The Secret History/Part 2

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The Secret History by Procopius
Chapters VI - X

Chapter VI[edit]

Now what manner of persons Justinian and Theodora were and the method by which they ruined the Roman Empire I shall proceed to tell forthwith. When Leon was holding the imperial power in Byzantium, three young farmers, Illyrians by race, Zimarchus, Dityvistus and Justinus from Vederiana, men who at home had to struggle incessantly against conditions of poverty and all its attendant ills, in an effort to better their condition set out to join the army. And they came to Byzantium, walking on foot and themselves carrying cloaks slung over their shoulders, and when they arrived they had in these cloaks nothing more than toasted bread which they had put in at home; and the Emperor enrolled them in the ranks of the soldiers and designated them for the Palace Guard. For they were all men of very fine figure. But at a later time Anastasius, who had succeeded to the royal power, became involved in a war against the Isaurian nation, who had taken up arms against him. And he sent a considerable army against them, commanded by John who is known as the Hunchback. This John had confined Justinus in a prison because of some offence and was on the point of removing him from the world on the following day, and would have done so had not a vivid dream come to him in the meantime and prevented him. For the General declared that in a dream a certain person came to him, a creature of enormous size and in other respects too mighty to resemble a man. And this vision enjoined upon him to release the man whom he had chanced to imprison on that day; and John said that upon arising from sleep he paid no heed to the vision of his dream. But when the next night came on, he seemed once more in sleep to hear the words which he had heard before; yet even so he was unwilling to carry out the order. And a third time the vision stood over him and threatened him with a terrible fate if he should fail to carry out the instructions, and added that when he in later times should become exceedingly angry, he would have need of this man and of his family.

So at the same time it came about that Justinus was saved in this way, and as time went on this Justinus advanced to great power. For the Emperor Anastasius appointed him Commander of the Palace Guards. And when the Emperor departed this life, he himself, because of the power of his office, succeeded to the throne, being already an old man tottering to his grave, who had never learned to tell one letter from another, and was, as the familiar phrase has it, "without the alphabet," a thing which had never happened before among the Romans. And while it was customary for the Emperor to affix letters in his own hand to all documents containing the orders that issued from him, he was unable either to issue orders himself or intelligently to share in the knowledge of what was being done. But the man who drew the lot to sit as his Counsellor, Proclus by name, who held the office of Quaestor, as it is called, himself used to attend to all matters with independent judgment. But in order that they might have evidence of the Emperor's hand, those who had this matter in charge devised the following plan. Taking a small strip of prepared wood, they cut into it a sort of pattern of the four letters which mean in the Latin tongue "I have read," and dipping the pen into ink of the colour which Emperors are wont to use in writing, they would put it into the hand of this Emperor. And placing on the document the strip of wood which I have mentioned and grasping the Emperor's hand, they moved it and the pen along the pattern of the four letters, causing it to follow all the winding lines cut in the wood, and then went their way, carrying that kind of writing of the Emperor.

Such an Emperor had the Romans in Justinus. And he had a wife named Lupicina who, as being a slave and a barbarian, had been concubine of the man who had previously bought her. And she as well as Justinus attained the throne in the closing years of life.

Now Justinus did not succeed in doing his subjects any harm nor any good either. For he had a very easy-going disposition, being an altogether tongue-tied man and a very boorish fellow. And his nephew Justinian, who was still young, used to administer the entire government and he proved the author of calamities for the Romans — calamities so serious and so manifold that in all the history of the world probably no one previously had ever heard their equal. For he used to proceed with the lightest of hearts to the unjust murder of men and the seizure of other men's money, and for him it was nothing that countless thousands of men should have been destroyed, though they had given him no grievance. And he took no thought to preserve what was established, but he was always wishing to make innovations in everything, and, to put all in a word, this man was an arch-destroyer of well-established institutions. Now the plague which was described by me in the previous narrative, though it fell upon the entire world, was escaped by no fewer persons than those who chanced to be carried away, either because they were not taken at all by the disease or because they recovered when they had the fortune to be caught. This man, however, not one living person of the entire Roman world had the fortune to escape, but, like any other affliction from Heaven falling upon the whole race, he left not a single soul wholly untouched. For some he killed without any just cause, while others he left in the grip of poverty, making them more wretched than those who had died, so that they implored him to resolve the present misery by a most pitiable death. In some cases, however, he destroyed both property and life. But since it was nothing for him to win the Roman Empire alone, he succeeded in subjugating Libya and Italy for no other reason than to be able to destroy the inhabitants of these countries along with those previously under his sway. Indeed, when he had been not yet ten days in power, he slew Amantius, Director of the Palace eunuchs, together with certain others for no cause whatever, charging the man with nothing except that he had spoken some hasty word against John, the Chief Priest of the city. And as a result of this conduct he became the most dreaded man in the world. And he immediately summoned also Vitalian, the usurper, having previously given him a pledge for his safety by sharing with him the Christian sacraments. But a little later, when he was suspected of having given him offence, he executed him in the Palace together with his followers for no just cause, by no means consenting to honour his pledges, terrible as they were.

