THE Bulgarian Empire was not re-established without a struggle. The Greeks lost no time in sending an army against the insurgents, and the temporary success which they gained led them to believe that the movement was no more serious than those of Deljan and Bodin. But the assistance of the great Servian Prince Nemanja, the Wallachs and the warlike Kumani, and still more the dissensions of his enemies enabled John Asên to hold his own. The Byzantine system was rotten to the core. Commanders, instead of attacking the foe, intrigued for he crown; the Byzantine armies, largely composed of mercenaries and aliens, were devoid of patriotism when their pay was in arrear; the masses had lost their faith in the Church; the Church had lost touch with the world. Upon the throne of the Cæsars sat a luxurious and indolent monarch, who proved himself such a contemptible opponent that the Bulgarians sarcastically wished him a long life and reign. Asên 167 168 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. scornfully told his countrymen that all the Greeks were of the same character as their effeminate ruler. "Behold my lance," he cried, "and the long streamers that float in the wind. They differ only in colour; they arc formed of the same silk and fashioned by the same workman; nor has the stripe, that is stained in purple, any superior price or value above its fellows." Bulgaria, from the Danube to the Balkans, was soon freed from the Greeks, and a guerilla warfare began in Thrace. At this style of combat the Bulgarians greatly excelled. When the Greeks advanced, they retired; when the Greeks retired, they advanced. At one moment, the capture of Asên's wife in an ambush placed them at a disadvantage, but they more than made up for this by an overwhelming defeat of the Byzantine army in a narrow defile, where, heedless of his predecessor's experiences, the Emperor Isaac had foolishly ventured. The Bulgarians, in the language of a Greek historian who took part in these campaigns, "ran like stags or goats" upon the steep crags, whence they hurled huge blocks of rock and fired showers of arrows upon their helpless foes. Isaac's army was annihilated, and the Emperor with difficulty escaped alive. The Bulgarians now grew bolder. They abandoned their guerilla warfare, and laid siege to fortified towns. Varna, Nisch, and Sofia fell before them, and Asên rescued and carried off from the present to the old Bulgarian capital the relics of St. John of Ryl, the patron saint of his country. We find him even promising to assist the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who was then engaged upon thr third crusade, pro- 169 DEATH OF ASÊN vided that he would confer the diadem of the Greek Empire upon the Bulgarian Czars, and recognise their present title. But nothing came of this daring proposition. Alexius III., the feeble successor of Isaac on the Byzantine throne, made overtures of peace to Asên, who indignantly refused them, and the latter might have rivalled the exploits of Simeon, and appeared before the gates of the Imperial capital, had he not fallen a victim, in the midst of his career of conquest, to the sword of an assassin. Among his trusty comrades was a noble Bulgarian named Ivanko, a man of giant stature and fierce passions. The Czar suspected him of an intrigue with the Czarina's sister, and summoned him to his presence to explain his conduct. Ivanko came with his sword concealed beneath his clothes, and, when risen, mad with fury, rose to smite him, he drew the weapon and plumed it into his sovereign's heart. Thus perished in 1196, after barely ten years of power, the energetic founder of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The name of Asên is still honoured by the people; distinguished men love to call their sons after him, and, though much of his career is obscure and his work has perished, the memory of his race is cherished in Bulgaria.

Ivanko, although he had slain the Czar, was unable to seize the diadem. Asên's second brother, Peter, who had already governed a part of the country, at once made himself master of Trnovo, and associated his younger brother, Kalojan or Johannitz, with him in the throne. But Peter's mild and peaceful disposition displeased the warlike Bulgarians. Like his eldest brother, he, too, fell by the hand of an assassin, 170 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. and in 1197 Kalojan reigned alone. From his earliest days he had imbibed an intense hatred of the Greeks. Sent as a hostage to Constantinople during the war, he had learned to despise the effeminate Byzantines, who in their turn nicknamed him Skylojoannes, or "Dog-John" Cruel and ferocious in character, he resembled his eldest brother Asên, and his victories completed what Asên had begun. Connected by ties alike of policy and of blood with the Kumani—for his wife was one of that savage race—he speedily became such a terror to the Greeks that they made peace with him, and formally gave up the territory which he had captured. At the close of the twelfth century, the newly-established Second Empire of Bulgaria accordingly included a wide extent of country. Belgrade, Nisch, and all the present kingdoms of Servia east of the Morava were Bulgarian, and the Czar's dominions stretched from the mouth of the Danube to the Struma and the Vardar. In Macedonia, too, a Bulgarian noble, named Striz, established himself as an independent prince upon a towering rock, where he held his own "like a spider or a scorpion," for many years against all comers.

