Roman Emperors Dir Theophano Wife Of Romanus Ii And Nicephorus Phocas

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Theophano, wife of Romanus II and Nicephorus II Phocas

Lynda Garland
University of New England, Australia

Catherine Holmes
University College, Oxford


Theophano, wife first of Romanus II (959-963) and then of Nicephorus II Phocas (963-969), is noted among Byzantine empresses for having been the only empress generally believed to have been guilty of her husband's murder (though there is also a good case for believing that her granddaughter Zoe may also have orchestrated the death of her first husband Romanus III Argyrus). Theophano may not have been as black as she was painted: at least, her conspiracy against Nicephorus had the possible merit of protecting the interests of her two sons, the rightful emperors. As regent, Theophano obviously felt justified in taking an interest in government and from the gripping incidents which enlivened her career we have evidence for the fact that empresses could take a practical part in interfering with the succession to the throne, and that the women's quarters (gynaeconitis) of the palace could be a centre of intrigue and alternative government.

The rise to the purple

Originally born under the rather plebeian name of Anastaso, a diminutive of Anastasia, Theophano was renamed on her rise to the purple to reflect a more cultured background (Theophanó means 'vision of God' or 'divinely shining' and is a diminutive of the name Theophania; one of the daughters of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus had also been called Theophano). She was lucky enough in her teens to be selected to marry Romanus II, the only son and youngest child of Constantine VII, who had finally been born in 939 in the wake of five sisters (Zoe, Anna, Agatha, Theophano and Theodora).[[1]] As heir to the throne, he had, of course, already been provided with a suitable royal bride. The six-year-old princess Bertha, daughter of Hugh of Provence, king of Italy (927-947), had been brought to Constantinople in 944, renamed Eudocia, and educated towards her imperial role. Once provided with a suitable bride, Romanus was crowned co-emperor on 6 April 945, but, unhappily, Bertha had died in 949 before the marriage could be consummated.[[2]] So another marriage was arranged, this time with Hedwig of Bavaria, daughter of Henry of Bavaria, the brother of Otto I the Great, who was first king (936-962) and then emperor (962-973) of Germany. The aim of this alliance was to unite Germany and Byzantium against the Hungarians, who had fairly recently settled in the Danube basin. A eunuch was sent to teach Hedwig Greek, but she was unhappy at the thought of this marriage and in 954 married Burchard II of Swabia.[[3]] Along with the eunuch, a portrait painter had been sent to make a lifelike depiction of the bride-designate to send back to Constantinople, but this did not eventuate: the young girl detested the idea of marrying a Greek, and made faces until the project was abandoned. In the event, the Hungarians were decisively defeated by Otto in 955.[[4]]

Perhaps the court and imperial family had had enough of these frustrating attempts to find a suitable western bride. Perhaps Romanus, at the age of seventeen, took matters into his own hands. He was to marry a wife from a very different background, the marriage probably taking place in 955. Theophano was an exceptionally beautiful girl, born in Constantinople, apparently without aristocratic connections (though this scenario seems highly unlikely). The contemporary source Leo the Deacon and the historian Scylitzes agree that she was of obscure parentage: in fact Scylitzes maintains that her father was an innkeeper.[[5]] However, Scylitzes was hostile to Theophano, and may well have been exaggerating the obscurity of her birth in an attempt to denigrate her background. It is, of course, marginally possible that her evident attractions were thought to counterbalance her lack of noble origins. Leo tells us that she was more beautiful than any other woman of her time and, while she may have captured the fancy of the young co-emperor, beauty was always considered a prerequisite for an imperial bride, even to the extent of brides for the heir to the throne being supposedly chosen in a form of beauty-contest from the late eighth century until the early tenth (though there was generally a hidden agenda underpinning the final choice).[[6]] Perhaps this was a factor in the choice of Theophano as a potential empress, but the matter is unresolved, and we have to bear in mind that Theophano was invariably vilified by Scylitzes, our main source. Marriage and matrimonial alliances were taken very seriously at the imperial court, and it is highly unlikely that the teenage heir would have been able to force a decision on his family.

Imperial training

One advantage of selecting a Constantinopolitan bride was that Theophano did not need to be taught Greek, but there were many other areas in which she would have had to have received instruction (quite apart from the fact that, if she were of lowly origins, her Greek may well have needed some improvement). The rules and traditions of court ceremonial were manifold and intricate. While much of the ceremonial was being committed to writing by the antiquarian Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, one of the main duties of the eunuchs and officials of the women's quarters was to pass on the knowledge of the formal ceremonies which orchestrated every detail of imperial life from official dinners to receptions of new recruits to the imperial household. Every detail of order of precedence, costume, venue, schedule of events, and appropriate gestures, movement and speech had to be fully mastered by every participant.[[7]] As well as being a fundamental part of mainstream court life, the empress moreover had her own court with ceremonial which reflected that of the emperor and his male courtiers.[[8]] She also had to be present at special banquets and at the promotions of officials and their wives, and gave receptions for the wives of visiting dignitaries.

The teen-age Theophano would have learnt her role and special duties by observing her mother-in-law Helena Lecapena, the senior Augusta. Both empresses played a vital role in the reception of Olga, princess of Kiev, in the Great Palace, perhaps in September 957 or 958.[[9]] Olga and her entourage were first formally received by Constantine VII and the whole court in the Magnaura Palace. Following this, in the Triclinium of Justinian, the empress and co-empress (Helena and Theophano) received seven different groups of court wives (the zostae; the magistrissae; the patriciae; the protospathariae ophicialeae; the remaining protospathariae; the spatharocandidatissae; and finally the spathareae, stratorissae and candidatissae). Helena as empress sat on Theophilus' great throne, and her daughter-in-law on a golden chair to the side. Then Olga and her entourage and female attendants entered and were permitted to converse with the empress. Finally, the emperor, empress and Constantine VII's porphyrogenite ('purple-born') children received Olga in the empress' bedchamber.

Later on the same day Helena gave a great banquet in the Triclinium of Justinian for all the female Russians, while the emperor received the males in the Chrysotriclinium. Olga dined with the empress, who may on this visit have acted as godmother at Olga's Orthodox baptism (Olga took the name Helena in honour of the empress).[[10]] Standing with Helena and Theophano, Olga then received the prostrations of all the wives of leading men at the banquet and the wives of court officials. At dinner Olga was seated at a table with all those court ladies with the rank of zoste (implying that Olga had also been granted this specific rank, zoste patricia, marked by its own costume and girdle, the 'zoste').[[11]] Entertainment at the banquet included choirs of choristers and theatrical dances by the Blue and Green factions. Dessert was served separately in the Aristeterion, where Olga sat with the emperors (Constantine VII and Romanus II), the children of both emperors, and Theophano; presumably Theophano's two eldest children were present, starting to learn some of the tricks of the imperial trade. Olga was then presented with 500 silver coins in a jewel-encrusted golden bowl, while appropriate presents were also made to her six relatives and eighteen attendants.

