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The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah

East Central and Eastern

Europe in the Middle Ages,
General Editor
Florin Curta
The titles published in this series are listed at
The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
The Destiny and Meanings of an Apocryphal Text
Ivan Biliarsky
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1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in
Israel. 2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and
his dwelling place in Zion. 12 He shall cut off
the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings
of the earth.
(Psalms, 76:12, 12)
, -
, .
( 75 :23, 13)
Cognoscetur in Iudaea Deus in Israhel mag-
num nomen eius et factus est in pace locus
eius et habitatio eius in Sion et ei qui aufert
spiritus principum terribili apud reges terrae
(Ps. 75:23, 13)
List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1. The Text of the Literary Work and Its Manuscript Tradition. . . . . . . . 7
The Variable Destiny of the Kichevo Manuscript and the
Place of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah in It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
The Text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
2. Tale of the Prophet Isaiah in the Context of Mediaeval Literature
and Modern Researches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Historiography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Publications of the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Character of the Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Authorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Localisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Dating of the Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
3. The Chosen People and the Promised Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
The Prophet Isaiah and the New Israel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Geographical Features of Religious Identity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Cities and Founding of Cities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
4. The Divinely Chosen King, Humble to God: Tsar Izot, or Davidic
Royalty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Tsar Izot and His Reign. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
The Antagonists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Goliath, the Sea Frank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
Ozia, the King of the East . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
The Davidic Paradigm of Power and Tsar Izot: The Bagrationi
Dynasty and the Idea of the Davidic Royalty in the
Causcasus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
viii contents
5. The Renovator King: Tsar Ispor and the Mosaic Royalty:
Constantine and the Royalty of the Ruler-Converter to
Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
The Moses-Constantine Typology in the Mediaeval World . . . . 165
Moses-Constantine in Bulgaria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Moses-Constantine in the Tale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
6. Kings and Their Names . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205
Arev . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
Basil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210
Cometopouloi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
Constantine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
Nicephorus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
Roman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
Seleukia Simeklit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
Slav . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
Symeon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
Theodora and Her Son the Tsar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
Turgius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
Excursus One: The List of Names of the Bulgar Princes: Between
Myth and History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 249
Excursus Two: The Birth of the Founding Kings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 261
Excursus Three: The Tabernacle of the Empire or the State-Church . . . . 269
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297
1. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 400
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
2. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 401
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
3. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 401
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
4. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 402
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
5. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 402
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
6. GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 403
. With kind permission of the State
Historical Museum of Moscow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
This book is a translation of my monograph, Skazanie na Isaiah proroka
i formiraneto na politicheskata ideologija na rannosrednovekovna Bulgaria
(=Tale of the Prophet Isaiahandthe Formationof the Political Ideology of Early
Mediaeval Bulgaria), which was published in 2011 in Sofia. I had almost one
year after the publication of the Bulgarian text to take into consideration
all the suggestions of my colleagues, and now the reader has in his hands
a noticeably modified book. It is significantly enlarged and enriched with
ideas, some of which are new, others have been neglected in the Bulgarian
version. I strongly hope that my new study is more consistent and clear
and I would like to thank to all my colleagues who helped me achieve this
result. I would like as well to thank Vladimir Vladov for the translation of the
text and to express my special gratitude to Christopher Bonura for editing
manuscript and improving the English. Without his help, the book would
not be the same.
Following the commonpractice, the titles of books andarticles published
in other alphabets are transliterated in Latin characters. With Greek, I used
the classical transliteration, while for Cyrillic, I have employed the general
rules inuse for the Library of Congress system. However, I have preferredthe
commonEnglishspelling wherever that wouldhelpa reader unfamiliar with
Bulgarian, Serbian, or Russian. For example, I preferred archiepiskopia
(archbishopric) to arkhiepiskopija or arkhiepiskopiia, and Sofia (the
capital of Bulgaria) to either Sofija or Sofiia.
Several other points of clarification are given in the text itself. The book
was shaped by recommendations from the readers, Christopher Bonura,
Florin Curta (the editor of the series), and Marcella Mulder (assistant editor
at Brill). I assume responsibility for any error or absence.
Sofia, June 11, 2012
The day of Sts Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas
Mother of God Axion Estin
A book is conceived gradually, even though in the beginning there is always
a sudden spark that rouses the authors interest in a certain theme, a certain
source, in certain figures and events. The spark might come on some con-
crete occasion, at times an insignificant one, perhaps even unrelated to the
authors research. Afterwards, the spark might ignite a short-lived interest,
or be the initial cause of concrete research that will subsequently be left off
and never resumed, or else resumed much later, rekindled by some other
spark. However, another course is also possible: the author might proceed
towards his goal at a regular pace, movedby a lasting interest inthe problem;
or by the fact that the work has been orderedand this is an incitement to
which all, or nearly all, intellectuals submit.
This book is the result of such momentary gleams that eventually led to
the idea of a newreading of a mediaeval treatise, and along with this, a new
examination of many stereotypes that have been imposed for more than a
century and are now ingrained in societyand from there in historical sci-
ence. The first steps on the path that led to this book were taken in Rome in
the second half of the 1990s, incited by the seminars organised by Professor
Pierangelo Catalano and Professor Paolo Siniscalco, and entitled Da Roma
alla Terza Roma. Dealing with the idea of Empire, of the City and citizen-
ship, and of the religious foundations of state power and law, these seminars
provided me with the environment I had long been seeking in my desire
to fill my researches with a deeper meaning, to give them a greater com-
pleteness, integrity, that would go beyond the concrete work with sources
or with amassed literature; to situate my writing in the context of History
viewed not only as a chain of events but as a road to a destination, a pur-
pose, a meaning. The second stage of conception developed in Bucharest
during my stay in New Europe College, where a group was formed, a group
of people with shared interests in the problem area related to translating
theological terms into the vocabulary, conceptual framework, and essence
of political andlegal thought. This is anarea of study that Carl Schmitt desig-
natedas political theology, andthat was subsequently takenupandfurther
developed by various Catholic, Protestant, and, more recently (though not
very systematically) by Orthodox authors. I will not enumerate here the
friends who are part of this basically informal group, for they knowvery well
who they are, and I wish to avoid the risk that someone might be omitted
2 introduction
from this enumeration and hence feel unjustly offended. And the last step
towards defining the direction of my work was taken in Dumbarton Oaks,
Washington D.C., in the course of very interesting, indeed, unforgettable,
talks with Professor Irfan Shahd. The result of that stay was not only my
research about Tsar Arev (its idea sprang froma remote childhood memory
of my father relating to me events that had taken place in Iraq) but also the
general orientation to search for the Near Eastern roots of the literary work
I purposed to study.
That was howthe idea was born; as for its course of realisation, it spanned
from Sofia through Jerusalem, then through the little village of Hawarden
in Wales, and finally to Paris. It was during my stay in Jerusalem, on a
scholarship at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR),
that the main parts of the work related to the Old Testament tradition
were completed. These sections are easily recognisable within this book,
for they would have been impossible to write had I relied only on the
resources available in Bulgaria. That is why I want to specially thank the
team at AIAR and particularly the institutes director, Professor Seymour
Gitin, for the opportunity provided me. There is also an exceptionally rich
theological collection at Gladstones Library in Hawarden, Wales (which
at the time of my stay there was still called St Deiniols Library), and I
had the excellent opportunity to use it thanks to the specially kind atti-
tude of this institution towards Bulgaria and Bulgarians, an attitude that
is a legacy from the time of William Gladstone. I would like to personally
thank the warden, Father Peter Francis, and the other colleagues at the
Andsowe come tothe text itself, whichis the basis of this book. It is called
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah of How an Angel Took Him to the Seventh Heaven.
This work is known in Bulgarian historical science, and internationally as
well, as a Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle of the 11th Century. Evidently, the
latter title is not derived fromthe text itself, and it is not present in the only
preserved manuscript copy. What is more, the work has its own title, which
is writtenandclearly declaredinthe manuscript. Thenwhere didthe title by
which it is known to scholars come from? From the publishers of the text,
of course! Long ago Lj. Stojanovi put the following heading to the almost
fully normalised text he published: Kao bugarski letopis. This is not a true
title and evidently involves no claim of renaming the work. It was part of
the overall attitude of science in that time (in Serbia and elsewhere), which
looked upon the publication of a text as inseparable fromits interpretation.
This approach led to the normalisation of the works spelling and punctua-
tion, and to all sorts of intervention. I am not expressing disapproval of this
introduction 3
here, especially as the Serbian scholar did a good job and his intervention
in the text has not led to any deviations or misinterpretation. The above-
mentioned title, popular even today, was actually composed not by the first
publisher of the text but by Jordan Ivanov, who later republished the Tale.
Jordan Ivanovs title does contain an interpretation of the source, and also
a preliminary assessment of it (inasmuch as every title is situated above,
which means before, the work). His assessment was evidently influenced
by his milieu and his time. By this title, he basically posited the parameters
of interpretation, which later became almost the norm for other scholars. I
say almost because the Tale is so confusing that it would be impossible
for its interpretations to be unanimous and to follow a single model. These
interpretations will be discussed in a separate chapter on historiographi-
cal problems, but here I will deal with the title Jordan Ivanov gave to the
BulgarianApocryphal Chronicle of the 11thCentury is a designationencom-
passing several characteristics. The work is defined as a chronicle, even
though it quite clearly follows the tradition of Near Eastern and especially
biblical prophetic literature. It is true that it includes anenumerationof con-
secutive rulers; part of this account resembles a mythical pre-history, and it
all seems to end in the future. Nevertheless, this does not make it a chroni-
cle, does not put it in that genre.
In addition, the chronicle is Bulgarian and apocryphal; the latter is
understood as meaningagain thanks to Jordan Ivanova mostly Bogo-
milian work, or in any case a heretical one. As to whether the work is Bul-
garian, there is a basically unanimous opinion in Bulgarian historiography
that it is, and this opinion rests on the previous characteristic. Most schol-
ars consider it to be an original, national work, and if there is any difference
of opinion among them at all, it is whether the Tale is folkloric, dualistic
(Manichaean or Bogomilian), or simply a patriotic historical account. As I
said, the apocryphal nature of the text is usually thought of as dualistic and
Bogomilian, and only recently have other interpretations appeared. In fact,
the Tale really is apocryphal but not in the usual sense. In various cultural
and religious environments, apocrypha, pseudoepigrapha or deutero-
canonical books are the names given to texts that are in the line of the Holy
Scripture tradition but do not belong to its normative body of texts; specifi-
cally for Orthodox Christians, this body is defined by the Septuagint and the
Gospel-Apostolic tradition. In this sense, but in no other, I accept the thesis
that the work is apocryphal.
The titles last point for discussion is its dating fromthe 11th century. This
question has a place further on in the presentation; here I will only note that
4 introduction
I believe this to be a compilatory work in which some of the ideas reflected
date frombefore the indicatedtime, andthat it was probably completedafter
that time.
Here, at the beginning of this book, I must make a point in order to avoid
a grave misunderstanding of its purpose: the objective of the research I am
offering here is not to study the text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah as
a source of knowledge of historical events. I state this from the start, and
the reader should not expect any other approach here. The other approach
has been the topic of other studies by other researchers. I should also state
that I do not mean to, and cannot, completely reject that other view. It
has arisen and exists in a certain social milieu and, in the opinion of that
milieu, it undoubtedly carries information about events. This approach
elaborates ideological theses based on a view of history that is at least
partially imaginary; but the theses cannot be isolated from the aspect of
positive events in the work. That is why some authors have succeeded in
finding some quite interesting data in the story. If I object to the positivist
approachtothe work, it is because there is a tendency for this approachtobe
applied in interpreting all elements of the work, situating them in real time
and a real environment. This exclusive interpretation is, in my opinion, an
insufficient and dangerous way of approaching the source, and is dictated
by ideological considerations rooted inthe 19thcentury, considerations that
I discuss separately in this book.
We come to the question of what I intend to present and prove in this
book. Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is certainly one of the most interesting but
also one of the most ambiguous and unclear texts of mediaeval Bulgarian
literature. It is not an original work but a compilation consisting of various
layers, its essential basis being neither folkloric nor dualistic, andleast
of allpatriotic. The Tale has its origin essentially in biblical and Near
Eastern prophetic literature of the apocalyptic type, a genre in which the
presentation of the past serves as an occasion to express views on the
meaning of existence and on the future, understood as the Salvation of
people. To put it in modern terms, this is a work that states very significant
positions on issues of identity, the state, ideology, the origin and purpose
of power. These positions present the religious nature of state power on the
basis of, using terms and images from, Holy Scripture, and especially the Old
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah reflects the initial steps in the creation of a
new identity for the baptised Bulgarians and, in my opinion, it stresses two
main ideas in this respect. The first emphasis concerns the view that the
neophytes are the New Israel, a very familiar thesis both in the Byzantine
introduction 5
Empire and in Western Europe. The second emphasis is on a unity between
Romans/Byzantines and Bulgarians, which are presented in the text as prac-
tically a united people on a single territory and under the same rule, espe-
cially since the time of Tsar Constantine and after it. These two emphases
combine in the general idea of the New Israel as the earthly kingdom of
Romans/Byzantines and of Bulgarians.
These are the general theses that I will attempt to present and prove fur-
ther on in this book. The evaluation of this attempt is not for me to make
and not to be placed in the introductionit is left to you, the readers of this
research. I can only be thankful for the interest shown and express my grat-
itude to all those who have supported me in the creation of this book. Some
of them were already mentioned, with or without their names, as the peo-
ple who helped me in Sofia, Rome, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Washington D.C.,
Hawarden, and Paris.
chapter one
The Variable Destiny of the Kichevo Manuscript
and the Place of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah in It
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah of How an Angel Took him to the Seventh Heaven
has reached us in a single copy within a later Serbian manuscript from
the beginning of the 17th century. It was from this copy that Ljubomir
Stojanovi published the text in 1890. For a whole century after that, the
original itself was consideredlost, althoughit hadat times beeninthe hands
of researchers, some of whom (for instance A.M. Seliev) worked with it,
but regarding other topics without paying attention to the narrative that is
our object of interest. This confused destiny of the manuscript matches to a
great extent the insufficient clarity of the text itself. Fortunately, in the last
decade of the 20th century, Anatolij Turilov rediscovered the manuscript,
which in fact had never been lost, and put it back into academic circulation.
That is why the brief description of the manuscript and the context of Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah within it, will be based on the large, exceptionally
important article by Turilov, published in 1995.
Our text has come down to us in a codex, which is in State Historical
Museum (= GIM), Moscow, Khludov collection, nr. 123, a manuscript of
457 paper sheets (the beginning is missing) in format 4 (195135mm).
A. Turilov tracedthe watermarks anddatedthe manuscript to the beginning
of the 17th century, explicitly indicating that a date around the turn of the
16th to 17th century is less probable.
The text is written in two columns, in small calligraphic semi-uncial
script. Ligatures are abundant throughout the text. The spelling is definedas
A. Turilov, Kichevskij sborniks Bolgarskoj apokrificheskoj letopisju (Datirovka, sostav
i istorija rukopisi), Palaeobulgarica, XIX, 1995, 4, pp. 239 (see pp. 25 about the disappear-
ance of the manuscript and its adventures). See also Sv. Nikolova, M. Yovcheva, T. Popova,
L. Taseva, Bulgarskoto srednovekovno nasledstvo v sbirkata na Alexeij Khludov v Drzhavnija
istoricheski muzej v Moskva. Katalog, Sofia, 1999, No 87 (Khlud. 123), pp. 9293 and fig. 94
8 chapter one
Serbian, with traces of the Resava School orthography. The original binding
has beenpreserved: a woodenboardcoveredwithleather; it once hadclasps
that are now missing.
The contents of the manuscript are quite rich and diverse. A. Turilov
presents them in detail in the above-cited article, and I shall not repeat his
observations here.
In short, the texts comprise commemorations of Bulgar-
ianas well as Serbiansaints. This is understandable, as the manuscript is Ser-
bian and was probably created in a Serbian environment. These commem-
orations include: Serbian Archbishop Arsenius, St King Stephen Deanski,
St Sava, St Symeon/Stephen Nemanja, St Vitus day, etc. In addition to this,
there is an impressive Eastern Slavic presence and influence in the collec-
tion, whichis one of its characteristic features.
It is representedinparticular
by the orations of St Cyril Turovsky, but also by some typically Russian com-
memorations andfeasts. These include the feast of Veil of Our Lady (October
1) and Translationof the relics of St Nicholas fromMyra inLycia to Bari (May
9); at least the first of these was exceptionally important for the ideology of
state power. Inthe feast of St Nicholas, we cansee a Serbianconnection, for a
direct Italian influence was coming to this country by way of the Dalmatian
coast, and the cult of this saint, centred on his shrine in Bari, was popular in
All these observations indicate the manuscript was composed in an envi-
ronment, and perhaps a location, of Southern SlavicEastern Slavic collabo-
rationandexchange, whichgives us some idea as to its history andfate. Ana-
tolij Turilov notes the inclusion of a number of texts related to saints by the
name of Anna, and proposes that the locality where it was created was Stu-
denica or Mount Athos.
In any case, he relates the veneration of St Anna to
Serbia and specifically to the wife of St Symeon/ Stephen Nemanja, Anna
the nun Anastasia. Despite these observations, which are indubitable, and
although it was probably composed in a Serbian milieu with a strong Rus-
sianinfluence, what we knowof the manuscripts subsequent pathindicates
its history took place entirely among Bulgarians of the western (southwest-
ern) Bulgarian lands, and was especially connected with a Bulgarian ecclesi-
astic, Hieromonk Cyril Pejinovi. In any case, I believe it is certain that the
manuscript comprising the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah was created and
kept in monastic circles and has some relation to the large centres of South
Slavic collaboration in Macedonia.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 826.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 3536.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 3738.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 9
As for the textual assemblage in which the apocryphon is included in the
Kichevo manuscript, I can agree with A. Turilov that the work is not in its
own proper literary context there. There are two more groups of apocryphal
works in the manuscript, which also do not belong to its convoy, for they
do not form a unity with it in terms of their place in the manuscript and
in terms of their contents. One group encompasses apocryphal prayers to
St Martyr Tryphon. The second has attracted greater interest: it consists
of Paralipomena Ieremiae, which is combined with Revelation of Baruch.
This editing is unique; the uniting of the two works was probably done in
a Slavic milieu. It merits special attention, but we should point out that,
within the manuscript, this couple of works remains isolated from Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah and does not form a coherent set with the latter.
These observations, based chiefly on research by other scholars, and
without my having first-hand knowledge of the manuscript, seemto suggest
that Tale of the Prophet Isaiah has been put there by chance. Thus, the study
of the whole collection provides practically no concrete data, except that it
helps us localise the compiling of the work. Thoughthis conclusionseems to
me improper and dubious, I do not feel I could offer anything more concrete
than this for the time being. It is evident that Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is
a compiled text and that it existed chiefly in Western Bulgaria, where it
had some dissemination (as far as we can judge by the sole copy that has
reached us) inthe Serbianand more generally SouthSlavic context. We have
reasons to classify it as monastic literature and to define its environment of
dissemination as a monastic one.
Finally, we come tothe questionas tothe possible influence that a printed
bookJacob Kraykovs Book for Various Occasions, published in 1572 in
Venicemay have had on the manuscript as a whole and specifically on
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. This book precedes the Kichevo manuscript by
several decades, it contains some similar topics, and it had a proximate, if
not identical, area of dissemination in Macedonia and the Western Balkans.
Further on in this book I state my view as to this possible influence, but in
any case, it can hardly be thought of as anything other than a hypothesis.
I shouldpoint out that inanarticle devotedto a concrete apocryphal text fromthe book
by Jacob Kraykov Book for Various Occasions, Janja Jerkov Capaldo has expressed the view
that this printed book has had influence upon the manuscript tradition and dissemination
of the apocryphon (J. Jerkov Capaldo, Un apocrifo sulla Dormizione in un libro slavo pub-
blicato a Venezia nel 1572, Europa orientalis, 27, 2008, p. 28). This may serve as an indirect
example of possible influence of this book upon the manuscript specifically as regards the
reference to the death of Tsar Peter in Rome.
10 chapter one
Here I would draw attention to another circumstance that can only be
mentioned in passing within the framework of this study, but could not
be researched in greater depth without access to the manuscript. I am
referring to the two paschal tables (l y ), included
in the Kichevo manuscript at f. 255
; they may have some relation to the
paschal tables ascribed to Tsar Peter, published by Jacob Kraykov in 1572,
and may be similar to those that P.R. Slavejkov saw in an euchologium,
dating, possibly, from the 17th century.
The data on the text, which Turilov
presents in his description, are insufficient to permit a judgment as to the
possible identity of the texts, and so I will not state any specific position
on the matter. Perhaps future research will be able to confirm or reject the
hypothesis concerning the influence of the 1572 Book for Various Occasions
on the Kichevo manuscript, but for the time being this can be left as just a
topic of discussion.
The Text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
Here I offer a new publication of the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, made
onthe basis of the very high-quality photographs of the Kichevo manuscript
where the work is included. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first
publication based entirely on the manuscript after that of Lj. Stojanovi.
The latest edition prepared and published in the book by A. Miltenova
and V. Tpkova-Zaimova
comments on all the Serbian scholars inaccura-
cies of transcription and corrects them, inasmuch as it was realised after
A. Turilovs rediscovery of the manuscript. I find some differences only in
the cited numbers. Here I have endeavoured to offer an edition that fully
conforms to and follows all the particularities of the copyists spelling, even
including the overdeveloped andit seems to meunfounded use of dia-
critical signs, a particularity that might possibly contain useful information
for understanding the text. The manuscript columns are published as they
are to be found within the original, and the lines in this edition conform to
the lines in the columns. I have made no changes of punctuation, nor added
R. Pavlova, Peter Chernorizetsstarobulgarski pisatel ot X vek, (= Kirilo-Methodievski
studii, vol. 9), Sofia, 1994, p. 29; M. Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata paleotipia, XVXVIII vek,
Sofia, 2007, pp. 5859; A. Nikolov, Politicheskatamisl v rannosrednovekovkaBulgaria (sredata
na IXkraja na X vek), Sofia, 2006, pp. 252253.
V. Tpkova-Zaimova, A. Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnata knizhnina vv Vizantija i v
srednovekovna Bulgarija, Sofia, 1996, pp. 192206; V. Tpkova-Zaimova, A. Miltenova, Histori-
cal and Apocalyptic Literature in Byzantiumand Medieval Bulgaria, Sofia, 2011, pp. 274300.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 11
any division into parts marked by consecutive numbers, capital letters or
new lines. In this way, a more complete idea of the text itself is obtained,
and my personal intervention in it has been reduced to a minimum. I have
only taken the liberty of placing footnotes in certain places, and numbering,
in the margins, the original lines of the Old Slavonic text. The text written
with red ink is underlined.
The translation of the text, added to this edition of the original, is the one
included in Kiril Petkovs book, published several years ago.
It is printed
parallel to the original, and only some minor changes have been made,
chiefly related to the spelling of some personal and geographical names,
which has been brought in conformity with the spelling used in this book:
Isot/Izot, Ozius/Ozia, Goliat/Goliath, Dristar/Dorostorum, Odeljian/Ode-
lean, Tcherven/Cherven, Nesebar/Messenbria, Shtip/tip, etc. There are also
some other slight differences. I must stress, however, that I did not use
Petkovs translation in the body of my research and I sometimes took the
liberty to use other words without changing the sense of the text.
K. Petkov, Voices of Medieval Bulgaria, Seventh-FifteenthCentury. The Records of aBygone
Culture, Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2008, pp. 194199. I would like to take this opportunity to thank
the author for kindly permitting the publication of his translation here.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 13
Chludov 123, f. 400d-403a
f. 400d i
m m
a ,
5 i


10 m m

15 a


u w

ii y ,
m w y , ,
, , , , u

w w

35 m w
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah of How an
Angel Took Himto the Seventh Heaven
I, Prophet Isaiah, beloved among the
prophets of our Lord God Jesus Christ,
came on Gods command to tell you
what will happen in the last days of
humankind all over the earth. Not I am
narrating this, brothers, but the Heav-
enly Father told me this through His
Holy Spirit and [now] I am telling to
you. Here is what [happened], when the
Lord God showed His good will toward
me. Then he sent to me his holy angel
and lifted me up from the earth to
the heavenly heights, and there I saw
angels who sang and praised the Lord.
Then [he] took me again to the Second
Heaven and there I saw many arrange-
ments and rejoiced mightily on account
of what I saw, andall my bones were con-
founded. And the angel who led me said:
Straighten up, Isaiah, to see the great
and unspoken divine glory! He led me
to the Third Heaven, then to the Fourth,
the Fifth, the Six, until we reached even
to the Seventh Heaven. There I saw a
judge, sitting on a high and most sub-
lime throne, and I saw a river of boil-
ing fire flowing around him, and thou-
sands and thousands of angels served
himandinnumerable more stoodbefore
him. Then again I saw to his right angels
singing to him,
The letter corrected from to .
14 chapter one
f. 401a m ,


5 m
10 a
i, i

m m


20 ii

25 m

30 a
w mm ,

35 ,

and to his left sinners crying. Then I
asked the angel that led me saying unto
him: Sire, showme my Lord, who called
me from the womb of my mother. The
angel of the Powers of the Lord told me:
Hearken, oh Isaiah, chosen prophet of
God, it is impossible to see the Lord in
the body, but you will hear His voice,
His words directed to you. And then,
therefore, I heard the voice of my Lord
God Who spoke thus to me: Oh Isaiah,
Isaiah, My beloved one, go and tell to
humankind on earth all that you saw
and heard, and what will happen to
the last of [your] kind in the last days.
And I told Him: Lord, I feel good to
be here; do not send me back to where
I came from. Then I heard the voice
of my Lord God Who spoke thus to
me: Isaiah, my beloved prophet, how
else will the people who live on earth
learn? There will be no other prophet
after you, nor will there be another after
that, nor will any one be coming up, nor
will any one tell my words. Then the
angel brought me down from the heav-
ens andput me downonearth. Andthen
I heard a voice that told me something
else: Oh Isaiah, My beloved prophet, go
westwards from the upper countries of
Rome, take one third part of the Cumans
called Bulgarians, and populate the land
called Karvuna that was evacuated by
the Romans and the Hellenes. Then I,
brothers, on Gods command
The word is added later above the line.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 15
f. 401b

5 , a
m , m
m ,

m .

m m , m

20 , i

, , a

w m ,

i w

35 m

came to the left parts of Rome, took
aside a third of the Cumans and led
them on the way, pointing out with a
reed, and brought them over to the river
called Zatiusa and to another one, called
Ereusa. Back then, there were three large
rivers. I populated the land of Karvuna,
called Bulgarian land, for it had been
deserted by the Hellenes for one hun-
dred and thirty years. And I populated
it with many people from the Danube
to the sea and I made one among them
a tsar: his name is Tsar Slav. This tsar
set up country and towns. For some
time these people were pagans. This tsar
made a hundred mounds in the Bulgar-
ian land; then they gave him the name
The Hundred-mound Tsar. These were
years of plenty, and there were hundred
mounds in his kingdom. He was the first
tsar in the Bulgarian land, and ruled for
one hundred and nineteen years and
passedaway. Thenafter himanother tsar
was found in the Bulgarian land, a child
carried in a basket for three years; he
was given the name Tsar Ispor and he
took over the Bulgarian realm. This tsar
built great cities: at the Danube, the city
of Dorostorum; a great rampart between
the Danube and the sea; and he built
the city of Pliska. This tsar slew a mul-
titude of Ishmailites and populated the
entire land of Karvuna, for before that
there were Ethiopians. A child was born
of him, and it was called Izot. Tsar Ispor
ruled over the Bulgarian land for one
hundred and seventy two years and then
the Ishmailites slaughtered him on the
Danube. After the slaying of Ispor,
16 chapter one
f. 401c

u m


m w

m u
w ,

15 ,


25 , ui


30 m , w ,


tsar of the Bulgarians, the Cumans were
called Bulgarians, for earlier they had
been godless pagans under Ispor and
[lived] in great iniquity and were always
enemies of the Greek kingdomfor many
years. Andafter that the sonof Tsar Ispor
took the Bulgarian kingdom again; his
name was Izot. This tsar slew Ozia, the
king of the East with his armies, and
Goliath, the sea Frank. There were many
great cities in the years of the Bulgarian
Tsar Izot. Two sons were born of him:
he called the one Boris and the other
Symeon. Tsar Izot ruled one hundred
years and three months and died in the
city called Pliska. After the death of Tsar
Izot his sonBoris took over the Bulgarian
kingdom. He was pious and very devout.
This tsar converted the entire country
of Bulgaria and built many churches all
over the Bulgarian land and round about
the river Bregalnitsa and there took over
the kingdom. On Ovche pole [= Sheeps
Field] he built white churches and went
over to Dobrich, and there ended his life.
He ruled sixteen years, without sin and
without a wife. His kingdomwas blessed
and he died in God and in peace. Then
Symeon, his brother, took over the Bul-
garian kingdom again, and built great
cities at the sea, and he built the great
city of Preslav, and there he took over the
kingdom all the way to the city called
Zvechan and to Thessalonica. The city
of Preslav [he] built and worked on for
twenty eight years. Many portents did
Tsar Symeonproduce. [He] ruledfor one
hundred and thirty years and sired St
Peter, the Bulgarian tsar, a man saintly
and wholly righteous.
Sic! Error of the copyist.
Correction: it was writteb but later corrected into
. The word () is not present in the manuscript but only in some editions.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 17
f. 401d

10 wm

, , i

20 m wm


w w
25 w


30 u


35 i

At that time, when Tsar Symeon ruled,
he taxed his land from all the provinces
of his kingdom that much: he took one
sheaf, one egg, and one spoon of butter
per year. That was his tax on the land,
nothing else did he require fromhis peo-
ple. And there was plenty at that time,
under this Tsar Symeon. After his death,
his son Tsar Peter took over the Bulgar-
ian kingdom, and he was tsar of the Bul-
garians and of the Greeks as well. He
ruledthe Bulgarianlandfor twelve years,
without sin and without a wife, and his
rule was blessed. In the days and years
of St Peter, the tsar of the Bulgarians,
there was plenty of everything, that is
to say, of wheat and butter, honey, milk
and wine, the land was overflowing with
every gift of God, there was no dearth of
anything but by the will of God every-
thing was in abundance and to satiety.
And then, in the years of St Peter, tsar
of the Bulgarians, there was a widow in
the Bulgarianland, young, wise, andvery
pious, by the name of Elena. She gave
birth to Constantine, a saintly and very
pious man. He was the son of Constan-
tine the Green and Elena, and this Con-
stantine was called Porphyrogenitus and
he was tsar of the Romans.
18 chapter one
f. 402a m
m w









m ,

30 m w

35 m
Because of envy, his mother Elena fled
from the Roman Hellenes to the city of
Viza, found herself with a child, and gave
birth to Tsar Constantine. To this tsar
an angel of God revealed the good word
about the Honest Cross from the East.
Tsar Constantine and Tsar Peter loved
one another. He gathered his army, took
his mother andset off togo East, over the
sea, to the Craniums place. There was
a small town called Byzantium where
Constantine was staying. As Constantine
came to that place, he saw that it was
desolate from sea to sea, and thought in
himself: If I go to the Craniums place
and find the Honest Cross of Christ, on
which Christ was crucified, I will come
back to this desolate place, I will have
a city built here, and I will call it New
Jerusalem, the resting place of saints
and the adornment of tsars. However,
while Tsar Constantine was on his way
to the Craniums place, certain violent
men came, as tall as giants, and devas-
tated the Bulgarian land by the sea. The
Bulgarian tsar Peter, a righteous man,
gave up his kingdom, fled to the West,
to Rome, and there ended his life. After
that, another tsar arose, called Seleukia
with the nickname Simeklit. He went
out from the mountain called Vitosha
and went
Error of the copyist, instead of he wrote . The reason may be misun-
derstanding of Craniums place (= Golgotha) that became Krainievo (linked to the word
kraj = end, limit, border).
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 19
f. 402b
, ,

10 ,
w m m w

15 ,
, u , ,
w , ,

20 m

m m

25 m i

30 c m

35 .

to the field called Romania, and there
he took the kingdom. He built five cities
in the Bulgarian land: 1/Plovdiv; 2/Srem;
3/Breznik; 4/Sredets; 5/Ni. He ruled
in the city of Sredets over the Bulgar-
ian land for thirty seven years. And
there did Tsar Seleukia end his life, by
the city of Breznik. While Seleukia was
building the five cities in the Bulgarian
land, Tsar Constantine found the Hon-
est Cross of Christ. He came back to
the city of Byzantium and thought in
himself: Where is that desolate place?
I will build a city and I will call it Con-
stantinople. ThenTsar Constantine sent
an evil curator to Rome and told him:
Go and chase away the Roman army
for six years. He went and sent them
away for three years. The curator was a
wicked man, and he conspired with the
Hellenes toslay Tsar Constantine andhis
mother Elena. But God saw their high-
minded treachery and struck them with
aninvisible stickandthey became invisi-
ble. The evil curator had neither wife nor
children. And the Romans were taken in
the New Jerusalem. Then Tsar Constan-
tine arranged well the entire Kingdom
of Jerusalem with royal palaces, set off
with his army toward the Danube, and
built a city called Bdin, and its nickname
was Babylon on the Seven Hills [Hep-
talophos Babylon]. And again did Con-
stantine populate the Bulgarian lands to
the west. After taking all these lands, he
created seventy
cities, and spent sixty
two years in his kingdom and passed
away. After himanother tsar arose in the
Bulgarian land.
There are some erased letters in the end of the line. Maybe the copyist tried to write here
the number of the year but later gave up.
In the K. Petkovs translationnine. This
is an error of the Jordan Ivanovs edition, where stead (= 70) he wrote (= 9): Ivanov,
Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, Sofia, 1931, p. 285. In both editions of A. Miltenova and
V. Tpkova-Zaimova (Istoriko-apocaliptichnataknizhnina, p. 201; Historical andApocalyptic
Literature, pp. 289, 294) only in the translations the number is 17 but in the edition of the
originala text70.
20 chapter one
f. 402c w i
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, c


, ,
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15 w m
cw , w

m , m
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30 wc

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, ,

His name was Symeon and he ruled
twelve years and died. After that again
a tsar arose, by the name of Nicepho-
rus, and took over the Bulgarian king-
dom. He slew the lawless tsar Maximian
and his army. He also built Dimotik [Di-
dymoteichon], and Morunets [Kavala],
and Serres, to the west Belgrade and
Kostur [Kastoria], and at the Danube,
Nicopolis. He ruled for forty three years
and perished. He had a child whose
name was Symeon the Wise. He took
over the Bulgarian kingdom, but he
was dishonest and evil with the peo-
ple and he ruined the lands of Bul-
garia, Jerusalem, and Rome, the lands
[under the power] of Tsar Constan-
tine. Then all the people called aloud
to Tsar Symeon: Woe to us, brothers,
on account of this tsar! Tsar Symeon
spent four years in his kingdom and
passed away. Then another tsar arose,
from another lineage, by the name of
Basil. The crown of the pious and Christ-
loving Tsar Constantine rested on his
head. Tsar Basil took over the king-
dom and destroyed all enemy lands and
pagan peoples, the brave man that he
was. In his days, there were many goods
among the people. Tsar Basil spent thirty
years in rule, without a wife, sinless,
and his rule was blessed. In the days
of Tsar Basil three brothers, [sons] of a
widow-prophetess became tsars: Moses,
Aaron, and Samuel. And there was a
son [alternative meaning: servant] of
Samuel by the name of Augustian. He
took over the Bulgarian and the Greek
kingdom and reigned for thirty seven
years. And after that another tsar of the
same widow arose, took over the king-
dom, ruled three years, and passed away.
And after that another tsar arose,
The texte was changed and probably the word is written later. Probably the reason is a
damage on the folio.
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 21
f. 402d



