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An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Italy is just of lesser concern and priority than the Ottomans.

As well it should be. I can't really blame D3 here. Maybe I'm being too kind to the guy because I like him but I can certainly appreciate how low northern Italy is on the list of priorities, especially when there's a war with the Ottomans in less than three years. Those of us with historical foresight gleaned from the third-person omniscient narration of the updates have a better picture of what's going on than the men and women on the ground, especially in an era before rapid communication.

Hostilities with the Ottomans resume February of 1641. It is autumn of 1638 when the banking scandal hits. D3 and his family/staff have basically 2.5 years to A - at least try and fix the economy, or at least get it to the point where people begin to trust banks again; B - mobilize, pay for, and supply at least one theater-sized army in Northern Mesopotamia for at least one and possibly more campaign seasons and C - do all the other stuff they have to do (deal with the Triunes, the Spanish, the power vacuum in Central Europe, all the men on pensions/their widows, and so and so forth) as well The earth doesn't stop spinning after all.

Oh, and to top all that off? There's a very real possibility - hell, even likeness - that D3 dies before the truce expires. So Rhomania will have to do all that stuff and deal with a new Emperor as well.

Is it annoying that Rhomania snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because they took their eye off the ball? Yeah, it is. Is it something that is completely realistic given the absolute cluster that is the situation as described in the last half-dozen or so updates? Yeah, it is.
 
Central Italy: The area was “taken” by the Romans when Odysseus seized Rome in 1635, although taken is in quotes because the level of Roman authority in the region outside of Rome and Civitavecchia is fuzzy at best.

Ancient Rome and Rhomania: There could very well be a surge in interest in ancient Rome in its ‘Latin phase’, but that will probably wait until industrialization and urbanization and mass education take off. The vast majority of Romans are still rural peasants (remember, Rhomania is heavily urbanized for the time period, meaning that a grand total of 20% of Romans live in cities, and their standard for cities is much lower than ours). They’ve been through one devastating war and expect another with the Ottomans. The war with the Ottomans they understand and support, because the security argument works there. But it doesn’t with Italy. Painting the map purple doesn’t help their lives. In the form of war taxes, conscription, and requisition it actively makes their lives worse. So they don’t want it.



Very likely, although I don’t have any specifically planned at this point.



My response to this was substantial and important enough I decided to edit it into the original update. The added section is this:

This is the best (but not only) example of the Romans shooting themselves in the foot in the whole Italian affair, through their utter lack of flexibility. It’d taken over a year just to settle on Mastino and the original offer made to him. No plans had been made for if he rejected it, because coming up with a plan B, after the difficulties of plan A, was too troublesome. If Mastino + Verona was not available, which was preferable, Mastino without Verona or Parma + Verona? That decision had not been made, and to avoid making it, the Romans ducked the issue by continuing the ‘wait and see’ attitude far after it became inappropriate.

Some of the blame can go to the war hawks. While government officials in this clique were spread across all departments, a disproportionate number of them were in the Foreign Office. They were still a minority in that branch, but what they lacked in numbers they made up in conviction. They didn’t like any of the options on the table. With their conviction, they were able to scuttle them, but their lack of numbers meant they couldn’t force their own views instead. The result was vacuum.

However the greater share of blame must go to the leadership for its lack of leadership. Such an atmosphere never should’ve been tolerated. Demetrios III was focused on his internal reforms, personal writing projects, and failing health. Italy took a back seat to those concerns, and since Demetrios could come up with good points for all arguments, he found it most difficult to favor one. So he failed to make a decision. He also failed to force the Foreign Office to make a decision of its own, even if he just rubberstamped whatever they proposed.

The other failure can be laid at Demetrios III’s Logothete of the Drome, Manuel Tzankares. After Sarantenos’ antics, Demetrios III can be forgiven for wanting a Logothete who wasn’t super-clever; Tzankares would never have been described as brilliant. While he’d been a secretary for the Roman ambassador to Spain, he was Antioch-born and had spent most of his career at the Georgian or Ottoman courts. Thus he was far more knowledgeable about and concerned with eastern affairs. Diverting resources to Italy where they might be tied up when the truce expired with Ibrahim did not appeal to him. (After the withdrawal of Odysseus and his army after the fall of Rome the Roman forces in Italy were mostly naval, useless for war with Ibrahim; army units were overwhelmingly supplied by the Sicilians.) With the two Dukes doing no more than probing at each other throughout 1636-37, there seemed to be no rush to make a decision either way. Tzankares’ chief subordinates, appointed by him, are officials familiar to him that he trusts, which means they are overwhelmingly of a similar eastern-oriented mindset. Italy is just of lesser concern and priority than the Ottomans.
Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to lay all of this out for me B444. While it’s obviously poor decision making, your additions make it all logical poor decision making. This provides all of the connective tissue I was wanting and makes a lot more sense to me. Can’t wait for the next update and this little addition was great too.
 
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Scintillating update again B444! I re-read the previous update and was thinking about the financial situation during this period. If I'm not wrong, bad currency (IBC) lost its value, and people preferred to trade only in good currency (coinage) according to Thiers' Law. Hence, prices of everyday items should rise as metals are in short supply although not at Zimbabwean levels (situation was not exacerbated by massive note printing). Is it at a level where ordinary citizens have to save longer to afford luxuries or is it more akin to people not being able to afford daily essentials?
 
