Asparuh or Isperih (Bulgarian: Аспарух or Исперих) was ruler of a Bulgar tribe from 668 to 700 and is credited with the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681.
Asparuh belonged to the Dulo clan and reigned for 61 years. This long period cannot be accepted as accurate due to chronological constraints, and may indicate the length of Asparuh's life. Asparuh was as a younger son of Kubrat, who had established a spacious state ("Great Bulgaria") in the steppes of modern Ukraine. Asparuh may have gained experience in politics and statesmanship during the long reign of his father, who probably died in 665. After his father's death, Asparuh acknowledged the rule of his older brother Bat Bayan, but the state disintegrated under Khazar attack in 668, and he and his brothers parted ways, leading their people to seek a more secure home in other lands.
Establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire
Asparuh was followed by 20,000-120,00 Bulgars. He crossed the Danube River delta and while the Byzantine capital Constantinople was besieged by Muawiyah I, Caliph of the Arabs (674–678), he and his people settled in the so-called Ongul area in northern Dobrudža. After the Arab siege of Constantinople ended, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV marched against the Bulgars and their Slav allies in 680 and forced his opponents to seek shelter in a fortified encampment. Forced to abandon the leadership of his army in order to seek medical treatment for his ailments, the emperor sabotaged the morale of his troops, who gave in to rumours that their emperor had fled. With segments of the Byzantine army starting to desert, the Bulgars and their allies broke through the blockade and routed the enemy troops at the battle of Ongala in 680. He then swiftly moved from the Danubian delta down to the Balkan range.
Asparuh established an alliance between the Bulgars and the local Slavic groups (described as the Severi and Seven Slavic tribes). As Asparuh commenced to raid across the mountains into Byzantine Thrace in 681, Constantine IV decided to cut his losses and conclude a treaty, whereby the Byzantine Empire paid the Bulgars an annual tribute as protection money.
Asparuh is credited with building the major centers of Pliska and Drăstăr. Asparuh died fighting the Khazars on the Danube.
Asparukh of Bulgaria. Wikipedia.
Image source: Asparukh of Bulgaria, Monument in Dobrich, Bulgaria, Wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License.
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