A history of the First Bulgarian Empire

Steven Runciman





Excursion into the West



The sudden disappearance of their terrible ruler took the Bulgars by surprise. Krum left a son, called Omortag; but Omortag was young and inexperienced. [1] It seems that the Bulgar aristocracy took advantage of Krum’s death to revolt against his dynasty. We hear of three bоyars  that wore the crown about now: Dukum, who almost at once died, Ditzeng and Tsok, the latter two both cruel men who persecuted the Christian prisoners from Adrianople. But no more than that is known of them. Probably they were only the leaders of rebel factions and parties that for a short while controlled the government at Pliska. [2]


In any case, their rule was brief. Well before the end of 815, Omortag was firmly seated on his father’s throne. His first action was to make peace with the Empire. He had not had experience as a warrior himself; it would be wiser to rest upon his father’s laurels and to use their



1. The forms Ὠμορτάγ, Ὠμουρτάγ, Ὠμυρτάγ, and Ὠμουρτὰγ occur in his inscriptions. The Greeks call him Ματράγων, Μοραάγων, and Ομβριτάγος (twice in error Κρυτάγων and Κουτράγων); the Latins, Omortag and Omartag. See Zlatarski, op. cit., pp. 292—3. That Omortag was Krum’s son (not brother, as Dvornik (op. cit., p. 39) says) is definitely stated by Theophylact, Historia XV Martyrum, p. 192, and implied by Malamir’s Shumla inscription (see below, p. 295). Theophylact (loc. cit.) makes Omortag directly succeed Krum; and Theophanes Continuatus (p. 217) implies so.


2. Tsok is only mentioned in the Menologium of Basil II as having succeeded Krum and persecuting Christians (Menologium, pp. 276-7); Dukum, who died, and Ditzeng, who persecuted Archbishop Manuel, are only mentioned in a fourteenth-century Slavonic prologue to the Menologium, p.392 (see Bibliography). Tsok, however, is probably the Tsuk that appears in a very mutilated inscription found near Aboba dated 823/4 (Aboba-Pliska, pp. 226-7)—the sense is undecipherable; it may record Omortag’s triumph over the usurper. I am inclined to believe with Loparev (Dvie Zamietki, p. 318) that all three were merely military leaders, and not to identify Ditzeng with Tsok (as Bury does, op. cit., p. 359) or Dukum with Tsok (as Zlatarski, op. cit., pp. 424-5).







reputation in securing beneficial terms. He appears to have instituted preliminary negotiations that amounted to nothing [1]; the Emperor Leo was contemplating a campaign against the weakened Bulgars—a monk Sabbatius, prompted no doubt by the devil, had promised him a victory against them were he to reintroduce iconoclasm. [2] But this brilliant campaign never took place. Instead, some time in the winter of 815-16 the Khan and the Emperor concluded a Thirty Years’ Peace.


The Imperial historians barely noticed the treaty; but the Khan was pleased with his diplomacy, and caused the terms to be inscribed on a column in his palace at Pliska. The column is overturned and chipped now, but it still tells how the Sublime Khan Omortag, wishing for peace with the Greeks, sent an embassy to the Emperor (τὸν βασιλέα), and how the peace was to last thirty years. The frontier was to run from Develtus, between the two rivers, and between Balzene and Agathonice to Constantia and to Macrolivada and to the mountains—the name of the range is mostly erased. Secondly, the Emperor was to keep the Slav tribes that had belonged to him before the war; the others, even though they might have deserted, were to belong to the Khan and be sent back to their various districts. Roman (Imperial) officers were to be bought back at a special tariff according to their rank, common people were to be exchanged man for man, and there was a special arrangement for Imperial soldiers captured in deserted citadels. [3]



1. If Bury is right (op. cit., p. 360) in placing the much-mutilated Eski Juma inscription (Aboba-Pliska, p. 228) here, it vaguely suggests negotiations.


2. Genesius, p. 13: Theophanes Continuatus, p. 26, and in more detail in the Epistolae Synodicae Orientalium ad Theophilum, p. 368. This may refer to Leo’s 813 campaign, which was successful, but I think it belongs a little later.


3. The Suleiman-Keui inscription, which has been the subject of an article by Zlatarski (see Bibliography), gives the reasons for my view of the treaty and the Great Fence in Appendix VI. The Greek historians, Genesius, p. 41, and Theophanes Continuatus, p. 31, mention that a thirty-year peace was concluded—Genesius mentioning Omortag (Motragon) by name.





These latter terms were what might have been expected—the Bulgars winning on that deserter clause that had ruined Krum. But the frontier needs elucidation. The two rivers were probably the Tundzha and the Choban-Azmak; Baltzene is unknown; but Agathonice has been identified as the village of Saranti, while Constantia is the village of Kostuzha, both near Kavalki and the Sakar mountains. Macrolivada was the present village of Uzundzhova, near the junction of the western River Azmak with the Maritsa. [1] The semi-nameless mountain range was almost certainly the Haemus; that is to say, at Macrolivada the frontier turned sharply to the north, to the Haemus and to the Danube, leaving Philippopolis and Sardica outside the frontier. This was, as Omortag said, the old frontier, [2] the frontier which Tervel had won exactly a century ago; indeed, the whole treaty was in the main a recapitulation of the famous treaty of 716. But there was a difference. Omortag had advanced as far as he wished on the side of Thrace. His main interests were elsewhere; he only wanted to safeguard this frontier. Accordingly the Bulgars dug a great ditch and on its northern side built a great rampart all the way from the neighbourhood of Develtus to Macrolivada. All along this earthen wall, called by the Greeks the Great Fence, and now known as the Erkesiya, Bulgar soldiers kept a constant watch.


But so vast a work could not be carried on with hostile forces just across the frontier. It is almost certain that some clause in the treaty provided for the erection of such a ‘fence’ without interruption from the Imperial forces. It is noticeable that, of the great Imperial fortresses that guarded the frontier before the war, only Mesembria and Adrianople, both of them commercial as well as military



1. Identified by Zlatarski, Izviestiya, pp. 67-8: Shkorpil’s identification of Constantia (Aboba-Pliska, loc. cit.) with Kostenets, near Trajan’s Gate, is unlikely and unsupported by any evidence.


2. ’ περὶ τῆς παλαιῆς ἱνα ἐστίν . . . κτλ. ’





metropoles, were re-occupied and rebuilt by the Emperor. The other fortresses—Anchialus, Develtus, Philippopolis and Sardica—though they were not handed over to the Bulgars, [1] were left deserted, and were easily annexed by the Khan a few decades later. Already the Great Fence intercepted the main road from Adrianople to Philippopolis; and the isolation and desertion of the two western fortresses enabled Omortag to dispense with a ‘fence’ along this western boundary of his Balkan kingdom. Probably even now Bulgar statesmen were contemplating expansion on that side; a ‘fence’ built to-day, tomorrow would be useless. [2]


To mark the solemnity of the peace-treaty, both the Khan and the Emperor agreed to pledge their word according to the rites of the other’s faith. To the scandal of the pious Christians of Constantinople, the Emperor, the Viceroy of God, poured water on to the earth, and swore on a sword and on the entrails of horses and sacrificed dogs to the false idols of the Bulgars. It was almost worse when the heathen ambassadors fouled by their touch the Holy Gospels and called on the name of God. Men were not surprised when plagues and earthquakes followed on the heels of these monstrous impieties. [3]


Omortag, however, was genuinely for peace in the Balkans. Bulgaria’s existence had been guaranteed by the weapons of Krum; it was time now to enjoy the gifts of civilization that the nearness of Byzantium would give. Throughout his reign the Thirty Years’ Peace was faithfully kept by the Khan. Only once did the Bulgar armies



1. See Appendix VI.


2. For about half a mile, near Bakadzhik, there is a second ‘fence’ a little to the south, curving in front of the other, known as the Gypsy Erkesiya—the legend being that the ‘Tsar’s’ troops were called away and they ordered the gypsies to carry it on; but the gypsies carelessly diverted the direction, which the soldiers corrected when they returned (Aboba-Pliska, pp. 542-3).


3. Ignatius, Vita Nicephori, p. 206: Genesius, p. 28: Theophanes Continuatus, p. 31. See Zlatarski, Istoriya, pp. 434—4.





march southward from the Great Fence; and that was to help an Emperor.


In the year 823 the Emperor Michael II was beleaguered in Constantinople by the army and the fleet of the arch-rebel Thomas, so desperately that he even was arming the Saracen captives in the city. In his straits he would welcome anyone to help him. It was here that the Khan intervened. Some said that Michael sent to Pliska asking for aid, which was granted him. Others told a longer story; it was Omortag that began the negotiations, asking to be allowed to intervene. Michael refused; he could not, he said, employ heathens to shed Christian blood. But his refusal was put down by gossip to economy; the Bulgars wished to be paid—and, in any case, it would be a violation of the Thirty Years’ Peace. But Omortag thought the opportunity for interference and for plunder too good to be missed; he crossed the frontier all the same—and Michael assuredly was privy to it, forgiving the breach of the treaty in return for the help, and granting him freely what booty he could obtain. The Bulgar army crossed the Fence and marched past Adrianople and Arcadiopolis towards the capital. The rebel Thomas learnt of their coming; reluctantly he drew his troops away from the siege and went out to meet the new foe. The Bulgars waited for him at Ceductus, the aqueduct where the Empress Procopia had waved farewell to her hapless husband before the field of Versinicia. At the battle of Ceductus the rebels were badly beaten; the bulk of Thomas’s army was destroyed. The Bulgars made their way back to the north laden with spoils. And Michael was saved. [1]


Omortag utilized this rare Balkan peace to create other



1. Georgius Hamartolus, p. 796: he says that Michael asked for Bulgar help. Genesius, pp. 41-2, and Theophanes Continuatus, pp. 64-6, give the longer story, the Continuator adding the touch about Michael’s economical motive in refusing aid.





buildings beside the Great Fence. It was probably in the last years of his father’s and the first years of his reign that the palace of Pliska, whose ruins we can trace to-day, was built. The great quadrilateral camp some two miles by four, surrounded with its rough rampart and pierced with eleven gates, probably dates from the early years of the Bulgar occupation. But the town had twice been destroyed by the Emperor during the wars of Krum; the present inner citadel probably post-dated these wars. It consisted of a trapezium-shaped fortification, with circular bastions at the four angles, double rectangular bastions guarding the four gates, and eight other bastions. Inside was the dwelling-place of the Khans, a great hall, almost square but trisected with columns, and with an apse for the throne, raised above the ground on a high substructure. It was no doubt in this hall that Krum placed the columns and sculptures that he carried off from the Palace of Saint Mamas. Close to the palace stood the heathen temple of the Khans, later to atone for its past by becoming a Christian church. [1]


But one palace only was insufficient for the glory of the Sublime Khan. At Transmarisca, on the Danube, where the modern Turtukan still guards one of the easiest passages across the river, Omortag made a house of high renown, [2] a strong palatial fortress to watch the northern approach to his capital. He was still living at his old palace at Pliska at the time [3]; and, with morbid symmetry, half-way between his two earthly halls he built a third house where he should lie for eternity—a splendid sepulchre, whose erection he commemorated on an inscribed column, that later builders determined to utilize;



1. Aboba-Pliska, pp. 62 ff, 132 ff. This palace was almost certainly built—probably by Greek artisans—in the early ninth century.


2. ‘ Ἐπ(οίη)σεν ὑπέρφ(η)μον (οἶ)κο[ν] (εἰ)ς τὸν Δανοῦβιν. ’


3. ‘ (εἰ)ς τὸν παλ(αι)ὸν (οἶ)κον αὑτου μέν(ων). ’





and now the heathen monarch’s sentiments are to be read in one of the churches of Tirnovo. [1]


In the autumn of the year 821 the Khan built another fortress-palace, farther to the south of Pliska, guarding the approaches from the Great Fence. Again he recorded his creation on a column that was found at the village of Chatalar. [2] ‘The Sublime Khan Omortag,’ it says, ‘is divine ruler [3] in the land where he was born. Dwelling in the camp of Pliska [4], he made a palace [5] on the Tutsa and increased his power [6] against the Greeks and the Slavs. And he skilfully made a bridge over the Tutsa. [7] . . . And he set up in his fortress four columns, and between the columns two bronze lions. May God grant the divine ruler that he press down with his foot the Emperor so long as the Tutsa flows and the enemies of the Bulgars are controlled [8]; and may he subdue his foes and live in joy and happiness for a hundred years. The date of the foundation is in Bulgarian shegor alem, and in Greek the fifteenth indiction.’ The name by which Omortag knew this palace, which he founded in September 821,



1. For the Tirnovo inscription see Aboba-Pliska, p. 553: Uspenski, O Drevnistyakh Goroda Tyrnova, pp. 5 ff.: Jireček, op. cit., 148 ff.: Bury, op. cit., pp. 366-7: Zlatarski, Istoriya, pp. 325-30, 444—7. Uspenski, Jireček (rather incorrectly), and Zlatarski all give the full text. Uspenski places the tomb at the mound of Mumdzhilar, but Zlatarski, more convincingly, at the village of Ikinli-fount, on the present Roumanian frontier.


2. For the Chatalar inscription see Aboba-Pliska, pp. 546 ff.: Bury, op. cit., pp. 368-9: Zlatarski, op. cit., pp. 319-25, and esp. pp. 441-4.


3. ‘ ὲκ θεού ἄρχ(ω)ν ’.


4. ‘ τ(ῆ)ς πλ(ύ)σκας τὸν κά(μ)πον ’.


5. ‘ αὐλ(ὴ)ν ’.


6. Zlatarski’s reading, ‘ Μείζω ἐποίησε ’ makes much more convincing sense than Uspenski’s ‘ ἐπῆγε, ’ or Bury’s ‘ ἔδειξε. ’ Zlatarski professes to be able to read the ‘Μ.’


7. After Tutsa there follows ‘ Μετ . . . ’ Uspenski reads ‘ μετ[ηνεγκεί ’; Bury accepts it very doubtfully. Zlatarski reads ‘ μετ[όπισθεν τὴν αὐλὴν. ’ This seems to me to be too long, though better sense.


8. According to Zlatarski, who reads:

‘ κ(αὶ) [ἑ] (ω)ς [ἀντιστά

 τοὺς πολ[λ]οὺς Βουλγάρ(ου)ς ἐπέ[κη. ’


I am doubtful about it, but Uspenski reads even more dubiously:

‘ καὶ [δ]ωσ[η αἰχμαλώ

 τοὺς κτλ. ’





has not come down to us; probably it was some Bulgar equivalent of the phrase ‘of high renown.’ But soon it came to be called by its Slav name, and to feature in Balkan history as Preslav, Great Preslav, the glorious. [1] The words of the inscription show clearly that Preslav was intended to awe the Slavs of the southern frontier and the Greeks, the Emperor and his subjects, that lived beyond. Furthermore, they show that the Emperor, despite the Thirty Years’ Peace, was still the Khan’s traditional foe, the foe whom most he feared and most he longed to subdue.


At the moment, however, the Khan was at peace with the Empire—was even borrowing from it the trappings of his culture. The inscriptions in which he glorified his works were written in Greek, not the elegant Greek such as was used by the citizens of Constantinople, but a rough, ungrammatical language—written no doubt by captives who had, forcibly or from their own choice, remained on in the Khan’s dominions. Greek was still the only language in Eastern Europe that possessed an alphabet; for writing, Greeks or natives of the Greek-speaking Empire had to be employed. These scribes of the Khan, in the middle of the Bulgar formulae, add to the title the Sublime Khan, ‘ κάννας ὐβιγη, ’ the Imperial formula ὁ ἐκ θεοῦ ἄρχων, the divine ruler—though the Khan was far from approving of the Christian God. [2] The architects of the new palaces were also probably Greeks. Of the Danubian palace no traces have been unearthed, and the original buildings of Preslav are lost beneath the later ruins; but Pliska shows very markedly the influence of Byzantine



1. Preslav is a fair translation of the Greek ‘ ὑπέρφημος ’ or ‘ πάμφημος ’ that occur on the Bulgar inscriptions.


2. They, of course, only gave him the title of ‘ ἄρχων, ’ ‘ Βασιλεύς ’ was reserved for the Emperor, and ‘ ῥήξ ’ for Western rulers. The formula does not mean that the Khan paid any respect to the Christian God; it is purely a formula.





architecture, suggesting both the Triconchus and the Magnaura in the great Imperial Palace. [1]


But though he encouraged Greek artisans, Omortag firmly discouraged their religion. Christianity was creeping in to Bulgaria in a manner most alarming to him; he could not but regard it as a subtle means of propaganda on the part of the Emperor, the viceroy of the Christian God. It was only later that the Khans realized from their dealings with the West that one could be Christian without necessarily obeying the Basileus. There was another self-appointed viceroy, who dwelt in Italy; and in the north there were Christians who sometimes doubted the viceroyalty of either. Accordingly, Omortag persecuted Christians, as he would have persecuted Imperial spies. The Imperial captives must have propagated Christianity fairly widely, and among the Slavs (though not among the warlike Bulgars) there must have been many converts. Already under Krum and during the brief reigns of the rebel bоyars  the Christians had suffered much. Krum had deported the Christians of Adrianople, with many hardships, to beyond the Danube; though, on the whole, he was fairly tolerant. Ditzeng mutilated the arms of the Archbishop Manuel. Tsok was far more uncompromising; he was said to have ordered the Christian captives, lay as well as clerical, to renounce their faith, and when they refused to have slain them all. Omortag, though less violent, was equally minded. Under his rule the maimed Archbishop Manuel finally met his death [2]; and he was



1. The rather different, almost Iranian, spirit of the stele of the horseman found at Madara is probably due to an Armenian artist.


2. Ditzeng’s persecution is mentioned in the Slavonic Prologue (loc. cit.), Tsok’s in the Menologium (loc. cit.). The author of the Menologium says that Manuel had his arms cut off and was killed by Krum; whereupon the Bulgars, in disgust, strangled their inhuman ruler. This may refer to Ditzeng’s mutilation of his arms, and to the sudden fall of Ditzeng or another of the boyar Khans, the pious author having muddled and united the stories to give them a moral tone. That Manuel was actually killed by Omortag is stated in Theophanes Continuatus, p. 217.





also probably the Khan who, according to Theodore of Studium, ordered all Christians to eat meat in Lent. Fourteen refused; so Omortag killed one as an example and sold his wife and children into captivity. But the rest remained obdurate, so all were slain. [1] Even a captive called Cinamon, whom Krum had given to Omortag, and to whom Omortag was deeply attached, was thrown into prison for his persistency in remaining Christian, and remained there till Omortag’s death. [2]


Both these architectural and these anti-Christian activities were part of the same policy, the aggrandisement of the power and prestige of the Khan. In this Omortag carried on his father’s work, and, like Krum, probably furthered it by encouraging the Slavs against the Bulgar aristocracy. There is no more evidence for the internal state of Bulgaria under Omortag; but it seems that in the Balkans the two races were by now mixing. In the lower classes the Slavs were easily able to absorb the few Bulgars; it was only in the upper classes that there was still a distinction. The Bulgar nobility, the almost feudal military caste, was untainted, while the Slav nobility, brought forward by Krum, was a court nobility with no hereditary basis, made or marred by the whim of the Khan. Of the state of affairs beyond the Danube we know even less. Here there was not the same solid Slav background. On the plains of Wallachia and Bessarabia, and in the mountains of Transylvania, there was a conglomeration of mongrel tribes—Slavs, Avars, and Vlachs—clinging in places to the Latin speech and culture left behind by Trajan’s Dacian colonists, but wild and disorganized. Over these peoples the Khan ruled, it seems, by a system of military outposts that controlled the districts



