The son of a famous general, Theodosius's own military prowess caught
the eye of Gratian who sent him off with an army to deal with the various
barbarian hordes making regular excursions into Roman territory. After scoring
some impressive victories on the battlefield Gratian gave Theodosius the
ultimate reward by crowning him emperor and formal successor to Valens.
Theodosius then went on to settle a peace treaty with the barbarians and
conferred upon them "federate" status and allowed them to occupy Roman territory
under the condition that they would defend it against other intruders. The
benefit, in principle at least, was that this settlement created a buffer zone
for the Romans. In the following years he put down the rebellions headed by
Magnus Maximus and then, literally with a little help from the weather, by the
puppet emperor Eugenius.
During the waning years of his life he became the first Roman emperor to turn
full circle on the issue of religious persecution. After centuries of Christian
persecution and then another three quarters of a century whereby Christianity
coexisted mostly peacefully with Pagan rituals, Theodosius began the active
persecution and steady elimination of all non-Christian sects and their temples.
This policy would be vigorously followed by all succeeding emperors. He died in
395 leaving behind a split empire to be ruled by his sons Honorius and Arcadius.