THE MOST TRAGIC
In 971, following a devastating invasion, launched by the Prince of Kiev Sviatoslav, the Byzantines conquered the Bulgarian capital Preslav. Tzar Boris II was taken prisoner, brought to Constantinople and deprived of his imperial dignity, and his brother Roman was castrated in public, by way of the crowd's pastime. Emperor John Tzimisces certainly believed that the Bulgarian state was done with for ever.
But the four brothers - David, Moses, Aaron and Samuel - influential feudal lords in Macedonia - did not agree with this; very soon they succeeded in both liberating the occupied Eastern lands, and shifting the military operations to the Greek quarters. When the first three of them died, it was Samuel who had to bear the burden of saving the sinking state ship, and, indeed, he did not sheathe the sword for forty whole years. The sinister combat he waged against the next emperor Basil II, with a varying success, lasted for a very long time and this was one of the most bloody periods in the history of the Balkans.
Strangely, but in those Macbethan times, when following a series of successful military campaigns, Bulgaria seemed to have become as strong as before, and Samuel had everything necessary to let him declare himself its sovereign - this noble man not only did not usurp the crown, but treated the royal family in an amazingly loyal way. In 977, when Boris II was already dead, Samuel offered the throne to the castrate Roman, who had fled from Constantinople. Roman remained loyal to Samuel, even after he had been taken captive for the second time by the Byzantines in 991, until his death in prison in 997. Only then did Samuel put on the red boots and the purple chlamys, quickly winning international recognition.
The beginning of the end came with his heavy defeat in 1014, when Basil II, named the Bulgaroctone (Killer of the Bulgarians), blinded the captured 15 thousand Bulgarian soldiers, leaving a one-eyed man in a hundred - to lead the rest. The stern warrior Samuel died of a heart attack too, when the horrible procession finally reached his residence in the town of Ohrid (today in the Republic of Macedonia).
In 1018 Bulgaria lost its independence.
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