Irene was Empress of the Byzantine Empire from 797 to 802.
In 769, Irene became the wife of the firstborn emperor’s son Leo, who became emperor in 775 as Leo IV. A year after the marriage, she became the mother of a son, the later Constantine VI. After Leo’s death in 780, Constantine became a child emperor. Irene took over the regency, which she first had to assert against the usurpers Nikephoros (780) and Elpidios (781–782).
Irene’s reign coincided with the Byzantine iconoclasm in the 8th and 9th centuries. She belonged to the party of iconodules and convened the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, which decided, among other things, that icons may be honored, but not worshipped.
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