THE LAW-GIVER

Under the rule of Kroum (802-814) the former smallish principality situated on both sides of the Lower Danube became already a powerful state, comprising all the lands of present-day Romania and the eastern part of  today's Hungary, thus bordering the lands then under the dominion of the Frank Emperor Charles the Great. However, his expansion to the south and southeast towards the Slavs in Thrace and, farther, in Macedonia, encountered the violent Byzantine resistance. The conflict with Emperor Nicephorus I went through numerous bloody clashes that finally ended in a battle, where the Basileus (sovereign) himself was killed.

Then Kroum, who, as recorded by some chroniclers, celebrated his victory by drinking a toast with Nicephorus' silver-plated skull, turned his armies now to Constantinople. In front of its walls, however, it became clear that such an undertaking could not be accomplished, unless  a large number of siege devices were available, and Kroum had to start negotiations. Infuriated by the treacherous attempt the Byzantines made to kill him during the talks, he devastated the entire South-Eastern Thrace and then returned to his capital, in order to devote himself to feverish preparations for a new siege, in the height of which he suddenly died, maybe of a heart attack.

Kroum's military luck and huge territorial acquisitions often overshadow a number of important steps he made during his rule, for example his involvement in law making which paved the way for the complete feudalization of the country (according to some ancient authors' perhaps exaggerated reports, the Khan even ordered his people to root out all vines, in order to protect them from the drinking vice). Nevertheless, his extraordinary personality has impressed  many prominent Europeans for long centuries. His legislation was specially mentioned in Montaigne's works; Francois Rabelais, this great mocker, described Kroum's state as a country where there had been no treachery, slander and theft. He was also the prototype of Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", one of Grifius' characters in Germany, and Corneille's -  in France.


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