Guest Post: The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

In addition to reading and reviewing this exotic and intoxicating novel about Empress Theodora, the author Stephanie Thornton wrote an engrossing guest post about the Plague!

I will secretly admit to having an equally morbid obsession about the Plague as well! Without further ado please welcome Stephanie Thornton to The Lit Bitch:

Why Justinian’s Plague Was Nastier than the Black Death

First, before I confuse anyone, Justinian’s Plague and the Black Death were actually the same disease: bubonic plague. I’ve loved plague (reading about it, not having it) since I was in high school, grossing my friends out with accounts of rupturing buboes and thoroughly enjoying the Monty Python rendition of plague. (“I’m not dead yet!”) When I first started researching Theodora’s story, I came across a reference to a plague that had hit the Byzantine Empire during Emperor Justinian’s reign, even afflicting the emperor himself.

“No,” I thought to myself. “That couldn’t be bubonic plague.”

But it was!

So even though it’s the same disease, here are the top three reasons why Justinian’s Plague was so much nastier than the Black Death…

  1. Constantinople ran out of room to bury all the plague victims and ended up walling them up inside the towers of the city walls. By all accounts, the city’s reeked of decaying corpses for a long, long time.
  2. Emperor Justinian took to the streets to rally the people when the plague first hit… and then came down with plague himself. (This allowed Theodora to take control of the government and possibly stop a coup. Because, you know, she’s kind of awesome.) You don’t hear of Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth coming down with bubonic plague, in part because the monarchs and nobility fled to the countryside whenever an outbreak occurred. But not Justinian or Theodora!
  3. We’ve all heard the figures that the Black Death killed between 1/3-1/2 of Europe’s population. However, the Black Death was one of the final nails in feudalism’s coffin, making way for Europe to heave itself out of the Dark Ages. In contrast, Justinian’s plague killed half of Byzantium’s population (Procopius records that 10,000 people in Constantinople died each day), thereby decimating the emperor’s tax base. The Byzantine Golden Age that Justinian had begun died before it ever really got started. So while Justinian’s Plague isn’t quite as famous as the Black Death, it really was a nasty epidemic that brought the Byzantine Empire to its knees.

Finally, your fun fact for the day: Bubonic plague is still endemic in the Four Corners region of the United States (complements of infected prairie dogs) and throughout Mongolia (complements of really cute marmots that happen to carry infected fleas). Thank goodness for modern antibiotics!

About the Author

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” will be published by NAL/Penguin on July 2, 2013, and “Daughter of the Gods” will hit the shelves May 2014.

Be sure to checkout her website for more info about her books  and other upcoming events!


Tuesday, June 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, June 26
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, June 27
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, July 1
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, July 2
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, July 3
Review at Book Journey

Friday, July 5
Review at Layered Pages

Monday, July 8
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, July 9
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, July 12
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, July 15
Review at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books

Tuesday, July 16
Review at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, July 17
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, July 18
Review & Guest Post at The Lit Bitch

Friday, July 19
Interview & Giveaway at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books

Monday, July 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, July 24
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, July 25
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine

Friday, July 26
Interview at A Bookish Libraria

Monday, July 29
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Friday, August 2
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

  1. WHAT?! Prairie dogs?! They are everywhere here in Colorado – maybe I’ll stop trying to hug one. (Okay, I don’t try to hug them, but my dogs do try to play with them). I’m going to toggle back to the review now because I have an equally morbid interest in the Bubonic plague.

Charming comments go here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s