The victory over Varda Sklir did not guarantee peace to Emperor Vasily II. The rebel survived and could well again try to seize the throne. On the other hand, the suppression of the rebellion strengthened the influence of another popular military leader, Varda Foki, which also did not bode well for the ruler. However, the next five years after the suppression of Sklir’s rebellion passed relatively calmly: the emperor was confidently sitting on the throne, and his relative, parakimomen (actually the main minister) Vasily, decided on state affairs. At one point, Basileus thought that he was a completely independent ruler and could rule without the support of his cousin. That’s where it all started.
Years without strife
Having defeated the rebel Sklier, Varda Fok received the most varied honors. In fact, everyone in the empire understood that it was he who had saved the throne for young emperors. The rulers of Byzantium decided to make full use of the military talents of Foki and almost immediately after the suppression of the rebellion sent him away from the capital – to Syria, where the emir of the empire-dependent city of Aleppo decided to change his overlord and turned for help to the Fatimid dynasty. Foka quickly completed the campaign, defeating the emir’s troops in the fall of 981 and forcing him to pay the tribute established by Tzimiskes.
However, the emir of Aleppo used the slightest opportunity to get rid of Byzantine dependence, and Foke had to remain in Syria. In 983, he repeated his campaign against Aleppo and again celebrated the victory. Most of all, the situation suited both Vasiliev – the emperor and the parakimomen, who got rid of a possible rival for a long time. But if the parakimomen was completely satisfied with the development of events, the emperor was increasingly weighed down by his grandfather’s guardianship and gradually began to try to limit his power. This caused the discontent of the influential court. As a master of custom solutions, the parakimomen began to draw closer to Foca and other Byzantine military leaders.
The details of the conspiracy are unknown, but, apparently, the emperor Vasily, having given the order for the arrest and exile of a relative in 985, was only a moment ahead of the conspirators. The Duka of Antioch, Leo Melissin, who besieged the Syrian fortress of Valenuy, which was under the rule of the Fatimids, almost simultaneously with the disgrace of the parakimomen, announced the army a successful rebellion and, having lifted the siege, went to join the forces of Foki. However, before reaching the goal, the commander received news that events in the capital were developing exactly the opposite. However, the emperor treated the dooka surprisingly mildly: he demanded that Leo return to Valanae and still capture her or return the money allocated for the siege. Naturally, Lev Melissin chose a less devastating option for himself. He returned to the fortress and took it by decisive assault.
At this time, Foka in the same Syria besieged another fortress – Apomeia. Being, it seems, better informed, he did not show himself. Following the success of Melissin, Byzantium entered into a peace treaty with Egypt, the fame of which went to Foke. However, the emperor no longer trusted his best commander. Having set off on a campaign against the Bulgarians in 986, the ruler left Foku on the eastern border, although this was not necessary.
Emperor Vasily will go down in history under the nickname of the Bulgarian Man . But it will be later, and while his first independent campaign ended in failure: after the unsuccessful siege of Serdica, the retreating Byzantine army was utterly defeated in the battle at the Trojan Gate. Basileus himself was saved, but the news of the defeat excited the minds of representatives of the military nobility dissatisfied with his rule. New uprisings were not long in coming.
The Return of the Prodigal Rebel
The first to declare himself was Varda Sklir. The time elapsed after the suppression of his rebellion, he spent in honorable imprisonment in Baghdad. Initially, Sklir expected to receive military assistance from the Baghdad emir Adud al-Dole, promising to free all Muslims who were in captivity in Byzantium, as well as transfer a number of border fortresses. The emir appreciated the offer, but decided that it was not in time, and ordered Sklir to be detained.
Emperor Vasily sent his representative Nicephorus Uranik to Baghdad, supplying him with an impressive amount. Uranik was supposed to demand from the emir to extradite Sklyr in exchange for Muslim captives held in Byzantium. In the event of a refusal, he had to physically eliminate the former rebel. The emir did not want to part with his captive – he expected to play this card later, if necessary. Having learned about the goals of the mission of the imperial representative, Adud al-Dole ordered him to be imprisoned.
