Talk:Theodora (6th century)

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This article just seems to be a series of quotes, with no independent narrative tying the details of Theodora's life together. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:52, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

That would be because the vast majority of our knowledge on Theodora comes from Procopius, a contemporary historian. His descriptions aren't exactly conducive to turning into a narrative - she's basically portrayed as a mixture between an ice queen, sadist, whore and demon. While I agree that excessive quotes isn't brilliant for an article, it's pretty much all we've got.

Not true about "all we've got". (But quite true about his depiction of her.) As stated elsewhere on this page, we have several additional sources that owe nothing to Procopius. And if we can just delete most of his block quotes here, you will see a more understandable narrative (which used to exist before the block quotes were apparently inserted some months ago). Jmacwiki (talk) 21:09, 7 March 2009 (UTC)


"Theodora was history's first pro-choice advocate. . ."

Mmm. . . presentism, anyone? First, abortion was hardly rare throughout the pre-Christian Roman world; Augustus' vitriolic speech against childless patricians suggests that it was common even at the beginning of the imperial era. Second, Procopius' Secret History, hardly an unbiased source, mentions Theodora's abortions three times; the closest he comes to saying that she advocated abortion is when he says that she "boasted of her many abortions" -- and that's in the context of a passage that rails against Justinian's marriage to someone of whom Procopius thought very little, so I don't know how seriously to take it. --MIRV 13:03, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

There is another article Theodora describing another byzantine empress who reigned 500 years after this Theodora. That is somewhat confusing. Is there a possibility to disambiguate the two Theodoras, maybe by adding a suffix I. or II.? -- Baldhur 22:45, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I always just ignored that and hoped no one would ever mention it :) There are a couple of problems here:

  • "Empress of Byzantium" is a very strange thing to say, because even though "Byzantium" is sometimes used figuratively for the Byzantine Empire, it's really just the city of Constantinople (so it wasn't called Byzantium at the time anyway)
    • Not quite. Just as "emperor of Rome" referred to the whole empire, "empress of Constantinople" would refer to the whole empire -- except that it is now fashionable to use the even older name of that city. More authoritatively for this usage, Charles Diehl entitled his biography "Theodora, Empress of Byzantium" [1972 Eng. transl. from French]. If I had written a definitive bio on her, I'd have entitled it "Theodora, Empress of the Roman Empire", but I haven't and he did, so I'll live with his choice. Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)
  • She had a lot of power, but she was not an emperor or empress in her own right, like the later Theodora was. At this point, the empire is still more-or-less Roman, so she's like a lot of other Roman woman who wielded power behind the scenes.
    • Not according to Diehl: During Justinian's illness with bubonic plague in 542(?), she ruled so fully that Belisarius had to warn her that she would be deposed by the army if she tried to continue in that role if Justinian died. (It's not clear if it would have worked, but he didn't die, so it was moot.) How much more in-front-of-the-scenes could she have been?
    • BTW, what does "empress in her own right" mean here? that the Senate gave a pro-forma vote conferring that title? I'm sure they didn't, but that's not how most empresses have become empresses, anyway. Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)
      • Further research: Diehl reports that Theodora was crowned as Augusta (empress) in the same ceremony as Justinian was crowned Augustus, i.e., (co-)emperor. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:43, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Theodora is a very common Byzantine (and Roman) name and could also refer to a number of other people (there is a mini-disambiguation page at the bottom of Theodora, which lists some of them).
    • So is Julius Caesar. So what? For practical purposes, there is one who matters to history far more than all of the others. Among "Theodoras", it's the the wife of Justinian. Disambiguation is the standard way to handle this in WP. Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

So, I don't really know what to do with this...maybe put their birth and death dates in the title? There is a precedent for that with John Hamilton Gray (1811-1887) and John Hamilton Gray (1814-1889).

Adam Bishop 23:32, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I don't quite understand what you mean by 'still more or less Roman', do you mean by this 'Still more or less Latin'? The East had never been predominantly Latin, and even by the early 6th Century it was Greek speaking peoples who held the reigns of the Empire. Why do you despise Greece to this extent?
    • What does despising Greece have to do with that phrase? The Eastern Roman Empire regarded its collective self as the continuation of the Mediterranean empire founded by Augustus, and large parts of its identity were direct inheritances from Rome. (Example: The law was not not only largely Roman, it was still written in Latin.) Whether that qualifies as "more-or-less Roman" is a matter of taste, I suppose. But it isn't anti-Greek. (For the record, I myself am a Hellenophile [a Greek-derived word ;-].) Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

That would be cool if their dates are known exactly. I was suggesting use of centuries as a sort of fl. date because I don't know the exact dates. How about just leaving out the Empress stuff:

- Nunh-huh
Sounds good. If there is no opposition in the next hours, I will do as Nunh-huh suggested. -- Baldhur 17:57, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Done. -- Baldhur 18:55, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Why does this article misrepresent feminism?[edit]

Other scholars (and those who venerate Theodora as a saint) instead regard Theodora's achievements for women not as a modern feminist "liberation" to commit abortion or adultery but rather as a truly egalitarian drive to give women the same legal rights as men...

