Bulgaria History - The first Bulgarian Kingdom

Very different fate befell Isperih (Asparuhi), third son of Kurt. He abandoned his lands near the Sea of ​​Azov and, authorized by Emperor Constantius II (643-668), he settled with all his horde, the Unnugundur-Bulgar, first in present-day Bessarabia and later in the northern part. of the present Dobruja, with the obligation to defend the Empire from the barbarian invasions. But under Constantine IV Pogonato (668-685), Isperih declared himself independent head of Dobruja and refused to recognize the power of the emperor, having a pit dug to serve as a border between Cernavoda and Constance. The defection of Isperih, who had made an agreement with the Slavs of Silesia and Dacia, prompted the emperor, immediately after the liberation of the Byzantine capital from Arab danger, to embark on an expedition against Dobruja. But the enterprise failed completely; on the contrary, there was the immediate formation of a new federative state, Bulgarian-Slav, led by Isperih (679-701). The Byzantine emperor had to recognize him, signing a treaty not honorable for him (679).

The Byzantines called this new state Bulgaria, after the founders and organizers. His character was essentially Asian. The chief, who moved his seat to the fortified camp of Pliska, used to be called han (khān), with the epithet of veliki “great”; his relatives and senior officials were called kavhan and also tarhan. The most important positions were occupied by the nobles, who were divided into two classes: high nobles, boliari (boyars), and low nobles or bagaini. The people were divided into small tribes and families, Slavic or Bulgarian. The leaders of the Slavic tribes were in charge of the local army. The Bulgarians had an excellent cavalry, well organized and always ready to attack, while the Slavic tribes gave the infantry, which was entrusted with the defense of the borders and passes.

Favored by the internal disputes of the Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria had time to strengthen itself; indeed, the second khān Tervel (701-718), having helped the emperor Justinian II to regain the throne, obtained in 705 the official recognition of the Bulgarian state. Under his rule, the western Bulgarian border extended beyond the Timok River; the northern one reached Turnu Severin; the southern one crossed the eastern Balkans, also including the Slavic region of Zagorié in northern Thrace. A treaty of 716 established the southern border from the lagoon near Burgaz to Tărnovo-Seimen, and the payment of an annual tax by the Byzantine Empire. This fortunate condition lasted for as long as the Isperih-Dulo dynasty remained in power. The new Vokol dynasty, in the person of khān Kormisoš (719-755), he persisted in peaceful relations with the empire; but when the emperor Constantine V Copronymus broke the peace (755) the successor of Kormisoš, khān Vineh (755-761), was forced to sign a new treaty that canceled that of 716. Following this, in the interior of Bulgaria serious discord arose which resulted in a revolution in 761. The families of the Bulgarian boyars fought over the supreme power with arms. Constantine V was able to take advantage of these internal struggles to establish himself in Bulgaria and prepare for its complete destruction. However, he could not achieve this design, although he led his army nine times against the Bulgarians: because internal difficulties (iconoclasm) often forced him to abandon Bulgaria. He then faced a worthy opponent, in the person of the khān Telerig, who always rejected him and who, in the face of external danger, managed to stifle internal struggles and also get in touch with the Macedonian Slavic tribe of the Bersites, to gain and include them in his own state. The death of Constantine V (775) put an end to the struggle; but then the internal rebellions flared up again. Telerig could not stand up against the boyars, who had become accustomed to naming and driving out the khān. Territorial enlargements followed by the Bulgarians, who in 789 reached the Struma region; new assaults by Byzantium and a victorious peace concluded by the khān Kardam in 796. Then, with the khān Krum (803-814), the period of the great political development of Bulgaria began. he managed to stifle the internal struggles and also to put himself in contact with the Macedonian Slavic tribe of the Bersites, to gain them and include them in his own state. The death of Constantine V (775) put an end to the struggle; but then the internal rebellions flared up again. Telerig could not stand up against the boyars, who had become accustomed to naming and driving out the khān. Territorial enlargements followed by the Bulgarians, who in 789 reached the Struma region; new assaults by Byzantium and a victorious peace concluded by the khān Kardam in 796. Then, with the khān Krum (803-814), the period of the great political development of Bulgaria began. he managed to stifle the internal struggles and also to put himself in contact with the Macedonian Slavic tribe of the Bersites, to gain them and include them in his own state. The death of Constantine V (775) put an end to the struggle; but then the internal rebellions flared up again. Telerig could not stand up against the boyars, who had become accustomed to naming and driving out the khān. Territorial enlargements followed by the Bulgarians, who in 789 reached the Struma region; new assaults by Byzantium and a victorious peace concluded by the khān Kardam in 796. Then, with the khān Krum (803-814), the period of the great political development of Bulgaria began. but then the internal rebellions flared up again. Telerig could not stand up against the boyars, who had become accustomed to naming and driving out the khān. Territorial enlargements followed by the Bulgarians, who in 789 reached the Struma region; new assaults by Byzantium and a victorious peace concluded by the khān Kardam in 796. Then, with the khān Krum (803-814), the period of the great political development of Bulgaria began. but then the internal rebellions flared up again. Telerig could not stand up against the boyars, who had become accustomed to naming and driving out the khān. Territorial enlargements followed by the Bulgarians, who in 789 reached the Struma region; new assaults by Byzantium and a victorious peace concluded by the khān Kardam in 796. Then, with the khān Krum (803-814), the period of the great political development of Bulgaria began.

