Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore

Title: Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore

SubTitle: A Novel

Publisher: Penguin Group USA

Imprint: Penguin Books

Pub Date: 27 September 2011

ISBN: 9780143119876

Author: Stella Duffy

‘Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore’ by Stella Duffy is surprisingly wonderful and I could almost sworn that it is so satisfying that it’s almost orgasmic. I am not quite sure if it works that way with everyone else who has been fortunate enough to read this book, but it is a very, very wonderful read for those who loved history.

‘Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore’ is very enlightening, and it magnifies Theodora, once a great empress of the Roman Empire like it has never been done before.

This is a definitely 5 star read, and the book will make a wonderful keepsake for those who loved a wonderful blend of history, memoirs and fiction.

I received an ARC of this book from Penguin Group USA via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review for it, and I was not compensated in any ways for this.

Book description:

For citizens of Byzantine Constantinople, the name Theodora evoked strong reactions–awe, lust, and doubt to name a few. Sadly, Theodora is all but lost to history. Her story, both mesmerizing and inspiring, has been rescued from obscurity by Stella Duffy in her new novel, THEODORA: Actress, Empress, Whore (A Penguin Paperback Original). Like Elizabeth I and Cleopatra, Theodora was expert at wielding power from the throne. Unlike those famous rulers, Theodora was not born into royalty. Her rise to become Empress of the Roman Empire began in the bear pit of the Hippodrome.

Born to the famed stadium’s bear-keeper, Theodora’s early life was drastically altered when her father was killed by his beloved bear. In order to keep their family afloat, Theodora and her two sisters were indentured to Menander, coach of one of the city’s foremost dancing troupes. A natural performer, Theodora learns dance, acrobatics, and comedy, and by the age of fifteen, became the star of the Hippodrome. Like almost every actress of the time, Theodora was also a child prostitute.

At the age of eighteen and at the height of her popularity in Constantinople, Theodora decides to abandon her career in favor of following her lover Hecebolus to The Pentapolis (modern day Libya) where he is the new Governor. She leaves behind her beloved sister Comito, her theater community, and her daughter Ana, whom she barely knows. When things turn sour with Hecebolus Theodora escapes to a religious community whose views conflict with the contemporary Roman state.

Theodora renounces her former life, undergoes a religious conversion, and is eventually sent back to Constantinople as a spy. She is soon sent to meet Justinian, nephew to the Emperor Justin. Theodora works closely with Justinian and eventually he asks for her hand, changing the law forbidding former actresses from marrying, opening doors for all women. After their marriage, Theodora and Justinian stand side by side as he is crowned Emperor and she, his Empress.

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