The 'Second Bulgarian Empire.' Its Origin and History to 1204
R. Wolff


AFTER its arrival on the Balkan peninsula in the late seventh century, the Hunnic tribe of the Bulgars was gradually assimilated by the Slavic population which had preceded it by more than a century, and which it had conquered. [2] The ancient Bulgar language apparently fell out of use except for the formal dating of inscriptions, where its appearance, transcribed in Greek letters, has given rise to several scholarly efforts at interpretation, the more recent of which are now accepted. [3] In 813 (says Theophanes) Khan Krum drank with the Slav boyars from


the skull of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I; [4] and Krum's ambassador, Dargomer, who appears in the sources in the year 812, has a name that is clearly Slavic. [5] Soon afterward, Slavic names were given in the family of the Khans itself. [6] The aristocracy seems, however, to have remained Bulgar beyond this date; and, as a counterweight to it, the Khans apparently created a Slavic nobility, and favored the Slavic peasantry. When the great Khan Boris abdicated in 889, and went into a monastery, his son and successor Vladimir fell under the influence of the Bulgar nobles. They seem to have attempted to restore paganism, which Boris had finally abandoned, accepting Christianity under the aegis of Byzantium after experience had convinced him that he could not hope to control and administer the church himself if he received the new religion under the auspices of Rome. When Vladimir and the Bulgar nobles appeared determined to turn back the clock, Boris emerged from the monastery, deposed and blinded Vladimir, put down the Bulgar nobles, installed his second son Symeon on the throne, and enforced the final adoption of Christianity, this time with Slavic as its official language. [7]

Under Symeon began the long and bitter struggle with Byzantium, during which the Bulgar Tsars, now Khans no longer, strove to make themselves  — Emperors not only over the Bulgars but over the Romans (Rhomaeans, citizens of the Byzantine Empire) as well. There was no inherent reason why Symeon, like many other non-Greeks before him — none of whom, however, it is true, had already been rulers of a foreign state — should not have succeeded to the Byzantine throne by means of a dynastic marriage. He hoped to carry through this plan by marrying one of his daughters to the young Constantine Porphyrogennetos, whom he then expected to join as co-emperor — or perhaps to supplant. But his arrangements miscarried, and Romanos Lekapenos, the


Byzantine Admiral, succeeded where Symeon had failed, and became Constantine's father-in-law and Emperor. [8]

In 925, balked of his ambition and growing old, Symeon proclaimed himself  of the Bulgarians and the Romans; and in this way indirectly declared his intention of achieving mastery of the Empire. He also elevated the Bulgarian church to the rank of a patriarchate, thus doubly challenging Byzantium. Despite protests from Romanos Lekapenos, Symeon clung to his title, which may have been confirmed by a papal legate, [9] and endeavored to make it a reality. [10] After his death, when the Bulgarian military threat had much


diminished, his son and successor, Peter, was in 927 actually granted the title of  — not, however, it is to be noted, of the Romans — ; and the Bulgarian patriarchate was given limited recognition. [11] Although in theory there could be only one , in practice the title seems to have been granted, when it became expedient, to Charlemagne in 812. [12] But on the rare occasions when a foreigner was called nXeus, the Byzantine Emperor invariably called himself  and the full title, , was never bestowed on a foreigner. Thus Basil I protested in 876 to Louis the Pious


when the latter took the title 'Imperator Romanorum.' [13] It may be safely concluded that the Byzantine grant of the title to Peter was rather a testimony to his harmlessness than an admission of his equality. The relation of Byzantine Emperor to Bulgarian Tsar appears to have been a sort of spiritual paternity. [14] This interpretation is challenged, though not explicitly, by Arnold Toynbee, one of the keenest students of Greek history throughout its course. Of the period after 927 he writes:

It was now demonstrated that in Orthodox Christendom, the jurisdiction of the East Roman Emperor and the Oecumenical Patriarch must be geographically coextensive; and, since Symeon had failed to bring about this necessary and inevitable state of affairs by his expedient of annexing the Empire politically to ... Bulgaria, it followed that sooner or later the indispensable political unification would have to be brought about by the inverse process of annexing Bulgaria to the Empire.' [15]
Whether or not Toynbee's interpretation is to be accepted, it is certain that Byzantine-Bulgarian rivalry deepened and sharpened during the tenth and early eleventh centuries. With the details of the struggle — the campaigns of John Tsimisces, the rise of the new western Bulgarian dynasty of Samuel the 'Comitopoulos,' and the bitter warfare under Basil II, the Bulgar-slayer, which lasted from 977 to 1019 — we need not deal here. [16] Toynbee believes the immense


Byzantine expenditures in manpower during this war proved the determining factor in weakening the Empire for the military catastrophes which were to follow later in the same century at Bari and Manzikert. [17] These disasters in turn led to the accession of the Comnenoi, and to the triumph of Byzantine feudalism, which left the Empire a prey to the Latins. [18] Whether the Bulgarian wars of Basil II are to be given so central a position in all Byzantine history is doubtless a matter for debate; but it seems clear that, with the exception of those with the Latin west, no foreign relations of the Empire — with Germans, Persians, Avars, Arabs, Russians, Magyars, and Pechenegs — had ever been of more crucial importance than those with the so-called first Bulgarian Empire.