Kalojan had now the substance of Imperial power; but, like other Bulgarian rulers, he wanted recognition of his title. Following the example of the old Czars, who turned to Rome when baffled at Constantinople, he sent repeated embassies to the Pope, which were, however, intercepted by his enemies on the way. At last there arrived at Trnovo in 1199 a Greek priest as an emissary from Innocent III. with a Papal letter in his hand. The Pope made flattering allusion to 171 KALOJAN AND THE POPE. the reputed origin of the Bulgarian monarch from a Roman stock, and called upon him to show his devotion to the Holy See by deeds as well as words. Kalojan acknowledged the compliment and replied in a grandiloquent Latin epistle, in which he described himself as "Emperor of the Bulgarians and Wallachs." He begged the Pope to receive him into the Catholic faith, and besought an Imperial crown at his hands. But he soon found that Innocent wanted something more than empty phrases. Political considerations made it imperative to obtain Papal recognition with-


out further delay. Accordingly, he signed a Golden Bull, in which he acknowledged the supremacy of the Papacy for himself and his heirs for ever. The Pope then despatched a Cardinal to Trnovo with a royal, not an Imperial, crown, for in Papal documents of the period we always find the title of king, not that of emperor, bestowed upon the Bulgarian monarch. On the 8th of November, 1204, Kalojan was crowned by the Cardinal with great ceremony, and received at his hands a sceptre and a banner with the picture of St. Peter emblazoned upon it. Permission was also accorded him to issue coins bearing his own image and superscription. On the previous day the Papal envoy had consecrated a Bulgarian primate, two 172 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. metropolitans and four bishops. Kalojan still continued to style himself Czar and the primate called himself Patriarch. He had, in fact, obtained the best of the bargain. Orthodox writers have censured him severely for his "alliance" with Rome, and have stigmatised him as an apostate from the faith of his fathers. But his object, like that of Boris I., in accepting Christianity was political; and the union with Rome had little or no effect upon the ritual or dogma of the Bulgarian Church.

The celebrated phrase, in which Kalojan had dubbed himself "Emperor of the Bulgarians and Wallachs," has led some writers to suppose that he was lord of a part of Roumania as well as of Bulgaria. It is not, however, necessary to infer from his words that he ruled over a "Wallacho-Bulgarian Empire." The Wallachs, whose emperor he claimed to be, were to be found scattered over Bulgaria, while in Wallachia proper the Kumani were then settled. Nor is there any evidence for the assertion that Kalojan and his brothers were of Roumanian or Wallachian descent. The Papal compliment is the only authority for the statement, and the title of "Emperor of the Bulgarians and Wallachs" never once occurs in Slavonic documents.

Kalojan had been frightened into seeking the patronage of the Pope by an event which had much influence upon the history of the Balkan Peninsula— the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders under the blind Doge Dandolo and the election of Count Baldwin of Flanders to the Imperial throne. Kalojan, like Asên, had sought an alliance and a crown from 173 FATE OF BALDWIN. the Franks and offered to assist them with an army in their crusade. But Baldwin contemptuously told him that he regarded the Bulgarian ruler as a slave, whose possessions were legally part of the Byzantine Empire. The haughty Frank lived to repent his taunt. The Greeks, in their hatred of their new masters, turned to Kalojan for aid. A great battle took place near Adrianople on the 15th of April, 1205, between the Czar, assisted by his Greek allies, and a savage contingent of Kumani on the one side, and the Franks on the other. Kalojan gained an overwhelming victory, and Baldwin fell into his hands. The fate of the Frank Emperor is one of those historical mysteries which research has failed to solve. It is known that he was imprisoned, and a ruined castle on the ramparts of Trnovo retains the name of "Baldwin's Tower" to this day. According to one version, Kalojan is said to have treated his prisoner with kindness, though he refused to release him even at the request of the Pope. According to another, he cut off his hands and feet and then had him thrown into a ditch to die; while a third account ascribes his end to the injured feelings of Kalojan's Kumanian wife, who had in vain endeavoured to attract the comely Frank. Twenty years later, a false Baldwin appeared in a forest of Flanders; but, though he found a large following, there can be no doubt that the real Emperor had long ere that perished. Kalojan himself met with a violent death. The overthrow of Baldwin had dissolved the alliance of the Greeks and Bulgarians, and the Czar slaughtered the hereditary enemies of his country wherever he 174 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. found them, boasting that, as Basil had been called the "Bulgar-slayer," he would be remembered as the "slayer of the Greeks." For a time he carried all before him. Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat, who had been made king of Macedonia, fell in a Bulgarian ambuscade, and his head was brought to his barbarous conqueror. But Kalojan's cruel spouse was his worst foe. At her suggestion, one of his Kumaniati generals stabbed him with a lance as he slept in his tent before Salonica. The Czar died of the wound, but not before he had accused his murderer of the crime. The assassin declared that it was not himself but his double who had appeared to the victim in the night. The legend soon spread that it was none other than St. Demetrius, the patron-saint of Salonica, who had dealt the blow.

