Nicephorus I as sole ruler, Byzantine Emperor 802-811

Unlisted,  Nearly Mint State

Mint of Syracuse. Bust of Nicephorus facing with short beard, wearing crown and chlamys and holding globus-cross. Rev. Large cross potent on three steps. Extremely rare and unlisted in the standard works.

Appointed finance minister by the Empress Irene, Nicephorus betrayed her, which led to her exile. He replaced her as emperor on October 31, 802, and heavily taxed his subjects to build up his military, earning the enmity of his people, but lost a war against Charlemagne over Venice in 806–810, then foolishly decided to make war against the Arabs, which he also lost; his life was spared only when he agreed to pay the victors 50,000 gold solidi immediately and a yearly tribute of another 30,000. Still not content, he invaded Bulgaria in 811, sacked the capital of Pliska and savagely killed many residents, including children. During his retreat from the city, his army was ambushed and destroyed in the mountain passes on July 26 by Krum. He was captured during the battle and sent back to Pliska, where Krum ordered his decapitation. Krum is said to have made a drinking-cup of Nicephorus’ skull.