I came across an old article that offers a few suitable currency alternatives in the event of a bullion shortage and lack of faith in fiat currency. Anyone interested can in a good 5 min read can check it out here . Essentially, the currency would have the following characteristics:
1. fixed physical supply. 2. resistance to weather-related influences. 3. diverse ownership to prevent attempts to restrict supply through a non-competitive structure. 4. freely tradable status. 5. no futures or options markets attached to it

The author came up with the following suggestions. (some of these aren't available yet, but it's interesting to know their potential nonetheless. Maybe Rhomania will even come up with something entirely unique before the switch to a digital currency)
  1. Arable land with a dependable climate​
  2. Oil refining capacity​
  3. Electricity generating capacity​
  4. Water treatment capacity​
  5. Drinking water, bottled or piped​
  6. Coastal access, harbours and ports​
  7. Palladium/platinum/diamonds​
  8. Real estate in long-standing, distinctive locations​
  9. Antiques, fine art, stamps and coins​
  10. Commodities without futures and options markets​
 
Do the Romans use an Arabic numeral system or did they end up sticking with the old Latin numerals? It seems more likely that they would adopt the simpler arabic one but in coolness factor it would be Awsome to see the romans distinguish themselves from the rest of the world with their own system of numbers while the latins have abandoned it for the barbarian numerals
 
Do the Romans use an Arabic numeral system or did they end up sticking with the old Latin numerals?
The dissemination of Arabic numerals was well underway when the POD happened. IIRC Fibonacci wrote his book in 1202, and soon after most people who really cared about arithmetic were at least aware of them, even if it took a couple hundred years more before they were in wide use.

It seems more likely that they would adopt the simpler arabic one but in coolness factor it would be Awsome to see the romans distinguish themselves from the rest of the world with their own system of numbers while the latins have abandoned it for the barbarian numerals
Roman numerals are too impractical. They are passable for addition and subtraction, but if you have to do any of the more powerful operations, Arabic numerals are always going to win because they just give a real competitive advantage.

I can see Roman numerals remain widely used as a more formal way to write down numbers, sort of as they are today.
 
Do the Romans use an Arabic numeral system or did they end up sticking with the old Latin numerals? It seems more likely that they would adopt the simpler arabic one but in coolness factor it would be Awsome to see the romans distinguish themselves from the rest of the world with their own system of numbers while the latins have abandoned it for the barbarian numerals
I believe you are looking at "The Great Method of Calculation according to the Indians" written by Maximos Planoudes sometime in the late 13th century.
 
Indo-Arabic numerals are simply superior to Latin numerals in virtually every mathematical application. There's no way that Roman bankers and scientists can avoid using it. Actually, they probably adopted it even faster than the Latins since Muslim integration to the Empire has been higher in Rhomania than any other region in Europe.
 
Indo-Arabic numerals are simply superior to Latin numerals in virtually every mathematical application. There's no way that Roman bankers and scientists can avoid using it. Actually, they probably adopted it even faster than the Latins since Muslim integration to the Empire has been higher in Rhomania than any other region in Europe.
If bankers find it saves/makes money for them it will adopted quickly as those times permit. Remember what happened to Mr. Fezziwig.
 
I know I've sent a few of these images before and most of this is noncanon except for the picture of D3 that the B man provided himself a while ago but I've compiled some images of characters in this tl for my headcanon and im posting this for those of you who are interested to help imagine the faces of the fantastic charecters of this tl

D3 (the great administrator emperor himself I'm really gonna miss him when he is gone, it sucks that he will be forgotten after his death because he is one of the best emperors the empire has ever had since Trajan IMO):
Demetrios Sideros~3.jpg

Ody(this one I've used as my home screen for months now on my phone because it just is a really beautiful portrait and I feel like this picture really matches how I imagine he looks minus the war scars. also, look he's wearing almost the same outfit as his dad in the picture above! What a coincidence I didn't notice that until just rereading my post):
main-image~2.jpeg


Ibrahim (smug bastard thinks he can get away stealing the holy land away from the Roman empire and get away with it, must have not studied up on his Roman history because everybody who has thought they can pull a fast one on gods empire has not found themselves in the best prospects once Rome sets their mind to taking revenge):
2a70052fbc3cc11ac39e4c970552f355 (2)~2.jpg

Iskander the younger (Ibrahims little bro (I think) and professional man of mystery. Seems like he's gonna screw over our future emperor eventually once he becomes Shah but for now I'm greatful to him for being such a good friend to Ody. I'd love to see some dialog between the two in the future and understand their dynamic more):
07631a2e9e3c739baa936707597a7a4f--ottoman-empire-sultan.jpg


Leo Kalamoros (I remember somthing about Roman naval men wearing red coats so i made sure to find one of young napoleon in proper uniform. It would be super fascinating to see how him and Ody would fare together in a personal setting, if he's anything like our napoleon i bet Ody would get irritated with his visions of grandure but have to keep him in high ranks due to his sheer talent):
napoleon_bonaparte_1769_1821_x_hi.jpg


Lady Athena (this one took a while to find but i honestly think this one suits her quite well although she might be a bit darker):
IMG_1067.jpg

Ottokar ( ok for this one I legit just looked up "Bohemian 1600s painting" without going back to know how old he is but i think this fits with how i imagine him i could find a younger one if this one is too old for our Holy Frankenstein's monster emperor):
1c183959b59a5d0191eb0af57386f3c8.jpg


Alright thats all for the images I collected and most of this besides the image of D3 are headcanon but i hope some of you found some amusement out of this. If any of you have some pictures you use for your headcanon id be super interested to see it. Praise Kaiser Odysseus!
 
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I thought D3 would be more tan akin to Ody since he's a Sideroi, being descended from the Timurids. In fact, you could arguably say that they would have more Turkic/Mongol features than the average Roman, although probably not enough to look Asiatic thanks to possible intermarriage into Greek/Turkish families. Seeing him as more European-like is definitely a huge surprise to me.

Great pictures by the way! I read the TL pretty late so most of B444's pictures were lost, so it does bring back at least some of the full experience back.
 
