6 Nov 2019 5:00pm - 7:00pm Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


The Empress’s New Clothes
Transformation and Integration of a Foreign Bride in the Byzantine Environment

Petra Melichar (Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)


When a foreign princess arrived in Byzantium, she was brought into a splendid tent and dressed in a luxurious purple robe. The aim of this and several similar rituals symbolized a hoped-for transformation, a metamorphosis of a foreigner into a Byzantine. While these rituals could be performed within several days, integration into the Byzantine environment was much more complex and difficult as the stories of Maria of Bulgaria, Helene of Serbia, Anna of Savoy or Anna of Moscow reveal. 

Short biography

Petra Melichar earned her PhD from Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven in 2012. At present, she is a fellow of the Slavonic Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and editor-in-chief of the journal Byzantinoslavica (since 2015). Her recent work centers on late Byzantine elite women in the Palaiologan period (1261–1453).


Pseudo-Kodinos and the Constantinopolitan Court: Offices and Ceremonies, (Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies, 15), R. Macrides–J. A. Munitz–D. Angelov (eds.), Farnham–Burlington 2013.

Dabrowska, M. (1996), Lacinniczki nad Bosforem. Malzen’stwa bizantyn’sko-lacin’skie w cesarskiej rodzinie Paleologów (XIII–XV w.), Lodž.

Dabrowska, M. (1996A), Sophia de Montferrat or the History of One Face, Acta Universitatis Lodziensis, Folia Historica 56, 177–199.

Garland, L. (1988), The Life and Ideology of Byzantine Women: A Further Note on Conventions of Behavior and Social Reality as Reflected in Eleventh and Twelfth-Century Historical Sources, Byzantion 58, 361–393.

Garland, L. (1994), The Eye of the Beholder: Byzantine Imperial Women and Their Public Image from Zoe Porphyrogenita to Euphrosyne Kamaterissa Doukaina (1028–1203), Βyzantion 64, 19–39.

Garland, L. (1999), Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527–1204, London–New York.

Hennessy, C. (2006), A Child Bride and Her Representation in the Vatican Epithalamion, cod. gr. 1851, BMGS 30/2, 115–150.

Herrin, J. (2001), Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, Princeton–Oxford.

Herrin, J. (2014), Les femmes de la cour à Byzance, in: É. Malamut, A. Nicolaïdes (eds.), Impératrices, princesses, aristocrates et saintes souveraines: De l’Orient chrétien et musulman au Moyen Age et au début des Temps modernes, (Le temps de l’histoire), Aix-en-Provence, 55–68.

Hill, B. (1999), Imperial Women in Byzantium 1025–1204: Power, Patronage and Ideology, London.

Kazhdan, A. P.–Epstein, A.W. (1985), Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, Berkeley–Los Angeles–London.

Kazhdan, A. P. (1988–1989), Rus’–Byzantine Princely Marriages in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 12–13, 414–429.

Laiou, A. E. (1981), The Role of Women in the Byzantine Society, JÖB 31/1, 233–260.

Laiou, A. E. (1985), Observations on the Life and Ideology of Byzantine Women, BF 9, 60–102.

Macrides, R. (1992), Dynastic Marriages and Political Kingship, in: J. Shepard–B. Franklin (eds.), Byzantine Diplomacy, (Papers from the Twenty-Fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990), Aldershot, 263–280.

Malamut, É. (2013A), L’impératrice byzantine et la cour (XIIIe–XVe siècle), ZRVI 50, 645–661.

Malamut, É. (2016A), L’impératrice byzantine et le cérémonial (VIIIe XIIe siècle), dans: O. Delouis–S. Métivier–P. Pagès (ed.), Le saint, le moine et le paysan: Mélanges d’histoire byzantine offerts à Michel Kaplan, (Byzantina sorbonensia, 29), Paris, 329–374.

Female Incompetence, Misogyny and Xenophobia or a Faulty Marital Policy on the Part of Late Byzantine Emperors? BSl 74, 2016, 57–70.


P. (2017), Imperial Women as Emissaries, Intermediaries, and Conciliators in the Palaiologan Era, JÖB 67, 103–128.

Scholz, C. (2003), Der Empfang der kaiserlichen Braut: eine Betrachtung anhand von vier ausgesuchten Beispielen, Paleoslavica 10/2, (= Chrysai Pylai, Essays presented to Ihor Ševčenko on his 80th birthday by his colleagues and students), P. Schreiner–O. Strakhov (eds.), 128–154.

Schreiner, P. (1968), Hochzeit und Krönung Kaiser Manuels II. im Jahre 1392, BZ 60, 70–85.

Wright, D.G. (2013), The Brides of 1420: Men Looking at Women’s Bodies, in: B. Neil–L. Garland (eds.), Questions of Gender in Byzantine Society, Farnham–Burlington, 133–152.

Open to all. No registration required.
Joint event organised by Cambridge Ukrainian Studies and the Byzantine Worlds Network.
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk