Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Originally named Athenais, Eudocia (yoo-DOH-shee-uh) was the daughter of the pagan scholar Leontius. The name Athenais may be derived from her birthplace, Athens, or it may honor Athena as the patron divinity of Athens. When she was about twenty years old, Athenais came to Constantinople in connection with a dispute over inheritance. There, her beauty attracted the young emperor Theodosius II. After she was baptized, taking the name Eudocia, she married the emperor in 421 c.e. Prominent at court for many years, Eudocia fell into disfavor in 441 c.e. because of her supposed adultery; actually, the charge may have been fabricated by her enemies. She thereupon retired to Jerusalem, where she was instrumental in building various churches.

Early in her life, Eudocia wrote a poem on a Roman victory over the Persians. Later, she wrote religious poetry, including a life of Christ in a cento, built up from lines from Homer.

Influence

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Eudocia’s poetry reflects the transitional period when Christianity, in the process of being established as the religion of the Roman Empire, actively appropriated material of Classical writers such as Homer.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Cambridge Medieval History: The Christian Roman Empire and the Foundation of the Teutonic Kingdoms. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

Usher, Mark David. Homeric Stitchings: The Homeric Centos of the Empress Eudocia. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.