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Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety---while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the l Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety---while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world's most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history. ...

Title : Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143119876
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 339 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore Reviews

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2018-11-06 06:53

    Interesting enough premise but awkward writing -- a bit stuffy and bloated. While I was reading, I was engaged enough but every time I put it down, I couldn't find the motivation to pick it back up. Might give it a try again, someday.

  • Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)
    2018-10-25 09:37

    4.5 starsI'm trying to think of a way to describe this book, and "immensely satisfying" is the only descriptor that's coming to mind. That seems so weak, though! "Satisfying" implies just-okayness, but Theodora was anything but "just okay."I think what feels so satisfying about this novel is the realization that fine craftsmanship is still alive and well within historical fiction. Since the success of The Other Boleyn Girl, the general tone of HF has taken a bit of a nose-dive as more and more authors (and publishers) strive to replicate that same success. Rather than telling a story that feels true and real, it seems to me that so many have just attempted to put the features of TOBG into whatever historical setting they happen to have on their plate. The result has been near-consistent disappointment with almost every historical novel I've read for YEARS...at least from larger publishers, who seem to be caught up in this frantic race to find the next TOBG rather than trying to find the next good historical novel. (Of course, this isn't the case for all books I've read since TOBG. It's just hard to recall that sometimes, when the market is so flooded with so many copies of the same-old, same-old.)So I am very much satisfied, and gratified, and very happy to know that at least Stella Duffy is out there putting her all into her OWN really good historical novel. And this one is really good, and it really feels like it's hers.It was such an enjoyment for me that I actually don't know where to start in talking about it. One of the things I just loved, loved, loved was the uniqueness of the "lower class" characters' voices. The actresses, whores, animal trainers, and teacher-eunuchs were remarkably real-feeling, and this was achieved with the PERFECT balance of modern-day four-letter-words and turns of phrases, worked very sparingly and deliberately against carefully constructed "sets" of detail and character motivations, voices, and dialogue that felt otherwise entirely a part of 500 C.E. Constantinople. As I write HF myself, I know what a really remarkable feat this is, to make not only individual characters but even entire strata of society feel so vibrant and true. Duffy's great care and forethought in the construction of her world -- not only the place and time but also the society -- was evident, and something a fellow writer appreciates and applauds.The plot itself was perfectly paced. It opens superbly, right in the midst of young Theodora's already rich personality, and the main character's motives and actions feel authentic and logical, given the person she is. For those who know the real history ("real" history in air-quotes, as who knows what Procopius's problem was), all the best moments of the true Theodora tales are there, brought to vivid, breathtaking life for the reader. Some moments were heartbreaking; some were laugh-out-loud funny (I cracked up on the treadmill at the gym over Theodora giving her performance of Leda and the Swan..."Zeus! O God!" hahahah.) Many moments surprised, even for somebody who has a fairly good familiarity with the historical accounts of Theodora and Justinian.Speaking of which, where gaps existed in the historical accounts, Duffy did a spectacular job of bridging those gaps with plausible scenes, richly detailed and well executed, which linked the known bits of history with stronger and stronger chains as Duffy's skill with character and atmosphere took over.It was a truly fantastic book, beautiful and rich with superb character work and unforgettable voice. My only regret in reading it is that I was planning my own take on the Theodora story, to be written a couple of years in the future, and I had been tinkering with the idea of using a certain totally-fictional plot device that Duffy already beat me to. Nuts -- I'll have to come up with something else. I can't begrudge such a good author the "theft" of my idea (years before I thought of it, of course!) because her book was such a pleasure to read.This book was SO CLOSE to being a 5 for me (pretty rare in my historical fiction reads, as I am just as hard-nosed about setting and accuracy as any other big-time HF fan) and I would have joyfully given it five, but for the occasional turn of phrase that pushed the anachronism envelope just a bit too far and plucked me out of the story. But I was only out for a heartbeat, and then I was right back in again. This one was first published in 2010, if I remember correctly, right at the beginning of the tidal wave of bizarre linguistic discrepancies that has washed over and swamped recent historical fiction. What is UP with publishers doing this to HF? I can only assume it's publishers calling for a "beachier" voice (again, the influence of TOBG), because it's very difficult to imagine that Stella Duffy's otherwise gorgeous prose and careful attention to maintaining proper historical detail and atmosphere would allow for the infiltration of such modern language on its own, without the influence of a publisher who's panicking over an ever-diminishing share of the market. (How do you get more readers? Appeal to a wider audience, goes the common thinking, and I guess a wider audience isn't capable of handling real-feeling historical dialogue without the occasional "okay" thrown in...? Oh, publishers. SMH.) Anyway, the rare breach of modern voice wasn't really that bad. It certainly wasn't the most confusingly modernized HF I've read. (It wasn't even the most modernized fiction about Theodora I've read.)I noted on Stella Duffy's GR author page that HBO has optioned her Theodora novels to potentially produce as a mini-series. YAY! I hope they do, as I've loved HBO's handling of A Song of Ice and Fire (also a series for which I am way too fannish and super-nitpicky). It would be a real pleasure to see the same team (or a similar one) bring this book to life on film.I am downloading the sequel, The Purple Shroud, at this moment and will gleefully carry it off to the gym as soon as I click Save on this review, so I can continue experiencing Duffy's fantastic, artfully portrayed, near-perfect depiction of Constantinople and its amazing Augusta.Buy it and read it!

