Byzantium and Bulgaria. A comparative study across the early medieval frontier

Robert Browning



7. Political Structure  116

8. Religion  140

9. Culture  170

10. Everyday Life  187


7. Political Structure



The Byzantine empire in the ninth and tenth centuries was, in its political ordering as in so many other things, the heir of the later Roman Empire. The changes which had taken place since the age of Diocletian and Constantine were great, but they had in general been made by way of adjustment to the challenge of successive crises rather than as part of a well thought-out plan of reform. The only significant exception to this may be the introduction of the theme system. But there is still no agreement on the date, purpose and method of this radical change. What is certain is that it took place slowly, over a period of as much as two centuries, so it is in no way comparable to the restructuring of the Roman administrative system by Diocletian, a reform carried out in a few years and under the rule of one man.


By the early ninth century stability had been reached after a long period of slow change, By the later tenth century that stability began to be upset by innovations in the pattern of land-tenure and consequently in the provision of soldiers and the collection of taxes, and a new period of change was inaugurated which was only stabilised once again in the reign of Alexios I Comnenus (1081-1118). What is here described is the political structure during the long period of relative stability, with only occasional references to the periods of change preceding and following.


All power was vested in the emperor, who was not merely a head of state but a divinely appointed ruler whose authority was potentially ecumenical. His office was not hereditary, but had to be conferred. On the death of an emperor his successor was theoretically appointed by the army, the senate and the people, and consecrated by the patriarch. As the army and the people had no deliberative or executive organs, and the senate by this time virtually none, the real forces involved might be very different. Sometimes a mere conspiracy among the palace guards sufficed; more usually it was a consensus among the leading civil and military officers of state. Often an emperor appointed a junior colleague during his lifetime, usually a son, and such a junior emperor might expect to succeed his predecessor without formal appointment. Coronation by the patriarch was not essential for the exercise of imperial power, and was sometimes long delayed for various reasons. Where there were several co emperors, only the senior actually exercised imperial functions.





The traditional and official view of the functions and duties of a Byzantine emperor in the ninth century is summarised in Title 2 of the Epanagoge, a brief codification of the law promulgated by Basil I about 880, probably as part of the preparation for the restoration and revision of Justinian’s legislation. The passage is as follows:


1. The Emperor is a legal authority, a blessing common to all his subjects, who neither punishes through hostility nor rewards through partiality, but behaves like an umpire making awards in a game.


2. The object of the Emperor is to protect and secure by his ability the powers which he already possesses ; to recover by vigilant attention those that are lost; and to acquire by wisdom and by just habits and practices those he does not possess.


3. The goal set before the Emperor is the conferment of benefits; this is why he is called ‘benefactor’; and when he wearies of conferring benefits he manifestly falsifies the royal stamp and emblem, as the ancients put it.


4. The Emperor is supposed to enforce and maintain first of all everything that is set out in the Holy Scriptures; then the doctrines established by the seven sacred councils; and furthermore the current Roman laws.


5. The Emperor ought to be distinguished in orthodoxy and piety, both as regards the doctrines established about the Trinity, and as regards the views clearly and unerringly defined concerning the nature of being of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. This he will do by maintaining the identity of essence in the three substances of the Deity, indivisible and uncircumscribable, and the union of the two natures in the substance of the one Christ, unconfounded yet indivisible, perfect God and perfect man in one person, consequently without passion yet subject to passion, incorruptible yet corruptible, impalpable yet palpable, beyond circumscription yet circumscribed, possessed of dual will and operation without contradiction, impossible to depict yet depicted.


6. The Emperor must interpret the laws established by the ancients, and must on the analogy of these decide questions on which there is no law.


7. In interpreting the laws he must observe the custom of the state, but must not admit as a model anything contrary to the canons.





8. The Emperor must interpret the laws benevolently, and in cases of doubt adopt a generous interpretation.


9. The Emperor must not alter laws which have a clear interpretation.


10. Regarding issues on which there is no written law, the Emperor must pay heed to habit and custom, and if these fail he must follow precedents analogous to the issue in question.


11. As the statement of law is either written or unwritten so its repeal is either the result of a written enactment or of unwritten disuse.


12. We follow the custom of the state or of a province when it has been confirmed after discussion in court. Rules approved by long custom and maintained in force for many years are no less valid than written laws.


13. We do not permit wrong decisions to be confirmed even by long custom.



The compilatory nature of this hodge-podge is evident on first reading. Yet it is interesting as a contemporary formulation of the role of an emperor. And it is typically Byzantine in its accumulation of material from varied sources, brought together through the needs of practice without any attempt at systematisation.


In spite of the aura of sanctity surrounding an emperor, if he were deposed or killed by a rival, that rival, once formally proclaimed, was usually accepted by the whole of Byzantine society. Failure was an indication that divine favour had been lost. Success by a usurper marked him as the man chosen by God. This meant in effect that the absolutism of imperial power was tempered by a right of revolution— provided it was successful. In fact several such acts of usurpation took place between the mid ninth century and the mid tenth century. On 23 September 867 Michael III was murdered on the orders of his co-emperor Basil I, who succeeded to power without further incident. In the years 918-919 the drungarios (admiral) Romanus Lecapenus succeeded in setting aside the council of regency appointed during the minority of Constantine VII, and in marrying his daughter Helena to the young emperor. By December 920 he had himself proclaimed co-emperor, which in this case implied the exercise of effective power, since his colleague was a minor. In the following four years his sons were proclaimed co-emperors along with him. Twenty years later in December 944 Romanus Lecapenus was arrested on the order of his two surviving sons, deposed and deported to an island in the Sea of Marmara.





A month later the sons themselves were arrested and deposed by Constantine VII, and sent into exile, where both soon died a violent death. Constantine VII himself was poisoned in 959 by his son and co-emperor Romanus II who succeeded him, only to die three years later, probably poisoned by his wife. In all these cases the transfer of power was effected relatively smoothly without the intervention of the army and without civil commotion.


The emperor’s functions were representative, legislative, executive, and on occasion judicial. Representative functions occupied a great deal of his time, as can be seen from the manual of court ceremonies compiled by Constantine VII. Many of these were performed inside the palace, and involved the reception of foreign envoys, presiding at banquets, and attending a variety of religious ceremonies in the palace churches. Those which took the emperor outside the palace were mainly religious. On a great many days in the year he made his way in procession to the Church of the Holy Wisdom. Other occasions took him to different churches in the capital and to those outside the walls, both in Europe and in Asia. No Byzantine public occasion was wholly non-religious. But such imperial occasions as the vintage-festival at Hieria—on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus—or the so-called Gothic Games, celebrated within the palace enceinte, had a minimal religious content. And finally under the emperor’s representative functions must be included attendance at the chariot races in the Hippodrome, the protocol for which is recorded by Constantine VII in De Caerimoniis I, 78-80.


The emperor was the source of all law, but was bound by existing law unless he expressly repealed it. Many emperors seem to have issued no laws of their own. The Macedonian emperors, on the contrary, were active both in the codification of existing law—which always involves some modification of it—and in the promulgation of new laws, the so called Novels. Basil I produced two summaries of the law, the Prochiron and the Epanagoge, issued Novels of his own, and set in motion a kind of revised edition, in Greek translation and with the removal of matter which had become obsolete, of Justinian’s Corpus of Civil Law. This new codification, the Basilica, was probably completed by his son Leo VI, who also issued 113 Novels emending and tidying up the law of the Justinianic Corpus, and, in the Book of the Prefect promulgated new regulations for the industrial and trade guilds of Constantinople.





Several collections of excerpts having legal validity were also issued by the Macedonian emperors, though they cannot always be unequivocally attributed to a particular author.


In the performance of his representative and legislative functions an emperor was surrounded and supported by a hierarchy of courtiers and officials, in whose hands he might be a virtual puppet. His executive functions could only be carried out through the intermediacy of a series of departments of state and of provincial and regional officers. This is no place to enter into a detailed description of the administrative structure of the empire in the ninth and tenth centuries. Certain preliminary points must be made dear, however, before entering upon a more detailed examination of regional administration and military command, two aspects of the emperor’s executive function which lend themselves to comparison with those of Bulgaria. First, the division of responsibilities between different departments of state was not the result of any well-thought-out scheme based upon principles. It was the end product of a long series of makeshift adjustments and of individual acts of initiative in small matters. It occurred to no one to undertake a radical reform or to seek logical justification for the status quo. Different types of revenue were raised by different departments, and there was no single central treasury. Expenditure was similarly sub-divided, hence anything corresponding to a budget was impossible. Most items of revenue and expenditure were fixed by custom if by nothing else, but there was enough variability to rule out any but the most rudimentary financial planning.


Next, there were departments of state and there were provincial governors, but there was no government. Each department and each provincial governor was responsible to the emperor alone. The main qualification which has to be made to this general statement is that representatives of certain central departments were attached to the staffs of provincial governors, whose activities were to this extent brought under the control of other officers of state. An energetic emperor, interested in the exercise of power, might make a great many decisions of policy himself. Most of them probably only made decisions when they were asked to do so by their senior officers, or not even then. Such interventions as they did make tended to be arbitrary and capricious. There being no constitutionally established machinery for making day-to-day decisions of policy, decisions were often made by individuals or groups enjoying no constitutional authority. A series of imperial ‘favourites’, sometimes holding high office, sometimes related by blood or marriage to a reigning emperor, concentrate the levers of power in their hands, and only surrender them after a bloody palace revolution.





At other times there is a vaguely defined group of high officials who sort out most problems themselves. The Senate still exists, of course, as a venerable survival of the Roman Republic. However it is no longer a body which meets to transact business, but is an order, membership of which goes with certain ranks and/or offices. In fact an emperor normally consults a group of officers of state before making important executive or legislative decisions, but the membership of this group is neither constant nor constitutionally determined. It depends in part on the emperor’s personal whim, in part on the balance of power among the great officers of state.


Apart from decisions of policy, which were certainly far rarer than in a modern state, the administration of the empire went on almost automatically, thanks to a numerous corps of professional civil servants, who were the direct continuation of those of the later Roman Empire. They were arranged in a hierarchy of ranks, with increasing money salaries as well as allowances in kind. The holder of any particular office was given the rank appropriate to it, normally for life or until further promotion. During the period under study the correspondence between rank and office is regular. By the later tenth century the correspondence breaks down and ranks begin to be devalued. These civil servants are recruited from students at the University founded — or refounded—by Caesar Bardas in 863, or from the pupils of schools in which a classical education in grammar and rhetoric is given. The correspondence of the head—who was the only permanent teacher— of one such school in the first half of the tenth century shows the process of enquiry and testimonial-writing (a veritable ‘old-boy system’) which led pupils to lucrative posts in the civil service. [1] These civil servants seem in the main to be recruited from the class of small and medium landowners of the regions near the capital, who were beginning to form a kind of civil or bureaucratic nobility. It was the same class which supplied the church with its numerous functionaries — often deacons of the Church of the Holy Wisdom—and consequently most of its prelates. They were not of course a closed group. The Byzantine bureaucracy was permeable to the ‘lad o'parts’ if he found some patron to help him along. But they formed a self-conscious intellectual élite, with a very strong sense of tradition and a respect for culture sometimes amounting to fetishism. In a sense they might be described as the ruling class of the empire at this period. But the exercise of their power was strictly limited.





They did not necessarily supply the highest officers of state, who might be chosen from among the emperor’s kinsmen or favourites, and hence the highest decisions of policy were often taken out of their hands, even if they could influence them considerably by preparing the papers. And they did not hold military commands. As a result provincial governorships were usually beyond their grasp, though they did provide the staff for the office of provincial governors, and were able in this way to exercise some control over them.


The principal sub division of the territory of the empire was into themes — themata. These were both units of civil government and of military recruiting, and were governed by a military officer, the stratēgos. Some of the themes, particularly those of western Asia Minor, were formed in the seventh century, as part of the process of adaptation to the Arab conquest of Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and the continuing Arab pressure on Asia Minor. Others, particularly those in Europe, were formed in the eighth or the early ninth centuries. The newer themes were generally smaller in extent than the older ones. There is also a significant difference in nomenclature. The old Asiatic themes are called after the army units, which withdrew to them before the Arab thrust—Armeniakon, Opsikion, Anatolikon etc. The newer themes have geographical names — Hellas, Peloponnese, Strymon, Macedonia etc. The theme was further sub-divided into tourmai and banda or topoteresiai, which are both administrative circumscriptions and military recruiting areas. The stratēgos is both governor of the theme and commander of the theme army—of which more later—and is appointed by and responsible to the emperor. He generally had the rank of patrikios, sometimes that slightly higher of patrikios kai anthypatos. He was generally appointed for a term of three to four years, and was not appointed to his native province. He was forbidden to acquire real property in the theme which he governed. He had delegated to him all of the imperial functions in so far as they applied to a single province. To enable him to carry these out he had a staff of both military officers and civil servants, as well as an entourage or court of dignitaries. Functionaries from different departments of state in Constantinople were attached to his staff for fiscal and other purposes, and were theoretically under his authority. His second-in-command, the ekprosōpou, often functioned as a kind of lieutenant-governor of a section of the theme. The stratēgos had power to intervene in any kind of dispute between citizens or legal personalities such as monasteries, including the power to arrest persons and to seize property.





In maintaining public order he had the assistance of a kind of military police under his direct command known as taxeōtoi. The stratēgos himself acted as judge in dealing with military crimes. Jurisdiction in ordinary civil and criminal cases was exercised by the praitōr or kritēs, who also appears to have had charge of the fiscal officers of the theme. In the course of time, with the breakdown of the theme armies, the kritēs became independent of the stratēgos and eventually became the effective governor of the theme. But there are few traces of this growing independence of the kritēs before the second half of the tenth century. In the major cities of each theme there were officers appointed by the stratēgos, with full executive powers in civil matters. They seem generally to have had the neutral title of archontes.


Not all the territory of the empire belonged to themes. Apart from the capital, which constituted a separate administrative unit under a prefect appointed by the emperor, there were many small regions near the frontiers or controlling an important mountain pass or other strategic point, which formed independent military and civil circumscriptions. Known as kleisourai, they were governed by a military officer of lower rank than a stratēgos, but appointed directly by the emperor. Their civil administrative structure seems to have been similar to that of themes, though no doubt on a smaller scale. The only kleisoura which we hear of in Europe during the period under study was that of Strymon, which became a theme in the tenth century. In the period of Byzantine expansion in Europe and Asia in the second half of the tenth century and the early eleventh century many new kleisourai were established in newly-conquered territory, and some of these were subsequently raised to the status of themes.


The Proto-Bulgars when they settled south of the Danube towards the end of the seventh century were no mere fortuitous grouping of nomad tribes. They had a strong political organisation, a developed system of officers of state, and a tradition of government. Some of their political structure and ideology they brought with them from their Turkic homeland in central Asia. There are valid points of comparison with the society revealed by the Orkhon-Yenisei Turkic inscriptions. [2] Other features may be due to Iranian influences, either from Sassanian Persia or from the Sarmatians and Alans who shared with the Proto-Bulgars and their ancestors the life of the steppe north of the Caucasus.


At the head of the Proto-Bulgar state stood the Khan. In surviving inscriptions written in Greek he is called κανα σθβιγι. [3]





The Bulgar state was not a confederation, and the Byzantine ethnographic commonplace of the polyarchia (plurality of rulers) of the pastoral peoples is never applied to Bulgaria. The position of Khan was hereditary, normally passing from father to eldest son. When the Bulgar state first appears, the royal dynasty belongs to the clan or family of Dulo. When this became extinct or was overthrown in 739—the meagre sources are discussed by Zlatarski, Istorija I. 193ff.—the monarchy passed to the clan of Vokil. Otherwise we hear nothing about tribal or clan organisation among the Bulgars. It is unlikely to have played an important role in the period under discussion.


The Khan was legislator, executive, judge, military leader, and probably priest. The earliest record of Bulgarian legislation is the entry in the Suda, s.v. Boulgaroi concerning the laws promulgated by Krum (802-814). Its immediate source is probably the Excerpta historica of Constantine VII. Its ultimate source is Greek, not Bulgarian, but cannot be identified. The account of the legislation is embodied in a moralising story of the reasons for the downfall of the Avar empire, but there is no reason to doubt its general reliability. The new laws were promulgated at an assembly of all the Bulgars — a topic which we shall examine further—and dealt with procedure for prosecutions, punishment of thieves and those who gave them shelter, prohibition of viticulture, and maintenance of the poor. These are presumably only a selection of the topics covered by Krum’s legislation, and they are probably not reported as accurately as the historian would desire. But they reveal the mechanism for legislation —the formal proclamation by the sovereign before an assembly, which presumably accepts or ratifies the laws. There is no question of a written text. And the initiative rests entirely with the Khan, the assembly’s role being quite passive. In so far as we can validly discuss the content of Krum’s legislation, it appears to replace archaic procedures such as oath and ordeal by formal prosecution before a court, it lays great emphasis on offences against property—a thief is to have both his legs broken—and it takes account of a new class of paupers, for whom the traditional social security of family or commune can do nothing. After the conversion of Bulgaria Slavonic translations were made of the Ecloga and other Byzantine manuals of law, but it is not clear to what extent they had legal force. Towards the end of Boris’ reign or early in that of Symeon a new Bulgarian legal code—this time a written text in Slavonic—was promulgated, no doubt before an assembly of the people.





This code, the Zakon Sudnyj Ljudĭm, drew both on the Ecloga and on Bulgarian customs and at the same time asserted feudal property rights and the new privileged position of the church.


Of the Khan’s executive, military, and judicial functions less need be said. All three were carried on largely through the intermediacy of a series of officers of state, with Proto-Bulgarian titles whose meaning is not always clear, and most of whom seem on occasion to have combined civil and military functions. Of these the most important were the tarkhan, essentially a military officer, the kavkhan, whose principal duties were civil, the ičirgu boila, who may have been a kind of mayor of the palace, and others. This administrative structure was brought by the Bulgars from the steppes, and the function of many of these officers was no doubt modified with the change from pastoralism to settled life. It was also certainly changed as the Bulgars first established authority over and then gradually merged with the more numerous Slav population of Bulgaria. It is this rapid adaptation which largely explains the vagueness of the functions of Bulgarian officials. The administrative structure was continually modified to cope with new tasks.


The most important officers of state formed a council which advised the Khan. Under Symeon this council allegedly comprised twelve members, but the number was probably not fixed. A slightly later text mentions ‘the six great boyars’. A weak Khan could be dominated by a united council; a strong Khan would find his authority reinforced by it. These boyars forming the royal council and living at court are often called boule or synklētos (senate) by Byzantine authors. They are possibly to be identified with the ‘inner boyars’ mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De caerimoniis p. 681, and in Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions, though these are probably a wider group of officers of the central government. [4]


As well as his boyars, who probably belonged to powerful Bulgar families, at any rate until the ninth century, the Bulgar Khan also had an entourage of fighting men whom he maintained and whose loyalty to him was a personal one. These threptoi anthropoi, as they are called on the memorial inscriptions which the Khan set up for them, are probably to be identified with the oikeioi anthropoi mentioned in Byzantine sources. Whether they are a specifically Bulgar institution, for which analogies are to be sought in the Orkhon-Yenisei inscription, and in the Mongol nokod, or whether they are merely an example of a phenomenon universal in a military society in which tribal organisation is breaking up, has been much discussed without any clear conclusion being reached. [5]





Eight threptoi anthropoi are commemorated in inscriptions set up by Omurtag and one in an inscription of Malamir. All have Bulgar names, and most hold some office or rank. The institution was probably a short-lived one, a stage in the process of development of feudal society, but while it lasted it may have given the Khan some freedom of manoeuvre in the tribal politics of the Bulgar. The unfeoffed knights of early Norman society, permanently maintained in royal or baronial households, offer some parallel to these threptoi anthropoi.


