The Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–69), revered by the Orthodox Church as a saint, is reviled in John Skylitzes's eleventh-century chronicle. Skylitzes's criticism has been widely quoted to support many claims but never examined on its own merit and is too quickly accepted by modern scholars. When examined in the context of tenth-century warfare and Byzantine religion, Skylitzes's remark—the claim that Nikephoros attempted to pass a law declaring fallen soldiers automatic martyrs—reveals conflict between emperor and patriarch but ultimately cannot be considered either plausible or accurate, because it fails to take account of the emperor's ascetic faith as well as the high spiritual honor accorded to military casualties by the population.

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