Battle of Klokotnitsa
The Battle of Klokotnitsa occurred on 9 March 1230 near the village of Klokotnitsa. As a result, the Second Bulgarian Empire emerged once again as the most powerful state in South-Eastern Europe and the power of the Empire of Thessalonica faded. Around 1221–1222 Emperor Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria made an alliance with Theodore Komnenos Doukas, the ruler of Epirus. Secured by the treaty, Theodore managed to conquer Thessalonica from the Latin Empire, as well as Bulgarian lands in Macedonia including Ohrid, establish the Empire of Thessalonica. After the death of the Latin emperor Robert of Courtenay in 1228, Ivan Asen II was considered the most probable choice for regent of Baldwin II. Theodore thought that Bulgaria was the only obstacle left on his way to Constantinople and in the beginning of March 1230 he invaded the country, breaking the peace treaty and without a declaration of war. Theodore Komnenos summoned a large army, including western mercenaries, he was so confident of victory that he took the whole royal court with him, including his wife and children.
His army moved and plundered the villages on its way. When the Bulgarian tsar learned that the state was invaded, he gathered a small army of a few thousand men and marched southwards. In four days the Bulgarians covered a distance three times longer than Theodore's army had travelled in a week. On 9 March, the two armies met near the village of Klokotnitsa, it is said that Ivan Asen II ordered the broken mutual protection treaty to be stuck on his spear and used as a flag. He was a good tactician and managed to surround the enemy, who were surprised to meet the Bulgarians so soon; the battle continued until sunset. Theodore's men were defeated, only a small force under his brother Manuel managing to escape from the battlefield; the rest were killed in the battle or captured, including the royal court of Thessalonica and Theodore himself. In order to commemorate the battle, the Bulgarian emperor had an inscription carved in one of the marble columns of the Church "Holy Forty Martyrs" in the capital of the Bulgarian empire Veliko Tarnovo.
Among all existing documents the text of this inscription is the most accurate evidence of the outcome and the aftermath of the battle: "In the Year of the World 6738, third indiction. John Asen in God Christ true Tsar and sovereign of the Bulgarians, son of the old Tsar Asen, raised from the foundations and decorated with art this holy church in the name of the Holy 40 Martyrs, with the help of whom in the twelfth year of my reign when this temple was being decorated. I went to war in Romania and defeated the Greek army and captured their Tsar, Kyr Teodore Komnenos, together with all his bolyars, and I occupied all of his land from Odrin to Drach and Albanian and Serbian. Glory to Him forever, amen." Ivan Asen II released the captured soldiers without any conditions and the nobles were taken to Tarnovo. His fame for being a merciful and just ruler went ahead of his march to the lands of Theodore Komnenos and Theodore's conquered territories in Thrace and Macedonia were regained by Bulgaria without resistance.
Thessalonica itself became a Bulgarian vassal under Theodore's brother Manuel. Дуйчев, Иван. Из старата българска книжнина, т. II, С. 1944, с.38–39 Златарски, Васил Н. История на българската държава през средните векове, Т. III, Второ българско царство, с. 587–596 Uspensky, Fyodor, О древностях города Тырнова, Известія Руского Археалогического Института в Константинополе, 1901, VII, вып 1, с.6–7 и табл. 5
Uprising of Peter Delyan
The Uprising of Peter Delyan, which took place in 1040–1041, was a major Bulgarian rebellion against the Byzantine Empire. It was the largest and best-organised attempt to restore the former Bulgarian Empire until the rebellion of Ivan Asen I and Petar IV in 1185. After Byzantine troops conquered Bulgaria in 1018, Basil II wisely decided not to change the Bulgarian taxation system in order to placate the population. Although the Bulgarian Patriarchate was downgraded to Archbishopric, its head remained an ethnic Bulgarian till Basil II's death in 1025. Under the rule of Emperor Romanos III the population was forced to pay its taxes in coin rather than in goods-in-kind, which caused poverty and widespread unrest. In 1040, Peter Delyan, who claimed to be a descendant of Samuil of Bulgaria escaped from Constantinople and began roaming throughout the Bulgarian lands reaching Morava and Belgrade; the rebellion broke out in Belgrade, where Delyan was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria assuming the name of the sainted Emperor Peter I.
