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An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Potential modern Roman guard unit at the outbreak of the Great War.
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The helmet doesn't look practical.
The helmet could be more practical, yes, but the height is just a nuisance and might be useful if it lets the user stick the point into the ground to hold it in place for washing or shaving. The nose guard could be useful and it looks like it is designed to fit with a gas mask that looks significantly more modern than the OTL WW1.

The bigger problem is what is the point of the mini-shield dangling from his belt.
 
The helmet could be more practical, yes, but the height is just a nuisance and might be useful if it lets the user stick the point into the ground to hold it in place for washing or shaving. The nose guard could be useful and it looks like it is designed to fit with a gas mask that looks significantly more modern than the OTL WW1.

The bigger problem is what is the point of the mini-shield dangling from his belt.
Yeah a lot of the rest could be justified as an adaptation to trench warfare.

A more practical helmet and another pauldron on the other shoulder, along with painting the metal bits so they don't stick out so bad and you could reasonably call it good protection against shrapnel from above.

That and the silly shield definitely needs to go.

Maybe give him a mace instead.
 
The impractical aspects of the getup are more or less equivalent to what the OTL Great Powers used as their equipment at the start of WWI. The relatively peaceful period that followed the end of the French Revolutionary Wars caused modern militaries to gradually adopt a lot of decorative uniforms to uplift national mythos and unit pride. Germany for example issued leather helmets with metal spikes, even though the original purpose of the spikes, holding horsehair plumes for cavalry units, went out of style a long time ago.
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I don't know what the point of the shield is. While it is true that OTL Great War soldiers used handheld shields to defend themselves against shrapnel and small arms fire, those were large enough to cover the torso at least.
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The one in the picture looks like a spare piece of breastplate insert perhaps? Even then it's pretty small.
 
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The impractical aspects of the getup are more or less equivalent to what the OTL Great Powers used as their equipment at the start of WWI. The relatively peaceful period that followed the end of the French Revolutionary Wars caused modern militaries to gradually adopt a lot of decorative uniforms to uplift national mythos and unit pride. Germany for example issued leather helmets with metal spikes, even though the original purpose of the spikes, holding horsehair plumes for cavalry units, went out of style a long time ago.
I agree that the design is equivalent to the spiked helmet, with the somewhat greater disadvantage of being taller. That helmet looks like it is at least a foot over the infantryman's head. A pickelhaube's spike is significantly thinner and shorter, so it stands out less. This helmet is as if the horsehair plume was permanently attached.
 
I don't really see a modern Roman helmet resembling the one shown in that picture. If anything they might look towards extant Medieval models like this:
4476838526_8441206719_b.jpg

They'd probably be much rounder and be made out of modern materials, but the rounded helmet design is very much perfect for infantry combat and could be easily embellished with things like gold trim or tassels for higher ranking officers.
 
I don't really see a modern Roman helmet resembling the one shown in that picture. If anything they might look towards extant Medieval models like this:
4476838526_8441206719_b.jpg

They'd probably be much rounder and be made out of modern materials, but the rounded helmet design is very much perfect for infantry combat and could be easily embellished with things like gold trim or tassels for higher ranking officers.
I don't know about that. The helm from the artwork looks like a brimless version of some later helmets that were known to be used. If anything they would probably keep the brim of the helm given they are looking for shrapnel protection. Though perhaps the tall one would survive as a ceremonial piece and a more reasonable kettle helm would be used in the field.

Edit: The point I forgot to make was that those helmets are from a much earlier period than those that would have survived to the age of gunpowder. The one from the originally posted work though looks like something elite forces might have retained through the ages of gunpowder at least as a ceremonial piece, much like we see especially in eastern armies OTL.
 
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I don't know about that. The helm from the artwork looks like a brimless version of some later helmets that were known to be used. If anything they would probably keep the brim of the helm given they are looking for shrapnel protection. Though perhaps the tall one would survive as a ceremonial piece and a more reasonable kettle helm would be used in the field.
Yeah, I could see a shorter helmet of the one HanEmpire posted being used along with the kettle helm being used in a WWI-era Rhomania out of pragmatism while also keeping to their historical Roman roots.
 