Chapter VI[edit]

Now the populace from of old has been divided into two Factions, as was stated by me in the preceding narrative, and he now adopted one of them, namely the Veneti or "Blues," of whom, as it happened, he had previously been an enthusiastic supporter, and thus succeeded in throwing everything into confusion and disorder; and thereby he brought the Roman State to its knees. But not all the Blues saw fit to follow the will of this man, but only those who chanced to be militant. And yet even these, as the evil developed, seemed to be the most temperate men in the world; for their sins fell short of their licence to commit them. And of course the militant group of the Greens did not on their part remain quiet, but they too were constantly busy with crimes, as far as came within their power, although they were being punished continually, one at a time. Yet this very fact always led them on to deeds of much greater daring; for men, when they unjustly treated, are wont to become desperate. So at this time, while he kept fanning the flames and manifestly stirring up the Blues, the whole Roman Empire was agitated from top to bottom, as if an earthquake or a deluge had fallen upon it, or as if each and every city had been captured by the enemy. For everything was thrown into confusion in every part and nothing thereafter remained fixed, but both the laws and the orderly form of the government were completely overturned by the confusion that ensued. In the first place, the mode of dressing the hair was changed to a rather novel style by the Factions; for they did not cut it at all as the other Romans did. For they did not touch the moustache or the beard at all, but they wished always to have the hair of these grow out very long, as the Persians do. But the hair of their heads they cut off in front back to the temples, leaving the part behind to hang down to a very great length in a senseless fashion, just as the Massagetae do. Indeed for this reason they used to call this the "Hunnic" fashion. In the second place, as to fashions in dress, they all insisted on being well clad in fine garments, clothing themselves in raiment too pretentious for their individual rank. For they were enabled to acquire such clothing from stolen funds. And the part of the tunic which covered the arms was gathered by them very closely about the wrist, while from there to each shoulder it billowed out to an incredible breadth. And as often as their arms were waved about, either as they shouted in the theatres and hippodromes, or urged men on to victory in the customary manner, this part of their garments would actually soar aloft, causing the foolish to suppose that their bodies must be so fine and sturdy that they must needs be covered by such garments, not taking into consideration the fact that by the loosely woven and empty garment the meagreness much rather than the sturdiness of their bodies was demonstrated. Also their cloaks and their drawers and especially their shoes, as regards both name and fashion, were classed as "Hunnic." Now at first practically all of them carried weapons openly at night, but in the day-time they concealed small two-edged swords along the thigh under their mantle, and they gathered in groups as soon as it became dark and would waylay men of the better classes both in the market-place at large and in the alleys, robbing their victims of their clothing and their girdles and gold brooches and whatever besides they might have in their hands. And some they saw fit to kill as well as to rob, to keep them from carrying word to anyone of what had befallen them. Now these performances outraged everyone and particularly the partisans of the Blue Faction who were not militant, for not even they remained immune. The result of this was that thereafter most men used girdles and brooches of bronze and mantles much inferior to their station, in order that they might not destroyed by their love of beautiful things, and even before the sun had set they would withdraw into their houses and remain out of sight. And as the evil continued and no attention was paid to the offenders by the city Government, the boldness of these men kept steadily rising to a great height. For when wrongdoing is accorded full licence, it naturally goes beyond all bounds, since even such crimes as are punished are usually not completely eradicated; for by nature most men turn readily to sin. Such were the fortunes of the Blues. And of the partisans of the opposing side, some swung over to their faction through an eagerness to have a hand in committing offences without incurring punishment, while others took to flight and were lost to sight in other lands; many also who were caught there in the city were destroyed by their opponents or were put to death as a punishment by the Government. Many young men also flocked to this association, men who previously had never taken an interest in these affairs, but were now drawn to it by the lure of power and the opportunity for wanton insolence. For there is no unholy act which bears a name among men which was not committed during this period and remained without punishment. Now at first they were destroying their rival partisans, but as time went on they began to slay also those who had given them no offence at all. Many too won them over by bribes and then pointed out their own personal enemies, and these they would destroy immediately, attributing to them the name of Greens, though they were in fact altogether unknown to them. And these things took place no longer in darkness or concealment, but at all hours of the day and in every part of the city, the crimes being committed, it