Column of Theodosius II at the Hebdomon
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.
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 Theodosius 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
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)
Istanbul Archaeological Museums Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)