Saturday, October 1, 2016

Byzantine Imperial Lovers & Mistresses

Mistresses in the Byzantine Court & Empire.

"While mistresses at court were nothing new in this period, they were almost invariably (as far as we can judge) of good family, involving girls at court who were there in their role as attendants of the women of the imperial family. Significantly many of these became imperial mistresses and ended up marrying the emperor. This was the case for Theodote, mistress and then second wife of Constantine VI; as well as for Zoe Zaoutzaina and Zoe Karbounopsina, mistresses of Leon VI and his second and fourth wifvs respectively. . . ." (DIR)
Antonina (484-565)

Wife of: BelisariusGeneral of the Byzantine Empire.

Her lover was:
Theodosius, Godson of Belisarius.
Byzantine general Belisarius
"It was Antonina's affair with a handsome young Thracian named Theodosius that allowed Theodora to bind Antonina to her. . . Antonina soon lusted after the young Thracian, and the affair blossomed during the African campaign and carried over into the Gothic War, and though it became common knowledge among Belisarius' staff, he could believe no ill will of his wife. Finally a slave girl tattled, and Belisarius, mad with jealousy, ordered Theodosius killed. But Theodosius was warned in time and fled to Ephesus. Antonina managed to soothe Belisarius' suspicions and even persuaded him to let her punish the tattling slave, which she did with utmost cruelty. Yet Theodosius could not return to Antonina, for he was afraid of her son, Photius, who identified with his stepfather, Belisarius, and regarded his own mother with the disgust and antipathy of a rejected child. So Antonina engineered an assignment for Photius in Constantinople, and Theodosius came back to Antonina's embraces for as long as she was in Italy. After the surrender of Ravenna in 540, he returned with her to Constantinople. But he was an unhappy lover, a little frightened by Antonina's passion, and he once again left her and retired to Ephesus where he became a monk. Antonina's distress was such that even her naive, cuckolded husband was persuaded to ask Justinian to recall Theodosius. But as long as Belisarius was in the capital, Theodosius stayed away." (The Empress Theodora: Partner of Justinian:52-53)

"Antonina struggled to get by until she crossed the path of Belosarius. A rising star in the empire, Belisarius was young and dashing. More importantly, he had the favour of the Emperor Justinian himself. But even though Antonina was probably nearing 40 and a good 10 years older than Belisarius when he met her, the young general fell madly in love with her. Soon after, this unlikely couple got married. Antonina had struck gold with Belisarius because he would love her for the rest of his life. . . Despite her husband's deep and abiding love for her, Antonina was not satisfied. She could not bring herself to remain faithful to one man and she had no qualms about carrying on behind her husband's back." (The Weakness of Belisarius)

Effects on Lovers' Family, Other People and Society: "However, in 541 Belisarius was dispatched to the eastern front, and Antonina remained behind briefly to help Theodora bring down the praetorian prefect, John the Cappadocian, and also to enjoy Theodosius. Yet Photius was still a potential liability who could expose her. Antonina tried to drive a wedge between him and Belisarius. But Photius realized that his mother was villfying him to her husband and saw to it that Belisarius discovered what was going on in Constantinople between Antonina and Theodosius. Belisarius was overwhelmed and distraught, and he and Photius swore an oath together to take vengeance on Theodosius. Meanwhile Antonina, who had ensnared John the Cappadocian for Theodora and thus earned her gratitude, set out to the eastern front to join her husband, who received her coldly. Theodosius left Constantinople and returned to Ephesus. There Photius arrested him. Theodosius sought asylum in the church of Saint John, but the bishop took a bribe, and gave him up to Photius. Theodosius was taken off to a secret hideaway. He disappeared." (The Empress Theodora: Partner of Justinian:53)

Isaakios Komnenos of Byzantine Empire.

His lover was:
Unnamed mistress.

Kathara, in service of Konstantinos's second wife.

Her lover was:
Konstantinos Palaiologos of Byzantine Empire (1278-1335)
Despot, 1292
Epitropos of Thessaloniki

Natural Offspring:
Mikhail Katharos.

Konstantinos Palaiologos
Despot of Thessaloniki.

His lover was:
Unnamed mistress.

Mikhael IV of Byzantine Empire.