On the second occasion on which Olga was received at court, in the following month, Helena put on another banquet for Olga, this time in the Pentacubuclium of St Paul (the emperor again dined with the Russian males in the Chrysotriclinium). Theophano and all Constantine's children were in attendance again, and more coins were distributed to Olga and her entourage.[[12]]

The details of such ceremonial were overseen by the master of ceremonies, the atriclines, the courtier in charge of imperial banquets, who acted as stage-manager and prompted the participants during the events. Every official and attendant of the bedchamber must also have been thoroughly instructed in the protocol. Nevertheless, the learning curve for a new empress must have been vast. As well as the overarching ceremonial and etiquette which underpinned every moment of their official life, the new empress had to be aware of the details pertaining to the reception of foreign officials, promotion of courtiers, attendance at liturgies and saints' festivals, and distributions to charity. Herrin argues for the need for intensive education of Byzantine princesses, pointing out that all these activities required an understanding of the diplomatic, political, ecclesiastical and philanthropic considerations behind the various functions. Younger females of the royal family may have received a training in such matters from the palace eunuchs who preserved and maintained such traditions.[[13]] Becoming a Byzantine empress was certainly not a job for the faint-hearted.

Theophano as empress-consort

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus died on 9 November 959 and was succeeded by his son Romanus. The new emperor mainly followed in his father's footsteps, retaining some of those who had served his father well (such as the general Nicephorus Phocas),[[14]] though the administration was put entirely under the charge of the eunuch Joseph Bringas, the parakoimomenos (chamberlain), in place of Basil Lecapenus 'the Nothus' (or illegitimate), son of Romanus I Lecapenus, and thus Romanus II's own half-uncle.[[15]]  Romanus himself does not seem to have left a great impression in his wake, though of course his reign was short (less than four years). That he was really weak and malleable is a view which has possibly resulted from the presumption that Theophano was incisive and manipulative and thus the more dominant of the imperial couple. On the whole generalisations are perhaps best avoided. We should at least note that Romanus' generals achieved some great successes during his reign, such as the recovery of Crete from the Arabs under the generalship of Nicephorus Phocas in 961 (Constantine VII's attempt in 949 had failed). Phocas also achieved great triumphs in Asia Minor, and Aleppo was captured in December 962.[[16]]

If Romanus was conservative in his approach to power Theophano was less so -- though it is important to remember that her actions are generally portrayed through a hostile medium. Working on the assumption that Theophano was ambitious and unscrupulous, Scylitzes records that she and Romanus attempted to poison Constantine VII (the motivation no doubt stemming from Theophano's desire to be senior empress and wife to the emperor). The murder attempt was, fortuitously, unsuccessful (we are told) and we should remember that we are working in a milieu where any illness can be attributed to 'poison'. Scylitzes further hypothesises that Constantine's actual death might have been due to a successful second attempt.[[17]] We can say nothing to confirm or deny this, except that there is no evidence. Indeed, Romanus was hardly twenty at this point, and his antiquarian and encyclopaedist father was surely not a threat to his future, though he might well might have had suspicions of his Lecapenus in-laws, legitimate and illegitimate. Indeed, it does appear that Theophano desired passionately to remove all rivals, such as her mother and sisters-in-law, from the palace. After Constantine's death she tried hard to get Romanus to remove his mother Helena from the imperial court, and Romanus seems meekly to have concurred. At least, only Helena's lamentations and threat of a mother's curse are said to have saved her position. So Theophano lost that one. But she did succeed in having Romanus' five sisters dispatched to convents and tonsured (i.e., they canonically became nuns), perhaps in 960, the following year. Not merely had they been banished from court, but their taking the veil meant that any later marriage was technically out of the question. They do not seem to have gone willingly, and obviously regretted the luxuries of the palace. By special dispensation of the patriarch they were allowed to vary the monastic diet and eat meat.[[18]] So, while unable to remove Helena, Theophano had outmanoeuvred her by having all five princesses, her daughters, banished from court, even though the court was used to housing an extended family network, including numerous superfluous women. Helena's remaining life at court must have been uncomfortable and she died not long afterwards.

Perhaps Theophano saw her mother and sister-in-laws as potential rivals not just in status but in power. Certainly Helena had earlier (in December 944) protected her father Romanus I Lecapenus from the ambitions of her brothers, when he was unwillingly dispatched to a monastery. In addition, she had certainly encouraged her husband to depose and exile her brothers, before they could depose him as well. In the very next month (January 945) they were arrested while at dinner and sent to monasteries themselves.[[19]] During her husband's reign, Helena seems to have cooperated with the eunuch Basil 'the Illegitimate' ('the Nothus'), in overseeing the government. Scylitzes, at least, accuses them of nepotism and appointing inappropriate people to positions for a profit.[[20]] In this context, Theophano perhaps felt that Helena might overshadow her own influence at court. But the sisters-in-law can hardly have been a threat -- although they were not un-educated. Agatha, at least, had helped out her father with chancellery work when he was ill, 'because she understood the work and was well informed about official government matters'.[[21]] Significantly Romanus does not seem to have put up any fight at all about his sisters being made nuns and banished from the palace. Perhaps the birth of the young Basil (II) made him concerned about any possible repercussions on the succession if his sisters were to marry and have children. But it was not usual for princesses to be discarded in this way, and there must have been a significant hostile force at work against them.

Romanus' death was unexpected. He had reigned for little more than three years and died at the early age of twenty-four. Officially his death was said to have taken place while (inappropriately) hunting deer during Lent. However, another version circulated: Leo the Deacon states that most people had the suspicion that he was poisoned with hemlock. There was no doubt as to where the poison originated -- the women's quarters of the palace.[[22]]

Theophano as regent

In her eight years of marriage (c. 955-963) Theophano bore Romanus four children, successfully fulfilling her function in providing the Macedonian dynasty with a new generation. The eldest child seems to have been a girl, Helena (named after her grandmother), who was old enough to be present for dessert when Olga was received in the palace. The dates of birth for the two sons Basil and Constantine are not precisely known. Basil was probably born in 957 or 958, and we know that Constantine was three years younger. The youngest child, Anna, who was later to marry Vladimir of Kiev, was born only two days before Romanus' death on 15 March 963.[[23]]

