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How Fighting EndsA History of Surrender$
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Holger Afflerbach and Hew Strachan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199693627

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693627.001.0001

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Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages

Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages

Chapter:
(p.85) 6 Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages
Source:
How Fighting Ends
Author(s):

Catherine Holmes

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693627.003.0007

This chapter analyses a very important aspect of the history of surrender: the question of the mass mutilation of prisoners of war. This is done by assesssing whether the blinding of all the soldiers of a captured Bulgarian army by Byzantine emperor Basil II in 1014 was historical fact or a later fiction. This chapter concludes that some sort of mass blinding did occur, even if the immense numbers of victims as well as the decisiveness of this Byzantine victory over the Bulgarians can be questioned. It goes to ask whether the mutilation of prisoners of war was common in other medieval contexts beyond Byzantium. This chapter suggests that among medieval polities, it was great empires, including the Byzantines and the Carolingians, that were the more frequent perpetrators of mass cruelties rather than other more supposedly violent groups such as the Vikings. Imperial expansion was a crucial context to the mutilation of prisoners of war in the Middle Ages.

Keywords:   mutilation, prisoner of war, Basil II, Bulgaria, Byzantium

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