An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Pity, although after the second sack of Cairo you’d think they would have given the new city a more badass name to try and make up for it.

If I remember correctly, the influx of Nile Germans in the area led to Cairo being (informally at least) renamed Marienburg am Nil.
If I remember correctly, the influx of Nile Germans in the area led to Cairo being (informally at least) renamed Marienburg am Nil.

I'm quite curious as to how the Nile Germans and other immigrant communities fare post war. We saw James Bond as quite loyal, but I'd love to see some of the Nile Germans become significant power players soon. Perhaps military, or perhaps economic. There has to be some interesting changes they've introduced, perhaps around the Rathaus crossed with the Caravanserai.


Monthly Donor
Hey Basileus444, how is the general situation with Ethiopia? What does their demographics, administration, economy, and military look like compared to the other great powers as well as their neighbors. For that matter what is the general situation in Africa as a whole?
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@Βοανηργές: The Khazars are just now reaching the Pacific Ocean, and definitely not in force. I really like the idea of a bigger and longer-lasting Russian Orthodox Alaska.

Bahrein is an island so getting a land connection to it isn’t really a priority of the Omani, although they wouldn’t turn it down if it came cheap.

The Magna Carta is important to Englishmen who think the monarchy is getting a little too…French.

@HanEmpire: I admit I flaked and forgot for a moment Alexandria had been turned into a Roman enclave in Egypt. Alexandria is currently #6 on Roman cities, Nicaea being #5. I figure modern Rhomania’s top ten will be Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Antioch, Alexandria, and Smyrna being the 1-5 with Nicaea, Corinth, Athens, Trebizond, and Dyrrachion being 6-10 (not necessarily in that order).

Egypt and capitals: Tanta is the current Despotic capital of Egypt. I suppose it’s possible they could found a new city, although I’m not sure where. Although I’d think it would have a Coptic, not a Greek name, considering it would be a Coptic city. They might name it after Demetrios or Andreas, but that would be the Katepano Demetrios, the Coptophile son of Andreas Niketas, or his son Andreas the first Despot.

Cairo’s unofficial, and soon to be official name, is Marienburg am Nil.

@RogueTraderEnthusiast: The Nile Germans are already a prominent player in Egypt; they filled 10% of the Egyptian tourmai during the Great Latin War.

@Cryostorm: Ethiopia is way bigger than its local African neighbors, most of which aren’t even states in the modern sense. By African standards Ethiopia is enormous, but its population is widely spread out with rugged terrain and underdeveloped infrastructure with a few exceptions. A major change from OTL is that the Oromo are much further south ITTL; their northern migrations didn’t happen because of the stronger Amharic Ethiopian state.

The Ethiopian Emperor is still literally ‘King of Kings’ with a large chunk of the Ethiopian Empire being ruled by vassal kings who serve Gonder as their feudal lord. The ‘Imperial domain’ of the Negus though has grown substantially in the past few decades and is the most developed and populous of the kingdoms by far.

There’s improved roads between Gonder, Axum, and the coastal ports, but much of Ethiopia is still difficult to access (hence the vassal kings who control the periphery of the Empire). Barter is still common and slavery is extremely common, especially with large kaffos plantations. There is a growing middle class making money via trade in the Indian Ocean and especially with Rhomania. Gonder is one of the great cities of Africa and Ethiopians produce most goods they need and want, but the wealthy still like to buy Roman ‘for the quality’.

The Ethiopian army is geared much more for whacking pastoral nomads than set-piece battles, as that’s a bigger security concern.
The Era of Mad Geniuses
The Era of Mad Geniuses: The Historic-Romantic Era at its height

The 1630s and 1640s are best well known today for their rather destructive and constructive activities in the military and political spheres. That is largely because those come with a cast of characters still vividly remembered today such as Theodor the Digger and Elizabeth the Unbowed, Archbishop Bone Breaker and Henri the Spider, the Raven King and the Comet. In terms of historical works, fiction or not, regardless of medium, these figures and others remain some of the most popularly known in society across the entirety of the Greater West. [1]

But creativity and vibrancy was not restricted just to the military and political spheres. The era held many substantial feats in both cultural and scientific achievements, to the point it is sometimes jokingly called ‘the era of Mad Geniuses’.

That is an unofficial, although more entertaining, label for the age which falls under the umbrella of the Historic-Romantic period. Like most historical epochs, there is constant debate over when exactly it began and ended, or what it actually meant. But unusually for historians, most agree that the height of the Historic-Romantic was the 1630s and 1640s.

