Peter Delyan - Petar Delyan As Leader of The Bulgarian Uprising

Petar Delyan As Leader of The Bulgarian Uprising

During the summer of 1040 in the theme of Bulgaria local people rebelled against the Byzantine Empire. There were two main causes:

  1. Replacing Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid with Greek (1037) and beginning of process of Hellenisation
  2. Imposition of taxes in coin for local people by the Byzantine government

The uprising spread and rebels very quickly took over control over northern part of Pomoravlje and liberated Belgrade. Leader of the rebellion Delyan was proclaimed emperor (Tsar) of Bulgaria in Belgrade under the name Peter II by being raised atop a shield by leaders of the resistance, and perhaps enjoyed some support from Hungary.

Peter II Delyan took Niš and Skopje, first co-opting and then eliminating another potential leader in the person of one Tihomir, who had led a rebellion in the region of Durazzo. After this Petar II marched on Thessalonica, where the Byzantine Emperor Michael IV was staying. Michael fled, leaving his treasury to a certain Michael Ivac. The latter, who was probably a son of Ivac, a general under Samuel of Bulgaria, promptly turned over the bulk of the treasury to Peter outside the city. Thessalonica remained in Byzantine hands, but Macedonia, Durazzo, and parts of northern Greece were taken by Petar II's forces. This inspired further Slavic revolts against Byzantine rule in Epirus and Albania.

Petar II Delyan's successes ended, however, with the interference of his cousin Alusian. Alusian, whose father Ivan Vladislav had murdered Peter's father Gavril Radomir in 1015, joined Petar II's ranks as an apparent deserter from the Byzantine court, where he had been disgraced. Alusian was welcomed by Peter II, who gave him an army with which to attack Thessalonica. The siege, however, was raised by the Byzantines, and the army was defeated. Alusian barely escaped and returned to Ostrovo.

In 1041, one night during dinner, while Delyan was drunk, Alusian cut off his nose and blinded him with a kitchen knife. Since Alusian was of the blood of Samuel of Bulgaria, he was quickly proclaimed emperor in Petar II's place by his troops, but he conspired to defect to the Byzantines. As the Bulgarian and Byzantine troops were preparing for battle, Alusian deserted to the enemy and headed for Constantinople, where his possessions and lands were restored to him, and he was rewarded with the high court rank of magistros.

Meanwhile, though blind, Petar II Delyan resumed command of the Bulgarian forces, but the Byzantine Emperor Michael IV determined to take advantage of the situation and advanced against them. In an obscure battle of Ostrovo, the Byzantines defeated the Bulgarian troops and Petar II Delyan was captured and taken to Constantinople, where he was perhaps executed. According some legends he was blinded and later exiled to a monastery, in Iskar Gorge, in the Balkan Mountains, where he died.

Norse sagas refer to the participation of the future Norwegian King Harald Hardråda, who allegedly cut down Peter II in the field of battle as a member of the Varangian Guard. This tradition may be supported by a laconic reference in the so-called "Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle". In either case, Peter II Delyan might have perished in 1041.

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