Emperor Constantine V (r. 741-775 CE), holding an empire-wide beauty contest for the purpose, fished her from the obscurity of the provincial town that Athens had then become and arranged for her to marry his son, the future emperor Leo IV, who would reign from 775 to 780 CE. Irene married Charles Flowers on January 1, 1947. 9th century [edit | edit source] 803: Revolt of Bardanes Tourkos Irene became to be the Empress in 797 and at that point Louis the Pious, Charlemagne´s successor was almost 20 years old. Empress Irene was born between 750 and 755 into a noble family of Athens. She also ended the First Iconoclasm in the Eastern Church. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Irene was born in roughly 752 A.D. to a distinguished Athenian family. And Irene of Athens was anything but a common woman. The historian J. J. Norwich gives this grim assessment of Irene’s reign: Scheming and duplicitous, consumed by ambition and ever thirsty for power, she brought dissension and disaster to the Empire, being additionally guilty of one of the foulest murders that even Byzantine history records. She continued to take an interest in all matters of her empire: politics, warfare, and religion combined and tried to win favour by announcing reductions in taxes for her people. During her lacklustre reign, Irene ruthlessly schemed and plotted to keep the throne she would lose and regain three times, but she is chiefly remembered for restoring the Christian veneration of icons, which her predecessors of the Isaurian dynasty had sought so vehemently to repress. 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. Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western... Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Constantine then ordered the tongues of all four of his uncles to be torn out. She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on 1 November 768 and was married to his son Leo IV on … This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Cartwright, Mark. Byzantine Ivory Panel Depicting the Adoration of the Magiby Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA). Charlemagne did not attempt to rule Byzantium, but relations between the two empires remained difficult. License. The marriage was fruitful, and Irene gave birth to a son, Constantine VI in 771. Nevertheless, Irene was constantly harried by the Abbasids, and in 782 and 798, had to accept the terms of the respective Caliphs Al-Mahdi and Harun al-Rashid. Irene of Athens, the first empress of Byzantium. Seized by his attendants on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, Constantine was carried back to the palace at Constantinople. The first of these, held in 786 at Constantinople, was frustrated by the opposition of the iconoclast soldiers. When Leo died in 780, Irene became regent for their nine-year-old son, Constantine, who was too young to rule as emperor, thereby giving her administrative control over the empire. The iconodule (icon worship) policy drove these farmers out of the army, and thus off their farms. Soon after, Irene organized her own rebellion and eventually killed her son, thereby claiming sole rulership over the empire as empress, the first woman to have that title in the empire. One led by Constantine’s uncle Nikephoros was quashed, and the emperor blinded the ringleader in an all too familiar act of imperial Byzantine brutality. Constantine VI, (born 770—died after Aug. 15, 797), Byzantine emperor from 780 to 797, grandson of Constantine V.. At 10 years of age Constantine succeeded his father, Leo IV, under the guardianship of his mother, Irene.It was during her regency that the seventh ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787) reestablished the veneration of icons. 800: Uprising in Cappadocia, instigated by Staurakios. These farms were taken over by the largest land owner in the Byzantine Empire, the monasteries. Image from “Pala d’Oro,” Venice, c. 10th century. Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. With his heir having already died earlier the same year, Irene now had dealt with all her challengers. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Empress_Irene/. When Leo died in 780, Irene became regent for their nine-year-old son, Constantine, who was too young to rule as emperor, thereby … Thank you! Irene was almost immediately confronted with a conspiracy that tried to raise Caesar Nikephoros, a half-brother of Leo IV, to the throne. Last modified November 15, 2017. She was born into a noble family and was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V in 769 AD to marry his son, Leo IV. Since Irene didn’t have any siblings, she must have had quite a … Perhaps she was taking cues from Marcy from Peanuts, who called Peppermint Patty "Sir Mark is a history writer based in Italy. Even this seemingly pious campaign was really only a means for Irene to defeat her enemies and keep power. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2021) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. 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. She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on November 1, 768, and was married to his son, Leo IV, on December 17. The leader of this successful revolt against Irene replaced her on the Byzantine throne under the name Nicephorus I. Irene was a strong iconodule.She arranged the convening of the Second Council of Nicea in 787 that restored the practice of veneration of icons. In 797 CE, when Irene took back the throne for herself, she blinded her son, doing so in the same purple chamber of the palace in which he had been born. Irene was born in Athens, sometime between 750-755. Irene was born in 752 to the House of Sarantapechos, the daughter of Theophylaktos Sarantapechos, and she married Emperor Leo IV of Byzantium. Irene was eventually deposed by her finance minister. In effect, they ruled jointly for the next five years, but Irene soon began to plot against her son. Irene was always scared of loosing her new status, she knew that in order to secure her position she needed to bear a child a soon as possible, at age 19, she gave birth to her only son who was named Constantine VI in honor to his grand father Constantine V. Irene responded by throwing him in prison, but by 790 CE the army came to Constantine’s support and released him. Two monks were especially vociferous in their outrage at the emperor’s behaviour as head of the Church, Plato of Sakkoudion and Theodore of Stoudios, who both claimed that his divorce was illegal and so in marrying again the emperor had committed adultery. Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). "Empress Irene." Empress Irene. The emperor had lost the support of the one group he could always depend on; the iconophiles. The second, convened at Nicaea in 787, formally revived the veneration of icons and reunited the Eastern Church with that of Rome. Little is known of the young Irene except that she was an extraordinarily beautiful orphan girl from Athens, born c. 752 CE. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited is a non-profit company registered in the United Kingdom. In October 802 CE the highest court officials in Constantinople convened in the Hippodrome and declared the Empress surplus to requirements. The strategos of the Bucellarian Theme, Tatzates, defected to the Abbasids, and Irene, in exchange for a three-year truce, had to agree to pay an annual tribute of 70,000 or 90,000 dinars to the Abbasids, give them 10,000 silk garments, and provide them with guides, provisions, and access to markets during their withdrawal. A hollow semblance of friendship was maintained between Constantine and Irene, whose title of empress was confirmed in 792; however, the rival factions remained, and in 797, Irene, by cunning intrigues with the bishops and courtiers, organized a conspiracy on her own behalf. Irene of Athens was an orphan from a noble family, and was married to the son of the current emperor, Leo IV, in 768. When Constantine became old enough to become emperor proper, he eventually rebelled against Irene, although he let her keep the title of empress. In 783 CE Staurakios sent a Byzantine army to fight the Slavs in Greece, and the next year Irene enjoyed the first military successes of her reign against both Slav and Arab armies. Irene of Athens, Byzantine basilissa, is comparable to Egyptian queen Hatshepsut, and Russian empress Catherine the Great. Even though she brought some noteworthy changes to the empire like improving relations between the Orthodox Church and the Church of … Elpidius fled to Africa, where he defected to the Abbasid Caliphate. Next, Irene convened a Church council in Constantinople in 786 CE to put an official end to the destruction of icons (iconoclasm). Thus, the army was weakened and was unable to protect Anatolia from the Arab raids. As empress, Irene made determined efforts to stamp out iconoclasm everywhere in the empire, including within the ranks of the army. Nov 9, 2014 - Captain Janeway was referred to as "Sir," despite clearly not being a man. Four years later, Constantine V “the dragon slayer”, died, and Leo IV was crowned emperor. Irene went as far as to send an official to instruct the Frankish princess in Greek; however, Irene herself broke off the engagement in 787, against her son’s wishes. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. The cycle of royal assassinations that Irene began with the murder of her son would keep on turning so that the Byzantines would see six emperors in the space of 15 years. Serious and immediate defeats against the Bulgars and a shameful truce against the Arabs did nothing to aid his popularity, and conspiracies at court were rife. It was a rare moment of decision, but it was too little, too late. Thereafter, Irene is referred to in official state records as basileus, emperor, and not as empress, the first woman to so rule in her own right. Irene of Athens was the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Leo IV and mother of Constantine VI, both strong iconoclasts.She ruled jointly with her son, Constantine, after the death of her husband Leo. Constantine’s unpopularity with his people and the Byzantine establishment meant that he had no friends left to block his removal from power by his own mother. Although she was an orphan, her uncle or cousin, Constantine Sarantapechos, was a patrician and was possibly the strategos of the theme of Hellas at the end of the 8th century. From 797 to 802 CE she ruled as emperor in her own right, the first woman to do so in Byzantine history. Constantine VI ruled from 780 to 797 CE, inheriting his title aged just nine. Irene’s most notable act was the restoration of the veneration of icons, thereby ending the First Iconoclasm of the Eastern Church. However, influential members of the army were against such a move, and they organised a riot which forced the closure of the council meetings. Michael Nicholson/Corbis via Getty Images Irene ruled Byzantine in some capacity from 780 to 802 AD. She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on November 1, 769, and was married to his son Leo IV on December 17. To make the situation even worse, Irene had exempted all monasteries from all taxation. However, the new approach to join the two families met fierce opposition, especially from the powerful eunuch Aetios in Constantinople. Given the financial ruin into which the empire was headed, it was no wonder, then, that Irene was, eventually, deposed by her own minister of finance. Having chosen Tarasios, one of her partisans and her former secretary, as Patriarch of Constantinople in 784, she summoned two church councils. The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea rules an end to iconoclasm in the. Constantine died shortly afterwards, almost certainly as a result of his injuries, which were intended to kill not maim. Before that, Irene was empress consort from 775 to 780, and empress dowager and regent from 780 to 797. Irene was related to the noble Greek Sarantapechos family of Athens and was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on 1 November 768 and was married to his son Leo IV. Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. "Empress Irene." Books Irene was related to the noble Greek Sarantapechos family of Athens.Although she was an orphan, her uncle or cousin Constantine Sarantapechos was a patrician and was possibly strategos of the theme of Hellas at the end of the 8th century. The army still contained many iconoclasts, and they had refused to swear loyalty to Irene alone on religious grounds. Although it is often asserted that, as monarch, Irene called herself “basileus” (emperor), rather than “basilissa” (empress), in fact there are only three instances where it is known that she used the title “basileus“: two legal documents in which she signed herself as “Emperor of the Romans,” and a gold coin of hers found in Sicily bearing the title of “basileus.” She used the title “basilissa” in all other documents, coins, and seals. Additionally, the abandoned farms fell from the tax rolls and reduced the amount of income that the government received. A military governor in the Byzantine Empire. Related Content 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. Indeed, the Byzantine army and the defense of the empire was largely based on this obligation and the Anatolian farmers. 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