1. Theodore Studites, Parva Catechesis, pp. 220 ff.


2. Theophylact, op. cit., pp. 193 ff.





around; and where possible, as in Bessarabia, a Great Fence guarded the frontier. [1]


It was to these northern frontiers that Omortag directed the attention of his diplomacy and his arms. A memorial tablet set up by the Khan tells of his servant the zhupan Okorses, of the family of Tzanagares, who met his death in the waters of the Dnieper when proceeding to the Bulgar camp. [2] Things had changed on the Steppes since two centuries ago the sons of Kubrat had spread Bulgarias from the Danube to the Volga and the Kama. The Khazar power was declining, and fierce new tribes were pouring in from the east. About the year 820 the Magyars advanced beyond the River Don, striking for ever a wedge between the two great Bulgar stems. It was against this danger that the army which Okorses never reached went out beyond the Dnieper. It achieved its objects. For a few more years the Magyars stayed outside of the frontier.


But the main scene of Omortag’s foreign policy lay further to the west, where the Bulgar frontier ran from the fortress of Belgrade up the River Theiss. Over this frontier lay the struggling kingdom of Croatia, and its oppressor the great power of the West, the Frankish Empire. The rule of the Sublime Khan lay heavily on the tribes that lived in this corner of his dominions, and they determined to search for relief.


In the year 818 the Emperor Louis the Pious was holding his Court at Heristal; and amongst the embassies that waited on his pleasure was one from the Slavs of the Timok (just south of Belgrade) and the Abodriti, a Slav race to the north of the Danube, just opposite. These tribes had



1. Aboba-Pliska, pp. 524-5. Rivers seem to have been able to take the place of fences. Actually in Omortag’s day the Theiss and the Dnieper appear to have been the frontiers. In the Responsa Nicolai, Chapter xxv., we learn how much the Bulgars valued their entrenchments.


2. Aboba-Pliska, p. 190: Zlatarski, Edin ot Provadiiskitie Omortagovi Nadpici, pp. 94-107.





revolted from the Khan and wanted help. Louis was not sure what policy he should adopt in the East; so the Timocians, in despair, threw in their lot with Liudevit, the Prince of Pannonian Croatia, who also was represented at Heristal and who seemed likely for a moment to found a realm free from Frank and Bulgar alike. [1] But Liudevit’s triumphs were ephemeral; by 823 he had died in exile, and his country was in the hands of the Franks. Omortag was alarmed by the growth of Frankish power. He had, it seems, reconquered the Timocians; but the Abodriti and the Predenecenti (the Branichevtzi, just across the Danube to the Abodriti) were airing their independence and intriguing with the Franks. [2] He decided that he must free his hands to deal with them by coming to an arrangement with the Western Emperor. In 824, for the first time in history, a Bulgarian embassy made its way to Germany, bringing a letter from the Khan to propose a delineation of the frontier. [3]


Louis, with his customary caution, sent the embassy back accompanied by his own legates, including the Bavarian Machelm, to find out more about this country of Bulgaria. Meanwhile, he received another embassy from the rebel Slav tribes. Late in the year the Bulgarian ambassadors returned—with Machelm, no doubt, who by now had informed himself as to the state of Bulgaria. But Louis was leaning towards the rebels now; he kept the Bulgars waiting nearly six months before he received them at Aachen, in May. The audience was unsatisfactory; the embassy was dismissed with a very ambiguous letter to the Khan. Omortag patiently tried once more. In 826 a third embassy reached the Emperor, and requested him either to agree to regulate the frontier at once, or,



1. Einhard, Annales, pp. 205-6. Liudevit was, it seems, secretly supported by the Eastern Emperors (Dvornik, op. cit., p. 49).


2. Ibid., p. 209, in 823.


3. Ibid., p. 212.





anyhow, to come to an undertaking that each Power would keep within its own borders—the Khan was determined that his rebel Slavs should not go flirting with the Franks. But yet again Louis was non-committal. He professed to have heard a rumour that the Khan had died, and sent to the Eastern frontier to find out more about it. But no news was forthcoming; so Louis dismissed the Bulgar ambassador without any answer. [1]


Omortag’s patience was exhausted. In 827 he invaded Frankish Croatia. His boats sailed from the Danube up the Drave, spreading destruction. The Slavs and other tribes on its banks were cowed into submission, and agreed to accept Bulgar governors. [2] His attack took the Franks by surprise. In 828 Baldric of Friuli, the governor of the frontier, was deposed for his incompetence in permitting the Bulgar invasion, [3] and that same year the young King Louis, the German, led an expedition against the Bulgars. [4] But he achieved nothing; in 829, as in the previous two years, the Bulgars devastated Pannonia once more. [5] The Khan had asserted his power in a very definite manner; the German court was better informed now. The war dragged till after Omortag’s death; peace was concluded in 832, to the satisfaction of the Bulgars. [6] Their frontier was guaranteed, and their position and prestige among the Slavs was assured.


We are only told definitely of the Bulgar campaigns on the Drave; but Bulgar armies had also been operating on land. Another memorial was erected by Omortag for his tarkan, Onegavon, of the family of Kubiares, who was on his way to the Bulgar camp when he was drowned in the waters of the Theiss. [7]



1. Einhard, Annales, p. 213: Astronomus, Vita Hludovici, pp. 628-9: Fuldenses Annales, p. 359.


2. Einhard, p. 216.


3. Ibid., Ioc. cit.


4. Fuldenses Annales, p. 359.


5. Ibid., p. 360.


6. Annalista Saxo, p. 574.


7. Aboba-Pliska, pp. 190-1.





Omortag did not long survive his tarkan. When he built his tomb he caused to be written the words: ‘Man dies, even though he lives nobly, and another is born; and let the latest born, seeing this, remember him who made it. The name of the Prince is Omortag, the Sublime Khan. God grant that he live a hundred years.’ [1] But God did not grant the Khan so lengthy a life. He died in 831, [2] after a reign of fifteen years—a short reign for a Bulgar ruler; but in its course he had shown the world, the West and the East alike, that Bulgaria was now to be numbered among the great Powers of Europe.



