As though that wasn’t bad enough, the army didn’t accept Irene as their leader. Irene’s distinguished relatives put her in the running to marry the Emperor’s son. Naturally, this did not sit well with many people, including several contenders to Irene’s throne. It’s simple: She was hot. The Treaty of Verdun. When Constantine realized that his mother was about to lash out, he fled the palace, only to realize that he couldnât go far. Back again? 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.. Irene struck back, vehemently denying that she had put them there. Madame de Pompadour didn't just share King Louis XV's bed, she also shared his power. Leo IV got his wife a unique push present: Religious tolerance! Regency. There is no denying the historical significance of Ireneâs rule. Translated by H. Turtledove. Irene probably didnât think her mama’s boy son would ever completely reject one of her orders. She went to great extents to keep the throne all to herself. 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. At the age of twenty, Irene consecrated her virginity by vow to Christ. There, on August 15, 797, he was blinded at his mother's orders, a frequently practiced maneuver that by Byzantine norms rendered a member of the imperial family unfit to reign. Unfortunately for Irene, her method to retain rule didnât work too well because the army liked Constantine way more than Irene. Fearing that she’d probably put her in-laws’ backs up, Irene made an effort to extend an olive branch to her husbandâs family. No one knows exactly how the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, came to choose Irene as the bride of his son Leo IV. The emperor was not a king to be succeeded by his widow or his daughter. But this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, so Irene started drawing up a clever plan. There's something about the family structure that encourages secrets. In the short run, there is no question that the Byzantine government appreciated the support of the monks in favor of iconolatry and, just as they restored the icons, Constantine VI and Irene reversed the policies of Constantine V and Leo III secularizing the enormous monastic estates and limiting the number of monks in the capital. In dynastic matters, Irene moved as shrewdly as she had done in ecclesiastical affairs. Biography. Irene consented to this marriage, which accorded well with her ambitions and which would legalize her position, but her fall prevented its conclusion. Once he got the information, he broke his word and exiled Irene to Lesbos. Irene had a strong influence on her man, but she couldn’t get too comfortable: It didnât last. All Rights Reserved. From 797 to 802 CE she ruled as emperor in her own right, the first woman to do so in Byzantine history. At Factinate, weâre dedicated to getting things right. Clearly, she believed she was much more than her son’s regent. The name of Athens, connected to the name of its patron goddess Athena, originates from an earlier Pre-Greek language. Here’s the deal: Irene was still holding onto power at this point. But wow, was he wrong! The public didn’t love this outcome but they were even more upset when they discovered why Constantine had lost interest in his wife. Biography of Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor. 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. Buy our books now! Constantine had to go, and Irene was willing to execute him. Noted for her liberality, her freeing of prisoners and, above all, for her convening of the Second Council of Nicaea, and for her efforts to restore the veneration of sacred images, Irene was popular among the people despite the irregularity of her conduct of the affairs of state. Unluckily for Irene, she hadnât seen the end of Elpidios just yet. All Rights Reserved. But even if her extended family didn’t shower Irene with love, their general fanciness did help her out. A number of Leo’s own ex-courtiers faced these drastic treatments. Irene of Athens Tuesday, January 1, 752 Irene of Athens is the most famous person named Irene. Despite this, Irene enjoyed her time near the throne. Trust me, things will get worse later. Iconoclasm runs rampant but was the hallmark of the era. The Roman and Byzantine eras were grounded in discovery, innovation and great enlightenment. His betrayal infuriated her and she lashed out with a deranged gesture. 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. This council officially ended the ban on icon veneration. Not only did Irene end her sonâs engagement to the girl he loved, she also decided to choose the next girl he would marry! Irene was born to a noble Greekfamily of Athens, the Sarantapechos family. Brace yourself: We’re unveiling the story of Ireneâs spectacular rise to power and her chilling fall from grace. These were economically disastrous moves for the empire as a whole, leading the patriarchs to want to end her reign. Realizing that her fall was final, Irene had the intelligence to step aside gracefully thereby perhaps saving herself from physical harm. Rather, he was the holder of a composite of offices, titles, and positions, including that of commander in chief of the army, all of which had been traditionally held only by men. She is most remembered for her marriage to Charlemagne in 803, unifying the Franks and the Byzantines. 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.  The origin myth explaining how Athens acquired this name through the legendary contest between Poseidon and Athena was described by Herodotus,  Apollodorus,  Ovid, Plutarch,  Pausanias and others. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. Of course, that plan went south. Irene sent a summons for the Sicilian governor Elpidios, but his loyal citizens stood by his side and refused to give him up. After this kerfuffle, Leo refused to sleep with his wife. If this is how Leo and Irene’s meet-ugly went down, it was definitely an unorthodox method for choosing a royal bride. Technically, Irene wasn’t the emperor. Please leave this field empty. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. Her son meanwhile was more of a token figurehead. It is located in Central Greece in the southern part of the region of Attica. Seriously, these idiots are back AGAIN and they’reÂ stillÂ trying to get Irene and her family off the throne. Fearing her son's growing independence, Irene pressed too far when she demanded that her own name precede that of his in all public documents. Also the Little Metropolis church may was an estate of her family. She was brought to Constantinopleby Emperor Constantine Von November 1, 769, and was married to his son Leo IVon December 17. 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. Unfortunately she…did not. With them gone, Irene replaced them with a force that was more sympathetic to her cause and called another meeting with the Papal delegates. Irene of Athens. This basically meant that Irene was the de facto ruler of the entire Byzantine Empire. Louis I. She waited until she was sure that public opinion was completely against her son, and then she took her revenge. And her revenge didnât stop there. When she was 14 years old she followed two monks and probably went to Monastiraki church, at that time it was a female monastery. And yet, he got pretty darn close. Jenkins, Romilly. Athens set the precedent for performing arts, with a … The ecstatic new parents named their boy Constantine VI after his grandfather. Irene of Athens from the Byzantine Empire was a ruthless power-hungry lady to say the least. However, because Constantine was just a kid, his mother generously offered to act as his co-regent. While the coup that had cast Constantine from the throne, though illegal, was not without precedent, the placing of a woman on the imperial throne was a thing unheard of in Roman history since the empire had been founded in the first century b.c. Weâre always looking for your input! Spoiler alert: It didnât. This time, they tried to take over Irene’s power but of course Irene discovered their plot and thwarted their plans. Irene had Constantine confined to the palace until he swore an âoath of fidelity to her.â If you think that strong-arming your Emperor-son into an unconvincing pledge of loyalty sounds like a recipe for disaster, youâre not wrong! On the side of the iconophiles (image-lovers) or iconodules (image-adorers) were the papacy (with suitable cautions), the monks, and the female population. From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways…. Irene's ruthlessness and lust for power, hopelessly entwined with her fanatical devotion to the restoration of icons, had overcome all maternal instinct, all human feelings, and all fear of public opinion both at home and abroad. In 785, soon after his elevation, Tarasius invited Pope Hadrian to send delegates to a council, the purpose of which was to reverse the condemnation of the icons issued by the Council of 754. 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. When Leo died in 780, she became regent for her nine-year-old son. She spent the rest of her days spinning wool to support herself and breathed her last in 803, less than a year after Nikephoros’s coup. Random House, 1966. Buckle up, y’all. 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