Thus far we have scarcely mentioned the Slavs. When they crossed the Danube and moved into the former Roman provinces they had the simplest of political organisations. They were divided into tribes, based on real or fictitious common ancestry. The same tribal names recur again and again throughout the Slavonic world, and may have been brought by the Slavs from their central European homeland. But many of them are geographical in origin—Men of the North, Men of the Lake, and so on — so too much should not be made of this common nomenclature. There was probably no tribal nobility, merely individuals chosen by the assembly of heads of families to perform particular tasks. Beneath the tribe the only unit was the village or commune of twenty to thirty families, perhaps forming one or more extended families. As the Slavs settled in the Balkans and came directly or indirectly under the influence of Mediterranean society, a process of social differentiation and political unification began, which led to the growth of larger units with a permanent leading or ruling group. Such larger communities and their leaders appear again and again in the Byzantine sources for the seventh and eighth centuries. They were often called Sclaviniae. In so far as the Byzantine authorities had any dealings with Slav communities in the Balkans it was through the rulers of these Sclaviniae, men who often had some superficial acquaintance with Byzantine ways of life. Such must have been the situation in the northern Balkans when the Bulgars crossed the Danube. The pastoral societies of the steppes easily moved from herding animals to herding men. The principles are the same. One must shear one’s sheep, not flay them, and one must encourage natural increase. The Bulgars imposed the payment of tribute —mainly in the form of agricultural produce—on the Slav communities between the Balkan chain and the Danube, and sometimes moved them to new areas.





Thus Asparuch transferred the Slavonic Severi from the area of the Veregava pass to the more sensitive zone to the east, as a defence against Byzantine forces based on the Black Sea cities, and left the Seven Tribes, another nascent political unit, as tributaries in their former area of settlement. Like the Byzantines, the Bulgars dealt with the Slavonic communities through their rulers. And as in Byzantine dominated regions these rulers became to some degree Byzantinised, so where the Bulgars were the ruling power they became Bulgarised.


There must have grown up a kind of dual administrative structure, on the one hand the Khan and his Bulgar boyars, concerned with tribute and security on the other hand the Slavonic princelings and village headmen dealing with the day to day life of their compatriots. Thus in 764 Byzantine agents in Bulgaria kidnapped Slavon, the ruler of the Severi, who had caused much damage in Thrace. Slavon seems to have carried out his raids independently of Khan Pagan. This dualism was only slowly liquidated as feudal relations developed and as the two peoples merged. And it left in Bulgarian society a certain independence and even resentment of the central power, which helped the progress of Bogomilism, but which also conferred an immense toughness and durability on the lowest units of Bulgarian society. In this respect it was rather different from Byzantine Society. When Krum’s conquests brought vast new areas of Slavonic settlement under Bulgarian control this dualism was extended and strained. The tribalism of the Sclaviniae with their archontes co-existed uneasily with the centralised Bulgar state. Krum seems to have begun to resolve the conflict between them by transferring to palace officials some of the powers of the Slav archontes. This process was continued by Omurtag, who replaced the duces of three Slavonic tribes by Bulgarici redores, [6] by Malamir and Persian, and above all by Boris. The result was to replace the half-autonomous Sclaviniae by provinces (comitatus) headed by royal officials appointed and controlled by the Khan. Some of these officials might of course be members of the Slav tribal nobility who had fused together with the Bulgar leadership to form the ruling class of the developing feudal society. Thus the ninth century was a period of very rapid political and social change in Bulgaria.


The adoption of Christianity as the state religion provided a sanction for the power of the ruler equally valid for Bulgars and Slavs, and discouraged local or separatist loyalties. When it was followed by the adoption of Slavonic as the language of state and church it led to the growth of a common ethnic feeling and tradition.





The Bulgar state had no body of literate civil servants at its disposal. The Khan and his officers no doubt had subordinates and menials, but nothing approaching departments of state. The use of Greek in Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions is evidence that such records as were needed were kept in Greek, presumably by Greek slaves, captives or defectors. The earliest such inscription surviving is that carved on the rock-face at Madara (Beševliev No. 1) commemorating the cooperation of Khan Tervel in the restoration of Justinian II. Beševliev dates it between 705 and 707. [7] It is evident that persons able to speak and write Greek—of a kind—were available in the service of Bulgarian, rulers in the first generation after their crossing of the Danube and settlement in the Balkans. Most of the other surviving Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions belong to the ninth century, in particular to the reigns of Krum and Omurtag. The most interesting from the point of view of government administration are the lists of arms and weapons held by various officers (Beševliev Nos. 48-53), which are presumably copies on stone of documents prepared in government offices. Some were found at Preslav, others nearby; they probably all originate in Preslav. It is noteworthy that two out of the six inscriptions are in Proto-Bulgarian written in Greek characters (Beševliev Nos. 52, 53). This is more likely to be the work of a Greek who had learned Bulgarian than of a Bulgar who had learned to write Greek. What is striking about these inscriptions when compared with similar texts from the same period in the Byzantine world, like the lists of troops and equipment for expeditions against Crete preserved by Constantine VII in his De caerimoniis, is their extreme simplicity. They deal with few different articles, and merely list the numbers of each, usually without any overt syntactical structure, like a shopping list or inventory. They suggest that Bulgarian administrative methods were fairly simple and unsophisticated. It should be borne in mind that much of the complex financial administration performed by Byzantine departments of state had no counterpart in Bulgaria, where a natural economy prevailed and where most, if not all, taxes were levied in kind, and no doubt weighed and checked on the spot without much in the way of book-keeping.


The administrative sub-divisions of the Bulgarian state before the ninth century cannot even be guessed at. As has been suggested emergent Slav political communities co-existed with the centralised Bulgar state. From the early ninth century the picture becomes a little clearer.





An inscription of Krum (Beševliev No. 47) appears to divide the newly conquered territory in northern and eastern Thrace into three sub-divisions governed respectively by the Khan’s brother, by the ičirgu-boila Tuk, and by the kavkhan Iratais, each with stratēgoi under him. But this is more probably a temporary arrangement for military purposes during the period of conquest than a lasting administrative pattern. The process of replacing Slavonic tribal administration by Bulgarian state administration was probably a slow one, begun by Krum but only completed by his successors. At any rate we find Omurtag replacing Slavonic princes by Bulgarian governors in the central Danube area. [8]


The distribution of early episcopal sees may correspond to the administrative sub-divisions of the country in the later ninth century. During Boris’ reign bishops are attested at Belgrade, Bregalnitsa, Cherven, Devol, Dristra, Moravsk (=Margus), Ochrid, Philippopolis, Probaton (= modern Provadia, half way between Varna and Shumen) and Serdica. Other early bishoprics are found at Develtos, Drembitsa-Velitsa (of uncertain location, and perhaps identical with some other episcopal see), Preslav and Strumitsa. But it is likely that the boundaries of Bulgarian administrative districts were frequently changed and new districts created for various purposes, often quite temporary. Thus when Clement was sent by Boris to Macedonia to form clergy and set up the church organisation, we are told that the monarch separated Kutmichevitsa from Kotokios and appointed as its governor Dometas, after relieving Kurt of his office. The precise location of these districts is uncertain, but it is clear that some rearrangement of administrative sub-divisions took place. [9]


What the title and powers of such a provincial governor were is not entirely certain. The title probably varied from case to case, and the powers always seem to have included both command of military forces in the area and authority over the civil population. It is unlikely that they were defined with any precision. The Bulgarian commander at Belgrade who received the pupils of Cyril and Methodius in 886 apparently had the title of Boritarkan ‘deputy or lesser tarkan', hypostratēgos. Other provincial governors’ titles probably included the element ‘tarkan' [10]. In Greek texts the governors of districts in Bulgaria are often called komēs (for example Cedren. II. 347, 434). The same title appears in Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions in Greek. An interesting example is Beševliev No. 46, set up in 904 at Nea Philadelpheia, 22 kilometres north of Thessalonika, to mark the frontier between Bulgaria and the Byzantine empire.





Mention is made there of Symeon ἐκ θεοῦ ἄρχοντος Βουλγάρων Theodore ολγου τρακανος and Dristros (or Dristres) Κόμής. The title ολγου τρακανος occurs only here, and probably designates some high officer of the central government. Dristros the komēs is likely to be the local governor. In fact he is probably to be identified with Dristros the komēs, who appears in The Life of the Fifteen Martyrs of Tiberiopolis as a Bulgarian local official in the area of Tiberiopolis-Bregalnitsa (eastern Macedonia) in the reign of Symeon (MPG 126.213).


The Bulgarians were taking over elements of the Byzantine administrative system even before the conquest of Bulgaria by the Byzantines. But there was not, under the first Bulgarian Kingdom the wholesale imitation of Byzantine political organisation which we find under the second Bulgarian Empire, after nearly two centuries of Byzantine rule.


The Byzantine theme was a military as well as a civil administrative unit. Each theme had permanently stationed in it an army unit, also known as a theme, and commanded by the stratēgos. The army unit was sub-divided into tournai, droungoi or moirai, and banda or tagmata, corresponding more or less to the administrative subdivisions already mentioned. The soldiers of the themes were not permanently mobilised, but were called up as required, and normally at least once a year for training. The callup or mobilisation was known as adnoumion, from Latin ad nomen. The soldiers were maintained by heritable grants of land, to each of which was attached the duty of providing one soldier with his horse and equipment. These military holdings were also exempted from certain taxes and corvées. The system dated from the origin of the themes in the seventh century. Ideally the soldier who served was the tenant or his son. This was often still the case, but the matter had become more complicated with the passage of time, and by the ninth century the tenant or tenants of the military holding sometimes fulfilled their duty by paying a man to serve. The soldier himself received pay—roga—and in some cases rations when called up for service. The minimum value of a military holding furnishing a cavalry soldier was four pounds of gold. We do not know the figure for an infantry holding; it may well have been two pounds of gold. At any rate the tenants of military holdings were very substantial peasants, almost small gentry, to use a term from a later period and another region. They sometimes held estates much exceeding the minimum value appropriate to their military duties.





In such a case only part of their estate enjoyed the fiscal immunities of a military holding. Nicephorus Phocas (963-969) instituted a new type of military holding, with a value of twelve pounds of gold and the duty of providing a heavily-armoured cavalryman. This was probably done by extending to the remainder of the estate of the richer military tenants the fiscal immunities of a military holding, in order to meet the demands of new developments in military technology. Some military holdings had become divided between a number of tenants. In such cases these were jointly responsible for providing a soldier, either one of their own number or more often a mercenary.


The strength of these theme forces is difficult to estimate. Constantine VII appears to speak of a paper strength of some 3,000 men. Leo VI in his Tactica speaks of 9,000 to 10,000 as normal, and 24,000 as a maximum never to be exceeded. Perhaps the difference is due to counting or not counting the infantry, or to discrepancies between paper strength and real strength. And there must have been differences between one theme and another, even before the proliferation of small themes which began in the later tenth century. A judicious estimate for the period under study would be an average real strength of 3,000 men per theme. [11]


The theme armies had a primarily defensive role. But they could of course form part of an expeditionary force, and on several occasions in the ninth and tenth centuries did so. There were elaborate contingency plans for the mobilisation of the Asiatic themes to participate in an invasion of Moslem territory. Kleisourai were similarly garrisoned by soldiers with land holdings. Presumably kleisoura soldiers were mobilised for longer periods than those of themes, especially in the frontier region. We do not know whether this greater liability was compensated by greater fiscal immunities.


The system of theme armies remained in full operation throughout die period under review. Soon after the middle of the tenth century, however, it began to break down, through a combination of impoverishment of the poorer military tenants and acquisition of military holdings by local magnates. From the later eleventh century we hear no more of the theme forces. This change, which we are not here called upon to discuss in detail, involved not only a reduction of the defensive power of the empire but the destruction of a whole class of substantial peasants standing outside of the peasant communes described in the Farmer’s Law and yet independent of the great landowners.





The theme soldiers were not the whole of the Byzantine army. There were also units of full-time professional soldiers, the tagmata. Certain of these go back to late antiquity, for example the Scholae, the Hikanatoi, the Excubiti etc. Some of these ancient élite corps had become by the ninth century more ornamental than militarily effective. But new units of the professional army were constantly being created. Many of these were composed of Byzantines, presumably largely younger sons of peasant families. Others drew their recruits from ethnic minorities within the empire, particularly from the inhabitants of those mountainous regions which had always served as reservoirs of tough manpower. Still others were composed of mercenaries from outside the empire. This last category increased in importance throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries. Each unit of the tagmata was independent of all others, under the command of an officer appointed by the emperor, though they might be put under the operational command of a single officer, sometimes the Domesticus, who was in his own right commander of one such unit, the Scholae. The commanders of tagmata units are called by various titles in our sources, and which of these titles are official is uncertain. The units were generally stationed in the capital, but detachments or whole units were often attached to themes. The commander of such a detachment had the title of doux. The relation between a doux and the stratēgos in whose theme he was stationed is not always clear. Sometimes he was subordinate to the stratēgos, but on other occasions he seems to have been under the direct command of the emperor or of a senior officer in Constantinople. Whether in such cases he also commanded some of the theme troops is not easy to determine. It is probably wrong to expect uniformity in such matters.


The soldiers of the tagmata received pay and rations from the central authorities, and had no land holdings. Nothing is known of their terms of service. They seem in general to have been volunteers engaged for life. There is no trace of any system of land-grants or money pensions on retirement, so presumably they were supposed to provide for their old age out of their pay. But there is room for research here. The old soldier is not a feature of Byzantine society as he is of certain others.


There is very little precise information available concerning the Bulgarian army. Much of what follows must therefore have a conjectural character. The Proto-Bulgars were originally a pastoral people of the steppes. When they fought, it was as cavalry. And the army presumably consisted of all the men of military age.





But by the time they settled in the Balkan peninsula they had been in contact with the Roman empire for nearly two centuries. Bulgarian corps had fought as foederati or as mercenaries in Roman armies in various parts of Europe and probably also in Africa. As a result military service had become a career rather than an obligation falling upon all members of the community. No doubt a levy of the people could be made in an emergency. But there was also something resembling a standing army of professional soldiers, maintained by the Khan and loyal to him. The ‘kept men’, threptoi anthrōpoi of the Proto-Bulgar inscriptions are probably commanders of units of this standing force. Of its detailed organisation we know nothing. It was probably better armed and equipped than the mass of Bulgar horsemen, who were unlikely to possess defensive armour of their own.


The Slavs, when they appeared in the Balkans had no large-scale military organisation. In the words of a Byzantine writer, they were ataktoi kai anarchoi (Mauricius, Strategicon 9.3). Each tribe or ephemeral confederacy made war and peace on its own, and its army consisted of its able-bodied men. Renowned for their ‘toughness’, at their best in difficult country, skilled at laying ambushes for their enemies, expert boatmen and swimmers, armed only with short javelins and bows with poisoned arrows, careful to avoid pitched battles, these Slav peasant soldiers inspired a healthy respect in the Byzantine commanders who had to face them.


Such were the materials out of which the Bulgarian rulers fashioned an army which for a time dominated the Balkans. Throughout most of the eighth century the army must have consisted in principle of armoured Bulgar cavalry supported by Slav light infantry called up as and when required. The army which Khan Tervel brought to the aid of Justinian II in 705 is described as ‘the whole host of Bulgars and Slavs’ (Theoph. p. 374). It could not be kept in the field at full strength for long. Its strength lay in ambushing defiles and in sudden cavalry charges. It was not equipped or trained to face a force of professional soldiers in a regular battle on open ground. The hard core of Bulgar cavalrymen of the Khan’s retinue were full-time soldiers, given board and lodging by the ruler. The remainder, cavalry and infantry alike, received no pay, but got a share of any booty taken.


A radical change in the early ninth century is associated with the name of Krum, though its first stages may date from before his reign. The army began to be equipped with defensive armour and with a variety of artillery and siege engines.





Krum is said by a Byzantine source to have put 30,000 men in armour into the field. The figure is likely to be exaggerated. But the ability to equip and train such a force implies a degree of central organisation previously lacking. Armour has to be distributed to selected individuals, who have to be trained in its maintenance and use, it has to be regularly inspected, and so on. And smiths have to be available in the right numbers and at the right places, with the necessary raw materials, to manufacture and repair so many suits of armour. What is happening is that a semi-professional military body is separating out from the mass levy of peasants, and is being brought under centralised state control. This accords with what we know of Krum’s efforts to strengthen the power of the central government and to weaken that of tribal and local leaders.


Similarly his considerable artillery park is something which the old system of tribal levies could not provide. It required engineers and craftsmen of many kinds to create and maintain it. Many of these were doubtless Byzantine deserters or émigrés, like the commanders with Christian Greek names whom we find fighting under Krum. We know a little of several of them, including a certain Euthymius, a military engineer belonging to the garrison at Serdica. After the capture of that city by Krum he tried to rejoin the Byzantine forces under Nicephorus I, but was rejected by them and then took service under Krum. An Arab engineer who had served in the Byzantine forces under Nicephorus I, went over to the Bulgarians and took charge of the successful siege operations against Mesembria in 812 (Theoph. p. 498). The men who operated these sophisticated engines cannot have been peasants called up for a campaign, but professional soldiers in constant training.


In the early ninth century then, the Bulgarian army was organised under stricter central control, and equipped with armour and artillery provided by the central government. This better trained force must have been smaller than the body of peasant levies who could be put into the field. Krum, we hear, had a force of 30,000 men in armour. Subsequent Bulgarian armies were probably in general smaller, say 10,000 to 15,000. Doubtless they could be supported in an emergency by a general levy. But the main weight of defence and attack was borne by a relatively small but well-equipped force. Apart from the retinues of the Khan and some of the magnates, the technicians required for the artillery, and the forces employed on frontier guard duties, it was not a full-time army.





We learn from the Responsa of Nicholas I that when the army was called up, its equipment was inspected and those who were found negligent were severely punished. And we find inventories of weapons and armour held by various officers. So, a part-time peasant force, with arms and equipment supplied by the state. What was the difference between a peasant who became a soldier and one who remained a peasant? Unfortunately we do not know. There may have been a system of military land holdings on the Byzantine model, but we hear nothing of such an institution. Perhaps the soldier peasant was given some tax-exemption. Most probably his principal advantage was the right to share in any booty.


The Bulgarian army had as its standard before the conversion a horses tail. This was probably later replaced by a cross or other Christian symbol. Before going into battle it sought to learn the outcome by divination or to influence it by incantations. These no doubt received a Christian colouring after the conversion. Its discipline was ferociously strict—cowardice or disobedience in the field were punished by death. The supreme command lay with the Khan, who usually took the field at the head of his army. Subordinate commands were held by a variety of high officers of state. There seems to have been no clear-cut distinction between civil and military office.


Of the arrangements for supply we are almost totally ignorant. Weapons were held in reserve by various officers for distribution. [12] Presumably they were manufactured at the capital. As regards food, a Bulgarian army lived off the land. There seems to have been no kind of quartermaster’s department. It is precisely this absence of an infrastructure which distinguishes the Bulgarian army from its Byzantine counterpart. Hence the need for booty which sometimes diverted the army from its main objective.


We know nothing of the organisation of the Bulgarian army during Symeon’s years of war with the empire. But there is no reason to believe that there were any radical changes. Formidable as it was, the Bulgarian army had always a short-term, provisional character. It was not organised for long wars. It was Symeon’s error that he insisted on fighting a long war. And concentrated as he was on the prospect of taking Constantinople and ruling the Byzantine empire, he never seems to have had time or inclination to modify the structure of his own army for the new role which he required it to play.


The Byzantine empire, even after the loss to the Arabs of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Cyrenaica and the remaining North African provinces, was essentially a maritime power.





It had a very long coastline, and its provinces were so grouped around the Black Sea and Propontis, the Aegean and the Adriatic that the shortest distance between them was most often by sea. The Arabs under Mu’awiya had begun to challenge Byzantine command of the sea, which was not firmly reasserted until the middle of the eighth century. The seizure of Crete in 827 by a force of western Arabs from Andalusia, operating from Egypt, put the Aegean once more at risk. A generation later the attack on Constantinople by the Russians showed that even in the Black Sea Byzantine naval strength could not be allowed to weaken without disastrous results.