Three sons survived Omortag, called Enravotas, Svinitse, and Malamir. It was the youngest, Malamir, that succeeded to the throne; his mother must have been the Khan’s favourite wife. [3] A veil of mystery hangs over Malamir’s reign; all its happenings and their dates can only be completed by conjecture. It is even possible that the reign was two reigns, and that Malamir, after five years, gave place to a Khan Presiam. [4] But that is unlikely. It seems, on the other hand, that Malamir reigned for twenty-one years, years of the highest importance in the history of Bulgaria.


Malamir’s reign opened in peace. The Thirty Years’ Truce with the Empire had still some fifteen more years to run; while in Pannonia the Franks had been awed by Omortag’s invasions. Of Bulgarian history during these peaceful years we know nothing. Even inscriptions are very rare. All we learn from them is of the death from illness of a boyar called Tsepa, and that the Kavkan



1. The Tirnovo inscription, closing words. See p. 77.


2. I accept Zlatarski’s date for his death—Istoriya, p. 317, Izviestiya, p. 34. See Aboba-Pliska, p. 236.


3. Theophylact, op. cit., p. 192.


4. I discuss the Malamir-Presiam problem in Appendix VIII.





Isbules, who appears elsewhere as the Khan’s chief general, built for Malamir an aqueduct at his own expense, whereat the Khan gave a series of feasts to his aristocracy. Probably Malamir was engaged in adding to his father’s new fortress of Preslav, and the aqueduct was needed to supply the growing city. [1]


This opening peace lasted satisfactorily for five years; but in 835-6 a diplomatic crisis faced Bulgaria and the Empire. The Thirty Years’ Peace required, it appears, confirmation at every decade. In 825-6 this had been effected without difficulty; Omortag had been giving his attention then to the middle Danube, while the Emperor Michael II was fully engaged with religious problems at home. But by the end of the second decade certain problems forced themselves on the Khan’s and the Emperor’s notice. When Krum captured Adrianople in 813 he had transported ten thousand of its inhabitants to a spot beyond the Danube, which soon acquired the name of Macedonia—for Adrianople was the capital of the Macedonian theme. [2] There they still lived, now numbering twelve thousand, enjoying, it seems, a certain degree of self-government and electing their chief magistrate. But they were restive in their exile; its discomforts and periodical persecutions made them long for their old homes. The Khan, however, wished to keep them. No doubt the skilled artisans that must have been amongst them were of great value to him in manufacturing luxuries for his court. It was only with the greatest difficulty that Cordyles, the governor of these Macedonians, made his way to Constantinople, to persuade the Emperor Theophilus to send ships to the Danube to rescue them. They had already once tried to escape across Bulgaria; but



1. Aboba-Pliska, pp. 191, 230-1. Uspenski, Zlatarski, and Bury all agree in translating the obscure word ‘ ἀνάβρυτον ’ as aqueduct.


2. See above, p. 65.





without Imperial help they were doomed to failure. Theophilus, however, waited for the temporary break in the Truce before taking action, but in 836 he sent some ships to the Danube. The ‘Macedonians’ moved down the river to meet the ships and began to cross one of the northern tributaries of the river—probably the Pruth. [1] The local Bulgar governor determined to check them and crossed over to attack them, but was beaten with great loss; and the Macedonians triumphantly effected their crossing. The Bulgars then called in to their aid the Magyars, whose power now extended to the Bulgar frontier. [2] The Magyars came gladly; numbers of them presented themselves before the Macedonians’ camp demanding the surrender of all their belongings. The demand was refused, and in the battle that followed the Macedonians again, by the help of St. Adrian, were victorious. And so they passed on safely to the ships and Constantinople, after more than twenty years in exile. [3]


The Bulgars had played an unimpressive part in this episode. They were too busy elsewhere. Malamir, like Theophilus, intended to get some work done before he renewed the treaty; and his work was of a more drastic



1. Bury, by assuming that this river must be the Danube (op. cit., p. 371), created unnecessary complications that ruin the geography of the story. The fact that no name is given to the river does not necessarily mean that the river must be the same as the last river mentioned.


2. See above, p. 81.


3. Leo Grammaticus, p. 232: Logothete (Slavonic version), pp. 101-2: Theophanes Continuatus, p. 216. Bury, loc. cit.: Zlatarski, Istoriya i., I, pp. 339-40. There is some difficulty about the date. The Slavonic version calls the Khan Vladimir, which must be a mistake for Malamir, muddling him with Boris’s son Vladimir. Bury and Zlatarski both date the episode 836, Bury to fit his chronology of Basil I’s life, and Zlatarski to fit it in before Malamir is succeeded by Presiam. Both reasons seem to me to be invalid; Mr. Brooke (Β. Ζ. xx·) nas shown Basil to have been born far later, and I do not think that Presiam’s reign happened. But, as Bury says (op. cit., p. ix), the tradition given in Basil’s life that this exile lasted some twenty-three years is probably reliable, though Basil, like other heroes, has acquired adventures that do not belong to him. Probably it was his father or an elder brother that lived through the captivity.





nature. The treaty of 815-16 had left the great Imperial fortresses of Philippopolis and Sardica isolated and deserted. Malamir now proceeded to annex the latter and the surrounding territory, and to advance even farther, along the road to Thessalonica. The Slavs of Macedonia and the Greek peninsula were too unruly during these years for the Emperor to control, and he had likewise to submit without effective protest to this Bulgar intervention. This advance to Thessalonica was probably not directed against the rich city, but a move to cover work further to the west. The Bulgars were beginning now to settle and set up their rule in the hills of Upper Macedonia, the land that was to be their second cradle—the land for which they sigh so sadly to-day. [1]


Despite these questionable transactions, the truce was renewed and lasted another decade, till its due termination. During these years Malamir kept his attention on his western frontier. On the north-west, in Pannonia, he seems to have lived in peace with the Croats and with his most formidable neighbours, the Franks. But in 845, when the Thirty Years’ Truce was drawing to a close, he thought it worth while to send ambassadors to Louis the German’s court at Paderborn, to make a permanent peace and alliance that would leave his hands free to deal, when the time came, with the Greeks. [2] Further south he was less peaceful. With the annexation of Sardica, his power had spread into the valley of the Morava.


On the hills beyond the Morava a chieftain called



1. The Thessalonica expedition is mentioned in the story of Cordyles and his ‘Macedonians’ (see reference above). The annexation of Sardica is probable, because, while by the peace of 816, Sardica, with Philippopolis, appears to have been left dismantled but not annexed, by the time of the Serbian war, Sardica must have been in Bulgar hands. This is the only date when these annexations can have occurred. It is also probable that some such annexation was the main cause of the Bulgaro-Serbian war. (See below.)


