An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

It looks to me the Malikate decided to perform an elaborate form of suicide. From what I can tell the whole thing was only still there because Rhomania and Ethiopia did not view it worth the effort but now he just made it so and he attacked on his own so they can both crush him after the two main wars are done.

Then there is Georgia who keeps playing the part of Orthodox backstabber and giving more reasons for Constantinople to make them a despotate, after grabbing Azerbaijan to the Caspian.
The Malikate's position was clearly too dependent on Hassan I's personal resilience and competence; I doubt it exists at the end of the war.

Georgia might simply see its kings ruling from Constantinople and its tourmai commanded by Romans.

In that case, Ibrahim completely squandered his initiative. He should have made sure to devastate the Levant's ability to supply an army and then moved on to another theatre. Instead he sat on his hands and let the Romans regroup and cut off his lines of supply. I realize he intended to annex the Levant and so didn't want to hurt the place, but that doesn't excuse such terrible generalship. He tried to have his cake and eat it too.
Agreed.
 
TheWanderingReader: I like the fact that this is the only thread in the pre-1900 forum that had to be locked due to length, and that’s not because I’m throwing out lots of posts. It means people can get really engaged, which means I must be doing something right. In this thread I’m only responsible for around 7% of the posts.

HanEmpire: The defenses protecting eastern Anatolia are a lot tougher; Aleppo and Theodosiopolis are second only to Constantinople in terms of size/modernity of their fortifications. Basically, the Levant looks like a region he can both take and hold. Anatolia isn’t promising in either term.

Also Ibrahim doesn’t want to make the Romans allocate more troops to the eastern front. That would make things easier for Theodor but he doesn’t care about that. Theodor can take a pineapple to the face for all the Shah cares. The Holy Roman Emperor is useful in that he’s tying down a lot of Roman troops on his front, which is how Theodor views Ibrahim as well.

Minifidel: This. At Nineveh, the Romans fielded 100,000 men in what was clearly meant to be an all-out push. (It was also, incidentally, the largest army the Romans have fielded ITTL and the only one comparable in size I can remember was back during Theodoros IV’s reign with the 80,000 sent during the War for Asia. Andreas Niketas never had more than 60,000 and Andreas Drakos’ armies were usually in the 20 to 40,000 range.) Based on that data and knowing that 80,000ish Romans are in Europe, it’d be reasonable from the Ottoman POV that they’d only face Egyptians + Ethiopians + local militias + 2-3 tagmata at most. Much more reasonable odds than the something around 110,000-120,000 men just in Laskaris’ and Amirales’ armies alone.

The Georgians would not take kindly to being ruled by Constantinople. Allies, yes. Friends, yes. Subjects, not a chance.

Boa: That was how Russia was originally unified, a grand Novgorod-Lithuania-Pronsk personal union. The Empire of All the North is built on personal unions. Norway-Scotland got joined to a Sweden-Denmark one. Sicily was in personal union with Rhomania when Andreas III was Emperor. The Triunes are technically a personal union between France and England. So there’s been a few.

What Ethiopia’s been up to is going to be in the next update.

Slavery ITTL in the New World is pretty much identical to OTL, just with the European players different. Roman plantation slavery on Cyprus and Crete ITTL is, to my knowledge, a unique variant specific to that context. The plantations in the New World aren’t picky, but given the lack of tropical disease resistance the Levantine slaves would have to be cheaper than Africans, as their life expectancy and therefore amount of work you can squeeze out of them is lower.

Cryostorm: Hassan VIII is operating under the assumption, based on Andreas III’s comment, that the Romans and Ethiopians were going to come for him eventually. If true, then it’d make sense to strike now and hopefully bring about an Ottoman Egypt. If doing nothing means you’re guaranteed to die later, then the best choice is to strike now even if it means you still have 90% chance of dying. It’s still better than waiting.

Curtain Jerker: It’s still possible, but there are a lot of obstacles in the way. An easier approach, I think, would be a path that avoids the hellhole that is Caribbean/Brazilian plantation slavery. Perhaps the slaves get sent to the mainland (Howeitat captives end up as slave rancheros on the llanos of Venezuela?)

Regarding the School of War, here’s a short answer. There’ll be more detail and development when I get to that update.

1) There hasn’t been much training on the strategos level. During the Time of Troubles, generals were grabbing power and causing mayhem so Helena I wanted to cut down on that, especially after her husband Nikolaios Italos (originally Nikolaios Polos but I’m changing his name in the PDF files) raised a rebellion against her. If Strategoi have less opportunity to command and influence large bodies of soldiers, they can cause less mayhem for the state. (It’s an overreaction, but remember that Helena I grew up during the Troubles and watched the strain of it all literally kill her father.) So once officers get to commanding tagmata, they’re clumsier since they’ve had less prep.

2) Andreas II Drakos was the role model for the perfect officer in the post-Troubles School of War, for obvious reasons. Except he got wounded, a lot. Remember those high officer casualties at Nineveh? Also note the punishment meted out to the Gaza kastrophylax for cowardice. Roman officers are expected, demanded, to be brave. That is a good thing, but it’s being pushed a bit too far, hence those high officer casualties. A lot of good and promising officers that might’ve become great generals despite (1) got whacked on some Eternal War battlefield because they were in the thick of things as Andreas Drakos would’ve been, but lacked his ability to not get killed.

