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Fellow Seminar

08 February 2018

Dr. Kalin Kirilov will present his research proposal on the topic: "The Ducatus of Philippopolis: An Ephemeral Balkan Crusader Lordship in Historical and Folklore Memory" on 8 February 2018 (Thursday) at 16:30h at CAS Conference Hall.


The main task of this case study is to examine and reconstruct the history of the Latin Ducatus of Philippopolis - a short-lived and ephemeral Crusader lordship that emerged in North-Western Thrace in the early 13th c. It appeared as a result and a consequence of the collapse, partition and conquest of Byzantium in 1204 A.D. and the foundation of the Latin Empire. The Crusader Ducatus of Philippopolis existed for nearly two decades till the time of the Bulgarian reconquest of Thrace by tsar Ivan Asen II in 1230 A.D. Consecutively ruled by the lords of two related French Crusader families from the County of Hainaut - Trith and Stroem (Estreux) - for nearly two decades the frontier Frankish Duchy finds itself in the midst of a bloody and severe conflict where the interests of French/Flemish and Venetian crusaders, Bulgarians and Greeks collided. Yet despite its ephemeral existence, the Ducatus of Philippopolis was among the important Latin lordships in the Balkans and surprisingly its ephemeral history had left some interesting vestiges of a deep impact in historical and folklore memory that hasn't been studied to date. The modern Bulgarian and foreign historiography traditionally neglects this Balkan Crusader lordship while assuming by its own momentum the exiguous information from the Chronicle of Geoffrey of Villehardouin and a few other well-known Latin and Byzantine historical sources as sufficient enough to approve the short existence of this Frankish barony in Thrace as rather marginal and insignificant.

Unfortunately this underestimation leads to some extreme assessments of the importance of this Balkan Crusader state - from the overly nationalistic approach of professional scholars to the absurd dilettante attempts for regional studies of history enthusiasts. Because of this situation not a single academic study (a monograph or an article) has been focused exclusively on the history of the Latin Duchy of Philippopolis to date. As a contribution to all the available and already popular historical data and its re-examination, the author of this project has researched, studied and analysed some less known Latin, Old French, Venetian, Byzantine and Bulgarian historical, archaeological, iconographic and folklore sources. Their evidence sheds new light on the history of this ignored Balkan Crusader lordship, on the genealogy, the prosopography and the heraldry of its ruling families, on its chronology, on its geographical localization, on its policy and its relations with the local Thracian population and its neighbours and on its role as an important regional and frontier political factor. The interdisciplinary and comparative approaches of this case study are meant to revise the current state of the art in the field and to set up the first known academic attempt so far exclusively dedicated to the reconstruction of the history of the Latin presence in North-Western Thrace during the Crusader era and its lasting impact on the local historical and folklore memory, and especially of the history of the Ducatus of Philippopolis, which existed for almost a quarter of a century and which has been hitherto undeservedly neglected by modern historiography.

Undoubtedly, the further re-examination and revision of the most popular historical data on the subject, on one hand, and the further introduction of less known and previously unused medieval narrative sources, on the other, together with the research of additional evidence from the field of the local Bulgarian folklore, archaeology, arts, linguistics and onomastics in the future might be of great help to the discovery, the acquaintance and the reconstruction of even more aspects of the history of the Latin presence in Northern Thrace during the Crusader era. And especially of the history of the short-lived Frankish Duchy of Philippopolis and its importance in the course of the relations between the Second Bulgarian kingdom and the Latin Empire during the first three decades of the 13th century. Last but not least - such an interdisciplinary approach might shed more light on the history of the formation and the construction of the mutual stereotypes of the concepts of the "Other" in the Medieval Balkans.



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