Krum of Bulgaria: Wikis


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Khan of Bulgaria
Krum gathers his people The Chronikon of Ioannis Skylitzes..jpg
Krum gathers his people.
Reign 803 - 814
Died 13 April 814
Predecessor Kardam
Successor Omurtag
Consort unknown
Offspring Omurtag
Royal House "Krum's dynasty" (possibly Dulo)

Krum (Bulgarian: Крум) was Khan of Bulgaria, from after 796, but before 803, to 814 AD. During his reign the Bulgarian territory doubled in size, spreading from the middle Danube to the Dnieper and from Odrin to the Tatra Mountains.


Family Origin

There are two hypotheses about the family origin of Krum. According to the first one, his family has come from Pannonia, where it had been in service of the Avars[1] whereas according the second and more popular, Krum was born in Macedonia.[1] His father Toktu was a member of a proto-Bulgarian noble family and even became a ruler of Bulgaria between 766 and 767. Most likely he belonged to the branch of Dulo which settled in Macedonia, led by Kuber and established a Bulgarian state with serious Slavic participation.[1] Krum's mother Lana (or Svetlana) was of Slavic descent. This could give further explanation to the fact that Krum was described and portrayed by the Byzantine chronists as a light-hairеd man with light eyes. However, some people wrongly believe that blond people did not exist on the Balkans until the arrival of the Slavs.

Establishment of New Borders

In c. 805, Krum took advantage of the defeat of the Avar Khaganate to destroy the remainder of the Avars and to expand his authority across the Carpathians over Transylvania and along the Danube into eastern Pannonia. This resulted in the establishment of a common border between the Frankish Empire and Bulgaria, which would have important repercussions for the policy of Krum's successors.

Conflict with Nikephoros I

Bulgaria under Khan Krum (new territories gained under his rule are in yellow)

Krum engaged in a policy of territorial expansion. In 807 the Bulgarian forces defeated the Byzantine army in the Struma valley. In 809 Krum besieged and forced the surrender of Serdica (Sofia), slaughtering the Byzantine garrison of 6,000 men in spite of his promise of safe conduct (Siege of Serdica, 809). This provoked the reaction of the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros I, who proceeded to settle Anatolian populations along the frontier to protect it. He also attempted to retake and refortify Serdica, although this enterprise ultimately failed.

In early 811, Nikephoros I undertook a massive expedition against Bulgaria, and advanced to Marcellae (near Karnobat). Here Krum attempted to negotiate on July 11, 811, but Nikephoros was determined to continue with his advance. His army managed to avoid the Bulgarian ambushes in the Balkan Mountains and defeated an army of 12,000 men that tried to block their advance into Moesia. Another hastily assembled army of 50,000 men was defeated before the walls of the Bulgarian capital Pliska, which fell to the emperor on July 20. Here Nikephoros, who had been a financial minister before becoming emperor, helped himself to the treasures of Krum, while setting the city afire and turning his army on the population. A new diplomatic tentative from Krum was rebuffed.

In his Chronicle, the twelfth-century Michael the Syrian, patriarch of the Syrian Jacobites, described the brutalities and atrocities of Nikephoros. "Nikephoros, emperor of the Romans, walked into the Bulgarians' land: he was victorious and killed great number of them. He reached their capital, seized it and devastated it. His savagery went to the point that he ordered to bring their small children, got them tied down on earth and made thresh grain stones to smash them."

While Nikephoros I and his army were busy pillaging, devastating and plundering the Bulgarian capital, Krum mobilized his people (including the women) to set traps and ambushes in the mountain passes. On his way back to Constantinople the emperor learnt about these preparations for battle. The panicked emperor repeatedly stated to his companions "Even if we have had wings we could not have escaped from peril." At dawn on July 26 the Byzantines found themselves trapped against a moat and wooden wall in the Vărbica pass. Nikephoros was killed in the ensuing battle together with many of his troops, while his son Staurakios was carried to safety by the imperial bodyguard after receiving a paralyzing wound to his neck. According to tradition, Krum had the Emperor's skull lined with silver and used it as a drinking cup. This enhanced his reputation for brutality and, together with his later invasions and pillaging of Byzantine territory, won him the appellation of "New Sennacherib".

