An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

China had little incentive to innovate new military technologies aside from the periodic times of civil war or barbarian invasions. So weapon tech advancements were sporadic and ill applied unless specifically pushed for by the central government. That wasn't done often since those same officials were either supremely secure (and thus saw little need) or extremely corrupt (in which case nothing got done). Why rock the boat when the older ways always got the job done?
Question, why didn't the Chinese adopt the flintlock earlier? I mean, they had some pretty ambitious military capmaigns, like the Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor, seems odd.
 
Question, why didn't the Chinese adopt the flintlock earlier? I mean, they had some pretty ambitious military capmaigns, like the Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor, seems odd.
The main problem that the Chinese militaries faced were not technological since most enemies they fought were either technological peers (other Chinese or early Europeans), or relatively primitive (central Asian khanates and kingdoms). Instead, their main issue was that of logistics, of arming and training the largest armies in the world, of carting over mountains of supplies through nomad-infested steppes and deserts. In situations like that, the various Imperial Courts had no reason at all to invest in newfangled devices that'd have increased the military train baggage and need for specialized weapon production facilities. That'd have necessitated higher taxes, and the Empire didn't need such drastic increases in military capabilities. Better to rely on local expertise and low-grade weapons that can be built and maintained at the local level. The idea of a fiscal-military state was very much against Chinese sensibilities.

This also had the added bonus of keeping the best weapons in the hands of the Imperial Armies, making it harder for regional rebellions to succeed. As such, Chinese armies were content staying at the cutting edge of their own corner of the world, surrounded by easily cowed Western traders, less developed tributaries, and primitives.

That's not to say that the Chinese didn't innovate or steal good ideas. Late Ming for instance saw a drastic increase in firearm sophistication because the Chinese mugged European guns off of uncooperative Portuguese traders. Also the Manchus were so badly handled by Ming artillery that later Qing Banner Armies spammed as many cannons as they could reasonably support - China had more artillery per soldier than anyone in the world until around when Napoleon reformed European warfare.

The question isn't "why did China go backwards?", since they didn't. It's "why did European military innovation go on a coke-fuelled rampage in the 19th century?".
 
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Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
China had little incentive to innovate new military technologies aside from the periodic times of civil war or barbarian invasions. So weapon tech advancements were sporadic and ill applied unless specifically pushed for by the central government. That wasn't done often since those same officials were either supremely secure (and thus saw little need) or extremely corrupt (in which case nothing got done). Why rock the boat when the older ways always got the job done?
Even worse is that like the Dutch they have such an efficient, and massive, proto-industry, and powerful groups reliant on such, that it will take a major shock to get the political will to industrialize.
 
Regarding China, it is not simply a matter of technology; ideology also plays a role. Since the Song at least, the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy demanded as small a state as possible, which taxed its subjects as little as possible. IOTL, despite the demographic explosion and the financial growth of the 17th and 18th centuries, the machinery of the Chinese state remained remarkably small. Chinese administration worked on the cheap, relying on/coopting local elites, religious associations, etc. While things went well (and there was a capable emperor at the helm), it was surprisingly efficient, but faced with the predatory Europeans, who could apply an unexpected level of force, the Qing were simply overwhelmed. Furthermore, the adherence to the legacy of great past emperors due to filial piety also meant that reformist proposals that went contrary to their policies had trouble getting adopted. I recommend "China's Last Empire: The Great Qing" for anyone interested (the rest of the series is excellent as well).
 
It’s also worth noting that the Zeng, unlike the Qing haven’t finished the Steppe Nomad menace. So they’ll continue to devout significant resources into a technologically inferior foe, more into the hands of northern, more autonomous generals (the Zeng are a southern dynasty), and less resources (smaller than OTL to begin with) into the navy and modernising.

IIRC the Tieh-Zeng-Northern Yuan free for all was significantly more destructive than the Ming to Qing period China has even more recovery to do.

Combined with the increased Xenophobia resulting from an even longer period of foreign rule this should result in a China that’s economically and technologically weaker than OTL.
 
It’s also worth noting that the Zeng, unlike the Qing haven’t finished the Steppe Nomad menace. So they’ll continue to devout significant resources into a technologically inferior foe, more into the hands of northern, more autonomous generals (the Zeng are a southern dynasty), and less resources (smaller than OTL to begin with) into the navy and modernising.

