Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 September 2012
In 1254, following the death of the emperor John III Vatatzes (1222–54), his successor, his son Theodore II Laskaris (1254–58), had to confront a Bulgarian penetration into Thrace and Macedonia. These areas had been recently restored to Byzantine rule and King Michael Asen (1246–56) of Bulgaria anticipated that Vatatzes' death was an opportunity to regain control over them. The Bulgarians were able to seize many towns and strongholds because they had inadequate garrisons. To maintain the prestige of his empire, Laskaris needed to expel the Bulgarians. The main Byzantine historian of this confrontation is George Akropolites whose work is reproduced with the addition of interesting details by Theodore Skoutariotes. Nikephoros Gregoras mentions the war briefly without adding any more information and George Pachymeres does not mention it at all. Fortunately, we have enough information to understand the campaigns. The outcome of the war confirmed that the Nicaean Empire was, in a military as well as an ideological and political sense, the heir to the pre–1204 Byzantine Empire. As for the new emperor, we would suggest that he was not only a theologian and philosopher, but also a capable, although sometimes an overkeen and impetuous, general.
Course of the War
In this section, we are looking into the course of events of this war, as recorded by the two Byzantine historians. The Bulgarians had profited from the weakness of the town garrisons which lacked enough supplies and war machines to stand siege. Moreover, the inhabitants of these towns were not at all faithful to the emperor. This is why the Nicaean garrisons did not resist and came to terms with the invaders. The emperor held a war council when the news of extensive Bulgarian penetration broke.