10 w


15 m m


w u

, w

m ,

30 ,


35 i
f. 403a m m
by the name of Roman, from the same
lineage, and took over the Bulgarian
kingdom. He gathered his army, [for he
was] angry with the Eastern tsar, and
went over the sea, [planning] to destroy
two tsars, but destroyed his army. And
he came back from the East to the city
of Preslav. Roman reigned for nine years
and died. After that another tsar arose,
son of the righteous Theodora, a pious
and devout tsar. He built great monas-
teries in the Bulgarian and Greek land.
There were all kinds of goods during
his reign. He ruled for twenty three
years and passed away. Then another
tsar came out, by the name of Gagan,
and his nickname was Odelean, a very
handsome one. He took over the Bul-
garian and the Greek kigdom. He ruined
in Kumida two cities, which were across
the sea. And he built three cities in the
Bulgarian land: 1/ Cherven; 2/ Messem-
bria; 3/ tip. And there he ruled for
twenty eight years and was cut down
by a man from a foreign nation at
Ovche Pole [Sheeps Field]. And after
that another tsar appeared from Con-
stantinople, by the name of Arev, sat on
the throne of Tsar Constantine, ruled
for seven years, and passed away. And
then another tsar came from the south-
ern countries by the name of Turgius. He
taking over the crown of Tsar Constan-
tine andtaking the entire Greek andBul-
garian kingdom, he will reign for seven-
teen years and will pass away. And then
came out
certain violent swindlers called Pech-
enegs, lawless and infidel.
22 chapter one
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 400
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 23
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 401
24 chapter one
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 401
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 25
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 402
26 chapter one
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 402
the text of the literary work and its manuscript tradition 27
GIM 86795, Kludov. 123, f. 403
chapter two
The story of scholarly research on Tale of the Prophet Isaiah in Bulgarian his-
toriography has largely matchedthe ideological pathof this fieldof research.
Regrettably, during almost the whole 20th century our historiography was
unable to emancipate itself from the nationalistic ideas of the preceding
century, and fromcertain methodslinked to those ideasof interpreting
sources. In the case of this source, the situation appears even more compli-
catedbecause of the unclear presentationinthe work itself. This lack of clar-
ity has permitted anyone willing to tear the text out of its historical and lit-
erary context to discover within it a confirmation of his own ideas, or of the
general direction of interests in society at the time in which the respective
scholar lived. Thus, in the studies devoted to the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
we see included all the themes that excited Bulgarians during the past two
centuries: the Bogomils, the Bulgars, national self-affirmation, anti-Greek
propaganda, etc. These studies have been elaborated within the framework
of a markedly national interpretation of the source. In this respect, we
should look at the difference between the Bulgarian scholars and the non-
Bulgarians who have worked on the text in question. The latterI mean
mainly K. Jireek, S.A. Ivanov, A. Turilov, D. Polyvjannyj, etc.propose what
are in some cases far more balanced interpretations, without exaggeration
in one direction or the other. Still, I do not mean to place all the Bulgarian
scholars in the same category. On the contrary, some have proposed very
adept interpretations, devoid of strong ideological overtones, and others
have approached the work from a strictly textological angle, without aim-
ing at any ulterior social objectives in their research.
The source was known in Bulgarian historiography as Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle
of the 11th Century. This was a title that Jordan Ivanov contrived for the work, but I believe it
is time to leave this designation behind, for it does not correspond to the actual text. I shall
dwell on this later in my research.
30 chapter two
Evidently, the different tenors of interpretation of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah have been determined both by the social demand of the times
(whether or not clearly realised by the scholar) and by the personal prefer-
ences of the researcher. In this way, different currents of interpretation have
emerged, which oftentimes interweave and interpenetrate. BelowI will dis-
cuss these currents separately, but here I will mention the more basic ones:
the Bogomil-centred interpretation, the Bulgar-centred interpretation, the
positivistic-historic, the mythological, etc. I do not want to leave the impres-
sion I reject the achievements of these studies. The diversity of interpreta-
tionis due to the insufficient clarity of the interpretedtext; hence, every new
study contributes to its clarification, by bringing a new point of view, and
they have all encouraged further attention to the text, even if only by posit-
ing a thesis that would later be refuted and rejected. Moreoverand I want
to stress thismany of the studies have more or less really contributed to
understanding the work under consideration, and merit our attention and
Before pursuing this issue, I should briefly discuss how the Tale came be
Publications of the Text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
The Tale has had an interesting publication history. The manuscript that
contained the only known copy of the text disappeared around the end
of the 19th century andas mentioned earlierit was generally thought to
have been lost during the revolution in Russia. Thus for an entire century,
historians had access only to the first publication of the source, realised by
Ljubomir Stojanovi in 1890.
In his edition, the Serbian scholar followed
what was then the normal practice when publishing Cyrillic mediaeval
texts: he normalised the spelling. This procedure may sometimes lead to
important changes in the original appearance of the source, which is cer-
tainly not favourable to an adequate interpretation. Anatolij Turilov has
drawnattentiontosome aspects inthis connectionandmaintains quite cor-
rectly that since there was only a single extant manuscript copy, its spelling
ought to have been preserved in the publication of the work.
Lj. Stojanovi, Stari srpski hrisovuli, akti, biografije, letopisi, tipici, pomenici zapisi i dr.,
in: Spomenik, Srpska Kraljevska Akademija, t. III, 1890, pp. 190193.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, p. 27.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 31
In fact the edition by Ljubomir Stojanovi contains only the text of the
work and an indication of the manuscript in which it is included (Po
rukopisi Preobraenskog staroobrednog manastira iz zbirke Hilferdingove
[According to a manuscript from the Transfiguration Old Believers monas-
tery, from the collection of Hilferding] nr. 123). The only element in Lj. Sto-
janovis publication that resembles a commentary on the text is the title
he has chosen for it, which is: Kao bugarski letopis (Like a Bulgarian Chron-
icle). This was why approximately thirty years later, when the apocryphon
was reprinted, it was given the heading that still remains today: Bulgarian
Apocryphal Chronicle.
This title of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah was given to the text by Jordan
Ivanov when he republished the text in 1923.
His work consisted in simply
reprinting and reediting the text published by Ljubomir Stojanovi, for the
manuscript was considered lost or in any case inaccessible in the wake
of the political upheaval in Russia following the First World War. Thus,
Jordan Ivanov had not worked with the manuscript itself, nor with any
photographs of it. This second edition has certainly been very important
for research on Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, for it has taken the place of
the largely inaccessible publication by Ljubomir Stojanovi and become
the basic source of information for Bulgarian research. In addition, it is
accompanied by a commentary, which we will discuss further.
EventhoughJordanIvanov didnot workdirectly fromthe manuscript, his
publication contains some innovations that have influenced later compre-
hension of the source. The title is only one example. Also important innova-
tionis his divisionof the text intochapters, whichreorganises it andmakes it
easier to understand. However, such an intervention could be judged exces-
sive, for it involves an element of interpretation. J. Ivanovs version even
displays some deviations from Lj. Stojanovis publication, which consist in
omissions. They are due to faulty attention and are typical copyist errors,
but they certainly reflect onthe quality of the publication. These places have
beennoticed and indicated by A. Turilov
and I will not deal with themhere,
for they have no direct bearing on our further discussion.
The last publication to date of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah was realised by
A. Miltenova in her book co-authored by V. Tpkova-Zaimova and devoted
to historical-apocalyptic literature among the Orthodox peoples.
A. Turilov
J. Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, Sofia, 1925 (reprint, Sofia, 1970), pp. 273287.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 2728.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnata knizhnina, pp. 192206. In 2011
32 chapter two
knewabout this edition, which was very long awaited due to the publishing
houses pace of work, but apparently he did not have access to it at the time
when he was preparing his article on the rediscovered Kichevo manuscript.
I conclude from his remarks that he hoped the rediscovered manuscript
would be taken into consideration in the new edition of the text; I can now
say that it has been.
Regardless of this, I have taken the liberty of copying
and republishing the textnot because I had any doubts as to the quality
of the editors work, but to make the present book complete, and in order to
attempt to follow the original in a more precise way, avoiding, for instance,
the lowering of supralinear letters down to the line, etc.
As for the published translations, I will only list them here. The first
modern Bulgarian translation was by Ivan Dujev, and appeared in the
early 1940s.
All subsequent editions have practically repeated this one,
until the publication of the book by V. Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova,
which includes a new translation supplied with notes on differences from
the previous one.
I will not trace all the translations into English and
French that have been made so far. I will only mention the recent English
translation of Kiril Petkov,
which is included in the present book, and the
latest translation in the recently published English language edition of the
book by V. Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova.
This overview of the publications was a necessary step before going on
to the next part of this study, which concerns the various interpretations of
the text. I will try to systematise them into several separate groups, as this
will facilitate a better understanding of how the source has been studied.
However, since, as I said, these approaches to the text are not mutually
exclusive and indeed are often interconnected, some of themmight fall into
more than one group.
Most Bulgarianstudies have highlighted the patriotic character of Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. This emphasis is undoubtedly the result of the basic line of
a new English edition of the book and the text of our source came out: Tpkova-Zaimova,
Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 274300.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, p. 27 note 36. See Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Istoriko-
apocaliptichnata knizhnina, p. 193 note 2.
Iv. Dujev, Iz starata bulgarska knizhnina, t. I, Sofia, 1943, pp. 154161.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnataknizhnina, pp. 199206, see and
p. 193/194 note 13.
K. Petkov, Voices of Medieval Bulgaria, Seventh-FifteenthCentury. The Records of aBygone
Culture, Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2008, pp. 194199.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 291295.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 33
Bulgarian historiography, the aim of which was national consolidation and
to raise the self-esteem of Bulgarians. The patriotism of the author of this
work has been demonstrated in different ways, which deserve attention and
will be examined separately.
The first argument for the patriotic nature of the Tale is that it has
preserved the memory of the Bulgarian state and its rulers during the age
of Byzantine domination, when the work was supposedly composed. Many
scholars have made this assertion.
The text is thus saidtocontaina memory
of the past Bulgarian state, preserved in the age after that state fell under
Byzantine domination. It is difficult to disagree with such a view, especially
as the story obviously begins within the context of the Bulgarian state and
its rulers. Yet it seems to me that this does not correspond to what could
be called patriotism. The latter term has a markedly modern sound and
meaning and is the product of 19th century nationalistic ideals, and it would
be anachronistic to read into the Tale these concepts which arose long after
the era of the book and the events described in it.
Whereas there is some agreement among scholars on the view that the
memory of the Bulgarianstate has beenpreservedinthe work, the argument
that the Tale is patriotic because of its anti-Byzantine position is far less
generally accepted; indeed, it is rarely supported. This viewwas emphasised
especially inthe earlier studies of M. Kajmakamova,
but most other authors
believe the work displays full loyalty to the Empire.
Still, Kajmakamova
gives various arguments for her standpoint. Basic among these is that the
work is centred on Bulgarians and the Bulgarian state, which, in the context
of the conquest of this state by the Byzantine Empire, the idea and memory
of which were inherently anti-Byzantine. Another significant argument of
M. Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bulgarskoto leto-
pisanie, Starobulgarskaliteratura, vol. 15, 1984, pp. 5159; M. Kajmakamova, Bulgarskatasred-
novekovna istoriopis, Sofia, 1990, pp. 124132; M. Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na
Bulgarski apokrifenletopis , Civitas Divino-humana. InhonoremannorumLXGeorgii Bakalov
(Bulgarska vechnost, t. 60), Sofia, TANGRA TanNakRa IK, 2004, pp. 429ff., 438.
Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bulgarskoto letopisa-
nie, pp. 51, 5455, 56, 58; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata srednovekovna istoriopis, pp. 125127,
K. Jireek, Das christliche Element in der Balkanlnder, Sitzungsberichte des Kaiseri-
schen Academie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Philol.-hist. classe, Bd. 136, 2, 1897, S. 198; V.
Beevliev, Nachaloto na bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, Srednove-
kovna Bulgaria i Chernomorieto, Varna, 1982, pp. 4243; S.A. Ivanov, Bolgarskaja apokri-
ficheskaja letopis kak pamjatnik etnicheskogo samosoznanija bolgar, Razvitie etnicheskogo
samosoznanija slavjanskikh narodov v epokhu zrelogo feodalizma, ed. G.G. Litavrin, Moscow,
1989, pp. 7375.
34 chapter two
Kajmakamova is that the Turkic origin of the Bulgarians is underscored
in the text, which relates them to the Cumans; this is also considered an
anti-Byzantine characteristic.
It should be acknowledged, however, that
M. Kajmakamova also points out the positive attitude of the compiler of
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah towards some of the basileis, who are idealised
in the work.
She has presented a new view on these matters in recent
years, and has offered a considerably more interesting study of the source.
In an article from2004, Kajmakamova points out the unity of the concept of
Bulgaria andthe Roman-Byzantine Empire withinthe Tale, whichaccording
to some mediaeval scholars was the last kingdom from the vision of the
prophet Daniel.
This unity is a basis for the declared identity of Bulgaria
as an Orthodox realm based on the imperial philosophy formed during the
time of Tsar Symeon.
I find these assertions astute and quite justified, but
they would then seem to exclude any ideological opposition to the Empire
or any anti-Byzantine motifs, patriotism, or national propaganda in Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah, as some scholars have claimed.
I do not think we find enough arguments, or clear and indisputable evi-
dence, supporting the anti-Byzantine character of this work. The com-
pilers focus onthe Bulgarianpast, whichhe presented ina heroic light, does
not suggest any opposition to the Empire. To discover such an attitude, we
would have to suppose there was a primordial antagonism and intolerance
between Bulgarians and Byzantines, but such antagonism is primarily an
assumptionof modernhistoriography, andspecifically inBulgariannational
historiography in the 19th and 20th century. This antagonism was truly a
product of the ecclesiastic struggle against the Ecumenical Patriarchy dur-
ing the last decades of Ottoman domination and at the time when the auto-
cephalous Exarchy was created. It was these events that poisoned mutual
feelings and provoked intolerance between Bulgarians and Greeks. They lie
at the root of the notionof the double bondage to whichthe Bulgarianpeo-
ple were supposedly subjected, and which became an overriding theme in
Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bulgarskoto letopisa-
nie, pp. 5455. In the later researches of the author this thesis is not so categorical: Kaj-
makamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , pp. 428429.
Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bulgarskoto letopisa-
nie, p. 58.
Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , pp. 423424,
Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , pp. 418, 437
438, and passim.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 35
howBulgarians came to perceive the past. That is probably the explanation
for the attitude to the Byzantine Empire in Bulgarian historiography, and for
the fact that Bulgaria, certainly the most thoroughly Byzantinised country
inthe mediaeval Orthodox world(or, inthe worlds of Dimitri Obolensky, the
Byzantine Commonwealth, a culture that was recently designated more
aptly by I. Bozhilov as Byzantine world / Monde byzantin
), is the only
country that at present does not acknowledge its Byzantine heritage, at
least not publicly prefers to see a theme of ideological struggle against
Byzantium rather than common cultural roots. This is a rather interesting
topic for a special study, but it is beyond the scope of this work. I would say
that in the last decades historians finally seemon their way to surmounting
the impact and implications of this attitude.
In addition, I cannot accept the view that the mention of the kinship of
the Bulgars and Bulgarians with the Cumans in Tale is meant to emphasise
their Turkic origins. I do not expect a mediaeval compiler, especially the
compiler of this work, to have such deep knowledge of the ethnogenesis
of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. This citation more likely
reflects a remote memory that the Bulgarian ancestors, whose name by the
time of the writing seems to have remainedonly as aneponymof the nation,
had originated in the Great Eurasian Steppe.
The text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah provides sufficient reason to see in
it an expression not only loyalty but even unity between Bulgarians and
Byzantines, a unity naturally based on Christianity. The history of the two
peoples is presented as a joint one; the time when Bulgarians were pagans,
and hence when the two nations were divided and opposed to one another,
is quite negatively assessed in the text: for earlier they had been godless
pagans under Ispor and [lived] in great iniquity and were always enemies
of the Greek kingdom for many years.
The Christian identity in the text
predominates over the national one, and that the symbol and embodiment
of this identity is the Greek kingdom. On the other hand, paganseven
Bulgarian pagansare godless people living in great iniquity.
It is natural for the emphasis of the work to be on the Bulgarians, but it
does not neglect the Byzantine Romans either. The lands of the Bulgarians
and Byzantines share a Christian topography, and they are jointly described
as a replica of the Holy Land. The state power is also a shared one for both:
the state is one Bulgarian and Greek kingdom and its power is usually in
Iv. Bozhilov, Vizantijskijat svjat, Sofia, 2008.
See in this book p. 16 (f. 401c, lines 26).
36 chapter two
the hands of the same tsar. There is practically no distinction between Bul-
garian and Roman rulers: they follow one after the other and only analysis
of the names can give us some idea of which historical personages under-
lie the characters. The two saintly kings, patrons and models of royalty, are
also presented jointly: Tsar Peter and Tsar Constantine. The bad kings are
also common to both nations. The distinction and opposition in the work
is not between Bulgarians vs. Byzantines but between these two peoples
on one side, and other peoples on the opposite side; these others may be
Eastern or Western. Further on in this presentation I will examine in detail
the elements of the narrative in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah; here I would
like to underscore this Bulgarian-Roman/Byzantine community, which is
one of the most characteristic features of the work under discussion, and
which, in my opinion, reflects the real mutual attitudes among Bulgarians
and Rhomaioi in that age.
It should be pointed out, however, that some scholars tend at times to
abuse the idea of this so-called community or loyalty. Though it is a fact,
I do not think we should assume it present in each and every element of the
text and seek it there. I shall give just one example to clarify what I mean. In
his commentary to Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, Ivan Dujev suggests Tsar Izot
should be identified with Khan Krum.
In rejecting this thesis, V. Beevliev
points out that a work so loyal to the Empire would not have cited a ruler
who had slain the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I Genikos, and he pro-
poses instead the identification with Khan Omurtag, a ruler who was more
peaceful and friendly towards Constantinople.
We will specially discuss
Tsar Izot and his identification, but here I will only say that I do not accept
either proposal, especially as they are rather weakly argued. One must not
rest on a presumed notion either of loyalty to the Empire or of an anti-
Byzantine stance inthe work, presumptions that are used inbuilding logical
constructions that only serve to reveal our own contemporary views. Hence,
the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah testifies to the consolidation of Orthodox soci-
ety on a biblical basisthis is a sufficiently categorical assertion regarding
a whole cultural process, and it is not necessary to seek and discover traces
of it in each small historical detail.
Iv. Dujev, Ednolegendarnosvedenie za Asparukha, in: idem, BulgarskoSrednovekovie,
Sofia, 1972, pp. 126127.
Beevliev, Nachaloto na bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, pp. 43
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 37
Some authors discerned the patriotic tenor of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
in the biblical basis of the text, specifically in the fact that Bulgarians are
represented as the New Chosen People. This view is related to the biblical
theme to which the present study is devoted, though not from a patriotic
perspective. This aspect is so obvious as to be inescapable: the prophetic
story of Isaiah, the other personages, and the whole construction show it.
Jordan Ivanov was the first to mention the biblical foundation of the patri-
otic aspect of the work, but he did not go on to specially develop the idea.
It has been pointed out by practically all authors, but has not been given
special attentionand has beendefined as a typical formfor the Middle Ages,
underlying which are the real ideas of the work. The only exception to this
is the above mentioned article by M. Kajmakamova, who especially deals
with the topic of patriotism in the representation of Bulgarians as the New
The social importance of the Tale is defined by Kajmakamova as an
activisation of the national consciousness of Bulgarians on the basis of the
Orthodox consciousness, whereas other similar apocalyptical works, such
as Vision and Interpretation of Daniel, Revelation of St Methodius of Patara
(or Patarensis,) and Tale of Isaiah had exactly the reverse function: to acti-
vate the Orthodox consciousness of the people through knowledge about
Bulgarian history.
Thus, the so-called Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle (i.e.
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah) fuels the patriotism of Bulgarians in the times
of Byzantine rule in order to strengthen their national self-awareness by
combining national with Christian devotion.
We are told that the bibli-
cal form of the work is practically just a tool, typical for the age, used for
achieving the national and patriotic objectives that the author of Tale
had set himself. Kajmakamova believes that the propaganda goals of the
Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle are clearly declared.
Actually, the New Israel idea during the Middle Ages was not linked
to patriotism, which is a much more recent phenomenon, situated in the
framework of the national idea born during the Age of Enlightenment.
Messianism could be an ideological paradigm for nationalism, and we find
it as such among many nations: Russians, Poles, etc. However, in cases
when this idea has developed in a Christian form, it has tended to use the
terminology of the New Testament rather than the Old. Such nations have
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, 274.
Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , pp. 417441.
Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , p. 419.
ibidem, p. 419.
ibidem, p. 421.
38 chapter two
considered themselves to be a victim people (in some cases simply an
innocent victim, and in some, a nation that has sacrificed itself for others), a
people crucified by history, etc. It is true that the notion of the God-bearing
Nation has also occurred, which is related to the Chosen People among
whom the Divine presence resides in the Holy of Holies of the Temple,
but this notion has been related to eschatological expectations rather than
concretely to the Old Testament.
Indeed, the New Israel idea is rooted in the Gospels and has been men-
tioned in the times of the Apostles. In this context, it is connected with the
New Covenant between God and Humanity, which replaces the Old and
comes to encompass Gods whole nation-Church, without any ethnic dis-
tinction. Thus, according to early Christianconceptions, all the believers are
the New Israel and the term has a universal meaning. Such was its meaning
in the Christian Roman Empire, later called Byzantium. This Empire was a
political organism not connected with any specific ethnic group; initially it
was a community defined by citizenship, which was based on a common
cult and common legal and political order; later the shared Christian reli-
gion was added, which at a certain point started to predominate over all
other characteristics. In a way the single model of the New Israel idea was
created, which was universal and covered all Christians as Gods People; its
bearers were the Church and the Empire.
The other model of the New Israel idea was connected with a specific
nation and its rulers; we may call this a limiting model, to distinguish
it from the universal one. It arose among the invading peoples who came
to populate the former territories of Rome in the age of the Great Migra-
tion, andparticularly among the Franks. The emergence of this ideology had
multiple causes, among them opposition to the universalism of Rome. The
so-called barbarians were making the first significant attempt at building
a Christian identity distinct from Roman identity, one that would be par-
ticularistic and closely-guarded, as opposed to the universal, all-embracing
identity of the Romans. Naturally, they turned to the biblical concept of
the People of Israel, which, far from being universal, consciously drew a
line between itself, as Gods Chosen People, and others. This model spread
among the Germanic peoples, among the Celtic peoples of the British Isles,
and later among the Slavs (Serbs and Russians) and in the Caucasus.
This book is devoted to the development of the New Israel idea among
the Bulgarians; our focus will mainly be on the interpretation of Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. This source evidences the development of just this
political ideology and self-consciousness, which are the result of a certain
stage of development of Bulgarian society after the Conversion and firm
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 39
establishment of Christianity. These models have nothing to do with the
modern concepts of patriotism or national propaganda, which were not
phenomena of the mediaeval period.
The interpretationof Tale of the Prophet Isaiahas a Bogomil heretical literary
work is usually associated with Jordan Ivanov, but Konstantin Jireek men-
tions this view in the very first study of the source. The Czech scholar does
not ground his thesis thoroughly, he merely connects the citation that the
very pious ruler Boris-Michael was without sin and without wife, to the
asceticism and denial of the flesh typical for dualists.
It would be fair to
say that the Bogomil thesis gained ground thanks in particular to Jordan
Ivanov. This eminent mediaevalist scholar took the stand of including the
source in a collection of Bogomil books and legends; and this stand would
later have a great impact on the historiography. He also offered a more thor-
ough demonstration of his thesis.
The main argument once again is the
negative attitude of dualists to marriage and sexual life, which is presumed
to be what the description of Boris-Michael in Tale is about. Ivanov also
draws attention to the fact that there is no mention of wives of rulers in the
source. To these arguments he also added several cases of miraculous birth:
from a widow or from a cow (as Ivanov was inclined to read the word in the
text). Another argument supporting the Bogomil character of the text was
the supposedly negative attitude to war, shown by the fact that the writer
avoided this subject in his narration. The only wars indicated are between
Christians and pagans or other infidels. With respect to peacefulness, a fine
example is Tsar Peter: when attacked by foes, he did not resist but left the
kingdom and went to Rome. The notion of the Seven Heavens is also sup-
posedtobe a Bogomil conception. The fact that we findthe figure of prophet
Isaiahinthe centre of the story is also interpretedinthis sense, for the mod-
erate Bogomils felt a special attachment andrespect for this prophet. Inthis
narration, Isaiah substitutes Moses in leading the Chosen People to their
promised land.
Resting upon his thesis about the Bogomil character of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah, Jordan Ivanov claims that the work cannot have had a Greek-Byzan-
tine original, although it did have some Greek sources. The latter were in
fact biblical apocrypha that really did reach Bulgarian culture through the
Greek language. At the end of his commentary onthe source, the prominent
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 263.
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, pp. 275276.
40 chapter two
Bulgarian scholar seems to retreat from his firm position and says that the
author was hardly a perfect Bogomil, but rather one of the undecided men
of letters, a man of the people, who wavered between Orthodoxy and all
sorts of branches of the dualist doctrine, someone like Priest Jeremiah.
I mentioned earlier that, after Jordan Ivanov presented his view, the the-
sis about the Bogomil character of the Tale became especially popular in
Bulgarian historiography, though hardly any new arguments were made in
support of it. In a way, Emil Georgiev continued this view as well, and with
himit acquireddistinctly ideological traits: since this is a Bogomil work, he
reasons, it is necessarily democratic, opposed to Church canons.
with these unfounded conclusions, springing from the pathos of the totali-
tariansocialist times, the author alsoproposes some well-arguedideas when
assessing the work, saying it has a distinctly biblical character, contains the
idea of the God-closeness of the Bulgarian people, etc. These features, in
fact, have nothing to do with Bogomilism or with democratic attitudes.
It should be noted that in her above-mentioned recently published article,
M. Kajmakamova seriously disputes the arguments supporting the Bogomil
character of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. She casts doubt on the idea that
a text in which the world is ruled by God and by a prophet sent by Him
could be considered a dualistic Neo-Manichaean text.
She also examined
the citations of negative attitude to marriage and women. Seeking biblical
and especially Old Testament grounds for these passages, her interpretation
rejected any relation to Bogomilism.
Finally, the fact that the ruler is ide-
alised and that he is portrayed according to the generally accepted models
of piety, practically excludes a dualistic viewpoint.
I accept this justified criticism by M. Kajmakamova and agree with her.
The common view of a Bogomil character of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah has
practically no foundation and springs only from Jordan Ivanovs enormous,
and certainly well merited, authority. Still, this thesis is to be rejected and
the general place of this work in mediaeval Bulgarian literature must be
For this purpose, the meaning of the term apocryphal must be clari-
fied. In the encyclopaedic dictionary of Old Bulgarian literature such books
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, p. 280.
E. Georgiev, Literatura na izostreni borbi v srednovekovna Bulgaria, Sofia, 1966, pp. 316
Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , p. 423.
ibidem, pp. 434435.
ibidem, pp. 435438.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 41
are defined as secret, and not accessible to all; later they became non-
canonical, sectarian, and prohibited.
Thus, for the Bulgarians apocryphal
literature was associated withprohibited, non-ecclesiastic literature. This in
itself may have hadsome justification, but it didnot justify later logical leaps.
The first leap was to define such literature as Bogomil in character; unfor-
tunately, in Bulgaria everything that was problematic from an ecclesiastic
point of view in the Middle Ages tends to be defined as somehow related to
the Bogomils. The second step is that all works of an unofficial, folk kind,
works that stand apart from the high theology of the Church, are declared
Actually, apocrypha are texts connected to biblical themes (of the New
and Old Testament) that are not among the biblical books officially recog-
nisedby the Church. They are not canonical, but this does not meanthey are
heretical. This fact shows in the various designations of these works among
Orthodox Christians, Catholics, and Protestants: they may be called apoc-
rypha, but also deuterocanonical books or pseudoepigrapha. The official
normative scope of the Holy Scripture is different for the various Christian
confessions, and some books that are part of the biblical order among the
Orthodox are not part of it for other confessions. The criteria of inclusion
are at times formal and strongly dependent on tradition. Regarding the Old
Testament, inthe Orthodox Churchinclusionis generally determinedby the
presence of a book in the text of the Septuagint; for Catholics the criterion
is largely the Vulgate. Of course, every such generalisation carries the risk of
inaccuracy, but the basic point is that the absence of a book in the norma-
tive list of Holy Scripture does not make that book heretical. Quite simply,
there are some reasons for not considering that book to be part of Divine
Revelation, but this does not mean it is necessarily harmful, dangerous, or
heretical. Viewed in this perspective, an apocryphon is not a folk sectarian
text but a biblical-type work that is not part of the Holy Scripture books
recognised as Revelation. Based on such a definition, there can evidently
be no place among the apocrypha for the so-called folk literature. Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah may be considered part of apocryphal literature inasmuch as
it is not canonical, and it has a marked biblical prophetic character. This
qualification would drastically contradict the thesis that this is a folk text
and an original Bulgarian text.
Avery different matter is the thesis about the dualistic-Bogomil character
of the text, a view that has been repeated mechanically since the previous
Starobulgarska literatura. Entsiklopedichen rechnik, Sofia, 1992, p. 36.
42 chapter two
century. The idea of rejecting marriage and woman (as a sexual partner)
is in no way necessarily a Bogomil tenet. It is true that, at least since the
time of Mani, the dualists hada negative attitude to biological reproduction,
especially when the actions connected with it are practiced to satisfy ones
lust. However, this does not make this doctrine any different from all other
ascetical trends in the Church, or from various heretical communities that
strive to mortify the flesh. Unlike the dualists, the Churchdoes not condemn
the flesh, which was not only created by God, but has been sanctified by
the Incarnation of the Saviour. Nevertheless, official Christianity views the
flesh as something that might divert a person fromthe path to God. It is not
evil by definition, but it may lead to abuse. That is why the attitude to it is
rather reserved, and indications like those found in the Tale, and even much
stronger ones, can be found in purely Orthodox circles as well.
As for the Seventh Heaven, we should point out that it was a popular
idea in the Hebrew religion, and statements that it exists can be found in
the main body of Holy Scripture as well as in the non-canonical books,
especially the Book of Enoch. The Psalter mentions heaven in several places
(see especially 67:5), and so do other canonical books of the Bible (in many
places the word is in the pluralheavens, the abode of God). The term
is most clearly mentioned in the Book of Enoch, which has come down
to us in two versions, a Slavic and an Ethiopian. This book has roots in
the canonical text of Holy Scripture, where it is mentioned both in the
Old and New Testament (Genesis, ch. 5; Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira 44:15;
Epistle of Jude 1:14; Epistle to the Hebrews 11:5). Apart from this, Enoch
and his prophecies are mentioned in Talmudic literature, in Midrash and
in Aggadah (a collection of exegetic texts of classical rabbinic literature
that is part of Hebrew oral law, supplementing Mosaic written law).
early Church had a great interest in the Book of Enoch (chiefly in what
we now call the Ethiopian Book of Enoch), and some of the Fathers of
the Church, for instance Tertullian, considered it canonical.
Later, it was
gradually abandoned, and today only the EthiopianChurchcounts it among
the canonical books. This book cannot possibly be consideredheretical. The
Slavic Book of Enoch contains a much more concrete description of the
Seventh Heaven.
The book has been said to be related to some Judaic sects
because of the way it describes tying all four feet of the sacrificial animal,
Encyclopaedia Judaica, t. VI, 2nd edition, Detroit-New York-San Francisco-New Haven
(Conn.)-Waterville (Maine)-London, 2007, p. 442.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, t. VI, p. 443.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, t. VI, pp. 444445.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 43
and to have noticeable Iranian influence in it, but not of the kind connected
with any Manichaean beliefs. The Book of Enoch is not at all dualistic or
heretical, although it evidently does not belong to the strictest rabbinical
orthodox line. It was composed in a Hebrew milieu and was later widely
disseminated, including (andperhaps primarily) inChristiancircles. Inview
of this, I do not believe the mention of the Seventh Heaven represents a
Bogomil element in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
As for the prophet Isaiah, his mention does not prove any link with
Bogomilism. It is absurd to take the name of one of the prominent prophets,
from the Old Testament book perhaps best loved by Christian exegetes, as
evidence of affiliation to a dualist heresy. We will devote a special discussion
to this prophet in the present study, but here I will only point out that,
apart from the book in the Bible, Isaiahs name is also connected with
several non-canonical works, such as Ascension of Isaiah, Vision of Isaiah,
and Martyrdomof Isaiah. The first two are thought to have been created in a
Christian environment. Though certain Gnostic sects have used them, they
are not at all heterodox, especially not inthe context of early Christiantimes,
when they originated.
So we must agree with the authors who reject the idea of the Bogomil
character of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, and we should place this text in a
particular group of unofficial but not necessarily heretical works that were a
part of mediaeval Bulgarianliterature but whose real environment was Near
Eastern prophetic literature, especially literature based on Old Testament
Now we come to the next group of interpretations of Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iah, which may be classified based on some motifs that the scholars have
defined as folkloric or as pagan remnants, chiefly from the Bulgars, but also
from the palaeo-Balkan population. The intellectual environment in which
these interpretations arose and developed is closely connected with Bul-
garian historiographys ravings in the 1970s and 1980s about Thracians and
Bulgars. This was a time of official revival of nationalism, which eventually
took the ugly formof anti-minority campaigns that made Bulgaria infamous
in Europe. We may consider Ivan Venedikov as the founder of this approach
to Tale of the Prophet Isaiah (of course, he had nothing to do with the above-
mentioned political aspect of the issue); recently, newer and even more
extreme studies in this trend have appeared.
Vaillant A., Un apocryphe pseudo-bogomile: La Vision d Isae, Revue des tudes slaves,
vol. 42, 1963, pp. 109121; Encyclopaedia Judaica, t. X, pp. 7576.
44 chapter two
It may be said that Ivan Venedikov devotes a significant part of his book
The Copper Threshing Floor of the Bulgars to such a pagan-folkloric-centred
interpretation of what he calls the BulgarianApocryphal Chronicle. As I said,
these ideas are part of a larger worldview upon which the book depends.
It suffices to see who wrote the foreword (Alexander Fol) and what that
foreword contains. Explicit stress is placed on the ancient Thracian and
non-Christian heritage (my italics).
In fact, the main aim of this trend in
historiography is to interpret all of mediaeval and early modern history and
culture in a pagan context, in which Christianity is only formally present, an
outward faade, but of no essential significance. This was the basic political
line of the communist regime.
Still, I want to emphasise very strongly that
I do not claimall the cited authors took part in a premeditated enforcement
of these political models of thought.
Let us examine concrete examples of such an interpretation of Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah in Venedikovs book. One of the basic devices for denying
the Christian basis of the work is to reinterpret the characters: persons and
topics related to Holy Scripture are said to be a traditional form for those
times, one which conceals a different underlying meaning. In the case of
prophet Isaiah, the fact that he figures as narrator of the tale is said to be a
formal means of giving greater weight to the narrative of the text.
Perhaps most typical of all is the attitude of the author to the marvellous
appearance of the child Ispor and the connection of this passage to the bib-
lical story of Moses childhood. Venedikov devotes special attention to the
theme of the foundling child (as a variant of the miraculous birth/appear-
ance of the hero with a mission), but only to water down the biblical per-
spective and dissolve it into various mythological pagan narratives. Thus,
he explicitly points out that the theme of Moses was familiar to thousands
of people inBulgaria fromBible reading,
and evidently the compiler of the
apocryphon was one of those readers. Yet this Bulgarian historian believes
A. Fol in the book of Iv. Venedikov, Mednoto gumno na prabulgarite, Sofia, 1983, p. 5.
We see a similar attitude to the Bulgarian Christian tradition displayed in those views
that emphasise the role of the Church, yet not in terms of its basic mission of salvation of
souls, but for its great importance for preserving the Bulgarian nationality. Unfortunately,
this attitude continues even today.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, pp. 33, 38.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, p. 54. I should specially point out that the title of Holy
Scripture is written here with lowercase letters, although it is a title. In addition, I would
not agree with the thesis that thousands of people had read the Bible in early mediaeval
Bulgaria, a time regarding which it is not clear that the text had been translated yet. People
were familiarised with its stories mostly at liturgical readings, not directly from the text.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 45
the apocryphon has merely dressed up the legend in a Christian form. He
asks himself whether the tale has anything to do with the Bible, and his
answer is predetermined: the motif is not biblical but pagan and folkloric.
He thus reaches the conclusion that it was the history of pagan Bulgaria that
the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah had retold, and all the authentic or mythologi-
cal data in it serve to build the image of a fabulous kingdom of the Copper
Threshing Floor, i.e. Bulgaria as it was before the conversion to Christianity.
As strange as this approach to history might seem, it has been surpassed
in Bulgarian historiography by the works of a group of folklorists, and espe-
cially the work of Todor Mollov devoted to the relations betweenmythology,
epos, and history, published in the 1990s.
At the centre of the debate are
several elements of the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, and especially the
story of the child Ispor. One may ask whether a serious researcher should
at all discuss such works. I think it vain to try to refute their theses. It is
hard to discern any clearly formulated assertions in these works, and the
characters they construct actually have nothing to do with the text of our
source. Most remarkable of all, in my opinion, is the image of the prophets
from Sredets (Sofia), whose institution was supposedly of a shamanistic
and was evidently a legacy from pagan times. I will not deal with Todor
Mollovs general thesis, or what there is of a thesis, here. I will comment
on his assertions only when they concern some concrete problems relevant
to my topic, or when they are formulated clearly enough in connection with
some source.
Now we come to the purely positivistic interpretations of the Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. They are not all the same and must not be assessed as equal
in quality. This approach is typical and second nature for any historian,
and we will find it applied by practically all researchers who have written
about the Tale. Of course, first of them was Konstantin Jireek, who, like
Jordan Ivanov, tried hesitantly to find real historical events corresponding
to those cited in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Both these authors have under-
scored that the text has just about no value as history.
Ivan Dujev was the
first to protest against such a categorical conclusion, and after him Veselin
In order to prove this strange thesis the author is inclined to seek all sorts of justifica-
tions and arguments, but not the obvious onessee Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, pp. 55ff.
T. Mollov, Mit, epos, istorija. Starobulgarskite istoriko-apokaliptichni skazanija (992
10921492), Veliko Trnovo, 1997, 256 p.
Jireek, Hristijanskija element, p. 261; Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, pp. 274275.
46 chapter two
Practically all authors afterwards shared the latter view to some
extent. Here I will not deal with it, as I find the impulse to explore historical
parallels to characters and events in the Tale normal and understandable.
Nevertheless, I cannot pass over some cases where the search for actual his-
torical events underlying the text, and for identification of the characters at
all costs, has reached proportions that require some comment.
The Copper Threshing Floor of the Bulgars by Ivan Venedikov combines
the above-mentioned mythological theme with a purely positivistic ap-
proach to the text; Venedikov considers the Tale to be a source of authentic
historical data about the earliest Bulgarian history. What is more, he evi-
dently finds that the mythological-folkloristic interpretation of the text is
the way to glean the rich data he believes to be contained in the so-called
Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle. This is how he seeks (and obviously, to his
mind, finds) historical facts. Thus he states in the book: We will look not
only for the facts but for the traditions, i.e. the fabulous background against
whichthey appear. We want tosee howthe facts are transmittedthroughthe
fable. We want to see what the Bulgarian kingdom looked like not through
the eyes of the chroniclers but through the eyes of the folk tale.
is nothing essentially wrong about such an approach, or more precisely,
there would not be if the facts in question were of another category, not
related to concrete events. It is, of course, true that the data about iden-
tity, political ideology, and worldviews dating from pre-modern times often
reach us through texts that some would define as legendary. The problem
arises when researchers strive to find real events behind works of a clearly
religious-ideological character. Eschatological, apocalyptic, and instructive
texts hadaims, purposes, andaudiences that were quite different fromthose
of concrete historical works. The latter may ultimately aim at constructing
some identity, but the pursuit of this goal must first pass through an authen-
tic or invented narrative about past events. Scholars should be cognisant
that works suchas the Tale cannot simply be readas historical works romans
clef for real events. Unfortunately, Venedikov adheres to a different trend,
that which seeks a historical factual basis underlying the Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah; I will give several examples of this approach.
I will skip the authors historical-geographical commentaries and focus
on the alleged use of the name Cumans for emphasising the Hunnic-Bulgar
Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za Asparukha, pp. 124125; Beevliev, Nachaloto
na bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, pp. 39ff.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, p. 11.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 47
or Turkic-Bulgar character of the nation.
Inthis framework, history andthe
historical situation are seen in the perspective of the 19th and 20th century,
the time of nation building. The biblical worldviewthat was the true prism,
through which the world was seen during the Middle Ages, is completely (or
almost completely) disregarded by Venedikov. I shall not discuss the issue in
detail but will refer to what is written about the Cumans, or rather about the
image of them created in the context of biblical apocalyptic thinking and
eschatological expectation.
In this context, Venedikov comes to a conclu-
sion that merits serious attention: this means that the apocryphon knows
the legend of the migration of the Bulgars in a different version from that
known to the Byzantine chroniclers. the apocryphal chronicle reflects
the historical truth more authentically than the Byzantine chroniclers [my
The implications of this idea are strikingly obvious. The author
continues his presentation and quite naturally reaches the conclusion that:
Consequently we see that the compiler of our apocryphon had a record of
facts connected with the foundation of the Bulgarian state that was authen-
tic, real.
Then Venedikov presents his view that the authentic facts have
been interpreted in terms of a fantastic plot borrowed from Holy Scripture
so as to give thema Christianframework, as requiredinthat age. I shall leave
aside Venedikovs thesis that the ideas of monotheistic Tangrists were par-
allel to Christian ideas, and point out that this is a clear case of substitution:
a text is being commentedonfroma perspective opposite tothat of the ideas
placed inthe work; that is, a text attempting to create a Christianidentity for
the newly baptised people is transformed into a text that uses biblical forms
to dress up and make more acceptable a non-Christian historical tradition.
It is impossible to knowwhy Venedikov arrived at the conclusion that some
time in the past there had been a Bulgarian narrative about the founding of
the Bulgarian state at the root of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiahthe reasons
of the late scholar can only remain a mystery.
In his book devoted to the administrative organisation of the First Bul-
garian Empire, the same author continues in the same direction and even
intensifies this trend of interpretation of the apocryphal text. A chapter of
the book is devoted to Tale of the Prophet Isaiah; this chapter aims to dis-
cover the historical identities of some of the enigmatic rulers mentioned in
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, pp. 34ff.
V. Stojanov, Kumanologija, Sofia, 2009, t. I, pp. 1127.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, p. 35.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, p. 38, the interpretationpp. 3839.
48 chapter two
In his preliminary overviewof the more problematic portion of the text,
Venedikov divides it into a true part and a false, and he proposes identifying
some of the mentioned tsars with historical Bulgarian rulers, for instance
Roman with Tsar Gabriel-Radomir-Roman. In other cases, however, the his-
torical correspondence is so difficult to find that he is obliged to see in the
characters some unknown local Bulgarian governors from the time of the
Cometopouloi. I will deal with these ideas in greater detail in the section of
this book about the various characters mentioned in Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iah; here I will only say that all these ideas are merely fanciful surmises that
are not proven because they are supposed to be self-evident; at other times
the first elements in the chain of reasoning are used as arguments to prove
the following ones, though the first have not themselves been proven or at
least justifiably assumed. It seems to me we should not really be spending
too much time dealing with this kind of interpretation, but I am obliged to
admit the interpretations by this author are nearly the only existing ones to
date regarding some parts of the text. Moreover, his comments are largely
a result of the confusing nature of the source itself, especially when it is
approached with the intention of making a positivistic historical interpre-
We can find similar tendencies in some commentaries by Pavel Georgiev
inconnectionwithTale of the Prophet Isaiah. He has devotedarticles tosome
details of the narrative. The first article examines the citationof Ethiopians
in this work.
The second is about the Hundred Mounds built by Tsar Slav,
known as tsar of the hundred mounds.
In the following article, the author
continues the trend, inherited from K. Jireek, to seek the localisation of
this region in Dobrudja and the surrounding areas. P. Georgievs attempts
to equate the idea of hill/mound, in the context of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah with that of city/castle/fortress,
which fits in naturally with the
general presentation of the work. Certainly, the Tale uses the image of
the city in order to construct the image of the world. Apart from this,
the article appears rather confused and overcomplicated; ultimately, it too
identifies the Hundred Mounds with lands broadly located in the lower
Iv. Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo na Bulgaria prez IX i X vek, Sofia,
1979, pp. 118152.
P. Georgiev, Etiopite ot Bulgarskija apokrifen letopis, in: Sbornik v chest na prof. Ivan
Dobrev, Sofia, 2005, pp. 186197.
P. Georgiev, Stokhlmieto i negovite tsentrove, Palaeobulgarica, XXX(2006), 4, pp. 54
Georgiev, Stokhlmieto i negovite tsentrove, pp. 55, 60.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 49
Danube basin. The third article by the same author attempts to identify
the Ethiopians and Pagans as the local population conquered by the
newly-arrived Bulgars.
What is common to this way of interpreting the text
is the tendency toviewit as if it were writtenby a modern-day historian, with
our contemporary interests and ways of thinking.
Character of the Text
The characteristics of this workandits compilationare interconnected; con-
clusions about the latter stemfromthe viewas to the typological particulari-
ties of the text. Before presenting my ideas on the matter, I should state that
any conclusions about this kind of work that are too categorical might be
risky when based on conjecture and supposition. As mentioned above, Mil-
iana Kajmakamova underscores the biblical basis of Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iahandabandons certainwell-establishedstereotypes. I wouldspecially like
to draw attention to some studies of two Russian scholars: first S.A. Ivanov
and then D. Polyvjannyj
who has further developed S.A. Ivanovs ideas in
aninteresting way. These scholars correctly point out that Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah is not a work that reflects the formation or condition of ethnic iden-
tity of Bulgarians in the age of the First Empire. On the contrary, it indicates
that the ideology of Orthodox Christian universalism had gained ground,
which in the context of that age signified consolidation within the frame-
work of the single, unified Orthodox State, i.e. the Byzantine Empire, which
became the de facto Bulgarian state as well after Bulgaria was conquered
at the beginning of the eleventh century.
Thus, in a sense Tsar Symeons
idea of achieving unity of Bulgarians and Byzantines under a single crown
was realised, though the crown was not that of the Bulgarian tsar but of the
The main character through whomthis viewis represented in Tale
Georgiev P., Za Pagan, paganite i Gospodarja na Bulgaria Kampagan, Istoricheski
pregled, 2007, 56, pp. 119134.
S.A. Ivanov, Bolgarskaja apokrificheskaja letopis kak pamjatnik etnicheskogo samo-
soznanija bolgar, Razvitie etnicheskogo samosoznanija slavjanskikh narodov v epokhu zrelogo
feodalizma, ed. G.G. Litavrin, Moscow, 1989, pp. 7375; D.I. Polyvjannyj, Kulturnoe svoeobra-
zie srednevekovoj Bolgarii v kontekste vizantijsko-slavjanskoj obshtnosti IXXV vekov, Ivanovo,
2000, pp. 95121.
Ivanov, Bolgarskaja apokrificheskaja letopis kak pamjatnik etnicheskogo samosoz-
nanija bolgar, pp. 7475; Polyvjannyj, Kulturnoe svoeobrazie srednevekovoj Bolgarii, pp. 120
Tsar Symeons ideology is best presented and discussed in the book by Iv. Bozhilov
(Tsar SimeonVeliki (893927). Zlatnijat vek na srednovekovna Bulgarija, Sofia, 1983), where the
50 chapter two
of the Prophet Isaiah is that of the conqueror Basil II Boulgaroktonos, who
is described in the text as a pious tsar, whose power is blessed, and who
unswervingly follows in the footsteps of the baptiser Khan Boris-Michael I
and of the pious St Tsar Peter.
Before continuing with the discussion of the character of the work, it
should be recalled that this work is a compilation, and although it forms a
unified text with a single ideological message, in some cases it reflects ideas
from different poques. It reflects, and to an extent consciously expresses,
some religious political-ideological theses characteristic of its times, but it
was composed from sources that were written over several centuries, and
it comprises sections and ideas from other works that have influenced it.
This generally means that Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is not the product of a
recorded or revised folklore (pagan) epos but of a combining of diverse tra-
ditions, among which the biblical influence is predominant. Hence, in their
book V. Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova write about the diversity and
multiplicity of sources used, which has resulted in repetition of characters
and events, at times even in differing assessments of the same character; all
this implies the text was composed over a long period of time; they conse-
quently propose a later chronology.
In asserting the above thesis, I should emphasise that I believe the work
nevertheless contains a general and integrated message. The latter may be
related to the construction of a Christian identity of the newly converted
Bulgarians in the 9th11th century and possibly the maintenance of this
identity in the following centuries, as well as the creation and preservation
of an ideology of power connected with, and based on, this identity. The
work shows the strong influence of biblical prophetic texts as well as similar
but non-canonical Near Eastern texts, I believe that the Christian identity
in it adopts the device of positing the converted nations similarity to the
Chosen People of the Old Testament: this is the New Israel ideology, typical
for other European peoples in the Early Middle Ages. This idea is presented
in the Tale in combination with the idea of the religiously based unity
between Romans/Byzantines and Bulgarians. The ideology stemming from
author has traced all aspects of the Great Idea formulated by the tsar, an idea that remained
the political ideology of mediaeval Bulgarians until the time of Ottoman conquest.
Polyvjannyj, Kulturnoe svoeobrazie srednevekovoj Bolgarii, pp. 120121. Similar ideas
have been developed extensively in chapter 2 of the new book by Iv. Bozhilov, Bulgarskata
archiepiskopia XIXII vek. Spiskt na bulgarskite archiepiskopi, Sofia, 2011, pp. 6171, 132133.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnata knizhnina, p. 193; Tpkova-
Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 276ff.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 51
this unity is likewise linked to imagery borrowed from biblical texts about
kings and, more generally, about the rulers of the Children of Israel. This is
the main object of discussion and demonstration in the present book.
The authorship of the compilation cannot be established. The fact that this
compiler usedparts andideas fromolder works is only one of the reasons; no
less important a reason is that there are no indications which could possibly
help us establish the compilers identity. All we can do is to trace the circle
in which the work was compiled. Two proposals have already been made on
this question: 1) The compiler was a Bogomil heretic; 2) he came from the
circle of Orthodox monks in the western Bulgarian lands.
I discussed the first proposal in connection with the supposedly hereti-
cal character of the work. As mentioned above, Jordan Ivanov was the main
proponent of this view,
and its popularity may be attributed to the enor-
mous influence of this scholar. Some later researchers have repeated his
view uncritically. I already expressed my opinion as to the Bogomil char-
acter of the work and here I will only repeat my conclusion, that we have
no grounds for considering this work to be heretical (as some historians are
evidently inclined to believe) and see no reason for qualifying its author as
a Bogomil.
The other proposed identification is that he was a Bulgarian monk, i.e.
that the Tale is related to monastic circles. K. Jireek was the first to suggest
this, and other authors have followed his opinion.
In fact, there is nothing
to say against this viewthe work does seem to fit well into the framework
of the monastic tradition. It is not a work of high urban erudition (not even
of ecclesiastic knowledge), nor is it seemingly a work by someone from the
royal court, nor does it come fromthe purely oral folktraditionof the people.
Of course, since it is compilation, some of these cited characteristics may
be present as elements in the text, but we cannot classify the whole text
in any one of these groups. However, to define the compiler (or compilers)
as belonging to monastic circles is not a particularly new idea and does not
contribute muchto understanding the work, for these circles may have been
internally very diverse.
J. Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, Sofia, 1931, pp. 275, 279280.
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 267.
52 chapter two
Finally, when talking about compilation we should have in mind that the
spelling in the only manuscript that has reached us is Serbian with traces
of the Resava School.
This fact should be carefully considered, without
jumping to one extreme or another. In the Late Middle Ages and in the
post-Byzantine era, the western parts of the Balkans, as well as a part of
Bulgaria, were under strong Serbian political, ecclesiastic, and ultimately
cultural influence. I will not go into retracing the facts, or analysing the
Resava orthography, or the Serbian conquest and a defence of this region.
The important thing is that the narrative under discussion in this book
existed in a Serbian environment as well, or an environment under Ser-
bian influence. Both Bulgarian and Serbian memories are present in the
manuscript, as well as some texts related to Russia.
This does not permit
us to identify the compiler or even the copyist of the manuscript as surely
Serbian (he could easily have been a Bulgarian), but it does cast doubt on
some seemingly Bulgarian-centred ideas related to the text.
After this overview of the publications and historiography concerning Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah, I should offer my own ideas about its origin. Like most
of my colleagues who have undertaken this difficult task, I have found it
extremely problematic to draw any firm conclusion.
Regarding the question of where the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
was composed, the almost unanimous view is that it was in the western
Bulgarian lands. I do not think there are serious grounds for doubting this,
but we should not fail to note that the eastern parts of the state are also
presented in it. It should also be specified that, being a compiled work, the
text and the separate parts that went into compiling it might have been
created in different places. As for a more precise localisation, we find two
places that have already beenproposed by historians: Sofia and the Osogovo
The assertion that the present-day capital of Bulgaria was the central city
in the text owes more to interpretation than to the actual text itself. I shall
not discuss here the question of the so-called Prophets from Sredets and
shamans. Nevertheless, I amnot inclined to overlook the idea that Sofia may
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, p. 5.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 910.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 53
have beena important locationfor the compositionof the text. We recall the
enormous importance that Sofia andthe Sofia area hadinthe religious, liter-
ary, and cultural life of Bulgarians in the 16th17th century, which happens
to be the time when the manuscript was created. This fact, together with
the proposed idea of looking for some possible influence of Jacob Kraykovs
printed book Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, should be considered.
The localisation in the Osogovo monastery was first suggested (but
merely as a possibility) by K. Jireek, andis basedona local tradition, accord-
ing to which the relics of the Prophet Isaiah were preserved in this holy
We have other data about such claims of possession of relics
and veneration for Isaiah, in addition to the Serbian note mentioned by
Yet this local tradition was not very strong and not popular enough
to first cause the appearance of a significant Prophet Isaiahs literary cycle,
and then disappear, leaving very few, or almost no, traces. I cannot cate-
gorically reject the localisation of the works composition in the Osogovo
monastery, but still less can I confirm it. It is hardly useful to ascribe cer-
tainty to claims that cannot be proven. Besides, even K. Jireek himself was
not certain that this was where the text was produced; he merely presented
the idea as a suggestion, and as such it should remain.
Finally, the fate of the only manuscript copy to have reached us has
also contributed to localising the work in the western regions of Bulgaria.
However, we should have in mind that the localisation of the work can only
partially be connected with the localisation of the manuscript, for the text
of Tale occupies a rather independent place within the collection. Foremost
I should recall that according to specialists like A. Turilov, the spelling of the
collection is Serbian, with some traces of the Resava School.
This could be
considered natural for that age, and certainly points to the western Balkan
origin of the manuscript. A. Turilov, who has made practically the only fully
scientific description of the Kichevo manuscript, proposes several ideas for
defining the place of its creation. They are based on the contents, and more
precisely on the strong presence of memories, vitae, and offices of women
saints named Anna, a highly popular name in Nemanide Serbia. According
to him, the possible places may be the monastery of Studenica and the
two Athonite centres, the scete St Anna and the Chilandari monastery.
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 268.
See in Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata paleotipia, pp. 4041.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, p. 5.
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 3738.
54 chapter two
three places remain unproven within this hypothesis, but in any case, they
confirm the Serbian origin of the manuscript and its connection with the
western lands.
The colophons that have been preserved in it form another important
source about the creation of the manuscript. They and their interpretation
indicate it has practically never left Macedonia.
The first mentioned owner
of the book is a certain Dimo, who paid 260 ducats for it (which is an impos-
sibly enormous price!) probably in the 18th century. At the very end of that
same century, Cyril Pejinovi acquired the manuscript for 8 groschen and
it remained his property to the end of his life in 1845. It has been surmised
that the manuscript accompanied this educator in all his travels, start-
ing from the Kichevo monastery, through the Markov (Markos) monastery,
and Mount Athos, and finally to the Leok monastery near Tetovo, where,
after Cyril Pejinovis death, it was bought by A.F. Hilferding and so taken
to Moscow. This information is interesting for our study, for they are the
only indications outside the text itself that can suggest the area where the
manuscript was present. The area was evidently Macedonia, more likely the
western part of this land. It was in Mount Athos later and only temporarily,
and I do not believe this fact could be important for the localisation of the
text. While this information cannot prove anything by itself, when added to
observations on the contents and other accessible data, they might help to
determine the region to which the narrative is connected. The result, in fact,
coincides with the views that have been expressed so far.
Dating of the Text
In Bulgarian historiography, the text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is
usually dated to the 11th century. The earliest attempt at dating is, again,
K. Jireeks.
Initially he gave a wider dating and situated the creation
of the text between 1018 and 1186, adducing as evidence the lack of any
mention of John I Asen and Peter, or of the Bulgarian Empire that these
tsars revived. This is a serious argument, to which the author added the
dating of the war with the Pechenegs, the very last event mentioned in the
apocryphon, to 10481053. Later, Jireek asserted in passing that the text
was from the 11th century. Jordan Ivanov takes this assertion as a basis, and
Turilov, Kichevskij sbornik, pp. 57.
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, pp. 266267.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 55
though he does not clearly pronounce himself on the 11th century dating,
he notes in two places that the chronicle part concludes with an account
of events that took place around the middle of that century.
Later, the
indication of 11th century becomes part of the title this author has put
to the apocryphon. There is practically no debate about the dating of the
text to the 11th century. Subsequent researchers have simply repeated the
theses of Konstantin Jireek and Jordan Ivanov out of respect for these
highly authoritative scholars, and also because the story concludes with the
Pechenegs and because of the identification of Peter Delyan.
In attempting to solve the problem of dating the work, we should keep
in mind the recently proposed mutual influence of other sources, as well as
the possibility of later interpolations in the text. The Tale may have been
influenced by a work that has recently been published with commentary, A
Useful Tale about the Latins. In viewof the passage about the death of St Tsar
Peter inRome, whichwe findonly inTale of the Prophet IsaiahandinBookfor
Various Occasions by Jacob Kraykov, influence may have occurred in respect
to those works as well. We should look at these works in relation to the Tale
in order to find not only direct influence, but also the shared meaning that
they produced.
In his recently published book, containing the latest edition and com-
mentary for AUseful Tale about the Latins, A. Nikolov proposes several com-
parisons of this text with other sources. As a result, he discovers some influ-
ence of Useful Tale upon the later works Russian Primary Chronicle of Nestor
and Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Before discussing the influence that Nikolov
finds, it is important explainhis thesis and to express, as far as I can, my view
on it. A. Nikolov believes the polemical anti-Catholic work he has published
was created originally in Greek around the beginning of the 12th century
and was translated into the Slavonic in Bulgaria, in the western Bulgarian
lands; later, due to the direct authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over
the Russian Diocese, the work was taken to Kiev.
This is not the place for a
detailed discussion of these assertions, but I accept most of the conclusions
and they will be the basis of my further observations.
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, pp. 273274, 279.
A. Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinitepametnik na srednovekovnata slavjanska pole-
mika sreshtu katolitsizma, Sofia, 2011, pp. 27ff.
Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinite, pp. 9, 26.
Despite my acceptance of Nikolovs arguments, I regrettably find that his reasoning
and explanations are not always sufficiently grounded in historical fact, or are sometimes
less than convincing. For instance, see Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinite, r. 3944: I do not
56 chapter two
Here we will leave aside the problem of the textual similarity to Russian
Primary Chronicle, whichis outside the scope of this study,
on the similarity to Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. The comparison A. Nikolov
makes is very interesting and may serve as a basis for certain conclusions. I
agree with the assertion that the compiler of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah had
at his disposal a Greek text that related the origin of the Bulgarians to the
I also agree, at least partially, that there is some influence of Use-
ful Tale upon Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
(and not the reverse), but I do not
think this has been sufficiently proven by A. Nikolov. In addition to his argu-
ments, I would add the more general observation that one was an official
theological polemical work, while the other was an apocryphon; hence, we
should not presume a deuterocanonical text could have influenced a nor-
mative one. Yet the possibility remains that some unknown third work may
have influenced both texts separately, a third work that is either unknown
or not yet identified. This problemremains to be discussed. In any case, the
conclusions of A. Nikolov situate the compilation of Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iah most probably after the end of the 11th century, without setting a clear
terminus ante quem to its composition.
This view, however, raises another problem related to the anti-Catholic
character of Useful Tale about the Latins and the fact that Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah, allegedly influenced by Useful Tale, contains a passage about the
death of St Tsar Peter in Rome; there is some contradiction here.
This reference to the death of St Tsar Peter in Rome is the other citation
that obviously connects Tale of the Prophet Isaiahtosome other source. Such
an event has not been repeated or confirmed anywhere else. We find it only
consider it proven that the translation was made in the Bulgarian lands under Byzantine
rule and specifically in the western lands, in the Archbishopric of Ochrid. Nonetheless, even
if it is not proven, I do find this probable. Still, it is important to point out that we cannot
draw conclusions about where the translation was made judging by the contents of the
text itself, since it must have repeated the Greek original (at least we have no reasons to
believe it had not). Perhaps a textological and philological analysis of the work might add
arguments in support of the authors proposals. Nevertheless, I think it unlikely that the
recently translated text would have exerted influence at lightning speed on two other works,
localised in the western Balkans and in Kiev, places that in that age were too distant for
this. Though connected through Constantinople, they were in different diocesesthat of
the Ecumenical Patriarchy and that of the Archbishopric of Ochridwhich would not have
facilitated contacts between them.
I should in fact stress A. Nikolovs conclusion that this influence allows us to date the
Useful Tale to the very end of the 11th or the beginning (first decade) of the 12th century
Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinite, r. 35.
Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinite, r. 36.
Nikolov, Povest polezna za latinite, r. 38.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 57
in the Tale and in the printed Book for Various Occasions, published by Jacob
Kraykov in Venice in 1572. This information has been given due attention
elsewhere in this book, here I will only make a few preliminary remarks,
connected with the dating and character of the text.
First, practically all scholars who have written on the topic find that Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah has had some influence on Jacob Kraykovs printed
book. Yet it must be emphasised that the only copy of the work to have
reached us dates fromthe beginning of 17th century, while the printed book
is from 1572, i.e. it is older by several decades than the manuscript. Jacob
Kraykovs books were disseminated in the western Bulgarian lands, and that
is where the Kichevo manuscript came from. At least this is the only region
in which we know it was present. Since the text of Tale is a compilation,
I would propose for discussion whether we might not find some influence
of the printed book on the manuscript text. This is chronologically possi-
ble, geographically quite admissible, and the context of the work does not
exclude it.
Let us discuss briefly the nature of the citation about the death of Tsar
Peter in Rome, which I have examined in detail in the respective chapter
of this book. It is immediately evident that this passage seems, as it were,
grafted onto the text and not well connected to the rest of the narrative.
Hence, it may be supposed, though it cannot be proven, that the mention
in Tale is a later addition made by the writer of the Kichevo manuscript,
and borrowed from Book for Various Occasions. Jacob Kraykov could have
invented the story in order to connect Bulgaria to the Italian lands and to
Rome, city of the Holy See; such a tendency is present in his books, even in
the lexical aspect, alsodemonstratedinthe study by M. Tsibranska. It should
also be underscored that the reference to Rome, and to Constantinople for
that matter, is an imperial paradigmand, in my opinion, is closely related to
the joint presentationof St Tsar Peter andSt Constantine inour apocryphon.
This is where the question arises about the influence, as proposed and
argued by A. Nikolov, of Useful Tale about the Latins upon Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah. The first of these works has a strongly anti-Catholic character, while
the latter is overall neutral with regard to the Roman Church. The mention
of Rome is where the city is used as a reference point for localising the
Bulgarians when Isaiah is sent to them, and the indication that St Tsar
Peter died in Rome. The first of these references is ideologically indifferent,
unlike the second. We may ask whether a text influenced by an anti-Latin
polemical work could possibly contain information that glorifies Rome,
even if only subtly. The answer is probably that it would not. This gives
me one more reason to indicate the possibility that the passage about the
58 chapter two
death of Tsar Peter in Rome might be a later interpolation. In addition, why
exclude the possibility that this addition was made in the 16th17th century,
possibly under the influence of the book printed in 1572?
Certainly, I want to stress once again that such an assertion remains
hypothetical and can hardly ever be categorically confirmed or rejected.
While leaving the above suggestion within the sphere of conjecture, we
must admit that it nevertheless points to the possibility that the passage
about the death of St Tsar Peter in Rome might be only one of several addi-
tions, and some additions might be unrecognised as such. In this connec-
tion, I would recall my view that the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is a
compilationthough with a unified messageinwhich there are certainly
additions and a variety of ideas, which generally do not impair its integrity.
Certain mentions of geographical names that are inconsistent with the
time of the early Bulgarian Middle Ages could also point to such a conclu-
sion. One of these names is that of the city of Breznik, the other is Dobrich.
Regarding the city of Breznik
the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah says that it
was founded by Tsar Seleukia Simeklit, who later died there.
Of course, this
is legendary information, but the question nevertheless arises why the text
cites this particular town, hidden away in the mountain recesses of Western
The city of Breznik is not mentioned in any mediaeval document.
could be expected, for extant Bulgarian official documents of that time
are few in number and, hence, not very representative. More importantly,
Breznik is not present in Serbian documents either, which are significantly
more numerous; and we should keep in mind that during the 14th century
this regionwas under Serbianrule, and later became part of the Patriarchate
of Pe, andis hence comparatively well-documented. We neednot drawvery
strong conclusions from this lack of reference to the city, but I feel we do
have reason to believe that in the late Middle Ages the city was not partic-
ularly important. We may be even more confident it was not so in the 11th
Onthe early Ottomanhistory of the townof Breznik: N. Manolova-Nikolova, Rudarstvo
i sveti mesta (primert na gr. Breznik), V sveta na choveka. Sbornik v chest na prof. d.i.n.
Ivanichka Georgieva, ed. Dzh. Madzharov, Kr. Stoilov, t. 2, Sofia, 2008, pp. 177192.
See this book p. 19 (f. 402b, lines 28).
The city of indicated in a charter of the time of Alexis I Comnenos is not
the one we are looking for, because it is situated in the region of the city of Strumitsa in
Eastern Macedoniasee Iv. Snegarov, Istorija na Ochridskata archiepiskopija, vol. I, Sofia,
1924, pp. 223224 note 7; L. Taseva, Bulgarska toponimija ot grtski i srbski srednovekovni
dokumenti, Sofia, 1998, p. 155.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 59
century, when no information about Breznik appears, though this is the
century to which the Tale is usually dated.
Toget some idea about the development of Breznik inlater ages we would
have to turn to the Ottoman archives, which are considerably more ample.
We find it mentioned there starting from the 15th century. The earliest
reference known to us is from 14621463, when the monastery of Mateyal
is mentioned as situated in the Breznik area.
N. Manolova-Nikolova has
drawn attention to another interesting document dated in 1488, concerning
the existence of a Law of Breznik that contained a regulation of the mining
production and the whole economic life in this settlement during the Early
This implies that it was some sort of administrative centre
around the middle of that century. This conclusion is confirmed by the cizye
tax register for 1490/1491, where it is indicated that part of the revenues
went for the salary of Mevlna Muhiyddin, who was imamof the mosque in
This is indirect proof of the importance of the city, because in that
early age, soon after the Ottoman conquest, Friday mosques existed only in
cities andinadministrative centres. The existence of a mosque may be taken
as a reason to consider Breznik was some administrative centre at that time,
probably a centre of a nahiye. In the beginning of the 17th century, the city
had grown into a kaza centre with its own kadi, as specially indicated in the
This is a mark of considerable rise in importance, a development
that might be relevant for the present study.
So, how can we explain the presence of Breznik in a text preserved only
in a manuscript copy from the early 17th century, but which preserves a
work that seems to originate in a much earlier age? It seems rather unlikely
Mentions of the city of Breznik not only in documents but by travellers, have been col-
lected in the book by A. Choleva-Dimitrova, Selishtni imena ot jugozapadna Bulgaria. Izsled-
vane. Rechnik, Sofia-Moscow, 2002, p. 102. In 1475, Jacopo de Promontorio de Campis men-
tions Breznik as a mining centreManolova-Nikolova, Rudarstvo i sveti mesta (primert
na gr. Breznik), pp. 177178.
Turski izvori za bulgarskata istorija/Fontes turcici historiae bulgaricae, t. II, Sofia, 1966,
p. 65.
N. Beldiceanu, Les actes des premiers sultans conserv dans les manuscripts turcs de la
Bibliothque Nationale Paris, t. II, Rglements miniers (13901512), Documents et recherches,
VII, Paris-La Haye, 1964, pp. 218220; Manolova-Nikolova, Rudarstvo i sveti mesta (primert
na gr. Breznik), pp. 178ff.
Turski izvori za bulgarskata istorija/Fontes turcici historiae bulgaricae, t. VII, Sofia, 1986,
p. 34.
Turski izvori za bulgarskata istorija/Fontes turcici historiae bulgaricae, t. V, pp. 197198
(1606the Breznik kaza is mentioned) t. VII, p. 198 (1616a kaza centre with its own kadi),
r. 301 (1625a kadi of Breznik is indicated).
60 chapter two
that the name of this city was included in the text in the 11th century. The
Ottoman sources testify to the rising importance of the city (as perceived
by Muslims and Christians alike) precisely at the time when the Kichevo
manuscript was created. Since a firm answer based on documentary source
evidence cannot be given, I would propose a working hypothesis, which is
similar to the one about the citation of the death of Tsar Peter in Rome.
One possible explanation for the inclusion of the name of Breznik in the
apocryphon could be that it was included there later, when the Kichevo
manuscript was being composed.
This was the late 16th and early 17th
century, which saw both the noticeable rise in the citys its status and was
also the very time when the surviving manuscript of the Tale was copied. I
do not mean this copying involved a full revision of the work, but a number
of interventions may have been made in the text, one of which may have
been the mention of Breznik.
As I already noted, if we were to accept this solution to the problema
solution that for the time being remains no more than a hypothesiswe
might explain other unclear passages as well in the text. So we could see
this as a text that reflects the idea of the changed identity, now a Christian
one (i.e. based on Holy Scripture), of the Bulgarians from the age after their
conversion. This text, while remaining integral in its message, might have
undergone multiple interventions and additions during the later Middle
Ages and also in the early Ottoman era.
Another such example is the name of Dobrich, which is mentioned as
the place where Khan Boris-Michael (Tsar Boris in the Tale) died. Since the
name Dobrich is that of the modern city, located in northeastern Bulgaria
in the Dobrudja region, and since it is evident that this modern name is too
I would like to stress that N. Manolova-Nikolova (Rudarstvo i sveti mesta (primert na
gr. Breznik), p. 179) proposes a similar idea, and conjectures that the name Breznik was
cited in the manuscript copy of the apocryphon because of the increased importance of this
settlement in the Early Ottoman epoch (end of 16thbeginning of 17th century).
I shall mentionhere a probably similar case of interventioninanolder text by the copy-
ist, a case related to me by my colleague Rositsa Gradeva, whom I want to specially thank
for her assistance in the preparation of this part of the study. And so, in the book Gaza-
vat name, composed in the 15th century, the mosque Siyavu [Paa] in Sofia is mentioned
(Pisanie za verskite bitki na sultan Murad, sin na Mehmed khan, ed. M. Kalitsin, Sofia, 1992,
p. 43; R. Gradeva, Sofijskata katedralna tsrkva XVnachaloto na XIX vek, Balkanite. Mod-
ernizatsija, identichnosti, idei. Sbornik v chest na prof. Nadja Danova, ed. Yura Konstantinova
et alii, Sofia, 2011, pp. 570575). This was in fact the basilica St Sophia, which had been given
the name Siyavu [Paa] not before the 16th century. This was probably a substitution of the
name made by a later copyist of the text, who was familiar with the newand contemporane-
ous for him name of the mosque. Of course, this is not a proof of the hypothesis I propose,
but just an illustration of a similar relation to a text, of an existing practice in copied texts.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 61
recent to have been referred to in the mediaeval text, the use of this name
could be viewed as possible evidence of a later interpolation in the text. Few
authors have written about this problem and the topic is usually skipped
and attributed to the generally confused character of the source. Thus, in a
comment to the translation, V. Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova note that
the citation could be related to Dobrudja and Dobrich, and that the name
was probably built on the basis of the word dobro (= good), associated
with the reign of Boris.
Of course, this reasoning is logical and is based
on the general thesis of the authors, who follow the traditional approach
of dating the text to the 11th century. This is one possible solution, but I will
propose a different possible interpretation of the source.
Before examining the idea that the reference might be to something
having to do with Dobrudja, I would like to mentionone more toponymthat
fits. This is a plain on the west bank of the river Morava, near the mouth
of the river Toplitsa, which was once called Dobrie and which we know
about from the Lives of the Serbian Kings and Archbishops by Archbishop
Danilo, from the part of the book devoted to King Stephen Deanski.
I do
not think this late citation gives us very ample possibility for interpretation,
so I will cease searching in this direction. The discrepancy in time and in
ethnic-cultural environment of the two mentions is so great that we cannot
look for any connection between them. Moreover, the above-mentioned
plain was not important enough to be a likely interpolation into the text
later on.
Evidently, this is not the case as regards Dobrudja and the memory of
its rulers, one of whom gave his name to it. The name of this historical-
geographical region has been the topic of many studies and detailed
but we shall not touch upon them here. I accept the prevailing,
Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnata knizhnina, p. 204 note 19;
Tpkova-Zaimova and A. Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 297 note 19.
P. Mutafchiev, Dobroti-Dobrotitsa i Dobrudja, inMutafchiev P., Izbrani proizvedenija,
t. II, Sofia, 1973, p. 115.
Mutafchiev, Dobroti-Dobrotitsa i Dobrudja, pp. 115ff.; A. Popescu, Dobrogea oto-
man (sec. XVXVI): Disocieri teritorial-administrative i cronologice, n: vol. Romnii n
Europa medieval. Studii n onoarea Profesorului Victor Spinei, ed. Dumitru eicu, Ionel Cn-
dea, Brila, 2008, pp. 633ff.; A. Popescu, The Region of Dobrudja from the Middle Ages to
the end of Ottoman Rule, 2008, Egkyklopaideia Meizonos Ellinismou, Euxeinos Pontos, URL: (and the older literature cited there). I would like to
take this opportunity to thank Anca Popescu for the assistance afforded me in the prepa-
ration of this study. A thorough overview of the etymology of the name Dobrudja is made
by V. Gjuzelev in Istorija na Dobrudja, t. II, Veliko Trnovo, 2004, pp. 387390 (with older lit-
erature cited).
62 chapter two
though not unanimous, thesis that the name of the region comes from that
of Despot Dobrotitsa, the most notable ruler of the principality of the local
dynasty of Terters. More important for the present study is the question
as to when the name first appears in the sources. It is logical to place the
terminus post quem according to the date of Despot Dobrotitsas death and
the Ottoman conquest of the region, which was after 1388 and before 1393.
Such a solution would locate the appearance of the name long after the 11th
century, the time to which the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is usually dated. The
name first appears in narrative sources in the first half of the 15th century, in
the chronicle by Yazcolu Ali.
Without discussing at length the history of
its appearance, it is enough to note that it already existed in the 15th century
and was sufficiently well known that the copyist of our source may have
been familiar with it and possibly interpolated the name there. It should
also be pointed out that the form of its usage varied and it is hard to find a
rigorously applied one in that time.
We thus come to the topic of the form cited in this particular case,
Dobrich, which inevitably reminds us of the modern city of that name in
northeast Bulgaria. I must say at once that I believe it impossible this could
be the city referred to in the source. It did not exist in the Middle Ages:
after the 11th century, the central part of Dobrudja was almost completely
deserted and virtually no urban life remained there, but could be found
only along the Pontic littoral of the Danube. The present-day city of Dobrich
was founded probably at the beginning of the 16th century by the Ottoman
merchant Hacolu,
and until the year 1882 was called Hacolu Pazarck.
The name Dobrich was invented after the end of Ottoman domination
based on the name of Despot Dobrotitsa and, of course, in connection with
the region of Dobrudja; this is plainly evident in the act of February 1882,
issued by Prince Alexander I, where this name is indicated without mention
of any prior Bulgarian name of the city.
Evidently, there was no such name
to mention.
Nothing in the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah could be related to the
name of the present-day city of Dobrich. A later addition of the name is
an impossible explanation, for this name first appeared centuries after the
later copy was written, let alone the original text. However, this does not
M. Guboglu, Crestomaie turc. Izvoare narative privind istoria Europei orientale i cen-
trale (12631683), Bucureti, 1978, p. 33; Popescu, Dobrogea otoman, p. 633.
Around the middle of the 16th century Hacolu Pazarck had acquired the official
status of a cityIstorija na Dobrudja, t. III, Sofia, 1988, p. 14.
Drzhaven vestnik (State Official Newspaper), ann. IV, nr. 22/27. II. 1882, p. 170.
context of mediaeval literature and modern historiography 63
refute the connection with Dobrudja in general. In the text, Dobrich is not
mentioned as being the name of a city; in fact, the category of the toponym
is not indicated in any way. Hence we may suppose this mention was a
distorted form of the designation of the historical-geographical region of
Dobrudja, a name that was created in the 15th century, and which was no
doubt at first not stable in the forms in which it appeared in the Ottoman
texts. It was created on the basis of the termlands of Dobrotitsa according
to the already traditional way in which the Osmanlis constructed the names
of the lands they conquered.
Naturally, the question arises as to the time this historical-geographical
name was inscribed in the text. This could not have happened before the
beginning of the 15thcentury, whenthe name itself first came intoexistence.
Since this is long after the supposed time when the text was written, the
name can only have come there as the result of a later interpolation.
Therefore, the citing of toponyms like Breznik and Dobrich can be taken
as one more reason to look for late interpolations in the text of Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. Such cases give me reason to maintain the hypothesis of the
compiled character of this source and the presence of later additions in it.
I do not want to qualify this assertion as more than a hypothesis, for the
character of the text is such as to presuppose that discussions will continue
and a generally accepted and indisputable position on the issues will likely
never be reached.
Nevertheless, in order to establish when the apocryphon was created, we
must take into account that it is a compiled text, and basedonworks written
in various ages. We should also keep in mind that, since the narrative in the
text stops rather abruptly, its ending might be missing (i.e. that it might have
had a continuation and a conclusion that are unknown to us).
I have already discussed the compiled character of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah, so here I will only repeat that no scholar has explicitly questioned
this, but will add that neither has anyone viewed this compiled character
in the way I have proposed. This compiling has broken the text down into
fragments in the course of its history, although its unified message has been
respectedanda complete unifiedtext has beenultimately produced. Hence,
the fragments upon which the compiled text was composed would have
to be dated differently. I would place part of the work even before the 11th
century, and part of it, maybe after that century. Still, the reasonable ques-
tion can arise as to why the last identifiable historical events mentioned
in the Tale are from the middle of the 11th century, while important sub-
sequent events are not present in the text. I could not give a sure answer
to this question (apart from repeating that was the time when the text was
64 chapter two
concluded), but I can propose we should think more about the possibility
that what we have now is not the full text. The latest research on the text
points out the lack of a concluding apocalyptical part, which was so typical
of similar works fromthat time.
The narrative known to us concludes with
the invasionof the Pechenegs, who are describedas violators, deceivers, infi-
dels, and lawless.
This is usually interpreted as an announcement of an
eschatological character, hinting at the approaching end of the world. The
atmosphere this part creates is indeedeschatological, but I donot believe we
can be quite sure that the Pecheneg invasion was intended as the beginning
of the Apocalypse in the text. The logic of the presentation up to that point
does not in any way suggest the approaching end of the world. The Pech-
enegs are mentioned unexpectedlythey appear as a deus ex machina, and
also, there is no direct reference to the end, and the common apocalyptic
figure of the Last Emperor is missing, as are other images from the Apoca-
lypse. It is probable that the text continued or at least was open for further
continuation. I am aware such an assertion cannot be proven by textually
based arguments, and even less can we know what the continuation might
have been. For this, we should perhaps look at the extant works of the Isa-
iahs literary cycle, but I say this only as a conjecture. What matters for the
present study is that I have reasons to propose the missing end solution,
and thus to reject the strict dating of the work to the middle or after the mid-
dle of the 11th century. Of course, I confirm that this century was evidently
important for the construction of the text and probably marks one of the
stages of this construction. Certainly, this is the age related to the last iden-
tifiable historical events cited in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. However, this
does not signify the work could not have been continued. Another question
needing clarification is how an apocryphon dating from the beginning of
the second millennium could have remained intact and reached us in just
one known copy, made about six hundred years later. Indeed, it seems to me
rather improbable that this could really be the case.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Istoriko-apocaliptichnata knizhnina, p. 193; Tpkova-
Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 279.
See this book p. 21 (f. 402d, the last linef. 403a, lines 12).
chapter three
The Prophet Isaiah and the NewIsrael
The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah claims to be a vision from the point of view of
the Prophet Isaiah which he received in heaven before being sent by God
back to earth to lead the Bulgarians. Why was it that the prophet Isaiah
was chosen as the narrator and as the person who leads the Bulgarians to
their new land? I will not dwell on the untenable thesis that the prophet
is a character that comes down from certain shamans from the Sofia area.
Nor do I think it particularly likely his popularity was due to some local
veneration of this prophet in the territories between northeastern Macedo-
nia and Kraishte (the area of Sofia), which some scholars assert based on
the presence of relics of Isaiah in the Osogovo monastery.
Since we do not
have enough extant data about such a cult, it could hardly have been a con-
siderable one. Moreover, we should not explain the accumulation of such
a relatively sizeable amount of literature connected with the name of Isa-
iah by some veneration for which we have very scant data. The explanation
must lie elsewhere and is probably linked with the prophet himself and how
he was perceived, and not with local traditions.
The Prophet Isaiah in His Historical Context
Inorder tounderstandthe use of the figure of Isaiahinthe Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah, it is necessary to understand the background of this biblical prophet.
Isaiah is one of the most highly revered prophets of the Old Testament, and
certainly a favourite of Christian interpreters of Holy Scripture. In Hebrew,
his name signifies Yahwehis salvation. Very little is knownabout his life: he
Mollov, Mit, epos, istorija, pp. 104ff. The whole book may be said to be essentially
determined by such ideas.
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 268 (see also p. 241 note 4); Ivanov, Bogomilski
knigi i legendi, pp. 163164, note 2. Regarding the mention of St Prophet Isaiah ua: ss
r:, w::r:su and his commemoration on May 9, see Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata
paleotipia, p. 41.
66 chapter three
was the sonof Amos (Isaiah1:1, 2:1but not the prophet Amos); of his family
we know nothing further with certainty, but some parts of his book give
reasons to believe he was related to the high society of Jerusalem, his city of
birth. Some other, non-biblical Hebrew traditions preserved in the Talmud,
assert he was the nephewof Amaziah, king of Judah, i.e. his father Amos was
the kings brother.
This was one of the reasons he was characterised as a
royal prophet, someone quite close to the ruling power. This fact is evident
by the biblical book ascribed to him. His exact date of birth is unknown, but
it is known that he began his work as a prophet in the last year of Uzziahs
rule, at the age of twenty. His service to his mission as prophet continued
for more than half a century, until the time of King Manasseh. He had a
wife who is also called a prophetess (Isaiah 8:3), though it is not clear
whether this title was due to her being the wife of a prophet or to some
personal qualities of hers. He had two sons (Isaiah 8:18, see 8:14). He was
certainly a very cultivated man. The date of Isaiahs death is not known. The
apocryphal Martyrdom of Isaiah tells us he suffered for his faith under king
Manasseh: he was sawed in half at the order of this lawless king.
holds that he was buried in Paneas, in the north of the Holy Land, and that
his relics were translatedtoConstantinople inad442. His name is associated
with one of the canonical books of the Old Testament and with several
deuterocanonical or apocryphal texts, one of which is our Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah was a contemporary of the prophet Micah and lived in a time
soon after the prophets Hosea and Amos. It was a time of great religious
fervour, but also of political and social calamities. The Northern Kingdom
fell under the domination of the Assyrians, and soon Judah followed it.
Social and religious decay had enveloped both north and south. Idolatry
spread, especially in Samaria, where it was practiced more or less openly.
It was for these reasons that prophet Isaiah became the bitter critic of the
lawlessness of the Chosen People; similarly critical were most of the other
prophets. Isaiahs popularity in Christian theology is due to his relation to
Tract Megilla (Book of Esther), 10b:
Babylonian Talmud, trans. Michael Levi Radkinson (1918), r. 2223.
This information is legendary and is not derived from Holy Scripture but from the
Talmud and certain deuterocanonical books. The main source is the so-called Martyrdom
of Isaiahsee J.H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudoepigrapha, vol. II, pp. 163164.
Some slight support for it is contained in St Pauls Epistle to the Hebrews (11:37), but without
concreteness. This event is also mentioned by certain Fathers of the Church (Tertullian, St
Justin, pseudo-Epiphanius), but is nevertheless considered more legendary than not.
the chosen people and the promised land 67
Christianity and the prophecy of the coming of a Messiah who would be
born by a Virgin, and his admonition to all nations to have faith in One God.
The book of the prophet consists of three parts, probably writtenat different
times. Here we shall not dwell in detail on the book and its structure. It will
interest us only insofar as it enables us to understand the prophet inthe Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah.
As mentioned, Isaiah was called the royal prophet; and this was due
not solely to his possible kinship with the Jesse-Davidic dynasty that ruled
Judah. From the very start of his prophesying, he was connected with the
royal house and appeared in connection with the end of the period of royal
sin. It should be noted that he began preaching to the Southern Kingdom
in the last year of Uzziahs reign, and thus marked the return of prophesy
to Israel after a long period of its lack due to the kings sin. We will deal in
greater detail with this sin elsewhere in this book, but here I will only point
out that, although the king was driven from the city as a leper, essentially
deprived of actual power, and even buried outside the city walls, the sin-
ful and law-transgressing Uzziah formally retained the throne, which was
believedtobe the reasonGoddeprivedthe ChosenPeople of prophetic pres-
ence. The latter was restored with the prophet Isaiah, and this fact makes
hima strong exponent of the theocratic idea, that is, the power of the priestly
class as opposed to that of the reigning king, especially in the context of the
Uzziahs royal sin.
Theocracy is the basic, defining principle for Isaiah. We see it especially in
the idea he developed of the coming King of Israel. It is exceptionally impor-
tant that precisely Isaiah, in following the prophecies of the Psalms and the
earlier books, related the Messiah, future king of Israel, to the descent of
Jesse, which refers to King David and his lineage.
Thus, God, through the
prophet, confirms the promise given to King David of the eternal reign of
his descendents.
The description of the kingdom to come reminds us of
paradise, not of an earthly garden of prosperity (see Isaiah 11:69). These
ideas were interpreted differently in Jewish and Christian circles but for
both communities they were greatly significant. Although the two tradi-
tions see the Kingdom in rather different ways, both saw the mention of
the House of David as a royal sign, although the Kingdom is seen in rather
different ways. In any case, the it emphasised on the holiness of the Lord
These ideas are especially well-developed in Isaiah, ch. 11, and also in Jeremiah 23: and
33:15, and to a lesser degree in Zechariah 6:12.
See 2Samuel ch. 7, Psalms, 88/89.
68 chapter three
and of His dwelling, i.e. the Temple and Jerusalem; on that faith and obedi-
ence to the Commandments of God as the only path to Salvation, combined
with distrust in earthly power and human wisdom; on the moral dimen-
sions of abiding by the Lawin such a way that this would not be mere ritual
and empty hypocrisy.
Isaiah was active in the political life of his times, and
not only to expose debauchery and idolatry. He intervened in the making
of purely political decisions regarding the policy of the southern kingdom,
pressed between Assyria and Egypt, and always upheld Israelite purism.
In fact, in order to better understand the royal character of Isaiahs
prophecies we should briefly mention the different notions of kingship that
existed in Israel of the Old Testament. One such conception was that of the
Deuteronomical school, the members of which were to various degrees sus-
picious of the monarchy as something alien to Israelite theocracy, as some-
thing that interfered with the direct power of the Lord God over His People.
This was a priestly-levitical movement, which ultimately aimed to restore
the old Amphictyonic organisation of the People of Israel by restricting the
importance of the monarchy.
The knowledge of Gods will couldbe attained
either through the prophets (though there could be times when none were
present, such as during the period of punishment in King Uzziahs reign) or
by means of some Temple procedure, in which case power would pass into
the hands of the priests. This group considered the kings authority to be
real enough but that he was no more than an ordinary man when facing the
prophet and the High Priest. Through the latter the king learns the message
of God, even in cases such as that of the building of the Temple, a privilege
refused to David (though himself a prophet!) but preserved for his descen-
dents. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we learn about an organisation
where the king has his place but only as head of an entirely priestly-levitical
theocratic state.
In the view of the Deuteronomists Israel appeared to rep-
resent not an ethnic or national unity but a religious cult community.
Another type of understanding was tied to a concept of royal messianism,
which emphasised the God-chosenness of the king of the Chosen People.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. X, 2nd ed., Detroit-New York-London, 2007, p. 59.
GerhardvonRad, Studies inDeuteronomy, in: Studies inBiblical Theology, vol. II, London
1953, pp. 70ff.
E. Hammershaimb, Ezekiels View of the Monarchy, in: Studia Orientalia Ioanni Ped-
ersen septuagenario A. D. VII Id. Nov. Anno MCMLII a collegis discipulis amicis dicata, Copen-
hagen, 1953, pp. 130140; Carlson R.A., David, the Chosen King. ATraditio-Historical Approach
to the Second Book of Samuel, Stockholm-Gteborg-Uppsala, 1964, p. 31.
A.R. Hulst, Der Name Israel in Deuteronomium, Oudtestamentische Studin, 9 (1951),
pp. 102ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 69
This understanding held that Gods will became manifest was through a
God-chosen king, whose power given by the choice of God. While this nec-
essarily meant that kingship did not need to be hereditary and Gods choice
could fall upon separate successive kings, it could also be His choice of the
whole line of descendents, including the yet unborn ruler beginning from
his mothers womb.
This would become a source of the dynastic tradition
and of the formula of birth in the purple (porphyrogenesis) as a model of
transmission of power from father to son later in the Byzantine Empire and
the latters satellite countries.
We should keep in mind that the differences between the two groups of
interpretations are not all that great and not at all insurmountable. Most
importantly, both sides are firm supporters of Divine theocracyof this
there is no doubtbut saw it in different ways.
In the Holy Scripture, we see presented two views, both fully compat-
ible with Hebrew theocracy. We learn of sinful kings and of the punish-
ment, they are metedfor their sinfulness, but never of sinful prophets, which
would essentially be a contradiction in terms, inasmuch as a prophet is such
because he hears and passes on to others the Word of God. The prophet Isa-
iah was a prominent political figure of his time. He never held any official
position in the Kingdom of Judah, but he did take part in the making of
political decisions in the course of several decades, in a period of history
that was complicated, turbulent, and difficult. The prophet of God certainly
always held a position that stemmed from the popular faith that God rules
the world and especially His own People, a circumstance that reflected on
the destinies of people that entered in contact with the Children of Israel.
Despite their transgressions andlawlessnesswhichentails punishment
the Hebrews remain the Chosen People, and this fact gave them hope and
justificationfor every political decisionthey made. Their faiththat He would
not allowHis People to be ultimately annihilated must be the starting point
of every decisionrather than trust in earthly forces, powers, unions, and
armies, if these should put in question the obeisance to the Testament and
the Law. Powerful enemies were merely aninstrument of Gods punishment,
Assyria was merely the rod with which sinners were beaten (Isaiah, 10:15).
Only God can punish and only God could save the Kingdom of Judah. And
Although the reference is to a prophet, not a ruler, this expressionwhich has become
emblematic of Gods choiceoccurs in many places in the Book of Isaiah (see 44:2, 24; 48:8;
49:1, 5; see also Jeremiah, 1:5).
G. Dagron, N dans la pourpre, Travaux et mmoires du Centre de recherches d histoire
et civilisation de Byzance, 12, 1994, pp. 105142.
70 chapter three
God calls all people to abide by His Commandments and bids them create
the New Israel, whose king should be of the Stump of Jesse and of Davidic
It should be pointed out that the description which the prophet Isaiah
gives of the life of the Chosen People is not at all flattering: Jerusalem is
compared with Sodom and Gomorrah, faith has turned into superstition,
sorcery and the worship of foreign deities are rampant. The princes and
the leaders of the People are among the most corrupt, their hands are
stainedwithblood, yet they pretendto pray to Godwiththese hands (Isaiah,
1:1520). This sinful violationwill be overcome andthe start of a newage will
be set, when the New Israel shall appear, ruled by a branch of the stem of
David. The religious revival begins with the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah
andwill truly bring about a rebirthof the moral message andreligious purity,
though only after many obstacles have been overcome.
Having explored the background of Isaiah and his prophetic career in
the Old Testament, we can better understand why the author of the Tale
chose him as the figure whom God would have return to the earth to lead
the Bulgarians to their homeland. The argument as to his presence inhistory
should be sought in the original texts on which the Bulgarian compilation
was based, and not with local traditions. Thus, in order to examine seriously
the presence of the prophet Isaiah in the text of the Tale, we had best begin
with the admission that there were most probably no specifically Bulgarian
motives for his central role in the work, but because Isaiah represented the
idea of a return to the righteous past, and as we shall see, the Christian idea
of a New Israel, which was how the land of the Bulgarians was understood
in the Tale. This concept originated in biblical tradition, especially in its
Christian interpretation, and in the deuterocanonical and apocryphal bibli-
cal literature, not because of paganassociations or evensimply the presence
of relics of Isaiah housed in a monastery near Sofia. Extant works and their
degree of dissemination support to this. Some early apocrypha we know of
includes the Martyrdom of Isaiah, the Vision of Isaiah, and the Ascension of
Isaiah. The first of these likely emerged in an Israelite environment, proba-
bly in the 2nd century bc, and it was probably first written in Hebrew and
later translated into Greek. The next two apocrypha were composed in the
early Christian period, probably in Greek. Subsequently the three formed
a set called Ascension of Isaiah,
which has been preserved in its entirety
R.H. Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah, Translated from the Ethiopic Version, Which,
together with the New Greek Fragment, the Latin Versions and the Latin Translation of the
the chosen people and the promised land 71
only in the Ethiopian tradition and in more or less large fragments in Greek,
Latin, Coptic, and Slavic. The Martyrdomtells of howKing Manassehgave in
to lawlessness and commanded that Isaiah be sawn in half. The Vision and
the Ascension relate the voyage of the prophet across the Seven Heavens
to the abode of God and his vision of the end of the world. We will not
discuss this work in detail, inasmuch as it is not considered part of the
strong Isaiahtraditionthat we findinlater Slavic literature. Nevertheless, we
cannot completely overlook it, for, in my opinion, this is the work that lies at
the foundation of this tradition, together with the canonical biblical Book of
Isaiah. Inany case, the work hadenormous importance for the development
and perception of biblical literature, especially among Eastern Orthodox
Christian peoples.
Isaiah in the Mediaeval Christian Tradition
Without questioning the assertion of some scholars that there is no textual
connection between the Ascension and several reworked local Slavic texts,
I would venture the opinion that the apocalyptic part (with its historical
interpretation), as well as the narrative about the voyage through the Seven
Heavens and the visions in them, are certainly linked to the Judeo-Christian
apocryphon and have a common ideal source. This could be true with or
without a textual connection.
As regards the present study, this conclusion is particularly important
and that is why I will briefly discuss the above-mentioned works. Part of the
complex, early Judeo-Christian apocryphon Ascension of Isaiah has reached
us infifteenSlavic transcripts, the oldest of whichis Russian, dating fromthe
12th century, from the Dormition (Uspenskij) Cathedral in Moscow (State
Historical Museum, Synodal collection, No 1063/4).
Among other works
that we should consider is the Tale of the St Prophet Isaiah about the Future
Times and about the Kings, and about the Antichrist Who Is to Come.
Slavonic, is here Published in Full, London, 1900; J.H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseu-
doepigrapha, vol. II, pp. 143176. A different opinion expressed Enrico Norelli in his book on
the Isaiahs tradition (E. Norelli, LAscensione di Isaia. Studi su un apocrifo al crocevia dei
cristianesimi (Origini n. s. 1), Bologna, 1994) who dated the Martyrdom later that the other
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, pp. 131164; Uspenskij sbornik XIIXIII vv., Moscow,
1971, pp. 169177; A. Kossova Giambelluca, Nabljubenija vrkhu starobulgarskata traditsija
na Videnie Isaevo. Sotvetstvija i razlichija s tekstovata tradicija na Vznesenie Isaevo,
Palaeobulgarica, 1983, 2, pp. 6679.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 139ff.
72 chapter three
work is a compilation connected with the prophet Isaiah only in its title.
The tale itself consists of a chronicle followed by an apocalyptic section,
the latter containing the story of the apocalyptic last king Michael. In the
chronicle, the text contains at least two passages that are the same as the
narrative of the Tale, the main subject of this study. The passages are the
story of the fight between King Gordius, called Chigochin, and King Gagan
(Gaghen) Odelean, and the story of the evil King Symeon the Wise. These
similarities cannot be accidental. Evidently there is a connection between
the two works, and it is notable that the Tale of the St Prophet Isaiah about
the Future Times and about the Kings, and about the Antichrist Who Is to
Come is considerably more detailed about both episodes. A sufficiently
large amount of literature has been devoted to this matter, and, without
going further into the discussion, we can say that the two form a set that
has quite enough common features; these would probably be found to
be even more numerous if we had the whole texts on which to base our
judgementone of the texts gives the impression that the beginning is
missing (as it starts fromthe thirty-seventh king), while the other ends quite
abruptly. The connection of the Tale with the old apocryphon Ascension of
Isaiah is harder to specify, but it can be traced in at least two directions.
First, the Tale mentions Isaiahs journey through the Seven Heavens, which,
although textually different, is clearly related the voyage of the prophet
across the Seven Heavens to the abode of God in Ascension of Isaiah. The
secondconnectionis the apocalyptic nature of both. Althoughthe Tale lacks
a detaileddescriptionof the endof the world, at the beginning Godpromises
Isaiaha visionof what will happento the last of [your] kindinthe last days.
Adescription of this vision may have been contained in a missing ending to
the Tale (which ends rather abruptly in its current state) or may not have
ever been present in the Tale, but its mention echoes the vision of the end
of the world in the Ascension of Isaiah.
The next work is from the Isaiah tradition extant in Slavic literature is
entitledVisionof the Prophet Isaiahabout the Last Times.
Here the narration
is by the prophet himself and is structurally very similar to the text of our
Tale. Indeed, the beginning parts of both worksabout how the prophet
Isaiah was raised to the Seventh Heaven and received his special mission
from the Lordare identical. The texts are related, although the narratives
become quite different further on. It should also be noted that Vision of
Bulgarskata literatura i knizhnina prez XIII vek, ed. Iv. Bozhilov, St. Kozhukharov, Sofia,
1987, pp. 159ff.; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 332ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 73
the Prophet Isaiah about the Last Times has a Greek original, and this fact
resolves many questions about the general nature of this Isaiah tradition in
Slavic literatures. All this gives reason to assert that the two works have a
common archetype, which must be a Greek one and quite earlier.
This brief, and certainly incomplete, overviewshows that the apocalyptic
works of the so-called Isaiah tradition constitute a complex set with a
common ideological message. This message is related to past history and
to the history of last days of peoples, to the succession of benevolent and
blessed kings and kingdoms and the retracing of those kingdoms in the
unity of history, a unity based on the salvation, as promised by the Lord,
of the faithful at the end of the world and in the last time. Thus, religious
eschatology and political ideology provide the grounds for the formation of
a newidentity, which can be formulated as the NewIsrael. Once accepted,
this view supplies an explanation for the presence of the figure of the
prophet Isaiah in the texts under consideration. In fact, we may say that,
most probably, his popularity in the compiled Slavic books was inherited
from the same popularity in the Christian East. It is due to the Christian
interpretation of his prophecies, in which he speaks about the rebirth of
Israel, appeals to all nations to have faith in the One God, and foretells the
future kingdomof the Chosenunder the rule of the Branchof Davids stump.
In this way, the eschatological royal tradition becomes linked to the name
of Isaiah (and to the prophet Daniel, which explains the special importance
of this prophet).
The apocryphon we are discussing here, and especially the way it was
interpreted in mediaeval Bulgaria, were based less on Old Testament events
than on their New Testament interpretation. The latter gives a new dimen-
sion to understanding Isaiah, a different dimension though based on the
pre-Christian biblical tradition. The Holy Fathers of the Church were the
first to qualify this prophet as the greatest of all, and many Fathers devoted
special commentaries on Isaiah and his book. Basically, the main message
of the commentaries is thatin keeping with the Christian traditionthey
see him as a forerunner of the Gospel, which foretold the coming of the
Saviour and called all nations to the Holy Mountain of the Lord God, all and
not only the people of Israel. This creation of a New Israel, of a New God-
chosen People, is one of the central points in the Christian understanding of
Isaiah and in his being selected as chief personage in certain non-canonical
or semi-canonical texts, such as our Tale.