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2. For the early history of the Bulgarians the best general work is V. Zlatarski, Istoriya na Bulgarskata Durzhava, I, Purvo Bulgarsko Tsarstvo, chast 1, 'Epocha na Chunno-Bulgarskoto nadmozhie,' (Sofia, 1918); chast 2, 'Ot Slavenizatsiyata na durzhavata do padaneto na purvoto tsarstvo' (Sofia, 1927); II, Bulgariya pod Vizantiisko vladichestvo (1018-1187), (Sofia, 1931). Zlatarski died in 1935, and his third volume, Vtoro Bulgarsko Tsarstvo, Bulgariya pri Asenevtsi (Sofia, 1940), appeared five years later, edited by Professor P. Nikov. This volume deals with the period 1187-1280. It was not available to me during the preparation of this article, but I have since obtained the loan of a copy through the kindness of Professor C. E. Black of Princeton, and have been able to make full use of it. No basic revision of the account here presented appears to be required in the light of Zlatarski's third volume. Also by him is a brief sketch in German: W. N. Slatarski, Geschichte der Bulgaren, I. Teil, Von der Grundung des Bulgarischen Reiches bis zur Türkenzeit (679-1396) (Bulgarische Bibliothek, ed. G. Weigand, 5, Leipzig, 1918). S. Runciman, A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (London, 1930), while based on Zlatarski, goes back to the sources. It stops in 1018. For the early period Zlatarski and Runciman supersede the standard but now somewhat outdated work of K. Jirecek, Geschichte der Bulgaren (Prague, 1876). See also N. S. Derzhavin, Istoriya Bolgarii, 2 vols. (Moscow and Leningrad, 1945), a large portion of which is devoted to pre-history, and which follows and much abridges Zlatarski for the later period, with no references to primary sources, and many to the works of Marx and Engels. J. B. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire (London, 1912), which stops in 867, is still excellent. For a valuable bibliography of recent Bulgarian works in the field, see I. Duicev, 'Die bulgarische Geschichtsforschung wahrend des letzten Vierteljahrhunderts, 1918-1942,' off-print from Sudost-Forschungen, im Auftrag des deutschen Auslandswissenschaftlichen Instituts, etc., ed. F. Valjavec, no volume number or year, but presumably 1943. For the use of this article I am greatly indebted to Professor C. E. Black of Princeton who loaned me his copy. Duicev confines himself of course almost exclusively to the works of other Bulgarians, and makes no attempts to deal with the Rumanian contributions. Still very useful, though needing to be supplemented by recent contributions, is the series of articles by F. Racki, 'Borba Juznih Slovena na drzavnu neodvistnost u XI vieku,' Rad Jugoslovenski Akademija XXIV (1873), 80-149; XXV (1873), 180-244; XXVII (1874), 77-131; XXVIII (1874), 147-182; XXX (1875), 75-138; XXXI (1875), 196-239 (Croatian). This was reprinted in book form, Srpska Kralyevska Akademiya, Posebna Izdanya, LXXXVII, (Belgrade, 1931), 1-333. For the economic side, see I. Sakazov, Bulgarische Wirtschaftsgeschichte in Grundriss der slavischen Philologie (ed. R. Trautmann and M. Vasmer, Berlin and Leipzig, 1929), pp. 1-171. For a good, if selective, bibliography, see G. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica. I, Die Byzantinischen Quellen der Geschichte der Türkvolker (Budapest, 1942), pp. 50-58.