IIRC the Tieh-Zeng-Northern Yuan free for all was significantly more destructive than the Ming to Qing period China has even more recovery to do.

Combined with the increased Xenophobia resulting from an even longer period of foreign rule this should result in a China that’s economically and technologically weaker than OTL.
I just had this amazing and terrifying thought of an Orthodox South China centred on the Pearl Delta, a consequence of a Romano-Japanese invasion. Dunno the name for it yet, but I could envision a two-Chinas situation be established, Japanese North and Roman South. With the Romans unable to apply as much control, it's very much local rule but with Churches, with a weird Mandate of Heaven bit. Japan on the other hand is much closer and whilst it may also claim the Mandate, more so than the Romans, I can see them displacing elites and ruling N.China in the same way the Romans control Egypt.
 
I just had this amazing and terrifying thought of an Orthodox South China centred on the Pearl Delta, a consequence of a Romano-Japanese invasion. Dunno the name for it yet, but I could envision a two-Chinas situation be established, Japanese North and Roman South. With the Romans unable to apply as much control, it's very much local rule but with Churches, with a weird Mandate of Heaven bit. Japan on the other hand is much closer and whilst it may also claim the Mandate, more so than the Romans, I can see them displacing elites and ruling N.China in the same way the Romans control Egypt.
Yeah that's...not going to happen.
 
I just had this amazing and terrifying thought of an Orthodox South China centred on the Pearl Delta, a consequence of a Romano-Japanese invasion. Dunno the name for it yet, but I could envision a two-Chinas situation be established, Japanese North and Roman South. With the Romans unable to apply as much control, it's very much local rule but with Churches, with a weird Mandate of Heaven bit. Japan on the other hand is much closer and whilst it may also claim the Mandate, more so than the Romans, I can see them displacing elites and ruling N.China in the same way the Romans control Egypt.
IMO, a more likely situation in the event of an ALT Opium war is the Romans seizing Hong Kong or even Taiwan, and uses those as a base to keep a stranglehold on maritime trade with Japan and Korea.
 
So it can be said that things turning out so bad for the Chinese was because they were so dominant in their section of the world and had no interest in the outside world? When they got into a OTL war with the Dutch, they showed themselves to be pretty quick learners, creating cannons that were just as good and even better than Dutch cannons, which, to be fair, they based off cannons they got from the Portuguese, while some Dutch commanders commented that their gunmen put theirs to shame, though their ships and fortifications were much better than the Chinese.
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
So it can be said that things turning out so bad for the Chinese was because they were so dominant in their section of the world and had no interest in the outside world? When they got into a OTL war with the Dutch, they showed themselves to be pretty quick learners, creating cannons that were just as good and even better than Dutch cannons, which, to be fair, they based off cannons they got from the Portuguese, while some Dutch commanders commented that their gunmen put theirs to shame, though their ships and fortifications were much better than the Chinese.
You also have to remember that the Qing dynasty was actually pretty aggressive, prosperous, and innovative during its first century before it settled into the common theme of complacency every Chinese dynasty seemed to suffer though it's hard not become so when you're a giant among pygmy's.
 
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The Chinese also never developed fractional reserve banking thanks to Neo-Confucian disdain of mercantile jobs, so basically all of their major financial transactions were done face to face using float - ie. bars and coins of silver and gold. Not only did this hamper economic growth by making the act of taking out loans an absolute pain, it also tied the amount of currency in circulation to the actual amount of hard specie in China at the time. Add to this the later Imperial Bureaucracies' tendencies to turn into kleptocracies that kept hoarding their wealth instead of injecting the money back into the economy via public services, and you get cycles of economic implosion. Not the sort of environment to promote innovation and investment.
 
If you count post POD Emperors it's probably 1. Andreas I, 2. Theodoros II, 3. Demetrios I, after that it's a bit more hazy, perhaps 4. Andreas II, 5. One of the other Laskarid Emperors?

Of course there's also pre-POD Emperors like Basil II, Justinian and Alexios I, but those are from another phase of the Empire. In OTL the Macedonians and Komnenoi are obviously the most famous dynasties but TTL are far out shined by the Laskarids and 2nd Komnenoi (hopefully soon the Sideroi too).

