An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Definitely seems like all those years of hands off management during the ToT has set up the Roman bureaucracy to breed self-serving officials. Definitely needs a long overdue shakeup.

Is there a reason why there haven't been new Katepanos appointed? Definitely seems like the current system is very heavily reliant on Constantinople.
 
Definitely seems like all those years of hands off management during the ToT has set up the Roman bureaucracy to breed self-serving officials. Definitely needs a long overdue shakeup.

Is there a reason why there haven't been new Katepanos appointed? Definitely seems like the current system is very heavily reliant on Constantinople.
That's likely by design. It's harder for potential usurpers to gain control when they have to convince tens of individual Kephales instead of a few powerful Katepano, the system is just starting to get too burdensome to function properly with the expansion in the number or Kephalates.
 
Definitely seems like all those years of hands off management during the ToT has set up the Roman bureaucracy to breed self-serving officials. Definitely needs a long overdue shakeup.

Is there a reason why there haven't been new Katepanos appointed? Definitely seems like the current system is very heavily reliant on Constantinople.
That's likely by design. It's harder for potential usurpers to gain control when they have to convince tens of individual Kephales instead of a few powerful Katepano, the system is just starting to get too burdensome to function properly with the expansion in the number or Kephalates.
This was the reasoning behind land redistribution in Conquest England. William the Conqueror have out fiefs to his soldiers in quantities so huge in number yet small in size that Norman nobility was one of the largest franchises in the Medieval World. People who had more land as a result of conquest, like army commanders and officers, were given multiple fiefs but specifically given them in places far away from each other. The intention was to prevent the build up of local support bases and make the nobles be too busy travelling between held fiefdoms to plot against the government. Developments like this is why England IOTL was one of the most bureaucratic and effectively taxed states in western Europe during the middle ages. The absence of Katepanos mirrors the absence of the ducal title in England as an intermediary between Counts/Earls and the King.
 
Aren't the Kephales/Katepanos purely administrative? It's a lot more difficult to rebel if there's no military backing, which would still answer directly to Constantinople. The issue with Egypt is that both offices were combined into coptic Strategos/Katepano Komnenos.
 
TheCataphract: Space Romans are Best Romans.:)

ImperatorAlexander: Autoreianos is approaching his 90th birthday; by the standards of the day he is positively ancient. So natural death is highly likely. Unsurprising, considering his age, he’s gotten rusty. At this stage the main things keeping him in place is that fact that he’s almost an institution in his own right, Demetrios’ personal respect for Autoreianos from his civil service days, and Demetrios’ fears of creating any hiccups in the administration during this time of crisis. So mainly the issues are in Demetrios’ psyche.

Wolttaire: Yeah, the Ottomans are pretty well-connected with ‘European’ culture, mostly through exchange with the Romans and now the Triunes. The rest of the Islamic world is more isolated.

HanEmpire: Demetrios is thinking the same thing. There was talk of reform back during Andreas III’s day and he was finishing up a multi-year tour of the heartland when he had the hunting accident. So Demetrios has had a lot of time and put a lot of work into thinking of ways to reform the system. If Theodor hadn’t intervened, he’d be implementing them now.

Boa: Egypt and Sicily both are, although they’re small enough that having all the Kephales reporting to the Despot’s Megas Logothete isn’t an issue since there aren’t that many. Carthage is basically a Genoa-in-Africa, a city-state with some outposts/satellite towns and tribal clients, so its organization is radically different.

Non-canon…for now. I love it. :D Thanks for writing it. Obviously it’s a really long ways away, but I’m planning for the spacefaring age to be a lot more about building up an infrastructure to sustain and expand space exploration and development long-term rather than nationalistic flag-planting exercises like OTL. I started writing with sci-fi so this is a strong interest of mine.

JohnSmith: The Roman government wants things reliant on Constantinople; it keeps the provinces in line. Kephales and the old-style Katepanoi are purely administrative. But any rebelling Strategos needs money, which means getting the provincial administration on board.

