Episode 96 – Shoulda

A valley in the Balkan Mountains (intrepidtravel.com)

An example of a valley in the Balkan Mountains (intrepidtravel.com)

Krum receives Nicepheros' head (from worldhistoryplus.com)

Krum receives Nicepheros’ head (from worldhistoryplus.com)

Krum drinks from Nicephorus' skull (from seanmunger.com)

Krum drinks from Nicephorus’ skull (from seanmunger.com)

Why were the Bulgars so successful compared to their larger neighbour? We look at this question and the limitations of the Byzantine army on campaign as Nicephorus leads his men to their doom.

Period: 811

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Categories: Podcast | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Episode 96 – Shoulda

  1. Best episode since Irene (mom of the year) had her son blinded. Betrayal and disaster is always so much fun. “The right path” indeed 🙂

  2. Will Wade

    Excellent episode, this one shows that the high and ever increasing quality of the show. Nicephorus certainly tried but completely failed.

  3. Hardcore gear

    Another great episode,Robin! Just one thing though,please make up your mind as to what you are calling the empire’s people. You are calling them Byzantines in one minute and Romans the next. I understand they have been called both, but modern historians tell us the proper term is Romans as the people themselves never called themselves Byzantines. In a great show like this, let’s call these people what they really were, not what later westerners called them.

    • I assume you’ve heard every episode of the podcast? In which case you’ll know that I’ve made the case that they are the Romans and that’s what they called themselves. So no one whose listened from the start will be confused by my use of both. They will know what I mean. Plus I am in desperate need for synonyms because I refer to them as a collective people all the time 🙂

      • Well you could have collectively referred to them as abbatoir fodder in this episode and it would have been just perfect 🙂

  4. Shawn

    Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, indeed. If he had subdued the Bulgars, he could have bought himself enough to bring the Slavs more fully under Roman rule.

    Also, perhaps he could have forced Krum to turn over a number of troops to supplement the Roman forces as his predecessors had done when they bested various Germanic tribes.

    Finally, what did Byzantine missionary efforts in the Balkans look like at this time?

    • I will be coming to that soon. As far as I know there were no Imperially sponsored missionary efforts at this point. So beyond independent clergyman or neighbours converting neighbours I don’t know of any.

      • Steve

        Hi Robin, is there any indication that the Romans withheld missionary efforts towards the slavs and bulgars due to viewing them as barbarians, or was it just a matter of economizing and pining for the long gone days of having Egyptian taxpayers?

  5. zara78

    Amazing, the Romans have been bitten at their own game! It’s really warranted to say they should have known better. Retreating back through the mountains and camping by the river without making all necessary preparations was probably all they hoped Arabs would do on their way back from annual raids in Anatolia. Yet, they foolishly did just that. I wonder if the Romans have been on a defense for so long that in some way they’ve forgotten how to wage a fully successful offensive campaign.

  6. Richard

    Hi Robin,

    do you know when the Byzantine Liturgy changed from the Latin Mass? Currently we use the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom but I was wondering how they both formed over time.

  7. dustz92

    Really interesting episode. In a way, the modern borders of Greece, Bulgaria, and Northern Macedonia were decided by Nicephorous, both by his policy of settling Greece with Greeks and failing to to the same with the Bulgars.

    By the way, there’s this image of the battle in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krum#/media/File:Battle_of_V%C4%83rbitsa_Pass.png

    • dustz92

      Also, it’s funnt that the three emperors who so far died in battle (Decius, Valens, and Niikephoros) did it at the same area.

  8. NatCat

    Wow, what a series of episodes, the narrative of the 800s is off with a bang! So briefly everything was kind of on the upswing for the Romans, and then, nope, ending that right here, by being incredibly foolish! They really were asking for Krum to take that opportunity as he so ably did. As ever, thanks for all the hard work and the excellent podcast!

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