"The glory of the Bulgarians was confined to a narrow scope both of time and place."—GIBBON.
"The Bulgarian is not devoid of those unobtrusive household virtues, which enrich the state, and keep at a distance the vice and the pauperism which are the cancers of the more crowded communities of Europe."—A. A. PATON, The Bulgarian, the Turk, and the German.



(864 A.D.)

THE early history of Bulgaria is shrouded in mystery. The discovery of ancient tombs near Trnovo and Philippopolis points to the existence of a primitive civilisation in that part of the Balkan Peninsula. But of this no other traces remain, and when we first hear of the country it was inhabited by wild Thracian and Illyrian tribes, of whom Herodotus said that "if they were only ruled by one man and could 119 120 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. only agree among themselves, they would be the greatest of all nations." For a moment some chieftain, stronger than his fellows, might succeed in bringing about a temporary union. But the tribes lived, as a rule, in perpetual feud with each other, until the strong hand of Philip of Macedon subjected them all to his authority. Philip is the first great name in the history of the land; a name perpetuated in that of the picturesque capital of South Bulgaria; and the union of Bulgaria and Macedonia under his sceptre is still regarded with admiration by many Bulgarian politicians. But the Macedonian supremacy was short-lived; upon the death of Alexander the Great, the Thracians, who had composed so large a part of his armies, returned to the congenial business of flying at each other's throats. Other barbarous tribes joined in their quarrels, until, during the second Punic War, the Romans made their first appearance in Bulgaria. The Thracian and Illyrian warriors now combined in self-defence; the struggle lasted for a century and a half; the conquerors at first permitted the native princes of Thrace proper, south of the Balkans, to retain their thrones on payment of a tribute, and then reduced their country, like the region between the Balkans and the Danube, to a province. Mœsia, as the latter was called, was conquered by Crassus and brought under the immediate sway of Rome in 29 B.C.; Thracia, as the former was officially designated, became a part of the Roman Empire in the reign of Tiberius in 26 A.D. The name of Mœsia was retained until the evacuation of Dacia by Aurelian, described in the first part of the book, when it was changed to 121 ROMAN REMAINS. that of Dacia Aureliani. Considerable remains of this Roman occupation exist at the present day. The marble pillars brought from Nikopul by one of the Bulgarian Czars to adorn the famous "Church of the Forty Martyrs" at Trnovo are perhaps the best known


of these relics. But the Roman influence was not permanent in Bulgaria as it has been in Roumania. For a time the Latin language made headway in the country, and the land, where the exiled Ovid had once complained that none could understand him, produced Latin authors of its own. But the local 122 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. dialect was soon formed, and the flood of barbarian invasion finally swept the traces of Western culture away. To this day the Bulgarians are less refined, less luxurious, and less European than their neighbours across the Danube.

As early as the time of Constantine, who included what is now Bulgaria among his provinces, hordes of uncouth warriors had begun to pour into the country. At first the new and the old elements appear to have combined harmoniously. An author of the fourth century describes the territory south of the Danube as inhabited by a dense population, half Roman, half barbarian, which united the fresh energies of the new-comers to the civilisation of the Western race. But this state of things was not of long duration. Other and fiercer tribes swooped down upon the promised lands. The Goths ravaged the country in their terrible march of destruction from the Bosphorus to the Alps. The Huns, who followed them, exacted a tribute as well. On the death of Attila, their ruler, a number of smaller tribes, who had accepted his sway, flooded the province. In some parts the entire population is said to have perished by their swords. At this period the country resembled a kaleidoscope, in which a series of apparitions is presented, each more horrible than the last. One race stands out pre-eminent above the others in this grim transformation scene. It is now that we hear for the first time in Bulgarian history of the Slavs.

The precise date, at which this remarkable tribe first made its appearance south of the Danube, is doubtful. According to one theory, indeed, the Slavs 123 ORIGIN OF THE BULGARIANS. were the original inhabitants, children of the soil, of whom no one knew whence they came. This opinion, however gratifying it may be to the pride of a great race, is disproved by the best Bulgarian historian, who regards them as foreigners, like the Goths and Huns. But whether they first entered Bulgaria in the third century, or considerably later, is uncertain. At any rate, by the seventh century they are found settled there. From them and the other tribes who subsequently mixed with them, the modern Bulgarians are descended, and derive their language, customs, and habits of thought. The Slavs drove the survivors of the old Thracian and Illyrian population before them to the mountains and occupied their lands in the plains. But they were not permitted to perpetuate their dominion. In the second half of the seventh century the Bulgari crossed the Danube and entered the territory which has ever since borne their name.

