MISFIT DOC: Theodora (Θεοδώρα) (c. 500 – 28 June 548)

“Her name was a byword. Her name meant lover of God. Justinian saw her dancing in a brothel and dropped by her dressing room for a solo performance, where she employed complicated erotic mind tricks that whipped him for life. No thought of shame came to Justinian in marrying her, though he might have taken his pick of the noblest born, most highly educated, virtuous and beautiful piano playing virgins in the whole holy Roman Empire: a maiden, as they say, with upstanding breasts. Instead, he made his own what had been common to all men, careless of all her revealed history and organs, and took in wedlock a woman who was not only guilty of every venereal contamination but boasted of her many abortions and how she drank of her dead offspring’s blood.”

“Never had any woman so successfully torn herself away from a life of unchastity. With the unexpected blessing of the church, the Holy Roman Empress oversaw the erection of Hagia Sofia. The artist who laid out Theodora’s portrait, a mosaic twenty feet wide and thirty feet high, went blind before the last tile was dry.”

“Then the Empress, that burning beacon of pheromones, began a crusade for the empire’s women. Under Justinian (under Theodora), raping a poor woman or a slave girl became punishable by death; before this, raping female slaves was a favored pastime. She stopped the practice of imprisoning women for their husbands’ debts, outlawed the murdering of cheating wives (and the cheating of murdering wives), bought up brothel girls’ contracts and castrated pimps. She ate the heads off raw fish and brewed coffee in a lion’s skull. She amassed two hundred gold dildos of various size and a tiger skin bathrobe. “

“And no man on earth ventured to oppose her.”

“On a January night, 532 A.D., an angry mob left the races at the Hippodrome and stormed the palace gates. The Emperor ran down to the Bosporus without his crown: a graceless exit. Theodora caught up with her husband, slapped him, dragged him back to the throne room and ordered his generals to slaughter the ring leaders. Thus was the monarchy saved. Justinian rewarded her with pearls harvested from the monstrous clams of the Aegean and a pouch filled with mummy dust.“

“Theodora, this highest of working girls, died of cancer at fifty years, brought on by relentlessly exposing her breasts to the elements and an appetite for raw meat. As she took her last breath, Constantinople’s long outer walls shook with grief. Black birds tore out their feathers to make a path for the funeral procession. Brothel girls walked out into the streets, sobbing, crossing themselves. Hagia Sofia’s twelve stone lambs wept as Theodora’s coffin passed by. The Emperor lost his mind and went into seclusion, dragging on through seventeen celibate years.”

“Not long after her death, the Greek Orthodox Church canonized Theodora, making her the greatest slut in the sky. “

Erin Virgil is a poet and essayist who lives in a hippie RV.  She has an MFA from Naropa University, and her work has been published by Fast Forward Press, Wolverine Farm, and Monkey Puzzle Press.  Her most recent poetry chapbook, Fantastic Voyage to the Ordinary Planet, is out from Dancing Girl Press.

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