Universalism did not hold a large place or was very welcome in the
Hebrew environment. Still, the idea of Renovation (meant as a return to
the righteous past) existed in ancient Israel as well, and hence the first
74 chapter three
rudiments of the idea of a New Israel can be found in the Old Testament
texts as well, even without interpreting them as prophecies of the New Tes-
tament. There was probably such an element in the whole deuteronomical
movement andinsome other Israelite groups, but there it couldnot possibly
have been aimed at the idea that would later grow in a Christian environ-
ment, namely, that the New Israel is a covenant of the Lord not only with
the descendents of Abraham and Sarah but with all faithful and righteous
NewIsrael in Christian Thinking
The Christian idea of the New Israel rests on the book of Isaiah, but was
formulated by St Peter in his First Epistle: But ye are a chosen generation, a
royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth
the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous
light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God:
which had not obtained mercy, but nowhave obtained mercy. (1 Peter, 2:910).
These words of the apostle paraphrase the words of the Old Testament
where the Lord declares to the People of Israel that they are His own People
(Exodus 19:56; Deuteronomy 7:6, 10:15, 14:2). In my opinion, an especially
important text is Exodus 19:6, where the God-chosenness of the Children
of Israel is based on obedience to the Law and to the absolute theocracy
and religious identity of the chosen. That is where the seed lies for the
future idea of the Chosen People, which for the Hebrews remained more
or less linked with ethnic affiliation but which underwent a significant
development in the Christian environment. It was in the early Church that a
newandentirely universalistic understanding of the NewIsrael was devised,
one in which the New Israel was identified with the Church. Thus, the
Chosen People was no longer ethnically defined and affiliation among that
People was not determined by origin; for all people are included in the new
However, in the course of history, an ideology of religious exclusiveness
based on ethnic origin developed even in Christian environments. Ele-
ments of such an ideology can be observed both in the Roman/Byzantine
Empire and in certain Barbarian kingdoms, being based largely on the eth-
nic principle combined with territorially based government. Essentially, the
idea of the New Israel, of the New Chosen People, has two dimensions
and manifestations, which at times yield opposite results. Universalism
meets particularism; the universal idea meets a kind of mediaeval nation-
alism or, in the modern world, authentic nationalism. The New Israel of
the chosen people and the promised land 75
the early Church had indicated the spiritual community without discrimi-
nation, but came to be substituted by a definition of God-chosenness based
on group identity criteria. This was a basis not only for claims to a special
mission for those having that identity but also for political, ethnic, or social
exceptionalism. Both tendencies are evident in the Empire, but the latter
gradually came to be perceptibly predominant after the loss of the territo-
ries in the Near East and North Africa, and with the Hellenisation of the
state. The change of model was accompanied by a change of identity and,
respectively, by a new political conduct brought about by the new concep-
Because of the strong connections between mediaeval Bulgaria and the
Byzantine state, it is perhaps worthwhile to call attention to howthe Byzan-
tines developed a self-conception of being a NewIsrael, a conception which
could be imported and utilised by the people of Bulgaria. The latest gen-
eral study on the Byzantine idea of the New Israel is that of Paul Mag-
dalino and Robert Nelson in the introduction to the volume Old Testament
in Byzantium.
The authors trace the development of the idea starting from
Late Antiquity, its transformations related to the political events on the ter-
ritory ruled by the New Rome, and its manifestations in various cultural
spheres: literature, art, ritual, architecture and urban planning, knowledge.
It started by taking away the chosenness fromthe Hebrews and assimilating
it in favour of the Christians. The Promised Land of the old Chosen People
became the Holy Land of the Christians, and the landscape, especially the
urban one, nowcame to be dominated by the basilicas of the newfaith, and
not by the Temple, the houses of prayer or the pagan sanctuaries. The impe-
rial capital Constantinople turnedintothe NewJerusalem, a newholy city at
the centre of the Holy Land. The Empirein terms of government, people,
landwas interpreted as typologically identical with Gods People. In this
sense, it is worth noting the comparison, made by Cosmas Indicopleustes
in his exegesis of Daniels prophecy about the kingdoms, between the laws,
institutions and order of the Old Testament and the Roman ones, which he
considers to be their substitutes and continuation.
In this interpretation,
the Empire is seen as an eternal structure corresponding to the Kingdom of
God, and which appeared together with the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus
P. Magdalino, R. Nelson, Introduction, Old Testament in Byzantium, Washington, D.C.,
2010, pp. 138.
Cosmas Indicopleusts, Topographie chrtienne, d. W. Wolska-Conus, vol. I (= Sources
chrtiennes, 141), Paris, 1968, pp. 387389.
76 chapter three
Christ in the world. The chronicle of John Malalas, with its specific view
on the biblical past, also provides interesting possibilities.
Of course, the
time of the emperor Heraclius was crucial for this new conception, for it
was a time of constant crisis for the Byzantine state and society. Scholars
typically devote special attention to this period since it was exceptionally
rich in manifestations of the ideology we are discussing. The salvation of
Constantinople fromthe Persian and Avar siege in ad626 was an event that
had enormous consequences for the spiritual life of the Byzantines and of
Orthodox Christians. In contemporary literature, the event was viewed as
a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies about the salvation of the
Chosen People and the demise of the latters enemies. This is expressed in
the well-known homily by Theodore Syncellus. It is entirely based on the
typological correspondence of events during the siege with Old Testament
archetypes, as Theodore attempted to construct an image of Byzantium as
the New Israel.
He likens the Avars to Gog and Magog,
and calls the Per-
sians Chaldeans and Assyrians,
a reference to the oppressors of Israel
in biblical times. For the same purpose, he refers to the Persian King Chos-
roes II as Nebuchadnezzar, the Assyrian king who seized Jerusalem and
destroyed the Temple (see 2Kings, 2Chronicles, Daniel, Judith, etc.), while
the Satrape Shahrbaraz is called Holofernes (see the Book of Judith).
drowning of the army of the Avars and Slavs in the waters near the impe-
rial capital is compared to that of Pharaohs army in the Red Sea (Exodus
In addition, he describes the Empire as the Holy Land, so that
Constantinople becomes Jerusalem;
and the Bosporus becomes the river
Recherches sur la chronique de Jean Malalas, ed. J. Beaucamp et autres, Centre des
recherches d histoire et civilisation de Byzance, Monographies 15, Paris, 2006. About Bulga-
riaIv. Bozhilov, Sedem etuda po srednovekovna istorija, Sofia, 1995, p. 253; Nikolov, Politich-
eskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 166ff.
Magdalino, Nelson, Introduction, pp. 1617.
L. Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, Cracoviae 1900, p. 316; Makk, Traductionet commentaire
de l homlie, p. 39.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 300
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de l homlie,
p. 12.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 300
, 313
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de
l homlie, pp. 13, 34. See also Sternbach, p. 309, Makk, p. 28, where there is reference to the
conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan (2Kings, 25:8ff.).
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 308
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de l homlie,
p. 26.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 301
and in many other places in this text; Makk,
Traduction et commentaire de l homlie, p. 14 etc. The imperial capital is called navel of the
world (Sternbach, p. 317
; Makk, p. 41), an expression employed for Jerusalem as well.
the chosen people and the promised land 77
The leaders of the citys defence, PatriarchSergius andthe Patrician
Bonus, are called the New Moses and the New Gideon (Judges, chapters
68), respectively.
The Chosen People are the people of Gods Law, and hence the identity
of the New Israel and the ideology related to it has a direct bearing on law,
legislation, and normative order. Of course, law always held an important
place in the Empire, but we can notice certain significant features of Roman
law beginning in this period. Quite naturally, the major figure of Byzantine
and post-classical Roman law was Justinian, thanks to the codification of
Roman law commissioned in his reign. The attitude towards him during
the Middle Ages both East and West was one of nearly religious reverence.
Eventhoughwe candiscerninthis emperors policies the romantic dreamof
restoring the Empire in its grandeur of the times of the first pagan emperors,
it should be pointed out that the main purpose of his code was to Chris-
tianise Roman law. After the age of Emperor Heraclius and especially in the
second half of the 7th century, a new massive ecclesiastic legislation was
undertaken (chiefly at the Council in Trullo), followed in the next century
by the secular legislation of the iconoclastic emperors.
These laws stressed
Christianisation to an even greater degree, and naturally the Old Testament
heritage, towards whichthe heretical emperors were particularly partial. For
these emperors the rejection of images was a way of building an identity
based on religious exclusiveness. It was certainly derived from the Old Tes-
tament tradition of prohibiting idolatry and images in general, and shows
a distinct tendency to archaisation and Judaisation of ritualand ritual
always played an essential role in Byzantine culture, especially the sacra-
ment of the Eucharist. Thus we see that legislation developed hand in hand
with the introduction of some elements of religious service promulgated in
the councils of the second half of the 7th century, which were inspired by
Old Testament forms and practices. The lawand ritual together led to a new
identity both of the faithful people and for their state. Thus, in this process
we can trace all three exceptional and decisive factors for the creation of
identity: religious practice, a sense of biblical historical precedent, and the
creation of a normative order.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 300
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de l homlie,
p. 13.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 305
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de l homlie,
p. 20.
Magdalino, Nelson, Introduction, pp. 1819.
78 chapter three
The chaotic years of the seventh century were not without their con-
sequences. After the reign of Heraclius, the Byzantine understanding of
themselves as a NewIsrael mostly stressed particularism, not on the univer-
sal character of the Empire. While the Byzantine Empire preserved many
traits of the Christian universalismof the Church, the idea of the NewIsrael
in Byzantium closely mirrored the religious exclusiveness in the Western
periphery of the Christian world.
In fact, in Europe the idea of exclusiveness first arose among the Bar-
barians that had settled on the territories of the Empire.
The Frankish or
Visigothic notions of being a New Chosen People (also shared, among oth-
ers, by the inhabitants of the British Isles) can be seen not as an attempt
to adopt the Roman legacy but rather an attempt to escape it. This was
an alternative wayand perhaps the only alternative available to these
peoples at the timefor them to acquire a model of a unified and homo-
geneous society, with its institutions, law, and government anchored to
the idea of sacredness and theocracy.
Thus, when Gregory of Tours com-
pared Clovis and Chlothar to the King and Prophet David, he presented
an Old Testament model of king and leader, not a Roman one.
Of course,
these ideas were further developed after the anointment of Pippin the Short
as king and the introduction of this Davidic ritual in Christian Western
Europe, and later by Charlemagne with his revival of the concept of Davidic
In Ethiopia the construction of identity based on the Old Testament tradition was
such that it combined religious particularism with certain universalist ideas. I have devoted
a separate article to this question (Biliarsky Iv., The Birth of the Empire by the Divine
Wisdom and the Ecumenical Church (Some observations on the Ethiopian Book of Kebra
Nagast), The Biblical Models of Power and Law / Les modles bibliques du pouvoir et du droit,
ed. Ivan Biliarsky, Radu G. Pun, (= Rechtshistorische Reihe, 336), Peter Lang, Frankfurt am
Main-Berlin-Bern-Bruxelles-New York-Oxford-Wien, 2008, pp. 2343), to which I refer the
reader; here I will express some disagreement with Peter Brown, who seems inclined to
equate, or at least consider similar, the processes that took place in Ethiopia and among
the Franks: P. Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom. Triumph and Diversity, A. D. 2001000,
second edition, Blackwell Publishing, Malden MA-Oxford, 2003, pp. 138139, 140141.
I should point out an interesting assertion that must be kept in mind when studying
the New Israel ideology: it usually comes from outside a society and is the product of
developments in a marginal circle. See Mary Garrison, The Franks as NewIsrael? Education
for an Identity fromPippin to Charlemagne, in: The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages,
ed. Yitz. Hen and M. Innes, Cambridge, 2004, p. 120.
The New Israel identity and the related political-ideological use of the past among the
Germans is especially well presentedinthe study by M. Garrison, The Franks as NewIsrael?,
pp. 114161.
Gregory of Tours, History of Franks, ed. O.M. Dalton, vol. II, Oxford, 1927, p. 133; Brown,
The Rise, p. 139.
the chosen people and the promised land 79
This was a traditionthat continuedinFrance until the Revolution
in the late 18th century, and still continues in Great Britain today. It may be
said to have reflected the predominant interpretation and sacralisation of
the rulers power during the Middle Ages.
In Ireland and Britain this development was especially interesting and
produced a result that influenced not only the local but also the general
European tradition.
As early as the first half of the 6th century Gildas
described the Brits and the situation in the country in clearly Old Testa-
ment terms and with profuse comparisons and quotations fromthe biblical
prophets IsaiahandJeremiah, reproaching the Brits for their sins evenas the
prophets exposedthe sinfulness of Israel.
Celtic, andespecially Irish, Chris-
tianity displayed a remarkable readiness to follow Old Testament models
in detail. As Peter Brown writes, in barbaric Ireland there was nothing
frompolygamy to the public display of the chopped-off heads of enemies
that was not borrowed from the Old Testament.
Thus, the inhabitants of
the extreme European Northwest, who made an enormous contribution to
Europeanculture, intendedtopreserve Gods blessings for themselves as His
Chosen People, just as this blessing had followed the Hebrews along their
course. The pre-Christianperiodof Celtic culture was for the Irishtheir pre-
vious Covenant with the Lord God who prepared them for Evangelisation.
In this sense, we notice howthe adoption of biblical pre-Christian texts was
closely linked both to tribal-ethnic exclusiveness and to the idea of a New
This cultural renewal of the Celtic peoples producedparticularly interest-
ing results among the insular Celts as regards interms of their royal ideology.
In the pre-Christian age there was a well-developed tradition among them,
related to the hierogamy of the ruler with some local goddess of fertility and
Iv. Biliarsky, Mutaberis invirumalium. Observations sur certains problmes juridiques,
lis l onction royale, Ius et ritus. Rechtshistorische Abhandlungen ber Ritus, Macht und
Recht, herausg. von Iv. Biliarsky, Sofia, 2006, pp. 94101.
See R. Meens, The uses of the Old Testament in early Medieval canon law: the Collectio
Vetus Gallica and the Collectio Hibernensis, in: The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages,
ed. Yitz. Hen and M. Innes, Cambridge, 2004, pp. 6777; Biliarsky, Mutaberis in virumalium,
pp. 9394.
Gildae De excidio Britanniae, pp. 86ff. (practically the whole bookespecially after
p. 50is basedonthese comparisons; the secondpart of the book deals withthe Britishkings
and judges in parallel but as opposed to the Hebrewones because of the formers sinfulness);
Brown, The Rise, p. 140.
Brown, The Rise, p. 338. On polygamy see the interesting observations by P. Brown (op.
cit., pp. 338339), as well as F. Kelly, AGuide toEarly IrishLaw, (=Early IrishLawSeries, vol. III),
Dublin, 1988, p. 70.
80 chapter three
hunting, and this tradition involved special rituals that created a not par-
ticularly positive image of the barbarians of the Northwest.
Later, both in
the Iro-Scottishand Welshenvironment, a royal ideology of the Davidic type
which may have influenced the formation of such an ideology
in continental Europe.
The Slavic peoples also developed a New Israel identity and ideology.
Whereas among the Poles and Russians this phenomenon appeared only
in a later age,
amongst the Serbs we find a great amount of information
fromthe times before the Ottoman invasion and the conquest of Southeast-
ern Europe. Hence, the development among the neighbours to the west of
the Bulgarians is of greater interest for our study. This Bible-based politi-
cal ideology was already evident in the literary tradition related to the cult
of St. Symeon, the Grand Zhoupan Stephen Nemanja, who was compared
to the Old Testament Patriarchs in literature and in art.
The military suc-
cesses of the Serbian rulers were likewise traditionally described in terms
of Old Testament figures such as Moses and Joshua ben Nun.
A number
of vitae of Serbian rulers from the Nemanides dynasty provide ample mate-
rial for study. Especially worthy of attention are the vitae of the founder of
M. Herbert, Goddess and King: The Sacred Marriage in Early Ireland, Women and
Sovereignty, (= Cosmos. The Yearbook of the Traditional Cosmology Society, vol. 7), Edinburgh,
1992, pp. 264275; M. Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup. Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the
European Warband from La Tne to the Viking Age, Dublin-Portland OR, 1996, pp. 169ff.;
B. Jaski, Early Irish Kingship and Succession, Dublin-Portland OR, 2000, pp. 57ff.
This is testified to by the texts that interpret the power of the ruler as well as various
depictions of King David, of which the sarcophagus at St Andrews is the most significant
see The Art of the Picts. Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland, London, 2004,
pp. 129ff.
M. Enright, Iona, Tara and Soissons. The Origin of Royal Anointing Ritual, Berlin-New
York, 1985, pp. 5ff.
Among these nations, messianism, developed since the 17th century, is related to
the formation of nations and nationalism. However, even if the ideology of chosenness of
the people as a New Israel, as Theophoric, or as a Sacrificial Nation was not connected
to nationalism, in any case since the Age of Enlightenment it was related to some kind
of exclusiveness that could border on racism or religious intolerance. For instance, the
remarkable case of the Boers in South Africa (A. du Toit, The myth of the Calvinist origins of
Afrikaner nationalismand racist ideology, AmericanHistorical Review, 88, 1983, pp. 920952)
or the racial conflicts in North America, where both sides elaborated similar views: Garrison,
The Franks as NewIsrael?, pp. 114123; A.D. Smith, ChosenPeoples. SacredSources of National
Identity, Oxford, 2003.
B. Bojovi, L idologie monarchique dans les hagio-biographies dynastiques du Moyen
Age serbe, (= Orintalia christiana analecta, 248), Roma, 1995, p. 299 (see also note 88), 332,
337138, 386, 407.
Bojovi, L idologie monarchique, r. 532, 627631; uri V., Novi Isus Navin, Zograf,
vol. 14, Beograde, 1983, pp. 5ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 81
the dynasty as well as that of the king Stephen Deanski written by Gregory
Tzamblak. During the 15th century, at the time of the Brankovi dynasty, in
the face of the Ottoman conquest and with the approaching seventh mil-
lennium and expected end of the world, the Serbs idea of their being the
people of the New Israel grew stronger and is increasingly present in the
sources. This occurred in the context of an exceptionally strong interest of
the Serbians in the Old Testament as a text, in connection with the project
of a new translation and/or editing of the Old Testament in the first quar-
ter of the 15th century.
Of course, the importance of this project was more
than purely literary, being obviously linked with the political situation and
the development of a new identity related to the specific situation of Ser-
bia in the Balkans in the face of the approaching Ottomans. In interpreting
themselves as the last support of Christianity andinthe categories of anepic
battle that acquired increasingly eschatological traits, the Serbs and their
ruler trusted inGods assistance just as the biblical leaders of the Childrenof
Israel did in their time. Perhaps the text where this viewwas expressed most
clearly was the Vita of Stephen Lazarevi by Constantine the Philosopher
(Kosteneki), in which a number of themes were developed and personal
and topographic images presented that stressed the similarities between
Serbia and the Serbian capital and that of the Holy Land and Jerusalem.
The purpose of these comparisons lies in the idea of constructing the iden-
tity of this nation as a new Israel so as to ground the nature of the nations
Of course, mediaeval Bulgaria couldnot remainisolatedfromthe dissem-
ination of this model of identity and ideology. The model can be discov-
ered equally in Preslav, in Trnovgrade and in the capital that developed in
the Southwest lands under the Cometopouloi.
The present book is largely
devoted to this model. However, there are certain differences between the
creation and use of the New Israel idea among the Bulgarians and in the
neighbouring countries. In Bulgaria in the 9th10th century, the model was
N. Gagova, Vladeteli i knigi. Uchastieto na juzhnoslavjanskija vladetel v proizvodstvoto i
upotrebata na knigi prez Srednovekovieto (IXXV v.): retseptsijata na vizantijskija model, Sofia,
2010, pp. 232ff.
J. Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim. Razmiljanja o recepciji jednog toposa u doba
Stefana Lazarevia, Zbornik radova Vizantolokog instituta, XLIII (2006), pp. 97109.
A. Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 160ff. (the author
gives an interesting overview of the various views about the past and its use in building an
identity and the political ideology related to this identity); Iv. Biliarsky, Old Testament Mod-
els and the State in Early Medieval Bulgaria, Old Testament in Byzantium, ed. P. Magdalino,
R. Nelson, Washington D.C., 2010, pp. 255277.
82 chapter three
understandably not the same as in Serbia in the 14th15th century or in
Trnovgrade during the Second Bulgarian Empire. In the former case, there
was the emergence of a new identity in the transition period after the great
change that every nation underwent in the Middle Ages after adopting the
Christian faith, while in the latter two casesand especially in Serbiait
was the result of the struggle against the advancing Muslimconquerors and
the existential threat they posed to autonomy and Christianity.
The differ-
ence inthe situationmeant that they attached different meaning to the idea
of being a NewIsrael, though both were ultimately rooted in Holy Scripture.
We have indications that point to the existence of such identity its ide-
ology in mediaeval Bulgaria. However, they are neither so numerous nor so
original as those later found in Serbia. Among them, we may point out a
number of liturgical texts that designate the pious nationas Israel, especially
with reference to the rite of the coronation of the Tsar, where the power of
the enthroned is directly compared to that of King David, enthroned and
anointed by the prophet Samuel under Gods direction.
The problem is
that all these are translated texts, directly borrowed from Byzantine Greek
originals, as was the practice for nearly all Bulgarian liturgical literature.
The same could be said regarding the presence of Old Testament themes
and models of historical literature. In both cases we have a phenomenon
that represents one of the essential characteristics of the whole Bulgarian
mediaeval culture: borrowed identity based on borrowed translated texts,
the source of which was the Byzantine Empire that Bulgaria tried to imitate
throughout the Middle Ages. I have developed this topic in another one of
my studies;
here I will point out that whatever grain of originality may be
found in the Bulgarian environment lies rather in the deuterocanonic litera-
ture, which were more open to alteration and adaptation by their Bulgarian
translators than more official texts. The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is one such
deuterocanocial text.
In the Tale, there is no direct reference to the New Israel but it certainly
contains indications of such a concept; the clearest of these is the narrative
of the prophet Isaiah about how he led the Bulgarians to their land. I would
say that this narrative typologically matches the narrative of the arrival
Biliarsky, Old Testament Models, p. 276 note 80.
Iv. Biliarsky, Le rite du couronnement des tsars dans les pays slaves et promotion
d autres axiai, Orientalia christiana periodica, vol. 59, fasc. 1, 1993, p. 103
. This particular
text exists in a Serbian and Russian environment, where it was likewise translated and
borrowed from the Empire.
Iv. Biliarsky, L histoire et l identit, Revue des tudes sud-est europennes, XLI, 14,
Bucarest, 2003, pp. 3355.
the chosen people and the promised land 83
of the Hebrew people in the Promised Land. Inasmuch as elsewhere we
will show that the geographical-historical characteristics of the new lands
of the Bulgarians were intended to reflect Canaan, we may say that the
people that came to the land and received it by Divine grace must have the
characteristics of a Chosen People. They inhabited it under the direction of
the prophet and in following the will of God. This people are called the last
to live in the end times. The eschatological dimension of the implications
of the text are confirmed in the last part of the Tale, where, in referring to
the invasion of the violent and the lawless, the narrative suggests the end of
the world. Though originating in the Old Testament, the lawless one is an
eschatological figure in the New Testament as well (2Thessalonians, 2:8).
The Bulgarians are chosen and separated as a third part of the Cumans,
who are located in the upper countries or on the left parts of Rome.
This is done by the prophet Isaiah, but at the command and by decision
of the Almighty. The prophet leads them, showing the road with a reed.
This character strongly reminds us of the prophet Moses leading the people
of Israel through the desert. The Holy Scripture refers in many places to
reed, especially in the Old Testament, and in most cases this means either
some unit of length measured with a reed stem (especially for measuring
the Temple in the Book of Ezekiel, ch. 4048, but also in Revelation of St
John, 11:1, 21:15), or something easily bendable (Isaiah 58:5, Matthew 11:7,
Luke 7:24) but it was also often used as a synonym for staff (1 Kings 14:15;
2Kings 18:21; Ezekiel 29:6; Isaiah 36:6, 42:3, 58:5; 3Maccabees 2:16; Matthew
11:7; Luke 7:24). Some of the concrete quotations deserve special attention. In
the Book of Isaiah 3:1, the reed and the sceptre are mentioned as a means of
support. A similar meaning is found in the Gospel of Matthew 27:29, where
during the Passion of Christ, in the praetorium, His torturers give him a
reed as a mock sceptre and then beat Him with it. In these two quotations
reed is used as a synonym of rod but both are used as a support in the
literal and figurative sense: physical and spiritual support. It is to note that
reed is related to the story of the infant Moses, whom Pharaohs daughter
discovers in the flags, placed in an ark of bulrushes (Exodus, 2:35). All
these observations give us some reason to see a parallel between the tale of
the prophet Isaiah leading the Bulgarians to their land by indicating the way
with a reed, and the biblical story of Moses leading Israel to the Promised
Land, which is a symbol of victory achieved with the aid of God and is one
of the signs and pillars of power in the Empire.
The prophet Isaiah, as he
The biblical story of Moses leading Israel to the Promised Land, which is a symbol of
84 chapter three
appears in our Tale, possesses the features of a leader of the Chosen People
and thus reminds of the prophet Moses. Isaiah did not belong to the tribe
of Levi, closely linked to the Covenant of the Hebrews with the Lord, but
to the tribe of Judah, mostly linked to the idea of calling all peoples to faith
in the Messiah, who, in his earthly origin, was connected precisely to King
David and the stump of Jesse. Thus, Isaiah acts in the Tale as a typological
successor to Moses, leading a new Chosen People to a new Holy Land, but
unlike the people led by Moses this new Chosen People were part of a New
Covenant created through the coming of the Messiah. We now understand
why the name of this particular prophet was used and howthe text presents
the people he led is an image of the as the Chosen People and of the royal
Geographical Features of Religious Identity
Landandpeople formanindivisible unity andjointly supply, and/or receive,
an identity to/from the state, which is in a similarly inseparable unity with
the ruling power. These characteristics common to all peoples can be found
insome elements of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, a fact that reflects the state
of society in Bulgaria in the times of the Conversion, during the building of
a new Christian identity based on the Holy Scripture. We may assert that a
complex set of ideas existed in the country, closely connected to the forma-
tion of self-consciousness, in which the perception and reworking of ideas
taken from the Old Testament was of great significance. Direct testimonies
to this are few and fragmentary, so the reconstruction of this connection
can only rest upon the few texts that have come down to us. We saw that
in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah we find traces of the construction of the
concept of a NewChosen People. Such a people require a Promised Land to
occupy. In this part of the study, we will trace certain geographical charac-
teristics through which the new land of the Bulgarians was reinterpreted
as a holy topography. We may assert that a complex set of ideas existed
in the country, closely connected to the formation of self-consciousness,
in which the perception and reworking of ideas taken from the Old Tes-
tament was of great significance. Direct testimonies to this are few and
victory achievedwiththe aidof God, was a commonimage of power inthe Byzantine Empire,
see G. Dagron, Empereur et prtre. Etude sur le csaropapisme byzantin, Bibliothque des
Histoires, Paris, 1996, pp. 106107, 114115, 224.
the chosen people and the promised land 85
fragmentary, so the reconstructionof this connectioncanonly rest uponthe
few texts that have come down to us.
Before beginning my discussion specifically of the text of the Tale, I
should point out the importance of the concept of Holy or Promised Land
for the various monotheistic Abrahamic religions and the frequent assim-
ilation of the concept. After the Christianisation of the Empire, a new
Christian topography was created, which replaced the Israelite topography
related to Canaan and reinterpreted the country in the spirit of the new
The Empire was covered with a dense network of churches and
monasteries and the urban landscape came to be dominated by enormous
Christian basilicas. Some of these were built upon sites related to Old Tes-
tament history, which came to be common to all three Abrahamic religions.
As all places of Divine presence, the Holy Land became the main point
of attraction for pilgrimage. The Holy Sepulchre came to replace in many
respects the Temple and the Holy of Holies.
Churches were erected above
Jerusalemand in Sinai holy sites such as the supposed location of the Burn-
ing Bush and the place were the Law was given through Moses were now
in the hands of the Christians. As Paul Magdalino and Robert Nelson have
pointed out, this was the last page in the story of the Hebrews loss of reli-
gious independence (a story that began with the destruction of the Temple
by the Romans) and of the appropriation of this religion by other monothe-
istic faiths.
The Muslimconquerors, who arrived later on the scene, did the
same thing: the Temple Mount came to be regarded as sacred to the Muslim
andis still intheir hands; likewise, many other OldTestament sites, suchas
the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron are under the control of the followers
of the prophet Mohammed.
This appropriation of the Holy Land was an important step for the cre-
ationandself-representationof a NewChosenPeople. It representeda semi-
otic victory for the new faith, but was not the only path to achieving this
victory. Suchappropriationwas only possible tothose people whohaddirect
physical access to the landof the Canaanites, the Holy Landof the OldTesta-
ment. Other people, for whom this access was not possible, took the image
of that land, copied it, and reinterpreted their own lands in its image.
This is the topic of the book by R. Wilken, The Land Called Holy, New Haven-London,
Ousterhout R., New Temples and New Solomons. Rhetoric of Byzantine Architec-
ture, The Old Testament in Byzantium, ed. P. Magdalino, R. Nelson, Washington D.C., 2010,
pp. 237239.
Magdalino-Nelson, Introduction, pp. 1314.
86 chapter three
The representation of the land of the Bulgarians following the biblical
archetype shows us how mediaeval people saw their own land and testifies
that the whole complex of land-people-state was thought of as a replica of
the Old Testament model.
Let us begin with the land to which, following Gods will, the prophet
Isaiah led the Bulgarians and where they established their kingdom. In the
Tale it is called as The Land of Karvuna, called Bulgarian Land. There the
prophet settled the people entrusted to him in place of the Romans and
Hellenes, who had left. In its geographical location this land is well-known
to us, if for no other reason, at least because it is mentioned as Chora of
Karvuna in Tsar John II Asens horismos for the Ragusan merchants dating
from 1230.
This is present-day Dobrudja, where khan Asparukhs Bulgars,
coming from the steppes, first settled. It is essentially a continuation of
the Eurasian Steppe and the place where tribes coming from the Northeast
would usually first penetrate the Danube frontier. Important for this study
are the geographical characteristics of the land, which suggest its religious
importance: known to the Romans as Scythia Minor, the region represented
a wide belt of land between the Danube and the Black Sea, closed north-
ward by the Danube delta and open southward to the Deliorman region and
Moesia. This land is not described in the text of the Tale, but it is clearly sug-
gested to be fertile and rich. The fertility of the land is mentioned explicitly
in the section about the reign of Tsar Slav, when there was plenty of every-
There is a striking similarity between the Land of Karvuna, in the Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah and the Promised Land: Canaan is a wide belt of land
situated between the Jordan River and the sea. In both cases, the land is
defined with reference to two bodies of water. In the case of Canaan there
is a river that continues into the Dead Sea, and the two together represent
a prototype of the Danube; on the other side stretches the Mediterranean,
which corresponds to the Black Sea. In both cases, God blesses His people
by allowing them to populate and rule over the land that is exceedingly
plentiful and fertile. This is made clear by the fact of the Covenant and the
multiplying of the nation of Abraham.
Iv. Biliarsky, Les circonscriptions administratives en Bulgarie au 13e sicle, Symmeikta,
13 (1999), p. 199.
Here we may cite many passages from Holy Scripture depicting the Promised Land as
delimited by water, especially a river or a sea. Though not referring to the river Jordan, such is
the case in Deuteronomy 1:7, where Moses repeats Gods words about the land between the
sea and the Euphrates.
the chosen people and the promised land 87
The symbolism of rivers is important for our further discussion. We have
already referred to the large rivers that shape the boundaries of the two
countries. In the Tale some other rivers are also noted: the Bulgarians were
led to the river called Zatiusa and to the other river, called Ereusa. And then
there were three large rivers.
These other rivers are not geographically
localised but in the Visionof Baruch there is mention of a river with a similar
name, to which it is said the prophet was taken by an angel from Heaven in
order to see the world from there. There he saw a dragon drinking up the
sea at the rate of one cubit a day. The Lord also created 343 large rivers,
which filled the sea. Thus it was that the water balance in the world was
Among the listedrivers, along withthe Danube andEuphrates
we find the name Zeteus, which strongly resembles the designation in our
source. If we consider the two texts together, we understand that the place
to which the prophet led the Bulgarians is traced by one of the rivers created
by God in order to counteract the powers of evil on earth, embodied by
the serpent, and to maintain harmony in Gods Creation. This imbues the
text with a strong cosmological meaning and confirms the Old Testament
foundation of the two texts and of their elements, and proves the main
direction of our research.
The river is a symbol often used in the Holy Scripture to trace boundaries,
particularly the boundaries of the Chosen People (e.g. Exodus 23:31, etc.).
The use of the river as a symbolic image is especially typical for attempts
to appropriate the holy topography for a New Israel and a New Promised
Land. Here we will not list all such cases, but I cannot overlook some impor-
tant ones similar to those in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Thus, in the
above-mentioned homily by Theodore Syncellus on the salvation of Con-
stantinople in ad626, in constructing the image of the imperial Polis as a
New Jerusalem, the Bosporus is presented as the river Jordan that set the
boundaries of, and defined, the Holy Land.
Even more interesting is the
case of Belgrade, presented as a NewJerusaleminthe Vitaof StephenLazare-
vi by Constantine the Philosopher, where the river Danube is compared
to Pison, one of the four heavenly rivers according to the Bible (Genesis
This and the fact that the Danube merges with the Sava River near
the capital are viewed as a testimony of Gods blessings on the Serbian land.
In this book, p. 15 (f. 401b, lines 46).
Stara bulgarska literatura, t. 1, Sofia, 1982, p. 72.
Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, p. 300
; Makk, Traduction et commentaire de l homlie,
p. 13.
K. Kuev, G. Petkov, Sbrani schinenija na Konstantin Kostenechki. Izsledvane i tekst,
Sofia, 1986, pp. 368369; Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, pp. 100101.
88 chapter three
Of course, the most interesting and clear reference to a river as a char-
acteristic of the Promised Land of Israel, a reference closely connected with
Bulgaria, is foundinthe apocryphal text concerning, once again, the prophet
Isaiah: his Vision of the last time. This is a work dating fromthe 13th century,
which has a Greek prototype.
It is textually closely related to the Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah, and the two are said to have a common prototype. In any
case, the first part, about the elevationof the prophet tothe SeventhHeaven,
is almost identical to the Tale and the general structure and orientation to a
historical and eschatological presentation implies common ideas and pur-
poses in the two texts. That is why the reference to the river in the context
of Israels Mezina Zemlja (Mezina Land) acquires special significance. I shall
quote the whole passage from the text: They will come to the river that is
called the hidden heaven; this river passes through the Land of Israel, which
is called Mezina Land. There will flower the sceptre of the Stump of Jesse.
little further on in the text it is said: When you see the end of the kingdomof
MezinaLand, afterwards nokingfromthis tribe will rise topower.
Here there
are several points that merit attention. Primarily this is the identity of the
land of Israel and that of Mezina. Inasmuch as the latter may be interpreted
as Moesia, there is a clear identification of the land of the Bulgarians with
the Promised Land in the Bible. The Israel/Mezina Land is defined by a river
passing through it. Geographically, this should be the river Jordan and its
corresponding river fromMezina. This is true in some sense, but the corre-
spondence of images in this case is religious rather than geographic, for the
river is called a hidden heaven. Here we may no longer overlook the com-
parison, mentioned above, to the heavenly river Pison, which is identified
withthe Danube inthe Vitaof StephenLazarevi by Constantine Kosteneki.
In fact, we have here the use of the same paradigm in building the image of
the Holy Land by referring to a river. I should also point out that the entire
passage is markedly eschatological when it indicates the flowering of the
sceptre from the stump of Jesse and the fact that the land of Mezina Land
is the last kingdom, after which there will be no other ruler from this tribe
(of Jesse and Judah). This is a clear allusion to the Kingdom of God and the
End of the World. Hence, the Promised Land and the Land of Israel in the
apocryphal book cannot be identified only with the Promised Land of the
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 332333.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 340341, 349
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 341, 350.
the chosen people and the promised land 89
Old Testament, inasmuch as the events presented have a clear eschatolog-
ical perspective. In addition, the people connected with this land are not
only the old Chosen People but also the New Israel.
We thus see the special importance of the river theme in the building of
the image of the Holy Land, but it is particularly important in the narrative
about the arrival of the Chosen People in the land promised by the Lord. This
occurs by the crossing of a river with the aid of God. Let us first examine the
biblical prototype of these events and see if we can find traces of it in the
texts related to Bulgaria.
The Hebrew people received the Land of Canaan as its own by the will
and blessing of God and on the basis of the Covenant made with God. We
are told about this Covenant in chapter 17 of Genesis: it is made by Gods
choice and involves the condition of loyalty and righteousness (Genesis
17:12). The acquiring of the land is an inseparable and crucial part of the
Covenant: Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which
you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and
I will be their God (Genesis 17:8). Other people had lived there before the
Hebrewsthe name of the land comes from Canaan, son of Noah and his
descendentsbut they wouldbe givenintothe hands of the ChosenPeople,
which would have the land as its heritage.
In the text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, the coming of the Bulgarians
to the Land of Karvuna is presented in a similar way.
There too there were
previous inhabitantsthe Hellenes and Romansbut these had deserted
the land and, unlike the case in the biblical text, were not given over into
the hands of the new masters. More importantly, God Himself designates
the country as the land of the Bulgarians. As I have already pointed out,
this is done from an eschatological perspective, and the prophet is sent on
a special mission, despite his wish to remain in the bliss of the heavenly
abode; he has to sacrifice this in order to fulfil the task set to him and lead
the Bulgarians to the land allotted to them by God. Of course there is no
indication of a Covenant between the Bulgarian people and the Lord, but
His will is expressed categorically and indisputably: Oh Isaiah, My beloved
prophet, go westwards from the upper countries of Rome, take one third part
The conquest of a country (a new Fatherland) in the context of building a New Israel
identity is always very emotionally charged; it happens through Gods will, assistance, and
blessing, and is represented as a particularly important moment in history that necessarily
follows an Old Testament model. For a comparison with Rothars list of the Lombard kings
and the special role of Alboin, who brought his people, by Gods might, to the Apennines,
see Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 163164.
90 chapter three
of the Cumans called Bulgarians, and populate the land called Karvuna that
was evacuated by the Romans and the Hellenes.
The Bulgarians, like the Hebrews, are led by a prophet to the land prom-
ised them, i.e. by a person possessing the gift of knowing, of hearing Gods
will and of carrying it out. The prophets Moses and Isaiah both carry this
out as a special mission in performance of Gods will. As mentioned, Isaiah
is a character corresponding to Moses in the Tale. Regarding the latter, his
missionis clearly expressed inthe text of Holy Scripture (Exodus, chapter 3).
We will devote special attention to him in this book, as he plays an impor-
tant role as a paradigmatic image of a God-inspiredleader of the God-chosen
people. It is important that bothprophets were later usedina Christianenvi-
ronment as models of a righteous ruler and were thus connected with the
idea of the legitimacy of royal power.
I would like to draw special attention to the entry into the country, the
passing of the boundary (represented as a river) in order to penetrate into
the Promised Land. This is presented as an act of transition, of change, of
passage, which imparts a newquality of life to the life of the Chosen People.
We see these ideas present both in the biblical and in the Bulgarian texts.
Coming from Egypt into Sinai, the twelve tribes of Israel chose to enter
into Canaan not directly from south-southwest but from the east, and to
appear on the left bank of the river Jordan. Historically, this was probably
done as a choice of the route that wouldinvolve the least military opposition
from peoples already inhabiting the land. In the context of Holy Scripture,
however, this event inevitably assumes a religious dimension as one of
the most important points in the history of the Hebrew people. This is
confirmed by the events taking place at the crossing of the river, which once
again require Gods intervention and aid.
The crossing of the river Jordan is described in chapter 3 of the Book of
where it is clear that this happened with assistance coming from
above, manifest as a miracle, similar to the crossing of the Red Sea. The nar-
rative of these events should be seen and studied in the light of the capture
of Jericho and the founding of one of the largest Hebrew sanctuaries in the
pre-monarchic period, that in Gilgal, where the twelve stones taken at the
passage of the river were preserved (Joshua 4).
I should also point out that
In this book, p. 14 (f. 401a, lines 2935).
Regarding this biblical narrative, see: F. Langlamet, Gilgal et les rcits de la traverse du
Jourdain ( Jos. IIIIV), Paris, 1969.
R.G. Boling, Joshua. A New Translation with Notes and Commentary, New York, The
Anchor Bible, 1982, pp. 177181.
the chosen people and the promised land 91
the Hebrewwere commanded to go after the Ark of the Covenant carried by
the Levites,
but not to approach too near it that they might know the way,
which they had never passed before (Joshua, 3:34). Evidently, God Himself
pointed the way through the Levites bearing the Ark of the Covenant; this
way was not known to the Hebrews previously.
This resembles both a reli-
gious procession and a military march in which God Himself is the military
leader. It is clearly said in the Holy Scripture, in the words of Joshua ben
Nun that this was a miracle (i.e. a direct intervention of God in the world).
The latter warnedthe people to sanctify themselves, for onthe following day
God would performa miracle among them(Joshua, 3:5). In these words, we
find the idea of Gods presence among the Chosen People, which is central
to biblical history.
After that Joshua explains to the Levites what should be done, i.e. he
repeats what the Lord has said to him: that they should stop when their feet
have touched the water, and remain there until all the people cross the river
over dry land (Joshua, 3:717). And that is what happened. While the priests
stood in the middle of the river, the children of Israel passed upon dry land
until the entire nation had crossed the Jordan. This passage is exceptionally
important; because that is when the Israelites enter their land, enter it with
Gods assistance and His personal participation.
The importance of this event for the Hebrew people is confirmed in the
next chapter, 4 of the Book of Joshua. It is said there that Joshua, at Gods
command, orderedthat one personfromeachtribe shouldtake a stone from
the place where the Levites had stood, carry the stones to the place where
they would lodge and set themthere to the glory of Gods name and might.
This forms a memorial for Israel of the entry into the land.
Evidently, this
Regarding the Levites, see the commentary by R.G. Boling, Joshua, pp. 160162.
With regard to following the Levites, the biblical text uses a verb that usually means
religious, liturgical processionBoling, Joshua, p. 162.
That is why people should keep at a distance from the procession bearing the Ark of
the Covenantsee Boling, Joshua, p. 163. Similar events are described elsewhere in Holy
Scripturesee 2Samuel, 6:6ff.
Here I will again point out the similarity between the story of the passing of the river
Jordanandthe passing of the RedSea inthe Exodus fromEgypt. They are evidently connected
and form a united set of events. This is confirmed by the sanctuary with the twelve stones in
Gilgal, which is a continuation or replica of the altar built by Moses in Sinai, likewise made of
twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of Israel (Exodus, 24:4)see F.M. Cross,
Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel, Cambridge,
Mass., 1973, p. 104.
Some authors believe the events are an etiological myth and explain the sanctuary in
Gilgal in a way that was acceptable to the Israelites. This issue will not concern us for it
92 chapter three
memory and the story of it left a permanent trace in the memory of the
population, since thousands of years later, in 1268, in an entirely different
cultural environment, a story of a similar event is told.
As mentioned, the crossing of the river should be viewed in combination
with the capture of Jericho and the successful entry of the twelve tribes into
Canaan. These events represent a repetition of the Exodus from Egypt and
the end of bondage under the Pharaoh, the most important episode in the
history of the Children of Israel. They set the beginning of ceremonial tradi-
tion of commemorating the keeping of the Covenant, a tradition that some
authors have called a liturgical conquest.
This was how the events of the
time of Joshua benNunwere designated, whichshows their exceptional reli-
gious value and impact on the Israelite cult. It seems they became the basis
of the special cult of Gilgal, connected with the ritual conquest, which was
closely related to the ideology of power among the Hebrew people. Some
important elements of the ritual and of holy war can be found in the Book
of Joshua: the sanctification performed when worshipping at sanctuaries
or before a holy war; the procession with the Ark of the Covenant, which
resembles a military march. We may add the twelve stones in the sanctuary,
the circumcision, and the appearance of the archangel, and, most of all, the
parting of the waters, i.e. the passing across the river, which is an obstacle
on the way to the Promised Land. We see the unity of the suggestion in the
stories in the Exodus and in the crossing of the Jordan.
The tradition of the
annual march in Gilgal became part of the celebration of the Spring New
Year, one of the most important rituals for the Israelites. In later ages, the
processionwas movedtoZionandthe festivities were heldonthe mountain;
traces of these festivities, which were closely related to the royal ideology of
the Hebrews, can be found in the Book of Isaiah.
This connection can be seen in other biblical events similar in form and
relevant to power: for instance the crossing of the river upon the return
is not connected to the topic of this article. I refer the reader to relevant literature on the
question: H.J. Kraus, Gilgal. Ein Beitrah zur Kulturgeschichte Israels, Vetus Testamentum, 1
(1951), pp. 181199; M. Noth, Das BuchJosua, Tbingen, 1953, pp. 3235; E. Vogt, Die Erzhlung
vom Jordanbergang: Jusue 34, Biblica, 46 (1965), pp. 125148; J.A. Soggin, Gilgal. Passah
und Landsnahme: Eine neue Untersuchung des kultischen Zusammengangs der Kap. IIIVI
des Josuabuches, Supplements. Vetus Testamentum, 15 (1966), pp. 263277; Cross, Canaanite
Myth and HebrewEpic, pp. 102ff.
W.B. Stevensson, The Remarcable Stoppage of the Jordan in the Year 1268AD, The
Expository Times, vol. XVII, Edinburgh, October 1905-September 1906, pp. 4546.
Boling, Joshua, p. 89.
Cross, Canaanite Myth and HebrewEpic, pp. 104ff.
See Cross, Canaanite Myth and HebrewEpic, pp. 106ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 93
of King David to Jerusalem from the eastern bank of the Jordan after the
revolt of Absalom. A special article devoted to these events views them as
examples of a rite de passage connected with royal power and originating
fromthe cult of Gilgal, i.e. fromthe ritualisation of the crossing of the Jordan
by Joshua and the conquest of the Promised Land.
Thus, the stay of King
David in Transjordan, according to the rite of passage schema of Arnold van
proves to be a sojourn in a world beyond, while the crossing of the
Jordan is a renewal of life, of existence (in Davids case, his life as king of
Israel). It is the same pattern according to which not only the king but also
the entire Chosen People reached the Promised Land.
This observation
provides a different perspective on the passage, which appears to be an
entry/return to the immanent world and, in some sense an acquisition of
a new quality of being.
It is worth noting that in De excidio Britanniae by the British Christian
author Gildas (6th century) the crossing of the river Jordan by the Chosen
People is specifically indicated as archetypal for the event about which
Gildas was writing: howSt Alban of Verulamium(the first British martyr for
the faith, along with St Julius and St Aaron) saves thousands of Christians
pursued by pagan Romans when the waters of the river Thames open up in
answer to his prayers, allowing the people are able to pass across and escape
from their pursuers.
I cannot say why in this case, connected with flight
and pursuit, not with conquest, the reference is to the passage of the river
Jordan and not to the parting of the Red Sea, which is closer to the story and
wouldbe a more logical comparison. Perhaps the allusionis tothe victorious
character of martyrdom and the undaunted believers who triumph over
their enemies in spite of suffering and death. What is important for this
J.M. Hutton, The Left Bank of the Jordan and the Rites of Passage: An Anthropological
Interpretation of 2Samuel XIX, Vetus Testamentum, LVI, 4, 2006, pp. 470484. See also P. Kyle
McCarter, Jr., II Samuel. A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, The
Anchor Bible, NewYork, 1984, pp. 412424, but in these commentaries the events are viewed
in a traditional light, only as history, with no anthropological notes.
A. van Gennep, Les rites de passage, Emile Nourry, Paris, 1909.
J.M. Hutton, The Left Bank of the Jordan and the Rites of Passage: An Anthropological
Interpretation of 2Samuel XIX, pp. 8283. At the end of his study, J.M. Hutton (ibid, p. 84)
raises several interesting questions that he leaves open for further study, namely: what was
the significance of the Eleon(Olive) Mountainand of the river Jordanas boundaries between
the immanent and the liminal world; how is Transjordan classified as Otherness, etc. I
believe that I am offering here a solution to one of the questions: by crossing the river in the
Bible, and hence in the societies constructed in accordance with models borrowed from the
Bible, a passage takes place to a new condition of the People that considers itself Chosen.
Gildae De excidio Britanniae, fragmenta, Liber de paenitentiaaccedit et LoricaGildae, ed.
H. Williams, M.A., London, 1899, p. 28 line 4ff.
94 chapter three
study is that De excidio Britanniae by Gildas draws very heavily on Biblical
images in depicting British Christians and may serve as an example of the
use of the NewIsrael theme in Western Europe. This passage across the river
is a typical case in which the Book of Joshua is explicitly cited. I will not
make a direct comparisonwithour text, where direct citationis absent, but I
shouldemphasise that the same topos is usedinanentirely different, though
likewise Christian, environment.
The liturgical conquest and its ideological basis certainly had an impact
in much later ages in a Christian environment. Can we find traces of biblical
ideas in Bulgaria after the Conversion to Christianity, ideas reflected in the
story of the crossing of the river Jordan at the conquest of Canaan?
The figure of Joshua enjoyed special popularity in the Byzantine Empire
and in Balkan countries. He represented the king-warrior who, with the aid
of God and of the Archangel Michael, defeated his enemies.
We often find
him in literature and in pictorial art. However, the representation of the
conqueror king is only indirectly connected to the theme of crossing a river,
entry and conquest of a new land. It is mentioned in the List of Names of
Bulgar Princes, where the name is of great significance, even though this
monument is not defined in its geographical features.
For us this text is
particularly important, since, as shown in another study, the way it was
inscribedinlater Christianliterature inBulgaria, andtheninRussia, marked
a transition from a pagan state to the concept of the New Israel. I have
devoted a separate article to this and shall not discuss it here.
I will only say
that every mentioninthis text is of special importance, whether it be related
to the old faith or to Christianity. This is essentially a pagan monument and
is the most important work of pagan Bulgar culture to have reached us, a
testimony to the concept of power and emerging statehood. Its importance
for the new state religion, and the royal ideology based on it is manifest
in the context of manuscripts of historical works that have reached us. In
this context, every word may acquire new meaning. Here is the quotation:
hese five princes held the principality on the other side of the Danube for 515
See: uri, Novi Isus Navin, pp. 516.
Iv. Bozhilov, Ot varvarskata drzhava do Tsarstvoto. Bulgaria ot sredata na IX v. do
prvite desetiletija na X v., in: idem, Seden etuda po srednovekovna istorija, Sofia, 1995,
pp. 9091; Iv. Bozhilov, Bulgarskata srednovekovna istoriopis, in: idem, Sedem etuda po
srednovekovna istorija, Sofia, 1995, pp. 232233; Iv. Bozhilov, Kulturata na srednovekovna
Bulgaria, Sofia, 1996, pp. 48ff., 53ff.
Iv. Biliarsky, Ot mifa k istorii ili Ot stepi k Izrailju, Zbornik radova Vizantolokog
instituta, XLII (2005), pp. 721. See Excursus I in this book.
the chosen people and the promised land 95
years withshavedheads. Andafter that Prince Isperikhcame to the landonthe
Danube. The same continues until now.
There are several aspects here that
merit attention. These sentences mark the end of the first part of the List of
Names, which was probably composed some time around the settlement of
Asparukhs Bulgars in Moesia. The next part is an addition to it. Moreover,
this certainly refers to a turning point in the history of the nation, at least as
the first writer of the text understood it.
This turning point is marked by the passage across a riverthe Danube
in this casewhereby the Bulgarians settle in their new land. We have no
description of this passage. It is not even mentioned in the text. Neverthe-
less, this is indisputably the act referred to. In the text, it is said that the
princes had ruled as such for 515 yearsbeyond, on the other side of the
Danube (:cz :u:y :+,xu:y ,:yuxo). Thus, the river as boundary is obvi-
ous. After that Asparukh came to the side of the Danube (u,u,: ux :+,xu+
,quxo). What does this mean? It is not plainly said that he came this side
of the river, nor is it said that he crossed the river, but obviously this is the
meaning. Whenreferring to the side one usually has inmind the other side as
opposed to this side, or the side one was onpreviously, and not simply any one
of the sides. Hence there should be no dispute that in the indicated text the
author had in mind passage and thus the dividing line between two ages of
Bulgarian history (i.e. the history of the people whose princes are presented
withthe years of their rule) throughthe locationof the tribe ondifferent ter-
ritories with respect to the river. The opposition in question defines the way
of movement with respect to the borderline: it must be traversed in order to
pass tothis side of the river. Regrettably, this is all we cansay about the arrival
of the people intheir newland, but this narrative merits attention, especially
if we consider that this is a text, which, in the chronicles, is inserted as part
or continuation of the biblical Book of Kings.
Having argued my view that the cited text refers to passage across a river
as a means of reaching the landinwhichthe people lives downtothe present
day I should try to show the essential difference between the two distinct
periods: the age on the other side and the age on this side of the river.
The difference is indicated in the text only by reference to holding the
principality withshornheads (::+,ua:uxuu rxxsxuu). I would define this
difference as related to religion, for we are dealing with an external sign
of religious affiliation or a special kind of piety and not merely a kind of
M. Moskov, Imennik na bulgarskite khanove (Novo tlkuvane), Sofia, 1988, pp. 2021, 25.
96 chapter three
hairstyle or fashion. There are quite a lot of possible interpretations of the
shorn heads,
which I will not discuss here, but I should point out a possible
explanation that is consistent with the thesis of this book. The shearing or
shaving of the head is discussed in the Old Testament. In several passages
of the Mosaic Law we find a prohibition for the Levites to shave their
heads, an interdiction that is explicitly said to be a sign of religious purity
(Leviticus, 21:5; Ezekiel, 44:20). Similarly, the Nazirites who have vowed and
dedicated themselves to the Lord must not shave or drink wine or any other
drink made out of grapes (Numbers, 6:5). This is the basis of the tale of
Samson, who was a Nazirite fromhis mothers womb and therefore was not
to shave or shear the hair on his headas a matter of fact, in the Bulgarian
translationof Holy Scripture bothwords are usedinthis connection(Judges,
13:5; 16:17, 22). When the prophet Samuel was born, his mother St Hannah
vowed no razor shall come upon his head (1 Samuel, 1:11). There was a
similar view regarding the shearing of the head. The prophet Job shaved
his head when he learned of the death of his children (Job, 1:20). The Lord
slew the Moabites and these are described with clipped hair and beards
(Jeremiah 48:37). Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba, and all of them have
shorn heads (Isaiah 15:2). In the New Testament, St. Paul has his hair cut off
as a sign of a vow he had taken (Acts 18:18).
Of course, more examples could be given, and not only from Holy Scrip-
ture, but I will limit myself to these. We thus come to the idea that the
shearing and shaving of the head is a sign either of some Divine punish-
ment or of something contrary to the religious purity characteristic of the
Levites and Nazirites. This is where we should seek the meaning of the pas-
sage indicating that five princes ruled on the other side of the river with
shorn heads. That was the age before the important turning point in the
history of the people: their settling in their present-day land on the right
bank of the Danube. That age coincided with the times before the passage,
taken in the sense of a general change and a new condition, as occurs after
initiation or some other rite of passage. This passage across was actually
the conquest of the country that God had allotted. The preceding age was
a condition of greater distance from Gods gifts to His people, the Chosen
People of Israel, or the New Israel.
There is however, an essential element in the biblical narrative that is not
be found in the Bulgarian tale: the reference to the Ark of the Covenant
and its role in the conquest. The simplest explanation for this lack is that
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, pp. 41 ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 97
there was obviously no such object in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, we could
expect it would be substituted by some symbolic element. But no such
element can be found in the texts that come down to us. There might
be an explanation for this, connected to the development and change of
the Old Testament tradition. The Ark was widely represented in the age
previous to the Kings, among other things, as a military safeguard for the
Hebrews. We find indications of this in the Books of Joshua and Judges,
and in the beginning of the Books of Samuel and Kings. The setting of
the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem is connected with the Temple and
the fact that this most holy of sites for the Children of Israel was more
secure, and in particular with new monarchical ideology that developed
after the establishment of the Kingdom.
The idea of the God of Israel as
a warrior was preserved and even further developed by the kings of the
Chosen People, but it was no longer necessary for the Ark itself to be carried
in front of the people and the army. In fact, the sanctuary of Gilgal and the
cult of the Conquest there represented a transition fromthe ideology of the
alliance of the Twelve Tribes to that of the Kingdom.
This latter ideology
influenced the Christian monarchical ideas based on the Old Testament
tradition. Consequently, we cannot expect that images and ideas from the
pre-monarchical age of the Hebrews should be assimilated in Bulgaria,
especially not in order to justify a certain view on state power based on Old
Testament views.
In the preceding discussion, I have attempted to present the use of geo-
graphic characteristics for constructing the idea of a New Israel. This idea
is related mainly to the people, to Gods Chosen People, but it is insepa-
rable from the peoples land, from the image of the Promised Land, both
by its purely natural, geographic characteristics and by its religious geo-
graphic ones. The most important of the latter is the linking of the Covenant
between God and His people to the Land and to the great importance of
entry into the land, to its conquest. These observations will enable us to go
on to a related theme largely present in the Tale: the theme of cities.
Boling, Joshua, pp. 159160, 179ff.
Cross, Canaanite Myth and HebrewEpic, p. 105.
98 chapter three
Cities and Founding of Cities
The Founding of Cities: Between Creator, Hero, and Ruler
Scholars have long accepted that the founding of cities is a kind of creative
activity, whichassimilates a ruler (or hero) withthe Creator. Of course, indif-
ferent religions and their corresponding worldviews, this creative activity is
interpreted and evaluated in different ways, but in all cases this is a sacral
activity connected to the understanding of a city as an essential and holy
place, around which the environing space and, ultimately, the entire world
of mediaeval man is constructed. This explains the place the city holds in
the organisation of the world: it is a central place and around this centre
is situated the tribe, the state, the community, and, ultimately, the world.
This is a cultivated space and hence the activity involved in cultivation is
more or less similar to a divine activity. Undoubtedly, in the framework of
pagan thought this activity is part of the repetition of cosmogonical cycles
and resembles the work of a hero, the Ancestor, or deity-creator.
as in Tale of the Prophet Isaiahand in some similar worksthe founding
of cities is evidently of decisive importance and is a distinctive mark of the
activity of kings, this connection to pagan thought has not been overlooked;
on the contraryit is emphasised in recent works on Bulgarian apocrypha.
Although I express my disagreement with the general standpoint set forth
in some of these works, my aimis not to reject thema priori.
They are valid
within certain limits, for some of the characters are indeed presented as
semi-divine persons, heroes, or as people with a special mission, as blessed
by God. The problem with certain rather one-sided interpretations is the
unfounded emphasis they place on pagan or semi-pagan motifs in the nar-
rative, although these motifs are declaredly biblical and the pre-Christian
remnants in them do not strongly influence the general meaning of the
In the apocryphal texts we are considering, and especially in the Tale,
the founder of the city has many features not only of a pagan hero but
also of an Old Testament character. Significantly, the many citations of
archetypal images of cities refer chiefly to Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem,
and Babylon, cities important to Judeo-Christian history.
M. Eliade, Le mythe de l ternel retour, p. 30ff.
I have devoted a separate article to this topicsee: Iv. Biliarsky, Les villes, les hros et
l Univers, Forma formans. Studi inonore di Boris Uspenskij, a cura di S. Bertolisi e R. Salvatore,
Napoli, 2010, pp. 6376.
the chosen people and the promised land 99
In the apocryphal tradition, to which the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
belongs, the city is presented as a sacred place, the creation of which is
brought about by a sacral act performed by an elect and holy person who
thereby repeats and copies the creative work of God. In short, the founda-
tion of a city strongly recalls the Creation of the world. Thus, the city can be
perceived in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as an image of the world
or of the entire Universe. We find that such a meaning is attached to the city
when it is associated with the Eucharistic community of faithful people, as
happens in the Orthodox liturgy.
The foundation of cities is a theme not only in epic literary works and
pagan literature but in the Holy Scripture as well. Throughout the entire Old
Testament, we repeatedly find such narratives, and they hold an important
place in the text. Here I should point out several passages in which the
earliest history of the Chosen People is presented. The very first generation
of Adam, trying to bring order to the world, builds a city. Such is the case of
Cain, who, after the birth of his son Enoch, builds a city and names it after
his son (Genesis, 4:17). After the Flood, the people who are yet undivided
and speak the same language gather to build a city and tower; and let
us make us a name (Genesis, 11:4). The tower of Babylon is more likely a
negative symbol of human pride and presumption, but this passage clearly
indicates that the building of the city is related to the building of the world
after the disaster and to the first covenant with God. Many examples can
be given here, but I will confine myself to these, mainly in order to indicate
that the cosmic importance of the creative activity of building the city is
not exclusively connected with epos and pagan mythology but with biblical
history as well.
In most texts, the founding of a city is connected with the setting up of
a State. Inasmuch as the idea of empire was predominant in the cultural-
political circle to which mediaeval Bulgaria belonged, these narratives more
or less contained the ecumenical ideal of imperial universalism. The begin-
nings of the Roman Empire are linked to the birth of the city of Rome,
which was cosmopolitan by definition and from the very start. The same
could be said about Constantinople, built upon the site of the old Byzan-
tion, where the emperor Constantine transferred the Empire, thus renewing
the imperial idea. These are classical cases but it should be noted that sim-
ilar examples were those of the founding and construction of Alexandria.
In the Revelation of St Methodius Patarensis, a apocalyptic text that would
have been familiar to the Bulgarians in a Slavic translation, the emergence
of this city is described as marking the beginning of the reign of Alexan-
der the Great: after founding the city, the king of Macedonia conquered
100 chapter three
Persia andunitedthe whole worldunder his power.
Inthe Vitaof St Andrew
Salos (the Fool-for-Christ), Alexandria is described as the navel of the world
(umbilicus mundi).
Jerusalemis usually also described as the centre of the
world and the navel of Creation, which means that the concept of Alexan-
dria was similar to that of Jerusalem. This confirms the connection between
the conceptions of cities and kingdoms viewed according to the paradigm
of holiness and centrality.
We find the same view present in the liturgi-
cal texts: the printed Euchologion of Metropolitan Peter Mogila contains a
remarkable prayer for the foundation of a city, quoted by Alexander Nau-
which deserves detailed study and interpretation.
Regrettably, in the Bulgarian literary heritage there are no narratives
about the founding of cities, such as the Byzantine Patria of Constantinople
for instance, or lives of either mythical or historical city founders. In fact,
the most interesting text in which this topic is strongly present is the Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah. The topic is present in certain other sources as well,
but these are likewise insufficient, heterogeneous, and legendary. Still, they
are the only ones we have, and it is from them that we must draw the ideas
in question, which occupied the minds of Bulgarians during the age of the
countrys Christianisation.
The Founding Kings and the Demiurge Heroes
The sacred aspect of the founding of cities can be found both in official reli-
gion and in certain practices of popular faith. This is true not only of large
urban centres but of smaller settlements as well, and of individual buildings
and construction work in general. Undeniably, certain practices of this pop-
ular faith retained pre-Christian traditions. One such example is the cases
of sacrificeseven human sacrificesoffered at the start of construction
work in the Balkan tradition.
This tradition, amply described in Balkan
folklore and in modern academic literature,
required that a shadow
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 227228, 247;
Starobulgaska eskhatologija, p. 91.
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, p. 207
; Starobulgaska eskhatologija, p. 190.
Regarding the symbol of navel of the world, see: Eliade M., Tratat de istorie a religiilor,
Bucureti, 1999, pp. 188189.
A. Naumow, Bogorodine ikone i ritualizacija odbrane grada, Crkvene studije /Church
Studies, t. 3, Ni, 2006, p. 189.
As a variant of this practice, we may point out sacrifices made to the house spirit, which
is essentially benevolent but must not be forgotten or annoyed. This continued until the 20th
century and perhaps even to this day.
I. Georgieva, Bulgarska narodna mitologija, Sofia, 1983, pp. 170179.
the chosen people and the promised land 101
usually that of a young womanbe built into the new construction. This
was done by measuring the shadow at a certain time of the day, or sim-
ply when the woman would happen to come to the building site, and then
building inthe material carrier of the measure or else using the measure as a
unit for the building. Subsequently, the girl or young woman would die and
would be considered built into the construction, thus becoming the house-
holder (stopan) or guardian spirit of the building.
Such practices confirm
the sacral character of construction, evident in the exclusiveness of masons
guilds, in their arcane rituals, and in other features of this community. This
sacral nature of the profession was carried over into its resultsthe build-
ing, the dwelling, the village, the city.
The sacral character of the city is one of the preconditions (but also a
consequence) of the sacral character of the act of its foundation. This act
repeats the archetypal work of the Creator. Ultimately, all these categories
of creation derive from, and are an image of, their archetype, i.e. the act
of world creation as it is variously understood in the various religious sys-
tems. For pagans this act finds expression in the eternally repeated cos-
mogonic myth according to which chaos is organised into cosmos. In the
Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition, the Creation is a single, unrepeated
act of Godwhereby He creates the worldout of nothing andonly throughHis
Word. Thus, creationis always animage and reflectionof these two views on
the archetype. This is seen most clearly in such an important creative act as
the founding of a city, particularly in the role of the act in the organisation
of the world.
In historical-apocalyptic texts, and particularly in Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iah, the founders of the city are presented in a narrative situated in the
context of Holy Scripture and specifically of the tales of Old Testament
patriarchs and prophets, who serve as models for the characters of the apoc-
ryphal tale. One element in the depiction of some characters is the century-
long length of their lives, which strongly resembles the patriarchs of early
biblical history. Most interesting in this respect is the way in which, accord-
ing to the Tale, these characters come into the world: a special excursus is
devoted to this in my book, and I refer the reader to it.
There I have used
as an example the story of the birth of Sargon, King of Akkad; I will briefly
This is a familiar legend in the folklore of all Balkan countries, and is related to the
name of Master Manol; Mircea Eliade has devoted a special study to it: M. Eliade, Comentarii
la legenda Masterului Manole, Bucureti, 1943.
Excursus II The Birth of the Hero.
102 chapter three
touch upon it here as well, inasmuch as it is related to an interesting indica-
tion of the founding of a city and thus has special importance for our study.
The founder King of Akkad is often confused with his namesake Sar-
gon, King of Assyria. History presents us with an instance in which the later
Assyrian king referred to this coincidence of names once, upon finding him-
self in the delicate situation of being accused of usurping the right of found-
ing a city. This act seemed sacrilegious in the eyes of his contemporaries,
for he had presumed to do something that was proper only for the gods.
Only they had the right to carry out such creative activity. Thus, the king
seemed to claim membership of a divine circle, something to which he was
obviously not entitled. Sargonof Assyria tried to avoid the religious problem
thus arising by insisting that he had only repeated what his namesake and
predecessor Sargon of Akkad had done before.
The story then develops in
a way that bears no relation to this study, but it confirms the sacral charac-
ter of the founding of cities in the traditions of ancient societies of the Near
East, since this act was thought to be the legitimate right of gods alone, not
of kings, even if these were semi-divine.
The Founding Kings in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
Not all kings inthe Tale of the Prophet Isaiahare depictedas founders of cities
but those who are usually have the characteristics of semi-divine persons
or prophets that convey the Wisdom of God in words comprehensible to
men. Such is Tsar Ispor, usually equated with Khan Asparukh, who in the
Tale lays the foundations of the city of Dorostorum on the Danube, and of
the city of Pliska.
Dorostorum was a city well known since Antiquity, long
before the times of the First Bulgarian Empire. Thus, history tells us it was
not founded by Asparukh or any Bulgar ruler. Pliska, on the other hand, did
emerge fromthe central camp of the Bulgar cavalry, which had settled south
of the Danube, and the arrival of these Bulgars may be connected with the
name of Asparukh. Nevertheless, we may say that the tale does not present
historical data on the founding of the above-mentioned cities but of the
establishment of a new territory, that of Moesia, and of its appropriation.
The account preceding the narrative about Ispors activity in the Tale
is even more legendary in content. It begins with the narrative about Tsar
I would refer the reader to the interesting article by Marc van de Microop, Literature
and Political Discourse in Ancient Mesopotamia. Sargon II of Assyria and Sargon of Agade.
Minuscula Mesopotamica. Festschrift fr Johannes Renger, Mnster, 1999, pp. 327339.
See in this book, p. 15 (f. 401b, lines 2528).
the chosen people and the promised land 103
Slav, who populated regions and cities and made a hundred mounds during
his reign, which lasted for a hundred and nineteen years and was a time of
In another chapter of this book, I have devoted space to identifying
this Tsar Slav. In this case, the name is most probably an eponym of a Slavic
tribe presented as a mythological founder. According to the Tale, he was the
first tsar of the Bulgarianland, investedpersonally by the prophet Isaiah; this
enthronement seems to be naturally linked to the settlement of the country.
The founding of cities seems to be something of secondary importance for
this king, while the greatest emphasis is placed on the hundred mounds
in the country, from which the name of the kingdom is even derived. This
conclusion is confirmed by the fact that none of the cities is mentioned
by name, which means that the reference to it aimed only at stressing the
connection between the act of settling upon the land and of founding cities
The other founder king is Seleukia, called Simeklit, who came from the
mountain Vitosha and founded five cities in the Bulgarian lands: Plovdiv,
Srem, Breznik, Sredets (Sofia), and Ni.
After that, he reigned in Sredets
over the Bulgarian land for thirty-seven years
and died by the city of
Breznik. Elsewhere inthis study, I have devotedattentionat greater lengthto
the Tsar Seleukia Simeklit, who seems to represent some distant memory of
the age of the Diadochi and is also derived from the biblical tradition. Here
I would like to draw attention to the founding of cities and see whether we
may drawsome conclusions fromthe names of the cities. It wouldbe too dif-
ficult and risky to over-interpret in this direction. Plovdiv may be connected
with the voyage of King Seleukia to Romania (the ThracianLowlands), men-
tioned in the apocryphon. Elsewhere I have expressed disagreement with
the identification proposed by Iv. Venedikov of Srem not as Sirmium but as
some small town in Thrace.
The other cities are geographically related to
Tsar Seleukias capital city Sredets, a region to which the Tale is specifically
related and to which historians link this literary work.
See in this book, p. 15 (f. 401b, lines 1016). Regarding the symbolismand significance of
the number 100see H. Meyer, R. Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen,
Mnchen, 1987, col. 784797.
See in this book, p. 19 (f. 402b, lines 25). Regarding the symbolism and significance
of the number 5see Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen,
col. 403442.
Regarding the symbolism and significance of the number 37see Meyer, Suntrup,
Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 708.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, p. 133. See in this book, where I have
discussed King Seleukia Simeklit.
104 chapter three
The next founding king mentioned in the Tale is Nicephorus, whose
prototype I aminclined to seek among one of the Byzantine emperors. This
character took over the Empire, slew the lawless Maximian and his army,
and founded Dimotik (Didymoteichon), Morunets (Kavala), Serres; to the
west, Belgrade and Kostur (Kastoria); and on the Danube, Nicopolis.
this case, we find some kind of geographical division: the first three cities
(which we should consider to be eastern inasmuch as the others are to
the west) are situated in Eastern Macedonia and Aegean Thrace. These
are the cities Didymoteichon, Kavala, and Serres. The other two are located
in the Western Balkans: Kastoria and the Albanian city of Berat (this is
how the above-mentioned city of Belgrade is usually identified). The only
mentionedcity onthe Danube is Nicopolis, whichgives us reasonto exclude
that the present-day Serbian capital Belgrade is the one mentioned in the
Tale. We can find no connection between the two cities, but we can attempt
to define the geographical location that serves as a reference point for the
narrator. Along the east-west direction, this is the line dividing Eastern
Macedonia andThrace fromthe territories situatedtothe west. It is identical
with the region of the old border between Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia,
and this most generally coincides with the locations that have so far been
proposed as the place where the Tale was compiledthe area of Sofia and
the so-called Kraishte area.
The last of the legendary royal founders of cities is Gagan, nicknamed
Odelean, who laid the foundations of Cherven, Messembria, and tip;
prototype must have been Peter Delyan, the son of Tsar Gabriel Radomir.
The three mentioned cities are well known and situated at different key
locations: near the Danube, on the Black Sea coast, and in Macedonia,
respectively. However, we cannot connect these cities in any way to Peter
Delyan. Their being groupedtogether under his name appears quite fanciful,
so the message of this connection should be sought elsewhere. A possible
perspective for interpretation could be the act of creation as something
typical for this tsar, and the connecting of points in three different parts of
Bulgaria as people saw it at that time.
These are the first group of founding tsars, and I want to distinguish
them from the second group, which is more historically authentic. What
can we say in general about these first three? We should exclude all factual
authenticity inhowthey are presented and abandonthe attempt to connect
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 69).
See in this book, p. 21 (f. 402d, lines 2325).
the chosen people and the promised land 105
the quoted cities with these rulers. The purpose of their inclusion in the text
is to emphasise their constructive activity and divinely blessed reign. All
three were righteous tsars who held power for relatively long, so the people
enjoyed prosperity and well-being under them. This image of the good tsar
is necessarily connected with the narrative of the founding of cities, a tale
that also depicts the rebirth and recreating of the life of the State and of the
people with Gods assistance and under the reign of a righteous and blessed
This holds equally true for the two tsars that I would designate as more
historical. I will present themin reverse order due to certain particularities
of my presentation, namely, that the building of cities is cited only in rela-
tion to Tsar Symeon, presented in Tale as the brother of Boris, but who was
likely based on Boriss son and heir Tsar Symeon (893927). About him it
is said that he built many citiesthough none are mentioned by name
along the seacoast.
The text does mention that he built the city of Preslav.
Symeon is said to have built it in twenty-eight years. This indication has
the same meaning as the previous ones: this activity is creative and hence
blessed, reminiscent of Divine creation. It is not without importance that
the new capital cityGreater Preslavis related to the transformation of
Bulgaria into a Christian Empire. That is why the construction of the new
Bulgarian capital as presented in the source is not a historical account of
the event: we know that the city existed before the times of Tsar Symeons
Nevertheless, the text testifies to the renovation of the city, which is
practically identical with its creation anew. This is a newbeginning of state-
hood in mediaeval Bulgaria, whichtypically for the Taleis presented as
a building of a city. Though it dates before the time of Tsar Symeon, the city
of Preslav remains closely associated with this tsar: it was his capital, the
centre of his cultural and political project as we know it from history.
may well say that Preslav was no less Tsar Symeons imperial city than Con-
stantinople was St Constantines imperial city.
See in this book, p. 16 (f. 401c, lines 2933).
Iv. Venedikov, Preslav predi da stane stolitsa, Sbornik Preslav, t. I, Sofia, 1968, pp. 3947.
Iv. Bozhilov, Tsar Simeon Veliki (893927). Zlatnijat vek na srednovekovna Bulgarija,
Sofia, 1983, pp. 55ff.; Iv. Bozhilov, Preslav et Constantinople: dependances et independences
culturelles, in: The 17th International Byzantine Congress. Major Papers, New Rochelle-New
York, 1986, pp. 429446; Iv. Bozhilov, Preslavskata tsivilizatsija, in: Sbornik Preslav, 4, Sofia,
1993, pp. 3347.
It is with Greater Preslav as the imperial city of Symeon that the idea of duplicated
empire is connected, the Tsarstvo that this ruler built in Bulgaria; this idea became a basis
of the political ideology of the Bulgarian State during the whole Middle AgesBozhilov,
106 chapter three
As regards the construction of Preslav, I would drawattention to another
point in the Tale. The apocryphon tells us that Tsar Symeon built Preslav in
28 years. The number 28 is regarded as a perfect number, the product of 7
multipliedby 4 (connectedwiththe Creation, the week, andthe month) and
the sum of all numbers from 1 to 7; all this suggests the plenitude and har-
mony of Divine will.
This number occurs in several places in the Bible. It
occurs as part of the description of the preparation of the Tabernacle, which
was a predecessor of the Temple, the Home of the Lord. The tabernacle had
to be made of ten curtains, each of which was to be twenty-eight cubits
long (Exodus, 26:2, 36:9). I aminclined to look for a connection between the
size of the curtains and the number of years of the construction of Greater
Preslav, but I simply propose this idea for discussion. In this line of thought I
would refer to Origens commentary on the Song of Songs, in which he draws
attention to the mention of the Brides words: I am black, but comely, O ye
daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
(Song of Songs, 1:5); Origen sees in this image the Queen of Sheba.
As he
understands it, the text certainly refers to the curtains of the Tabernace and
of the Temple (Exodus, 26:713), the House of the Lord,
which is a proto-
type of the Mother of God, who encompassed the Unencompassable, and
also of the Church as the body of Christ. In keeping with such an interpre-
tation, we could draw an interesting connection between the Tabernacle
and the city of Preslav, and between the Temple and the Mother of God
as the vessel of God. Here we are only one-step away from establishing a
connection between the veneration of Mary as City Protector and the great
importance of her cult for the political-theological thought of the Byzan-
tine Empire and the Orthodox world. We thus come to the idea of the State
as Church, presented in Tale through the construction carried out by Boris,
the son of Izot.
Vizantijskijat svjat, pp. 405412 and ff. Elsewhere I have called it, following N. IorgaEmpire
hors de l Empire (Byzance hors de Byzance).
Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 689692.
Origne, Commentaire sur le Cantique des cantiques, t. I, Texte de la version latine de
Rufin, introduction, traduction et notes, par L. Brsard, O.C.S.O. et H. Crouzel, S.J., (= Sources
chrtiennes, No 375), Paris, 1991, (livre, I, 1, 50), pp. 290291.
Origne, Commentaire sur le Cantique des cantiques, t. I, (livre, I, 1, 5152, 54), pp. 290
291, 291293.
the chosen people and the promised land 107
The Founding of the City and the State-Church
Tsar Boris is presented as the sonof Tsar Izot inthe Tale of the Prophet Isaiah,
but according to the general opinion, he is certainly modelled after Khan
Boris-Michael I. For this khan there is no direct indication in our Tale that
he created cities, but he is likewise described as pious and faithful, and as
baptiser of the Bulgarian land. To some degree, the character matches the
traditional historical descriptionof the ruler inquestion. The narrative twice
insists on the fact that churches were built: once in the passage stating and
(he) built many churches all over the Bulgarianland, and a second time, on
Ovche pole [= Sheeps field] he built white churches.
The construction of
divine temples was certainly a clearly expressed sacral activity related to the
work of creation as we see it in the framework of this study. This follows the
model of the king and prophet Solomon, who built the Temple, the House
of the Lord God. This activity is of an identical kind to the founding of a
city and the founding of a State. This interpretation directly points to the
interpretation of the State or the Kingdom as a temple and as a Church, i.e.
as the Body of Christ that encompasses all the believers andis directly linked
with Salvation. It is connected with the Divine presence and is one of the
paths for sacralisation of government power in pre-modern societies.
I have devoted a separate article to this issue, and I would refer the reader
to it and to one of the excursuses in this book;
here I will limit myself to
noting the basic conclusions in order to demonstrate the thesis developed
in the present study. I am referring to the account of the beginning of the
Second Bulgarian Empire, which, in a sense, is also the birth of Trnovgrade
as a political and spiritual centre of the country. The story of the city begins
with the arrival of an icon of St Demetrius who, the people of the city
believed, had left his own city of Thessalonica in order to come to the centre
of the Asen brothers movement aiming at the restoration and renovation of
the Bulgarian Empire. Here these events interest us only insofar as they are
certainly relevant to the holiness of the State as a political structure and to
the sanctification of Trnovgrade as capital. I am referring not only to the
See in this book, p. 16 (f. 401c, lines 2021, 2223).
Iv. Biliarsky, La demeure et la corne de l Empire, Orientalia Christiana Periodica,
vol. 69, fasc. 1, 2003, pp. 179197. See in this book Excursus III. Similar ideas are developed
in the article by Jelena Erdeljan (J. Erdeljan, New Jerusalems in the Balkans. Translation
of Sacred Space in the Local Context, Novye Ierusalimy. Ierotopia i ikonografia sakralnykh
prostranstv, ed. A.M. Lidov, Moscow, 2009, pp. 458471); the author seems not to have been
acquainted with my article.
108 chapter three
indication that St Demetrius
is protector of the city and of the Empire but
also to the recurrence of a topos that is highly characteristic for narratives
about the creation of a holy place. In the cited passage, the topos appears
in connection with the account of the restoration or renewal of the Empire
by the Asen brothers. As Ivan Bozhilov has observed, this the idea of the
Renovatio imperii was an essential characteristic of the movement of the
The beginnings of the capital city andthe beginnings of the State
is presented as similar to the construction of a monastery, or church, or
temple, i.e. of a holy place that serves as an image of the Temple of the Lord
in the Old Testament. The Temple is the dwelling of God Himself, and it is
through it that the Divine presence is realised among the Chosen People.
We have allusions to such an ideological schema in the mention that Tsar
Boris built churches, presented in the context of the building of cities in the
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, and perhaps in the building of Greater Preslav by
Tsar Symeon.
Thus, we come to the most important of the builder monarchs: Constan-
tine the Great, who was not only the ideal image of a Christian ruler but also
of a ruler-builder of cities, a renovator ruler.
St Constantine: The Founding of a City and the City Model between Jerusalem
and Rome/Constantinople
It could be said that the image of Constantine the Great as we find it in
the Tale and the narrative about the cities founded by him, are the most
distinctly biblical in content. St Constantine is presented in the context
of the reign of St Peter, Tsar of Bulgaria, and as the latters friend and
companion at that. Both of them, although in different ways, became an
ideal model of the Christian ruler for the faithful.
Elsewhere in this book,
I discuss the typology of Constantines empire and the particular features
D. Obolensky, The Cult of St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki inthe History of Byzantine-Slav
Relations, Balkan Studies 15 (1974), pp. 320; V. Tpkova-Zaimova, Quelques reprsenta-
tions iconographiques de Saint Dmtrius et l insurrection des Assenidespremire scis-
sion dans son culte cumnique , Byzantinobulgarica, V, Sofia 1978, pp. 261 ff.; V. Tpkova-
Zaimova, Le culte de saint Dmtrius Byzance et aux Balkans, Miscellanea Bulgarica 5
(1987), pp. 139ff.; Iv. Bozhilov, Asenevtsi: Renovatio imperii Bulgarorum et Graecorum, in:
idem, Sedem etuda po srednovekovna istorija, Sofia, 1995, pp. 152153, 190191; Bozhilov in
Istorija na Bulgaria, t. I, Sofia, 1999, pp. 421 ff.
Bozhilov, Asenevtsi: Renovatio imperii Bulgarorum et Graecorum, pp. 131 ff.
Iv. Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto. Sv. tsar Peter i sv. Paraskeva/Petka, Sofia, 2004,
pp. 25ff.
the chosen people and the promised land 109
this kind of empire had in Bulgaria, but here I would draw attention to
the founding of cities. In connection with Constantine, this act is most
intensely charged with ideology compared with other characters inthe Tale.
According to the text, he set the beginning of Constantinople, called the
New Jerusalem, and of Bdin on the Danube, designated as Babylon of the
Seven Hills (Heptalophos Babylon). These are the only cities designated by
name, but it is said he created seventeen more cities and resettled the
Bulgarian land. This is evidently an act of renewal in the context of the
apocryphon, probably connected to the plundering of the land by violent
giants who came by sea and destroyed it at the end of Tsar Peters reign. It is
understood that the reign of Tsar Constantine, which is said to have lasted
sixty-two years, is presented in the Tale as a blessed, pious, and prosperous
The account of the founding of Constantinople is broken into two parts.
Importantly, despite the divided structure of the account, this is a single
story about the same Tsar Constantine, as I have demonstrated elsewhere
in this book. There can be no doubt that the mentioned city of Byzantion
is the imperial city on the Bosporus. This is essentially a single narrative
complex and between the two parts is situated the account of Constantines
visit to Golgotha and the discovery and bringing back of the True Cross of
the Lords Passion.
Constantine is presented entirely within the framework of the special
mission that God assigns to founders: being one whose birth was attended
by miracles, and having been ordered to seek the True Cross by a Divine
messenger, he sets from Byzantion for the place of the skull, Golgotha,
and vows to return and found a city there, the name of which shall be New
Jerusalem, which he does after his return. Together with this, the story of
the evil curator in Rome occurs; after the latter is defeated, the Romans
were taken to the New Jerusalem. We thus encounter two urban (capital
city) paradigms in Mediterranean civilisation: that of Jerusalem and that of
Rome. Constantinople proves to be a synthesis of the two.
Rome, the Eternal City, was well known in mediaeval Bulgaria as a reli-
gious and political centre. The first contacts of Bulgaria with the Holy See
date from the 9th century.
The ancient imperial capital figures in the
chronicles that were much translated at the time of the tsars Symeon and
Peter. It is in Rome that the events take place in the last days, as related
Istorija na Bulgarija v tri toma, t. I, Istorija na srednovekovna Bulgarija VIIXIVvek, Sofia,
1999, pp. 169228.
110 chapter three
in the history of the eschatological Saviour King, closely connected with the
Eternal City in eschatological literature.
Amemory of Rome was preserved
likewise in the folk culture of the Bulgarians. Here I should point out an
apotropeic (safeguarding against evil) ritual practice that existed in this
country until the 20th century and which, according to researchers, retold
the legend of the founding of Rome.
This ritual was performed during
epidemics, especially the plague, and presented the ploughing of a furrow
around the city or village that were to be preserved from diseasethis
was done by two naked twin brothers who would harness twin oxen.
disease cannot cross the furrowand enter the village; and if it is encircled on
the inside, it cannot get out. The ritual was performedincases whena village
destroyed by the plague was relocated. This resembles what the legend tells
us about the founding of Rome by the brothers Remus and Romulus, and
the tracing of the pomoerium. Even more importantly, we have data that
a similar ritual was performed at the founding of Constantinople.
practice suddenly provides an interesting perspective on the importance
of the encircling of settlements with a furrow as an apotropeic means for
dividing the internal from the external side in order to protect the inside,
the sanctified place, the centre, from external dangers.
There is no doubt that mediaeval Bulgarian culture was strongly linked
to Constantinople, and this determines the attention we will devote to this
city. The imperial city on the Bosporus is a New Rome, a city protected by
God, the Eye of the ChristianOecumene, the NewJerusalem. It may simply be
called the City. As for Rome, the city on the Tiber, it combined the imperial
heritage of a paganworld capital withthat of Christianity, personified by the
preaching and martyrdom of the first apostles and teachers of the whole
world, Saints Peter and Paul, as well as of many other Christian saints and
believers. Rome was the cathedral city of St Peter, whom Our Lord Jesus
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 200ff., 212ff.;
Starobulgaska eskhatologija, p. 116; V. Tpkova-Zaimova, A. Miltenova, Political Ideology and
Eschatology. The Image of the King-Saviour and Concrete Historical Personages, Relations
et influences rciproques entre Grecs et Bulgares XVIIIeXXe s., Tessaloniki, 1991, pp. 447, 450.
V. Venedikova, Bulgarski paraleli na antichnija obichaj zaoravane pri osnovavane na
selishte, Izsledvanija v chest na akad. Dimiter Dechev po sluchaj 80-godishninata mu, Sofia,
1958, pp. 779785.
Sbornik za narodni umotvorenija, nauka i knizhnina, t. XXVIII, p. 557; Venedikova, Bul-
garski paraleli, p. 779.
J. Bidez, Fr. Winkelmann, Philostrogius Kirchengeschichte (Die griech. christl. Schrift-
steller der erst. Jahrhunderte), Berlin, 1972, S. 2022; E. Follieri. La fondazione di Costanti-
nopoli: riti pagani e cristiani, Roma Costantinopoli, Mosca, Napoli, 1973, pp. 221222.
the chosen people and the promised land 111
Christ Himself addressed in these words: And I say also unto thee, that thou
art Peter, anduponthis rock I will buildmy church; andthe gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. (Matthew16:18). The city was a locationconcentrating
holiness, and one of the main places of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.
For its part, Constantinople, the New Rome, was purely Christian in its his-
tory andrepresenteda special focal point of holiness inthe EasternMediter-
ranean. As capital of the Empire that encompassed the Christian Oecumene,
the city was alsoa holy city, andthus under the special protectionof Godand
His Mother. This is testifiedto by the fact of the venerationof the Holy Virgin
as City-Protector and her special heavenly intercession for cities as centres
and locations of the Christian community.
The cult of the Holy Virgin was
a characteristic element of the influence of Constantinople over the whole
Byzantine world, and explains the duplication of the city in all Orthodox
countries. The intercession of the Holy Mother of God is particularly impor-
tant in an eschatological perspective, for it is related to the Divine presence:
the Holy Virginhadcarriedthe Lordunder her heart, andthougha human
beingshe had encompassed the Immeasurable, had become a home to
Him, just like the Tabernacle and the Temple, and subsequently the Church.
As a human being and Mother of God, she is an intercessor for the Salvation
of Humanity.
That is why she is also the Protector of the Eye of the Chris-
tian world, Constantinople, for any attack against this city would amount
to a hindrance to the salvific role of the Christian Empire.
The beginning
of this cult must have been set in the 6th century, but its most memorable
manifestation is usually connected with the siege of the city by the Persians,
Avars, and Slavs in ad626, and with the addition of the Akathist Hymn of
Mother of God to the most solemn of all celebrations of the Virgin. The text
of this hymn was translated into Bulgarian soon after the Conversion, which
indicates the rapid dissemination of the veneration for the Mother of God,
A. Cameron, The Theotokos in Sixth-Century Constantinople, Journal of Theological
Studies, N. S., vol. XXIX, Pt. 1, April 1978, passim; D. Polyvjannyj, Srednovekovnijat bulgarski
gradprez XIIIXIVvek, Sofia, 1989, pp. 158160; D. Polyvjannyj, Mjastotona Devingradi nego-
vata rolja, Istoricheski pregled, 10 (1984), 2, pp. 8185; Iv. Bozhilov, Bulgarite vv Vizantijskata
imperija, Sofia, 1995, pp. 181183; Naumow, Bogorodine ikone i ritualizacija odbrane grada,
pp. 187ff.; Bozhilov, Vizantijskijat svjat, pp. 392393.
A. Cameron, The Theotokos in the Sixth-Century Constantinople, pp. 99ff.; R.G. Pun,
La couronne est Dieu. Neagoe Basarab (15121521) et l image du pouvoir pnitent, L empe-
reur hagiographe. Culte des saints et monarchie Byzantine et post-byzantine, Bucarest, 2001,
p. 199ff.
P.J. Alexander, Strength of the Empire and its Capital as Seen through Byzantine Eyes,
Speculum, 37 (1962), p. 355.
112 chapter three
Protector of Cities. In Bulgaria many traces have been found of the Con-
stantinopolitan cult of Mary as Protector of the City, among which I should
point out certain passages in the office of St Mocius (the first martyr to have
suffered in the city of Byzantion), whose feast day coincides with the date of
the founding of Constantinople, May 11.
The earliest mention of the Holy
Virgin as City Protector in Bulgaria was that related to the capture of Preslav
by John Tsimiskes and the seizing of an icon of the Mother of God, which
was taken from the occupied capital and brought to Constantinople, where
it was placed on a golden throne as part of the Emperors triumph.
eral decades later, the Holy Virgin is mentioned in the Bitolja inscription of
Tsar John Vladislav, in the second decade of the 11th century.
During the
entire Middle Ages and inthe early Modernperiodher venerationremained
characteristic of Orthodox countries. At times it hadmore outstanding man-
ifestations (as in the veneration of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God
in Russia and, later, in other countries
) and at times other specific saints
were substituted for this cult, who carried out the same or similar functions.
In Bulgaria, such was the veneration of Saint Paraskeva (Petka) of Epibatos,
knownas Petka of Trnovgrade, a cult that spreadfromthe SecondBulgarian
Empire to neighbouring Serbia and later to the Romanian principalities of
Walachia and Moldavia, following the path of this saints relics. Elsewhere I
have argued in detail my belief that the Cult of St Paraskeva was particularly
strong in these countries precisely because she fulfilled the role of a sub-
stitute for the Marian city-protection veneration in Constantinople.
Novgorodskajasluzhebnajaminejanamaj (PutjatinaMineja) XI veka. Text, Issledovanija,
Ukazateli, ed. V.A. Baranov, V.M. Markov, Izhevsk, 2003, pp. 348351. The Greek text of the
divine service: Analectahymnicagraecae codicibus erutaItaliae inferioris, ed. I. Schir, vol. IX,
Canones Maii, Roma, 1973 (In diem Constantinopoleos conditae et in sanctum Mocium),
pp. 115123; v. aussi M. Yovcheva, Kalendarnite osobenosti na Putjatinija minejotpravna
tochka za mnogoposochni izsledvanija, Slavia Orthodoxa. Ezik i kultura. Sbornik v chest na
prof. dfn Rumjana Pavlova, Sofia, 2003, pp. 182193.
Bozhilov, Bulgarite vv Vizantijskata imperija, pp. 181183; Bozhilov, Vizantijskijat svjat,
pp. 392393.
J. Zaimov, V. Tpkova-Zaimova, Bulgarin rodom. Bitolskijat nadpis na Ivan-Vladislav,
samodrzhets bulgarski, Sofia, 1981, p. 9.
See the exceptionally interesting article by A. Naumow (Bogorodine ikone i ritual-
izacija odbrane grada, pp. 187198). M. Pljukhanova, Sjuzhety i simvoly Moskovskogo tsarstva,
Sankt Petersburg, 1995, pp. 2362.
To this questionis dedicatedthe greater part of my book onpatronsaints of the Empire:
Biliarsky, Pokroviteli naTsarstvoto, pp. 43ff., 80ff. See also Iv. Biliarsky, The Cult of Saint Petka
andthe ConstantinopolitanMarial Cult, Les cultes des saints souverains et des saints guerriers
et l idologie du pouvoir en Europe Centrale et Orientale (Actes du colloque international, 17
janvier 2004, NewEurope College, Bucarest), volume coordon par Iv. Biliarsky, Radu G. Pun,
Bucarest, 2007, pp. 81104.
the chosen people and the promised land 113
veneration for the Holy Mother of God City Protector had one other devel-
opment, strongly linked both to the Empire and to monasticism: the special
protection over the Garden of the Mother of God in Holy Mount Athos.
Constantinople is presented in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah in close con-
nection with Rome on one hand and with the Bulgarian lands on the other.
The relation to Rome is clear and corresponds to the historical situation
since the foundation of Constantinople. It was a copy of Rome in every
respect. The Church, and with it the Empire, declared the imperial city to
be the New Rome by decision of the Ecumenical Council and raised the
see there to the rank of the Pentarchy, the five Patriarchates. The new city
repeated the urban structure of the old imperial capital, even including the
seven hills upon which it was built. Like Rome, it was called seven-hilled
(Heptalophos). The Emperor Constantine aimedtolikewise repeat the social
organisation of the Eternal City, resettling many of the senatorial families in
the newcity in order to emphasise the continuity between the two capitals.
This is indicated, in a way, in our apocryphon, where it is said that Romans
were taken to the NewJerusalem.
This assertion is hardly the result of his-
torical knowledge of the modern kind, but rather expresses an awareness of
the similarity between the two cities as regards their political and ideologi-
cal function; the source of this awareness we must seek inthe texts onwhich
the compiled Tale is based.
The connection of Rome with the Bulgarian land is displayed in our Tale
in several directions. The first of these is related to the mention of Rome
as a geographic reference point for the land from which the prophet Isaiah
led the third part of the Cumans in order to lay the foundations of the
Bulgarian state. This land is designated as the left parts of Rome.
interpretations have been proposed for this question. What is important
for our research is not the precise geographical location of these lands but
the fact that in this way the Eternal City became the starting point for the
beginning of Bulgarian history. The West, Rome, is also where Tsar Peter
found shelter after the Bulgarian land was conquered by violent men
Iv. Biliarsky, Sveta Gora kato sveshteno mjasto na Pravoslavieto (Bogorodichnija kult i
imperskata ideologija), Ljubav premaobrazovanjui verauBogaupravoslavnimmanastirama
/ Love of Learning and Devotion to God in Orthodox Monasteries, Belgrade/Columbus, 2006,
pp. 211220.
See in this book, p. 19 (f. 402b, lines 2425).
It should be noted that a similar text could be found in a polemical anti-Latin work
that seems to be connected with the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah (Nikolov, Povest polezna
za latinite, pp. 3539). Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that no traces of anti-Catholic
ideas or polemics can be found in Tale.
114 chapter three
as tall as giants. This information is important, though not historical or
particularly interested in fact, because it contains a memory of the Russian
invasion of the Balkans. It is interesting as being yet another indication of
the special relationship between Bulgaria and Rome in the context of our
In fact, the most important treatment of the Roman-Constantinopolitan
tradition in its relation to Bulgaria we find in the section of the Tale about
Emperor Constantine the Great, especially in the fact that his reign is pre-
sented in close connection with that of Peter, tsar of Bulgaria. According
to the narrative, Constantine was born in the time of the latter; the two
lovedeachother andlater, after the deathof the Bulgarianruler, Constantine
settledthe Bulgarianlands andfoundedcities. Evidently, theirs were twodif-
ferent kingdoms, but towards the end, it seems as if they are one, under the
care of Constantine. From here on the basileis are presented as Bulgarian
rulers, and usually no difference is made between them and the Bulgarian
tsars. This common State is designated as the Kingdom of Jerusalem after
the name of its capital, the New Jerusalem. This directs our attention and
search towards biblical history and sacral topography.
That is likewise what the mentionof the city of Bdinpoints to, mentioned
as Heptalophos Babylon (or Babylon on Seven Hills, :,u:s,su xsyx:u).
This citation is quite peculiar and not easy to understand, for in biblical
texts Babylon is usually presented very negatively, as the epitomy of vice.
Upon the forehead of the richly arrayed harlot in the Revelation of St John
is a sign that reads: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and
of abominations of the earth (Revelation, 17:5). Thus, Babylon combines in
itself the image of wealth, debauchery, and excessive luxury. As such, the
city has rebelled against the Lord (hast striven against the Lord, Jeremiah,
50:24). That is why it will come to evil, and the prophet exclaims Alas!
or Woe unto thee! when he mentions this city along with other rich and
iniquitous ones (there are many quotations that express this, for instance,
3Ezra 16:1; Revelation 18:10, etc.). Particularly important in building the
image of the city is the story of the tower of Babylon (Genesis, 11:19),
according towhichthe people, still all speaking the same languagestarted
building a tower that would reach to the heavens in order to make a name
for themselves. This construction would become a symbol of human pride,
which merited and received Gods punishment.
The Bible sets forth an unambiguously negative evaluation of the image
of Babylon. Nevertheless, the mention of Babylon in the Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah is not negatively connotated. In the tale of the founding of Bdin, we
find no negative elements, and the designation On Seven Hillswhich
the chosen people and the promised land 115
contains a clear comparison with Romeexcludes the possibility of inter-
preting it ina negative light. Babylonof the SevenHills (Heptalophos Baby-
lon) is one of the designations used for Constantinople that is no less com-
mon than the designation New Rome or New Jerusalem in apocryphal
and apocalyptical literature.
In some eschatological works the fall of Con-
stantinople is compared to the engulfment of Babylon (Jeremiah, 51:42, 64;
Revelation, 18:21), which testifies to the importance of the ancient city in
world history. The negative assessment related to worldly pride and riches
is there, but accompanied by the illustration of a global disaster, the victim
of which might be value-neutral.
The problemof the comparison between Bdin and Babylon has not gone
unnoticed in Bulgarian historiography, although some of the explanations
offeredfor it seemunacceptable to me. One suchexplanationis the assump-
tion that Bdin is compared to Babylon because there is a river passing by the
I do not think this is the right explanation of the text. The compari-
son with Babylon has principally an ideological significance, for which the
outward features are hardly of defining importance. Evidently Bdin/Vidin
is an important and large city thatwith all proportions keptmay be
compared to the capital of the country and hence to Constantinople. It
is in this direction that we should seek the explanation of the citation in
question. The view has also been stated that Babylon is counted as one of
the holy cities simply because it is present in Holy Scripture, even though
not in the happiest way.
I am inclined to accept this explanation and the
authors arguments that in some late apocryphal text Babylon of the Seven
Hills / Heptalophos Babylon (whatever city was meant by this name) is
one of the important cities in holy history and in eschatological literature.
In the Vision of the Prophet Daniel about the Kings and about the Last Days
this is what the Roman Tsarstvo is called (meaning the Constantinopolitan
Eastern Roman Empire), for which it had been prophesied that a single-
breasted woman would reign over it.
This information has been inter-
preted as an allusion to the amazons and Empress Irenes treatment of her
son Constantine VI. The account of a vision of the prophet Daniel in Priest
Dragols manuscript (13th century) begins with the exclamation addressed
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, p. 250.
V. Tapkova-Zaimova, Tirnovo entre Jrusalem, Rome et Constantinople. L ide d une
capitale, Roma fuori di Roma: istituzioni e immagini, Roma, 1994, p. 149.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 7374.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 153ff. and 165ff.
116 chapter three
to Constantinople Woe unto you, Heptalophos Babylon!
These texts give
us goodreasontoplace Babylonalongside the important cities, as mediaeval
man counted them. Thus Constantinopleprobably due also to its luxury
and riches, became Babylon of the Seven Hills, and the city of Bdin/Vidin
borrowed this name fromit. The mechanismby which the loan was made is
not very clear. The important thing is that it testifies tothe comparisonof the
city with the Imperial City, and also that this is yet another proof of the solid
biblical foundationonwhich the text of Tale was based, and which naturally
points tothe holy places andthe city of the Holy of Holies, of Gods Presence.
Jerusalem is a holy city for the Hebrews and, after them, for the Chris-
tians and Muslims, and thus unites the monotheistic religions derived from
the Abrahamic tradition. This is the city of the Temple, i.e. of the Divine
presence amidst the Chosen People. Jerusalem is defined as the Home of
the Almighty in the Book of Psalms (Psalms, 75/76:3), and the very origin
of the name comes from JHWH Shammah, meaning The Lord is there
(Ezekiel, 48:35).
The presence of God is the main circumstance that gives
Jerusalemits holiness for the Hebrews. Fromthe perspective of Christianity
and Gospel history, this is the city of the Passionof Christ, the city of the Res-
urrection, where the most important parts in the life of the Incarnate Logos
took place; it is the city of Salvation. That is precisely why Jerusalem was
characterised as the fundamental topos of mediaeval civilisation, the topos
of identity in which man in that age found a point of orientation both spir-
itually and spatially.
From the viewpoint of political theology, Gods pres-
ence is the most significant element grounding the sacralisation and reli-
gious legitimisation of authority. Through it a particular identity of power is
created, whichencompasses not only the capital city but also the nation, the
kingdom and the king, linking these to the biblical tradition of the Chosen
People, the Promised Land, and the divinely anointed kings of Israel.
We should also mention the idea of Jerusalem as the navel, meaning the
centre, of the world.
According to the Vita of St Andrew Salos (Fool-for-
Christ), God will gather together Israel in the end of the world in His Holy
Golgotha, (the place of the skull), where the Saviour suffered and
was crucified, is also there, but it is related not only to the Passion of Christ
but also to the beginnings of Mankind, for that is where the grave and skull
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 311 and 314.
Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, p. 98.
Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, p. 97.
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, p. 248.
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, p. 221; Starobulgaska eskhatologija, p. 192.
the chosen people and the promised land 117
of Adamwere. Thus the Saviour, the NewAdam, took upon Himself the sins
of men fromthe Fall and then freed themfromOriginal Sin. It is at Golgotha
that the last king will return his crown to God, together with earthly power
invested in kings by Him.
Thus, Jerusalemappears as Gods City, as the city
of Gods presence in the Temple, where the story of the first man Adam will
be united with that of the Saviour, the NewAdam, and so on until the end of
time. These observations are certainly valid at least to some degree for the
New Jerusalem as well, in every version of that city.
In the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah the images of the Holy City and of the
Kingdom of Jerusalem are of central importance. In order to understand
them it must be stressed that in this work it is precisely Constantinople
that is looked upon as the New Jerusalem.
Here I should note that in a
very interesting article by Robert Ousterhout the author seriously questions
the importance of the idea of Constantines city as the New Jerusalem. The
creation and construction of the new capital was a political and not a reli-
gious act. The city was conceived as a political and topographic replica of
Rome, not of the holy city of Hebrews and Christians, just as it was not
the centre of holiness until the middle of the 5th century.
duplicates some of the natural spatial, and even more so the political, fea-
tures of Rome but not those of Jerusalem, and in this respect it is in strong
contrast with some other eastern(Mtskheta, Moscow) or western(Bologna)
examples. The city draws its holiness from the accumulation there of holy
relics (an activity that is proper to government) and not fromsimilarity with
Inhis exceptionally interesting andnoteworthy conclusion, the
author generalises that the holiness of Jerusalem and that of Constantino-
ple are of different kinds: while in the former the holy events had happened
and were establishedas having occurred incertainplaces that are unchange-
able, in the latter, holiness and the objects that embody it were introduced
and placed there in order to sanctify the place and legitimise the authority
in power.
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, pp. 245246; Starobulgaskaeskhatologija, p. 117.
This is often occurs in apocalyptic and eschatological textssee Starobulgaska eskha-
tologija, pp. 115, 116, 117, 119, 120, 187, etc. Notably, the Bulgarian capital is called New Jerusa-
lem: V. Gjuzelev. Residenzen Trnovo, Bdin und Kaliakra , S. 62.
R. Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem,
Ierotopija. Sozdanie sakralnykh prostranstv v Vizantii i Drevnej Rusi, ed. A. Lidov, Moscow,
2006, pp. 98100.
Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem, pp.
101 ff.
Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem, p. 109.
118 chapter three
The idea of Constantinople as the New Jerusalem nevertheless occurs in
this article as well, and Robert Ousterhout points out the objects with which
it is associated, first among which are the relics of the Passion of Christ,
preserved in the Church of Our Lady of Pharos.
This is part of the sacred
topography of the imperial capital, whichmaps out its eschatological future.
This tradition became evident particularly in the Patria of Constantinople,
in which of special importance were the Great Church of St Sophia, the
Xerolophos, andespecially the columnwiththe statue of the emperor, raised
inthe Forumof Constantine.
Thus, we find that the duplicationof the holy
city stems at least partially fromthe discovery and placing of the True Cross
inthe capital, whichis identical withthe scheme of the story inthe Tale. The
Cross is the material emblem of the Christian Empire and of the authority
in it, and is part of the Byzantine identity by its salvific quality, but also as
a tropaiophoric (victorious) symbol, closely linked to the veneration for St
Constantine and his mother St Helena.
Moreover, by incorporating parts
of the relic within the bronze statue of the emperor at Constantines Forum,
a shared veneration of the two was achieved, and, essentially, the identifi-
cation of the emperor with the tree of the passion of the Saviour; this was
exceptionally important for the conceptualisation of government author-
ity in the New Rome of Christianity.
In addition, it remained an essential
characteristic of the Empire, while the Cross itself was set in the founda-
tions of the City and will be found there and cleaved at the End of Days.
The city of emperors creates its quality of holy place, in the Christian under-
standing of holiness. This is quite different from the pagan understanding,
particularly of the idea of Eternal City. For Christians, no worldly things
are deemed eternal, and the sanctity of Rome was reinterpreted in Chris-
tian terms. Rome and the Empire were one and the same thing, and in this
particular case the perception of pars pro toto is not the only explanation,
for Rome was the Empire and the Empire was Rome. As for the sanctity,
Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem, p. 107;
P. Magdalino, L glise du Phare et les reliques de la Passion Constantinople (VII

