Struck AD 977-989. Starting in the early 10th century we start to see powerful families developing the practice of buying land from peasants in exchange for assuming the duty of paying the tax on that land (substantial to the peasants, but almost meaningless to a sufficiently wealthy family). He was considered emperor-co-ruler since childhood, but actually gained the throne at the age of 17 or 18 years after the death of John I Tzimiskes (January 976). Other emperors of the eleventh century, such as Constantine IX, Isaac I, and Romanos IV, were not incompetent, so in my mind long-term factors must have played a role, but I don't know enough about the earlier period to be sure. This worked when the Komnenoi were around because they were all incredible generals, but after this the system falls apart.). It's always been my impression that these were good for Byzantine strength. He also forbade these magnates to purchase peasants' lands used to support soldiers (stratiotika ktemata) which would have allowed them to weaken the imperial military while simultaneously building up their own armed forces - something, again, they might have used to rebel. As author Paul Stephenson notes in his introduction to his book, Emperor Basil II's reign (976-1025) over the Byzantine Empire was at the height of its existence. It also covers some cultural and women's history for a nice change of pace. Under Basil, this was the case, and no noble would seriously think of challenging Basil after the first few years of his reign, and as such his tax policy was, as previously mentioned, wildly successful. (It’s my own theory, but I’ve been working on a paper that also argues that the later collapse of the Komnenian army (which you can read about in another post here!) Under Basil, this succeeded wildly, and the later granting of epithets such as “father of the Army” and his decision to adopt hundreds of orphaned children from his army showed that he had complete control of the army. It's finally happened, in today's episode Bulgaria gets an Exarch to... run its newly independent Exarchate. He supplemented the slightly diminished military support of these disgruntled nobles with external forces like the Venetian navy and the Varangian guard, which naturally only alienates the native Byzantine elites even more. Known mainly for the wars that he led to prote… The history of Roman borders is one of natural defenses, the Romans were always interested in expanding to the point where their Empire was easily defendable due to natural barriers, and Basil was no different. 5:03. He spent so much time shoring up his position (admittedly after having to seize his own power back from a series of regent-usurpers) and on military campaigns that he completely neglected domestic affairs; he never married. Unfortunately, due to something I’ll mention later, this simply wasn’t the case, and a series of incompetent emperors followed Basil and allowed for the general collapse of the Empire’s eastern frontier. His father was from an Armenian- Greek family, the Name Macedonian Dynasty refers to geography, not ethnicity. Basil II didn’t even do this in overly-oppressive ways, Skylitzes reports that Basil allowed many of his subjects to pay taxes in kind (I’ll speak more of this later), and Basil’s reign also saw a “golden age” of sorts for lower-class farmers and peasants (This is potentially, actually, one source of trouble after Basil II’s death that I’ll report on later). He came to be known as the “Bulgar-Slayer” (“Bulgaroktonos”) for his aggressive conquest of Bulgaria, defeating the army of the mighty King Samuel of Bulgaria. Basil's reign and character are covered in Book I. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, s. v. "Macedonian Dynasty." An extremely entertaining read; I 100% recommend it. We learned about him . Thus it is easy to recognize the importance of Basil. I didn’t know there are many cruelty between Greeks and Bulgarians. At his death in 1025, the empire was relatively strong: a competent military, a relatively abundant treasury (especially impressive since he fought so many wars), a complex and vibrant culture. Of course roman control was not enforsed in the western parts of the state, (modern day W. Bulgaria, Macedonia and E. Serbia), where the lands were still effectively under bulgarian rule - under the nobles of the so called Kometopoulos/Komitopuli dynasty, the brothers Samuel,David,Moses and Aaron (and Roman who would later escape Constantinople and return to rule as Tsar) which would be viewed by Basil as breakaways and traitors now. This was not apparent at the beginning of his long reign. This excellent book has a dual purpose. First, we’ll look at the army, where Basil II succeeded the most. was due to this basing of legitimacy on the army, meaning the Komnenoi deliberately got rid of everything that could possibly result in the army being led by someone other than the Emperor or a trusted relative/friend. But the absence of a male Macedonian heir led to almost a century where only one emperor ruled for more than ten years. Basil had also managed to antagonize most of the elites in