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I thought D3 would be more tan akin to Ody since he's a Sideroi, being descended from the Timurids. In fact, you could arguably say that they would have more Turkic/Mongol features than the average Roman, although probably not enough to look Asiatic thanks to possible intermarriage into Greek/Turkish families. Seeing him as more European-like is definitely a huge surprise to me.
It's likley do to a combination of the majority of his ancestry being greek and D3 wanting to come across as more like the average Hellenic Roman to his subjects
 
As well it should be. I can't really blame D3 here. Maybe I'm being too kind to the guy because I like him but I can certainly appreciate how low northern Italy is on the list of priorities, especially when there's a war with the Ottomans in less than three years. Those of us with historical foresight gleaned from the third-person omniscient narration of the updates have a better picture of what's going on than the men and women on the ground, especially in an era before rapid communication.

Hostilities with the Ottomans resume February of 1641. It is autumn of 1638 when the banking scandal hits. D3 and his family/staff have basically 2.5 years to A - at least try and fix the economy, or at least get it to the point where people begin to trust banks again; B - mobilize, pay for, and supply at least one theater-sized army in Northern Mesopotamia for at least one and possibly more campaign seasons and C - do all the other stuff they have to do (deal with the Triunes, the Spanish, the power vacuum in Central Europe, all the men on pensions/their widows, and so and so forth) as well The earth doesn't stop spinning after all.

Oh, and to top all that off? There's a very real possibility - hell, even likeness - that D3 dies before the truce expires. So Rhomania will have to do all that stuff and deal with a new Emperor as well.

Is it annoying that Rhomania snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because they took their eye off the ball? Yeah, it is. Is it something that is completely realistic given the absolute cluster that is the situation as described in the last half-dozen or so updates? Yeah, it is.

I’m not too hard on Demetrios either, but then I am a biased source. He dropped the ball here, but he is juggling a lot of balls, and this one really isn’t that important. The only thing Rhomania needs in Italy is southern Italy in friendly hands to prevent someone from pulling a Guiscard, and they already had that. Northern Italy just isn’t an issue like Syria or the Danube frontier, which is why the average Ioannes won’t support an Italian war but will a Syrian/Mesopotamian one.

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to lay all of this out for me B444. While it’s obviously poor decision making, your additions make it all logical poor decision making. This provides all of the connective tissue I was wanting and makes a lot more sense to me. Can’t wait for the next update and this little addition was great too.

You’re welcome. It’s a useful addition that should’ve been included in the original draft. My bad.

Scintillating update again B444! I re-read the previous update and was thinking about the financial situation during this period. If I'm not wrong, bad currency (IBC) lost its value, and people preferred to trade only in good currency (coinage) according to Thiers' Law. Hence, prices of everyday items should rise as metals are in short supply although not at Zimbabwean levels (situation was not exacerbated by massive note printing). Is it at a level where ordinary citizens have to save longer to afford luxuries or is it more akin to people not being able to afford daily essentials?

There was first the issue that Roman manufacturing had surged because of war-fueled growth and the expanded supply had been answered with a demand fueled by the expanded money supply. The sudden sharp contraction in demand led to oversupply and a collapse in the value of manufactured goods (too many goods chasing too little money) so their price plummeted and ruined a bunch of artisans. (I copied this from Germany during the Long Depression.)

Once the supply-side crashed down to a more appropriate level with the demand-side, then this would go into effect. So a lot of people would be ruined, and then be faced with necessities rising in cost. Not a good place, and this is in an era where social safety nets are not a thing. Guilds will help their members out, but if you’re not a guild-member you’re dependent on church charity. Peasant farmers are better off because they never got into IBCs into the first place and stayed in the coinage-and-barter system and agricultural goods didn’t have the oversupply crash like manufactured goods did. But the newly expanded urban poor are screwed.

Do the Romans use the Anno Domini or Anno Mundi calendar?

Anno Mundi, but I’ve been using Anno Domini (and starting the year on January 1) for the sake of simplicity.

I thought D3 would be more tan akin to Ody since he's a Sideroi, being descended from the Timurids. In fact, you could arguably say that they would have more Turkic/Mongol features than the average Roman, although probably not enough to look Asiatic thanks to possible intermarriage into Greek/Turkish families. Seeing him as more European-like is definitely a huge surprise to me.

Great pictures by the way! I read the TL pretty late so most of B444's pictures were lost, so it does bring back at least some of the full experience back.

It's likley do to a combination of the majority of his ancestry being greek and D3 wanting to come across as more like the average Hellenic Roman to his subjects

I rarely use OTL paintings because I have a really hard time finding ones I like. There’s almost always at least something I find a bit that doesn’t fit. I won’t use any OTL Napoleon for TTL Kalomeros, for example, but Kalomeros definitely has a beard. TTL Romans do not do the clean shaven look.

The picture of Demetrios III is one of those rare examples. As for his appearance, he has Timurid ancestry, but that doesn’t mean his looks would lean that way.

That picture of ‘Odysseus’ is a really good one. Definitely the skin tone I’ve been picturing. (He and Athena are appreciably darker-skinned than Odysseus; they’d be similar to Manuel I.)
 
Look to the West: The Surest Defense
Look to the West: The Surest Defense

“The surest defense against conspiracy is to not be hated.”-Boris Morozov, Great Pronsk Ambassador to the Roman Empire, c. 1638

“The first taste the Sicilians had of Roman rule (in Apulia, just to make things confusing) was utterly nasty, brutal, and vile, a stain on the good name of Rhomania and a just recipient of the curses hurled upon it. The Sicilians never forgot this, even after it was made right. Since then the key tenet of Sicilian-Roman relations has been that the Sicilians would take absolutely no crap from Constantinople. For death is better than surrender.”-Excerpt from A Popular History of Sicily from the Vespers to the Present

For reasons that have already been detailed, the entire Italian situation in the mid/late 1630s had fallen into a memory black hole in Constantinople. Given its low priority in Constantinople, there was not a push to resolve the quagmire. The problem was that while Italy was a low priority for Constantinople, it was emphatically not a low priority for others.