  • Aimee
    2018-10-19 05:36

    This is the story of Theodora and her rise from dancer/prostitute to Empress of Rome. The book starts with Theodora working on stage at the Hippodrome and being trained by Menander, a man she feared and loved. After becoming famous she falls in love with Hecebolus and moves to Africa with him. When Hecebolus casts her off for another she flees Africa and finds her way to Alexandria where she finds her faith, looks for forgiveness for her sins, and puts her fate in the hands of Timothy who she respects. Timothy helps her to find her way to Justinian who is preparing to become the next Emporer of Rome.I really enjoyed this book. Theodora is a fascinating character to read about, there are so many different facets to her personality. At times she is selfish, cruel, and obstinate but she also shows she can be loving and compassionate when she wants to be. I liked her from the beginning of the book and I was hoping things would turn out well for her. The story moved at a fast pace, there were no slow sections for me in the book at all. The other characters in the book were also very entertaining, I really liked Justinian and Theodora's mentor Menander. There are lots of great descriptions of Constantinople and a fascinating look at the tensions between different religious groups at the time. It was a very volatile time and the rulers were constantly trying to keep the peace with little success. Being that a large part of the book is about Theodora being on the stage as an actress and being a prostitute their are some difficult scenes in the book that some readers might be uncomfortable with. A lot of bad language is also used throughout the book that might be offensive. I think that if that does not bother you and you like a good historical fiction book about ancient times, you will find this book to be well worth the read.

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    2018-11-12 11:04

    I loved the sound of this book from the moment I heard about it, and was thrilled to find it in paperback when I was in Sydney earlier in the year. With such enthusiasm, of course I had to read it right away, but I don't think it was due to high expectations that I finished it feeling largely untouched.Theodora is the fictionalised account of an historical figure, Theodora, who grew up a child actress (and therefore prostitute) in Constantinople in the sixth century, a period commonly known as Byzantine Rome or the Byzantine Empire, a continuation of the Roman Empire founded in Constantinople (Istanbul, the capital of modern-day Turkey) by the Emperor Constantine, he who is famous for converting to Christianity and giving that previously heathen religion legitimacy. Theodora, in Stella Duffy's story, is a talented actress, not classically beautiful but sensual and with an ambitious heart. After she and her two sisters, Comito and Anastasia, are sold to the theatre at a young age following the death of their bear-taming father, she is trained in the arts of singing, dancing, acrobatics and other performing arts, and at twelve is sold to a man for the first time: an inescapable fate for these actresses, who because they are whores are not allowed to marry.At seventeen, Theodora meets Hecebolus, a young, handsome and ambitious man assigned the post of Governor of the Pentapolis, five cities at the northern tip of Africa, west of Alexandria. Invited to go with him as consort (never wife), Theodora doesn't need much persuading, despite the advice of her friends in the theatre. She's determined to find someone high up in the church who can absolve her of her past and allow her to marry high up, and for that she needs to be in a high position herself. She takes with her a friend and minor actress as lady's maid and companion, Chrysomallo, who had little stage presence but a beautiful singing voice - and beauty to match. It's only a matter of time before Hecebolus and Chrys become lovers, forcing Theodora to strike out on her own into the desert.Theodora does in fact realise her ambition and becomes a legitimate empress, as the title leads us to expect, but that's where the story ends. It tells the story of how Theodora came to that place, which is interesting, but nothing of what comes after (note: while looking for other reviews to link to below, I learnt that Duffy is planning a second book that continues Theodora's story). That was one disappointment, and perhaps the expectation came from the biography feel to the novel: you expect to get a person's life story; you can't help it.And that's the other thing that I didn't care for: I'm not a reader of biographies, I find them hard to get into and they just can't engage my imagination or my sympathies very well, and while this book was fiction, like many novels that deal with people who were once alive and breathing, it suffers from a kind of biographical noose. Clearly authors take artistic licence with their subject matter, they have to and there's nothing wrong with that. But the way they tell the story, the structure and style of the narrative, has a distinctly biographical flavour to it. It could be the omniscient narrator that creates that particular distance, or maybe the habit of "telling" rather than "showing" that's prevalent in such stories. I've randomly picked a passage as an example:Things were much harder for Anastasia. As Theodora said, their little sister was simply too sweet. Two sweet to work half a dozen men a week and take their money willingly, using it to further herself, to lift herself out of the brothel that was her backstage life and into a nice little apartment with a sea view and just one or two regular suitors. Instead she'd fallen in love with a pallid Lycian boy from the stables, keeping them both poor by turning down offers so often that in the end the offers ceased to come and she and the stable boy lived on what little they could earn from legitimate work. (p.58)There's nothing wrong with the writing, the grammar or structure or pacing; I just don't care for the style. I felt constantly at a distance the whole way through, and while I admired Theodora as a strong, intelligent woman, I never came to care for her. And I wanted to. I was fascinated by this historical period, this world, and I wanted to delve into it, and into Theodora's imagined life. But it's a novel of omniscient narration interrupted by neat, lively dialogue, and it lacked a distinctive voice - Theodora's voice, perhaps - and failed to bring the world fully to life.I am grateful for the map of the area at the time, especially because so much has changed over the centuries. While I did like the story, I can't find anything to be enthusiastic over. I got only glimpses into life in Constantinople, glimpses that left me hungry for more and largely unsatisfied, and the side issues of governance and the laws against prostitutes marrying, for example (force/sell girls into it and then blame them for it - don't you love it?!) were too briefly explored - I love engaging with a novel, reading between the lines, picking up on subtle hints and themes, deducing and analysing and so on. Duffy didn't leave me anything to do here, and that really disappointed me.

