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    Leo I: Dogged Survivor

    Leo I the Great, Eastern Roman Emperor  (AD 457-474). AV solidus (21mm, 4.48 gm, 5h).  Constantinople, AD AD 462-466. D N LEO PE-RPET AVG, diademed, helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing, head slightly right, holding spear over right shoulder and shield on left shoulder with horseman motif  / VICTORI-A AVCCC, Victory standing left, holding jeweled long cross; star to right; Γ//CONOB. RIC 605. Depeyrot 93/1. Cleanly struck from fresh dies and fully lustrous. NGC (photo-certificate) MS 5/5 - 4/5.

    From The Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection. Ex Stack's (New York, 13 July 1994), lot 1646. 

    Born of humble origins in a barely civilized portion of Thrace, Flavius Valerius Leo entered the East Roman army at an early age and became a protegé of Aspar, the powerful half-German Master of Soldiers under Theodosius II and Marcian. When Marcian died in AD 457, Aspar nominated Leo as Emperor, probably to block the accession of the former ruler's son-in-law Anthemius. Once installed in power, Leo turned the tables on his old mentor by slowly breaking the power of the Germanic soldiery who had established a virtual stranglehold on Constantinople. He did this by replacing them with warriors of the equally fierce Isaurian tribe from his native Thrace. Although only marginally more civilized than the Germans, the Isaurians were at least nominally Romans. Their tribal chieftain, Tarasicodissa, became Leo's right-hand man and married his daughter Ariadne, adopting more proper-sounding name of Zeno. Though emperor of the East, Leo frequently involved himself in affairs of the West Roman Empire. In AD 467, he appointed his former rival Anthemius as Emperor of the West; when his regime collapsed five years later, Leo installed Julius Nepos as his replacement. Despite these interventions, the Western Empire continued its downward spiral unabated and would survive his reign by only two years. Unfortunately, the one major military exploit of Leo's reign, a huge and expensive expedition to recover North Africa from the Vandals in AD 469, ended in unmitigated disaster due to the incompetence of its commander, the general Basiliscus. Leo, however, managed to deflect blame onto Aspar and ordered his execution in AD 471. This and other judicial murders earned Leo a reputation for bloody-mindedness. Nevertheless, Leo was called "the Great" by later generations, probably due to his doggedness, his ability to bounce back from many setbacks, and for his survival in power for 17 years in so tumultuous an age. Leo's immediate successor was his grandson Leo II, though the child died within months and the throne passed to the boy's father and Leo's son-in-law, Zeno.

    This gold solidus of Leo follows the by-now almost generic pattern of East Roman coinage, depicting him with highly stylized features in a frontal pose wearing full military garb. The figure of Victory on the reverse still reflects the old Pagan traditions of Rome, although she holds a Christian cross. 

    All Roman gold coins from the Dimitriadis Collection have been issued a photo-certificate by NGC. These may be sent in for encapsulation after the auction at the request of the buyer, free of charge. Please e-mail SamS@HA.com if you would like to utilize this option.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    10th-16th Thursday-Wednesday
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