chapter  6
17 Pages

The wives of Leo VI (886-919)

The tetragamy issue, the question of the fourth marriage of Leo VI and Zoe Karbounopsina, was 'perhaps the most significant event of early tenthcentury Byzantine political and ecclesiastical life' .1 The question was not one of the legality of a fourth marriage, which all ecclesiastical parties considered to be totally unacceptable, but of the degree to which the needs of the empire and the will of the emperor could be accommodated by the church when necessary. The issue resulted in the church in schism, and with an empress once more regent for a minor. In this case the regency was held by an empress, the legality of whose marriage was in doubt, and who had come to power by a palace coup and overthrown the patriarch as head of the regency council. To make her position even more difficult, her son's legitimacy and right to the title of heir and emperor had been the subject of heated and to some degree unresolved controversy.