Byzantine Empress. She was born into a noble family and was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V in AD 769 to marry his son, Leo IV. In AD 771, she gave birth to the future Emperor Constantine VI and she became his regent when he inherited the throne at age nine on Leo's death in AD 780. Leo's half-brother, Nikephoros, soon began plotting to seize power, but she had him ordained as a priest, disqualifying him from becoming Emperor. She also defeated a rebellion in Sicily, but was forced to pay an annual tribute of at least seventy-thousand dinars to the Arabs in return for a three year truce following their attack on the eastern frontier. She restored the veneration of religious icons and summoned a church council which formally reunited the Eastern Church with the Church of Rome. The territories of Istria and Benevento were lost to the Franks in AD 788, but her forces successfully subdued the Slavs of Macedonia and Greece. Constantine tried to assert his authority as he came of age, but Irene always crushed his attempts to rule without her, and eventually ordered that his eyes be put out. He died of his wounds in AD 797 and Irene assumed complete power, styling herself "Basileus", meaning Emperor. The Pope refused to recognise her rule, crowning Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in AD 800. She later made an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a marriage between herself and Charlemagne, but Nikephoros, the finance minister, was placed on the throne after a patrician conspiracy, and she was exiled to Lesbos. Upon her death, she was buried with her son in the monastery she had founded at Constantinople.
Bio by: js