An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Hi @Basileus444. First of all what a great story. Definitely one of my favorite TLs here.

I have a question about Patreon. Are the 2 dolars donations by post or by month?

And now some questions about Serbia and western Balkan.
First of all, is the Black Mountain independent or is it part of Serbia as some kind of autonomous region? If it is independent than I'm not sure if that is much plausible, especially Serbia owning Bosnia as well and even in OTL that area (Zeta) was part of Kingdom of Serbia.
Speaking of prince-bishop, is the Serbian Orthodox Church a patriarchy or is it still autocephaly archbishop?
What is the eastern border of Serbia and is the Niš (Naisus) part of Serbia?
Why is the Duchy of Dalmatia and Istria a duchy and not despotate?
The last question. What is going on with Dubrovnik (Ragusa)?

Once again, what you are doing here is amazing. Keep up with the good work.
Since the discussion has been taking a tact towards it, I would share this after I had B444s consent.


Trickling from a stream soothed the air, helped by the rustling breeze that dispersed some of the morning haze. The gentle water course flowed from a pond, fed by a spring piped in opposite the breach, the odd splash of hungry young trout, and the quack from a mother duck leading her flock, added their notes to the fluidic symphony. On the other side of the pond, a wide path braced by a small quay, ran between it and a simple two story gabled, white stucco house of thick walls. The home sat with square windows, capped by a tiled, guttered roof; Set on the gentle plateau of a slow rise facing south, the early sun reflected off the pond onto the front of the home.

The over spill creek tumbled down, dissipating along exposed rocks, to a shallow hollow that opened to parallel rows of low berms, snaking along the topography in broken lines, drawing to a depression hemmed by a wide and low earthen ring. Circling around two perpendicular structures, one with the upper half glass and peaked roof, the other having a slanted roof of oil soaked cloth. Creating a corner to a sizable flattened, packed sawdust square, filled with a mix of several dozen raised beds, trellises, and hanging pots. Two groves of mixed fruit trees and shrubs made up the opposite points of the modest plaza, angled to give the maximum unobstructed light to the two greenhouses. One grove was half the height of the other, showing a more recent planting. A trail led from the open corner of the square up the incline in gradual switchbacks to the path that ran in front of the house’s front step. Currently occupied by a man, who had just walked from the opposite direction, standing with the door behind him taking in the pleasant scene before him.

This was the first time he had visited when the house and grounds were quiet; the area as a rule was always a buzz, the apiaries not included. The tri-month market was upon them, making the majority of the Sweet Waters a ghost town. Save for a handful of senior wardens to maintain the grounds, everyone else was in Chalcedon for the next day, plying their wares. Much work was ahead of them; few would be able to go marketing for the next few months.

The wardens often sold together in a cooperative manner to town markets, splitting the costs of transporting their market garden products to the grocers, when they did sell outside the park. The wardens were discouraged from flooding the markets by having only so much time to grow a small cash crop or two besides subsistence, which encouraged food product manufacturing. More market days were being added to accommodate the many new yeoman holdings, and eager growers, so it was hard not to want to add to the wage.

This landowner class was made up of holdings of a couple hundred acres, ambitious men who worked hard and looked for ways to better their margins through more staples and ease of cash crop varieties. They weren’t a new phenomenon, but their numbers had spiked substantially ever since the end of the Time of Troubles, when mass deaths had created large plots of vacant farmland gobbled up by survivors. But without much incentive to be more efficient or diverse, they’d mostly acted as mini-dynatoi or big peasants, throwing more sheep or barley onto the market. Until recently, when land and population pressure forced landowners to be more efficient with their holdings, as well as an expanded urban populace that desired greater variety in its diet and had the money to pay for it.

To accommodate this demand for commerce, crops were selected to determine market day rotations. Today’s was the thursday/friday market dominated by spinach, citrus, strawberries, and very early rasp and blueberries. Frequently tomatoes appeared in multiple rotations in the grocers’ stalls in the forums, with the growth in popularity of greenhouses, as expensive as they were. Those were typically from the entrepreneurial dynatoi of western Anatolia, who had the money to build such structures and were tied in closely to the demands of the Aegean basin. Next week would be friday/saturday, and tuesday/wednesday following with their respective harvests.

The increase in local production had made the growing common market stronger, by providing produce cheaper, along with the grain shipments necessary for the ever growing cities. A romantic age for the yeoman farmer class was developing in this period; many children's classics are set in these times, timeless animal stories teaching parables, and lessons, building the Fairy Tale world of Petros Paulus. While the poor, young and old alike were filling the cities, the Demtreian reforms created new opportunities for those who did not see the appeal of the polis.

The bigger market days, like today, however, was a time everyone could sell their finished goods and cash crops, and to see newer tools and practice. Branding was still in it’s natal ideas beyond the bigger establishments, but reputations were cornerstones for the smaller markets in the rural centres, names meant something for quality, as well as the newer tools being made available with the increase of available workers in the cities taking up craftsmen positions in the mills and works.

Engaging in the new market day commerce, fueled an already innovative food economy, recent books were breeding a new minded farmer, one that used as much technology as nature to make their land more profitable. New produce appearing on Rhoman tables was opening new tastes, home gardens were beginning to have vines of the bright red fruit, drooping along arbours where once only grapes were trellised. The newest crop beginning to take over in the field rotation and stalls was potatoes. A government program started a couple of years ago saw hundreds of two pound bags of seed potatoes, given with pamphlets to farmers, yeoman and dynatoi alike, to grow far and wide in the empire. The goal being to discover where it couldn’t grow, and why. Then, can it be fixed so it can grow there? Having been a surprise crop to save the worst effects of a record drought hitting Iconium; a back to back crop failure had added panic to the peril. The potato harvests from Bukelleron, Paphlagonia and Threkesion that were brought in, plus the following local recently planted potato harvests, stabilized the granaries. It was being hailed as a miracle food, and becoming a symbol of central anatolian cuisine. Cappadocia and Charasanion both having growing surpluses of the wonder tuber, with successes introducing it in Lykandos, Sebasteia and Koloneia.

