Romanos I Lekapenos or Lakapenos (Greek: Ρωμανός Α΄ Λακαπηνός), Latinized as Romanus I Lecapenus, was an Armenian who became a Byzantine naval commander and reigned as Byzantine Emperor from 920 until his deposition on December 16, 944.
Romanos Lekapenos, born in Lakape (Laqabin) between Melitene and Samosata (hence the name), was the son of an Armenian peasant with the remarkable name of Theophylact the Unbearable (Theophylaktos Abastaktos). Theophylact, as a soldier, had rescued the Emperor Basil I from the enemy in battle at Tephrike and had been rewarded by a place in the Imperial Guard.
On 25 March 919, at the head of his fleet, Lekapenos seized the Boukoleon Palace and the reins of government. Initially, he was named magistros and megas hetaireiarches, but he moved swiftly to consolidate his position: in April 919 his daughter Helena was married to Constantine VII, and Lekapenos assumed the new title basileopator; on 24 September, he was named Caesar; and on 17 December 919, Romanos Lekapenos was crowned senior emperor.
In subsequent years Romanos crowned his own sons co-emperors, Christopher in 921, Stephen and Constantine in 924, although, for the time being, Constantine VII was regarded as first in rank after Romanos himself. It is notable that, as he left Constantine untouched, he was called 'the gentle usurper'. Romanos strengthened his position by marrying his daughters to members of the powerful aristocratic families of Argyros and Mouseles, by recalling the deposed patriarch Nicholas Mystikos, and by putting an end to the conflict with the Papacy over the four marriages of Emperor Leo VI.
On the death of Christopher, by far his most competent son, in 931, Romanos did not advance his younger sons in precedence over Constantine VII. Fearing that Romanos would allow Constantine VII to succeed him instead of them, his younger sons Stephen and Constantine arrested their father in December 944, carried him off to the Prince's Islands and compelled him to become a monk. When they threatened the position of Constantine VII, however, the people of Constantinople revolted, and Stephen and Constantine were likewise stripped of their imperial rank and sent into exile to their father. Romanos died in June 948, and was buried as the other members of his family in the church of Myrelaion.