An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Anizzah are Orthodox Christians. But frankly I don’t see a Roman puppet ruling the Holy Cities of Islam, particularly a Christian puppet, being any more tolerable to the Dar al-Islam than Roman direct rule.
If anything I'd say that having desert nomads rule Mecca and Medina is even more insulting. At least if the Romans institute direct rule they can acknowledge that the Holy Cities are under the heel of a major empire that the House of Islam recognizes as an equal, if full of heathens.
 
Lords of Spice and Sea: The Elephant and the Eagles
Lords of Spice and Sea: The Elephant and the Eagles

Pereira ensures that the embassy he sends to Vijayanagar is lavishly equipped, carrying captured Roman banners and loot to show the might and prowess of Spanish arms against their foe. It is a splendid array that certainly sets people talking as it makes its way from the coast up the great highway to the City of Victories. There are still some old folks who remember a similar display of captured Roman pride, wrested by a Vijayanagara fleet when the Yavanas had forgotten that they were guests, not masters, in this corner of the world.

Venkata Raya is certainly intrigued when his officials give him an initial report before the embassy arrives and he enjoys the embarrassment of the Romans. He has no particular animus towards them, but arrogance in others is always annoying, and seeing it punctured is always satisfying. Most of the Romans here are experienced with dealing with the Vijayanagara and so know how to act with confidence and pride without crossing into self-importance, but some new arrival regularly turns up and annoys the Vijayanagara.

Pereira (who is not part of the embassy) is a veteran with decades of service in the east, but nearly all of that is in Island Asia. He knows almost nothing about dealing with Vijayanagar, and the same can be said of his closest advisors. The Spanish hands familiar with Venkata Raya and the Jewel of the World have been in India, attending to normal trade while Pereira and the Spaniards of Island Asia have been fighting and dying, and so the latter are not particularly keen to listen to the advice and warnings of the former.

Nobody is able to pinpoint precisely what the Spaniards did wrong; the issue was with the tone, rather than the content, of the message. Talk of Spanish might and prowess came across more as arrogance than confidence, the displays of captured Roman banners conveying a hint of menace rather than a show of how useful of allies they would be. The Spanish audience is not some minor Indonesian kingdom which can only put a few thousand men into the field. This is Vijayanagar, the Jewel of the World. One does not come prancing into their halls as if one is lord of the world. If one does, the Vijayanagara will not be impressed.

Venkata Raya is politely diplomatic, accepting the Spanish gifts and giving them permission to hire sailors and soldiers for their war effort. However he will offer no governmental support for the Spanish to do so; if the Spanish want men from Vijayanagar they must find the pay to attract them. Given the numbers Pereira needs that will not be cheap; lascars won’t take captured Roman flags as pay.

Venkata Raya is still undecided over whether he would prefer the Romans or the Spanish as allies to counter the Oudh-Bengal accord to the north; other western powers such as the Lotharingians or Scandinavians are viewed as too weak to be of any use. On the one hand, in Indian waters the Romans are indubitably the stronger, meaning the Spanish seem like much less of a threat. On the other, the Spanish were the overlords of Bengal before the Triune expulsion, and while Venkata Raya wishes to drive the Triunes out of Bengal, he has no wish to simply see them replaced by another greedy westerner.

But having said all that, this latest Spanish display has shifted that narrative somewhat. The Spanish seem like more of a potential threat now, and the Romans display more tact and respect than this latest batch, which hardly endears the Iberians to the Vijayanagara.

Yet the narrative is only shifted somewhat. Venkata Raya is not willing to come out actively in favor of the Romans as a long-term analysis still suggests them being a greater threat in Indian waters. Furthermore the Spanish are valued customers whose cotton cloth exports (often to purchase African slaves to work Caribbean plantations) provide lucrative customs revenue for his exchequer, so he doesn’t wish to alienate them.

