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CroatianBulgarian battle of 926

In 926 a battle was fought in the Bosnian highlands between the armies the Bulgarian Empire, under the rule
of Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I, who at the time also fought
a war with the Byzantine Empire, and the Kingdom of
Croatia under Tomislav, the rst king of the Croatian
state. The battle is also known as the Battle of the
Bosnian Highlands (Bulgarian: , Croatian: Bitka na Bosanskim visoravnima).
It was fought in the mountainous area of Eastern Bosnia
near the rivers Bosna and Drina, the border area between
the Kingdom of Croatia and the Bulgarian Empire.[1]
Principal information on the battle is provided by the emperor Constantine VII of the Byzantine Empire in his
work De Administrando Imperio (On the Governance
of the Empire) and in the collection of preserved historical writings called Theophanes Continuatus.[2] Simeons
aim was to defeat the Byzantine Empire and conquer
Constantinople. To achieve his aim, Simeon overran
the eastern and central Balkans several times, occupied
Serbia and nally attacked Croatia. The result of the battle was an overwhelming Croatian victory.[1][2]

1
1.1

Background

Croatia and Bulgaria c. 925

Events preceding the war

Byzantine Emperor could bestow royal or imperial titles,


and an emperor might be crowned only by a patriarch.
Byzantine Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos protested bitterly against Simeons usurpation of the imperial title.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas Mysticus, did
the same. In such a predicament, Simeon demanded Pope
John X (914-928) to send him an imperial crown and to
recognize the head of the Bulgarian church as Patriarch.
Naturally, Simeon had to promise to recognize the papal primacy in the Church. John X accepted Simeons
request and sent a solemn mission to Bulgaria, headed
by Cardinal Madalbertus and John, illustrious Duke of
Cumae. The papal mission reached Bulgaria at the end
of summer or during the fall of 926, carrying a crown
and scepter with which they would crown Simeon as Bulgarian Emperor.

After the war between Trpimir I and Bulgarian Khan


Boris I in 853, which resulted in a peace treaty,[3] the relations between Bulgaria and Croatia improved greatly.
Ambassadors from Rome regularly went through Croatian territory to Bulgaria and received escorts to the
border,[4] while the Pope had regular conversations with
both countries. Croatia bordered Bulgaria probably
somewhere in present-day Bosnia,[5] between the rivers
Bosna and Drina.[6] The situation started changing in the
early 10th century when the new Bulgarian ruler Simeon
I started a campaign against the Byzantine Empire. The
conict went in favor of Bulgaria and the Byzantines
found themselves in great danger.[4]
Simeon captured a large part of the Byzantine territory
in Europe and was crowned as Emperor of the Bulgarians by Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos in 913.[7] He was
later crowned at the church of Ohrid as Tsar of all Bulgarians and Greeks by the newly appointed Bulgarian
patriarch in 925. However, the Byzantines always addressed Simeon as prince (archon) and the prelate continued to be referred to as an archbishop.[7] According to
the juridical reasoning of the time, only the Pope and the

When the papal mission arrived in Preslav, Madalbertus


started long negotiations with Simeon and the representatives of the Bulgarian church. Probably, Madalbertus
convoked a church synod in Bulgaria as he later did in
Split, in Croatia, on his way back to Rome in 928. The negotiations regarding ecclesiastical matters were successful, and Archbishop Leontius was created Patriarch in
Preslav, still during Simeons reign.
1

1.2

Reasons for the war

REFERENCES

3 Aftermath

In 924 Simeon sent a large army against Zaharija in the


Principality of Serbia. The Bulgarian armies ravaged Serbia and forced Zaharija to ee to Croatia. Serbia was
annexed by Bulgaria by which Simeon considerably expanded his state.[8] After Simeons annexation of Serbia
the Bulgarian state bordered the Croatian kingdom under Tomislav, who was a Byzantine ally.[9] Croatia was
now located between Bulgaria and the weakly defended
Byzantine Theme of Dalmatia, a possible new target of
Simeon.[10]

