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The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, блъгарьско цѣсарьствиѥ, blagarysko tsesarystviye; bg, Първо българско царство) was a medieval Bulgar- Slavic and later Bulgarian state that existed in
Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe (SEE) is a geographical subregion of Europe, consisting primarily of the Balkans. Sovereign states and territories that are included in the region are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia (al ...
between the 7th and 11th centuries AD. It was founded in 680–681 after part of the Bulgars, led by Asparuh, moved south to the northeastern
Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographical area in southeastern Europe with various geographical and historical definitions. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the who ...
. There they secured
Byzantine 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 survi ...
recognition of their right to settle south of the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
by defeatingpossibly with the help of local South Slavic tribesthe Byzantine army led by
Constantine IV Constantine IV ( la, Constantinus; grc-gre, Κωνσταντῖνος, Kōnstantînos; 650–685), called the Younger ( la, iunior; grc-gre, ὁ νέος, ho néos) and sometimes incorrectly the Bearded ( la, Pogonatus; grc-gre, Πωγων ...
. During the 9th and 10th century, Bulgaria at the height of its power spread from the Danube Bend to the
Black Sea The Black Sea is a marginal sea, marginal Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Europe and Asia, east of the Balkans, south of the East European Plain, west of the Caucasus, and north of An ...
and from the
Dnieper } The Dnieper () or Dnipro (); , ; . is one of the major Transboundary river, transboundary list of rivers of Europe, rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black ...
River to the
Adriatic Sea The Adriatic Sea () is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkans, Balkan Peninsula. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) ...
and became an important power in the region competing with the Byzantine Empire. It became the foremost cultural and spiritual centre of south Slavic Europe throughout most of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
. As the state solidified its position in the Balkans, it entered into a centuries-long interaction, sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile, with the Byzantine Empire. Bulgaria emerged as Byzantium's chief antagonist to its north, resulting in several wars. The two powers also enjoyed periods of peace and alliance, most notably during the
Second Arab Siege of Constantinople The second (symbol: s) is the unit of time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the ...
, where the Bulgarian army broke the siege and destroyed the Arab army, thus preventing an Arab invasion of Southeastern Europe.
Byzantium Byzantium () or Byzantion ( grc, Βυζάντιον) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek Polis, city in classical antiquity that became known as Constantinople in late antiquity and Istanbul today. The Greek name ''Byzantion'' and its Romanizat ...
had a strong cultural influence on Bulgaria, which also led to the eventual adoption of Christianity in 864. After the disintegration of the
Avar Khaganate The Pannonian Avars () were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of various origins. The peoples were also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai ( el, Βαρχονίτες, Varchonítes), or Pseudo-Avars ...
, the country expanded its territory northwest to the
Pannonian Plain The Pannonian Basin, or Carpathian Basin, is a large Sedimentary basin, basin situated in south-east Central Europe. The Geomorphology, geomorphological term Pannonian Plain is more widely used for roughly the same region though with a somewh ...
. Later the Bulgarians confronted the advance of the
Pechenegs The Pechenegs () or Patzinaks tr, Peçenek(ler), Middle Turkic languages, Middle Turkic: , ro, Pecenegi, russian: Печенег(и), uk, Печеніг(и), hu, Besenyő(k), gr, Πατζινάκοι, Πετσενέγοι, Πατζινα ...
and
Cumans The Cumans (or Kumans), also known as Polovtsians or Polovtsy (plural only, from the Russian language, Russian Exonym and endonym, exonym ), were a Turkic people, Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman–Kipchak confede ...
, and achieved a decisive victory over the
Magyars Hungarians, also known as Magyars ( ; hu, magyarok ), are a nation and ethnic group native to Hungary () and Kingdom of Hungary, historical Hungarian lands who share a common Hungarian culture, culture, Hungarian history, history, Magyar tribe ...
, forcing them to establish themselves permanently in
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire bounded on the north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Roman Italy, Italy, and southward with Dalmatia (Roman province), Dalmatia and upper Moesia ...
. The ruling Bulgars and other non-Slavic tribes in the empire gradually mixed and adopted the prevailing
Slavic language The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples and their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto ...
, thus gradually forming the Bulgarian nation from the 7th to the 10th century. Since the 10th century, the
demonym A demonym (; ) or gentilic () is a word that identifies a group of people (inhabitants, residents, natives) in relation to a particular place. Demonyms are usually derived from the name of the place (hamlet, village, town, city, region, province, ...
''Bulgarian'' gained prevalence and became permanent designations for the local population, both in literature and in common parlance. The development of
Old Church Slavonic Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
literacy had the effect of preventing the assimilation of the
South Slavs South Slavs are Slavic peoples who speak South Slavic languages and inhabit a contiguous region of Southeast Europe comprising the eastern Alps and the Balkan Peninsula. Geographically separated from the West Slavs and East Slavs by Austr ...
into neighbouring cultures, while stimulating the formation of a distinct Bulgarian identity. After the adoption of Christianity, Bulgaria became the cultural center of
Slavic Europe Slavic, Slav or Slavonic may refer to: Peoples * Slavic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group living in Europe and Asia ** East Slavic peoples, eastern group of Slavic peoples ** South Slavic peoples, southern group of Slavic peoples ** West Slavi ...
. Its leading cultural position was further consolidated with the adoption of the
Glagolitic alphabet The Glagolitic script (, , ''glagolitsa'') is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. It is generally agreed to have been created in the 9th century by Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Cyril, a monk from Thessaloniki, Thessalonica. He and his brothe ...
, the invention of the
Early Cyrillic alphabet The Early Cyrillic alphabet, also called classical Cyrillic or paleo-Cyrillic, is a writing system that was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the late 9th century on the basis of the Greek alphabet for the Slavs, Slavic people ...
shortly after in the capital
Preslav The modern Veliki Preslav or Great Preslav ( bg, Велики Преслав, ), former Preslav ( bg, link=no, Преслав; until 1993), is a city and the seat of government of the Veliki Preslav Municipality (Great Preslav Municipality, new B ...
, and the literature produced in
Old Church Slavonic Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
soon began spreading north. Old Church Slavonic became the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a Natural language, language systematically used to make communication possib ...
of much of Eastern Europe. In 927, the fully independent Bulgarian Patriarchate was officially recognized. During the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Simeon I achieved a string of victories over the Byzantines. Thereafter, he was recognized with the title of Emperor, and proceeded to expand the state to its greatest extent. After the annihilation of the Byzantine army in the Battle of Anchialus in 917, the Bulgarians laid siege to
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsargrad (Slavs, Slavic), Qustantiniya (Arabic), Basileuousa ("Queen of Cities"), Megalopo ...
in 923 and 924. The Byzantines eventually recovered, and in 1014, under
Basil II Basil II Porphyrogenitus ( gr, Βασίλειος Πορφυρογέννητος ;) and, most often, the Purple-born ( gr, ὁ πορφυρογέννητος, translit=ho porphyrogennetos).. 958 – 15 December 1025), nicknamed the Bulgar ...
"the Bulgar Slayer", a crushing defeat was inflicted on the Bulgarians at the
Battle of Kleidion The Battle of Kleidion ( grc-gre, Κλειδίον; or Clidium, after the medieval name of the village of Klyuch, "(the) key"; also known as the Battle of Belasitsa) took place on July 29, 1014, between the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian Emp ...
. By 1018, the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered to the Byzantine Empire, and the First Bulgarian Empire had ceased to exist. It was succeeded by the
Second Bulgarian Empire The Second Bulgarian Empire (; ) was a medieval Bulgarians, 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 of Bulgaria, Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II ...
in 1185.


Nomenclature

The First Bulgarian Empire became known simply as ''
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria,, ) is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the eastern flank of the Balkans, and is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedon ...
'' since its recognition by the Byzantine Empire in 681. Some historians use the terms ''Danube Bulgaria'', ''First Bulgarian State'', or ''First Bulgarian Tsardom (Empire)''. Between 681 and 864 the country is also called by modern historians as the ''Bulgarian Khanate'', or the ''Bulgar Khaganate'', from the Turkic title of '' khan''/''
khagan Khagan or Qaghan (Mongolian:; or ''Khagan''; otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣 ), or , tr, Kağan or ; ug, قاغان, Qaghan, Mongolian Script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, wr ...
'' borne by its rulers. It is often further specified as the ''Danube Bulgarian Khanate'', or ''Danube Bulgar Khanate'' in order to differentiate it from
Volga Bulgaria Volga Bulgaria or Volga–Kama Bulgaria, was a historic Bulgar state that existed between the 7th and 13th centuries around the confluence of the Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of ...
, which emerged from another Bulgar group. From the country's Christianization in 864 and the assumption of the imperial title by its rulers in 917/927, the country is also referred to as the ''Principality of Bulgaria''. In English-language sources, the country is often known as the ''Bulgarian Empire''.


Background


The Balkans during the early Migration Period

Parts of the eastern
Balkan Peninsula The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographical area in southeastern Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weig ...
were in antiquity inhabited by the
Thracians The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe in ancient history.. ...
who were a group of Indo-European tribes. The whole region as far north as the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
River was gradually incorporated into the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
by the 1st century AD. The decline of the Roman Empire after the 3rd century AD and the continuous invasions of
Goths The Goths ( got, 𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰, translit=''Gutþiuda''; la, Gothi, grc-gre, Γότθοι, Gótthoi) were a Germanic people who played a major role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of medieval Europe. ...
and
Huns The Huns were a Nomad, nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that wa ...
left much of the region devastated, depopulated and in economic decline by the 5th century. The surviving eastern half of the Roman Empire, called by later historians the
Byzantine Empire 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 survi ...
, could not exercise effective control in these territories other than in the coastal areas and certain cities in the interior. Nonetheless, it never relinquished the claim to the whole region up to the Danube. A series of administrative, legislative, military and economic reforms somewhat improved the situation but despite these reforms disorder continued in much of the Balkans. The reign of Emperor
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, ; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor, Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. His reign is marked by ...
(r.527–565) saw temporary recovery of control and reconstruction of a number of fortresses but after his death the empire was unable to face the threat of the Slavs due to the significant reduction of revenue and manpower.


Slavic migrations to the Balkans

The
Slavs Slavs are the largest European ethnolinguistic group. They speak the various Slavic languages, belonging to the larger Balto-Slavic language, Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Slavs are geographically distributed throughout ...
, of
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
origin, were first mentioned in written sources to inhabit the territories to the north of the Danube in the 5th century AD but most historians agree that they had arrived earlier. The group of Slavs that came to be known as the South Slavs was divided into Antes and
Sclaveni The ' (in Latin language, Latin) or ' (various forms in Greek language, Greek, see below) were early Slavic tribes that raided, invaded and settled the Balkans in the Early Middle Ages and eventually became the progenitors of modern South Slavs. ...
who spoke the same language. The Slavic incursions in the Balkans increased during the second half of Justinian I's reign and while these were initially pillaging raids, large-scale settlement began in the 570s and 580s. This migration is associated with the arrival of the Avars who settled in the plains of
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire bounded on the north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Roman Italy, Italy, and southward with Dalmatia (Roman province), Dalmatia and upper Moesia ...
between the rivers Danube and
Tisza The Tisza, Tysa or Tisa, is one of the major rivers of Central Europe, Central and Eastern Europe. Once, it was called "the most Hungarian river" because it flowed entirely within the Kingdom of Hungary. Today, it crosses several national border ...
in the 560s subjugating various Bulgar and Slavic tribes in the process. Consumed in bitter wars with the
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Arm ...
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the History of Iran, last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th cen ...
in the east, the Byzantines had few resources with which to confront the Slavs. The Slavs came in large numbers and the lack of political organisation made it very difficult to stop them because there was no political leader to defeat in battle and thereby force their retreat. As the wars with Persia persisted, the 610s and 620s saw a new and even larger migration wave with the Slavs penetrating further south into the Balkans, reaching
Thessaly Thessaly ( el, Θεσσαλία, translit=Thessalía, ; ancient Aeolic Greek#Thessalian, Thessalian: , ) is a traditional geographic regions of Greece, geographic and modern administrative regions of Greece, administrative region of Greece, co ...
,
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
and
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmu ...
and raiding some islands in the
Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi ( Greek: Αιγαίο Πέλαγος: "Egéo Pélagos", Turkish: "Ege Denizi" or "Adalar Denizi") is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Asia. It is located between the Balkans ...
. The Byzantines held out in
Salonica Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, , also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki, or Salonica (), is the second-largest city in Greece, with over one million inhabitants in its Thessaloniki metropolitan area, metropolitan area, and the capi ...
and a number of coastal towns but beyond these areas the imperial authority in the Balkans disappeared.


The Bulgars

The Bulgars were Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the
Pontic–Caspian steppe The Pontic–Caspian steppe, formed by the Caspian steppe and the Pontic steppe, is the steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (the Pontus Euxinus of antiquity) to the northern area around the Caspian Sea The ...
and the
Volga region The Volga Region (russian: Поволжье, ''Povolzhye'', literally: "along the Volga") is a historical region in Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country span ...
during the 7th century. They became known as nomadic equestrians in the Volga-Ural region, but some researchers say that their ethnic roots can be traced to
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...
. They spoke a form of Turkic as their main language. The Bulgars included the tribes of
Onogurs The Onoğurs or Oğurs (Ὀνόγουροι, Οὔρωγοι, Οὔγωροι; Onογurs, Ογurs; "ten tribes", "tribes"), were Turkic peoples, Turkic Eurasian nomads, nomadic equestrians who flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga ...
,
Utigur Utigurs were Turkic people, Turkic Eurasian nomads, nomadic equestrians who flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe in the 6th century AD. They possibly were closely related to the Kutrigurs and Bulgars. Etymology The name ''Ut(r)igur'', recorde ...
s and
Kutrigur Kutrigurs were Turkic people, Turkic Eurasian nomads, nomadic equestrians who flourished on the Pontic–Caspian steppe in the 6th century AD. To their east were the similar Utigurs and both possibly were closely related to the Bulgars. They warred ...
s, among others. The first clear mention of the Bulgars in written sources dates from 480, when they served as the allies of the Byzantine Emperor Zeno (r. 474–491) against the
Ostrogoths The Ostrogoths ( la, Ostrogothi, Austrogothi) were a Roman-era Germanic peoples, Germanic people. In the 5th century, they followed the Visigoths in creating one of the two great Goths, Gothic kingdoms within the Roman Empire, based upon the larg ...
although an obscure reference to ''Ziezi ex quo Vulgares'', with
Ziezi According to an anonymous Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', s ...
being an offspring of Biblical
Shem Shem (; he, שֵׁם ''Šēm''; ar, سَام, Sām) ''Sḗm''; Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: ሴም, ''Sēm'' was one of the sons of Noah in the book of Genesis and in the book of Chronicles, and the Quran. The children of Shem were Elam (Hebrew ...
, son of
Noah Noah ''Nukh''; am, ኖህ, ''Noḥ''; ar, نُوح '; grc, Νῶε ''Nôe'' () is the tenth and last of the pre-Flood patriarchs in the traditions of Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions are a group of religions centered aroun ...
, is in the ''
Chronography of 354 The ''Chronograph of 354'' (or "Chronography"), also known as the ''Calendar of 354'', is a compilation of chronological and calendrical texts produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentinus by the calligrapher and illustrator ...
''. In the 490s the Kutrigurs had moved west of the
Black Sea The Black Sea is a marginal sea, marginal Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Europe and Asia, east of the Balkans, south of the East European Plain, west of the Caucasus, and north of An ...
while the Utigurs inhabited the steppes to the east of them. In the first half of the 6th century, the Bulgars occasionally raided the Byzantine Empire but in the second half of the century the Kutrigurs were subjugated by the
Avar Khaganate The Pannonian Avars () were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of various origins. The peoples were also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai ( el, Βαρχονίτες, Varchonítes), or Pseudo-Avars ...
and the Utigurs came under the rule of the
Western Turkic Khaganate The Western Turkic Khaganate () or Onoq Khaganate ( otk, 𐰆𐰣:𐰸:𐰉𐰆𐰑𐰣, On oq budun, Ten arrow people) was a Turkic peoples, Turkic khaganate in Eurasia, formed as a result of the wars in the beginning of the 7th century (593– ...
. As the power of the Western Turks faded in the 600s the Avars reasserted their domination over the Bulgars. Between 630 and 635 Khan
Kubrat Kubrat ( el, Κοβρᾶτος, Kούβρατος; bg, Кубрат ) was the ruler of the Onogur–Bulgars The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic peoples, Turkic semi-nomadic warri ...
of the
Dulo clan The Dulo clan was a ruling dynasty of the Bulgars The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic peoples, Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and ...
managed to unite the main Bulgar tribes and to declare independence from the Avars, creating a powerful confederation called
Old Great Bulgaria Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria (Medieval Greek: Παλαιά Μεγάλη Βουλγαρία, ''Palaiá Megálē Voulgaría''), also often known by the Latin names ''Magna Bulgaria'' and ''Patria Onoguria'' ("Onoğurs, Onogur land"), w ...
, also known as ''Patria Onoguria'', between the Black Sea, the
Sea of Azov The Sea of Azov (Crimean Tatar language, Crimean Tatar: ''Azaq deñizi''; russian: Азовское море, Azovskoye more; uk, Азовське море, Azovs'ke more) is a sea in Eastern Europe connected to the Black Sea by the narrow (ab ...
and the
Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range ...
. Kubrat, who was baptised in
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsargrad (Slavs, Slavic), Qustantiniya (Arabic), Basileuousa ("Queen of Cities"), Megalopo ...
in 619, concluded an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor
Heraclius Heraclius ( grc-gre, Ἡράκλειος, Hērákleios; c. 575 – 11 February 641), was List of Byzantine emperors, Eastern Roman emperor from 610 to 641. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the Exa ...
(r. 610–641) and the two countries remained in good relations until Kubrat's death between 650 and 665. Kubrat fought with the
Khazars The Khazars ; he, כּוּזָרִים, Kūzārīm; la, Gazari, or ; zh, 突厥曷薩 ; 突厥可薩 ''Tūjué Kěsà'', () were a semi- nomadic Turkic people that in the late 6th-century CE established a major commercial empire cover ...
in the east but after his demise Old Great Bulgaria disintegrated under strong Khazar pressure in 668 and his five sons parted with their followers. The eldest
Batbayan Batbayan ( bg, Батбаян) ruled the Khazarian Bulgars mentioned by Theophanes the Confessor, Theophanes and Nikephoros I of Constantinople, Nicephorus after the Khazars defeated the Bulgars and Old Great Bulgaria disintegrated. There is a sc ...
remained in his homeland as Kubrat's successor and eventually became a Khazar vassal. The second brother
Kotrag Kotrag was according to Nikephoros I of Constantinople a son of Kubrat of the Dulo clan of Bulgars. Following the death of his father, he began to extend the influence of his Bulgars to the Volga River. He is remembered as the founder of V ...
migrated to the middle
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
region and founded
Volga Bulgaria Volga Bulgaria or Volga–Kama Bulgaria, was a historic Bulgar state that existed between the 7th and 13th centuries around the confluence of the Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of ...
. The third brother Asparuh led his people west to the lower Danube. The fourth one,
Kuber Kuber, (also Kouber or Kuver), was a Bulgar leader who, according to the '' Miracles of Saint Demetrius'', liberated a mixed Bulgar and Byzantine Christian population in the 670s, whose ancestors had been transferred from the Eastern Roman Empi ...
, initially settled in Pannonia under Avar suzerainty but revolted and moved to the region of Macedonia, while the fifth brother Alcek settled in central
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
.


