An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Is China even going to be a major player in East Asia? If they're as xenophobic and insular as they were before, then they might be the Ming on steroids and be super isolationist, which would be a huge benefit for the European powers. Otherwise, why aren't they enforcing their rule on Taiwan, at the very least?
I think the Zeng would attempt to enforce their rule in Taiwan if they had a capable navy but they can't match the Romans in the slightest. They are supreme on land though which means they could seriously threaten the cham if they really wanted to.
 
I think the Zeng would attempt to enforce their rule in Taiwan if they had a capable navy but they can't match the Romans in the slightest. They are supreme on land though which means they could seriously threaten the cham if they really wanted to.
Eh, I'm not entirely sure that the Zeng could just steamroll the Cham, especially if they do receive protection from the Romans, due to the geography of the region being both rough and consisting of rainforest: terrain that would make a Chinese army easy prey for the Cham forces. Not to mention if most of the major cities are in the coast and China lacks a significant navy.....then that's obviously bad for China.

Even if they do possess a sizeable navy, I seriously doubt that they could win against the Cham/Romans if they tried to do a naval expedition since Roman battleships are probably close to Chinese war junks and the admirals of the Exarchate are far superior to the Zeng due to prior battle experience with the Spanish and overall expertise in the South China Sea (how ironic...).

Depending on China's current foreign policy, any official Roman inroads into opening China might end up being a lost cause, as not even a Canton system could exist if the Zeng are super isolationist and xenophobic. Any outside trade to China might just end up going through smugglers and pirates exclusively, which isn't that lucrative compared to actual trade. If China isn't on Rhomania's mind right now (which is likely), then I think Nusantara and the OTL Philippines definitely has to be the focus of the central Roman government, as the spice trade is extremely lucrative and any possession of those spice islands (whether directly or indirectly) will benefit the Roman Empire and not the Spanish or the Triunes.
 
I wonder how much longer it will take the Russians/Khazars to cross the bearing straight and establish a couple settlements in Alaska. Since they just recently made it to the pacific it might take a bit but i can imagine some adventurous fur traders making the trip before too long. Although otl it took about 100 years after the russians first reached the pacific to sink their teeth into Alaska but the Khazars seem like an adventurous bunch so we'll see but I imagine their upcoming unification with the rest of Russia could stall things.
 
True, but Rhomania is in a situation similar to Britain's after the Napoleonic wars where they could put most of their focus on overseas and consolidate their gaines for the metropole's benefit. In OTL this is largely how Britain gained all of India and South Africa, and Egypt, with influence everywhere while the continental powers bickered.

Here Rhomania pretty much is secure in the west and will mostly secure the east, outside of possible overextension, so that means she can put more focus on Island Asia and supporting her allies on the mainland, and Japan. A Spain, Arles, Lotharingia, and Triunes worried about each other at home, and in Terra Nova, won't be able to put as much focus on the Asia for quite a while. And Rhomania isn't treating their conquests as colonies but as parts of an expanding metropole which is going to be important down the road.

The Latins may have secured the metropole from Rhomania's attention but they have likely sacrificed most of the colonies in Asia, at least the island ones.

Since they’re not an island Rhomania can’t really be in a similar situation to Britain. It can’t disengage to nearly the same degree. The Italian affair shows the danger of not paying attention. So even with the buffer states and no offensive desires, there’s a limit to how much Rhomania can afford to send away from the metropole. After all, you and I may know the Romans are secure, but the Romans don’t know that.

I think we’re quibbling over the definition of ‘own-goal’. I consider an ‘own-goal’ to be when you accomplish your goal, only for that goal to end up damaging you. Causing the Romans to concentrate on colonial rather than European affairs benefits the Romans, but it doesn’t damage the Latins other than a very nebulous ‘Romans be stronger’ sense. And it works both ways; a Spanish or Triune regiment no longer needed to guard against Roman Italy can be posted in Terranova for example.

This is why I don’t consider this an ‘own-goal’ on the part of the Latins. In a way, this does benefit the Romans, but I don’t think it hurts the Latins.

That's probably how I'd view Demetrios III in future Roman history: Someone that is obviously a pivotal figure in Roman history, but would most likely be found in media that's akin to obscure documentaries or alt-YouTube channels/podcasts run by Romanophile Ph.D historians, not something highlighted in ordinary HS textbooks or pop history media. Actually, I wonder if an ITTL Turtledove would've liked this guy ;).

Also I'll give a huge thumbs-up for Japanese-Romans because literally any depiction of them in the future will turn out to be super awesome: a Japanese ronin in Roman military garb with a katana/tanto and a musket? Sign me up!


I think that Rhomania would defiintely be in a much greater position to contest Spanish and Triune interests in Asia once they kick the Ottomans out of the Levant, as they don't need to worry about continental European politics for a while. But where would they go in East Asia?

I suppose Nusantara or the OTL Philippines could be a start, but annexing Taiwan might also be a good plan for Rhomania. Even adding more warships or supporting merchant fleets to the east would be a great improvement towards Roman power projection in the Far East. The more they gain control of the spice trade, the better.

I have some fun ideas for how Demetrios III does appear in Roman pop culture. It should be…different.

OTL Philippines would be the main area to focus on. The rest of Indonesia next, except now there’s the power of Mataram there. Taiwan would be pointless; there’s nothing there.

Perhaps the Romans could establish a formal protectorate out of the Cham if the looming threat of China becomes more and more serious kind of like what they did with Al Andalus during Andreas' reign once the Romans truly beef up their presence in the region

Not happening. There are literally 100+ Cham for every Roman in the East. If Cham puts 50,000 men into the field, the Romans could maybe add another 5,000. The latter is not making the former a protectorate without a massive tech advantage that isn’t there. Western strength is in their ships. Once Westerners move outside the range of ship-mounted artillery, in the east they are very small fry.