The Avars were subdued, weakened by the Franks (805); conquered the lands located east of the Tisza, Transylvania, the Branicevo region and that of Belgrade. In relations with Byzantium, Krum continued the policy of his predecessors. Provoked by Nicephorus I (803-811), who broke the peace pact, he invaded the region towards the Struma (808) and in 809 took the city of Sardica (now Sofia); hence the road to Macedonia opened. Nicephorus tried in 81 to stop the advance of the Bulgarians, but failed. Krum advanced into Thrace, defeated the Byzantines north of Adrianople, besieged this city and in 813 also reached under the walls of Constantinople. Convinced that it was impossible to take this city without a fleet, he proposed peace, which was accepted by Leo V the Armenian (813-820); but, treacherously wounded by enemy arrows, in revenge he devastated the surroundings of Constantinople, destroyed various fortresses along the shore of the Sea of ​​Marmara and stopped under the walls of Adrianople, which soon after surrendered. Countless prisoners, whom Krum installed in Bessarabia and organized militarily to guard the border. While preparing to attack Constantinople again, on 13 April 814 he died.

His son and successor, the khān Omortag (814-831), could not continue his father’s war policy. Peace was, so to speak, imposed on him by the very spread of Christianity, imported into Bulgaria by Byzantine prisoners and greedily welcomed by the Slavs. The importance of these had increased in Bulgaria under Krum’s rule; and even then they aspired to political equality. Omortag tried to avert this danger with the persecution of Christians and therefore of the Slavs who became Christians. It happened then that several Slavic tribes, occupying the northwestern region of the Bulgarian border, broke away from the Bulgarian state and called the Franks to help against the Bulgarians. In the beginning Omortag decided to settle the matter in a peaceful way; but, given that the negotiations started with Ludovico, king of the Franks, did not come to a conclusion, he also invaded Pannonia and drove out the Slavic princes appointed there by the Franks (827). Rejected in 828, the Bulgarians resumed their assaults; but they could only keep the region of Srem (Sirmium) and that of Singidunum, which from then on took the name of Belgrade. Peaceful relations with the Franks were re-established and maintained under Omortag’s son and successor, Malamir (831-836); but the persecution of Christians did not cease. Among the victims, the brother of the khān also fell. However, Christianity in Bulgaria flourished more and more, indirectly favored by the policy that Malamir’s successor and grandson, the khān Presian (836-852), was forced to hold towards the Slavs. In fact, after having annexed to Bulgaria, almost without a struggle, all of present-day Macedonia up to the Serbian lands near the Ibar and up to Albania, taking advantage of the war in which the emperor Theophilus was engaged against the Arabs in Asia Minor, Presian came to grips with the Serbs who aspired in part to ally themselves with Byzantium against Bulgaria. Abandoned, at first, the attempt, due to the unfavorable outcome of the war against the Serbian prince Vlastimir (839-842), Presian then resumed the attempt, taking advantage of the rebellions that broke out among the Slavs of the Empire in 847, and could reach the bay of Orfano. He penetrated the valley of the Struma and Mesta rivers; he subdued Slavic tribes; but a sudden invasion of the Byzantines in eastern Bulgaria forced him to carry the war to Thrace and, repelled the enemy (October 850), to re-establish the ancient frontiers. Now his politics necessitated a certain tolerance on his part in matters of religion; but the triumph of Christianity came only under his successor: Boris I (852-889).