History


Establishment and consolidation

The Bulgars of Asparuh moved westwards to what is now
Bessarabia Bessarabia (; Gagauz language, Gagauz: ''Besarabiya''; Romanian language, Romanian: ''Basarabia''; Ukrainian language, Ukrainian: ''Бессара́бія'') is a historical region in Eastern Europe, bounded by the Dniester river on the east ...
, subdued the territories to the north of the Danube in modern
Wallachia Wallachia or Walachia (; ro, Țara Românească, lit=The Romanian Land' or 'The Romanian Country, ; Archaism, archaic: ', Romanian Cyrillic alphabet: ) is a Historical regions of Romania, historical and geographical region of Romania. It is si ...
, and established themselves in the
Danube Delta The Danube Delta ( ro, Delta Dunării, ; uk, Дельта Дунаю, Deľta Dunaju, ) is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is the best preserved on the continent. The greater part of the Danube Delta lies in Ro ...
. In the 670s they crossed the Danube into Scythia Minor, nominally a Byzantine province, whose steppe grasslands and pastures were important for the large herd stocks of the Bulgars in addition to the grazing grounds to the west of the
Dniester The Dniester, ; rus, Дне́стр, links=1, Dnéstr, ˈdⁿʲestr; ro, Nistru; grc, Τύρᾱς, Tyrās, ; la, Tyrās, la, Danaster, label=none, ) ( ,) is a transboundary river in Eastern Europe. It runs first through Ukraine and ...
River already under their control. In 680 the Byzantine Emperor
Constantine IV Constantine IV ( la, Constantinus; grc-gre, Κωνσταντῖνος, Kōnstantînos; 650–685), called the Younger ( la, iunior; grc-gre, ὁ νέος, ho néos) and sometimes incorrectly the Bearded ( la, Pogonatus; grc-gre, Πωγων ...
(r.668–685), having recently defeated the Arabs, led an expedition at the head of a huge army and fleet to drive off the Bulgars but suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Asparuh at Onglos, a swampy region in or around the Danube Delta where the Bulgars had set a fortified camp. The Bulgars advanced south, crossed the
Balkan Mountains The Balkan mountain range (, , known locally also as Stara planina) is a mountain range in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. The range is conventionally taken to begin at the peak of Vrashka Chuka ...
and invaded
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
. In 681, the Byzantines were compelled to sign a humiliating peace treaty, forcing them to acknowledge Bulgaria as an independent state, to cede the territories to the north of the Balkan Mountains and to pay an annual tribute. In his universal chronicle the Western European author Sigebert of Gembloux remarked that the Bulgarian state was established in 680. This was the first state that the empire recognised in the Balkans and the first time it legally surrendered claims to part of its Balkan dominions. The Byzantine chronicler
Theophanes the Confessor Theophanes the Confessor ( el, Θεοφάνης Ὁμολογητής; c. 758/760 – 12 March 817/818) was a member of the Byzantine Empire, Byzantine aristocracy who became a monk and chronicler. He served in the court of Emperor Leo IV the Khaz ...
wrote of the treaty: The relations between the Bulgars and the local Slavs is a matter of debate depending on the interpretation of the Byzantine sources. Vasil Zlatarski asserts that they concluded a treaty but most historians agree that they were subjugated. The Bulgars were superior organisationally and militarily and came to dominate politically the new state but there was cooperation between them and the Slavs for the protection of the country. The Slavs were allowed to retain their chiefs, to abide to their customs and in return they were to pay tribute in kind and to provide foot soldiers for the army. The Seven Slavic tribes were relocated to the west to protect the frontier with the
Avar Khaganate The Pannonian Avars () were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of various origins. The peoples were also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai ( el, Βαρχονίτες, Varchonítes), or Pseudo-Avars ...
, while the Severi were resettled in the eastern Balkan Mountains to guard the passes to the Byzantine Empire. The number of Asparuh's Bulgars is difficult to estimate. Vasil Zlatarski and John Van Antwerp Fine Jr. suggest that they were not particularly numerous, numbering some 10,000, while
Steven Runciman Sir James Cochran Stevenson Runciman ( – ), known as Steven Runciman, was an English historian best known for his three-volume '' A History of the Crusades'' (1951–54). He was a strong admirer of the Byzantine Empire The Byzantine ...
considers that the tribe must have been of considerable dimensions. The Bulgars settled mainly in the north-east, establishing the capital at
Pliska Pliska ( , cu, Пльсковъ, translit=Plĭskovŭ) was the first capital of the First Bulgarian Empire during the Middle Ages and is now List of cities and towns in Bulgaria, a small town in Shumen Province, on the Ludogorie plateau of the Dan ...
, which was initially a colossal encampment of 23 km2 protected with earthen ramparts. To the north-east the war with the Khazars persisted and in 700 Khan Asparuh perished in battle with them. Despite this setback the consolidation of the country continued under Asparuh's successor, Khan
Tervel Khan Tervel ( bg, Тервел) also called ''Tarvel'', or ''Terval'', or ''Terbelis'' in some Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its ea ...
(r.700–721). In 705 he assisted the deposed Byzantine Emperor
Justinian II Justinian II ( la, Iustinianus; gr, Ἰουστινιανός, Ioustinianós; 668/69 – 4 November 711), nicknamed "the Slit-Nosed" ( la, Rhinotmetus; gr, ὁ Ῥινότμητος, ho Rhinótmētos), was the last List of Byzantine emperors, Ea ...
in regaining his throne in return for the '' Zagore'' region of
Northern Thrace Northern Thrace or North Thrace ( bg, Северна Тракия, as opposed to Western Thrace and East Thrace to the south; tr, Kuzey Trakya; el, Βόρεια Θράκη), also called Bulgarian Thrace, constitutes the northern and largest par ...
, the first expansion of Bulgaria to the south of the Balkan mountains. In addition Tervel obtained the title ''
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
'' and, having been enthroned alongside the Emperor, received the obeisance of the citizenry of Constantinople and numerous gifts. However, three years later, Justinian tried to regain the ceded territory by force, but his army was defeated at Anchialus. Skirmishes continued until 716 when Khan Tervel signed an important agreement with Byzantium that defined the borders and the Byzantine tribute, regulated trade relations and provided for the exchange of prisoners and fugitives. When the Arabs laid siege to Constantinople in 717–718 Tervel dispatched his army to help the besieged city. In the decisive battle before the
Walls of Constantinople The Walls of Constantinople ( el, Τείχη της Κωνσταντινουπόλεως) are a series of defensive wall, defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul in Turkey) since its f ...
the Bulgarians slaughtered between 22,000 and 30,000
Arabs The Arabs (singular: Arab; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, DIN 31635: , , plural ar, عَرَب, DIN 31635: , Arabic pronunciation: ), also known as the Arab people, are an ethnic group An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping o ...
forcing them to abandon the undertaking. Most historians primarily attribute the Byzantine–Bulgarian victory with stopping the Arab offensives against
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
.


Internal instability and struggle for survival

With the demise of Khan Sevar (r.738–753) the ruling
Dulo clan The Dulo clan was a ruling dynasty of the Bulgars The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic peoples, Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and ...
died out and the Khanate fell into a long political crisis during which the young country was on the verge of destruction. In just fifteen years seven Khans reigned, and all of them were murdered. The only surviving sources of this period are Byzantine and present only the Byzantine point of view of the ensuing political turmoil in Bulgaria. They describe two factions struggling for powerone that sought peaceful relations with the Empire, which was dominant until 755, and one that favoured war. These sources present the relations with the Byzantine Empire as the main issue in this internal struggle and do not mention the other reasons, which could have been more important for the Bulgarian elite. It is likely that the relationship between the politically dominant Bulgars and the more numerous Slavs was the main issue behind the struggle but there is no evidence about the aims of the rival factions. Zlatarski speculates that the old Bulgar military aristocracy was leaning towards war while other Bulgars supported by the majority of the Slavs were inclined for peace with Byzantium. The internal instability was used by the "soldier Emperor"
Constantine V Constantine V ( grc-gre, Κωνσταντῖνος, Kōnstantīnos; la, Constantinus; July 718 – 14 September 775), was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775. His reign saw a consolidation of Byzantine security from external threats. As an able ...
(r.741–775), who launched nine major campaigns aiming to eliminate Bulgaria. Having contained the Arab threat during the first part of his reign, ConstantineV was able to concentrate his forces on Bulgaria after 755. He defeated the Bulgarians at
Marcellae Markeli ( bg, Маркели; el, Μαρκέλλαι, ''Markellai''; la, Marcellae) was a medieval Byzantine Empire, Byzantine and Bulgarian Empire, Bulgarian frontier stronghold, the ruins of which are located in Karnobat Municipality, Burgas ...
in 756, Anchialus in 763 and Berzitia in 774, but lost the Battle of the Rishki Pass in 759 in addition to hundreds of ships lost to storms in the Black Sea. The Byzantine military successes further exacerbated the crisis in Bulgaria, but also rallied together many different factions to resist the Byzantines, as shown at the council of 766 when the nobility and the "armed people" denounced Khan Sabin with the words "Thanks to you, the Romans will enslave Bulgaria!". In 774 Khan Telerig (r.768–777) tricked ConstantineV into revealing his spies at the Bulgarian court in Pliska and had them all executed. The next year ConstantineV died during a retaliatory campaign against Bulgaria. Despite being able to defeat the Bulgarians several times the Byzantines were able neither to conquer Bulgaria, nor to impose their suzerainty and a lasting peace, which is a testimony to the resilience, fighting skills and ideological coherence of the Bulgarian state. The devastation brought to the country by the nine campaigns of ConstantineV firmly rallied the Slavs behind the Bulgars and greatly increased the dislike of the Byzantines, turning Bulgaria into a hostile neighbour. The hostilities continued until 792 when Khan Kardam (r.777–803) achieved an important victory in the battle of Marcellae, forcing the Byzantines once again to pay tribute to the Khans. As a result of the victory, the crisis was finally overcome, and Bulgaria entered the new century stable, stronger, and consolidated.


