Theodora thēədôr´ə [key], d. 548, Byzantine empress. Information about her early career comes from the often-questionable source, the Secret History of Procopius . It appears that she was the daughter of an animal trainer in the circus, and that she was an actress and prostitute before her marriage (523) to Justinian I , who, on his accession in 527, made her joint ruler of the empire. A stronger person than her husband, she helped save the throne through her energetic action in the Nika riot (532; see Blues and Greens ). In her youth Theodora came under the influence of the Monophysite sect; Justinian's efforts to reconcile the Monophysites to orthodoxy were probably inspired by her. She is represented in the mosaics of the church of San Vitale, in Ravenna.
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