The Arletians were one of those who did not consider Italy a low priority. The Arletians are naturally concerned about the state of affairs in northern Italy; it is their eastern neighbor after all. Security concerns are a common issue for the Arletians, unsurprising considering their long border with the Triunes. In 1635 the Arletian court was divided into two factions, the Ocean and Europe factions; the ideological differences (as opposed to the personal) between the two were based on different ideas on how best to ensure Arles’ security and prosperity.

Those two factions still exist in 1638, but they’re in a de facto truce, since both agree on a greater and more pressing issue. The Roman presence near their borders needs to be pushed back substantially, now, by force if necessary. The Arletians want the Italian situation resolved and by this point it is commonly felt that the Romans are more likely the problem than the solution.

In 1634, the Arletians expected to be able to get a mutually agreeable settlement with Constantinople regarding Italy. Their comparatively good history of friendship argued for it, and the Arletians didn’t expect the Romans to have much interest in northern Italy anyway. A Roman Latium or even a Tuscany wasn’t viewed as an issue then; it was the north that was a concern, but surely a deal could be made that would satisfy both sides. When the Genoese tried to place their city under Arletian protection, the gesture had annoyed the Arletians, but their annoyance was directed at the Genoese. They didn’t appreciate the Genoese trying to mess up their relationship with Constantinople.

If the Romans had just sacked Genoa and then left, the Arletians wouldn’t have batted an eye. There were two problems though. The first was that they didn’t leave. Instead they set up what looked like a permanent administration. Technically it was Carthaginian, but the Arletians aren’t fooled. This is a direct violation of the spirit of the agreement Demetrios III made in the Three Johns meeting, and it is not appreciated.

At the same time Odysseus sacks Rome and executes the Pope. Rome was enough to the south that the Arletians were not concerned about a Roman garrison there, but the manner of its fall was shocking and disturbing. Not even the Avignon Papacy can condone the murder of Pope Paul IV; it is a really dangerous precedent, if nothing else.

The precedent of Pope Paul IV speaks well to the second major problem the Arletians have with the Romans in Genoa. The entire saga of the fall of Genoa is, from the perspective of the Arletian nobility, extremely disturbing. By orders of the Roman Doux, the son of a poor country priest whose hands still bore the marks of a childhood hauling up fish in nets, the great families of Genoa had been exterminated, with most of their property then distributed to the commoners. Now most of the Genoese grandees are wealthy merchant families rather than ‘proper’ nobility, but that is an alarming precedent. And all this was after an utterly brutal battle in the streets that was a mass uprising of the lower orders against their betters.

More historically-minded Arletians also point out that this isn’t the first time. During the conquest of Naples, Alfredo di Lecce, former peasant rebel turned Strategos, later brother-in-law to Andreas Niketas himself, and forebear of the Sicilian Despots, had bidden the Neapolitan peasantry to rise up and slay their masters, with disturbing success. That old example from far-off Naples and the much newer one from nearby Genoa weigh ever more heavily as they look on Germany and the Ravens’ Rebellion. One of the three leaders is a Greek, and they all met in Rhomania; the image is a nightmare, a red-haired giant, standing in the smoke of a fallen city, his voice booming like an elephant gun, thundering those dread words: Spare the commons but kill the lords!

Genoa is too close.

Odysseus and his army is shortly afterwards withdrawn from the peninsula, but notably the Roman presence in Liguria is not, even after an Arletian protest is lodged with the White Palace. The discrepancy is noted.

Much of 1636 is spent, from the Arletian perspective, trying to figure Rhomania’s intentions regarding Italy. After all, that would be the first step in trying to come up with some amicable arrangement. As mentioned before, for a variety of reasons, the Roman government is unable and unwilling to come up with a clear intention regarding Italy, so it can hardly communicate one to Arles. The Romans aren’t willing to explain the deadlock in their own offices and the Arletians are unaware of it. The Roman diplomatic evasions and delays thus, to the Arletians, smell like stalling tactics. The Spanish and Sicilians are also making diplomatic efforts to clarify Roman aims, with a similar frustrating lack of results, which makes the whole thing stink even more in the nostrils.

After several months of getting nowhere, Logothete Tzankares tells the Arletian ambassador Louis Chapuys, in response to a direct query, that the Romans have no preference in the Ducal War. However this statement, which is a truth, is made shortly after the failed Roman proposal to Mastino, and the Arletians know that a proposal was offered, although not the results. That information, plus the months of vague blandishments and evasions that proceeded it, means that the ambassador does not believe the Logothete. The truth, when finally presented, because of the delay, is rejected as a lie. And that makes the Arletians even more suspicious and distrustful.

Because of the concerns regarding Italy, the Arletian court is following the ambassadorial reports closely, and the court is growing increasingly irritated and suspicious at the Roman slipperiness. The Arletians have no problem with the Romans favoring Duke Mastino but the fact that they are apparently hiding the fact, especially after repeated multiple attempts by the Arletians to get clarification, looks rather shady. By the end of 1636, the Arletian ambassador privately notes that he’d rather have an enema than visit the White Palace regarding Italy, since the former would at least be productive.

In the spring of 1637, the Arletian ambassador wearily makes another entreaty to the Romans, but the approach is different. Firstly he is doing it in concert with the Pronsky ambassador Boris Morozov. Chapuys hopes that Boris, as representative of a fellow Orthodox state, and one nearly as populous as Rhomania too, would be able to get more out of the Romans then he could. Boris’ involvement was secured at the request of the Sicilian ambassador, who is similarly frustrated with Roman vagueness, and sees the Arletian proposal as a good way to break the deadlock. Boris, for his part, gets involved because he sees the Arletian proposal as eminently reasonable and a good way to secure peace, and while Great Pronsk has no interest in Italy itself, the cause of peace is a good one.

The proposal is for a diplomatic conference in Saluzzo, where the Arletians will try to mediate a peace between Spain and Rhomania regarding eastern matters. Also the Arletians offer to mediate between Rhomania and the Lombards, although the latter case is understood, correctly, by everyone for another Arletian effort to start arranging a settlement regarding Italy between Arles and Rhomania. At a proper diplomatic conference it is expected that the Romans would be more cooperative than in minor audiences between ambassador and Logothete.