Upon the death of Kalojan in 1207 his throne was seized by his nephew Buril, white the rightful heir, John Asên, son of the founder of the Second Empire, was forced to flee to Russia. Boril has been described by his contemporary, King Stephen of Servia, as a man "whose soul found a sweet pleasure in shedding the blood of his countrymen," and all that we know of his career bears out the statement of the royal biographer. Either from natural ferocity or theological zeal, he persecuted the Bogomiles, although they had always been on the side of Bulgarian freedom. No previous Czar had established a tribunal of priests and nobles for the trial of heretics; yet it is by this synod and the marriage of his daughter with the Frank Emperor Henry, that his name is chiefly remembered. Together with this new ally he undertook 175 JOHN ASÊN. a fruitless campaign against the growing power of Servia, but neither at home nor abroad was his leadership successful. Powerful nobles began to declare themselves independent, and the restored Bulgarian Empire might have crumbled to pieces had not young John Asên driven him from the throne. With the accession of that monarch in 1218 the glories of Bulgaria were revived. Just as the first Bulgarian Empire reached its zenith under Simeon, so the second culminated under John Asên II.

Of all the Bulgarian Czars John Asên II. is the pleasantest figure. A great ruler in the best sense of the word, he has left behind him a name undefiled by the barbarities of which so many of his most powerful predecessors were guilty. A contemporary wrote of him that he had "neither drawn his sword against his own countrymen, nor disgraced himself by the murder of Greeks. So not only the Bulgarians, but Greeks and other nations loved him." He seldom engaged in war, and the generation during which he sat on the throne witnessed a great development of trade, the independence of the Church, and the erection of fine and costly buildings. Under him Bulgaria, as the first state of the Balkan Peninsula, was one of the great Powers of Europe, and he nearly accomplished the dream of his race, and united the crown of the Ca cars to that of the Czars.

His Empire reached the Black Sea, the Ægean, and the Adriatic. Bulgaria proper, a part of Servia, including Belgrade, all Macedonia, all Albania as far as Durazzo, obeyed his commands. He routed and captured Theodore, the despot of Epirus, and reduced 176 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. Constantinople to such extremities that the young Emperor Baldwin II. went as far as England in quest of help. There was even talk of appointing him Regent of the Byzantine Empire, which needed a firmer hand than that of its Latin sovereign. John Asên was willing to accept the task, and a marriage was arranged between Baldwin and his daughter. But the jealousy which then, as in our own time, Bulgaria has inspired among other nationalities, prevented the realisation of the project. His efforts to


secure the support of the Pope for his candidature were equally fruitless. But we will let Asên speak for himself. An inscription on a pillar in the church of the Forty Martyrs at Trnovo, gives, in his own words, the brief chronicle of his conquests. "In the year 1230, I, John Asên, Czar and Autocrat of the Bulgarians, obedient to God in Christ, son of the old Asên, have built this most worthy church from its foundations, and completely decked it with paintings in honour of the Forty holy Martyrs, by whose help, in the 12th year of my reign, when the Church had just been painted, I set out to Romania to the war and smote the Greek army and took captive the Czar Theodore Komnenus with all his nobles. And all lands have I conquered from Adrianople to Du- 177 GROWTH OF TRADE. razzo, the Greek, the Albanian, and the Servian land. Only the towns round Constantinople and that city itself did the Franks hold; but these too bowed themselves beneath the hand of my sovereignty, for they had no other Czar but me, and prolonged their days according to my will, as God had so ordained. For without him no word or work is accomplished. To him be honour for ever. Amen."