  • Ann Keller
    2018-10-23 10:57

    Intensely seductive as a provocative dance, compelling as only history can be, Theodora draws the reader into the life of a common actress and dancer, who eventually became Empress of Rome. As a child, Theodora learned the hard way. She was beaten when her spirit rebelled against the eunuch’s cruel instructions and when her outspoken opinions got the better of her. Her family was disjointed at best and friendships hard won, but the people loved Theodora. She was one of them. She could command the attention of the masses who daily flooded the Hippodrome, eager for amusement and those who sought her favor for an evening’s private entertainment deemed themselves lucky.Yet, Theodora was also a woman in a time when females had few rights. She had no property and therefore, no power. Theodora became a mother while still in her early teens and she really didn’t know how to treat her daughter, Ana. While her nubile, athletic body captured the attention of Hecebolus, the new governor in distant Africa, Theodora’s intelligence and wit couldn’t hold him for long.Cast out for another, more beautiful woman, Theodora sought to join the penitents surrounding the Patriarch. She hoped that by play acting as one of the true believers, she might find a away to return to Constantinople. However, Timothy saw through her guise from the very beginning. His plans for Theodora were great indeed, but before she could become his instrument of change, the actress, dancer and whore had to learn humility.Theodora was sent into the desert, where food and drink were scarce and her clothes rough and simply made. To learn about God, they sent Theodora into the wilderness for forty days and nights of fasting and prayer. There, she underwent many changes. She rebelled against their teachings, then came to embrace them. Theodora remembered her past, cried about lost friends and lovers, yet still raised her face to the dawn. Slowly, in agony, her body rebelling against the strictures forced upon it, Theodora was transformed - and stricken with a growth that left her barren.Rescued from her desert confinement, Theodora is sent to Macedonia and finally on to Constantinople. There, she is to advise the Emperor’s nephew, Justinian, in the ways of celebration. Justinian is not especially fair of face, but he is a great scholar. Theodora slowly begins to teach him how to impress the people, all the while struggling not to overstep her bounds. Nevertheless, Theodora is too strong willed to remain subdued for long and eventually, she speaks out. Certain she will be commanded to leave the palace, Theodora hurriedly begins to pack, only to be called to Justinian’s chambers. There, the emperor-to-be proposes and a stunned Theodora accepts his incredible proposal.Many obstacles still stand in the way of a royal marriage. Theodora is a former actress and dancer. Unless the law is changed, she cannot wed Justinian. Changing the law takes time and a healthy massaging of officials. Eventually, Theodora marries Justinian and, upon the death of Emperor Justin, becomes Empress of Rome. Theodora, one of the people, one of the lowest of the low, has ascended to the highest office any woman can hold!Although history is filled with facts and figures, replete with dry, uninteresting events, Stella Duffy has taken this historical figure and brought her vividly to life. Theodora’s life was no doubt filled with incredible highs and lows. In her time, a woman who had no money, property or family connections had to make her own way. It was difficult and some never survived this trial.Theodora, however, was a woman of strong spirit, outspoken in an age when women were expected to be biddable and subject to the whims of men. In every sense of the word, she was a rare, modern woman. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Duffy’s enthralling story and congratulate her on bringing Theodora to life for all of her readers. I have learned much in this novel and have a new appreciation of what it must have been like to be a woman in ancient times.

  • Carey Combe
    2018-11-13 07:56

    Very poor, I kept on reading it as I expected with all the number of excellent reviews it received it was bound to get better - it didn't. Indeed, it got more and more ridiculous. I should have been warned when one of the reviews called Theodora as 'a wise-cracking tart with a heart'. Actually the more I think about this book, the more crap it was!

  • Bridget
    2018-10-26 04:01

    This is an interesting book though not entirely satisfying. The language used is often very modern which can be annoying and it seems a bit light on historical detail. Theodora is an interesting character and this book does a fairly good job of bringing her and the times to life.

  • Marcie
    2018-11-16 02:57

    A few weeks prior to reading this novel, I came across a short chapter in a history book about Theodora. She was a larger than life character that knew how to command an audience. Theodora lived during a tumultuous time. There is not a lot of documentation about this period and a lot of what we know is speculation. I was really interested in reading Stella Duffy's take on the Empress Theodora. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore by Stella Duffy depicts Theodora from a young child until her marriage to Justinian I. Theodora's life was not an easy one. As a young girl she was taught to dance, to learn how to turn off her emotions and most of all to survive. Her punishment for misbehaving in her dance lessons sounded torturous. At a young age she was sold to a theater where she began her career as an actress. The title actress was also exchangeable with the title of whore. However life's circumstances did not hinder Theodora from getting what she wanted out of life. In fact some might say she made life play by her rules. I enjoyed the details that Stella Duffy gave to Theodora's life. The author dives into the head of one of the most influential women of ancient Rome and makes her come to life. I appreciated the fact that the author did not hold back from the grittiness and brash life of Constantinople and Theodora. Although there is not explicit sex scenes in this novel, it is spoken of very often. Theodora used her body in what ever way suited her best. Duffy doesn't gloss this issue over.Overall I really like this book. It is an engaging read that will have you wanting to know more about this brazen woman.

