An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania


You may be right, but I have to point out that while Rhomania might be resistant to this "mass-driven" phenomenons, like for the example the levee-en-masse at Antioch, but they will adopt it nonetheless when forced to.
Democracy won't be a thing ITTL unless Basileus changed his mind, at least not in the Roman Empire.
It's too tainted with the following things:
-paganism, ie. Classical Athens
-merchant republics, ie. Venice
-rebellions, on the basis that local magnates and nobles will inevitably rig elections by bribing the electorate and thus undermine Imperial Authority.
You may be right, but I have to point out that while Rhomania might be resistant to this "mass-driven" phenomenons, like for the example the levee-en-masse at Antioch, but they will adopt it nonetheless when forced to.
I think they'll be forced to eventually, but I think you'd see a model around the Themes - Themes would have representatives, that would vote. Those elected by those who are or have served in the military (barring dishonourable discharge - was that a thing in the Roman Empire?). Nothing with real power, certainly no executive power, but I can see them forming a body that can suggest legislation to the Emperor. After that we have the beginnings of a slow move to a constitutional monarchy.

EDIT : That is still on the back of the whole eventual federalistation of the Despotates into the Empire once again.
Duke of Nova Scotia: Or a Napoleon “why do I have a regnal number?” II.
Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but perhaps, and long maybe, a reluctant Sideros on the throne?

Probably not but I feel like he would be the most pragmatic. I like Sideros, there is a sharp understanding of spin, behind that exasperated facade. I wonder if a variation of The Prince has been written?
Revolutions and democracy: Yeah, democracy is a rather dirty word in the empire. Too many connotations with Venice. Plus there’s the ‘popular acclaim is what got us the Angeloi and that worked out so very well’ argument. So while democracy could arise in the Empire it’d be a ‘yes, it’s democracy but don’t you dare actually call it that’. Think of how in the US you can enact socialist policies so long as you avoid calling it socialist, but if you do everybody despises it.

Veranius: Aragon’s on a steady slide towards irrelevance, Castile-Portugal is doing very well for itself with overseas expansion, and Al-Andalus is delicately trying to balance keeping its powerful northern neighbor while not whetting its appetite. I think I’ll do a ‘meanwhile in the New World’ bit on colonialism where there’s a slow period in the Empire (1625ish?).

Duke of Nova Scotia: No alt-Prince has been written, although nothing in it would be new to the Roman government.

1617: The ten islands combined only come to 180 square kilometers, miniscule specks in the great expanse of the eastern seas. But the Banda Islands are the only sources of nutmeg and mace on the entire planet, meaning a great many people have a great interest in the real estate, far too many people from the viewpoint of Theodoros Mangaphas, Katepano of New Constantinople. The orang kaya (rich men) of the Banda have been having too many conversations with Portuguese and now Triune traders.

The Roman riposte is brutal and decisive. In May a great armada composed of vessels commissioned by the Katepano and several squadrons of eastern Ship Lords anchor off Lontar. Onboard are two Roman tourmai and a large contingent of Japanese mercenaries.

What follows is one of the most successful (from the point of view of the perpetrators) cases of ethnic cleansing. After the experiences of Tidore and Ternate Theodoros is in no mood to take any chances of losing this choice real estate. At the beginning of the year the Bandanese population was around fourteen thousand. After expulsions, flights, and massacres the population at the end of the year is less than a thousand. (Author’s note: This is identical to the actions of the Dutch IOTL.) To replace the natives Malay and Japanese Orthodox settlers are brought in to work the nutmeg plantations which make a substantial profit before the end of the decade.

The expedition is emblematic of a more aggressive spirit rising in the eastern Romans. The Katepano of Pyrgos, Alexandros Papagos, the second man to hold the title and a relation of the 1544 Emperor, is a “hard-fighting, hard-drinking, hard-loving” (somehow he manages to house three mistresses plus his wife all in the same home at the same time) barrel of a man who quickly sees the opportunities opening up with the Shimazu victory. Recruiting more samurai who are out of work in their homeland (as the Romans don’t care about the Orthodoxy or lack thereof of their mercenary soldiers-in contrast to settlers-the new Emperor views this as a valuable method of discharging troublesome potential rebels), he leads them on a series of expeditions that by the end of the decade have two-thirds of Luzon either directly administered or paying tribute to Pyrgos; prior to his arrival it was about 30%.

He also oversees the establishment of several settlements in the Visayas, the first Roman foothold in the region. Unlike Luzon these sites are vulnerable to attack from Moro pirates operating out of the Sultanate of Sulu eager for slaves. The Moros learn quickly though that the Romans are not soft targets. As the Banda expedition bears down on its hapless victims, a pair of fregatai based out of Pyrgos cut out three Moro pirate ships from the harbor of Tawi-Tawi and burn them and their crews in full view of the fort that was unable to stop them.

To the west the Katepano of Pahang, Konstantinos Rados, is also hard at work. He is the first Katepano of the region, the kephalate having been upgraded two years prior in recognition of its importance. He is also the first full-blooded native to become a Roman Katepano. Digenoi have made it to that rank and full-blood natives have been and are bishops and Kephales but it is still a significant achievement.

It is a promotion he amply justifies, leading an expedition of his own that seizes the islands of Batam, Bintan, and Karimun, the chief islands of the Riau. In the process a squadron of ships from the Semarang Sultanate on the island of Java that stand in the path of the Romans are blown out of the water.

It is a good year for the Romans out in ‘Island Asia’, as they call the region from Aceh to the Banda, from Nan (the Wu port) to Okinawa. The three Katepanates of New Constantinople, Pyrgos, and Pahang have Island Asia boxed into a triangle, each working on expanding their sphere of dominion in their own neighborhood but their efforts are gradually moving towards each other.

The Malays are the backbone of Roman strength here, obviously dominant in Pahang but also comprising sizeable communities in both Pyrgos and New Constantinople. The majority in Roman lands are now on-paper Orthodox, although how orthodox their Orthodoxy is could and is questioned. But as Konstantinos Rados, plus the Kephales of Mersing and Singapura and the Bishops of Pedah and Mersing, all Malays, show, the Malays are well integrated in the Roman administration.

1618: Pyrgos sees some unexpected visitors this year, two battered Arletian vessels putting into port. Arletians are still fairly rare east of the straits of Malacca, although they have three large and prosperous merchant communities along India’s west coast. But these ships came from the east, participants of an originally 4-ship expedition led by Gaston Coligny who is still in charge of the pair.

After departing Bordeaux he made his way down the eastern coast of South Numenor before ‘discovering’ and transiting the Straits of Coligny. In actuality the straits had been used by Portuguese vessels at least twice but it is Coligny who popularizes the discovery. His mission was to make contact with the Incans, a populous and wealthy native state, purportedly greater in both aspects than that of the Aztecs. The Incans had already seen off two small Portuguese-Castilian expeditions but little was known about them. Basil II, son of Leo I, and King of Arles since 1600, is hopeful of setting up trade relations.

What Gaston finds is not what either he or his sovereign expected. Instead of an Incan potentate he finds David III Komnenos, Emperor of Mexico, cleaning off his sword stained with the blood of said Incan potentate. Twenty-eight years old, David III is the great-grandson of David I “the Great”, the conqueror of the Aztecs.

His grandfather, Michael I (r. 1580-1602), and father, David II (r. 1602-1613), have built on David I’s legacy to create a large and powerful state. Michael I shattered the Tarascan state and absorbed it into the Mexican Empire, establishing a Pacific seaboard. David II brought the Mayan cities of the Yucatan to heel, forcing them to pay tribute, and also helped to build up a respectable navy on the Atlantic shore to keep Portuguese and Arletian interlopers from getting any ideas.