might well be, before the eyes of the most notable men. For the wrongdoers had no need to conceal their crimes, for no dread of punishment lay upon them, nay, there even grew up a sort of zest for competitions among them, since they got up exhibitions of strength and manliness, in which they shewed that with a single blow they could kill any unarmed man who fell in their way, and no man longer dared to hope that he would survive among the perilous circumstances of daily life. For all suspected, because of their great fear, that death was pressing close upon them, and neither did any place seem to be safe nor any time to offer a guarantee of safety to any man, because men were being killed even in the most honoured of the sanctuaries and at the public festivals for no reason, and no confidence remained in either friends or relatives. For many were being killed through the treachery of those most closely akin to them. No investigation, however, of the crimes which had been committed took place. But the calamity in all cases fell unexpectedly and no one would try to avenge the fallen. And in no law or contract was there left any effective power resting upon the security of the existing order, but everything was turned to a reign of increasing violence and confusion, and the Government resembled a tyranny, yet not a tyranny that had become established, but one rather that was changing every day and constantly beginning again. And the decisions of the magistrates seemed like those of terrified men whose minds were enslaved through fear of a single man; and those who sat in judgment, in rendering their decisions on the points in dispute, gave their verdicts, not as seemed to them just and lawful, but according as each of the disputants had hostile or friendly relations with the Factions. For should any judge have disregarded the instructions of these men, the penalty of death hung imminently over him. And many money-lenders were forced through sheer compulsion to restore to their debtors their contracts without having received back any part of their loan, and many persons not at all willingly set their slaves free. And they say that certain women were forced by their own slaves to many acts that were sore against their will. And already the sons of men of high station, having mingled with these lawless youths, were compelling their fathers to do much against their will and in particular to deliver over their money to them. And many unwilling boys were compelled to enter into unholy intercourse with the Factionists, with the full knowledge of their fathers. And women, too, while living with husbands, had to submit to this same treatment. And it is said that one woman, dressed in elegant fashion, was crossing with her husband to some suburb on the opposite mainland; and in the course of this crossing they were met by some of the Factionists, who tore her from her husband with a threat and placed her in their own boat; and as she entered the boat with the young men, she stealthily urged her husband to be of good courage and to fear no harm for her; for, she said, she would not suffer any outrage to her person. And even while her husband looked upon her in great sorrow, she threw herself into the sea and straightway vanished from among men. Such, then, was the outrageous conduct of the Factionists at this time in Byzantium. Yet these things distressed the victims less than the wrongs committed by Justinian against the State, for in the case of those who have suffered the cruellest treatment at the hands of malefactors, the greatest part of the distress arising from a state of political disorder is removed by the constant expectation of punishment to be exacted by the laws and the Government. For in their confident hope of the future men bear their present ills more lightly and easily, but when treated with violence by the power in control of the State, they naturally grieve over their misfortunes the more and are constantly driven to despair by the fact that punishment is not to be expected. And Justinian offended not alone in that he refused absolutely to champion the cause of the wronged, but also because he did not object at all to making himself the avowed protector of the Factionists; for he kept issuing great sums of money to these youths, and retained many of them about his own person, and some of them he even saw fit to summon to the magistracies and to other stations of honour.

Chapter VIII[edit]

These things, then, were being enacted both in Byzantium and in every other city. For the evil, like any other malady, beginning there fell like a scourge upon every part of the Roman Empire. But the Emperor Justinus paid not the slightest heed to what was passing, for he, in fact, had no power of perception at all, though he was an eye-witness at all times of what was being done in the hippodromes. For he was extraordinarily simple-minded and exceedingly like a stupid donkey, inclined to follow the man who pulls the rein, his ears waving steadily the while. And Justinian was not only doing the things described but was also throwing everything else into confusion. Indeed, as soon as this man laid hold of the Government of his uncle, he straightway was eager to squander the public funds with complete recklessness, seeing he had become master of them. For he kept squandering very great sums for service to the State on those of the Huns who chanced from time to time to meet him; and as a result of this the land of the Romans came to be exposed to frequent inroads. For when once these barbarians had tasted the wealth of the Romans, they could no longer keep away from the road leading to Byzantium.

