The city covers a total area of 412 square kilometers (159 square miles). She got to work coming up with a brand new plan. This program examines the place of Irene of Athens in world history, and in the h... Irene of Athens - Champion of Orthodoxy and the Birth of the Welfare State. Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). Still, he might have continued in his position, if it wasn’t for one especially heinous mistake. Realizing that her fall was final, Irene had the intelligence to step aside gracefully thereby perhaps saving herself from physical harm. Although Catherine's successor Queen Anne Boleyn suffered an infamously dark fate, Aragon's own life was somehow even more tragic. Though the monks were furious with Constantine for what they considered his sinful behavior and feared anything that might weaken the authority of the Church which was the basis for their own power, Irene appears to have supported her son's marital escapade precisely to create a reason for removing him from the throne. dispersed by hostile troops recruited by Constantine VI to guard the capital and the papal representatives returned to Sicily, but Irene shrewdly had Constantine's troops shipped to Asia on the pretext of their being sent on a campaign against the Arabs. And her revenge didn’t stop there. "Iconoclasm and Imperial Rule 717-842," in Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life. It even became the theme of the sculpture … The ecclesiastical gathering was then reconvened in the nearby city of Nicaea, where the First Ecumenical Council had been held nearly 500 years before. On the side of the iconophiles (image-lovers) or iconodules (image-adorers) were the papacy (with suitable cautions), the monks, and the female population. After three years of accepting his wife’s different beliefs, Leo IV suddenly had a change of heart. The first Byzantine Empress, Martina, had met a horrendous fate. Copyright © 2020 LoveToKnow. The collapse of Byzantine rule in Rome left the pope free of imperial influence but further alienated the center of the Church from the center of the Empire. Irene’s incredible beauty caught Leo’s eye—but at the same time, her good looks had a dark side too. As the most commanding mistress in the French court, she bettered the lives of many and became a beloved figure…. Meanwhile, during the minority of her son, who was only ten when his father died, the empress contented herself with removing iconoclastic generals and other officers, and seeing to it that her husband's five brothers were one by one forced into monasteries to forestall any potential coups. 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. 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. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. Irene was the sister of Pope Saint Damasus I (c. 304-384). Oh, and there was also the issue of Irene, y’know, forcing him to dump his girlfriend Rotrude. 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. The first ever plays were performed in Athens. No matter what you believe, we can all agree on one thing: Leo’s discovery had huge consequences for both Irene and the country at large. No one knows exactly how the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, came to choose Irene as the bride of his son Leo IV. 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. A plot was then hatched to remove Irene from power and have her banished to Sicily, but she learned of this in time and had her son confined in the palace, demanding a direct oath of allegiance to herself from the military. 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. Buckle up, y’all. [1] After her death, she became a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church [2]. Irene consented to this marriage, which accorded well with her ambitions and which would legalize her position, but her fall prevented its conclusion. She also gave them silk garments and provided them with a safe passage to vacate the territory. Irene struck back, vehemently denying that she had put them there. Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis. After ousting his mother, his reign was a series of let-downs. Unfortunately for the royal couple, this wouldn’t be the last they saw of their would-be usurpers. Well, up until now. Empress Irene of Athens was the first female ruler of the Byzantine Empire. 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. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Thanks for your time! Irene of Athens Tuesday, January 1, 752 Irene of Athens is the most famous person named Irene. 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.. Constantine, son of Leo and Irene, was only nine years old at his father’s death, so Irene … Good, right? Before becoming empress, she was consort to Leo IV from 775 to 780 and empress dowager from 780 to 797. Biography of Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor. These were economically disastrous moves for the empire as a whole, leading the patriarchs to want to end her reign. WHO IS IRENE OF ATHENS, AND WHY DOES SHE MATTER? And sadly, there was yet another bend in the road for Irene. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery. Still mad about those “Irene maybe poisoned Leo” rumors, are we? As early as 475, the Byzantine Church had been in schism with that of Rome and not until 519 was the patriarch of Constantinople reconciled with the pope. Irene came to power as regent for her son (780) in the midst of the iconoclastic controversy which wracked the Despite this, Irene enjoyed her time near the throne. Karma is real, people. We’re always looking for your input! In this way, she changed the course of European history and left a recognizable seal upon it for a millennium after her death. This basically meant that Irene was the de facto ruler of the entire Byzantine Empire. Irene was related to the noble Greek Sarantapechos family of Athens. But the happy days didn’t last very long. All Rights Reserved. Irene had Constantine confined to the palace until he swore an “oath of fidelity to her.” If you think that strong-arming your Emperor-son into an unconvincing pledge of loyalty sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’re not wrong! She Wasn’t The Most Likely Candidate For Empress Once he got the information, he broke his word and exiled Irene to Lesbos. The overthrow of Constantine VI and seizure of the throne by Irene had grave repercussions that indirectly altered Irene of Athens. The Slavic invasions of Eastern Europe which cut Constantinople from land contact with Rome were followed by the Arab domination of the Mediterranean that made contact by sea increasingly difficult, as well. Irene of Athens was one of the most ruthless, ambitious, and forceful women ever to hold a throne and, in her determination to prevent her son from reigning and her boldness in daring to become the first woman ever to hold the Roman throne, she ranks with Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt and Catherine the Great as a profound breaker with dynastic tradition. Irene herself may have promoted this rumor in an effort to smear her deceased husband's memory. Irene was an iconophile, which means she worshipped holy images, while Constantine V and Leo were totally against sacred pictures. In January 771 Irene gave birth to a son, the goal of all queens and empresses of the time. Her usurpation of the imperial throne created a theoretical justification for the coronation of Charlemagne. Thanks for your help! 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. 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. When Constantine learned of it, he chose to flee rather than stand his ground. Spoiler: Irene’s love life would get even weirder as the years went on. With that, Irene’s road to power was cleared of its main obstruction. Byzantium: the Imperial Centuries a.d. 610-1071. Brace yourself: We’re unveiling the story of Irene’s spectacular rise to power and her chilling fall from grace. Even though it sounds like small change to us, this disagreement was a major problem. Name variations: Irene the Great; Eirene. This council officially ended the ban on icon veneration. In this uncertain time, contenders began vying for the throne, but in the end, it was the public finance minister, Nikephoros, who deposed Irene. 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. Leo’s half brothers were nothing if not persistent. To get out of an uncomfortable situation, she poisoned her husband. Iconoclasm runs rampant but was the hallmark of the era. Maybe Irene felt that choosing Constantine’s bride would help her keep control over the throne and the Empire? If so, she may have been onto something. 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. III, Cambridge, England, 1966. Irene came up with the genius idea to send half of army to Asia to defend the empire against the Arabs. And did everything work out for Irene after that? Side note: Apparently the ancient world had like five names total. However, like always, their plans failed—and Constantine made them regret it. Here’s the deal: Irene was still holding onto power at this point. Anastos, M.V. The ones who tried to overthrow him? The clergy may have reluctantly accepted Constantine VI’s divorce and subsequent marriage, but they just couldn’t stomach the idea of having a woman on the throne after his passing. 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. He therefore sent emissaries to seek the empress's hand in marriage, apparently with the idea that after the death of the surviving partner one of his own children would succeed them since Irene's only son was dead and she was past childbearing age. But wow, was he wrong! Perhaps she was taking cues from Marcy from Peanuts, who called Peppermint Patty "Sir But as we’ll see, even this wouldn’t deter them forever. The public didn’t love this outcome but they were even more upset when they discovered why Constantine had lost interest in his wife. She was sure they’d win, but she was so, so wrong. Bookworm, word-enthusiast, and struggling writer. When Constantine realized that his mother was about to lash out, he fled the palace, only to realize that he couldn’t go far. Irene sent a summons for the Sicilian governor Elpidios, but his loyal citizens stood by his side and refused to give him up. Lykavittos Hill is the highest point in Athens, rising 277 meters (910 feet) above the city. Irene was born in 752 to the House of Sarantapechos, the daughter of Theophylaktos Sarantapechos, and she married Emperor Leo IV of Byzantium.She had a son, the future Emperor Constantine VI of … She was also known to have initiated the Second Council of Nicea. Irene chose Tarasios as the new patriarch and he called