An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Yeah, the Rhomans have been kind of assholish towards Spain and Arles recently. Spain may have overreacted with the whole Eastern affair but Rhomania Should've consulted with those two just to be sure they weren't stepping on anyone's toes while thrashing Germany. Instead they took a "our needs are more important than yours" attitude and couldn't even be bothered to help the only Latin States they are Even remotely on good terms with!
The issue being that the "remotely good terms" didn't count for s**t when it came time to assign blame for a battlefield death on a whim, start a war because of it in RITE, and then ally with active enemies of Rome to bully them into an unfavorable arrangement in North Italy.

EDIT: And seriously, why would the Romans consult with powers either engaged in fighting with Rome (Spain in the East) or threatening to fight Rome (Arles vis a vis N. Italy settlement) in how to conduct an explicitly punitive expedition against an empire that invaded it without provocation?
 
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Alright! so here is the updated version of the map. Areas id like people to give me their thoughts on are the middle east and India because I had to do a ton of guess work there
V2etdzK.png
 
Alright! so here is the updated version of the map. Areas id like people to give me their thoughts on are the middle east and India because I had to do a ton of guess work there
V2etdzK.png
Beautiful map, thank you.

@Basileus444 can I ask how Inca+Mexico have managed to stick together for so long? The administrative difficulties must be insane.
 
Man, Triune NA is going to be an absolute monster. They're essentially doing what England did with the OTL US, but starting development a century earlier. Plus they draw on not just the British Isles, but France as well.

Also if the Triunes aren't careful they might eventually be dominated by said colonies. Or they'll go independent.
 
Alright! so here is the updated version of the map. Areas id like people to give me their thoughts on are the middle east and India because I had to do a ton of guess work there
V2etdzK.png
Christ I didn't realize how much Hungary after the war would resemble an octopus.
 
Don’t really want to get into this because frankly I’m getting really sick of this.

Rhomania is not going to win all the time, Rhomania is not going to make the right decisions all the time, and the Romans aren’t always going to be far-seeing geniuses all the time. And non-Romans can be capable and visionary too, and have their own interests that don’t align with Rhomania’s and naturally they will prioritize those. States have interests, not allies.

Rhomania managed to beat off an attack conducted by enemies that together had a population base that outnumbered theirs 3-to-1. Just coming out of the war intact without losing (permanently) any territory is a massive win right there. The Roman Emperor literally marched overland all the way to the Bay of Bengal defeating everyone who got in his way literally just a couple of updates ago. Compared to Rhomania’s OTL position in the 1640s, I think TTL Rhomania is doing pretty damn well.

As for complaints about Roman imbeciles and non-Roman geniuses, think for a second. Roman characters outnumber non-Roman characters probably by an order of magnitude, if not more. We spend the vast majority of times in Rhomania and with Romans. That means their warts are going to be prominent, because Rhomania and the Romans aren’t perfect. Meanwhile the imbecile Scandinavian governor who sparks a local uprising because of his heavy-handedness or the cowardly Triune colonel who loses his gun batteries because he panics don’t get mentioned because, well, they’re not on-screen and are irrelevant for the wider story. The focus is on Rhomania. The non-Roman characters that do show up though are far more likely to be above average, because they’re the characters that are more likely to make an impact on Rhomania and/or be a threat, so they do matter for the story.

Platanas was an arrogant prima donna who was certainly a bad choice for participating in a coalition force, but then my own country thought to use Douglas “would get into an argument with God over rank” MacArthur in a similar capacity, and in much more serious situations. So a mistake, yes, but not an unrealistic one. As for the White Palace not punishing him, doing so would look a lot like conceding to Latin complaints, wouldn’t it?


And I’m going to make some things clear regarding broad strokes going forward because of the flak I get every time Rhomania isn’t top dog. The Little Ice Age is going to hit Rhomania hard, which is not exceptional, but it has some factors that will make it slower to recover afterwards. (For example, high levels of pre-industrial urbanization is a good way to tank population growth, because pre-industrial cities have always been demographic black holes.)

The Roman age of big expansionism is over, as they’ve reached what I consider feasible limits. Attempting to push even further would result in overextension and possibly the battle of Three Kings (OTL example) or battle of Thessaloniki (TTL example) for the Romans. There can be fidgeting with the details, but no more broad strokes. The exception to this is in eastern waters, but even there I want to stress the agency and ability of local states; these exist as more than just cheap XP for the Romans.

