The Byzantine historian Scylitzes about the Bulgarian Samuil


 The Byzantine historian Scylitzes describes how Samuil, son of a Bulgarian noble, became ruler of all Bulgaria
                                                                       11th-12th c.

Immediately after the death of Emperor Ioannes the Bulgarians rose in revolt and four brothers were chosen to govern them: David, Moses, Aaron and Samuil, sons of one of the all-powerful comites of the Bulgarians and for this reason named Kometopouli…Of the four brothers, David was immediately killed by some Wallachian vagabonds between Castoria, Prespa and the so-called “Fair Oak Wood.” While besieging Seres, Moses was hit by a stone cast from the wall and died. Aaron was killed by his brother Samuil on July 14 in the place called Razmetanitsa, together with all his kin, because he was a sup­porter, so they say, of the Byzantines, or because he was trying to seize power for himself. Only his son Vladislav Ivan was saved by Samuil’s son Radomir Roman. Thus Samuil became the absolute ruler of all Bulgaria …

Georgii Cedreni compendium, op. cit., pp. 434-435; cf. ГИБИ, VI. p. 275; the original is in Greek

The Byzantine historian Scylitzes describes the wars between Bulgaria under Tsar Samuil and Byzantium

11th-12th c.

Samuil set out against Thessalonica and deployed the main part of his army in ambushes and traps, and he sent only a small part on an incursion to Thessalonica itself … Samuil camped on the opposite bank. Because of the torrential rains, the river rose and caused floods, so that no battle was expected at that moment. The magister, however, by inspecting the upper and lower reaches of the river, found a place through which he thought he could cross. In the night, having roused his troops, he crossed the river and attacked Samuil’s soldiers in their carefree sleep. A very large number of them were massacred, without anybody thinking of defense. Samuil himself and his son Roman were wounded, receiving grave wounds, and would have been taken prisoners, had they not mixed with the dead, lying as though dead. When night fell, they secretly fled towards the Aetolian Mountains and from there, across the peaks of these mountains, crossed the Pindus and took refuge in Bulgaria. And the magister, after freeing the Byzantines who had been taken prisoners, and strip­ping the Bulgarians who had fallen, looted the enemy camp and with very rich booty returned to Thessalonica with his troops…
In 6508, indiction 13, /= 999/ the Emperor sent a strong army against the Bulgarian fortresses beyond the Haemus Mountains … The Byzantine troops captured Great and Little Preslav, as well as Pliska, and returned unscathed and victorious.The following year, the Emperor again set out against the Bulgarians via Thessalonica. He was joined by the governor of Berrhoea, Dobromir, who sur­rendered the town to the Emperor and was honoured with the dignity of anthypatus. The defender of Servia Nikola, who, because of his small stature was called by the diminutive name of Nikolitsa, put up valiant resistance and cheerfully endured the siege imposed on him. The Emperor, however, set himself the task of capturing the fortress and succeeded, taking Nikolitsa himself prisoner. He deported the Bulgarians from there and left a garrison of Byzantines. After all this he returned to the capital, taking Nikolitsa with him, whom he honoured with the title of patrician. But the inconstant Nikolitsa es­caped from there and returning secretly to Samuil, together with him began to besiege Servia. The Emperor, however, moved swiftly and lifted the siege from the town and Nikolitsa fled with Samuil… The Emperor went to Thessaly and rebuilt the fortresses destroyed by Samuil, while those which were in the hands of Bulgarians he captured by siege and resettled the Bulgarians in the so-called Voleron. After posting strong garrisons in all fortresses, he returned to the place known as Voden. Voden is a small fortress situated on steep cliffs where the waters of the Ostrovo Lake fall after running unseen below the ground and coming to the surface again at this place. As the inhabitants of this town did not surrender of their own free will, the Emperor took it by siege. He deported them also to Voleron, then installed a strong guard in the town and returned to Thessalonica.


In the following year, indiction 15 /= 1003/, the Emperor set out on a campaign against Vidin and captured it by force after full eight months of siege. While he was busy with the siege, Samuil with a swift movement suddenly fell on Adrianople on the very feast of the Assumption of the Virgin. With a sudden assault he also seized the fair annually held there and attended by a great crowd and, after collecting much booty, he returned to his country. And the Emperor, after fortifying Vidin very well returned to the capital without losses, having devastated and destroyed all the Bulgarian fortresses on his way. When he ap­proached the town of Skopje, he found Samuil calmly camping across the Axios river, which is now called Vardar. Relying on the river being in flood and thus impossible to ford, he had set up his camp in a negligent manner. But a soldier found a ford and led the Emperor through it. Shocked by his sudden appearance, Samuil hastily fled in confusion, and his tent and the entire camp were captured. And the town of Skopje was surrendered to the Emperor by Roman, the son of Peter, Tsar of the Bulgarians, and brother of Boris, called also Simeon after his grandfather and placed there as governor by Samuil. The Emperor received him and after honouring him for his decision with the title of patrician and prepositor, sent him as a strategus to Abydos.

