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970 Battle of Arcadiopolis ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: The Byzantines defeated the Rus who were driven out of Thrace March 970
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Rus (& Bulgarsetc)
Byzantine-Rus Wars
Battle Type:
The Battlefield Arcadiopolis Location:
Arcadiopolis modern Lüleburgaz, in the European part of Turkey, 80 km west of Constantinople
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  John I Tzimiskes) The Enemies
Commander: General Bardas Skleros Svyatoslav I of Kiev
Forces: 10–12,000 men 30,000
Losses: 25 to 55 Heavy, maybe 20,000
Background story: In 965 or 966, encouraged by their successes against the Arabs, the Byzantines refused to pay the annual tribute to the Bulgarians. This was a clear declaration of war, but the Byzantine army was still preoccupied in the East, so they asked the assistance of the Rus. Kaghan Svyatoslav enthusiastically responded, and invaded Bulgaria in 967 or 968 in a devastating raid. The Bulgarians were forced to negotiate but then Svyatoslav came back in the summer of 969 and conquered Bulgaria within a few months. The Byzantine scheme had backfired because now a new and formidable foe had appeared in the Balkans. Emperor Tzimiskes delegated the war in the Balkans to his brother-in-law, the Domestic of the Schools Bardas Skleros, and to the eunuch Peter Phocas who began to gather an army in Thrace. At the news of this, a powerful Rus force, along with many Bulgarians and a Pecheneg contingent, was sent south over the Balkan Mountains. After sacking the last major Bulgarian stronghold of Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv), they bypassed the heavily defended city of Adrianople and turned towards Constantinople.
The two armies met near Arcadiopolis. Skleros with his army remained within the walls of Arcadiopolis as the Rus encamped nearby. The Rus were convinced that the imperial army was too afraid to face them; consequently they roamed about the countryside plundering, neglected their camp defenses and spent their nights in heedless revelry.
The Battle:
The Byzantines persecute the fleeing Rus
The Byzantines had asked the Rus to help them against the Bulgarians. Kaghan Svyatoslav responded willingly and conquered Bulgaria within a few months but then he decided to march against Constantinople. Emperor John Tzimiskes sent his brother-in-law, Bardas Skleros to organize an army in Thrace.
The two armies met in Arcadiopolis, 80 km west of Constantinople. The Byzantines remained within the walls of the city as the Rus encamped nearby. The Rus were convinced that the imperial army was too afraid; consequently they roamed about the countryside plundering and neglected their defenses.
Skleros eventually got out dividing his forces into 3 groups: 2 divisions were placed in ambush on the wooded sides of the road leading to the enemy camp, while another, 2,000–3,000 men, under his command, attacked. After initial contact, the Byzantines began an orderly retreat, turning at intervals to charge back at the pursuing Pechenegs, who had thus become separated from the main body of the Rus army. This conflict was fierce and bloody, taxing the discipline and endurance of the small Byzantine force.
When the two opposing forces reached the place of the ambush, the two concealed Byzantine divisions attacked the Pechenegs from the flanks and the rear. Cut off from aid and surrounded, the Pechenegs began to panic and flee. One of their leaders tried to rally his men, but he was attacked by Bardas Skleros himself, who killed him with a single sword-blow that reportedly cut him in two from his head down to the waist, through the Pecheneg's helmet and cuirass. This new blow turned the battle into a complete rout, and the panic spread to the Bulgarian contingent following behind the Pechenegs, which also suffered heavy casualties in the general chaos.
Aftermath: The invaders were driven out of Thrace and, after a further defeat on the Danube at Dorostolon in 971, Svyatoslav was killed while returning home to Kiev.