An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Mazandaran, I totally forgot the garden of the empire, another rich province to extract wealth from, and close to the border.

I don't know about Oman having S. Iraq, that would push the Ottomans to going back to war for it, too turkish not to go back for it. N. Iraq they can suffer but the heart of Turkey? I am not so sure. The southern coast though, I could see Oman making claims for.
 
Southern Mesopotamia is completely untenable to hold. The comparison to Zanzibar and the Sawhili coast is not apt. Colonial territories such as those tend to have extremely light administration and interference in local affairs. The priority is to encourage trade and tax the ports. Contiguous territory is often fully incorporated administratively to the conquerer and thus comes with more government interaction to the conquered people. This creates resentment, especially if the taxation, conscription, education, and commercial policies are different which they often are. Also southern Mesopotamia boasts an absolutely massive population density. Demographic information for east africa is sparse before 1900 but Tanzania boasted 4 million and Kenya 2 million while 1964 Zanzibar Sultanate alone boasted 300,000. Take off 300 years and 90% of the territory and the Sawhili coast likely has a population of maybe 500,000-600,000 if I am being generous. More likely it was around half that, although records say 50,000 slaves, most likely imports from inland like every other African slave centre, went through the Zanzibar markets yearly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Southern Mesopotamia, being densely populated and agricultural and industrial based in economy rather than plantation and export based, likely has a population of between 1.5 and 2 million depending on where we place the border around central Mesopotamia. It's economy also necessitates land taxes, poll taxes, direct taxes, and other administrative machines to extract profits from the land and people. Most importantly it requires a large military garrison from Oman. Who had a bit less than 200,000 people in 1900. Yeah. Throw in today what we call the UAE for another 80,000 from 1916. It is completely untenable for Oman to control, with its pitiful manpower, a large swath of contiguous territory that out populates it and is much more wealthy economically both by a significant degree. Administratively light colonial tradeland with 1/10 the population though? Totally manageable.
 
@ImperatorAlexander: It would hurt a lot. Aside from its historical and cultural connotations to the Ottomans now, it is the wealthiest and most populous region in the Ottoman Empire. They’d still be a big empire but it’d be a serious punch.

@Hussar: Rhomania has an advantage that Syria isn’t as important to it as Mesopotamia is to the Ottomans, but that is a good point that Mesopotamia does soak up Roman attacks. Outside of the trans-Aras fighting in the Eternal War, Philanthropenos’ raid was the first serious Roman incursion past the Zagros.

@Cryostorm: Any former Georgian territory taken is going to go back to Tbilisi. Having Rhomania keep it has too much potential for causing trouble.

Mt Ararat is located in the trans-Aras lands that were conquered by Iskandar from Georgia during the Eternal War.

On Mesopotamia: Don’t really want to weigh in on this, partly because it’s a big discussion and I have limited time, and I also don’t want to give any spoilers.

@Albert Blake: Elizabeth is married to the Duke of Württemberg and was pregnant as of summer 1634 with her first child.

@Christian: It’s possible, although at this point in time an openly atheist Emperor would find themselves in hot water really quickly.

@TyranicusMaximus and @Imperial Inkstand-filler: It’s a balancing act. On the one hand, having the Romans always be good guys is unrealistic. People do horrible things to each other, sometimes for reasons that sound justifiable to them, but still horrible. Rhomania is an Empire, after all. But having said that, there’s only so far down the abyss I’m willing to go. But while what is happening in Syria ITTL is a ‘logical’ outcome, considering earlier TTL history, at the very least I can not sugar-coat it or try to justify it. Which is why I’m being very explicit when I describe the ethnic cleansing and straight-up genocide.

@Evilprodigy: Very interesting. I did not know that. What’s particularly intriguing is that this took place during the reign of Henry VI, of all English monarchs. I wonder if this was looked back upon for inspiration and/or precedent for the 1798 income tax.
 
The Sideros Reorganization, Part 3
Restructuring the Empire: The Sideros Reorganization, Part 3

These various reforms take time to implement and for the effects to be truly felt. It takes time to assemble the new tax rolls and assign officials, to organize departments and offices. While every initiative of the reorganization leaves Demetrios III’s desk at some time in 1636, the new system isn’t fully in place until shortly before his death.

