Romanos I

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Romanos I Lekapenos (or Romanus I Lecapenus) (Greek: Ρωμανός Α΄ Λακαπήνος, Rōmanos I Lakapēnos; Armenian: Ռոմանոս Ա Լակապենոս, Romanos I Lakapenos) (circa 870 – June 15, 948) was Byzantine Emperor from 920 until his deposition on December 16, 944.

Contents

Origin

Romanos was the son of an imperial guardsman named Theophylaktos Abstartos or Abastaktos ("the Unbearable").[1] Although he did not receive any refined education (for which he was later abused by his son-in-law Constantine VII), Romanos advanced through the ranks of the army during the reign of Emperor Leo VI the Wise, another fellow Armenian. In 911 he was general of the naval theme of Samos and later served as admiral of the fleet (droungarios tou ploimou). In this capacity he was supposed to participate in the Byzantine operations against Bulgaria on the Danube in 917, but he was unable to carry out his mission. In the aftermath of the disastrous Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Acheloos in 917 by the Bulgarians, Romanos sailed to Constantinople, where he gradually overcame the discredited regency of Empress Zoe Karvounopsina and her supporter Leo Phokas.

Rise to power

Becoming increasingly influential at court, Romanos exiled his rivals and strengthened his links with the underage Emperor Constantine VII. In May 919 he married his daughter Helena Lekapene to Constantine and was proclaimed basileopator ("father of the emperor"). In September 14, 920, Romanos was invested as kaisar (Caesar), and finally on December 17 of the same year he was crowned co-emperor, becoming the effective head of the Byzantine Empire.

In subsequent years Romanos crowned his own sons co-emperors, Christopher in 921, Stephen and Constantine in 924, although, for the time being, Constantine VII was regarded as first in rank after Romanos himself. It is notable that, as he left Constantine untouched, he was called 'the gentle usurper'. Romanos strengthened his position by marrying his daughters to members of the powerful aristocratic families of Argyros and Mouseles, by recalling the deposed patriarch Nicholas Mystikos, and by putting an end to the conflict with the Papacy over the four marriages of Emperor Leo VI.

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