Logothete Tzankares categorically and brusquely rejects the proposal. By this point he is likely as fed up with these meetings as Chapuys, although for different reasons. He doesn’t see what is so significant about Genoa (which infuriates Chapuys, who has been explaining why it is such an issue for the Arletians for nearly 18 months), and he resents being pressured by a Latin. So he effectively says that Italy is none of the Arletians’ business, or anyone else’s for that matter.

He also questions why the Pronsky ambassador is even involved, wondering what makes it Pronsk’s business, to which Morozov, now irritated himself and offended by the brusque refusal, coldly replies that Pronsk, and no one else, determines what is Pronsk’s business. A few months later, Morozov is recalled as ambassador to serve in the Zemsky Sobor where he plays a minor but rather unique and long-lasting role, his action there almost certainly shaped by that audience with Tzankares.

Chapuys is utterly fed up and disgusted, making his feelings quite clear in his reports to Arles, and the Arletian court is in complete agreement with the ambassador’s sentiments. The Romans have rebuffed repeated efforts to even start a serious dialogue, much less create a mutually agreeable settlement. The Arletians still aren’t sure why. At around the same time Tzankares is rejecting the conference proposal, he is busy negotiating a detailed treaty with Georgia and it is known he is doing a good job of it. So Tzankares is capable of being diplomatic, but apparently refuses to do so with the Arletians.

A further comment should be made on Tzankares’ diplomacy. Although not official, the Roman diplomatic service is largely split into a western wing, which deals with the Latin states, and an ‘eastern’ wing, which deals with everyone else. Diplomats have an area of expertise and typically stay where they have their specialty. Tzankares had a brief stint at the Spanish court at the beginning of his career, but that was fairly unusual. He is solidly an easterner.

The mentality behind this is that people should be placed where they’re most useful. Knowledge of Arabic is useful in Persia but useless in Germany. Knowledge of Catholic doctrines is the reverse. Tzankares, for example, can read, write, and speak Arabic, Persian, and Georgian, speaking the latter with a perfect upper-class Tbilisi accent. Supposedly the only words in a Latin language he can pronounce properly is “Eat shit, Englishmen”, although that is probably just Demetrios III’s sense of humor providing the historical record.

One of the key reasons for Tzankares’ appointment as Logothete was because he is very good at working with the Georgians, a very important consideration since he was replacing Sarantenos after his shady dealings. Furthermore, there is the issue of the renewal of the war with the Ottomans. One of the chief flaws in Roman eyes of the Nineveh campaign was that the Georgians did not participate in it, entirely because Demetrios II Drakos did not handle the Georgians well. The early 1630s would’ve been vastly easier had the Georgians been better handled. Such a mistake cannot be allowed to happen again. Tzankares is the best man Rhomania has to ensure that the mistake does not happen. That is what matters.

The specialty issue usually isn’t a problem, since the diplomatic staff is mixed and the groups are nowhere near the level of cliques. There can only be one Logothete, but his senior staffers are a mix of both parties, advising on topics as their expertise fits. However when Sarantenos ‘retired’, his senior staffers, all appointees of him, were fired as well because neither Demetrios III nor Tzankares trusted them. To replace them, Tzankares brought in men he knew, and because he is an easterner, they all are easterners. There’s always some shuffling when a new Logothete takes charge, but because of the nature of Sarantenos’ removal, the clean sweep at the top was of unprecedented expanse. The makeup of the senior echelon of the Foreign Office has not changed since, which is why Roman diplomacy when it comes to Latins in the mid/late 1630s is subpar.

The key exceptions to this, such as the Treaty of Belgrade, are because Demetrios III was personally and actively involved. He recognized the importance of the Treaty and its future possibilities and implications and so he was personally and actively involved. In contrast, he has little to no interest in the Italian affair and delegated the responsibility for it to his Foreign Minister. That is what the Logothete is for, after all.

Chapuys reluctantly tries to arrange a later meeting with Tzankares to clarify. That claim that the Arletians have no business in Italy is rather disturbing. However Tzankares is headed out of Constantinople supposedly for spa treatment for bad knees, which is true, but Chapuys thinks is yet another tired delaying tactic. He’s not going to be fobbed with some more junior official; this is far too important. He wants to talk to the Emperor.

An audience is scheduled, but this is the point where Demetrios’ health, already shaky, really starts to decline and it has to be rescheduled on grounds of indisposition, and then the rescheduled has to be rescheduled. Chapuys wearily notes more delaying tactics; it’d be nice if the Romans were at least more creative. Finally he gets a meeting with the Lady Athena.

In it she tells Chapuys what is mostly the truth. The Romans haven’t determined what the best course in Italy is for their interests, which is why they haven’t been able to communicate their intentions to Arles. There is still much discussion on the matter. When Chapuys brings up Genoa, she states that Genoa is part of the discussion, which is why no decision has been made. Chapuys directly says that the Arletians do not care; the status of Genoa, as has been repeatedly outlined before, is nonnegotiable, and he says that some in Arles are advocating force if need be. To that, Athena replies that she will communicate the information and it will ‘be taken under advisement’. At that point the meeting ends.

Chapuys is utterly seething, although he doesn’t show it outwardly on his way out of the White Palace. After all the obfuscations and delays, he takes all of Athena’s words as just more lies, albeit more imaginative ones. He finds it incredible that after 2+ years, the Romans haven’t decided what they want. (He has no idea of the deadlock in the Foreign Service, split between pro-Farnese advocates, pro-Mastino advocates,-and they have mini-camps that dispute what should be demanded in payment-, and the war hawks, while the would-be referees are Tzankares and his senior staffers, all easterners who do not know much about Italy and are focused on eastern affairs, seeing no urgency.) Also enraging are the signs that the Romans do not take the Arletians as a credible force to be respected. (This explains the lack of urgency despite the repeated remonstrance from Chapuys.) The Arletian court feels the same way as Chapuys.

