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Junia Theodora

June 24, 2012

Junia Theodora is not considered to have any connection to the Junia mentioned in the Bible. However, she was a wealthy citizen of Corinth, and a benefactress who also had an inscription of letters in her honour. The Greek text can be read online in the Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique, 1959.

The Council and people of Myra to the rulers of Corinth, greetings. Many of ours being in your territories testify to Junia Theodora, daughter of Lucius, citizen of yours, for the goodwill and effort that she made on their behalf, occupying herself continually on behalf of ours, at the time of their arrival in your city. According her our approval for her goodwill to the city, we hold her in the greatest esteem, and have decided to write to you in order that you may know of the gratitude of the city.

This inscription was not discovered until 1954 and contains five letters of recommendation for Junia Theodora, who, according to St. Paul’s Corinth: Text and Archaeology was a native of Lycia, a citizen of the city of Corinth and a Roman citizen. She aided the Lycians financially, with hospitality and with influence on the authorities of Corinth. This inscription has brought awareness that Junia (IOUNIA in Greek) was the name of a well-known woman of Corinth, and that this woman was an important patron of her people. The Greek word προστασια was used in reference to the support which she offered the Lycians travelling to Corinth. This is related to the word used to refer to Phoebe in Romans 16 – προστατις. The Lycian Federation sent her a gold crown in recognition of her deeds.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2012 2:52 pm

    In my childhood town, the public library had two divisions: the children’s library and the regular library. Children were limited to children’s library, unless they had special parental permission, which my parents perhaps unwisely gave me. Thus at a tender age I read Gibbon, and in due course read these footnotes in chapter 40:

    40.24: After the mention of a narrow girdle (as none could appear stark-naked in the theatre), Procopius thus proceeds: αναπεπτοκυια τε εν τῳ εδαϕει υπτια εκειτο. Θητες δε τινες … κριθας αυτη υπερθεν των αἰδοιων ερριπτον ας δε οι χηνες, οι ες τουτο παρεσχευασμενοι ετυγχανον, τοις στομασιν ενθενδε κατα μιαν ανελομενοι εισθιον. I have heard that a learned prelate, now deceased, was fond of quoting this passage in conversation.


    40.26: Ηδε κακ τριων τρυπηματων εργαζομενη ομενη ενεκαλει τη φυσει δυσφορουμενη οτι δε μη και τιτθους αὐτη ευρυτερον η νυν εισι τρυπωη, οπως δυνατη ειη και εκεινη εργαζεσθαι. She wished for a fourth altar, on which she might pour libations to the god of love.

    I was permanently scandalized. Even today, I cannot now hear the name “Theodora” (even though the villainess of Procopius’s Secret History was Theodora I, completely different than the subject of your post) or even look at a goose, without recalling these words.

    Gibbon wisely obscured his footnotes in Greek and Latin. This was not enough to hide them from me, but perhaps it may have helped others. But in our present corrupted age, a complete translation of them is just a click away.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    June 24, 2012 4:28 pm

    I was going to chide you for not providing a translation in the comment itself, rather than a link, but on second thought, I agree with your discretion. I sincerely hope that you do not often see geese, or even hear the word spoken, if it evokes this scene!

    But would we be scandalized at the hijinks of a teenage boy? It is true that she was known for some cruelty, but wasn’t that in keeping with the age? Should we judge her by our standards? Gibbon handles this discussion distancing himself from those who would claim that lack of chastity necessarily depraves the female mind. He writes,

    “Those who believe that the female mind is totally depraved by the loss of chastity, will eagerly listen to all the invectives of private envy, or popular resentment which have dissembled the virtues of Theodora, exaggerated her vices, and condemned with rigor the venal or voluntary sins of the youthful harlot.”

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    June 24, 2012 4:35 pm

    But it sounds as if Justinian and Theodora were very happy together, thanks to her broad education, no doubt.


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