Read The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora Online

Authors: Stephanie Thornton

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Biographical, #Fairy Tales; Folk Tales; Legends & Mythology

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora

BOOK: The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
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“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

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group visit

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.



Thornton, Stephanie, 1980–

The secret history: a novel of Empress Theodora/Stephanie Thornton.

pages cm.

ISBN: 978-1-101-60766-4

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.

PS3620.H7847S43    2013

813’.6—dc23 2012045240

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

Table of Contents

Part I

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Part II

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33


Author’s Note

Further Reading on the Byzantine Empire

About the Author

Readers Guide

Special Excerpt from
Daughter of the Gods


AD 517–527

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.


Chapter 1

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.”

BOOK: The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
8.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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