A slight demographic recovering from the plague starting under David II is beginning to boost the native population, an important source of Mexican strength. Still both Michael I and David II encouraged immigrants from Arles and Iberia which also helped bring valuable artisanal knowledge into the Mexican community. Plus a few hundred Greeks have made their way west, the origins of Little Athens in Texcoco which today still retains a strong air of Attica if one ignores the ubiquitous parrots. Metallurgical sophistication and production has increased staggeringly since the death of David I, with cannons, firearms, and bladed weapons locally made that can match the best Europe can field (although the number of artillery pieces per military unit would make a Roman or Triune gun-master sneer in contempt).

Another source of manpower has been the import of Africans. Cotton textiles plus the silver of Zacatecas are the prime Mexican exports and they bring in a steady supply of blacks, hence the Zacatecas silver chalices and chandeliers of Mbanza Kongo. Some are used as plantation slaves on the Caribbean model or put to work in the mines, but many are settled down as additional farmers. The majority though are inducted as soldiers in the Mexican army. Paid in silver, full-time soldiers, by the accession of David III they number twenty five thousand strong. They are organized in five tagmata, the Immortals, the Eagles, the Jaguars, the Davidians, and the Gatekeepers. Though relying more on cold steel than firepower compared to a Roman tourma or Triune tour, they are a force that would command respect even in the great palaces of Europe.

Such an army though should be used and David III viewed the Castilian-Portuguese interest in the Incans with distaste. Rumors of a much larger expedition, possibly with an Andalusi contingent, spurred him into taking the plunge. The Incans had beaten Europeans before, but the largest force had numbered only 300. David III lands with eight thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. The Incans, though ravaged by smallpox and bubonic plague, are still a great empire and as befits a great empire raise a vast host to challenge him. Gaston arrives shortly after David annihilates said host and sacks Cuzco.

David III can sense Coligny’s disappointment but a golden sweetener weighing six hundred pounds cheers his mood. He also hires Coligny for an expedition of his own. Rather than sailing back the way he came David commissions the Arletian to sail west and establish a trade route with China. The Chinese love of silver is known even here and David has a lot of silver. He sees a lot of trade opportunities if he can tap into a flow of Chinese products. Coligny agrees, sending two ships back to Bordeaux to report to Basil II whilst he takes the other two across the Pacific.

Katepano Papagos, taking a short respite from conquering the neighborhood, is intrigued. A silver stream flowing from Mexico to China would certainly go through Pyrgos, providing a valuable influx of bullion. He hires some of the Arletian sailors to pilot a galleon to sail back to Mexico along with a copy of Gaston’s charts and logs and provides Gaston with pilots of his own to ensure his safe arrival at the Arletian factories in India.

Gaston Coligny and the crew of his two ships thus become the first men to circumnavigate the globe. The ship sent by Papagos also makes contact with David III (by the time they arrive he is back in Mexico, entrusting the mopping-up to lieutenants which include a Tarascan prince). Incidentally it is the first formal contact between the Roman and Mexican governments.

