THE historian of the "Decline and Fall" has remarked in a famous passage, that " the glory of the Bulgarians was confined to a narrow scope both of time and place," but he admits that in the reign of Simeon "Bulgaria assumed a rank among the civilised powers of the earth." The era of this monarch was, indeed, the golden age of Bulgaria. Neither before nor since has the Bulgarian name been so feared and so respected, and to-day the nation looks back with pride to the thirty-four years of Simeon's rule as the period when the country reached its zenith.
The remarkable man, to whom the rise of Bulgaria
was chiefly due, had been educated by his father's
desire at Constantinople, The lad studied the masterpieces of ancient eloquence and philosophy with so
much zeal, that his comrades called him half a Greek.
But his acquaintance with Greek literature did not
dispose him to look with favour upon the Greek
Empire. His object was to found upon the ruins
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
of the Byzantine dominion a new Greco-Slav realm,
of which he himself would be the head.
He lost no time in setting about his plan. The thirty years' peace between Bulgaria and the Greeks now cache to an end. Simeon found a convenient pretext for war in a commercial question, which shows that in those days the trade of Bulgaria was considerable. The Emperor Leo the Philosopher had granted a monopoly of the Bulgarian markets to two Greek merchants, who levied heavy dues upon all the native industries. Simeon, unable to obtain redress, declared war. The feeble Leo was taken at a disadvantage. Simeon routed his armies, and contemptuously restored the Greek prisoners to their sovereign with their noses cut off. The Emperor now summoned to his aid the Magyars, who had become near neighbours of the Bulgarians since their entry into the eastern part of what is now Roumania. These fierce auxiliaries under their leader Árpád crossed the Danube, which had hitherto divided them from the Bulgarians, and forced Simeon to retire to Silistria, while they ravaged the country as far as his residence at Prêslav on the northern slopes of the Balkans. On their return march, however, the Bulgarian prince fell upon them and defeated them. I n order to prevent further Magyar invasions, he took advantage of their absence on a Western campaign to carry off or butcher their wives and little ones, whom they had left behind. Finding their Bessarabian home desolate, the Magyars wandered once more westward to found the kingdom of Hungary.
Simeon by a timely victory secured peace with
Leo. But upon the death of that Emperor, an
insult to the Bulgarian envoys aroused the anger of
their sovereign, who vowed that he would never rest
till every Byzantine town in Europe was his. The
Bulgarians again appeared at the gates of Constantinople; Adrianople fell before them. The Greeks
attempted to divert their enemy's attention from the
Imperial city by an expedition against his own coast.
But a great Bulgarian victory at the mouth of the
river Achelöus near Mesembria annihilated the Greek
forces. Simeon renewed his attack on Constantinople with a vast army, and endeavoured to obtain a
fleet from the Arabs of Tunis. Romanus Lecapenus,
the associate of Constantine Porphyrogenitus on the
throne, was forced to beg for peace from the proud
Bulgarian, who held the fortunes of the Greek Empire
in the hollow of his hand. Simeon, fearing that the
tribes of the north might assail him in the rear, consented to spare the Imperial capital. Riches were
offered to the victors; free trade—the original bone
of contention—was granted, and the chief places at
festivals were reserved for the Bulgarians and their
friends. Further hostilities with the Greeks were
prevented by the death of their dreaded foe.
Meanwhile Simeon had extended his dominions in
other directions. He deposed two princes of Servia, and
drove a third to seek refuge among the Croats, while
a Bulgarian army ravaged his country with fire and
sword. Under Simeon's sway the Bulgarian frontier
ran from Mesembria on the shore of the Black Sea
past Adrianople to Mount Rhodope, and then right
across the peninsula from Mount Olympus to the
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
Albanian coast opposite Corfu. Albania, with the
exception of a few ports, was Bulgarian as far as the
river Drin, while nearly the whole of the present
kingdom of Servia, including the important town
of Nisch and Belgrade itself, belonged to Simeon.
Even across the Danube his power was felt. Before
the Magyar invasion he seems to have included part
of Roumania in his dominions, and it is possible that
portions of Hungary and Transylvania owned his
sceptre. At his death he was meditating the addition of Croatia to his possessions. Bulgaria, under
his auspices, was—what she has never been again, but
what she still aspires to be—the dominant state of
the Balkan Peninsula. Indeed, there was little room
left for any one else. Not even the "big Bulgaria,"
projected by the treaty of San Stefano in 1878,
would have been so large as the Bulgaria of the first
three decades of the tenth century.