s.), Byzance et les reliques du Christ, d. J. Durand, B. Flusin, Paris, 2004, pp. 1530.
In the Slavic translation of the Vita of Andreas Salos: Starobulgaska eskhatologija, p. 193;
see also E. Folieri, La fondatione di Costantinopoli, pp. 222226; G. Dargon, Constantinople
imaginaire. Etude sur le recueil des Patria, Paris, 1984, pp. 7477, 136ff.
A. Eastmond, Byzantine identity and the relics of the True Cross in the Thirteenth
century, Vostochnokhristianskie relikvii, ed. A.M. Lidov, Moscow, 2003, pp. 205215.
Eastmond, Byzantine identity and the relics of the True Cross in the Thirteenth cen-
tury, p. 207.
Rydn, The Andreas Salos Apocalypse, p. 227.
the chosen people and the promised land 119
as Christians understood it, of the Empire, it was beyond any doubt: Christ
had been born in the Roman Empire, it was where He passed his earthly
life, and it was where His Passion was accomplished. Thus, the Empire
turns out to be sanctified by the Presence of God and this sanctity is taken
over and continued by Constantinople. However, it was effectuated not
through the Temple or the Ark of the Covenant, nor through the early life
of Christ, but through the ecclesification of the Empire and the Eucharistic
presence of God in the Church, understood as the Home and Dwelling of
the Unencompassable. Thus, the city combines the imperial sanctity of the
worlds capital with the legacy of Jerusalem. The city on the Bosporus is a
holy city, a New Jerusalem, which can perish only with the End of the
World. The latter is linkedwiththe Last Judgement andSalvation, andhence
the city is under the special protection of the Lord and His Mother. The
eschatological idea regarding the New Jerusalem is presented in the Book
of Revelation of St John (ch. 21), where the New Jerusalem is designated as
the bride of the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) and is depicted in all the glory
of the World to come and of the Salvation of mankind. This is the striving
and the goal, but the building of cities understood as spatial icons of Gods
city was something earthly in character. Cities strove to achieve the signs of
Gods presence amidst the Chosen People mostly in the past rather than the
future as depicted by the Last Judgement.
The idea of translatio Hierosolymi can be found among many Christian
nations. It dwells mainly on the belief in the sanctity of the respective
place, a sanctity acquired in the same way as that of Jerusalemthrough
Divine presence, which alone can sanctify a space. Holiness is accumulated
through the translation of relics; this was understandably considered to
be a royal ritual, inasmuch as the rulers were particularly fervent in this
activity, which had a distinct political dimension along with its religious
one. Together with this, a special holy topography was built of the urban
space and the surrounding area, which was to repeat at some scale the
topography of the Holy Land in the new place. This was done for cities, for
extensive territories, or for separate temples and monasteries. The building
of such replicas, of such spatial depictions, was of enormous importance for
the constructionof a Christianidentity inthe Orthodox countries and inthe
The creationof the image of Constantinople as NewJerusalemwas linked
with the translation of relics to, and the accumulation of grace in, the impe-
rial capital, which made of the city a holy place, a site of pilgrimage. As
such, the city was sanctified by the only possible source of holinessGods
presence, usually associated with the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Ark
120 chapter three
of the Covenant. All these are Old Testament symbols, which demonstrate
the presence of the Lord among His chosen people. In studying the Byzan-
tine sacred-spatial interpretation, of particular importance is the interpreta-
tion of certain churchesSt Polyeuctus, St Sophia, and othersas replicas
of the Temple; respectively, those who ordered their construction (among
them were Justinian I and other leading political figures) were seen as a
New Solomon or even as persons who had surpassed the glory of this bib-
lical king.
I should also refer to the fact that Byzantine authors describe
some churches as the Lords Temple ( ), and that in the impe-
rial court there was a special church simply called the Lords Temple or
Lords Churchany further specification was consciously avoided. This
designation has a special significance; Paul Magdalino and Robert Nelson
have drawnattentionto this.
Evidently, the reference was to the holy space
inthe OldTestament andexpressedthe idea of identifying withit. Of course,
this occurred in the context of the existence of Constantinople and of spe-
cial objects of religious cult, such as the Rod of the prophet Moses and the
Throne of King Solomon.
We should not forget, however, that all Old Testament locations of Gods
presence were reinterpreted inChristiantheology as prefiguring the Mother
of God, who, in turn, was interpreted as the image of the Holy Ecumenical
Church. In this sense, I should repeat that the ecclesification of the Empire
and the imperial Mariologythe special veneration for Our Lady as Protec-
tor of the Cityshould be understood as a manifestation of the saving and
holy presence of God among the ChosenPeople. These ideas passedto other
countries of the Byzantine Commonwealth and were assimilated there.
Of special importance were the Dominical relics, which were part of
the construction of the holy space in the imperial capital city; especially
important in this respect was the True Cross, explicitly mentioned in the
Tale. The importance of the Cross is enhanced by the fact that, in the story,
the emergence of the New Jerusalem occurs in the context of the finding
of the Cross by St Constantine, who specially goes to seek it in the Holy
R.M. Harrison, The Church of St. Polyeuctos in Istanbul and the Temple of Solomon,
in: Okeanos. Essays Presented to Ihor evenko on His Sixtieth Birthday by His Colleagues and
Students, ed. C. Mango, O. Pritsak, U. Pasicznyk, Harvard Ukrainian Studies VII, Cambridge
MA, 1984, pp. 276279; R.M. Harrison, A Temple for Byzantium: The Discovery and Excavation
of Anicia Julianas Palace Church in Istanbul, London, 1989; R. Ousterhout, NewTemples and
New Solomons. Rhetoric of Byzantine Architecture, The Old Testament in Byzantium, ed.
P. Magdalino, R. Nelson, Washington D.C., 2010, pp. 239251.
Magdalino, Nelson, Introduction, pp. 1013.
the chosen people and the promised land 121
Land. If we follow the chronology of events as they are presented in this
apocryphon, we will see that the building of the city is made to depend on
the bringing of the Cross: If I go to the Craniums place and find the Honest
Cross of Christ I will come back to this desolate place, I will have a city built
here, and I will call it NewJerusalem.
After that Constantine departs, finds
the Cross, and returns to found the City. The message is clear: the creative
and civilising activity of the ruler (building a city, redeeming the wilderness,
creating a new centre of the Empire/World), and the construction of sacral
space interpretedinthe categories of the Divine presence throughthe Cross,
expressed in the name of the NewJerusalem. Thus, we have reason to see in
the Tale a narrative that is a synthesis of the Byzantine view of the holiness
of the capital as a New Jerusalem and the location of the Gods presence.
The idea of the royal city as a NewJerusalemdeveloped in Serbia as well,
where it was clearly expressed in the 15th century. Also of interest in this
respect is the topographic representation of the Holy Land with reference
to the region of Eastern Macedonia in an interpolation to the text of one of
the copies of the Description of the Holy Land in Jerusalem by Constantine
the Philosopher (Kosteneki). In this text, we find direct topographical and
geographical references: the river Strymon as imaging the river Jordan, the
mountain of Pirin represents the mountain where Moses died, the city of
Petrich is Jericho, and Belasitsa corresponds to the mountain upon which
the holy city of Jerusalemwas situated.
These comparisons are particularly
interesting because they do not refer to a capital or an important urban
centre and thus stand apart from the use of the idea of the New Jerusalem
in the political sphere. Yet they categorically serve to prove the existence of
this idea inthe Serbianenvironment, where the author was writing. Still, the
focus of this idea was the presentation of Belgrade, the capital city in the age
of the Despot Stephen Lazarevi.
This was a specific development of the
predominant viewin this country that the Serbs were the NewIsrael, which
led to a particularly strong interest in the Old Testament amidst literary
circles attached to one of the last important Christian rulers in the Balkans
before the Ottoman conquest. As everywhere, in the case of Belgrade the
image of the city as a NewJerusalemis a complex one. In it, geographic and
See in this book, p. 18 (f. 402a, lines 1624).
M. Petrova, An Unknown Copy of the Description of Jerusalem by Constantine of
Kostenec, Byzantinoslavica, vol. LIX, 1998, pp. 265266, 269; Gagova, Vladeteli i knigi, p. 238.
This is essentially the topic of the article by Jelena Erdeljan (Beograd kao Novi Jerusa-
lim, pp. 99109).
122 chapter three
topographical characteristics are interwoven with purely religious imagery
and serve as a backdrop and confirmation of the latter. Testifying to this
are the paradisiacal characteristics of the city and of the Serbian land
in general, the presentation of Belgrade as the navel of the world and the
centre of nations, the accumulation of sanctity in this city. These Old Tes-
tament motifs accompany the identification of the New Jerusalem as the
New Constantinople. Thus, the characteristic of centre of nations becomes
natural for the cosmopolitan city, which was defined as the centre of the
world. The accumulation of holiness was prefigured by the collection of
holy relics in the Byzantine capital, while the expression of the Seven Hills
(Heptalophos) was directly borrowed from the Roman-Constantinopolitan
Particularly worthy of attention are the relics, for they express
most clearly the synthesis between the traditions of Jerusalem and of Con-
stantinople, and in the case of Belgrade, of the Bulgarian legacy in Ser-
bia under the despot Stephen Lazarevi. While the miraculous icon of the
Mother of God, known as of Belgrade, indicates the Mariological tradition
of Constantinople, the presence in Belgrade of the relics of St Paraskeva-
Petka, brought from Trnovgrade and Vidin, points to the legacy of the Bul-
garian tsars.
The same can be said for the relics of St Empress Theophano,
and of the special cult of St Constantine and the presence of the relic of
his right hand in the Serbian capital.
The synthesis we see in Belgrade in
the times of the despot Stephen Lazarevi seems to me obvious and very
indicative. The city became the New Jerusalem, because it had become the
New Constantinople. The same is true for the ruler of the city, who united
in himself the figures of a New Moses and a New Constantine
this is an
image that elsewhere in this book I have defined as that of the Renovator.
In Russia, we find traces of these ideas starting from Kiev, but they were
particularly developed in Muscovy, where we find an integral programme
that far surpassed even that of the Empire.
Its centre and chief material
Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, p. 103.
Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, pp. 103106. Regarding the cult of St Petka as a
substitute of the Mother of God, Protector of the City, see Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto,
pp. 80ff.
G.P. Majeska, The Body of St. Theophano the Empress and the Convent of St. Con-
stantine, Byzantinoslavica, 38, 1977, pp. 1421; G. Dagron, Theophano, les Saints-Aptres et
l glise de Tous-les-saints, Symmeikta, 9, 1994, pp. 201218.
Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi Jerusalim, p. 108.
Avery rich amount of literature has already been devoted to these problems, including
concrete study of monuments and generalisations as to the state of the art in these studies.
Here I will only cite two collections devoted to this problem, which provide a general
the chosen people and the promised land 123
monument was the NewJerusalemMonastery of PatriarchNicon. The build-
ing of this monastery, the planning and implementation of various projects
for the capital city of Moscow, were of great importance for the policy of
sacralising the state andgovernment authority during the time of Tsar Alexis
Mihaylovich. In fact, this policy had begun much earlier and was connected
withthe assumptionof the Byzantine legacy by Russia after the Unionof Flo-
rence and especially after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Thus,
the centre of the Orthodox world was transferred to the north, to Muscovy,
and with it the special holiness of the Empire acquired through relics, and
the creation of a special sacral space expressed through the idea of the New
Jerusalemand the belief in the Divine presence in the capital city. Related to
this idea were the marriage of John III Vassilievich to Sophie Palaeologina,
the coronation of John IV as Tsar, the creation of the Moscow Patriarchate,
the accumulation of relics in the capital, Tsar Boris Godunovs project to
buildthe churchof the Holy of Holies andthe Holy Sepulchre inthe Moscow
Kremlin, and, as the crowning achievementthe New Jerusalem of Patri-
arch Nicon. This superficial overview shows the close connection between
the Tsarstvo and the religious programme we are discussing, and defines
the strong political-religious emphasis in this programme. The realisation
of the New Jerusalem project in Moscow was oriented to the idea of the
Divine presence in the Tsarstvo and, thus, to the sanctification and legit-
imisation of the country as the centre of the Orthodox (= Christian) world.
We see howthe idea of a NewJerusalemproved identical with that of a New
Constantinople, which in the case of Muscovy was expressed by the starets
Philotheus in his notion of the Third Rome. I should specially draw atten-
tion to the synthesis between the Constantinopolitan imperial legacy and
that of the Old Testament kingdoms of the People of Israel, which was per-
haps most vividly affirmed in Moscow.
The Georgian kings also created a genuine replica of the Holy Land
and the Holy City of Jerusalem in their kingdom in the Caucasus. Mariam
Chkhartishvili, who calls it a spatial icon of Jerusalem, recently studied
this phenomenon in an article.
In building the old Georgian capital, the
holy city of Mtskheta, the topography of Jerusalem and the Holy Land was
overviewof it: Ierusalimv russkoj kulture, ed. A. Batalov, A. Lidov, Moscow, 1994, 224 p.; Novye
Ierusalimy. Ierotopia i ikonografia sakralnykh prostranstv, red. A.M. Lidov, Moscow, 2009, 910
M. Chkhartishvili, Mtskheta kak Novy Ierusalim: Ierotopija Zhitija sv. Nino , in: Novye
Ierusalimy. Ierotopia i ikonografia sakralnykh prostranstv, ed. A.M. Lidov, Moscow, 2009,
pp. 131149.
124 chapter three
Inthe city we findthe cave withthe remains of the
Bethlehem church, (the Georgian one, not that of the Gospels), as well as
Mount Tabor, the Mount of Olives; about fifteen kilometres southeast of the
city is Bethany, and beyond the river, at the foot of the hill called Golgotha,
is the Gethsemane Garden with the church of the Dormition of Our Lady.
Of course, this is the landscape context of the representation of the
kingdom as an image, or more precisely an icon, of Jerusalem. The aim
however went beyond: to achieve resemblance to the Heavenly Jerusalem
and thus to fulfil the project of the newly converted Georgians, who also
assumed the idea of being a New Israel. The Georgian kings distinguished
betweenthe topographical duplication, inMtskheta andthe vicinity, of the
holy place and the actual reproduction of the Upper Jerusalemreferred to in
the Book of Revelation. This is the heavenly abode that is repeated not in
the city but in the royal palace and its garden of paradise.
Hierotopy and
the ideology connected with it use topography to demonstrate the idea that
God is present in the three-dimensional icon. This can easily be noticed in
the earthly kingdom, though through different depictions. This is achieved
through the visible and perceptible presence of the Burning Bush, which
contains God (and hence is a prototype of the Tabernacle, of the Temple, of
the Mother of God and of the Church), as well as by the perception of the
city of Mtskheta-New Jerusalem as an image of paradise, of the Kingdom
of Heaven. However, the most important sign of the presence of God in
the holy city of the Georgians remains the chiton of Jesus Christ. It was
brought there andthenentereda tree that grewuponthe grave of St Sydonia,
which thereby became Svetitskhoveli, i.e. the living, life-bearing column,
the main support of the Church, viewed therefore as the Temple, as the Ark
of the Covenant, and as the House of the Lord.
The main conclusion to be drawn from the overview of the ideas regard-
ing the New Jerusalem in Orthodox countries during the Middle Ages
in the Balkans, in Eastern Europe, and in the Caucasusis based on the
project of translatio Hierosolymi to Constantinople. In this way the image
of the New Jerusalem and the New Constantinople (or Third Rome) were
This topic was first raisedby K. Kekelidze, whopublishedhis study onthe Jerusalemori-
ginof the Georgianchurchina separate booklet inSaint Petersburg in1914. Here I quote from
the reprint of this work dating from 1957. (K voprosu ob ierusalimskom proizkhozhdenii
gruzinskoj tserkvi, in: Kekelidze K., Etudy iz istorii drevnegruzinskoj literatury, t. IV, Tbilisi,
1957, p. 362). See also Chkhartishvili, Mtskheta kak Novy Ierusalim: Ierotopija Zhitija sv.
Nino , pp. 133135.
Chkhartishvili, Mtskheta kak Novy Ierusalim: Ierotopija Zhitija sv. Nino , pp. 137144.
the chosen people and the promised land 125
simultaneously constructed in the newplaces. Typical for the project is that
it is a means of building the image of the people as a New Israel and of the
state as a God-chosen and God-protected organismin the visible world, one
that should be an icon, an image of the Upper Jerusalem, i.e. of the Heavenly
Kingdom. Several different variants of the construction of these images
were presentedat least in brief. What they have in common is not only
the topographical match with the earthly Jerusalem but in particular the
attainment of the sanctity of the Divine presence. Inasmuchas this presence
has concrete spatial parameters both in the Old Testament (the Tabernacle,
the Temple, etc.) and in the NewTestament (the Holy Land, the place of the
Nativity and of the Incarnation, and especially of the Passion and sacrifice
of the SaviourGolgotha and the Holy Sepulchre), its translatio can be
achieved only by transferring the carriers of holiness to the newplace. Such
carriers were all relics of saints, containing part of the grace those saints
possess, but especially the Dominical and Marian relics, which might be
only contact relics. Among these should be specially mentioned the relics
of the Passion of Christ, and foremost the Cross, because it had the greatest
importance for the creation of the spatial icon of Jerusalem and the Holy
Land, and due to its prominent presence in the Tale. Another reason for
our special interest in the cult of the Cross is the close connection of these
objects of veneration with the cult of St Constantine and St Helena, and of
saintly rulers in general.
In one way or another, the Cross was part of the hierotopical projects for
the capital cities in Orthodox countries. In Russia, the project was centred
on the Cross and its presence in Moscow.
A small-scale variant of it can
be seen in the so-called Shumaevski Cross, and it was later developed on
a greater scale in the New Jerusalem Monastery and, to some degree or
another, throughout the whole capital city. This reproduction of the city
of the Saviours Passions is centred on the cross as the main instrument
and symbol of the redeeming self-sacrifice of the Lord. In Georgia, the
situation was slightly different, as the cross was not part of the reproduction
of the Upper Jerusalem in the royal palace. Yet we find it in the three
crosses placed by King Miriana, one of which was that of Golgotha.
S.L. Javorskaja, Znachenija kresta v ierotopicheskom zamysle Novogo Ierusalima. Ot
Konstantina Velikogo do tsarja Alekseja Mikhajlovicha, Novye Ierusalimy. Ierotopia i ikono-
grafia sakralnykh prostranstv, red. A.M. Lidov, Moscow, 2009, pp. 774803.
Chkhartishvili, Mtskheta kak Novy Ierusalim: Ierotopija Zhitija sv. Nino, pp. 134, 139,
140 (the enemies are defeated by St Nino owing to the sign of the cross), 143144.
126 chapter three
already mentioned the case of Serbia and Constantines relics. Undoubtedly,
the veneration of the Cross and of St Constantine and St Helena form an
integral hagiological complex distinctly charged with political meaning.
The main common points here are: the appearance of the Cross in the
sky and Constantines victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which
made of the vision of the cross a victorious labarum for the army; the
pilgrimage tothe Holy Landandthe discovery of the True Cross; the building
of churches on the site of the Passion, and the translation of relics to the
new capital Constantinople. This translation, especially that of the True
Cross, actually amounted to the transmission of the whole context of the
Salvation to the Byzantine capital, which thus became the centre of the
Christian world and the destination for pilgrimage that would substitute for
the Holy Land. The veneration of relics and the use of relics in liturgy or
other ritual acts became an inseparable part of the definition of Empire and
of the Orthodox state as a whole. The cross became a central component
of the understanding of Orthodox Empire and its self-identification, while
the related relics were the essential element of the legitimisation of the
power of the basileis.
Thus, the duplication of Jerusalem was related to
veneration of the Cross, which in turn was connected with the veneration
of St Constantine, and all these together served as the main legitimisation
of that power.
Coming back to the case of Bulgaria, we should note that the venera-
tion of the St Constantine and his mother, as well as that of St Philothea,
were part of the hagiological programme of St Patriarch Euthymius. He was
thus probably continuing an old tradition reflected in the text of Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah, where the idea of the Imperial City as a New Jerusalem
was inseparable from St Constantine and the story of the translation of the
Cross definitely ascribed to him, not to Heraclius and the events connected
with the great losses suffered in the 7th century. The presence of the Cross
there was the only, and obviously sufficient, argument for identifying Con-
stantinople with the Holy City, and thereby the whole Empire with the Holy
Thus the Empire, and subsequently the states of other Orthodox coun-
tries, became not simply a political organisation for the exercise of the
power requisite for achieving a certain degree of organisation of society, but
a sacral phenomenon directly related to Gods work for human Salvation
A. Eastmond, Byzantine identity and the relics of the True Cross in the Thirteenth
century, pp. 205215.
the chosen people and the promised land 127
and to the eschatological meaning of the worlds being. One of the signs
of this was the spatial imitation of the Holy Land, which I have called a
geographical characteristic of religious belonging, and whose natural and
urban topography I have traced.
chapter four
The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah lists a number of rulers and other figures
whose origin and meaning are obscure. Their names do not match any
known rulers in Bulgarian history. So who were Tsar Izot, or King Ozia, or
any of the other strange characters who appear in the tale? While schol-
ars have generally attempted to link them to characters in the history of
Bulgaria, such attempts strain logic and have been largely unconvincing.
I would argue, instead, that these figures are biblical types, modelled on
important biblical persons and embodying the ideas associated with those
Inthis chapter, I will focus onthe figure of Tsar Izot, and his embodiment,
in my view, of the concept of Davidic royalty. The specific model of David is
not overtly mentioned in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, and so its presence there
must be discovered and argued. Still, we have sufficient reason to discern
in the text this particular understanding of royalty, usually associated with
the name of King and Prophet David: he is the archetype of the God-chosen
and anointed king, who is ruler and leader of the Chosen People,
is likewise a prophet, a poet and singer known for his harp, a victorious
military leader, and a man, and as such is a sinner (as evident in the case
of Uriahs wife), but one who repents, thus setting an example not only
for all earthly rulers, but for every human in general. Among all these
characteristics, there are two aspects that I want to highlight especially: the
God-chosenness of King David, who was singled out to accomplish the work
of God, and his humility before the Almighty. This humility is one of the
features characteristic of him, especially in comparison with King Saul, who
lost the Lords protection precisely because of his lack of submissiveness.
King David is regarded in Christian political theology as the incarnation of
Of course, every king could be considered God-chosen, since, in one way or another,
his power inevitably stems from the Lord. Here I try to trace the use of the image of the King
and Prophet David, who was the first of the righteous God-chosen kings (given that the reign
of King Saul ended tragically).
130 chapter four
a rulers virtues and an exemplary ruler, together with some other biblical
personages and Emperor Constantine the Great. The figure of David as
ruler was elaborated in oratorical prose, in liturgical texts, and in pictorial
art. Indeed, this paradigm was universal in Mediaeval Christendom, and
no significant differences are evident in its contents and functioning in
Byzantium compared with Western Europe.
It should be stressed that, in the times of the Judges, the Hebrews atti-
tude to royalty and to monarchy in general was quite ambivalent, and at
times we can discover a strongly negative shade in it. In the People of Israel,
the theocratic idea was so strong that it practically stifled the monarchic
one. They had no inherited rule (usually associated with monarchy), which
never existed in a pure form in Israel, and there was not even much power
concentrated in the hands of a God-chosen monarch. For it was considered
that even limited power would put in question the direct power of God over
His Chosen people, which, in turn, would provoke a feeling of rivalry in the
Levites and priests. No less a figure thanthe Prophet Samuelcreator of the
Kingdom of Israelhad bitter words about people who gather to ask for a
king such as other nations have. More than that, according to Holy Scrip-
ture, God Himself says that, in asking for a king, the people reject Him and
His power (1 Samuel, 8:7). The story of the electionof Saul as king alsoreveals
Gods complete power over the world and His People. Saul is described as a
handsome man, but his choice is not at all based on any personal merit of
his. It is the result of Divine intervention alone, and not due to the merit of
the lad who went to seek his donkeys in the land of the tribe of Benjamin
and outside its boundaries. None of Sauls relatives believed he was one of
the prophets and had become king of Israel: Gods choice was completely
free and followed no human logic (1 Samuel, ch. 89). It was the same later
on, when David was chosen to be king, and again for future great rulers
in all cases the only thing that mattered was Gods choice, protection, and
blessing. Thus, we see the above-mentioned ambiguity in the attitude to
monarchy in Holy Scripture: it is presented as a burden, as something that
creates inequality and at times injustice, and a rejection of the Lords power
over Israel, yet simultaneously it is said to be the work and choice of God.
The strengthening of the kingdom provoked opposition among some peo-
ple, as revealed by the so-called Deuteronomist movement, which led to
a general reform of the Israelite religion and produced several books of the
Bible: the Book of Deuteronomy itself, at least partially the Book of Joshua,
12Samuel, etc. This was a large and complex reformmovement, which car-
ried out the demythification and spiritualisation of the religion of the
Hebrew people, purified it from its extremely elaborate ritualisation, and
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 131
put a greater moral and purely theological emphasis in it. Still, it was also
a compromise with the temple group, often identified as the monarchic
current, because it set the requirement for rigorous centring of the cult in
Jerusalem, inthe Temple, andfor destructionof all other shrines.
the Deuteronomists were theocratically oriented rather than monarchic,
but we cannot say they were essentially anti-royalist. On the contrary, the
reform is associated chiefly with the name of King Hezekiah and his great-
grandson, King Josiah; these two were hardly opponents of monarchy. Yet
the Deuteronomists introduced certain changes in the texts of Scripture,
which influenced the way King Davids image was presented.
Thus, two
separate aspects of his image are constructed: the blessed and God-chosen
King of the Chosen People, and the repentant sinner. These aspects are not
necessarily contrary or mutually exclusive. To the first image is devoted
a large part of the account of the rise of David as king and of his reign
(2Samuel, ch. 25), the story of the translation of the Ark of the Covenant to
Jerusalem (2Samuel, ch. 6), and especially the words of the Lord, transmit-
ted through the prophet Nathan, regarding the messianic future of the seed
of David (2Samuel, ch. 7) which are confirmed in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah,
ch. 11).
The other aspect of King Davids image we find in 2Samuel, in the
part telling of how the king sinned with the wife of Uriah, and the story of
Absalom (2Samuel, ch. 1124).
In any case, both aspects refer to a specific
way of serving the will of God, and in both aspects of the image issues are
resolved in a Judaic religious environment; but this environment influenced
the perception of the Davidic image by Christianity, and consequently, the
interpretation of the idea of royalty in terms of this image, in the Christian
Of course, regarding the Davidic model of royalty, we may define it
primarily as veterotestamentarian, but also as neotestamentarian in
its political-religious nature, and David became extremely important to
In this respect the classical authors and works are: G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy,
London, 1953; idem, Deuteronomy; a Commentary, London, 1966; M. Noth, The Deuterono-
mistic History, Sheffield, 1981.
Many studies have been devoted to this topic; for a more comprehensive and spe-
cially focused presentation, see: R.A. Carlson, David, the Chosen King. A Traditio-Historical
Approach to the Second Book of Samuel, Stockholm-Gteborg-Uppsala, 1964, 304 p.
Carlson, David, the Chosen King, pp. 41128.
Carlson, David, the Chosen King, pp. 131259.
It is worth noting the more intense propaganda use of the image of David during the
reign of Basil Isee Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 8586.
132 chapter four
Christianity. The king is a descendent of the tribe of Judah, but he is also the
ancestor on both sides of the earthly parents of the Lord Jesus Christ; by his
repentance he set anexample not only of royal humility before God, but also
of the repentance expected of every Christian;
his psalms are a book of the
Old Testament, but they are also extremely important for Christians. Psalms
are certainly the most important Old Testament text for Christian liturgy.
All these historical circumstances, and many others, have made the king
and prophet David a fundamental model ruler not only for the Christian
Roman Empire but to an even greater degree for the successor kingdoms
that replaced it in Western Europe, in the Caucasus, and along the whole
Mediaeval Bulgaria is no exception in this respect, and in this chapter,
I will try to trace the basic features of the Davidic type of royalty as far as
they are reflected in the apocryphal work under discussion in this book. As I
already noted, in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, there is no direct reference to the
King and Prophet David, and so we shall have to deduce and demonstrate
the presence of this model. I should say at the start that for a study such
as this one, it is not particularly important whether the information con-
tained in the text corresponds to what modern historiography recognises
as historical truth. For us the text is interesting as a document regarding the
identity of the state and state power, and this identity is always ideologically,
not factually defined. In this sense, we will view the depiction of the histor-
ical path of Bulgarians as modelled on Holy Scripture and the story of the
Chosen People, with its God-anointed king.
Tsar Izot and His Reign
In discussing the Davidic type of royalty in the Tale, our attention is focused
on the cited Tsar Izot. The account of him in the apocryphon is brief but
substantial, and offers possibilities for various interpretations:
Regarding this idea in Bulgaria, see: Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka
Bulgaria, pp. 177179; M. Kuyumdzhieva, Stseni po istorijata na tsar David v galerijata na
tsrkvata Rozhdestvo Christovo v Arbanasi, in: Peti dostoit. Sbornik v pamet naSt. Kozhukha-
rov, Sofia, 2003, 2003, r. 535552; Kuyumdzhieva, M. David Rex Penitent: Some Notes on the
Interpretation of King David in Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, The Biblical Models of
Power and Law/ Les modles bibliques du pouvoir et du droit (Actes du colloque international,
Bucarest, NewEurope College, Institute for AdvancedStudy, 2829 janvier 2005), ed. Iv. Biliarsky,
R.G. Pun, Frankfurt/M., 2008, r. 133151.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 133
m w
m u
i w ,
The writer explicitly indicated him as being the son of Tsar Ispor and, a
little further on, as being the father of the tsars Boris and Symeon. This
gives us the framework of his dynastic affiliation. If we presume that Tsar
Ispor is identifiable with Khan Asparukh, or with some image based on
the memory of him (and we have no reasons to reject this identification
in its ideological, not historical-factual, aspect), it becomes clear that any
attempt at historical critique of the source is doomed to fail. Usually the
names Boris and Symeon are assumed to designate Khan Boris-Michael I
and his son Tsar Symeon, who are presented here as brothers. These two
rulers have no kinship or clan ties with Khan Asparukh, they do not descend
fromthe clan of Dulo, and though they were Bulgars by origin, they were not
related to the ruler who first brought his people south of the Danube. The
name Izot is not known to have existed in Bulgaria, and this fact confronts
the researcher with a new difficulty. The copyist obviously was not very
knowledgeable about Bulgarian history and was not a contemporary of the
cited rulers.
We can be sure that Izot is not a historical but an ideological personage.
His character, as we find it in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, is certainly positive:
he is a victorious ruler (which signifies that he is under Gods protection);
the cities under his rule flourish and prosper. Here we find two of the basic
paradigms, those of the good king and of the blessed kingdom. Who is this
tsar, then? What message does his image in the apocryphon convey? What
memory does it embody? To attempt to answer these questions, we must
seek some Byzantine and biblical comparisons for his name.
The name Izot is not familiar, but in the texts we come several times
across a similar name, Azot, in the forms :+z or / .
It is cited in many places in the Slavic, respectively Greek, translation of
the Old Testament. This is the name of a Philistine city, also known as
which plays a special role in the battles between the Children of
See in this book, p. 16 (f. 401c, lines 616).
Regarding the city of Ashdod see: M. Dothan, Ashdod IIIII: The Second and Third Sea-
sons of Excavations. Atiqot 910 (English Series), Jerusalem, 1971; Ashdod, in: The New Ency-
clopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. I, ed. E. Stern, Jerusalem, 1993,
134 chapter four
Israel and their sworn enemies (see Joshua, 11:22, 13:3, 15:4647; Judges, 1:18;
1 Samuel 5:3, 6, 7, 6:17; II Chronicles, 26:6; Nehemiah, 4:7, 13:23, 24; Judith,
2:28; Isaiah 20:1; Jeremiah, 25:20; Amos, 1:8, 3:9; Zephaniah, 2:4; Zechariah,
9:6; 1 Maccabees, 4:15, 5:68, 9:15, 10:77, 78, 82, 84,11:4, 14:34, 16:10). The citizens
of Ashdod manage to capture the Ark of the Covenant and place it in the
temple of Dagon(1 Samuel, ch. 5ff.). That is why Godpunishes the Philistines
and especially the inhabitants of Ashdod. In the Book of Amos, we read
that God will destroy the inhabitants of Ashdod (Amos, 1:8). They are called
proud and arrogant in the Book of Zechariah and, once again, they are
threatened with destruction (Zechariah, 9:6). The city is punished for its
sins: Judah Maccabee destroys its altars and burns the idols of Ashdod
(1 Maccabees, 5:68); also, Jonathan Maccabee burns down the city and the
temple of Dagon (1 Maccabees, 10:84).
We see that, on the basis of these data alone, it would be hard to drawany
conclusions at all. What is certain, the city of Ashdod and its inhabitants are
presented in a negative light, as alien and enemies to the Children of Israel.
In this respect we cannot expect that Tsar Izot in Tale of the prophet Isaiah,
son and heir to Tsar Ispor (who, as we shall see, is presented as the New
Moses), would have some relation to the name of one of the main cities of
hereditary foes of the Israelites.
I will not pursue this line of interpretation any further, and, abandoning
the search for parallels with the name of the city of Ashdod, will undertake
a new line of investigation.
We also encounter the name Azotos/Azotios in the Constantinopolitan
Patria. There the personage with that name is described as the adversary
of Constantine the Great, but the latter is victorious in Byzantion at the
founding of the city of Constantinople.
Once again, it is hard for me to
imagine that the heroic, good, and blessed Tsar Izot could be identified,
even conditionally, with an opponent of the saintly emperor Constantine, a
model Christianruler whois likewise presentedas a pious andrighteous tsar
in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. The similarity of the names is coincidental and
should not be overinterpreted in a way that would lead to fanciful results.
We must not focus on this similarity alone and disregard the whole context
of the literary work or the biblical books.
pp. 93101; S. Gitin, The Philistines: Neighbors of the Canaanites, Phoenicians and Israelites,
in: 100 Years of American Archaeology in the Middle East, ed. D.R. Clark and V.H. Mattews,
Boston: American Scool of Oriental Research, 2004, pp. 5785.
G. Dargon, Constantinople imaginaire. Etude sur le recueil des Patria, Paris, 1984, pp. 45
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 135
In the treatise De thematibus by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyro-
genitus, we find an interesting citation of a name that strongly reminds us
of Tsar Izots. The author presents the Greek transcription of the Armenian
name Ashot as (Azot/Azotos).
Written in this way, it becomes quite
similar to Izot. Constantine VII is telling here about the Armenian ruler of
the late 9th century, Ashot II Yerkat.
Agostino Pertusi, publisher of the text,
even explains the meaning of the name, which we find given both as -
, and as in the manuscripts. It might be derived, he says from the
Armenian word azt meaning noble.
In another work, De administrando imperio, the same author Constan-
tine VII Porphyrogenitus transliterates the same Armenian and Georgian
name, Ashot, as (Asotios).
The difference in transcription and in
the supposed and possible pronunciation of the name is not insurmount-
able, and we may consider these two names to be one and the same, which
enables us to attempt to identify the personage under consideration. The
first who comes to mind in view of the narrative is Ashot the Curopalate,
one of the early representatives of the Bagrationi dynasty, inwhose time was
fully elaboratedthe story that this family of rulers of bothGeorgia andArme-
nia were descended from the King and Prophet David. The name itself was
very popular within this dynasty in the first centuries of its rule. This series
of coincidences give us reasonto discuss the possibility that the name might
testify that the image of King David was used in the construction of a royal
ideology in the Caucasus and the Balkans, especially as this is suggested by
the account of Tsar Izots victories in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. In order to
argue this interpretation, I would first have to examine howthe vanquished
opponents of this pious and God-chosen ruler are presented in the Tale.
The Antagonists
Eventhoughthe name of King David is not cited inTale of the Prophet Isaiah,
we find there some clear traces of the Davidic paradigmof royalty, expressed
especially by the characters of Tsar Izots opponents. Here we will examine
in detail two names of biblical origin: Goliath and Ozia.
Costantino Porfirogenito, De thematibus (introduzione-testo critico-commento), ed.
A. Pertusi, (= Studi e testi, 160), Citt del Vaticano, 1952, p. 75
Costantino Porfirogenito, De thematibus, pp. 144ff.
Costantino Porfirogenito, De thematibus, p. 146, note on 1.7.
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio, ed. Gy. Moravcsik, transl. by
R.J.H. Jenkins, Budapest, 1949, pp. 198ff., and 204ff.
136 chapter four
Goliath, the Sea Frank
This person is mentioned in the section that tells of the accomplishments
of Tsar Izot: And this tsar [Izot] slew ( and) Goliath, the sea Frank. Many
attempts have been made to identify him, but they have always involved an
excessively positivistic interpretation of the source. There are three indica-
tions through which we may try to reach some conclusion about the mes-
sage underlying the cited name. Firstly, the passage refers to Frank. The
term should be understood broadly as meaning a person connected with
Western Europe and the Catholic world, not in the narrow sense of some-
one of Frank nationality or related to the Frankish state. More than enough
speculation has already been made on this issue. The second indication lies
in the mention of his being connected with the sea. This reference is rather
strange, for the Bulgarians at that time stayed away fromthe wide open seas
and had almost no connection with maritime peoples. I would like to exam-
ine in somewhat greater detail the name itself of this foe, vanquished and
slain by Tsar Izot: Goliath refers us to the Old Testament and the story of
the battle between young David and the Philistine champion.
The name of the gigantic Philistine Goliath is mentioned several times in
Holy Scripture.
The major event related to him is his fight with David and
his being slain by the future king of the People of Israel. He is presented
in chapter 17 of the First Book of Samuel. Goliath was a Philistine from
Gath (see also 2Samuel 21:19, 1 Chronicles, 20:5) and he was evidently the
mightiest warrior in the Philistine army, which had gathered against Israel
and King Saul. Goliath is described as a remarkably big mansix cubits
and a span in height. His armour and weapons are such that they alone
are enough to instil fear in the opposing army. And this giant of a man
challenged any Hebrew to single combat, with the result deciding the war.
For forty days none of the sons of Israel was willing to fight him, and Goliath
inveighed against Israel every day, morning and evening. David was on the
scene of the battle by chance: he had to bring food to his brothers, who were
in the army; he himself had not been called to battle, being too young. He
heard the words of Goliath and was not afraid but came forth against the
Philistine, and killed himwith his sling, and then unsheathed Goliaths own
sword and used it to cut his head off.
The name Goliath is derived fromthe Lydian Alyattessee W.F. Albright, Syria, the
Philistines, and Phoenicia, Cambridge Ancient History, 3d edition, vol. II, part 2, Cambridge,
1975, p. 513.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 137
This story is among the most popular ones inHoly Scripture, andthe ways
it has been interpreted are no less various than the story is famous. Here we
will not go into the historical-factual attempts to identify Goliath and trace
some of the latters concrete features, nor recent medical assessments of his
health which try to explain why David vanquished the Philistine champion
so easily.
We will also not touch upon the problem concerning a certain
Elhanan, son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlemite who is said to be the vanquisher
of the giant in2Samuel (21:19) (a similar text is present in1 Chronicles, 20:5).
I will only say that, even if the victory was ascribed to David only later, it was
still early enough for his image to acquire a life of its own and to influence
the Israelite, Christian, and Muslim cultures. What is important for us is
precisely the image and the message it conveys, not the historical nature
of the duel.
Goliath is certainly, on one hand, an image of the powerful enemy of
Gods Chosen People, on the other, an image of worldly power and might
that does not rely on God but strives to achieve everything despite and even
against God. His power, in terms of enormous height, muscles, weapons,
is the first striking thing about him when Goliath is first presented in the
text. His arms and armour serve to emphasise that he is a mighty warrior,
terrifying, striking fear into the hearts of his opponents.
Yet the young,
inexperienced David defeats him. This is not a victory of intelligence and
skill over brute force, nor of ingenuity over power. David is deemed too
young for war and has been left behind to tend his fathers sheep, but he
cannot bear to hear Goliath defy the armies of the living God (1 Samuel,
Such a medical explanation is that he had a restricted visual field (the so-called tunnel
vision), because he suffered from acromegaly, and thiswe are toldis why David was
able to defeat himsee Vl. Berginer, Neurological Aspects of the David-Goliath Battle:
Restrictioninthe Giants Visual Field, Israel Medical AssociationJournal, 2, 2000, pp. 725727;
Vl. Berginer, Ch. Cohen, The Nature of Goliaths Visual Disorder and the Actual Role of His
Personal Bodyguard (I Sam. 17:7, 14), Ancient Near Eastern Studies, vol. XLIII, 2006, pp. 2744.
These two contradictory passages in the Bible have been the subject of many stud-
ies and interpretations, aimed at resolving the contradiction. According to some authors,
Elhanan and David are one and the same person, and the difference is that one is a given
name and the other is a title (L.M. von Pkozdy, Elhnnder frhere Name Davids?,
Zeischrift fr alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, t. 6, Berlin, 1956, S. 257259), while according
to others the difference is between a persons given name and his regnal name (A.M. Honey-
man, The Evidence of the Regnal Names among the Hebrews, Journal of Biblicat literature,
v. 67, pp. 13ff.).
Anchor Bible Dictionary, II, 1073; Encyclopaedia Judaica, VII, p. 738. Regarding Goliaths
weapons, see: Y. Yadin, Goliath Javelin and the mnr rgm, Palestine Exploration Quar-
terly, vol. 87, London, 1955, pp. 5869.
138 chapter four
17:26, 36). The theological message of the story is that victory does not
depend on the strength of the warrior but on Gods will. This is the message
of the biblical narrative. David, in going to fight the Philistine, says: The
LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the
bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel, 17:37), and
also: Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield:
but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of
Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine
hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the
carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to
the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in
Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword
and spear: for the battle is the LORDS, and he will give you into our hands.
(1 Samuel 17:4547). Here is the key to the story: this is the Lords war and He
cannot allow the Chosen People to be vanquished by their enemies.
The same message is presented even more explicitly in the legendary
texts of Aggadah.
There Goliath is presented as an allegory of the arrogant
profanation of Gods name by the enemies of Israel. In Midrash on the
Psalms, we readthat whenDavidsawhowhuge andwell-armedGoliathwas,
he thought the latter to be invincible, but when he heard himblaspheming,
David said to himself: I know I will vanquish him, for he does not have the
fear of God inhim. This is the message of the biblical story, which we should
look for likewise in the other texts mentioning the Philistine warrior. We
find the same interpretation in the Quran, where it is said that the Hebrews
did not believe they could defeat Goliath, but Allah gave David the courage
to slay him (Surah 2:250252). In the literature coming after the Quran,
Jlt, as Goliath is called, is one of the Philistine kings, descended from the
Amalekites. He is mentioned as an Ifrs, a name very close to Idrs or Ibls,
as Satan is designated, which concretely shows the attitude towards this
This Philistine champion is model for one of the enemies defeated by
Tsar Izot, Goliath, the sea Frank. Many attempts have been made to identify
the latter with a concrete historical person. Early on, Konstantin Jireek
relatedthe name of Tsar Izots adversary to some Bulgarian-Frank conflicts.
Midrash TehillimThe Midrash on the Psalms, Jewish Publication Society of America,
1959, 36:2.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. VII, pp. 738739.
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 263.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 139
VeselinBeevliev asserts the name refers toEmperor Louis the Pious.
authors only note the connection with Franks and the existing opinions
on the topic. Obviously, all these interpretations of the reference are quite
positivistic and seek to find its historical context, testified to by some factual
source. In my opinion, the approach should be different.
The reference in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is not concretely to Goliath,
the personage cited in Holy Scripture, nor to any concrete historical person-
age. The citing of the Philistines and their warrior is, again, ideological in
meaning. This is an image, towards which the ideological attitude is simi-
lar, but ultimately the text is not focused on Goliath but on his opponent
Tsar Izot. The overview presented above provides some reference points as
to what kind of image is being constructed. Foremost, this is the image of
the enemy of the Chosen People, of Israel. Thus, he should be an enemy of
the New Israel as well. Secondly, being the foe of the people he is also the
foe of God, for the battle is the LORDs (1 Samuel, 17:47). This means that
we have here a testimony to the victory over the enemies of the Lord, who
are also the enemies of Gods People. These enemies are those who rely on
earthly power and might, rather than on God.
Thus, through the images of the adversaries of the good tsar, we see an
ideological and religious model of that tsar himself: this is the Davidic type
of royalty, a ruler modelled after the first righteous king (regardless of his
sin with Uriahs wife) after Saul perished for having disobeyed Gods will.
I believe the main purpose of the mention of Goliath is to emphasise the
Davidic image and model personified by Tsar Izot. This image achieves an
additional result: in this way, not only is the kingdom perceived in Old Tes-
tament parameters, but the People as well. The anointed tsar, obedient to
God and defendant of Gods will against the blasphemy of the uncircum-
cised, must surely be the ruler of Gods Chosen People. Thus, the mention of
the Philistine warrior reflects not only the idea of the kingdom but also the
identity of the people in that kingdom.
Ozia, the King of the East
This is the name of another of Tsar Izots adversaries, defeated and slain by
the latter: This tsar [Izot] slewOzia, the Tsar of the East, with his armies .
This passage provides no information, apart from the specification that
this was an Eastern ruler and that Tsar Izot slew him in war, not in single
Beevliev, Nachaloto na bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, p. 44.
140 chapter four
combat. We do not have many options and should look in Holy Scripture for
the identification of this Eastern Tsar Ozia; more precisely, we should con-
sider the eponymous king of Judah, whose name also appears as Azariah.
The name Ozia (and some others in the Slavic translation of Holy Scripture,
that sound similarly or are spelled similarly) is mentioned multiple times
both in the Old (34 times),
and NewTestament (twice).
The formAzariah
occurs 56 times, but only in the Old Testament.
Of course, all these men-
tions are not of the same person, but of the same name. Several persons carry
it, but the one that will interest us most here is Uzziah, king of Judah, son of
King Amaziah and father of King Jotham (2Samuel, ch. 15 and 2Chronicles,
ch. 26). What information can we derive from Holy Scripture? In 2Kings
15:17, we read:
1 In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboamking of Israel began Azariah son
of Amaziahking of Judahtoreign. 2 Sixteenyears oldwas he whenhe beganto
reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem. And his mothers name
was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. 3 And he did that which was right in the sight of
the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; 4 Save that the
high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still
on the high places. 5 And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper
unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And Jothamthe kings
son was over the house, judging the people of the land. 6 And the rest of the
acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the
chronicles of the kings of Judah? 7 So Azariah slept with his fathers; and they
buried him with his fathers in the city of David: and Jotham his son reigned
in his stead.
The Book of Chronicles, ch. 25, gives more details:
1 Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and
made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Eloth, and
restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. 3 Sixteen years
old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years
in Jerusalem. His mothers name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4 And he
did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his
See Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 20 (To-Wei), Detroit etc., pp. 450451 together with the
cited literature.
It occurs twice in 2Kings, twice in 1 Chronicles, eleven times in 2Chronicles, once in
Ezra, twice in Isaiah, and once each in the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah.
It is cited twice in the Gospel according to Matthew (1:8, 9). This was the name of the
King of Judea.
In 2Samuel and 12Kings, in 12Chronicles, twice in Ezra 1, four times in Ezra 2, and
once in Ezra 3, five times in Nehemiah, twice in Tobias, and once in Jeremiah, seven times in
Daniel, and twice in 1 Maccabees.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 141
father Amaziah did. 5 And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had
understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God
made himto prosper. 6 And he went forth and warred against the Philistines,
and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of
Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines. 7 And God
helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in
Gurbaal, and the Mehunims. 8 And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and
his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened
himself exceedingly. 9 Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the
corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified
them. 10 Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had
much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also,
and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.
11 Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by
bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the
scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the kings
captains. 12 The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men
of valour were two thousand and six hundred. 13 And under their hand was
an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that
made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 And
Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and
helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones. 15 And he made
in Jerusalemengines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon
the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread
far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. 16 But when
he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed
against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn
incense upon the altar of incense. 17 And Azariah the priest went in after
him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18
And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not
unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons
of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for
thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour fromthe LORDGod.
19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense:
and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his
forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, frombeside the incense
altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him,
and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from
thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten
him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt
in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the
LORD: and Jotham his son was over the kings house, judging the people of
the land. 22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the
prophet, the son of Amoz, write. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and
they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged
to the kings; for they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his
142 chapter four
To this, we should add some additional details provided in the writings
of Flavius Josephus.
In Jewish Antiquities he indicates that Uzziah, son of
Amaziah, inherited his fathers throne and began to rule in Jerusalem over
the two tribes in the 14th year of the reign of Jeroboam over Israel. His
mother was from Jerusalem and was called Jecholiah.
He was a good, just,
and magnanimous man. He waged wars and defeated the Philistines, hav-
ing taken Gath and Jabneh by storm, and then vanquished the Arabs as well,
who lived at the border with Egypt. He built a city on the Red Sea and placed
a garrison there. Thus, he became the ruler of lands reaching to Egypt and
undertook to strengthen the walls of Jerusalem, which had been neglected
by the previous rulers; he built many towers and dug many channels. He
took special care of the economyof the cattle and plantsand he pro-
vided seeds. King Uzziah also reformed the army of Judah. He had 370,000
armed men, whom he divided into detachments of a thousand each, and
gave to every mana sword, brazenbucklers and breastplates, as well as bows
and slings. He ordered the construction of many siege machines and other
war machines. Therefore, Flavius Josephus writes, whenhe accomplishedall
these goodthings, King Uzziahbecame proudanddepartedfromthe pathof
righteousness and the Law. One day at a great ceremony, he donned priestly
garments anddecidedtomake sacrifices toGodat the GoldenAltar. Azariah,
the High Priest, and eighty other priests tried to guard him against this and
told himthat, according to the Law, not just anyone could sacrifice, but only
the descendents of Aaron; this angered the king and he threatened to kill
them. Then a strong earthquake came about, the Temple opened and a ray
of sunlight fell upon the kings forehead; under the light, it became visible
that he was stricken with leprosy. The priests saw this and told him to leave
the city, as he was impure. And so he did, paying thus for his lawlessness.
He lived outside the city as an ordinary citizen, and his son took over the
throne after him. King Uzziah died at the age of sixty-eight, having reigned
for fifty-two years. He was buriedinhis gardens, withno other graves nearby.
We see that the narrative of Flavius Josephus does not differ much from
the biblical one, on which it is based. There were many attempts to recon-
struct the story surrounding the sin of Uzziah. One thing at least is clear:
there is an ambiguous attitude shown towards this king of Judah both in
Josephus with English translation of R. Marcus in Nine Volumes, vol. VI, Jewish Antiqui-
ties, Books IXXI, London-Cambridge Mss., MCMLI, l. IX, 215227, pp. 112121.
It also appears as Jechiliah and JecoliahY
kolyh. These are variants of the same
name, and there is no contradiction here.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 143
the Bible and by the authors who have written about him. He was one of
the longest reigning and most successful rulers of the southern kingdom.
He reorganised the army and was a builder. He was a successful military
commander and enlarged the kingdoms territories, so that they extended
from the Mediterranean and Egypt in the west, to the desert in the east. His
relations with the Northern Kingdom were not what they were under his
father. He extended the territory of Judah southwards and reached the Red
Sea, where he built a city. This is related to the special care this king took
of commerce, an activity that required maintenance of roads and ensuring
safety for travellers and goods on the roads. The king also took care of
The whole portrayal of a good and wise ruler clashes drastically with
the subsequent negative evaluation of him. What kind of sin caused such
a change? Julian Morgenstern has proposed a detailed study of the facts
and tries to support some concrete specifications,
not all of which are very
convincing. He compares the data from the Bible with those from Flavius
Josephus and thereby specifies that the Golden Altar and the Altar of
Incense are one and the same, and this was the altar situated right before
the Holy of Holies. The event related to the burning of incense must have
evidently happenedat the feast of YomKippur, the only day inthe year when
the High Priest may enter the Holy of Holies and attain the presence of God.
No exception could be made for anyone else, but according to the story of
King Uzziah that has reached us, the king intended to be that exception.
Here I will not discuss the problems related to the earthquake that followed
the violation of the law by the kingthis is not directly relevant to our
Some words should be said about the leprosy (according to some
J. Morgenstern, Amos Studies III. The Historical Antecedents of Amos, Hebrew Union
College Annual, vol. XV, Cincinati, 1940, pp. 267271; II Kings. A New Translation with Intro-
duction and Commentary by M. Cogan, H. Tadmor, 1988, pp. 167, 168; The Arnchor Bible
Dictionary, vol. VI (si-z), ed. D.N. Freedman, New York-London-Toronto-Sidney-Auckland,
1992, pp. 777778; P.C. Beentjes, They Saw that His Forehead Was Leprous (2Chr. 26:20).
The Chroniclers Narrative on Uzziahs Leprosity, Purity and Holliness. The Heritage of Leviti-
cus, ed. M.J.H.M. Poorthuis, J. Schwartz, Leiden-Boston-Kln, 2000, pp. 6263; Encyclopaedia
Judaica, vol. 20 (To-Wei), Detroit etc., pp. 450451.
J. Morgenstern, Amos Studies II. The Sin of Uzziah, the Festival of Jerobeam and the
Date of Amos, HebrewUnion College Annial, vol. XIIXIII, Cincinati, 19371938, pp. 120.
Morgenstern, The Sin of Uzziah, pp. 59.
Julian Morgenstern discusses this issue in detail and bases on it his proposed dating
of the event and the search for the initial story that served as the foundation for the stories
that have come down to usMorgenstern, The Sin of Uzziah, pp. 1218. At some points, the
authors conclusions give the impression he is over-interpreting the sources text.
144 chapter four
scholars, this was psoriasis) and what it signifies.
The disease certainly
has a key role in creating the image that this king of Judah left after him.
Uzziah is in fact the only leprous king mentioned in Holy Scripture. It
seems he did have some such ailment, as confirmed by an archaeological
monument, a slab with an Aramaic inscription, discovered by a Russian
expedition in the 19th century. At first, the necessary attention was not
paid to this find, and it was nearly lost, but it later reappeared when the
archaeological storehouses of the Russian mission were being cleaned. The
inscription is authentic, it tells us of the translation of the bones of King
Uzziah, and warns not to open it.
This can be said to confirm the king
was stricken, or was thought to be stricken, with leprosy. Uzziah evidently
remained king nominally but was removed from actual power and isolated
ina place that was euphemistically calledhome of freedom; after his death,
he was buried as a leper outside the city, not in the royal tomb.
Thus, according to the biblical text, and also according to Flavius Jose-
phus, the otherwise powerful and good King Uzziah became proud and
violated the law in attempting arrogantly to usurp the right of the Aaronic
priesthood to enter the Holy of Holies on the feast of Yom Kippur. Because
of this, he was punished with leprosy until the end of his life. However, we
find that the historical interpretation of events gives us a picture that differs
much from the one presented above and depicted by the Deuteronomist
reformers. Julian Morgenstern reveals this other picture in detail.
In fact,
at the time of King Uzziah, the holiday Yom Kippur had not yet been estab-
lished, neither had the special rights of the Aaronic priesthood been insti-
tuted. All these were the later work of the Deuteronomists. So the king could
not have violated the law and been punished for this by God. Moreover, at
that time the burning of incense and entry into the Holy of Holies and Gods
presence, was the prerogative and duty precisely of the king, who did this at
the celebration of New Year.
So the question arises, what was Uzziahs sin? Why was he punished?
Morgenstern assumes, but without any particular grounds for this, that
the king must have made some mistake or violated some oath, and the
Deuteronomists devisedthe subsequent general explanation, whichreflects
Beentjes, They saw that His Forehead was Leprous, pp. 7072.
W.F. Albright, The Discovery of an Aramaic Inscription Relating to King Uzziah,
Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 44 (December, 1931), pp. 810.
Albright, The Discovery of an Aramaic Inscription , p. 10; II Kings. ANewTranslation
, p. 167; The Anchor Bible, p. 779; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 20, p. 450.
Morgenstern, The Sin of Uzziah, 912, 1518.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 145
the standpoint of the Aaronic priesthood, only later. I do not intend to
discuss this assumption. I donot believe the precise historical interpretation
of events that took place eight centuries before Christ, is essential to our
study. We have a text whose normative character is indubitable, as is its
influence over world culture. In this sense, the image of King Uzziah, as
perceived during the whole period following the subsequent reform of the
Judaic religion, and during the Middle Ages, has been defined largely by his
sin as described in Holy Scripture. He became filled with pride before the
priesthood, disregarded the Aaronic priests and entered into conflict with
them. This is the image of a king, a ruler, who has become so presumptuous
as to want to assume directly the sacerdocy in violation of Gods will.
This is how he appears in Christian theology as well. Uzziah is a king
of Judah who has not been forgotten, at the very least because one of the
remarkable and most influential fathers of the Church, St John Chrysostom,
mentions him multiple times in his cycle of homilies, at least six of which
are devoted to this king, and also mentions him in his commentary to the
Book of Isaiah.
The connection between this king of Judah and the incor-
poreal celestial forces is indicated by Isaiahs vision (Isaiah, 6:1), which is
dated to the year of Uzziahs death. In the second homily, St John Chrysos-
tom asks, but without answering the question, why the prophet used this
event tomarkthe date.
The thirdhomily specifies that until the time he was
punished, the king had done only good, and that his sin came from pride,
the gravest sin of all.
This theme is further developed in the fifth homily,
which presents some interesting aspects relevant to the present study. Fore-
most, the Father of the Church discusses the comparison between the roy-
alty and the priesthood, which is particularly significant in the case of King
Uzziahs sin. According to St John Chrysostom, the priest is always higher
than the king and than any earthly power; this becomes especially evident
in the case of Uzziah, for the high priest is humble and warns the king not
to violate the Law, in contrast with the arrogance and presumptuous pride
of the king. This presumption receives a well-merited punishment, but God
J. Dumortier, Les homlies sur Ozias In illud Vidi Dominum PG LVI 97142, Studia
patristica, vol. XII, d. E. Livingstone, Berlin, 1975, pp. 283293.
PG, vol. LVI, col. 107112; Jean Chrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias (In illud vidi domi-
num), Introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes par J. Dumortier, Sources chrtiennes,
277, Paris, 1981, pp. 82103; Dumortier, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 284285.
PG, vol. LVI, col. 112119; Jean Chrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 104136; Dumor-
tier, Les homlies sur Ozias, p. 285.
PG, vol. LVI, col. 129135; Jean Chrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 178201; Dumor-
tier, Les homlies sur Ozias, p. 285.
146 chapter four
is merciful, so the king has his life spared and nominally keeps his throne,
though losing the actual right to exercise power. The law requires that lep-
ers be expelled fromthe camp or the city (Leviticus, 13:42ff.); according to St
John Chrysostom, Uzziah was not duly expelled and that is why the Hebrew
people was deprived of the revelation of Gods Word, and the Lord stopped
speaking through the prophets. Prophecy returned to the Chosen People
only after the death of the leprous king, and that is why the dating of Isa-
iahs vision with reference to this event is important. That is when God once
again sent a message to His people.
The sixth and last homily is not particularly interesting for our topic.
The other twofirst and fourthform an independent group. They were
not created at the same time as the other four. Their logical connection with
the others is also of a different kind, but this is not a topic of our study.
first homily about Uzziah
is on the theme of respect for the Church, and it
prepares the topic of the fourth, which is the triumph of the Church over her
Interesting themes here are the comparison between royalty
and sacerdocy, and the eulogy of marriage, composed by this Father of the
The material contained in the homilies has some similarities to St John
Chrysostoms workonthe prophet Isaiah. There we findseveral things worth
noting. King Uzziah is presented as a ruler seized by pride that has let
his successes go to his head. Therefore, he decides he can have anything,
can violate the Law and add sacerdocy to his royalty. God punishes the
king of Judah, though He does not take his life; the sin is great enough, so
it may be expected that the people of Judah will also fulfil the Law and
will depose their ruler, stricken with leprosy. However, the nation fails to
revenge the defiled honour of the priesthood and thereby comes to share
in the sin of Uzziah, so the Lord punishes the people by depriving them of
prophetic word.
Hence, Isaiahs vision is dated by the year of the death of
PG, vol. LVI, col. 135142; JeanChrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 202230; Dumor-
tier, Les homlies sur Ozias, p. 285.
Basically the article by J. Dumortier is devoted to him (see Les homlies sur Ozias,
pp. 283293).
PG, vol. LVI, col. 97107; JeanChrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 4281; Dumortier,
Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 285286.
PG, vol. LVI, col. 119129; Jean Chrysostome, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 137177; Dumor-
tier, Les homlies sur Ozias, p. 286.
PG, vol. LVI, col. 68; Jean Chrysostome, Commentaire sur Isae. Introduction, texte
critique et notes par J. Dumortier, Sources chrtiennes, 304, Paris, 1983, pp. 254257; Dumortier,
Les homlies sur Ozias, p. 287.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 147
King Uzziahthat was when the people were exempted from the punish-
ment. All this serves as a basis for once again comparing the Church and
worldly power.
These writings by St JohnChrysostomcertainly constructed
a certain image of King Uzziah for Christian culture; the influence of this
image was especially strong in the East, in the Empire and the countries of
the Byzantine Commonwealth. It is a negative image; in addition to pride,
another great sin that is part of its negative quality, is the arrogant appropri-
ation of sacerdocy by the secular ruler. In a Christian milieu, this should be
understood as an act of oppression on the Church. We should consider this
when studying the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, where a ruler with an
identical name is indicated as being an adversary of the good ruler.
The similarity of names of the two rulersthe biblical one and the
one in our apocryphal workshould not be overlooked. It remains to be
demonstrated, however, that the ruler in the apocryphal text a reference
to the biblical one. We have several reasons to claim he is, though the
source itself does not contain concrete indications. Tsar Ozia is called an
Eastern tsar in the text, and this is a reference to the Orient, not a means
of distinguishing him from some Western ruler. Ozia is slain by Tsar Izot,
i.e. he is the latters antagonist, and hence the attitude to this character
partially coincides with the attitude towards Uzziah in the Bible, at least
with the negative part of the presentation of the King of Judah, which is
the predominant aspect (being the one that comes last, the negative part
determines the general impression). We may thus say that we have here
more evidence of the ideological connection between the biblical king of
Judah and the one in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
One other such connection can be seen in the strong presence of the
Prophet Isaiah, who is the narrator of the Tale but who also lived and was
active in the time of King Uzziah. The latter ruler has a strong connection
with the prophetic tradition of Isaiah, and it is in the year of his death that
the prophet sawGod sitting on a high throne, the train of His robe filling the
whole temple (Isaiah, 6:1). If we relate this to what the prophet Amos says
(Amos, 1:1), we will see that the reference is to the events surrounding the
punishment of the king of Judah and the earthquake that befell his kingdom
when he violated the Law.
We have two possible interpretations, both of which confirm that the
character in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is a reference to the character of
Uzziah, King of Judah. The latter, however, is present in the Tale not as a
Dumortier, Les homlies sur Ozias, pp. 288289.
148 chapter four
concrete historical personage but as an ideological paradigm. But a para-
digmof what? On one hand, there is his pride, which is the underlying cause
of his violation of the Law. There is violation of Gods will by the highest-
placed representative of the Chosen People, of the nation that was chosen
precisely because it had concluded a Covenant with God to obey the Law.
Hence, the violation of the Lawis not an ordinary transgression of the norm
but a religious offence that can put in doubt the God-chosenness of the
Hebrew people. That is why the Lord responds immediately and strikes the
guilty one, so that the guilt might not pass on to the whole people.
St John Chrysostom sees Uzziahs sin as consisting in pride and lack
of humility, which lead him to attempt usurping the priesthood.
In fact,
he displays an inability to view success as a gift from God, and not as a
mans merit. Thus, intoxicated by his accomplishments, the king of Judah
desired to be a priest. This certainly contrasts with the humility shown
by the King and Prophet David when the Lord refused to allow him to
build the Temple, and by his subsequent repentance in the case of Uriahs
wife. This is St John Chrysostoms general position in his homilies. These
homilies are one of the possible paths by which the concept of Uzziahs sin
of pride may have reached the author of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, or at least
come into this part of the apocryphon. The homilies connected with King
Uzziah were familiar in mediaeval Bulgaria, but, as far as I can judge by the
preserved manuscripts, they were translated much later, in the 14th century,
as part of the collection Margarit.
One of the disciples of St Theodosius of
Trnovgrade compiled this collection, as indicated in a marginal note with
the name of Dionysius the Wondrous (Divni).
This means the translationof
St JohnChrysostoms homilies could not have influenced the text about Tsar
Ozia in a Bulgarian milieu, for it appeared later than the Tale.
Of course,
Dumortier, Les homlie sur Ozias , p. 285.
Starobulgarska literatura. Entsiklopedichen rechnik, p. 263.
B. Hristova, D. Karadzhova, E. Uzunova, Belezhki nabulgarskite knizhovnitsi XXVIII vek,
t. I, XXVvek, Sofia, 2003, No 140, pp. 83, 190191; B. Angelov, Trnovskijat knizhovnik Dionisij
Divnij, Starobulgarska literatura, 7, 1980, pp. 5462.
In discussing these issues, we should always bear in mind the fact that the work is
compiled and it is hard to determine the date of each separate part; the parts date from
various poques, according to the standpoint presented in this book. In this sense, I would
like to note that a section of the book Margarit is included in the Kichevo manuscript, which
is the only manuscript come down to us containing the text of Tale. (Turilov, Kichevskij
sbornik, p. 12, f. 319c327a). Moreover, the excerpt is about St Hannah, the Prophet Samuels
mother. This raises the question whether there might have been some later influence, but
this assumption should be taken as no more than a hypothesis.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 149
there might have been a translation that was subsequently lost, but this
assumption would be arbitrary and not based on concrete data.
The other possible way of seeking a Bulgarian origin of the text is to
consider the biblical texts translated into Bulgarian, which were either of
the kind meant for readings and containing the whole contents of the book,
or else parts of the Palaea (Palaea historica and Palaea interpretata), or else
again citations in liturgical texts. In any case, the story of King Uzziah, of
his pride and sin, were part of the Hexameron by early tenth-century writer
John the Exarch and were therefore known in Bulgaria, at least through this
However, there is more reason to seek the origin of the text outside
Bulgaria. Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is not an original, purely Bulgarian work
but a compilation based on Eastern (chiefly Old Testament) prophetic texts,
and which has borrowed parts of various works created in the Middle East.
That must have been where this part of the apocryphon came from: it was
most probably created in the literature of the Middle Eastern or Caucasian
peoples, and borrowed from there, to be cited in this Bulgarian work.
We may ask what are the results of this reference toTsar Ozia as opponent
to Tsar Izot. It is clear that the good tsar slew the guilty violate ruler. The
question is, whether, in addition to this general assertion, we can find some
hint that Izot is a protector of the Church against the arrogance of the
other ruler, who has some underlying characteristic of an oppressor of the
priesthood. The type of image that has been constructed of the slain ruler
inclines us toprecisely this conclusion. Tsar Izots antagonist bears the name
of the king who personifies pride and disregard for the priesthood, and this
must signify that the personage on the opposite side is a humble and pious
protector of the Church.
The question then arises whether this interpretation is not in contradic-
tion with the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Is this Tsar Izot a Christian
at all? This is not an easy question to answer. On one hand, in the section
preceding the one about Izot, we read that under Tsar Ispor the Bulgarians
were still pagans, and it is specified that this was earlier. This should mean
R. Aizetmller, Das Hexameron des Exarchen Johannes, Bd. II, Graz, 1958, pp. 6569
(43bd); Joan Exarch, Shestodnev, transl. and comment. N. Kochev, Sofia, 1981, pp. 7879.
We may also ask ourselves whether in the reference to Tsar Ozia there might be some
similarity to the epistle of Patriarch Photius to Khan Boris-Michael I, in which it is explicitly
noted that divine service is something not characteristic of royal power and befitting only
the sacerdocysee Photii patriarchae Constantinopolitani Epistulae et amphilochia, ed.
B. Laourdas et G. Westerink, vol. I, Lipsiae, 1983, p. 22
; Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v
rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, p. 51.
150 chapter four
that after Ispor and during the time of Izot, who succeeded him, they were
no longer such. On the other hand, a fewlines further belowwe are told that
Tsar Izots son, whose name was Boris, baptisedthe Bulgarians. I assume that
this is part of the generally inconsistent and somewhat confusing structure
of the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. We cannot definitely say that Izot
was a Christian, but in any case he was a good and pious tsar, which rather
suggests he was a Christian as well. The emphasis in this apocryphal work is
not on the national or ethnic aspect, as some scholars have affirmed, but on
the Christian one. Overall, we should agree with the position, stated earlier,
that Tale of the Prophet Isaiah presents a viewpoint quite close to the policy
of the Byzantine Empire.
Inthis sense, we shouldnot see any non-Christian
or anti-Christian ideas being consciously conveyed by Tale.
Therefore, that Tsar Izot is one of the rulers presented as exemplary, and
consequently he must be a righteous ruler, even though this is not clearly
said in the text. I am convinced that this quality of his is also indicated
through the images of his adversaries, one of whom is Tsar Ozia from the
East. The latter conveys a very concrete ideological message: he is anunrigh-
teous ruler who has violated the Law and Gods will, and he is an arrogant
oppressor of the Churchas well. This conclusionis based onanexamination
of the prototype, the biblical Uzziah, king of Judah, under whose name the
ruler in Tale is presented.
So we may claim with a large degree of conviction that the data about
Ozia, just like the mention of Goliath, the sea Frank, provide evidence about
the image of their opponent, Tsar Izot, son of Ispor. Thus, he appears before
us as a ruler of the Davidic type, a vanquisher of the enemies of God and the
enemies of the New Israel.
The Davidic Paradigmof Power and Tsar Izot:
The Bagrationi Dynasty and the Idea of
the Davidic Royalty in the Causcasus
We may say that the two defeated adversaries of Tsar Izot serve to confirm,
at least judging by their names, that this tsar embodies the Davidic image of
a righteous ruler. This fits in well with the general character of the text we
are studying here, and with some of its characteristic features.
Beevliev, Nachaloto na bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, p. 43.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 151
As we saw in the previous chapter, the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah presents
a Bulgarian identity based on the idea of a New Israel, something very
typical for the Barbarian kingdoms to Rome in Western Europe. However,
this phenomenon is present not only in the Europe, but also in the Eastern
Mediterranean world, and below we will discuss such a case. The following
discussion will give us a good opportunity to present a hypothesis as to the
name of Tsar Izot, who, as was pointed out, is unknowninthe factual history
of the Bulgarian Middle Ages.
I would like to attempt to find a connection with the names cited in the
works of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and discover their possible rela-
tion to the name of the character in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. The scholarly
basileus begins his story about the originof the Iberian(i. e. Georgian) ruling
dynasty, with the Prophet and King David; later comes the name of Ashot,
translated into Greek as Azotos or Azotios, which, in this Hellenised form,
comes especially close to the name of Tsar Izot. This name was very typi-
cal for the early representatives of the Bagrationi dynasty. We should also
have in mind that in early mediaeval Georgia and Armenia, comparisons to
the biblical kingdoms of the Chosen People were a quite widespread and
developed practice. There was a long tradition of Hebrew presence in the
Caucasus, and this certainly must have influenced the culture of Georgians
and Armenians. The Hebrewpresence underlies many cultural phenomena
there, but we will focus only on the argumentation that grounds the royal
power of the Bagrationi dynasty in terms of the image of King David, who
is indicated as being the ancestor by blood of the dynasty. It took quite a
long time to construct this idea, and it appears in various works. Especially
notable among these is History and Tale about Bagrationi, by the 11th cen-
tury author Sumbat Davitis-dze; this work is our basic source.
Of course,
it should be stressed once again this author was not the creator of the tra-
ditional story, which had appeared long before him, but he did offer an
elaborate and sufficiently early systematisation of the legend. The Bagra-
tioni came to power as the leading dynasty in Georgia in the 9th century
under Ashot the Curopalate, who ruled over the whole country; but even
before that time, they were rulers of some small Caucasian principalities.
I work with the Russian translation of the text: Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povesto-
vanie o Bagrationakh, Transl., introd. and notes M.D. Lordkipanidze, in: Pamjatniki gruzinskoj
istoricheskoj literatury, t. III, Tbilisi, 1979.
See the introduction to Sumbats History by M. Lordkipanidze (Sumbat Davitis-dze,
Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, pp. 14ff.).
152 chapter four
Ashot is particularly interesting for us because, as mentioned above, his
name could the base to construct the name of Tsar Izot from the Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. It was at this time that the composition of the history about
the dynastys origin from the King and Prophet David was fully completed,
and the dynasty was thereby related to the earthly parents of Lord Jesus
Christ. The history appeared simultaneously in the Armenian and Georgian
milieu, and became a common historical and ideological topos for ground-
ing the power of the Bagrationi family andits predominance over pretenders
to the royal crown.
The creation of this legendary history has a prehistory that might suggest
some ideas about the practice of seeking a (semi)divine origin of the family
in order to justify its claims to rule. An example of this is given in the text
of History of Armenia, attributed to Sebeos, a 7th century author. He points
out that Bagrationis ancestor was Hayk, the eponymous ancestor of the
Armenian people.
This equating of ruling family to a national ancestor
was related mostly to the pre-Christian history and mythology of the people
and Sebeos remained an isolated case; not long afterwards, this idea was
abandoned in the environment of the new religion. Now the familys origin
came to be legitimised by its biblical ties. Thus, Moses Horenatsi presented
a new version, according to which the Bagrationi were descended from a
noble Hebrewby the name of Shambat.
It is obvious that locating the roots
of the dynasty in Israel was a means of creating a new identity. In this case,
it was a link in the chain connecting the mythical ancestors to the biblical
personages; we discover here a schema similar to that used in interpreting
the List of Name of the Bulgar Princes as fitted within the framework of a
Christian world chronicle.
The story of the descent of the Bagrationi from King David is present in
sources frombefore the time of Sumbat. The first mention of this descent is
related to Armenian literature: it is found in the early 10th century work of
John Draskhanakerttsi. In Georgian literature, the first mention of the story
is inthe Vitaof St Gregory of Khandzta by St George Merchul, a work written
in the middle of the 10th century. In this text the saint addresses Ashot the
Curopalate as lord, called son of David, the prophet and God-anointed.
Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, pp. 1718.
Sebeos, Istorija Armenii, ed. Patrakian, Sankt Peterburg, 1862, pp. 7, 10, 177 etc.
Istorija Armenii Mojseja Khorenskogo, transl. I. Emin, Moscow, 1858, p. 61.
Biliarsky, Ot mifa k istorii ili Ot stepi k Izrailju, pp. 722. See also Excursus I in this
Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, pp. 1314.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 153
This confirms the thesis that the legend was createdina commonArmenian
and Georgian environment, apparently in the 9th century.
Evidently, the legend became popular and famous enough to enter the
treatise De administrando imperio by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The
emperor writes that the Georgians believed they were descendents of
Uriahs wife, with whom King David sinned, and who had children by him.
After this, their genealogical line led to the Holy Mother of God. They also
believed their origin was in Jerusalem, but had left the city at the advice
of an oracle and settled at the boundaries of Persia, where they still lived
to this day (i.e. until the time of Constantine VII).
It is notable that the
basileus does not cite the genealogical line that leads to Joseph, the husband
of the Virgin Mary, but the one leading to the Holy Virgin, which, in a sense
contradicts the legend, as we know it from the text of Sumbat. Finally, the
genealogy reaches the two brothers, David and Skandiates, who migrated
to the Caucasus. I should draw attention to the emigration from Jerusalem:
the fact that it came about in a miraculous way (with an oracle involved)
is a sign of special protection by God. Ashot was one of the descendents
of David, brother of Skandiates, who became curopalate and ruler of Iberia
Howcould the basileus have learned about this legend? One possibility is
that he had access to some Georgian written text or to some oral tradition.
But this seems somewhat doubtful. There is no known Greek translation of
Sumbats history, and the basileus almost certainly did not read Georgian or
Armenian. However, it is noteworthy that there had always been a strong
Caucasian presence in the Constantinopolitan court. Both the Georgians
and the Armenians had high positions in the administration and the court
offices, and people of these nationalities could have provided the Byzantine
ruler with the most significant information contained in the story, which
was very important for the political ideology of the two Caucasiancountries.
We thus come to Sumbats account about the history of the Bagrationi
family; this is the main source, which influenced later Georgian mediaeval
historiography andbecame part of the subsequent chronicles of the country.
The account is brief and may be divided into two parts: from Adam to
Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio, ed. Gy. Moravscik and R.J.H.
Jenkins, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, 1967, p. 204.
Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, De administrando imperio, p. 204.
E. Taqaishvili, Georgian Chronology and the Beginning of the Bagratide rule in Geor-
gia, Georgica. A Journal of Georgian and Caucasian Studies, v. I, no. 1, 1935, p. 18.
154 chapter four
the arrival of the seven brothers in Georgia, and after that arrival. The sec-
ond part is substantially different from the first: it presents some features
of a historical narrative, and does not merely repeat the biblical text. We
will deal mainly with the first part. It contains a genealogy from Adam to
King David, followed by another genealogy starting from David and ending
with Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, and then from Cleopas, brother
of Joseph, to a certain Solomon, whose seven sons left the Holy Land and
went to Armenia.
The genealogy fromAdamto King David practically rep-
resents a citation of this genealogy contained in the Gospel according to
Luke (3:32ff.), while the one from King David to Joseph, the earthly father
of the Saviour, is borrowed from the Gospel according to Matthew (1:116).
Sumbat introduces Cleopas, brother of Joseph, and Cleopas descendents
into the genealogy. It has been established that the source of this story is
the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea.
The mention of Cleopas
in this work strongly emphasises the Davidic idea about the familys origin.
According to Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, the Romans searched hard
for Davids descendents (i.e. the royal descendents) in order to take them
out of the Hebrewenvironment and thereby avoid newunrest that might be
provoked by the biblical legitimation of the pretenders to the throne.
blood tie to the kings of Judah became one of the reasons for the martyrdom
of Symeon, son of Cleopas.
Here we should point out a difference com-
pared with the text of De administrando imperio, in which Constantine VII
emphasises the genealogy from King David to the Holy Virgin, not the one
leading downto Joseph. Of course, bothMary andJosephare descendents of
David, but the stress on the line of the Mother of God represents a stronger
insistence on the connection to Lord Jesus Christ, while the emphasis on
the line to Joseph is connected primarily with the ancestry of King David.
Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, pp. 2728.
Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, with an English translation of Kirsopp Lake,
London-Cambridge (Mss.), MCMLIII, vol. I, p. 232 (III. xixii), pp. 272ff. (III, xxxii ff.), p. 374
(IV. xxii); Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, p. 19.
Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, p. 232: , , ,
, -
Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, pp. 272274.
A similar relation is to be found in the Ethiopian book Kebra Nagast (7071): Sir
E.A. Wallis Budge, The Queen of Sheba and her Only Son Menyelek (I), Oxford-London, 1932,
pp. 120121; Kebra Nagast. Die Herrlichkeit der Knige (Nach den Handschriften in Berlin,
London, Oxford und Paris), herausg. Carl Bezold, Mnchen, 1905, p. 72; G. Colin, La Gloire des
rois (Kebra Nagast). Epope nationale de l Ethiopie, Genve, 2002, p. 65.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 155
Thus, we see that the addition of Cleopas and his descendents appears in a
text borrowed fromHoly Scripture. This is a NewTestament Gospel text, but
its purpose is to emphasise not the line leading to Christ but that leading to
David, as is clearly declared both in the Armenian and Georgian traditions,
which refer to the God-anointed king of Israel as the ancestor of the Bagra-
The continuation of the story is quite interesting:
the seven sons of this
person called Solomon went to Armenia, where a certain Rachael baptised
them. Three of them remained there and their descendents later ruled the
land, while the other four went toGeorgia, where one of the brothers, named
Guaram, was elected to be eristavi (i.e. ruler) and founded the dynasty of
the Georgian Bagrationi. A little further on in the text, the Hebrew origin of
the brothers is indicated again. Setting aside some unclear portions of the
account, I wouldlike todrawattentiontoa passage that might be viewedas a
topos of OldTestament origin. We donot knowthe names of all sevensons of
this Solomon, but we are told they were descended from King David. At the
time when their Caucasian kingdomwas founded, the position of patriarch-
catholicos of Mtskheta was held by Samuel, who took part in the election of
Guaram as ruler. Under this catholicos, the people of Tbilisi began build-
ing the Sioni cathedral, which is directly connected to the beginnings of the
Kingdom. Half the cathedral was built by the people.
The reference to the
people as builders of the temple may have a great significance, especially
if viewed within the context of the creation of the Kingdom. In this way,
not only is Bagrationi connected to the prophet King David, but his story
somehow repeats the story of Davids anointment by the prophet Samuel,
and it is accompanied by the story of the contruction of the cathedral of
Sioni, which is an image of the ecumenical Church. This was certainly a holy
undertaking that therefore sanctified the Kingdomitself.
I would specially
M. Karbelashvili, The Bagrationi Dynasty and Georgian Political Theology (materi-
als for the investigation of Georgian political thought), Philological researches. Transactions
of the Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature, (in Georgian), Vol. 20, Tbilisi, 1999,
pp. 128129; eadem, The Georgian Political Theology as a Unique Phenomenon, Interna-
tional Symposium. Christianity: Past, Present, Future. October 1117, 2000, Tbilisi, Georgia. Short
contents of papers, Edited by Mary Chkhartishvili and Lado Mirianashvili, Mematiane, Tbil-
isi, 2000, pp. 4950.
Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, p. 28.
Sumbat Davitis-dze, Istorija i povestovanie o Bagrationakh, pp. 2829.
The Ethiopian book Kebra Nagast sets the beginning of the kingdom and its sanctity
as connected with the Ark of the Covenant, considered to be the abode of Godsee: Iv.
Biliarsky, The Birth of the Empire by the Divine Wisdomand the Ecumenical Church (Some
Observations on the Ethiopian Book of Kebra Nagast), pp. 2343.
156 chapter four
like to stress the name of the churchSioni cathedralwhich can still be
seenand visitedinTbilisi. The name refers to the Mount ZionUpper Room
(Marc, ch. 14, Luke ch. 22), the mother of all Christian churches.
The ref-
erence to the Church, viewed as a reflection of the Temple, but also as the
Body of Christ, gives us ample possibilities to interpret these indications,
which deserve to be the subject of a separate study. Here it should at least
be noted that we find a similar topos centuries later in Bulgaria.
This topos
is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, which provides prototypes for many
New Testament themes related to the holiness of the state and state rule.
Thus, we find the Davidic paradigm of royal power present in the Cauca-
sus as well, stated here more clearly and in greater detail. There is nothing
strange about the fact that such parallel processes occurred. The image of
King David from the Old Testament is one of the chief models for build-
ing the royal ideology in different Christian traditions. The similarity in the
names of rulers is notable and deserves greater attention. Previously in this
discussion we mentioned the phonetic transformations that the otherwise
unknown name of Izot might have undergone: it became clear that Ashot
in its Greek form Azotos or Azotios, is one such form. Hence, I will venture
the hypothesis that the strange name Izot of the tsar in Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah could be a changed form of the Georgian and Armenian Ashot.
My first inclination would be to connect this with the name of Ashot the
Curopalate himself, but I will refrain from doing so for two reasons. First,
there are no concrete proofs confirming such identification; second, and
more importantly, the name is used for an ideological purpose, not in a con-
crete historical sense. The name is not a reference to a concrete historical
figure, a leader and ruler of his people, but to the embodiment of an idea,
which did Bulgarian rulers probably assimilate as well. The idea is that of
the biblical justifications of state power as basedonGods will, grace, choice,
and anointment.
In order to try to ground the proposed hypothesis, I would first have to
explain why this reference is present in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, why it is
possible there, andthentotrace the pathof suchideas andknowledge about
the Bagrationi dynasty from the Caucasus to Bulgaria.
A.N. Veselovskij, Razyskanija v oblasti russkogo dukhovnogo stikha, Zapiski Impera-
torskoj academii nauk, t. 40/1, Sankt Peterburg, 1882, pp. 56, 3436; B. Todi, Tema Sion-
skoj tserkvi v khramovoj dekoratsii XIIIXIV vv., Ierusalim v russkoj kulture, ed. A. Batalov,
A. Lidov, Moscow, 1994, pp. 3439.
I have specially devoted an article to this problem: I. Biliarsky, La demeure et la corne
de l Empire, Orientalia Christiana Periodica, vol. 69, fasc. I, 2003, pp. 179197. See Excursus III
in this book.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 157
Of course, the Bulgarian rulers were far from being the first to use King
Davids image for the purpose of religious justification of their power, and
to centre their political and state ideology on that image. The aim was
to exalt a given ruler without deifying him, by using the only available
biblical historical archetypes, the kings of Israel and Judah, and especially
the king and prophet David. This means presenting a given ruler as either a
blood descendent of David or a continuer of his work, i.e. the work of the
righteous, God-anointed, and humble-to-God king of the Chosen People.
I am not aware of any data showing the thesis was ever developed that
Bulgarian rulers were Davids descendents by blood. On the contrary, we
have a sufficient amount of indications, though not systematic ones, of
the attempt to relate local rulers to those of Old Testament times. We find
such indications in the List of the Bulgar Princes and in other works. These
ideas motivated the compiler of the apocryphon to create the image of the
ruler by borrowing it from literary models that were meant to illustrate
that the Bulgarian rulers continued the Davidic type of power, given by
God. Thus, behind the name of Izot (and all characters like him) there
is no underlying historical personageneither a Bulgarian ruler, nor an
Armenian or Georgian member of the Bagrationi dynasty (specifically, not
Ashot the Curopalate either). This was a literary image borrowed from
Armenia and/or Georgia (but that had passed through the Empire), and
that, in the mind of the writer, was connected with Old Testament models
and archetypes.
We may ask howall this, and especially the name of Ashot/Azotos, could
have reached Bulgaria starting from the Caucasus. Of course, as in the case
of Constantine Porphyrogenitus text, we cannot retrace the exact path, but
we could assert with conviction that this was not something impossible.
Of course, the first possibility was that these ideas and images came from
Armenian and Georgian literature to the Balkans in passing through the
Empire. Both the Balkans and the Caucasus were part of the Byzantine
Commonwealth, or Byzantine World, and there was intense exchange of
ideas and texts within the framework of this world. The narrative about
the Davidic origin of the Bagrationi entered Byzantine literature through
the writings of Constantine VII, and the latters works must have been
at least partially known in Bulgaria, a country that was very well repre-
sented in them. During the 10th century, in the time of the tsars Symeon
and Peter, this country was a melting pot of ideas and literary activity.
Thus, the narrative about the Davidic origin of a remote dynasty could
have influenced the political thought and imagery of the newly baptised
158 chapter four
The other possibility is direct contact between Bulgaria and people from
the Caucasus. In the Balkans, there was always a remarkable presence, in
terms of culture and individuals, of representatives of the countries from
beyond the Black Sea; the presence was often in Bulgarian territories, such
as Philippoupolis or the Black Sea littoral. In most cases, these were Arme-
nians but there were Georgians as well, especially in connection with the
Bachkovo monastery. Hence, we may say that we may neither confirm nor
exclude the occurrence of mutual contacts and exchange of ideas between
these two points.
The last of the three presumedpaths of exchange lies outside the territory
of Bulgaria, in some of the contact points of exchange within the framework
of Eastern Christianity. Constantinople was not the only such point, not the
only centre of influence radiating towards neighbouring countries. Other
such centres were Mount Athos and its monasteries, in which all Orthodox
peoples were represented; also, Jerusalemand the Holy Land in general, the
Sinai monastery of St Catherine, etc. The Armenian presence in Jerusalem
andthe Holy Places has always beenstrong, eventothis day. Georgians made
a remarkable contribution to the spiritual life of Mount Athos through their
monastery Iviron, and were present in Jerusalem and the Sinai monastery.
So we may say there could have been a direct exchange between South Slavs
and Caucasians, an exchange including transmission of ideas about power,
an embodiment of which ideas could be the image of the Davidic Tsar Izot.
Still, it seems most probable to me that these ideas reached Bulgarian
literature through Greek-language works of Byzantine literature.
There are other examples as well of the presence of the idea of Davidic
royalty in mediaeval Bulgaria.
I do not think these need by discussed
and presented in detail here, for this book is concretely focused on com-
menting Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. I will only note the direct mention of
King David and his anointment by the prophet Samuel, which we find in
the text of prayers forming the Ordo of the imperial coronation in Bul-
garia; of course, these prayers were translations, and the original was from
Here it is worth noting the well-known indication in Hexameron by John the Exarch,
who points to the Davidic example of how a dynastys rule is legitimatedsee Nikolov,
Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 121123, and the older literature cited
there. It is also worth noting that David and Solomon were used as models with respect to
the Bulgarian rulers Symeon and his son St Tsar Peter by the Byzantine author of Oration
on the Treaty with BulgariansIv. Dujev, On the Treaty of 927 with the Bulgarians,
Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 32 (1978), p. 276
/277279, 294; Nikolov, Politicheskata misl
v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 237238.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 159
Essentially, the Davidic and Solomonic model of rulers
institution was materialised to a great degree through the ritual of anoint-
ment with holy oil, which has a religious, but also a legal and political sig-
I will also note some manifestations of the Davidic model of royalty in
Bulgaria, relevant to our topic. The theme of the tsar-devotee of books has
been developed in other studies,
and here I will restrict myself to noting
that it involves a direct comparison of the ruler to the prophets and kings
David and Solomon; it is not a reference to some sort of cultural policy
of the Bulgarian rulerin this case, of Tsar Symeon.
Similar interesting
observations can be made in studying a laudatory comparison of the same
tsar in a later Moldavian manuscript, from the 17th century:
x :: uu:r,: u+,,u cu+. u suuruuwru:uu:xu+. ::x:uw u,u+,zc
ux+: sz: +xszss i:,xuausqu, u:uu:x cw. ,r. u,u+z+u u. ,:. u:uu. ss ,uu
i:siux ,. ws qc: w suu. uc,xuuu cu+. wsu wru u,,xuu cu+.
w,ur:a: :,:+uss. :+: :z:+xsu. ,: suu. x. ,s cz u:+:uu. u. ,x. u:aa:. x u:u,w.
u:xsu:w:s u:uu:x. ,i . suu. x u+:x:u szuur:xc:s :zc,x ,:. ,u suur. x
yu:w ,s cxzrx,:s u:uu:xuuwr suur. u os: ,s,z,s uxxx+. :+,quu.
ur,xxu:. u suur ux+: sz:: xcxu:
The image of the book-loving tsar is strikingly obvious. Also plainly obvious
is the comparison or the context in which the Bulgarian ruler is mentioned:
he is compared to the two biblical prophets and kings, David and Solomon.
See Iv. Biliarsky, Le rite du courennement, p. 103
, p. 116
. I amcurrently working
ona newer and fuller editionof the texts, for which more and previously unused manuscripts
will be used, and a more comprehensive interpretation of the source will be made.
Iv. Biliarsky, Mitaberis in virum alium, pp. 123125.
Iv. Biliarsky, M. Tsibranska, Translatio imperii et les formules verbales et les images
d loge de souverain (le cas de la Bulgarie mdivale), Diritto @ storia, No 82009, Mem-
orie // XXIXRomaTerzaRoma,
_Roma/Biliarski-Tsibranska-Translatio-Imperii-eloge-souverain.htm; Iv. Biliarsky, Word and
Power, Brill, Leiden, 2011, pp. 242245.
It is a merit of Iv. Bozhilov (Tsar Simeon Veliki, pp. 54, 163166) to have put a special
emphasis onthe topic of the use of the image of King andProphet Davidfor Tsar Symeon. The
author devotes special attention to the cited text of the note fromthe Moldavian manuscript,
and to its interpretation.
A.I. Jatsimirskij, Melkija zametki, Izvestija otdela russkogo jazyka i slovesnosti Impera-
torskoj Academii nauk, t. II, 1897, pars 2, p. 359. This text by A.I. Jatsimirskij was reprinted by
L. Miletich (Tsar Simeon, spomenat v edin sredno-bulgarski rkopis, Bulgarski pregled, VI, 7
(1898), p. 159), and since then by all later Bulgarian authors. Here I am publishing the text as