The world is growing more interconnected. As the vast expanse of the Pacific is probed for the first time clerics from all over Asia are gathering. In Constantinople a new Ecumenical Council has been called.
Silver trade across the Pacific in 17th century sounds amazing. The fact that it's going to go through Roman intermediaries in Pyrgos means a lot of silver is going to end up in Constantinople too - Mexicans will crave Roman spices after all. Seeing as the American silver mines are all owned and guarded by the Mexicans, and most of the traded silver is going through Rhomania (with African slave-empires coming second), the other European powers are going to face a hell of a bullion shortage. Especially once the Kongolese gain more technology via the Ethiopians and stop buying stuff from the Europeans. This is going to continue for everyone other than the Romans!
No wonder everyone fights for the Imperial Crown.
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So what is David's plan? As far as I can see, he destroyed the Incan army to protect it from invasion, which would seem counterproductive. Is he planning on annexing them, vassalizing them, or just making off with his loot? If he's planning on conquest, that seems like a recipe for disaster with too many places to be at once spread out over 1000s of kilometers, a feat not even the ancient Romans succeeded at. And that last point should be weighing heavily on David's mind.
That is a vast expanse of land that David III is attempting to rule. Its one thing getting constant reinforcements to keep the newly conquered territory, but as the only independent European state (And led by a Greek family to boot) the Mexican Empire is unlikely to be able to hold onto the whole of the Incan Empire. I'm guessing the south peripheries are going to be independent as a result of the destruction of the Incans, right?
That is a vast expanse of land that David III is attempting to rule. Its one thing getting constant reinforcements to keep the newly conquered territory, but as the only independent European state (And led by a Greek family to boot) the Mexican Empire is unlikely to be able to hold onto the whole of the Incan Empire. I'm guessing the south peripheries are going to be independent as a result of the destruction of the Incans, right?
It depends on the type of administration David establishes. I mean OTL Portugal managed to create a massive empire across the globe despite having like a million people.
Given the tech disparity and diseases I think David has a shot at keeping Peru. Unless the Europeans intervene of course.
It depends on the type of administration David establishes. I mean OTL Portugal managed to create a massive empire across the globe despite having like a million people.
Given the tech disparity and diseases I think David has a shot at keeping Peru. Unless the Europeans intervene of course.
Its not necessarily the people, but the administrative reach. Luckily there's a generation of Mexicans he can rely on, but his family hasn't been established, I don't think, in the southern coasts for long enough. Who knows, though.


It was a while since the Romans had a "good" year in Island Asia (loving the name). I'd be very interested in an update focusing on the local culture, it's quite interesting how the romans are managing to integrate the locals into their ranks.

How many romans go to "Island Asia" per year? Aside from high-ranking officers, I mean; And did any malays or others ever get to the "motherland"? EDIT: I've re-read about the Triumvirate "distaste" on whole families moving there, has there been any change? Maybe the "pious" Demetrios is more inclined to expand or more precisely solidify orthodoxy...
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Spain managed to keep a humongous empire for centuries with only a small european population in OTL. If the Mexican emperor manages to combine the best aspects of european technology with native knowledge he has a very strong chance of keeping all of his new territories.
I've got to agree that the issue of administrative reach is more of an issue than population.

Furthermore, I've also been asking what the Ottomans plan on doing about Rome's aggressive overseas expansion, and being Constantinople's biggest rival I can't imagine that they won't at least try to be competitive in that arena. Surely, Iskander is more than smart and adept enough to realize the implications of what the East Romans owning such an expanse could mean long term for its rivalry.
HanEmpire: Another thing to consider is that the other main source of silver IOTL at this time was Japan. Another effect is that Mexico can send the silver wherever it wants; it won’t face the same trade restrictions that Spain imposed IOTL which is why there were only a few Manila galleons. That means China could be seeing a much larger silver influx than it saw IOTL…

Roland Traveler: David III plans on annexation; he wants to keep the Arletians and Iberians. But do note that he came by sea; the land in-between is still empty save for natives and a Portuguese outpost in Panama. Also the Spanish managed in OTL with much fewer men from a far more distant base.

Ain: Grabbing control of all the Incan territories would take quite a long time (the Spanish took some decades too). Southern territories particularly won’t be seeing a Mexican governor anytime soon. But if you have Potosi, who cares?

Arrix85: Unfortunately I can’t do an in-depth cultural update as I’m not well informed enough about the OTL setup. The library is infuriatingly lacking in books on Indochina and Indonesia and what few there are focused on the 20th century. I’d love to get my hands on some general histories of the region that cover the medieval/early modern period in detail.