The conversion of the Bulgarians to Christianity is closely linked to the extension of the Bulgarian border to the southwest, to the new successes of the Christian faith among the Slavs, to the desire of King Boris to bring Bulgaria into the group of neighboring Christian states. This last aim succeeded him almost immediately: combined an agreement with Byzantium, in 853 he entered into league with Rostislav, powerful prince of Great Moravia. This gave shade to the Franks; and the emperor Ludovico II tried to obstruct the union, provoking the war between the Bulgarians and the Croats (854) and later also the Serbs. But Boris I managed to make peace, and shortly thereafter he offered hospitality to the exiled Serbian princes, thus paving the way for a Bulgarian influence on Serbian domestic politics.

Later, however, when Ludwig’s son, Charlemagne, turned against his father, allying himself with Rostislav, Boris I embraced Ludwig’s cause, forging a new alliance (863) directed against Rostislav. During the negotiations, a proposal was also made to Boris to accept the Roman confession: he gave his consent; and an interview was already being prepared that was to decide the question, when the court of Byzantium, alarmed, decided to annihilate not only this alliance, but also any attempt at rapprochement between the Bulgarian leader and the kingdom of the Franks. Emperor Michael III (856-857) therefore moved against the Bulgarians; but Boris I proposed peace, with the promise of adopting the Byzantine confession. There were also territorial exchanges: southern Albania, between the Voiussa and Semeni rivers up to the Adriatic Sea, it was annexed to Bulgaria, in exchange for the region between the lower courses of the Struma and the Mesta; the Thracian frontier was also rectified. The peace was concluded towards the end of 864, only when the Greek clergy arrived in Bulgaria. King Boris and his court converted in September 865.

This tactic of the king, grandiose in itself, was misjudged by the Bulgarian boyars, who in the first half of 866 railed against him, blaming him for giving them a “bad law” and trying to kill him; but the revolt had only localized around the royal residence and was easily suppressed. However, the other difficulty arose in arranging the newly founded church, which, according to the king’s wish, had to be autonomous and guarantee the political independence of Bulgaria, while the court of Byzantium was very hostile to this. Boris turned to Rome (second half of 866), from which the Latin clergy was immediately sent to him. But even with Rome the negotiations were not easy; therefore he entrusted the matter to the meeting of clergymen which took place in Constantinople in 869-870, and that he ruled in favor of the Byzantine church, intending however that the Bulgarian church was autonomous. Thus, in 870, the Latin clergy had to leave Bulgaria, and in its place came the Greek one, headed by an archbishop who was autonomous in his own church and simply recognized the supreme authority of the patriarch of Constantinople.

The adoption of Christianity by the Bulgarians was the last act in the process of merging the two ethnic elements, Bulgarians and Slavs: a fusion that had begun since the very foundation of the state and which had gradually intensified with the union of the Slavs. Balkan. By means of Christianity Boris I became the ruler of the Slavs included in the Bulgarian state. Indeed, he assumed the title of Slavic prince, instead of the primitive one of khān. By adopting the Slavic language in churches and even in the state, he, on the one hand, brought a definitive blow to the Proto-Bulgarian element, which was later absorbed by that and Slavic; on the other hand, it opened up to the Bulgarian-Slavic nationality a wide path of material and cultural development, the latter being expressed above all in the Slavic-Bulgarian writings. In his work Boris I was helped by the disciples of Saint Methodius, expelled in 865 from Moravia and Pannonia: Clement, Naum and other minor companions found a very cordial welcome in Bulgaria, where they actively worked for education, founding two Slavic-Bulgarian schools. Clemente carried out his work in the city of Devol (eastern Albania), but operating throughout the south-western part of Bulgaria: from there came the future members of the Slavic-Bulgarian ecclesiastical hierarchy and the masters who later took the place of the ecclesiastical hierarchs and of the Greek masters. Meanwhile Naum settled in the Preslav monastery, working for north-eastern Bulgaria, devoting himself especially to the translation of the Bible and liturgical and hagiographic writings from Greek into the ancient Bulgarian language. This

