Bulgarian Empire

Last updated

Bulgarian Empire

ц︢рьство бл︢гарское
Bulgaria Simeon I (893-927).svg
Bulgaria during the reign of Simeon the Great, 10th century
Capital Pliska
Common languages Bulgar, Greek
Old Church Slavonic
Middle Bulgarian
Bulgarian Orthodox
Bulgarian Orthodox
Roman Catholic
Bulgarian Orthodox
Government Autocracy
Asparukh (first)
Constantine II (last)
Historical era Middle Ages
ISO 3166 code BG

In the medieval history of Europe, Bulgaria's status as the Bulgarian Empire (Bulgarian : Българско царство, Balgarsko tsarstvo [ˈbəlɡɐrskʊ ˈt͡sarstvʊ] ), wherein it acted as a key regional power (particularly rivaling Byzantium in Southeastern Europe [1] ) occurred in two distinct periods: between the seventh and eleventh centuries, and again between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The two "Bulgarian Empires" are not treated as separate entities, but rather as one state restored after a period of Byzantine rule over its territory.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

Bulgarian language South Slavic language

Bulgarian, is a South Slavic language spoken in Southeastern Europe, primarily in Bulgaria. It is the language of Bulgarians.


First Bulgarian Empire

Kanasubigi Omurtag (814-831) Omurtag1.jpg
Kanasubigi Omurtag (814–831)

Not long after the Slavic incursion, Moesia was once again invaded, this time by the Bulgars under Khan Asparukh. [2] Their horde was a remnant of Old Great Bulgaria, an extinct tribal confederacy situated north of the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine. Asparukh attacked Byzantine territories in Moesia and conquered the Slavic tribes there in 680. [3]

Moesia historical region of the Balkans

Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern parts of the modern North Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria and Romanian Dobrudja.

Bulgars Turkic tribes

The Bulgars were Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga region during the 7th century. Emerging as nomadic equestrians in the Volga-Ural region, according to some researchers their roots can be traced to Central Asia. During their westward migration across the Eurasian steppe the Bulgars absorbed other ethnic groups and cultural influences, including Hunnic and Indo-European peoples. Modern genetic research on Central Asian Turkic people and ethnic groups related to the Bulgars points to an affiliation with Western Eurasian populations. The Bulgars spoke a Turkic language, i.e. Bulgar language of Oghuric branch. They preserved the military titles, organization and customs of Eurasian steppes, as well as pagan shamanism and belief in the sky deity Tangra.

Khan is a title of unknown origin for a ruler or military leader. It first appears among the Göktürks as a variant of khagan and implied a subordinate ruler. In the Seljuk Empire it was the highest noble title, ranking above malik (king) and emir. In the Mongol Empire it signified the ruler of a horde (ulus), while the ruler of all the Mongols was the khagan or great khan. The title subsequently declined in importance. In Safavid Persia it was the title of a provincial governor, and in Mughal India it was a high noble rank restricted to courtiers. After the downfall of the Mughals it was used promiscuously and became a surname. Khan and its female forms occur in many personal names, generally without any nobiliary of political relevance, although it remains a common part of noble names as well.

A peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire was signed in 681, marking the foundation of the First Bulgarian Empire on the territory both north and south of the lower course of the Danube River in 681 as an alliance between the ruling Bulgars and the numerous Slavs in the area, becoming the oldest still existing Slavic state. The minority Bulgars formed a close-knit ruling caste. [4] It is usually described as having lasted between 681 [5] [6] [7] and 1018, when it was subjugated by the Byzantine Empire despite Emperor Samuel's fierce resistance. Tervel of Bulgaria, son of Asparuh, was the Khan at the beginning of the 8th century.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. "Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

First Bulgarian Empire medieval Bulgarian state that existed in southeastern Europe between the 7th and 11th centuries AD

The First Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state that existed in Southeastern Europe between the 7th and 11th centuries AD. It was founded in 681 when Bulgar tribes led by Asparuh moved to the northeastern Balkans. There they secured Byzantine recognition of their right to settle south of the Danube by defeating – possibly with the help of local South Slavic tribes – the Byzantine army led by Constantine IV. At the height of its power, Bulgaria spread from the Danube Bend to the Black Sea and from the Dnieper River to the Adriatic Sea.

