Title

Defining Female Authority in Eighth-Century Byzantium: The Numismatic Images of the Empress Irene (797–802)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Publication Title

Journal of Late Antiquity

Department

Art

Abstract

This study offers insight into the complex processes through which an unusual ruler, the empress Irene, articulated her authority in visual terms. An examination of the numismatic iconography of her gold coins demonstrates how the public imagery of this female ruler was crafted by carefully joining together a wide network of associations that draw extensively on both male and female imperial predecessors and figures of religious authority. It is suggested that while remaining within the narrow confines of eighth century numismatic style and iconography, Irene’s coinage presents her both as a reigning monarch and a personification of her most important imperial accomplishment, religious peace. Furthermore, the imagery also conveys a novel iconophile message and casts the empress as an orthodox and philanthropic ruler.

ISSN

1939-6716