I’m ret-conning here but during the War of the Five Emperors, the various contenders just walked down the road to their local Katepano and had their guards ‘casually’ ‘clean’ their weapons while they explained that the Katepano really ought to consider backing said contender. It worked in all cases since none of the ‘Five Emperors’ had any trouble in securing the loyalty of local administration and what matters was the loyalty of the thematic strategoi. Demetrios Megas was one of those contenders and knowing how he took provincial power tried to block anyone doing that in the future by abolishing the Katepano office. So now rather than one trip to an official who’s certainly stationed in the same town as the thematic capital, a rebel has to make multiple trips to scattered Kephales who have time to make themselves scarce.

Having said all that, the eastern Katepanoi (Taprobane, Pahang, Pyrgos, New Constantinople) have tourmatic districts/units and naval forces that report to them. But they function as Viceroys because of the distance from the capital so that’s by design.

Bergioyn: Precisely.

Evilprodigy: That’s a good parallel, although admittedly unintentional on my part. The OOC reason is that I realized that I’d established that there were 171 Kephales in the heartland but the only intermediate governors I’d mentioned were the Katepanoi of Egypt in pre-Despotate days and the vice-regal Katepanoi out east. Rather than going ‘BTW there are these guys who’ve been around but never came up before’ I decided to roll with the gap.
 
Out of character. Basically, the non-storyline reasons for our author to do something. So, in this usage, he wrote about the Kephales in the way he did because he as an author realized he needed to, not because the events of the timeline demanded it.
Isn't OOC "Out of continuum"? I was perhaps misinterpreting it for long time.
 
planning for the spacefaring age to be a lot more about building up an infrastructure to sustain and expand space exploration and development long-term rather than nationalistic flag-planting exercises like OTL.
Hmm, interesting vision for humanity that will require greater political unity/more resources/political will/capital with maybe a global space body or at least some Supranational Unions/Hyperpowers willing to work together. This seems to augur well with a more peaceful modern day highly likely.

I started writing with sci-fi so this is a strong interest of mine.
Wow, Basileus dabbling in science fiction? Can't decide if kataphraktoi with proton lances are cooler than space-faring Purxiphoi. Is that work an anthology, a spin-off of this timeline or an entirely brand new series of its own?
 
What are revenue numbers for the Empire before and after these tax reforms? I would imagine that the numbers would improve significantly after the war is over, and peace restores the economic stability of the Empire.
 
Hmm, interesting vision for humanity that will require greater political unity/more resources/political will/capital with maybe a global space body or at least some Supranational Unions/Hyperpowers willing to work together. This seems to augur well with a more peaceful modern day highly likely.
I'm thinking at minimum some combined organizations, like an uber-ESA. Perhaps a joint Roman-Russian-Ethiopian-Japanese space agency.

Wow, Basileus dabbling in science fiction? Can't decide if kataphraktoi with proton lances are cooler than space-faring Purxiphoi. Is that work an anthology, a spin-off of this timeline or an entirely brand new series of its own?
I could've worded that better. The first things I ever wrote for fun were sci-fi. They're all in an entirely different series (when I started with those, Age of Miracles wasn't even a twinkle in my eye).
 
I could've worded that better. The first things I ever wrote for fun were sci-fi. They're all in an entirely different series (when I started with those, Age of Miracles wasn't even a twinkle in my eye).
Oops, should have re-read your post again. Is that series stored away in some dark corner of the internet and available for our consumption by any chance?
 
1632: The Wars of Latin Aggression
What are revenue numbers for the Empire before and after these tax reforms? I would imagine that the numbers would improve significantly after the war is over, and peace restores the economic stability of the Empire.
If you look back at the ‘Worth of a Hyperpyron’ Interlude, set in between updates in 1626, I estimated the Imperial government’s annual revenue to be 16-18 million hyperpyra (730-820 metric tons of silver). As of 1633, with the tax brackets and other reforms in place, I’m putting the annual revenue at 22-24 million hyperpyra (1000-1100 metric tons of silver). This does not include loans or the revenue from the popes drive, as that is extraordinary revenue.

Oops, should have re-read your post again. Is that series stored away in some dark corner of the internet and available for our consumption by any chance?
I posted a little from my latest dabbling a few years ago in a thread in the Writer's Forum. That's the only part that's on the Internet. Most is from several years ago and embarrassingly bad. I'd like to get back into it but I'm not very good at working on multiple projects at the same time.

