Theodora (6th century) - Wikipedia
Jun 15, The Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian, had a remarkable childhood. When Theodora was around 4 or 5, disaster struck; her father died unexpectedly. Somehow Theodora managed to meet him despite his busy. Upon the death of her father when she was but a child, Theodora began to work on Justinian was 40 years old when he met Theodora, then only half his age. Oct 31, When her father died and left her bereft as a child, Theodora became When Justinian met her, Theodora was a simple seamstress who spent.
Her mother, whose name is not recorded, was a dancer and an actress. From then on Theodora would be their supporter. Procopius in his Secret History relates that Theodora from an early age followed her sister Komito's example and worked in a Constantinople brothel serving low-status customers; later she performed on stage.
Women and Power in Byzantium, AD —" notes that there seems to be little reason to believe she worked out of a brothel "managed by a pimp ". Employment as an actress at the time would include both "indecent exhibitions on stage" and providing sexual services off stage.
In what Garland calls the "sleazy entertainment business in the capital", Theodora earned her living by a combination of her theatrical and sexual skills.
During this time she met the future wife of BelisariusAntoninawho would become a part of the women's court led by Theodora. At the age of 16, she traveled to North Africa as the companion of a Syrian official named Hecebolus when he went to the Libyan Pentapolis as governor.
Abandoned and maltreated by Hecebolus, on her way back to the capital of the Byzantine Empireshe settled for a while in AlexandriaEgypt. From Alexandria she went to Antiochwhere she met a Blue faction's dancer, Macedonia, who was perhaps an informer of Justinian. She returned to Constantinople in and, according to John of Ephesus, gave up her former lifestyle, settling as a wool spinner in a house near the palace.
The extreme and conventional nature of the negative rhetoric of Procopius and the positive rhetoric of John of Ephesus has led most scholars to conclude that the veracity of both sources might be questioned.
When Justinian sought to marry Theodora, he could not: InJustin repealed the law, and Justinian married Theodora. Justinian apparently treated the daughter and the daughter's son Athanasius as fully legitimate,  although sources disagree whether Justinian was the girl's father.
Life as royalty[ edit ] Depiction of Justinian from a contemporary portrait mosaic in the Basilica of San VitaleRavenna Life as Empress[ edit ] When Justinian succeeded to the throne intwo years after the marriage, Theodora became Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire.
She shared in his plans and political strategies, participated in state councils, and Justinian called her his "partner in my deliberations. There were two rival political factions in the Empire, the Blues and the Greens, who started a riot in January during a chariot race in the hippodrome. The riots stemmed from many grievances, some of which had resulted from Justinian's and Theodora's own actions. Unable to control the mob, Justinian and his officials prepared to flee.
At a meeting of the government council, Theodora spoke out against leaving the palace and underlined the significance of someone who died as a ruler instead of living as an exile or in hiding, reportedly saying, "royal purple is the noblest shroud".
Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions. He was Justinian's efficiency expert and both Procopius and John the Lydian bear witness to his unpopularity. He was sacrificed to the mob during the 'Nika' revolt but he was soon back at his former post as praetorian prefect.
But he paid Theodora scant respect, and even worse from her viewpoint, he had Justinian's ear. Theodora was jealous of his influence and with the help of her friends, particularly her crony, Antonina, the wife of Belisarius, she set a trap for him and he fell into it.
The bait she used was the prospect of imperial power.
Theodora (6th century)
This proposition involved disloyalty, but Theodora had assessed her victim correctly. John did not balk at disloyalty to the emperor when the reward was power. Even after John had fallen, Theodora's vengeance followed him. Officers of the civil and military militia learned that if they carried out Justinian's commands negligently, he might be angry but he would eventually forgive them.
But let them flout Theodora and they could expect condign retribution and no forgiveness. Theodora was not orthodox and contemporary orthodox churchmen recognized her as an enemy. Yet religious differences never seem to have caused a rift between Justinian and Theodora, and Procopius Anek. The Arabic History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria is better taken as a document of Monophysite folk tradition than as an accurate record of events: Theodora may have met Severus in Alexandria.
She was still only a reformed actress, but her encounter with Monophysite refugees had important results. She was soon in a better position to help. Severus' Chalcedonian successor in Antioch, Paul 'the Jew'undertook a cleansing of the churches and monasteries of the Orient.
The fragments of John of Ephesus' Ecclesiastical History [] supply a vivid record from the perspective of the persecuted. Monks and nuns were driven from their monasteries and some had to spend their nights like wild beasts wandering on the hillsides, enduring snow and winter rains in the winter.
Paul's tenure was short but his successor as patriarch, Euphrasius, was moderate only by comparison. He perished in the earthquake which befell Antioch inand Monophysite tradition had no doubt that his death was not only hideous, but appropriate. His successor, Ephraim of Amida, had been a military officer, a former Magister Militum per Orientem, and he did not hesitate to use military force.
