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Interesting Personalities of the post-Classical Age

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Presentation on theme: "Interesting Personalities of the post-Classical Age"— Presentation transcript:

1 Interesting Personalities of the post-Classical Age
Empress Wu Empress Theodora

2 Empress Wu zetian The only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor Effectively ruled China during one of its more peaceful and culturally diverse periods Even though a popular Confucian saying stated that a woman ruling was as unnatural as having a “hen crow like a rooster at daybreak”

3 The Tang Dynasty A time of relative freedom for women
Women did not bind their feet Women did not lead submissive lives Tang rulers had nomadic ancestors Nomadic cultures generally offered women more freedoms

4 Family Background Wu was born into a wealthy, noble family
Taught to read the Chinese classics and write Taught to play music Known for her wit, intelligence, and beauty

5 An Important Concubine
Definition: Concubine -one having a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife Wu was recruited to the court of Emperor Tai Tsung Wu soon became his favorite concubine

6 Kao TSUNG Kao Tsung was Emperor Tai Tsung’s son
Concubine Wu was attracted to the emperor’s son When the emperor died, Wu was only twenty-seven years old She quickly became the new emperor, Kao Tsung’s, favorite concubine

7 From Concubine to Empress
Concubine Wu gave birth to the sons that the new emperor desperately wanted As the mother of the future emperor, she grew in power She eliminated the emperor’s wife by accusing her of killing Wu’s newborn daughter The emperor believed Wu The emperor married Wu

8 The Death of the Emperor
Within five years of marriage, the emperor suffered a stroke Empress Wu took over the administrative duties of the court, a position equal to emperor The empress created a secret police force to spy on the opposition She cruelly jailed or killed anyone who stood in her way

9 Increasing Power Wu managed to outflank her eldest sons and moved her youngest and much weaker son into power

10 A Campaign to Elevate Women
To challenge Confucian beliefs -Wu began a campaign to elevate the status of women Had scholars write biographies of famous women Raised the position of her mother’s clan by giving her relatives high political posts Said that the ideal ruler was one who ruled like a mother does over her children

11 To Ruler of China In 690, Wu’s youngest son removed himself from office Wu Zetian was declared emperor of China In spite of her ruthless rise to power, her reign was benign She found the best people she could to govern China She treated those she trusted fairly

12 She reduced the size of the army
She stopped the influence of aristocratic military men on government Relying instead on scholars in government Everyone had to compete for government positions by taking exams

13 Fair to peasants Lowering oppressive taxes Raising agricultural production Strengthening public works

14 Belief Systems Placed Buddhism over Daoism as the favored religion
She invited the most gifted scholars to China Built Buddhist temples and cave sculptures Chinese Buddhism achieved its highest development under the reign of Wu Zetian

15 In Old Age Lessened the power of the secret police
But increasingly superstitious and fearful Sorcerers and corrupt court favorites flattered her

16 Finally, in 705, she was pressured to give up the throne in favor of her of her third son, who was waiting all these years in the wings Wu Zetian died peacefully at age eighty the same year

17 Theodora-Byzantine Empress
Born into the lowest classes Her father was an animal trainer After his death, Theodora took the stage as an actress to support the family The profession was considered scandalous Being an actress was synonymous with being a prostitute

18 Moving Up But Theodora took every opportunity to move up in a very rigid class system In 516, at the age of sixteen, Theodora traveled to Alexandria, Egypt In Egypt, she discovered Monophysitism

19 Monophysitism was the belief that Jesus Christ was wholly divine
Theodora converted to Monophysitism Theodora renounced her former career and lifestyle

20 Justinian Theodora met Justinian I in 522, who was heir to the Byzantine throne Justinian wanted to wed Theodora immediately But as heir, he was forbidden to marry an actress, even a former one

21 Justinian had this law repealed the following year
The two were married in 525

22 The Emperor and Empress
Theodora and Justinian were known for ruling as intellectual and political equals And Theodora was responsible for much of the reformation of Byzantium In 528, construction began on the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy The basilica’s mosaic, completed in 548, depicts both the emperor and empress participating in an imperial procession, signifying her equal role in ruling the empire

23 Religious Unrest In 532, religion plagued the empire
A conflict between two political and religious groups, the Blues and Greens, began during a chariot race at the Hippodrome and quickly grew into what is known as the Nika Revolt The revolt destroyed much of Constantinople

24 Many saw this as a chance to overthrow Justinian
Justinian wished to flee But Theodora spoke out, preferring to die as a ruler than to be removed from power Her courage prompted Justinian to send troops in to calm the rebels

25 Rebuilding Constantinople
After quelling the revolt, Theodora and Justinian confronted the destruction of important monuments in Constantinople, including the Hagia Sophia The couple rebuilt the basilica, which was rededicated in 537 It was the largest church of the period and later became one of the greatest examples of Byzantine architecture


27 Fighting for the Persecuted
During her time as empress, Theodora fought for the persecuted She attended to the rights of prostitutes, particularly by closing brothels, creating protective safe houses, and passing laws to prohibit forced prostitution

28 In addition, she passed laws that expanded the rights of women in divorce cases and abolished a law that allowed women to be killed for committing adultery

29 Finally, she strove to protect the Monophysites
Building houses of worship that served as refuges

30 Theodora died in 548 But her influence was apparent in Justinian’s subsequent rule Justinian sought to maintain the same level of freedom for women, setting a precedent for women’s equality He also fought for the Monophysites, despite his own conflicting orthodox beliefs

31 Yes, Patriarchy But there are always exceptions

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