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heathen envoys were invited to pollute by their touch a copy of the Holy Gospels; and to these impieties earthquakes and plagues, which happened subsequently, were attributed.'
This peace, which the Bulgarians considered satisfactory for many years to come," enabled Omurtag to throw his energy into the defence of his western dominions against the great German Empire, which had begun to threaten his influence even in regions south of the Danube. The Slavonic peoples were restless under the severe yoke of the sublime Khan, and they were tempted by the proximity of the Franks, whose power had extended into Croatia, to turn to the Emperor Lewis for protection. The Slavs of the river Timok, on the borders of Servia, who were under Bulgarian lordship, had recently left their abodes and sought a refuge within the dominion of Lewis." Their ambassadors presented themselves at his court in A.D. 818, but nothing came of the embassy, for the Timocians were induced to throw in their lot with Liudewit, the Croatian župan, who had defied the Franks and was endeavouring to establish Croatian independence. It seemed for a moment that the Croatian leader might succeed in creating a Slavonic realm corresponding to the old Diocese of Illyricum, and threatening Italy and Bavaria; but the star of Liudewit rose and declined rapidly; he was unable to cope with the superior forces of Lewis, and his flight was soon followed by his death (A.D. 823). The Franks established their ascendency in Croatia, and soon afterwards Bulgarian ambassadors appeared in Germany and sought an audience of the Emperor (A.D. 824)." It was the first time that a Frank monarch had received an embassy from a Bulgarian khan. The ambassadors bore a letter from Omurtag, who seems to have proposed a pacific regulation of
1 Gen. 28.
It was doubtless renewed at the expiration of the decennial and vicennial periods. Michael Syr. 50 (ep. 73) says the Bulgarians submitted to Theophilus. This, if it means any thing, probably means that on the accession of Theophilus the peace was confirmed. As to hostile designs of Leo against Bulgaria after the treaty, there is no evidence. The anecdote that Sabbatios (see above, p. 59) pro
mised that he would fix his sword eis
Ann. r. Fr. 818, p. 149.
1b. p. 161.
b. p. 164. The embassy arrived at the beginning of the year, and returned at Christmas (p. 165).
the boundaries between the German and Bulgarian dominions.' Their empires touched at Singidunum, which was now a Croatian town, under its new Slavonic name of Belgrade, the "white city," and the Bulgarian ruler probably claimed that his lordship extended, northward from Belgrade, as far perhaps as Pest, to the banks of the Danube. The Emperor Lewis cautiously determined to learn more of Bulgaria and its king before he committed himself to an answer, and he sent the embassy back along with an envoy of his own.3 They returned to Bavaria at the end of the year. In the meantime an embassy arrived from a Slavonic people, whose denomination the German chroniclers disguised under the name Praedenecenti.* They were also known, or were a branch of a people known, as the Abodrites, and must be carefully distinguished from the northern Abodrites, whose homes were on the Lower Elbe. This tribe, who seem to have lived on the northern bank of the Danube, to the east of Belgrade, suffered, like the Timocians, under the oppressive exactions of the Bulgarians, and, like them, looked to the advance of the Franks as an opportunity for deliverance. Lewis, whom they had approached on previous occasions, received their envoys in audience, and kept the Bulgarians waiting for nearly six months. Finally he received them at Aachen, and dismissed them with an ambiguous letter to their master."
It is clear that Lewis deemed it premature to commit his policy to a definite regulation of the boundaries of the southeastern mark, or to give any formal acknowledgment to the Bulgarian claims on the confines of Pannonia and Croatia; but he hesitated to decline definitely the proposals of the
denecenti is a corruption of a name connected with Branitschevo, which lay on the Danube, where the Mlava flows in, and corresponded to the ancient Viminacium. The site is marked by the ruins of Branitschevats and Kostolats. See Schafarik, ii. 209; Dümmler, Slawen in Dalm, 376; Simson, Ludwig der Fr. i. 139.
5 In A.D. 818 (Ann, r. Fr. 149) and A.D. 822 (ib. 159). Cp. Dümmler, Südöstl. Marken, 28.
6 lb. 167. Astronomus, Vita Mudovici, c. 39 (M.G.H., Ser. ii.),
Khan. Omurtag, impatient of a delay which encouraged the rebellious spirit of his Slavonic dependencies, indited another letter, which he dispatched by the same officer who had been the bearer of his first missive (A.D. 826). He requested the Emperor to consent to an immediate regulation of the frontier; and if this proposal were not acceptable, he asked that, without any formal treaty, each power should keep within his own borders. The terms of this message show that the principal object of Omurtag was an agreement which should restrain the Franks from intervening in his relations to his Slavonic subjects. Lewis found a pretext for a new postponement. A report reached him that the Khan had been slain or dethroned by one of his nobles, and he sent an emissary to the Eastern Mark to discover if the news were true. no certain information could be gained, he dismissed the envoy without a letter.
