Empress Irene


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. From 797 to 802 CE she ruled as emperor in her own right, the first woman to do so in Byzantine history. During her lacklustre reign, Irene ruthlessly schemed and plotted to keep the throne she would lose and regain three times, but she is chiefly remembered for restoring the Christian veneration of icons, which her predecessors of the Isaurian dynasty had sought so vehemently to repress. Even this seemingly pious campaign was really only a means for Irene to defeat her enemies and keep power. The Empress' gold coins reveal much of her duplicitous character for, uniquely, they carried a portrait of herself on both sides.

More about: Empress Irene


  • c. 752
    Byzantine empress Irene is born in Athens.
  • 780 - 790
    Empress Irene rules as regent for Byzantine emperor Constantine VI.
  • 780 - 797
    Reign of Byzantine emperor Constantine VI (with Empress Irene as regent 780-790 CE).
  • Sep 787
    The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea rules an end to iconoclasm in the Byzantine Christian Church.
  • 797 - 802
    Empress Irene rules the Byzantine empire.
  • 797
    Byzantine empress Irene blinds and kills her son Constantine VI.
  • 802
    Byzantine empress Irene is exiled to Lesbos.