It was hardly to be expected that the lord of such a vast expanse of territory would remain content with the simple title of knez, or prince. Simeon sought the name as well as the dominions of an Emperor, and obtained from Rome the title which he desired. He styled himself "Czar of the Bulgarians and Autocrat of the Greeks," and his successors called themselves "Czars" after him. Thus, five centuries before there were Czars of Russia, Bulgaria had adopted that proud designation for her rulers. But without a Patriarch the Empire of a Czar was incomplete. Boris had never succeeded in obtaining for his chief ecclesiastic any higher title than that of Archbishop. But his son was more fortunate, and a Patriarch was installed at his capital at Prêslav.
We may judge of Simeon's power, not merely from
the extent of his Empire, but from the splendour of his
palace. The Bulgarians had rivalled the pomp of the
Greeks at the siege of Constantinople, and they now
erected a capital worthy of their huge realm. Prêslav,
better known under its Turkish name of Eski-Stambul,
is now a wretched village, but a thousand years ago its
splendour excited universal admiration. A personal
friend of Simeon, John the Exarch, has given an interesting description of the Bulgarian Czar's residence.
"If a stranger coming from afar enters the outer-
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
court of the princely dwelling, he will be amazed, and
ask many a question as he walks up to the gates.
And if he goes within, he will see on either side
buildings decorated with stone and wainscoted with
wood of various colours. And if he goes yet further
into the courtyard he will behold lofty palaces
and churches, bedecked with countless stones and
wood and frescoes without, and with marble and
copper and silver and gold within. Such grandeur
he has never seen before, for in his own land there
are only miserable huts of straw. Beside himself
with astonishment, he will scarce believe his eyes.
But if he perchance espy the prince sitting in his
robe covered with pearls, with a chain of coins round
his neck and bracelets on his wrists, girt about with a
purple girdle and a sword of gold at his side, while
on either hand his nobles are seated with golden
chains, girdles, and bracelets upon them; then will he
answer when one asks him on his return home what
he has seen: 'I know not how to describe it; only
thine own eyes could comprehend such splendour.'"
In the seventeenth century there was still existing
near Prêslav a huge wall, dating from pre-Turkish
OLD BULGARIAN LITERATURE.
times, which enclosed a larger space than the area of
Constantinople itself. Nowadays a few fragments of
stone alone remain to mark the spot.
The reign of Simeon was long remembered as the golden age of old Bulgarian literature. The Czar, like several other Balkan princes, was a patron of letters, and dabbled in them himself. It is uncertain whether the Slav translation of St. Chrysostom's best speeches was from his pen, but it was at his instigation that the selection was made. Before his time there were already the germs of a national literature. The oldest known specimen is the catalogue of ancient Bulgarian princes, referred to in the last chapter. At first, it seems probable that the Greek alphabet was used, but after the invention of the Cyrillic character it was discarded. The first Slavonic books were mainly religious works, translations of the Bible and ecclesiastical books executed by Constantine, Methodius, and their pupils, who were collectively known as the "seven saints." With the accession of Simeon, the bulk of the national literature increased. John the Exarch, from whom we have already quoted, wrote and dedicated to the Czar a work called Šestodnev, a descriptive account of the Creation, compiled from a variety of sources. Another priest, named Constantine, translated by the Czar's orders four orations of Athanasius—a further proof of Simeon's rhetorical taste—and made a collection of homilies for every Sunday in the year. We now hear for the first time of a historical work, a translation of the chronicle of John Malalas together with a sketch of Old Testament history and a life of 142
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.Alexander the Great— the whole undertaken by a monk named Gregory at the express desire of Simeon. Philology, too, found a Bulgarian votary in the monk Chrabr, who composed a treatise on the invention of the Slavonic alphabet. An encyclopædia of contemporary learning translated from Greek authors was the work of this reign, and bears the name of "Simeon's Sbornik," but its authors are unknown. It will be seen that the literature of the period was entirely in monkish hands, and Simeon himself owed his literary accomplishments to his training as a monk. But works of originality were sadly lacking; no great Bulgarian poet arose to kindle the feelings of the people by his songs. Oral tradition had accumulated legends, proverbs, and fables, but there was no Bulgarian Homer or Virgil to weave them into a national epic. Simeon compared his literary associates with the learned men who had gathered at the court of the Ptolemies. His death threw a shadow over the culture which he had done so much to foster, just as it checked his conquests. He died in 927, and Peter, his eldest son by his second marriage, whom he had made his heir to the exclusion of Michael, his son by his first wife, reigned in his stead.