Would it be possible to inherit Sicily like another Andrean 3rd (?) Scenario through intermarriages?

It’s possible. Under Andreas III, Rhomania and Sicily were in a personal union and he was Roman Emperor and Despot of Sicily simultaneously. That setup could come again.

Is China even going to be a major player in East Asia? If they're as xenophobic and insular as they were before, then they might be the Ming on steroids and be super isolationist, which would be a huge benefit for the European powers. Otherwise, why aren't they enforcing their rule on Taiwan, at the very least?

China, by its sheer size, is a major player. Even if it does nothing but sit there, the rest of East Asia is in the shade it casts. Plus everyone wants the goods the Chinese have for sale. The traders in Pyrgos are there for what the Chinese are selling, after all.

As for Taiwan, IOTL the Chinese didn’t care about Taiwan until Koxinga set up shop there and the Qing finally got around to crushing this last outpost of Ming loyalism. (I believe the mid-1600s were the first time Chinese settled in Taiwan in numbers.) I figure ITTL so long as no foreign power or major rebel takes over there, Luoyang has little reason to care. That said, if the Romans decided to take over Taiwan, Luoyang would change its mind right quick.

I always figured that was more a function of Northern Italy being so disunited and heavily feudalized. If you can place a standing army in Northern Italy and fortify the passes through the Alps, invading by land is practically impossible outside of treachery or luck.

Then the issue becomes naval dominance.

In any case I won't argue for it too much since the situation in the region is settled for the time being.

Edit: I should say; from the North and West it is practically impossible. From the Northeast I believe it is easier, hence the importance of ancient Aquileia, but with so many allies in that direction that is not too much of a threat.

That is part of it, and I do think the Alps help the defensibility of Italy a lot. I just think that a defense of northern Italy is more difficult and expensive than it sounds. Garrisoning every Alpine pass plus a field army is a lot of troops after all.

I think the Zeng would attempt to enforce their rule in Taiwan if they had a capable navy but they can't match the Romans in the slightest. They are supreme on land though which means they could seriously threaten the cham if they really wanted to.

It’s not a matter of the Zeng not enforcing their rule in Taiwan. They don’t have anything there to enforce. Going by OTL, Taiwan wasn’t part of China at this point in history, and Chinese mainland control was only established under specific parameters that don’t exist ITTL (Koxinga and the Qing response).

Eh, I'm not entirely sure that the Zeng could just steamroll the Cham, especially if they do receive protection from the Romans, due to the geography of the region being both rough and consisting of rainforest: terrain that would make a Chinese army easy prey for the Cham forces. Not to mention if most of the major cities are in the coast and China lacks a significant navy.....then that's obviously bad for China.

Even if they do possess a sizeable navy, I seriously doubt that they could win against the Cham/Romans if they tried to do a naval expedition since Roman battleships are probably close to Chinese war junks and the admirals of the Exarchate are far superior to the Zeng due to prior battle experience with the Spanish and overall expertise in the South China Sea (how ironic...).

Depending on China's current foreign policy, any official Roman inroads into opening China might end up being a lost cause, as not even a Canton system could exist if the Zeng are super isolationist and xenophobic. Any outside trade to China might just end up going through smugglers and pirates exclusively, which isn't that lucrative compared to actual trade. If China isn't on Rhomania's mind right now (which is likely), then I think Nusantara and the OTL Philippines definitely has to be the focus of the central Roman government, as the spice trade is extremely lucrative and any possession of those spice islands (whether directly or indirectly) will benefit the Roman Empire and not the Spanish or the Triunes.

Zeng couldn’t steamroll the Cham because firstly Dai Viet is in the way and secondly the rainforest as you pointed out. Chinese armies have repeatedly invaded Indochina IOTL. They’ve had some success, particularly in what’s now northern Vietnam, but also lots of disasters typically brought on by tropical diseases.

Rhomania is definitely superior to China on the ocean, but the Romans do not want to fight a war with China, because China can screw over Rhomania-in-the-East with a stroke of a pen. All the Chinese have to do is stop sailing to Pyrgos to trade and offer their wares somewhere else (Okinawa?). At which point the Japanese and Mexicans take all their silver and go to where the Chinese are, and Pyrgos’ economy craters.

I wonder how much longer it will take the Russians/Khazars to cross the bearing straight and establish a couple settlements in Alaska. Since they just recently made it to the pacific it might take a bit but i can imagine some adventurous fur traders making the trip before too long. Although otl it took about 100 years after the russians first reached the pacific to sink their teeth into Alaska but the Khazars seem like an adventurous bunch so we'll see but I imagine their upcoming unification with the rest of Russia could stall things.

Probably similar to OTL. The difficulties of establishing infrastructure on the Pacific coast are the same as OTL. Also until the supply of furry things to hit over the head in Siberia is depleted, there’s no point in traveling to Alaska in search of more furry things to hit over the head.



I’ve made a revision to “The House of Iron: The Eyes of His Father” update, regarding the long-term effects/duration of the economic depression. I’ve been doing research into the Little Ice Age, the teeth of which we are about to enter (the causes of which I consider immune to butterflies; nothing humans do is going to cancel a drop in solar activity or stop volcanoes going off). My planned outline of key events and developments has not changed, but I’m revising a lot of the in-between material in light of said research. Also in light of the new information available to me, the previous description of Roman economic recovery is extremely unrealistically optimistic. The section in question has been revised to the following:

The longer-term effects play out over years, well past the end of Demetrios III’s reign. When the depression ends is uncertain, and depends on the metrics one uses. By the most extreme metric, that argues that an economic depression is only over once what was lost has been made good, the depression lasts until 1700. It is not until the start of the next century that Roman economic activity revives to its 1637 level.

