An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

That reminds me.

Byzantines should revive their wrestling tradition. Get Pankration to be a bigger sport again, with a Palaestra in every city! Don't let those foreign Jutsu's take away traditional Greek culture!
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
That reminds me.

Byzantines should revive their wrestling tradition. Get Pankration to be a bigger sport again, with a Palaestra in every city! Don't let those foreign Jutsu's take away traditional Greek culture!
Why just revive when you can incorporate and improve, Greek/Roman Jujitsu sounds just as good as Brazilian Jujitsu. Hell I can see the army/intelligence agency making a more offense oriented style like Krav Maga for those times you don't or can't have a weapon.
 
With regards to Roman retribution against the Ottomans it doesn’t have to be conquest or even setting up Despotates. They can conquer up to Mosul and then loot and set fire to everything west of the Zagros. Make sure Mesopotamia will be unable to supply any Persian army for generations.
I have a feeling a Ibrahim will bleed a hell of a lot more troops since he’s still stuck in Roman territory.
 
So the Romans are amalgamating all foreign mercenaries into one force separate from its native army? Great, that never ever backfired on the Empire :rolleyes:

Jokes aside, this current foreign mercenary army seems loyal enough and small enough to avoid being a threat.
 
Maybe it'll become the Roman Foreign Legion.
That's a really good thought . I always thought that there could also be a sort of Christian version of the Janissaries' , maybe either muslim boys taken just like the Ottomans did in OTL with Christian boys or even parentless kids ….
 
I've always loved the idea of a Roman Foreign Legion. And given that Rhomania has colonies near China they could be useful. Who knows? Maybe officers from said colonies might rise to command them in the near future eh? :rolleyes:
 
So the Romans are amalgamating all foreign mercenaries into one force separate from its native army? Great, that never ever backfired on the Empire :rolleyes:

Jokes aside, this current foreign mercenary army seems loyal enough and small enough to avoid being a threat.
Hey, at least they're better than the godforsaken Praetorians.
 
TheWanderingReader: I’m picturing Ottokar as somewhat of a Bismarck. He may not be able to orchestrate schemes twelve steps in advance, but he’s very good at exploiting whatever opportunities fate chooses to hand him.

Wolttaire: Sweden was IOTL what I call an ‘unsustainable great power’. It was a great power for a while through an efficient administration, high-quality troops, and excellent leaders, but it lacked the material and manpower resources of a ‘real great power’. It just didn’t have the depth to take the big blows. Now the EAN is a lot bigger than OTL Sweden, but even a united Scandinavia is small compared to the big boys.

Donald Reaver: Out-of-universe the volcano reference was a shout out to Alexis de Tocqueville, who prior to the 1848 Revolutions said they were sleeping on a volcano or something to that affect. Also, powder sparks seem somewhat cliché at this point. Volcano has much more gravitas in my mind, and more of an air of inevitability. You can guard against powder sparks in a magazine; a volcano does what it wants. Elizabeth is an educated and fairly well-traveled woman for the time, so I can see her using an unorthodox analogy. Also she’s not a soldier, so using gunpowder imagery probably comes less naturally to her.

Boa: Theoretically, it’d do a lot of damage, potentially even fatal. Figuring 20,000 Bohemians and 20,000 Hungarians, that’s about one-third of all Allied forces in Serbia/Macedonia/Bulgaria. Proportions in the field armies vary from that though.

Praetor98: I think in Napoleonic times it’d be considered a small corps, since it’s infantry and cavalry, not just one or the other.

HanEmpire: For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus just on the big three, the Romans, the HRE and allies fighting in the Balkans (since I didn’t parse casualties of the various groups), and the Ottomans.

(Note that many of the casualties are wounded men who can return to the ranks and be wounded again. Andreas Drakos took a couple of dozen war wounds in his career, so he’d count as 20+ casualties by himself. Something to keep in mind when looking at totals.)

These are the tallies of all the various casualties I’ve listed so far (I think). It doesn’t include the war in Italy, naval warfare, or fighting in the east.

Furthermore all totals will be drastically short of the ‘real’ totals. Mostly they’re just casualties from specific battles and don’t include casualties from smaller engagements, wastage, disease, etc.

HRE-So for 1631 I listed 4000 at Sopot and 8000 at Drenovac. There are 30,000 more over the course of the active 1632 campaign, plus Michael Laskaris is ‘succeeding handily’ at his goal of inflicting at least 1000 casualties, so let’s say 8000 more over the course of 6 months. That adds up to 50,000 so far.

Ottomans-3500 at Saraqib, 5000 at the first day of Aabdeh. 24000 on the second day, 2600 on the third day. Duhok 6400 casualties. So minimum of 41,500.

Romans- So for 1631 I listed 9000 casualties at Sopot (some of them Serbs), and 10000 at Drenovac. I didn’t list Roman casualties in Macedonia/Bulgaria in 1632, but if we assume that the Romans are taking at least 2/3rds of the Allied losses (the 30+8 thousand), that’s around 25,000 right there. So casualties in Europe are at least 44,000.

Now for Asia. 2000 at Saraqib. 32,000 casualties on the first day of Aadbeh (many of these are Egyptian or Ethiopians though), 6,000 on the second day, 9000 on the third day. Duhok 2000 casualties. So casualties in Asia are at least 51,000 (including Ethiopian and Egyptian casualties).

As of this point, beginning of 1633, all the major players have sufficient manpower to replace their losses. Some of the inspiration for this war comes from the OTL 30 Years War, where combatants were surprisingly able to replace lost armies. Admittedly the armies got smaller as the war went on, and even the big ones would be small by the standards of the War of the Roman Succession, but it was still impressive.

As for contributions:

Romans-a quarter of a million, contributions from Sicily, Egypt, Ethiopia, push this over 300,000 men total under arms.

