An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

One thing I'm wondering is, how does Rhomania avoid falling behind their western rivals? IOTL, it happened to the Ottomans, I'm wondering how Rhomania avoids it, though the Ottomans' stagnation had a lot of factors, and even by the late 17th century, during the Great Turkish War, they were still a formidable force and put up a great fight considering they were fighting a war a multi front war with them getting assailed o almost every angle.
Roman administration is far ahead of its time. They already have a 19th century Prussian military staff in the 1600s. But B444 stated that Rome will not be the first to industrialize.

Physics, administration I expect Romans will always have the lead. European Printing Press in TTL started in Trebizond not in Germany.

The Ottomans, besides Anatolia population stagnation similar to TTL Romans, in OTL were mostly agriculture country compared to Romans were urbanized/manufacturing/trade focused. The Romans also got a very high literacy rate compared to the OTL Ottomans.

B444 I believe stated that TTL Romans will have the OTL British financial acumen and OTL German administrative efficiency.
 
A few thoughts on the Timeline.

1. I'm wondering if Roman is gonna be a lot like the term British, in the sense that calling them that is more because of a geographical expression, in Rhomania and Britain, they could prefer to be called by what region they're in, like a few men in the northern side of Britain prefer to be called Scots instead of Brits, I'm wondering if Rhomania is gonna have a case where, say someone lives in the Egyptian province, they prefer to be called Egyptians instead of the more broad term of Romans.

2. I wonder how pop history would view the Roman emperors, most of pop history seems to emphasize a few specific traits of leaders, like Theodore Roosevelt is almost exclusively seen as an awesome progressive badass, leaving his negative qualities outside to show, while with someone like Augustus Caesar, most depictions of him always seem to emphasize his ruthless and bloody attitude, ignoring his impressive administrative abilities and reforms, hell the guy apparently tried to improve the morality of Rome in his time, trying to improve the family, reviving people's faith in the gods, you never hear about that part of Augustus. I'm guessing for an equivalent here, Andreas Niketas is probably gonna be depicted as just a military genius, since that makes for good television, and the less exciting parts of his reign are probably gonna be put on the wayside.
 
One thing that I'm not sure has been covered, is what are things like in Central Asia at the moment? I'm curious to know what the Ottomans relations with the Khanates are and if they're any more or less successful at it than the OTL Safavids were.
I’m planning a regional tour of Asia coming up and will be covering Central Asia while doing that.

Oh, @Basileus444, have you ever read the story I am Skantarios? Its a great AAR story about the Laskarid's, mainly Skantarios around the 1440s pulling themselves back from the brink, Skantarios is basically a commander who's on the level of Alexander the Great, he goes around conquering and defeating the Turks, which eventually morphs into a Jihad against Constantinople, its all pretty awesome, but fair warning, if you're a particularly religious Muslim, this story is not gonna be easy to read since Skantarios has a burning hatred for Muslims and basically goes Genghis Khan on them.
I have. I believe I heard of it from a reader comment way back. Fun read. And if one were surrounded by individuals who acted the same way as the M2TW AI, I can understand being stab-happy.

Question about Hungary: are the Árpáds extinct as per OTL? Kinda lost track of the dynastic situations when it came to the Emperor's bastard son.
Do the Triunes have an equivalent title to the OTL Prince of Wales for the crown prince?

They are, due to Andreas I's second wife (former wife of the Hungarian king) lying about the father of her first child (conceived with Andreas before she was shipped off to Hungary) the Arpads went extinct in the male line. I believe the Hunyadi are descended from a female Arpad TTL.
Arpads went extinct in the male line. The Hunyadi are now the Hungarian royal dynasty, although a lot of their legitimacy comes from being married into an Arpad princess.

They do; it’s Dauphin.

Oh, @Basileus444, if I can ask, how is Vietnam doing? Have they managed to fend of any attempts to colonize them?
You know this is long before any European power had significant influence in Southeast Asia, let alone actual territory, right? The French didn't conquor Vietnam until the mid 19th century. European territorial ambitions were limited to cities in the Malayan Peninsula until the British entered Burma in the early 19th century.
More of colonization in general, Vietnam has in the past had rather brutal confrontations with Chinese expansionism, details are kinda sparse on the going on of anything east of the Ottomans, so this is just me wondering what's going on in a rather unexplored part of this universe.
I mean tbf that is sorta what Vietnam did IOTL. The trifecta of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand sorta just competed amongst themselves in a region of the world more or less geopolitically isolated from the rest save foe very sporadic attacks from China that never established anything long term. Details change of course but fundamentally unless someone removed the mountains and jungles in SE Asia it's not really going to change until industrialization overcomes those barriers.
Vietnam is currently a very loose vassal of the Cham Empire. I’ll be going into more detail there once I do my regional tour of Asia and get to Southeast Asia.

