Alexios II Komnenos (1180–1183)

Alexios II Komnenos (1180–1183)

A twelve year old child when his father Manuel died, Alexios II’s reign is a brief story of inept regency and opportunistic, long-awaited usurpation. Manuel’s widow, Maria of Antioch, and Alexios Komnenos, the protosebastos, spread their favor and the largesse of the imperial treasury narrowly but intensively over Italians and aristocrats. The regency was not militarily successful, losing ground to the Hungarians in the Balkans and the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia. Maria and Alexios faced conspiracies and plots from within the Komnenos family and extended clan, and eventually Manuel’s cousin Andronikos Komnenos, stationed in Pontos, led an uprising against Maria and Alexios. The two regents were overthrown in the spring of 1182 after a brief siege of St. Sophia, in which they had taken refuge. Alexios the protosebastos, Maria of Antioch (whose death sentence was signed by her son), and Alexios II’s older sister Maria were killed by Andronikos. The imperial bloodletting was accompanied by a purge of the Genoese and Pisans by the mob in the capital, which Andronikos did nothing to stop. Andronikos was crowned co–emperor in September 1183 and briefly ruled alongside his nephew Alexios. However, Andronikos soon had the young boy murdered.

This seal contains the title megas basileus, “great emperor.” Alexios II is known to have been styled this way in public acclamations. In addition, the Komnenian tradition of including porphyrogennetos, naturally where such an epithet was warranted, is continued on this seal. Iconograhically Alexios's seals follow in the tradition laid down by his great grandfather, Christ is shown enthroned on the obverse, and on the reverse the emperor is depicted wearing a crown and loros, holding a labarum and globus cruciger.

 
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