On August 1, 527, the a new Emperor and Empress came to power in the Byzantine Empire – Justinian I and Theodora. The pair would become known for their numerous achievements despite reigning during a tumultuous period of Byzantine history. During Justinian’s time on the throne, he oversaw the building of the great Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the codification of laws in the Corpus Juris Civilis – that would serve as a basis for many law codes throughout subsequent history. All of this may not sound very strange, but where our new imperial couple came from certainly is.
Justinian was born somewhere in the Western frontiers of the Byzantine Empire (records are unclear) to poor peasant parents. He made a name for himself as a solider and was able to come to power through the patronage of his predecessor, Justin, whom Justinian had served under in the military. As Justin’s right-hand man, Justinian met Theodora, a mainstay of Constantinople’s high society – bur for all the wrong reasons. She was a courtesan and, though her services were widely desired, was looked down upon by “polite society.” Justinian was immediately smitten with the lovely Theodora who, despite accusations of gold-digging, was likely equally attracted to the future emperor. Contradictory to the long odds, on August 1, 527, a peasant and his courtesan wife ruled the greatest power in the Western World and would go on to be among the greatest rulers of its long history.
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