Wednesday, November 16, 2016

19 Paintings, PORTRAIT OF A LADY, Empress Zoë, with Footnotes. #4

Zoe Porphyrogenita and Constantine IX Monomachos Giving Donations to Christ
Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)

This double-portrait mosaic in the south gallery of the church of Hagia Sophia shows the Byzantine empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (c. 978 – 1050) and her third husband, emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (c. 1000 – 1055), donating money and ongoing imperial revenue to Christ as Pantokrator (“Judge of All”). Constantine holds a bag of money, which signifies an imperial donation to the church on high feast days or Holy Saturday. Zoe holds a scroll inscribed in red with a cross and Constantine’s official title, the standard Byzantine formula for a donation of estate or tax revenue. More

The Empress Zoe, (11th-century)
Mosaics (Detail)
Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)

Empress Zoë  (Zoë Porphyrogenita; c. 978 – June 1050) reigned as Byzantine Empress alongside her sister Theodora from April 19 to June 11, 1042. She was also enthroned as the Empress Consort to a series of co-rulers beginning with Romanos III in 1028 until her death in 1050 while married to Constantine IX.

Zoë was one of the few Byzantine empresses who was Porphyrogenita, or "born into the purple" (that is, she was born to a reigning emperor). She was the second daughter of Constantine VIII and Helena, daughter of Alypius. Her father had become co-emperor in 962 and sole emperor in 1025. His reign as sole emperor lasted less than three years, from December 15, 1025 to November 15, 1028.

As an eligible imperial princess she was considered as a possible bride for the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III in 996. But worried by the prospect of associating another man with the imperial house, Basil II, her uncle, prevented his nieces from marrying any of the Byzantine nobility until the very end of his life. 

 Emperor Basil II in triumphal garb
exemplifying the Imperial Crown handed down by Angels
Psalter of Basil II 

Coronation of Basil II by Patriarch Polyeuctus, c. 22 April 960

Consequently, Zoë lived a life of virtual obscurity in the imperial gynaeceum until her uncle Basil II died childless, and her dead father not siring any sons, forced her into the centre of imperial politics. A match for Zoë was Romanos III Argyros, the urban prefect of Constantinople., her third cousin. They married on November 10, 1028 in the imperial chapel of the palace, and by November 12 they were seated on the imperial throne.

Zoë convinced Romanos to appoint one of his own men as the chief of Theodora’s household, with orders to spy on her. Shortly afterwards, Theodora was accused of plotting to usurp the throne. Theodora was forcibly confined in the monastery of Petrion. Zoë later visited her sister and forced her to take religious vows.

Zoe has Theodora forcefully tonsured
Madrid Skylitzes

Zoë was obsessed with continuing the Macedonian dynasty. Almost immediately upon marrying Romanos, the fifty-year-old Zoë tried desperately to become pregnant. She tried using magic charms, amulets, and potions, all without effect. This failure to conceive helped alienate the couple, and soon Romanos refused to share the bed with her. Romanos incurred his wife's animosity by paying little attention to her and limiting her spending. On April 11, 1034, Romanos III was found dead in his bath. 

The murder of Romanos III in his bath
Skyllitzes Matritensis (Biblioteca Nacional de España)

Murder of emperor Romanos III Argyros under the order of Michael IV the Paphlagonian, c., 14 century 
Constantine Manasses Chronicle

The wedding of Zoe and Michael the Paphlagonian (Michael IV)
Biblioteca Nacional de España

Zoë married Michael, the Paphlagonian, later the same day, and he reigned as Michael IV until his death in 1041. Although Zoë believed Michael would prove to be a more devoted husband than Romanos, she was sadly mistaken. Michael IV was concerned about Zoë turning on him the way she had turned on Romanos, so he excluded Zoë from politics by placing all power in the hands of his brother John the Eunuch. Zoë was confined again to the palace gynaeceum, and kept under strict surveillance, while Michael’s visits grew more and more infrequent. The disgruntled empress conspired in vain against John.