The rest of the 1630s continues in the postwar economic slump. Aside from the lack of demand from the Roman government and army, trade with Western Europe is rather disrupted because of the war along the Rhine and the upheavals in central Europe. Some economists blame the new higher taxes on the rich for lessening civilian demand and thereby weakening the economy; the Roman government has consistently to this day viewed such arguments as tenuous at best and certainly self-interested. Many of the taxes end up going back out into the Roman economy anyway as the government invests and develops certain projects, some of which were proposed decades earlier but not made possible until the greater income made available by said higher taxes.

There are several economic initiatives that take place during this time that are significant, even though they do not bear fruit until the reign of Odysseus at the earliest. The most ambitious and definitely most significant is the Don-Volga canal. Roman war industries had relied heavily on Russian raw materials and a canal between the two great rivers would immensely ease transport of said materials.

After negotiations with Great Pronsk, Georgia, and Khazaria regarding the placement of the canal and the divvying of canal dues, construction begins in 1638. Construction takes fourteen years, involving an army of mostly Russian and Georgian laborers paid by Roman coin. (To compensate the Romans, it is agreed that all canal dues will accrue to the Romans for the first thirty years of operation, after which Great Pronsk, Georgia, and Khazaria shall each receive one third.)

When finally completed after significant expense of coin and blood (prisoners were given labor sentences here, including seven thousand Allied POWs, of which at least three thousand died during construction), the Don-Volga canal is an immediate boon. More Russian raw materials are available for Roman industries, enabling them to expand production. This lowers the cost, but this makes said products more available to the Roman populace, the growing demand making up for the lower price of each individual piece.

This also spurs Roman investment in Siberian development, the canal’s completion considered the point where Siberia really begins to take off. Roman capital provides the means to improve infrastructure, the goal of which is to make it easier for Siberian materials to make it to Roman workshops. But this makes it easier for the growing Russian populace to emigrate eastward, providing the manpower to develop Siberian industry.

Another canal proposed in the late 1630s is a Corinthian canal. Unlike the Don-Volga canal which seems like a great idea to everyone, this one is contentious. Monemvasia, the Gibraltar of the East, the second most populous town in the Helladic theme after Corinth itself, has spread out far beyond the Rock that was the medieval town. Aside from the great causeway connecting the island to the mainland, substantial work was done during the Flowering to expand and secure harbor facilities.

The port that exports most of the Empire’s malmsey wine, one of the Empire’s most successful trade goods in Latin Europe, the Monemvasiots make up a disproportionately large portion of the Empire’s merchant marine. Also as the only town of the Peloponnesus to never fall under Latin rule, they have a certain moral clout. Aside from Malmsey and other local exports, Monemvasia’s harbors are a common port of call for merchant vessels entering or exiting the Aegean or ships moving from the central to eastern Mediterranean or vice versa. As a result, the Monemvasiots are very concerned that a Corinthian canal would seriously damage their business, their lobbying killing the proposal.

While not as visually impressive or historically significant in their own right, there are several other infrastructure projects that get started up in the late 1630s. There had been such works back during the Flowering but the expenses of war starting in the 1590s had sucked up the needed revenue. With the tax reform that is not such an issue. Also the work projects are a way to provide jobs for dismissed soldiers as well as civilians and refugees whose livelihoods have been destroyed at some point.

Most of the work involves drainage of swamps and lakes, the largest being at Lake Askania at Nicaea, Lake Copais in Boeotia, and Lake Giannitsa in Lower Macedonia. None of the lakes are completely drained away at this time, although eventually the latter two are completely drained. Lake Askania remains to this day as one of the major lakes of western Anatolia. The reasons for these projects are to produce more arable land, reduce flooding risks, and destroy unhealthy swamps.

Also during 1634 an army engineer, part of the army under Amirales’ command, had been given a brief leave and had spent it exploring Attica. On his last day before heading back to his post, he explored the remains of the ancient mines of Laurium. Three years later he comes back with a team to start setting up mining operations again; there are still ores here.

