An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

I imagine the sizeable stash of captured Triune guns is going to come in handy. Considering it's the very first stop on the campaign, I have to imagine he's planned for this.

I'm sure he has and if I were a betting man I'd lay a twenty on the Romans but even if he wins it doesn't do him a ton of good if his army is utterly shattered in the process.
I love how instead of the title of emperor being a glorious title only held by the greatest men in history it's shown as a horribly taxing, thankless job that ruins the life of it's holder. It's good to be King
I love how instead of the title of emperor being a glorious title only held by the greatest men in history it's shown as a horribly taxing, thankless job that ruins the life of it's holder. It's good to be King
As with most former Presidents (US) leaving the office ragged and significantly more aged than their terms' duration warranted.
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I love how instead of the title of emperor being a glorious title only held by the greatest men in history it's shown as a horribly taxing, thankless job that ruins the life of it's holder. It's good to be King
Well... that is exactly what being emperor tends to have been like, regardless of who it is.
Empire is no business of the weak, after all, and danger abounds at every corner. If you find an emperor who led an uneventful life, he is either irrelevant or Antonius Pius.


Monthly Donor
(Emphasis in the second quote is mine)

Safe to say Mosul will be an exceedingly tough nut to crack. I am looking forward to seeing how Odysseus and his army go about it. He doesn't have the massive hosts of Thessaloniki here - he's got to be cautious or else this campaign will be over before it has a chance to truly begin. Less brute strength and more guile is needed.

If I remember correctly, a previous update said that D3 was building an artillery park in what territory they took from the Ottomans that meant they could be shelling Mosul in a week.

Say how old is Odysseus and Athena? I keep thinking they're in their late 20s.
Well... that is exactly what being emperor tends to have been like, regardless of who it is.
Empire is no business of the weak, after all, and danger abounds at every corner. If you find an emperor who led an uneventful life, he is either irrelevant or Antonius Pius.
Still impressed that Pius was actually that good and didn't get into any major conflicts. It takes a great man to win wars but it takes a wise and excellent man to stop wars
I wonder how the Armenians are doing.

Ethnically they’re a disproportionate percentage of the dynatoi and mesoi of the Empire, so they’re somewhat like the Scots of Rhomania. However that is Armenians who have converted to Orthodoxy. For those who remain faithful to the Armenian Church, their rights to religious worship are allowed, but they’re second-class citizens.

Say how old is Odysseus and Athena? I keep thinking they're in their late 20s.

In 1641 Odysseus turns 28 and Athena turns 25.

Roman-Persian Wars: A major factor in these not happening later is that both powers thinking fighting over the frontier is just way too expensive and bloody and decide to concentrate their energies literally anywhere else.
East-1641 part 2: Qara Tappa
East-1641 part 2: Qara Tappa

Mosul’s fortifications were not pretty, radiating the powerful beauty that so often draws tourists to the mighty citadels of yesteryear. They were made of earth, ugly but cheap and plentiful while still an excellent absorber of cannonballs. Erosion meant that earthen fortifications were short-lived and needed constant upkeep, but everyone paying attention to the Roman-Ottoman frontier in 1641 knew both where and when the hammer blow would, indeed must, fall. Surprise was never an option.

Odysseus’ war goals are fairly straightforward, at least in principle. The pre-war Roman border must be restored, some sort of settlement regarding Mesopotamia enforced (historians debate when Odysseus envisioned his final form of this), and Iskandar the Younger put on the throne of his father and namesake. The final proviso is what makes efforts, both by Ibrahim and by some on the Roman side, to preempt the renewed war with a peace utterly futile. Ibrahim was willing to return the Roman territory and write off the already-lost lands in Northern Mesopotamia. He might’ve been willing to even cede Mosul provided he got Iskandar’s head in exchange, but Odysseus was certainly not willing to countenance that, and Ibrahim is not about to yield his throne and his life to his younger brother without a fight.

Both sides’ field armies are evenly matched, both having around 70,000 men, plus auxiliaries and garrisons. The Roman side has an overall advantage in that in Syria and the trans-Aras, their allies have the edge, but the main issue will be decided in Mesopotamia. The comparatively smaller armies of both sides shows the exhaustion of both Empires, which have spent the better part of the last 40+ years in expensive, bloody, and grueling warfare. Rhomania had an edge in that but the ongoing economic depression wiped out much of that lead.

Rhomania still has an edge, particularly in the area of equipment and the ability to replace it. Odysseus’s starting force is deliberately composed to be the best in both manpower and material of that available to him, but losses in both categories can be replaced to some extent. Ibrahim’s equipment roster is both less developed (his men-to-cannon ratio is 75% that of Odysseus) and its reserve capabilities are substantially weaker, although it must be noted that compared to anyone other than the Romans, Triunes, and Spanish the Ottoman setup is still extremely impressive.

