An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

What would be the justification for similar technologic development but lower population?

The only way I can think of it is by lower Chinese, Indian and Latin American populations.
What would be the justification for similar technologic development but lower population?

The only way I can think of it is by lower Chinese, Indian and Latin American populations.
Well, if I were to make an educated guess, I'd chalk it up to a combination of a few factors: if living standards are better across the board (presumably), if global trade develops and sustains itself from earlier, if the world is divided into fewer, wealthier and more powerful polities which develop intricately interwoven economies over time, these could all lead to an earlier and more widespread demographic transition from explosive population growth during the Industrial Revolution to a more stable growth probably in the early 20th century as the need for large families recedes. Essentially, not necessarily unrecognizable from OTL trends, but with a slightly flatter line compared to the practically exponential growth of the mid-18th to mid-20th century IOTL.
What would be the justification for similar technologic development but lower population?

The only way I can think of it is by lower Chinese, Indian and Latin American populations.
Earlier demographic transition in those regions, perhaps? If they don't 'fall behind' the European states and maintain a similar level of technological sophistication (fending off colonialism in India helps), then they would be able to industrialize earlier than OTL and stabilize at lower levels by TTL 2019. I don't think that alone would be enough to make up 3-4 billion people's worth of difference, but it would probably get you at least part of the way there.

edit: dammit, ninja'd
B444 already kinda did the 20 good men. When the Idwaits spiked the Roman heavy guns during their counter offensive during the Great Uprising.
There's no way something similar can happen here right? I think a Stannis like end for Blucher would be fitting, in the end he did his duty.
Perhaps not getting cut down by a random woman in the woods, but trying to inspire his men one last time against the Roman relief army and is downed in a hail of bullets.
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Steel and coal production are going to be the two big areas where Rhomania won’t look so good compared to the other great powers.
Just for the 1st Industrial Revolution because they are lagging behind on more efficient techniques? OTL Greece and Turkey aren't doing too bad according to some sauces. TTL Rhoman's have quite a bit of iron and coal deposits in their borders (most notably Rhodope and Sar Ranges).

According to wikipedia at least, there was another attempt in the beginning of the 18th century that worked for a while, but was eventually abandoned by Russia. I don't think there's any technological impediment, not by this point ITTL, and it would probably get financing and technical assistance from the Empire, which has plenty of experience building canals.
Plus the added advantage of unchanging borders, politically stable climate and stronger trade links compared to OTL.


With regards to population, halfing the asian population would do wonders specifiically south asia, south east asia, east asia. Bulk of the otl population resides there.

There was one point in time whole europe is near china or india pop. Controlling china and india to total european population would lose 1-1.5b. More if you add the rest of south, south east asia and east asia.
Also I would like present-day TTL Earth to be more lightly populated than present-day OTL Earth (with at least similar, preferably better tech), say 3-4 billion.
I wonder how would that happen... Perhaps earlier use of contraception methods, better standards of living, plus a destructive pandemic?
Population figures: OTL figures are the baseline for discussion certainly, but I would like to add a few qualifiers. Considering where we are ITTL, current figures skew the results. If you compare Turkey and France today, and then compare Turkey in 1900 (the region) and France it is a vastly different story. The rules change substantially with the improvements in agriculture in the 20th century.
Qualifications are required there too. Greece and Anatolia of 1800 were less populous than the same areas had been further back in the past.

Roman Australia. Can you imagine what they’d do to the Greek language?
Actually yes... several hundred thousand Greeks down under in real life. Then there are the OTL dialects from Central Greece (we need no vowels no sir!) to Cypriot to Pontic to Italiote Greek (now that last is going to be way more prominent TTL by the way with a Greek semi-independent state in South Italy by the way). What's one more?
@Lascaris little of topic here but do you know were i can find the full version of the guns of Lausanne?
If memory serves the TL was not continued beyond the end of 1940. I've toyed around with the notion of resurrecting it here but then if I found the time its just as likely I'd be dealing with certain dogs and monkeys behaving themselves in the same time period.
If memory serves the TL was not continued beyond the end of 1940. I've toyed around with the notion of resurrecting it here but then if I found the time its just as likely I'd be dealing with certain dogs and monkeys behaving themselves in the same time period.
Oh well it was a very interesting and realistic scenario
Here's hoping the British and French separate!
Unlikely by now as a common Anglofrench identity is bound to emerge TTL. A lot of common threads are likely there:
- Shared Anglican-like religion.
- Shared feeling of superiority vis à vis other nations. Similar to OTL French & British identifies.
- Far more influence on language to the extent that they'll converge far more than OTL. The English great wovel shift will be different TTL. "The" may be replaced by "Le". Far more french vocabulary will creep into English and vice-versa especially in commercial/trading terms.
- Similar climates and narrative of "the people of the seas".
- A likely common legal system as northern French law had similarities with common law OTL.
Unlikely by now as a common Anglofrench identity is bound to emerge TTL. A lot of common threads are likely there:
- Shared Anglican-like religion.
- Shared feeling of superiority vis à vis other nations. Similar to OTL French & British identifies.
- Far more influence on language to the extent that they'll converge far more than OTL. The English great wovel shift will be different TTL. "The" may be replaced by "Le". Far more french vocabulary will creep into English and vice-versa especially in commercial/trading terms.
- Similar climates and narrative of "the people of the seas".
- A likely common legal system as northern French law had similarities with common law OTL.
Yes this time round there was no Joan of Arc to... save England from becoming part of France!
The Romans don’t need to worry too much about projecting power into the Atlantic. The Mexicans would want them to stay, the Romans will never be a threat to them and their presence only hinders their main catholic enemies in the region.


What would be the justification for similar technologic development but lower population?

The only way I can think of it is by lower Chinese, Indian and Latin American populations.
More literacy and economic stability leading to greater labor force participation and more research over time.

Its astonishingly easy to boost literacy worldwide, and doing so has amazing dividends for a countrys technological advancement.
@HanEmpire: Ah, that’s where it’s from. I knew I’d seen it somewhere.

@TheWanderingReader: Yeah, I understand why the show writers wanted to kill off Stannis; they had more than enough plot threads to juggle. But the lead-up to his death was a massive injustice to his character, although his actual death scene I thought was pretty good. I liked book Stannis.

@minifidel: Didn’t know about that other on. Thanks. From what I remember about the Ottoman attempt, it sounds like it failed more for political reasons (Russian opposition, lukewarm support from the Crimean Khan who didn’t want his Ottoman overlord too close) rather than technical. So it should be feasible ITTL, if one could work out an arrangement between Georgia and the Russians.

Technology/Population: I’m thinking earlier industrialization and demographic shift, with less lag between the various regions in the world. Greater earlier spread of literacy. Perhaps making the shift itself slightly less pronounced and shorter (earlier and more socially accepted contraceptives?). Just a little less growth per year can make a big difference in the long run. If the 1900 (1.6 billion) to 1950 (2.5 billion) growth rate had been maintained during the second half of the twentieth century, 2000 would be 3.9 billion instead of the OTL 6.1 billion, which is pretty close to my goal.

Admittedly this is at the stage of ‘what I want to happen’ rather than something I’ve clearly planned out.

@ImperatorAlexander: Well, I never said it was twenty. I never specified but was picturing a large cavalry raid that struck it big. Taking out an enemy’s siege artillery is a good way to cripple an army on the offensive; see Mark Antony’s invasion of Parthia.

Just for the 1st Industrial Revolution because they are lagging behind on more efficient techniques? OTL Greece and Turkey aren't doing too bad according to some sauces. TTL Rhoman's have quite a bit of iron and coal deposits in their borders (most notably Rhodope and Sar Ranges).

Plus the added advantage of unchanging borders, politically stable climate and stronger trade links compared to OTL.
I’ve never specified this so my bad, but when I’m thinking about stuff like this I’m typically thinking of say TTL 1914 (not that that year will be of any significance ITTL) rather than the present. The twentieth century changes a lot of the rules. It’s hard to beat the easy access to iron and coal that places like England, Germany, and the US have.

@Lascaris: Good point. I’m continually surprised at how lightly populated the 19th century Ottoman Empire was.

@Dunois: There are a lot of common threads, and it helps there’s no TTL equivalent of the “Second Hundred Years War”. Although that’s not to say there won’t be potholes on this road. I wonder though if there could be a rift between a more French influenced “Channel England” and a northern England that stays more “pure English”.

@JohnSmith: The Mexican support is very important. It’s highly doubtful Demetrios III would’ve even tried the Caribbean enterprise without the promise of Mexican aid.
1634: The Business of Empire
"The Great Latin War cannot be understood without a knowledge of the character of Theodor. It also cannot be understood without a knowledge of the character of Emperor Demetrios III."-Hektor Petros, author of The Forgotten Emperor: A Life of Demetrios III, Founder of the Sideros Dynasty and the Modern Roman Empire.
1634 continued: By the end of the Twelve Days, Demetrios III has already made plans regarding the presence of the Allied army in Lower Macedonia. To that end, on June 2 he boards a monore bound for Alexandretta in Syria. From there he heads to Arra, the headquarters of Domestikos of the East Theodoros Laskaris.

The raids have continued over the winter and spring, Ibrahim retaliating with raids of his own both into Egypt and Roman-held Syria, but in terms of damage the lead is clearly on the Roman side. But Theodoros, per his orders from the Emperor, has not seriously pushed on Ibrahim.

The Domestikos has not been idle though. Intensely drilling his army, he has been putting his men, and himself, through their paces in strenuous military exercises. As one of Gabras’s staff at Nineveh, he saw and was part of the clumsiness while the Romans worked to wield an army of, at the time, unprecedented size. The last time a Roman strategos had wielded a somewhat comparable number of men under a single command had been Alexios Palaiologos during the War for Asia, two hundred years earlier.

In one of several aspects of Drakid military structure that has the Domestikos irritated, multiple-tagma training had declined significantly under the Drakids, as Helena I wanted to limit opportunities for strategoi to conspire, in contrast to the late Laskarid/Second Komnenid training regimen which produced the great strategoi of that era and the Time of Troubles. Jumping up to 100,000 men from a tagma had greatly exacerbated an already extant problem.

Theodoros considers the results very promising and is thus straining at the leash to get at Ibrahim when his sovereign arrives. So he is not pleased when he hears what Demetrios III has planned. Under a banner of truce, Emperor Demetrios III meets Shahanshah Ibrahim I and proposes a ceasefire, with each side holding what land they currently possess for the duration.

Given the current emotional/mental state of the Army of the Danube, Demetrios doesn’t want to rely just on new European and west Anatolian recruits plus Russian reinforcements to get it back into shape. He wants veteran eastern troops as well. Newspaper-wise, the Armies of the East have been far better served than the Army of the Danube. The people in Constantinople are, frankly, sheltered, having not faced a serious threat (save for the fake one during the Night of the Tocsins) since the Time of Troubles. The Romans in the east, with the constant, repeated, and currently active specter of native Muslim revolt and Ottoman invasion, are much more appreciative of the tagmata and understanding of the difficulties of war.

Many on the Roman side are utterly outraged by this idea. Mashhadshar was humiliating enough, but this would leave a far greater swathe of Roman territory in Persian hands, including the famous cities of Damascus and Jerusalem.

But Demetrios III has made up his mind. He blames himself for the wreckage on the Axios, for not making a decision and just leaving things up in the air. Furthermore, he’d been right about Theodor’s plans and he’d also been right about the whole Georgian situation, but had instead deferred to the expertise of the senior administration. So here, he is going to stick to his own judgment.

The chief reason for his decision is that he wants to bring absolute overwhelming force to bear on Theodor while he is isolated with the Allied army at Thessaloniki. Here, the logistics are in place to support a massive Roman army, one far greater than the Army of the Danube ever was. Plus, it is 240 kilometers from Thessaloniki to Skoupoi; in contrast the retreat that so battered the Allied army last year, from Ruse to Nikopolis, was half that. So the battle of annihilation that was denied in 1633 may perhaps be available this year. Here is a chance to absolutely shatter the Allied host, to a degree not even Andreas Niketas achieved. And Demetrios III wants it, so very badly.

Theodoros is certain he can crush Ibrahim in battle this season, but even he has to admit it probably will take at minimum a month, and most likely more than that. And it’s a 1700 kilometer march from Antioch to Thessaloniki, at least a ten weeks’ march, and the Army of Mesopotamia would need to add another three weeks to that total.

It is pointed out that Demetrios III doesn’t need to transfer all the eastern forces to the west. There’s the Army of Georgia, the Army of Mesopotamia, and the Army of Syria to choose from. But Demetrios wants all available forces sent west.

One reason is that doing some splitting, trying to have just enough for each front, strikes Demetrios as being over-clever, and he’s just been bitten for being over-clever. He’d thought he had plenty of time to deal with Ibrahim, so he’d held Theodoros back and stuck with the whittling slave raids, which now is resulting in this mess. So Demetrios is done with subtlety.

But primarily it has to do with The Wars of Latin Aggression. He wants to break the cycle and here seems a perfect opportunity, a chance to obliterate an invading Latin force with overwhelming force. And he wants the maximum impact for that, such as a 200,000 strong Roman army with 500 cannons cresting the horizon. Especially after the Latins penetrated so far into the Empire. Now one could say that burying the Latins under such a weight of numbers would help make an argument that individually Romans aren’t so tough, but Demetrios argues that Latins will find justifications for their failings regardless of what happens, and victory is its own best argument. He wants to make an argument, to the whole of Latin Europe, about the sheer weight of Roman military might that can be brought down on an aggressor.

Continuing with The Wars of Latin Aggression, Demetrios III has a ‘special friend’ in the Allied camp, one whose friendship should prove most valuable. But the Emperor wants to bring to bear such a preponderance of force to make it clear even to dense Latins that the Romans did not need said ‘special friend’ to win; he merely made it easier.

It is pointed out that by doing so, Demetrios is effectively letting Ibrahim out of the bag. Demetrios acknowledges that, but also sees that Theodor is in the bag, and he wants that prize so much more. To him, conflict with an eastern power (not necessarily the Ottomans, mind you) is a natural state of affairs. Annihilating Ibrahim now, while a useful advantage in the short term, won’t change the “natural dynamic” as he puts it. If the Ottomans fall, they’ll just be replaced by a new eastern empire that will pose the exact same problem to the Romans as the Ottomans did; the similarity of the current border to Roman-Sassanid times has been noticed. But annihilating Theodor might just change that “natural dynamic”, for potential short and long-term gain for the Empire. (It should be noted that Demetrios III is far from alone in his thinking on Roman-East relations.)

Demetrios further points out that Ibrahim isn’t exactly getting a bed of roses. Yes, he is getting interior Syria and Palestine, but it’s been wracked and ravaged, with a sizeable minority of the population carted off into slavery. With Rhomania occupying a good chunk of northern Mesopotamia, during the truce it’d be connected to the rest of the Ottoman Empire by an old caravan road via the Palmyra oasis, so Ibrahim’s going to have trouble controlling the area.

And finally, at the end of the day Demetrios is the Emperor. So it is his decision.

Ibrahim, for his part, has been interested in peace, despite the pressure from the Triune ambassador. The Shah is significantly better informed as to the situation in Europe than the Germans of Asia, and so he wants out, but he wants out with honor. There have been feelers over the winter, but Ibrahim views most of the Roman conditions as excessive. In his opinion, they’d be appropriate if Ibrahim’s main host was broken, but it’s not. If the Romans want those demands fulfilled, then they’ll have to pay the price in blood required.

Demetrios’s terms, and his mere presence, instantly catch Ibrahim’s interest. Much has certainly changed since they’d last met, in the negotiations that’d led to the Treaty of Mashhadshar. Ibrahim is also aware that despite how well it looks on a map for him, keeping the current situation is a poison pill. Demetrios can easily secure and reinforce the Ottoman lands he holds, while Ibrahim can only do the same with his Roman holdings in token amounts. He proposes instead that the pre-Mashhadshar border be restored instead.

Demetrios does not care for that. He’s already planning for loyalists to be settled into the sections of Northern Mesopotamia already taken, as a first move toward securing them for the Roman Empire. The northern Anizzah remnants are already setting up shop. Plus with a proper artillery depot installed at Duhok, a Roman army could be pounding at Mosul with siege artillery less than a week after the resumption of hostilities.

Demetrios would be happy to take both northern Mesopotamia and interior Syria, but Ibrahim’s not going to accept that. So if he can only get one now, Demetrios III will take Mesopotamia. Ibrahim would have a far better chance of retaining that than interior Syria on the resumption of hostilities.

The Demetrian Agreement between Demetrios III and Ibrahim I is signed at Arra on June 16. It is very explicitly a truce, not a peace treaty, its language modelled after the Khlat Accord used during the Eternal War. This is deliberate on Demetrios’s part; it is a salve for Ibrahim’s pride since he can draw connections to his father.

The substance though is rather different. Aside from both sides retaining the lands of the other of which they are currently occupying, there are no tribute payments to Ibrahim. Prisoners are exchanged, with ransoms to make up the difference. Ibrahim gets a few hyperpyra here as his forces captured some high-ranking loyalists that Demetrios ransoms, but it’s a far cry from the mountain of gold Iskandar got. The slaves captured in the Roman raids are not included in the exchange/ransom.

The truce is set to expire in February 1641. Demetrios wants plenty of time to be available to focus exclusively on Europe.

During the Eternal War, the truce period was punctuated by frequent raids and small battles, so the pre-Khlat, truce, and post-Khlat fighting are all considered to be part of the same war, even though the truce lasted for over a decade. This truce is much quieter, so Roman historiography typically treats the pre-truce and post-truce fighting here as separate wars.

Yet it is not all peace. During the winter the Owais and Haddad tribes, reinforced by fragments of the Southern Anizzah who are in the process of being absorbed into the Roman clients, have been infiltrating back into their Transjordan holdings. As a teambuilding exercise, they’ve chosen to kill or enslave every Howeitat they can find, and they have a suspiciously large quantity of Roman army surplus with which to do so. Per the terms of the truce, Ibrahim can’t force the tribes out, so he’s stuck with this tribal brawl, a tribal brawl which also cuts the pilgrim road to Mecca. That puts a serious tarnish on the prestige Ibrahim has garnered from taking Damascus and Jerusalem.

After the truce is signed, Ibrahim proceeds to Baghdad. Arranging supply caches, the Ottoman army in interior Syria is marched out via Palmyra in sections, gradually withdrawing all but a garrison force. There are losses to the desert, but the operation is orderly and as good a success as Ibrahim could’ve hoped for.

Meanwhile Demetrios III is on his way back to Constantinople with the Demetrian Agreement. Aside from the D3 musket, it is the only item from his reign that is named after him.

Some historians have wondered about that. A few speculate that Demetrios is punishing himself for his mistakes regarding Macedonia. Others believe that the Emperor is making it very clear that he is the one responsible for the Truce. As Eparch, Demetrios was in the thick of the blame game following Mashhadshar and does not want anything like that to happen again.

Many think that he is concerned that the army will blame the newspapers for the humiliation, saying that if their morale hadn’t been sabotaged, the Romans wouldn’t have needed to make such concessions. That by itself might not be a problem, but if that army resentment spreads to encompass, say, civilian leadership in general, than the Empire could have a very serious problem. So by emphatically emphasizing that this was his decision, Demetrios hopes to short-circuit that possible train of events.

Returning to the White Palace, drinking and writing heavily, in late July there is an audience for the arrival of the new Persian ambassador. Odysseus is there, recalled from Macedonia for the occasion, and Demetrios III clearly takes great pleasure in introducing the Kaisar to the ambassador as “the man who will avenge me”.

Demetrian Truce - Copy.jpg

Black line represents the pre-war border. Red line represents the border as of the signing of the Demetrian Agreement. Green represents the caravan roads that are the only real link between Ottoman holdings in Syria and the Ottoman Empire proper. The Blue region represents the area of greatest Owais & Haddad activity.​

Once back in the capital, Demetrios begins cracking down on the papers. Personally, as a writer himself, Demetrios favors a freer atmosphere to write and publish, but the sheer amount of social irresponsibility exercised by many is appalling. Dozens of libel suits are brought against offending editors and writers, which are easily proven given the literal written testimony lying around, ruining many of them economically.

Last year Demetrios had gone with executing the most egregious offenders and hoping that would silence the remainder. But while that had fixed a symptom, it clearly hadn’t fixed the underlying problem.

One tactic is fairly easy, enforcing some of the old press laws that have been quietly ignored as the market expanded. These are stepped back up to their original level. Each publication must be licensed by a censor of the Ministry of Propaganda, which thus far in the war has been focused on encouraging war popes sales and volunteers for the army. The Empire’s Eyes, in the sphere of counter-intelligence, have been the ones overseeing publications. The confusion of responsibilities between these departments has created a byzantine structure not conducive for efficiency. This is a large factor in why so much has slipped out through the papers. It is also another issue Demetrios III plans to fix, although unlike his earlier ideas this is a new flaw made apparent by the war effort.

Any publication not licensed is automatically pulled, with substantial fines for the ones responsible. This is in contrast to the random sweeps done so far during the war, which clearly aren’t doing a good job.

A large part of the problem though is that the Drakos-era press laws, written several decades earlier when yearly publications of all types were less than a third of the 1630s level, are annoyingly vague. Criticism of government officials and policies was allowed, provided it wasn’t too “strenuous”, but that’s not exactly helpful.

