The value of empire: tenth-century Bulgaria between Magyars, Pechenegs and Byzantium
By Boris Todorov
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 30 (2010)
Abstract: The article seeks to explain the connection between the migration of the Magyars and Pechenegs in central and south-east Europe, in the late ninth and early tenth century, and the conflict between Byzantium and Bulgaria during the same period. Through reference to anthropologists discussing the relations between nomadic and sedentary societies (Khazanov, Barfield), and historians studying medieval rituals (Buc, Althoff, Koziol), the article interprets the aggressive policy of the Bulgarian tsar Symeon as a consistent effort to displace Byzantium as major partner of the nomadic polities in the area.
By subverting the principles of Byzantine diplomacy and political culture, Symeon turned his own kingdom into a society-structuring factor in the nomadic world. The article evaluates the very meaning of imperial claims not so much in legal terms, as an effort to guarantee Bulgaria’s sovereignty in a Byzantium-centred world, but in the real-time capacity of a ruler to make use of imperial symbols and act upon the dynamically changing conjuncture.
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