The emir died without waiting for that opportunity, but his son had the opportunity. When the news of Vasily’s defeat in Bulgaria reached Baghdad, Sklier was immediately given freedom. In exchange for the previously announced conditions, he received financial assistance, thanks to which he began to immediately recruit supporters for the fight for a just cause. Most of the soldiers he recruited, as in the previous uprising, were Armenians. Already in February 987, Sklir with the army entered Mytilene and there was solemnly proclaimed emperor.
Under the banner of a new rebellion
Basil II decided to resort to a tried-and-true remedy: like nine years ago, he directed Wardu Fok against the rebel. The commander was again forced to swear allegiance to the emperor. However, confusion in the sources is not excluded, and this event still refers to the campaign of 978. But as smart people said, you cannot enter the same river twice. Foka decided that in this situation he would achieve more if he acted at his discretion, and not follow the orders of the emperor who did not trust him.
In August 987, Varda Fock, instead of stepping on Sklira, proclaimed himself emperor, bringing their number to three. His troops were inferior in numbers to the army of Foki, although it is believed that Sklir still had more soldiers, but they were less combat-ready. Be that as it may, Sklir sent ambassadors to Fok, proposing to act together and divide the empire after the victory: Sklir would have the European part, and Fokey the Asian. At the same time (possibly for safety reasons) Sklir sent his son Roman to Vasily, trying to gain imperial support. Foka accepted the offer of the old rebel, but during a personal meeting on September 14, 987, he unexpectedly arrested Sklir and sent him to prison, though he promised to fulfill all the conditions of the agreement after a complete victory over the emperor. Perhaps this action is explained by
The army without the commander passed to the new commander. However, the Muslim warriors recruited by Sklir refused to fight on the side of Foki and turned home. But for Varda this did not play a special role: he had quite enough troops to fight the emperor. The commander established control over most of Asia Minor, leaving in Basil’s hands only a stretch of the Black Sea coast with Trebizond. Probably the Crimean Chersonesus also sided with Foki, so that grain at Constantinople at that time came only from Trebizond.
The main force of the Foki army, according to Mikhail Psell, were the Ivirs recruited by the rebel. This word most often refers to Georgians, but it is possible that in this case, the Armenian Chalcedonians living in Byzantium also appear. Psell writes, exaggerating that ” these are all men who are almost ten feet tall (one foot is 31.23 cm – approx. Auth.), The view is very severe .”
Foka sought to capture Constantinople as soon as possible and therefore went to the capital, dividing his army into two parts: one was under his personal command, and the second was led by the patrician Kalokir Delfin and Nikifor Foka, brother of the rebellious emperor. Foki’s army blocked Abydos from land, and Dolphin approached almost the capital itself and even occupied Chrysopolis (modern Uskudar – an area in the Asian part of Istanbul). Only the strait separated the rebels from Constantinople. The fleet of Foki penetrated into it, but did not dare to enter the harbor. It seemed that the days of Basil on the throne were numbered.
Emperor’s return move
The emperor all this time tried to find a way out of this situation. Recalling the events of the time of the Sklir uprising, when Foka, at the head of government forces, began to operate in the rear of the rebels, the emperor sent the sea commander Grigory Taronit, who was supposed to act on the communications of the rebellious troops, to Trapezund. Against him, Varda Foka sent his son Nicephorus Foku Baritrahel (Torticollis). Nicephorus, not having enough strength, turned for help to the ruler of the Georgian kingdom Tao-Klarjeti David III Kuropalat, who helped his father suppress Sklir’s rebellion. Together with the Georgians, Nicephorus Foka blocked the government forces in the Khaldia Theme, and then managed to defeat Grigory Taronit. But despite the fact that the emperor’s troops were defeated,
The second step of the emperor was more effective. He turned for help to the northern neighbor of the empire, Prince Vladimir of Kiev. The details of the negotiations are unknown, as well as their exact time, but in the end Vasily received a 6,000-strong Varangian contingent. It is likely that some of it was made up of Slavs. In addition, Vladimir made a campaign against Chersonesos and returned him to the bosom of imperial power. They had to pay for it with the hand of Basileus’s sister Anna, who became the wife of the Kiev prince. Now, having at the disposal of a sufficient army, Vasily went on the offensive.