Per year I can’t say but at this stage you’re looking at about 10,000 Heartland Romans throughout all of Rhomania in the East, plus a hundred thousand Digenoi (there are all kinds of varieties and ratios in this category; the racial hierarchy of OTL Latin America doesn’t exist). There is no official restriction on Roman women heading east, but very few do for the same reasons very few European women headed overseas in this time period IOTL. Some East Romans do end up making it to the heartland, merchants mostly but also officers in the eastern tourmai going for training at the School of War. Some richer natives are starting to send students to Roman universities (the Japanese are paving the way here as will be seen in the next update).

Luis3007: Yup. This Mexico is significantly better situated than OTL Spain for controlling New World territories, provided it can keep the Europeans off its back.

Bmao: Iskandar is working on some plans regarding Roman (and Ethiopian and Omani) expansion in the east that will be showing up in a few updates.

Duke of Nova Scotia: Mexico is handicapped though by being forced now to have a two-ocean fleet which gets quite expensive. Also the Portuguese have an outpost at Panama, have transited the Straits of Coligy/Magellan, and bullion transports between Peru and Mexico would have pirates drooling…
It's impressive that you take the effort to study history books so you can use it as a basis for story. Byzantine timelines usually became a bit unplausible as the time goes, but Age of Miracles still feels very much real :)
What language does the Mexican Empire use? Given that they derive prestige from their emperor's heritage is Greek used as a court language? Or have they gone full native?
How is the composition of the Americas? I.e. Who has colonies in the Caribbean, NA, and SA? I remember it being mentioned that colonisation is behind OTL but by the 1600s it should be well underway.
Stark: Studying real history is essential for staying grounded and it’s also a source of really good ideas. My latest acquisition “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean”, could be very interesting…

ImperatorAlexander: Arletian and Castilian are the language of the Mexican court. Except for David himself and a few Roman retainers, his expedition was Arletian and Castilian in composition. A few Greek terms are used for various things (tagma/tagmata for example) but that’s it.

JohnSmith: The Empire of All the North has territory in OTL Canada and the Triple Monarchy is setting up an ATL Thirteen Colonies. Al-Andalus has colonies in northeast Brazil and Portugal in Panama and in southern Brazil and Uruguay. That’s it for the mainland. I go a little more into detail about Caribbean colonies in a later update but there are a lot more players involved there.

1619: Demetrios Sideros finds himself, for the first time since 1613, back in the capital. It is not a metropolis for which he particularly cares, finding it overly crowded especially after living on the outskirts of Abydos and the sprawling suburbs of Smyrna. Worse still he has been promoted again from Kephale of Smyrna to Eparch (Prefect) of Constantinople itself. It is not an assignment he desired, having grown accustomed to eating garlic shrimp pho in the Tea Room with a gentle breeze blowing off the Aegean.

Jahzara on the other hand is delighted. Unbeknownst to Demetrios, it is Jahzara’s intrigues that were largely responsible for Demetrios’ promotion, both to Kephale of Smyrna and now to Eparch. As Eparch her husband will work from the White Palace, the seat of Imperial power, and as an Imperial relation he and his family will live there as well. She can rub elbows, and perhaps more, with some of the most powerful figures in the world. Tensions have been strained between her and her husband since his first meeting with the head of the Prostitute’s Guild in Smyrna, a tall Varangian with blond hair that goes down to her ankles. They’ve had many meetings.

Demetrios’ new posting is immediately demanding as just two weeks after his investiture the first delegates for the Sixth Council of Constantinople and Tenth Ecumenical Council (by Roman counting) begin arriving. There are a total of 552 bishops and metropolitans attending. The Patriarch of Aira arrives with one Metropolitan and six of his bishops in tow, along with the youngest son and eldest grandson of the Japanese Emperor both of whom are enrolled in the University of Constantinople. The Metropolitans of New Constantinople, Pekan, and Jaffna are also in attendance along with twenty other eastern bishops.

