The Roman Empire was governed by an autocracy (government by one person) centered on the position of the emperor. Born in Athens of a Greek noble family, between the years of 750 and 755, little is known regarding Irene Sarantapechaina's life before ascending to the Byzantine throne. The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. In 802, Irene was finally overthrown by a palace coup led by Nicephorus, her own minister of finance. But part of the army had gone to Cyprus to stave off an Arab attack, and when it returned it helped Constantine to power. Vasiliev, A.A. History of the Byzantine Empire. If he were not de facto sole emperor, his marriage to Irene would make him so, since the whole Byzantine Empire would then be under his control. Born on Feb…, Excerpt from The Alexiad A After her death, she became a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Once in full power, Constantine embarked on a luckless war against the Bulgars in April 791 and another against the Arabs in October of the same year. In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Already holding the high court rank of patrikios, through this appointment Staurakios became, in the words of the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, "the foremost man of his day and in charge of everything" for most of Irene's subsequent reign. In dynastic matters, Irene moved as shrewdly as she had done in ecclesiastical affairs. To their defenders, the icons were mere representations, visible images of invisible realities, subject to respect and devotion but never to veneration or worship—the position of the Roman Catholic Church to this day. . Important Achievements: Created the Justinian Code wich is a set of laws that influence modern laws. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. This act made Charlemagne an equal with the Byzantine emperor. For the first three years of his reign, the abandoned monasteries and nunneries began to fill again, and iconophile monks held high positions in the court. Byzantine empress. They are considered the most important person in history born with the … Called “Irene of Athens” in honor of her birthplace, Irene is mainly remembered for two dramatic events. In her first years, she put down a conspiracy by her brothers-in-law and replaced some rebellious generals who were strong supporters of Leo's and Constantine's later iconoclasm. In more far-reaching matters, whenever icons came under attack in the future, those in favor of their use had all the carefully thought out and well-formulated arguments of Nicaea II at their disposal. However, the date of retrieval is often important. History of the Byzantine State. She was a member of the noble Greek Sarantapechos family, which had significant political influence in central mainland Greece. With this in mind, it is difficult to say why Constantine V chose Irene to marry his eldest son, Leo IV. Several patricians positioned themselves so that they or their relatives would become emperor after Irene's death. Published in The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, 1921 Hated by her political and religious enemies, she was nevertheless adored by the icon-loving Orthodox believers and received favorable treatment from Byzantine historians. Since a woman could not legally hold any of these positions (least of all that of commander of the army), the idea of a female emperor was a contradiction in terms. After her death, she became a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.. ." Eventually, he compelled her to withdraw to a nunnery. The cross signified the empire's strength and prosperity since the time of Constantine the Great. In any case, the rupture of the proposed union does not appear to have overly disturbed the empress, who, increasingly ambitious, had good reason not to want a daughter-in-law of such eminent rank. Athens has been inhabited from Neolithic times, possibly from the end of the 4th millennium BC, or nearly 5,000 years. There may have been many reasons: a sensed need to align the imperial house more closely with mainland Greece rather than the East; a chance to gain firmer control over an unruly area; a gesture of reconciliation toward the empire's icon-loving (iconophile) inhabitants; or even that Leo, who was sickly, would not likely become emperor, so it would have mattered little who his wife was. The Synod did bring the Eastern and Western churches closer together, but doctrinal differences remained and ultimately split the churches apart in the next century. Perhaps she felt a closer connection would help her accomplish that goal. The first woman ever to hold the throne of the Roman Caesars in her own right, however illegally, the empress Irene was born to an obscure but noble Greek family of Athens. When Constantine learned of it, he chose to flee rather than stand his ground. Early life []. Irene of Athens, Byzantine basilissa, is comparable to Egyptian queen Hatshepsut, and Russian empress Catherine the Great. The biblical injunction and the excesses of veneration observed among the