Ibrahim’s plan is to buy for time, to drag the war out and make it as costly in blood and gold as possible. He knows the Romans are war-weary; if he can wear them down they may be willing to accept more reasonable terms from his perspective.

It has been noticed by historians of the era that Ibrahim’s strategy is similar to that of Albrecht III in trying to deal with an attack by a larger power. Leaving aside the fact that the power differential is much smaller in Ibrahim’s case, a key difference is also that for Ibrahim, his people are much more invested in resisting the invader than was the case with Albrecht’s Lotharingians. However his strategy has its own serious flaw. Unaware of the personal connection between Odysseus and Iskandar, Ibrahim believes that the Basileus views his younger brother as a political pawn, to be disposed if the cost of playing it becomes too much. But Odysseus’ support is not a political calculation, or at least not just one. It is a sacred promise, and those Odysseus Sideros fulfills.

Once the Romans start moving in earnest, it doesn’t take long before they are setting up siege works outside Mosul. The task will not be easy. Aside from the fortifications, the garrison is numerous, well-equipped and supplied, and motivated to resist. The city is on the left bank of the Tigris, where the Roman army entrenches. Gun batteries south of the city can interdict Ottoman resupply via the river, but they’re not as effective as they would be if there was also a right-bank presence. However to create one would mean splitting the army and allowing opportunities for defeat in detail, which Odysseus is not willing to risk at this time.

Ibrahim comes up from the south also on the left-bank of the river, encamping a day’s march from the city. Skirmishing is near-constant between the two forces. Ibrahim, trusting in the Ottoman soldiery’s deserved reputation for field fortification construction, hopes to lure Odysseus into assaulting his camp. Odysseus would prefer to avoid that and hopes to lure Ibrahim out into a field battle by pressing Mosul harshly enough that Ibrahim must move to succor the city.

However with Ibrahim’s constant pressure diverting energy from the siege, the Romans are unable to make substantial headway against Mosul’s massive defenses. Both sides’ cavalry snip at the other’s supply lines, both scoring minor successes but nothing even approaching decisive. Logistics are difficult for both, but more pressing for the Romans since they are trying to prosecute an active siege. A single 50-pounder Elephant siege cannon over an active day can use a literal ton of gunpowder, never mind all the other supplies required. The large siege train requires a great many draft animals, which need fodder. The list of things needed is enormous and constant. Overall, the Roman logistical system holds up, but there is definite and inevitable fraying at the edges.

Despite the lack of major battles or assault, there is a steady string of casualties on both sides, not just from combat but also accidents and illnesses. One Tourmarch is invalided back to Edessa after going mad from ‘too much heat on the brain’. This is turning into a war of attrition, and a distinctively unproductive one from the Roman perspective. In early September, Odysseus decides he must change his strategy. He can’t deal with either Mosul or Ibrahim with the other one about; one has to be eliminated, and frankly Ibrahim is easier to eliminate with a sudden surge.

Trying to maneuver around Ibrahim to get south of him isn’t an option since that will uncover the siege force investing Mosul. Plus using Mosul as a supply depot, Ibrahim could surge north into Roman Mesopotamia and cause all kinds of havoc with Roman logistics. The last thing Odysseus wants is still having to assault an entrenched Ottoman army, but having to do so hurriedly because it’s sitting on his supply lines. The only option available is to accept Ibrahim’s gambit and try and pry him out of his shell.

Still Odysseus intends to cooperate with Ibrahim’s ambitions no more than he has to do. During the night of September 9, the bulk of the Roman army breaks camp and heads south in several columns, marching through the night. The high caliber of the Roman army and leadership shines through in this operation. Despite the unavoidable complexity of the marches, which required staggered departure times to avoid congestion and to ensure that different units taking different routes to different destinations all arrive at roughly the same time, all done in the dark and with strenuous efforts to curb noise, it succeeds masterfully. No units get lost and while there are the inevitable delays, the unavoidable friction that bedevils any military operation, these are dealt with expeditiously. All units are at their designated endpoints no more than an hour behind schedule.

The Romans are sleep-deprived as they form up for battle, despite Odysseus’ efforts to ensure they were well-rested the day before the march began. However they have been fed. During two rest breaks during the night the soldiers all got light meals. They had to be cold, chicken-and-cheese monems with a packet of raisins, washed down with an extra wine ration, but it is certainly better than nothing. A sign of the attention to detail of this operation is that while it was proposed that the second meal include nuts with the raisins to provide an energy boost for the soldiers as they enter battle, it was quickly realized that 50,000 men all crunching on nuts at the same time would make quite the racket and make stealth impossible.