* * *

"For my purposes, The Wars of Latin Aggression is far more useful than The History of the Laskarid Dynasty. While it has its issues as history, it is a far better guide for understanding Demetrios the man." -Hektor Petros, author of The Forgotten Emperor: A Life of Demetrios III, Founder of the Sideros Dynasty and the Modern Roman Empire


The White Palace, Constantinople, December 3, 1632:

Demetrios took a quill, making a side-note on the margins of the report. ‘Increase by 10%’. Fishing in Prague was quite expensive but if his anglers could snare the big one, it’d be worth the expense.

He set that down and picked up the next one, smiling a bit as he read. It was a report from the jujitsu master on Athena’s progress. She ranked second in her class, only passed by Anna, the eldest daughter of Nikolaios Philommates. He expected to hear some ‘respectful’ crowing from his Epi tou kanikleiou, the ‘keeper of the Imperial inkstand’, his senior private secretary, in the next few days.

The Romans had discovered jujitsu from the Japanese and during the final years of Demetrios II masters of the art had been brought in to teach it to the guard tagmata and the Vigla (Imperial Guard). Athena had expressed an interest and despite repeated mentions of ‘unwomanly activities’ Demetrios had arranged for another master to teach his daughter. With an Imperial princess learning, suddenly many palace officials wanted their daughters to learn as well.

There was movement from his bedroom that connected to his study. “It’s good to see you smile,” Eudoxia said from the doorway. Demetrios looked over at his mistress. A couple years younger than his 47, now most of her long blond hair had turned into a stunningly elegant silver-white which Demetrios thought made her look even more beautiful. She had some more wrinkles on her, particularly around the eyes, but he knew she looked better than him. His hair had gone completely white since he’d been crowned and his face was becoming downright-craggy.

Demetrios Sideros.jpg

Although delivered after he was crowned Demetrios III, the portrait dates from when he was still Eparch of Constantinople. In two calendar years he was said to have aged ten.
She was also wearing one of his court jackets which went down a third of her thighs, made of the finest purple silk, which she had on backwards. And it seemed to be the only thing she was wearing, unless one counted one of his purple slippers she was wearing as a hat. Although Demetrios had to admit it was doubtful anyone who had worn that type of jacket had ever had those legs. He raised an eyebrow at her attire. “We’re supposed to be working.”

“Yeah, and?” A pause. “Oh,” she continued, her eyes twinkling. “You mean that kind of work, not that kind of work.” She trotted over to the couch, Demetrios confirming that was the only thing she was wearing. She plunked down, pulling her bag over by her feet and pulling out some papers. She gave him a look at his amused expression. “Muffin, with what I do for a living…”

He held up his hands in a gesture of peace. “Honey, you look great. The jacket suits you much better than it does me. I’m just imagining my officials presenting reports to me in similar fashion.”

“Sounds like the stuff of nightmares to me.”

“Yeah, I’m never getting those out of my head.”

She grinned. “You’re welcome.”

He mock-scowled at her. “You’re a horrible person, and mean to me,” he pouted. She blew a kiss at him. “Now time to work though, boring kind unfortunately.” She saluted, the slipper-hat falling off her head.

“So I have some reports here you’ll find most interesting,” Eudoxia said, looking at the sheaf in her hands. As head of the Prostitutes’ Guild in both Smyrna and now Constantinople, she had a lot of contacts with people in that line of work throughout the Empire. It seemed an unofficial rule that head-mistresses in major establishments had to work in either of those cities or Antioch to get that posting.

Now soldiers liked prostitutes, and those allied soldiers were no different. So Eudoxia had had the idea of using her contacts to set up a new spy network, ferrying information and relaying instructions in the Danube theater. Not all of her agents were prostitutes and they worked with the Office of Barbarians, but they’d proven to be a perfect relay service.

“So the big one is from James Bond.”

“Wait, what?”

“James Bond. That’s one of my agents.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“Code name. It’s English.”

“No wonder it’s dumb.”

“Do you want the report or not? You seem more ornery today than usual.”

“Just ornery with you. And yes, I do want the report. Although for some reason I picture this agent with lots of fancy gadgets and sleeping with every woman he comes across. I wonder why.”

“Muffin, I don’t want to know where you get your ideas. And James Bond is a woman.”

“Well, that changes my mental image.”

“And she’s not an agent. But she is my best controller. Manages several agents. Got the reports on the Saxons from her. And she directed the contact with Nassau.”

“Very impressive. I’d like to meet her someday.”

