A history of the First Bulgarian Empire

Steven Runciman





Men of god and men of blood



For the rare length of forty years there was peace in the Balkan peninsula. But it was not a peace teeming with happy, tranquil prosperity; it was the peace of exhaustion. Bulgaria did not fight because she could not; while the Government at Constantinople was engaged in grandiose schemes far in the east. And so the years were punctuated by raids and risings that no one attempted to oppose. The foreign history of Bulgaria in Peter’s reign is a melancholy story.


But it might have been worse. Save on the side of the Empire, the frontiers were strong, mountains guarding the country from the Slav nations farther west and the Danube guarding it from the Magyars and the Petchenegs. The cardinal principle of Peter’s foreign policy was to keep on good terms with both the Empire and the Petchenegs. Everyone knew that the Petchenegs’ allies were inviolable, for everyone was in terror of the Petchenegs; even the Magyars quailed before them. But a breach with the Empire might too easily mean a breach with the Petchenegs. When it came to bribery the Empire could always outbid Bulgaria, and Bulgaria lay temptingly close to the Petchenegs’ homes. Even in Symeon’s day it had only been the incompetence and the venality of the Imperial officials that had saved Bulgaria; now the danger was far greater. Thus it was a deliberate policy as well as the influence of a Greek Tsaritsa that made the Bulgarians submit uncomplaining to their high-handed treatment by the Emperor. [1]



1. Constantine Porphyrogennetus, De Administrando Imperio, p. 71, tells how determined the Bulgarians were to keep on good terms with the Petchenegs.







Romanus indeed behaved often in a very unfriendly manner to his granddaughter’s husband, whom at times he even, so it seems, refused to call by his Imperial title. In the year 933 Prince Tzeesthlav of Serbia escaped from his Bulgarian prison and returned to Serbia. His coming encouraged all the Serbian exiles to emerge from their refuges and to rally round him in re-establishing their kingdom. The country had lain desolate for seven years, ever since the Bulgar conquest, and Tzeesthlav had a hard task in restoring it to life. But any chance that Peter might have had in crushing the revolt was spoiled by the Emperor’s actions. Romanus not only encouraged Tzeesthlav by gifts of garments and other articles of use or value, but he also accepted the suzerainty of the new State. Peter had to reconcile himself to the loss of Serbia. [1]


For the rest, the story of foreign affairs is a story of raids into Bulgaria by raiders on the way to Constantinople. In April 934 the Magyars made a great incursion into the Balkans. Their goal was Constantinople, but they utilized their passage through Bulgaria. The details of the raid are hard to decipher, but it seems that they reached Develtus, and the number of their captives, who must have been chiefly Bulgarian, was so great that a woman could be bought for a silk dress. [2] In April 943 they came again through Bulgaria, journeying to Thrace. How much this time the Bulgarians suffered we cannot tell; the Empire at once concluded a truce with them. [3] In 944 Bulgaria underwent a raid by the Petchenegs, set in



1. Constantine Porphyrogennetus, op. cit., pp. 158-9, dated seven years after the Bulgar conquest.


2. I deal in my Emperor Romanus Lecapenus, pp. 107 ff., with the problem of this raid, mentioned vaguely by the Hungarians (de Thwrocz, p. 147: Petrus Ranzanus, Index IV., p. 581), specifically by Theophanes Continuatus, p. 422, and other Greek chroniclers (dated April 934), and with details that cannot be ignored, though some are impossible (dated 932), by Maçoudi (tr. Barbier de Meynard, ii., p. 58).


3. Theophanes Continuatus, p. 430.





motion by the vindictive restlessness of the Russians. The whole incident showed the pathetic part now played by Bulgaria. The Russians, from their southern centre at Kiev, were now steadily growing in power; they were a numerous nation, and they commanded the great trade route from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In 941 they had burst through the Petchenegs to make an attack by sea on Constantinople, but, though the Emperor passed sleepless nights in his anxiety, they had been heavily defeated. Their Prince, Igor, burned for vengeance. In 944 he induced the Petchenegs to accompany him in an enormous raid by land. News of it reached Bulgaria; the Bulgars were terrified, and sent the news on to Constantinople. The Emperor Romanus, with customary prudence, at once dispatched an embassy laden with gifts to the Danube, and successfully persuaded the Russians to negotiate. But the Petchenegs refused to be cheated of a raid; so they crossed the river and paid a fierce and profitable visit to Bulgaria. Everyone was satisfied, except the Bulgarians, who did not count. [1] After that humiliating experience there was a respite for several years; but in 958 the Magyars returned, and again in 962, [2] till finally, in 965, Peter, remembering the ways of his forefathers, sought an alliance with Otto, the great King of Germany, as a means for keeping them in check. [3]


How heavily these raids fell upon Bulgaria, we cannot say. We only know of them because they penetrated into the Empire and the ken of the Greek chroniclers. There may have been others directed solely against the Bulgarians.



1. La Chronique dite de Nestor, p. 35.


2. Theophanes Continuatus, pp. 462-3, 480—undated, but their position in the chronicle suggests these dates, while the first is rendered almost certain, as in 943 a truce was made for five years, after which Magyar Princes came to Constantinople to make a further truce, which would naturally be for ten years. Both raids were checked by Imperial forces in Thrace.


3. Ibrahim-ibn-Yakub, quoted in Zlatarski, Izviestieto na Ibrahim-ibn-Yakub za Bulgaritie, pp. 67-75.





This pitiable defencelessness was helped by the internal state of the country. Symeon, disastrous though his policy had been, was great enough and personified fully enough the aspirations of his people to carry them all with him and to suffer no insubordination. Under Peter the component parts of Bulgaria fell asunder. Peter’s character was pacific and pious, his health was poor, [1] and he assumed the government very young—for it seems that, once the peace had been carried through, George Sursubul retired from the regency;—he had not the personality to awe and command a nation disillusioned and divided by failure. In the old days the Khan had maintained his position by playing off the Slav peasantry against the Bulgar nobility. Peter did not even succeed in that. Under his rule the Court party became a separate faction, distrusted by the rest of the country. Besides the Government at Preslav, it probably included the merchants, all naturally in favour of peace, and the official hierarchy, and no doubt took its tone from the Tsaritsa Maria-Irene, who, if she inherited at all the traits of her family, must have easily dominated her gentle husband. We know that she kept in close touch with Constantinople, at first often journeying there: though, after her father Christopher’s death, in August 931, she only went there once again, with three of her children. [2]


The Bulgar nobility, so often crushed by the Khans, was not yet extinct; though probably it had by now lost its racial distinction, and was Slavonic-speaking and reinforced by the more powerful of the Slavs. Politically it appeared now as the war party. Its dissatisfaction with the Court was shown early in Peter’s reign, in 929, when he discovered a conspiracy engineered against him to put



1. According to Leo Diaconus, he died of an epileptic fit (Leo Diaconus, p. 78).


2. Theophanes Continuatus, p. 422. A proof of the Tsaritsa’s influence is that it was after her death that Peter fell under the sway of the war party.





his brother John on the throne. The conspiracy was put down, and the nobles involved were severely punished. John himself was imprisoned and made to take monastic vows. Peter then sent to Constantinople to announce his happy escape. But the Emperor Romanus determined to profit by the incident; his ambassador came to Preslav and somehow, no doubt at a heavy price, secured the person of the rebel Prince. John was given a palace at Constantinople, and very soon the Emperor had him released from his vows and married him to an Armeniac bride. The Imperial diplomats liked to have foreign pretenders in their power; Romanus could hold John as a threat over Peter’s head. [1] After this failure the war party kept quiet, till, at the close of the reign, it took control of the Government.


