1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Irene of Athens

By

This profile of Irene of Athens is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Irene of Athens was noted for:

Being the first woman to rule the empire, which she did after having her own son blinded to make him unfit to rule. Irene is also known for her support of Icons in the Eastern Orthodox Church, for which she was made a saint.

Occupations and Role in Society:

Places of Residence and Influence:

Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire)

Important Dates:

Died: Aug. 9, 803

About Irene of Athens:

Upon the death of her husband, Emperor Leo IV, Irene of Athens became regent for her 10-year-old son, Constantine VI. She successfully defended her position against numerous plots and dominated her son in the process.

Empress Irene was a strong proponent of the use of Icons in the Christian church, a practice that had been prohibited for 60 years. After violent opposition from Iconoclasts, Irene managed to arrange the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, at which the use of Icons was restored. For this and for her patronage of monasteries, Irene is considered a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

When her son grew older and tried to wrest his indepencence from his mother, Irene had him blinded and imprisoned. She then took the title of Emperor for herself, becoming the first woman to rule the empire. Irene was also rumored to have considered a marriage to Charlemagne, who visited Constantinople during her reign.

In 802 Irene was deposed and exiled to Prinkipo (now Büyükada) and then to Lesbos, where she died.

Irene of Athens Resources:

Irene of Athens on the Web

Irene Of Athens
A collection of imnages related to Irene is followed by a concise overview of her reign.

Byzantine Studies
Women of the Middle Ages


Who's Who Directories:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Chronological Index

Geographical Index

Index by Profession, Achievement, or Role in Society

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Medieval History
  4. People & Places
  5. Who's Who
  6. I Who
  7. Irene of Athens - Byzantine Empress Irene of Athens

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.