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John Assen II, Emperor of Bulgaria and Wallachia

Bulgarian IVAN ASEN
XIII Century
The greatest ruler of the Wallacho-Bulgarian (or Second Bulgarian) Empire, John Assen II defeated Theodore Angelus Comnenus, Despot of Epirus, at the Battle of Klokotnitsa in 1230, capturing the entire Epirote army. Rather than executing or mutilating his prisoners, he sent nearly all of them home, an act of mercy from the memory of which he greatly benefited during his later undertakings in Greece. Within five years of the victory, he ruled much of southeastern Europe, and the capital, Trnovo, developed into a true city.

In the earlier years of Assen's reign, Wallacho-Bulgaria was nominally in communion with Rome, and his daughter was engaged to marry the Latin Emperor of the East, Baldwin II. When Pope Gregory IX pressured Baldwin into breaking off the engagement and courting a princess of more immediate interest to the papacy, Assen announced the dissolution of the Unia and the return of Orthodoxy. Gregory's response was to call for a Crusade against the Balkan heretics, but the projected war never went forward --- the Mongols invaded Europe, and all other quarrels temporarily faded into insignificance.

Norman Hugh Redington


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