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Hey there, fearless trailblazer! If you've found yourself captivated by the incredible story of Empress Theodora, then you're in the right place. At Antonia Guise, we're all about celebrating the bold, inspiring women who have paved the way for us to shine. As a jewellery brand with a twist, we don't just create stunning pieces - we craft wearable tributes to the unsung heroines of history.

Theodora’s, the inspiration behind our Theodora Necklace, story is one of rags to riches. She came from a background that was considered extremely low class; her mother was a dancer and her father was a bear trainer. Her father died when she was four leaving her mother and her sisters to support themselves.

Whilst working as a dancer she was spotted be a Syrian official who took a liking to her and took her with him when he left Constantinople for North Africa. Theodora stayed in Africa with him for four years. Eventually she left and made her way back to Constantinople to become a wool spinner.

It’s not recorded how they met but Justinian was attracted to her by her intelligence and beauty. Her background as a dancer and mistress meant that in order to marry her Justinian had to force through legislation legalising unions between actresses and men of senatorial rank and higher.

Once crowned Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire Theodora quickly became Justinian’s most trusted adviser. Although she was never coregent her superior intelligence and political acumen led to Justinian describing her his "partner in my deliberations.". Many people believed that she was the true decision maker about what went on in the Empire. She had her own official court entourage, and her own imperial seal.

During their rule Justinian and Theodora rebuilt and reformed Constantinople. Together they built the stunning Hagia Sophia. Theodora herself was instrumental in expanding women’s rights in divorce and ownership of property. She was a champion for women’s causes passing laws prohibiting the trafficking of young girls, closed badly run brothels and set up safe houses for sex workers.

She died before Justinian. Her importance in the political day to day is shown by the fact that after her death very little significant legislation was passed. She was probably the most powerful and influential woman in Byzantine history.

Antonia Guise was founded by Antonia, a passionate historian and designer with a background in costume design, in 2018. Our mission is to empower modern women like you to embrace your own unique story and style. Each of our pieces is inspired by a trailblazing woman whose tale deserves to be told, from Eve to Mary Somerville.

Discover our Theodora Gold Necklace, inspired by the daring exploits of this amazing, forgotten Empress. 

Suggested reading:

Abusing Theodora: Sexual and Political discourse in Procopious, by Harmut G. Ziche

A Secret History, Procopious

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, by Stella Duffy