The Roman ambassador to Vijayanagar, Nikephoros Laskaris, has a Telegu mistress. There’s an awkward moment one night when she comes to him and Nikephoros discovers she is wearing a necklace that had been part of the Roman loot turned Spanish gifts presented to Venkata Raya. She’s been given that by a senior member of the court. When Nikephoros realizes the provenance of the gift, she tells him that the court felt such a gift was most fitting for her, although they believed that a matching gift from Nikephoros would greatly improve the outfit.

Nikephoros is a veteran of the Vijayanagara court of Venkata Raya and so the subtle message comes through loud and clear for him. The necklace is Roman loot gifted by a Spaniard; a matching gift wouldn’t be a similar necklace, but a Spanish loot gifted by him, a Roman. This is a very backchannel way of Venkata Raya indicating his approval for a Taprobane-Roman counterattack against the Spanish, without doing so openly and risking a rupture with the Spanish. Nikephoros immediately sends word with all haste to his brother.

His brother Konstantinos, Katepano of Taprobane, has been having a frustrating time ever since the Spanish embassy arrived. Pereira had deliberately avoided attacking any of Pyrgos’ holdings to avoid Deblitzenos yanking his big warships out of Korea in response. Yet in his need for manpower, Pereira had been forced to intrude onto Laskaris’ patch, and he is not happy about it. The embassy, particularly with its swagger that already tweaked the Vijayanagara, suggests the Spanish might intend to muscle in on Roman holdings in India, and he will not take that lying down.

He would very much like to retaliate against the Spanish before the apparent threat can manifest more thoroughly, and in this he is joined by alarmed Ship Lords who fear intensified Spanish competition, so resources aren’t an issue. The problem is that an overt display of major Roman power, even if directed away from India, could alienate the Vijayanagara who still view the Romans as more than a threat than the Spanish. So Konstantinos must muster a strong Roman force while not appearing too strong to the Vijayanagara, a difficult feat considering that battle-line ships are really obvious.

The report from his brother is an absolute godsend, greatly simplifying the task. Yet even then there are still limits; the two Laskaris brothers note that the approval is extremely unofficial. The shipyards at Colombo have the ability to build merchantmen the size of a first-rater, yet a warship of that size would be bigger than the three large second-raters in Vijayanagara service. Producing a larger ship, or even one comparable in size, could be too easily construed as an insult or challenge. Outshining a monarch is a good way to lose one’s head, after all.

Although Laskaris has not sent any ships east to Island Asia, the Colombo shipyards have been busy; the ability of the Spanish, and therefore any Latin power, to send larger warships directly to the east makes clear the need for the Romans to have larger warships. By the time the monsoon winds begin riding out from Africa onto India’s west coast in 1638, one 70-gunner and a trio of 64-gunners are completed. They’re not as big as the Flor de la Mars, but the designs had been made and timbers of the appropriate type readily available in Pegu at the time of inquiry; bigger ships would’ve taken longer to build.

Riding that 1638 monsoon from the west are reinforcements from Rhomania. In raw material terms it is rather underwhelming: 1600 Roman troops aboard some hired merchantmen. The Suez shipyard can only build oared vessels for use in the Red Sea. Given the tricky winds and currents of the Red Sea, it is extremely hazardous to use vessels powered only by sail there, so the Romans see no point in building facilities there to construct big sailing ships. No one wants to pay for a shipyard to build a battle-line ship, then pay for the battle-line ship, and then for said battle-line ship to hit rocks off Yemen and sink two weeks later. That’s why the Romans built the shipyards at Colombo instead. (This is also the reason for the prominence of ports like Aden and Zeila. They serve as the transfer point between the ocean haulers and smaller oared vessels that make the run to Suez.)