In the Middle Ages the Bulgarian Empire controlled vast areas to the north of the river Danube from its establishment in 681 to its fragmentation in 1371-1422. These lands were called by contemporary Byzantine historians Bulgaria across the Danube. Original information for the centuries-old Bulgarian rule there is scarce as the archives of the Bulgarian rulers were destroyed and little is mentioned for this area in Byzantine or Hungarian manuscripts.

In 705, Emperor Justinian II named him Caesar, the first foreigner to receive this title. [8] [9] Tervel played an important role in defeating the Arabs during the Siege of Constantinople in 717–718. During Krum’s reign in the early 9th century Bulgarian territory doubled in size, spreading from the middle Danube to the Dnieper and from Odrin to the Tatra Mountains. His able and energetic rule brought law and order to Bulgaria and developed the rudiments of state organization. [10] [11]

Justinian II Emperor of the Romans

Justinian II, surnamed the Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus, was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711. Justinian II was an ambitious and passionate ruler who was keen to restore the Roman Empire to its former glories, but he responded poorly to any opposition to his will and lacked the finesse of his father, Constantine IV. Consequently, he generated enormous opposition to his reign, resulting in his deposition in 695 in a popular uprising, and he only returned to the throne in 705 with the help of a Bulgar and Slav army. His second reign was even more despotic than the first, and it too saw his eventual overthrow in 711, abandoned by his army who turned on him before killing him.

Caesar (title) cognomen, later an imperial title of Roman empire

Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator. The change from being a familial name to a title adopted by the Roman Emperors can be dated to about CE 68/69, the so-called "Year of the Four Emperors".

Siege of Constantinople (717–718) combined land and sea offensive by the Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate against the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople

The Second Arab siege of Constantinople in 717–718 was a combined land and sea offensive by the Muslim Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate against the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. The campaign marked the culmination of twenty years of attacks and progressive Arab occupation of the Byzantine borderlands, while Byzantine strength was sapped by prolonged internal turmoil. In 716, after years of preparations, the Arabs, led by Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, invaded Byzantine Asia Minor. The Arabs initially hoped to exploit Byzantine civil strife and made common cause with the general Leo III the Isaurian, who had risen up against Emperor Theodosius III. Leo, however, tricked them and secured the Byzantine throne for himself.

Bulgaria gradually reached its cultural and territorial apogee in the 9th century and early 10th century under Prince Boris I and Emperor Simeon the Great, when its early Christianization in 864 allowed it to develop into the cultural and literary center of Slavic Europe, as well as one of the largest states in Europe, thus the period is considered the Golden Age of medieval Bulgarian culture. Major events included the development of the Cyrillic script at the Preslav Literary School, declared official in 893, and the establishment of the liturgy in Old Church Slavonic, also called Old Bulgarian. [12] [13] [14]

Boris I of Bulgaria Knyaz of bulgaria

Boris I, also known as Boris-Mihail (Michael) and Bogoris, was the ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire in 852–889. At the time of his baptism in 864, Boris was named Michael after his godfather, Emperor Michael III. The historian Steven Runciman called him one of the greatest persons in history.

Simeon I of Bulgaria Emperor of the bulgarians and romans

Tsar SimeonI the Great ruled over Bulgaria from 893 to 927, during the First Bulgarian Empire. Simeon's successful campaigns against the Byzantines, Magyars and Serbs led Bulgaria to its greatest territorial expansion ever, making it the most powerful state in contemporary Eastern and Southeast Europe. His reign was also a period of unmatched cultural prosperity and enlightenment later deemed the Golden Age of Bulgarian culture.