Simeon suered a crushing defeat, but did not lose the


bulk of his forces. He had sent a part of his army on that
campaign and those forces had suered heavy losses, but
his overall army was strong enough to carry out another
invasion of Byzantium.[9] The Croatian-Bulgarian war did
not continue in a signicant extent, no territorial changes
followed,[2] and peace was concluded after the death of
Emperor Simeon in 927.[4] In 927 Pope John X sent his
legates with Bishop Madalbert to mediate between Croats
and Bulgarians.[12]

Tomislav received and protected the Serbs who were expelled by Simeon from Rascia.[11] Tomislav may have
been granted by the Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos some
years previously with some form of control over the
coastal cities of the Byzantine Theme of Dalmatia and
rewarded with some share of the tribute collected from
the cities,[12] thus securing the friendship of Tomislav.
These events were a sucient proof to Simeon that the
Croats took the side of the Byzantine Emperor and that
they would support him actively in the future. Therefore, Simeon saw Croatia, harboring his enemies and allied to the empire, as a threat and he could not direct all
his forces towards Byzamtium since there was nothing to
prevent Croatia from striking his rear.[9]

Simeon died in May 927. His son and successor Peter


I renewed the war with the Byzantines and concluded a
peace treaty the same year. Byzantine sources say that
the cause for Peters peace treaty proposal was his fear
that all his neighbors, the Hungarians, Byzantines, and
Croatians, could take the advantage of Simeons death to
attack Bulgaria. In addition Bulgaria had a major domestic problem, a severe famine resulting from an attack by
locusts.[15]

4 See also
CroatianBulgarian wars
History of Croatia
History of Bulgaria

The battle

In 926 Simeon sent a large army to invade Croatia.[9]


According to Byzantine historian Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Croatia at the time was able to eld an
army of 100,000 foot soldiers, 60,000 horse soldiers,
80 big battleships and 100 smaller battleships,[13] but
these numbers are generally taken as a considerable
exaggeration.[14] The strength of Simeons army is unknown but was probably 30,000-70,000. The commander of the Bulgarian forces in this battle was Duke
Alogobotur.[11] The Bulgarians were met by a Croatian
army in the mountainous area of Eastern Bosnia.[6]
The Croatian forces completely devastated the Bulgarian
army.[9] Key to Croatias triumph was likely the choice
of terrain on which the battle took place. Bulgarians at
the time when the battle started were in a very unfavorable position and the Croatian army have made a surprise
attack against them.[10] Croatian soldiers were probably
more skilled in ghting in the mountainous terrain of the
Bosnian highlands. The Croats adjusted their military
tactics, time and place of the battle to their opponents
who were in open conict superior, which brought them a
decisive advantage.[10] Duke Alogobotur most likely perished in the battle along with most of his soldiers since he
is no longer mentioned in sources.

5 References
[1] Bakalov, Istorija na Blgarija, Simeon I Veliki.
[2] Cliord J. Rogers: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval
Warfare and Military Technology, p. 162
[3] De Administrando Imperio: XXXI. Of the Croats and of
the country they now dwell in
[4] Neven Budak - Prva stoljea Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1994., p.
21-22
[5] Maddalena Betti: The Making of Christian Moravia (858882), 2013, p. 130
[6] :

. I. 681
1018 ., p. 47
[7] John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 155-156
[8] John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 154
[9] John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 157

[10] Ivo Goldstein: Hrvatski rani srednji vijek, Zagreb, 1995,


p. 289-291
[11] De Administrando Imperio: XXXII. Of the Serbs and of
the country they now dwell in
[12] Florin Curta: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages,
500-1250, p. 196
[13] De Administrando Imperio: XXXI. Of the Croats and of
the country they now dwell in. Baptized Croatia musters
as many as 60 thousand horse and 100 thousand foot, and
galleys up to 80 and cutters up to 100.
[14] John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 262
[15] John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A
Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 161

External links
Map of Bulgaria in the late 9th and early 10th century ( : "
865 905 .
30- X .)

7 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

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