He also saw fit to throw much money into certain buildings along the sea, seeking to put constraint upon the incessant surge of the waves. For he kept moving outward from the beach by piling up stones, being determined to compete with the wash of the sea, and, as it were, seeking to rival the strength of the sea by the sheer power of wealth. And he gathered into his hands the private property of every Roman in the whole world, charging some of them with some crime or other which they had not committed, and in the case of others deluding their minds with the idea that they had made him a present. And many who had been convicted of murder and other such crimes handed over to him their entire fortunes and thus escaped paying the penalty for their misdeeds; and others who might, for instance, be urging against their neighbours a claim to certain lands to which they had no right, finding themselves unable, because the law was against them, to secure a judgment against their adversaries by arbitration, simply bestowed this disputed property upon the Emperor and so were free of the business, thus winning for themselves, by a gift which cost them nothing, an acquaintance with this man, and having succeeded by most illegal means in getting the better of their opponents at law.

And I think it not inappropriate to describe the appearance of this man. He was neither tall in stature not particularly short, but of a medium height, yet not thin but slightly fleshy, and his face was round and not uncomely; for his complexion remained ruddy even after two days of fasting. But that I may describe his appearance as a whole in few words, I would say that he resembled Domitian, son of Vespasian, very closely, an Emperor who so impressed the Romans who suffered under him that even after they had chopped his whole body into pieces they felt that they had not satisfied their rage against him, but through a decree of the Senate determined that not even the name of this Emperor would appear on documents nor any likeness of him whatsoever be preserved. His name, at any rate, everywhere in the inscriptions in Rome and wherever else it chanced to have been carved has been chiselled out, this name alone among all the others, as the observer may see, and not a single statue of him is to be seen anywhere throughout the Roman Empire, with the exception of one bronze statue, accounted for as follows. Domitian had a wife of noble character and discreet, and neither had she herself ever harmed any man in the world nor was she pleased at all with any of the actions of her husband. Consequently she was dearly beloved, and the Senate at that time summoned her and bade her ask whatever she wished. And she begged only this, that she might take the body of Domitian and bury it and that she might set up one bronze statue to him wherever she wished. And the Senate conceded this. And the woman, wishing to leave to future ages a memorial of the inhumanity of those who had butchered her husband, contrived the following. Collecting the flesh of Domitian, and putting the pieces accurately together and fitting them one to the other, she sewed up the whole body; then, displaying to the sculptors, she bade them represent in a bronze statue the fate which had befallen her husband. So the artists straightway made the statue. The woman then took it and set it up on the street leading up to the Capitol, on the right as one ascends thither from the Forum, and it shews both the features and the fate of Domitian, even to the present day. And one might hazard a guess that the body of Justinian in general and particularly the face and all the characteristic features of his countenance are clearly embodied in this statue.

