Wonderfull recent updates, make me wish to play Agricola or some similar game again. Great job!
With the introduction of potatoes some of the limiting factors of roman agriculture could be lessened...but these problems would continue to affect roman agriculture until basically the industrial revolution with the many many agricultural technologies and the mass migration of the population to the cities leaving the farmers with larger plots of land...this is what happened in Greece and Cyprus in otl.( And maybe turkey but alas i visited turkey..let alone lived and understand what is happening there)
Excellent writeup of the issues facing peasants that we discussed earlier upthread. I'd like to add one small addendum: In later eras if a peasant's farm failed he/she could go off to the city to get one of those shiny new factory jobs and prevent total starvation. Yes, those jobs by and large sucked with low pay and extreme danger but at least there was some sort of fallback option. Here that isn't an option obviously. Peasants were screwed if everything went to hell so they had a very vested interest to stay the course as much as possible.
I really enjoy these looks at the world you've created. You've tied together OTL and ATL history nicely and I hope you keep us posted of stuff like this when the time comes to return to a more political/military narrative.
Yep, that is pretty much what broke the cycle of most people sticking on the land they were born on, and greatly drove the agricultural consolidation we have today. Crop would fail, possibly the second or third in a row, the farmer would sell the land if possible, or abandon it if not, and go to the city. In the US it happened quite often though the largest such migration was the Dust Bowl and farmers leaving the plains states for California and the cities of the Midwest. I do not doubt that most other countries had similar experiences during hard times.
A thought I just had. Didn't the Imperial government have some sort of state-run botanical garden type of thing going on? If someone notices the trouble that Roman agriculture is having in innovating, would it not be worthwhile to expand that into a larger institution, experimenting with new methods and crops, and then offering to effectively provide the backup these villages lack if they try a new method out.
Sort of like almost an insurance thing, but instead of paying for insurance to an individual it is for a whole village, and instead of actually directly paying for it you try the new methods for a period of time to see if it works in a region, and if it does fail badly the Imperial agricultural bureau or whatever they would end up calling it, would provide money and resources to keep the village on its feet until they could transition back to tried and true methods.
Obviously, the cost of this would be prohibitive for an entire region, but for single villages to operate as real-world testbeds in different climates and conditions, once they do hit on something significant and demonstrate that it works in the real world, it could help the Empire's agriculture to improve by leaps and bounds.
Possibly, but anything of the sort will likely be in the larger farms near cities or on the rivers and coasts. Because even if you can improve the yields of food crops it still does not help if all that extra rots away before you can sell it, so any real improvement is essentially going to need to wait for a working rail network. Now, once you get that going, then yeah, the potential of inland Rhomania will be able to realized.
Of course they will prioritize what the empire as a whole can actually use, but once the methods are perfected surely they can still spread on their own to other less accessible areas. Plus, surely there are otherwise marginal areas that are still close enough to the ocean that improving their productivity would be a considerable gain for the Empire as a whole.
I love these kinds of update. This gives good for though far beyond just the context of this excellent TL.
I'll admit I haven't commented on the last few updates mostly because aside it being Rome there isn't much to comment on in terms of alternate history. These updates do a beautiful job of showing the lifestyle and limits of medieval governments and show well that although Rome is probably the most advanced administrative state on the planet they are; outside of cities and ports; almost completely absent as a day to day force. For many villages and towns off the major roads aside from the tax collector who comes every couple years for the head tax and the favoured son who comes home from the army/navy these villages have next to no contact with Rome outside of the Church.
What I really like about these updates is that it shows clearly that the peasantry of Rome; or anywhere else; isn't stupid. They know that they could increase their productivity with new techniques; they know about economies of scale and how to increase productivity; they even know how to conduct trade and barter; but the downside of switching to these new techniques is famine in a time before mass transport of bulk goods overland if while learning the new techniques they mess up, the upside is at some point in the future they will have more of a cushion IF and only if they don't starve while learning first. The overwhelming majority of peasants outside coercion will stick with what they know rather than literally risk them and their families lives trying new agricultural techniques. This is a time when a central Anatolian village could have an early frost, lose their crop, all starve over the winter, and the first Constantinople will hear of it is the next fall when the tax collector reports it to the local governor who passes it up the line. These updates have shown that well and it is these sorts of updates that separate this timeline from so many others.
I won't speculate too much on the future as it is difficult to know at this point how Rome will fare during this cold period. The nearest OTL example of the Ottomans is too far removed from Rome at this point to be useful as anything more than a geographic comparison. Rome itself has completely a different administrative system, completely different infrastructure, even different trade networks from the OTL Ottomans which make it difficult to see how Rome will adapt and react to the pressures of the time. I am optimistic though as Rome has in the past couple years lived by the advice "never let a good crisis go to waste" and has used previous times to force through reforms. Hopefully that trend continues. One thing I could see would be upgrading minor ports around Anatolia/Levant/Greece and improving roads within 1 or 2 days of these minor ports to increase the radius of control that the government can exert and also to try to get more of the population in a position to increase their agricultural productivity as the government can promise relief should a harvest fail.
The on bit of alternate history I'll comment on was the transfer of North Africa to Sicily. From Rome's long term perspective it is brilliant. Rome is solidly an Eastern Mediterranean/Adriatic/Aegean/Black Sea power while Sicily is a central/western Mediterranean power. Giving North Africa to Sicily allows Rome to concentrate on the Eastern Mediterranean/Adriatic while also pulling Sicily out of the Adriatic and more fully into the Central Mediterranean. This ironically makes Sicily more reliant on Rome; as they will need to weaken their navy in the Adriatic to more fully patrol/control the sea lanes between North Africa and Italy; while at the same time making Sicily more able to act as the western shield of Rome by giving them ports that they can now upgrade on both sides of the sea. Ports that Rome will also be able to take advantage or without having to invest any money in upgrading/fortifying/defending them. It was an incredibly shrewd deal from Rome that in time will be seen as brilliant I am sure.
The Romans probably use Albanian tribesmen for light cavalry units.Would the Byzantine use the cossack as either varangian or light cavalry?
Most Russians that end up serving in the Roman army end up in the Varangians, but not very many Cossacks make it to Rhomania. Because of Ukraine's very different history ITTL, ATL's Cossacks are active east, as opposed to west, of the Caspian Sea.Would the Byzantine use the cossack as either varangian or light cavalry?
I think an alt-Skanderbeg would probably be as troublesome for TTL Romans as for OTL Ottomans. Uniting Albanian tribes under one banner turns them into a much bigger political threat to Roman control. Now that doesn't mean there couldn't be a famous Roman strategos who is Orthodox Albanian, but anyone attempting to follow Skanderbeg's OTL political trajectory would immediately be sounding big alarm bells in Constantinople.The Romans probably use Albanian tribesmen for light cavalry units.
On that note, I wonder if Skanderbeg will ever make an appearance in this timeline. A military genius Orthodox Albanian tribesman that elevates the scattered Albanian mountain tribes into a respected nation within the Roman Empire could be pretty cool. Doubly so if he's the descendant of Andreas Niketas through his Triumvirate granddaughter.
Roman light cavalry units are still called Turkopouloi, as they were back in the Late Middle Ages, which gives a rather obvious hint of where a lot of them came from. Most light cavalry come from either the Kappadokians (which is what I'm calling the ethnically mixed central and east Anatolian population), Albanians, or nomadic Melkites (Arab Christians).I doubt they'd only use one source of light cavalry. They've got a solid half dozen excellent light cavalry traditions to pull from.
Impeccably sourced, I'm going to bookmark this so I can hopefully make my way through the bibliography.
Those poor Romans. On the one hand, yes, unseasoned potatoes are as bland as can be. On the other hand, hash browns!
An excellent update as usual. However, since there is no Turkish occupation inthe Balkans ITTL, I very much doubt that the plum brandy will be called raki, which is an arabian wold used by the Ottomans. Besides this , in Greece raki is rarely produced by plums. It is usually produced by distilled marcs (pomace) or by grapes. In Crete it is called Tsikoudia or Raki and in mainland Greece it is called Tsipouro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsipouro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TsikoudiaHowever this potential massive blow to their income was overcome by growing plums instead and distilling them into raki, a type of plum brandy, and selling that to thirsty Serbian and Roman townsfolk. 
How is the uptake of Terranovan crops among monasteries? Does it have any added reverse attraction for those who shun worldly possessions?Potatoes meanwhile were known, but rare and very unpopular. It was an ugly food, unlike the more visually appealing tomato and corn, which mattered in terms of attracting new consumers. It was also believed to cause flatulence, which certainly didn’t help its reputation.  It was disparaged as a food really for hogs, and it was mainly used to feed pigs at this time; for human consumption it was limited to the utterly destitute. Its taste also disagreed with Roman tastes
Yes. There's nothing like that yet.
Keep a pin in that. We're going to be coming to that.With this lack of arable farm it would make sense for the roman government to start many swamp and lake draining throughout the empire,the swamps of elis and the evros river come to mind and lakes like giannitsa and copaida should be completely drained and im sure that they are many such swamps and lakes all around the empire.
Of course even with these projects completed it would at most make a small dent in the problems facing the empire.
That could also be the case. Didn't think of raisins.In otl raisins were a major greek export...could be also the case with the romans aswell? At least in the helladic theme?
Good point about the name; didn't think to look it up. The shift to plum brandy because of the Little Ice Age is in Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria, so really it's more pertinent to Serbian rather than Roman peasants, but I thought it was a good example of agricultural practices changing because of the Little Ice Age. For Greece, the farmers would've been able to keep producing grapes and so continued business as usual.An excellent update as usual. However, since there is no Turkish occupation inthe Balkans ITTL, I very much doubt that the plum brandy will be called raki, which is an arabian wold used by the Ottomans. Besides this , in Greece raki is rarely produced by plums. It is usually produced by distilled marcs (pomace) or by grapes. In Crete it is called Tsikoudia or Raki and in mainland Greece it is called Tsipouro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsipouro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsikoudia
Monasteries are a mix, like other Roman farms. Some are quite commercialized and involved in the market (looks at all the commercial privileges Mt. Athos had in the late Byzantine period IOTL), while others are more run-down and poorly managed. Potatoes could be used as a good 'punishment food' or for those who really want to go ascetic.How is the uptake of Terranovan crops among monasteries? Does it have any added reverse attraction for those who shun worldly possessions?