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    Lustrous Irene Solidus

    Irene, Sole Reign (AD 797-802). AV solidus (20mm, 4.38 gm, 6h). NGC MS 5/5 - 4/5. Constantinople. ЄIRIhH-bASILISSH, facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, crown with pendilia, two pinnacles and cross in center, globus cruciger in right hand, transverse cruciform scepter in left / • ЄIRIhH-bASILISSH +O, facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, crown with pendilia, two pinnacles and cross in center, globus cruciger in right hand, transverse cruciform scepter in left. Sear 1599. DOC III.1, 1a. Fully bright and lustrous with excellent centering and strike.

    The brief sole reign of the Empress Irene was a milestone in both Roman and Byzantine history, as it marked the first time a woman ruled the Empire in her own right. Previous empresses had effectively wielded supreme power, but only by using a male figurehead as nominal ruler. An Athenian beauty of renowned intellect, Irene rose to prominence as the wife of Emperor Leo IV. When Leo died in AD 780, Irene ruled as regent for their adolescent son Constantine VI until iconoclast ministers forced her ouster. But when Constantine VI embarrassed the regime with a series of military blunders and public scandals, Irene had him ousted and blinded in AD 797, seizing sole power for herself. She won popularity with generous handouts and tax reductions, but the state's coffers soon emptied and she faced a series of military disasters that further undermined her position. Furthermore, the accession of a female promoted the Pope in Rome to declare the imperial throne vacant and the Frankish king Charlemagne was duly crowned "Emperor of the Romans" in AD 800. He in turn sent Irene an offer of marriage which might have united Eastern and Western Christendom under one government and changed the course of history, but it was not to be: In AD 802 Irene was ousted in a coup led by her finance minister Nicephorus, who exiled her Lesbos, where she died the following year. Her devotion to icons led to her canonization in the Orthodox Church.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2019
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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