But the weak Prince Vladimir (889-893), under the instigation of the boyars, hostile to King Boris because they did not share his Slavic politics, tried to awaken the already dying paganism and to annihilate the literary work begun by his father. He began to persecute the representatives of the church; he also abandoned the foreign policy of Boris I, allying himself with the Frankish king Arnolfo against the Moravians. Then Boris hastened to leave the monastery, punished Vladimir by taking his eyes off and throwing him in prison; then, in the autumn of 893, he assembled a national assembly in Preslav and proclaimed his youngest son, Simeon, who he had first freed from the monastic vow, king. The new ruler, for his part, declared to the same assembly that the state capital was moving from Pliska to Preslav. At the proposal of the king, then, the assembly decided to reject the Greek language and to admit only Slavic-Bulgarian writings and liturgy in the churches. To implement this reform of great importance and significance for the spiritual life of the Bulgarians, the appointment of national heads in the governing body of the church was required: a question resolved by the same assembly. Clemente was the first officiating bishop in the Bulgarian-Slavic language; he was followed by a series of Bulgarian bishops who occupied the seats left by the Greeks or created Clemente was the first officiating bishop in the Bulgarian-Slavic language; he was followed by a series of Bulgarian bishops who occupied the seats left by the Greeks or created Clemente was the first officiating bishop in the Bulgarian-Slavic language; he was followed by a series of Bulgarian bishops who occupied the seats left by the Greeks or created from scratch. After the dissolution of the Preslav assembly, Boris returned to the monastery where he remained until his death (May 2, 907).

While the old king followed the development and organization of the church and education from the monastery, Simeon (893-927) began his government. And this was the splendid age of the Bulgarian state, marked by a continuous series of wars that gave it the dominion of almost the entire Balkan peninsula. The clash with Byzantium began from the very beginning of the reign, in 897; and was followed, at the instigation of Byzantium, by an invasion of the Hungarians in present-day Dobruja. Simeon really succeeded, with the help of the Peceneghi, in repelling the enemy across the Danube; but he had to abandon the southern part of Bessarabia and Moldavia and eastern Romania to the Pecenegians. In 896 Simeon was able to force the emperor Leo VI to ask for peace and pay annual tribute to the Bulgarians, who s’ they pledged not to attack the Empire anymore. But the commitment did not prevent Simeon from appropriating in a peaceful way a large part of the Durres region, in a critical moment for Byzantium, threatened by the Arabs; later, according to the treaty of 904, almost the entire territory of Thessaloniki was annexed again, establishing the border at only 20 km. from this city. Moreover, by skillfully inserting himself in the internal struggles of the Serbs, Simeone acquired political influence over the latter too, while at the same time he gave the Bulgarian state a basis with its cultural-civilizing activity. it still annexed almost the entire territory of Thessaloniki, establishing the border just 20 km away. from this city. Moreover, by skillfully inserting himself in the internal struggles of the Serbs, Simeone acquired political influence over the latter too, while at the same time he gave the Bulgarian state a basis with its cultural-civilizing activity. it still annexed almost the entire territory of Thessaloniki, establishing the border just 20 km away. from this city. Moreover, by skillfully inserting himself in the internal struggles of the Serbs, Simeone acquired political influence over the latter too, while at the same time he gave the Bulgarian state a basis with its cultural-civilizing activity.

Bulgaria is now a decisive factor in the political life of south-eastern Europe, and becomes even more so, when the events that occurred in Byzantium after the death of Leo VI suggest to Simeon the ambitious project to seize the throne of the emperors. of the East. The. continuous wars that he wages from 913 to 926 have no other purpose. Byzantium in 919 refuses to recognize his royal dignity, and only gives him the title of Caesar; and Simeon also sees his project to act on Byzantium fail through the political marriage of one of his daughters to the minor emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. But Simeon does not give up on his grandiose plan: to conquer all the Byzantine lands of the Balkan peninsula, take possession of Constantinople, with the help of some seafaring power, and proclaim himself ”

He succeeded in making the territorial conquest: the Bulgarians reached as far as the Peloponnese and the islands, as far as the Hellespont, and also encamped several times near the walls of Constantinople themselves. Only Thessaloniki and Durazz0 were never attacked. Thus, in 918, immediately after the famous victory over the Byzantines near the Acheloo river (917), Simeon proclaimed himself Tsar of the Bulgarians and appointed his archbishop patriarch. But if in importance he equaled the basileus Greek, however, could not reach the goal, since he was not able to overcome the power of Byzantium, supported by the Roman usurper Lecapeno (919). The Byzantine government, while on the one hand, with its conciliatory and peaceful policy, endeavored to persuade the Bulgarian king to conclude the peace, on the other hand it took measures to deflect its aspirations for Constantinople, doing everything to antagonize the neighboring peoples: Hungarians, Pecenegians, Russians, Serbs, Croats. In critical moments, the Byzantine government even went so far as to ask for the help of the head of the Roman church.