Christianization of Bulgaria

The Christianization of Bulgaria was the process by which 9th-century medieval Bulgaria converted to Christianity. It reflected the need of unity within the religiously divided Bulgarian state as well as the need for equal acceptance on the international stage in Christian Europe. This process was characterized by the shifting political alliances of Boris I of Bulgaria with the kingdom of the East Franks and with the Byzantine Empire, as well as his diplomatic correspondence with the Pope.

Second Bulgarian Empire

Ivan Alexander.jpg
Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331–1371)
Coat of arms of the Second Bulgarian Empire.svg
Coat of Arms of Bulgaria

The medieval Bulgarian state was restored as the Second Bulgarian Empire after a successful uprising of two nobles from Tarnovo, Asen and Peter, in 1185, and existed until it was conquered during the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans in the late 14th century, with the date of its subjugation usually given as 1396, although some fringe views place it at 1422. [15] Until 1256, the Second Bulgarian Empire was the dominant power in the Balkans, defeating the Byzantine Empire in several major battles.

Second Bulgarian Empire medieval Bulgarian state

The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state that existed between 1185 and 1396. A successor to the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Tsars Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. It was succeeded by the Principality and later Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1878.

Ivan Asen I of Bulgaria Bulgarian emperor

Ivan Asen I, also known as Asen I or John Asen I was emperor of Bulgaria from 1187 or 1188 to 1196 as the co-ruler with his elder brother, Peter II. He was the son of a wealthy shepherd from the mountains of the Byzantine theme (district) of Paristrion. All contemporaneous chronicles describe Asen I and his brothers as Vlachs.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

In 1205, Emperor Kaloyan defeated the newly established Latin Empire in the Battle of Adrianople. His nephew Ivan Asen II defeated the Despotate of Epiros and made Bulgaria a regional power again. During his reign, Bulgaria spread from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and the economy flourished. Under Ivan Asen II in the first half of the 13th century the country gradually recovered much of its former power, though this did not last long due to internal problems and foreign invasions.

Bulgarian artists and architects created their own distinctive style. Until the 14th century, during the period known as the Second Golden Age of Bulgarian culture, literature, art and architecture flourished. [16] The capital city Tarnovo, which was considered a "New Constantinople", became the country's main cultural hub and the centre of the Eastern Orthodox world. [17]

The Empire became tributary to the Golden Horde, a successor state of the Mongol Empire in the 13th to 14th centuries. [18] [19] After the death of Emperor Ivan Alexander in 1371 Bulgaria was split into three countries and in the following decades fell under the domination of the Ottomans. After the Ottoman conquest, many Bulgarian clerics and scholars emigrated to Serbia, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Russian principalities, where they introduced Bulgarian culture, books, and hesychastic ideas. [20]


See also

Related Research Articles

Battle of Kleidion

The Battle of Kleidion took place on July 29, 1014, between the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian Empire. It was the culmination of the nearly half-century struggle between the Byzantine Emperor Basil II and the Bulgarian Emperor Samuel in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The result was a decisive Byzantine victory.

Asparuh of Bulgaria Khan of bulgaria

Asparuh was а ruler of Bulgars in the second half of the 7th century and is credited with the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681.

Ivan Sratsimir of Bulgaria Tsar of Bulgaria

Ivan Sratsimir or Ivan Stratsimir was emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria in Vidin from 1356 to 1396. He was born in 1324 or 1325, and he died in or after 1397. Despite being the eldest surviving son of Ivan Alexander, Ivan Sratsimir was disinherited in favour of his half-brother Ivan Shishman and proclaimed himself emperor in Vidin. When the Hungarians attacked and occupied his domains, he received assistance from his father and the invaders were driven away.

Ivan Shishman of Bulgaria Tsar of Bulgaria

Ivan Shishman ruled as emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria in Tarnovo from 1371 to 3 June 1395. The authority of Ivan Shishman was limited to the central parts of the Bulgarian Empire.

