Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint NotRetrouvez Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D OccasionTheodora Actress, Empress, Whore DuffyNotRetrouvez Theodora Actress, Empress, Whore Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D Occasion Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint Women In AntiquityIn Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint, David Potter Penetrates The Highly Biased Accounts Of Her Found In The Writings Of Her Contemporaries And Takes Advantage Of The Latest Research On Early Byzantium To Craft A Modern, Well Rounded, And Engaging Narrative Of Theodora S Life Theodora Actress, Empress, Whore By Stella Duffy Intensely Seductive As A Provocative Dance, Compelling As Only History Can Be, Theodora Draws The Reader Into The Life Of A Common Actress And Dancer, Who Eventually Became Empress Of Rome As A Child, Theodora Learned The Hard Way Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint By David Stone David Potter S Theodora Actress, Empress, Saint Is A Mesmerizing Biography Of One Of History S Most Influential, And Most Wrongfully Maligned, Women Leaders Much Of The Previous Scholarship On Theodora Relied On The Works Of Her Contemporaries, Who Were Ofteninspired By Personal And Political Vendettas Than Truth Biography Of Empress Theodora, Byzantine Feminist Empress Theodora CJune ,, Wife Of EmperorJustinian I, Is Regarded As The Most Powerful Woman InByzantinehistory Because Of Her Intelligence And Political Savvy, She Was Justinian S Most Trusted Adviser And Used Her Influence To Promote Religious And Social Policies In Line With Her Interests Theodora Actress, Empress, Whore By Stella Duffy Facts About Theodora Byzantine Empress, Theodora Was A Byzantine Empress, Wife Of The Emperor Justinian I And The Most Powerful Woman In Byzantine History Born From Humble Origins, Theodora Reigned Over The Byzantine Empire Alongside Her Husband Fromuntil Her Death InThey Would Rule Together In A Golden Period Of Byzantine History

Stella Duffy grew up in New Zealand and lives and work in London. She has written fifteen novels, over sixty short stories, and devised and/or written fourteen plays. The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness were both longlisted for the Orange Prize, and she has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year. She has twice won the CWA Short Story Dagger. HBO have optioned both of her Theodora novels

➥ [Ebook] ➠ Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore By Stella Duffy ➯ – Stockbag.info
  • Paperback
  • 344 pages
  • Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore
  • Stella Duffy
  • English
  • 28 August 2019
  • 9781844082117

10 thoughts on “Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore

  1. says:

    Interesting enough premise but awkward writing -- a bit stuffy and bloated. While I was reading, I was engaged enough but every time I put it down, I couldn't find the motivation to pick it back up. Might give it a try again, someday.

  2. says:

    4.5 stars

    I'm trying to think of a way to describe this book, and "immensely satisfying" is the only descriptor that's coming to mind. That seems so weak, though! "Satisfying" implies just-okayness, but Theodora was anything but "just okay."

    I think what feels so satisfying about this novel is the realization that fine craftsmanship is still alive and well within historical fiction. Since the success of The Other Boleyn Girl, the general tone of HF has taken a bit of a nose-dive as more and more authors (and publishers) strive to replicate that same success. Rather than telling a story that feels true and real, it seems to me that so many have just attempted to put the features of TOBG into whatever historical setting they happen to have on their plate. The result has been near-consistent disappointment with almost every historical novel I've read for YEARS...at least from larger publishers, who seem to be caught up in this frantic race to find the next TOBG rather than trying to find the next good historical novel. (Of course, this isn't the case for all books I've read since TOBG. It's just hard to recall that sometimes, when the market is so flooded with so many copies of the same-old, same-old.)

    So I am very much satisfied, and gratified, and very happy to know that at least Stella Duffy is out there putting her all into her OWN really good historical novel. And this one is really good, and it really feels like it's hers.

