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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Alissandratou


Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Of all ages, races, nationalities and creeds are occupying the headlines! Our voices are heard throughout the world, be it in politics, industry, commerce, academia and, last but not least, the media.

I never thought of myself, one way or another, as a particularly strong woman, but given the role models I have emulated, the mentors I have had, I have come to the realization that, as is the case with many women, I underestimated myself. I didn’t think twice about raising a child on my own, of becoming a career woman, of traveling the world with my child and mother in tow, and eventually caring for an elderly mother and ailing husband. No, I just did it. And that is what many of us do: we take on the tasks as they come our way. We just DO!

The two women whom I linger over in my scribbles, aka my probably never-to-be published novel, Evdokia and Ephrosine, are Byzantines. Mother and daughter of privilege, they experience the fall of their cities to the Ottoman; they pick up their lives in foreign places; enter arranged marriages to men they do not know; raise their families in countries no longer their own. Women of substance, undeterred by the tumult that surrounds them: they have no choice; they persevere and become towers of strength for their families and those around them. Superwomen? No. Strong women? Yes. Do we know them? Of course we do. We see them every day, wherever we go. The centuries have not changed us, but our world is changing because of us.

While largely ignored, histories of Byzantine women of substance are slowly piercing the dusty light streaming through the halls of academia. Fortunately, modern Byzantine scholars such as Judith Herrin, Lynda Garland, and Donald Nicol, to name a few, have begun the task of changing the historical, literary and gender landscape. Some were saints, such as Makrina and Helene; others not saintly, the notorious Empress Theodora, the anti-iconoclast Empress Irene (of Athens); and then the Abbess/hymnologist Makrina and the scholar, biographer and born-to-the-purple Anna Komnene. Just to name a few.

I do not intend to inundate these pages with Byzantine history, but indulge me every once in a while as I don my mortarboard and lapse into momentary reflection of what once was, and who THEY, the WOMEN were.


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