This is an unneccesary juxtaposition. The writer of this passage implies slyly that feminism is by nature 'immoral', when in fact the majority of feminists would argue that what is dismissively referred to as "modern feminism," is precisely "a truly egalitarian drive to give women the same legal rights as men." I propose this section be changed to reflect this.

I was about to make exactly this same point. The passage strongly implies that modern feminism is false in its talk of "liberation" (or else why use the scare-quotes?), and that it supports abortion and adultery. (I also agree with your point regarding the negative part of the statement, but it's the positive part that I find the more offensive of the two (and note that by "positive" I mean only "asserting" and by "negative" only "denying").) NPOV anyone? Because I'm just that sort of loose cannon I'm going to go ahead and (try to) clean it up, but if anyone objects feel free to revert the change, or, I suppose, if you feel I've ballsed it up, fix my fix. -- 02:45, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Also, and I'm just going to throw this out there, how does creation of homes for prostitutes amount to granting women equal rights to those enjoyed by their corresponding menfolk? That's nonsensical, unless there were male prostitutes in the empire that had such homes beforehand... This needs more work than I'm able to give it at the moment. -- 02:49, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
You're right, it doesn't. She did both, but they aren't very related. Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)


What a strange title for this article. Something should be done about this. --—Ghirla | talk 13:04, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

This has been discussed above (about 2 years ago). What would you rather call it? There are many Theodoras, some of whom do not have a family name to distinguish them. Adam Bishop 16:26, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Shouldn't it be mentioned that Theodora was Greek, or at least Greek-speaking r part of the greek population of the time, in contrast to Justinian, who spoke Latin ?

Fact check[edit]

Justinian Article: Justinian would have, in earlier times, been unable to marry her because of her class, but his uncle Emperor Justin I had passed a law allowing intermarriage between social classes.

Theodora article: She convinced Justinian to change the law that forbade noblemen to marry lower class women (like herself).

  • The Justinian article is correct, though marrying Theodora was the obvious rationale for Justinian to ask his uncle to change the law. (I doubt that Justinian himself needed any convincing, though -- and he wasn't the one who changed that law.)
    • I have inserted a sentence to clarify the change in law. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:46, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

I read something saying that she was not an actress but an extremely sexy dancer, constantly flaunting herself which caught Justinians attention. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:21, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Lack of shame[edit]

"Procopius also repeatedly notes her lack of shame and cites a number of scenes to demonstrate it, and also the low regard in which she was held by respectable society."

The above is a severe understatement (this from Procopius):

"Often, even in the theater, in the sight of all the people, she removed her costume and stood nude in their midst, except for a girdle about the groin: not that she was abashed at revealing that, too, to the audience, but because there was a law against appearing altogether naked on the stage, without at least this much of a fig-leaf. Covered thus with a ribbon, she would sink down to the stage floor and recline on her back. Slaves to whom the duty was entrusted would then scatter grains of barley from above into the calyx of this passion flower, whence geese, trained for the purpose, would next pick the grains one by one with their bills and eat. " 13:52, 5 April 2007 (UTC) Gary

  • It's true that it's a severe understatement compared to Procopius. Whether it's a severe understatement compared to reality is another question. Procopius may have been faithfully recording anecdotes from her early adulthood, but not necessarily relevant activities in the minds of "respectable society" decades later. There are by now many original sources of records of Theodora's life, not only Procopius' biased accounts. Diehl lists the 9th-C. biography of her uncle Theodore, bishop of Chora; Lives of the Eastern Saints from the mid-6th C.; History of the Church from the same time & author; an anonymous chronicle from the time; contemporary biographies of patriarch Severus and of Jacob Baradaeus; and various other writings from the time. Procopius is much more than a footnote here, but he is not authoritative. Jmacwiki (talk) 00:11, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

WP links[edit]

There seems to be some promiscuous linking here (by one meaning of "promiscuous" or another): We have links to WP articles on (for example) prostitution and rape. These strike me as no more topical, or needing of links in this article, than "bear", "actress", or "society", words which aren't linked. Or if we feel some need to emphasize her lurid youth (probably a 5-8 year interval in a 50-year life), surely we could have the spine to quote more extensively from Procopius. That would give us LOTS of new salacious words to link: "groin", for instance, to pick one that even occurs in the above-quoted passage about her stage act with geese.

Is there any rationale here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jmacwiki (talkcontribs) 02:31, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

In the absence of feedback, I have removed a reference or two, and added a couple that seem more central, like Constantinople. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:39, 17 March 2008 (UTC) (talk) 12:04, 4 September 2009 (UTC) Theodora was doing a skit of Leda and the Swan. According to Greek mythology, Zeus transformed himself into a swan so he could have an affair with Leda without his wife, Hera, knowing. Theodora was a dancer/actress much like the ladies of Burlesque 50 years ago. She must have been one of the higher class performers to have had an act, props and stage hands.

