Bulgaria ~ Byzantine Themes

BULGARIA ~ Byzantine Themes

Also see BULGARIA ~ Country

The Byzantines under emperor Basil II defeat t...

The Byzantines under emperor Basil II defeat the Bulgarians (top). Tsar Samuel dying in front of his blinded soldiers (bottom). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two Byzantine themes (military and civil provinces) in the western Balkans, one in the 10th century, the other during the 11th and 12th centuries, but with quite different territories.

The first Byzantine theme of Bulgaria was created after the Emperor John Tzimisces had annexed the First Bulgarian Empire in 971.   It was only effectively established in what is now northern Bulgaria, the lands between the River Danube and the Balkan Mountains (the Stara Planina), because the western lands in Macedonia were not directly affected by the warfare that had brought the Bulgarian Empire down.   Nor did the theme last long.   A new Bulgarian Kingdom promptly emerged in Macedonia and had already absorbed some of the theme before the Bulgarians inflicted a severe defeat on the Emperor Basil II in 986.

In 1018 Basil II completed his revenge and the Bulgarian state again went out of existence.  The lands of the theme of 971 became the theme of Paristrion (or Paradunavon), while the new theme of Bulgaria consisted of the lands in and around the upper valleys of the Rivers Struma, Vardar and Morava.   In present-day terms it contained only some of the western fringes of Bulgaria;  it also included the Republic of Macedonia, southern Serbia, eastern Albania and parts of northernmost Greece.

Later the lands of these themes were to belong to a revived Bulgarian Empire, which appeared in the mid 1180s, or to Serbia, and eventually they all became part of the Ottoman Empire.   All of modern Bulgaria was within that Empire by the end of the 14th century.

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