The humbler classes were restless too. Occasionally they showed their sentiments in open lawlessness, as was shown by the career of another of the Princes. Michael, Symeon’s eldest son, chafed under the monastic restraint that his father had put upon him; and about the year 930 he escaped and made off to the mountains in the west of Bulgaria, where he was joined by large numbers of Slav malcontents. He lived there successfully as a brigand king; and after his death his band still held together, displaying power and prowess enough to make sudden descents into the Empire and sack the city of Nicopolis. [2] And similar brigand companies probably existed all over the western provinces. [3] But the discontent of the main body of the populace took a very different and far more significant form.



1. Theophanes Continuatus, p. 419. The incident is placed after the great frost of 928-9.


2. Ibid., p. 420.


3. In 926, before peace was signed, the Italian ambassador, travelling to Constantinople, fell in with Slav brigands on the frontier by Thessalonica (Liudprand, Antapodosis, p. 83). The peace probably hardly affected conditions there.





Those that are disappointed and weary and fearful for the future often take refuge in religion; and so it was with the Bulgarians. After Symeon’s wars, a wave of religious activity swept over the whole country. Amongst its pioneers was the Tsar himself, well-known for his piety and for the zeal with which he sought out saints. Many of his subjects followed his lead. Crowds flocked to enter the monasteries; others sought even greater holiness by becoming hermits and settling down to lives of bitter hardness. Foremost among these was a certain herdsman called John, who, as Saint John of Rila (Ivan Rilski), has attained the eminence of patron saint of Bulgaria. John of Rila for many years lived in sanctity in a hollow oak; but at last the oak blew down, and he had to retire to the comfort of a cave high in the mountains of Rila. There he acquired considerable fame; and the Tsar, when hunting in the neighbourhood, took the trouble to find out his retreat and to pay him a visit. Peter had been annoyed by a homily that the saint had addressed to his huntsmen; but, meeting him face to face, he was deeply impressed by his holiness and eagerly gave him his patronage. When John died in 946 his body was buried in pomp at Sardica (Sofia); but later it was moved back to the mountains, to the great monastery that now bears his name. [1]


But this religiosity had another side. In its most perverted form it appeared in the case of the Tsar’s own brother, Benjamin, the only one to abstain from political intrigue. Benjamin’s life was given over to a study of the Black Arts; and he became so clever a magician that at will he could turn himself into a wolf or any other animal you pleased. [2] Many of his fellow Bulgars took too great



1. Zhivot Jovana Rilskog (ed. Novakovitch), passim, esp. pp. 277 ff. (the account of Peter’s interview): Ivanov, Sv. Ivan Rilski, pp. 1—20, passim.


2. Liudprand, Antapodosis, p. 88.





an interest in fortune-telling and in demon powers, [1] but few could hope to acquire a proficiency such as his; and so, though in himself he might be actively unpleasant, he never attracted a large following. Far more influential and deplorable, politically as well as doctrinally, was a humble pope or village priest called Bogomil.


Pope Bogomil, the greatest heresiarch of all the Middle Ages, is a figure lost in obscurity. We cannot tell where or when he lived nor who he was. All that we know is that ‘in the reign of the Orthodox Tsar Peter there was a priest called Bogomil, who was the first to sow heresy in the Bulgar tongue,’ [2] that, following the custom of his sect of taking a second name, he was also called Jeremiah, that he was credited with the authorship of several parables and doctrinal pronouncements, and that his heresy was flourishing before the year 956. [3] Even the doctrines that he himself taught are somewhat hard to decipher. Of the writings of the Bogomils themselves—as Pope Bogomil’s followers were called in Eastern Europe—nothing survives except a few legendary tales of Bible characters or saints and liturgies so simple as hardly to smack of heresy at all. [4] For the details of their belief and practices we have to resort to the evidence of their enemies; but even most of these are of a later date—and heresies, like orthodox religions, may change and elaborate their tenets considerably in a century or two. There are, however, two exceptions, two documents written against Bogomil himself either in his lifetime or soon after his death.



1. Kozma inveighs against the prevalent taste for fortune-telling, etc.


2. Slovo Kozmy, p. 4. The Sinodik na Tsar Borisa, p. 32, contains one short similar sentence.


3. i.e. before the death of the Patriarch Theophylact of Constantinople. See Ivanov, Bogomilski Knigi, pp. 22 ff.


4. See Ivanov, op. cit., where the theologically important writings are given; also Léger, L’Hérésie des Bogomiles, passim, and La Literature Slave en Bulgarie au Moyen Age: Les Bogomiles, where some of their more popular legends are given.





The Patriarch Theophylact Lecapenus of Constantinople, the Tsaritsa’s uncle, a prelate more often to be seen in his stables than in his cathedral, was sufficiently shocked by the growth of the Bogomil heresy to write about it to Tsar Peter—probably about the year 950; in 954 Theophylact had a severe riding accident, which incapacitated him during his remaining two years of life. [1] Theophylact was anxious that all the prevalent heresies should be anathematized, and so he did not distinguish between the Paulician teachings and those of Bogomil; but some of his remarks were clearly intended for the latter alone. More important is a work of considerable length, written probably about 975, by a Bulgarian priest called Kozma (Cosmas) purely against the heretics. [2]


From Theophylact and Kozma, as from all the later evidence, one fundamental doctrine appears. The Bogomil heresy was what was called at the time Manichaean [3]; though it only shared with Mani’s faith the basis of Dualism. The Bogomils were frankly Dualist, contrasting God with Satan, good with evil, light with darkness, spirit with matter, and considering both Forces equal, though, it seems, in the end God would triumph. [4] Dualism has always been a natural and attractive religion; but Pope Bogomil was inspired by the Paulicians who were settled in the borders of Bulgaria. The Paulicians were an Armenian sect who had strained the dualism inherent in the New Testament to its utmost extent,



1. This letter, the manuscript of which is in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, is printed in the Izviestiya ot. Russ. Tazyka i Slov., vol. xviii., knig. 3, pp. 356 ff. Of its authenticity there can be no doubt.


2. Slovo Sv. Kozmy Presbitera na Eretiki (ed. Popruzhenko). Kozma refers to Peter’s reign as though it were over, but he was acquainted with the clergy of Symeon’s time.


