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Maria of Alania

Empress Maria (Greek: Μαρία της Αλανίας, Georgian: მართა, მარიამი) (c. 1050 – after 1103) was a daughter of the Georgian king Bagrat IV of the Bagrationi (1027–1072) and spouse of the Byzantine emperor Michael VII Ducas and later also Nicephorus III Botaniates. She is frequently known as Maria of Alania in apparent confusion with her mother Borena of Alania, the second wife of Bagrat of Georgia.

Born princess Martha (მართა) of Georgia, she was sent to Constantinople to be brought up and educated under the patronage of the empress Theodora in 1056. The latter, however, died the same year and Martha returned home. She married in 1065 Michael, a son of Constantine X Ducas, and the future emperor. In 1078, a palace coup ousted Michael and enthroned Nicephorus III Botaniates. Maria agreed to marry the new emperor provided her son, Constantine Ducas, would be declared an heir apparent. Nicephorus subsequently violated his promise, and the empress became involved in a plot organized by the general Alexius Comnenus who was rumored to be her lover. Alexius forced Nicephorus to abdicate the throne and was himself crowned the emperor in 1081. Alexius had Constantine proclaimed heir to the throne. Later Alexius betrothed his daughter, Anna Comnena, to Constantine. The situation changed, however, after John II Comnenus was born in 1087: Anna’s engagement with Constantine was dissolved, the latter was deprived of his status of heir apparent and Maria forced to retire to a monastery. Constantine died a teenager in or around 1096 and Maria’s involvement in politics was finally terminated.

Maria was renowned for her beauty and education. She had a frequent correspondence with the noted theologian and philosopher Theophylact of Bulgaria, who is said to have been inspired by the empress when writing his principal work Explanations to the Gospel according to John. Maria also patronized Georgian monasteries in the Balkans, especially the famous Iviron monastery on Mount Athos. She joined also her mother, Borena, in building the Kapata Monastery on Mount Sion at Jerusalem.

Maria of Alania
Born: c. 1050 Died: after 1103
Royal titles
Preceded by
Eudokia Makrembolitissa
Byzantine Empress consort
1071–1081
Succeeded by
Irene Doukaina
Empress-Mother of the Byzantine Empire
1078

References

  • Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204, first edition (1999), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-14688-7, pages 180-186
  • Lynda Garland (2006), Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience, 800-1200' p. 91-124, ISBN 075465737X
  • J. M. Hussey, editor, The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume IV The Byzantine Empire, Part 1 Byzantium and Its Neighbours (Bentley House, 200 Euston Road, London: The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1966), p. 793

External links

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