As Romanus had made no provision for a regency, the senate and patriarch ensured that Theophano became regent for her sons Basil and Constantine.[[24]] Both had been crowned. Bringas was left in charge of the administration, but Theophano aligned herself with his opponents Basil 'the Nothus' and the general Nicephorus Phocas. Nicephorus was declared emperor by his army in Cappadocia on 2 July, where he had considerable local support, through the machinations of his nephew John Tzimisces, also a highly successful general.[[25]]Nicephorus then marched on the capital, where he was opposed by Bringas at the head of the administration. He entered the city on 16 August 963: the regency had lasted exactly five months. It is unlikely that Theophano was unaware of Nicephorus' intentions, and his plans appear to have dated back to the beginning of the regency, when he left the capital in April to join his army.[[26]] Theophano may have had some input into his plans: according to Zonaras, it was on her orders as regent that Nicephorus had visited Constantinople to celebrate his triumph over Crete in April 963.[[27]] In his bid for power Nicephorus was supported by the patriarch Polyeuctus and the military aristocracy, as well as by the people of the city, while Basil 'the Nothus' had armed 3,000 of his servants in Nicephorus' support and sent the fleet to join his forces. The vanquished Bringas was banished to Paphlagonia and then forced into a monastery.[[28]]

Nicephorus II Phocas, on becoming emperor, took an oath that he would protect the rights of the young emperors, who still had a long minority in front of them (Basil was probably five years of age and Constantine two. Basil would not normally be able to rule in his own right until he was sixteen).[[29]] From Theophano's point of view, matters had been satisfactorily resolved. One of her supporters, who was an experienced and successful general, was on the throne but prepared to protect the dynastic right of her sons until they were of age. Scylitzes (who likes to think the worst of Theophano) records that Nicephorus was in love with the empress, with whom he had been conducting a passionate affair while in the capital after Romanus II's death. Bringas' disapproval of the affair (according to Scylitzes) was the cause of his hostility to Nicephorus, and the affair was well known and widely spoken of.[[30]] As we shall see below, this behaviour would not have been characteristic of Nicephorus, and is probably yet another attempt to depict Theophano as a siren and seductress and as an inappropriate regent for young emperors. There is no need to postulate a love affair to explain Theophano's position; she, of course, would have realised that once Nicephorus was proclaimed emperor by his army, her best chance of keeping her sons on the throne was to side with him. The Historia Syntomos, perhaps by the historian Michael Psellus, suggests that she would have preferred to marry John Tzimisces, Nicephorus' nephew, but Tzimisces himself supported Nicephorus' claim to the throne.[[31]] The suggestion that she had a preference for John Tzimisces is probably a reflection of later events. The sudden death of Stephen Lecapenus, son of Romanus I Lecapenus and hence brother of the late empress Helena, was now ascribed to Theophano. This 'murder' was put down to her desire to protect her sons' rights, for Stephen had been crowned co-emperor by his father and was in exile at Methymne on Lesbos. Scylitzes considers his death on Easter Sunday 963, so advantageous to Theophano, as having been due to poisoning.[[32]]

It was quite normal for Nicephorus, as claimant to the throne, to marry the empress-regent in order to legitimise his position. This was especially the case if he considered it his duty to protect the rights of the young emperors. He had been born c. 912, and thus was about fifty-one years of age (considerably older than Theophano, who would have been born c. 940). He was also an ascetic in his lifestyle and had for some time wished to become a monk, but the political situation now overrode his wishes and he reluctantly ascended to the purple. According to Leo the Deacon, Nicephorus had abstained both from sexual relations and from eating meat as a consequence of the death of his son Bardas (Bardas had been accidentally killed by a spear thrown by one of his cousins while they were playing); the monks who advised him now persuaded him that, as emperor, it would be his duty to remarry and start eating meat again. So, after his coronation on 16 August, he had Theophano moved to the convent at Petrion, and married her on September 20. She was thus empress for the second time.[[33]]  At one point the marriage plans ran into difficulties because of the fact that Nicephorus was the godfather of one or both of the young emperors, an uncanonical relationship which alarmed the patriarch, but the situation was eased by the explanation that it was actually Nicephorus' father Bardas who had been their godfather.Scylitzes makes it clear that this was in fact a deliberate distortion of the truth in order to allow the marriage to proceed.[[34]]

Nicephorus II Phocas

Nicephorus treated Theophano with great generosity and she was given rich garments and wealthy estates appropriate to her rank.[[35]] After their marriage he continued on campaign for long periods and, together with his nephew John Tzimisces, now the Domestic of the Scholae (or commander-in-chief of the East) succeeded in reconquering Cyprus, Cilicia and Syria, with Antioch falling to Michael Bourtzes in October 969, followed shortly afterwards by the capture of Aleppo. Theophano and her children seem to have accompanied Nicephorus on at least some of these campaigns: they were certainly in Cilicia in 964.[[36]] Presumably the young emperors were being given first-hand acquaintance with campaigning by their experienced step-father, though we could also postulate that Nicephorus was unwilling to leave Theophano behind in the capital (either because he loved her passionately, or because he didn't trust her).

The alliance may not have been quite what Theophano had expected or desired: this husband, some thirty years older than herself, was dedicated to the practice of asceticism. He wore a hair-shirt under his imperial robes to mortify his body, especially before special holy days, was given to lengthy devotions, and preferred to sleep on the floor under the bear-skin of his uncle the hermit Michael Maleinos, whom he especially venerated.[[37]] He made no secret of the fact that he had wanted to become a monk. Nor does he seem to have been particularly handsome (though our source here is the hostile Liudprand of Cremona who had to explain away why he had failed to bring back a suitable Byzantine princess to marry the young Otto II in 968). He describes Nicephorus as:

"a monster of a man, in height a pygmy, with a fat head and little eyes like a mole. He is disfigured by a short, broad beard, thick and greying, while a short neck scarcely an inch long further diminishes his dignity. His thick, copious hair gives him a porcine look, and he has the swarthy complexion of an Ethiopian. He is "the sort of man you would not want to encounter in the middle of the night!"[[38]]

Nicephorus began to lose popularity with the populace and church establishment towards the end of his reign, due in part to the heavy taxation which was necessitated by his policy of reconquest.[[39]] Scylitzes, of course, deliberately puts Nicephorus' actions in the worst possible light, but he was also the hero of a cycle of popular songs and tales.[[40]] After the capture of Antioch, two months before his death, he was warned by a monk of his approaching demise and he therefore took to sleeping on the floor on all occasions instead of in a bed.[[41]] Nevertheless, according to Leo the Deacon, even at this point his relations with Theophano remained cordial, so he cannot have suspected her of any disloyalty. She privately petitioned him on behalf of his nephew John Tzimisces, who was in disgrace after being demoted from the position of Domestic of the Scholae, perhaps in 965,[[42]] requesting that he should be given another command and married to another noble wife (Maria Scleraina, his first wife, had died). Nicephorus at once agreed and Leo comments that Nicephorus 'habitually granted Theophano more favours than were proper, under the impact of her beauty'.[[43]] Other sources state that relations between the couple had deteriorated, perhaps because the marriage was never consummated. Zonaras says, for example, that Nicephorus had no desire for sexual relations, while Scylitzes considers that the dislike was on Theophano's side, perhaps because she was offended by his ascetic un-imperial behaviour. He appears to have led an entirely celibate life, even during his marriage to Theophano, which historians consider as the major factor in her hatred for him, though he still seems to have been devoted to her.[[44]]

