An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Is it weird that now I'm rooting for Russia?

Also, if they have 28 million people by 1640 (double their OTL 1700 population), then their 1900 population is going to be INSANE!
Russia is truly setting up to be a hyperpower in modern times. The biggest threat at this point is internal instability, but their constitution is very much set up in a way to try to avoid that. The next threat would be a coalition of western powers attempting to contain it, but there's no configuration of that which seems feasible for the remainder of the 17th century. Hard to say what can happen after that. One thing that can be said though, is that so long as it can count on the Orthodox alliance protecting its southern border it would likely take the entirety of Scandinavia through Spain to reach parity in troop numbers. Without that unity western powers would end up needing to keep too many troops home to watch their borders to match the Russians.
 
Russia is truly setting up to be a hyperpower in modern times. The biggest threat at this point is internal instability, but their constitution is very much set up in a way to try to avoid that. The next threat would be a coalition of western powers attempting to contain it, but there's no configuration of that which seems feasible for the remainder of the 17th century. Hard to say what can happen after that. One thing that can be said though, is that so long as it can count on the Orthodox alliance protecting its southern border it would likely take the entirety of Scandinavia through Spain to reach parity in troop numbers. Without that unity western powers would end up needing to keep too many troops home to watch their borders to match the Russians.
In an interesting twist compared to the Romans with their famed logistical skill, the Western Powers are largely going to be protected by the weakness of supply lines on the ground from Russia. Finland protects from an overland attack and it'd then be a naval war which the Scandinavians should be able to dominate. Into Poland? Similar problem.

Not say it is insurmountable, especially with the Romans to borrow techniques from, but it's one thing to have the men to fight, but the Russians need to get them to the fight.
 
The Contexts of Roman Society, Part 2: Transport by Land, an Exercise in Friction
The Contexts of Roman Society, part 2: Transport by Land, an Exercise in Friction

The weakness of state authority in large swathes of territory that on a map were under its dominion was not done willingly. The mountains could have valuable mineral and timber resources; nomads produced significant animal products. Even if the lands and peoples there didn’t have anything of value themselves, they could cause trouble for other, more tax-lucrative regions.

The difficulty was a practical outcome of the limitations of transportation and communication. Projecting power into these regions was time-consuming, expensive, and often hazardous. Even if it were possible, which was not guaranteed, the rewards would hardly justify the expense. In 1650 the inhabitants of Mount Taygetos are Slavs, remnants of the Slavic invasions of Hellas eleven centuries earlier. Although converted to Orthodoxy, they still retain a distinct Slavic identity after all those years, secured by their mountain holdings. [1]

The sea can make things much easier for the state, hence why government control is much stronger throughout the Aegean themes than in the interior vastness of the Anatolikon and Armeniakon themes. According to Diocletian’s Edict on Prices, sea transport is twenty times cheaper than land transport. And note that this is at the height of the Roman Empire with its fabled road networks. Even with those highways, sea transport is massively more efficient than moving it overland.

That differential has not changed much, if at all, in the intervening 1300 years. The difficulties of land transport compared to sea transport in late antiquity are substantively the same as those of the early modern period. It would not be until significant improvements in road and carriage construction, and then especially the advent of railroads, that the ratio would be appreciably altered. [2] And yet even today most goods still move by sea, with cargo ships by far the cheapest way to move them.

Going by this calculation, it is cheaper to ship a package by sea from Constantinople to Lisbon than it is to transport that same package from Constantinople to Ankyra.

Despite their inferiority to seaborne transport, the Roman Empire does have a series of major roads to facilitate land transport. They include the famous Via Egnatia from Constantinople to Dyrrachion via Thessaloniki, and the Military Highway from Constantinople that cuts diagonally across the Haemic peninsula to Belgrade via Adrianople, Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and Serdica (Sofia). Another main road from Constantinople is the north coastal road that skirts the western shore of the Black Sea to Varna before cutting across to Ruse and then paralleling the Danube upstream. The remaining key highway in Roman Europe is the one that branches south from Thessaloniki, mostly following a coastal route through Thessaly and into Attica, connecting with Athens and then through Corinth, Karytaina, and Mistra to terminate at Monemvasia.

In Anatolia there is the major coastal highway of western Anatolia, which begins at Chalcedon just opposite Constantinople. Aside from swings inland to link with Nicaea and Prusa, it stays near the Sea of Marmara until reaching Kyzikos, before cutting across the northwest corner of Anatolia to reach Adramyttion on the Aegean. After that it remains a coastal highway, linking Smyrna and Ephesus before terminating at Miletus.

There are two main highways that cut through the interior of Anatolia, both of which branch off at some point from the coastal highway. The north one begins at Nicaea and goes southeast until Dorylaion, then pivoting northeast to skirt the northern edge of the Anatolian plateau as it heads east, connecting Ankyra, Euchaita, Evdokia, Amaseia, Koloneia, Theodosiopolis, and Khlat on the shores of Lake Van.

The southern route begins at Smyrna, connecting Sardis, Philadelphia, Chonai, Ikonion, and Laranda, before going through the Cilician Gates and through Cilicia and the Amanus Mountains. Like the northern highway, it skirts the Anatolian plateau, this time along its southern edge.

There are some Anatolian highways that are shorter individually in length than the coastal, northern interior, and southern interior, but are important enough to be included in the main highway category. There is a branch line from the coastal that breaks away at Pergamon that connects with the northern interior at Dorylaion, linking with Kotyaion in the process. Other important branch lines are one that cuts south from the southern interior to the port of Attaleia, with the northern interior having an opposite number that connects the highway to Trebizond.

The northern interior and southern interior highways are also connected by two shorter north-south roads which also continue the custom of skirting the center of the plateau. The western road links Dorylaion and Philomelion via Amorion. The eastern road is longer, beginning at Loulon just before the Cilician Gates and proceeding via Tyana, Kappadokian Kaisareia, and Sebastea before converging with the northern interior at Koloneia.

Greater Roman Syria has three major highways. The ‘frontier highway’, as it is called, breaks away from the Anatolian southern interior as it debouches from the Amanus Mountains, linking with Edessa and Amida before terminating at Khlat.

Then there is the coastal highway, which begins at Antioch and follows the Syrian coast all the way down to Gaza and to Egypt.

The ‘Syrian highway’ begins at Aleppo and parallels the coastal highway, linking with Apamea (rebuilt by the Romans after the conquest of the area), Emesa (Homs), and ending at Damascus. (Roads continue south from Damascus, but they are not nearly on the same level as the Damascus-Aleppo road). There are also several roads linking the Syrian and coastal highways, the chief ones being the Antioch-Aleppo, Emesa-Tortosa (Tartus), and Damascus-Beirut routes.

West Rhomania Road Map (800x566).jpg

East Rhomania Road Map (800x566).jpg

Both of these are the creation of @aldonius.​

The main roads are of good quality, although areas nearer larger settlements are the best maintained and there are certain chokepoints such as passes and bridges that can be blocked or broken, seriously impeding traffic. Note that there are also wide swaths of the Empire that are completely untouched by these major highways, such as the center of the Anatolian plateau. Maintaining high-quality roads, especially over such distances, is extremely expensive, particularly in rugged infertile areas far from major settlements and sources of supply, and so many areas just don’t rate the expense.

There are many more roads than these, connecting smaller settlements to the main lines, feeding off to service smaller and smaller communities, or there are completely detached networks of minor roads. Caria and Lykia have some roads of their own, but none connect to the main network, and they are not alone in that. Seleukeia is a thriving mid-tier port, even though the road connecting it to Cilicia is described as ‘execrable, if one was feeling charitable’ by one traveler. It pulls in goods from its local hinterland via its own small road network and exports them to Cyprus, Syria, and Cilicia (bypassing the wretch of a road). Pontus is, with the exception of Trebizond, largely unconnected by road to the outside world.

The quality of these smaller roads can vary widely, but the average rating is a poor one. Many, especially in rugged terrain, of which the Roman heartland has plenty, are not passable to wheeled vehicles at all. One needs a dependable pack mule if one wants to move any inanimate goods in bulk.

This is a key factor in limiting Roman authority in mountainous terrain. Those regions by nature cannot sustain large armed contingents that live off the land; they would need to bring in supplies to sustain themselves. However the poor infrastructure means that bringing in bulk goods is hard even by the standards of early modern land transport, so a sustained logistical effort is rarely possible. This sharply limits the pressure the central government can use on mountain folk.

This is all not to say that the roads are not important and not used. They can be quite important and busy. Moving goods by land is often unavoidable, and even when the sea is an option, the land route might still be used. For an item that can move under its own power, like a person or livestock, as opposed to an inanimate good, the land route is the cheaper choice. Also while land routes have their dangers, they are overall safer than the sea. A caravan is unlikely to sink, completely destroying all the cargo and drowning all the human participants, for example.

