History of the Byzantine Empire 324-1453. After this kerfuffle, Leo refused to sleep with his wife. Emperor Irene of Athens (797-802) was certainly no paragon of maternal love. Good, right? Here’s the deal: Irene was still holding onto power at this point. 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. No matter her motivation, man oh man, this was a bad idea. This time, they tried to take over Irene’s power but of course Irene discovered their plot and thwarted their plans. After ousting his mother, his reign was a series of let-downs. I can assure you that it was not pretty. But after a couple years, she pulled the plug on the engagement, much to the boy’s distress. Remember Leo’s half brothers? He passed when the child was just four and with his demise, his son Leo officially became the Emperor. Theophanes. The most scandalous theory is that Irene saw the tide was turning against her. If this is how Leo and Irene’s meet-ugly went down, it was definitely an unorthodox method for choosing a royal bride. Irene’s distinguished relatives put her in the running to marry the Emperor’s son. I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. His betrayal infuriated her and she lashed out with a deranged gesture. With Irene on the throne, whatever the circumstances that brought her there, the Pope could legitimately consider the Roman throne to be legally vacant. Anastos, M.V. During her lacklustre reign, Irene ruthlessly schemed and plotted to keep the throne she would lose and regain three times, but she is chiefly … But wow, was he wrong! And her revenge didn’t stop there. But…why? Her usurpation of the imperial throne created a theoretical justification for the coronation of Charlemagne. From the get go, Irene and Leo weren’t exactly a match made in heaven. 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. During this period from the fifth through the eighth centuries, the papacy had come to rely increasingly on the support of the Frankish kings, who, after the defeat of the Muslims at Poitiers in 732, could justly be hailed as the defenders of the faith. 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. Husbands hiding things from wives, mothers from children, and generation from generation. The Origin and Decline of the Papal States. Anthousa was having none of it however and politely refused to rule alongside her sister-in-law. When Leo died in 780, she became regent for her nine-year-old son. Luckily for Irene, though, Leo just so happened to drop dead suspiciously soon after she fell out of favor with her husband. She was just filling in until her son was old enough. It even became the theme of the sculpture … He blinded one of his uncles, Nikephoros, and slit the tongues of the others. Trust me, things will get worse later. Empire for a century (726-87, 815-43). His own half-brothers challenged his reign, forcing Irene and Leo to fight fire with fire. Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? She said that someone was framing her, which was a fair point. This Nikephorus is not the same dude as the inept uncle/brother-in-law/brother who kept trying to oust Irene and her family from the throne. She Wasn’t The Most Likely Candidate For Empress Irene’s devastating treatment of her own son didn’t go unnoticed by the universe. On 14 January 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. 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. My mom never told me how her best friend died. And did everything work out for Irene after that? 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. [1] The origin myth explaining how Athens acquired this name through the legendary contest between Poseidon and Athena was described by Herodotus, [2] Apollodorus, [3] Ovid, Plutarch, [4] Pausanias and others. Sadly, Constantine Senior did not live to get to know his grandson too well. But even if her extended family didn’t shower Irene with love, their general fanciness did help her out. 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. All in all, not bad for an Empress Consort, eh? Although she was an orphan, her uncle or cousin, Constantine Sarantapechos, was a patrician and was possibly the strategosof the theme of Hellas at the end of the 8th century. Although Catherine's successor Queen Anne Boleyn suffered an infamously dark fate, Aragon's own life was somehow even more tragic. But this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, so Irene started drawing up a clever plan. An uneasy truce was struck between mother and son, according to which Irene could retain her title of “co-ruler,” but gave her little more authority than that of a figurehead. 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. 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. Empress Irene was related to the noble Athenian Sarantapechos family. She waited until she was sure that public opinion was completely against her son, and then she took her revenge. He was content to let her continue to reign. 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. We don’t know much about her... 2. She and her devout mother Laurentia are said to have often spent whole nights in the catacombs of Rome, keeping vigil in prayer beside the tombs of the martyrs. The first ever plays were performed in Athens. Her name was Theodote, and she was Constantine’s mistress before he threw caution to the winds and decided to marry her. Empress Irene of Athens was the first female ruler of the Byzantine Empire. Despite this, Irene enjoyed her time near the throne. No one knows exactly how the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, came to... 3. 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. Ironically, she chose her through a bride show (the same unromantic chattel-y way that Irene herself was allegedly chosen for Leo IV). He didn’t say no to marrying Maria, but once he decided that he didn’t like her, he sentenced his mother’s #1 bride to a grim fate. She is most remembered for her marriage to Charlemagne in 803, unifying the Franks and the Byzantines. 