Marozia, born Maria and also known as Mariuccia or Mariozza (c. 890 – 932/937), was a Roman noblewoman who was the alleged mistress of Pope Sergius III and was given the unprecedented titles senatrix ("senatoress") and patricia of Rome by Pope John X.
Edward Gibbon wrote of her that the "influence of two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues: the most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman tiara, and their reign may have suggested to darker ages the fable of a female pope. The bastard son, the grandson, and the great grandson of Marozia – a rare genealogy – were seated in the Chair of St. Peter." From this inaccurate description the term pornocracy has become associated with the effective rule in Rome of Theodora and her daughter Marozia through male surrogates.
Marozia was born about 890. She was the daughter of the Roman consul Theophylact, Count of Tusculum and of Theodora, the real power in Rome, whom Liutprand of Cremona characterized as a "shameless whore... [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man."
At the age of fifteen, Marozia became the mistress of Theophylact's cousin Pope Sergius III, whom she knew when he was bishop of Portus. The two had a son, John (the later Pope John XI). That, at least, is the story found in two contemporary sources, the Liber Pontificalis (first ed., 500s; it has papal biographies up to Pius II, d. 1464) and the Antapodosis sive Res per Europam gestae (958-62), by Liutprand of Cremona (c. 920-72). But a third contemporary source, the annalist Flodoard (c. 894-966), says John XI was brother of Alberic II, the latter being the offspring of Marozia and her husband Alberic I. Hence John too may have been the son of Marozia and Alberic I.
At any rate, Marozia married Alberic I, duke of Spoleto, in 909, and their son Alberic II was born in 911 or 912. By the time Alberic I was killed at Orte in 924, the Roman landowners had won complete victory over the traditional bureaucracy represented by the papal curia. Rome was virtually under secular control, the historic nadir of the papacy.
In order to counter the influence of Pope John X (whom the hostile chronicler Liutprand of Cremona alleges was another of her lovers), Marozia subsequently married his opposer Guy of Tuscany, who loved his beautiful wife as much as he loved power. Together they attacked Rome, arrested Pope John X in the Lateran, and jailed him in the Castel Sant'Angelo. Either Guy had him smothered with a pillow in 928 or he simply died, perhaps from neglect or ill treatment. Marozia seized power in Rome in a coup d'état. The following popes, Leo VI and Stephen VII, were both her puppets. In 931 she even managed to impose her son as pontiff, under the name of John XI. John was only twenty-one at the time.
When her husband died in 929, Marozia negotiated a marriage with his half-brother, Hugh of Arles, who had been elected King of Italy. Hugh was already married, but had that marriage annulled so that Hugh and Marozia could be wed. Alberic II, Marozia's son, led the opposition to the rule of Marozia and Hugh. After deposing them in 932, at the very wedding ceremonies, Alberic II imprisoned his mother until her death. Hugh escaped the city.
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