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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Zoé

b. circa 978, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul); d. 1050, Constantinople

Zoë was the daughter of Byzantine emperor Constantine VIII, who kept her from marrying to preclude political competition from a husband. She was finally married at the age of fifty to Romanos III, Constantine’s heir. Zoë is said to have fallen in love with a courtier named Michael, and in 1034 Romanos was found dead under suspicious circumstances. She married the courtier that same day, proclaiming him Emperor Michael IV. They adopted his sister’s child, Michael V, as their heir; he became emperor in 1041 and expelled Zoë, but she was recalled by popular demand. She and her sister Theodora III dethroned Michael and became co-rulers until Zoë married, this time to Constantine IX.