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Anchialos/Ahelo (Middle Ages)

Author(s) : Beshevliev Boyan
Translation : Beshevliev Boyan , Kaisheva Radmila (6/10/2008)

For citation: Beshevliev Boyan, "Anchialos/Ahelo (Middle Ages)", 2008,
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Black Sea
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=11654>

Анхиало/Ахело (Средновековие) (9/18/2009 v.1) Anchialos/Ahelo (Middle Ages) (4/8/2008 v.1) Αγχίαλος/Αχελώ (Μέσοι Χρόνοι) - has not been published yet 

1. Foundation and location

From late Antiquity until the 8th Century the city of Anhialo was set by a bay some three to four kilometres NW of today’s Pomorie on the western shore of the PE. Today this area is known as Paleokastro and remnants of ceramics and masonry have been found there. To improve security and defensibility, the city was moved to the peninsula which it occupies today. This eponymous landmass is some three km long, over a km broad, and on average six to seven metres above the sea. Some two kilometres distant is a salty lagoon. This is thought to have been formed in AD740 (?) during an earthquake which may also have razed the old city. Ever since its formation the lagoon has been used as a saltern.

2. Place-name and early history

It is assumed that the toponym Αγχίαλος combines the Greek ἄγχι (close) and ἅλς (salt), i. e., it means “by the saltern”; it may also mean “a maritime city.” Manifold written versions of the name appear in diverse sources: Αχελώ, Αχελώον, Αγχαλού et al. Immigrating Slav tribes called the city “Въхело” (Vuhelo) or “Вахело” (Vahelo), and the Bulgars called it “Тухтонъ” (Tuhton) or “Тохунъ” (Thohun). Italian seafaring and inshore charts drawn up in the 14th and 15th Centuries state the city’s name as, inter alia, Axelo, Asilo, Lasilo, Laxilla, and Saxilla.

There is some tentative evidence that the site may have played host to a late Bronze Age (the close of the Second Millennium BC) settlement. It is accepted that the city was established by Apollonia Pontica as a counterweight to AP’s rival Mesambria (Nesebur) in the 5th to the 4th Centuries BC. The two cities waged wars over Anhialo, whose fortifications were destroyed in the 9th Century before being rebuilt.

3. Roman times and Middle Age

Under Emperor Traianus (53-117) Anhialo was within the Roman Empire with the status of a city governed similarly to neighbouring western PE coast communities. The city’s lands expanded under the Emperor Hadrianus (76-138).

In 270AD the Goths sacked the city. The reforms of Emperor Diocletianus (284-305) saw it included into the province of Haemimontus. In 584 it was taken over, sacked and pillaged by the large Avar and Slav invasion, being subsequently rebuilt. For some months during the big barbarian invasion, Anhialo was the seat of the Avar Khagan Bayan.

When the Bulgarian state emerged in the 7th Century between the Istros (Danube) and the Haemos (the Balkan range) Anhialo became a valuable border fort and harbour between the new state and Byzantium. The first cavalry battle between the Bulgars and the Emperor Justinian (685-695; 705-711) took place near the city, the Byzantines losing. The Emperor Constantine V (741-775) defeated the Bulgar Khan Telets (761-764) on the fields outside Anhialo. Three years hence, the same emperor sent a fleet of 2600 ships bearing armed men to Anhialo, but a storm scuttled them by the city. In 783 the Empress Irene and her son Constantine VІ waged a textbook campaign which ended with Anhialo being relocated to its current peninsular site. In 812 the city fell to the Bulgars after the Khan Krum (802-814) had defeated the Emperor Nicephoros I Genikos (805-811). This continued until 863, when it reverted to Byzantium; between approximately 904 and 971, however, it was again under Bulgarian rule.

In the 11th Century the strategic significance of Anhialo increased greatly, with a Byzantine navy led, jointly with the army, by a strategos moving there. In 1190 the Emperor Isaac II Angelos launched a land and sea campaign against the Bulgars but was unsuccessful and lost Anhialo; he was able to reclaim the city in 1193.

4. Late Middle Age

Under the Latin Empire (1204-1261) the Constantinople Emperor Henry (1205-1216) won in 1206 several Bulgar cities including Anhialo, destroying the city walls.

In 1263 the rebuilt walls and the city reverted to the restored Byzantine Empire, only to fall to Bulgar Tsar Todor Svetoslav (1300-1321) in 1304. Count Amadeus VI of Savoy’s campaign along the western Pontus Euxinos saw Anhialo falling to him in 1366 and being ceded to Byzantium in 1367. In 1396 the city fell to an Ottoman army for the first time, prior to a series of switches between the Ottomans and the Byzantines between 1403 and 1413. Anhialo ultimately came into the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1444-1481) by his general Karaja beg in 1453 г.

5. Commerce, economy and life

The favourable climate in Anhialo’s hinterland facilitated wheat, grape and other harvests. Regardless of the city’s rather turbulent history, from the late 15th Century wheat became a staple export, being shipped by Genovese and Venetian merchants. Surviving contracts, title deeds and navigational charts testify to this active trade. Alongside this, Venice purchased quantities of locally harvested sea salt. Fisheries had a local significance. Trade was helped by good road links between Anhialo and other coastal and inland communities.

6. Christianity and church organisation

Christianity arrived in Anhialo as relatively early as the end of the 1st Century AD. A Haemimont Bishopric was established in the city during the 2nd Century, becoming an autonomous Archbishopric within the Rodopi (Rhodopes) diocese. Under the Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1338) the Archbishopric was elevated to a Metropolitanship in 1400 before the Constantinople Patriarch. The Anhialo church enjoyed direct relations with Constantinople Patriarchate during the entire period between the 2nd and 15th Centuries, notwithstanding minor interruptions.

7. Population

The main part of Anhialo’s urban population were Greek descendants of the original Apollonia Pontica colonisers. The populace was admixed with elements of the surrounding Thracians, and subsequently insignificant Slav and Bulgar presence. This approximate composition endured over a long period and even into the 20th Century.

8. Conclusion

Despite a number of sources of various origins and significance, the history of Anhialo remains to be clarified in full, particularly with regard to internal administrative structures and government as well as crafts and letters.

* The entry is still in editing process (ed.note)


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