The war fleet was therefore an important part of the Byzantine defence force. As so often in the Byzantine empire new arrangements were superimposed upon old without definitely replacing them. As a result the organisation of the fleet in the later ninth and early tenth centuries was complex and arbitrary. As with the land forces, there was a basic distinction between local fleets, manned by local sailors, who were paid for by grants of land with immunity from certain taxation, and the central fleet under imperial control, which was a force of professionals, recruited from all over the empire and beyond its frontiers. There were in fact at this time three ‘naval themes’, whose defence force was not an army but a fleet ; the Cibyrrheot theme on the southern coast of Asia Minor, the theme of Samos, and the theme of the Aegean Sea. The latter two were instituted to meet the new situation created by the Arab occupation of Crete. The forces of each of these were commanded by a stratēgos, who was also civil governor of the region from which the sailors were drawn. The central fleet, commanded from Constantinople, was partly held in reserve in the capital, partly detached to various ports in the Aegean, the Propontis and the Black Sea. Its commander was the droungarios tou ploimou, a post probably created after the Arabs took Crete. Its detachments, which were very numerous, were commanded by hyparchoi, eparchoi, archontes, and praefecti. This force was the descendant of the old Roman navy of the age of Justinian. In addition there were various fleet units scattered about the Aegean and elsewhere, whose status is not clear to the historian, under the command of archontes. They may be akin to the detachments of the tagmata stationed in the territory of a theme under the command of a doux. But one must not seek in Byzantine organisation and administration a uniformity which was alien to it.


This diverse but powerful fleet was supported by a series of naval bases, at which facilities for victualling and repair were available, and by a developed ship-building service.





Each unit of the fleet had its own naval carpenter—naupēgos—under the command of the captain. Naval carpenters and other specialists at naval bases were probably under the same command as the fleet which they served, though there is some uncertainty about the arrangements. Ship building, as distinct from repair and maintenance, was a centrally organised service, dependent upon the vestiarios, a high financial official, and headed by the exartistes, who had subordinate officers in various centres throughout the empire where ship timber was readily available. This shipbuilding service—known as the exartysis—involved the training and direction of a great variety of specialists, the maintenance of workshops, operation of bulk purchase arrangements, whether compulsory or not, and so on. It also required large sums of ready money. A special branch of the naval supply service was concerned with the manufacture and distribution of Greek fire—and presumably with the training of specialised personnel to operate the siphones through which it was discharged. Manufacture was confined to the arsenal at Constantinople, but vessels equipped to use Greek fire were stationed at various bases throughout the empire and supplies of the fluid held in stock at the bases from which they operated.


The Bulgarians had nothing to correspond to the Byzantine fleet. At no time do we hear of any Bulgarian warships taking part in operations against the Byzantines. The port of Odessos (Varna) with its large land-locked harbour seems to have fallen to the Bulgars soon after they established themselves south of the Danube, say about 700. A little more than a century later the Byzantine naval bases of Mesembria, Anchialos and Sozopolis were captured by Krum, and Mesembria at least remained in Bulgarian hands for some time. But there is no sign that the Bulgarians ever thought of using these cities as bases on which to build a fleet which could challenge Byzantine command of the Black Sea. It is important to remember that the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria was regularly patrolled by Byzantine warships. There was probably for a time a special naval command of the coast between Mesembria and the northernmost arm of the Danube delta, under an archōn Boulgarias. [13] This fleet detachment was not directed primarily against the Bulgarians, who were powerless at sea, but against the Russians who came down the west coast of the Black Sea in their monoxyla from the mouth of the Dnieper. The most likely date for its establishment would therefore be in 860, the year when the Russians made a lightning raid on the capital itself.





The reasons for the failure of the Bulgarians to develop a war fleet to counter Byzantine thalassocracy, as the Arabs had done in the seventh century, are worth examining.


One consideration is the poverty of good harbours on the west coast of the Black Sea. The Byzantines themselves had no major naval bases or shipyards on that coast. Yet the poverty was only relative. Mesembria and Sozopolis offered good shelter for small fleets; Odessos and the Gulf of Burgas could contain large fleets in their estuarine waters provided they were not allowed to silt up; and the Danube delta could shelter a large fleet (the Byzantine naval base there seems to have been at Lykostomion, to the admiral of which Photius dedicated his Lexicon). Another factor might be shortage of good ship timber. But even today the Balkan range is much more densely forested than the mountain systems surrounding the Aegean, and has plenty of lofty firs on its higher slopes. And timber from the thickly wooded Rila mountains would have been available to the Bulgarians after Krum’s conquests in western Thrace; it could have been floated down the Iskăr to the Danube. Sailors to man ships must have been available either among the inhabitants of the coastal towns incorporated into the Bulgarian state or among the numerous Byzantine prisoners, deserters or defectors whom we find in Bulgaria in the ninth century.


The problem was probably rather the technical backwardness of Bulgarian society compared to that of the empire and the weak development of internal trade. The building and maintenance of a fleet requires the concentration and coordination of the work of a great number of specialists—shipwrights, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, sail-makers, rope-makers, architects etc. And naval weapons were more sophisticated and involved a greater concentration of resources than did land weapons. It is significant that when Krum captured 36 bronze ‘siphons’ and a considerable quantity of Greek fire at Mesembria in 812 he was unable to do anything with it, in spite of Byzantine consternation at the secret weapon falling into enemy hands. Yet by 835 Muslim warships from North-West Africa operating in the Tyrrhennian sea were equipped with Greek fire, and by 844 the Spanish Umayyads were using it. Krum, we are told, had an army of 30,000 holosidēroi. The figure may be exaggerated, but clearly the Bulgarians could put in the field a large armoured force. This called for the coordinated work of a large number of smiths, many of whom probably belonged to the entourage of the monarch or his magnates. It did not call for the services of a variety of specialists who would otherwise be producing for private customers or for the market.





Commodity production was not sufficiently advanced in Bulgaria to support such a variety of specialist craftsmen. And in so far as craft production did develop, the craftsman tended to fall into dependence on an individual magnate and so did not produce for the market. [14]


Therefore the Bulgarian state, although it could put into the field an army that was a match for the Byzantines in point of armour, siege equipment etc., was quite unable to challenge Byzantine naval superiority even off its own shores, and at a time when Byzantine naval power was passing through a serious crisis. In the end this weakness proved fatal for Bulgaria. Under John Tzimiskes Byzantine forces were freely transported by sea past the Bulgarian coast and up the Danube, and landed in the rear of the main Bulgarian army. This more than anything else contributed to the collapse of Bulgarian power and the reestablishment of Byzantine rule in Moesia and Thrace after a gap of three centuries. It was no sudden strategical innovation. Constantine V in the eighth century had regularly sent his flotilla up the Danube, cutting off Balkan Bulgaria from its Transdanubian provinces and making raids in force. It is impossible that either Boris or Symeon can have been unaware of this basic strategic weakness of his country in face of the Byzantine empire. Boris was probably not thinking in terms of military confrontation, but Symeon was. If therefore he made no serious attempt to develop Bulgarian sea power it can only have been because he had not at his disposal the requisite technical resources. It is noteworthy that the Slavs of Bulgaria, living in a mountainous land with few navigable rivers, seem to have lost that familiarity with boats which struck the writer of the Strategikon attributed to Maurice, and which in the ninth century enabled the eastern Slavs of Russia to launch their formidable fleet of dug-out canoes on to the waters of the Black Sea, and in 860 to make a lightning raid on Constantinople itself. Yet this point must not be overstressed. The Bulgarians—doubtless descendants of those who came to Macedonia with Kuber—who took part in a revolt against Leo III in 718 advanced from Thessalonika to Herakleia by land and sea, using dug-out boats, presumably built by their Slav allies or subjects (Niceph. Brev. 55-56). However to build boats is one thing, to keep a war fleet at sea is another. This latter was beyond the capacity of Bulgaria.






8. Religion



Little is known about the religious beliefs and practices which the Proto-Bulgars brought with them from north of the Danube. Exposed as they had been for centuries to the influence of the Iranian Sarmatians and Alans and to the prestige of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, their religion is likely to have been highly syncretistic. Yet they preserved certain traits of the religion of their Turkic forefathers in Central Asia. An inscription of Omurtag from Madara records a sacrifice to Tangra, who is clearly the Turkic sky-god Tängri. [1] Byzantine sources describe sacrifices of human beings and animals offered by Krum outside the walls of Constantinople before the horrified eyes of the Christian defenders of the city. [2] There was probably a Proto-Bulgar cult site at Madara, where a late Roman church seems to have been demolished to make way for a large rectangular building with six wide doors, in front of which stood a monolith of rock. Nearby is another enclosure surrounding an immense hewn stone in the shape of a throne. In the outer city at Preslav is a square building with a stone pylon, later converted by the addition of an apse into a church. The Responsa of Pope Nicholas I to Boris make it clear that sacred stones or rocks played a prominent part in Bulgarian religion. We hear of oaths taken by Bulgarian envoys according to vaguely described pagan rites. But Proto-Bulgar religion remains nebulous and uncertain. Was there a national religion? How far did it involve participation by the mass of Bulgars? Had separate tribes, clans or families their own observances? Was participation in Bulgar religious observances open to non-Bulgars, and in particular to the numerous Slav subjects of the Bulgars? Are scholars justified in assuming that the Responsa of Pope Nicholas refer specifically to the religion of the Proto-Bulgars? To these and related questions no clear answer can be given. It seems likely, however, that the progressive Slavisation of the Bulgars in the course of the ninth century weakened the hold of their traditional religion.


On the beliefs and practices of the Slavs we are better informed. Most of the evidence, it is true, refers to the Slavs of north-western Europe. But there is no reason to suppose that it does not give a fair picture of the whole Slav world at a time when linguistic and cultural differentiation had only begun. It corresponds quite closely with the evidence from pre-Christian Kiev, in the far east of the Slav world.





There was a large pantheon of gods, whose exact relations with one another cannot now be determined. The supreme god, in so far as there was one, was Perun, god of the thunder, who wields an axe which returns to his hand after he throws it. Perun is also connected with oak trees and forests. Etymologically and probably cult-wise he is identical with Perkunas, the thunder-god of the Baltic Lithuanians. A wooden figure of Perun with a silver and gold head was set up on a hill outside Kiev by Vladimir, together with statues of other gods — Khors, Dažbog, Stribog, Simargl and Mokosh. These latter are mere names, tempting to the etymologist, for instance Simergl has been connected with a legendary animal of Persian mythology. Vladimir’s uncle Dobrynja set up a similar statue of Perun above the river Volkhov at Novgorod. It is likely that the pre-Christian building at Peryn —the name preserves the memory of the pagan deity—is the cult site established by Dobrynja. German sources describe the temple of pagan Wends at Arkona on the island of Rügen with its huge statue of the god Svantevit in an inner room supported by columns, bearing a drinking horn in his right hand. A similar statue, though no doubt smaller than that described by Saxo Grammaticus, was recendy found at Zbrucz in Galicia. [3]


Other temples on Rügen were sacred to Rugievit, Porevit and Poremit. Christian missionaries are not always the most reliable authorities on the earlier beliefs and practices of their converts, and there may be some confusion here. Otto of Bamberg describes a temple dedicated to Triglav, the three-headed principal deity of the Polabi. The Wendish god Rugievit had seven heads, and other polycephalous gods are known from the western Slavonic area. A three headed statue, now in the Museum of Slavic Antiquities at Split, is probable evidence for the cult of such a god among the Slavs of the Balkans, and stone statues of three and four headed gods have been found in the upper Dniester area, the original home of the Slavs, in a context attributable to the fourth century a.d. Another god whose name is mentioned in connection with the early Slavs in several regions is Veles/Volos, god of flocks. His name is probably to be associated with Velaeda or Veleda, [4] Old Irish Felmac, Latvian Vels, god of the underworld and guardian of cattle, Lithuanian Velinas (= devil), and ultimately with Varuna in the Rig-Veda. The western and southern Slavs share a belief in Vile, semi-divine maidens to whom offerings are left in the open air, and who are often connected with water. In modern folk-tales they appear as naked girls carrying arrows or other weapons, but they may change into swans, falcons, snakes and other animals.





They doubtless represent a debased fragment of early Slavonic religion, though their relation to the great gods who were worshipped in the temples is not clear to us and may not have been clear to the early Slavs. A number of hill-top sites in the western Ukraine have been identified as early Slav cult sites. Offerings of grain, acorns etc., as well as dogs and horses, have been found at these sites, together with a type of pottery found all over the early Slav area. Human burials, associated with horses, weapons, furniture etc. indicate belief in an after-life, at any rate for some. But the Slavs during their period of migration seem to have generally disposed of their dead by cremation rather than burial. [5]


How much of this body of beliefs and practices the Slavonic settlers in the Balkans brought with them is an open question. No such great cult sites have been discovered there as in more northerly regions. They called for a degree of economic concentration and political centralisation not attained by the Slavs of the Balkans when they came under either Bulgar or Byzantine control. It is likely, however, that the Balkan Slavs shared in a system of rituals and in a complex mythology which we can only dimly discern behind the ill-formed observations of hostile witnesses. This body of beliefs and actions did not vanish on the official adoption of Christianity. Symeon himself, though brought up as a Byzantine Christian and for some time a monk, seems to have participated in pagan religious ceremonies, either from conviction or as a matter of policy. In the countryside pagan beliefs and practices lingered on, in some cases until the present day. Some were taken over and ‘Christianised’, others degenerated into peasant mummery. But the mass of common motifs, beliefs and rituals in the folk poetry of the southern Slavs and the Ukrainians—and to a lesser degree the Russians—testifies to the survival through centuries of Christianity of much of the common Slavonic religious tradition. [6] This circumstance must certainly have coloured the pattern of Bulgarian rural life, and made it in many ways different from that of Greece or Asia Minor, where Christianity had become the sole publicly-professed religion much earlier. This seldom emerges in our sources but was certainly a factor distinguishing Bulgaria from the neighbouring Byzantine territories.


The traditional religions of Slavs and Bulgars were a disadvantage to them in a world in which the only powerful and durable states were either Christian or Moslem, in that they isolated their adherents. Both at individual and at state level they presented all kinds of problems.





How was an oath to be administered? How could a marriage be celebrated between a pagan and a Christian? How were treaties to be guaranteed? And so on. Unlike the great monotheistic religions they could not provide universally valid sanctions for the conduct of individual or community, or endow their adherents with the conviction that their lives formed part of a process of cosmic importance. Closely linked with family and clan, with particular persons and places, traditional religion was of no help to a man once he was removed from his familiar environment.


There were Christians in Bulgaria from the first—citizens of the Black Sea coast cities taken by Asparuch, such as Dionysopolis (Balchik) and Odessos (Varna); and of the few Danube forts which were still inhabited; Romanised Moesian and Thracian peasants still living north of the Balkan mountains; Byzantine prisoners, both military and civilian; defectors, merchants and others. But the ecclesiastical organisation of the northern Balkans, based as it had been on the cities, virtually disappeared under the tide of Slav settlers.


From the first the prestige and power of the Byzantine empire exerted an attraction upon the upper class of Bulgarian society, be they Bulgar or Slav. Khan Tervel, to whom Justinian II appealed in 705 to help restore him to his throne, was given the rank of Caesar. It is inconceivable that he can have remained overtly a pagan, and presumably the leading members of his entourage accepted baptism too, however formally. Yet Christians must have remained an insignificant and occasionally persecuted minority in Bulgarian society until early in the ninth century. The use of ὁ θεός in inscriptions of Khan Krum is not an acknowledgement of Christian belief, but an imitation of Byzantine forms of expression, perhaps due rather to the Greek redactor of the text than to the Bulgarian ruler. With the victorious campaigns of Krum large numbers of Christians became subjects of the Bulgarian state. They included not only the inhabitants of the Black Sea and Thracian cities—Serdica, Philippopolis and Adrianople were the most noteworthy—captured by Krum and transported to Transdanubian Bulgaria and elsewhere, and the numerous Byzantine soldiers captured in battle, but Christian, Slav and Greek inhabitants of the Macedonian and Thracian countryside, among whom missionary activity had been going on for some two centuries.


Byzantine military defeats led many senior officers to desert to the Bulgarians, and take service under Krum. Several of these are mentioned in a contemporary Bulgarian inscription (Beševliev No. 47),





and Theophanes mentions others in his account of events from 809 to 811 (485.9 the spatharios Euthymios, a military engineer; 490.14 Byzantios, a high official of the emperor Nicephorus), as does the Scriptor incertus (347.7 ff. Constantine ho tou Patzikou, who married a sister of Krum). Krum’s victories and the resulting territorial expansion meant that Bulgaria was now challenging the empire for control of the Balkans. Christians by then formed a substantial minority of the Bulgarian population, but they were potentially suspect as owing allegiance to emperor and patriarch. So the next few decades were marked both by the expansion of Christian influence among the Bulgarian ruling class and by intermittent persecutions. Thus Voin or Bajan, the eldest son of Khan Omurtag and brother of Khan Malamir, was converted, according to tradition by a Byzantine prisoner, but put to death in 833 during the repression of Christians by Malamir.


In these years the problem of the attitude of the Bulgarian state towards the Christian religion became an acute one, whose solution could not be indefinitely put off. In the first place the number of Christians among the Khan’s subjects was probably growing, and included not only members of the ruling class of boyars and Slav tribal leaders, but almost all the men with high technical skill who were indispensable to a state which was on the way to becoming a European power. More important, perhaps, normal international relations with neighbouring and more distant states were impossible so long as the archaic—and probably decaying—religion was that of the state. Thirdly, the traditional religious beliefs and practices were divisive, in so far as they distinguished between Bulgar and Slav, while the fusion of the two ethnic groups—or the absorption of the Bulgars by the more numerous Slavs—was going on a pace in the ninth century. They were divisive too, because of their links with tribal and clan organisation, while Bulgarian rulers in the ninth century were striving to establish centralised government in place of tribal polycentrism, and indeed had to succeed in doing so if they were to build a viable state which could survive on territory which the Byzantines regarded as righty theirs. Fourth, and connected with the preceding, was the need of the ruler to establish a universally valid sanction for his rule, such as the Byzantine emperor had par excellence, and other Christian rulers had in lesser degree. These considerations meant that the situation could not be allowed to drift, on the assumption that in due course Christianity would either spread through the population, or die out. This urgency was quite independent of the views of this or that ruler.





It is clear that Khan Malamir, for instance, was personally hostile to Christian influences, and that Boris became a sincere and devoted Christian. Even had he not been such he would probably have to take the course of action which he did in 864, the mass conversion to Christianity of rulers and people, by decision from the top.


The problem that faced Boris was that the adoption of Christianity as the religion of state and ruler meant becoming part of the divine plan for the salvation of mankind, of which the Byzantine emperor was the earthly guarantee. In other words, was it possible to enjoy the advantages of Christianity without falling under the political sway of the empire, without seeing in every village of the country a priest whose allegiance was to the patriarch of Constantinople, without allowing an ideology centred upon Byzantium to determine the attitudes and values of Bulgarian society? The dilemma was less pressing in Moravia or Russia because they were far from Constantinople. For Bulgaria, on the doorstep of the empire and always potentially in conflict with it, there was no avoiding the issue.


By the early sixties of the ninth century Boris was actively grappling with the intricate tangle of religious and political issues involved. The Byzantines had probably been making semi-official overtures. The empire, after two centuries of retrenchment, was once again pressing forwards its frontiers, especially in the east where the dualist Paulicians had established a state between the empire and the Caliphate. This was a situation in which military power and spiritual influence clearly went hand in hand. In Greece the evangelisation of the Slavonic communities was being actively pursued. The new patriarch, Photius, a distinguished civil servant and scholar, regarded the conversion of peoples outside the frontiers as one of his prime duties. Missions were sent to Kiev and to the Khazars during his patriarchate. He saw clearly the link between religious and political alignment. When King Rastislav of Moravia, feeling that the evangelisation of his country by Latin clergy was but the forerunner of subjection to Germany, turned to Byzantium for help, Photius sent an ecclesiastical mission headed by Cyril and Methodius to establish a Slavonic-speaking church. Cyril and Methodius, natives of the bilingual area around Thessalonika, and scholars of distinction, already had Slavonic versions of some of the principal liturgical texts prepared when they left for Moravia in 862. It is unlikely that these had been prepared in advance against the eventuality of an appeal from distant Moravia.





And there is no evidence that the Byzantines ever attempted to introduce a Slavonic liturgy into the Slavonic-speaking regions of peninsular Greece. It is most likely that these versions were prepared, under Photius’ direction, for use in the conversion of one of the Slav peoples near the frontiers of the empire. The most likely candidate was Bulgaria. It thus seems likely, though it is nowhere directly attested, that shortly after Photius’ accession unofficial feelers were put out to the Bulgarian court at Pliska to sound out the possibility of conversion of the country.


