Cartwright, M. (2017, November 15). 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. Constantine then ordered the tongues of all four of his uncles to be torn out. 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. Irene of Athens (c. 752-803 CE) was Byzantine empress from 797 to 802. Byzantine Empress Irene and Emperor Constantine VI. But her biggest power grab came after her son, Constantine VI, had overthrown her and attempted to gain power for himself. She also ended the First Iconoclasm in the Eastern Church. 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. Since Irene didn’t have any siblings, she must have had quite a … Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. 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. Instead, they were permitted to repent of their sins and welcomed back into the Church now glittering once again with its precious icons. Irene was removed, exiled to a monastery on Lesbos and succeeded by Nikephoros I, one of the Empress’ former finance ministers. Constantine died shortly afterwards, almost certainly as a result of his injuries, which were intended to kill not maim. Thus, the army was weakened and was unable to protect Anatolia from the Arab raids. 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. 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. Ancient History Encyclopedia. These small farmers of Anatolia owed a military obligation to the Byzantine throne. "Empress Irene." Irene next had to subdue a rebellion led by Elpidius, the strategos of Sicily. Irene was born to a noble Greek family of Athens, the Sarantapechos family.Although she was an orphan, her uncle, Constantine Sarantapechos, was a patrician and possibly strategos of the theme of Hellas. Her uncle, a patrician and stragegos of Hellas, allowed for Irene to be a prudent choice for the wife of a future emperor. It simply would not do for a Byzantine emperor to marry an illiterate barbarian, even if he had been blessed by the Pope and wore spectacular red tights. In 769, Emperor Constantine V brought her to Constantinople to marry his son, the future emperor Leo IV. Empress Irene was born between 750 and 755 into a noble family of Athens. Additionally, the abandoned farms fell from the tax rolls and reduced the amount of income that the government received. 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. B. orn into an aristocratic Athenian family in 755 CE, the young Irene was well known for her exceptional beauty, which is likely the reason Constantine V chose her as a bride for his son Leo IV. The former was logothetes tou dromou or chief minister with a wide range of powers. 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. 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. In 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, on Christmas Day. Many of the remaining farmers of Anatolia were driven from the farm to settle in the city of Byzantium, further reducing the army’s ability to raise soldiers. Irene of Athens (c. 752–803)First woman to be sole ruler of the Byzantine empire who ruled for ten years, displaying firmness and intelligence, and summoned the council at Nicaea in 787, which formally revived the adoration of images and reunited the Eastern church with that of Rome. Once abroad the army was disbanded and their positions of authority back home taken by those more loyal to the Empress. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. Irene of Athens, Byzantine basilissa, is comparable to Egyptian queen Hatshepsut, and Russian empress Catherine the Great. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. We don’t know much about her parents, but she was very young when they passed, leaving the poor little girl at the mercy of different relatives. Ancient History Encyclopedia. When Constantine became old enough to become emperor proper, he eventually rebelled against Irene, although he let her keep the title of empress. Even though she brought some noteworthy changes to the empire like improving relations between the Orthodox Church and the Church of … 10 Jan 2021. License. In spite of these reverses, Irene’s military efforts met with some success: in 782 her favored courtier, Staurakios, subdued the Slavs of the Balkans and laid the foundations of Byzantine expansion and re-Hellenization in the area. 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. Irene’s most notable act was the restoration of the veneration of icons, thereby ending the First Iconoclasm of the Eastern Church. 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. Constantine could only flee for aid to the provinces, but even there participants in the plot surrounded him. 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. Irene responded by throwing him in prison, but by 790 CE the army came to Constantine’s support and released him. Irene sent a fleet, which succeeded in defeating the Sicilians. The Empress’ gold coins reveal much of her duplicitous character for, uniquely, they carried a portrait of herself on both sides. Empress Irene. Irene of Athens, the first empress of Byzantium. Indeed, the Byzantine army and the defense of the empire was largely based on this obligation and the Anatolian farmers. After the latter's early death, his widow, Irene of Athens, as regent for her son, began its restoration for personal inclination and political considerations. The second, convened at Nicaea in 787, formally revived the veneration of icons and reunited the Eastern Church with that of Rome. 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. The iconodule (icon worship) policy drove these farmers out of the army, and thus off their farms. Even this seemingly pious campaign was really only a means for Irene to defeat her enemies and keep power. Relations between the two empires remained difficult. Genealogy profile for Irene of Athens, Byzantine Empress Irene Sarantapechaina (c.752 - 803) - Genealogy Genealogy for Irene Sarantapechaina (c.752 - 803) family tree on Geni, with over 200 million profiles of ancestors and living relatives. After her death, she became a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. 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. 800: Uprising in Cappadocia, instigated by Staurakios. 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. However, influential members of the army were against such a move, and they organised a riot which forced the closure of the council meetings. Image from “Pala d’Oro,” Venice, c. 10th century. "Empress Irene." Web. 