She was raised and educated with the expectation that she would make an alliance marriage outside Georgia. Though she spent three years of her childhood at the Byzantine court at the behest of Empress Theodora,* her education was not that of a Byzantine princess, which isolated her further in the early years of her first marriage. She came to the Imperial court sometime around 1067 as the betrothed of Michael VII Doukas and married him sometime before 1071.
This was not the happiest of marriages. Michael’s power, and thus Maria’s, was overshadowed by that of his mother, Eudokia. When Michael eventually took power, he proved a poor ruler and found himself deposed after six years’ rule, leaving Maria to retreat to a monastery with her son Constantine. It was her connections with her Doukas in-laws that put her on the throne once more, as wife Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates.**
*This was not entirely altruistic. It’s likely she was there partially as a hostage. And no, not that Theodora.
**Her status as a foreigner worked in her favor, since it meant she wouldn’t have a crowd of relatives jockeying for power, as John Doukas was quick to point out. He seems to have conveniently left out his apparent hope that her in-laws would reap the benefits instead. It was apparently a powerful enough point for everyone involved to ignore the fact that her husband still lived and since his vows as a monk were taken involuntarily, she was technically still married to him and a second marriage would be adulterous.
***There were also rumors that Maria had become his lover and wished to become Empress to a third Emperor. It’s entirely possible they were true, but it’s just as likely, possibly more so, that they weren’t.
Anna Komnene, The Alexiad (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3) - Internet History Sourcebooks Project
Michael Psellos, Chronographia (Book 7) - Internet History Sourcebooks Project
Garland Lynda and Stephen Rapp. "Mary 'of Alania': Woman & Empress Between Two Worlds." In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, edited by Lynda Garland, 91-123. London: Centre for Hellenic Studies, 2006.
Mart'a-Maria of Alania - De Imperatoribus Romanis
Maria of Alania - Wikipedia