Author: Prof. Plamen Pavlov
In 1194, King Assen I defeated the Byzantine army in the Battle of Arkadiopol (Lozengrad) in “Macedonia” – Eastern Thrace
The episode with the Georgian Liparites completes our knowledge of the Bulgarian-Byzantine military conflicts under the first Asenevites
During the Middle Ages, regardless of the geographical distance and the large-scale water obstacle, such as the Black Sea, there were lasting ties between Bulgarians and Georgians. The main connecting element is the common Orthodox faith, and a kind of “crown” of these relationships is the famous monastery “St. Mother of God Petritsionisa” – the Bachkovo Monastery, founded in 1083 by the Armenian-Georgian noble Grigory Pakuryan/Bakuriani. Georgian monks lived in the monastery for centuries, and at the end of the 11th century, Ioan Petritsi (c. 1050-1130) worked there. The nickname with which the medieval Georgian philosopher remains in history is from the Bulgarian name “Petrich” – today’s Asen fortress. The Georgian literary school established in Bachkovo was called “Petritsionska”. The spiritual ties between Bulgaria and Georgia can be talked about for a long time, but today we will dwell on another, more “attractive” episode of our history, in which there is Georgian participation.
In 1194, five brothers from the Lipariti family fell into the whirlwind of the Bulgarian-Byzantine war, which began with the uprising of Peter and Assen. The “house” of the Liparites is the “leader” of the aristocracy against the royal authority. The role of the Liparits reached its apogee in the middle of the 11th century, and in 1047 its leader Liparit IV even managed to temporarily drive King Bagrat IV out of the country… To pacify the family, the Georgian kings gave it estates, high titles, etc. .n. Eventually, in 1093, King David IV annexed the ancestral principality. A number of representatives of the rebellious “clan” sought refuge in Byzantium, receiving high titles and positions in the army and state administration.
The recently departed Prof. Ivan Yordanov (1949-2021), a leading specialist in numismatics and sphragistics, published a stamp of Mihail Liparit. In the 70s or 80s of the 11th century, he received the high title of “proeder”, and his seal was discovered in Anchialo/Pomorie. Here we will briefly tell about the participation of five Liparites in the Byzantine army a century later, which we learn about in the Life of the Queen of Queens Tamar.
The noted Georgian queen Tamar (1184-1213) was in serious trouble with the rest of Georgia’s Liparities. Five brothers, “… the sons of Kehaber from the rotten roots of the Liparitus family…”, create intrigues that lead to political assassinations. The determined and energetic Tamar ordered that each of the brothers be imprisoned and isolated in a separate fortress, but this form of house arrest did not work. Ultimately, the rioters were driven “… into exile in Greek Macedonia (Byzantine Eastern/Odrina Thrace), where they were subsequently slaughtered by the Kipchaks (Cumans), as we have heard, in battle like glorious braves…”
The expulsion of the Lipariti brothers is attributed to the first years of Tamar’s reign – before 1191, when Emperor Isaac II Angelus (1185-1195, 1203-1204) was in power in Byzantium, under whom relations with Georgia were seriously strained. As is known, Tamar gave political asylum and later actively supported Alexius and David Mega-Comnenius, grandsons of the former Roman emperor Andronicus I Comnenus (1183-1185) and founders of the Trebizond Empire. The Lipariti brothers went to Byzantium with their armed bands, counting on the support of their relatives in Constantinople – for example, the judge Basili Liparit, mentioned in 1177. Given their military experience, the Georgian aristocrats were enrolled in the Byzantine army at the front with the renewed by the brothers Peter and Asen Bulgarian kingdom.
When and under what specific circumstances did the five Liparites die? Unfortunately, there are no exact data, but the answer to this question is not at all impossible. The picture of the Bulgarian-Byzantine military confrontation under the first Asenevs is rich enough in events, about which the curious reader can learn more from the newly published book by Dr. Anelia Markova “The Second Bulgarian Kingdom in War and Peace” (Sofia, 2022). Until 1202, when a truce was reached between Emperor Alexius III Angel (1195-1203) and King Kaloyan (1197-1207), mutual blows followed one after another.
Bulgarian military actions, including Cuman raids in “Macedonia” (Eastern Thrace), occurred throughout the period. The five Liparites died relatively soon after their expulsion from Georgia, apparently in some larger battle. It is most likely that the demise of the Georgian aristocrats was attributed to the military actions in the spring of 1194, when King Assen inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the combined forces of the Byzantine generals Alexius Gid and Basil Vatsi at Arcadiopol (Luleburgas). In the decisive battle, the soldiers of the “domestic of the East” (the commander-in-chief of the troops from Asia Minor) Alexius the Guide bowed before the Bulgarian attack, embarking on a disorderly escape. The troops under the command of Vasili Vatsi, “domestic of the West” (the Balkans) were almost completely destroyed by Bulgarians and Cumans.
The heavy defeat was perceived by Isaac II Angel as a real military disaster… For this reason, the emperor looked for an ally in the rear of the Bulgarians and planned a joint military strike together with his father-in-law, the Hungarian king Béla III. Fortunately, this ambitious and dangerous design was thwarted by the coup of Alexius III Angelus against Isaac Angelus in 1195.
The participation of the Lipariti brothers in the war between the Roma and the Bulgarians can be connected precisely with the “western” troops led by Vasili Vatsi. A lead seal of this prominent Roman aristocrat was found in the Kardjali region and republished by Prof. Ivan Yordanov. The high title “sevast” is inscribed on it. From information about events close in time, we learn that in the composition of the Balkan troops of the empire there were detachments of Alans (the ancestors of today’s Ossetians), placed under the command of the Roman military leader Theodore Vrana. The military organization and tactics of the Georgians was almost or completely identical to that of their northern neighbors, the Alans, themselves an invariable mercenary or allied element in the Georgian army. In traditional Georgian-Alani relations, this is not surprising – Queen Tamar herself is Alan by mother, and her second husband, David Soslan, is an Alan prince. Alan mercenaries came to Byzantium, it seems, mainly through Georgia. All this gives us reason to suppose that the Georgian military detachment was probably also filled with Alans in Byzantine service. As we have already noted in “Trud” (December 17, 2021), there were also Alan allies in the Asenevtsi army – however, they came to Bulgarian service not from the state of Alania (now North and South Ossetia) in the Caucasus, from the Alan ” enclaves’ in the ‘Cuman steppe’ (present-day Ukraine).
Georgia’s active ties with the Cuman “steppe empire” probably influenced the unknown author to emphasize precisely the “Kipchaks” (Cumans). It is quite possible that the Georgian nobles died in battle precisely with the Cumans, and not with the Bulgarians themselves. In the traditional military tactics of the era, the light cavalry (Cumans, Georgians and Alans respectively) often played an independent role in the course of major battles. This is the case, for example, with the famous battle of Adrien (April 14, 1204), in which King Kaloyan, with the help of the Cumans, defeated the Latin knights. In the end, the episode with the Lipariti brothers appropriately complements our knowledge about the nature and peculiarities of the Bulgarian-Byzantine clashes at the time of the first Asenevs.
And a few words about the place of the battle – “Macedonia”, as Eastern Thrace was called in the Middle Ages. The Georgian author knew this, because at the time he lived, the lands of today’s historical-geographic region of Macedonia were called … Bulgaria due to the nationality of its inhabitants!
Photo: The medieval Georgian fortress Hertvisi from the time of Queen Tamar