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Beyond Deviant: Theodora as the Other in Byzantine Imperial Historiography
2015 (English)In: Deviant Women: Cultural, Linguistic and Literary Approaches to Narratives of Femininity / [ed] Mäntymaki, T., Rodi-Risberg, M., Foka, A., Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2015Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Early Byzantine historiography offers two contradictory portrayals of Theodora  (Crowned Empress 427-458 CE).  Whereas in Procopius’ Wars of Justinian and Buildings she appears to be a courageous and influential empress, in his later work, Secret History, she is represented as a deviant female figure. Procopius’ narrative of Theodora is overall disapproving of her character and actions. He discusses her early years as a ‘shameless’ performer and a prostitute, brought up in the social margins of Constantinople; Similarly, during her reign, he describes her exercise of power over the palace and her subjects as cruel and violent, driven by premeditated self-interest.  In this chapter, I aim to discuss Theodora’s portrayal by Procopius as a sociologically deviant female; it is a systematic study of what the author considers to be social norm violations that are subject to social sanction. I will specifically concentrate on Theodora’s depiction as a sexually deviant young performer. I will then focus upon actions of cruelty and violence in her political and social career as an Empress.  I will show how the paradigm of Theodora, in Procopius’ Secret History, can be read as both making visible coercive social, political and religious power structures, as well as, disenfranchising femininity in early Byzantium.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2015.
Keyword [en]
Theodora, Sexuality, Violence, Historiography, Gender Studies
National Category
History Cultural Studies Classical Archaeology and Ancient History Sociology
Research subject
genusvetenskap; Business Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-98670ISBN: ISBN 978-3-631-64329-7 pb. (Softcover)ISBN: ISBN 978-3-653-03319-9 (eBook)OAI: diva2:783399
Available from: 2015-01-26 Created: 2015-01-26 Last updated: 2015-01-26

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Foka, Anna
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