draped bust right.
Rev: SALVSREIPVBLICAE; Victory seated right, holding shield with Chi-Ro inscribed within. .


RIC 2113, LRBC 857 AE4 Obv: DNGALLAPLACIDIAPFAVG; Mantled, diademed, draped bust right.
Rev: SALVSREIPVBLICE Exe: R(officina)M; Cross. Lot sold for $525 9/19/01.