To add to the changing fields, new animals were showing up at stock auctions, as sturdier horses from northern europe made their way through eastern Vlachia to the black sea. Higher quality wool sheep from the British Isles, and more productive cattle from northern France and Lotharingia were showing up, building up the local breeds. A new ”chinese-swing” plow and other tools were adding to the effectiveness of the better animals and use of the earth. The farming rule of rotating their crops saved on time for fallow, beans, turnips and clover regenerated the land, the last two feeding the livestock. It was so common a knowledge it was more often referred to as ‘the dance’ by the farmers, the correlation being shared in the greater Rhoman farming culture. One being solidified by the numerous pamphlets and books being written at the time, both to own and rent at the new public libraries. Many were built along with a mandated basic list of books and subjects having been applied across the Empires smaller collections.

The gentleman darkening the threshold of the cottage, breathed with a slow pleasure only to turn from the calming melodic scene, raised his fist, and gave a sharp knock on the heavy wooden door to break the silence of the day-break mornings minute. Inside, Charals eyes opened immediately wide; again the knock. Conviction was behind that knock, and he knew he had to answer it. He also had to move as slowly as quickly as he could, while being as light as feather at the same time. Assassins of the Fantastic Far East, a pulp novel that found an audience in a censored war time market, had a dedicated fan base which he was a part of. Recently they were experiencing a resurgence in popularity, many of those growing up on the stories of men of flashing fists and swords, were now able to afford libraries of their own instead of the renting public library copies. The men cladded in black, would have witnessed one of their ilk, the deftness he displayed; as he did everything he could to not stop the subtle snore beside him. Out of the bed and pants on in two steps through the open bedroom door, walking in wide strides towards the steps descending with a reeling left around the landing banister, he lands in a long stride reaching the door. Opening with a measure of control displayed by someone who was never possessed by the urgency he exhibited approaching it, he had enough time to avoid the knocker assailing it a third time for style.

“Hello?” he said in the polite, low tone of someone greeting a visitor with a twisted sense of reasonable visiting hours. He looked eye level, seeing nothing, looked down to his boss standing before him. A look of business as usual was on his superiors face, ‘Shit! Projections!’ was the first thing to cross his mind, ‘wait, this early in the year?’, he queried to himself and bought time to figure what his mentor wanted, carrying paperwork. “Pronotes, sir, good morning! Ah, You’ve caught me in the affairs of improper attire I’m afraid, please, would you grant me a moment to dress in something more appropriate. Perhaps a cuppa could be poured sir?”
Pronotes Grabas gave him a look of calculation, “If you need it Caldonridis, but be about it, we approach the solstice in less than a month now. Days will be growing short.” Charal nodding respectfully, not understanding the Pronotes comment, slowly closed the door. Only to spin around into a sprint to dress, with the same alacrity performed previously.

Moments later both were now properly presentable, sitting opposite of each other occupying a quarter of the chairs at a solid table. Small steaming mugs of fragrant richness, sat with spoons and saucers set in front each of them, a low oil lamp stand maintained a carafe. The accompanying silver tray displayed a full kaffos service to the side, sugar cones of white and brown with their respective knives, dishes of beet sugar both red and ivory, cinnamon and other spices with their respective measures, and even cream for the barbarous sort as well. Charal would never say it was uncivilized to use it out loud, but he could not help but judge nonetheless if one did. Since the signing of the Great Pacifiction, north German traders showing up more and more through Vlachia and the black sea, provided both their goods and tastes to the ports around the coasts connected. Gabaras lifted his cup, sipping the warm, light brown drink softly, returning the cup to its saucer while looking around the welcoming common room that made up the kitchen, dining and living room. A small larder and dairy behind them nestled in the northeast, the stairs ascending up the corner kitchen walls opposite; the large brick chimney hearth with a stove and oven dominated the centre of the space. Charal still mystified why his boss was here so early, cleared his throat, “Sir, while I enjoy and always appreciate the visits, this is a bit unexpected.” and inconvenient went unspoken. “I have no report of any work done you would be interested in so far this hour Sir. Perhaps later, when the cows are milked, and the ducks go to the ponds?”

He seemed to not have heard Charals veiled humour, or was lost in his own world, which was out of place with his no nonsense greeting not five minutes earlier. His superior looked up at the exposed timber frame ceiling, and over to the front wall facing him, its sturdy door he entered through, was flanked by the two front windows. They filled the space with sunlight, showing not much for furnishings, besides the large utilitarian table set, some benches, and a hutch. A small, more finer designed card table with chairs for four, occupied in the southwest corner. All told the main floor was a space designed for sharing.

Which Charal did, he never sold the kaffos he got; it was a gift and you don’t sell a gift, he was always taught. But he did invest the small fortune of silver he had been given by a ‘benefactor’ instead, and money went a long way when you aim to keep your bottom dollar low. He was able to start multiple concerns, egg, dairy, bees, preserves, and herb preparations, that have grown into larger returns, able to produce products that were beginning to challenge the monasteries and more established farms in quality locally. With his largesse, he hired other wardens as hands, sharing his successes and failures, his home as an unspoken public hall, and temporary room to rent while working on your own home. His lunches becoming lectures about the challenges handled and ahead, for those who happen to be around for the meal, they are encouraged to ask about a problem that can’t get around. There was always plenty made on the cast iron range built into the hearth, and using his connection, he has been bringing in kaffos from less prestigious estates to keep it modest on the pocketbook. With larger percolators of cheaper iron, able to make more than enough to share in his home, fueling a discussion of observations his helpers and other wardens around made during their work. His time at the University in Nicea had him missing the kaffos house, and he made one his own without realizing it. Having a deep and large cellar below with barrels of quid for the harvests pro quo, gave him an advantage when it came to getting willing help in his projects as a bonus, with the guarantee of his help in return on their own ideas and plans as a rule.

Many who found themselves under his direction were the fourth and fifth sons of retired soldiers and thematic landholders, who were not dragged into the military recruitment or clergy, and landless poor farmers; or they came from the large orphan generation. Almost four hundred thousand children were orphaned in the Haematic region alone, caused by the War of Latin Aggression. Most had found their way to the cities and towns shortly after the peace when travel opened up along the roads, and law returned to the lands, creating a new demand for orphanages and services across the region, and northern Iraq where many were resettled. The old institutions of The Ladies Anna & Helena, finding new resources available to act on the reforms, lands, scholarships, and work programs. University graduates predominately from Nicea and medical schools were also ending up at his door, sons of dynatoi, and merchants sat with peasants alike. Making up the habitants of small hills around him, dotted with houses of new and more senior wardens, applying what they learned with his help, and others. A campus of gardeners at heart, and it made the old man proud seeing the generations mix. New times were ahead and new ways of thinking with it. He was coming into his late 80’s, saw he finally had to step aside, understanding that new men with new ideas were needed for these old lands.

