Byzantine Empress
500 – 548 A.D.

Theodora, a Byzantine empress, wife of Justinian I. She was the daughter of Acacius, the keeper of the wild beasts at the circus of Constantinople, and had already been by turns actress, dancer, and courtesan, when she won the heart of the austere and ambitious Justinian, to become in succession his mistress, his wife, and the sharer of his throne. There was a law which forbade a member of the senate to marry an actress, but Justinian cleared the way by repealing it.

After Theodora’s marriage to the emperor, the breath of scandal never touched her name; she became Justinian’s trustiest counselor, bore a chief share in the work of government, and saved the throne by her high courage at the crisis of the Nika riots in 532. “Now ever man must die once,” she said in council, “and for a king death is better than dethronement and exile.”

She lavished her bounty on the poor, and especially upon the unfortunates of her own sex.

Theodora was of less than middle hight, and her complexion was pale, but such was her beauty that Procopius tells us “it was impossible for mere man to describe her comeliness in the words, or imitate it in art.”

The historian, Gibbon, eloquently describes her in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

From 650 – 950, Europe was filled with the gloom, ignorance and superstition of the Dark Ages. During this period Charlemangne and his armies with fire and sword were converting the barbarians to Christendom in the North, while in the South the Mohammedan hosts were conquerors for the time being.

In such an age, woman had no opportunity to express herself, which accounts for this barren period of 300 years.


Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

Quote by Theodora