Ottomans-85,000 regular troops, perhaps another 30,000 second-rate troops for Mesopotamian defense, Arab troops (15,000?), and Syrian rebels (30,000?).

Lombardy-70,000 men, many are garrison/militia troops.

HRE Army of the Danube: 125,000 total. Comprised of 20,000 Bohemians, 20,000 Hungarians, 6,000 Poles, 5,000 Triunes, 24,000 princely contingents, 50,000 Wittelsbach troops.

Lascaris: Etaireia may show up in the future. I haven’t decided. ‘Paramonai’ has been hanging around in my notes waiting to be used for probably a century ITTL so I wanted to use it.

Curtain Jerker: One advantage that the Ottomans, Lombards, and the HRE have is that while they don’t have the economy of Rhomania, they also don’t have the commitments. Rhomania’s the only one with 200,000+ men under arms. Having said that, Elizabeth’s analysis in her diary though is correct. The HRE and Wittelsbachs can keep up the tempo for 1633 and probably 1634, but if it isn’t won by then they’ll definitely lose by exhaustion. And then everything will go to hell.

The Romans and Ottomans ITTL are modeled after the Romans and Parthians/Sassanids of ancient times, two great empires seemingly determined to battle forever.

More languages would be useful, but three foreign languages are quite a lot, especially the cadets also need to learn how to be officers. So it makes sense to focus on the languages of the greatest powers/threats, although the Roman government encourages those who learn other languages. Diplomats/spies are expected to know the local tongue; it makes them much more useful.

Khaine: Yeah, there are a lot of vultures that could come out of the woodwork if the Romans knock the Wittelsbachs down a few pegs. The problem for the Romans is that none of them will come out until the Romans have done the knocking, at which point they wouldn’t need the help anyway.

Cryostorm: Correct. Demetrios right now doesn’t want to do anything drastic in the east. He wants that shut down so he can focus on the west. Give him the pre-Mashhadshar borders back and he’d be satisfied, for now.

The Romans will innovate and develop their own form of jujitsu. It’s what Romans do; take someone else’s idea and make it better. Developing Krav Maga equivalent is a really good idea.

ImperatorAlexander:

Demetrios III: Now what do I do with all these guys?
Odysseus: You know, Andreas III told me about some ideas he had regarding India…

TheWanderingReader: Yeah, the Roman-Ottoman relationship is the typical ‘great powers who share long borders’ relationship. If the Jalayirids or Timurids had won out in Persia, something very similar to these wars would still be happening.

Duke of Nova Scotia: I think a good realpolitik post-war setup from the Roman POV would be what you’ve outlined. Bohemia’s a good club to whack the HRE down, and needs to be wooed away from the Triunes anyway.

Yeah, the big problem with conquering and holding Mesopotamia is that it’s very Turkish at this point. And like the Romans have a big portion of their identity being ‘not Latin’, the Turks have a big part of their identity being ‘not Roman’.

Right now nobody has colonies in South Africa, although most Latin states trading in the east have ships stop off at the Cape and barter with the Khoikhoi for provisions. The Romans aren’t interested in the area, although if a Latin state established a presence there they’d likely take notice.

The Byzantines were pretty strongly against the idea of holy war. They prayed for victory in battle and believed the Virgin Mary was the protector of Constantinople, but they were resistant to forming any kind of crusade/jihad methodology. It’s one of their most attractive features in my opinion.

Also interestingly, IOTL the Spanish hired Japanese samurai as mercenaries and some of them ended up in Mexico as highway patrolmen against bandits.

And I’m now picturing a Shaolin Monk wandering the eastern reaches of the Empire looking for his brother and getting into all sorts of adventures.

As for Roman influence on Japanese culture besides Orthodoxy, I figure Roman literature is popular. The Three Soldiers (early 15th century work detailing the fictional adventures of three ex-Roman soldiers in 12th century Syria) can be viewed like ronin having adventures, and the various romances and epics in Roman literature involving families or lovers reuniting after Latins break them apart are popular as well.

And now I want to make a Roman version of the 47 Ronin. I don’t know how, yet…

Evilprodigy: It wasn’t conscious on my part, but geopolitics steer events certain ways regardless of the names on the map. I believe the ancient Indians had a term which was basically ‘every states allies with the state on the opposite side of their neighbor’, so 1 and 3 are allied against 2, while 2 and 4 try to gang up on 3, etc.

I hadn’t thought about the wrestling bit (I’m not a sports person).

Viciosodiego: If the Romans could focus squarely on the Ottomans, they could conquer Mesopotamia. Holding it is another matter. Andreas III did have schemes regarding both Persia and India.

JohnSmith: Stephan doesn’t want to lose any more of his kingdom, but at the same time it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. So he might be open to a deal, but it would depend on the details.

Babyrage: That’s been an idea behind earlier Roman invasions of Mesopotamia, no intention of conquering, just being a giant wrecking ball. Taking Mosul and turning it into an Aleppo-sized fortress, while really expensive, would be a really good way to secure the eastern frontier. You either have to take said massive fortress, or if you swing west to attack Syria the Mosul garrison comes out and plays havoc with your supply lines.

Stark: Fair point, but it is small compared to rest of the army. The Serbs and Lithuanians come as package sets; they can’t be broken up into smaller contingents. Prince Durad and Ivan Sapieha wouldn’t stand for it. The Pronsky and Spaniards are all veterans and in veteran formations, so breaking them up would drastically reduce their effectiveness. So it makes sense to keep everyone together in one bloc.

Parmenion1: The government does operate orphanages and they do help the children find apprentices or dowries for the girls, but nothing like the devshirme in scale.

