What influence did Queen Theodora have on the Byzantine Roman Emperor Justinian?

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beardian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Theodora of the Byzantine Empire, wife to Emperor Justinian, is credited with almost co-running the Empire.  Her biggest contributions during Justinian's reign as emperor are as follows:

  • Persuading Justinian to stay in the capital city of Constantinople during the Nika Revolt.  In 532, riots broke out in Constantinople when Justinian gave death sentences to the ringleaders of two rival hippodrome factions, the blues and greens (so named for the color they wore to support their team).  For five days, the rioters burned down churches and monuments.  Justinian planned on leaving Constantinople amid the riots, but Theodora convinced him to stay; Justinian hired Scandinavian mercenaries to put an end to the riots, and about 30,000 rioters were killed.  While it's certainly a bloody end, it solidified Justinian's power over the riotous mob and shows Theodora's influence over her husband and their rule as Emperor and Empress.
  • Supporting women's rights.
  • Served as one of Justinian's advisors.  Despite being a performer in her youth, she convinced Justinian to change laws to allow him to marry her.  Once Justinian's uncle died, Justinian and Theodora became Emperor and Empress.
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thetall | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Theodora had great influence on Justinian, and right from the start, Justinian was forced to change the Roman law in order to marry Theodora. At the time, emperors were not allowed to marry actresses, a designation that also had close links to prostitution.

Theodora wielded considerable power and authority, and Justinian consulted her on policy matters. Justinian allowed her to make official communications with foreign rulers and receive envoys sent to meet the emperor. During the Nika Riots, Theodora succeeded in convincing both her husband and other government officials to resist the idea of fleeing. Her actions saved Justinian's throne and ushered in a new era of development for the empire.

After her death, Justinian made efforts to reconcile the Monophysites and the Chalcedonian Christians in honor of his wife. Justinian was a Chalcedonian, while Theodora had converted to Miaphysite Christianity during her early years in Egypt.

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