His comparatively peaceful reign was very beneficial to the trade of his country. Under the earlier Czars we have heard of commercial treaties between Bulgaria and other states, but it was reserved for Asên II. to secure for his subjects by his wise concessions constant communications with the merchants of Ragusa, whose city was the western outlet for the whole inland trade of the Peninsula. An ancient charter of Asên allowed them free access to all his dominions as "the truest and clearest guests of his Majesty." When, in the reign of his son Michael, the Ragusans gave Bulgaria what we should now call the "most-favoured-nation clause" in their treaties, they mentioned "the genuine friendship of the famous Czar John Asên," and granted the Bulgarians free entry to their city "by gate, bridge, or ford," and permission to buy or sell everything within; grain alone it was forbidden them to export without a special order. Both Venice and Genoa had their Consuls in Bulgaria, and the legal rights of foreign traders were carefully defined.

Trnovo, his capital, rivalled and even surpassed the splendours of Prêslav under the earlier Empire. Even to-day, after all the changes of centuries, the ancient 13 178 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. residence of the Asenide dynasty cannot fail to attract the tourist, alike by its quaint position and its historic ruins. But the modern Trnovo is but a shadow of what it was in the golden age of the second Asên. The "queen of cities, the famous burgh," as patriotic writers loved to call it, seemed to Asên's contemporaries scarcely inferior to Constantinople. No other town in Bulgaria is so intimately associated with the most stirring events of the national history. "Built by the hands of giants"—so ran the legend of its foundation—it had witnessed the rise of Sisman and his doughty line. Within its walls the first Asên had received the crown from the hands of the people; and in its modest inn first saw the light the ablest of modern Bulgarian statesmen, the ill-starred Stambuloff. Mere were the Palace of the Czars and the residence of the head of the Bulgarian Church; here, too, was the great cathedral, long since gone. But the Church of the Forty Martyrs still remains to tell of Asên's power and compensate us for the loss of the ancient coronation church of the Bulgarian Czars. Within its vaults was their last resting-place, on its walls are still visible many an inscription of their epoch. The glory has departed from Trnovo; a new and modern capital has taken the place which it once occupied in the history of Bulgaria. But in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the "citadel of thorns," from which Trnovo took its name, looked clown upon all that was splendid and all that was noblest in the land.

Asên's peaceful activity extended itself over the Bulgarian hierarchy. He was not only a builder of 179 THE BULGARIAN PATRIARCH. churches, but he refounded the National Church. Kalojan's "union" with Rome had only lasted as long as he had something to gain from the Pope or something to fear from the Franks. Asên threw off even the pretence of devotion to the Papacy; the head of the Catholic Church hurled at him the terrors of excommunication, and, when that failed, hounded on the King of Hungary against him. But this crusade proved a failure, and the threat of excommunication fell flat. Asian declared the Church of Trnovo independent, alike of Rome and Constantinople, and in the presence of Greek and Bulgarian bishops the Primate of Bulgaria was solemnly raised to the dignity of Patriarch. But Asên had broad sympathies. One of the chief complaints made against him by the Pope was his protection of the Bogomiles; but lovers of toleration will reckon as not the least of his glories the generous permission, which he extended to Catholics, Orthodox Greeks, and "heretics" alike, to worship in their own way without hindrance from him. No Czar was more beneficent towards the monks. The great monastery of Ryl was richly endowed, and the "holy mountain" of Athos enriched by his donations. No wonder that a Bulgarian priest wrote of him that "he had exalted the Empire of the Czars to the glory of God above all his forbears; for he built monasteries and adorned them with gold and pearls and stones of great price; every grade of the hierarchy did he honour, bishops, priests, and deacons alike, and at last restored the Bulgarian Patriarch." When he died in 1241, the two boys, who followed hint in rapid succession on the throne, had 180 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. neither the experience nor the strength to avert the decline of the state. The history of the Balkan Peninsula proves that the welfare of a Slav nation is almost invariably bound up with one man, and when he falls the nation falls with him.

