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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