Runciman, History of the First Bulgarian Empire (1930)

Runciman, History of the First Bulgarian Empire (1930)
Form of publication

Steven Runciman , A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (G. Bell & Sons LTD, London 1930)


From the Preface: “The First Bulgarian Empire presents one great initial difficulty for historians. We know its history almost exclusively from external sources. Except for a valuable but meagre dated list of the early monarchs, a few hagiographical writings, and a few inscriptions, mostly of recent discovery, we only possess the evidence provided for us by chroniclers of the East Roman Empire, with occasional sidelights from Western Europe. I deal more fully with the original sources elsewhere; but, all the while, it is necessary to remember that there are inevitable gaps in our information, particularly with regard to the internal history and the history of the frontiers on the side away from the civilized world. Such lacunae are excellent playgrounds for the Chauvinists, where their imaginations can play the most riotous games; but for the serious historian they are highly discouraging, forcing him to advance with a timorousness or a confession of ignorance that is most distasteful to his pride. It is possible that more evidence may arise—that more inscriptions may be found to throw light in many places; but that only deters the historian the more; he can never hope to say the last word on early Bulgarian history.

Consequently, few historians have attempted to deal with the First Empire as a whole. In Western Europe it has only been treated in one or two chapters in histories that deal with the whole history of the Balkans or Bulgaria; and the most important of these, Jireček’s Geschichte der Bulgaren, excellent in its day, is now out of date. The others are of little value. In England, however, there is also a chapter, readable but necessarily superficial, in the Cambridge Mediaeval History, vol. iv. It is only in books dealing with various periods of the history of Constantinople that early Bulgaria has received concentrated attention from Western writers, and then only in patches. But some of these works are of great importance, as, for example, Bury’s History of the Eastern Roman Empire, 802–67 (his Later Roman Empire, 395-800, was written too long ago to be of much use to-day), Rambaud’s Empire Grec au Xme Siècle, and Schlumberger’s great monographs on the Emperors of the later Macedonian period. The careers of Cyril and Methodius have given rise to a large crop of literature, dealing largely with Bulgaria, and remarkable chiefly for its various religious prejudices. The most temperate of these books is Dvornik’s admirable Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome. In addition, writers such as Bury, Jireček, Marquart, and others have written articles and monographs on various questions affecting Bulgarian history; I cite them in my bibliography, and, where they are relevant, in my footnotes. I myself, in my Emperor Romanus Lecapenus, have given a detailed account of Symeon’s later wars.

But it is only when we come to Slavonic writers that we find a fitting interest taken in early Bulgarian history. For some time now Russian historians—such as Palauzov, Drinov, Golubinski, Uspenski, and Vasilievski—have written on various aspects and periods of early Bulgarian history and have undertaken excavations and unearthed inscriptions of very great value. Of recent years the Bulgarians themselves have turned to its study. Particularly I must cite Ivanov, to whose book on Bogomil literature I am deeply indebted, and, most important of all the historians of early Bulgaria, Professor Zlatarski. Zlatarski, besides having written many very useful short articles and monographs, is the only historian to have attempted a full-length history of the period; his great history of his own country has been brought so far, in two thick volumes, down to the close of the First Empire. It is a work packed with learning and ingenuity, and is absolutely essential for any student of early Bulgarian history. I have ventured to disagree with Professor Zlatarski on various points of judgement and interpretation; but his writings, together with the personal help that he has given me, put me under an obligation to him that it is difficult adequately to acknowledge...”

Contents: Preface. Book I The children of the Huns. Book II The great powers of Europe. Book III The two eagles. Epilogue. Appendices I-XII. Bibliography. Index. Total pages i-x, 1-338.

Key words
Basil II, the Bulgar-slayer,.
Boris-Mihail I, khan.
Bulgar Khanate.
Byzantine army.
Byzantine Balkans.
Byzantine cities.
Byzantine Empire.
Byzantine fleet.
Byzantine sources.
Catholic Church / Latin Church.
Constantine V “Kopronymos”.
Constantinople / Polis / Istanbul.
Cyril and Methodius, saints.
Danube, Lower Danube.
Ecumenical Patriarchate.
First Bulgarian State / First Bulgarian Tsardom.
Haimos / Balkan / Stara Planina, mountain.
John Tzimiskes / Ioannes Tzimiskes, emperor.
Justinian II.
Khazars, people.
Krum, Khan.
Leo III, the Isaurian.
Leo IV the Khazar.
Leo the Deacon.
Leo V the Armenian.
Leo VI, the Wise.
Looting of cities.
Medieval era.
Medieval Serbia.
Mesembria / Nesebâr.
Michael III, emperor.
Middle Byzantine period.
Ohrid, town.
Pechenegs, people.
Prespa / Prespes.
Romania / Rumania.
Romanοs Ι Lecapenοs.
Rus / Russians.
Samuel, tsar.
Slavic languages.
Strymon, river.
Symeon of Bulgaria.
Theophanes the Confessor.
Via Militaris / Royal road.