The origin of these Bulgarian invaders has been much disputed. The best authorities, arguing from the obvious difference between their mode of life and that of the Slav races as well as from the Oriental names of their ancient rulers, have decided that the Bulgarians were an Asiatic tribe, totally unconnected with the Slavs. Some regard them as of Finnish stock, others as a Tartar people, and others again as of Turkish blood. It seems probable, however, that their former home was on the banks of the Volga, a river from which some have derived their name. But it is much more likely that the men gave their name to the river, rather than the river to the men. Their history, previous to their arrival in what is now 124 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. Bulgaria, borders on the marvellous. We read of primitive Bulgarian princes, whose ages rivalled that of Methuselah, and whose reigns averaged a century apiece. An ancient chronicler even purports to give a complete list of these patriarchal rulers. One of them, Kurt or Kuvrat, was sufficiently important to be accepted as an ally by the Emperor Heraclius, and defeated the Avars who had besieged Constantinople, and brought the Bulgarians under their yoke. Upon his death, his five sons, according to a picturesque story, divided his substance and set out in different directions, each accompanied by a band of followers, in search of fame and fortune. It is probable, however, that this division of the Bulgarian stock had taken place much earlier. We read of battles with the Bulgarians in the reign of Theodoric, and they had doubtless made earlier incursions into the Balkan Peninsula. But it was not till the year 679, when Isparich, Kuvrat's son, was their chief, that they crossed from Bessarabia and established themselves in the region south of the Danube. At first they were concentrated on the shore of the Black Sea, in the Dobrudza, and at Silistria, all places where the Turkish element has ever since been the strongest. Gradually their influence extended, but while they conquered the country they were all the time being quietly vanquished by the conquered. They slowly adopted the customs and language of the Slavs, who absorbed them, just as the Saxons absorbed their Norman conquerors in England. By a curious compensation, the Bulgarians kept their name but lost their language, while the Slavs kept125 CUSTOMS OF THE BULGARIANS. their language but lost their name. The old Bulgarian tongue of the invaders has left no mark upon the modern speech of the people; for such words in the Bulgarian language of to-day as are not of Slav origin, may be traced to the old Thracian and Illyrian settlers. But the Bulgarians succeeded in imposing their name upon the combined mass of people, who dwelt in the land, henceforth called. Bulgaria. Two and a half centuries were required to complete the amalgamation of the two races. The present inhabitants of the principality are therefore descended from two separate stocks—the Slavs and the old Bulgarians —which were welded together between the seventh and the ninth centuries. The Slav element predominated, and of the old Bulgarians little now remains but the name.

The primitive customs of these old Bulgarians were in many respects the opposite of those of the Slavs. In war the Bulgarians fought mostly on horseback, the Slavs chiefly on foot; the former had usually several wives, the latter generally only one; the institutions of the former were aristocratic, those of the latter democratic. The wide trousers, worn by the Bulgarians of both sexes, the veils of the women, the turbans of the men, betrayed their Asiatic origin. The principal Bulgarian food was meat, and the number of fast-days was a great obstacle to their conversion to Christianity. The Slavs, on the other hand, lived on bread, fruit, and vegetables, as well as flesh. The Bulgarians were as cruel to their prisoners as the Slavs were lenient, and in time of peace the punishments which they inflicted were severe. Their 126 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. chief, called khan, was surrounded by an elaborate system of Oriental etiquette, while the Slavs never submitted to the rule of one man. In short, the two races, at the moment when they met, were the antitheses of each other.

While the Bulgarians have given their name to the country, the Slav language has supplied the designations of most of its towns. Jablanica is christened by the Slav name for an apple, Bukovica by the Slav term for the beech. The fort or grad, which was always built in Slav communities, has supplied the suffix to countless names of towns. It is no wonder, then, that the Russians have regarded the modern Bulgarians as their "little brothers," and that many of the latter have looked for protection to the head of the great Slav community.

The two centuries, which intervened between the settlement of the Bulgarians on the right bank of the Danube and their conversion to Christianity, were chiefly occupied in sanguinary campaigns with the Eastern Empire.