The new Czar was a very different man from his
father. Simeon had sought the diadem of an Emperor, Peter desired the halo of a saint; Simeon had
led his people to the gates of Constantinople, Peter
could scarcely defend his country from the Greeks
Alike at home and abroad, in politics and religion,
dissension and weakness were the characteristics of
THE CZAR PETER.
this long reign, with which the decline of the first
Bulgarian Empire began.
Peter had hardly mounted the throne when his
neighbours prepared to take advantage of his youth
and inexperience to attack his dominions. The
Greeks were the first in the field, but a peace was
arranged through the efforts of the young Czar's
uncle and gnardian, Sursubul, and cemented by a
marriage between Peter and the grand-daughter of
the Emperor Romanus Lecapenus. This Byzantine
union had an evil influence upon the future of Bulgaria. For the close relations between Constantinople and Bulgaria which date from the marriage of Peter, brought the sturdy warriors of the Balkans
under the spell of the Byzantine Court. The Bulgarian Czar, who had derived his diadem from Rome, now drew near to Constantinople. The Greeks recognised the validity of his title, and allowed the
dignity of a Patriarch to the Archbishop of Silistria.
The Bulgarian Church thus became independent, and
the aspirations of Boris I. were fulfilled. Moreover,
the Greek Emperor still paid a yearly tribute to the
Bulgarian Czar. But the party of action in the
country was not satisfied with this Greek alliance.
Simeon's old generals despised the enemies whom
they had so often put to rout, and in Peter's younger
brother John they found a leader. But John was
defeated, and Michael, Peter's disinterested half-brother, fared no better. But the connection with the Eastern Empire was severed by the Greeks themselves. With the accession of the Emperor Nicephorus Phocas a series of energetic rulers be-
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
Dan, and Bulgaria was not long in feeling the effects
of the new order of things. Nicephorus, flushed with
his conquest of Crete and Cyprus, determined to
subdue the Bulgarians and avenge the victories of
Simeon. The incursions of the Magyars, who five
times ravaged Bulgaria under Peter's weak rule and
then strayed over the border into the Byzantine
provinces, furnished him with an excuse. He demanded satisfaction from the Bulgarians, and when they retaliated by asking him for tribute, he beat their envoys and occupied their frontier. But, warned
by the fate of his predecessors, he resolved to take no
further steps until he had secured a powerful ally. He
accordingly begged Sviatoslav, chief of the Russians,
to assist him.
The first appearance of the Russians in Bulgaria was a most important event, which affects Bulgarian politics to this hour. From that memorable day of August, 967, when the Russian fleet arrived with ten thousand men at the mouth of the Danube, we may trace the first interference of Russia in the affairs of the Southern Slavs. Sviatoslav, a hardy warrior, whose food was horseflesh, whose couch was a bear skin laid upon the ground, made short work of such resistance as the feeble Peter offered to his arms. Silistria, the great Bulgarian stronghold, fell, and so rapid was the progress of the Russians, that Nicephorus began to fear for the safety of his own capital. He hastened to make peace with the Bulgarian Czar, and promised to drive the terrible Northmen from his land. A double marriage was to be a token of this new alliance.145
While Bulgaria had thus been menaced by Greeks and Russians, Servia, enslaved by Simeon, had regained her independence. Under the leadership of Česlav she severed herself from Bulgarian domination and owned no superior save the Emperor at Constantinople. The Patzinakitai, a savage tribe occupying the southern part of Roumania, crossed the Danube and made repeated incursions into Bulgaria on the north, and to add to these external troubles, a schism arose at home which rent the Empire of Simeon in twain. Disgusted at the weakness of Peter, a Bulgarian noble, named Šišman, a native of Trnovo resolved to found a dynasty of his own. Unable to subject the whole country to his sway, he contented himself with the western half. He soon extended his influence in Macedonia and Albania, and from 963 there were thus two separate Bulgarian Empires, one in the west, the other in the east. Šišman had himself proclaimed Czar, and his descendants held their own for half a century after the other half of the Empire had fallen beneath the Byzantine yoke.
