Ever since our visit to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, I have not been able to get Theodora, wife to Emperor Justinian of Constantinople, out of my mind.
Here are a bunch of reasons Theodora SHOULD be at least as famous as Cleopatra (info from Procopius, a historian who was a contemporary of Justinian and Theodora):
- Her mom was a dancer-actress and her dad was a bear trainer
- According to most historians, she started her career as a prostitute, then added work as an actress (which wasn’t much different from her first occupation in Roman society), then gave that up to be a wool spinner, where she caught the eye of Justinian
- Let me repeat that last point for emphasis- she seduced an heir to the Roman throne as a wool spinner
- Her last and most auspicious occupation was that of Empress
- As Empress, Theodora saved her husband and his throne on several occasions. Justinian relied on her to be, not only his wife, but his most trusted advisor
- She converted to Monophysite Christianity right before she became a wool spinner and stuck to her guns, even when it went against Justinian’s religious inclinations
- She similarly stuck up for women’s rights, protecting prostitutes and divorcees
If you ever needed proof that a girl with a strong personality can change the world, I don’t know who could be a better example than Theodora!