John I of Byzantium - Encyclopedia


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JOHN I. (925-976), surnamed Tzimisces, East Roman emperor, was born of a distinguished Cappadocian family. After helping his uncle Nicephorus Phocas to obtain the throne and to restore the empire's eastern provinces he was deprived of his command by an intrigue, upon which he retaliated by conspiring with Nicephorus' wife Theophania to assassinate him. Elected ruler in his stead, John proceeded to justify his usurpation by the energy with which he repelled the foreign invaders of the empire. In a series of campaigns against the newly established Russian power (970-973) he drove the enemy out of Thrace, crossed Mt Haemus and besieged the fortress of Dorystolon on the Danube. In several hard-fought battles he broke the strength of the Russians so completely that they left him master of eastern Bulgaria. He further secured his northern frontier by transplanting to Thrace some colonies of Paulicians whom he suspected of sympathising with their Saracen neighbours in the east. In 974 he turned against the Abassid empire and easily recovered the inland parts of Syria and the middle reaches of the Euphrates. He died suddenly in 976 on his return from his second campaign against the Saracens. John's surname was apparently derived from the Armenian tshemshkik (red boot).

See E. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. vi. (ed. Bury, 1896); G. Finlay, History of Greece, ii. 334-360 (ed. 18 77); G. Schlumberger, L'Epopee Byzantine, i. 1-326 (1896).

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