Mikhael VIII of Byzantine Empire.

His lover was:
Unnamed Diplobatatzaina.

Romanos II Lekapenos of Byzantine Empire.

His lover was:
Unknown mistress.


His lover was:
Antonina, Wife of Belisarius.

"The household of Belisarius included a young Thracian of the name of Theodosius. . . On the eve of his voyage to Libya, Belisarius washed this youngster in the sacred bath, then lifted him out in his arms, thereby making him the adopted son of his wife and himself in accordance with the rules of adoption observed by Christians. From that moment, Antonina, as was to be expected, loved Theodosius, since the sacred word had made him her son; and she watched over him with extreme care and kept him under her wing. Then a little while after she fell madly in love with him during this voyage, and surrendering herself body and soul to her passion threw off all fear and respect for the laws of God and men, and had intercourse with him, at first in secret but finally before the eyes of domestics of both sexes. . . Once in Carthage, Belisarius surprised them in the very act; yet he swallowed his wife's lying explanation open-mouthed. He had found them together in a basement room, and though he was mad with rage she did not flinch or disguise what she had done. . . ." (Belisarius and Antonina) [Ref1:Sacred Texts] [Ref2:Neo Byzantium]

Byzantine Empress 

Theodora of Byzantine Empire (497-548)

Wife of: Justinian, Byzantine Emperor, mar 525

Her lovers were:
1) Areobindos.

"Theodora was suspected of an infatuation for Areobindos, a handsome young steward, resulted in his being flogged and disappearing immediately...." (Garland, 1999, p. 20)

2) Hecebolus.
an administrative official.

Theodora Komnene (1145-?)
a.k.a. Theodora Kalusine Komnene.

Her lover was:
Andronikos I Komnenos of Byzantine Empire.

"...His amours were often carried on in the circle of his nearest relatives, and in the opinion of his countrymen, he, as well as the Emperor Manuel, was stained with the crime of incest... Another Theodora, also the emperor's niece, being the daughter of his brother Isaac, became the mistress of Andronicus at a later period, when she was the widow of Baldwin III, king of Jerusalem. Both of these ladies shared his company with his lawful wife, and divided his affections with a crowd of actresses and dancing girls...." (Finlay, 1877, p. 203)

"...At Jerusalem he met Theodora, the daughter of his cousin Isaac, whom he had not seen since her childhood. She was now the widow of Baldwin III of Jerusalem, and enjoyed the admiration and esteem of all the Frank nobles on account of her beauty, talents, and prudence. Andronicus became deeply enamoured of his fair cousin, and she returned his passion with equal violence. The state of society mong the Latin Christians in Jerusalem was as debauched as at the court of Constantinople, so that the lovers carried on their amours with little affectation of secresy (sic). But when Manuel heard of this insult to his brother's family, he sent messages to the Syrian barons, offering great rewards to any one who should seize Andronicus and put out his eyes; at the same time he requested Amaury, king of Jerusalem, with whom he had a close alliance, to arrest the fugitive. Theodora obtained information of these communications in time to warn Andronicus of his danger, and as there was no longer any hope of safety among the Christians, she consented to fly with him to the Turks... In this infamous exile Theodora bore him two sons...." (Finlay, 1877, p. 207)

Theodora Vatatzina.
a.k.a. Theodora Komnene.

Her lover was:
Manuel I Komnenos of Byzantine Empire.

Theofano of Byzantine Empire (941-969).

a.k.a. Anastasia
Theophanu the Elder.

Her lovers were:
1) Ioannes I Tzimiskes.
2) Nikephorus II.

"(In 963) Byzantine emperor Romanus II dies, perhaps with a little nudge from his wife Theophano, who secures the throne for her lover, Nicephorus. In 969, she takes a new lover, John Tzimisces, and helps him assassinate Nicephorus and seize the throne. He rewards her with repudiation and banishment." (Olsen, 1994, p. 36) [Bio1:Women's History]

Verina of Byzantine Empire (d.484).

a.k.a. Aelia Verina.

Wife of: Emperor Leo I.

Her lover was:
Master of the Palace.