Within three months half of Asên's empire was gone. His eldest son, Kaliman I., a boy of nine, was helpless, and his half-brother, Michael Asên, struggled valiantly but in vain to recover the lost provinces. The Venetians attacked him on the Black Sea, and the whole of his father's Thracian and Macedonian possessions remained in the enemy's hands. Kaliman II., his cousin, who rose upon his murdered body to the throne, died a violent death, and, in default of a direct lineal descendant of Asên, the nobles and clergy met at Trnovo and elected Constantine, a Serb, as their Czar. The new sovereign endeavoured to strengthen his position by taking the honoured name of Asên and marrying the grand-daughter of John II., but his reign was spent in barren wars with the King of Hungary and the restored Greek Empire. The former threatened the Bulgarian capital, and boastfully styled himself "King of Bulgaria"—an incident which is interesting as the first appearance of the Hungarian monarchy as a claimant of the Balkan lands. The alliance of Constantine Asên with the King of Naples against the Greek Emperor is a proof of the importance attached to Bulgaria in Italy at that date, and it is curious to find the Neapolitan archives full of Bulgarian names, and a part of that city called after these strange allies. But the greatest mistake of Constantine's 181 IVAJLO'S CAREER. reign was his second marriage with a Greek princess.We have seen before that these unions were usually disastrous for Bulgaria. Indeed, as a rule, the wives of the Bulgarian Czars have left an evil record behind them. But Constantine's Greek consort was the worst of them all. She made her husband's severe illness an excuse for seizing supreme power for herself in the name of her boy Michael. By intrigues, more worthy of the Byzantine than the rough Bulgarian Court, she "removed," under the most solemn protestations of affection, all the most dangerous of the nobles. Meanwhile the empire lay open to the attacks of the Tartars, who, after overrunning Roumania, had begun to cross the Danube. In this extremity, with a disabled Czar and a designing woman on the throne, Bulgaria threw itself into the arms of a restless adventurer, named Ivajlo, who had abandoned the profession of a shepherd for the more congenial one of a brigand. Ivajlo's career reads like a romance. He told the people how the holy saints had appeared to him in a dream and bade him prepare himself for the great destiny which lay before him. Numbers flocked to his standard; his success over the Tartars brought the whole country to his side; Constantine lost his life and his throne, and the Greek Emperor himself began to fear that another Simeon or Samuel had arisen. Constantine's crafty widow became the wife of the conqueror; but a new pretender of the stock of old Asên, supported by Byzantine troops, arrived with an army at Trnovo. The inhabitants, believing that Ivajlo had died in the act of repelling a fresh Tartar invasion, acknowledged 182 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. their assailant as John Asên III., thankful to be rid of the cunning Greek woman who had brought so much harm upon them. When the holy office was chanted in the Bulgarian churches to the memory of the departed consorts of the Czars, her name was alone omitted from the list.

The glory of Bulgaria had fallen low. A generation had barely elapsed since the death of the second Asên, yet his empire had been shorn of all his conquests; a nominee of the Greek Emperor sat upon the throne of the Czars; a Tartar chief was commander of the Bulgarian armies; dissension and the lack of authority were bringing the country to destruction. At this moment Ivajlo suddenly reappeared, as if from the dead. The magic of his name made the Greekling tremble in his palace at Trnovo, and the Greek armies sent to assist him were easily defeated. To rid Bulgaria of her feeble ruler was easy, but Ivajlo found that there was another rival in the field. This man, the founder of the fourth Bulgarian dynasty', sprang from an old Kumanian family called Terterij, which was allied with the noblest of the land. His aristocratic connections and personal bravery led the Bulgarians to prefer him to the humble shepherd, who had led their armies against the Tartars, and in 1280 George Terterij I. was proclaimed Czar. His peasant foe fled to the court of Nogaj, Chan of the Golden Horde of Tartars, at that time the terror of the Balkan Peninsula, who cut his throat in a drunken fit. But several years later a false Ivajlo could still find a following among the Bulgarian hinds.


