Justinian & Theodora: Rise of a Farmer & a Striptease

Justinian and Theodora

Mosaics at San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy

I’ve recently become enamoured of the Byzantine Empire (aka the Eastern Roman Empire) – its culture, its history, its people. And no one is more fascinating and endearing than Constantinople’s ultimate power couple: Theodora and Justinian. Over the course of a couple posts, I want to share their story with you – and hopefully you will come to love them as I do.

It’s All About Who You Know
This story begins with Justinian, born in 482 AD as Petrus Sabbatius, a peasant from Thrace (modern-day Macedonia). His family owned a farm, and so he would have probably grown up to be a farmer–if it wasn’t for his Uncle Justin.

Uncle Justin had joined the Roman army in his youth, and through many years of service had worked his way up in the military to become Commander of the Excubitors (a kind of palace guard) in the empire’s capital at Constantinople. Once in command, Justin invited his young nephew to come and live with him in the city where Petrus lived for 20 years, gaining an education and experience in the court of the emperor.

Then the emperor died.

Well That’s Convenient
Emperor Anastasius passed away on 9 July 518 AD at 87 years of age, leaving behind no heir to the throne. In this way, Justin – as Commander of the Excubitors – found himself in a very interesting and strategic position. Continue reading


Cupid and Psyche: Love and Transformation

Cupid kissing Psyche

Cupid kissing Psyche

“Being deeply loved by someone
gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply
gives you courage.”
Lao Tzu

“To love is nothing.
To be loved is something.
But to be loved by the person you
love…is everything.”
Bill Russell


Although the love story of Cupid and Psyche has existed in oral tradition since forever and a day ago, it made its first written appearance in the Roman novel Metamorphoseon: Asinius Aureas by Lucius Apuleius in the 2nd century AD.  The longevity and popularity of the tale has led to a plethora of art through the ages depicting their romance, so I had to include just a handful of favorites in my telling of it. Continue reading

Love: A Package Deal


Like most moms in my childhood era, my mom had dinnertime rules, which was – finish everything on your plate.  There are starving children in Africa, so be grateful for your food and empty your plate. My mom was a decent cook, but every now and again she’d add in some things that made cleaning the plate impossible. Things like: Brussels sprouts. Seriously?  They are like methane on a plate!  But mom was not concerned with what we kids liked or disliked.  The rule at mealtime was: Eat everything on your plate!

But that was not the rule at the cafeteria. When I was a kid, I loved buffets. Oh, to take a tray and gaze at the endless food selection. The choices were intoxicating. Yes to the garlic bread, no to the chicken livers. Yes to the berry pie, and a big no to Brussels sprouts. When I was a kid, I loved cafeteria selections.

Author, Max Lucado posed a great question, “Wouldn’t it be nice if love were like a cafeteria line?” Yes. Yes it would!  “To look at your family and select things that you like and pass on what you don’t?”

“I’ll have a large plate of good moods and high praise, but I’ll pass on the job transfers and inlaws.” Or, “Please give me a double portion of good health and support, but mood swings, sharp tongues, and housework are not in my diet, thank you.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if love were like a cafeteria line? It would be easier. It would be painless. It would be convenient. But, you know something? It wouldn’t be love. Love doesn’t just pick and choose some things, says Lucado. Love is willing to accept all things. Continue reading