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    Irene, as sole ruler (AD 797-802). AV solidus (19mm, 4.33 gm, 6h). NGC Choice XF 4/5 - 3/5, ex-jewelry. Constantinople. ЄIRIhH-bASILISSH, facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, crown with two pinnacles and cross in center, globus cruciger in right hand, cruciform scepter in left / • ЄIRIhH bASILISSH-?, facing bust of Irene, wearing loros, crown with two pinnacles and cross in center, globus cruciger in right hand, cruciform scepter in left. Sear 1599. DOC III, Part 1, 1a. A very pleasing example of this always popular sole rule issue.

    From the Collection of a Philhellene. Ex The James Fox Collection (Classical Numismatic Group, Auction 40, 4 December 1996), lot 1908.

    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 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 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 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. 


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2018
    6th-11th Thursday-Tuesday
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