Boril of Bulgaria

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Еmperor of Bulgaria
File:Seal of Boril.jpg
Seal of Emperor Boril.
Reign 1207–1218
Predecessor Kaloyan
Successor Ivan Asen II
Spouse a Cuman princess
House Asen dynasty

Boril (Bulgarian: Борил) reigned as emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria from 1207 to 1218. He was the son of an unnamed sister of his predecessor Kaloyan.


It is unclear whether Boril was party to the murder of Kaloyan in front of the walls of Thessalonica in 1207, but Kaloyan's intended heirs, his nephews Ivan Asen and Alexander fled the country on Boril's accession to the throne - first to the Cumans and later to Galicia.[1] Boril married Kaloyan's widow, a Cuman princess, whose name is not recorded, unless she is the Anna (nun Anisija) mentioned in the Synodik of the Bulgarian Church.

Boril's attempt to pursue Kaloyan's foreign policy failed. From the beginning of his reign, he was opposed by members of his family. His brother Strez assisted by the Serbian Grand Župan Stefan Nemanjić seized the stronghold of Prosek, from which he launched campaigns in Macedonia. Boril's cousin and aristocrat Alexius Slav declared himself independent and established himself in the Pirin region with the town of Melnik for a capital. To worsen the situation the Latin emperor Henry of Flanders defeated Boril in 1208 at Plovdiv despite the initial success in the battle of Boruy.[2] Thus Northern Thrace and the Rhodope fortresses fell in Latin hands.[3] Whether as a consequence of a military conflict or a direct result of peaceful negotiations, in 1209 Strez received the court title of sevastokrator (one step lower from that of a despot) and became an ally of Boril till his death in 1214.[4] Meanwhile, Boril encountered new internal resistance in the rebellion of four Bulgarian noblemen in Vidin 1211 (or 1213 according to some sources).[5] Boril couldn't deal with it on his own, and there was no help to be seen from Serbs or Latins, nor from the boyars torn into fractions.[6] The only way out for Boril was to call for Hungarian aid. So an army led by Count Joachim of Sibiu crushed the rebels and seized Vidin.[2] Boril had to cede the area of Belgrade to the Kingdom of Hungary as the price for Hungarian support.

In 1211 Boril convened a church synod at the capital Tărnovo, which commemorated the synod held in 1111 by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and likewise condemned the Bogomils. At about the same time, Boril arranged for the marriage of his stepdaughter (Kaloyan's daughter) Marija (the name is dubious) to Henry of Flanders, and dispatched the bride to Constantinople with numerous gifts. Soon after this, Boril may have married a daughter of Andrew II of Hungary, but there is little evidence for this union. Another marriage was projected between Boril's daughter and Andrew II's son, the future Béla IV of Hungary in 1214, but it was never carried out.

Bulgaria under Boril (1207-1218)

The alliance with the Latin Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Despotate of Epirus, dragged Boril into a war against Serbia, in which Boril made little headway, especially after the murder of his brother Strez in 1215. With the death of Henry in 1216 and the departure of Andrew II on the Fifth Crusade, Boril was left essentially without strong supporters. In 1217 or 1218 Ivan Asen, Boril's cousin, returned from exile and defeated Boril, who locked himself up in Tărnovo. After a siege of perhaps seven months (rather than the "seven years" of the Byzantine sources), Boril fled the capital, which surrendered to Ivan Asen. Boril was captured during his escape, and was blinded and relegated to a monastery.


By his first (?) wife, Kaloyan's Cuman widow, Boril had one unnamed daughter, who was engaged to be married to the future Béla IV of Hungary. Boril may have married as his second (?) wife an unnamed daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary.


  1. Curta, Florin (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. Cambridge University Press. p. 384. ISBN 0-521-81539-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Curta, 2006, p. 385
  3. Vásáry, István (2005). Cumans and Tatars: Oriental Military in the Pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185-1365. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83756-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Van Antwerp Fine, John (1987). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman conquest. University of Michigan Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-472-08260-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. V.A.Fine, 1987, pp.99-100
  6. Vásáry, 2006, p. 385

External links

Preceded by
Emperor of Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Ivan Asen II