 Zoe asks her eunuch to poison John the Orphanotrophos (John the Eunuch), brother of Michael IV
The Madrid Skylitzes.

By 1041 it was obvious that Michael IV was dying. John the Eunuch, eager to ensure that power remained in his hands, forced Zoë to adopt Michael V, the son of Michael IV's sister. On 10 December 1041, Michael IV died, and Michael V was crowned emperor, and promptly banished Zoë to a monastery on one of the Princes' Islands, on charges of attempted killing a king. 

The ascension of Michael V Kalaphates
Michael IV the Paphlagonian
Scylitzes chronicle

This treatment of the legitimate heir to the Macedonian Dynasty caused a popular uprising in Constantinople, and on April 19, 1042, the people dethroned Michael V in support of not only Zoë, but also Theodora, her sister. Theodora became co-empress alongside her sister. 

Rebellion against Michael Kalaphates in his palace

The uprising of Constantinople against Michael Kalaphate
At the left is the palace. Archers in the crowd shoot arrows at the palace.
Scylitzes Chronicle

Tonsure and death of the Byzantine emperor Michael IV in 1041, c. 13th century
Skyllitzes Matritensis (Biblioteca Nacional de España)

Gold Histamenon of Zoe and Theodora, c. 1042

Officially Theodora was the junior empress, and her throne was situated slightly behind Zoë’s in all public occasions, she was the driving force behind the joint administration. Both sisters then proceeded to administer the empire, focusing on curbing the sale of public offices and on the administration of justice.

Gold Histamenon of Zoe, Constantinople, 1042

Zoë was jealous of Theodora. The court soon began to split, with factions forming behind each empress. After two months of increasing acrimony, Zoë decided to search for a new husband—her third, the last she was permitted according to the rules of the Orthodox Church.

Marriage and Coronation of Constantine IX Monomachus and Zoe
Upper: Zoe and Constantine cross the Bosphorous in an imperial boat to be received in front of a palace by two dignitaries.
Bottom: The official marriage and coronation of Constantine IX Monomachus and Zoe in the basilica of Basil I
Illustration from Scylitzes Chronicle

She chose the married Constantine Atroklines, a court official.  He died under mysterious circumstances a few days before the wedding was to take place, possibly poisoned by his own soon to be ex-wife. 

Emperor Constantine IX. And Empress Zoe with her sister Theodora III

Zoë then remembered Constantine Monomachos, a former lover. The pair were married on June 11, 1042. On the following day Constantine was formally proclaimed emperor together with Zoë and her sister Theodora.

Monomachos crown. Byzantine cloisonné enamel plaques, probably parts of a crown. They represent the emperor Constantin IX Monomaque (1042-1056), his empress Zoe, her sister Theodora, two dancing-girls and the personifications of the virtues of Truth and Humility. The two medallions show the two apostles St Peter and Andrew.
National Museum of Hungary, Budapest

Monomachos crown
 Empress Zoe

Monomachos crown
 Empress Theodora

Monomachos crown
Constantine IX Monomachus
The central panel

Constantine decided to bring with him into his new station his long standing mistress, Maria Skleraina. He insisted that he be allowed to publicly share his life with her, and further that she obtain some official recognition. Surprisingly, the 64-year-old Zoë did not object to sharing her bed and her throne with Skleraina. The sisters granted Skleraina the title of sebaste and she took rank after Zoë and Theodora.

During Constantine’s reign, Zoë gladly handed over all imperial power and responsibility to him. Until her death in 1050, she enjoyed various amusements, and her rooms in the palace were filled with boiling pots and pans for the manufacture of ointments and perfumes.

Empress Zoe

Zoë was fifty when she first married, yet despite her age, she married twice more. It is said she was stunningly beautiful, and Michael Psellos in his Chronographia commented that "every part of her was firm and in good condition." She was aware of her charms and meant to keep and use them for as long as possible. With typical Byzantine ingenuity, she had many rooms in her chambers converted into laboratories for the preparation of secret ointments, and it was said she was able to keep her face relatively youthful until she was sixty. More

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia

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