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    Irene: Saintly or Sinister?

    Irene (AD 797-802). AV solidus (21mm, 4.45 gm, 6h).  Constantinople, sole rule (AD 797-802). ЄIRIhH bASILISSH, crowned facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, crown with two pinnacles, holding globus cruciger in right hand and cross-tipped scepter in left / · ЄIRIhH bASILISSH X, crowned facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, holding globus cruciger in right hand and cross-tipped scepter in left. Sear 1599. DOC 1c. Rare. Well struck on a broad flan. NGC (photo-certificate) Choice AU 5/5 - 4/5.

    From The Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection. Ex William Herbert Hunt Collection (Sotheby's New York, 5-6 December 1990), lot 626. 

    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. After Constantine embarrassed the regime with a series of military blunders and public scandals, Irene had him ousted and blinded in 797, seizing sole power for herself. She tried to win 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 "Empror of the Romans" in 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 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. 

    This coin from the Dimitriadis Collection has been issued a photo-certificate by NGC. It may be sent in for encapsulation after the auction at the request of the buyer, free of charge. E-mail SamS@HA.com if you would like to utilize this option.




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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2014
    3rd-10th Wednesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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