I originally posted this article 2 years ago yesterday, on the anniversary of the Battle of Verbitsa Pass. Few people were reading my blog then, and I still think this is a pretty interesting and colorful event in Byzantine history, and as yesterday (July 26) was the 1,204th anniversary of the battle, I thought it was topical. Enjoy!


krum skull

On July 26, 811 (A.D.), exactly 1,202 years ago today, a great but very little-known battle occurred at a place called Verbitsa (or Varbitsa) Pass, which is now in Bulgaria. A great Byzantine army, personally commanded by Emperor Nicephorus I, was trapped in a small narrow canyon by the forces of the Bulgarians and their Khan, known as Krum. One of the most brutal slaughters in all of medieval history ensued. The Bulgarians set upon their enemies and slaughtered thousands of Byzantine troops, nearly wiping out the entire army. Nicephorus was killed, some say by Krum himself. In the battle’s most famous coda, Nicephorus was beheaded and Krum had his skull mounted in silver and turned into a beer mug.

This battle has fascinated me since I first read about it years ago. It’s the most epic defeat the Byzantine Empire had suffered up until that time in its history…

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