Isaac I Comnenus

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Isaac I Comnenus (c. 10051061) was Byzantine Emperor from 1057 to 1059, and the first ruling member of the Comnenus dynasty.

He was the son of Manuel Comnenus, an officer of Basil II, who on his deathbed commended his two sons Isaac and John to the emperor's care. Basil had them carefully educated at the monastery of Studion, and afterwards advanced them to high official positions. During the disturbed reigns of Basil's seven immediate successors, Isaac by his prudent conduct won the confidence of the army; in 1057 he joined with the nobles of the capital in a conspiracy against Michael VI, and after the latter's deposition was invested with the crown, thus founding the new dynasty of the Comneni. The first care of the new emperor was to reward his noble partisans with appointments that removed them from Constantinople, and his next was to repair the depleted finances of the empire. He revoked numerous pensions and grants conferred by his predecessors upon idle courtiers, and, meeting the reproach of sacrilege by the patriarch of Constantinople by a decree of exile, resumed a proportion of the revenues of the wealthy monasteries. Isaac's only military expedition was against the Hungarians and Petchenegs, who began to ravage the northern frontiers in 1059. Shortly after this successful campaign he was seized with an illness, and believing it mortal appointed as his successor Constantine Ducas, to the exclusion of his own brother John.

Although he recovered, Isaac did not resume the purple, but retired to the monastery of Studion and spent the remaining two years of his life as a monk, alternating menial offices with literary studies. His Scholia to the Iliad and other works on the Homeric poems are still extant. He died in the year 1061. Isaac's great aim was to restore the former strict organization of the government, and his reforms, though unpopular with the aristocracy and the clergy, and not understood by the people, certainly contributed to stave off for a while the final ruin of the Byzantine Empire.