- Ivan Asen I of Bulgaria
Infobox_Monarch | name =Ivan Asen I
title = Еmperor of Bulgaria
caption = Seal of Emperor Ivan Asen I.
reign = 1190 - 1196
predecessor = Peter IV
successor = Peter IV
consort = Elena
issue = Ivan Asen II
royal house =
royal anthem =
date of birth =
place of birth =
date of death = 1196
place of death =
Ivan Asen I (also "Ioan Asen I", "Ioan Asan", in English "John Asen I") ( _bg. Иван Асен I) ruled as emperor (
tsar) of Bulgaria1189-1196. The year of his birth is unknown.
In 1185, the brothers Theodore (Todor) and Ivan Asen appeared before the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos at Kypsela to request a
pronoia. Their request was turned down, and when Ivan Asen dared to argue against the emperor's decision, he was slapped across the face [Nicetas Choniates, "Historia", ed. J.-L. Van Dieten, 2 vols. (Berlin and New York, 1975); trans. as "O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates", by H.J. Magoulias (Detroit; Wayne State University Press, 1984)] . Irate, the brothers returned home and, taking advantage of the discontent at the heavy taxation levied by Isaac II to finance his wars against William II of Sicilyand his marriage to Margaret of Hungary, raised a revolt against Byzantine rule in late 1185.
Although Ivan Asen played the more active part in the operations against the Byzantines, his older brother Theodore was proclaimed Emperor of the Bulgarians under the name Peter IV (Petăr IV). An early assault on the old capital Preslav failed, and the probable center of the revolt, Tărnovo, became the capital of the
Second Bulgarian Empire. During 1185 and 1186 the Bulgarians took over most of Moesiaand raided across the Balkan mountainsinto Thrace.
In the summer of 1186 Isaac II Angelos marched with a large army against the Bulgarians, and penetrated into Moesia. While Peter IV showed himself ready to negotiate with the Byzantine emperor, Ivan Asen fled across the
Danubeand raised a strong force of Cumans, with whom he returned to relieve his brother. Isaac II had already left for Constantinople, contenting himself with Peter IV's promises for obedience. With his new force, Ivan Asen proceeded to raid Thrace again, skillfully avoiding pitched battles against superior Byzantine armies.A new expedition led by Isaac II proceeded to Sredec ( Sofia) in 1186, but it did not impact the territories under the control of the restored Bulgarian state. The Byzantine Emperor attacked again in 1187, this time threatening Tărnovo and besieging Loveč for three months without success. During the course of the siege the Byzantines captured the wife of Ivan Asen, who was exchanged for Ivan Asen's younger brother Kaloyan (Kalojan) as a hostage at the conclusion of a truce. But neither side had intentions to keep the peace. When the Third Crusadeled by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperorwas advancing towards Constantinople, representatives of Peter IV and Ivan Asen approached him with offers of military assistance against the latently hostile Isaac II Angelos at Nišand again at Adrianople.
After the passing of the Third Crusade, Isaac II Angelos decided to deal with the Bulgarians decisively. The expedition was planned on a grand scale and reached Tărnovo before besieging it for a protracted period. By this time Peter IV had crowned Ivan Asen I as co-emperor in 1189 and, without abdicating, retired to Preslav. In charge of the defense of the Tărnovo, Ivan Asen I incited the Byzantine emperor to hastily retreat by spreading rumors of the arrival of a great Cuman army to the relief of the besieged city. The retreating Byzantine army was ambushed by Ivan Asen I in the Balkan passes and Isaac II barely escaped with his life in 1190.
Success now definitely swung in favor of the Bulgarians, who captured the areas of Sredec (Sofia) and Niš in 1191, of
Belgradein 1195, of Melnik and Prosekin 1196, while raiding parties reached as far south as Serres. During his return from the southwest, Ivan Asen I was murdered by Ivanko, one of his military commanders, who was threatened with punishment for an affair with the sister of Ivan Asen I's wife. The murderer attempted to assume control in Tărnovo and negotiated with Constantinople, to which he soon afterwards fled.
For other events of Ivan Asen I's reign, and for a short note on the ethnic and political character of the Second Bulgarian Empire, see under Peter IV.
Ivan Asen I was married first to a certain Maria, buried at Červen, and then to Elena (religious name Evgenija), whose antecedents are unknown. She is sometimes alleged to be a daughter of
Stefan Nemanjaof Serbia, but this relationship is questionable and would have caused various canonical impediments to marriages between their descendants. By his marriage to Elena, Ivan Asen I had at least two sons:
# Ivan Asen II, emperor of Bulgaria 1218-1241
# Alexander (Aleksandăr), "sebastokratōr", who died after 1232; Alexander had a son named Kaliman Asen II, emperor of Bulgaria in 1256
Asen Peakon Livingston Islandin the South Shetland Islands, Antarcticais named for Ivan Asen I.
* John V.A. Fine, Jr., "The Late Medieval Balkans", Ann Arbor, 1987.
* [http://sitemaker.umich.edu/mladjov/files/bulgarian_rulers.pdf Detailed list of Bulgarian rulers]
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