|813||Battle of Versinikia||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Outcome:||A major defeat by the Bulgarians in an ambitious campaign||22 June 813|
|War & Enemy:||
Early Bulgarian Wars
|The Battlefield|| Location:
Near the castle of Versinikia. The exact location is unknown. It was somewhere in SE Bulgaria, between Malamirovo and Edirne (Turkey)
| Modern Country:
|The Byzantines(emperor: Michael I Rangabe)||The Enemies|
|Commander:||Emperor Michael I Rangabe||Khan Krum (the Horrible)|
|Background story:||After the battle of Pliska in 811, the Byzantine Empire was in a really difficult situation. The Bulgarians started again to attack in Thrace next year. Many towns were seized and their population was sent far to the north, across the Danube. The raid created such panic among the Byzantine population that several towns were emptied even without being attacked.
In the autumn of 812, after failed piece negotiations, the Bulgars besieged Mesembria (Nessebar). They had excellent new siege machines built by an Arab emigrant and soon captured the town.
During the winter of 812 - 813 Khan Krum started intense preparations for an attack against Byzantium, while Emperor Michael I was preparing for defense. In February 813, Bulgarian forces made several reconnaissance raids in Eastern Thrace but were pushed back. The retreat was considered as a victory "with the help of God's providence" and encouraged a counter-attack.
The Byzantines summoned again an enormous army from all themes of their Empire including the guards of the Syrian passes. The departure of the army was a celebration and the population of the city accompanied the troops outside the city wall. The army marched to the north but did not take any actions to take back Mesembria. They encamped in the vicinity of Adrianople where the army looted and robbed its own country. Khan Krum also headed to Adrianople.
The Byzantine army was significantly larger, so, the Bulgarians kept on a defensive position. Despite the numerical, logistic and strategic superiority the Byzantine army did not attack. Both armies got tense and anxious having waited in full armor for 13 days in the hot summer of Thrace. At the end, the Byzantine commanders became impatient and pressed the emperor to take the initiative.
Battle of Versinikia (Manasses chronicle)
The battle was short: the Byzantines attacked inflicting some casualties to the Bulgarians but their morale was too low. When Khan Krum counter-attacked with the Bulgarian heavy cavalry against the left flank of Byzantines they immediately ran away. The Anatolian regiments were the first to flee followed by the entire army.
The battle took place in a valley and when the Bulgarians saw the retreating enemy which was in the higher positions they at first suspected a trap. They did not expect to win so easily and at first did not chase them. But when they confirmed that the enemy was fleeing in panic, their heavy cavalry rushed after the Byzantines. The chief commanders of Byzantine army, including the Emperor Michael I Rangabe and Leo the Armenian, were the first to abandon the battlefield. The Bulgarians took the Byzantine camp and a rich prize including gold and weaponry.
It is generally believed that one of the generals, Leo the Armenian, was primarily responsible for the defeat, ordering the retreat of the units that were still not engaged in the battle.
|Noteworthy:||After capturing Mesembria, the Bulgarians found there 36 copper siphons used to throw the famous Greek fire (which was the top-secret weapon of the Byzantines)|
|Aftermath:||Versinikia worsened the grim situation of Byzantium and sealed the fate of Michael I Rangabe who was forced to abdicate. On 17 July 813 Krum reached the walls of Constantinople but he was not well prepared to take it.|