Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, L'Impératrice Théodora, 1887
Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, L’impératrice Théodora (1887)

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Οὕτω δὲ ἀκολάστως ἐς τὸ σῶμα τὸ αὑτῆς ὕβριζεν, ὥστε τὴν αἰδῶ οὐκ ἐν τῇ τῆς φύσεως χώρᾳ, κατὰ ταὐτὰ ταῖς ἄλλαις γυναιξὶν, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῷ προσώπῳ ἔχειν ἐδόκει. οἱ μὲν οὖν αὐτῇ πλησιάζοντες, ἔνδηλοι εὐθὺς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἦσαν, ὅτι δὴ οὐ κατὰ νόμον τῆς φύσεως τὰς μίξεις ποιοῦνται· ὅσοι δὲ αὐτῇ ἐν ἀγορᾷ τῶν ἐπιεικεστέρων ἐντύχοιεν, ἀποκλινόμενοι σπουδῇ ὑπεχώρουν, μή του τῶν ἱματίων τῆς ἀνθρώπου ἁψάμενοι, μεταλαχεῖν τοῦ μιάσματος τούτου δόξειαν. ἦν γὰρ τοῖς ὁρῶσιν ἄλλως τε καὶ ἀρχομένης ἡμέρας βλάσφημος οἰωνός. ἐς μέντοι τὰς συνθεατρίας ἀγριώτατα εἰώθει ἐς ἀεὶ σκορπιαίνεσθαι· βασκανίᾳ γὰρ πολλῇ εἴχετο. Ἑκηβόλῳ δὲ ὕστερον, Τυρίῳ ἀνδρὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν παραλαβόντι Πενταπόλεως, ἐς τὰ αἴσχιστα ὑπηρετήσουσα εἵπετο, ἀλλά τι τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ προσκεκρουκυῖα, ἐνθένδε ὅτι τάχιστα ἀπηλαύνετο· διὸ δὴ αὐτῇ ἀπορεῖσθαι τῶν ἀναγκαίων ξυνέπεσεν, ἅπερ τὸ λοιπὸν ἐπορίζετο, τὴν ἐς τὸ σῶμα παρανομίαν, ᾗπερ εἴθιστο, ἐργαζομένη. ἐς μὲν οὖν Ἀλεξάνδρειαν τὰ πρῶτα ἧκεν. ἔπειτα δὲ πᾶσαν τὴν ἕω περιελθοῦσα, ἐς Βυζάντιον ἐπανῆκεν, ἐργασίᾳ χρωμένη ἐν πόλει ἑκάστῃ· ἥν γε ὀνομάζοντι, οἶμαι, ἀνθρώπῳ, οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἵλεως ὁ θεὸς εἴη, ὥσπερ οὐκ ἀνεχομένου τοῦ δαίμονος χῶρόν τινα τῆς Θεοδώρας ἀκολασίας ἀγνῶτα εἶναι.
(Procopius, Anecdota 9.24-28)

Thus did she abuse her own body licentiously, making it seem that she had genitals not in the place where nature ordained for all other women, but in her face! All who were intimate with her were instantly known, by that very fact, to be men who did not have sex according to the laws of nature, while any decent men who came across her in the marketplace would turn back and beat a hasty retreat, lest they should touch a corner of that person’s clothes and feel that they had been tainted by the pollution. Those who saw her, especially early in the morning, regarded her as an ill omen. Yet she was in the habit of constantly lashing out viciously, like a scorpion, against her fellow actresses, for she was mad with envy. When Hekebolos, a man from Tyre, was later appointed to govern the Pentapolis, she followed in order to serve him in the most shameful things. But she offended the man in some way and was thrown out forthwith. And so it came to pass that she was destitute, lacking even necessities which she obtained from then on in her usual manner, by prostituting her body. First she went to Alexandria and then, after touring the entire East, she returned to Byzantion, plying her trade in each city on the way—God would show no mercy upon the man who specified the name of that trade. It was as though some evil force had decreed that no place should be unacquainted with Theodora’s lechery. (tr. Anthony Kaldellis)

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