    It was such an enjoyment for me that I actually don't know where to start in talking about it. One of the things I just loved, loved, loved was the uniqueness of the "lower class" characters' voices. The actresses, whores, animal trainers, and teacher-eunuchs were remarkably real-feeling, and this was achieved with the PERFECT balance of modern-day four-letter-words and turns of phrases, worked very sparingly and deliberately against carefully constructed "sets" of detail and character motivations, voices, and dialogue that felt otherwise entirely a part of 500 C.E. Constantinople. As I write HF myself, I know what a really remarkable feat this is, to make not only individual characters but even entire strata of society feel so vibrant and true. Duffy's great care and forethought in the construction of her world -- not only the place and time but also the society -- was evident, and something a fellow writer appreciates and applauds.

    The plot itself was perfectly paced. It opens superbly, right in the midst of young Theodora's already rich personality, and the main character's motives and actions feel authentic and logical, given the person she is. For those who know the real history ("real" history in air-quotes, as who knows what Procopius's problem was), all the best moments of the true Theodora tales are there, brought to vivid, breathtaking life for the reader. Some moments were heartbreaking; some were laugh-out-loud funny (I cracked up on the treadmill at the gym over Theodora giving her performance of Leda and the Swan..."Zeus! O God!" hahahah.) Many moments surprised, even for somebody who has a fairly good familiarity with the historical accounts of Theodora and Justinian.

    Speaking of which, where gaps existed in the historical accounts, Duffy did a spectacular job of bridging those gaps with plausible scenes, richly detailed and well executed, which linked the known bits of history with stronger and stronger chains as Duffy's skill with character and atmosphere took over.

    It was a truly fantastic book, beautiful and rich with superb character work and unforgettable voice. My only regret in reading it is that I was planning my own take on the Theodora story, to be written a couple of years in the future, and I had been tinkering with the idea of using a certain totally-fictional plot device that Duffy already beat me to. Nuts -- I'll have to come up with something else. I can't begrudge such a good author the "theft" of my idea (years before I thought of it, of course!) because her book was such a pleasure to read.

    This book was SO CLOSE to being a 5 for me (pretty rare in my historical fiction reads, as I am just as hard-nosed about setting and accuracy as any other big-time HF fan) and I would have joyfully given it five, but for the occasional turn of phrase that pushed the anachronism envelope just a bit too far and plucked me out of the story. But I was only out for a heartbeat, and then I was right back in again.

    This one was first published in 2010, if I remember correctly, right at the beginning of the tidal wave of bizarre linguistic discrepancies that has washed over and swamped recent historical fiction. What is UP with publishers doing this to HF? I can only assume it's publishers calling for a "beachier" voice (again, the influence of TOBG), because it's very difficult to imagine that Stella Duffy's otherwise gorgeous prose and careful attention to maintaining proper historical detail and atmosphere would allow for the infiltration of such modern language on its own, without the influence of a publisher who's panicking over an ever-diminishing share of the market. (How do you get more readers? Appeal to a wider audience, goes the common thinking, and I guess a wider audience isn't capable of handling real-feeling historical dialogue without the occasional "okay" thrown in...? Oh, publishers. SMH.) Anyway, the rare breach of modern voice wasn't really that bad. It certainly wasn't the most confusingly modernized HF I've read. (It wasn't even the most modernized fiction about Theodora I've read.)

    I noted on Stella Duffy's GR author page that HBO has optioned her Theodora novels to potentially produce as a mini-series. YAY! I hope they do, as I've loved HBO's handling of A Song of Ice and Fire (also a series for which I am way too fannish and super-nitpicky). It would be a real pleasure to see the same team (or a similar one) bring this book to life on film.

    I am downloading the sequel, The Purple Shroud, at this moment and will gleefully carry it off to the gym as soon as I click Save on this review, so I can continue experiencing Duffy's fantastic, artfully portrayed, near-perfect depiction of Constantinople and its amazing Augusta.

    Buy it and read it!

