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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Justiniano et Theodorae conjugi ejus


[Footnote

27: Anonym. de Antiquitat. C. P. l. iii. 132, in Banduri Imperium Orient. tom. i. p. 48. Ludewig (p. 154) argues sensibly that Theodora would not have immortalized a brothel: but I apply this fact to her second and chaster residence at Constantinople.]

[Footnote 28: See the old law in Justinian's Code, (l. v. tit. v. leg. 7, tit. xxvii. leg. 1,) under the years 336 and 454. The new edict (about the year 521 or 522, Aleman. p. 38, 96) very awkwardly repeals no more than the clause of mulieres scenicoe, libertinae, tabernariae. See the novels 89 and 117, and a Greek rescript from Justinian to the bishops, (Aleman. p. 41.)]

[Footnote 29: I swear by the Father, &c., by the Virgin Mary, by the four Gospels, quae in manibus teneo, and by the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, puram conscientiam germanumque servitium me servaturum, sacratissimis DDNN. Justiniano et Theodorae conjugi ejus, (Novell. viii. tit. 3.) Would the oath have been binding in favor of the widow? Communes tituli et triumphi, &c., (Aleman. p. 47, 48.)]

[Footnote 30: "Let greatness own her, and she's mean no more," &c. Without Warburton's critical telescope, I should never have seen, in this general picture of triumphant vice, any personal allusion to Theodora.]

Chapter XL: Reign Of Justinian.--Part II.

Those

who believe that the female mind is totally depraved by the loss of chastity, will eagerly listen to all the invectives of private envy, or popular resentment which have dissembled the virtues of Theodora, exaggerated her vices, and condemned with rigor the venal or voluntary sins of the youthful harlot. From a motive of shame, or contempt, she often declined the servile homage of the multitude, escaped from the odious light of the capital, and passed the greatest part of the year in the palaces and gardens which were pleasantly seated on the sea-coast of the Propontis and the Bosphorus. Her private hours were devoted to the prudent as well as grateful care of her beauty, the luxury of the bath and table, and the long slumber of the evening and the morning. Her secret apartments were occupied by the favorite women and eunuchs, whose interests and passions she indulged at the expense of justice; the most illustrious person ages of the state were crowded into a dark and sultry antechamber, and when at last, after tedious attendance, they were admitted to kiss the feet of Theodora, they experienced, as her humor might suggest, the silent arrogance of an empress, or the capricious levity of a comedian. Her rapacious avarice to accumulate an immense treasure, may be excused by the apprehension of her husband's death, which could leave no alternative between ruin and the throne; and fear as well as ambition might exasperate Theodora against two generals, who, during the malady of the emperor, had rashly declared that they were not disposed to acquiesce in the choice of the capital. But the reproach of cruelty, so repugnant even to her softer vices, has left an indelible stain on the memory of Theodora. Her numerous spies observed, and zealously reported, every action, or word, or look, injurious to their royal mistress. Whomsoever they accused were cast into her peculiar prisons, [31] inaccessible to the inquiries of justice; and it was rumored, that the torture of the rack, or scourge, had been inflicted in the presence of the female tyrant, insensible to the voice of prayer or of pity. [32] Some of these unhappy victims perished in deep, unwholesome dungeons, while others were permitted, after the loss of their limbs, their reason, or their fortunes, to appear in the world, the living monuments of her vengeance, which was commonly extended to the children of those whom she had suspected or injured. The senator or bishop, whose death or exile Theodora had pronounced, was delivered to a trusty messenger, and his diligence was quickened by a menace from her own mouth. "If you fail in the execution of my commands, I swear by Him who liveth forever, that your skin shall be flayed from your body." [33]


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