common people, already cited, were two major ones but not the least were the scorn of the Muslims (and Jews) who accused the Byzantines of idolatry, the hostility of the Monophysite Christians of Egypt and Syria who emphasized the unity of the divine—and hence undepictable—nature of Christ, and the hostility of the army with its vast number of Armenian officers and common soldiers whose national church also rejected such holy pictures. Irene of Athens was the first woman to be sole ruler (Autokrator) of the Byzantine empire. A son was born of this union but, although the patriarch was willing to grant a dispensation for the marriage, this son was considered illegitimate by the monks and the Church at large, and probably would never have reigned even if he had not died in infancy. When a conspiracy was discovered among the palace guards to replace Constantine with his uncle Nicephorus, Irene suggested the punishment. Re-built the Hagia Sophia. The first assault upon the icons was launched in the Arab Empire, the caliphate, whose ruler Yazid II, supposedly under Jewish influence (the details are very unclear), ordered the icons in Syria to be destroyed. [1] Although she was an orphan, her uncle or cousin Constantine Sarantapechos was a patrician and possibly also a strategos ("general") of the theme of Hellas at the end of the eighth century. Upon learning of this, the troops of the Armeniac theme (military province) rebelled, secured the liberation of the emperor, and excluded Irene and her entourage of eunuch supporters from the palace. 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. Emperor Constantine brought Irene to Constantinople to marry his son (and heir to the Byzantine Empire), Leo. Name variations: Hrotrud or Hrotrude; (Greek) Erythro. Although married to Leo IV, "the Khazar," one of the more moderate iconoclastic emperors, Irene herself strongly supported the veneration of images. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966. With the monks already inimical to him because of his adulterous marriage, he stood as a likely candidate around which the iconoclastic party, now in disarray, might conceivably rally and find a friend and supporter. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. On October 11, 787, the Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened by the Patriarch Tarasios with 350 bishops in attendance. During 800 another great monarch became emperor in the west - Charlemagne. IRENE, BYZANTINE EMPRESS Coregnant 780–797, sole ruler from 797 to Oct. 31, 802; b. Athens, c. 752; d. Lesbos, Aug. 9, 803. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. On December 23, 800, he did so, and Leo was cleared of all charges. In the spring of 783, she sent the troops east against some supposed Arab aggression, but when they were safely away she had her men order them to give up their weapons. Everyone knew that she called the shots. Whether it was because she was a murderess or, more likely, because she was a woman, the pope and other leaders of the Church did not consider appealing to Irene of Athens for judgment. She then replaced them with Bithynian troops more favorable to her views. 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. On August 15, 797, Constantine was trapped in the Purple Chamber, where he had been born, and on Irene's orders was blinded with the intention of killing him. She was a member of the noble Greek Sarantapechos family, which had significant political influence in central mainland Greece. Perhaps most important of all, Irene's usurpation of the throne provided the ideological justification for the coronation of Charlemagne the Great as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, an institution that was to survive and to trouble Europe until laid to rest by Napoleon. In any case, Charlemagne, greatest of the Frankish kings and master of a realm that stretched from northern Spain to Poland encompassing France, Germany, Northern Italy, and all Central Europe, was a force to be reckoned with. It said in numerous sources that the latter sent a dispatch in which he … In this way, she changed the course of European history and left a recognizable seal upon it for a millennium after her death. Empress Irene and the Silk Trade (752-803 CE). At the end of the deliberations, iconolatry was reestablished, iconoclasts were anathematized, and Constantine VI and his mother were hailed as the new "Constantine and Helena," in reference to the first Christian Roman Emperor and his pious mother. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1952. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. Therefore, in January 795, he forced Maria to become a nun. Empress Irene and the Silk Trade (752-803 CE). In the worst disaster since the days of Hannibal the Roman army and the emperor Valens were wiped o…, Theodosius I or Theodosius the Great, 346?