Authors: Stephanie Thornton
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Biographical, #Fairy Tales; Folk Tales; Legends & Mythology
THE SECRET HISTORY
“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as an actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl or with delight as she once more picked herself up, with a steely glint in her eye, and kept on going.”
—Kate Quinn, author of
Empress of the Seven Hills
The Secret History
tells the tangled but very human story of Empress Theodora, from bawdy actress to reluctant whore to beloved empress. This remarkable woman, beloved wife of Emperor Justinian, mastered the intrigue and politics of sixth-century Byzantium while keeping dark personal secrets that could bring her death. Loss, ambition, and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little-known woman to full, vibrant life again. A sprawling and irresistible story.”
—Jeane Westin, author of
The Spymaster’s Daughter
“A fascinating and vivid account…. The life of the Empress Theodora leaps from the page, as colorful and complex as the woman herself.”
—Michelle Diener, author of
The Emperor’s Conspiracy
New American Library
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published by New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, July 2013
Copyright © Stephanie Thornton, 2013
The author wishes to acknowledge permission to publish Professor Claudine Dauphin’s translation of a fifth century A.D. Gnostic hymn from Nag-Hammadi.
Copyright © Claudine Dauphine
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned,
or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in
violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-in-publication data:
Thornton, Stephanie, 1980–
The secret history: a novel of Empress Theodora/Stephanie Thornton.
1. Theodora, Empress, consort of Justinian I, Emperor of the East, d. 548—Fiction.
2. Empresses—Fiction. 3. Byzantine Empire—History—Justinian I, 527–565—Fiction.
4. Biographical fiction. 5. Historical fiction. I. Title.
Designed by Elke Sigal
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
To Stephen, for believing in me
I am She whom one honors and disdains.
I am the Saint and the prostitute.
I am the virgin and the wife.
I am knowledge and I am ignorance.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am Godless and I am the Greatness of God.
—FIFTH-CENTURY AD GNOSTIC HYMN
FROM NAG-HAMMADI, EGYPT
y life began the night death visited our house.
I lay on the straw pallet with my sisters and listened to Comito grinding her teeth and Anastasia breathing evenly in the dark. An animal snorted in the distance—probably the scraggly new bear Father had acquired to train for the Greens, a beast scarcely fit for the spectacle of the Hippodrome. I scratched my stomach and poked Comito, none too gently. The fleas were bad tonight, and Constantinople’s sticky heat made the stench of the nearby garbage heap especially pungent. I missed our old home in Cyprus, the salty smell of the Mediterranean, and the cicadas buzzing amidst the olive trees. Our ramshackle house near Constantinople’s amphitheater could scarcely compare.
There was a shuffle in the dark—possibly a rat—but then my father grunted.
“Quiet, Acacius.” My mother giggled. “You’ll wake the girls.”