3. Throughout the Middle Ages, in the West as in the East, Manichaean is used simply as synonymous with Dualist.


4. Theophylact’s letter, p. 364: God’s ultimate triumph is foretold in Secret Book (Taïna Kniga), Carcassonne MSS, printed in Benoest, Histoire des Albigeois, p. 295, and in Ivanov, op. cit., p. 86.





putting great faith in the words of St. John’s Gospel (xii. 31 and xiv. 30) which attributed to the Devil the rule of this world. They rejected the ordinances of the Orthodox Church or even the Armenian Monophysite Church, and instead had their own rites and their own ecclesiastical organization. [1] They had long been a source of annoyance to the Empire, at times even forming politically independent communities [2]; and one of the methods employed to deal with them had been to transplant them to Europe, especially to Thrace. But their migration never damped their ardour; already in the days of Boris their missionaries were working in Bulgaria. [3]


But the Paulicians were a sect of some education, versed in theology. Bogomil’s genius lay in his adaptation of this intricate Armenian religion to suit the needs of the European peasantry. Probably he taught Paulicianism as he understood it [4]; but his teaching was nevertheless something new, and something so suited to its purpose that before two centuries were over it had spread to the mountains of Spain. Besides the Dualist basis of their creed, it seems that the Bogomils believed that the Mother of God was not Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anna, but the Upper Jerusalem, and that Christ’s life and death were but fantasy—for God could never take on anything so evil as a material body; they rejected the Old Testament, both the Mosaic law and the prophets, and they restricted their prayers to the Paternoster; nor would they cross themselves—for that would be a tactless reminder of



1. The Paulician tenets may be found in Conybeare, The Key of Truth; also in Petrus Siculus’s diatribe.


2. e.g. their republic at Tephrice, which Basil I had difficulty in capturing in 871. Basil’s own family had been transported from Armenia to Adrianople, and possibly was itself originally Paulician.


3. Nicolaus Papa, Responsa, p. 1015.


4. ‘ Μανιχαισμὸς γάρ ἐστι Παυλιανισμῷ συμμιγής ’. Theophylact’s letter, p. 363. The taking of a second name, e.g. Bogomil’s assumption of the name Jeremiah, was copied from a Paulician habit.





the wood on which God seemingly suffered. With regard to Satan, called Satanail or Samail, there were two schools of thought: had he always been evil or was he a fallen angel? The former was the Paulician theory, deriving from Zoroastrianism, and from the Paulician settlements it seems to have enjoyed a considerable vogue in the Balkans, especially in the Greek districts; the latter was what Bogomil himself taught. [1] There were some theories that Satan was either the elder or the younger son of God and brother of Jesus. There was equal divergence in their views of the origin of Adam and Eve, whose date incidentally was 5500 B.C.: were they fallen angels transformed into human beings, or created by God or by Satan? It was also said that Eve was unfaithful; Abel was her son by Adam, but she bore Cain and a daughter, Calomela, to Satan. [2] Out of these stories arose a cycle of popular legends. Pope Bogomil himself is said to have pronounced on such subjects as ‘how many particles became Adam’ and ‘how Jesus Christ became a pope’ or ‘how he laboured with the flesh’; and he may too have been the author of the story that tells how Saint Sisinni met the twelve daughters of Tsar Herod on the shores of the Red Sea, and they told him that they were come to bring disease into the world. [3]


Thus far the Bogomil heresy, distressing though it was theologically, need not have troubled the lay authorities. But a faith that teaches that all matter is evil is bound to



1. The Constantinopolitan Bogomils appear to have been followers of the more Paulician school, which was probably the so-called Dragovitsan Church after the village of Dragovitsa, near Philippopolis, in a Paulician district. The same divergence appears to have separated the Cathari and the Paterenes in the west.


2. Theophylact’s letter, pp. 364 ff.: Slovo Kozmii, passim: Sinodik na Tsar Borisa, pp. 34 ff.: Euthymius Zigabenus, Contra Bogomilos, passim: Euthymius of Acmonia in Ficker, Die Phundagiagiten, passim: The Secret Book (in Ivanov, op. cit.). Summaries can be found in Ivanov, op. cit., pp. 24 ff., and Léger, La Littérature Slave.


3. Quoted in Léger, op. cit.





have serious social consequences. Many of the Bogomils’ habits were admirable; in contrast to the Orthodox Bulgarians, who danced and drank and sang to their gouslas all day and all night long, they were modest, discreet, silent, and pale with fasting; they never laughed out loud nor talked of vanities; food and drink came from Satan, they said, so they took both in extreme moderation, touching neither meat nor wine. But when they shut themselves up in their houses for four days and nights on end to pray, [1] employers of labour might well look askance. Moreover, convinced as they were of the evil of their bodies, they firmly discouraged marriage or other less lawful methods of propagating the race. Indeed, their abstention from women was so marked that among their later disciples in France, often called the Bougres, from the Bulgar origin of their doctrine, it aroused the prurient suspicions of the Orthodox; and their name in its English translation still preserves the meaning of an alternative form of vice. Pope Bogomil was not hopeful enough to expect the whole of his followers to commit racial suicide; so, following the practice of the Paulicians, he set aside certain persons known as the Elect, whose abstinence from sexual intercourse was complete, and from bodily nourishment and comforts as nearly complete as possible; they were the aristocracy among the Bogomils, and their spiritually feebler brethren ministered to them. [2] Their democratic instincts made them averse to authority. In their early days they even had no clergy—Bogomil and his chief disciples, Michael and Theodore, Dobr, Stephen, Basil, and Peter, had no official position—but later they seem to have recognized the orders of deacon, priest, and bishop [3]; and by the thirteenth century there



1. Slovo Kozmy, pp. 36 ff.


2. Ivanov and Léger, loc. cit.: Ivanov, p. 123 n.


3. Ivanov, op. cit., pp. 29-30. The names of the heresiarchs are given in the Sinodik na Tsar Borisa, loc. cit.





existed in Bulgaria a spiritual potentate known throughout Christendom as the Black Pope himself. [1] But what made the Bogomils an inevitable menace to the State and necessitated their persecution was their view, based on their dislike of things that were temporal, that it displeased God if a servant worked for his master or a subject worked for his prince. [2]


The method and extent of the persecution employed by the Government to combat so dangerous a heresy are unknown to us, as are most of the details of Bulgarian history during these years. The Patriarch Theophylact had recommended the employment of secular authority in crushing them, and his advice was no doubt followed. But Bogomilstvo was a faith for which its adherents would gladly suffer martyrdom; and it increased in strength. Its success was greatly helped by the political and social atmosphere of the country. It was the expression of discontent by the poorer classes, the Slavs, members of a race that has always had a democratic bias. The people had long been opposed to the aristocracy, which still was for the most part alien by birth, if no longer in speech; they had lost touch with their old ally the Khan, who now as Caesar was bravely imitating the autocracy and luxury of New Rome. The orthodox Bulgarian clergy were proving unsatisfactory; they were probably under the control of the Court, whose interests they pursued, and, unlike the Greeks, whose culture and learning had at first dazzled the Bulgarians, the average priests were lazy and debauched and little better educated than their congregations—the Bogomils called them blind Pharisees—while the higher clergy were out of touch with the



1. He is mentioned in a letter of the Legate Conrad written in 1223, (Gervasii Praemonstratensis, ep. 120, p. 116). But his actual existence is uncertain—it was generally misunderstood in the West that every Eastern village priest was called a pope.


