Zoe Karbonopsina was first the concubine and later the fourth wife of Leo VI. The emperor’s quest for an heir led to the Tetragamy controversy, provoking a crisis in the patriarchal office that cascaded into the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which was placated only in 920 with the Tomos of Union. Zoe had been expelled from the palace by Alexander upon his ascension to the throne in 912. After Alexander's death in 913, Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos assumed the regency for the child emperor Constantine VII, who he considered to be illegitimate. The situation was further complicated by the revolt of Constantine Doukas (only put down when Doukas was killed attempting to take control of the palace) and the Bulgar khan Symeon who was outside of Constantinople with his army. Symeon was bought off with an imperial title and a marriage alliance between Constantine VII and his daughter. At this point Zoe returned to the palace, ousted the regency of the patriarch and assumed power in the name of her son. She cancelled the alliance with Symeon, prompting another invasion of Byzantium's Balkan territories. Zoe's regency was the subject of a conspiracy led by the leaders of the army, the aristocratic Leo and Bardas Phokas. However, it was the droungarios of the fleet Romanos Lekapenos, son of an Armenian peasant, who outwitted both the Phokai and Zoe, seizing power in 919 and banished Zoe to a monastery.
Two different designs of seal were issued during the regency of Zoe. On one type she is shown on the reverse with her son, while Christ occupies the obverse. The second type places Zoe and Constantine on opposite sides of the seal. The images of Zoe are fairly conservative in their design recalling the depictions of past empresses, wearing crowns with triangular projections flanking a cross (although see also the Hermitage specimen [M-4508], in I. Sokolova, Byzantine Imperial Seals, no. 81).
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