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Title: Mary 'of Alania': Woman & Empress Between Two Worlds
Contributor(s): Garland, Lynda (author); Rapp, Stephen (author)
Publication Date: 2006
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Abstract: "'Your majesty, you have changed. It seems to us that you are worried by private cares and because you have no one to whom you can confide your secret you have lost heart.' She, unwilling as yet to reveal anything but sighing deeply, replied 'There is no need to question a stranger like that; the very fact that strangers live in a foreign land is reason enough for sorrow. Heaven knows the troubles I have had, one after another - and soon, apparently, there will be more in store for me.' (Anna Komnene 'Alexiad 2.2.2'; Leib 1.67; Sewter 76)″Despite being a Byzantine empress twice over at this point in her career, Mart'a-Mary 'of Alania' was disempowered and felt herself to be so, as her reply to Isaac Komnenos, her cousin's husband, demonstrates. As a Georgian princess she was a foreigner in Byzantium, at a time when foreign empresses were not the norm, and lacked a family support network, the typical power-base on which indigenous aristocratic women depended and of which they were so proud. The seals of imperial and aristocratic women, and their choice of nomenclature, show clearly that in many cases they considered themselves as belonging to their family of birth (and often their mother's family) rather than their husband's, for example, the elder daughter of Anna Komnene who chose to be known by her grandmother's name: Irene Doukaina (see Bryennios 30-1). Mary's position was typical of that of many aristocratic and imperial women who were to transfer into the sophisticated Byzantine court culture, and her disadvantages must have been shared, at least in part, by her successors from the west, such as Piroshka of Hungary, Bertha of Sulzbach, Maria of Antioch and Agnes of Savoy, as well as those Georgian princesses who were to marry the two sons of Alexios Komnenos (varzos 1984: 308-17; cf. Macrides 1992). While Byzantine princesses who were destined to be diplomatic pawns were clearly educated for their task in representing Byzantium abroad (Herrin 1995), it is unlikely that Mary, despite the fact that Georgian kings had been accustomed to send their daughters to be the wives of foreign monarchs, would have received so formalized and education intended to enable her to cope with the complexities of life and political intrigue at a Byzantine court.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, p. 91-122
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Place of Publication: Aldershot, England
ISBN: 9780754657378
Field of Research (FOR): 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
Other Links:,M1
Series Name: Publications for the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King's College London
Series Number : 8
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter

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