The roads see all kinds of traffic. There are the various officialdom of church and state. There are landless laborers looking for odd jobs and pastoralists moving their herds. There are wandering holy men and pilgrims. There are carters and muleteers who have hired themselves out during slow periods of the agricultural cycle. There are traveling entertainers of all types. And there are merchants conveying all sorts of goods, although the traders are typically on the very small scales, with peddlers and tinkerers the most common, and the typical merchant having a single-digit number of animals or carts. For shelter they can stay at the many caravanserai along with the main roads, many of the foundations of which date to the Seljuk period.

There is some long-distance trade in bulk in the inland areas, but that typically falls into one of three categories. There is trade in goods that are valuable or strategically significant enough to warrant the expense of long-distance traffic. Example of these are silver drawn from mines in the Pontic Mountains, or saltpeter from Isauria.

The second is where nature lends a helping hand with a river that significantly eases shipping. According to Diocletian’s price edict, riverine shipping is four times cheaper than land transport. It’s not at the level of ocean-going transport, but appreciably better than an ox-drawn cart. Sinope draws in goods from much of the Anatolian hinterland via the Halys River, which is its connection to the interior; there is no road.

The third is the trade in animal products that can be moved on the hoof. A live sheep, since it can walk, is much easier to move cross-country than a cartload of grain. Much of what the interior of both Roman Europe and especially Anatolia export to the more populous and prosperous coastal regions is animal products on the hoof for this reason.

There is a great deal more trade and exchange than the long-distance, but it is local in nature. The peddlers and small caravans are moving goods, but they aren’t going very far and their goods are often rather basic and common, grain, vegetables, small artisanal wares, and the like. Many of the interior cities are hubs of thriving but small regional trade networks, with little input or output into wider trade networks. Sebastea produces woolen textiles, but these rarely travel more than 100 kilometers from the city. Meanwhile Prusa silks are on sale in Novgorod.

The differential is that Prusa is not far from ports on the Marmara, and the sea makes many things possible that are, if not impossible, at least extremely difficult on land. Land transport and trade is important and active, but it is subject to a high level of friction which sharply limits options. Attaleia can, if its immediate hinterland cannot fulfill its agricultural needs, seek to place emergency grain orders in Thessaly or Sicily or Egypt and hope for relief that way. But Ikonion doesn’t have that option. After a certain point, foodstuffs imported from far afield would end up being consumed in the process by the workers and draft animals hauling them, rendering the exercise pointless. If the hinterland harvest fails, Ikonion simply goes hungry.

[1] IOTL, the Slavs of Taygetos lasted throughout the Byzantine period. The Ottomans put an end to them.

[2] In the late 1700s, improvements in road and carriage construction, such as macadam roads and carriages with springs, allowed for a significant decrease in the amount of time it took to move post and passengers. Passenger carriages could even run on strict timetables and regular schedules, a novelty for the period. Arguably this could’ve been a transport revolution in its own right, but it was still new when railroads took over and vastly superseded it with their own definite transport revolution.
 
. But Ikonion doesn’t have that option. After a certain point, foodstuffs imported from far afield would end up being consumed in the process by the workers and draft animals hauling them, rendering the exercise pointless. If the hinterland harvest fails, Ikonion simply goes hungry.​


Oh boy, foreshadowing. The roman interior are going to have some spicy times ahead.
 
Posts like the last few are what separate this timeline from the vast majority on the web. Tremendous job illustrating how life is like on the ground.
 
I love this update, it really hammers home the potential flex of a Roman Empire when these sort of logistical issues can be addressed - i.e. when railroads become a practicality (we're a far way off of that, but still)

Untapped resources, taking an incredibly strong ocean and river shipping network and adding railways to bring everything together could be arguably more effective for the Romans than many others - certainly for Russia in terms of "bang for buck" simply because of the density and smaller scale of the Roman territory. It does have the issue of mountains, which will raise the costs significantly, but once the vital infrastructure is set up the potential for a dense rail network is much easier to achieve compared to someone like Russia, who will in raw terms be able to take better advantage of the railway, but will require so much more to get the same sort of transformation.

I hope this is still going when we reach that point, because I'm excited for the Italy->Baghdad Express!
 