Boris was alarmed by the eagerness of the Byzantines. And he had to beware of certain groups among his own ruling class, perhaps the descend ants of the Bulgar clan leaders, who were unsympathetic to his project of bringing Bulgaria into the concert of civilised states. In 862 he sought to counter-balance Byzantine pressure by establishing friendly relations with another Christian state, far enough away to pose no threat to Bulgarian interests. Louis the German, King of the Franks, had asked for Bulgarian aid against his son Carloman, who was supported by Moravia; and Moravia had a common frontier with Bulgaria. In summer 862 Boris and Louis met at Tulin on the Danube, near modern Vienna. The main subject of their discussions was doubtless military collaboration. But religious policy was probably also on the agenda, and Boris may have asked Louis to send Frankish clergy to Bulgaria. At any rate rumours were soon circulating that Louis expected Boris and his people to embrace Christianity.


The Byzantines recognised that their own plans were threatened. Fresh from victories against the Moslems on the eastern frontier, they switched their field army to the west and invaded Bulgaria. Boris, realising that no help could come from the Franks and that his own forces were no match for the experienced Byzantine soldiers, agreed to accept Byzantine terms without a battle. He was by temperament a diplomat rather than a soldier. These terms included the break-up of the Bulgarian-Frankish alliance and the baptism of Boris and his people into the Byzantine church, which would supply clergy and liturgical books for the establishment of churches throughout the country. Boris’ ambassadors were baptised in Constantinople, where they had been sent to sign the peace treaty, while the patriarch Photius sent an ecclesiastical mission to Bulgaria to baptise Boris himself and his family and entourage. His godfather—by proxy—was the emperor Michael III, whose name Boris took. Neither the date nor the place of this event is certain but it is thought to have been either 864 or 865 (the complex arguments involved are irrelevant to the present discussion) and probably at Pliska.





Thus the acceptance of Christianity by Boris occurred as part of a new assertion of Byzantine power and influence on the northern frontiers of the empire. It must have rankled with Boris, however sincere his religious convictions, and it clearly fulfilled the worst fears of the reactionaries in Bulgaria who mistrusted Boris’ new policy.


Soon Byzantine clergy began to arrive in Bulgaria and set up their organisation. A bishop was appointed, subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Emissaries shuttled back and forth between the new head of the Bulgarian church—almost certainly a monoglot Greek, though we do not know his name—and his superior on the Bosphorus. The bewildered Slav peasants were rounded up by the Bulgarian army and marched to the nearest river or lake, in which they were immersed en masse while a priest from Constantinople intoned the formula of baptism in a tongue incomprehensible to his hearers. Churches were set up in which a Greek liturgy was followed on Sundays by a homily in Greek, which can have done little to edify its audience. Though the Byzantines had now finally recognised Bulgarian control of the area south of the Balkan chain first occupied by Tervel a century and a half earlier, there was little in the new situation to reassure the more conservative boyars who distrusted the Greeks et dona ferentes. There was a revolt by these elements which Boris only just succeeded in crushing. Many of the rebel leaders were put to death, along with their families.


Boris’ worst fears were realised. The Bulgarian church, wholly under the control of Constantinople, acted as the agent of the Byzantine government. The Slav peasants and townsmen of Bulgaria saw their inherited customs and values treated with tactless contempt by the new Christian clergy. Their ruler seemed to have abandoned them and gone over to the enemy. A letter sent by Photius to Boris in 865 demonstrates the situation clearly. [7] The Patriarch reads his convert a slightly patronising lesson on the duties of a Christian monarch, who owes obedience to the church and to the emperor. There is to be no suggestion of ecclesiastical autonomy, as there was for more distant Moravia. Bulgaria was to become in effect a Byzantine vassal state. What the Byzantines had been unable to obtain by force of arms they looked like getting through their church and the demoralising effect of a rapid and forced acculturation.


In the meantime tension had been growing between Photius and Pope Nicholas I. Nicholas, a fervent believer in the authority of the church even in civil matters, had been horrified at the sudden elevation of a layman to the patriarchate, and was eager to assert the authority of Rome over Constantinople.





He turned first to the old quarrel about the ecclesiastical province of Illyricum. A series of muddles and misunderstandings, in which the astute Photius manoeuvred the Papal legates into an untenable position, led ultimately to a break between Nicholas and Photius, whom the Pope refused to recognise. It therefore seemed to Boris that the best way to counter growing Byzantine influence in Bulgaria would be to appeal to Rome to set up an ecclesiastical organisation in his country. Nicholas could scarcely refuse without surrendering his claim to Illyricum, and in any case he would welcome an opportunity to humiliate Photius. The whole of Boris’ diplomacy from 866 to 870 was directed to this end, in which as usual it is difficult to separate religious from political motives. In summer 866 he sent a mission headed by the Kavkhan Peter, his kinsman, and the boyars John and Martin—members of the Bulgarian ruling class who supported his policy of Christianisation—to Rome to ask the Pope to set up an independent church, and to pose a number of questions on ecclesiastical and civil organisation, Christian conduct, etc. The envoys reached the Lateran on 29 August 866. Boris at the same time sent a mission to his old ally Louis the German at Regensburg, asking him to send Frankish bishops and clergy to Bulgaria. The envoys no doubt also raised the question of military support.


The Pope, who had certainly known in advance of the approach of the Bulgarian mission, was delighted at this opportunity to extend the authority of the Roman see and to snub the Byzantines. He received the Kavkhan and his companions with every mark of respect and prepared for them about a hundred brief answers to questions raised by Boris. These are based in part on the instructions given by Pope Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury when he sent him on his mission to evangelise the English. But they also contain much interesting material dealing with specific Bulgarian problems. There is little theological profundity in them, and no attempt to dazzle Boris with intellectual subtleties, as Photius had done in his letter of the previous year. They give simple practical advice on Christian life and church organisation and practice, and make allowances for some of the difficulties of the Bulgarian situation. Boris is reassured that Bulgarian dress—trousers and a turban—may continue to be worn without offence. The Roman marriage rite it described, but the King is assured that where the participants are too poor, consent is enough to validate a Christian marriage. But polygamy, which had been practised by some Bulgarians, is unconditionally forbidden.





To Boris’ request for an independent church, that is one in the same relation to himself as that of the Byzantine church to the emperor, Nicholas refused to accede, though he was careful not to offend the new convert. If Bulgaria was to come under Rome rather than Constantinople, appointment of prelates would have to rest with the Pope. It was too early yet to consider the appointment of a patriarch. Bishops must first be appointed, then in due course an archbishop. In the meantime Boris is enjoined to do nothing until he receives a bishop from Rome. These replies were sent by the hands of two bishops, Formosus of Porto and Paul of Populonia, who headed a mission which accompanied the Kavkhan Peter and his companions on their return journey to Pliska. They arrived there in November 866. Boris at once began to expel the Byzantine clergy from his dominion, as the Romans prepared to undertake their evangelical work. It would be interesting to know where they found the necessary interpreters. There were many who knew Greek in Bulgaria, but Latin speakers must have been few indeed.


At the beginning of 867 Boris’ negotiations with Louis the German bore fruit. A lîu|fe delegation of German clergy arrived headed by Hermanrich, bihop of Passau. They brought with them church vessels, liturgical books and other requirements for Christian worship. When the Pope heard of the presence of the German mission in Bulgaria he was displeased. It was no part of his intention to increase the power and prestige of the Frankish church and he soon persuaded Boris to expel the newcomers from his dominions. The astute Bulgarian monarch, though possibly puzzled by this development, did not find it unwelcome. It gave him a means of exercising pressure on Pope Nicholas, should the need ever arise.


Towards the end of 867 a series of changes took place in the situation of south-eastern Europe. The emperor Michael III was murdered by his protégé and co-emperor, Basil the Macedonian, who donned the imperial purple in his stead. Photius was at once deposed by the new emperor, who regarded him as a creature of Michael’s, and Ignatius reinstalled in the patriarchate. Nicholas I died and was succeeded as Pope by Hadrian II. The ostensible ground for the schism between Rome and Constantinople had now been removed, but relations remained cool at first. Hadrian made no move to appoint an archbishop of Bulgaria as promised by his predecessor. But in the meantime Formosus and his companions began a campaign of church-building in Bulgaria.





Sometimes they built on the ruins of earlier Christian churches surviving from late antiquity, sometimes on new sites, and probably sometimes on former pagan cult sites which had been exorcised and consecrated. Roman ritual replaced Byzantine throughout the land, and the slow work of Christian education of the masses of newly-converted Bulgarians went on. Boris seemed to have succeeded in getting Christianity without submission to Constantinople. But his goal of an independent church was still not realised. He had grown attached to Formosus of Porto, who impressed him by the sincerity of his beliefs, the simplicity of his life, and his organising ability. In the autumn of 867 he had sent Peter the Kavkhan and three other high officers of state to Rome to request Nicholas to appoint Formosus archbishop of Bulgaria. Nicholas realised that this would be a step towards a Bulgarian church less directly under Papal control. He feared the alliance of Boris and Formosus. So the request was refused. It was not difficult to find good canonical grounds for the refusal. The news of the refusal was to be conveyed to Pliska by Dominic bishop of Triva and Grimoald bishop of Polymartia. By the time they left Rome Nicholas was already dead.


Coolness began to develop between Pliska and Rome, a coolness which the new Pope Hadrian did nothing to alleviate. Preoccupied with the Arab threat in southern Italy, against which the Byzantine army offered the only effective defence, Hadrian was unwilling to do anything which might aggravate his already bad relations with Constantinople. Indeed in February 868 he recalled Formosus and Paul of Populonia to Rome. They were accompanied on their journey once again by the trusty Kavkhan Peter. Peter delivered to Pope Hadrian a letter from Boris pressing him to appoint an archbishop of Bulgaria, and probably suggesting the names of suitable candidates among the Roman prelates whom the Bulgarians knew.


It was while this mission was in Rome that Pope Hadrian received Cyril and Methodius on their return from Moravia and blessed their Slavonic translations of the Gospels and other liturgical texts. We know that Formosus met them, and presumably told them of the situation in Bulgaria. It is virtually certain that they also met the Kavkhan Peter in Rome, and that their work of evangelisation in the Slavonic tongue was in this way brought to Boris’ notice.


In due course the Pope appointed his archbishop, one Sylvester, apparently still a subdeacon. His qualifications for the post are unknown. At any rate he was not one of the candidates suggested by Boris. This was a direct snub to the Bulgarian monarch, and it can hardly have been unintentional.





There was developing a clear conflict of intention between Boris and the Pope. Rome wanted Bulgaria as an advance post in a struggle with the Church of Constantinople for ecclesiastical control of the Balkans. Boris wanted an independent Bulgarian church under his own control, as the only means of maintaining a viable Bulgarian state on the northern frontier of the aggressive and expanding Byzantine empire of the late ninth century. Boris soon saw that his aim could not be realised by the Roman connection, and decided to change course.


His motives can only partly be discerned. Dissatisfaction at the high handed action of the Pope no doubt was a factor. More important probably was the realisation that now that Photius was deposed and Ignatius restored, Rome was likely to patch up an understanding with Constantinople over his head, and leave Bulgaria in a vulnerable position. Of still greater moment was the change of régime in Constantinople itself. Basil I and his ministers were anxious for an understanding with Rome in the matter of spheres of jurisdiction. And they saw their principal military task in the final suppression of the Paulicians on the eastern frontier. It is likely that this new direction in policy was explained to Boris by Byzantine envoys, or by his own agents in Constantinople, and secret negotiations begun. Boris had come to realise that a compromise with Constantinople was preferable to a complete victory which depended on Papal approval, and in the last resort on the very uncertain hope of Frankish military support. He made one more attempt to put pressure on Pope Hadrian. The hapless Sylvester was sent packing back to Rome with a letter from Boris insisting that either Formosus or the deacon Marinus—who was well known in Pliska as a Papal legate—be appointed archbishop of Bulgaria. The Pope, as unwilling as his predecessor to countenance the establishment of a quasi-independent church in Bulgaria, tried to temporise. But Boris was not prepared to wait. His negotiations with Basil I and his patriarch were bearing fruit. On 5 October 869 a council opened at Constantinople which is regarded by the Roman church as the Eighth Oecumenical Council. Its main task was to heal the rift caused by the Photian schism. It completed its work on 28 February 870. Towards the end of its proceedings there arrived a Bulgarian delegation, headed by the indispensable Kavkhan Peter, which invited the Council to decide to which obedience the Bulgarian church ought to belong. There was a long and heated discussion at an extraordinary session.





But most of the members of the Council were eastern churchmen, and the outcome was never really in doubt. The Council decided that the Bulgarian Church fell within the jurisdiction of Constantinople. There seems also to have been a tacit understanding that it would enjoy internal autonomy. Doubtless these points had been settled in private negotiation before the debate in the Council. The Papal representatives had no choice but to accept the decision of the Council concerning Bulgaria, particularly as it formed part of a ‘package-deal’ containing much of which they approved.


The Roman clergy were sent back to Italy, and the Patriarch Ignatius consecrated an archbishop of Bulgaria, who arrived at Pliska later in 870 accompanied by numerous clergy. The name and identity of the first archbishop is unfortunately not known for certain. He may have been called Nicholas, George, Joseph or Stephen, and he was probably a Greek, but perhaps a Greek from Bulgarian territory. At any rate he was a candidate acceptable to Boris. And he was probably appointed not directly by the Patriarch of Constantinople, but by an oecumenical council at which all five patriarchates were represented. So he could not be interfered with unceremoniously by the Byzantine ecclesiastical authorities. The semi-independent status of his archbishopric is indicated by a tenth-century list of bishops in which the archbishop of Bulgaria appears side by side with the archbishop of Cyprus. Everyone knew that the Cypriot church had been autocephalous since the fifth century. Boris had thus won a partial victory in his struggle to bring his country into the Christian world without becoming a puppet of the emperor in Constantinople.


There were occasional attempts by the Roman church to reassert its supremacy in Bulgaria, but they had more the character of diplomatic manoeuvres than of serious endeavours to upset the settlement of 869-70. Pope John VIII, who succeeded Hadrian II, pressed his claim to authority over the Bulgarian church in a series of letters addressed to Boris and to Basil I. When a Papal mission came to Constantinople in the spring of 878, Ignatius was already dead, and Photius, who was again patriarch, was quite disinclined to make concessions to Rome. Negotiations continued between Pope and patriarch until the Pope virtually had to admit his defeat at a council held in Constantinople in 879-80. In spite of efforts made by the Papal legate Cardinal Peter to put Roman claims to Bulgaria, the Byzantine clergy skilfully evaded the issue.





In the meantime a representative of the autocephalous Bulgarian church took part in the deliberations of the Council. This amounted to de facto if not de jure recognition of the situation in Bulgaria by Rome. Further Papal protests were ignored in Constantinople and in Pliska alike.


Throughout these years the church was gradually built up in Bulgaria. An ecclesiastical organisation corresponding more or less to that of the civil government was set up. Churches were built throughout the country, some of them by Boris himself, who is credited with constructing seven cathedrals. Monastic communities were established, largely in north-eastern Bulgaria. The western provinces seem to have been relatively neglected, except for a few key fortress-towns. All this activity, however, went on in Greek. Inevitably the leading clergy, even if Bulgarian by origin, were men who had spent the formative years of their lives in study in Constantinople. We hear of a school for young Bulgarian set up there on the initiative of the patriarch Photius. One of its pupils was Boris’ second son Symeon, whom his father had destined for an ecclesiastical career. It is likely that he may have thought of him as a future archbishop, perhaps the first patriarch of a fully independent Bulgarian church. Such men, when they returned to Bulgaria, must often have felt disorientated and disappointed. They had exchanged the subtle sophistication of the Constantinople of Leo VI the Wise for a bucolic life in a land where most men were illiterate, and where hands sprang to sword hilts with terrifying readiness. The intellectual leaders of Bulgarian society were becoming alienated not only from the mass of the people, of whom few spoke Greek and fewer had a literary education, but also from the political and military leaders, including those descendants of the Bulgar aristocracy who clung most tenaciously to the ancient traditions of their people. In the Byzantine empire too, of course, there was a gulf between the tiny educated minority who manned the civil service and the Senior ecclesiastical posts and the great majority of the people. But at least they generally spoke the same language, or different varieties of it. And the educated did not feel allegiance to another state and its culture. In Bulgaria their situation must have been almost schizophrenic. Whether Boris saw things in these terms may well be doubted. But he was certainly keenly aware of the growing influence of Greek culture and Byzantine ways on those very people to whom he looked to raise their countrymen out of semi-barbarism, and of the danger of a Byzantine fifth column in Bulgaria.





As for the mass of the people, there is little evidence for what they did, said or thought. An alien clergy preached to them in a foreign tongue. No doubt interpreters were available, but it is likely that during the years of Byzantine ecclesiastical supremacy the veneer of Christianity remained pretty thin in the Bulgarian countryside, and that pagan cult practices and beliefs were far from extinct.


Boris, who was conspicuously well-informed on what was going on outside Bulgaria, was aware of the progress of evangelisation in Moravia under Cyril and Methodius and their pupils, and of the advantages of a Church using the Slav language. If the same principle could be a lied to his own Bulgaria, the precarious independence of the Bulgarian church might become a reality, as it would have to train its own native clergy, and the stranglehold of Greek culture and Greek ways on Bulgaria would be broken. The expulsion of the pupils of Cyril and Methodius from Moravia by the pro-Latin King Svjatopolk would not pass unnoticed in Bulgaria. Boris may even have been in touch with the exiled clergy and have invited them to seek refuge in Bulgaria. Be that as it may, when a group of these, headed by Clement, Naum, Laurence and Angelarius, reached the Bulgarian frontier-post at Belgrade in 885-6, they were enthusiastically welcomed by the local governor, the Boritarkan Radislav, who sent them on to his master with every mark of respect. It may be significant that no mention is made of the bishop of Belgrade in the accounts of their arrival, yet Belgrade was the seat of one of the bishoprics established by the settlement of 870. This may be evidence of a certain coolness on the part of the Greek hierarchy in Bulgaria towards advocates of the Slavonic liturgy. Yet Methodius appears to have left Slav teachers and Slavonic liturgical books in Constantinople after his visit therein 882. It is likely that in Byzantine eyes what was permissible in distant Moravia could not be tolerated in Bulgaria. In any case Basil I and his advisers were under no illusions that Boris would take every step open to him to increase the independence of the Bulgarian church.


Boris at once seized on the opportunity offered by the arrival of the Moravian missionaries with their liturgical books. Naum was kept at court, at Pliska or more probably at the new royal residence at Preslav. Clement was sent to Macedonia, where he was given property and other privileges. A modification was made in the local provincial boundaries, the precise significance of which escapes us, and a new governor sent out to ensure that Clement met with no hindrance.





Clement was probably of Macedonian origin and may have preferred to work in his native land. But another reason for his being sent there was certainly that Macedonia, and the western provinces of Bulgaria in general, had been much less affected by Greek missionary activity than the north-east. Clement could begin with what was virtually a tabula rasa, free from interference by Byzantine clergy.


Laurence and Angelarius died soon after their arrival in Bulgaria. The tradition of Slavonic Christianity depended entirely on Clement and Naum, men already middle-aged. The first task was the rapid training of Slavonic-speaking clergy and the multiplication of Slavonic liturgical books, both by copying existing texts and by new translations from Greek. With every encouragement, material and moral, from Boris, Clement and Naum began this task. The accounts of their lives and the subsequent history of the Bulgarian church make it clear that the task was given a high priority by Boris, who had by now decided to aim at replacing Greek clergy by native Bulgarian Slavs in the shortest possible time. It was a task which called for the kind of material resources that only the ruler could provide. Suitable young men had to be found, lodged and fed during their studies, and taught to read and write their mother tongue before the most elementary theological training could begin. Clement and Naum must each have been supported by an army of copyists, parchment-makers, bookbinders, secretaries, cooks, servants, messengers, and so on. Naum at the capital had access to Boris either directly or through the King’s brother Doks, who was a monk; Clement was looked after by Dometa, the provincial governor sent to Macedonia with him. Clement, according to our sources, taught 3,500 pupils in seven years. The figure may well be near the mark. He no doubt followed the practice of Byzantine schools of his time, by which the more advanced pupils taught the less advanced, and the teacher confined himself to taking the highest class and regularly testing the work of the lower classes. But by any standards it represented an educational undertaking almost without parallel in the Middle Ages, when we consider that there was no pre-existing tradition of Slavonic letters.