Pragmatism is a thing, so it's more like a "this helps me win a war" thing imo
Unless I'm forgetting a major shift in Orthodox theology ITL (which is unlikely since Basileus doesn't really like to touch on theology), this just seems unlikely. Orthodoxy never had a concept of "Holy War," which has its roots in Augustinian theology, something the East pretty strongly disregarded (See this helpful discussion on Orthodox views of warfare here). Modern Orthodoxy OTL still has on the books a canon of St. Basil that suggests that soldiers who kill during war self-excommunicate for three years in repentance. I just don't see the Orthodox Empire taking on western language, especially language that has both been used against them in the recent past and that has its roots in what they would view as a heretical and heterodox theology of warfare.
 
Odysseus and Theodor: The key difference between the plans of Odysseus and Theodor is that Theodor had no Iskandar-equivalent. Theodor had no legitimacy whatsoever in the eyes of the Roman populace, while Iskandar has some. A more precise Theodor-Odysseus analogy would’ve been if Alexandros Drakos had married Elizabeth von Wittelsbach instead of Athena, and Theodor was invading Rhomania with the goal of putting his sister and brother-in-law on the throne in place of the usurper Demetrios III.

Ibrahim’s Support: It’s…complicated. I go into more detail into an upcoming update but there are multiple factors at play. Ibrahim is a son and the designated heir of Iskandar the Great; that alone counts for a lot. He’s been Shah for 15+ years at this point so he’s built up a loyal power base. And the area that is bound to be most disloyal, Mesopotamia (it backed his brother Osman at the death of Iskandar), is also staunchly anti-Roman (it flipped to Ibrahim because Osman was seeking Roman aid) so it’s really not going to be impressed by Iskandar the Younger. So while military defeat can dent it, his support base is pretty robust.

The ‘Glory’ of the War: Part of that is going to be a ‘pop-history’ effect, looking solely at the cool bits and ignoring the ugly. That said, the nature of the conflict will change at a certain point and become much more glorious (at least from the perspective of the winners). So it’s going to be a mix, with some of the air of magnificence coming from ignoring the bits that are not magnificent.

The Armenians: It’s very much a matter of the Armenian Church being an issue, rather than Armenians. Armenians who convert to Orthodoxy are disproportionately represented in the Empire’s elite relative to their percentage of the population. But Orthodoxy is a key component of the Roman identity, so those Armenians who stick with their church (which theologically is more heretical than Catholics from the Orthodox POV) are very much being not-Roman, so they’re not integrated or approved of.

Indigenous Incan ruling class: Mexican policy is to completely wipe out the uppermost tier of a conquered society like the Incans. Anyone used to being a top dog is too dangerous to keep around as they’ll resent the demotion. The Mexicans then take the top dog position. But everyone underneath that, including the lower elites, is kept in place. The idea is ‘new boss, same as old boss’, to minimize disturbances. But everyone in the old boss category has got to die.

Mexican language: It’s Nahautl-based, with loan words from Occitan and Spanish; a lot of David’s men were Spanish. There are a couple of Greek loan words too relating to government, but nothing like the Occitan and Spanish because aside from David and 1 or 2 others, they made up the expedition.

Modern Roman Guard Unit: It’s a cool picture, although it has ‘too impractical for field use’ while also not being shiny and colorful enough for the parade ground.

Byzantine Crusade: It wouldn’t work. Orthodoxy doesn’t have a tradition of Holy War like Western Christianity or Islam. In a defensive war you could get a ‘defend Orthodoxy’ mentality, but not in an offensive war. Byzantine offensives were very much styled in ‘retaking lost Roman land from invaders’ and not ‘extend the one true faith’. There are some elements in TTL Rhomania that have been influenced by crusade ideas from the west, and ironically mainly want to deploy them against the west, but such ideas are viewed as Latin heresy. The Roman government officially advocating such Latin innovations would be a massive scandal.

