Theophilos Kourkouas

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Theophilos Kourkouas
Allegiance Byzantine Empire
Years of service ca. 923–960s
Rank monostrategos of Chaldia, Domestic of the Schools
Relations John Kourkouas, Romanos Kourkouas, John Tzimiskes

Theophilos Kourkouas (Greek: Θεόφιλος Κουρκούας, fl. ca. 920–970) was a distinguished Byzantine general in the 10th century. He was also the grandfather of the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969–976).


Theophilos was a scion of the Kourkouas family, a clan of Armenian origin that had established itself as one of the chief families among the Anatolian military aristocracy by the early 10th century.[1] His elder brother was John Kourkouas, who was appointed as Domestic of the Schools of the East (i.e. supreme commander of the eastern armies) in circa 923 by Emperor Romanos Lekapenos (r. 920–944) and served in this post for 22 years. In 923, Theophilos assisted his brother in the suppression of the revolt of the strategos of Chaldia, Bardas Boilas, and succeeded the defeated rebel as governor of this strategically important province.[2]

From 927 on, when John Kourkouas launched continuous campaigns against the neighbouring Muslim border emirates, Theophilos assisted him ably, especially in the direction of Armenia. Together with his brother, Theophilos besieged Theodosiopolis (modern Erzurum), the capital of the emirate of Qaliqala, from autumn 930 until its fall, after seven months, in spring 931.[3] Little is recorded of his activity afterwards, but he is praised in the Chronicle of Theophanes Continuatus for his excellence and valour, and compared for his exploits in Upper Mesopotamia with Justinian I's general Solomon.[4]

Theophilos's unnamed son married the sister of Nikephoros Phokas, and their son was John Tzimiskes, who overthrew and murdered his uncle in 969, ruling as senior emperor until his death in 976.[5]


  1. ^ Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1156–1157; Whittow 1996, pp. 337–338.
  2. ^ Runciman 1988, pp. 70–71.
  3. ^ Runciman 1988, pp. 139–140.
  4. ^ Niebuhr 1838, p. 428.
  5. ^ Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1045, 1157.