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Unrivalled InfluenceWomen and Empire in Byzantium$
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Judith Herrin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153216

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153216.001.0001

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The Many Empresses of the Byzantine Court (and All Their Attendants)

The Many Empresses of the Byzantine Court (and All Their Attendants)

(p.219) 10 The Many Empresses of the Byzantine Court (and All Their Attendants)
Unrivalled Influence

Judith Herrin

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers moments when the Byzantine court appeared to contain many empresses. In the political ideology of the Byzantine Empire, there was place for only one ruler, the emperor “crowned by God” and blessed by the church, who united all his subjects within the known world, oikoumene. And while many conflicts and civil wars were fought over the succession, once an emperor had been crowned in Constantinople his authority was greatly enhanced over the imperial court as well as his uncrowned rivals. As the structures of imperial court life evolved, two factors materialized into greater significance: the presence of an empress, usually the emperor's wife, became essential to court rituals; and an empress had to take charge of the female sector of the court. When two women were elevated to the same position of empress, it was necessary for one to be designated as the official holder of the title, which could provoke immense rivalry.

Keywords:   Byzantine Empire, Byzantine empress, Byzantium, Byzantine women, Byzantine court, court rituals

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