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989 Battle of Abydos ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: Victory of the imperial forces under Basil II against the rebel Bardas Phocas 13 April 989
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
(Civil War)
Military Revolts
Battle Type:
Pitched Battle
The Battlefield Abydos Location:
Abydos in Asia Minor, at the narrowest point of the Hellespont
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Basil II Bulgaroktonos) The Enemies
Commander: Emperor Basil II General Bardas Phocas
Forces: Unknown Unknown
Background story: After his victory against the usurper Bardas Scleros, General Bardas Phocas had become one of the most powerful figures in the empire. But the young emperor Basil II began to take initiatives and show signs that he wanted to take the administration in his own hands. His growing independence alarmed both Basil Lekapenos (regent and de-facto ruler) and Phocas. In 987 they entered into secret negotiations with their former enemy, Scleros to dispose the emperor.
In 987, Scleros was recalled to homeland from Bagdad by Phocas, who took advantage of the Bulgarian wars to aim at the crown. Scleros promptly mustered an army to support Phocas' cause. In a campaign that curiously mimicked Scleros' revolt a decade earlier, Bardas Phocas proclaimed himself emperor and overran most of Asia Minor.
Emperor Basil sought aid from Prince Vladimir I of Kiev, who in 988 had captured Chersonesos, the main Imperial base in the Crimea. Vladimir offered to evacuate Chersonesos and to supply 6,000 of his soldiers as reinforcements to Basil. In exchange he demanded to be married to Basil's younger sister Anna. At first, Basil hesitated. The Byzantines viewed all the nations of Northern Europe, be they Franks or Slavs, as barbarians. When Vladimir promised to baptize himself and to convert his people to Christianity, Basil finally agreed. Vladimir and Anna were married in the Crimea in 989 and Vladimir sent his soldiers to aid Basil.
The Battle:
Emperor Basil II
Bardas Phocas, who in the meantime had put Skleros in prison, was checked at Chrysopolis, then moved to lay siege to Abydos, thus threatening to blockade the Dardanelles. At this point Basil II obtained the aid from his brother-in-law, now, Vladimir and marched to Abydos.
The two armies were facing each other, when Phocas galloped forward, seeking personal combat with the Emperor who was riding in front of the lines. Just as he prepared to face the Basil, however, Phocas suffered a seizure, fell from his horse, and was found to be dead. His head was cut off and brought to Basil. The battle was won easily for Basil II, after that.
Noteworthy: This event triggered on of the most significant events in the medieval history: the conversion of the Rus to Orthodox Christianity. It also initiated the presence of the Varangian guard in the Byzantine army.
Aftermath: Upon Phocas' death at Abydos, Scleros succeeded him as the leader of the rebels. He was soon captured and blinded and the rebellion ended. Lekapenos was exiled and his vast fortune was confiscated.