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Leo VI°

LEO VI° (called "The Wise"), Byzantine emperor from 886 to 912. His law code, the Basilica, contains no innovations concerning the Jews. Leo appears favorably in Jewish sources. A tenth-century Hebrew apocalyptic text, the Vision of *Daniel, refers to him as granting "freedom and relief to the holy people," and the 11th-century chronicle, Megillat Aḥima'aẓ written by *Ahimaaz b. Paltiel, states that Leo annulled the decree of forced baptism issued by his father, *Basil I. However, Leo's 55th novella, or imperial rescript, declares that "in order to complete my father's work all Jews, baptized or not, must live according to the ceremonies and customs of Christianity" – thus even abrogating the fundamentals of Byzantine Jewish legislation. The probable explanation of this contradiction is that Leo continued Basil's attempt but quickly abandoned it when he saw its ineffectiveness – and it was this which was remembered.


J. Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939), 6–7, 134, 140–1; B. Klar (ed.), Megillat Aḥima'aẓ (1946), 23–24; M. Salzmann (tr.), Chronicle of Aḥimaaz (1924), 74; Sharf, in: Bar-Ilan, Sefer ha-Shanah…, 4–5 (1967), 201–3.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.