The Scheming And Ruthless Antonina

In a previous article here we recounted the dramatic fall of one of the Emperor Justinian’s venal officials, John of Cappadocia.  The key roles of this drama were the Empress Theodora and her amoral compatriot Antonina (c. 484-565), the wife of Belisarius.  It is now time to relate yet more adventures of this depraved yet admittedly fascinating figure.  Almost all of what we know about her and her unscrupulous maneuverings comes from the historian Procopius, whose Secret History (Anecdota) is a scorching indictment of Justinian, Theodora, and their court.  He is not an impartial source; and he seems to have been a snubbed official who revenged himself on the court by chronicling their indiscretions for posterity.  Yet there is some truth to his accounts, and his is not a voice that can easily be dismissed.

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The Story Of John The Cappadocian: Schemes And Intrigues In The Palace

The Emperor Justinian (A.D. 485-565) and his wife, the Empress Theodora, are well-known sovereigns of the eastern Roman Empire.  The absolute power which centered around the throne at this period in history encouraged palace intrigues of all sorts, and their reign was no exception.  One of the more interesting stories of betrayal and revenge during their rule is that of John the Cappadocian, the Praetorian Prefect of the East.  He was a native of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and was of obscure background.  He came to the attention of the emperor somehow during the scope of his duties as a magister militum (master of soldiers).  By his own schemes he rose up through the ranks to become Praetorian Prefect around A.D. 531.

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