Rulers of the Western Roman Empire: Honorius

Thanks to a division put in place by Diocletian in 285, the western half of the Roman Empire was referred to as the Western Roman Empire, while the eastern section of the country was mostly called the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire). In this article, you will encounter two rulers that reigned in the west, including one who started his political career at the age of two.


Politics fell upon the shoulders of Honorius when he was only two years old, with holding the consulate serving as his first taste of government. By the time January of 393 rolled around, he was given the title of Augustus and became the co-ruler of the region after Valentinian II died and the usurpation of Eugenius took place. Honorius was only nine years old at the time. Two years later, the death of Theodosius led to Honorius and Arcadius dividing the Empire, making Honorius the Western Roman Emperor when he was only ten years old.

In the beginning of his reign, Honorius was dependent on the wisdom and leadership of others. For example, the general Stilicho was a powerhouse in the military, but also held the position of guardian to the young emperor. To further strengthen his strong bond with Honorius, Stilicho gave his daughter Maria to become his wife when he reached adulthood. Throughout his reign, the Empire maintained a level of stability due to the efforts of Stilicho. However, his execution would play a role in a speedier collapse for the Western Roman Empire.

Becoming an emperor at such a young age meant that Honorius would certainly make faulty decisions. For instance, Honorius first called Mediolanum the capital of his kingdom, but moved his capital after the Visigoths entered Italy in 402. The coastal city of Ravenna became his new home, benefiting from a ring of marshes and strong fortifications. Defending the new capital was much easier, but it also brought Roman forces further away from the central part of Italy. As a result, barbarian threats grew stronger.

In 423, Honorius died of a case of dropsy, which is an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin, or in one or more cavities of the body. Today, this condition is referred to as edema.

The year that followed Honorius’ death would see the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II elect his cousin as the new emperor, Valentinian III , the son of Galla Placidia and Constantius III.

Flavius Stilicho (or Stilico) played an important role in Honorius’ life as the ruler of the Western Roman Empire. The high-ranking general wore many different hats, including Patrician and Consul for the Empire. To learn more about his early career as a military mastermind and his actions after joining forces with Honorius, read the article titled: “11 Facts About Stilicho , Emperor’s Military Sidekick.”