Emperor Leo I was a shifty bugger. One moment he was declaring eternal friendship, the next he was hiring others to assassinate you. He was consistent and also untrustworthy. Leo would have naturally argued that in a world where half of the Roman Empire was collapsing like a house of cards and with Huns, Goths and Vandals running amok, he did the best of a bad job.
Leo was born in Thrace in around 400AD. He seems to have a reasonable education but a very uninspired military career. By the time he had reached his 50s, Leo was happy to mull around near Constantinople in various non jobs. It looked he was just waiting out a pension and a retirement villa. However his ambitious wife Verina who got herself known in the big city as an ambitious and determined character pushed Leo into a more active career. Through her he met Marcian and Pulcheria (later both Roman Emperors) and also an Iranian 'fresh off the steppes' general called Aspar.
When Marcian and Pulcheria took over the Roman Empire in the East in 450, Leo got closer to power with a post of 'General of the Domestics', a grand title for what was a job of essentially commanding the eunuchs, and slaves at the Imperial court. When first Pulcheria and then Marcian died, the betting in Constantinople was on an aristocrat called Olybrius. However, he was seen as a Vandal puppet on account that these fierce German wreckers (based in Carthage) were still holding hostage Olybrius's wife Pulcheria who had a claim on both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires through her family connections. Aspar stepped in and essentially insisted Leo was their man and he was crowned emperor in 457.
East and WestEdit
Aspar was in effect the Master in the Eastern Roman Empire. His counterpart in the West was another non-Roman, the equally slippery Ricimer. Aspar had his 'puppet' Leo whilst Ricimer rewarded one of his friends Majorian as Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.
However, neither trusted the other and were happy to use other Germanic tribes and rebels against the other if it gave them a political advantage. This even included the Vandals who were still merrily acting as pirates in the Mediterranean: seizing what they could load on a ship and smashing the rest. Leo asked for a truce from the Vandal King Genseric and would recognise him as a legitimate ruler. In exchange (cash only) Genseric agreed to release the former Empress of the West Roman Empire Licinia Eudoxia and her younger daughter Placidia. The elder daughter Eudocia had to stay with the Vandals and marry Genseric's eldest son Huneric (named in 'honour' of Attila the Hun).
This success was offset with another crisis in the West as Ricimer decided his puppet Majorian was trying to cut the strings and had him beheaded. Leo disapproved of the successor (and Ricimer) and ceased co-operation with the Western Roman Empire. Leo was also facing what to do with the ambitious Aspar and in addition, another possible challenger was Anthemius who had married Emperor Marcian's daughter. Nor could Olybrius be ruled out either from intriguing now that he was back with his wife Placidia in Constantinople.
Leo needed new friends. He found one with the tongue twister name of Tarasis Kodisa Rousombladadiotes and offered him the hand of his eldest daughter Ariadne. Tarasis was an Isaurian, a people in Anatolia considered at best semi-civilised by the Romans which was basically anyone not them. In exchange Tarasis changed his name to Zeno, a Greek name associated with philosophers and paradoxes.
This sudden promotion of Zeno was greeted with disdain by the Romans. Also upset that her daughter was to marry an 'Anatolian hill billy' was Empress Verina. She wanted to boycott the marriage but was obliged to go along by Leo.
Dispatch of AnthemiusEdit
In 467 Leo turned again to the Western Roman Empire. He chose to appoint and support Anthemius. Ricimer (who was 'ruling' the last couple of years without the facade of shadow emperor) agreed to Leo's choice and let him land in Rome without opposition.
Leo as a man with a plan wanted to combine the military forces of both Roman Empires into a joint military invasion of the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. The Western Romans commander Marcellinus was assigned to lead Rome's contingent whilst Leo was prevailed to appoint Empress Verina's brother Basiliscus to lead the forces from Constantinople. Oh dear. Marcellinus got skewered in Sicily by an unknown assassin whilst Basiliscus completely ballsed up the attack. He anchored Leo's brand spanking fleet in a bay near the Vandal's capital of Carthage. The Vandals organised a sneak attack and sent in fire ships. Leo's armada was burnt to toast and Basiliscus fled back home.
The water averse Aspar took satisfaction at Leo and Basillicus's failure. He managed to chase Zeno out of town and brought up a marriage issue for his son Patricius with Leo's younger daughter Leontia. The emperor reluctantly agreed - he was tiring of having pushy barbarians as son-in-laws.
Aspar and his family were Arian Christians which meant they would have to switch to the standard 'Nicene' version which involved attending a special evening class of instruction. Leo told Aspar to bring his family to an underground chariot park under neath the college. There Aspar, his eldest son Ardabur and Patricius were jumped on by a team of assassin-eunuchs and killed. Leo later said this was done in self defence and besides, Aspar was a dirty rotten monster so nuts to him.
Another One Bites the DustEdit
Leo decided it was time to give his colleague Anthemius in Rome more lead in his pencil. He encouraged Anthemius privately to get rid of his German bully boys but at the same time appeared to endorse Olybrius as a rival emperor. Why this double play? Leo wanted Olybrius out of Constantinople and hoped that someone else (calling in a debt from Anthemius) would do the deed on his behalf. If that was the plan it was crap. Anthemius got fatally pink slipped by Ricimer and Olybrius was now emperor. Leo declined to accept this arrangement and refused to endorse Olybrius as his colleague. Impasse.
Plans and More PlansEdit
Leo was probably in his early 70s and was eager to take things easy. He saw the Western Roman Empire as a lost cause, perhaps hoping to pick up Italy and sod the rest at a later date. However Empress Verina supported Julius Nepos who was currently in control of Dalmatia as the next Western Roman Emperor. Leo agreed to support this latest expedition (anything for a quiet life) with Nepos's receiving Verina's niece Princess Pawn as his wife. Julius advanced plans to invade Italy pronto.
At home the struggle for power had resumed. Zeno returned but as was said at the time 'a name change maketh a Roman not', was frozen out from political power. In the end Leo made his grandson Leo II 'Leo Junior' as heir at the age of just seven. Then checking to see if anyone was watching, Leo promptly curled up his slippers in 474. He had had enough.
Leo II (in the East)