Isaac I Komnenos (1057-59)
Isaakios Komnenos revolted against the elderly Michael VI Stratiotikos. Isaakios was a successful military leader and represented the disgruntled military leadership against the emperor. In a little under two months Isaakios forced Michael to negotiate. While discussions were ongoing Michael was overthrown during pro–Isaakios riots in Constantinople. The seals of Isaakios are the most shocking of all the Byzantine usurpers. He wears armor and holds in his right hand a drawn sword that rests on his shoulder. This is the first depiction of an emperor holding a sword on his seals, although Constantine IX, his predecessor, held a sheathed one, point resting on the ground, on one issue of his histamenon as well as on his miliaresion. Isaakios's decision to be shown as a general who had achieved power through the sword shocked contemporaries. Whether this military visage was intended as a thinly veiled threat or simply an affirmation of strength, Isaakios presented himself as a strong military leader, something Byzantium had lacked since the death of Basil II in 1025. With the exception of a specimen depicting the emperor full-length, Isaakios’s seals closely follow the early eleventh-century model in terms of composition. Notably, this exception would mark the beginning of full-length portraits, which had only been employed previously on seals during the reign of Justinian II.