Rhomania will be one of the great powers, but ‘one of the boys’, not a superpower. I find this much more interesting to write than having Rhomania as the premier power, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before.

Now on to some other comments:

Regarding Roman-Latin blame/responsibility, I think this is a good example of ‘just because two sides are opposed to each other doesn’t mean they can’t both be assholes’. Both sides have blood on their hands (quantities differ, but both have blood). Even pre-POD, there are the massacres of Byzantines in Thessaloniki in 1185 (by Normans) and that in Constantinople in 1204 (by crusaders), but there was the anti-Latin pogrom in Constantinople in 1183 too.

Fun fact about the Romans lumping all Latins into one undifferentiated blob: It’s from OTL. IOTL Byzantine sources showed more awareness of the differences between various Latin groups prior to the eleventh century. After increased contact between Byzantium and Western Europe picked up in the crusades period, Byzantine sources became more likely to paint them with a broad brushstroke. And this predates 1204.

I don’t have any plans for big ‘existential crisis’ wars between Latins and Romans, at least until we’re well into the industrial area. Peripheral, cabinet, colonial, and proxy wars of course are on the table though. We have peace via exhaustion now and are moving into peace via disengagement. Rhomania stays out of Europe and the Mediterranean save for its corner, and in return Europe stays out of that corner to focus on other prizes, like the Atlantic and the Rhineland. That doesn’t mean there’s goodwill and understanding for everybody-the HRE and Rhomania are going to be clashing once the Vlachia problem blows up-but there won’t be Latin armies trying to march through Constantinople until such time as they’d be doing it with tanks rather than cuirassiers.

Beautiful map, thank you.

@Basileus444 can I ask how Inca+Mexico have managed to stick together for so long? The administrative difficulties must be insane.

That combo isn’t that old, a few decades at most. But I figure the former Incan lands are ruled by a Mexican version of an OTL Spanish Viceroyalty. Mexico in general is rather decentralized with much authority invested in autonomous local notables like village headmen.


And in Patreon news, the next portion of Not the End: The Empire Under the Laskarids has been posted for Megas Kyr patrons. It is the moment that the Sicilians save Rhomania, the Sicilian Vespers.
 
Rhomania is not going to win all the time, Rhomania is not going to make the right decisions all the time, and the Romans aren’t always going to be far-seeing geniuses all the time. And non-Romans can be capable and visionary too, and have their own interests that don’t align with Rhomania’s and naturally they will prioritize those. States have interests, not allies.
It's honestly shocking you need to keep saying what should be basic information like this.

Humans are humans regardless of where, when, and under what circumstances they are born. If you write them any less complex or varied than they actually are, it's doing a crime to the story. I personally don't understand where complaints like this come from and like you I'm pretty sick of it. I used to read all the comments years ago but it feels these days there's less interesting discussion and more whining, which doesn't make for an entertaining inter-update experience. We all should have better things to do with our time than read (or post) comments complaining that characters shouldn't act like humans but instead idealized automata and villainous caricatures, more often than not divided by national, cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines. It stinks of bigotry. Next time you have to deal with it, just link your post rather than waste your time with a response that repeats what you've already had to say. You shouldn't have to repeatedly deal with this sort of thing. No one should.
 

Arrix85

Donor
It's honestly shocking you need to keep saying what should be basic information like this.

Humans are humans regardless of where, when, and under what circumstances they are born. If you write them any less complex or varied than they actually are, it's doing a crime to the story. I personally don't understand where complaints like this come from and like you I'm pretty sick of it. I used to read all the comments years ago but it feels these days there's less interesting discussion and more whining, which doesn't make for an entertaining inter-update experience. We all should have better things to do with our time than read (or post) comments complaining that characters shouldn't act like humans but instead idealized automata and villainous caricatures, more often than not divided by national, cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines. It stinks of bigotry. Next time you have to deal with it, just link your post rather than waste your time with a response that repeats what you've already had to say. You shouldn't have to repeatedly deal with this sort of thing. No one should.
I whole-heartedly agree. Sometimes I find myself skipping comments.

Looking forwards to some non-war related updates (I love cultural/societal posts!, still remember the very first one which hooked me almost 10 years ago).
 
Tbh, what's been said on the commentary is fair and as someone who sees themselves as one at fault, I try to take it on board.