Not even Nikephoros Phokas, aka ‘the White Death of the Saracens’ (seriously, do you want to contradict someone called that?), could get away with something like this, and he tried.
 
East-1641 part 3: Mosul
East-1641 Part 3: Mosul

Near Mosul, September 14, 1641:

Odysseus and Iskandar rode into the Ottoman prisoner encampment, followed on foot by a few dozen Romans, Strategoi and staff officers and the like. The ‘gate’ was little more than a gap in the earthen embankment and ditch that surrounded the camp, the opening covered by a pair of gun batteries and some earth platforms with guards atop them. This was the largest of the hastily constructed camps with 3000 prisoners, including the most senior.

There was a large open area at the gate, the field surrounded by a ring of Roman soldiers, muskets and ambrolars at the ready. The most senior captured Ottoman soldiers, clad in dusty but still fine-quality and colorful robes and turbans, were standing at the head of the field where it gave way to the shelters. They’d been alerted to expect the visit. The rank and file prisoners were arrayed in the gaps between their shelters, and notably they were all sitting, a subtle but obvious signal of defiance.

The Romans approached the elite Ottomans and they bowed slightly to Odysseus. “Greetings, your Imperial Majesty,” one replied, speaking Greek with a perfect Antioch accent, typical of prominent Ottomans. This was Suleiman Pasha, the senior-most Ottoman commander. His sunbaked leathery skin was heavily wrinkled, but his stocky build was still muscle and not fat, with his eyes shining brightly.

“Greetings, Suleiman Pasha,” Odysseus replied. “There is someone here who would speak with you.” He gestured at Iskandar.

For the first time, Suleiman actually looked at Iskandar. Iskandar drew himself up in the saddle and spoke loudly in Persian. “I am Iskandar, son of Iskandar the Great, Shahanshah and the Heir of the House of Osman, and I have come to claim what belongs to me.” There were murmurs in the crowd as those up front relayed what he said to those further back.

“You do resemble him,” Suleiman granted, still speaking in Greek. “I believe you are his son in body. But a faithful son of Iskandar would not be a Roman puppet.”

“I am no puppet,” Iskandar replied quietly in Greek. Then he raised his voice again and switched to Persian. “I am a Prince of Persia. I have no loyalty whatsoever to Rhomania. I am here to ensure that Persia continues to stand proud and prosperous and independent.” From his knapsack he pulled out a book, holding it up to show it to the crowd. He then opened it, showing some of the pages to Suleiman. “This is the Qur’an.” Suleiman signaled that he was speaking the truth. Iskandar placed his hand on the holy text. “I swear, by God, that I am speaking the truth. If Rhomania be an enemy to this goal, then it shall have me as an enemy.” There was a murmur of approval from the Ottoman soldiery.

“Better,” Suleiman conceded, still speaking in Greek. “But your surroundings and companions still make me wary.”

“He speaks the truth,” Odysseus said. He gestured behind him, motioning forward a priest that was a member of the entourage. “I have no desire to enslave or destroy Persia. I am here because of a promise I made to him, to help him reclaim what belongs to him.” The priest arrived, opening a package he was carrying, and displayed its contents to Suleiman. It was an Icon of St. Giorgios, revered by Roman soldiers and venerated by Muslims as well as Christians. Odysseus placed his hand on the icon. “I swear, by God, that what I have said is the truth.”

“Your words are good,” Suleiman answered, still in Greek. “But sweeteners are often added to cover up the poison underneath. You do not expect me to believe that your aid is entirely free and without any self-interest?”

“Not at all,” Odysseus replied. “We Romans and Persians best of all know the ways of wars and empires. Border territories will change hands, but that is the way of the world. I have no desire to see Persia enslaved or destroyed. Rome and Persia are both ancient ones, still living in a world that has changed. For one to destroy the other would leave the survivor alone, and soon to perish afterward. I would not have that. Iskandar has his goals, and he will not find me an enemy to them.”

Suleiman looked at the two of them, musing for a moment. “Very well then,” he finally replied, speaking for the first time in Persian as he looked at Iskandar. “I believe you. What do you propose?”

