It all started with the Emperor Michael III (Greek: Μιχαήλ), who succeeded his father the Emperor Theophilos (Gr: Θεόφιλος) at the age of two in 842 CE. As he matured, he quickly become a massive disappointment: he spent most of his time in a wine-soaked haze, suffered humiliating military defeats by the Saracens, Russians, and Cretans, and imprisoned his mother and sisters in a monastery in 857.
Enter Basil the Macedonian (Gr: Βασίλειος) who, confusingly, was of Armenian parentage. He impressed Michael with his wresting skills and became one of Michael's favorites and his bodyguard. Michael even married him to his own mistress, Eudokia Ingerina (Gr: Ευδοκία Ιγγερίνα) the half-Greek daughter of a Varangian (Viking) guard in the emperor's service. Basil also took Michael's sister Thekla as his lover, and the foursome lived in this odd arrangement for a time.
Michael raised Basil to the dignity of Caesar in 866, and a few months later Eudokia gave birth to a son, Leo. All we can say for certain is that Leo was Eudokia's son. Legally he was Basil's son but Basil seems to have thought Michael fathered him, and it seems likely Michael thought that too, as he threw a huge party to celebrate Leo's birth. In 867 Basil murdered Michael and declared himself emperor. He made his eldest son Konstantinos (by his first wife) his heir and almost had Leo blinded or killed as a child to remove him as a threat to Konstantinos. But Konstantinos died in 879, leaving Leo as Basil's heir. In 886, Basil was injured in a hunting accident, although he claimed on his deathbed that Leo had him assassinated.
To this day, no one really knows who Emperor Leo VI's real father was. Scholars tend to support the idea that Michael was his father, but short of a DNA test we'll never know. This puts him in the odd position of having been the only Byzantine emperor (or possibly the only emperor ever) to have had two putative fathers who were also both emperors.
Edited by Mipp, 09 January 2009 - 03:57 PM.