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Forum LockedThe Battle of Anchiallus, 917 AD

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Liudovik_Nemski View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 01:26

After the Bulgarian victory in the war between 894 and 896) the Byzantines were forced to pay tribute to the Bulgarian emperor(Tsar) Simeon. In 912 when the Byzantine emperor Leo VI died his brother Alexander refused to pay tribute to the Bulgarians and Simeon saw an opportunity to wage a new war and fulfill his ambitions to conquer Constantinople. Alexander died in the same year and the new government under the Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos made desperate attempts to avoid the war and promised that the infant Emperor Constantine VII would marry one of Simeon's daughters but after the latest plot in the Byzantine Court in 914 the new regent Zoe, Constantine's mother, rejected the marriage. In answer the Bulgarians conquerred Eastern Thrace, and its population recognised Simeon for their ruler and in September 914 they captured Adrianople, while the Byzantine army was occupied in the east. In the next year the Bulgarian armies attacked the areas of Drach and Thessaloniki

Both sides carefully prepared for a decisive end of the conflict. The Empress Zoe wanted to swiftly settle peace with the Arabs and to engage the whole army of the East to wage a war with Simeon and destroy him. The Byzantines tried to find allies and sent emisaries to the Magyars, Pechenegs and Serbs but Simeon was familiar with the methods of Byzantine diplomacy and from the very beginning took successful actions to subvert a possible alliance between his enemies. Thus the Byzantines were forced to fight alone.In 917, the Byzantine empire had stabilized its eastern borders, and the generals John Bogas and Leo Phocas were able to gather additional troops from Asia Minor, perhaps as many as 70,000. This was an enormous army and its goal was the ultimate elimination of the Bulgarian threat from the north. The Byzantine commanders were convinced in their success. The morale was raised as the soldiers vowed in the miraculous Wooden Cross to die for one another. The spirit of the army was futher raised as the troops were paid in advance and a fleet commanded by Romanus Lecapenus set off to the north at the mouth of the Danube. The Byzantines had tried to pay some Pecheneg tribes to attack, but Romanus would not agree to transport them across the Danube, and instead they attacked Bulgarian territory on their own.

The Bulgarians, under Simeon I of Bulgaria, had an army of only 50-55,000 men. Although they ruined the Byzatine negotiations, the Bulgarians were still afraid that the old allies of the Byzantines, the Pechenegs and the Hungarians, would attack them from the north, so two small armies were sent to protect the northern borders of the vast Bulgarian empire that spread from Bosnia in the west to Dnieper in the east. In addition Bulgarian forces under Marmais were deployed near the western borders with the Serb principalities to prevent possible unrest.

The enormous Byzantine army marched northwards and set its camp in the vicinity of the strong fortress Anchialus. Leo Phocas intended to invade Moesia and meet the Pechenegs and Lacapenus's troops in Dobrudja. Simeon swiftly concentrated his army on the heights around the fortress.

In the morning of 20 August 917, the battle between Bulgarians and Byzantines began by the river Acheloos (near the modern village Acheloi, 8 kilometers to the north of Anchialos (modern Pomorie) on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast). The Byzantine generals planned to outflank the right Bulgarian wing in order to detach Simeon's troops from the Balkan Passes. The Bulgarian ruler concentrated his most powerful forces in the two wings and left the centre relatively weak in order to surround the enemy when the centre would yield to the Byzantine attack. Simeon himself was in charge of large cavalry reserves hidden behind the hills who were supposed to make the decisive blow.

The Byzantine attack was fierce in it was not long before the Bulgarians began slowly to retreat. The enemy cavalry charged the infantry in the centre killing many Bulgarians. The Bulgarian position became desperate as they could not manage to hold the heights to the south of the river and began a haste retreat to the north. Elated, the Byzantines started a bitter chase and their battle formations soon began to break. The battle was fought furiously. The decisive moment came when the heavy cavalry corps of Bulgarians, led by Simeon, attacked the Byzantine left wing from behind the hills. With irresistable rush the cavaliers dashed down at the confused enemy who immediately bent under their attack, paniced and took on their heels.


Some Byzantines tried to repulse the cavalry charge but they were also attacked by the infantry. Tsar Simeon personally took part in the fight, his white horse was killed at the height of the battle. The Byzantines were completely routed. Their headlong flight was punctuated by fearful cries as some men were trampled by comrades and others were killed by the Bulgarians; there was such a letting of blood as had not been seen for very many years. Leo Phocas was saved by fleeing to Mesembria (modern Nessebar) in Bulgaria, but in the thick of the battle Constantine Lips, John Grapson and many other commanders (archontes) were cut down along with enormous number of soldiers and officers. By the end of the day the Bulgarians overwhelmed the defenders of Mesembria and capturred the town. Leo Phocas barely escaped boarding a ship.

