Irene Doukaina bigraphy, stories - Empress consort of the Byzantine Empire

Irene Doukaina : biography

1066 - February 19, 1123 or 1133

Irene Doukaina or Ducaena ( Eirēnē Doukaina) ( – February 19, 1123 or 1133) was the wife of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and the mother of the emperor John II Komnenos and of the historian Anna Komnene.

Succession of Alexios and Irene

Irene was born in 1066 to Andronikos Doukas and Maria of Bulgaria, granddaughter of Ivan Vladislav of Bulgaria. Andronikos was a nephew of Emperor Constantine X and a cousin of Michael VII.

Irene married Alexios in 1078, when she was still eleven years old. For this reason the Doukas family supported Alexios in 1081, when a struggle for the throne erupted after the abdication of Nikephoros III Botaneiates. Alexios' mother, Anna Dalassene, a lifelong enemy of the Doukas family, pressured her son to divorce the young Irene and marry Maria of Alania, the former wife of both Michael VII and Nikephoros III. Irene was in fact barred from the coronation ceremony, but the Doukas family convinced the Patriarch of Constantinople, Kosmas I, to crown her as well, which he did one week later. Anna Dalassene consented to this but forced Kosmas to resign immediately afterwards; he was succeeded by Eustratios Garidas.

Alexios' mother Anna continued to live in the imperial palace and to meddle in her son's affairs until her death 20 years later; Maria of Alania may have also lived in the palace, and there were rumours that Alexios carried on an affair with her. Anna Komnene vociferously denied this, although she herself was not born until December 1, 1083, two years later.


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Anna Comnena, The Alexiad, trans. E.R.A. Sewter. Penguin Books, 1969.
  • Nicetas Choniates, O City of Byzantium: Annals of Niketas Choniates, trans. Harry J. Magoulias. Wayne State University Press, 1984.
  • Georgina Buckler, Anna Comnena: A Study. Oxford University Press, 1929.
  • Thalia Goumia-Peterson, "Gender and Power: Passages to the Maternal in Anna Komnene's Alexiad ", in Anna Komnene and Her Times, ed. Thalia Goumia-Peterson. Garland Publishing, 2000.
  • Warren Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press, 1997.

{{s-hou|Doukas|||19 February|1123 or 1133}}


Category:1060s births Category:12th-century deaths Category:Byzantine empresses Category:Doukid dynasty Category:Komnenos dynasty Category:Female regents Category:11th-century Byzantine people Category:12th-century Byzantine people

{{Persondata | NAME = Doukaina, Irene | ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Ειρήνη Δούκαινα (Greek) | SHORT DESCRIPTION = Empress consort of the Byzantine Empire | DATE OF BIRTH = | PLACE OF BIRTH = Constantinople | DATE OF DEATH = February 19, 1123 or 1133 | PLACE OF DEATH = }}

In Literature

The great modern Greek poet Constantine Cavafy includes a reference to Irene Doukaina in his poem "A Byzantine Nobleman in Exile Composing Verses", which refers to Doukaina "that viper Irini Doukaina" and that as the cause of the titular nobleman's exile, "may she be cursed". It is a clear reference to her reputation as a plotter.


Anna may have been whitewashing her family history; she has nothing but praise for both of her parents. She describes her mother in great detail:

"She stood upright like some young sapling, erect and evergreen, all her limbs and the other parts of her body absolutely symmetrical and in harmony one with another. With her lovely appearance and charming voice she never ceased to fascinate all who saw and heard her. Her face shone with the soft light of the moon; it was not the completely round face of an Assyrian woman, nor long, like the face of a Scyth, but just slightly oval in shape. There were rose blossoms on her cheeks, visible a long way off. Her light-blue eyes were both gay and stern: their charm and beauty attracted, but the fear they caused so dazzled the bystander that he could neither look nor turn away...Generally she accompanied her words with graceful gestures, her hands bare to the wrists, and you would say it was ivory turned by some craftsman into the form of fingers and hand. The pupils of her eyes, with the brilliant blue of deep waves, recalled a calm, still sea, while the white surrounding them shone by contrast, so that the whole eye acquired a peculiar lustre and a charm which was inexpressible."

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