2. Annales Fuldenses, p. 364.





Vlastimer was uniting the tribes around and building the Serbian nation. In his task he was certainly helped by the Bulgarian menace. The Serbs were alarmed by this great empire spreading to their borders and moving to cut off their expansion to the south; they gladly put themselves under Vlastimer’s care. Moreover, Vlastimer was encouraged and urged on by his nominal suzerain the Emperor, who was far enough away not to be a menace himself, but who was delighted at the growth of a new thorn in the side of Bulgaria. The loss of the last Imperial outposts beyond Rhodope was amply compensated, if thereby Bulgaria was made a close neighbour of a jealous rival.


Whether Vlastimer or Malamir actually provoked the inevitable war is uncertain: but in 839 the Bulgars invaded Serbia, under Presiam, probably a scion of the royal house. But the Serbs knew how to fight among their hills. After three years Presiam had achieved nothing, but had lost large numbers of his men. In 842 the Bulgars returned to their country defeated. [1]


But Malamir did not let this set-back interfere with his Macedonian policy. Soon after the year 846, when the Thirty Years’ Truce was ended, he sent his general, the Kavkan Isbules, to invade the regions of the Struma and the Nestos, again probably to cover the Bulgar penetration farther to the west. The Imperial troops in those themes were probably engaged in fighting rebel Slavs in the Peloponnese, and could not oppose him. But to create diversion the Empress-Regent Theodora strengthened her garrisons in Thrace and began systematically to devastate Thracian Bulgaria. This drew Isbules back, but not before the Bulgars had annexed Philippopolis and advanced to Philippi. A truce seems to have followed this campaign. Of its terms we know nothing; probably



1. De Administrando Imperio, p. 154. See Appendix VIII. I follow Zlatarski’s dates (op. cit., p. 346), but certainty is impossible.





the Bulgars were authorized to proceed with their penetration of the Macedonian hinterland—a work which the Empire was powerless to prevent. [1]


Malamir lived some five years longer; but his latter days were clouded. Probably his health was poor—he never led his armies in person—and he was troubled with domestic problems; Christianity was spreading even into his own family. The trouble was due to a Greek called Cinamon. As a young man Cinamon had been captured at Adrianople by Krum and had been assigned as a slave to Omortag. He was a very able slave, but obstinately remained a Christian; which so annoyed Omortag that eventually he put him in prison. After Omortag’s death Enravotas, desirous of possessing the perverse paragon, asked his brother Malamir to release him and give him to him. Unfortunately Cinamon acquired a great influence over his new master, and gradually Enravotas became a convert to the Christian faith. This was very awkward; Enravotas, besides being a prince, held some high position in the army—the Greek martyrologist calls him also Boïnos, a Greek transliteration of the Slavonic for a warrior. But Christianity was inevitably associated with Greek propaganda; the Empire was the only Christian State with whom Bulgaria had had intimate dealings, and the Emperors were fond of using missionaries for political purposes. Enravotas’s conversion smelled strongly of treachery. Besides, Christianity was probably spreading among the humbler classes, and to have a prince on their side would encourage far too much subjects whose loyalty was inevitably doubtful, but who were negligible so long



1. Georgius Continuatus, p. 821: Logothete (Slavonic version), p. 103: I follow Bury (op. cit., pp. 372-3) and Zlatarski (op. cit., p. 350) in assuming that the Philippi (Villoison’s) and the Shumla inscriptions both belong to this campaign (Aboba-Pliska, p. 233). The latter inscription indicates clearly that it was now that the Bulgars annexed Philippopolis; it also mentions Probatum and Burdizus in terms that would imply that they were the forts mentioned vaguely by the Logothete.





as they remained humble and fairly scattered. Malamir begged his brother to come back and worship the sun and moon, as all good Bulgars did. But the glory of being the first Bulgarian martyr was too much for Enravotas; he remained obdurate. The Khan was obliged to put him to death. [1]


Three years later, in 852, Malamir himself died. He was succeeded by his nephew, the son of Svinitse, Boris. [2]


The new Khan Boris was young, and full of the impetuous audacity of youth. He longed to restore the military prestige of Bulgaria and her Khans, that had lain dormant during his uncle’s reign. His first move was to collect his forces on the southern frontier, with the intent of breaking Malamir’s treaty. But the Empress-Regent Theodora was, we are told, a match for him. She sent to him saying that, if he invaded the Empire, she would lead its forces against him in person: so that if he won he would have no glory in defeating a woman, and if he lost he would be ridiculous. The young Khan was gallantly abashed; but the Empress supplemented her feminine diplomacy by offering to revise the frontier—moving it southward to run south for some twenty-five miles from the neighbourhood of Develtus to the Iron Gate in the Stranya Planina, and then due west to join the Great Fence at the Sakar Planina. It was not a great sacrifice on the Empress’s part; the ceded territory included Anchialus and Develtus, but, like the other fortresses that Krum destroyed, they had lain dismantled and



1. Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, pp. 192 ff. He dates Enravotas’s death three years before Malamir’s. I think it was the aspect of treachery rather than the religious aspect that caused Malamir to kill his brother. It appears as an isolated case of martyrdom.


2. I follow Zlatarski’s date (Izviestiya, pp. 45-7) for Boris’s succession. It is made probable by the embassy to Germany known to have taken place that year, and fits with the date given by Theophylact (p. 201). His name appears in the Greek writers variously as Βώγωρις, Βόγαρις, Βωρίσης, and Βορίσης (miswritten also once as Γόβορις and once as Βορώσης), in early Slavonic translations as Borish and Boris. On his inscriptions he is Βόρης.





half-deserted ever since that day, and the whole district had been waste land since the war. But its cession achieved Theodora’s object; she could not then have afforded a war. Her persecution of the Paulicians on her eastern frontier was causing her more trouble than so pious a policy deserved. [1]


Boris then turned his attention to the north-west. In 852 he had sent an embassy to Mainz to Louis the German, to announce his accession and renew his uncle’s treaty. But next year, encouraged no doubt by his own bloodless triumphs in the south and instigated by Louis’s rival, Charles the Bald of the Western Franks, he invaded Frankish territory. But, despite the support of local Slavs, he was defeated and obliged to retire; and peace was soon re-made. It is probable that his aim had been the annexation of Pannonian Croatia, which at the time was a vassal-state of the Franks; indeed, the victory that the Frankish chroniclers claimed may really have been the victory of the Croats. We know that he invaded Croatia without success, and at last had to retire and make a peace, at which he received many handsome presents. But the Croats never became his vassals nor paid him any tribute. [2]



