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Byzantine Empire /
Nicephorus 2 Phocas
Greek: Nikephoros Phokas

(912-969) Byzantine emperor 963-969, more than 6 years.
Nicephorus was a very effective military leader, but as emperor, he proved more to be an instrument of the interest of others, than a real leader. It appears that Nicephorus truly and honestly was concerned about the interests of the state and his subjects. But gradually, he realized that his advisors had different interests. Attempting to remove these, he only achieved to isolate himself, and these efforts eventually led to the point where his former friends and his wife had him killed. On his tomb it is engraved: "You conquered all but a woman."
His reign was unanimously unpopular. The population was angry from high taxes and even other sectors had their funds cut to a minimum. All this was done to fulfill military needs.
He removed several privileges of the clergy, and wo no friends with his prohibition against the founding of new monasteries. Yet, there is one exception to the latter, he aided the founding of the Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos, still the largest of the monasteries there (modern Greece).
But with his military achievements against the Muslims, both before and after becoming emperor, he contributed largely to the resurgence of Byzantine power in the 10th century. He extended the territory beyond the Euphrates River in Syria, and managed to have the Russians attack Bulgaria in order to divert Bulgarian troops from the Empire's borders..
Nicephorus only son died before him.

912: Born in Cappadocia, as the son of Bardas Phocas, an important Byzantine general in Anatolia.
959: Appointed Commander-in-Chief for the eastern armies by Constantine 7, replacing his father, Bardas.
— Nicephorus begins a reform of improved discipline and recruitment to the army.
961 March 7: Conquers Crete from the Abbasids, in an expedition using the entire imperial fleet.
962: Conquers more than 60 fortresses in Cilicia and Syria from the Abbasids, conquering even Aleppo.
963 March 15: Emperor Romanus dies from injuries or poison. Romanus had appointed his sons, Basil and Constantine, still children as emperors. The regency was left in the hands of his wife, Theophano, still only 20 years old, while the eunuch, Joseph Bringas, was in charge of the affairs of the state.
August 16: With the aid of Theophano and a popular revolt, Nicephorus is crowned new emperor, alongside Theophano's two sons.
September 20: Marries Theophano.
965: Patrician Nicetas conquers Cyprus from the Abbasids.
967: Makes peace with the Fatimids of Tunisia.
— Threatens Bulgaria with war, but facing the strength of the Kievans, peace is restored.
969 December 10: Killed in the fortified palace Boukoleion in Constantinople. His wife was involved in the plot. John 1 Tzimisces, Theophano's lover, is made new emperor.
— Nicophorus' family revolts, but the revolt is quickly suppressed.

By Tore Kjeilen