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New Medieval Books: Theophano: A Byzantine Tale

A graphic novel by Spyros Theocharis and Chrysa Sakel

A fairytale marriage that goes terribly wrong, a ruling dynasty struggling to keep everything together by having overly ambitious eunuchs do the dirty work, and prominent Roman generals who dream of taking the throne for themselves.

This explosive mixture of occurrences takes place in the 10th century Medieval Roman Empire (aka The Byzantine Empire). An era of territorial resurgence and massive Imperial extravagance, but also an era of dynastic intrigues and endless plotting for the ultimate prize. The Byzantine throne. During that time, Anastasia, a common girl, marries the heir to the throne, enters the palace, and becomes Theophano an ambitious woman ready to climb the ladder of power and sacrifice herself for her children.

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Based on real historical events, this epic graphic novel offers an immersion into a forgotten world. The world of the medieval Romans who survived up until the Middle Ages with their capital, Constantinople “The Queen of all Cities” serving as a second Rome.

You can purchase this graphic novel on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

We interviewed Spyros and Chrysa to learn more about why their work:

1. Why did you want to create a graphic novel focusing on Byzantine history?

Apart from the writer’s passion for anything historical, we were also inspired by the influence of the medieval era in pop culture which has resulted in the creation of many fictional shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher. This made us turn towards the medieval history of our region. We found out that countless stories of the Byzantine era with big potential have remained untold. Just like in other medieval societies the political norm in Byzantium was war, intrigue and constant antagonism for more power. The main difference with the rest of medieval Europe was that the culture of the Byzantines is worth to be visualized as it was the only medieval realm which carried the Greco-Roman legacy on its shoulders and its cultural course was completely different to that of the medieval west. The Byzantines were the Romans who survived and continued to exist throughout the Middle Ages in the East keeping their identity, political structure, tradition, customs and adopting the lingua Franca of the east as their primary language. Along with the story, we wanted to make an attempt to visualize some aspects of the Byzantine imperial palace like the clothing and some court ceremonies in order to show the imperial splendor of the 10th century Byzantium.

So for us, the motivation was to visually highlight the existence of a quite forgotten civilization to a wide audience through a genre which hasn’t dealt with this historical topic before and to tell a story which was based on real historical events with a female protagonist who had to deal with generals, emperors and eunuchs in an endless power struggle for the throne of the Emperor of the Romans.

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2. Theophano is a very interesting character in her own right! What made you want to have her as the main character of your novel?

One of the main reasons we picked Theophano as our main character is that we wanted to tell the story of someone not as well known and popular as some other historical characters in the Byzantine era, like Justinian and Theodora. We wanted our readers to be unbiased while reading the story, since there are so many people who correlate Byzantium to very negative concepts such us extreme religiosity, backwardness, etc. Theophano’s story has many interesting parameters. It resembled nothing of what someone would expect from the life of a woman who lived during that time. She is a strong female character who dealt with three different and powerful emperors and her actions formed the course of history and ensured the continuation of the ruling dynasty. In general, Unlike the west, the Byzantine world produced a lot of strong women such as Empress Theodora the wife of Justinian and Irene of Athens. Theophano’s story however, is in our opinion much more interesting and easy to manipulate so as to get the result that we wanted: an exciting story, full of mystery and intrigue, showing the readers the fascinating side of Byzantine life in the palace. Finally, the historical events that follow Theophano and her sons’ lives, give us enough “food” for a possible creation of a sequel, in the near future.

3. Are you planning any other graphic novels?

We really enjoyed the experience of creating this graphic novel. We learned a lot of things that we didn’t know about and this will surely help us in our future projects. We certainly have countless ideas for new graphic novels. A sequel to Theophano is a priority for us in the near future but we can’t exclude working on something completely new like the Comnenian era during the 1st Crusade. Right now we focus on publishing the Greek version of Theophano and once we finish, we will review some scripts to decide what our next step will be.

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About the creators:

Spyros Theocharis, born in 1988, lives in Athens, Greece. From a young age, he was fond of history and he has read many books about Byzantium. He has studied English language and literature. He has been working as teacher of English as a Second Language and some years ago he started writing some scripts for a historical graphic novel in his spare time. Theophano is his debut effort.

Chrysa Sakel was born in 1992 in Athens, Greece. She has been painting since she was a child and started taking lessons in traditional art since the age of five. She has produced many classical art pieces that you can see in her online portfolio. Recently she turned towards digital art and comic art. Her cooperation with Spyros Theocharis led to the creation of the graphic novel “Theophano: a Byzantine Tale” which is also her debut effort in the comic genre.

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