Territorial expansion

During the reign of
Krum Krum ( bg, Крум, el, Κροῦμος/Kroumos), often referred to as Krum the Fearsome ( bg, Крум Страшни) was the Khan (title), Khan of First Bulgarian Empire, Bulgaria from sometime between 796 and 803 until his death in 814. Du ...
(r.803–814) Bulgaria doubled in size and expanded to the south, west and north, occupying the vast lands along the middle Danube and
Transylvania Transylvania ( ro, Ardeal or ; hu, Erdély; german: Siebenbürgen) is a historical and cultural region in Central Europe, encompassing central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Ap ...
, becoming
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
an medieval
great power A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power i ...
during the 9th and 10th century along with the Byzantine and
Frankish Empire Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire ( la, Imperium Francorum), was the largest History of the Roman Empire, post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It ...
s. Between 804 and 806 the Bulgarian armies thoroughly eliminated the Avar Khaganate, which had suffered a crippling blow by the Franks in 796, and a border with the
Frankish Empire Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire ( la, Imperium Francorum), was the largest History of the Roman Empire, post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It ...
was established along the middle
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
or Tisza. Prompted by the Byzantine moves to consolidate their hold on the Slavs in Macedonia and northern Greece and in response to a Byzantine raid against the country, the Bulgarians confronted the Byzantine Empire. In 808 they raided the valley of the Struma River, defeating a Byzantine army, and in 809 captured the important city of Serdica (modern
Sofia Sofia ( ; bg, София, Sofiya, ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Bulgaria, largest city of Bulgaria. It is situated in the Sofia Valley at the foot of the Vitosha mountain in the western parts of the country. ...
). In 811 the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I launched a massive offensive against Bulgaria, seized, plundered and burned down the capital Pliska but on the way back the Byzantine army was decisively defeated in the battle of the Varbitsa Pass. NicephorusI himself was slain along with most of his troops, and his skull was lined with silver and used as a drinking cup. Krum took the initiative and in 812 moved the war towards
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
, capturing the key Black Sea port of Messembria and defeating the Byzantines once more at Versinikia in 813 before proposing a generous peace settlement. However, during the negotiations the Byzantines attempted to assassinate Krum. In response, the Bulgarians pillaged Eastern Thrace and seized the important city of
Adrianople Edirne (, ), formerly known as Adrianople or Hadrianopolis (Greek language, Greek: Άδριανούπολις), is a city in Turkey, in the northwestern part of the Edirne Province, province of Edirne in Eastern Thrace. Situated from the Greek ...
, resettling its 10,000 inhabitants in " Bulgaria across the Danube". Krum made extensive preparations to capture Constantinople: 5,000 iron-plated wagons were built to carry the siege equipment; the Byzantines even pleaded for help from the Frankish Emperor
Louis the Pious Louis the Pious (german: Ludwig der Fromme; french: Louis le Pieux; 16 April 778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor, co-emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. He was ...
. Due to the sudden death of Krum on 14 April 814, however, the campaign was never launched. Khan Krum implemented legal reforms and issued the first known written law code of Bulgaria that established equal rules for all peoples living within the country's boundaries, intending to reduce poverty and to strengthen the social ties in his vastly enlarged state. Krum's successor Khan Omurtag (r.814–831) concluded a 30-year peace treaty with the Byzantines, thus allowing both countries to restore their economies and finance after the bloody conflicts in the first decade of the century, establishing the border along the Erkesia trench between
Debelt Debelt (Bulgarian: Дебелт) is a village in Burgas Province Burgas Province ( bg, Област Бургас, translit=Oblast Burgas, formerly the Burgas okrug) is a province in southeastern Bulgaria, including the southern Bulgarian Black S ...
os on the Black Sea and the valley of the
Maritsa Maritsa or Maritza ( bg, Марица ), also known as Meriç ( tr, Meriç ) and Evros ( ell, Έβρος ), is a river that runs through the Balkans in Southeast Europe. With a length of ,Kalugerovo. To the west the Bulgarians were in control of
Belgrade Belgrade ( , ;, ; names in other languages) is the capital and largest city in Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian language, Serbian: , , ), officially the Republic of Serbia (Serbian language, Serbian: , , ), is a landlocked country in So ...
(whose modern name was first known as ''Alba Bulgarica'') by the 820s and the northwestern boundaries with the Frankish Empire were firmly settled along the middle Danube by 827. To the north-east Omurtag fought the Khazars along the
Dnieper } The Dnieper () or Dnipro (); , ; . is one of the major Transboundary river, transboundary list of rivers of Europe, rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black ...
River, which was the easternmost limit of Bulgaria. Extensive building was undertaken in the capital Pliska, including the construction of a magnificent palace, pagan temples, ruler's residence, fortress, citadel, water-main, and bath, mainly from stone and brick. Omurtag started in 814 persecution of Christians, in particular against the Byzantine prisoners of war settled north of the Danube.
Menologion of Basil II The ''Menologion of Basil II'' (also called ''Menologium of Basil II'', ''Menology of Basil II'') is an illuminated manuscript designed as a church calendar or Eastern Orthodox Church service book (''menologion'') that was compiled c. 1000 AD, f ...
, glorifies Basil as a warrior defending Orthodox Christendom against the attacks of the pagan Bulgars. The expansion to the south and south-west continued under Omurtag's successors under the guidance of the capable ''
kavhan The ''kavkhan'' ( grc-x-byzant, καυχάνος; bg, кавха̀н) was one of the most important officials in the First Bulgarian Empire The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, блъгарьско цѣсарьствиѥ, blagarysko tsesarystvi ...
'' (First Minister)
Isbul Isbul ( bg, Исбул) ( fl. 820s–830s) was the ''kavhan The ''kavkhan'' ( grc-x-byzant, καυχάνος; bg, кавха̀н) was one of the most important officials in the First Bulgarian Empire The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, б ...
. During the short reign of Khan Malamir (r.831–836), the important city of Philippopolis (
Plovdiv Plovdiv ( bg, Пловдив, ), is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, standing on the banks of the Maritsa river in the historical region of Thrace. It has a population of 346,893 and 675,000 in the greater metropolitan area. Plovdiv is the c ...
) was incorporated into the country. Under Khan Presian (r.836–852), the Bulgarians took most of Macedonia, and the borders of the country reached the
Adriatic Sea The Adriatic Sea () is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkans, Balkan Peninsula. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) ...
near Valona and
Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi ( Greek: Αιγαίο Πέλαγος: "Egéo Pélagos", Turkish: "Ege Denizi" or "Adalar Denizi") is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Asia. It is located between the Balkans ...
. Byzantine historians do not mention any resistance against the Bulgarian expansion in Macedonia, leading to the conclusion that the expansion was largely peaceful. With this, Bulgaria had become the dominant power in the Balkans. The advances further west was blocked by the development of a new Slavic state under Byzantine patronage, the
Principality of Serbia The Principality of Serbia ( sr-Cyrl, Књажество Србија, Knjažestvo Srbija) was an autonomous state in the Balkans that came into existence as a result of the Serbian Revolution, which lasted between 1804 and 1817. Its creation was ...
. Between 839 and 842 the Bulgarians waged war on the Serbs but did not make any progress. Historian Mark Whittow asserts that the claim for a Serb victory in that war in ''
De Administrando Imperio ''De Administrando Imperio'' ("On the Governance of the Empire") is the Latin title of a Greek-language work written by the 10th-century Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII. The Greek title of the work is ("To yown son Romanos"). It is a dom ...
'' was wishful Byzantine thinking, but notes that any Serb submission to the Bulgarians went no further than the payment of tribute. The reign of Boris I (r.852–889) began with numerous setbacks. For ten years the country fought against the Byzantine Empire,
Eastern Francia East Francia (Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Literary Latin used in Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local language ...
,
Great Moravia Great Moravia ( la, Regnum Marahensium; el, Μεγάλη Μοραβία, ''Meghálī Moravía''; cz, Velká Morava ; sk, Veľká Morava ; pl, Wielkie Morawy), or simply Moravia, was the first major state that was predominantly West Slavs, Wes ...
, the Croats and the Serbs forming several unsuccessful alliances and changing sides. Around August 863 there was a period of 40 days of earthquakes and there was a lean harvest, which caused famine throughout the country. To cap it all, there was an incursion of locusts. Yet, despite all the military setbacks and natural disasters, the skilful diplomacy of BorisI prevented any territorial losses and kept the realm intact. In this complex international situation
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...
had become attractive as a religion by the mid 9th-century because it provided better opportunities for forging reliable alliances and diplomatic ties. Taking this into account, as well as a variety of internal factors, BorisI converted to Christianity in 864, assuming the title ''
Knyaz , or (Old Church Slavonic: wiktionary:кнѧзь, Кнѧзь) is a historical Slavic languages, Slavic title, used both as a royal and noble title in different times of history and different ancient Slavic lands. It is usually translated i ...
'' (Prince). Taking advantage of the struggle between the
Papacy The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, 'father'), also known as supreme pontiff ( or ), Roman pontiff () or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome (or historically the patriarch of Rome), head of the worldwide Cathol ...
in
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg ...
and the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople ( el, Οἰκουμενικὸν Πατριαρχεῖον Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, translit=Oikoumenikón Patriarkhíon Konstantinoupóleos, ; la, Patriarchatus Oecumenicus Constanti ...
, BorisI brilliantly manoeuvred to assert the independence of the newly established Bulgarian Church. To check the possibility of Byzantine interference in the internal matters of Bulgaria, he sponsored the disciples of the brothers
Cyril and Methodius Cyril (born Constantine, 826–869) and Methodius (815–885) were two brothers and Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern pr ...
to create literature in
Old Bulgarian language Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
. BorisI dealt ruthlessly with the opposition to the Christianisation of Bulgaria, crushing a revolt of the nobility in 866 and overthrowing his own son Vladimir (r.889–893) after he attempted to restore the traditional religion. In 893 he convened the
Council of Preslav The People's Council of Preslav ( bg, Преславски народен събор) took place in 893. It was among the most important events in the history of the First Bulgarian Empire and was a cornerstone of the Christianization of Bulgaria un ...
where it was decided that the capital of Bulgaria was to be moved from Pliska to
Preslav The modern Veliki Preslav or Great Preslav ( bg, Велики Преслав, ), former Preslav ( bg, link=no, Преслав; until 1993), is a city and the seat of government of the Veliki Preslav Municipality (Great Preslav Municipality, new B ...
, the Byzantine clergy was to be banished from the country and replaced with Bulgarian clerics, and Old Bulgarian language was to replace the Greek in liturgy. Bulgaria was to become the principal threat to the stability and security of the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century.


Golden Age

The decisions of the Council of Preslav brought an end to the Byzantine hopes to exert influence over the newly Christianized country. In 894 the Byzantines moved the Bulgarian market from Constantinople to
Thessaloniki Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, , also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki, or Salonica (), is the second-largest city in Greece, with over one million inhabitants in its Thessaloniki metropolitan area, metropolitan area, and the capi ...
, affecting the commercial interests of Bulgaria and the principle of Byzantine–Bulgarian trade, regulated under the Treaty of 716 and later agreements on the most favoured nation basis. The new Prince, Simeon I (r.893–927), who came to be known as Simeon the Great,
declared war A declaration of war is a formal act by which one state announces existing or impending war activity against another. The declaration is a performative speech act (or the signing of a document) by an authorized party of a national government, ...
and defeated the Byzantine army in Thrace. The Byzantines turned for aid to the
Magyars Hungarians, also known as Magyars ( ; hu, magyarok ), are a nation and ethnic group native to Hungary () and Kingdom of Hungary, historical Hungarian lands who share a common Hungarian culture, culture, Hungarian history, history, Magyar tribe ...
, who at the time inhabited the steppes to the north-east of Bulgaria. The Magyars scored two victories over the Bulgarians and pillaged Dobrudzha but SimeonI allied with the
Pechenegs The Pechenegs () or Patzinaks tr, Peçenek(ler), Middle Turkic languages, Middle Turkic: , ro, Pecenegi, russian: Печенег(и), uk, Печеніг(и), hu, Besenyő(k), gr, Πατζινάκοι, Πετσενέγοι, Πατζινα ...
further east and in 895 the Bulgarian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Magyars in the steppes along the
Southern Bug , ''Pivdennyi Buh'' , name_etymology = , image = Sunset S Bug Vinnitsa 2007 G1.jpg , image_size = 270 , image_caption = Southern Bug River in the vicinity of Vinnytsia, Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україн ...
River. At the same time, the Pechenegs advanced westwards and prevented the Magyars from returning to their homeland. The blow was so heavy that the Magyars were forced to migrate west, eventually settling in the
Pannonian Basin The Pannonian Basin, or Carpathian Basin, is a large Sedimentary basin, basin situated in south-east Central Europe. The Geomorphology, geomorphological term Pannonian Plain is more widely used for roughly the same region though with a somewh ...
, where they eventually established the
Kingdom of Hungary The Kingdom of Hungary was a monarchy in Central Europe that existed for nearly a millennium, from the Middle Ages into the 20th century. The Principality of Hungary emerged as a Christian kingdom upon the Coronation of the Hungarian monarch, c ...
. In 896 the Byzantines were routed in the decisive
battle of Boulgarophygon A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and f ...
and pleaded for peace that confirmed the Bulgarian domination of the Balkans, restored the status of Bulgaria as a most favoured nation, abolished the commercial restrictions and obliged the Byzantine Empire to pay annual tribute. The peace treaty remained in force until 912 although SimeonI did violate it following the sack of Thessaloniki in 904, extracting further territorial concessions in Macedonia. In 913 the Byzantine emperor
Alexander Alexander is a male given name. The most prominent bearer of the name is Alexander the Great, the king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia (ancient kingdom), Macedonia who created one of the largest empires in ancient history. Variants li ...
provoked a bitter war after resolving to discontinue paying an annual tribute to Bulgaria. However, the military and ideological initiative was held by SimeonI, who was seeking ''
casus belli A (; ) is an act or an event that either provokes or is used to justify a war. A ''casus belli'' involves direct offenses or threats against the nation declaring the war, whereas a ' involves offenses or threats against its ally—usually one ...
'' to fulfil his ambition to be recognized as Emperor (in Bulgarian, ''
Tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a title used by East Slavs, East and South Slavs, South Slavic monarchs. The term is derived from the Latin word ''Caesar (title), caesar'', which was intended to mean "emperor" i ...
'') and to conquer Constantinople, creating a joint Bulgarian–Roman state. In 917, the Bulgarian army dealt a crushing defeat to the Byzantines at the battle of Achelous, resulting in Bulgaria's total military supremacy in the Balkans. In the words of
Theophanes Continuatus ''Theophanes Continuatus'' ( el, συνεχισταί Θεοφάνους) or ''Scriptores post Theophanem'' (, "those after Theophanes") is the Latin name commonly applied to a collection of historical writings preserved in the 11th-century Vat. g ...
"a bloodshed occurred, that had not happened in centuries", and
Leo the Deacon Leo the Deacon ( el, Λέων ο Διάκονος) (born c. 950) was a Byzantine Greeks, Byzantine Greek historian and chronicler. He was born around 950 at Kaloe in Asia Minor, and was educated in Constantinople, where he became a deacon in the im ...
witnessed piles of bones of perished soldiers on the battlefield 50 years later. The Bulgarians built on their success with further victories at Katasyrtai in 917, Pegae in 921 and
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsargrad (Slavs, Slavic), Qustantiniya (Arabic), Basileuousa ("Queen of Cities"), Megalopo ...
in 922. The Bulgarians also captured the important city of Adrianople in Thrace and seized the capital of the Theme of Hellas, Thebes, deep in southern Greece. Following the disaster at Achelous,
Byzantine diplomacy Byzantine diplomacy concerns the principles, methods, mechanisms, ideals, and techniques that the Byzantine Empire espoused and used in order to negotiate with other states and to promote the goals of its foreign policy. Dimitri Obolensky asserts ...
incited the Principality of Serbia to attack Bulgaria from the west, but this assault was easily contained. In 924, the Serbs ambushed and defeated a small Bulgarian army, provoking a major retaliatory campaign that ended with Bulgaria's annexation of Serbia at the end of that year. Further expansion in the Western Balkans was checked by King
Tomislav of Croatia Tomislav (, la, Tamisclaus) was the first king of Croatia This is a complete list of rulers of Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijep ...
, who was a Byzantine ally and defeated a Bulgarian invasion in 926. SimeonI was aware that he needed naval support to conquer Constantinople and in 922 sent envoys to the
Fatimid The Fatimid Caliphate was an Isma'ilism, Ismaili Shia Islam, Shi'a caliphate extant from the tenth to the twelfth centuries AD. Spanning a large area of North Africa, it ranged from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the ea ...
caliph
Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh/ʿUbayd Allāh ibn al-Ḥusayn (), 873 – 4 March 934, better known by his regnal name A regnal name, or regnant name or reign name, is the name used by monarchs and popes during their reigns and, subsequently ...
in
Mahdia Mahdia ( ar, المهدية ') is a Tunisian coastal city with 62,189 inhabitants, south of Monastir, Tunisia, Monastir and southeast of Sousse. Mahdia is a provincial centre north of Sfax. It is important for the associated fish-processing indu ...
to negotiate the assistance of the powerful
Arab The Arabs (singular: Arab; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, DIN 31635: , , plural ar, عَرَب, DIN 31635: , Arabic pronunciation: ), also known as the Arab people, are an ethnic group mainly inhabiting the Arab world in Western Asia, ...
navy. The caliph sent representatives to Bulgaria to arrange an alliance but his emissaries were captured en route by the Byzantines near the
Calabria Calabria (), is a Regions of Italy, region in Southern Italy. It is a peninsula bordered by Basilicata to the north, the Ionian Sea to the east, the Strait of Messina to the southwest, which separates it from Sicily, and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the ...
n coast. The Byzantine Emperor
Romanos I Lekapenos Romanos I Lekapenos ( el, Ρωμανός Λεκαπηνός; 870 – 15 June 948), Latinisation of names, Latinized as Romanus I Lecapenus, was Byzantine emperor from 920 until his deposition in 944, serving as regent for the infant Constantine ...
managed to avert a Bulgarian–Arab alliance by showering the Arabs with generous gifts. The war dragged on until Simeon I's death in May 927. By then Bulgaria controlled almost all Byzantine possessions in the Balkans, but without a fleet did not attempt to storm Constantinople. Both countries were exhausted by the huge military efforts that had taken a heavy toll on the population and economy. Simeon's successor Peter I (r.927–969) negotiated a favourable
peace treaty A peace treaty is an treaty, agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armistice, which is an agreement to stop hostilities; a ...
. The Byzantines agreed to recognize him as Emperor of Bulgaria and the
Bulgarian Orthodox Church The Bulgarian Orthodox Church ( bg, Българска православна църква, translit=Balgarska pravoslavna tsarkva), legally the Patriarchate of Bulgaria ( bg, Българска патриаршия, links=no, translit=Balgarsk ...
as an independent Patriarchate, as well as to pay an annual tribute. The peace was reinforced with a marriage between Peter and Romanos's granddaughter Irene Lekapene. This agreement ushered in a period of 40 years of peaceful relations between the two powers. During the first years of his reign, Peter I faced revolts by two of his three brothers, John in 928 and Michael in 930, but both were quelled. During most of his subsequent rule until 965, PeterI presided over a
Golden Age The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology, particularly the ''Works and Days'' of Hesiod, and is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages of Man, Ages, Gold being the first and the one during ...
of the Bulgarian state in a period of political consolidation, economic expansion and cultural activity.