What is sad is that I think it's fair to say the thread has become a cautionary tale about close interaction between authors and readers. I think to an extent the age, popularity, subject matter and reader investment makes it relatively unique on the board and as a result a bit cursed by its own success, as people are able to have nostalgia goggles in the same way people do about old books, but those authors didn't have to endure (and I hope sometimes enjoy) the commentary around their story. (Twitter makes that different today but at least then its not between pages of your manuscript!)

It sucks, and whilst exhausting I'm glad people are willing to call out the evidently exhausting behaviour, they, especially the author, shouldn't need to and for my part I'm sorry and I hope you don't ever feel like you need to disconnect from this work or thread @Basileus444 .
 
If I'm being honest I'm excited to see the Romans have a bit of a rough time. The Roman empire always has interesting stories when it has to struggle. We could see alot of interesting changes because of it
 
Guys if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I stopped commenting after the Italy Fiasco because I felt like my comments inspired he bloody letter to a large degree but this is ridiculous. It’s B444’s story let him tell it how he wants.
 
I suppose the best thing to come out of these excessive Rhomania wank/anti-wank posts, is it’s been adapted to be in universe as those news paper commentators.
 
I think part of the issue is that the timeline used to be a mix of everything. There were updates heavily focused on infrastructure and culture and court intrigue in addition to the military updates. Though there was obviously a lot of focus on military matters it felt like a culture/court intrigue style timeline with military as an extra. Since the start of the Great Latin War however it has shifted at least during the time into a military focused timeline with a few interludes to break it up.

I don’t begrudge at all the decision made to focus on the GLE and Spanish/RITE conflict and Triune/HRE intrigue and in fact have greatly enjoyed it. These 15 years and these wars I think are key to understanding how all of these states will develop and interact right until the modern day. A deep dive was necessary to avoid B444 having to spend half of every update giving all the backstory to make it make sense. That being said “The Night of the Toscins” which can be understood to be the start of this deep dive was in February 2018; or three and a half years ago. It has been a long time since the focus of the timeline has been on non military matters beyond occasional interludes and I think that has clouded the board and made the board itself more militaristic than it used to be. When a war is covered in 2 or 3 updates there isn’t time to be demanding blood and genocide; when the war(s) span 41 months and 100+ updates on the other hand there absolutely is.

I have greatly enjoyed this deep dive but I am hopeful that we will soon be going to back to the mix that made this timeline/story so unique and enjoyable in the first place. I want to see how Rome is going to interact with a loyal but “different” region now that the Levant has been purged. I want to see how infrastructure is built in the homeland and RITE. I want to see what happens to the various Despotates in the east as a Greek Speaking Orthodox population grows to a plurality and demands to be represented in some way within the Roman political culture that doesn’t have any concept of democracy beyond the strictly local level. I want to see how Russia and HRE and Triunes and Arles and Spain develop. I want to see what a relatively stable Mexico, India and China means for European industrialization since they won’t have the ability to loot them to nearly the same extent as OTL.

Overall I want to see how the fallout for this time period plays out; and not just in how many guns and cannon each power has but in how their culture and
reacts to their place in the power structure. I am hopeful that we will get a chance to see it all since I believe that this is the largest series of wars that Europe will see until at least their equivalent of the Napoleonic Era which should be a century or more in the future technology wise.

Also I along with everyone would also like to see the Triunes get their comeuppance. Even if they recover from it quickly just getting to see a Triune admiral or 3 have the grinn wiped off their face would be glorious.

One question I do have that I always forget to ask @Basileus444 ; In the peace treaty between the HRE/Poland/Hungary/Triunes and Rome were the Romans able to have their official title be Empire of Rome in all versions of the treaty? Were the Triunes at least able to refer to them as Empire of the Greeks or what. Names matter and Rhomania being able to force some or all of the Latin powers to explicitly say it is the Roman Empire would be a huge coup propaganda wise.

Edit note: it was 3.5 years not 2.5 since Night of the Toscins;
 
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Thank you for the words of support. I do appreciate them.

That is a good point about being more military-focused making the atmosphere more militaristic. And I do hear you regarding that. The next two updates are 'culture & court' focused. There is the Germany plot thread that still needs to be wrapped up, but that is the last thread from this whole gigantic ball of yarn. Once we get through that, I have a lot of social history ideas for the 'Little Ice Age' period.

@JSC: I admit I didn't think about that. I figure the diplomatic compromise was that 'Romaioi' and 'Romania', the Greek terms, were transliterated but not translated in the Latin-language versions of the treaty. So they're sort-of acknowledging them as Romans, but not entirely. (One of the TTL conceits is that the Romaioi are never truly recognized as Romans in Western Europe. After all, on this forum IOTL we have had many people who won't do so.)
 
