Constantine VI (780–797)
The reign of Constantine VI, the son of Leo IV, is notable mostly for the power, direct and indirect, wielded by his domineering mother Eirene and for its gruesome end. Assured precedence in the Easter ceremony of 776, Constantine was only nine when his father died. Nominal authority passed to him, while real power was exercised by a regency comprised of Eirene and Staurakios, who was a eunuch and patrikios. In 786 Eirene convened a council in Constantinople with the aim of overturning Iconoclasm and the council of 754. Troops from the tagmata loyal to the memory of Constantine V disrupted the meeting, which had to be postponed. The next year, while the troops were occupied elsewhere, the council met in Nicaea and formally condemned Iconoclasm. By the end of his first decade on the throne, Constantine, together with the general Michael Lachanodrakon, deposed his mother after the army refused to acknowledge her precedence over him. Constantine's sole rule was not a success, and after campaigning unsuccessfully in the Balkans, Constantine restored his mother in 792 after just two years out of power. In the great tradition of imperial marriage drama, Constantine divorced his first wife and married his mistress in 795. Initially declared uncanonical, as no emperor had divorced his wife before, Patriarch Tarasios relented only when Constantine threatened to revive Iconoclasm. Patriarchal recognition caused many churchmen to break with Tarasios, thereby initiating the Moechian Controversy, whose effects would continue into the next decade. In 797, Eirene and Staurakios deposed and blinded Constantine.
The coinage of Constantine with very few exceptions includes Eirene on the obverse and the emperor on the reverse, highlighting her dominant position with regards to her son. The seal above is noteworthy for representing the emperor alone, which would suggest that it was issued during the two years (790–92) that Eirene was removed from power. It does not, however, follow the design of the coins from those years, which continues to depict Eirene, but without a globus cruciger. Constantine is the first Isaurian to be shown on his seals since the early issues of Leo III. He is depicted wearing a chlamys and crown, and holding a globus cruciger. On the reverse of his seals Constantine continued to show the cross on steps introduced by his great-grandfather, but without the surrounding inscription. For more seals of thesee the section.
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