Constantine Tikh of Bulgaria

Constantine Tikh of Bulgaria
Constantine Tikh
Tsar of Bulgaria
Reign 12571277
Predecessor Mitso Asen
Successor Ivaylo
Consort Irene Doukaina Laskarina
Maria Palaiologina
Offspring Michael
Royal House Asen

Constantine I (Bulgarian: Константин I, Konstantin I, called Константин Тих, Konstantin Tih (Tikh), which includes the shortened form of the name of his father as a patronymic), ruled as emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria from 1257 to 1277.

Constantine I was the son of a nobleman from Skopie, named Tihomir (Tih) and his maternal grandfather was Serbian King Stefan Nemanja.

In 1257, Constantine was elected by the nobles (boyars) to replace the ineffective Mitso Asen as emperor of Bulgaria. By 1261 Mitso Asen was decisively defeated, and sought asylum with Michael VIII Palaiologos, the emperor of Nicaea. To enhance his position as legitimate ruler, Constantine adopted the name Asen and married Irene of Nicaea, a daughter of emperor Theodore II Doukas Laskaris by Elena of Bulgaria, the daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria.

From 1259 to 1261 Constantine was also engaged in a war against Béla IV of Hungary. An initial Hungarian incursion in 1259 resulted in Constantine's ephemeral reconquest of the banate of Severin in 1260. Under the leadership of the future king Stephen V of Hungary, the Hungarians recovered Severin and captured Bulgarian Vidin and Lom in 1261. The Bulgarians recovered their losses under the leadership of the Russian prince Yakov Svetoslav, who was invested with practically autonomous possession of Vidin and maintained contacts with both Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Hungary.

Bulgaria c.1260

The deposition and blinding of the minor Nicaean emperor John IV Doukas Laskaris by Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1261 pitted Constantine, as the brother-in-law of the deposed emperor, against Michael VIII. In 1264 Constantine participated in a Mongol raid into Byzantine territory, but his success did nothing to improve Bulgaria's position.

After the death of Irene in 1268, Constantine sought a reconciliation with Michael VIII by marrying his niece, Maria Kantakouzene in 1269. However, quarrels over the surrender of Maria's promised dowry, Mesembria (Nesebăr), soured the improved relationship. The Bulgarian government entered into an alliance with King Charles I of Sicily who was planning a campaign against Michael VIII with the object of restoring the Latin Empire. Michael VIII struck back, by marrying his illegitimate daughter Euphrosyne to Nogai Khan of the Golden Horde, who pillaged Bulgaria as a Byzantine ally in 1274. Michael VIII's attempt at church union with Rome at the Second Council of Lyons in the same year exacerbated the conflict between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, as the Bulgarian empress and her mother were among that part of the Byzantine aristocracy, that was most opposed to the union.

Golden seal of Constantine Tikh

In the last years of his reign, Constantine I was partly paralyzed from a fall off his horse and suffered from unspecified ailments. The government was firmly in the hands of Maria Kantakouzene, who crowned their son Michael Asen II co-emperor soon after his birth, in about 1272. Maria presided over relations with the Byzantine Empire in the 1270s, and engineered first the submission and then the murder (by poison) of the despotēs Yakov Svetoslav of Vidin in 1276.

Due to the expensive and unsuccessful wars, repeated Mongol raids, and economic instability (Constantine was the first Bulgarian ruler to mint his own coins on a vast scale), the government was faced with a revolt in 1277. The social and economic aspects of this movement have been stressed by Marxist historians, but its true character is elusive. What is clear is that a swineherd or swine-owner named Ivaylo became a leader of the discontented and attracted many (presumably mostly lower-class) followers, asserting his control over a significant area. Constantine set out against Ivaylo with his guard, but was decisively defeated and slain in his chariot.


Constantine I was married three times. The names of his first wife and children are unknown. By his second wife, Irene of Nicaea, Constantine had no children. By his third wife, Maria Kantakouzene, he had:

  1. Michael Asen II of Bulgaria, who succeeded as emperor of Bulgaria 1277–1279.


  • John V.A. Fine, Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1987.

External links

Preceded by
Mitso Asen
Emperor of Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Michael Asen II and Ivaylo

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