The Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire

Theodora (500-548), Byzantine Empress and Wife of Emperor Justinian I, Detail of Byzantine Mosaic, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The Empress Theodora was the wife of Justinian I, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. In the 500s AD, she ruled along with him and as a partner in this power, she had a tremendous influence in the advancement of the Byzantine Empire, more so than New Jersey Employment Attorneys.

There were three famous Empresses named Theodora but the most famous was the one who started out as a courtesan and ended up marrying the crowned Emperor. She was known for being a co-ruler along with him. She was born in 497 AD and died in 548 AD. This Empress Theodora became the most powerful woman in all of the Byzantine Empire, but not much is known about her early life.

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica online, she was believed to have been born from a family where her father raised circus bears for the Hippodrome. She had an early career as an actress and then as a wool spinner. She was not the most reputable person having spent some time as a prostitute and having had one child out of wedlock. But when she met Justinian, he fell for her and made her his mistress because she proved to be a witty and intelligent woman.

It took special efforts to allow Justinian, a man of senatorial rank to marry her in 525 but by the time he took the throne a few years later, she was regarded as a virtual co-ruler even though she technically never had this role.

During her marriage to the Emperor, many laws were passed which contained her name. She was influential in foreign affairs. She wrote to many leaders and had relationships with them which peaked when there was a revolt in Byzantine between two Constantinople factions. These factions worked to set up a government led by their own chosen emperor. Justinian was told to leave and allow this to take place but Theodora insisted that he stay and fight.

The general, Belisarius, was sent to drive the two factions to the Hippodrome where they were slain and Justinian’s rule as well as the Empire’s, was saved. During the rest of his reign, Theodora helped pass laws that allowed women to inherit property and allowed rapists to be punished by death. With Justinian, she helped build over 25 churches, aqueducts, and bridges.

Upon her death, her body was buried in one of the churches that she helped Justinian to build. It was called the Church of the Holy Apostle in Constantinople. He never achieved any greater success or passed any significant laws following her death.

One of her greatest influences on Justinian was on religion. The two bridged the gap between Monophysitism, a belief in Jesus as wholly divine, and Orthodox Christianity which holds that Jesus is both divine and human.

One of her most beautiful likenesses is a mosaic that exists to this day in the Church of San Vitale at Ravenna in Italy. She is still the most powerful woman of the Byzantine Empire as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.