This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine
sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and
commentary by Paul Stephenson.
The peace agreed between Romanos Lekapenos and Symeon of Bulgaria, AD 924
(Cf. Symeon Logothete [Georgius Monachus Continuatus], ed. Bekker, pp. 898-901)
Reign of Romanos
15. [p. 405] In the month of September in the second 1 indiction, Symeon the ruler of Bulgaria marched in full force against Constantinople, and laid waste Thrace and Macedonia, setting fire to everything and despoiling and cutting down trees. Arriving at the Blachernae he demanded that the patriarch Nicholas and certain nobles be sent out to him in order to discuss peace with them. Each side took hostages from the other, and then [p. 406] first went out Patriarch Nicholas followed by the patrikios Michael called Stypiotês and John the mystikos and paradynasteuôn . (For already John the raiktor had been slandered to the emperor, and having professed illness departed the palace and been tonsured at his monastery near Galakrenai.) These men then discussed peace with Symeon, and he sent them back demanding to see the emperor Romanos himself; he had been assured by many of his prudence, courage and sagacity. And the emperor rejoiced greatly at this, for he desired peace and for a staunching of the blood that was being shed daily. Therefore he sent out and ordered that a very secure landing stage be built in the sea on the shore of the Kosmidion, so that the imperial launch cold sail out and anchor beside it. It was fenced around on all sides with a partition wall in the middle where they would talk to one another. Symeon then commanded that the Church of the All-Holy Virgin at Pêgê, which the emperor Justinian had built, be burnt, along with all around it, making it clear that he did not desire peace, but rather was deceiving this man [Romanos] with exalted hopes. So the emperor went, together with the patriarch, to Blachernae, entered the holy sanctuary and stretched out his hands in prayer. With his face bowed low to his feet his tears drenched the holy floor, and entreated the all-hymned and immaculate Mother of God ( Theotokos ) to soften the hard and inflexible [p. 407] heart of the arrogant Symeon and to persuade him agree to peace. Therefore, having opened the holy casket in which was stored the sacred hômophorion of the holy Mother of God, the emperor took this and wore it like an unbreachable breastplate, and with his faith in the irreproachable Theotokos which protected him like a helmet, he left the church fortified with these secure weapons. Having arranged the troops about him with shields and weapons, he went to the set meeting-place to talk to Symeon. These things took place on Thursday, the ninth of November, at the fourth hour of the day. Symeon arrived there also bringing with him a host divided into many units, some with golden shields and spears, others with silver shields and spears, equipped with weapons of every hue and all armoured in iron. Bearing Symeon among them they acclaimed him emperor in the language of the Romans. All of the senatorial council were standing on the walls looking down on the proceedings. They were able to see, therefore, the imperial and high-minded spirit of [Romanos] and wonder at his undaunted purpose and his desperate courage, that seeing such a succession of enemies, he was not struck with terror nor did he cower and withdraw, but proceeded untrembling as if into a crowd of friends, all but giving his soul to his enemies as a ransom for his subjects. [p. 408] Arriving first therefore at the aforementioned landing-stage, he waited for Symeon. When hostages had been taken from both sides, and the Bulgarians had searched the landing-stage carefully, lest there be some trick or trap, Symeon dismounted his horse and approached the emperor. They greeted each other and spoke words of peace.
It is said the emperor spoke thus to Symeon: “I have heard you are a pious man and a true Christian, but I see deeds which do not match those words. For it is the nature of the pious man and Christian to embrace peace and love, since God is and is called love. It is the nature of an impious man lacking faith to delight in slaughters and the unjust spilling of blood. If therefore you truly are a Christian, as we have been assured, stop now the unjust slaughters and bloodletting of the profane, and make peace with us Christians, being the very Christian you are called, and not wishing to defile the right hands of Christians with the blood of similarly faithful Christians. Mankind is awaiting death and resurrection and judgment and retribution. Today you are alive, but tomorrow you will be dissolved into dust. One fever will quench insolence. What reason will you give to God for the, going there, for the unjust slaughters? With what face will you confront the fearsome and just judge? If you do these things for love of wealth, I will sate you excessively in your desire [p. 409]. Only stay your right hand. Embrace peace, love harmony, so that you may live a peaceful, bloodless and untroubled life, and so that Christians may have a break from misfortunes and stop the killing of Christians. For it is not right for them to raise arms against co-religionists.” Saying these things, therefore, the emperor fell silent. Therefore Symeon was shamed by the humility of this man and his argument, and agreed to make peace. Having embraced each other, they departed, Symeon having been honoured with magnificent gifts from the emperor.
16. What happened then I shall recount, for it was portenteous and contrary to expectation for those types judging these things. They say that two eagles flew above the two emperors as they conversed ( tôn basileôn omilountôn ), 2 came together screeching but immediately separated from each other, the one going to the City, the other flying away towards Thrace. Those studying carefully these things judge it not to be a good sign. They said that both being irreconcilable in peace will break it off. Symeon, returning to his own army, told his nobles about the understanding and humility of the emperor, praising the type and strength and imperturbability of his will.
I. Bozhilov, “L'idéologie politique du Tsar Syméon: Pax Symeonica,” Byzantinobulgarica 8 (Sofia, 1986), 73-88
J. Shepard, “ Symeon of Bulgaria – Peacemaker,” Annuaire de l'Université de Sofia 'St. Kliment Ohridski' 83 (1989) , 9-48
J. Shepard, “Bulgaria: the other Balkan ‘empire'”, in T. Reuter, ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History III, (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 567-85
1 In fact, although spelt out clearly ( deuteras , not merely the letter b ) this is an error for twelfth indiction, being AD 924.
2 It may be significant that Symeon is here referred to not as archon, but as an emperor ( basileus ). In this regard, note how he has his troops acclaim him as emperor in Greek as he approaches the landing-stage. May we detect here evidence that Romanos acknowledged this status for his “imperial brother” ? See Theodore Daphnopates' letters.
Paul Stephenson, 3 January 2004
Revised January 2012