A.I. Jatsimirskij has presented it. He states that this is a manuscript fromthe mid 17thcentury,
containing sermons and orations for Lent Sundays; it belonged to the Scete of St Nicholas in
the Russian province of Bessarabia, which the author visited in the summer of 1895.
160 chapter four
Some new studies on this text were recently published, and among them
is an article that should be specially mentioned, especially as it offers a
new interpretation of the origin of the text.
What does Davids quality of
book-loving refer to? This biblical king is also a prophet and the writer of
several books of the Old Testament, but it would not be completely accurate
to call himthe author of these books. The books of Holy Scripture are works
of the prophets, but the latter are not authors of the texts, but attributed
to Divine Revelation. The prophets are only the means by which God has
decided to reveal his Word. Thus, in the comparison the Bulgarian ruler
is lauded as a disseminator of Gods word, not merely of the knowledge
and literacy embodied in books. That is why Gregory Presbyter calls Tsar
Symeon a book-devotee in the heading of his translation or selection of
Old Testament books, viewed as forerunners of Christs Good Tidings.
I would also like to drawattention to the indication in the same note that
Tsar Symeonnot only lovedHoly Scripture but alsoplayedthe goldenstrings
like King David. Here the comparison with the biblical king is explicit and
clear; but we should ask what the image of the king with the harp exactly
signifies. Evidently, the image is taken from Holy Scripture, where it often
appears. Playing the harp is mentioned in the biblical text in connection
with the future King David in the chapter describing his anointment by the
Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel, ch. 16). The harp is present throughout his story,
both before and after he becomes ruler of Israel (see 1 Samuel 18:10, 19:9; and
inseveral places inBook of Psalms). The harpis certainly linkedtothe image
of King David, and it became one of the rulers insignia; and in our times, a
political emblem. As such, the harp figured in the coat of arms of the Geor-
gian Queen Thamar, in the Bagrationis coat of arms, and generally in Geor-
gian national symbols. Similarly, the harp figures in the Irish national coat
of arms, and indicates a particularly strong biblical tradition in Irish culture.
In connection with these observations and with the symbolism under-
lying this musical instrument, I would like to draw attention to the pas-
sage in the Second Book of Samuel (2Samuel 6:16, 2023; a similar text in
1 Chronicles, ch. 15), which tells of the translation of the Ark of the Covenant
to Jerusalem. It is indicated there that King Sauls daughter Michal watched
from a window King David leaping, and dancing, and playing music before
the procession, and she despised him for shamelessly uncovering himself
M.V. Rozhdestvenskaja, Tsar David, tsar Simeon i veij Bojan, Preslavska knizhovna
shkola, 2, 1997, pp. 6573; Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, p. 155.
Hristova, Karadzhova, Uzunova, Belezhki, II, pp. 117, 294295, No 489.
the divinely chosen king, humble to god 161
before the people, not like a king but like a base fellow. He answers her
that he is willing to play and dance before the Lord and that blessed is the
Lord. Hence, we may draw the conclusion that playing and dancing is not
commendable in persons of high rank and is not at all a royal activity, but
that it befits even the king when done before the Lord. Thus, in a specific
way, it becomes something royal in character.
This episode has been investigated in biblical studies and there are sev-
eral interpretations of it.
Our task is not to assess these or to trace the
presentationof the topic inOldTestament books. This passage has beensaid
to be an interpolated text or has been thought to reveal some contradiction
between veneration of the Lord and veneration of the Ark of the Covenant;
the latter cult was not typical of Sauls family, represented here by Michal.
The opinion has also been stated that the story contains an indication of
some orgiastic Canaanite festivity, which should have ended in hierogamy,
or holy marriage to the lady at the window (in this case, Michal); this did
not happen, so it is written she was childless.
Undoubtedly, fertility is con-
nected withroyal ideology and withthe rulers positionas part of the cosmic
order, especially when he mates with some chthonic goddess. Theoretically
and in the perspective of the history of religions, hierogamy is ultimately
a way of serving the deity in order to maintain the balance in nature and
society, a balance that entirely depends on the deitys will and on the rit-
ual. It is quite possible there were remnants of such pagan beliefs among
the Hebrews at various times in their history: this is evident in the prophets
constantly rebuking the people for being lawless and deserting the faith. I
accept the view of researchers of the text that such a remnant can possibly
be seen in 2Samuel, 6:16, 2023, but I do not think this historical conclusion
could influence the perception of this text of Holy Scripture in a Christian
environment more than a thousand years after the time to which it refers
andinwhichit was probably created. As anadditional, thoughremote, proof
I would like to indicate that Gregory of Tours mentions King Davids dance
before the Ark of the Covenant as being an expression of his knowledge of
the faith; this is said in the context of other examples of righteous faith in
the Old Testament (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Solomon).
Carlson, David, the Chosen King, pp. 9196.
Carlson, David, the Chosen King, pp. 9293.
J.R. Porter, The Interpretation of 2Samuel VI and PsalmCXXXII, Journal of Theological
Studies, 5 (1954), pp. 161173; G.W. Ahlstrm, Aspects of Syncretismin Israelite Religion, Horae
Soederblomianae 5, Lund, 1963, pp. 34ff.; Carlson, David the Chosen King, pp. 9495.
Gregory of Tours, History of Franks, ed. O.M. Dalton, vol. II, Oxford, 1927, l. V. 31 (43),
pp. 216216.
162 chapter four
In this sense, playing the harp can be viewed as part of the rulers image,
constructed over the centuries on the basis of the image of King David.
We find such traits in various and faraway Christian cultures, and this is
probably the origin of the harp symbol of the government and state of
Ireland. If we approachthe interpretationof the passage about Michal not in
the historical but in the political-theological aspect, Davids playing music
was long seen as a royal service to the Lord. Tsar Symeon is described in a
similar way in the cited note.
In conclusion we may say that the proposed identification of Tsar Izot
from Tale of the Prophet Isaiah fits in with the general interpretation of
this apocryphal work as being closely connected with bibilical texts. In this
case, the path of the identification passes through the Caucasus as well.
I will repeat that this is a hypothesis liable to discussion, and that the
identification does not see Tsar Izot as one of the Bagrationi, but reflects
a loan of ideas from the literature of the Caucasian peoples, a loan that
ultimately points to Old Testament models.
The important conclusion for this study is that in Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah, chiefly through the character of Izot, we see a remnant of the ruler
paradigmbased onthe image of the Old Testament King and Prophet David,
an image that accords with the ruler ideal in the cultural environment of
monotheistic religions. This ideal presents the ruler as God-chosen, humble
to God, and leader of Gods Chosen People.
chapter five
In this chapter, we will discuss the image of the ruler-renovator, one of the
most characteristic images in Byzantine civilisation, depicted in the Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah as well.
This character is usually associated with St
Emperor Constantine the Great, who converted the Empire to Christianity,
and served as the model of a ruler-renovator to later emperors and kings.
This emperor was a model for every righteous ruler in the Christian world,
and certainly a universally recognised symbol of imperial identity and legit-
It should also be said that in the construction of the renovator kings
figure we find models derived both fromthe Newand fromOld Testaments.
The model in the Gospel tradition is Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the New
Adam, Renovator and Saviour of the world; in the Old Testament, it is the
prophet Moses. The image of the renovator king is present in the Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah and this source provides material for studying this model
and provides some idea about howthe identity and political ideology of the
mediaeval Bulgarian state was built.
Of course, the presence of Constantine inthe text of the Tale is muchobvi-
ous than that of Moses. Constantine is mentioned by name and reference is
made to one of his most important achievements, the founding of the new
In my first note to the preceding chapter, I mentioned that every ruler is, in a sense,
God-chosen. However, obviously not every ruler possesses the personal quality of renovator.
This is true in Bulgarian history as well. The renovators are clear and well known. The idea of
renovation was clearly elaborated by I. Bozhilov in his articles about Renovatio Imperii. This
aspect will be present in this study as well, but I would like to put the stress elsewhere: the
king is the imago Christi and inthis sense he becomes animage of the Renovator of the world,
the New Adam, the Saviour. So not every king is a Renovator in his personal capacity, but as
an image of the Heavenly King, from Whom he has received his power, every ruler bears a
particle of the New Testament idea of renovation.
P. Magdalino, Itroduction, in: NewConstantines, p. 3.
Regarding the tsar as New Adam, though interpreted in a slightly different aspect, see:
Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 186193.
164 chapter five
capital, the New Rome. On the other hand, we have no explicit mention
of Moses in the text. But we have reason to believe there is a trace of
his presence in the character of Tsar Ispor. This legendary ruler is usually
equated with Khan Asparukh and probably does indicate some remote
memory of this khan, who brought his tribe from the Eurasian Steppe to
the Balkans. A fitting place is given to Ispor in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah:
, , a .
He is presented as a child,
who was carried in a basket for three years. That
is all we knowabout his origins. His appearance inthe worldis not described
as a birth; instead, the expression was found (w) is used. He is not
the natural heir of the preceding Tsar Slav, and his rule is in no way derived
from the legitimacy of Slav, of whom he is not a descendent nor bears any
indicated relation to him. Therefore, the child Ispor appears in the world
entrusted with a mission and becomes the creator-founder of cities and of
a state. He figures in the text mainly with his building achievements: two
of the most important cities of early mediaeval Bulgaria are associated with
him (the central city Pliska and the ancient city of Dorostorum), as well as
the great wall spanning from the Danube to the Black Sea.
The view has been set forth in Bulgarian scholarship that the waters on
which the child Ispor floated in his basket were in fact a river.
Here I
should note that the reading of the term as basket has been called into
question; the expression in the original text is ss s,xs (= in a cow), not
ss s,xc (= in a basket). We will not discuss this problem at length, for
the topic has been fiercely debated in the past, at times in a very misleading
I will only say that I subscribe to the opinion of the majority of scholars
who have not been tempted by fantastic interpretations of the text such
as the birth of a man (or deity) by a cow, interpretations that attempt to
link the text religious systems that clearly could not have been those of the
See in this book p. 15 (f. 401b, lines 2125). Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, p. 282;
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 281.
In the Slavic text one finds the augmentative of the word child.
Venedikov, Mednoto gumno, p. 54.
I do not believe a single letter could change the meaning and message of the whole
work. I prefer not to discuss here why the letter (= v) figures in the text. This could be
an error of the copyist, for (= b) and (= v) are written in a similar way. I realise this
argument is not very strong but I do not think it contradicts the general understanding
of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, whereas the other solution appears rather eccentric to
me. About the other explanation, see: Georgiev, Literatura na izostreni borbi, p. 319; Mollov,
Mit-epos-istorija, pp. 3435.
the renovator king 165
mediaeval Bulgarian. In accepting the reading of the phrase as in a basket,
I should nevertheless note that floating on a river is not directly cited in the
text and can only be supposed. Yet the whole context of the story presents
the destiny of the character as closely linked to the river Danube, a fact that
could be considered indirect proof of the proposed interpretation. Thus, the
legend of Tsar Ispor turns out to be related to the topos of the miraculous
appearance of a child that will be a hero with a mission. In this respect,
the story seems similar to narratives of the coming of Moses and of other
classical or Near Eastern heroes.
I have devoted a special excursus in this
book (see Excursus II), to these characters and to the Mosaic paradigm of
the floating child. I refer the reader to that section, for understanding this
topos will help us to also understand the Mosaic type of kingdom as related
to the Constantinian type, which is the topic of the present part of the book.
The Moses-Constantine Typology in the Mediaeval World
In order to clarify the meaning of renovator king and demonstrate the pres-
ence of this character in Bulgaria, specifically in the source under consid-
eration, it is necessary to present and examine the two venerationsfor
St. Constantine and for the prophet Mosesseparately, though briefly and
schematically. The cult of St Emperor Constantine the Great was one of
the most influential imperial cults of Constantinople. The image of the first
Christian emperor became the chief paradigm of a ruler in the Orthodox
East and the basis for the construction of the royal ideology in the coun-
tries of the Byzantine Commonwealth. In this respect, Bulgaria once again
strictly followedthe Byzantine practice, inwhichthe enrolment of emperors
in the list of saints was something uncommon. An opposite example is Ser-
bia, where we see a very different model of canonisation of rulers. While in
mediaeval Bulgaria only St Tsar Peter was the object of veneration,
all Serbian tsars, kings or princesand especially the Nemanide dynasty
were canonised as saints, became the object of veneration, and were given
the basic literary attributes of a saint cult: vitae, liturgical services, eulogies,
Of course, the story is not limited in the Near East. The Anglo-Saxons even in the
Christiania times believed that their kings were descended from Sceaf, who floated to shore
in a boat or basket and grew up to become leader of the people. Sometimes, this narrative is
linked to the Noahs Ark. I dedicated a special Excurse to this topic.
Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto, pp. 1920 (see also note 4 with studies on this
problem; the question of the veneration of Khan Boris-Michael remains disputed and no
definitive solution has been reached).
166 chapter five
The inclusion of St Constantine in the list of saints is almost an excep-
tion in the Empire. The few basileis who have been enrolled in the calendar
are commemorated as saints somewhat officially, and I amnot aware of any
popular cult at all to have arisen with respect to them. Things stand differ-
ently as concerns Constantine: part of the veneration for him has a purely
popular basis and is even folkloric, among the Greeks as well as in Bulgaria
and other Orthodox countries. His cult is connected with certain remnants
of solar religious practices (e. g. firewalking of the Anastenaria/Nestinari),
with saintly patronage of the family and matrimony, etc.
the official ecclesiastical share of the veneration for this saint is an impor-
tant element of the Constantinopolitan feasts in May, as well as of the state
ideology centredonthe idea of Renovationof the Empire, closely connected
with the general Christian idea of renewal and Salvation. Constantine is an
emperor equal to the apostles and baptiser of the Empire, and he is vener-
ated precisely as such. He was the ruler who re-established the empire and
gave it a new start. His role in bringing the Roman Empire to Christianity
is typologically similar to that of the apostles: it lies in the dissemination of
the faithand, ultimately, the Salvationof people. Withrespect to the topic of
this study, it is particularly important that the veneration of St Constantine
goes together with that of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was cru-
cified. The vision of the cross that Constantine had before decisive battles
became a martial labarumof the Roman army and thus acquired a powerful
symbolic meaning in the political sphere. It is important to emphasise that
the adorationof the Cross is closely linked to the ruler ideology.
It is due, on
In the inclusion of the Serbian mediaeval rulers in the list of saints and the veneration
of them, there is a noticeably Western, more exactly Hungarian, influence. Regarding the
rulers holiness in the Hungarian lands, see: G. Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses.
Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe, Cambridge, 2002.
Regarding nestinarstvo, see: I. Georgieva, Nestinarstvoto v Bulgaria, Vtori mezhdunar-
oden kongres po bulgaristika, t. I, Etnografija, Sofia, 1987, pp. 3951; Fol V., R. Nejkova, Ogn
i muzika, Sofia, 2000. I would particularly direct attention to the special issue of the journal
Bulgarski folklor, no. 4/2005, devoted to this problem field. Regarding SS. Constantine and
Helena as patron saints of matrimony, see especially the interesting article by K.G. Pitsakis,
Un thme marginal du culte de Saint Constantin dans l Eglise d Orient: Saints Constantin et
Hlne, protecteurs de la famille, in: Diritto@Storia:
S. MacCormack, Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1981), p. 85; F. Badalanova-Pokrovskaja, M.B. Pljukhanova, Srednevekovaja simvolika
vlasti: krest Konstantinov v bolgarskoj traditsii, Literatura i istorija. Acta et commentationes
Universitatis Tartuensis, 78, 1987, pp. 132148; F. Badalanova-Pokrovskaja, M.B. Pljukhanova,
Srednevekovaja simvolika vlasti v Slavia Orthodoxa, Godishnik na Sofijskija universitet,
Fakultet po slavjanski filologii, vol. 86, part 2, 1993, pp. 95164.
the renovator king 167
one hand, tothe fact Constantine andhis mother St Helena are creditedwith
the finding and translation of the relics of the crucifixion. This is of essen-
tial importance for our study, as in the Tale the finding and bringing of the
cross is of central importance, and it is precisely Constantine who performs
it there. The other royal quality of the cult of the cross is its tropaiophoric
(victorious) function: it brings victory to the warrior and ruler. This associ-
ation stems from Constantines vision, previous to the battle at the Milvian
bridge, of a cross in the sky, together with the words , meaning
with this, win!.
Thus, it can be said that the Cross became a symbol and incarnation of
the new religious identity of the Christian Roman Empire and of its ruler,
and remained such until the loss and fragmentation of the relic during
the 13th century.
The direct connection and physical contact between the
emperors and the Cross was of great ideological importance. Of course, it
was based in particular on Constantines vision and his subsequent victory
over Maxentius, and on the discovery of the True Cross by St Helena, but
it had other textual and material bases as well. Parts of the nails and of
the Cross were built into the imperial insignia and thus became part of the
essential characteristics and symbols of sovereignty. Moreover, the historian
Socrates tells us in his Historia ecclesiastica that Constantine had part of
the Holy Cross built into his own bronze statue that stood on the Porphyry
Column in the forum of the new capital.
As a result, the statue became a
double cult object, as a depiction of the emperor, and as containing part of
the relics of the Passion of Christ. When we consider this fact in the context
of the identification of the emperor with his image, it inevitably points to
the identification of the ruler with the relic.
The Cross of God is central to
Vita Constantini, ch. XXVIII: Eusebius, Life of Constantine, translated with introduction
and commentary by A. Cameron and S.G. Hall, Oxford, 1999, pp. 8081.
Eastmond, Byzantine identity and the relics of the True Cross in the Thirteenth cen-
tury, pp. 205215. In fact it should be pointed out that the cult of the True Cross and its
discovery as connected with SS. Constantine and Helena is of a slightly later date and is
testified to in the end of the 4th century (395ad) in De obitu Theodosii by St Ambrosius;
before that time there were competing venerations of the Tree of the Passion. Regard-
ing the veneration of the Cross and its connection with state power among the Orthodox
Slavs, see: F. Badalanova-Pokrovskaja, M.B. Pljukhanova, Srednevekovaja simvolika vlasti v
Slavia Orthodoxa, pp. 95164; F. Badalanova-Pokrovskaja, M.B. Pljukhanova, Sredneveko-
vaja simvolika vlasti: krest Konstantinov v bolgarskoj traditsii, pp. 132148.
Socrate de Constantinople, Histoire ecclsiastique livre I, texte grec de G.C. Hansen, trad.
par Pierre Pruchon, S.J. et Pierre Maraval, Sources chrtiennes, No 477, Paris, 2004, l. I, 17,
pp. 174181; Patrologia graeca, vol. 67, Paris, 1864, col. 118122.
Eastmond, Byzantine identity and the relics of the True Cross in the Thirteenth cen-
tury, p. 207 (see also the quoted literature in the notes 11 and 12).
168 chapter five
the concept and essence of the Christian Roman Empire, which is naturally
associated with Constantines name.
A considerable amount of literature is devoted to the veneration of the
Baptiser of the Empire.
I will only draw attention to some of the more sig-
nificant elements of this saintly emperors cult. As I mentioned, his image
was used to indicate, and became emblematic of, the Renovation. His work
can be compared to that of the Word of God, of Lord Jesus Christ, the Son,
who is also the New Adam, come to carry out the Renovation and Salvation
of Humanity
. The ideas of Renovatio Imperiias we find them in medi-
aeval Bulgariaare associated with the setting of a new beginning and
with a beginning in general.
This is what Constantine did when he trans-
ferred the capital to the newly built city that he called New Rome, and
also New Jerusalem. Thus, the rhythm of imperial renovation and rebirth
is expressed through the image of the New Constantine, which appeared as
early as the 5th century and passed through the age of the Heraclius dynasty
and the iconoclastic emperors. In the time of the heirs of Heraclius, this
paradigm was used particularly intensely and declaratively, which testifies
to its important ideological function. Coincidentally or not, this was also
the time of intensified use of another image important for royal ideology:
that of the NewDavid. Importantly, this happened in the time of the Persian
and then of the Arab invasions, after which the Empire would never be the
same again. Other changes occurred at this time as well: Greek definitively
became the official language of the empire, and the rulers title became
basileus, identical with that of the biblical kings; the Christological dis-
putes were concluded at this time, and the heartland of the empire was
permanently transferred to Anatolia and the Balkans when the important
centres in the Near East and North Africa were lost. This period was also the
eve of the iconoclast crisis that shook the Eastern Christian world, and was
closely linked with the growing influence of Old Testament ideas in Byzan-
tine society.
The natural conclusion is that in the period of the 7th11th century
many basileis and usurpers adopted the name of Constantine in order to
Here are some more important works that could give some orientation for further
research: P. Alexander, The Strength of Empire and Capital as Seen through Byzantine Eyes,
p. 353; A. Kazhdan, Constantin imaginaire. Byzantine Legends of the Ninth Century about
Constantine the Great, Byzantion, 57 (1987), pp. 196250; News Constantines, The Rhythm of
Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th13th Centuries, ed. P. Magdalino, Variourum, 1994.
Alexander, The Strength of Empire and Capital, pp. 351354.
Bozhilov Iv., Asenevtsi: Renovatio imperii Bulgarorum et Graecorum, pp. 131215.
the renovator king 169
legitimate their power.
In fact, nearly all emperors bearing this name fall
within this period, except for the very first and the very last (St Constantine
the Great and Constantine XI Palaeologos), and Tiberius Constantine, who
was of the 6th century. The use of the name expresses the idea of the
Renovation-Restoration, discussed by Paul Alexander and Paul Magdalino,
an idea that is one of the characteristic traits of the culture of the Eastern
Roman Empire
. This was a renovation that had assumed the form of a
return to the models of the past. Thus, the image of the Christian ruler is
built upon the Divine archetype, just as the Celestial Kingdom is a model
and prototype of the Christian Empire.
As I mentioned, the cult of St Constantine is directly related to the Feast
of the Birth (Renovation) of Constantinople, celebrated on May 11 of the Great
Church calendar as part of the series of feasts known as the Constantinop-
olitan month of May. Here I will not discuss in detail the importance of this
feast for the political ideology of the Empire: the attitude toward the capital
and the formationof the ideology of the capital inNewRome is very familiar
and their importance is well recognised.
The Queen of cities on the shore
of the Bosporus is a City protected by God, it is the eye of the Christian Uni-
verse, a city under the special protection of the Mother of God, for it is at the
centre of Gods plan for the Salvation of people. This ideology of the capital
city passed over into mediaeval Bulgaria and underwent further develop-
ment there. Historians have traced the trend for Bulgarian capital cities,
above all Preslav and Trnovgrade, to be conceived, built, perceived, and
honoured, as replicas of Constantinople.
Therefore, while the city of the
basileis was simultaneously the NewRome and the NewJerusalem, it is cer-
tainthat the Bulgarians consideredtheir capital tobe a NewConstantinople,
a New Tsarigrade. Thus, we see that such a city is inseparable from the idea
of a New Constantine, i.e. from the idea of renovation.
P. Magdalino, Itroduction, in: NewConstantines, pp. 35.
Alexander, The Strengthof Empire and Capital, p. 351; Magdalino inNewConstantines,
pp. 79.
P.J. Alexander. The Strength of the Empire and Capital as Seen through Byzantine
Eyes.Speculum, 37 (1962), passim; E. Follieri. La fondazione di Costantinopoli: riti pagani
e cristiani, Roma, Costantinopoli, Mosca, Napoli, 1973, passim; G. Dagron, Naissance d une
capitale, Constantinople et ses institutions de 330 451, Paris, 1974 et idem, Constantinople
imaginaire. Etude sur le recueil des Patria, Paris, 1984.
V. Gjuzelev. Die ResidenzenTrnovo, Bdini Kaliakra undihre hfische Kultur, Hfische
Kultur in Sdosteuropa, Gttingen, 1994, passim; Polyvjannyj, Mjastoto na Devin grad i nego-
vata rolja, pp. 8185; V. Tapkova-Zaimova. Trnovoentre Jrusalem, Rome et Constantinople.
L ide d une capitale. Roma fuori di Roma: istituzioni e immagini, Roma, 1993, pp. 141155.
170 chapter five
In another study, I have examined in greater detail the presence of the
feast of the Birthof Constantinople withinthe Bulgarian10thcentury liturgi-
cal cycle for the monthof May.
The interest showntheninthe royal city was
not coincidental; it was politically determined by the enormous ideological
importance of the Byzantine capital. The Bulgarianrulers, starting with Tsar
Symeon, who made great efforts to conquer the city, understood this impor-
This policy of theirs marks one of the characteristic particularities
of the imperial idea in Bulgaria during the Middle Ages. The presence of
the feast of Constantinople certainly testifies to this. Several tropars of the
service for St Mocius from the Putiatin Menaeum, preserved in Bulgarian,
indicate the strong interest in the cult of the Mother of God as City Protec-
tress in Bulgaria. The emphasis on this particular aspect of the Marian cult
is certainly connected with the political ideology of the Empire, which was
reflected, copied and developed in mediaeval Bulgaria. Here we should also
point out that every celebration of Constantinople was closely connected
to the cult of St Constantine the Great. He was not only the baptiser of the
Empire, but founder of the City that carried his name. The City, Empire,
and Emperor became similar notions that designated and represented the
community. The patronage over one of these was a patronage over the oth-
ers as well, according to the principle of pars pro toto, so often used in the
typological presentation of government power. Grace descends upon the
Kingdom through divine presence effectuated by means of the Dominical
relics and through the protector saints and intercessors; this explains the
accumulating of relics in the capital. Without this grace, the Kingdom and
its king could not exist. But through divine grace, the kingdom or empire
can become an earthly reflection of the kingdom of heaven. We find that
this grace of the Divine presence is vitally important for the king and his
state, while the saint who prays to obtain it and through whom it comes,
is not only a foundation and cause but also an image and meaning of royal
To summarise, we may say that Saint Constantine is certainly present in
the religious sphere as an image and model of ruler and political leader.
Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto, pp. 2629.
Inthis connection, we couldpoint out the particularly typical cases of Tsar Kaloyanand
Tsar Michael III Shishman AsenBozhilov, Familijata na Asenevtsi (11861460). Genealogija i
prosopografija, pp. 4368 (I/3), 119134 (I/26); Istorija na Bulgaria, t. I, 1999, pp. 441 ff., 562ff.
As such, his image is certainly present in Bulgaria as well. There are sufficient proofs
of this, but the most important one of all is the Panegyric of SS Constantine and Helena by
PatriarchEuthymius of Trnovgrade, inwhichthe Baptiser is indicated as anexemplary ruler,
the renovator king 171
is foremost the founder andrenovator of the Empire, andthese two qualities
of his were perceived as similar. From persecutor of the Christians the state
turned into their most fervent protector, and Christians enjoyed constant
and various support from the ruler. The Empire had become new, different,
and in the eyes of mediaeval Christians, revived. The second paradigm of
Constantine is that of military leader and victor: it is connected with the
adoration of the Cross, the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, with the complete
military history of the Empire in Late Antiquity. Both these dignities were
due to the piety of the ruler and to divine protection over him in connec-
tion with the special mission with which he was charged. Thus, his image
appeared as similar to that of Moses, prophet and leader of the Hebrews,
who freed his people from slavery and led it to the Promised Land.
Eusebius of Caesarea, and following him the subsequent Christian tradi-
tion of panegyrics, present and laud Constantine by comparing him to the
prophet Moses. The Mosaic paradigm of the rulers image follows the same
model of Renovation, of which this prophet is emblematic in the Hebrew
religion. I need not demonstrate the importance of Moses and his work for
the history of the Covenant between the Chosen People and God. He was
certainly a man with a mission, through whom Israel received Revelation
and the Law. That is why his appearance in history can be viewed in this
context: it is a result of the direct operation of Gods will in support of the
Chosen People. Actually, the story of child found in a basket in the reeds
on the shore of the Nile means to show that God protects the hero He has
assigned to save His people, to free them from bondage in Egypt, and give
them a Law and a strong, true faith. This is essential in the perception of
the prophet Moses as this type of charismatic leader, even as a royal figure.
Such a perception is consistent and inevitable in a firmly established and
clearly defined theocracy, such as that of the society of the People of Israel
in Old Testament. This is also one of the basic themes in the Vita Constantini
of Eusebius of Caesarea.
As Gerhard von Rad has accurately pointed out, according to theolog-
ical interpretations Moses is the person who united in himself nearly all
possible notions of state and ecclesiastic authority for the Chosen People:
a model of royalty: Kauniacki, Werke, S. 145146; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, Sofia, 1990,
p. 147. These assertions are partially put in doubt by A. Nikolov as concerns Tsar Symeon, see:
Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 229230.
A. Cameron, Eusebius of Caesarea and the Re-Thinking of History, in: Tria Corda:
scritte in onore di Arnaldo Momigliano, ed. E. Gabba, Como, 1983, p. 85; Hollerich, Moses and
Constantine in Eusebius, p. 81.
172 chapter five
he was at once a priest and national leader, a prophet, a legislator, and a
military leader.
It could be said that Eusebius of Caesarea was the first
author to portray Moses with the characteristics of a political leader and
as a royal paradigm for the Christian environment, and he did this in order
to glorify Constantine. This approach was probably a response to the writ-
ings of various Roman pagan authors attacking the image of the Lawgiver
of the Hebrew people, writings dating from the time of the great perse-
cutions of Christians during the reign of Diocletian.
It should be noted,
however, that this royal image of the prophet Moses was not first created
by the Christians. They inherited it from the Hellenistic Jewish authors and
philosophers. Among these latter, we should point out foremost Philo of
Alexandria, Artapanus (who lived in the 2nd century bc) and Flavius Jose-
phus. There are several characteristics of this image of Moses that I would
like to discuss separately.
Coming next in importance to the perception of the prophet as religious
leader is that of Moses as king and leader of his people, who liberated them
from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land. The comparison
with Constantine is obvious, but these ideas did not originate from Euse-
bius but once more from pre-Christian Jewish Hellenistic literature. Such is
the main theme in the second part of De vita Mosis by Philo of Alexandria,
who from the very start calls Moses king and philosopher, and consid-
ers this prophet in the framework of the Platonian idea of the ideal state
and its governance.
Philo depicted the leader of the people not only as a
philosopher-king; he additionally associated this position with Moses qual-
ity of legislator, high priest, and prophet. These four characteristics, accord-
ing to Philo, define the image of Moses and his tasks, set to him by God.
Flavius Josephus also emphasised the leadership qualities of Moses, who
not only led the people out of Egypt but also conducted them through the
desert, providing themwith Gods assistancewith food and all necessi-
ties; though he had assumed a tremendous responsibility, he did not turn
into a despotic tyrant but preserved his humility and pious way of life.
G. von Rad, Moses, London, 1960, p. 10.
Regarding this issue, I would refer the reader to a book especially devoted to it: J. Gager,
Moses in the Greco-Roman Paganism, Nashville, 1972, 176 p.; T.D. Barnes, Porphyry Against
Christians. Date and Attribution of Fragments, Journal of Theological Studies, n. s., 24 (1973),
p. 437; Hollerich, Moses and Constantine in Eusebius, p. 85.
Philo, De vitaMosisPhilo inNine Volumes, withanEnglishtranslationby F.H. Colson,
M.A., vol. VI, London-Cambridge MA, MCMXXXV, l. II. 2ff., p. 450.
Josephus, The Life. Against Apion, (= In eight volumes, vol. I), with English translation
by H. St. J. Thackeray, M.A., London-New York, MCMXXVI, l. II. 156160, pp. 354356.
the renovator king 173
find an echo of this royal idea about Moses in St. John Chrysostomas well,
who points out that Moses cared not for a high position in Egypt but pre-
ferred his own people.
Related to this characteristic is the image of Moses as legislator, a char-
acteristic that is closest of all to his image in the Old Testament. Philo
of Alexandria sees in lawgiving one of the essential characteristics of this
prophets work.
Philo associated him with royal power and said in words
that were especially popular in Antiquity, that the king was embodied law
( ), while the law was a just king ( ). Thus, the
theme of Moses royal power and the theme of his legislation are united
in their meaning on the basis of ancient philosophy.
In general, Moses
lawgiving and the expressing of Gods will through him is a basic theme
in Philos De Vita Mosis.
This topic is also thoroughly elaborated by Flav-
ius Josephus. In his apologetic work Contra Apionem Josephus defends the
Hebrews, their faith, and the content of the biblical narratives, against vari-
ous Egyptian Hellenistic authors who had attacked with particularly strong
ridicule what was written in the Book of Exodus and the history of Moses
leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. Josephus comments on the calumny that
Israel was chased out of Egypt due to some infectious disease (probably
leprosy) or that Moses was actually an Egyptian (and even a Gentile high
priest), a political leader andreligious rebel, not a Hebrewprophet. The view
had also been expressed that the Hebrew people were barbarians who had
not contributed to world civilisation of that time. Josephus devotes part of
his arguments against this view to the contributions of the Chosen People,
especially in the field of lawmaking. According to him, Moses was the most
ancient of his nations lawgivers, and, compared with him, the Greek law-
givers Lycurgus, Solon, and Zaleucus, seemed born but yesterday.
In this
text, we see howthe ancient Hebrewauthor ascribes to the prophet the fea-
tures of a Hellenic lawmaker, but with priority over the lawmakers of the
Greeks. Thus, lawmaking is found to be a genuine Hebrew contribution to
civilisation: while the Gentiles were ruled through royal orders (i.e. at the
arbitrary will of anearthly lord) or throughunwrittentradition, the Hebrews
possessed a Law by the will of God.
Moses was no charlatan but a great
Patrologia graeca, t. LXI, col. 15. About this text in the Bulgarian milieu in: Nikolov,
Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, p. 177.
Philo, De vita Mosis, l. II. 23, pp. 450ff.
Philo, De vita Mosis, l. II. 4, p. 452.
Philo, De vita Mosis, l. II. 12ff., pp. 456ff.
Josephus, Against Apion, l. II. 154, pp. 352354.
Josephus, Against Apion, l. II. 155, p. 354.
174 chapter five
legislator, of the kind that the Greeks had in the person of King Minos and
the later creators of law. Some of these lawmakers had believed and asserted
their laws were the work of Zeus, or of Apollo and his oracle in Delphi;
they had hoped by this claim to make their laws more easily accepted.
Flavius Josephus also asks in his work who the most successful lawgiver
was, who had reflected Gods will in rules, and adds that the question
can only be answered by examining the texts as such.
This is what he
does in his apologetic work. One could say that the very act of comparing
Moses with the Hellenic kings and lawgivers represents, in the eyes of an
Israelite, a sort of retreat from the idea of chosenness and exclusiveness.
The prophet and lawgiver of the Chosen People should normally not be
comparedeven favourably for himwith representatives of the Gentiles.
Evenmore bewildering is the reference topagandivinities as allegedsources
of law created in Antiquity. The thought of comparing Gods will with that
of pagans would have been intolerable to Jews of an earlier time; but the
Hebrews of the Hellenistic period strove to integrate themselves into the
cultural environment of the Hellenistic Mediterranean world. In any case,
this is an example of Moses image used for political purposes, a use that
would later be made in the Christian environment. Together with this, we
should note that the object of our study, the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, does
not afford much substance for the topic of lawmaking, which, regrettably,
is left out from the chief themes of the work.
Contrary to this, the third themethat of Moses as army commander
and military leader of his peopleis particularly interesting for our study,
because it provides the main direction for comparison between Moses and
St Constantine. This image of the prophet is based foremost on the text
of the Bible, where we find many examples of his participation in battles
until the very end of his life. Here I would specially draw attention to
legendary information, quoted by Artapanus and Flavius Josephus, that
Moses took part as commander of Pharaohs army in the war between
Egypt and Ethiopia. The older of these references occurs in Artapanus,
but Flavius Josephus repeats this story in the Jewish Antiquities, where the
he explains that this was a way for the proud Egyptians to be humiliated.
According to Josephus,
the Ethiopians attacked and vanquished Egypt
Josephus, Against Apion, l. II. 161, pp. 356358.
M. Hollerich, The Comparisonof Moses andConstantine inEusebius of Caesareas Life
of Constantine, Studia Patristica, 19 (1989), p. 82.
Josephus in Eight volumes, vol. IV, Jewish Antiquities, books IIV, London-New York,
MCMXXX, l. II, 237253, pp. 268274.
the renovator king 175
and were on the verge of conquering it. Then, after consulting an oracle,
Pharaoh allied himself with the Hebrews and asked his daughter (who had
adopted the prophet) to allow Moses to be their common commander in
chief. She gave her approval and the prophet also agreed; he carried out a
brilliant campaign in which he not only reached the capital of Ethiopia but
even took the Ethiopian kings daughter as wife. This is certainly a legend,
but such traditions established the image of Moses as military commander.
This image was built mainly on biblical texts presenting the victories of
the Chosen People over their enemies on the way to the Promised Land,
the most important of these triumphs being the destruction of Pharaoh
and his army in the Red Sea and the battle with the Amalekites in the
Especially important in both these battles is Moses rod, which was his
weapon, used to obtain victory by the power of God. Tradition held that it
was carried to Constantinople and this relic became a fundamental element
of the veneration of the prophet in the imperial capital. Here we come to
an exceptionally important common feature between the veneration for
the prophet Moses as commander and that of Constantine: the material
weapons of victory, the Rod and the Cross. The rod of Moses is present
as a means for punishing the Egyptians in most stories about the plagues
inflicted on them by God in order to make them let Israel go, but the most
important events of Chosen Peoples triumph were these two battles. The
first was the victory over Pharaoh and his army, who drowned in the sea
that had parted after Moses pointed his Rod, and then returned again by the
same means, covered the pursuing Egyptians (Exodus, ch. 14). Similarly, in
the battle against Amalek, Israel was victorious only after Moses, holding
the Rod, lifted his hands towards God (Exodus, ch. 17).
Basically, the rod of Moses (and that of Aaron) is a prototype of the cross
in its Christian understanding, and we find indicated in certain passages
a direct relation between the two objects. Certain deuterocanonical books
presented the Rod as a prototype of the Cross and revealed a very strong
relation between them. For instance, in the Ethiopian book Kebra Nagast
the Rod is said to be a symbol of Salvation, a forerunner and prototype of
the Mother of God (it is said there that the Rod is Maria) and of the Cross,
through which mankind is saved from Original Sin.
In general, apocryphal
Kebra Nagast, ed. C. Bezold, S. 107110; Wallis Budge sir E.A., The Queen of Sheba and
her Only Son Menyelek, 98, pp. 177182; G. Colin, La gloire des rois (Kebra Nagast). Epope
nationale de l Ethiopie, (= Cahiers d orientalisme, XXIII), Genve, 2002, 98, pp. 8891.
176 chapter five
works illustrate the theme of the Cross.
In any case, both the Cross and
the Rod were signs of victory and weapons with which the faithful people
vanquished the enemy. A cross appeared on the night before the battle of
the Milvian Bridge and the victory over Maxentius, accompanied by words
whose meaning was clear: By this you shall win, after which it becomes
a tropaiophoric labarum for the Roman army. Yet it should be emphasised
that Cross and Rod are only tools in the hands of a righteous ruler, and the
power of victory comes from God alone. In all cases, the cult of the Holy
Cross and the relic of Moses Rod are two of the elements that assimilate the
veneration of the Hebrew prophet and that of the first Christian emperor.
The view of Moses as political leader of his people can be summarised
in the words of Flavius Josephus that Moses became best in everything he
undertookas a commander, as a wise counsellor, and as a true protector
of his people.
Of course, we should keep in mind that the history of the
Hebrewpeople in the Old Testament affords much better material for polit-
ical images for justifying a rulers power than the New Testament. The very
nature of political action involves the risk of committing deeds that would
be incompatible with the very clear and pure ethical message of the Gospel.
In the Old Testament, we find many examples that appear strange from a
Christian perspective: shedding of blood, merciless treatment of enemies,
etc. The intervention of God in the worldthrough force and bloodshed
and His assistance for His Chosen People, are direct, powerful, and occur
regularly in the pre-Christian biblical texts. The eschatology of the Old Tes-
tament is quite strongly connectedwiththis world andpunishment is meted
here, not in the beyond. In fact, in the Old Testament we can find all the
images and ideas needed for justifying and legitimating the power of the
king: the blessed and anointed monarchy; holy war; state support for the
clergy. We find other institutions as well, of the sort that was necessary for
newly formedChristianstates. This, together withthe passionate striving for
holiness in Late Antiquity, was the main reason for Old Testament stories
to become the foundation of the political doctrine in the time of transi-
tion to the Middle Ages. In this sense, it is quite natural that Moses, the
renovator-creator of the Hebrew cult and the first person of Israel to have
We find an example of this in Tale of the priest Jeremiah about the Passion Tree (see:
D. Petkanova inStarobulgarskaliteratura. Entsiklopedichenrechnik, pp. 334335 and the cited
researches), but this is related to the veneration of the True Cross in general.
Josephus, Against Apion, l. II. 158, p. 354:
the renovator king 177
concentrated so much power in himself, should become the archetype
for interpreting and venerating the first Christian Roman emperor and
renovator of the Empire, St Constantine.
The Christian political doctrine assimilated the interpretation of Moses
proposed by the Hellenistic Jewish writers and developed it further. As
I pointed out, this further development was made first and foremost in
Vita Constantini by Eusebius of Caesarea, who tried to induce and impose
the idea that the first Christian emperor had a mission and was chosen
by God to perform His work of salvation in this world. This suggestion is
made through comparisons, at times formal ones, to the life of the Hebrew
prophet. The life of Constantine is compared to that of Moses starting
from their childhoods. The emperor grew up and was raised in the court of
Diocletian, and his childhood there is analogous to the childhood and youth
of Moses in Pharaohs court, next to the rulers daughter.
Both figures lived
close tothe tyrants whomthey wouldone day destroy, andbothwere formed
in an alien environment. Further on, in the description of the battle at the
Milvian Bridge, the death of Maxentius is presented as a repetition of the
destructionof Pharaohandhis army inthe RedSea, whichpoints once again
to the Mosaic paradigm, this time as regards the opponent of the righteous
Centuries later, Theophanes Confessor in his Chronography used the
same story to describe the victory of Constantine. This shows a tendency of
repeated use of the model devised by Eusebius of Caesarea.
This victory,
just like Moses, was due to Gods assistance and protection (ch. XXXIX).
The victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge and its comparison to the
defeat of Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea was later used as a model
to describe other rulers. Socrates, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, compares
Theodosius II to a biblical prophet in connection with his victory over the
usurper John.
One other portrayal of Moses as victorious, as vanquisher of enemies with
Gods assistance is found in the narrative of the battle with Amalek in the
desert, and of the prophets constant prayer with hands raised towards God
Vita Constantini, ch. XII: Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ed. A. Cameron, S. Hall, Oxford,
1999, p. 73.
Vita Constantini, ch. XXXVIII: Eusebius, Life of Constantine, pp. 8485.
Theophanis Confessoris Chronographia, ed. C. de Boor, vol. I, Leipzig, 1883, p. 14 line 10
(AM 5802); Cl. Rapp, Old Testament Models for Emperors in early Byzantium, Old Testa-
ment in Byzantium, ed. P. Magdalino, R. Nelson, Dumbarton Oaks Symposia and Colloquia,
Washington, 2010, p. 187.
Rapp, Old Testament Models for Emperors in early Byzantium, p. 184.
178 chapter five
(Exodus, 17:816). This image has also been widely used to portray victors,
though not unambiguously. The image of Moses praying while holding
a rod could represent a righteous ruler who relies on the Almighty, but
it could also represent the clergy praying for the warriors in their fight
against the foes. In general, the political message underlying these two
interpretations of the story is different, but the biblical text itself permits
this difference. Rasho Rashev quotes several examples of this;
I will not
go into this problem, for there are no traces that could be called serious or
acceptable, of the presence inthe Bulgarianmilieuof this supreme military
commander paradigm.
Traces of Moses image as the model and ideal of a pious, God-chosen
ruler can be found not only in the Empire but also in nearly all of Eastern
Christendom. It occurs among the Armenians,
and among other Eastern
peoples; but especially important for our study is, again, the image of St
Constantine inVitaConstantini by Eusebius of Caesarea, a depictionof Con-
stantine the Great based on the Mosaic archetype.
It was likewise through
Constantinople that these ideas arrived in the neighbouring countries.
mediaeval Bulgaria, we do not find these ideas developedindetail, but some
traces have remained, dating, accidentally or not, from the 10th century.
R. Rashev, Tsar Simeon. Shtrihi kmlichnostta i deloto mu, Sofia, 2007, pp. 6869.
I do not believe that the graffiti from the region of Serres are such, mentioned in
the cited book in which the author himself does not express this view very firmly: Rashev,
Tsar Simeon. Shtrihi km lichnostta i deloto mu, pp. 7071 (fig. 5). On the other hand we
could pose the question whether the allusion made by Pope Nicholas I to the victorious
prayers of Moses, directly compared to the military commandership of Joshua ben Nun,
might not have had some ideological consequence in Bulgaria: Nikolov, Politicheskata misl
v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 59ff.
R.W. Thomson, The Formation of the Armenian Literary Tradition, in: East of Byzan-
tium: SyriaandArmeniainthe Formative Period, ed. N. Garsoian, T.F. Mathews, R.W. Thomson,
Washington, DC, 1980, pp. 135150.
Regarding the prophet Moses and the use of his image, see: M. Hollerich, Religion and
Politics in the Writings of Eusebius: Reassessing the First Court Theologian, Church History
59.3 (Sept. 1990), pp. 321325; M. Hollerich, The Comparison of Moses and Constantine in
Eusebius of Caesareas Life of Constantine, pp. 8095; G. Dagron, Empereur et prtre. Etude
sur le csaropapisme byzantin, Bibliothque des Histoires, Paris, 1996, pp. 114115, 155, 238;
A. Wilson, Biographical models: The Constantinianperiodandbeyond, in: Constantine: His-
tory, Historiography andLegend. Basedona1993 Warwick symposiumentitled: Constantine and
the Birth of Christian Europe, ed. S.N.C. Lieu and D. Montserrat, New York, 1998, pp. 107135;
Eusebius, Life of Constantine, pp. 36ff.
R. Rashev, Tsar Simeon, prorok Mojsej i bulgarskijat Zlaten vek, 1100 godini Veliki
Preslav, vol. I, ed. T. Totev, Shumen, 1995, pp. 6669; R. Rashev, Tsar Simeonnov Mojsej ili
nov David , Preslavska knizhovna shkola, 7 (2004), pp. 366376; Rashev, Tsar Simeon. Shtrihi
kmlichnostta i deloto mu, pp. 6072.
the renovator king 179
Moses-Constantine in Bulgaria
We find such a mention in the correspondence between Patriarch Nicholas
Mystikos and Tsar Symeon.
The patriarch reproaches the Bulgarian ruler
for abusing the image of New Moses in assuming it for himself. From his
words, we may expect to drawsome conclusionas to what the mainparame-
tres were of Tsar Symeons claims, and to at least partially understand what
assertions these claims were based upon.
The patriarch addresses the Bul-
garian ruler with queries that delineate the image of a New Moses claimed
by Symeon. The question is what prophecies and signs he might have
received from God in order to consider himself such, whether he has seen
the Glory of God, and what commands he has received from Him, from
what bondage he has saved Gods People. All these are appropriate ques-
tions to be asked of someone presenting himself as the contemporary image
of the Hebrewprophet andlawmaker. Fromthese questions R. Rashev draws
information about Tsar Symeons pretension, inferring that the tsar meant
to present the conquest of Byzantine territories in the Balkans as a liber-
ation of Gods People (i.e. the Byzantines, the Christians) from the power
of the basileus-pharaoh, and he claimed it was Gods suggestion that moti-
vated him to do this;
it is not to be excluded, Rashev asserts, that the tsar
claimed to have received prophecies and Divine commands regarding the
salvific purpose of his deeds.
Nevertheless, I do not think these reproaches
provide an adequate idea about what was written in the letter sent from
Preslav. In fact, all these traits are simply the main features of the biblical
prophet as we find him in Holy Scripture and in the subsequent tradition.
Thus, any pretension by the Bulgarian ruler to be seen as a NewMoses could
provoke the rhetorical question of whether he believes he matches certain
qualities. Some of these traits might have indeed been part of Symeons pre-
tension, but for other listed features, this is improbable. Such improbable
features are prophecies andsigns, seeing the Glory of God, andthe reception
I would like to note that our late colleague Rasho Rashev was the first to raise the issue
of the glorificationof the Bulgarianruler as NewMoses, andtodrawattentiontothe preserved
data for this ideological paradigm. This was done in a series of studies possessing pioneering
importance in this respect: Rashev, Tsar Simeon, prorok Mojsej i bulgarskijat Zlaten vek,
pp. 6669; Rashev, Tsar Simeonnov Mojsej ili nov David , pp. 366376; Rashev, Tsar
Simeon. Shtrihi km lichnostta i deloto mu, pp. 6072. See also Nikolov, Politicheskata misl
v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 154156, 177.
Nicholas I Patriarch of Constantinople, Letters, ed. R.J.H. Jenkins, L.G. Westerink, (=
Corpus fonciumhistoriae byzantinae, vol. VI) Dumbarton Oaks, 1973, No 25
, pp. 176177.
Rashev, Tsar Simeon, prorok Mojsej i bulgarskijat Zlaten vek, p. 67.
Rashev, Tsar Simeon, prorok Mojsej i bulgarskijat Zlaten vek, pp. 6769.
180 chapter five
of divine commands: the latter signifies not commands to do something but
reception of the law by the New Moses in the Old Testament sense. Hence,
we really do have here some remnants a true Mosaic paradigm of a Bul-
garian ruler, which is all the more important for the present study as it is
presented in the context of the new and of renovation, as R. Rashev has
well noticed.
Elements of the Mosaic model of king can be found also in the story
of the visit of St Tsar Peter to St John of Rila in the sylvan desert of Rila
Mountain; the story is similar in many of its features to that of Moses
ascending Mount Horeb in Sinai. Here we are interested not in its historical
value, nor whether this ruler really did go to the mountain to meet the
anchoret, but in the ideological meaning of the narrative. The history of
this visit has been interpreted in many various ways, but they are all alike
in defining it as asserting the superiority of the Church over the state. The
authors see this meaning in the holy anchorets refusal to meet the tsar
personally, despite the latters plea. Basically such a turn of the story could
be expected from a literary work of the hagiographic genre. I should say
also that the sources are not unanimous. It has been proven that the story
of the visit of Tsar Peter to Rila as told in the Vita of St John by Patriarch
Euthymius was composed after and under the influence of the so-called
Popular Life (or the Legend). The story must have arisen somewhere, then
beenreflectedinthe Popular Life, andfromthere passedintothe text written
by the patriarch of Tarnovgrade. Yet this authors objectives in writing it
and the suggestion of his work are different from those of the Popular Life.
Undoubtedly, Euthymius asserts the idea of some kind of theocracy through
the words he puts in the mouth of the hermit of Rila addressing the ruler.
This is clear enough and generally agreed upon, so there is no need to
prove it here. The real problemlies in the different attitude expressed in the
Popular Life: there too the tsar and hermit fail to meet, but the story about
this event is different.
IvanDobrev wrote ina recently publishedbook that the story of the unac-
complished meeting between tsar and hermit is based on Old Testament
Rashev, Tsar Simeon, prorok Mojsej i bulgarskijat Zlaten vek, pp. 65, 6869. I would
like to state my disagreement with this authors proposed view (ibidem, p. 67), that the ref-
erence to the feats of the fathers and ancestors implies the victories of the pagan Bulgarian
rulers over the Empire, and Khan Krums reaching Constantinople. This is drastically incon-
sistent with the idea of the tsar as NewMoses, proclaimed in Rashevs study. It is not possible
that pagan rulers would be used to construct the image of the creator of the faith in One
God: these rulers had positive characteristics only in Bulgarian nationalist historiography of
the 19th20th century.
the renovator king 181
motifs. We find this theme in the image of the rock, of St Johns rod, in the
smoke of the altar, in the sacrificial bullock, and in the Tabernacle as pro-
totype of the Temple. Ivan Dobrev notes and highlights these motifs in the
text, but, regrettably, he finally prefers to look for pagan mythical images
borrowed fromfolklore, such as the symbols of the rock, of the Cosmic Tree,
of chthonic daemons, etc.
I argue that the Old Testament ideas and images predominate here over
folkloric ones, and in support of this I would like to recall in brief the story
itself as related in the Popular Life.
St Tsar Peter was in Sredets (present
day Sofia) when the fame of the Rila hermits feats reached him. He sent
nine hunters to the mountain to find St John and to indicate to the ruler
the place where the hermit dwelled, for he wanted to visit him and pay his
respects to him. The hunters went to Rila but failed to find the hermit, for he
was elsewhere, in another space, in another world. Finally, they prayed and
the saint appeared to them. The men were very tired and hungry, and he fed
themwithangelic bread, sent himby God, gave themof this manna. We may
consider that so far the references to Holy Scripture are quite obvious and
clear: the story is similar to the Gospel story of the five loaves and two fish
with which Jesus fed the multitude (Matthew, 14:14ff.; Mark, 6:37ff.; Luke,
9:13ff.; John, 6:8ff.), and also to that of the manna with which the Lord fed
Israel on their way through the desert (Exodus, ch. 16).
The hunters went back to the tsar and showed him the way, marked by a
river and a rock. The tsar started out and reached the rock, but fromthen on
the road became so narrow and steep he could not continue. The sylvan
desert would not allow him to go on. The men accompanying him only
pointed out the mountain and the cliff where the saint was. Then Tsar Peter
sent two servants to ask St Johns permission for the ruler to approach and
pay his respects. The hermit answered that the tsar must go to the top of
the mountain and set up a tent there, while he himself would make a very
smoky fire. Thus, the tsar would see the smoke, while the hermit would see
the tsars tent and they would meet in this way for they are allowed to meet
only thus. That is howthings transpiredandTsar Peter sent a cupfull of gold
Iv. Dobrev, Sveti Ivan Rilski, (= Altbulgarische Studien, Bd. 5), Linz, 2007, pp. 302322.
J. Ivanov, Zhitija na sv. Ivana Rilski s uvodni belezhki, GodishniknaSofijskijauniversitet,
Istoriko-filologichen fakultet, t. XXXII, 13, 1936, pp. 3335; Stara bulgarska literatura, t. IV,
Zhitiepisni tvorbi, Sofia, 1986, pp. 127129.
182 chapter five
to the saint, who returned the gold but kept the cup as a token. The hermit
had no need of gold, unlike the ruler who had to pay for the defence of the
country and for many public needs. Finally, St John told the tsars men that
the ruler would have to leave the place quickly, for the soil was not firm in
this place.
I believe that the biblical basis of this story is obvious, although many
authors have given in to the temptation of looking for a basis (which is no
firmer than the soil in the story) in pagan mythology. First of all I should
point out that the saint is presented here as someone dwelling in a different
reality and different space from those of the people who sought him. To
enter his reality would be extremely difficult and can be achieved only as
an exception and through grace: this applies for the hunters and the tsar
equally. This is the holy reality of Gods presence, and entering it may be
easily refused or may be done only partially, for it is a dangerous thing to
do, like every contact with the sacred. This applies equally to touching
any divine object: the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Ark of the Alliance, the
Eucharist. In our case, St John does not embody the Lord God Himself
but the holiness of a man of God, holiness more or less connected with
Gods presence. This is the key to understanding the story. It begins with
the hunters wandering about in the forest without being able to reach the
hermit. They succeed in finding him only after praying and by his own
decision to reveal himself to them. Afterwards they eat angelic bread and
nourish themselves with manna, which is strongly reminiscent of Holy
Communion, which happens to be the only possible way of associating
with God. The mention of manna is not an allusion but a direct quotation
from Holy Scripture. We have here a typological reference to all means of
communicating with God that are indicated in the Bible, but above all to
the impossibility of direct contact except through grace and by Gods own
decision. A typical example of this is the desire of the Prophet Moses to see
God in His glory, and the impossibility of this to happen in the ordinary
The journey of the tsar to the mountain matches the story of the recep-
tion of the Law in Sinai and Moses ascending Mount Horeb to meet the
Lord. This trip is hard, dangerous, and difficult, for it is ascension to God.
Even staying for a while where God is present is dangerous, and that is why
Moses was not allowed to see God (Exodus, 33:1823), that is why the high
priest, who alone can enter the Holy of Holies once a year, must perform
many purification rituals before doing so (Leviticus, ch. 16). Only Levites
may enter the sanctuary and not die, but even they must not look directly at
it (Numbers, 4:1820). Similarly, Tsar Peter had to approach and try to enter
the renovator king 183
into the world of the divine. He had to touch the boundary between the two
worlds. In the story, this boundary is depicted as a river, along which the
tsar goes but which he never crosses. The meaning of the river is made even
clearer through the extant depictions of the meeting of the ruler and the
hermit. The two are usually shownas standing ontwo different mountain
St Johns rock and the Tsars peakseparated by a rivulet running between
them through the valley down below.
Moses asked to see God in His Glory, but the Lord refused this, for the
sight would be unbearable and deadly for a mortal man. The prophet sees
only His back and hears His name pronounced by Himself. This meeting
is symbolically repeated at the meeting of St John with Tsar Peter. The
hermit does not allow the ruler to enter his world and shows himself by the
smoke coming from his fire, and the tsar sees this sign. The word sign is
repeated many times in the text, as Ivan Dobrev points out in his book, and
this repetition is of essential importance regarding the story.
In the Popular Life, there are many other elements that could confirm
the thesis proposed here, but I would direct attention to the place where
the tsar is located: the peak that would later be called Tsars Peak. He set
up his tent there so the saint could see him. If we ask what the meaning
of this location is, St Johns words suggest a possible solution: the saint told
the tsars men that the place was dangerous, for the soil underneath was
not firm. That is why the tsar should leave quickly. This text has not passed
unnoticed by scholars writing on the topic and has usually been defined as
signifying the theory that the Churchis predominant over the State. Without
denying this, here the passage refers foremost tothe theme of being tooclose
to holiness (i.e. to Gods presence), which is always dangerous, as clearly
shown in the cited passage from Holy Scripture. In my opinion, this story
contains an indirect reference to what transpired with the Prophet Moses
on Mount Horeb.
In examining this narrative, we should place it in its own spiritual envi-
ronment. Althoughthis is a literary work created inBulgaria, its true context
was certainly not national-ethnic but the middle-Byzantine hagiographic
V. Ivanova, Obrazi na tsar Petra v dve starinni ikoni, Izvestija na bulgarskoto istorich-
esko druzhestvo, vol. , Sofia, 1945, pp. 99108; L. Prashkov, Edin letopisen tsikl ot zhi-
tieto na Ivan Rilski ot XIV vek, Trnovska knizhovna shkola, t. , Sofia, 1974, pp. 429442;
E. Bakalova, Km interpretatsijata na naj-rannija zhitien tsikl na Ivan Rilski v izobrazitel-
noto izkustvo, Kirilo-Methodievski studii, t. , 1986, pp. 146153; E. Bakalova, Zur Interpreta-
tion des frhesten Zyklus der Vita des Hl. Ivan von Rila in der bildenden Kunst, in: Festschrift
fr Klaus Wessel zum70. Geburtstag (in memoriam). Mnchen 1988, S. 3948.
184 chapter five
traditioncontemporaneous to the writing of the text. This reference enables
us to make comparisons that might yield very interesting results. In this
connection, I would cite a recently published book by Andrei Timotin, who
focuses his attention on the visions and prophecies referred to in the work,
and how these are related to political power in this literary context. He
makes the important observation that among the Egyptian hermits, the
desert fathers of Late Antiquity (in other words, in an environment match-
ing that of the Rila hermit) developed the figure of the saintly anchoret, who
represents God Himself and derives his absolute authority from this fact,
an authority equal to that of the apostles and prophets.
The anchoret not
only represents God, but he speaks Gods Word, which is why people turn to
him for advice and he becomes a centre of social influence so important as
to place him only a step away from political power. The saintly anchorets
and the spiritual fathers bring the Word of God and transmit it through
their speech, and they are the only legitimate heirs to the Old Testament
prophets; the stories about their deeds are widely based on Old Testament
We see here a religious-political situation that can quite rightly
be considered a prototype of the story of Tsar Peters visit to the Rila sylvan
All this is closely connected with Israelite theocracy, in which a clear
distinction is made between royalty and priesthood. The kings place is
obviously not with the hermit saint. The king must not enter the world of
the sacred, yet his own place is no less sacred and, in a sense, also belongs to
that world. He is there, with his tent, which seemingly is animage that refers
to the Tabernacle in the Old Testament and, through it, to the Temple. The
mountain is also an important biblical symbol: seeking its roots in the Old
Testament, we can begin with Mount Horeb, go on to Mount Moriah (upon
which the Temple is situated and where the sacrifice of Isaac also occurs)
and to the Holy Mountain of God in Isaiah, and, in the NewTestament, we
may consider the words of Christ, that a city that is set onahill cannot be hid
(Matthew, 5:14). Inlight of all these indications, the passage testifies not only
to the domination of the Church over the State, but also to the sacralisation
of the power of the ruler, who is staying in the Mountain and whose sign is
the Tabernacle, the Abode of God. This theme is equally present in the work
of Patriarch Euthymius, who compares the secular power to the Tabernacle
A. Timotin, Visions, prophties et pouvoir Byzance. Etude sur l hagiographie mso-
byzantine (IXXI sicles), Dossiers byzantins10, Paris, 2010, pp. 4546.
Timotin, Visions, prophties et pouvoir Byzance, pp. 52, 58.
the renovator king 185
and to the horn of holiness.
The tsar is up there on the mountain, and that
is not a place for those lacking holiness.
We have reason to consider the story of Tsar Peters ascent of the moun-
tain and visit to St John of Rila, to be a narrative typologically built upon the
biblical story of Moses meeting with the Lord on Mount Horeb, and receiv-
ing the Tables of the Law. In the Popular Life, the story was constructed in
the context of the middle-Byzantine hagiography contemporaneous to the
text. This consideration leads us again to the Mosaic image of the ruler in
mediaeval Bulgarian society. This is a story about the encounter with holi-
ness and the unequal position of earthly power before Gods presence, but
it is also about earthly powers connection with, and origin from, that pres-
ence. The story in the Popular Life of St John of Rila about the unrealised
meeting between St John and Tsar Peter is in particular important for the
present study, since we are examining as parallel the images of St Constan-
tine and his archetype, the prophet Moses, while the Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah presents, likewise as parallel, the images of the Roman emperor and
of the Bulgarian saintly tsar.
Thus, in this respect the two texts forma set of mutually complementary
parts, and this set points to some significant patterns of power in mediaeval
Bulgaria. Tounderstandthem, we must take intoaccount that the unrealised
meeting on Mount Horeb in Sinai became a topos in Christian political
theology. This topos is to be found in other Orthodox countries and literary
texts as well. Foremost I should refer to Byzantine hagiography, which gives
us many examples of the mutual exchange of legitimationbetweenthe ruler,
or secular power ingeneral, onone hand, andthe hermit saint onthe other.
Inthis connection, I shouldpoint out the study by OvidiuCristeaconcerning
the meeting of the Moldavian prince Stephen the Great with the hesychast
Daniel Sihastrul; this account conveys a similar message.
It points to the
necessary humility of the earthly ruler before God, Who is the source and
holder of all power. Gilbert Dagron defines this humility as a constitutive
element of the rulers legitimacy.
It has its origininanother OldTestament
image, that of the penitent King David, but also, to some extent, in Moses,
Biliarsky, La demeure et la corne de l Empire, pp. 194195; Kauniacki, Werke, S. 23,
cap. XII; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, p. 55.
Timotin, Visions prophties et pouvoir Byzance, pp. 65ff.
O. Cristea, Note sur le rapport entre le prince et l homme saint dans les Pays Rou-
mains. La Rencontre d Etienne le Grandavec Daniel l Ermite, L Empereur hogiographe. Culte
des saints et monarchie byzantine et post-byzantine, Bucarest, 2001, pp. 177185.
Dagron, Empereur et prtre, p. 133.
186 chapter five
his peoples charismatic leader, who nevertheless was not powerful enough
to see the Lord in His glory, and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land,
but only to see it fromthe mountainbefore his death. These ideas are deeply
rooted in Israelite theocracy, from where they passed into Christianity and
in turn came to influence literature in Bulgaria.
Infact, the most interesting development of the image of Moses and Con-
stantine as a paradigmof royalty occurred among the Orthodox Slavs in the
Balkans in the Late Middle Ages. Data about Bulgaria is extremely scarce,
though we know it was in Trnovgrade in the 14th century that the most
significant work relating to the cult of Constantine was written: Panegyric to
SS. Constantine andHelena by PatriarchEuthymius. This work is notably one
of the extremely fewhagiological texts written by the patriarch scholar that
are not devoted to saints connected in some way with Bulgaria. The excep-
tion is due to the importance of the cult of St Constantine, especially with
respect to the ideology of royalty. The orientation of the Panegyric to this
theme is obvious, if for no other reason than because the author wishes that
the tsar might imitate the Baptiser of the Empire.
This wish refers to the
tsars support of the Church and to victories over the enemies of the Chris-
tianfaithandthe establishment of peace inthe Universe. The image inques-
tion is quite well constructed in the eulogy, but, admittedly, the similarity
withthe prophet Moses is not soobvious here. Actually, if there is sucha sim-
ilarity at all, it should be derived fromthe context, where its demonstration
will always stand delicately on the brink of conjecture. Examples of such a
derivation would be to consider the mention of Constantine as destroyer of
the idols
and the permission asked during a military campaign to set up
the tent like the great Moses and hold divine offices there.
Asimilar situa-
tion occurs regarding the thesis about the king-preacher of the faith or the
king-priest, elements of which can be found in the Panegyric, and which is
a functionreminiscent of the positionof the prophet Moses as bothreligious
andpolitical leader of his people.
There are alsotwoformal similarities that
we must point out. The first is Constantines escape from the court of Dio-
cletian, which Eusebius of Caesarea directly compares to the flight of Moses
from Pharaohs court; in the work of Patriarch Euthymius, this similarity is
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 145146; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, p. 147.
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 104, 114; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, p. 114.
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 140141; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, pp. 142143.
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 104, 114115, 119ff., 135137; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, pp. 114,
122, 127 (and the whole history concerning the First Ecumenical Council), 139140 (and in
general the reference to St Constantine as bishop).
the renovator king 187
not straightforwardly indicated.
The other case is related to the battle at
the Milvian Bridge and Maxentius drowning in the river, like Pharaoh in the
Red Sea.
Here mention is made of the story in Exodus about the Egyptian
ruler, but the mention is not as prominent as in other works. Overall, it may
be said that the Panegyric for SS. Constantine and Helena does not support
categorically enoughthe thesis about Constantine-NewMoses. Inthis work,
we find another image that is sufficiently clear and explicitly stated, that of
Constantine as a New David;
but this is not our main topic here. Regard-
ing the lack of grounds for the New Moses image, I will only say that one
possible explanation of this could be the general orientation of Patriarch
Euthymiuss views, that the Church is predominant over royal power. In this
context, to base the construction of the tsars image on that of Moses, the
prophet-lawgiver and establisher of the faith of the Hebrews, is something
that would have turned the matter in a different direction, towards a situ-
ation in which the political leader should have power over the ecclesiastic
sphere rather than the other way around.
Certainly, the most important among the Southern Slavs work depict-
ing the ruler as a New Moses and New Constantine is the Vita of Stephen
Lazarevi by Constantine the Philosopher (Kosteneki). This work is the
product and continuation of the Serbian political ideology of the time of the
Nemanides dynasty, and of the identity, formed at that time, of the people
as New Israel.
In the text these ideas are expressed through the construc-
tion of the rulers image as based on Old Testament models such as Joshua
ben Nun, Samson, the High Priest Eli, etc.
Here I will not make a detailed
analysis of this work, but there are several points that I should note. One
of them is the comparison to the kings and prophets David and Solomon,
and to Alexander the Great.
However, the most important models figuring
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 105; PatriarchEvtimij, Schinenija, pp. 114115. Also: Vita Constan-
tini: Vita Constantini, ch. XII, XIXXXI: Eusebius, Life of Constantine, pp. 73, 7778.
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 109111; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, p. 118.
Kauniacki, Werke, S. 129; Patriarch Evtimij, Schinenija, p. 133.
Moses is a model for numerous Serbian rulers in the 13th14th century, as is well regis-
tered in the ruler hagiography of Serbia: see, for instance, Bojovi, L idologie monarchique,
pp. 362, 383, 393, 401, 528, 532, 545 etc.
Konstantin Kostenechki, Schinenija, Skazanie za bukvite, Zhitie na Stefan Dechanski,
ed. A. Totomanova, Sofia, 1993, p. 139 (ch. 89); Kuev K., G. Petkov, Sbrani schinenija na
Konstantin Kostenechki. Izsledvane i tekst, Sofia, 1986, p. 364.
Konstantin Kostenechki, Schinenija, pp. 139140 (ch. 10, 11, 12); see also in the hairetis-
moi and the acrosticpp. 191192; Kuev, Petkov, Sbrani schinenija na Konstantin Koste-
nechki, pp. 364365, 424426.
188 chapter five
here are those of Moses and Constantine, and it is upon them where the
fundament of the image of Stephen Lazarevi dwells.
The Vita begins
with a relatively extensive presentation about the prophet Moses as leader
appointed by God, as legislator, and saviour of the People of Israel, with
whomthe Serbianruler is comparedbothformally (for instance, withregard
to the length of his rule) and in essence.
This line of comparison continues,
directly or indirectly, in other passages and runs through the whole work.
On the other hand, the author presents to us a direct connection with
the image of St Constantine, whom he declares to be no less than a blood
ancestor of the Despot Stephen Lazarevi.
The emperor is presented as
being the grandfather of Bela-Uro, who in turn was the grandfather of
St Symeon/ Stephen Nemanja, who, for his part, was the grandfather of
the despot. Thus, Constantine proves connected with all the deeds of the
Serbian ruler, for whom he serves as example and model. This is made
especially clear by the story of the building of Belgrade as the despots
capital. The city is appears as a replica foremost of Jerusalem, but a clear
reference is included to Constantines work as city builder.
In addition, in
order not toleave the least doubt, at the endof the Vitathe author designates
the ruler as Stephen-Constantine.
This work of Constantine Kosteneki offers probably the best synthesis
of the Mosaic and Constantinian model of ruler. It is perhaps not accidental
that the work is about the Despot Stephen Lazarevithe most important
Christian ruler in the Balkans in the early 15th century, who attracted to
himself the hopes and imagination of all Balkan Slavs. However, I also
think we have reason to look for the penetration of the model among those
Slavs centuries earlier, for which examples were indicated, and which is
confirmed by the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Of course, this has not gone unnoticed in scholarly literature. I would refer the reader
to the latest and very interesting study by Jelena Erdeljan (Erdeljan, Beograd kao Novi
Jerusalim, p. 108).
Konstantin Kostenechki, Schinenija, pp. 137138 (chapter 14); Kuev, Petkov, Sbrani
schinenija na Konstantin Kostenechki, pp. 362363.
KonstantinKostenechki, Schinenija, pp. 145146 (chapter 1316); Kuev, Petkov, Sbrani
schinenija na Konstantin Kostenechki, pp. 371372.
Konstantin Kostenechki, Schinenija, pp. 165167 (chapter 51); Kuev, Petkov, Sbrani
schinenija na Konstantin Kostenechki, pp. 393396.
Konstantin Kostenechki, Schinenija, p. 192; Kuev, Petkov, Sbrani schinenija na Kon-
stantin Kostenechki, p. 425.
the renovator king 189
Moses-Constantine in the Tale
After this overview, we may go on to the data provided by the Tale. Else-
where in this book, I have discussed in detail some confusing points in the
presentation of Tsar Constantine in this apocryphon, as well as the identi-
fication of this ruler. I will only note that, in my opinion, the reference is to
a single person bearing this name, and that this is a character based on the
memory, representation, and cult of the first Christian emperor, although
fantastically transformedinsome points. The image of Constantine matches
the paradigm established by Eusebius of Caesarea and forms a set with the
image of the Prophet Moses, which makes Constantine the New Moses.
Above I endeavoured to trace the basic features of the image, which can be
groupedinseveral different areas: God-chosenpolitical leadership, religious
renovation, lawgiving, military command. This is the image of Moses and,
at least partially, of the New Moses. Now we should see which of these fea-
tures could be found in the text of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Due to the
nature of this text, we cannot expect a text of this sort to develop the theme
of religious renovation or legislation. These topics are too complicated for
this work and would require a different kind of presentation. Of course,
they could be present in the form of the prophets receiving Gods will and
expressing it to the people in an accessible form. This role would combine
legislation, whichfor the Hebrews consistedinthe will of the Almighty, with
faithand the cult. Inthe Tale sucha role is not to be found directly expressed
in the part concerning Tsar Ispor, but some elements of it can be found in
the introductory part, told as the words of the prophet Isaiah. The image of
the king who is lawgiver and expresses Gods will, and is also establisher of
a religion, can be discerned in the typological structure of the narrative.
It is notable that the above-mentioned features of Moses coincide in
many respects with that of St Tsar Constantine as presented in the Tale:
he too is a hero with a mission who appears miraculously in the world; he
is the creator, founder, and renovator of the Empire; he not only creates
the City and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but provides a connection with
biblical reality and thus posits a biblical archetype for the Empire; he is also
presented as closely connected with the Bulgarian Tsar Peter, so that the
two characters are typologically identical within the apocryphon, as are the
kingdoms of the Bulgarians and Romans, together called the Kingdom of
The arguments supporting that Tsar Ispor held God-chosen leadership
(in other words, supporting one of the elements of the Moses-Constantine
image) can be found in the story of the basket, which we defined as a topos
190 chapter five
that repeats the story from Moses childhood. The element of leadership is
obvious here, if for no other reason, at least because Ispor is tsar of the peo-
ple. The God-chosenness is demonstrated by the miraculous appearance of
the child we discussed. The successful andbeneficial reignof Ispor is repre-
sented chiefly by the tsars creative activity and victories over enemies. Fol-
lowing the established model for this kind of text, the author points out that
Ispor not only built the cities of Pliska and Dorostorum on the Danube, but
also a great wall from the Danube to the sea.
While in this construction
activity we find no similarity to the Mosaic paradigm of rule, we certainly
see a benign and successful reign.
As for the birth of Tsar Constantine (the other carrier of the Moses-
Constantine image), it is not quite clearly described in the Tale. The first
indicationis that inthe time of St Peter, tsar of Bulgaria, there was inthe Bul-
garian land a widow, young and wise and righteous, called Helena, and she
gave birth to Tsar Constantine. This looks similar to the story of the miracu-
lous birth of a child-hero with a mission:
the mother is young and wise, but
most importantly, she is a widow, in other words, there is no father involved,
whichimplies divine interventionfor the birthof the hero. At the same time,
Constantine is called Porphyrogenitus, which, besides being a reference to
the 10thcentury emperor, signifies that the childis a rulers son, whichwould
somehow cast doubt upon the fact of miraculous birth just mentioned.
Moreover, a little further belowthe father is referred to by name as Constan-
tine the Green, which is evidently a reminder of the historical Constantines
father, Constantius Chlorus. Alittle further oninthe story we againfindcon-
firmed that the childs birth is somehowproblematic: the mother flees from
the Roman Hellenes to the city of Bizye, because she is pregnant. Regret-
tably, I cannot say why the city of Bizye was chosen. The more important
question is why a pregnant woman would flee unless there was something
unclear about her pregnancy. It should also be noted that she is fleeing
from the Roman Hellenes, a circumstance that connects the problems in
some way with the Empire. These observations show how unclear the text
is, and that it was obviously compiled from different sources, some of them
mutually incompatible. I could say that these passages contain a remote
reminiscence of the divorce of Constantius Chlorus and the separation
See U. Fiedler, Bulgars in the Lower Danube Region. A Survey of the Archaeological
Evidence and of the State of Current Research, in F. Curta, The Other Europe in the Middle
Ages. Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans, Brill, Leiden, 2008, pp. 152154.
See Excursus II in this book.
the renovator king 191
of Helena with the young Constantine from the imperial circle. It could
also be asserted that the flight from the Roman Hellenes (even though
before the childis born) preserves some memory of the flight of Constantine
from Diocletians court, which has as its archetype the flight of Moses from
Pharaohs court.
Various interpretations could be offered, but they would
all be highly arbitrary and improbable. Hence, I do not want to dwell on
The only thing I dare claim with some confidence, is that both the story
of Tsar Ispor and that of Constantine utilise the archetype of the hero on
a mission who has come into the world miraculously or at least thanks to
Gods protection. This connects the accounts to the story of the prophet
Moses. This is true at least in one of the sources of the apocryphon. Both
characters fit in with a series of such heroes appearing in the Tale. The
message conveyed by such a figure is clear and unambiguous: the king-hero
has a mission from God, and he must fulfil some part of Gods work on
earth. This was certainly true as regards Constantine, who put an end to the
persecution of Christians and set a new beginning for the Roman Empire
and for the world of that time in general.
I would like to say a few words about the indicated pagan religion of Ispor
and his people, indicated in the following passage: After the slaying of
Ispor, Tsar of the Bulgarians, the Cumans were called Bulgarians, for earlier
they had been godless pagans under Ispor and [lived] in great iniquity and
were always enemies of the Greek kingdom for many years.
The text is
not clear at all in this part, especially because according to the account in
the Tale the Bulgarian conversion to Christianity came later, under Ispors
grandson, Tsar Boris, and not under Ispors immediate successor, Izot. The
question therefore arises, what does the passage mean, stating that, after
the tsars death, the Cumans were called Bulgarians, whereas before that
they were pagans. If this is a concealed indication of the Conversion, why
is there another baptiser later on? Moreover, I feel the text is somehow
artificially attached to the surrounding passages and remains alien to the
general account. Tsar Ispor is depicted as a kind and blessed tsar, of which
his construction activity is a sure sign. Then why does the story end so
negatively? An exact answer to these questions could hardly be given but I
Vita Constantini, ch. XIXXXI; Eusebius, Life of Constantine, pp. 7778; T. Barnes, Con-
stantin and Eusebius, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, London, 1981, p. 271.
See in this book, p. 1516 (f. 401b410c).
192 chapter five
do not think that the citation invalidates what was said above regarding the
Mosaic type of ruler embodied by the tsar Ispor. The discrepancy is probably
due tocontradictionbetweenthe separate original texts fromwhichthe Tale
was compiled. It was well known that the first rulers were pagans, but this
was usually not overly emphasised since they too were seen as part of Gods
plan for Salvation. Some of the sources that had served as a basis for the
compiled presentation must have contained a clearly negative attitude to
the pagan rulers, which was carried over into the apocryphon in question.
This attitude, in any case, has come down to us isolated within the extant
work. In fact, this is not the only discrepancy we find in the text. The death
of Ispor in battle against the Ishmaelites should likewise not be interpreted
in a negative light: this is not a punishment from God but death in heroic
battle against the infidels. Ispors death is the result of the clash of forces,
not a punishment meted for some transgression he might have committed.
We shouldalsonote the quote that, being pagans, the Cumans-Bulgarians
lived in infamy and were enemies of the Greek kingdom. In this text, the
godlessness of the pagans is a sin combined with their infamy and the two
characteristics appear in a negative light together. They form a set, and this
perception is an important stage in the development of Bulgarian political
ideology. The attitude is obviously linked to hostility towards the Greek
kingdom. Thus, the Empire appears once again in a positive light in contrast
with the pagans. The author of the apocryphon evidently identifies it with
his own country. Not only is the Empire not set in opposition to Christian
Bulgaria, but the two are depictedtogether, as a unity of culture andreligion.
They are as one. This viewis undoubtedly part of the general attitude of the
writer to the universal power of the basileis that unites true Christians in the
visible world, as shown in multiple passages in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
It is not difficult to see in the Tale the figure of Tsar Constantine as cre-
ator/renovator of the Empire, just as Moses was tothe Hebrews andEmperor
Constantine the Great to the Roman Empire. This image of Tsar Constan-
tine is, in fact, not lightly alluded to but explicitly declared. Constantine is
the true creator of the Tsarstvo in the Tale. It is true that Rome is mentioned
even before he appears in the story: the city is mentioned in connection
with the separation of the third part of the Cumans, called Bulgarians,
which occurred in the countries above Rome or to the left of Rome. We
learn that Tsar Constantines pregnant mother flees from Romans. Subse-
quently, Rome is obviously under the rule of Constantine, for he sends a
curator there and resettles Romans in the New Jerusalem. The Empire is
present, and it is the state ruled by the tsar-baptiser. We also find himbuild-
ing the City, and other cities, and founding Rome anew. The text explicitly
the renovator king 193
says that the NewJerusalemfounded by Tsar Constantine is situated on the
site of ancient Byzantion, and is called Konstantin-grad (Constantinople)
in the text, so as to leave no doubt which city it is. It is also explicitly said
that after the Romans were taken to the City, the emperor instituted the
Kingdom of Jerusalem and built the royal palace. I am inclined to interpret
the palace as a metaphor for the organising of government in the state. This
refers the reader to the image of Constantine as renovator and re-founder of
the Empire, as mentioned above. He is said to be its creator but at the same
time it is made clear the Roman Empire already existed before him and he
only made a newbeginning for it. The transference to the newcapital is just
that and it emphasises the renovation.
Of course, it is clear that nothing could be more closely connected with
Constantines legacy than the city bearing his name.
In itself, this city con-
veys the idea of renewal, anddoes so formally by its name, being classifiedas
new (New Rome) by no less than an ecumenical council.
At first, the reno-
vation had purely imperial characteristics: this was a newcapital, which did
not necessarily imply a new Christian religious centre.
But this situation
could not go on for long, since not only the capital city had been renewed,
but the whole Empireand this, not because its centre had been moved to
the East but because of the newly displayed tolerance towards the Christian
faith, whichwas the start of breaking withthe paganismof the past. Thus, by
the middle of the 5th century, Constantinople was already a great religious
centre and was designated as the NewJerusalem in the Vita of St Daniel the
The whole symbolism of this rather short narrative is charged with
expectation and the fulfilment of change. The writer mentions the modest
city of Byzantion, but the place is described as desolate from sea to sea.
That is what it is like when Constantine chooses it as the site for the new
city, that is how it is described a few lines further below when he returns
For a thorough study of this proble, see: Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, pp. 6197.
Se canon III of the Second Ecumenical Council (First in Constantinople) ad381: P.-P.
Joannou, Discipline gnrale antique (IIeIXe s.), Pontificia commissione per la redazione
del Codice del diritto canonico orientale, Fonti, fasc. IX, tom. I, part. 1: Les canons des
conciles oecumniques, Grottaferrata, 1962, pp. 4748; Pravilata na Sv. Pravoslavna tsrkva s
tlkuvanijata im, ed. S. Tsankov, vol. I: Pravilata na sv. Apostoli, na I, II, III, IV vselenski sbori,
Sofia, 1912, p. 386.
R. Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem,
pp. 9899.
H. Delehaye, Les saints stylites, Subsidia hagiographica, 14, Bruxelles, 1923, pp. 1113;
Ousterhout, Sacred Geographies and Holy Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem, p. 99;
Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, pp. 18, 293309.
194 chapter five
fromthe Craniums Place (Golgotha). The story of the evil curator inRome is
placed exactly in this context and it must somehow present the old and the
new in opposition and show the transition from one to the other while pre-
serving continuity. The evil curator and the Hellenes (i.e. the pagans) who
had conspired to slay Tsar Constantine and his mother Helena are defeated
but the Romans are taken to Constantines city. This indication of the settle-
ment of the Romans in the city tempts us to relate it to the historical fact of
the transference of representatives of the senatorial families to New Rome,
but also to see it as a new beginning for old Rome.
While the new capital is designated by its two namesNew Jerusalem
and Constantinoplethe Empire has only one name: Kingdom of Jerusa-
lem. This is not coincidental, for the change of religion is what justifies the
re-founding of the state. There is no visible mark here of the new construc-
tion, or of the resettlement. However, religion becomes the foundation of a
newunity that is one of the most significant elements and characteristics of
this apocryphal work.
In fact, Christianity and renovation are inseparably united in Constan-
tine, and that is why for the description of the new state and capital the
writer used biblical names and symbols: Jerusalem, Golgotha, etc. The city is
built to be the capital of the Empire, i.e. of the world, but it is such a capital
for the additional reason that it is a holy place. It is called New Jerusalem
because it is made holy by Gods presence similar to the city of the Temple
and of the Passion. This designation, which repeats the name of the holy
city of Hebrews, Christians, and Muslims, is only the outward expression
and strong proof of what is indicated in the story: holiness is the chief and
primary characteristic of the foundation and life of the City as these are pre-
sented in the Tale.
The founding of Constantinople-New Jerusalem was conceived in con-
nection with the translation of the True Cross to this site. Here we may cite
St Constantines thoughts in the Tale on the choice of the site: he says that
if he goes to Golgotha and finds the Cross there, he will return here and
found the New Jerusalem on this site. And so he did. The text relates that
he went, found the Wood of Christs Passion, and returned to found the City
in a deserted place where the town of Byzantion had once stood. Thus,
the tsar ensures the holiness and Divine presence in the place by the True
Cross, whichbecomes the symbol of the locationandsanctifies it, but which
is also a weapon for vanquishing enemies. In this case we see one more allu-
sion to the connection between Moses and Constantine, since the rod of
the former is the forerunner of the cross as weapon of victory of the Chris-
tian ruler, received from God prior to the battle of the Milvian Bridge. We
the renovator king 195
also see here some marks of Davids and Solomons royalty. King David was
the one who transferred the Ark of the Covenant and ensured the Divine
presence in Jerusalem despite all his fears and concerns, and even though
he was not himself granted the honour of building the Temple, the Lords
House (see 2Samuel, ch. 67). It was King Solomon who built the Temple
of God and, as such a builder, he served as a model for Christian rulers, as
shown by Justinians building the Great Church of St Sophia (by which he
even claimed to have surpassed the Old Testament king and prophet), by
the presence of Solomons throne in the palace in Constantinople, and by
the ritual of anointment of Frenchkings, eventhoughthe latter practice was
due to other reasons as well.
Constantines plans, we learn from the Tale, were not limited to building
and settling the City. He explicitly mentioned that the new capital was
conceivedas a resting place of saints andadornment of tsars.
This passage
indicates its purposed functions. A resting place of saints could mean an
accumulation of Divine grace in the capital through the translation of relics
there, a very typical practice of basileis of Constantinople, which followed
the Davidic paradigm, mentioned above, of transferring the Ark of the
Covenant and accumulating grace and holiness in the capital city. The Cross
is a relic of Lord and hence fits in the same tradition as the translation of
relics of saints. Acquiring relics is definitely a royal practice and a ritual of
great importance, both religiously and politically,
especially in the capital
city. That is why the practice was traditionally connected with the most
saintly rulers, foremost, of course, being the first Christian emperor. We find
this confirmed in other texts as well, such as the Vitaof St Johnof Rila, which,
according to Dragans Minaeum copy, dates from the 13th century. In this
narrative the religious zeal of Tsar John I Asen, who translated the relics
of St John from Sofia to Trnovgrade, is compared with the fervour of the
R. Ousterhout, SacredGeographies andHoly Cities: Constantinople as Jerusalem, Iero-
topija. Sozdanie sakralnykh prostranstv v Vizantii i Drevnej Rusi, ed. A. Lidov, Moscow, 2006,
pp. 101102; Ousterhout R., New Temples and New Solomons. Rhetoric of Byzantine Archi-
tecture, The Old Testament in Byzantium, ed. P. Magdalino, R. Nelson, Washington D.C., 2010,
pp. 223251; Dagron, Constantinople imaginaire, pp. 293309; Dagron, Empereur et prtre,
p. 225; J.-P. Bayard, Le sacre des rois, Paris, 1964; Biliarsky, Mutaberis in virumalium, pp. 96ff.
Specifically about King Solomons throne, see: G. Dagron, Trnes pour un empereur, in:
Byzantio. Kratos kai koinonia. Mneme Nikou Oikonomide, Athens, 2003, pp. 185, 188189,
See in this book, p. 18 (f. 402a, lines 2224).
P. Guran, La translation des reliques: un rituel monarchique?, Revue des tudes sud-est
europennes, XXXVI, 14, 1998, pp. 195231.
196 chapter five
ancient rulers St Constantine and St Tsar Peter.
This reference to figures
of unquestionable authority, model rulers, amounts to a reference to royal
saintliness, to the holiness of power, which these two rulers represent and
embody. Later we will mention the relation and link between the two; here
I note the example of St Constantine with respect to sanctifying the City.
In fact, the accumulated holiness is part of Gods presence and the choice
of the name NewJerusalemfor the Imperial City and Kingdomof Jerusalem
for the Empire, directly referred to the biblical models in order to build
their typological image in a Christian environment. Of course, this was
not done through and in the Tale but we could say that this apocryphon
carries reminiscence and traces of the practice of sanctifying the urban
space through relics.
Victorious military commandership, realised only through reliance on
Gods protection, is one of the characteristic features both of Moses as com-
mander (his victory over Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and his victory at the
battle against Amalek) and of Constantines reign (the victory at the Mil-
vian Bridge). The signs of their imminent victoriesMoses Rod and Con-
stantines Crosssigns that are mutually related according to the Christian
interpretation, also unite these two figures. We find traces of this image of
victor through Divine assistance in the characters of Ispor and Constantine
in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Regarding Tsar Constantine, the apocryphon does not relate his military
victories at length, but leaves no doubt there were many. When the angel
told him about the True Cross in the East, Constantine gathered his army,
took his mother, and set off to go East.
This resembles the beginning of a
military campaign, not a pilgrimage. A little further on it is said that, after
building the New Jerusalem and the royal palace, Constantine set off with
his army for the Danube and created there the city of Bdin.
Not a word
is said of battles and victories, but there is an army involved in the story,
and again the impression is that of an emperor leading a military campaign.
As for Divine intervention, we find evidence of this in the story that God
vanquished his enemies with an invisible stick, and they became invisible.
This seems like a fairy-tale plot, yet it is the story of a miracle performed in
support of the pious Christian ruler.
u u:,:su:sx ,,:suuuz ,:uz, ,:s+ a: s:xus:uq K::+xu+uuq , u H:+,s ,it
should be noted that neither of the two are referred to as saints. See Ivanov, Zhitija na sv.
Ivana Rilski, p. 58.
See in this book, p. 18 (f. 402a, lines 911).
See in this book, p. 19 (f. 402b, lines 2730).
the renovator king 197
Regarding Tsar Ispor, Gods victory-bearing protection over him can be
found in the passage mentioning the tsars battles with the Ishmaelites. In
this account, the tsar is the positive character, the hero, and the Ishmaelites
are his adversaries. The question is how this passage can be related to the
image of Moses as supreme military commander of his people. I do not
believe we should make vain efforts to build improbable hypotheses: there
is no reference to Moses here. The story does not point to Moses any more
clearly than to any other military commandership. Moreover, Ispors death
in the last battle does not support such a connection, although it does not
exclude it either. The only connection, however uncertain, might lay in the
identity of the adversaries mentioned here, called Ishmaelites. What does
the image of this people mean: a reference to some Eastern nations or the
simple personification of the Chosen Peoples adversaries? Of course, these
two possible answers are not mutually exclusive.
If we assume the first variant, that they were a specific Eastern nation,
this would imply we agree with the historical reading of the source, a
method that I argued against at the beginning of the book. Of course, I do
not want to exclude any historical basis whatever to the related events. The
semiotic and symbolic imagery that I am trying to trace here not only does
not exclude, but also even implies some underlying actual event that was
perceived in the framework of a certain prevailing code system. Therefore,
I should say I do not exclude some partial historical basis, but I also do not
believe the historical aspect is the main message of the text. The mention
of Ishmaeliteseven if it does have underlying it an actual clash that took
place withthe Khazars or some other people of the Steppe, couldexpectedly
be a sign of something more important. In order to find out what, we should
discuss the designation itself of Ishmaelites.
The term is familiar and it is known that these were the descendents of
Ishmael, son of Abraham and of the Egyptian Hagar, Sarahs handmaiden,
of whom the Book of Genesis relates (Genesis, ch. 16).
Several aspects of
this story should be emphasised. Hagar is presented in a rather problematic
way: she behaves badly towards her mistress who sent her into the arms
of her own husband; Sarah is certainly the more important figure, as it is
she, and not Hagar, who will become the mother of the Chosen People.
It is also important to point out that the birth of Ishmael is presented
according to the traditional model of miraculous birth of a son after years of
The similar designationof Hagarians is alsoderivedfromher name. It was widely used
to designate the Islamic conquerors, thought of precisely as enemies of the Chosen People,
of the New Israel.
198 chapter five
expectation and when the parents are extremely old: Abraham is eighty-six
at the time (Genesis, 16:16). Inthis we coulddiscernDivine intervention, and
God certainly does intervene, as confirmed by the story of Hagars meeting
an angel, when she is fleeing from Sarahs harsh treatment; this angel is
God Himself (Genesis, 16:713), whom she calls Thou God seest me. In
this way, she becomes one of those who have spoken with God, a privilege
granted to very fewcharacters inthe Bible. God foretells she will have a large
posterity from Ishmael, although He gives the latter some very ambiguous
qualifications. A special attitude to Abrahams first son is expressed also by
Gods answer to the fathers prayer, where He says Ishmael will be blessed,
made fruitful and multiplied exceedingly, that he shall beget twelve princes,
and a great nation shall issue fromhim; yet the Covenant will be established
with Isaac (Genesis, 17:2021).
There is a clear and categorical emphasis on Ishmael in the Bible. Yet
the evaluation of him is not quite simple: he is blessed but not chosen; he
is a son of Abraham and circumcised on the same day as his father but is
expelled into the desert; his offspring multiplies to form a large people but
is not called by the name of Abraham and is not part of Gods People. The
image of Ishmael, andhence of the Ishmaelites, is of the nature of ones own
strangers. They are more or less presented as very different fromthe Chosen
People, and in the course of history this name, like the name Hagarians
(which is practically the same, based on Hagar), came to designate the
Arabs, the Muslims, people different fromthe Hebrews and ultimately foes.
This is howthe mentionof the name inthe Tale shouldbe interpretedTsar
Ispor wars with the adversaries of the Chosen People (the New Israel), slays
many of them, but dies at their hand in a battle by the Danube. In the
military valour displayed here by Ispor we cannot see the exact Mosaic
model of the vanquisher of enemies, but we do see the characteristic of a
military commander of the Chosen People in war against a different people.
The connection of Bulgaria with this Mosaic paradigm finds room in the
Tale mostly by the account of the special relations betweenTsar Constantine
and Tsar Peter, but also by the obvious unity of Bulgarians and Romans,
and of their two kingdoms. First, it should be pointed out that, according
to the Tale, Tsar Constantine was born in the time of Tsar Peter (
Peters was a blessed reign, and the ruler was
See in this book, p. 17 (f. 401d, lines 2733).
the renovator king 199
without sin and without a wife, and by the grace of God there was plenty
of all goods and no destitution.
This is the environment in which God
decides the miraculous birth of Constantine should take place. There is also
a strong personal bond between the two saintly tsars, for it is said: Tsar
Constantine and Tsar Peter loved one another.
Some time ago, I pointed
out the parallels between the two characters, at least in this text.
At that