“You’ve done well Charal, I’m glad you’ve taken the roll you have with the Park.” a quick glance around again “and personally successful as well. I don’t think we could have done what has been accomplished these past years without the effort you’ve put in. To be a gifted teacher on top, a true boon for us all. I hope you consider the extension contract in a few years when it comes up, you have made your time here worth the reinvestment.” Feeling admonished Charal starts to thank him, another hand stilling him, “But to be woken at the hour I was, and to play messenger for you. Rarely do I receive missives at day break, lucky for you, I am old and old men don’t need to sleep much. But when it carries the signet stamp from the office of the Emperor, I guess…” a hand shrugging, “I am to give you this.” revealing a letter from a coat pocket with his other hand, passing it to a puzzled Charal. Breaking the seal, Caral unfolds the letter, a second parchment falling to the table, quickly reading through the letter and scanning the smaller note on the table, he blanches noticeably. Gabalas already knowing the heart of the message, from his own correspondence asking to make him available couldn’t help but enjoy the look on his face, “You made your first mistake by being memorable, your second was to keep writing him.”

As the contents of the letter stupefied Charal, his company emerged lithly down the stairs, wearing a robe much too big for her smaller frame. “How good of you Charal, making me kaffos first thing” as she arrived at the table, nods towards Garabals, her chestnut locks framed a warm freckled face of a small nose and bright hazel eyes. “Pronotes, a good morning to you, I wasn't aware you visited this early” Zoe Tyrinos sleepily greeted, Garabals reaching between them for the silver carafe and cup, poured her a cup. Zoe received it with the warm nodding smile again and moved to stand beside Charal. Gabaras’ own eyes widened slightly, as Charal realizing the here and now again, was a mouse amongst the cats for her entrance. “Lady Tyrinos, a good morning to you too”, a quick glance toward his employee, “I was not aware Charal had company visiting this early either. How is your Uncle? Well I hope, as is the bulbs and violets I sold him the other month. He bought quite a few carts, I’m down to just my nursery stock now.”

“Well enough, his flower business is keeping him busy travelling to Lotharingia, and Egypt, he even has been making himself travel to Ethiopia again too. I imagine he is grateful, the violets you sold him will save him that journey for a another few weeks, they have been popular at his flower shops and auctions. He has taken to the industry rather well since his… decision to move away from exotic food stuffs.” Her diplomacy in describing the near complete collapse of the once towering Tyrinos sugar empire, was impressive. The man leveraged the entirety of his 8300 square kms sugar plantations, procuring kaffea plants from Ethiopia, for Krete. His attempt to create a domestic product had all died on the vine to turn a phrase, was still the talk of the surrounding themes, and business magnates. Men of that amount of pull had a knack for rebounding, broke he was, he still had value. So he leveraged on his name with help, and what long term popes he still had yet to cash, started making successful ventures of basic Rhoman goods and luxuries into the northern European markets. Simple luxuries like flowers that offered both markets of rich and poor. The Rhoman buying trend of Lilies, Tulips, Violets, Orchids and Jasmine, native flowers to the regions of the Empire, in constant demand for in the home, buoyed his growing international clients. Each flower took a section of the house facing the area they take in the compass, with the odd fad of Rhomania-in-the-East and Mexico exotics taking front and centre of the table and garden arrangements.

Standing now beside the seated Charal, she bumped his shoulder with her hip, “making friends with the quality are we? Or have you become a salacious publisher writing lowbrow stories of high status people, and the Emperor caught wind.” She joked with curiosity.
A grin broke on his face as he looked up at her, still a bit pale, “I'm not important enough for either. I'm afraid a simple man with just a green thumb sits before you.”
Pronotes Gabaras snorted and rolled his eyes,
Zoe smiling at the unusual outburst, laughed with cheerful derision and looked over his shoulder and read the missive herself. Her playful smile dropped, “Charal, he is addressing you by your single name. This isn’t a summons, he is writing to invite you to stay with him.” Picking up the second piece of parchment off the table, that fell when he opened the first, “this is a carte blanche to the eagles gate, why does the Emperor write to you in the shorthand to stay in the White Palace apartments?” A cuff up the back of his head, and noticed change in tone punctuated her more pressing question, “And who the hell are Veronica and Jahzara?”


“I can’t.”

Charal was standing over the table, the single letter for all it’s size seemed to dominate the table top while being surrounded by the ledgers and papers Gabaras had brought with him. Zoe having been given all the answers she needed, and promised full discretion of what he could, had returned upstairs to finish getting dressed, while they tackled the elephant.
Pronotes Gabaras’ face took on a look of real concern that Charal had taken a serious blow to the head.
“Sir, it isn’t even like I have to go. Nowheres does it say he commands me to his person, it is simply a suggestion to visit. He even says here, ‘I would enjoy the chance of your company in a fortnight, if available, to join a discussion on flora’, see, and I am not available in the fortnight. The discussion you and I, just had two days ago, was about why I can’t.” Pulling on his index finger, counting “The new root cellars start construction, eight more ponds have just started to be surveyed, with another five just getting the shovels in the ground.” Each point made another finger pulled back, “That is not even including piping the springs for the four that need to be. That is just in the Park district we are in right now! Then there is the day to day, the dead fall from the last storm still needs collected, local improvement contracts assessed and fulfilled, then there is the ‘broken shed’”

His old home becoming a second greenhouse applying all the newest lessons and materials, creating a successful private nursery business from it. Tulip bulbs were his latest pay off, making a tidy profit putting them into a recent associates hands. Many of the younger wardens tending to it to learn to make their own eventual greenhouses as productive. The rise in flower production had driven prices low enough, so that the hoi-polloi Rhoman in the street had them readily available for their more modest purse and tastes. For all his generosity and openness though, Charal had to close one building to everyone save himself and Pronotes Garabas.The old oiled roof greenhouse, had been a test bed for a lot ideas. A plant from the jungles of Mexico, a noxious plant with poisonous pollen, had taken hold as things happen. He has a suit for it, but can only be in there for short periods, and during specific flowerings. The door having to be locked multiple times, and temporarily barricaded. Charal being the holder of the keys for the safety of the grounds. No one has been allowed in, and they can’t destroy it for fear of the pollen being released.

So it is said.