Emperor Joe: You’re not the only one. I do too.
 
I know we're still sometime around the 1600s, but have you got plans for a Tesla figure? It would be heartwarming to see a version of him succeed here when compared to OTL. Tesla deserved better :cryingface:
 
That was how Russia was originally unified, a grand Novgorod-Lithuania-Pronsk personal union. The Empire of All the North is built on personal unions. Norway-Scotland got joined to a Sweden-Denmark one. Sicily was in personal union with Rhomania when Andreas III was Emperor. The Triunes are technically a personal union between France and England. So there’s been a few.
Here I am facepalming myself for letting my short term memory dictate my speech and on the other hand wishing I could find information on a particular topic quickly when I am suddenly struck by a thought. With a few others help, we can create something on wikia.com that allows us to rehash a particular topic if we so desire. Synthesizing all the information will be lengthy task, but that's a perfect excuse to re-read the TL.

appointed Turgut Reis as the garrison commander
BTW, just finished reading Simon Scarrow's Sword and Scimitar, a historical novel revolving around the Knights of St. John and how they fend off the Ottomans including Dragut during the Great Siege of Malta. This may well be another Dragut/Turgut given OTL's Greek ancestry but does TTL's Turgut have a reputation as a bloodthirsty corsair too?
 
With a few others help, we can create something on wikia.com that allows us to rehash a particular topic if we so desire. Synthesizing all the information will be lengthy task, but that's a perfect excuse to re-read the TL.
Sign me up! I'm going to WrestleMania in April, a long flight to/from the East Coast means I'll have lots of time to read the PDF files and take notes, etc. I'd love to help.

Speaking of...B444, you've mentioned a few times that you've changed a few things from the original post to the PDF files (like how you changed Nikolaios Polos to Nikolaios Italos). Is the PDF version the final version of the story?
 
TheWanderingReader: Not at this point. That’s much further out than I have planned at the moment. And he did deserve better.

Minifidel: I wanted to point that out because there have been various comments about turning Vlachia/Georgia/Ethiopia into Despotates. I get why from a pro-Roman viewpoint that it’d be useful, but suggesting to your friend that he should be your vassal is a good way to lose a friend. Following Edward I’s ‘Scottish school of diplomacy’ is a bad idea.

Curtain Jerker: It would add a very interesting dynamic to any wars of independence, since there’d be even more of a cultural shift from the cowboys on llanos and the coastal populations. Admittedly this is all well past what I currently have planned out.

The PDF version is the final version of the TL. I’m trying to keep changes to a minimal from the regular TL, but I am taking the opportunity to change a few things that I regret/dislike. If I ever intend something to supersede the PDFs, I’ll be very explicit about the fact.

Altwere: It is fun to see how I can take an idea, that IOTL would be completely insane, and make it seem plausible and believable ITTL.

Boa: A wiki would be cool and I’d definitely endorse it. The glossary I’m writing and providing for patrons is quite useful just for me; it reminds of a lot of ideas and terms I’d forgotten I’d used.

This Turgut Reis is a different character and no corsair experience. I recycled the OTL name because it was a lot easier than trying to come up with a completely original name. Plus I have a soft spot for him because the only place I’ve ever visited on the continent of Asia was his home town.


Speaking of PDFs and changes, I have made some edits to the TL. Most are hardly noticeable but recently I have made some more noticeable changes that I want to spell out here since there will almost certainly be references and callbacks to these and I want to avoid confusion.

Nikolaios Polos has become Nikolaios Italos. Polos was a word I made up because he’s descended from the Polo family (as in Marco Polo). So I’m changing it to Italos, which is an actual family name from OTL, although he is still descended from the Polo family.

Isengard the town (first Triune settlement in the New World) has been changed to just being Newtown (OTL Boston). The English are uncreative when it comes to names. I’m clearing away the LOTR references.

Numenor, the name for the New World, has been changed for the same reason as Isengard got dumped. It is now just ‘Terra Nova’, Latin for New World. The mapmaker who ended up publicizing the name didn’t know what else to call it.

Those are all the noticeable changes because of the PDF rewrites so far. I’ll post any more major ones as they come up.

Also I recently added a new term to the glossary (I’ll be posting a new one soon, but not yet as many of the new terms derive from upcoming updates).

Bohmanism: A Christian religious denomination derived from the teachings of Heinrich Bohm. Mass is celebrated in the vernacular, the laity participate in Communion, but transubstantiation is affirmed. A ‘Catholic’ religious hierarchy is maintained, save for the monasteries which are abolished and the position of Pope, who is replaced by the monarch as head of the church. In latter developments it looks down on mysticism and saints and argues for sola scriptura, although the last point in particular is contested within the group.

This is all that I have written so far in the TL about the theology of Bohmanism (as far as I can tell). I thought it’d be useful if everyone saw the consolidated definition, since I have some half-baked ideas for religious shenanigans in Western Europe coming up in the next few decades. So this would be important.


Next update likely won’t be for a few more days. The update I’m currently writing is turning into quite a long one (remember I only post an update once the next two are complete, so the next posted won’t be this long one) so that will slow things down.
 