Conspiracy and assassination

According to all the sources for the period, John Tzimisces became Theophano's lover at some point during her marriage to Nicephorus, and they conspired to murder Nicephorus and make John emperor.[[45]] Perhaps Theophano had this contingency in mind when she requested John's reinstatement. He was soon back in favour after his return to Constantinople and visited the palace on a daily basis. But some of his visits were to the empress alone, and in secret. In fact, Theophano was said to have admitted him through 'secret passages' to the women's quarters, while he intermittently sent her, according to Leo the Deacon, sturdy fighters whom she concealed in a secret chamber near her own suite of rooms (Scylitzes reduces the number of hidden conspirators to one). Nicephorus actually had the women's quarters searched after being warned of the conspiracy by a priest at court, but the search may only have been perfunctory: the chamberlain Michael failed to look into the room in which the conspirators were hidden, either out of respect for the empress, or perhaps because he too was in the plot.[[46]]

On the night of 10 December 969 Theophano went to Nicephorus as usual and told him that she had to make some arrangements about the accommodation of the Bulgarian princesses who had arrived at court as the potential brides for her two sons. As she would not be long he should leave the bedroom door open and she would close it when she returned. Nicephorus went through his normal lengthy prayers and then laid down to sleep on the floor.[[47]]   John's assassins meanwhile emerged from hiding and waited for John on the terrace of the palace. John sailed into the harbour of the Bucoleon palace with his fellow conspirators: the general Michael Bourtzes, Leo Abalantes, Atzupotheodorus, Leo Pediasimus and Isaac Brachamius,[[48]] and they were hauled up in a basket attached to ropes despite the heavy snow that was falling: the episode is beautifully depicted in the Madrid Scylitzes manuscript.[[49]] On entering the emperor's bedroom they were terrified to find the bed empty, thinking that their plot had been discovered, but a helpful eunuch from the women's quarters (perhaps specifically stationed there by Theophano to facilitate the murder) pointed out that the emperor was asleep on the floor. Nicephorus was brutally killed, with his nephew John playing a significant role in the murder, striking Nicephorus on the head with his sword; the coup de grace was delivered by one of the other conspirators, Leo Abalantes. Nicephorus' head was cut off and shown to his bodyguards to prevent their retaliating against John, who was already on the throne and acclaimed emperor.[[50]] Theophano was not actually present at the murder, but clearly helped to mastermind it, while her staff were part of the conspiracy. Indeed, one account has her ladies at hand to hoist up the basket of conspirators.[[51]]

The aftermath

John and Theophano were not the only stake-holders in events. Basil the Nothus, whose influence had declined under Nicephorus II, was also involved and helped orchestrate the acceptance of John as emperor. He was rewarded by being restored to the position of parakoimomenos or chamberlain. Opposition was also forestalled by John's proclamation that the young Basil II and Constantine VIII were to remain co-emperors.[[52]] But the assassination and its details could not be entirely hushed up. The patriarch refused John entry to St Sophia for his coronation and presented him with an ultimatum of three conditions before he could be crowned: Theophano had to be removed from the palace, the murderer of Nicephorus had to be punished, and Nicephorus' measures against the church had to be revoked. Without hesitation, Theophano was banished to an island in the sea of Marmara, either Proconnesus or Prote, and Nicephorus' 'murderer' Leo Abalantes (who dealt the critical blow according to Leo the Deacon), or murderers (Abalantes and Atzupotheodorus according to Scylitzes and Zonaras) were exiled. The blame was tacitly put on Theophano, with the murderers seen as acting under her instructions, and following her exile John was absolved of involvement in the conspiracy and crowned on Christmas Day 969.[[53]]

John Tzimisces, who had been born c. 925, was very unlike his ascetic uncle: another successful general, he was extremely handsome and athletic (though short),[[54]] and fond of pleasure and luxurious living.[[55]] He was obviously of more promising 'imperial' material than Nicephorus and is invariably considered to have been Theophano's lover before Nicephorus' murder. Of course Theophano had planned to marry him. At the same time we should not discount the possibility that Theophano had been motivated by a concern for the succession. Zonaras suggests that there were rumours that Nicephorus was planning to have Basil and Constantine castrated and put his brother, Leo, another successful general whom he had dignified with the high rank of curopalates, on the throne. The Historia Syntomos similarly states that there was a rumour current that Nicephorus was planning to castrate Theophano's sons and leave the throne to his brother, and presents Leo as ambitious and the cause of the trouble between Nicephorus and John Tzimisces. Perhaps as a result, Theophano, tired in any case of Nicephorus, therefore decided to get rid of him. According to the Syriac scholar Bar Hebraeus, too, Theophano had not wished to marry Nicephorus, and she heard that he was planning to make her sons eunuchs; hence she brought men in women's dress into the church of the palace to have him assassinated. The eleventh-century Arabic source Yahya of Antioch describes in circumstantial detail, a quarrel between the imperial pair, originating in Nicephorus' decision to leave his brother Leo, the curopalates, as regent while he was on campaign. Theophano was unable to persuade Nicephorus otherwise, despite repeated quarrels, and so took John as her lover and instigated him to kill the emperor.[[56]] Whatever the truth of the matter, it is entirely possible that Theophano was concerned by the pre-eminence which Leo Phocas had attained and saw him as a threat to her sons' interests.

It was obviously in the interests of the new regime to push as much of the blame as possible onto Theophano, and she was made the scapegoat. She certainly had not acted alone, and the plot was supported by a group of discontented aristocrats, former supporters of Nicephorus, in particular the generals John Tzimisces and Michael Bourtzes. Presumably John had originally intended to marry Theophano and look after the interests of the young emperors as their step-father, but he was prepared to compromise and jettison Theophano in return for the support of the patriarch and church. It was therefore convenient for John and Basil the Nothus to portray her as a treacherous and adulterous assassin, and this was facilitated by the attitude of the patriarch Polyeuctus, who was prepared to exonerate John as a lesser party in the murder: the anointing at his coronation as emperor was considered to wash away the guilt for the murder, in the same way as baptism cancelled out any sins previously committed.[[57]]

Theophano's exile

Theophano had no intention of taking this treatment lying down. Obviously aggrieved at the way she had been treated, she managed to escape from her monastic island retreat (where it is unlikely that she was actually confined), and found her way to Constantinople, where she took sanctuary in the Great Church of St Sophia. It was the job of the reinstated chamberlain, Basil the Nothus, to forcibly remove her. Theophano did not go without a struggle: she yelled insults at the emperor John and at Basil himself as a Scythian and barbarian (his mother was a Scythian, or 'Slav', maidservant) and punched him on the jaw. To put her farther out of reach seemed a good idea and she was sent to the newly created monastery of Damideia in the distant Armeniac theme in the far east of Asia Minor. Her mother, who had presumably followed her daughter's fortunes at court though she is not otherwise mentioned in the sources, was also exiled.[[58]] This suggests that Theophano was not without family backing, and it would be interesting to know the reactions of her sons (now some eleven and eight years of age) to events.

