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Empress Theodora: Prostitute, Empress And Saint

1056 words - 5 pages

One often hears rags to riches stories, but that of Empress Theodora’s is an especially unique one. She was born into poverty but died one of the wealthiest women in the Byzantine Empire. Theodora was a woman was at the bottom of the empire’s social ladder, but eventually saved it from its own destruction. Empress Theodora was a courtesan turned empress who was finally ordained as a saint by a Greek Orthodox Church after having a great hand in reforms in the Byzantine Empire.
Theodora was born about 500 C.E. to a man named Acacius and a woman whose name is unknown. Her father was a keeper of the bears for the Greens at the Hippodrome in Constantinople and died when Theodora was ...view middle of the document...

This clashed with Roman doctrine that declared that women should receive no pleasure from sexual relations and they were simply objects (Skinner 91). Furthermore, Theodora partook in many orgies in Constantinople and became notorious for the wild parties she threw. The dignitaries in Constantinople would avoid her on the streets because they believed she would contaminate them (Theodora- The Syriac Empress of Byzantine).
Hecebolus was Theodora’s first husband, and their marriage would later influence her actions as empress. Hecebolus was a client of Theodora’s and after he became governor of a small province in northern Africa, he married Theodora. Theodora accompanied him for the following four years. During their marriage, Theodora became sexually frustrated and threatened to perform before their peers (Cesaretti 108). Hecebolus ousted her from their home penniless, and Theodora had to journey back to Constantinople in 521.
On her way back to Constantinople, Theodora not only embarked on a physical journey but a religious one. Theodora worked as a prostitute until she reached Alexandria, Egypt until she met a group of Monophysites came to preach their heretical form of Christianity. Over time, Theodora was moved by their preaching and she decided to convert to the Monophysite religion, renouncing her former lifestyle. In 522, finally reached Constantinople and worked as a spinner of wool.
Theodora and Justinian fell in love at first sight in 522, but there were multiple obstacles they had to overcome. The empress Euphemia on the other hand, was steadfast in her opposition against the marriage, citing a Roman law that prohibited marriages between dignitaries and actresses or courtesans. Since Theodora had the reputation of a prostitute, Justinian had his ruling uncle bestow upon her the rank of patrician and issued an edict of which declared “henceforth actresses who have abandoned their former life may contract a legal marriage, and those upon whom a high dignity has been conferred may marry men of the highest rank.” The following year, Justinian and Theodora were wed. In 527, Justinian was crowned emperor. Justinian expressed his wishes for her to be his co-regent...

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