Most of the delegates are put up in new housing between the Theodosian and Herakleian land walls, a still largely underdeveloped district which until recently has functioned primarily as a gigantic vegetable patch for the capital. The population though is back above 320,000, just beating out Beijing for the second-most populous city in the world (Vijayanagara is around 510,000), and growing rapidly. The Empire itself, not including despotates, vassals, or eastern territories, has a population just over 17 million in comparison to the Triple Monarchy of 20 million and the Holy Roman Empire of 21.5 million.

Emissaries from the Pope in Rome also arrive unexpectedly, claiming innocently that their invitations must have gotten lost. Despite declaiming this as the Tenth Ecumenical Council neither Pope was invited. Considering what follows surprisingly the emissaries are allowed to join and open negotiation for church union. This is placed at the top of the docket.

All things considered, the negotiations go surprisingly well. On the issue of the azymes, whether or not communion wafers should have yeast (Orthodox practice) or not (Catholic), the initial theological argument that sparked the Great Schism of 1054, it is agreed that either is acceptable. In this case this is a concession on the Orthodox part; Catholics had proposed such an accord on earlier occasions and been rebuffed. On the matters of clerical celibacy and whether or not priests can have beards both Orthodox and Catholic practices are delineated as local traditions and thereby both theologically acceptable.

Even the matter of the filioque, the bane of all attempts at union, is resolved. It is pointed out that saying ‘the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son’ as in Orthodox liturgy means technically the same as the Catholic ‘the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son’. Grammatically there is no contradiction. This is the Catholic argument and that therefore both phrases are acceptable. Surprisingly the Orthodox generally agree. Those of a cynical mind suspect that the Orthodox attitude, considering what comes later, was merely a ploy to highlight Orthodox reasonableness to contrast with Catholic intransigence.

Then comes the clincher. The Orthodox delegates insist though that the Pope must formally acknowledge his error in adding the filioque to the creed on his own initiative. That action was outside his prerogative; only an Ecumenical Council could perform such an innovative.

This demand though strikes at the core of the doctrine of papal supremacy. By issuing an apology the Pope would implicitly be recognizing that he is subordinate to a church council. It’s doubtful any Pope, either in Rome or Avignon, would concur without a literal gun pointed at their heads. The leader of the papal delegation categorically refuses, insisting loudly on the doctrine of papal supremacy. This only infuriates the Orthodox clerics, things escalate, and by the end the Bishop of Arezzo is missing three teeth courtesy of the Patriarch of Aira’s right fist. The Pope’s emissaries are thrown out of the council, a few anathemas are exchanged (it is considered sending one the way of the Pope in Avignon for the sake of tidiness although eventually rejected). Thus ends the last attempt at church union and reminded why they hate Catholics, the Council gets down to its original business.

The first matter is calendar reform. It is clear that the calendar of Julius Caesar is no longer in line with the seasons and needs to be replaced. A new calendar, developed by the University of Smyrna and named the Demetrian after the Emperor, is revealed. It is adopted in the first hearing. Ethiopia and the Despotate of Egypt, although Coptic countries and thereby not represented, both adopt the calendar immediately after the Orthodox nations. Castile-Portugal and Arles both sign on in 1623 but it is not until 1737 when the Triple Monarchy also does so that the calendar is in general use across Europe. It is the calendar in use today around the world.

Another significant change regarding astronomy is the recognition of the Menshikovian system, a system of astronomy whereby the earth, along with all the other planets, orbit the sun. This is in contrast to the ancient Ptolemaic system. The term itself dates from the late 1550s but has had proponents in Rhomania as far back as 1473. However the insistence on circular orbits, in accordance with Aristotelian thought, has meant that the Menshikovian system also contains numerous discrepancies in relation to actual stellar observations.

But in the last decade Krikor Zakari, an Armenian astronomer working out of Trebizond (and a descendant of one of Andreas Niketas’ Megas Domestikoi), has made some startling revisions to the Menshikovian system. In a pamphlet published in 1612 titled The Movement of the Celestial Spheres he lays out for the first time the Three Laws of Planetary Motion, known starting in the 1690s as Zakari’s Laws.