3. See Runciman, op. cit., Appendix n, pp. 272 ff., where the arguments of Bury, Marquart, Mikkola, and Zlatarski are summarized, and those of Feher are adverted to. V. Beshevliev has recently edited all the surviving inscriptions: see Purvobulgarski nadpisi,' Godishnik na Sofiiskiya Universitet, Istoriko-filologichekski fakultet, XXX (1934), 162 ff.; and 'Zu der Inschrift des Reiterreliefs von Madara,' Byzantinisch-Neugriechische Jahrbucher IX (1932), 1-35. See the article of H. Gregoire, 'Les sources epigraphiques de l'histoire Bulgare,' Byzantion, IX (1934), 745-786. See now also I. Venedikov, 'Novootkritiyat v Preslav purvobulgarski nadpis,' Izvestiya na Bulgarskiya Archeologicheski Institut, XV (1946), 146-160. For an article assessing the role and influence of the 'Protobulgars,' see I. Duicev, 'Protobulgares et Slaves,' Annales de l’Institut Kondakov, Seminarium Kondakovianum, X (1938), 145-154.

4. Theophanes, Chronographia (ed. C. de Boor, Leipzig, 1883), I, 491:

In discussing this passage, Zlatarski, op. cit., i, 1, p. 260, note 1, expresses the view that Theophanes had no intention of distinguishing between Slavs and Bulgars; and quotes several other Greek authors and the old Slavonic translation of Simeon the Logothete, all of which refer to 'Bulgarian' nobles. I cannot feel that this is convincing: even if the boyars were Bulgars, Theophanes' use of the term Slav would show some confusion in his mind about the difference between the two peoples; and this in turn would argue that the process of assimilation was under way. Apparently Runciman thinks so; for (p. 57), he even embroiders on the source, saying that the Khan gave the Slavic toast of 'Zdravitsa.' I have not found this picturesque detail in the sources or in Zlatarski.

5. Theophanes, ed. De Boor, I, 497.

6. E.g., Malamir and Vladimir. See Runciman, op. cit., p. 93, note 3.

7. For this celebrated series of episodes, see Runciman, op. cit., pp. 99-134; see Zlatarski, i, 2, pp. 254 ff. for the arguments in favor of dating the adoption of Slavonic as the liturgical language in 893. See also F. Dvornik, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXe siecle (Paris, 1926), pp. 283 ff. A. A. Vasiliev, 'The "Life" of St. Peter of Argos and its Historical Significance,' Traditio, V (1947), 163-191, discusses (pp. 177 ff.) the process of Slavonization, and brings together from little known and seldom cited sources considerable evidence bearing on the early Bulgarian campaigns in Greece.

8. Symeon was called by Liudprand 'emiargon,' a term which Liudprand himself interprets as meaning 'half-Greek,' because of his education at Constantinople: 'Hunc etenim Simeonem emiargon, id est semigrecum, esse aiebant, eo quod a puericia Bizantii Demostenis rhetoricam Aristotelisque sillogismos didicerit.' (Antapodosis, chapter 28; Liudprandi Opera in Soriptores Rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum [ed. J. Becker, Hanover and Leipzig, 1915], p. 87). Professor R. P. Blake suggests the possibility that 'argon' may be the same word as 'arkaün,' the later Mongol term for Christians, itself a loan-word in Mongol from Turkish. See N. Marr, 'Arkaun, Mongolskoe Nazvanye Christian, v svyazi s voprosom ob Armyanach-Chalkedonitach,' Vizantiiski Vremennik, XII (1906), 1-69. In 913, during the minority of Constantine Porphyrogennetos and the regency headed by the Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus, Symeon may have secured the promise that the young Constantine should marry one of his daughters. The 'two vague references' in the sources to this possibility are discussed by Runciman, Appendix X, pp. 299-301. His arguments are fairly convincing. The documents are a letter of Nicholas Mysticus, Migne, PO, CXI, col. 112; Eutychius of Alexandria, Migne, PG, CXI, p. 1151. Eutychius knew that a projected Bulgarian-Byzantine marriage had fallen through, and that war resulted. Nicholas in 920 -921 offered Symeon an alliance, but by this time it was too late for the only marriage he wanted: one that would make him father-in-law of Constantine. This post — and that of co-Emperor with it — had been acquired by Romanes Lekapenos, whose daughter had been married to Constantine; and Symeon's repeated efforts to secure the deposition of Romanos failed.

9. D. Farlati, Illyrium Sacrum III (Venice, 1765), pp. 102-103, tells of the mission of Madalbertus, the papal legate, to Symeon in 926, and of Madalbertus' synod at Split on the return journey, and of his efforts to make peace between Symeon and the Croats; but says nothing of his having confirmed Symeon's title. This is deduced by Runciman, op. cit., pp. 173-176, chiefly from a letter of Innocent III to Ioannitsa (cited below, note 66), of the year 1202. All that Innocent really says in this letter is that he has checked over the papal registers, and has discovered that there had been many kings crowned in Bulgaria; that at the time of Pope Nicholas (858-867) the Bulgarian king was baptized in the Roman Church; and that in the pontificate of Hadrianus (Adrian II, 867-872) the Bulgarians had gone over to the Greeks and expelled the Roman clergy. He never says that the Roman Church had given crowns to the early Bulgarian kings, whom he never calls emperors. So there is no proof that the Popes ever crowned or confirmed the title of the kings of Bulgaria, or that Madalbertus in particular was authorized to do so. Innocent's sending of a crown to Ioannitsa, however (see below), creates, I think, a reasonably strong possibilty that there was some precedent for this.