The Bulgarians moved southwards towards the last political centres of their Empire and Skopje. On their way the local population joined them, accepted Peter Delyan for its Emperor and killed every Byzantine they met. In the same time local Bulgarians from the Dyrrhachium area gathered around the soldier Tihomir and headed westwards to reach the old capitals; the existence of two separate rebel camps became an actual threat for the success of the rebellion. Petar Delyan wrote a letter to Tihomir to negotiate for joint actions and made a speech in which, in figurative language, he told the assembled people that as it was not possible for two parrots to the share a bush without discord, so two emperors could not share one country and that they should chose only one leader, either him or Tihomir, he deliberately used the parrots because the two parrots used to be the coat-of-arms of the Comitopuli House. As he had greater influence than his rival, Delyan was unanimously chosen as leader and Tihomir was killed.
With his enlarged army Petar II advanced to the south and defeated the Byzantine Emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian at Thessaloniki taking his treasury. One of Michael's commanders the Bulgarian Manuel Ivats a son of Samuil's boyar Ivats joined Peter II. After the victory the Bulgarian troops under the voivoda Kavkan captured Dyrrachium on the Adriatic Sea and some forces penetrated deep into Thessaly reaching Corinth. Albania and most of Macedonia were conquered. Another Bulgarian army led by Antim marched deep to the south and defeated the Byzantine commander Alakaseus in the battle of Thebes in Boeotia. Upon the news of the Bulgarian success the Byzantine population of Athens and Piraeus who were uneasy due to the heavy taxes revolted but were crushed by Norman mercenaries; the decisive actions of the rebels caused serious anxiety in Constantinople where plans for crushing the rebellion were hastily discussed. Soon the news for the Bulgarian uprising reached Armenia, where the descendents of the last Bulgarian Emperors were deported.
The most respected of them was the son of Alusian. Disguised as a mercenary he reached Constantinople and despite the strict security measures managed to go to Bulgaria in September 1040; the appearance of a new pretendent for the throne meant new tensions among the rebels. In the beginning Alusian did not dare to reveal his origin but tried to find devoted supporters of his kin, he soon gathered many adherents. Petar II Delyan warmly welcomed his cousin although he knew that Alusian might be a potential candidate for the crown, he gave him a 40,000 strong army to seize Thessaloniki but he failed, having attacked the enemy with a tired army. The defeat cost Alusian fled from the battle field leaving his arms and armour; the heavy defeat worsened the relations between the two leaders: Alusian was ashamed by the defeat and Petar Delyan suspected treason. Alusian plotted against his cousin, he invited Delyan to a feast. When Petar got drunk on the wine, the conspirators came down on him and pulled out his eyes with a knife.
Thus Alusian became the single leader. In the beginning he undertook active operations but had to flee for his life, he secretly negotiated with the Byzantines. After they reached an agreement in the summer of 1041, Alusian pretended to give a decisive battle, but when the two armies met he abandoned his troops and changed sides; the Byzantine Emperor Michael IV prepared a major campaign to defeat the Bulgarians. He gathered an elite army of 40,000 men with capable generals and moved in a battle formation. There were a lot of mercenaries in the Byzantine army including the Norwegian Prince and King Harald Hardråde with 500 Varangians. From Thessaloniki the Byzantines penetrated in Bulgaria and defeated the Bulgarians at Ostrovo in the late summer of 1041, it seems that the Varangians had a decisive role in the victory as their chief is hailed in the Norse sagas as the "devastator of Bulgaria". Though blind, Petar Delyan was in command of the army, his fate is unknown. Soon the Byzantines eliminated the resistance of Delyan's remaining voivodes, Botko around Sofia and Manuil Ivats in Prilep, thus ending the Bulgarian revolt.