Terterij 1. was unable to stern the tide of Tartar invasion either by force or diplomacy. The dreaded Nogaj, accustomed to play the part of king-maker, married his son Čoki to the daughter of the Czar, and then deposed him, setting up a Bulgarian noble as a puppet in his place. For the first time the proud Bulgarian Empire had become a mere Tartar fief. But the Tartars soon sought to be masters in name as well as in fact. Čoki marched into Bulgaria and claimed the crown, but the country found a liberator in Svętslav, son of Terterij, who made an end of the Tartar chief and was hailed by a thankful people as their Czar. For a time the days of the second Asên seemed to have returned. Svctslav put down all his rivals, won back territory from the Greeks, and gave his subjects for many years the unwonted blessings of peace. But with his son and successor, Terterij his race became extinct, and, in order to prevent the Empire from falling to pieces, the nobles had to select a new dynasty, the fifth and last of old Bulgarian history. For more than a generation Vidin and the country near it had been formed into an independent principality under the House of Šišman-a family distinct from the old Šišman clan of Trnovo, but connected with the Kumanian aristocracy. It was upon his son Michael that the choice of the Bulgarians now fell, and in 1323 he became their Czar.

At first his policy was a complete success. By playing off one Byzantine faction against another, he nearly realised the dream of Simeon and Asên by adding Constantinople to his dominions. But by a complete turn of fortune's wheel, the same monarch, 184 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. who was within an ace of capturing the capital, fell, and involved his country in his fall, before the growing might of Servia.

It had long been evident that sooner or later the Serbs and Bulgarians would fight for the hegemony of the Balkans, and the domestic differences, which sprang up between the two courts owing to Michael's shameful treatment of his Serb consort, were the occasion rather than the cause of the collision. Michael formed a league of Greeks, Roumanians, and Bulgarians against the Serb King Stephen Uroš III., and boasted that he would set up his throne in his rival's land. But the Serbs fell upon his army unawares at Velbužd, the present Köstendil, on June 28, 1330, a clay still remembered with sorrow by patriotic Bulgarians; Michael's forces were routed, and the Czar fell from his horse and was slain on the spot. When next morning the nobles were shown by the victor the corpse of their sovereign, they burst into tears. And well they might; for the might of the Bulgarian Empire had fallen for ever. The Serb monarch abstained, indeed, from annexing the country; but Dušan, his successor, who had shared the victory with him, reduced the Bulgarian government to complete dependence. For sixty years more, Bulgaria continued to retain her Czars of Šišman's stock, but from the battle of Velbužd to the death of Dušan in 1356 they were content to follow the policy of Servia, with whose ruler they were closely connected by ties of marriage. Dušan even added the title of "Czar of the Bulgarians" to his other attributes, and when the war broke out between 185 JOHN ALEXANDER. Servia and Bulgaria in 1885, the people in the streets of Belgrade invoked his name.

During his reign of a quarter of a century, Bulgaria was secure from the Greeks in the south and the Hungarians in the north. The close alliance of the two adjoining Balkan states under two able rulers formed an impenetrable barrier to foreign invasion, which might teach a lesson to the Balkan statesmen of to-day. John Alexander, Dušan's brother-in-law, who was contemporary with him on the Bulgarian throne, was a man of considerable energy and an assiduous patron of literature. He was the last of the old Bulgarian monarchs, who extended the frontiers of his country at the expense of the Byzantine Empire; but his conquests were soon to be taken away by a far more formidable foe. It is now for the first time that we hear of the Turks in Bulgaria. About the middle of the fourteenth century they began to harry the Bulgarian territory south of the Balkans. The natives fully recognised the gravity of this new danger. As the Czar rode through the streets of his capital, the people cried aloud that he should make a league with the Greeks against the common foe. But the foreign policy of Bulgaria was then wholly guided by that of Servia, and it did not suit the latter that her neighbour should enter into close relations with the Greek Empire. The story goes that the Emperor sent a message to both the Servian and Bulgarian rulers, telling them that they would rue the day on which they had refused to help him. Dušan and John Alexander are said to have scornfully replied that when the Turks came near 186 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. them, they would know how to defend themselves. The Greek Emperor's words came true; and nothing assisted the advance of the Ottoman power in Europe so much as the jealousies of the Balkan peoples. To the same cause it owes in no small measure its maintenance to this day. The first serious blow which the Turks dealt at the Bulgarian Empire was the capture of Eski Zagora and Philippopolis in 1362. From that moment dates the establishment of a Turkish governor in Roumelia and the formation of the celebrated Turkish corps of vojnik or "warriors," composed of Bulgarian Christians, who were exempt from taxes in return for military service to their Ottoman masters. The national legends have preserved the memory of princes and nobles who "fought like heroes against the paynim, and shed their blood for the true faith of Christ." Yet at this moment of all others, we find them raising Turkish mercenaries for a final attack on the Greek Empire! John Šišman III., the last of the long line of Bulgarian Czars, who came to the throne in 1365, actually seized the Greek Emperor, John Paleologus, when he came to implore his aid against the Turks, and only released him at the armed intervention of the Count of Savoy.