2. Slovo Kozmy, pp. 40—1.





people. The Bogomil Elect provided a remarkable and impressive contrast, just as the ordinary Bogomils—so Kozma had to admit—compared very favourably in their manners with the orthodox laity. It was scarcely surprising that the best of the crushed and disillusioned peasantry should feel the world to be an evil place and all its matter the work of Satanail, and should follow Pope Bogomil, who was of their number and understood their souls. Nor could so well suited a faith long remain confined by the frontiers of Bulgaria; it spread southward to Constantinople itself and the provinces of the Empire, it spread eastward to Serbia and to Bosnia and Croatia, and across to Lombardy and the Alps, finding its second great home in the land of Languedoc, between the Cevennes and the Pyrenees: till at last that poor land was cleansed and purified by the blood-baths of de Montfort and the fires of Saint Dominic. [1]


But the history of the Bogomils in France and Italy in centuries to come, or of their baneful influence on the Balkan lands that was to last till the Ottoman conquest, is outside of our limits here. In Peter’s time and in the years that followed close after, they had not yet reached their full notoriety; but, though they worked invisibly and humbly, their work was that of a worm gnawing at the heart of Bulgaria. The decline and fall of her first Empire came very largely from the unceasing labours and increasing strength of the followers of Pope Bogomil.


For the rest, life in Bulgaria under Peter seems to have passed without much incident. Trade probably returned



1. The descent of the Albigeois heretics from the Bogomils is sometimes denied; e.g. H. Lea, in his History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages (i., p. 90), dismisses the Bogomils in a footnote as a side-track. However, mediaeval writers (e.g. Reinerius Sacchoni and Moneta) trace the Albigeois from them, and certainly the Languedoc heretics looked to Bulgaria as the source of their faith. Some historians like to consider any traditional opinion as being therefore wrong; but any doubt on this question must vanish before a comparison of the Slavonic Bogomil literature with the Latin-Languedoc literature of the Cathars and Paterenes, as is given in Ivanov, op. cit.





with peace and flourished, and the mines were no doubt worked. That churches and palaces and monasteries were built throughout the country is certain: though we can assign no extant building confidently to these years. Of the arts in detail we know nothing; nothing has survived. Literature was extremely fashionable; the priest Kozma complained bitterly that everyone wrote books instead of reading them. These books were mostly translations of Greek religious works or romances; but Kozma’s own writing shows the advance in Slavonic literature that had been made in the last half-century. Not only was it the first original work of any length written in the Bulgarian vernacular, but it has a maturity of form and flexibility of language far in advance of the writing of Symeon’s day, of Khrabr or John the Exarch. [1] Moreover, the Bogomils introduced a popular literature, telling legends that sooner or later were written down. These too were mostly translations or adaptations from the Greek, some even showing traces of Indian mythology, but others were original compositions. But, in spite of this activity, the general standard of culture and comfort was low. Even at the Court it did not probably extend far beyond the furniture and trappings that the Greek Tsaritsa would bring with her on her journeys from her home. When, after her death, her daughters visited Constantinople, they travelled not in the litters that would convey any lady of quality in the Empire, but in chariots whose wheels were armed with sharp scythes. The Bulgarian ambassador at Constantinople in 968 was even less civilized; he shaved his head like a Hungarian and wore a brass belt, apparently to keep his trousers up, and was quite unwashed. Bishop Liudprand of Cremona, ambassador of Otto I, was furious at such a creature having precedence



1. Kozma probably wrote after Peter’s death (see above, p. 191), but I treat of him here, as he considered himself a disciple of the Preslav school of Symeon’s day.





over him—and yet the North Italians themselves were none too clean in the tenth century. [1] But probably this ambassador was a member of the war-party—a boyar who would despise the decadent cleanlier habits of the Court.



Thus for close on four decades Bulgaria lay in this weary parody of peace. At last, in 965, the Tsaritsa Maria-Irene, eponymous leader of the peace party, died. Years had brought Peter no greater strength of character, and almost at once, deprived of his wife’s pacific influence, he fell under the control of warlike bоyars , who counselled him to show a brave, aggressive front against Constantinople. Things had changed in Constantinople. The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus, Symeon’s adversary, had fallen long since, and had died a repentant monk; Constantine, the Porphyrogennetus, restored to his rightful place, was dead now too; even his son, the second Romanus, grandson of old Lecapenus, had died. The Imperial crown was now worn officially by two little boys, the sons of Romanus II—the younger an indolent child called Constantine, the elder called Basil, who would later bear a surname dreadful to Bulgarian ears. Their mother, the lovely Empress Theophano, warned by the fate of Zoe Carbopsina, had maintained herself in power by a second marriage; her husband had been the Imperial Commander-in-Chief, Nicephorus Phocas, grandson of the first Nicephorus Phocas and nephew of the victim of the Achelous. Nicephorus, from his prowess and from this marriage, was now firmly seated with his stepsons on the Imperial throne, co-Emperor and Regent of the Empire.


It would have been wise not to provoke the warrior-Emperor who had conquered Crete from the Infidel and



1. Liudprand, Legatio, pp. 185-6. Ibrahim ibn Yakub describes the Bulgarian ambassador at Otto I’l Court in 965 as wearing a similar costume. See above, p. 186.





was conquering in the east. But the Bulgarians hoped that Nicephorus would be too fully occupied in his schemes against the Saracens not to yield to the demands of Bulgaria, should she show a warlike spirit. And so, when Nicephorus revisited Constantinople for the winter of 965-6, fresh from his capture of Tarsus, he was accosted by an embassy from the Tsar, sent to receive the ‘customary tribute.’ [1]


This tribute was the old income that the Empire had agreed to pay, by the peace of 927, during the lifetime of the Tsaritsa. Peter’s demand for it after her death was an act of unwarrantable aggression; and to call what was practically a dowry paid in instalments tribute was an intolerable insult. The ambassadors’ reception was short and painful. Nicephorus was furious; rhetorically he asked his father, the Caesar Bardas, what could they mean by demanding tribute from the Roman Emperor. He then turned on the ambassadors and poured abuse on them, calling their race one of filthy beggars, and their Tsar, not an emperor, but a prince clad in skins. [2] His refusal was categorical; the unhappy Bulgarians, amid blows from the humbler courtiers, were dismissed from the Presence.


It was an audience almost unparalleled in the history of Imperial etiquette, similar only to Alexander’s reception of Symeon’s envoys in 913. But Peter was not Symeon; nor was Nicephorus Alexander. His rage was real, not the product of drunken bravado, and he did not confine himself to words. At once he moved with a large army to the frontier, and even captured a few of the Bulgarian forts that still guarded the Great Fence; but he had no wish to go campaigning in Bulgaria, that difficult country



1. I give my reasons for my disentanglement of Nicephorus’s wars with Bulgaria in Appendix XII.


2. Leo Diaconus, p. 62.





where so many Imperial lords and soldiers had been slain—he still had work to do in the east. He thought of an easier way to deal with Bulgaria, a method dictated by the traditions of Byzantine diplomacy. The Russians were a vigorous race and lay beyond Bulgaria. They could do his work for him. But for the moment there was no work to be done. Peter was terrified by the result of his bellicose gesture. Hastily he sent to make peace, withdrawing, we may presume, his demand for ‘tribute,’ and handing over his two sons, Boris and Romanus, as hostages to the Emperor—an act that was not as humiliating as it might seem; the young men were simply going, as Symeon had gone, to finish their schooling at Constantinople, the one place where they would receive an education worthy of civilized princes. That they were there in the Emperor’s power could be regarded as a side-issue.