  3. says:

    This is the story of Theodora and her rise from dancer/prostitute to Empress of Rome. The book starts with Theodora working on stage at the Hippodrome and being trained by Menander, a man she feared and loved. After becoming famous she falls in love with Hecebolus and moves to Africa with him. When Hecebolus casts her off for another she flees Africa and finds her way to Alexandria where she finds her faith, looks for forgiveness for her sins, and puts her fate in the hands of Timothy who she respects. Timothy helps her to find her way to Justinian who is preparing to become the next Emporer of Rome.

    I really enjoyed this book. Theodora is a fascinating character to read about, there are so many different facets to her personality. At times she is selfish, cruel, and obstinate but she also shows she can be loving and compassionate when she wants to be. I liked her from the beginning of the book and I was hoping things would turn out well for her.

    The story moved at a fast pace, there were no slow sections for me in the book at all. The other characters in the book were also very entertaining, I really liked Justinian and Theodora's mentor Menander. There are lots of great descriptions of Constantinople and a fascinating look at the tensions between different religious groups at the time. It was a very volatile time and the rulers were constantly trying to keep the peace with little success.

    Being that a large part of the book is about Theodora being on the stage as an actress and being a prostitute their are some difficult scenes in the book that some readers might be uncomfortable with. A lot of bad language is also used throughout the book that might be offensive. I think that if that does not bother you and you like a good historical fiction book about ancient times, you will find this book to be well worth the read.

  4. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Duffy’s enthralling story and congratulate her on bringing Theodora to life for all of her readers. This is a book about a historical figure, but also about strength. The strength of women, the strength of the poor, the strength of history. I have learned much in this novel and newly appreciate what it must have been like to be a woman in ancient times.

  5. says:

    Interesting look at a woman not often mentioned in the history pages. Stella Duffy doesn't hold back and I respect that she didn't make Theodora seem too perfect but a strong woman in her own right. I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

  6. says:

    Very poor, I kept on reading it as I expected with all the number of excellent reviews it received it was bound to get better - it didn't. Indeed, it got more and more ridiculous. I should have been warned when one of the reviews called Theodora as 'a wise-cracking tart with a heart'. Actually the more I think about this book, the more crap it was!

  7. says:

    I loved the sound of this book from the moment I heard about it, and was thrilled to find it in paperback when I was in Sydney earlier in the year. With such enthusiasm, of course I had to read it right away, but I don't think it was due to high expectations that I finished it feeling largely untouched.

    Theodora is the fictionalised account of an historical figure, Theodora, who grew up a child actress (and therefore prostitute) in Constantinople in the sixth century, a period commonly known as Byzantine Rome or the Byzantine Empire, a continuation of the Roman Empire founded in Constantinople (Istanbul, the capital of modern-day Turkey) by the Emperor Constantine, he who is famous for converting to Christianity and giving that previously heathen religion legitimacy. Theodora, in Stella Duffy's story, is a talented actress, not classically beautiful but sensual and with an ambitious heart. After she and her two sisters, Comito and Anastasia, are sold to the theatre at a young age following the death of their bear-taming father, she is trained in the arts of singing, dancing, acrobatics and other performing arts, and at twelve is sold to a man for the first time: an inescapable fate for these actresses, who because they are whores are not allowed to marry.

    At seventeen, Theodora meets Hecebolus, a young, handsome and ambitious man assigned the post of Governor of the Pentapolis, five cities at the northern tip of Africa, west of Alexandria. Invited to go with him as consort (never wife), Theodora doesn't need much persuading, despite the advice of her friends in the theatre. She's determined to find someone high up in the church who can absolve her of her past and allow her to marry high up, and for that she needs to be in a high position herself. She takes with her a friend and minor actress as lady's maid and companion, Chrysomallo, who had little stage presence but a beautiful singing voice - and beauty to match. It's only a matter of time before Hecebolus and Chrys become lovers, forcing Theodora to strike out on her own into the desert.

