A history of the First Bulgarian Empire

Steven Runciman




Appendix XI

The peace of 927 and Peter’s title



We know that by the peace of 927 the Imperial Government agreed to recognize Peter of Bulgaria as an Emperor (Βασίλεύς); Liudprand of Cremona was informed so by the Imperial chancery when he complained of the precedence given to the Bulgarian embassy [1];



1. Liudprand, Legatio, p. 186.





and we are specifically told that Maria Lecapena rejoiced in that she was marrying an Emperor. [1] There would be no difficulty about it, were it not for a passage in the De Ceremoniis. There, among the formulae to be employed at the reception of foreign ambassadors, is one which refers to the Emperor’s ‘spiritual grandson (πνευματικὸς ἔγγονος), the Prince (ρχων) of Bulgaria,’ and there is none referring to the Bulgarian monarch as Basileus. A little lower, among the formulae to be employed by the Emperors in addressing letters to foreign potentates, is one from ‘Constantine and Romanus, Emperors, to the Archon of the Bulgarians’; which is followed by the remark that lately it has been written (τὸ ἀρτίως γραφόμενον) ‘Constantine and Romanus to their spiritual son the Emperor of Bulgaria (τν κύριον ὁ δενα βασιλέα Βουλγαρας).’ [2] In the former of these address-formulae the Emperor’s names have almost certainly been interpolated—they must refer to Constantine Porphyrogennetus and Romanus II, who actually only employed the second formula. But the phrase ‘spiritual grandson’ in the reception-formula is not so easily explained away. If earthly generations are to be taken into account, the epithet ‘spiritual’ is incongruous; but there must be some meaning behind the word grandson.


Bury [3] suggested that the monarchs bound by this relationship were Leo VI and Symeon, son of the Emperor’s godson Boris. But Boris’s godfather was Michael III; and why should generations be taken into account on the Bulgarian, but not the Imperial, side? Rambaud [4] sought the solution in a physical relationship; Peter was the grandson, through his wife, of Romanus Lecapenus. The Imperial title must either only have



1. Theophanes Continuatus, p. 415.


2. Constantine Porphyrogennetus, De Ceremoniis, pp. 681, 682, 690. There is also a reception-formula calling the Archon of Bulgaria the Emperor’s spiritual son.


3. Bury, The Ceremonial Book, p. 226.


4. Rambaud, L’Empire Grec, pp. 340 ff.





been granted to him after Romanus’s fall, or Romanus must have taken it away from him. Rambaud is, I think, right in insisting upon the physical relationship; and it is possible that Romanus took the title away from Peter to mark his displeasure on some occasion, or, anyhow, that he prepared a formula for use if he should wish to do so. But, from the fact that there is no reception-formula calling Peter a Basileus, I incline to think that the ‘spiritual grandson’ formula is a blend of two formulae, one dealing with the ‘spiritual son the Archon,’ the other with the ‘spiritual grandson the Basileus.’ The muddle only shows that the courtiers of Byzantium, usually so punctilious, regarded the assumption of an Imperial title by any monarch outside the Empire as being so ridiculous that they could treat it with disdainful negligence; and they never bothered to record it systematically, nor took much notice of it, save when they wished to irritate self-important ambassadors from the upstart West.


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