Friday, November 13, 2015

The Marrying Kind, Part 3

Part 1 tells how Zoe Porphyrogenita had one fiancee die, how she rejected another, and how her first husband died.

Part 2 tells how her second husband betrayed her, and how her adoptive son tried to banish her.

Zoe and Theodora on a gold coin called a histamenon
Empress Zoe was the conduit by whom others became Emperor, but she was never allowed to be sole ruler. The Court brought her sister, Theodora, out of a monastery to be co-ruler, but Theodora did not want the job, even though she proved adept at it. That, and the two sisters' hatred for each other, meant a rocky road ahead.

Their first disagreement came when Theodora wanted to punish Michael V for banishing Zoe and precipitating a crisis. Kind-hearted Zoe wanted to pardon him, but Theodora, after offering him a pardon, had him blinded and forced into a monastery. The truth is, Theodora had the tough mindedness and skills at governing that were not possessed by Zoe. The jealous Zoe decided to marry a third time—the Greek Orthodox Church allowed her three marriages—in order to shut out the need for Theodora. But whom to pick?

There was Constantine Dalassenos, considered a potential groom years earlier, but his current attitude toward Zoe's actions made her reject him. There was Constantine Atroklines, one of her lovers during the time of Romanos, but he died a few days before the wedding—possibly poisoned by the woman he was divorcing in order to marry Zoe. What about Constantine Monomachos? He had been an earlier lover as well. They married on 11 June 1042; it was the third marriage for each of them.

Emperor Constantine IX had his own ideas about marriage to Zoe, one of which was that he be allowed to continue—quite publicly— his relationship with his mistress, Maria Skleraina. Zoe, now 64, and Theodora seemed fine with a third woman in the household. Zoe seemed to be capable of enduring anything, so long as she had a husband who did not abandon her. She spent her remaining days in entertainment and making perfumes and lotions and potions. She was considered a great beauty, with looks that lasted until she was sixty.

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