Description:This 8th century silver coin was minted during the rule of Constantine VI and his co-emperor mother Irene. The obverse side of this coin shows a cross potent on 3 steps surrounded by the defiant Greek inscription IhSUS XRISTuS nICA that translates to “Jesus Christ Conquers.” The reverse inscription COnS / TANTInO / S S IRInI E / C QEu bA / SILIS translates to “Constantine and Irene, in God, Emperors.”
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered on the capital of Constantinople, "New Rome." Although Greek was the main language spoken here, the Byzantine citizens still referred to themselves as Romans. With the eventual decline of the Western Roman Empire, Constantinople became the richest and most influential center of the Christian world. As this coin shows, art here was mainly devoted to the Christian faith, which flourished under their protection.
Constantine VI was Byzantine Emperor from 780 to 797 and his mother, Irene exercised control over him as regent and Empress. When Constantine married his mistress and began suffering military defeats, Irene had Constantine deposed, blinded and imprisoned in 797. She then seized power for herself, becoming the first Empress of the Empire. The papacy of the Western European powers, asserting that a woman could not be Empress, crowned Charlemagne as a new Emperor in Western Europe. This laid the foundations of a new polity, independent of the east, that would evolve into the "Holy Roman Empire."