By the end of Demetrios III Sideros’ reign, the mines are producing lead in quantity with a smaller production of silver. It provides a substantial boost to the local economy, particularly Athens as Piraeus is where the ores are usually shipped out. This is what provides the push that soon elevates Athens to the second city of Hellas (after Corinth), passing Monemvasia which lacks the space to grow, unlike the ancient city of Theseus. [1] To pump water out of the mineshafts, two primitive steam pumps are used, Spanish inventions that initially require Spanish artisans to build and operate the devices.

However modern Athenians proud of this turn of events are less pleased to find out that much of the lead ends being an ingredient in various products of the Roman cosmetic industry, with rather unhealthy effects on many Romans.

Historians love to divvy up histories into distinct periods. It is crucial for organizing things but such labels are usually meaningless when viewed from the ground. No one woke up and realized that they were out of the early modern and were now in the mid-modern (the period defined as extending from the War of the Roman Succession to when the Industrial Revolution is considered to have fully arrived).

Many of the Romans easily could not have noticed the Sideros Reorganization. Their daily lives had changed little. The rates may be altered somewhat and the officials sporting different titles and badges, but they were still census officials and tax collectors. For the Paroikoi, which still made up the vast bulk of the population, dwarfing the other three categories, their lives went on much as before.

That is because the Roman government, for all its capabilities, was still an early-seventeenth-century government. Its reach fell far short from what would be expected by a modern Roman citizen. Villagers had relatively few interactions with government officials, save for the tax collectors and the circuit kouaistor, and in regards to the latter villagers preferred to settle cases amongst themselves if possible.

Those Romans in towns and cities were a different story, but it is estimated that in 1635 slightly less than 30% of Romans dwelled in a settlement 2000 strong or more. It was a different story with the Orthodox Church as every village had a local priest. Aside from his religious duties, he was often called upon to mediate disputes and represent the village to Imperial officials.

Some villages are effectively owned by monasteries as they own all the land of the village, the inhabitants all tenants of the monasteries. In those cases the monks govern the village although the tenants have the right of appeal to the Kephale. When monasteries attempt to block said appeal, and they have, the government usually, but not always, comes down hard on the monks.

Other villagers are owned by dynatoi, great landowners who control the entire area. These are fairly rare by 1635, far less common than the monastic villages. While many dynatoi have large landholdings, these are usually in central Anatolia where the landscape is dominated by pastoralists. The landlord in these cases also governs the village, although with the tenants also having the right of appeal to the Kephale. The government takes an even dimmer view of dynatoi blocking appeals than they do monasteries.

Tenant farmers have to pay rent to their landlords, either in money, goods, or labor or a mix thereof. In this situation, the government taxes the farmers still but removed what they pay in rent from their taxable income. But they then turn around and tax the landlord, adding the rents to his taxable income. This works out better for monastic landlords because as a church institution, their tax rate is lower.

With the new differential taxation setup, this actually benefits the Roman government as the dynatos gets taxed at a higher rate than any of the individual paroikoi. Naturally there is a lot of pushback for this, but aside from the Roman army itself the tax collectors can call upon the new tzaousiosi. In past generations it was hard for the central government to enforce taxes on dynatoi landlords as said dynatoi were the officer corps of the army. With the School of War supplying that need, the dynatoi no longer have that leverage.

There are also farmers who are directly tenants of the state, working government lands. For taxation purposes they are treated as freeholders. While they are encouraged to improve the land with tax exemptions, they aren’t allowed to alienate or divide their holdings, and often held to a contract to work the land for a specified number of years.

The majority of the villages are freeholders however, governing themselves directly. The interest of the Roman government certainly extends to the villages, ensuring taxation and recruitment are unimpeded and protecting trade, law, and order. But in internal affairs, the government usually stays out unless asked. While the Roman Empire is highly bureaucratized by the standards of the early 17th century, it is still far short of what would be expected of a modern state.

Rhomania is an autocracy, the Emperor an absolute monarch. Now the theory doesn’t always fit the facts, as the personality of monarchs vary and the Imperial bureaucracy is always a major player. But as a general rule, that statement typically holds up.