Йордан Андреев, Милчо Лалков, Българските ханове и царе, Veliko Turnovo, 1996. The uprising of Peter Delyan
Battle of Spercheios
The Battle of Spercheios took place in 997 AD, on the shores of the Spercheios river near the city of Lamia in central Greece. It was fought between a Bulgarian army led by Tsar Samuil, which in the previous year had penetrated south into Greece, a Byzantine army under the command of general Nikephoros Ouranos; the Byzantine victory destroyed the Bulgarian army, ended its raids in the southern Balkans and Greece. The major historical source on the battle comes from Greek historian John Skylitzes whose Synopsis of Histories contains a biography of the then-reigning Byzantine Emperor, Basil II. After the success of the Bulgarians in the Battle of the Gates of Trajan in 986, Byzantium descended into a civil war, further exacerbated by the conflict with the Fatimids in Syria. Tsar Samuil took advantage of the situation, he managed to seize many castles in the surroundings of Byzantium's second largest city, Thessalonica. In 991, the Byzantines managed to capture Roman of Bulgaria but this did not stop Samuil, now de facto the only emperor of Bulgaria.
In 996, Samuil defeated the forces of the strategos of Thessalonica and marched south threatening Larissa and Corinth. On his way back he met a Byzantine army on the opposite side of the Spercheios river, led by the Domestic of the West, Nikephoros Ouranos. Basil II had appointed Ouranos commander of all Balkan and Greek territories of the Byzantine Empire and gave him a large army to defeat the Bulgarians, he followed the Bulgarian army and confronted it after the Bulgarians went through the Thermopylae pass on the river of Spercheios. After heavy rainfalls, the river had flooded a large area on both shores; the Bulgarians camped on the southern shore and the Byzantines on the northern, separated from each other by the river. The two armies remained thus encamped for several days. Samuil was confident that the Byzantines could not cross, neglected taking measures to protect his camp. Ouranos however and found a ford, led his army across during the night, attacked the Bulgarians at dawn; the Bulgarians were not able to put up effective resistance, the larger part of their army was destroyed and captured.
Samuil himself was wounded and he and his son Gavril Radomir evaded capture by feigning death among the bodies of their slain soldiers, while around 12,000 of their men were said to be captured. After nightfall they set off to Bulgaria and in the Pindus mountains gathered what was left of their army. Over the difficult 400 km journey to Ochrid, his arm healed at an angle of 140°. According to Yahya of Antioch, Nikephoros Ouranos returned to Constantinople with one thousand heads of Bulgarian soldiers and twelve thousand captives; the battle was a major defeat of the Bulgarian army. At first Samuil showed readiness for negotiations but upon the news of the death of Bulgaria's official ruler Roman in prison, he proclaimed himself the sole legitimate tsar and continued the war. Although Samuil managed to recover, the Byzantines decisively took the lead in the war. In 1014, they conquered the country. According to Skylitzes, the victory was Ouranos's achievement, Basil II is credited with little besides appointing him to the office of Domesticos.
Йордан Андреев, Милчо Лалков, Българските ханове и царе, Велико Търново, 1996. Ioannes Scylitzes, Synopsis Historion
Battle of Constantinople (922)
The Battle of Constantinople was fought in June 922 at the outskirts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, between the forces of the First Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantines during the Byzantine–Bulgarian war of 913–927. In the summer the Byzantine Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos sent troops under the commander Saktikios to repel another Bulgarian raid at the outskirts of the Byzantine capital; the Byzantines stormed the Bulgarian camp but were defeated when they confronted the main Bulgarian forces. During his flight from the battlefield Saktikios died the following night; the Bulgarians, who by 922 were in control of most of the Balkans, continued to ravage the Byzantine countryside unopposed. However, they lacked the maritime power to conduct a successful siege of Constantinople; the subsequent attempts to negotiate a Bulgarian–Arab alliance for a joint assault of Constantinople were discovered by the Byzantines and countered. The strategic situation in the Balkans remained unchanged until both sides signed a peace treaty in 927, which recognized the imperial title of the Bulgarian monarchs and the complete independence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as an autocephalous Patriarchate.
