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Early Bulgar

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 8 months ago

III/14: First Kingdom Bulgarian 675 AD-1018 AD


Author Nick Farrell

Cold. Aggression 2 (14)

Terrain WW, Rv, H(S)*, H(G), M, Wd, V, Rd, BUA, M, Rgo (1)


C-in-C, Irr Kn(F) @19AP 1

Sub-general as above 1-2


Boyars Irr Kn (F) @ 9 AP 6-12

Bulgar Horse Archers, Irr LH (S) @ 7AP 12 -24


Palisades –TF@ 2AP 0 - 48 (3)


Before 803 Replace Kn (F) with Irr Cv (S) @ 19 AP if general,

9 AP otherwise All or none(2)


Before 852

Slav Cavalry, Irr Cv(O) (5) 0-12 (4)

Slav Javelinmen Irr Ax (O)@3AP, or Irr Ax (I) @2AP *15-60

Slav Archers Irr Ps(O) @2AP *10-12

Replace Slav Javelin men with Slav raiders – Irr mtd Ax(O) @ 4AP or Irr mtd Ax(I) @ 3AP 0 - 20 (5)


Slav Allies – List Early Slav (Bk 3) (6)


Only Tervel in 705

Byzantine Allies – List Thematic Byzantine (Bk 3) (7) 0-20


From 803 AD - 852 AD

‘Civilised Slavs’ or Greek Militia, Irr Sp (I) @3AP or Irr Hd (O)@1AP (13) 0-12

Byzantine Allies – List Thematic Byzantine (Bk 3) (9)


Only in 812

Avar Allies –List Avar (Bk 3) (8)


After 852 (12)

Bulgarian spearmen, Irr Sp(I),@3%... 24-48

Bulgarian Archers, Irr Bw (I) @3AP or Irr Ps (O)@ 2AP 0-24

‘Civilised Slavs’ or Greek Militia, Irr Sp (I) @3AP or Reg Sp(I) or Irr Hd (O)@1AP (13) 0-12


Slav Allies – List Slav (Bk 3)


From 924 to 927

Serb puppet noble, Irr Kn(F), @9AP(11) 0-1

Javelinmen, Irr Sp (I) @ 3AP #5-12

Bowmen, Irr Bow (I) @ 3AP #5-12

Replace Javelinmen and Bowmen with Irr Hd (O) @ 1AP 0-20


From 976

Byzantine Allies – List Nikephorian Byzantine (Bk 3) 0-12



This list covers the Bulgarian first kingdom from the time that the Turko-Hunnic tribe the Bulgars crossed the Danube and annexed the Slavic tribes they found there, until the collapse of Samuel’s Macedonian-based Bulgar resurgence.


The territory covered includes land in what is now South Romania and Northern Bulgaria as a core State with additional territory South as far as modern Plodiv and the Modern Republic of Macedonia.


Initially the numbers of Bulgars were small, according to one 12th century source only 10,000 made the crossing, although it is not clear if that was fighters or an entire tribe. They met one large tribe and a tribal confederation, which was not difficult to take control over.


The initial Kingdom covered territory between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains, (although not the Black Sea ports) and parts of modern Romania. The Bulgars and Slavs raided into Byzantine Greek possessions and were extremely good at dealing with Byzantine counter-attacks. They were masters at siege craft and had a favoured tactic of blocking off whole valleys with wooden palisades to defend. To the south they built a long dyke that was periodically manned and defended.


The problem was that the Kingdom too often depended on strong rulers who were successful soldiers to keep it together. Even then it required rulers who were phenomenally lucky. King Krum was one such ruler. He had his army destroyed; his capital burnt and was hiding in the mountains waiting for his Slavic allies to arrive when he decided on a suicide raid on the Byzantine Emperor’s tent. It came off killing the King and mortally wounding the heir. Krum made the Emperor’s skull into a cup to celebrate. In the aftermath Krum and his Sons were a significant power in the Balkans for more than 60 years (although much of that was peaceful).


Other aggressive rulers include Tervel, Boris I, Symeon and Samuel. Other rulers do not seem to have been particularly aggressive other than for a few years where they had to convince their own nobles that they were not a Byzantine lap-dog. They all favoured raids. When faced with weak rulers, or a strong and unpreoccupied Byzantine, the Bulgar Kingdom had a habit of being its own worst enemy. Several Tsars attempted to capture Constantinople but only Symeon seemed to realise that he needed a navy to do the job, and none of them were successful in building one.


Byzantines used between 803 AD – 852 AD are the Greek Themes who went over to Krum and his successors.


Boyar Cv(S) dismount as Bow(O), Boyar Kn (F) dismount as Sp(O). Bulgar LH(S) dismount as Bow (I). Slav Cv(O) dismount as Aux (O).


*Applies if any non-mounted Slavs are used

  1. only if troops so marked are used


% only if any foot are used.




1. Marshes and Woods were not always a feature of Bulgarian defensive warfare. Most of the battles fought were in the South of the Kingdom and so the extensive marshlands of the Danube were not a feature of most of the battles.


However there are a lot of steep hills in Bulgaria and it is difficult to find a defensive battle where they were not important. Krum ordered the uprooting of vineyards so there must have been a lot of them. It is still a strong wine growing area now and Bulgaria is credited with inventing the wine cellar.


2. There is no evidence that the Boyars used bows to any great extent, The assumption is that because they were Huns and influenced by the Avars that they did. If they ever had it they dumped the bow by the 9th century. Around that period they appear in limited artwork (which might be symbolic) but the majority of horsemen are just armed with lance. The evidence for this is graffiti at Pliska which shows an armoured figure with a lance and a large round shield and the 8th century golden drinking cup which was thought to be Khazar but is now positively identified as Bulgarian.


3. When used, Palisades were extensive and used to close down entire valleys. I have allowed enough to close down an entire sector of a 15mm board. I would love a way of actually putting a TF behind the Attacker at the same time (in which case there should be double the TFs) but unfortunately the rules do not allow it.


4. The Slavs had been raiding Greece specifically for horses since the sixth century and they were being used in raids. Theophilactus Simokrattes (Vl.7,2) said the Danubian elite and their retainers were often mounted. He describes how in the course of a raid they dismounted from their horses to give them a rest. Procopius (Wars V.27, 1-3) says there were Slav Cavalry in the Byzantine Army. In describing a raid of 548 he uses the word strateuma, which he elsewhere uses to describe troops on horseback. John of Ephesus said that in 581 the Slavs had robbed herds of horses and many Byzantine weapons. “They have learnt to conduct war better than the Romans” he said.


5. These are the Seven Clans on the South Bank of the Danube who the Bulgars swiftly integrated.


6. The Bulgars initially let the Slavs keep their chiefs and kept themselves as an elite. How long this lasted is uncertain, as the tribes close to the capital Pliska were much more closely identified with the conquerors however a large number of Slavs were sufficiently independent to justify ally status.


7. Khan Tervel (701 – 18) helped Justinian II recapture his throne in 705. Justine was not the commander of the Bulgar/Slav army that restored him, which effectively just parked out side the walls while Justinian shimmied up a drain pipe and captured the city. Tervel also helped the Byzantines break the Arab siege of Constantinople in 717AD


8. Avar allies were in the train of Krum’s huge army to take Constantinople however he died before it reached the City. They were of significant numbers to be noticed by the Byzantine Chroniclers.


9. Krum captured several Greek cities in Thrace and according to an inscription from Hambarli in Thrace five Strategios were placed as subordinate to Krum and his sons. Krum’s son executed two (Leo and Jannis) as Christian Martyrs (rather than because of a lack of military prowess or loyalty), but the other three continued to serve. Krum’s successors were so pleased with these regulars that when they had to hand the territory back to the Byzantines they simply uprooted the Thematic troops and shifting them to other parts of Bulgaria (particularly the North West where they would not face Greeks or Byzantines in combat, However Krum and his successors let them fight under their own generals because they believed they would be more loyal. There is no evidence that they ever switched sides. (Early Medieval Balkans, John Fine). More Themes were added as Krum’s successors expanded into Macedonia in 846ad although it is not clear how long the use of the Greek Themes using Byzantine techniques lasted. I have assumed that by the time of Boris, the Greek Themes would have gone native or been incorporated in the ‘Bulgarian Army’


10. Tsar Boris became a Christian and the concept of an isolated Bulgar elite, which was already watered down by assimilation with the Slavs, was no longer operative. Those boyars who objected to the end of the old ways and the introduction of Christianity were killed and their estates seized. Although a Bulgar elite still existed until the 890’s they were no longer the power they once were. The country became multi-ethnic hence the ‘Bulgarian foot’ are the Boyars’ peasants or the town militia. They could be Slav, Bulgar, Vlach or Greek. The Slav allies are those more loosely affiliated tribes in the South, West and North of the Kingdom.


11. Symeon annexed Serbia in 924 and it is likely that these troops were part of the huge army that took part in the unsuccessful invasion of Croatia in 926. They would have been subordinate as Symeon had all the nobles locked up. Byzantine chroniclers make the unlikely statement that Serbia was deserted (I suppose they meant that no-one that mattered was still there). However the state did not collapse so it is likely he left a few puppets in power to run things. It is likely that this effected Serb morale during the invasion which is the reason for the downgrading.


12. Small numbers of Byzantines defected to Samuel during his wars against Basil II.


13. The civilised Slavs are the ‘tribes’ that lived around the Greek Cities that were not integrated into the Themes. By this stage the Slavs were more likely to thrust spears rather than throw them. They were likely to have taken some Byzantine influence and may even have received training. I have categorised them along side the Byzantine town and city militias of dubious quality.


14. The First Kingdom Bulgars were not exactly aggressive. They had a core territory and sometimes expanded it on the accession of a new king and then would allow it to shrink again. Their main form of aggression took the form of raiding and again was in the no man’s lands of Thessalonica. When compared to other nations of this time they are moving towards the slightly more aggressive to almost passive (depending on the ruler).

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