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997 Battle of Spercheios ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: A Crushing victory of the Byzantines who surprised the Bulgarians 16 July 997
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Bulgarians
War:
Conquest of Bulgaria
Battle Type:
Surprise Attack
The Battlefield Spercheios Location:
Spercheios river, near modern Lamia, Greece
Modern Country:
Greece
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Basil II Bulgaroktonos) The Enemies
Commander: General Nikephoros Ouranos Tsar Samouil
Forces: Unknown Unknown
Losses: 1000 killed, 12000 captured
Background story: After the major success of the Bulgarians in the Battle of the Gates of Trajan in 986, Byzantium descended into a civil war, further exacerbated by the conflict with the Fatimids in Syria. Samouil took advantage of the situation and conquered virtually the whole of the Balkan Peninsula, excluding the parts of Thrace closest to Constantinople, and southern Greece.
In 991 the Byzantines managed to capture the emperor Roman of Bulgaria but this did not stop Samouil who was now de facto the only emperor of Bulgaria. In 996 he ambushed and destroyed the forces of the strategos of Thessalonica and marched to the south, eventually threatening Corinth.
On his way back he met a Byzantine army on the opposite side of the Spercheios river, led by Nikephoros Ouranos. Emperor Basil II had appointed him commander of all Balkan territories of the Empire and gave him a large army to cope with the Bulgarians. He followed the Bulgarian army and confronted it after the Bulgarians went through the Thermopylae pass, on the river of Spercheios.
The Battle:
Spercheios
Due to heavy rainfalls, the river had swollen and flooded a large area on both shores. The Bulgarians camped on the southern shore and the Byzantines on the northern, separated by the river. The two armies remained thus encamped for several days. Samouil was confident that the Byzantines could not cross, and neglected taking measures to protect his camp. Ouranos however, found a ford, and leading his army across during the night, attacked the Bulgarians at dawn. Taken by surprise the Bulgarians were not able to put up effective resistance, and the larger part of their army was routed. Samouil himself was wounded and he and his son Gavril Radomir evaded capture by feigning death among the bodies of their slain soldiers. After nightfall, they set off to Bulgaria and in the Pindus mountains gathered the remains of their army. Ouranos returned to Constantinople with 1,000 heads of Bulgarian soldiers and 12,000 captives.
Noteworthy: Due to the difficult 400 km journey back home, Samouil’s wounded arm was healed at an angle of 140°.
Aftermath: It was the first major defeat of the Samouil army. Although Samouil managed to recover (he became Tsar in the meantime) and to conquer Serbia, the Byzantines gradually took the lead in the war. In 1014 the Bulgarians were decisively defeated.