An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

@Duke of Nova Scotia @Cryostorm whilst I agree collapsing the HRE/German Empire is bad, I don't think a simple "Cool, lets peace out" actually solves any long term problem. It just ends THIS war. We don't solve the geopolitical threat on the western border.

I've stated already that really that this war, assuming we're on the cusp of the victory we're about to see in Macedonia, has to be a situation where the Roman Empire are the ones able to project power into Germany, rather than the HRE able to project power into the Balkans. You're also right that we don't want to get onto the North European Plain - that is a German problem. The Romans need to get control of Vienna and the Carpathian basin. No new buffer state there, just a great, big Roman fortress, with infrastructure set up on the Danube, the lot.

A quick peace may seem tempting, but that is what always happens, and then the Latins attack again, and threaten the European Heartland of the Empire. The Alp-Carpathian-Pruth (if we include the Vlachs) makes effectively a Fortress out of SE Europe, with the only real territory worth fighting over nearby being Bohemia (with its lovely mountains)

A disaster in Macedonia gives probably the best chance to change the current geopolitical reality in Europe in Constantinople's favour - and this doesn't have to destroy the HRE. Bavaria is near the Romans, so a Wittlesbach-Roman alliance secures borders - Bohemia is a rival in the HRE, so supporting them in an alliance could create a powerful leader that borders the Romans. It isn't in the Roman interest to watch Germany collapse - just maybe to end the title of HRE, in exchange for the German Empire.

So yeah, Theodore being captured would be nice, but that isn't going to lead to the secession of land. Just short-term chaos that the Romans can take advantage of to roll back Theodores invasion. What he does give is the chance for him to give up the title of Holy Roman Emperor to Demetrios III. A rather nice turnabout considering the reason for the war.
This hasn't been a quick peace though, it certainly wasn't easy. I would love to see the ERE control that all, and to the Rhone, and all of Italy, and all of North Africa. Heck all of Africa, Indonesia, and the Philippines. But the money it would take to do what you are describing would cripple the Rhoman economy. It would be on par with the USA invading all of Canada, and turning it into a fortress on all angles, even the northern territories & archipelago. Hungry might be a people that's been knocked down, but I would not want to rule them if I wasn't Hungarian.

I am really on the fence when it comes to taking the fight to the Kingdom of Germany. Casimir would be ceding land to the Vlach perhaps. But what can Theodor really give up in the Balkans? The best Rhome can do it is have southern Hungry split from the Drava and made a puppet? Zagreb to Novi Sad? Then you are stuck with dealing with the Ban of Croatia, and Theodor now has a Hungry that would be in revolt, ruled by a man who is tight with the King of Bohemia, his biggest rival, I don't see him going with the flow. He's an idiot, but he's not stupid. The Serbs would want some of it too. The Balkans for the most part is pretty well locked up in the Rhomans favour, with Vlachia on the lower Danube/East Caspians, and Serbia covering the north-west Balkans. In fact you could give that whole territory I described to the Serbs to strengthen them. Belgrade however should be brought under the direct control of Constantinople, if it isn't already. It would take an invasion of Mongol proportions from Rhome to be able to bring Hungry into the fold, even as a vassal. A punitive campaign of destruction up the Danube however, maybe. But what does that get you? D3 isn't a medieval king, this is the first modern enlightened ruler. We've seen "renaissance kings" in both A-N and Helen all born into the role. We started to see it in A3, but with D3 we have a bureaucrat, turn Emperor. He will have the most control over his government than any other I would say, beside the Spider Prince. He understands the cogs that are moving, and has the tools and temperament to change what he sees needs changing. The only people who want this war is Henry, Casimir, the Pope and Theodor. Nobody else wants this mess, not the german princes, merchants, certainly none of the Rhomans as has been stated.

The real threat is east, as important as Europe thinks it is ITTL the money has/will always be in the east for Rhome. They are merely the customers, for Rhomes goods. As I say that though, Italy is as important, because historically its second most deadly enemy has come from there. It took England, Ireland, and N. France plus Germany to invade Rhome through the Balkans. It took the stars, planets, moons, and comets to align such a way to have that happen, plus the changing of dynasty of the premier power. And they still barely got into northern Macedonia, and it wasn't pretty.

At the end of this you could see Elizabeth, (if she is still alive, you never know) see Demetrios was never really against her, he just wanted a strong Empire. Maybe even respect him.

As to the peace and HRE question I'd have the it destroyed, it was a fabricated title created by a Germanic pretender, there can be only one. The Crown would be struck, and it's jewels split between D3, and the people of the affected lands as beginning restitution for the war brought upon them. He could sell their half of the jewels back to the now "Whatever" of the German Nation, for the cash to help them. D3 realistically on top of the ending of the title of the HRE, can force Theodor to not interfere in Italy, lighten control over Hungry, and pay him a vast sum of money. But a lasting peace needs to happen here for the strength of the dynasty. There are critics as the newspapers have shown and sure he can post heads on spikes for the less scrupulous publishers, but he is still new as is the dynasty. He has had good PR, taxing the rich is always a popular move for the lower classes, as well as his kids Ody was seen like a brother to A3. The Empire has become one of the middle and lower classes more and more, with the new forms of media, and improved ways of sharing them. The opinion of the mob is a democracy all its own, what do they get out of having to pay the taxes to create a Fortress-Caspasia? Even with the new tax brackets which alleviate a lot of the weight off the lower rungs.

We are also discussing this like Theodor gets captured. He may very well die. Shit, he might still pull out a victory. I'd put a 10'er on him winning, the payout would be ridiculous. I'd bet a 50 though on him losing on the same ticket.
 
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This hasn't been a quick peace though, it certainly wasn't easy. I would love to see the ERE control that all, and to the Rhone, and all of Italy, and all of North Africa. Heck all of Africa, Indonesia, and the Philippines. But the money it would take to do what you are describing would cripple the Rhoman economy. It would be on par with the USA invading all of Canada, and turning it into a fortress on all angles, even the northern territories & archipelago. Hungry might be a people that's been knocked down, but I would not want to rule them if I wasn't Hungarian.
I meant a "Quick, now lets peace out". I'm also not so sure, lets take the current situation, we've seen that the Wittelsbach are the ones on the fiscal cliff, not the Romans. Fighting an enemy who doesn't have the money to pay for troops is closer to "Not fighting, mainly a few sieges" at which point the advance is much more rapid than the Germans had, and they made it quite a distance. Did it hurt the Germans? Sure - but they had to fight for every inch. In contrast, if Macedonia is a disaster for Theo, we have no army, and no money to raise one quickly, and a descendent of Timur who has a pragmatic propaganda campaign against the Latins to end with a big win. I think he's going to be pragmatically greedy.

I do take a bit of an issue on the comparison, I'm not suggesting anything outside of Italy or the Carpathians. I'm not even suggesting the need to be all directly all Roman. The Serbs have been an issue, but a Despotate of Serbia, or a Soft-Power vassal in Serbia, and Hungary is perfectly fine in my mind. Hungary is the harder question, because I don't recall any Pro-Roman Hungarians, so that would need some addressing, but I'd prefer it.

I do genuinely see this as a war where the Romans are stronger, or at least proving themselves more capable (which is more accurate IMO) than the Wittelsbach right now. I also see Ibrahim suing for peace before Theodore, partially because of his position, but also because it wasn't the easy war that was (reasonably) expected. I think Ibrahim would rather peace out that see a Roman campaign to loot Mesopotamia, which depending on the next year or so could be in the cards if the Levantine campaign goes sour on him. - which then leaves the Romans far more able to focus on their European enemies.

I am really on the fence when it comes to taking the fight to the Kingdom of Germany. Casimir would be ceding land to the Vlach perhaps. But what can Theodor really give up in the Balkans? The best Rhome can do it is have southern Hungry split from the Drava and made a puppet? Zagreb to Novi Sad? Then you are stuck with dealing with the Ban of Croatia, and Theodor now has a Hungry that would be in revolt, ruled by a man who is tight with the King of Bohemia, his biggest rival, I don't see him going with the flow. He's an idiot, but he's not stupid. The Serbs would want some of it too. The Balkans for the most part is pretty well locked up in the Rhomans favour, with Vlachia on the lower Danube/East Caspians, and Serbia covering the north-west Balkans. In fact you could give that whole territory I described to the Serbs to strengthen them. Belgrade however should be brought under the direct control of Constantinople, if it isn't already. It would take an invasion of Mongol proportions from Rhome to be able to bring Hungry into the fold, even as a vassal. A punitive campaign of destruction up the Danube however, maybe. But what does that get you? D3 isn't a medieval king, this is the first modern enlightened ruler. We've seen "renaissance kings" in both A-N and Helen all born into the role. We started to see it in A3, but with D3 we have a bureaucrat, turn Emperor. He will have the most control over his government than any other I would say, beside the Spider Prince. He understands the cogs that are moving, and has the tools and temperament to change what he sees needs changing. The only people who want this war is Henry, Casimir, the Pope and Theodor. Nobody else wants this mess, not the german princes, merchants, certainly none of the Rhomans as has been stated.
Theodore/His Coalition is who is being negotiated with, not just Theodore, and Theodore was the largest part of that. If that falls apart the others can be handled in detail, or could flat out sue to avoid further war. That could mean that Hungary sues for peace rather than have an existential crisis. (This applies to all the smaller members). Arguably Casimir is the only one that doesn't account for, and really, what is there to get from Casimir? What would the Vlachs want? A bit of Hungary makes sense, but what does Poland have to offer?

Germany, doesn't have to give away much. At least according to the 1625 map. Vienna and some of the lands around it, and what is needed to make a defensible contiguous territory in the far NW of the Roman sphere. That is tiny in terms of hard cash, but it creates the base of operations that secures the Danube, and allows the ability - I don't want the Romans to actually loot Bavaria, that'd be a "C'mon, pay up" campaign only IMO. The HRE title is the cream here. Like, this isn't a campaign to punish, this is a victory gained, and the victory, and the reordering in the region is the punishment. The Romans are there to stay, suck it Germany. :p

The real threat is east, as important as Europe thinks it is ITTL the money has/will always be in the east for Rhome. They are merely the customers, for Rhomes goods. As I say that though, Italy is as important, because historically its second most deadly enemy has come from there. It took England, Ireland, and N. France plus Germany to invade Rhome through the Balkans. It took the stars, planets, moons, and comets to align such a way to have that happen, plus the changing of dynasty of the premier power. And they still barely got into northern Macedonia, and it wasn't pretty.
But it has also done a huge amount of damage, and could, with a bit of luck or a bad defender, have meant a risk against Constantinople. It also feeds the mad idea that the Germans COULD have won, if the situation stays the same. Smash Belgrade, and the doors are open. That is terrifying. But if you have to smash Vienna, THEN Budapest, THEN Belgrade before you even get close? Not worth it. Further, campaigning beyond Vienna would be very hard for Constantinople, I can see it being a hub for regional activity, but it won't enable an invasion of Germany. You kill a "The Romans can be conquered" myth in its crib, and have the Romans well aware of how trying to take Germany isn't going to happen. That is the one act that could probably unite Germany behind the Wittelsbach again, and the Romans don't want that. They never did because you are right. - The threats, and the money, are in the East. They're harder to quell. Europe can be reminded that Constantinople shouldn't be attacked. They aren't easy marks, and there isn't a reward in the offing, and they have no further interest in your lands.

This isn't 1204 after all. It isn't even the 600s, there is no Justinian on the throne. I mean, there is a Timurid, but we're still offering even that sort of appetite a great victory.

I've stated before that I actually think that Germany and Rhome post-war would be prime allies, as the losses are relatively minor for the war, and as you said, they're good customers for Roman goods. We've just ended any geopolitical conflicts, outside of the smaller dispute of Vienna which I expect would be resolved by allowing a Catholic/Latin bishop to remain there.

At the end of this you could see Elizabeth, (if she is still alive, you never know) see Demetrios was never really against her, he just wanted a strong Empire. Maybe even respect him.
I agree that it is possible, but that means proving it, and making it so. Ending the HRE ends one stain, ending the idea that SE Europe belongs to anyone but Constantinople is another.

As to the peace and HRE question I'd have the it destroyed, it was a fabricated title created by a Germanic pretender, there can be only one. The Crown would be struck, and it's jewels split between D3, and the people of the affected lands as beginning restitution for the war brought upon them. He could sell their half of the jewels back to the now "Whatever" of the German Nation, for the cash to help them. D3 realistically on top of the ending of the title of the HRE, can force Theodor to not interfere in Italy, lighten control over Hungry, and pay him a vast sum of money. But a lasting peace needs to happen here for the strength of the dynasty. There are critics as the newspapers have shown and sure he can post heads on spikes for the less scrupulous publishers, but he is still new as is the dynasty. He has had good PR, taxing the rich is always a popular move for the lower classes, as well as his kids Ody was seen like a brother to A3. The Empire has become one of the middle and lower classes more and more, with the new forms of media, and improved ways of sharing them. The opinion of the mob is a democracy all its own, what do they get out of having to pay the taxes to create a Fortress-Caspasia? Even with the new tax brackets which alleviate a lot of the weight off the lower rungs.
I wholeheartedly agree with your plan about the HRE, its jewels, and the like, with the exceptions of (ofc) Italy and Hungary. Your position is fine if Italy proves itself capable of its own survival, and I consider that a matter of its own personally. But Hungary, naw, that's not Theodores problem any more.

As to the critics? They've been attacking D3 because he's been appearing to lose. Fortress-Caspasia (I like the name, kudos) is a victory by any name. It is new land, it is a great end to a massive war. I think it is more likely to have a long-lasting peace on Constantinoples terms, than anyone elses. Which again, really good for PR because it took a bad situation and made it good. A Positive Peace vs a Neutral Peace. (I abuse those terms, but you get the idea). As to what the mob gets? Alongside some of the loot, the poor now have lands they can settle in Pannonia, merchants have markets opened to them on strong terms, and as outlined above, a situation where Constantinople is more secure than it has ever been. Plus proto-national pride to boot! Romanitas is one helluva drug!

In more serious terms, the region is now effectively a Roman economic zone, free to have Roman merchants and prospectors take a look, open new mines, dig old ones deeper. Every potential new inch of land, every new bit of paydirt is now open for Romans to take. There would be more than a few people whose fortunes would be made in the early peace just from reorganising old Hungarian farmland into larger estates, and then we have tolls, mines, and the long-term secure trade route with Vienna becoming the end of a trade hub with most of Central Europe and Constantinople. I might be overselling it, or overestimating it, but Fortress Caspasia and Pannonia open a lot of economic doors, and lock them open. We also have the new fortresses that will need to be supplied.

We are also discussing this like Theodor gets captured. He may very well die. Shit, he might still pull out a victory. I'd put a 10'er on him winning, the payout would be ridiculous. I'd bet a 50 though on him losing on the same ticket.
Oh, totally. If Theodore wins in Macedonia, then we have one hell of a problem.

If I may, I did think of a compromise deal, which isn't actually particularly punishing (and may put some comments in perspective above).

1. Hungary is made a Roman vassal, reduced to the lands around Lake Balaton and SW of the Danube, with Budapest, Gyor, and any other cities/settlements with some exemptions on the Danube become part of Roman Pannonia. All Hungarian territory East of the Tisza river goes to Vlachia. Pannonia is then effectively the middle slice of Hungary, and formerly Hungarian Slovakia, more or less.

2. Serbia needs some change as a result of the defection, even if some were loyal. I'd split it in two. The NW part as a Bosnian analogue, lets call it the Despotate of Illyria. We also move them away from the river in the same way as Hungary was. Effectively allowing the Danube to form a corridor between Rhomania Proper and Rhoman Pannonia.

3. HRE title is abolished, the Crown Jewels ceded to the Romans, and the Wittelsbach recognised as the Emperors of Germany. Vienna and its hinterland become the northwesternmost part of Pannonia. Note: I mean this to be that D3 actively acknowledges them as the Emperors of Germany, as Equals to Rome, in the same way as Persia.

4. The Emperor of Rhomania agrees to form an alliance with the Emperor of Germany, respecting this new boundary, and to agree to come to each others aid in event of a war involving Europe. This serves Germany as all of their wars do, but lets them off the hook for wars involving Persia. Which is basically just a pretense to ensure that the Romans and Germans can agree to beat the snot out of Henry.

I do think that is pretty reasonable considering the aim of the Germans was to annex the Roman Empire.
 
Why does everyone here expect the HRE to willingly give up the title of Holy Roman Emperor even if Theodore is captured? It would cripple the Wittelsback reputation by losing/ ending a position that has been both the basis of their power (unlike the Habsburgs IOTL which didn't really rely on the position of Holy Roman Emperor to be a great power by the time it was ended) due to such a humiliation, which means they'd have to have to be utterly crushed for them to abandon the title and I don't see any of the other major powers in the HRE, such as Bohemia, being happy to destroy the HRE since they'd probably want it to exist so that they can take over the general framework of the HRE.

There is no realistic reason for the Holy Roman Empire to accept the destruction of their title unless Rhomania has essentially occupied most of the HRE I feel. And in that case what was the HRE is going to immediately suffer a massive civil war and invasion most likely.
 
@Duke of Nova Scotia: If Theodor got captured, that would really confuse things. On the one hand, that seems an instant win. But then IOTL Napoleon III was able to pull an ‘I’m captured and therefore not at liberty to sign a peace’ claim (although the Second Empire was quickly overthrown, which didn’t help simplify things).

The thing with a weaker Germany is that while not practical for Rhomania, it would be emotionally satisfying after all this. Of course, a Triple Monarchy filling the power vacuum would be a greater threat a generation down the road. Something like “You are now Emperor of the Germans” is a nice compromise; Rhomania gets some emotional satisfaction without crippling German ability to counter the Triunes. Except that if a captive Theodor did that, the Electors, one of whom is King Ottokar, would probably just claim the act as invalid because it was under duress, and elect a new Emperor. The decentralization of the HRE can be a real handicap, but one advantage is that it can’t be taken out in one head-shot.

@HanEmpire: It’d be a free-for-all. The Imperial crown is effectively vacant. It’d be one thing if there was a clear heir who could step up for the interregnum, but there’s nothing there. Elizabeth is, because of gender, not an option.

@Cryostorm: It’s a balancing act. Ideally, the Romans want a German Empire that’s weak enough it won’t be tempted to pull a Theodor 2.0, but also strong enough to keep the Triunes in balance. It’s a tall order, even if they were the only player, and they’re not.

@Babyrage: Sealifting a smaller portion is certainly an option. But I wanted to point out that transferring large forces from east to west will take literally months.

@RogueTraderEnthusiast and @Duke of Nova Scotia: Lots of really good discussion. I like that my TL can inspire such. I don’t have any real comments, in part because the next update is going to be throwing in new information.

@Lascaris: That’s pretty much what I thought. If it were to get renamed, it’d probably get named after an Emperor, rather than just town-on-the-Axios. I’m going with the ancient Greek; it’d be in character for the Romans/Byzantines to use the classical name.

@Curtain Jerker: He is currently Theodor’s Despot of Serbia.

@Derekc2: Very important point. IOTL, the HRE was dissolved alone after 10+ years of Revolutionary/Napoleonic France battering away at it. If there was no clear Wittelsbach heir (which there isn’t at this moment) the most likely outcome would be an emergency meeting of the electors at liberty to elect a new Emperor. Ottokar definitely throws his hat in the ring, with Henri either directly or indirectly mucking things up. Meanwhile Elizabeth has her hands full securing the direct Wittelsbach lands.
 
1633-34: The Perception of Truth
“When studying the affairs and actions of men, truth is less important than one would think. For men do not act on truth, but on their perception of the truth, which may, or often may not, align with the real truth of their times.”-Demetrios III Sideros, in A History of the Great Latin War.​

1633/34 winter: Compared to the Romans or Spain or even the Triple Monarchy, which as that name suggests is still linked by personal union, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation is a quite decentralized polity. Even describing it as a singular polity is questionable. But it helps make up for that by being massive. Not counting the lands of northern Italy that are still technically part of the HRE, there are over 26 million inhabitants in those dominions (compared to 18 million in the Roman heartland plus another 6.5 million in the Despotates, 22.5 million in the Triple Monarchy, and 14 million in the Ottoman Empire). Hungary and Poland between them add another 8 million to the lists.

Despite her misgivings about her brother’s plans, the Lady Elizabeth sets to work gathering the resources Theodor needs for his great gambit. Manpower is fairly easy given the previously mentioned population pool, but resistance to the press gangs is growing ever more widespread. But said resistance remains on the small-scale, mainly in the form of desertion, rather than escalating into rebellion.

Getting equipment and supplies is more difficult, but the Holy Roman Empire has several districts that are quite highly developed by pre-industrial standards (chiefly Saxony, Silesia and the Cologne-Rhineland). And overall the Imperial princes are, for their size, wealthy and their territories advanced.

Theodor spends most of the winter crisscrossing the Empire to drum up support, leaning on recalcitrant princes and encouraging others, calling in favors and debts, promising concessions and privileges. The Wittelsbach name is still highly regarded, for the family has overall done very well by the Empire. There are mutterings, but they remain mutterings, for now. No prince wants to be the first to stick his neck out to see how sharp the talons of the Wittelsbach eagle still are.

800px-Emperor_Louis_IV_Arms.svg.png

The Coat of Arms of Louis IV, first Wittelsbach to hold the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
[By David Liuzzo, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3002196]
An important factor in all this is Emperor Henri II, who is doing all he can to encourage Theodor to resume the offensive. Aside from wanting to weaken the Wittelsbach house further in eastern campaigns, he is also alarmed by the growth in Roman power. The attacks in the Caribbean and the reports of the size of the Roman army are disturbing. For the same reason, he is also encouraging Ibrahim to remain in the fight.

Part of his efforts include leaning on his contacts amongst the Imperial princes to cooperate with Theodor, which is a key factor in the success of Theodor’s diplomacy. The chief contact is with King Ottokar, who very begrudgingly agrees to restore Bohemia’s contribution back up to 20,000 by the spring. Without Henri backing him, Ottokar doesn’t feel strong enough to refuse.

Henri is playing a double game here. On the one hand, he wants Ottokar as a weapon to use against the Wittelsbachs. But on the other, he doesn’t want Ottokar to get too strong either, so having him waste resources in the east is ideal too. (Having other Imperial princes weakened as well is a nice bonus, but Bohemia is the main threat after the Wittelsbachs.) Henri has no desire to destroy the Wittelsbach behemoth and find it replaced by a Bohemian giant or Roman leviathan. There are reports that the most expansionist members of the Roman court are arguing for annexations as far afield as Vienna and the Alpine frontiers of Italy. The last in particular infuriates Henri.

He is far from the only one to hear those suggestions and be irritated by them. Jointly, the ambassadors of Arles, the Bernese League, and Spain meet with Demetrios III to express their concerns over what they diplomatically title ‘distressing rumors’. They have no desire to see any kind of “super Roman Empire”, regardless of if its ruler comes from Germany or the Bosporus. An Italian peninsula entirely under Rhomania’s banner is an unacceptable threat to their security, one they will not tolerate “if this hypothetical scenario were, by the vagaries of fates, to happen to arise.”

Demetrios III takes the hint and replies that he entirely understands their concerns, but that they are unwarranted as such a hypothetical scenario would not happen to arise. The ambassadors leave satisfied. Overall the relations between the three states and the Roman Empire are undamaged but Demetrios is nevertheless frustrated. A shot across his bow has been fired in relation to the war with the Lombards and more importantly, the affair has sunk his efforts to bring Spain and Arles into the war on his side. Kings Ferdinand I and Basil II are now wary of helping to slay Behemoth and thereby make room for Leviathan.

Following the Three Johns meeting (all the ambassadors involved were named in their language’s version of John), Ferdinand, Basil, and representatives from the Council of the League meet in Perpignan (Arletian since the Aragonese War of Succession), where they draft and sign the Roussillon Accord. Much of the agreement has been a long time in coming. There are articles designed to increase commerce between the three realms, reducing or abolishing customs on certain products. Others aim to resolve colonial and trade disputes between Arles and Spain in the Caribbean and in the east.

But the most significant clause, at the time, is the one that creates a mutual defense pact. If any one of the states is attacked by a foreign power, including the League’s titular sovereign the Holy Roman Emperor, the League will provide at minimum 15000 men, Arles 50000, and Spain 60000 in defense of the assaulted power. The alliance is mainly for the ‘benefit’ of Henri II, but it is also a reminder to Demetrios III that he needs to continue to consider the Accord members’ concerns.

Those same “distressing rumors” also prove very useful to Lady Elizabeth who embarks on a highly developed propaganda campaign, inspired partly by what she saw in Rhomania during her marriage to Andreas III.

There are alarms in the Holy Roman Empire as the reports of the growing size of the Roman army trickle in from the Danube. The use of Scythian cavalry by the Romans, plus the now-centuries-old Latin stereotype of the Greeks as semi-Turkish, help to conjure up memories of the nightmare steppe hordes of yesteryear. Adding extra color to this image are reports of Romans firing prisoners from the mouth of cannons, an execution method copied from Vijayanagar. It should be noted that this was only done to those Allied soldiers who turned brigand during the retreat from Ruse, but that is either not reported in the HRE or simply ignored.

The expansionist rumor only fuels the threat of the Roman menace. King Stephan of Hungary is certainly alarmed, fearful of another Mohacs and Buda, or worse. Without support from Henri, who is not willing, or Ottokar, who is not able, he turns in a more pro-Theodor direction. King Casimir, who is also disturbed by rumors of a planned Vlach-Scythian invasion of Galicia next year, also ups his contributions to the war effort.

Exactly how effective Elizabeth’s propaganda campaign is in working up more support in the Holy Roman Empire itself is unknown. There is a clear surge in the winter of 1633/34 and into the new year, but its effects are limited and mostly concentrated in the towns. Desertions are still high amongst the new recruits, with orders sent to the press gangs to only use roads that have wide clearings on both sides which makes it harder for men to abscond into the woods. If there is any impact on the rural lands, the upcoming Ravens’ Rebellion is proof it was short-lived.

One factor that helps is Henri II encouraging some of the most prominent moneylenders in the Triple Monarchy, including some of the premier traders on both the London and Paris stock exchanges, to offer loans to Elizabeth. That inspires moneylenders in the HRE to be cooperative with Elizabeth’s efforts to raise more loans from sources inside the HRE.

Henri II has a couple of reasons for his actions. Firstly, it is another way to encourage Theodor in his eastern ambitions. Secondly, throughout their tenure as Holy Roman Emperors, the Wittelsbachs have used their overall-good-credit to loan to princes or corporations in the HRE. The resulting debt is a useful political lever when necessary. By spiraling up the Wittelsbach debt, Henri II removes that weapon from Theodor’s hands.

Lastly, Henri will need the support of the mercantile elements of his kingdoms to finance a Second Rhine War, but those elements are also heavily involved in trading with Lotharingia or the Hansa. As such they may not be as cooperative as Henri would like. However if they have large and unpaid debts from the Holy Roman Emperor, they’ll be more inclined to be supportive if Henri II marches and promises to get satisfaction for their claims.

That said, even with pressure from Henri and/or Elizabeth, the moneylenders would be uninclined to offer credit to the Wittelsbachs if they did not expect to receive repayment. And they do expect it, for throughout western and central Europe the expectation is that the Wittelsbachs will, if not win, at least not lose. In fact, in the winter the attitude there is more optimistic than it was during the fall with the news of the retreat up the Danube.

This is much to the surprise of most modern readers, but they have a clear view of all theaters and the advantage of hindsight. The people of western and central Europe in 1633/34 do not. They are relatively knowledgeable regarding the war in Italy and along the Danube. But their information of the war in Syria/Palestine/Mesopotamia is poor. There are reports of Romans raiding and taking cities in Mesopotamia, but nobody recognizes those names. But they do know that Ibrahim has taken Damascus and Jerusalem and threatened Egypt, and everyone knows those names. Clearly he must be winning.

So Theodor is able to rebuild his armies. Blucher and his now indispensable right-hand man General von Mackensen set to work training and drilling the new recruits, with an enlarged artillery train developed to compensate for their inexperience. Mackensen is clearly Blucher’s protégé, being groomed as his successor to the extent that Mackensen’s son marries a granddaughter of Blucher. But Mackensen is an ennobled commoner. While the rank and file love and admire him for his bravery and coolness under fire and his leadership of the rearguard during the retreat from Ruse, King Casimir, Crown Prince Vaclav, and the vast majority of the Imperial princes and noble officers wouldn’t accept him as Supreme Commander. Meanwhile Elizabeth can’t help but be impressed by the revival wrought by their leadership, but she bluntly informs Blucher another revival after this will not be possible.

For more manpower Theodor turns to his Despot Lazar of Serbia. The Despots of Egypt and Sicily are, between them, fielding something like 80 tourmai so it seems reasonable that his Despot can provide at least a half dozen or so. Lazar is far too nervous and cowed to refuse, so he gathers together a force which by May numbers nine thousand. The recruits are not enthusiastic about the war, but serving in the army hopefully means pay and rations, and for all the talk of a common Orthodoxy and hatred of Catholics, plundering Roman lands has been a source of wealth for Serbians for centuries.

The position of Prince Durad of Serbia is made rather awkward by the news and the accompanying declaration from his older brother that all Serbs serving within the Roman armies after a three-month grace period will be considered traitors. His legal position is confusing. He is treated as an allied sovereign, yet Demetrios III still recognizes Lazar as the ruler of Serbia, not wanting to alienate him in the hope of pulling Lazar back into the Roman camp.

Yet even on the ground Durad’s ‘ally’ status is questionable. He is part of the Paramonai which is made of foreign troops. Yet the Spanish, Arletians, and Pronsky are all foreign mercenaries, even if the Spanish and Pronsky came as formations rather than individuals. Ivan Sapieha and his Lithuanians are a special case as they are personally his men, but he has subordinated himself to the Roman army leadership.

As an ally rather than a subordinate, Durad should be responsible for maintaining his troops, which at this point number just over four thousand. Yet he lacks the resources for it since he is not the leader of the Serbian state. Like a good portion of the Serbian nobility, he has some scattered estates throughout the Roman Empire of which he is absentee landlord. (This is a practice sometimes encouraged by the White Palace as the threat of the appropriation of those estates in wartime is a good way to keep their owners inclined to peace with Rhomania.) With those he can maintain his personal guard of 200, but the rest are clothed, fed, and paid by Roman quartermasters.

To resolve the awkwardness, Prince Durad and Emperor Demetrios III meet shortly after the Three Johns discussion. Despite his weak hand, Durad is insistent that Demetrios recognize the independence of the Serbian state. If Demetrios wants to recognize Durad as the leader of the Serbs, it has to be as King, not Despot. He argues strongly that if he is just Despot Durad of Serbia, the Serbians will have no reason to favor him over Lazar, especially since an overlord in Germany will be less onerous than one in Constantinople, simply because of the greater distance. While if Constantinople promises independence and Munich doesn’t, they’ll be more inclined toward him. Plus, there is the precedent of the Serbian governor of Bor recognizing Durad as King of Serbia back in the spring of 1632. Finally, when Demetrios II crowned Durad’s father in 1610, it was as King, not Despot.

Demetrios decides not to argue the point. Even if now he could impose a Despotate of Serbia, history makes it clear that will guarantee the Serbs allying with the next Latin invasion to come rolling down from the north. It might even encourage said invasion, since a prospective invader would be equally aware of that fact. In contrast, an independent Serbia will fight for its independence against an invader.

So he decides to recognize Durad as King of Serbia. The church of Saint Mary of the Mongols [1] is temporarily ceded to Durad so that his coronation can be on ‘Serbian’ soil. He is crowned there by the Hegumen of the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, the great Serbian monastery of the Holy Mountain, as King Durad I.

Proceeding outside, he is greeted by the Megas Logothete and escorted to the White Palace where he has a public audience with Demetrios III. Durad promptly ‘cedes’ the church back to the Emperor and in return receives a formal alliance with the Roman Empire, along with an official subsidy to maintain his men. An additional grant helps pay for propaganda for use back in Serbia, with a thousand men eventually slipping over into Rhomania to sign up under Durad’s banner.

More sources of manpower open up for Demetrios III as the other wars in Europe are beginning to die down. To the west, Malaga has fallen to Spanish arms but Granada still remains defiant. Extremely well-fortified with fertile environs supplying the city, it is a tough nut to crack and the defenders still remain defiant. A faction inside the city tries to betray Granada into Spanish hands to avoid destruction, but the plan leaks and the dismembered portions of the plotters are catapulted out into the Spanish forces who were to sneak into the city. So a siege it will be.

Yet one city is not enough to absorb all of Ferdinand’s unsustainably-large army so he is still looking for outlets for his demobilizing soldiers. Demetrios III hires enough to replace all the losses the Paramonai Spanish took during the 1633 campaign, but that is it. After the Three Johns Affair, Ferdinand is wary of sending more Constantinople’s way. King Albrecht III of Lotharingia is a better choice. He is hiring and putting Spaniards into his ranks is more likely to work for and not against Lisbon’s interests.

Better opportunities for Demetrios III lie to the north. Although Novgorod and Pronsk are the only two Russian principalities officially at war with the Empire of All the North, plus Prussia, there are contingents from Lithuania, Scythia, and even Khazaria fighting against the Scandinavians. Although Novgorod has by far the most at stake in retaking the lands lost during the Great Northern War, there is a strong sentiment throughout all the Russian states desiring vengeance for that humiliation.

However that is not enough. The Alliance may rule the land but Scandinavia still dominates the sea. The result is deadlock.

Enter Albrecht III. He is one of the youngest crowned heads of Europe, only twenty-six years old, and he has been on the throne for four years. He speaks Dutch and French fluently, although when emotional a faint but noticeable Dutch accent creeps into his French speech. He also can read Greek, Latin, and Spanish, although he is slow of speech in those tongues.

By his day the Lotharingian court has been near-totally Dutchified. During the twenty-two year reign of his father Charles II, the Dutch merchant marine and economy has expanded substantially from its already rather large base. The Dutch merchant marine dominates much of the carrying trade of northern Europe, especially the Baltic, and has a sizeable trade with the Mediterranean. Most malmsey leaving Rhomania goes out on Dutch hulls and a few kaffos houses have opened up in Antwerp, Ostend, and Rotterdam.

Their presence in eastern waters has also grown dramatically, although they are not quite on the level of the big three (Triunes, Spanish, and Romans). Lotharingian trading outposts are in the Vijayanagar Empire, the Kingdom of Pegu, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, the Kingdom of Palembang (Sumatra), the Kingdom of Siak (Sumatra), the Sultanate of Brunei, the Sunda Kingdom (Java), and Guangzhou.

In the west their main activities are along the northern coast of South Terranova, exploiting the pearl beds of Venezuela, the salt mines of Curacao, and sugar plantations on Trinidad and Grenada. Supporting all these endeavors are a national bank (the new Imperial bank charter is modeled after the Lotharingian) and stock exchange in Antwerp, plus a system of agriculture that is already the most efficient and productive in Europe.

The weakness of Lotharingia is its long and exposed frontier with little to nothing in the way of natural defenses and a small population (3 million) compared to its neighbors. So Lotharingia is both rich and weak, a very bad combination.

Albrecht III is painfully aware of that fact and knows the longstanding Triune desire for his domains. He has been doing all he can to dissuade Theodor from his current course, but he only succeeds in alienating the Holy Roman Emperor who finds him ‘defeatist’. So he is looking elsewhere.

One obvious choice for allies would be the members of the Roussillon Accords. Unfortunately while they sympathize with Albrecht, they are not willing to have him formally enter their agreement. The Accords are designed to prevent a war with one of the great powers of Europe and Ferdinand in particular thinks that having Lotharingia join with them would inevitably cause a war between the Accord members and the Triple Monarchy, probably at a very inconvenient moment. In Arles, old King Basil II is ailing and his heir is eight years old.

Adding to Albrecht’s trouble is the situation with Scandinavia. While the Empire of All the North would theoretically be a useful ally against the Triunes, the attempted Scandinavian monopoly on the Baltic is highly damaging to Lotharingian trade. There have been frequent disputes over the Sound Tolls. Almost as soon as Archangelsk fell to Russian forces, Lotharingian ships sailed in to start trading for furs, much to Malmo’s irritation. Finally, Peter II of Scandinavia is Henri II’s brother-in-law.

Needing the Baltic trade to pay for his Spanish mercenaries, Albrecht III moves to intervene in the Baltic War. As Blucher is laying siege to Ruse a powerful Lotharingian fleet commanded by Joris Andringa sets out from Albrecht’s domains. Because the shallow Dutch coast limits the draft of warships, Albrecht doesn’t have any of the 80+ gun monsters like in the arsenals of the Triple Monarchy, Rhomania, or even Spain. But he has sixty of the 50-60 gun battle-line ships, plus some 70-gun warships as squadron flagships, backed up by another thirty 40-gun warships, in his arsenal. Not all of these are sent to the Baltic.

The armada, after five days of fighting, seizes the castle of Kronborg guarding the narrowest portion of the Øresund, a humiliating and devastating blow to the Scandinavian monarchy. The Scandinavian fleet, rallying from its blockade stations along the Prussian coast, arrives in force and offers battle three days later.

The Scandinavians have sixty-three warships to the Lotharingian sixty-eight, although the two biggest warships in the fight are 76-gunners on the Scandinavian side. The battle is a confused brawl until around three in the afternoon when the Scandinavian flagship explodes, after which the Scandinavians retire. Losses in men are quite close, even with the flagship explosion, but the Lotharingians only lose 2 ships to 9 Scandinavian.

With the Lotharingian fleet now in position to bombard Malmo, the Scandinavian capital, Joris is able to force a peace on the Scandinavians. Yet he is not to be too harsh; Albrecht doesn’t want to drive the Scandinavians into the arms of the Triunes if it can be avoided.

Envoys from Prussia and Novgorod are ferried over and under the guns of the Lotharingian fleet a peace is hammered out in the Treaty of Kronborg. The Sound Tolls levied on Lotharingian ships will now be halved. Meanwhile Pernau is ceded to the Prussians and Narva to the Novgorodians, in exchange for three years of payment from Riga and Novgorod, the Scandinavians keeping Reval and St. Petersburg. Furthermore ‘in exchange for its support’, both Prussia and Novgorod form most-favored-nation trade agreements with Antwerp regarding grain, timber, fur, and amber exports, reducing export duties on those products for Lotharingian merchants. There is a mixture of gratitude and annoyance in the Prussian and Novgorodian lands regarding Lotharingia after the treaty is signed.

With the Baltic quieting, Roman ambassadors are more successful in their efforts to secure Russian support. The Pronsk Veche, in exchange for a generous payment, offers twelve thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry that can march out in the spring of 1634, with the possibility of more if the Vlach-Scythian invasion goes forward. Unfortunately with Lithuania’s continued state of political infighting, which may be veering toward civil war, the support of Vilnius is out of the question. There are preliminary discussions as well with Prussia about an anti-Polish alliance, but right now Riga’s exchequer is in shambles and there is a limit to how many subsidies even Demetrios III can offer.

Some valued manpower for the Roman Empire has come about as a direct result of the Danube campaign, in the form of prisoners of war. In Latin Europe, it is still a common practice to enlist captives in the armies of their captors, but attempts by Theodor to entice Roman soldiers into his service have been miserable failures and there is no way the Romans are giving their Latin prisoners weapons. But by this point there are thousands of Latin captives in the Roman Empire and while they can’t fight, they can work as replacements for the Roman men who are out fighting.

The various prisoners are put into work gangs, building bridges, repairing roads, farming fields, cobbling shoes, fabricating barrels, salting pork, or any other work the government needs done. They are provided clothing and food, and high productivity is often rewarded with some folloi, enough to buy a few tankards of ale from the local watering hole. Men are usually given the same tasks they did in pre-war times, if they have certain skills such as tailoring or blacksmithing. Those with a useful trade have it best. They have quotas to meet, but oftentimes are allowed to sell any surplus for extra money, although the government takes a cut for the cost of materials.

Officers are not required to labor, but junior officers are kept with their men to keep order and to supervise their work. Senior officers are separated, typically placed in guarded villas where they are given much food and wine to loosen their lips, attended by women selected for their skill in enticing pillow talk. This is done to extract potentially useful information and secure defections.

There are no attempts at converting the rank and file (senior officers are another matter), but some, particularly Hungarians, do convert. They are still kept at labor, but they’re given lighter duties, more food, and extra folloi are rewarded more often. At the same time, if one then attempts to backslide out of Orthodoxy to their original faith, the beatings are most brutal.

Some of the work gangs are hired out. Auctions are organized where bids are made on lots of laborers. The winners are responsible for feeding them but don’t have to pay them wages, unlike Roman workers, which is the attraction for those bidding. Sometimes these contracts are ‘for the duration of the war’ and other times for specified periods. Sometimes lots of laborers are ‘bequest’ to organizations or individuals the government wishes to reward.

One of the lots bequest is that of Friedrich Zimmermann and the remains of his company. Their ‘employer’ is the Monastery of St. Constantine, which is on an island of the same name in Lake Apolloniatis near Prousa. The monastery also controls three of the other islands and many lakeshore estates. Aside from the typical produce and livestock, the monastery lands also produce raw silk, a common product of the region.

The men are set to work tilling the land, caring for the livestock, digging ditches, mending tools, and all the other assorted agricultural labor. The men are all former peasants, so none of the tasks are unusual to them. Friedrich, as their leader, keeps them well behaved and their spirits up. While deploring their faith, the monks respect their discipline and hard work and Friedrich convinces the Hegumen to grant the Bavarians some vegetable patches for their use to supplement their assigned rations. Later he manages to talk the Hegumen into loaning them some chickens so their sick can eat the eggs, and granting them the right to whatever fish they can catch off a small dock, although it’s up to the Bavarians to make their fishing equipment.

While working there, Friedrich makes the acquaintance of Alexios Asanes. Born in Arsamosata in the eastern reaches of the Empire, where Christians and Muslims often share the same holy men and holy sites, he became a priest as a young man. Most of his career was spent in the east, serving first in Alappuzha, then Jaffna, then Mersing, then Singapore, and then Pyrgos before he returned to the Imperial heartland. During that time he has rubbed shoulders and discussed theology and philosophy with Hindus and Buddhists and Taoists (in Singapore from the former Wu community).

It shows; for an Orthodox priest his personal theology is rather unorthodox. The most obvious sign is that he believes in reincarnation of the soul. His argument is that God, being just and merciful, would want humans to have every opportunity to turn toward him, so they are given multiple lives on earth as a literal second (or more) chance. Although souls only reincarnate as humans, not as animals, their station can vary depending on their conduct in a past life, usually to teach them a lesson. An overly proud man may be born to beggars, for example.

Some souls however, do not need this reincarnation to turn toward God, so after death their souls go straight to the bosom of Abraham while awaiting the Final Judgment. The saints of the Church are the obvious candidates here. The similarities to Buddhist beliefs of the souls of the virtuous achieving nirvana and breaking the cycle of reincarnation are noted by many of his contemporaries.

However the similarity to Buddhism does not end there. Inspired by the concept of the Bodhisattva, Alexios argues that sometimes those souls return to Earth to help the living, perhaps to right a wrong, secure justice, or guide them to salvation. Perhaps the sight of saints in battle is of those blessed to see the souls return to Earth?

Alexios is familiar with many king-under-the-mountain stories throughout the cultures he has encountered during his life, tales of how a legendary king sleeps beneath a mountain, to arise again when he is needed. The Good Emperor is the obvious example for the Romans themselves, but he is far from the only one. Alexios argues that those stories, while not physically possible, can be “spiritually” possible. The king himself is long dead, but his soul may return to Earth when he is needed, reincarnated in another body. Or at the very least, he returns to aid and guide a new king, like Krishna did for Arjuna in the Mahabharata.

A key point that he stresses throughout all of this is the fundamental equality of all souls. That dynatos might once have been a beggar; that fisherman may once have been a king. “All souls, male and female, are equal before the eyes of God,” he repeats frequently in his writings. That, in and of itself, is nothing unusual. But he argues that therefore inequality on this earth is solely man-made, and therefore of no real value. And if it causes oppression and suffering to many people while benefiting only a few, then it is an active evil. And evil must be opposed.

Friedrich is most interested in Alexios’ ideas and the two become unlikely friends. The priest certainly has no friends in the Orthodox Church hierarchy. It is because of his heretical views that he is here at St Constantine’s, as a sort of house arrest to keep him from spreading his doctrine. He is a hermitic monk attached to the monastery for ‘supervision’ by the Hegumen, but while he is not allowed to disperse his ideas amongst the Romans, nobody cares if he talks about them with the Catholics.

Meanwhile to the north Odysseus Sideros returns to Constantinople, accompanied by his friend Michael, now nicknamed Pirokolos (fire-ass), much to the Kaisar’s amusement. Stefanos Asen-Palaiologos, commander of the Paramonai, came down with a really bad case of pneumonia and has been invalided out of the army. Because of the heterogeneous nature of the formation, someone of high and preferably royal rank is needed to take his place.

That someone is Kaisar Odysseus. While he is only coming on twenty-one, he now has some combat experience and his Imperial status is very useful in leading a force containing a Serbian king, a Lithuanian grandee, and Spanish and Arletian nobility. Tourmarch Romanos Amirales, younger brother of the commander of the Army of Mesopotamia and former commander of Alexandros Drakos during the battles of Nineveh, is appointed as his chief of staff and unofficial advisor.

* * *
Serbia, April 21, 1634:

Wilhelm Sebastian von Blucher looked on at the stark gray monument, grim and forlorn. He sighed.

The blast of musty air from his lungs helped a little, but it did nothing to solve the underlying problem. He was good at hiding it, really good at it, concealing it from Theodor, from Elizabeth, from his generals, and especially his boys who did not need that burden.

He was tired. So very tired.

He’d been a soldier for over sixty years, three-quarters of his long life. And he was tired of it. But it, plainly, was not tired of him. Despite the ache in his bones, the fatigue in his limbs, duty demanded he stand and fight. His sovereign commanded it, an oath demanded it. And so he would do it, no matter the cost. He would do his best, whether it would, or would not, be enough.

But he certainly wouldn’t have minded if this fool’s errand had passed from him to someone else. But it hadn’t, and so here he was. I’m certain you, of all people, would understand.

Silence. Of course there was silence. He sighed. Soon he would know if he was right. He’d sent his updated will to his eldest son back in Mecklenburg. He looked to the south, to Macedonia. This would not be the end of war, but one way or another, it would soon be the end of his part in it. And with that thought, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief.

He turned and left the memorial to Leo Neokastrites and the Chaldeans.

* * *

“Zhuge Liang’s sole thought was service,
Himself he would not spare;
But Qiao Zhou had watched the starry sky,
And read misfortune there.”
-Romance of the Three Kingdoms (OTL)
[1] Different person ITTL but I like the name.
 
I’m thinking a series of regional updates will be in order in the future, including (probably more than) one on the east. That’d be a good place for maps. Although I really could use a good base map of Indochina + Indonesia (the one I have has a good chunk of southern China, and I want one that focuses on Southeast Asia proper).
Edited a map template I found online by removing India and China. If you want, I'll get rid of Australia too (what was the name in TTL again?)

Following the Three Johns meeting (all the ambassadors involved were named in their language’s version of John), Ferdinand, Basil, and representatives from the Council of the League meet in Perpignan (Arletian since the Aragonese War of Succession), where they draft and sign the Roussillon Accord. Much of the agreement has been a long time in coming. There are articles designed to increase commerce between the three realms, reducing or abolishing customs on certain products. Others aim to resolve colonial and trade disputes between Arles and Spain in the Caribbean and in the east.
We see the formation of more defensive/offensive pacts against the European big 3 now. But are polities like Aragon and the Kingdom of the Isles considered too volatile and prone to invasion like Lotharingia to be admitted? Further north, Lotharingian-Russian-Prussian could prove to be quite a powerful alliance but has any feelers been sent out from the Romans? An alliance stretching from the mouth of the Rhine to the Danube would be magnificent!
 

Attachments

but one advantage is that it can’t be taken out in one head-shot.
Interesting you say that, because there’s another Empire which can be taken out in one head shot. And said head is still in a precarious position in Syria.

That someone is Kaisar Odysseus. While he is only coming on twenty-one, he now has some combat experience and his Imperial status is very useful in leading a force containing a Serbian king, a Lithuanian grandee, and Spanish and Arletian nobility. Tourmarch Romanos Amirales, younger brother of the commander of the Army of Mesopotamia and former commander of Alexandros Drakos during the battles of Nineveh, is appointed as his chief of staff and unofficial advisor.
(Not so) Little Megas round two let’s go.
 
The geopolitical map of Europe is changing rapidly. Let's do some wild mass guessing.

Roman Empire:
-The Empire has even more foreign reinforcements than it did at the start of the war, the complete opposite of Theodor's situation.
-The Empire's modernization has made it unassailable in this war, to the point that war hawk factions have grown very vocal. Potential risk of Triumphalism in future politics and culture.
-A more nuanced basis of a stable Balkan border made official policy. With an independent Serbia recognized as an "equal", the Roman Empire can now exert sophisticated soft power over the fellow Orthodox Christians. A clear sign of Roman superiority over Theodor's brutish exercise of hard power over Lazarite Serbia.
-Roman nationalism will settle nicely thanks to this seminal example of Latin Aggression.

Holy Roman Empire:
-Balance of power amongst Imperial princes is being deliberately maintained and calibrated by the Triunes to ensure a lack of clear successor. Wittelsbachs have lost financial and material supremacy over the other Electors, and are being buoyed by momentum in perception. Anti-Theodor discontent is on the verge of eruption. (Politics Fail)
-Greater proportions of the Imperial economy is being sapped by the war effort, to be replaced by credit to Triunes and each other. Transactions are primarily fueled by confidence in the Imperial State and Triune monetary guarantees. Financial institutions of Central Europe are being set for a cascade failure. (Economics Fail)
-Allied Army is reconstituted for now, but its constituent parts are being held together by the military and diplomatic acumen of ancient von Blucher. With no available replacements for either supplies or leadership, it's a single Blucher away from disintegration (Military and Diplomacy Fail)
-Theodor will gain the Crown of Failure for his troubles.

Allied States:
-Poland is being weakened vis-a-vis its eastern neighbours, balanced by brewing troubles in Lithuania and exhaustion of Prussia. It may use this time to strengthen its position, possibly by eating some Germanies.
-Hungary is being increasingly marginalized by its circumstances. Poor, humiliated, exhausted, and first to be isolated once Theodor falls. Bohemia will be in a strong position to take advantage.
-Lombardy is now so Lombardy that its western neighbours are giving it pity support.

Triple Monarchy:
-Everything is going swimmingly for Henri the Spider.
-King's Landing has successfully manipulated the kingdoms' banks, traders, and lloyds into supporting both the Imperial realms and future Triune conquests thereof. Triune conquest of the Rhineland will be extremely harsh on the Germans.
-Glimpses into Rhomania's modernity are jarring and terrifying. Henri is the only one that suspects the impending collapse of the Ottoman armies, and will likely be one of the first Western sovereigns to copy Roman advancements. Also, he will likely set the anti-Roman precedent for future Triune monarchs for fear of Roman hegemony in eastern/southern Europe.

Western Mediterranean:
-Supremacy of Rhomania in Italy is now clearly perceived by all. Formerly good neighbour Empire is now a potential conqueror with dreams of Mare Nostrum.
-To counteract the material advantages of the Great Powers surrounding them, the Western states have begun to coalesce together into a permanent power bloc, a Defensive Great Power.
-Aragon, Saluzzo and Nice, and the Kingdom of the Isles are now minor powers surrounded by Great Powers, with correspondingly weaker bargaining positions. Lombardy has likewise been revealed to be one.
-With the Triunes about to be preoccupied with the Rhineland and the Romans exhausted by war, the smaller states of the region may become incorporated into Arletian and/or Spanish Sphere(s) of Influence.

Lotharingia & Baltics:
-Lotharingia is now homogeneously Dutch, with a growing anti-Triune nationalism. The Dutch Nation is an economic powerhouse, now the only one with advantaged trade access to the Baltic Sea. With their far superior access to international markets and goods, Lotharingian merchants will stop Scandinavian economic domination of the region.
-Scandinavia is the premier naval power of Northern Europe, taking into account their cheap naval supplies, Triple Monarchy's significant continental and colonial concerns, and the decline of the German Hanseatic Cities.
-Prussia and Novgorod now possess major trade hubs on the Baltic Sea, and can have Scandinavians and Dutch to compete for prices.
-Lack of clear shipping monopolies and greater supply of credit and affordable goods in the region will eventually lead to strong economic growth in the Baltics and Lotharingia.
-These low-population nations will likely become temporary Great Powers, especially in light of Germany's imminent catastrophe and Triune distraction thereof, until they settle into Secondary Powers.

Conclusion:
A rough balance of power is settling into Europe with the Roman Empire and Triple Monarchy becoming the two greatest Great Powers slated to compete for the position of Supreme Power. Central Europe is going to become a charnel house between the Triunes, the many Germanies, the Poles, the Bohemians, and whatever proxies the Romans decide to use. Once the dust settles the Roman Empire and Triple Monarchy will be left endlessly maneuvering against each other. Fragmented Central Europe will be a prime jousting ground.
 
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Do the Wittelsbach have any branch houses to pick up the pieces in case the main line gets snuffed out? The Emperorship seems like a straightforward affair in comparison to the family land. With all this focus on the balance of power, whoever marries Elizabeth will no doubt tip it in their favour in Central Europe.
 
Is that some kind of proto-communism forming between Alexios Asanes and Friedrich Zimmermann? Friedrich certainly has the right first name and an appropriately blue-collar family name. I suppose true communism would have to wait for an industrial revolution and the accompanying large-scale misery of workers to gain widespread support, but it's certainly an interesting development.

But once Asanes and Zimmermann's ideology is fully formed, maybe the Romans could send Zimmermann back to Germany a la Lenin in OTL WW1 if they want to destabilize the HRE even more. Possibly already in the Ravens’ Rebellion that was just teased.

Btw, is Asanes related to the Asen family? That was the Greek version of their family name, was it not?
 
Henri is playing a double game here. On the one hand, he wants Ottokar as a weapon to use against the Wittelsbachs. But on the other, he doesn’t want Ottokar to get too strong either, so having him waste resources in the east is ideal too. (Having other Imperial princes weakened as well is a nice bonus, but Bohemia is the main threat after the Wittelsbachs.) Henri has no desire to destroy the Wittelsbach behemoth and find it replaced by a Bohemian giant or Roman leviathan. There are reports that the most expansionist members of the Roman court are arguing for annexations as far afield as Vienna and the Alpine frontiers of Italy. The last in particular infuriates Henri.
(Emphasis mine) Great and wise men all :p

He is far from the only one to hear those suggestions and be irritated by them. Jointly, the ambassadors of Arles, the Bernese League, and Spain meet with Demetrios III to express their concerns over what they diplomatically title ‘distressing rumors’. They have no desire to see any kind of “super Roman Empire”, regardless of if its ruler comes from Germany or the Bosporus. An Italian peninsula entirely under Rhomania’s banner is an unacceptable threat to their security, one they will not tolerate “if this hypothetical scenario were, by the vagaries of fates, to happen to arise.”

Demetrios III takes the hint and replies that he entirely understands their concerns, but that they are unwarranted as such a hypothetical scenario would not happen to arise. The ambassadors leave satisfied. Overall the relations between the three states and the Roman Empire are undamaged but Demetrios is nevertheless frustrated. A shot across his bow has been fired in relation to the war with the Lombards and more importantly, the affair has sunk his efforts to bring Spain and Arles into the war on his side. Kings Ferdinand I and Basil II are now wary of helping to slay Behemoth and thereby make room for Leviathan.
Worrywarts :p I get why they'd be concerned, but it isn't like the Romans started this war. What is meant to be the result? Italy can attack Rome, and just.... get away with it? I think this is a poor bluff. Arles & the Bernese League need Rome more than the reverse. This is just Spanish meddling. If D3 gets the window for Italy, this bluff should be called. Constantinople has no interest further West, it just has no interest in being caught up in Latin wars without a significant advantage.

Following the Three Johns meeting (all the ambassadors involved were named in their language’s version of John), Ferdinand, Basil, and representatives from the Council of the League meet in Perpignan (Arletian since the Aragonese War of Succession), where they draft and sign the Roussillon Accord. Much of the agreement has been a long time in coming. There are articles designed to increase commerce between the three realms, reducing or abolishing customs on certain products. Others aim to resolve colonial and trade disputes between Arles and Spain in the Caribbean and in the east.

But the most significant clause, at the time, is the one that creates a mutual defense pact. If any one of the states is attacked by a foreign power, including the League’s titular sovereign the Holy Roman Emperor, the League will provide at minimum 15000 men, Arles 50000, and Spain 60000 in defense of the assaulted power. The alliance is mainly for the ‘benefit’ of Henri II, but it is also a reminder to Demetrios III that he needs to continue to consider the Accord members’ concerns.

Those same “distressing rumors” also prove very useful to Lady Elizabeth who embarks on a highly developed propaganda campaign, inspired partly by what she saw in Rhomania during her marriage to Andreas III.

There are alarms in the Holy Roman Empire as the reports of the growing size of the Roman army trickle in from the Danube. The use of Scythian cavalry by the Romans, plus the now-centuries-old Latin stereotype of the Greeks as semi-Turkish, help to conjure up memories of the nightmare steppe hordes of yesteryear. Adding extra color to this image are reports of Romans firing prisoners from the mouth of cannons, an execution method copied from Vijayanagar. It should be noted that this was only done to those Allied soldiers who turned brigand during the retreat from Ruse, but that is either not reported in the HRE or simply ignored.

The expansionist rumor only fuels the threat of the Roman menace. King Stephan of Hungary is certainly alarmed, fearful of another Mohacs and Buda, or worse. Without support from Henri, who is not willing, or Ottokar, who is not able, he turns in a more pro-Theodor direction. King Casimir, who is also disturbed by rumors of a planned Vlach-Scythian invasion of Galicia next year, also ups his contributions to the war effort.
Hrmph. Latin Dogs! (This is starting to slip into roleplay now) Defensive Conquest isn't Expansionism. Again, who started this war? Germany! Demetrios needs to find a way to get his propaganda out into Europe. Russian print houses perhaps?

For more manpower Theodor turns to his Despot Lazar of Serbia. The Despots of Egypt and Sicily are, between them, fielding something like 80 tourmai so it seems reasonable that his Despot can provide at least a half dozen or so. Lazar is far too nervous and cowed to refuse, so he gathers together a force which by May numbers nine thousand. The recruits are not enthusiastic about the war, but serving in the army hopefully means pay and rations, and for all the talk of a common Orthodoxy and hatred of Catholics, plundering Roman lands has been a source of wealth for Serbians for centuries.

The position of Prince Durad of Serbia is made rather awkward by the news and the accompanying declaration from his older brother that all Serbs serving within the Roman armies after a three-month grace period will be considered traitors. His legal position is confusing. He is treated as an allied sovereign, yet Demetrios III still recognizes Lazar as the ruler of Serbia, not wanting to alienate him in the hope of pulling Lazar back into the Roman camp.

Yet even on the ground Durad’s ‘ally’ status is questionable. He is part of the Paramonai which is made of foreign troops. Yet the Spanish, Arletians, and Pronsky are all foreign mercenaries, even if the Spanish and Pronsky came as formations rather than individuals. Ivan Sapieha and his Lithuanians are a special case as they are personally his men, but he has subordinated himself to the Roman army leadership.

As an ally rather than a subordinate, Durad should be responsible for maintaining his troops, which at this point number just over four thousand. Yet he lacks the resources for it since he is not the leader of the Serbian state. Like a good portion of the Serbian nobility, he has some scattered estates throughout the Roman Empire of which he is absentee landlord. (This is a practice sometimes encouraged by the White Palace as the threat of the appropriation of those estates in wartime is a good way to keep their owners inclined to peace with Rhomania.) With those he can maintain his personal guard of 200, but the rest are clothed, fed, and paid by Roman quartermasters.

To resolve the awkwardness, Prince Durad and Emperor Demetrios III meet shortly after the Three Johns discussion. Despite his weak hand, Durad is insistent that Demetrios recognize the independence of the Serbian state. If Demetrios wants to recognize Durad as the leader of the Serbs, it has to be as King, not Despot. He argues strongly that if he is just Despot Durad of Serbia, the Serbians will have no reason to favor him over Lazar, especially since an overlord in Germany will be less onerous than one in Constantinople, simply because of the greater distance. While if Constantinople promises independence and Munich doesn’t, they’ll be more inclined toward him. Plus, there is the precedent of the Serbian governor of Bor recognizing Durad as King of Serbia back in the spring of 1632. Finally, when Demetrios II crowned Durad’s father in 1610, it was as King, not Despot.

Demetrios decides not to argue the point. Even if now he could impose a Despotate of Serbia, history makes it clear that will guarantee the Serbs allying with the next Latin invasion to come rolling down from the north. It might even encourage said invasion, since a prospective invader would be equally aware of that fact. In contrast, an independent Serbia will fight for its independence against an invader.

So he decides to recognize Durad as King of Serbia. The church of Saint Mary of the Mongols [1] is temporarily ceded to Durad so that his coronation can be on ‘Serbian’ soil. He is crowned there by the Hegumen of the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, the great Serbian monastery of the Holy Mountain, as King Durad I.

Proceeding outside, he is greeted by the Megas Logothete and escorted to the White Palace where he has a public audience with Demetrios III. Durad promptly ‘cedes’ the church back to the Emperor and in return receives a formal alliance with the Roman Empire, along with an official subsidy to maintain his men. An additional grant helps pay for propaganda for use back in Serbia, with a thousand men eventually slipping over into Rhomania to sign up under Durad’s banner.
Ok, I like this resolution. I mean, Duradic Serbia is pretty decent. That is a sound call by D3.

Enter Albrecht III. He is one of the youngest crowned heads of Europe, only twenty-six years old, and he has been on the throne for four years. He speaks Dutch and French fluently, although when emotional a faint but noticeable Dutch accent creeps into his French speech. He also can read Greek, Latin, and Spanish, although he is slow of speech in those tongues.
I wonder, with the Truines on one side, the Accord being a bit... shy, if it would serve Albrecht III and Demetrios III to start making friends. They can work together (seemingly) in near every theatre. I can't see any direct conflict of interest between the two. In this age of sea power, adding a Dutch ally to the list of Anti-Truines would serve D3, and (hopefully) a German Emperor well as an ally against the Truines. Perhaps the Romans could (somehow) get some military engineers and financing to help Lotharingia develop some significant defenses.

The various prisoners are put into work gangs, building bridges, repairing roads, farming fields, cobbling shoes, fabricating barrels, salting pork, or any other work the government needs done. They are provided clothing and food, and high productivity is often rewarded with some folloi, enough to buy a few tankards of ale from the local watering hole. Men are usually given the same tasks they did in pre-war times, if they have certain skills such as tailoring or blacksmithing. Those with a useful trade have it best. They have quotas to meet, but oftentimes are allowed to sell any surplus for extra money, although the government takes a cut for the cost of materials.
Next you'll be telling me that they're going to fall in love and have kids. I mean, there is space in the Levant for them :p

I do feel quite sad for Blucher, and the majority of the German army. This war is madness.

----

I loved this update, and I also feel like I've become a parody of a Hyper-Romanitas Adviser. Loving it XD. Keep it coming B444!