Roman Foreign Legion: As Evilprodigy pointed out, the Varangians are pretty much the Roman foreign legion as it’s made up of mostly foreigners. I’m picturing the Paramonai eventually becoming another guard tagma made up mostly of foreigners. Russians, Scots, and Scandinavians go to the Varangians; Spaniards, Arletians, and Serbs go to the Paramonai, for example. The inspiration for this though isn’t the foreign legion, but the Swiss regiments from the ancien regime French army.

Kimo: Hey, the Praetorians weren’t so bad. They were increasing social mobility and reducing stagnation in the Imperial office…



An Age of Miracles, Part 6: What Does it Profit a Man, 1473-1517 has been posted up at Patreon. Starting after the fall of Rome, the almost 180 pages cover the remainder of Andreas I Komnenos’ reign, including lots of scheming, stabbing, and the end of an era.
 
And I’m now picturing a Shaolin Monk wandering the eastern reaches of the Empire looking for his brother and getting into all sorts of adventures.
And now I want to make a Roman version of the 47 Ronin. I don’t know how, yet…
Hey if a James Bondesque movie series ITTL is possible, I'd say a 47 Ronin styled samurai epic set in the war of Roman Succession might just be possible, hell, let's make it an anime styled story :p I wonder who's the nation that invents anime ITTL, I can imagine a Byzantine Anime show being possible though.
 
1633: The Happy Conqueror Today
"It was a woman, the Lady Alexeia, who was the death of Galdan of Merv. And do not forget to whom it has been assigned to be the deaths of Casimir and Ibrahim."
-Irene of Amastris, on being mustered out of the army upon the discovery she was a woman.

Danube 1633 map.png

Google map screenshot. Locations in black boxes are of significance.​

1633 continued: Blucher resumes his offensive with a host numbering 90,000 men, not including the many garrisons and supply guards he has along the Danube River, a most formidable army but one whose cavalry is 30% weaker than last year. Also a greater proportion of the troops are fresh conscripts, although Michael Laskaris and his 84,000 men has the same weakness.

It is a weakness the Archbishop of Cologne is able to exploit in what is inaccurately called the First Battle of Ruse. As Michael marches northwest to Ruse up the Varna road where his army held winter quarters, his army is spread out into several columns over a series of roads. While he makes sure to mix veterans with new troops, the proportion of veterans to new troops decline as one moves southwest to northeast.

The Archbishop, who has his 6,000 troops mounted on cheap nags or donkeys for extra mobility, is on Blucher’s right flank, keeping an eye on the approaching Romans. Eyeing an opportunity, he swings north fast and then comes down hard on the northernmost Roman column. There are 12 tourmai in this column, strung along the road, all but two unbloodied. Two of those 10 tourmai have only been issued real D3 muskets a month ago, having trained with wooden replicas beforehand.

The two tourmai in the front are the 3rd and 7th Thracian, the latter granted Guard status for its good service around Nikopolis last year. A contingent of attached Hungarian horse bashes aside the Roman cavalry screen and Hohenzollern hits the two veteran tourmai hard. But they ram back equally hard, hurling musketry volleys with crisp precision. But ‘Bone-Breaker’ is prepared for that, working around both their flanks which is rather easy considering his 3-to-1 advantage in numbers.

Recognizing the danger, the two tourmai fall back but in fine order, snapping volleys at any Rhinelanders foolish enough to get too close. Then they bash into the 19th Thracian tourma, whose tourmarch has urged them forward to support their comrades. Unfortunately the 19th is one of those tourmai which has just received real weapons; when Hungarian cavalry pitch into their flank they panic and flee back down the road.

They plow into the 16th Thracian, which has more experience handling their guns but is equally green when it comes to battle conditions. Infected by the 19th’s panic, a smashing volley from Rhineland infantry send them flying too. Recognizing the opportunity, the Archbishop menaces the 3rd and 7th with his cavalry, forcing them to form square to defend themselves. They beat off all attacks but are immobile, unable to come to the support of their green comrades who are savaged by the Rhineland mounted infantry.

The 16th and 19th then sweep along the 17th Thracian as well, although some droungoi here let rip a volley or two before they are swept back. The flood only ends when the 14th Thracian comes up. While equally green, it was mustered back in November and has been able to drill with real weapons since mid-December. Additionally by this point the officers realize what is happening and have enough time to steady their troops.

Standing off the road, they let what’s left of the other three tourmai pass through, and only then secure the lane, meeting the oncoming Germans with ragged but continuous volleys, backed up by a three-pounder battery hauled into position. The Germans are tiring now, but are veterans and still hold a sizeable numerical advantage. The situation for the 14th is very hairy, and it is a credit to the officers and men that they hold. Still without the support of the battery and the quick reinforcement of the bulk of the 17th, which almost immediately reforms once the pressure on it slackens, they too might have been swept aside. But they hold instead.

With more tourmai coming up the highway from the rear of the column, the 3rd and 7th trying to claw their way back down the line, plus more Romans sweeping north cross-country from the next column to the south, Hohenzollern elects to call it a day and fall back. He successfully disengages and evades Roman cavalry sent after him, returning back to Blucher without serious contestation.

It is a small but impressive victory. For six hundred casualties (three-fifths dealt out by the 3rd and 7th and practically all of the remainder by the stand of the 14th and 17th) he paid back twenty two hundred. The 19th is so battered it is dissolved after its first engagement, the survivors amalgamated in the 14th and 17th. The Hungarian cavalry took as well as inflicted two hundred casualties. It is a humiliating start to the campaign, the only silver lining that Allied casualties were mostly veterans and Romans mostly fresh conscripts.

* * *

Excerpt taken From the Cannon’s Mouth: A History of the Great Latin War in the Words of Those who Fought in it.

[The following is taken from the journal of Alexeia of Didymoteichon, who joined the Roman army as Alexios of Didymoteichon. She is one of forty-three confirmed individual women who dressed up as men to fight for the Empire during the Great Latin War. Historians estimate that the total of these cross-dressing warriors was at least 250, those numbers not including the famous female partisans, city defenders, or the Witches, all of which fought openly as women.

