Romanos I Lekapenos (919–944)
The lord Romanos, the emperor, was a common illiterate fellow, and not from among those who have been bred up in the palace, and have followed the Roman national customs from the beginning; nor was he of imperial and noble stock . . .De administrando imperio
Romanos Lekapenos was a new type of usurper—he did not overthrow the current ruler, but instead gradually moved him into the background, a process very apparent on these seals. Romanos ousted the regency government of Zoe Karbonopsina and Leo Phokas that had been ruling in the name of the underage heir to the Macedonian dynasty, Constantine VII. After marrying the young Constantine porphyrogennetos to his daughter Helena in 919, Romanos named himself basileopater, was raised to the rank of Caesar in 920, and crowned emperor later the same year. He associated three of his sons (Christopher, Stephen, and Constantine) with himself, while the fourth, Theophylakt, was later named patriarch. The seals depict Romanos in the foreground with one of his sons (either Christopher or Stephen) and Constantine VII behind. On the seal shown here Romanos is depicted in the revived realistic style, while his colleagues, including Constantine VII, are shown in the older, generic style in use since the Iconoclast period. In this respect Romanos I echoes the earlier usurper Phokas in choosing to associate imperial power with his portrait in particular. Romanos reigned for twenty-four years before being deposed by his sons Stephen and Constantine Lekapenos. The brothers were themselves deposed a few months later by the people of Constantinople in favor of Constantine VII.