An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

A Roman emperor should ride into baghdad on a white horse.
If you wanna ride, don't ride the white horse.
Have 4 horsemen ride into the city, white, red, black and finally pale if you get what I mean

Please have the Pronoetes forward any news on ‘Jahzara’ and ‘Veronica’. I am intrigued by their development.”
Still, if it helps to push down prices of Ethiopian kaffos that would already be something for Roman consumers. Not to mention beneficial for the trade balance, as kaffos gets more popular across social classes. The Negusa Nagast, however, will not be happy about losing this quasi-monopoly of his country. But with more and more new world possessions it was inevitable anyway.
This is but a ploy of the Latins to get the Romans hooked on the unholy and decadent trinity of caffeine, carbs and choc! /s
I joke but what a treat it is being able to read this update! It's not everyday I can say that I learn something on alternatehistory while entertaining myself and having a good discussion at the same time. Perhaps any economic downturn will spur an expansionist Ethiopia or drive it towards early industrialization as it chooses to focus on extracting and refining minerals.
 
Aristomenes: It’d be a boost, although I think with high start-up costs (greenhouses are not cheap) and the economies of scale Ethiopian plantations having going now, it’d be an uphill battle.

And that’s not factoring in the soil-flavor aspect that Duke of Nova Scotia brought up. Aside from Royal Ethiopian, there are probably other Ethiopian plantations who’ve established a sort of brand loyalty amongst Roman kaffos-guzzlers.

So I think there are lots of possibilities here, but not an immediate game-changer (unless the good Duke corrects me, of course).

InMediasRes: I’m definitely open to more reader-presented updates on obscure topics.

You raise very good points, particularly about the Ethiopian Negusa Nagast. Kaffos is the main export for Ethiopia; he gets a lot of money from export duties on those. So anything affecting those is going to get him really mad.

Cryostorm: I like the idea of a coffee brand that’s for the ‘plebes’, not as good as Ethiopian but cheaper. It’s a way to get more people into kaffos houses, and they’re a center for information exchange as people sit and discuss the latest literature and news (perhaps from the newspapers provided by the house).

Arrix85: Scientific developments are a good possibility. I can see a ‘botanical survey of Rhomania-Heartland, East, and West’ as a useful tool in developing scientific categorizations as people are better able to study diverse plants.

Duke of Nova Scotia: Thanks again for all your information and work.

Kaffos houses are going to be important. I like your ideas regarding Roman lacquerware/ceramics. There’s precedent for that in silk, with the Romans producing a high-quality product but also a lower-quality version in bulk, often for export.

Boa: Too late, the Romans are already hooked.
 
1633: Friedrich Zimmermann
The Kephalate of Vidin, September 24, 1633:

Friedrich Zimmermann looked out in front of him down the dirt track and held up his hand, the rest of the company halting behind him. They were on their way to reinforce the garrison of a village that was guarding one of the approaches to Vidin.

It was a gray day, but dry and warm, a slight breeze nicking through the trees. He looked to the left. There was a wooded hill there rising above the road which made him nervous, but they had jaegers out as flankers in the trees, a runner from them reporting every five minutes. One had just arrived and was heading back out there, so that didn’t concern him, too much.

To the right were more woods, with the ground rolling and bumping but overall staying level with the track. Which made it not as good as an ambush point, but that was the direction of Almus, besieged by the main Greek army. They had jaegers out there too, also reporting via runner, but it’d been a few minutes since he’d shown.

“See something, Sarge?” his lieutenant, Reichsritter Wolfram von Rotenhan, asked. He’d been walking beside his horse, handing the reins off to one of the teamsters working the wagons.

“No, but there aren’t any birds,” he replied, scratching his thick red beard thoughtfully.

“Great,” Wolfram muttered.

Friedrich looked down at his commander, literally. The Imperial knight, whose voice still cracked occasionally and who only needed to shave every two weeks, only came up to Friedrich’s armpit. But then, the sergeant had always been a big man.

But despite his youth, Friedrich liked the lad. There was a lot he didn’t know, but Wolfram knew that and was willing to learn, and he learned fast. He wasn’t the type of noble that would get his men killed because he had no more brains than the horse he rode, or perhaps less. Unlike their last commander who’d somehow managed to get a bullet right at the base of his skull. Nasty creatures, those Greek snipers.

He looked down the track at the rest of the company, what was left of it. A hundred and twenty Bavarian peasants had come down the Danube last year. There were forty five of them left, including the jaegers, and a third of them were fresh recruits from the Vidin depot. The veterans knew what the lack of birds meant. They were loosening the packs on their backs, all the better to drop and use for cover. The teamsters working the two mule-drawn wagons had loosened the hitches so they could pull the animals behind the carts for cover. The smarter newbies were doing the same, albeit slower.

“See anything, Franz?” the lieutenant asked. Franz was the other point man with Friedrich. Franz shook his head no.

A musket boomed from the woods and Lorenz, the right flank runner, flew out of the woods through the powder cloud, opening his mouth to shout a warning just as an arrow impaled his neck from the back. He toppled.

Friedrich heard the whistle of arrows in the wind. “Down!” Wolfram yelled. The company dropped, some of the men, particularly the dumber newbies, getting skewered.

“Contact right! Two o’clock!” Friedrich roared. Behind him men were down on their bellies, crouching behind their packs. They couldn’t reload their muskets that way, but they could take cover and shoot back with the one round already loaded. German muskets boomed back as another flight of arrows sounded, joined by some Greek musket balls.

Further back, one of the mules was down, thrashing madly until one of the teamsters blew its brains out, but the other three were behind their carts. Other teamsters heaved the wagons over onto their sides, cases and barrels tumbling onto the road, so that the thick bottom planking could act as a shield. They’d been built with that in mind.

“Phillies!” Otto, one of the new recruits, shouted unnecessarily. The Greeks still had archers from Philadelphia, who were very good with their bows. Fortunately there weren’t many of those.

Friedrich, Wolfram, and Franz were all shuffling on their bellies, crawling back towards the rest of the men. More arrows were snapping out of the wood, answered by German balls as men behind the wagons loaded muskets. Others were lying on their sides on the ground, reloading their muskets that way. It was awkward and slower, but better than standing up and getting punctured.

Friedrich and Wolfram got behind a pile of packs that had been thrown up as a makeshift cover. Both looked up to see the Roman ambush point and then saw that Franz had been hit. “Number five, sarge!” Wolfram shouted, then scurried out front to grab Franz.

“Number five!” Friedrich roared. “Mannie, you’re up!”

“Aye!” Manfred shouted. More muskets boomed from the German position as the boys laid down covering fire for him and five men loaded with bandoliers of grenades, leaving the cover of the wagons the opposite side of the Greek ambush point. They’d hit the woods, swing back up, and lob a pile of grenades into the Greeks’ left flank.

Wolfram grabbed Franz, who’d been flipped over onto his back, hooking his arms under Franz’ armpits, and pulling. In a different place, it would’ve looked ridiculous. Wolfram weighed 120 pounds, at most; Franz was half again his size. But the lieutenant heaved, lifting Franz’s butt off the ground and hauling him as he walked backward, arrows and bullets snapping around him. Friedrich fired his musket, hearing a scream of pain from the woods.

Wolfram pulled Franz behind the packs and set him down, Hans scurrying over to look at his wounds. “Lieutenant,” Friedrich said with a smile. “With all due respect, that was really stupid of you.”

“Sarge, you of all people are in no position to judge me for that.”

A musket roared one more time, and then there was no more shooting. The men reloaded their pieces while Wolfram and Friedrich watched the tree line, looking for movement and seeing none. Back up the road, Mannie and his men had reached the trees but had halted with the new tactical development.

“They could’ve broken contact,” Wolfram said. “The jaegers may have tripped the ambush early. Or…”

“It’s a number three,” Friedrich replied, finishing the thought.

“Yeah, almost certainly a three.”

Friedrich held up three fingers, the men mimicking that gesture and carrying it down the line. The veterans were nodding all-too-knowingly. All loaded their pieces but put the flint to half-cock, fixing their ambrolars when finished. Wolfram nodded and Friedrich gestured; aside from half dozen staying behind the wagons to control the mules, care for the five wounded, and to provide covering fire, the rest cautiously came from behind their cover. Wolfram motioned at Manfred to start moving once they did, and forming a rough skirmish line they inched towards the wood. Posted at the other end of the line was second sergeant Ludwig, to keep the men in line while Friedrich looked after the lieutenant.

Friedrich listened. The crunch of boots on the packed earth, the complaints of the mules, the rustle of the leaves, the pounding of his heart…the click of a musket flint being cocked. “DOWN!”

The veterans dropped without thinking. Some of the newer recruits had to think, and that doomed them as a roar of musket fire snarled out from the trees, whipping over Friedrich’s head.

“UP!” Wolfram yelled, and those unscathed stood up. “Fire!” A roar of musket fire snarled into the trees. “Charge!”

They plowed into the vegetation, one soldier tumbling over a branch. Some Greek muskets volleyed back, with a meaty smack down the line from Friedrich, but the shots were ragged. Friedrich saw Greek soldiers yanking backward from behind their trees, making a run for it. “At them, boys!” he shouted.

One of the foe stumbled, scrambling upright just in time for his jaw to meet Friedrich’s musket butt. The Greek spun completely around, landing on his back, while a bit of what Friedrich assumed was one of his teeth striking him in the knuckle. He shoved his ambrolar up under the Greek’s rib cage into his heart, yanking it out.

He looked up; the Greeks had scattered but a few had been caught and dispatched. Hopefully this had been enough to scare them off, but he wouldn’t have bet much money on that outcome.

Wolfram blew a whistle. “Reform!”

“Rally on the lieutenant!” Friedrich yelled. Many of the veterans hadn’t gotten too far and were behind trees reloading their pieces, but some of the new recruits had not known when to stop.

He bounded over to the lieutenant. “They’ll probably be back soon. There were too many for just a hi-and-bye.” That was the term they used for when the Greeks showed up, shot a few rounds, and then just ran for it.

“Probably blocked the road up ahead.”

“And behind.”

Wolfram’s mouth twisted. “Sarge, sometimes you are very depressing.”

“That’s my job.” Behind Wolfram one of the new recruits was loading his musket, but not standing behind a tree to do so. Behind Friedrich, Wilhelm and Anton were going over the Greek he’d killed for any valuables.

“Hundreds!” someone shrieked, one of the new recruits flying over a knoll in front of them. Friedrich saw the pair of musket balls that slammed into the man’s left shoulder, spinning him around just in time for another one to split his skull. He fell, his brains splattering over a stump.

“Contact head! 12 o’clock!” Friedrich yelled, flattening himself behind his tree as a volley, much bigger than before, screamed out. Wood splinters spattered onto his face as one ball nicked the tree at eyeball-height.

Wolfram shoved the recruit behind a different tree as Friedrich and the Greek muskets roared, then spun and toppled onto his back.

Friedrich fired back at the Greeks, the boom of more muskets sounding beside him as the boys replied. There was a ‘thonk’ right at crotch-height and Friedrich saw a ball wedged into the trunk at an angle, nearly cutting through to strike him. He made a hasty sign of the cross before continuing reloading. Nearby the recruit was tending to Wolfram. “Keep firing, boys!” he shouted. “Keep it at them!” More guns sounded; simultaneous wails went up from both the Greek and Bavarian ranks.

They were pinned. Friedrich counted as least twice, maybe even three times, as many Greek shooters as Bavarians; the only thing keeping them in the fight is that the trees here made mostly-good cover. If they broke, they’d be mowed down. Hearing movement in the bushes in the Greek-direction, he hand-signaled four of the nearest lads to move over to their left; it looked like the Greeks were trying to outflank them. Mary, Mother of God, if you’re listening we could really use some help right now. He fired off a round, along with Wilhelm and Anton, to provide cover for the four. Where is Manfred?

A grenade exploded off to the right, then another, and another, a whole string, the explosions stacking up against each other. Pieces of trees and plants and probably people went flying. A few more muskets on both sides sounded, a feeble afterthought to the carnage.

Silence fell, finally giving Friedrich time to really look at Wolfram. He’d managed to pull himself so he was leaning back against a tree, close to and facing Friedrich. But he was starkly pale. “I can’t…believe…I got shot…in the ass,” he rasped. He’d been shot in far more places than there. Blood drenched his uniform in great splotches from armpit to knee. In one great weeping sore in the center of his chest, air bubbles emerged as he breathed.

Friedrich took his own whistle and blew it three times sharply. “Fall back!” he shouted. “Fall back to the wagons!” The Greeks had been knocked back by Manfred’s grenade spray, but they’d be back and soon.

He slung his musket and bent down to gather up his lieutenant. “I’ve got you, lieutenant,” he said. “We’ll get out of this. We’re not going to die here today.”

“You’re…good sarge…but bad…liar.” Friedrich picked him up, cradling him in his arms as if he was a child. Wolfram weighed, maybe, half as much as Friedrich.

An arrow snapped from the Greek direction, a large ‘thonk’ as it embedded itself in a tree trunk. A musket boomed in its direction. “Fall back!” Friedrich shouted again.

“Cover the sarge!” Anton yelled. Both he and Wilhelm fired off musket shots in the direction of the foe. A Greek bullet whipped through the leaves above their heads.

They fell back, but orderly, snapping bullets back occasionally, the Greeks declining to get too close. It seemed to take forever, even though it was only a few minutes. Friedrich hated it; he couldn’t shot back, and walking forward he could hear, feel, the bullets snickering through the brush around him, his back muscles tensing as he waited one to find him.

But worst of all he could feel Wolfram fading in his arms. Mary, Mother of God, he’s too young. A scream went up down the German line as a Greek missile found flesh. They’re all too young. They shouldn’t have to die like this.

They broke back onto the road, Wilhelm snapping off a round back into the woods. Manfred came out of the woods a moment later, blood trickling from a wound in his forehead. The wagons had been righted and reloaded, with one now with the wounded laid in it, the dead lying where they fell but stripped of their weapons, valuables, and boots. It was hard, but the dead had no need of such things and the living did. Friedrich gently put Wolfram down in the corner of the wagon with the wounded. His hands came away covered in the lieutenant’s blood. Saint Raphael, please help him.

“Report, corporal,” he snapped at Ernst, the senior corporal who’d stayed with the wagons.

“Road back north is blocked. Trees felled. Road south is clear.” His mouth twisted.

Friedrich resisted an urge to curse. Saint Maurice, we really need your help right now. The road south was definitely a trap; the Greeks were too careful to leave such an obvious escape route open. “Alright, boys! We need to get up to the top of that hill!” He pointed at the hill to the left of the road that had loomed so menacingly earlier. It had to be clear; the Greeks would’ve ambushed them from there if they could. “We do that and the Greeks can’t do shit until Old Man Blucher comes around and rips them a new one.” He wasn’t so sure about the last bit, but he’d be damned to hell before he’d admit that to his men. The mere mention of the old warhorse was tonic for men’s morale. Now he just had to figure out how to get the wounded up there; it’d be hopeless with the wagons but he needed every musket free. And he wasn’t about to abandon them here; Greek soldiers might take them prisoner…or they might just slit their throats instead.

Four muskets boomed halfway up the hill, the powder smoke wafting through the trees. “German soldiers!” a voice through a bullhorn boomed from the woods in the direction of the original ambush, speaking in German. “You are surrounded! Surrender now and your lives will be spared! Resist and you will all be killed! You have one minute to decide!”

Friedrich looked at his men, who were staring at him. “We can still take the hill. There’s only a couple of men up there we can blow through.” If there’d been more Greeks up there, they would’ve fired off more than four shots to make the ‘you’re surrounded’ claim more credible. “Ernst, Ludwig, Wilhelm, Otto, you each take one of the wounded-”

Wolfram’s hand clamped down on Friedrich’s right wrist with surprising strength. “Sarge,” he rasped. “Don’t…don’t die here today. The boys…they deserve…to go home. Deserve…a good life. See that…they get it. You have to…take care of them.” His pleading eyes bored into Friedrich.

Friedrich didn’t want to surrender. He’d lost too many friends to the Greeks, and was about to lose another. But he was right. The boys didn’t deserve to die just because he wanted to go down fighting. They deserved to go home. And they’d have a much better chance of doing that if he was alive to look out for them. “I will, lieutenant. I will.”

Ernst handed him an empty hardtack bag. It was dirty but still semi-white in color. Friedrich spat into the ground and waved it over his head. “Alright, you buggers. We surrender.”

“Wise choice,” the bullhorn speaker replied.

Friedrich snarled, and behind him heard a death rattle. He turned around to see Anton close Wolfram’s eyes forever.
 
The Theotokos is too busy helping the Greeks drive you and your men off Greek soil. Try again later - maybe she'll be more receptive when you are defending Vienna. Then again, probably not.
Too right, the Theotokos is certainly not going to help a bunch of arrogant Papists overthrow the Vice Gerent of Christ! What foolishness.

If you surrender and convert however - then her love shall fill you.

---

That last line made me think of what Demetrios might do to captives. Is he going to ransom them? Execute them? Convert them? His Anti-Latin rhetoric has been pretty potent, making me think that execution isn't unlikely. Perhaps settling them in small groups in Anatolia, let them marry the locals in a region where they can only be baptised Orthodox? Maybe that is the option, convert and become a Roman Farmer, or die Catholic?

*shudders* that could get quite ugly.
 
Too right, the Theotokos is certainly not going to help a bunch of arrogant Papists overthrow the Vice Gerent of Christ! What foolishness.

If you surrender and convert however - then her love shall fill you.

---

That last line made me think of what Demetrios might do to captives. Is he going to ransom them? Execute them? Convert them? His Anti-Latin rhetoric has been pretty potent, making me think that execution isn't unlikely. Perhaps settling them in small groups in Anatolia, let them marry the locals in a region where they can only be baptised Orthodox? Maybe that is the option, convert and become a Roman Farmer, or die Catholic?

*shudders* that could get quite ugly.
There's a section back a few updates ago back when D3 was putting bounties on Theodor and Casimir's heads and he doesn't put any bounties on Blucher/Archbishop/von Mackensen's heads because they were just soldiers obeying their lord's wishes or something along those lines and therefore didn't deserve to be assassinated.

I can see similar logic applying to the regular troops who aren't looters or criminals. Not to mention executing enemy POWs is a very good way to ensure that A - your own POWs get executed and B - enemies fight to the death instead of surrendering because they're dead anyway. Case in point, the entire Eastern Front in WWII.
 
The Theotokos is too busy helping the Greeks drive you and your men off Greek soil.
Well, Vidin is not exactly Greek soil. And I'm not sure the Theotokos would be too happy about what the Romans did to the Bulgarians in the previous centuries either...

That last line made me think of what Demetrios might do to captives. Is he going to ransom them? Execute them? Convert them? His Anti-Latin rhetoric has been pretty potent, making me think that execution isn't unlikely. Perhaps settling them in small groups in Anatolia, let them marry the locals in a region where they can only be baptised Orthodox? Maybe that is the option, convert and become a Roman Farmer, or die Catholic?
I'd imagine ransoming or prisoner exchanges are the most likely scenario. Executions are also possible if the whole affair gets even nastier or Theodor orders wide scale executions of POWs to hasten the retreat. But he is too broke to pass on possible ransoms, so I don't think that's going to happen.

And D3 seems too realistic to attempt forced conversions and resettling them in the Empire. Most likely that would just result in disgruntled subjects with military experience, who are just as likely to turn to brigandage than to have kids with Greek women. Not to mention no Greek will want to see his daugher or sister married to the very same barbarians who have been attacking them, forced conversion or not.
 
Ok, who has speculation as to what happens to our new friend Friedrich now that he's in Roman custody?

Here's my guess - he finds a way to ingratiate himself with Odysseus and helps lead some men when the latter marches against the Ottomans after this war ends.
 
Well, Vidin is not exactly Greek soil. And I'm not sure the Theotokos would be too happy about what the Romans did to the Bulgarians in the previous centuries either...
You just need to see it from the right perspective. Vidin, or rather Vidyne to follow Anna Comnene was imperial territory occupied by invading Bulgarians till Basil II liberated it in 1003 it got lost again in 1186 and permanently liberated by Lascarid armies. Of course virgin Mary would be on the imperial side as proven her miracles! Just ask the Greek church writers! :p
 
Okay, so how fast would the German Army splinter if Blutcher dies? Theodor's castle would suddenly now be built on sand, the Allies are getting tired, and loot wise, so far it's been the Triunes. Someone is going to say something at a general council and then next thing you it's all gone Pete Tong.
 
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Okay, so how fast would the German Army splinter if Blutcher dies? Theodor's castle would suddenly now be built on sand, the Allies are getting tired, and loot wise, so far it's been the Triunes. Someone is going to say something at a general council and then next thing thing you it's all gone Pete Tong.
When Blucher dies that's pretty much it for the army as a coherent, unified fighting force. Blucher is the glue that holds them together on a macro level (he's the only reason the Archbishop and King Casimir haven't killed each other) and a micro level (see: the common German trooper trusting in his leadership and fighting hard because they believe in him in the last update.) Notice how they're not motivated by Theodor, they're motivated by Blucher? How do you think the regular line infantry is gonna hold up once he's dead? Hint - not well at all.
 
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Will this lead to a large German diaspora in the Balkans? Once Germany erupts into civil war & gets invaded from the west most soldiers won't have much to go back home to. @Basileus444 what are the odds that D3 will use German POWs and deserters to beef up the newly depopulated north-west frontier, or perhaps the Nile Germans?
 
Will this lead to a large German diaspora in the Balkans? Once Germany erupts into civil war & gets invaded from the west most soldiers won't have much to go back home to. @Basileus444 what are the odds that D3 will use German POWs and deserters to beef up the newly depopulated north-west frontier, or perhaps the Nile Germans?
Wouldn’t such a Germans get quickly degermanized as there are not GermN women? It’s mother which language children learn first.
 
Will this lead to a large German diaspora in the Balkans? Once Germany erupts into civil war & gets invaded from the west most soldiers won't have much to go back home to. @Basileus444 what are the odds that D3 will use German POWs and deserters to beef up the newly depopulated north-west frontier, or perhaps the Nile Germans?
He would probably send them off to different regions of the Empire where there isn't so much bad blood.
 
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