The alphabet invented by Cyril and Methodius, the Glagolitic, was cumbersome to write and totally unlike the Greek alphabet. Clement continued to teach it all his life. In north-eastern Bulgaria it was replaced, we do not know exactly when, by a new alphabet,





the so-called Cyrillic, whose letter forms were where possible based upon those used in contemporary Greek liturgical manuscripts. Whether this change took place while Boris was still on the throne or early in the reign of his son Symeon is uncertain. Boris may have been aware of the problem, which was particularly acute in the capital, where many Bulgarians could read Greek. But speculation on the part he may have played in the change is futile. After all, we do not know whether Boris could read himself or not. The probability is that he could not. In the event it was the Cyrillic alphabet which became the vehicle for Slavonic literature in Bulgaria and later in Serbia and Russia.


For a number of years after 885-6 there were both Greek and Slavonic missionaries at work in Bulgaria, and Greek and Slavonic liturgies in use in the churches. In the nature of things those who preached in the language of the people must have had much more success than those who could be understood, if at all, only through an interpreter. If there was no outside interference, the Bulgarian church would soon be almost entirely Slavonic-speaking and hence largely beyond the day-to-day administrative control of Constantinople. But there might well be outside interference, especially after Basil I died in 886 and was succeeded by his son Leo VI, who showed signs of intransigence in his relations with Bulgaria. Boris no doubt attended the outcome of his new policy with some disquiet. But in fact there seems to have been no serious attempt by the Byzantine church to interfere with the process of Slavisation of the church in Bulgaria. A curious work by a Bulgarian monk, Hrabr, which probably belongs to the closing years of Boris’ reign or the opening years of that of Symeon, is evidence of polemical discussion in Bulgaria of the question whether God could be worshipped in other tongues than Hebrew, Greek and Latin. But the date and context of Hrabr’s work are uncertain, and it would be unwise to base precise hypotheses upon it. It may be concerned rather with a dispute between adherents of the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets than with the introduction of the Slavonic liturgy.


For seven years the training of Slavonic clergy went on in the monastery of St Panteleimon at Ohrid in Macedonia and in the Bulgarian capitals of Pliska and Preslav. It was long thought that Naum centred his activities in the large monastery of St Panteleimon near Preslav, but recent archaeological work suggests that his school was more probably in a small monastery near the great basilica which Boris caused to be built in Preslav as the counterpart to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.





He later joined Clement in Macedonia. In 889 Boris, after a reign of 36 years, was sure enough of the success of his policy to abdicate and enter a monastery which he had himself established at Preslav. His withdrawal may have been the result of a vow taken in a serious illness. His successor on the throne was his eldest son Vladimir or Rasate.


Boris had misjudged the situation. Though nominally a Christian Vladimir was under the influence of the pro-pagan and anti-Byzantine conservative wing of the Bulgarian aristocracy, who saw not only the ideals of their youth rejected, but their own political position weakened as Boris pursued the policy of centralisation of power and liquidation of the Bulgar and Slav tribal survivals begun by Krum. There was possibly an element of anti-Slav Bulgar ethnic feeling underlying the action Vladimir took. He began to persecute the Greek hierarchy, imprisoned archbishop Stephen and other clergy (and possibly closed churches and restored Bulgar pagan cults), and at the same time entered into negotiations with King Arnulf of Bavaria with a view to forming an anti-Byzantine military alliance. What was in essence a political struggle between different sections of the ruling class took the form of a religious dispute in late ninth-century Bulgaria, where religious belief and religious organisation were not inherited unchanged from an immemorial past but imposed as part of the rapid adaptation of Bulgarian society to the challenge of being a great power. The effect was to undo much of what had been done in the previous generation, to bring to the forefront again old racial and tribal differences, and to risk war with Byzantium, which Boris had carefully avoided throughout his reign. At first the old man stayed in his monastery and prayed. But finally in 893 the growing chaos and division in the country and the appeals of his old friends and collaborators prevailed on him to return to the world which he had forsaken. Supported by his old guard and by his younger son Symeon, who after his return from his years of study in Constantinople was now a monk, probably in the same monastery as his father, he arrested Vladimir and his principal followers and took control of the state himself. His authority enabled him to carry through the deposition of his son without too much bloodshed. Some of Vladimir's friends were executed. Vladimir himself was blinded—a Byzantine punishment which rendered its victim incapable of exercising supreme power. A little later Vladimir apparently died, perhaps a natural death.





Order was soon restored. Boris found in his son Symeon a decisive and energetic collaborator and outwardly a convinced Christian. By autumn 893 he was able to summon a council of boyars and other magnates to whom he presented Symeon as their new ruler. He also announced the final transfer of the capital from Pliska, where two centuries earlier Asparuch had established his fortified camp, to Preslav. Pliska was probably too closely connected with pre-Christian religion. And most important of all, he proclaimed Slavonic to be henceforth the official language of the Bulgarian state and church. Since the days of Asparuch the Bulgarian rulers had communicated with the outside world in Greek, and also used Greek for such internal written communications as were necessary. They were probably dependent on Greek-speaking inhabitants of their territory for the redaction of these texts. But these men often had no Greek literary education, and so the Greek inscriptions of the early Bulgarian state were written in something approaching the spoken Greek of their time. A few military inventories were written in the Proto-Bulgarian tongue in Greek letters. There may well have been occasional Slavonic texts similarly written in Greek letters, though none survives. Many Greek inscriptions probably belonging to Boris' reign have survived — for example the record of his adoption of Christianity, in Balshi in present-day Albania, [8] the epitaph of a Bulgarian monk dating from 871, found near Červen, [9] the seal of the Kan-bagatur Ioan Irtkhituin from Pliska, [10] the sepulchral inscription of Anna, recently found at Preslav, and possibly belonging to the tomb of Boris’ own daughter, [11] etc. From the beginning of the tenth century these Greek inscriptions virtually disappear, and sepulchral and other texts in Slavonic begin. No doubt Greek was still used for the diplomatic correspondence of the Bulgarian state. But for internal use it was replaced by Slavonic, the language of the overwhelming mass of the people. In the ecclesiastical sphere the effect was even more striking. Slav-speaking clerics were available in sufficient numbers to man the posts required. Greek clergy who could not or would not perform the liturgy in Slavonic were sent back to Constantinople, though no doubt an exception was made for places with a substantial Greek-speaking population, such as some of the coastal towns.


The development of Old Slavonic literature in ninth- and tenth-century Bulgaria forms the subject of another chapter of this book. The spread of the Slavonic liturgy to Russia and its wide-ranging effects are outside its scope.





Together with the Christian religion in its Byzantine form the Bulgarians had adopted the institution of monasticism, again in its Byzantine form. We hear of a number of monastic communities from the time of Boris, such as that of St. Panteleimon at Ohrid, several at Preslav, and so on. These were rich monasteries founded by the king or a member of his family, and endowed with extensive landed estates on the produce of which the monks lived. These estates must have come from royal land, or from the confiscated lands of defeated opponents of Boris, or from tribal or communal land which was treated as individual property. Later on, in the first half of the tenth century, the hermit St John founded his great monastery in the mountains of Rila. If these large monasteries were anything like their Byzantine exemplars they not only engaged in agricultural production but in industrial production too. Thus the great monastery of Studios in Constantinople not only had estates comprising agricultural land, meadows, hay-fields, vineyards, orchards, vegetable gardens, water-mills and cattle-powered mills, wine and olive presses, but it also employed specialist craftsmen, both monks and laymen, as tanners, shoemakers, tailors, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, chainmakers, net-makers, masons, carpenters, icon-painters, scribes, bookbinders etc. The economic activity of Bulgarian monasteries was probably less developed than was the case in Constantinople, since the latter were operating in a market economy, the former in an economy in which most units were virtually autarkic. But they did bring the church directly into the economic life of the country, above all as landowners, and inevitably developed a community of interest with other landowners which spread from the rich monasteries to the church as a whole. Side by side with these large and wealthy monasteries there were no doubt many smaller monasteries in the countryside, established by a minor landowner, a group of peasants, or a single peasant. The farm that had through division become too poor to maintain a family might very well maintain one or two monk-farmers. But of these we hear very little.


Every city of the Byzantine empire, almost every village, had its own saint or martyr, whose tomb or other relics were venerated by the inhabitants. Local peculiarities of cult, local legends, all contributed to link each community to the transcendent world of God’s elect, and to give it a sense of special protection. Bulgaria was poor in saints. The cult of those connected with places in the northern Balkans had largely ceased during the Slav and Avar invasions;





their churches were destroyed, their relics removed or lost and their clergy dispersed. And in so far as they were known, they were known through Greek texts and assimilated to the Byzantine world. For Bulgaria to be a fully developed Christian country it had to have its own saints, and by preference native Bulgarian saints. The earliest recorded one is Voin or Bojan, eldest son of Khan Omurtag and brother of Khan Malamir, who had been converted by a Byzantine prisoner and died a martyr during the persecution of Christians by Malamir in 833. It is interesting to compare this royal saint with Boris and Gleb, the first Russian saints, whose position in society was very similar. Voin, like Boris and Gleb, contributed a kind of supernatural validation to the political power of his collateral descendants. Cyril and Methodius, Clement and Naum were recognised as saints by the Slavonic church first, and only later by the Byzantines. Similarly St John of Rila seems to have found late and grudging acceptance by the Church of Constantinople, as did also St Gabriel of Lesnovo, founder of a monastery in Macedonia. Boris himself was canonised by the Bulgarian church shortly after his death in 907, and seventeen years later appears, if we may believe a letter of the patriarch Nicolaus Mysticus, to have been recognised as a saint by the church of Constantinople.


In the reign of Boris’ son Symeon (893-924) Bulgarian relations with the Byzantine empire were mostly hostile. For many years on end Symeon’s armies invaded northern Greece or Thrace, and on several occasions besieged Constantinople. Symeon hoped to exploit a crisis of power in the empire to become emperor himself, no doubt of a new empire as much Bulgarian as Byzantine. He saw himself as the successor of Constantine and Justinian. In spite of the victories of his forces and the concessions he forced from a dismayed and divided clique in Constantinople, his great ambition was not realised. And in fact his military victories cost Bulgaria dear in men and resources and confidence, and prepared the long period of decline under his son Peter when Bulgaria sank from being a great power to the state of a Byzantine protectorate.


The relative isolation from Byzantium resulting from the wars, the heady enthusiasm of victory, and the fruition of the plans long laid by Boris, led to a flowering of Slavonic culture under Symeon. Symeon had been educated in Constantinople and had then become a monk in a monastery at Pliska or Preslav. Few men were temperamentally less fitted for the monastic life, but his love of letters and scholarship seems to have been genuine enough.





He may well in his monastic days have taken part in the great work of translation and writing inspired and organised by Clement, Naum, Tudor Doksov, Constantine the Presbyter and others. As monarch he encouraged by his patronage their work and that of their successors. He continued the building activity of his father. To Boris’ great basilica and palace church at Pliska, church of the Virgin on the acropolis at Ohrid, church of St. Germanus at Bregalnitsa and other monuments, he added a series of churches, monasteries and palaces in Preslav, the new capital, which had been sacked by the Magyars in 895. The impression which his buildings made on the eyes and minds of contemporaries is vividly conveyed by John the Exarch in his description of the Palace. Symeon’s reign saw a continued flowering of the new Slavonic Christian culture. We must not forget, however, that the great figures of the previous reign survived long after Symeon’s accession. In particular Boris lived on until May 907, and all the indications are that he was far from inactive. His brother Doks survived him, we do not know for how long. Naum died in 906, Clement not until 916; Constantine the Presbyter probably survived even later. So it would be unwise to attribute the whole inspiration of this golden age of Bulgarian literature and art to Symeon, a monarch who spent much of his life at the head of his army, and who was interested above all in power.


The firm establishment of a church organisation, the training of sufficient clergy, the provision of liturgical and other books in the language of the people, the adoption, at any rate superficially, of Christian patterns of life and Christian ethical standpoints were the achievements of the sixty years from the conversion of Boris to the death of Symeon. They represent a rapid transformation of Bulgarian society and a radical process of acculturation corresponding to the new role of Bulgaria in European politics. But they are only one side of the picture. There were others. The church hierarchy, whether Greek or later Bulgarian, lived in close contact with the ruler and his boyars and shared their style of life. Indeed the Bulgarisation of the hierarchy probably meant that it was recruited more and more from the same class as the boyars. The church at the same time became a great landowner, extracting rents and services from its tenants exactly as did the boyars and other magnates. The church’s tenants shared in the growing dependence in which the tenants of lay landlords found themselves in the later ninth and tenth centuries.





The teaching of the church became the principal ideological support of the established order, an order in which the protection of tribe, clan, or village commune was crumbling away and more and more of the peasantry were being exploited with increasing efficiency and harshness by the rising territorial magnates. It was thus inevitable that in the eyes of many the church, or at least its hierarchy, should be identified with the apparatus of exploitation which kept them in grinding poverty, and took away their sons to die in war in distant lands. Even at village level the church was seen exacting payments for baptism, for marriage, for burial etc., as well as collecting rents.


At the same time the very novelty of Christianity meant that unorthodox interpretations of it flourished. Clergy were thin on the ground during the first decades after the conversion and in some regions long after that. Strange fusions of pagan and Christian thought took place in the minds of simple men. Rites and practices of pagan origin, some of them perhaps taken over from the Romanised or Hellenised Thracians, were given a Christian colouring. Among these were spring and midsummer festivals, sacrifices on beginning buildings, rituals involving transvestism, etc. [12] There were many heretical or doubtfully orthodox teachers about. As early as 865 Boris had to deal with a layman representing himself as a priest and giving baptism to large numbers.


Constantine V (741-775) had transferred several groups of dualist Paulicians from the eastern marches to Thrace to guard the frontier against the Bulgarians. The Paulician communities had flourished and spread, and much of the territory in which they were settled had since early in the ninth century formed part of Bulgaria. These militant, well-organised neo Manichaeans with their puritan rejection of the church and its sacraments, their dualist solution of the problem of evil—the material world was the creation of the Devil and could not be sanctified—and their claim to represent an earlier, truer form of Christianity found ready hearers among the downtrodden Bulgarian peasantry, and contributed to their dream of a better world to which they and not the official church held the key. About 872 Peter of Sicily sent the newly-appointed Archbishop of Bulgaria a treatise on the errors of the Paulicians, and John the Exarch in his Shestodnev (c. 915) argues at length against the view that the created world is evil. There is evidence of the arrival in Bulgaria in the ninth century of Paulician teachers from Cappadocia, the heartland of Paulicianism. There were other heretical groups at work in Bulgaria, contributing to this ferment of underground Christianity.





Messalians, who believed that in each man there is concealed a demon who can only be expelled through continuous prayer, and who rejected as worthless the sacraments and other ministrations of the church, were certainly engaged in missionary activity, particularly in the monasteries of Bulgaria. Syrian Monophysites had been settled in Thrace by Leo IV in 778, and had doubtless maintained their religious separatism. There were also many monophysite Armenians in the Black Sea cities, in Thessalonika, and engaged in long-distance trade through Bulgaria. The followers of the shadowy Leucius, author of apocryphal additions to the New Testament with a strong Manichaean and Eucratite undertone, sought refuge in Bulgaria shortly after the conversion, when they were banished from Rome. Jewish colonies were found all round the Sea of Azov and on the northern shore of the Black Sea, where they actively sought proselytes, and there were similar Jewish communities in most of the cities of the Balkans. Boris asked the advice of the Pope in 865 regarding baptisms performed by a Jew in Bulgaria.


Out of this confusion of religious teaching and practice, in a situation of great religious instability, in a society in which the exploitation of the primary producers was increasing in intensity and assuming new forms, social discontent took religious form, and religious heterodoxy had social implications. The early stages of this ground swell of protest are impossible to trace, as they are almost completely neglected by our scanty sources. John the Exarch as early as c. 915 attacks ‘heterodox and filthy Manichaeans and all pagan Slavs . . . who are not ashamed to call the Devil the eldest son (sc. of God)’. This passage is interesting both because it shows the link between heterodoxy and paganism in Bulgaria and also because the doctrine that the Devil is the eldest son of God is never attributed to the Paulicians but is a feature of later Bulgarian dualist theology. It suggests that the peculiar Bulgarian amalgam had already taken shape as early as 915. No particular social views are attributed to the heretics thus attacked. But no arguments can be drawn from this, as John the Exarch is speaking in a theological context.


Some time later, probably in the thirties of the tenth century, this current of religious thought which was at the same time a movement of social protest was given a clear conceptual form and possibly also some kind of institutional embodiment by a parish priest called Bogomil. We know nothing of his life or of the region of Bulgaria in which he worked. There is some likelihood that it was in Macedonia.





At any rate Macedonia was the centre of the Bogomil movement in the first Bulgarian Empire. [13] There are only two contemporary sources on the origin and doctrines of the movement associated with Pop Bogomil: a letter of the Byzantine patriarch Theophylact to King Peter of Bulgaria, and the sermon of the Presbyter Cosmas against the heretics. Neither can be dated with precision, and they do not always agree in the details of what they recount. Cosmas gives the more detailed and concrete account, based on personal observations, while the Patriarch was concerned with fitting what he had been told into a preconceived scheme of heresies. What emerges from the two documents is that a new heretical movement was sweeping through Bulgaria. Its adherents tried to pass as orthodox Christians. The material world, they said, is the creation of the Devil, Satanael, who is the brother of Christ. It is therefore unsanctifiable, and the eucharist is an absurdity. Christ was not born in the flesh, but was an immaterial apparition. Only the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles were divinely inspired. Marriage, and the use of meat and wine, were to be avoided, not from Christian asceticism, but because they were evil. They rejected all the sacraments and in particular baptism: John the Baptist was the forerunner not of Christ but of Antichrist. All material vehicles of grace they rejected, such as icons and the cross. Churches as built by men in the material world were abodes of the devil. The Gospel accounts of miracles operated in respect of material objects were to be interpreted allegorically. The order of priesthood and the hierarchy of the church were inventions of Satanael. The Bogomils seem in fact to have made no very clear distinction between priesthood and laity, though certain of their members were recognised as teachers. Probably these were the ‘perfect’, who practised in full the asceticism enjoined by Bogomil doctrines, while the mass of their followers merely did what they could. Their organisation, so far as we can discern it, was extremely democratic. Their church was built from the bottom up, not from the top down. Its basic unit was the local conventicle, of necessity clandestine. They rejected the liturgy of the orthodox church, with the exception of the Lord’s Prayer. They confessed to and gave absolution to one another.


‘They teach their own people,’ says Cosmas, ‘not to obey their masters, they revile the wealthy, hate the king, ridicule the elders, condemn the boyars, regard as vile in the sight of God those who serve the king, and forbid every serf to work for his lord’ (Cosmas, Treatise ch. 19).





To the patriarch Theophylact the doctrine of Bogomil and his followers was a mixture of Paulicianism and Messalianism. And it is no doubt true that most of what Bogomil preached was borrowed from these two sources. From the Paulicians he took their dualism, and their rejection of the material world and hence of the church. But Bogomil’s dualism was not absolute. The Devil for him was not, as for the Paulicians and the Manichaeans before them, an independent principle of evil equipollent with God, but a subordinate figure, a mere emanation of God, whose ultimate victory is assured. From the Messalians he took their puritanism and in particular their rejection of marriage and procreation, but brought this puritanism out from the monastery into the world. His radical anarchism was a contribution of his own, reflecting the social and economic reality of the world in which he preached. The Paulicians had opposed the Roman empire, but they did so on the field of battle, as disciplined soldiers. The systematic civil disobedience of Bogomil and his followers — who soon came to be called Bogomils—was something different.


Such was the doctrine which emerged from the ferment of religious teaching and thinking in early tenth-century Bulgaria, and which was associated with the name of Pop Bogomil. It spread rapidly among the dissatisfied and alienated Bulgarian peasantry, and soon had considerable following in the Byzantine empire. In due course its missionaries — for the Bogomils were fervent evangelists—laid the foundation of a great movement of religious and social protest in Bosnia and, in central and western Europe, inspired that of the Cathari or Albigenses, which was suppressed with the utmost severity but with very varying success. To follow the later fortunes of Bogomilism in Bulgaria—where it survived until after the Turkish conquest—in Byzantium, where it flared up in the twelfth century, or in the west, is no part of our present design. This glance into the future merely serves to show the unerring skill with which its mysterious founder expressed the doubts and aspirations of oppressed medieval peasants.


