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Despite the prevailing view that women could not exercise authority on their own in the ancient world, powerful female rulers - the Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra, Zenobia of Palmyra - occasionally emerged. But in the early Byzantine Empire a series of women asserted their right to rule, not as regents for their sons, but even as emperor, in place of their male relatives. Women in Purple introduces three women in particular. Between 780 and 856, Irene, Euphrosyne and Theodora gained unprecedented power as Empresses of the Byzantine Empire and played a crucial role in the turbulent religious politics of this iconoclastic period. This evocative and highly original book traces the path of female ascendancy within the palace and shows precisely how these women used every means at their disposal to assume roles previously reserved for men.