The power of the new-corners was speedily recognised by the feeble emperors, who were the unworthy successors of the ancient Rotnans. True to their policy of buying the aid of one barbarous nation to repel the assaults of another, they consented to pay tribute. to the Bulgarian prince and to give up their own claims to the ancient province of Mæsia, in order that Thrace might be spared. Justinian II., however, refused to continue this payment to Isperich, and a war followed, in which the Emperor, at first successful, finally escaped with difficulty from the 127 POWER OP THE BULGARIANS. hands of his enemy. Isperich's successor, Tervel, was the means of restoring the banished tyrant to his throne. When Justinian, after several years' exile, landed in a tiny skiff at the mouths of the Danube, he found the Bulgarian prince ready to forget his past animosity and assist his future enterprise. Bribed by the promise of the Emperor's daughter and a fair share of the Imperial treasure, Tervel, whose dominions extended to the borders of Thrace, besieged Constantinople and restored its master. Justinian rewarded his benefactor with a heap of gold, which the Bulgarian "measured with his whip," and bestowed upon him the title of Cæsar. But the benefits which he had received soon rankled in his mind. He again declared war on the Bulgarians, only to be defeated by them once more. A few years later we find Tervel concluding a treaty of peace with the Empire, and relieving Constantinople from the attacks of the Arabs. The last act of his reign was an attempt to foist another emperor upon the Byzantines. These facts show that very soon after their establishment in their new home, the Bulgarians became a powerful people, whose influence reached to the Bosphorus. Kormisoš, the next of their princes, of whom history has anything to record, was, after the monks, the chief object of Constantine V.'s aversion. This Emperor undertook no fewer than eight campaigns against the Bulgarians, and erected new fortifications in Thrace for the express purpose of keeping them in order. Kormisoš at one moment had almost reached Constantinople; at nother he was forced to sue for peace. But he soon 128 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. recovered from his humiliation, and inflicted a severe defeat on the Emperor near Varna. But internal discord marred the effects of this victory. Many Slavs migrated from Bulgaria to Asia Minor; civil wars raged in the land; the old line of Bulgarian princes disappeared, and a youth named Telec was chosen ruler. This was Constantine's opportunity; he utterly routed the Bulgarian army; the captives were carried off to grace his triumph at Constantinople and butchered before the Golden Gate; Telec himself fell beneath the blows of his own infuriated subjects. Complete confusion followed; the Bulgarians, divided into rival camps, seemed to the Emperor an easy prey. He marched once more into their country and laid many of their villages in ashes. But the advent of Cerig, a strong and crafty prince, prevented the incorporation of Bulgaria with the Empire. By a cunning trick, he obtained from Constantine the name of every traitor in the land, and at once put them all to death. His successor extorted an annual tribute from the Empress Irene and restored the influence of his race.

A still more powerful prince now mounted the throne. The name of Krum was long remembered as that of the strongest and most bloodthirsty of these old Bulgarian chiefs; for, in the phrase of Gibbon, he "could boast an honour, which had hitherto been appropriated to the Goths, that of slaying in battle one of the successors of Augustus and Constantine." It was Krum's capture of Sofia, the present capital of Bulgaria, from the Eastern Empire in 809, which led to this memorable event. 129 DEFEAT OF NICEPHORUS. At first, as we have seen, the Bulgarians had gathered round Varna and the mouths of the Danube, but under Krum they had occupied a large part of what is now Roumania and were spreading westward towards modern Servia. Nicephorus, the Greek Emperor, was resolved to avenge this audacious act.


He assembled a huge army, burnt Krum's wooden palace to the ground, and devastated the country with fire and sword. But his crafty enemy blocked the Balkan passes in his rear; the Emperor saw that he was caught, and exclaimed in his despair, "unless we had the wings of birds, we could not escape." A 10 130 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. fierce battle ensued; the whole Imperial army was annihilated; no quarter was given, and the cruel Bulgarian prince, following the custom of his race, ordered the head of his adversary to be cut off, and used the skull as a goblet at his feasts. Krum then marched into Thrace, routed the successor of Nicephorus, who tried in vain to resist his march, and encamped before the walls of Constantinople. The barbarian is said to have begun the siege with the most elaborate ceremonies. Human sacrifices were offered up before the Golden Gate, the chief washed his feet in the waves of the Bosphorus and sprinkled his people with its water, while his wives did obeisance to him in the sight of the defenders on the walls. In order to save his capital, the Emperor agreed to give him a yearly tribute, a quantity of fine clothing, and a fixed number of maidens. During the negotiations, however, Krum himself was nearly slain, and in his rage at this treachery, he laid waste the outskirts of the city and then retired with a host of captives, among them the future Emperor, Basil I. On a second expedition against Constantinople, Krum was seized with apoplexy and died. Omortag, the next Bulgarian prince, of whom anything is known, made a long peace with the Eastern Empire, and devoted his attention to the Franks, who had become his neighbours on the west. But his expedition up the river Drave and his occupation of the territory between that stream and the Save had merely temporary results. He is now chiefly remembered for the remarkable inscription, discovered forty years ago on a pillar in the "Church of the Forty 131 BORIS I. ADOPTS CHRISTIANITY. Martyrs" at Trnovo, which tells of a great house which he built, and for his persecution of the Christians. But the efforts of this Bulgarian Diocletian were powerless to prevent the adoption of Christianity by his people.

