Peter I of Bulgaria
Peter I (died 30 January 970) was emperor (tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

) of Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 from 27 May 927 to 969.

Early reign

Peter I was the son of Simeon I of Bulgaria
Simeon I of Bulgaria
Simeon I the Great ruled over Bulgaria from 893 to 927, during the First Bulgarian Empire. Simeon's successful campaigns against the Byzantines, Magyars and Serbs led Bulgaria to its greatest territorial expansion ever, making it the most powerful state in contemporary Eastern Europe...

 by his second marriage to Maria Sursuvul, the sister of George Sursuvul. Peter had been born early in the 10th century, but it appears that his maternal uncle was very influential at the beginning of his reign. In 913 Peter may have visited the imperial palace at Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 together with his older brother Michael. For unspecified reasons, Simeon had forced Michael to become a monk and had named Peter as his successor.

To prove himself a worthy successor to his father both at home and in the eyes of foreign governments, Peter began his reign with a military offensive into Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 in 927. Nevertheless, he followed up his quick successes by secretly negotiating a peace treaty before the Byzantine government had a chance to retaliate. The Byzantine Emperor Romanos I Lakapenos eagerly accepted the proposal for peace and arranged for a diplomatic marriage between his granddaughter Maria and the Bulgarian monarch. In October 927 Peter arrived near Constantinople to meet Romanos and signed the peace treaty, marrying Maria on 8 November in the church of the Zoödochos Pege
Church of St. Mary of the Spring (Istanbul)
The Monastery of the Mother of God at the Spring or simply Zoödochos Pege , is an Eastern Orthodox sanctuary in Istanbul...

. To signify the new era in Bulgaro-Byzantine relations, the princess was renamed Eirene ("peace"). The treaty of 927 actually represents the fruit of Simeon's military successes and diplomatic initiatives, ably continued by his son's government. Peace was obtained with the frontiers restored to those defined in treaties of 897 and 904, the Byzantines recognised the Bulgarian monarch's title of emperor (basileus, tsar) and the autocephalus status of the Bulgarian patriarchate; the payment of an annual tribute to Bulgaria by the Byzantine Empire was renewed.

Revolts and incursions

The initial successes of Peter's reign were followed by several minor setbacks. Around 930, Peter faced a revolt led by his younger brother Ivan, who was defeated and sent into exile in Byzantium. Soon afterwards Peter's older brother Michael escaped from his monastery and led a more formidable rebellion, which terminated with his early death. The youngest brother, Benjamin (also called Bojan), was accused of being a werewolf
A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse...

 and magician by the Italian Bishop Liutprand of Cremona
Liutprand of Cremona
Liutprand, also Liudprand, Liuprand, Lioutio, Liucius, Liuzo, and Lioutsios was a Lombard historian and author, and Bishop of Cremona....

, but apparently posed no threat to Peter's authority.

Perhaps taking advantage of these challenges to Peter's rule, the Prince of Serbia Časlav Klonimirović
Caslav Klonimirovic
Časlav Klonimirović or Časlav of Serbia was Prince of the Serbs from ca. 927 until his death in 960. He significantly expanded the Serbian Principality when he managed to unite several Slavic tribes, stretching his realm over the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the Sava river and the Morava valley...

 escaped the Bulgarian capital Preslav in 933 and, with tacit Byzantine support, managed to raise a Serbian revolt against Bulgarian rule . The revolt succeeded, and Serbia recovered its independence. Peter may have had to also face the incursions of the Magyars, who had been defeated and forced into Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

 by his father in 896. Perhaps after an initial defeat, Peter came to terms with the enemy, and now utilized Magyar groups as his allies against Serbia. Various Magyar clans and chieftains appear to have begun to settle in what was still Bulgarian territory north of the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

, where they may have become Bulgarian federates, enjoying independence from the Árpád dynasty
Árpád dynasty
The Árpáds or Arpads was the ruling dynasty of the federation of the Hungarian tribes and of the Kingdom of Hungary . The dynasty was named after Grand Prince Árpád who was the head of the tribal federation when the Magyars occupied the Carpathian Basin, circa 895...

. This arrangement paved the way for the eventual loss of the region to the Magyars, although that happened over the half-century following Peter's death. Peter apparently allowed these groups to cross Bulgaria and raid Byzantine territories in Thrace and Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

, perhaps as an underhanded reaction against Byzantine support for the Serbian rebellion.

