Byzantine Empress Irene w. Dr Judith Herrin

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A woman from Attica, Greece, Irene (Eirene) Sarantapechaina, became Empress of the Byzantine Empire. Professor Emerita Judith Herrin, King’s College London, joins the show to discuss who Irene was and the life she lived.

Some topics explored

  • Her selection as a bride for Prince Leo by Constantine V (in the 760s)
  • Her being raised in the area of Athens
  • Why the Byzantine court may have been interested in linking the future Emperor to a woman in the Attica (in Greece) area
  • What’s known or inferred about Irene’s family
  • What’s known or inferred about how she would have been educated
  • Her arriving in Constantinople
  • Constantine V’s iconoclastic policies against idolatry
  • Her marriage to the prince Leo; Leo who eventually became a Byzantine Emperor
  • Her only son, Constantine
  • Constantine V’s (Irene’s father in
  • The death of her husband
  • Her marriage to Leo
  • The period of her life being Regent for her son
  • The geopolitical and demarcation of the Byzantine Empire during Irene’s life
  • Irene becoming Empress of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire)
  • Civil wars occurring between the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates during this period of time, including the Abbasid’s coming to power in the Islamic-oriented region
  • Irene arranging the marriage of her son, Constantine
  • Her imperial policies while regent of her song, including reverting previous iconoclastic policies and her approach to foreign policy and the provinces
  • Irene having granddaughters
  • Her upbringing practices of her son, Constantine, with a provincial daughter-in-law (Maria)
  • Her coup and deposing of her son
  • Irene becoming sole empress and ruler of the Byzantine Empire
  • Laws she passed including her proclaiming herself as Emperor
  • Irene’s proposition to Charlemagne, King of the Franks, to marry to unite the two kingdoms
  • A successful coup against Irene by her finance minister, Nikephoros I (750-610 or 611), who subsequently became Byzantine Emperor
  • Her exile to a monastery and later death

Listen to the episode

The episode is available on major podcast apps: Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music.

Show Notes

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