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Unrivalled InfluenceWomen and Empire in Byzantium$
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Judith Herrin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153216

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153216.001.0001

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Political Power and Christian Faith in Byzantium

Political Power and Christian Faith in Byzantium

The Case of Irene (Regent 780–90, Emperor 797–802)

(p.194) 8 Political Power and Christian Faith in Byzantium
Unrivalled Influence

Judith Herrin

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the issue of whether women could rule in Byzantium. It does so by concentrating on the period when Empress Irene was officially at the head of the imperial government, as regent for her young son from 780 to 790, and later as sole ruler. In the five years from 797 to 802 Irene ruled alone, an unprecedented event in the history of Byzantium. Irene was selected to marry Leo, the eldest son of Emperor Constantine V in 769, when both bride and groom were in their teens. Fifteen months later she gave birth to their son, named Constantine after his grandfather. In 780 Leo died, and Irene assumed a more prominent role as the empress-mother who formed the regency with the patriarch and other members of the administration. For the next decade she appointed officials to lead the armies, to govern and tax the empire's regions, to run the civilian administration and conduct diplomatic relations with foreign powers.

Keywords:   Empress Irene, imperial government, Byzantium, Byzantine women, women rulers

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