The primary sources for the battle are the continuation of George Hamartolos' Chronicle and John Skylitzes' Synopsis of Histories. During his short reign the Byzantine emperor Alexander provoked a conflict with the Bulgarian monarch Simeon I. Simeon I, who had long harboured ambitions to claim an imperial title for himself, took the opportunity to wage war. With the Byzantine Empire in disarray following Alexander's death in June 913, the Bulgarians reached Constantinople unopposed and forced the regency of the infant Constantine VII to recognize Simeon I as emperor. Following a palace coup in 914, the new Byzantine regency revoked the concessions to the Bulgarians and summoned the whole army, including the troops in Asia Minor, to deal with the Bulgarian threat once and all. In the decisive battle of Achelous in 917 the Byzantine forces were annihilated, leaving the Bulgarians in charge of the Balkans, their annual campaigns reached the walls of Constantinople and the Isthmus of Corinth. All subsequent attempts to confront the Bulgarian army at Katasyrtai, Aquae Calidae and Pegae ended in defeat.
Despite his military supremacy over land, Simeon I was aware that he needed naval assistance in order to seize Constantinople. In 922 he clandestinely sent envoys to the Fatimid caliph Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah in Mahdia to negotiate the assistance of the powerful Arab navy. Simeon I proposed to divide all spoils. To distract the Byzantine attention from the secret negotiations with the Arabs, in the summer of 922 the Bulgarians launched a campaign in Eastern Thrace, they garrisoned a number of fortified towns in the region, including Bizye. In June they reached the outskirts of Constantinople and burned the Palace of Theodora, situated on the shores of the Golden Horn. In response, emperor Romanos I Lekapenos summoned the commanders of the tagmata on a feast and urged them to confront the Bulgarians; the following day one of them, led the assault against the Bulgarians. While most of the Bulgarian soldiers were dispersed to loot the countryside, the Byzantines attacked the Bulgarian camp and slaughtered the few defenders left there.
When the main Bulgarian forces were informed about the attack, they headed back to the camp to engage the opponents. In the ensuing heavy struggle the Bulgarians prevailed and forced the Byzantines to flee despite the personal courage of Saktikios, who the Byzantine chroniclers claim to have "killed many". During the flight, the horse of Saktikios got stuck in the mud of a river and the Byzantine commander was wounded in the seat and the thigh, his soldiers managed to bring him to the Blachernae alive. Saktikios was laid in the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae. After the victory Simeon I sent letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos and Romanos' co-emperor Constantine VII to propose peace negotiations. However, his intention was to prolong the negotiations until the return of his envoys to the Fatimids. While Simeon I and Nicholas Mystikos exchanged letters the military actions continued. In a few weeks the Bulgarian army captured the most important city in Byzantine Thrace; the fall of Adrianople raised fears in Constantinople that a Bulgarian assault of the city was imminent.
The Byzantines tried to intimidate Simeon I by threatening to incite the Magyars, the Pechenegs and Kievan Rus' to attack Bulgaria from the north-east, as they had done in the war of 894–896. Simeon I knew that these were empty words because the Byzantine Empire was in no position to carry out these threats. In the meantime, the Bulgarian envoys received a warm welcome by al-Mahdi; the Fatimid caliph accepted the Bulgarian terms and sent his own emissaries to Simeon I. However, on the way back their ship was captured by the Byzantines, who managed to outbid the Bulgarians and distract a Fatimid attack; the Bulgarians remained in control of most of the Balkans, annexing Byzantium's ally Serbia in 924, but without naval support were unable to launch a decisive attack on Constantinople. The war continued until the death of Simeon I in 927, when his son Peter I concluded a peace treaty with the Byzantines, who recognized the imperial title of the Bulgarian monarchs and the complete independence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as an autocephalous Patriarchate in return for most of Simeon I's conquests in Thr
Battle of Rusokastro
The Battle of Rusokastro occurred on July 18, 1332 near the village of Rusokastro, between the armies of the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires. The outcome was a Bulgarian victory In 1328, the emperors of Bulgaria and Byzantium, Michael Asen III and Andronikos III Palaiologos, signed a secret treaty against Serbia. While Michael Asen III was fighting against the Serbs in 1330, the Byzantines invaded Thrace and captured its Bulgarian towns; the Byzantines were unprepared for war. Their Empire was torn by civil unrest and the army was fighting against the Turks in Asia Minor. In the Bulgarian Empire, there were internecine struggles as well but the new Emperor Ivan Alexander knew that the decisive confrontation with Byzantium was yet to come and decided to improve his relations with the Serbs. In 1332, he concluded a peace treaty with them; the treaty was secured with a marriage between the Serb king Stefan Dushan and the sister of the Emperor, Elena. In the summer of the same year, the Byzantines gathered an army and without a declaration of war advanced towards Bulgaria and plundering the villages on their way.