One of the more common starting points for the Historic-Romantic is 1618, when construction work for a Sicilian villa unearthed what turned out to be the ruins of Pompeii. The news shot across the Greater West, being spoken about in Norway and Ethiopia by 1620. The earliest, and very primitive by later standards, excavations began in 1627, the workmen overseen by two teams of antiquarian scholars, one from the University of Bari and the other from the University of Constantinople.

The digs greatly interested then Eparch Demetrios Sideros. Sometimes he has been called the ‘father of archaeology’, although such a claim is rather tenuous. The inspiration seems to have come from his youthful explorations of the ruins of Troy while serving as Prokathemenos of the Kephalate of Skammandros. These were hardly systematic studies, and while he followed the early Pompeii digs, he wasn’t involved in any way.

The late 1630s are when the budding discipline of archaeology really begins to move. The Great Latin War obviously halted studies but in 1637 a new and larger team starts exploring. Andronikos Andreatos, who’d been part of the earlier team, is the one who discovers and starts the practice of using plaster to fill in the holes in the ash layers that contained human remains, creating the famous Pompeii casts showing the bodies of those who died in the destruction.

At the same time, the Rosetta stone, discovered by Egyptian soldiers during the war, is being examined in Constantinople with the hopes of translating the mysterious and now lost written language of ancient Egypt. This takes much longer to bear fruit, with many scholars trying their luck but none succeeding until 1649.

Many have argued that 1618 is too late for the start of the Historic-Romantic, arguing for 1612 when Krikor Zakari published his The Movement of the Celestial Spheres, which outlined the three laws of planetary motion. Or even earlier, such as 1604, with Bille’s supernova, the massive celestial explosion studied by the Danish astronomer Eske Bille that was visible during the day for three weeks. The supernova appeared less than a fortnight after the wedding of Demetrios and Jahzara, which was supposedly interpreted as an omen, but there does not appear to have been any connection drawn between the two events until after Demetrios’ accession.

Some even go as far back as 1572, with the supernova studied by the Portuguese Mem de Sá, the last great naked-eye astronomer and the so-called “Father of Empiricism”, but the 1604 date is more popular given it was viewed through Eske’s dalnovzor at his Scanian observatory.

It is a great age of astronomical discovery, from sunspots to Saturn’s rings. The geocentric view of the universe comes under increasing attack, much to the dismay of the Catholic Churches of both Rome and Avignon. While discussions of a heliocentric ‘Menshikovian’ system are fine as hypotheses, and may even be used as an aid for astronomical calculations, their presentation as facts are viewed as contrary to scripture and the idea of the perfection of heaven. Heavenly bodies like the sun are, unlike the earth, supposed to be perfect, meaning no spots.

It doesn’t help that the model was proposed by a heretic Russian. Certainly many clerics in both churches are far less doctrinaire than their leadership, some patronizing or even participating in the new studies of the heavens with their ever-more-powerful dalnovzors. However to this day both the Orthodox and Bohmanist Churches, who have far less qualms with the new astronomical theories, are rather smug vis-à-vis the Catholics regarding this.

The Triunes prove themselves to be quite accomplished in the caliber and number of their geniuses. The Academy of Sciences, opening in King’s Harbor in the 1620s, provides an excellent venue for Triune scholars to meet and discuss research and discoveries, encouraging more of the same. An Academic Journal, which starts publishing yearly in 1634, publicizes the most significant discoveries.

And many of those discoveries are most significant. The discovery that white light is actually a multicolored spectrum, the development of calculus, and the formulation of the laws of universal gravitation and laws of motion are all products of the Academy from 1630-1645. While in modern physics, the rule is ‘publish in Greek or perish’, the Triunes uncontestably dominate the early days of the field.

More discoveries come from the earliest microscopes, invented in Caen in 1630, used to study plant, animal, and even human tissue in unprecedented detail. The earliest microscopes lack the magnification to display microorganisms, but the second generation that start being produced from workshops in Normandy and Flanders in the late 1650s do have the capability.

Roman scholars have their own claims to fame regarding the natural sciences during this period. Roman soldiers during the Great Latin War also end up unearthing some of the first bones identified as ‘terrible lizards’, dinosaurs. Like archaeology at Pompeii, the first probes into this field of study are extremely crude by later standards, but they mark the beginning of greater things. The fossils that end up making their way to Constantinople are mainly from the Egyptian discoveries, but there are some other bones taken from China and Portugal that had ended up in dynatoi’s ‘cabinets of curiosities’. A few more are actually captured in North Terranova in raids on the Triune colonies, where local digs had unearthed these mysterious bones.

Dinosaurs end up taking off quickly in Roman imagination due to Kaisar Odysseus. When the bones were assembled for viewing by the Imperial family, he then took up his painting canvas and brushes and created images of what he imagined these beasts would have appeared alive. These works are justly famous and captured minds across the Greater West, paintings of powerful muscled beasts, covered in scales, some with tales as thick as ship’s mainmasts, but with the power to use them as whips against foes. Or others with mighty tail spikes as big as a man’s thighs, or yet others with simple yet massive claws and teeth. And all with eyes of alien yet powerful intellect, the leviathans of ancient days, the Behemoth of the Book of Job.

These images have stuck in the Roman psyche literally for centuries. Odysseus did not know of the myriad of species discovered in later decades, most of which were not known until the 1800s, but when one watches the Jurassic Empire series, one sees the dinosaurs as he imagined them on the silver screen.

People are not just looking up at the sky or into the ground, but also across the earth. New information about far flung plants, animals, peoples, and nations is growing more available and detailed. The Triunes, Arletians, and Spaniards all have interest in developing catalogues of information about their Terranovan holdings. The Romans, with their intense interest and desire to make an ‘Encyclopedia of the East’, surpass them in scale, but not in principle.

If one is discussing mad geniuses of this age, one cannot forget Demetrios III Sideros. Aside from his numerous historical works, he is also the ‘father of science fiction’, a title he definitely deserves. His work, A New and Ancient World: An Account of the First Expedition of Men to the Moon, only comes out after his death, with the rumor that he finished it on the evening of the day before he died.

A New and Ancient World is definitely a product of its age, incorporating the new discoveries in astronomy, paleontology, and archaeology, creating a world of ancient beings and beasts upon another world. The science by today’s standard is certainly laughable, but that is a common feature of science fiction anyway, and modern retellings often just relocate the action to Mars or later some exoplanet.

The Sweet Waters of Asia complex plays a major role in developing agricultural knowledge, with some correspondence between the wardens there and the managers of the great Lotharingian botanical gardens. The latter house specimens gathered from all the various lands to which Lotharingian merchants sail. With easy access to early microscopes, the Lotharingians help to produce sketches of unprecedented detail of plant forms, with immense catalogs detailing the characteristics of their collections.

Alchemy is an ancient subject and it is at this time that it is typically regarded as transitioning into the modern field of chemistry. The first formulation (although with antecedents going back to Aristotle) of what is recognized as the scientific method, emphasizing careful observation, skepticism, and experimentation, appeared in 1599 from the pen of Mem de Sá on his deathbed.

Demetrios Manuskkathas, a professor of philosophy at the University of Constantinople, popularizes the concept with his detailed studies of gases conducted in the late 1630s and early 1640s. The word ‘gas’, as opposed to ‘air’, is his invention. Manuskkathas’ Law, describing the inverse relation of pressure and volume of gases, is a basic of modern chemistry. He argues against the idea of the four elements of matter, earth, fire, air, and water, instead advocating an ‘atomic system of matter’. In all his studies, he insists on the need for repeated experiment before asserting a statement is true.

Manuskkathas establishes a tradition of prominent Roman chemists which continues to this day. The early start is greatly aided by research into dyes and acids and bleaches, inspired by the importance of the Roman textile industry. Some of the greatest of the textile magnates, who made a lot of hyperpyra providing clothing for the Roman armies in the Great Latin War, are keen to invest those profits in ways to both improve and cheapen their products to boost sales, particularly after the collapse of governmental demand.

Although not helpful in terms of making clothes, the first major fruit of Roman chemistry is the barometer, invented by Andreas Tzimplos of Sinope in 1635, who also argued that air had weight. Later, after learning of Manuskkathas’ Law, he took barometric readings at sea level and then had his friend, the archimandrite of the Sumela monastery, take readings at his monastery nestled in the cliffs 1200 meters up. The experiment proved that air pressure decreases with altitude.

In large part due to lobbying from Manuskkathas and other scholars, one of the last acts of Demetrios III’s reign is a substantial change to Roman curriculum, largely unchanged since the Laskarid university structure fully formed out during the reign of Anna I Laskarina. Since those days, three hundred years past, Roman universities have offered degrees in law, philosophy (including basic scientific and historical components), medicine, mathematics (including engineering components), astronomy, and music. Philosophy is now broken up into history and natural philosophy (science), with natural philosophy later divided into the life sciences (the study of anything alive or once alive) and the earth sciences (the study of all non-life phenomena with the exception of astronomy). These of course are later subdivided more as various modern fields appear in their own right, but the march begins here.