In Bulgaria in the tenth century Bogomilism had in addition a certain ethnic tone. It was popular and Slavonic rather than aristocratic and Greek. The period of its origin and early spread was the reign of Peter, when Bulgaria, weakened by Symeon’s wars and by the increasing enserfment of its population, became a Byzantine satellite, and Greek influence spread among the ruling class. The Bogomils preached in the language of the people, and their message was understood by the people.





In particular, they composed a number of apocryphal evangelical and hagiographic texts in Slavonic, in which they not only illustrated their doctrines, but embodied material from Slavonic folklore. This apocryphal literature is the earliest free narrative literature in Slavonic. [14] The Bogomils were persecuted in Bulgaria. But their loose organisation, their attractive solution of the problem of evil, and their commitment to social protest made their movement virtually indestructible. And eventually, in the western Bulgarian Kingdom of King Samuel at the beginning of the eleventh century they may even have enjoyed some covert support from the civil authorities because of their anti-Byzantine attitude. [15]


The religious history of Bulgaria from the mid-ninth to mid-tenth centuries has been treated in some detail. It was a period of rapid change, when questions of religious affiliation and doctrine were of the utmost importance to the ordinary man, if only because social and economic relations were so often and so clearly given religious expression. When we turn to the Byzantine empire we find a very different picture. There are plenty of religious disputes, but they are essentially of interest to theologians and clergymen. The lay masses seem to have been scarcely involved.


Byzantine society had been Christian for centuries. The Christian religion was closely interwoven with the everyday life of individuals and of the community in a variety of ways. The Church penetrated throughout society, as a teacher, as an organiser of social welfare, as a landlord, as a judicial body, and in many other ways. This stable relation remained unchanged and indeed unquestioned throughout a period of fairly intense theological and ecclesiastical argument.


Serious non-Christian belief was confined to the Jews, a tolerated minority whose function in the Byzantine scheme of things was exemplificatory, and to the Neo-Manichaean Paulicians, largely in Cappadocia and on the eastern frontier. Non-Christian practice was found both in these groups and in the degenerate form of peasant mummery here and there in the countryside. (On the latter cf. Canon 62 of the Council in Trullo of 692 and the comments thereon of John Zonaras in the twelfth century.) Neither these beliefs nor these practices offered the slightest threat to the position of the Church in Byzantine society.


That society had just passed through a century of acute religious division, the iconoclast crisis, which was ‘a period as decisive for the spiritual development of the Byzantine empire as the struggle against the Persian and Arab invasions had been for its political existence’. [16]





During the iconoclast crisis there is no doubt that religious beliefs had been closely interwoven with social, political and ethnical demands, though scholars differ on the precise relations between them. After the final victory of the Iconodules, symbolised by the proclamation of the Synod of March 843 restoring the veneration of icons, this link was broken, and all parties avoided doing anything likely to rehabilitate it. The settlement was essentially a compromise, in that only the leadership of the iconoclast clergy was liquidated, while the rank and file were allowed to change sides with no questions asked. That this should be so was the wish of the empress Theodora, widow of Theophilus, and the logothete Theoctistus, the power behind the throne, and also of the new patriarch Methodius, an enlightened man who favoured the interest in profane, classical education shown by Theoctistus. Those who saw less far, or felt more bitter, saw this compromise as a betrayal. Their centre was the monastery of St John of Studios in Constantinople, and their strength lay among monks rather than laymen. These Zealots, as they called themselves, fought the new iconodule régime with as much fervour as they had fought the once victorious iconoclasts. What was essential was to keep the Zealots from winning support among discontented elements in the mass of the people. Only thus could a potentially dangerous situation be defused.


On this ecclesiastical level the dispute was pursued with fervour, and Patriarch Methodius before his death in 847 excommunicated the Studite monks and their leaders. His successor Ignatius was a strict monk, and his elevation to the patriarchate implied a certain concession to the point of view of the Zealots. But any effect which this might have had in unifying the church was more than offset by the conflict between Ignatius and Photius, which dragged on for nineteen years, and in which the Church of Rome became involved. The resulting schism was healed, but it was a foretaste of the situation in the eleventh century, when the schism between the two churches became permanent. Yet its effect upon the ordinary laymen in the period under discussion must have been extremely slight. No parallel church was set up, no one but church dignitaries was called upon to stand up and be counted.


The dispute on the canonicity of the fourth marriage of Leo VI aroused more passions among the lower clergy and the mass of laymen. Subjects with sexual overtones are particularly liable to stimulate strong, if not always rational, feelings.





Two parties were in fact formed among the Byzantine clergy, and the patriarch Nicolaus Mysticus was deposed and exiled. After a long struggle, in which provinces as well as the capital were involved, he was restored and his rival Euthymius deposed. As the event which had provoked the dispute receded into the past and the participants themselves began to vanish from the scene, the Nicolaites and the Euthymians were reconciled by the Tome of Union promulgated by the council held at Constantinople in 920. After Nicolaus’ death in 925 the energetic emperor Romanus Lecapenus brought the Byzantine church firmly under imperial control, and so it remained for the rest of the period. Of the three disputes which had arisen only the last spread beyond the hothouse atmosphere of the Holy Synod. And none of them appears to have been in any way linked with the burning social question of the time, the growing power of the magnates, who were ousting free peasants and military tenants from their land in the rapidly accelerating process of feudalisation, and against whom a series of laws was directed by successive emperors.


The Church had its problems and its successes. They were those connected with the expanding, aggressive nature of Byzantine power. The Paulicians on the eastern frontier, many of whom fought on the side of the Arabs, had to be eliminated. But this was on the whole done by military rather than by missionary means, as the Paulicians were not as a rule open to conviction by theological arguments. The settlement was a bloody one. And the deportation of Paulicians to Thrace and elsewhere contributed, as has been seen, to the development of the Bogomil movement in Bulgaria. There must have been many crypto-Paulicians left in the Byzantine world, particularly in the east. But the Paulicians had little aptitude for underground conversion, and the Byzantine church was far too firmly rooted in Byzantine society to be permeable by neo-Manichaeism.


The other side of Byzantine expansionism is the readiness with which the Church planned and undertook large scale missionary enterprises. The patriarchate of Photius was marked by several, directed to the Khazars, the Russians and the Moravians. And the sudden conversion of the Bulgarians was in part the result of Byzantine pressure. None of these enterprises, as it turned out, had much lasting effect except the conversion of Bulgaria, and that took a turn which would have horrified Photius. They were all based upon assumptions regarding the relations of the church—any church —and the Byzantine government which did not correspond to the realities of ninth-century international relations.





To this extent the energy, devotion and professional skill which went into these missionary enterprises was largely wasted.


Religion played a different role in Byzantine and Bulgarian society in the ninth and tenth centuries. In the former church, state and society were so inter-connected and in such stable equilibrium that a kind of homoeostasis reigned. Religious disputes were either quickly settled or confined to a restricted group in society. The balance was rapidly restored after any deviation. Religious organisations provided an indispensable aid to the political enterprises of the Byzantine state. In Bulgaria, on the other hand, the Christian religion was new, and had not become intimately linked with traditional patterns of life. Boundaries were unclear, and equilibrium uncertain. What began as an act of state policy with the conversion under Boris became within a generation or two an essential element in the new national consciousness of the Bulgarians, and in turn gave birth to a movement which was not merely a ‘vote of no confidence in the universe’, but the vehicle of the very concrete and particular social discontents of tenth-century Bulgaria.






9. Culture



The image which the Byzantines formed of themselves and of the world was based upon the synthesis of classical and Christian traditions made in the fourth and early fifth centuries and given institutional form largely in the age of Justinian. Constantinople and its empire were both the New Rome and the New Israel. The empire was a state sui generis, a crucial part of the divine plan of salvation for mankind, and in essence if not in concrete reality co-extensive with the inhabited world—the oikoumenē. Christian myths, legends and images provided an elaborate code of symbols through which men communicated with one another, at all levels, from the most sophisticated speculation concerning the nature of the universe to the most trivial popular magic. Emperor and patriarch were both God ’s agents on earth—and hence to be treated with submission—and the people’s representatives before God—and hence recallable if their mission was a manifest failure. Disasters, natural or military, were prima facie evidence of such failure. Side by side and intertwined with this specifically Christian picture of the world was another, drawing its values and its imagery largely from the rhetorical literary culture of late antiquity. Men still read the pagan classics and appreciated them. Photius the future patriarch in his Bibliotheca discusses a large number of pagan classical works which he had read and evaluates them as literature quite independently of their content. Citations from Homer figure side by side with those from the Psalms in literature. In fact classical mythology and certain concepts of classical philosophy provide for the educated a code of symbols available to complement or replace those of Christianity.


This complex, double picture of the world was maintained through the generations by a system of education which is the direct descendant of that prevailing in the Roman empire, with little but the most superficial concessions to Christianity. Elementary schools, where boys learned to read and write, were common enough in towns and there seem quite often to have been village schools. [1] The schoolmaster was often the local letter-writer and lawyer, drawing up petitions, deeds of sale etc., for those unfamiliar with such matters; these are the men whom Theodore Balsamon calls notarioi paidodidaskoloi. [2]


What corresponds to secondary education, involving the systematic study of grammar, some acquaintance with selected works of classical literature,





and training in self-expression according to the rules established by the rhetoricians of the Roman empire (in particular Hermogenes and Aphthonius), was available only in the larger cities, and at some periods probably only in Constantinople; St Nicephorus of Latmos, early in the tenth century, was sent by his parents at the age of eight from his native town of Basileion in Galatia to Constantinople to attend school. The pupils of such a school usually went directly on completion of their studies to junior posts in the civil service. There was however at certain periods in the ninth and tenth century a still higher form of education available, comprising the study of philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and literature. A school or university providing such a higher education under imperial patronage was founded by the Caesar Bardas in the reign of Michael III. There may have been an earlier foundation by Theoktistos the Logothete, chief minister of Theophilus. Whether Bardas’ ‘university’ continued in unbroken existence till the middle of the tenth century or whether, as is more probable, there was a succession of refoundations, there are traces of such an institution of higher education at various dates throughout the period which concerns us. The details are obscure, and of limited relevance to our subject. [3]


Photius’ wide knowledge of profane literature has already been mentioned. His younger contemporary Arethas, Metropolitan of Caesarea, was a scholar and bibliophile who sought out rare classical texts—including such un-Christian works as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius— and had them copied by the best calligraphers. He then furnished them with marginal commentaries to facilitate their reading, commentaries drawn in part from the surviving débris of ancient exegetical literature, partly from his own wide reading. [4]


The early and middle tenth century saw the compilation of a number of encyclopedic works intended to make the classical tradition more readily accessible to non-specialists. These include not only the monumental Excerpts from classical, Hellenistic and early Byzantine historians made on the order of Constantine VII, of which only fragments survive, and the Suda, a vast dictionary of literature designed to explain the allusions to be found in classical texts, but also works on court ceremonial, on agriculture, on medicine, on veterinary science, and so on. [5] These works imply the existence of a reading public. And although literacy was certainly not widespread in the Byzantine empire in the ninth and tenth centuries, and real acquaintance with classical literary tradition was confined to a small upper crust, nevertheless far more men could and did read in Byzantium than in any other European state,





and probably as many as, if not more than, in the contemporary Moslem world. And literacy, whether we mean mere ability to read or some degree of acquaintance with the classical tradition, was not the monopoly of the clergy, as in the West. There was in the cities and in particular in the capital a class of literate and educated laymen, from which the state drew its higher functionaries.


As well as this general, literary education, specialised professional education was available, through which something of the tradition of ancient science and technology was transmitted. Doctors and architects, to name only two groups, studied the ancient authorities. At a later period we find institutional arrangements, under the patronage of the emperor or the patriarch, for instruction in medicine. There is no evidence for such arrangements in our period, and it is probable that there were none. But somehow the science and tradition of antiquity did filter through.


The literature of the ninth and tenth century reflects the conscious re-establishment of contact with the classical, non-Christian past, both in its form and in its content. [6] The visual arts of the period show a similar imitation or re-creation of classical models, a flexible and sophisticated humanism contrasting with the rather rigid and symbolic art of the Dark Ages. [7]


There was always another strand in Byzantine culture that of those who opposed the Christian-classical synthesis and based their view of life solely on Christian tradition. For them the adoption of Christianity meant the rejection of the pagan, classical part. The biographies of saints often record that their subjects knew nothing of classical literature and thought, and studied only the Bible and the fathers of the Church. This radical rejection of one half of Byzantine culture could imply a critique of the established order. It was probably commonest among monks, whose prestige in Byzantine society was always high. At times of stress it had a strong appeal for many in Byzantine society. But it never became the ideology of an effective opposition. And it was itself riddled with contradictions, both in theory and practice. For instance the fourth-century fathers themselves were men who were brought up in and respected the classical educational tradition. And the monks of the great monastery of St. John of Studios in Constantinople, who in the early ninth century led the radicals and sometimes came near to claiming complete independence of the Church from the Byzantine state, were often themselves men of learning, engaged in





copying not only texts of liturgical and theological content, but profane literature also.


The Byzantines, then, saw in themselves not only God’s chosen people, whose order of being transcended that of other nations, but also the heirs of the pagan Hellenistic and Roman world. The two traditions had long been fused together, and for most men presented no problems. In the period which we are studying the growth of Byzantine political power and economic wealth was accompanied by a growing emphasis on the Hellenic side of their tradition, one at first no doubt confined to limited circles of men of learning in the capital, but which in the course of the tenth century spread to wider elements of the literate population. It led to a highly sophisticated literature and art, with subtle and varied means of expression at its command, and a vast and complex universe of reference and allusion, and it was sustained and developed by a tenacious educational system, involving text books, methods of instruction, institutions and so on.


We know very little about the Bulgarians’ view of the world and of themselves before their conversion to Christianity. But certain features stand in clear contrast to the situation in Byzantium. The Bulgars no doubt brought with them a complex culture. There has been much talk in the past of strong Iranian influences which may well have existed, but there is little indisputable trace of them. The Bulgars had, however, a fairly sophisticated political system. They formed a centralised monarchical state, unlike many of the nomadic peoples of the steppes who invaded eastern Europe in the Middle Ages. The monarchy was hereditary, passing normally to the eldest son, though he may have had to be confirmed in his office by a council of tribal leaders. The monarch was served by a hierarchy of officials bearing Proto-Bulgarian titles and with clearly defined duties, though we cannot always be sure what these were. The people were divided into clans or tribes, and it was probably from the leaders of these that the high officers of state were selected, in order to ensure the loyalty of the clans to the Khan. The Khan had in addition an entourage of men at arms maintained by himself and living at his headquarters, which provided a counterbalance to the potential power of the clan leaders. The Khan probably claimed some kind of religious sanction for his rule, though what it was we do not know. At any rate we find him performing sacrifices on behalf of his army. He strengthened his prestige by recording his exploits in grandiose inscriptions set up in his capital and elsewhere. This is not a Byzantine custom and may have Iranian origins.





But such inscriptions recording the res gestae of rulers were set up in central Asia and southern Siberia by the Orkhon-Yenisei Turks in the eighth century. And the predominant cultural influence upon these came not from Iran, but from China. So we may have to seek there the primary influence which led to the recording of their exploits on stone by the pagan Bulgar Khans.


Most of the Khan’s subjects, however, were not Bulgars, but Slavs. The process of fusion of the two ethnic groups—or of absorption of the Bulgars by the more numerous Slavs had begun already in the eighth century and was rapidly advancing in the ninth. Already in its earliest decades we find a Slav, Dragomir, acting as Krum’s ambassador to Constantinople. Three of Khan Malamir’s sons bore names which appear to be Slavonic. Unfortunately we know virtually nothing of the way in which the fusion came about, though it has many parallels in history. The Slavs brought with them a body of religious beliefs and practices, which have already been described, an organisation by families—probably usually extended families—and clans, with a clan nobility gradually differentiating out of the mass of the peasant clansmen and loose unions of clans beginning to form; they would doubtless also have brought songs, stories, music and visual art which we can only reconstruct by extrapolation backward from later periods and by comparison with what we know of other Slavonic peoples, particularly the western Slavs. As well as Bulgars and Slavs there were also the descendants of Romanised and Hellenised Thracians, the ancestors of the later Vlachs and Saracatsans, who had probably already taken up their pastoral way of life.


Bulgaria, then, was not ethnically homogeneous—but neither was the Byzantine empire. Its culture was not uniform, as was that of the Byzantines, and above all it was not a literate culture. Its only vehicle was oral tradition, which is particularly liable to weaken in a period of rapid social change, like that of the absorption of the Slavonic clans by the centralised Bulgar state. There was therefore little sense of the past, few ready-made and universally-recognised symbols through which ideas could be projected. There was not even, in the middle of the ninth century, a national language. Slavonic was not written. Some of the inscriptions set up by the Khan or his officers are in Proto-Bulgarian written in the Greek alphabet (Beševliev Nos. 50, 52, 53). But most are in Greek, a language certainly not in familiar use by either Bulgars or Slavs. They were probably carved by Greek captives, deserters or emigrants in the service of the Khan and his officers,





men who could read and write—another testimony to the relative frequency of literacy in the Byzantine empire—but who had not had a literary education. They are a valuable testimony to the popular Greek of the time. It is significant of the state of Bulgarian culture that the Khans generally sought to project their power in Byzantine terms. Thus they often prefixed their inscriptions with a cross, not as evidence of Christian belief, but because they saw in it a powerful magical symbol, as indeed did most Byzantines. Omurtag, Malamir and Persian called themselves ek theou archōn not, as has been suggested, because they were translating a traditional Turkic title, but in imitation of the titulature of Byzantine sovereigns of the time. [8] And in their acclamations and other court ceremonial there is evident imitation of Byzantine models, which carried far more prestige than anything in their own traditions. [9]


Christianity was not unknown in Bulgaria in the mid-ninth century. Krum’s conquests had brought under Bulgarian control areas in Thrace and on the Black Sea coast where the church was well established. Many inhabitants of former Roman territories had been deported as prisoners to other parts of Bulgaria. They included Manuel, Bishop of Adrianople; and among Omurtag’s senior officers appear three called Bardanes, Ioannes and Gregoras, doubtless Christians and probably Greek. [10] Ioannes and another Christian officer named Leo were beheaded by Omurtag a little later during his persecution of Christians. [11] Two of Omurtag’s own sons adopted Christianity, and one of them was put to death by his brother Malamir on his accession. [12] Boris’ own sister, Maria, was a Christian, educated in Constantinople. So we have two strands in early Bulgarian Christianity, that of the common people and that of the court.


Nevertheless, the cultural heritage of Byzantine Christianity was scarcely familiar to Boris’ subjects, high or low, at the time of the conversion in 864 or 865. (The details of the conversion are recounted elsewhere.) Potentially it provided moral and theological justification for the power of the ruler, gave him, through the church, a means of exercising influence on all his subjects, and brought Bulgaria into the comity of civilised nations. But much had to be done before this potentiality could be realised. And the difficulties were great. There was no common language. The Greek-speaking clergy who came to Bulgaria could not communicate with the mass of the people, who had been marched to the nearest river or lake by Boris’ soldiers to be baptised.





And many of the boyars, perhaps the majority, were in sullen opposition to the new state of affairs. We have very little information on the progress of Christianity in Bulgaria for thirty' years, and that little does not suggest that Byzantine Christian ways of thought and life made much progress. Boris sent his son Symeon to Constantinople to be educated, probably intending that in due course he should become head of the Church in Bulgaria, either as patriarch or as archbishop. But his eldest son and heir apparent, Vladimir, was kept at Preslav.


The arrival of the exiled pupils of Cyril and Methodios in 885-6 was evidently welcomed by Boris as providing him with clergy who spoke Slavonic and had the necessary liturgical texts in Slavonic. Such clergy were available in Constantinople among the pupils of Methodios who had remained there. But the Byzantine authorities showed no inclination to send them to Bulgaria or to train Bulgarians to use the Slavonic liturgy. Their expectation was that Greek would become the language of church and state in Bulgaria. At best it could only have become the language used by the upper classes on formal occasions, and could never have become the second language of the people and the vehicle of their national culture. The four pupils of Cyril and Methodios who came to Bulgaria were welcomed at Preslav and given facilities to continue their work of teaching and translating. The tradition of Slavonic letters was preserved by two men, Clement and Naum. In 893, only seven years after the arrival of the Moravians, four years after Boris’ abdication and immediately after the deposition of his eldest son Vladimir, Boris, returning from his retirement in a monastery, was able to proclaim Slavonic as the language of the Church in Bulgaria, which is a testimony to the success of Clement and Naum’s work. It was a momentous step, and the reasons for which it was taken were not necessarily wholly political.