Minifidel: I wanted to point that out because there have been various comments about turning Vlachia/Georgia/Ethiopia into Despotates. I get why from a pro-Roman viewpoint that it’d be useful, but suggesting to your friend that he should be your vassal is a good way to lose a friend. Following Edward I’s ‘Scottish school of diplomacy’ is a bad idea.
The Romans can always take advantage of a crisis to bind these friends “closer” to the Empire.
Like how Theodor converted Serbia into a Despotate. Will D3 keep the arrangement? It’ll make the borders of the Empire look a lot neater in the Balkans.
 
The Romans can always take advantage of a crisis to bind these friends “closer” to the Empire.
A Roman emperor who sits strongly on the throne and is victorious in the field is unlikely to change anything in the formal relationship of these states with Romania, as Roman strength will de facto make them vassals; a weak emperor, who seeks legitimacy through "cheap" expansion, is far more likely to attempt such a move, to bolster his position, and then see it backfire spectacularly...
 
Just a couple months ago I find this wonderful TL, and it's easy in my personal Top 10 in AH.com, and I want to thank you for your work and dedication.
At the end of this war, after the Romans kick ass and take names, what do you think D3 makes the Germans give up the Roman part of their title? there is only ONE Roman Emperor.
Another thing, when it's time, can you tell a little about what is happening in Chile? maybe something cool? Orthodox Greek speaking mapuches? :extremelyhappy:
 
1633: Swords in the East
The Romans can always take advantage of a crisis to bind these friends “closer” to the Empire.
Like how Theodor converted Serbia into a Despotate. Will D3 keep the arrangement? It’ll make the borders of the Empire look a lot neater in the Balkans.
The Empire could, but that would engender bitterness down the road. That’s how Edward I’s ‘Scottish school of diplomacy’ got started, in a Scottish succession crisis in which he was asked to mediate. It might work in the short term, but then the former friend may decide to join up with an enemy of the Empire if that’s what it’ll take to get independence back. The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France against England wasn’t formed until Edward I started messing around in Scotland.

A Roman emperor who sits strongly on the throne and is victorious in the field is unlikely to change anything in the formal relationship of these states with Romania, as Roman strength will de facto make them vassals; a weak emperor, who seeks legitimacy through "cheap" expansion, is far more likely to attempt such a move, to bolster his position, and then see it backfire spectacularly...
Exactly. Some states, like Vlachia and Scythia, are de-facto satellites of the Empire. But they’d strongly resent any attempt to make them de-jure vassals. If Georgia was vassalized by the Romans, the Georgians would definitely ally with the Ottomans if that is what it’d take to get independent again.

Just a couple months ago I find this wonderful TL, and it's easy in my personal Top 10 in AH.com, and I want to thank you for your work and dedication.
At the end of this war, after the Romans kick ass and take names, what do you think D3 makes the Germans give up the Roman part of their title? there is only ONE Roman Emperor.
Another thing, when it's time, can you tell a little about what is happening in Chile? maybe something cool? Orthodox Greek speaking mapuches? :extremelyhappy:
Thank you. :)

The best way would be to somehow force Theodor to abolish the Holy Roman Empire altogether, like how Francis did IOTL. But that was after repeated pounding by Revolutionary France and then Napoleon, so I very much doubt that the Romans can deliver that much punishment.

As of this point in Chile, the Mapuche were first enemies of the Incans but have since become enemies of the new Mexican Viceroyalty after the Incan conquest. They’re still largely isolated from the outside world, but a few Triune and Arletian ships have rounded the New World and have made contact with the Mapuche, so there’s some opportunity for trade there. But that’s very much in its infancy. The Mapuche certainly won’t be going Orthodox; Roman involvement in the New World is going to be pretty minor. Aside from the heartland, their energy is focused in the way of India/Indonesia.


_____________

“Two heroes new to war’s alarms,
Ride boldly forth to try their arms.
Their doughty deeds three kingdoms tell,
And poets sing how these befell.”
-Romance of the Three Kingdoms (OTL)

“Where Persia ends and Persia begins,
I saw a boy, a sword, and a friend.

A brother mourned, a promise made,
And ancient words on ancient walls,
Carved out beneath a lazy sky.

A city’s cry, an army’s camp,
And memories of early time,
Carved out beneath a lazy sky.

Where Persia begins and Persia ends,
I saw a boy, a sword, and a friend.”
-On Sardasht Tower

1633 continued: Demetrios III’s annoyance at what he perceives as King Alexei’s unreasonable intransigence manifests itself in the Georgian theater as Konstantinos Mauromanikos begins pushing eastward from his base in Artaani. On the one hand, he wants to maintain good relations with Georgia, but on the other he wants this theater resolved; Mauromanikos’ thirty thousand men are needed elsewhere.

Demetrios’ hope is that a ‘nudge’ from Mauromanikos will make the would-be Georgian King reasonable. He is still unaware that Logothete Sarantenos is misrepresenting the diplomatic proposals to both Demetrios and Alexei. He views this ‘nudge’ as a first step towards convincing his sovereign that Alexei is hopelessly irreconcilable and that the Emperor has no choice other than to throw his full weight behind Konstantin and his regent mother Anna Drakina. Anna, recognizing the importance of the Logothete to her and her son’s continued survival, steadfastly maintains Sarantenos’ retainer despite the severe strain on her finances and promises a hefty increase when full control over Georgia is restored.

Mauromanikos meanwhile is making a glacial crawl towards Tbilisi. The slowness is the trade-off for keeping absolute control over his soldiers. There is to be no pillaging and any requisitions made are to be paid for either with cold hyperpyra at best or Imperial bank certificates at worst. Nevertheless there are a few incidents, unavoidable with any army, but justice is meted out swiftly and publicly.

For the moment with the Romans far from the capital, Alexei can afford to give way in front of them. He was no desire to tangle with the Romans if he can avoid it. For his part, he wants to maintain good relations with the Romans, provided the Emperor would let him get rid of the Safavids and not demand an impossible fortune.

That said, he is still accepting the small subsidy from Ibrahim, despite knowing that doing so is hardly likely to help the White Palace’s opinion of him. But he badly needs the money; the Safavids completely emptied the contents of the Royal Treasury when they fled Tbilisi. Furthermore, most Roman-Georgian trading now is being done via smuggling, meaning his take of customs has cratered (this fact is also annoying Demetrios, who wants his take of customs as well). Ironically one of Alexei’s best income streams is selling provisions from his estates to the Roman army.

However he has no love for the Persians. He lost three cousins and his younger brother during the Eternal War, including one female cousin who ended up in the harem of an Ottoman Emir. He is also a veteran of the Eternal War, including the slaughterhouse of Astara in 1607 which cost even the victorious Iskandar a third of his army. He was a junior officer in the Royal Guard, fighting in the charge that came within a hair’s breadth of breaking the Persian army. Aside from revenge for lost comrades and family, he keenly feels the humiliation of the loss of the trans-Aras. But first he wants the Safavids out.

There is some skirmishing between Roman and Georgian cavalry and light infantry, but neither side presses their attacks hard, both preferring to stay out of each other’s way. Both Konstantinos and Alexei know though that will change once the Romans are in a position to threaten Tbilisi. Then Alexei will have to fight.

Konstantinos is in no hurry for that day. Between his slow advance to maintain order and the rugged and mountainous terrain, hampered by roadblocks and ruined bridges, he averages one kilometer a day. When he arrives at the large village of Poka, along the southern shore of Paravani Lake, he establishes his winter quarters there. With an elevation of 2300 meters, pushing onward as winter approaches doesn’t seem like the best idea. He is about halfway to Tbilisi from his starting point.

Alexei takes advantage of the Romans’ lack of urgency. While keeping some of his forces to mask the Romans, he now concentrates the bulk of his strength against the Safavid loyalists in Shirvan. Taking the fortress of Tsnori that held him up last year, he marches down the highway towards Baku.

Although he has a greater sense of urgency, he too suffers from the rugged terrain and is faced with stiffer opposition. But he manages to smash through every obstacle, advancing halfway to Baku from Tsnori. He caps the end of the campaigning season with the capture of Gabala, a respectable and ancient fortress and the capital of a lush agricultural district. It is also the site of one of the main Georgian armament production centers. Although much of the equipment and workers are taken away by Safavid loyalists before its capture, the loss of Gabala is still a devastating blow to Anna.

She is hopeful that the improved news from the Danube will encourage her cousin Demetrios to send more effective and forceful aid. It may. But with the strain lessened there, the Emperor is also free to look more thoroughly into other fields, and he is getting suspicious that something fishy is going on in these waters.

To the south, Thomas Amirales and the Army of Mesopotamia has been keeping up his furious raiding, not only attacking Ottoman caravans but also wrecking irrigation channels, burning villages, and slaughtering or deporting the inhabitants. It is a continuation of Eternal War era tactics, which during the great push that had died at Dojama-Al Khalis had aimed to wreck Mesopotamia’s economic capabilities.

Unfortunately raiding is all that Amirales can do at the moment, even with the reinforcements initially sent from the Domestikos of the East. Raqqa and particularly Mosul are far too large to be challenged by what he can muster. But the boost does give him the strength he needs to drive something more ambitious than anything in the campaign to date. As Theodoros is setting up the first parallels around Arra, thirteen thousand Romans ride out from Duhok, aiming to ravage the lands east of the Tigris. This is largely untouched territory, promising a rich haul and possibly offering a chance to smash supplies and recruits coming over from Persia proper. Plus it is a message, a warning that not only the lands between the rivers may feel the kiss of Roman steel.

Included in those thirteen thousand is Kaisar Odysseus. There is a great deal of concern about him going on this; nobody wants another captured Kaisar. But he is an excellent scout leader, extremely in need in this kind of operation, and he insists, very strongly, that he is going.

Constantly at his side is his new friend Michael of Tephrike, a young officer recently graduated from the School of War. He is the son of a carpenter, rather than the typical officer drawn from the mesoi or dynatoi. It is the practice of some rural villages to pool their resources to send a favored local son to the School of War. Having a local son as part of the military administration may come in handy in the future, and during Andreas III’s reign he began to offer small tax exemptions to villages whose local sons performed well in their exams.

Commanding the operation is Tourmarch Manuel Philanthropenos, who is given a brevet rank of strategos for the mission. With detached forces in various theaters that are the size of pre-war tagma, that is an increasing practice. He is the youngest son of Alexios Philanthropenos, the commander who withdrew the Army of Edessa safely across the Tigris at Al Khalis despite Iskandar, fresh from his victory at Dojama, breathing down his neck, and the one who had been slated to command the great offensive that culminated at Nineveh. His sudden death before the campaign had been what placed Alexios Gabras there instead. Aside from his father, Manuel is also descended from the great general of the late 13th century, the terror of the Turks. [1]

A veteran of some of the toughest fighting at First and Second Nineveh, Manuel seems to have inherited his ancestors’ martial prowess. Not long after breaking away from Amirales’ main body, he is challenged by an army eighteen thousand strong, made up of a mix of new Qizilbash recruits, south Mesopotamia Azabs of high-quality, local Azabs of middling quality, and Turkmen tribesmen, all commanded by the Emir of Arbil.

After some brief exchanges of musketry, the outnumbered Romans give way, falling back to the west. The Ottomans pursue, spreading out a bit in the process, at which point Roman cavalry and black horses come swinging out from ambush as Philanthropenos about-faces his main body, hurling shattering gunfire and then advancing back into the fray. It’s all over in less than two hours; with a loss of four hundred casualties he pays back two thousand and another two thousand prisoners. The cherry on top is that this all takes place at Ain Sijni, the site of the famous victory over the Ottomans in 1422 by Alexios Palaiologos, the Lion of Syria and distant ancestor of one Shah Ibrahim.

After sending his two thousand prisoners back to Amirales, he pursues the Emir of Arbil, mauling his army in a second battle. Unable to bag the Emir himself despite a pursuit that takes the Romans within cannon range of his city, Manuel satisfies himself with the additional three thousand Persian casualties, plus fifteen hundred prisoners and nine captured cannon, for the cost of about eight hundred more Roman losses.

During the pursuit up to Arbil, Michael of Tephrike jumps up on the barrel of one of the Ottoman guns, giving a loud war whoop to encourage his men to push on with the chase. Unfortunately for him, the gun barrel is still hot from recent firing and he burns his buttocks, much to his chagrin and the amusement of his fellow officers. [2]

The Emir’s army was originally intended as reinforcements for defending northern Mesopotamia and its loss is keenly felt. As Philanthropenos chases the Emir into Arbil, Amirales annihilates a 1000-wagon supply convoy near Sinjar. Its escort was woefully inadequate. There are some more convoys destroyed in the next few weeks, including sixteen Euphrates barges burned, with a few more chased into fortresses, although no hauls comparable to the first are taken. When Amirales moves west with the bulk of his forces to besiege Raqqa, the convoys can resume again, but rather cautiously.

Philanthropenos meanwhile is thoroughly ravaging the ‘trans-Tigris’ countryside, leaving a twenty-kilometer wide swathe of destruction, plumes of burning villages rising into the clear blue sky. Aside from a few cavalry raids of far smaller size than this, this area was untouched by Roman arms during the Eternal War (Mesopotamia proper took the brunt) and the Roman soldiery now make up for lost time. Terror is the name of the game and the Romans can play it very well.

During the swathe of destruction, Manuel starts to take the young Kaisar under his wing. Although Odysseus took some classes at the School of War, he hasn’t the formal training a graduate would possess. Seeing promise in this young officer, never mind his social station, he sets out to hopefully remedy some of Odysseus’ gaps.

Aside from assigned reading from Manuel’s book satchel (he never goes anywhere without it) Manuel also seeks to give the Kaisar more command experience, although taking care not to risk him too much. He is a hard taskmaster; overseeing the destruction of a pair of villages is no excuse for missing his daily reading assignment.

After burning the village of Baba Gurgur just twelve kilometers from Kirkuk, the Roman army swings north and east, continuing its destruction, not facing any serious opposition. Now they enter the foothills of the Zagros, entering lands no Roman soldier has entered save as prisoners of a conqueror. No one would mistake these Romans as prisoners. One of the first things they do is storm the small city of Sardasht, whose medieval fortifications fail miserable in keeping its enemies out, and put it to the torch.

* * *

Sardasht Castle, September 5, 1633:

Michael of Tephrike looked out from the ancient battlements, over fifteen hundred years old. The sun was drifting lazily toward the western horizon, while dying pillars of smoke wafted from what was left of the city of Sardasht. When the wind blew from that direction, Michael could faintly hear the wail of what was left of the inhabitants. They were too far from the borders of Rhomania for a large haul of prisoners to be manageable, so instead the survivors of the sack were being expelled from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. If exposure, bandits, or animals didn’t kill them in the few days it took for the Romans to move on, they could go back to what was left of their homes and maybe eke out survival in the ruins. It was cruel, but war was cruel, and Rhomania had not started this war.

The breeze shifted a bit, tickling the hairs on the back of his neck. It felt good; the air was a bit muggy, but thankfully temperatures were decreasing from the nightmares they’d been a few weeks ago. That heat, along with his scorched buttocks, had been most unpleasant. Then he’d been hoping that a new army would be needed in Greenland and he could get a transfer.

He glanced over at Odysseus, sketching on a large canvas with one of those Triune graphite pencils, nibbling absentmindedly on the end as he pondered the scene in front of him: the burned-out city, the military encampment, the to-and-fro of scouts and foragers, all under lengthening shadows. “It’s good,” Michael said. He couldn’t draw to save his life, although if one needed to ‘creatively interpret’ the card rules he was your man.

“Eh, it’s alright,” the prince said. “Have to paint it once we get back to Duhok. Hope I remember the colors right.” He traced a little something in the corner; when he drew his hand back Michael saw a teamster arguing unsuccessfully with a cantankerous mule. For a moment they just looked out in silence.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been here,” Odysseus said.

“Really?”

Odysseus nodded and moved his canvas. Carved in the stone behind it was writ ‘Andreas Drakos’ and ‘Odysseus Sideros’. Underneath the names-‘Brothers’. “We were being taken to Mashhadshar,” Odysseus replied, his voice a bit raspy. “It seems like a lifetime ago.” A pause. “He should be here.” Michael knew he meant Andreas Drakos, better known as Andreas III. “This was his dream.” He gestured out at the army camp. “A few years to survey the Empire, a few years to reform it, and then revenge.” His mouth twisted.

“And now your dream,” Michael said.

Odysseus nodded. “But for now just a dream.” Michael opened his mouth to protest; Sardasht hadn’t been a dream, never mind the carnage they’d wreaked down in the blisteringly hot lowlands. “It’s a start,” Odysseus conceded, cutting him off before he could speak. “But that’s it. And that’s all it will be for now. Revenge, proper revenge, won’t come in this war; we’ve too many enemies right now. But the next war, his war, my war, our war…that will be a very different story.” The Kaisar of Rhomania smiled coldly, his hand absentmindedly stroking the hilt of his sword, the sword of his great and terrible ancestor.

Timur. “Kneel before me,” Michael heard Odysseus whisper, not at him, but at the land of Persia sweeping eastward out before him. He was quoting the first words Timur had ever directed at an Ottoman lord. “Kneel before me, or die.”

* * *

1633 continued: After destroying Sardasht, Philanthropenos continues onward to similarly trash the slightly smaller city of Baneh, then turning northward to start heading home. Local Persian levies converge on the Roman column, hoping for revenge. Because of the difficult terrain, about which the locals obviously know better, it takes some time before Manuel can get a clear picture of enemy dispositions. Odysseus Sideros, out leading several scouting parties, plays a major role in getting the intelligence the brevet strategos needs.

Encamping on the south shore of Lake Urmia, the Romans are faced with two enemy armies, one to their northeast coming down from Tabriz, the other to the southeast from Bukan. The Tabriz force is ten thousand strong, the Bukan army seven thousand.

Moving east so he can operate on interior lines, Philanthropenos throws a blocking force of eighteen hundred to hold off the Bukan army, which is mostly militia. Odysseus picks out the defensive terrain for the blocking force, which is then approved by Manuel, although he keeps the Kaisar with the main body.

The Tabriz force, aside from its larger size, also has Qizilbash and Janissaries in its ranks. Manuel meets it in battle at the village of Bonab, near the east shore of Lake Urmia. After a stiff firefight, Manuel’s cavalry successfully turn the Ottoman left flank, driving it pell-mell into the lake. While the haul of prisoners is disappointingly low, their casualties are high and the supplies looted from the Ottoman baggage train are a welcome boon.

Manuel then swings south, linking up with the rather-battered but still intact blocking force at Qoshachay. The Bukan army, hopelessly outmatched in quantity and quality, is smashed to bits, with most of the survivors deserting their banners to flee into the hills. Some of the militiamen eventually return, lessening the long-term damage, but the defeat of the two Ottoman forces leaves Philanthropenos free and clear. Two weeks later the Romans are back at Duhok.

On the way back they transit the Kelashin Pass in the Zagros Mountains. The local tribes are Kurdish but decidedly unfriendly to the Romans (they’re not fond of the Ottomans either) and some try to ambush the Romans. Instead they are massacred as a detachment composed largely of Helvetian infantry had snuck up the mountains above them and fell on the ambushers’ backs.

Also in the pass is the Kelashin Stele, of which Odysseus makes an inscription for study by Roman scholars; the discovery of the ruins of Pompeii in 1618 has sparked interest in ancient ruins throughout much of Europe. At the time, the Urartian/Assyrian (Akkadian) script, twenty-four hundred years old at that point, is completely unknown and indecipherable to the Romans.

Far to the south, the Ethiopians have yet to provide the promised reinforcements to Egypt because their armies are focused on other matters. Firstly a small force is dueling with the Idwait raiders on the northern border, steadily creeping north into the old Kingdom of Makuria lost during the Great Uprising. Its first target is the reduction of the town of Soba near the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. It is also the site of a crushing Ethiopian defeat at the hands of the Mamelukes in 1450, not long before the birth of Brihan of Merawi.

Two more Ethiopian forces are attacking Yanbu, the port of Medina, and Jeddah, the port of Mecca, as a means to pressure the Hedjaz and keep Arab troops from reinforcing Ibrahim up in Syria (in that these attacks are only a limited success). Both towns have decent if simple modern fortifications protecting them, the defenses of Jeddah built partially from the rubble of the demolished Roman works during their occupation. So Jeddah can’t be easily overwhelmed this time as it has been in the past.

Both cities require a siege, with Arab attacks a nuisance but ineffective; the main difficulty is supplying the besiegers, especially with water. But with Roman and Ethiopian warships dominating the Red Sea, both cities eventually succumb. But rather than garrisoning them, the Ethiopians hand over control to Omani garrisons; both Constantinople and Gonder are thinking that Omani control over the Hedjaz would be useful in the future. Then the Ethiopians proceed onward to Suez, moving up to Gaza to reinforce Alexios Gabras who uses his increased strength to harass Sinan Pasha, encamped around Jerusalem.

Meanwhile in the Gulf the Roman and Omani fleets, supported by a powerful Ethiopian squadron, are attempting to crack the formidable defenses of the island of Qeshm and the cities of Hormuz (on the island of the same name) and Gamrun (OTL Bandar Abbas-the OTL name is from a Safavid Shah so I’m using its earlier name) on the mainland. Although the Ottoman fleet and the several Triune vessels supporting it has been driven into harbor, the presence of said fleet makes any landing on Qeshm or Hormuz Island too hazardous.

Gamrun, which has been massively enlarged as a naval depot and trading port since the start of the Ottoman-Triune alliance, could be threatened by an army landed up or down the coast which then marches to the target. But with Qeshm guarding the waterborne approaches, it would be hard to supply the besieging army since the supplies would have to be transported from the landing. And with the fleet unable to get too close to Gamrun, the besieging army would be well-placed for the Ottoman fleet to shell them from offshore.

So for now the Romans, Omani, and Ethiopians have to settle for blockading the area as best they can, although they stage several seaborne raids on villages further up the Gulf coast. All attempts to lure the Ottoman fleet out fail, the admiral there not rising to the bait even when the blockaders snap up three Triune Indiamen.

There are a few more naval battles to the east. The ones off the eastern coast of India between Ship Lords from Taprobane and forces from the Viceroyalty of Sutanuti are inconclusive. Of far greater significance is the Battle of the Lingga Islands. While the threat of Acehnese attacks is always high, Roman convoys carrying Indonesian and East Asian goods often use the Straits of Malacca rather than the more hazardous Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java.

An unusually large convoy is transiting the Strait, protected by a powerful escort that is expecting an Acehnese attack. Included in the escort are a pair of Spanish sloops as well as two small fregatai; the Spanish have their own grievances against the Acehnese and five of their own Indiamen are allowed to join up with the convoy for protection.

Off the Lingga Islands the convoy is challenged by the full might of the Acehnese navy and for three days (giving the battle its alternate name of the Three Days Battle) the two sides clash. It is brutal and bloody, and when the sun sets over the hills of Sumatra on the third day, it is said by Roman accounts that “there was not a household in Aceh that did not wail and lament at the news of their calamity”. Acehnese losses are somewhere in the range of 15,000 men, their losses swelled by their common practice of filling their ships with musketeers to bolster their firepower. It is not a death blow to Aceh, but a state that was a week ago one of the premier native naval powers of the east has been shoved down firmly into the second-rate, at best, category.

Further east than that, a Roman fleet sets up a blockade around Surabaya, second city of the Semarang Sultanate, situated in the northeast corner of Java, while the King of Mataram lays on a siege with 50,000 men. Included in the blockade force are a trio of Lubeck ships, the Hansa crews really not caring that they’re fighting alongside the enemies of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Emperor has ruined their mercantile prospects in the east because of his Triune policies and a man has to make a living somehow. The Romans offer a chance for profit, both via a share of the spoils and the promise of a warehouse and dock for Lubeck’s merchants, and the opportunity to shoot Triunes; no self-respecting man of Lubeck can pass that up.

Surabaya is one of the great cities of Java with a large population and formidable defenses. But Sanjaya is patient and methodical, borrowing heavy naval guns from his Roman allies to pummel the city’s walls. A relief army from the west, despite being outnumbered two to one, tries to draw the Hindu king away, but to no avail. Both Semarang and Triune warships try to break the blockade, and while some manage to run it and offload supplies, it is not enough to turn the tide. After nine weeks, the inhabitants open the gates and surrender, paying a massive indemnity and swearing allegiance, but escaping what would’ve been a most brutal sack.

It is a tremendous victory for both Mataram and Rhomania. It is a crippling blow to the Semarang Sultanate, long-time enemy of both, and the Romans quickly settle down into their massive and splendid trading quarters. Alongside them is a smaller Ethiopian district and the Lubeck warehouse and dock. The Hansa ships load up on pepper which fetch them quite a tidy profit when they get home and they remember whom they should thank.

In India though the allies of Rhomania are not prospering. Kishan Das, the Maharaja of Oudh who turned his state into the lord of most of the Ganges, is hard pressed between his treacherous brother and the Viceroy of Sutanuti, and the Katepano of Taprobane is on the lookout for new powers that might serve the Empire’s interests in this part of the world.

* * *

The Red Fort of Agra, December 16, 1633:

Ranjit Singh inhaled, the smell of powder and blood intermingling in his nostrils. It was a familiar smell, often experienced these past few years since he and his squadron burst over the walls of Delhi. He was used to that smell, but what really intoxicated him was the scent of victory. Three times Agra had defied him, but now it was at his feet.

He looked out over his conquest, the city sprawled before him. The last of the fires were being put out now, but it had been a hectic week. He felt the rough red sandstone of the battlements beneath his callused hands. The Red Fort was of similar age to himself, built by Iskandar of Persia in an effort to solidify control over his new Indian conquests. Yet for all the Persian Emperor’s skill in battle, he’d never managed to really control his lands east of Delhi unless he had an army sitting on said lands. But Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Agra…oh, I like that more than I should, he thought, would take the fort anyway. It’d be a good base for the start of his own empire.

Spying movement below him, he saw riders approaching the Elephant Gate, the guards opening up; they and Ranjit Singh knew the man was a friend, and a most useful friend at that. Ranjit Singh smiled and started from the balcony to go down and greet the new arrival. He needed to thank that tourmarch for those lovely culverins.

* * *

[1] This is a reference to OTL Alexios Philanthropenos, who is essentially the same person ITTL. Reportedly, even after being blinded and imprisoned for decades IOTL and with no army, the Turks still broke off a siege rather than face him in battle. Imagine what he could’ve done with the greater resources of the Empire ITTL…

[2] Happened to an ACW officer, although I can’t remember who. But it’s too hilarious to pass up. Also, someone fluent in Greek please come up with a nickname for him based on this.
 
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So the Romans just pulled off a bastardized Sherman's March to the Sea, made the Hanseatic League extra disloyal to Theodor, and have kick-started the birth of the Sikh Empire.
Theodor and Ibrahim eat your hearts out, the Romans are on the up.

@Basileus444 how much longer can Ibrahim hold out before he needs to return home? And can the Romans feasibly force a battle on the Ottoman main army and force them to starve?

EDIT: D3 is also finally starting to investigate what's going on in Georgia. Once this mess gets sorted out that 30,000 army is perfect for screwing Ibrahim some more. Maybe they can just move straight into the Trans-Aras region.
 
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It seems the tides have definitely turned. The question is what will the Ottomans and Theodor try next? One more defeat and they will probably be done for, but as it stands they aren't down for the count just yet.

Hopefully Demetrios catches on to what is happening in Georgia before the Roman and Georgian armies actually clash. The last thing Rome needs is a pointless war on a new frontier against people that should be steadfast allies. Those 30,000 men would also probably be the nail in the coffin for either Theodor or the Ottomans depending on where they are sent. Add whatever troops the Georgians can provide as soon as they have solved their succession issues and suddenly Rome's enemies are in even bigger trouble than they were before.
 
So let me put all my thought in one post here:

Mesopotamia and the Far East is apparently where all of Rome's capable subordinates have gone off to. Would've been nice if they were in Europe or Syria but c'est la vie. It is certainly working out nicely for them in Mesopotamia and East Indies.

The Ottomans are screwed plain and simple. This update highlights that their supply issues in Syria are even more pronounced than we were shown in the last update and Ibrahim will be remembered as a ruler who led the Ottomans to ruin. Not only has he ignored his supply lines in the Levant but he has also ignored his supplies in Mesopotamia. At this point Ibrahim should just be willing to get any treaty he can get that leaves him with Mosul because he may not have anything more than an armed mob by 1634. I can't help but feel Ibrahim is an SI that grew up playing EU4 and is just now realizing that he can't just march an army wherever he likes.

Holy foreshadowing with Odysseus. I was wondering how D3 could be the "forgotten" emperor considering he is leading the fight in a life or death struggle, but considering it is hinting that his son is going to become a warlord of a nation state and finish what Timur started I could absolutely see D3 being relegated to the margins as "just an administrator". I could see his son leading "The War of Wrath" that has been hinted at throughout the story and what could be more Wrath than sacking every city between the Euphrates and
Indus before walking back to Roman territory with a countries worth of spoils.

It is interesting that Oman is getting the Hedjazi ports. Something Ethiopia and Rome might come to regret in the future. Hedjaz couldn't hope to defend them while Oman would absolutely have the strength to fight back against the Ethiopian and Roman red sea fleets.

I don't know who Ranjit Singh is foreshadowing as a polity but I sure hope he ends up on the Roman side.

As usual a brilliant update @Basileus444
 
Wow, Odysseus is really coming into his own. As a top level commander his ability to visualise the battle field will take him far. And it complements his brother-in-law’s front line command abilities too.

I was wondering how D3 could be the "forgotten" emperor considering he is leading the fight in a life or death struggle, but considering it is hinting that his son is going to become a warlord of a nation state and finish what Timur started I could absolutely see D3 being relegated to the margins as "just an administrator".
How is Theodoros IV viewed now as an Emperor? We (obviously) know him to be a great Emperor but IIRC Leo (son of Andreas I) compared him very unfavourably to his father and son, as a “hard bargainer” compared to the vanquisher of Timur and the scourge of the Latins.
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
It looks like Demetrios is going to get the Phillip treatment of popular history though with luck he, along with Theodoros, will get better known once higher education becomes more widespread.

As for Georgia once this war is over they need to work on repairing relations with Rhomania and then work on reforming the state to prepare for the inevitable push south to retake their lossed lands.
 
I feel like a Ottoman ToT is being setup. If (when) Ibrahim dies in this war it should set off a succession crisis, he’s in his 20s or 30s isn’t he? All underaged heirs, a depleted army, ravaged lands and plenty of enemies looking for revenge. If Iskandar is the Persian Andreas Niketas, he needs a ToT too.
 
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