Leon the 6th 886-912

LEO THE WISE, or THE PHILOSOPHER (866 - 912, Constantinople),

Byzantine coemperor from 870 and emperor from 886 to 912, whose imperial laws, became the legal code of the Greek Empire.

Leo was the son of Basil I the Macedonian, who had begun the codification, and his second wife, Eudocia Ingerina. Made coemperor in 870, Leo succeeded to the throne on his father's death. He was a student of Patriarch Photius and became intellectual but he never became soldier, as was his father Vasileus.

His foreign policy was directed mainly against the Arabs and the Bulgars. The able commander Nicephorus Phocas the Elder was recalled from his successful campaigns against the Lombards in south Italy to assist in the Balkans. After this Byzantium met with reverses in the West:

Sicily was lost to the Arabs in 902, the Aegean was open to constant attack from Arab pirates (Saracenes) and Thessalonica was sacked by the traitor Leo of Tripoli, who led the enemy in 904. Thessalonica's defense was not well organized and the warlike Arab pirates after a short siege assaulted the sea-walls, entered the city and commited terrible massacres and pillages. 22000 prisoners were taken as slaves in northern Africa and Crete who was then occupied by Arabs. Steps were taken to strengthen the Greek navy, which successfully attacked the Arab fleet in the Aegean in 908. But the naval expedition of 911-912, led by general Romanos and admiral Imerios, was defeated by Leo of Tripoli.

Byzantium's enemy to the north was Simeon, the Bulgar ruler. Simeon was educated in Constantinople, learned to speak and write greek and was able to read Aristoteles and Demosthenis from prototype. But later he became an ardent enemy of the Greek Empire. Those years Bulgars and Slavs were christianized by Patriarch Photios through missions lead by Cyril and Methodios.
Hostilities arose out of a trade dispute in 894, and the Byzantines, aided by the Magyars of the Danube-Dnieper region, forced Simeon to agree to a truce. With the help of the nomadic Pechenegs, however, Simeon in 896 took revenge on the Byzantines, forcing them to pay an annual tribute to the Bulgars. Leo was incapable to face the enemies of the state, because his main interest was literature and poetry and not the proper organization of Byzantine army.
During Leo's reign the Russian prince Oleg sailed to Constantinople in 907. Russian historian Nestor wrote that 2000 vessels which looked more to canoes than to ships, attacked the Queen of the cities. Leo was proved again incapable to lead his army and Russians obtained a treaty regulating the position of Russian merchants in Byzantium. This treaty was formally ratified in 911.
Because of his anxiety for a male heir Leo married four times, thus incurring the censure of the church. According to ecclesiastical law a man should not get married more than three times. In addition to completing the canon of laws, he wrote several decrees (novels) on a wide range of ecclesiastical and secular problems. He also wrote a funeral panegyric on his father, liturgical poems, sermons and orations, secular poetry, and military treatises. Leo's image is in a mosaic over the central door of Hagia Sophia. He died May 11 912 and he was he was succeeded by his younger brother Alexander, who had reigned as Emperor alongside his father and brother since 879. During his short reign, Alexander (Alexandros) found himself attacked by the forces of the Abbasid Caliphate in the East, and provoked a war with Simeon I of Bulgaria by refusing to send the traditional tribute on his accession. Alexander died of exhaustion after a game of tzykanion on June 6, 913, allegedly fulfilling his brother's prophecy that he would reign for 13 months.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Paparighopoulos Konstantinos, Istoria tou Ellinikou Ethnous