On the coming “great game” between the Triunes and Rome. I gotta think Rome will have a pretty decisive advantage in that all they really want in Europe is to be left alone while the Triunes have a tendency to wanting more direct control over areas.

The Triunes could have used their population and Economy to completely bind Arles, Bernese League and Lotharingia to them in the same way Rome has done to Scythia, Egypt, and Serbia let alone the other despotates. Instead they have now invaded Lotharingia 3? times and have never renounced their ambition regarding Arles. It means that they will have to spend time on their frontiers in a way that Rome won’t have to do.

Hell at this point Roman influence in Europe is the highest it’s been since Justinian. OTL Southern and Central Italy, the entire Balkans, Hungary, Austria, Georgia, the Caucasus And Ukraine are all going to be deep in Rome’s pocket. Northern Italy , Western Russia and Poland are also under varying levels of influence; they are far more independent and will likely drift away but for the moment Rome exerts considerable cultural, economic, and/or military influence on them. It’s a level of soft power that the Ottomans or any OTL power between Charlemagne and Napoleon ever reached even at their height. And the way the Romans have set it up it’s should be far more enduring than any of those.

Rome’s biggest advantage though will be how they are able to make it economically enticing. Rome has long experience with creating a single tariff zone and will gladly extend it to other states as they realize that it makes everyone richer which means more taxes. The Triunes in contrast have not even created a single market within their own domains yet.
On the coming War of Wrath and Great Crime. At this point it’s looking like it will be a near complete crushing of the Ottomans. Rome by itself could easily win the war and they are going to be joined by contingents from Serbia, Vlachia, Georgia, Pronsk, Lithuania, Khazaria, Novgorod, Hungary, and now Poland. The Ottomans will have to defend their entire northern and western frontier even while the Romans are ramming 100k+ men down into Mesopotamia. It’s going to be a very one sided affair but it also shows easily how the alliance could over extend themselves and set up the “Final War”.

On the Great Crime; given what we know (the war is coming, Rome is going to win decisively) and what we can infer (Rome will be brutal, the Great Crime will be WORSE than already ongoing ethnic cleansing in Levantine and Egyptian lands) I think the great crime is going to be not just the sack of Baghdad but the dismantling of it. The front line will rapidly move hundreds of KMs away from Baghdad and it will allow the Roman army/government to deport the entire population into slavery, dismantle entirely the irrigation networks, and destroy every structure in the city. The Ottomans will get back the land in the peace treaty and come upon a desert where one of their greatest cities once stood. It will stand as a stark reminder of Rome’s lowest point morally and an enduring “warning” of what happens when Rome is pushed too far.
Don’t have anything to say or add to this but very good analysis, as usual. Thank you.

Ironic that once the War of Wrath occurs, it will be Oddy taking the helm, a descendant of Timur and Shah Ruhk mind you. It seems the Ottomans, in one form or another are always going to be haunted by Timur's ghost. This time it's dressed in purple and gold instead of black and red.
I never envisioned the specter of Timur being so prominent and long-lasting back when I was writing the early 1400s. But it’s too much fun not to roll with it.

One thing I'm wondering is, how does Rhomania avoid falling behind their western rivals? IOTL, it happened to the Ottomans, I'm wondering how Rhomania avoids it, though the Ottomans' stagnation had a lot of factors, and even by the late 17th century, during the Great Turkish War, they were still a formidable force and put up a great fight considering they were fighting a war a multi front war with them getting assailed o almost every angle.
Roman administration is far ahead of its time. They already have a 19th century Prussian military staff in the 1600s. But B444 stated that Rome will not be the first to industrialize.

Physics, administration I expect Romans will always have the lead. European Printing Press in TTL started in Trebizond not in Germany.

