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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Pulcheria

b. 399, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul); d. 453, Constantinople

Pulcheria, the daughter of Eudoxia and the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius, took a vow of chastity to avoid marriage. In 414, she was appointed augusta (empress) by the Senate and ruled in the name of her minor brother, Theodosius II. When he came of age, around 416, she remained a power behind the scenes through his entire reign (until 450). She arranged a marriage between Theodora and Eudocia, and was exiled for a time because of tensions between the two women. A champion of Orthodox Christian values, she vigorously expelled pagans and Jews and prosecuted heretical sects. She was later canonized by both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.