time, I may have been somewhat hasty in declaring the cult of St Tsar Peter
was a cult of St Constantine; this judgement was partially corrected in an
article we wrote jointly with Maria Yovcheva.
Nevertheless, we have all
reason to assert thatat least in the Talethe two tsars form a couple
showing typological unity in the interpretation of the Kingdom and of the
power of the ruler. Here I will not deal with all the possible questions that
such an interpretation might give rise to, but I cannot fail to mention one
issue that I feel is the most important. St Constantine posits a paradigm for
the identity of rule in the Empire: this is the ideal Christian ruler not due
to any personal qualities of his but because he strictly obeys Gods will and
fulfils Gods plan for his peoples salvation. His personal qualities only aid
him in better performing his mission. That is precisely why Paul Magdalino
relates the reproducing of the image of the first Christian emperor to the
rhythm of imperial renovation in the Eastern Roman Empire. A similar
relation exists with respect to St Tsar Peter, though not shown in the Tale.
I already mentioned the frequent occurrence of the name of Constantine
(and even New Constantine) among basileis in critical times for the Byzan-
tine Empire. The same canbe noticedfor the name of Tsar Peter during what
was the most critical age (not counting the Ottoman conquest) of the Bul-
garian Middle Ages, the 11th and 12th centuries, a time of conquest of the
Bulgarian state and of movements to restore it. This is the last age for which
there are comparatively sure data reflected in the text of the Tale, which
gives some scholars reason to date the apocryphon fromthat time. If so, the
See in this book, p. 17 (f. 401d, lines 1526).
See in this book, p. 17, 18 (f. 401d, line 19, f. 402a, lines 78). Tsar Peters saintliness is
explicitly indicated in the source.
Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto, pp. 3032.
Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarstvoto, pp. 3334; Iv. Biliarsky, M. Yovcheva, Za datata na
uspenieto na tsar Peter i za kulta km nego, Tangra. Sbornik v chest na 70-godishninata na
akad. Vasil Gjuzelev, Sofia, 2006, pp. 552555. The strongly expressed monastic nature of the
cult of St Tsar Peter shown by analysis of divine service for his veneration, actually confirms
some features of the paradigmof ruler devoted to God, a paradigmfamiliar fromother works
as well. In Serbia, we find it in the image of St Symeon/Stephen Nemanja; in Bulgaria, in that
of Tsar Peter. See also: Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosrednovekovka Bulgaria, pp. 182ff.
200 chapter five
events of that time are of essential importance for this study. That is why I
will emphasise once again the use of the name Peterwhich implies also
the use of St Tsar Peters image, example, modelby practically all leaders
of movements aimed at restoring the Bulgarianstate.
The first to use it was
Peter Delyan, sonof Tsar Gabriel Radomir and grandsonof Tsar Samuel.
ad1040, he headed the rebellion in the western Balkans, aiming at Renova-
tio Imperii. Apart from the military and political intricacies of the uprising,
what is important for our topic is that the leader of the revolt declared him-
self tsar under the name of Peter. He was not assuming a dynastic name, for
he was of the Cometopouloi family. This was exactly a reference to a saintly
tsar who had been a model Bulgarian Christian ruler ever since the time of
the former dynasty that had reigned in Preslav. After Peter Delyan, the Ser-
bian prince Constantine Bodin similarly took this name when in ad1072 he
was declared tsar of the Bulgarians under the name Peter.
Evidently, this
was again a desire to invoke the existing and evidently universally acknowl-
edgedparadigmof a ruler inthe personof Tsar Peter. Constantine Bodinwas
also related to the Cometopouloi, and not to KhanKrums dynasty inPreslav
(to which St Tsar Peter belonged), but, again, the name was not assumed as
dynastic but as a religious-political model. We thus come to the last case,
when the Bulgarian Empire was, this time, successfully restored by the Asen
brothersTheodore andBelgun.
Coming topower, they adoptedthe royal
names Peter andJohn.
It was precisely the taking of the throne by the elder
brother and his adoption of the name of Peter that acquired the meaning of
a Renovation(or Restoration) of the Empire associated withthe name of the
Thus, we see that the attempts to restore and re-found the state
in Bulgaria during the 11th century, which we could call rhythm of Bulgar-
ian imperial renovation are connected to the idea of the heavenly patron of
state rule and to that ages model of a Bulgarian pious tsar, Peter.
As noted, I have already discussed this problemsee: Biliarsky, Pokroviteli na Tsarst-
voto, pp. 3436.
V.N. Zlatarski, Istorija na bulgarskata drzhava prez srednite vekove, t. , Sofia, 1934,
pp. 44ff.; Istorija na Bulgaria, t. , Sofia, 1999, pp. 396400.
Zlatarski, Istorija, , pp. 141142; Istorija na Bulgaria, t. , Sofia, 1999, pp. 403405.
Bozhilov, Asenevtsi: Renovatio imperii Bulgarorum et Graecorum, pp. 131217; Istorija
na Bulgaria, t. , Sofia, 1999, pp. 421 ff.
Iv. Bozhilov, A. Totomanova, Iv. Biliarsky, Borilov Sinodik. Izdanie i prevod, Sofia, 2010,
pp. 150151, 311; M. Popruzhenko, SinodiktsarjaBorila, Sofia, 1928(=Bulgarski starini, vol. VIII),
p. 77.
Nicetae Choniatae Historia, rec. J.A. van Dieten, Berolini et Novi Eboraci, 1975, pp.
371 ff.; Iv. Bozhilov, FamilijatanaAsenevtsi (11861460). Genealogijai prosopografija, Sofia, 1985,
No I/12; Istorija na Bulgaria, t. , Sofia, 1999, pp. 425429.
the renovator king 201
In relation to the joint presentation of St Constantine and St Tsar Peter,
it is also worth noting the passage about Tsar Peters death in Rome, which
befell while Tsar Constantine was at Golgotha (the Craniums Place). Here
is the segment of the text:
m ,
m w
A text similar in meaning is cited in the printed book xsxu+u: u:+,:cu
(Razlichni potrebi, Book for Various Occasions) published by Jacob Kraykov
in Venice in 1572. It is explicitly stated there that the publisher had found
the source that his publication was based on, among the books of Peter,
the Bulgarian tsar, whose capital city was Greater Preslav and who died in
Greater Rome (:zu uss:,s wc,+:s, xs Ixs:ss sz suurxs H:+,x ,x
cxsrx,:sxr: ua: cu: +:u:y ux:+:xuu r,x,s s:xusu H,:xxsz u :yu,+s
ss sxusu uus ).
The unanimous opinion of scholars is that the infor-
mation about the death of Tsar Peter in Rome is legendary. It contradicts
all other sources of information and is not confirmed by any other testi-
monies; it is also inconsistent with the logic of events.
The fact that Peter
became a monk in the Bulgarian capital city shortly before his death would
preclude such a development. Yet we should pose the question what this
passage in the Tale means and whether it has any connection with the
quote from the Venetian edition. If the answer to the latter question is pos-
itive, then we may ask how the text from the apocryphon became known
to Jacob Kraykov. The latest and most thorough study of these texts has
been conducted by M. Tsibranska and is included in her book on the Cyril-
lic palaeotypia. The study is situated in the context of an integral study of
the historical value of xsxu+u: u:+,:cu (Book for Various Occasions) and
a panorama of cultural life in the western Bulgarian lands, presented in
connection with book printing in Venice.
We learn of a third mention of
Tsar Peters dying inRome, foundinthe manuscript Euchologiumpossessed
by Botyo Petkov, teacher in Kalofer, a book mentioned by Petko R. Slave-
jkov to Nikolay Palauzov. The text was placed together with a Paschal Table
ascribedtoTsar Peter.
According tostudies andassessments of this piece of
See in this book, p. 18 (f. 402a, lines 2632).
Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, p. 386; Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata pale-
otipia, p. 33.
Biliarsky, Yovcheva, Za datata na uspenieto na tsar Peter i za kulta km nego, p. 545.
Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata paleotipia, pp. 3359 (especially pp. 5659).
Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata paleotipia, pp. 5859.
202 chapter five
information, these two factsthe Paschal table and the information
resulted from the influence of Jacob Kraykovs book upon later texts and
specifically uponthe unknownEuchologiumbelonging tothe teacher Botyo
Petkov. But this does not directly answer the question about the connection
between the information in the Tale and that in Book for Various Occasions.
I would like to propose for discussion an idea that is hard to prove but, in my
opinion, worth discussing. Practically all authors who have written on this
matter are inclined to see some influence of the Tale upon Jacob Kraykovs
printed book. Nevertheless, we know that this apocryphon has reached us
only in a manuscript copy from the 17th century, while the printed book in
question dates from 1572, i.e. it is older by several decades. Jacob Kraykovs
books were disseminated in Macedonia and Kraishte, where the Kichevo
manuscript originated, or at least was kept. Inasmuch as I consider the text
of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah to be a compilation and believe it was not fully
completed in the 11th century, I would propose for discussion whether the
printed book might not have influenced the later manuscript copy. In an
article about a completely different text, Janja Jerkov Capaldo points out
the influence of this very same printed book, Jacob Kraykovs Book for Vari-
ous Occasions, upon the manuscript tradition of an apocryphon based upon
this printed work.
Though this cannot be considered proof of influence
in the case of the work we are considering, it does show a similar pattern.
Such an influence is chronologically possible; geographically it is also quite
conceivable. We should note as well that the statement that Tsar Peter died
in Rome is not in itself organically connected to the rest of the account, so
it could be an interpolation by the copyist, thought this cannot be proved.
Still, such an explanation could set things in a very different situation. Jacob
Kraykov could have invented the story or have adopted it from elsewhere
in order to establish a connection between Bulgaria and the Italian lands,
a tendency that is present in his books, even in the lexical aspect, as well
demonstrated in M. Tsibranskas study.
Jerkov Capaldo, Un apocrifo sulla Dormizione in un libro slavo pubblicato a Venezia
nel 1572, p. 28.
I would like to note a proposed explanation of the presence of Tsar Peter in Jacob
Kraykovs book. Janja Jerkov Capaldo suggests that the mention of the Bulgarian ruler is
connected to the veneration of St Peter of Athos, who is strongly present in the hagioritic
tradition, especially in the apocryphon about the Dormition of Our Lady and the Holy
Mountain as her earthly haven, her Garden (Jerkov Capaldo, Un apocrifo sulla Dormizione
in un libro slavo pubblicato a Venezia nel 1572, pp. 35ff.). The idea is interesting but I
would like to stress the fact that M. Tsibranska (Tsibranska, Etudi vrkhu kirilskata paleotipia,
pp. 4647) first indicated it. Janja Jerkov Capaldo is familiar with her book and cites it, but,
the renovator king 203
Worth mentioning here is the strange assertion of Alexander Ivanovich
Sobolevski that Tsar Peter died as a monk in some monastery in Con-
the source of this statement is not clear, but is typologically
similar to the statement about this ruler dying in Rome. After all, Con-
stantinople was the New Rome. This claim is not confirmed in any other
source, but it would be just as incorrect to deny its ideological meaning as
to take it as a pure historical testimony about the place of the Tsar Peters
death. The indicating of Rome, or, for that matter, of Constantinople, is part
of the imperial paradigm and, in my opinion, is closely related to the joint
presentation of St Tsar Peter and St Constantine in our apocryphon. If this
was a later interpolation, it is situated in the context of a work in which
the two rulers jointly represent a Mosaic-Constantinian model of rule. This
is an additional testimony of their parallel presentation, in which, at least
in the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, they ultimately embody the same
royal/imperial paradigm of a pious and God-loving renovator tsar.
To summarise the contents of this chapter, we may draw several con-
clusions. The more general of them is that the already stated unity of the
Bulgarian and Byzantine traditions as a persistent and prevalent trend in
the Tale has been confirmed once again. There is no element at all of oppo-
sition between the two, nor any enmity between the two sides; the rulers of
the two countries, who are models to be followed, are presented together
and united in the message conveyed by this text.
In this chapter a specific model for a ruler has been traced, which we
have called the image of the renovator king, and which is expressed in the
persons of various rulers within Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Its embodiment
in the Empire was St Constantine the Great, who was remembered ever
since Late Antiquity according to the model established by Eusebius of
Caesareathat of the New Moses. This model is found in the Tale and we
may say that it is relatively better represented there than the King Davids
model of a ruler chosen by God and obedient to Him. In our apocryphon,
the ruler model is embodied chiefly in Tsar Constantine and by the joint
presentation of Constantine and Tsar Peter, but also in Tsar Ispor. We also
find elements of this image in the persons of other rulers or popular leaders
mentioned in the text. Through the renovation, a standard Christian theme,
the Tale presents one of the basic models of constructing the identity of
society and state. This was one of the basic tasks and objectives of the text
unfortunately, not in respect to this proposed hypothesis.
A.I. Sobolevskij, Drevnjaja tserkovno-slavjanskaja literature i eja znachenie, p. 16 quoted
by Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, p. 386.
204 chapter five
and these images are among the major ones in it. All this is situated entirely
within the biblical-Gospel tradition, and I do not think there is place left for
significant folkloric or pagan remnants.
chapter six
In this chapter I have examined, each separately, those of the characters
mentioned in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah whose historical identification is
somewhat problematic. Most of them have been discussed in 19th and 20th
century historiography, and various sorts of solutions to their identity have
been proposed, some of which were dictated by the demands of the times
in which the scholars worked. I have tried to make an overview of previous
theories and to confirm them or propose my own interpretations.
I would like to stress explicitly that not all characters in the Tale are
included in this chapter. The ones missing here are those whose identities
are not in any doubt, and thus discussing them seems needless. Such cases
are the characters Khan Boris-Michael I and his son Tsar Symeon. The
case of St Tsar Peter also seems undisputable; but with him, we notice an
incipient political ideology being developed, which I have touched upon at
its respective place. Similarly, a special discussion in this study is devoted
to the legendary tsars Ispor and Izot and to the characters connected with
them, appearing in their sections of the source. I amreferring especially to
Goliath the Frank and to Tsar Ozia, as well as to some others. They are not
presented in this chapter and I would refer the reader to those other parts
of this book.
The characters discussed below are arranged in alphabetical order, not
chronologically or in the order in which they are mentioned in the source.
In many cases, the solution I propose is not to identify a real historical
personality from the mediaeval history of Southeast Europe or the Orient,
but to seek a constructed ideological character borrowed from the biblical
or some other tradition, and displaying a certain emphasis in its underlying
ideological paradigm. In the context of the Tale, such a character could have
an even greater historical significance than the mention of a real Bulgarian
206 chapter six
Tsar Arev is presentedquite briefly inTale of the Prophet Isaiah. We readthat,
after Gagan Odelean, another tsar, named Arev, came out of Constantine-
grade, sat on the throne of Constantine, reigned for seven years, and then
died (
, ).
on the text usually note that this person has not so far been identified. The
reason for this is not only the unclear name, but also the fact that attempts
at identification have been limited to the framework of Bulgarian history
Further below I will suggest some ideas that come to our attention
from the very name in question, and which might orient our search in an
interesting direction.
What little information the Tale gives us about this figure is not clear: a
certain Tsar Arev, unfamiliar to us, came out of Constantinople and reigned
for seven years.
There is no need to over-interpret the expression came
out of Constantine-grade. The citation indicates neither the origin of this
person nor any specific time when his rule began. We should understand
when connecting it with the following statement that he sat on the throne
of Tsar Constantine. The latter passage must not be understood exclusively
as referring to a Byzantine basileus. In the source, the Empire is designated
in all sorts of ways, but is always connected with the emperor Constantine.
Inthe Tale of the Prophet Isaiahthe rulers of the Empire are soconnectedand
interwoven with the Bulgarian tsars mentioned, that the two groups should
not be strictly distinguished from, even less opposed to, one another.
Therefore, underlying this Tsar Arev, we may equally see the image of
some Bulgarian tsara reminiscence of a real one or of some royal para-
digmsand that of some Roman emperor, likewise a real historical figure
or an ideological image. It is obvious that throughout the text of the apoc-
ryphon, the Christian rulers (both Bulgarian and Byzantine) form a single
whole, with a single tradition and a single message conveyed. Hence, we
See in this book, p. 21 (f. 402d, lines 2731).
Dujev Iv., Iz starata bulgarska knizhnina, t. I, p. 240; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova,
Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 300, note 44. Actually, I have already proposed a new
identification, which I confirm here: Iv. Biliarsky, Tsar Arev (belezhki vrkhu bulgarskata
apokrifna letopis ot XI vek), Srednovekovieto v ogledaloto na edin filolog, Kirilo-Methodievski
studii, vol. 18, 2009, pp. 441447.
The number 7 is very rich in meanings in the Bible, but I do not think we should over-
interpret those meanings in this casesee: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen
Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 479ff.
kings and their names 207
may say that the text itself does not offer much possibility for drawing con-
clusions about the character of this Tsar Arev. In fact, the most important
information is that provided by the name itself, which we will discuss in
It would not be a novel assertion to say that we should study the source
in the context of Near Eastern literature. I already noted that the work is
very reminiscent of biblical prophetic literature. However, inthe case of Tsar
Arev I will refer not to the Hebrew biblical tradition but to the legacy of the
Christian Arabs. His name, as it figures in the Tale, is evidently similar to
the Arabic name Areph (Hrith), which was very familiar in the Empire in
its Hellenised formArethas (). The name was typical for Byzantines
of Christian Arabic origin who had found refuge in the Roman/Byzantine
Empire after the Islamic conquest of the Near East.
The Arabic presence inthe EasternRomanprovinces was very strong ever
since Late Antiquity. We find it both in politics and in religious life. In the
battle of Yarmouk in ad636 the Muslim Arabs vanquished the Byzantine
army. InArab polities, suchas the Ghassanides, one of the most loyal Roman
allies in the Near East, embraced Christianity and interacted closely with
the Romans. After the empire lost practically all of its Asiatic domains out-
side Anatolia to the Islamic Arabs in the last years of Emperor Heraclius
reign, the Christians in the Near East found themselves in a new situation.
They were now under the rule of a conqueror espousing a different reli-
gion. The Christian Arab princes, who until then had been at the service of
the Romans and for whom their religious affiliation was more important in
many respects thantheir ethnic similarity to the conquerors, found their sit-
uation insecure. Despite their enmity towards the conqueror, some of them
remained under the power of the Muslims, while others gave prevalence to
their religious kinship with the Christian Empire, crossed the Taurus Moun-
tains, and settled in Asia Minor under the leadership of Jabalah, the last
semi-independent prince of the Ghassanide dynasty.
We have little infor-
mation about the fate of the family after that time, but there is reason to
assert that inthe early 9thcentury it gave the first andonly Arabic dynasty of
Byzantine basileis. This dynasty is associated with the name of Nicephorus I
Genikos, whose Arabic origin from the Ghassanides is confirmed by several
sources, especially the history of al-Tabari, who mentions that Nicephorus
belonged to the family in question, the founder of which was thought to be
Concerning the history of this family, especially under Byzantine power after the Arabic
invasion, see: Irf. Shahd, Ghassan post Ghassan, The Islamic World fromClassical to Modern
Times. Essays in Honour of Bernard Lewis, Princeton, 1989, pp. 324ff.
208 chapter six
The Arabic origin of Nicephorus is also mentioned by Michael the
and in other sources. We thus find that we have the names of three
basileis of Arabic origin (Nicephorus, his son Stauracius, and his son-in-law
Michael I, who was also called Rangabe, a name of Arabic origin) and of one
patriarch: St Ignatius, son of Michael Rangabe. All of them had close con-
nections, though in different ways, with Bulgarian history. This connection
spans in history from Nicephorus I, who met his death in Bulgaria at the
hands of the Bulgarian army of Khan Krum, who drank wine fromthe fallen
Nicephorus skull to celebrate his victory, to Nicephorus grandson Patriarch
Ignatius, during whose pontificate the Bulgarians were converted to Chris-
Thus, there was a strong presence of Christian Arabs in the history of the
Byzantine Empire precisely during the period with which we are dealing.
We may also point out the great figure of Arethas of Caesarea, one of the
writers who represent the first Byzantine renaissance.
He is particularly
important for this study, because of his name. The Christian Arabs who
found refuge in the Empire did not quickly blend in with the population
andlong preservedtheir identity, remaining simultaneously ChristianArabs
and Byzantines. This included preserving their traditions, language, and
also their system of names. Arethas and Gabalas are the most typical
HellenisedChristianArabic names, andhistory does not knowof any person
in the Empire to have carried that name without having at least a remote
Arab origin.
The name is typical for the representatives of the early Ghassanides, of
whom we know two people that had it. One was a phylarch of Kinda and
ally of the Romans; he lived in the late 5th and early 6th century.
The History of al-Tabari, vol. XXX, The Abbasid Caliphate in Equilibrium, Trans. et annot.
by C.E. Bosworth, Published by State University of New York, Albany, 1985, pp. 239240;
E.W. Brooks, Byzantines and Arabs in the Time of Early Abbasids, English Historical Review,
XV (1910), p. 743; Shahd, Ghassan post Ghassan, pp. 325ff. and p. 334 note 7.
Michel le Syrien, Chronique, ed. J.B. Chabot, vol. III, Paris 1924, p. 15.
P. Lemerle, Le premier humanisme byzantin: notes et remarques sur enseignement et cul-
ture Byzance des origines au Xe sicle, Paris, 1971, pp. 205241; Irf. Shahd, Islam and Byzan-
tium in the IXth Century: the BaghdadConstantinople Dialog, Cultural Contacts in Build-
ing aUniversal Civilisation: Islamic Contributions, ed. E. hsanolu, Istanbul, 2005, pp. 150153;
Enkyklopaidiko prosopographiko lexiko byzantinis istorias kai politismou (= EPLBIP), t. III,
Athens, 1998, pp. 153156 (and the cited literature).
Shahd, Islam and Byzantium in the IXth Century: the BaghdadConstantinople
Dialog, r. 151.
I. Shad, Byzantium and Arabs in the 6th Century, Washington, 1995, pp. 724725; idem,
Byzantium and Kinda, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 59 (1960), S. 5773; EPLBIP, t. G, p. 152.
kings and their names 209
ruler with the name Arethas was even more famous: he was a loyal ally
of Justinian I and was awarded the title of patrician by this emperor; he
died in ad569.
The name Arethas was well-known in Bulgaria because it
belonged to the leader of the Arab Christian martyrs who suffered for their
faith in the sixth century in the city of Najran in southern Arabia and were
commemorated in the Acta S. Arethae.
Nevertheless, I would like to drawattention to an interesting problem. St
Arethas was well knowninBulgaria ever since the time of the First Bulgarian
and, as one would suspect, his cult arrived via the Byzantine
Empire. Understandably, the name was present in its Greek form (,:+x or
,::x), not in its Arab original. Then howcan we explain the appearance in
the 11thcentury Tale of the same name ina formsoclose tothe Arabic one? A
precise answer couldhardly be given. The only way toknowwouldbe tohave
access to some tradition not influenced by the Hellenised formof the name.
Such a tradition could be either the Arabic one itself, or some Greek text
that directly sprang fromthe Arabic tradition and was not influenced by the
familiar Byzantine formof the name. In the present state of our knowledge,
there can be no convincing and indisputable proof.
These observations have another and more important significance for
us. They demonstrate once more the close connection of the text, or of the
source from which it was compiled, with the Near Eastern tradition. This
connectionis confirmed by the general nature of the apocryphonandhence
provides a useful context for studying the details, such as the name of Tsar
Thus, we have reasons to propose that the name of Tsar Arev from the
Tale should be identified with the Arab name Areph (Hrith)/Arethas, but
I. Kawar, The Patriciate of Arethas, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 52 (1959), pp. 321343;
Shahd, Byzantium and Arabs in the 6th Century, pp. 744ff., 757ff.; Prosopography of the Later
RomanEmpire, J.R. Martindale, vol. III ad527641 (IIIA), Cambridge, 1992, pp. 111113; EPLBIP,
t. G, pp. 152153.
I. Shahd, The Martyrs of Najran. New Documents, Brussels, 1971; I. Shahd, Byzantium
in South Arabia, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 33 (1979), 2394; G.L. Huxley, On the Greek
Martyrium of the Negranites, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 8 (1980), pp. 4155.
Regarding the veneration of St Arethas and his companions, two interesting stud-
ies were published recently: D.P. Atanasova, Mchenieto na sv. Areta i christijanskite mu
smishlenitsi v slvjanskite staroizvodni cheti-minei,in: :+z s+:uusz ux,z s+u+:x:us
:s:uus. Sbornik v chest na prof. dfn Ivan Dobrev, chlen-korespondent na BAN i Uchitel, Sofia,
2005, pp. 566578; D.P. Atanasova, Mchenieto na sv. Areta i christijanite s nego v juzh-
noslavjanskite staroizvodni cheti-minei. Izdanie na teksta po rkopis 1039 ot Narodnata
biblioteka Sv. sv. Kiril i Methodi,in: Bibliotekataminalo i nastojashte. Jubileen sbornik,
posveten na 125-godishninata na Narodnata biblioteka Sv. sv. Kiril i Methodi, Sofia, 2005,
pp. 275297.
210 chapter six
the evidence is not conclusive. We have no other choice, except simply to
continue noting it as unclear and unidentified. Therefore, we should not
strain the sources, not try at all costs to find a historical person from whom
our Tsar Arev should have originated.
We could say that the identification of Tsar Basil presents no problems;
nearly all scholars who have written on this matter are unanimous that
the Tsar Basil in the Tale should be identified with the basileus Basil II
The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah tells us that Tsar Basil was
of a different family, but the crown of Constantine fell to him and he took
over the kingdom, and, being a courageous man, he destroyed many enemy
lands and pagannations. There was plenty of good for the people in the days
of Tsar Basil, who reigned for thirty years
without wife and without sin, and
his reign was blessed.
While I agree with associating Tsar Basil with the historical Emperor
Basil II, unlike some other researchers I will not be tempted to see in the
Tales description of this Basil destroying enemy lands and pagan nations
some reference to the conquest of Bulgaria by the historical Basil II. Of
course, the mention could have expressed a remote memory of this event,
but Basil II conquered many peoples, including non-Christian peoples, and
had major successes against the Muslims, who were often described as
pagans. The same caution should apply to the mention of his sinless life.
Tsar Basil is presented here according to the prototype of the most pious
rulers figuring in the apocryphon, i.e. Khan Boris-Michael I, the Baptiser of
Bulgaria, and St Tsar Peter. The ascetic style of life of the historical Emperor
Basil II was well known and amply presented in the sources,
and in fact he
Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za Asparukha, p. 129; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata
srednovekovnaistoriopis, pp. 130131; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical andApocalyptic
Literature, p. 299 note 38. About this emperor, see: Iv. Bozhilov, Iv. Biliarsky, Chr. Dimitrov,
I. Iliev, Vizantijskite vasilevsi, pp. 263270. Obviously the term Boulgaroktonos is not cited
in the text. It is to be noted that it appeared some centuries later, after the time of the reign
of BasilP. Stephenson, The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, Cambridge, 2003, passim and
pp. 66ff.
About the number 30: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutun-
gen, col. 692702.
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 1928).
M. Arbagi, The celibacy of Basil II, Byzantine Studies/Etudes byzantines, 2, 1975, pp. 41
45; Stephenson, The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, pp. 6162.
kings and their names 211
really never married, but the indication that he lived without a woman and
without sin didnot come fromany historical knowledge but is a way, typical
in the Tale, of constructing the image of a righteous and pious ruler. For
example, Tsar Boris and Tsar Peter in the Tale are both also said to have lived
without sin and without a wife (though the historical Boris-Michael and
Peter did marry). The idea of living without sin and without a wife is simply
a topos, shorthand in fact for indicating a ruler was pious and good. This
could equally be said regarding the courageousness of Tsar Basil. Emperor
Basil II is remembered for being courageous and resolute; but the reason
these qualities were mentioned in the Tale was to present him as an ideal
The general description of Tsar Basils reign recalls the paradigm that
explicitly connects Tsar Basil to Constantine the Great, the pious andChrist-
loving Tsar, whose crown fell to Basil. The will of God is evident in the fact
that the crown came to him, and the fact that Tsar Constantine is ascribed
these qualities certainly carries the qualities onto Basil as well. He is a righ-
teous and certainly God-pleasing ruler, for his reign is blessed, he lives sin-
less, and there is much good for the people.
As I noted above, the character of Tsar Basil is based on a reminiscence of
Basil II. We are presenteda conceptionof a ruler, andof the qualities he must
possess (chiefly qualities related to religion and faith), and of the benefi-
cent results of imitating this God-loving exemplar. Interestingly Basil II, the
famous Bulgar-slayer (Boulgaroktonos) is presented here as a Bulgarian
Should this surprise us? I do not think so. A great deal of literature
has accumulated on the topic of the events in Bulgaria in the late 10th to
early 11th century, but the most subtle observations are those of Iv. Bozhilov,
S.A. Ivanov, D.I. Polyvjannyj, and Paul Stephenson in his commentary and
interpretation of the policy of the victorious basileus.
The country was
It is worth noting that his nickname, which indicates victory over the Bulgarians and
hence the opposition between Bulgarians and Byzantines, was not created in the time
of Basil II himself, nor did it express any hostility towards the Bulgarians, which is also
confirmed by Tale of the Prophet IsaiahP. Stephenson, Basil II Boulgaroktonos: the origins
of a legend, Byzantiumand the Bulgarians (10181185), ed. K. Nikolaou, K. Tsiknakis, Institute
for Byzantine Research, International Symposium, 18, Athens, 2008, pp. 3949; P. Stephenson,
The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, Cambridge, CUP, 2003.
Bozhilov in Istorija na Bulgarija, t. I, 1999, pp. 341343; Bozhilov, Vizantijskijat svjat,
pp. 389ff.; Ivanov, Bolgarskaja apokrificheskaja letopis kak pamjatnik etnicheskogo samo-
soznanija bolgar, p. 74; Polyvjannyj, Kulturnoe svoeobrazie srednevekovoj Bolgarii, pp. 9597,
120121; P. Stephenson, Byzantiums Balkan Frontier. APolitical Study on the Northern Balkans,
900204, Cambridge, 2004, pp. 6279; P. Stephenson, The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer,
212 chapter six
conquered and the First Bulgarian Empire destroyed, and the Romans, after
long efforts, succeeded in building a culturally and now politically united
Byzantine Commonwealth, a world that, as of that time, became a synthe-
sis between the Greek-speaking culture of Constantinople and that of the
Slavs. In a certain sense, Basil II assumed the legacy of the Bulgarian state
and created a Byzantine-Bulgarian Empire, as clearly indicated in the char-
ters of the basileus for the Archbishopric of Ochrid; these documents refer
to the union of the Empire and Bulgaria under a common yoke, and with-
out violating the boundaries and decrees of those who reigned previous
to us.
Bulgaria was integrated administratively, economically, and politi-
cally, in a way that preserved the previous fiscal system, and through inter-
marriage with the Bulgarian aristocracy. The model that Tsar Symeon had
envisaged was now achieved, though by means of a Byzantine conquest
of Bulgaria instead of the Bulgarian capture of Constantinople as Symeon
had hoped. Thus, the Byzantine emperors, beginning with Basil II, became
the rulers of the Bulgarians as well. As a confirmation of this, I would cite
some of the conclusions of Iv. Bozhilov, according to whom Basil II was
not simply a conqueror and destroyer, but also a manager (the expres-
sion is Bozhilovs), and he sought the means to draw the Bulgarians into
the Empire; his basic goal was not conflict but the creation of a commu-
Thus, the basileus is presented as a unifier of Bulgarians, as their true
tsar, to whom, in the words of the Tale, the wreath of Tsar Constantine has
Regarding Tsar Basil there is one other circumstance that we should
consider: the fact that the brothers Moses, Aaron and Samuel appear in the
text. There is anobvious difference inthe way these are presentedcompared
with most of the other mentioned kings. They are to be found (in other
words, they appear in political-historical reality) in the days of Tsar Basil.
There is simultaneity of rulers here, not succession. The only other similar
case in the Tale is that of Tsar Peter and Tsar Constantine. The reign of Tsar
Basil is not defined in the text, but it is obviously a typological continuation
of that of Constantine, while that of the Cometopouloi, inherited after them
Cambridge, 2003; Iv. Bozhilov, Bulgarskata archiepiskopija XIXII vek. Spiskt na bulgarskite
archiepiskopi, Sofia, 2011, pp. 59ff.
J. Ivanov, Bulgarski starini izMakedonia, pp. 550, 556. Polyvjannyj, Kulturnoe svoeobrazie
srednevekovoj Bolgarii, pp. 9597; Stephenson, Byzantiums Balkan Frontier, pp. 7779. The
most extensive and in-depth commentary on this text has recently been made by Bozhilov,
Bulgarskata archiepiskopija XIXII vek, pp. 5962.
Bozhilov, Bulgarskata archiepiskopija XIXII vek, pp. 6970.
kings and their names 213
by Augustian, is indicated as being a Bulgarian and Greek reign. This
joining of the two nationalities points to a memory of the conflict, which
is not mentioned and not particularly important for the author. Mentioning
it was more probably consciously avoided. Here, as throughout the whole
text, Bulgaria and the Empire are not placed in opposition, but presented as
following a common political, religious, and historical course. In fact, here
we find the most important message of the sectionabout Tsar Basil: this part
is not a narrative about his reign, but an indication of a shared tradition.
The greatest significance of his inclusion in the Tale is that the victor and
conqueror of Bulgaria, Basil II Boulgaroktonos, was incorporated into a text
containing extremely important data about the religious-political model of
the Bulgarian state. Moreover, he figures here as a pious and blessed ruler
who follows the model of the Baptiser and that of the saintly kings, Khan
Boris-Michael I and St Tsar Peter.
The Cometopouloi Dynasty was the last dynasty of the First Bulgarian
Empire, and played a major role in the last years before the Byzantine con-
quest. After the death of their father, the Comes Nicholas, the four Come-
topouloi (Comes sons) brothersDavid, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel
jointly ruled the Bulgarian Empire during the final years of its resistance to
the Byzantines. It seems undisputable that the three brothers in the Tale
Moses, Aaron and Samuel, as well as the so-called Augustian,
are in fact
characters based upon a reminiscence of the Cometopouloi brothers and,
perhaps, upon the memory of Aarons son, called Alousianos (or Aloussian).
The view is well argued in previous studies, and practically all historians
unanimously support this conclusion. Therefore, we findthe historical iden-
tification of these brothers poses no problem, and so I will not specially
discuss them. The tsar Roman(probably a character reminiscent of Samuels
son Tsar Gabriel Radomir), who is of the same family, is discussed in a
section of this chapter under the heading of his name. I would also refer
the reader to the special excursus in this book, where I have examined the
royal paradigm of the hero with a mission, born of a widow-prophetess, a
paradigm that these brothers illustrate.
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 2834).
See in this book Excursus II.
214 chapter six
Thus, I have left for discussion only one brother not designated by name,
who figures in the part of the text immediately following the one about
these brothers.
It is said there that after Augustian, a third one, born of
the same widow, rose and assumed the reign and ruled for three years, and
died. We can hardly find anything certain to go by in this text, anything by
whichtopropose some historical identification. Eventhe fewpieces of infor-
mation cited must not be accepted uncritically. First, the tsar comes after
Augustianbut who is Augustian? Authors who have written on this mat-
ter identify himwithAarons sonAloussian.
Inthe text of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah he is presented as a child of Tsar Samuel, and it is said he took over
the Bulgarian and Greek Kingdom and reigned for thirty-seven years. Let
us assume that Aloussian may have been called a tsar, and also, mistakenly,
a son of Tsar Samuel. His general portrayal in the Tale still contradicts the
historical facts and traditions. The thirty-seven-year-long rule should imply
a quite positive evaluationof this ruler, who quite obviously had Gods bless-
ing. This qualification seems to me inconsistent with a similar assessment
regarding the Tsar Samuels direct heirs, Tsar Gabriel Radomir and his son
Peter Delyan. Moreover, he is placed chronologically before them, which
complicates things evenmore, especially considering that the Tale is usually
dated as written only a few decades after the events of Aloussians activity.
For me this identification is problematic, but I cannot offer a better one, so
I consider the problem still open.
Let us return to the unnamed tsar, placed after Augustian and before
Roman. The other statement that might serve as a reference for understand-
ing the character is that he is the child of the same widowas the three broth-
ers. This would make him the brother of Moses, Aaron and Samuel. This
happens to make things easier for us, for we know that the Cometopouloi
brothers were four in number. Among the names listed here, the name of
David is missing, who was the eldest of them and seems to have headed up
the movement. Sources are not informative about him: it is known that he
ruled in Edessa (Voden) or Moglena and very early on was killed by local
It is interesting that he is present in a later tradition and was
canonised as a tsar-saint. He is also known from icons of him of the late
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 3436).
Dujev, Iz staratabulgarskaknizhnina, t. I, p. 240; Dujev Iv., Ednolegendarno svedenie
za Asparukha, p. 129.
V.N. Zlatarski, Istorija na bulgarskata drzhava prez srednite vekove, t. I, part 1, Sofia,
1927, pp. 633, 640, 646647; Istorija na Bulgaria, t. II, Sofia, 1981, pp. 390, 397402; Istorija na
Bulgarija, Sofia, 1999, t. I, pp. 308318.
kings and their names 215
Ottoman period, and frommural frescos,
but above all fromthe Stematog-
raphy by Christopher efarovi, fromthe SlovenobulgarianHistory of Father
Paisius of Chilandari, from Zographou Bulgarian History, etc. Christopher
efarovi was the first to supply the information about Tsar David of Bul-
garia and he even provided pictures of him in his publication. This ruler is
portrayed together with St Theoctist on a whole page, dressed in monastic
habit and holding a sceptre and a cross in one hand, and a scroll in the other,
upon which are written the words: :s: ,+s: :xu: s ::c ,x,x :
In Paisius book, we find several references to David. In the listing of Bul-
garian tsars there, Tsar David comes after Seleukia and before Samuel.
A little further on he is described as a blessed person who abandons his
position of ruler and chooses to withdraw to a monastery, where he com-
pletes his life in piety, after which his relics long remain imperishable in
He is also referred to as the uncle of St Tsar Vladislav/Vladimir, a
character who evidently combines the characters of St Prince John Vladimir
and the latters murderer, Tsar John Vladislav. David is also placed in the
list of Bulgarian saints, and is described as one of the noteworthy rulers
of his country.
Similar information in an abridged version is repeated in
the Zographou Bulgarian History. There the character in question is placed
after Boris, Symeon, Peter, Boris, Seleukia, and Sabbotin, but before Samuel,
Radomir, John Vladimir, and Vladislav.
He is described as a pious man of
holy life, who made peace with all. However, this was not to the liking of the
A. Vasiliev, Bulgarski svettsi v izobrazitelnoto izkustvo, Sofia, 1987, pp. 6667. St Tsar
David was portrayed standing between St Tsar Boris and St Theoctist on an icon from1817 by
Metrophan the Zograph, on the western wall in the narthex of the church in the Zographou
monastery. We also find him portrayed on the northern wall in the narthex of the church of
the Saint Archangels in the Rila Monastery, and on the western wall in the narthex of the
church in the Troyan Monastery. Among the portrayals that Asen Vasiliev does not mention
is that in the Orlitsa metochion of the Rila Monastery, on the western wall inside the church,
where he is depicted next to St Sava. In all cases, the tsar is portrayed in monastic garb, which
is connected with the tradition that he left the throne and withdrew to a monastery. In this
respect, a certain ruler-monk paradigm is followed; also related to this model are the cults
of St Tsar Peter and of St SymeonStephen NemanjaBiliarsky, Yovcheva, Za datata na
uspenieto na tsar Peter i za kulta km nego, pp. 543557.
Every kingdom, divided in itself, will be desolateChr. Zhefarovich, Stematografia.
Facsimilno izdanie, komentirano ot A. Vasiliev, Sofia, 1986, p. IIb.
Istorija slavenobolgarskaja, sobrana i narezhdena Paisiem ieromonahom v leto 1762, ed.
J. Ivanov, Sofia, 1914, p. 31.
Istorija slavenobolgarskaja, p. 63.
Istorija slavenobolgarskaja, pp. 6364, 66, 75.
Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, p. 636.
216 chapter six
Bulgarian boyars, and they plotted against him. When he learned about this,
he left the throne andwithdrewto a monastery, andafter his death, his relics
remained uncorrupted. We should not miss the reference to Tsar David of
Bulgaria in the History by Hieroschimonk Spyridon, where the familiar story
is related that he was pious and a peace-maker, which was unbearable for
the boyars, so they said evil of him, wherefore he decided to withdraw to
a monastery, and, after death, his relics remained incorruptible.
ingly, after this familiar account, Spyridon quotes John Zonaras, that after
the death of Emperor John Tzimiskes the Bulgarians revolted and gave the
power to four brothers, David, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, called Come-
topouloi, because they were the sons of a dignitary calledComes; Daviddied
soon after, and Moses was killed by Serres. This particular account resem-
bles contemporaneous historical writing and was evidently influenced by
such literature. Tsar David of Bulgaria is also mentioned in an old beadroll
from the Zographou monastery, and is listed there in the following series
of rulers: Boris, Symeon, Peter, Boris, Roman, Shishman, David, Samuel,
Gabriel, Radomir.
It is not hard to see some mutual relatedness between
these texts and in the order in which the rulers are listed in them. The cited
works have been thoroughly studied, so we need not analyse them here.
I will only note that in the 18th19th century there was evidently a great
dissemination of some unofficial tradition of veneration for Tsar David of
Bulgaria as a blessed person; the origin of this cult should be sought in ear-
lier centuries.
After this discussion of our knowledge about the eldest of the Come-
topouloi brothers and about the semi-official or unofficial religious tradi-
tion that regarded him as a tsar and saint, we may ask whether this is the
unnamed tsar mentioned in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. The text tells
nothing more, so it would be hard to give a firm answer. Yet I shall propose
some ideas on the question. The unknown person is explicitly indicated as a
brother of the three sons of the widow, but only the eldest of these brothers,
David, is not mentioned. His name could generally fit in with the Old Testa-
ment line in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah and help in a fuller understanding
of the text. Of course, evenassuming that the character of the unnamedruler
was indeed based on a reminiscence of David, he remains a character, and
not an authentic historical depiction of a real person.
Spyridon ieroschimonah, Istorija vo krattse o bolgarskomnarode slovenskom, 1792, Sofia,
1992, pp. 127128.
Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, p. 489.
kings and their names 217
Now we come to the last mentioned of the Cometopouloi, Tsar Gagan,
called Odelean.
This character is probably based on the existing memory
of Peter Delyan, son of Tsar Gabriel Radomir and grandson of Tsar Samuel.
Hence, he is also one of the Cometopouloi dynasty; the scholars who have
written on this topic share this view unanimously.
It is worth noting that
he is situated here in a different context. He is preceded by a person whomI
am inclined to consider as based on a reminiscence of one of the basileis,
and Tsar Arev, discussed above, and Tsar Turgius follow him; these two
do not seem related to the family of Comes Nicholas and the latters wife
Ripsimia. Hence, we are left with the impression that Tsar Gagan Odelean
really is placed in the time of Byzantine domination. The account of him is
different insome respects fromothers: he is describedas handsome (a detail
untypical for this text), he destroyed two cities beyond the sea, but he also
built three in the Bulgarian landsthe cities of Cherven, Messembria, and
tip; he reignedfor twenty-eight years
andwas slainby a foreigner at Ovche
Pole (Sheeps Field). The founding of cities is a topic discussed elsewhere in
this study, and the fact that he was slain by a foreigner has already been
explained by scholars as a reference to the victory of the Byzantines and
their Varangian mercenaries, led by Harald Hardrada, over Peter Delyan.
Here I would only like to try to explain the name as it appears in the Tale.
Gagan is a name that occurs in various forms in other apocryphal texts
as well.
The general opinion of scholars is that this is a distorted form of
the title khagan, which, for some reason unknown to me, is sometimes
defined as a Bulgar title.
I accept this explanation, though its significance
See in this book, p. 21 (f. 402d, lines 1727).
Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, p. 287 note 2; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie
za Asparukha, p. 129; Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za
bulgarskoto letopisanie, p. 58; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskatasrednovekovnaistoriopis, p. 131. See
also: A. Miltenova, M. Kajmakamova, The Uprising of Petr Delyan (10401041) in a NewOld
Bulgarian Source, Byzantinobulgarica, VIII, 1986, pp. 227240.
We already mentioned the significance of the number 28, for this is also the number of
years it took Tsar Symeon to build the city of Preslav. The number is a product of 47, and
so is connected to the Creation and carries the notion of fullness, completeness. In any case,
if the number of years here has any signification at all, it is strictly a positive oneMeyer,
Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 689692.
Miltenova, Kajmakamova, The Uprising of Petr Delyan (10401041) in a New Old
Bulgarian Source, pp. 234ff.
Miltenova, Kajmakamova, The Uprising of Petr Delyan (10401041) in a New Old
Bulgarian Source, p. 234; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature,
pp. 187188, 198, 211.
Gy. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, vol. II, Sprachreste der Trkvlker in den byzantinis-
chen Quellen, Budapest, 1943, p. 117; Curta F., Qagan, Khan, or King? Power in Eraly Medieval
218 chapter six
should not be overestimated. In any case, this interpretation is important as
evidencing that the sonof Tsar Gabriel Radomir was perceivedas a ruler, and
connected to steppe culture. More interesting for me is the form Odelean
used for the second name of Tsar Gagan. It obviously derives from Delyan,
and I shall not repeat here all the arguments already provided in support of
this view. However, I will point out that the name has undergone change by
the addition of the Greek article to beginning of the name.
has become Odelean passing through the form . This is plain to
see. The important thing is that, in my opinion, this transformation shows
the name was borrowed froma Greek text. This conclusion casts additional
serious doubt upon the assertion, arbitrary enough anyway, that the text is
an original Bulgarian one, which supposedly reflects the national memory,
moreover, a local memory from parts of the south-western Bulgarian lands.
In fact, it is evident that a Greek text was used in the compilation, at least
for the part that tells of Tsar Gagan Odelean.
Aruler by the name of Constantine holds a significant place in the narrative
of the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, andhe represents one of the most important
ideological royal paradigms there. These paradigms andthe Constantinian
model of rulershipare discussedelsewhere inthis study. Here I shouldsay by
way of a preliminary remark, that although the story is rather confusing, full
of inaccuracies and discrepancies, and bits of information taken from the
lives of other personages with this same name, overall it strives to depict the
image of the baptiser of the Roman Empire and to construct an ideological
model based on the memory of him and on various scriptural motifs.
Some elements in the narrative about Tsar Constantine certainly point
to the historical identity of this character with St Constantine the Great,
though others are completely discordant with the historical facts. Among
the former elements we may indicate the names of his parents given in
Bulgaria (Seventh to Ninth Century), Viator, 37 (2006), pp. 131 (with the more recent
literature cited there); Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature,
p. 300 note 43. See the interesting interpretation of Nikolov, Politicheskata misl v rannosred-
novekovna Bulgaria, pp. 3536.
This way of forming a persons name is familiar to historiography and has already been
discussed: Bozhilov in: Istorija na Bulgaria, t. I, 1999, pp. 396ff. (see p. 412 note 12 with the
cited literature).
kings and their names 219
the Tale: Constantine the Green (Constantius Chlorus) and Helena; the
founding of Constantinople; the close connection of the character with the
finding of the True Cross, and in general the link between the veneration
of the Cross and that of Constantine. We see that the chief aspects of the
historical emperor Constantine that were incorporated into the memory
of Constantine depicted in the Tale were related to the cult of St Constan-
tine and his mother. Further evidence of this is the fact that the name New
Jerusalem is given to the Imperial City, and in general the connecting of
the Empire, during and after the reign of Constantine, to the Old Testa-
ment royal tradition. This has been the general line of suggestive imagery
ever since the time of Eusebius of Caesarea. Of course, there are other ele-
ments in the narrative that do not correspond to our historical knowledge
about St Constantine, and that even indicate the character is being con-
fused with other persons. Here we will not deal with the purely fantastic
or the ideologically suggestive elements, such as the theme of the mirac-
ulous birth of the emperor and the founding of the city of Bdin, called
Heptalophos Babylon (Babylon on Seven Hills). More important is the des-
ignation of the character as Constantine Porphyrogenitusa name mod-
ern researchers usually connect with the basileus Constantine VII, probably
because of his popularity as a writer.
This name coincides with the his-
torical context in which Tsar Constantine is presented in the Tale of the
Prophet Isaiahthis is the time of the Bulgarian Tsar Peter, who lived in
the 10th century and really was a relative by marriage, and a contemporary,
of Constantine VII. That is why it has been proposed the character in our
source should be identified with this historical emperor. Some remote con-
nection cannot be completely excluded, precisely because of the coinciding
historical period in question. Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is a compiled work
and different texts may have been used in constructing the character; the
name of the son of Leo VI the Wise may have borrowed from one of these
texts. This character is ideological in nature; his function is to build an idea
of a certain type of reign, not to tell about a concrete person who really
existed. Hence, we may note that the historical Constantine VII did not sup-
ply any special ideological paradigm, and at least in Bulgaria his image was
never used to create one. The situationis quite different withSt Constantine
the Great, which is why it is his image we find reflected in our apocryphal
Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata srednovekovna istoriopis, p. 130; Kajmakamova, Istoriograf-
skata stojnost na Bulgarski apokrifen letopis , p. 436.
220 chapter six
It is also important to stress that the Tsar Constantine presented in the
Tale is a single person, not several different people, as in the case of Symeon,
about whom I write in the respective section of the present chapter. Hence,
we should exclude the possibility that the reference is both to Constan-
tine I and to Constantine VII. One other interpretation, proposed by Ivan
Venedikov, is also to be excluded.
According to Venedikov, the character
referred to in the Tale, although the historical basis of both St Constantine
and Constantine VII may have been used for it, was in fact not a tsar but
a provincial governor of Vidin from the time of Tsar Peter. This otherwise
unknown person belonged to a whole dynasty of such local governors. His
predecessor was Glad, and his successor, Achtum/Ohtum, who had a Bul-
gar name. Evidently, in this case the scholar is combining data from the
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah with data from the Hungarian Anonymous and
the Vita S. Gerhardi episcopi, which mention these persons.
From the very
start (p. 138) Venedikov calls his version unquestionable, with which I can-
not but disagree. I shall not discuss this entirely fanciful argumentation, full
of declared but unproven assumptions. I shall point out that practically the
only connection of Tsar Constantine from the Tale with the city of Vidin
(not to mention the other characters and events) is the indication that he
founded this city, defined in the text as Heptalophos Babylon. This name
figures only as a reference to biblical motifs and can by no means serve to
prove Venedikovs conclusions.
To conclude, I would like to say a few words about the evil curator sent
by Tsar Constantine to Rome to chase away the Roman warriors, and who
plots with the Hellenes to kill Tsar Constantine and his mother Helena.
Ivan Venedikov sees in this character a reflection of John Tzimiskes.
assertion is without basis so again it is useless to discuss it. Ivan Dujev,
who also considers Tale of the Prophet Isaiah to be a source pointing to
concrete historical events, has stated the opinion that this was Romanus
Lakapenus, but this view is also difficult to accept.
Still more views have
been expressed, but the problem with all such approaches to the source is
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 138147.
Fontes latini historiae bulgaricae, vol. V, Fontes hungarici historiae bulgaricae, prima
pars, Serdicae, 2001, pp. 912, 43ff.; Chr. Dimitrov, Bulgaro-ungarski otnoshenija prez Sred-
novekovieto, Sofia, 1998, pp. 44ff.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, p. 140.
Dujev, Iz staratabulgarskaknizhnina, t. I, p. 240; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za
Asparukha, p. 129; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 299
note 34.
kings and their names 221
that the interpretations are centred only on the situation in Bulgaria dur-
ing the second half of the 10th century, and upon the designation curator.
The search thus reaches persons who occupied the throne as vicars or lieu-
tenants of the under-aged basileis, and towards whom the local Bulgarians
had a negative attitude due to the historical circumstances. Unlike previ-
ous scholars, we should base our investigation only on St Constantine and
consider the question regarding the evil curator only in the context of this
emperor. Constantine I is presented more like a model of a pious Chris-
tian ruler than a concrete, living historical figure, so we should look for his
opponent in the contrary role. Hence, the evil curator is a reflection of the
high-ranking persons who opposed the policy of St Constantine or who at
some time were persecutors of Christians: such were Maxentius, Licinius,
Maximinus Daia, and to some extent Galerius. Their conflicts with Constan-
tine were in fact usually about Tetrarchic politics, not religion, yet they were
remembered as opponents of the Christian faith in the memory and litera-
ture of the ChristianMiddle Ages. It is notable that the evil curator inRome
allies himself with the Hellenes against St Constantine. These Hellenes are
not the Greek-speaking army of John Tzimiskes, as some authors have sup-
posed, but pagans, as becomes perfectly clear fromthe context in which the
word is used.
Therefore, we may assert that Tsar Constantine in the Tale is an ideolog-
ical image of the pious Christian ruler (of the so-called Constantinian type
of rulership) and does not present any concrete historical person outside
an idealised and archetypal memory of St Constantine himself. The same
is true for his mother Helena, while the mention of the father Constantius
Chlorus is only for the sake of greater authenticity.
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah mentions Nicephorus
as the successor of a ruler,
or rulers, named Symeon. Scholars have generally made two main assump-
tions regarding him: we can identify him with a Byzantine emperor or else
withsome Bulgarianfigureeither a local ruler or a provincial governor. We
knowof noother rulers by that name that couldpossibly have beenincluded
in the narrative of our apocryphon. Further belowI will present the existing
standpoints on this question, but I should say before proceeding that in this
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 310).
222 chapter six
and other similar cases, the searchfor a precise historical identity is not only
unnecessary, it is probably not possible. Tsar Nicephorus from the Tale
is not a single historical person but a collection of memories of different
people. Of course, the cited name itself cannot have been chosen in a
completely arbitrary way: it stems fromone or all of the mentioned persons,
and that is why we must not overlook it.
Early historical research on the Tale naturally related Tsar Nicephorus to
some Byzantine basileus, since there is no Bulgarian ruler by that name.
Most authors were content with merely pointing out that this was the
emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (963969), who is referred to together with
Basil II and Romanus III Argyros.
Practically they offer no supporting argu-
mentation, and the assertion is meant to be self-evident. The only sub-
stantial exception is Venedikovs eccentric thesis pointing to the dynasty of
governors (called olgu-tarkans according to him) of the county (comitatus)
of Skopje, one of whom was supposedly the above-mentioned Nicepho-
rus, incorrectly cited as a tsar in the Tale.
This scholar firmly rejects the
idea that the character is identical with Emperor Nicephorus Phocas and
discusses a possible identity with the basileus Nicephorus I Genikos, who,
according to him, was, in a way, popular in Bulgaria. Yet he rejects this
possibility as well and looks for a namesake, unknown to history and not
mentioned in any other source, who would be the son of the founder of
this olgou-tarkan dynasty, the Kalou-tarkan Symeon, and also the father
of the evil tsar (who is in fact not a tsar but also an olgou-tarkan) Symeon-
Roman, cited in the Tale as Symeon the Wise.
This is so unsustainable,
we should probably not discuss it. Yet I shall make some remarks, since the
thesis comes froman eminent Bulgarian historian and is one of the fewcon-
crete statements on the issue.
It is explicitly stated in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah that the evil Tsar
Symeon the Wise is the son of Nicephorus, but it is noticeably not indicated
that the latter has any kinship with Nicephorus predecessor, also called
Symeon. Though both belong to the same historical context, we should
not believe this non-indication of kinship was simply coincidental. We will
Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za Asparukha, p. 129; Kajmakamova, Bulgarski
apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bulgarskoto letopisanie, p. 58; Kajmakamova, Bul-
garskata srednovekovna istoriopis, pp. 130131; Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and
Apocalyptic Literature, p. 299 note 38; Kajmakamova, Istoriografskata stojnost na Bulgarski
apokrifen letopis , p. 418.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 125132.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 129132.
kings and their names 223
discuss the persons named Symeonseparately, but here I should say that the
whole idea regarding some local dynasty of olgou-tarkans inSkopje towhich
the Tsar Nicephorus of the story might belong is quite unfounded, fanciful,
and the product of the imagination of the author who proposed it.
Can we say anything with certainty about this character? We should
mainly proceed fromthe name Nicephorus and fromthe source text itself.
We find there are no Bulgarian rulers or important historical figures by that
name. There is likewise none in the other countries, from which we might
expect it tohave beenborrowed, except fromthe Empire; hence, our interest
will be focused mainly on the Byzantine legacy. There we find three basileis
by the name of Nicephorus, and they were precisely of the 9th11th century:
Nicephorus I Genikos, Nicephorus II Phocas, and Nicephorus III Botaniates.
In order to reach some conclusion, we should compare with the other ele-
ments of the description of this mysterious tsar in the Tale. He appeared
and took over the Bulgarian kingdom after Symeon; this statement should
be taken as a refusal to give a justification of his rule and as a tacit denial
of relatedness to the preceding ruler. The kinship with the next one, on the
contrary, is emphasised, and he is said to be the infant of Nicephorus. Then
it is said that Nicephorus destroyed the lawless Tsar Maximianus and his
army, which places the character in a certain ideological context. The latter
name points to events of the 4th century, to the memory of Maximinus Daia
and the victory of Christianity over the lawless emperors. I am convinced
that this detail should be interpreted in terms of ideology, not as a concrete
historical reference. In this sense, Nicephorus appears to us as a righteous
ruler of the Constantinian type, connected with the imperial paradigmthat
was typical for the Empire, for Bulgaria, and for all Christian Europe. He
should be considered not a concrete historical person, but the personifica-
tion (or one of the personifications) of this ruler archetype. The question
remains, where did the name Nicephorus come from?
The general answer
is not hard to findit came from Constantinoplebut then a new prob-
lem arises: which of the three basileis of that name was used as the model
for the ideological image of the Constantinian-type ruler presented in the
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah?
We could consider whether the name Nicephorus might figure in the source due to its
literal meaning. InGreek, it means victory-bearing. Could we relate it to the victory of Chris-
tianity, as a characteristic feature of the venerationof St Constantine andthe True Cross? This
is certainly an interesting direction for interpreting the mention of Tsar Nicephorus in the
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, but I shall refrain from taking it. We have no concrete indications
of such a thing and we would risk falling into an arbitrary modelling of the facts based on
ones own reasoning, and this is something that some researchers have already done.
224 chapter six
I already mentioned that Iv. Venedikov is inclined to consider the possi-
bility this couldhave beenNicephorus Genikos, thoughhe ultimately rejects
this version. The name of this ruler was probably popular in Bulgaria due to
his death at the hands of the Bulgarian army. Nicephorus Genikos was of
Arab origin and the connection of the Tale with the Near Eastern tradition
could support the variant that he was the ruler in question. Venedikov also
makes a completely groundless claim that one other argument supporting
this identification is the story of the cities founded by the character, for the
historical Nicephorus I didinfact settle some towns onthe shore of Macedo-
nia and Thrace prior to his large offensive against Bulgaria. I do not believe
we may identify the tsar Nicephorus of the Tale as the historical Nicephorus I
Genikos, not only because of the different periods of history to which they
belong (the chronology in this text is extremely unstable), but because of
the fate of the basileus in the Tale, his positive image there and the account
of his victories. Here I will not at all touch upon the question of his kinship
with the others and the heirs to his throne, where no similarity whatever
exists: the heirs of Nicephorus Genikos (Stauracius and Michael Rangabe)
are well known in history and there is none among them that could remind
us of the character in the apocryphon.
Nicephorus Phocas was a warrior emperor and noted for his asceticism.
These characteristics and the similarity in time would make him the most
acceptable prototype of the unknown person mentioned in the source.
However, we have no information that positively confirms this conclusion.
The version that it might be Nicephorus III Botaniates may be proposed
for discussion only because of the similarity in the name. I do not think this
variant is at all acceptable. No other characteristics of this emperor support
such a conclusion. Therefore, I will reject this possibility.
To summarise our observations about the character we are discussing,
we may say that Tsar Nicephorus is not a concrete historical personality
but the image of a righteous Constantinian type of ruler. This is evidenced
by his victory over the lawless Maximianus, and by the long reign granted
himby God, which lasted 43 years. An additional argument can be found in
the account of the founding of cities. According to our source, he createdthe
cities of Didymoteichon, Morunets (Kavala), and Serres in Macedonia, Bel-
grade (= Berat in Albania) and Kostur (Kastoria) to the West, and Nicopolis
on the Danube. Elsewhere I have stated my position on the interpretation
of these topoi. I shall express disagreement with I. Venedikovs idea about
the transference of Nicopolis from Moesia to Epirus, but shall stress once
again that this is not a historical account of the facts. The founding of cities
is a creative work that makes the tsar similar to God and once again points
kings and their names 225
to the Constantinian paradigm and the whole ideological complex related
to the birth of Constantinople. As for the name, it was probably borrowed
from Nicephorus II Phocas, but did not originate with him; the author sim-
ply turned to a familiar figure in looking for a name; in fact, any of the other
two basileis of this name could also have been its source.
A relatively large space is devoted to Tsar Roman in the Tale of the Prophet
He is described in the text as coming from the same stock as the
preceding ruler; the latter is not mentioned by name but was evidently one
of the brothers Cometopouloi. This unnamed ruler is said to be born of
the same widow as the brothers Moses, Aaron and Samuel, which makes
him their brother at least from the same mother. Roman is not indicated as
son and heir of the preceding tsar but only as connected to him by kinship.
This is an important point, especially when we consider the dire relations
that had come about within the dynasty, relations to which several of its
representatives fell victim. Later in the narrative, we learn that Roman was
furious at the eastern king and sailed the seas to slay two tsars, yet lost his
own army in the process. Then he returned to Preslav, reigned nine years,
and died.
Historians have attempted to identify this character, and there are two
main results from these efforts. First Konstantin Jireek, and after him Ivan
Dujev, have expressed the opinion that the character Roman was the
Byzantine emperor Romanus III Argyros.
They found arguments in sup-
port of this statement in the coinciding names and the chronological and
historical context. In any case, the thesis is not thoroughly argued but rather
just stated in passing. As for Ivan Venedikov, he discusses and proposes a
solutionthat this was infact Tsar Samuels son, Tsar Gabriel Radomir, known
also as Roman.
I shall not present his arguments here, but I shall say that
See in this book, p. 2021 (f. 402c, last linef. 402d, lines 19).
Regarding the symbolism of the number 9 see: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalter-
lichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 581590.
Dujev, Iz starata bulgarska knizhnina, t. I, p. 240; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie
za Asparukha, p. 129; Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za bul-
garskoto letopisanie, p. 58; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata srednovekovna istoriopis, pp. 130131.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 123125. The commentary in
the latest edition of the apocryphon agrees with this view: Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova,
Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 299 note 41.
226 chapter six
this view seems more acceptable to me. I am inclined to support it not
only because of the explanation regarding the name but also because of
the explicitly indicated family origin of Roman, who is presented as one
of the Cometopouloi. It is worth noting the mention of the capital city
Preslav. Of course, neither Romanus Argyros nor Garbiel Radomir is in any
way connected with it, but the latter of the two is in a somewhat stronger
position in this respect. The explicit indication of this city in the Tale could
be considered a confirmation of the connection of Tsar Roman with the
Bulgarianstate andits traditionfromthe time of the dynasty of tsars Symeon
and Peter. The military campaign to the East and the two slain tsars are part
of the peculiar narrative of the apocryphon, and we should not necessarily
look for corresponding historical facts.
Therefore, the memory of Tsar Gabriel Radomir probably served as the
basis for the character of Tsar Roman, althoughthe latter does not fully coin-
cide with the historical personage. The authors attitude to the character is
not clearly displayed, not even hinted at, but I am left with the impression
that Roman is placed rather in the category of righteous rulers than in the
opposite group. The relation with the Cometopouloi and their tradition is
clearly underscored.
Seleukia Simeklit
Regarding the Tsar Seleukia, nicknamed Simeklit, we read that he came
down from the mountain Vitosha but he assumed the throne in Romania.
He built five cities: Plovdiv (Philippoupolis), Srem (Sirmium), Breznik, Sre-
dets (Sofia), andNi; he reignedfor thirty-sevenyears andhis life endednear
Though not explicitly indicated, we could place him in the cate-
gory of the righteous rulers due to his construction activity and long reign.
He is tsar of Bulgaria and his capital is Sredets. Importantly, his time is rep-
resented in the context of Constantines. The story about Tsar Seleukia is
situated in the time of Tsar Constantines absence, when he is away search-
ing for the True Cross. I agree with the authors who have written on this
matter, that, in the story about Seleukia there is an indirect reference to mil-
itary activity, evidenced most of all in the mention of going to Romania. It
is to point out that most researchers are inclined to identify this tsar with
See in this book, p. 1819 (f. 402a, line 32f. 402b, line 8). Regarding the meaning of the
number 37 see: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 708.
kings and their names 227
The argument for this is Seleukias chronological place, according
to the text of the apocryphonhe comes after Tsar Peter. Probably the iden-
tical first letter of their names also had some influence. Still, I do not find
these arguments sufficient for justifying this identification. Essentially, the
reason for it is the desire to relate the text of the Tale at all costs to Bulgarian
history, and to equate the characters cited in the text (or at least the posi-
tive ones) to Bulgarian historical figures. Still, I would like to stress that Ivan
Dujev, in the cited book, strongly underscores the connection of Seleukia
to the biblical tradition.
While these claims may be simply unproven and unconvincing, the argu-
mentation of Iv. Venedikov surpasses all in this respect.
According to this
scholar, the section about Tsar Seleukia actually indicates reminiscence of
the battle at Trajans Gates and of the great contributionto this victory made
by a person who was provincial governor of Sredets and the surrounding
district. This was Seleukia, whose position was subsequently inherited by
Krakra. The choice of name is attributedtoconfusionandhistorical oblivion
combined with a distorted association with the context of the story, i.e. the
finding of the True Cross by Tsar Constantine. The Saviour suffered on the
Cross in order to redeem Humanity from Original Sin; the Cross itself was
made during the reign of Octavian Augustus or, according to some apoc-
rypha, of Tsar Seleukia Semikley. According to Venedikov, this reference
became part of the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Ivan Venedikovs argument is obviously fancifully constructed, so we
shall rather direct our attention to the earliest comments by scholars on
the question, which seem to be the most adequate regarding the text. It
is obvious there was no historical figure with which we may identify the
cited Tsar Seleukia Simeklit. As correctly noted in the commentary on our
apocryphon, this is a reminiscence of the name of the Seleucids, who were
the Diadochi kings of Syria and heirs of Alexander the Great.
I would add
that this could not have been a random choice. Though the character is not
a concrete historical figure, the reference to Tsar Seleukia must have some
ideological significance that we will try to discover. For that, we must rest
our query on the only thing we have at our disposal: the text of Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah and the name of the character.
Dujev, Iz starata bulgarska knizhnina, t. I, p. 240; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie
za Asparukha, pp. 128129; Kajmakamova, Bulgarski apokrifen letopis i znachenieto mu za
bulgarskoto letopisanie, p. 57; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata srednovekovna istoriopis, p. 130.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 132138.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 299 note 32.
228 chapter six
The story in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah unquestionably connects Tsar
Seleukia with western Bulgaria, especially the region of Kraishte and the
vicinity of Sofia. Places indicated in the text are the mountain Vitosha
(according to Venedikov, this citation encompasses the whole of Sofia Val-
ley) and the city of Sredets. A special place is assigned to Breznik, the city
which Seleukia built and where he died.
The cited city of Ni is also not
far away, while the mention of Plovdiv could be related to the passage about
going to the field called Romania. The mention of the city of Sremis some-
what stranger. Iv. Venedikov invented the explanation that there was such
a place in the river valley of Strema, the lift tributary of the river Maritsa
In my opinion Srem was most probably the city of Sirmium,
which can likewise be related to western Bulgarian lands of the earlier Mid-
dle Ages, though it is distant from the region referred to in the text.
This information brings us no closer to identifying Tsar Seleukia, so we
must pass on to his name. It is to point out that a name similar to this can
be found in other texts as well. Foremost among these is the Tale about the
Cross Wood by Priest Jeremiah.
There Seleucius is presented as the heir of
Octavian Augustus, and as a pious man who lives in the expectation of God.
Unfortunately due to an accident he risks becoming blind. The Lord Jesus
Christ Himself saves him from this by sending Seleucius son Prov (Probus)
a medicament for the eyes of the ailing tsar. This account presents Tsar
Seleucius in a very favourable light: he is heir to Octavian Augustus, he is
pious, and he is healed by Jesus Christ; he thus becomes part of Gods plan
of salvation, not only because he himself has believed, but also for having
become the cause of many others around him to believe. It is important
to point out that there is another, parallel text in which this same king is
designated as Semikley, which is quite similar to Simeklit, the second part
of his name in the Tale.
The characteristics of this ruler coincide to a great
degree with that of Tsar Seleukia in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Noteworthy in this context is the presence of a certain Tsar Seleukia in
Slovenobulgarian History by Father Paisius of Chilandari, where the rulers
after Tsar Boris II are listed in the following order: SeleukiaSabbotin
DavidSamuel and the Cometopouloi in general.
In the Zographou
I have further discussed the mention of the city of Breznik elsewhere in this book.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, p. 133.
Vatroslav Jagi in: Starine, 5, 1873, s. 8395; M. Sokolov, Materialy i zametki po starinnoj
slavjanskoj literature, Moscow, 1888, pp. 97, 170; Stara bulgarska literatura, t. I, Apokrifi, Sofia,
1982, pp. 282284 (No 15).
Sokolov, Materialy i zametki, pp. 97, 170; Ivanov, Bogomilski knigi i legendi, p. 285 note 2.
Istorija slavenobolgarskaja, pp. 31, 59.
kings and their names 229
Bulgarian History this tsar is placed likewise immediately after Tsar Boris II
(here the events after the death of Tsar Peter are presented in a way that is
largely true to history):
u: u:r:a: :x:.s, u :uz c :xxs:uz ux s:u:ss. u s:,s ,:cusxu:, u uu:r:
s::x,:s:: s:u:s: u:,xu, u :y:s:u :uxus, u x,,uss cxuz x, r,x,x.
Following him, Tsar Sabbotin is mentioned, who was not very fortunate
in war and suffered defeat by the Greek tsars and died (in
disorder). Tsar Seleukia also figures in (Brief History)
by Hieroschimonk Spyridon, where he is again placed immediately after
Boris II and before Tsar Sabbotin. It is said there about him:
x u: u: ux:+x ::x:ssx, u c c :xxs:uz uxs:u:ss u s:s,: ,:cusxu:u uu:r:
s::x,:s: s:uu:+s: u:,xu, +:uxus u :x,,uss w:s:u cu
,u r,x,x.
After him came Sabbotin, who was not good at warring and after living a
while died in disorder. There followed Tsar David, who was peace-loving
and therefore provoked resistance, but left the throne of his own will and
withdrew to a monastery; after his death his relics remained intact. Hav-
ing in mind that the tsars cited right after this group are Samuel, John
Vladimir, Vladimir, and Vladislav, we have reason to believe that the first
three, Seleukia, Sabbotin and David, were interpolated between the histor-
ical narrative about the end of Bulgaria of the Preslav rulers and that about
the events related to the Cometopouloi. There are noticeably positive and
individualisedattitudes tothemdisplayedinthe story. The context of names
is evidently connected to the biblical tradition, but this could be because all
of Comes Nicholass sons had Old Testament names. Yet I cannot help saying
that, as a group, these threeSeleukia, Sabbotin and Davidrecall Gods
Chosen People, Israel. The first of them is the topic of this discussion, the
second is related to the day of the Sabbath and the third bears the name of
the kingprophet, author of several books of Holy Scripture, the man from
whomthe Saviour is descended in his human existence. All this gives us rea-
son to see in the tsar by the name of Seleukia, cited in Zographou Bulgarian
History a character originated from biblical history, and one with undoubt-
edly positive qualities as portrayed in the text.
We have reason to look for the origin of the character of Tsar Seleukia in
the biblical context; and this leads to the conclusion that the name comes
from the Seleucids, who for centuries ruled Antioch, Syria, and a large part
Ivanov, Bulgarski starini iz Makedonia, p. 636.
Spyridon ieroschimonah, Istorijavo krattse o bolgarskomnarode slovenskom, 1792, p. 127.
230 chapter six
of the Middle East and Central Asia. The dynasty was named after one of the
heirs of Alexander, Seleucus I Nicator (circa 356bc281 bc). This name is well
known frombiblical texts as well, especially fromthe Book of Maccabees, as
a pagan Hellenistic ruler. Aking by the same name figures in Holy Scripture:
this is Seleucus IV Philopator (187175bc),
son of Antiochus III the Great.
Here we will not deal in detail with the events that caused the movement
of the Maccabees, but I would like to try to solve an obvious contradiction
in this respect between the two texts, that of the Bible and that of Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah. Even though apocryphal texts generally agree with the
standpoint expressed in the canonical text of the Bible, in this case they
differ. The attitude to Tsar Seleukia (whomwe somewhat relate to Seleucus,
though they are not fully identical) is a positive one both in the Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah and in Tale about the Cross Wood. In the former we see his
reign described as blessed, constructive, and long, showing he is obviously
granted protection by God, and in the latter story, he is linked with the
Emperor Augustus whoruledat the time of the Incarnation, andhe is healed
by the Lord Jesus Christ. The biblical Books of the Maccabees are about the
struggle of the Hebrews with the Hellenistic rulers, who are therefore more
or less presented in a negative light. In order to explain for this discrepancy,
we should analyse the story in Holy Scripture more carefully, a story that
represents a larger and more complicated text than the mere mention of
the character in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
We may pose the question whether all the Seleucids are presented in the
same way in the Books of Maccabees and what attitude is shown there to
Seleucus in particular. On one hand, it is clear that the problems connected
withhimbeginprecisely whenhe sends Heliodorus to plunder the treasures
of the Temple. On the other hand, it seems to me the book avoids making a
direct and very negative assessment of the king. He remains somehowaside
fromthe flowof events that lead to the conflict, and intervenes only because
of the intrigues stirred by some unrighteous Hebrew renegades and by
some Gentiles subordinated to him. I should note that the good coexistence
between the Seleucids and the Hebrews is specially indicated, as well as
the rulers donations to the Temple: Now when the holy city was inhabited
with all peace, and the laws were kept very well, because of the godliness of
Onias the highpriest, andhis hatredof wickedness, It came to pass that even
the kings themselves did honour the place, and magnify the temple with
Paulys Realencyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Bd. II.A,1 (Sarmatia-
Selinos), col. 12421245; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 18, pp. 260261.
kings and their names 231
their best gifts; Insomuch that Seleucus of Asia of his own revenues bare
all the costs belonging to the service of the sacrifices. (2Maccabees 3:13).
The Gentile king is first presented in a favourable light, but all this changes
after Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, intervenes: he has quarrelled with the
priest at the city market and, motivated by hostility, informs the governor
of Coele-Syria about the riches stored in the Temple, which could become
the possessions of the king (2Maccabees 3:4ff.). That is why Heliodorus is
sent to take away the treasures of the Temple. The account of these events
(2Maccabees, chapter 3) does not in itself present the Gentiles as very
aggressive, or at least their actions cannot be compared with the atrocities
committed by rulers, described in other parts of the Books of the Maccabees
(see especially 2Maccabees, chapter 7). Essentially, Heliodorus is stopped
by Divine intervention, he has known the power of the Almighty, and he
leaves the treasury intact. Moreover, at the request of his relatives, he is saved
through the prayers and intercession of the high priest Onias, and, after
rising he himself makes a sacrifice and makes vows to the Lord God of Israel,
bearing witness to the greatness of His deeds (2Maccabees 3:3136); later
he himself intercedes before the king, asking him to leave the Hebrews in
peace and not plunder the Temple (2Maccabees 3:3740). History tells us it
was precisely Heliodorus who would later kill King Seleucus IV Philopator,
but the story in the Book of Maccabees does not tell of this. This omission is
because these events are not relevant to the purpose of the book, which is
to show the humility of pagan rulers before the might of God.
The other mentions of Seleucus in the Bible are not very important and
are, in a way, morally neutral: he is said to be the father of King Demetrius
(1 Maccabees 7:1; 2Maccabees 14:1), and his name is used as a reference for
dating certain events by the name of the current ruler or as a reminder of
what happened to Heliodorus (2Maccabees 4:7, 5:18).
The city of Seleucia is alsomentionedinthe Bible, twice (1 Maccabees 11:8;
Acts 13:4), andit may have some relevance for our study. This was a maritime
city, called Seleucia Pieria,
situated on the sea not far from Antioch. It
had the same name as the city of Seleucia on the Tigris,
which was in
Mesopotamia, on the other shore of the river opposite Ctesiphon, and as
Paulys Realencyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Bd. II.A,1 (Sarmatia-
Selinos), col. 12441245; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 8, p. 783, vol. 18, p. 261.
Paulys Realencyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Bd. II.A,1 (Sarmatia-
Selinos), col. 11841200.
Paulys Realencyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Bd. II.A,1 (Sarmatia-
Selinos), col. 11491184.
232 chapter six
several other cities
built by the founder of the dynasty, Seleucus I Nicator
and bearing his name. However, it would not have been difficult to associate
these cities with Seleucus IV as well. Thus, this king could fit into the series
of the kings-founders of cities, of whom the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is
full, and which are charged there with a special ideological significance in
creating the image of the pious and God-protected ruler. This is one possible
understanding of how this apparently positive evaluation of Tsar Seleukia
Simeklit came about in the apocryphal text under discussion. In support of
this view I should also point out that the founding and renovating of cities
is mentioned in quite a few passages in the Books of the Maccabees, and
certainly seems to be considered a very important activity for organising (or
recreating) the country (see, for instance, 1 Maccabees 12:38, 13:33).
In conclusion, we may sum up that in the case of Tsar Seleukia, called
Simeklit, we have once again a character who does not match a concrete
historical person. He was probably constructed based on some interpreta-
tionof the image of the Hellenistic king Seleucus IVPhilopator. The essential
thing here is that this case also represents a reference to the Old Testament
tradition and to the history of Gods Chosen People. The character is based
on the image of a ruler-builder who does not come fromthe People of Israel,
but was ruler of the Hebrews and did not oppress them; instead, his fear of
God stopped him from committing the unjust act he was planning. This is
probably howthis rather schematic but overall not negative character inthe
Tale was created.
This tsar, Slav, is said to be the first ruler of the Bulgarian land, who reigned
for one hundred and nineteen years.
Most scholars express the view that
this is a legendary eponymof the Slavs who settledinthe BalkanPeninsula,
and they take this view as being somehow self-evident. In my opinion, the
Paulys Realencyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Bd. II.A,1 (Sarmatia-
Selinos), col. 12001205; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 18, p. 260.
See in this book, p. 15 (f. 401b, lines 1120).
Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za Asparukha, p. 126; Beevliev, Nachaloto na
bulgarskata istorija spored apokrifen letopis ot XI vek, pp. 4142; Kajmakamova, Bulgarskata
srednovekovna istoriopis, p. 125. In the cited passage, Veselin Beevliev states the assumption
that this was Sklavun, a Slavic prince and leader of the Severi tribe. For a general discussionof
the earliest history of the Slavs, see: F. Curta, The Making of the Slavs. History and Archaeology
of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500700, Cambridge, 2001.
kings and their names 233
problem here is that such a conclusion seems to be that of a 20th century
historian, not of a mediaeval writer, especially not the one who compiled
the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Obviously, we need not look for a concrete historical personage to iden-
tify with Tsar Slav. He is a purely mythical character, and this should alone
be clear from his one hundred and nineteen year reign. Our task should
rather be to discover what precisely this tsar personifies. The text states
that Slav is the first ruler of the newly settled Bulgarian land, personally
placed in that position by the prophet Isaiah. He is the only tsar to be
set on the throne by Gods prophet; as for the following ones, the word
used is not placed but was found. This means it is precisely through Slav
that Gods plan is accomplished, and the prophet Isaiah is the executor.
This certainly makes Slav especially important in the context of this apoc-
ryphal story. Hence, I would not agree that the character symbolises the
Slavic principle in the formation of the Bulgarian nation. This is an inverted
perspective in which the view of the present-day scholar is ascribed to the
compiler of the mediaeval text. This approach is typical for our historiog-
raphy, especially with respect to the study of how the Bulgarian nation was
Instead, I believe we should seek the meaning of Tsar Slav not in
some sort of ethnic construction but in the ideological standpoint regarding
the identity of royal power and its religious legitimisation. The presence of
the prophet Isaiah is a sufficient argument supporting this line of interpre-
Aconfirmation can also be found in the second notable detail about Slav
in the narrative, regarding the settlement of the country. At first the prophet
says and I settled the land of Karvuna, called Bulgarian land, and in the
following sentence, describing the activity of Tsar Slav whom he has made
tsar, we read that this tsar settled regions and cities. The question arises,
who exactly was it who settled the landthe prophet Isaiah or Tsar Slav? I
am inclined to think that just as the prophet was fulfilling Gods command
to settle the Bulgarians in the Land of Karvuna, so too Tsar Slav served as
the tool for fulfilling the will of the prophet who had placed him in power.
In fact, he is likewise the tool of Divine Providence through whom the plan
for a new chosen people is implemented.
Finally, I would like to make some remarks in connection with the Hun-
dred Mounds. The text of the Tale states that Tsar Slav built these mounds.
Iv. Biliarsky, Srednovekovna Bulgaria: tsarstvoto i naroda, in: OYNI, Sbornik v
chest na prof. Ivan Bozhilov, Sofia, 2002, pp. 2540.
234 chapter six
This signifies they were not a natural phenomenon but the work of man.
Hence, we should reject defining them as hills or mountains. On the other
hand, the question arises what the writer may have meant by the term
mogila (mound). This is something usually associated with a burial site
(thoughthis is not a necessary part of its definition) over whichearthis piled
on. Precisely this form is, in my opinion, the most characteristic feature of
the object described here. Thus, in utilising some side data, we connect the
idea of creating the hundred mounds with the building of cities, which is
so characteristic for other rulers mentioned in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
In this sense, the creative activity of Tsar Slav is emphasised once again and
complements certain other traits of the character as depicted.
I will conclude by saying that whatever our observations and remarks
on the source, we cannot avoid the topic raised by the very name of this
character. This name is not a memory of the arrival of the Slavs early on,
before the Bulgars, nor is it a pronouncement about the fundamental role
of the Slavic population in the formation of the nation. These conclusions
are theses of present-day historiography. The mediaeval writer could not
have had such distant memories, nor have devised such detailed national
schemas. His was a different task: to present the country, the people, and its
ruler according to the paradigm of the biblical tradition; in this respect the
character of Tsar Slav represents a step in just this direction.
We find three tsars by the name Symeon in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
Judging by the logic of the narrative, they appear to be different persons, at
least within this story. The first of them is a tsar whose reign is described
as pious, happy, and blessed.
This is evident especially by its lengthone
hundred and thirty years.
The text stresses the abundant prosperity of
This has not passed unnoticedsee Iv. Dujev in: Prva nauchna sesija na Archaeo-
logicheskija institute, maj 1950, Sofia, 1950, pp. 507513; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za
Asparukha, p. 126.
See in this book, p. 1617 (f. 401c, line 27f. 401d, line 11).
The number 130 is not mentioned often in the Bible (Numbers 7:13) and is significant
chiefly as the sum of other numbers. I would mention that 130 were the years of the life of
priest Jehoiada who lived in the time of Joash, king of Judah (2Chronicles, chapter 24). He
was a righteous man and helped restore the Temple, which, assuming it is relevant to our
case, would carry a positive evaluation in the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. Regarding the
number, see: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 807808.
kings and their names 235
these times, and it is also indicated that he collected merely token taxes
from all regions of his kingdom: one distaff-full of wool, one spoonful of
butter, and one egg per year. Also indicative of his positive character are his
constructions and the founding of cities, mentioned above. Symeon created
many cities by the sea, and especially Preslav, which was built in the course
of twenty-eight years. It is obvious that this idealised character is based on
the historical BulgarianTsar Symeon(893927), sonof KhanBoris-Michael I
(although he is presented as being the latters brother here), and father of
Tsar Peter, which provokes no discussion nor raises any particular problems
for scholars seeking the prototype.
Such is not the case with the other two tsars in the text, Symeon II and
Symeon III the Wise. The former is merely mentioned and no information is
given about his reign except its duration: twenty years.
It is placed in time
immediately after the reign of Tsar Constantine, but there is no indication
that the two tsars are part of the same family or dynasty. Some authors have
unitedhimwithSymeonthe Wise as being the same character.
This is obvi-
ously inconsistent withthe text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, inwhichthe two
are clearly distinguished: between themis the reign of Tsar Nicephorus, and
regarding Symeon II it is explicitly said that he died after ruling for twelve
years, while Symeon the Wise, after a reign of four years.
Ivan Venedikov is the only scholar to propose a more extensive interpre-
tationof the text and the historical identificationof the characters, but what
he offers is completely arbitrary. According to him, this Symeon II is the
Kalou-tarkan Symeon, appointed by Tsar Symeon in 924, who became the
founder of the dynasty of provincial governors of Skopje.
He was the father
of Nicephorus (anassertionwithno basis inthe text!) andthe grandfather of
Symeon the Wise. The latter, for his part, is identical with Symeon-Roman,
See in this book, p. 1920 (f. 402b, last linef. 402c, line 2). The number 12 is very
important in the biblical context. It is the number of the tribes of the Sons of Israel (i.e. of
the sons of JacobGenesis 35:22) and indicates the fullness of the People. The princes, sons
of Ishmael, are twelve (Genesis 17:20). This is also the number of the wells of water in Elim
(Exodus 15:27), there are twelve stones on the altar in Sinai (Exodus 24:4) and on the altar in
Gilgal (Joshua, chapter 4), there are twelve stones on the breastplate (Exodus, chapter 28),
the sacrificial breads or animals are of that number (Leviticus 24:5, Numbers 7:3, 87), etc. It
would be appropriate to discuss in this particular context the number of years of this ruler
whois only slightly present inthe source. Regarding the number, see: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon
der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen, col. 620645.
See in this book, p. 20 (f. 402c, lines 1018). Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and
Apocalyptic Literature, p. 299 note 37.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, pp. 125132.
236 chapter six
governor of Skopje, who surrendered the city to the Byzantines, which
supposedly explains the negative attitude towards him on the part of the
apocryphons author.
Venedikovs assertions regarding the two unfamiliar tsars by the name
of Symeon are completely arbitrary, unproven, and untenable. I will not
discuss the strange argumentation, based on a chain of assumptions, each
of which is the basis of the next, about the position of the persons, the
localisation of their activity, and the relations between them. The only
concrete evidence of kinship between Symeon II and Symeon III that
Venedikov indicates is the existing traditionfor a grandsonto bear the name
of the grandfather.
As for the last one, the bad ruler Symeon the Wise, another and differ-
ent interpretation of him has been given based on the very similar text of
another apocryphon with a similar title, Tale of Isaiah, where a tsar with
the very same name is mentioned. This other apocryphon relates
that the
thirty-ninthtsar called Symeonthe Wise will come withships by sea. He will
conquer the Bulgarian land, and also the New Jerusalem, will enter the lat-
ter city through the Golden Gates, and will penetrate into the repository. All
will revolt and the Lord will strike down the people because of their pride
and folly. Symeon the Wise will fall to the ground and will turn towards the
New Jerusalem, saying that their laws have multiplied around him and he
will spend six years in the kingdom. It is correct to say that the two tsars
named Symeon the Wise, the one in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah and the one
in Tale of Isaiah, are identical as imaginary persons. In the latter text the
description is more detailed but we may say it contains all that the first text
does, and does not contradict it in any way on this common topic. The basic
points are the same: the name, the evil ruler, the destruction of the lands
of Bulgaria, Jerusalem, and Rome, the relatively short reign (4 or 6 years).
In Tale of Isaiah the tsar goes by sea with ships, and the New Jerusalem is
presented with traits that are distinctly related to the Old Testament: the
Law is mentioned, the repository suggests the Divine presence and the
Holy of Holies of the Temple. The idea has been proposed that Symeon the
Wise in Tale of Isaiah is Volodimer, son of the Grand Duke of Kievan Rus
Yaroslav the Wise, who undertook a military campaignagainst Constantino-
ple in 1043.
This is a possible explanation but we should emphasise once
again that the characters in both apocryphal texts are not historical persons
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, pp. 188, 200, 212.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 217 note 24.
kings and their names 237
but images of a certain type of ruler. However, this thesis certainly does not
explain why this particular name was used.
Of all countries where we might seek comparisons incommenting onour
source, only in Bulgaria was there a rulerand just onenamed Symeon.
Therefore, we should ask why there are three characters by that name
in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. I believe what we have in this case is three
different perspectives on the same ruler, Tsar Symeon of Bulgaria. This is
not a triple citation of his name but the construction of the image through
representation of three different tsars derived from the perception of a
single person. Elsewhere I have discussed the compiled nature of the Tale of
the Prophet Isaiah, constructed from different texts of various origins. The
most important source texts are related to the Near Eastern apocalyptic
tradition, but practically all of them must have passed through the Empire,
unless they were of local origin. The separate works may have presented
a different image of the same Bulgarian tsar, which led to the depicting of
three different rulers, one of whom is a clearly positive character; the other,
neutral; while the third is obviously negative. We could hardly reconstruct
the concrete path by which all this was achieved, or the possible sources.
Theodora and Her Son the Tsar
Theodora and her son the tsar are mentioned immediately after Tsar
Roman and immediately before Tsar Gagan Odelean. The tsar himself is
never citedby name, but is qualifiedas pious anddevout, as sonof the righ-
teous Theodora; he built many monasteries in the Greek and Bulgarian land
and reigned for twenty-three years
in great prosperity before dying. The
indicated features are very vague and create great difficulties for the identi-
fication of these characters. The only concrete identification so far has been
proposed by Ivan Venedikov, who discerns in the character of Theodora the
daughter of Tsar Samuel, Theodora Kosara; and in that of her son, the hus-
band of the historical Theodora, the Serbian prince St John Vladimir.
their commentary to the edition of the text, the authors merely quote this
view and seem to agree with it.
It is based only on the name of Theodora
and the assumption that, due to some error, the husband was indicated as
Regarding the number 23 see: Meyer, Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbe-
deutungen, col. 678679.
Venedikov, Voennoto i administrativnoto ustrojstvo, p. 124.
Tpkova-Zaimova, Miltenova, Historical and Apocalyptic Literature, p. 300 note 42.
238 chapter six
Anything could be explained using the error theory, but a convincing
identificationrequires argumentation. Inthis case, the argument is basedon
the context of the Cometopouloi, andthe generally positive attitude towards
Theodora Kosara and especially towards her husband, the Prince of Zeta,
who was proclaimed a saint. Ultimately, we have nothing to base our search
on but the mothers name, however it must be said that it is not typical for
a ruler to be designated only through his wife or mother. There had to be
a special reason for this, and I cannot agree that the Bulgarian origin of
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is reason enough for the daughter of the Bulgarian
tsar Samuel to be considered the mother character. I do not find it likely for
the canonised prince-martyr to figure only by the name of his wife, tsars
daughter though she may be.
There must have been some important reason for indicating the rulers
mother, and I am inclined to find it in her dominant position over her son
or in her special merit for the reign and its achievements. Having this in
mind, we may turn to history and trace the known empresses who carried
the name of Theodora. Of course, they would have to be Byzantine, for
Bulgarian history does not provide such cases.
There are two main figures I
would like to consider: the empress Theodora (circa 815after 867),
of Theophilus and mother of Michael III, who was her sons regent and
contributed to the final restoration of Orthodoxy, and the other empress
Theodora (9841056),
who was the daughter of Constantine VIII and his
wife Helena, and sister of Zo, with whomthey shared power at the decline
of the Macedonian dynasty. The first of these is particularly popular among
Orthodox Christians because of her part in overcoming the iconoclastic
heresy. Adopting this version, it is easy to understand why she would be the
leading figure, while the tsar is only defined as her son. All this evidence
is in her favour when we seek to identify the character in Tale. As for
Theodora, the daughter of Constantine VIII, she was one of the few women
Here I will not discuss the possibility of identifying Theodora with some Bulgarian
tsarina of the age of the Second Empire. For that poque, we have data about Tsar John
Alexanders two wives by that name, who evidently held positions of influence in the state.
(Bozhilov, Familijata na Asenevtsi (11861460). Genealogija i prosopografija, pp. 159ff.). But the
context of the Tale is completely different and I do not think we should turn to the time of
the Late Middle Ages.
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, III, pp. 20372038; Bozhilov, Biliarsky, Dimitrov, Iliev,
Vizantijskite vasilevsi, pp. 220ff.
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, III, p. 2038; Bozhilov, Biliarsky, Dimitrov, Iliev, Vizanti-
jskite vasilevsi, pp. 281282, 288289.
kings and their names 239
to have officially held the throne. She is not as popular as the other among
ecclesiastics, but her historical context displays certain coincidences with
what is presented in the Tale. I mean especially the fact that the preceding
tsar is Roman, which coincides with the name of the emperor Romanus III
Argyros (10281034)
who in fact preceded the historical Theodora. It could
also be pointed out this Theodora had many husbands, andassuming
the error theorywe could say these men became the archetype of the
nameless son. I will, however, refrain from further such assumptions so as
to avoid making arbitrary, improvable, and uncertain claims.
Therefore, despite the proposed arguments, I would not dare to choose
either of the two empresses as being identical with the mother of the name-
less tsar. Inasmuch as I do not believe this was a specific historical person, it
may be asserted that the two figures were combined to form this righteous
mother of the pious anddevout tsar of the BulgarianandGreek land. She too
is a character whose function is not to give us information about historical
events, but to embody certain qualities of the woman in power.
The unknown tsar called Turgius in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah is one of the
most enigmatic figures in this narrative, which is confusing enough anyway.
It is said about him that he appeared, after Tsar Arev, from the south-
ern countries and took Tsar Constantines wreath of the whole Bulgarian
and Greek kingdom and ruled for seventeen years and died (

