, called the Wise
or the Philosopher
: Λέων ὁ Σοφός, romanized
: Leōn ho Sophos
, 19 September 866 – 11 May 912), was Byzantine Emperor
from 886 to 912. The second ruler of the Macedonian dynasty
(although his parentage is unclear), he was very well read, leading to his epithet. During his reign, the renaissance of letters, begun by his predecessor Basil I
, continued; but the Empire also saw several military defeats in the Balkans against Bulgaria
and against the Arabs in Sicily
and the Aegean
. His reign also witnessed the formal discontinuation of several ancient Roman institutions, such as the separate office of Roman consul
Leo VI (right) and Basil I, from the 11th-century manuscript by John Skylitzes
Born on 19 September 866 to the empress Eudokia Ingerina
Leo was either the illegitimate son of Emperor Michael III
or the second son of Michael's successor, Basil I
Eudokia was both Michael III's mistress and Basil's wife. In 867, Michael was assassinated by Basil, who succeeded him as Emperor.
As the second-eldest son of the Emperor, Leo was associated on the throne in 870
and became the direct heir on the death of his older half-brother Constantine in 879.
However, Leo and Basil did not like each other; a relationship that only deteriorated after Eudokia's death, when Leo, unhappy with his marriage to Theophano
, took up a mistress in the person of Zoe Zaoutzaina
. Basil married Zoe off to an insignificant official, and later almost had Leo blinded when he was accused of conspiring against him.
On 29 August 886, Basil died in a hunting accident, though he claimed on his deathbed that there was an assassination
attempt in which Leo was possibly involved.
One of the first actions of Leo VI after his succession was the reburial, with great ceremony, of the remains of Michael III in the imperial mausoleum within the Church of the Holy Apostles
This contributed to the suspicion that Leo was (or at least believed himself to be) in truth Michael's son.
Seeking political reconciliation, the new Emperor secured the support of the officials in the capital, and surrounded himself with bureaucrats like Stylianos Zaoutzes
(the father of his mistress, Zoe Zaoutzaina)
and the eunuch Samonas
, an Arab defector whom Leo raised to the rank of patrikios
and who stood in as godfather
to Leo's son, Constantine VII
His attempts to control the great aristocratic families (e.g., the Phokadai
and the Doukai
) occasionally led to serious conflicts,
the most significant being the revolt of Andronikos Doukas
Leo also attempted to involve himself in the church through his arbitrary interference with the patriarchate.
Using his former tutor PatriarchPhotios
's excommunication by Pope John VIII
as an excuse, Leo dismissed him
and replaced him with his own 19-year-old brother Stephen
in December 886.
On Stephen's death in 893, Leo replaced him with Zaoutzes' nominee, Antony II Kauleas
, who died in 901.
Leo then promoted his own Imperial secretary (mystikos
, but suspicions that he was involved in the failed assassination attempt against Leo in 903
as well as his opposition to Leo's fourth marriage saw Nicholas replaced with Leo's spiritual father Euthymios
Bishop Liutprand of Cremona
gives an account similar to those about Caliph Harun al-Rashid
, to the effect that Leo would sometimes disguise himself and go about Constantinople looking for injustice or corruption. According to one story, he was even captured by the city guards during one of his investigations. Late in the evening, he was walking alone and disguised. Though he bribed two patrols with 12 nomismata
and moved on, a third city patrol arrested him. When a terrified guardian recognized the jailed ruler in the morning, the arresting officer was rewarded for doing his duty, while the other patrols were dismissed and punished severely.
Leo VI's fortune in war was more mixed than Basil's had been.
In indulging his chief counselor Stylianos Zaoutzes, Leo provoked a war
with Simeon I of Bulgaria
in 894, but he was defeated.
Bribing the Magyars
to attack the Bulgarians
from the north, Leo scored an indirect success in 895.
However, deprived of his new allies, he lost the major Battle of Boulgarophygon
in 896 and had to make the required commercial concessions and to pay annual tribute.
Although he won a victory in 900 against the Emirate of Tarsus
, in which the Arab army was destroyed and the Emir himself captured,
in the west the Emirate of Sicily
, the last Byzantine outpost on the island of Sicily
, in 902.
Nevertheless, Leo continued to apply pressure on his eastern frontier through the creation of the new thema
, a Byzantine invasion of Armenia in 902, and the sacking of Theodosiopolis
, as well as successful raids in the Arab Thughur
Leo VI caused a major scandal with his numerous marriages which failed to produce a legitimate heir to the throne.
His first wife Theophano
, whom Basil had forced him to marry on account of her family connections to the Martinakioi, and whom Leo hated,
died in 897, and Leo married Zoe Zaoutzaina
, the daughter of his adviser Stylianos Zaoutzes, though she died as well in 899.
Upon this marriage Leo created the title of basileopatōr
("father of the emperor") for his father-in-law.
After Zoe's death a third marriage was technically illegal,
but he married again, only to have his third wife Eudokia Baïana
die in 901.
Instead of marrying a fourth time, which would have been an even greater sin than a third marriage (according to the Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos
Leo took as mistress Zoe Karbonopsina
He married her only after she had given birth to a son
but incurred the opposition of the patriarch. Replacing Nicholas Mystikos with Euthymios,
Leo got his marriage recognized by the church (albeit with a long penance attached, and with an assurance that Leo would outlaw all future fourth marriages).
of Leo VI and Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 908–912
The future Constantine VII was the illegitimate son born before Leo's uncanonical fourth marriage to Zoe Karbonopsina.
