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Basil the Bulgar Slayer

basillBasil II (Greek: Βασίλειος Β΄, Basileios II; 958 – 15 December 1025) was a Byzantine Emperor from theMacedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025. He was known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his supposed ancestor, Basil I the Macedonian.

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In 1014 Basil was ready to launch a campaign aimed at destroying Bulgarian resistance. On 29 July 1014, Basil II and his general Nikephoros Xiphias outmanoeuvred the Bulgarian army, which was defending one of the fortified passes, in the Battle of Kleidion. Samuel avoided capture only through the valour of his son Gabriel. Having crushed the Bulgarians, Basil was said to have captured 15,000 prisoners and blinded 99 of every 100 men, leaving one one-eyed man in each cohort to lead the rest back to their ruler.

Samuel was physically struck down by the dreadful apparition of his blinded army, and he died two days later after suffering a stroke. Although the extent of Basil’s mistreatment of the Bulgarian prisoners may have been exaggerated, this incident helped give rise to Basil’s Greek epithet of Boulgaroktonos, meaning “the Bulgar-slayer”, in later tradition. The first recorded coupling of the term Boulgaroktonos with Basil II dates from a number of generations after his death, when it is used in a poem from the reign of Manuel I Komnenos, dating to around 1166.

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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