THE ART OF WAR OF THE PROTO-BULGARIANS
The Bulgarian warriors used a variety of defensive and offensive weapons, which gave them many advantages in the battle.
The main one among them was the bow. Bulgarians used a reflex bow. It was composed of many parts, took a long time to make and required skilled craftsmen. When the bow was not used, its bowstring was unhooked and he remained protected in a leather sleeve, matching its shape. It allowed it to be more durable.
The arrows of this bow were carried in a quiver, attached to the belt of the warrior with two straps. The arrows were positioned in such a way that their heads were pointing upwards. The lower body of the quiver was wider due to the feathers of the arrows. The inner side of the quiver, resting on the body was flat and slightly bent. It was made of leather and iron hoops. They were decorative but also helped it preserve its shape.
Bulgarian soldiers used the sword or the saber for close combat, and both of them during battle. Most of the horsemen preferred the sabre, since it was curved and could effectively be swung from horse back. It was also easier to pull out from the body of the enemies being struck, thanks to its arc.
The sword used by the Proto-Bulgarians was called a palash. The oath taken on the sword was among the most important rituals and ceremonies of the ancient Bulgarians.
Spears were also widespread. Short and long versions were used. The first type was thrown towards the enemy while the second was couched or thrusted. Skillful spearmen enjoyed high esteem in the ranks of the army. The experienced Bulgarian leaders and rulers made great efforts to master the art of the spear. Some of them were famous for their skills in spear fighting. A vivid example is the Bulgarian Khan Tervel. He preferred the spear to other weapons, as shown by a miniature of the Catholic gospel, where the Bulgarian ruler is depicted joining a battle with a spear and a shield.
The spears were carried on the shoulder or strapped on one’s back. Their tips were decorated with colourful ribbons that indicated the warriors' affiliation with the designated army ranks.
Helmets and shields were the defensive items that were the most widespread. The shields were round, usually made of leather, stretched on a wooden frame or base. The light cavalry used small round shields with their left hand, which stopped arrows shot at them or deflect blades. Larger, round-shaped shields were carried by heavily-armed Bulgarian warriors. They completed their weapons and allowed them to successfully lead both cavalry and infantry charges against the enemy.
The helmets were made of leather and metal. Lightly armed Bulgarian horsemen usually wore leather hats.
Bulgarian warriors used mail and lamellar armour, either of leather or metal. Warriors with more modest means wore thick leather armour. But the elite warriors, the ruler and his circle possessed metal armor. Their horses’ front parts were also protected by metal armour - archeological finds unearthed halters and harnesses among elements of horse tacks. The greatest force of the Bulgarian army at that period was the heavy cavalry. Many references to it have been preserved in the works of Byzantine chroniclers. One note confirms that fact.
It is no coincidence that there are reports of the year 813, when Khan Krum sent 30,000 troops "covered in iron." This undoubtedly impressed the Byzantine chroniclers.
Among the arsenal of the Proto-Bulgarians, a lasso-type weapon called the arkan occupied an important role. It was used skillfully by all, from the modest warrior to the nobleman. His purpose was to capture bred cattle, but it gradually found a use in the military campaigns. With a skillfully thrown arkan during battle, one could restrain a captive, disarm a foe, etc. Even in later times, the lasso was used by Bulgarian warriors. King Kaloyan's soldiers used arkans against the Crusaders, indicating that these weapons continued to be popular.
The whip was also widely used. In the hands of experienced warriors, it became a fearsome weapon. With it, they could successfully disarm even a well-protected enemy, while at the same time making it difficult to approach them, even with an axe or a sword.
During battle, Proto-Bulgarian warriors used numerous maneuvers and tactical moves to gain advantage over their ennemies.
The Proto-Bulgarians mainly formed lines consisting of separate units, between which there was very little space. This gave the impression that they were one compact mass, while at the same time being able to move and reform ranks easily. The first row was the thickest, with the most warriors standing side by side. Behind them were the rest of the forces. In the rear, the Bulgarians regrouped their spare horses and wagons. In this way they protected themselves from an attack from the rear. Reserve forces were usually regrouped between the camp and the main army, so that the enemy could not see them, but close enough to intervene in case of need.
The Bulgarians attacked suddenly, then retreated, trying to push the enemies into traps and ambushes prepared in advance. They were thus able to spare their troops and win victories with fewer casualties. The mobility of the Bulgarian cavalry made it possible to strike fast and with the element of surprise in different places, thus confusing the enemy, breaking its fighting spirit and defeating him.
In a head-on collision, the first line, usually consisting of heavily armored warriors, struck the enemy's formation so to break them apart. As soon as that happened, the riders behind them rushed into the breach and began to scatter on the sides. The enemies would then break ranks and disband their formation. While trying to survive in a constant rain of arrows, they would lose courage and flee in a panic retreat, which would cost them their lives.
The guests and visitors of the Historical Park can enjoy demonstration of these military arts with different weapons from the arsenal of Proto-Bulgarians - sword, whip or bow. The reenactors of the club Majesty of the Historic Park will share with you many interesting details and unusual facts. Those who wishit will be able to take pictures with the warriors, shoot a bow, and fully experience their adventure in the world of the Proto-Bulgarians.