“I have almost a dozen scions taking root from Veronica, I’m barely keeping Jahzeera alive, I’ve figured she needs strictly acidic soil, and I haven’t even mentioned your reforestation project of the new northern grants, and Trebizond Gardens. That is taking six new nurseries being built, twelve greenhouses including outbuildings and heating in total, Sir. That same amount to be built from scratch in the Chaldean highlands? Over a hundred and fifty modios zeugarion of buildings alone, just to seed the saplings. Not including the years of planting once we have them in production! You are talking about a half million trees a year, for 18 years, you are recreating pontic forests that have been gone for centuries...”
The shorter man had a look of serenity, raised his palm, quieting his right hand man. “You have most of the blueprints for the buildings drawn up, yes? The survey crews are either picked, being picked, or out plotting? The list of foremen selected, and at their desks drawing up lists of what hasn’t been listed yet, or on site, plans in hand?”
“Yes Sir mostly.”
“Has the rapture arrived and not a soul is left to work the park besides our bedeviled-selves?”
A guffaw, “No.”
“So I can manage the broke shed, the underground passage door hasn’t moved from behind the third wall-cask in the cellar, and I will have the only keys to get down there while you are away. You either have done the prep work already, or is in the hands of those who can do it too. And it is also two weeks in the capital in August, one of the best times of year; It’s race week, and eleven market days will be landing that time in near succession, with your accommodations covered by a man you’ve hosted in your own home.” Zoe had reemerged downstairs adding to Gabaras’ points knowing what Charals initial response to the letter would be, “It could almost be considered rude Charal not to, you did serve him at your table and he is seeking to return the favour.” Poor canary, but she could only hide it so much, a theatrical sigh, “I guess I could even be put out to help show you around, when you are not ‘meeting with the Emperor’. It would be for your own good, since you’ve never been in the City, and I’m really the only one with the patience to not walk you into the Scythian Quarter and let you get shanghai’d.” He looked over at her, feigning disapproval, a subtle giggle was contained by Zoe while pushing his shoulder playfully, “Your boss is right Charal, you have no reason not to, and all the reason to go.” His boss admired her a second with a grin and added his conclusion, finishing the argument, “But instead, you are going to write the Emperor telling him you have to refuse his invitation, because of work others are more than able to finish?” an eyebrow rising with the question.
Charal looked away then down, he fidgeted slightly, “well I was hoping you wou…”

“Not on your life!”

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@Cryostorm: Yeah, Theodoros IV and Demetrios III both deserve some love and recognition. In the popular imagination they’re overshadowed, but there are those that appreciate their reigns.

@Soverihn: That’s the issue with any innovation. Once it’s repeated the advantage largely goes away. Rhomania has a bit of an advantage since it doesn’t have any territories in the heartland with special privileges like say Brittany did in ancien regime France.

@Christian: He turned 50 in 1635 (born in 1585).

@Praetor98: The theme system, especially since the soldiers all got converted into solely cash-paid rather than land & coin-paid, has been moving towards a division structure. The war will move that process forward since many of the tagmata were expanded substantially during the war based on their theme’s capabilities. The result was tagmata varying widely in size with some such as the Thrakesian (close to 40,000 by itself) being unwieldly large. There will definitely be some redrawing of the theme borders soon to make the resulting tagmata more even and not so ridiculously large.

@Albert Blake: Yeah, Henry III’s reign should get more prominence, if for nothing else the beginnings of Parliament.

One advantage that Rhomania would have over Ireland in a ‘great potato famine’ situation is that while certain areas might be heavily dependent on potatoes, other areas wouldn’t be. If Upper Macedonia’s potatoes are blighted, there’s grain from Thrace or rice from Hellas instead, or mass purchases of Scythian grain by the Roman government. It would certainly hurt, since bulk transports of foodstuffs is really difficult until the invention of railroads, but it wouldn’t be a catastrophe of that magnitude.

@ImperatorAlexander: I think a common argument will be ‘what’s the good of a rich society if that means a weak state?’ The example of 1204 really stands out here. Byzantium was a wealthy society, but its government was weak under the Angeloi, which meant a relatively small band of Latins was able to come and ransack and takeover said rich society.

@Aristomenes: I got the term from The Economic History of Byzantium, which is also the source for pretty much the other various terms as well. The teachers and government officials in this category are primary and some secondary teachers, plus the entry-level officials like clerks and junior secretaries. Their salaries aren’t very high, so their income isn’t enough to bump them up into mesoi category. So it is demeaning, but also an acknowledgment of their economic, as opposed to social, status. College professors, some secondary teachers, and officials who’ve moved up a couple of rungs from the entry-level though do have high enough salaries that they count at least as mesoi.

@HanEmpire: That’d be a good idea, although he’s far too late with Odysseus.

To be honest, the OOC reason I’ve still been referring to some of the Italian families as Medici, Montefeltro, or d’Este is that I have no idea what the Hellenized versions of their names would be. I’m a typical product of the American school system in that I only speak English fluently, which is problematic at times.

@Antony444: Yeah, Ibrahim’s preparing himself for some not-fun times.

@phoenix101: Thanks. They still think highly of the pagan Empire, proud of its accomplishments, and definitely trace the Imperial line back to Augustus. Obviously Christian Rome is better than pagan Rome, but it’s a source of pride and one reason why Romans don’t like Latins is their annoying tendency to deny their Roman heritage (King of the Greeks as opposed to Emperor of the Romans), which is taken from OTL (and still happens to this day, even on this forum). Republican Rome is much less liked, with connotations of corruption and disorder.

@Evilprodigy: Yeah, those should’ve been mentioned. I was focusing on the things that’ve changed and those haven’t. With land in particular, the tax was designed to be based on not just the quantity, but also the quality and use of the land in question, so there was a de facto tier system at work there.

The potato is a new arrival.

@Israel_Dan the Man: Thank you. Check out the ‘Map-September 1634’ threadmark for the most recent and up-to-date map.

@Flavius Phocas: Thank you for that post. I don’t have anything to add.

@Babyrage: It’s a flat rate based on what category and tier the taxpayer is allocated. Progressive would be far too complicated at this point.

The Wu: The Wu state and civilization collapsed a little while back. It was on a downward spiral so those who could get out did, many ending up in Roman Singapore and they’re the ones who are going to really put the place on the map. But the exodus of those Wu is also a reason why those who remained collapsed so far; it’s really hard to maintain a literate society if the limited number of people who can read have all left.

