20 Historical Rulers Who Murdered Members Of Their Own Family

The coronation of John Tzimiskes, as depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes (c. 12th century). Wikimedia Commons.

17. Convincing his uncle to claim to the Byzantine imperial throne, John I Tzimiskes subsequently murdered his uncle to seize the crown for himself

John I Tzimiskes, loosely translated as John the Short, reigned as Emperor of Byzantium from 969 until his death in 976. Born in 925 to the sister of the future emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, John entered into military service at a young age under the command of his uncle. Rising quickly through the ranks as an effective and intelligent general, before the age of twenty-five John had earned the military governorship of the important territory of Armenia. Successfully defending his province from external attack, John desired greater political power. Upon the death of Emperor Romanos II in 963, John urged his uncle to claim the throne.

However, soon after Nikephoros ascended to the imperial condition, as a result of political machinations and court intrigues John was stripped of his command. Feeling betrayed, John conspired with Nikephoros’ wife, Theophano, and other disgruntled military officials to assassinate his uncle. Secretly returning from an imposed exile, John personally broke into the imperial apartments and murdered his uncle on December 11, 969. Subduing a subsequent rebellion against his coronation, John reigned over a period of expansion and strength for Byzantium. Dying himself of poison in 976, the ill-fated emperor left his vast personal wealth to the poor of his kingdom.