Bulgaria under Byzantine Rule

After the subjugation of Bulgaria, Basil II divided the former reign of Simeon into four themes: 1. the. theme of Bulgaria, which had as its border the region of Thessaloniki to the south, the western part of the Stara-Planina chain to the north, Durres to the west (main city Ochrida, then Skoplje); 2. the theme of Macedonia or Thrace and Macedonia, east of Bulgaria, between the Aegean Sea, the Sea of ​​Marmara, and Stara-Planina (main city Adrianople); 3. the theme of cities, between the banks of the Danube and Stara-Planina (main city Dorostol [Drăstăr, Silistria]); 4. the central theme, on the west bank of the Danube, around the. Morava, including Srem (central city Srem, now Mitrovica). The Adriatic coast belonged to the Durres region, re-established in its ancient borders. But, although the regions of ex-Bulgarian kingdom were formed and organized according to purely Byzantine rules, the unity of the Bulgarian lands was preserved, expressed in the title that bore the representative of the emperor in the region of Bulgaria: duce or stratego of all Bulgaria. Moreover, since even the boyars, like the royal family, had surrendered with a “pact”, Basil II recognized the internal autonomy of the Bulgarians, preserving their own rights, letting them live according to the laws of Samuel. The Bulgarian national church also remained autonomous, and such as it had been under King Peter; its leader bore the title of archbishop of all Bulgaria and resided in Ochrida, which also meant that the unity of the Bulgarian lands was respected. The first archbishop was a Bulgarian, the monk Ivan of Dibra. For Bulgaria 1997, please check aristmarketing.com.

But the people could not take advantage of the rights of autonomy for a long time. All members of the royal family, as well as all notable and influential voivodes, were transferred to Asia Minor, where, forced to marry Greeks and appointed to high offices, they forgot their oppressed homeland: and the Bulgarians, left without leaders, began to suffer. privations and miseries of every kind, tormented by the Peceneghi, the Wallachians, the administrative and military authorities. When they imposed that the tribute be paid no longer in kind, but in money, the revolt broke out, led by Pietro Delian, son of King Gavril Radomir, who fled from Constantinople (1040). But, after the first successes of the insurgents, Emperor Michael IV soon won over them, also making use of Norman mercenary militias. After the repression of the rebellion, in 1041, the Bulgarians were treated like real slaves. The ecclesiastical autonomy diminished little by little, so that the archbishopric of Ochrida was transformed from Bulgarian into Greek; to the Bulgarian clergy they no longer entrusted themselves to the parishes of the villages and some monasteries, the only centers by now where the Bulgarian language and writings found refuge.

Little by little a new revolt was thus maturing. It flared up in 1072, throughout the Skoplje region, under the leadership of the executioner George Vojtěh, descendant of an ancient Kavhan family. Gathered in Prizren, with the consent of the Serbian prince Stephen Voislav, the Bulgarian leaders proclaimed the son of Voislav, Constantine Bodin (Bodini), Bulgarian king. The rebels’ plan was to initiate liberation in two directions: one towards the Danube regions and the other towards the Aegean Sea. But precisely this division of forces caused the movement to fail: the army sent to the south was defeated near Kostur, and the one sent to the north suffered the same fate in the plain of Kosovo. Voitìh was taken prisoner and died shortly after: Bodin too, captured, was sent into exile in Asia Minor; the country was plundered and devastated.

Near the end of the century. XI, the Bulgarian lands, especially the western ones, had definitively entered the general Byzantine organization. The only means of reaction against the national enemy was offered by the Bogomil sect, which at the beginning of the century. XI quickly spread back to western Bulgaria. A fact that undoubtedly represents the national-political opposition against the oppressive yoke of Byzantium. Not being able to turn against secular power, the spirit of revolt turns against the high Greek clergy: and thus, at the head of the Bogomil movement, we find, under the leadership of Vasily, the low clergy, the monks, who reacted like Bulgarians. A revolt broke out against the archbishop of Ochrida, Teofilatto, who was finally forced to leave Bulgaria; but the emperor Alexius I intervened in 1111. Vasily, who did not want to renounce his faith, was burned in the hippodrome of Constantinople (1118); and after that peace returned to the country.

Under the successors of Alexis I, who faithfully continued its internal politics, the social and economic situation in Bulgaria was not only not improved but worsened, because the country had to undergo new invasions of the Kumani raptors (1124), had to tolerate the passage of the warriors of the second crusade (1147) and also being the field of the many wars that the Byzantines waged in the peninsula (1118-1180), both against the Normans and against the Serbs and the Hungarians. More serious are the upheavals in the social and economic constitution, which occurred during the century. XII. The small properties disappeared and there was a hardening of slavery. To get an idea of ​​how much relations between Byzantium and Bulgaria had changed, it is enough to know that the names Bulgaria and Bulgarians had disappeared in the writings.

But, despite its sad fate, the Bulgarian people had kept the memory of their political independence. Taking advantage of external failures and frequent internal struggles under the government of the last of the Comnenians (1180-1185), the Bulgarians, who were also joined by the Wallachians, decided to recover their political independence with arms. Two boyars, the brothers Pietro and Asen (v.), To make themselves independent, acted as the Byzantine aristocracy of the time did; that is, as autonomous leaders. And, in 1186, they provoked a revolt in Tărnovo. In a very short time the rebellion flared across the country between the Danube and the Balkans and also in Thrace. But Isaac II Angelo (1185-1195) expelled the Bulgarians from Thrace, managed to cross the mountains, unexpectedly, and invade the rear, paralyzing the defense of the warriors of Peter and Asen who, without an army, took refuge beyond the Danube, in Kumania, to seek help. Convinced that the revolt was solely the work of the two brothers and not a general national movement, Isaac II returned to Constantinople. The two brothers raised the people and had the help of the Kumani, who invaded Thrace. The emperor moved against them again. But he had to conclude peace: also because the great Serbian Zupan Stefano Nemania had allied himself with Peter and had invaded the Byzantine territory. In confirmation of this peace, Peter and Asen agreed to send their younger brother, Ivanica, hostage to Constantinople. The leaders of the uprising and even the people themselves saw in the armistice a tacit recognition of the independence of northern Bulgaria; therefore in the same year 1187, Asen was proclaimed king of Bulgaria in Tărnovo and a priest Vasilij autonomous archbishop of Tărnovo.

Bulgaria under Byzantine Rule

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