  • Jen Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ
    2018-10-28 05:47

    Definitely a light historical fiction book that is loosely based on Empress Theodora's life. The book primarily focuses on Theodora's early life up until she is coronated. Other historical events and the Byzantine culture is limited in the story. I would have appreciated more details on the political parties' platforms. The fear of a schism in the eastern church did receive more attention with the theological differences. I also would have enjoyed reading about Theodora as empress. Will need a good non-fiction piece to fill in some blanks.3 Stars

  • Tara
    2018-11-07 09:57

    It took me a little while to really enjoy this novel, but after about 100 pages it just clicked with me and from then on I loved it. Duffy has quite a detached narrative style, but then a character like Theodora, who rises from poverty to empress, would have to be a tough cookie. I found myself warming to her spirit and intelligence over time rather than being manipulated emotionally by a Cinderella story. I have no idea how historically accurate it is, but it certainly made the ancient Roman empire alive for me.

  • Jessie(Ageless Pages Reviews)
    2018-10-20 10:42

    Read This Review & More Like ItOn My Blog!3.5 out of 5Theodora was one of the most influential women of her time. As a poverty-stricken dancer, as the most celebrated actress/whore in Constantinople, as a penitent nun in a commune in the desert, and as the wife of the most powerful man in Christendom, she commands attention and vast amounts of interest. Defying social strictures and traditions of her day, Theodora rose from a common birth and life to the most exalted position available: Augusta of "New Rome" also known as Constantinople, the "sparkling gem in a Christian crown" in in 527 AD. Stella Duffy writes an easy-to-read and well-crafted and rounded tale of the infamous woman in one of the most interesting periods of the Roman Empire.Born the second daughter of three to Acacius and an unknown woman, named Hypatia for this novel, Theodora was born into showbusiness as it was then. Her father was the bear trainer at the infamuous Hippodrome of Constantinople. It is the Hippodrome that is the most important place in Theodora's life: her earliest memories, the death of her father at the hands of his beloved bear, and eventually the site of the greatest triumph of her life: her coronation. Duffy writes Theodora as a determined, intelligent and capable young woman. Not the best singer, not the best dancer or even the prettiest girl, Theodora commands attention and awe from her presence, her wit, her spirit and her sheer ambition. Though the novel begins at age eleven for the protagonist, it is never immature or boring: I was captivated from the start.With a singer for an older sister (Comito) and a beautiful younger sister (Anastasia), Theo turns to her true talent: comedy. With it she makes a name, a fortune and a life she always believed was beyond her. I liked Theodora a lot: I actually wished this was a first-person novel rather than third, though I did get to see and enjoy insight into Justinian as well. She was the only female character I enjoyed, the rest seeming rather hard-bitten and begrudging of Theodora's success, even her sisters. I enjoyed - and believed - the growth and maturity Theodora grows into, especially on her travels from Constantinople. She learns humility, grief and even experiences for the first time a sense of equality while in the desert. For the first time, regardless of her sex or past professions or infamy, Theodora was what she has always sought to be: an equal. It's also terribly interesting to read about a indomitable woman who experiences such a wide range of life: from a whore to a penitent nun in an ascetic community, Theodora remains herself and full of fire. From failed love affairs, to child abandonment issues, Duffy presents Theodora as a complex woman. There is no easy answer to the hows and whys of what Theodora did historically, but the reasons Duffy fabricates/infers are more than adequate and totally believable for her version of the Empress.Let's talk about Justinian, the Emperor. Presented as a bookish, scholarly but kind man, I initially didn't invest in the relationship between the two. Born Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, he was not from Constantinople, an ambitious "foreigner" with a thirst for power "born of a desire for change." A man of strategy rather than force, Justinian quietly emerged as a strong and very likeable character. While their marriage is portrayed initially as more of an alliance to harbor amity between both sides of the religious debate (they were on openly opposing sides of the heated religious debate), it grew into a nice, steady affection and love. The two characters brought out the best in each other: I liked their dynamic and relationship more and more as the novel progressed through their lives together. There is a nice dichotomy between the eventual August and his Augusta as well: Theo is of the City, poor and therefore "one of the people." Justinian represents the other classes of the varied, multi-national Empire: foreigner of the City, rich and royal. Justinian helps Theodora evolve from anti-government to actually being the government, an interesting and hardly believable tale based on fact.This is a fairly easy read for a historical novel. I found the prose to be a bit stuffy and overloaded from time to time, the dialogue occasionally stilted and unrealistic, but neither issue overwhelmed my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Constantinople itself was one of my favorite parts of the entire thing: it springs to life as much as Theodora and considerably more than the rest of the characters. It is a vibrant city, teeming with life. Contradictorily the Christian capital of the world but still fighting an internal battle over divinity of the Christ, Constantinople is in a constant flux of religious dogma, a microcosm of the entire empire. With the Western side extolling the belief in Christ's humanity AND divinity and the Eastern parts of the Empire contesting He is wholly divine, a schism seems imminent. Between the religious debates and the constant political turmoil and maneuvering of the Blues and the Green, it's easy to see the cracks in the foundation. Duffy does a more than admirable job of explaining the different opinions/beliefs and the reasons for the tensions in the novel without a massive infodump. I will say I didn't like the jumps in the chronology at all: the barely glossed over times ("in those two years....." "For the next three....") because I was interested in a lot of the events/times skipped over.Love her, hate her, despise her for her less savory acts but you cannot deny Theodora had an impact. On the world, on her Empire, and on religion. An influential woman who refused to stay in her place and do what she was told, I think many historical fiction fans will have fun with this easy-to-read, easily enjoyable novel. Her life began and ended at the famed Hippodrome, but Theodora's legacy and memory still reaches out over 1500 years after she died at the age of approximately 48.

