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Byzantine Empire - Essay Example

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Power, political duties and devious intrigue were to be expected by any woman whose husband, father or son was crowned Emperor in Byzantium. The Empresses Irene, Theodora and Zoe all marked their reigns with deeds that emphasized the might of important women of their time…
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Download file to see previous pages They also had a lot to do with installations and depositions of emperors (Sewter/Psellus 1997). To understand them better, it is important to note that these three Empresses lived at the time following the birth of Christendom, from about 770 to the middle of the second century, when the Roman Empire had its main base and 'headquarters' in Byzantium, a place we now know as Istanbul, in Turkey.
It was a strategic place, in a prime position on the coast of the important Mediterranean Sea (Sewter/Psellus 1979). With part of its area firmly in Europe, and the other at the gateway to the Holy Lands (known now as the Middle East) and Asia, this area could dominate in terms of wealth, politics and power. Syria, whose cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Antioch were centers of trade and knowledge, was so close by that the men - and the important women - of this age and time had a lot of resources at their disposal, both in material wealth and in clever advisors, and this enabled them to mark history with their own names in all matters that had to do with culture, the military and without any doubt, the economy.
Chronologically, the first of these women, Irene, was a powerful monarch in her own right, and it is an indication of her attitude that she chose to call herself by the masculine term 'Basileus' or Emperor (Garland 1999). After being expelled from the marriage-bed because of hiding icons when the Emperor had banned them, she became involved in a number of conspiracies. Intelligent and wily - probably because of her doubtful social status before she was married - she wielded power from behind the scenes, coming into her full might when she became regent for her son on the death of her husband Leo IV.
Her son was to become Constantine VI, but while he was younger, his mother took advantage of the position of regent to enforce her beliefs in Christianity and the Pope. She used her wiles to promote some men and get rid of others. A famous action of hers was the idea of ordaining those who threatened the throne. Being priests disqualified them from being candidates (Sewter/Psellus ibid).
No stranger to intrigue, she made her son extremely uncomfortable with her exploits when he came into power. There are several important political events of her time that have Irene's unmistakable signature: she liked underhanded dealings and plots. But, ironically, she became most famous for restoring worship of icons and other religious images. (Garland 1999). This seems to indicate that she felt her power came from her faith and that it absolved her of a lot of unethical or improper dealings.
She deposed her own son and had him exiled, after which she ruled in her own right for five years. This grand conspiracy caused deep factions in the Church and the empire court. When she had her son's eyes gouged out, which killed him, people believed the heavens were angry, because the sky darkened for a number of days (Garland 1999). People believed she had enough power to affect more than just politics. She was revered just like a saint after her death, probably because of her political power that restored worship to those who wanted it. She has never been canonized.
Irene was ultimately taken off the throne and had ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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