Eudocia Ingerina (fl. 800s)

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Eudocia Ingerina (fl. 800s)

Byzantine empress. Name variations: Eudokia Ingerina; Ingerina. Flourished in the late 800s; daughter of Inger; probably of Scandinavian descent; became second wife of Basil I the Macedonian, Byzantine emperor (r. 867–886), around 865; also mistress of Michael III the Drunkard, Byzantine emperor (r. 842–867); children: Leo VI the Wise (b. 866), Byzantine emperor (r. 886–912); Alexander (b. 870), Byzantine emperor (r. 912–913); Stephen (born around 871). Basil's first wife was Maria of Macedonia .

From the little that has been written about her, it would appear that Eudocia Ingerina was the unwitting pawn in several royal power struggles during the Golden Age of the Byzantine Empire (843–1025). Lowly-born, probably of Scandinavian descent, she became the mistress of Michael III , the pleasure-loving, teen-age son of the empress-regent Theodora the Blessed. (Michael's wild ways, particularly his love of drink, led Byzantine chroniclers to dub him "Michael the Drunkard," although modern scholars believe that his behavior may have been exaggerated by his detractors.) Theodora, a strong-willed woman, had set her sights on a more aristocratic mate for her son and forced Michael into marriage with Eudocia Decapolita in 855. While outwardly obeying his mother's wishes, Michael continued his relationship with Eudocia Ingerina, openly favoring her over his wife. Eudocia Ingerina remained Michael's mistress for the next ten years or so, during which time Theodora was coerced into a convent, and Michael came to serve as emperor under the rule of his uncle Caesar Bardas .

Further complications arose for Eudocia Ingerina with the arrival in Constantinople of Basil I , an unscrupulous, ambitious young man who would befriend Michael in order to advance himself. Illiterate but strong and muscular, Basil attracted Michael's attention when he won a wrestling match at the imperial palace; shortly thereafter, he was hired as the emperor's horse trainer. Over the next few years, Basil and Michael became friends, then co-conspirators, eventually plotting the assassination of Caesar Bardas, whom Basil viewed as his major political foe. Following the death of his uncle, Michael made Basil his co-emperor and gave him Eudocia Ingerina as his wife. (The wedding ceremony took place around 865.) But Michael also kept Eudocia Ingerina as his mistress, an unusual arrangement that lasted for a year, until Michael abruptly turned against Basil and conspired to have him killed. Warned in advance, however, Basil set into motion his own plan of revenge. On the night of September 23, 867, after Michael had drunk himself into a stupor at an "arranged" banquet, Basil had his henchmen murder him. Basil I then embarked on his solo rule as emperor, with Eudocia Ingerina at his side as empress.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing Eudocia Ingerina's reactions to all these events, most of them seemingly out of her control. An account by Constance Head does imply that her marriage to Basil never advanced much beyond the "perennial spirit of distrust between them." Even the couple's three sons—Leo, Alexander, and Stephen—were never popular with their father, who doted instead on Constantine, his son with his first wife Maria of Macedonia and heir to the throne. (Basil was never certain whether Leo, born in 866, was his legitimate son or Michael's, and developed such a dislike for the frail and bookish boy that he reputedly once threw him around by his hair.) When Constantine died prematurely in 879, and Leo became next in line to the throne, Basil slipped into a deep depression from which he never recovered. He died in a hunting accident on August 29, 886, after which Leo, dubbed "Leo the Wise" because of his scholarly manner and ability to predict the future, served as emperor until 912. (Quite recently, it was determined that Leo was indeed the legitimate son of Basil I.) Nothing further is known of Eudocia Ingerina, not even the date of her death.


Head, Constance. Imperial Byzantine Portraits: A Verbal and Graphic Gallery. New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas Brothers, 1982.

Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. Translated by Joan Hussey. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1969.