Odd question but how is Manuel I viewed TTL? Given how ingrained the sack of Constantinople is on the Roman psyche it'd be interesting to hear how the man who arguably began that descent is viewed.
Andreas Niketas became emperor as young as Alexios 2, son of Manuel I. Initially, Andreas Niketas was known as the Boy Emperor, Little Megas.

Manuel I succession plan is just as good as Andreas Niketas father, Theodoros.

It just so happens that Alexios 2 aint Andreas Niketas. No one succeeded killing and taking Andreas throne when he was a young boy.

Manuel couldn't have predicted that someone he banished from his country, a 60-70 year old Andronikos, will be emperor, and the one who will kill his son and daughter. Thus, Andronikos reigning in the country resulted to Angelois ruling.

But even all the Angelois faults, ATL Romans with all the Latin hate in 1630s will pass it to the Latins. Latin Greed in 1204, Latin/Venetian violence Black Day in Smyrna. If any blame to Manuel will be given by ATL Romans or close to Manuel I suspect it would be the Latin wife Manuel, mother of Alexios 2 and Renier Latin husband of Maria, daughter of Manuel.
 
Andreas Niketas became emperor as young as Alexios 2, son of Manuel I. Initially, Andreas Niketas was known as the Boy Emperor, Little Megas.

Manuel I succession plan is just as good as Andreas Niketas father, Theodoros.

It just so happens that Alexios 2 aint Andreas Niketas. No one succeeded killing and taking Andreas throne when he was a young boy.

Manuel couldn't have predicted that someone he banished from his country, a 60-70 year old Andronikos, will be emperor, and the one who will kill his son and daughter. Thus, Andronikos reigning in the country resulted to Angelois ruling.
Good points, but the only reason Andreas Niketas didn’t end up like Alexios II was because Alexios Palaiologos had a last minute change of heart. They had Andreas and Vlad Dracula out numbered, could have easily ended up with his elder sister on the throne.

Also, fairly certain Theodoros IV’s succession plan didn’t involve him getting impaled on a Serbian lance prematurely.
 
IMO, a more likely situation in the event of an ALT Opium war is the Romans seizing Hong Kong or even Taiwan, and uses those as a base to keep a stranglehold on maritime trade with Japan and Korea.
During the mid to late 1500s there was a Roman way station on Taiwan. It was wiped out when the armada from China stopped there before attacking Pyrgos. Did the Romans ever re-establish anything on Taiwan after that battle?
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
During the mid to late 1500s there was a Roman way station on Taiwan. It was wiped out when the armada from China stopped there before attacking Pyrgos. Did the Romans ever re-establish anything on Taiwan after that battle?
No clue but they should or China should have sold it to someone else. OTL when they grabbed from the Dutch to get rid of the pirates based there they tried to give it back because they had no interest in keeping the island.
 
Yeah that's...not going to happen.
Oh, almost certainly not, but I just thought I'd share that mad fever dream

IMO, a more likely situation in the event of an ALT Opium war is the Romans seizing Hong Kong or even Taiwan, and uses those as a base to keep a stranglehold on maritime trade with Japan and Korea.
I'm not convinced the Romans wouldn't consider going deeper inland, if they felt that they could have the assistance of an ethnic group. Perfect example being the Vietnamese. If you go back to Nanyue, that region was part of the same realm at N.Vietnam. So instead of the Romans ruling it, they could partner with the Vietnamese (I'm unclear as to their current status ITTL). The Romans take Hong Kong and Taiwan for sure, but also ensure that Vietnam takes control of the Pearl River watershed. It can help strengthen a future Roman ally in the region, weakens S.China.

Alternatively, if the Vietnamese are on-side inside the Empire, then whatever autonomous command governs in Vietnam could take it on as well, especially if it is simply a protectorate.
 
@Christian: I don’t want it to be nearly as bad as OTL, but I think China will get a surprise bloody nose. I think it’s because pre-modern China, compared to the rest of the world, was just so successful that they had good reason for looking down on the rest and thinking they really didn’t need much from the outside world. Plus the major spike in European war-making capabilities in the early 1800s was rather sudden and gestated halfway around the world, so it makes sense the Chinese would be in the dark until suddenly they find themselves facing steamships and rifles.

That said, I think a better-organized and dynamic Chinese dynasty, even with the same tech gap, could’ve handled the mid/late 1800s much better than the OTL Qing at that point.

