Military Review

Warriors of the Bulgarian elite 1050-1350's

I have been there. Been in the valleys
Where everything gently caresses the eyes,

On the terrible, I used to be the rapids
Balkan inaccessible mountains.
I have seen those distant villages
Behind the light plow of a unak,
I was high on the peaks
Where the clouds rest.
I used to be there in the summer and sultry,
Been a blooming spring -
I breathed the whole land with work of the deceased,
Played in the colors of the kids swarm.
Calmly, peacefully wives spun,
And they sang songs of the days of the past,
And waited patiently
From the fields of their workers ...
Gilyarovsky V. A. I saw them in smoke, dust ... / V. A. Gilyarovsky // Bulgaria in Russian poetry: an anthology / [comp. Boris Nikolaevich Romanov; Artists Andrei Nikulin]. M., 2008. - C. 160-161

Influence on the formation of the Balkan military culture

Knights and chivalry of three centuries. In the past, the material about the warriors of the Balkans, and above all the Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians was told in the words of the British historian D. Nicolas. But a continuation was promised, based on the works of Bulgarian historians, and here it is in front of you, including materials from some English-speaking researchers.

A miniature depicting Bulgarian soldiers from the Chronicles of Manasseh, a chronicle of the 12th century Byzantine writer. Constantine Manasseh, translated in the XIV century. in Bulgaria for Tsar Ivan Alexander. The Chronicles of Manasseh, 1331-1371 (Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome)

Recovery weapons and stories The Bulgarian medieval elite is a very difficult task, since the written sources that have come down to us are small in size, which greatly complicates their interpretation. There are archaeological monuments, manuscripts and frescoes originating from Bulgaria and the adjacent regions. But the same source murals are not completely reliable and should be approached very carefully.

The Chronicles of Manasseh, 1331-1371 Most likely the warrior on the left is holding a large teardrop-shaped shield in his hand. (Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome)

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Second Bulgarian Kingdom was already a completely feudal state, the elite of which consisted of aristocrats with significant land holdings, which included both villages and towns. Over time, their privileges and growing wealth turn them into local rulers, with complete autonomy in relation to the supreme state power. However, they submitted to this power, and in exchange for the privileges granted to it, and the territories that they owned. And since the main occupation of any medieval aristocrat was to engage in military affairs, it is obvious that the same thing took place among the Bulgarian aristocracy, who had been trained to possess since childhood. weapons, ride, and understand the basics of strategy and tactics.

Miniature from the Chronicles of Manasseh, 1331-1371 The kings of Kambis II, Giges and Darius I. Next to the soldiers, the torso of which clearly covers the armor, but almost all have no legs of protection. (Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome)

And it is clear that such socially significant people should have been well protected, although the assumptions about the nature of the armor of the Bulgarian nobility still provoke sharp disputes. What, however, is well known and cannot be challenged? For example, the fact that in the XII century. through the territory of the Balkan Peninsula to the capital of Byzantium Constantinople, the squad after the squad moved the Crusaders from Western Europe. Along with such a phenomenon as the invasion of the Normans, this inevitably led to borrowing in the field of military culture. First of all, it concerned heavy cavalry. At the same time, a number of historians point out that it was the 12th century that was a time of change in the Byzantine culture, since then many Western customs also appeared in Byzantium. One of the innovations were knight tournaments in which the emperor Immanuel Comnenus competed with the rulers of the Latin kingdoms.

Warriors of the Bulgarian elite 1050-1350's

On this miniature from the Chronicles of Manasseh, the warrior most likely wears chain mail Shoss. The metal on the thumbnail is clearly marked in blue.

A part of the military elite that participated in these tournaments belonged to the Bulgarian boyars, such as Assen and Peter, a significant part of whose European possessions were located in Bulgaria.