All these obstacles made the capital of the Bosphorus inaccessible to the Bulgarians. Simeon, meeting with the emperor in September 923 under the walls of Constantinople, tried in vain to impose the following conditions of peace: Roman abdication; allowed Simeon to enter Constantinople as a victor and to be recognized by the Byzantine people as emperor. And when Serbia, the only state allied to Byzantium until then, was completely subdued by Simeon (924), Romano managed to ally himself with Simeon’s new enemy, the Croatian king Tomislav. However, Simeon did not desist from his daring exploits: in 925 he proclaimed himself “czar of the Bulgarians and the Greeks”; then a war began against the Croats. In this he was indeed defeated, but in any case, with the peace of 926 (concluded with the intervention of the Roman pontiff) managed to avert the Croatian danger. Again he turned his sights towards the south and began a new war against Byzantium, occupying the fortresses of Thrace: but his death (May 27, 927) prevented him from completing his deeds. He left Bulgaria economically ruined; but his ideal, the conquest of Constantinople, nevertheless continued to dominate the action and thought of the Bulgarian kings.

It is true that, at first, the internal struggles and the weight of the external wars induced Simeon’s successor, Pietro (927-969), placed under the tutelage of his uncle Sursuvul, to start peace negotiations; and the peace, so desired by both sides, came on 8 August 927 in Constantinople itself. For it, Byzantium recognized the royal dignity of the Bulgarian sovereign and the autonomy of the Bulgarian church, headed by the patriarch, and undertook to pay an annual tribute to the Bulgarians, who kept the same borders established by the treaties of 896 and 904. To confirm the treaty, Peter married the niece of the Roman emperor, Maria. But peace did not satisfy everyone: in 928 and 930, revolts broke out in Bulgaria which had the aim of dethroning King Peter and replacing his two brothers. And if the revolts failed, the Serbs, taking advantage of the moment, under the leadership of Prince Česlav and with the material and moral help of Byzantium, rebelled in 931 and regained their freedom. Since then the political decline of Bulgaria begins. The Bulgarians are physically exhausted by the long preceding wars, by the internal discords and by the squandering of the royal court; the sovereigns are now subject to the influence of Byzantine disintegrating politics; and also in civil life Byzantium predominates, thanks to Queen Maria, a Greek princess, who manages to introduce Byzantine customs and habits into Bulgarian court life. At the same time, the Bulgarian church declined spiritually, entrusted to ecclesiastics who adopted Byzantine pomp and pomp, greed and corruption. Moreover, bogomilism (v. bogomili).

The Bogomil doctrines are linked to the Manichaean and Paulican heresies, imported and sown in the Balkan peninsula in the century. VIII from the Syriac and Armenian colonies; but, in Bulgarian land, they take on a new form, adopting many popular pagan beliefs of the Slavic-Bulgarians, and assuming a national character, with clear political-social tendencies. The complete disinterest of the official clergy, the difficult conditions of the people, the new easily accessible dogmas, the national character and the social-political doctrines corresponding entirely to the needs of the time allowed Bogomilism to quickly gain ground in Bulgaria. And yet this movement proved harmful, because it shook the state, social and family order from its foundations. Therefore the state, faced with imminent danger, began to persecute the Bogomils, assisted by the Bulgarian church, which then found representatives of strong character, determined to raise the clergy morally and eradicate evil, with the example of an austere and solitary life. Thus St. Ivan of Rilo, who lived for a long time in the desert of Mount Rilo and who is considered the founder of asceticism in Bulgaria and the patron saint of the Bulgarians; so was Cosmas of Preslav, who, however, condemned, at the same time, the Orthodox bishops, priests and above all the monks for their dissolute life, for their indolence, for their greed and neglect in the fulfillment of their duties. who lived for a long time in the desert of Mount Rilo and who is considered the founder of asceticism in Bulgaria and the patron saint of the Bulgarians; so was Cosmas of Preslav, who, however, condemned, at the same time, the Orthodox bishops, priests and above all the monks for their dissolute life, for their indolence, for their greed and neglect in the fulfillment of their duties. who lived for a long time in the desert of Mount Rilo and who is considered the founder of asceticism in Bulgaria and the patron saint of the Bulgarians; so was Cosmas of Preslav, who, however, condemned, at the same time, the Orthodox bishops, priests and above all the monks for their dissolute life, for their indolence, for their greed and neglect in the fulfillment of their duties.

