Leo II
Solidus of Leo II.png
Solidus of Leo II, marked: d·n· leo et zeno p·p· aug·
Roman emperor of the East
Augustus17 November 473 – November 474
Coronation17 November 473
PredecessorLeo I
See list
CaesarOctober 472 – November 473
Bornc. 467
DiedNovember 474 (aged 7)

Leo II (Greek: Λέων, Leōn; c. 467 – November 474) was briefly Roman emperor in 474. He was the son of Zeno, the Isaurian general and future emperor, and Ariadne, a daughter of the emperor Leo I (r. 457–474), who ruled the Eastern Roman empire. Leo II was made co-emperor with his grandfather Leo I on 17 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 29 January, and they co-ruled for a short time before Leo II died in November 474. The precise date of Leo's death is unknown.


Solidus of Leo II, showing Leo and Zeno enthroned and nimbate and each holding a mappa, marked: salus reipublicae ("the Health of the Republic")
Solidus of Leo II, showing Leo and Zeno enthroned and nimbate and each holding a mappa, marked: salus reipublicae ("the Health of the Republic")

Leo II was born in 467,[a] the son of Zeno, an Isaurian general, and Ariadne, the daughter of then emperor Leo I.[2] He was the maternal grandson of Emperor Leo I and Empress Verina.[3] Leo I, who was becoming increasingly ill, felt obligated to declare a successor to the imperial throne, but passed over his son-in-law on account of his unpopularity.[4] Accordingly, Leo II was made caesar around October 472,[5][b] and was later promoted to augustus in November 473, making him co-emperor alongside his grandfather.[2][3][9] He was crowned at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and the ceremony was presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch Acacius.[10] The 10th century De Ceremoniis gives a detailed account of his coronation as augustus, which is dated to 17 November 473.[11][12][c] He was also appointed as the sole consul for 474 around this time.[15] When Leo I died of dysentery on 18 January 474, Leo II ascended the throne as sole augustus.[2][3][9][16] On 29 January 474,[d] the Byzantine Senate made his father Zeno co-augustus under Leo II, as he was too young to sign official documents.[19] Leo II died some time after 10 October 474,[17][e] at the age of 7, leaving Zeno as the sole emperor.[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.[2][3][9] Victor of Tunnuna, 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 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.[21]

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.[22] 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 Basiliscus ruled for 20 months before Zeno returned and retook the throne.[3][23] 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.[3][22][23]

See also



  1. ^ The 6th-century writers John Malalas and John of Ephesus state that Leo II died aged 7. Some modern authors, relying on a passage of the Life of Daniel the Stylite (c. 495), date his birth to 469.[1]
  2. ^ The PLRE[6] and other authors[7] relied for the 473 date on the arguments of Otto Seeck, who followed Theodorus Lector and Kedrenos in linking Leo II's elevation to caesar with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. However, modern scholars date the event to 472.[8]
  3. ^ Some authors have argued that the date given refers not to Leo II's elevation, but to his death.[13] This, however, would require to label the entire document as fake, which is highly unlikely.[14]
  4. ^ John Malalas gives Leo I's death and Zeno's coronation as 3 and 9 February respectively, while the Auctarium Prosperi Havniense gives 18 and 29 January. The latter source is often thought to be more accurate,[17] hence why Leo's death is usually given as 18 January.[18] However, and contradictorily, scholars often used 9 February for Zeno's coronation.[17][6]
  5. ^ John Malalas states that he reigned "1 year and 23 days", which, reckoning from his coronation as augustus, would give a death date of 8/9 December. However, he also states that Leo died on "November of the 13th indiction... as was written by the most learned Nestorianos, whose chronicle ended with Leo".[20]


  1. ^ Croke 2021, pp. 146–148.
  2. ^ a b c d e Carr 2015, p. 55.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Lee 2013, p. 100.
  4. ^ "Leo II". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. ^ "Leo I". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ a b Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, pp. 664–665.
  7. ^ Cooley 2012, p. 508.
  8. ^ Croke 2021, pp. 149–151.
  9. ^ a b c Adkins & Adkins 2004, p. 38.
  10. ^ Dagron 2003, pp. 81–82.
  11. ^ Croke 2021, pp. 153–159.
  12. ^ Dagron 2003, p. 69.
  13. ^ Meijer 2004, p. 158.
  14. ^ Croke 2021, pp. 156–157.
  15. ^ James 2013, p. 110.
  16. ^ Meijer 2004, p. 159.
  17. ^ a b c Croke 2021, pp. 159–160.
  18. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris 1980, pp. 663–664.
  19. ^ Kosinski 2016, p. 148.
  20. ^ Croke 2021, pp. 160–162.
  21. ^ Shalev-Hurvitz 2015, p. 231.
  22. ^ a b Jones 2014, p. 91.
  23. ^ a b Freely 2010, p. 108.

Primary sources


Leo II (emperor) Leonid dynastyBorn: 467 Died: November 474 Regnal titles Preceded byLeo I Eastern Roman emperor 474 Succeeded byZeno Political offices Preceded byLeo I Roman consul 474 Succeeded byZeno