Many challenge that end date. Glimmers of growth in the Roman economy appear in 1644, giving an alternative end date. However those signs of growth are smashed flat and further regression caused by the various devastating crises induced by the Little Ice Age; it is these that make the recovery so long, but they had nothing to do with the initial cause of the depression, which is why many favor 1644. On the other hand, the various crises, while devastating even by themselves, would not have been as damaging if Rhomania was not already suffering from a pre-existing depression, hence why others support 1700.
 
As for Taiwan, IOTL the Chinese didn’t care about Taiwan until Koxinga set up shop there and the Qing finally got around to crushing this last outpost of Ming loyalism. (I believe the mid-1600s were the first time Chinese settled in Taiwan in numbers.) I figure ITTL so long as no foreign power or major rebel takes over there, Luoyang has little reason to care. That said, if the Romans decided to take over Taiwan, Luoyang would change its mind right quick.
It'll be interesting to see how the island develops sans the Chinese, as the Zeng government probably won't be interested until a foreign power sets up a permanent presence on the majority of the island. Even though Taiwan isn't the priority of the Romans, I do think that there could be some informal outposts here and there by either the Romans or the Japanese. We'll just have to see though.

Rhomania is definitely superior to China on the ocean, but the Romans do not want to fight a war with China, because China can screw over Rhomania-in-the-East with a stroke of a pen. All the Chinese have to do is stop sailing to Pyrgos to trade and offer their wares somewhere else (Okinawa?). At which point the Japanese and Mexicans take all their silver and go to where the Chinese are, and Pyrgos’ economy craters.
I agree that antagonizing China is undesirable for Rhomania right now, due to your statements above alongside their focus against the Spanish/Triunes in the region. If Rhomania was ever going to fight China, then the Zeng would have to be the aggressors in that scenario, which is unlikely. Although, their activities in Southeast Asia like in OTL Philippines or Nusantara might pique the interest of the court in Luoyang, though that depends on how much the Chinese actually care about enforcing their sphere of influence in the area or not.

I’ve been doing research into the Little Ice Age, the teeth of which we are about to enter (the causes of which I consider immune to butterflies; nothing humans do is going to cancel a drop in solar activity or stop volcanoes going off).
Uh oh, the worst of the Little Ice Age is coming, which could set off some powder kegs across the world, especially in Eurasia.

Imagine if Odysseus sets off an amazing Golden Age for Rhomania only for crippling droughts and possible famine beat the Romans back to rock bottom. It'd be a sad narrative, but it does make me curious as to how this world could fare with the Little Ice Age compared to OTL since technology is slightly more advanced here and proto-industrialization is underway.
 
Uh oh, the worst of the Little Ice Age is coming, which could set off some powder kegs across the world, especially in Eurasia.

Imagine if Odysseus sets off an amazing Golden Age for Rhomania only for crippling droughts and possible famine beat the Romans back to rock bottom. It'd be a sad narrative, but it does make me curious as to how this world could fare with the Little Ice Age compared to OTL since technology is slightly more advanced here and proto-industrialization is underway.
To be honest, besides issues in European Rhomania, the rest of the Empire might avoid the worst of it - and interestingly, it could hit Latin Europe MUCH harder as the Roman climate is warmer anyway (yes, the Golden Horn might freeze, and that is a big WHUT moment). Which actually leaves the Romans in a situation where Latin Europe might well tear itself apart, or throw themselves against the Romans, forcing a new conflict where the Romans are less desperate logistically than their enemies.
 
I've been thinking over the last few updates and discussion and have a longer post to make, but I just want to chime in on the Northern Italy thing.

I do think it'll be prohibitively expensive to defend at this point in time. While the Alps are great, it's also a very wealthy region that projects power into a lot of nations that dislike that. That's a combo that pushes said neighbours to surging troops into the region whenever Rome is distracted. Which means always keeping a field army and garrisons there.

Not impossible, but expensive and tying down Roman resources indefinitely.

I would actually like to see the Romans take the area at some point regardless - I like the look of Justinian's Empire and think it's a good stopping point for expansion in Europe. Keep the Alps and the Haemic peninsula as your defensive zone for an area that can serve as a single economic unit quite well. But that will require a time when Italy isn't so tempting a prize that it triggers an invasion every generation.
 
I’ve made a revision to “The House of Iron: The Eyes of His Father” update, regarding the long-term effects/duration of the economic depression. I’ve been doing research into the Little Ice Age, the teeth of which we are about to enter (the causes of which I consider immune to butterflies; nothing humans do is going to cancel a drop in solar activity or stop volcanoes going off). My planned outline of key events and developments has not changed, but I’m revising a lot of the in-between material in light of said research. Also in light of the new information available to me, the previous description of Roman economic recovery is extremely unrealistically optimistic. The section in question has been revised to the following:

The longer-term effects play out over years, well past the end of Demetrios III’s reign. When the depression ends is uncertain, and depends on the metrics one uses. By the most extreme metric, that argues that an economic depression is only over once what was lost has been made good, the depression lasts until 1700. It is not until the start of the next century that Roman economic activity revives to its 1637 level.

Many challenge that end date. Glimmers of growth in the Roman economy appear in 1644, giving an alternative end date. However those signs of growth are smashed flat and further regression caused by the various devastating crises induced by the Little Ice Age; it is these that make the recovery so long, but they had nothing to do with the initial cause of the depression, which is why many favor 1644. On the other hand, the various crises, while devastating even by themselves, would not have been as damaging if Rhomania was not already suffering from a pre-existing depression, hence why others support 1700.
I completely forgot the Little Ice Age.
Actually I rarely see it even mentioned in many timelines set in this period. This is why I love this TL.
 
I wonder how the little ice age will impact Ethiopia and The Omani I know stuff will get dryer so being in an arid environment wouldn't necisarry help them but maybe having the crops failing at home could convince Ethiopia and The Omani to invest more in their colonies in south east africa to make up for it. I have no idea what impact it will have on the Ottomans but i have a feeling Iskander will find a way to take advantage of the situation
 
To be honest, besides issues in European Rhomania, the rest of the Empire might avoid the worst of it - and interestingly, it could hit Latin Europe MUCH harder as the Roman climate is warmer anyway (yes, the Golden Horn might freeze, and that is a big WHUT moment). Which actually leaves the Romans in a situation where Latin Europe might well tear itself apart, or throw themselves against the Romans, forcing a new conflict where the Romans are less desperate logistically than their enemies.
I don't think Rhomania will get away scot free from the Little Ice Age, as droughts in Egypt, Anatolia, and the Levant could be particularly destabilizing for the Sideroi, although I believe that Odysseus or his successor can keep the Empire together, albeit in a diminished state.

But you are right, Rhomania will be lucky compared to the Triunes or the HRE, as we do have pretty solid evidence that the Little Ice Age is going to hit these regions extremely hard. If agricultural productivity is lower than OTL due to no Dutch scientific advances on agriculture or no widespread adoption of crops like potatoes, then we might be in for a really crappy time for Latin Europe in general.
 

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
I don't think Rhomania will get away scot free from the Little Ice Age, as droughts in Egypt, Anatolia, and the Levant could be particularly destabilizing for the Sideroi, although I believe that Odysseus or his successor can keep the Empire together, albeit in a diminished state.

But you are right, Rhomania will be lucky compared to the Triunes or the HRE, as we do have pretty solid evidence that the Little Ice Age is going to hit these regions extremely hard. If agricultural productivity is lower than OTL due to no Dutch scientific advances on agriculture or no widespread adoption of crops like potatoes, then we might be in for a really crappy time for Latin Europe in general.
Isn't this a time period that really messed up China too and one of the reasons the Qing dynasty was able to take over as things fell apart for the Ming's?
 
It'll be interesting to see how the island develops sans the Chinese, as the Zeng government probably won't be interested until a foreign power sets up a permanent presence on the majority of the island. Even though Taiwan isn't the priority of the Romans, I do think that there could be some informal outposts here and there by either the Romans or the Japanese. We'll just have to see though.


I agree that antagonizing China is undesirable for Rhomania right now, due to your statements above alongside their focus against the Spanish/Triunes in the region. If Rhomania was ever going to fight China, then the Zeng would have to be the aggressors in that scenario, which is unlikely. Although, their activities in Southeast Asia like in OTL Philippines or Nusantara might pique the interest of the court in Luoyang, though that depends on how much the Chinese actually care about enforcing their sphere of influence in the area or not.


Uh oh, the worst of the Little Ice Age is coming, which could set off some powder kegs across the world, especially in Eurasia.

Imagine if Odysseus sets off an amazing Golden Age for Rhomania only for crippling droughts and possible famine beat the Romans back to rock bottom. It'd be a sad narrative, but it does make me curious as to how this world could fare with the Little Ice Age compared to OTL since technology is slightly more advanced here and proto-industrialization is underway.

Yeah, I don’t think the Chinese would be interested in Taiwan unless the Romans or Japanese started colonizing it. (A trading post or three set up by some Ship Lords to barter with the locals wouldn’t trigger this, but an official expedition might, depending on the size.) Then they would be interested, much like in the Scramble for Africa where Europeans were grabbing land not because they really wanted it, but because the other guy seemed to want it, and we just can’t have that.

I like the idea of an alt-Koxinga who sets up an independent state who makes it stick. There’s no way the Qing would tolerate Koxinga and his successors IOTL, because as a center of Ming loyalism they were a constant threat to Qing legitimacy which needed to be squashed. But if alt-Koxinga is just some corrupt governor who skedaddled with cronies and clients, they might be more accommodating since this scenario poses no dynastic-legitimacy threat.

Antagonizing China would be bad, because the Romans are in Island Asia to make money after all, and China is a market the size of Europe combined. Shooting at your customers is not a good way to boost sales (although in the holiday season may be emotionally satisfying for retail staff).

To be honest, besides issues in European Rhomania, the rest of the Empire might avoid the worst of it - and interestingly, it could hit Latin Europe MUCH harder as the Roman climate is warmer anyway (yes, the Golden Horn might freeze, and that is a big WHUT moment). Which actually leaves the Romans in a situation where Latin Europe might well tear itself apart, or throw themselves against the Romans, forcing a new conflict where the Romans are less desperate logistically than their enemies.

Drop in temp affects everyone badly, because they have a big impact on growing season time and productivity. Areas with a larger buffer can handle it better than ones with smaller ones, but nobody comes out looking good. Furthermore even relatively ‘small’ drops in food production have drastic effects on market prices.

For example, consider a hypothetical farmer who produces 500 food units in an average year. Three hundred of that he keeps for himself because he, his family, and his animals all have to eat and he needs seed for the next planting. That leaves 200 food units for the market. However now because of a drop in temp the productivity drops 20%, meaning he only produces 400 food units that year. He still keeps the 300, because that’s a fixed need for him, which means only 100 food units are available for the market. So in this scenario, a 20% drop in overall productivity causes a 50% drop in the food available at the market, and imagine what that kind of drop in supply does to prices.

I've been thinking over the last few updates and discussion and have a longer post to make, but I just want to chime in on the Northern Italy thing.

