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Battle of Anchialus (763): A Byzantine Triumph over the Bulgars

The Battle of Anchialus, fought in 763 AD, remains a significant chapter in the long-standing conflict between the Byzantine Empire and the First Bulgarian Empire. This decisive Byzantine victory secured their eastern borders and solidified the reign of Emperor Constantine V.

Date: June 30, 763 AD

Location: Near Pomorie, Bulgaria

Combatants: Byzantine Empire vs. First Bulgarian Empire

Commanders: Constantine V (Byzantine) vs. Khan Telets (Bulgarian)

Outcome: Decisive Byzantine victory


The Byzantines had experienced a period of instability following the Arab Umayyad Caliphate’s major expansion in the 7th century. However, under Leo III the Isaurian, the empire regained its footing and launched offensives against the Arabs. Constantine V, Leo’s son, continued this policy, exploiting internal conflicts within the Abbasid Caliphate, the Umayyads’ successor.

Meanwhile, the Bulgars, led by Khan Telets, sought to expand their territory into Byzantine Thrace. This growing threat prompted Constantine to personally lead a large army, including cavalry and a massive fleet, to confront the Bulgarians.

The Battle:

The exact details of the battle remain debated, but historical accounts suggest the following:

  • Byzantine Strategy: Constantine utilized a combined force of heavy cavalry and infantry, with the cavalry forming the core of his attack. He employed a feigned retreat tactic to lure the Bulgarian cavalry out of their defensive positions.
  • Bulgarian Response: Khan Telets initially adopted a defensive posture, taking advantage of the hilly terrain near Anchialus. However, he fell for the Byzantine feint and led his cavalry in a pursuit, leaving his infantry vulnerable.
  • Decisive Maneuver: As the Bulgarian cavalry chased the Byzantines, Constantine turned his main force and launched a devastating counterattack. The Bulgarians, caught off guard and separated from their infantry, suffered heavy losses.

Outcome and Aftermath:

The Battle of Anchialus ended in a decisive Byzantine victory. Khan Telets escaped, but his army was shattered. This victory secured the Byzantine eastern frontier for several decades and strengthened Constantine’s position as a successful military leader. However, the conflict with the Bulgarians continued throughout the following centuries.


The Battle of Anchialus holds crucial historical significance for several reasons:

  • Military Prowess: It showcased Constantine V’s strategic brilliance and his effective use of combined arms tactics.
  • Shifting Power Dynamics: It solidified the Byzantine Empire’s dominance in the region, temporarily halting Bulgarian expansion.
  • Religious Tensions: While not directly related to the battle, it occurred during the iconoclastic controversy, further fueling the already strained relationship between the Byzantine and Bulgarian Churches.


  • John Julius Norwich. A Short History of Byzantium. ISBN 978-0140159929
  • Warren Treadgold. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. ISBN 978-0814331632
  • Theophanes the Confessor. Chronographia. Translated by Cyril Mango and Roger Scott. ISBN 978-0199229952


The Battle of Anchialus stands as a testament to Constantine V’s military leadership and the Byzantine Empire’s resilience during a challenging period. While the victory brought temporary peace, it did not extinguish the long-standing conflict with the Bulgars. Moreover, the battle’s historical context, marked by religious tensions, adds another layer of complexity to its legacy.

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