The Ottomans are alarmed to see the Roman army appear before their battlements at dawn on September 10. Surprise is not total; it is impossible to fully mask the approach of 50,000 men and the Roman soldiers that are behind schedule make it impossible to attack right at dawn as Odysseus had hoped (but also expected would not be possible). Still, as they pour out of their tents the Ottomans are immediately discomfited, dismayed at the Romans’ sudden appearance. While they have gotten their night sleep there is no time to feed them breakfast and there are no ‘cold rations’ that can be quickly distributed. (Roman field manuals argue for having some type of ‘quick-food’ that doesn’t require any preparations, can be quickly doled out, and consumed on station for situations like these. In the 1600s raisin packets are preferred; they aren’t much but they’re better than nothing. In later centuries chocolate bars replace them, which results in some very weird candy commercials in Roman advertising.)

The ensuing battle is known as the battle of Qara Tappa after the village that is at the center of the Ottoman encampment. (The village was destroyed during the battle and the former inhabitants relocated to the site occupied by the modern village on the east side of the Tigris.) Both armies are in a crescent formation, arrayed north to south, with the Ottomans to the east and having the Tigris River at their backs.

Once the Romans are all in position, they attack all along the line, the fighting thick and hot and bloody. The general assault is to keep Ibrahim from focusing his reserves, but Odysseus’ planned main assault is in the north, on his left wing, where the bulk of the Roman artillery is massed. Ideally Odysseus would’ve concentrated his attack on his southern right wing, since that would force an Ottoman retreat north toward Roman territory where the Shah could be isolated and destroyed. However that would’ve required the artillery, the slowest and most cumbersome portion of his army, having to make the longest night march in an already difficult operation. Recognizing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, he’d settled for the left wing option.

Elsewhere the Roman attacks are repulsed with heavy losses but here with the massed artillery support, the Romans punch through the Ottoman defenses. Recognizing that their defensive position’s integrity is fatally compromised, neither Ibrahim nor the Ottoman soldiery panic. The Roman advance is still slow, getting tangled up in obstructions, both those of the camp and those new ones hastily thrown up by the retreating Ottomans, and here the Romans no longer have their artillery support.

Forming their reserves into a solid fist, the Ottomans launch their own assault on the Romans in the south. The Romans had expected this, but underestimated the power and more importantly the speed with which the Ottomans pivot to this strategy. The Opsikian tagma is struck head-on by three times its number of opponents and badly mauled before the Romans are able to shift substantial reinforcements down the line to support.

However the Opsikians, while bloodily shoved aside, don’t break either. They take up a flanking position to the Ottoman breakout and put in a frustrating long-range fire. The Ottomans don’t have the time to shove the Opsikians back out of range so they just take the punishment as they move out. When reinforcements arrive the Romans counterattack, hoping to pin the Ottomans in place with the goal of forcing a field engagement in the open. However with the punishment the Opsikians just took and the many Roman soldiers working their way through the tangle of the Ottoman camp, the Romans here lack the strength to keep them in place. A good portion of the Ottoman army makes it free and clear.

The battle is, considering the number of combatants, proportionally bloody. Out of 51,000 Romans, ten thousand are casualties, testimony to the stout defense the Ottomans gave. They also lose 11 three-pounder cannons, all from the Opsikians. Five were captured by the Ottomans and carried off as prizes while the other six were spiked to avoid that fate.

Ottoman casualties of battle are noticeably lower, around 4500, unsurprising since they were mostly fighting behind earthworks. However eleven thousand are taken prisoner, mostly from the units that held the perimeter while the reserves broke out to the south. More devastating is the loss of nearly all of the Ottoman army’s equipment, from the 103 cannons lost (all but 15 are successfully spiked by the Ottoman artillerists before the Romans take them) to the kettle pots used for cooking squad rations over the campfire. Ibrahim and his army are not out for the count, but they have to withdraw to Baghdad to reequip and lick their wounds. They will be unable to support Mosul for some time. Another issue that can’t be remedied by the Baghdad arsenal is the blow to morale; Qara Tappa shows that while they can make the Romans pay dearly for the effort, the Romans can punch through even high-quality Ottoman fortifications.

Odysseus does not try to pursue the retreating Ottomans past nightfall on September 10 for several reasons. Firstly he has the large haul of prisoners that need to be managed. Secondly, due to the need to travel light the foodstuffs carried by the Romans have already all been eaten during the night march, so their post-battle meal is scrounged from captured Ottoman rations, of which there are not many since the retreating soldiers successfully destroyed much of what they could not take.

