Home Ancient Byzantine Isaurian (or Syrian) Dynasty 717-802 AD BC001147
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Constantine VI and Irene 780-797 AD, c. 792-797 AD
Leo IV unexpectedly died on September 8, 780 and Constantine VI was proclaimed Emperor. Irene was pronounced regent in the name of her nine year old son and enjoyed effective control of the empire for the next eleven years. Irene arranged The Seventh Ecumenical Council which convened in Nicaea in 787 restoring Icon worship. Despite the council’s resolutions Iconoclasm retained powerful supporters who saw an opportunity to rally around young Constantine VI. The determined Irene decreed her authority would always take precedence over her son’s. Constantine hatched a conspiracy which involved many of the old Iconoclast guard. Irene punished those responsible and threw her son into prison The armies of Asia Minor resisted acclaiming Constantine VI as the sole legitimate ruler. With the uprising Constantine was released and his mother was forcibly confined to the palace. Constantine was now the undisputed Byzantine Emperor. Constantine VI’s supremacy did not last long. In 791 Caliph Harun-al Rashid invaded the East and Constantine capitulated in exchange for tribute the empire could ill afford. When hostilies broke out in the West with the Bulgars, Constantine proved incapable of command and spinelessly fled the field. He restored Irene to her former power in 792. A new plot was organized to bring Caesar Nikephoros, one of the sons of Constantine V, into power. Alas, the scheme was uncovered and perhaps for the only time in his career Constantine VI conducted himself with Imperial veracity by blinding Nikephoros and having the tongues of his remaining uncles removed. By now Constantine’s only remaining ally was the influential old monastic party who the enjoyed the benefits of the Iconoclastic reversals under his tenure. Constantine inexplicably announced his divorce from Maria in favor of Theodote scandalizing the monks who could no longer support him. Constantine was now defenseless against his nastiest enemy – his mother Irene. On August 15, 797, Constantine was removed of his eyes in such a brutal fashion that he did not survive the wounds. Obverse Irene wearing a crown and loros, and holding globus cruciger and cruciform scepter, IRInI AΓOVSTI. Reverse beardless Constantine VI wearing crown and chlamys, and holding globus cruciger and akakia, ConsτΑnτinos bAS Θ.
Mint: Constantinople
Provenance: Courtesy Harlan J. Berk, LTD

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