The first blow in the summer of 988 (the date is considered approximate – it is possible that the battle took place later) the emperor struck near Chrysopolis, to immediately protect the capital. At night, the Varangians – or, as Psell writes, “Taurus Scythians”– crossed the strait and quietly for the rebels settled behind Chrysopolis. In the afternoon, the imperial fleet approached Chrysopolis from the sea, demonstrating a desire to land troops on the Asian coast. Dolphin led his soldiers to meet, hoping to stop the landing at the very beginning, but he was suddenly attacked from the rear by sheltering Vikings. The battle on the seashore was short-lived. The rebels could not oppose anything to the fury of the Normans, which fell with the axes on the Byzantine heads. Some of Foki’s troops were destroyed on the spot, while another was driven into the sea and was forced to surrender. Together with her, Dolphin and Nicephorus Fock were captured. The rebel patrician was hanged by order of the emperor (according to other sources, put on a stake), and Nicephorus was chained and sent to the capital.
This battle marked a turning point in the development of rebellion. Separate units began to leave the rebel camp. Foka urgently needed a victory that would restore his influence. However, Vasily, pleased with the victory, believed that he had not enough strength for a decisive clash, and all the months remaining until the spring of next year, the emperor strengthened his forces in every possible way. And most importantly – Vasily was plotting, trying to attract some rebels to his side. Only in the spring of 989, considering that now he has every chance of success, the Basileus launched an attack on Abydos. The decisive battle took place on April 13 near the city. The emperor opposed the Foki Georgians with the Varangians-Rus. The emperor himself, along with his brother Konstantin, armed himself, took a place in the ranks of the Klibanaris.
Before the battle, Warde Fock there were adverse omens. He barely kept his horse, dizzy, but nevertheless, seeing the emperor in the enemy ranks, he decided to attack. Psell writes:
Forgetting everything, Foka rushed forward, trying at all costs to get to the hated emperor, who also went to meet the enemy, holding in one hand a sword, and in the other an icon of the Virgin. Throwing spears flew in Foku. Konstantin had already left the ranks to personally grapple with the rebel, when all of a sudden he fell out of the saddle and fell dead under the hooves of his horse. Subsequently, some said that the rebel was hit by a dart. Konstantin wrote down this death on his own account, but the real killer of Foki was Emperor Vasily. But he did it not with his own hands. According to Psell, Foki’s death was
The question of the winner disappeared by itself. The Ivers, faced with the Rus, fled. After that, the massacre began, which ended with the capture of the rebel camp. The winners dismembered the body of Foki. They brought their head to Constantinople and solemnly carried it through the streets of the city. Then she was sent as a warning to the eastern provinces of the empire, where the rebels still remained. Vasily seemed to have won a complete victory. But still Varda Sklir remained alive.
Death of the Second Ward
All this time, Varda Sklir was imprisoned in the fortress of Tiropoion under the supervision of the wife of Varda Foki. Immediately after his death, the sons of Foki Nikifor and Leo appeared in the fortress and recognized Sklir’s authority over themselves. He, again clothed in purple, began to gather around himself the remnants of the rebel army. Sklir managed to rally the soldiers so that
Details of the ensuing campaign are unknown, but all sources agree that Sklir proved himself to be a talented commander who did not enter the battle with the emperor, preferring to exhaust the enemy’s army. As a result, Vasily offered Sklir, who was already overcome by senile diseases and his eyesight worsened every day, so favorable conditions of the world that it was simply impossible to refuse them. In addition to forgiveness, which extended not only to Sklir, but also to all his supporters, the commander received significant land holdings. Everyone kept the awards made by Varda Foka. The only one who did not accept these conditions was Leo Fock, who fled to Antioch, where he hoped to continue the struggle. However, the population of the empire was already tired of strife, and the inhabitants of Antioch gave Leo to the emperor.
About a year after these events, on April 4, 991, the elderly Varda Sklir died. On the eve of his death, Emperor Vasily honored him with a visit and granted the rank of Kurapalat to the former commander. Subsequently, the rumor spread that Sklyra had poisoned the basileus, but whether this was so in reality, it is definitely impossible to say.
Metropolitan officials once again defeated the military nobility. However, the final resolution of the issue was still a long way off.