Back in the glimmering city, the Emperor Justin ruled over the empire. Justin’s nephew, Justinian, lived in the royal palace of his uncle. Justinian functioned as his uncle’s most trusted political advisor. Most people saw Justinian as the next Emperor.
There is no record of how Theodora met Justinian, or of how she seduced him. Whatever the means, she soon moved into the palace as a Patrician, living openly with Justinian. Her promotion to the rank of Patrician came courtesy of Justinian. The new ‘royal’ couple attended many religious ceremonies, as the appearance of purity, piety and probity was important to Justinian’s political future. Because although he expected to be Emperor one day, still, even Emperors have to play by certain rules. One of those rules in the Roman Empire was looking like a good, clean Christian.
Besides which Theodora’s reputation had never been higher than now, at least in the eyes of respectable society. So it didn’t hurt that her scintillating beauty found a spontaneous and proper showcase in churches and basilicas, a new stage for the exhibition of a new human goddess. And Theodora felt at home in the limelight. Wealth and property embraced her, and she them. Everywhere she went her entourage went with her. Friends, advisors, designers, maids, and the eunuchs, who formed her bodyguard. As Theodora moved through the city her retinue flowed before and behind her, announcing her presence and ensuring her status.
Everyone who was anyone knew where she shopped, what she bought, what she wore, where she ate and how much. Anything she did or said was immediately transmitted via gossip. Not only a celebrity, she was a brand. One of the first in history.
The custom of the day was for the rich and powerful and wealthy to affect a studied stoicism, a kind of nonchalant imperturbability. It was an unwritten cultural imperative, yet nevertheless expected. Theodora failed to comply. She expressed her emotions on her face. Everyone could see them. Shocking! One moment her exquisite features bent to a pout, the next second she was laughing or looking intent.
Yet the brain behind the eloquent face sucked in rumors, information, and secrets. Then it categorized them and filed them away, never to be forgotten. And she had a system of agents, her own secret police, who fed her voracious brain with a smorgasboard of data.
Lupicina was Justinian’s mother (by adoption). She was also ruling Empress, the wife of Emperor Justin. She disliked Theodora. Lupicina regarded Theodora as nothing more than a common whore and a gold-digger, although even Lupicina admitted that Theodora radiated a beauty that blinded men and inflamed them with idiotic lust. At which point they abandoned any common sense and morality they might have had.
There was also ‘something about’ Theodora, a negative energy perhaps, a black emanation, or perhaps just a feeling, that made Lupicina oppose the marriage that Justinian kept hinting at. To marry Theodora, though, Justinian needed more than just Lupicina’s consent. He needed her signature to change the law. For the marriage law stated that the Emperor’s wife must be not only highborn, but also moral. Theodora failed to meet either requirement.
So Theodora and Justinian waited. The Empress was old and in declining health. She couldn’t live forever. And when she died… well, things would change.