References need help[edit]

Why does Belisarius get more references here than Theodora herself does? (He has his OWN page! ;-) I have added Diehl's book, an obvious choice, but aren't there other sources worth quoting here, esp. true biographies of Theodora or at least Justinian?

BTW, there are complete copies of Gibbons' Decline and Fall available on the web. E.g., and various pages at Jmacwiki (talk) 23:41, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

"Wise decision"?[edit]

When Justinian made Theodora a co-emperor, it was certainly a consequential choice, and she brought many strengths in political governance that he lacked. But a "wise" choice (the current wording of the article) is not so obvious: She clearly saved his throne during the Nika riots. However, Diehl lays no small part of the causes of the riots at her biased and sometimes grotesquely unjust feet. Perhaps she (and Justinian) learned some valuable lesson with Nika that, when combined with their strengths, made for a much more effective reign. But that is not clear to me. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:03, 21 March 2008 (UTC)


Can we clarify what is meant when it says she was offered to the crowds of the hippodrome as "supplicants?" The implication is clear, but such an act should really be specified, rather than left to the imagination. Can anyone specify there, or even add a quote from the source so we can look it up if we want to? I'd do it myself, but I don't remember the specifics of the story. That is, frankly, why I looked up the article! Nerrolken (talk) 16:46, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

Portrayals In Other Media[edit]

Surely, somewhere there have been some fictional portrayals of Justinian's wife. I mean, I actually can't think of any, but there has to be, right? Doesn't this page need a "Portrayals in other media" section? Nerrolken (talk) 17:04, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

Diehl (ibid., p.2) notes that Sarah Bernhardt performed a (fanciful) rendition of her. (My guess at a date: 1890s.) lists a 1910 film, "Justinian and Theodora". The two female leads listed are Betty Harte and Bebe Daniels. Don't know which played Theodora. (Maybe both: youth and adulthood.)
IMDB also lists a 1919 file, "Teodora" (or "Theodora, the Slave Princess"), starring Rita Jolivet.
  • But that's all I turned up in a quick search. You would think that, with such rich material to work with, there would be MANY portrayals by ambitious actresses, using material from ambitious writers. Jmacwiki (talk) 15:28, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

"Religious policies"[edit]

This section is not NPOV. Deusveritasest (talk) 01:23, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

This is really not a neutral article. I edited out some of the polemical statements (E.g. The usage of the word "Monophysite", the dichotomy between "the Orthodox" and the dissidents of Chalcedon). Obviously, any Chalcedonian is free to believe whatever s/he about the Oriental Orthodox, but it is not for Wikipedia to say who is or isn't Orthodox. The fact is, whether Chalcedonians like it or not, the anti-Chalcedonians of Egypt, Armenia, Syria, etc. have always considered themselves to be THE Orthodox Church. [Written by Anonymous]


Too much of this article is block quotes from Procopius. The article is too long, and these are some of the natural places to trim. TallNapoleon (talk) 11:04, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Furthermore, there ought to be much more of a health warning against taking Procopius at face value. He had his own agenda in presenting this scurrilous material, which while good tabloid scandal-sheet stuff, may not be at all reliable. Jheald (talk) 20:15, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Wow! You are both so right. I haven't visited the page in a few months, and huge sections of block quotes have just been added as padding to the points that have already been written. Since Procopius' writings are fully available on the web already, it is trivial to provide links for the interested reader, without burdening the whole article. That would also help to highlight Procopius's biases, because the warnings about him would no longer be buried so thoroughly.
I may get around to stripping most of the block quotes (and replacing with external links) at some point. But if any other editors would like to take the lead on that, they'd be doing the average reader a service. Jmacwiki (talk) 21:04, 7 March 2009 (UTC)

Massive Revert?[edit]

The particulars behind this bizarre evolution of the article seem to be:

1. On Oct. 10, 2008 and over a few days afterward, the article tripled in size, the result of approx. 50 edits to the article by one editor.
2. On Nov. 4, 2008 and over a few days afterward, it doubled again. Again from approx. 50 edits to the article by the same editor.

A simple, if forceful, move to expunge all the Procopius block-quote junk would be: Simply revert to the version of Oct. 5, 2008.

There have been some small but worthwhile edits, but they are largely buried in the sheer volume of junk. With apologies to the various editors, and encouragement that they redo the same, small edits, we would again have an appropriately sourced, NPOV article that the average reader can understand, learn from, and (if desired) follow links from. So the world would be a better place. ;-)

Discussion, please? Jmacwiki (talk) 23:42, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