As John was now without a bride, he looked around for a suitable princess to legitimise his claim to the throne. On the advice of Basil the Nothus, he decided on Theodora, daughter of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and aunt of the two young emperors, and hence Theophano's older sister-in-law, now in her thirties and a nun for most of the last decade. We are told that she was 'not distinguished for her beauty and grace, but indisputably surpassed all other women in prudence and every kind of virtue.' The marriage was a popular one and the Constantinopolitans saw it as protecting the rights of the dynasty.[[59]]

As the scapegoat for Nicephorus' murder Theophano receives an overwhelmingly hostile press: Scylitzes calls her an adulteress, and Zonaras a 'wanton'.[[60]] The epigrammatist John, Archbishop of Melitene, in his fictitious epitaph for Nicephorus written in 988/989 as cited by Scylitzes, describes him as the 'conqueror of everything except his wife':[[61]]

"he who used to be sharper than a sword to other men, succumbed to a woman and a sword. He, who through his power used to wield power over the whole earth, settled for a tiny part of the earth, as if he were tiny himself. Even animals, I think, once stood in awe of him; but his wife, supposedly his other half, killed him. He who did not allow himself even a short moment of sleep at night, now sleeps the long sleep in the grave . O Nikephoros, victorious in all respects but defeated by a woman."[[62]]

According to Scylitzes the epigram was inscribed on the emperor's tomb in the Church of the Holy Apostles, but Leo the Deacon more realistically records that the decapitated corpse was buried stealthily in one of the sarcophagi in the mausoleum of Constantine.[[63]] In another fictitious epigram, this time by the soldier John Geometres, Nicephorus is made to state that, despite all his military achievements, he 'fell in the heart of the Palace, unable to escape the hand of his wife!'[[64]] Geometres further puts the blame for the murder solely on Theophano in his monody on the death of John Tzimisces, in which Tzimisces is depicted as a valiant leader who committed a tragic crime for which he is heartily ashamed, which tacitly casts Theophano as the villain of the piece.[[65]]

Indeed, in the sources the blame is generally put squarely onto Theophano, the adulterous wife's, shoulders. A popular satirical song about Theophano's failure to marry John has been preserved in a late sixteenth-century Cretan manuscript, which records how she was exiled by her lover. She was apparently made the subject of a satirical parade (diapompeusis, or 'parade of infamy') in the streets of Constantinople,[[66]] presumably at the time of the wedding of Tzimisces and Theodora in November 970. In this popular diversion, an actress impersonating Theophano apparently rode on a mule in a procession through the city or hippodrome, while Polyeuctus and Basil the Nothus are implied as being the main agents of her downfall:

'The blacksmith strikes his anvil, and he strikes his neighbours too':
(for) the matchmaker and the princeling are standing at the door.
Theophano wanted her cake (pie) and the beauty ate it.
He who wore the coronation robe now donned a leather hide,
and if wintry weather comes upon him, he will wear his fur coat too;
(for) men with shrivelled cocks and hand-size arseholes
parade the murdering adulteress on the saddle of a mule.[[67]]

The princeling is the new emperor Tzimisces, and the 'matchmaker' is the chamberlain Basil the Nothus, who arranged Tzimisces' marriage to the middle-aged princess Theodora, the 'beauty' of line 3. Theophano's thwarted hopes of her third imperial marriage are mocked, and Tzimisces has clearly developed a thick skin, while a dig at the sexual proclivities of the patriarch and chamberlain (both eunuchs), who engineered Theophano's downfall, ends the ditty.

Return and reinstatement

John died in January 976 (rumour suggested that he had been poisoned by Basil the Nothus) and Basil II finally came to the throne at the age of approximately seventeen. Basil clearly had no quarrel with his mother, perhaps suggesting that in his view her primary motives had been to consolidate the imperial status of her sons. He ended her six years of monastic exile by bringing her back to the palace -- according to Scylitzes at the instigation of Basil the Nothus, the chamberlain, who was to dominate the early years of Basil's reign.[[68]] Her reinstatement implies that she was not generally considered guilty of the wholesale poisonings ascribed to her by Scylitzes, and that some justification was seen for her involvement in Nicephorus' murder: after all, John Tzimisces' role in it had carefully been forgotten during his reign. At her return Theophano would have resumed her rightful position as empress, remaining the senior Augusta when her younger son Constantine married Helena Alypia, a marriage which she herself may have overseen. Significantly Basil himself was never to marry, perhaps as a result of a monastic vow he took to ensure success over the Bulgars.[[69]]

A Georgian tradition saw Theophano as becoming once more a prominent figure at court, and depicts her as directing negotiations with the Georgian prince David of Taiq following Bardas Sclerus' first revolt in 976/7, early in her son's reign. She may also have been responsible for supporting the foundation of the 'Iviron' monastery on Mt Athos reserved for monks of Georgian nationality, for a manuscript preserved in Moscow points to her as a benefactor.[[70]]

The misogynistic hostility of the sources has made them reject any motive for Theophano in the conspiracy and assassination of Nicephorus II but the purely personal, yet this should not be taken at face value. There is no evidence that she took any other lover than John Tzimisces, and that perhaps to protect her children's dynastic interests, while the suggestion that she was sexually promiscuous even in Romanus II's reign and that as a result Basil II (who was red-haired) may have been her son by one of the Varangian guard is quite unsubstantiated.[[71]] Her motivation throughout Nicephorus' reign was arguably the desire to protect the throne for her children in the face of a possible threat to their well-being: deposition and possible castration at the hands of an imperial rival, a real threat potentially being present in the person of Leo Phocas. Theophano attempted twice to influence the transfer of power, in both cases hoping to ensure the protection of the rights to the throne of her young sons. In the case of Nicephorus Phocas her support was critical for his rise to power; in that of John Tzimisces she unfortunately chose a fellow-conspirator who was only too willing to make her the scapegoat for his own actions. Even so, she ended her career at the court of her son Basil with all the dignity of a successful and respected Augusta.