The decadence of Bulgaria was as marked in the
domain of literature and theology as in the arts of
war. To the zealous preachers and teachers, whose
lives and writings had illuminated the reigns of Boris
I. and his still greater son, there succeeded a race of
gloomy hermits, who preferred the seclusion of the
forests to the task of instructing the people. We
find in the fiery speeches of Kosmas, who lived a
little later, vigorous denunciations of these monkish
ascetics, who sacrificed useful studies to the mortifica-
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
tion of their own bodies, while the nation, which they
ought to have taught, was wholly devoted to gaming
and drinking, the music of the guzla, and the singing
of " devilish songs." The kind of life led by the
spiritual leaders of that period may be judged from
the career of the most famous of them all, John of
Ryl, who was afterwards chosen as the patron saint
of Bulgaria. Born in a village, of humble parents,
he spent his youth in tending a flock of sheep. On
his parents' death he entered a cloister; but, desiring
absolute solitude, soon retired to the remote but
beautiful Ryl mountains. Here he spent twenty-
seven solitary years, first in a dark cavern, then in the
hollow of an old oak, and finally on an inaccessible
crag, which now overshadows the fine monastery
erected to his memory. Here the Czar Peter once
visited him in his retirement, and perhaps may have
wished that he could follow his example. But the
lonely hermit did not lack imitators. Three other
"dwellers in the wilderness" are mentioned in the
history of the period, and commemorated by similar
monastic foundations, which served during the long
period of Turkish domination to keep alive the torch
of Slavonic learning.
While literature had thus fled from the land, a
strange doctrine of theology had insinuated itself into
the minds of the people. The heresy of the Bogomiles has played a great part in the history of the
Balkan Peninsula. In Bosnia it defied all the efforts
of the Popes to suppress it; it made its way into
Italy, and even France; but it was in Bulgaria that
it first attained importance. During the early part of
Peter's reign, there appeared in his country a priest
named Bogomil, the "Beloved of God," the author of
several mystical works, strongly imbued with Oriental
ideas. Bogomil's teaching was peculiarly appreciated
by a Slavonic race, such as the Bulgarians had by
this time become, His cardinal doctrine of a good
and an evil deity found its counterpart in the old
Slavonic myth of good and evil spirits, called bogy
and bêsy. Upon this dualism his whole system was
based; by means of it he built up a complete theory
of the universe. The good deity, according to the
Bogomiles, was the creator of what is heavenly,
unseen, and perfect. It is to the bad deity, the
Satan of the Scriptures, that we owe everything that
is visible and tangible, the world and all that dwell
therein. In Platonic language, they describe how in
the soul of man both elements are combined, how
everywhere exists the antithesis between mind and
matter, between what is temporal and what is eternal.
For all the misfortunes which befell mankind in the
Old Testament they make the evil deity responsible
—for the murder of Abel, the Flood, the Tower of
Babel, the destruction of Sodom. The Virgin Mary
was, in their view, not the mother of our Lord, but
an angel; the death of Christ upon the Cross was
not a reality. For the emblems of Christianity as
practised by the monks they had nothing but contempt. They blasphemed against the crucifix; they regarded pictures and statues as idolatrous. They rejected the mass, set orthodox bishops at defiance,
and called themselves "the salt of the earth," "the
lilies of the field," and "the light of the world."
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
Adults were alone admitted into their community,
and fasting and prayer, followed by the laying of the
Gospel according to St. John on the head of the
proselyte, took the place of baptism. There were
two grades among the faithful, one of "simple
believers," the other of "perfect" men and women.
Any member of the latter grade might preach, and
the elders of the Church were elected by the congregation. There was no regular service of prayer, and no churches were needed for the simple worship of the Bogomiles. Like the ancient Slavs, they
addressed their supplications to God under the
canopy of heaven or in their straw-thatched huts.