I do think it'll be prohibitively expensive to defend at this point in time. While the Alps are great, it's also a very wealthy region that projects power into a lot of nations that dislike that. That's a combo that pushes said neighbours to surging troops into the region whenever Rome is distracted. Which means always keeping a field army and garrisons there.

Not impossible, but expensive and tying down Roman resources indefinitely.

I would actually like to see the Romans take the area at some point regardless - I like the look of Justinian's Empire and think it's a good stopping point for expansion in Europe. Keep the Alps and the Haemic peninsula as your defensive zone for an area that can serve as a single economic unit quite well. But that will require a time when Italy isn't so tempting a prize that it triggers an invasion every generation.

“Not impossible, but expensive and tying down Roman resources indefinitely.”-That’s my position. I’m picturing it as a western version of Roman Mesopotamia. Possibly to take and perhaps hold, but at a cost that is likely more than it is worth. Northern Italy is richer than Mesopotamia, but it’s also proximate to several major powers (the Accord, Triunes, and the HRE) instead of just one.

I completely forgot the Little Ice Age.
Actually I rarely see it even mentioned in many timelines set in this period. This is why I love this TL.

Thanks.

It’s a big deal that really shouldn’t be ignored. If I’d been more organized and thinking ahead, I would’ve been showcasing some Little Ice Age stuff already, although it seems the late 1630s and early 40s are when things really kicked off.

I wonder how the little ice age will impact Ethiopia and The Omani I know stuff will get dryer so being in an arid environment wouldn't necisarry help them but maybe having the crops failing at home could convince Ethiopia and The Omani to invest more in their colonies in south east africa to make up for it. I have no idea what impact it will have on the Ottomans but i have a feeling Iskander will find a way to take advantage of the situation

I don’t think the Swahili coast would be able to help. It’s a thin coastal strip and moving inland means playing chicken with tropical diseases.

I don't think Rhomania will get away scot free from the Little Ice Age, as droughts in Egypt, Anatolia, and the Levant could be particularly destabilizing for the Sideroi, although I believe that Odysseus or his successor can keep the Empire together, albeit in a diminished state.

But you are right, Rhomania will be lucky compared to the Triunes or the HRE, as we do have pretty solid evidence that the Little Ice Age is going to hit these regions extremely hard. If agricultural productivity is lower than OTL due to no Dutch scientific advances on agriculture or no widespread adoption of crops like potatoes, then we might be in for a really crappy time for Latin Europe in general.

Oh, there’s no way the Romans get away scot free from the Little Ice Age. Just last night I was reading how the black earth Ukraine had famines in the late 1640s OTL. That’s TTL Scythia, aka one of the key food suppliers of Constantinople.

Rhomania will be ‘luckier’ since it will avoid the invading armies rampaging across the provinces (aside from the big punch there it already took) but it’s still getting visits from the Horsemen of the Apocalypse named Famine and Pestilence and they’re nasty enough on their own. Even if others get it worse, personally I think ‘lucky’ is the wrong word.

Isn't this a time period that really messed up China too and one of the reasons the Qing dynasty was able to take over as things fell apart for the Ming's?

Yes it is.
 
Lords of Spice and Sea: A Stream of Silver
Lords of Spice and Sea: A Stream of Silver

The Spanish and Roman delegations that sail out of Suez in summer 1639 with the ceasefire order for eastern waters both want peace desperately. The Romans have the upper hand, but the costs have been utterly staggering, and the Spanish are by no means out. Meanwhile the Spanish want to cut their losses while they still have a strong bargaining position. Pereira, when questioned by the Spanish delegation, agrees, saying that while his bark can still frighten the Romans, he is unsure if his bite is enough to hurt them, and peace should be made before they figure that out.

After reviewing the situation on the ground, the two delegations agree that the simplest proposal is just to end the conflict on the basis of each side keeping what they currently hold. (Both Constantinople and Lisbon approve the treaty without revision once it reaches them.) This favors the Romans who thus keep Malacca and the Spanish-Malay territories associated with it. However Tidore and Ternate, both former Roman vassals but now Spanish holdings, remain under Spanish lordship.

In regards to Java and the fighting between Mataram and Sunda, both sides agree to a pledge of neutrality, with neither side providing military support to the Javanese combatants. The exception is the technical support the Romans have already pledged to Sanjaya which is exempted. Openly the Maharaja does not protest to this, noting that while it is only a minor inconvenience to him to lose direct Roman support, it is devastating to the Sundanese to lose their Spanish allies. However inwardly he is irritated, viewing it as the Romans running out on their obligations to him; they are supposed to be his allies yet are abandoning him in the middle of a conflict. That it is a conflict he can win on his own does not absolve the Romans.

The fighting will continue until 1640 but when the dust settles Sanjaya will be lord of all Java with the exception of the minor state of Blambangan in the southeast, a deed unseen since the glory days of Majapahit. Notably, once the Sunda state is no more, the Maharaja offers trading quarters in several port cities to Spanish traders, placing them next to the Roman districts with the intention of using both outsiders to keep the other honest. He trusts neither, also inviting Lotharingian and Arletian traders, reasoning correctly that Christian competition will focus on each other, preventing any one to become too powerful and threatening to Mataram’s interests.

Notably, the Spanish find more glory in their defeat than the Romans in their victory. The Spanish can take pride in the exploits of Pereira and their many victories despite the material advantages of their foe. In contrast, the Romans won, but took extremely heavy losses and succeeded only on the basis of said material advantage. It is a victory, but not one that inspires pride in one’s accomplishments.

Encouraging the rosy Spanish view despite their defeat is the fate of Pereira. Venkata Raya, immediately spying an opportunity, offers to purchase the Spanish warships in eastern waters and hire on the Spanish crews and officers, including Pereira. Tidore and Ternate alone cannot hope to support such a large flotilla. He is willing to pay most handsomely, particularly to get those magnificent third-raters and the valiant Pereira, of which he has heard much praise. The Spanish keep some smaller vessels but sell the larger vessels, earning for the used vessels slightly above what it would cost to build them new. Venkata Raya knows that he is paying more than what the ships are physically worth, but he has the cash to spare and he is thinking long-term.

Most of the Spanish crews, including Pereira, take up the Vijayanagara offer of employment. Considering the pay rate, that is unsurprising. Pereira soon works his way up to commanding the entirety of the Vijayanagara navy, the most famous example of how a successful outsider, if skilled enough, can prosper in Vijayanagara service, and it is in that capacity that he dies of old age in 1652. The Spanish third-raters are copied and teak-built versions of them soon become the mainstay of the Vijayanagara battle-line.

Meanwhile in Roman country the recriminations and accusations start to fly. The Roman delegation is also a house-cleaning affair, blaming the local Roman officials for the poor handling in the war. They have a point but their actions do nothing to solve the problem. The most apparent fix would be to have a permanent Exarch on-station to oversee the Katepanoi and ensure they cooperate on matters that cross Katepanate boundaries, but Constantinople dislikes the idea of investing any one individual with such a power. It seems far too easy for said individual to make a play for independence. So the ‘temporary Exarch’ model developed for the war is retained for possible future use, but otherwise there are no administrative reforms, unless one counts exhortations for the Katepanoi to cooperate better in the future.

Instead of structural reforms, the changes are primarily personal. All of the Katepanoi are encouraged to retire and they all take the hint, albeit with varying degrees of reluctance. This isn’t an issue in three of the four Katepanates but becomes a serious issue with Pahang and Katepano Alexandros Mavrokordatos, but that is because the delegation, assuming his incompetence, ignore his advice with disastrous consequences.

Alexandros Mavrokordatos had the bad habit of rushing things and not planning everything out, best exemplified by his initial and disastrous attack on Malacca in 1636. But he knew the Malays. On his way out, in a final report he noted that Pahang’s Malay vassals had been more tightly bound to the Katepanate than Malacca’s Malay vassals had been bound to the Viceroyalty. He recommends just copying the Spanish vassalage terms for the Malays in the former Spanish holdings, substituting Romans in the top slot but changing nothing else.

The delegates disagree. Administrative uniformity dictates that vassalage terms for all Malay vassals should be the same, and there is the argument that the long-time loyal Pahang-Malays should not have more impositions placed on them than the Malacca-Malays who noticeably did not help the Romans take Malacca. The second argument has a point, but the Malacca-Malays don’t care about that, rising in revolt in late 1639. The rebellion, necessitating nasty jungle fighting where diseases kill 5 times more Romans than bullets or blades, is eventually put down in the early 1640s, but at the cost of yet more Roman blood and gold which has already flowed so copiously.

According to a Roman officer, a Malay chief, just before being burned to death by Roman soldiers as an example to ‘encourage the others’, gives the following last words. “You foul and loathsome people, who abandon your homes and families and travel halfway around the world to steal what does not belong to you and kill all those who object, kill me and be done with it. I am weary of being in the same world as you.”

Despite the losses, in 1640 Rhomania is the dominant Christian naval power in Island Asia, with Spain, its only serious rival, knocked down from that perch. Other potential contenders like the Lotharingians lack the proper naval bases to support squadrons of battle-line ships; trading quarters granted by native monarchs aren’t good enough for such a task. Economically though this is not such a boon as might be expected.

The depression in the Imperial heartland affects Rhomania-in-the-East relatively little. Heartland demand for eastern goods decline, but doesn’t vanish, and the local carrying trade of Asia is what generates most of the revenue anyway. The collapse in faith in the Imperial Bank means nothing out east, because the Imperial Bank lacked any presence whatsoever. For credit, the Romans relied on Indian moneylenders.

The main Roman advantage over other Christians is the possession of territory on which plantations can be placed. Roman control over the Banda Islands gives them a near monopoly (it is only near because smugglers are a common annoyance) on nutmeg and mace, which is only possible because of their territorial control. Cinnamon from Taprobane is a similar phenomenon. A trading quarter wouldn’t cut it. However Europeans tastes are changing and in a way that is damaging to the western spice trade. Pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and the like are no longer rare exotic elements from the fabled east, losing that allure that was part of the attraction at the same time as increased availability drives down the bulk price in Europe. The combination means that Europeans want less spices and what is being shipped earns less when it gets there anyway. Demand doesn’t stop but it declines noticeably from its late medieval peak. [1]

The main money-maker is the local carrying trade, shipping Indian cotton textiles and metal-goods to Java for pepper, trading that pepper in Pyrgos for Chinese silks, chinaware, and tea, and then shipping the Chinese goods to Europe, and so on. But to engage in this carrying trade only requires merchantmen and trading quarters, much cheaper than territorial control which requires fleets and garrisons and forts. The Roman plantations do help some in that the Chinese want cinnamon and nutmeg and have to go to the Romans to get it, but it is a small boost at best. In bulk imports to China, a market literally as big as all of Europe combined, pepper vastly outweighs both combined, and Rhomania is in absolutely no position to monopolize pepper exports; pepper production is too diffuse with large sections controlled by native states like Mataram that are too powerful to be bullied.

The Lotharingians are well-poised to exploit this in the late 1630s and early 40s. They have destroyed most of the Triune presence east of Bengal, while the Romans and Spanish have conveniently gutted themselves, leaving them little serious competition. Much of the Roman merchant marine was destroyed by Pereira and Lotharingian merchants swoop in to take advantage of the commercial vacuum. The Ship Lords (as a class; several Lords are ruined and never recover) gradually rebuild their fleets but they face much stiffer competition than would’ve been the case if that vacuum hadn’t initially existed for the Lotharingians to fill.

To the delegation’s credit, they make two important and beneficial recommendations. The first is the need for expanded credit facilities for Roman merchants to lessen their dependence on Indian moneylenders. The second is the need to expand shipbuilding facilities, with Pyrgos the favored candidate. Taprobane is too remote from Island Asia with its own concerns, while being too close to Vijayanagar which crowds Roman freedom of movement.

These are good ideas, but much easier to suggest than implement. The issue hampering both is the need for money. The obvious source is silver garnered from Pyros. However the Mexicans and Japanese come to Pyrgos with their silver to buy Chinese and Indonesian goods with said silver. The Romans provide none of the former and only some of the latter, so the bulk of the silver that goes through Pyrgos does not end up in Roman hands. They get some in the form of tariffs, but they can’t be raised too much lest the goose that lays the silver eggs decides to make its nest somewhere else. (Ryukyu is an obvious alternative, predating Pyrgos in this role. It is also a tributary of both China and Japan, meaning that a Roman attack on it to eliminate the would-be competitor would be an effective declaration of war on the two largest and most powerful states of East Asia.)

Another problem is that nature is emphatically not cooperating. As the calendar enters the 1640s, the Little Ice Age is spreading its baleful influence. The oceanic currents that carry the Pyrgos galleons to and fro across the Pacific are destabilized. The galleons continue to make the journeys but the passages take longer and shipwrecks are more common. Obviously none of the silver in the sunken ships ever makes it into Roman hands, so even less silver is available at the moment when the Romans are trying to implement these reforms.

That is only the mildest cruel twist of the Little Ice Age. Between 1638 and 1644, the Ring of Fire will resoundingly live up to its name with twelve known volcanic eruptions in that period. In late 1640 Pyrgos is buried under a volcanic cloud of ash so dense that according to inhabitants, at 2PM people could not see their own hands. The cloud came from an eruption that was a level 6 on the volcanic explosivity index [2] and it is reported that the eruption was heard as far away as southern Champa. [3] And the Little Ice Age is hardly done even with that.

The need to fulfill the second goal ends up killing the first. To get that moving requires turning to local sources of capital. Aside from the traditional Indian moneylenders, Chinese merchants get in on the business. It is just much easier to rely on the local sources than to attempt to create a new one. Furthermore it is much faster. Ship Lords need new ships to make up their losses to compete with the Lotharingians, and the longer the Lotharingians are left unchallenged, the harder it will be to claw back the market share. In addition to credit, the moneylenders and their kinship networks provide access to market information, products, laborers, and buyers. Any Roman (or any westerner) looking for economic success in eastern waters cannot afford to not work with these eastern financiers.

The Pyrgos shipyards are expanded and by 1670 are the main source of Roman shipping in Island Asia, but with local capital. The proposal of an ‘Imperial Bank, Far East branch’ is a dead letter, unable to get off the ground. Roman silver gained at Pyrgos is siphoned off for various needed tasks with not enough remaining to form a credible reserve alternative to pre-existing moneylending options.

This is galling to the pride of heartland Romans, but notably less so to Romans in the East. All of the westerners, from Ethiopians to Triunes, rely heavily on Easterners for trade goods, manpower, business partners, financial information, and loans. Without those native contacts, none of their successes in eastern commerce would be possible. Getting financial capital from either India or China, either of which individually is a market, population pool, and economy comparable in size to all of Europe, is simply how the game is played.

The rise of Pyrgos is a harbinger of change in Rhomania in the East. Taprobane, crowded by the great empires of India that dwarf it, has no room to grow. With the decline of the spice trade, New Constantinople’s glory days are past (although this is lessened with the schadenfreude that Spanish Tidore and Ternate suffer the same decline). By the third quarter of the seventeenth century, Pahang and Pyrgos, especially the latter, are the driving forces of Rhomania in the East.

Both provide raw materials; while tin, lumber, and rice lack the glamor of spices, they are of more practical use. They also have large native populations that are gradually converting to Orthodox Christianity, although the completely tone-deaf initial handling of the Malacca-Malays substantially delays progress there by at least a generation. Both are prominent nexuses of the carrying trade, especially Pyrgos, unquestionably the chief nexus by 1670. In 1690 it is the fifth-largest Roman city in terms of population.

Demetrios III, had he lived long enough to see it, would have been amused by the historical irony of it all. The Spanish and Romans had massacred each other to make themselves Lords of Spice and Sea, but the sea answers to no one and the spice was losing its preeminence even as the rivers of blood poured. As the worms and ants and flies and the other true victors of war ate their fill, the true prize, Pyrgos, was never even contested.

There’s probably a lesson in that.

[1] Note how IOTL spices are all the rage in the 1400s and 1500s, but not the be-all and end-all in the 1700s. Furthermore the ‘spices were used to hide the taste of rotting meat’ argument is utter bunk. Any late medieval European able to afford pepper for their table would be able to afford good meat.

[2] IOTL, Krakatoa was a 6 on the VEI.

[3] Details taken from OTL. See Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker, pg. 83-84.
 
Oh wow the Lotharingian merchant ships will be a huge boon to the Triunes if they decide to pledge loyalty to kings harbor after the conquest of their homeland.

Here is the updated map with the new Roman and Mataram holdings. I am also working on a Qbam version of the map so hopefully people can see things in better detail, I aim to have it completed before Christmas
 

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I just realized that after weeks of reading through this timeline that Pyrgos was Maynila/Manila, so whoops (Not entirely sure what the Philippines are called ITTL as well).

