Christopher Lekapenos
Emperor of the Romans
Romanus I with Christopher, solidus (reverse).jpg
Gold solidus of Romanos I Lekapenos (left) with his son Christopher
Byzantine emperor
Reign20 May 921 – August 931
Co-emperorsConstantine VII (920–944)
Romanos I (920–944)
Constantine (924–944)
Stephen (924–944)
Bornc. 890–895
DiedAugust 931 (aged c. 40/35)
IssueIrene Lekapene
FatherRomanos I Lekapenos

Christopher Lekapenos or Lecapenus (Greek: Χριστόφορος Λακαπηνός, romanizedChristóphoros Lakapenōs) was the eldest son of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–944) and co-emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from 921 until his death in 931. Christopher was given the position of megas hetaireiarches (commander of the palace guard) in spring 919, after Romanos assumed the position of basileopator. Romanos, in order to give his family precedence over the more Macedonian line, raised Christopher to co-emperor on 21 May 921. In 928 Christopher's father-in-law, Niketas, unsuccessfully attempted to incite Christopher to usurp his father, resulting in Niketas being banished. Christopher died in August 931, succeeded by his father and two brothers, Stephen Lekapenos and Constantine Lekapenos, and Constantine VII. In December 944 his brothers overthrew and exiled his father, but they themselves were exiled after attempting to oust Constantine VII.


Christopher was the oldest son of Romanos Lekapenos, and the second-oldest child after his sister Helena. Younger siblings were Agatha, who married Romanos Argyros, Stephen and Constantine (co-emperors from 924 until 945), Theophylact (Patriarch of Constantinople in 933–956), and two unnamed younger sisters.[1]

Nothing is known of Christopher's early life. He was certainly an adult by 919–920, and had a daughter of marriageable age in 927,[2] hence he was probably born around 890–895. Already before his father's rise to power, he had been married to Sophia, the daughter of the wealthy patrikios Niketas, a Slav from the Peloponnese.[3]

When Romanos succeeded in having his daughter Helena Lekapene married to the young emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos in spring 919 and assumed the role of guardian of the emperor with the title basileopator, Christopher succeeded him in his post as megas hetaireiarches, commander of the palace guard.[4][5] Romanos soon crowned himself emperor (December 920), and eventually advanced himself before the young Constantine in precedence. To further cement his position, and planning to advance his own family over the legitimate Macedonian line, Romanos crowned Christopher also as co-emperor on 20 May 921.[2][5][6] Furthermore, when Christopher's mother, the Augusta Theodora, died in February 922, his wife Sophia was raised to the dignity of Augusta alongside Helena Lekapene.[7]

In 927, as part of a peace agreement, Christopher's daughter Maria, renamed Irene ("peace") for the occasion, was married to the Bulgarian emperor Peter I (r. 927–969).[8] Romanos used the occasion to advance Christopher before Constantine Porphyrogennetos, making him first among the rather large group of co-emperors (in 924, Christopher's younger brothers Stephen and Constantine had also been crowned as co-emperors).[2][5][9] In 928, his father-in-law, the patrikios Niketas, unsuccessfully tried to incite Christopher to depose his father, and was banished. The motive behind this was perhaps Christopher's poor health, and fears by his wife and her father that, should he die prematurely, they would lose their status.[5][10] In the event, Christopher died in August 931, much mourned by his father, who shed tears "like the Egyptians" and thereafter increasingly became devoted to religious pursuits. Soon after Christopher's death, Sophia too retired from the court and entered a monastery, where she died.[11][12]

After his death, he was succeeded by his father and his two brothers, Stephen Lekapenos and Constantine Lekapenos, and Constantine VII. In December 944 Stephen and Constantine deposed their father, forcing him to live in a monastery on Prince's Islands, but when they attempted to likewise depose Constantine VII, the people of Constantinople revolted and overthrew them, resulting in them being likewise exiled. Romanos died in June 948, Stephen on Easter 963, and Constantine sometime between 946 and 948, while trying to escape.[13]

15th-century portrait of Christopher (or Constantine), from the Mutinensis gr. 122[14]
15th-century portrait of Christopher (or Constantine), from the Mutinensis gr. 122[14]


Through his marriage to Sophia, Christopher had three children:[1][11]


  1. ^ a b Kazhdan (1991), p. 1204
  2. ^ a b c Grierson & Bellinger (1973), p. 528
  3. ^ Runciman (1929), p. 64
  4. ^ Runciman (1929), p. 60
  5. ^ a b c d Kazhdan (1991), p. 442
  6. ^ Runciman (1929), pp. 65–66
  7. ^ Runciman (1929), p. 67
  8. ^ a b Charles William Previté-Orton (1975) Cambridge Medieval History, Shorter: Volume 1, The Later Roman Empire to the Twelfth Century. Volume 1 of The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, ISBN 0-521-09976-5 p. 256
  9. ^ Runciman (1929), pp. 67, 97
  10. ^ Runciman (1929), pp. 71–72
  11. ^ a b c Runciman (1929), p. 78
  12. ^ Grierson & Bellinger (1973), p. 526
  13. ^ Jonathan Shepard (ed.). Cambridge History Byzantine Empire. p. 39. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  14. ^ Gratziou, Olga (1997). "Evidence on the Users of the Zonaras Codex at Modena". Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας (in Greek). 19 (5–6): 39–62 (48). doi:10.12681/dchae.1162.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  15. ^ Runciman (1929), pp. 78, 237
  16. ^ Runciman (1929), pp. 78, 234