Role Emperor of Bulgaria
Spouse a Cuman princess
|House Asen dynasty|
Predecessor Kaloyan of Bulgaria
Name Boril Bulgaria
|Similar Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, Kaloyan of Bulgaria, Baldwin I - Latin Emperor, Boniface I - Marquess of Montfer|
Successor Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria
Boril (Bulgarian: Борил) was emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria from 1207 to 1218. He was the son of an unnamed sister of his predecessor, Kaloyan. After Kaloyan died unexpectedly in October 1207, Boril married his widow, a Cuman princess, to seize the throne. His cousin, Ivan Asen fled from Bulgaria, enabling Boril to strengthen his position. His other kinsmen, Strez and Alexius Slav, also refused to acknowledge him as the lawful monarch. Strez took possession of the land between the rivers Struma and Vardar with the support of Stefan Nemanjić of Serbia. Alexius Slav secured his rule in the Rhodope Mountains with the assistance of Henry, the Latin Emperor of Constantinople.
Boril launched unsuccessful military campaigns against the Latin Empire and the Kingdom of Thessalonica during the first years of his reign. He convoked the synod of the Bulgarian Church in early 1211. At the assembly, the bishops condemned the Bogomils for heresy. After an uprising broke out against him in Vidin between 1211 and 1214, he sought assistance from Andrew II of Hungary who sent reinforcements to suppress the riot. He made peace with the Latin Empire in late 1213 or early 1214. After Henry died in 1216 and Andrew II left Hungary for a crusade, Ivan Asen returned to Bulgaria. He defeated Boril who was captured and blinded in Tarnovo in 1218.
Boril was the son of a sister of Peter II, Ivan Asen I and Kaloyan, who were emperors (or tsars) of the restored Bulgarian Empire. His name derrived from the Slavic verb boriti ("to fight"). Historian Alexandru Madgearu says, most recorded variants of the name (Borilǔ, Burile, Borilus, Burillus) suggest that he was called Borilǎ, which is the Romanian version of the name.
Kaloyan died suddenly during the siege of Thessaloniki in October 1207. Rumours started to spread claiming that the patron saint of the besieged town, Demetrius, killed him. A version of these stories names one Manastras as the murderer. The Latin Emperor of Constantinople, Henry, stated in one of his letters that Boril "had imposed his will by violence and usurped the imperial name and insignia". Henri de Valenciennes (who continued the chronicle of Geoffrey of Villehardouin after 1207) likewise described Boril as a renegade who unlawfully seized the imperial crown. According to Madgearu, both reports suggest that Boril had his uncle murdered, most probably in cooperation with Kaloyan's wife. On the other hand, historian John V. A. Fine emphasizes that "there is no evidence against Boril".
Boril married Kaloyan's widow either to strengthen his claim to the throne, or to secure the Cumans' support. However, many noblemen (among them members of his family) always regarded him as an usurper. Ivan Asen's minor son and namesake soon fled to the Cumans and later to the "lands of the Russians" (that is to Halych or Kiev). Boril's own brother, Strez, sought refugee in Serbia. Instead of extraditing him, Stefan Nemanjić of Serbia granted him the fortress of Prosek. A third relative, Alexius Slav, took possession of the region of his castle at Tsepina in the Rhodope Mountains.
War with the Latins
The Greek noblemen of eastern Thrace had risen up and sought assistance from the Latin Empire already during the reign of Kaloyan. Boril left for Thrace to reconquer the region in May 1208. During his march, he seized parts of Alexius Slav's territory before stopping at Stara Zagora. The Latin Emperor personally led his army against Boril, forcing him to withdraw to Plovdiv. Although Boril's army outnumbered the Latin troops, Henry defeated him near the town on 8 July. The Latins captured Plovdiv and Alexius Slav paid homage to Henry. While Boril was waging war against the Latins, Stefan Nemanjić broke into Macedonia and occupied the land between the rivers Struma and Vardar. He granted the occupied territories to Strez, but left Serbian troops in the region to secure his loyalty.
The Greek burghers of Serres in the Kingdom of Thessalonica sent envoys to Boril's commander in Melnik, seeking his assistance against their lord in early 1209. Henry intervened and made his own supporter the ruler of Serres. Boril concluded an alliance with Theodore I Laskaris, Emperor of Nicaea, and Michael I Komnenos Doukas, the Greek ruler of Epirus, against the Latins. He also made peace with Strez who had turned against Nemanjić.