"The empress dowager Verina took less than two months after the death of Leo II to prepare a conspiracy. Her confederates included her lover Patricius, her brother Basiliscus, the Isaurian general Illus, and the Ostrogothic general Theoderic Strabo... Although Verina's plan had been to make Patricius emperor and marry him, Basiliscus succeeded in taking the crown for himself and executing Patricius." (Treadgold, p. 157)

"After the death of Leo I in January 474, Verina remained in the imperial palace. The remaining ten years of her life were turbulent, and she figures prominently in our sources. The difficulty lies in trying to ascertain whether any consistency can be observed in her actions. She turned against her brother Basiliscus for having colluded in the ousting of Zeno, and supported the return of Zeno. She then resorted to repeated intrigues against Zeno's right-hand man Illus, yet at the end her life supported him and his candidate for the throne, Leontius, against Zeno. Since Illus had deceived her in 474 in a coup which had cost the life of her alleged lover Patricius, Verina's enduring enmity towards him is unsurprising. Her support for his candidate, Leontius, may have been forced. . . ." (DIR)

"Verina's grandson, Leo, died in November 474. Zeno was therefore now sole emperor, but his mother-in-law remained in the palace. According to certain sources, Verina had by this point take a lover, a former praetorian prefect by the name of Patricius. . . ." (DIR) [See]
Vibia Sabina
Roman Empress.

Her lover was:

Suetonius (69/75-130)
Roman historian
Emperor Hadrian's secretary.

"She married Hadrian in 100, at the Roman Empress Pompeia Plotina's request, for Hadrian to succeed her great uncle, in 117. Sabina's mother Matidia (Hadrian's second cousin) was also fond of Hadrian and allowed him to marry her daughter. They had no children and had an unhappy marriage. Sabina was said to have remarked that she had taken steps to see she never had children by Hadrian because they would "harm the human race". It seems that she once aborted a child of theirs. Sabina was strong and independent and her beliefs in marriage didn't sit well with the Emperor. Sabina had an affair with Suetonius, a historian (and Hadrian's secretary), in the year 119...." (Wikipedia)

Byzantine Empress Zoe.

Her lover was:
Mikhael IV of the Byzantine Empire (1010-1041).

a.k.a. Michael the Paphlagonian

"Blamed for all these misfortunes whether he was responsible for them or not, Romanus grew unpopular. He had also offended Zoe by limiting her spending and taking a mistress. The empress in turn took a lover, Michael the Paphlagonian, a younger brother of the eunuch John the Orphanotrophus, head of the imperial orphanage. According to plausible reports, Zoe and Michael began poisoning the emperor, who became frail and ill. In spring 1034, when Romanus took too long in dying, they had him drowned in this bath. His death aroused no public distress or protest, and the next day, with the help of of a large donation, Zoe persuaded the patriarch Alexius to marry her to Michael and to crown him emperor." (Treadgold, p. 586)

"...In his (Psellos) description of the affair between the Empress Zoe and the future Michael IV, Psellos emphasizes the disorder of the imperial household by portraying Zoe as a masculine and aggressive lover. Michael is described as blushing and modest when they meet -- standard terms for a woman or passive sexual partner. The elderly Zoe is chiefly characterized as desirous, aflame with sexual passion. Zoe is the pursuing lover and only under her active encouragement and passionate kisses does Michael respond...." (Stephenson, 2010, p. 76)

"...For some years there had been a deep rift between the Emperor Romanus and the Empress Zoe, for, once he had ascended the throne, Romanus' interest in the elderly Empress petered out, and he began to neglect her, and even kept her short of money. But this ageing woman had considerable zest for life; for the first time she was experiencing the taste of worldly pleasures and she refused to allow her style to be cramped. Her eye fell on a young man called Michael, a peasant's son from Paphlagonia, who have been brought into the women's quarters of the imperial palace by his brother John the Orphanotrophus, an influential eunuch... Zoe fell in love with the handsome youth with all the passion of an elderly lover, and so it came about that Romanus III died in his bath on 11 April 1034. The same evening the Empress married her young lover who ascended the throne as Michael IV (1034-41)."(Ostrogroski, 1986, pp. 323-324) [Bio1]

Verina of the Byzantine Empire (d.484).
Roman Empress.

a.k.a. Aelia Verina.

Her lover was:
Patricius, Master of Offices.