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. 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 Rights Reserved. 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. Though this Nikephorus shared his name, this one actually succeeded. He told Irene he’d let her live in her palace if she disclosed the location of the imperial treasure. With them gone, Irene replaced them with a force that was more sympathetic to her cause and called another meeting with the Papal delegates. I think it’s safe to say that Irene was a woman you wouldn’t wanna cross. Irene, (born c. 752, Athens—died Aug. 9, 803, Lesbos), Byzantine ruler and saint of the Greek Orthodox Church who was instrumental in restoring the use of icons in the Eastern Roman Empire. If so, she may have been onto something. Well, they resurfaced after his passing and decided to get the gang back together for one more shot at the throne. Tragically for Constantine, he wasn’t really the most confidence-inducing emperor of all time. Their story ultimately had a heartbreaking end, especially for poor Maria. She thought submitting them to persecution and imprisonment would force Elpidios to surrender. Leo, however, was a steadfast iconoclastwho, according to tradition, found that Irene possessed icons and thereafter would no longer … Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history. 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. Irene was born c. 752 to the influential Sarantapechos family of Athens (hence the moniker); she was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V and married to his son Leo in 768. At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Bookworm, word-enthusiast, and struggling writer. There were several sources for the anti-image movement—iconoclasm or "image-smashing," as it came to be known. These were economically disastrous moves for the empire as a whole, leading the patriarchs to want to end her reign. 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. Nov 9, 2014 - Captain Janeway was referred to as "Sir," despite clearly not being a man. Side note: Apparently the ancient world had like five names total. Even though it sounds like small change to us, this disagreement was a major problem. The Roman and Byzantine eras were grounded in discovery, innovation and great enlightenment. 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. the history of the Western world. Apparently, Leo discovered some sacred images beneath Irene’s pillow. It had become so extreme in the East—to the point of bordering on idolatry—that a reaction developed against the practice. When Constantine V died in September 775, Leo succeeded t… 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. Guess who’s back? On the side of the iconophiles (image-lovers) or iconodules (image-adorers) were the papacy (with suitable cautions), the monks, and the female population. 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. Her usurpation of the imperial throne created a theoretical justification for the coronation of Charlemagne. Irene, on the other hand, didn’t throw any tantrums when she found out about Constantine and Theodote. When Irene found out they were plotting to get rid of her, she had their army caught, persecuted, and banished. 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. After all, Irene was smart—and trying to hide things from your husband by putting them in the bed you share is a really dumb idea. Irene came up with the genius idea to send half of army to Asia to defend the empire against the Arabs. Honest to God, that’s what this enormous disagreement boils down to—old timey religion is weird! She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on November 1, 768, and was married to his son, Leo IV, on December 17. Breaking with tradition (and perhaps looking a little whipped? The overthrow of Constantine VI and seizure of the throne by Irene had grave repercussions that indirectly altered Constantine tied the knot with Maria of Amnia, his mama’s choice, but rebelled by making zero effort to make the marriage work. Iconoclasm runs rampant but was the hallmark of the era. ), Leo appointed iconophile monks to high positions in his court. Before becoming empress, she was consort to Leo IV from 775 to 780 and empress dowager from 780 to 797. It resulted in a solar eclipse, which went on for a whopping seventeen days. This basically meant that Irene was the de facto ruler of the entire 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. Were all Irene’s outlandish gestures a way to scare off her enemies and hold onto power? When Constantine realized that his mother was about to lash out, he fled the palace, only to realize that he couldn’t go far. The climate of Athens is benign: frost is rare (the minimum temperature is 32 °F, or 0 °C) and snow seldom lies, while the summers, though hot (maximum temperature is 99 °F, or 37 °C), are dry, and a fresh northeasterly wind often blows by day. Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for perhaps 5,000 years. Irene was born in Athens about the year 752. The ecclesiastical gathering was then reconvened in the nearby city of Nicaea, where the First Ecumenical Council had been held nearly 500 years before. This council officially ended the ban on icon veneration. Seriously, these idiots are back AGAIN and they’re still trying to get Irene and her family off the throne. Her son meanwhile was more of a token figurehead. However, the latter had no interest in seizing Irene’s authority. Wait and watch. Heck, she even asked her son’s bride-to-be to learn Greek and Roman customs. When she was 14 years old she followed two monks and probably went to Monastiraki church, at that time it was a female monastery. 