Theodora: Byzantine Empire and Empress Theodora Essay

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The exact place of Theodora’s birth has not been agreed upon. While some historians say she was born on the island of Crete off the coast of Greece, others say that she might have been born in Syria. Either way, she was brought up as the daughter of a bear trainer who worked at the Hippodrome, in Constantinople. She worked there as a mime, and later as a full time actress, but acting was not a highly esteemed occupation especially for women. Off stage however, she lived a normal youthful life and was most remembered for her wild parties. At the age of 16, she traveled to northern Africa as the companion of an official, and remained there for 4 years before returning to Constantinople. Here she adopted Monophysitism; this was a form of Christianity that believed that Jesus Christ was wholly divine and not both human and divine as was the orthodox Christian belief. With her conversion to Monophysitism, she gave up her former lifestyle, and when she returned to Constantinople she settled down as a wool spinner in a house near the palace of the Emperor. It was while in this humble lifestyle, at the age of 20, that she drew the attention of Justinian. She won Justinian's love, and he appealed against an old Roman law that forbade officials from marrying actresses in order to marry her. Justinian and Theodora were married in 525. In 527, Justin, the emperor of Byzantium, and Justinian's father died. The couple assumed control of the Empire and were crowned Emperor and Empress on 4th April of that same year. Perhaps the most significant event during Empress Theodora's rule was the Nika revolt in which she proved herself a worthy and able leader. During this event, two rival political groups, the Blues and Greens, started a riot at the Hippodrome because a few of them had been arrested for murder. Justinian I ordered the capture and death of these men, but they sought a full pardon and set many public buildings on fire. The Greens and the Blues rallied people against Justinian, and thousands of people were attacking the Great Palace where the Emperor and his officials were hiding and shouted "Nika", which means Victory or Conquer in Greek. The people besieged the palace for 5 days while fighting against the loyal soldiers at the same time. The crowd declared a new emperor, Hypatius who was the nephew of former Emperor Anastasius I. Theodora spoke up and gave a moving speech about the greater significance of the life of someone who died as a ruler, over that of someone who lived but was nothing. Her determined