    Theodora does in fact realise her ambition and becomes a legitimate empress, as the title leads us to expect, but that's where the story ends. It tells the story of how Theodora came to that place, which is interesting, but nothing of what comes after (note: while looking for other reviews to link to below, I learnt that Duffy is planning a second book that continues Theodora's story). That was one disappointment, and perhaps the expectation came from the biography feel to the novel: you expect to get a person's life story; you can't help it.

    And that's the other thing that I didn't care for: I'm not a reader of biographies, I find them hard to get into and they just can't engage my imagination or my sympathies very well, and while this book was fiction, like many novels that deal with people who were once alive and breathing, it suffers from a kind of biographical noose. Clearly authors take artistic licence with their subject matter, they have to and there's nothing wrong with that. But the way they tell the story, the structure and style of the narrative, has a distinctly biographical flavour to it. It could be the omniscient narrator that creates that particular distance, or maybe the habit of "telling" rather than "showing" that's prevalent in such stories. I've randomly picked a passage as an example:

    Things were much harder for Anastasia. As Theodora said, their little sister was simply too sweet. Two sweet to work half a dozen men a week and take their money willingly, using it to further herself, to lift herself out of the brothel that was her backstage life and into a nice little apartment with a sea view and just one or two regular suitors. Instead she'd fallen in love with a pallid Lycian boy from the stables, keeping them both poor by turning down offers so often that in the end the offers ceased to come and she and the stable boy lived on what little they could earn from legitimate work. (p.58)


    There's nothing wrong with the writing, the grammar or structure or pacing; I just don't care for the style. I felt constantly at a distance the whole way through, and while I admired Theodora as a strong, intelligent woman, I never came to care for her. And I wanted to. I was fascinated by this historical period, this world, and I wanted to delve into it, and into Theodora's imagined life. But it's a novel of omniscient narration interrupted by neat, lively dialogue, and it lacked a distinctive voice - Theodora's voice, perhaps - and failed to bring the world fully to life.

    I am grateful for the map of the area at the time, especially because so much has changed over the centuries. While I did like the story, I can't find anything to be enthusiastic over. I got only glimpses into life in Constantinople, glimpses that left me hungry for more and largely unsatisfied, and the side issues of governance and the laws against prostitutes marrying, for example (force/sell girls into it and then blame them for it - don't you love it?!) were too briefly explored - I love engaging with a novel, reading between the lines, picking up on subtle hints and themes, deducing and analysing and so on. Duffy didn't leave me anything to do here, and that really disappointed me.

  8. says:

    Intensely seductive as a provocative dance, compelling as only history can be, Theodora draws the reader into the life of a common actress and dancer, who eventually became Empress of Rome.

    As a child, Theodora learned the hard way. She was beaten when her spirit rebelled against the eunuch’s cruel instructions and when her outspoken opinions got the better of her. Her family was disjointed at best and friendships hard won, but the people loved Theodora. She was one of them. She could command the attention of the masses who daily flooded the Hippodrome, eager for amusement and those who sought her favor for an evening’s private entertainment deemed themselves lucky.

    Yet, Theodora was also a woman in a time when females had few rights. She had no property and therefore, no power. Theodora became a mother while still in her early teens and she really didn’t know how to treat her daughter, Ana. While her nubile, athletic body captured the attention of Hecebolus, the new governor in distant Africa, Theodora’s intelligence and wit couldn’t hold him for long.

    Cast out for another, more beautiful woman, Theodora sought to join the penitents surrounding the Patriarch. She hoped that by play acting as one of the true believers, she might find a away to return to Constantinople. However, Timothy saw through her guise from the very beginning. His plans for Theodora were great indeed, but before she could become his instrument of change, the actress, dancer and whore had to learn humility.

