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Ζήνων), or ZENO, emperor of the East, A.D.474-491,was descended from a noble Isaurian family. His name was originally Trascalisseus, which he exchanged for that of Zeno when he married Ariadne, the daughter of the emperor Leo I. in 468. He probably assumed this name because another Isaurian of the name of Zeno had obtained distinction under Theodosius II., and been elevated to the consulship in 448. Of the early life of Zeno we have no particulars; but we are told that Leo gave him his daughter in marriage in order to secure the support of the Isaurians against his ambitious minister Aspar, from which we may conclude that Zeno had great influence among his countrymen. On his marriage with Ariadne, he was raised by the emperor to the rank of patrician, was appointed commander of the imperial guards and of the armies in the East, and was elevated to the consulship along with Marcianus in 469. The elevation of Zeno brought great trouble upon the church in consequence of his patronage of Peter, surnamed the Fuller, who had been expelled from the monastery of the Acoemetae both for immorality and heresy. Through the influence of Zeno Peter obtained possession of the patriarchate of Antioch in this year, but the means by which he gained his object, and his subsequent deposition by Leo are related elsewhere [PETRUS]. Though Zeno was thus the means of giving some trouble to the emperor, he nevertheless was regarded by Leo as the main stay of his throne, and accordingly excited the jealousy of Aspar. While engaged in a campaign against the barbarians, who were ravaging Thrace, he narrowly escaped being assassinated by the friends of Aspar. On his return to court he persuaded Leo to get rid of his dangerous minister, and by his advice and contrivance Aspar was murdered in 471. Leo had no male children, and he wished to appoint his son-in-law his successor; but as soon as the emperor's intentions became known, there were great tumults at Constantinople, for the Greeks could not bear the idea of submitting to an Isaurian, and they hated Zeno personally both for the ugliness of his person and of his mind (Zonar. 14.2). Leo accordingly gave up his intention, and appointed as his successor his grandson Leo, the son of Zeno and Ariadne. This was in the year 473, and on the 3d of February in the following year (474) the emperor died, and was succeeded by his grandson. As the young emperor was only a child, the government devolved upon Zeno; and now that he had the real power, he soon acquired the title as well. Assisted by the dowager empress Verina, he was declared emperor with the approbation of the senate; and his own son put the crown upon his head. His son, however, had still the precedence, and in the laws promulgated in this year in the names of the two Augusti, the name of Leo always precedes that of Zeno. By the death of Leo, which occurred towards the end of the year (474), Zeno became sole emperor. Some writers accuse him of having made away with his son to secure the undivided sovereignty for himself; and they even allege that Ariadne was privy to the crime : but as the Greek historians, who never miss an opportunity of blackening the character of Zeno, do not say a word respecting the murder of his son, we may safely reject the tale as a calumny.

The reign of Zeno was marked by great disasters, by intestine commotions, and foreign wars. He is represented by the Greek historians as a voluptuary, a miser, and a tyrant. His contemptible character and his oppressive government occasioned frequent revolts among his subjects. The barbarians ravaged the fairest provinces of his empire; and the Goths, after encamping under the very walls of Constantinople, founded a new kingdom in Italy under the sway of Theodoric the Great. Zeno had not been many months upon the throne before he was driven out of Constantinople by a formidable rebellion excited by Verina and her brother Basiliscus, A. D. 475. Zeno took refuge in Isauria along with his wife Ariadne, and Basiliscus was proclaimed emperor. Basiliscus sent Illus and his brother Trocundus, who were also Isaurians, with a powerful army against the fugitive emperor, whom they defeated in July, A. D. 476. But Basiliscus was still more unpopular at Constantinople than Zeno. His adherents were discontented and divided; and Zeno accordingly found no difficulty in persuading Illus to desert his new master, and espouse his cause. Zeno and Illus now marched upon Constantinople, and they appear to have received support from Theodoric. who had succeeded his father Theodemir as king of the Ostrogoths. Near Nicaea they were met by the troops of Basiliscus under the command of his nephew Harmatius or Harmatus, but the latter was also gained over, and Zeno entered Constantinople without opposition in the month of July, A. D. 477, twenty months after his expulsion. Basiliscus was deposed and sent to Phrygia, where he perished in the winter of the same year [BASILISCUS]. The treachery of Harmatius had been purchased by great promises, which Zeno was now obliged to fulfill. He was made commander-in-chief of the army, and his son was raised to the rank of Caesar ; but these high dignities only caused his ruin. Illus, who was jealous of any rival in power, easily persuaded the weak and timid emperor that Harmatius was aiming at the sovereignty, and accordingly before the end of the year Harmatius was murdered, and his son, the Caesar, was made reader in the church of Blachernae, in the neighbourhood of Constantinople.

