Eutropia (daughter of Constantius I)

daughter of Constantius I

Eutropia (died 350) was a Roman woman of the Constantinian dynasty (a line of rulers who governed the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity).[1] Eutropia was the daughter of the Roman emperor Constantius I, the half-sister of the emperor Constantine the Great, and the mother of Nepotianus.[1] Eutropia's mother was Flavia Maximiana Theodora, the wife of Constantius I.[2]

Nobilissima femina
  • Flavia Valeria Eutropia
  • or:
  • Flavia Julia Eutropia

c. 295–306
SpouseVirius Nepotianus
HouseConstantinian dynasty
FatherConstantius I
MotherFlavia Maximiana Theodora

Eutropia was written about by the Roman historians Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, and Zosimus.[1] The bishop Athanasius knew her and also wrote about her.[1][3]:53

Birth and early lifeEdit

Eutropia was born after her parents married in late 289. Eutropia's father was Constantius I, who was made an emperor in 293. Eutropia's mother was Theodora. Theodora was the daughter of the emperor Maximian and his wife, who also had the name Eutropia. Eutropia had an older half-brother, Constantine the Great, and five other full siblings, the other children of Constantius and Theodora.

Constantius's and Theodora's children were probably born after 295 and before 306.[4] Theodora may have given birth to Eutropia after the year 300.[4] Eutropia might have been her parents' youngest child.[4]

Eutropia's full name may have been the Latin: Flavia Valeria Eutropia, although it may have been Flavia Julia Eutropia.[5]:79–87 She probably had the title in Latin: nobilissima femina, lit.'most noble woman'.[5]:79–87 This was a title women of the emperor's family normally had.[5]:79–87 The emperor Constantius died in 306. Constantine then became an emperor.

There is no evidence that any of Constantius's daughters married before their father died.[4] Eutropia's sister Constantia may have been the first to marry, and may have been the oldest of the siblings. She married in 313.[4] Their sister Anastasia married in 316.[4] Eutropia herself probably married by the early 320s, if she married the Roman consul of 336.[4]


Eutropia probably married Virius Nepotianus.[1] He was Roman consul in the year 336.[1] Eutropia's father was probably dead by the time she married, so her half-brother Constantine, now emperor, probably arranged her marriage.[6] The choice of Eutropia's husband was probably for political reasons, just as Constantia's marriage to Constantine's co-emperor Licinius in 313 was for reasons of political strategy.[7]:191

Virius Nepotianus may have died in 337, the year Constantine the Great died.[8] (After the emperor died, many people in Constantine's family killed one another in summer 337.)[8] Eutropia survived because the emperor Constantius II did not kill the women in the family.[8] The fact that Eutropia continued to live means that Ammianus Marcellinus was wrong when he wrote that Constantius II had killed everyone in his own family.[9] The only other members of the family to live through the killings of 337 were Eutropia's nephews Constantius Gallus and Julian.[9]

At some time after her wedding, Eutropia was probably the owner of a ship.[5]:79–87 A sign made of bronze that has been in the library of the Department of Classics at Harvard University since 1961 might have come from the ship.[5]:79–87 It was probably a "No Trespassing" sign. Its purpose was to keep people off the ship and to show that the ship was Eutropia's property. The bronze sign came from Ostia, the port of Rome, and the ship was possibly used for the transport of grain supplies to the capital city. The ship may also have been a barge on the Tiber River (the river that connects Ostia with Rome) or a boat used for private leisure.[5]:79–87

The sign says that the ship was the property of "Flavia Valeria Eutropia nobilissima femina". The Latin: nobilissima femina means "most noble woman", and women from the emperors' families used this title.[5]:79–87 Because there are only two women named Eutropia in emperors' families, the ship very probably was the property of either Eutropia herself or her grandmother, Eutropia (wife of Maximian). The bronze sign is the only evidence for the name "Flavia Valeria Eutropia".[5]:79–87 It reads:

This ship (is the property) of Flavia Valeria
Eutropia, the most noble lady,
and of her sons.
Read and go away.

navicula fl·val
evtropiae nob fe
m·et·filiorum eius

The bronze sign says that the ship was the property of Eutropia "and her sons" (or "and her children"). If the ship was the property of Eutropia the daughter of Constantius I, then the sign shows that she had more than one child.[5]:79–87 No-one knows when Eutropia's son Nepotianus was born. He is probably one of the children of Eutropia the bronze sign speaks of.[5]:79–87 Because no-one killed Eutropia's son Nepotianus in 337, it may be that Eutropia had not yet given birth to him at that time.[9]


Eutropia lived in Rome for a long time, and both Athanasius and Zosimus wrote that she met Athanasius in Rome in the 340s.[10]:298 Eutropia may have given Athanasius political help when he came to Rome in late 339.[11] He made a pun on her name, saying she was "the aptly named Eutropia" because the name "Eutropia" comes from the Greek: εὔτροπος eútropōs 'morally good'.[3]:254 Athanasius says that Eutropia was among those people who helped him in Rome, saying that she "received us nobly".[3]:53

In the 5th century, Jerome wrote that Athanasius came to Rome to speak to powerful Roman women about the monks and monasteries in the desert of Roman Egypt.[3]:53, 254 Jerome wrote that this was the start of monasteries in the west of the Roman Empire.[3]:53, 254 This is probably not true, but Athanasius probably did lobbying with Eutropia and others to try to get back political power in the Christian Church.[3]:53, 254 Eutropia was a woman in the emperor's family, so Athanasius will have tried to get help from her when he was in Rome between 339 and 342.[3]:53