Such was Justinian in appearance; but his character I could not accurately describe. For this man was both an evil-doer and easily led into evil, the sort of a person whom they call a moral pervert, never of his own accord speaking the truth to those with whom he conversed, but having a deceitful and crafty intent behind every word and action, and at the same time exposing himself, an easy prey, to those who wished to deceive him. And a certain unusual mixture had developed in him, compounded of both folly and wickedness. And possibly this illustrated a saying uttered by one of the Peripatetic philosophers in earlier times, to the effect that the most opposite elements are found in man's nature, just as in mixed colours. 24(I am now writing, however, of matters in which I have not been able to attain competency.) But to resume, this Emperor was insincere, crafty, hypocritical, dissembling his anger, double-dealing, clever, a perfect artist in acting out an opinion which he pretended to hold, and even able to produce tears, not from joy or sorrow, but contriving them for the occasion according to the need of the moment, always playing false, yet not carelessly but adding both his signature and the most terrible oaths to bind his agreements, and that too in dealing with his own subjects. But he departed straightway from his agreements and his oaths, just like the vilest slaves, who, through fear of the tortures hanging over them, are induced to make confession of acts which they had denied on oath. He was a fickle friend, a truce less enemy, an ardent devotee of assassination and of robbery, quarrelsome and an inveterate innovator, easily led astray into wrong, but influenced by no counsel to adopt the right, keen to conceive and to execute base designs, but looking upon even the hearing about good things as distasteful. How could any man be competent to describe adequately the character of Justinian? These faults and many others still greater he manifestly possessed to a degree not in accord with human nature. On the contrary, Nature seemed to have removed all baseness from the rest of mankind and to have concentrated it in the soul of this man. And in addition to his other shortcomings, while he was very easy-going as to lending an ear to slanders, yet he was severe as to inflicting punishment. For he never paused for a thorough investigation before reaching a decision, but straightway upon hearing what the slanderer said, he would make his decision and order it published. And he did not hesitate to write orders that called for the capture of towns and the burning of cities and the enslavement of whole peoples, for no reason whatever. Consequently, if one should care to estimate all the misfortunes which have befallen the Romans from the earliest times and then to balance against them those of the present day, it seems to me that he would find a greater slaughter of human beings to have been perpetrated by this man than has come to pass in all the preceding time. And while he had no scruples whatever against the quiet acquisition of other men's money — for he never even made any excuse, putting forward justice as a screen in trespassing upon things which did not belong to him — yet when once these had become his own, he was perfectly ready to shew his contempt for the money, with a prodigality in which there was no trace of calculation, and for no reason at all to fling it away to the barbarians. And, to sum up the whole matter, he neither had any money himself, nor would he allow anyone else in the world to have it, as though he were not a victim of avarice, but simply consumed by envy of those who possessed money. Consequently he lightly banished wealth from the Roman world and became the creator of poverty for all.

Chapter IX[edit]

The traits, then, of Justinian's character, as far as we are able to state them, were roughly these. And he married a wife concerning whom I shall now relate how she was born and reared and how, after being joined to this man in marriage, she overturned the Roman State to its very foundations. There was in Byzantium a certain Acacius, keeper of the animals used in the circus, an adherent of the Green Faction, a man whom they called Master of the Bears. This man had died a natural death during the reign of Anastasius, leaving three girls, Comito, Theodora and Anastasia, the eldest of whom was not yet seven years of age. And the woman, now reduced to utter distress, entered into marriage with another husband, who, she thought, would later on assist her in both the care of the household and in her first husband's occupation. But the Dancing Master of the Greens, a man named Asterius, was bribed by another man to remove these persons from that office and to make no difficulty about putting in the position the man who had given him the money. For the Dancing Masters had authority to administer such matters as they wished. But when the woman saw the whole populace gathered in the Circus, she put garlands on the heads and in both hands of the three girls and cause them to sit as suppliants. And though the Greens were by no means favourable to receiving the supplication, the Blues conferred this position of honour upon them, since their Master of the Bears also had recently died. And when these children came of age, the mother immediately put them on the stage there — since they were fair to look upon — not all three at the same time, but as each one seemed to her to be ripe for this calling. Now Comito, the first one, had already scored a brilliant success among the harlots of her age; and Theodora, the next in order, clothed in a little sleeved frock suitable to a slave girl, would follow her about, performing various services and in particular always carrying on her shoulders the stool on which her sister was accustomed to sit in the assemblies. Now for a time Theodora, being immature, was quite unable to sleep with a man or to have a woman's kind of intercourse with one, yet she did engage in intercourse of a masculine type of lewdness with the wretches, slaves though they were, who, following their masters to the theatre, incidentally took advantage of the opportunity afforded them to carry on this monstrous business, and she spent much time in the brothel in this unnatural traffic of the body. But as soon as she came of age and was at last mature, she joined the women of the stage and straightway became a courtesan, of the sort whom men of ancient times used to call "infantry." For she was neither a flute-player nor a harpist, nay, she had not even acquired skill in the dance, but she sold her youthful beauty to those who chanced to come along, plying her trade with practically her whole body. Later on she was associated with the actors in all the work of the theatre, and she shared their performances with them, playing up to their buffoonish acts intended to raise a laugh. For she was unusually clever and full of gibes, and she immediately became admired for this sort of thing. For the girl had not a particle of modesty, nor did any man ever see her embarrassed, but she undertook shameless services without the least hesitation, and she was the sort of a person who, for instance, when being flogged or beaten over the head, would crack a joke over it and burst into a loud laugh; and she would undress and exhibit to any who chanced along both her front and her rear naked, parts which rightly should be unseen by men and hidden from them.