Boril convened a synod of the Church of his realm in Tarnovo in early 1211. The bishops confirmed the Orthodox confession adopted at the synod of Constantinople in 843 and condemned the Bogomils, ordering their persecution as heretics. The synod established the date of Easter in accordance with the Catholic calendar. Boril, who had presided over the synod, ordered the publication of its decisions in Bulgarian on 11 February 1211.
Boril sent an army to a mountain pass to prepare an ambush for the Latin Emperor Henry who was returning from Thessaloniki to Constantinople in April 1211. Being informed of Boril's plan, Henry gathered his troops from the nearby Latin fortresses and forced Boril to withdraw his army. Strez invaded the Kingdom of Thessalonica, but Michael of Epirus, who had made peace with the Latins, broke into his realm. Boril intervened in the conflict on Strez's behalf, but their united armies were defeated near Bitola in early summer. He launched an assault on Thessaloniki in October, but Eustace of Flanders, who administered the kingdom as regent, forced him to lift the siege with the assistance of Alexius Slav. Alexius Slav also captured Melnik.
Fine says, Boril held the Church synod to secure the support of the clergy for himself, because "popular dissatisfaction with his reign may still have existed" in 1211. An uprising which broke out in Vidin between 1211 and 1214 demonstrated the existence of popular discontent. The exact circumstances of the movement are uncertain, because a Hungarian royal charter, which was issued in 1250, preserved all information of the events.
Boril was unable to suppress the rebellion without external assistance. He turned to Andrew II of Hungary, reminding him "their reliable friendship". Andrew dispatched Joachim, Count of Hermannstadt (now Sibiu in Romania), to Bulgaria at the head of an army of Saxon, Vlach, Székely and Pecheneg troops. Joachim first routed three Cuman chieftains who tried to halt his invasion, then captured Vidin and handed it over to Boril.
A papal legate (identified as Pelagius of Albano) came to Bulgaria in the summer 1213. He continued his journey towards Constantinople, implying that his mediation contributed to the subsequent reconciliation between Boril and Henry. Boril had already realized that he would unable to regain the Thracian territories lost to the Latin Empire. On the other hand, Henry wanted to resume the war against Theodor I Laskaris, for which he wanted to put an end to his conflict with Bulgaria. After lengthy negotiations, Henry married Boril's stepdaughter (whom modern historians wrongly call Maria) in late 1213 or early 1214.
In early 1214, Boril proposed the hand of his daughter to Andrew II of Hungary's son and heir, Béla. Madgearu says, he also renounced the lands that Andrew had claimed from Bulgaria (including Braničevo). Henry sent reinforcements to Boril who broke into Serbia and laid siege to Niš in 1214. Strez also invaded Serbia from the south, but he was killed during the campaign. Conflicts between Boril and the Latin troops prevented them from capturing the town.
The Latin Emperor Henry died in July 1216; Andrew II left Hungary to lead a crusade to the Holy Land in 1217. Being deprived of his two principal allies, Boril's position weakened, which enabled his cousin, Ivan Asen, to return to Bulgaria. Boril was defeated and forced to withdraw to Tarnovo. The Byzantine historian, George Akropolites, stated that the siege lasted "for seven years", but he must have confused months for years, according to most historians. After Ivan Asen's troops entered the town, Boril tried to flee, but he was captured and blinded.
Akropolites described Boril's first wife (the widow of his uncle) as a "Scythian" (or Cuman). Boril's marriage with her violated canon law, but the Church did not protest against it. Baldwin of Avesnes, the Chronicle of Flanders and other Western European chronicles say that an unnamed niece of the Latin Emperor Henry (the daughter of his sister, Yolanda of Flanders, and Peter II of Courtenay) was given in marriage to "Johannis", who is associated with Boril. Historians who accept the reliability of this report say that Boril married Henry's niece after their peace treaty in 1213 or 1214. If this theory is valid, Boril's first wife either had died or had been sent to a monastery. Boril's daughter was engaged to the Hungarian crown prince, Béla, in 1214, but the marriage never took place.