Home Ancient Byzantine Isaurian (or Syrian) Dynasty 717-802 AD BC001151
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Constantine VI and Irene; 780-797 AD, c. 790-792 AD
Solidus depicting Irene her son, her husband, his father and his grandfather. Irene’s perseverance overturned the Iconoclastic policies of four emperors, an unimaginable achievement considering the times.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 787 denounced Iconoclasm. The heresy 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. Estranged from his mother’s ambitions he hatched a conspiracy which involved many of the old Iconoclast guard. Irene punished those responsible and threw her son into prison while demanding an oath of loyalty by the army. The forces in Constantinople and European provinces willingly cooperated. Their Asia Minor counterparts mutinously refused 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. Then hostilities broke out in the West with the Bulgars. In the face of danger Constantine proved incapable of command and spinelessly fled the field. When he returned to Constantinople he restored Irene to her former power in 792. Obverse beardless Constantine VI on left and Irene on right, both crowned and with cross in field above their heads. Constantine wears chlamys and holds globus cruciger in right hand while his mother wears loros and holds cruciform scepter in left hand; pellet in field between their faces, ConsτΑnτinos CA b Δ. Reverse seated Leo III, Constantine V, and Leo IV each wearing crown and chlamys S IRINI MITRI AV.
Mint: Constantinople
Provenance: Courtesy Harlan J. Berk LTD

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