Power couples and princesses in purple: coinage of Byzantine empresses

In the Byzantine empire power was technically vested in the emperor. Nevertheless, a number of empresses played an important part in government and even took control… Most commonly empresses came to power as regents for young sons, implying a fixed period of caretaker government until the young emperor came of age, usually at sixteen. But not all regents were ready to step aside… Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses 1999.

Like most traditional societies, the Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) Empire (491-1453 AD) was a man’s world. Elite women were generally expected to bear children, weave, sew, and remain modestly secluded at home. Some imperial women, however, rose to political power and some issued coins, either in their own names or with partners. A peculiarity of Byzantine history is that the same few female personal names occur repeatedly, while family names did not come into general use until after the ninth century, so when we say “Theodora” or “Eudokia” we must often add “wife of…” or “mother of…” to avoid confusion.

Many of these coins are highly collectible and in strong demand from growing numbers of collectors[1]. This article takes a closer look at these remarkable women and their coins.

By Mike Markowitz.

First published in Coinweek.

Read more here.


About proverbs6to10

Interested in Byzantium and Patrick Leigh Fermor
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