Boris had vision enough to see that the adoption of Greek culture, however superficial, by the upper classes could only have a divisive effect on Bulgarian society. There were difficulties enough in the new policy. First, the exiles from Moravia had brought with them the cumbersome Glagolitic alphabet, arbitrary in its letter forms and slow to write. It would be particularly unacceptable to those who could already read Greek. It long continued to be used in Macedonia, but in Preslav and eastern Bulgaria it was replaced soon after 893 by the new Cyrillic alphabet, based on the uncial letter forms still used for liturgical books in the Byzantine empire.





There are a few Glagolitic graffiti in Preslav, but Cyrillic was the writing used by court and church, and in due course it supplemented or replaced Glagolitic in the far west of the kingdom. How the training of copyists, bookbinders and others was set on foot we do not know. Symeon’s powerful patronage doubtless smoothed over many difficulties. Be that as it may, the last decade of the ninth century and the early decades of the tenth saw an upsurge of writing in Slavonic, both in translation from the Greek, and as original composition, which has no parallel in early medieval Europe. The details, so far as we can reconstruct them, will be discussed later. Here it must suffice to point out that the adoption of Slavonic as the language of church and literature, and indeed as the national language of Bulgaria—it had always been the language of the mass of the people ended any remaining antagonism between Bulgar and Slav and quickly led to the development of a native literate class, the setting up of schools in Preslav, Ohrid etc., and finally to a sense of dignity and pride. This feeling of pride emerges strongly in many of the early Slavonic writings, for instance in the polemical piece on Slavonic writing by the monk Hrabr—probably a pseudonym, but guesses at his true identity have no foundation to build upon. [13]


The main centres of translation and original writing were Preslav and Ohrid and their neighbourhoods. It is not always possible to determine where particular texts were written. The Bible or most of it had already been translated by Cyril and Methodius and their disciples. The same is true of the most essential liturgical texts, the three liturgies of John Chrysostom, Basil, and Gregory the Great. The rarer liturgies of SS. James and Peter were probably also translated early. The remaining liturgical books, some of them of great length—the Euchologion, Gospel Readings, Praxapostolos, Psalter, Horologion, Triodion, Pentekostarion, Oktoechos, Menologies etc.—were all translated in Bulgaria, probably before the end of the tenth century. These were in principle close word-for-word translations. But local Slavonic saints were added to the Menologies. And hymns which had to be sung to a fixed melody could not be literally translated. [14]


Among patristic texts the great fourth- and fifth-century fathers were extensively translated. No complete survey has ever been made of the many unpublished versions. The Apostolic Canons exist in an early Slavonic version, as do a number of apocryphal works, including apocryphal Gospels.





But it is not always clear whether these are Bulgarian or later translations. Other rarities, which testify to the thoroughness with which Christian literature was rendered into Slavonic and the erudition of some of the translators, include Severian of Gabala, Diadochos of Photike, Ephraim Syrus and Isaac of Antioch. Ascetic works were also among those early translated, which was natural since many monasteries were centres of translation. John Climacus, Dorotheus, Maximus Confessor, John Damascene and Theodore of Studios belong to this category. More than these liturgical, dogmatic, pastoral and ascetic texts was needed, however, to render Byzantine Christian tradition accessible to Slavonic readers. The Christian Cosmography of Cosmas Indicopleustes, itself originally a polemical work directed against the Christian Aristotelians of Alexandria, was translated, probably in Bulgaria in the tenth century, as an introduction to the Christian view of the physical world. It is noteworthy that Photius in his Bibliotheca comments upon the Christian Cosmography favourably. It was probably a text recently ‘rediscovered’. The Christianised version of Epictetus’ Encheiridion, a favourite Byzantine introduction to ethics, exists in an early Slavonic translation.


One essential body of information which neither the liturgical texts nor the church fathers could furnish concerned the history of the world, and in particular of the Roman empire. There is no sign of Slavonic translation of any of the Greek historians of antiquity and the Middle Ages, in spite of the great interest shown in them at the court of Constantine VII. What was translated were Byzantine Chronicles, presenting the history of the world in a naïvely theological framework, without the investigation of causes and the interest in human character which Byzantine historians in the tenth century were relearning from classical models. Malalas was translated at the beginning of the tenth century, from a fuller version of the Greek original than that now surviving. The Breviarium of Nicephorus was translated about the same time, as was also the Chronicle of George Syncellus. Whether the Slavonic translation of George the Monk, of whom there are two versions, was made at this period is uncertain. It may be the work of a translator of the second Bulgarian empire. [15]


A Christian state whose ruler derived his authority from God needed a body of law. Boris asked Pope Nicholas I to send him a code of laws in 867. There is evidence of early translations of the Nomocanons of John Scholasticus and John Nesteutes.





These are compilations of ecclesiastical and civil law, which would be used primarily by churchmen. The Ecloga and the Farmer’s Law were also translated and adapted, presumably very early, before the publication of the Procheiron and the Epanagoge by Basil I or Leo VI. But the Bulgarians did not go on trying to adapt Byzantine law to their own rather different society. They compiled their own legal code, as we shall see.


Of belles-lettres remarkably little was translated until a very much later period. Yet this was an age of literary renaissance in Byzantium. But the historical works of men like Genesios and Theodore Daphnopates, the tortuous rhetoric of Photius or Arethas—or indeed of Symeon himself when he wrote in Greek—and the elegant if often tasteless Byzantine epigrams of the Greek Anthology alike aroused no echo in Symeon’s Bulgaria. The kind of sophisticated reading public with a literary education hardly existed there. Indeed, it is unlikely that many laymen could read at all. [16]


Bulgaria’s programme of acculturation is astonishing both in its range and in the gaps it shows. The intensive practice of translation rapidly made of Old Slavonic a literary tongue, suitable for original writing. Original texts are in fact found from before the adoption of Slavonic as the church language in 893, but the main period of this ‘first wave’ of original Bulgarian literature belongs to the last decade of the ninth century and the first half of the tenth, the reigns of Symeon and Peter. It was in this period that the Byzantine twelve-syllable line was adopted for Slavonic poetry which followed Greek models, such as the Introduction to the Gospel of Bishop Constantine, or the anonymous panegyric of King Symeon. Many works are anonymous, and there are problems both of authorship and of dating, which need not be gone into here. However certain literary personalities do emerge, and it is primarily with these and their works that we shall deal.


Little is known of the life of John the Exarch, who evidently lived in the late ninth or early tenth century. He translated John Damascene, and composed the Shestodnev, an account of the creation largely based on the Hexaemeron of St Basil. Both works have long adulatory prefaces addressed to King Symeon, which are informative on contemporary life and thought as well as on his theory and practice of translation. He seems to have worked at Preslav, the magnificence of which is described in the preface to his Shestodnev. It is not clear what his title of Exarch implies, though the most probable suggestion is that he was a kind of ecclesiastical visitor, responsible for teaching and discipline throughout a diocese. [17]





Constantine the Presbyter became Bishop of Preslav in the reign of Symeon. His literary work belongs to the nineties of the ninth century. His principal work was a compilatory Gospel commentary based on patristic sources, which seems to have been written in the first years of Symeon’s reign. It is prefaced by an acrostic prayer in verse modelled on that which Cyril had prefixed to his translation of the Gospels. There is also a treatise on the organisation and services of the church, drawing on but not slavishly following Byzantine models. To a quite different category belongs Constantine’s Outline of History, a free adaptation of the Breviary of Nicephorus. A translation of Athanasius’ Tracts against the Arians has a preface in which Constantine declares that it was made at the command of Symeon in 906-7.


The monk Hrabr (probably a pseudonym) was the author of a short treatise on the Slav alphabet, probably written as a defence of the Glagolitic alphabet against those who wished to introduce a writing system more closely based on Greek models. The author show's acquaintance with Greek grammatical theory, but great disdain for chauvinistic Greek attitudes in cultural matters. The work must date from about 893 when the question of alphabets was a living issue. [18] Cosmas the Presbyter, author of a Treatise against the Bogomils, belongs to a later generation. His work is probably to be dated c. 969-72. [19] Symeon not only sponsored and patronised literature, but seems to have taken part himself in the translation of a collection of homilies of John Chrysostom known as the Zlatostruj. [20] He also caused to be translated a collection of sayings of the Greek fathers, together with grammatical notes by George Choeroboskos, citations from the ninth century Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Syncellus, a short chronicle from Augustus to the reign of Constantine VII and Zoe, and other matter. This Sbornik, formerly falsely associated with the Russian prince Svyatoslav, is of course not an independent compilation but the translation of a popular Byzantine encyclopedia. [21] Gregory the Presbyter, the translator of the Chronicle of Malalas, and of a compilation of Old Testament texts, was thought by some to have translated for Symeon a romantic version of the Fall of Troy, based on Hellenistic pseudepigrapha which were also used directly or indirectly by many Byzantine writers. If this were true it would be most interesting, as it would be the unique example of an early Slavonic translation of a wholly non-Christian text made at this time.





But the argument depended entirely on the appearance of the Tale of Troy in the same manuscript as undoubted works of Gregory the Presbyter. It has now been shown to belong linguistically to a later period.


In spite of Symeon’s Byzantine education, there is no evidence that the programme of translation which he encouraged comprised any work of pagan classical literature. Not only could this literature ‘fulfil no spiritual need in a country of such young civilisation’ [22] but it would have been largely incomprehensible and unappreciated. It is not just a matter of factual knowledge; it would have been possible to translate Byzantine encyclopedias. The problem was that the whole classical aesthetic tradition would have to be re-created on Slavonic soil. For this the necessary social structures and educational institutions were missing. So we have the strange circumstance that a period of classical renaissance in Byzantine culture had virtually no effect on an emergent Bulgarian culture which was closely and even slavishly modelled upon Byzantine exemplars. The Bulgarians took over to themselves one half of the Byzantine past but totally rejected the other.


It is interesting to compare the selective way in which they adopted and adapted Byzantine culture with that pursued at the same period by the Moslem world. For the ninth century was the golden age of translation from Greek into Arabic at the court of the Caliphs in Baghdad, though some translation had certainly taken place earlier. In the Moslem world there was no place for the basic texts of Christianity or the commentaries upon them by the church fathers, nor for the homiletic and ascetic literature necessary for the practice of an officially Christian community. On the other hand Moslem society had a cultural level and an institutional framework, including libraries and schools, which enabled it to absorb much of the philosophy and the scientific thought of Hellenic antiquity and even to develop it creatively. The problem of providing a rational account of the world which was at the same time in accordance with revealed religion was one which Moslem thinkers of the ninth and tenth centuries tackled with the aid of what they could discover of Hellenic philosophy. Their translations were often made not directly from the Greek but through Syriac or occasionally Pehlevi versions. This circumstance reminds us that, when the Arabs in the seventh century swept over Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Iran, they found not a desolation of ruined cities and abandoned settlements





but a flourishing society with a delicate balance between urban and rural areas, with extensive literacy in several tongues, and established techniques of communication between different ethnic communities. The Slavs and Bulgars, on the other hand, found something approaching a tabula rasa, from which they had to build, painfully and largely by their own efforts, the rudiments of civilisation. Only then did the adoption and adaptation of the cultural traditions of Greco-Roman antiquity become a possibility. But that adoption was made on terms that were unique.


TJie Byzantines, as has been observed, had two pasts, Greek and Judaeo-Christian, two frames of reference into which they could fit their impressions of the world around them, whether expressed in language or in one of the visual arts. In becoming a completely Christian community they had not rejected the traditions of their own pre-Christian past, though some of them had to be modified or pushed into the background. Sometimes the adoption of Christianity had led to the reinstatement of older traditions with a new emphasis. [23] In the same way, though to a much lesser degree, the Latin-speaking Christian world of the West had not turned its back upon its earlier, non-Christian ways of thought and scales of value. Its schoolbooks were still Virgil, Cicero, and 'Livio ehe non erra'. The same was not true of other communities who adopted Christianity from Byzantium or Rome after the synthesis of the fourth/fifth century. The Armenians and the Georgians preserved little interest in their own pre-Christian past. The situation in Egypt was even stranger, since in late antiquity the Coptic-speaking mass of the population totally rejected the pagan Egyptian past, while the Hellenic or Hellenised upper classes, who in an earlier age would have despised most things Egyptian, developed a kind of Schwarmerei for such ill-understood fragments of Egyptian tradition as were accessible, even going so far as to revive hieroglyphic writing. This movement did not last long, and from the late fifth century until its Islamisation Egypt was a solidly Christian country, which had forgotten its pagan past. The local characteristics of Egyptian art in late antiquity, marked though they are, owe very little to earlier Egyptian traditions.


The adoption of Islam generally meant total effacement of a people’s past. The Arabs themselves, though they had a literature of sorts and thus the technical means of conserving memories of the distant past, were not merely uninterested in the Jâhiliya. They washed it from their minds—all except a few poems—in a conscious act of purification and rebirth.





Even the Iranians under Islam only succeeded in maintaining a pale shadow of their own distinguished past. There was no such creative fusion as took place in Byzantium between Christianity and Hellenism.


The Bulgarians’ sense of their own past was probably too confused and ill-remembered, and above all too tied up with pagan religious practices and beliefs to form the basis for a Byzantine-type synthesis. And their past was not embodied in a literature, apart from a few inscriptions in Greek. Other than the mysterious List of Princes nothing seems to have survived of the Proto-Bulgars’ picture of their own past. The traditions embodied in the List have certainly been tampered with in ways difficult to determine, but they have not been Christianised, not even by the kind of banal chronological linking which would have been so easy. And the Slavs, though they must have had a mythology if not a history, forgot it speedily. Or rather they isolated it in a kind of sub-literary world of folk-belief and folk-song. Professor Ivan Dujčev has recently drawn attention to the few pieces of evidence for oral narrative poetry in early Bulgaria. For all his thoroughness, the harvest is meagre. [24] The Bulgarians in fact took over the Byzantine picture of the past ready-made and in close detail. In doing so the Christian elements were adopted with no change. But the Hellenic elements, always the preserve of a minority in Byzantine society, were much less successfully incorporated. They were too strange and too dependent on the existence of a class of literate laymen and a sophisticated educational system to be recreated in Preslav, even by Symeon who himself moved with ease in the world of the Byzantine intellectuals. What the Bulgarians did from the first was to stake out their own little plot within the larger Byzantine-Christian territory by the recognition of Slavonic saints — just as the Russians did later. By the time Slavonic was adopted as the language of the Church—and one must not imagine the change taking place instantaneously and simultaneously throughout the vast lands of Bulgaria, like a currency reform in a modern state—the process of rejection of their own past and the adoption of that of the Byzantines had gone too far to be arrested, even if anyone had seriously wished to arrest it.


A legend related by a Byzantine historian tells that Boris, still a pagan, sent for a painter from Constantinople to adorn his new palace at Preslav with hunting scenes. The painter, a monk named Methodios, seized the opportunity to paint the Last Judgement.





Boris was so terrified by the picture that he at once begged to be received into the Christian church (Theoph. Cont. pp. 162-3). The story is probably apocryphal, though Symeon the Logothete does mention a Byzantine painter named Methodios who worked in Bulgaria after the conversion. But it symbolises the fact that in adopting Christianity the Bulgarians perforce took over an iconographic tradition developed over many centuries, and a style imposed by the metropolitan masters who enjoyed prestige. Boris was a great builder of churches and monasteries, which were all no doubt fittingly decorated. We hear of seven metropolitan churches built by him, of a ‘White Church’ on the river Bregalnitsa in Macedonia, of the Church of the Archangels at Ohrid, a church at Vodocha near Strumitsa, of a church dedicated to the Martyrs of Tiberiopolis, and so on. None of these buildings survives. The great basilica at Pliska must have been the second largest church in the Balkans. But it is not completely certain that it was the work of Boris. His son Symeon followed his father’s example: several churches at Preslav were built at his instigation, as well as others throughout Bulgaria. The oldest part of the great Church of the Holy Wisdom at Ohrid may belong to his reign, but it is probably later. His son Peter, politically a protégé of Constantinople, continued to build churches and public buildings. So little of this architecture and its accompanying decoration survives that it is worth quoting the words of John the Exarch, a contemporary eye witness:


If some poor peasant from far away comes to the door of the royal court, he is seized by wonder. But his amazement grows as he enters and sees on either hand buildings decorated with timber and stone. And if he enters the King’s dwelling place and observes the lofty palaces and churches embellished on the outside with stone and timber and paint, and on the inside with marble and bronze, silver and gold, he knows not what to compare it with, since in his own homeland he has seen nothing but huts. He is filled with such wonder and astonishment as if he had lost his wits.


Just as the Bulgarians took over, in part at least, Byzantine literature and thought as they were in the ninth century, so too they took over the architecture, the iconography and the style of contemporary Byzantium. This has never been in doubt. The question is whether they also had other sources of artistic inspiration, and if so what they were and whence they came. Much has been written on this topic, some of it more marked by patriotism than by scientific judgement.





What does seem to be true is that Bulgarian art of the ninth and tenth centuries shares certain features with the art of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. Such are the type of church with four corner towers, the ‘Syrian’ façade with twin towers, a type of frieze or moulding running round the walls and framing doors and windows, development of a narrative in an uninterrupted frieze, and many iconographic details for which parallels must be sought at Bawit, in Syria, or in the cave churches of Cappadocia. [25] The explanation appears to be that local artists did not always follow the latest metropolitan exemplars, with which they might not be personally familiar, but drew their inspiration from monuments nearer at hand, particularly in the Black Sea cities, which were relatively undamaged. There they would find not only buildings and decorations from late antiquity, but also works of pre-iconoclast Byzantine art, which embodied many oriental features. But one cannot rule out direct influences from eastern Asia Minor, perhaps via the Paulicians settled in Thrace by Basil I.


Another possible influence is that of pre-Christian Bulgar art. The magnificent silver vessels found at Nagy-Szentmiklós in Hungary give us some idea of the art of the steppe peoples, in which Sassanian influences are clearly visible. Some of the capitals and decorative relief plaques recently found in ninth- or tenth-century contexts at Bulgarian sites have a striking stylistic resemblance to the Nagy-Szentmiklós treasures. Such are the lions and griffons from Stara Zagora, [26] a capital from Novi Pazar with a griffon attacking a lion, [27] an altar plaque with peacocks from Stara Zagora, the bronze handle with a lion in relief from Pliska, [29] the sculptured animal head from Preslav, [30] the bone plaque from Preslav, [31] etc. Before making up our minds on this question it would be well to await the results of the further excavations going on at Preslav and elsewhere. But there is certainly a prima facie case for influences of this kind. A more remote possibility is that of Slavonic influence, remote because we know so little of the art of the Slavs before their conversion. Yet here too there are suggestive resemblances. The small metal crosses with a rather primitive figure of Christ found at Pliska and elsewhere, and often referred to as ‘Palestinian’, find close parallels at Zlaté Moravce, Trnovec and Sady, [32] and in belt buckles from Mikulčice with a primitive effigy of a saint in the attitude of an Orans. [33] The round churches of Bulgaria—of which the one at Preslav is the most noteworthy—are without parallel in contemporary Byzantine architecture.





But round churches were built in the mid-ninth century at Mikulčice and Staré Město. [34] Are these correspondences between Bulgaria and Moravia the result of western (? Frankish) influence, of parallel development, or of common Slavonic tradition? The question must at present remain open.


Christian Bulgaria then became an artistic province of the Byzantine world in the course of adopting and adapting Byzantine Christian traditions. But it did retain and develop some traits in the visual arts which do not stem from the Constantinople of the Macedonian dynasty, though neither their extent nor their origin can at present be precisely defined. Visual artistic traditions are not dependent for their survival upon a literary tradition; they may endure when all that depends upon the use of words is destroyed in the process of acculturation.






10. Everyday Life



Thus far we have looked at the large-scale features of human societies in our comparison of Bulgaria and Byzantium. Each of these is reflected in the situation of the individual and in his life-style. There are however other features which may be very important in the life of individuals or small groups but which scarcely emerge in a large-scale study. Some of these form the subject matter of the present section.