The sublime Khan would wait no longer on the Emperor's pleasure. Policy as well as resentment urged him to take the offensive, for, if he displayed a timid respect towards the Franks, his prestige among the Slavs beyond the Danube was endangered. The power of Bulgaria was asserted by an invasion of Pannonia (A.D. 827). A fleet of boats sailed from the Danube up the Drave, carrying a host of Bulgarians who devastated with fire and sword the Slavs and Avars of Eastern Pannonia. The chiefs of the Slavonic tribes were expelled and Bulgarian governors were set over them." Throughout the ninth century the Bulgarians were neighbours of the Franks in these regions, and seem to have held both Sirmium and Singidunum. We may be sure that Omurtag did not fail to lay a heavy hand on the disloyal Slavs of Dacia.
The operations of Omurtag in this quarter of his empire are slightly illustrated by an incidental memorial, in a stone recording the death of Onegavon. This officer, who was one of the king's "men" and held the post of tarkan, was on his parently in summer.
1 lb. 168.
This was early in the year. late as June nothing certain could be ascertained (b. 170). This illustrates the lack of communications between Bulgaria and the West.
b. 173. The expedition was ap·
Cp. Dümmler, Südöstl. Marken, 28-29, and Slawen in Dalm. 46 sqq. ; Schafarik, ii. 176. For Singidunum (Belgrade) cp. Pope John VIII. Letter to Boris, Mansi, xvii. 64; Vita Clementis, ed. Miklosich, c. 16, p. 22.
way to the Bulgarian camp and was drowned in crossing the river Theiss.1
A similar memorial, in honour of Okorses, who in proceeding to a scene of war was drowned in the Dnieper," shows that the arms of Omurtag were also active in the East. The situation in the Pontic regions, where the dominion of the Bulgarians confronted the empire of the Khazars, is at this time veiled in obscurity. The tents of the Magyars extended over the region between the Don and the Dnieper. The country to the west was exposed to their raids, and not many years later we shall find their, bands in the neighbourhood of the Danube. The effect of the Magyar movement would ultimately be to press back the frontier of Great Bulgaria to the Danube, but they were already pressing the Inner Bulgarians into a small territory north of the Sea of Azov, and thus dividing by an alien and hostile wedge the continuous Bulgarian fringe which had extended along the northern coast of the Euxine. Although the process of the Magyar advance is buried in oblivion, it is not likely that it was not opposed by the resistance of the lords of Pliska, and it is tempting to surmise that the military camp to which the unlucky Okorses was bound when the waters of the Dnieper overwhelmed him was connected with operations against the Magyars.
From the scanty and incidental notices of Omurtag which occur in the Greek and Latin chronicles, we should not have been able to guess the position which his reign takes in the internal history of Bulgaria. But the accidents of time and devastation have spared some of his own records, which reveal him as a great builder. He constructed two new palaces, or palatial fortresses, one on the bank of the Danube, the other at the gates of the Balkans, and both possessed strategic significance. Tutrakan, the ancient Transmarisca (to the cast of Rustchuk), marks a point where the Danube, divided here by an island amid-stream, offers a conspicuously convenient passage for an army. Here the Emperor Valens built a bridge of boats, and in the past century the Russians have frequently chosen this place to throw their armies across
1 Αlba, 191 Ωνεγαρον ... [ἀπ]ελθὼν [εἰς] [τὸ φουσᾶτον ἐπνίγην εἰς τὴ[ν] Τήσαν τὸν ποταμόν,
* 16. 190 Ωκορσῆς ὁ κοπανός. For the Hungarians see below, p. 423 and Appendix XII.
the river. The remains of a Bulgarian fortress of stone and earth, at the neighbouring Kadykei, probably represent the stronghold which Omurtag built to command the passage of Transmarisca. On an inscribed column, which we may still read in one of the churches of Tyrnovo, whither the pagan monument was transported to serve an architectural use, it is recorded that "the sublime Khan Omurtag, living in his old house (at Pliska), made a house of high renown on the Danube." But the purpose of this inscription is not to celebrate the building of this residence, but to chronicle the construction of a sepulchre which Omurtag raised half-way between his "two glorious houses" and probably destined for his own resting-place. The measurements, which are carefully noted in the inscription, have enabled modern investigators to identify Omurtag's tomb with a large conical mound or kurgan close to the village of Mumdzhilar." The memorial concludes with a moralising reflexion: "Man dies, even if he live well, and another is born, and let the latest born, considering this writing, remember him who made it. The name of the ruler is Omurtag, Kanas Ubêgê. God grant that he may live a hundred years."
If the glorious house on the Danube was a defence, in the event of an attack of Slavs or other enemies coming from the north, Omurtag, although he lived at peace with the Roman Empire, thought it well to strengthen himself against his southern neighbours also, in view of future contingencies. The assassination of Leo and the elevation of Michael II., whose policy he could not foresee, may have been a determining motive. At all events it was in the year following this change of dynasty" that Omurtag built a new royal residence. and fortress in the mountains, on the river Tutsa,' command