1. Genesius (pp. 85-6) tells the story of Theodora’s message, but does not name the Bulgar Khan. Theophanes Continuatus (pp. 162-5) reproduces it, calling the Khan Boris (Βώγωρις) and connecting it with Boris’s conversion, owing to which Theodora ceded the territory. But Theodora had fallen in 856—seven years before Boris was converted. The Imperial records would more probably be accurate about which Emperor or Empress ceded territory than about Bulgarian semi-internal affairs. Besides, Theodora’s message, though it makes a pretty anecdote and probably is not entirely apocryphal, would hardly by itself deter an ambitious Bulgar. The talk about the treaty implies that the incident took place soon after Boris’s accession, when Malamir’s treaty probably needed renewing. I therefore follow Zlatarski (Izviestiya, pp. 54 ff.: Istoriya, i. 2, pp. 2 ff.) in isolating these incidents from the conversion, and dating them early in the reign—probably 852. I accept Zlatarski’s geography of the ceded territory (Izviestiya, loc. cit.); the old identification of the Σιδηρᾶ Pass with Veregava is clearly impossible.


2. Annales Bertiniani, p. 448: De Administrando Imperio, pp. 150-1. I believe that these refer to the same war, which was an attempt by Boris to wrest Pannonian Croatia from the Franks: hence the Franks recorded it as a war against them. The Croatia must be Pannonian Croatia, not Dalmatian Croatia—Ratimir’s kingdom, not Tirpimir’s, as Zlatarski (Istoriya, i, 2, pp. 8-9) and Dvornik (p. 54) say; to reach Dalmatian Croatia, Boris would have had to operate either through Serbia or through Pannonian Croatia. Nor is it necessary to identify the Slavs mentioned as Boris’s auxiliaries as Moravians, as Zlatarski (op. cit., p. 7) and Bury (op. cit., p. 383) do. The Moravians were well enough known to the Frankish annalists by now to be called by name, not generically as Slavs. The Φράγγών νέφος, which Theophylact (loc. cit.) says covered Bulgaria at the time of Boris’s accession, probably means the Frankish victories in this war.





There were other enemies on that western frontier. Boris was eager to avenge Presiam’s defeats at the hands of the Serbs; and he realized that a strong Serbia would necessarily make difficult his expansion both in Croatia and in Upper Macedonia. The latter question probably caused him to declare war. It seems that throughout his first decade Boris was busily continuing the work of Malamir’s reign and pushing his frontier right to the mountains of Albania, and even the northernmost peaks of Pindus. In 860 he sent an embassy to Constantinople. We know neither the cause nor the achievements of this embassy save that its audiences kept the Arab ambassador waiting. [1] Probably Boris was asking for recognition of his Macedonian annexations and for the neutrality of the Imperial government before his attack on the Serbs. But he was no more successful than Presiam. Since Vlastimer’s death his sons Muntimer, Stroemer, and Goinic had shared the Serbian throne. They united to meet the invader, and caught him in the treacherous valleys, defeating him utterly and capturing his son Vladimir and twelve Great Boyars. To ransom them Boris was forced to make peace. He agreed to evacuate the country, and on his humiliating retreat Muntimer’s two sons acted as his escort as far as Rase on the frontier (Račka, near Novi-Bazar), where they exchanged presents, the Serbian princes giving the Khan two slaves, two falcons, two hounds, and ninety skins. This friendship with Muntimer’s family later bore fruit, when the Serbian princes quarrelled amongst



1. Tabari, in Vasiliev, Vizantiya i Araby, i., Prilozheniya, p. 57.





themselves. Muntimer, who emerged victorious, sent his brothers and their families to prison in Bulgaria, and thus gave the Bulgars many excuses for intervening among the Serbs. So, finally, Boris recovered from the consequences of his defeat. [1]


This Serbian war was the last episode in the history of the heathen Empire. Already the drama was opening that would change the fate of Bulgaria and of half Europe. Of the internal aspect of the land in the last days of its old life we have little more information than in its earlier history. The Slav element in the country by now was displaying its predominance. The Slavonic language was in general use. Greek might still be needed for public inscriptions, there being no Slavonic alphabet; but the old Bulgar tongue had utterly or almost utterly disappeared. [2] The Khans since Krum had encouraged the Slavs, inviting Slavs to their Court; Omortag’s sons had even borne Slavonic names, and Boris’s likewise. [3] In the vast Bulgar lands beyond the Danube the proportion of races was probably fairly even, though both Slavs and Bulgars were leavened by the remnants of innumerable tribes that had lingered in the Eastern Carpathians. But south of the Danube, in what was now the centre of the empire, the Slavs far outnumbered the Bulgars, particularly in the new Macedonian provinces on which the Khans were spending so much attention. It was only the military



1. De Administrando Imperio, pp. 154—5. The date of tne war is doubtful, some writers—e.g. Rambaud (p. 462)—placing it as late as 887. But Constantine implies that it took place fairly soon after Vlastimer’s death (about 845-50), and it cannot have happened during the years immediately following the Conversion (863), as we are fairly well informed about those years. On the other hand, Boris was old enough to have a son fighting (Vlastimer is Constantine’s misprint for Vladimir); considering that he only died in 907, this cannot have been much before 863. I think it best to connect the war with the mysterious embassy of 860. Bulgaria has always had to try to prevent an alliance between Constantinople and the Serbs.


2. Titles and proper names only survived. There was never an attempt to create an alphabet for the Bulgar language.


3. e.g. Malamir and Vladimir.





aristocracy that remained purely Bulgar. For several more generations their names remained without a trace of Slav in them, and their old Bulgar titles lasted till the fall of the Empire, whereas the title of Khan was, as soon as men learnt to write Slavonic, superseded by the Slavonic Knyaz. The power of this nobility had been curtailed by Krum, but under the weaker control of Malamir it had revived. The Kavkan Isbules, who could give the Khan an aqueduct, showed by his very munificence what a formidable subject he was. It seems that the Khan was engaged in a perpetual struggle with the Bulgar nobles, he wishing to rule like the Emperor, autocratically, through a non-hereditary bureaucracy, and they, probably with constitutional justification, aiming at reducing him to be the president of a council of bоyars . The Khans’ favourization of the Slavs, the middle and lower classes, was obviously directed against this aristocracy—they even created a rival Slav nobility. Probably Krum and Omortag sought to deal with the constitutional difficulty by appointing Slavs on the council of bоyars , who necessarily became their creatures, and somehow breaking down the hereditary principle: while Malamir, who was weaker, let in the Bulgars again, and thus had to suffer the patronage of magnates such as Isbules; and the young Boris inherited the difficulty. It was probably from among these boyars that provincial governors were chosen, who ruled the ten provinces by military force from fortified camps. [1]