And as she wantoned with her lovers, she always kept bantering them, and by toying with new devices in intercourse, she always succeeded in winning the hearts of the licentious to her; for she did not even expect that the approach should be made by the man she was with, but on the contrary she herself, with wanton jests and with clownish posturing with her hips, would tempt all who came along, especially if they were beardless youths. Indeed there was never anyone such a slave to pleasure in all forms; for many a time she would go to a community dinner with ten youths or even more, all of exceptional bodily vigour who had made a business of fornication, and she would lie with all her banquet companions the whole night long, and when they all were too exhausted to go on, she would go on to their attendants, thirty perhaps in number, and pair off with each one of them; yet even so she could not get enough of this wantonness.

On one occasion she entered the house of one of the notables during the drinking, and they said that in the sight of all the banqueters she mounted to the projecting part of the banqueting couch where their feet lay, and there drew up her clothing in a shameless way, not hesitating to display her licentiousness. And though she made use of three openings, she used to take Nature to task, complaining that it had not pierced her breasts with larger holes so that it might be possible for her to contrive another method of copulation there. And though she was pregnant many times, yet practically always she was able to contrive to bring about an abortion immediately.

And often even in the theatre, before the eyes of the whole people, she stripped off her clothing and moved about naked through their midst, having only a girdle about her private parts and her groins, not, however, that she was ashamed to display these too to the populace, but because no person is permitted to enter there entirely naked, but must have at least a girdle about the groins. Clothed in this manner, she sprawled out and lay on her back on the ground. And some slaves, whose duty this was, sprinkled grains of barley over her private parts, and geese, which happened to have been provided for this very purpose, picked them off with their beaks, one by one, and ate them. And when she got up, she not only did not blush, but even acted as if she took pride in this strange performance. For she was not merely shameless herself, but also a contriver of shameless deeds above all others. And it was a common thing for her to undress and stand in the midst of the actors on the stage, now straining her body backwards and now trying to penetrate the hinder parts both of those who had consorted with her and those who had not yet done so, running through with pride the exercises of the only wrestling school to which she was accustomed. And she treated her own body with such utter wantonness that she seemed to have her privates not where Nature had placed them in other women, but in her face! Now those who had intimacy with her immediately made it clear by that very fact that they were not having intercourse according to the laws of Nature; and all the more respectable people who chanced upon her in the market-place would turn aside and retreat in haste, lest they should touch any of the woman's garments and so seem to have partaken of this pollution. For she was, to those who saw her, particularly early in the day, a bird of foul omen. On the other hand, she was accustomed to storm most savagely at all times against the women who were her fellow-performers; for she was a very envious and spiteful creature.

Later she was following in the train of Hecebolus, a Tyrian, who had taken over the administration of Pentapolis, serving him in the most shameful capacity; but she gave some offence to the man and was driven thence with all speed; consequently it came about that she was at a loss for the necessities of life, which she proceeded to provide in her usual way, putting her body to work at its unlawful traffic. She first went to Alexandria; later, after making the round of the whole East, she made her way back to Byzantium, plying her trade in each city (a trade which a man could not call by name, I think, without forfeiting forever the compassion of God), as if Heaven could not bear that any spot should be unacquainted with the wantonness of Theodora.

Thus was this woman born and reared and thus had she become infamous in the eyes both of many common women and of all mankind. But when she came back to Byzantium once more, Justinian conceived for her an overpowering love; and at first he knew her as a mistress, though he did advance her to the rank of the Patricians. Theodora accordingly succeeded at once in acquiring extraordinary influence and a fairly large fortune. For she seemed to the man the sweetest thing in the world, as is wont to happen with lovers who love extravagantly, and he was fain to bestow upon his beloved all favours and all money. And the State became fuel for this love. So with her help he ruined the people even more than before, and not in Byzantium alone, but throughout the whole Roman Empire. For both being members of the Blue Faction from of old, they gave the members of this Faction great freedom regarding the affairs of State. But long afterwards this evil abated for the most part, and in the following manner.

