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§ 4. The Bulgarian Siege of Constantinople (A.D. 813)

After his victory over the army of Michael, the king of the Bulgarians resolved to attempt the siege of two great cities at the same time. He had good reason to be elated by his recent successes against the Roman Empire; he might well dream of winning greater successes still. He had achieved what few enemies of the Empire in past time could boast that they had done. He had caused the death of two Emperors and the downfall of a third; for he might attribute the deposition of Michael to his own victory; and within two years he had annihilated one Roman army and signally defeated another. In point of fact, these successes were due rather to luck than to merit; the Bulgarian king had shown craft but no conspicuous ability in generalship; the battles had not been won by superiority in tactics or by signal courage. But the facts could not be ignored; the head of a Roman Emperor was a drinking-cup in the palace of Pliska, and a large Roman army had been routed near Hadrianople.

It was an ambition of Leo the Armenian, as has been already noticed, to emulate the great Isaurian Emperors of the previous century; and fortune gave him, at his very accession, an opportunity of showing how far he could approach in military prowess the Fifth Constantine, whom the Bulgarians had found so formidable. Krum left his brother to blockade the city of Hadrian, and advanced himself to lay siege to the city of Constantine. He appeared before it six days after the accession of the new Emperor. In front of the walls he made a display of his power, and in the park outside the Golden Gate he prepared sacrifices of men and animals. The Romans could see from the walls how this "new Sennacherib" laved his feet on the margin of the sea and sprinkled his soldiers; they could hear the acclamations of the barbarians, and witness the procession of the monarch through a line of his concubines, worshipping and glorifying their lord.1 He then asked the Emperor to allow him to fix his lance on the Golden Gate as an emblem of victory; and when the proposal was refused he

1 These details are given by the Scriptor Incertus (342). Krum's headquarters seem to have been near the

church of SS. Cosmas and Damian (ib. 343).

retired to his tent. Having produced no impression by his heathen parade, and having failed to daunt New Rome, he threw up a rampart and plundered the neighbourhood for several days. But there was no prospect of taking the queen of cities where so many, greater than he, had failed before, and he soon offered terms of peace, demanding as the price a large treasure of gold and raiment, and a certain number of chosen damsels.2 The new Emperor Leo saw in the overtures of the enemy a good opportunity to carry out a design, which in the present age public opinion would brand as an infamous act of treachery, but which the most pious of contemporary monks, men by no means disposed to be lenient to Leo, regarded as laudable. The chronicler Theophanes, whom Leo afterwards persecuted, said that the failure of the plot was due to our sins.3

The Emperor sent a message to Krum: "Come down to the shore, with a few unarmed men, and we also unarmed will proceed by boat to meet you. We can then talk together and arrange terms." The place convened was on the Golden Horn, just north of the seawall; and at night three armed men were concealed in a house outside the Gate of Blachern, with directions to issue forth and slay Krum when a certain sign was given by one of Leo's attendants.

Next day the Bulgarian king duly rode down to the shore, with three companions, namely his treasurer, a Greek deserter, Constantine Patzikos, who had married Krum's sister, and the son of this Constantine. Krum dismounted and sat on the ground; his nephew held his horse ready, “saddled and bridled." 6 Leo and his party soon arrived in the Imperial barge, and while they conversed, Hexabulios, who was with Leo, suddenly covered his face with his hands. The motion offended the sensitive pride of the barbarian; highly offended he started to his feet and leaped upon his horse. Nor was

he too soon; for the gesture was the concerted sign, and the

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armed ambush rushed out from the place of hiding. attendants of Krum pressed on either side of him as he rode away, trying to defend him or escape with him; but, as they were on foot, the Greeks were able to capture them. Those who watched the scene from the walls, and saw, as they thought, the discomfiture of the pagan imminent, cried out, "The cross has conquered"; the darts of the armed soldiers were discharged after the retreating horseman; but though they hit him he received no mortal wound,' and escaped, now more formidable than ever, as his ferocity was quickened by the thirst of vengeance. His treasurer was slain; his brotherin-law and nephew were taken alive.

On the next day the wrath of the deceived Bulgarian blazed forth in literal fire. The inhabitants of the city, looking across the Golden Horn, witnessed the conflagration of the opposite suburbs, churches, convents, and palaces, which the enemy plundered and destroyed.2 They did not stay their course of destruction at the mouth of the Golden Horn. They burned the Imperial Palace of St. Mamas, which was situated opposite to Scutari, at the modern Beshik-tash, to the south of Orta Keui. They pulled down the ornamental columns, and carried away, to deck the residence of their king, the sculptured images of animals which they found in the hippodrome of the palace and packed in waggons.* All living things were butchered. Their ravages were extended northwards along the shores of the Bosphorus, and in the inland region behind.5 But this was only the beginning of the terrible vengeance. The suburbs outside the Golden Gate, straggling as far as Rhegion, were consigned to the flames, and we cannot suppose that their energy of destruction spared the palace of Hebdomon.

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1 Ann. r. F., A.D. 813 "graviter vulneratum.' The notice in these annals of the Bulgarian War and the accession of Leo was derived from the Greek ambassadors who visited the court of Lewis in A.D. 814. Cp. Neues Archiv, 21, 55.

2 Scr. Inc. 344, clearly designates the locality by ἀντιπέραν τῆς πόλεως. Some of the larger churches here had been recently restored by Irene, Nicephorus, and Michael.

3 The position of the palace, as to which totally false ideas were current

(some placing it near Blachernae), has been demonstrated by Pargoire, S. Mamas.

4 Scr. Inc. ib. Tà (wdía. Theophanes, 503, gives details: a bronze lion, a bear, and a serpent, and other μápμapo ἐπίλεκτοι. Shkorpil asserts (Aboba, 116), that according to our sources Krum also carried away some marble columns. He may have done so, but our sources do not say so. Scr. Inc. says that the Bulgarians τοὺς κίονας κατέκλασαν.

