Galla Placidia

Zach – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian where we make history cool again. Today we have a special guest with us.
Anna – Of course she’s special, she’s a fellow Roman!
Zach – There’s only a five hundred years difference between you.
Anna – Irrelevant.
Zach – Well, our guest today is none other than Galla Placidia! Empress of Rome!

Galla Placidia went to the mall and had a quick mosaic done of her at one of those booths.

( A well dressed Roman woman walks out on stage, waves and takes a seat next to Zach’s desk. )
Zach – I must say that you’re one of our best dressed guests ever.
Galla – Why thank you. You’re too kind. But most of your guests are wearing armor…or their Russians.
Zach – That is true.
Anna – I must admit that I’ve been a long time admirer of you for a rather long time.
Galla – Because we were both born in Constantinople?
Anna – We both know what it’s like to be born to Imperial dignity. We’ve both been educated in the Greek and Latin classics. We were some of the most intelligent women in the world during our time.
Galla – True, true.
Zach – So, Galla, I must say that you lived a very interesting life! You were alive as the world was changing around you! Let’s see…you witnessed your father making Christianity into the only official religion of the Roman Empire. You lived through a major turning point in history!
Galla – Yes, times changed greatly in my life. My father, Valentiian II, was the last emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire. And by the end of my recorded life…I read this in a book, the Roman Empire was permanently divided. When I was four my lousy brother Honorius was proclaimed as Augustus. I remember the endless ceremonies and parade through the streets. I wore a gorgeous golden robe and my mother, also named Galla, was standing beside me wearing purple. She died a year later. Then a year after that, my father died.
Anna – I’m so sorry.
Galla – I remember that me and Honorius were quickly sent to Milan to see him one last time before he died.
Zach – Here did that leave you?
Galla – It left me in the care of General Stilicho, his wife Serena, my cousin. They weren’t the most caring, but they did give me a proper education and made sure I was brought up a good, pious Christian. We lived in Milan until we moved to Ravenna, the new capitol.
Anna – Did you like it in Ravenna?
Galla – Oh, yes. I loved it there. I loved the smell of the ocean.
Zach – I’m afraid that Ravenna is landlocked now. It’s not on the shore anymore.
Galla – How appalling!
Zach – Sorry. But you can learn more about Modern Ravenna later.
Galla – Well, the good General wasn’t in a rush to get me married. He was holding out for his own son or someone who could meet impossible expectations. The Roman girl could be married at age twelve. I was 21 when I was married.
Zach – Tell us about that! Who was he and how did you two meet?
Galla – In the usual way I suppose. His name was Athaulf and he was king of the Visigoths, the western branch of the Goths.

Athaulf, King of Visigoths and author of “How to pick up women the Visigoth way.”

Zach – Did he wear white make up, eye liner and black nail polish and listen to Craddle of Filth?
Galla – Umm….no…not really.
Anna – Ignore him. He’s stupid. Do go on. How did you and a Visigoth king meet? Was it a romantic arranged marriage?
Galla – He brought in his army and sacked Rome. It was a horrible time. In those days the generals gave a traditional three days to loot and pillage as they pleased. I feared for me life. He took me with him as a prize. I traveled with him for three years, the entire time I was trying to make him see Rome as a friend, not a place to raid and pillage. I also converted him to Orthodoxy and not his Arianism.

Galla’s husband was one happy Goth! Maybe Galla was a good cook or let him have the remote?

Anna – Oh, dear. What was it like married to a barbarian?
Galla – It took some getting used to, but it wasn’t so bad. When traveling I had a large tent and we often slept in palaces…that he took over.
Zach – So, you married this Visigoth king, converted him to Orthodoxy because he wasn’t Christian enough and then made him make nice nice with the remains of the Roman Empire.
Galla – Yes, that sums it up. The Roman army wasn’t fond of us and chased us all the way to Spain where we settled in Barcelona. There I gave birth to a son, but he died as well.
Anna – I’m so sorry.
Galla – I wish I could say that was the end of my woes.
Zach – You’ve already been kidnapped and experienced so much death. What else could go wrong?
Galla – My husband was betrayed and murdered. The ursurper treated me as a prisoner and paraded me around like a trophy! However, returning me to the Romans would make friends with the Empire so I was finally released to return home to Ravenna.
Anna – All’s well that ends well.
Galla – But it isn’t over yet. My rat brother then forced me to marry one of his generals! I used this time to build up my political contacts though. I also bore him two children, Flavius Valentinian III who would later become emperor of the Western Empire and Justa Grata Honoria. But then Honorius banished me because me and my children were a threat to him.
Zach – What a douche.
Galla – Yes, he was a “douche” as you call it.

A famous painting by Waterhouse where Honorius feeds the birds and doesn’t care that the empire was loosing England. What a natural leader!

Anna – Where did you go?
Galla – I fled to Constantinople where I had relatives that would help me. I lived there only a short year until Honorius had the decency to die. The throne was empty so I went back to Ravenna and my son, who was just a small boy, proclaimed emperor.
Zach – How could he be emperor if he’s only four years old?
Galla – Simple, I ruled. I was the head of the roman empire for twelve years and then I ruled jointly with my son.
Anna – You were sole ruler of the Roman Empire for twelve years? Impressive by anyone standards.
Galla – My son liked to live in Rome but I preferred Ravenna. I built many churches there.
Zach – Actually, your Mausoleum is still standing there!
Galla – It wasn’t meant for me. I brought my son’s silver casket from Spain and placed it there.

Trust me, it’s much better looking on the inside!

Zach – You have quite the story. Imperial princess, survived the sack of Rome, kidnapped by barbarians, two marriages, exile and finally you became the Empress of Rome, the most powerful nation on Earth. But, we’re not finished. Galla Placidia, we have a surprise for you.
Galla – A surprise?
Zach – Today in this studio, we have a living ancestor of yours!
Galla – Dear me! They traced their lineage all the way back to me?
Zach – Are you ready to know who it is?
Galla – I believe so.
Zach – It’s me! I’m your descendant! We’ve traced my family all the way back to you in a direct line.
Galla – That is amazing!
Zach – Well, half of Europe can probably trace their family directly back to you, but we won’t let that spoil the mood! Let’s celebrate!
Anna – Should I go warm up some pizzas?
Zach – No, we’re doing this in style! We’re ordering Chinese Take out! General Tso’s Chicken, here we come!
Galla – Order extra egg rolls.


5 comments on “Galla Placidia

  1. Glelnda Hill says:

    Loved this one. I always wanted to know about Galla. Amazing to be related to someone so strong, and smart, and probably humble too.

  2. Joe in PNG says:

    Speaking of General Tso’s Chicken, when are you going to have some of the authors of “the Art of War” on?

    • zacharyhill says:

      Sun Tzu is definitely on my list. But also, Henry VIII is going to do a special food edition that will feature the man “General Tso’s” chicken is named after! Stay tuned!

  3. Desert Rat says:

    That’s a fun post on Galla. What a life she had.

    I like the Eccentric’s Guide to Italy blog, too. It looks like such a beautiful place when you see it on TV and in the movies. I gotta imagine that the country is crawling with tourists these days.

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