Battle of Ongal
|Battle of Ongal|
|Part of the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars|
The foundation of the First Bulgarian Empire. The army of Asparukh is in red. The army of Constantine IV is in blue.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Light||Almost the whole army|
The Battle of Ongal took place in the summer of 680 in the Ongal area, an unspecified location in around the Danube delta near the Peuce Island, present-day Tulcea County, Romania. The battle had an enormous significance and influence not only for Balkan but also for European history with the creation of the First Bulgarian Empire.
Origins of the conflict
In 632, Khan Kubrat united the Bulgars into the nation-state of Old Great Bulgaria between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. After his death in the 660s the state was threatened by constant attacks by the Khazars from the east and his sons divided his kingdom amongst themselves. Batbayan, the eldest son, inherited the throne but was defeated by his relative Cozarig (Kotrag) who led the Khazars and submitted to his rule. Kotrag first extended his empire to the north and established Volga Bulgaria, while the third son Asparukh marched westward and settled in the Ongal area to the north of the Danube. After consolidating his rule he launched an attack against the Byzantine lands to the south. During that time Byzantium was at war with the Arabs who had recently besieged the capital Constantinople. However, in 680 the Byzantines defeated the Arabs and concluded a peace treaty. After this success the emperor Constantine IV was free to move against the Bulgars and led an army against Asparukh. In the meantime the Bulgarian leader made an alliance with the Seven Slavic tribes for mutual protection against the Byzantines and formed a federation.
The Bulgars had built wooden ramparts in the swampy area near the Peuce Island. The marshes forced the Byzantines to attack from a weakened position and in smaller groups, which reduced the strength of their attack. With continuing attacks from the ramparts, the Bulgar defense eventually forced the Byzantines into a rout, followed up by the Bulgar cavalry. Many of the Byzantine soldiers perished. According to popular belief, the emperor had leg pain and went to Nessebar to seek treatment. The troops thought that he fled the battlefield and in turn began fleeing. When the Bulgars realised what was happening, they attacked and defeated their discouraged enemy.
After the victory, the Bulgars advanced south and seized the lands to the north of Stara Planina. In 681 they invaded Thrace defeating the Byzantines again. Constantine IV found himself in a dead-lock and asked for peace. With the treaty of 681 the Byzantines recognised the creation of the new Bulgarian state and were obliged to pay annual tribute to the Bulgarian rulers, which was greatly humiliating for the empire which managed to defeat the Sassanid Persians and the Ummayads.
This battle was a significant moment in European history, as it led to the creation of a powerful state, which was to become a European superpower in the 9th and 10th century along with the Byzantine and Frankish Empires. It became a cultural and spiritual centre of Slavic Europe through most of the Middle Ages.
- W. Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, р. 576.
- Чолпанов, Б., и др, История на Българите: Военна история, стр. 73
- Атанас Пейчев и колектив, 1300 години на стража, Военно издателство, София 1984.
- Йордан Андреев, Милчо Лалков, Българските ханове и царе, Велико Търново, 1996.
- Пламен Павлов, Историята - далечна и близка, Велико Търново, 2010.