Demetrios imposes some changes. For starters, any claim made in a paper must have supporting evidence. To call someone a traitor, one must have credible proof of treachery, not just that ‘they lost a battle’. To call someone a coward, one must provide credible proof of cowardice. Failure to provide credible evidence shall be found grounds for libel, and prosecuted as such.

For another nine newspapermen in Constantinople and two in Thessaloniki, the prosecutions end with their executions. Several more are fined substantially, a few losing everything, the money being donated to set up homes for invalid veterans in the districts of Constantinople between the Herakleian and Theodosian Walls.

Besides the demand for evidence-based claims, Demetrios III adds another factor, social responsibility. In his words, newspapers are a social institution that provide information to Romans so that they can make informed decisions. But they also have a responsibility to not disrupt or endanger society, firstly by not providing inaccurate information. Analysis is allowed, but it must be on the basis of evidence, not mere opinion. Secondly, they must not ‘compromise the integrity of institutions vital for the safety and stability of society. This is all the more vital in wartime, when external pressures on said institutions have increased substantially’.

In order to secure ‘social responsibility’, Demetrios institutes new requirements. Now any newspaper contributor must have passed a ‘university-prep’ secondary school (these are more advanced and rigorous than the regular secondary school: see Thomas Autoreianos Interlude for details) and any newspaper manager and/or editor must have a university degree. While the role and especially size of the Roman university system has expanded significantly since the Laskarid model, at its core they are still focused on training good civil servants for the government. Demetrios hopes to inculcate that training, ethos, and discipline into future newspapermen.

Admittedly, this all has issues of vagueness as well. What counts as socially irresponsible, as opposed to informed criticism? Where is the line between analysis and mere opinion-voicing? What exactly is required to be considered sufficient evidence? These are all good questions, and right now Demetrios Sideros doesn’t have time for them. There is a Latin army to destroy.

The very first exercise drawn up by the War Room, back when it was a loose study group under old Andreas Niketas, was a plan for rapid (as much as possible given the technology of the day) transfer of multiple tagmata from Asia to Europe or vice versa. The current version is War Plan B9, drawn up by Megas Domestikos Nikolaios Mouzalon shortly after he was posted to Constantinople rather than commanding a field army.

The Megas Domestikos wants to move over 180,000 soldiers from east to west. There are 40000 men in the Army of Georgia (not including the 16000 Georgian troops promised and added by Alexei at the start of campaign season), 50000 men in the Army of Mesopotamia, and 90000 men in the Army of Syria, not including any potential Egyptian and Ethiopian forces.

With Ibrahim pulling out of Syria, there is not too much concern about not leaving a large field army in place. All garrisons are maintained at full strength, with an additional 10000 (taken from the Army of Mesopotamia) based in Aleppo just in case. But Ibrahim has a charismatic Afghan warlord who’s just taken Kabul with which to deal. And if the Shah decides to break the truce, he can either reenter Syria via the caravan road and risk starvation, or grind at the northern Mesopotamia fortresses Amirales captured. Ibrahim would undoubtedly take many of them back, but it would take time, and then the eastern troops could be transferred back east after flattening Theodor. So all the Shah would gain would be to start the rematch early.

Konstantinos Mauromanikos and the Army of Georgia march on Trebizond, where a portion board ship for transport to Varna. As they sail, the rest of the army marches along the Pontic coast road, the transports returning to pick up another section while the remainder continue marching west. The process continues until all have arrived in Bulgaria.

The Army of Georgia proper, now renamed the Army of the Danube, proceeds along the river, Konstantinos arriving just in time to receive the keys of Vidin, which has been under siege since before the Twelve Days. After depositing a garrison and reinforced by the portion of the original Army of the Danube that prosecuted the siege, he drives on Belgrade. Moving far faster than in Georgia, he faces minimal opposition as he advances into Serbia. The Hungarians, who are responsible for much of the Allied rear-area security, here put up little fight, most surrendering after a token exchange. Meanwhile the Serbian soldiers under Lazar either melt away into the Serbian populace or present themselves with their arms to Konstantinos, who promptly puts them on the army pay roll. In a week he has 1400.

Belgrade Citadel though is garrisoned by Bavarian troops, loyal to the House of Wittelsbach. After setting up his parallels, he leaves 24000 men there and marches down the length of Serbia with his remaining 40000. It is rather tempting to swing over to Raska and pay Despot Lazar a house call, but that is not Mauromanikos’ mission. His task is to close Theodor’s bolt hole. On September 12 he lays sight on the Hungarian banners flying from the towers of Skoupoi.

Moving Mauromanikos is comparatively easy. The prongs of the actual trap will be much harder to arrange. Theodoros Laskaris with the Army of Syria begins the long march from Syria overland across Anatolia. Thirty two kilometers a day with a rest day every Sunday, the heavier artillery to be left behind and replaced by stores in the west. To reduce river-crossing times, engineers are sent up ahead to build pontoon bridges to supplement the existing bridges. Restocking at Abydos from the large depot established there, a slew of ships ferries them across to Europe.

More ships are in Syria. Amirales marches to the coast, where transports are docked to start ferrying his men over to Hellas. For hulls, the War Room calls up the last of the Merchant Reserve vessels that have not been summoned, and forces other ship-owners to provide their vessels. They are paid, but the government sets the price and there isn’t any bargaining. Foreign traders get snapped up as well, the big Spanish and Arletian haulers proving most useful. Grain prices go up in the major cities around the Aegean, including the capital, as grain haulers are requisitioned. Despite tax exemptions for the poorer classes to compensate, Demetrios III’s popularity suffers for it. Even with all that it is still necessary to ship the army in relays.

To the south, the Egyptian army under the command of Despot Andreas II has advanced up the Nile River to battle the Idwaits. The Idwaits have succeeded in finally taking Beni Suef but the Despot crashes through their raiding parties, storming the mostly-ruined defenses of Beni Suef and slaughtering the garrison.

Proceeding south along the great river, the Army of Egypt engages in clear-cut genocide. Every male of military age (and the definition of that is rather loose) is killed on the spot, and everyone else is hauled off into slavery. The Despot wants the land, which used to be Egyptian before the Great Uprising, back but does not want the people. Some of the Idwaits flee and some fight, but slowly the Egyptians grind along.

The ‘remainers’ are prominent in the slaughter. They’ve suffered much from Idwait raids and are eager for revenge. To facilitate the killings, Despot Andreas says that if a remainer kills an Idwait and provides proof of the deed and proof of ownership, the remainer can take the Idwait’s lands and possessions. Plus there is the profit of selling the slaves downstream.

In modern eyes, this is a war crime. This is genocide. And Rhomania is complicit. The army is Egyptian, but it was taught by Roman soldiers, and there are a few attached advisors to Andreas’s staff. There is no evidence they took any explicit part in the crime, but they certainly provided ‘expertise’.

There is no criticism or condemnation either from the Empire (considering what Demetrios had been doing to interior Syria, it’d be hypocritical if there was). Demetrios III, in one of his more chilling phrases, calls it “the ugly but necessary business of empire”.

Malik Hassan VIII orders a scorched earth campaign, organizing an evacuation of as many as he can to Asyut or further south, which he works on further fortifying. Egyptian supply is dependent on river barges, so the guns of Asyut seem the best place to stop them.

There are many of the Idwait grandees, whose wealth and power is based on large tracts of land worked by tenant farmers in a share-cropping arrangement, who protest. While some of the grandees have their estates concentrated, many have distinct plots scattered along the Nile valley, and many of the best plots are north of Asyut. So several get together with their retainers and try to kill the Malik.

Unfortunately for them, they fail. Hassan VIII is unharmed, and he hits the roof. He is trying to save as many of the faithful as he can, and these…people, instead of fighting against their common enemy, instead turn their guns and spears on him. So, after gathering in troops that were hampering the Egyptian advance, he turns on the grandees with full fury and a fatwa from the Mufti of Aswan declaring the rebels ‘traitors to Islam’. Everyone connected with the rebellion, be that family, friends, or retainers, are to be hunted down and shot. The only ones escaping are the share-croppers themselves, since they wisely promise their produce to the Malik.

Meanwhile, Egyptian guns start to pound the packed-earth walls of Asyut.

Andreas II is facing problems of supply because of the scorched-earth, and by now he is going to soon be faced by the flooding of the Nile, which will temporarily halt operations anyway. So he sends 10000 Egyptians back to the Delta, where they are joined by 7000 Ethiopians that have landed in Suez to reinforce the fight where they are needed. Proceeding to Alexandria, the combined Egyptian-Ethiopian force is loaded onto more vessels for shipment to Attica.

There they join the Army of Hellas, which is comprised of the old Army of Mesopotamia, minus the detachment left in Syria, joined to the Paramonai and attached Roman tourmai. The combined force, under the command of Thomas Amirales, musters 70,000 men. Meanwhile Theodoros and his 90 tourmai have linked up with Tornikes’s 71 tourmai. And that is not including the 40,000 Romans at Skoupoi and 24,000 at Belgrade, or the Thessaloniki garrison.