Anatolia (dynatoi) for various reasons. Basil passed several reforms limiting the ability of these elites to intervene the affairs of peasant landholders. Would all of this had happened had Basil II had a son? If Basil II had had an heir of his own blood, it’s likely that that heir, much like Basil’s own ancestors (Leo the Wise, Constantine the Purple Born, and his father Romanos II) would have gone through the slow introduction to and education in power that made the Macedonian dynasty so wildly successful. After that, Zoe and Theodora rule jointly for four months, until Zoe takes another husband, Constantine IX Monomachos, who holds on for a little over ten years (1042-1055). ): Michael Psellos, trans. Although the extent of Basil’s mistreatment of the Bulgarian prisoners may have been exaggerated, this incident helped give rise to Basil’s Greek epithet of Boulgaroktonos, meaning “the Bulgar-slayer”, in later tradition. Press J to jump to the feed. Basil was short, ugly, smelly and not at all like a Byzantine Emperor. Where once Manuel I was Ho Megas (The Great), current scholarship now places much of the blame of the eventual collapse of the government to the Turks on what used to make him be considered great, his escapades and grand campaigns against the Hungarians, Egpytians, Normans, etc. by Unknown Artist (Public Domain) Basil II (aka Basilius II) was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 976 to 1025 CE. In the west, he pushed the Empire to the Danube, a powerful river that would effectively act as a barrier for the vast majority of the next 100 years until the revolt of the Assen brothers under Isaac II.1 In the East, Basil pushed the borders of the Empire to the incredibly mountainous regions of Armenia and lake Van which, together with the extensive fortifications Basil commissioned, formed an incredibly effective barrier against southward movement by steppe peoples were it not for the overall incompetence of the later Macedonians. There was no question of Constantine producing a male heir before his own death in 1028. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts, Balkan war poster showing a greek soldier blinding a bulgarian one. Feb 21, 2014 #43 Elfwine. Æ Follis Constantinople mint. It is taught in school and there is a bit more emphasis put on this event and the whole rule of Samuel and the last years of the First Bulgarian State. Basil II, called “Bulgar-Slayer” (Bulgaroktonos), reigned from 976–1025 as the greatest of the Macedonian emperors. Do they teach about him in your history lessons ? Please read the rules before participating, as we remove all comments which break the rules. Holmes helpfully sifts through the rather muddled primary sources on Basil's reign (even Psellos admits he was only a child when Basil died), and pays careful attention to his interaction with elite families in Anatolia, though not in the context Kamer does. I am Basil, both hero and villain, loved by my people and hated by my enemies. Samuel … He ordered 99% of the prisoners to have both of their eyes gouged out, and left the 1% with one eye left to guide the others back to their king. In 1014 Basil was ready to launch a campaign aimed at destroying Bulgarian resistance. For the simple “these are things he did” type facts, I’m referring, unless noted, to the only real “complete” narrative of his reign, John Skylitzes “Synopsis of Byzantine History,” although I’ll note the issues of the text later. The long reign of the Byzantine emperor Basil II (976-1025) has been considered a "golden age", in which his greatest achievement was the annexation of Bulgaria after a long and bloody war. Against the Arabs Basil pushed the borders to the Euphrates, and where he didn’t have natural borders he envassalated a multitude of states such as Aleppo and Edessa, making political buffers where ones of water and sand did not exist. Paul Stephenson reveals that the legend of the "Bulgar-slayer" was actually created long after his death. To be fair, at this point there was no serious threat to Constantinople from Anatolia - unlike the Bulgarians, Pechenegs, etc. This made the empire vulnerable to attack from both exterior and interior forces: the former exemplified by the battle of Manzikert in 1071, and the latter by Alexios I's usurpation ten years later. Basil II ordered that the captured Bulgars be blinded and then put into groups of one hundred men each. In 985, he removed from power eunuch Basil Lekapenos, who was the first minister with several previous emperors. So I would think Basil not having a son would be a plus. I've also heard the numbers 15 000 being pointed out as a common numerical pattern in the middle ages (bruh?). Feb 21, 2014 #42 Grouchio. For example, Romanos III, who was emperor not long after Basil’s death, spent the very beginning of his reign on a disastrous campaign in Syria despite the fact that he had almost no experience in military affairs (The fact that he deliberately attacked Aleppo, a city Basil II said the Byzantines should never attack as it was too dangerous to hold, gives credence to this idea that he wanted to emulate Basil. (V. Zlatarski), The actual numbers of the blinded is argued,some say inflated, pointing out contentions between various contemporary and not so contemporary sources. Wouldn't this have had a more negative effect on the army, if we look at the military disasters of a few decades later? 