    Theodora was sent into the desert, where food and drink were scarce and her clothes rough and simply made. To learn about God, they sent Theodora into the wilderness for forty days and nights of fasting and prayer. There, she underwent many changes. She rebelled against their teachings, then came to embrace them. Theodora remembered her past, cried about lost friends and lovers, yet still raised her face to the dawn. Slowly, in agony, her body rebelling against the strictures forced upon it, Theodora was transformed - and stricken with a growth that left her barren.

    Rescued from her desert confinement, Theodora is sent to Macedonia and finally on to Constantinople. There, she is to advise the Emperor’s nephew, Justinian, in the ways of celebration. Justinian is not especially fair of face, but he is a great scholar. Theodora slowly begins to teach him how to impress the people, all the while struggling not to overstep her bounds.

    Nevertheless, Theodora is too strong willed to remain subdued for long and eventually, she speaks out. Certain she will be commanded to leave the palace, Theodora hurriedly begins to pack, only to be called to Justinian’s chambers. There, the emperor-to-be proposes and a stunned Theodora accepts his incredible proposal.

    Many obstacles still stand in the way of a royal marriage. Theodora is a former actress and dancer. Unless the law is changed, she cannot wed Justinian. Changing the law takes time and a healthy massaging of officials. Eventually, Theodora marries Justinian and, upon the death of Emperor Justin, becomes Empress of Rome. Theodora, one of the people, one of the lowest of the low, has ascended to the highest office any woman can hold!

    Although history is filled with facts and figures, replete with dry, uninteresting events, Stella Duffy has taken this historical figure and brought her vividly to life. Theodora’s life was no doubt filled with incredible highs and lows. In her time, a woman who had no money, property or family connections had to make her own way. It was difficult and some never survived this trial.

    Theodora, however, was a woman of strong spirit, outspoken in an age when women were expected to be biddable and subject to the whims of men. In every sense of the word, she was a rare, modern woman. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Duffy’s enthralling story and congratulate her on bringing Theodora to life for all of her readers. I have learned much in this novel and have a new appreciation of what it must have been like to be a woman in ancient times.

  9. says:

    I left disappointed with this book. I don't really know a lot about Empress Theodora apart from her past as an actress/prostitute before marrying Justinian so I wouldn't know about fact checking, so I expected the book to fill that whole. And it did! BUT I didn't feel like anything was happening for more than 3/4 of the book. Yeah, Stella Duffy explained quite well the training to become an actress, the physical and mental process which these girls make from a very young age, but everything else was quite shallow, she skimmed through a lot of parts I wished she didn't (like the politics when she became Justinian's wife, etc) and did the opposite when it wasn't needed.

    I didn't like how she tried to ""redeem"" Theodora from her past as a prostitute during her spiritual journey through the desert because it felt very demeaning to prostitutes, it was boring, uneventful and it dragged since she left the City to follow her (abusive) lover to Africa. It could had been done much better if she simply told it after it happened. Theodora wasn't likeable at all and the secondary characters (with only a few exceptions) were cardboard at best. Another thing was that her curses where very modern and british idk it was weird to read it.

    But not everything is bad! Duffy's writing flows well and I quite liked Theodora's relationship with Justinian, but i wish she hadn't end it there (view spoiler)

  10. says:

    Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

    3.5 out of 5

    Theodora was one of the most influential women of her time. As a poverty-stricken dancer, as the most celebrated actress/whore in Constantinople, as a penitent nun in a commune in the desert, and as the wife of the most powerful man in Christendom, she commands attention and vast amounts of interest. Defying social strictures and traditions of her day, Theodora rose from a common birth and life to the most exalted position available: Augusta of "New Rome" also known as Constantinople, the "sparkling gem in a Christian crown" in in 527 AD. Stella Duffy writes an easy-to-read and well-crafted and rounded tale of the infamous woman in one of the most interesting periods of the Roman Empire.