Decline and fall

Despite the treaty and the largely peaceful era that followed, the strategic position of the Bulgarian Empire remained difficult. The country was surrounded by aggressive neighboursthe Magyars to the north-west, the Pechenegs and the growing power of
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rusʹ, also known as Kyivan Rusʹ ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , ; Old Norse: ''Garðaríki''), was a state in Eastern Europe, Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century.John Channon & Robert Hudson, ''Penguin Hist ...
to the north-east, and the Byzantine Empire to the south, which proved to be an unreliable neighbour. Bulgaria suffered several devastating Magyar raids between 934 and 965. The growing insecurity, as well as expanding influence of the landed nobility and the higher clergy at the expense of the personal privileges of the peasantry, led to the emergence of
Bogomilism Bogomilism (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian and Macedonian language, Macedonian: ; sh-Latn-Cyrl, separator=" / ", bogumilstvo, богумилство) was a Christian Gnosticism, Christian neo-Gnostic or Dualistic cosmology, dualist sect founded ...
, a dualistic heretic
sect A sect is a subgroup of a religion, religious, politics, political, or philosophy, philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group. Although the term was originally a classification for religious separated groups, it can now ...
that in the subsequent centuries spread to the Byzantine Empire, northern Italy and southern France (cf.
Cathars Catharism (; from the grc, καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure ones") was a Christian Dualistic cosmology, dualist or Gnosticism, Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries which thrived in Southern Europe, particularly in northern ...
). To the south, the Byzantine Empire reversed the course of the Byzantine–Arab wars against the declining
Abbasid Caliphate The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ; ar, الْخِلَافَةُ الْعَبَّاسِيَّة, ') was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was founded by a dynasty descended from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib ...
and in 965 discontinued the payment of the tribute, leading to sharp deterioration in their relations. In 968 the Byzantines incited Kievan Rus' to invade Bulgaria. In two years the Kievan Prince Svyatoslav I defeated the Bulgarian army, captured Preslav and established his capital at the important Bulgarian city of Preslavets (meaning "Little Preslav"). In this desperate situation the aging PeterI abdicated, leaving the crown to his son Boris II (r.969–971), who had little choice but to cooperate with Svyatoslav. The unexpected success of the Rus' campaigns led to a confrontation with the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Emperor
John I Tzimiskes John I Tzimiskes (; 925 – 10 January 976) was the senior Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD, which marks the conventional start of the Byzantine Empire, Eastern ...
eventually defeated Svyatoslav's forces and compelled him to leave the Balkans in 971. In the course of their campaign the Byzantines seized Preslav and detained BorisII. Initially JohnI Tzimiskes presented himself as a liberator but BorisII was promptly forced to ritually abdicate in Constantinople. Although at the time the Byzantines controlled only the eastern regions of the country, Bulgaria was proclaimed a Byzantine province. The lands to the west of the
Iskar River The Iskar ( bg, Искър, ; la, Oescus) is a right tributary of the Danube. With a length of 368 km it is the longest river that runs entirely within Bulgaria.Cometopuli The Kometopuli dynasty (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian: , Bulgarian language, Bulgarian; ; Medieval Greek, Byzantine Greek: , ) was the last royal dynasty in the First Bulgarian Empire, ruling from ca. 976 until the fall of Bulgaria under Byzant ...
brothers. By 976, the youngest of them,
Samuel Samuel ''Šəmūʾēl'', Tiberian Hebrew, Tiberian: ''Šămūʾēl''; ar, شموئيل or صموئيل '; el, Σαμουήλ ''Samouḗl''; la, Samūēl is a figure who, in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible, plays a key role in the transit ...
, concentrated all power in his hands following the death of his elder siblings. When in 976 the rightful heir to the throne, BorisII's brother
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter ...
(r.971–997), escaped from captivity in Constantinople, he was recognized as Emperor by Samuel, who remained the chief commander of the Bulgarian army. Peace was impossible; as a result of the symbolic ending of the Bulgarian Empire following BorisII's abdication, Roman, and later Samuel, were seen as rebels and the Byzantine Emperor was bound to enforce the imperial sovereignty over them. This led to more than
40 years ''40 Years'' is an album by The Dubliners, released in 2002 in music, 2002. To celebrate 40 years together, the band recorded an album and undertook a European tour. Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann (musician), Jim McCann rejoined the group on both th ...
of increasingly bitter warfare. A capable general and good politician, at first Samuel managed to turn the fortunes to the Bulgarians. The new Byzantine Emperor
Basil II Basil II Porphyrogenitus ( gr, Βασίλειος Πορφυρογέννητος ;) and, most often, the Purple-born ( gr, ὁ πορφυρογέννητος, translit=ho porphyrogennetos).. 958 – 15 December 1025), nicknamed the Bulgar ...
was decisively defeated in the
Battle of the Gates of Trajan The Battle of the Gates of Trajan ( bg, Битка край Траянови врати, grc-x-byzant, Μάχη στις Πύλες του Τραϊανού) was a battle between Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the E ...
in 986 and barely escaped with his life. The Byzantine poet John Geometres wrote of the defeat: Immediately after the victory Samuel pushed east and recovered north-eastern Bulgaria, along with the old capitals, Pliska and Preslav. In the next ten years the Bulgarian armies expanded the country south annexing the whole of
Thessaly Thessaly ( el, Θεσσαλία, translit=Thessalía, ; ancient Aeolic Greek#Thessalian, Thessalian: , ) is a traditional geographic regions of Greece, geographic and modern administrative regions of Greece, administrative region of Greece, co ...
and
Epirus sq, Epiri rup, Epiru , native_name_lang = , settlement_type = Historical region , image_map = Epirus antiquus tabula.jpg , map_alt = , map_caption = Map of ancient Epirus by Heinrich ...
and plundering the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmu ...
Peninsula. With the major Bulgarian military successes and the defection of a number of Byzantine officials to the Bulgarians, the prospect of the Byzantines losing all their Balkan themes was quite real. Threatened by an alliance between the Byzantines and the Serbian state of
Duklja Duklja ( sh-Cyrl, Дукља; el, Διόκλεια, Diokleia; la, Dioclea) was a medieval South Slavic state which roughly encompassed the territories of modern-day southeastern Montenegro, from the Bay of Kotor in the west to the Bojana (ri ...
, in 997 Samuel defeated and captured its Prince
Jovan Vladimir Jovan Vladimir or John Vladimir ( sr-cyr, Јован Владимир; c. 990 – 22 May 1016) was the ruler of Duklja, the most powerful Serbs, Serbian principality of the time, from around 1000 to 1016. He ruled during the protracted war be ...
and took control of the Serb lands. In 997, following the death of Roman, the last heir of the Krum's dynasty, Samuel was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria. He established friendly relations with
Stephen I of Hungary Stephen I, also known as King Saint Stephen ( hu, Szent István király ; la, Sanctus Stephanus; sk, Štefan I. or Štefan Veľký; 975 – 15 August 1038), was the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians between 997 and 1000 or 1001, and the f ...
through a marriage between his son and heir Gavril Radomir and Stephen's daughter but eventually Gavril Radomir expelled his wife and in 1004 Hungary participated with the Byzantine forces against Bulgaria. After 1000 the tides of the war turned in favor of the Byzantines under the personal leadership of BasilII, who launched annual campaigns of methodical conquest of the Bulgarian cities and strongholds that were sometimes carried out in all twelve months of the year instead of the usual short campaigning of the epoch with the troops returning home to winter. In 1001 they seized Pliska and Preslav in the east, in 1003 a major offensive along the Danube resulted in the fall of Vidin after an eight-month siege, and in 1004 BasilII defeated Samuel in the battle of Skopje and took possession of the city. This war of attrition dragged on for a decade until 1014, when the Bulgarians were decisively defeated at Kleidion. Some 14,000 Bulgarians were captured; it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the remaining hundredth man left with one eye so as to lead his compatriots home, earning BasilII the moniker "Bulgaroktonos", the Bulgar Killer. When they arrived in Samuel's residence in
Prespa Prespa ( mk, Преспа, sq, Prespa, el, Πρέσπα) is a region shared between North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia before February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a coun ...
, the Bulgarian Emperor suffered a heart attack at the grisly sight and died two days later, on 6 October. Resistance continued for four more years under Gavril Radomir (r.1014–1015) and Ivan Vladislav (r.1015–1018) but after the demise of the latter during the siege of Dyrrhachium the nobility surrendered to BasilII and Bulgaria was annexed by the Byzantine Empire. The Bulgarian aristocracy kept its privileges, although many noblemen were transferred to
Asia Minor Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
, thus depriving the Bulgarians of their natural leaders. Although the Bulgarian Patriarchate was demoted to an
archbishopric In church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a relig ...
it retained its sees and enjoyed a privileged autonomy. Despite several major attempts at restoring its independence, Bulgaria remained under Byzantine rule until the brothers Asen and Peter liberated the country in 1185, establishing the
Second Bulgarian Empire The Second Bulgarian Empire (; ) was a medieval Bulgarians, 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 of Bulgaria, Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II ...
.


Government

The First Bulgarian Empire was a hereditary monarchy. The monarch was the commander-in-chief of the
armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinc ...
, a judge, and a high priest during the pagan period. He guided the external policy of the country and could conclude treaties personally or through authorised emissaries. In the pagan period the title of the ruler was Khan. After 864 Boris I adopted the Slavic
Knyaz , or (Old Church Slavonic: wiktionary:кнѧзь, Кнѧзь) is a historical Slavic languages, Slavic title, used both as a royal and noble title in different times of history and different ancient Slavic lands. It is usually translated i ...
(Prince), and since 913 the Bulgarian monarchs were recognised as
Tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a title used by East Slavs, East and South Slavs, South Slavic monarchs. The term is derived from the Latin word ''Caesar (title), caesar'', which was intended to mean "emperor" i ...
s (Emperors). The authority of the Khan was limited by the leading noble families and the People's Council. The People's Council included the nobility and the "armed people" was gathered to discuss issues of crucial importance for the state. A People's Council in 766 dethroned Khan Sabin because he was seeking peace with the Byzantines. According to the old Bulgarian tradition the Khan was first among equals, which was among the reasons why Boris I decided to convert to Christianity, as Christian monarchs ruled by the grace of God. However, the divinity of the Bulgarian ruler, as well as his superiority over the Byzantine Emperor, were already asserted by Khan Omurtag (r.814–831), as stated in the Chatalar Inscription: The second most important post in Bulgaria after the monarch was the ''
kavhan The ''kavkhan'' ( grc-x-byzant, καυχάνος; bg, кавха̀н) was one of the most important officials in the First Bulgarian Empire The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, блъгарьско цѣсарьствиѥ, blagarysko tsesarystvi ...
'', monopolised by the members of the tentatively known "Kavhan family". The ''kavhan'' had broad powers and commanded the left wing of the army, and at times the whole army. He could be a co-ruler or a regent during the minority of the monarch; the sources mention that Khan Malamir "ruled together with ''kavhan''
Isbul Isbul ( bg, Исбул) ( fl. 820s–830s) was the ''kavhan The ''kavkhan'' ( grc-x-byzant, καυχάνος; bg, кавха̀н) was one of the most important officials in the First Bulgarian Empire The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, б ...
" (fl. 820s–830s) and ''kavhan'' Dometian is noted as an associate n the governmentof Gavril Radomir (r. 1014–1015). The third highest-ranking official was the ''
ichirgu-boil The Ichirgu-boila Boila (History of the Bulgarian language, Old Bulgarian: ; bg, боила; el, βοιλα; otk, 𐰉𐰆𐰖𐰞𐰀, Boyla) was a title worn by some of the Bulgars, Bulgar and Göktürks, Göktürk aristocrats (mostly of regi ...
a'', who commanded the right wing of the army at war and might have had the role of a foreign minister. Under his direct command were 1,300 soldiers. Historian Veselin Beshevliev assumes that the post might have been created under the reign of Khan Krum (r. 803–814), or earlier, in order to limit the power of the ''kavhan''. Although initially the Bulgarians did not have their own writing system, the presence of numerous stone inscriptions, mainly in Greek, indicate the existence of a chancellery to the Khan that was probably organised in the Byzantine manner. Part of the chancellery's staff might have been Greeks and even monks, despite the fact that the country was still pagan.


Social classes

According to an inscription dated from the reign of Khan Malamir (r.831–836) there were three classes in pagan Bulgaria, and ''Bulgarians'', i.e. the common people. The nobility were initially known as the ''
boila Boila (History of the Bulgarian language, Old Bulgarian: ; bg, боила; el, βοιλα; otk, 𐰉𐰆𐰖𐰞𐰀, Boyla) was a title worn by some of the Bulgars, Bulgar and Göktürks, Göktürk aristocrats (mostly of regional governors and ...
'' but after the 10th century the word was transformed to '' bolyar'', which was eventually adopted in many countries in
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is a subregion of the Europe, European continent. As a largely ambiguous term, it has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic connotations. The vast majority of the region is covered by Russ ...
. Each ''boila'' clan had its own totem and was believed to have been divinely established, hence their staunch opposition to Christianity, which was seen as a threat to their privileges. Many of the clans had ancient origin that could be traced back to the time when the Bulgars inhabited the steppes to the north and east of the Black Sea. The '' Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans'' mentions monarchs of three clans that ruled Bulgaria until 766Dulo, Vokil and Ugain. The power of the principal noble families was greatly crippled in the aftermath of the anti-Christian rebellion of 866, when BorisI executed 52 leading ''boilas'' along with their families. The ''boila'' were divided into inner and outer boilas and it was among their ranks that the holders of the highest military and administrative posts were selected. Most likely the ''outer boilas'' resided outside the capital, while the inner ones were member of the court under the direct influence of the monarch. The were the second-ranking aristocratic class and were divided into numerous sub-ranks. The presence of two separate classes of nobility is further confirmed in the (Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgarians), where BorisI wrote about ''primates'' and . Another privileged group were the ''
tarkhan Tarkhan ( otk, 𐱃𐰺𐰴𐰣, Tarqan, mn, or ; fa, ترخان; ; ar , طرخان; alternative spellings ''Tarkan'', ''Tarkhaan'', ''Tarqan'', ''Tarchan'', ''Turxan'', ''Tarcan'', ''Turgan, Tárkány, Tarján'') is an ancient Central Asia ...
s'', although from the surviving inscriptions it is impossible to determine whether they belonged to the or to the , or were a separate class. The original Bulgar titles and many of the institutions from the pagan era were preserved after the Christianisation of Bulgaria until the very fall of the First Empire. The beginning of the 9th century was marked with a process of incorporation of both Slavs and Byzantine Greeks in the ranks of the Bulgarian nobility and privileged classes, which increased the power of the monarch that had been previously curtailed by the leading Bulgar aristocratic families. Since that time certain Slavic titles became more prominent, such as ''
župan Župan is a noble and administrative title used in several states in Central Europe, Central and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe between the 7th century and the 21st century. It was (and in Croatia still is) the leader of the administrative ...
'', and some of them mingled forming titles like ''župan tarkhan''. The peasants lived in rural communities known as '' zadruga'' and had collective responsibility. The majority of the peasantry were personally free under the direct rule of the central administration and the legislation introduced following the adoption of Christianity regulated their relations. The number of personally dependent peasants bound to nobility or ecclesiastical estates increased since the 10th century.


Administration

Due to the limited remaining sources it is very difficult to reconstruct the administrative evolution and division of the country. Initially the Slavic tribes retained their autonomy but since the beginning of the 9th century commenced a process of centralisation. As Bulgaria's territory steadily expanded, measures against tribal autonomy were deemed necessary in order to achieve more effective control and to prevent separatism. When in the 820s some Slavic tribes in western Bulgaria, the Timochani, Branichevtsi and Abodriti sought overlordship from the Franks, Khan Omurtag replaced their chieftains with his own governors. The country was divided into '' comitati'', governed by a ''comita'', although this term was used by Western European chroniclers, who wrote in Latin. It is likely that the Bulgarians used the term ''земя'' (''zemya'', meaning "land"), as mentioned in the Court Law for the People. Their number is unknown, but the Archbishop of Reims
Hincmar Hincmar (; ; la, Hincmarus; 806 – 21 December 882), archbishop of Reims, was a Frankish jurist and theologian, as well as the friend, advisor and propagandist of Charles the Bald. He belonged to a noble family of northern Francia. Biography Ea ...
mentioned that the 866 rebellion against Boris I was headed by the nobility of the 10 ''comitati''. They were further divided into '' župi'', that in turn consisted of ''zadrugi''. The ''comita'' was appointed by the monarch, and was assisted by a ''tarkhan''. The former had many civil and administrative functions, while the latter was responsible for military affairs. One of the few ''comitati'' known by name was
Kutmichevitsa Kutmichevitsa ( bg, Кутмичевица) was an administrative region of the Bulgarian Empire In the medieval history of Europe, Bulgaria's status as the Bulgarian Empire ( bg, Българско царство, ''Balgarsko tsarstvo'' ) occ ...
in south-western Bulgaria, corresponding to modern western Macedonia, southern Albania and north-western Greece.