A "perfect" Bogomile might not marry; to eat meat
was a crime, to kill any animal but a snake a deadly
sin. This horror of bloodshed made them prohibit
warfare and capital punishment, for these they regarded as works of the evil spirit. The "perfect" Bogomile was, in fact, a hermit, for he was compelled by his creed to avoid everything that savoured of the
world. It was easy to recognise him, as he rode
through a village, by the prayers which he murmured
as he went. But only a chosen few arrived at so
high a grade of self-denial. An ordinary member of
the sect lived externally much like other men. He
married a wife, and could divorce her at his will; he
went to the wars, and engaged in commerce. But on
his death-bed he was always received into the community of the "perfect." Such was the Bogomile heresy, Its influence upon the people was very great: in spite, or because, of persecution, it spread
far and wide. A mass of legends and fables sprang
RESULTS OF THE BOGOMILE HERESY.
from the mystical teachings of the Bogomiles, and
this curious lore was disseminated from Bulgaria
through Russia and the Balkan lands. But the
political results of the heresy were even more serious.
It added yet another to the thorny theological questions which divided the Christians of South-eastern Europe against each other. Two new parties were thus formed, and at a later period, when nothing but
unity could have saved the Balkan nationalities from
the victorious march of Islâm, they were separated
and split asunder by their own religious differences.
Boris II., who succeeded his father Peter upon the
death of the latter in 969, found himself surrounded
by difficulties. The Russians, under their redoubtable chief; Sviatoslav, having once tasted the delights of a warmer climate, were not likely to remain in their capital of Kieff. David, son of Šišman, who
now styled himself Czar of West Bulgaria, seized the
opportunity of Boris's absence in Constantinople to
attack the eastern half of the country. With a
promptitude worthy of Simeon, Boris hurried back
and repulsed the usurper David. But the threatened
Russian invasion was much more serious. This time
Sviatoslav came with the intention of staying. He
told his mother Olga that he had resolved to move
his throne from Kieff to Prêslavec, on the Danube,
where he had pitched his winter quarters on his
former expedition. The site of Prêslavec, which
must not be confounded with Simeon's capital of
Prêslav on the northern slopes of the Balkans, is
ow lost; but it must have seemed to the hardy
orthmen a veritable paradise. Sviatoslav de-
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE
scribed to his mother the advantages of its situation. "At Prêslavec," he said, "the riches of the whole world are to be found. Thither Greece sends her silk, her wines, and her fruits; Bohemia and Hungary their steeds; Russia her furs and her wax,
her honey and her slaves." Prêslavec, as well as
Prêslav, fell before the lances of the Russians, Boris
himself was captured by the invaders; a Russian
army for the first time crossed the Balkans, and, after
a desperate struggle for Philippopolis, appeared on
the Greek frontier and threatened Constantinople.
But the warlike Armenian, John Zimisces, who had
just succeeded to the Byzantine throne, came to the
assistance of the Bulgarian Czar. Traversing the
Balkans, he suddenly appeared before Prêslav, where
Sviatoslav's trusty lieutenant had been left in charge
of the booty and the Bulgarian monarch. The skill
of the Greeks in sieges soon told. After a desperate
assault, the city was captured, but the palace of the
Bulgarian Czars perished in the flames. Boris and
his family were rescued, and the handful of Russians
who escaped retreated to Silistria. With the fall of
that last refuge, peace was concluded. Sviatoslav
renounced all hostile designs upon Bulgaria, and was
allowed to go free. But near the rapids of the
Dnieper he was attacked by the fierce tribe of Patzinakitai; his head was cut off and converted into a goblet, in accordance with that savage custom of which Bulgarian history has already furnished us
with one notable example.
Bulgaria had been freed from the Russians, but she
found that she had merely exchanged one servitude
ACCESSION OF SAMUEL.
for another. The crafty Armenian had not released
Boris from pure compassion for his fate, and the
kindness with which the rescued Czar was treated
was merely the prelude to his final deposition. It
had long been the desire of the Byzantine Emperors
to add Bulgaria to their dominions, and chance had
at last given them an opportunity of accomplishing
it. Master as he was of the country, Zimisces destroyed the Empire of Simeon without a blow. Boris II. and the Patriarch Damian were deposed, the diadem of the Bulgarian Czars was offered up as a
trophy in the Church of St. Sophia at Constantinople,
the fallen sovereign was stripped of his purple mantle
and his scarlet shoes, while he received in return for
the loss of his dominions the sorry dignity of an
Imperial magnate. To make the downfall of his
dynasty doubly sure, his younger brother, sole survivor of Omortag's line, was emasculated by order of the conqueror. Thus, in 971, three centuries after Isperich had led his Bulgarians across the Danube,
the Empire of Simeon ingloriously fell. Only in the
western portion. of the country—in Macedonia and
Albania—the new dynasty, which Šišman had founded, still survived to maintain the name and fame of the Bulgarian Czars. Five years after the fall of the East Bulgarian throne, a man arose in the
West whose exploits threw a final lustre upon the
last years of the First Bulgarian Empire. This man
was Stephen Samuel, fourth son of Šišman, who has
left a great mark upon the history of his country.