  • Isidora
    2018-10-29 05:56

    Prvi deo romana Dafijeve, kod nas preveden “Teodora, poslednja rimska carica”, predstavlja savršeno opisan narativni krug: od kćeri medvedara koja, u jednom od prvih prizora, sa sestrama i majkom moli predstavnike dve najuticajnije, zavađene stranke, za finansijsku pomoć - do novokrunisane carice, koja na istom Hipodromu, ali sada iz lože, po prvi put izlazi pred narod. Glavna junakinja je prikazana životno, uverljivo, psihološki istančano i vrlo senzualno. Kao ni Kleopatra ili (knjiška) Skarlet O’Hara, ona nije savršena lepotica, ali poseduje urođeni žar, iskričavi temperament i neuništivi instinkt za opstankom. Njen intelekt je nepogrešivo vodi kroz šokantan, često istinski mučan život, od preranog odrastanja (bila je igračica, akrobatkinja, komičarka, po potrebi i prostitutka), preko prvog dela mladosti provedenog u zabludama (odbačena ljubavnica pentapoljskog namesnika Hekebola, otuđena Anina majka, bludnica, izigrana prijateljica) i pokajanju (kroz boravak u pustinji, otkriće vere), do prvog susreta sa dvorom. Kao bivša iskušenica i sveže preobraćena mlada žena, vraća se u rodni grad, sa namerom aleksandrijskog patrijarha Timotija da je upotrebi kao oruđe povezivanja zavađenih crkvenih frakcija.Poznanstvo sa carevim sestrićem Justinijanom, nedavno proglašenim za konzula, počinje kao susret intelektualnih parnjaka, sagovornika koji se veoma uvažavaju. Angažovana je na organizovanju svečanosti u njegovu čast, kao do skora najveća glumačka zvezda i samim tim odličan poznavalac narodnih afiniteta - ali i “oprana” od stare reputacije, pa ujedno odličan primer za pokolebane vernike. Postepeno, na obostrano iznenađenje, saradnički odnos prerasta u prijateljstvo, a zatim u iskrenu i veliku ljubav. Zbog nje, Justinijan će promeniti zakone o statusu bivših glumica, kako bi je oženio i pred svetom uzdigao do sebe. Zbog njega, ali i nagoveštaja koji je od detinjstva vodio ka otkriću unutrašnje vere, Teodora će samoj sebi oprostiti nebiranu prošlost i iskoristiti bogato iskustvo za buduća dela. Jer, ona je pre svega Carigrađanka, oličenje duše prestonice koju toliko voli i čiji joj je obelisk sa sovom na vrhu, orijentir i vazda budna misao-vodilja. Teodora Stele Dafi nije nerealno oslikana fatamorgana, već žena svesna sebe i svojih poroka - istovremeno dugo nespremna da zbog njih požali; žena koja ne krije kajanja i strepnje, po potrebi manipulativna, ali, pravična, skrhana, iznenađena obrtima sudbine. Jer, nakon smrti starog cara, njen suprug postaje naslednik trona. Sija lik odmerenog i ozbiljnog Justinijana (o kome kruže priče da je hladan i nepristupačan čovek), a vrlo su ubedljivi i sporedni junaci (evnuh Nars - carev glavni poslovođa, instruktor Menandar, sestre, pomoćnik Armenije, prijateljica Sofija...). Osim toga, veliku vrednost romana čini slika verskih previranja, klasnih sukoba, prikaz samog Carigrada - čulnog, bučnog, velelepnog, a u očima junakinje večitog i dragog.

  • Bonnie
    2018-10-22 02:43

    2.5 starsTheodora: Actress, Empress, Whore was kindly provided to me by Netgalley for Penguin Group USA.Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore tells the story of Theodora, before and after she became one of the most powerful women in the Byzantine Empire’s history. The novel touches briefly on her adolescent years and how it began by the age of 5 when her mother offered up her and two other sisters as supporters to the Blue faction. Theodora was a strong thinking and willful woman in a time when this was far from acceptable. Theodora's status was well known as an 'actress' when during these times being an 'actress' meant you were unable to marry and you were also unable to own property. During her relationship with Hecebolus she was his mistress, but nothing more. She did everything a typical wife would be expected to do, she just lacked title. This is when Theodora began her search for a priest or bishop who would be able to take her case to a higher court in order to have her sins absolved and to have the laws changed for her to be able to marry. She ends up being betrayed by her lady’s maid and friend, Chrysomallo, when she becomes Hecebolus’s lover and ends up with child. Theodora is forced to leave and learn to survive on her own using the only tool she knows; her body. The story continues with Theodora being introduced to Justinian and the path being paved to her becoming the future Empress.This book is not a biography or a memoir, it is a historical fiction novel, and because of this I think I was expecting a little bit more from this. The author clearly did her research on the life of Theodora, but considering the fact that she was able to take artistic license with the subject, in the end it didn’t seem like she reached the potential the story could have had. In the end the story read like a biography and just told Theodora’s story rather than showing the life of Theodora and what made her the powerful woman she was known to be. I really didn’t care for Theodora all that much in this story; the character and overall story was definitely lacking.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2018-11-11 06:59