    Born the second daughter of three to Acacius and an unknown woman, named Hypatia for this novel, Theodora was born into showbusiness as it was then. Her father was the bear trainer at the infamuous Hippodrome of Constantinople. It is the Hippodrome that is the most important place in Theodora's life: her earliest memories, the death of her father at the hands of his beloved bear, and eventually the site of the greatest triumph of her life: her coronation. Duffy writes Theodora as a determined, intelligent and capable young woman. Not the best singer, not the best dancer or even the prettiest girl, Theodora commands attention and awe from her presence, her wit, her spirit and her sheer ambition. Though the novel begins at age eleven for the protagonist, it is never immature or boring: I was captivated from the start.With a singer for an older sister (Comito) and a beautiful younger sister (Anastasia), Theo turns to her true talent: comedy. With it she makes a name, a fortune and a life she always believed was beyond her. I liked Theodora a lot: I actually wished this was a first-person novel rather than third, though I did get to see and enjoy insight into Justinian as well. She was the only female character I enjoyed, the rest seeming rather hard-bitten and begrudging of Theodora's success, even her sisters. I enjoyed - and believed - the growth and maturity Theodora grows into, especially on her travels from Constantinople. She learns humility, grief and even experiences for the first time a sense of equality while in the desert. For the first time, regardless of her sex or past professions or infamy, Theodora was what she has always sought to be: an equal. It's also terribly interesting to read about a indomitable woman who experiences such a wide range of life: from a whore to a penitent nun in an ascetic community, Theodora remains herself and full of fire. From failed love affairs, to child abandonment issues, Duffy presents Theodora as a complex woman. There is no easy answer to the hows and whys of what Theodora did historically, but the reasons Duffy fabricates/infers are more than adequate and totally believable for her version of the Empress.

    Let's talk about Justinian, the Emperor. Presented as a bookish, scholarly but kind man, I initially didn't invest in the relationship between the two. Born Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, he was not from Constantinople, an ambitious "foreigner" with a thirst for power "born of a desire for change." A man of strategy rather than force, Justinian quietly emerged as a strong and very likeable character. While their marriage is portrayed initially as more of an alliance to harbor amity between both sides of the religious debate (they were on openly opposing sides of the heated religious debate), it grew into a nice, steady affection and love. The two characters brought out the best in each other: I liked their dynamic and relationship more and more as the novel progressed through their lives together. There is a nice dichotomy between the eventual August and his Augusta as well: Theo is of the City, poor and therefore "one of the people." Justinian represents the other classes of the varied, multi-national Empire: foreigner of the City, rich and royal. Justinian helps Theodora evolve from anti-government to actually being the government, an interesting and hardly believable tale based on fact.

    This is a fairly easy read for a historical novel. I found the prose to be a bit stuffy and overloaded from time to time, the dialogue occasionally stilted and unrealistic, but neither issue overwhelmed my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Constantinople itself was one of my favorite parts of the entire thing: it springs to life as much as Theodora and considerably more than the rest of the characters. It is a vibrant city, teeming with life. Contradictorily the Christian capital of the world but still fighting an internal battle over divinity of the Christ, Constantinople is in a constant flux of religious dogma, a microcosm of the entire empire. With the Western side extolling the belief in Christ's humanity AND divinity and the Eastern parts of the Empire contesting He is wholly divine, a schism seems imminent. Between the religious debates and the constant political turmoil and maneuvering of the Blues and the Green, it's easy to see the cracks in the foundation. Duffy does a more than admirable job of explaining the different opinions/beliefs and the reasons for the tensions in the novel without a massive infodump. I will say I didn't like the jumps in the chronology at all: the barely glossed over times ("in those two years....." "For the next three....") because I was interested in a lot of the events/times skipped over.

    Love her, hate her, despise her for her less savory acts but you cannot deny Theodora had an impact. On the world, on her Empire, and on religion. An influential woman who refused to stay in her place and do what she was told, I think many historical fiction fans will have fun with this easy-to-read, easily enjoyable novel. Her life began and ended at the famed Hippodrome, but Theodora's legacy and memory still reaches out over 1500 years after she died at the age of approximately 48.

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