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Lecture: From Piety to Depravity—Legacies of Three Byzantine Empresses

March 10, 2016
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

In this lecture, Elena Boeck, DePaul University, offers an intimate view into the lives of three Byzantine empresses, who loved, prayed, or connived their way into power.  Beginning with the fourth-century empress Helena, who is best remembered as St. Helena for her "discovery" of the True Cross, the lecture examines her profound importance for Christianity, while illuminating her legendary and controversial early biography. It then considers the complex legacies of the eighth-century empress Irene, who was one of only three women to hold sole power in the Byzantine empire. The lecture concludes with a discussion of the scandalous empress Theophano, whose ascent to power reminds us of Cinderella and whose end was worthy of Lady Macbeth. Her sensational story reverberated for centuries in the Western European, Muslim, and Slavic worlds as well as Byzantium.

Presented with the Classical Art Society

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Solidus (Coin) of Empress Irene, a.d. 797-802. Byzantine, minted in Constantinople. Gift of the Classical Art Society.