The author was a priest in the Catholic Church and subsequently left it as he slowly lost faith in its teachings. He then began a life-long literary career until his death in 1955. He translated over 200 books and some 300 titles under Haldeman-Julius Publications and became know as the "world's greatest scholar." Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"In concluding an earlier volume on the mistresses of the western Roman Empire I observed that, as the gallery of fair and frail ladies closed, we stood at the door of "the long, quaint gallery of the ByzantineEmpresses." It seemed natural and desirable to pass on to this more interesting and less familiar series of the mistresses of the eastern Roman Empire, and the present volume will therefore tell the story of the Empresses, or Queens, as they preferred to be called, who occupied the throne set up by Constantine in New Rome, or ancient Byzantium, until the victorious Turk thrust it disdainfully aside to make way for his more spacious harem."
"The eastern or Byzantine Empire has long been regarded in Europe as a world of far less interest than that which centred on the banks of the Tiber: a world of monotonous piety and little adventure or spirit, almost Chinese in its placid and unchanging adherence to traditional
and very conventional forms. One is tempted to attribute this error, not merely to the longer concealment of Byzantine antiquities from our fathers and the superior attractiveness of Italy, but, in some measure, to the disproportion of Gibbon's work. By the time the great historian has advanced only one or two centuries in the life of the East he finds that the superb generosity of his plan has committed him to an unachievable task, and he begins to compress whole chapters of the most vivid and adventurous history into a few disdainful pages; and as Finlay, the proper historian of the Greek civilization, not only lacks the charm which draws each generation with fresh wonder to the volumes of Gibbon, but shares and expresses the same disdain for his subject, his work has not tended to redeem the Byzantine Empire from neglect. Of late years there has been some quickening of interest in the eastern Empire. Professor Bury in this country, M. Diehl in France, Schlumberger in
Germany, and other historians, have done much to draw attention to the extraordinary interest and the very lively character of Byzantine life."
"When we confine our attention, as we do in this volume, to the Court life and the personality of the imperial women, the interest rises to the pitch of romance, and is often sustained at that height for many chapters. Few Courts in the world have, in their thousand years of history, witnessed so much adventure, intrigue, comedy and tragedy, as that of the Byzantine Empresses. From all quarters of the Empire, in the most varied ways, all sorts of women, from princesses to village girls, tavern girls or circus girls, make their way to the bronze-roofed palace and wear for a season the prodigious jewels and the glittering robes of an Empress of Constantinople; and, as there is no law or method of succession to the throne, the rise and fall of Emperors and Empresses gives a dramatic movement to the story. The notion that the eastern Empresses are enwrapped in a rigid piety and formalism, as they are in their stiff tunics of gold cloth, is a ludicrous mistake. Their piety is usually external and superficial, and often they make not the least pretence of it; while, even when it is obviously sincere, it is associated with a skill in casuistry which allows a free play of their ambitions,
their passions, and even their criminal impulses. Indeed, it is only fair to say at the outset that if a reader passes from the gallery of the "pagan" Empresses into that of the Empresses of Constantinople in the hope of encountering more restful, more virtuous and more domestic types of womanhood, he will be grievously disappointed. We may not find a Messalina among them, but irregularity of life is more evenly distributed than among the Roman Empresses, ambition and intrigue are far more cultivated, and there is a strain of barbaric cruelty running through the greater part of the story which it would have been more pleasant, had it been consistent with truthfulness, to omit. But the biographer should not be a moralist. My simple purpose is to depict, as far as it is possible, the very varied types of womanhood which come into "the fierce light that beats about a throne" in that strange world where Greek and Roman and Syrian blood blend to produce a new character." […]
"It remains only to explain the starting-point of the volume. In my "Empresses of Rome," which includes all Empresses down to the fall of Rome, I necessarily included the early Empresses of the eastern series, when east and west were branches of one dominion. It is
therefore not necessary to repeat the story of the beautiful and languid Eudoxia, the daughter of a Frankish chief whom a palace intrigue raised to the purple, and who is one of the butts of St Chrysostom's fiery sermons; nor of Eudocia, the Athenian girl who set out to find her father's money and obtained a kingdom, who wrote poems in her native tongue and at last passed from the Court under a cloud of suspicion; nor of Pulcheria, the virgin-sister of Theodosius and rival of Eudocia, who ruled the Empire for her brother and, after his death, took to herself a nominal husband and, with Marcian, was governing the Eastern world at the time of the fall of Rome. I have adequately described her in the preceding volume, and the present story opens at her death in the year 453."