The episode gave Nicephorus food for reflection. For close on forty years the Empire had ignored Bulgaria; but Bulgaria had not lost her warlike temper. It was only weariness that kept her tranquil; if she were allowed time to recover, the age of Symeon might come back again. Nicephorus proceeded with his negotiations with the Russians. [1]


The Imperial ambassador sent to the Russian Court was the Patrician Calocyras, son of the chief magistrate of Cherson, the Imperial colony in the Crimea, the starting point of most of the missions into the Steppes. Calocyras, who had lived most of his life in his native district, was admirably fitted to deal with the savage neighbouring tribes, knowing their languages and their habits well. Moreover, he took with him a sum of money enormous



1. Zlatarski’s suggestion that Nicephorus called the Russians into Bulgaria to keep them from attacking Cherson is, I think, unnecessary. Cherson could be defended easily still by calling in the Petchenegs.





even in those days of the wholesale bribery of nations— 1,500 lb. of gold. The Russian monarch, the heathen Varangian Prince Svyatoslav, fell an easy prey to the ambassador’s bribes and blandishments. He was a young man, only recently released from the tutelage of his stern Christian mother, the Grand Princess Olga; already he had waged wars successfully against his neighbours on the Steppes, and he was ambitious and eager to show his prowess further afield. By the summer of 967 the Russians were ready to descend upon Bulgaria.


In June 967 the Emperor Nicephorus marched to the frontier to inspect its defences—a useful precaution when war was to be let loose beyond it. At the same time, he wished to salve his conscience for calling in heathen barbarians against a Christian country with which he was at peace. So from the frontier he wrote to the Tsar accusing him of having so often allowed the Magyars to cross the Danube and penetrate to the Empire. Peter had no answer. He would gladly have prevented the Magyars from raiding in his country, but he had not been strong enough; but naturally, when they did invade, he encouraged them to pass on as quickly as possible into the provinces of some other ruler. His reply was inevitably unsatisfactory; and so Nicephorus could consider himself justified. [1] Confident that the Russians would do his work thoroughly, he turned his attention again to the east.


In August Svyatoslav crossed the Danube with Calocyras to guide him and sixteen thousand men. The Bulgarians had been warned, and sent twice that number to oppose his landing on the southern bank; but they were badly defeated and fled to the fortress of Dristra. Svyatoslav



1. Zonaras, iii., p. 512-13, says that Nicephorus was actuated by a Magyar invasion. Cedrenus (Scylitzes), however (ii., p. 372), on whom Zonaras based his chronicle, implies that it was a general pretext. The invasion in Zonaras is clearly due to his misinterpretation of the passage in Scylitzes.





overran the north of the country, capturing twenty-four towns, and established himself for the winter in that very district of Onglus where Asperuch the Bulgar had lived, holding his Court in Preslav-on-the-Danube, Little Preslav, the fortress that commanded the river delta. Thither the Emperor sent him additional subsidies [1]; and next spring he invaded southward again, devastating the land even more fiercely than before.


The Bulgarians were in despair. The Tsar Peter’s health was affected by the disasters; he had an apoplectic fit from which he never properly recovered. His Government, however, kept its head sufficiently to apply the only possible remedy; it called in the Petchenegs. The Petchenegs were only too glad to intervene; the Russian power was rivalling their own, and already their prestige was diminishing compared to the better ordered hordes of the Varangians. Moreover, Svyatoslav had violated their territory in marching to the Danube; for they still roamed over the Wallachian plain and the Steppes on the Black Sea coast. They banded themselves together in the summer of 968 and marched in full force against Kiev. The Grand Princess Olga defended the city as best she could, but her forces were outnumbered and famine intervened. The news at last reached Svyatoslav, and reluctantly he saw that he must return. He arrived back in time to save his capital: while his people reproached him for adventuring in foreign lands and neglecting his own. But, though Bulgaria thus won a respite, his heart was set on going there again.


The ailing Tsar took a second precaution. That same summer he swallowed his pride and humbly sent an ambassador to Constantinople—the unwashed Patrician whose precedence so vexed Liudprand of Cremona.



1. This is clearly what is meant by ‘Nestor’s’ assertion that the ‘Greeks paid him tribute there.’





Nicephorus received him non-committally; he was as yet undecided in his policy. But as the year wore on alarming news came from Russia. The Patrician Calocyras had succeeded only too well in winning Svyatoslav’s confidence; he now was planning to use it against his Emperor. Continually he urged the Russians to invade the Balkans again, hoping either to be carried on Russian arms to the Imperial throne itself, or more probably so to divert the Emperor that he could return to his native Cherson and establish himself there independently. Svyatoslav fell eagerly in with his plans. The south tempted him; he wished to hold his Court for ever at Preslav-on-the-Danube; for there, he said, was the centre of his lands; there all the riches came, from Greece, silver, stuffs and fruits, and varied wines, from Bohemia and from Hungary, silver and horses, from Russia, skins and wax and honey and human slaves. [1] It was indeed a fine site for a capital, so near the mouth of the great river and commanding the gate to the rich Balkan world. It was all that his mother Olga could do to restrain him, to keep him with her at Kiev till she died; for already she was very ill. [2]


Nicephorus learnt from his spies that the situation was really serious; he himself thought that war with Russia was unavoidable. He hastily sent to fortify the Imperial possessions in the Crimea, [3] and at the same time instructed the Patrician Nicephorus Eroticus, and Philotheus, Bishop of Euchaita, to proceed to the Bulgarian Court and propose an alliance. The Bulgarians received them delightedly; the need for Imperial help, they said, was very urgent indeed. Everything was arranged for a common defence of the peninsula. At Nicephorus’s suggestion the



1. Chronique dite de Nestor, pp. 53-4.


2. Ibid., loc. cit.


3. It is this fact that makes me believe that Cherson was at first Calocyras’s objective.





alliance was to be further cemented by a marriage between two little Bulgar Princesses [1] and the two young purple-born Emperors. This clause was enthusiastically accepted; and the two princesses set out in scythe-wheeled chariots to Constantinople, to be trained in their future high duties. But these marriages never took place; and we only hear of them once again. Early on the December night on which the Empress Theophano had her husband Nicephorus murdered, she came to talk to him about the upbringing of these foreign girls, and left him to make some arrangement for them. [2] After that nothing is known of them. They soon lost their political importance; probably they were given as brides each to some respectable gentleman of Constantinople. [3]


In the midst of these arrangements the Tsar Peter died, on January 30, 969. [4] He had reigned nearly forty-two years, a good man, but a bad king. His task had been almost impossible; he had inherited a weary kingdom, and he had not been strong enough to hold it together. If he kept the peace he aroused the irritation of his bоyars ; but his show of warlike temper at the end was even more disastrous. And all the while he had to face the passive but increasing hostility of the peasant heretics. His had not been a happy life; even in his youth he was a disillusioned man, murmuring to Saint John of Rila that, however great your longing for riches and for glory may be, they will not



1. It is uncertain who these Princesses were. They can hardly have been the children of Peter and Maria, as is generally said, for they were married forty-one years previously, whereas the Princesses were clearly quite young. They were probably the children either of Boris II (though one gathers that Boris was hardly old enough), or of some elder but now dead son of Peter’s.