It's not "junk" it is a classic of historical literature, and one of very few major sources on the subject of this article. Greg Grahame (talk) 10:44, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
Indeed, Procopius is not junk. But this is an encyclopedia. Articles are supposed to synoptic, not exhaustive. The overwhelming volume of block quotes obscures rather than informing (as other editors have also noted). Their presence, not their authorship, is what constitutes junk. Jmacwiki (talk) 17:05, 30 May 2009 (UTC)
I completely agree. The block quoting has made this article absolutely useless for someone who wants a quick, encyclopedic synopsis of Theodora's life. If Procopius is our main source, he's a compromise: make this article an encyclopedic synopsis of Theodora's life, then make a Procopius subsection within the article. That subsection can give an overview, summarize writings (instead of the excessive block quoting), and discuss biases. As this article stands right now, it's completely unworkable. I support reverting to the October 5, 2008 edit. Yale2010 (talk) 19:39, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree. Currently, this article reads like Procopius' personal essay and not an encyclopedia article. There are ways of working his observations into the article, but the article is out of hand right now. Because this problem is so egregious, I will focus on trying to insert useful references from Procopius into a balanced article. ~PescoSo saywe all 05:26, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
OK, I have taken out the first block quote. Unfortunately, it was much easier than the next one, so I stopped there. Who wants to go next? ;-) Jmacwiki (talk) 03:56, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Have you noticed that you also removed Allen's interpretation of Procopius' account? Dimadick (talk) 10:36, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

I was more concerned about the loss of the Evans quote, because it relates more personally to Theodora. Nevertheless:
  1. It's been a year since the article expanded six-FOLD with all the block quotes.
  2. It's been 6 months since I described this problem and asked for comments on it, and others have noted it as well. We are slowly accreting other edits that make it progressively harder to remove the block quotes.
  3. If you see a felicitous way of reinserting Allen's observation, or Evans', the article would probably be better for it. ("WP editors, be bold!") But I suspect that finding even one more block quote to hack out would make a bigger, easier improvement. Jmacwiki (talk) 21:11, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Some further shortening (under Family), mostly by removing block quotes. The result may be more humane for the reader, though it could use some polish. Jmacwiki (talk) 22:41, 21 November 2009 (UTC)


It doesn't seem like much has been done on this. It's still presenting Procopius's writings as objective facts, and says that the three works don't directly contradict each other (with no citation, I think that definitely needs a citation, since Wars of Justinian and Secret History cover the same period of time and offer wildly different personalities--in one work Justinian is a great emperor, in the other work he's totally incompetent, how can that not be called a contradiction? I have not myself read Wars of Justinian). I don't know where to begin on this as I'm not an expert on the topic. It would seem like all that would be needed for NPOV would be for more to be explained about Procopius's motivations in writing each piece. The same Secret History that tells the story of the geese picking corn out of Theodora's vagina also presents claims that Justinian was a shapeshifter and the Devil himself, so I think publishing such long blocks of quotes from it, without repeatedly mentioning that this is Procopius's claims, is POV to the max. Many people who read Wikipedia articles don't click on the the reference links; they assume that something comes from a reputable source. Procopius's Secret History is a hit piece. It's a fascinating hit piece and it should be part of the article, but for its claims to be presented in this way just is not encyclopedic. (One would also

I don't know how to resolve this without blanking large parts of the early life article, so I'm going to throw a NPOV tag at the top of the article, edit the section on Historiography to emphasize that Procopius is not an unbiased observer by copying over a few sentences from his own Wiki article, and hope that someone with a better understanding of the subject (and who knows where to go for sources, which I definitely do not) can fix this mess.

As has been said before, there's just too many block quotes altogether. If people want to read Secret History it is linked! More needs to be done with summarizing. joye (talk) 11:42, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

See the "Massive Revert" section, just above. For some reason, it got added above this section, instead of below it. Jmacwiki (talk) 23:45, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
One thing about Procopius; I read many years ago that his brother was either tortured and killed, or simply killed under Justinian's orders early in his reign, but for what I don't recall. Secret History would presume that Procopius had an ax to grind with Justinian over knocking off his kin. I also heard that Procopius description of Theodora's sexcapades was only the gosup in the markets at the time. Theodora was a strong personality, and it would seam natural that people would attack powerful people like her, focusing on the sex part of her actions, rather than on 'charible Theodora' (which BTW, she started many charible foundations during her lifetime). Sex sells - charible foundations for Byzantine tax write-offs don't nearly make such good press... If anyone could get the source about Procopius' brother and insert it in the page, that might resolve some of the NPOV issue. Dinkytown 06:23, 17 June 2009 (UTC)
Do you recall where you read this about Procopius' brother? I made a quick check in the PLRE (Vol. IIIb, pages 1060-1066), and nothing is known of his family save a brief reference to otherwise unspecified "relatives". Constantine 14:16, 17 June 2009 (UTC)
Let me look and I'll respond in a few days. Possibly Ostrogorsky's History of the Byzantine State came to mind, but I have some other sources that may say something. Either way, I always thought that it was part of a contemporary character assasination plot, rather than on any historical sourced fact... Dinkytown 22:20, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
I tried to look over all my sources and looked on the internet and found nothing about Procopius having a brother that was executed by Justinian - sorry for the goose chase... Ostrogorsky's in his History of the Byzantine State mentions almost nothing about Theodora - which surprized me... Dinkytown (talk) 17:53, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

Bad-citation help?[edit]

Can someone determine how to get rid of the error for citation #7? It should point to Procopius of Caesarea, The Secret History, chapter 12. 1927 translation by Richard Atwater. Jmacwiki (talk) 02:16, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

