[Illustration: THE MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA]
Nevertheless, although Theodosius II. had not trodden “the narrow path of orthodoxy with reputation unimpaired,” as Placidia certainly had, the material alliance of East and West were seen to be so important that in 437 Valentinian III., the son of Placidia, and emperor in the West, was married to Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodosius II., in Constantinople.
Neither the accession of her son nor his marriage seem to have made any real difference in the power of Placidia who, we may believe, not, as Procopius asserts, by a cunning system of training by which she had ruined his character, but rather by reason of her innate virility, retained the reins of government in her own hands. Certainly she ruled, the Augusta of the West, during the twelve years that remained to her after her son’s marriage. And when at last she died in Rome in 450, on the 27th November, in the sixtieth year of her age, and a few months after her nephew Theodosius II., and was borne in a last triumph along the Via Flaminia, to be laid, seated in a chair of cedar, in a sarcophagus of alabaster in the gorgeous mausoleum she had prepared for herself beside the church of S. Croce in Ravenna, she left Italy at least in a profound peace, so secure, as it seemed, that the whole court had in that very year removed to Rome. It might appear as though the barbarian had but awaited her passing to descend once more upon the citadel of Europe.
[Footnote 1: Agnellus asserts that on the Ides of March in the year following Placidia’s death Ravenna suffered from a great fire, in which many buildings perished, but he does not tell us what they were.]
THE FALL OF THE EMPIRE IN THE WEST
For more than ten years before the death of Placidia both East and West had been aware of a new cloud in the north-east. This darkness was the vast army of Huns, which, in the exodus from Asia proper, under Attila, threatened to overrun the empire and to lay it waste. In 447, indeed, Attila fell upon the Adriatic and Aegean provinces of the eastern empire and ravaged them till he was bought off with a shameful tribute. His thoughts inevitably turned towards the capital, and it is said, I know not with how much truth, that in the very year of their death both Placidia and Theodosius received from this new barbarian an insolent message which said: “Attila, thy master and mine, bids thee prepare a palace for him.”
Theodosius II., however, was succeeded upon the Eastern throne by his sister Pulcheria who shared her government with the virile and bold soldier Marcian. But upon Placidia’s death, on the other hand, the government of the West fell into the hands of her weak and sensual son Valentinian III.