Flavius Zeno Augustus (425 – 9th April 491) was the East Roman Emperor from 474 to 475 then from 476 to his death. His imperium witnessed the deposition of the last Western Roman emperor in Rome in 476 and then in Dalmatia in 480: the division was formally abolished and Zeno was theoretically the sole Roman Emperor and the first to be since Theodosius. His age was one of stability in the East but his legacy is controversial as of his religious policies.


Zeno was born as Tarasis son of Kodisa in Isauria, a rustic Roman historical region in the southern parts of Asia, around the Taurus mountains. His family were Isaurians, a fierce people considered as half-Barbarians by the Romans. But as they were Orthodox Catholic Christians they were accepted into the Imperial Army, especially into the newly-founded imperial guards of the Excubitores. Tarasis did well in the army and became a confidante of Emperor Leo I. In Constantinople and in order to be more acceptable he adopted the Greek name Zeno, and then around 466 he married Ariadne, daughter of Leo I. While in the war against the Goths, Ariadne and Zeno’s son, Leo II, was born in Constantinople in 467. Later Zeno became a Roman consul and his son Leo II com-emperor and augustus of his grandfather Leo I. 

The Civil Diocese of the East around the year AD 400. Isauria is on the Mediterranean coast in the south of Asia Minor. Actually, the historical land of the Isaurians is a bit to the north of the Roman province of Isauria: their main settlement, the twin town of Palaia and Nea Isaura, was on the northern side of Taurus to the south of Iconium.


On the 18th of January 474 Leo I passed away. As Leo II was too young to govern, Ariadne and her mother Verina demanded the Senate to proclaim Zeno a co-emperor and augustus. Later when the child Leo II passed away in November 474, he became the sole emperor.

The Roman Empire in Europe around the year 475, just before the abolition of the division of the Western Roman Empire.
Source: Ian Mladjov maps https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/imladjov/maps
Zeno signed a peace treaty with Genseric, king of the Vandals (which gave some guarantees to Orthodox Catholic Christians living in that Arian realm). But in spite of this diplomatic success Zeno had to flee with Ariadne to his native Isauria as Basiliscus, brother of Verina, took power and usurped the Imperial dignity. Later Zeno hit back and the Senate decided to open, again, the gates of the Queen City to him. Zeno severely punished Basiliscus and his wife Aelia Zenonis and their son Marcus, by letting them die of thirst in some Cappadocian castle.


Zeno came from an Orthodox Catholic milieu, but wanted to unify the Orthodox and the Miaphysite points of view on the Two Natures of Christ. Thus in 482 he promulgated and addressed the Henotikon ἑνωτικόν, an edict of union between the two points of view, to the different parties in Egypt. In the Henotikon Zeno affirms the anathemas of Chalcedonia and the ones by Cyril of Alexandria, but deliberately avoids stating whether Christ had One or Two Natures.
The edict angered both parties: the Chalcedonians found it «monophysite», and the miaphysites found it heretic. Zeno tried to impose his religious policy with the aid of the Patriarch of Constantinople Acacius, but it was not a success: most Egyptian miaphysites refused the Patriarch of Alexandria he appointed, and Pope Felix condemned the edict (backed by most Orthodox bishops of the Empire). The result was that the Act of Union divided even more.


Zeno’s reign witnessed an exceptional event: the end of the Western Roman Empire, the Western administrative division of the Empire done upon the death of Theodosius. The Western division was ailing since long. In 476 Odocaer deposed Romulus Augustulus in Rome. And four years later, in 480, the last official emperor of the West, Julius Nepos, was murdered in April or May 480. 

Zeno recieves the Western Imperial Regalia by Zenoby Anton Batov. 
Under the demands of the people of Rome and the Pope (who was still in cordial terms with Zeno), the Senate of Rome, the sovereign body of the Eternal City, sent the Western regalia to the Eastern Emperor, abolishing the formal division of the Empire that had taken place upon the death of Theodosius. Thus and theoretically the Roman Empire became one again. After Zeno, Anastasius ascended to the throne as the Roman Emperor, of East and West (and in this capacity he sent the consul title to Clovis, rendering the nascent France a successor state of the Roman Empire in the West but also affirming himself as the sole continuity of legitimacy East and West).

Ariadne, a sculpture depicting the mythical Ariadne (alluding to Empress Ariadne augusta) and made in Constantinople in the first quarter of the Sixth Century. 
Ariadne played a major role in politics and was the «true line of succession» between Leo I her father, Leo II her son, and Zeno and Anastasius her husbands. 
Source: https://www.musee-moyenage.fr/collection/oeuvre/ariane-menade-satyre-amours.html, Musée de Cluny.
Zeno passed away on the 9th of April 491. His widow Ariadne married Anastasius when this last succeeded him as emperor (Thus she was the true line of continuity between Leo I and Anastasius). Zeno’s legacy could be controversial and his efficient administration was eclipsed by the very good one of Anastasius and the later-age glamour of the Justinian era.

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