Very little is known about these women. Those who evaded detection in their own time naturally are invisible to historians today. Women were less educated than men during this period and so the rich trove of surviving letters and journals that comprise this book is largely absent of female soldier authors.

With one major exception. Alexeia of Didymoteichon was, for her station and gender, well educated. She recorded many of her experiences in a wartime journal, a rare feat even from her male comrades, and over 90% of the original entries still survive, providing a valuable historical resource for studies of women warriors as well as the experience of Roman army life during the 1630s.

The following extract is from her first experience of combat at the First Battle of Ruse, serving in the 14th Thracian.]

We were posted off the road in amongst the trees, spread out a bit so that we could take cover behind them. Mine was little, not much wider than my arm, but I felt much better having it in front of me.

They came at us fast. It was hard to see with the powder smoke in my eyes. My first shot send a spray of sparks into my face, burning my forehead. I don’t know if it hit anyone. I doubt it. I just fired away at them.

I nearly gave myself away when a ball hit me on a button. By the Grace of the Virgin it only bruised me on the chest. My cry of surprise would not easily pass for that of a man or boy. Thanks be to Saint Helena that nobody heard me, for the cannon and musket were loud.

Michael was killed just fifteen feet away from me. I didn’t notice when he died. He fell at the base of a tree and Ioannes, who is really Aikaterine his sister, stood over his body and kept firing. He knew her secret; they came to war together.

Thanks be to the Virgin she was not hurt. She knows my secret and I know hers. Interesting how women immediately recognize each other while men are clueless.


* * *

First Ruse doesn’t slow the Romans down much however, whilst increased Roman naval activity on the Danube slows Blucher’s advance, although it doesn’t stop him either. But the more forceful activities of the Roman fleet hamper river-borne supply, already at this early stage causing shortages.

On June 18 Blucher finds his march blocked by Michael Laskaris, present in full force at the village of Batin about 40 kilometers up the Danube from Ruse. It is a well-fortified position. Michael has his right flank secured on the great river itself, while an island in the Danube provides more artillery emplacements to fire into the Allied left flank. Batin itself is on a long narrow ridge with its Orthodox Church bell tower providing a long line-of-sight for Roman observers. The Roman line extends southeast because of the terrain, anchoring the left wing on the village of Gorno Ablanova which is even more elevated than Batin.

Second Ruse is a much larger affair than First Ruse, with 88,000 Allies facing 80,000 Romans. Blucher elects to focus on the Roman left wing, hoping to outflank it. Hungarian cavalry work their way around, unable to turn the line but applying extra pressure at this point. Then he unleashes another grand battery, pounding the Romans up in Gorno Ablanova. It is a formidable position, but if he can seize it, he can possibly use it as a base to pivot north into the rear of the Roman center and right (which because of the southeast orientation are further west than the left wing), trapping them whilst also pinning them against the Danube. This could be the decisive battle of annihilation for which Blucher has been hoping. A massive victory in the field is much better than a long march to bash against Constantinople with a shaky supply line.

The grand battery pulverizes the Roman line, the counter-battery fire from the Roman guns gradually slackening as they’re overwhelmed. While the Hungarians attack from the flank, three massive German assault columns pile on the village. They’re met with massed musketry volleys which blow the heads off all the columns, but that’s to be expected. What’s not expected is when Roman cannon open up again, slamming double Vlach shot into the columns, wreaking carnage.

The Roman artillery here had been battered, but Michael had expected this and ordered the batteries to gradually slacken their fire to make it appear they’d been disabled. Still some guns have been destroyed or forced to withdraw, so the barrage isn’t as fierce as Michael would like, but still more than fierce enough for the Germans.

Yet the Germans are brave and experienced veterans who know the best path is forward and they plow into the Roman line, both sides hacking and hammering at each other in a furious press. The fight see-saws back and forth until Roman cavalry slam into the right flank of the assault column that’s hitting the far left of the Roman line. While Roman black horses and light cavalry scattered the Hungarians, kataphraktoi had swung around the edge of the Roman line, appearing out of nowhere to the horror of the German infantry.

The column is slaughtered, with reportedly kataphraktoi skewering foot soldiers like fish on their kontoi. The heavy horse then wheel and plow into the second column, although the charge is more disordered and not a surprise. That column, sorely bruised, falls back with kataphraktoi slashing at it, the first retiring with it.

Then Casimir piles in with the Polish cavalry, spying an opportunity to wipe out a good chunk of the Roman horse while they’re scattered and tired. The kataphraktoi give ground, retreating back to their own lines supported by infantry fire.

At which point Alexandros Drakos enters the fray, leading a hit squad of 50 Pronsky lancers and Roman kataphraktoi whose sole mission is to kill the Polish King. They pile into his guard, killing Adam Mikolaj Sieniawski, Voivode of Belz, at Casimir’s side as well as his standard bearer. Alexandros goes hand-to-hand with the King, hitting him with a powerful blow on the helm, only the thick felt cap underneath saving the King from anything worse than a concussion. But Alexandros’ saber broke on that blow and the desperate guards of the King throw themselves at him, finally driving him back as the Poles and their concussed king retire.

Seeing that his attack on the left has failed, Blucher assaults the center. It is at a lower elevation than either Batin or Gorno Ablanova and the fight on the left did suck away Roman reserves. Despite being well-supported by Vauban’s artillery the attacks are beaten back, the Paramanoi posted here giving good service for their pay, particularly the Spaniards with their rapid and precise musketry volleys.

Having reordered the troops from the Gorno Ablanova assault, Blucher begins sidestepping more to the southeast, planning on hitting that area with greater force tomorrow. It is too late to try again today.