Theological quarrels yet further weakened the tottering Bulgarian realm. To the Bogomiles, whose schism had so long divided the people against itself, were now added other fanatical sects, whose votaries ran about the streets with no other clothing than a hollow gourd, or revived the last lingering traces of pagan worship. Councils were held in vain, the pun- 187 ADVANCE OF THE TURKS. ishments of the Church were useless. The second marriage of the Czar John Alexander with a lovely Jewish maiden was a fresh source of discord. The sons of the first and second union divided their father's empire between them; Šišman reigned at Trnovo, Sracimir at Vidin, while a third independent prince, Dobrotić, established himself in the low-lying region of the Drohrudza, which still bears his name. Thus contemporary writers speak of "three Bulgarias." The one pleasant feature of this gloomy era was the revival of learning. At the instigation of John Alexander, Greek chronicles and works of theology were translated into the Slavonic tongue. No other period is so rich in manuscripts, some of them exquisitely illuminated. Theodosius of Trnovo and still more his pupil, the Patriarch Euthemius enriched the national literature with their theological and biographical works. But their successors were mere rhetoricians, whose bombastic writings were the last expiring efforts of the dying empire.

The Turks advanced apace when the death of Dusan had removed the last Balkan ruler who had the power to resist them. The Bulgarian Czar Šišman III. became their vassal in 1366, and pledged himself to aid them. Suspicious of his sincerity, the conquerors demanded his sister as a hostage. An old chronicler tells of "the great lady who was given to the mighty Sultan Murad for the Bulgarian people, and, although his wife, kept the Christian faith and saved her country." The "fair Bulgarian," so the story goes, was offered a mosque full of silver can- 188 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. delabra as the reward of apostasy ; but she replied with pride, "Dear is my religion to me, a Turkish woman will I never be." A few years later Sofia was captured by a trick, and Šišman forced to fall down on his knees with his wife and family and implore the Sultan's mercy. For a brief space he was allowed, on payment of a tribute, to keep his throne. But, when the Serb kingdom fell on the plain of Kossovo, Bulgaria was doomed. The ancient capital of the Czars surrendered after a three months' siege in 1393. Palaces and churches perished in the flames, the cathedral became a mosque, the relics of the saints were destroyed. Amid the general convulsion one noble figure stands out in solemn grandeur. The learned Patriarch Euthemius went fearlessly forth from the city to soften the fury of the conqueror. His persuasions prevailed with the Sultan's son, who commanded the besieging force. But the governor, who as appointed on his departure, resolved by one sanguinary deed to crush the Bulgarian chivalry for ever. He summoned the nobles and principal citizens together in one of the few remaining churches under pretext of a debate, and then ordered his soldiers to cut them down. Euthemius, stripped of his holy garb, was ordered to be beheaded on the walls in the sight of his flock. But a miracle from heaven arrested, so says his biographer, the headsman's hand, and the victim was set free. At the command of the Sultan, the survivors of this horrible carnage were driven forth as exiles from their native land, and in the heart of Asia Minor found a grave. Turkish colonists 189 FALL OF THE SECOND EMPIRE. occupied their places, and the famous hill of the Czars received a Turkish name.

Šišman had not been at Trnovo when the city was besieged; but he did not long survive its capture. His end is obscured in uncertainty; most authorities state that he died in prison or on the scaffold. But the patriotic fancy of the national bards has depicted the last of the Czars as dying in battle for his country. Hard by the sources of the Marica, according to this legend, was he wounded seven times, where seven springs of water may still be seen. So fierce was the fight, that the river ran red with blood, and the plain is called the "field of bones" to this day. The ruins of a neighbouring castle preserve the name of Šišman, and even the Turks respected his grave. His half- brother Sracimir still remained in Vidin, but in 1398 was expelled by the Sultan; the attempt of King Sigismund of Hungary and Mirtschea of Wallachia to rescue Bulgaria from its conquerors collapsed on the battlefield of Nicopolis; the whole land owned the supremacy of the Turk.