2. Leo Diaconus, p. 86.


3. Such was the fate of the Princesses of Samuel’s family (see below, p. 257).


4. The date (Jan. 30) is supplied by the Office of Tsar Peter (see Ivanov, Bulgarski Starini, p. 83). For the year, see Zlatarski, Istoriya, i., 2, p. 589. As he shows, 969 must be correct, though I disagree with some of his other dates.





bring you peace. [1] And Peter had not even lived gloriously. Death alone was kind to him, for it spared him the woes that were coming to his country.



On Peter’s death the Emperor sent his sons back to their homes from Constantinople; and the elder, Boris, ascended the throne. Boris was probably in his middle twenties. In character and ability he was alike mediocre; the only thing about him that was really remarkable was his thick red beard. [2] His accession brought with it no new policy. Indeed, under the circumstances, there was nothing to be done, save to put the country into some state of defence, and then await the inevitable onrush of the Russians.


The storm broke in the early autumn of that year (969). [3] The great Princess Olga died during the summer, and Svyatoslav now had nothing to retain him at Kiev. He set off at once with an army of Russians and Petchenegs and Magyar subjects or mercenaries for his new capital of Preslav-on-the-Danube, and from there marched into the heart of Bulgaria. Whatever defences Boris may have organized, they fell utterly to pieces before the Russian hordes. [4] They swept down through the northern provinces, on to Great Preslav itself; after a sharp battle the capital fell into their hands, and in it they took prisoner the Tsar, his brother Romanus, and all his family. [5] From Preslav they moved to Philippopolis, the greatest town of the south. Philippopolis, it seems, made a brave but



1. Zhivot Jovana Rilskog, p. 279.


2. Leo Diaconus, p. 136.


3. For the dating see Appendix X.


4. ’Nestor’ says that the Russian army was only 10,000 strong (p. 56); the later Greeks, however, considered it thirty times as large (300,000; Zonaras, iii., p. 524: 308,000; Cedrenus, ii., p. 384). ‘Nestor’s’ number probably represents the pure Russians; but there were the additional Petcheneg, Magyar, and, later, Bulgarian auxiliaries. Probably Leo Diaconus’s estimate (p. 109) of 30,000 is fairly correct.


5. Cedrenus, ii., p. 383: Chronique dite de Nestor, p. 55. Here I think Pereia-slavets is Great Preslav, not, as before, Preslav-on-the-Danube.





feckless show of resistance; Svyatoslav in revenge impaled twenty thousand of its inhabitants. [1] By the fall of winter the Russians had overrun and held firmly the whole of Eastern Bulgaria, as far as the Thracian frontier of the Empire. There they paused to winter, Calocyras still with them and urging them on. His ambitions were boundless now; the Russians should carry him in triumph to Constantinople, and there, as Emperor, he would reward them with his province of Bulgaria. [2]


There was great alarm in Constantinople; and it was not allayed by a grand tragedy in the Palace. On December io, 969, the Emperor Nicephorus was murdered by the order of his wife Theophano and her lover, his best general, John Tzimisces. In the retribution that followed the Empress was deserted and dispatched into exile; and John, doubly traitorous, became Emperor. [3] John was an excellent soldier and an able statesman, younger and less scrupulous than his predecessor. The Empire had no reason to regret his elevation. But for Bulgaria it was less felicitous.


John at first attempted to negotiate with Svyatoslav. He sent to him offering to complete the subsidies promised by Nicephorus—their payment had presumably been stopped when Nicephorus allied himself with Bulgaria; and he requested him to evacuate what was, he said, a rightful possession of the Empire. Those words must have fallen strangely on the ears of the Bulgarian captives at the Great Prince’s Court. But Svyatoslav’s reply was to order John to cross into Asia; he would only consider a peace that gave him all the European lands of the Emperor, and if he were not given them he would come and take them. Despite this ferocity, John sent a second message, sterner but still conciliatory, probably to gain more



1. Leo Diaconus, p. 105.


2. Cedrenus, loc. cit.


3. Leo Diaconus, pp. 84 ff.





time. Again Svyatoslav issued an insulting message to the Imperial ambassadors. So both sides settled down to war. [1]


It was a war that was miserable for Bulgaria. The Bulgarians, weary and disunited, had at last met the fate for which diplomats at Constantinople so long had plotted; they had succumbed to barbarians from the Steppes. And now they had to watch the barbarians and the Imperial armies fighting over their lands, knowing that, whichever might be victorious, neither would give them back their independence. They were a melancholy sight—the Tsar a captive in his palace, his soldiers taken off to swell the ranks of the Russians, while the merchants and the farmers watched the ruined tracks of war and the heretic peasants sulked in passive indolence. Only in the west, where the Russians never penetrated, was there still some active national life and feeling: which would bear fruit later.


In the summer of 970 the Russians advanced into Thrace. The Emperor sent his brother-in-law, Bardas Sclerus, out to meet them. After preliminary skirmishes there was a great battle at Arcadiopolis, the Lule-Burgas of to-day. It was a long-drawn-out contest, full of heroic hand-to-hand combats; but in the end the Russians were beaten, and swept back, with their numbers sadly reduced, to Bulgaria. But the Imperial army did not follow up its advantage. Probably the year was too well advanced; and John Tzimisces wished to make fuller preparations before adventuring an army into the Balkan mountains. [2]



1. Leo Diaconus, pp. 105 ff., after giving a rough and inaccurate history of the early Bulgars: Chronique dite de Nestor, pp. 55 ff., giving it all in a light flattering to Russian pride: Cedrenus ii., pp. 383 ff.


2. Ibid., pp. 108 ff.: Cedrenus, ii., pp. 384 ff. The attempts of Russian historians (e.g. Drinov, Yuzhnye Slavyane i Vizantiya, p. 101) to prove that this was really a Russian victory are a scandalous piece of misguided patriotism, as Schlumberger (L’Epopée Byzantine, i., pp. 57—9) has shown: though, of course, the figures given by Greek chroniclers of the casualties have been exaggerated owing to similar patriotism.





