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Battle of Marcellae
Part of the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars
Battle of Marcellae.png
Date 792
Location Markeli, near Karnobat, Bulgaria
Result Bulgarian victory
Bulgarian Empire Byzantine Empire
Kardam Constantine VI
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Heavy

The Battle of Marcellae (Bulgarian: Битката при Маркели, Greek: Μάχη των Μαρκελλών) took place in 792 at Markeli, near the modern town of Karnobat in south eastern Bulgaria. It is not to be confused with the earlier battle at the same place.



In April 791, the Byzantine emperor Constantine VI started a campaign against Bulgaria in response to the Bulgarian penetration in the Struma valley in 789, when Kardam's army defeated the Byzantines, killing the strategos of Thrace Filites. The campaign was directed to the east to distract the Khan's attention from the southwest. The armies met near the fortress of Provat (20 km east of Odrin) and the Byzantines were forced to retreat but their defeat was not decisive and in the following year the campaign was renewed.


This time the Byzantines reached Marcellae and on 20 July they met the Bulgarian forces. Several days the emperor did not dare to attack them and the Bulgarians had enough time to make an ambush in the swampy woodlands in the area. In the end Constantine VI was convinced by astrologists that the stars boded victory and attacked. In the very beginning the Byzantines made tactical mistakes, advanced without order and were easily swept off to the ambush. A weapon called arkani was used by the Bulgarians in this battle: the arkani consisted of a long pole with an attachment similar to a lasso at one end. It was an excellent weapon against cavalry as the rider could easily be pulled out of the saddle by a skilled warrior, armed with the arkani. The Bulgarians achieved a stunning victory killing most of the enemy army and captured the emperor's servants and tent.


The victory had great political significance. The decades of crisis were finally overcome, the Byzantines were forced once again to pay tribute to the Khans. Bulgaria entered the 9th century consolidated, stronger and united.


  • Васил Н. Златарски, История на българската държава през средните векове, Част I, II изд., Наука и изкуство, София 1970.
  • Атанас Пейчев и колектив, 1300 години на стража, Военно издателство, София 1984.
  • Йордан Андреев, Милчо Лалков, Българските ханове и царе, Велико Търново, 1996.



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