Italy in the 1640s
Italy in the 1640s

It could well be said that the Romans, in regard to the War of the Roman Succession and the Italian Peninsula, won the war but lost the peace. The 1644 expedition, where the Sicilians went it alone with the Latin allies but without the Romans, is a good illustration. While the initial disagreements between Constantinople and Messina had been bandaged up, the wounds would not heal without scarring. Sicilian efforts to improve direct relations with Arles and Spain were a result of this wariness.

Some Romans would complain about this, perceiving this as Sicilian ingratitude for the territorial gains they’d made in Italy. However those territorial gains had only exacerbated this issue. Sicily was a mixed state, with a large Greek-speaking Orthodox element, significant in the upper and mercantile classes. However it had a majority that was Italian-speaking (various dialects notwithstanding) and Catholic, which still had substantial elements in the upper and mercantile classes as well. The Sicilians were careful to always present the Greek face when looking to Constantinople, but at least 60% and likely more of the pre-war Sicilian population was Catholic.

The Greek Orthodox element skewed bigger because of its prominence in the upper tiers of society, but even here it was not unchallenged before the war. But after the war the element’s dominance was weakened even more than it already was, for all of the new holdings were Italian-speaking Catholic. As a result, Sicily left the war as more of a Latin Catholic state and society than it had been before the war, which naturally weakened its ties with Rhomania.

Furthermore increasing trade with Spain and Arles, especially after the corsair threat was lessened, was to the benefit of Palermo and Naples. Palermo was a mixed city religiously and linguistically while Naples was wholly Latin and Catholic. This gave them more economic weight in the politics of the Despotate, at the expense of the ports of Messina and Bari, which were mostly Greek-speaking and Orthodox.

To the north lay the Roman enclave around Rome, the existence of which was more of a sop to Roman vanity than of economic value. The city of Rome had little in the way of industry and most of its allure had been based on the presence of the papal curia. The Popes and Cardinals and all their retainers and hangers-on, plus all the bureaucrats and clerics, had to be housed and fed and dressed and feted. Without those, business dried up.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Rome and his staff hardly made up the difference. The pilgrim trade also dried up. Many of the most significant relics had been spirited out of the city by the Catholic faithful, Catholic faithful were wary of undertaking pilgrimage to a heretic city, and Orthodox faithful preferred the familiar Constantinople and Jerusalem routes.

Thus the Eternal City decayed to a sleepy settlement of 15,000, repeatedly blasted by waves of malaria. The Patriarch of Rome, for health reasons, rarely resided in the city, and the wealthy always vacated the city during the summer. Its only real draw was its many ancient monuments which attracted antiquarians as well as artists, who were struck by the sight of humble Umbrian shepherds guiding their flocks through the remains of the palaces of emperors. But these numbered in the dozens compared to the thousands of pilgrims who’d once flocked to the city when the Pontiff made it his residence.

Continuing north is the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which is certainly no sleepy undeveloped tract of countryside with only memories of past glories to warm its aching bones. Firenze recovers rapidly from its wartime troubles, once again heavily involved in textile manufacturing, glassblowing, financiering, and art. Livorno continues its wartime boom, now because Grand Duke Galilei turns it into a free port, bringing much trade and traders to the port.

While it does create much prosperity for Livorno and the parts of Tuscany that import and export via Livorno, which was Galilei’s goal, there is a sting in the tail, one Romans are not surprised to see coming. It leads also to the creation of a powerful clique of Livornese merchants who, growing used to being left alone, strongly resent any curb on their moneymaking and prove to be a massive political problem for future Grand Dukes who wish to do some curbing. (This is why economic pro-free trade arguments do nothing for most Romans, as they recognize, unlike most economists, that economic issues such as this are rarely just economic issues.)

Galileo Galilei is personally friendly to Constantinople as he is an honest man, meaning that once bought he stays bought. Starting in 1640, his daughter Celeste spends much of her time in Constantinople, personally tutoring Athena in astronomy and the use of the telescope. The telescope personally constructed by Celeste and used by Athena in some of these lessons is today on display in the Imperial Museum of Science. Celeste also oversees renovations and improvements to the Imperial observatory and corresponds regularly with Roman intellectuals on astronomical and related topics, a respected figure in the intelligentsia.

