Romanos III Argyros (1028–1034)
The successes of Basil II brought the empire to its apogee, but it required another Basil to maintain it. The aristocrat Romanos Argyros, married to Zoe, Constantine VIII’s daughter, was oikonomos of St. Sophia and Eparch of Constantinople, and was demonstrably not a ruler of Basil’s caliber. Romanos had no military experience, but as a member of the civil aristocracy who had held a number of high bureaucratic posts, could have been expected to be an effective administrator. Sadly for Byzantium his was a reign of unproductive largesse and ineffective taxation. Romanos repealed or refused to enforce the legislation of the Macedonian emperors for the protection of the poor, leading to the enlargement of aristocratic estates in the east of the empire. A disastrous attack on the emir of Aleppo, against the advice of his generals, set the tone for general military failure in Asia Minor during the eleventh century. During Romanos's reign power fell into the hands of the eunuch John the Orphanotophos, who introduced his brother Michael the Paphlagonian to Zoe. After a reign of six years Romanos was drowned, at the urging of his wife Zoe, by Michael, who then married Zoe and became Emperor Michael IV.
The seals of Romanos III largely continue the design that prevailed on Basil II’s: a bust of Christ on the obverse, and the emperor on the reverse. Romanos holds a globus cruciger and a scepter or, in a variation, a labarum. An innovation is the inclusion of the inscription Emmanuel on the obverse, for a portrait that is not the normal Christ Emmanuel type.
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