The Domestikos of the West is wise to the danger and rather than take the risk elects to withdraw during the night. It is an orderly retreat, with no additional losses save for the sixteen guns on the island that have to be spiked since there isn’t enough time to retire the pieces. Blucher is aware of the Roman movements but doesn’t hazard a night attack. When dawn breaks the Romans have retired out of range.

With the Romans retreating, the victory goes to the Allies. The Romans took six thousand casualties, most of which are veterans. Michael, recognizing that his left wing was the most vulnerable, had placed his best troops there. But in exchange the Allies have taken sixteen thousand, many of them also veterans.

Not aware of the extent of Allied losses, Michael elects not to challenge the Allies again on their march to Ruse. He’d much rather pin the Allies up against the Danube than the other way around. Four days after Batin/Second Ruse the Allied army encamps and commences the siege of Ruse.

Prior to the war, Ruse was fortified but not nearly to the extent of Vidin and Nikopolis, the two chief Roman citadels on the Danube. But since June 1632 construction gangs have been at work reinforcing the battlements with earthen embankments and hastily-built bastions. The results are rough and shoddy, but partially compensated by their firepower; by itself the Ruse garrison has almost as much artillery as the entire Allied host.

Ruse Fortress Gate.jpg

The ‘Batin’ Gate of the Ruse fortifications. Built during the 1460s to secure Roman control over their then-new Bulgarian conquests.
A day after the Allied arrival, a rider under a banner of truce leaves the Allied army and is escorted to Michael Laskaris, encamped seven miles to the east. It is a messenger from Archbishop Hohenzollern to Alexandros Drakos. He delivers a packet containing a new saber and a note that says ‘better luck next time’.

Blucher has tried repeatedly to lighten the tensions between the Archbishop and the Polish King but to no avail. The haughty arrogance of the Polish nobles has irritated most of the other troops, not helped when the Poles nearly riot when Blucher hangs two Polish hussars on June 26th for starting a brawl with Bohemian troops. Casimir is furious but calms down before things get out of hand.

If things had gotten out of hand, there was the possibility that the Rhinelanders would’ve stormed the Polish camp. The Archbishop has never been really satisfied by Casimir’s restitution after the incident at Nikopolis and his mood has not improved after other brawls end up with another sixteen of his men wounded. While a hard-driving taskmaster who enjoys his luxuries at home, ‘Bishop Bone-Breaker’ is adored by his men because of his concern for their welfare and his willingness to live no better than them on campaign.

Another item that irritates the Archbishop about the King is the presence of Templars. Casimir never seems to leave their presence and the Archbishop despises the Templars. He’s found them to be overly fond of interfering, as he sees it, in the affairs of his diocese.

Casimir’s Templars are only the tip of the iceberg that is a growing problem for the Allies. Pope Paul IV, alarmed at Roman successes in Italy, has increased the subsidy to Theodor, which also gives him more influence with the Emperor, a fact not lost on the Pontiff. Having heard reports of Hungarian prisoners, who are already familiar with Orthodoxy, converting to Orthodoxy to get better treatment, he is concerned about more conversions to the ‘heretics’.

To that end, he is insistent on sending Templars and Inquisitors in the wake of the Allied armies. He’s wanted to do so from the very beginning but Theodor has blocked him, well aware of the public relations disaster it would be. But with his credit growing ever worse, he needs the subsidy ever more desperately. So in the winter of 1632/1633 he acquiesces, despite a very vocal condemnation from the Lady Elizabeth.

That said, he gives very specific orders that the Templars and Inquisitors only have jurisdiction over the Allied troops themselves, not over the Orthodox natives. Yet the Templars and Inquisitors know that there is a notice on their heads; three Inquisitors in Vidin are assassinated just in March-April 1633. As a result those willing to come are generally more fanatical than is the norm. And because of that, they rarely can resist meddling with the Orthodox, much to their fury. Inquisitors, following the practice of the Dominicans in the west in regard to the Jews, barge into Orthodox churches during services to deliver harangues about the need to convert.

Partisan attacks in Bulgaria are growing fiercer and more numerous, partly due to the increased religious pressure. But it is also due to the Allied need for ‘more intensive foraging’. Even with the Danube as a supply route, because of the increased tempo and strength of Vlach and trapezite raids, the Allied supply situation is growing more precarious. And harried and hungry troops whose pay is in ever-growing arrears are not inclined to be gentle. It is not as bad as Upper Macedonia, but the situation is working its way there.

Michael Laskaris has let the Allies besiege Ruse but he is not going to leave them unmolested. He launches repeated attacks on the Allied perimeter, aiming to cause as much mayhem, destroy as much material, and inflict as many casualties as he can. At this stage he isn’t trying to break the Allied army per se. He wants to bloody his green troops and make the Allies use up their powder and supplies. Although not aware of the extent, he does know Allied logistics are suffering. When it comes time to smash them, he wants the Allies to be as tired, hungry, and powder-less as he can manage.

What he doesn’t do is pivot west and try and cut the Allied supply line directly. He knows that Ruse’s defenses aren’t up to the caliber of Vidin or Nikopolis despite the recent work, so breathing down Blucher’s neck is the best way to keep Ruse secure. And he needs Ruse to stay secure for his planned counterstrike.

Some of the attacks are launched in conjunction with the Ruse garrison. Signal mirrors and semaphores are used for some communications but there is the risk of the Allies cracking the codes. At the very least they know some kind of communication is in effect.

Most messages are conveyed via the river fleet. Ruse is the headquarters of the Roman Danube flotilla and the gunboats are active, bombarding any Allied formations within range, blocking allied efforts to push down the Danube, and raiding upstream repeatedly to snap at supply barges. Messages are shipped downstream, delivered to a waiting courier, and carried to the Domestikos.

