The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora ePub (Adobe DRM) can be read on any device that can open ePub (Adobe DRM) files. Given its name, it could be a novel about an eccentric family of exotic origin, but anathema is actually an ancient and provactive word used in English without translation. Webster’s Dictionary cites it as derived from the Greek and meaning “a thing devoted to evil” although it previously signified “anything devoted” to a specific purpose.
As the priest DuPont explains to the protagonist in the novel: “Beware of words, my friend. The paradox inherent in the word anathema and the related practice of placing certain ideas out-of-bounds, a powerful form of mind-control, is at the heart of this novel. Is it possible that centuries ago we were robbed, personally and collectively, of our true history, our immortal heritage, and then force-fed a myth about a rigid and unforgiving spiritual destiny that enslaved us to the robbers? In 553 AD, Justinian I, the self-righteous ruler of the eastern half of the decaying Roman Empire, held Pope Vigilius prisoner until the church leader agreed to sign The Anathemas of the Council of Constantinople, previously convened by the emperor. More than 25 years before, Justinian had married Theodora, a commoner and courtesan about 20 years his junior.
As if to assuage his grief, the emperor took to theology, usurping the rightful role of the clergy in deciding doctrine and proscribing heretics. Witnessing the triumphs and tragedies of the reign of Justinian and Theodora was the official court historian Procopius. In 1879, Richard Strawn, a Civil War medic disowned by his fellow Quakers, has to come to terms with his daughter Jennifer’s conviction that she was once a fabulous queen and he a king, or concur with his wife, Lucinda, that the girl is hopelessly insane. But Lucinda, like the black magician who successfully foiled the two in the earlier existence, is never far behind. In the Old Testament, it explains, anathema designated a creature or object set apart for sacrificial offering.

Thus, with the stroke of the papal pen, anyone who believed in the ancient doctrine that souls existed before the present body’s birth or reincarnated after its death were excommunicated from the church, subject to persecution and eternally damned. While his public works are extravagant in their praise of his patrons, he also authored The Secret History, in which Justinian is cast as cruel and incompetent and Theodora, formerly a prostitute of insatiable lust, is shrewish, mean-spirited and manipulative as empress.
Then, just when a truce appears to be holding between mother and daughter, nightmarish events erupt. She is determined to prove that history indeed repeats itself, and there is nothing they can do to stop it.
But it is a story first and foremost—a mystery with generous dollops of grotesque Gothic and romantic “magical realism,” a dynamic roller coaster ride that hurls the reader through the action. The characters morphed into family members in my dreams at night and invaded my thoughts during the day.
I usually only have time to pleasure read in the evening before lights out and I must say you have made me resist sleep with your text. The implication, however far-fetched, is that anyone or anything set apart in a special manner is somehow the servant of evil. Its return to profane use was strictly banned, and such objects, destined for destruction, thus became effectively accursed as well as consecrated. Paul used the word anathema to signify a curse and the forced expulsion of one from the community of Christians. This little-known power play between church and state served to prejudice the western world against the possibility of reincarnation right up to the present. The marriage and elevation caused a scandal, but Theodora proved to be a potent leader in her own right as well as Justinian’s greatest supporter. While recovering, she too has the dream about the revolt, but she, the queen, boldly confronts the rebels and saves their realm.

Old Testament descriptions of religious wars call both the enemy and their besieged city anathema inasmuch as they were destined for destruction. Anathema, which now connotes the solemn condemnation of a person or thing as damned or cursed, originally meant an equally solemn dedication or setting aside of a person or thing as sacred, even divine.” (The Anathemas, p. She died in 548, perhaps of cancer, at a relatively young age, leaving the rudderless emperor to rule on his own for the remaining twenty years of his long life.
He escapes town, drunk and despondent, only to be pursued by a dream in which he is indeed a king, but a cowardly one about to capitulate to a revolting faction. This baffling coincidence eventually leads them to the irresolute 6th-century Byzantine emperor, Justinian, and his profligate empress, Theodora. Compelled by inescapable fascination, father and daughter—sometimes in tandem, sometimes in opposition—set out to discover what binds them to this long-dead royal couple.
Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can-first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention.
In the 6th century anathema came to mean the severest form of excommunication that formally separated a heretic from the Christian church and condemned his doctrines. When her daring performance grants her a backdoor entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector-only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

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