In 986, on this day the Byzantine emperor Basil the Young was killed in the pass of the Gate of Trajan after his army was overwhelmed by the forces of Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria.
Basil the Young dies at the Battle of the Gates of TrajanThe Byzantine army retreated from the Sofia Valley towards Ihtiman where it stopped for the night. The rumours that the Bulgarians had barred the nearby mountain routes stirred commotion among the soldiers and on the following day the retreat continued in growing disorder. When the Bulgarians saw that, they rushed to the enemy camp and the retreat turned to flight. Only the Byzantine advance guard managed to squeeze through slopes which were not yet taken by the Bulgarian attackers. The rest of the army was surrounded by the Bulgarians. The elite Armenian unit from the infantry attempted to break out with heavy casualties and to lead their Emperor to safety through secondary routes, but they were captured along with the Imperial insignia.
Enormous numbers of Byzantine soldiers perished in the Pass. Battlefield commanders Comitopuli Samuel and Aron were now the undisputed masters of the Balkans. Because just fifteen years after the fall of their capital Preslav, an unbroken string of successes had elevated the Bulgarian Empire to the now dominant power in the region. Worse was to come, the nobility in Asia Minor, led by the general Bardas Phokas rose in rebellion, and the very future of the Byzantine Empire hung in the balance.