In addition to Byzantium, the Normans, Magyars and, as already noted, the crusades, a large part of which passed through Bulgarian lands, had their influence on the formation of the Balkan military culture. At the same time, the growth of Italian city-states and their commercial expansion to the East began. Soon they gain significant influence in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. But after the Fourth Crusade, the West European influence in the Balkans is entering a new phase. At that time, the presence of Western Europeans in the region intensified, especially the French and Italians. And they brought with them new models of armor and weapons. In addition, on the borders with the Bulgarian kingdom, more and more German immigrants appear in the north, from Hungary and western mercenaries in Serbia and Byzantium. In the fourteenth century, the influence of the Italian city-states and Dubrovnik increased even more, so that they became the main centers of commerce in this region. This is confirmed by archaeological finds: a significant number of material culture monuments are of Western origin, mainly products of Italian artisans - jewelry and jewelery, weapons, belts, utensils, etc. All this shows the significant influence of the West on the material culture of Bulgarian cities and scales. trade exchanges between the states to the west of Bulgaria.

In 1240, Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern and Central Europe are hit by Mongol-Tatars. New conquerors from the Great Steppe bring with them a new type of armor, which displaces the old ones. These are clothes made of fabric or leather, as well as steel plates. All this was fastened together and turned into a solid construction. At the same time, more and more metal protective devices for arms and legs began to appear on the armor of European warriors, which, in combination with chain mail, made it possible to create a fairly good protection. The servilera's story begins with the time it turns into a helmet bascinet. Its first use was recorded at the end of the 13th century in Padua, where it was referred to as a helmet used by infantry, and then quickly spread throughout Europe, where its various modifications and forms appeared. At the same time, the "big helmet" was also used, but was purely equestrian. However, it is unlikely that he enjoyed popularity in the Balkans and in Bulgaria in the same way, although in general her armament followed western fashion. This is clearly seen from archaeological finds, various images on murals, coins, miniatures, stamps, and random drawings.

Coin of Stefan Dusan (1331-1355) with the image of the knightly "Grand Slam".

The trend of following European fashion

Despite the small number of finds of armor and weapons from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, they nonetheless show us a clear tendency to follow European fashion. And there are not so many finds that confirm this, but they are there.

European swords, spurs and horseshoes for horses are found in various places on the territory of Bulgaria, there are samples of bascinet helmets from the end of the 14th century, as well as traces of lamellar "armor" such as brigandine.

Visitor from the bascinet of the XIV century. (Tarnovsky historical museum, Veliko Tarnovo)

There are written sources from which it becomes clear that the Italian weapons were bought by the Bulgarians both for themselves and for resale to their neighbors, this indicates a well-established arms trade at that time and the widest distribution of the same Italian samples in the Balkans.

For centuries, the Bulgarians had to deal with neighboring Byzantium and the work of its artisans. Bone palette depicting the work of a blacksmith. Byzantium. (Metropolitan Museum, New York)

How significant are these overseas purchases? Known written records for the period of 1329 - 1349 years, when the Serbian Kingdom in the meantime been acquired 800 canvas gorget, 750 iron knee pads, 500 Chain highway over 1300 plate armor sets, 100 chain mail, 650 bascinet, 800 type barbute helmets, 500 pairs plate gloves, 300 shields, 400 shields "Serb type», 50 helmets Chapelle de fer ( "iron hat»), 100 Gaiters, 500 greaves, 200 sets of forged plates for hands, 500 cowards (evidently chain armor!), 250 complete sets "Armor", and in general - the armor on 833 man and more weapons on 1200 man, all this is the total cost of 1500 gold ducats. And it was not a weapon for the knights. Those always bought and ordered everything on their own. It was on the royal money was purchased uniform weapons for the royal army!

Miniature from the Pictun Chronicle, 1325-1360 On it you can see warriors in well-known to us armor, which were also many times depicted on effigii and medieval miniatures from the manuscripts of this time. (Széchenyi National Library, Budapest)

In the illustrated manuscripts there are two significant and valuable sources that were created almost in the same period, and provide extremely rich information about the time - the Bulgarian copy of the Manasseh Chronicle and the Hungarian pictun Chronicle Pictun. It should be noted that in both images there are both coincidences and some differences, but on the whole their analysis shows that the jackets with long sleeves dominate in the miniatures of both chronicles.

"Battle of Varbysh gorge". Miniature from the Chronicles of Manasseh. Despite the poor quality of the image, judging by the abundant protection of all the limbs and the presence of "lamellar armor" and "overlays", the Bulgarian riders, whom she portrays, did not differ much from their Hungarian brethren. The Chronicles of Manasseh, 1331-1371 (Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome)

In The Chronicles Of Manasseh. in most cases, the armor is painted in a conditional blue color, which can lead to different interpretations of what he saw. But it is clear that there were several types of helmets, made mainly from a single piece of metal: spherical (servoler) and different samples of conical helmets. On the Bulgarian coins there are images of a “big helmet”. Apparently, it was a symbol of chivalry and power.

Miniature from the Chronicles Pictun. And if you don’t know that the Hungarian warriors are drawn here, you will hardly be able to say that, considering it very carefully. (Széchenyi National Library, Budapest)

Regarding the use of cavalry's gauntlet gloves, in the Chronicles of Manasseh, the artist painted horsemen with bare hands, while the riders from Chronicle Pictun wear classical European gauntlet gloves. Interestingly, a similar glove is depicted on a fresco in the Markov monastery near Prilep. Weapons written in both chronicles are swords and spears. Shields are triangular or in the shape of an “inverted drop”. Spurs and bits, found by archaeologists, are typically Western-style.

Another miniature from the same chronicle. Typical saddle seats, typical torso-fitting gambesons, bascinet helmets are also typical. The knight on the right, striking the sword of his opponent on the chest chain. But who is there depicted on the left in the second row? Is this a Negro in a sheepskin fur hat? After all, this is clearly not a helmet, as helmets of this shape went out of fashion more than a hundred years before, and then ... curls are visible on it!

And now something like a conclusion, because in this cycle the conclusions after each material are not provided. As you can see, the second material substantially complements the first one, that is, what D.Nikol wrote. Its authors are more familiar with primary sources (and it would be strange if it were not so!), But they themselves emphasize their limited nature. So, on the whole, we are still observing the research process with a very poor source base. And lovers of truth in the "last resort" can be added - and it is always "somewhere out there"!

PS I don’t know how anyone, but I personally found it difficult to read and translate Bulgarian texts, although the Bulgarian language is in many ways similar to Russian. It turned out to be easier to take and read the English-language sources, which in this case are recommended in the list of references.

1. Hupchick, R. Dennis. The Bulgarian-Byzantine Wars for the Early Medieval Balkan Hegemony. Germany, Springer International Publishing AG, 2017.
2. Haldon, John. The Byzantine Wars. Stroud, Gloucestershire, The History Press, 2008.
3. Haldon, John. Byzantium at War: AD 600 – 1453. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.
4. Sophoulis, Panos. Byzantium and Bulgaria, 775-831. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2011.
5. Treadgold, T. Warren. Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Knighthood of medieval Hungary
Knighthood of the medieval Balkans
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Outremer
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of the South of Italy and Sicily 1050-1350.
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 11. Knights of Italy 1050-1350.
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 10. Knights of the Kingdom of Arelat
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 9. Germanic effigii
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 8. Knights of the Holy Roman Empire
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Part of 7. Knights of Spain: Leon, Castile and Portugal
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Spain: Aragon, Navarre and Catalonia (part 6)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. CH 5. Knights of France. Central and southern areas
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Ireland (part 4)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knights of Scotland (part 3)
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knighthood and knights of England and Wales. Part of 2
Knights and chivalry of three centuries. Knighthood and knights of northern France. Part of 1
Polish chivalry. From Boleslav the Brave to Vladislav Jagiellon
Scandinavian knighthood 1050-1350.
Knights and non-knights of the Baltic

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  1. denatured alcohol
    denatured alcohol 11 July 2019 18: 39
    what a promising name ...
    1. 3x3zsave
      3x3zsave 11 July 2019 18: 56
      What makes you sad?
      1. Catfish
        Catfish 11 July 2019 21: 53
        There’s nothing to bite ...
      2. denatured alcohol
        denatured alcohol 13 July 2019 09: 53
        What makes you sad?