But the delay was made longer than the Emperor had hoped. Throughout the autumn of 970 and the winter he assembled troops and prepared his fleet; but in the early spring of 971 news came to Constantinople of the serious revolt at Amassa of Bardas Phocas, the late Emperor’s nephew. John’s armies had to march to Asia instead of to the north. Thus the season was lost, and the Russians remained, keeping their heavy yoke upon Bulgaria. As the year moved on they recovered some of their confidence, and in the autumn conducted some raids round Adrianople. Their task was made the easier by the gross incompetence of the local Imperial governor, the Emperor’s cousin, John Curcuas, a man abnormally fond of eating and drinking. [1]


By the new year of 972 the rebel Bardas Phocas was defeated, and the ships and the soldiers were almost ready for the Bulgarian campaign. When spring came the Emperor set out from Constantinople, blessed by the holiest of the city’s relics, at the head of a huge, well-trained, and richly furnished army. Meanwhile his fleet of fire-shooting galleys sailed to the Danube, to cut off the Russians’ retreat. Russian spies in the guise of ambassadors waited on the Emperor at Rhaedestus, but he let them go free. He marched on through Adrianople, and in the last days of Lent crossed the frontier and began to wind his way through the Pass of Veregava and the other defiles of the Balkan mountains on the road to Preslav. By a strange good fortune the Russians had left these passes unguarded. Whether, as John himself suggested, they had not expected the Emperor to go campaigning in Holy Week, or whether, as is more likely, the Bulgarian population was restive and the Russians had not enough



1. Leo Diaconus, p. 126. This John was probably the grandson of Romanus I’s general, John Curcuas, John Tzimisces’s great-uncle : his father was called Romanus.





troops to spare, they certainly neglected the one satisfactory opportunity of checking John’s advance.


On Wednesday, April 3, the Emperor arrived before Great Preslav. The city was defended by Svyatoslav’s third-in-command, Svengel, a Varangian of immense stature and bravery, [1] and by the traitor Calocyras. Svyatoslav himself was at Dristra, on the Danube, probably trying to keep open communications with Russia in the teeth of the Imperial fleet. The Russians at once gave battle, but after a terrible and long-undecided conflict they were severely defeated and fell back behind the city walls. Next morning, on Holy Thursday, reinforcements reached the Emperor, including his latest machines for shooting fire. Thereupon he gave the order for assault of the city to begin.


During the night Calocyras, who had noticed the Imperial insignia among the attacking force, and who knew what his fate would be were he captured and recognized, slipped out of the city and fled to Svyatoslav’s camp at Dristra. Svengel, however, defended the walls as best he could; but the Russians, weakened by the previous day’s battle, could not man the huge enceinte properly against the outnumbering assailants, and they were no match for the Greek Fire. After a few hours’ desperate fighting they retired, as many as could, into the inner city, the fortress-palace of the Tsars.


The Emperor’s troops burst into the outer city and overran it, slaying what Russians they met. Many, too, of the Bulgarian inhabitants perished, guilty or suspected of having helped the heathen barbarians. In the midst of the butchery they came upon Tsar Boris and his wife and two children, for over two years the prisoners of the Russians.



1. ‘ Σφέγκελος. ’ Drinov (op. cit., p. 104) identifies him with ‘Nestor’s’ Svienald, a Varangian chief who had served under Igor and who was mentioned in the peace of 972, but, according to Leo Diaconus, he was killed before Dristra.





This miserable family was brought before the Emperor. John deigned to receive them graciously, saluting Boris as Prince [1] of the Bulgars, and saying he was come to avenge the injuries inflicted on Bulgaria by the Russians. But, though he released Bulgarian prisoners, his actions put a curious interpretation on his words.


Meanwhile, his soldiers besieged the Palace, a vast, well-fortified group of buildings forming, like the Great Palace at Constantinople, a town within the city. The Russians resisted with some success till the Emperor brought fire to his aid. Flames swept over the palace buildings, burning the Russian warriors or forcing them out to the open, to their deaths. Svengel, with a small bodyguard, fled through the Imperial army to Dristra. Thus by the evening all Preslav was in the Emperor’s hands.


Good Friday morning broke on a mass of smouldering ruins and streets choked with corpses. It was the end of Great Preslav, the city that so few years before had been the largest and wealthiest of all the cities of Eastern Europe, save only Constantinople. The Emperor John spent the Easter week-end there, restoring order and refreshing his army, and sending a curt embassy to Svyatoslav at Dristra, to bid him either lay down his arms and beg for pardon, or meet the Imperial armies and be slain. A few days later he set out in full force for Dristra. Before he left, he rebuilt the fortifications of Preslav and re-christened it after his own name, Ioannupolis. Henceforward it should be a minor provincial city of the Empire, distinguished only for the vastness of its ruins.


Svyatoslav at Dristra heard of his troops’ disaster in a wild fury. There were large numbers of Bulgarian hostages or unwilling auxiliaries at his camp, and on them he



1. ‘ Κοίρανον, ’ not ‘ βασιλέα ’ in Leo Diaconus (p. 136). However, Leo speaks of him as ‘ βασιλεύς, ’ and Cedrenus says that John called him ‘ βασιλέα ’ (ii., p. 396).





gave rein to his rage. Suspecting treachery from their compatriots, knowing that even Imperial rule was better in their eyes than his, and, determining to terrorize them into alliance, he threw the Bulgarians in his power into chains, and beheaded all the magnates and the bоyars, to the number of three hundred. [1] Later, as the Emperor approached, he released the humbler Bulgarians and enrolled them in his armies; but he ordered his Petcheneg allies to mow them down without mercy should they attempt treachery or flight.


From Preslav John marched to Pliska, the ancient capital, and thence, by way of a town called Dinea, to Dristra. He arrived before the city on Saint George’s Day; and at once the two armies met in battle on the plain outside the walls. It was another hard, heroic contest, but by nightfall the Russians were driven back with heavy losses behind their fortifications. John could not, however, proceed at once with the siege; his fleet had not yet arrived to cut the Russians off on the river side. He spent April 24 in fortifying his camp on a hillock close by, but on the 25th impatiently ordered an assault. This attack failed, as also a rival sortie of the Russians; but in the evening the Emperor saw his great fleet come sailing up the Danube. On the 26th, after a third great battle, the siege of Dristra began. John had hoped to take the city by storm, but almost at once he realized its impossibility. Restraining his army’s ardour, he waited, closely guarding every access to the city.


The weeks passed by, full of stirring episodes. The Russians made many murderous sorties, but they never could break right through the besiegers’ circles; nor could their arrows keep the Greek Fire from burning their ships.



1. The number is supplied by Scylitzes (Cedrenus, ii., p. 400), who, however, has an unfailing habit of exaggerating numbers. He also says that the Bulgarian prisoners in Dristra numbered 20,000.





The Bulgarians recognized that it was only a question of time now. Many of their northern cities, including Constantia (Kostanza) sent deputations to the Emperor’s camp, handing over their keys to him and offering him help. Nevertheless, while John sat before Dristra, fortune almost upset his whole career; the restless and vindictive family of the Phocae once more rose in rebellion, in Constantinople itself; and only the energy of the eunuch Basil the Paracoemomenus, son of Romanus Lecapenus and a Bulgarian woman, saved John his throne.


As July wore on, the Russians grew desperate. They had lost many of their finest heroes, including Svengel, the defender of Preslav, and their food was running short. Finally, on July 21, Svyatoslav held a council with his generals, at which, after long discussions, they decided, at the Great Prince’s exhortation, to make one last attempt to fight their way to freedom. On the 24th [1] they burst out of the city with all the force and courage of despair. So furious was their attack that the Imperial forces almost gave way before them; and for a moment their fate hung in the balance.


