Leo I (emperor)

Leo I (emperor)

Overview
Leo I (401 – 18 January 474) was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana was a province of the Roman Empire found by Emperor Aurelian, after his retreat from Dacia Traiana in 271. Between 271/275 and 285, it occupied most of what is today Bulgaria. Its capital was in Serdica...

 near historic Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, he was known as Leo the Thracian .

Ruling the Eastern Empire for nearly 20 years from 457 to 474, Leo proved to be a capable ruler, overseeing many ambitious political and military plans, aimed mostly for the aid of the faltering Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 and recovering its former territories.
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Leo I (401 – 18 January 474) was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana
Dacia Aureliana was a province of the Roman Empire found by Emperor Aurelian, after his retreat from Dacia Traiana in 271. Between 271/275 and 285, it occupied most of what is today Bulgaria. Its capital was in Serdica...

 near historic Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, he was known as Leo the Thracian .

Ruling the Eastern Empire for nearly 20 years from 457 to 474, Leo proved to be a capable ruler, overseeing many ambitious political and military plans, aimed mostly for the aid of the faltering Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 and recovering its former territories. He is notable for being the first Eastern Emperor to legislate in Greek rather than Latin.

Reign



Born as Leo Marcellus in the year 401 to a Thraco-Roman
Thraco-Roman
The terms Thraco-Roman and Daco-Roman refer to the culture and language of the Thracian and Dacian peoples who were incorporated into the Roman Empire and ultimately fell under the Roman and Latin sphere of influence.-Meaning and usage:...

 family (of the Daci or Bessi
Bessi
The Bessi were an independent Thracian tribe who lived in a territory ranging from Moesia to Mount Rhodope in southern Thrace, but are often mentioned as dwelling about Haemus, the mountain range that separates Moesia from Thrace and from Mount Rhodope to the northern part of Hebrus...

 tribe), he served in the Roman army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

, rising to the rank of comes
Comes
Comes , plural comites , is the Latin word for companion, either individually or as a member of a collective known as comitatus, especially the suite of a magnate, in some cases large and/or formal enough to have a specific name, such as a cohors amicorum. The word comes derives from com- "with" +...

. He was the last of a series of emperors placed on the throne by Aspar
Aspar
Flavius Ardabur Aspar was an Alan patrician and magister militum of the Eastern Roman Empire. Aspar's family exerted a great influence on the Eastern Roman Emperors for half a century, from the 420s to his death in 471, over Theodosius II, Marcian and Leo I, who, in the end, had him killed.Alans...

, the Alan
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

 serving as commander-in-chief of the army, who thought Leo would be an easy puppet ruler
Puppet ruler
A puppet ruler is a person who has a title indicating possession of political power, but who, in reality, is controlled by outside individuals or forces. Such outside power can be exercised by a foreign government, in which case the puppet ruler's domain is called a puppet state...

.

Leo's coronation
Coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

 as emperor on 7 February 457, was the first known to involve the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

. Leo I made an alliance with the Isauria
Isauria
Isauria , in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods, but generally covering what is now the district of Bozkır and its surroundings in the Konya province of Turkey, or the core of the Taurus Mountains. In...

ns and was thus able to eliminate Aspar. The price of the alliance was the marriage of Leo's daughter to Tarasicodissa, leader of the Isaurians who, as Zeno
Zeno (emperor)
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...

, became emperor in 474. In 469, Aspar attempted to assassinate Zeno and very nearly succeeded. Finally, in 471, Aspar's son Ardabur
Ardabur
Ardabur was the son of Flavius Ardabur Aspar, Master of Horse and Magister Militum of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifth century. Ardabur apparently often served under his famous father during his campaigns. In 466 Ardabur was accused of a treasonous plot, probably by his father's political...

 was implicated in a plot against Leo and both were killed by palace eunuch
Eunuch
A eunuch is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences...

s acting on Leo's orders.

During Leo's reign, the Balkans were ravaged time and again by the Ostrogoths and the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

. However, these attackers were unable to take Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 thanks to the walls
Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople since its founding as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great...

, which had been rebuilt and reinforced in the reign of Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 and against which they possessed no suitable siege engine
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

s.

Leo's reign was also noteworthy for his influence in the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

, marked by his appointment of Anthemius
Anthemius
Procopius Anthemius was Western Roman Emperor from 467 to 472. Perhaps the last capable Western Roman Emperor, Anthemius attempted to solve the two primary military challenges facing the remains of the Western Roman Empire: the resurgent Visigoths, under Euric, whose domain straddled the Pyrenees;...

 as Western Roman Emperor in 467. He attempted to build on this political achievement with an expedition against the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 in 468, which was defeated due to the arrogance of Leo's brother-in-law Basiliscus
Basiliscus
Basiliscus was Eastern Roman Emperor from 475 to 476. A member of the House of Leo, he came to power when Emperor Zeno had been forced out of Constantinople by a revolt....

. This disaster drained the Empire of men and money. The expedition, which cost 130,000 pounds of gold and 700 pounds of silver, consisted of 1,113 ships carrying 100,000 men, but in the end lost 600 ships.