@JohnSmith: Yeah, I’m planning for the rest of the 1600s to be much more relaxed and prosperous and less stressful from Rhomania then it’s been for the last few decades.

@aldonius: Land by itself is still a major concept of ‘value’ though at this time. Lots of rich merchants IOTL would turn their profits around and invest in land. The missing of land tax was a mistake on my part; they’re a pre-existing part of the tax structure with nothing changing in their regard during the Reorganization so I just plain forgot about them.

@Stark: I’m going to say a +50%, once the system is fully in place and running along. Being able to tax the dynatoi an extra 5-10% can go a long way.

@Hopeless Situation: The Maori are still enjoying their splendid isolation. The Wu were focused on the lands from which they came. Not really sure yet what I want to happen when contact is made. I like the idea of a Maori Despotate (so they get to keep the land), but the Romans would insist on dealing with one Maori Lord for the sake of simplicity. I’m not sure how feasible that is. Or a Maori Kingdom like the OTL Kingdom of Hawaii that is perhaps a satellite of Rhomania like Vlachia but still independent. But that’d require a Kamehameha-like figure to unify the area and I’m not sure about the plausibility.

@minifidel: Different strains would help a lot, and Rhomania definitely isn’t going to turn into a monocrop agriculture. Certain areas will definitely focus on particular crops though, but the Empire viewed as a whole will be very diverse.

@Wolttaire: That is a serious issue as Rhomania’s lands have been hosting agriculture literally for millennia at this point. Braudel in his study of the Mediterranean in the late 1500s talked a great deal about how that period marked the age where the Mediterranean really became dependent on northern grain shipments like rye exports from the Baltic.

@Curtain Jerker: Absolutely. The entire Mediterranean basin has that issue vis-à-vis northern Europe and Braudel talked a lot about that in his work (I really need to reread that; there was a lot of information there).

@Βοανηργές: There will be innovations although @Duke of Nova Scotia is far far far better qualified to discuss them than I am. I’m pretty much at the level of “something something potato good”.

@RogueTraderEnthusiast: Fertilizer’s not a hard concept, although at this stage it’s limited to ‘droppings from livestock’. I do plan for Romans to be pioneers in chemistry though.

@Vince: The world is more advanced ITTL than IOTL. I never said so explicitly in the TL itself; I can’t think of a way to do so without breaking the fourth wall. It was in one of the mass answers in response to some comment. But certain things that appeared IOTL are showing up earlier ITTL.

@Lascaris: Yeah, that’s how I’ve been trying to show it, things showing up a bit earlier. Some of the astronomical discoveries already mentioned are showing up a couple of decades earlier than OTL (Titan is already discovered, IOTL that happened in 1655). In an upcoming update, the TTL version of Boyle’s law will be formulated three decades earlier than IOTL.

@Duke of Nova Scotia: Personally, I think ducks aren’t all they’re quacked up to be…

…alright, for that one I am actually sorry.

I really enjoyed that. Thanks for writing it. It’s good to have someone who actually knows about agriculture writing about it. Otherwise it’d be more “potatoes…something…good”.

@Grammar Kaiser: Glad that was remembered. I must admit to the occasional urge to return that period and character with the greater level of detail the TL has gotten.

@dusan989: Thank you. Much appreciated.

The amounts are per post, as the idea was to encourage me to write more and a per-post works much better for that. But Patreon does have a way for patrons to setup a monthly cap so that you don’t pay any more than that per month, regardless of the number of posts.

I admit the Black Mountain really came out of nowhere; I didn’t lead up to that in the narrative. I’ve been picturing as somewhere between a de facto Despotate or a really close independent but effectively client state. So if in this analogy Serbia=Rhomania, the Black Mountain is somewhere between a Sicily and a Vlachia, with its exact placement dependent on Serbia’s strength at the moment.

The Serbian Church is an autocephalous archbishopric.

Naissus is a Roman border town with Serbia. If you drew a line connecting Pristina to Nis and then kept it going until you hit the modern Serbian-Bulgarian border, that’d be roughly the Roman-Serbian border ITTL.

Regarding Dalmatia & Istria, Demetrios III’s older sister Anna was married to the Duke of Verona and Padua, a Hungarian vassal. During the War of Mohacs, that area was conquered by the Lombards who were allied with the Romans. Dalmatia and Istria was created as compensation for her (the Romans ignored her husband). So she was a Duchess originally and remained as a Duchess.

Dubrovnik/Ragusa was originally a vassal state in its own right. It was lumped in with the rest of the Duchy of Dalmatia & Istria, but the city is recognized as a commune with a high degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the Duchess Anna Siderina.

@emperor joe: Perhaps… *evil laugh*
The Maori are still enjoying their splendid isolation. The Wu were focused on the lands from which they came. Not really sure yet what I want to happen when contact is made. I like the idea of a Maori Despotate (so they get to keep the land), but the Romans would insist on dealing with one Maori Lord for the sake of simplicity. I’m not sure how feasible that is. Or a Maori Kingdom like the OTL Kingdom of Hawaii that is perhaps a satellite of Rhomania like Vlachia but still independent. But that’d require a Kamehameha-like figure to unify the area and I’m not sure about the plausibility.
Re: the possibility of Maori unification, OTL after British colonization started up there was the Maori King movement (āori_King_Movement), which sought to establish a single monarch. OTL the British were concerned by this and worked to put the movement down, and not all the Maori recognized the king, but to this day there is still technically a Maori king of Aotearoa. If Rhoman colonizers were to support rather than work against a TTL equivalent to this movement, I could see it succeeding and establishing a Maori Despot.

Another possibility lies in the Musket Wars. OTL in the 1810s a Maori chieftain, Hongi Hika, journeyed to Australia and bought guns there. His return completely threw off the balance of power as his gun-armed troops overran several other Maori tribes until others began to procure firearms for themselves. TTL it might not be totally implausible to see whichever Maori chieftain gets guns first win on a larger scale and unite the islands.
Since the Wu were mentioned, how are the other Chinese states doing? Are they keeping parity with the Europeans? Are they more open for trade than the Chinese were IOTL?
Since the Wu were mentioned, how are the other Chinese states doing? Are they keeping parity with the Europeans? Are they more open for trade than the Chinese were IOTL?
I remember during the Time of Troubles, Andreas Angelos visited Tieh China on a trade mission. He preferred the Wu so I think Tieh China was the same as OTL Ming when it came to trade and I doubt the Zheng will be any better.
The Sideros Reorganization, Part 2
@Hopeless Situation: Thank you; that is most useful information. I think if there were already Roman colonizers in Aotearoa they’d react the same way as the OTL British; a united Maori are far more dangerous than separate chiefdoms.