In Constantinople everyone waited eagerly for news from the Danube. On the night of the 23rd a pious nun had a dream; she saw the Mother of God herself, protectress of the city, summon Saint Theodore Stratilates, the soldier, and bid him go to the aid of their beloved servant John. At Dristra during the battle men noticed a noble warrior on a white horse dealing destruction amongst the pagan hordes. When, afterwards, the Emperor sought him out to thank him, he could not be found. Saint Theodore may have saved the Empire. The battle



1. Leo Diaconus (p. 152) dates it Friday, July 24; but in 972 July 24 was a Wednesday. In Cedrenus (ii., p. 405) the day before Svyatoslav’s council of war is dated July 20; the attack would therefore fall on July 22. I follow Leo’s monatal dating, as he is usually the more reliable, but, considering that he is self-contradictory, the whole thing remains unsatisfactory.





certainly was full of strange incidents; John even offered to settle it in single combat with Svyatoslav. But the Imperial victory was in the main due to John’s adoption of the old Parthian tactics of a feigned retreat. By nightfall the Russians were routed, this time beyond all hope of a recovery.


On the morning of the 23rd, Svyatoslav bowed to fate and sent envoys to the Emperor. He only asked now to be allowed to cross the river without an attack from the terrible fire-shooting ships, and to be given a little food for the starving remnant of his men. [1] In return he promised to hand over all the prisoners that he had made, to evacuate Dristra and all Bulgaria for ever, and never to invade Cherson. He also begged that the previous commercial treaties and arrangements about the Russians in Constantinople should be renewed. John Tzimisces, almost equally weary of fighting, accepted his terms; and so the war was ended. Bulgaria had no voice in the treaty.


Before the Varangian prince retired to his northern country, he asked for an interview with the Emperor. The monarchs met on the edge of the great river. John rode down clad in his golden armour, with a splendid retinue; Svyatoslav came in a little boat, rowing with the other rowers, distinguished from them only in that his plain white robe was slightly cleaner than theirs; and he wore one golden earring, set with two pearls and a carbuncle, and from his shaven head fell two long locks, signifying his rank. For the rest, he was of medium height, very well built, with fair hair, blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and long moustaches—a true Norseman. Their conversation was very short, but the two mortal enemies were enabled to see one another—the Swede that



1. Leo Diaconus (p. 156) says that 22,000 Russians remained, 38,000 having perished in the war. These numbers might well be true.





ruled over Russia meeting the Armenian Emperor of the Romans, after this long contest for the land of the Bulgarians. [1]


And so Svyatoslav returned sadly towards Kiev, sailing in his little ships down the Danube and along the coast to the mouth of the Dnieper. Then he began his laborious journey up the river through the territory of the Petchenegs. Winter overtook him there, and cold and hunger added to his humiliations. Meanwhile the Petchenegs, forgetting the troops that they had sent to help him, and rejoicing in his downfall, waited hungrily by; they could not believe that he was bringing back no treasure from the war. The old Imperial ambassador, Philotheus of Euchaita, was at the Court of Kouria, chief prince of the Petchenegs, making a separate peace in which they promised never to cross the Danube. But when he asked them in the Emperor’s name to be merciful and let the Russians through, they angrily refused. In the early spring Svyatoslav moved on up the Dnieper. At the great Cataracts the Petchenegs lay in ambush, and as he came they fell on him and slew him. Of his skull they made a drinking-cup, even as Krum had done with the skull of an Emperor. [2]


John’s return home was very different. He rested in Dristra, rechristening it Theodorupolis, after the saint that fought by his side; then he journeyed southward in glory, the royal family of Bulgaria following in his train. All



1. The main source for the campaign is Leo Diaconus (pp. 105-159), whose account is very full and who himself was alive at the time. Scylitzes’s account (Cedrenus, ii., pp. 392—413) is less detailed, but provides one or two additional facts. Zonaras merely recapitulates him (iii., pp. 523—32). La Chronique dite de Nestor (pp. 53-59) is crude and over-patriotic, but brings out facts such as Olga’s restraining influence. There is an excellent modern critical account of the war in Schlumberger’s Epopée Byzantine, vol. i. chapters i.-iii.


2. La Chronique dite de Nestor, pp. 59—60, saying that the Greeks provoked the attack. Cedrenus ii., p. 412, shows that the opposite was the case. Philotheus of Euchaïta is called here Theophilus of Euchaïta.





Eastern Bulgaria lay in his power, from Preslav-on-the Danube and the new Theodorupolis, to Philippopolis and the Great Fence frontier to the sea. Soon, he hoped, he might confirm his rightful power over the turbulent poorer provinces of the west. In the meantime he celebrated his triumph in Constantinople. A long and splendid procession wound from the Golden Gate down the Triumphal Way to Saint Sophia. After rows of warriors and captives, there came a golden chariot in which was borne the most precious of all the spoils, the icon of the Virgin of Bulgaria. Whence this icon came we do not know, but the Emperor revered it exceedingly and draped it in the Imperial mantle of the Tsars. Behind it rode the Emperor John on his white horse; and after him, on foot, there came the Tsar of the Bulgarians. At the cathedral John laid the icon and the crown-jewels of Bulgaria on the altar of God’s Wisdom; the crown itself was a thing of marvellous richness and beauty. The Court then moved to the palace, and there, before all the dignitaries of the Empire, Boris of Bulgaria abdicated his throne. [1]


Vengeance had fallen on the seed of Krum and of Symeon. The Empire in the end had conquered. The Emperor treated the fallen monarch kindly; he was given the title of Magister, and took his place amongst the Imperial nobility. His brother Romanus was made a eunuch. [2] The abdication of the Tsar had released the Empire from its legal obligations; the Emperor could declare Bulgaria to be forfeited to himself. At the same time he abolished the independence of the Bulgarian Church. A quiet end was given to the patriarchate of Preslav, whither the see had been moved after the death of



1. Leo Diaconus, pp. 158-9: Cedrenus, ii., pp. 412-13.


2. Ibid., loc. cit. When Romanus was captured and when he was castrated are alike unknown. He appears as a eunuch a few years later (Cedrenus, ii., p. 435), having been castrated by the Paracoemomenus Joseph. Boris’s two children were probably daughters, as we hear no more of them.





Damian of Dristra. [1] Bulgaria, like any other province of the Empire, should depend on the Oecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.


In Eastern Bulgaria, by the old capitals of the Balkan invaders, men were too war-worn to protest. But Bulgarians still lived on the slopes of Vitosh and of Rila, and in the valleys and lakesides of Albania and Upper Macedonia. There the Russians had never come spreading desolation, nor the Emperor in all his might to combat them, and to reap the harvest that they had sown with blood. There the Bulgarians were proud and unconquered, scorning the decrees that were issued on the Bosphorus. The house of Krum had faded in ignominy; but, even as the afternoon was passing into night and the shadows had gathered, the sky was lit up in the west with golden and with red.



1. See above, p. 182, and references given there.


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