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    Irene Solidus of Syracuse

    Irene, as sole Augusta (AD 797-802). AV solidus (18mm, 3.81 gm, 6h).  Syracuse, AD 797-798. [I]REh AΓ[OVST], bust of Irene facing, wearing loros and crown with pendilia, cross on semicircle and two triangular pinnacles, holding globus cruciger in right hand, pellet in left field /  [AΓOVST], facing bust of Irene, wearing loros and crown as on obverse, holding a cross potent in left hand and cross-tipped scepter in right., C - I in fields. Sear 1602 variant. DOC 4 variant. An apparently unrecorded and extremely rare issue for Syracuse. NGC MS 5/5 - 4/5.

    The brief sole reign of the Empress Irene was a milestone as it marked the first time a woman ruled the Roman or Byzantine Empires in her own right. Alas, the experiment could not be called a success. Irene was a legendary beauty from Athens who married the Emperor Leo IV and soon came to dominate domestic affairs in his government. When Leo died in 780, Irene ruled as regent for her adolescent son Constantine VI. Though the Isaurian dynasty had initiated iconoclasm, Irene was a fervent iconodule who began the process of reversing the divisive policy. In 790 she was temporarily ousted in a coup led by her son, but he showed no talent for ruling and recalled her two years later. Irene, in turn, 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 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, 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. 


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2016
    3rd-4th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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