He led a revolt against the coemperors Isaac II and Alexius IV, who were supported by the Fourth Crusade. He then became the last emperor of Byzantium before its overthrow and partition by the Crusaders. In January 1204 Alexius began his four-month reign by imprisoning the deposed Alexius IV, whom he later had strangled. The leader of the anti-Latin party in Constantinople, he disavowed Alexius IV’s debt to the Crusaders and demanded their withdrawal from Constantinople. They instead besieged the city, and three days later (April 12, 1204) Alexius fled to join the fugitive Alexius III. Alexius III, however, blinded him. He was then captured by the Crusaders, who put him to death as the murderer of Alexius IV by casting him from the top of a column in Constantinople.
His nickname was Mourtzouphlos or Murtzuphlus, either in reference to bushy, overhanging eyebrows or a sullen, gloomy character.