The circumstances under which Samuel received
the crown are somewhat obscure. His eldest brother,
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
David, is known to have been murdered by a band
of wandering Wallachs in the mountains. Moses,
the second brother, fell in battle. Aaron, the third of
the family, was put to death by Samuel's orders
because of his sympathies with the Greeks. A story
was long current to the effect that Samuel had put
his father's eyes out and then strangled him, in order
to secure the throne. But this is probably an invention. Samuel was a cruel ruler, but it is not ,necessary to accuse him of parricide. The fact is certain that in 976 he became Czar, and for nearly forty
years the fortunes of Bulgaria were in his hands.
The empire to which Samuel succeeded was Macedonian rather than Bulgarian. At first, indeed, he fixed his residence at Sofia, the present capital; but he soon moved to Macedonia, and established himself in a rocky and beautifully-wooded island in the lovely lake of Prespa. The travellers who have seen the place have still been able to trace the ruins of his castle, or Grad, from which the island derives its present name. Amid the clusters of the vine and the fiery glow of the pomegranate, the columns of four churches still rise in silent grandeur; while a second island, called Mali Grad, or "the little castle," testifies alike by its title and the carved stones upon it to the past glories of the Bulgarian Czar. Yet nearer the Adriatic did Samuel penetrate, for above the lake of Ochrida two ruined fortresses still remind the natives of their ancient lord. Further westward the Albanian town of Berat owned his sway, while in the south Joannina, the present Albanian capital, and the coast opposite Corfu were parts of his empire.
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
In the north his dominions included Nisch and Belgrade; in the east he held most of the towns on the Struma and the Vardar, and thus connected Macedonia with Sofia and the east of Bulgaria. Opposed
as he was to the Emperor at Constantinople, he
naturally looked to Rome for his crown, like Simeon
and Peter; but he was statesman enough to see that
it was only by a strict neutrality in the theological
disputes of his subjects that he could keep it. The
parties of the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox Greek
Church, and the Bogomiles were so evenly divided in
his domains, that no other course was open to him.
The confusion, which followed the death of the Emperor Zimisces, induced the people of Eastern Bulgaria to revolt against their Byzantine masters. In Samuel they found a leader, and in a short time all the Bulgarian towns on the Danube opened their gates to him. Meanwhile the captive Czar, Boris II., and his brother had escaped from Constantinople. But the unhappy Boris, oil his way home, was killed by one of his former subjects, who imagined from his garb that he was a Greek. His brother escaped to Samuel's court, where he was received with favour and entrusted with an important post. Having Bulgaria at his feet the Czar marched southwards into Thessaly, then inhabited by a considerable Slavonic population, and by the capture of Larissa provided himself with a Greek wife.
But in Basil II., the new Emperor, the Bulgarian
Czar found a foeman worthy of his steel. From his
early years this heartless ascetic seemed to have but
one desire, the complete subjugation of the Bulgarian
BASIL THE "BULGAR-SLAYER."
race. It took him forty years to accomplish his task,
but at last he succeeded, and is now chiefly known
by the epithet of the "Bulgar-slayer," which his
cruelties and his victories won him. His first
campaign against Samuel in 981 was a complete
failure; and it was with the utmost difficulty that he
escaped with his life. Warlike operations elsewhere
prevented the Emperor from renewing his attack for
fifteen years, and in the meanwhile Samuel extended
his sway in all directions. The Czar occupied Durazzo
and the Adriatic seaboard as far north as Ragusa, and
attacked John Vladimir, the Serb ruler of the district
known as the Zeta, which was the germ of the present
principality of Montenegro. Vladimir retreated into
those inaccessible mountain fastnesses which no
enemy has ever been able to capture, and received as
a token of the conqueror's esteem the hand of his
daughter and North Albania as his vassal. This was
the zenith of Samuel's rule; from that moment his
power began to decline. In his second war against
Basil he sustained his first crushing defeat. On his
way back from a campaign in the Morea he was
attacked by night on the banks of the river Helláda
not far from the famous pass of Thermopylæ. A
terrible slaughter ensued, and Samuel fled for refuge
to his rocky island home in Lake Prespa. From that
moment his fortune turned. Durazzo was lost to
him, and the loss was all the more bitter because his
own daughter helped her Armenian husband to
betray the place. East Bulgaria, with the. old capital
of Prêslav, acknowledged once more the Byzantine
sway; Vidin surrendered after an eight months' siege.
