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A Woman's Power Should Not Be Underestimated: Essay

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We cannot deny the importance of the role that women have played in history, more specifically in the history of the Middle Ages. Women have been viewed as possessions and were given off for peace. They were considered not worthy of power nor freedom, just living under the mercy of their lords and husbands. Their duties included raising children, cooking, and farming. Unfortunately, this has been going on throughout history and in many places today. But when women take power, they should not be underestimated. Women have shaped history in ways that many men could never shape. They have created and controlled kingdoms that others failed to challenge. Women have influenced kings, nations, countries, and religions that have changed the world forever. Throughout this essay, Theodora and Wu Zetian will be used to show how the medieval world was shaped by women. “When women ran the empire - and their history was preserved by men”.

Starting with Theodora, who earned her living through a combination of her theatrical and sexual desires. Working as an actress at the time would include indecent exhibitions on stage and providing sexual service off stage. As a result, a law was made to prevent anyone of senatorial rank from marrying actresses. Justinian I, traditionally known as Justinian the Great, fell in love with Theodora to the point where he repealed the law in order to marry her. Two years after their marriage, Theodora became the Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire. She participated in many political activities. Justinian called her his “partner in my deliberations”. Theodora was known to fight for what she believed in and never gave up or backed down because of fear. When an issue was present, Theodora would face it and try to solve the issue to the best of her ability. During Justinian’s reign, a revolt against him called the Nika Revolt (or the Nika Riots) was taking place all around Constantinople. They were one of the most violent riots the city has ever seen. Nearly half of Constantinople was burned and tens of thousands were killed. While trying to escape the city Theodora decided to fight back, saying that “royal purple is the noblest shroud”. She organized all of Justinian’s forces, and because of her efforts, the Byzantine Empire did not collapse. Theodore was not only an empress but also a great example to every female in the Byzantine Empire. She created laws that empowered women. She allowed men of noble birth to marry women of a lower class, laws that prevented women from being forced into prostitution, and laws that prevented women from being taken advantage of in the event of divorce. Although she was an actress in the past, many would consider her a saint due to her actions. “…for a man who has once been emperor to become a runaway - that we cannot bear! I hope I never have the imperial purple stripped from me nor live to the day when the people I meet fail to address me as empress”, Theodora once said.

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The only female emperor and monarch in Chinese history. She ruled the Tang as empress from 655 to 690, and then as emperor for 15 years. Throughout Wu Zetian’s 50-year reign, the empire reached its climax and flourished with stability power, and prosperity. Wu Zetian ruled according to what she once stated, “The ideal ruler is one who rules like a mother rules over her children”. Wu Zetian challenged the Confucian beliefs that state that “having a woman rule [is] as unnatural as having a hen crow like a rooster”. To elevate the status of women, she made scholars write biographies of notable women and gave prominent political positions to members of her mother's tribe. Wu Zetian was very strategic. To eliminate anyone that threatened her position, she would send them into exile, get them killed, or, in many cases, force them to commit suicide. Many think of her as a dictator but don’t see that she needed to be strong and have that resistance in order to get where she wanted. Her rise to power in a male-dominated society itself is an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, not all the female powers that we have encountered were prosperous or behaved in a positive way. The Frankish queen Fredegund was one of history's most bloodthirsty and violent queens. Her life and her reign were primarily centered around the torture and killing of everyone who stood against her and her will. For the most part, the same thing applies to the queen regent of Austrasia, Brunhilda. Brunhilda and Fredegund were enemies that fought for years. They sent their best knights to fight. Eventually, Brunhilda was captured by Fredegund but escaped prison. Through these two examples, we see that not every female leader was a great leader. Although many ruled better than men and developed their nation as no other king could have. Meanwhile, others were just like any other leader, with no significance.

In conclusion, female power was not given as much attention and consideration as all the other kings and male leaders, but we can see that female power definitely made a prominent change in history. From Empress Theodora who was not afraid of fighting and completely took control of the situation of her people and empire to Wu Zetian who remained in power by spreading fear among everyone around her, but Wu Zetian did not disappoint and actually progressed her nation. In other places, such as the Frankish kingdom, queens and female leaders were not as wise as their main and only goal was to stay in power and murder whoever they wanted or disliked. Away from queens, regents, and empresses, women have had a great role in peacemaking between empires and kingdoms. Women would be used to make peace through peace-weavers which refers to women who were married to a member of an enemy tribe for the purpose of establishing peace between feuding groups. Overall, we need to recognize that history would be different without female power.

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A Woman’s Power Should Not Be Underestimated: Essay. (2023, November 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“A Woman’s Power Should Not Be Underestimated: Essay.” Edubirdie, 21 Nov. 2023,
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