Battle of the Bosnian Highlands

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of the Bosnian Highlands
partof=the Croatian-Bulgarian War of 927
date=May 27, 927
place=Highlands of Eastern Bosnia (present-day eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina)
result=Croatian victory
combatant1=Kingdom of Croatia
combatant2=Bulgarian Empire
commander1=King Tomislav of Croatia
commander2=Duke (Dux) Alogobotur
strength1=Unknown
strength2=Unknown
casualties1=Unknown
casualties2=heavy


caption=
The Battle of the Bosnian Highlands was fought between the huge armies of the two Balkan rulers of the time: Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I, the great victor of the Battle of Anchialus over the Byzantine Empire ten years earlier, and King Tomislav of Croatia, the first king of the Croatian state.

According to Theophanes Continuatus (The Continuer of Theophanes's Chronicle) and other historians, the battle took place on May 27, 927 and was fought in the area of the highlands of Eastern Bosnia near the Drina River, the border area between the Kingdom of Croatia and the Bulgarian Empire.

The Bulgarian ruler, Simeon, was a wise and able man with a restless and insatiable spirit. He spent his entire life fighting battles with neighboring countries. His basic aim was to defeat the Byzantine Empire and conquer Byzantium. To achieve his aim, Simeon overran the eastern and central Balkans several times, occupied Serbia and finally attacked Croatia.

Events preceding the war

After long wars and great success, capturing a larger part of the Byzantine territory in Europe, Simeon the Great was crowned at the church of Ohrid as "Tsar of all Bulgarians and Greeks" by the newly appointed Bulgarian patriarch 925. According to the juridical reasoning of the time, only the Pope and the Byzantine Emperor could bestow royal or imperial titles, and an emperor might be crowned only by a patriarch. Byzantine Emperor Romanus Lecapenus protested bitterly against Simeon's usurpation of the imperial title. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicolas Mysticus, did the same. In such a predicament, Simeon begged Pope John X (914-928) to send him an imperial crown and to recognize the head of the Bulgarian church as Patriarch. Naturally, Simeon had to promise to recognize the papal primacy in the Church. John X accepted Simeon's request and sent a solemn mission to Bulgaria, headed by Cardinal Madalbertus and John, illustrious Duke of Cumae. The papal mission reached Bulgaria at the end of summer or during the fall of 926, carrying a crown and scepter with which they would crown Simeon as Bulgarian Emperor.

When the papal mission arrived in Preslav, Madalbertus started long negotiations with Simeon and the representatives of the Bulgarian church. Probably, Madalbertus convoked a church synod in Bulgaria as he later did in Split, in Croatia, on his way back to Rome in 928. The negotiations regarding ecclesiastical matters were successful, and Archbishop Leontius was created Patriarch in Preslav, still during Simeon's reign.

Reasons for the war

Meanwhile, Simeon undertook imposing preparations for his crowning during the summer of 927. All of a sudden, he decided to wage a war against the Kingdom of Croatia.

The reason might have been that Tomislav received and protected the Serbs who were expelled by Simeon from Rascia. In all probability, however, the main reason was that Simeon, if crowned by the Papal Legate, feared an attack from the Byzantine Emperor supported by Tomislav. Emperor Romanus Lecapenus won the friendship of Tomislav some years previously, handing over the Byzantine Dalmatia to Tomislav and recognizing him as King of Croatia (Pope John X recognized Tomislav as King of Croatia in 925). During the summer of 926, Tomislav sent his troops to Italy to expel Saracens from the city of Sipontus, which belonged to the Byzantine province of Langobardia. This event could have been a sufficient proof to Simeon that the Croats took the side of the Byzantine Emperor and that they would support him actively in the future. Therefore, when in the next spring Simeon sent a great army against the Croats, Bulgarians were met by Tomislav's army in the mountainous region of Eastern Bosnia on May 27, 927.

The battle

According to Byzantine historian Constantine Porphyrogenitus, King Tomislav had an army of 160,000 soldiers (60,000 cavalry and 100,000 infantry), The strength of Simeon's army is unknown but was probably 30,000-70,000. The commander of the Bulgarian forces in this battle was Duke (Dux) Alogobotur.

According to historic sources, the Croatian forces under the leadership of their king completely devastated the Bulgarian army. A key of Tomislav's triumphant victory was likely the choice of terrain on which the battle took place; Croatian soldiers were probably more skilled in fighting in the mountainous terrain of the Bosnian highlands. The great military skill of the Croatian king and Croatian cavalry was probably also a decisive factor against the Bulgarians.


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