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. No one knows exactly how the Roman Emperor, Constantine V, came to choose Irene as the bride of his son Leo IV. Although she was an orphan, her uncle, Constantine Sarantapechos, was a patricianand possibly strategosof the themeof Hellas. 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. 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. It sounded like a solid plan, but Irene shocked everyone (and puzzled historians forever after) with her next action. In January 771 Irene gave birth to a son, the goal of all queens and empresses of the time. We want our readers to trust us. After decades of fighting for power, she just wanted to spend her final years in the palace as a private citizen, but Nikephoros had another plan up his sleeve. Nikephoros was a nasty piece of work. Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). 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. In 788, she arranged for Constantine to marry a certain Maria of Amnia, the daughter of a well-to-do but otherwise obscure family of Paphlagonia (supposedly as the result of a beauty contest held to select the bride). Buy our books now! In dynastic matters, Irene moved as shrewdly as she had done in ecclesiastical affairs. Random House, 1966. He lost multiple campaigns against the Arabs and Bulgars and just couldn’t inspire his people to continue believing in him. In planning their restoration of icon-worship in the Empire, Irene and her advisors moved with caution, shrewdly awaiting the death of the iconoclastic Paul IV, patriarch of the Imperial Church, before appointing as his replacement the learned Tarasius (784-806). The Treaty of Verdun. Irene sent a summons for the Sicilian governor Elpidios, but his loyal citizens stood by his side and refused to give him up. Irene struck back, vehemently denying that she had put them there. Not only did Irene end her son’s engagement to the girl he loved, she also decided to choose the next girl he would marry! However, Irene’s ascent to Empress wasn’t without complications. Known as the Second Council of Nicaea or the Seventh Ecumenical Council, more than 300 bishops attended this conclave which lasted from September 13 to October 13, 787. The answer is more scandalous than you might think. After trying to oust Irene and Leo, they gave Constantine’s reign a .02g.1o. This was the last straw; Constantine hatched a plot to depose and banish Irene. On paper, the plan made perfect sense. Clearly, Irene had been excited about the match between Rotrude and Constantine. Irene realized that she was finally without any options, and there was no way she would be able to continue her rule. Irene was also known for her generous financial policies, which were especially friendly to monasteries. She did this by offering his sister Anthousa to become co-regent with her. Sure, Irene had controversial ideas about religion—but she had what’s most important in a royal bride: A healthy reproductive system Our girl got pregnant and gave birth to a son soon after she celebrated her first anniversary with Leo. She restored monasteries and put an end to iconoclasm which made her a beloved of monks and orthodox believers. Chronicle. Tell a friend. Empress Irene of Athens Mikri Metropolis, a byzantine estate. Empress Irene was the wife of Leo IV and, on her husband’s death, she reigned as regent for her son Constantine VI from 780 to 790 CE. 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. Translated by H. Turtledove. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. 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. Ostrogorsky. Byzantium: the Imperial Centuries a.d. 610-1071. Unfortunately for Irene, her method to retain rule didn’t work too well because the army liked Constantine way more than Irene. At the age of twenty, Irene consecrated her virginity by vow to Christ. Factinate is a fact website that is dedicated to finding and sharing fun facts about science, history, animals, films, people, and much more. She made sure that coins had both herself as well as her son on them, with her image on the obverse (the “heads” side of the coin). But not all of Irene’s enemies would be so easy to dispatch…. She retaliated by seizing his family, whom he had left in Constantinople. Irene probably didn’t think her mama’s boy son would ever completely reject one of her orders. 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. Some historians think that Irene ended things because she was a classic overbearing mom who didn’t want to share Constantine with anyone else. How do they not know better by this point? 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. Following the deposition of the Byzantine empress Irene of Athens, the throne of the Byzantine Empire passed to a relatively short-lived dynasty, the Nikephorian dynasty, named after its founder, Nikephoros I.The empire was in a weaker and more precarious position than it had been for a long time and its finances were problematic. She stepped aside gracefully, hoping she wouldn’t have to face any physical punishment or humiliation. There's something about the family structure that encourages secrets. Her beauty alone seems to have gained her the marriage to Leo, son of the Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-75). Timeline of Charlemagne's Life and Reign. With that, Irene’s road to power was cleared of its main obstruction. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. So Irene simply sat by and bided her time. She had to deal with a conflict with the Franks, who seized some important land away from her. While there is no written evidence, it’s certainly possible. Powerful Facts About Empress Irene, The Byzantine Rebel 1. 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. Irene of Athens from the Byzantine Empire was a ruthless power-hungry lady to say the least. Naturally, this did not sit well with many people, including several contenders to Irene’s throne.
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