for a council to support “Bring Back Icons, We Love Icons, Woo Woo!” Delegates from Rome were supposed to attend, only for the council to be disrupted by furious icon-smashing soldiers. All subsequent arguments of a theological nature in favor of icons were based on his view, namely that the transitory image of the divine—i.e., the icon accessible to the senses—was a necessary link between man's perception of reality and the absolute reality of things divine accessible only to the soul. Mother and son were already clashing on certain ideas (Irene loved icons; Constantine hated them). She had to deal with a conflict with the Franks, who seized some important land away from her. Leo IV got his wife a unique push present: Religious tolerance! Though this Nikephorus shared his name, this one actually succeeded. University of Wisconsin, 1952. There were several sources for the anti-image movement—iconoclasm or "image-smashing," as it came to be known. 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. An East Roman (Byzantine) empress, Irene of Athens (752-803) convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council and restored the veneration of icons in the Byzantine Empire. Let’s just…, Wikimedia Commons, Thammarith Likittheerameth, Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress, These People Got Revenge In The Most Ingenious Ways, Heartbreaking Facts About Frida Kahlo, The Surreal Talent, 40 Fantastic Facts About Science Fiction That Became Reality, 45 Scientific Facts About Differences Between Men and Women. Naturally, this did not sit well with many people, including several contenders to Irene’s throne. This time, they tried to take over Irene’s power but of course Irene discovered their plot and thwarted their plans. The army was demoralized and alienated by her conduct of affairs; the Arabs invaded Asia Minor as far as Ephesus and ravaged the frontier provinces until peace was obtained by the payment of a large tribute to the caliph, Harun al-Rashid. Their leader invaded Anatolia on Elpidios’s behest. Although, in theory, the Byzantine Empire was the direct continuation of the Roman Empire of old and it was always recognized that there was but one Empire in the Christian world, the removal of Constantine VI from the throne in 797 and his replacement by his mother constituted a most disturbing turn of events. Please leave this field empty. 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. In 786, however, Charlemagne repudiated this brilliant alliance for reasons that are not clear but which probably concerned the council convened at Nicaea that year without his consultation and his own iconoclast resentment of Irene's well-known iconophile views. Louis I. It is believed that she was born of a Greek noble family. But not all of Irene’s enemies would be so easy to dispatch…. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at contribute@factinate.com. But this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, so Irene started drawing up a clever plan. The blindness and humiliation affected him so badly that he perished soon after the incident. Powerful Facts About Empress Irene, The Byzantine Rebel 1. Fearing that she’d probably put her in-laws’ backs up, Irene made an effort to extend an olive branch to her husband’s family. Irene was born in Athens, sometime between 750-755. Empress Irene of Athens Mikri Metropolis, a byzantine estate. Irene, being an Athenian, was not only a woman but a "westerner" by birth and a devotee of the veneration of the icons who chose to espouse the iconophile cause. 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. So Irene simply sat by and bided her time. Since this change in circumstances meant that Irene levelled up to become Leo’s Empress Consort, one can imagine she wasn’t too heartbroken about her father-in-law’s passing. She stepped aside gracefully, hoping she wouldn’t have to face any physical punishment or humiliation. Unfortunately for Irene, her method to retain rule didn’t work too well because the army liked Constantine way more than Irene. Even though she brought some noteworthy changes to the empire like improving relations between the Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome, her ultimate goal was the throne. Thus, it was on Christmas Day, in the year 800, during a visit of Charlemagne to Rome that the pope—undoubtedly with the king's prior knowledge and acquiescence—placed on his head an imperial crown, bestowing upon Charlemagne the title "Holy Roman Emperor" and thereby recognizing his vast realm as the restoration of the Roman Empire in the West. A. They stood by him and proclaimed him to be the sole ruler of the empire, leaving Irene with no choice but to step down. Irene’s distinguished relatives put her in the running to marry the Emperor’s son. He started cracking down on anyone suspected of icon-worship and brought back his dad’s practice of persecuting and torturing them. As early as 782, she had arranged for her son, then only 12, to marry Rotrud, daughter of Charlemagne, king of the Franks (786-814), the greatest Western ruler of the age, and had a tutor sent to his capital at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) to teach the German princess Greek and whatever else she might need to know about her future homeland, before her arrival. She was just filling in until her son was old enough. Heck, she even asked her son’s bride-to-be to learn Greek and Roman customs. Not everything was hunky dory during Irene’s co-reign. However, Irene’s ascent to Empress wasn’t without complications. 