5 years ago. In an era when bloodlines and dynastic politics were so important, why did Basil never marry? But he left one in every 100 with one eye so they could lead the rest back to Bulgaria. TIL that when Byzantine Emperor Basil II took 15,000 Bulgarian prisoners at the Battle of Kleidion he had them all blinded. Basil II ordered that the captured Bulgars be blinded and then put into groups of one hundred men each. This granted the new landowners incredible resources which they might use to rebel against the emperor - definitely something Basil wanted to avoid. Constantine, moreover, was an incredibly weak emperor. Well, that connection is a bit easier to make. Recommended further reading (if you're still interested after this wall of text! Only 1 man in every 100 was allowed to keep one eye - to lead their blinded companions home. Basil’s removal of the old important families not only removed them from power, however, it also removed the source of much of the competent military leadership of the Empire. Questions about the Balkan states answered! ", Regardless of whether or not Basil actually heard this line, it fairly well encapsulates just how his reign was, one of absolute power for himself and nobody else (it helped that his regent in Constantinople, his brother Constantine, was content to whoring and hunting and not usurping Basil’s authority). The long reign of the Byzantine emperor Basil II (976-1025) has been considered a "golden age," in which his greatest achievement was the annexation of Bulgaria after a long and bloody war. The Byzantine Emperors drew their power from the army, it was the only independent source of power that could really openly oppose the Emperor in a meaningful way, and this is reflected by the selection of prominent generals (relevant to this period in particular are Nikephorus II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes) for regents of young Emperors and the fact that many of the great usurpers of Byzantine History (Leo III and V, Alexius I) were indeed generals. He also bears the Bulgar Slayer title after managing to destroy Tzar Samuel’s Kingdom during the Middle Ages and retake control of the Balkans. The other unfortunate result of Basil’s breaking the backs of the nobility was that to keep the nobility down, due to their own ability to raise money and oppose the emperor if the opportunity came, the Emperor had to always be strong and able to oppose them. Throughout the study of Roman and Byzantine history, historians, due to their own nature as sort of the great “reality check” of the past, have gone back and fundamentally re-evaluated the rules of many “Great” Emperors. As the mutilated men were paraded before him, the shock and horror of the treatment of his soldiers was too much for the tsar. Let’s first take a look at the treasury. Basil II is also responsible for the blinding 15 … Basil - during his lifetime - was undoubtedly one of the most successful emperors of the Middle Byzantine period. Basil, despite the fact that he had to spend enormous sums of money to finance his vigorous and never-ending wars, was effectively able to leave his successor a full two years worth of revenue in reserve, something that is almost unheard of in Byzantine and Roman history. Basil II, byname Basil Bulgaroctonus (Greek: Basil, Slayer of the Bulgars), (born 957/958—died Dec. 15, 1025), Byzantine emperor (976–1025), who extended imperial rule in the Balkans (notably Bulgaria), Mesopotamia, Georgia, and Armenia and increased his domestic authority by attacking the powerful landed interests of the military aristocracy and of the church. This was truly an enormous sum, Justinian’s “great bribe” to the powerful Persian Empire, a polity also capable of raising enormous sums of money, was 11,000 pounds of gold. Likewise, Michael VIII, the great restorer, was once viewed as a tragic hero who was a good emperor with a crumbling Empire, while now modern scholarship views him as a well-intentioned Emperor whose Empire was actually in pretty decent shape, while Michael VIII’s neglect of the Anatolian frontier in favor of the European front eventually led to the collapse of Anatolia. With a tight hold on Byzantine purse strings and a private army of giant Vikings, Basil … This encouraged two rebellions, those of Bardas Skleros… It wouldn’t have been a problem if the Emperors made a concerted effort to make the army more powerful and to educate themselves and their sons in military affairs, but courtly pleasure is a powerful force, and until Alexius every succeeding emperor after Basil, although they did indeed campaign, generally let the army rot. Basil certainly committed appalling violence, but much of his campaigning was done diplomatically. However, what he did next is what went down into history. This process is powerful and has fundamentally changed our view of these