Holy Roman Empire:
-Balance of power amongst Imperial princes is being deliberately maintained and calibrated by the Triunes to ensure a lack of clear successor. Wittelsbachs have lost financial and material supremacy over the other Electors, and are being buoyed by momentum in perception. Anti-Theodor discontent is on the verge of eruption. (Politics Fail)
-Greater proportions of the Imperial economy is being sapped by the war effort, to be replaced by credit to Triunes and each other. Transactions are primarily fueled by confidence in the Imperial State and Triune monetary guarantees. Financial institutions of Central Europe are being set for a cascade failure. (Economics Fail)
-Allied Army is reconstituted for now, but its constituent parts are being held together by the military and diplomatic acumen of ancient von Blucher. With no available replacements for either supplies or leadership, it's a single Blucher away from disintegration (Military and Diplomacy Fail)
-Theodor will gain the Crown of Failure for his troubles.
I do hope Demetrios is aware of this. I know we've seen him curse Theodor. Perhaps Elizabeth becomes a rather unexpected ally of Rome? Otherwise it seems the obvious option is Ottokar, which would mean the end of the Wittelsbach unless they can forge and alliance with Ottokar. I think we're probably going to see Germany be torn between the Triune supported, or Roman supported leaders post-war.

Allied States:
-Poland is being weakened vis-a-vis its eastern neighbours, balanced by brewing troubles in Lithuania and exhaustion of Prussia. It may use this time to strengthen its position, possibly by eating some Germanies.
-Hungary is being increasingly marginalized by its circumstances. Poor, humiliated, exhausted, and first to be isolated once Theodor falls. Bohemia will be in a strong position to take advantage.
-Lombardy is now so Lombardy that its western neighbours are giving it pity support.
Bye Bye Hungary. Either embrace Constantinople, or face Bohemian oblivion!

I don't see that as Pity Support. It makes total sense to be scared of a Roman Empire that takes control over Italy and SE Europe. That is a largely unassailable power right on your doorstep. Personally I don't think that should stop the development of Despotates.

Triple Monarchy:
-Everything is going swimmingly for Henri the Spider.
-King's Landing has successfully manipulated the kingdoms' banks, traders, and lloyds into supporting both the Imperial realms and future Triune conquests thereof. Triune conquest of the Rhineland will be extremely harsh on the Germans.
-Glimpses into Rhomania's modernity are jarring and terrifying. Henri is the only one that suspects the impending collapse of the Ottoman armies, and will likely be one of the first Western sovereigns to copy Roman advancements. Also, he will likely set the anti-Roman precedent for future Triune monarchs for fear of Roman hegemony in eastern/southern Europe.
I dislike this man. He fears the Romans, but the need for Roman hegemony in Europe is a result of his actions. He supported wars against the Romans for his own ends. If anyone deserves the blame for this war, it isn't Theodor as much as the Damned Spider.

Western Mediterranean:
-Supremacy of Rhomania in Italy is now clearly perceived by all. Formerly good neighbour Empire is now a potential conqueror with dreams of Mare Nostrum.
-To counteract the material advantages of the Great Powers surrounding them, the Western states have begun to coalesce together into a permanent power bloc, a Defensive Great Power.
-Aragon, Saluzzo and Nice, and the Kingdom of the Isles are now minor powers surrounded by Great Powers, with correspondingly weaker bargaining positions. Lombardy has likewise been revealed to be one.
-With the Triunes about to be preoccupied with the Rhineland and the Romans exhausted by war, the smaller states of the region may become incorporated into Arletian and/or Spanish Sphere(s) of Influence.
Do you think they're react well to the Roman Empire and Lotharingia both making offers to join the Accord? The Romans could provide a lot of forces, and it could smooth over some concerns about Italy if the Romans are already guaranteeing the independence of the Accord.
Conclusion:
A rough balance of power is settling into Europe with the Roman Empire and Triple Monarchy becoming the two greatest Great Powers slated to compete for the position of Supreme Power. Central Europe is going to become a charnel house between the Triunes, the many Germanies, the Poles, the Bohemians, and whatever proxies the Romans decide to use. Once the dust settles the Roman Empire and Triple Monarchy will be left endlessly maneuvering against each other. Fragmented Central Europe will be a prime jousting ground.
And people wonder WHY I want a Roman Vienna - the threat of Roman power could provide a balm against the flames, with Roman Soft Power aimed on the Triunes being contained. Keep the chaos outside of Roman interests, and partner against the Triunes. Be it a German Empire, a German Confederation, whatever. New Order, ASAP.
 
Roman Vienna would ironically still be better for Hungary than being stuck between superpowers and partitioned as IOTL. That's how most of the country ended up depopulated.
 
Is that some kind of proto-communism forming between Alexios Asanes and Friedrich Zimmermann? Friedrich certainly has the right first name and an appropriately blue-collar family name. I suppose true communism would have to wait for an industrial revolution and the accompanying large-scale misery of workers to gain widespread support, but it's certainly an interesting development.

But once Asanes and Zimmermann's ideology is fully formed, maybe the Romans could send Zimmermann back to Germany a la Lenin in OTL WW1 if they want to destabilize the HRE even more. Possibly already in the Ravens’ Rebellion that was just teased.

Btw, is Asanes related to the Asen family? That was the Greek version of their family name, was it not?
It may be the trigger for a 2nd reformation or an analogue Revolution set in the HRE instead of France? especially if the land has been ravaged and trampled by invasions, famines or economic downturn.
 
So is this campaign inspired by Zhuge Liang's last campaign againts Wei? Will we see an altenate battle of Wu Zhang Plain where a dying Blucher creates a master plan to secure Theodor's armu retreat? I mean the similarities is there

Also on other note, is this update longer than usual? Or is it just me?
 
I'm already hyped for the eventual ten-episode mini-series on the life and times of Friedrich Zimmermann on ATL-Netflix/Amazon Prime and it hasn't even been greenlit yet.

@HanEmpire - Great writeup! Everything has been going swimmingly for the Triple Monarchy pretty much since its inception. They've gotten very lucky with rulers as they've avoided anyone who is inept/hapless (see: OTL Henry VI). They have all the benefits of a state composed of England/northern France would have but none of the drawbacks.
 
I'm already hyped for the eventual ten-episode mini-series on the life and times of Friedrich Zimmermann on ATL-Netflix/Amazon Prime and it hasn't even been greenlit yet.

@HanEmpire - Great writeup! Everything has been going swimmingly for the Triple Monarchy pretty much since its inception. They've gotten very lucky with rulers as they've avoided anyone who is inept/hapless (see: OTL Henry VI). They have all the benefits of a state composed of England/northern France would have but none of the drawbacks.
Just wait for the heir to die due to being bitten by a monkey or something fun like that and just see the entire PU collapse.
 
If there is any impact on the rural lands, the upcoming Ravens’ Rebellion is proof it was short-lived.​
Hmmmm. A quick search says this is the first mention of "Ravens' Rebellion" in this timeline. Our fair author is dropping yet another hint of things to come :)

Wonder what's going on here? Anyone have any guesses?
 
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Is that some kind of proto-communism forming between Alexios Asanes and Friedrich Zimmermann? Friedrich certainly has the right first name and an appropriately blue-collar family name. I suppose true communism would have to wait for an industrial revolution and the accompanying large-scale misery of workers to gain widespread support, but it's certainly an interesting development.

But once Asanes and Zimmermann's ideology is fully formed, maybe the Romans could send Zimmermann back to Germany a la Lenin in OTL WW1 if they want to destabilize the HRE even more. Possibly already in the Ravens’ Rebellion that was just teased.

Btw, is Asanes related to the Asen family? That was the Greek version of their family name, was it not?
That's not proto-Communism, that's proto-Liberalism. Asane and Zimmerman's philosophy looks like it's the TTL groundwork for Classical Liberalism's claim that all men are born equal in nature. If this grows more nuanced it might lead to the ideas like Social Contract or Consent of the Governed, and eventually to the limiting of absolutism in favour of democracy. I'm excited to see where @Basileus444 takes this, because he's said multiple times in the past that he doesn't want future TTL nations to turn de facto liberal democratic republics like OTL ones.
Do you think they're react well to the Roman Empire and Lotharingia both making offers to join the Accord? The Romans could provide a lot of forces, and it could smooth over some concerns about Italy if the Romans are already guaranteeing the independence of the Accord.
Nope, because if they openly stand with Rhomania like that the Triunes will turn hostile, which defeats the point.
 
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How big IS Lothairingia anyways? Netherlands of course, presumably Belgium or parts of it given the mention of Antwerp, but how much of Upper and Lower Lothairingia do they have to contain only 3 million people? 1700 Netherlands had 1.8 million and Belgium had 3.65 million, if Populstat's sources are accurate for this, while 1600 Netherlands had 1.5 million and the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium+Luxembourg but without Liege) had 2 million, if Wikipedia's sources are right. And they might not be since the one for the section of Spain is on Naples and doesn't even mention Belgium or the Netherlands, though the Netherlands one seems good.

So it's smaller than OTL 1600 but presumably larger in size. And both without the 80 years war causing all the dead and what seems to be a more favourable economic position. And if we're going by something resembling the medieval borders of what constitutes Lothairingia than the mentioned industrial zones of the Cologne-Rhine area would be inside of there. Though I doubt that is the case. I'm curious about the demographics and borders of what constitutes our alternate Netherlands here.
 
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