“I am emperor, I want my rusks NOW!”
“Can I have My Little Gladiator for Christmas?”
Roman Emperor Leo II had a busy old year in 474. He succeeded his grandfather Leo I in around January 474. A few weeks later he was obliged to share that position with his own dad Zeno and before the year was out, Baby Leo was found dead in his playpen.
Leo wasn't the first child emperor of Rome in that century. Theodosius II and Valentinian III had both got plonked on the throne at very similar ages. These particular rulers had been dominated by a sister or a mother. Leo's mother Ariadne and her own mother the Dowager Empress Verina may have intended to rule through little Leo and exclude his natural father Zeno on the grounds that he was a barely civilized citizen of the empire, coming from a tribe of bandits in Asia Minor who were called the Isaurians.
Leo was born in Constantinople 467. It was something of a fixed deal organised by the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo I who was looking for allies against his nominal military subordinate Aspar. He chose a soldier called Zeno to fulfil that position and in exchange for actual money, Leo pimped his daughter Ariadne to make sweaty love to Zeno (or to give his true passport name:Tarasis Kodisa Rousombladadiotes). Within a year a grandson was born and took his grandfather's name.
Zeno wasn't granted much time to play happy families by Aspar and was forced to leave Constantinople (it was that or take a dagger to the guts). Zeno took with him Ariadne but was obliged to leave the kid behind with his grand daddy. Leo Junior carried on bashing his rattle.
Zeno eventually returned when Aspar and his family were killed in 471. All seemed well until 473 when Leo I officially promoted his grandson to the status of Caesar, a sort of 'Deputy Emperor' position. Zeno wasn't included in the arrangement nor when Leo II was proclaimed solo emperor in 474.
The new emperor was initially under the control of his grandmother Verina but within a month, Ariadne and Zeno regained their power at court. Verina was sidelined and Zeno was then crowned co-emperor with Leo. The little emperor's solo reign was over. Everything seemed to have been resolved. With any luck Leo would grow into a strong and healthy pervert like his family...
...it was not to be. Leo II died suddenly in November 474. Verina put the gossip around that her son-in-law had got bored with sharing his throne with a kid and had 'done away with him'. Apart from a few coins minted that year, that's all we can know about Emperor Leo II. Let's shake those rattles once again.
Broken toys, a set of milk teeth and diapers that needed changing.
Zeno (in the East)