), emperor of Constantinople (A. D. 695-698), deposed and succeeded the emperor Justinian II. towards the end of A. D. 695.
He appears first in history as commander of the imperial troops against the Maronites, in which capacity he gave cause for suspicion, and accordingly after his return to Constantinople, he was put into prison. His popularity, however, was so great, that the emperor did not dare to give him a fair trial, but kept him in confinement during three years, when, at last, he released him on condition of his leaving the capital, and taking the supreme civil and military command in Greece. Leontius was on the point of sailing from the Golden Horn, when the people, exasperated by the tyranny of Justinian, rose in rebellion, in consequence of which Justinian was deposed, and Leontius raised to the imperial dignity.
The particulars of this revolution are given in the life of Justinian II.
In the first year of the reign of Leontius the empire enjoyed universal peace, as Theophanus says, except, however, at Ravenna, where a frivolous riot caused much destruction and bloodshed.
In the second year of his reign (697) an event occurred which is of the greatest importance in the history of Italy, as well as of all Europe and the East. Until that year Venice had belonged to the Byzantine empire, forming part of the government of Istria; but its advantageous position, and the independent and enterprising spirit of its inhabitants, had raised it to such importance and wealth, that its ruin was certain, if it remained any longer exposed to the consequences of the numerous court-revolutions at Constantinople. The Venetians, accordingly, resolved upon forming an independent government, and in 697 chose Paulus Lucas Anafestus, commonly called Paoluccio, their first sovereign duke or doge.
It seems, however, that this change took place with the connivance of the Byzantine government, for during many years afterwards friendly relations were kept up between Venice and Constantinople.
In the same year, 697, the Arabs set out for their fifth invasion of Africa; and, after having defeated the Greeks in many engagements, their commander, Hasan, took Carthage.
He lost it again, but retook it in the following year, 698.
In order to expel the Arabs from the capital of Africa, Leontius sent reinforcements to the Patrician Joannes, the commander-in-chief in Africa, who succeeded in forcing the entrance of the harbour, but was beaten back again, and compelled to a shameful flight. Carthage now was destroyed by the Arabs, and has since disappeared from among the cities of the world. Joannes sailed for Constantinople in order to obtain a re-inforcement, and try another chance. His land and sea forces were both equally mortified at the disgraceful result of the expedition ; and Absimarus, one of their leaders, persuaded them that they would suffer for a defeat of which the commander-in-chief was the only cause. His words took effect; a mutiny broke out when the fleet was off Crete; Joannes was put to death by the exasperated soldiers; and Absimarus was proclaimed emperor.
The surprise of Leontius was extreme when he saw his fleet return to the harbour of Constantinople, and, instead of saluting him, raise the standard of rebellion. Absimarus having bribed the guards on the water side, entered the city without resistance, and seized upon the person of Leontius, who was treated by the usurper as he had treated his predecessor Justinian Rhino tmetus, for the captive emperor had his nose and ears cut off, and was confined in a convent, where he finished his days.
The deposition of Leontius and the accession of Absimarus, who adopted the name of Tiberius, took place in 698. [TIBERIUS.] (Theoph. p. 309, &c.; Cedren. p. 443, &c; Niceph. p. 26; Const. Manasses, p. 80; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 94, 95; Glycas, p. 279; Paul. Diacon. 6.10-14.)