“If flying were the only means of safety, I would still despise flying.”
January 13 will go down in history as the day when a woman’s courage changed the course of history. Empress Theodora not only raised an army that day and prevented the arrival of the new Roman emperor, but also saved her career, and probably the life of her fallen husband, Emperor Justinian.
And who was the great Empress Theodora? As a total genetic outsider, with controversial career starts and an even more controversial reputation, he managed to become a key figure in the Roman Empire.
The story goes that the beautiful Theodora was the daughter of a bear guard who worked in the arena of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) where parties were held, including spectacular carriage races.
It is not known exactly when and where she was born, and most of what has been recorded about her comes from “Secret History,” a very malicious work by the sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea.
According to him, Teodora’s mother was a dancer and an actress. Some of his writings are considered excessive gossip, and his stories about Theodora were written only after his death, so his credibility has yet to be taken with a dose of skepticism and caution.
However, it seems that, under the influence of her mother, Teodora also became an actress and dancer, and at the age of fifteen she was already the star of the Hippodrome. At the time, “actress” was a term used for prostitutes, and according to Procopius, Theodora served clients in a brothel before performing on the Hippodrome stage.
The performance included sexual or indecent performances, and Theodora became famous, wrote Procopius, after a horrifying portrait of Leda and the swan in which she lay naked on stage, with her thighs covered in barley like a goose. alive bitten gradually.
But Theodora was not only beautiful, she was extremely intelligent, determined, ambitious, and calculated. At the age of 16, she left the Hippodrome to become the mistress of Hetchebolus, the governor of present-day Libya. When their relationship broke up, Theodora returned to Constantinople, where she met Justinian, a cousin of the Roman emperor Justin I.
She became his mistress and although he was 20 years older than her, and she had a very bad reputation, they married in 525. When Emperor Justin died two years later, Theodora was crowned. Empress of Rome in the same ceremony as her husband, and immediately began to establish power. The first thing she worked hard on was women’s rights, for which she fought wholeheartedly.
He closed brothels in every major city in the empire, passed anti-rape laws, established safe houses where prostitutes could live without fear, helped young girls who were sold as sex slaves, banned forced prostitution and proclaimed new rights for women after divorce and provided them with custody of children and ownership of property.
Bad construction or a sign from heaven?
However, Theodora’s brightest moment came after five years of Justinian’s rule, when riots broke out at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Seven mutineers were sentenced to death by penca, but the scaffolding collapsed at the time of his execution and two convicted men fled to the sanctuary of a church. Seeing this as an act of God, the people begged Justinian to forgive and release the condemned. But he refused.
As a result, on January 13, 532, riots broke out throughout the city and lasted for several days. There were more and more rebels and they were ruthless. Justinian was forced to barricade his palace, and the mutineers appointed a new emperor to take his place. Justinian’s counselors persuaded him to flee, but they did not count on Theodore.
Encouraging her terrified husband to take action, he said, judging by the historical documents, “If flight were the only means of security, I would still despise flying. May they never, not one day, see me without my tiara and my I believe in antiquity, the maxim that the kingdom is a magnificent veil … “Inspired by his words,
Justinian ordered his soldiers to embark on a decisive battle that killed 30,000 rebels. And thanks to Theodora, instead of a shameful escape, he ruled for another 33 years.
During those years, he and Theodora renovated the aqueducts, bridges, and churches of Constantinople and transformed the metropolis into the most beautiful city the world has ever seen. More than 25 churches and monasteries were built there. The greatest triumph was the construction of Hagia Sophia, which is still considered the embodiment of Byzantine architecture and one of the greatest architectural wonders in the world. Theodora died in 548, at the age of 48. Historians believe that the cause of death was breast cancer.