Byzantine Empress who ruled alongside her husband Justinian I.
Before marrying the emperor she worked as an actress and street performer (in Layman’s Terms: a stripper, dancer, and acrobat)—a very unseemly background for a woman who would be Empress. She would become one of the most powerful women in Byzantium History. In order for them to be married though—the Emperor Justin (Justinian’s Uncle) had to amend the laws to make such a match legal (apparently senators—the position Justinian held at the time—were not allowed to marry "actresses"). The marriage also helped Theodora’s illegitimate daughter Ioannis find a better place in society. Theodora was around twenty years younger than Justinian. She was crowned as his equal during his coronation and not as his consort on his insistence. When plague struck Constantinople in 542 CE Theodora ruled alone as Justinian struggled to survive the infection. She was also a social reformer opening orphanages and homes for former prostitutes wanting to re-enter “respectable” society. She most likely died from cancer and her husband never remarried despite having no heir, her daughter would have three sons who all became prominent Byzantium citizens.
Emperor Justinian I
483–565 (m. 523)