On August 1, with Ruse still defiant and fighting hard (a counter-mine blows up a Bohemian battery the day before), Blucher decides to wheel on Laskaris rather than risk being ground down further. By this point many of the wounded from Second Ruse are back on the line so even with needing to keep troops to mask Ruse he has a slight numerical advantage, 80000 to 77000.

Laskaris comes out to meet him. Third Ruse is a confused melee with both sides gaining local victories and defeats, but at the end of the day it is Blucher who withdraws. Laskaris, battered and cautious, does not pursue during the night. Both sides have taken 15% casualties.

A week later Laskaris has been reinforced by 5 tourmai, all green but with eight weeks of drill and practice with D3 muskets. After First Ruse, he told the Megas Domestikos not to bother sending any troops with any less drill; they would be useless to him at best if any more inexperienced. He has also received news from Ruse, for which he has been waiting since before Second Ruse.

On August 10 he launches a full-fledged assault on the Allied lines, right where their trenches intersect the Varna road, at night. It is a confused assault and after a few hours of battle he is thrown back with close to 2600 casualties to only 1300 allied. So Fourth Ruse is listed as a Roman defeat. But while the Allies were focused on the Varna road, they were not paying attention to the river.

A dozen Roman warships, their lights doused, sneak their way up the Danube. While some of the German lookouts may have noticed some movement, they cannot see how many ships are moving past their lines. The next day more Roman warships, this time in full daylight, row their way upstream on the far side of the Danube from the allied camp, staying out of cannon range. Cavalry are immediately sent racing to Svishtov to alert the Allied Danube fleet.

The Roman naval officers and men have been busy since the defeats in 1631. Their losses have been made good and then some. Aside from bolstering their number, they’ve improved their kit. Part of their new weaponry is an enhanced blast ram. Rather than using a lit fuse as the Allies do, the Romans have set up a contact detonator like the ones used in their mines to ignite the ram. As a result the spar can be made stronger, meaning a much larger charge can be used. Also rather than the box of the Allied blast ram, the Roman compartments are egg-shaped, the rear and sides reinforced to further channel the explosion forward into the target.

There are also five new ships included amongst the regular designs. Three-mast vessels with oar banks in-between broadside gun-ports, they run much more heavily armed than is usual amongst the riverine galleys. The two largest mount twenty ten-pounders and twelve three-pounder cannons. Given the Allied practice of festooning their river ships with lots of heavy muskets shooting a pound-ball, to protect the crews of the deck bow guns thick wood-plank mantlets are placed surrounding the guns, with an opening through which the weapons can be aimed and fired. From the side these are said to look somewhat like rhino horns, from which comes their name- rhino galleys.

Upon hearing word that the Romans are heading upstream the Allied fleet sallies. They too are eager for another battle of annihilation, unaware that the Romans are at greater strength than reported. Some Vlach riders drop mines behind them, but that is nothing unusual, albeit annoying. They’ve been laying mines here and there for months now. But while Vlach troops are driven off from one mine-laying effort, the sheer number of mines being dropped far exceeds earlier attacks.

The fleets clash near Batin, although the battle is better known as Fifth Ruse. The Allies are shocked at the greater Roman numbers, and even more shocked when the rhino-galleys open up on them. For river vessels they are very well-armed. Still the Allies fight hard and only after two hours do they break, fleeing back up the river.

And then they run into the minefields. Horrified, they begin the laborious process of clearing them but the Romans are on them, standing at range and pounding them with cannons. It is a complete and utter rout.

The Vlachs who laid the mines had placed markers, hidden from view on the river, to remind them where they’d dropped the mines so it is a much quicker process for the Romans to clear the fields. The fleet rushes upstream, running the guns at Svishtov although one regular galley veers too close and is holed, beaching itself on the Vlach side where the crew is rescued by the Vlach army marching alongside.

On the fleet surges, ferrying the Vlach army over to Belene Island which is overrun in a matter of hours. To cap it the fleet and Vlachs land on the south shore of the river, annihilating the small garrison and supply depot at Belene with the support of the villagers.

The fleet does not stop there, proceeding further upstream and landing Vlach soldiers to smash every single Allied detachment and depot in sight. Only the great guns of Nikopolis and the quartet of floating forts on the waters halt their advance. Then the Roman fleet retires, trailing the streamers and pennants of the captured and sunk Allied vessels in the river. Belene Island is fortified as the forward base of the Danube flotilla. With a swarm of new cannons from the foundries of western Anatolia covering both channels of the Danube where it splits around the island, everything downstream is made impregnable to any future naval attacks.

Blucher is aghast; in two and a half days the last 100+ kilometers of his supply chain has ceased to exist. And he has already been suffering from shortages. There is no way around it; he has to withdraw, much to his sovereign’s despair. On August 16 he breaks camp and begins his retreat.

The retreat is a nightmare. Michael launches furious assaults, one after the other. The rearguard is commanded by General von Mackensen, who fights with desperate courage, his losses steadily replaced as Blucher funnels back more troops to stall the Roman army. From the 16th to the 20th Mackensen’s forces take 135% casualties. In the front the Vlachs try to cut off the Allied retreat, but vastly outnumbered are slammed aside.

With the Vlachs out, Laskaris then tries to swing around the Allies to block them and smash them up against the river. But Blucher has the advantage here as the roads parallel the river, forcing Laskaris to sidestep south, adding to his journey. To ensure that he wins the race to Nikopolis, Blucher is forced to ditch wagons and cannons, strewing the landscape with the detritus of his army. Svishtov has to be abandoned because of lack of supplies. Meanwhile the Roman gunboats shell any target in sight, adding to the carnage and confusion.

The discipline of many of the newer troops breaks under the strain and they swarm south. They know there is food there, and would like to get it, damn everyone who gets in their way. These soldiers-turned-brigands leave a trail of rampaging brutal destruction, taking out their rage upon everything in their path, the infuriated peasantry striking back with all their strength but they are unequal to the contest. Incidentally these deserters do Blucher a good service, as these swarms entangle with Michael’s sidestep-advance, slowing him down as his troops exterminate the Latins in front of them.

