Genesius records Leon’s immediate ancestry, naming "Leo…imperator, Bardæ quidam patricii filius, sed genus ducens ex Armenia". Genesius records that Leon grew up at Pidra in the theme of Anatolikon. Theophanes Continuatus records that Leon served under "ducem Bardanium cognomento Turcum", who governed "quinque Orientalium thematum", but deserted to Emperor Nikeforos after Bardanes rebelled (in Jul 803) and was appointed commander of the foederati, defeating the Arabs in many encounters. According to Symeon Magister, Leo was "homo statura pusillus" and therefore called "Chamæleon". The Anastasii Historia Ecclesiastica ex Theophane records "Leonem patricium et prætorem Orientalium", at the end of his work, in the first year of the reign of Emperor Mikhael I. He contributed to Emperor Mikhael I's defeat by the Bulgars at Versinikia by withdrawing his troops instead of following the emperor. He was appointed patrikios and strategos of the theme of Anatolikon by Emperor Mikhael I, who proposed Leon as emperor before accepting the throne himself although, according to Theophanes, Leon remained in exile until after Mikhael became emperor.
He was pressed by his troops to depose Emperor Mikhael after the latter's defeat by the Bulgarians, at first refused but agreed when the Bulgars approached Constantinople and was proclaimed Emperor LEON V, entered Constantinople 11 Jul 813 and was crowned 12 Jul 813 at Hagia Sofia. He was faced with continuing threats from the powerful Bulgarian army, which sacked Adrianople and advanced as far as Constantinople. Emperor Leon finally negotiated a thirty year peace with the Bulgarian leader Omurtag. He profited from this new found peace to resurrect the iconoclast movement. He appointed Theodotos Melissenos as Patriarch of Constantinople 1 Apr 815, and a synod led by the latter reversed the declarations of Nikaia and reverted to the decisions of the iconoclast council of 754, ordering the destruction of the icons once more.
He was murdered in front of the altar of Santa Sofia by supporters of Mikhael of Amorium, who succeeded as Emperor Mikhael II. Theophanes Continuatus records that Emperor Leon died in Dec after reigning seven years and five months. His corpse was removed in cheap rags to the island of Prote. 1