Alexius Slav Bulgarian noble

Alexius Slav was a Bulgarian nobleman (bolyarin), a member of the Bulgarian Asen dynasty, a nephew of the first three Asen brothers. He was first probably the governor of the Rhodopes domain of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and then an autocrat in these lands.

Seven Slavic tribes union of tribes in the Danubian Plain, that took part in the formation of the First Bulgarian Empire together with the Bulgars in 680-681

The Seven Slavic tribes or the Seven Slavic clans were a union of tribes in the Danubian Plain, that was established around the middle of the 7th century and took part in the formation of the First Bulgarian Empire together with the Bulgars in 680−681.

The Battle of Devina occurred on 17 July 1279 near the small fortress of Devina, close to the modern town of Kotel, Burgas Province, south-eastern Bulgaria. Ivailo of Bulgaria attacked the Byzantine army sent to help his rival for the crown Ivan Asen III.

Battle of Ongal battle

The Battle of Ongal took place in the summer of 680 in the Ongal area, an unspecified location in around the Danube delta near the Peuce Island, present-day Tulcea County, Romania. It was fought between the Bulgars, who had recently invaded the Balkans, and the Eastern Roman Empire, which ultimately lost the battle. The battle was crucial for the creation of the First Bulgarian Empire.

Medieval Bulgarian army

The medieval Bulgarian army was the primary military body of the First and the Second Bulgarian Empires. During the first decades after the foundation of the country, the army consisted of a Bulgar cavalry and a Slavic infantry. The core of the Bulgarian army was the heavy cavalry, which consisted of 12,000–30,000 heavily armed riders. At its height in the 9th and 10th centuries, it was one of the most formidable military forces in Europe and was feared by its enemies. There are several documented cases of Byzantine commanders abandoning an invasion because of a reluctance to confront the Bulgarian army on its home territory.

Kaloyan and Desislava Sebastocrators of Sredets (Sofia)

Kaloyan and Desislava were 13th-century Bulgarian nobles, sebastocrators of Sredets (Sofia) and the surrounding region during the Asen dynasty of the Second Bulgarian Empire. They are credited as main donors and patrons of the Boyana Church. Their portraits, created in 1259 by the painters of Tarnovo Artistic School in Boyana Church are considered by many leading experts as the first Renaissance images in European art

The territory of modern Albania was part of the Bulgarian Empire during certain periods in the Middle Ages and some parts in what is now eastern Albania were populated and ruled by the Bulgarians for centuries. Most of Albania became part of the First Empire in the early 840s during the reign of Khan Presian. Some coastal towns such as Durrës remained in the hands of the Byzantines for most of that period. The castles of the inner mountainous country remained one of the last Bulgarian strongholds to be conquered by the Byzantines in 1018/1019 during the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire. During the Byzantine rule Albania was one of the centres of a major Bulgarian uprising. The last Bulgarian Emperor to govern the whole territory was Ivan Asen II (1218–1241) but after his successors the Bulgarian rule diminished. Much of that area corresponded with the Bulgarian historical region Kutmichevitsa.

Jacob Svetoslav emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria

Jacob Svetoslav was a prominent 13th-century Bulgarian noble (bolyarin) of princely Russian origin. Bestowed the title of despot, Jacob Svetoslav was the ruler of a widely autonomous domain of the Second Bulgarian Empire most likely located around Sofia. Seeking further independence and claiming the title of Emperor of Bulgaria, he twice changed allegiance from Bulgaria to the Kingdom of Hungary and vice versa, and the Hungarians recognized his Bulgarian royal rank as their vassal and ruler of Vidin.

Ivan the Russian was a 14th-century Bulgarian military leader of Russian origin who served Bulgarian tsars Michael Shishman and Ivan Alexander. Prior to joining the armed forces of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Ivan the Russian may have been a military commander in the service of the Hungarian governor of Severin.

Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity

The Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity is a Bulgarian Orthodox monastery in the vicinity of Veliko Tarnovo, north central Bulgaria. Founded in the Middle Ages, it was reconstructed in 1847 and again in the mid-20th century.