    ‘You can waste a very long time looking back.’The Byzantine Empress Theodora (c500-547CE) had an interesting career as an actor and a prostitute before becoming the wife of the Emperor Justinian. This novel by Stella Duffy, based on extensive research and accompanied by an impressive bibliography, is based on Theodora’s life from early childhood until just after her marriage to the Emperor Justinian.The novel opens with the young child Theodora as part of a group being schooled by Menander about the Roman Empire so that they can converse intelligently as well as entertain with poetry, song, dance and acrobatics. Success, for those on the wrong side of the class divide, relies on patronage. The story of Theodora’s early life, set amid the religion and politics of the time, is colourful. The young Theodora is a prickly, opportunistic survivor who learns quickly and her growing notoriety is both an asset and a liability. Theodora moves from prostitution in Constantinople and leaves behind her family to follow her heart by becoming the mistress of a provincial governor. Then, after being betrayed, she flees and after an intense religious conversion in the desert becomes the emissary of Patriarch Timothy. I found it hard to warm to the character of Theodora as depicted in this novel. Theodora often appears cold and cynical and this created a barrier between story and reader. I think in part this is a consequence of the complex setting: historical; geographical; religious and political and partly a consequence of knowing some of the history to follow.If you are interested in this period of history and in the Empress Theodora, this novel is well worth reading. I hope that there will be a sequel .‘Justinian took a wife; and the manner she was born and bred, and wedded to this man, tore up the Roman Empire by the very roots.’ (Procopius)Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Doreen
    2018-11-15 02:44

    Knowing nothing about Theodora before reading this book, I am left wanting to know more about her life as Empress. The information that was presented was all new to me. Disappointingly, the book ends, excluding Theodora's entire reign as Empress. While the writing was sufficient to tell the story, there lacked the additional verbiage to make the book similar to other historical fiction that I've read and enjoyed. I don't intend for this to be a negative review. I enjoyed the book and would actually rate it 3.5, if only half stars were an option!For instance, during a session of lectures and prayer, Theodora was to be receiving spiritual guidance from penitents who were already considered saved. Saved was something Theodora needed to be, or at least appear to be, to earn the right to return home to the City, which is what she wanted. Instead, she was comparing two brothers, both involved in her road to redemption......"Theodora passed the time wondering how it was that, two brothers, equally physically unattractive, one could have such charisma and the other be this dullard of a man.....his mother must have been sleeping around...perhaps it wasn't the Patriarch that was the family bastard, ... somewhere out there was a beautiful man with a beautiful voice, and it was the mother who had the dog-ugly face." She also spent time on this occasion, "...remembering all the good-looking men she had known. imagining them in the throes of orgasm..."!In another instance, "Theodora...had always understood marriage to be a sanctified prostitution".On a more serious note, there were places in the story that addressed access to faith, and how a person can come to their, "true self", explaining that it..."must be offered with every new moment". I found this all very interesting and entertaining and recommend it for others.

  • Mariana
    2018-11-02 07:37

    I left disappointed with this book. I don't really know a lot about Empress Theodora apart from her past as an actress/prostitute before marrying Justinian so I wouldn't know about fact checking, so I expected the book to fill that whole. And it did! BUT I didn't feel like anything was happening for more than 3/4 of the book. Yeah, Stella Duffy explained quite well the training to become an actress, the physical and mental process which these girls make from a very young age, but everything else was quite shallow, she skimmed through a lot of parts I wished she didn't (like the politics when she became Justinian's wife, etc) and did the opposite when it wasn't needed.I didn't like how she tried to ""redeem"" Theodora from her past as a prostitute during her spiritual journey through the desert because it felt very demeaning to prostitutes, it was boring, uneventful and it dragged since she left the City to follow her (abusive) lover to Africa. It could had been done much better if she simply told it after it happened. Theodora wasn't likeable at all and the secondary characters (with only a few exceptions) were cardboard at best. Another thing was that her curses where very modern and british idk it was weird to read it.But not everything is bad! Duffy's writing flows well and I quite liked Theodora's relationship with Justinian, but i wish she hadn't end it there (view spoiler)[at Justinian and Theodora's first public appearance as leaders (hide spoiler)] because that was actually what I wanted to read when I started this book. Oh, well, I guess I have to find another one about them.

  • Robin
    2018-10-27 05:56

    3.5 starsAdvance reading e-book courtesy of Net Galley.This was an interesting historical biographical novel of Theodora of Constantinople who rose from the underclass to become Empress of Rome and a saint of the Orthodox church. Due to family circumstances teen-age Theodora has to become a dancer/whore, which is the only profession available to young women of the underclass. From there she schemes and claws her way up to become the wife of Justinian and a powerful woman of the Roman Empire. A sequel (and HBO special) is forthcoming.This was a little racy and at times I wondered about the language (was the F-bomb really used that much back in those days?). I also felt it was a little dry in places but the story was interesting enough that I kept reading and am looking forward to reading the sequel.I would probably recommend this to anyone who wanted a good historical novel based on fact (maybe even Philipa Gregory fans), as long as they didn't mind a a few graphic scenes and four letter words.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-10-25 08:01

    Ambitious and interesting, well-researched, but not actually a very good novel.It is clear that Duffy is trying to show, not tell; she just ...fails. At least when it comes to religion; Theodora's conversion has no emotional impact on me as the reader. By the end of the book, you sense that Duffy is just trying to finish; there's one sentence about how Theodora has lived in the imperial palace for five years, two of them as Justinian's wife; the wedding was, like, two pages earlier, and if you had asked me how long it had been since Theodora's return to the City, I would have said maybe a year.