Zeno now devolved the cares of government upon Illus, while he gave himself up to the enjoyment of his pleasures. In A. D. 478 Illus was sole consul. In this year Theodoric, son of Triarius, a Gothic chief, who had been one of the supporters of the emperor Basiliscus, and who had retired into Thrace upon the fall of the latter, appeared before Constantinople at the head of a formidable army, and pillaged the surrounding country. Zeno called to his aid Theodoric, the son of Theodemir, who proceeded against his namesake; but the treachery of the emperor, who neglected to supply him with the troops and provisions he had promised him, led the son of Theodemir to conclude a peace with the son of Triarius. Zeno, who now feared to have the whole force of the Gothic nation turned against him, hastened to make peace with the son of Triarius, which he was only able to obtain by the most humiliating concessions.

In the following year, 479, a new and dangerous revolt broke out. At the head of it was Marcian, the grandson of the emperor of that name, and the son of Anthemius, the emperor of the West [MARCIANUS; ANTHEMIUS]. Marcian had married Leontia, the daughter of the late emperor Leo, and the sister of Ariadne, the wife of Zeno. He raised the standard of revolt in Constantinople itself, was joined by a powerful party, and defeated the forces of Zeno, whom he besieged in his palace. In the course of the night, however, Illus found means to corrupt his troops, and Marcian was obliged to take refuge in a church. He was dragged out, ordained forthwith as a presbyter, and banished to a monastery in Cappadocia. As soon as Theodoric, the son of Triarius, heard of this revolt, he marched upon Constantinople under the pretext of coming to the assistance of his ally, but in reality in hopes of obtaining possession of the city without a struggle. He was, however, induced by large sums of money to retire. Meantime war had been continued against Theodoric, the son of Theodemir, who, enraged at the treachery of the emperor in the preceding year, had been turned from an ally into a foe. The war was ably conducted by Sabinianus, Zeno's general, who gained some advantages over Theodoric.

In A. D. 481, war broke out again with Theodoric, the son of Triarius. He marched against Constantinople at the head of a more formidable army than he had ever collected previously, but was accidentally killed by his own javelin, while riding one day upon a new horse. Unexpectedly delivered from this formidable enemy, Zeno purchased peace with the other Theodoric in 483, by conferring upon him the most extraordinary honours. [Vol. III. p. 1044a.] In the following year, 484, Theodoric was consul. This year was signalised by the commencement of a new rebellion, which lasted longer than any of the preceding ones, and brought Zeno to the brink of ruin. It was headed by Illus, the powerful minister of Zeno, who had now become an object of suspicion to his master, and of hatred both to Verina and Ariadne. The history of this rebellion is related at length elsewhere [ILLUS]. It was not finally suppressed till A. D. 488, when Illus and Leontius, whom the former had proclaimed emperor, were both taken prisoners and put to death. During the revolt of Illus, misunderstandings occurred between Theodoric and Zeno. In 487 the Gothic king again took up arms and threatened Constantinople. To save himself and his capital, Zeno gave Theodoric permission to invade Italy, and expel the usurper Odoacer from the country. The terms were gladly accepted by Theodoric, and Zeno lived to see she foundation of a powerful Gothic kingdom in Italy [THEODORICUS the GREAT]. Zeno died in the month of April A. D. 491, after a reign of seventeen years. He left no children, and was succeeded by Anastasius, an officer of the imperial life-guard of the Silentiarii, who married Ariadne, the widow of Zeno. [ANASTASIUS.]



In A. D. 482, Zeno published the famous Henoticon (ἑνοτικόν), which was signed by all the bishops of the East under his reign, and that of Anastasius. It is preserved by Evagrius (3.13). The various modern writers who comment upon it are given by Fabricius.

Further Information

Bibl. Graec. vol. xi. p. 723; comp. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, c. xlvii., Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs, vol. vi., and Clinton, Fasti Romani, in which works all the authorities are collected.

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