The Ottomans, besides Anatolia population stagnation similar to TTL Romans, in OTL were mostly agriculture country compared to Romans were urbanized/manufacturing/trade focused. The Romans also got a very high literacy rate compared to the OTL Ottomans.

B444 I believe stated that TTL Romans will have the OTL British financial acumen and OTL German administrative efficiency.
Couple of factors. One, the Mediterranean is still a major center for trade and commerce and won’t become the backwater it did in the early modern era. The Cape Route has siphoned off a good portion of the old medieval trade, but the situation will remain something like the OTL mid-1500s, where the Cape and Med routes share the trade fairly evenly. It wasn’t until the French, Dutch, and English started arriving en masse in the East that the Cape route really started to dominate.

Also Rhomania is much more integrated into European cultural/intellectual currents and is a key player in its own right. This is in contrast to the Ottomans who didn’t even have their own printing press until the 1700s. (I believe some of the minority groups had presses for their own use, but proscriptions against printing the Quran meant that IOTL the printing press didn’t start appearing in the Muslim world for Muslim use until Europeans had had it for three centuries.)

Any possibility of a map?
Not anytime soon. I don’t like making maps.

A few thoughts on the Timeline.

1. I'm wondering if Roman is gonna be a lot like the term British, in the sense that calling them that is more because of a geographical expression, in Rhomania and Britain, they could prefer to be called by what region they're in, like a few men in the northern side of Britain prefer to be called Scots instead of Brits, I'm wondering if Rhomania is gonna have a case where, say someone lives in the Egyptian province, they prefer to be called Egyptians instead of the more broad term of Romans.

2. I wonder how pop history would view the Roman emperors, most of pop history seems to emphasize a few specific traits of leaders, like Theodore Roosevelt is almost exclusively seen as an awesome progressive badass, leaving his negative qualities outside to show, while with someone like Augustus Caesar, most depictions of him always seem to emphasize his ruthless and bloody attitude, ignoring his impressive administrative abilities and reforms, hell the guy apparently tried to improve the morality of Rome in his time, trying to improve the family, reviving people's faith in the gods, you never hear about that part of Augustus. I'm guessing for an equivalent here, Andreas Niketas is probably gonna be depicted as just a military genius, since that makes for good television, and the less exciting parts of his reign are probably gonna be put on the wayside.
It’d probably depend on the region, with some regions being more independently minded, so that they say “I’m Epirote-Roman” as opposed to just “Roman”.

It’d vary on the figure and who’s doing the viewing. One person’s saint is another person’s monster. But the trend of pop history, of usually simplifying and condensing a complicated contradictory human being into a few specific traits and/or an archetype, will be the same ITTL as it is IOTL.

* * *
So I prefer to keep my personal life out of this, but I’m going to make an exception here. I’ve been informed that my position at work is being eliminated. So I’ve got that to deal with.

I’m not definitely putting the TL on hiatus. After all, with Patreon it is bringing in a little income, which I now particularly need. But that said, until things (hopefully) settle for me I make no promises that I will continue my regular update schedule. If I post regular updates during a month, I will do a special update for Megas Kyr patrons that will be the continuation of Not the End. However if I do fewer regular updates than usual, the special update will mirror that by being shorter. So for example, if I only post 1 regular update the special update would be a 2-page mini-update. That way patrons still get the bonus material they deserve, but at the same time I won’t feel pressured to write a full special update even if I’ve just posted 1 regular update per month.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. Bleh.
 
keep your head up. You probably have it under control and you have faced worse, but for what its worth I had this issue last year and even if it was a struggle it turned out better than the last job.
 
On the coming War of Wrath and Great Crime. At this point it’s looking like it will be a near complete crushing of the Ottomans. Rome by itself could easily win the war and they are going to be joined by contingents from Serbia, Vlachia, Georgia, Pronsk, Lithuania, Khazaria, Novgorod, Hungary, and now Poland. The Ottomans will have to defend their entire northern and western frontier even while the Romans are ramming 100k+ men down into Mesopotamia. It’s going to be a very one sided affair but it also shows easily how the alliance could over extend themselves and set up the “Final War”.

