A Mongol princess (the khan's sister), an actress and a courtesan, this Byzantine Empress took the name Theodora when she converted to the Greek form of Christianity and changed her life to that of a religious. When she married Justinian I and became empress she involved herself with Byzantine politics, particularly those concerning the rights of women. She established laws raising the status of women in Byzantine far above that of women in the western part of the empire, the MiddleEast and Europe.
She instituted the death penalty for rape, improved divorce laws and laws against the mistreatment of women and established laws allowing women to own and inherit property. She was responsible for the building of hospitals and convents as a refuge for homeless women.
At one time she saved the Byzantine palace by taking a sword in hand and urging her husband and palace guards to take a stand against invading forces.
1. Women in chains - represent the condition of women before Theodora became empress.
2. Women in front of the tree of life - (a female symbol of bounty) represent the higher status of women because of Theodora's stand for the rights of women.
3. Interlocking circles - a continuity of intellect and will.
4. The Byzantine cross enclosed in a circle - represents paradise and four rivers rising from the circle and flowing in four cardinal directions.
5. Mosaic designs - from the cathedral at San Vitale, Ravenna. Built by Theodora and Justinian.
6. Silver sword - represents courage of Theodora.
7. Crescent moon - female symbol, in this case of far reaching power.
8. Translation of text - Classical Greek:
"For all women the right to freedom."