But something like the Musket Wars seem promising. If Latins started poking around Aotearoa, the Romans would likely equip a pro-Roman chief in a bid to unite Aotearoa in exchange for kicking the Latins out and becoming a Roman Despot.

@Christian: China is doing better now that it’s been reunited under the Zeng. There is just starting to be a tech gap now. The Christians are more advanced in astronomy and making cannons (look at the OTL Jesuit missions to China; it’s similar to TTL), and the westerners are using flintlocks while the Chinese are still using matchlocks (IOTL European armies phased out matchlocks by the early 1700s while the Chinese kept using them until the mid-1800s). They are open to trade but not exactly the easiest to work with; think a somewhat looser version of the trade with China under the Qing.

@Albert Blake: A lot of that had to do with the Tieh rubbing Andreas Angelos the wrong way. Demanding a son of Andreas Niketas kowtow does not go over well.


Restructuring the Empire: The Sideros Reorganization, Part 2

While still merely the Eparch of Constantinople, Demetrios Sideros had instituted a sort of ‘city council’, where he and important civic officials met to discuss and debate important issues. This was certainly not unique to him but he regularized the meeting regimen to an unprecedented degree. He carried over the practice when he became Emperor, where again such things were usual but again he systematized the practice. Taking an unused study in the White Palace and furnishing it as a meeting room, the first of what is considered the ‘Imperial Cabinet’ meets only two months after Demetrios III’s accession. However the term ‘Cabinet’ is derived from Triune practice as a similar procedure had been implemented by Arthur II as part of the raft of reforms implemented after the defeat in the Second Rhine War.

The various positions at the beginning are as follows in order of prominence:

Patriarch of Constantinople.
Megas Logothete: Highest official in the Roman bureaucracy. Essentially a ‘Prime Minister’ but he is an appointed bureaucratic official by the Emperor.
Megas Domestikos: Highest-ranking soldier in the army.
Logothetes tou Dromou: Foreign Minister. (The Office of Barbarians is a sub-department.)
Logothetes tou Genikou: Finance Minister, also known as Megas Sakellarios.
Megas Kouaistor: The “Great Judge”. Functions both as a Minister of Justice and also the Attorney General for the Roman Government.
Megas Doux: Highest-ranking sailor in the navy.
Protasekretis: Head of the Imperial Chancery.
Eparch of Constantinople.

In 1636 a new member joins their number as part of the Sideros Reorganization, the Logothetes ton Sekreton. Demetrios had noticed how the Megas Logothete had not been able to both supervise all the various Kephales and also oversee the Logothetes who headed the government departments, especially given the vast expansion in the number of Kephales. There are, as of 1635, 171 Kephales and 4 Katepanoi that report directly to the Megas Logothete.

Prior to the War of the Five Emperors, each of the themes had a military leader, the Strategos, and a civilian leader, the Katepano. During said war, the various pretenders had rather easily suborned the various Katepanoi into supporting their cause. While they didn’t bring any troops, they brought the money that kept the troops happy and loyal to their strategos. Demetrios Megas, after winning said war, had disbanded the Katepanoi and replaced them with a system of smaller Kephales so that any prospective rebel strategos would have to track down multiple officials who could make themselves scarce, which in theory would make his job harder.

Helena I had kept that system in place, partly because by her day it was an old tradition and bureaucracy tend to keep those going. But also it was because she, like Demetrios Megas, had a great fear of rebelling strategoi, having grown up during the Time of Troubles. This remained even after the significant increase in the number of Kephales, increasing the strain immensely on the Megas Logothete.

Demetrios sees that this cannot continue. So in 1636 he effectively revives the old Laskarid system from the fourteenth century. A new official, the Mesazon, is instituted. He is a civilian administrator, a mid-level supervisor who oversees the various Kephales in a particular theme. So now the 171 Kephales report to one of twelve Mesazons, and the Mesazons all report to the Logothetes ton Sekreton, who reports to the Megas Logothete. Because of his sensitive position, the Eparch of Constantinople continues to answer directly to the Megas Logothete.

The reason the new officials are called Mesazons and not Katepanoi is that the latter term is now associated with the viceroys of ‘Rhomania in the East’. Because of their distance, Katepanoi both have civic and military authority, which is emphatically not to be the case in the Imperial heartland.

Demetrios III, while aware of the loyalty issues raised by both Demetrios I and Helena I, is not as concerned as they and he has his reasons. The Roman army of 1635 is radically different already from that of 1425 or 1550, unlike the civilian bureaucracy. It is now a professional standing army paid entirely in coin rather than a coin-land mixture, with an officer corps that goes through academy training and a professional staff organization courtesy of the War Room.

While one can raise questions about the effectiveness of the Drakid-era Roman army, it was certainly loyal. Parts did rebel under Andreas ‘III’ in the War of the Rivers and there was the concern with the Akoimetoi during the Night of the Tocsins, but those appear to be special cases involving individuals with exceptionally strong blood claims to the throne. While there were concerns that Leo Neokastrites might rebel with the eastern tagmata in support of one of Andreas III’s bastards by Maria of Agra in 1630, nothing materialized in that vein.

The military also undergoes some reforms as well. The first action, undertaken in early 1635, is straightforward, the installation of the Paramonai as the fifth guard tagma, comprised of the various foreign troops in the formation that are willing to stay and keep fighting for and getting paid by the Roman government. Odysseus Sideros stays on as its strategos.

The second is the removal of the School of War from Constantinople to new grounds near the prosperous town of Ainos on the Thracian Chersonese (Gallipoli Peninsula). This is something that had been recommended as far back as the early years of the Eternal War and the location had been selected and purchased as one of Andreas III’s earliest acts as Emperor.

The rationale is that it is believed that the cadets, all young men typically with a keen eye for the fancy and beautiful ladies of the capital, had focused more on dash and glamor rather than on brains. This is one explanation for the heavy casualties Roman officers took during the Eternal War, particularly at key points during the First Battle of Nineveh. It is expected that being near a small town with fishwives will sober them up and get them to concentrate on their studies.