There is more substantial aid from another source. In exchange for substantial Roman subsidies [1], accompanying the soldiers are eight Ethiopian warships, four 40-gunners and four 20-gunners, plus another 400 Ethiopian infantry. The overall force is commanded by Doux Gabriel Papagos, the victor of the battle of Palmaria, who carries an Imperial chrysobull with Demetrios III’s personal signature. This bestows on him the rank of ‘Exarch of the Eastern Territories’, giving him authority over any and all Romans between the Gulf of Aden and Japan, including the Katepanoi themselves. His powers are both civil and military and can only be countermanded by an Imperial order bearing the Emperor’s signature. (As a security measure, the authority will automatically lapse in 2 years after the issue unless renewed by an additional chrysobull, and during that time Papagos’ family must remain within the city limits of Constantinople.)

It is very fortunate for Konstantinos Laskaris that the Doux finds him hard at work openly preparing a major military expedition east. Had it been otherwise, he very well might have found himself sacked and hauled off back to Constantinople as Gabriel was empowered to do if he saw fit. However, since Konstantinos is doing what Gabriel wants him to do, he leaves him in place, as it might disrupt preparations, which Gabriel wants to avoid. He knows the forces he brought east are woefully inadequate; he needs Taprobane’s resources.

To give credit to Konstantinos, once he had decided to move against the Spanish in Island Asia, he is a capable organizer. Gabriel has little work to do upon his arrival before declaring the expedition ready. Just as the Spanish expedition of 1636 marked the greatest Latin armament ever dispatched to the east to date, the Taprobane expedition of 1638 marks the greatest concentration of Roman naval might outside the Mediterranean to date.

There are the 70-gunner, three 64-gunners, two 50-gunners, and eight fifth-raters (4 Roman, 4 Ethiopian), backed up by 8 sixth-raters, 8 seventh-raters and sixteen heavy merchantmen. And those numbers do not include the troop transports.

Some Romans, seeing the arrival of reinforcements and leadership from the heartland and the fact that the expedition is built mostly on Taprobane’s resources, seek to minimize Vijayanagara significance in these events. However it was the Spanish expedition to Vijayanagar that spurred Konstantinos to begin preparations earlier, and Vijayanagara approval that allowed him to work openly and thereby effectively. With Doux Papagos’ arrival, there would have been an expedition, but if he’d had to start from scratch, it would’ve been impossible for him to proceed with a credible force prior to 1639, at which point the thread of events in Southeast Asia was getting entangled with the thread of events in Italy and North Africa. Plus, the outfitting of a Roman expedition of this size without Vijayanagara approval and irritation with the Spanish probably would’ve sparked a much bigger backlash in the City of Victories.

Venkata Raya, when he receives word of the size of the Roman fleet, orders the construction of more heavy warships and the first joint training exercises for his second-raters. Given the increased might of the Spanish, who can certainly be copied by other westerners, and the apparent might of the Romans, it would be ever more important for Vijayanagar to command a powerful fleet of its own.

[1] The eight Ethiopian ships, with the quartet of fifth-raters, represent a quarter of all Ethiopian warships, with a higher percentage of their naval firepower, and is thus a major commitment. For the ships, crews, and soldiers, Rhomania pledged to cover the expenses of the entire Ethiopian navy while the ships are in Roman service and provide the Ethiopians with a new and fully outfitted 56-gunner at the end of term.
 
Last edited:
I like the development of this navy-inclined Indian Empire. In time TTL world is going to look very multi-polar. Much more interesting than the America & co. superpower fest in OTL.
 
With Doux Papagos’ arrival, there would have been an expedition, but if he’d had to start from scratch, it would’ve been impossible for him to proceed with a credible force prior to 1639, at which point the thread of events in Southeast Asia was getting entangled with the thread of events in Italy and North Africa.
Ohhhhh, foreshadowing! Love when that happens!
 
What is happening in North Africa? I am incredibly intrigued.
“Hey Marinids! You still hate the Spanish right? If we lost some ships near Tangier’s, wouldn’t it be a real shame if you used those to torment the Spanish coast? Wouldn’t that be the worst?”