To strengthen his son's position as heir, Leo had Constantine crowned as co-emperor on 15 May 908, when he was only two years old.
Leo VI died on 11 May 912.
He was succeeded by his younger brother Alexander
, who had reigned as emperor alongside his father and brother since 879.
Leo VI was a prolific writer, and he produced works on many different topics and in many styles, including political orations, liturgical poems, and theological treatises.
On many occasions he would personally deliver highly wrought and convoluted sermons in the churches of Constantinople.
In the subject matter of legal works and treatises, he established a legal commission that carried out his father's original intent of codifying all of existing Byzantine law. The end result was a six-volume work consisting of 60 books, entitled the Basilika
. Written in Greek, the Basilika
translated and systematically arranged practically all of the laws preserved in the Corpus Juris Civilis
, thereby providing a foundation upon which all later Byzantine laws could be built.
Leo then began integrating new laws issued during his reign into the Basilika
. Called "Novels", or "New Laws", these were codes that dealt with current problems and issues, such as the prohibition on fourth marriages. Both the Basilika
and the Novels were concerned with ecclesiastical law (canon law
) as well as secular law.
Most importantly, from a historical perspective, they finally did away with much of the remaining legal and constitutional architecture that the Byzantine Empire had inherited from the Roman Empire, and even from the days of the Roman Republic
Obsolete institutions such as the Curiae
, the Roman Senate
, even the Consulate
, were finally removed from a legal perspective, even though these still continued in a lesser, decorative form.
The supposed Book of the Eparch
and the Kletorologion of Philotheos
were also issued under Leo's name and testify to his government's interest in organization and the maintenance of public order.
The Book of the Eparch
described the rules and regulations for trade and trade organizations in Constantinople, while the Kletorologion
was an attempt to standardize officials and ranks at the Byzantine court.
Leo is also the author, or at least sponsor, of the Tactica
, a notable treatise on military operations.
Succeeding generations saw Leo as a prophet and a magician, and soon a collection of oracular poems and some short divinatory texts, the so-called Oracles of Leo the Wise
, at least in part based on earlier Greek sources, were attached to the Emperor's name in later centuries and were believed to foretell the future of the world.
Eudokia, who died in 892.
Basil, who survived for only a few days.
- ^ PBW, "KLeo VI".
- ^ Tougher, p. 42
- ^ Treadgold, p. 462
- ^ Norwich, p. 102
- ^ Finlay, p. 306
- ^ Adontz, Nicholas, L'Age et l'origine de l'empereur Basil I. Byzantion, 8, 1933, pp. 475–550
- ^ Charanis, Peter, The Armenians in the Byzantine Empire, 1963, p. 35
- ^ Ostrogorsky, George, History of the Byzantine State, 1969, p. 233, note 1
- ^ Treadgold, p. 455
- ^ Kazhdan, p. 1210
- ^ a b c Gregory, p. 225
- ^ Norwich, p. 99
- ^ Treadgold, p. 460
- ^ a b Treadgold, p. 461
- ^ Finlay, p. 307
- ^ a b Finlay, p. 308
- ^ a b c d e Kazhdan, p. 1211
- ^ a b c Treadgold, p. 468
- ^ Finlay, p. 310
- ^ Norwich, p. 104
- ^ Treadgold, p. 467
- ^ Michaelides, M.G., Saint Lazarus, The Friend Of Christ And First Bishop Of Kition, (1984) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
- ^ Shepard, The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire (2008), p. 493–496
- ^ Norwich, p. 105
- ^ Finlay, p. 314
- ^ Treadgold, p. 463
- ^ Norwich, p. 108
- ^ Treadgold, p. 464
- ^ a b c Treadgold, p. 466
- ^ a b c d e Gregory, p. 226
- ^ Treadgold, p. 466–470
- ^ Treadgold, p. 469
- ^ a b Norwich, p. 114
- ^ According to the Patriarch Euthymios' biographer, Leo once told Euthymios that "the whole Senate knows that it was against my will and in great sorrow that I married [Theophano]. Apud Gilbert Dagron, Emperor and Priest:the Imperial Office in Byzantium. Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-521-03697-9, pp. 203
- ^ Treadgold, p. 465
- ^ a b Norwich, p. 113
- ^ a b c d e f g h Gregory, p. 227
- ^ Finlay, p. 312
- ^ a b Norwich, p. 115
- ^ Kazhdan, p. 502
- ^ Gregory, p. 228
- ^ Norwich, p. 112
- ^ Reuter, Timothy, The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. III: c. 900-c. 1024, Cambridge University Press, (2000), p. 334.
- ^ Tougher, p. 148.
- Finlay, George History of the Byzantine Empire from 716 – 1057, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1853
- Gregory, Timothy, E., A History of Byzantium, Blackwell Publishing, 2005 ISBN 0-631-23512-4
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
- Norwich, John Julius (1993), Byzantium: The Apogee, London: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011448-3
- Tougher, Shaun (1997), The Reign of Leo VI (886-912): Politics and People, Leiden; New York; Köln: Brill, ISBN 9004108114
- Treadgold, Warren A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-8047-2630-2
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