III.

BULGARIA UNDER THE GREEKS.

(1018-1186.)

THE period of one hundred and seventy years which intervened between the First and Second Bulgarian Empires is almost a blank in the national history. The Greek supremacy stifled the patriotic feelings of the people. The country had been devastated by the long struggle between Samuel and Basil, thousands of its inhabitants had fallen in war, many had migrated to Asia. The nobles, the natural leaders of the masses in an aristocratic state such as Bulgaria, were occupying subordinate positions at the court of the conqueror; even Samuel's daughter was a lady-in-waiting to some Imperial Highness at Constantinople. Bulgaria; though its ancient boundaries were nominally preserved, was for all practical urposes an integral part of the Greek Empire. The Emperor announced, indeed, in one of his proclamaons that, although he had conquered the country, he intended to maintain its rights. But he divided the ominions of the Czars into themata, or provinces, 159 160 BULGARIA UNDER THE GREEKS. like the rest of the Empire, each under the control of a strategos or governor, who combined in his person both military and civil powers and usually held office for little more than a year. During this time his chief object was to make as much out of the unfortunate provincials as he could, and scarcely had one official been satiated than another hungry placeman appeared in his stead. From the testimony of Greek writers themselves we learn that their countrymen behaved like "robbers" to the helpless Bulgarians entrusted to their care. Above the strategi, who resided in the chief towns such as Ochrida, Prespa, and Durazzo, there was a Governor- general whose seat was at Skopje in Macedonia. Beneath them there were two inferior grades of military officers, so that there was a complete hierarchy of Imperial functionaries. In fact, under the Greek rule the Bulgarians had a foretaste of the coming Turkish domination. The men were different, the methods very much the same.

One national institution was allowed to retain much of its former independence. The Bulgarian Church had always been closely connected with the life of the people. Basil spared the religious susceptibilities of the conquered nation from political motives. He permitted the Bulgarian ecclesiastics to govern themselves without interference; but he substituted the title of Archbishop for that of Patriarch; and after the first appointment took care that the occupant of the post should be a Greek. Ochrida, the seat of the Archbishop, thus became the centre of Greek influence in Bulgarian lands. Nominated by 161 THE CHURCH. the Emperor at Constantinople the head of the the Church was his willing tool, and the former residence of the Czars was converted into the headquarters of Greek culture. But the Bogomile heresy continued to make headway, and the hair-splitting of Greek theologians rather increased than hindered the growth of the schism. The Emperor Alexius I. persecuted the heretics with fire and sword, with the result that they threw themselves into the arms of his barbarous enemies, preferring a pagan ally to a Christian foe. The territorial jurisdiction of the Church was, however, the same as under the old Bulgarian Czars. The "golden bulls" of the Emperor Basil enumerated no fewer than thirty bishoprics of the Bulgarian community with six hundred and eighty-five priests in their respective dioceses, which included all Macedonia, parts of Albania and Thessaly, Sofia, Vidin, Prisrend, and even Belgrade, between them. In short, the network of the Bulgarian hierarchy was, even under the Greek Emperors, fully as widespread as the temporal dominion of Simeon or Samuel had been. The National Church was practically free, but it was a free Church in an enslaved state.

The anarchy which ensued all over the Byzantine Empire on the death of Basil II., was favourable to the Bulgarian cause. Vladislav's widow and son were suspected of intriguing against their masters, and the latter was deprived of his sight. Peter Deljan, a son of the hapless Czar Gabriel, appeared in 1040 in his father's country and was received with acclamations as its ruler. The natives, ground down 12 162 BULGARIA UNDER THE GREEKS. by the exactions of the Greek governors, flocked to his standard, and town after town welcomed him as a deliverer. But a rival Czar was proclaimed, and, as Deljan said, the land could not support two monarchs. He therefore offered to withdraw if the people wished it. "We will have no Czar but Deljan," was the enthusiastic reply. His rival was stoned, and for a time fortune favoured the arms of the united Bulgarians. The Byzantine tax-gatherers were hewn in pieces, the Emperor himself was forced to flee, his treasure fell into the hands of the enemy, and Salonica was only saved by a miracle. It seemed for a moment as if the Bulgarian Empire had been restored. But a fresh quarrel divided the Bulgarian ranks. Vladislav's younger brother had sought refuge with his cousin at the outbreak of the rebellion, and shared with him the glory of the campaign. With the hereditary treachery of his race he invited Deljan to his table, and blinded his guest when the latter was in his cups. Fate seemed to dog the steps of Šišman's House, and the crime of Samuel who had slain his brother was literally being visited upon the third and fourth generation. The traitor was richly rewarded by the Greek Emperor, and Bulgaria, once more without a leader, succumbed to the oppressor. Only in the impregnable fastnesses of Montenegro did Voislav, a prince connected by marriage with Samuel's line, defy the armies of the invaders, whose bones bleached on the cold grey limestone rocks. But the Bulgarians were still not without hopes of freedom. They were ready to follow the lead of any one who shared their religious views. Thus we find them 163 NATIVE RISINGS. offering the title of Czar to the grandson of the redoubtable Voislav, Constantine Bodin in 1073, on condition that he would free them from the Greeks. Boclin consented, was proclaimed Czar under the name of Peter, but speedily collapsed. The only result of this abortive rising was the destruction of the palace of the Czars upon the lake of Prespa by mercenaries. Thus perished the most interesting monument of the old Bulgarian Empire. When, however, Robert Guiscard and his Normans landed in Albania and occupied a large part of Macedonia, the orthodox Bulgarians refused to make common cause with the "heretics." But the Bogomiles did not scruple to form military and even matrimonial alliances with barbarous chiefs who would assist them against their Greek persecutors.

