chapter  8
23 Pages

Zoe Porphyrogenneta (1028-50)

The Macedonian house had come to power in 867 through the assassination of Michael III, in which the new empress Eudokia Ingerina was implicated, while a hundred years later Theophano had been involved in the murder of her second husband. This was not the last display of murderous tendencies by an empress of the Macedonian house, however, for Theophano's granddaughter Zoe was to succeed in having three husbands, each an emperor by right of marriage to her, and like her grandmother she was to have one of them removed for her convenience, in order to marry her young lover.l Zoe, however, succeeded in her aims, perhaps because Zoe and her sister Theodora, as brotherless daughters of Constantine VIII, were the legitimate successors and heirs of the dynasty. That was certainly how the populace saw it when Zoe's position was threatened, firstly by Michael V her adopted son and then by Maria Skleraina, the mistress of her third husband. In her murder of Romanos III, Zoe was activated by purely personal motives - overpowering infatuation for a younger man. She had no children for whom to plot, no plans for the government of the empire, only a totally egotistical concern to satisfy her own desires: the fact that Romanos was not an extremely successful emperor was not relevant to her plan to remove him, for Michael was not chosen for any potential imperial qualities. At least Theophano had picked on two generals for the purple, and was concerned that they protect her sons' position. Zoe was also said to have plotted against her second husband, Michael IV, and her adopted son Michael V, and to have attempted to have poisoned her husband's brother, John the Orphanotrophos, the de facto ruler of the empire. While these accusations need not be taken as necessarily true, they are a pointer to the deference and suspicion with which she was regarded by her contemporaries.