More powerful women in RE?[edit]

We have the statement that Theodora may be the most powerful woman in the history of the BE. But are there any strong candidates to outrank her even in the earlier phases of the Roman Empire? Jmacwiki (talk) 06:06, 10 April 2011 (UTC)

Seeing no responses, I will just edit boldly. ;-) Jmacwiki (talk) 05:51, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

Style of Writing[edit]

the Historiography section of the article is confusing, it starts with the phrase, "later he wrote the Secret History..." who is he exactly? Also wouldn't it be better to start with the early life section? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:33, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Nika edits[edit]

I have inserted or modified a few sentences in the Nika section. My intention is just to show that Theodora's power was very real but not always benign. The conclusions come from Diehl (who is referenced); however, it would be preferable to have some references later than him. (Do historians still believe her role is as Diehl concluded?) Jmacwiki (talk) 05:20, 25 September 2011 (UTC)

Religious Impact[edit]

I take issue with the phrase, "and might have postponed it indefinitely but for external events she could not control or foresee". Thus is an absurd statement. It seems akin to saying that Augustus might have made the Roman Empire last forever but for external events he could not control or foresee. I would like to delete it. Any qualms? Ph8l (talk) 04:28, 11 October 2011 (UTC)ph8l

Removing more of Procopius detail[edit]

I have stripped out the lurid details of Leda and the Swan and of entertaining 40 men in one night, on the grounds that they tell us virtually nothing of Theodora (but perhaps something of Procopius -- who has his OWN article). Other than prurient interest, there doesn't seem to be any value to the details.

For both positive and negative reasons, Theodora's life was important. Her early career as as actress/prostitute was a small but relevant component of that. But these specifics of Procopius' reports are not. In particular, they are not only irrelevant, they may be as much a fantasy as his report that she & Justinian were demons whose heads could float about the palace.

The only reason to quote his report about their floating heads is to show that his reports cannot be trusted. There is no such justification to quote these salacious stories from him.

I explain this at some length because, after much of the block quoting of Procopius was removed from this article, the detail for both of these anecdotes was specifically inserted. So if someone feels these details need to be included, I hope there will be a good explanation for how this case is different from getting similarly explicit details of some historical figure who had, say, a bowel problem. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:16, 2 February 2013 (UTC)


I infer from reading this article that Theodora is a saint. If this inference is correct, it should be stated plainly in the article. Her feast day should be mentioned. She should probably have a saint infobox. Rwflammang (talk) 22:31, 28 September 2013 (UTC)

NO, she was not a saint. Even though she was admired in the East as a pious empress and protector of the misfortunate, she was not made a saint. In fact, the Roman Catholics hated her because she would not buckle to Rome's inflexible insistance that Rome is supreme and has the final say in everything.VimalaNowlis (talk) 03:48, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
So much for the Roman Catholics, but how about the Jacobites? She had some mention in John of Ephesus's Lives of the Eastern Saints. Was she just a supporting character, or was she a protagonist? Rwflammang (talk) 15:25, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

and so was the praetorian prefect Peter Barsymes[edit]

Something looks strange in the "Later life" section where is written "and so was the praetorian prefect Peter Barsymes" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:59, 5 February 2014 (UTC)

Link added, and sentence slightly rephrased - Ttwaring (talk) 15:06, 5 February 2014 (UTC)

NOT the "Most Influential and Powerful Woman in the Roman Empire's History" and NOT a "Miaphysite"[edit]

NO, Theodora was NOT the most influential and powerful woman in the Roman Empire's history. That hyperbole was unnecessary and incorrect.

Livia, the wife of Augustus, was extremely influential and powerful. Empress Eudoxia, the wife of Theodosius II, was extremely influential and powerful. Empress Irene, the wife of Leo IV, was extremely influential and powerful. There are many more such extremely influential and power woman in Roman Empire's history. One can even say that Empress Sophia, Theodora's niece, the wife of Justinian's successor Justin II, was more influential and powerful.

Theodora is more "famous" in the West because her story is more salacious. Unlike all the other powerful empresses who came from influential aristocratic families with a strong power base, she came from less than nothing and epitomized the rags-to-riches story. Her theatrical background as a dancer and her experience as mistress to the rich and powerful made her irresistable to the West. Catholic zealots vilified her for her steadfast support of the monophysites, while emperors and Rome flip-flopped and switched sides, made her unforgetable. Being beautiful and intelligent, she fit the Western image of the Oriental femme fatale. Like Cleopatra, she became the wet dream of Western artists and dramatists. That's what made her more famous to the West than the other more influential and powerful empresses/women in the history of the Roman Empire.

