• Byzantine Empire;
  • Zoe Porphyrogenita;
  • cosmetic laboratory;
  • eternal youth;
  • perfume laboratory


The diachronically continuous struggle for eternal youth as represented by the Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (978–1050). The presentation of a beautiful empress, trying to keep her youth appearance until a prolonged age, applying on herself cosmetic essences and fragrances made in her personal laboratory into the imperial palace. The review of the relevant literature and the historical evidence derived from the historians and chroniclers of her era, as well as the surviving images of Zoe. The eye-witness chroniclers of the era describe her as blonde, with bright white skin, lack of wrinkles, and a very young girl appearance, preserving her beauty even into her 60s. All the historical sources agree that her main occupation was the manufacture of cosmetic essences, and for this purpose, she had installed a laboratory (myrepseion) in her private quarters, where she prepared various drugs and perfumes, spending much of her time for these activities. It is noteworthy that her first two husbands died under circumstances that aroused suspicions of Zoe’s involvement in their deaths, as she had parallel love affairs. The best known image of Zoe is the mosaic panel in Saint Sophia, the cathedral Church of Constantinople and her representation has been long discussed, as she was 64 years old at the time of the scene apparently depicted in the panel, and maybe she took the opportunity of adding a more pleasing portrait of herself. The preservation of beauty is a timeless quest and cosmetic dermatology has its origins in antiquity and medieval times.