The Byzantine Lady: Ten Portraits, 1250-1500
The status of women in the Byzantine empire has been much deplored, on the assumption that in so male-dominated a society all women were subservient and oppressed. In the millennium if its existence, this may sometimes have been true. But in its declining years, from 1250 to 1500, some of its women of the upper class enjoyed considerable influence, outspokenness and initiative. The ten ladies of those centuries whose biographies are presented here did not complain of male oppression. They were deeply conscious of their aristocratic lineage and their social and religious responsibilities as empresses, mothers, nuns, scholars, or as unhappy victims of diplomatic marriages. Most of them will be unfamiliar figures to western readers, though two were Italians who became Byzantines by faith and language; two were unhappily married to south Italian rulers, and one settled in Venice as protectress of the Greek refugees there after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
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