This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.

Leo the Deacon

Historiae Libri X, ed. C. B. Hase (Bonn, 1828)

Born c. 950 at Kaloe, Tmolos, in Asia Minor, Leo was educated in Constantinople and became a palace deacon. He is the author of a highly classicizing history, employing much Homeric langugage and borrowing from earlier classicizing authors, for example Agathias (on siege warfare, in one of the excerpts here) and Procopius. Leo’s history covers the years 959-76, hence the reigns of Romanos II, and ­ in greater detail ­ Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes. He also provides eye-witness testimony of some episodes from early in the reign of Basil II, for example that emperor’s disastrous campaign against Samuel Kometopoulos of Bulgaria in 986. These historical passages are critical of Basil II, in contrast to an enkomion attributed to Leo, which is one of very few pieces of court oratory to have survived from the austere reign.

Leo the Deacon provides graphic and compelling descriptions of the military campaigns of Phokas and Tzimiskes, and of court intrigue including the murder of the former by the latter. The translated excerpts which follow were made using the Bonn edition of 1828. They were made at Dumbarton Oaks, where a full English translation has been prepared by A.-M. Talbot and D. Sullivan, The History of Leo the Deacon. Byzantine Military Expansion in the Tenth Century (Washington DC, 2005). These scholars had access to a new edition of the text, prepared by the late N. Panagiotakes, which is to be edited for publication in the CFHB series by A. Markopoulos.


(1) Nikephoros Phokas captures Crete and celebrates a triumph, 960-1
(2) The death of Romanos II, 963
(3) John Tzimiskes murders the emperor Nikephoros Phokas, December 969

See also:

Account of the siege of Tarsos, 965, trans. A.-M. Talbot and D. Sullivan, reproduced at De Re Militari

Copyright: Paul Stephenson, October 2003

Revised January 2012