In three months, the Romans have managed to transfer 200000 men from the eastern borders of their Empire to their western themes. Supplying these hosts is incredibly laborious, the huge depot at Abydos proving absolutely crucial; without the preexisting stockpiles built up over the last eighteen months this host could not have been maintained. Yet it still needed to be supplemented by a massive flock of grain haulers from Egypt and Scythia, and the diversion of supply meant the death of thousands of Thessaloniki evacuees.

There are further costs as well. Tax exemptions to compensate for more expensive foodstuffs sound nice, but they do nothing to help the unskilled laborer who has to buy food now but pays taxes after harvest time. Plus his poverty means his tax burden was lower anyway, so the exemption carries less heft. The setup is more beneficial to the mesoi and dynatoi, who are less injured by the price hikes anyway. This also impacts said laborer’s family. The number of poor Roman children who die that year (as a pre-industrial society, this is appallingly high by modern standards already) is higher than usual, due to poorer and less nutrition. Plus less births because of underfed would-be mothers. It is not possible to have a specific number of the losses, but it’s undoubtedly in the thousands too.

There are disturbances in several cities and towns, including Constantinople, some of which develop into food riots (although not in the capital). These are all quickly put down by authorities, but Demetrios’ pro-poor tarnish is wearing rather thin at the moment. The distribution of free produce from the Sweet Waters and forced economies in the White Palace kitchens help a little, but only a small fraction.

The mass transfer is also only possible because the Aegean is well developed, with multiple wharves at multiple sites equipped for moving bulk goods, infrastructure largely built up during the Flowering, and the advantage of moving said bulk goods by sea. These armies, in their current size, absolutely cannot be supplied more than a day’s march from the sea.

Fortunately for the Romans, the Allied army is not more than a day’s march from the sea. On September 18 it numbers about 61,000 strong.

* * *

IRV Andreas Niketas, off the coast of Macedonia, September 16, 1634:

Odysseus Sideros entered the great stern cabin of the mighty battle-line ship, one of the most powerful warships in the world, followed by Strategos Thomas Amirales, Strategos Manuel Philanthropenos, Strategos Demetros Abate of the Ethiopian tagma of Axum, Strategos Tawadros Tmoni of the Egyptian army, and their various chiefs of staff.

Even though this was the great cabin, the chamber was still crowded, and at the center of the room were Domestikos Theodoros Laskaris and Strategos Iason Tornikes. The Domestikos’ sharp triangular face was covered in a short-trimmed white-gray beard, reviewing the large map spread across the table. Figurines were everywhere, representing the known location of all Roman and enemy forces.

Laskaris looked up. “Ah, welcome gentlemen, your highness,” he said, nodding his head at Odysseus. He nodded back as the other high-ranking officers head-bowed to him. “We have work to do.”

Odysseus looked at the map himself. He knew all the information, but it was helpful to see it all laid out. A large army coming up from the southwest, an absolutely huge one coming from the east, partisans, irregulars, and light forces scattered to the north with Mauromanikos off the edge, and the Latin host right in the center.

Some had argued that a battle was unnecessary. That had been one of the arguments against Demetrios III signing that truce with Ibrahim. Except he had, and now the Romans had a force assembled that made that at Nineveh look like a pile of olives.

And Odysseus wanted to use it. They all wanted to use it. And there were good reasons for using it. As his father said, “style matters if you’re dealing with people who are style over substance”, and Latins were all about style. The optics of assembling such a huge force, and then being apparently afraid to use it, would hardly do a good job of breaking the cycle. Completely shattering this Latin army on the other hand, that would do nicely. And it would be satisfying.

They wouldn’t charge in madly or stupidly, but they would attack, smartly, wisely, and with overwhelming force, the best aspects of Roman and Latin warfare merged into one juggernaut. There was his father’s special friend to consider, who would make things complicated, but it was largely due to him they had such accurate intelligence of the enemy’s battle line, so it was a price worth paying, especially if his father’s relationship plans worked out as he hoped.

Finally, teasing his little sister about how he rode in and rescued her would never get old.

“Thomas, your objective will be here…” Theodoros pointed at the map.
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Oh I can’t wait for this epic battle!
Just surround the Latins and just send a bunch of lead at them...