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Anicia Julianalocked

  • L. James

(b ?Constantinople, c. ad 461–3; d Constantinople, c. 527–9). Byzantine patron. As the great-granddaughter of Galla Placidia and daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius (Emperor of the West, reg 472) she was the last major figure of the Theodosian house. In 512, during a popular uprising against Emperor Anastasius I (reg 491–518), the imperial crown was pressed on her husband Flavius Areobindus Dagalaifus, an honour he avoided by flight. Her imperial connections and social standing gave her an important status at court and she was an active patron. She is chiefly remembered for the Dioskurides codex (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., med. gr. 1), which was produced in Constantinople c. 512 (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §I, 2, (ii)). The inscription around her portrait (fol. 6v) indicates that the manuscript was commissioned for her by the people of Onoratou, a suburb of Constantinople, in gratitude for a church she built for them.

An epigram of 76 lines in the Palatine Anthology (I, 10–17) describes her construction of the magnificent church of St Polyeuktos at Constantinople (524–7), in honour of her dynastic ancestry. Excavations in the 1960s and 1970s uncovered the church’s remains on the south slope of a ridge between the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. Among the finds were fragments of the poem that was originally carved on the entablature of the nave and outside the narthex. The church was square in plan (51.45×52 m) with an orientated apse and an atrium to the west, and was probably surmounted by a central dome. The most striking feature of the architectural sculpture, however, is its variety, abundance and technical quality (Istanbul, Archaeol. Mus.; see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §IV, 2, (i)). The combination of familiar Classical motifs with new and exotic designs deriving partly from Sasanian models has links with the sculptural decoration in SS Sergius and Bacchus and in Hagia Sophia. It has been suggested that the latter was Justinian’s reply to the challenge of St Polyeuktos. Abandoned in the 11th century, the church was thoroughly looted during the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204–61), and many fragments of architectural sculpture, such as the so-called Pilastri Acritani, were later placed in the Piazza S Marco, Venice.


  • Theophanes: Chronicle (early 9th century); Eng. trans. by H. Turtledove (Philadelphia, 1982)
  • A. von Premerstein, K. Wessely and J. Mantuani: Dioscurides: Codex Aniciae Julianae (Leiden, 1906)
  • W. R. Paton, ed.: The Greek Palatine Anthology, Loeb Class. Lib. (London and New York, 1916)
  • C. Mango and I. Ševčenko: ‘Remains of the Church of St Polyeuktos at Istanbul’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 15 (1961), pp. 243–8
  • C. Capizzi: ‘L’attività edilizia di Anicia Giuliana’, Orient. Christ. Anlct., 204 (1977), pp. 119–46
  • R. M. Harrison: Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul, 1 (Princeton, 1986)
  • R. M. Harrison: A Temple for Byzantium (London, 1989)