Justinian happened to be ill for many days, and during this illness he came into such danger that it was even reputed that he had died. Meanwhile the Factionists were still carrying on those excesses which have been described, and in broad daylight, in the sanctuary of Sophia, they slew a certain Hypatius, a man of no mean station. Now after the crime had been committed, the tumult occasioned by the act reached the Emperor, and his courtiers, taking advantage of the absence of Justinian from the scene, all took pains to magnify to him the outrageous character of what had taken place, recounting from the beginning everything which had happened. Then at length the Emperor commanded the Prefect of the City to inflict the penalties for all that had been done. Now this Perfect was named Theodotus, the one to whom they gave the nickname "Pumpkin." And he, making a full investigation of the affair, did succeed in apprehending and executing by due process of law many of the malefactors, though many hid themselves and thus saved their lives. For it was destined that before long they themselves should rise to the control of the affairs of the Romans. As for the Emperor, he suddenly and unexpectedly recovered and thereupon immediately set about putting Theodotus to death as a poisoner and a magician. But since he could find no pretext whatever which he might use to destroy the man, he tortured some of his associates most cruelly and compelled them to utter against the man statements which were utterly untrue. And as all stood aloof from him and in silence grieved over the plot against Theodotus, Proclus alone, who held the office of Quaestor, as its incumbent was called, declared that the man was innocent of the charge and in no way worthy of death. So, by decision of the Emperor, Theodotus was conveyed to Jerusalem. But learning that certain men had come there in order to destroy him, he concealed himself the whole time in the sanctuary and continued so to live up to the time of his death.

Such was the story of Theodotus. But the Factionists, from then on, became the most discreet persons in the world. For they could no longer bring themselves to commit the same outrages as before, although the way was open for them to practice their lawlessness in their way of living more fearlessly than ever. And the evidence is this, that when some few of them at a later time displayed a similar boldness, no punishment was meted out to them. For those who from time to time had the authority to punish provided to those who were guilty of outrageous actions easy opportunity for concealment, thus spurring them on by this concession to trample down the laws.

Now as long as the Empress was still living, Justinian was quite unable to make Theodora his wedded wife. For in this point alone the Empress went against him, though opposing him in no other matter. For the woman chanced to be far removed from wickedness, but she was very rustic and a barbarian by birth, as I have pointed out. And she was quite unable to take part in government, but continued to be wholly unacquainted with affairs of State, indeed, she did not enter the Palace under her own name, thinking it to be ridiculous, but bearing the assumed name of Euphemia. But at a later time it came about that the Empress died. And the Emperor, having become foolish as well as extremely old, incurred the ridicule of his subjects, and since all were filled with utter contempt for him as not comprehending what was going on, they disregarded him; but Justinian they cultivated with great fear. For by a policy of stirring things up and throwing them into confusion, he kept everything in a turmoil. Then at length he set about arranging a betrothal with Theodora. But since it was impossible for a man who had attained to senatorial rank to contract marriage with a courtesan, a thing forbidden from the beginning by the most ancient laws, he compelled the Emperor to amend the laws by a new law, and from then on he lived with Theodora as his married wife, and he thereby opened the way to betrothal with courtesans for all other men; and as a tyrant he straightway assumed the imperial office, concealing by a fictitious pretext the violence of the act. For he was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman conjointly with his uncle by all men of high station, who were led to vote thus by an overwhelming fear. So Justinian and Theodora took over the Roman Empire three days before the feast of Easter, a time when it is not permitted either to greet any of one's friends or to speak him peace. And not many days later Justinus died a natural death, having lived nine years in office, and Justinian alone took over the throne with Theodora.

Chapter X[edit]