Mosul lies on the Tigris. While that of course means that its trade would largely be connected with southern Mesopotamia, there used to be a Persian road in antiquity (the famous Royal Road) that extended from Sardis to Persepolis, including a stretch extending roughly straight eastwards from the Cilician Gates till Nineveh. This road was used by the antique Romans, and although it probably fell into disuse in the medieval period, it might be possible for the Romans to restore it now.

In fact, a stretch extending till Edessa is already built as part of the frontier highway, so when the Roman exchequer finally gets some cash at hand, it wouldn't be unbelievable for an Edessa-Mosul road to be built, for military purposes as much as civilian trade.
 
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Great update.

What about Mosul, any plans to expand highway to it? Or is is on some suitable river, I forgot?
Mosul could end up being a major inland river port with it's position of Romes last stop in Mesopotamia.

The Halys river would need it's channel deepened at spots and slowed in others for it to be navigable. We are talking about a massive project, both economically, and in real man hours of work. Plus, is up Romes history of dam building and hydo-engineering. This would be Romes Midi Canal, even if it doesn't connect to another body of water, it connects the hard to reach interior plateau. It would also possibly propel Sinope past Trebizond as it sits at the mouth of the Halys.

Coming back to this, the Halys Navigation Project would stabilize the water table in it's catchment basin as well, since they are raising it in spots and slowing it's progress in others. This could have massive knock on effects for farming and water supply issues, where modern Turkey used the river for hydro-power and farming. The weirs and dams could in modern times be used for supplemental power generation as well with vertical turbines and low head generators, but for an economy that is going through crop failures and ecological turmoil, something like this could help with the recovery. It would very much be a legacy project for sure that would take a generation to finish, but, it would transform the interior of Anatolia.
 
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Are there no granaries or reserves to help tide over any production shortfalls?
There probably are, but those help against a single or at most a couple of crop failures. What they don't help against is: "Oh god the climate cooled and now way less water is being evaporated and the rains will be weak for a century."
 
...It would also possibly propel Sinope past Trebizond as it sits at the mouth of the Halys.
Regarding this bit, Sinope does not sit at the mouth of the Halys. In fact, it lies on a lil peninsula a few dozen miles away from the Halys' delta.
I don't know how feasible the navigation part of it is, but if the irrigational facilities of rivers in this region are improved, it might well be Amasos (Samsun) that might benefit instead. Amasos, unlike Sinope, does not lie on a constrained peninsula, and it has the benefit of lying between the deltas of the Halys and the Iris (Yeşilırmak in Turkish) which are both major centers of agriculture in the Pontic coast. The Iris delta in particular covers most of the Themiscyra plain, the largest deltaic plain on the Anatolian Black Sea coast and a verdant and fertile district. Today, Samsun is both much larger and more important than Sinop.
 
Regarding this bit, Sinope does not sit at the mouth of the Halys. In fact, it lies on a lil peninsula a few dozen miles away from the Halys' delta.
I don't know how feasible the navigation part of it is, but if the irrigational facilities of rivers in this region are improved, it might well be Amasos (Samsun) that might benefit instead. Amasos, unlike Sinope, does not lie on a constrained peninsula, and it has the benefit of lying between the deltas of the Halys and the Iris (Yeşilırmak in Turkish) which are both major centers of agriculture in the Pontic coast. The Iris delta in particular covers most of the Themiscyra plain, the largest deltaic plain on the Anatolian Black Sea coast and a verdant and fertile district. Today, Samsun is both much larger and more important than Sinop.
Thank you for correcting that, muchly appreciated. So, Amasos would possibly out pace Trebizond.
 
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Is it just me or is Damascus a bit too close to the Dead Sea on the map?
oh heck

Yeah, so, uh I've put it where Amman is.
In reality Damascus is about 100km further north, looks like about where the road I've drawn goes from being mostly SE to mostly SSW.
Expect a corrected map in the next 48 hours or so.
 
I'm a bit surprised to see Jerusalem seemingly excluded from the highway network, I would have thought for sure it would be connected given its religious significance and relative proximity to the main network.
 
I'm a bit surprised to see Jerusalem seemingly excluded from the highway network, I would have thought for sure it would be connected given its religious significance and relative proximity to the main network.
I imagine that's an oversight. There is no way the pilgrimage road would not be developed and maintained. That's one that will easily pay for itself.
 
I’m guessing the interconnected and scale of the Roman roads are superior to their contemporaries? Would imagine a more decentralised state would have issues with ensuring different provinces link up.
 
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