Finally, with the bulk of his army here, the Roman besiegers of Mosul are actually outnumbered by the Mosul garrison, a situation Odysseus has no wish to continue given the danger that represents to the masking force. Given the good order the Ottomans displayed on their retreat, breaking them quickly is not possible, and so the Romans instead return north to the siege lines of Mosul. The surge south had been so well conducted that the Mosul garrison did not realize the bulk of the Roman army was gone until they saw said bulk marching back into position.

* * *

Near Mosul, September 14, 1641:

Iskandar looked out at the encampment they were approaching, the background noise of men riding horses behind him. It was where some of the captured Ottoman soldiers had been barracked for the time being. It was a crude ramshackle affair, with the only serious attention having been given to the gun batteries overlooking it. He looked over to the rider on his left.

Odysseus Sideros looked at the camp entrance. “Alright, gentlemen, that’s enough. Everyone dismount.” Behind them were many of the high-ranking officers in the Roman army, who at their Basileus’ word started getting off their mounts, grooms taking their reins in hand. Once they were ready the group started forward again, everyone on foot save the two on horse in front, Odysseus and Iskandar.

“Are you ready?” Odysseus asked.

“We’ll find out,” Iskandar replied, trying to sound calmer then he felt.

“Fair enough.” Together the Basileus and would-be Shahanshah, side by side, rode towards the camp that lay to the east.
I really feel that Odysseus is being repeating Theodore's mistake here with his lofty goals.
He won't. I think it's already pretty much established that he will succeed. This is why he'll later become known as Ody the Magnificent. He would have solved a problem going back 1700 years
Is this the point at which Odysseus and Iskander attempt to turn the Ottoman troops? A well planned and heartfelt speech to the prisoners about an end to these bloody and meaningless wars. Odysseus and Iskander acting as the model of what can be accomplished when Rome and Persia embrace each others as friends and equals.

I don't recall the general feeling among the Turks and the Persians in the empire regarding Ibrahim? After a defeat at first contact and Mosul being abandoned how willing is everyone to support him?
I'm really curious to see how future Romans can spin this as a "glorious" and "awe-inspiring" war, because unlike the Tenth Crusade or the Great Latin War, this looks to be an extremely demoralizing and brutal conflict for two already exhausted states with no room for possible stories of glory or legend. While Rhomania does stand to gain a lot from this war with Ibrahim, the price could be argued to be far too high in terms of causalities, devastation, and overall misery all around, especially during the Little Ice Age.

Perhaps this could evolve into a case of "pop-history" taking control of the narrative, with the general public and jingoists heavily romanticizing Odysseus's war because they didn't experience what it was like to live during the Depression that was the 1640s and only really seeing Odysseus as a righteous conqueror and pacifier of the Muslim East, whereas Roman historians would take a much more nuanced view of Odysseus and see him as more of a tragic figure while also being the person that helped unite modern Rhomania and Persia together as blood-brothers.

Also, what a way to turn the tides of battle through logistics. In wars such as these, efficiency and ingenuity are critical to success, and the Romans managed to score a sizeable victory against the Ottomans thanks to easily available food rations and quick thinking.

I never really think of such minute details when it comes to war, but it's always impressive when you pull it off, B444.

Also military chocolate during the 1700s? How interesting. Maybe we'll see early Roman food scientists try to formulate heat-resistant bars as their first forays into the field, since chocolate is probably even more valuable in Rhomania than it was in America.

He won't. I think it's already pretty much established that he will succeed. This is why he'll later become known as Ody the Magnificent. He would have solved a problem going back 1700 years
The full extent of his plans are pretty lofty, in my opinion. Odysseus could've easily have gotten away with taking back the Levant and Jerusalem in exchange for Iskandar, which would've been enough for the Romans. Ibrahim rightfully knows that him being the sole claimant of the throne is far more important than an already overextended piece of land that he can take back later.

But obviously Odysseus has far more grander ambitions thanks to his promise to both Andreas III and Iskandar, and he won't give up so easily unless the war is so catastrophically devastating that he literally cannot continue. This is what Ibrahim is banking on with this war of attrition.

It's a battle of wills, and it's fair to say that Odysseus will win out, but not without a price.
Oh I totally agree. Ody will win, but as said in a couple of updates ago; his reign was glorious, if you don't look to deep.
Yeah, that's probably how I would describe Odysseus's reign as of now from all of the existing posts and spoilers. It could change though 🤔

Weird candy commercials? Given how militant the Romans are, I can only really imagine a modern Roman chocolate commercial to be a weird fusion between a G.I. Joe ad and chocolate, with military soldiers claiming how high-energy and nutrient-packed these bars are to kids as they fight villains like an ITTL COBRA.

Also, this chocolate obsession reminded me of this bit from Spongebob, where two Mexicans try to sell chocolate to a Roman.