The Byzantines seized several castles because Ivan Alexander's attention was focused towards fighting the rebellion of his uncle Belaur in Vidin. He tried to negotiate with the enemy without success; the Emperor decided to act swiftly during the course of five days, when his cavalry covered 230 km to reach Aitos and face the invaders. Ivan Alexander had troops of 8,000 while the Byzantines were only 3,000. There were negotiations between the two rulers but the Bulgarian emperor deliberately prolonged them because he was awaiting reinforcements. In the night of July 17 they arrived in his camp and he decided to attack the Byzantines the next day. Andronikos III Palaiologos had no choice; the Byzantine army consisted of 16 squads and six of them made up the first column. The right wing was commanded by the protostrator, the left wing was under the megas papias Alexios Tzamplakon, the center was commanded by the emperor; the army formed a wide front in two lines with the flanks positioned behind the center forming a crescent.
The battle continued for three hours. The Byzantines tried to prevent the Bulgarian cavalry from surrounding them, but their manoeuvre failed; the cavalry moved around the first Byzantine line, leaving it for the infantry and charged the rear of their flanks. After a fierce fight the Byzantines were defeated, abandoned the battlefield and took refuge in Rusokastro; the Bulgarian army surrounded the fortress and at noon on the same day Ivan Alexander sent envoys to continue the negotiations. The Bulgarians recovered their lost territory in Thrace and strengthened the position of their empire; the eight-year-old son and successor of the Bulgarian emperor Michael Asen was married to the daughter of Andronikos, cementing the peace between the two states. This battle was regarded by medieval Bulgarian historians as a great triumph of emperor Ivan Alexander; that was the last major battle between Bulgaria and Byzantium as their seven-century rivalry for domination of the Balkans was soon to come to an end, after the fall of the two Empires under Ottoman domination.
Rusokastro Rock at the north entrance to McFarlane Strait in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after “the settlement and medieval fortress of Rusokastro in Southeastern Bulgaria.” Andreev, Y.. The Bulgarian Tsars. Veliko Tarnovo: Abagar. ISBN 954-427-216-X. Clifford Rogers, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology: Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, 2010
Battle of Achelous (917)
The Battle of Achelous or Acheloos known as the Battle of Anchialus, took place on 20 August 917, on the Achelous River near the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, close to the fortress Tuthom between Bulgarian and Byzantine forces. The Bulgarians obtained a decisive victory which not only secured the previous successes of Simeon I but made him de facto a ruler of the whole Balkan Peninsula excluding the well-protected Byzantine capital Constantinople and the Peloponnese; the battle, one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the European Middle Ages, was one of the worst disasters to befall a Byzantine army, conversely one of the greatest military successes of Bulgaria. Among the most significant consequences was the official recognition of the Imperial title of the Bulgarian monarchs, the consequent affirmation of Bulgarian equality vis-à-vis Byzantium. After the Bulgarian victory in the War of 894–896 the Byzantines were forced to pay tribute to Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria. In 912 when the Byzantine emperor Leo VI died, his brother Alexander refused to pay tribute to the Bulgarians.