Their studies are also changed, as the curriculum of the Drakid era is also blamed for Roman officers ‘having more bravery than brains’ in the words of Manuel Philanthropenos. Now bravery is still absolutely crucial and there is absolutely no tolerance for a cowardly officer, but bravery is far from the only virtue that when taken too far becomes a vice.

Unsurprisingly, the Drakid-era curriculum focused intensely on the military careers of Andreas Drakos and Giorgios Laskaris (despite the ‘issues’ at the end of the Time of Troubles, Helena to her dying day still referred to Giorgios as Uncle). They were both brave men who often fought near the front and paid the price in battle wounds. They were held up as an example for officers to behave. Andreas Niketas came in for a similar treatment.

But what had been missing was some very important context. Most of Andreas Drakos’ and Giorgios’ front-line fighting and battle wounds had come when they were junior officers, not tourmarches or strategoi. Furthermore, many times when they were in the front, rallying their men and risking injury or death, they’d been fighting fellow Romans or leading green troops or too-battered formations against usually numerically superior enemy forces. In those situations, morale was absolutely critical and everything needed to be done to stoke it. But at key moments, such as the Battle of Kotyaion, Andreas Drakos had been in the rear, overseeing and orchestrating the army as a whole, as had his senior officers.

Despite his reputation, Andreas Niketas had rarely been in the thick of the fighting. He was injured during the siege of Constantinople during the Smyrna War but he’d been a boy then. He’d been planning to do so to cover the retreat of the Roman army at Cannae, but during the battle as it unfolded he’d positioned himself in the rear to oversee the army, not in the front ranks. He’d refused to take cover during the bombardment, but there was a difference between that and being in the first rank in a charge at an enemy formation. The one time he had done so was at Edessa, when he led a surprise night attack on an Ottoman army that outnumbered him close to ten to one. That was certainly a special case.

So the ‘cult of courage’, as Philanthropenos described it, needed to be adjusted. As he said, ‘a Roman officer should taste powder, but not choke on it’. Leo Neokastrites had once criticized the defense of the Roman perimeter at the Battle of Dojama, where the cavalry commander had placed himself in the front rank. He’d been killed in the attack, which made his unrestrained men overextend themselves, giving Iskandar a perfect opening to counterattack and break the Roman perimeter. He should’ve been in the second rank, where he was still an example of courage to his men, but back enough he could direct the attack and not be an obvious target.

Andreas Niketas and Andreas Drakos would’ve put their officers in such a position, but the Drakid-era army, by looking at them through a flawed lens, ended up not emulating them. It’s been noted by many scholars, both then and now, that Roman strategoi of the Drakid era weren’t as impressive as the battle titans of the 1400s and early 1500s, and this is considered the cause by many.

The Sideros era sees a renewed focus on the tactics and strategies of their great captains, rather than just emphasizing their bravery. Andreas Drakos’ method of expelling the Ottomans from Anatolia is a widely studied area. Although he fought a major battle at Kotyaion, that’d been unintentional with his real target the Ottoman supply depot. Destroying that, he managed to throw the main Ottoman army out of Anatolia and inflict massive casualties, all without another major battle and minimal casualties of his own (excluding Kotyaion of course). That’s a far better example for Roman strategoi than the younger Andreas Drakos with his unfortunate tendency to get shot.

Another change is the reinstitution of frequent large-scale army exercises, which had been common during the Second Komnenid dynasty particularly. However during the Drakid era their frequency dropped markedly, partly because of the expense for a battered empire coming out of the Time of Troubles. The other, even more important, reason was that Helena I was suspicious of her strategoi and didn’t want to give them opportunities to practice and collude. Neither of those rationales apply anymore so Demetrios III reinstitutes the exercises on their schedule as put down by Andreas I’s training code of 1489.

During the ‘bulk-up’ of the Roman armies in 1632 and 1633, many of the officers needed to lead the formations had been given abbreviated training. While many served with skill and valor regardless, this did have a noticeable effect on overall quality. So many of the discharged officers from the war aren’t completely discharged but instead put on a reserve list. Those on the list still get half-pay with the understanding that they can be called up at any moment for whatever reason. This way an expanded army will have access to an expanded pool of trained officers.

This has been an occasional practice beforehand but the late 1630s are the first time it is standardized. It is also in addition to the older practice of kastron troops/officers. These are soldiers or officers who’ve already served their time but stayed on to garrison various Imperial fortresses, with the understanding that in wartime they may be used to bolster the field armies.

While as Eparch, Demetrios Sideros had instituted the first regular Constantinople police force, called tzaousiosi. The term derives from a Turkish word meaning courier or messenger, but eventually shifted over to those soldiers whose job was to keep order in the army, IE military police. The term was then used for those performing the same function in a civilian context.

Normally army troops or the Teicheiotai were used for such a purpose but Demetrios created a standing force distinct from those groups. The primary goal of the police is to keep order and stop crime in the city, and potentially defend the city against attack. The army and Teicheiotai’s priorities had been exactly the reverse.

Each Kephalate has a Kastrophylax who oversees any local kastra (distinct from Imperial kastra that are garrisoned by army kastron troops and commanded by army Kastrophylaxes), commands the militia, and helps to keep the peace, probably through the militia, conscripting men for temporary service, or calling on nearby regular troops. He has the authority to do that without committing treason. Often the Kastrophylax is a retired dekarchos.

However the militia-kastra setup for each Kephalate varies widely in terms of number and quality. The Kephalates of western Anatolia have token militias, so for serious instances men have to be conscripted, in which case they usually are bad and often resistant, or the army has to be used. In contrast, the allagions of North Syria are large and of very high quality, as they expect to immediately reinforce the regulars in the event of an Ottoman war.

Demetrios resolves to fix that by creating Tzaousios departments for each kephalate that shall function on the Constantinople model. It can be used for provincial defense but their primary purpose is to keep law and order. In many kephalates with weak allagions, those militias are disbanded although some members end up becoming tzaousiosi. In other kephalates that have powerful allagions, the allagions remain untouched with the tzaousiosi being added as a security force. Many discharged soldiers who have no inclination for farming join these new tzaousios departments and many half-pay officers take charge of these units as half-pay isn’t enough to support their lifestyle.

Although each department functions as a local constabulary, a new cabinet official, the Megas Tzaousios, is appointed who oversees all of the various departments.