By the way, she was never a 'miaphysite". She was always a monophysite because she was a disciple of Timothy II of Alexandria who was a monophysite. The refugees she protected in her Palace of Hormisdas were all monophysites. They are not quite the same thing.VimalaNowlis (talk) 03:43, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

I am intrigued at your list of powerful empresses. (I wouldn't disagree at all about your other points.) I would be interested to know how you distinguish between effective collaborations (which many people have with any powerful person such as an emperor: Livia is a great example) and the direct exercise of power. Theodora's exercise was, at times, direct and quite public. Perhaps you can say how the others were as well? Jmacwiki (talk) 06:55, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

Requested move 21 March 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: not moved. Favonian (talk) 20:55, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

Theodora (wife of Justinian I)Theodora (Byzantine Empress) – The way the current title uses her martial status as a disambiguation is pretty bad. (talk) 16:27, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Oppose. The current title is to disambiguate her from at least 5 other Theodoras who were Byzantine empresses. DrKiernan (talk) 17:32, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Preposterous choice. "Theodora (6th Century)" might be better. Marital status is a silly choice. There are indeed other empresses named Theodora. But there are also other emperors named Julius Caesar (Octavian, for example!). So why do we need Theodora's marital status as the distinguishing feature? Jmacwiki (talk) 07:00, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose and comment to the above: because this particular Theodora is famous as being the consort of Justinian I, not any other emperor. They are commonly associated together. I would not really oppose a move to Theodora (6th century), but I don't feel that any move is warranted from the current location. Constantine 07:50, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose When multiple individuals need to be disambiguated, there are several valid methods. For reigning monarchs, we have numerical distinctions and epithets; but this Theodora didn't reign in her own right (at least not according to most historians) and so isn't assigned a number, and she's not known by any epithets. For office-holders, we have a year of office; but Theodora didn't hold an office. Spans of years as disambiguators are possible, but awkward when speaking of empresses; for some, like Theodora, you know when the period begins and ends. For others, you don't have the year of marriage or the year of death and have to choose between the death of the empress and the death of the emperor to whom she was married; so a span of years isn't desirable. You could use "sixth century" (avoid the use of numerals, please), but that would imply that there were no other noteworthy Theodoras in the sixth century. You're not trying to disambiguate the empress from every other Theodora, but specifically from other empresses. Lastly, it's customary to use a relationship to other individuals of similar or greater noteworthiness. "Father of Alexander the Great," "son of Charlemagne," "wife of Justinian I." It's not about marital status, any more than "paramour of Henry II" is a moral judgment. You could put "Empress of Justinian I," but I suspect that would invite an argument over whether the phrase could be misinterpreted. Either way, it's simply a convenient description, and that's why it's perfectly appropriate. None of the other likely disambiguators seem to be an improvement in terms of specificity or helpfulness in identifying the person in question. P Aculeius (talk) 12:35, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Requested move 29 March 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Moved to Theodora (6th century). Editors were not unanimous, but there seemed to be consensus that the 6th century empress is not the primary topic of Theodora. The wording of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC says "There are no absolute rules for determining whether a primary topic exists and what it is; decisions are made by discussion among editors..". So the measurements, apparently showing she was 50% of all the Theodora hits, are not decisive if people want to use other criteria. Editors were not enthused about the 'wife of' disambiguator and I believed that any title change that did not get rid of 'wife of' was unlikely to win out. Empress Theodora raises concern about partial disambiguation, because there were several empresses Theodora. We don't want to be stuck creating Empress Theodora (disambiguation). So I picked Theodora (6th century) which is one of the suggestions and is an existing redirect. Obviously further discussion is possible. EdJohnston (talk) 03:17, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

Pageviews to the enwiki pages with "Theodora" in the title, broadly-construed, in March 2015

Theodora (wife of Justinian I)Theodora – Evidently I showed up a day too late to participate in the discussion above. Whoops. This page should be moved to "Theodora", with the disambiguation page moved to Theodora (disambiguation). The rationale for moving it there is quite simple: this article is the most common and prominent Theodora. But, in more detail:

  1. Factually, this Theodora is the most prominent individual by that name discussed on Wikipedia. The article notes that sources discuss her as co-ruler, and that she was one of the most powerful Byzantine empresses in history - certainly the most prominent named Theodora!
  2. Even were it not for this, it's quite clear that she's the most popular person by that name that readers search for. I used my database access to pull out numbers on this, since's count is unreliable (it relies on page titles being just-so, doesn't include mobile requests, and doesn't filter for automata. Indeed, it's currently claiming almost all Theodoras have precisely 1,375 pageviews). The results are in the graphic to the right, and can also be seen in this gist, along with the code used to retrieve them and generate the graphic. What it shows is that this specific Theodora accumulated eighteen thousand pageviews in the last month or so, compared to four thousand for the next most prominent subject by that name, and meaning that this Theodora is just shy of having half of all pageviews to any Theodora article, anywhere on the wiki.
  3. It's highly gendered to use her marital status to disambiguate. This is done for quite a lot of articles (I hope we fix those too) but, given Theodora's position and prominence, this is a pretty egregious example. Yes, she didn't reign in her own right, but neither did Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont, Queen Ratna of Nepal or, for that matter, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and all of them held far less power than Theodora. And yes, she's commonly listed with Justinian, but Mary II of England was commonly linked with her husband, too - that doesn't mean that the article title needs to give the impression that her primary role was as a +1, because it quite clearly wasn't. If Theodora is not an acceptable title to this page - and for reasons 1 and 2, we can talk about (as discussed above) Theodora (6th century) or similar.

