Dates: ? – 928

Occupation: senatrix and serenissima vestaratrix of Rome

Known for: grandmother of Pope John XI; her influence and that of her daughters was called the Rule of the Harlots or the pornocracy

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Theophylact
  • daughter: Marozia
  • daughter: Theodora (confused by historian Edward Gibon with her mother)
  • rumored to be the mistress of Pope John X and Pope Sergius III

About Theodora

Theodora and her husband Theophylact were key influences during the papacies of Sergius III and Anastasius III. Later stories associated Sergius III with Marozia, daughter of Theophylact and Theodora, and claim that the future Pope John XI was their illegitimate son, born when Marozia was only 15 years old.

When John X was elected Pope it was also with the support of Theodora and Theophylact. Some stories claim that John X and Theodora were lovers.

An example of some historians’ judgment of Theodora and Marozia:

Towards the beginning of the tenth century a powerful noble, Theophylact, aided by his beautiful and unscrupulous wife, Theodora, secured control of Rome. Their daughter Marozia became the central figure of a corrupt society which completely dominated both the city and the papacy. Marozia herself married as her third husband Hugh of Provence, then king of Italy. One of her sons became pope as John XI ( 931-936), while another, Alberic, assumed the title of “prince and senator of the Romans” and ruled Rome, appointing four popes in the years 932 to 954.

(from: John L. Lamonte, The World of the Middle Ages: A Reorientation of Medieval History , 1949. p. 175.)

More About Theodora: From the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1856:

Pope John X., elected in 914, owed his elevation entirely to his mistress Theodora, whose beauty, talents, and intrigues had made her mistress of Rome about the beginning of the tenth century. At a late period Theodora’s daughter, Marozia, wielded a similar influence over Sergius III., and finally raised her son by that pope to the pontifical throne, with the title of John XI.