THE SECRET HISTORY by Procopius - Part I - The Tyranny Of Women

October 13 2020

Part I - The Tyranny Of Women


The Major Players



General Belisarius is married to a magic worker - Antonia. Like all magic-workers, her primary aim is to bewitch her husband and be morally loose. This is the opinion of Procopius.

Antonia’s impropriety is showcased by her relationship with Theodosius, a boy that Belisarius had adopted. The two get caught in flagranti on multi occasions, but Antonia always convinces her husband that he must be mistaken

Belisarius’ bewitchment and Antonia’s magic is further shown when Belisarius, once a famed General in Emperor Justinian’s army, is failing emperor and country after he lets an enemy infiltrate and attack Rome. Belisarius had been so worried that his wife might be home alone for too long, that he let all this happen.

Next, Procopius tells us of Empress Theodora. She is cruel and immoral - not respecting the sanctity of churches and imprisoning people for little reason.
Theodora eventually rids Belisarius of his rank as a General and scatters his men-at-arms to effectively disable his power. In Roman law, this made him a private citizen.

Not satisfied yet, Theodora vies for Belisarius’ wealth. She wants Belisarius’s daughter to marry her grandson - which would make the daughters’ wealth her husbands’. Despite the vehement protest, Theodora devises a simple plan: The two would be made to live together, unmarried, and once the girl lost her virginity, she had no choice but to marry Theodora’s grandson.

Alas, before the plan can be worked out, Theodora dies.

The two teenagers had actually fallen in love, but now without the Empress’ manoeuvering, Antonia (the daughters’ mother), would insist on separation and re-marriage. Technically, under Roman law, her daughters’ previous relationship would have been considered prostitution, but Antonia cared little about this.

Antonia was regarded as heartless as a consequence, but to save her own reputation, she makes Belisarius take the blame.

This leads to his ultimate disgrace.

“Then at last he was repudiated by everyone, was made the target of endless gossip and was dismissed with contempt as a hopeless fool.”

There is also a suitor to Antonia’s granddaughter. This man, Sergius, is a serial killer, having killed 80 ambassadors. Yet, Procopius calls his “effeminate and unwarlike”, perhaps because he blames him for the destruction of Roman authority in Libya - or more likely because Sergius (and his brother) are acquitted for their crimes by the Emperor and Empress.



Procopius has a tendency to label every woman with power a magic worker fond of prostitution - likely due to the prevailing attitude towards women at the time. The rich may participate in public life, but their place was not in the legal realm. Also, actresses (which was Antonia’s previous profession) were generally expected to also perform sexual services off-stage.