Porphyrogennetos

Porphyrogennetos

The title porphyrogennetos (female porphyrogennita) refers specifically to those individuals born legitimately to a reigning emperor. “Born in the purple” is both figurative—having a sitting emperor as a father—and literal. The structure in which royal children was born was decorated in purple, and was called the Porphyra. The concept existed in the early Byzantine period, but its dynastic overtones did not develop until the mid-ninth century. Its most famous possessor, Constantine VII, described the ceremony surrounding the birth of a porphyrogennetos. The first appearance of the title on seals was not until a century and a half later, on the seals of John II Komnenos (top right BZS.1951.31.5.1693) and featuring on the next two emperors of the Komnenos dynasty, Manuel I (top centre BZS.1958.106.501) and Alexios II (top right BZS.1958.106.640).

 

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