5 Scr. Inc. ib. καὶ τὴν ἄνω.

The fort of Athyras and a bridge of remarkable size and strength 1 over the river of the same name, which flows into the Propontis, were destroyed. Along the western highroad the avenger advanced till he reached Selymbria, where he destroyed the churches and rased the citadel. The fort of Daónin 2 was levelled, and the first obstacle in the path of destruction was the strong wall of Heraclea which had once defied Philip of Macedon. Unable to enter it the Bulgarians



burned the suburbs and the houses of the harbour. Continuing their course, they rased the fort of Rhaedestos 3 and the castle of Apros. Having spent ten days there, they marched southward to the hills of Ganos, whither men and beasts had fled for concealment. The fugitives were easily dislodged from their hiding-places by the practised mountaineers; the men were slain; the women, children, and animals were sent to Bulgaria. After a visit of depredation to the shore of the Hellespont, the desolater returned slowly, capturing forts as he went, to Hadrianople, which his brother had not yet succeeded in reducing by blockade. Poliorcetic engines were now applied; hunger was already doing its work; no relief was forthcoming; and the city perforce surrendered. All the inhabitants, including the archbishop Manuel, were transported to "Bulgaria" beyond the Danube, where they were permitted to live in a settlement, governed by one of themselves and known as “Macedonia." 6


It was now the turn of the Imperial government to make overtures for peace, and of the victorious and offended Bulgarian to reject them. Leo then took the field himself

1 παράξενον οὖσαν καὶ πάνυ ὀχυρωTáτηy. For the locality see above, p. 102.

2 The old Daunion teichos on the road from Selymbria to Heraclea.

3 At this point the road left the coast and reached the fort of Apros, more than twenty Roman miles W. of Rhaedestos (Bisanthe). See Kiepert's Map of Illyricum and Thrace.

4 On the coast of the Propontis, over against Proconnesus.

5 Scr. Inc. 345 εἰς Βουλγαρίαν ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ Ἴστρου ποταμοῦ. Simeon (Cont. Georg. 765), καὶ μετὰ λαοῦ πλείστου διαπεράσας τῶν τε εὐγενῶν Μακεδόνων, κατεσκήνωσεν ἐν τῷ Δανουβίῳ ποταμῷ.

Simeon (ib. 817) numbers the captives as 10,000 men, as well as women. The Chronography of Theophanes ends with the capture of Hadrianople —καὶ ταύτην ἑλών. The capture of the Archbishop Manuel we learn from the history of Basil I. by Constantine Porphyrogennetos, forming the 5th Book of the Continuatio Theophanis, 216. The parents of Basil lived in Hadrianople and were on this occasion carried into captivity.

6 See below, p. 370.

7 This campaign is not noticed by George or by the Scriptor Incertus. Our authority is the combined testimony of Cont. Th. (24-25) and Genesios

and by a stratagem, successfully executed, he inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the army of the enemy, or a portion of it which was still active in the neighbourhood of Mesembria. Entrenching himself near that city and not far from the Bulgarian camp, he waited for some days. The Roman troops had command of abundant supplies, but he soon heard that the Bulgarians were hard pressed for food. Confiding his plan only to one officer, Leo left the camp by night with a company of experienced warriors, and lay in ambush on an adjacent hill. Day dawned, and the Romans, discovering that the Emperor was not in the camp, imagined that he had fled. The tidings reached the camp of the enemy before evening, and the barbarians thought that their adversaries were now delivered an easy prey into their hands. Intending to attack the Roman camp on the morrow, and meanwhile secure, they left aside the burden of their arms and yielded to the ease of sleep. Then Leo and his men descended in the darkness of the night and wrought great slaughter. The Roman camp had been advised of the stratagem just in time to admit of their cooperation, and not soon enough to give a deserter, the opportunity of perfidy. The Bulgarians were annihilated; not a firebearer, to use the Persian proverb, escaped. This success was followed up by an incursion into Bulgaria; and Leo's policy was to spare those who were of riper

(12-13), who drew here from a common source which is most fully reproduced in Cont. Th. The campaign must be placed in the late autumn of A.D. 813, after the capture of Hadrianople, which probably determined Leo to sue for peace. Jireček assigns it to A.D. 814 (Geschichte, 146),_placing Krum's death in A.D. 815. But it is clear from the narrative of the Script. Inc. that only one winter passed between Leo's accession and Krum's death (346 sq.). Hirsch (125-126) regards this episode as a legend, suggesting that it was invented to explain the name βουνὸς Λέοντος. His grounds seem to be the silence of Theophanes and Simeon, a statement of the Scr. Inc. "über den ungünstigen Verlauf des Feldzuges,' and the charge of inactivity brought against Leo in Ignatius, Vit. Niceph. c. 34. But these arguments have no weight. The silence of Theophanes has no

bearing on the question, as his chronicle ends with the capture of Hadrianople, and Leo's expedition was certainly later. George's notices of military events are so scrappy and meagre that his silence proves nothing. The Scr. Inc. says that during the Bulgarian ravages which he has described Leo did not leave the city (346 kal ToÚTWV γενομένων ὁ Λέων τῆς πόλεως οὐκ ἐξῆλθεν). This was literally true, but the author, bitterly hostile to Leo, cannot be considered incapable of having deliberately suppressed a subsequent success, and his silence is not a convincing argument. The imputation of Ignatius came similarly from the hostile camp, which employed every weapon_of calumny against the iconoclast. The details in Cont. Th. do not suggest a legend, and the account has been accepted by all historians (including Finlay, Hopf, and Hertzberg).

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