First would come the question of language, which has already been discussed. Apart from the bilingualism common in frontier areas, in urban society, in coastal towns and ports and so on, a Bulgarian was likely to be a monoglot Slavonic speaker, a Byzantine rather less likely to be a monoglot Greek speaker. The Bulgarian would call his native tongue slověnĭskij ęzyk or bŭlgarskij ęzyk — Slavonic or Bulgarian. The former term was also applied to Slav speech spoken outside of Bulgaria. To this extent a Bulgarian might feel himself part of a larger linguistic community within which speakers could readily understand one another. This view is brought out by the compiler of the Russian Primary Chronicle who, after recounting how Cyril and Methodius translated the Scriptures into Slavonic, adds, ‘The Slavonic tongue is one; and the Slavonic tongue and the Russian are one.’ The Bulgarians also used the same word ęzyk in the sense of ‘language’, ‘people’ and ‘race’, Greek glōssa and ethnos. This is not based upon normal Greek usage, as are many of the oddities of Old Slavonic semantics. It may reflect an identification of language and nationality in Bulgarian thought.


In the Byzantine empire Greek was the language of administration, public life and culture. It was also that of the majority of the population. But a very substantial minority spoke other languages, and often wrote in them as well. And those who did speak Greek spoke a very different Greek from the language of literature and public utterance. Greek diglossy has a long history, going back to the later Hellenistic age. By the ninth and tenth centuries many of the major structural changes in the language which turned Ancient Greek into Modern Greek had taken place. The official and literary language, however, continued to be that of late antiquity, that is Atticising literary koinē. The difference must not be confused with that between demotic and katharevousa Greek today, which involves questions of public education, political affiliation etc.





A nearer, though not a very close, parallel would be the situation in German Switzerland, where private life is conducted in Swiss German, public life in literary German. The Greek speaker, however, unlike the modern Swiss or the medieval Bulgarian, did not feel himself to be part of a larger linguistic unity. There was no language closely resembling Greek. It was unique, sui generis, and it was the language of the New Testament and the Church, the language of Hellenic civilisation, and the language of diplomatic relations with foreign powers. Use of it had nothing to do with ethnic origins, but was in its speakers’ eyes a mark of high civilisation.


Next there is the relation of the individual to the various groups of which he is a member. The Byzantine, if he did not belong to an ethnic or linguistic or religious minority, was curiously isolated. On the one hand there was his family, usually a nuclear family, on the other the state and the Church. Intermediate groups were weak or non existent. Cities existed indeed, but no longer as communities with internal self-government. The kind of patriotism or commitment which they had evoked was a thing of the past. Except for marginal areas, tribal, clan or cantonal social units were totally absent. A man might be a member of a village commune, which enjoyed a limited autonomy in its internal affairs, formed a fiscal unit for taxation purposes, and could even act as a legal personality (for instance the inhabitants of the village of Radochosta, near Hierissos, who were involved in litigation with the monastery of Rudaba over a plot of land in 1008). [1] In the course of the tenth century these were being penetrated and in various ways taken over by large landowners, in spite of the series of legal enactments designed to keep them in being. This process had certainly begun in the previous century. The Byzantine family, as envisaged by the law, was a nuclear family of parents and children. Whatever sentimental links there might be with more distant kinsmen they did not form part of the same legal or economic unit. To be sure there were extended families, holding and cultivating their land as a single unit. But they were the exception. And the curious situation revealed by certain financial documents, by which a single stasis — roughly ‘farm’—could be divided between a number of owners not related to one another, suggests that the extended family holding had been commoner earlier and was in process of disappearing. [2]


For a Bulgarian at this time tribal and clan membership probably still meant something. We hear little or nothing of such matters in the sources.





But only a short time before the period under discussion Slavonic tribes were political realities in Danubian Bulgaria, and even more in Thrace and Macedonia. The centralising policy of the Khans from Krum to Boris cannot have altogether effaced all memory of this organisation of society. It was probably reflected in local differences in clothing and decoration, dialect, song, dance, poetry etc., differences which are very marked between different regions of Bulgaria today, and which many scholars consider to be of great antiquity. [3] So far as the sources enable one to judge, the village commune of free peasants was a more widespread institution in Bulgaria than in the Byzantine empire in the ninth and tenth centuries, though there too it was in process of dissolution. Finally, the extended family as an economic and legal unit appears to have been widespread in Bulgaria, as no doubt in other southern Slav lands, in which it survived here and there until the nineteenth century. It is still a reality in Albania. [4] The evidence consists almost entirely of documents regarding property in Bulgarian lands after the Byzantine conquest. If the extended family was widespread then, a fortiori it was widespread in the Bulgarian Kingdom, from which no such documents survive. It is interesting in this connection to note that Theophylact, Greek Archbishop of Ohrid at the end of the eleventh century, comments on the size of Bulgarian loaves—enough to feed ten or more grown men. [5] Is this evidence for the average size of Bulgarian households?


Bulgarian dress was distinct from Byzantine. A tenth century text included in the Miracles of St George speaks of a Bulgarian wearing native costume—στολὴ Βουλγαρική. [6] When Symeon proclaimed him himself emperor he adopted Byzantine imperial costume and no doubt imposed Byzantine dress on his court. But a contemporary Byzantine source records that at the time of his death his two younger sons Ivan and Benjamin ‘still wore Bulgarian dress’. In what did the difference consist? A tenth-century Byzantine source—which must be quoting a much earlier text—declares that Bulgarian dress was taken over from the Avars. [7] From the late sixth-century Strategicon of Maurice and from archaeological evidence we learn that the Avars wore long kaftans of leather or fur descending to the knees, linen tunics, trousers and moccasin like boots. Both Avar and Bulgarian dress were certainly influenced by Iranian models. Liutprand of Cremona in the tenth century speaks of Bulgarian envoys in Constantinople having their hair cut ungarico more and wearing bronze chain belts.


Byzantine sources sometimes speak of Bulgarians as wearing skins. This is in part a mere insult, which is belied by what we know of Bulgarian textile production.





But furs, and above all sheepskin cloaks, were no doubt worn by all Bulgarians in winter. It was such a sheepskin cloak or rug that a twelfth century metropolitan of Philippopolis sent to his friend in Constantinople, calling it by its Slavonic name of λοσνίχιον (ložnik). The portrait of Basil II on the frontispiece of his Psalter, now in the Marcian Library in Venice, depicts conquered Bulgarians grovelling at his feet. They are wearing long, sleeved robes of red, two shades of blue, purple and white, with belts, and bracelets or armbands on their upper arms. But the motif of the conquered enemy is a traditional one, and the artist may merely have copied his model, without any direct knowledge of what Bulgarians might wear. A miniature painting in the Menology prepared for Basil II, now in Paris, shows Bulgarian officers wearing kaftan-like garments down to the knees, belts and tight trousers. Bulgarian dress in more recent times shows many common features with Serbian and Ukrainian dress, which are probably to be interpreted as part of a common Slavonic inheritance. And some ethnographers have detected similarities between the local dress of north-eastern Bulgaria where the Proto-Bulgars first settled—and that of the Chuvash people on the upper Kama, who are the descendants of the Volga Bulgars. In these they have seen Bulgar, as distinct from Slavonic, traits. The Responsa of Nicholas I indicate that Bulgarian men wore trousers—or possibly gaiters—and some kind of head-cloth or turban. It is difficult in the absence of descriptions or reliable representations to go much further than this. Byzantine male costume of the period comprised breeches and a chiton or shirt coming half-way down the thighs, worn with a belt over which the upper classes wore a long rectangular himation pinned with a fibula on the right shoulder, leaving the arm free. Cloaks, capes, hoods and the like were worn in bad weather. Women wore a long dress reaching to the ground and belted. High boots were worn by both sexes. The clothes of the upper classes were richly embroidered and in winter sometimes trimmed with fur. Bulgarian and Byzantine could be distinguished at first sight. When King Boris II fled from Constantinople to Bulgaria, he was killed by a Bulgarian frontier-guard, who mistook him for a Greek because of his dress (Cedrenus II 335).


Both Bulgarians and Byzantines were likely to be outwardly orthodox Christians, though a Bulgarian was not unlikely to be in fact a dualist Bogomil. But Bulgarians shared a body of folk-tale and legend, of belief in various kinds of goblins and fairies, of semi-pagan ritual connected with agriculture, which was different from and in some ways richer than that of the medieval Greek world.





Where we find common beliefs and practices shared by the Bulgarians in later times with the Serbs and the Ukrainians, there is considerable probability that it is a relic of a common Slavonic culture. Where this agreement in legend and rite extends to the western Slavs or to the Russians, as is the case with the belief in vile and the rites connected with them, the probability becomes overwhelming. So a lively and varied folklore of his own marked off the Bulgarian from the Byzantine. The Byzantine, on the other hand, is much more likely to have had a local saint or martyr whose cult provided a focus for his religious life. Connected with this difference is a whole series of observances associated with birth, marriage and death in which the two peoples varied. Byzantine practices comprised much that was pre-Christian or non-Christian in origin. [8] Bulgarian practice in later times shows the familiar link with that of other Slav peoples, particularly Serbs and Ukrainians, which is suggestive of common Slavonic origin.


Bulgarian diet was distinct from that of the Byzantine world. Little or no olive oil, more cheese and milk products, less fish but more meat, millet in place of wheat, and so on. Pulses played a large part in the diet of both communities, though the varieties may not always have been the same. Much that is common to all the Balkan peoples today, such as the tomato, the different varieties of pepper, maize, the potato, the aubergine, and rice, is of later introduction. Before the levelling produced by these new food plants, the differences in diet between the northern and southern Balkans were much greater than in modern times. The extensive fruit-growing characteristic of modern Bulgaria is also a relatively recent development. In the ninth and tenth centuries the number and variety of cultivated fruits was probably less in Bulgaria than in most provinces of the Byzantine empire.


In many ways then, which we cannot always discern clearly today, everyday life was different in Bulgaria and in Byzantium. These differences must have produced an immediate sense of strangeness and disorientation in the man or woman who moved from the one region to the other, long before the deeper differences had time to make their impression.





7. Political Structure


1. Cf. R. Browning and B. Laourdas, Epeteris tēs Hetaireias Byzantinōn Spoudōn 27 (1957), 151-212; for a discussion cf. P. Lemerle, Le premier humanisme byzantin, Paris, 1971, 246-51.


2. S. E. Malov, Pamjatniki drevne-tjurkskoj pis’mennosti; Teksty i issledovanija, Moscow, 1951 ; id., Enisejskaja pis‘mennost’ Tjurkov: Teksty i perevody, Moscow, 1952.


3. On the interpretation of this and other Proto-Bulgar royal titles cf. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 249-51.


4. Cf. I. Dujčev, ‘Les boljars dits intérieurs et extérieurs de la Bulgarie médiévale’, Medioevo bizantino-Slavo, 1, Rome, 1965, 231-44.


5. For a brief discussion of the problem cf. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 282-3.


6. Einhard, Annales, s. ann. 818.


7. V. Beševliev, ‘Zur Datierung und Deutung der protobulgarischen Inschrift vor dem Reiterrelief von Madara, Bulgarien’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 47 (1954), 117.


8. Einhard, Annales, 210.


9. These problems are discussed by V. N. Zlatarski, Istorija na bŭlgarskata dŭrzhava prez srednite vekove, II, 226-31.


10. For a list cf. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 46-7.


11. See the discussion in Hélène Glykatzi-Ahrweiler, ‘Recherches sur l’administration de l’empire byzantin aux IXe-Xie siècles’, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 84 (1960), 3-4.


12. Cf. the inventories in V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 229-44.


13. Cf. Hélène Ahrweiler, Byzance et la mer, Paris, 1966, 87-9.


14. On these questions see the interesting discussion in S. N. Lishev, Za stokovoto proizvodstvo vŭv feodalna Bŭlgarija, Sofia, 1957, 9-48.



8. Religion


1. Cf. Gy. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, Second edn, II, 1958, 296; V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 150, where references to the literature are to be found.


2. Scriptor incertus de Leone Armenio, p. 342.


3. Cf. G. Lenczyk, Materialy Archeologiczne 5 (1964), 5-61.


4. Tacitus, Germ. 8.3; Hist. 4.61.3; Statius Silv. 1.4.90, Cass. Dio 67.5.


5. On early Slavonic religious beliefs and practices cf. I. Dujčev, ‘Slavjano bolgarskie drevnosti’, Byzantinoslavica 11 (1950), 7-31.


6. Cf. R. Jakobson, ‘Slavic Epic Verse’, Oxford Slavonic Papers 3 (1952), reprinted in Selected Writings 4 (1966), 414-63-


7. Ep. 6, pp. 200-248 Valettas.





8. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, No. 15.


9. Ibid., No. 87.


10. Ibid., No. 78.


11. T. Totev, ‘Nov starobŭlgarski pismen pametnik ot Preslav’, Izvestija na Arkheologicheskija Institut 29 (1966), 64.


12. Cf. M. Arnaudov, Die bulgarischen Festbräuche, Leipzig, 1917; I. Georgieva, ‘Njakoi antichni sledi v bŭlgarskite narodni vjarvanija i obichai’, Izvestija na Bŭlgarskoto Istorichesko Druzhestvo 27 (1970), 21ff.


13. Cf. on this point the arguments of D. Obolensky, The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism, Cambridge, 1948, 154-67.


14. Cf. Y. Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, Sofia, 1925; D. Angelov, ‘Apokrifnata knizhnina kato otrazhenie na feodalnata dejstvitelnost i svetogleda na eksploatiranata klasa v srednovekovna Bŭlgarija’, Istoricheski Pregled 7 (1949-50), 493-508.


15. On Bogomilism the literature is extensive and much of it is of little value. Two recent important works are D. Obolensky, The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism, Cambridge, 1948 and D. Angelov, Bogomilstvoto v Bŭlgarija, third edn, Sofia, 1969. Both have full bibliographies.


16. G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, second edn, Oxford, 1968, 217.



9. Culture


1. Life of St Theodore of Sykeon 5.18, 10.1, 26.12 Festugière; Life of St Christodoulos of Patmos, 113 Sakkelion.


2. Commentary on Canon 62 of Council in Trulio.


3. For a discussion of the sources and the problems cf.

·       F. Fuchs, Die höheren Schulen von Konstantinopel, Leipzig, 1926, 18ff.;

·       S. Impellizeri, 'L'umanesimo bizantino del IX secolo e la genesi della Biblioteca di Fozio’, Revista di studi bizantini e neo-ellenici N. S, 6-7 ( 1969-70), 9-69;

·       P. Lemerle, Le premier humanisme byzantin, Paris, 1971, 148-76, 242-66.


4. On Arethas cf. S. Kougeas, Ho Kaisareias Arethas, Athens, 1913; P. Lemerle, op. cit. 205-41. His Scripta Minora have recently been edited byL. G. Westerink, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1968, 1971.


5. On tenth-century encyclopedism cf. P. Lemerle, op. cit., 267-300; A. J. Toynbee, Conslanline Porphyrogenitus and his Age, London, 1973, 575-605.


6. Cf. R. J. H. Jenkins, ‘The CIassical Background of the Scriptores post Theophanem’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 8 (1954), 13-30; id.,‘The Hellenistic Origins of Byzantine Literature’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 17 ( 1963 ), 39-52.





7. The most illuminating treatment is still that by V. N. Lazarev, Istorija vizantijskoj zhivopisi, Moscow, 1947, 1, 74-103; cf. also K. Weitzmann, Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination, Chicago, 1971, 176-223.


8. Cf. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, 263-5.


9. Cf. V. Beševliev, ‘Vizantijski triumfalni obichai, aklamatsii i titli u Bŭlgarite prez IX. v’, Izvestija na Etnografskija Institut i Muzej 3 ( 1958), 2-38.


10. V. Beševliev, Die protobulgarischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1963, No. 47.


11. Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae, ed. H. Delehaye, Brussels, 1902, 416.


12. Theophylact, Martyrium SS xv illustrium martyrům, Migne, P. G. 126.191 ff.


13. For the text cf. P. A. Lavrov, Materialy po istorii vozniknovenija drevnej slavjanskoj pis’mennosti, The Hague, 1966, 162 ff.


14. On the problems of liturgical poetry cf. R. Jakobson, ‘The Slavic response to Byzantine poetry’, Actes du XIIe Congrès International d'Études Byzantines, Ohrid, 1961, 1.249-65.


15. On ail these texts the basic work is still M. Weingart, Byzantské Kroniky v literature cirkevně-slovanské, 2 vols., Bratislava, 1922-3.


16. On the whole question of Bulgarian translations from Byzantine Greek there is an admirable survey by I. Dujčev, ‘Les rapports littéraires byzantino-slaves', Actes du XIIe Congrès International d'Etudes Byzantines, Ohrid, 1961, 1.411-29, reprinted with additions in Medioevo Bizantino-slavo, 2, Rome, 1968, 3-27, 589-94.


17. Cf. R. Aitzetmüller, Das Hexaemeron des Exarchos Johannes, Graz, 1958 (in progress).


18. Cf. K. Kuev, Chernorizets Khrabur, Sofia, 1967, where a full bibliography will be found.


19. Cf. A. Vaillant and P. Puech, Le Traité contre les Bogomiles de Cosmas le Prêtre, Paris, 1945.


20. Cf. E. Georgiev, Raztsvetŭt na bŭlgarskata literatura v IX-X v, Sofia, 1962, 275; N. S. Derzhavin, Istorija Bolgarii 2, Moscow, 1946, 80-82.


21. Cf. L. Masing, ‘Studien zur Kenntnis des Izbornik Svjatoslava vom Jahre 1073 nebst Bemerkungen zu den jüngeren Handschriften’, Archiv für slavische Philologie 8 (1885) and 9 (1886).


22. A. P. Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom, Cambridge, 1970, 178.


23. Cf. A. D. Momigliano in Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century, London, 1962.


24. Cf. I. Dujčev, ‘Poesia epica bulgara con reminiscenze dell’epoca medioevale’, La Poesia epica e la sua formazione, Rome, 1970, 447-66.


25. Cf. A. Grabar, La peinture religieuse en Bulgarie, Paris, 1928, 183ff.; N. Mavrodinov, ‘Vŭnshnata ukrasa na starobŭlgarskite tsŭrkvi’, Izvestija na Bŭlgarskoto Arkheologichesko Druzhestvo 8 (1934); id., Starobŭlgarskata zhivopis, Sofia, 1945, 23ff.





26. Cf. V. Gjuzelev, Knjaz Boris I, Sofia, 1969, 22, 44, 53.


27. Ibid. 111.


28. Ibid. 147.


29. Ibid. 426.


30. Ibid. 463.


31. V. Beševliev and J. Irmscher, Antike und Mittelalter in Bulgarien, Tafel, 41.


32. F. Dvornik, Byzantine Missions among the Slavs, New Brunswick, N.J., 1970, fig. 16-18.


33. J. Poulik, Dve velkomoravské rotundy, Prague, 1963, pl. 26.


34. J. Poulik, op. cit.; V. Hrubý, Staré Město-Velkomoravsky Velehrad, Prague, 1965, 184-190.



10. Everyday Life


1. P. Lemerle, A. Guillou, N. Svoronos, Actes de Lavra I, Paris, 1970, No. 14.


2. On this matter cf. A. P. Kazhdan, Agrarnye otnoshenija v Vizantii XIII-XIV vv, Moscow, 1952, 74-6; G. G. Litavrin, Bolgarija i Vizantija v XI-XII vv, Moscow, 1960, 63-6.


3. Cf. S. Stojkov, Bŭlgarskata dialektologija, Sofia, 1968; I. Koev, Bŭlgarskata vezbena ornamentika, Sofia, 1951; V. Naslednikova, Istorija na bŭlgarskija kostjum, Sofia, 1970.


4. Cf. Margaret Hasluck, The Unwritten Law in Albania, Cambridge, 1974, 25 ff.


5. Migne, P.C. 126.217D.


6. J. B. Aufhauser, Miracula S. Georgii, Leipzig, 1913, 18-40.


7. Suda I. p. 483 Adler.


8. A fascinating but rather uncritical catalogue is to be found in Ph. Koukoulès, Byzantinōn bios kai politismos, 4, Athens, 1951, 1-248.


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]