Whore to Empress on Wanton Weekends

Benjamin-Constant-L'Imperatrice_Theodora_au_ColiséeTheodora, daughter of a Constantinople bear trainer, gives us one of the most successful mistress to wife stories from history. She was an actress when, at 16, she came to the attention of a government official, who took her with him when he was posted to Northern Africa.

On her return, aged 20, she drew the attention of another government official, Justinian, the son of the Emperor. Officials were not permitted to marry actresses, but Justinian appealed to his father, who changed the law, and in 525 she and Justinian married. In 527, Justinian became Emperor of Byzantium, and Theodosia was crowned Empress alongside him.

She is credited with expanding the rights of women in divorce and property ownership, giving mothers some guardianship rights over their children, and forbidding the killing of a wife who committed adultery. She also closed brothels and created convents for ex-prostitutes.

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