Battle of Bitola (1015)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Bitola


caption=
partof=the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars
date=Autumn, 1015
place=near Bitola, Republic of Macedonia
result=Bulgarian victory
combatant1=Bulgarian Empire
combatant2=Byzantine Empire
commander1=Ivats
commander2=George Gonitsiates
Orestes| strength1=Unknown
strength2=Unknown
casualties1=Unknown
casualties2=Heavy

The battle of Bitola ( _bg. Битка при Битоля) took place near the town of Bitola, [Now in present-day Republic of Macedonia] in Bulgarian territory, between a Bulgarian army under the command of the "voivoda" Ivats and a Byzantine army led by the "strategos" George Gonitsiates. It was one of the last open battles between the First Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The Bulgarians were victorious and the Byzantine Emperor Basil II had to retreat from the Bulgarian capital Ohrid, whose outer walls were by that time already breached by the Byzantines. However, the Bulgarian victory only postponed the fall of Bulgaria to Byzantine rule in 1018.

Prelude

In the battle of Kleidion on 29 July 1014 the bulk of the Bulgarian army was destroyed. The death of Tsar Samuil soon after that (6 October) further weakened the state. In the autumn of 1014 Basil II penetrated deep into Bulgarian territory and burned the palaces of Samuil's successor Gavril Radomir in the vicinity of Bitola"Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 706] . The hostilities were renewed in the spring of 1015. The Byzantine Emperor headed towards the heart of Bulgaria (around Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa) and systematically seized every town or fortress on his way. The immediate reason for that campaign was the secession of Voden and its reincorporation to Bulgaria in the beginning of 1015. Basil II swiftly seized the town in the spring and resettled its inhabitants."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 707] In the summer the Byzantines conquered another important town, Moglena. During its siege they captured "kavkhan" Dometian and many soldiers."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 708]

Gavril Radomir's attempts to settle peace failed"Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 707-708] . Basil II continued the war and simultaneously encouraged a successful conspiracy of Ivan Vladislav to murder his cousin Radomir and take the throne. [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 708-711] [Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja, XXXVI, [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus6/Dukljanin/frametext.htm Russian translation] , [http://homepage.mac.com/paulstephenson/trans/lpd2.html English translation] ] After Ivan Vladislav took the crown in August 1015, he pretended to agree to surrender to the Byzantines."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 713-714] [Yahya of Antioch, [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Yahya/text2.phtml?id=1997 12, 58-59] (in Russian). Yahya called Ivan Vladislav with the name of his father Aron, and Gavril Radomir was called "Comitopul".] Basil II did not trust him and prepared another plot to murder the new Bulgarian Tsar. The new conspiracy failed and led the negotiations to an end."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 716]

Campaign to Ohrid and the battle

As he did not trust the proposal of Ivan Vladislav, Basil II immediately launched a new campaign via Ostrovo. The Byzantines blinded every captured Bulgarian."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67] In Pelagonia he left a large army under the command of the "strategoi" George Gonitsiates and Orestes to pillage the region and guard the Byzantine rear between Ohrid and Bitola."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 68] Basil himself reached Ohrid and managed to overrun most of the city except for the citadel where the royal palaces were located. [Гюзелев, В., България от втората четвърт на Х до началото на ХІ век, с. 74 (в: "Кратка история на България", изд. "Наука и изкуство", София 1983)] [Ангелов, Д., и Чолпанов, Б., "Българска военна история през средновековието (Х-ХV век)", Издателство на Българската академия на науките, София 1994, с. 59]

However his initial intention to march west to Dyrrhachium failed after unexpected difficulties in the Byzantine rear. ["Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 67-68] The army which was led by Gonitsiates was ambushed by the Bulgarian commander Ivats and was completely destroyed."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 68] Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 717] That defeat forced Basil II to pull back swiftly. The rest of the Byzantine army entered Pelagonia, but Ivats avoided engaging it, and Basil II retreated undisturbed to Thesaloniki."Подбрани извори за българската история", т. II, Изд. "ТАНГРА ТанНакРа ИК", София 2004, с. 68] Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 717]

Aftermath

The battle of Bitola deprived Basil II of the great success achieved at the beginning of a campaign which might have destroyed the Bulgarian state as early as 1015. [Мутафчиев, П., "Книга за българите", Издателство на БАН, София 1992, с. 120] However the devastation which the country suffered that year was a prerequisite for the final fall of the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018. [Златарски, В., [http://www.promacedonia.org/vz1b/index.html "История на българската държава през средните векове", т. I, ч. 2] , София 1971, с. 718]

Footnotes


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