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Forum LockedWas Basil II of Byzantium Evil?

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jun-2006 at 15:42
I hope,it was mentioned before-i m bored to re-read all posts:

Blindness was the punishment for revolters in Byzantium.
That was the meaning of the act-
(along with the will to terrorize the opponents)

Its natural for some people here that never read byzantine history to get surprized by the blinding.

The uprising of the Bulgarians,under Samuel,after the conquest of most of Bulgaria by John Tzimiskes ,was supposed as a revolt in the terms of law ,by the Byzantine Empire.

It was also thought as an act of mercy,comparing to killing,an act usual for captives in medieval era.
 



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jun-2006 at 21:26
After reading everyones i threads i have come to conlcusion that Basil wasnt evil.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jun-2006 at 03:37
Originally posted by Tangra Tangra wrote:

Originally posted by Red4tribe Red4tribe wrote:

I have much admiriation for Basil II.I think the number of prisoners blined is far less and that was not even so cruel for the time.He blinded some men for sure but not as many as they say.
 
 
"that was not even so cruel for the time"
 
I suppose we can speculate then with history in the same slant and say that the Holocaust was not that cruel for its time compared to Hiroshima and Nagasaki or vice versa if you wish...LOLWink
 
"I think the number of prisoners blined is far less"
 
Thats usually is the wishful thinking when One realizes that the number of blinded prisoners speaks for such horrific cruelty that we rather say that it's Unbelievable....
 
 
 
Rule number one in history, at least as thaught at my university, is to always judge history in its own time. Interposing their own values on the past is what the Whigs and Victorians did. It does not make reliable history. Morals change.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jun-2006 at 10:09
Originally posted by bg_turk bg_turk wrote:

Here is a miniature depicting the blinding of the Bulgarians.




The deads of Vasil also served as an inspiration for the destruction of  the Bulgarian people in Macedonia during the Balkan wars. Here is a Greek propaganda image in another war with the Bulgarians, this time several centuries later (1910s Balkan wars).



The legacy of Vasil II remains strong still. There are streets in Greece named "Vasil Bulgarslayer".

In my eyes Vasil II was an evil bloodthirsty barbarian, a torturer with a perverted mind, the medieval equivalent of Hitler.


if you say so then any conqueror or state leader in that time-period would have enough credentials to be the medieval equvalent of Hitler.  thing is you can not judge a man of the 10th/11th ct. by standards of the 21st ct., for his time he was more generous than most armies who would've slaugthered the pow's in question, he blinded them considering that the deathy penalty was in effect in the roman empire at this time he shows mercy to a degree here.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jun-2006 at 17:29
Originally posted by Aelfgifu Aelfgifu wrote:

I think evil is a silly word to use for history.
Lets not forget that history is always written by winners. And winners are never to mean to provide their opponents with some bad press. All history is biased.
And I dont believe in evil. But that is another discussion altogether...
 
The thing I love about history is that it allows us to embrace the past in globality and percieve the truth of all peoples and find that as much as all peoples were different they were also as much alike. All people struggled to provide the best for the interests of their own.
That's why I share the idea that what is evil for one is good for another and for this reason I think it is uneffective in judgement to focus on one particular ruler and his deeds.
 
However since the question posed in the beginning of this thread was weather Basil II was evil because of what he did to the bulgar prisoners of war. I think it will be only fair and objective to say that what he did was cruel enought to be evil according to any human standard now or in the past.
 
Now, it is a completely different question if he as a ruler was evil altogether because of this ugly decision of his. Also it is a completely different question weather the law upon which he acted then was evil in itself or not.
 
May be we can say that for his era cruelty of this degree was normal, yet this doesn't make it less evil!
 
"History is written by the winners"....i think every side of a conflict wrote their side of the story but bias is generated when we read and judge only the history written by the winner or that written only by the defeated.
 
That's why I prefer to recognize things from the past for what they were.
 
Basil II was a Great ruler yet there is nothing great at all about what he did to the prisoners of war  of Samuel's. 
 
Somebody mentioned blinding them was better than killing them. Yet by blinding them not only he disabled them as warriors but he also made them disfunctional in the society and by so they economically so to speak became a burden and unble neither to fight nor to provide. So blindness for men at these times, considering the role and position of a Man in the familly, society and the country altogether, meant being dead-alive.
 
Leaving them dead-alive indeed was a Double cruelty  not a mercy.
 
.


Edited by Tangra - 26-Jun-2006 at 17:46
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Jun-2006 at 17:50

Considering the fact that Bulgarian tzars had never ordered their authorities to carry out such an act, I think it outragous.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jun-2006 at 09:54
Originally posted by Thracian Thracian wrote:

Considering the fact that Bulgarian tzars had never ordered their authorities to carry out such an act, I think it outragous.

 
Thracian I disagree with you. It's a bit naive to think that way.  Bulgarians did more or less the same with their opponents. As I said it was heavy time :) 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Jun-2006 at 12:32
 I think evil is the wrong word entirely, ruthless, brutal, merciless are better words, evil is just plain ridiculous.
 
 Basil didn't go out of his way to exterminate the Bulgars, the wars between the Bulgars and Byzantium were long and hard fought, had Basil merely wiped out the Bulgar army in a merciless bloodbath on the field then I very much doubt anybody here would be shocked or even care.
 
 The idea that Basil should simply have let these men return to their king healthy to fight another day is foolish at best, this cynical act of brutality was a sign of what happens to those who crossed the Emperor. As powerful a symbol as any victory on the field, I don't for a second like the idea of men being blinded, Bulgar or otherwise, but I can see what Basil was trying to do and if you look at it in the plainest terms it was a successful tactic. Blind them or butcher them on the field, its all equally barbaric in the end.
 
