Justinian and Theodora

by Solveig Gordon

Fact Or Fiction

Justinian's real father wasn't Justin I.

Fact- Justinian was born into a family of peasants and then adopted by his uncle, Justin I. With the unfortunate death of Justin in 527, Justinian was crowned emperor of the Byzantine Empire! What did he have in store for him?

Theodora was born to a wealthy family.

Fiction- Both Theodora and Justinian were born into families whose status was not high enough to earn any respect. In fact, Theodora's mother was an acrobat and her father was a bear-keeper in the circus. Justinian was born into a family of peasants. Who ever thought they would end up wealthy and ruling the Byzantine Empire?

Justinian and Theodora didn't have the same religions.

Fact- Justinian was actually an Orthodox Christian whereas Empress Theodora was a monophysite. She adopted Monophysitism when she traveled to Egypt at the age of 16 from her homeland of Constantiople. Will it work out?

Justinian and Theodora were the same age.

Fiction- When Theodora settled back in Constantiople after her trip to Egypt, she drew the attention of Justinian, a 40 year old emperor, who at the time was almost twice her age!

Justinian was attracted to Theodora because she was a normal infamous woman.

Fiction- Before Theodora became Empress, she was a famous actress and prostitute. That's why Justinian fell in love with her.

It was against the law for Justinian and Theodora to get married.

Fact- Justinian and Theodora wanted to get married so bad but they couldn't because of a law that forbid government officials to marry an actress. Fortunately, a year after pleading his father to let them get married in 525, Justinian's father (Justin) uplifted the law and they got married!

Two of Justinian's most famous projects were the building of the Hagia Sophia and the Code of Justinian.

Fact- Justinian rebuilt the Hagia Sophia, which once was a large church, then a mosque, and now it's a museum so you can go and visit! He also wrote a summary of the Roman laws in one big book that effects several nations laws still today called the Code of Justinian, or Roman Law.

Justinian's code is divided into 4 different books.

The code of Justinian is divided into 4 books. The Codex Constitutionum, the first book, is a collection of decrees or laws of previous emperors. The 2nd book, called the Digest, is a summary of about 9000 opinions from lawyers and judges about those laws. The 3rd book, the Institutes stated legal standards, or ethics, in simple terms. Finally, the 4th book, Novels, included the laws the Justinian made after the codification.
Theodora helped persuade her husband to make changes to the law.

Fact- Theodora helped pass laws that gave more rights in divorce cases. She also helped find homes for prostitutes and monophysite leaders. Theodora knows how to get what she wants.