* * *​

1641 continued: With Suleiman Pasha’s support, most of the Ottoman prisoners are willing to enter Iskandar’s service. Considering that the alternative was to be effectively Roman state-owned slaves, that is not perhaps surprising. However while Iskandar the Younger now has an army of sorts, it is not at the moment armed and it remains so for some time. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the Romans are understandably wary of giving their recent opponents weaponry before they are certain where the Ottomans will point them.

The other reason is a bit more complicated. The Ottoman soldiers have expressed a willingness to fight for Iskandar. They are not willing to fight for Rhomania, and those are two very different things. That the Romans will want pieces of Mesopotamia is expected, but in that case the Romans can do the fighting for it. The Ottomans here have no intention of helping with that. The desired post-war settlement for Mesopotamia does not seem to be established yet. Therefore the Ottomans under Iskandar will not fight in Mesopotamia, because it is likely they would be fighting for the Romans. Meanwhile Persia, where they would be fighting for Iskandar and not for the Romans, is a different matter.

Some Romans are bothered by this, but Iskandar makes it emphatically clear he will not support using any of his men in areas that will likely benefit the Romans in the post-war treaty. Both Odysseus and Iskandar are aware of the Khusrau II precedent and its pitfalls. Because of Khusrau II’s reputation as a Roman puppet, for the sake of his legitimacy he had to attack the Romans when the opportunity presented itself after Maurice’s deposition. To try and avoid that, the two are working as much as possible to strangle the ‘Roman puppet’ image in its cradle. Iskandar and his new ‘army’ are treated as if they were an allied contingent commanded by an allied (and not subordinate) monarch.

The Mosul garrison does not surrender after the battle of Qara Tappa and remains loyal to Ibrahim. Given the history of the region going back to the late 1200s with the expulsion of the pro-Osman Turks by Alexios Philanthropenos, local forces are not willing to bow to Romans or those they perceive as Roman puppets. (Iskandar’s success with winning supporters is entirely with those from Persia who have much less historical baggage.) The city will still need to be reduced.

Even with Ibrahim knocked back it is a difficult task, but with the lack of outside pressure progress is steadily made. On October 8, practicable breaches are finally smashed through the city defenses and a final demand for surrender issued. Everyone on both sides knows what will happen if the demand is refused. It is refused.

Odysseus said he did not come to enslave or destroy Persia. But that does not mean he would show mercy to those who defied him or stood in his way. And per the laws of war he has absolutely no obligation to show any.

Mosul is stormed, but the city does not go down quietly. The Romans need three days to crush all the opposition within Mosul, and it is at a cost of thousands of casualties. For three days afterwards (although it had started earlier in already conquered districts) Mosul and its inhabitants are given over to the storming raging Roman army, to sword and terror.

* * *​

Near Mosul, October 16, 1641:

Odysseus looked up from the canvas to gaze again upon the scene before him. He was working on another painting, trying to show more of regular camp life. Some Bedouin auxiliaries were herding sheep, a mobile larder for the army. Nearby a cook was brewing up stew over a campfire, with the regular racket of an army encampment rising all around.

He looked behind him at the smoldering corpse-choked mass that was the ruin of Mosul. It’d been costly, but it was an important victory. A great step, but also just a step.

He had made many promises. He had made a promise to his elder brother, and a promise to his younger brother, and another to his wife.

And one to his father, as he lay his body to rest in that riverbed. Odysseus had known of his father’s wishes, although Demetrios had never said so in so many words, but he had not needed to do so. They all knew. And for all Demetrios’ insane genius, Odysseus was unsure if he would succeed. Unless…And so Odysseus had made another promise there, to ensure that Demetrios’ wish would be fulfilled, in the only way Odysseus knew how.

Mosul had been an important step, but still just a step. All those promises remained unfulfilled.

But once those were done, then he had one more promise, this one to himself. He looked forward to that day.

The smell of the broiling stew wafted over, making his stomach growl. Odysseus started gathering up his art supplies. His own dinner was being prepared, and he wanted it. Once packed, he headed off towards it. It lay to the east.
 
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