But at the local level, Roman society can be surprisingly democratic. Villages are typically governed by some sort of village council, elected by voters. While the specific criteria vary from village to village and region to region, usually each landowner has a vote and elects a certain number of landowners to the council. There are always property requirements for voters and sometimes higher ones for council members. Sometimes women are allowed to vote if they have enough land in their own name, although none seem to have been allowed to serve on council. The number of councilors and length of service vary widely.

While republics conjure up images of Venice in the Roman psyche, the Roman government doesn’t seem to be bothered one bit by these arrangements. For the most part, the councils keep order inside the villages, with the village priest, circuit kouaistor, or Kephale stepping in if called upon. This saves the Roman government a lot of administrative costs. The councils too often act as representatives of the village and intermediaries with the government, for example in requests for tax exemptions due to a disaster or to petition for infrastructural development.

The allocation of taxes is often done with the input of the council, a setup that while decreasing administrative costs certainly opens up possibilities of corruption. Ideally if councilors are directing taxes away from themselves onto their neighbors, the neighbors can appeal to the government. Circuit kouaistors make annual rounds throughout the district, with the goal that justice will be easily available to all Romans. That said, no system is perfect and the goal is certainly more feasible in the more densely populated themes.

In the towns and cities, the grip of the Roman government is tighter with officials appointed directly by Constantinople. But there are exemptions. Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Antioch, Nicaea, and Trebizond all have communes, city councils elected in a similar fashion to those of the villages although with wealth rather than land as the qualifier. Certain positions and duties are filled by them rather than the Kephale, with the right to levy some taxes on city-dwellers to support those activities. Many other towns and cities have elected councils that act as advisory boards to the governmental officials, with the right to appoint minor town officers such as fire marshals and town clerks. In settlements that are the residence of the Kephale, the Kephale or his Prokathemenos preside over the council, including the commune cities.

This was all in effect before the Sideros Reorganization and continues afterwards. But the growing number of Roman officials means that there is steadily growing contact between the countryside and officialdom. On the one side is a somewhat democratic (if one is a landowner) system, on the other a (in theory) meritocratic bureaucracy where placement requires education and passing exams, both overseen by the Emperor. The intermingling of these two strands is the history of modern Roman political theory.

[1] Credit to @Lascaris for the drainage and mine suggestions.
 
This was all in effect before the Sideros Reorganization and continues afterwards. But the growing number of Roman officials means that there is steadily growing contact between the countryside and officialdom. On the one side is a somewhat democratic (if one is a landowner) system, on the other a (in theory) meritocratic bureaucracy where placement requires education and passing exams, both overseen by the Emperor. The intermingling of these two strands is the history of modern Roman political theory.

[1] Credit to @Lascaris for the drainage and mine suggestions.
Monemvasia strikes me as being in the position of the three "naval islands" of Hydra, Spetsai and Psara a century or two later in OTL. All three developed large merchant fleets, with several hundred ships between the three of them, that played a pivotal role in the Greek war of independence but afterwards Piraeus ended up the first commercial harbour of Greece as both Hydra and Spetsai were just too small. To a degree this just meant that the ship owners just moved shop to Piraeus. I suspect something similar will be happening here.

Athens in general has all potential to rise exponentially given an original boost which the Laurion mines give it in abundance. Excellent location, multiple excellent and huge physical harbours, good climate even lots of agricultural potential with olive oil as the main product in most of Attica. Plus to add to the fun some... existing infrastructure, Hadrian's aqueduct still operates and can cover the needs of a city of up to 100,000 or so, it did till the early 20th century after all. Now hopefully Athens ends up a bit smaller than OTL in the long run, say around a couple million people but it will grow to a major city again.
 
Do you think Oman might be a good contender to unite Arabia?
The comparison to Zanzibar and the Sawhili coast is not apt. Colonial territories such as those tend to have extremely light administration and interference in local affairs. The priority is to encourage trade and tax the ports. Contiguous territory is often fully incorporated administratively to the conquerer and thus comes with more government interaction to the conquered people. This creates resentment, especially if the taxation, conscription, education, and commercial policies are different which they often are.
It really depends on those policies and rulers then don't they? In my amateurish opinion, Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast was seen as quite an integral part of Oman, enough for Sultan Said to move his capital there.