If anything remotely like this happens the view of the Romans as monsters in the eyes of Latins for the next period of history makes an increasing amount of sense. I mean they murdered a pope, destroyed Southern Germany, and helped heretics kill Christians. Plus whatever they do to the Ottomans.
 
“Hey Marinids! You still hate the Spanish right? If we lost some ships near Tangier’s, wouldn’t it be a real shame if you used those to torment the Spanish coast? Wouldn’t that be the worst?”

If anything remotely like this happens the view of the Romans as monsters in the eyes of Latins for the next period of history makes an increasing amount of sense. I mean they murdered a pope, destroyed Southern Germany, and helped heretics kill Christians. Plus whatever they do to the Ottomans.
Maybe they subtlely convince the marinids becsuse the spanish fleet has just been dispatched to the east?
 
“Hey Marinids! You still hate the Spanish right? If we lost some ships near Tangier’s, wouldn’t it be a real shame if you used those to torment the Spanish coast? Wouldn’t that be the worst?”

If anything remotely like this happens the view of the Romans as monsters in the eyes of Latins for the next period of history makes an increasing amount of sense. I mean they murdered a pope, destroyed Southern Germany, and helped heretics kill Christians. Plus whatever they do to the Ottomans.
That is a level of political deviousness that I am 100% on board with. I'm now pulling for this scenario.
 
I just hope the Sicilians don't find out the Romans are scheming with the Maranids. Not much they can do but as the lynchpin of Roman control in italy they need them happy
 
There are the 70-gunner, three 64-gunners, two 50-gunners, and eight fifth-raters (4 Roman, 4 Ethiopian), backed up by 8 sixth-raters, 8 seventh-raters and sixteen heavy merchantmen. And those numbers do not include the troop transports.
The battle-line breaks down as follows, with Spanish numbers first and Roman second:

Third-raters: 3 to 0.
Fourth-raters: 6 (2 Roman prizes from Semarang) to 3 (Roman flagship is by far the biggest in this category).
Fifth-raters: 4 to 5 (slight average per-ship size and firepower advantage to the Romans).
Sixth-raters: 3 to 13 (10 of the Roman are of the heavy variety).
Seventh-raters: 3 to 3.
Armed merchantmen: 6 to 14 (massive average per-ship size and firepower to the Romans in this category).
Fireships: 0 to 6.
Total: 25 to 44.
So if we compare the Taprobane relief fleet + whatever reinforcements they can pick up it should be a good match against what remains of the Spanish Armada, the question is will they be able to concentrate against the Spanish? I suspect the situation will reverse, with the Spanish fleet defeating the Romans piecemeal before they get the chance to combine.

We also know at the end of the 1638 Korean War update that Leo Kalomeros will be captaining a shiny new fregeta into the war, there doesn't look to be an end in sight.
 
So if we compare the Taprobane relief fleet + whatever reinforcements they can pick up it should be a good match against what remains of the Spanish Armada, the question is will they be able to concentrate against the Spanish? I suspect the situation will reverse, with the Spanish fleet defeating the Romans piecemeal before they get the chance to combine.

We also know at the end of the 1638 Korean War update that Leo Kalomeros will be captaining a shiny new fregeta into the war, there doesn't look to be an end in sight.
Spanish defeating the Romans piecemeal? I don't think so, by this time the entire Roman east is alerted and are actively preparing to sortie and destroy the Spanish. Of course the last Roman sortie ended in defeat but that didn't ensure any long term benefits for the Periera. Its a race against time for him to take the multiple settlements and fortress in the east. And this time the Exarch of the Far East Papagos is setting out in a big force to finally crush him. Even if Periera wins some naval battle he won't catch the Romans in suprise anymore.

The Spanish cause is now a lost cause, he won the battles but lost the war at this point.
 
So if we compare the Taprobane relief fleet + whatever reinforcements they can pick up it should be a good match against what remains of the Spanish Armada, the question is will they be able to concentrate against the Spanish? I suspect the situation will reverse, with the Spanish fleet defeating the Romans piecemeal before they get the chance to combine.

