Early Life (752 AD-768 AD) Edit
Irene Sarantapechos was born into a wealthy patrician family in Athens in the year 752 AD. She was educated like any other Greek Byzantine noble girl of her class. Along with great beauty she possessed very clearly ambition and intelligence.
Empress Consort (786 AD-780 AD)Edit
During a state visit to Athens, Emperor Constantine V met Irene. He thought she would make an excellent wife for his son Leo. So he summoned her to Constantinople that year. Shortly thereafter, she married Leo. In 771 she gave birth to a son the future Constantine VI. In 775 AD, Emperor Constantine V died leaving his son Leo as emperor and Irene as empress consort. Leo believed firmly in iconoclasm (the destruction of icons) maintained a tolerance for those who were Iconodules (venerated icons). But in 780 AD, his attitude became harsher. He discovered that Irene was a closet Iconodule. This jeopardized her position. "Coincidentally", Emperor Leo died that year. Though there s no explicit evidence to say that there was an assassination or that Irene had anything to do with it, it is still possible. Who knows what Irene covered up to maintain her power.
Empress Regent (780 AD-797 AD)Edit
Following the death of her husband, Irene was made empress regent in the name of her son. In 781 AD, Leo's half brother Caesar Nikephoros attempted a coup. In response, Irene had Caesar ordained as a priest making it impossible for him to rule. Irene also brought an end to centuries long Iconoclasm. After her first attempt to allow the adoration of icons under the patriarch Tasarios failed in the Curch of the Holy Apostels 786 AD, she started a second council 787 AD in the Hagia Sophia in Nicaea south-east of Constantinople that was successful and is now widely known as the Second Council of Nicaea. In the summer of 782 AD, Byzantium faced a massive invasion by the Abbasid Caliphate led by Caliph Harun Al-Rashid. In the end, Irene payed the caliph: 70,000-90,000 silver dinars per anum for 3 years, as well as tribute of 10,000 silk garments. In 790 AD, Irene's son was reaching maturity and growing tired of her autocratic rule. That year an open rebellion supported by Armenian soldiers in the Byzantine military took place. A hollow façade of friendship was maintained by Irene and her son. In 797, Irene hatched a conspiracy of her own, with the support of many bishops and courtiers. She also bought off the military as well. While her son was absent from the capital at Constantinople, she set a trap for him. Ultimately, he was captured, blinded and locked up in prison for good.
Empress (797 AD-802 AD)Edit
With her son finally dealt with, Irene's position was now unquestionably secure, or at least so she thought. In 802 AD, the courtiers who were her "friends" placed Nikephoros the finance minister on the throne and overthrew her. Irene was forced to flee to the isle of Lesbos. ' Death (803 AD) Irene was forced to support herself by spinning wool. She died one year after her exile...
Referring literature to Eirene Edit
1. Garland, Lynda: ‘Byzantine Empress – Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527
– 1204’, Routledge - London und New York 1999.
2. Lilie, Ralph-Johannes: ‘Byzanz unter Eirene und Konstantin VI. (780-802) - Mit
einem Kapitel über Leon IV. (775-780) von Ilse Rochow’, in: ‘Berliner byzantinische
Studien Bd. 2’, Peter Lang Verlag - Wien, Frankfurt/ Main, Berlin, Bern, New York,
3. Theophanes (der Bekenner); übs.v. Scott, Roger/ Mango, Cyril: ‘The Chronicle of
Theophanes Confessor - Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284 - 813’,
Clarendon Press - Oxford 1997.