Regardless, the rise of Pyrgos is a bit hilarious from a historical standpoint. Rome and Spain spent so many times trying to dominate Nusantara yet their main exports of spices, a trade good once associated with extreme wealth, is becoming less and less profitable. Meanwhile, Pyrgos has goods that are always valuable and put up with a tiny profit. While spices will always garner a higher price than lumber or rice, the amount of blood and silver paid to acquire such spices in Nusantara probably wasn't worth the effort in the end. Perhaps we can see Pyrgos rise to the moniker of "Pearl of the Orient" for the Romans like it was for the Spanish OTL due to its growing importance both in trade and raw materials.
Pyrgos.jpg
What sucks though is how the Little Ice Age is really starting to destabilize the world, and there's practically nothing that anyone can do to really avert this fate. For example, all of that lost silver from those ships means there's less of a supply to help the Romans climb out of their current economic depression, although it seems that it probably wouldn't have made a difference in avoiding another one just as they started to recover due to the Little Ice Age, as was hinted in the previous revision. Winter is coming, and some states might not survive the catastrophe of what's to come.
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Isn't this a time period that really messed up China too and one of the reasons the Qing dynasty was able to take over as things fell apart for the Ming's?
As B444 said, that is correct, although the Little Ice Age probably would affect the Zeng differently from the Ming. Obviously, the Little Ice Age isn't an instant death button for random nation here, that's far too simplistic. The Ming had a large host of problems such as corruption and inflation by the time the 17th century came up, but the Little Ice Age did cause famines and plagues that put on additional pressure on the government which they couldn't handle, leading to their collapse.

It's possible for the Zeng to avert the fate of the Ming if they aren't as corrupt or incompetent as they were by the time of the Little Ice Age. In fact, the Triunes might have a higher likelihood to blow up in the face of such a crisis than Zeng China, although we'll just have to see in a few decades.
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I do have an random question about this timeline: Does anyone know what is the current flag of the Roman Empire?
It might've appeared somewhere in the timeline but the photo was either deleted or there's just simply no flag to speak of (the latter would be quite sad, imo).
 
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Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
As B444 said, that is correct, although the Little Ice Age probably would affect the Zeng differently from the Ming. Obviously, the Little Ice Age isn't an instant death button for random nation here, that's far too simplistic. The Ming had a large host of problems such as corruption and inflation by the time the 17th century came up, but the Little Ice Age did cause famines and plagues that put on additional pressure on the government which they couldn't handle, leading to their collapse.

It's possible for the Zeng to avert the fate of the Ming if they aren't as corrupt or incompetent as they were by the time of the Little Ice Age. In fact, the Triunes might have a higher likelihood to blow up in the face of such a crisis than Zeng China, although we'll just have to see in a few decades.
Oh I agree, the Little Ice Age spelled doom for the Ming since it was an old dynasty with several problems that was only made worse. As a younger dynasty the Zeng should have more room to play with and survive but this will severely hamper their ability to govern and probably reinforce their tendency to ignore the outside world.

As for a flag I don't think there is one just yet, most national flags get made in the next century or so, but Rhomania likely uses the Imperial Double Headed Eagle since that has been a symbol of Rome since it was an Empire. Maybe adding the Chi Rho to differentiate their Christian Empire from the Latins like the below. Though they might use purple rather than red since that is a color more tied to Rhomania.
 

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I just realized that after weeks of reading through this timeline that Pyrgos was Maynila/Manila, so whoops (Not entirely sure what the Philippines are called ITTL as well).
The Philippines are called the Herakleian Islands, after Herakleios II (dat sickly boi who built dat wall).
 
As for a flag I don't think there is one just yet, most national flags get made in the next century or so, but Rhomania likely uses the Imperial Double Headed Eagle since that has been a symbol of Rome since it was an Empire. Maybe adding the Chi Rho to differentiate their Christian Empire from the Latins like the below. Though they might use purple rather than red since that is a color more tied to Rhomania.
I think the standard red-gold Roman cross could be a good base point for a flag of Rhomania. It's simple and represents the Roman state fairly well as a nation. Maybe a Chi-Rho could be added to differentiate itself from other European flags that have straight crosses like Genoa or even the Triunes. Still beats those overly complicated flags of the alt-Hist ERE that we see all the time on the Internet (I have an irrational beef against those flags, even though some look quite nice).

Purple is far too expensive of a color to put on any flag at this point, so I don't think even the Romans would even use it, especially since it would mean we're lowering the importance of purple as the exclusive color of the Emperor. Red-gold tends to be easily identifiable as the color of the Romans at this point, so I don't see why they would abandon it (Castile-Portugal/Spain would be rocking a far different flag compared to OTL Spain, so it's not like Rhomania is going to be similar to them).

The Philippines are called the Herakleian Islands, after Herakleios II (dat sickly boi who built dat wall).
Thank you!
 
Well, in one part this seems like a loss for Romans (loss in trade influence), on the other hand it seems that the seeds for Romania-in-the-East as a core part of the Empire (not just a colony) are blossoming. Great for Rome, I hope they manage to truly integrate those lands and people in the Empire! Having them feel and act Roman would be a huge boon and something pretty different to OTL histoy. Refreshing! Best of luck to them!

Also, great update.

I do have an random question about this timeline: Does anyone know what is the current flag of the Roman Empire?
It might've appeared somewhere in the timeline but the photo was either deleted or there's just simply no flag to speak of (the latter would be quite sad, imo).

I don't think they have an official flag. Related to that, my favorite scene in the timeline is Roman fleet coming to (I think) Valencia during the war with Moors (during the reign of Demetrios). The suspense of harbor crews and guards while they watched a massive armada approaching, and then seeing Roman tetragrammatic (again, I think) standards on the ships coming to help them. Great moment!
 
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