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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Relations of the Byzantine Empire with the Bulgarians and Magyars 


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During the period which elapsed between the death of Leo VI and the death of Simeon the Bulgarian in 927 there was almost continuous warfare between the Empire and Bulgaria, and Simeon very definitely strove to conquer Constantinople. In vain did Patriarch Nicholas Mysticus send him abject epistles, written not with ink, but with tears. At times the patriarch tried to abash Simeon and threatened that the Byzantine Empire would form an alliance with the Russians, the Patzinaks, the Alans, and the western Turks, i.e., the Magyars or Hungarians. But Simeon was well aware that these projected alliances could not be realized, and hence the threats had no effect upon him. The Bulgarian army defeated the Greeks in several battles. Greek losses were especially severe in 917, when the Byzantine troops were annihilated at the river Achelous, close to Anchialus (in Thrace). The historian Leo the Deacon visited the site of the battle at the end of the tenth century and wrote: Even now one can see heaps of bones close to Anchialus, where the Roman army, taking to flight, was ingloriously cut to pieces. After the battle of Achelous the way to Constantinople lay open to Simeon. But in 918 the Bulgarian armies were occupied in Serbia. In 919 the clever and energetic admiral Romanus Lecapenus became emperor. Meanwhile the Bulgarians forged their way as far south as the Dardanelles, and in 922 took Hadrianople (Odrin).

Thence their troops penetrated into Middle Greece on the one hand and on the other to the walls of Constantinople, which they threatened to occupy at any moment. The suburban palaces of the Emperor were put to the torch. Meanwhile, Simeon attempted to form an alliance with the African Arabs for a joint siege of the capital. All of Thrace and Macedonia, excepting Constantinople and Thessalonica, were in the hands of the Bulgarian forces. Excavations made by the Russian Archaeological Institute of Constantinople near Aboba in northeastern Bulgaria have revealed several columns intended for the great church near the king's palace; their historical interest lies in their inscriptions, which list the names of the Byzantine cities Simeon occupied. It was partly on the possession of the larger part of Byzantine territory in the Balkan peninsula that Simeon based his right to call himself emperor of the Bulgarians and Greeks.

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