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The Nika Riots & Theodora's Involvement

Updated: May 20, 2022

The Nika Riots are a well-known tumultuous time in Emperor Justinian's reign. They were brought on by a disagreement between two chariot racing teams, which were themselves led by opposing political ideologies. Sound familiar?

We are not all that dissimilar to the Byzantian world. If we are upset about something politically, what do we do? Riot. Or at least Protest.

During the crisis in Justinian's time, the men of the court were largely wanting to escape with or without their Emperor in tow.

What do you do during a crisis when all the men in the room want to get out of Dodge?

You ask a woman what she thinks! That's what happened during the Nika Riots 1490 years ago today. Here's what she said about the court officials wanting to flee Constantinople:

"My lords, the present occasion is too serious to allow me to follow the convention that a woman should not speak in a men's council. Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions. In my opinion, a flight is not the right course, even if it should bring us to safety. It is impossible for a person, having been born into this world, not to die; but for one who has reigned, it is intolerable to be a fugitive. May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress. If you wish to save yourself, my lord, there is no difficulty. We are rich; over there is the sea, and yonder are the ships. Yet reflect for a moment whether, when you have once escaped to a place of security, you would not gladly exchange such safety for death. As for me, I agree with the adage that the royal purple is the noblest shroud."

Theodora, Empress of Byzantium
Theodora, Empress of Byzantium

All I can say to that is,

"You go girl!"

what a woman.

Have questions? Tweet me @RobertJBruton

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