  • Chris
    2018-11-08 05:04

    The style is not one I enjoy. Too much telling. Honestly, if the death of her youngest sister hits Theodora that hard, some effort should have gone into actually showing the relationship. When a non-character dies, it lacks impact.

  • Joselle Vanderhooft
    2018-10-29 06:59

    Just won in my first-ever Goodreads giveaway win! Looking forward to receiving and reading, since the Byzantine empire and the empress Theodora are interests of mine :)

  • Barbara Justiniano
    2018-11-05 03:50

    Excellent read!

  • Janelle
    2018-10-26 08:36

    Interesting book. This is an era of history I am not really familiar with so I found it intriguing.

  • Thomas
    2018-10-25 06:37

    Ever since Ghost Empire revealed all the drama, pageantry and grittiness that constitute the 1000 year history of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire I've been working to make time to zero in on the life stories of men and women involved in shaping that history. Nope, I'm not one to read the dreadfully dry histories and biographies of these figures. I'm happy to let hardworking authors such as Robert Graves and Stella Duffy do the heavy lifting and then present me with well researched stories of blood, guts, passion, and fire conjured from their well educated imaginations.The reports of Empress Theodora's salacious portrayal of Leda and the swan during her younger days caught my fancy. She seemed like the type of gal worth meeting, so I figured I extend my education with Stella Duffy's Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore.Duffy depicts Theodora from a young child until her marriage to Justinian I. Theodora led a difficult life almost from the get-go. In the novel Duffy has her sitting on the shoulders of her animal-trainer father just as a bear begins to tear him apart in the bowels of the Hippodrome (Constantinople's multipurpose arena). His death spells the end of her family's comparatively easy life and forces her into training for the "theater". Under the tutelage of the drill sergeant-like eunuch, Menander, Theodora was taught to dance, to turn off her emotions and most of all to survive. Duffy portrays her as spirited and inslolent. These traits usually led to tortuous punishment for misbehaving in her dance lessons.Before Theodora was twelve years old she was sold to a theater group where she began her career as an actress. At the time actresses supplemented their income as whores, usually during special sessions after theatrical performances. However life's circumstances did not hinder Theodora from getting what she wanted out of life. She had to work within the system, but she made the system work for her.Some may complain that Duffy told too much of the story and did not show enough, and I must admit that I was disappointed that Theodora's exploits with the ducks were not as graphically conveyed as Timothy Willocks or Dan Simons would have had they written the tale. On the other hand, one must consider that Duffy is a feminist and is probably writing to a female audience.All in all the reader is treated to a fine storytelling of Empress Theodora's rise from a low-rank commoner to a Byzantine Empress and a useful companion to her husband, Emperor Justinian. I enjoyed the details that Stella Duffy gave to Theodora's life. The author dives into the head of one of the most influential women of ancient world and makes her come to life.I thank the author for an enlightening and entertaining read.I also thank her for the bibliography she provided. Count Belisariuswas already on my "Byzantine Empire" reading list, and Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe looks especially promising.

  • Rachel ♥
    2018-11-05 06:55

    a queen always turns pain into power.In Stella Duffy's first novel in her 'Empress Theodora' series, we come to know Theodora as a passionate, lion-hearted young girl who is forced into an early career of performing at Constantinople's Hippodrome after her father is mauled to death by his own bear. It is a life she's always known -- poverty and the physical demands the stage requires of her, as well as Menander's stinging discipline. After dancing and whoring her way to stardom, Theodora finds herself enraptured by the handsome and powerful Governor of Pentapolis, Hecebolus, and leaves her family behind to travel to Africa with him. However, things with her lover are not always how they seem. Jaded and broken from a plot-twisting betrayal, Theodora wanders through Africa to Alexandria where she finds repentance for her sins on a forty day fast in the desert. Eager to return to her homeland and family in Constantinople, she becomes a holy ambassador, sent to aid the emperor's nephew, Justinian, in affairs of the court.Stella expertly crafts the life of a poverty-stricken girl who, at the age of twenty-six, becomes the most powerful woman in the Roman Empire. Duffy's rendition of the empress is compelling, emotional and hard to put down. It is definitely a must read for any history buffs out there -- though a work of fiction, this tale provides insight on the beloved empress' life that has been so watered down and looked over through the years. One might agree that Duffy's writing could be counted as 'stuffy' and doesn't provide the stage Theodora deserves to truly show the reader her deepest emotions and desires, leading to the author telling rather than showing. It is because of this that I found it hard to truly appreciate Theodora's fiery personality. Despite this flaw, I am looking forward to reading the sequel to the series, 'The Purple Shroud'.