At the same time, another political movement began which gradually strengthened in the western part of the kingdom. Weak was the policy of King Peter, unable to keep the Hungarians away. Relations with Byzantium were also changed, especially after the death of Queen Maria Irene and that of Romano II in 963: so much so that King Peter had to send his two sons Boris and Romano, heirs of the throne, hostage in Constantinople. He had also pledged with Byzantium to push back the Hungarians; but then he was forced to make peace with them. And then the emperor Nicephorus Phocas suddenly invaded the Bulgarian territory in 966, occupying several border fortresses; and, having decided to avoid any danger on the part of the Bulgarians, he managed to persuade the warlike Russian prince Svetoslav of Kiev (945-972) to wage a war against the Bulgarians. Svetoslav, in the early spring of 968, with a large army attacked and subdued present-day Dobruja. He then had to return to Kiev to defend his state from the invasion of the Peceneghi; but he left most of his army in the conquered region. All this increased Peter’s unpopularity. The unfortunate king tried in vain to free himself from the Russians: this new humiliation disgusted the virile spirits of the kingdom. Shortly thereafter he died (January 30, 969); and since the legitimate successors were still in Constantinople, there was an interregnum. Then the four brothers David, Moses, Aaron and Samuel, sons of one of the most influential boyars, Nicholas, Comitopuli, took advantage of this to lead a revolt that extended to the middle of the kingdom, and which had as its program the open opposition to the Byzantine influence on the internal life of the state. Even when Boris II (969-972) came from Byzantium to the throne, the Comitopuli and their followers refused to recognize his power. Meanwhile, the Russian danger was returning: Svetoslav of Kiev in 969 went further and further into Bulgaria, stormed the capital itself, Preslav, taking Boris II and his family prisoner; not satisfied with this, he set out to conquer Constantinople. But, completely destroyed near Silistria by the emperor Giovanni Zimisce in 972, he had to abandon the Bulgarian lands as well.

The Russian yoke in Bulgaria had been short, but it had fatal consequences for the Bulgarians: because John Zimisce, who first presented himself as an ally of Boris II and liberator of the Bulgarians, had King Boris arrested with all his family and declared all the lands Byzantine possessions. conquered. Thus the great Bulgarian kingdom was destroyed (972) and with it the autonomy of the Bulgarian church: because Zimisce also declared the Bulgarian patriarch, who fled to Srědec (now Sofia), and formed a separate church of the Bulgarian church, but dependent on that of Constantinople. However, the western half of the kingdom, namely present-day Macedonia, southern Albania and northwestern Bulgaria (from the Kolubar River to the mountains of Etropole and Ihtiman), retained its independence for almost half a century yet. After separation, which took place following the revolt of the Comitopuli brothers and after the fall of eastern Bulgaria in 972, the Comitopuli decided to regroup in a federal state. Power was divided between the four brothers who ruled over the regions bordering Byzantium. Taking advantage of the struggle of the emperor Zimisce in Asia (973-975), the brothers Moses, David and Samuel prepared the liberation of northeastern Bulgaria. But the assaults against the Byzantines were useless; and Moses and David dead, the regions of the first came under the power of Samuel: those of the second, under the power of Aaron. Taking advantage of the struggle of the emperor Zimisce in Asia (973-975), the brothers Moses, David and Samuel prepared the liberation of northeastern Bulgaria. But the assaults against the Byzantines were useless; and Moses and David dead, the regions of the first came under the power of Samuel: those of the second, under the power of Aaron. Taking advantage of the struggle of the emperor Zimisce in Asia (973-975), the brothers Moses, David and Samuel prepared the liberation of northeastern Bulgaria. But the assaults against the Byzantines were useless; and Moses and David dead, the regions of the first came under the power of Samuel: those of the second, under the power of Aaron.

