Slike stranica

Isaurians, Cilicians, Cappadocians, and Galatians were compelled to march northwards, much against their will, and the Armeniacs and Cappadocians were noticed as louder than the others in their murmurs. As Michael and his generals issued from the city they were accompanied by all the inhabitants, as far as the Aqueduct.' Gifts and keepsakes showered upon the officers, and the Empress Procopia herself was there, exhorting the Imperial staff to take good care of Michael and "to fight bravely for the Christians."

Michael, if he had some experience of warfare, had no ability as a general, and he was more ready to listen to the advice of the ministers who had gained influence over him in the palace than to consult the opinion of two really competent military men who accompanied the expedition. These were Leo, general of the Anatolics, whom, as we have already seen, he had recalled from exile, and John Aplakes, the general of Macedonia. During the month of May the army moved about Thrace, and was little less burdensome to the inhabitants than the presence of an enemy. It was specially remarked by contemporaries that no attempt was made to recover Mesembria. Early in June Krum entered Roman territory and both armies encamped near Versinicia, a place not far from Hadrianople. At Versinicia, nearly twenty years before, another Emperor had met another Khan. Then Kardam had skulked in a wood, and had not ventured to face Constantine. Krum, however, was bolder than his predecessor, and, contrary to Bulgarian habit, did not shrink from a pitched battle. For fifteen days they stood over against one another, neither side venturing to attack, and the heat of summer rendered this incessant watching a trying ordeal both for men and for horses. At last John Aplakes, who commanded one wing, composed of the Macedonian and Thracian troops, lost his patience and sent a decisive message to the Emperor : "How long are we to stand here and perish? I will strike first in the name of God, and then do ye follow up bravely, and we can conquer. We are ten times more numerous than

1 For the position of Kêduktos see above, p. 101.

2 Theoph. 500. Of this affair we have two independent accounts, one by Theophanes, the other in the Frag

ment of Scriptor Incertus. The latter is the fuller, and from it we learn the details of the courage of John Aplakes (337 sqq.) Jireček (Geschichte, 145) wrongly places the battle in July.

they." The Bulgarians, who stood on lower ground in the valley, fell before the charge of Aplakes and his soldiers who descended on them from a slight elevation; but the brave stratêgos of Macedonia was not supported by the centre and the other wing. There was a general flight without any apparent cause, and the Anatolics were conspicuous among the fugitives. Aplakes, left with his own men, far too few to hold their ground, fell fighting. The enemy were surprised and alarmed at this inexplicable behaviour of an army so far superior in numbers, so famous for its discipline. Suspecting some ambush or stratagem the Bulgarians hesitated to move. But they soon found out that the flight was genuine, and they followed in pursuit. The Romans threw away their weapons, and did not arrest their flight until they reached the gates of the capital.

Such was the strange battle which was fought between Hadrianople and Versinicia on June 22, A.D. 813. It has an interest as one of the few engagements in which an army chiefly consisting of Slavs seems to have voluntarily opposed a Roman host on open ground. As a rule the Slavs and Bulgarians avoided pitched battles in the plain and only engaged in mountainous country, where their habits and their equipment secured them the advantage. But Krum seems to have been elated by his career of success, and to have conceived for his opponents a contempt which prompted him to desert the traditions of Bulgarian warfare. His audacity was rewarded, but the victory was not due to any superiority on his side in strategy or tactics. Historians have failed to realise the difficulties which beset the battle of Versinicia, or to explain the extraordinary spectacle of a Roman army, in all its force, routed in an open plain by a far smaller army of Slavs and Bulgarians. It was a commonplace that although the Bulgarians were nearly sure to have the upper hand in mountainous defiles they could not cope in the plain with a Roman army, even much smaller than their own. The soldiers knew this well themselves,2 and it is impossible to believe that the

1 Our sources do not state the order of battle, but we may conclude that Michael commanded the centre, Aplakes and Leo the two wings. Leo's wing consisted of the Anatolics

and, perhaps, the Cappadocians; the Opsikians, Armeniacs, and others would have been in the centre.

2 Scr. Incert. 338, w0eV dè èπì κάμπου νικῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἔχομεν.

Anatolic troops, disciplined by warfare against the far more formidable Saracens, were afraid of the enemy whom they met in Thrace.

The only reasonable explanation of the matter is treachery, and treachery was the cause assigned by contemporary report. The Anatolic troops feigned cowardice and fled; their flight produced a panic and the rest fled too. Others may have been in the plot besides the Anatolics, but the soldiers of Leo, the Armenian, were certainly the prime movers. The political consequences of the battle show the intention of the Asiatic troops in courting this defeat. The Emperor Michael lost credit and was succeeded by Leo. This was what the Asiatic soldiers desired. The religious side of Michael's rule was highly unpopular in Phrygia and the districts of Mount Taurus, and Michael himself was, probably, a Thracian or Macedonian. The rivalry between the Asiatic and European nobles, which played an important part at a later period of history, was perhaps already beginning; and it is noteworthy that the Thracians and Macedonians under Aplakes were the only troops who did not flee. Reviewing all the circumstances, so far as we know them, we cannot escape the conclusion that the account is right which represents the regiments of Leo, if not Leo himself, as guilty of intentional cowardice on the field of Versinicia. It was planned to discredit Michael and elevate Leo in his stead, and the plan completely succeeded.

1 The question really is, how far Leo was himself privy to the conduct of his troops. Hirsch acquits Leo of éleλоKaкía (p. 125). The data are as follows: (1) Theophanes does not hint at intentional cowardice on the part of either general or soldiers.

But we

must remember that Theophanes wrote the end of his history just at the time of Leo's accession, and says nothing unfavourable to that monarch. (2) The Scriptor Incertus accuses the Θέμα τῶν ἀνατολικῶν, without specially mentioning the commander. As the author is violently hostile to Leo, this silence is in Leo's favour. (3) Ignatius, Vita Nicephori, c. 31, accuses Leo as the author of the defeat (p. 163): τῆς ἥττης Λέων πρωτεργάτης γενόμενος παντὶ τῷ στρατοπέδῳ τὴν μετ ̓ αἰσχύνης φυγὴν ἐμαιεύσατο. (4) Genesios states that there were two reports

of Leo's conduct, one adverse and one favourable: (a) that Leo's retreat was treacherous; (B) that he was posted at a distance from the army by Michael and bidden not to take part in the combat-at least this seems to be the meaning. Hirsch thinks that (a) was derived from some pasquinade or Spottgedicht. (5) In Cont. Th. (14), there are likewise two accounts: (a) Leo led the fight, τὴν βασιλείαν ἀεί πως ἐπιζητῶν. This the author professes to have got from a written source, vypápws (from Ignatius ?). (B) Leo and his soldiers stood their ground bravely; it was the soldiers commanded by the Emperor who fled. My conclusion from all this is that Leo was really in the plot, but played his cards so cleverly that nobody could prove anything against him, although there were the gravest suspicions.

§ 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 Icities 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,5 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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