biographical name


Theodora, detail of a Byzantine mosaic in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.—Andre Held/J.P. Ziolo

(born c. 497—died June 28, 548, Constantinople) Byzantine empress, wife of Justinian I. The daughter of a bear keeper at the Hippodrome in Constantinople, she became an actress and the mistress of Justinian. He married her in 525, and when he became emperor in 527 she was proclaimed empress. Probably the most powerful woman in Byzantine history, she was her husband's most trusted adviser, sponsoring legal reforms and wielding great influence in diplomacy, military appointments, and internal politics. Her impassioned speech gave Justinian the strength to order the brutal suppression of the Nika revolt (532) and save his empire. She recognized the rights of women and ended persecution of Monophysite Christians, with whom she sympathized.

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