* * *

Excerpt taken From the Cannon’s Mouth: A History of the Great Latin War in the words of those who fought in it.

[The following is taken from a letter by Manuel Argyrochoou to his father.

Manuel Argyrochoou was a member of the 36th Droungos of the Teicheiotai during the Night of the Tocsins. As such he was one of the first to be drafted into the Roman army during its massive expansion in 1632 and he fought during most of the 1632 and 1633 campaigns.

The following took place at the village of Oresh, about 13 kilometers southeast of Belene, on August 19th.]

We took the village without a fight, entering the central square shortly after noon. The Latins who’d been in the village most of the morning were still in sight, about a half-mile distant.

Spread across the square, about a third in one large pile, were the corpses of the females of the villages, at least thirty of them, ranging from girls of eight to old women. They had all been mutilated and raped. I noticed one, a pregnant woman, had had her belly cut open and her child impaled on a broken ambrolar.

The church was still burning. In the wreckage lay more bodies, at least five of which looked to be that of small boys.

Dekarchos Demetrios, who has been a pillar of strength to the droungos since the beginning, was born and raised in this village. He gave a cry of horror and before we could stop him, he rode off at the gallop at the enemy, charging into their ranks to be immediately cut down.

We chased after them, catching them a mile and a half to the west of town, and we slaughtered them. About a third of their company managed to get away but the rest we cut down, save for fifteen that looked like their officers and dekarchoi. Those we strapped to the mouths of cannons and fired off. It was a beautiful sight, albeit too quick a death for Latins.
[1]

[1] This incident is based off the OTL event where the Turks raped and massacred the Arab village of Tafas in 1918, as recorded by Lawrence of Arabia.

* * *

On August 21, the Allied army encamps at Nikopolis, tired and demoralized, low on supplies and now weak in artillery, although some of the shortfall is made good by taking pieces from the citadel.

Save for cavalry sniping at outposts, the Romans are a few days behind them. The Army of Europe has taken heavy casualties of its own. Also the strewn wreckage of the Allied army has to be cleared out of the way and more supplies brought up; with the main depot back at Varna this is not a quick operation. Furthermore the Danube valley up from Ruse is a blasted ruin stripped clean, the local survivors desperate for aid. A good portion of the army rations coming up by wagon from Varna or by barge down the Danube is distributed to the survivors. And the former-soldiers-turned-brigands need to be exterminated.

Michael finally attacks on August 25, inflicting three thousand casualties for about the same received, but isn’t able to break the Allied lines. He draws back, hovering just out of artillery range, while Roman gunships dart up, fire a few salvoes, and retire out of range as well.

Although the Romans are held at bay for now, Blucher is still very concerned about his position. A huge portion of his supplies was lost both in the retreat and in the depots the Vlachs destroyed. More is coming down from the depots at Belgrade and Vidin, plus Blucher is pulling from Nikopolis’ stores as well, but it isn’t enough. A special concern is powder for the artillery. Much was lost in sabotage over the winter and combined with all the other losses it means that Blucher has to start restricting the number of times the artillery can fire per day.

Michael senses this and on August 29 he draws up at extreme cannon range and commences a long-range bombardment of the Allies. Their accuracy is terrible, but then their target is quite big, and the feeble reply of the Allied guns is demoralizing to the Allies and invigorating to the Romans. The Allies close to engage, the Romans accepting the challenge. For an hour the two armies clash, blasting away at each other.

Then Michael goes on the offensive, slamming forward twenty two tourmai, fourteen of which have been awarded guard status for valor during 1632-33, supported by four new horse artillery batteries. The murderous hail of bullets and cannonballs cracks the Allied lines, nearly breaking them before the reserves halt them. Then a general attack by the whole Roman army hurls the Allies back into their camp, a desperate defense barely keeping the Romans at bay before nightfall brings fighting to a close save for some desultory Roman shelling.

Both sides are battered, the Allies taking thirteen thousand to ten thousand Roman casualties. Michael had hoped poor morale from defeat in battle would’ve enabled him to carry the camp fortifications. Having failed in that, he doesn’t want to charge in now with the Germans somewhat recovered and also covered by Nikopolis’ guns, although he still maintains a long-range bombardment.

Blucher would like to fight, thinking that if he can just get enough powder for his artillery, a Third Nikopolis will go much better than the Second (the initial Roman attack on August 25 is listed as First Nikopolis in the histories). But on September 2 he receives news that the convoy carrying more powder has been ambushed near Almus and half of its contents lost. This is the last straw; if he stays here longer the army will be destroyed sooner or later. He needs to retreat again.

Even so, his supply situation is still better than it was after Fifth Ruse so he can plan the withdrawal much more carefully. Under cover of night, he transfers his wounded and many of his supplies onto river barges, a few rowing north every day so it doesn’t look suspicious. He steps up his counter-battery fire to make Laskaris think his powder-situation is better than it really is. From spies Blucher knows the Domestikos is waiting for siege artillery to come up from Varna; with those the Romans can really blast the Allied camp and compel Nikopolis to surrender.

On the night of September 6 he begins his retreat, marching out of camp but leaving the fires burning. Despite precautions, the noise alerts the Romans that something is up but Michael doesn’t want to launch a rush attack in darkness; that is a good way to blunder into an ambush. At dawn, the Romans, who can now see what is happening, overrun what’s left of the camp.

Nikopolis still has a garrison and some artillery; as long as it is held by the Allies the Romans can’t use the Danube upstream from the city as a supply route. Michael detaches ten tourmai to besiege the city, marching after Blucher and using Serdica/Sofia as his depot. But because of the need to transport everything by land, his supply situation isn’t as good as it was earlier in the campaign.