“You could but then I’d have to kill you.” He looked at her. “What? Need-to-know; got to keep her cover.”

“Now who’s being ornery?”

“You, still, always.” They smiled at each other.

Demetrios gestured. “Continue, my most insubordinate spymaster.”

She sniffed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I am always your most humble and obedient servant.” Demetrios snorted, sputtering in his drink, juice spraying his cheeks.

He set the glass down and wiped his face. “You did that on purpose.”

“Of course. Being devious is a requirement in my line of work.”

Demetrios nodded. “And you’re quite devious. So tell me of the doings of your various minions, including this James Bond.”

“Well, most of it is nothing special but this one report should interest you. So Agent K…” She gave Demetrios a look before he could interrupt her. “…was able to report success in Nikopolis.” One of Bond's agents, Agent K was a Helvetian, one of those German/Swiss immigrants that’d been settled in the Taurus Mountains early in the reign of Helena to repopulate the region after the Time of Troubles. “There was a bit of a delay since the guard was Saxon.” K’s family was originally from Saxony and he still spoke Saxon German fluently. His accent was a bit off though, not enough for a non-Saxon to notice, but a native of the region would get suspicious.

“But the guard was switched to Hessians,” Eudoxia continued. “He bluffed his way through the guard post saying he had a package for delivery to the captain. He got through, set the timer, walked away, and the bomb went off.” Based off the design for the contact mines, the package bombs had a timer that at a certain point tripped a flintlock, detonating the explosives. The design wasn’t as dependable as a fuse, yet, but was much more surreptitious.

“Well played. Probably won’t work a second time, but well played. Damage?”

“These are estimates, of course, but K says the report is 35 dead, plus a hundred or so wounded. Secondary explosions increased the destruction; five barges burned through to the waterline, another twelve more damaged to varying extents. He believes total losses are around two hundred tons of powder, plus at least three thousand small arms and ten cannons, plus about fifteen tons of provisions. Some of the weaponry can be fished up from the river bottom; it’s not deep at the harbor.”

“True, but that’s time and money that’ll have to be taken from elsewhere. And that powder’s ruined. Blucher’s going to be having a lot harder time feeding that grand battery of his.”

He sighed, rubbing his temples. “Such a stupid pointless war.”

The two of them sat there for a moment in silence. “Still want to run away with me?” Eudoxia asked.

He smiled sadly at her. “Every day.” He barked in laughter, Eudoxia looking quizzically at him. “Think about it. A war over who will be Emperor, between one who wants it way too much and one who wants it not at all.” He sighed. “More to it than that, of course, but still…” His voice trailed off.

“But I’m Emperor; my place is here, damnit.” He looked out the window, the light of sunset shimmering on the waters of the Marmara, silhouetting five fat galleons lumbering Syria-bound, a dispatch boat coming the other way. “Someday, perhaps. I can dream.”

“We can dream,” she corrected him.

He nodded and their eyes met. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

* * *

1632 continued: The Imperial family grows by two. On December 1, Princess Athena gives birth to a daughter who is named Sophia after her maternal grandmother (a sister of then Despot Demetrios III of Egypt). Given the timing of her birth, before any offspring of Odysseus, that she is female comes as somewhat of a relief. Given Alexandros Drakos’ far-greater blood connection to Andreas Niketas, a son would raise the specter of another succession dispute down the road (never mind the illegitimate children of Andreas III).

Just eleven days later the Lady Maria of Agra goes into labor and is moved into the Purple Chamber of the White Palace. This is irregular as her husband is merely Kaisar and not Co-Emperor but Demetrios wants to emphasize the legitimacy of this offspring as much as possible. After six hours she gives birth to a healthy baby boy. Initially it is planned to name him Demetrios after his paternal grandfather but to the relief of history students the Emperor vetoes that idea. Instead he insists that his grandson be named Herakleios.

There are two theories behind the choice. The first is that historically-minded Demetrios seeks to draw a connection with the original Herakleios, who beat back the enemies surrounding Rhomania on all sides, although the subsequent Arab conquests deflate that analogy’s effectiveness. The second is that Demetrios is honoring Herakleios II, the successor of Andreas Niketas, with whom Demetrios feels an affinity.