Primary sources

Cedrenus, George, Compendium historiarum, ed. I. Bekker, 2 vols, Bonn, 1838-9.

Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ed. J.J. Reiske, 2 vols, Bonn, 1829.

Leo the Deacon, Historiae, ed. C.B. Hase, Bonn, 1828.

Liudprand of Cremona, Relatio de legatione Constantinopolitana, ed. & tr. B. Scott, Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1993.

Psellus, Michaeli Pselli Historia Syntomos, ed. & tr. W.J. Aerts, Berlin & New York, 1990.

Scylitzes, Ioannes Scylitzes: Synopsis historiarum, ed. I. Thurn, Berlin & New York, 1973.

Theophanes Continuatus, Chronographia, ed. I Bekker, Bonn, 1838.

Zonaras, John, Epitome Historiarum, ed. T. Büttner-Wobst, vol. 3, Bonn, 1897.

Secondary sources

Brokarr, W.G. (1972). 'Basil Lacapenus,' in Studia byzantina et neohellenica Neerelandica 3, ed. W.F. Bakker, Leiden: Brill: 199-234

Cheynet, J.-C. (1986). 'Les Phocas,' in Le traité sur la guerilla de l'empereur Nicéphore Phocas (963-969), ed. G. Dagron & H. Mihaescu, Paris: Editions de Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique: 289-315.

Cheynet, J.-C. (1990). Pouvoir et contestations à Byzance (963-1210), Paris: Sorbonne.

Diehl, C. (1938-9). Figures byzantines, second edition, 2 vols, Paris: Armand Colin: 1.217--43.

Franklin, S. and J.Shepard (1996). The Emergence of Rus 750-1200, Cambridge.

Guilland, R. (1953). 'Le palais du Boukoléon: l'assassinat de Nicéphore II Phokas,' Byzantinoslavica 13: 101-36.

Haldon, J. (1999). Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 656-1204, London.

Herrin, J. (1995). 'Theophano: Considerations on the Education of a Byzantine Princess,' in The Empress Theophano. Byzantium and the West at the Turn of the First Millennium, ed. A. Davids, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 64-85.

Jenkins, R.J.H. (1966). Byzantium. The Imperial Centuries AD 610-1071, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

Morris, R. (1988). 'The Two Faces of Nikephoros Phokas,' Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 12: 83-115.

Schlumberger, G. (1923). Un empereur byzantin au dixième siècle, Nicéphore Phocas, Paris: Boccard.

Schlumberger, G. (1896-1900). L'épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle, 2 vols. Paris: Hachette.

Schreiner, P. (1991) 'Réflexions sur la famille impériale à Byzance (VIIIe-Xe siècles),' Byzantion 61: 181-93.

Shepard, J. (1988). 'Aspects of Byzantine Attitudes and Policy towards the West in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries,' Byzantinische Forschungen 13: 67-118.

Toynbee, A. (1973). Constantine Porphyrogenitus and his World, London: Oxford University Press.

Turdeanu, E. (1985). 'Nouvelles considérations sur le "Dit de l'empereur Nicéphore II Phocas et de son épouse Théophano",' Rivista di studi bizantini e slavi 5: 169--95

Whittow, M. (1996). The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 600-1025, London: MacMillan.


[[1]]Theophanes Continuatus, Chronicle, 458; Scylitzes, History, 240.

[[2]]Liudprand of Cremona, Antapodosis, 5.20; F. Dölger, Regesten der Kaiserkunden des oströmischen Reiches, 5 vols (Munich & Berlin, 1924-65), no. 643.

[[3]]Dölger, Regesten, no. 658.

[[4]]W. Ohnsorge, 'Drei deperdita der byzantinischen Kaierkanzlei und die Frankenadressen im Zeremonienbuch des Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos,' Byzantinische Zeitschrift 45 (1952), 320-39 at 325-6.

[[5]]Leo the Deacon, History, 31; cf. Scylitzes, History, 240: 'she was not of distinguished family, but born of common people, who plied the trade of tavern keepers', cf. 246; Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 94. J. Herrin, 'Theophano: Considerations on the Education of a Byzantine Princess,' in The Empress Theophano. Byzantium and the West at the Turn of the First Millennium, ed. A. Davids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 68 n. 12, deduces that 'his bride was an internal candidate, who would need to be trained for her position'; contra M. McCormick, 'Emperors,' in The Byzantines, ed. G. Cavallo (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 243: 'Romanos II had been bewitched by a tavern keeper's daughter who took the name of Theophano when she climbed out of bed and into the throne.'

[[6]]See esp. H. Hunger, 'Die Schönheitskonkurrenz in "Belthandros und Chrysantza" und die Brautschau am byzantinischen Kaiserhof,' Byzantion 35 (1965), 150-8; W.T. Treadgold, 'The Bride-Shows of the Byzantine Emperors,' Byzantion 49 (1979) 395-413; L.M. Hans, 'Der Kaiser als Märchenprinz. Brautschau und Heiratspolitik in Konstantinopel 395-882,' Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 38 (1988), 33--52; L. Rydén, 'The Bride-shows at the Byzantine Court -- History or Fiction?' Eranos 83 (1985), 175-91; Judith Herrin, Women in Purple. Rulers of Medieval Byzantium (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), esp. 132-8. Maria of Amnia, the bride of Constantine VI, son of the empress Irene, was said to have been selected in a bride-show, but arguably by Irene rather than by Constantine.

[[7]]J. Herrin, 'Byzance; le palais et la ville,' Byzantion 41 (1991), 213-30.

[[8]]Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De ceremoniis, 1.40 (Bekker 1.203).

[[9]]For the date of Olga's embassy, see M. Featherstone, 'Olga's visit to Constantinople in the De Cerimoniis,' Revue des études byzantines 61 (2003), 241-51.  The traditional view of Byzantine scholars has been that the visit took place in 957.

[[10]]The date of Olga's baptism is a vexed question (the alternatives being baptism in Kiev in 954/5, during her visit to Constantinople, or after her return to Kiev): see G. Ostrogorsky, Byzanz und die Welt der Slawen (Darmstadt, 1974), 35-52; O. Pritsak, 'When and Where was Ol'ga Baptized?' Harvard Ukrainian Studies 9 (1985), 5-24; D. Obolensky, 'Ol'ga's Conversion: the Evidence Reconsidered,' Harvard Ukrainian Studies 12-13 (1988/1989), 145-58; A. Poppé, 'Once again concerning the Baptism of Olga Archontissa of Rus',' Dumbarton Oaks Papers 46 (1992), 271-7.

