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Byzantine empress Theodora 'the perfect heroine'

11th June 2010

The life of Theodora, the Byzantine woman who started life as a prostitute but died an empress, is ideal for fiction, according to author Stella Duffy.

Writing in the Guardian, Duffy explained that she only discovered the story of the empress, who was the wife of Byzantine ruler Justinian I, in 2006 but it quickly came to 'dominate' her work.

In her early life, Theodora was a child actress and star of the hippodrome, which ancient historian Procopius pointed out involved a degree of prostitution. She became Justinian's mistress when she was 21 and later married the emperor when his wife died.

Duffy found the story so fascinating that she decided to base her new novel Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore on her life.

'Theodora is the kind of hero you couldn't make up without being accused of overdoing it and yet you can't tell her story without making a lot of it up,' she wrote.

On her blog, Duffy also revealed that she found the stories in Procopius' The Secret History to be 'very juicy', but added that she considers him to be 'annoying, sexist [and] misogynist'.

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