Leo II (emperor)


Leo II
Augustus of the Eastern Roman Empire
Icones imperatorvm romanorvm, ex priscis numismatibus ad viuum delineatae, and breui narratione historicâ (1645) (14560060739).jpg
An illustration of Leo II (right) with his grandfather Leo I (left), based on coins bearing their image.
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign18 November 473 – 18 January 474 (Caesar under Leo I)
18 January 474 – 10 November 474 (Augustus)
PredecessorLeo I
Co-emperorsZeno (9 February 474 – 10 November 474)
Glycerius (Western Emperor, 473-474)
Julius Nepos (Western Emperor, 474)
Consul of the Roman Empire
Reign1 January 474 – 10 November 474
Born467 AD
Died10 November 474 (aged 7)
Full name
Flavius Leo
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Leo Augustus

Leo II (Latin: Flavius Leo Augustus; Greek: Λέων Β', Leōn II; c. 467 – 10 November 474) was briefly the Byzantine (East Roman) emperor in 474 AD when he was a child aged 7. He was the son of Zeno, the Isaurian general and future emperor, and Ariadne, the daughter of Emperor Leo I. Leo II was made co-emperor with his grandfather Leo I on 18 November 473, and became sole emperor on 18 January 474 after Leo I died of dysentery. His father Zeno was made co-emperor by the Byzantine Senate on 9 February and they co-ruled for a short time before Leo II died on 10 November 474.


Leo II was born in 467, the son of Zeno, an Isaurian general under Leo I, and Ariadne, the daughter of then emperor Leo I.[1] He was the maternal grandson of Emperor Leo I and Empress Verina.[2] Leo II was made caesar on 18 November 473, making him co-emperor alongside his grandfather Leo I.[1][2][3][4] He was crowned at the Hippodrome, and the ceremony was presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch.[5] He was also appointed as the sole consul for 474 around this time.[4] When Leo I died of dysentery on 18 January 474, Leo II ascended the throne.[1][2][3][6] On 9 February 474, the Byzantine Senate made his father Zeno co-emperor under Leo II, as Leo II was too young to sign official documents.[4][7] Leo II died soon after, on 10 November 474, at the age of 7, leaving Zeno as the sole emperor.[1][2][3]

His death having occurred so soon after he became emperor has led to speculation among some modern scholars that he was poisoned by his mother Ariadne so that Zeno could ascend to the throne. However no contemporary sources raised this suggestion, even though Zeno was unpopular, thus it is considered likely that Leo II's death was natural, especially when the high child mortality rate of the time is considered.[1][2][3] Victor of Tonona, a 6th-century chronicler, says that Leo II did not actually die, but was rather taken by Ariadne and hidden at a monastery. This is very likely a confusion with Basiliscus, the son of the Byzantine commander Armatus. Basiliscus was crowned caesar in 476 and was almost executed in 477 after his father was murdered by Zeno, but was saved by Ariadne. The confusion likely stems from the fact that Basiliscus was renamed Leo in order to avoid association with the usurper who rose against Zeno.[8]

Zeno was vastly unpopular, due to a lack of dynastic prestige, with his only familial ties to the imperial throne being his marriage to Ariadne, the daughter of Leo I, and through his now-dead son Leo II. Additionally, because he was an Isaurian, he was seen as a foreigner by the Byzantine elite, and the treasury was empty on his ascension.[9] Zeno's sole rule was opposed by the House of Leo, with Verina, the widow of Leo I, proclaiming her brother Basiliscus as emperor in January 475. Zeno fled, and for 20 months Basiliscus ruled before Zeno returned and retook the throne.[2][10] Zeno's rule was marked by constant unrest, and it was only through cunning and bribery that he managed to rule for 17 years, until his death on 9 April 491.[2][9][10]


Primary sources


  1. ^ a b c d e Carr 2015, p. 55.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lee 2013, p. 100.
  3. ^ a b c d Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 38.
  4. ^ a b c James 2013, p. 110.
  5. ^ Dagron 2003, pp. 81–82.
  6. ^ Meijer 2004, p. 159.
  7. ^ Kosinski 2016, p. 148.
  8. ^ Shalev-Hurvitz 2015, p. 231.
  9. ^ a b Jones 2014, p. 91.
  10. ^ a b Freely 2010, p. 108.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Jones & Martindale 1980, p. 141.
  12. ^ a b c McClanan 2016, p. 67.
  13. ^ Jeffreys, Croke & Scott 2017, p. 33.
  14. ^ Jeffreys, Croke & Scott 2017, p. 2.
  15. ^ Jeffreys, Croke & Scott 2017, p. 142.


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  • Carr, John (2015). Fighting Emperors of Byzantium. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473856400.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Freely, John (2010). Children of Achilles: the Greeks in Asia Minor Since the Days of Troy. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 9781845119416.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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Leo II (emperor)
Born: 468 Died: 10 November 474
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Leo I
Eastern Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Leo I (alone)
Consul of the Roman Empire
Succeeded by
Zeno (east only)