Costume Candidate for 2013: Empress Theodora

Thanks to our Kickstarter campaign for 2013, we’re adding 19 new costumes this season, 7 of which our backers and supporters will get to vote on. This series of posts is designed to briefly introduce the many notable women and legendary figures we’ll be considering. Voting will take place spring/summer of 2013.


The problem with Theodora is that her biographer hated her guts. She was probably the most important woman in the history of the Roman Empire, but the main thing people seem to know about her is that she started out, allegedly, as a prostitute. But did she? The stories about Theodora’s early life all came from one very bitter misogynist dude named Procopius, who wrote his scurrilous Secret History after Theodora’s death. It’s probably true that Theodora was born into a circus family and worked as an actress, but Procopius’s more lurid details should definitely be taken with several large shakers of salt. After all, every powerful woman in history, from Hatshepsut to Hillary Clinton, has been accused of sexual shenanigans. It’s how men express their panic.

We’re on firmer ground when we assess Theodora’s political career. Her husband, the Emperor Justinian, thought the world of her, and the two of them effectively ruled as co-regents. Theodora may actually have been the more capable of the two; her name is on all the legislation, she received envoys, she corresponded with foreign rulers, she put down rebellions, and so on. What’s really cool is that she was a remarkably vigorous proponent of women’s rights. Women’s legal status in the Roman Empire was almost non-existent, and Theodora set out to change that. She reformed the laws so that women could own property, daughters could inherit, and widows could recover their dowries; she made it illegal for a man to kill his wife over adultery; she made rape a crime punishable by death; she gave mothers guardianship of their children; she outlawed sex trafficking and sex slavery; and she created safe-haven homes for former prostitutes. Yay, Theodora! No wonder Procopius hated her.

Think we should add an Empress Theodora costume to Take Back Halloween? If you missed our Kickstarter campaign you can still become a supporter and get to vote on the new costumes.


Tags : 2 Comments

2 Comments → “Costume Candidate for 2013: Empress Theodora”

  1. Penny


    It would be fun to do a Theodora costume with very intricate trompe l’oeil mosaic makeup… I couldn’t pull it off, but there are some talented body-art folks who definitely could.

  2. Suzanne Scoggins


    I agree — that would amazing. If people vote in this costume I’ll definitely look for some tutorials on that. Imagine a costume that looks like a walking talking version of the Ravenna mosaic!