However that is a personal connection and not enough to counteract other, more impersonal, forces. Tuscany is an Italian-speaking Catholic country, and it is on the west coast of Italy. Livorno faces west toward Spain and Arles. While Roman and Sicilian merchants are active in the free port of Livorno, Spanish and Arletian ones handily outnumber them. Roman trade boomed here when the Romans controlled the port, but with a legally level playing field, geographical proximity proves key. Galilei’s personal feelings aside, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany decidedly leans westward, not east.

The Romagna might be expected to be different, because it is on the east coast proximate to Rhomania. But the geographical, personal, and cultural factors play differently, yet result in a similar result to Tuscany. The inhabitants of the Romagna are considered to be xenophobic and chauvinistic even by Italian standards, and they intensely and fiercely resent a Greek Orthodox ruler being imposed on them.

Theodoros of Nineveh is hardly the type to overcome such initial antipathy. Mild-mannered and interested in chemistry, he is not the type to win over embittered Romagnol notables and townspeople. Out of grudging politeness for Roman power they won’t kill him or ride him out of the country back to his own barbarian kind as they would like, but that’s the extent of it.

His wife Isabella of Portugal, an illegitimate daughter of King Ferdinand of Spain, fares much better. She is a Spanish Catholic, which is not nearly as good as being a Romagnol, but it’s far better than being a Greek Orthodox. That she is less overtly imposed on them by outside powers also helps. She is also better looking than the plain Theodoros, which always helps, and she much more quickly and proficiently masters the Romagnol Italian. As a result she is openly given more attention, love, and respect by the people of the Romagna, the snubbing of Theodoros and Romans their way of protesting their treatment. Furthering closer ties with Spain, coordinated through Isabella once she is older (she is far more politically astute than her husband), is also a way for the Romagnol elite to avoid the region falling into Roman orbit.

In the Kingdom of Lombardy the situation is generally quiet during the early 1640s, with efforts focusing on recovering from the devastation of the war, with some success. Despite the stripping of much of its moveable wealth, Milan is a large and developed city, a center of manufacturing by the European standards of the day.

Yet for all the attentions modern historians lavish on trade and manufacturing, it is agriculture that is the base of pre-industrial society, upon which everything depends and without which nothing can be done. The mid-1640s see the bottom fall out of Italian agriculture.

In 1644 drought causes the harvest in Lombardy to fail. The damage that year, while hard, is not too devastating by itself, with reserves and shipments from Sicily cushioning some of the blow. During the early 1600s, the island of Sicily with its volcanic soils has become an important breadbasket, with wheat and barley yields that are the highest in all of Christendom, with wheat at 7-10 grains harvested per grain sown, and barley at 9-11. However those high yields are dependent on a benevolent and cooperative climate which was already fading in the early 1640s. Marginal lands, cultivated to take advantage of the grain boom of earlier years, in the early 1640s were seeing yields as low as 1:3, before the collapse. [1]

The next year, 1645, is when the real crash happens. Torrential rains sweep Sicily, ruining the harvest, with an eruption of Mt. Etna compounding the damage. Sicily can’t produce enough food to feed itself, let alone support Lombardy, which is ironically still suffering from drought. Because there’s not enough irony around, in 1646 the rains dissipate and now Sicily is afflicted by its own drought, which ruins that year’s harvest as well as 1647’s. All of Italy by this point is suffering similar plights to Sicily’s, although areas that had become used to drawing on Sicily’s bounty during their times of dearth are hit the hardest.

Horsemen of the Apocalypse rarely ride by themselves and by 1648 plague has added itself to the list. The likely source is Germany, with Italian mercenaries returning home to enlist new recruits for their companies, as well as substantial trade through the Alpine passes; Milanese armaments are an important component of the fighting in Germany. Bubonic plague chews its way through the peninsula, hammering a population already weakened by malnourishment.

Famine and plague working together reap a bountiful harvest, unlike the unfortunate Italians, from the Lombards in the north to the Sicilians in the south. By 1651, Italy’s population is one-fourth less than what it was a mere seven years earlier. The only consolation, and it is not much of one, is that the Italians would be far from alone in their laments.

[1] This is from OTL. See Geoffrey Parker, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, pg. 687.
 
Looks like Sicily is slowing drifting towards independence when the next crisis hits Rhomania. Isn’t the Empire reliant on its economic grip to maintain control of the Despotates? Without it the cultural pressure seems to be fading away.
 
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