On the Great Crime; given what we know (the war is coming, Rome is going to win decisively) and what we can infer (Rome will be brutal, the Great Crime will be WORSE than already ongoing ethnic cleansing in Levantine and Egyptian lands) I think the great crime is going to be not just the sack of Baghdad but the dismantling of it. The front line will rapidly move hundreds of KMs away from Baghdad and it will allow the Roman army/government to deport the entire population into slavery, dismantle entirely the irrigation networks, and destroy every structure in the city. The Ottomans will get back the land in the peace treaty and come upon a desert where one of their greatest cities once stood. It will stand as a stark reminder of Rome’s lowest point morally and an enduring “warning” of what happens when Rome is pushed too far.
I think thats.... weird. The destruction of Baghdad is arguably a pretty minor crime as far as Roman history goes, or just... history. Cities have been razed, shattered, dismantled and enslaved plenty of times.

Personally, if we're going down the "Terrifying devestation" line, I'd expect we're probably looking at displacement as genocide. Effectively purging Mesopotamia of anyone who isn't Christian, full on Conversion by Sword. Fail to disown family who don't convert? Goodbye. Doing that across the length of Mesopotamia creates not just a terrifying number of refugees that really can only go south or east, but they then overwhelm the Persians. This means mass starvation, chaos beyond Mesopotamia, and the death of not just vast swathes of the Mesopotamian population, but those in Persia, Arabia, etc. It parallels the Egyptian situation, but on a much larger scale.

Follow that up with the same behaviour in the Zagros mountains in those places with useful strategic cities, and you've unleashed a monstrous situation that is easily classified as The Great Crime.

The alternative could be enslavement rather than displacement. The non-Christian population of Mesopotamia enslaved, and the same for strategic cities, and maybe even parts of the plateau. What scares me is that this could be plausible, and if the Romans take a neglectful approach to population replenishment, they'll grind out the population in favour of settlers. Plus, there are a lot of soldiers.

Ooooph, I just thought. Enslavement during the war, but then requiring the ransom of all of Mesopotamia as part of the peace treaty? Mixture of both with an economically shattered Ottomans till the indemnities are dealt with. If they can survive it, the population density of the Iranian Plateau will be much higher, perhaps making a tighter, more efficient Ottoman state. There will still be a massive overall population loss, with no Mesopotamia for them to return to.

I'm not sure I want to know if the Great Crime is worse than what either of us have outlined, not until we at least read the final version.
 
1635: Darkness Before Us
Thank you all for your words of support; I really appreciate them.

* * *
1635 (Balkans/Southern Germany): They had wintered in Belgrade, proceeding north once the spring runoff had drained away from the marshes of southern Hungary, marching along what they call the Old Crusader Road. For while the sea passage of the Fourth Crusade burns most in the Roman psyche, they have not forgotten that it was by land that the first crusaders came.

The army that Manuel Philanthropenos commands, at 25000 strong, is small by the standards of the previous year, but it is a lean and tough force. Its constituent elements include the Akoimetoi, now at full strength again, and the Chaldeans. They had been part of Mauromanikos’ force closing the Serbian back-door and thus, much to their annoyance, missed the battle of Thessaloniki. Both formations are eager for revenge.

Yet their desire for revenge cannot compare to the rest of the force, a mix of Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Helladic tourmai, all of which have seen their lands ravaged by the allies. The battle of Thessaloniki was good, but a little ‘armed pilgrimage’, to use the Latin terminology, up the Old Crusader Road would be better.

As the Roman army marches to Buda, linking up with the Hungarian army, relations with the Magyars are cool. There is no love lost on either side; too many on both sides have lost loved ones, either in this last war or in the War of Mohacs. The inhabitants of Buda make it very clear they will take up arms if the Roman soldiers enter the city; the Romans encamp outside.

The initial object is the conquest of Austria for Hungary, per the terms of the Treaty of Belgrade. This is a fairly easy task; many of the Austrian fortifications already have Hungarian garrisons, courtesy of King Stephan’s offer to protect the region against d’Este last year. Vienna is not one of those settlements but the burghers there have no loyalty to the House of Wittelsbach and many are very eager to restore the already-centuries-old connection to the Kingdom of Hungary. As a result, Vienna holds out a mere fortnight before surrendering to the Hungarians on generous terms. Ten days later King Stephan rides into the city with crowds cheering, and for many Viennese the cheers are genuine.

The Romans, while passing through Hungary and Austria, are generally well behaved, but as they cross over the border into Bavaria they quickly turn murderous. In their capacity for destruction, they yield nothing to the Allied ravagers that left Upper Macedonia as a ‘shattered reef’. In fact, some of the scouts doing much of the burning and butchering are former members of the partisan communes of Upper Macedonia, who learned their trade in that most brutal war and most eager to ply their skills here.