Continuing from there, the Emperor set out for Pernik, whose defender was Krakra, a man excellent in military matters. He spent a considerable time there and lost no small number of soldiers in the siege. Finding the fortress im­pregnable and Krakra impervious to flattery or other promises and proposals, he returned to Philippopolis, whence he returned to Constantinople.

Georgii Cedreni compendium, op. cit, pp. 449-456; cf. ГИБИ, VI, pp. 278, 280, 283 285; the original is in Greek

The Byzantine historian Scylitzes describes the blinding of 15,000 captured Bulgarian soldiers by Basil II, the death of Samuil and the conquest of all Bulgaria

11th-12th c.

Every year the Emperor continued to invade Bulgaria and devastated and laid waste everything on his way. Samuil could not put up opposition in the open field, nor could he come out in an open battle against the Emperor, and he suffered defeats on all sides and began to lose his strength. For this reason he decided to dig trenches and block the Emperor’s road to Bulgaria … The Emperor was already losing hope of getting through when Nicephorus Xiphias, appointed it that time by him as strategus of Philippopolis, persuaded him to remain there and to keep up his constant assaults on the barrier, saying that he would go to see whether he could not do something advantageous and salutary. And so, having taken his soldiers …, all of a sudden, with cries and noise, he appeared on high ground in the rear of the Bulgarians. Terrified by his sudden appearance, they fled. The Emperor destroyed the abandoned palisade and began to pursue them. Many were slain and many more were captured. Samuil was barely saved from death by his son, who valiantly warded off the attackers. He put him on a horse and led him to the fortress called Prilep. And the Emperor blinded the captive Bulgarians, about 15,000 so they say, ordering each group of one hundred to be led by a soldier with one eye, and thus sent them to Samuil. When the latter saw them coming in rows of equal numbers he could not stand this suffering courageously and in silence, but became unwell, fainted and fell to the ground. Those present tried to restore his breathing with water and perfumes and succeeded in bringing him round a little. When he had recovered consciousness, he asked for cold water, but after taking a drink, he suffered a heart attack, and two days later he died. His son Gavril, called also Roman, who surpassed his father in might and force but was far inferior to him in wisdom and reason, took power over the Bulgarians. He was Samuil’s son by a slave girl from Larissa. He began to rule on September 15, indiction 13 /1014/. A year had not passed before he was murdered while out hunting by Aaron’s son, Ivan Vladislav, whom he had rescued from death when he was about to perish.
Before these occurrences, at the time when Theophylactus Botaniates was sent as governor of Thessalonica, following Arianites, David Nestoritsa, a Bulgarian noble, was sent by Samuil with a large army against Thessalonica. Theophylactus met them with his son Michael, engaged in battle against them and utterly defeated them. He took much booty and many prisoners and brought them to the Emperor, who was besieging the barrier at the Gorge of Kleidion. Passing through the barrier, as we have already said, the Emperor advanced to Stroumitsa and captured the fortress, called Matzukion, situated near Stroumitsa. He also sent the Thessalonica duke Theophylactus Botaniates with his troops, ordering him to cross the hills at Stroumitsa, so as to burn the palisades on the roads to them and open a convenient road for him to Thessalonica. He set out, and the Bulgarians guarding these places let him pass everywhere unimpeded along the road. But when he was preparing to return to the Emperor after having fulfilled his orders, he fell into ambushes set up for this purpose and waiting in a long and narrow pass. When he entered it, sur­rounded from all sides and showered from above with stones and arrows, he fell dead without anyone being able to help him and without being able to make use of his hands, owing to the narrow and impassable place. A large part of the army perished with him. When this was reported to the Emperor, he was filled with great sorrow. It was because of this that he did not dare advance but turned back and arrived in Zagoria where the extremely strong fortress of Melnik stood, built on a rock and encircled on all sides by steep and very deep precipices. The Bulgarians from the area had gathered there and were not at all interested in the Byzantines. The Emperor sent to them one of his menservants, a eunuch named Sergius, an intelligent and eloquent man, to find out what their mood was. Once there, he succeeded by dint of much persuasion in con­vincing these people to lay down their arms and to surrender, together with the fortress, to the Emperor. The Emperor received them and conferred honours upon them, and leaving a sufficient garrison in the fortress, he returned to Mosynopolis. While he was there, they informed him also of Samuil’s death on October 24. The Emperor immediately left Mosynopolis and went down towards Thessalonica, and from there he went to Pelagonia, without devastating the lands on his way, and merely burning Gavril’s palaces in Buteli. Having sent troops, he captured the fortresses of Prilep and Stip. From there he reached the river called Cherna, which he crossed on rafts and inflated skins and returned to Voden , whence on January 9 /1015/ he went to Thessalonica. 
Georgii Cedreni compendium, op. cit, pp. 457 464, 464-476; cf. ГИБИ, VI, pp. 283-296; the original is in Greek

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