Hopefully that makes sense. TL;DR there are a lot of good reasons for this move, and even if you disagree with the objections around associating her primarily with her husband, you have to admit there's a clear advantage to the reader and the wiki, here, in terms of what readers are hunting for. (@DrKiernan, Jmacwiki, Cplakidas, and P Aculeius:) Ironholds (talk) 21:46, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Support – This person is the WP:PRIMARYTOPIC, and the parenthetical is superfluous. It also follows the widely discredited "wife of" format, which was eliminated at Sarah Jane Brown. I do not see why we should do any differently for Theodora than we did for Ms Brown. RGloucester 01:26, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. Theodora Richards, the No. 2 topic on the nom's chart, is not in fact a likely desired destination for readers using "Theodora" as a search term. The first page of Bing hits yields six results for the empress, two for a character in Oz the Great and Powerful. The initializer (talk) 03:41, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose There is no primary topic for this title. The relevant criterion is: "A topic is primary for a term, with respect to usage, if it is highly likely—much more likely than any other topic, and more likely than all the other topics combined—to be the topic sought when a reader searches for that term." Page views on Wikipedia do show more hits for the empress than for all other listed topics. But several of the others have quite a lot of hits, too. And because Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, its page view statistics have a built-in bias toward important historical figures. Because Theodora remains a personal name in common use, and because the empress isn't really a familiar enough figure for most people to recognize her, I believe that the proper destination for "Theodora" itself is either a disambiguation page or a page about the name itself (which could nonetheless include a list of important Theodoras, thus providing much of the same function as a disambiguation page).
Nearly everyone knows who you mean when you say, "Caesar" or "Augustus" with no further context. Fewer people will know "Justinian," who requires disambiguation because, although far and away the most important Justinian, he was nonetheless one of several. Hardly anyone will know who "Theodora" refers to out of context; only classical history students would guess.
In my opinion, these repeated page move requests have less to do with other titles being more suitable than some sort of revulsion at using the phrase "wife of" as a disambiguator. But, as has been stated again and again, when the most important and useful fact about someone is or depends upon that person's relationship to another historical figure, then that relationship is a valid and proper disambiguator. It makes no difference whether someone is the "wife of" or "son of" or "father of" or "sister of" someone else. It does not reduce the subject to the status of an appendage, and it says nothing about the importance of women, any more than an article disambiguated "husband of" would say anything about the status of men. What possible justification would there be to eliminate "brother of" or "daughter of" or "uncle of"? None. So why would we consider moving all articles disambiguated as "wife of" but leaving the others alone? At best this is an over-reaction to a situation that isn't occurring here. As far as I know, Wikipedia has no demonstrated history of gender bias in article naming. So if the disambiguator in question is useful and appropriate, there's no reason to change it merely because defining women in general by their relationships to men would be problematic. The context and purpose of Wikipedia disambiguators is completely unrelated to matters of gender equality in the English language. P Aculeius (talk) 04:40, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
So, "four times more than any other page" is not more likely than any other subject? And do you have any academic work pointing to the hypothesis that there's a bias to historical figures? I'd point out that pretty much every other Theodora is a historical figure, too. Moreover, do search engines and the outside world have the same bias? Because this Theodora is the top-listed Theodora according to google (and also features in their KnowledgeGraph box), Bing, DuckDuckGo and yahoo. Wikipedia has a long history of gender bias in titling and in content; I can't count the number of times I've seen someone titled "Foo (wife of Bar)" even given their own independent notability, or the number of articles I've seen opening "Foo is the wife of Bar, and did [highly notable thing]" (although I can pull out examples). Ironholds (talk) 14:20, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