The Lady Elizabeth has been trying to broker a peace with the Romans, offering what seems to her like reasonable concessions that fulfill all the Roman objectives. She will acknowledge that the Wittelsbachs have no claim on the Roman throne. She will acknowledge whatever ‘rearrangements’ Demetrios III chooses to do in Italy. She will cede Austria to Hungary; its acquisition by the Wittelsbachs was legally dubious after all. She’s also willing to not make a fuss over the annexation of Salzburg by Hungary either. Finally she’s even willing to abandon all Wittelsbach prisoners in Roman hands. When she makes the last provision, it is not her finest moment, but she reasons that it is better to abandon them then have Romans rampaging through Bavaria killing even more of her subjects.

That is the limit she is willing to give, even at this point. But that would, she thinks, be enough. The problem she faces though is the Roman policy toward Germany in mid-1635, or more precisely the lack of any real policy toward Germany. Beyond the conquest of Austria for Hungary, the Romans have no real plan or goals. Whipped up by propaganda from the war, reveling at the might at their disposal, their goal is revenge. Their goal is blood and fire, a small repayment for all the suffering inflicted on them from the west.

There is a vague nod to a goal when Demetrios III speculates about the demolishing of the Holy Roman Empire, a ‘German farce perpetuated by a scheming pontiff’ as the Basileus describes it. But he doesn’t seem too serious about that; if he were the Emperor would’ve committed far more than Philanthropenos’ and d’Este’s relatively small armies. This isn’t Poland or Italy where realpolitik holds sway. The Romans want blood.

There is a noticeable exception to this. The Roman ambassadors to Antwerp, Bern, and King’s Harbor all argue strenuously in favor of Elizabeth’s overtures. The King’s Harbor and Antwerp ambassadors go even further, suggesting that all Wittelsbach prisoners be returned without any ransom demands and that Elizabeth even be granted a subsidy, all to help her fight the real enemy of today, the Triple Monarchy. All three ambassadors agree that a Triune acquisition of the Rhine would be disastrous.

Such arguments fall on deaf ears though. Most Romans give no thought to the Rhine; it is far away and there are no Romans there. There used to be, but the undeclared naval war against the Triunes that started after the battle of Guernsey in 1575 ended with the Triunes wiping Roman shipping from the Atlantic. So the Romans, as a salve to their pride, often say that the loss of said shipping isn’t really that important.

Demetrios III, while still a student at the University of Constantinople, had invested his earnings in one of the Antwerp runs that was destroyed by Triune privateers. That fiasco, and the humiliation of having to go cap in hand back to his father for money and being forced to have a very annoying roommate because of the limits of his new stipend, meant that as a young man Demetrios Sideros tried to forget the Rhine even existed.

Now as Emperor he certainly can’t pretend any more that the Rhine doesn’t exist or ignore the dangers of the growth of Triune power. But given his antipathy to the region given his earlier experiences, it is easy for the calls of vengeance, fueled by the contents of his own writings, to override his judgment.

And so Elizabeth’s overtures are of absolutely no use. It is far from the only woe she faces. The incapacity of her brother the Holy Roman Emperor raises serious questions about the leadership of Germany. In his occasional bouts of lucidity, Theodor discusses abdicating, but there is the question of who would succeed him. Lacking a direct male heir, he wants Elizabeth to be his successor, but while she can rule the Wittelsbach lands she cannot be Emperor. The vast Wittelsbach patrimony across the Holy Roman Emperor would give her substantial influence even without the Imperial title, but that is not the same.

There are three male relative options for a successor for Theodor. One is Elizabeth’s infant son, born in the fall of 1634. His name is Karl Manfred, named for Charlemagne and Manfred I, a defiant name but that hardly makes up for his lack of years. The second is their cousin, the Prince-Elector of the Palatine Otto Henry II. The Prince-Electors of the Palatine are of a cadet branch of the Imperial Wittelsbachs, with frequent intermarriages between the two branches. The third option is Duke Eberhard III of Württemberg, Elizabeth’s husband. While he doesn’t have the rank or Wittelsbach blood of Otto Henry II, he is Elizabeth’s preferred choice because while Karl Manfred is too young now, she wants him to wear the Imperial crown someday, which will be more likely if his father wears it now rather than her Palatine cousin.