–395, Roman emperor of the East (379–95) and emperor of the West (394–95), son of Theodosius, the general o…, Sigismund (1368-1437) was king of Hungary from 1385 to 1437, Holy Roman emperor from 1411 to 1437, and king of Bohemia from 1420 to 1437. Influenced on legal history. Empress Irene was born between 750 and 755 into a noble family of Athens. With Irene on the throne, whatever the circumstances that brought her there, the Pope could legitimately consider the Roman throne to be legally vacant. In this way, she became the first woman to sit upon the throne established by Augustus over eight centuries before and an all-male preserve until her time. Perhaps she was taking cues from Marcy from Peanuts, who called Peppermint Patty "Sir Her major accomplishment was that she restored the icons. The sweet-tempered Maria of Amnia, who grew up in an impoverished household, was the Byzantine Cinderella. Powerful Facts About Empress Irene, The Byzantine Rebel Beauty, brains, and an iron will: Irene of Athens used all of these to stay in power in the cut-throat world of the Byzantine Empire. For, five years later, Constantine [would be] blinded by his own mother on a Saturday of the same month.". Because Maria had been forced on him, Constantine hated his wife. As the chronicler Theophanes represents it, Nicephorus lied his way through several situations in the next few days and fooled everyone into making him emperor. I'm Irene Kartelia, the owner of the apartments and I'm willing to help my guests during their stay in Athens, providing them with useful information in order to visit the most important archeological sites in the city center. This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects: This caused a great public outcry by the pious, and, in the next year, several prominent religious men broke from communion with Tarasios because he had sanctioned the affair. In September 780, Irene was made regent and co-emperor with her son Constantine VI who was not yet ten years old. Irene turned her attention to other matters. Born in Athens around 752; died on August 9, 803, on Lesbos; parents unknown, probably noble; grew up an Athenian orphan; married Leo IV the Khazar, Byzantine emperor (r. 775–780), in December 769; children: son, Constantine VI (b. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Unsuccessful in the field and increasingly unpopular, in January 792, the emperor was rash enough to restore his mother to her former position of authority. Irene was also known for her generous financial policies, which were especially friendly to monasteries. Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. The emperor was not a king to be succeeded by his widow or his daughter. Irene was born in the year 752 in a noble Athenian family. Charlemagne was astute enough to realize, of course, that Irene's reign would one day end and that he would eventually be faced with an emperor legitimate in Byzantine eyes. Irene was born in roughly 752 A.D. to a distinguished Athenian family. A single daughter was born of this marriage; she eventually reigned as the consort of Michael II (820-829). Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1978. The Western Church supported the use of images. Irene of Athens or Irene the Athenian (Greek: Εἰρήνη ἡ Ἀθηναία; c. 752 – 9 August 803 AD) is the commonly known name of Irene Sarantapechaina (Greek: Εἰρήνη Σαρανταπήχαινα), Byzantine empress regnant from 797 to 802. Now Irene was Autokrator, the first time a woman held the title. The council was further hallowed in the minds of the Greeks by the fact that it was to become the last Ecumenical Council recognized by the Greek Church. For nearly two decades, Irene's power as regent was secure, but as Constantine VI approached manhood, he was determined to rule for himself. Early Life. In the East, there seems to have been little problem accepting Irene as a full emperor. She was chosen to be the wife of Constantine VI by winning a beauty contest held by Irene of Athens . The first attempt by Irene to convoke the council occurred in Constantinople on May 31, 786, when a conclave attended by the papal delegates was convened in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The chief argument against the creation of images— that the practice violated the second commandment—was easily rejected by iconophiles on the grounds that the biblical injunction referred to images of false gods—idols—and that having revealed himself in the person of Christ and having bestowed His sanctity upon the Virgin and all His saints, the representation of real and tangible personages was valid. It is estimated that she was born in Athens around 752-753. ." Iconoclasm was especially prevalent in the eastern parts of the Empire; iconophilism in the West. But things had changed since she had first assumed power in 780. When the patriarch of Constantinople, Germanus, showed a lack of sympathy for the emperor's policy, he was deposed the same year, and iconoclasm was firmly pursued despite fierce opposition from the monks. One is her role in helping restore the use of Christian icons or images in Byzantium, which had been forbidden in the Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity. 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