Leo I the Thracian

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Leo I surnamed the Thracian (Latin: Flavius Valerius Leo; 401 – 18 January 474) was Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia,[1] he was known as Magnus Thrax[citation needed] - the "Great Thracian" - by his supporters, and Macellus[citation needed] ("the Butcher") by his enemies.

Ruling the Eastern Empire for nearly 20 years from 457 to 474, Leo proved to be a capable ruler, overseeing many ambitious political and military plans, aimed mostly for the aid of the faltering Western Roman Empire and recovering its former territories. He is notable for being the first Eastern emperor to legislate in Greek rather than Latin.[2]

Contents

Reign

Born as Leo Marcellus in the year 401 to a Thraco-Roman family (of the Daci[3][4] or Bessi[5] tribe), he served in the Roman army, rising to the rank of comes. He was the last of a series of emperors placed on the throne by Aspar, the Alan serving as commander-in-chief of the army, who thought Leo would be an easy puppet ruler.

Leo's coronation as emperor on 7 February 457 [6], was the first known to involve the Patriarch of Constantinople[7]. Leo I made an alliance with the Isaurians and was thus able to eliminate Aspar. The price of the alliance was the marriage of Leo's daughter to Tarasicodissa, leader of the Isaurians who, as Zeno, became emperor in 474. In 469, Aspar attempted to assassinate Zeno[8] and very nearly succeeded. Finally, in 471, Aspar's son Ardabur was implicated in a plot against Leo and both were killed by palace eunuchs acting on Leo's orders.

During Leo's reign, the Balkans were ravaged time and again by the Ostrogoths and the Huns. However, these attackers were unable to take Constantinople thanks to the walls, which had been rebuilt and reinforced in the reign of Theodosius II and against which they possessed no suitable siege engines.

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