|Empress of the Byzantine Empire|
Maurice reigned in the Byzantine Empire from 582 to 602. He led a series of Balkan campaigns and managed to successfully re-establish the Danube as a northern border for his state (Limes Moesiae). By Winter 602, his strategic goals included securing control of Pannonia and the area which would later be known as Wallachia. When he decreed that the Byzantine army was to spend the winter of 602/603 on the northern bank of the Danube, the exhausted troops instead mutinied against their emperor.
Phocas would emerge as the leader of the mutinous army during its march to Constantinople. Maurice also faced citywide rioting within the capital due to a famine. He fled the city prior to the arrival of Phocas and his troops.
The Chronicon Paschale gives the chronological account of the rise of Phocas and Leontia to the throne. On 23 November 602, Phocas was crowned emperor by his troops outside the capital. On 25 November, Phocas entered Constantinople and was accepted as emperor by the general populace. He proclaimed chariot races in honor of his elevation and had Leontia escorted to the city as his new Empress. They had already been married for some time.
According to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor, Leontia was officially crowned an Augusta on 27 November. According to the history of Theophylact Simocatta, the new imperial couple led a procession through the city as per custom. The festive occasion was marked with renewed conflicts between the Blues and Greens, the two major chariot racing clubs. The Blues questioned the legitimacy of the new Emperor by reminding him that Maurice was still alive. Phocas reacted by ordering the execution of Maurice and his sons, which took place before the end of the day.
- "The tyrant (Phocas) also had a wife whose name was Leontia; he placed a royal crown on her. Since it is customary for emperors to proclaim their consorts with processions as well, the tyrant openly honoured the custom and decided to lead the queen Leontia in triumph. On this day then, there was a conflict between the factions about their station, since they contested the arrangement of places: for the Greens wanted to take up station in the Ampelion, as it is called (this is a forecourt of the emperor's dwelling), and to serenade the queen with the customary applause, but the Blue faction objected, for they regarded this as contrary to custom and alien. Accordingly, since very great commotion arose, the tyrant sent in Alexander to quell the strife of the disputants".
The only known child of Leontia and Phocas was their daughter Domentzia. She was reportedly named after her paternal grandmother. She was married to Priscus, who served as Comes excubitorum (Commander of the Excubitors). Theophanes places the marriage in 607. The Chronicles of John of Antioch report this celebration to have initiated hostility between Phocas and his son-in-law. The chariot racing factions honored the occasion by placing images of Phocas, Leontia, Domentzia, and Priscus in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The images of the reigning imperial couple belonged there by tradition. The latter two images implied that Priscus was the heir or co-emperor of Phocas. Phocas was enraged at the implication and ordered the depictions of his daughter and son-in-law to be destroyed. The incident supposedly caused Priscus to turn against his father-in-law.
Priscus had supported Heraclius and continued to serve as commander of the Excubitors to 5 December 612. He was then replaced by Nicetas, a first cousin of Heraclius, and forced to take monastic vows. According to the Chronicon Paschale, he died in the Chora monastery in 613. Whether Leontia had further descendants through the marriage of her daughter to Priscus is unknown.
- Kevin H. Crow , "Phocas (602-610 A.D.)"
- Lynda Garland , "Leontia, Wife of the Emperor Phocas"
- Theophylact Simocatta 8.10.9-11 (tr. M. & M.Whitby, The History of Theophylact Simocatta, Oxford, 1986, 225-26
- Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 3
| Byzantine Empress consort