Simeon saw an opportunity to fulfill his ambitions to conquer Constantinople. Alexander died in the same year and the new government under the Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos made desperate attempts to avoid the war, promising that the infant Emperor Constantine VII would marry one of Simeon's daughters. At some point, the patriarch and Simeon met outside the walls of Constantinople, performing a coronation ceremony. Thereafter, Simeon began using the title "Tsar of the Bulgarians", the Greek title basileus in his seals. After a plot in the Byzantine court in 914 however, the new regent Zoe, Constantine's mother, rejected the marriage. In answer the Bulgarians raided Eastern Thrace. Adrianople opened its gates to Simeon in September 914, its population recognised Simeon as their ruler, while the Byzantine army was occupied in the east. In the next year the Bulgarian armies attacked the areas of Thessalonica. Both sides prepared for a decisive end of the conflict. Empress Zoe wanted to swiftly make a peace settlement with the Arabs and to engage the whole army of the East in a war with Simeon and destroy him.
The Byzantines tried to find allies and sent emissaries to the Magyars and Serbs but Simeon was familiar with the methods of Byzantine diplomacy and from the beginning took successful actions to subvert a possible alliance between his enemies. Thus the Byzantines were forced to fight alone. By 917, after a series of successful campaigns, the Byzantine empire had stabilized its eastern borders, the generals John Bogas and Leo Phocas were able to gather additional troops from Asia Minor, to reinforce the imperial tagmata and the European thematic troops, gathering a force of some 30,000 to 62,000 men; this was a large army by contemporary standards, its goal was the elimination of the Bulgarian threat from the north. The Byzantine commanders were convinced. Morale was raised; the spirit of the army was further raised as the troops were paid in advance and a fleet commanded by Romanus Lecapenus set off to the north at the mouth of the Danube. The Byzantines had tried to pay some Pecheneg tribes to attack, but Romanus would not agree to transport them across the Danube, instead they attacked Bulgarian territory on their own.
The size of the Bulgarian army under Simeon I of Bulgaria is unknown. Although they ruined the Byzantine negotiations, the Bulgarians were still afraid that the old allies of the Byzantines, the Pechenegs and the Hungarians, would attack them from the north, so two small armies were sent to protect the northern borders of the vast Bulgarian empire that spread from Bosnia in the west to the Dnieper River in the east; however Miracula Sancti Georgii points that the Bulgarian army in the battle of Achelous was allied with Hungarian and Pecheneg troops, which helped to win the victory against the Byzantine army. In addition Bulgarian forces under Marmais were deployed near the western borders with the Serb principalities to prevent possible unrest; the Byzantine army marched northwards and set its camp in the vicinity of the strong fortress of Anchialus. Leo Phocas intended to meet the Pechenegs and Lecapenus's troops in Dobrudzha. Simeon swiftly concentrated his army on the heights around the fortress.
On the morning of 20 August 917, the battle between the Bulgarians and the Byzantines began by the river Achelous near the modern village Acheloi, 8 kilometers to the north of Anchialus on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. The Byzantine generals planned to outflank the right Bulgarian wing in order to detach Simeon's troops from the Balkan Passes; the Bulgarian ruler concentrated his most powerful forces in the two wings and left the centre weak in order to surround the enemy when the centre would yield to the Byzantine attack. Simeon himself was in charge of large cavalry reserves hidden behind the hills which were intended to strike the decisive blow; the Byzantine attack was fierce and it was not long before the Bulgarians began to retreat. The Byzantine cavalry charged the infantry in the centre killing many Bulgarians; the Bulgarian position became desperate as they could not manage to hold the heights to the south of the river and began a hasty retreat to the north. Elated, the Byzantines started a bitter chase and their battle formations soon began to break as a rumour spread that their commander, Leo Phocas, had been killed.
At this point, who had detected the disarray in the Byzantine formation, ordered his army to stand, and, at th
Battle of Arcadiopolis (970)
The Battle of Arcadiopolis was fought in 970 between a Byzantine army under Bardas Skleros and a Rus' army, the latter including allied Bulgarian and Hungarian contingents. In the preceding years, the Rus' ruler Sviatoslav had conquered Bulgaria, was now menacing Byzantium as well; the Rus' force had been advancing through Thrace towards Constantinople when it was met by Skleros' force. Having fewer men than the Rus', Skleros prepared an ambush and attacked the Rus' army with a portion of his force; the Byzantines feigned retreat, succeeded in drawing off the Pecheneg contingent into the ambush, routing it. The remainder of the Rus' army panicked and fled, suffered heavy casualties from the pursuing Byzantines; the battle was important as it bought time for the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes to settle his internal problems and assemble a large expedition, which defeated Sviatoslav the next year. In 965 or 966, a Bulgarian embassy visited the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas at Constantinople to receive the annual tribute, agreed by the two powers as the price of peace in 927.
