Flavius Marcianus, known in English as Marcian, (396 – January 457) was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 450 until his death. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially. On the other side, the isolationistic politic of Marcian left the Western Roman Empire without help against barbarian attacks, which materialized in the Italian campaigns of Attila and in the Vandal sack of Rome (455).
Through the influence of these generals he became a captain of the guards, and was later raised to the rank of tribune and senator. On the death of Theodosius II (408–450) he was chosen as consort by the latter's sister and successor, Pulcheria, and called upon to govern an empire greatly humbled and impoverished by the ravages of the Huns.
Marcian reformed the finances, checked extravagance, and repopulated the devastated districts. He repelled attacks upon Syria and Egypt (452), and quelled disturbances on the Armenian frontier (456). The other notable event of his reign is the Council of Chalcedon (451), in which Marcian endeavoured to mediate between the rival schools of theology.
Marcian generally ignored the affairs of the Western Roman Empire, leaving that tottering half of the empire to its fate. He did nothing to aid the west during Attila's campaigns, and, living up to his promise, ignored the depredations of Geiseric even when the Vandals sacked Rome in 455. It has recently been argued, however, that Marcian was more actively involved in aiding the western Empire than historians had previously believed and that Marcian's fingerprints can be discerned in the events leading up to, and including, Attila's death.
Shortly before Attila's death in 453, conflict had begun again between him and Marcian. However, the powerful Hun king died before all-out war broke out. In a dream, Marcian claimed he saw Attila's bow broken before him, and a few days later, he got word that his great enemy was dead.
Marcian died in 457 of disease, possibly gangrene contracted during a long religious journey. Despite his short reign and his writing off of the west Marcian is considered one of the best of the early Byzantine emperors. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes him and his wife Pulcheria as saints, with their feast day on February 17.
Pulcheria, was his second wife. Pulcheria had taken a religious vow of chastity. The second marriage was a mere political alliance, establishing Marcian as a member of the Theodosian dynasty by marriage. The marriage of Marcian to Pulcheria was never consummated, consequently Euphemia never had younger half-siblings.
Marcian was played by the Hollywood star Jeff Chandler in the film Sign of the Pagan (1954).