The story of the rise of Theodora from street beggar and harlot to one of the most powerful women in world history has fascinated historians and novelists and biographers. Vandercook in 1940, Kraus in 1938, wrote absorbing stories justifying Theodora, depicting her as a great ruler. Harold Lamb- to name the most recent of the historians, in his Theodora and the Emperor paints a less glowing portrait, and makes much of the triangle of which Bellsarius was the third. (See page 312- 1952). Wellman, again in a novel, is caught by the drama of historical event, and endows it with his narrative and pictorial gift. Theodora is again made the dominant figure, Justinian comes through as her partner- but subservient to her greater intellect and instinct for decisive judgment. Bellsarius is shown as loyal military genius, whose passions were given to the courtesan Antonina, while Theodora never wavered once her troth to Justinian was pledged. This is Wellman's first departure from the American scene. He has managed to suffuse a many times told tale with fresh glamor -- and to hold the reader interest throughout a very long book. His title- The Female- would seem to suggest that he has drawn Theodora as woman incarnate. This is less than just to the penetration of his study, for Theodora emerges as more than the symbol his title indicates. Whether the period and the subject matter will appeal to those who expect something else from Wellman remains to be seen. The book is certainly his most mature work.