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. Back again? Patriarch Tarasius opposed the marriage and only accepted it after weeks had passed. Jenkins, Romilly. Unfortunately she…did not. It had become so extreme in the East—to the point of bordering on idolatry—that a reaction developed against the practice. When Leo died in 780, she became regent for her nine-year-old son. All in all, not bad for an Empress Consort, eh? While she definitely came from an honorable family, many other hopefuls were better suited to the title. One of Irene’s dearest ambitions was to end the practice of “icon-smashing” and bring back the reverence she felt that religious symbols and images deserved. Also, to open the posts of this year, certainly later than planned, we begin with the Byzantine Empress Irene of Athens and how important she was to the Orthodox Eastern Church. Rumors were circulated claiming that Leo IV had died of a fever after putting on the jeweled crown that had been dedicated by either Maurice (ruled 582 – 602) or Heraclius (ruled 610 – 641). As you can imagine, his people were none too pleased. Her usurpation of the imperial throne created a theoretical justification for the coronation of Charlemagne. We don’t know much about her... 2. Guess who’s back? However, if you know Irene, you know that she didn’t support the young couple out of the goodness of her heart. Leo’s brother, Nikephoros was the main mastermind of the plan to dethrone Irene. As though that wasn’t bad enough, the army didn’t accept Irene as their leader. She went to great extents to keep the throne all to herself. Were all Irene’s outlandish gestures a way to scare off her enemies and hold onto power? Leo’s half-brothers are back. During her lacklustre reign, Irene ruthlessly schemed and plotted to keep the throne she would lose and regain three times, but she is chiefly … Remember Elpidios, the Sicilian governor who escaped Irene’s wrath back in the day? It sounded like a solid plan, but Irene shocked everyone (and puzzled historians forever after) with her next action. Elpidios got out of that jam too, successfully escaping to Africa. I can assure you that it was not pretty. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our 5,024 subscribers to stay up to date on History of Royal Women's articles! Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. The emperor was not a king to be succeeded by his widow or his daughter. 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 said that someone was framing her, which was a fair point. She apparently was a beautiful but orphaned girl who at the age of seventeen was brought to Constantinople by the Emperor Constantine V to be married to his son Leo in November 769. Irene’s men captured him and returned him to his furious mother. It’s simple: She was hot. Her name was Theodote, and she was Constantine’s mistress before he threw caution to the winds and decided to marry her. Irene of Athens from the Byzantine Empire was a ruthless power-hungry lady to say the least. Widely regarded as holy in and of themselves, the icons gradually began to take the place of the idols that Christianity had overthrown. She thought submitting them to persecution and imprisonment would force Elpidios to surrender. But we all know what happens when you smother things: They become even more desperate for independence…. Buy our books now! Chronicle. From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways…. 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. Canons of the Second Council of Nicaea. A number of Leo’s own ex-courtiers faced these drastic treatments. No one knows exactly how the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, came to... 3. 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. It is located in Central Greece in the southern part of the region of Attica. Iconoclasm was especially prevalent in the eastern parts of the Empire; iconophilism in the West. 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. 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. By this point, Irene’s son (remember, the real emperor) was getting older and craving independence. Are you even an emperor if you don’t have power-hungry relatives trying to kick you off the throne? Athens set the precedent for performing arts, with a … Captured as he attempted to reach the East, where loyal troops might be secured, he was brought to the palace to the Porphyry Chamber, where he had been born but 27 years before. Vasiliev, A. The council was immediately Their story ultimately had a heartbreaking end, especially for poor Maria. Talk about a power couple: Some sources insist that there had been talk of Irene marrying Charlemagne. You see, Irene had good reason to be insecure about her future. After staying on top for so long, Irene finally met her match. The answer is more scandalous than you might think. There are many theories about just how and why Emperor Leo passed. With Irene on the throne, whatever the circumstances that brought her there, the Pope could legitimately consider the Roman throne to be legally vacant. Trust me, things will get worse later. 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