16. Empress Theodora (500 AD?-548 AD)
A former actress for the royal courts, Theodora married Emperor Justinian and became co-ruler of the Byzantine Empire. She converted to Christianity, crushed revolts, and transformed Constantinople into a modern, powerful city. She commissioned building project across the land that included churches, bridges, and aqueducts, and even The Hague in Sophia. Theodora was an early advocate for women’s rights. Under her reign, women were given more assets following divorce, allowed to own property, and granted guardianship of their own children.
She passed laws outlawing brothels and the practice of forced prostitution, making rape a capital offense, and stopped the practice of killing an adulterous wife. Her work led to her sainthood by the Eastern Orthodox Church.