If the 6th-Century empress is NOT the primary topic, then a DAB page is appropriate, and "Theodora (6rh Century)", "Theodora (6th-Century empress)", or similar title seems to be the appropriate first link. OTOH, if she IS the primary topic, then "Theodora (6th Century)" (or similar title) still seems appropriate: The parenthetical, even if superfluous for some people, is harmless for all. Does this really have to be difficult? Just for the record, BTW, I am no historian, classical or otherwise. I learned her name at the age of 11 when I came across the "renewal" of the Empire attributed to "Justinian and Theodora" in a 6th-grade history book. That struck me as extraordinary, because she was one of the few women mentioned at all in that book, and she was clearly getting equal billing (with Justinian) for something momentous. I can't speak for others, but most people who don't know who she is probably aren't searching for her in WP, and obviously not everyone who searches WP for her is a classical historian. Jmacwiki (talk) 06:27, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Unlike Britannica's subtitles, Wiki's disambiguators are not intended to explain the subject to readers not familiar with it. Even if we wanted our disambiguators to do that, that's still not a not argument in favor of the current title. Readers who don't know who Theodora is won't know who Justinian is either. The initializer (talk) 10:16, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Suggest Theodora (Byzantine empress, died 548) would have provided valuable WP:PRECISION CLARIFICATION of the topic subject. This is similar to usage at . Failing this I suggest: or else suggest that titles such as Denis Thatcher (husband of Margaret) be used. I don't think that it is best to refer to people by relationships of kin. GregKaye 13:24, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose, while this Theodora is probably the most well-known of any figure with that name, I too have my reservations on whether it is the primary topic. To my mind, primary topic would mean mentioning the name "Theodora" and instantly thinking of her; I am not sure that is the case, or indeed how recognizable this Theodora or any of her imperial namesakes would be to the "man in the street". Search engine hits are not the most reliable indicator, especially given the prevalence of WP article clones out there, and article hits likewise, because there is no way to establish her notability independently of her husband... IMO this case qualifies for WP:DONTFIXIT. Constantine 17:02, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    Okay; what metric would you suggest, then? If you're arguing these are all bad ways of measuring things I would be interested to hear your proposed improvement. If it's "instantly thinking of her" - well, that's a false standard. You can be the most prominent person by a name and still not necessarily known by the man on the clapham omnibus. I'm definitely the most academically-prominent person of my name, in the sense that I'm the only person with my name to be academically published, but that doesn't mean I'd expect random schmoes I've never met to go "oh, him!" Ironholds (talk) 18:52, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think I was pretty clear; IMO the whole issue is too much fuss for no real gain. The article is perfectly fine where it is right now. Anyhow, this is not a research group on determining metrics for relative notability. All that this is about is determining whether she qualifies as the undisputed primary topic. To me, as someone with more than a passing interest in the period, she does not, certainly not to the extent her husband monopolizes his name. Oh, and for the record, I strongly oppose solutions such as the one below ("Theodora (Byzantine Empress)"), that are not simply useless, but outright wrong. Constantine 20:24, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Well, in the absence of any ideas that you have, we'll fall back on what we've always used, which is search results, pageviews and user interest; those seem pretty clear. We'll have to disagree on the "no real gain" element; I tend to take the approach that we should put content readers want where they can most easily get to it. Ironholds (talk) 20:27, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. If someone just said "Theodora" to me, without any context, I would think of the opera first. Now, I don't mean that the opera is the primary topic, but it does indicate to me that the empress is not clearly the primary topic in ways that others clearly are and that a single word is not sufficiently precise in this case to aid readers in locating the right article. If "wife" is objectionable, then how about "consort"? DrKiernan (talk) 20:34, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    And I'm sure we could pull up someone who thinks of the salad when you say "Caesar"; there's a reason we use data, and it's to avoid making decisions exclusively based on anecdotes. You may primarily care about the opera; if you look at the graphic above, you'll see the same is not true of most other readers. A huge plurality of requests goes to this article, above all others with that title or similar titles. Ironholds (talk) 20:39, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    I can see that 50% pageviews come here, but 50% don't. That seems consistent with gbooks searches for "Theodora", where 5 of the first 10 hits are for books on/about/inspired by this Theodora and 5 not. That means 50% of people looking for Theodora don't want to be here, so I'm not convinced that it is the "primary topic" as wikipedia understands the term. It should be overwhelmingly the topic that people are looking for not just a plurality. DrKiernan (talk) 21:19, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    That's a fair approach to take. Would you have any objection to say, Theodora (6th century)? Ironholds (talk) 21:51, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    I think her relationship to Justinian may be the most helpful disambiguator, but do not actively or explicitly oppose a change to disambiguation by date. DrKiernan (talk) 07:18, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
    Cool; thanks. Trying to make sure we have a backup while also avoiding splintering the discussion. Ironholds (talk) 07:39, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Support Theodora (Byzantine Empress) with a hatnote to a disambiguation page listing the other, less notable Theodora empresses, per the earlier failed RM. Seems a better disambiguator. SnowFire (talk) 19:01, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
    Okay, but to avoid this ending up split fifteen ways, are any of the options already on the table also acceptable to you, and if so, in what order? Ironholds (talk) 20:12, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Well they're all "acceptable" I guess, but I can't claim any good method for distinguishing the other options. :( Maybe "Theodora (Byzantine Empress)" > "Empress Theodora" > everything else. SnowFire (talk) 18:37, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Support move to "Theodora" or, if we must narrow it down further, something like "Empress Theodora." The pageview metrics seem pretty irrefutable: this is by far the most common "Theodora" people are looking for. A hatnote can direct people to a disambiguation page for other Theodoras, if necessary. Addressing the problem by throwing up our hands and identifying a notable woman by the name of a man she was associated with...does not strike me as an ideal solution to any of this. A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 14:32, 31 March 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Theodora (6th century)/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Theodora (6th C.) is a "major league" historical figure. An article on her should be high on the importance scale for any projects on general Western history, and all the more so for projects on specific facets of that history that she influenced: Medieval, Roman, women's, Mediterranean, early Christian, etc. Jmacwiki (talk) 22:53, 8 March 2008 (UTC)

Last edited at 22:53, 8 March 2008 (UTC). Substituted at 08:32, 30 April 2016 (UTC)