  • Cherinne T
    2018-11-16 05:47

    Magnificent. This book is not as heavy as most commonly historical fiction books but it still gave me an enlightening and entertaining read.We are treated to a fine storytelling of Empress Theodora's rise from a low-rank commoner to a Byzatine Empress and a useful companion to her husband, Emperor Justinian. Stella Duffy brilliantly told us the story of Theodora's early life as a stage performer, theatre actress, occasionally sex worker which in turn became her greatest weapon to survive in this Byzantine Greece era. Stella Duffy's Theodora was lively, energetic, and clever enough to navigate her life, surviving, and enjoying the most out of her life journey. Theodora's life wasn't always easy, her proud personality is a blessing and a danger for her but we see her fall and got back up again. I felt like I'm with Theodora in every bits of her journey.The old city Constantinople also brought to life by its fervent describe, its rich of colours, its magnificent architecture (especially Hagia Sophia!) and more importantly, its people and foreigners.A well good read. Well done!

  • Raquel
    2018-11-14 06:56

    Words can hardly describe how much I enjoyed reading this book. The story is captivating and well-written and I, who have a short attention span, could not stop myself from taking on "just one more chapter". The pace was as close to perfection as I could have hoped, each chapter detailing another step on Theodora's journey from dancing girl to Empress. It was refreshing to experience such a well-written book about a strong young woman bravely facing all the challenges along her way with genuine feeling and fire. I found myself getting quite attached to Theodora throughout the novel to be honest. Really, such a wonderful book that I'd recommend to anyone who is a fan of quality historical fiction and books about awesome women rising to power.

  • Maegan Mariee
    2018-11-16 05:54

    I can't say that I was all too thrilled with this book. And I SO wanted to be. It just didn't catch me like I had hoped it would and dragged on in some places where I found myself skipping over. Ah well.

  • Tamela Rich
    2018-11-15 04:58

    Phenomenal.

  • Jordan
    2018-11-12 03:44

    *3.5

  • Lakis Fourouklas
    2018-11-17 02:40

    This is a fictional biography that travels the reader back in time, to the Byzantium era and the glory days of the great city of Constantinople. That is where that we for the first time meet Theodora, the second of three sisters, who due to the difficult times her family is going through, has to start working and earn a living from a very young age. She and her sisters, under the instructions of an eunuch called Menander, are getting ready for a life spent at the Hippodrome, which in today’s term we would call the show biz. Theodora is at the time a beautiful girl with an unruly character. She likes picking up fights every now and then and making fun of people, and so very often she comes to receive heavily handed punishments from her tutor, which however cannot tame her spirit. Some of the girls have a talent for dancing and others for singing. Theodora though, who unwillingly has to follow in their footsteps has no talent whatsoever in none of the above. But she has what the others lack; she’s street and stage smart and an exceptional comedian. She can tell stories like no other, make people laugh all too easily and dazzle the crowds with her scene presence Through, the narrow at the beginning and ever expanding as time goes by, thread of the narration we follow step by step the remarkable life journey of this woman: from childhood to premature adulthood, from play to prostitution, from ignorance to harshly earned knowledge and from despair to despair. Theodora spends most of her life dressed in the veils of a unique melancholy. And if it wasn’t for some sudden explosions of joy every now and then one would say that she’s never been happy at all; since she was always deep in thought; since she used to spend as much time as she could by herself and, since very often she’d hide in the dark corners of the great church of Agia Sofia praying for one thing or another, or maybe just trying to get away from something. No matter how much she used to shine on the big stage, no matter how good she came to be in the lovemaking game, she hid he true self somewhere in the dark – and that was a self of a life unfulfilled, in search of a meaning. However, sooner rather than later came the time when she found her way out of her dead end; and that was when she met Hecebolus, the governor of Pentapolis in Northern Africa, with whom she had fallen in love. At the age of eighteen, leaving behind a life of wealth and glory, she follows the man that stole her heart, to Apollonia, along with a talentless girl from her troupe. The latter would one day find her way into the bed of Hecebolus and herself pregnant, paving the way for Theodora, who was already tired of her life there, to leave. Soon enough the betrayed woman will find herself in Alexandria, where she’ll meet Timothy, the patriarch of the city and ruler of Egypt, who will take her under his protective wing before sending her off to the desert to atone for her sins. Her past though will keep hunting and haunting her, and it’s exactly this past that her guardians will try to exploit in order to succeed in their otherwise sacred plans. Theodora will be used by them in order to open the way for the enthronement of their chosen one, Justinian, in Constantinople. However, to manage that she first has to get close to him. And that she will do, with the help of some friends and co-conspirators. When she at last returns to Polis, her city (that’s what Polis means) she is a changed woman, a different person from the one that left. The passions of the flesh have not abandoned her, but in more than one ways she’s wiser than before. It’s this wisdom, but also the endurance that she came to muster during her long absence, that she’ll bring to good use to fulfill her duty and accomplish her mission. A duty and a mission that will finally lead her exactly to a place in life that she’d always dreamed about but never hoped reaching; a place of happiness. This is a well written story about one of the strangest eras in Christian times. An era in which in the very heart of Christianity pagan rituals were performed in daily basis, when prostitution was not at all something out of the ordinary and, finally, when, just like today, those in power or with power never stopped arguing with each other and using any means necessary to achieve their goals. The author, using a plethora of sources, manages to bring to life those distant times, to guide the reader in a splendid narrative way into a distant past, and to show us Christians some things that we’d rather ignore or, if we know, forget. Brilliant.