Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

David Potter is Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. His books include Constantine the Emperor, The Victor's Crown, Emperors of Rome, and Ancient Rome: A New History.


"Displaying an extraordinary mastery of the ancient sources, [Potter] sifts out the real woman hidden behind the image of the ruthless and ambitious prostitute created by hostile contemporaries... Well written, this is not only a ground breaking biography of Theodora, but an excellent history of the Empire in the sixth century." --NYMAS Review

"[Empress Theodora's] greatest moment was when she stiffened the resolve of the weak Justinian, persuading him not to flee in the face of dangerous rioting in the capital. Admittedly, this limited set of details forms the basis of a fascinating story, even if a biographer has to pad it out with speculation. But Potter's learned yet highly readable book diverges from the familiar formula. Theodora is revealed as a skillful operator who knew how to build useful alliances and work through them. Procopius's hostile version cannot be the whole story. To be an empress in Byzantium was to understand where power really lay, and some, like Theodora, exploited power to the full." --Averil Cameron, Common Knowledge

"David Potter is to be warmly congratulated on having written a book that offers a gripping portrait of a remarkable woman that is also the portrait of a remarkable age." --New York Review of Books

"A notable biography of an overlooked figure." --Publishers Weekly

"The most recent installment in Oxford University Press's Women in Antiquity is everything that one would hope for in a book designed to offer 'an accessible introduction to the life and historical times of women from the ancient world.'" --America Magazine

"The book is carefully and clearly written, engaging, and well-founded on the astonishingly prolific scholarship of the past two decades." --Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Potter triumphantly extracts a convincing human being from Procopius' whore and the saint of the Syrian Orthodox tradition. Deep knowledge of context--from theatre to theology--combines with intense engagement with the sources to generate a superlative account of the life and times of Byzantium's most iconic empress." --Peter Heather, author of The Restoration of Rome and Empires and Barbarians

"The offer to review a book on Empress Theodora did not set my heart racing. What new insights might be provided about Theodora's polarized reputation, and how could
the considerable gaps in our knowledge of her life and actions be filled? The prospect, however, of seeing how one of our most perceptive and knowledgeable analysts of earlier imperial centuries would handle the topic persuaded me to take a look at Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint. I am glad I did...fresh eyes, impressive command of the bibliography, and easy familiarity with imperial and literary precedent all contribute to a book that is well worth anyone interested in the mechanics of the later Roman Empire...This is a very impressive volume, indeed a triumph. It avoids the inevitable limitations of the biography of any ancient character, eschews the sensationalism that threatens a study of Theodora, and keeps Justinian firmly in the supporting cast." --Michael Whitby, American Historical Review

"The interest of Theodora lies not only in Potter's evidence, but also in his skillful historical method in dealing equitably with a daunting subject."--Christian Century

"This gripping portrait of the empress Theodora captures the beauty, brilliance, and piety of one of history's most compelling figures. The empress and her capital come alive as Potter retraces the path that brought Theodora from obscurity to the center of imperial power and her role in shaping Byzantium's most celebrated age." --Edward Watts, University of California, San Diego

"This book is much more than a straightforward biography or an apology for an empress who has been slandered as over-sexed or over-ambitious. Writing with palpable delight and a deep knowledge of the period, Potter weaves Theodora into networks of athletes and entertainers, generals and aristocrats, bishops and monks, showing her as level-headed, driven by self-interest, and fiercely loyal to her close circle of supporters. In the process, he offers new perspectives on the larger historical framework of the Later Roman Empire during a time of challenges and transformations, spiked with colorful insights into the daily life of women." --Claudia Rapp, University of Vienna

"A comprehensive and well-informed presentation of the Empress in her historical, political, social and cultural context, readable and extremely enjoyable to a much broader public than the community of classicists." --Classical Journal Online