        The sadness is that once again the name of the material does not correspond to the content.
        How many times the author was put in sight. And Vaska listens and eats)
        1. Albatroz
          Albatroz 16 July 2019 13: 33
          Once again, the name of the material does not match the content

          Yes, I also noticed. Well, if the first article.
          Work on bugs - zero
  2. Edward Vashchenko
    Edward Vashchenko 11 July 2019 19: 49
    Yes, the Bulgarian armament of the period described is a complicated story.
    1. Mac Simka
      Mac Simka 11 July 2019 23: 16
      SW Edward, thanks for the article. You got it good, but unfortunately not too specific. But I am by no means reproaching you - the sources are a miser, according to archeology there is a little more rich.
      Let me note some mistakes - the rise of Asen and Peter - from 1185 to 1187. It is somewhat later than the lower bar of the period under consideration. There is no big helmet on Bulgarian coins in nature (at least I don’t know) There is a wonderful monograph “Bulgarian medieval coins” - Stoyan Avdev, publishing house “BESIKE”, Sofia 2007. Here you can see everything that the Bulgarian kings imitated and excavated to this day.
      Based on the archeological data in Bulgaria, heavy weapons were present, but mainly chain mail and chain mails belonged to it; there were a few finds of plates for brigantine / plate armor. As for helmets - you correctly noted the open spherical conical helmets, although one has a hint of a nasal plate. Only two were found.
      Fine sources (it is better to look at the images of saints in churches) also reflect what the artists saw in front of them - because the Hungarian miniature painter noticed plate gloves from the Bulgarians in the late 14th century, but not the Byzantine one in the beginning.
      And all the tactics of the Bulgarian army in its history was the tactics of light steppe cavalry. There is no hint of a ramming blow of the knight's cavalry or a collision of heavy cavalrymen with the enemy - a series of ambushes and a number of false retreats.
      Of course there is some hint of the use of infantry, but firstly there are no Bulgarian sources as such, and secondly, all Byzantine ones draw Bulgarian riders.
      As for the replicas and Cheerful pictures of the Bulgarian bagaturory knights in sparkling cuirasses. The paper will endure everything, BUT only what was drawn based on archaeological finds is reliable. And as we know, they draw not only everything, but all and sundry. Folk history she is.
      And yet - let's see what is the economic basis of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom - not very frankly. Those Bulgarian cities that were generally cities are generally one of the smallest cities in Europe in general. The population of the capital Tarnovo is estimated at between 5 - 35 thousand people. And this is an area of ​​30 hectares. Whoever has ever visited Tsarevets, Trapezitsi, or in the Asenevskaya Mahala will understand that where there are so many snouts (35 kilo-people) to place, there’s a stupid place. And also the quarter of Latins was for those who came in large numbers. Unlike the Serbian kingdom (which had silver mines in its own right, in addition, it directly had the potential to trade with the Hungarian kingdom, Venice and Ragusa), the Bulgarian kingdom traded through the Genoese and Venetian merchants who traveled to us. You understand the prices were different. Yes, and “Mr. Ivanko Terter” gave these merchants the right to trade with him in Dobrudzhi without paying customs duties. Where then to get the money for the wide distribution of heavy weapons? Let's say there was money, BUT in the 14th century, Stefan Urosh II forbids merchants from Ragusa to sell weapons in Bulgaria. And before that, could they sell freely?
      Actually, becoming undoubtedly interesting and informative. From me plus, of course!
      1. Senior seaman
        Senior seaman 12 July 2019 10: 10
        Uh ... is colleague Vashchenko and Shpakovsky the same person? what
        1. Edward Vashchenko
          Edward Vashchenko 12 July 2019 10: 29
          Uh ... no, or not yet ...))) wassat
      2. Edward Vashchenko
        Edward Vashchenko 12 July 2019 10: 28
        H. Ivan Ivanich thanks, of course, but your advantages should be redirected to Vyacheslav Olegovich!
        1. Mac Simka
          Mac Simka 12 July 2019 12: 35
          He, too, had no signature, confused both of you.
  3. pytar
    pytar 11 July 2019 21: 24
    The armor of the Bulgarian medieval infantry beginning of the XIII century. (replica). Used during the battle of King Kaloyan from the Latin King Baldwin.

