Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Irene

signature image

Solidus of Irene, Constantinople, n.d. (Photo: courtesy of CNG Coins, used with permission)

Irene
b. circa 752, Athens; d. 803, Lesbos

Irene married the Byzantine emperor Leo IV and, upon his death in 780, became co-emperor with her ten-year-old son Constantine VI. The most significant contribution of her reign was the restoration of icon (image) worship, which had been prohibited since 730 in the great wave of Iconoclasm. Irene called two church councils to decide the question; at the second, in 787, the cult of images was officially reinstated. Meanwhile, she had fended off an attempt to depose her; by 790, her son had joined her enemies and he was declared sole ruler. The matter rested until 792, when Irene successfully ousted her son with the aid of religious allies; Constantine was arrested and his eyes gouged out. Irene then ruled undisturbed for five years, titling herself emperor rather than empress. The growing displeasure of the Roman Catholic Church at power being held by a woman fueled the courage of conspirators, and in 802 Irene was deposed. She died in exile on the island of Lesbos.

Related Place Setting

Theodora

Related Heritage Floor Entries

Adelaide
Aethelburg
Aethelflaed
Balthilde
Bertha of England
Brunhilde
Clotilda
Anna Comnena
Anna Dalassena Comnena
Damelis
Engleberga
Eudocia
Eudoxia

Fredegund
Leoparda
Maude
Olga
Olympia
Pulcheria
Radegund
Theodelinda
Theodora II
Theodora III
Wanda
ZoƩ

SEARCH