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Leaders and rulers
in Europe

Gold solidus of Irene

Diameter: 18.000 mm
Weight: 4.393 g

CM 1852-9-3-35

Gold solidus of Empress Irene

Minted in: Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Turkey
Date: AD 797-802

When Constantine VI became emperor of Byzantium in 780 he was still a child and his mother Irene ruled for him. When he became an adult, she did not want to give up power, and they quarrelled. In 797 Irene had Constantine blinded so he would not be able to rule, and he died from his injuries. She then became Empress, the first woman to rule Byzantium in her own name.

At that time coins in Byzantium usually had a picture of the present ruler on one side, and his father, the previous ruler, on the other. Because Irene's father had not been emperor she decided that her coins should show her on both sides.