Zeno And Leo – Sons

Zeno & Leo Caesars

Sons of Basiliscus

Zeno and Leo are the names of the young princes who have not been recorded by any of the ancient historians. Their names are discovered in the record of the coinage of the period. Based upon an altered obverse die of the gold tremissis denomination, it has been possible to fix the period of issue of their coinage to the reign of Basiliscus and Marcus, or shortly thereafter. On this basis, it seems reasonable to propose that Zeno and Leo Caesars might have been younger brothers of Marcus who were given the rank of Caesar when Marcus was created Augustus. It is also possible that they may have been the sons of Zeno and Ariadne conceived during their exile and hailed as Caesars upon their return to power at Constantinople in 476 AD. This certainly could have given rise to the occasion where brand new dies of Basiliscus would have been altered for the return of Zeno. Ariadne did not die until 515 AD. Therefore, in 476 AD she still would have been young enough to bare children since she was first married only in 467 AD.

One possibility that they were young sons of Zeno is supported by their names ZENO and LEO. It is unlikely that Basiliscus, after having led a revolt against Zeno, would have named one of his children after his opponent. Given the very brief reign of Basiliscus (475-476 AD), the altered die may in fact be a product of the transition of government back to Zeno. It was undoubtedly a political decision for Zeno to attempt to restore his authority by also showing his heir. There is also no better way to do so but by naming your children after their heritage thus Zeno and Leo would have been appropriate.

The intended identity of the obverse portrait is impossible to determine. At this point in history, the portrait of the Emperor became purely a standard image as was the case under Alexander the Great. The inscriptions changed but the portraits did not. Therefore, the portrait on this coinage of Zeno and Leo Caesars is of no help in determining the identity of these two young princes.

Monetary System

Mints: Constantinople

Obverse Legends:



AU Solidus (4.50 grams)
AU Tremissis (1.45 grams)

The Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong