Leo VI, Byzantine Emperor
Leo VI, Byzantine Emperor
LEO VI, BYZANTINE EMPEROR
Reigned: Aug. 30, 886 (coemperor Jan. 6, 870), to his death on May 11, 912; b. Constantinople?, Sept. 19, 866; d. Constantinople; surnamed "the Wise" during his own lifetime. He was the second son of the emperor Basil I, and the eldest by Basil's marriage to Eudocia Ingerina. Although contemporary sources maintained that his real father was Basil's predecessor, Michael III, Leo never admitted his dubious parentage, and the translation of the body of Michael III to the capital was rather an act of political reconciliation than one of filial concern. He received a careful, mainly literary and theological education. Imprisoned for three years on charges of conspiracy against his father, he survived several conspiracies and revolts during his own reign. His private life was marred by the premature deaths of his first three wives, Theophano Martinakiou, Zoe Zaoutzaina, and Eudocia Baiane, and of two, perhaps even all three of his children by them. In September 905 a male heir, the future Constantine VII, was born by his mistress Zoe Karbounopsina, whereupon Leo uncanonically married for a fourth time. In the ensuing crisis in church-state relations, known as the "Tetragamy affair," he first had the support of Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos, who subsequently, changed his mind. He was exiled and replaced by the emperor's spiritual father, euthymius I. In March 907 a council of the representatives of Rome and the other patriarchates accorded Leo dispensation, although he had to observe penance. After his death, but with his prior consent, his brother the emperor Alexander restored Nicholas to the patriarchal throne. Reconciliation of the rival church parties became possible only in 920 and led to the promulgation of the Tomus Unionis, which was the official condemnation and prohibition of fourth marriages in the future (including the regulation of third marriages) and a declaration of the union of the Church.
In the belief that as God's chosen and omnipotent representative on Earth the emperor is responsible for the welfare and guidance of his subjects, Leo consistently pursued imperial control of internal affairs, including his officials, the aristocracy, the military, the guilds, and the church. To this end, one of his first acts after his accession was the deposition of Patriarch Photios and the appointment of his own brother Stephen. He was especially active in the improvement of the efficiency of the state, as several works published during his reign bear witness. They include Cletorologion of Philotheos, which is about government administration, and the Book of the Prefect, which discusses commerce. His legislative activity was remarkable. It included the completion of the Sixty Books (i.e., a great corpus of Roman law, a later version of which came to be known as the Basilica ), the promulgation of 117 Novels and the compilation of the Procheiron. His government had the support of worthy administrators, especially Stylianos Zaoutzes, who was prominent in the early years of the reign. Leo was a successful diplomat, and during a period of continuous warfare he was able to stabilize of the empire despite some important defeats by the Bulgars (896) and Arabs (the loss of Taormina in 902, the sack of Thessalonica in 904, and the annihilation of the fleet of Himerios in 911–12). His armies had some success in the field, although Leo did not lead them himself, but his military policies, especially his diplomacy, contributed to the establishment of a balance of power on the eastern and western fronts.
Under Leo the court was a flourishing cultural and intellectual center. He himself was an author, and his literary production includes his Novels, two military treatises, homilies and orations (including a funeral oration on his parents), hymnography, and a monastic treatise. Various works, most notably two collections of oracles, were later attributed to him and maintained his posthumous fame as a prophet. Several depictions of Leo survive, and he can probably be identified as the emperor prostrating himself before Christ in the famous narthex mosaic of St. Sophia, Constantinople.
Bibliography: p. noailles and a. dain, Les Novelles de Léon VI le Sage (Paris 1944). a. dain, Leonis VI Sapientis Problemata (Paris 1935). Tactica: Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 107, 672C–1120, and in part r. vÁri, Leonis Imperatoris Tactica I–II.1 (Budapest 1917–22). a. vogt and i. hausherr, Oraison funèbre de Basile I par son fils Léon VI le Sage (Rome 1932). Homilies: Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 107, 1–298, and Akakios, Levonto' tou' sofou' panhgurikoi; lovgoi (Athens 1868). Monastic treatise: a. papa-dopoulos-kerameus, ed., Varia Graeca Sacra (St. Petersburg 1909) 213–253. h. j. w. tillyard, "JEwqina; j Anastavsima. The Morning Hymns of the Emperor Leo," Annual of the British School at Athens 30 (1932) 86–108; 31 (1933) 115–147. f. cicollela, "Il carme anacreontico di Leone VI," Bollettino dei Classici ser. III, 10 (1989) 17–37. p. karlin-hayter, Vita Euthymii Patriarchae CP (Brussels 1971). c. mango, "The Legend of Leo the Wise," Zbornik Radova Vizantoloskog Instituta 6 (1960) 59–93; repr. in his Byzantium and Its Image (London 1984) no. XVI. g. ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, tr. j. hussey (2d ed. New Brunswick, N.J. 1969; several repr.) 233–261. j. grosdidier de matons, "Trois études sur Léon VI," Travaux et Mémoires 5 (1973) 181–242. a. schminck, Studien zu mittelbyzantinischen Rechtsbüchern (Frankfurt 1986). t. antonopoulou, The Homilies of the Emperor Leo VI (Leiden, New York 1997). s. tougher, The Reign of Leo VI (886–912) (Leiden, New York, Cologne 1997).