[[11]]P.G. Sayre, 'The Mistress of the Robes: Who was She?' Byzantine Studies/Études Byzantines 13 (1986), 229-39; R. Guilland, 'Contribution à l'histoire administrative de l'empire byzantin; la patricienne à la ceinture, e zoste patrikia,' Byzantinoslavica 32 (1971), 269-75; J.-C. Cheynet, 'La patricienne à ceinture: une femme de qualité,' in Au cloître et dans le monde. Femmes, hommes et sociétés (IXe-XVe siècle). Mélanges en l'honneur de Paulette L'Hermite-Leclercq, ed. P. Henriet and et A.-M. Legras (Paris 2000), 179-87.

[[12]]Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De ceremoniis, 2.15 (Bekker 2.594-8); Herrin, 'Theophano,' 72-5.

[[13]]Herrin, 'Theophano,' 78-9.

[[14]]For Constantine's promotion of members of the Phocas family, see M. Whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 600-1025 (London: MacMillan, 1996), 347-8. On Nicephorus, see esp. G. Schlumberger, Un empereur byzantin au dixième siècle, Nicéphore Phocas (Paris: Boccard, 1923); R. Morris, 'The Two Faces of Nikephoros Phokas,' Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 12 (1988), 83-115.

[[15]]Scylitzes, History, 248; Leo the Deacon, History, 31.

[[16]]Leo the Deacon, History, 9-16, 27-30; Scylitzes, History, 249-50, 252-3. For the celebration of Nicephorus' triumphs, see M. McCormick, Eternal Victory. Triumphal Rulership in Late Antiquity, Byzantium, and the Early Medieval West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 162, 167-70.

[[17]]Scylitzes, History, 246-7; cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.488-9.

[[18]]Scylitzes, History, 252. R.J.H. Jenkins, Byzantium. The Imperial Centuries AD 610-1071 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1966), 270.

[[19]]For her brothers' plot, see Scylitzes, History, 236; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.481; Theophanes Continuatus, Chronicle, 436-7.

[[20]]Scylitzes, History, 237; cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.483. For Basil the Nothus, see W.G. Brokarr, 'Basil Lacapenus,' Studia byzantina et neohellenica Neerelandica, ed. W.F. Bakker (Leiden: Brill, 1972), 199-234.

[[21]]Theophanes Continuatus, Chronicle, 459, where Agatha is described as Constantine VII's mesitis (prime minister); Herrin, 'Theophano,' 77.

[[22]]Leo the Deacon, History, 31; cf. Scylitzes, History, 253, who does not mention the accusation. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.493-4 states that he was either poisoned or died exhausted by his pleasure-loving lifestyle.

[[23]]Scylitzes, History, 254, 314 (Constantine was three years younger than Basil); for Helena, born perhaps in 955, see A.J. Poppé, 'The Political Background to the Baptism of Rus'. Byzantine-Russian Relations Between 986-89,' Dumbarton Oaks Papers 30 (1976), 230 n. 114.

[[24]]Leo the Deacon, History, 31; A. Christophilopoulou, 'He antivasileia eis to Byzantion,' Symmeikta 2 (1970), 1-144 at 62-4. The seal depicting the bust of Theophano on the reverse (the observe shows a bust of the Virgin) may have been issued during her regency: G. Zacos & A. Veglery, Byzantine Lead Seals, 2 vols (Basel: J.J. Augustin, 1972), 1.1, no. 72.

[[25]]For a possible depiction of Nicephorus Phocas and other Phocas family members, including John Tzimisces as the domesticus of the Scholae and Theophano herself, in the Great Pigeon House Church in Cappadocia, see L. Rodley, 'The Pigeon House Church, Çavusin," Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 33 (1983), 301-39.

[[26]]Scylitzes, History, 248--9, 256-60; Leo the Deacon, History, 31, 39-41, 44-5, 47-8.

[[27]]Zonaras, Epitome, 3.494.

[[28]]For his sale of offices together with Helena, wife of Constantine VII, see Scylitzes, History, 237; cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.483; for his 3,000 servants, whom he used to bring down the government of Joseph Bringas and bring about the accession of Nicephorus Phokas, see Leo the Deacon, History, 47; for the highly ornate chalice, paten and reliquary case commissioned by Basil, see M. Ross, 'Basil the Proedros, patron of the arts,' Archaeology 11 (1958), 271-5.

[[29]]Leo the Deacon, History, 33-4; Scylitzes, History, 254-5. According to Yahya of Antioch, 'Histoire de Yahya-ibn-Sa'ïd d'Antioche,' ed. & tr. I. Kratchkovsky & A. Vasiliev, Patrologia Orientalis 18 (1924), 701--833 at 788, Theophano entrusted her two sons and the empire to Nicephorus in the presence of Patriarch Polyeuctus.

[[30]]Scylitzes, History, 257; cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.497-8.

[[31]]Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 98.

[[32]]Scylitzes, History, 255; cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.495.

[[33]]Leo the Deacon, History, 49; Scylitzes, History, 260; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.498-9.

[[34]]Leo the Deacon, History, 50; Scylitzes, History, 261, who makes it clear that the explanation was untrue and that the patriarch was aware of this. See R. Macrides, 'The Byzantine Godfather,' Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 11 (1987), 139--62, esp. 159-60.

[[35]]Leo the Deacon, History, 50.

[[36]]Scylitzes, History, 268.

[[37]]Scylitzes, History, 255, 280; Leo the Deacon, History, 83 (who calls it a cloak); Morris, 'Two Faces,' 100-7, and eadem, Monks and Laymen in Byzantium 843-1118 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 46, 80.

[[38]]Liudprand of Cremona, Relegatio de legatione Constantinopolitana, 3, cf. 23; compare the favourable description of Nicephorus at Leo the Deacon, History, 48. Apart from his coinage, there is no known contemporary portrait of Nicephorus.

[[39]]Note, for example, the 'Armenian frenzy', when fighting took place between Byzantines and Armenians in the capital: Leo the Deacon, History, 64-5; cf. the riot caused by military exercises in the hippodrome: Leo the Deacon 63; Scylitzes, History, 275-6; for Nicephorus' taxation, see Leo the Deacon 63, Scylitzes 274. For his debasement of the coinage, see Scylitzes 275; H. Grégoire, 'The Amorians and Macedonians 842-1025,' in The Cambridge Medieval History, ed. J.M. Hussey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 105--92 at 155 and M. Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy, c. 300-1450 (Cambridge, 1985), 507; for the hatred felt for him, see Scylitzes 271, 273; Whittow, Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 350-3.

[[40]]See Morris, 'Two Faces,' passim for a discussion; and eadem, 'Succession and Usurpation: Politics and Rhetoric in the Late Tenth Century,' in New Constantines. The Rhythm of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th-13th Centuries, ed. P. Magdalino (Aldershot: Variorum, 1994), 213-14.

[[41]]Leo the Deacon, History, 83.

