She was the daughter of the Emperor Laszlo of Hungary. Irene was the sole ruler of Constantinople, and empire was thicker than blood. Unfortunately, the young emperor was not actually up to the task. At Mass, on Christmas Day (December 25), when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum(“Emperor of the Romans”) in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Called “Irene of Athens” in honor of her birthplace, Irene is mainly remembered for two dramatic events. [65], However, her overthrow prevented her marriage to Charlemagne. C. Latvia. However, he was captured and brought back to the palace[57]. Despite her actions as empress, she was canonised for her part in restoring icon-veneration and her saint's life endows her with all appropriate -- and inappropriate -- piety and virtues. Empress Irene. Leo began to promote iconoclast monasteries. It is estimated that she was born in Athens around 752-753. Significantly, Constantine could no longer call on the support of Michael Lachanodrakon, the general having been killed that year while campaigning against the Bulgars. [36] In 784, she replaced the Patriarch of Constantinople with the moderate Tarasius. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE. She summoned Elpidios to Constantinople, but the Sicilians refused to surrender him to her. 9. [52] He shocked the public in 795 when he repudiated his Empress and placed her in a convent. Saint Irene (Greek Ειρήνη η Αθηναία) (c. 752 - August 9, 803) was a Byzantine empress (although she called herself basileus, the male form of the word "emperor," rather than basilissa, "empress") from 797 to 802.She was the wife of Leo IV.. Charlemagne knew that Irene’s days would end and there would be another Byzantine ruler to take her place. [21], During Irene’s reign as regent for her son, she named herself co-ruler. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. “Irene of Athens.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. [31] Irene demoted Tatzates and formed a policy to remove Constantine V’s generals from high command. To prevent this, Irene had to negotiate an immense annual tribute of 70,000 or 90,000 dinars to the Abbasids for a three-year truce. Constantine VI conspired to take the throne himself. "Empress Irene." D. Roman Empire. In effect, they ruled jointly for the next five years, but Irene soon began to plot against her son. The Orthodox Church commemorates today Saint Irene the Empress, later Nun Xeni. The Empress’ gold coins reveal much of her duplicitous character for, uniquely, they carried a portrait of herself on both sides. Irene celebrated his victory by hosting a triumph in 784. The wedding took place in 769 CE, and she immediately influenced state policy by tempering her husband’s attacks on the Church’s veneration of icons. 8. Also, to open the posts of this year, certainly later than planned, we begin with the Byzantine Empress Irene of Athens and how important she was to the Orthodox Eastern Church. However, Elpidios fled to Africa, where the Arabs received him as the Roman Emperor. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204, Taylor. Troubled times were in store for Byzantium’s most ambitious and ruthless of sovereigns. B. Egypt. Check your inbox or spam folder to confirm your subscription. 0. [3] In 769,  Emperor Constantine V chose her as a bride for his son and co-ruler Leo IV. Irene did seem to have it all. [46] She confined her son and demanded an oath of fealty from Constantine VI’s army to acknowledge her as ruler. [70] Her financial policy was successful. The army was all too unimpressed with the young emperor, and his popularity plummeted even further when he began to blame his soldiers for their defeats, taking the ill-advised action (cunningly suggested by Irene, of course) of tattooing the word “traitor” on the faces of 1,000 of them. In 802, Irene was overthrown in a palace coup by Nikephoros. By the time of her abdication, she had a large amount of money which she handed over to Nikephoros. Empress 797 - 802 . Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Who invaded central Italy? Born between 750 and 755 into a noble family of Athens, she was chosen to be a bride of Leo IV – the son of Emperor Constantine V. Overnight, this orphan noble girl became a bride of an Heir of Byzantine Emperor. [20] Nikephoros and his brothers were forced to be ordained into the priesthood and to administer communion on Christmas Day. [54] Many people believed this marriage to be adulterous. A final crushing blow to Constantine’s ambitions was the protests following his divorce and subsequent marriage to his mistress Theodote, the so-called Moechian Controversy, in 795 CE. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204, Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window), Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window). She was 17, when her father died and siblings were estranged by circumstances. Her men were victorious. Empress Wu Zetian ruled as China’s only female emperor. B. Poland. Your email address will not be published. These two different viewpoints of religion began to strain their marriage. [15] During Lent of that year, Leo IV began to persecute Iconophiles. , 2nd ed., vol. The persecution of iconophiles had been a key feature of previous emperors' reigns, especially Irene’s father-in-law Constantine V, so the Empress could not be too harsh on the perpetrators and risk alienating family members at court. She was very insecure in her position, which led her to become ruthless. At one point, it was proposed she marry Charlemagne, which would have united the Eastern and Western empires for the first time in hundreds of years. [63] This restored the Roman Empire of the west. She was someone who was raised very piously from an early age. Leo, however, was a steadfast iconoclastwho, according to tradition, found that Irene possessed icons and thereafter would no longer … 135-138. She was educated like any other Greek Byzantine noble girl of her class. Once abroad the army was disbanded and their positions of authority back home taken by those more loyal to the Empress. “Irene, Byzantine Empress.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. Riding around Constantinople in a golden chariot launching coins into the crowds did not help much either. [59], Placing a woman on the Imperial Roman throne was unheard of. Cartwright, Mark. Mark is a history writer based in Italy. She was also known to have initiated the Second Council of Nicea. 8, Gale, 2004, pp. On January 14, 771, Irene gave birth to a son named Constantine VI. By a fortuitous occurrence, the plot was thwarted by an earthquake. On Christmas Day in 800, during a visit to Rome, the Pope placed an imperial crown on Charlemagne’s head and gave him the title of “Holy Roman Emperor”. From 797 to 802 CE she ruled as emperor in her own right, the first woman to do so in Byzantine history. Especially unusual is that, while Constantine V was a militant iconoclast who was known for persecuting venerators of icons, Irene herself displayed iconophile predilections. Emperor Leo IV was an iconoclast, which viewed the veneration of icons as idolatry. [32], The next year, Irene sent Staurakios, her favourite courtier, against the Slavs in Northern Greece, where he made the Slavs pay tribute to the empire. During her Tang Dynasty reign, the practice of Chinese Buddhism is known to have reached it’s height and influence. MILLER, D. A. Irene was not to be so easily ushered to the wings of power, either, and she returned to the court in 792 CE, invited by her son as a last-ditch attempt to restore some order to his reign. A king could not be succeeded by his mother or a daughter. [4] On November 1, 769, Irene arrived in Constantinople. Constantine died shortly afterwards, almost certainly as a result of his injuries, which were intended to kill not maim. [26] A year later, she sent a fleet to Sicily against Elpidios. Empress Irene was the wife of Leo IV and, on her husband’s death, she reigned as regent for her son Constantine VI from 780 to 790 CE. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. She made sure that coins had both herself as well as her son on them, with her image on the obverse (the “heads” side of the coin). Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. In so doin… Empress Irene set out to solve the issue of iconoclasm which was established in the empire. Religious affairs seem always to have been foremost in the regent’s plans, and in 784 CE she made her former secretary Tarasios the Patriarch (Bishop) of Constantinople, despite him not yet being ordained. Leo’s short reign came to an end when he died of fever, aged 30, while campaigning against the Bulgars, but Irene’s appetite for power needed further feeding. Much like Empress Theodora, Empress Irene was not born into royalty – it was the beauty of the young orphan that caught the eye of Emperor Constantine V. 1 Early Life (752 AD-768 AD) 2 Empress Consort (786 AD-780 AD) 3 Empress Regent (780 AD-797 AD) 4 Empress (797 AD-802 AD) 5 Referring literature to Eirene Irene Sarantapechos was born into a wealthy patrician family in Athens in the year 752 AD. She founded a province called Macedonia.[35]. In 799, after Pope Leo III was abused by Romans who tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue, he escaped and fled to Charlemagne at Paderborn. [22] Her first coins were issued with Constantine VI placed on the lesser important side of the coin. [50] He waged a luckless war on the Bulgars in April 791 and the Arabs in October. Irene was removed, exiled to a monastery on Lesbos and succeeded by Nikephoros I, one of the Empress’ former finance ministers. Nikephoros led a revolt along with many powerful figures. In early 802 CE, Irene attempted a marriage of alliance with the Franks' king Charlemagne, who was also the newly declared Emperor of the Romans in the west, and who, likewise, was in favour of once more unifying the two halves of the old Roman empire. [47] However, In September of 790, the troops Armeniac province refused to swear the oath and rebelled. [27], In 782, Irene appointed Michael Lachanodrakon, Constantine V’s general, to attack the Arab army on the Eastern frontier. Cartwright, Mark. However, influential members of the army were against such a move, and they organised a riot which forced the closure of the council meetings. Who helped the pope? Unheard of ] her first coins were issued with Constantine dead, there was no heir and was. 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