KING IVAN ASSEN II (1218 - 1241) -DIPLOMAT AND STATESMAN
King Ivan Assen II was the fourth remarkable ruler of the Assen dynasty. At the very beginning of his rule he retrieved the border territories of Belgrade and Branichevo, acquiring them as dowery from his father-in-law, the Hungarian prince Andrei II. In 1221 he signed a peace treaty with Theodore Komnin, head of the strong Epirus state, with capital Thessalonica. He also strengthened the southern frontiers of Bulgaria. Due to his skillful diplomacy, without waging wars up to 1230, King Ivan Assen II established his rule in Bulgarian territories and turned the Bulgarian kingdom into a desired ally for the neighbouring countries.
Unexpectedly the ruler of Epirus Theodore Komnin decided to attack Bulgaria. Infuriated by his perfidy, King Ivan Assen II stuck the peace treaty onto his spear and started on an offensive against the army of Epirus. On 9 March 1230, in the area of Klokotnitsa (near Haskovo), the Bulgarian army won a victory over the Epirians. Theodore Komnin himself was captured with his entire suite and taken to Turnovo. His weaponry and treasures were captured too. Ivan Assen II treated the prisoners of war mercifully and let the soldiers free. Then he continued his victorious march and conquered the whole of the Epirus state. A mediaeval author writes about him: ,,Everybody admired him because he didn't use his weapon against his won people and didn't bring dishonour upon himself by killing the Romans. That is why he was loved not only by the Bulgarians but also by the Romans and by the other people".
The territory of the Bulgarian kingdom included Thrace, the Rhodope region, and the whole of Macedonia, Epirus and Albania. Bulgaria became the mightiest state on the Balkan Peninsula. According to an Old Bulgarian author, it spread ,,from sea to sea", i.e. from the Black Sea to the Aegean and the Adriatic Sea. After the battle of Klokotnitsa, King Ivan Assen II adopted the title ,,king of Bulgarians and Greeks". To commemorate the glorious victory, he named the newly built church in Turnovo ,,The Forty Holy Martyrs" since the battle took place exactly on the day of their celebration. There he erected a column bearing the inscription: ,,In the 6738 (1230) I, Ivan Assen, by God's will king and sovereign of Bulgarians, son of the old king Assen, erected and decorated with paintings this fair church in the name of the Forty Holy Martyrs with whose help in the twelfth year of my reign I started a war with Romania and defeated the Greek army. Theodore Komnin himself and his nobles I took in captivity. I conquered his whole land from Ederne to Drach, also the land of the Greeks, Albanians and Serbs. The towns round Constantinople and this town itself were in the hands of the Franks but they were also under my rule since they had no other sovereign but me and lived their life due to me. This was God's will and neither deed nor word is possible without his blessing. Glory to him for ever and ever. Amen".