At this point the Arletians give up on regular negotiations. The first suggestion is a blunt ultimatum that Rhomania must withdraw from Liguria, but the Arletians fear that the Romans won’t take it seriously. That is the theme here after all. Such an ultimatum needs to be backed with clear and overwhelming force, and the groundwork needs to be prepared for that.

Meanwhile the Arletians speculate why the Romans seem so insistent on keeping Genoa, despite it clearly damaging Arletian-Roman relations, while claiming Genoa isn’t really a concern of Rhomania’s. The simplest explanation is that the Romans are lying. The Romans are keeping Genoa because they want to keep Genoa. It would be an excellent springboard for seizing control of northern Italy; there’s a fine highway connecting Genoa and Milan, perfect for military traffic. The newspapers show there is at least some sentiment in Rhomania for seizing all of northern Italy, which wouldn’t have been tolerated in Arles in 1634; in 1637 such an idea is now beyond the pale.

Feelings in Spain and the Bernese League mirror that of Arles. While the Arletians have been leading the charge, all are concerned about the state of affairs in Italy and wary of Roman intentions. The continued obfuscation is just making them more and more suspicious and by mid-1637 all are fed up by it. Talk by itself has failed in the face of Roman indifference. From there, a show of force is the next logical move.

Taking council of their fears, the Accord members now all believe that the Romans are intent on subjugating, or even outright conquering, all of northern Italy. The one assurance from Rhomania that they’ve gotten in literally years regarding that is from the Three Johns Meeting, and that was broken when the Romans seized Genoa and refused to leave, and that was the thing that started all this.

In September 1637 representatives from Spain, Arles, the League, and Aragon meet at Roussillon. There Aragon formally joins the Accord, pledging 15000 troops to common defense. That is done publicly. In secret, it is agreed that Roman actions regarding Genoa have activated the defensive clauses of the Accord and plans for countermeasures are discussed and approved.

While they don’t know the details, some Romans in the Foreign Office are reading the room and trying to raise alarm bells in Constantinople before it is too late. These are ‘westerners’, who are much better at reading the Latins than Tzankares and his senior staff. One way they do this is by reading Arletian and Spanish newspapers. (The Roman ambassador to Spain, after comparing Spanish and Roman newspapers, concludes afterwards that Rhomania has asserted its superiority, in the contest of who can produce the biggest hacks.) However they lack a good advocate amongst the senior staff, so it’s impossible for their voices to be heard. It’s easy to ignore a report that is a month old before it even lands on the desk. Either everyone is too distracted with other concerns or just don’t take it seriously. Many bask in the glow of victory over Theodor and his allies and think that aura will deter retaliation. Others think that Spain and Arles are incapable of posing a threat to Rhomania.

The idea that Spain and Arles, who together can field a battle fleet as big as Rhomania’s and Sicily’s combined as well as 100,000 men to meet their minimum Accord agreement, are not a threat is one that bears limited connection to reality. That said, Spain and Arles do not want a war with Rhomania; they respect its power. But a line has to be drawn. Ideally they can get the Romans to back down with just a show of force, rather than force proper. The big concern is that if it is just the Accord doing the show of force, the Romans won’t back down, which leaves two choices then. Either the Accord commits to a war with Rhomania, which they do not want (Arles is fresh, but Spain, while recovering from the Andalusi War, is less so), or they back down, which would be an absolute humiliation.

For challenging Rhomania, the clear choice of ally is the Triple Monarchy. With even a token Triune contribution, the odds of a show of force making the Romans back down go up substantially. Naturally this is controversial, but from the Accord’s perspective both King’s Harbor and Constantinople are acting as threats. All the Romans had to do to show that they weren’t a threat was to get out of Genoa, a task they singularly refused to do, despite multiple protests. So now from the Accord’s perspective, it is a choice between two self-righteous expansionist heretics. In which case, pick the one currently expanding away from, not towards, you, which is also the one that respects the social order.

That is not to say the Accord members trust the Triunes. But for the four main players involved in this now, Rhomania, Spain, the Triunes, and Arles, only Arles is completely fresh. Both Rhomania and Spain are recovering from grueling wars. The Triunes are currently in a victorious but expensive war, with many conquests that will need integration. Meanwhile the Romans have armies and fleets at a higher-than-usual level of readiness for peacetime, ostensibly for the resumption of war with the Ottomans, but which could easily be turned on Italy.

In short, the Triunes are a threat, but they’re a threat tomorrow, while the Romans are a threat today. The prioritization is obvious. The best scenario, from the Accord’s perspective, would be to use the Triunes to knock the Romans back, and then try to make up relations afterwards, perhaps by providing mercenaries for said Ottoman war. It is well known that Roman strategoi love Spanish infantrymen for their armies. Then when it’s the turn of the Triunes to be the most pressing threat, they can use the Romans against them. But first, the Romans need to get out of northern Italy.

On a personal level, the summer of 1637 is a bad time for Henri II. His wife, Anne of Brittany, said to be the one person who he truly loved and the one person who loved him, has had four miscarriages by this point. It is believed that she is incapable of delivering a viable child and some argue for an annulment. But Henri, sentimental in this if nothing else, refuses. He does not wish to part from her. However he still needs an heir and so he and Anne make love again. In the summer she delivers a healthy baby boy, but the delivery is traumatic. Three days later she is dead.

Henri is heartbroken, his grief made all the more cutting by the guilt that he contributed to her death. That joint grief and guilt are why Henri’s relations with his son Louis can, at best, be described as frigid. When Henri looks upon his son and heir, who takes after his mother in looks, save for the eyes which are definitely Henri’s, he does not see his son and heir. He sees the thing that killed his Anne, and the proof that he was responsible.

