Leo the Philosopher

Leo The Philosopher (Sapieas or Philosophets), a surname of FLAVIUS LEO VI, emperor of Constantinople, noted as the publisher of the Basilica, was born A. D. 865, and succeeded his father, Basil I, the Macedonial, on March 1, 886. His reign presents an uninterrupted series of wars and conspiracies. In 887 and 888 the Arabs invaded Asia Minor, landed in Italy and Sicily, plundered Samos and other islands in the Archipelago, and until 892 did away with imperial authority in the Italian dominions. By Stylianus, his father-in-law and prime minister, Leo was subljected to a bloody war with the Bulgarians; but, by involving them, through intrigues, in a war with the Hungarians, he succeeded in bringing the war with himself to a speedy termination. The following years were rendered remarkable by several conspiracies against his life. That of 895 proved nearly fatal; it was fortunately discovered in time, and quelled by one Samonas, who, in reward, was created patrician, and enjoyed the emperor's favor until 910, when, suspected of treachery, and accused of abuse of his position, he was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. At the opening of the 10th century, the Arabs and northern neighbors of the empire made another attack on the imperial possessions. The former once more invaded Sicily, and took Tauromenium, and in 904 appeared in the harbor of Thessalonica with a numerous fleet, soon made themselves masters of this splendid city, destroyed a great portion of it, plundered the inhabitants generally, and left laden with booty and captives. Leo died in 911. He was married four times, in consequence of which he was excluded from the communion with the faithful by the patriarch Nicolaus, as the Greek Church only tolerated a second marriage; it censured a thirde and condemned a fourth as an atrocious sill.

How Leo came by the exalted name of Philosopher it is difficult to understand, except it be taken in an ironical sense. Gibbon, with a few striking words, gives the following character to this emperor: "His mind was tinged with the most puerile superstition; the influence of the clergy and the errors of the people were consecrated by his laws; and the oracles of Leo, which reveal in prophetic style the fates of the empire, are founded in the arts of astrology and divination. If we still inquire the reason of his sage appellation, it can only be replied that the son of Basil was only less ignorant than the greater part of his contemporaries in Church and State; that his education had been directed by the learned Photius, and that several books of profane and ecclesiastical science were composed by the pen or in the name of the imperial philosopher." In speaking of Leo's literary merits, it is necessary to say a few words of his legislation. In his time the Latin language had long ceased to be the official language of the Eastern empire, and had gradually fallen into such disuse as only to be known to a few scholars, merchants, or navigators. The original laws, being written in Latin, opposed a serious obstacle to a fair and quick administration of justice; and the emperor Basil I, the father of Leo, formed and partly executed the plan of issuing an authorized version of the code and digest. This plan was carried out by Leo, who was ably assisted by Sabathins, the commander of the imperial life-guards. Tlhe new Greek version is known under the title of Βασιλικαὶ Διατάξεις, or, shortly, Βασιλικαί; in Latin, Basilica, which means "Imperial Constitutions" or "Laws." It is divided into sixty books, subdivideds into titles, and contains the whole of Justinian's legislation, viz. the Institutes, the Digest, the Codex, and the Novelli; also such constitutions as were issued by the successors of Justinian down to Leo VI. There are, however, many laws of the Digest omitted in the Basilica, while they contain, on the other hand, a considerable number of laws, or extracts from ancient jurists, not in the Digest. The Basilica likewise give many early constitutions not in Justinian's Codex. They were afterwards revised by the son of Leo, Constantine Porphyrogenitus. For the various editions published of the Basilica, see Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. 2:741.

The principal works written, or supposed to be written, by Leo VI of special interest to us are,

1. Oracula, written in Greek iambic verse, and accompanied by marginal drawings, on the fate of the future emperors and patriarchs of Constantinople, showing the superstition of Leo if he believed in his divination, and that of the people if they believed in the absurd predictions. The seventeenth oracle, on the restoration of Constantinople, was published in Greek and Latin by John Leunclavius (ad calcem Const.

Manassee, Basil. 1573, 8vo). Janus Rutgersius edited the other sixteen, with a Latin version by George Dousa (Leyden, 1618, 4tso). Other editions, Epositione delli Oracoli di Leoni imperatore, by T. Patricius (Brixen, 1596), by Petrus Lambecius, with a revised text from an Amsterdam codex, also notes and new translation (Par. 1655, fol., ad calcem Codini). A German and a Latin translation by John and Theodore de Bry appeared (Frankf. 1597, 4to). It is doubtful whether Leo is actually the author of the Oracles. Fabricius gives a learned disquisition on the subject:

2. Orationes, mostly on theological subjects: one of them appeared in a Latin version by F. Metius, in Baronius's Annales; nine others by Gretserus, in the 14th volume of his Opera (Ingolstadt, 1660, 4to); three others, together with seven of those published by Gretserus, by Combefis, in the 1st volume of his Biblioth. Pat. Graeco-Lat. Auctor. (Paris, 1648, folio); Oratio de Sto. Nicolo, Greek and Latin, by Petrus Possime (Toulouse, 1654, 4to); Oratio de Sto. Chrysostomo, restored from the life of that father by Georgius Alexandrinus in the 8th volume of the Savilian ed. of Chrysostom (Antwerp, 1614, folio); some others in Combetis, Biblioth. nionaonatoria, in the Biblioth. Pastrum Lugdun., and dispersed in other works; Leoni Imp. Ilomilia nune primeum vulgata Graece et Latine ejuscdemnque qua Photiana est Confutatio, a Scipione Majiei (Padua, 1751, 8vo): —

3. Epistola ad Onareum Smaraclenum de Fidei Christianse Veritate et Sanrcenoruin Errorib,(in Latin [Lyons, 1509] by Champerius, who translated a Chaldaean version of the Greek original, which seems to be lost: the same in the different Biblioth. Patrum, and separately by Prol: Schwarz in the Program. of the University of Lcipsic, in the year 1786): —

4. ῾Η γεγονυῖα διατύπωσις παρὰ τοῦ Βασιλέως Λεόντος τοῦ Σοφοῦ κ. τ. λ.. . ispositio fucta per Imnperatoremn Leontens Sapientem, etc. (Greek and Latin, by J. Leunclavius, in Jus Graeco-Romeranum; by Jac. Goar, ad calcem Codini, Par. 1648, folio): — 5. Εἰς τὰ Μονομεριου , In spectaculum Unius Dei, an epigram of little value, with notes by Brodneus and Opsopaeus, in Epigram. libri 7, edit. Wechel (Frankfort, 1600). See Zonoras, 2:174, etc.; Cedrenus, p. 591, etc.; Joel, p. 179, etc.; Manass. p. 108, etc.; Glycas. p. 296, etc.; Genesius, p. 61, etc.; Coclin. p. 63, etc.; Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, 7:693 sq.; Hamberger, Nachrichten von Gelehrten Mannern; Cave, list. Litt.; Hankius, Script.

Ryzant.; Oudin, Comment. de SS. Eccl. 2:394 sq. — Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. 2:739 sq.

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