Translation:Scriptor Incertus

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Scriptor Incertus
Anonymous, translated from Greek by Wikisource
About the Emperor Nicephorus and How He Left His Bones in Bulgaria
This narrative in Greek language, found by the Bulgarian historian Ivan Duychev in 1936 in the Vatican library, is entitled by the anonymous author "About the Emperor Nicephorus and How He Left His Bones in Bulgaria". It represents the most detailed and complete description on the expedition of Nicephorus I and his defeat in 811. The narrative is written by a contemporary of the events or even by a very well informed participant. A final edition of the narrative has been given, as suggested implicitly in the text, immediately after the Christianization of Bulgaria in 865. This historic narrative is a hagiography written to preserve the memory of Byzantine soldiers who perished in 811. The narrative gives detailed information on the course of the military action, about Pliska, the "surrounding" Slav tribes, about the military organization of Bulgaria in the 9th century, etc.

About the Emperor Nicephorus and How He Left His Bones in Bulgaria[edit]

In the ninth year of the reign of Emperor Nicephorus, that same Nicephorus entered in Bulgaria, wishing to himself to destroy it. He took along with him his son Stauricius, his brother-in-law Michael, also called Rangabe, all patricians, commanders, officials, all divisions, and commanders' sons who were above 15 years of age of which last he composed a division of his son, and called them Worthies (Hikanatoi). As he entered the gorges [of Bulgaria], the Bulgars learned about the multitudinous army which they led, and, of course, because they could not oppose him, they left everything that they had, and ran to the mountains. Then he [Nicephorus] entered and encamped in the residence (αυλήν) of the first man (protos) of Bulgaria, named Krum. He found some army of elite armed Bulgars, about 12,000, left to defend the place, fought against them, and killed all of them. Also, another 50,000 [Bulgars] met him which he fought and killed all of them. And so, therefore, happened that this wretch grew proud in his mind and in his heart as if he achieved this by his just deeds and said to those who were with him: "This is what rightneousness does". And so, when he entered Krum's residence, he ransacked his treasures and found very rich trophies. He began to divide by roll among his soldiers copper [copper coins], garments, and various other items. After opening [Krum's] wine cellars, he doled wine to all his people to drink until they were sated. Strolling up the paths of the palace [complex] and walking on the solariums [terraces] (hêliaka) of the houses, he exalted and exclaimed “Behold, God has given me all this, and I want to found here a city which bears my name so that I am renowned in all succeeding generations”. Having spent several days there, he [Nicephorus] left impious Krum’s palace, and on his departure burnt all the buildings and the surrounding wall, which were built of wood. Hence, as he still did not intend to go out [of Bulgaria], he passed through the middle of Bulgaria, wishing to reach Serdica, as he thought that he conquered all Bulgaria. Thus, he spent 15 days, neglected all his obligations, became mad, went out of his mind, became completely insane ... Inebriated by his arrogance, he did not go out of his tent, did not give any explanation, or order, and when some men reproached him and sent his son to talk to him to go out of there [of Bulgaria], he did not listen to him but even humiliated his son, and wanted to beat him. Hence, his army used every occasion to rob mercilessly, burn unharvested fields, cut the sinews of oxen and hide their flanks to make ropes while the animals bellowed loudly and died, slaughtered sheep and pigs, and did other reprehensible deeds. At last, some, seeing the irregularity and confusion of Nicephorus and that no one dared to talk to him, escaped one by one or used subterfuges to extricate themselves. However, the Bulgars made a terrible and impassable wall-like rampart from large tree trunks. Therefore, finding opportunity and observing from the mountains that [the Byzantines] walk about and roam, the Bulgars hired for pay Avars, and the surrounding Slavic tribes, armed their women like men, and on the 15th day of the invasion, Saturday at dawn, on July 23, they attacked them while the Byzantians were still sleeping. The Byzantines, as they arose and rapidly armed themselves, began to fight. Since the army detachments were far from each other, they did not realize at once what happened; the Bulgars rushed only upon the camp of the Emperor, and began to kill his men. [The Byzantines] opposed the attackers for some time, and as they could not defend themselves they were cruelly massacred. Others, when they saw this, began to run away. However, on this place, there was a very swampy and impassable river. Since they could not find immediately a ford to cross, [the Byzantines], pursued by the enemy, fell into the river. Because they entered [the river] together with their horses and could not go out, they were bogged into the mud and were trampled by those, coming from behind. As they fell upon each other, the river became so filled with people and horses that the enemy passed over them safely and pursued the rest who, naturally, thought that they would escape. Still others who hoped that they avoided their death in the river, reached to the rampart built by the Bulgars which was very strong and very hard to climb. Since they could not overcome it with their horses, they dismounted, climbed with their hands and feet and hung on the other side. On the outer side, however, a deep moat was dug out, and when they fell from the height, their limbs broke. Some of them died immediately, others walked a little, and as they could not continue, fell to the ground and perished, tortured by hunger and thirst. At other places, the rampart was put on fire. When the ties burned and the rampart fell upon the moat, the running soldiers unwarily fell down and came into the moat together with the fire. This misfortune was worse than the dangerous river. Who will not weep when he hears this? Who will not cry? Thus perished the commanders' sons both of the old and of the young ones who were a whole multitude, in the blossom of their youth, and they had beautiful bodies that shined with whiteness, with golden hairs and beards, with handsome faces. Some of them had just been engaged to women, distinguished with nobility and beauty. All perished there: some brought down by sword, others drowned in the river, third fell from the rampart, and still others burned in the moat. Only a few of them escaped but even they, after they arrived in their homes, almost all of them died. The Emperor Nicephorus was killed in the same day in the first battle, and no one could say how he died. His son Stauricius was wounded after receiving a deadly wound in the vertebrae of his backbone from which he died after reigning over the Romans only two months. Many of the captured Romans after the end of the war were forced by the impious Bulgars — then still not Christianized — to renounce the Christ and accept the heathen and Scythian false faith. However, those, strengthened by Jesus Christ, overcame all tortures and through various sufferings were crowned by the martyr's wreath. Thus, Emperor Nicephorus, after reigning eight years and seven months, because of his recklessness and presumptuousness ruined himself and the whole Roman might. He was above middle height, with broad shoulders, had big belly, thick hair, thick lips, broad face and very white beard, plump, very clever, sly, shrewd — especially about affairs of state — scarce of words and greedy for money which brought him this eternal destruction. Let us, then, brothers, let us mention our brothers and fathers who perished, let us pray to our kind and just Lord to save us from such judgement and by abidance of the divine commandments of Christ let us receive the promised blessings for the faithful. Let Him be blessed and glorious for ever and ever! Amen.