Legislation

The first known written Bulgarian
law code A code of law, also called a law code or legal code, is a systematic collection of statutes. It is a type of legislation that purports to exhaustively cover a complete system of laws or a particular area of law as it existed at the time the cod ...
was issued by Khan Krum at a People's Council in the very beginning of the 9th century but the text has not survived in its entirety and only certain items have been preserved in the 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia ''
Suda The ''Suda'' or ''Souda'' (; grc-x-medieval, Σοῦδα, Soûda; la, Suidae Lexicon) is a large 10th-century Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman ...
''. It prescribed the death penalty for false oaths and accusations and severe penalties for thieves and those who gave them shelter. The ''Suda'' also mentioned that the laws foresaw the uprooting of all vineyards as a measure against drunkenness but this claim is refuted in the contemporary sources, which indicate that, after capturing Pliska in 811, the Byzantine Emperor NicephorusI found large quantities of wine, and after the final Bulgarian victory Krum drank wine in the Emperor's skull. Krum's legal code is seen by many historians as an attempt to centralise the state and to homogenize society by putting the different elements under a single code of laws. However, since the text is not preserved its precise aims remain unknown. After the conversion to Christianity BorisI was concerned with the legal matters and asked
Pope Nicholas I Pope Nicholas I ( la, Nicolaus I; c. 800 – 13 November 867), called Nicholas the Great, was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 24 April 858 until his death. He is remembered as a consolidator of papal authority, exerting dec ...
to provide legal texts. Eventually, the ''Законъ соудный людьмъ'' (''Zakon sudnyi ljud'm'', Court Law for the People), was compiled, based heavily on the Byzantine Ecloga and Nomocanon, but adapted to Bulgarian conditions and valid for the whole population of the country. It combined elements of civil, criminal, canon and military law, as well as public and private law, and included substantive norms and procedural guidelines. The Court Law for the People dealt with combating paganism, testimony of witnesses, sexual morality, marital relations, distribution of war booty, etc. To eradicate the residual paganism the law provided that a village that allowed performance of pagan rituals should be transferred in its entirety to the Church, and, should a rich landowner perform them, his lands were to be sold, and the revenue shared among the poor.


Military

After the formation of the Bulgarian state the ruling elite harboured deep distrust towards the Byzantines, against whose perfidy and sudden attacks they had to maintain constant vigilance in all directions. The Byzantine Empire never relinquished its claim over all lands to the south of the Danube and made several attempts to enforce that claim. Throughout the existence of the First Empire Bulgaria could expect Byzantine onslaughts aimed at its destruction. The steppes to the north-east were home to numerous peoples whose unpredictable pillaging raids were also of concern. Therefore, military preparedness was a top priority. Guards always stood on the alert and if anyone was to flee during a watch, the responsible guards are killed without hesitation. Before battle, a "most faithful and prudent man" was sent to inspect all the arms, horses, and materiel, and being ill-prepared or readied in a useless fashion was punishable by death. Capital punishment was also prescribed for riding war horses in peacetime. The Bulgarian army was armed with various types of weapons, the most widely used being
sabre A sabre (French language, French: Help:IPA/French, sabʁ or saber in American English) is a type of backsword with a curved blade associated with the light cavalry of the Early Modern warfare, early modern and Napoleonic period, Napoleon ...
s,
sword A sword is an edged and bladed weapons, edged, bladed weapon intended for manual cutting or thrusting. Its blade, longer than a knife or dagger, is attached to a hilt and can be straight or curved. A thrusting sword tends to have a straighter ...
s,
battle axe A battle axe (also battle-axe, battle ax, or battle-ax) is an axe (tool), axe specifically designed for combat. Battle axes were specialized versions of utility axes. Many were suitable for use in one hand, while others were larger and were dep ...
s,
spear A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with Fire hardening, fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable m ...
s, pikes,
dagger A dagger is a fighting knife with a very sharp point and usually two sharp edges, typically designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon.State v. Martin, 633 S.W.2d 80 (Mo. 1982): This is the dictionary or popular-use def ...
s, arkans, and bows and arrows. The soldiers were often trained to use both spears and bows. The Bulgarians wore helms, mail armor and shields for defence. The helms were usually cone-shaped, while the shields were round and light. The armor was of two types wedge riveted mail consisting of small metal rings linked together, and
scale armour Scale armour (or scale mail) is an early form of armour consisting of many individual small armour scales (plates) of various shapes attached to each other and to a backing of cloth or leather in overlapping rows. Belts were very important for the early Bulgarians and were often decorated with golden, silver, bronze or copper buckles that reflected the illustrious origin of the holder. The most important part of the army was the
heavy cavalry Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry intended to deliver a battlefield charge and also to act as a Military reserve, tactical reserve; they are also often termed ''shock cavalry''. Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the re ...
. In the early 9th century the Bulgarian Khan could muster 30,000 riders "all covered in iron""Scrptor incertus" in ''GIBI'', vol.IV, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia
p. 23
/ref> who were armoured with iron helms and chainmail. The horses too were covered with armour. As the capital, Pliska, was situated in an open plain, the cavalry was essential for its protection. The fortification system of the inner regions of the country was reinforced with several fortified trenches covering huge spaces and supporting the manoeuvrability of the cavalry. The army was well versed in the use of stratagems. A strong cavalry unit was often held in reserve and would attack the enemy at an opportune moment. Free horses would be sometimes concentrated behind the battle formation to avoid surprise attacks from the rear. The Bulgarian army used ambushes and feigned retreats, during which the cavalrymen rode with their backs to the horse, firing clouds of arrows on the enemy. If the enemy pursued disorganized, they would turn back and fiercely attack them. In 918 the Bulgarians took the capital of the Byzantine theme Hellas Thebes without bloodshed after sending five men with axes into the city, who eliminated the guards, broke the hinges of the gates, and opened them to the main forces. The Bulgarians were also able to fight at nighte.g., their victory over the Byzantines in the battle of Katasyrtai. The Bulgarian army was well equipped with
siege engine A siege engine is a machine, device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some are immobile, constructed in place to attack enemy fortifications from a distance, whi ...
s. The Bulgarians employed the services of Byzantine and Arab captives and fugitives to produce siege equipment, such as the engineer Eumathius, who sought refuge with Khan Krum after the capture of Serdica in 809. The 9th century anonymous Byzantine chronicler known as ''Scrptor incertus'' lists the contemporary machinery produced and used by the Bulgarians. These included
catapult A catapult is a ballistics, ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder or other propellants – particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. A catapult uses the sudden release ...
s;
scorpions Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the Order (biology), order Scorpiones. They have eight legs, and are easily recognized by a pair of Chela (organ), grasping pincers and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curv ...
; multi-storey
siege tower A Roman siege tower or breaching tower (or in the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical ...
s with a
battering ram A battering ram is a siege engine that originated in ancient history, ancient times and was designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates. In its simplest form, a battering ram is just a large, hea ...
on the bottom floor; ''testudos''battering rams with metal plating on the top; ''τρίβόλοι''iron tridents placed hidden amidst the battlefield to hinder the enemy cavalry; ladders, etc. Iron-plated wagons were used for transportation. It is known that Khan Krum prepared 5,000 such wagons for his intended siege of Constantinople in 814. Wooden
pontoon bridge A pontoon bridge (or ponton bridge), also known as a floating bridge, uses floats or shallow- draft boats to support a continuous deck for pedestrian and vehicle travel. The buoyancy Buoyancy (), or upthrust, is an upward force exerted b ...
s were also constructed for crossing rivers.


Economy and urbanism

Agriculture was the most important sector of the economy, the development of which was facilitated by the fertile soils of Moesia, Thrace, and partly, Macedonia. The land was divided into "lord's lands" and "village lands". The most widespread cereals were
wheat Wheat is a Poaceae, grass widely Agriculture, cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain that is a worldwide staple food. The Taxonomy of wheat, many species of wheat together make up the genus ''Triticum'' ; the most widely grown is common wheat ...
,
rye Rye (''Secale cereale'') is a grass Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous Family (biology), family of monocotyledonous flowering plants commonly known as grasses. It includes the cereal grasses, bamboos and the gra ...
and
millet Millets () are a highly varied group of small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Most species generally referred to as millets belong to the tribe Paniceae, but some millets also ...
, all of which were staple foods for the populace.
Grape A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry (botany), berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus ''Vitis''. Grapes are a non-Climacteric (botany), climacteric type of fruit, generally occurring in clusters. The cultivation of ...
s were also significant, especially after the 9th century.
Linen Linen () is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is very strong, absorbent, and dries faster than cotton. Because of these properties, linen is comfortable to wear in hot weather and is valued for use in garments. It also h ...
was used for fabrics and cloths that were exported to the Byzantine Empire. Harvests were prone to natural calamities, such as droughts or
locust Locusts (derived from the Vulgar Latin ''locusta'', meaning grasshopper) are various species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae that have a Swarm behaviour, swarming phase. These insects are usually solitary, but under cer ...
s, and there were occasional hunger years. In response to this problem the state maintained reserves of cereals.
Animal husbandry Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, animal fiber, fibre, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long hi ...
was well developed, the main stocks being
cattle Cattle (''Bos taurus'') are large, domestication, domesticated, Cloven hoof, cloven-hooved, herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus ''Bos''. Adult females are referr ...
, oxen, buffalos,
sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species in the genus ''Ovis'', in everyday usage it almost always refers to domesticated sh ...
,
pig The pig (''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or domestic pig when distinguishing from other members of the genus ''Sus (genus), Sus'', is an Omnivore, omnivorous, Domestication, domesticated, even-toed ungulate, even-toed, hoofed ma ...
s and
horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a Domestication, domesticated, odd-toed ungulate, one-toed, ungulate, hoofed mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two Extant taxon, extant subspecies of wild horse, ''Equus fer ...
s. Animal stocks were vital for farming, transport, military, clothing and food. The importance of the meat for the Bulgarian table was demonstrated in the ''Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgarians'', where seven out of 115 questions concerned meat consumption. Small-scale mining was developed in the Balkan Mountains, the
Rhodope Mountains The Rhodopes (; bg, Родопи, ; el, Ροδόπη, ''Rodopi''; tr, Rodoplar) are a mountain range in Southeastern Europe, and the largest by area in Bulgaria, with over 83% of its area in the southern part of the country and the remainder in ...
and some regions of Macedonia. A number of diverse handicrafts thrived in the urban centres and some villages. Preslav had workshops that processed metals (especially gold and silver), stone and wood, and produced ceramics, glass and jewellery. The Bulgarians produced higher-quality tiles than the Byzantines and exported them to the Byzantine Empire and Kievan Rus'. There was large-scale production of bricks in eastern Bulgaria, many of them marked with the symbol "IYI", which is associated with the Bulgarian state, indicating possible state-organised production facilities. After the destruction of the Avar Khaganate in the beginning of the 9th century, Bulgaria controlled the salt mines in Transylvania until they were overrun by the Magyars a century later. The importance of the salt trade was illustrated during the negotiations for alliance between Bulgaria and East Francia in 892 when the Frankish King
Arnulf Arnulf is a masculine German given name. It is composed of the Germanic names, Germanic elements ''arn'' "eagle" and ''ulf'' "wolf". The ''-ulf, -olf'' suffix was an extremely frequent element in Germanic onomastics and from an early time was perc ...
demanded that Bulgaria discontinue the export of salt to Great Moravia. Trade was particularly important to the economy, as Bulgaria lay between the Byzantine Empire, Central Europe, the Rus' and the steppes. Trade relations with the Byzantine Empire were regulated on a most favoured nation basis by treaties that included commercial clauses. The first such treaty was signed in 716 and provided that goods could only be imported or exported when embossed with a state seal. Goods without documents were to be confiscated for the state treasury. The Bulgarian merchants had a colony in Constantinople and paid favourable taxes. The relevance of international trade for Bulgaria was evident, as the country was willing to go to
war War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violenc ...
with the Byzantine Empire when, in 894, the latter moved the market of the Bulgarian traders from Constantinople to Thessaloniki, where they had to pay higher taxes and did not have direct access to goods from the east. In 896 Bulgaria won the war, restoring its status as a most favoured nation and lifting the commercial restrictions. Some Bulgarian towns were very prosperous—e.g., Preslavets on the Danube, described in the 960s as more prosperous than the capital of the Rus',
Kiev Kyiv, also spelled Kiev, is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine. It is in north-central Ukraine along the Dnieper, Dnieper River. As of 1 January 2021, its population was 2,962,180, making Kyiv the List of European cities by populat ...
. A contemporary chronicle lists the main trade partners and chief imports to Bulgaria. The country imported gold, silks, wine and fruits from the Byzantine Empire, silver and horses from Hungary and Bohemia, furs, honey, wax and slaves from the Rus'. There were commercial ties with Italy and the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233: ) is a geopolitical region commonly encompassing Arabian Peninsula, Arabia (including the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain), Anatolia, Asia Minor (Asian part of Turkey except Hatay Pro ...
as well. The First Bulgarian Empire did not mint coins, and taxes were paid in kind. It is not known whether they were based on land or on person, or both. In addition to the taxes the peasantry must have had other obligations, such as building and maintaining infrastructure and defences, as well as providing food and materiel to the army. The Arab writer
Al-Masudi Al-Mas'udi ( ar, أَبُو ٱلْحَسَن عَلِيّ ٱبْن ٱلْحُسَيْن ٱبْن عَلِيّ ٱلْمَسْعُودِيّ, '; –956) was an Historiography of early Islam, Arab historian, geographer and Explorer, traveler. He is ...
noted that instead of money the Bulgarians used cows and sheep to buy goods. The density of the network of towns was high. The economic historian
Paul Bairoch Paul Bairoch (24 July 1930 in Antwerp – 12 February 1999 in Geneva) was a (in 1985 naturalised) Swiss economic history, economic historian of Belgian descent who specialized in urban history and historical demography. He published or co-authored ...
estimated that in 800 Pliska had 30,000 inhabitants and, by c. 950, Preslav had some 60,000, making it the largest city in non-Muslim Europe, save Constantinople. In comparison, the largest cities in contemporary France and Italy did not reach 30,000 and 50,000 respectively. Alongside the two capitals existed other prominent urban centres, making Bulgaria the most urbanised region in Christian Europe at the time along with Italy. According to contemporary chronicles there were 80 towns in the region of the lower Danube alone. Surviving sources list more than 100 settlements in the western part of the Empire, where the Bulgarian Orthodox Church possessed properties. The larger urban centres consisted of an inner and an outer town. The inner town would be encircled with stone walls and had administrative and defence functions, while the outer town, usually unprotected, was the centre of economic activities with markets, workshops, vineyards, gardens and dwellings for the populace. However, as elsewhere in the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages (or early medieval period), sometimes controversially referred to as the Dark Ages (historiography), Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They ...
, the country remained predominantly rural.


