The Pornocracy (from Greek "porne", a prostitute, and "kratein", to rule) or Rule of the Harlots was a period in the history of the Papacy during the first half of the tenth century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964. Some sources describe it as ending after 30 years, with the reign of Pope John XI in 935.

During this period, the Popes were influenced strongly by a powerful aristocratic family, the Theophylacti, and their relatives. They were in particular under the influence of powerful women (though not prostitutes), especially Theodora and her daughter Marozia. It is widely believed that Marozia was the concubine of Pope Sergius III and the mother of Pope John XI. She was also accused of arranging the murder of Pope John X (who had originally been nominated for office by Theodora) in order to secure the elevation of her current favourite as Pope Leo VI.

Influence over 10th century Popes

Theodora and Marozia undoubtedly held great sway over the popes during this time. In particular, as political rulers of Rome they had effective control over the election of new popes. However, it is debatable whether all of the allegations that have been made against them can be substantiated. Much that is alleged about the pornocracy comes from the histories of Liutprand, bishop of Cremona. Liutprand took part in the "Assembly of Bishops" which deposed Pope John XII and was a political enemy of Rome; he is described by the "Catholic Encyclopedia" as "ever a strong partisan and frequently unfair towards his adversaries." Some of what church historians consider the worst excesses of the time might thus be considered to be no more than ecclesiastic gossip or slander.

List of popes during the pornocracy

* Pope Sergius III (904–911), alleged lover of Marozia
* Pope Anastasius III (911–913)
* Pope Lando (913–914)
* Pope John X (914–928), allegedly killed by Marozia
* Pope Leo VI (928–928)
* Pope Stephen VII (928–931)
* Pope John XI (931–935), son of Marozia, alleged son of Pope Sergius III
* Pope Leo VII (936–939)
* Pope Stephen VIII (939–942)
* Pope Marinus II (942–946)
* Pope Agapetus II (946–955)
* Pope John XII (955–963), grandson of Marozia, by her son Alberic II of Spoleto.

See also

* List of sexually active popes
* Pope Joan (legendary, probably fictional; legends about her may have stemmed from stories about the Pornocracy)
* Papal appointment


* "Church and Society in a Crisis Age: Tenth and Eleventh Century Europe" by Harlie Kay Gallatin. [ Online]
* [ The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Liutprand of Cremona]

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