The vast bulk of the population was engaged in agriculture, living in free peasant communities and following the simple pastoral methods that have lasted almost unchanged in the Balkans to this day. But by now a small



1. The number of the provinces into which Bulgaria was divided (ten) is known from the story of the revolt of the nobility at the time of the Conversion (see below, p. 105).





commercial middle-class was rising. The annexation of cities such as Develtus and Anchialus included in the Bulgar dominions a certain number of Greeks and Armenians who had lingered in the dismantled towns, and who no doubt eagerly took advantage of the new trade conditions: while round the inland fortresses, such as Sardica, there remained a population claiming Roman descent. Moreover, Bulgaria herself enjoyed commercial activities; Bulgarian salt from the Transylvanian provinces was exported to saltless countries like Moravia; while the Byzantine exports to Central Europe passed most of them through Bulgar territory, either by the great Constantinople-Adrianople-Philippopolis-Sardica-Belgrade road or by the road from Thessalonica that joined it at Naissus (Nish). Most of this carrying trade was done, probably, by Greeks and Armenians; but the native inhabitants must sometimes have shared in it. It is unlikely that the Bulgarians were yet working the mines that so enriched later Balkan monarchs; and such crafts as building were in the hands of Greeks, captives, or newly made subjects.


Indeed, the culture was all in foreign hands. Lack of an alphabet forbade any native literature; the few official inscriptions had to be written in Greek. The arts, too, were practised only by Greeks; it was Greek artists that the Khan employed to paint him frescoes in the palaces that Greek architects had built for him. Thus the arts did not flourish there, save perhaps primitively among the peasants. Even architecture was seldom needed. The peasants lived in their huts and hovels, the small middle-class lived in the old Greek cities; only the nobility and the Khans required proper edifices. The Bulgarians were adept at constructing earthworks and rough fortifications; but probably the nobles were following the Khans’ examples, and wanted halls and chambers built





inside their rectangular castle walls, all bravely modelled on the fine palaces of Constantinople. [1]


Of the personal habits of the dwellers in these halls we know little. They were polygamous, they wore turbans and trousers, and, contrary to expectation, they liked to wash themselves quite often. [2] Domestic slavery was common there, as everywhere else in the Near East. Their religion was apparently a crude worship of the sun and moon and stars and other natural phenomena, whom they adored with human sacrifice and the sacrifice of horses and dogs. A horse’s tail was their standard, and they swore by their swords. [3] But none of their old temples and altars has survived, save a rectangular building at Pliska, which later ages converted into a church. [4] It was a religion without much ethical background; the Bulgars remained cruel in their practices, torture and the death penalty playing a part in all their legal processes, with mutilation as a new-fangled humanity. [5]


This state of affairs was hardly worthy of a magnificent empire. Boris began to wonder whether some change might not be made. But before he could act himself, his hand was forced.


Far away to the north-west, in the valleys between Bohemia and the Western Carpathians, there lived some Slav tribes known collectively as the Moravians. In about the second decade of the century the Moravians were united under the rule of a prince called Moïmir, who in



1. Pliska is the only palace to have been systematically excavated, save for the early Preslav in the Dobrudja, which is too early to have much remains of interest. Great Preslav is only now being excavated as far as the earliest layer, but almost certainly was built on the same lines.


2. Nicolaus I Papa, Responsa, cap. vi., p. 572.


3. Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, p. 189: Nicolaus I Papa, op. cit., cap. xxxiii, p. 580: see above, p. 74, and reff.


4. Aboba-Pliska, pp. 104 ff.


5. Nicolaus I Papa, op. cit., cap. lxxxvi., p. 595.





the years 833 to 836 conquered the Prince Pribina of Nitra and extended his power to the east along the northern bank of the Danube as far as its sharp bend southward by Esztergom. This expansion alarmed the Franks. The Margrave of the Eastern Mark and the Bishop of Passau regarded Moravia as a legitimate field for their enterprises, political and religious, and they disliked this show of native vigour. They waited till Moïmir’s death (845); then Louis the German intervened and forced on the Moravians Moïmir’s nephew, Rostislav, little thinking that Rostislav would show both ability and ingratitude. Louis was soon undeceived. Rostislav first established himself firmly in Moravia, and then began to extend his influence over the neighbouring tribes. The Czechs became his firm allies and probably his vassals; he annexed the country of the Avars, who lingered on the middle Danube, and thus became a neighbour to the Bulgars on the Theiss; and he began to threaten the Slav principalities that clustered under Frankish suzerainty round the River Drave and Lake Balaton. Louis the German had been powerless to check him. His great expedition of 855 had come back having achieved nothing; even his campaigns against the Czechs were ineffectual. Rostislav even intervened to encourage Carloman in the revolt against Louis, though he wisely refrained from helping the rebel son too far. By the year 862, Rostislav was ruler of an empire stretching from the Theiss and Lake Balaton to the neighbourhood of Vienna and to the upper waters of the Oder and the Vistula and the middle Carpathians, with Bohemia loyally guarding his flank. The German chroniclers showed their awe by calling him a king, a title they reserved only for great independent sovereigns. [1]


There were now four great Powers in Europe, the two



1. See Dvornik, pp. 150 ff., who gives references. The history of Moravia before 862 is chiefly to be found in the Annales Fuldenses, pp. 364 ff., passim.





Christian Empires on the east and on the west [1] and the two barbarian States in between. The situation was too simple, too delicately balanced to last. It was Rostislav that made the first move. He had long coquetted with Christianity; but he was faced with much the same problem as the Bulgarians. To the Moravians, Christianity was connected with Frankish influence; the missionaries that overran the country were the minions of the Bishop of Passau and of Louis the German. And yet Christianity was desirable; it would raise his prestige and improve his culture, and it might be made to mould his empire into a firmer unity. But it must be a national Church, not a German or a Latin affair. Rostislav’s restless mind sought out a new solution.


Early in the year 862 an embassy travelled from Moravia to Constantinople, asking of the Emperor that he should send a master to teach the True Faith in the language of the Slavs. [2]



1. The Carolingians were by now subdivided; but, on the whole, Louis the German and the sons of Lothair in Lorraine and Italy acted together.


2. Vita Constantini, pp. 199 ff.


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