It is estimated that approximately 55-60 000 Byzantine soldiers died in this battle. The Byzantine historian Leo Diaconus says that 75 years after this military catastrophe the field at Anchialus was still covered with tens of thousands of Roman skeletons.





Edited by Liudovik_Nemski - 09-Jun-2007 at 09:37
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liudovik_Nemski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 01:37
Plan of the battle(Bulgars in red):


It was indeed an enormous one-the Eastern Roman empire organised almost all soldiers it had,including men from Anadola.It's army was no less than 70-75 000.Plus it gathered all of it's best generals.The same goes to the Bulgarian empire which left some minor forces on the border with the Pechenegs and gathered all their military potential-overall probably 50-55 000 beginning from the lands of the former Avar khaganate and Dnieper to the east above the Danube and finishing in the Balkan territories.Here is a map where the battle took place(note that this is a map with included Serbia and Greece which were taken some years later after the victory,at the time of the battle the Bulgars still didn't own them)




In any case it was a colossal clash and one of the most bloody battles in the Middle Age period as a whole with casualties around 60-70 000(20 000 of which BulgarsCry).

We should note that it went simmilarly to Cannae-first the Bulgarian centre started slowly to fall back and when the romans engaged in pirsuit Tsar Simeon(numidian cavalry) personally guided the heavy cavalry and attacked from their rear which caused panic and decided the battle.Seems the romans didn't learn from past mistakesTongue It is also one of the most famous victories of the Bulgarian empire although it's always shunned.



Edited by Liudovik_Nemski - 09-Jun-2007 at 09:24
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Evrenosgazi View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Evrenosgazi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 07:41
Good message but the numbers are exaggrated. We know that at the medieval period 10000 numbered armies were claimed as huge armies. 110000 and 70000 is too much. But perhaps the roman army was larger
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Roberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 07:57
And your primary sources are ..... ?
BTW that map is a joke.
more like this:
http://www.ostu.ru/personal/nikolaev/byzantium950.gif
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krum Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 08:55
The map is not exactly a joke,but there are a few innaccuracies.For example some of the south lands coloured with yellow must be marked as military time borders.Bulgarians controled those lands,but they werent officially recognized.For northern borders there are many disputes.

The main sources are byzantine authors - Ioannes Skylitzes,Leo Diaconus.
It is only the dead who have seen the end of war.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liudovik_Nemski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 09:07
Originally posted by Krum Krum wrote:

For example some of the south lands coloured with yellow must be marked as military time borders.


Yes when the treaty was signed the Bulgars had to give parts of Thrace and Greece back although they kept much of the land.The yellow map i posted are the wartime borders during Simeon's rule(Serbia became a province in 924 and later Greece was taken because Emperor Simeon wanted to isolate Constantinople from the cities which supplied it with food(he planned to siege it together with the help of the arab fleet)).After the treaty the south border was like the one in axeman's map.




Edited by Liudovik_Nemski - 09-Jun-2007 at 09:28
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liudovik_Nemski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2007 at 09:09
Originally posted by axeman axeman wrote:

And your primary sources are ..... ?
BTW that map is a joke.
more like this:
http://www.ostu.ru/personal/nikolaev/byzantium950.gif


We already explained about the southern borders,but i don't see why you consider the lands in the northeast lost to the pechenegs.Also the lands in the northwest were lost much later after the death of Peter to the magyars but at the time of the Battle and Simeon's rule they were defeated by a bulgarian and pecheneg army and didn't conquer anything.

Contact with territories north of the Danube was completely lost in Samuil's rule and the later tzars until 1018 when the pechenegs and magyars started raiding from northeast and northwest.The army was already exausted from the campaigns of Svyatoslav(Kievan Rus) Basil II was constantly crossing the border to the south and there were simply no troops to send to take the north lands back.They weren't populated as much as the Balkan territories and mostly served as something like a colony because the carpathian mountains were rich in salt and silver ore.There was also plenty of agricultural land.Avar troops were gathered there often however.

Originally posted by Evrenosgazi Evrenosgazi wrote:

Good message but the numbers are exaggrated. We know that at the medieval period 10000 numbered armies were claimed as huge armies. 110000 and 70000 is too much. But perhaps the roman army was larger


I forgot to edit the 110 000 partWink The roman army consisted of practically anything the empire could have-it was sent to destroy the Bulgarian empire as a sovereign country.It most likely included many mercenaries together with the regulars.
The Bulgars would never be able to amass such a large army theirs was probably with 10-15 000 smaller.


Edited by Liudovik_Nemski - 09-Jun-2007 at 09:35
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