Domestic rule

Peter I presided over a long and relatively peaceful reign, albeit one poorly illuminated by foreign or native sources. In spite of the challenges he encountered soon after his accession and the critical situation at the very end of his life, Peter's Bulgaria appears to have been prosperous and increasingly well organized, with an administrative apparatus noted by foreign travelers and confirmed by the numerous finds of imperial seals. Peter was particularly generous towards the Church, which he endowed lavishly throughout his reign. The emperor's generosity reached such an extent that it was seen as a corrupting factor by even Orthodox clerics, like Cosmas Presbyter. Others chose a path away from the temptations of the secular world, most notably Saint Ivan of Rila, but their ascetic existence still drew the attention of the monarch. Luxury and social tensions may have contributed to the spread of the Bogomil heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, which Peter duly undertook to combat, soliciting the advice of famous hermits and even his uncle-in-law, the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....


Conflict with Byzantium and Kiev

Relations with the Byzantine Empire worsened after the death of Peter's wife in the mid-960s. Victorious over the Arabs, Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas refused to pay the annual tribute to Bulgaria in 966, complaining of the Bulgarian alliance with the Magyars, and undertook a show of force at the Bulgarian border. Dissuaded from a direct attack against Bulgaria, Nikephoros II dispatched a messenger to the Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

an prince Sviatoslav Igorevich
Sviatoslav I of Kiev
Sviatoslav I Igorevich ; , also spelled Svyatoslav, was a prince of Rus...

 to arrange a Kievan attack against Bulgaria from the north.

Sviatoslav readily launched a campaign with a vast force (60,000 troops), and routed the Bulgarians on the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 and defeated them in the battle near Silistra, seizing some 80 Bulgarian fortresses in 968. Stunned by the success of his ally and suspicious of his actual intentions, Emperor Nikephoros II now hastened to make peace with Bulgaria and arranged the marriage of his wards, the underage emperors Basil II
Basil II
Basil II , known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his ancestor Basil I the Macedonian, was a Byzantine emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025.The first part of his long reign was dominated...

 and Constantine VIII
Constantine VIII
Constantine VIII was reigning Byzantine emperor from December 15, 1025 until his death. He was the son of the Emperor Romanos II and Theophano, and the younger brother of the eminent Basil II, who died childless and thus left the rule of the Byzantine Empire in his hands.-Family:As...

, to two Bulgarian princesses. Two of Peter's sons were sent to Constantinople as both negotiators and honorary hostages. In the meantime Peter managed to secure the retreat of the Kievan forces by inciting Bulgaria's traditional allies, the Pechenegs, to attack Kiev itself.
In spite of this temporary success and the reconciliation with Byzantium, Bulgaria faced a new invasion by Sviatoslav in 969. The Bulgarians were defeated again, and Peter suffered a stroke, which led him to abdicate and become a monk. He died on 30 January 970.


Compared with the military success of his father's reign, Peter has been traditionally considered a weak ruler, who lost lands and prestige, allowed his military forces to decline while his country was ravaged by foreign invaders, and turned Bulgaria into a Byzantine satellite governed by Byzantine agents in the persons of his empress and her retinue. This view has been questioned by more recent scholarship, which emphasizes the affluence and internal peace enjoyed by Bulgarian society during this long reign, re-evaluates the relationship between Bulgaria and its semi-nomadic neighbors (Magyars and Pechenegs), and questions the allegedly sinister role of Romanos' granddaughter and her retinue. While Peter's reign witnessed the spread of the Bogomil heresy, its origins were more demographic (perhaps inspired by Paulicians settled earlier by Byzantine emperors in Thrace) than social, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia...

 canonized the monarch as a saint. Peter was considered a good ruler in the Middle Ages, and when Bulgaria fell under Byzantine rule (1018–1185), leaders of attempts to restore Bulgarian independence adopted his name to emphasize legitimacy and continuity.


By his marriage to Maria Lakapena
Eirene Lakapena
Irene Lekapene was the Empress consort of Peter I of Bulgaria. She was а daughter of Christopher Lekapenos, son and co-emperor of Romanus I, and his wife Augusta Sophia....

 (renamed Eirene), Peter I had several children, including:
  • Plenimir
  • Boris II
    Boris II of Bulgaria
    Boris II was emperor of Bulgaria from 969 to 977 .-Reign:Boris II was the eldest surviving son of Emperor Peter I of Bulgaria and Maria Lakapena, a granddaughter of Emperor Romanos I Lakapenos of Byzantium...

    , who succeeded as emperor of Bulgaria in 969
  • Roman, who succeeded as emperor of Bulgaria in 977


Peter Peak
Peter Peak
Peter Peak is an 850 m knob in Delchev Ridge, Tangra Mountains, eastern Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica...

 on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands
South Shetland Islands
The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic islands, lying about north of the Antarctic Peninsula, with a total area of . By the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for...

, Antarctica is named after Peter I of Bulgaria.
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