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Little is known about the origins of the Bulgars that reached the Balkan peninsula in the 7th century (according to some sources even earlier) because during the ages the original Bulgars melted into the local population of what is nowadays Bulgaria. The established theory is that the Bulgars are related to the Huns and originated in Central Asia but their ethnicity is not entirely clear. In the 6th and 7th century, the Bulgars formed an independent state, often called Great Bulgaria, between the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black and the Azov Seas to the south, the Kuban river to the east, and the Donets river to the north. The capital of the state was Phanagoria, on the Azov. The pressure from peoples further east such as the Western Turkish and Khazar tribes led to the dissolution of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the 7th century.
One Bulgar tribe migrated to the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers in what is now Tatarstan, Russia (see Volga Bulgaria). They converted to Islam in the beginning in the 10th century and maintained an independent state until the 13th century. Smaller Bulgar tribes seceded in Pannonia and in Italy, northwest of Naples, while other Bulgars sought refuge with the Lombards. Another group of Bulgars remained in the land north of the Black and the Azov Seas. Yet another Bulgar tribe, led by Khan Asparuh, moved westward, occupying today's southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with the Thematic Byzantines in AD 680, Asparuh's khanate conquered Moesia and Dobrudja and was recognised as an independent state (The First Bulgarian Empire) under a treaty signed with the Thematic Byzantine Empire in AD 681. The same year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of present-day Bulgaria, however an alternative theorry postulates that Great Bulgaria, although it suffered a major territory loss from the Khazars, managed to defeat them in the early 670s.
Khan Asparuh conquered Moesia and Dobrudja after the war with the Byzantine Empire in AD 680. After the decisive victory at Ongala in 680 the armies of the Bulgars and Early South Slavs advanced to the south of the Balkan mountains, defeating again the Thematic Byzantines who were then forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty which acknowledged the establishment of a new state on the borders of the Empire. They were also to pay an annual tribute to Bulgaria. In the same time the war with the Khazars to the east continued and in 700 Asparough perished in battle with them. The Bulgars lost the territories to the east of the Dnester river but managed to hold the lands to the west. The Bulgars and the Slavs signed a treaty according to which the head of the state became the Khan of the Bulgars who had also the obligation to defend the country against the Thematic Byzantines, while the Slavic leaders gained considerable autonomy and had to protect the northern borders along the Carpathian mountains against the Avars.
The Empire played a major role in European politics and was one of the strongest military powers of its time. The Khan Tervel helped the deposed Thematic Byzantine Emperor Justinian II to regain his throne in 705. In return he was given the area Zagore in northern Thrace which was the first expansion of the country to the south of the Balkan mountains. However, three years later Justinian tried to take it back by force but his army was defeated at Anchialus. In 716 Tervel signed a trade agreement with the Thematic Byzantines. During the siege of Constantinople in 717-718 he sent 50,000 troops to help the besieged city. In the decisive battle the Bulgarians decisively defeated the arab forces and Tervel was hailed as The Saviour of Europe by his contemporaries. The Bulgars later destroyed the Avar Khanate expanding its territory to the Pannonian Plain and the Tatra Mountains. Bulgaria served as an effective shield against the constant invasions of nomadic peoples from the east in the so called second wave of the Great Migration. Pechenegs and Cumans were stopped in north-eastern Bulgaria.
Under the great Khan Krum (803-814) Bulgaria expanded northwest and southwards occupying Sofia in 809 and Adrianople (modern Odrin) in 813, and threatening Constantinople itself. Between 804 and 806 the Bulgarian armies thoroughly eliminated the Avar Khanate and a border with the Frankish Empire was established along the middle Danube. In 811 a large Byzantine army was decisively defeated in the battle of the Varbitsa Pass. The Thematic Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I was slain along with most of his troops. Krum immediately took the initiative and moved the war towards Thrace, defeating the Thematic Byzantines once more at Versinikia in 813. After a treacherous Byzantine attempt to kill the Khan during negotiations, Krum pillaged the whole of Thrace, seized Odrin and resettled its 10,000 inhabitants in "Bulgaria across the Danube". He made enhanced preparation to capture Constantinople: 5,000 iron-plated waggons were built to carry the siege equipment, the Thematic Byzantines even pleaded for help from the Carolingian Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious. Due to the sudden death of the great Khan, however, the campaign was never launched.
Under Khan Presian (836-852), the Bulgarians took most of Macedonia and the borders of the country reached the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. In 864 the Thematic Byzantine under Michael III invaded Bulgaria on suspicions that Khan Boris I prepared to accept Christianity in accordance with the Western rites. Upon the news of the invasion, Boris I started negotiations for peace. The Thematic Byzantines returned some lands in Macedonia and their single demand was that he accept Christianity from Constantinople rather than Rome. Khan Boris agreed to that term and was baptised in September 865 assuming the name of his godfather, Thematic Byzantine Emperor Michael, in an attempt to unify his nation under one religion. The pagan title "Khan" was abolished and the title "Knyaz" assumed in its place. By the late 9th and the beginning of the 10th century, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled the whole of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north.
Under Tsar Simeon I (Simeon the Great) Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Thematic Byzantine Empire and reached its greatest territorial extension. Simeon hoped to take Constantinople and fought a series of wars with the Thematic Byzantines throughout his long reign (893-927). The border close to the end of his rule reached Peloponnese in the south. After the unrest in the Thematic Byzantine Empire that followed the death of Emperor Alexander in 913 Simeon invaded Thematic Byzantine Thrace but was persuaded to stop in return for official recognition of his Imperial title and marriage of his daughter to the infant Emperor Constantine VII. After a plot in the Byzantine court Empress Zoe rejected the marriage and his title and both sides prepared for a decisive battle. By 917 Simeon broke every attempts of his enemy to form an alliance with the Magyars, the Pechenegs and the listless Serbs and Thematic Byzantines were forced to fight alone. On 20 August the two armies clashed at Anchialus in one of the greatest battles in the Middle Ages. The Thematic Byzantines suffered an unprecedented defeat leaving 70,000 killed on the battlefield. The pursuing Bulgarian forces defeated the reminder of the enemy armies at Katasyrtai.
In 997 after the death of Roman who was the last from the Krum dynasty Samuil was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria. However, after 1001 the war turned in favour of the Byzantines who captured the old capitals Pliska and Preslav in the same year and from 1004 launched annual campaigns against Bulgaria. They were eased by a war between Bulgaria and the newly established Early Hungarian Kingdom. In 1014 Emperor Basil II defeated the armies of Tsar Samuil in the Battle of Belasitsa and massacred thousands, acquiring the title "Bulgar-slayer" (Voulgaroktonos). He ordered 14,000 Bulgarian prisoners blinded and sent back to their country. At the sight of his returning armies Samuil suffered a heart attack and died. By 1018 the country had been mostly subjugated by the Byzantines.
- With its variety of sub-periods, the Bulgar army is more interesting than it first appears. With a maxima of just 24, it seems hard to ignore maximising the Boyar cavalry, but the decision on whether to have a totally mounted force or one with a mix of the various foot is a difficult choice. Either combination can construct a fairly large army capable of taking punishment whilst its massed lancers get to the right place.
- Opting for the post 852 option allows maximum lancers and maximum spear foot (if taken as protected and poor respectively). The 48 poor spearmen will fill just over half a standard 6' table in 15mm, and with a few units of cheap poor MF archers for rear support and an IC become effectively invulnerable against shooting due to "+3" the IC and rears support grants them.
- The 680-851 option to take massed Slav javelinmen looks to be the one to avoid, as they are too ineffectual to achieve anything (especially in a period where Dailami will be fairly common), but if taken as poor "filler" the minimum unit size of 8 means even a few such units will both eat up points but more importantly they will soon get in the way, and be hard to keep away from danger for the duration of the game.
User-contributed links about this army:
- BBC Basil the Bulgar Basher
- DBAOL basic figure & painting ideas
- Bulgarian History another version
- Early Bulgars DBA Figure Gallery for this army - from Fanaticus
- Avars give up to 12 more Bw/Sw cavalry, possibly useful in 812 when the Bulgars all become lancers.
- Pechenegs don't appear to add much given the Bulgars can have at least 30 LH, Bw/Sw
- Thematic Byzantines - really there to add some additional (drilled) lancer or Bw*/Lancer/Sw cavalry (up to 16 bases) allowing the army to be very cavalry-heavy in this dateline.
Realistically you are looking at using Gothic/Avar type figures for this army. There are plenty of manufacturers with such ranges.
You can see some of the figures in the Bulgar Photo Gallery also on this site
- Essex Miniatures Slavs and Goths
- Donnington Slavs & Goths
- Museum Miniatures Cilician Armenians will work, as will some of the mounted asiatics
- Gladiator Miniatures by Fighting 15's (Previously Black Hat) Dark age range
- Old Glory 15's, Slavic range
- Magister Militum - Goths, dark Ages
- Minifigs - Dark age goths
- Irregular Miniatures Dark Ages ranges
- Lancashire Games - Goths, Sarmatians
- Tin Soldier - Slavic Range
- Vexilia Maybe some of their Eastern European medievals..?
- Isarus - sold by 15mm.co.uk Gothic range
- Outpost Wargame Services - Avars & Slavs
- AlainTouller Figurines - Slavs
- Two Dragons - Saxons (at a pinch)
- Khurasan Miniatures - Avars
- Viking Forge Sarmatians, Saxons
- Splintered Light. Possibly their v. nice Saxons may be OK for some foot
- Battle Line Miniatures - Sarmatians, Goths
- 50 Paces.com - Sarmatians, Slavs
- Baueda new (as of 2011) 11-pack Lombard range
Its the Lancers/cavalry. As no-one makes a dedicated Bulgar range, a selection of Avars/Slavs/mounted nomads looks to be ideal. Given their close links and assimilation with other nations over quite a long period of time, I'm not sure the one picture in the FoG Decline and Fall army list is worth basing a whole army on.
Sample army lists for this army
Name of Army / Date
- 1 Light Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen - 4
- 2 Light Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen - 4
- 3 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 4 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 5 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 6 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 7 Foot Bowmen MF Unprotected Poor Undrilled Bow - - - 6
- 8 Foot Bowmen MF Unprotected Poor Undrilled Bow - - - 6
- 9 Light Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - Swordmen - 4
- 10 boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- 11 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 12 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 13 Foot Spears MF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 14 Foot Spears HF Protected Poor Undrilled - defensive spearmen - - 6
- 15 Boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- 16 boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- 17 boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- 18 boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- 19 boyars Cv Protected Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
- - Bulgar CinC IC - - - - - - CinC 1
- . Bulgar Sub TC - - - - - - - 3
- Using asterisks inthe edit mode creates a bulleted list in the actual site
- This is a lot easier to do than easier than setting up tables
- For FoG I suggest listing your army in order or march
- with troop desctiptions on each line, for example
- 4 HF Armoured Average Drilled Impact Foot Swordsmen
- 8 LG Undrilled Unarmoured Poor Bowen
- Dont forget to include your Generals !!!
Include any notes you want here, including comments on how to use - or play against - the army.
Remember to leave a line before you copy the above section as a template for your own list