Episode 147 – Bulgarian Solidarity

The Balkans 976 AD

The Balkans 976 AD

We look at a series of questions about what’s been happening in Bulgaria since the peace was signed in 927. Why were the Rus able to defeat the Bulgarians so quickly? What did the Roman occupation look like? And more.

Period: 913-976

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Categories: Podcast | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Episode 147 – Bulgarian Solidarity

  1. In 2010, Timothy Parsons wrote a rather interesting book called ‘The Rule of Empires’, which is an overview (and condemnation) of a number of different historical empires. One interesting point he makes, and it makes me think people looking for evidence of decline actually have it completely the wrong way round – prosperity and political organization actually makes it easier for invaders to take over than harder. He points out a number of occasions where seemingly strong and prosperous states fell very quickly to aggressive conquerors – he particularly cites the Spanish conquest of the Incas but you could also cite the Norman conquest of England and the Arab conquest of the Near East. In all three cases, the conquers were actually helped by centralization because it provided them with the administrative apparatus to take power easily.

    Now it is obvious that not all empires are vulnerable in this way. The battles of Yarmouk, Teutoburg, and Adrianapole all involved similar sized Roman armies getting thoroughly destroyed but one resulted in the Romans losing their economic heartland, one resulted in the Romans just giving up on Germany, and one involved in the Goths rampaging ineffectually across the Balkans for a few years. But considering the circumstances behind the Yarmouk and Adrianapole (which although not as devastating as the former, certainly damaged the Roman state more than Teutoburg) and the difference becomes clear. In 9 AD, the Roman state had strong institutions and a wide pool of officers that Augustus could trust. In contrast, the Roman Empire’s resources were stretched in both 378 and 636 and both had had to personalize control of the military, which in turn meant fewer troops could be controlled or trained at one time. To use Francis Fukuyama’s thesis, the Roman state in the 4th and 7th century were in a state of political decay despite their continuing prosperity and ability to collect taxes. And perhaps that is what happened in Bulgaria – the state had effective tax raising facilities and the country was prosperous but the institutions that would have allowed a state and ruler to endure a heavy defeat did not exist.

    • Very interesting

    • MartinA

      Compare the Roman conqoust of Gaul and the Roman non conqouest of Germania. The difference is that Germania was to poor and to dispersed to pay for its own occupation. Gaul was not.
      A base territory motivates people to invade. And a poor base territory is unassailable.

  2. Bulgaria map appears to be down?

  3. Mystikos

    I also couldn’t see the map in Firefox, but it showed up in Chrome. Weird because that’s not the case for any other map. Here’s the direct link to it https://thehistoryofbyzantium.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/the-balkans-976-ad.jpg

  4. adamks31


    The evolution of both the Bulgarians and the Rus has been of great interest to me. It’s intriguing how their national identities evolved over time. For both, their original ethnic origins seem to have been transformed into a predominantly Slavic identity. Is there a definite time period over which this shift occurred, and were there any defining moments in their national histories that would have propelled this change forward? Also, did the shift to a predominantly Slavic identity alter in any way their relationship with Constantinople?


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