Meanwhile, in 979, the legitimate heirs of the Bulgarian throne, Boris and his brother Romano, managed to escape from Constantinople. Killed by chance at the Bulgarian border Boris, Romano was taken to Samuel in Voden. To prevent any tumult at the appearance of the legitimate heir, Samuel took him under his protection; later, with the consent of Aaron and the other Bulgarian boyars, he proclaimed him king. With this act, the two Comitopuli and their followers legitimized, as it were, the state formed by them, which now appeared as a continuation of the Bulgarian kingdom under the old dynasty. But Romano was but a king in name; the actual king was Samuel. He resumed his attacks, and the whole of Thessaly came under his domination. Byzantium decided to react; and after an unfortunate attempt to ally with Aaron, Basil II undertook an expedition against the Bulgarians. But the assault conducted against Sofia failed: he was defeated in the Ihtiman gorge, thanks to the timely intervention of Samuel in aid of Aaron. Except that the latter aspired to supremacy; he was therefore inclined, in spite of everything, to lean on Byzantium, and resumed secret relations with the imperial court, which he had already held for the first time. For this reason he was killed with his family by Samuel, who saw perfidy and betrayal in his brother’s conduct (987). Since the Empire was engaged in Asia Minor, in the Crimea and in Italy, Samuel conquered Durres and, shortly after, the whole coast of the Adriatic Sea and the region near the river Drin. By now, his destination was Thessaloniki; and to secure his way, he began to conquer the most important fortresses: Verrea (Karaferia or Ber) and Servia (today’s Selfige; 989). But Basil II was moving to the rescue. In 991 he resumed the assault against the Bulgarians, invaded Bulgaria from all sides; devastating the country, destroying the fortresses, capturing the Roman king (991). But in 995 he had to retire; and Samuel, who had assumed power following the imprisonment of King Boris, returned to war for the Greek fortresses, won a resounding victory under the walls of Thessaloniki in 996, advanced into Thessaly, reached the Peloponnese, was defeated by Nicephorus Ouranos ; however, as soon as the death of the Roman king was known, he was proclaimed by the clergy and boyars as “Tsar of the Bulgarians” (997). He understood that, in order to resist the Byzantines, he had to unite with the other Slavs of the peninsula. Therefore, in 999, he subdued the Serbian principality of the Zeta (Duklia), took possession of Cattaro and passed by Ragusa, after having devastated Dalmatia by crossing Bosnia and Rascia (now Serbia). He then returned to his lands, forcing all these regions to recognize his supreme power; and at the same time established peaceful relations with the Hungarians. For Bulgaria 2011, please check internetsailors.com.

In 1001, Basil II began the systematic subjugation of Bulgaria; from 1002 to 1004, he bent a whole series of Bulgarian fortresses to himself. He also aimed at. Srědec; but it failed. And yet, every year, it invaded the Bulgarian territory, wearing down its forces. In 1014, the last desperate struggle begins: complete defeat of Samuel at the foot of Mount Bělasica (to the west); part of his army completely destroyed, part prisoner; Samuel himself barely saved. The fight continues near Strumica, where the Bulgarians manage to destroy most of the Byzantine warriors; but this only serves to exacerbate Basil II who blinds all the Bulgarian prisoners (15,000 men), leaving every hundred men a companion with one eye only to lead them to their king. At the sight of his soldiers so battered, Samuel is seized by a stroke and dies three days later, on 6 October 1014. This does not mean that the struggle of the Bulgarians for independence by the new king Gavril Radomir (1014-1015), son of Samuel, ceases: but, at the instigation of Basil II, he is killed by his cousin Ivan Vladislav (1015-1018), son of Aaron. The usurper king, to secure power, also tried to make peace with the emperor, promising to recognize the supreme power of Byzantium with all the Bulgarian boyars; but he was still forced to fight. Basil II, determined to carry out the enterprise, went to Bulgaria, taking the fortresses one after the other and also the capital Ochrida, despite the desperate resistance (especially in 1017) of the king. And in early 1018, killed Vladislav in an attempt to conquer the city of Durres, Bulgarian independence ended. Great was the anarchy: the boyars had split into two parties: one, led by the patriarch and the queen with the whole royal family, voluntarily surrendered; the other, headed by the successor to the throne, Frugin, and his brothers, retreated to the Albanian mountains, fighting there for Bulgarian independence. But their resistance was overcome; they too laid down their arms and submitted to the emperor; part fell victim to Byzantine cruelty, part managed to escape armed. The many attempts at rebellion hatched by some Bulgarian leader were also repressed. At the beginning of 1019 Basil II, called the Bulgaroctonus, entered in triumph, through the Golden Gate, in Constantinople as the winner of the Bulgarian people.

Bulgaria History - The first Bulgarian Kingdom