great Emperors. This is how Basil earned the title "the Bulgar Slayer" Close. TIL in 1014 AD Byzantine Emperor Basil II the "Bulgar-Slayer" had 15,000 Bulgarian captives blinded. Emperor Basil the Bulgar-Slayer was an asskicking colon annihilator so insanerballs fucking hardcore in his ability to de-face Bulgarian people that history remembers him solely for his relentless ability to gruesomely disfigure his enemies until every man who opposed him was left horribly mutilated beyond recognition and stumbling aimlessly around the wilderness vomiting uncontrollably. He was a … 17 days ago. Basil II certainty knew this, and modern scholarship such as the work of Catherine Holmes argues that his utter focus on warfare was most likely a conscious and deliberate decision by Basil to ensure the legitimacy of his throne (and likewise that Basil’s decision to campaign so vigorously against the Bulgarians was most likely due to the fact that it allowed him to remain close to the capital, where his throne might be under threat, although I think she overlooks too much the fact that the Byzantines hadn’t forgotten how terrifying it had been to have an enemy with a border only a few day’s march from the capital). Diss. Basil II was able to, by the time of his death, increase the imperial revenue to about 7 million nomismata (or about 100,000 pounds of gold) and left the treasury full to the brim with 14.4 nomismata, so about 200,000 pounds. Basil II, byname Basil Bulgaroctonus (Greek: Basil, Slayer of the Bulgars), (born 957/958—died Dec. 15, 1025), Byzantine emperor (976–1025), who extended imperial rule in the Balkans (notably Bulgaria), Mesopotamia, Georgia, and Armenia and increased his domestic authority by attacking the powerful landed interests of the military aristocracy and of the church. Stephenson also takes a good look at what Basil was doing in Bulgar lands and concludes that "slaying" was the least of his policies. In modern days, the event in particular has become part of national 'mythos' in a way. Though theoretically Basil's co-emperor (since 962), he lived a life of luxury in Constantinople while Basil was out on campaign. For his gruesome triumph … Basil II, for those who are not familiar with, was a Byzantine Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty who ruled from 976 - 1025 A.D. (High Middle Ages). Stephen Kamer, "Emperors and Aristocrats in Byzantium, 976-1081" (Ph.D. Let no generals on campaign have too many resources. Paul Stephenson reveals that the legend of the "Bulgar-slayer" was actually created long after his death. New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast. The Portal for Public History Basil II: The Bulgar Slayer | Tooky History - Duration: 5:03. Be accessible to no one. So, on a superficial level, he only enriched and made more powerful the Empire, so now I’ll delve into some of the things that arguably at least made Basil the progenitor of Byzantium’s later problems. I mean, probably not. Honestly, it’s most likely the latter, Basil II most certainty wasn’t thinking of the long term effects of sending his sister to the Rus, but that lack of long-term planning certainty shouldn’t take away credit from him.3. To begin with, his sending of Anna, his sister, to marry Vladimir the Great meant that Rus, a rising power in the east, would remain allies of the Byzantines and not the West, of particular note due to its allowing of the foundation of the Varangian guard, an elite unit of Scandinavian Warriors that would provide some of the Empire’s best troops. According to Skylitzes and Psellus, Basil was a womanizer in his youth, but once he became emperor (supposedly in part due to what he was told by Bardas Phokas) he was supposedly celibate, never marrying or taking a mistress, content to allowing his brother (Constantine VIII) and his children take over after his death. The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 164 +xvii pp., $40, ISBN 0521815304. For the leader from Vikings, Traders, and Raiders!, see Basil II (Civ6)/Vikings, Traders, and Raiders!. This excellent book has a dual purpose. This left the empire unstable, no Emperor until Alexius would rule for more than 13 years, and the infighting and intrigue that resulted from this sapped the empire of much of its resources. Basil II was able to keep the Bulgarians happy by keeping his own Greek nobility from interfering with their internal affairs, and the Bulgarians were allowed to pay taxes in kind instead of in coin, keeping them happy. On 29 July 1014, Basil II and his general Nikephoros Xiphias outmanoeuvred the Bulgarian army, which was defending one of the fortified passes, in the Battle of Kleidion. These weren’t Justinian type expansions where they were almost impossible to hold either, Catherine Holmes in her Basil II and the governance of Empire, for example, argues that there’s very little reason to believe that these borders shouldnt have given the Byzantines supremely defensible and easy to manage territory. Dalassenos, Komnenos - which then, interestingly, go on to produce Alexios I) in their stead. 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