However this is ignoring a key player who is not a Wittelsbach relation, Ottokar of Bohemia. Many historians have questioned exactly what Ottokar wants at this point; it’s possible Ottokar himself doesn’t know. He certainly wants to become Holy Roman Emperor and supplant the Wittelsbachs, and is willing to use the Triunes to do so. Yet at the same time he wants to take over an intact Holy Roman Empire, preferably without an overly-powerful Triple Monarchy next door. For the moment he is biding his time and hedging his bets, but there is no guarantee he will stay that way for long.

For now, lucid Theodor and Elizabeth agree to keep the situation as is. It cannot last, but it is holding for now, and there is the concern that if they push for either Eberhard III or Otto Henry II to succeed Theodor, they’ll drive Ottokar firmly into opposition, likely into Henri II’s arms.

Lady_with_unicorn_by_Rafael_Santi.jpg

Elizabeth Wittelsbach. The portrait dates from early 1634, shortly before her pregnancy with Karl Manfred.
(By Raphael - Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2372729)​

The Roman-Hungarian army follows the River Danube as it crosses over into Bavaria, linking up with d’Este’s troops at Passau. Passau is an independent bishopric, promptly garrisoned by lead elements of the Hungarian forces, who ride forward in an effort to safeguard the region from Roman reprisals. The Romans behave, grudgingly, as this is now allied territory, but they demand a large ‘contribution’ from the countryside, already severely stripped by d’Este last year.

That is the dynamic as the Romans and Hungarians proceed, turning down the Isar River towards Munich. The Romans ravage and wreck, filling the Bavarian horizon with the plumes of burning villages. Hungarian soldiers commit their own share of atrocities, but everyone, Romans, Hungarians, Germans, and the Bohemians watching nervously from the north, agree that the Romans are the more brutal. It is even worse than d’Este last year.

Tensions between the Romans and Hungarians, which were already elevated when back in Buda, only intensify. Strategos Philanthropenos and Prince Esterhazy, commander of the Hungarian army who was elevated shortly after his return to Buda, do not get along very well personally. The Prince sees little point in the expedition after Vienna falls, recognizing that the Romans have no real purpose here other than smashing.

Still the Romans and Hungarians press on, facing little opposition until they reach the walls of Munich itself on July 29. This will not be like last year. While the Romans and Hungarians don’t possess heavy siege artillery, they have twelve and fifteen-pounder guns, much harder-hitting than the light field artillery that had been most of d’Este’s teeth in his previous attack.

Another difference is that Elizabeth is not in the city. Recognizing that the city probably can’t be held, unlike last year, and concerned about what might transpire in the Holy Roman Empire if they are trapped, Theodor, Elizabeth, and Karl Manfred have fled, leaving the city under the command of Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemburg. The family’s objective is Württemberg, where Elizabeth’s husband can protect them. When he hears the news Manuel Philanthropenos embarks on an audacious and ambitious course.

The army will divide. The Hungarians, along with a contingent of the Roman army commanded by d’Este, will remain and besiege Munich. D’Este has much better working relations with Tamás Dobó, Count of Várpalota, who’d commanded Hungarian troops in Austria last year and had sparred with d’Este. Meanwhile Philanthropenos will lead eighteen thousand Romans westward.

There are several reasons for this. On the more selfish level, Philanthropenos is tired of dealing with the Hungarians. While in Mesopotamia he has proven himself to be a brilliant field commander, that is quite different from being the generalissimo of a coalition force, and at the second task he is far from great. Furthermore, cutting loose and undertaking a great raid into the heart of Germany, much like his raid into Mesopotamia and Syria, is highly appealing, far more prestigious than a tedious siege. One bad thing about having a great family name is the constant need to live up to it.

On a more strategic level, capturing Theodor and Elizabeth would be a greater coup than even the capture of Munich, never mind the satisfaction of dragging Theodor through a Roman encampment in chains. There are quite a few Roman soldiers who bitterly regret that he slipped through their fingers after Thessaloniki and are keen to fix that error. Also if he strikes west, he threatens the remaining Wittelsbach power bases in southwestern Germany, namely Württemberg and the Palatine.

Now it could be pointed out that Wittelsbach forces in southwest Germany are also threatening the Triunes. But Manuel Philanthropenos is a soldier, not a diplomat or politician. He is not at war with the Triunes, and his only brief regarding them is to make sure he does not start a war with them. But he is at war with the Wittelsbachs, meaning his mission is to destroy their power until he hears otherwise from Constantinople.

Breaking camp from the west bank of the Isar, Philanthropenos and his forces march west, trapezites flying forward in pursuit of the Imperial Wittelsbach family. Near the western border of Bavaria, trapezites ambush the party in a dawn surprise assault, scattering the Wittelsbachs and their faithful retainers. Elizabeth, clutching Karl Manfred to her, escapes, but Theodor disappears into the woods.

Two days later Roman trapezites ride into the village of Kissing on the trail of Theodor. They look around the village but can get no cooperation from the villagers, despite offers of money. The murderous reputation of the Romans mean that even while the money is tempting, no Bavarians are willing to draw attention to themselves by offering assistance. Best to not be noticed. Not finding anything promising in their quick search and unable to do much threatening since the Bishop of Augsburg with a contingent of a thousand musketeers is just 11 kilometers away, the Romans leave.

Two days after that, Elizabeth rides into town with two hundred of the Bishop’s men, along with eight hundred provided by the Duke of Teck. The cousin of her husband, the Duke of Teck had arrived in the nick of time and driven off the Roman horse chasing her. There they find Theodor, dressed in a peasant smock and helping a group of peasants dig a ditch. The image of the Holy Roman Emperor, the heir of Charlemagne, in the muck wielding a spade alongside a group of lowly peasants, is an unforgettable sight. The story spreads wildly, the tale being told in many a pamphlet across the continent, with popular woodcuts appearing by January of 1636, the ultimate sign of the price of hubris. That is why he is known today as Theodor the Digger. Because, as Demetrios III described it, “he who would command all the earth, cannot even rule the earth held by a single spade”.

Now protected by the Duke of Teck and Bishop of Augsburg, the Imperial Wittelsbachs are whisked away to the west, making their capture by Romans a practical impossibility. Still Manuel presses on with his attack, determined to lay waste to the Wittelsbach loyalists of southwestern Germany.

The wreckage here is more strategic than in Bavaria, with the focus on burning rather than killing. Having men scatter to hunt down random peasants would be a dangerous dispersal in a foreign and hostile landscape, but anything of value that isn’t sucked up for the Romans’ own usage is destroyed whenever possible. As a Roman staff officer puts it in a phrase that comes to define the entire campaign, they advance “with darkness before us, and destruction behind”.
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
Seems like the Germans are going to come out of this just as hardened as the Rhomans once this is all done and over with.
 
The schadenfreude is incredible. How liberating it is to read the Wittelsbach Downfall.
Wow, they just keep getting away from the Romans.
All for the best really. The farther they run the further their legitimacy falls. The most striking image of the Wittelsbachs in the German zeitgeist now is that of the Imperial Family abandoning everyone and donning peasant garbs like cowards. If they actually got captured a lot of the German resentment against the Wittelsbachs will get clouded over by their hatred of the Romans. Can't have that.

I know it'll be terribad for European geopolitical power balance, but I really want Henry to sit Theodor and Elizabeth down and make them watch as he's crowned the Holy Roman Emperor.

EDIT: I'm surprised that the Romans didn't just execute all males in that village to get Theodor.
 
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That’s unfortunate B444, but I’m sure someone with your skills and dedication will bounce back soon enough!

If the Romans are going to leave Southern Germany as a burnt out husk then I don’t think they’ll be supporting armies anytime soon. Will that leave Northern Germany as the main theatre of this war? The Wittelsbach hunker down, severed from the rest of their territories whilst everyone else dukes it out?
 
The one condition I want to see is the complete and total renunciation of usage of the terms “emperor of the Romans” or “holy Roman emperor” by the Germans.
 
I know it'll be terribad for European geopolitical power balance, but I really want Henry to sit Theodor and Elizabeth down and make them watch as he's crowned the Holy Roman Emperor.
Nah. Henry is a scheming, backstabbing "Spider" leading a nation chock-full of smarmy, insufferable pricks. I can't ever wish anything good to him or his people.

I'm firmly #teamelizabeth. Theodor can go to hell.
 
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