Even before the coming of the Bulgarians, the Church had made considerable headway among the Slavs. The wars between Krum and the Greek Emperors were indirectly the means of spreading the gospel, owing to the great numbers of Christians, whom the Bulgarian conqueror led captive to his own country. The prisoners, many of them priests and some even bishops, did not hide their faith from their gaolers, and so successful was their preaching, that Omortag became alarmed. Ibis execution of four bishops and several hundred other Christians only increased the zeal of the missionaries. Converts were made in high places, and a brother of Omortag's successor, in whose reign we hear of the first war between Serbs and Bulgarians, died a martyr to the new religion. The next prince, Boris I., adopted the creed which his predecessor had proscribed, and from his conversion in 864 the formal recognition of Christianity in Bulgaria dates. Throughout the history of the country religion has played a most important part, and to this day Bulgarian politics are coloured by the decision of Boris a thousand years ago. The motives which prompted the Prince to become a Christian were political rather than religious. Two pretty stories have, indeed, been circulated. According to one, his sister, who had been carried off a captive by the Greeks, convinced her brother on her 132 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. return of the beauties of the religion, which she had learnt in prison. According to the other, a Greek named Methodius terrified the conscience-stricken Bulgarian by the fiery picture which he drew of the Last Judgment. But the story is due to a confusion of names. The apostles of Bulgaria were two brothers, Constantine and Methodius, the latter of whom has been mistaken for the painter. These brothers, born at Salonica, of which their father was a high military official, early devoted themselves to missionary work. They had an intimate acquaintance with the Slav language, and Constantine is said to have invented the written character which is still called "Cyrillic" after his adopted name of Cyril. Partly by preaching, partly by their Slav translations of the Bible, they acquired great influence in Moravia and the regions bordering on Bulgaria, and Boris at last found that he. was becoming isolated by the conversion of his neighbours. He saw that it would be to his advantage to make profession of the new faith. The opportunity soon offered itself. A war with the Greek Emperor Michael III. brought him into contact with the Eastern Church. On the spot, where the treaty of peace was signed, the Bulgarian prince was baptised under the name of Michael, out of compliment to the Emperor, who had acted as his godfather. Many of his nobles followed his example, and the cession of territory by the Greeks confirmed them in their belief. But the Bulgarian aristocracy was by no means unanimous in its zeal for Christianity. Boris had to suppress a rising, which aimed at the substitution of a pagan ruler for himself. The 133 BORIS I. AND THE POPE. heathen element among the nobles was exterminated with ferocious cruelty, and Bulgaria received from her prince a baptism of blood.

Boris hesitated long between the Greek and the Roman Church. Even before his acceptance of Christianity from Byzantium, he had dallied with Rome. Here again the political character of his theology is apparent. Anxious for the ecclesiastical independence of his country, and unable to obtain a Bulgarian Patriarch from the Greek Church, he sent an embassy to Pope Nicholas I. in 866 with a most remarkable document. The Pope was expected to answer no fewer than one hundred and six questions upon the Christian life, some of which must have caused him to smile, while others touched upon the gravest themes. Thus, we find one question asking what punishment is to be meted out to idolaters, while another requests the Pope to decide whether the Bulgarians may continue to wear trousers. The morality of dowries, and minute points of Court etiquette were submitted in the same breath as the treatment of fugitives and the desirability of sorcery. The countrymen of the late M. Stambuloff might with advantage have remembered the old Papal warning that "a man, who cannot be allowed to leave his country, is not a free man." But to the most important question of all, the right of Bulgaria to an archbishop of her own, no definite answer was given. The Pope avoided the question, but promised to send two bishops to study the state of the country. The bishops came and brought Bibles with them, but it was not till the time of the next Pope that an arch 134 THE CONVERSION OF THE BULGARIANS. bishop was sent, and then Boris refused to receive him. Meanwhile the accession of the Emperor Basil I., who had been as a boy a Bulgarian prisoner, led Boris to turn once more to Constantinople. The famous Council of 869 decided that Bulgaria belonged to the Eastern and not to the Western Church, and the decision has never been revoked. The Roman clergy left the country, which was now placed under the spiritual care of the Archbishop Joseph and ten bishops, sent from Constantinople. Successive Popes in vain endeavoured to prevail upon Bulgaria to return to the Western fold. The Bulgarian Archbishop was awarded the next place to the Greek Patriarch on great occasions at Constantinople; the closest relations began between the Bulgarians and the Greeks. The oscillation of Boris between the Eastern and the Western Churches has in our own time been exactly paralleled by one of his name. This very year another Boris of Bulgaria has been the unconscious object of fierce competition between the Greek Church and that of Rome. Baby Boris, like his ancestor, has been won over to the Greek ritual.

Boris, weary of the throne, retired in 888 to a monastery, hoping to pass the rest of his days in peace. But his eldest son Vladimir, who succeeded him, was so rash a ruler that he emerged from his cloister, and appointed his younger son Simeon to rule in his stead. He then returned to his cell, and died in 907. His name lives still in the memory of the Bulgarian people, and he ranks as the first of their national heroes.