Yeah, the Chinese weren’t/aren’t stupid or not able to innovate. But I don’t see any way they could’ve anticipated the ‘steamship+rifle’ combo the Europeans seemed to come up with out of nowhere, and by that point they had too much of a lead and were pushing too hard for China to be able to catch up in time.

@RogueTraderEnthusiast: Pretty much @Babyrage’s list. I’d say in order, Andreas Niketas, Theodoros II, Demetrios I, and then Basil II, Ioannes III Vatatzes, and Alexios I all clumped together. Andreas II is somewhat of a special case, as what he is remembered and celebrated for he all did before he became Emperor.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Even if the Romans somehow managed to sealift every single tagma to China, which would require at least circa-1900 shipping tech, China would swallow them up. It’s way too big.

The Vietnamese are currently a very autonomous people of the Cham Empire, which is a strong Roman ally. The Romans aren’t interested in big mainland grabs. They’re too hard to defend and risk alienating some very big native empires, who’d then have an easy time recruiting Latin allies to help them out in reducing said Roman enclaves.

@Babyrage: Manuel I is mixed. He was a strong and dynamic Emperor, who really stuck it to the Venetians and managed the Second Crusade rather well, but he also lost at Myriokephalon and things went downhill pretty quickly after his death. So it depends on how the average Romans weighs up his good and bad points, so that varies a lot. Easily the most controversial of the big three of the First Komnenid dynasty.

@HanEmpire: Yeah, I think the problem is that Britain’s military might in the First Opium War was completely unpredictable to those in the Forbidden City. Even just a few years earlier, none other than Napoleon himself said that if Britain went to war with China, the British would really regret that decision.

I didn’t help that the Imperial court was a lot more insular and ignorant of foreigners than, say, the Guangzhou waterfront.

@Cryostorm: Yeah, the Chinese were doing really well in the pre-industrial age so there seemed little reason to change. There’s no way they could’ve predicted the Industrial Revolution, particularly when they’re literally halfway around the world from its birthplace.

Taiwan’s is in a ‘it’s there but no one cares’ state. Neither the Romans, Japanese, nor Chinese are that interested in the place. If Latins set up shop there though, perhaps as a base to harass Pyrgos trade, expect that to change very rapidly.

@Spatharios: The Qing were having issues even before the Opium Wars, with some pretty big peasant revolts before the Taiping War blew up. Stronger Chinese government, such as that of the eighteenth-century Qing, I think would’ve handled the situation much better even with a similar tech gap.

@ImperatorAlexander: Critical point. China is going to focus on the steppe, not the ocean. To date, the threat from the ocean has been the wokou, annoying but hardly fatal. While from the steppe has come literally existential threats. The priorities are obvious.

TTL Opium War: Note that this is still well in the future and subject to change, but if there is a TTL equivalent it will go something like this. European country gets a little cocky, looking at a military tech lead. Except it’s facing a dynamic strong Chinese government so while the European force is 5 times more dangerous than a comparably sized Chinese force, the Chinese can and do bring to bear 50 times more numbers, and win by burying the Europeans. It’s an impressive, but also very bloody victory. So it’s damaging enough to serve as a wakeup call, but early and not damaging enough to keep the Chinese from catching up. I have a vision of an early 20th century China being one of the great industrial powers, albeit perhaps not as efficient as it could be which somewhat counteracts its sheer size.

@Namayan: Yeah, a lot of the issue with the succession was that Manuel I died while Alexios II was still a minor, which can’t fairly be blamed on Manuel. Some still might because things clearly went downhill after his death, and his invasion of Italy was a massive flop and he lost Myriokephalon, so he has some flies in the ointment.

Most of the hate is directed at the Latins, but there is a decent amount levied at the Angeloi for their stupidity (this is from OTL). TTL Romans might lay the breaking point at 1185 with the accession of the Angeloi, with Andronikos I labeled ‘a psycho who had a point’.

@Curtain Jerker: They did not. It seemed too risky and exposed to another Chinese attack. And now with the Mexican silver galleons coming into Pyrgos and drawing Chinese traders there, there isn’t an apparent need.
 