Returning to his work as a shield against the pain, he is confronted by the Italian-Roman affair. Like the Accord, he finds Roman activity extremely suspicious. It makes sense that the Romans plan for the two Dukes to destroy each other so that they can sweep up the pieces, while stringing the Accord along to keep them out of the way. It’s what he would do in Demetrios III’s place, so he assumes that is what the Romans are doing.

Henri II has no interest in conquering Arles, certainly not at this time anyway. The Rhineland needs digesting; come back to him in 20 years. Right now his concerns are securing his new conquests, not seeking more. To that end he will not tolerate Roman control over northern Italy. Genoa is the beginning of the Spanish Road, where Spanish mercenaries often made the long march to take service in Lotharingian armies. The risk of that becoming a Roman Road is unacceptable. Roman control of northern Italy is a serious threat to his new conquests in the Upper Rhine and he will not have that on his watch.

At the same time, he knows the Accord doesn’t trust him, and he doesn’t trust them. They’re trying to use him, but if he can use them at the same time he is fine with it. With a minimal commitment, with the Accord doing most of the heavy lifting, he can remove the risk of a Roman Road. He knows that afterwards he and the Accord will go back to plotting and scheming, but that is not an issue. It’s the way the game is played, but right now both sides can use the other.

However he doesn’t want to remove the risk of a Roman Road and have the old Spanish Road back, so his key condition for entering this coalition is that Genoa will not become part of any of the coalition members. The Accord agrees to this.

The reason is that the first question faced by the coalition is how to do a show of force. An ultimatum on paper would be the cheapest, but the concern is that given Roman behavior, a piece of paper, even signed by all the Accord members and Henri II, won’t be enough to get them to back down. And if the Romans don’t back down, then either the coalition escalates to war with a dangerous foe that has now been given warning to prepare, or the coalition backs down and is utterly humiliated.

The best way to ensure that the show of force makes the Romans climb down without it escalating into war is for the show of force to be big and immediate, meaning armies in the field. It will be expensive, but less expensive than a proper war. And, after all, the armies will be in Lombardy for ‘its protection’, so the Lombards can cover the expenses, and possibly the Romans too. If only they’d listened.

To fund Spain’s contribution, the Genoese bankers of Lisbon are crucial. They provide loans at good rates to the Spanish crown for the effort. They want revenge for their family members executed in Genoa. Normally loans are strictly professional, but too many of them have lost relations for this to not be personal. Notably some of the loans come with the proviso that if Genoa is liberated as an independent commune, the loans need not be repaid. This is why the Accord agrees to Henri’s condition.

In a later agreement, the Spanish and Arletians agree to recognize Henri’s conquests in Lotharingia and the Holy Roman Empire. They didn’t want to recognize Henri’s conquests, but Triune contribution is key to ensuring that the show of force can still work while staying just a show. In return, all Triune support for the Marinids and Barbary corsairs is ended. Henri offered up that concession on his own initiative. He’d been skeptical of the value of said support for some time and saw it as a good bone to throw to the Spanish and Arletians here.

The final key player in all of this are the Sicilians, who at the end of 1637 have their own grievances with Constantinople. They provided 1 out of every 4 warships and 18 out of every 19 soldiers for the war against the Lombards. And what do they have to show for it? Nothing. While it is probable that parts of central Italy and the Marche will be ceded to Sicily, nothing has been confirmed. Roman subsidies for the Sicilian army in Tuscany and Liguria do not cover all of the expenses; the remainder is covered by the Sicilian taxpayer who do not appreciate this process being dragged out ever longer.

Furthermore the Sicilians emphatically do not want northern Italy as part of the Roman Empire. Sicilian artisans and manufactures make a lot of their money selling their wares in the Aegean, helped by the fact that they do not have to pay customs while northern Italian goods do. But if northern Italy becomes part of the Empire its wares will be on an equal field with Sicilian, in which case the Sicilians lose. Northern Italy is just more populous and developed.

Even a Despotate of Tuscany is not wanted because of the economic competition. The Sicilians want an independent Tuscany with a mutual defense pact with Sicily and Rhomania to serve as a buffer against a Lombard resurgence, but one that is outside the tariff barrier.

In addition, the Sicilians want all this military might turned against the corsairs. While the Sicilian fleet has been up at Genoa and Livorno, in late 1636 Barbary corsairs took advantage of the light coast guard and raided several villages, carrying off hundreds as slaves. In one village of 120 people, 117 are captured. The three escapees are a teenage couple who were off ‘wrestling in the wheat’ and an old man relieving himself and who hid in the latrine. All this takes place while fine warships pointlessly bob in anchor off northern Italy. With bitterness, it is noted that the last time the Romans took substantial effective action against the corsairs that stuck, Andreas Niketas was the Emperor.

The Sicilians do not want to break with Rhomania; the relation has been good for them. That said, the Sicilians have certain concerns that are being ignored, and that is intolerable. Whatever Roman plans are for Italy, the Sicilians have been left out. Considering that the only reason the White Palace has any say on the future of Firenze is because a Sicilian army took and garrisons the city, this is unacceptable. Roman power in Italy rests on a Sicilian foundation. Clearly they need to be reminded of that.

Furthermore, the Sicilians really do not want to have to fight Spanish tercios. They’ve seen them in action during the Andalusi War, watching Spanish grenadiers scale up cliffs in full battle kit at night to surprise and storm rugged mountain forts. These are the spiritual heirs of the almogavars, the unstoppable killing machines of the War of the Sicilian Vespers. The Sicilians do not want to be on the receiving end of these, especially for the sake of the White Palace getting to keep a Kephale in Genoa.

Several diplomatic messages and warnings have been sent to Constantinople over the past few years, to receive the Arletian treatment. Clearly something more substantial is required to break the deadlock. The Romans must be warned to pay more attention to Italy, but they also must be reminded of how the Sicilians must be treated.