The name choice is minor compared to his next decision. Demetrios declares his intention to have Herakleios and Sophia marry when they come of age. The children of such a union would expand the ‘reunification of Andrean lines’ that Alexandros’ family has done (whether intentionally or unintentionally), creating offspring with an unparalleled lineage leading back to Andreas Niketas. The consanguinity of the two is an issue, one Demetrios intends to ignore.

Given the age of the children though, that’s something that can wait for now. Demetrios is busy in other areas. As a Christmas gift to Theodor, Demetrios places a bounty of 3 million hyperpyra [1], albeit to be paid out in six yearly installments, for his assassination. Not wanting to make Casimir feel left out, he also places a bounty on his head. But as an insult for the one he calls ‘the cur of God’, it’s only 300,000. When Archbishop von Hohenzollern of Cologne hears of that, he publicly remarks that he’ll add another 30,000 to the pot for the successful assassin. At this point the Archbishop and King won’t be in the same room with each other.

Those are the only bounties Demetrios places. It doesn’t feel right to put a price on the head of generals ‘who are merely serving their lords as they should’ such as Blucher. Plus if only those two have targets, they’re more likely to feel the heat. And Demetrios is also working on subverting some of the Imperial princes, so putting a price on their head would be counter-productive.

Demetrios is also conniving in other areas, which bear fruit surprisingly quickly. In January 1633, he gains a western ally, albeit an unexpected one.

The Empire of Mexico has a pirate issue, specifically Triune pirates. Particularly very well-armed and official-looking Triune pirates. They’ve been snapping at Mexican ships in both the Caribbean and Pacific, aiming for the silver galleons carrying the products of the Zacatecas or Potosi mines. Emperor David III Komnenos has had enough of this and is particularly concerned about a rumored Triune plot to snap away his Incan territories. There is still a native Incan state resisting in the interior and the Mapuche to the south are not acting like good neighbors to the new Mexican order, for all of their dislike of the Incans.

The Mexican navy does its best to beat off the pirates but it is far too small for its commitments. Furthermore it is almost entirely composed of fregatai or smaller warships. There are only two battle-line ships, the David and the Texcoco, both fifty-six gunners, putting them near the bottom of that category (50 guns is the divider at this time). As a result its ability to project power and strike back at Triune bases in the Caribbean and North Atlantic is extremely limited. So David III wants an alliance with a greater naval power.

Demetrios III is interested. Unlike an agreement with the Arletians, which he is still trying to get but with no success, he only needs to provide ships. The fleet off Italy can easily spare some while Mexico will provide all the ground troops needed. It provides a stellar opportunity to menace Triune cash flow by threatening the lucrative Caribbean plantations; Demetrios is well aware of the importance of the Triune subsidy in maintaining Theodor’s army.

Furthermore there are German plantations there as well, the mercantile cities of north Germany, particularly Hamburg, making a lot of money out of the sale and export of sugar, cocoa and tobacco. The Hansa is already irritated with Theodor over his cavalier tossing-out of their eastern trading opportunities; if their western markets suffer they may very well turn against the Holy Roman Emperor.

So envoys from Rhomania and envoys from Mexico sign an alliance agreement, Texcoco declaring war on the Holy Roman Empire and the United Kingdoms. They do so in Marseilles. The Arletians will not join but are eager to facilitate an arrangement guaranteed to stick it to King’s Harbor.

In accordance with the terms, on April 22 a small fleet weighs anchor and sets out from Palermo harbor for destinations west. The Roman flotilla comprises five battle-line ships, a pair of seventy-gunners, a sixty-gunner, and two fifty-gunners, supported by four fregatai and two sloops as well as a trio of supply ships. One of the fregatai is the Theseus, including in its complement one Eikosarchos Leo Kalomeros.

* * *

“It began with the Normans. A mighty people and justly proud of their achievements, for to be the most avaricious and brutal amongst the Latins is no small achievement.”

That is the well-known opening to Demetrios Sideros’ most famous work, The Wars of Latin Aggression. Begun almost immediately after the receipt of Theodor’s declaration of war, the first edition goes to the presses in February of 1633. The fact that the author is the Emperor guarantees a wide and curious reception but the work in its own right soon enters the Roman cultural consciousness.

