Emperor Justinian I fought fiercely to restore Rome’s former glory. But in 532 A.D., he rounded up and slaughtered 30,000 of his own Byzantine citizens. How could such a strong and accomplished ruler commit such an atrocity?
After Justinian’s death, his top general published a scathing insight into the emperor’s life. Justinian’s fatal flaw was the woman he chose to be his wife, and that he granted her equal power. Despite expanding expanding and strengthening the kingdom, Justinian saw many failures because he put the wrong woman in charge.
Broken Women Do Not Reform
To understand how a woman undermined Justinian’s glory, Procopius began with a description of Theodora’s early life.
Theodora’s parents got her involved in popular entertainment as a child, like a Hollywood celebrity today. As a popular actress, her mother got Theodora the position of suppliant at the hippodrome. Then, as we often see with daughters of celebrities today, Theodora turned to a life of stripping and became a prostitute at a very young age.
At 16, Theodora became a companion of a Syrian official. Procopius notes that sensible men avoided Theodora like a “bird of ill omen” from this time forward. Later, she converted to Christianity and met a fellow hippodrome colleague who had ties to Justinian. She moved to Constantinople, gave up her life of harlotry, and finally met Justinian.
But did Theodora really change? No, her lascivious lifestyle got much worse after Justinian courted her. She secretly murdered the queen of the Goths because she was jealous of how pretty she looked. She also had one of her slaves, Areobindus, killed for apparently no reason whatsoever, even though she was madly in love with the young man.
No other tyrant since mankind began ever inspired such fear, since not a word could be spoken against her without her hearing of it: her multitude of spies brought her the news of whatever was said and done in public or in private.
Theodora became pregnant from one of her adulterous lovers, and when she proved unable to abort the child, the father stole the baby away to keep him safe. Theodora finally tracked the child down and had him exterminated. All motherly and feminine affection was gone from this woman.
Adulterous Women Ruin Men
Procopius notes that Theodora’s adulterous behavior spread throughout the kingdom.
The ladies of the court at this time were nearly all of abandoned morals. They ran no risk in being faithless to their husbands, as the sin brought no penalty: even if caught in the act.
Men who accused their wives of adultery were fined heavily, whipped, and imprisoned. The men then become “complaisant” to the adultery. This is what happens when you put a “reformed” harlot in power.
General Belisarius married a celebrity friend of Theodora, and predictably she cheated on him. After catching her in the act, he foolishly accepted his wife’s flimsy excuses.
The adulterous relationship continued, and Belisarius finally became so consumed by jealous rage that his military career was almost destroyed and Byzantium lost precious ground in battle.
Gender Equality Leads To Genocide
Theodora already had a child from another man when Justinian met her, but he didn’t care. For some reason, he overlooked her horrible behavior and gave her more and more power.
Through him Theodora was able immediately to acquire an unholy power and exceedingly great riches. She seemed to him the sweetest thing in the world, and like all lovers, he desired to please his charmer with every possible favor and requite her with all his wealth.
The extravagance added fuel to the flames of passion. With her now to help spend his money he plundered the people more than ever, not only in the capital, but throughout the Roman Empire.
Justinian was so enamored that he made Theodora practically equal to him in power. They were “two co-equal sovrans [sic], and some thought that Theodora had greater power than greater power than Justinian himself.” Theodora stands as every feminist’s dream of “gender equality.”
School textbooks today praise Theodora as “a tough-minded and capable woman who added strength and resolve to the grandiose plans of the emperor. She was Justinian’s equal, and perhaps more.” The Guardian lists her “achievements in power.”
But the truth is Theodora turned Justinian selfish and cruel. Political factions united in the opposition to Justinian’s new oppressive policies, and in January 532, an uprising started during a chariot race in the hippodrome.
The hippodrome served as the traditional venue for nonviolent protests. But this riot spread like never before. Justinian was ready to flee from the city, but Theodora did not want to give up her power. She made a historic speech:
My lords, the present occasion is too serious to allow me to follow the convention that a woman should not speak in a man’s council. Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions.
…for one who has reigned it is intolerable to be a fugitive. May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress… I agree with the adage that the royal purple is the noblest shroud.
At Theodora’s direction, Justinian ordered his troops to surround the hippodrome and slaughter everyone. Over 30,000 unarmed civilians were killed.
Government Is A Two-Party Facade
Justinian and Theodora did nothing “without the consent of the other.” But they put up pretenses of disagreement to make it look like they represented the factions of the people.
Much like the Republican and Democrat parties of today, they “gave the impression often that they were acting in opposition” to each other. This whipped up violent emotions among the subjects in order to maintain a “firm and mutual tyranny.”
Also as we see in today’s legal system, they took opposite sides in legal disputes and “robbed both disputants of most of the property at issue.”
Justinian and Theodora propped up useful idiots who were unqualified for their positions but provided personal loyalty to the throne, in order to “defraud the State to the limits of their ambition.”
When the puppets were no longer useful, they “would fall out of favor with Theodora, and straightway be ruined…. Then Theodora would use them shamefully, while he, unconscious as it were of what was being done to them, confiscated their properties and boldly enjoyed their wealth.”
Inviting Terrorism With Platitudes
Justinian and Theodora “set the barbarians all to fighting each other,” and “with idiotic magnanimity gave them large sums of money, alleging he did this to secure their friendship.”
This foreign policy proved foolish because other barbarian tribes soon sought inroads with Byzantium in order to collect tribute, and eventually all the tribes were either invading Byzantine villages or being paid off not to do so, or both.
“Thus the Huns enslaved the Roman Empire, and were paid by the Emperor to keep on doing it…. Consequently no place, mountain or cave, or any other spot in Roman territory, during this time remained uninjured; and many regions were pillaged more than five times.”
Justinian further prevented his armies from going after the Huns when they invaded, as he sought diplomatic alliance with them, as leverage against the Goths and other tribes.
Some farmers went after the Huns anyway, “induced by longing for their children and wives who had been carried off to slavery.” Justinian arrested these men, and “beat and torture[d] them and seize[d] their property.”
Mask Of Generosity
Finally, Procopius notes the Theodora and Justinian put on a countenance of generosity to various factions. Even “those who confronted him improperly or noisily never made him angry,” as we saw with Bernie Sanders who allowed Black Lives Matter to take over his rally.
But this was all lip-service. With a “a gentle countenance and unruffled brow” he “gave the order to destroy myriads of innocent men, to sack cities, to confiscate any amount of properties.”
This speaks to the policy of gender equality to made Theodora the most influential empress in Roman/Byzantine history. Feminists make mighty promises and say that it is the only fair and compassionate policy. But the second they gain power, they only care about accumulating more power for themselves. Who does this describe today?
Hillary Clinton is today’s Theodora.
From Benghazi to Whitewater, she leaves a long trail of blood. She commits brazen acts of gross illegality, yet everybody is afraid to do anything about it. She raises whispers of scandal from her relationship with a close advisor.
Byzantium’s quick decline after Justinian can arguably be considered the result of Theodora. What will happen if Hillary Clinton becomes leader of the United States? How high will the body count be?
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