Religion


Pagan Bulgaria

For almost two centuries after its creation, the Bulgarian state remained pagan. The Bulgars and the Slavs continued to practice their indigenous religions. The Bulgar religion was monotheistic, linked to the cult to Tangra, the God of the Sky. The worship of Tangra is proven by an inscription that reads "Kanasubigi Omurtag, a divine ruler ... performed sacrifice to God Tangra". The ruling Khan had an important place in the religious life: he was the high priest and performed rituals. A large sanctuary dedicated to the cult of Tangra existed near the modern village of Madara. The Bulgars practised
shamanism Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a Spirit world (Spiritualism), spirit world through Altered state of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, such as tranc ...
, believed in magic and charms, and performed various rituals. Some of the rituals were described by the Byzantines after the "most Christian" ruler Leo V had to pour out water on the ground from a cup, personally turn round horse saddles, touch triple bridle, lift grass high above the ground and cut up dogs as witnesses during the ceremony of the signing of the Byzantine–Bulgarian Treaty of 815. The pouring of water was a reminder that if the oath is broken, blood would pour out. In the same sense can be explained the turning of the saddlea warning that the violator would not be able to ride or would fall dead from his horse during battle. The triple bridle symbolised the toughness of the agreement and the lifting of grass reminded that no grass would remain in the enemy country if the peace was broken. The sacrifice of dogs was a common custom among the Turkic peoples which further strengthened the treaty. The Slavs worshiped numerous deities. The supreme god was
Perun In Slavic mythology Slavic mythology or Slavic religion is the Religion, religious beliefs, myths, and ritual practices of the Slavs before Christianisation of the Slavs, Christianisation, which occurred at various stages between the 8th a ...
, the god of thunder and lightning. Perun was the only god mentioned (though not by name) by the first authoritative reference to the
Slavic mythology Slavic mythology or Slavic religion is the Religion, religious beliefs, myths, and ritual practices of the Slavs before Christianisation of the Slavs, Christianisation, which occurred at various stages between the 8th and the 13th century. The So ...
in written history, the 6th-century Byzantine historian
Procopius Procopius of Caesarea ( grc-gre, Προκόπιος ὁ Καισαρεύς ''Prokópios ho Kaisareús''; la, Procopius Caesariensis; – after 565) was a prominent late antique Greek scholar from Caesarea Maritima. Accompanying the Roman ge ...
, who described the Slavs that settled south of the Danube. Procopius noted that they also worshipped rivers and believed in
nymph A nymph ( grc, νύμφη, nýmphē, el, script=Latn, nímfi, label=Modern Greek; , ) in ancient Greek folklore is a minor female nature deity. Different from Greeks, Greek goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as personifications of nature, ...
s. A number of mythological beings from the Slavic pantheon have persisted in Bulgarian folklore to the present, such as , , , ,
slavic dragon A Slavic dragon is any dragon A dragon is a reptile, reptilian legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Beliefs about dragons vary considerably through regions, but European dragon, dragons in western cultur ...
s, etc. During sacrifices the Slavs performed
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms throughout history ...
s. After the adoption of Christianity the worship of Perun merged with the cult of Saint
Elijah Elijah ( ; he, אֵלִיָּהוּ, ʾĒlīyyāhū, meaning "My God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxfo ...
. Christianity was practised in Bulgaria throughout the whole pagan period. Its dissemination among the populace increased as a result of the successful wars of Khan Krum in the beginning of the 9th century. Krum employed many Byzantine ChristiansGreeks, Armenians and Slavsin his military and administration; some of them served as deputies of the ''kavhan'' and the ''ichirgu-boila''. Tens of thousands Byzantines were resettled across Bulgaria, mainly beyond the Danube River to protect the north-eastern borders, so that they could face non-Byzantines. Many of them, however, maintained clandestine links with the Byzantine court which fuelled the traditional distrust of the Bulgarian elite and resulted in a large-scale persecution of Christianity under the Khans Omurtag and Malamir. Omurtag and the nobility saw the Christians as Byzantine agents and felt that this religion, with its hierarchy based in Byzantium, was a threat to Bulgarian independence. There were some executions, including two of the five ''strategoi'' who served under Krum, Leo and John, the metropolitan of Adrianople, the bishop of Debeltos, etc. The list of the martyred Christians included Bulgar (Asfer, Kuberg) and Slav names. The dismissive attitude of the Christians towards the pagans was insulting to the Bulgarian elite. In a conversation with a Byzantine Christian, Omurtag told him: "Do not humiliate our gods, for their power is great. As a proof, we who worship them, have conquered the whole Roman state". Yet, despite all measures, Christianity continued to spread, reaching the members of the Khan's own family. Omurtag's eldest son Enravota, seen as pro-Christian, was disinherited and eventually converted to Christianity. After refusing to renounce his faith, he was executed by orders of his brother Malamir c. 833 and became the first Bulgarian saint. The attitude of the Bulgarian rulers to Christianity is seen in the Philippi Inscription of Khan Presian:


Christianization

By 863 Presian's successor Khan BorisI had decided to accept Christianity. The sources do not mention the reasons behind this decision but there were several political rationales that he had considered. As Christianity was spreading further into Europe in the 9th century the pagan countries found themselves encircled by Christian powers which could use religion as an acceptable excuse for aggression. Conversion, on the other hand, would establish the country as an equal international partner. There is evidence that Bulgaria had contacts with the Muslim world as welleither directly or through
Volga Bulgaria Volga Bulgaria or Volga–Kama Bulgaria, was a historic Bulgar state that existed between the 7th and 13th centuries around the confluence of the Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of ...
, which had adopted
Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God in Islam, God (or ''Allah'') as it was revealed to Muh ...
at about the same timebut Bulgaria was too far away from any Muslim country that could be of political benefit, and a large part of the population had already converted to Christianity. Furthermore, the Christian doctrine would cement the monarch's position high above the nobility as an autocrat, being ruler "by the grace of God" and God's representative on Earth. Moreover, Christianity presented excellent opportunity to firmly consolidate both Bulgars and Slavs as a single Bulgarian people under a common religion. In 863 BorisI sought a mission from
East Francia East Francia (Medieval Latin: ) or the Kingdom of the East Franks () was a successor state of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire, empire ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided t ...
rather than from the Byzantine Empire. He had an alliance with the Eastern Franks since 860 and was aware that the larger distance between the two countries was an obstacle for them to yield direct influence on the future Bulgarian Church. He was fully aware that as a neighbour Byzantium would try to interfere with Bulgarian matters. Indeed, the Byzantine Empire was determined to place the Bulgarian Church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople because it hoped it could serve as leverage to influence Bulgarian policies, and to prevent Bulgaria from becoming a military tool of the Papacy to enforce the Pope's wishes on the Empire. Upon learning about BorisI's intentions the Byzantine Emperor
Michael III Michael III ( grc-gre, Μιχαήλ; 9 January 840 – 24 September 867), also known as Michael the Drunkard, was Byzantine Emperor from 842 to 867. Michael III was the third and traditionally last member of the Amorian dynasty, Amorian (or Phr ...
invaded Bulgaria. At the time the Bulgarian army was engaged in warfare against Great Moravia to the north-east and BorisI agreed to negotiate. The Byzantines' only demand was that BorisI adopt Orthodox Christianity and to accept Byzantine clergy to evangelise the population. Boris I conceded and was baptised in 864, taking the name of his godfather, Emperor Michael. The highest posts in the newly established Bulgarian Church were held by Byzantines who preached in Greek. Aware of the dangers that the spiritual dependency on the Byzantine Empire could pose for Bulgaria's independence, BorisI was determined to ensure the autonomy of the Bulgarian Church under a Patriarch. Since the Byzantines were reluctant to grant any concessions Boris I took advantage on the ongoing rivalry between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Papacy in Rome in order to prevent either of them from exerting religious influence on his lands. In 866 he sent a delegation to
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg ...
under the high-ranking official Peter declaring his desire to accept Christianity in accordance with the Western rites along with 115 questions to
Pope Nicholas I Pope Nicholas I ( la, Nicolaus I; c. 800 – 13 November 867), called Nicholas the Great, was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 24 April 858 until his death. He is remembered as a consolidator of papal authority, exerting dec ...
. The Pope's detailed answers to BorisI's questions were delivered by two bishops heading a mission to facilitate the conversion of the Bulgarian people. However, neither NicolasI nor his successor
Adrian II Pope Adrian II ( la, Adrianus II; also Hadrian II; 79214 December 872) was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 867 to his death. He continued the policy of his predecessor, Pope Nicholas I, Nicholas I. Despite seeking good rela ...
agreed to recognize an autonomous Bulgarian Church, which cooled the relations between the two sides. Bulgaria's shift towards Rome on the other hand, made the Byzantines much more conciliatory. In 870, at the Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Bulgarian Church was recognized as an
autocephalous Autocephaly (; from el, αὐτοκεφαλία, meaning "property of being self-headed") is the status of a hierarchical A hierarchy (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, name ...
Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptized members. It operates as a Communion (Christ ...
under the supreme direction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The adoption of Christianity was met with opposition by large numbers of the nobility. In 866 BorisI faced a major rebellion of the ''boila'' from all parts of the country. The insurgency was crushed and 52 leading ''boilas'' were executed along with their whole kin. After BorisI abdicated in 889 his successor and eldest son Vladimir (r.889–893) attempted to restore paganism but his father took arms against him and had him deposed and blinded.


Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Around 870 the Bulgarian Church became an autonomous archbishopric. The decree of autonomy under the nominal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Constantinople was far greater than could possibly have been achieved under the Papacy. Following the Fourth Council of Constantinople the Byzantine clergy was re-admitted to Bulgaria and allowed to preach in Greek. However, as a result of the
Council of Preslav The People's Council of Preslav ( bg, Преславски народен събор) took place in 893. It was among the most important events in the history of the First Bulgarian Empire and was a cornerstone of the Christianization of Bulgaria un ...
in 893 Old Bulgarian was declared the official language of the state and the Church and the Greek-speaking Byzantine priests once again had to leave the country. Thus, from that point, the church was entirely staffed by Bulgarians. BorisI's successor SimeonI was not content to leave the Bulgarian Church as an archbishopric and was determined to raise it to a patriarchate, in light of his own ambition to become an emperor. He was well acquainted with the Byzantine imperial tradition that the autocrat must have a patriarch and there could be no empire without one. In the aftermath of his remarkable triumph over the Byzantines in the battle of Achelous, in 918 he convened a council and elevated Archbishop Leontius to patriarch. The decisions of that council were not recognized by the Byzantines but as a result of the Bulgarian victory in the war they eventually recognized Leontius' successor
Demetrius Demetrius is the Latinization of names, Latinized form of the Ancient Greek male name, male Greek given names, given name ''Dēmḗtrios'' (), meaning “Demetris” - "devoted to goddess Demeter". Alternate forms include Demetrios, Dimitrios, ...
as Patriarch of Bulgaria in 927. It was the first Patriarchate officially accepted, apart from the ancient
Pentarchy Pentarchy (from the Ancient Greek, Greek , ''Pentarchía'', from πέντε ''pénte'', "five", and ἄρχειν ''archein'', "to rule") is a model of Church organization formulated in the laws of Emperor Justinian I (527–565) of the Roman ...
. It is likely that the seat of the Patriarchate was in the city of Drastar on the Danube River rather than in the capital Preslav. In the late 10th century the Bulgarian Patriarchate included the following dioceses:
Ohrid Ohrid ( mk, Охрид ) is a city in North Macedonia and is the seat of the Ohrid Municipality. It is the largest city on Lake Ohrid and the List of cities in North Macedonia, eighth-largest city in the country, with the municipality recording ...
, Kostur, Glavinitsa (in modern southern Albania), Maglen,
Pelagonia Pelagonia ( mk, Пелагонија, Pelagonija; el, Πελαγονíα, Pelagonía) is a geographical region of Macedonia named after the ancient kingdom. Ancient Pelagonia roughly corresponded to the present-day municipalities of Bitola Bi ...
,
Strumitsa Strumica ( mk, Струмица, ) is the largest city2002 census results
in English and Macedon ...
, Morovizd (in modern northern Greece), Velbazhd,
Serdica Serdika or Serdica (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian: ) is the historical Roman Empire, Roman name of Sofia, now the capital of Bulgaria. Currently, Serdika is the name of a district located in the city. It includes four neighbourhoods: "Fondovi zh ...
, Braničevo,
Niš Niš (; sr-Cyrl, Ниш, ; names of European cities in different languages (M–P)#N, names in other languages) is the list of cities in Serbia, third largest city in Serbia and the administrative center of the Nišava District. It is locate ...
,
Belgrade Belgrade ( , ;, ; names in other languages) is the capital and largest city in Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian language, Serbian: , , ), officially the Republic of Serbia (Serbian language, Serbian: , , ), is a landlocked country in So ...
,
Srem Syrmia ( sh, Srem/Срем or sh, Srijem/Сријем, label=none) is a region of the southern Pannonian Plain, which lies between the Danube and Sava rivers. It is divided between Serbia and Croatia. Most of the region is flat, with the exce ...
,
Skopje Skopje ( , , ; mk, Скопје ; sq, Shkup) is the capital and List of cities in North Macedonia by population, largest city of North Macedonia. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic centre. The territory of Sk ...
,
Prizren ) , settlement_type = Municipalities of Kosovo, Municipality and List of cities and towns in Kosovo, city , image_skyline = Prizren Collage.jpg , imagesize = 290px , image_caption = View of Prizre ...
,
Lipljan Lipjan ( sq-definite, Lipjani) or Lipljan ( sr-Cyrl, Липљан) is a List of cities in Kosovo, town and Municipalities of Kosovo, municipality located in the District of Pristina, Pristina District of Kosovo. According to the 2011 census, the ...
, Servia, Drastar, Voden, Ras, Chernik, Himara, Drinopol,
Butrint Butrint ( el, Βουθρωτόν and Βουθρωτός, ''Bouthrōtón'', la, Buthrōtum) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world fr ...
, Yanina,
Petra Petra ( ar, ٱلْبَتْرَاء, Al-Batrāʾ; grc, Πέτρα, "Rock", Nabataean Aramaic, Nabataean: ), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu or Raqēmō, is an historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. It is adjacent to t ...
and
Stag Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family (biology), family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, inclu ...
. After the fall of the eastern parts of the empire under Byzantine occupation in 971 the seat of the Patriarchate was relocated to
Ohrid Ohrid ( mk, Охрид ) is a city in North Macedonia and is the seat of the Ohrid Municipality. It is the largest city on Lake Ohrid and the List of cities in North Macedonia, eighth-largest city in the country, with the municipality recording ...
in the west. With the final conquest of Bulgaria in 1018 the Patriarchate was demoted to an
archbishopric In church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a relig ...
but retained many privileges. It kept control of all existing episcopal sees, the seat remained in Ohrid and its titular, the Bulgarian
John of Debar John of Debar ( bg, Йоан Дебърски; floruit, fl. 1018–1037) was an 11th-century Bulgarians, Bulgarian clergyman. He was a bishop under Samuel of Bulgaria, Emperor Samuel of Bulgaria. According to Srđan Pirivatrić he became the last Bu ...
, kept his office. Furthermore, the Bulgarian archbishopric was given a special positionit was placed directly under the emperor rather than under the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Monasticism Monasticism (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following perio ...
grew steadily and the monasteries quickly became major landowners with a large population of peasants living on their estates. It developed further under the reign of Emperor Peter I, accompanied by the augmentation of their properties. Many high-ranking nobles and members of the ruling family tonsured and died as monks, including Boris I, his brother Doks, Peter I, the ''ichirgu-boila'' Mostich, etc. The growing opulence of monastic life led to an increase of asceticism among more pious monks. One of them,
John of Rila Saint John of Rila, a.k.a. Ivan of Rila (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian: Свети преподобни Йоан Рилски Чудотворец, Svеti prеpodobni Yoan Rilski Chudotvorеts; English language, English: Saint (monk) John of Rila ...
, became a hermit in the
Rila Rila ( bg, Рила, ) is the highest mountain range of Bulgaria, the Balkans, Balkan Peninsula and Southeast Europe. It is situated in southwestern Bulgaria and forms part of the Rila–Rhodope Mountains, Rhodope Massif. The highest summit is Mus ...
Mountains and his virtues soon attracted a number of followers, who founded the renowned
Rila Monastery The Monastery of Saint John of Rila, also known as Rila Monastery "Sveti Ivan Rilski" ( bg, Рилски манастир „Свети Иван Рилски“), is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulg ...
after his death. He preached about living in harmony and stressed the value of manual labour and the need the monks never to aspire to riches and power. John of Rila was revered as a saint while he was still alive and eventually became patron of the Bulgarian people. In the 10th century Bulgarian clerics established connections with the emerging Christian communities in the Rus'. Bulgaria seems to had been an established centre from where the small number of Ruthenian Christians obtained clergy and liturgical texts. As a result of the Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria many of his soldiers were influenced by Christianity and maintained that interest after their return. The connections between Bulgarians and
Ruthenians Ruthenian and Ruthene are exonyms of Latin language, Latin origin, formerly used in Eastern and Central Europe as common ethnonyms for East Slavs, particularly during the late medieval and early modern periods. The Latin term Rutheni was used in ...
must be considered an important background to the official conversion to Christianity of Kievan Rus' in 988.


