Irene (Īrēˈnē) [key], c.750–803, Byzantine empress (797–802). She served (780–90) as regent for her son, Constantine VI, and later was made (792) joint ruler. Devoted to the Orthodox Church, she bent most of her efforts to suppressing iconoclasm. In 797 Irene had her son deposed and blinded, and she ascended the throne. Her accession served as pretext for Charlemagne to be crowned emperor in 800. Irene was deposed in 802 and died in exile.
See C. Diehl, Byzantine Portraits (1906; tr. 1927).
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