Theodora (11th century)

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Theodora (Greek: Θεοδώρα, Theodōra, literally meaning "Gift of God"), lived 984 – after August 31, 1056, ruled as Byzantine Empress from January 11, 1055 to after August 31, 1056. She was the daughter of Constantine VIII and Helena.

Possessed of a strong and austere character, the beautiful Theodora refused the hand of the heir-presumptive, Romanos Argyros, who was married instead to her sister Zoe in 1028. Though living in retirement she excited Zoe's jealousy, and on a pretext of conspiracy with Presian of Bulgaria, she was confined in a monastery.

In April 19, 1042 the popular movement which caused the dethronement of Michael V also led to Theodora's installment as co-empress with her sister. After two months of active participation in government she allowed herself to be virtually superseded by Zoe's new husband, Constantine IX Monomachos, on June 11, 1042. Nevertheless, Theodora was considered as an empress alongside her sister and brother-in-law.

Upon Constantine's death on January 11, 1055, and in spite of her seventy years of age, she reasserted her dormant rights with vigour, and frustrated an attempt to supersede her on behalf of the general Nikephoros Proteuon, governor of Bulgaria. By her firm administration she controlled the unruly nobles and checked numerous abuses; but she marred her reputation by excessive severity towards private enemies and the undue employment of menials for advisers, including her influential minister Leo Paraspondylos. Leo's faction was interested in maintaining its control of government through the aging empress, while the patriarch Michael Keroularios advocated Theodora advancing a subject to the throne through marriage, something which would have assured the succession. Theodora became gravely ill on August 31, 1056 and died a few days later, in early September. Having no children and being the last member of her dynasty, she had chosen one of her favorites, the former military minister Michael VI Bringas, as her successor on the recommendation of Leo. But Michael VI, not being related to the great Macedonian dynasty that had ruled the Byzantine Empire for a period of 189 years did not receive universal support. This resulted in a series of conflicts for the throne between various noble families that lasted from 1056 till 1081.


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.

Preceded by:
Constantine IX
Byzantine Empress
Succeeded by:
Michael VI

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