Previously published in the AA Journal in 2013
When John invited me to write a piece on someone who has inspired me I was deep in my ongoing research of the previous six historical period when Pluto was in Capricorn together with Neptune in Pisces. So this is about three people from these other times and other places who have stirred the breath of wonder in me. In each case, I was inspired – felt touched by something beautiful – and I admired and was awed by their wonderful courage. The first is:
(c. 500 – 28 June 548)
Empress Wife of Justinian
Sometime between 497 and 510 C.E. a girl was born in extremely humble circumstances. She became the most powerful woman of her time – the Empress of Byzantium. She is said to have been the daughter of a bear trainer who died when she was seven. Her mother got herself a job on the stage and brought Theodora and her sisters along too. It was a very rowdy life, very sexual, from an early age. When the famous historian of the day, Procopius, wrote his Secret Histories after her death, he wrote that, before her marriage she was ‘licentious and depraved, spiteful, greedy, an intriguer, a demon in human form.’ He said that before she met and married Justinian she ‘sold her attractions to anyone who came along’. He admitted she was ‘extremely clever and had a biting wit,’ but she had not a bit of modesty. I cannot quote much of his graphic descriptions of her activities on the stage, as our modern sensibilities would find them much too shocking. In any case, when the taciturn and meticulous, hard working and canny Emperor Justinian met her, he took her for his own, and he had the laws changed so that he could marry her. It is said that he was utterly faithful to her until her death that and she was his only complete confidante. They made a formidable team.