Empress Theophano came from humble origins and was originally named Anastasia. She was renowned for her great beauty, and the future Byzantine Emperor Romanos II fell in love with her and married her around the year 956. Her origins made her unpopular, and when her father-in-law Constantine VII died, it was rumoured that she had poisoned him. Theophano and Romanos went on to have at least three children together before Romanos’s untimely death in 963. Her two sons by Theophano succeeded him as co-Emperors with Theophano as regent.
To secure protection, Theophanu was quick to marry Nikephoros Phokas, who was proclaimed Emperor. However, he was killed in 969 in a conspiracy with his nephew, who became John I Tzimiskes. Theophano was rumoured to have been involved as well, and John proposed to marry her. However, her damaged reputation led to her eventual removal from court. She returned in 976 when her teenage sons took power, following John’s death. She died sometime after 978.
Theophano: A Byzantine Tale is not your ordinary book – it’s a graphic novel. This was certainly a new experience for me, and I have to say, I rather enjoyed it when I got into it. I imagine it isn’t easy to convey a story this way, and the author and illustrator certainly managed very well with gorgeous illustrations and a storyline that grabs you. Before I started reading this, I did not know much about Theophano’s story, so the twists and turns in the story were quite fun.
If you’re looking for a little step out of the regular historical sphere, this is the thing for you.