Name variations: Irene the Great; Eirene. Each of these women's stories is a great one, wrought with controversy and struggle, but Irene's story is one that is most commonly forgotten. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common., Analyze the significance of Emperor Irene. Irene was related to the noble Greek Sarantapechos family of Athens. In October 802 CE the highest court officials in Constantinople convened in the Hippodrome and declared the Empress surplus to requirements. Leo, though an iconoclast, pursued a policy of moderation towards iconodules, but his policies became much harsher in August 780, when a number of courtiers were punished for venerating icons. 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. The leader of this successful revolt against Irene replaced her on the Byzantine throne under the name Nicephorus I. By her marriage to Emperor Leo IV the Khazar, Irene had only one son Constantine VI, whom she succeeded on the throne. Irene was eventually deposed by her finance minister. 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. 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. She was born in Blue Rock, Ohio, to Willis and Flossie (Dalton) Goins and was one of ten children. 792–793: Rebellion of the Armeniacs against the restoration of Irene of Athens as co-ruler by Constantine VI. 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. Her uncle, a patrician and stragegos of Hellas, allowed for Irene to be a prudent choice for the wife of a future emperor. 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. Byzantine Ivory Panel Depicting the Adoration of the Magiby Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA). Mark is a history writer based in Italy. When Constantine became old enough to become emperor proper, he eventually rebelled against Irene, although he let her keep the title of empress. 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 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. 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. (115). Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. 803- Irene and Charlemagne's son, Theodosius, is born. Irene became to be the Empress in 797 and at that point Louis the Pious, Charlemagne´s successor was almost 20 years old. Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). The marriage was fruitful, and Irene gave birth to a son, Constantine VI in 771. Constantine could only flee for aid to the provinces, but even there participants in the plot surrounded him. 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. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. The former was logothetes tou dromou or chief minister with a wide range of powers. Now 19 years of age and keen to remove his interfering mother once and for all from state affairs, Constantine banished her from court along with her closest advisors while he engaged Michael Lachanodrakon, the influential general and governor of the Thrakesion region of the empire. She negotiated a marriage between her son, Constantine, and Rotrude, a daughter of Charlemagne by his third wife, Hildegard. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Second Council of Nicaea - Wikipedia In so doing, the Pope rejected the legitimacy of Empress Irene of Constantinople: Charlemagne - Wikipedia Cartwright, Mark. Constantine then ordered the tongues of all four of his uncles to be torn out. 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. 10 Jan 2021. Current Obituaries Athens Health. 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. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. The clergy and nobles attending the ceremony proclaimed Charlemagne as “Emperor of the Roman Empire.” In support of Charlemagne’s coronation, some argued that the imperial position was actually vacant, deeming a woman unfit to be emperor. There was not going to be another rebellion against her rule. 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. Image from “Pala d’Oro,” Venice, c. 10th century. Byzantine Ivory Panel Depicting the Adoration of the Magi, by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA), In 797 CE Irene took back the throne for herself & blinded her son, doing so in the same purple chamber of the, by Metropolitan Museum of Art (Copyright). Retrieved from To make matters worse, the couple had a son 18 months later. Byzantine Empress Irene and Emperor 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. To make the situation even worse, Irene had exempted all monasteries from all taxation. Little is known of the young Irene except that she was an extraordinarily beautiful orphan girl from Athens, born c. 752 CE. Irene was around 45 years old so it would have been unlikely that she could have another baby because of her age. In 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, on Christmas Day. Irene of Athens was an orphan from a noble family, and was married to the son of the current emperor, Leo IV, in 768. Indeed, the Byzantine army and the defense of the empire was largely based on this obligation and the Anatolian farmers. Last modified November 15, 2017. Irene died within a year of losing the throne she had loved so much and clung onto for so long. 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. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 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. With the army opposition dealt with, Staurakios accompanied Irene to the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in September 787 CE. As Constantine approached maturity, he began to grow restless under her autocratic sway. 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. In 769, Emperor Constantine V brought her to Constantinople to marry his son, the future emperor Leo IV. Even this seemingly pious campaign was really only a means for Irene to defeat her enemies and keep power. 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 of Athens, Irene Sarantapechaina, 752-803, and son Constantinus, Konstantinus, 771-805. The army still contained many iconoclasts, and they had refused to swear loyalty to Irene alone on religious grounds. The pope would not recognize a woman as ruler, and in 800, crowned Charlemagne as imperial ruler over the entire Roman territory, including Byzantium. Irene of Athens (c. 752-803 CE) was Byzantine empress from 797 to 802. Next, Irene convened a Church council in Constantinople in 786 CE to put an official end to the destruction of icons (iconoclasm). Irene of Athens was an orphan from a noble family, and was married to the son of the current emperor, Leo IV, in 768. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. When Irene made it be known that she intended to rule above her son Constantine no matter how old he was, many of those who opposed the restoration of icons, saw the dangers to the empire’s army strength Irene’s purges had threatened, and who believed Constantine had the rightful claim to the throne alone, rallied around the young emperor. Related Content Unfortunately, the young emperor was not actually up to the task. Written by Mark Cartwright, published on 15 November 2017 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. 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. Cartwright, M. (2017, November 15). Instead, they were permitted to repent of their sins and welcomed back into the Church now glittering once again with its precious icons. Michael Nicholson/Corbis via Getty Images Irene ruled Byzantine in some capacity from 780 to 802 AD. 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. Nevertheless, when Leo died on September 8, 780, Irene became regent for their nine-year-old son, Constantine, thereby giving her administrative control over the empire. The second, convened at Nicaea in 787, formally revived the veneration of icons and reunited the Eastern Church with that of Rome. Before that, Irene was empress consort from 775 to 780, and empress dowager and regent from 780 to 797. In effect, they ruled jointly for the next five years, but Irene soon began to plot against her son. 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. 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. Web. 792–793: Rebellion of the Armeniacs against the restoration of Irene of Athens as co-ruler by Constantine VI. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 15 Nov 2017. From 797 to 802 CE she ruled as emperor in her own right, the first woman to do so in Byzantine history. During Irene’s reign, the Arabs were continuing to raid into and despoil the small farms of the Anatolian section of the empire. Once abroad the army was disbanded and their positions of authority back home taken by those more loyal to the Empress. 800: Uprising in Cappadocia, instigated by Staurakios. Irene was born in 752 to the House of Sarantapechos, the daughter of Theophylaktos Sarantapechos, and she married Emperor Leo IV of Byzantium. 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. Relations between the two empires remained difficult. Troubled times were in store for Byzantium’s most ambitious and ruthless of sovereigns. 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. Ruling as regent for her young son over the next decade, Irene quashed a rebellion led by the sons of Constantine V, dismissed ministers and military men whose loyalty was questionable and made use of the experience of two court eunuchs, in particular, Staurakios and Aetios. 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. During this time, Charlemagne was at war with the Saxons, and would later become the new king of the Franks.

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