Irene. 797-802. Solidus (Gold, 4.43 g 6). ϵIRInH bASILISSH Bust of Irene facing, wearing loros and crown with cross, pinnacles and pendilia, holding a globus cruciger in her right hand and a cross tipped scepter in her left. Rev. ϵIRInH bASILISSHΘ Bust of Irene facing, wearing loros and crown with cross, pinnacles and pendilia, holding a globus cruciger in her right hand and a cross tipped scepter in her left. DOC 1a. SB 1599. Very rare. A superb, perfectly struck example, perfectly centered. Good extremely fine.
From the SF Collection, USA.
Irene was the most powerful and active of all the Byzantine empresses, ruling very effectively for 22 years until she was deposed. She came from a noble Athenian family and in 769 was married to Leo IV, the son of Constantine V and his co-ruler. In 771 she had her only son, Constantine VI; upon his father’s early death in 780 he succeeded to the throne, but under Irene’s regency. Their relations went down hill quite soon, probably due to a combination of her intelligence and his evil disposition. In the end, after they began a joint reign in 790, his actions led to a coup by Irene in 797, which resulted in him being blinded so violently that he died a few days later. For the next five years Irene ruled alone, thus allowing Pope Leo III to claim the throne was vacant so that he could proclaim Charlemagne emperor. In 802 Irene was finally deposed in favor of her minister of finance and exiled to Lesbos, where she died the following year.
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