Ēphanistai

theodora_mosaic_-_basilica_san_vitale_ravenna

Ἐτύγχανε δὲ ὑπό του κυήσασα τῶν ἐραστῶν, ἡνίκα ἔτι ἐπὶ σκηνῆς ἦν, τοῦ δὲ κακοῦ ὀψὲ τοῦ καιροῦ αἰσθομένη πάντα μὲν ἐς τὸ ἀμβλύσκειν, ὥσπερ εἰώθει, ἐποίει, ἄωρον δὲ ἀποκτιννύναι τὸ βρέφος οὐδεμιᾷ μηχανῇ εἶχεν, ἐπεὶ οὐ πολλῷ ἀπελέλειπτο τοῦ ἀνθρωποειδὲς γένος γεγονέναι.  διὸ δὴ ἐπεὶ οὐδὲν προὐχώρει, τῆς πείρας ἀφεμένη τίκτειν ἠνάγκαστο. ὁρῶν δὲ αὐτὴν ὁ τοῦ τεχθέντος πατὴρ ἀπορουμένην τε καὶ ἀσχάλλουσαν, ὅτι μήτηρ γενομένη τῷ σώματι ὁμοίως ἐργάζεσθαι οὐκέτι ἂν δυνατὴ εἴη, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἀληθῶς δὴ ὑπῄσθετο ὡς διαχρήσεται τὸ παιδίον, ἀνείλετό τε καὶ Ἰωάννην ἐπονομάσας, ἐπεὶ ἄρσεν ἦν, ἐς τὴν Ἀραβίαν ἐς ἥνπερ ὥρμητο ἀπιὼν ᾤχετο. ἐπεὶ δὲ αὐτὸς μὲν τελευτᾶν ἔμελλεν, Ἰωάννης δὲ ἤδη μειράκιον ἦν, τὸν πάντα λόγον αὐτῷ ἀμφὶ τῇ μητρὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἔφρασε. καὶ ὃς ἅπαντα ἐπὶ τῷ πατρὶ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀφανισθέντι τὰ νόμιμα ποιήσας, χρόνῳ τινὶ ὕστερον ἐς Βυζάντιον ἦλθε καὶ τοῖς παρὰ τὴν μητέρα τὰς εἰσόδους ἀεὶ ποιουμένοις τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀγγέλλει. οἱ δὲ οὐδὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρωπείου τρόπου αὐτὴν λογιεῖσθαι ὑποτοπήσαντες ἐπαγγέλλουσι τῇ μητρὶ ὅτι δὴ αὐτῆς Ἰωάννης ὁ υἱὸς ἥκοι. δείσασα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ μὴ ἐς τὸν ἄνδρα ἔκπυστος ὁ λόγος γένηται, τὸν παῖδά οἱ ἐς ὄψιν ἐκέλευεν ἥκειν. ἐπεί τε εἶδε παραγενόμενον, τῶν οἰκείων τινὶ ἐνεχείρισεν, ᾧπερ ἀεὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐπέχειν εἰώθει. καὶ τρόπῳ μὲν ὅτῳ ὁ ταλαίπωρος ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἠφάνισται οὐκ ἔχω εἰπεῖν, οὐδεὶς δὲ αὐτὸν ἄχρι δεῦρο ἰδεῖν οὐδὲ ἀπογενομένης τῆς βασιλίδος ἔσχε.
(Procopius, Anecdota 17.16-23)

She* had accidentally become pregnant by one of her lovers, when she was still on the stage; and perceiving her ill luck too late tried all the usual measures to cause a miscarriage, but despite every artifice was unable to prevail against nature at this advanced stage of development. Finding that nothing else could be done, she abandoned the attempt and was compelled to give birth to the child. The father of the baby, seeing that Theodora was at her wit’s end and vexed because motherhood interfered with her usual recreations, and suspecting with good reason that she would do away with the child, took the infant from her, naming him John, and sailed with the baby to Arabia. Later, when he was on the verge of death and John was a lad of fourteen, the father told him the whole story about his mother. So the boy, after he had performed the last rites for his departed father, shortly after came to Constantinople and announced his presence to the Empress’s chamberlains. And they, not conceiving the possibility of her acting so inhumanly, reported to the mother that her son John had come. Fearing the story would get to the ears of her husband, Theodora bade her son be brought face to face with her. As soon as he entered, she handed him over to one of her servants who was ordinarily entrusted with such commissions. And in what manner the poor lad was removed from the world, I cannot say, for no one has ever seen him since, not even after the Queen died.

* Empress Theodora

(tr. Richard Atwater)

1 thought on “Ēphanistai”

  1. The accompanying illustration is a detail from the famous mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, a beautiful piece of work, which is more than can be said about the lady in question.

    Like

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