[[42]]Leo the Deacon, History, 88; Scylitzes, History, 279; Whittow, Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 353; J.-C. Cheynet, Pouvoir et Contestations à Byzance (963-1210) (Paris: Sorbonne, 1990), 270, 327. According to Zonaras, Epitome, 3.516 he was compensated by being given the office of logothete tou dromou; cf. Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 102.

[[43]]Leo the Deacon, History, 84-5.

[[44]]Leo the Deacon, History, 85; cf. Scylitzes, History, 279; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.516; Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 100 states that Nicephorus from his youth had no sexual intercourse with women, and never slept with the empress, which 'provided her with fuel for hatred'.

[[45]]Scylitzes, History, 279; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.516-17; Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 102; the Chronicle of Salerno (in southern Italy), Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptorum, 3, 467-561, at 556, knows of the affair between John and Theophano, Nicephorus' 'crudelissima sua uxor' ('his most cruel wife').

[[46]]Leo the Deacon, History, 85; cf. Scylitzes, History, 279.

[[47]]See R. Guilland, 'Le palais du Boukoléon: l'assassinat de Nicéphore II Phokas,' Byzantinoslavica 13 (1953), 101-36.

[[48]]Cheynet, Pouvoir et Contestations, 23; on Bourtzes and Brachamius, see J.-C. Cheynet & Vannier & J.-F. Vannier, Études prosopographiques (Paris: Sorbonne, 1986), 18-24, 58-9.

[[49]]One illustration shows his arrival by boat at the Bucoleon palace, another depicts Theophano's expulsion: A. Grabar & M. Manoussacas, L'illustration du manuscrit de Skylitzès de la Bibliothèque nationale de Madrid (Venice: Institut hellenique d'études byzantines, 1979).

[[50]]Leo the Deacon, History, 86-9; Scylitzes, History, 279--81.

[[51]]Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 102, cf. Zonaras, Epitome, 3.517-18. The Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa, at 1.8 (Dostourian 1.8), reports that on his accession John removed Basil and Constantine to Armenia because he feared that their mother might poison them; Morris, 'Succession and Usurpation,' 207-8 sees this as a variant of pro-Tzimisces propaganda.

[[52]]Leo the Deacon, History, 94; cf. Scylitzes, History, 284-5; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.520.

[[53]]Leo the Deacon, History, 98-9; Scylitzes, History, 285-6; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.520-1. Leo has Theophano banished to Prote, one of the Princes' Islands, a favourite place for imperial exiles, to be preferred over Scylitzes' suggestion of Proconnesus.

[[54]]According to Leo the Deacon (History, 92) his name was an Armenian corruption of the Greek term Mouzakites, or 'of short stature'.

[[55]]Leo the Deacon, History, 90-1, 96-8.

[[56]]Psellus, Historia Syntomos, 100; cf. Bar Hebraeus 192, tr. E.A. Wallis Budge, The Chronography of Gregory Abu'l Faraj, commonly known as Bar Hebraeus (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), 1.173; Yahya of Antioch, 827-8.

[[57]]V. Grumel, Les regestes des actes du patriarchat de Constantinople, vol. 1 (fasc. 2 & 3), revised ed. (Paris: Institut français d'études byzantines, 1989), 794; for Polyeuctus, see Leo the Deacon, History, 32.

[[58]]Scylitzes, History, 285.

[[59]]Leo the Deacon, History, 127; Scylitzes, History, 294; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.527.

[[60]]Scylitzes, History, 279; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.517.

[[61]]Scylitzes, History, 282-3; S.G. Mercati, 'Epigramma di Giovanni Geometra sulla tomba di Niceforo Foca,' Bessarione 25 (1921), 158-62 at 255-6; cf. Grégoire, 'Amorians and Macedonians,' 151.

[[62]]Translation by M.D. Lauxtermann, Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometres. Texts and Contexts, vol. 1 (Vienna: Österreichische Akademie des Wissenschaften, 2003), 233-4.

[[63]] Leo the Deacon, History, 91.

[[64]]John Geometres 41, Patrologia Graeca, 106.927 (= J.A. Cramer (ed.), Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis, Vol. 4 (Oxford, 1841; repr. Hildesheim, 1967), 265-388 at 290); Morris, 'Two Faces,' 93. On Geometres' poems in praise of Nicephorus II, see Lauxtermann, Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometres, esp. 34-8.

[[65]] Cramer, Anecdota Graeca, 267; cf. Lauxtermann, Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometres, 234.

[[66]]G. Morgan, 'A Byzantine Satirical Song?' Byzantinische Zeitschrift 47 (1954), 292-7. For a late medieval Slavic poem on the episode, see: E. Turdeanu, 'Nouvelles considérations sur le "Dit de l'empereur Nicéphore II Phocas et de son épouse Théophano",' Rivista di studi bizantini e slavi 5 (1985) 169-95.

[[67]]Translation by G. Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (London, 1997), 259-60.

[[68]]Scylitzes, History, 314; Zonaras, Epitome, 3.539; Cedrenus, Compendium, 2.416; Yahya of Antioch, 831.

[[69]]For Basil's celibacy, see Martin Arbagi, 'The Celibacy of Basil II,' Byzantine Studies/Études Byzantines 2.1 (1975), 41-5; cf. L. Garland, 'Basil II as Humorist,' Byzantion, 69 (1999), 321-43; B. Crostini, 'The Emperor Basil II's Cultural Life,' Byzantion 66 (1996), 76-9. Constantine was presumably married (at the age of fifteen) after his mother's return in 976, as his eldest daughter Eudocia was born in 976/77, and his second, Zoe, c. 978: Psellus, Chronographia, 2.5, 6.160 (Renauld 1.27, 2.50). We have no information as to whether Theophano or Basil the Nothus arranged the match, but Basil seems to have taken no interest in marriage alliances and the Constantinopolitan Alypios family may well have been selected as it paralleled Theophano's own background.

[[70]]'Vie des SS. Jean et Euthyme,' 9, tr. P. Peeters (in Latin), Analecta Bollandiana 36-7 (1917-19), 20; also B. Martin-Hisard, 'La vie de Jean et Euthyme et le statut du monastère des Ibères sur l'Athos,' Revue des Études Byzantines 49 (1991), 89; Actes d'Iviron, 1: des Origines au Milieu du XIe siècle, par. J. Lefort, N. Oikonomides et al. (Paris: Lethielleux, 1985), 22; G. Schlumberger, L'épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1932), 1.348 n. 1, 419 n. 3, 430 n. 2: the monastery was founded by two disciples of St Athanasius, a close friend and counsellor of Nicephorus Phocas, and their relative John Tornik: see Morris, Monks and Laymen, 46-7.

[[71]]Jenkins, Imperial Centuries, 302.

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