, i
Tsar Turgius comes after Arev but is not said to be his heir, nor is there
any hint of the two being related in any way. On the contrary, whereas Arev
appeared from Constantine-grade, Turgius is from the southern coun-
tries. No events are reported for his comparatively long reign, but it is the
last one in the sequence we find in the Tale of the Prophet Isaiahafter
him again appeared the infidel lawless ones, the violators and deceivers,
the Pechenegs; with this, the story ends. The ending seems rather apoca-
lyptic and has been interpreted as such in studies, although the mention of
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, III, p. 1807; Bozhilov, Biliarsky, Dimitrov, Iliev, Vizanti-
jskite vasilevsi, pp. 273275.
See in this book, p. 21 (f. 402d, lines 3035).
240 chapter six
Pechenegs is usually considered concrete historical information and is re-
lated to the invasions of the late nomads in the 11th century.
Turgius is said to be the bearer of Tsar Constantines wreath, and a ruler
who accepted the whole Bulgarian and Greek kingdom. The latter is a
kingdomdefined by two ethnonyms or politonyms. Here the text evidences
once again the unity of Bulgarians and Byzantines.
We find that the only specific data related to Tsar Turgius are his men-
tioned place of origin and his name. We will focus special attention on the
name, and as for the southern countries, we will say the reference remains
a mystery. In my opinion, this passage only evidences that the standpoint
assumed in the text was not a Bulgarian one. South of Bulgaria was only
the Byzantine Empire, but the writer could hardly have had it in mind. This
information is of such a kind that it is impossible to make any assertions
without being quite arbitrary.
The name Turgius also fails to afford much opportunity for interpreta-
tion. There was a known prefect of Rome (praefectus Urbis) by the name of
Turgius Apronianus, who held this post for three months under the emper-
ors Constantius II and Constans in the year ad339.
We do not know much
about his activity and it is hard for me to imagine how this personage and
his name could have reached the text of Tale of the Prophet Isaiah.
In connection with the martyrdomof St Irenaeus (not the famous bishop
of Lugdunumbut the deacon and martyr in Tuscany) and of St Mustiola, the
name of the local governor Turgius or Turcius is mentioned,
who held this
position in the year ad275. He was evidently a pagan, for he took part in the
beating to death of St Irenaeus.
Turgius, Leontius, and Marcianus are cited as proconsuls of Spoleto in
some Latin hagiographical texts about martyrs (Acta XII Sociorum, Acta
Sancti Proculi, episcopi et martyris),
but this person too seems unlikely to
be related to the tsar from the apocryphal text.
In most of these sources, the personages have a name written Turgius
in some cases, and Turcius in others.
The personage never holds a
Jireek, Khristijanskijat element, p. 266; Dujev, Edno legendarno svedenie za Aspa-
rukha, pp. 129130.
He is mentioned in the Chronicle of ad354, part 10List of the prefects of Rome from
ad254 to 354Monumenta Germaniae historica, Chronica minora, I (1892), p. 68.
G. Crabb, Universal Historical Dictionary, vol. I, London, 1833, sub nom. Irinaeus; L.S.
Lenain de Tillemont, Mmoires pour servir l histoire ecclsiastique des six primiers sicles,
Bruxelles, MDCCXXXII, vol. 34, p. 54.
Acta santorum, Acta sanctorumiulii, vol. 27, Paris, 1868, pp. 913, 6162, 641.
Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. I (A. D. 260395), by A.H.M. Jones,
kings and their names 241
particularly important position in the stories, and is usually on the side of
the tormentors of some Latin saint. All this gives me little reason to believe
the character in the Tale is a borrowed one, and based on these texts.
Therefore, Tsar Turgius mentioned in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah remains
a mystery. He was hardly a historical person, but given the present state
of sources, it is impossible for me to propose any particular character in
historical memory, or one from religious texts who should express a certain
ideological line of legitimisation of royal power.
J.R. Martindale, J. Morris, Cambridge, 1971, p. 925; vol. II (A. D. 395527), by J.R. Martindale,
Cambridge, 1980, p. 1133.
This book set for itself two maintasks, which, I hope together have produced
a unified and coherent result: namely, a new edition and interpretation of
a rather complex work of mediaeval literature, and the positioning of this
work in the context of the construction of a new Christian identity within
the political ideology of Bulgaria after the Conversion to Christianity and in
the centuries that followed.
The work itself is entitled Tale of the Prophet Isaiah of How an Angel
Took him to the Seventh Heaven. The title by which it is generally known
in Bulgarian historiography was given it by Jordan Ivanov: Bulgarian Apoc-
ryphal Chronicle of 11thCentury; I have not usedthe latter designationinthis
book because it is a misnomer. The text has been preserved only in a copy
included in a Serbian 17th century manuscript, about which we know only
that it was at some time in Macedonia. This manuscript volume contains a
variedset of texts, andits detailedstudy couldcontribute some ideas regard-
ing the path of the transmission of the text over the centuries. At present, I
should limit my aims in that direction, as I have no access to the manuscript
itself, which is in Moscow.
The source has been the object of many commentaries, most of which
have been markedly nationalistic and have tried to uncover a patriotic
Bulgarian tendency within the text. I have discussed such studies of the
text and shall not retrace the topic again here. Nevertheless, I would like
to sum up the data regarding the dating, localisation, and authorship of
the text. I will begin with the latter two, which seem easier to cover, for I
do not believe I can say anything about them particularly different from
that already written. The localisation points to the western parts of the
Balkan Peninsula. The manuscript is Serbian (although some of the texts
in it are obviously connected with Bulgaria); it remained in Macedonia; the
text itself refers mostly to the western Bulgarian lands, with a noticeable
stress on the region of Kraishte and the Sofia region. All this is important
for various reasons. On one hand, these territories were a secondary centre
of Bulgarian culture with respect to northeast Bulgaria. On the other hand,
they are interesting with respect to the dissemination there of early printed
works, some of which display interesting similarities to the text of Tale of the
Prophet Isaiah. Nowwe come tothe problemof the compiler. It is impossible
to talk about real authorship here, not only due to the particular character
244 conclusion
of mediaeval creative work in general, but also because of the compiled
character of this particular literary work. It was obviously composed on
the basis of different texts, produced in various ages and various cultural
environments; yet here, they have formed a unified whole. Some of these
texts were Near Eastern and deuterocanonical, and they most likely reached
Bulgaria through Byzantine literature, while others retained a memory of
the Bulgarian past. They have all been united into the text by a compiler
who has composed a consistent and homogenous work conveying a single
and consistent message. This general conclusion is not contradicted by the
proposed supposition that there may have been some insignificant later
interventions in the text.
We can estimate when the final text was completed by relying on data
contained in the source itself, but also taking into account the history of
the only copy that has reached us, that in the Kichevo manuscript. What
is the nature of this text, what is its aim, what does it mean to suggest to
the reader? This book itself has been devoted to answering these questions,
and here I will summarise what I already endeavoured to say in it: this
is a literary work that evidences the construction and maintenance of a
Bulgarian Christian identity as the New Israel, Gods New Chosen People.
This identity had its foundation in Holy Scripture, based primarily on ideas
from the New Testament, but supported by images and paradigms that
came predominantly from the Old Testament. The land of the Bulgarians
is presented as a replica of the Holy Land both in the historical and in
the geographical sense. The image of the people was modelled on Israel,
the Chosen People from the Old Testament. It should be said here that
this process of casting a people as the New Israel in a New Holy Land
was widespread throughout Mediaeval Christendom, and there is nothing
specifically Bulgarian about it. I find no special national particularities in
the way in which the idea of the New Israel is presented. Perhaps the only
difference, and one of the most outstanding particularities of the work, is
the strongly emphasisedunity betweenBulgarians andRomans/Byzantines,
and between Bulgaria and the Eastern Roman Empire (called Byzantium),
which after a certain point in the narrative are represented together as a
single state and unified society.
As for the state doctrine, one may say it is intimately connected to the
construction of the Bible-based identity of the people as New Israel and of
that peoples rulers as religious-political continuers of the anointed Old Tes-
tament kings of the Chosen People. This model was taken directly from the
Old Testament, or indirectly perceived and mediated through the Byzan-
tine tradition. This influence perhaps came fromboth interpretations of the
conclusion 245
Bible and certain deuterocanoncial texts in Bulgaria and fromideas coming
out of Byzantium, The path of mediation through the Byzantine Empire was
the more typical course, since the influence of Byzantine culture in Bulgaria
was extremely powerful throughout the Middle Ages. Tale of the Prophet Isa-
iahis not a political treatise andwe couldnot expect tofindinit a theoretical
exposition of the problems of state power, its nature, origin, and mode of
exercise. Far fromthis, we find only traces of different conceptions of power,
which, however, are united, not mutually contradictory; all of themtogether
are based on Holy Scripture and the idea of the New Israel. In my study, I
have united them under two archetypes. The first is the image of the king
chosen by God and obedient to God, embodied in the Bible chiefly by King
David; within Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, his features are primarily embod-
ied in the character of Tsar Izot, but to a lesser degree also in other pious
rulers. The other image is that of the king-renovator, who, in the Bible, is
most vividly embodiedby Prophet Moses, wholedhis people out of bondage
inEgypt. Throughthe Hellenistic Jewishauthors, andafter themthroughthe
late Romanandmediaeval theologians, the character of Moses acquiredcer-
tain royal traits, and after Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea, who based his
comparisons on himwhen lauding Constantine, Moses came to be a model
for Christian rulers as well. In the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, these ideas were
personified above all by Tsar Constantine and by Tsar Ispor, but to various
degrees also by other historical or imaginary rulers depicted in this work.
These two images, that of the divinely chosen king and that of the king-
renovator, are different but not mutually contradictory. Their presenceor
more precisely the traces of their presencetogether in the same literary
work does not in any way diminish its unity and homogeneity. They could
even be the characteristics of the same person. It is true that obedience to
God and abidance by the Law, by His commandments, is essentially an Old
Testament quality, while renovation is essentially a NewTestament one, but
they donot contradict eachother, they are not irreconcilable. The LordJesus
Christ Himself claimed that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil
it (Matthew, 5:17). This explains the presence of both models in the text of
Tale of the Prophet Isaiah, a work that presents inanunsystematic formwhat
the author knew about the situation in his times.
We thus come to the question of the dating. When was Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah composed, in the formin which we knowit? The answer will depend
on several preliminary specifications. First, we are referring not to when the
separate parts that went into the compilation (for Tale of the Prophet Isaiah
is just that) were composed, but when they were joined in a single work.
Second, it is possible that we might not have the whole text of the work
246 conclusion
at presentthe ending is probably missing, and I have discussed this in
the respective section of this book. Therefore, we cannot limit our dating
only to the 11th century, when the latest identifiable historical data in the
work are localised. Third, in solving the problem we have to proceed from
two basic assumptions: Tale of the Prophet Isaiah evidences the existence
of a biblical-Christian Imperial identity, and the work probably aimed to
maintain this identity by presenting and emphasising the unity between
Bulgarians and Byzantines, built on an Orthodox Christian basis. Obviously,
those features in Bulgarian culture that might provide a favourable milieu
for the creation of such a text could be found as early as the 9th century
and especially in the 10th century, but it is out of the question that the work
could date fromthat age, for it contains indications and confused memories
of events from the 11th century. So we should consider the latter century as
the terminus post quem for the time of compiling.
Let us trace the available possibilities:
First possibility, the work is, of course, related to the 11th century, which is
the predominant opinioninhistoriography; that is the time towhichthe last
identifiable historical data citedinthe text are dated. This possibility cannot
be excluded, at least because it was the time of political unity between Bul-
garians and Byzantines within a single Empire after the Byzantine conquest
of Bulgaria. The fact that this unity, like nearly all political events in that age,
was achieved through war and much suffering is no reason to disregard the
fact that it existed. The idea of consolidation points to several possible peri-
ods, one of which is more specifically the last decades of the 11th century.
An answer to this question will depend to a very great degree on the solu-
tion to another: whether we have the whole text of the apocryphal work, or
whether its ending is missing. I am inclined to see the text in the Kichevo
manuscript, the only one available to us, as being incomplete, and so I shall
examine the two other possibilities which suggest a later dating.
The second possibility is to situate the works in the first decades of the
13th century, after the Renovatio Imperii in Bulgaria and the rise of the Sec-
ond Bulgarian Empire. There are two factors present in that time which
support this dating. The less certain factor is the flourishing of apocryphal
literature in that age. This only adds to the other, more important factor,
i.e. the consolidation of Orthodox people in the Balkans at that time, and
the powerful trend of the Bulgarian state to construct an imperial iden-
tity, which inevitably had to pass through unitypolitical and spiritual
with the Byzantines. In a sense, this duplicates and confirms the Bulgarian-
Byzantine unity we find in Tale of the Prophet Isaiah. We can see elements of
such a policy in Tsar Kaloyan (despite his union with Rome), in Tsar Boril,
conclusion 247
and especially in Tsar John II Asen. The latter achieved what was practi-
cally the full territorial unity of the Balkans after the battle of Klokotnitsa in
1230, a unity connected with the restoration of Orthodoxy, his visit to, and
special consideration for Mount Athos, and his attempts to take control of
The third possibility for a later dating of the source is at the end of the
14th or in the 15th century. I would not say that this age was marked by
intense copying or compilation of apocryphal works, but two other impor-
tant factors were present: consolidation of the Orthodox Christians around
Constantinople, and the passionate eschatological expectations in the face
of infidel non-Christian conqueror. It hardly requires any proof that these
two circumstances create a suitable environment for writing a work like Tale
of the Prophet Isaiah. However, I admit that in the text itself there is no con-
firmation or indication of such a dating, so it cannot go beyond the limits of
a hypothesis.
And so, we may claimthat the 13th century, as well as the 14th15th, seem
quite appealing as a time to which to date the Tale of the Prophet Isaiah,
but the solution for this hypothesis entirely depends on confirming that the
work, as we findit inthe only copy that has reachedus, is indeedincomplete.
This would explain the absence of a memory of such remarkable images
of kings-renovators of the state as the first Asenides, or as any tsar at all
fromthe time of the Second Bulgarian Empire. In this book, I have stated an
assumptionsupporting the viewthat the endof the text of Tale of the Prophet
Isaiah has not reached us. This remains a topic for discussion, just like the
other possibility of the possible influence of the early printed book uponthe
text of the Kichevo manuscript. A definitive and generally accepted answer
to these questions will hardly ever be reached.
Nevertheless, I do not think this is the most important topic in this
book, for which the exact dating of the work is not the most important
problem. My main goal has been to publish the work in a form as close as
possible to the original, and to state and try to prove two assertions. The
first is that this is not some (semi)pagan, folkloric, patriotic, and original
Bulgarian text, but is an apocryphon, based on an Old Testament tradition;
the message and purpose of this work was to testify to the Christian identity
of the people, of the state, and state power, perceived as a New Israel, and
perhaps even to support and affirm this identity. The second assertion is
that this identity was built on a religious-based unity of Bulgarians and
Romans/Byzantines, and not at all on opposition between them, not on
ethnic-national intolerance or any kind of patriotism.
excursus one
After the conversion to Christianity, Bulgarian society began constructing its own
Christian identity. Although the dynasty and government were preserved, society
now had new aims and ideals. This required the elaboration of a new doctrine of
the state, or at very least a radical change of the old one. It was necessary to at least
partially break away from the tradition of the Eurasian Steppe in order to embark
on the road of building a Christian state; this process went on under the strong
influence of Byzantium. Thus, Bulgarian society changed not only its religion, but
its ethno-cultural characteristics as well.
This transformation required a new understanding and rethinking of history,
inasmuch as identity is based on the past. On one hand, it involved a different
interpretation of time and the adoption of the Judeo-Christian linear conception
of historical time, and on the other, new ways had to be sought to incorporate the
newly converted people into the sacred history of the Holy Scripture. In this excur-
sus I will present certain observations specifically on the mechanism of Bulgarian
adoption of Christian biblical history, history spanning from the Creation, the Fall,
and the Covenant to the End of Days, the Last Judgment, and Salvation.
The main task of this study will be to trace certain characteristic manifestations
of the concept of time and history among the Bulgars and the transformation of
these views during the Christian age. Of course, this will not be a comprehensive
presentation of the concept of time or of the problems surrounding the Bulgar
calendar, but a presentation limited to the data provided in the List of Names of the
Bulgar Princes (or Khans), and especially to the context in which it has come down
to us within the manuscript heritage. Here we should recall that the copies of this
monument known to us are all included as parts of late Russian manuscripts, the
so-called Hellenic and Roman Chronicle, a complex compiled work that originated
in a South Slavic, probably Bulgarian, environment.
The List has reached us in three copies:
1. The copy inthe Count Uvarov collection, No1334(10), whichis nowkept inthe
manuscript department of the State Historical Museum (= GIM) in Moscow.
This is a code of 432 sheets, semi-uncial script, dating fromthe end of the 15th
century. The greater part of the manuscript contains the Hellenic Chronicle
(ff. 1422), followed by excerpts from the IV Novgorod Chronicle.
A. Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. II, Moscow, 1869, p. 19; archimandrit
Leonid, Drevnjaja rukopis , Russkij vestnik, 1889, 4 (April), pp. 3ff.
Archimandrit Leonid, Sistematicheskoe opisanie slavjano-russkikh rukopisej sobranija
250 excursus one
2. Acopy fromthe collectionof the Holy Synod, No 280 (nowinGIMagain). This
is a large collection comprising 728 sheets written in semi-uncial script and
dating from the early 16th century. The beginning is missing, and the extant
text begins with (Russian princes) and the story of Pope
Hippolytus about the Antichrist. The Hellenic Chronicle takes up the main
part of the collection (ff. 4407). Immediately after it come listings of the
kings of Israel and the Roman emperors, followed by a list of the suffragan
sees dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate (f. 411). After that we come to
the texts of other works: a short chronicle (up to the year 1473), the Epistle of
PatriarchPhilotheus (f. 426), andthe canons of the metropolitanCyril (f. 428).
The second part of the manuscript contains the text of the IV Novgorod
Obviously, the collection was created at the very end of the 15th
century, after 1496, as evident both from the text on the Russian princes and
the short chronicle.
3. A copy from the Pogodin collection, No 1437, preserved in the St Petersburg
Public Library. This is a codex of 240 sheets, written in semi-uncial script in
the 16th century.
A.N. Popov states that this copy is completely identical with
that of the Holy Synod collection, but takes the history only as far as the death
of Emperor Maximian (ad310).
Here I will not discuss in detail the question as to how, when and upon what mate-
rial carrier the List of Names was created. I will refer to, and agree with V.N. Zlararski,
who asserts that the original variant of the text was probably in Greek, inscribed on
stone, and was an epigraphic work.
It is difficult to answer the question as to when
and along what path the text was included within the Hellenic and Roman Chroni-
cle, but we may be confident that it arrived in Russia as a work that was already a
literary monument, i.e. as a manuscript, not a stone inscription, which would have
been difficult to transport. The translation from Greek and the protograph of the
Russian text were probably made in Bulgaria, in the Preslav circle of Tsar Symeon,
as some scholars claim.
The composition of the world chronicle and the inclusion
in it of certain texts was an event of significant ideological value. That is why our
effort will be to clarify the problemas to the place of the Bulgarian princes in world
history, in the history of the Universe created by God.
The title of the chronicle is the following: .
, , , ,
. .
grafa A. S. Uvarova, vol. III, Moscow, 1894, pp. 2526, No 1334 (10); M.N. Tikhomirov, Imennik
bolgarskikh knjazej, Vestnik drevnej istorii, 3, 1946, p. 83.
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, Moscow, 1866, p. 1; Tikhomirov, Imen-
nik bolgarskikh knjazej, p. 83.
Tikhomirov, Imennik bolgarskikh knjazej, p. 83.
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, pp. 1 ff.
V.N. Zlatarski, Bolgarskoe letochislenie, Izvestija otdela russkogo jazyka i slovesnosti
Imperatorskoj academii nauk, 1912, t. XVII, pars 2, pp. 28ff.
archimandrit Leonid, Drevnjaja rukopis , pp. 36.
the list of names of the bulgar princes 251
(= Song of Songs that is SolomonsI.B.)
(= PentateuchosI.B.)

