Theophanu (960 –
June 15, 991) (Greek: Θεοφανώ Theophano), also spelled Theophania, Theophana or Theophano, was born in Constantinople, and was the wife of Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor.
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperorhad requested a Greek princess for his son, Otto, to seal a treaty between the Holy Roman Empireand the Byzantine Empire. The unwise reference by the pope to the ruler in Constantinople as "Greek" in a letter while Otto's ambassador, Liudprand of Cremonahad been in Byzantine had destroyed the first round of negotiations. With the ascension of a new emperor who had not been personally been referred to other than as Roman Emperor, the treaty negotiations were able to resume. Theophanu duly arrived in 972, arriving in grand style with a magnificent escort and bearing great treasure. However, according to the chronicler Thietmar, she was not the "virgo desiderata", the Imperial princess, that was expected. Theophanu is identified in the marriage contract as the "neptis" (niece or granddaughter) of Emperor John I Tzimisces(Ιωάννης Ι Τσιμισκής). John Tzimisces married Theodora, the sister of Romanus II.
At one time it was believed Theophanu was the daughter of the Emperor
Romanos IIand his consort Theophano, but no mention is made of her being "porphyrogenita" (πορφυρογέννητη), purple-born, nor are her parents identified. It is unlikely that Theophanu was the daughter of any emperor.
Current research holds that her father was Konstantinos Skleros (Κωνσταντίνος Σκληρός), brother of the pretender
Bardas Skleros(Βάρδας Σκληρός) and her mother was Sophia Phokaina (Σοφία Φώκαινα), niece of Emperor Nikephoros II(Νικηφόρος ΙΙ). Her father's sister of Maria Skleraina (Μαρία Σκλήραινα) was the first wife of Tzimisces'. Accordingly she was of Armenian descent.
Marriage and children
Theophanu and Otto were married by
Pope John XIIIon April 14, 972at Saint Peter's and she was crowned the same day in Rome. Their children were:
* Adelaide, Abbess of Quedlinburg, born November or December 977, died 1040.
* Sophia, Abbess of Gandersheim and Essen, born 978, died 1039.
* Matilda, born 979, died 1025; who married
Ezzo, count palatineof Lotharingia
* Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, born June or July 980
* A daughter, a twin to Otto, who died before
October 8, 980
Life as Empress
Theophanu accompanied her husband on all his journeys, and issued diplomas in her own name as Empress. It is known she was frequently at odds with her mother-in-law,
Adelaide of Italy, and this caused an estrangement between Otto II and Adelaide. According to Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, Adelaide was very happy when "that Greek woman" died. Albert of Metzdescribes Theophanu as being an unpleasant and talkative woman. Theophanu was also criticized for her decadence, which manifested in her bathing once a day and introducing luxurious garments and jewelry into Germany. She is credited with introducing the forkto Western Europe- chronographers mention the astonishment she caused when she "used a golden double prong to bring food to her mouth" instead of using her hands as was the norm. "The theologian Peter Damianeven asserts that Theophanu had a love affair with John Philagathos, a Greek monk who briefly reigned as Antipope John XVI.
Otto II died suddenly on
December 7, 983and was buried in Rome. That Christmas Theophanu had their three-year-old son crowned as Otto III, with herself ruling as Empress Regent on his behalf. Henry II, Duke of Bavariaseized Otto in spring 984, but was forced to surrender the child to his mother. With the cooperation of Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz, and Hildebald, Bishop of Worms, Theophanu reigned until her death in 991.
She was buried in the church of
Saint Pantaleonat Cologne. The chronicler Thietmar eulogized her as follows: "Though [Theophanu] was of the weak sex she possessed moderation, trustworthiness, and good manners. In this way she protected with male vigilance the royal power for her son, friendly with all those who were honest, but with terrifying superiority against rebels"."
Because Otto III was still a child, his grandmother
Adelaide of Italytook over the regency until Otto III became old enough to rule on his own.
* Davids, Adelbert. "The Empress Theophano: Byzantium and the West at the turn of the first millennium", 2002. ISBN 0-521-52467-9
* Hans K. Schulze, [http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb06/mag/aktuelles/news/theophanu Die Heiratsurkunde der Kaiserin Theophanu] , Hannover 2007 ISBN 978-3-7752-6124-1
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10023171 Find-A-Grave biography]
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