Chapter

Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages

Catherine Holmes

in How Fighting Ends

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693627
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741258 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693627.003.0007
Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages

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This chapter analyses a very important aspect of the history of surrender: the question of the mass mutilation of prisoners of war. This is done by assesssing whether the blinding of all the soldiers of a captured Bulgarian army by Byzantine emperor Basil II in 1014 was historical fact or a later fiction. This chapter concludes that some sort of mass blinding did occur, even if the immense numbers of victims as well as the decisiveness of this Byzantine victory over the Bulgarians can be questioned. It goes to ask whether the mutilation of prisoners of war was common in other medieval contexts beyond Byzantium. This chapter suggests that among medieval polities, it was great empires, including the Byzantines and the Carolingians, that were the more frequent perpetrators of mass cruelties rather than other more supposedly violent groups such as the Vikings. Imperial expansion was a crucial context to the mutilation of prisoners of war in the Middle Ages.

Keywords: mutilation; prisoner of war; Basil II; Bulgaria; Byzantium

Chapter.  6547 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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