The Byzantine Empire reconquered the Bulgarian Empire in 1018. The Byzantines captured Bulgaria’s eastern region in 971, but claimed the entire kingdom. The Bulgarians refused to recognize Constantinople’s claim leading to a generational conflict. Beginning in 1001, the Byzantines slowly captured Bulgarian territory. Czar Ivan Vladislav’s death in 1018 removed Bulgaria’s last unifying force. The Eastern Roman Empire concluded the conquest in the wake of Vladislav’s death.
Fifth century barbarian invasions doomed the Western Roman Empire. These invasions continued throughout the Dark Ages. In the seventh century, the Eastern Roman Empire lost the Balkans to nomadic incursions. Eventually, the Bulgarian Empire formed on the Byzantine border. The relationship between Constantinople and Preslav collapsed in the late tenth century leading to war.
The Bulgarians suffered Magyar invasions for three decades before reaching an accord with the nomads. The Magyars earned free movement throughout the region. The agreement angered the Byzantines since it allowed the barbarians the freedom to launch raids into the east. Constantinople demanded the Bulgarians renounce the treaty, but Emperor Peter I refused. In response, the Byzantines hired a Kievan prince to attack Bulgaria.
The Kievan proved amazingly adept against the Bulgarians. In fact, the success worried the Byzantines to the point of opening talks with Peter I. In 969, Emperor Peter I abdicated following a seizure leaving his son, Boris II, to rule. Boris convinced Kiev to attack Constantinople. The Byzantines defeated the combined force in 971 and captured the Bulgarian capital Preslav. Afterward, the Byzantines declared Bulgaria conquered and under Roman control.
Constantinople conquered the Bulgarian Empire’s eastern territory. However, the Bulgarians maintained direct control over Albania, Macedonia, and vast swaths to the south and west. The four Cometopuli brothers ruled these regions and resisted Constantinople. Three of the brothers died battling the Romans. The fourth, Samuel, assumed command and defeated the invaders in 986 at the Battle of the Gates of Trajan.
The Byzantine Emperor Basil II’s initial invasion in 986 failed. He learned from his mistakes and returned in 1000 following battles with Muslims and Byzantine nobles. Slowly, Basil conquered Bulgaria one piece at a time. The Bulgarian Empire rolled the dice and risked everything on one major battle. Basil turned aside the challenge at the Battle of Kleidon. The Byzantines captured 15,000 prisoners. Some resistance continued until 1018, but the war was basically over after Kleidon. The official end came with Ivan Vladislav’s death. With no legitimate ruler left to fill the void, resistance collapsed.
The Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria demonstrated Roman perseverance. They lost the territory in the seventh century, but returned in the tenth to reclaim the area. The conflict began in 968 and ended in 1018. The Byzantine Empire slowly and steadily reconquered the territory.