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Nikephoros Diogenes

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Nikephoros Diogenes
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire
PredecessorRomanos IV Diogenes
SuccessorMichael VII
Co-emperorsRomanos IV Diogenes (1068–1071)
Leo Diogenes (1069–1071)
Michael VII Doukas (1071–1078)
Konstantios Doukas (1060–1078)
Andronikos Doukas (1068–1070s)
DiedAfter 1094
FatherRomanus IV
MotherEudokia Makrembolitissa

Nikephoros Diogenes (Greek: Νικηφόρος Διογένης), Latinized as Nicephorus Diogenes, was a junior Byzantine emperor from 1070–1071. He was born in c. 1069 to Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes and Empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa. He was elevated to junior emperor in 1070, although he lost this position when his father was overthrown in 1071. Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, after overthrowing Nikephoros III, made Nikephoros doux of Crete, and made him a general. Nikephoros conspired against him in 1094, involving numerous confidants and relatives of Alexios, including Alexios' brother, Adrianos. For this conspiracy, he was blinded, in accordance with Byzantine traditions. After this, he retired to his estates, and spent the last years of his life studying classical literature.


Nikephoros was born c. 1069 to Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes.[1] Nikephoros was elevated to junior emperor in 1070, despite being the second son.[2] Although his half-brother Constantine Diogenes was the eldest son, he was borne of Romanos' unnamed first wife, who was the daughter of Alusian of Bulgaria, and therefore was excluded from the succession when Romanos married Eudokia Makrembolitissa.[3] Nikephoros was removed as co-emperor in 1071, after the deposition of Romanos IV Diogenes by Michael VII.[2] Michael VII ruled until 1078, when Nikephoros III Botaneiates overthrew him on 24 March.[4] Nikephoros III was himself overthrown by Alexios I Komnenos in 1081. Alexios is said to have treated the sons of Diogenes, including Nikephoros, "as if they were his own".[1] Nikephoros was made doux of Crete by Alexios I Komnenos sometime in the early 1090s, likely either 1089–1091 or 1092–1094. He was also probably granted significant estates in Crete at the same time as his appointment.[1][5][6]

In June 1094 Nikephoros began to conspire against Alexios, seeking to kill him and install himself as emperor. Because he was a porphyrogenitos, being born to Romanos while he was still reigning, he had more legitimacy than Alexios, who was only related by blood to the throne through his uncle Isaac I Komnenos.[7][8] Nikephoros was also described as having many positive characteristics, such as natural charm, magnetic personality, and good looks.[7] In her Alexiad, Anna Komnene, the daughter of Alexios, describes him:

He was physically strong and boasted that he rivalled Giants; a broad-chested, blond man, a head taller than others of his generation.

— Anna Komnene, Alexiad, IX.6[7]

Nikephoros' revolt involved a huge number of Alexios' confidants and relatives, including former Empress Maria of Alania, Alexios' brother-in-law Michael Taronites, and indeed Alexios' full brother Adrianos Komnenos. The full list of names of conspirators are not known, but they are known to include leading members of the senate, army officers, and powerful aristocrats. Very few names are given by Anna Komnene, although it is considered likely this was more because the full extent was an embarrassment, than her own lack of knowledge.[9]

Nikephoros twice attempted to assassinate Alexios in person, however, the first time he was not able to do so because of the presence of a maid fanning mosquitoes off of the emperor, and the second time he was halted by a guard. Alexios became suspicious of Nikephoros, and ordered his brother Adrianos to investigate. Adrianos, who was already a member of the conspiracy, reported that he found nothing suspicious. Alexios, still suspicious, then arrested Nikephoros, and after being tortured, Nikephoros confessed the full extent of the conspiracy.[9] Nikephoros was blinded in 1094 for conspiring against Alexios, which was a standard punishment for conspirators in Byzantine culture.[10] The punishments inflicted upon the others conspirators are not fully known, however Alexios' brother Adrianos disappears from history after the conspiracy was discovered, and Michael Taronites was only spared by the intervention of his wife, Maria Komnene, who was the sister of Alexios.[9][11][12][13]

After being blinded, Nikephoros retired to his estates, and spent the remaining years of his life studying classical literature, having secretaries read out the texts to him. After 1094, nothing more is heard of Nikephoros.[10] In 1095 an impostor of Nikephoros, Pseudo-Diogenes, convinced the Cuman chieftains Boniak and Tugorkan to invade the Byzantine Empire, dethrone Alexios, install himself as emperor. The Cumans occupied Paristrion before being repulsed by Byzantine forces, led by Alexios.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c Bartusis 2012, p. 147.
  2. ^ a b Jotischky 2014, p. 45.
  3. ^ Neville 2012, p. 77.
  4. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 361.
  5. ^ Bartusis 2012, p. 169.
  6. ^ Holmes 2005, p. 222.
  7. ^ a b c Frankopan 2012, p. 80.
  8. ^ Norwich 1995, p. 4.
  9. ^ a b c Frankopan 2012, p. 81.
  10. ^ a b Harris 2017, p. 66.
  11. ^ Frankopan 2012, p. 84.
  12. ^ Varzos 1984, p. 65.
  13. ^ Skoulatos 1980, p. 212.
  14. ^ Madgearu 2013, p. 142.
  15. ^ Madgearu 2016, p. 57.


  • Bartusis, Mark C. (2012). Land and Privilege in Byzantium: The Institution of Pronoia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107009622.
  • Frankopan, Peter (2012). The First Crusade The Call from the East. De Gruyter. ISBN 9780674064997.
  • Harris, Jonathan (2017). Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781474254663.
  • Holmes, Catherine (2005). Basil II and the Governance of Empire (976-1025) (2005 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-927968-3.
  • Jotischky, Andrew (2014). Crusading and the Crusader States. Routledge. ISBN 9781317876021.
  • Madgearu, Alexandru (2013). Byzantine Military Organization on the Danube, 10th-12th Centuries. BRILL. ISBN 9789004252493.
  • Madgearu, Alexandru (2016). The Asanids: The Political and Military History of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1280). Brill. ISBN 9789004333192.
  • Neville, Leonora, ed. (2012). Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium: The Material for History of Nikephoros Bryennios. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107009455.
  • Norwich, John Julius (1993), Byzantium: The Apogee, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011448-3
  • Norwich, John J. (1995), Byzantium: The Decline and Fall, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., ISBN 978-0-679-41650-0
  • Skoulatos, Basile (1980). Les personnages byzantins de l'Alexiade: Analyse prosopographique et synthèse [The Byzantine Personalities of the Alexiad: Prosopographical Analysis and Synthesis] (in French). Louvain-la-Neuve and Louvain: Bureau du Recueil Collège Érasme and Éditions Nauwelaerts. OCLC 8468871.
  • Varzos, Konstantinos (1984). Η Γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών [The Genealogy of the Komnenoi] (PDF) (in Greek). A. Thessaloniki: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Thessaloniki. OCLC 834784634.

Further reading

  • Beihammer, Alexander; Constantinou, Stavroula; Parani, Maria (2013). Court Ceremonies and Rituals of Power in Byzantium and the Medieval Mediterranean: Comparative Perspectives. Brill. ISBN 9789004258150.
  • Bull, Marcus; Kempf, Damien (2014). Writing the Early Crusades: Text, Transmission and Memory. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. ISBN 9781843839200.
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