Also southern Mesopotamia boasts an absolutely massive population density.......Administratively light colonial tradeland with 1/10 the population though? Totally manageable.
The Mongols and Manchus would like a word
 
It really depends on those policies and rulers then don't they? In my amateurish opinion, Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast was seen as quite an integral part of Oman, enough for Sultan Said to move his capital there.


The Mongols and Manchus would like a word
Yes the Sawhili coast became as such but the sultans did not relocate until a century or so iirc after they got it.

As for the Mongols and Manchus the historic precedent is that one small countries with low populations, especially nomatic ones, conquer countries significantly larger than them they invariably fall apart catastrophically. The relatively few success stories almost exclusively hinge on the 'China conquers conquerors' adage as the small country simply ends up supplanting the ruling class as opposed to incorporating what they have conquered as an extension of their homeland. They often end up ruling from within such as the Manchus at Beijing, the Franks at Aachen and Paris, the Mughals at Delhi or Fatephur Sikri, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates at Damascus or Baghdad, and more. Should Omani take southern Mesopotamia it would not be fair to continue calling it Oman anymore, would more likely be a Persian Gulf State.
 
Yes the Sawhili coast became as such but the sultans did not relocate until a century or so iirc after they got it.

As for the Mongols and Manchus the historic precedent is that one small countries with low populations, especially nomatic ones, conquer countries significantly larger than them they invariably fall apart catastrophically. The relatively few success stories almost exclusively hinge on the 'China conquers conquerors' adage as the small country simply ends up supplanting the ruling class as opposed to incorporating what they have conquered as an extension of their homeland. They often end up ruling from within such as the Manchus at Beijing, the Franks at Aachen and Paris, the Mughals at Delhi or Fatephur Sikri, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates at Damascus or Baghdad, and more. Should Omani take southern Mesopotamia it would not be fair to continue calling it Oman anymore, would more likely be a Persian Gulf State.
That isn't a problem though, that'd actually be really interesting to see, with Oman being a Persian Gulf State (I mean, it is today). It'd also be really interesting to see a unified Omani-Persian hybrid "Gulf" culture that is distinct from Arabia and Persia.

I think it would likely still call itself Oman at any rate, short of genuinely adopting a new institutional system. If there was a revolution that took it all, I'd expect it to be focused on a Gulf identity in the long term, rather than strictly S.Mesopotamian.
 
When did Rhomania first get in contact with Siberia? I thought at first that Basileus444 just made a typo and meant Serbia, but I looked again and that was not the case.
 
When did Rhomania first get in contact with Siberia? I thought at first that Basileus444 just made a typo and meant Serbia, but I looked again and that was not the case.
They are in contact through the Russian states. I dunno when they first contacted but they probably knew about it for a while but only recently began to care about it.
 
That isn't a problem though, that'd actually be really interesting to see, with Oman being a Persian Gulf State (I mean, it is today). It'd also be really interesting to see a unified Omani-Persian hybrid "Gulf" culture that is distinct from Arabia and Persia.

I think it would likely still call itself Oman at any rate, short of genuinely adopting a new institutional system. If there was a revolution that took it all, I'd expect it to be focused on a Gulf identity in the long term, rather than strictly S.Mesopotamian.
It would be very interesting to see but it wouldn't be Oman and the state would very much be a Shia/Sunni Gulf, Marsh, and Iraqi Arab state that happens to control an Ibadi Omani territory. Neither group would get along particularly well and it wouldn't be very stable until that incredibly hurdle is overcome. And a tiny population of religiously, economically, and culturally different (although not linguistically) ruling class trying to assert authority over the rest is only going to cause problems without mass systemic changes.

