The Incredible Fate of Galla Placidia, Queen of Goths and Last Roman Empress

If you ask me to nominate one single person whose fate personifies the transition period from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, I will choose Galla Placidia, beyond any doubt. Aelia Galla Placidia (? – November 27, 450) was the daughter and mother of Roman emperors and, most astonishing, the wife of the Goth king. She was the daughter of Theodosius the Great, and his second wife Galla.
There wasn’t left a portrait of Galla Placidia in her early years. I think that not only pretty appearance but her incredible vital force and intelligence attracted powerful men. An Italian version of Wikipedia gives her portrait in maturity. We see a very intelligent and refined face with gentle melancholy in beautiful dark eyes. Her luxuriant hair is hidden under a gauze opening large forehead. Though, the portrait is an official one she is very modestly dressed. Only an elegant bead of big pearls and earrings frame her delicate oval face. Her widely open eyes look with calm dignity into eyes of her destiny whatever surprise it prepares. Her appearance is amazingly up-to-date. A lady with such a look could easily be a prime minister, a film star, a CEO.

Photo credit:

Read more

My posts about Ravenna

My Golden Dream of Ravenna Comes True
The Fascinating Mausoleum of Galla Placidia


20 Responses to “The Incredible Fate of Galla Placidia, Queen of Goths and Last Roman Empress”

  1. Thank you for posting this about Galla Placidia. My question: is that really her in the painting or a centuries later rendition of what an artist percieved that she may had looked like?

    • Thank you for your question, Mike! Frankly speaking, I’m not quite sure that Galla Placidia was a model for this picture, though in the Internet this portrait is sometimes attributed to her. This miniature is a fragment of the so called Desiderius cross which was created many years after her death.

  2. Thank you Tatiana

    Yes she was an incredible lady and many people do not know that she was the only female to rule in the western roman empire (regent 425-437 A.D.) until her son became of age and she commanded respect even from rome’s most powerful general’s at the time (Aetius and Bonifacius) as no female had weilded such power in the mediterranean not since Cleopatra if i’m not mistaken.

    Anyway thanks again and very nice photo’s on this site as i’m glad that i had discovered this today.


    • Thank you very much, Mike! I’m very glad that you’ve found my blog. You are always welcome!
      Yes, she was a great lady and, unfortunately, her role was undervalued by historians.
      It seems, that you are an expert on the Western Roman Empire and particularly Galla Placidia. I would highly appreciate, if you share with me info about her.

  3. Galla was unique in that her father, both brothers, husband and son were all emperors at one time and again she ruled as well as regent as no other woman in the empire’s history could claim that. I only wished that she would have been alive in 451 when the Huns attacked as well as in 455 when the Vandals sacked rome as i would have liked to have known how she would have dealt with them. Her granddaughter Placidia had a very unique life as well.

    One other female that was remarkable in that era was the eastern roman empress Theodora (500-548) wife of Justinian that many consider the greatest emperor of the eastern roman empire as she was actually the brains and strength behind his rule and so two great female rulers back then.

    So if you ever have any free time in the future i hope that you can read more about Galla Placidia’s family as well as empress Theodora of the eastern empire.

  4. Thank you very much, Mike, for your very interesting and emotional story!
    I’m passionate about Galla Placidia, too. I wonder, if you have you seen my blog “Mediaeval walks” at I write there more details about Galla Placidia.

  5. O.k. i located it and i also saw your link to the blog Chemistry of an Empire : The Last Roman Empress. I must say that i had not a clue that there were others who had a very strong interest about Galla Placidia as i’ve had since my high school history days back in the early 1980’s.

  6. Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a entirely different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!

  7. Nice blog here! Also your site loads up very fast!
    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

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  10. Hi Tatiana:)
    My name’s also Tatiana haha. Thanks for making these posts! It’s very interesting and fun!! I read a book about Galla Placidia by Sonia Sorrell (it’s written in Galla’s perspective.) It’s really good, I highly recommend it! It’s my favorite book 🙂 That’s what sparked my interest in Roman history.
    I get so annoyed that no historians talk about Galla Placidia! I was surprised when I tried to find any sort of documentary or film, because there are none. I wish people were taught about her. I take latin at my school and we haven’t spoken once about her.
    Thank you again!

    • Dear Tatiana, thank you very much for your comment! I’m happy that you admire this great lady, too. Thank you for recommending me the book by Sonia Sorrell. To say the truth, I’m dreaming about writing a book of my own about Galla Placidia. Have you read my bigger post about her? Just click “Read more…” at the end of this post.

      • Yes of course! 🙂 You can only get it on amazon though, but trust me, it is such an amazing read. That’s the link 🙂 Oh I hope you do write one! I bet it would be amazing 🙂 I just read the bigger post you wrote, and again, thank you for writing it! I wish I could travel back in time and meet her! And I wish there were pictures of her. This summer I’m going to Italy and I am so pumped! Do you have any tips or suggestions for when I am there? Thanks once again!

      • Dear Tatiana, thank you once again for your thoughts! It’s great to meet a person like you who is so passionate about Galla Placidia!
        As for your travel to Italy. My best advise is to visit Ravenna and Galla’s fascinating mausoleum. You can read all my posts about Ravenna at If you’ve already been to Rome, you can visit beautiful posts around Ravenna, eg. Ferrara, Padova etc.

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