Theodora (11th century)

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Theodora (Greek: Θεοδώρα, Theodōra, 980 – early September, 1056) was a Byzantine Empress. Born into the Macedonian dynasty that had ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two hundred years, she was co-empress with her sister Zoe for two months in 1042 and sole empress from January 11, 1055 to after August 31, 1056. She was the last of the Macedonian line, and upon her death, the empire entered a period of decline that lasted until the accession of Alexios I Komnenos in 1081.

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Early Life

She was the youngest daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII and Helena, daughter of Alypius.[2] Her position as an eligible imperial princess saw her considered as a possible bride for the Holy Roman Emperor in the west, Otto III in 996.[3] Apparently a very plain woman, she was overlooked in favour of her sister Zoe, who was selected as the potential bride, but Otto III died before she could be wed.[4] From that point onwards, Theodora lived a life of virtual total obscurity in the imperial gynaeceum[5] until circumstances (her uncle Basil II dying childless and her dying father not siring any sons) forced her into the centre of imperial politics.[6] Intelligent, and possessing a strong and austere character, Theodora defied her father by refusing to marry the man he had chosen to succeed him, Romanos Argyros, on the pretext that, firstly, Romanos was already married – his wife having become a monastic to allow Romanos to marry into the imperial family.[7] Secondly, she claimed that since Romanos and she were third cousins, it was too close a blood relationship for marriage to occur.[8] Consequently, Constantine VII was forced to choose Theodora’s sister, Zoe, who married Romanos instead in 1028.[9]

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