For these native insurrections were not the only disturbances during the Greek occupation. Two fierce tribes froin beyond the Danube made repeated incursions into Bulgaria, which the successors of Basil II. were too weak to prevent. The Patzinakitai were crushed by the Greek commanders, but the conquerors committed the blunder of allowing their barbarous prisoners to settle on the plains round Sofia and Nisch. To the unfortunate Bulgarian peasantry the new colonists were most unwelcome neighbours, for they invited their kinsmen from over the river to join them in plundering the natives. The Kumani, a wild gipsy race, speaking a language somewhat resembling Turkish, appeared in Bulgaria for the first time about the middle of the eleventh century. United with the Patzinakitai, they proved 164 BULGARIA UNDER THE GREEKS. invincible; but at last their allies were utterly routed, and henceforth disappear from the Balkan Peninsula. Another people, perhaps the oldest in the Balkans, is now first mentioned in history. The Albanians, or Skipetar, as they prefer to call themselves, are still a riddle to philologists. Their language is almost unintelligible; their country is to this day less known than many parts of Central Africa. Their utter disregard of human life and complacent indifference to their present Ottoman masters make any study of their customs well-nigh impossible. The blood feud and constant border warfare permit few of them to die a natural death. Their obedience to their own chiefs and their natural aptitude for fighting—none of them ever stirs abroad without his belt of cartridges and his weapons—might have formed the basis of an Albanian Empire. But they have no national history; even their great hero, Skanderbeg, was not an Albanian by birth. Their literature consists mainly of terse proverbs, which show them to be shrewd observers, and in Montenegro they have become, under a firm government, industrious citizens. In their own country they exhibit a lawlessness which makes them the Kurds of Europe.

The last sixty years of the Greek rule in Bulgaria were comparatively undisturbed. The barbarian inroads had almost ceased, the natives had sunk into despair. But in 1186 an event Occurred which roused them to fury and led to the final overthrow of the Greek supremacy. There were living about that time in Trnovo two brothers, Peter and John Asên, who traced their descent from the Imperial race of 165 A COSTLY SLAP ON THE CHEEK. Šišman. Anxious to push their fortunes or seeking a pretext for revolt, the brothers betook themselves to the Greek headquarters and asked for commissions in the army and a grant of lands on the Balkans. Their petitions were refused, and John Asên received for his importunity a slap on the cheek from the highest official of the Court. The affront was never forgiven. Asên was a fiery adventurer, of the stuff

OLD RELIEF AT VARNA.

of which revolutionary leaders are made. Eager for revenge, he hastened home to Trnovo, and there the two brothers called a public meeting in the Church of St. Demetrius, which they had founded. They had no difficulty in working upon the feelings of the people. The Greek Emperor, Isaac Angelus, in der to defray the cost of his nuptials with the daughter of the Hungarian king, had extorted the 166 BULGARIA UNDER THE GREEKS. last farthing from his Bulgarian subjects, whose flocks and herds had been seized by his rapacious officials. To this material injury was added the popular belief that the day, appointed by God Himself for the restoration of their ancient freedom, had arrived. The holy Demetrius, it was said, had abandoned his desolate church at Salonica and come to the birthplace of Šišman to succour his faithful Bulgarians. Nobles and peasants flew to arms. All that was wanted was a leader, and John Asên was at once recognised as the man. He was at once crowned "Czar of the Bulgarians and Greeks," and a new archbishop was appointed, who did not derive his title from Constantinople. After the lapse of one hundred and sixty-eight years Bulgaria was once again an independent state.