During the Night of the Tocsins, inhabitants of Constantinople sang the lines “They came to steal and they came to lie. They came to make the Romans die.” While the average Roman is fuzzy on the details, there is no doubt amongst them that the Latins have a long history of attacks and atrocities on the Empire, chief amongst them the infamous sack of 1204. The book is that history, putting into detail the gist all Romans know from plays, songs, pamphlets and campfire stories. Perhaps that is why the book gains its prominence; it crystalizes Roman thought into a compact understandable whole. And while modern historians, who prefer his more sober History of the Laskarid Dynasty, have sometimes questioned or criticized Demetrios’ reasoning or arguments, they must also admit that the layman on the streets of a Roman city still quotes it and their mindset is far more like to be shaped by The Wars then any of those modern historians.

The book begins with the arrival of the Normans in Italy, quickly followed by the mutual excommunication of Pope and Patriarch in 1054. This isn’t the start of the wars proper, but rather an introduction setting the stage. For Demetrios distinguishes between ‘typical’ aggression that can be expected anytime neighboring peoples/states rub elbows and the special ‘Latin’ aggression they exhibit toward the Romans so frequently, an exceptionally vitriolic and rabid aggressive impulse absent from the more typical variety. Demetrios places the Norman conquest of Southern Italy in the first category.

So in Demetrios’ methodology the First War of Latin Aggression is Robert Guiscard’s invasion of Greece in 1081. He doesn’t view this as a logical extension of the Italian conquests; he considers a more proper connection to be the invasion of Sicily, which the Normans had attacked but wouldn’t fully take over for another decade after Guiscard’s invasion of Albania. So in Demetrios’ mind this is the first manifestation of that inveterate Latin aggression directed against the Romans, manifested out of their pathological violence, gnawing greed, and religious megalomania (in the last he is referring to the Catholic argument that all must be subject to the Pope, the monarch of the church who can make doctrine as he sees fit, for salvation, an attitude most repulsive to the Orthodox). He is quick to point out papal support for Guiscard’s actions.

Yet then he doesn’t portray the First Crusade as the Second War. He points out that it was not directed at the Romans, with the conflicts between Crusaders and Romans being the cause of poor Crusader discipline on the march. Yet he does point out the tensions between the two parties, arguing that the increased exposure only strengthened Latin greed and religious arrogance, while their brutish nature encouraged them to see Roman sophistication as effeminacy, “for the Latin at his core only truly respects brute force”.

Instead the Second War of Latin Aggression is Bohemond’s invasion of 1107, somewhat of a reprise of his father Guiscard’s attack, but with much more brazen papal support. “In little more than a decade, a supposed holy effort to aid us, their eastern brothers in our shared Christian faith, is instead turned into a weapon against us. Why? Because apparently the self-aggrandizement of a Norman count with daddy issues is a noble cause pleasing in the sight of the Latin god.”

In the Third War the Venetians enter, “a people skilled at seafaring, trade and the making of money, willing to torture refugees and rape children if that will turn them a profit”. This is the Roman-Venetian war on the accession of Ioannes II Komnenos, the son of Alexios I, the founder of the first Komnenid dynasty. For their support against Guiscard, the Venetians had been granted customs exemptions throughout most of the Empire by Alexios but his son removed those privileges.

Now, at first glance Demetrios admits that this might be just cause for conflict. But then he points out that the Venetians, being familiar with the Empire’s way of governance, would’ve known that Alexios’ chrysobull granting their trading privileges would’ve only been valid for his lifetime. So unless they were incompetent, Venetian outrage at Ioannes’ ‘treachery’ is simply that of a greedy man enraged at the loss of his free ride. And furthermore, Demetrios is uninclined to give any saving grace to a people that feel that the loss of tariff exemptions is justification for murder.

The Second Crusade, for the same reasons as the First, is not included as one of the wars (although the vocal threats and insinuations of the Crusaders is recorded) but the concurrent war with Norman Sicily is listed as the Fourth War of Latin Aggression. However the next conflicts with both the Normans and the Venetians are also not listed, the first because Manuel I Komnenos started that by invading Italy and the second because Manuel I started that by the mass arrest of Venetians throughout the Empire.

In probably the most unpleasant part of the work for modern readers is his take on the 1182 massacre of Latins in Constantinople. He admits it may have been excessive but that the already expressed Latin greed and arrogance merited a riposte, even if it was “a luxury that the weakened empire of that day could ill afford.”

