Joint Issue of the Sisters of the Byzantine Empire

2019-02-20 Wed

The above gold coin is an excessively rare and important Byzantine Gold Histamenon Nomisma struck under the joint reign of Zoe and Theodora the daughters of Constantine VIII.

The story Zoe and Theodora is one of the most notorious stories of sibling rivalry that existed during the times. They together ruled over Byzantium for just over seven weeks in a haze of resentment and bitter rivalry. Their lives and fate are deeply intertwined with one another. Theodora was attempted to marry to the urban prefect of Constantinople, Romanos Argyros. On her refusal, Theodora’s sister Zoe was married to him. Romanos became an emperor maing Xoe the empress and jealous of her sister for being her husband’s first choice. Theodora was, hence, sent to exile for 12 years.

Theodora's absence allowed Zoe to wreak havoc on the empire. She took a lover, had her husband killed, and adopted her paramour's nephew to be the new emperor. The Byzantine people were astounded by the antics. Hence, they demanded the return of Theodora to co-rule with Zoe. A delegation literally dragged Theodora out of her monastery and forced her into imperial garb. Hence, the joint rule of the sisters began in the year 1042. Theodora was quick to reinstate some stability in the empire.

During the short joint rule of the two sisters, a handful of coins were minted. The above shown coin is Byzantine Gold Histamenon Nomisma Struck under the joint reign of Zoe and Theodora at Constantinople mint in the April-June 1042 CE. The coin depicts busts of Zoe and Theodora, both crowned with pendants and wearing saccos and loros, supporting and holding together a labarum in the obverse. The reverse depicts veiled bust of the Virgin Mary wearing pallium and maphorium which is decorated on both shoulders with four pearls. Bust of the young Christ with cruciform nimbus over chest.

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