We also know at the end of the 1638 Korean War update that Leo Kalomeros will be captaining a shiny new fregeta into the war, there doesn't look to be an end in sight.
That was prior to the battle. Post the battle it changed as follows:

Spanish navy

Third-raters: 3
Fourth-raters: 5
Fifth-raters: 3
Sixth-raters: 4
Seventh-raters: 3
Armed merchantmen: 7

New Constantinople fleet

Third-raters: 0
Fourth-raters: 1
Fifth-raters: 3
Sixth-raters: 9
Seventh-raters: 3
Armed merchantmen: 9

Combined Greek-Ethiopian expeditionary force

Third-raters: 4
Fourth-raters: 2
Fifth-raters: 8
Sixth-raters: 8
Seventh-raters: 8
Armed merchantmen: 16

Pereira has 7 of the line with 466 guns against 6 of the line with 362 guns against Papagos and maybe 842 guns overall (I rated the merchantmen at 20 guns apiece) to 1258. It would be a very risky fight just taking on Papagos fleet on its own. When the Pyrgos fleet shows up?

Of course Pereira may also have gotten reinforcements from Spain but if there is a crisis or worse in the Mediterranean, the imperial navy there has 84 ships of the line. Spain had 56, and send 8 east leaving them with 48. Even if we add the Arletian 41 ships it is only 89 to 84 and the Greeks can probably produce ships faster if it comes down to all out war than Spain/Arles... assuming Arles is not given enough concessions to be neutral or on Constantinople's side. So I doubt more reinforcements went east.
 
Spanish defeating the Romans piecemeal? I don't think so, by this time the entire Roman east is alerted and are actively preparing to sortie and destroy the Spanish. Of course the last Roman sortie ended in defeat but that didn't ensure any long term benefits for the Periera. Its a race against time for him to take the multiple settlements and fortress in the east. And this time the Exarch of the Far East Papagos is setting out in a big force to finally crush him. Even if Periera wins some naval battle he won't catch the Romans in suprise anymore.

The Spanish cause is now a lost cause, he won the battles but lost the war at this point.
Pereira's problem is that just Papagos expedition is at a minimum comparable in strength to his and I'm saying comparable as opposed to clearly stronger just because Pereira has a small edge to ships of the line while clearly outnumbered overall in numbers of guns and ships. He could try of course to destroy the New Constantinople and Pyrgos fleets in detail before Papagos shows up, but the window of opportunity to do so would be limited and he'd suffer casualties reducing his force in doing so... at the same time the Colombo yards already delivered 4 of the line and I suspect it's only a matter of time before yet more show up, even if they do not have enough slips to work on more than 4 of the line simultaneously it just means that come 1639 you'll have another 4 70 gunners showing up...

Also I'm certain I'm not the ony one who has noticed Demetrios identified the main problem of the Roman East right away and took drastic means to solve it by creating an exarch of the east...
 
Pereira's problem is that just Papagos expedition is at a minimum comparable in strength to his and I'm saying comparable as opposed to clearly stronger just because Pereira has a small edge to ships of the line while clearly outnumbered overall in numbers of guns and ships. He could try of course to destroy the New Constantinople and Pyrgos fleets in detail before Papagos shows up, but the window of opportunity to do so would be limited and he'd suffer casualties reducing his force in doing so... at the same time the Colombo yards already delivered 4 of the line and I suspect it's only a matter of time before yet more show up, even if they do not have enough slips to work on more than 4 of the line simultaneously it just means that come 1639 you'll have another 4 70 gunners showing up...

Also I'm certain I'm not the ony one who has noticed Demetrios identified the main problem of the Roman East right away and took drastic means to solve it by creating an exarch of the east...
Where do you think will the capital of the Far east be? New constantinople or Pyrgos?
 
Top