Bogomilism

During the reign of Emperor PeterI (r.927–969) a
heretical Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religi ...
movement known as
Bogomilism Bogomilism (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian and Macedonian language, Macedonian: ; sh-Latn-Cyrl, separator=" / ", bogumilstvo, богумилство) was a Christian Gnosticism, Christian neo-Gnostic or Dualistic cosmology, dualist sect founded ...
arose in Bulgaria. The heresy was named after its founder the priest
Bogomil Bogomilism (Bulgarian language, Bulgarian and Macedonian language, Macedonian: ; sh-Latn-Cyrl, separator=" / ", bogumilstvo, богумилство) was a Christian Gnosticism, Christian neo-Gnostic or Dualistic cosmology, dualist sect founded ...
whose name can be translated as dear (''mil'') to God (''Bog''). The main sources about Bogomilism in Bulgaria come from a letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch Theophylact of Constantinople to Peter I (c.940), a treatise by Cosmas the Priest (c.970) and the anti-Bogomil council of Emperor
Boril of Bulgaria Boril ( bg, Борил) was the emperor (tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a title used by East Slavs, East and South Slavs, South Slavic monarchs. The term is derived from the Latin word ''Caesar (titl ...
(1211). Bogomilism was a neo-Gnostic and dualist sect that believed that God had two sons,
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew/Aramaic ( AD 30 or 33), also referred to as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth (among other Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament, names and titles), was ...
and
Satan Satan,, ; grc, ὁ σατανᾶς or , ; ar, شيطانالخَنَّاس , also known as Devil in Christianity, the Devil, and sometimes also called Lucifer in Christianity, is an non-physical entity, entity in the Abrahamic religions ...
, that represented the two principles
good and evil In religion, ethics, philosophy, and psychology "good and evil" is a very common dichotomy. In cultures with Manichaeism, Manichaean and Abrahamic religious influence, evil is perceived as the dualistic cosmology, dualistic antagonistic oppos ...
. God had created light and the invisible world, while Satan rebelled and created darkness, the material world and man. Therefore, they rejected marriage, reproduction, the Church, the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;
, the Cross, etc. The Bogomils were divided into several categories, led by the ''perfecti'' (the perfect ones) that never married, consumed no meat and wine and preached the gospel. Women too could become ''perfecti''. The other two categories were the ''believers'', who had to adopt and follow most of the Bogomil moral ethics, and the ''listeners'', who were not required to change their lifestyle. The Bogomils were described by Cosmas as looking docile, modest and silent from the outside, but being hypocrites and ravenous wolves in the inside. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church condemned the teachings of Bogomilism. Members of the sect were persecuted by the state authorities as well; the Bogomils preached civil disobedience because they considered the state—as with anything earthly—to be linked with Satan. The sect could not be eradicated and from Bulgaria it eventually spread to the rest of the Balkans, the Byzantine Empire, southern France and northern Italy. In certain regions of Western Europe the heresy flourished under different names
Cathars Catharism (; from the grc, καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure ones") was a Christian Dualistic cosmology, dualist or Gnosticism, Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries which thrived in Southern Europe, particularly in northern ...
, Albigensians, Patarinsuntil the 14th century.


Formation of Bulgarian nationality

The Bulgarian state existed before the formation of the Bulgarian
people A person (plural, : people) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownership of pr ...
. Prior to the establishment of the Bulgarian state the Slavs had mingled with the native Thracian population. The population and the density of the settlements increased after 681 and the differences among the individual Slavic tribes gradually disappeared as communications became regular among the regions of the country. By the second half of the 9th century,
Bulgars The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic peoples, Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga region during the 7th century. They became ...
and
Slavs Slavs are the largest European ethnolinguistic group. They speak the various Slavic languages, belonging to the larger Balto-Slavic language, Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Slavs are geographically distributed throughout ...
, and
romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of text from a different writing system to the Latin script, Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so. Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing writ ...
or hellenized
Thracians The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe in ancient history.. ...
had lived together for almost two centuries and the numerous Slavs were well on the way to assimilating the Thracians and the Bulgars. Many Bulgars had already started to use the Slavic
Old Bulgarian Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
language while the
Bulgar language Bulgar (also known as Bulghar, Bolgar, or Bolghar) is an extinct Oghuric languages, Oghur Turkic language spoken by the Bulgars. The name is derived from the Bulgars, a tribal association that established the Bulgar state known as Old Great Bu ...
of the ruling caste gradually died out leaving only certain words and phrases. The
Christianization of Bulgaria The Christianization of Bulgaria was the process by which 9th-century medieval Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria,, ) is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the ea ...
, the establishment of Old Bulgarian as a language of the state and the church under Boris I, and the creation of the
Cyrillic script The Cyrillic script ( ), Slavonic script or the Slavic script, is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia. It is the designated national script in various Slavic languages, Slavic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, ...
in the country, were the main means to the final formation of the Bulgarian
nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a combination of shared features such as language, history, ethnicity, culture and/or society. A nation is thus the collective Identity (social science), identity of a group of people unde ...
in the 9th century; this included Macedonia, where the Bulgarian khan,
Kuber Kuber, (also Kouber or Kuver), was a Bulgar leader who, according to the '' Miracles of Saint Demetrius'', liberated a mixed Bulgar and Byzantine Christian population in the 670s, whose ancestors had been transferred from the Eastern Roman Empi ...
, established a state existing in parallel with Khan Asparuh's Bulgarian Empire. The new religion dealt a crushing blow to the privileges of the old Bulgar aristocracy; also, by that time, many Bulgars were presumably speaking Slavic. Boris I made it a national policy to use the doctrine of Christianity, that had neither Slavic nor Bulgar origin, to bind them together in a single culture. As a result, by the end of the 9th century the Bulgarians had become a single Slavic nationality with ethnic awareness that was to survive in triumph and tragedy to present.


Culture

The cultural heritage of the First Bulgarian Empire is usually defined in Bulgarian historiography as the Pliska-Preslav culture, named after the first two capitals,
Pliska Pliska ( , cu, Пльсковъ, translit=Plĭskovŭ) was the first capital of the First Bulgarian Empire during the Middle Ages and is now List of cities and towns in Bulgaria, a small town in Shumen Province, on the Ludogorie plateau of the Dan ...
and
Preslav The modern Veliki Preslav or Great Preslav ( bg, Велики Преслав, ), former Preslav ( bg, link=no, Преслав; until 1993), is a city and the seat of government of the Veliki Preslav Municipality (Great Preslav Municipality, new B ...
, where most of the surviving monuments are concentrated. Many monuments of that period have been found around Madara,
Shumen Shumen ( bg, Шумен, also Romanization of Bulgarian, romanized as ''Shoumen'' or ''Šumen'', ) is the List of cities and towns in Bulgaria, tenth largest city in Bulgaria and the administrative and economic capital of Shumen Province. Etymo ...
,
Novi Pazar Novi Pazar ( sr-cyr, Нови Пазар, Literal translation, lit. "New Bazaar"; ) is a List of cities in Serbia, city located in the Raška District of southwestern Serbia. As of the 2011 census, the urban area has 66,527 inhabitants, while the ...
, the village of Han Krum in north-eastern Bulgaria, and in the territory of modern Romania, where Romanian archaeologists called it the " Dridu culture". Remains left by the First Empire have also been discovered in southern
Bessarabia Bessarabia (; Gagauz language, Gagauz: ''Besarabiya''; Romanian language, Romanian: ''Basarabia''; Ukrainian language, Ukrainian: ''Бессара́бія'') is a historical region in Eastern Europe, bounded by the Dniester river on the east ...
, now divided between
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the List of European countries by area, second-largest European country after Russia, which it borders Russia–Ukraine border, to the east and northeast. Ukraine ...
and
Moldova Moldova ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro, Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country located at the crossroads of Central Europe ...
, as well as in modern-day North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. A treatise of the 10th-century Bulgarian cleric and writer Cosmas the Priest describes a wealthy, book-owning and monastery-building Bulgarian elite, and the preserved material evidence suggests a prosperous and settled picture of Bulgaria.


Architecture


Civil architecture

The first capital, Pliska, initially resembled a huge encampment spanning an area of 23km2 with the eastern and western sides measuring some 7km in length, the northern, 3.9 km, and the southern, 2.7 km. The whole area was encircled by a trench 3.5m wide in the foundation and 12m wide in the upper part and earthen escarpment with similar proportions12m wide in the foundation and 3.5m in the upper part. The inner town measured 740m to the north and to the south, 788m to the west, and 612m to the east. It was protected by stone walls 10m high and 2.6m thick, constructed with large carved blocks. There were four gates, each protected by two pairs of quadrangular towers. The corners were protected by cylindrical towers and there were pentagonal towers between each corner and gate tower. The inner town harboured the Khan's palace, the temples, and the noble residences. The palace complex included baths, a pool and a heating system. There were several inns, as well as numerous shops and workshops. The Bulgarians also constructed forts with residences, called ''auls'', or fortified palaces, by contemporary Byzantine authors. An example of this type of construction is the Aul of Omurtag, mentioned in the Chatalar Inscription, which bears many similarities to Pliska, such as the presence of baths and the usage of monumental construction techniques with large carved limestone blocks. Archaeologists have discovered a damaged lion statue that was originally 1 m in height and matches this description from an inscription: "In the field of Pliska staying he murtagmade a court/camp (aulis) at
he river The Yellow River or Huang He (Chinese: , Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the List of rivers by length, sixth-longest river system in the world at th ...
Ticha ... and skillfully erected a bridge at Ticha together with the camp e putfour columns and above the columns he erected two lions." The same method of construction was employed in a fortress on the Danubian island of Păcuiul lui Soare (in modern Romania), where the gate is similar in plan to those at Pliska, Preslav and the Aul of Omurtag. The fortress of Slon, an important juncture that connected the salt mines of
Transylvania Transylvania ( ro, Ardeal or ; hu, Erdély; german: Siebenbürgen) is a historical and cultural region in Central Europe, encompassing central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Ap ...
with the lands to the south of the Danube, and constructed in the same manner, was located further north, on the southern slopes of the
Carpathian Mountains The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians () are a range of mountains forming an arc across Central Europe. Roughly long, it is the third-longest European mountain range after the Ural Mountains, Urals at and the Scandinavian Mountains at . The ...
. The second capital, Preslav, covered an area of 5 km2 in the shape of irregular pentagon and, like Pliska, was divided into an inner and an outer town. The city experienced an extensive construction programme under Simeon I who intended it to rival Constantinople. The inner town contained two palaces, referred to by archaeologists as the Western Palace and the Throne Hall, that were linked. Very few elements of the decoration have survived marble plates and two monolithic columns of green marble that probably enclosed the arch above the throne. The whole complex was larger than the Pliska Palace and was walled with the bath adjoining the southern wall. A ceremonial road covered with stone plates linked the northern gate and the palace complex and formed a spacious plaza in front of it. The outer town housed estates, churches, monasteries, workshops and dwellings. Adjoined to the outer side of southern gates of the inner town there was a large trading edifice with 18 rooms for commerce on the first floor and accommodation rooms on the second. The most common plan of the commercial, artesian and residential monastic edifices was rectangular with the first floor being used for production, and the second one for living. Some of the buildings had marble or ceramic tile floors, and others had
veranda A veranda or verandah is a roofed, open-air gallery or porch, attached to the outside of a building. A veranda is often partly enclosed by a handrail, railing and frequently extends across the front and sides of the structure. Although the fo ...
s on the second floor. There were two types of plumbingmade of masonry or of clay pipes that brought water from the mountains to the city.


Sacral architecture

After the adoption of Christianity in 864, intensive construction of churches and monasteries began throughout the Empire. Many of them were erected over the old pagan temples. The new sacral architecture altered the appearance of the cities and fortresses. This construction was funded not only by the state but also through donations by the wealthy, known as ''
ktitor ''Ktetor'' ( el, κτήτωρ) or ''ktitor'' (; ka, ქტიტორი ''kt’it’ori''; ro, ctitor), meaning "founder", is a title given in the Middle Ages to the provider of funds for construction or reconstruction of an Eastern Orthodox Ch ...
s''. Among the first places of worship to be constructed after 864 was the Great Basilica of Pliska. It was one of the biggest structures of the time, as well as contemporary Europe's longest church, with a rectangular shape reaching 99m in length. The basilica was divided into two almost equal partsa spacious atrium and the main building. During the reign of SimeonI the domed
cruciform Cruciform is a term for physical manifestations resembling a common cross or Christian cross. The label can be extended to architectural shapes, biology, art, and design. Cruciform architectural plan Christianity, Christian churches are commo ...
type of church building was introduced and came to dominate the country's sacral architecture. Preslav was adorned with tens of churches and at least eight monasteries. The churches were decorated with ceramics, plastic elements and a variety of decorative forms. The leading example of the city's ecclesiastic architecture is the splendid
Round Church A round church is a church construction with a completely circular plan. There are many Nordic round churches in Sweden and Denmark (notably the island of Bornholm); round churches were popular in Scandinavia in the 11th and early 12th centuries ...
. It was a domed rotunda with a two-tiered colonnade in the interior and a walled atrium with niches and columns. The style of the church had been influenced by
Armenia Armenia (), , group=pron officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the CIA World Factbook , , and '' ...
n,
Byzantine 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 survi ...
and
Carolingian architecture Carolingian architecture is the style of north European Pre-Romanesque architecture belonging to the period of the Carolingian Renaissance of the late 8th and 9th centuries, when the Carolingian dynasty The Carolingian dynasty (; known ...
. There were also a number of cave monasteries, such as the Murfatlar Cave Complex, where excavations have revealed stone relief murals and inscriptions in three alphabetsGlagolitic, Cyrillic and Greek, as well as Bulgar runes. In the region of
Kutmichevitsa Kutmichevitsa ( bg, Кутмичевица) was an administrative region of the Bulgarian Empire In the medieval history of Europe, Bulgaria's status as the Bulgarian Empire ( bg, Българско царство, ''Balgarsko tsarstvo'' ) occ ...
to the south-west, Clement of Ohrid oversaw the construction of the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon and two churches with "round and spherical form" in the late 9th century. In 900 the Monastery of Saint Naum was established at the expense of "the pious Bulgarian Tsar Michael-Boris and his son Tsar Simeon" on the shores of
Lake Ohrid Lake Ohrid ( mk, Охридско Езеро , al, Liqeni i Ohrit , also referred as ''Liqeni i Pogradecit'';) is a lake which straddles the mountainous border between the southwestern part of North Macedonia and Albanian Ohrid Lake Coast, easte ...
, some 30km to the south of the town, as a major literary centre. Other important buildings were the Church of Saint Sophia in Ohrid, and the Basilica of Saint Achillius on an island in
Lake Prespa The Lake Prespa is located on the tripoint of North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia before February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained inde ...
, with dimensions of 30 х 50m, both modeled after the Great Basilica of Pliska. These churches had three
nave The nave () is the central part of a church architecture, church, stretching from the (normally western) main entrance or rear wall, to the transepts, or in a church without transepts, to the chancel. When a church contains Aisle#Church arc ...
s and three
apse In architecture, an apse (plural apses; from Latin 'arch, vault' from Ancient Greek 'arch'; sometimes written apsis, plural apsides) is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical Vault (architecture), vault or semi-dome, also known ...
s. Preserved edifices from that period evincing the rich and settled Bulgarian culture at the time include three small churches dated from the late 9th or early 10th centuries in Kostur and the church in the village of German (both in modern Greece).


