Tzitzak (Turkish: Çiçek; died c. 750), baptised Irene (Greek: Ειρήνη), was a Khazar princess, the daughter of khagan Bihar, who became empress by marriage to Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine V (r. 741-775).
In 732, the Eastern Roman Empire was under threat of invasion from the Umayyad Caliphate. Seeking allies, Leo III the Isaurian sent an embassy to Bihar, Khagan of the Khazars. The alliance was sealed with the marriage of Tzitzak to Constantine V, son and junior co-ruler of Leo.
Tzitzak was escorted to Constantinople for her marriage. Constantine was about fourteen years old, while Tzitzak may have been even younger as she would not give birth for eighteen years. Tzitzak became a Christian under the baptismal name Irene. Tzitzak's wedding gown became famous, starting a new fashion craze in Constantinople for male robes called tzitzakia.
The chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor records that Tzitzak learned to read religious texts. He describes her as pious and contrasts her with the "impiety" of her father-in-law and husband. The emperors Leo III and Constantine V were iconoclasts while Theophanes was an iconodule monk. His praise probably reflected the fact that Irene herself shared his views.
It is uncertain whether her mother-in-law Maria was still the senior empress at the time of Tzitzak's marriage. Leo III died on 18 June 741. Constantine V succeeded him with Irene as his empress consort. However, civil war broke out almost immediately as Artabasdos, brother-in-law of Constantine, claimed the throne for himself. The civil war lasted until 2 November 743. The role of Irene in the war is not described by Theophanes.
On 25 January 750, Constantine and Tzitzak had a son, Leo, who would succeed his father as Emperor Leo IV—better known as "Leo the Khazar". Leo's birth is the last mention of Irene in the historical record. By the following year, Constantine was already married to his second wife Maria. Lynda Garland has suggested Tzitzak died in childbirth.
|Byzantine Empress consort
with Anna (741–743)