But then comes 1185 and the Fifth War of Latin Aggression and the absolutely brutal siege and sack of Thessaloniki by the Normans. “The Normans were the vanguard of intensive Latin experience with our Empire. And look at that vanguard, four unprovoked assaults in a hundred years. With such a prologue, is it any wonder the horrors to come?”

But before that ‘horror to come’ is the Third Crusade, which is not included despite Frederick Barbarossa’s clear threat to Constantinople. Following Niketas Choniates, Demetrios blames the feckless stupidity of the Angeloi for that pointless war. This is one of the strengths of the work as it is clearly not just a list of all Roman-Latin conflicts blaming everything on the perfidy of the barbarous west.

And then comes a not-quite-war, Henry VI’s demand that the Empire fork over a tax to fund his crusade, noncompliance to be met with an invasion. At that juncture Emperor Alexios III Angelos paid the ‘German tax’ and then Henry VI died before embarking on the crusade, although not before wiping the Norman Sicilian kingdom off the map.

Yet despite it being a relative non-event, Demetrios focuses a great deal of attention on the reception of a German envoy on Christmas 1196 where the Roman court tried to overawe the envoys with a display of wealth and fine clothing. According to Niketas Choniates the Germans responded with “The Germans have neither need of such spectacles…The time has now come to take off effeminate garments and brooches, and to put on iron instead of gold.”

But then comes the Great Betrayal, the Sixth War of Latin Aggression, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Demetrios, following the usual Roman practice, believes it to have been a perfidious Venetian plot the whole time. Yet he does not absolve the other parties. He views Pope Innocent III’s efforts to regain control of the crusade to be ‘suspiciously ineffectual for so powerful a pontiff’.

Meanwhile he views the crusader leaders as also suspiciously incompetent, given that their conquest of Zara for the Venetians only gained them a postponement of their debt rather than counting as repayment. One would think said leaders would be able to get better terms. So while in Demetrios’ mind the debt issue was originally an honest mistake, by Zara he believes the Venetian and crusader leaders to be cooperating on a scheme to fulfill that long crusader desire to sack the Queen of Cities, the debt issue merely a way to browbeat the rank and file into line. And then Latin priests justify the atrocity of 1204 on the grounds that the Romans are heretics in their eyes.

At the point he does a general overview of the Period of Exile, as the 1204 to 1272 period is styled, showing the Latin arrogance and brutality in their controlled territories. A key example is the 1231 burning alive of thirteen Greek monks on Cyprus because they rejected the use of unleavened wafers in the Eucharist, which is the Latin tradition unlike the leaven used in Orthodoxy [This is OTL]. He also draws a great deal of attentions to the popes’ efforts to sustain the Latin Empire through crusades, even at the expense of supporting the Holy Land.

With the recapture of Constantinople in 1272 the reunited empire sees the return of new wars of Latin Aggression, or at least the threat of them. The first is an almost war by Charles of Anjou, again displaying the unbounded avarice Demetrios expects from Latins. Then there is the attempted crusade of 1305, called by the pope when Prince Manuel Laskaris captured Antioch. And there is the sable-rattling from the French, “a pious people quick to engage in holy wars and even more quickly lose them”, in the early 1300s, threatening crusades to restore the Latin Empire [also OTL]. The Italian intervention in the Laskarid Civil War Demetrios disregards as Anna I approved it.

So admittedly the 1300s sees a lack of actual wars, but the chronicle of near-misses and continual threats shows that Latin attitudes hadn’t improved. Demetrios argues that the newfound strength of the Empire and Latin distractions were what kept manners from escalating. Southern Italy was consumed and then crippled by the long war between Angevin and Hohenstaufen and then the War of the Sicilian Vespers. Meanwhile Venice, after being repeatedly humbled by Licario in Roman service in the late 1200s, drew in her claws for a time.

But just for a time, returning with a vengeance with Venetian involvement in the War of the Five Emperors, which Demetrios ranks as the Seventh War of Latin Aggression, propping up Maria of Barcelona and prolonging the war all to their own advantage. Modern historians consider this the weakest point of his argument as the Romans would’ve done exactly the same thing, but Demetrios is uninclined to give the Venetians much leeway.