Conflict with Michael I Rangabe

Krum feasts with his nobles, while the servant (right) is bringing the skull of Nikephoros already made a drinking cup full of wine

Staurakios was forced to abdicate after a brief reign (he died from his wound in 812), and was succeeded by his brother-in-law Michael I Rangabe. In 812 Krum invaded Byzantine Thrace, taking Develt and scaring the population of nearby fortresses to flee towards Constantinople. From this position of strength, Krum offered a return to the peace treaty of 716. Unwilling to compromise his regime by weakness, the new Emperor Michael I refused to accept the proposal, ostensibly opposing the clause for exchange of deserters. To apply more pressure on the emperor, Krum besieged and captured Mesembria (Nesebar) in the fall of 812.

In February 813 the Bulgarians raided Thrace, but were repelled by the emperor's forces. Encouraged by this success, Michael I summoned troops from the entire empire and headed north, hoping for a decisive victory. Krum led his army south towards Adrianople and pitched camp near Versinikia. Michael I lined up his army against the Bulgarians, but neither side initiated an attack for two weeks. Finally, on June 22, 813, the Byzantines attacked but were immediately turned to flight. With Krum's cavalry in pursuit, the rout of Michael I was complete and Krum advanced on Constantinople, which he besieged by land. Discredited, Michael was forced to abdicate and become a monk — the third Byzantine emperor undone by Krum in as many years.

Conflict with Leo V the Armenian

The new emperor Leo V the Armenian offered to negotiate, and arranged for a meeting with Krum. As Krum arrived, he was ambushed by Byzantine archers and was wounded as he made his escape. Furious, Krum ravaged the environs of Constantinople and headed home, capturing Adrianople en route and transplanting its inhabitants (including the parents of the future Emperor Basil I) across the Danube. In spite of the approach of winter, Krum took advantage of the good weather to send a force of 30,000 into Thrace, which captured Arkadioupolis (Lüleburgaz) and carried off some 50,000 captives in the Bulgarian lands across the Danube. The loot from Thrace was used to enrich Krum and his nobility, and included architectural elements utilized in the reconstruction of Pliska, perhaps largely by captured Byzantine artisans.

Krum spent the winter preparing for a major attack on Constantinople, where rumor reported the assembling of an extensive siege park to be transported on 5,000 carts. However, before he set out, he died on April 13, 814, and was succeeded by his son Omurtag.


Krum was also remembered for instituting the first known written Bulgarian law code which ensured subsidies to beggars and state protection to all poor Bulgarians. Drinking, slander and robbery were severely punished. Through his laws he became known as a strict but just ruler, bringing Slavs and Bulgars into a centralized state.

See also

Sources and references

  • Andreev, Jordan; Lazarov, Ivan; Pavlov, Plamen (1999) (in Bulgarian). Кой кой е в средновековна България (Who is Who in Medieval Bulgaria). Sofia. 
  • Fine Jr., John V.A. (1983). The Early Medieval Balkans. Ann Arbor. 
  • (primary source) Iman, Bahši (1997). Džagfar Tarihy (vol. III). Orenburg. 
  • (primary source) Syrien, patriarch of the Syrians Jacobites, Michel le (1905). "t. III". in J.–B. Chabot (in French). Chronique de Michel le Syrien. Paris: J.–B. Chabot. pp. 17. 
  • Theophanes the Confessor, Chronicle, Ed. Carl de Boor, Leipzig.
  • Васил Н. Златарски, История на българската държава през средните векове, Част I, II изд., Наука и изкуство, София 1970, pp. 321–376.
  • Norwich, John J. (1991). Byzantium: The Apogee. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.. ISBN 0-394-53779-3. 


  1. ^ a b c Fine, John Van Antwerp (1983). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth century. University of Michigan Press. pp. 94. ISBN 0472081497. 

External links

Preceded by
Khan of Bulgaria
before 803–814
Succeeded by


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