It is an age of discovery, and people living in that era, at least those educated with access to the new founts of knowledge (and it must be pointed out that that is a small fraction of all those alive), know it. Perhaps that is what gives the era its undeniable drive. There is a spirit of new knowledge, new worlds, new powers.

Yet as people look forward, they also look back. As they seek to remake the world, they view earlier worlds for their templates. Theodor sought to create a new world, a new empire, under his banner, yet that empire was to be the Roman Empire of West and East of old restored. The great political projects of the age, Theodor’s march, the Raven King, the Gathering of the Rus, the War of Wrath, all repeatedly called back to earlier eras for their pathos and justification. Even the Triune drive on the Rhine with its recent precedents in the First and Second Rhine Wars still called up Charlemagne and the ancient Franks. Much was made out of the discovery of the Tomb of Childeric, the father of Clovis himself, in Tournai in 1637.

It is not just in the Greater West that this is happening. On the other side of Asia, the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese call back to the days of Tang, Goguryeo, and the battle of Baekgang as they move their pieces on the chessboard of the world.

Outside of the great hall in Vladimir where the Zemsky Sobor met in the days of an united Russia, and where the delegates meet for a new one to decide the future of the Russias, the Russian sculptor Nikita Minin unveiled a statue that for many symbolize the age, although it was meant to illustrate the task of the delegates meeting there. A blindfolded man is both stepping and reaching forward for something, but nobody knows what, perhaps not even himself. To his side is a woman, Clio, Muse of History, whispering in his ear, her words unknown save to the recipient.

[1] A term that covers what would be considered the West IOTL, plus Rhomania, Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Ethiopia and sometimes the Ottoman Empire. ITTL when one describes the west, one is understood as referring to the ‘Latin’ West. The TTL additions are sometimes referred to as the ‘Near East’ by those in the Latin West.
And now we get a glimpse of the future of science and its development on this world. This whole archeology thing certainly makes me think that Indiana Jones will be a Rhoman adventurer once that movie is ever made. The chess pieces are indeed moving. It's gonna be awesome to see Russia reunited once more. Plus the idea of an Orthodox America certainly is good. California wpuld be a good place to start no? Especially if the Japanese emperor is also in.
the Gathering of the Rus

Also those East Asian ambitions are quite interesting as well. If I'm reading that correctly then the Chinese want to subjugate the Mongols, the Koreans want to conquer/integrate the Jurchens, and the Japanese are dreaming of overseas conquest/influence. I doubt the Japanese will try to contest either the Chinese or the Koreans when they're strong enough to be going around beating up steppe nomads, so it stands to reason that they'll start looking across the Pacific Ocean to the New World. They must have regular reports of the Mexican Empire, so I'm sure there are a lot of ambitious daimyos looking to conquer their own mountain of gold or two.

@Basileus444 how are the Wakou doing? With the explosion of trade in the Pacific there must be tons of opportunity for piracy in those waters. Can we expect to see pirate kingdoms popping up in Hawaii or something? King Kamehameha the King of the Brethren Court of Pirates?
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Clarification: Wouldn’t the Marinids be part of the Greater West also? I would assume so, since they’re a Mediterranean civilisation and the Ottomans are also marginal inclusions.


Monthly Donor
I could see Russia getting not only Alaska but most of OTL Oregon Territory while Japan could take Hawaii before getting to California, based around modern Oakland and the Central Valley. Add in Mexico likely extending up to Southern California, at least San Diego if not Los Angeles, and you have a, mostly, Orthodox West Coast and one very friendly to Rhomania without them having to directly control it.

In fact with China and Korea being more powerful, along with the Ottomans putting more focus on their Central Asian holdings after the War of Wrath, I could see Russia having more interest in exploiting their Terra Novan holdings while Japan deciding to take every unclaimed, and some claimed, island it can get a hold of. In fact if I am not mistaken isn't Taiwan still mostly held by the natives at this time, like Okinawa?

Also I can just imagine the smugness of the Greeks in this time line with it being the language of serious science. Since to an extent they can legitimately claim to have founded the basis of western scientific and philosophic thought and even to the modern era have a grasp that is near impossible to dislodge. With a near three thousand year history even China and India would have to respect that kind of pedigree.
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