Especially considering what comes next, the Eighth War, the Smyrnan War, the Black Day of Rhomania. And it is followed by the Ninth War, also known as the Last Crusade, when the greatest host ever mustered by a call to Crusade marched not against Muslims but against Orthodox Christians.

The Tenth is the Hungarian invasion which an at-death’s-door Andreas Niketas annihilated at the Battle of the Iron Gates. The Eleventh is the Milanese invasion at the start of the Time of Troubles. The Twelfth is the Hungarian invasion which was repaid and more at Mohacs. “And now we live in the Thirteenth War of Latin Aggression, greater in size than is usual, but part of a long pattern.” It is for this reason that in Rhomania this war is often known as the Great Latin War rather than the common label of War of the Roman Succession.

Modern historians are extremely skeptical of a special type of Latin aggression, unique from the usual medieval and early modern method, and are quick to point out that calling the wars with the Normans, Venetians, and Hungarians ‘Latin wars’ isn’t accurate. But that is not how most Romans see it. They see a continual string of aggressions coming from the west, a constant pattern of terror and greed. The Romans don’t want to conquer the west; they just want it to leave them alone for once. So that perhaps explains the success of Demetrios’ work, for it gives academic respectability to what Romans already know to be true, that this attack is nothing new in concept, only in scope. That the Latin is always at your throat or at your feet.

And perhaps not. Demetrios has an idea for breaking the cycle. The problem, he believes, goes back to the very beginning, in the early years of the crusades. The crusaders viewed the Romans as effeminate and treacherous. Yet they viewed the Turks as mighty warriors and later respected Saladin as a chivalric hero and the Mamelukes as formidable opponents. And yet the Romans were never extended that same respect “save only for the lifetime of Andreas Niketas after Cannae, and that vanished the moment he was believed dead”.

The Kingdom of France, once the premier of crusading states, as part of the Triple Monarchy now seems to largely ally with Muslim countries. There is little to no interest in campaigning against the Muslims nowadays, and yet a huge swath of Europe is easily persuaded to take up arms against Rhomania with little apparent reason. Why?

Because, Demetrios argues, the centuries-old prejudices still live. Despite all that has happened, the Latins still think of the Romans as effeminate gold-wearers, not ones dressed in iron ready for battle and for slaughter. The Romans are rich and weak, the ideal victim. They do not care to cross swords with Muslims, for they have a tradition of fear and respect for Muslim blades. But not for Roman. And so they must be taught. But how? Demetrios has an answer.

“It is not enough for the Latins to be repulsed. That has happened many times before; they will merely return in a generation, continuing the cycle. A clever maneuver that cuts off their logistics will not be enough. They will merely make some excuse about ‘Greek perfidy’ as they have always done to cover up their shortcomings, and then resume the cycle.

No. In the words of Tourmarch Mikrulakes the Latins ‘must be beaten with their own damn tune’. For at the end of the day the Latin only respects brute force. For the cycle to be broken, they must be met in battle and shattered, as Andreas Niketas shattered them. For while he lived, he broke the cycle, but not permanently for it was ascribed to him and not to the Romans in general. What we must do is inflict such a slaughter upon the Latin invaders that they will foul themselves at the mere thought of trying such again. That they will realize that it is not 1196 or 1204 any longer; that we have indeed put on iron. And perhaps, after we have killed enough of them, they will finally learn.”


That is another reason for studying The Wars of Latin Aggression, although it was not apparent at the time of publication. For Demetrios III Sideros’ actions after its publication are entirely based on breaking the cycle, once and for all.

[1] Enough to maintain 50 full-strength line tourmai for a year.
 
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Oh. Wow. I know that Demetrios really did hate the Latins more than anyone else, but damn!

I'm half expecting that he's going to do a Smyrna on half of Europe o_O Or at the very least wants to. I don't expect he'll be quite that terrible, since he can somehow be "Forgotten".
 
Its incredible how you have made me so pessimistic that i am already preparing myself to see the romans loosing a battle with a numerical superiority of almost 2 to 1, completely rested while the latins are almost starving
 
I think we will see the Latins over extended and losing a major battle close to Constantinople. They will have to fall back over devastated lands with supply depots with low supplies. The first troops retreating unless strict discipline is enforced which is unlikely will loot them first, and the nature of armies of the day will probably spoil much if any is left. Follow up troops will grow weaker and march slower and become a mob. That process will accelerate over weeks.
 
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