There is some more reorganization relating to the tzaousios but this takes place in the shadows, unsurprisingly considering its nature. There had been confusion during the war between the division of responsibilities between the Ministry of Propaganda and the Empire’s Eyes, which was what had allowed the Constantinople newspapers to cause so much trouble.

To avoid that happening again, and to prevent any confusion with the new tzaousiosi cropping up, Demetrios delineates the responsibility of the four ‘security departments’. The Office of Barbarians is responsible for all espionage outside of the Empire, and so there is little question there.

The Ministry of Propaganda’s purview is in regards to anything being published inside the Empire. It issues the licenses all prospective publications need, censors them as required, and punishes those responsible for breaking the press laws.

The tzaousiosi are to function solely as a constabulary, keeping law and order amongst the populace. They can be called on to enforce the directives of the various security departments, but their brief is local.

The Empire’s Eyes is responsible for all internal espionage. They spy on all foreigners inside the Empire, including the ambassadors (they know it, and Roman ambassadors are watched in foreign capitals). They are also responsible for counter-intelligence as needed. They also keep an eye on the Roman populace itself, watching for threats or sedition. It is they who monitor the letters sent through the post and they who make up the secret police, whose brief is the whole Empire.
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Oh soon The Great Rhomania Empire will conquer the world...

Or at least take some more territory in the east so they can get a better defensive position.
Plus with all these reforms Rhomania will be the most powerful state in the world at this time, although they wouldn’t be able to project power out of the Mediterranean well.
When are they going to build the Suez Canal? I know we’re using the pharaohs canal but it isn’t big enough for warships to pass through.
So I wanted to wait for both parts to be done to comment. Have a few thoughts because these are pretty densely informative parts.

1. Rome will have lots of new money with this new taxation. Around 9million gold coins equivalent. I think it was mentioned earlier that the army/navy combo took about 16 of 18million hypera with 2 million left for EVERYTHING else. Even if Military takes half of this new money; primarily to the army as the navy has no major reason for a huge expansion; than the EVERYTHING ELSE portion of the budget goes up 250%. That more infrastructure, trade stations, influence buying, and perhaps most importantly Rhomania in the East. Rome will have a window where they will be able to flood the East with ships, men, and money and their peers will not be able to match.

2: The major powers for various reasons will have a lot of trouble instituting these same reforms even after they realize how beneficial it would be. Most obviously the nobility has been cowed in Rome to a far greater degree than anywhere else. Spain will be spending the next decade integrating Al-Andalus and trying to build a system where Muslims will hold considerable sway in a Catholic state. Germany is a mess. And the Triunes....first of all any reform will have to be passed by 3 different political structures: the French, English, and Irish. 2nd of all the Triunes will either be busy recovering from a defeat or working to integrate new hostile lands. Not a great time for major tax reform.

3: The the Roman Empire and its despotates except for one critical point...The Roman part isn’t France but England and how long will the English be happy with an increasingly French dominated government and decision making. Especially if the Triunes get some or all of the Low Country how thrilled will England be to see France, already the most powerful part of the Triunes, grow even more powerful. What was the point of winning the war if your enemy is the one who gets the most benefits. I think it will take just 1 monarch who is more Nero than Augustus and the whole thing will splinter.

4. Poor Ottomans so close to god but even closer to Rome. With these reforms Rome will likely be fielding a peacetime army of 110-125 thousand with the ability to ramp it up to 300k within a year. In addition the new training will increase the effectiveness massively especially in larger armies. Lots can go wrong but it will take a miracle for the Ottoman state to suffer anything less than catastrophic, permanently demeaning defeat. The Romans will take back the Trans-Arras lands and everything up to and including Mosul and do a thorough ethnic cleansing that will make Mosul and Damascus as Greek as Athens within a generation. It will be the end of the Ottomans as a peer power to Rome for at least 2 generations and likely permanently. They will still be powerful and still a threat but they will pass firmly from existential to regional threat.
Let's see the final showdown with the Ottomans soon! I want that moment for the Romans to contemplate how their great enemy has fallen. And then strike the deathblow!
Very ominous, ending the update with the mention of a secret police....

Let's see the final showdown with the Ottomans soon! I want that moment for the Romans to contemplate how their great enemy has fallen. And then strike the deathblow!
I agree, even two Iskanders won’t be enough for the Ottomans to beat the Roman juggernaut (+Georgians and Allies) gearing up to roll through Mesopotamia.
@Praetor98: The theme system, especially since the soldiers all got converted into solely cash-paid rather than land & coin-paid, has been moving towards a division structure. The war will move that process forward since many of the tagmata were expanded substantially during the war based on their theme’s capabilities. The result was tagmata varying widely in size with some such as the Thrakesian (close to 40,000 by itself) being unwieldly large. There will definitely be some redrawing of the theme borders soon to make the resulting tagmata more even and not so ridiculously large.
What about an idea for the Army Corps? Will the Romans develop it first or will someone else?

I agree, even two Iskanders won’t be enough for the Ottomans to beat the Roman juggernaut (+Georgians and Allies) gearing up to roll through Mesopotamia.
It will be glorious.
I imagine the Tzasiousi will also join the Office of the treasury in having a portrait of D3 up in their offices, this time as their founder.

Odysseus would do well to join these cabinet meetings to get a handle on administration too, although I imagine the Megas Logothete serves as the emperor's deputy and would take charge in any emergency? (something similar to the order of presidential succession in the US?)

Is there any imperative for the Katepanates in the East to adopt the most effective of the reforms like tax collection and the constabulary force?

Demetrios delineates the responsibility of the four ‘security departments’.
Now with these departments to keep intel flowing, it won't be long till Rhomania sees a need to develop their own special forces from the army or elsewhere to enforce the Emperor's will in peace and at war, conducting special warfare (in the vein of Delta Force and British Commandos)

Just inquiring - Has the entirety of the Imperial Navy and Tessarakontarioi has also switched to being paid with cash? (If so does the land of the Cibyrrhaeots fall under a theme?)

Naissus is a Roman border town with Serbia. If you drew a line connecting Pristina to Nis and then kept it going until you hit the modern Serbian-Bulgarian border
The last map for the thematic reorganizations didn't include this territory so does Naissus and OTL Kosovo & Serbia fall under the Macedonian or Bulgarian Themes? Perhaps a new one of its own including the Belgrade garrison is in the works?

P.s. Are there any Naval Reforms? (Admiralty structure, specialized naval academy)