Column of Theodosius II at the Hebdomon
Garden of Hagia Sophia.jpg

Fragments of an inscription from a monumental column of Theodosius II (402/408-450) are located in the gardens of Hagia Sophia. The remains of this column were found in excavations at Bakirköy (Hebdomon), where Theodosius was proclaimed emperor. It is an important find of Late Antique Hebdomon, which was an important suburb of Constantinople during this era.

In 1922, French excavations at Bakirköy uncovered a granite column and fragments of a marble inscription. The excavations, made in the vicinity of the Church of St. John Prodomos, also revealed a section of pavement near the column. The column shaft, now lost, had a height of 11.25 m and diameter 1.50 m. The inscribed Proconnesian marble fragments (which have traces of bronze fixings) allow for the column’s identification. 

The Hebdomon, where the column was found, played a central role in imperial ceremony during this area. It was the site of the army camp, Constantinople’s version of the Roman Campus Martius. Triumphal processions began at the Hebdomon and continued along the Mese towards the Hippodrome and the Great Palace of Constantinople. This column, then, can be seen as the first of a series of imperial columns of this triumphal route. Several emperors, starting with Valens (364-378), were proclaimed emperor here. It seems that this column was erected between the Church of St. John Prodomos, which Theodosius I had built to house the relic of his head, and the Iucundianae Palace, where the Theodosians often resided. Another monument at the Hebdomon associated with Theodosius II was the Church of the Prophet Samuel, which was built in 411 to house this prophet’s relics.

The reference to “sisters” in the inscription indicates its connections to Theodosius II, whose sisters were highly influential at court. The inscription, while emphasizing the authority of Theodosius, also implies that his sister Pulcheria, who was regent during his minority, exercised real power. It has been suggested that it was set up after Pulcheria was readmitted to the imperial court in 449, following her exile to the Hebdomon in 448.

Garden of Hagia Sophia.jpg

Reconstructed inscription by Demangel and translation by Holum

Domino nostro Theodosius pius felix Augustus

Imperator et fortissimus triumphator

gentium barbararum, perennis et ubique

victor, pro votis sororum pacato

orbe romano celsus exultat

 

Our Lord, the gracious and fortunate Theodisius Augustus

Commander-in-chief, very might, triumphant

Over barbarian nations, always and everywhere

Victor, through the vows of his sisters, having pacified

The Roman world, rejoices on high

Granite column and pavement in situ

Sources

Contribution à la topographie de l'Hebdomon by R. Demangel

Constantinople byzantine: développement urbain et répertoire topographique by R. Janin

Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity by Kenneth G. Holum

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by A. Kazhdan

Column base of Theodosius II (Oxford Last Statues of Antiquity)

Resources

Istanbul Archaeological Museums Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Hebdomon Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016