It could work, and wouldn't be that bad of an idea if we look from a purely objective and local choice, but no Omani Sultan is going to want to put forward this effort. Oman itself already has two separate cultural and political identities between the maritime, mercantile, and urban Sultanate of Muscat along the coast and the interior, shepherding, nomadic, and rural Imamate of Oman whose factionalism defines Omani politics in friction between monarchy with absolute central authority and theocracy with decentralized authority of governors and religious supremacy. Any effort by the Sultan to adopt more Shia or Sunni schools of Islamic Jurisprudence or even attempt at incorporating those new territories with anything short of Safavid-style religious tyranny is going to cost him the valuable support base in Oman proper that elects their leader and so need to be placated to a greater extent than an absolute monarch normally would need to. And that's only following OTL development. ITTL it could entirely be the case, because I do not remember, that Oman didn't have the split in power that made the Sultanate (which was due to Portuguese colonization) and instead only has the Imamate. That would make them even less willing to cooperate with non-Ibadi Arabs and characterize their rule as certainly more Safavid than it would Manchu, which would make the state not at all stable even if the Imam was willing to take this territory which I don't think he would given their economic and political interests lie in Indian Ocean trade routes and only to a secondary extent the Persian Gulf. Or the particular character of the Imam would see them completely gung ho to expand in Arabia, it's up in the air honestly and could entirely depend on what the Imam is like for both if they would accept the territory and what sort of policies they would enact. I personally think it is more likely they would not want to be tied down administering this territory and, if they did, would most likely be incapable of holding it due to demographic concerns, geography, and the most likely character of the Imam and his government.
 
It sounds like the Roman model of ruler aligns very closely with Enlightened Absolutism, except being much earlier and not needing the Enlightenment.

A long history of social works and welfare, and now differential taxation.

It may not be as easily replicated in the other great powers. For all the progress that’s been made in the Triple Monarchy and the HRE they still retain distinctly Feudal characteristics and it’s now the 17th century.
Will the 3rd Rhine war escalate into something that truly uproots the social fabric of Central and Western Europe? The author has definitely sowed some hints.
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
Significantly lower odds of a moron with obscene delusions of grandeur and a claim on the Roman throne becoming Holy Roman Emperor.
So, the fall of the House of Wittelsbach is averted.
The House of Wittelsbach might not completely fall since Elizabeth has a good chance of becoming the Maria-Theresa where her and her husband's house combine. Even with the loss of Austria her heir will have a very strong base in southern and north-eastern Germany.
 
The House of Wittelsbach might not completely fall since Elizabeth has a good chance of becoming the Maria-Theresa where her and her husband's house combine. Even with the loss of Austria her heir will have a very strong base in southern and north-eastern Germany.
At worst it will revert back the being the rulers of Bavaria only, at best it will lose the imperial crown for a generation or two as the HRE recovers economically and militarily.
 
The House of Wittelsbach might not completely fall since Elizabeth has a good chance of becoming the Maria-Theresa where her and her husband's house combine. Even with the loss of Austria her heir will have a very strong base in southern and north-eastern Germany.
Good points, but how stable would Elizabeth inheriting all the Wittelsbach territory be? There’s no pragmatic sanction TTL and a female Wittelsbach heir having her territories snatched from her was the whole cause of the Brother’s War.

Presumably all her future children will be of her Husband’s house so they’d be as much a Wittelsbach as she is a Drakos.

If the Wittelsbach territories remain intact (minus Austria) it’d still be powerful enough to challenge the rest of the Empire if given time to recover (especially if the Triunes gobble up the western third). Some sort of sundering will happen.
 
Good points, but how stable would Elizabeth inheriting all the Wittelsbach territory be? There’s no pragmatic sanction TTL and a female Wittelsbach heir having her territories snatched from her was the whole cause of the Brother’s War.

Presumably all her future children will be of her Husband’s house so they’d be as much a Wittelsbach as she is a Drakos.

If the Wittelsbach territories remain intact (minus Austria) it’d still be powerful enough to challenge the rest of the Empire if given time to recover (especially if the Triunes gobble up the western third). Some sort of sundering will happen.
The English will bolt like hellcats if France gains the Rhineland. If they make it another kingdom then maybe they’ll stay. France is dominant enough as it is in the UK.
 
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