Art

The most representative surviving monument is the Madara Rider, a large carved relief commissioned by Khan Tervel following his triumph in 705. It is the only relief of its kind, having no parallel in Europe. The relief depicts a composition of a horseman, a lion and a dog at 23 m above ground level in an almost vertical 100 m-high cliff of the Madara Plateau. All figures are in motion. The rider, facing right, is thrusting a spear into the lion, lying at his horse's feet, and on the left, the dog is running after the horseman. The carving of the horseman's halo and garments, as well the bird in front of the horseman's face, are barely recognizable due to erosion and the generally bad condition of the monument. The Madara Rider was included in the
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international coope ...
World Heritage List A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
in 1979. The meaning and symbolism of the depiction is uncertain, as well its actual masonry tradition and cultural source. The origin of the relief is connected with the Bulgar ethnogenesisthe semi-nomadic equestrian warrior culture from the
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecology, ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller ...
. The Madara Rider bears resemblance to the Persian
Sasanian The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the History of Iran, last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th cen ...
rock
relief Relief is a sculptural method in which the sculpted pieces are bonded to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impres ...
tradition. The hero-horseman is also a common character of Turko-Altaic and Alanic mythology. It is sometimes believed that the horseman represents or is related to the Bulgar deity Tangra, while Russian philologist
Vladimir Toporov Vladimir Nikolayevich Toporov (russian: Влади́мир Никола́евич Топоро́в; 5 July 1928 in Moscow5 December 2005 in Moscow) was a leading Russian Philology, philologist associated with the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school. His ...
related it to the Iranian deity
Mithra Mithra ( ae, ''Miθra'', peo, 𐎷𐎰𐎼 ''Miça'') commonly known as Mehr, is the Iranian deity of wikt:covenant, covenant, light, oath, justice and the sun. In addition to being the divinity of contracts, Mithra is also a judicial figure, ...
. Some considered it an example of the Thracian horsemana recurring motif of a deity in the form of a horseman in the Paleo-Balkanic mythology. Sculpture and stone carving were well-developed enough to supply the demand for public and sacral buildings. Many examples of marble carving have been excavated in Preslav. The decorations have included animals such as
griffin The griffin, griffon, or gryphon (Ancient Greek: , ''gryps''; Classical Latin: ''grȳps'' or ''grȳpus''; Late Latin, Late and Medieval Latin: ''gryphes'', ''grypho'' etc.; Old French: ''griffon'') is a legendary creature with the body, tail ...
s, rabbits and birds, as well as vegetative elements (most often
palmette The palmette is a motif in decorative art which, in its most characteristic expression, resembles the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree. It has a far-reaching history, originating in ancient Egypt with a subsequent development through the art of ...
s and grape leaves) and geometric motifs. There were also three-dimensional animal figures discovered in church No. 1 in Preslav, including heads of lions and lionesses.


Ceramics

The main sources for Bulgarian domestic use-oriented
pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porc ...
are the necropoleis at Novi Pazar, Devnya, and Varna. The vessels were made with a
potter's wheel In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in the shaping (known as throwing) of clay into round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during the process of trimming excess clay from leather-hard dried ware that is stiff but malleable, a ...
, unlike Slavic practice. Since the 9th century two-story ovens were used for the annealing of the pottery. The shape and decoration of early Bulgarian pottery was similar to that found in northern
Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range ...
, the
Crimea Crimea, crh, Къырым, Qırım, grc, Κιμμερία / Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería / Taurikḗ ( ) is a peninsula in Ukraine, on the northern coast of the Black Sea, that has been Russian occupation of Crimea, occupied by Ru ...
, and the shores of the
Sea of Azov The Sea of Azov (Crimean Tatar language, Crimean Tatar: ''Azaq deñizi''; russian: Азовское море, Azovskoye more; uk, Азовське море, Azovs'ke more) is a sea in Eastern Europe connected to the Black Sea by the narrow (ab ...
. The growing exchange with the Byzantine Empire following the adoption of Christianity led to an increase in the shapes and decorations of Bulgarian pottery that was unprecedented in the Slavic world. One of the most famous features of the Pliska-Preslav culture was the decoration of palaces and churches with lacquered ceramic plates, which may indicate a Near Eastern (Arabic) influence. They were produced of white clay, known also as
kaolin Kaolinite ( ) is a clay mineral, with the chemical composition Al2 Si2 O5( OH)4. It is an important industrial mineral. It is a layered silicate mineral Silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals made up of silicate groups. They are ...
. In the 10th century the ceramic workshops in and around Preslav produced high quality ceramic tiles in the so-called "Preslav style" that were widely used in monumental construction projects and were also exported abroad. Many of them were marked with Cyrillic or Glagolitic letters on the rear side. Archaeologists have discovered tile of that style in Kiev, showing Bulgarian influences in Kievan Rus. The ceramic plates were painted mostly to include geometric or vegetative elements and sometimes birds. Some had depictions of the
Virgin Virginity is the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. The term ''virgin'' originally only referred to sexually inexperienced women, but has evolved to encompass a range of definitions, as found in traditional, modern ...
, saints and apostles, both in full figures, portraits and medallions. Due to the destruction of Pliska and Preslav, only fragments and details of the ceramic decoration have survived. Among the most notable of those is the well-preserved, 20-tile ''Icon of St Theodore'', found in the ruins of the
Patleina Monastery The Patleina Monastery of Saint Pantaleon ( bg, Патлейнският манастир „Свети Пантелеймон“) is a ruined Bulgarian Orthodox The Bulgarian Orthodox Church ( bg, Българска православна ц ...
of Saint Panteleimon in the outskirts of Preslav which was the site of one of the workshops. The extensive use of ceramic decoration in Preslav and the nearby churches and monasteries most probably pre-dates its widespread use in Constantinople.


Literature


Creation of the Slavic writing system

Although BorisI had succeeded in securing an autonomous Church, the higher clergy and theological books were still in Greek, which impeded his efforts to convert the populace to the new religion. Between 860 and 863 the Byzantine monks
Saints Cyril and Methodius Cyril (born Constantine, 826–869) and Methodius (815–885) were two brothers and Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern pr ...
created the
Glagolitic alphabet The Glagolitic script (, , ''glagolitsa'') is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. It is generally agreed to have been created in the 9th century by Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Cyril, a monk from Thessaloniki, Thessalonica. He and his brothe ...
, the first Slavic alphabet, by order of the Byzantine Emperor, who aimed to convert
Great Moravia Great Moravia ( la, Regnum Marahensium; el, Μεγάλη Μοραβία, ''Meghálī Moravía''; cz, Velká Morava ; sk, Veľká Morava ; pl, Wielkie Morawy), or simply Moravia, was the first major state that was predominantly West Slavs, Wes ...
to Orthodox Christianity. The language they used was called by later historians
Old Church Slavonic Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
and was based on the local Slavic dialect spoken in the region of
Thessaloniki Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, , also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki, or Salonica (), is the second-largest city in Greece, with over one million inhabitants in its Thessaloniki metropolitan area, metropolitan area, and the capi ...
, and hence it is also known as Old Bulgarian. Ultimately, the brothers' mission to establish Slavic liturgy in Great Moravia failed. In 886 their disciples Clement, Naum and Angelarius, who had been banished from Great Moravia, reached Bulgaria and received a warm welcome from Boris I. They began to preach in Bulgaria and thus the work of the Slavic mission of Cyril and Methodius was saved. The Bulgarian monarch commissioned the creation of two theological academies to be headed by the disciples where they were to instruct the future Bulgarian clergy in Bulgarian vernacular. Clement was sent to the southwestern province of
Kutmichevitsa Kutmichevitsa ( bg, Кутмичевица) was an administrative region of the Bulgarian Empire In the medieval history of Europe, Bulgaria's status as the Bulgarian Empire ( bg, Българско царство, ''Balgarsko tsarstvo'' ) occ ...
in Macedonia, where he founded the
Ohrid Literary School The Ohrid Literary School or Ohrid-Devol (Albania), ''Devol'' Literary school was one of the two major cultural centres of the First Bulgarian Empire, along with the Preslav Literary School (Pliska Literary School). The school was established in Oh ...
. There, he educated 3,500 pupils between 886 and 907. Naum established the literary school in the capital Pliska, which moved later to the new capital Preslav. Eventually, Naum too was sent to Ohrid. The rationale to centre the literary activities far away from the capital was that at the time a Byzantine archbishop still resided in Pliska. In the late 9th or the early 10th century the
Cyrillic script The Cyrillic script ( ), Slavonic script or the Slavic script, is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia. It is the designated national script in various Slavic languages, Slavic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, ...
was created at the
Preslav Literary School The Preslav Literary School ( bg, Преславска книжовна школа), also known as the Pliska Literary School or Pliska-Preslav Literary school was the first literary school in the medieval First Bulgarian Empire, Bulgarian Empir ...
. It was based on the Greek alphabet and included 14 original letters for sounds that were non-existent in Greek, making an alphabet of 38 letters. In the next few decades the new script replaced the Glagolitic alphabet in Bulgaria and eventually spread to the whole Eastern Orthodox Slavic world. Today more than 250 million people in Eurasia use it as the official alphabet for their national languages.


Literary activities

The development of Old Church Slavonic literacy had the effect of preventing the assimilation of the
South Slavs South Slavs are Slavic peoples who speak South Slavic languages and inhabit a contiguous region of Southeast Europe comprising the eastern Alps and the Balkan Peninsula. Geographically separated from the West Slavs and East Slavs by Austr ...
into neighbouring cultures, while stimulating the formation of the distinct Bulgarian identity. Initially translation from Byzantine Greek of texts on theology, history and geography was a priority. Literary activities flourished during the reign of SimeonI, who had a personal interest in literature. He gathered many scholars in the court who translated an enormous number of books from Greek and wrote many new works. Among the most prominent figures were
Constantine of Preslav Constantine of Preslav () was a medieval First Bulgarian Empire, Bulgarian scholar, writer and translator, one of the most important men of letters working at the Preslav Literary School at the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century ...
,
John the Exarch John the Exarch (also transcribed Joan Ekzarh; ) was a medieval Bulgarian scholar, writer and translator, one of the most important men of letters working at the Preslav Literary School The Preslav Literary School ( bg, Преславска ...
and
Chernorizets Hrabar Chernorizets Hrabar ( chu, Чрьнори́зьць Хра́бръ, ''Črĭnorizĭcĭ Hrabrŭ'', bg, Черноризец Храбър)Sometimes modernized as ''Chernorizetz Hrabar'', ''Chernorizets Hrabr'' or ''Crnorizec Hrabar'' was a First Bulg ...
, who is believed by some historians to have been SimeonI himself. They wrote
hagiographies A hagiography (; ) is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader, as well as, by extension, an adulatory and idealized biography of a founder, saint, monk, nun or icon in any of the world's religions. Early Christian hagiographies might ...
,
panegyric A panegyric ( or ) is a formal public speech (public address), speech or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or object (philosophy), thing. The original panegyrics were speeches delivered at public events in ancient Athens. Etymol ...
s, acolouthia, poetry, liturgical hymns, treatises on church music, etc. One of the first original works was ''On the Letters'' (''О писмєньхъ'') by Chernorizets Hrabar, where he defended the Cyrillic alphabet against its Byzantine Greek critics and proved not only its right to existence but also its superiority to the
Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or early 8th century BCE. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the earliest known alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as we ...
, arguing that the Greek letters were neither the oldest known to man, nor divine. In the form of rhetorical questions and answers ''On the Letters'' demonstrated the excellent historic and linguistic knowledge of its author, as he indicated that "God did not first create the Hebrew or the Greek language, but Syrian which Adam spoke..." and underlined that "Before then the Greeks had no alphabet of their own but wrote their speech with
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, ancient thalassocracy, thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenician city-st ...
n letters." Constantine of Preslav and John the Exarch combined translated and adapted Byzantine works with original texts. The latter compiled the ''Shestodnev'' (''Шестоднев'' –
Hexameron The term Hexameron (Ancient Greek, Greek: Ἡ Ἑξαήμερος Δημιουργία ''Hē Hexaēmeros Dēmiourgia'') refers either to the genre of theological treatise that describes God's work on the six days of creation or to the six days of ...
) that included valuable first-hand evidence about the Bulgarian Empire under Simeon I. Constantine of Preslav's ''Didactic Gospel'' was the first systematic work on sermons in Slavic literature; it also featured the poetic preface ''Azbuchna molitva'' (''Азбучна молитва'' – Alphabet Prayer), the first original poetry in the Bulgarian language. Later, Cosmas the Priest wrote the anti-Bogomil treatise ''Sermon Against the Heretics'' which, apart from the theological arguments, criticized contemporary Bulgarian society, particularly on religious and social issues. Apart from the official literature, apocryphal texts were also written and gained popularity after the second half of the 10th century, as imperial patronage ceased during the Byzantine conquest and subsequent Byzantine rule in Bulgaria. One such work expressing the Bulgarian aspirations and fears was ''Tale of the Cross Tree'' by Jeremiah the Priest that was banned by the Orthodox Church as heresy. The flourishing literary activity and the experimentation with various genres developed the style, flexibility and expressiveness of the language. The literature produced in the Old Bulgarian language soon spread north and became the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a Natural language, language systematically used to make communication possib ...
of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Bulgarian scholars and works influenced most of the Slavic world, including
Kievan Rus' Kievan Rusʹ, also known as Kyivan Rusʹ ( orv, , Rusĭ, or , , ; Old Norse: ''Garðaríki''), was a state in Eastern Europe, Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century.John Channon & Robert Hudson, ''Penguin Hist ...
,
medieval Serbia Serbia in the Middle Ages refers to the medieval period in the history of Serbia. The period begins in the 6th century with the Slavic migrations to Southeastern Europe, and lasts until the Ottoman Serbia, Ottoman conquest of Serbian lands in t ...
, and medieval Croatia, as well as the non-Slavic medieval
Wallachia Wallachia or Walachia (; ro, Țara Românească, lit=The Romanian Land' or 'The Romanian Country, ; Archaism, archaic: ', Romanian Cyrillic alphabet: ) is a Historical regions of Romania, historical and geographical region of Romania. It is si ...
and
Moldavia Moldavia ( ro, Moldova, or , literally "The Country of Moldavia"; in Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, Romanian Cyrillic: or ; chu, Землѧ Молдавскаѧ; el, Ἡγεμονία τῆς Μολδαβίας) is a historical region and for ...
. This thriving activity came to an abrupt end with the Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria. In the following 150 years the Byzantines systematically destroyed all texts in Old Bulgarian language. None of the works of the First Empire have survived in original within its territory and those that have survived are later copies reproduced abroad, mainly in Russia.


See also

*
Old Great Bulgaria Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria (Medieval Greek: Παλαιά Μεγάλη Βουλγαρία, ''Palaiá Megálē Voulgaría''), also often known by the Latin names ''Magna Bulgaria'' and ''Patria Onoguria'' ("Onoğurs, Onogur land"), w ...
*
Second Bulgarian Empire The Second Bulgarian Empire (; ) was a medieval Bulgarians, 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 of Bulgaria, Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II ...
*
Bulgars The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic peoples, Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga region during the 7th century. They became ...
*
Slavs Slavs are the largest European ethnolinguistic group. They speak the various Slavic languages, belonging to the larger Balto-Slavic language, Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Slavs are geographically distributed throughout ...
*
Thracians The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European languages, Indo-European speaking people who inhabited large parts of Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe in ancient history.. ...
*
Byzantine–Bulgarian wars The Byzantine–Bulgarian wars were a series of conflicts fought between the Byzantine Empire, Byzantines and Bulgarians which began when the Bulgars first settled in the Balkan peninsula in the 5th century, and intensified with the expansion of ...
* Bulgarian–Hungarian wars * Bulgarian–Serbian wars * Croatian–Bulgarian wars *
1300th Anniversary of the Bulgarian State The 1300th Anniversary of the Bulgarian State was a yearlong celebration in 1981 when Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria,, ) is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on t ...
*
List of Bulgarian monarchs The monarchs of Bulgaria ruled the country during three periods of Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria,, ) is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the eastern flank o ...
*
Medieval Bulgarian army The medieval Bulgarian army was the primary military body of the First Bulgarian Empire, First and the Second Bulgarian Empires, and some Puppet states of the former, like the Despotate of Dobruja. During the first decades after the foundation of ...
*
Bulgarian Orthodox Church The Bulgarian Orthodox Church ( bg, Българска православна църква, translit=Balgarska pravoslavna tsarkva), legally the Patriarchate of Bulgaria ( bg, Българска патриаршия, links=no, translit=Balgarsk ...
*
Old Church Slavonic Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic languages, Slavic literary language. Historians credit the 9th-century Byzantine Empire, Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius with Standard language, standardizing the lan ...
*
Cyrillic alphabet The Cyrillic script ( ), Slavonic script or the Slavic script, is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the North ...
*
Bulgarian lands across the Danube The Bulgarian lands across the Danube or Transdanubian Bulgaria ( bg, Отвъддунавска България) is a term by which Bulgarian historiography means the territories under the rule and control of the Bulgarian Empire north of the Dan ...
* Balkan–Danubian culture


Notes


Citations


Sources


Primary

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Secondary

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External links

* {{Authority control .01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian 01 Bulgarian Empire 01
First Bulgarian Empire The First Bulgarian Empire ( cu, блъгарьско цѣсарьствиѥ, blagarysko tsesarystviye; bg, Първо българско царство) was a medieval Bulgars, Bulgar-Early Slavs, Slavic and later Bulgarians, Bulgarian state t ...
. . . . 11th century in Bulgaria Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Bulgarian Empire 01 Albania under the Bulgarian Empire Bulgarian Empire 01 Christian states Former countries