Who says people can’t change?
Theodora, the wife of Emperor Justinian was a Cypriot Greek.
She was an actress.
And an Empress.
Her father, Acacius, was a bear trainer of the Hippodrome’s Blue faction in Constantinople, that’s Istanbul today. The factions of the Hippodrome’s Circus were much like sports teams only with political overtones…sort of like a political party with a football team.
Mommy, who was so unimportant that her name is not recorded, was a dancer and an actress. After Theodora’s father died, her mother brought her along with her brothers and sisters, all wearing garlands, into the hippodrome and presented them as suppliants to the crowd.
They were beggars.
Some say Theodora worked out of a brothel, others insist she had a pimp. I don’t know, I’m not that old.
But, she was an actress…her most famous act…putting seed on her pubic hair, lying on stage and letting geese eat from it. It was some sort of rendition of Leda and The Swan.
What’s that old saying about “…a bird in the hand…”
She also performed “indecent acts” on the stage.
Um, like the geese thing is equal to charades?
Either way, as a member of the “sleazy entertainment business in the capital”, Theodora would earn her living by a combination of her theatrical and sexual skills. She also entertained notables at banquets and accepted a multitude of lovers.
Yes, she was a ho.
She knew and practiced methods of abortion.
Finally, At the age of 16, she traveled to Northern Africa with a Syrian official named Hecebolus. He was the Lybian governor. She stayed with him for almost four years before they started out for a return trip to Constantinople.
He dumped her.
Abandoned and abused by Hecebolus on the way, she made a stop over in Alexandria, Egypt. She met a Blue faction’s dancer, Macedonia, who was possibly an informer of the Emperor. Most historians believe that Macedonia provided Theodora to Justinian. Justinian was a supporter of the Blues as well. He’s most famous for the Hagia Sophia, or the Blue Mosque as well as re-conquering the Western half of the Roman Empire.
Returning to Constantinople in 522 and giving UP her former lifestyle, she settled as a wool spinner in a house near the palace.
She was smokin’ hot and her beauty, wit and amusing character drew attention from Justinian; the horny and bewitched Emperor fell in love, and wanted to marry her.
He was heir of the throne of his uncle, Emperor Justin I. There was some silly Roman law from the time of Constantine which banned government officials from marrying actresses.
I mean, after all, what politicain want’s to get their hands dirty and wind UP in a scandal?
Empress Euphemia, Justin’s main squeeze liked Justinian and generally refused him nothing. This time, not so, she was against his wedding with an actress.
Justin was a dirty old man, and had the hots for was fond of Theodora, and apparently had had enough of Euphemia, because in 525, when Euphemia had died, Justin repealed the law, and Justinian managed to marry Theodora.
From actress to Empress.
And she actually had power.
Kinda makes that Grace Kelly Prince Ranier thing pale, don’t you think?
Lucky for the daughter Theodora had already produced, she was made legal by the law too.
It’s good to be the Emperor, in love or not.
Theodora died seventeen years before Justinian. He took lovers, but never remarried. Theodora’s influence on Justinian was so strong that after her death, he worked to bring harmony between the Monophysites (her religion) and the Orthodox Christians in his kingdom.
Theodora is considered the greatest female figure of the Byzantine Empire.
She was a pioneer of women’s rights and feminism. Some of the laws SHE passed increased the rights of women. Her efforts and her laws caused the status of women in the Byzantine Empire to be much higher than in Europe, where things didn’t change much until the 20th Century, and the Middle East where things haven’t changed at all.
You go girl!