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RIC Volume X - Divided Empire to Fall of Empire: Leo Caesar (474-491)
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Leo Caesar (formerly Basiliscus).  Caesar, 476-477 under Zeno.

Adopted caesar of Zeno
Son of Armatus (nephew of the usurper Basiliscus)

Cause of death:  Executed by Zeno in 477.


Zeno and Leo Caesar, AE4, 476-477, Constantinople (?)
D N ZE_.. E V C (retrograde Z)
Helmeted, draped, cuirassed bust of Zeno right
[D N?] G_EO-AV [G?] (AV ligatured)
Victory advancing left, head right, wreath in right hand, dragging captive with left
Chi-Rho in lower left field
12mm, 1.09g
RIC X, 947 (Zeno, Second Reign) (R2) and pl. 33; MIRB 25 and pl. 13 (citing two specimens); cf. DOC p. 173 (attributed to Leo II and Zeno and ascribed to the mint of Rome); cf. Bendell "An issue of Copper Coins in the names of Leo II and Zeno" (BSFN 33, p. 388-9).

Authenticated by David Sear on January 9, 2004 and accompanied by the following notes:

Grade:  VF, very rare and of great interest.

"In order to counter the preponderant Germanic influence amongst the military establishment of the eastern Empire, the emperor Leo I (AD 457-74) recruited a new imperial guard (excubitores) from amongst the rugged Isaurian mountaineers of southeast Asia Minor.  In connection with this enterprise, the Isaurian chieftain, Tarasis, son of Kodisas, was brought to Constantinople, where he succeeded in gaining the confidence of the emperor.  In AD 466, he married Leo's eldest daughter, Aeila Ariadne, whereupon he changed his somewhat uncouth Isaurian name to Zeno and was promoted to the office of Comes Domesticorum.  The following year, a child (Leo II) was born to the couple and it was clearly the emperor's intention that the throne should be inherited by his grandson.  Unfortunately, the boy was sickly and in any case was only six years of age at the time of death of Leo I in January, AD 474.  Leo II reigned alone for a brief period (January-February) but was then persuaded to raise his father to the rank of co-emperor.  The child's death, in November, left Zeno in sole possession of the eastern throne, but in January of the following year, Basiliscus, brother of the widowed empress Verina (wife of Leo I), succeeded in seizing power in Constantinople.  Zero and Ariadne escaped to Isauria where the ex-emperor immediately began planning his return.  The unpopularity of Basiliscus' regime gave him his chance and in late August, 476, Zeno managed to recover the imperial throne with the assitance of Basiliscus' general, Armatus.  Basiliscus and his family were exiled to Cappadocia, where they met a horrible death by starvation.  The price of Armatus' betrayal of Basiliscus was the elevation of his son (unfortunately also called Basiliscus, but now renamed Leo) to the junior imperial rank of caesar.  This was commemorated on coinage by the striking of gold solidii and tremisses bearing the curious obverse legend D N ZENO ET LEO NOV CAES and the issue of small bronzes of the type represented by (the above) extremely rare piece.  None of these depict the new caesar and it is unlikely in the extreme that Zeno ever seriously regarded him as a potential successor.  Following the murder of his father, Armatus, early in AD 477, the young Ceasar Leo was stripped of his title and ordained a priest.  Zeno ruled alone for another 14 turbulent years and on his death in 491, the elderly court official, Anastasius, was selected as his successor by the widowed empress Ariadne."