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Despite those difficulties, Emperor Samuil resisted the Byzantine army, which reached its zenith under Basil II , for nearly half a century. In the Bulgarians led by the Cometopuli brothers reconquered the north-eastern parts of the realm. The first Byzantine attempts for counter-attack were repulsed after the annihilation of a 60, [30] force in the battle of the Gates of Trajan in in which Basil II himself barely escaped.

In the following decade the Bulgarians took Thessaly , destroyed the Principality of Duklja , advanced deep to the south as far as Corinth on the Peloponnese peninsula and campaigned in Dalmatia and Bosnia. However, a major defeat at the battle of Spercheios in signaled that the tide of the war had begun to change in the Byzantines' favour. From onwards, Basil II launched yearly campaigns into Bulgarian territory, methodically taking important cities such as Preslav , Pliska and Vidin , and inflicting several defeats on Samuil.


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After years of campaigning, in , in the decisive battle of Kleidion the Bulgarian army was crushed and 14, captured Bulgarian soldiers were blinded [32] and sent to Samuil, who died at the sight of his army on 6 October. In the battle of Kleidion the Bulgarian army numbered around 20, soldiers. According some estimates the total number of the army including the squads of local militia reached a maximum level of 45, The Byzantine historian Georgius Monachus Continuatus wrote that the Bulgarian army had , men, a greatly exaggerated number, the actual being 10 times smaller.

In the Bulgarian Empire was restored as a result of the successful Rebellion of Asen and Peter , who founded the new Asen dynasty.

In the absence of the Emperor the commander-in-chief was called velik great voivoda ; the commander of smaller squads was a voivoda and a strator was the person responsible for the defense of certain regions and the recruitment of soldiers. In the late 12th century the army numbered 40, men-at-arms. These were drawn from among the Cumans who inhabited Wallachia and Moldavia , and were at least nominally under the suzerainty of the Bulgarian Emperors.

The army was well supplied with siege equipment , including battering rams , siege towers and catapults. After a number of successful battles between and , the Byzantine Empire was effectively driven from the lands it held in the northern Balkans , and the Imperial crown and cross. The Hungarians were defeated after several fights along the valley of the Morava river in After several setbacks under Boril I — , Ivan Asen II decisively defeated the Despotate of Epirus in the battle of Klokotnitsa , in which the much smaller Bulgarian army outmaneuvered its enemy.

The country and the army declined after Ivan Asen II's death. His successors could not cope neither with the external nor with the internal problems. Mongol, Byzantine and Hungarian invasions were combined with separatism among the nobility and several civil wars. In , a peasant named Ivailo rebelled against Emperor Constantine Tikh. In the ensuing battle the Emperor was defeated and slain, and Ivailo proclaimed himself Emperor of Bulgaria in Tarnovo.

Although he managed to defeat both the Mongols and the Byzantines, a plot among the nobility forced him to seek refuge among the Mongol Golden Horde , where he was killed in After the end of the rebellion of Ivailo, the Bulgarians were no match for the Mongols who plundered the country undisturbed for 20 years. Under his successor the garrison of Plovdiv numbered 2, heavily armed footmen and 1, horsemen. Two years later the Bulgarian army numbered 11, men.

When the Ottoman Turks invaded Bulgaria and the Balkans in the midth century, the once glorious Bulgarian army was only a shadow of its former self. Feudal disunion and the widespread heretical movements such as Bogomilism , the Adamites or the Varlaamites did not allow the country to maintain a significant force. The Bulgarians relied on their fortified cities and castles for defense, but due to the lack of a common leadership, coordination amongst them was feeble and they were defeated and occupied in detail.

Initially, the Ottoman invasion was not considered as a significant threat by both Bulgarians and Byzantines. For only one decade between and the Ottomans conquered virtually the whole of Thrace seizing large cities such as Plovdiv , Beroia , Dianopolis Yambol and Adrianople and defeating several small Bulgarian forces. In the capital Tarnovo was besieged and seized by the Ottoman Turks and three years later fell Vidin - the last major Bulgarian city. Resistance to the invaders continued until when the country was fully conquered.

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The Bulgarian army employed various military tactics. It relied both on the experience of the soldiers and the peculiarities of the terrain. The Balkan mountains played a significant role in the military history of Bulgaria and facilitated the country's defense against the strong Byzantine army which conveyed the Roman military art in the Middle Ages. Most of the nine campaigns of the ambitious Emperor Constantine V to eliminate the young Bulgarian state, which suffered political crisis, failed in the mountain passes of the Balkan.

In the whole Byzantine army was destroyed in the Varbitsa Pass and in 12thth centuries several other Byzantine forces shared that doom. The Bulgarians maintained many outposts and castles which guarded the passes and were able to locate an invading force and quickly inform the high command about any enemy moves.

Sometimes the Bulgarians left a strong cavalry force in reserve which attacked in the sublime moment and tipped the balance in Bulgarians' favour, for instance in the battle of Anchialus in The Bulgarians usually avoided frontal assault and waited the enemy to attack first.

After the opponent inevitably breaks his battle formation the Bulgarians would counter-attack with their heavy cavalry. After the success at Anchialus in the Byzantines were not given time to prepare their resistance properly and the result was the annihilation of their last forces in the battle of Katasyrtai. During war the Bulgarians usually sent light cavalry to devastate the enemy lands on a broad front pillaging villages and small towns, burning the crops and taking people and cattle.

The early Bulgarian army was not supplied with strong siege equipment.

First Bulgarian Empire - Wikipedia

The Bulgarians used siege machines on a large scale for the first time during the reign of Khan Krum , when they employed Arab renegades to gain experience. By they possessed a large number of enormous siege machines [52] - battering rams , ballistas , mangonels , catapults , siege towers , machines against battlements. A wide range of siege equipment was also used during the Second Empire.

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After the Bulgarians conquered the Avar Khanate in , Avar soldiers, who were now subjects of the Bulgarian crown, were recruited in the army, especially during the campaign against Nicephorus I in , when the Byzantines burned down the capital, Pliska. During the Second Empire, foreign and mercenary soldiers became an important part of the Bulgarian army and its tactics. Since the very beginning of the rebellion of Asen and Peter, the light and mobile Cuman cavalry was effectively used against the Byzantines and later the Crusaders. For instance, fourteen thousand of them were used by Kaloyan in the battle of Adrianople.

Russians were also hired as mercenaries. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Medieval Bulgarian army Participant in the wars of the Bulgarian Empire Khan Krum feasts with a skull cup made of Emperor Nicephorus Is head following the victory in the battle of Pliska.

Bulgarian Empire portal. That is why he decided to retreat with his army and marched back to Byzantium. Dennis, p.

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History of the Bulgarian state in the Middle Ages , p. Retrieved 15 September Response, p. Migne, Patrol. A Byzantine priest threw it into the river so that it would be never found it but it was soon recovered by the Bulgarians. Throughout the 13th century that treasure was shown off during processions and celebrations in Tarnovo as described by the Byzantine historian George Acropolites.

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Historia, p. History of the Bulgarian state in the Middle Ages , pp. Topics on the Bulgarian Empire.

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Participant in the wars of the Bulgarian Empire. Khan Krum feasts with a skull cup made of Emperor Nicephorus Is head following the victory in the battle of Pliska. Bulgarian Emperor Commander-in-chief. Balkans , Pannonia , Ukrainian Steppes. Slavs , Pechenegs , East Franks , Cumans.