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Zoë

Zoë (zōˈē) [key], c.978–1050, Byzantine empress (1028–50), daughter and successor of Constantine VIII. Zoë was first married when she was 50 years old at the request of her father to insure stability in the empire. Her husband, Romanus III, soon neglected her and in 1034 was found murdered, probably by Zoë and her lover Michael. The same evening she married Michael, and he became Emperor Michael IV. He proved a capable ruler and eliminated Zoë from state affairs. Much of the government was exercised by his elder brother John, a eunuch of the court and a thoroughly corrupt man, but an able administrator and diplomat. On Michael's death (1041), his nephew, Michael V, became joint ruler with Zoë. He promptly sent his uncle John into exile and in 1042 banished Zoë to a convent. In response the people rose in rebellion, Zoë was recalled, and Michael was blinded and banished. At the same time Zoë's younger sister, Theodora, was crowned joint empress. A few months later (June, 1042), Zoë married Constantine IX, of a distinguished Byzantine family, who ruled jointly with the two sisters until Zoë's death. Under their rule the Byzantine court was a source of scandal but nontheless of intellectual brilliance. The chief event of the period was the final schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church, brought about by the attacks of Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, on the papacy and by the attacks of the legates of Pope Leo IX on the patriarchate. This resulted in mutual excommunication (1054). After Zoë's death in 1050, Constantine continued to rule jointly with Theodora; he died in 1055, and Theodora in 1056; Michael VI, a Byzantine nobleman who was chosen her successor, was forced to abdicate in 1057 in favor of Isaac I, founder of the Comnenus dynasty.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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