Leo's greatest influence in the West was largely inadvertent and at least second-hand: the Ostrogoth
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 king Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great was king of the Ostrogoths , ruler of Italy , regent of the Visigoths , and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire...

 was raised at Leo's court in Constantinople, where he was steeped in Roman government and military tactics, which served him well when he returned after Leo's death to become the Goth ruler of a mixed but largely Romanized people.

Leo died of dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 at the age of 73 on 18 January 474.

Marriage and children


Leo and Verina had three children. Their eldest daughter Ariadne
Ariadne (empress)
Aelia Ariadne was the Empress consort of Zeno and Anastasius I of the Byzantine Empire.-Family:Ariadne was a daughter of Leo I and Verina. Her mother was a sister of Basiliscus....

 was born prior to the death of Marcian
Marcian
Marcian was Byzantine Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially...

 (reigned 450 – 457). Ariadne had a younger sister, Leontia
Leontia (daughter of Leo I)
Leontia was the daughter of the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo I.- Biography :Leontia was the daughter of Emperor Leo I and his wife Verina; she was younger sister of Ariadne, but, unlike her, she could claim to be porphyrogenita, "born in the purple", because she was born during the first year of...

. Leontia was first betrothed to Julius Patricius
Julius Patricius
Julius Patricius was a politician of the Eastern Roman Empire of barbarian origin, who rose to the rank of caesar under Emperor Leo I.- Biography :...

, a son of Aspar
Aspar
Flavius Ardabur Aspar was an Alan patrician and magister militum of the Eastern Roman Empire. Aspar's family exerted a great influence on the Eastern Roman Emperors for half a century, from the 420s to his death in 471, over Theodosius II, Marcian and Leo I, who, in the end, had him killed.Alans...

, but their engagement was probably annulled when Aspar and another of his sons, Ardabur
Ardabur
Ardabur was the son of Flavius Ardabur Aspar, Master of Horse and Magister Militum of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifth century. Ardabur apparently often served under his famous father during his campaigns. In 466 Ardabur was accused of a treasonous plot, probably by his father's political...

, were assassinated in 471. Leontia then married Marcian
Marcian (usurper)
Marcian was a member of the House of Leo and an usurper against Emperor Zeno in 479.- Biography :Marcian was a member of several Roman imperial families...

, a son of Emperor Anthemius
Anthemius
Procopius Anthemius was Western Roman Emperor from 467 to 472. Perhaps the last capable Western Roman Emperor, Anthemius attempted to solve the two primary military challenges facing the remains of the Western Roman Empire: the resurgent Visigoths, under Euric, whose domain straddled the Pyrenees;...

 and Marcia Euphemia
Marcia Euphemia
Aelia Marcia/Marciana Euphemia was the wife of Anthemius, Western Roman Emperor.-Family:Marcia/Marciana Euphemia was the only known daughter of Marcian, Byzantine Emperor. The identity of her mother is unknown. Her stepmother was Pulcheria, second wife of her father. Pulcheria had taken a...

. The couple led a failed revolt against Zeno in 478–479. They were exiled to Isauria
Isauria
Isauria , in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods, but generally covering what is now the district of Bozkır and its surroundings in the Konya province of Turkey, or the core of the Taurus Mountains. In...

 following their defeat.

An unknown son was born in 463. He died five months following his birth. The only sources about him are a horoscope
Horoscope
In astrology, a horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person's birth. The word horoscope is derived from Greek words meaning "a look at the hours" In...

 by Rhetorius
Rhetorius
Rhetorius of Egypt was the last major classical astrologer from whom we have any excerpts. He lived in the sixth or early seventh century, in the early Byzantine era. He wrote an extensive compendium in Greek of the techniques of the Hellenistic astrologers who preceded him, and is one of our...

 and a hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 of Daniel the Stylite
Daniel the Stylite
Saint Daniel the Stylite is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Churches. He was born in a village by the name of Maratha in upper Mesopotamia near Samosata, in today what is now a region of Turkey. He entered a monastery at the age of twelve and lived there...

.

The Georgian Chronicle, a 13th century compilation drawing from earlier sources, reports a marriage of Vakhtang I of Iberia to Princess Helena of Byzantium, identifying her as a daughter of the predecessor of Zeno. This predecessor was probably Leo I, the tale attributing a third daughter to Leo. Cyril Toumanoff
Cyril Toumanoff
Cyril Leo Heraclius, Prince Toumanoff was an United States-based historian and genealogist who mostly specialized in the history and genealogies of medieval Georgia, Armenia, the Byzantine Empire, and Iran...

 identified two children of this marriage. Mithridates of Iberia and Leo of Iberia. This younger Leo was father of Guaram I of Iberia
Guaram I of Iberia
Guaram I was a Georgian prince, who attained to the hereditary rulership of Iberia and the Roman title of curopalates from 588 to c. 590. He is commonly identified with the Gorgenes of the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes....

. The accuracy of the descent is unknown.

Sources


External links