Theophobos or Theophobus (Greek: Θεόφοβος), originally Nasir, Nasr, or Nusayr, was a Kurdish commander who converted to Christianity and entered Byzantine service under Emperor Theophilos (r. 829–843).
Theophobos was born to an Kurdish family who originally belonged to the Iranian aristocracy.
Originally, he was a member of the Khurramite sect in western Iran, which was being persecuted by the Abbasid Caliphate. In 833, they were defeated by Caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842). Thus, in 834, Nasr with some fourteen thousand other Khurramites, crossed Armenia and fled to the Byzantine Empire. There, they converted to Christianity, were given widows from military families as wives, and enrolled into the Byzantine army in the so-called "Persian tourma". Nasr, now baptized Theophobos ("fearful/respectful of God"), was placed at the head of these troops, named patrikios and given the hand of either Theophilos's sister or his sister-in-law in marriage.
Theophobos and the new Khurramite corps campaigned with Theophilos in his successful 837 campaign in the region of the upper Euphrates, where they brutally sacked the city of Sozopetra/Zapetra. In the same year, some 16,000 more Khurramites fled into the Byzantine Empire, following the definite suppression of their religion in Azerbaijan.
Theophobos also participated in the campaign of 838 against the invasion of Caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842). He was present at the catastrophic Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Anzen, where he reportedly saved the Byzantine emperor's life on several occasions. In the aftermath of the battle, the "Persian" troops assembled at Sinope and declared Theophobos emperor, most likely against his will. The exact reason behind this move or sequence of events are unclear. However, after the defeat at Anzen, the rumour had spread to Constantinople that Theophilos had been killed, and it appears that Theophobos, who was possibly an iconodule (as opposed to the staunchly iconoclast Theophilos) was put forth among the Byzantine Empire's elite as the new Byzantine emperor.
At any rate, Theophobos quickly engaged in secret negotiations with the Byzantine emperor, who in 839 led an army against the rebels. Theophobos agreed to surrender and was restored to his high offices, while his men, numbering some 30,000, were reportedly split up into regiments of 2000 men and divided among the themata. As Theophilos's health declined, however, and in order to secure his infant son and heir, Michael III (r. 842–867) from any usurpation attempt, in 840 or 842, Theophilos had his brother-in-law Petronas secretly execute Theophobos by decapitation.
- Ṭabarī & Bosworth 1991, p. 3 (Footnote #10).
- Sevcenko 1968, p. 111: "A converted Kurd, named Nasr and renamed Theophobos in Byzantium, was for a number of years Emperor Theophilus' (829-42) intimate friend and trusted commander."
- Hussey 1966, p. 710: "...with the Kurd Naşr (known to the Byzantines as Theophobus)..."
- Kazhdan 1991, p. 2067.
- Rekaya 1977, pp. 46–47.
- Treadgold 1997, p. 439.
- Rekaya 1977, p. 64.
- Rosser 1974, pp. 268–269.
- Treadgold 1997, pp. 440–441.
- Treadgold 1997, p. 441.
- Rekaya 1977, p. 63.
- Kazhdan 1991, p. 2068.
- Treadgold 1997, pp. 442–443.
- Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1645, 2067–2068; Treadgold 1997, p. 445.
- Hussey, Joan Mervyn (1966). The Cambridge Medieval History (Volume 4, Part 1): Byzantium and its Neighbours. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
- Rekaya, M. (1977). "Mise au point sur Théophobe et l'alliance de Babek avec Théophile (833/834-839/840)". Byzantion (in French) 44: 43–67.
- Rosser, J. (1974). "Theophilus' Khurramite Policy and its Finale: The Revolt of Theophobus' Persian Troops in 838". Βυζαντινά 6: 263–271.
- Sevcenko, I. (1968). "Review of New Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire". Slavic Review 27 (1): 109–118.
- Ṭabarī; Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1991). The History of al-Ṭabarī: Storm and Stress along the Northern Frontiers of the ʻAbbāsid Caliphate. XXXIII. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0493-5.
- Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.
- Grégoire, H. (1934). "Manuel et Théophobe ou la concurrence de deux monastères". Byzantion (in French) 9 (2): 183–222.
- Letsios, D. (2004). "Theophilos and his 'Khurramite' Policy: Some Reconsiderations". Graeco-Arabica 9–10: 249–271.