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
Basil marched through the land destroying fortress
after fortress as he went. The four campaigns of this
second Bulgarian and Byzantine war left Samuel
nothing but West Macedonia, Albania, and the
mountainous districts of Vitoš and Ryl. Fresh
distractions in Asia alone prevented Basil from
giving the final blow to the First Bulgarian Empire.
A third war, which broke out in 1014, was even more
disastrous for the Czar. Fifteen thousand of his
subjects were taken prisoners in a great battle near
Belasica, a mountain in Macedonia, which looms
large in Bulgarian ballads. With a refinement of
cruelty unparalleled even in the annals of that barbarous age, Basil had their eyes put out, allowing every hundredth man to retain one eye, in order that he might be able to guide his comrades to the
headquarters of their sovereign. In spite of his own
fierce disposition and deeds of bloodshed, Samuel
was overpowered at the spectacle as a long line of
blind warriors entered the gates of his camp. He
fell to the ground in a swoon: for a moment he
seemed to recover, but his heart was broken, and he
died ten clays later on September 15, 1014. With
him perished the last hope of Bulgaria. It was his
strong arm and resolute will which had so long kept
the Greek Emperor at bay, and though his son
Gabriel Roman or Radomir, who succeeded him, had
the courage and more than the stature of his father,
he could not stay the downfall of his country. An
evil fate seemed to dog the House of Šišman; the
blood which Samuel had shed was upon the head of
his son. For a time the Czar Gabriel, who had stood
FALL OF BULGARIA.
at his father's right hand in many a battle, made a
stand against the inveterate enemy of his race.
Basil, flushed with his success, refused all offers of
peace, and pressed on into Macedonia. But the
Bulgarians, fired by Gabriel's example, disputed every
position with the Greeks, and Basil had to resort to
treachery to accomplish his ends. Samuel's murdered
brother Aaron had left a son, John Vladislav, who
was as devoted as his father before him to the Greek
cause. Forgetful of the fact that his own life had
been spared by Samuel at the request of his cousin
Gabriel, Vladislav assassinated the Czar at the instigation of the Greek Emperor. Not content with one victim, Vladislav gave orders for the murder of Gabriel's wife, blinded her eldest boy, and slew
Vladimir prince of the Zeta who had married
Gabriel's daughter. Thus was Samuel's fratricide
Vladislav was unable to reap the fruits of his
treachery by handing over Bulgaria to the Greeks.
The Bulgarian boljars or nobles, who had always
been the mainstay of the Czars, forced him to continue the struggle for national independence. Under the patriotic Ivac the aristocracy showed that the spirit of Simeon and Samuel was not dead. Basil's
career of plunder and cruelty was momentarily
stopped, and Vladislav himself seems to have
changed his mind and done his best for his country.
But he fell before the walls of Durazzo in 1018,
Bulgaria was left without a Czar, and the nobles
themselves became convinced that further resistance
was useless. A few, however, still held out; the
THE FIRST BULGARIAN EMPIRE.
majority surrendered to the Greek Emperor. Basil
mIlarched in triumphal progress to Ochrida, where the
widow of Vladislav and the survivors of the House
of Šišlnan received him in the former residence of
Samuel. An immense treasure and the crown of the
dead Czar fell into the victor's hands, and it did not
cost hint much to confirm the privileges of the Bulgarian nobles, and confer a few Byzantine titles upon their chiefs. The mountains of Albania still sheltered the dauntless few, among them three sons of Vladislav. But Ivac, who had been the soul of the struggle for freedom, was cunningly entrapped and blinded. Deprived of their leader, the remaining boljars yielded, and in 1018, after forty years of stratagems and
battles, Basil the "Bulgar-slayer" realised the dream
of his youth. Bulgaria, West as well as East, the
Empire of Samuel no less than the Empire of Boris,
was a dependency of Constantinople. The Serbs
and Croats were dragged down iii its fall, and the
Balkan Peninsula obeyed the commands of a Byzantine Emperor.