Is it true that Justinian and Theodora are considered saints in the Orthodox Church?
Many historians portray Justinian as cruel, and Theodora as sexually promiscuous... is this just slander?
Theodora's sexual promiscuity is overrated. She was an actress when young performing eschatologic comedies that were probably more vulgar than American Pie or Porky's. Remember that it was late Roman culture so this vulgarity probably mean she had to perform these very vulgar scenes in front of the public, live. That's the main source of the legends about her promiscuity. Did she really went one step further and accepted money for sex like many actresses of the time? We'll never know, although that would be plausible. We do know that the "reports" on this were made by a political enemy who hated her and had lots of personal interest in having her slandered. What we also know is that she first married a Roman centurion who gave her a child and abandoned her and she had to return to the theater, where she met Justinian. After she married him, except from the mouth of this political enemy, she was very respected, sometimes even more than Justinian himself. She had lots of charities, had a special concern for poor women and ex-prostitues. According to Wikipedia:
She had laws passed that prohibited forced prostitution and closed brothels. She created a convent on the Asian side of the Dardanelles called the Metanoia (Repentance), where the ex-prostitutes could support themselves. She also expanded the rights of women in divorce and property ownership, instituted the death penalty for rape, forbade exposure of unwanted infants, gave mothers some guardianship rights over their children, and forbade the killing of a wife who committed adultery.
That suggests that *if* she engaged in prostitution at an early age, it was not for promiscuity but forced by necessity and circumstance. Even if she was one, she clearly saw it as a humiliating, non-desirable state. Her laws for protecting women show that she suffered and learned a lot.