Theodora Porphyrogenita (11th century)

Theodora Porphyrogenita
Empress and Autocratess of the Romans
Byzantine coin showing Jesus Christ on the left and Empress Theodora on the right.
Empress of the Byzantine Empire
Reign19 April 1042 – 31 August 1056
Coronation19 April 1042
PredecessorZoë Porphyrogenita and Michael V Kalaphates
SuccessorMichael VI Bringas
Co-regentZoë Porphyrogenita[1]:2038 (1042–1050)
Constantine IX Monomachos (1042–1055)
Bornc. AD 980
Died31 August 1056
(aged 75–76)
FatherConstantine VIII

Theodora Porphyrogenita (Greek: Θεοδώρα, Theodōra; AD 980 – 31 August 1056) was a Byzantine Empress born into the Macedonian dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two hundred years. She was co-empress with her sister Zoë for two months in 1042 and sole empress regnant from 11 January 1055 to 31 August 1056. She was the last ruler of the Macedonian line.

Theodora's life was entwined with that of her older sister Zoë. In 1028 her father, Constantine VIII, attempted to extend the dynasty by marrying Theodora to the urban prefect of Constantinople, Romanos Argyros. Theodora refused, and Zoë was married to him instead; three days later he became emperor. Angry that Theodora had been the first choice to marry Romanos, Zoë had her sister closely watched. After two foiled plots, Theodora was exiled to an island monastery in the Sea of Marmara. Twelve years later, the people of Constantinople rose against Michael V, Zoë's adopted son, and insisted that Theodora return to rule alongside her sister. After 65 days Zoë married again to Constantine IX, who assumed the imperial responsibilities.

When Constantine IX died, the seventy-four-year-old Theodora returned to the throne, in the teeth of fierce opposition from court officials and military claimants. For eighteen months she was a strong empress before being struck down by a sudden illness and dying on 31 August 1056 aged seventy-six.

Early life

Histamenon depicting Basil II and Constantine VIII, holding a cross.

Theodora was the third and youngest daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII and Helena, daughter of Alypius.[1]:503 She was Porphyrogenita,[2]:259 "born into the purple"; this was the appellation for a child born in the capital to a reigning emperor. Her father became co-emperor in 962 and sole emperor in 1025.[citation needed] His reign as sole emperor lasted less than three years, from 15 December 1025 to 15 November 1028.[1]:503

As an eligible imperial princess, she was considered as a possible bride for the Holy Roman Emperor in the west, Otto III in 996.[2]:253 However, Theodora was overlooked in favour of her sister Zoë. Otto III died before any marriage could occur.[2]:259 Theodora's uncle Basil II prevented his nieces from marrying any of the Byzantine nobility, calculating that such a marriage would have given their husbands a claim on the imperial throne. As women, Theodora and Zoë were unable to exercise any state authority, their only say in this was in choosing, or more likely accepting or not, a husband who would acquire their authority upon marriage.[3] Consequently, Theodora lived a life of virtual obscurity in the imperial gynaeceum (women's quarters).[2]:269

Basil II died childless in 1025 and Constantine VIII became sole emperor at the age of 65. As he had no sons, Theodora and Zoë were catapulted into the centre of imperial politics.[citation needed] Intelligent and possessing a strong and austere character, Theodora defied her father by refusing to marry the man her father had chosen to succeed him, Romanos Argyros, stating that Romanos was already married – his wife having become a nun to allow Romanos to marry into the imperial family.[4]:465 Theodora further claimed that since Romanos and she were third cousins, it was too close a blood relationship for marriage to occur.[2]:270 Consequently, Constantine VIII chose Theodora's sister. Zoë married Romanos three days before her father died.[citation needed]

Empress Zoë tonsures her sister Theodora

With the accession of Romanos, Theodora prudently retreated back into the gynaeceum, with its daily religious routines,[2]:276 but this did not save her from her sister's envy. Never forgiving Theodora for being their father's first choice,[citation needed] Zoë persuaded her husband to appoint one of his own men as the chief of Theodora's household, with orders to spy on her.[4]:469 Shortly afterwards, Theodora was accused of plotting to marry Presian of Bulgaria and usurp the throne with him. Presian was blinded and sent to a monastery; Theodora was not punished. In 1031 she was implicated in a similar conspiracy, this time with Constantine Diogenes, the Archon of Sirmium.[1]:627 Theodora was forcibly confined in the monastery of Petrion. During a visit, Zoë compelled her sister to take Holy Orders.[4]:471 Theodora remained there for the next eleven years, as Zoë managed the empire with her husbands, Romanos III and, after his death, Michael IV.[5]

Other Languages
čeština: Theodora III.
Deutsch: Theodora III.
hrvatski: Teodora III.
Bahasa Indonesia: Theodōra (abad ke-11)
Nederlands: Theodora III
română: Teodora a III-a
slovenščina: Teodora III.
српски / srpski: Теодора (11. век)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Carica Teodora
Tiếng Việt: Theodora (thế kỷ 11)