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Leo II (emperor)

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Leo II
Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire
Leo (474)-coin.jpg
A coin issued during the joint rule of Leo II and Zeno.
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 18 November 473–19 January 474 (Caesar under Leo I)
19 January 474–10 November 474 (Augustus)
Predecessor Leo I
Successor Zeno
Co-emperors Zeno (9 February 474–10 November 474)
Glycerius (Western Emperor, 473-474)
Julius Nepos (Western Emperor, 474)
Consul of the Roman Empire
Reign 1 January 474–10 November 474
Born 468 AD
Died 10 November 474 (aged 7)
Full name
Flavius Leo
Dynasty Leonid
Father Zeno
Mother Ariadne

Leo II (Latin: Flavius Leo Augustus; Greek: Λέων Β', Leōn II; 468 – 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 19 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 468, 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 19 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 familiar ties to the imperial throne being his marriage to Ariadne, the daughter of Emperor 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 filled with revolts, and it was only through cunning and bribery that he had managed to rule for 17 years, until his death on 9 April 491.[9][2][10]



  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.

Primary sources[edit]


  • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy A. (2004). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. New York: Facts On File. ISBN 9780816074822. 
  • Carr, John (2015). Fighting Emperors of Byzantium. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473856400. 
  • Dagron, Gilbert (2003). Emperor and Priest: the Imperial Office in Byzantium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521801232. 
  • Freely, John (2010). Children of Achilles: the Greeks in Asia Minor Since the Days of Troy. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 9781845119416. 
  • James, Liz (2013). Wonderful things: Byzantium Through Its Art: Papers From the 42nd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, London, 20-22 March 2009. Farnham: Ashgate Variorum. ISBN 9781409455141. 
  • Jeffreys, Elizabeth; Croke, Brian; Scott, Roger (2017). Studies in John Malalas. BRILL. ISBN 9789004344624. 
  • Jones, A.H.M. (2014). The Decline of the Ancient World. Routledge. ISBN 9781317873051. 
  • Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin; Martindale, J. R. (1980). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: Volume 2, AD 395-527. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521201599. 
  • Lee, A. D. (2013). From Rome to Byzantium AD 363 to 565: the Transformation of Ancient Rome. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748668359. 
  • McClanan, A. (2016). Representations of Early Byzantine Empresses: Image and Empire. Springer. ISBN 9781137044693. 
  • Meijer, Fik (2004). Emperors Don't Die in Bed. Routledge. ISBN 9781134384051. 
  • Shalev-Hurvitz, Vered (2015). Holy Sites Encircled: The Early Byzantine Concentric Churches of Jerusalem. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199653775. 
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)