Battle of Klokotnitsa


Battle of Klokotnitsa

Infobox Military Conflict


caption=
conflict=Battle of Klokotnitsa
partof=the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars
date=March 9, 1230
place=Klokotnitsa, Bulgaria
result=Decisive Bulgarian victory
combatant1=
combatant2=Epirot Despotate
commander1=Ivan Asen II
commander2=Theodore Komnenos Doukas
strength1=25,000 Fact|date=November 2007
strength2=85,000 Fact|date=November 2007
casualties1=Light
casualties2=Almost the whole army was killed or captured

The Battle of Klokotnitsa ( _bg. Битката при Клокотница, "Bitkata pri Klokotnitsa") occurred on 9 March 1230 near the village of Klokotnitsa (today in Haskovo Province, Bulgaria). As a result, the Second Bulgarian Empire emerged once again as the most powerful state in Eastern Europe and the power of the Despotate of Epirus faded. The battle is often considered by historians to be the luckiest in Bulgarian military history.

Origins of the conflict

Around 1221–1222 the Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Asen II made an alliance with Theodore Komnenos Doukas of Epirus. Secured by the treaty, Theodore managed to conquer Solun (Thessalonica) from the Latin Empire, as well as Bulgarian lands in Macedonia including Ohrid. After the death of the Latin emperor Robert of Courtenay in 1228, Ivan Asen II was considered the most probable choice for regent of Baldwin II. Theodore thought that Bulgaria was the only obstacle left on his way to Constantinople and in the beginning of March 1230 he invaded the country without a declaration of war.

The battle

Theodore Komnenos summoned an enormous army including western mercenaries. He was so confident for his victory that he took the whole royal court with himself including his wife and children. His army moved slowly and plundered the villages on its way. When the Bulgarian tsar learned that the state was invaded, he gathered a small army of a few thousand men and quickly marched southwards. For four days the Bulgarians covered a distance three times longer than Theodore's army for a week.

On March 9, the two armies met near the village of Klokotnitsa. It is believed that Ivan Asen II ordered the broken mutual protection treaty to be stuck on his spear and used as a flag. He was a good tactician and managed to surround the enemy who was surprised to meet the Bulgarians so soon. The battle continued until sunset. The Epirotians were completely defeated, only a small force under the despot's brother Manuel managed to escape the battlefield. The rest were killed in the battle or captured, including the royal court of Epirus and Theodore himself.

In order to commemorate the battle, the Bulgarian emperor had an inscription carved in one of the marble columns of the church "Holy Forty Martyrs" in the capital of the Bulgarian empire Great Tarnovo. Among all existing documents the text of this inscription is the most accurate evidence of the outcome and the aftermath of the battle:

"In the year 6738 (1230), third indiction. John Asen in God Christ true Tsar and sovereign of the Bulgarians, son of the old Tsar Asen, raised from the foundations and decorated with art this holy church in the name of the Holy 40 Martyrs, with the help of whom in the twelfth year of my reign when this temple was being decorated. I made war in Byzantium and defeated the Greek army and captured their Tsar, Kyr Teodore Komnenos, together with all his bolyars. And I occupied all of his land from Odrin (Adrianople) to Drach (Dyrrhachium), Greek and also Arab and Serbian; and the towns around Constantinople and this very town were ruled by the Frizes (Latins), but they also subjugated to my empire; because they had no other Tsar but me and thanks to me they spent their days, because God ordered this, because without Him neither a deed, nor a word is done. Glory to Him forever, amen." [Turnovo inscription of Tsar Ivan Asen II in the Holy 40 Martyrs Church in honour of the victory at Klokotnitsa on 9 March 1230]

Aftermath

Ivan Asen II immediately released the captured soldiers without any conditions and the nobles were taken to Tarnovo. His fame for being a merciful and just ruler went ahead of his march to the lands of Theodore Komnenos and they were regained to Bulgaria without resistance.

References


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