Phokas and self-confident from a series of victories against the Arabs in the East that had led to the recovery of Crete and Cilicia, refused to comply, had the envoys beaten up. He followed this up with a show of military strength, by sending a small force to raze a number of Bulgarian border posts in Thrace, it was a clear declaration of war, but Nikephoros' forces were preoccupied in the East. Thus the emperor turned to the traditional Byzantine expedient of turning one of the peoples living further north, in modern-day Ukraine, against Bulgaria, he sent an ambassador, the patrikios Kalokyros, to Sviatoslav, ruler of the Rus' with whom the Byzantines had maintained close relations. Sviatoslav enthusiastically responded, invaded Bulgaria in 967 or 968 in a devastating raid, before returning home to defend his capital against a Pecheneg attack; this forced the Bulgarian tsar, Peter I, to the negotiating table, agreeing to terms favourable to Byzantium. However, this brief sojourn awakened in Sviatoslav the desire to conquer Bulgaria and establish his own realm there.
He conquered the country within a few months. Nikephoros' scheme had backfired dramatically: instead of peace, a new and formidable foe had appeared in the Balkans, a large part of the Bulgarian nobility appeared to side with the Rus' prince; the emperor, was murdered in December 969, it fell to his successor, John I Tzimiskes, to deal with the Rus' threat. Sviatoslav now turned his sights on Byzantium, to John's entreaties for peace he answered that the Empire should abandon its European territories to him and withdraw to Asia Minor. Tzimiskes himself was preoccupied with consolidating his position and with countering the unrest of the powerful Phokas clan and its adherents, delegated the war in the Balkans to his brother-in-law, the Domestic of the Schools Bardas Skleros, to the eunuch stratopedarches Peter, they were to winter in Thrace and raise an army, whilst sending spies to discover Sviatoslav's intentions. At the news of this, a powerful Rus' force, along with many Bulgarians and a Pecheneg contingent, was sent south over the Balkan Mountains.
After sacking the city of Philippopolis in Thrace, they bypassed the defended city of Adrianople and turned towards Constantinople. The size of the Rus' army, whether it comprised the entirety of Sviatoslav's forces or just a division, is unclear. John Skylitzes, for instance, implies that this was the entire Rus' army, numbering an incredible 308,000 men, but the contemporary Leo the Deacon reports that it was a detachment of "over 30,000 men", it is clear, that the Byzantines were outnumbered, that the Rus' force at Arcadiopolis included significant numbers of Bulgarians, as well as allied contingents of Pechenegs and "Turks". Skleros quickly assembled a force of ten to twelve thousand men and set out to meet the Rus'; the two armies met near some 80 km west of Constantinople. The two primary accounts on the Byzantine side differ on the preliminaries of the battle: Leo the Deacon reports that Skleros sent a scouting detachment ahead under the patrikios John Alakaseus, gave battle after only a day, but the chronicle of Skylitzes reports that for a few days, Skleros with his men remained within the walls of Arcadiopolis as the Rus' encamped nearby, refused to come out and meet them in battle despite their repeated challenges for him to do so.
According to Skylitzes, the Rus' became convinced that the imperial army was too afraid to face them. Skleros set out from the city, divided his forces into three groups: two divisions were placed in ambush on the wooded sides of the road leading towards the Rus' camp, while another some 2,000–3,000 men, was placed under himself and went forth to attack the Rus' host; the Byzantine detachment came into contact with the Rus' army, charged the Pecheneg contingent. The Byzantines executed a gradual orderly retreat, turning at intervals to charge back at the pursuing Pechenegs, who had thus become separated from the main body of the Rus' army; this conflict was fierce and bloody, taxing the discipline and