The present study aims at finding the real sea projects in tsar Symeon’s political, economic, military and culture strategy. A marine-centered approach is being adopted when disclosing how and to what extent sea has been incorporated in Symeon’s state vision plan. For a much complex interpretation the research uses as its methodological frame the geopolitical conception of the American admiral, historian and geostrategist – Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840–1914). He believed that national greatness was inextricably associated with the sea, with its commercial use in peace and its control in war. According to Mahan’s theory there are six general conditions affecting the development of sea power:
– Geographical position, i.e. the access to the open seas, chance for sea communications and control over the important regions;
– Physical Conformation, i.e. the configuration of the sea coast and the number and qualities of the adjacent harbours;
– Extent of territory – the length of the coastline and the character of its harbours;
– Number of Population – the number of people following the sea, or at least readily available for employment on ship-board and for the creation of naval material;
– National Character – the ability and willingness of nation to do sea-borne activities;
– Character of the Government – the character of rulers at one time or another, have exercised a very marked influence upon the development of sea power by using the best human and nature resources in order to enhance sea trade, develop a mighty fleet and accumulate wealth.
The implementation of Mahen’s sea power criteria to tsar Symeon’s Bulgaria reveals considerable advancement in most of the indicators in comparison to the previous early medieval Bulgarian rulers. Following their policy of pushing along the Balkan coastline, Tsar Symeon builds on his predecessors’ achievements. Quite purposefully, he strives to crown all his military campaigns against Byzantium with the extension of the Bulgarian seaboard. Actually, during the last decade of his reign Bulgaria gained access to all the Seas bordering the Balkan Peninsula – the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea as well as the Adriatic Sea. Tsar Symeon made some successful attempts to strengthen the military and administrative control over his coastal realm, to develop the littoral settlement network, enhance the sea trade and provide effective custom regulation thus collecting bigger incomes in the tsardom’s fisc. Besides, Tsar Symeon’s Golden Age shows some cultural openness to the sea as well as awareness of its benefits which is also visible in the everyday life structures. The literary achievements of the Bulgaria Golden Age with all its cognitive-didactic messages somehow increase the interest in sea and via instruments of knowledge create preconditions for a potential involvement of much more medieval Bulgarians in sea activities such as navigation, fishing and sea trade. However, Tsar Symeon’s Bulgaria had no naval strength because the ruler himself, just like his predecessors on the Bulgarian throne, showed no signs of political willingness to build a navy of his own and instead, opted for collaboration with the Fatimid fleet. Lacking warships, the Bulgarian Tsardom, despite all the favorable prerequisites, became rather a coastal state than a real sea one and could not evolve into a sea power able to challenge the thalassocracy of the Byzantine Empire.