Emperor Leo I

EMPEROR LEO I, variously surnamed THRAX, MAGNUS and MAKELLES, emperor of the East, 457-474, was born in Thrace about 400. From his position as military tribune he was raised to the throne by the soldiery and recognized both by senate and clergy; his coronation by the patriarch of Constantinople is said to have been the 'earliest instance of such a ceremony. Leo owed his elevation mainly to Aspar, the commander of the guards, who was debarred by his Arianism from becoming emperor in his own person, but hoped to exercise a virtual autocracy through his former steward and dependant. But Leo, following the traditions of his predecessor Marcian, set himself to curtail the domination of the great nobles and repeatedly acted in defiance of Aspar. Thus he vigorously suppressed the Eutychian heresy in Egypt, and by exchanging his Germanic bodyguard for Isaurians removed the chief basis of Aspar's power. With the help of his generals Anthemius and Anagastus, he repelled invasions of the Huns into Dacia (466 and 468) . In 467 Leo had Anthemius elected emperor of the West, and in concert with him equipped an armament of more than 1 100 ships and 100,000 men against the pirate empire of the Vandals in Africa. Through the remissness of Leo's brother-in-law Basiliscus, who commanded the expedition, the fleet was surprised by the Vandal king, Genseric, and half of its vessels sunk or burnt (468) . This failure was made a pretext by Leo for killing Aspar as a traitor (471), and Aspar's murder served the Goths in turn as an excuse for ravaging Thrace up to the walls of the capital. In 473 the emperor associated with himself his infant grandson, LEO II., who, however, survived him by only a few months. His surnames Magnus (Great) and Makelles (butcher) respectively reflect the attitude of the Orthodox and the Arians towards his religious policy.

See E. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (ed. Bury, 1896), iv. 29-37; J. B. Bury, The Later Roman Empire (1889), i. 227-233.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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