Thus fell, after the lapse of two centuries, the Second Bulgarian Empire. The causes of its fall are not difficult to perceive. The old Bulgarian system was concentrated in an aristocracy which, except under the iron hand of a strong Czar, was rarely united, The masses, degraded to the level of serfs and chained to the soil, had no common interests with their lords. The clergy, instead of striving to raise and influence the people, wasted their energies in hairsplitting or passed their lives in monkish seclusion. Their intolerance drove the Bogomiles 190 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. in Bulgaria as in Bosnia, into the arms of the Turks, who seemed to the persecuted heretics more generous than their Christian oppressors. Morally, Bulgaria was slowly but surely undermined by its intercourse with the Byzantine Empire. The nobles and the priesthood were most affected by this sinister influence, and it is noticeable that in the old as in the new Bulgaria the ablest men have usually sprung from the virgin soil of the peasantry. Now and again a great ruler, a Simeon, a Samuel, or an Asên II., raised the Bulgarian state to a commanding position. But the power of these princes died with them, and their empire soon dwindled away.

The social condition of the people under the rule of the Czars was much the same as in other parts of Europe during the Middle Ages. When the Czar made a progress through his land, nobles and monks, townsmen and peasants had to accompany him and provide food and lodging for him and his own retinue at their own expense. This priselica, as it was called, became a grievous burden, and it was not the only one which the peasantry were forced to bear. The Czar's subjects were obliged to work on his estates, look after his vineyards, and reap his crops. Only the dependents of the monasteries were exempt from this forced labour. In the towns the burghers had to build the castle and guard the gaol; in the country the peasant was a serf, who was permitted to hold land and money of his own, but could not quit his property if he would. It was hoped that in this way the depopulation, caused by the constant wars, might be checked. Then, as now, agriculture was the 191 BULGARIAN TRADE. favourite pursuit of the Bulgarian race. Horse breeding was a great source of wealth, and sheep and pigs were abundant. But trade, as we have seen, expanded at a very early date all over the country, and caravans laden with Italian wares might he seen slowly wending their way through the moun-


tain passes or along the great highway from Sofia to Philippopolis. The customs clues were no insignificant part of the revenue, and the number of gold, silver, and copper coins, which date from this period, 192 THE SECOND BULGARIAN EMPIRE. shows that there must have been a large demand for a medium of exchange. Under the old Czars, however, the taxes were paid in kind, until the Greeks introduced the system of cash payment.

War was, of course, the favourite pursuit of the Bulgarian monarchs, although they sometimes contented themselves for long periods with the mimic warfare of the chase. The love of fighting, now much less conspicuous in Bulgaria, was before the long Turkish domination, the chief characteristic of the people. We find Bulgarian mercenaries in many lands during this period, but they were of little use in sieges; in guerilla warfare among mountains they were pre-eminent. Their love of booty became proverbial, but they spared the lives of their Christian prisoners. Yet in time of peace there was profound respect for those ancient customs, which took the place of any regular code of law. The ancient Slavonic practice of making the whole village responsible for the offences of any of its inhabitants, in case the culprit had escaped punishment, existed in Bulgaria. The "Golden Bulls" of the Czars were very elaborate documents, and the ordinances of the Church are often mentioned. Traces of representative institutions are to be seen in the assemblies of the two classes of nobles or boljars, great and small, and the various grades of clergy. These gatherings were held for two purposes, the election of a Czar, when there was no lineal descendant of the last ruler, and the punishment of heretics. Three of the Czars owed their throne to this method of election. The masses had no voice in the proceedings, for old 193 THE BULGARIAN COURT. Bulgaria, unlike the "Peasant state" of to-day, was essentially aristocratic. All the court offices, of which there were many, were filled by the nobles, and it was from their ranks that the Czar's Council of State was chosen. In fact, the monarch himself was often merely primus inter pares. Gorgeous court ceremonies and princely hospitality lent splendour to the Bulgarian Empire, but the lot of the people, even in the golden age of the nation, cannot have been ideal.