Strez was a Bulgarian sebastokrator and a member of the Asen dynasty. A major contender for the Bulgarian throne, Strez initially opposed the ascension of his close relative Tsar Boril. He fled to Serbia, where he accepted the vassalage of Grand Prince Stefan Nemanjić, and Serbian support helped him establish himself as a largely independent ruler in a large part of the region of Macedonia. However, Strez turned against his suzerains to become a Bulgarian vassal and joined forces with his former enemy Boril against the Latins and then the Serbs. Strez was murdered amidst a major anti-Serbian campaign under unclear circumstances in a plot that likely involved Saint Sava.

Shishman was a Bulgarian nobleman (boyar) who ruled a semi-independent realm based out of the Danubian fortress of Vidin in the late 13th and early 14th century. Shishman, who was bestowed the title of "despot" by Bulgarian emperor George Terter I, was a Cuman, and may have been established as lord of Vidin as early as the 1270s.

In the 14th-century Balkans, Merope was a subregion of Thrace in modern northern Greece and southern Bulgaria. The region lay in the western and middle part of the Rhodope Mountains.

Joachim III was the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church between c. 1282 and 1300, when the Second Bulgarian Empire reached its lowest point of decline during the reign of the emperors George Terter I, Smilets and Chaka. He was executed for treason by emperor Theodore Svetoslav in 1300. The Church did not recognize his guilt and his name was included in the list of Bulgarian Patriarchs in the Book of Boril. His seat was Tarnovo, the capital of Bulgaria.

Ignatius was a Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the 13th century during the rule of Emperor Konstantin Tih. He is listed as the fourth Patriarch presiding over the Bulgarian Church from Tarnovo in the medieval Book of Boril.


  1. R. Craig Nation. War in the Balkans, 1991–2002. Lulu.com. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  2. Zlatarski, Vasil (1938). История на Първото българско Царство. I. Епоха на хуно–българското надмощие (679–852) [History of the First Bulgarian Empire. Period of Hunnic-Bulgarian domination (679–852)] (in Bulgarian). Marin Drinov Publishing House. p. 188. ISBN   978-9544302986 . Retrieved May 23, 2012.
  3. "Bulgar". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  4. Fine, John V.A.; Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press. pp. 68–70. ISBN   978-0472081493.
  5. A Concise History of Bulgaria, R. J. Crampton, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN   0521616379, pp. 8-9.
  6. The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 1, c.500–c.700, Paul Fouracre, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN   0521362911, p. 301.
  7. Мутафчиев, П. Гюзелев. В, История на българския народ 681–1323. Българска Академия на науките, 1986. стр. 106–108.
  8. Андреев, Й. Българските ханове и царе (VII-XIV в.). София, 1987
  9. Хан Тервел - тема за кандидат студенти Archived 1 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Krum, Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  11. Токушев, Д. "История на българската средновековна държава и право", Сиби, С. 2009
  12. Dvornik, Francis (1956). The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization. Boston: American Academy of Arts and Sciences. p. 179. The Psalter and the Book of Prophets were adapted or "modernized" with special regard to their use in Bulgarian churches, and it was in this school that glagolitic writing was replaced by the so-called Cyrillic writing, which was more akin to the Greek uncial, which simplified matters considerably and is still used by the Orthodox Slavs.
  13. Florin Curta (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500–1250. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge University Press. pp. 221–222. ISBN   978-0-521-81539-0.
  14. J. M. Hussey, Andrew Louth (2010). "The Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire". Oxford History of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. p. 100. ISBN   978-0-19-161488-0.
  15. http://liternet.bg/publish13/p_pavlov/konstantin_II_asen.htm
  16. Kǎnev, Petǎr (2002). "Religion in Bulgaria after 1989". South-East Europe Review (1): 81.
  17. Obolensky, p. 246
  18. Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, p. 204
  19. Denis Sinor, "The Mongols in the West", Journal of Asian History v. 33 n. 1 (1999).
  20. Kazhdan 1991 , pp. 334, 337

Further reading