TTL Opium War: Note that this is still well in the future and subject to change, but if there is a TTL equivalent it will go something like this. European country gets a little cocky, looking at a military tech lead. Except it’s facing a dynamic strong Chinese government so while the European force is 5 times more dangerous than a comparably sized Chinese force, the Chinese can and do bring to bear 50 times more numbers, and win by burying the Europeans. It’s an impressive, but also very bloody victory. So it’s damaging enough to serve as a wakeup call, but early and not damaging enough to keep the Chinese from catching up. I have a vision of an early 20th century China being one of the great industrial powers, albeit perhaps not as efficient as it could be which somewhat counteracts its sheer size.
Fair enough, but what can TTL Chinese do against a naval war? A 50x numbers advantage won’t do anything if it’s wooden junks vs Steam Ironclads. The Romans could just sail up and down China burning and pillaging everything within a days march from the coast/rivers.

After the defeat of the Great Armament do the Zeng even have any notable navy to speak of? With the focus on the steppe there’s scant funds to invest into developing even a token navy.
 
Minorities and the Empire, Part 4
@ImperatorAlexander: Again, keeping in mind that this is all speculative at this stage, but I’m thinking a First Opium War level tech disparity at most. So it’d be wooden junks against wooden steamers, at the most extreme. Plus on the rivers and at key coastal sites the Chinese could be backed by riverine/coastal fortifications which would do a lot to even the odds. It would hurt China, but China isn’t the kind of country that can be brought down by naval action alone.

Another point to add is that the Europeans would be wanting to trade with China after the war, and killing all the Chinese is counterproductive to that. Dead men can’t buy things.

@Frame: It depends on the colony. Looking at North Terranova, Newtown and Shechem are both predominately English-speaking. The proprietary colonies further south, Carolina, Alexandria, and Maryland, are predominately French. Although there are minority speakers in all of the colonies to some extent.

* * *

Minorities and the Empire, Part 4: Slavery, Rhomania-in-the-West, and the Limits of Roman Tolerance

Rhomania is no stranger to slaves or slavery. Although it is no longer a slave society like classical Rome, slaves have been ever-present in some capacity or the other. By 1635, most Roman slaves in the past few centuries have worked on the Cyprus or Crete sugar plantations, but always with a minority working in Roman mines and another larger minority working as house slaves in the abodes of the dynatoi. (There is also slavery in Rhomania-in-the-East, but those follow native practices of slavery.)

These slaves are almost entirely Sudanese, the generic Roman term for sub-Saharan Africans that are not Ethiopians. (The Kongolese, despite their extensive contact with Ethiopia, exist on the far periphery of the Roman horizon in 1635.) They are a major Ethiopian export to the Empire, a common sight at Marienburg am Nil as while being transported to Alexandria they are used to haul barges of goods incapable of locomotion from Suez to Marienburg am Nil along the Pharaoh’s Canal.

Slavery is very important to the Ethiopian economy. Aside from the income of selling slaves to the Romans, Ethiopian kaffos plantations use a mix of slave and tenant sharecropper labor. And kaffos is in huge demand in Rhomania. The Great Latin War helps to spike this demand as soldiers and government contractors that were previously unable to acquire the beverage now are able to do so through rations or perks for early deliveries of material. After the war they want more and Ethiopia is happy to provide.

Some brands of kaffos still treasured in the Empire today can trace their descent to this time period. At the high end is Royal Ethiopian, still considered the premier kaffos for close to four centuries. Other famous brands are ‘Axum Gate’ and ‘Istifanos’, the latter named after the famous Ethiopian monastery which owned the field producing the kaffos beans. On the other end of the scale is ‘Original Cypriot’, which today in Rhomania is the low-quality stuff sold to tourists for more than it is worth. Its name purportedly references the initial attempts to grow kaffos on Cyprus; Demetrios III described the result by saying ‘if Vauban had possessed this, he could’ve taken Thessaloniki by melting the walls with the liquid’.

The Ethiopians procure their slaves from the interior of Africa, sometimes by trading and sometimes by raiding. As a result most Ethiopian and Roman slaves are pagan.

Roman plantation slavery is brutal, back-breaking, and often hazardous work. It isn’t on the murderous scale of Caribbean plantations, but that is not an accomplishment either impressive or laudable. It is still heartbreakingly cruel and dehumanizing.