Despot Hektor’s first responsibility is for the security and welfare of the Sicilian people, and he will have to answer for how he fulfilled that duty before the judgment seat of God. After careful thought and consideration, he comes up with a plan. It is meant to simultaneously be a warning but also an offering, a reproach but also a way to make things right. Some of his advisors are worried about a possible violent Roman reaction. The Despot recognizes the possibility, but thinks it is small. He says “if the Romans are reasonable people, with whom we can live in prosperity and call faithful friend and ally, they will recognize the reproach but that we also mean no ill. If, Mary the Most Merciful forbid, they take offense and seek us ill for this, it will prove that they cannot be called faithful friend and ally, and that they view us only as dogs, to be trampled if we ever assert ourselves as men. For what we do here we have the right to do, as God and the Romans’ own law will attest.

“My forebear Alfredo di Lecce first wielded his sword against the Romans, because then the Romans treated us like dogs, not men. The Good Emperor recognized the injustice and made things right, and together with the Romans ever since we have clung, through horror and triumph, to the glory and prosperity of us both. However, there is a price for that, one that must always and continually be paid. And that is that we are treated as free men, with full authority to exercise our rights as allowed by God and the law.

“Our forebears hurled themselves and their children into the flames rather than bow to the Milanese, because they would treat us as dogs, not men. Our forebears slew the soldiers of Charles of Anjou because they treated us as dogs, not men. Our forebears slew the masters because they treated us as dogs, not men. And our forebears slew the Romans when they treated us as dogs, not men. If the Romans have become so cruel, so foul, so shortsighted, to forget the example of the Good Emperor and wish to return to those horrid days, well…I do not think it will be so, and I pray it will not be so. I still have faith in the Romans.

“But if that faith be wrong, we Sicilians have never bowed to Roman injustice, and we never will. My forebear the great Alfredo di Lecce once said ‘Hell is preferable to Roman rule’. We Sicilians will never submit to Roman tyranny. If the Romans wish to return to denying us our rights as free men, and to be treating us as dogs instead, to go back to that age of history, then I will go back to that age as well, and follow my forebear’s example. No matter the cost. Death is better than surrender, and there are no masters where the faithful find peace.”

There is a Roman saying, first attested in the early 1700s, but it applies here. When a Sicilian tells you to take them seriously, you do. Or else.

In late March 1638 the Sicilian ambassador in Constantinople informs the Roman government that Sicily and Spain have signed a preliminary naval agreement, discussing plans for a combined naval attack on Algiers to be made by 1642 at the latest. This is entirely within Sicilian legal rights. According to the 1583 Treaty of Saluzzo between Rhomania and then Castile-Portugal, under no circumstances can hostilities conducted beyond the line be used to justify hostilities before the line. In 1583 the line was just east of Singapore, but it was later moved west so that Malaya would be beyond the line so that fighting between Pahang and Malacca would not compromise relations between Constantinople and Lisbon.

That means that unless Rhomania wishes formally to renounce the Treaty of Saluzzo, Rhomania is not at war with Spain. And per the terms of the 1548 Treaty of Bari that set up the Sicilian Despotate, the Sicilians are free to conduct foreign affairs as they see fit save in those with the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. They are exercising their own prerogatives as they see fit and any Roman retaliation will be a breach of the Treaty of Bari, the legal basis of Sicily’s Despotate status.

The ambassador continues after this, pointing out that the Sicilians are not obligated to inform the Romans of these talks as Sicilian-Spanish relations are entirely the purview of Messina. However he is informing the Romans both as a courtesy but also to invite the Romans to enter into the talks and participate in a combined attack against Algiers. Immediately afterwards he prominently attends a fine dinner party hosted by the Georgian ambassador and attended by the Ethiopian and all the various Russian ambassadors.

The symbolism and the undertones are clear to all watching. Despite its Despotate status, Sicily’s strength and position makes it akin more to Georgia than Egypt in terms of relations to Constantinople. Sicily is a powerful ally, but one that expects to be respected. Just as Georgia has asserted its rights against Rhomania, such as at the Nineveh campaign, so too is Sicily. The announcement is a reminder that Sicily is a player in its own right, with concerns that must be respected for the current good and profitable relationship to continue. The example of Georgia, of what happens for Rhomania when an important ally is not treated with the respect it deserves, is sitting right there.

And Georgia, amongst others, is watching.

At the same time, it is also clear that the Sicilians do not want a break with Rhomania. Their legal argument is entirely sound and in accordance with agreed statutes; when a war hawk editor calls this treason, the Sicilian ambassador takes him to court for libel and wins resoundingly. The cause is a useful one; the corsairs are a problem. The Romans are being invited to take part in the cause. The faith can still be kept.

The announcement also serves Hektor’s purpose in it being a wake-up call, because all this is done in a public personal audience with Demetrios III.

Demetrios III will uphold the faith of Hektor. But as a wake-up call for Italy it is too late. Three weeks later, with the Alpine passes clear of snow, a Bernese army 21,700 strong, the largest army the League has ever fielded, invades northern Italy. Arletian, Spanish, and Triune armies are also on their way. Their first task is to settle the Ducal War as they see fit. The second task is to deal with the matter of Roman Italy, of exactly where and how it should be.
 
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Well, the logical answer is that Northern Italy is not worth a war, but the Greek patriot in me still thought when reading it "if they want a second round they damn well can have one" :p

Oh and of course Sicily delendam est. If they think they can hide behind legalisms... it is the despotate that can be most easily absorbed culture wise. Not today but Constantinople has institutional memory.

Although I doubt any administration in Constantinople would be willing to support the Barbary pirates... one could even wonder whether whoever wrote the "bloody note" was Greek in the first place and not oh... a Triune taking advantage of the lack of censorship.
 
Rhomania really can't catch a break. War exhaustion must be through the roof by now.

Though then again, the Latins will suffer just as much war exhaustion if not more. When will their economies crash?
 
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