The books are the following: 1. Fromthe Pentateuch of Moses and
other Old Testament books; 2. From the Chronicle of George Hamartolos; 3. From
the Book of Ezra and others; 4. From the Chronicle of John of Antioch (Malalas).
All researchers of the text and its context indicate that the List of Names comes
immediately after 2Samuel. Regrettably, we do not have a detailed description of
the manuscript in which the Uvarov copy was included. A. Popov gives a detailed
inventory of the Synodal copy and confirms that the Pogodin copy is fully identi-
cal with it in this part.
In addition, no significant differences from the copy in the
Uvarov collection have been indicated. On the contrary, all authors confirmthe full
similarity of the copies, which allows us to assume there was also a similarity of the
contexts of the monument in question.
Let us present the brief contents of the Holy Synod copy, limiting ourselves to the
context of the List. Here I will cite the part of A.N. Popovs description of the copy:
f. 17
: About prophet Moses.
About the pharaoh and how the Children of Israel escaped
f. 18
: About Ruth
f. 19
: About prophet Samuel. This section relates in brief of King Saul, King
David, and King Solomon; the account begins with the following words:
f. 19
: Beginning from Rehoboam this part consists of excerpts copied in
full, from 1 Kings (from ch. 12 to the end).
f. 36
: .
Placed here is the whole of 2Kings. In his
description, Popov definitely concludes the Slavic text of the biblical book is
an ancient one, adducing relevant examples.
f. 68
: List of Names of Bulgar Princes.
f. 69
: Part of the chronicle of George Hamartolos about Nebuchadnezzar.
f. 70
: Story about Balthazar.
This context of the List of Names is quite indicative. The compiler has evidently fol-
lowed the biblical account of the establishment of the Kingdom among the People
of Israel, and hence the narrative includes the acts of the prophet Samuel (which
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, pp. 34.
A.M. Istrin, K voprosu o vzaimootnoshenii Ellinskikh letopistsev i Archivskogo (Iude-
jskogo) chronografa, Izvestija otdela russkogo jazyka i slovesnosti Imperatorskoj academii
nauk, 1911, t. XVI, pars 4, pp. 125142.
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, p. 1.
I hope someday to be able to work with the manuscripts themselves, an opportunity
that, I presume, may yield interesting results confirming my thesis.
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, pp. 21 ff.
This is the 4Kingdoms that corresponds to the 2Kings.
Popov, Obzor chronografov russkoj redaktsii, t. I, p. 25.
252 excursus one
was inevitable) and an enumeration of the kings with full quotations from 2Kings.
Immediately after this, the text presents the List of Bulgar Princes, beginning with
the mythical Avitokhol. After the List, there follows the story of Nebuchadnezzar
and the end of the kingdoms of Israel. We find that these kingdoms end with the
Bulgarian rulers. It is notable that the List does not represent an independent sec-
tion within the Hellenic Chronicle, and not being part of the chronicle of George
Hamartolos either, the List was obviously perceived as part of the preceding bibli-
cal text.
What may we conclude fromthese observations? First, the List of Names is placed
withinthe text of a worldchronicle usedinthe late 15thcentury inRussia as a model
by the author of the Hellenic and Roman Chronicle. Second, this earlier chronicle,
which has not come down to us, was probably composed in Preslav, then capital of
Bulgaria. Third, the List was included at the end of 2Kings, so that the Bulgar rulers
appear to be in the same line as the kings of Israel and Judah.
There is no doubt that these facts express a certain attitude to world history and
the place of the Bulgarians in it. Thus, an essentially pagan monument is found
included in a Christian world chronicle, which is not only different from, but also
evenincompatible with the paganconcepts inits viewof time and history. The joint
presence of the two in the same, even though compiled, monument provides us
a glance at how the new identity of the Bulgarians was constructed. This is one
reason for us to believe that, after the conversion, the new converts looked upon
themselves as NewChosen People, as NewIsrael, or at least were building elements
of such a self-perception.
That there is a connection between religion and the view on time is indisputable
and requires no special demonstration. The calendar is a religious phenomenon
that marks the breakthrough of the sacred into the profane, and thus sets the
rhythmof life for the whole society and for each of its members. It ensures meaning
andreality for them. The very identity of a society is formedby its history, whichpro-
vides the parameters of present, past and future. In this respect the two concepts of
timethe cyclical (mythological) one and the li