However a key difference is that once a slave earns their freedom, provided that they’ve converted to Christianity and can speak Greek fluently, there is no color bar. The idea that black=slave, as what arises across the Atlantic, never forms in Rhomania. Continual contact with the Ethiopian Empire, which while not on the level of the Ottomans or the Triunes is still a powerful civilized state, puts the lie to any idea that black-skinned peoples are inferior solely because of said black skin. When Romans look down on certain African peoples, and they do, it is on the basis of civilization-ism, not skin color.

Many slaves, after becoming free, remain in the sugar business, working as overseers. A few families descended from freedmen eventually become plantation and slave-owners themselves. Others settle down as artisans with a trade; one charitable initiative is to fund schools to teach freedmen a trade. In Antioch they become stereotyped as carpenters, making fine kaffos tables and chairs.

By 1635 the Roman sugar industry, a powerhouse two centuries ago, is on its last legs, beaten down by the Atlantic islands and then the Caribbean and Brazil. Roman demand for sugar is at an all-time high, often for use in chocolate and kaffos, but the Latin sugar is of better quality and produced in far higher quantities, the sheer supply driving down the price to make it cheaper than Roman sugar despite the greater shipping costs.

At the same time there is a small but growing current in Roman thought that argues for the abolition of slavery. (An important caveat is that no one sees a problem with using penal or prisoner-of-war labor, and while they are not used on plantations their conditions oftentimes approach that of slaves.) Admittedly the timing is rather convenient as the movement grows as plantation slavery declines due to economics; nobody was protesting plantation slavery when sugar exports were a major part of Roman trade.

Those who argue against slavery are a mix of secular intellectuals and religious leaders. The religious leaders, like the Hegumen of the Monastery of St. Konstantinos, are concerned about proselytization. The Orthodoxy of some of the Sudanese freedmen is questionable and they believe that if an association forms of Orthodoxy as the religion of the slave driver, this will make it significantly harder to convert Sudanese in the future.

There are others who think similarly but do not want to impose any sort of legal ban. Plantation slavery is on its way out already in Cyprus and Crete; let it die naturally. But they are concerned that a slavery ban would anger the Ethiopians who provide the slaves for the Roman market. As plantation demands wane, the Ethiopians have been keeping their captives instead to expand Ethiopian kaffos plantations. But there’s still the ‘house slave’ market, which has grown slightly as a share of the Roman slave market in the past 30 years.

One proposal is that the Roman government directly purchase an agreed number of slaves from Ethiopia every year, the slaves to be given plots of land to work, paying rent on their produce. Part of the rent would go to pay for priests to teach them Orthodoxy and the Greek language. These ‘state slaves’, who would resemble involuntary tenant farmers more than anything else, could be used to repopulate devastated districts. They’re also viewed as a source of military manpower; Sudanese and Sudanese-descent individuals have given valuable military service to Rhomania as far back as the Smyrna War. Demetrios III likes the idea although nothing comes of it during his reign. (The idea may have come from the new contacts with Mexico; Texcoco has undertaken this program, albeit on a small scale, to repopulate districts where the native Terranovans have been devastated by disease.)

The establishment of Rhomania-in-the-West radically alters the relationship with Rhomania and the institution of slavery.

There had never been any questions in the White Palace regarding the use of slavery in the new Caribbean territories; the plantations of Crete and Cyprus had used them, and there seemed no reason to change. However it had been planned to follow the Roman-style of plantation slavery as practiced in the Eastern Mediterranean, not the new Caribbean/Brazilian model. That plan died very quickly.

The early history of the islands of St Giorgios and St David (the latter was claimed in 1633 but no settlers were landed until 1639) is difficult, although nothing out of the ordinary for Caribbean islands. Tropical diseases, including a strain of malaria from Hellas, ravage the settlers, with the odd hurricane to provide a different source of devastation. With sugar profits the only reason for remaining here, little to no land is devoted to growing foodstuffs, meaning the infant colonies are dependent on infrequent supply ships or, more realistically, neighboring Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is one of the oldest Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, settled by the Portuguese in pre-union times. Unlike the small sugar islands of the Antilles, larger Puerto Rico has a much more balanced and diverse economy, producing cereals and animal products in addition to sugar and tobacco from some plantations. The island is sometimes called the ‘bread and beef basket of the Caribbean’ until its position is usurped by Triune Terranova.

In Eurasia, Rhomania is one of the big boys, but here, far from Constantinople, the Romans are very little fish. The Roman garrison at Jahzara is comprised of two brigs, a few dozen soldiers, and a small fort with a few guns. The sailors and soldiers are in constant need of replenishment; by 1640 the cemetery’s strength is over six times that of the fort’s. The removal of trees for lumber and to clear ground for sugar cane increases soil runoff, the dirt piling up in the lowlands and helping to create stagnant pools, ideal nurseries for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. (Meanwhile in the heartland, drainage projects financed by the Sideros Reorganization are eliminating mosquito habitats and thus recurrence of malaria, although the connection between insect and disease are not noted at the time. The Romans believe malaria to be caused by ‘unhealthy miasmas’ emitted from swamps and try to treat them with sweet smells to counterbalance the bad air.)

And so the grim logic of the Caribbean asserts itself in Rhomania-in-the-West as well. Black slaves are imported to labor in the cane fields, but there are few Romans to oversee them because of the deaths from disease. Also because of the greater expense of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, the owners don’t want to release slaves after fulfilling a set work quota as is the practice in Cyprus and Crete; they favor the ‘slave-until-death’ model used by their Caribbean neighbors. That is against Roman law, but Constantinople is far away and none of the slaves live long enough to have reached that quota anyway.

There are also none of the economic opportunities available for freedmen here as there are in the Empire proper. The heartland can always use more artisans or cowboys or farmers, but there isn’t space to support those in St Giorgios. The freedmen would be crammed up right next to the still enslaved, remembering grievances and noting the few Romans around. Given the limited number of free compared to those enslaved, to keep the slaves in line, especially without the social releases present in Cyprus and Crete, requires a system of brutality and dehumanization.

Many Romans of the present day point out that the plantation slavery practiced on St Giorgios is no worse, and on a smaller scale, than on Barbados or Guadeloupe. That is true; the crime is the same evil, just smaller in scope. The horror of slavery on the other islands, of vicious slave revolts and equally vicious repressions, of the whipped-to-the-bone backs of little girls and mothers killing their own children at their births as a better mercy than the hell that is life here, all that is played out here as well.

The Romans also get involved in the Atlantic slave trade. The number of ships and number of slaves transported is a small fraction of the total carried across the ocean, but Roman slavers are no better than any Latin. In Rhomania there are rules detailing how much storage must be given to a slave during transport and those rules are enforced on slavers departing from Alexandria. (It must be pointed out that the Spanish have similar regulations regarding Atlantic slavers that are completely ignored by said slavers because of the lack of an enforcement mechanism; the Arletians, Triunes, Lotharingians, and Scandinavians don’t care even that much.) The fact that the voyage is a rather short one also helps. But there are no Roman customs agents enforcing those rules when Roman slavers drop anchor off Kongo or Benin and there is more profit in cramming the holds, even if some die on the way. The operating cost per voyage is mostly the same, regardless of the amount of ‘cargo’.

Plantation slavery on Cyprus and Crete gasps its last in the early 1650s, the establishment of Rhomania-in-the-West speeding the process a bit, but it would’ve been gone in the next decade or two anyway. Mine slavery, also dwindling as the free Roman labor pool expands, steadily trickles down as well, largely disappearing by 1700. Penal and prisoner labor is still common however.

House slavery continues longer, its slight growth also enduring, but even at their height house slaves never number more than 75,000 out of a heartland population of 20+ million, a far cry from a slave society. Furthermore, house slaves are better treated with laws limiting what owners can do to them, with said laws generally well enforced. It helps a lot that most house slaves and masters are in major cities and thus easy for Roman administrators to see what is happening. In the late 1600s their terms of service are limited to 11 years, although the main reason is to ameliorate Ethiopian annoyance at the reduced Roman purchases; the shorter terms mean that more slaves ‘need’ to be purchased to make up the difference.

None of this excuses the dehumanizing aspects of a human being owned by another person, but slaves are still persons under Roman law, with certain rights protected by that same law. For that reason, house slaves rarely excite the passion of Roman abolitionists. Looking solely at the material circumstances of their lives, many house slaves compare favorably to landless unskilled laborers who live a hand-to-mouth existence dependent on intermittent jobs to earn their daily bread. It is economics that eventually put an end to house slavery. Freeborn domestic labor becomes cheaper as the population grows while simultaneously Ethiopian imports decrease in the early 1700s, raising the cost of slaves.

