Nikephoros II

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Nikephoros II Phokas (Latinized: Nicephorus II Phocas) (Greek: Νικηφόρος Β΄ Φωκᾶς, Nikēphoros II Phōkas) (c. 912 – 10 December 969) was a Byzantine Emperor (963–969) whose brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of Byzantine Empire in the tenth century.


Early exploits

Nikephoros Phokas was born in about 912 and belonged to a Cappadocian family which had produced several distinguished generals, including Nikephoros' father (Bardas Phokas), brother (Leo Phokas), and grandfather (Nikephoros Phokas the Elder), who had all served as commanders of the field army (domestikos tōn scholōn). His mother, whose name is unknown, was a member of another powerful Anatolian clan, the Maleinoi.

Nikephoros joined the army at an early age. He was appointed the military governor of the Anatolikon Theme in 945 under Emperor Constantine VII. When his father, Bardas was wounded in battle in 953, Nikephoros was promoted to supreme commander on the eastern frontier. In the war with the Abbasid Caliphate under Al-Muti, Nikephoros began with a severe defeat in 954, from which he recovered in the following years by victories in Syria, starting in 957.

From the accession of Emperor Romanos II in 959, Nikephoros and his younger brother Leo were placed in charge of the eastern and western field armies, respectively. In 960, 27,000 oarsmen and marines were assembled to man a fleet of 308 ships carrying 50,000 troops.[1][2] At the recommendation of the influential minister Joseph Bringas, Nikephoros was entrusted in leading this expedition against the Saracen Emirate of Crete, and, storming Chandax after a 9-month siege, he wrested the whole island from the Muslims in 961. He was denied the usual honor of a triumph, only permitted a mere ovation in the Hippodrome. (Norwich, p. 961) he returned to the east with a large and well-equipped army. In the campaigns of 962–963 by brilliant strategy he conquered the cities of Cilicia and advanced into Syria where he captured Aleppo in collusion with his nephew John Tzimiskes, but made no permanent conquests. It was on these campaigns he earned the sobriquet "The Pale Death of the Saracens". During the capture of Aleppo, the Byzantine army took possession of 390,000 silver dinars, 2,000 camels, and 1,400 mules.

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