• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How much credence should we give to Procopius' portrayal of the empress Theodora?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How much credence should we give to Procopius' portrayal of the empress Theodora? If we omit the chroniclers, there are hardly any sources for Theodora that are written without parti pris. The most important, Procopius of Caesarea, who is our only source for the lurid details of Theodora's early life, presented a different Theodora in each of his three works, the History of the Wars of Justinian in seven books to which an eighth was added later, the Anekdota or Secret History, to give it its popular name, an essay purportedly written immediately after the first seven books of the Wars were published and containing data which were too defamatory to circulate openly1, and the De Aedificiis or Buildings which is a panegyric on Justinian's building program throughout the empire. All these works were written or at least completed after Theodora's death in 5482. In the Wars, Procopius credits the regime's success at suppressing the 'Nika' revolt of 532 to Theodora's courage and imagines a splendid scene which may have some basis in fact, where she declares that she, at least, will not flee the capital city3. The Anekdota is full of scurrilous details about Theodora's early life as an actress and courtesan, and her intrigues at court. ...read more.

Middle

Theodora knew how to be ruthless and no one should sentimentalise her. One source for the 'Nika' revolt reports that Justinian might have shown compassion for the nephews of Anastasius, Pompeius and Hypatius, the latter of whom the mob had chosen as their replacement for Justinian20, but Theodora did not approve of mercy where the security of the regime was in question. It was her will that Pompeius and Hypatius be put to death. Justinian might later restore their property to their heirs, but by then they were no danger to the regime21. Procopius does talk of her ruthless qualities, but to a much larger extent. He goes as far as saying that because of her murderous acts, both her and her husband were demons in human form22, with only vicious and malicious intentions. This is, undoubtedly taking her ruthlessness to new levels, and, again, must be taken with a considered amount of scepticism. Clearly she was ruthless and determined, because she enjoyed having such power in the imperial court, but she was not the monster that Procopius portrays in the Anekdota. She presented herself, however, in a different light: as the friend of the unfortunate. ...read more.

Conclusion

Procopius' Theodora is not presented as a masculine woman, or as transgressing or exceeding her sex; rather she is the epitome of "feminine", with all the limitations that implies to Procopius40. His unpleasant detailing of Theodora's activities in the Hippodrome is not softened by any tinge of romanticism - it is unmitigated venom. With his physical description of Theodora, Procopius shows the characteristics and limitations of his treatment of her41. Prejudiced, one-sided and biased as his presentation of her is, it sums up all that the empress Theodora meant to Procopius at the time. Therefore, as Procopius is the only real source for the whole of the life of the empress, the "Anekdota", or "Secret History" is hugely important in our understanding of Theodora, and so must be considered credible by modern scholars. However the biased and malicious views taken by Procopius mean that the "Anekdota" is not entirely reliable, and so caution and selection must be used in analysis. In his recounting of factual narrative, Procopius' version of events is accepted. However, it is when he considers Theodora's character and lifestyle that he assumes the mantle of a sensationalist tabloid reporter, and so in conclusion enough credence should be given to Procopian portrayal of Theodora to glean useful and accurate information from it, but enough scepticism and cynicism used to work through the bias and the venom of Procopius. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Ancient History section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay shows a good level of familiarity with Procopius' work and the different put forward in them. The student also shows a reasonable familiarity with the context of the works. the essay could be improved by making clearer use of the historiography on the topic and being more analytical.
4 stars.

Marked by teacher Rachel Smith 24/12/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Ancient History essays

  1. Discuss how Tennyson has presented the Victorian age/spirit in Ulysses.

    The Victorians were famous for their passion for morality. They did not like extreme feeling. So, in short, they were very conservative. In this connection it may well be mentioned that Tennyson's poetry, keeping pace with the Victorian age, dealt often with the doubts and difficulties of the age in which the old religious sanctions and the traditional assumption

  2. What are the strengths an weaknesses of Herodtus' account of the Persian wars?

    Indeed Herodotus has not only given us a descriptive account of what have become famous battles and other occurrences, but he has also delved further into the soul of history by putting forth differing reasons that he has enquired into and concluded which one he sees as correct.

  1. Hercules and Theseus, the two great hero's of the Greek Mythology.

    If yes, then he is able to take over the kingdom. "The child was a boy and he grew up strong far beyond others, so that when his mother finally took him to the stone he lifted it with no trouble at all."

  2. Genghis Khan's most significant contribution to the Mongol empire was the creation of a ...

    Tile work found at Takht-i-Sulaiman in Persia, an excavated palace in the Mongolian period shows a great deal of Chinese influence. Similarly early Persian silk work and glass is noticeable in Chinese art. Perhaps Genghis Khan's most significant contribution to the Mongol empire was the creation of a code of laws, referred to as the great Yasa.

  1. Gladiators: Why were they so popular?

    The first three had arched entrances, while the fourth had a spectator capacity of 45, 000 - 55, 000. It remains the symbol of Rome. The Venerable Bede, one of the early Christians of the seventh century AD, wrote these famous words of it: As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand.

  2. Aristotle: On a good wife from Oikonomikos.

    Everyone needs to feel relieved sometimes. They prefer going to the cinema, theather or a concert for entertainment. Some people relax by shopping. Everyone wants to be well-dressed because dressing makes people happy and send away all the dull problems of worklife. Aristotle says that " She must exercise control of the money spent on such

  1. Battle of Kadesh. Through this paper I will critically analyze the primary and secondary ...

    onslaught, and the timely arrival of the Ne'arin reinforcements helped the Egyptians hold off the Hittites until the divisions of Ptah and Seth arrived. This provides a brief framework for the overall action as reserved in Egyptian records. Over the years, every detail of the battle's records, both in the reliefs and the inscriptions, has undergone considerable critical analysis.

  2. Assess the achievements of the Peisistratid Tyranny."'

    Even though Peisistratus strove to avoid openly flouting the law, and although he played at being an ordinary citizen, he did not fully disguise his true position. He lived on the Acropolis and his own army, that he continued to maintain once he had gained power, were always there to

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work