There is a saying, famous in the American lexicon, that states "behind every great man was a great woman." Historians are in almost complete agreement that Justinian, the Byzantine Emporer from 527-565 was a great man. His legal reforms allowed the Eastern Roman Empire to endure for nearly a thousand years after his death. However, any study of Justinian's political, artistic, and economic achievements need to be examined through the lens of the great woman behind him.
One of Justinian's greatest accomplishments is that he married well. His wife, the Empress Theodora was a savvy politician in her own right. Justinian treated her as her intellectual equal and they for all intents and purposes, ruled the empire together. In fact, Theodora can be credited with saving the throne in 532 when a riot threatened to overthrow Justinian. As Justinian and his court were set to flee the city in exile when Theodora's impassioned plea to fight was heard. The rebellion was easily put down and Justinian remained emperor.
As emperor, Justinian made great reforms in the areas of law, urban development, and conquest. His Justinian Code curbed bureaucratic corruption in the empire for centuries. Theodora was a partner in these reforms and convinced Justinian to reform the roles and responsibilities of women in the empire. Theodora was responsible for establishing royal decorum in the court that further legitimized the authority and respect of the crown. Justinian himself would credit Theodora for her guidance and leadership in these realms.
Justinian's initial attraction to Theodora may have been physical, but it did not take him very long for him to respect her intelligence and political abilities. His willingness to promote Theodora's talents and allow her to have a voice on his court should be considered one of his greatest accomplishments.