Examining a range of sixth-century (A.D.) literary sources, this paper explores the authors' attitudes toward the marital relationship of the Late Roman emperor Justinian I and his empress, Theodora. It emerges that the sources characteristically appeal to the agency of Theodora or to an underlying level of mutual understanding between the imperial couple in order to reconcile inconsistencies or apparent contradictions between the regime's rhetoric and its actions. Recourse to such an interior dynamic gave scope to the recognition and expression of contradiction without thereby entailing an admission of disorder: it enabled the imperial couple, and thus in an overarching sense the instrumental function of the imperial "role" in the state, to work if necessary at cross purposes while preserving an unbroken unity of purpose. Special attention is paid to the particular interests and expectations of two distinct groups: the classically-educated mandarinate of the Roman civil service, and the schismatic hierarchy of the nascent Monophysite church.
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