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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Foreign policy of the Angeli 


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Relations with the Normans and Turks and the Second Bulgarian kingdom. In the year of the revolution of 1185, which dethroned Andronicus I and elevated Isaac Angelus to the throne, the condition of the Empire was very dangerous. After the taking of Thessalonica, the Norman land army started to advance towards the capital, where the Norman fleet had already arrived. But, drunk with their successes, the Normans began to pillage the captured regions; overconfident and having too little respect for the Byzantine army, they were defeated and forced to evacuate Thessalonica and Dyrrachium. This failure of the Normans to land obliged their vessels to leave Constantinople. A treaty of peace concluded between Isaac Angelus and William II put an end to the Norman war. As for the Seljuq danger in Asia Minor, Isaac Angelus succeeded in reducing it temporarily by rich presents and an annual tribute to the Turkish sultan.

For Isaac Angelus even a temporary interruption of hostilities against the Normans was of very great advantage, for in the first years of his reign events of great importance to the Empire had taken place in the Balkan peninsula. Bulgaria, which had been conquered by Basil II Bulgaroctonus in 1018, after several unsuccessful attempts to regain her independence finally threw off the Byzantine yoke and in 1186 established the so-called Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

At the head of this movement stood two brothers, Peter or Kalopeter and Asen (Asan). The question of their origin and of the participation of the Wallachian element in the insurrection of 1186 has been several times discussed, and formerly historians believed that the brothers had grown up among the Wallachs and had adopted their tongue. In the persons of the leaders, said V. Vasilievsky, there was embodied exactly that fusion into one unit of the two nationalities, Bulgarian and Wallachian, that has been obvious in all narratives of the struggle for freedom and has been emphasized by modern historians. More recently, Bulgarian historians have traced the origin of Peter and Asen to the Cuman-Bulgarian racial elements in northern Bulgaria, denied the strength of the Wallachian-Roumanian element in the insurrection of 1186, and considered the foundation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom of Trnovo a national Bulgarian achievement. Modern Roumanian historians, however, vigorously emphasize again the importance of the part played by the Wallachians in the formation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and say that the dynasty of the new kingdom was of Wallachian, i.e. Roumanian, origin.

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