 But Basil II wasnt evil he was ruthless to his enemies like any medieval leader had to be, the blinding of the Bulgars is an extreme in a world where looted cities, massacred populations and enslaved civilians was both commonplace and expected. The Bulgars played the same game, undoubtedly massacring populations, even making the skull of a fallen Emperor into a drinking vessel. Hardly perfect themselves, by this you coudl call just about anybody in those times *evil* or barbaric.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 11:20
Originally posted by Genghis Genghis wrote:

I was reading a book recently (the Evil 100) which ranked Basil II of Byzantium from 976 to 1025 as the 8th most evil person in history because of what he did to Bulgar prisoners after the Battle of Kleidion where he blinded 99 out of every 100 men and left the 100th with one eye to lead them back to their Tsar who apparently had a heart attack and died upon seeing such a grotesque sight.  This and other incidents earned him the name bulgaroktonos meaning bulgar-slayer.
 
I don't think that's evil given the standards of the time, and one of my Greek friends who is the proudest Greek on Earth told me that at least from other Greek people he's met, Basil is admired in Greece for bringing Byzantium to its greatest extent since the fall of the Near East to the Arabs.
 
What do you all think?
 
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 13:14
"Evil" belongs in fairy tale books for children, where the world is black and white. We, as adults and intellectuals, should be above such simplistic notions.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 13:51
Basically, I support every particular opinion in this thread. Even those who seem to contradict each other Smile Except, may be, blindone's post stating that Samuil was far more "evil" then Basill.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 13:56
Bulgarian might massacred populations of cities and killed many others but they never was so cruel against prisoners and captured soldiers.The only reported case by byzantine authors during First Bulgarian Empires was about the first battle of Simeon agaisnt Byzantine Empire in 894.It is known that after the battle bulgarian forces captured many khazar warriors.And Simeon returned them in Constantinople with cut arms and noses.Even Khan Krum who may be is a symbol of bulgarian cruelty was for more nice ruler than Basil II.The case withe the skull of Nicephorus is much more complicated.In fact it was not an act of cruelty.It was even an act of honour.I already mentioned bulgarian pagan cult Orendism in the topic Terror of the Byzantines.Bulgars believed that there is a god's power that exist in a particular persons and animals.Only the great leaders and rules has this power and it is concentrated in the blood and especially in the head.So Krum thought that by drinking from the skull of the byzantine emperor he received his blessed power and became stronger and more powerful.BTW it was not so cruel because Nicephorus was probably beheaded when he was already death.So calm down,he didnt feel any pain.

In my view Basil II is one of the greatest byzantine emperors.But i dont think the decision to blind 15 000 bulgarians soldiers was planned.May be it was taken in the moment.Dont forget that Basil II already suffered a great defeat by Samuil and he was lucky to escape.The second reason is the determined fight of bulgarians.The third is that one of his favourite generals was defeated and killed by Gavril Radomir just after the battle of Kluch.So this decision may be was an act of vengeance and anger.Just look what Basil did after the conquest of Bulgaria.He saved the independent bulgarian church and its bulgarian clerics and leaders.Most of the bulgarian aristocracy was preserved.The emperor didnt obligate bulgarian population with the new harsh taxes.The remaining bulgarian army(which number was very big)was used by Byzantine Empire in Armenia.So Basil II was not so bad ruler,neither Krum was.
    

Edited by Krum - 12-Dec-2006 at 13:58
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 14:25
Didn't Krum make a drinking bowl out of Emperor Nikephoros I Logothetes' skull?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 14:33
He did.And what i am trying to say is that it was a sacred ritual,not an act of barbarism.
    

Edited by Krum - 13-Dec-2006 at 00:53
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 14:33
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Didn't Krum make a drinking bowl out of Emperor Nikephoros I Logothetes' skull?  
 
LOL
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 15:01
Originally posted by bg_turk bg_turk wrote:




Here is a miniature depicting the blinding of the Bulgarians.



The deads of Vasil also served as an inspiration for the destruction of the Bulgarian people in Macedonia during the Balkan wars. Here is a Greek propaganda image in another war with the Bulgarians, this time several centuries later (1910s Balkan wars). The legacy of Vasil II remains strong still. There are streets in Greece named "Vasil Bulgarslayer".In my
eyes Vasil II was an evil bloodthirsty barbarian, a torturer with a
perverted mind, the medieval equivalent of Hitler.


What is your opinion of Temujin and Timur e Leng?

They did far worse and are very muh revered by their apparent descendants.
    
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 15:17
Originally posted by Krum Krum wrote:

He did.And what i am trying to say is that it was a sacred ritual,not an act a barbarism.


Ah, I see you wrote a rather interesting explanation. I'm not appalled though, merely amused.
    
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Dec-2006 at 18:05
An interesting discussion -- given that I'm writing an allegorical novel with the central character half based on Basil II and half based on me Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Dec-2006 at 05:04
So, I guess if its a sacred ritual, its exempt from barbarism then?
Basil regarded the Bulgarians as rebels according to the laws of his empire considering that the previous Bulgar Tsar abdicated his crown in Constantinople when John Tzimices captured Tsar Boris and his family. So in regards to court ceremonial and politics, Basil did nothing extraordinary. Blinding was a punishment used frequently on rebels. Besides to call Basil evil is just plain stupid and hypocritical, Symeon himself was not averse to mutliating priusoners, so I think our Bulgarian friends might need to watch themselves from being self-pontificating moralists.

Edited by Nestorian - 25-Dec-2006 at 05:05
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Dec-2006 at 05:11
why did he let one person to be half blinded? If It is a law, It should be applied everyone.
 
100 of 100 should be blinded.Then we can call what he did justice.
 
 
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