Theodora’s speech

This is Empress Theodora’s speech to her husband Justinian and his council during the Nika Rebellion of 523. It must be up there with Churchill in 1940 and Elizabeth Tudor at Tilbury

My lords, the present occasion is too serious to allow me to follow the convention that a woman should not speak in a man’s council.  Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions.

In my opinion, flight is not the right course, even if it should bring us to safety.  It is impossible for a person, having been born into this world, not to die; but for one who has reigned it is intolerable to be a fugitive. May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress. 

If you wish to save yourself, my lord, there is no difficulty.  We are rich; over there is the sea, and yonder are the ships.  Yet reflect for a moment whether, when you have once escaped to a place of security, you would not gladly exchange such safety for death.  As for me, I agree with the adage that the royal purple is the noblest shroud.



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