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. Laws protected women and slaves. Tarasios accepted only on the condition that an ecumenical council be held on the subject of icons. 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. But Irene would not yield the reins. 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. Strong-willed and independent, capable of pursuing and holding power herself, Irene was extremely active in administering her own affairs. Irene was born in Athens sometime between 750 and 755. 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 was related to the noble Greek Sarantapechos family of Athens. 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. Copperplate engraving from Abraham Bogaert’s De Roomsche Monarchy, The Roman Monarchy, Francois Salma, Utrecht, 1697. She was a member of the noble Greek Sarantapechos family, which had significant political influence in central mainland Greece. 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. 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). Still, the army remained a problem, and the generals were ready to capitalize on it. Byzantine empress, Isaurian Dynasty, Pala D'oro, Venice are important aspects of Irene of Athens life. 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. (December 22, 2020). 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. 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. Irene managed the council in absentia but when it was clear that her campaign for the restoration of iconolatry had been successful, the attending prelates were brought to Constantinople for the eighth and last session which was held in the capital. 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. 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. Athens has been inhabited from Neolithic times, possibly from the end of the 4th millennium BC, or nearly 5,000 years, according to books. The Synod restored the icons and renounced those who had practiced iconoclasm. She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on November 1, 768, and was married to his son, Leo IV, on December 17. She was chosen to be the wife of Constantine VI by winning a beauty contest held by Irene of Athens . 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. The Senate, the…, Irene, Chionia, and Agape of Thessalonica (d. 304), https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/irene-athens-c-752-803. Empress Irene of Athens was the first female ruler of the Byzantine Empire. Dec 6, 2013 - Byzantine Kataphraktoi - 11th C ? [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. Hated by her political and religious enemies, she was nevertheless adored by the icon-loving Orthodox believers and received favorable treatment from Byzantine historians. 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. . It is not certain how clear this was to Irene and her court. 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. Constantine now fell in love with a serving woman named Theodota (c. 775-early 800s), but extramarital affairs were harshly condemned by the church. Irene consented to this marriage, which accorded well with her ambitions and which would legalize her position, but her fall prevented its conclusion. She was also known to have initiated the Second Council of Nicea. In August of the same year, he made Theodota his wife with the coerced blessing of the patriarch. This act made Charlemagne an equal with the Byzantine emperor. 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. 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 … "Alexius was not yet, or very slightly,…, Vespasian Instead, with Leo's agreement, Charlemagne was asked to preside over the pope's hearing. Irene was born in Athens sometime between 750 and 755. The council was immediately 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. Irene was born in the year 752 in a noble Athenian family. Irene of Athens is the most famous person named Irene. Her usurpation of the imperial throne created a theoretical justification for the coronation of Charlemagne. Athens has been inhabited from Neolithic times, possibly from the end of the 4th millennium BC, or nearly 5,000 years. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. In May, she fell ill and thought she would die. Ruthless and ambitious, she is widely suspected of having poisoned her husband after which she governed the Empire as regent and sole ruler for 22 years. 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. Constantine blinded Nicephorus and another important man, then cut out the tongues of his other four uncles. 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. Each of these women's stories is a great one, wrought with controversy and struggle, but Irene's story is one that is most commonly forgotten. 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. Soon, fearing popular pressure to bring back the beloved Irene, Nicephorus exiled. Although it was said of Irene that she had the mind of a man, she was not a competent ruler and much of her reign was dominated by the struggle between her favorite eunuchs. In May, she again summoned the bishops to Nicaea. Irene could now play on negative opinion against Constantine and plot to depose him. History of the Byzantine State. Flourished around 782; first wife of Constantine VI Porphyrogenitus (b. 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. Therefore, in January 795, he forced Maria to become a nun. Vasiliev, A.A. History of the Byzantine Empire. In January 792, Irene was acclaimed co-emperor with Constantine, but his name came first on official documents once again. It said in numerous sources that the latter sent a dispatch in which he … The guards bought the lie and proclaimed him emperor. Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Unfortunately, favorable as well as unfavorable accounts provide little insight to her reasoning or motives. Turtledove, Harry, trans. 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. On October 31, 802, Nicephorus (I), the minister of public finance, seized his opportunity. 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. Irene was also known for her generous financial policies, which were especially friendly to monasteries. There were several sources for the anti-image movement—iconoclasm or "image-smashing," as it came to be known. The following year, she died there, on August 9, 803. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. The Western Church supported the use of images. 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. About the time Irene of Athens was born, Constantine V had begun his persecution of the "image worshippers," torturing and martyring monks and nuns, and condoning acts of public humiliation by his armies. She was a member of the noble Greek Sarantapechos family, which had significant political influence in central mainland Greece. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987. This article has been rated as C-Class. Irene of Athens, Irene Sarantapechaina, 752-803, and son Constantinus, Konstantinus, 771-805. Empress Irene was born between 750 and 755 into a noble family of Athens. 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. She was born about 752. Officially, Irene may have been a regent for her son the Emperor, but unofficially? Her zeal for the restoration of icons put an end to the most virulent phase of iconoclasm in the Byzantine empire and paved the way for the permanent acceptance of icons in the Orthodox Church. 4: The Byzantine Empire. She was older, there was no pressing religious issue to pursue, and there was no clear heir to the throne. 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