During all this time Theodora's influence at court grew. But Justinian was not yet emperor, and, dependent as he was on his nephew, Justin clearly did not want to be hurried. In Pope John visited Constantinople where he went through a coronation ceremony with Justinbut not Justinian. But within a few months, Justin's health was clearly failing, and on 1 April,he crowned Justinian as his co-emperor, and four months later, he died.
The Monophysites now had a sturdy friend at the center of power.
Theodora did what she could. When the monks of the monastery called 'Orientalium' at Edessa were expelled in the dead of winter by their Chalcedonian bishop, they wandered from place to place until they found refuge for between six and seven years at a monastery called En-Hailaf, and then Theodora arranged for their return home. Mare, the deposed metropolitan of Amida, and his clergy nearly perished in exile at Petra until Theodora got permission from Justinian for them to go to Alexandria and, when Mare died, it was Theodora who arranged for his bones to be returned to Amida.
Byit was clear even to a convinced orthodox theologian like Justinian that Justin's harsh measures against heresy had failed. In Antioch, the persecutions of the Chalcedonian patriarch Ephraim had provoked a violent revolt. Early in the next year, the regime survived the 'Nika' revolt and Theodora emerged from it with greater influence than before. When the bishops arrived, accompanied by a mini-mob of not less than five hundred holy men, [] Theodora welcomed them and housed them in the Hormisdas Palace adjoining the Great Palace which had been Justinian and Theodora's own dwelling before they became emperor and empress.
Theodora visited them every two or three days, sometimes bringing Justinian with her, and the church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus was built for Monophysite use. In the spring ofwhile construction crews were repairing the devastation of the 'Nika' revolt in Constantinople, Justinian sponsored a three-day conference of bishops in the Hormisdas Palace. Five bishops debated on each side. But the 'Tome' of Leo proved the sticking-point. In the spring of the next year, Justinian published his own confession of faith: Then Theodora and Justinian invited Severus to the capital, and in the winter ofSeverus came, though without enthusiasm.
Theodora may have known that Anthimus was not unsympathetic to Monophysite views but, if so, she kept her information secret. As far as anyone else knew, his orthodox credentials were impeccable. A solution must have seemed just around the corner and Theodora could take much of the credit for it. Then suddenly it fell apart. In Egypt, Timothy III died, and Theodora enlisted the help of Dioscoros the Augustal Prefect and Aristomachos the duke of Egypt to facilitate the enthronement of a disciple of Severus, Theodosius, thereby outmaneuvering her husband who had been plotting for a Catholic successor as patriarch.
But on the very day that Theodosius was installed, a violent uprising organized by the extreme Monophysites, the Aphthartodocetists, drove him from Alexandria and invested in his place the Aphthartodocetist archdeacon Gaianas, who held the patriarchate for days, until imperial troops, led by Narses, acting under Theodora's orders with which Justinian acquiesced, replaced Theodosius on his episcopal throne.
Severus, whose theology Theodosius shared, now belonged to the moderate Monophysite party, outnumbered in Egypt by the Aphthartodocetists a. Gaianas was consigned to exile in Sardinia but his theology swept Egypt. Agapetus had a high card: Belisarius' campaign to recover Italy from the Ostrogoths was just getting under way and Justinian could not appear as an opponent of the Chalcedonians without alienating the support and good will of the Italians.
Shortly after his arrival on 1 March, Agapetus denounced Anthimus and on 13 March, Anthimus was deposed and replaced by the solidly Chalcedonian Menas, director of the hospice of Sampson.
On 22 April, Agapetus died, but a synod presided over by Menas excommunicated Anthimus, Severus and their followers and on 6 August, the emperor confirmed the excommunication and directed that neither of the two heretical prelates should live in any of the great cities of the empire; rather they should dwell in isolation and the works of Severus should be burned.
But with Theodora's help, Severus returned safely to Egypt where he died inand Anthimus disappeared. After Theodora's death inhe was discovered living quietly in the women's quarters of the palace which were Theodora's domain.
She soon received another patriarchal refugee, Theodosius I. Even with the help of imperial troops, he could not hold his ground in Alexandria against the Julianists. Word was brought to Theodora and she according to the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church "calmly, wisely and humbly, went in to the prince and informed him of all that had happened, without his sanction, to Father Theodosius, patriarch in the city of Alexandria," and Justinian gave Theodora the power to do what was necessary.
So an investigation was held into the disputed ordinations of Theodosius and his Julianist rival, Gaianas, and Theodosius was vindicated. But for all Justinian could do, Theodosius would not accept the creed of Chalcedon even though Justinian brought him to Constantinople and argued the matter with him on six occasions. So Justinian deposed him and exiled him together with Monophysites to the fortress of Derkos in Thrace.