Athanasius's writing may mean that Eutropia was a representative of the Constantinian family in Rome.[10]:298 Women from the emperor's family often represented the emperor in Rome, because the emperor was not often in the city.[10]:298 Eutropia lived in Rome at the same time as Constantina, Constantine's daughter, who lived in Rome from 337 to 351.[10]:298


When Eutropia's half-nephew, the emperor Constans I died, Eutropia's son Nepotianus made an attempt to be emperor himself.[10]:298 Nepotianus took the emperor's title "Augustus" (Latin: augustus) in 350.[12] Magnentius, who had killed Constans, soon killed Nepotianus.[10]:298

Women in the Roman dynasties usually depended on the lives of the men in their family.[8] Magnentius probably killed Eutropia in Rome – she died soon after her son Nepotianus died.[1][3]:53 Athanasius wrote about her death.[1] Athanasius was also friendly with Magnentius's representatives.[11] This may mean he was not in fact friendly with Eutropia and Nepotianus.[11]

When Magnentius was dead, Athanasius said to Constantius II in a speech that he had never written friendly letters to Magnentius.[3]:53 He says Eutropia was Constantius's "aunt of blessed memory".[1][3]:53 Athanasius said he had no reason to write to Magnentius, because Magnentius had killed many of Athanasius' friends.[3]:53 Athanasius asks rhetorical questions of Constantius, asking how Athanasius could have written to Magnentius after Magnentius had done so much against him and his friends:

What sort of opening would I affix to my letter if I had written to him? 'Congratulations on murdering the one who honored me, whose favors I can never forget'? 'I welcome your killing of my friends who were very firm and devoted Christians'? 'We admire your slaughter of those who received us nobly in Rome, the emperor's aunt of blessed memory, the aptly named Eutropia, Abuerius that noble man, the faithful Sperantius, and many other good men'?

ποῖον προοίμιον τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἔτασσον γράφων αὐτῷ; ὅτι ‹τὸν τιμῶντά με, οὗ τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἐπιλαθοίμην, τοῦτον φονεύσας καλῶς ἐποίησας, καὶ ἀποδέχομαί σε τοὺς γνωρίμους ἡμῶν Χριστιανοὺς καὶ πιστοτάτους ἄνδρας ἀνελόντα, καὶ θαυμάζομέν σε σφάξαντα τοὺς ἐν Ῥώμῃ γνησίως ἡμᾶς ὑποδεξαμένους›, τὴν μακαρίαν σου θείαν τὴν ἀληθῶς εὔτροπον καὶ Ἀβουρήιον τὸν γνήσιον ἐκεῖνον καὶ Σπειράντιον τὸν πιστότατον καὶ ἄλλους πολλοὺς καλούς;

—Athanasius of Alexandria, Defense before Constantius, 6.5[13] —Athanasius Alexandrinus, Apologia ad Constantium imperatorem, VI:5[14]

Related pagesEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Jones, A. H. M.; Martindale, J. R.; Morris, J. (1971). "Eutropia 2". The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume 1, AD 260–395. Cambridge University Press. p. 316. ISBN 978-0-521-07233-5.
  2. Kienast, Dietmar; Eck, Werner; Heil, Matthäus (2017) [1990]. "Constantius I. (1. März 293– 25. Juli 306)". Römische Kaisertabelle: Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie (in German) (6th ed.). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft (WBG). pp. 269–271. ISBN 978-3-534-26724-8.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Barnes, Timothy David (2001) [1993]. Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 53, 101, 254. ISBN 978-0-674-00549-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Potter, David (2013). Constantine the Emperor. Oxford University Press. pp. 63–64, 321. ISBN 978-0-19-023162-0.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Hammond, Mason (1964). "Three Latin Inscriptions in the McDaniel Collection". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. 68: 79–97. doi:10.2307/310799. ISSN 0073-0688.
  6. Odahl, Charles Matson (2010) [2004]. Constantine and the Christian Empire (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-136-96128-1.
  7. Salzman, Michele Renee (2002). "The Emperor's Influence on Aristocratic Conversion". The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: Harvard University Press. pp. 178–199. doi:10.2307/j.ctvk12r62.9. ISBN 978-0-674-01603-3.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Harries, Jill (2012). Imperial Rome AD 284 to 363: The New Empire. Edinburgh University Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7486-5395-9.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Lovén, Lena Larsson; Harlow, Mary (2012). Families in the Roman and Late Antique World. New York: A&C Black. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-4411-7468-0.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 McEvoy, Meaghan (2020). "Imperial Cities Under the Sons of Constantine". In Baker-Brian, Nicholas; Tougher, Shaun (eds.). The Sons of Constantine, AD 337–361: In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 275–307. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-39898-9. ISBN 978-3-030-39897-2.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Hanson, R. P. C. (2005). The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318–381 AD. A & C Black. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-567-03092-4.
  12. Bleckmann, Bruno (2006). "Eutropia 2: Half-sister of Constantine". In Cancik, Hubert; Schneider, Helmuth; Salazar, Christine F.; Landfester, Manfred; Gentry, Francis G. (eds.). Brill's New Pauly (Online ed.). Brill.
  13. Barnes, Timothy David (2001). Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-674-00549-5.
  14. Brennecke, Hanns Christof; Heil, Uta; Stockhausen, Annette, eds. (2006). "Apologia ad Constantium". Athanasius Alexandrinus: Apologia ad Constantium / Epistula ad Ioannem et Antiochum / Epistula ad Palladium / Epistula ad Dracontium / Epistula ad Afros / Tomus ad Antiochenos / Epistula ad Jovianum / Epistula Joviani ad Athanasium / Petitiones Arianorum. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110924046. ISBN 978-3-11-092404-6.