An Ancient Bulgar pottery-making kiln and other artifacts from the Ancient Bulgar settlement near Topola, in Notheast Bulgaria, as exhibited in the Kavarna Museum of History. Photo: Dobrudzha.com
A rare Byzantine coin from the beginning of the 8th century AD has been found at the large Ancient Bulgar settlement near the town of Topola, Kavarna Municipality, on Bulgaria’s Northern Black Sea coast, which dates to the early period of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD).
The coin is from the reign of ByzantineEmperor Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717-741 AD). More specifically, it is said to be dating from the time when the Byzantine capital Constantinople was besieged by the Arabs in 717-718 AD, reports local news site Kmeta.
Constantinople was saved from the Arabs only after Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721 AD), ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, intervened soundly defeating the invaders in the Battle of Constantinople (for more details read the Background Infonotes below).
The region’s only other known Byzantine coin from this type was discovered in the large Ancient Bulgar settlement near Topola, Kavarna Municipality, back in 2010, during the excavations of the settlement’s necropolis.
The large Ancient Bulgar settlement located in an area called Kovanlaka near Topola and Kavarna on modern-day Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast was first discovered in 1967. It was also a major ceramic production center. Some 500 graves have been excavated in its necropolis so far.
The Ancient Bulgar settlement near Kavarna and its necropolis indicate that the area was settled en masse by Ancient Bulgars in the 7th century AD as the First Bulgarian Empire conquered territories south of the Danube, and gradually shifted its focus towards the Balkan Peninsula despite having originally been established on the territory of modern-day Ukraine and Southwest Russia in 632 AD.
Khan (Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718 AD, 700-721according to some sources) was the emperor (bearing the Bulgar title khan or kanas) of Bulgaria at the beginning of the 8th century. He was the second ruler of the so called Danube Bulgaria, i.e. the First Bulgarian Empire (680-1018 AD), after the center of the Bulgarian state founded in 632 AD by his grandfather Khan Kubrat in what is modern-day Ukraine shifted towards the Balkan Peninsula.
In 705 AD, Byzantine Emperor Justinian II named Bulgaria’s Khan Tervel Caesar, the first foreigner to receive this title. Khan Tervel was probably a Christian like his grandfather Khan Kubrat and potentially his father Asparuh. His reign is known first and foremost for two major developments. First, in 705 AD, Tervel helped deposed Byzantine Emperor Justinian II regain his throne; as a payback, Byzantium ceded to Bulgaria the region then known as Zagore, which is the area around today’s city of Stara Zagora. This was the first territory south of the Balkan Mountain in what is today Southern Bulgaria that was formally obtained by the Bulgarian state which at the time included the territories on both sides of the Lower Danube. Second, in 717-718 AD Khan Tervel’s Bulgaria intervened during Constantinople’s siege by the Arabs from the Umayyad Caliphate on the side of Byzantium soundly defeating the Arabs.
The Constantinople Battle halted what was a major Muslim invasion of Europe. It is likened in importance to the Battle of Tours (or Battle of Poitiers) in which the Frankish King Charles Martel defeated the Umayyad Caliphate’s second attempt for a land invasion into Europe. The victory at Constantinople has earned Khan Tervel the title of “defender of Europe" in later historical accounts.