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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Heraclian epoch (610-717)

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The Slavonic advance and the origin of the Bulgarian kingdom 


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The second half of the seventh century was marked also by the formation of the new Bulgarian kingdom on the northern border of the Byzantine Empire along the shore of the lower Danube, a state whose subsequent history was of extreme importance to the fate of the Empire. During this period the reference is to the old Bulgarians, a people of Hunnic (Turkish) origin, closely related to the tribe of Onogurs. Under Constans II a Bulgarian horde headed by Asparuch (Isperich), forced by the Khazars to move westward from the steppes bordering the Sea of Azov, settled at the mouth of the Danube, and later moved farther south, entering the part of Byzantine territory which is now known as Dobrudja. These Bulgarians, as V. N. Zlatarsky asserted, had previously formed an agreement with the Byzantine Empire by which, as allies of the Empire, they were supposed to protect the Danubian border against the attacks of other barbarians. It is difficult to say whether this assertion is correct or not because very little is known about the early history of the Bulgarians. Even if such an agreement really existed, it did not last very long. The Bulgar horde greatly preoccupied the mind of the Emperor, and in the year 679 Constantine IV undertook a campaign against them. The expedition ended in the complete defeat of the Byzantine army, and the Emperor was forced to negotiate a treaty according to which he bound himself to pay the Bulgarians annual tribute and cede to them the land between the Danube and the Balkans, namely, the former provinces of Moesia and Smaller Scythia (now Dobrudja). The mouth of the Danube and part of the Black Sea coast remained in the hands of the Bulgarians. The newly formed kingdom, recognized perforce by the Byzantine Emperor, became a dangerous neighbor.

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