Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Byzantine historian; b. at Kaloe, at the foot of Mount Tmolos, in Ionia, about the year 950; the year of his death is unknown. In his early youth he came to study at Constantinople and, as his name tells, was ordained deacon. In 986 he took part in the war against the Bulgars under the Emperor Basil II (976-1025), was present at the siege of Triaditza (Sofia), where the imperial army was defeated. and barely escaped with his life. After the year 992 he began to write a history of the empire, presumably at Constantinople. The work is incomplete. Apparently he died before he could finish it. The history, divided into ten books, covers the years from 959 to 975, that is, the reigns of Romanus II (959-963), Nicephorus Phocas (963-969) and John Zimisces (969-976). It describes the wars against the Arabs in which the fortresses of Cilicia and the Island of Cyprus were won back (964-965), the conquest of Antioch and Northern Syria from the Moslems (968-969). the Bulgarian War (969) and the defeat of the Southern Russians (971), one of the most brilliant periods of the later Empire. For the reigns of Nicephorus Phocas and John Zimisces, Leo the Deacon is the one source, the only contemporary historian, from whom all later writers have drawn their material. His authorities are his own observation and the account of eyewitnesses. He says: "The events as I saw them with my own eyes (for eyes are more trustworthy than ears, as Herodotus says) and as I gathered them from those who saw them, these things I write in my book" (Bonn edition. p. 5). Although Leo is so valuable an authority for his period critics do not judge his manner of writing favourably. He is affected and dull, fond of foreign (Latin) words, and has a mania for unusual and extravagant forms; for simple words like "brother", or even the verb "to be" he prefers absurd artificial synonyms. Krumbacher sums up his style as "trivial and pedantic". Leo quotes Procopius, Homer, and especially the Bible (in the Septuagint ). His loyalty to the emperor often prejudices his honesty. His history is continued by Michael Psellus. Leo's book was not very popular in the following centuries. Other writers who drew their information from him, were preferred, e.g. Nicephorus Bryennius. A result of this is that only one manuscript of his history is extant (cod. Paris, 1712).

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in whatever way Christ ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they said to me, 'Let us go ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people arrived and told him about ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2016 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his ... Read More