It is in Rhomania-in-the-West that Rhomania’s involvement with slavery remains vicious and enduring, as mentioned participating fully in the horrors of Caribbean plantation slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. Its existence helps to lengthen the duration of slavery in the Empire, as future Latin abolitionist interference with Roman Atlantic slave traders encourages Roman slave purchases in a backlash to said Latin interference.

And this stain on Roman honor is for little gain. Rhomania-in-the-West never amounts to much, a few puny islands that are miniscule specks on a map of the Caribbean. While the plantations prove profitable, their production is puny; at its height Roman Caribbean sugar comprises 1.5% of the Caribbean sugar exported to the Greater West. Any initiatives to broaden the significance of Roman holdings flounder at the expense of blood and coin to do so. A proposal to turn Jahzara into a major free port dies under the glare of Constantinople’s hatred of the doctrine of free trade, which conjures up memories of the humiliations under the Italians in the 1100s and 1200s. That Rhomania doesn’t abandon the islands is due to the matter of prestige, its help in facilitating connections with Mexico, and its occasional value as a listening post in economically important Latin waters.

The Roman Empire contains a wide variety of peoples, from the descendants of Swedish Varangians to the Malays of Pahang to the Sudanese freedmen of Cyprus. Most are integrated into the Empire in some form, whether by embracing the Greek language and the Orthodox faith, or by being slotted into some tolerated category.

One final category that has not been mentioned yet are the Atzinganoi, much better known elsewhere as Roma. The linguistic confusion of calling themselves Roma inside the Roman Empire, while not intended, would lend to suspicion that they are trying to take the mantle of Roman-ness away. Given the continued Latin tendency lasting up to the present day of denying the Romans’ Roman heritage, they are very touchy in such matters.

The Atzinganoi are very much tolerated, in that while accepted, one doesn’t tolerate something one likes. Their dark skin and exotic apparel raises far less eyebrows in Rhomania than in Latin Europe, and many Atzinganoi settle down to work, usually as artisans or in animal husbandry. However their members span the whole gamut of society. Those who still travel often do so as entertainment troupes, performing acrobatics and musical numbers. Still they have a reputation for magical practices, particularly fortune-telling. The Orthodox Church repeatedly condemns visiting Atzinganoi magicians, but the fact that clerics have to keep doing so shows that people keep doing it despite the proscriptions.

However a key note is that toleration of someone not confirming to the minimal standards of Roman-ness requires that they fell into one of the various tolerated categories. New categories can and would be created, but there is no toleration for those who fall outside of a tolerated category. Bohmanists, Anabaptists, and other religious groups arising in the Latin West find no welcome in Rhomania, and the religious authorities of tolerated groups can and do find support from the Roman government in disciplining their own religious dissidents.

Rhomania in 1635 compares favorably with many of its contemporaries in terms of toleration of diversity, with the glaring and brutal exceptions of Catholic and Sunni subjects. But it is no multi-cultural diversity-embracing haven as is sometimes presented, a precocious prelude to modern ideals. The Roman Empire is a multi-cultural diverse empire; that is the nature of empires. And the Romans are pragmatic. Diversity is tolerated because the maintenance and prosperity of the Empire requires it to be tolerated, and diversity is tolerated, not loved.

While the restrictions and duties laid on minorities are light, they are emplaced and enforced. To be Roman, truly Roman, one has to be Orthodox and one has to speak Greek fluently, preferably without a foreign-sounding accent.

Already by 1635 and far more in the decades to come, many of the minority peoples, particularly in the East, will come to meet those standards and be embraced as fellow Romans. That is typically considered to the credit of the Romans, although nowadays the cultural genocide aspects of it are questioned. But while that is happening, the Great Crime against the Sunnis is also being perpetrated by the Romans.

The Romans, like all peoples, are complicated, capable of great mercies and great cruelties, in their hearts able and willing to do both good and evil. The integration of the Malays stands next to the genocide of the Syrians. The monstrosities of Caribbean slavery coexists with Roman contempt for race-based discrimination. Both sides exist and both must be acknowledged for a true picture to emerge. Abhor the evil, praise the good, but remember both.
 
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