There are several smaller battles between Blucher and Michael but despite his best efforts the Domestikos is unable to force a major engagement. And now he has the problem of lengthening supply lines and the need to detach rearguard forces to besiege first Kozloduy and then Almus/Lom. After he draws up against Almus, he halts his offensive. After dropping off a siege force here he’d be down to less than 50,000 men, too small in his opinion to challenge even the heavily battered Allied army which by now has reached Vidin, drastically improving its powder supplies and artillery numbers.

After reorganizing, Blucher comes marching back down to attack the Roman siege lines at Almus, mustering 55000 to Michael’s 52000. On September 28 they clash, the Allied attacks broken up by heavy Roman artillery fire. He retires at the end of the day, Michael not pursuing as now he is the one low on powder for his artillery.

Over the course of the next three weeks, Almus, Kozloduy, and Nikopolis all surrender, restoring Roman control over all of the Danube downstream from Vidin. Afterwards Michael throws his outposts within a few miles of Vidin before retiring them a bit, mauling a Croat contingent in the process.

It has been a most bloody year. Even with the reinforcements, after leaving small garrisons in all the recaptured fortresses Michael’s field army is down to 62,000 men. Yet that is far better than how the Allies fared. Svishtov’s garrison was attached to the field army and Nikopolis’, Kozloduy’s, and Almus’ were all reduced before the Romans besieged them to bolster the field army. Even with those, several thousand reinforcements received over the summer, and the troops no longer needed to guard the 300 kilometer long supply line lost since Seventh Ruse, the Allied army on November 10 is down to 53,000, less than 5/8ths of its June iteration. Michael Laskaris himself states ‘it is a testament to Marshal Blucher’s capability as a strategos, for under any less of a leader his army would have disintegrated entirely’.

Despite his numerical advantage Michael doesn’t try for a winter campaign. He’s burned through most of his supplies and it will take time for more to be brought up, especially as much of the Danube valley needs support if the inhabitants are not to starve over the winter. It is estimated that around 100,000 Roman civilians are killed over the course of the campaign, a quarter of the population, whether by direct Allied action or by the resulting famine despite the best efforts of the White Palace to get relief convoys sent as soon as possible.

Plus he assumes that the war is effectively over. Theodor’s great gambit has failed. Even if he is able to rebuild his army, there is no way he can force his way back down the Danube now. The Allies are in no position to challenge the reinvigorated Roman fleet, which by November is 10% stronger than it was at the beginning of Fifth Ruse. All that remains now is to expel the barbarians from the last patch of Roman soil they hold.

‘Thus does fortune alternate, victory, defeat,
The happy conqueror today, tomorrow, must retreat?’
-The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (OTL)​
 
Last edited:
Is Theodor with the army? If he’s insane enough to keep trying I suspect his own troops will turn on him.
His resources are spent, and he’s out of capital, where are more soldiers going to come from?
Hungary and Bohemia are probably already weighing their opportunities, if they block the Allies from returning its their chance to topple the Wittelsbachs.
 
But Theodor's great gambit is not yet over is it? Im expecting a plot twist.
I imagine he will try a last great gambit before everything explodes in a magnificent way.
I do wonder how any of this results in Demetrios being mostly ignored in history by because by all accounts he is presiding over a pretty good war afford.
 
And he thought he could blast his way past the Herakleian Walls. What a joke.
Blucher is aghast; in two and a half days the last 100+ kilometers of his supply chain has ceased to exist. And he has already been suffering from shortages. There is no way around it; he has to withdraw, much to his sovereign’s despair. On August 16 he breaks camp and begins his retreat.
I think Theodor might undergo a mental breakdown. The greatest military campaign carried out by his nation to date, and it never got past the starting line. Didn't even see the Black Sea, let alone the City.
 
Last edited:
These armored ships and screw propelled ones may be a bit too early technologically. On the other hand copying the Swedish 18th century littoral fleet designs and unleashing these on the Germans is all too plausible. After all the initial inspiration to the Swedes had come by way of Venice if memory serves.
 
Yet another Mary Sue character is facing the Romans...two if you count the Archbishop. Iskander Sue was one thing and I thought it was a one-off but now neither Blucher nor the Archbishop make any major mistakes and they are facing semi-competent Romans ("semi-competent" at best mind you) who can't hold a candle to their brilliant leadership. Been that way for a century, I guess it isn't changing anytime soon if this last update is to be believed.

Only the Romans can appoint a leader who is too stupid to realize that he inflicted TWICE as many casualties as he took and "victory goes to the Allies" as a result of his stupidity. Was he holding the Idiot Ball in his hands when surveying the battlefield? How come Rome has dumbass generals and her enemies ALWAYS have perfect ones? How come Roman coalitions fail in battle and enemy ones always succeed? How come despite being buoyed by the morale of devastating the supply lines Rome doesn't defeat Blucher in battle and lets conduct a fighting retreat? So much for "Morale is to material as three is to one." I guess that rule is only hard and fast when used against Rome, never for her? Ok, sure.

Shit, Blucher even has that textbook hallmark of a Sue where other people talk about how perfect he is.
Michael Laskaris himself states ‘it is a testament to Marshal Blucher’s capability as a strategos,for under any less of a leader his army would have disintegrated entirely’
Blucher's only "flaw" is a terrible supply situation, which isn't a personal/professional shortcoming as much as it is reality of the time and place. The guy even knows how to retreat properly! There's nothing he can't do.

I mean, if David Weber was reading this he'd probably tell you to ease off a little bit in how you characterize Blucher.

If this is how this timeline is going to progress from here on out - stupid Romans facing perfect enemies who only lose because of things out of their control - then I may need to re-evaluate my Patreon status. If I want to read about dumb Byzantines getting their asses kicked by awesome leadership I'll just re-read Jonathan Harris rather than spend my money on this.
 
Top