10. I. Sakellion,

I (1883), 658 ff. This is a long rhetorical letter, the burden of which is contained in the one query (p. 659):

and the remark a little later,

In a later letter (ibid., II (1885) 40 ff.) Romanos makes his specific objection only to the use of the term  saying that Symeon could, if he wished, call himself   in his own country, although it would not be a correct term even there. For a Bulgarian translation of the correspondence, and a discussion of its implications, see V. Zlatarski, 'Pismata na Vizantiiskago Imperator Romana Lekapena do Bulgarskiya Tsar Simeona,' Sbornik za narodni umotvoreniya, nauka i knizhnina,' XIII (1896), 282-322. For the patriarchate, see Runciman, op. cit., especially p. 174, note 3. A passage in all the chroniclers (Theophanes Continuatus, p. 385; Georgius Monachos Continuatus [Symeon the Logothete], p. 878; Theodosius Melitenus, ed. Tafel, p. 205; Leo Grammaticus, p. 292; Slavic translation of the Logothete, ed. Sreznevski, p. 126) describes Symeon's reception by the patriarch, Nicholas Mysticus, in 913, when he came to parley at Byzantium. It says that 'instead of a stemma,' Nicholas placed 'his own epirriptarion' on the head of Symeon. For some time ignored, this passage was interpreted by Zlatarski, I, 2, pp. 364-374 to mean that Symeon had been crowned Caesar (not ) by the patriarch. Runciman does not mention the passage. G. Ostrogorsky, 'Die Kronung Symeons von Bulgarien durch den Patriarchen Nikolaus Mystikos,' Actes du IVe Congres International des Etudes Byzantines, Izvestiya na Bulgarskiya archeologicheski institut, IX (1935) 275-286, arguing that Symeon would never have been satisfied with the lesser title of Caesar, interprets the passage to mean that Symeon was actually crowned , though not with the Roman imperial diadem, the , and though it was understood that he was  only of the Bulgars. I cannot accept this, but admit that Nicholas' act is mysterious in view of Romanos' later statement (cited n. 10 supra) that Symeon could call himself /ScunXeus in his own country, but that even there it would not be true. This passage Ostrogorsky ignores. See also Ostrogorsky, 'Avtokrator i Samodrzhats,' Glas Srpske Kralyevske Akademiye CLXIV, Drugi Razred 84 (Belgrade, 1935), 95-187 (Serbian).

11. At the peace treaty which accompanied the marriage of Symeon's son and successor Peter to Maria Lekapena, granddaughter of Romanos, and daughter of his son, the co-emperor Christopher, (Theophanes Continuatus, pp. 412-415; George Monachos [ed. de Boor, Leipzig, 1904], pp. 904-906). The chroniclers agree that Maria was pleased to be marrying an emperor (). Romanos had previously elevated three of his sons to the rank of emperor, and his son-in-law, Constantine Porphyrogennetos, had, of course, been emperor all along. There was nothing incongruous about the elevation of a grandson-in-law, especially as Romanos seems to have felt able to take the title away again at will. See Runciman, op. cit., Appendix XI, pp. 301-303. The evidence for this is found in Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Cerimoniis, pp. 681, 682, and 690. See also J. B. Bury, 'The Ceremonial Book of Constantine Porphyrogenitus,' English Historical Review, XXII (1907), 423 ff.; A. Rambaud, L'Empire Grec au Xe Siecle (Paris, 1870), pp. 340 ff.; S. Runciman, Romanos Lekapenos (Cambridge, 1929), pp. 97 ff. Constantine Porphyrogennetos himself (De Administrando Imperio, pp. 87-88), looked with disfavor upon the marriage to a foreigner.

