Monday, March 31, 2008

Zoe, (1045-1055) -

Empress. Zoe more than once took upon herself the role of emperor maker. She was accused of murdering her first husband, Romanus III, in order to marry Michael, a leading political figure, so she could place him upon the throne. Then she replaced Michael with her third and last husband, Constantine IX Monomachus. After his death in 1055, she ruled jointly with her sister Theodora for a year. Theodora, the last of the Macedonian dynasty, ruled independently for twenty months.
For obvious reasons, Zoe was seen by her contemporaries as ruthless and pleasure loving. She was called unnatural by those who thought it shameful that a woman should rule the empire. In truth, Zoe's rule weakened the empire. She did little to lessen the enormous government civil service, and permitted the civilian aristocracy to gain control of the governmental machine. When not at her ritual laden court, she apparently spent much time in her bedroom, making perfume of various blends. That she was strong willed there is little doubt. She caught the attention of a contemporary Michael Psellus who described her ascension to the throne after the death of her first husband: "Empress Zoe, immediately took control of affairs just as if she were, by divine will, the next inheritor of the throne. But actually she was more concerned to take over power briefly so that she might turn over authority to Michael (her next husband). She summoned Michael and dressed him in robes interwoven with gold thread. Then, placing the imperial crown on his head, she sat him down on the sumptuous throne with herself dressed in similar garb seated next to him. She ordered everyone who was living in the palace at this time to...acclaim them both together. And they did so."

No comments: