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A Fresh Look at Bulgaria under Tsar Peter (927-69)

A Fresh Look at Bulgaria under Tsar Peter (927-69)

By John V. Fine

Byzantine Studies /Etudes Byzantines, Vol.5:1 (1978)

Introduction: Scholars have all agreed that following Symeon’s death in 927 Bulgaria underwent a major decline under his son and successor, Peter, who is generally depicted as being weak and incapable.  I want to examine this general view of Bulgarian society under Peter and to show that this view is entirely hypothetical.  No sources support such a view, and it is perfectly possible to construct other models that are contrary to it and equally – if not more – plausible.

We are regularly told that after Symeon’s wars with Byzantium and his other neighbors, Bulgari was war-torn, financially exhausted and had suffered great losses of manpower. Though this might be true, we do not know this, and it seems to me that it is probably a great exaggeration. Except for the devastating Magyar raids of the 890s (some thirty years before Peter’s accession), Bulgaria itself was not successfully attacked or ravaged by invaders at any point in Symeon’s reign. And in the thirty years after the 890s fields, animals and population could recover, and they evidently did since Symeon was able to carry out his wars between 913 and 927 so effectively. Thus, in almost of Symeon’s wars Bulgarians were fighting on foreign soil.

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