12. Annales quod dicitur Einhardi, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, I, 199: 'Graeca lingua . . . imperatorem eum et basileum appellantes.' The term 'Imperator' E. Stein believes to be the equivalent of avroKparup, the auroKparcopta then just coming into vogue as the successor of virarela, — the post-consulate; but this has been disputed by F. Dölger; see note 14 below. It was Nicephorus I, Stein believes, who made the distinction between  and . See 'Postconsulat et ,' Annuaire de l'institut de philologie et d'histoire orientales II (1934), Melanges Bidez, II, 898 ff. Stein also believes (p. 907, note 4) that the additional words , hitherto used only sporadically, became a final part of the Byzantine title only after Peter had been recognized as jScunXeus KCU avroKparwp. See also E. Stein, 'Zum mittelalterlicher Titel . . . Kaiser der Romer,' Forschungen und Fortschritte, VI (1930), 182-183. See also, on Charlemagne's title, P. E. Schramm, Kaiser, Rom, und Renovatio (Studien der Bibliothek Warburg, Leipzig and Berlin, 1929), I, 31 f., 83 f.; G. Ostrogorsky, 'Das Mitkaisertum im mittelalterlichen Byzanz,' in E. Kornemann, Doppelprinzipat und Reichsteilung im Imperium Romanum (Leipzig and Berlin, 1930), p. 172, note 1.

13. Stein, Melanges Bidez II, 902-903, points out that Louis was , but that by this time -us alone was to the Byzantines the mere equivalent of ; Michael III alone was .

14. For discussions see S. Bobcev, 'Bulgaria under Tsar Simeon,' The Slavonic (and East European) Review, VIII (1929), 99-119 (especially 100-102). More important is F. Dölger, 'Bulgarisches Cartum und byzantinisches Kaisertum,' Actes du IVe Congres Internationale des etudes Byzantines, Izvestiya na Bulgarskiya Archeologicheski Institut, IX (1935), 57-68. A brief summary of this article in Forschungen und Fortschritte, XI (1935), 19-20. Dölger is convinced that Symeon's assumption of the title clearly demonstrates that he hoped and intended to succeed to the Byzantine throne and to theoretical mastery of the world. Like Runciman and Zlatarski, Dölger relies on Romanos' letters already cited, and on the correspondence of Nicholas Mystikos, Migne, PG, CXL. His views and those of Ostrogorsky (article cited above, note 10) have been challenged by N. Iorga, Revue Historique du Sud-Est Europeen, XIII (1936), 96-97, who takes the extreme position of not believing even in Symeon's wish to arrange a dynastic marriage, or in the cession of an imperial title of any sort to Charlemagne. (How he explains away the passage of the Annals of Einhard is not clear.) Later Dölger wrote Iorga that he considered the title granted to Charlemagne as empty ('einen leeren Titel'), and again made the distinction between  and . He also indicated that he was convinced that Stein was mistaken in his view that Charlemagne was called  as well as . Iorga again reiterated that, in his view, there could be only one; and that Charlemagne, to the Byzantines, was only a rex. (Ibid., pp. 226-227.) Dölger's ideas were further developed in ‘Der Bulgarenherrscher als geistlicher Sohn des byzantinischen Kaisers,' Sbornik v pamet na Profesor P. Nikov, Izvestiya na bulgarsko istorichesko druzhestvo XVI-XVIII (Sofia, 1940), pp. 219-232.

15. A. J. Toynbee, A Study of History (London, 1940), IV, 388.

16. Still the best single work on this is G. Schlumberger, L’Épopée Byzantine, II (Paris, 1900). For an important recent article on the origin of Samuel's Bulgarian Empire, see D. Anastasijevic, 'L'Hypothèse de la Bulgarie occidentale,' L’Art Byzantin chez les Slaves, les Balkans, Premier Recueil dédié à la mémoire de Théodore Uspenskii (Paris, l930), I, 20-40. Samuel's Armenian origin was first recognized by I. Ivanov, Proizchod na Tsar Samuiloviya rod,' Sbornik v chest na Vasil N. Zlatarski, (Sofia, 1925), 55-63. Zlatarski himself ignored this, but it was brilliantly demonstrated by N. Adontz, 'Samuel l'Armenien, Roi des Bulgares,' Academic Royale de Belgique, Classe des lettres, Memoires, XXXIX (1938), 3-63.

17. A. J. Toynbee, op. cit., III, 26-27: 'The breakdown of the Orthodox Christian civilization may be dated by its most prominent symptom: the Great Bulgaro-Roman War of A.D. 977-1019. The landmarks in the subsequent disintegration of Orthodox Christendom were the military débâcle of the East Roman Power at Manzikert in A.D. 1071, which left the interior of Anatolia at the mercy of the Seljuqs; the successful insurrection of the Bulgars against the East Roman domination in A.D. 1186; and — crowning catastrophe — the capture and sack of the East Roman capital, Constantinople, itself in A.D. 1204 by the Western military and commercial adventurers who were seeking their fortunes on the so-called Fourth Crusade.'

18. These points will be treated in detail elsewhere.