So Theodora, born and nurtured and educated in the manner I have described, came to the dignity of Empress without having been impeded by any obstacle. For not even a thought that he was doing an outrageous thing entered the mind of the man who married her, though he might have taken his choice of the whole Roman Empire and have married that woman who, of all the women in the world, was in the highest degree both well-born and blessed with a nurture sheltered from the public eye, a woman who had not been unpractised in modesty, and had dwelt with chastity, who was not only surpassingly beautiful but also still a maiden and, as the expression runs, erect of breast; but he did not disdain to make the common abomination of all the world his own, not dismayed by any of the misdeeds which we have previously recounted, and to lie with a woman who had not only encompassed herself round about with every other rank defilement but had also practised infanticide time and again by voluntary abortions. And I think that I need make mention of nothing else whatever in regard to the character of this man. For this marriage would be amply sufficient to shew full well all the maladies of his soul, since it serves as both an interpreter and a witness and recorder of his character. Since that man who pays no heed to the disgrace from deeds previously committed and does not shrink from revealing himself to his associates as a loathsome character — for such a man no path of lawlessness is untrodden, but fortified by the effrontery that is never absent from his brow, he advances readily and with no effort to the vilest of actions. Nor, in truth, did a single member of the Senate, when he saw the State putting on the crown of this disgrace, see fit to shew his disapprobation by forbidding the deed, though the Senators were all to do obeisance to the woman as though she were a god. Nay, not even a single priest shewed himself outraged, and that too, though they were going to address her thereafter as "Mistress." And the populace which previously had been spectators of her performances straightway demanded with upturned palms, in defiance of all decorum, that they might be in fact and in name her slaves. Nor did a single soldier rise in wrath at the thought that he was destined to undergo the perils of campaigning all in behalf of the interests of Theodora, nor did any other human being oppose her at all,— because, I suppose, they had been made submissive by the thought that these matters were so ordained for them, — but allº allowed this outrage to be brought to fulfilment, as if Fortune had made an exhibition of her power, to whom in truth, as she presides over all the affairs of mankind, it is a matter of no concern whatever either that the things which are done shall be reasonable or that they shall seem to men to have happened in accordance with reason. At any rate she suddenly exalts one man to a great eminence by a sort of unreasoning exercise of her authority, though many obstacles seem to have grappled with him, and she opposes him in nothing whatever that he undertakes, nay, the man is carried along by any and every means to whatever post she has ordained for him, while all men without demur stand aside or retire before Fortune as she advances. But as to these matters, let them not only be as is pleasing to God but also be so set forth.

Now Theodora was fair of face and in general attractive in appearance, but short of stature and lacking in colour, being, however, not altogether pale but rather sallow, and her glance was always intense and made with contracted brows. Now all time would not suffice for one to tell the most of her experiences in her life in the theatre, but by selecting in the preceding account a few incidents only I may have done enough to give a fair picture of the woman's character for the benefit of future generations.

But at the present time we must briefly make known her acts and those of her husband, for they did nothing whatever separately in the course of their life together. For a long time, it is true, they were supposed by all to be diametrically opposed to each other at all times in both their opinions and their ways of living, but later it was realized that this impression was purposely worked up by them in order that their subjects might not, by getting together in their views, rise in revolt against them, but that the opinions of all their subjects might be at variance regarding themselves.

Now first of all they set the Christians at variance with one another, and by pretending to go opposite ways from each other in rending them all asunder, as will shortly be related by me. In the second place they kept the Factions divided. And Theodora, on the one hand, would pretend with all her might to be espousing the cause of the Blues, and by extending to them full freedom of action against their opponents, she gave them licence, in a quite irregular way, to commit their crimes and perform their pernicious deeds of violence. But Justinian, on the other hand, had the appearance of one who was vexed and secretly resentful, yet unable to oppose his wife directly, and many times the two even shifted the appearance of authority and pursued the opposite course with reference to one another. For while he would insist on punishing the Blues as offenders, she, with feigned anger, would make a scene because, as she would say, she had been overruled by her husband against her will.

But the partisans of the Blues seemed, as I have said, to be most temperate. For they did not think it right to coërce one's neighbours to the utmost possible, and in the keen rivalries in connection with the lawsuits, while each side seemed to support one of the disputants, yet it was inevitable that the victory should fall to that one of the two who espoused the unjust cause, and that thus they should win for themselves as plunder most of the property of the disputants. In fact many men who were counted by this Emperor among his intimates were elevated by him to positions where they had authority to act arbitrarily and to wrong the Government as they wished, but when they were seen to be in possession of a large sum of money, straightway they were found to have given some offence to the woman and to be at variance with her. At first, then, he did not hesitate to champion these men whole-heartedly, but later on, forgetting his good-will towards the poor fellows, he all of a sudden began to waver in his enthusiasm. And she would then straightway ruin them utterly, while he, pretending not to observe what was passing, would seize their whole property, acquired though it was by a shameless procedure. Now in all this trickery they always were in full accord with each other, but openly they pretended to be at variance and thus succeeded in dividing their subjects and in fortifying their tyranny most firmly.