Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Solidus Basiliscus-RIC 1003.jpg
Solidus of Emperor Basiliscus.
Reign 9 January 475 – August 476
Predecessor Zeno, deposed
Successor Zeno, restored
Died winter 476–477
Issue Marcus, Caesar and later joint Augustus
Full name
Flavius Basiliscus
House House of Leo

Basiliscus ( Latin: Flavius Basiliscus Augustus; Greek: Βασιλίσκος) (d. 476/477) was Byzantine Emperor from 475 to 476. A member of the House of Leo, he came to power when Emperor Zeno had been forced out of Constantinople by a revolt.

Basiliscus was the brother of Empress Aelia Verina, who was the wife of Emperor Leo I (457–474). His relationship with the Emperor allowed him to pursue a military career that, after minor initial successes, ended in 468, when he led the disastrous Roman invasion of Vandal Africa, in one of the largest military operations of Late Antiquity.

Basiliscus succeeded in seizing power in 475, exploiting the unpopularity of Emperor Zeno, the "barbarian" successor to Leo, and a plot organised by Verina that had caused Zeno to flee Constantinople. However, during his short rule, Basiliscus alienated the fundamental support of the Church and the people of Constantinople, promoting the Miaphysite christological position in opposition to the Chalcedonian faith. Also, his policy of securing his power through the appointment of loyal men to key roles antagonised many important figures in the imperial court, including his sister Verina. So, when Zeno tried to regain his empire, he found virtually no opposition, triumphantly entering Constantinople, and capturing and killing Basiliscus and his family.

The struggle between Basiliscus and Zeno impeded the Eastern Roman Empire's ability to intervene in the fall of the Western Roman Empire, which happened in early September 476. When the chieftain of the Heruli, Odoacer, deposed Western Emperor Romulus Augustus, sending the imperial regalia to Constantinople, Zeno had just regained his throne, and he could only appoint Odoacer dux of Italy, thereby ending the Western Roman Empire.

Origins and early career

Tremissis issued in the name of Aelia Verina, wife and later widow of Emperor Leo I. As sister of Basiliscus, Verina helped him in both his military and political career — even if unwillingly supporting his bid for the purple.

Likely of Balkan origin, [1] Basiliscus was the brother of Aelia Verina, wife of Leo I. It has been argued that Basiliscus was uncle to the chieftain of the Heruli, Odoacer. This link is based on the interpretation of a fragment by John of Antioch (209.1), which states that Odoacer and Armatus, Basiliscus' nephew, were brothers. [2] However, not all scholars accept this interpretation, since sources do not say anything about the foreign origin of Basiliscus. [3] It is known that Basiliscus had a wife, Zenonis, and at least one son, Marcus.

Basiliscus' military career started under Leo I. The Emperor conferred upon his brother-in-law the dignities of dux, or commander-in-chief, in Thrace. [4] In this country Basiliscus led a successful military campaign against the Bulgars in 463. He succeeded Rusticius as magister militum per Thracias (464), and had several successes against the Goths and Huns (466 or 467). [5]

Basiliscus's value rose in Leo's consideration. Verina's intercession in favour of her brother helped Basiliscus' military and political career, with the conferral of the consulship in 465 and possibly of the rank of patricius. [6] However, his rise was soon to meet a serious reversal. [1]

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