    Light arrows of the First Bulgarian Kingdom (replica).

    Bulgarian infantry of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (replica).
    1. Senior seaman
      Senior seaman 12 July 2019 10: 12
      I just wanted to ask what it was like there was some kind of big battle between the Bulgarians and the crusaders, where the latter had raked completely epic Lyuli?
      1. Mac Simka
        Mac Simka 12 July 2019 12: 39
        Was - The Battle of Adrianople April 14, 1205
  4. pytar
    pytar 11 July 2019 21: 51
    T. Madara cavalry - 8 century. The relief with dimensions 3,1 m. X 2,6 m. Is carved on a steep rock at a height of 23 m. On the slopes of the plateau near the city of Madara. Represented by the Bulgarian rider of the army Kana Tervel. Left - reconstruction. The front part of a horse is covered with lamellar steel armor, and on the muzzle, something similar to a protective shell, probably from thick skin or honey.

    Bulgarian warmers-rider and infantryman. XII-XIII century. Period of the wars of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom from the Latin Empire.
    1. Mac Simka
      Mac Simka 11 July 2019 23: 18
      Were they in scaly armor? I do not believe (s).
      Yes, and the infantryman's sword is a painfully expensive and status thing.
      As for the Madara equestrian - where is the confidence that the horse has armor from STEEL. It seems like it was said about “cloth and iron armor”, but these are two big differences. By the way, there is still no consensus on who is depicted on the Madara Horseman and when he is done - together with the famous inscription of Tervel or earlier.
      1. pytar
        pytar 12 July 2019 08: 43
        Ivan Ivanich, I can not say or deny anything. Got on a staty on a subject and from it a photo. One of the possible options. A lot of controversy, definitely nothing is proven. The field for researchers is great!
        1. Mac Simka
          Mac Simka 12 July 2019 13: 22
          In principle, plates from luspest armor have not yet been located in Bulgaria. Plates for plate armor and brigandines - there are such, but there is no armor from lousy armor. Everything that is reconstructed from cave paintings and miniatures, as well as from icons, can be easily interpreted as a thorn.
  5. lucul
    lucul 11 July 2019 23: 12
    Well, almost all the weapons and armor of Europe at that time are similar to each other. The whole secret is the quality of the metal from which it is made.
    And then Russian damask steel of course was very good at that time.
    1. Mac Simka
      Mac Simka 11 July 2019 23: 30
      Sorry, I'm certainly an ignoramus, but what Russian Wutz did then. What would damask do. Please tell us where you got such pure iron ore from.
  6. Mac Simka
    Mac Simka 12 July 2019 12: 37
    SW Vyacheslav Olegovich, I apologize for having bought you up with uv. Vashchenko. But everything else remains relevant.
  7. Kostadinov
    Kostadinov 12 July 2019 17: 35
    Quote: Senior Sailor
    I just wanted to ask what it was like there was some kind of big battle between the Bulgarians and the crusaders, where the latter had raked completely epic Lyuli?

    1. In the battle of Adrianople, 1205 knights died, the first king of the Latin Empire, Baldwin was captured (where he died), died on the battlefield by the French Count Louis de Blois. Those who escaped fled without stopping to Constantinople.
    2. No special weapons were used by the Bulgarians. The troops of the second Bulgarian kingdom were cavalry, which had only light weapons and shot very well with bows in motion. Their metal armor did not hit. They lured the crusaders into a swampy place and then killed their horses or removed them with hooks. The infantry practically did not beat - although now they really like to show "Bulgarian infantrymen" with iron armor and long spears. Metal armor is very rare and only in the king and his immediate environment.
  8. kalibr
    26 July 2019 18: 37
    Quote: denatured alcohol
    How many times the author was put in sight. And Vaska listens and eats)

    Who was put? The author of how many monographs?
  9. Natanielskif
    Natanielskif 31 July 2019 14: 19
    "Most likely the warrior on the left is holding a large kite-shaped shield in his hand" - here it is clearly seen that the shield is triangular, extended towards the bottom.