Theodora soon came to his rescue, however, and brought him back to the relative comfort of the Hormisdas Palace where he lived under her protection, and after her death inunder Justinian'sfor on her deathbed Theodora had Justinian swear that he would protect her little community of Monophysite refugees there, and he kept his promise. Pope Agapetus died in Constantinople before he could return to Italy. Theodora's choice as his successor was a deacon who had accompanied Agapetus to Constantinople, Vigilius, who had apparently intimated that he was prepared to be more malleable.
But the election was held before Vigilius could reach Rome, and the new pope was the son of Pope Hormisdas, Silverius, who had the support of the Ostrogothic king Theodahad. Events were moving rapidly in Italy: Belisarius, leading an imperial invasion force, was advancing from the south, Naples fell, and the Ostrogoths, disgusted with Theodahad's flaccid leadership, deposed him and replaced him with Witigis. He decided that his best strategy would be to secure his northern frontier against the Franks before he attended to the Byzantines, and he evacuated Rome, having first received a loyalty oath from Silverius.
Once the Goths had departed, Silverius invited the Byzantine forces into the city. That might have given him some claim for consideration. But for Theodora he was only an impediment to her theological strategy. However, the Liber Pontificalis describes how Silverius refused Theodora's demand that he remove the anathema of Agapetus from Anthimus, and when he refused, she sent Belisarius instructions to find a pretext to remove him.
Belisarius and his wife Antonina saw to it that Silverius was deposed, and Vigilius appointed in his stead. Theodora now had her man on the papal throne but as it turned out, he was not malleable enough. The next incident in the saga of Justinian's continuing effort to find common ground for the Chalcedonians and Monophysites was the 'Three Chapters' dispute.
It arose from an effort to clear the Chalcedonians of any suspicion of Nestorianism by condemning the teaching of three long-dead theologians and it gave rise to a protracted struggle which pitted the churches of Italy and Africa against Constantinople.
Roman Emperors - DIR Theodora
Ironically, for the Monophysites the dispute was largely irrelevant. Vigilius waged an epic struggle with Justinian and eventually lost, but in the process, the 'Three Chapters' incident revealed the gulf that was widening between East and West. Vigilius was not an unyielding prelate but he knew that if he compromised, Italy and Africa would disown him, which in fact, did happen when he did, in the end, surrender.
The pope in the sixth century was anything but an absolute potentate in matters of faith. Theodora died while the dispute was still raging.Justinian & Theodora - The Cracks Begin to Spread - Extra History - #7
But before she died she made a last contribution to the growing schism in Christendom. Inal-Harith, the sheikh of the Ghassanid tribe of Saracens whose friendship was important for the security of the south Syrian frontier, was in Constantinople on other business and took the opportunity to approach Theodora with a request for bishops. As people from all over the Mediterranean came to the city to trade, its warehouses were full of exotic goods.
Constantinople depended on Alexandria for foodstuffs to keep its citizens happy. The city was also an important Christian centre where all the monks, holy men and clergy gathered. It was an interesting time for there was much unrest going on in the region. Ever since the time of Constantine the GreatByzantine emperors had been trying to enforce religious unity throughout the empire.
But Christianity itself remained deeply divided. But the Orthodoxy insisted upon by the emperors held that Christ had two natures; one divine and one human. Life Altering Encounters Although recent emperors tolerated Monophysitism, with the ascension of Justin, Orthodoxy was favoured once more.
As the persecutions began, many from Syria and Palestine fled to Egypt. The imperial government did not dare to offend the Egyptians due to their dependence on its food supply. Thus Alexandria found itself filled with refugees. It was in the midst of these troubles that Theodora arrived.
During her short stay in the city, she met two men who would change her life forever. The first was Timothy, the Patriarch of Alexandria and a Monophysite. Somehow Theodora managed to meet him despite his busy schedule and he impressed her deeply with his intellect and kindness. For the rest of her life, he was the only person whom she would call her spiritual father. The second was Severus, Patriarch of Antioch.
He too was a Monophysite who had fled to Alexandria to seek refuge. He was a brilliant man who had a colourful career as pagan, lawyer, monk and heretic. Theodora herself had thus far led a short but colourful life too. She was also very intelligent and eloquent. Severus must have seen her potential and taken her under his wing. Under his guidance, Theodora learned his brand of Monophysitism and how to hold her own in theological debates.
This would have a huge impact on the empire when she became empress. It was also during this time that she became a Monophysite and devoted herself to a more spiritual life. Return to Constantinople Although Theodora must have enjoyed her time in Alexandria with Severus, all good things had to end. After staying for a few months, she left the city for Antioch where she became firm friends with the dancer Macedonia. But there is no firm evidence for this. InTheodora finally returned to Constantinople.
But by this time, she was a changed woman. She did not go back to her old way of life.