At first sight it seems odd that an Ecumenical Council is declaring on astronomy but considering the furor raised by the first presentation of a heliocentric model back in the 1470s it was decided to lay down the church’s position clearly to avoid any confusion. Furthermore it is a way for the Orthodox to thumb their noses at the Latins. Astronomers in the west too are agitating against Ptolemy’s model with stout opposition from the Catholic Church, much of that centered on Joshua’s demanding the sun, not the earth, to stand still when pursuing the Canaanites. Some mockery of the narrow, literal Latin interpretation is included in the Council’s declaration.

Incidentally at the same time Krikor’s Georgian assistant, David Avashvili, is taking a dalnovzor and using it to look at Jupiter, in the process discovering its four largest moons. Named Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io, together they are called the Avashvilian Moons also since the 1690s.

Another matter is the Russian church. With the breakup of the Great Kingdom there is resistance at the Metropolitan of Kiev having seniority over all the bishops in the Russian lands. Each Russian state demands its own metropolitan. Neither Empress Helena nor Emperor Demetrios want to encourage the regionalization of Russia but are unable to oppose the motion. New Metropolitans are established at Novgorod, Pronsk, and Kazan, although given the historical significance of Kiev it remains the senior metropolitan of the four. Scythian bishops are put under the Metropolitan of Theodoro.

Initiatives are also established to encourage the missionary work in the east, with church funds set aside to finance schools for local clergy and for translations into native tongues. Furthermore local customs are examined for their compatibility with Orthodoxy but the general rule throughout is to try and be as accommodating as possible with said local customs. Church funds are also organized to help support the Japanese Emperor who faces significant opposition to his centralizing and Christianizing efforts. The Patriarch of Antioch speaks for everyone when he declares ‘the conversion of the noble Japanese race is the greatest boon to the True Faith since the Rus were brought to God’.

The proceedings are broken briefly by the marriage of Andreas and Elizabeth. The German princess is growing into a beautiful young woman, always a good way to win over the populace of Constantinople. It is a dazzling wedding, with golden silks shrouding the streets and ambassadors from all over Europe in attendance.

Elizabeth’s beauty serves her well as her grandfather’s activities aren’t winning her any points. Bavarian garrisons, ‘in order to maintain order over disturbed territories and protect the common good’, have yet to leave Austria. As the Council begins Austrian representatives from the Estates petition Emperor Friedrich IV to take Austria under his protection, given the patent Hungarian inability to maintain order. Friedrich naturally obliges this ‘spontaneous’ offer.

The annexation of Austria deals a death blow to the regency council led by Janos Zapolya. It’s rather surprising he has lasted this long. Into the gap comes Krsto Frankopan, who immediately starts arranging for his Croatian relations and friends to take up key position in the administration. Naturally this causes tensions with the Hungarians but Krsto is ‘supported’ by Friedrich. Friedrich’s reward is twofold, firstly a formal decree from the Crown of St. Stefan signing over the Kingdom of Austria. The second is that Hungary, which has followed the Avignon See since the start of the Catholic Schism, transfers its allegiance to Rome.

This is not as surprising a shift as it seems at first glance. There has been growing estrangement between Hungary and the Avignon See, which despite its early promise is now as corrupt and filled with nepotism as ever in papal history. The College of Cardinals is dominated by Arletians and Iberians; in the last one hundred and fifty years there have been three Hungarian cardinals and one died after only five months in office. The Pope in Rome, seeing the opportunity, immediately promotes two Hungarian archbishops to the cardinalate.

Friedrich has been massively strengthened and Hungary looks suspiciously like a de-facto puppet state. Moreover the Triple Monarchy, after re-attempting another assault on Flanders after the humiliation at Antwerp, has been decisively beaten yet again by the skilled generalship of Blucher. With German horse raiding the suburbs of both King’s Harbor and Paris, Arthur II has sued for peace. Aside from some border fortresses little territory trades hands but the massive Triune indemnity practically wipes out Friedrich’s debts from the Brothers’ War.

The Romans can do nothing overtly against all this but as a sign of disapproval that summer Helena the Younger, Andreas’ mother, is promoted to the purple, becoming Empress Helena II. It was originally planned to elevate Andreas as well but then there would be no good reason not to christen Elizabeth as Empress besides deliberately insulting Friedrich so he and she will have to be content as Kaisar and Kaisarina. (Andreas’ lack of promotion though should come to the relief of history students; if it had proceeded as planned there would be two Emperors-Demetrios II and Andreas III-and three Empresses-Helena I, Helena II, and Elizabeth-two reigning in their own right and one as a consort, all at the same time.)

The shadow of the Reich hangs over the Council as it reconvenes. Orthodoxy has seen some great triumphs the last few years, Japan brought to the faith and Serbia made free. But these triumphs can always be imperiled. In the minds of the Romans it is a matter of when, not if, the Latins will try to enslave them again. The Norman attacks, the Fourth Crusade, the War of the Five Emperors, the Smyrnan War, the Tenth Crusade, the Time of Troubles-the pattern is clear. The Serbs and Vlachs, on the periphery of Latin Christendom, are also fearful. For the Russians, for all their arguments amongst themselves, they have not forgotten the traumas of the Great Northern War. On this day Orthodoxy is free, but for how long, and what is to be done on that dread day when it is no longer the case?

Enter Konstantinos Mauromanikos, Bishop of Nakoleia. A short, squat man with a thick black beard and bushy eyebrows, Demetrios Sideros describes his face as ‘perpetually having the look of a man who has decided to ram his head through a stone wall and about to do so’. From Kastoria, his mother and sister were both raped and murdered by Hungarian marauders during the early stages of the Mohacs War. Unsurprisingly he despises Latins.

It is a fact, he argues, that when a Muslim or other heathen ruler, conquers an Orthodox people, he takes command of their possessions and bodies but leaves their souls alone. But that is not enough for the Latins; they insist on taking the souls of the Orthodox as well. How far must a believer go to avoid such a fate?

It is well known how far the Latins will go in their quest to steal Orthodox souls. William Adam, a prominent crusade theoretician and contemporary of Raymond Lull, had suggested that a child be taken from each Greek family to be brought up as a Catholic (Author’s note: This is OTL. See Deno John Geanokoplos, “Byzantium and the Crusades, 1261-1354,” in The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, vol. 3, A History of the Crusades, ed. Kenneth M. Setton and Harry W. Hazard. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), 52). Andrew VII had instituted said practice with the Serbian nobility, the act that had sparked Stephan Tomasevic’s rebellion.

“They would steal our children.” Few arguments can ensure such fanatical rage. Some kind of response must be made. In the words of Demetrios Sideros, “The Latins must be made aware of how much we hate them. Perhaps if they realize the depths of our disdain they will cease trying to conquer us.” Bishop Mauromanikos proposes that committing suicide to avoid Latin conquest if escape is infeasible is actually not a sin but an act of ultimate devotion, sacrificing the body to preserve the soul, a deed similar to the martyrs of the early Church.

This argument causes quite a bit of furor in the chamber. It is eventually rejected as being too extreme but neither is it condemned. The proposal earned quite a bit of support from the Japanese, Sicilian, Serbian, and Vlach bishops, plus many from the Macedonian, Epirote, and Thessalian regions (Mauromanikos is himself an exception to the rule as his see is in western Anatolia but he’s Thessalian by origin). As a compromise it is eventually stated that the faithful should be made fully aware of the danger to their souls imposed by Catholic dominion and that ‘all measures should be taken to avoid such a fate’. What that exactly means is left unmentioned.
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