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. The first of these, held in 786 at Constantinople, was frustrated by the opposition of the iconoclast soldiers. Health Details: Athens Banner-Herald Recent Obituaries: All of Athens .Health Details: Joseph Gillespie, 93, of Athens passed away on December 24, 2020.Born on March 31, 1927, he was the son of the late Ulysses Grant Gillespie and Sarah Key. Four years later, Constantine V “the dragon slayer”, died, and Leo IV was crowned emperor. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Early life and rise to power. When Constantine came of age, Irene attempted to … The marriage was fruitful, and Irene gave birth to a son, Constantine VI in 771. As imperial regent, Irene subdued rebellions and fought the Arabs with mixed success. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Empress_Irene/. Irene Sarantapechaina, or Irene of Athens, was empress of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire for almost 30 years, though what that meant precisely changed over the decades. By her marriage to Emperor Leo IV the Khazar, Irene had only one son Constantine VI, whom she succeeded on the throne. To overcome this challenge, she had Nikephoros and his co-conspirators ordained as priests, a status which disqualified them from ruling. 792–793: Rebellion of the Armeniacs against the restoration of Irene of Athens as co-ruler by Constantine VI. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. Perhaps she was taking cues from Marcy from Peanuts, who called Peppermint Patty "Sir Nikephoros would reign until his death in battle in 811 CE, unable to halt the decline of the Byzantine empire as Charlemagne’s own empire rose in the west and the Muslim Abbasids threatened from the east. 790: Military revolt against the regency of Irene of Athens. The leader of this successful revolt against Irene replaced her on the Byzantine throne under the name Nicephorus I. (115). Cartwright, Mark. There Irene and 350 invited bishops finally ruled to restore the orthodoxy of the veneration of icons in the Christian Church and end iconoclasm. KILVERT, OH – Elizabeth (Irene) Flowers of Kilvert, OH, 93, died on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 in The Laurels of Athens. 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. She negotiated a marriage between her son, Constantine, and Rotrude, a daughter of Charlemagne by his third wife, Hildegard. Constantine VI ruled from 780 to 797 CE, inheriting his title aged just nine. Elizabeth (Irene) Flowers, of Kilvert, Ohio, 93, died on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in The Laurels of Athens. 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. It was a rare moment of decision, but it was too little, too late. Even if she would have another baby it would be unlikely that this baby would inherit the Frankish Empire. His eyes were gouged out, and according to most contemporary accounts, he died from his wounds a few days later, leaving Irene to be crowned as first empress regnant of Constantinople. An attempt to free himself by force was met and crushed by the empress, who demanded that the oath of fidelity should thenceforward be taken in her name alone. Early life and rise to power. And Irene of Athens was anything but a common woman. Irene’s unprecedented position as an empress ruling in her own right was emphasized by the coincidental rise of the Carolingian Empire in western Europe, which rivaled Irene’s Byzantium in size and power. After the success of Constantine V’s general, Michael Lachanodrakon, who foiled an Abbasid attack on the eastern frontiers, a huge Abbasid army under Harun al-Rashid invaded Anatolia in summer 782. In effect, they ruled jointly for the next five years, but Irene soon began to plot against her son. Charlemagne did not attempt to rule Byzantium, but relations between the two empires remained difficult. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. These farms were taken over by the largest land owner in the Byzantine Empire, the monasteries. 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. The emperor had lost the support of the one group he could always depend on; the iconophiles. Key Points. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. In 771 AD she gave birth to the future Emperor Constantine VI and she became his regent when he inherited the throne at age nine on Leo's death in 780 AD. When Leo died in 780, Irene became regent for their nine-year-old son, Constantine, who was too young to rule as emperor, thereby … Irene of Byzantium (752-9 August 803) was the Empress of the Byzantine Empire from 797 to 802, succeeding Constantine VI of Byzantium and preceding Nicephorus I of Byzantium. Riding around Constantinople in a golden chariot launching coins into the crowds did not help much either. 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. 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. Irene was born in roughly 752 A.D. to a distinguished Athenian family. 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. Irene became to be the Empress in 797 and at that point Louis the Pious, Charlemagne´s successor was almost 20 years old. Cartwright, Mark. Related Content 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. The army still contained many iconoclasts, and they had refused to swear loyalty to Irene alone on religious grounds. 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. 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. 790: Military revolt against the regency of Irene of Athens. Irene was born in Athens, sometime between 750-755. To make matters worse, the couple had a son 18 months later. 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. 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. The discontent that this occasioned swelled in 790 into open resistance, and the soldiers, headed by the army of the Armeniacs, formally proclaimed Constantine VI as the sole ruler. With his heir having already died earlier the same year, Irene now had dealt with all her challengers. Born to the wealthy Sarantapechos family in Athens, Irene was an orphan raised by her uncle, Constantine Sarantapechos. Although it is often asserted that, as monarch, Irene called herself “emperor” rather than “empress,” in fact she used “empress” in most of her documents, coins, and seals. Irene of Athens, Irene Sarantapechaina, 752-803, and son Constantinus, Konstantinus, 771-805. Written by Mark Cartwright, published on 15 November 2017 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Once her son was heireless and Constantine VI himself was removed from her path from one way or another, Irene of Athens became the first Empress of such a vast empire alone. 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