An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Picture a scenario where RITE gets a cadet branch of the Imperial dynasty and becomes the new Eastern Roman Empire, with the ‘Byzantine heartland’ becoming a new Western Roman Empire, with the two cooperating like the classical versions combined with the Bourbon family compact.

That would honestly be the funniest fucking thing. Imagine an observer from OTL showing up in ITTL’s 2000.

“The Eastern Roman Empire is back?”
“Yeah, you want to visit? Tickets to Singapore are going pretty cheap right now.”
“Fucking Malaysia? Hold up…what happened to reclaiming Constantinople?”
“We did that in the 1280s. The Queen of Cities is the capital of the WESTERN Empire. The old heartland, you see. Now the Eastern Empire is the Heraklian Islands, Java, Malaysia, Borneo, Taprobane, Kiponissi, and Antarctica.”
“You took the frozen shithole of the planet and turned it into a theme?”
“No, silly! Antarctica is the big island with all the nasty spiders, snakes, suspiciously advanced Chinese tribesmen, and dropbears!”
“Oh my god, the memes came true. Australia here isn’t even real.”
“Neither is Finland! That’s a province of Muscovy!”

I think the way I will see this is the Romans will have the demographics of 1913 France but will have administrative, industrial, financial qualities from the British, German and USA of 1913.

Sounds like a lean, mean, Latin-mulching machine. That kind of administrative power combined with needing to rule over fewer people…might work better than it looks at a glance. What happens when OTL Turkey, already a strong nation, gets fused to the least disgusting bits of the Balkans and the Levant? Something very cool. And perhaps a frighteningly strong player in a key geopolitical theater…if the Latins and Chinese want oil, they’ll HAVE to scrape and bow to the Omani/Roman accord first…an accord that ALREADY aligns its interests to the strongest power astride Malacca.

If our Istanbul is arguably better than our Paris (lovely cosmopolitan city on par with the French capital in food, tourist vistas, and non-American-ness…but Istanbul has no Parisians), this Constantinople will be leagues better than King’s Harbor—an equally wealthy and storied city, but one without the hassle of dealing with BOTH English and French!
 
The Empire's demographic troubles will probably spur a French-like solution then. Strong natalist policies that eventually work to counter the demographic transition and negative population growth that all developed countries suffer from, as well as strong assimilationist policies a la the French Colonial Empire, where the natives are taught to be good Romans with Greek education. Perhaps in time the Romans can drop the Orthodox part of the requirements and accept multi-lingualism as an alternative to Greek speaking.
 
Can’t remember the last time I had a specifically military structure only update. There’s been some redrawing of the borders, but there’s still the various themes that produce the regional tagmata, plus the guard units usually stationed at Constantinople. The big change is that they’re all compensated in cash, rather than in money and land grants.
If you do get down to writing one, please consider going over the army organization of the despotates like Sicily and Egypt too.
 
Is that in terms of dollars or calories? Man cannot live on hazelnuts and apricots alone.
That is something that lascaris would know..and to be honest demographics is a very complicated subject but the main thing that is limiting population in the first world is not only education i believe but economics aswell.. housing is to expensive for the average joe in europe and America for him to able to afford children and he know it and he can afford family planning.. of course there many many many more factors as wel.
 
Perhaps its an optimistic reading on my part but when it comes to reincorporating the various Despotates and minorities into Rhomanion proper, any political movement to that end could reinvigorate an idea of Romanitas, or essentially a collective Roman supranationalism. (Whilst that's very much a modern projection back onto history, it's probably accurate for what a ITTL movement would be doing). Effectively try to define Rhoman-ness as a collective Eastern Mediterranean identity that transcends religion and local cultures. Luckily that isn't so hard since there is a huge overlap already in terms of food (if it's anything like OTL), but I'm an outside observer and using food as a basis isn't a great start, I could be deeply wrong.

What might be ugly about such a definition is that it more than likely will be a little Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab, unlike some already extant ideas ITTL that are more Anti-Latin. (Essentially a different Other) but that isn't required I think.

Would that movement be predominant any time soon? Doubtful given what B444s already outlined, but just as there is a restrained vs aggressive military debate there is already discussion around how to handle the Despotates (see Athena's addressing of the issues with Sicily and North Africa). I could see that creating a Despotate Vs Central Vs Federalisation debate in the offices of the palace just as it has on the forum.
 
Is that in terms of dollars or calories? Man cannot live on hazelnuts and apricots alone.
Apparently Turkey does produce nearly 2 million tons of wheat a year in its interior provinces, around Konya—what you Byzantineboos would call Iconium

On their coastal provinces they grow lots of grapes and olives—stuff that OTL Byzantines had been producing for centuries

You're right; it's not nearly enough to self-sustainingly feed all the Byzantine empire, but it's definitely something
 
That is something that lascaris would know..and to be honest demographics is a very complicated subject but the main thing that is limiting population in the first world is not only education i believe but economics aswell.. housing is to expensive for the average joe in europe and America for him to able to afford children and he know it and he can afford family planning.. of course there many many many more factors as wel.
Three basic differences IMO.

1. Land utilization in the interior of Anatolia. My understanding is that TTL this is back to farming from primarily pastoralism.
2. Land improvement. The Ottomans or at least the late Ottomans were not particularly interested in this. After the liberation of Macedonia, Greece drained something close to 2,750 square km of swamps in a decade in the 1920s. That is a LOT of land in a region of 35,000 square km. This accidentally does not take care only of more arable land, it also battles malaria which was endemic (unlike it seems earlier eras, or atleast so Hammond claimed for the ancient kingdom).
3. Land productivity. How fast are spreading... mules and iron plows TTL? I'm inclined to believe faster than in the Ottoman Era, what with Constantinople encouraging small farmers. This is not modern mechanized agriculture... but still means better yields than oxen and wooden plows.
 
Oh, thanks god we have someone in the TL talking about incorporating Sicily and Egypt again.
It's really a coinflip at this point if they'll be incorporated into Rhomania proper sometime in the 19th century or if they'll walk the path of the OTL British Dominions.

Speaking of the Despotates, surely they will somewhat balance the demographic deficit of Rhomania no? Enough so that Rhomania + Egypt + Sicily should outnumber any European opposition save Russia
 
It's really a coinflip at this point if they'll be incorporated into Rhomania proper sometime in the 19th century or if they'll walk the path of the OTL British Dominions.

Speaking of the Despotates, surely they will somewhat balance the demographic deficit of Rhomania no? Enough so that Rhomania + Egypt + Sicily should outnumber any European opposition save Russia
They will, but OTL's Turks had difficulties in dealing with the integration of Egypt, to say the least.

I believe these difficulties are very realistic and should be included. What really bothers me is some people in the thread pretending that Rhomania shouldn't even strive for incorporation.

The British model is very unsuccessful with regard to preserving the British Empire's strength, definitely not a path to be emulated in hindsight.
 
It's really a coinflip at this point if they'll be incorporated into Rhomania proper sometime in the 19th century or if they'll walk the path of the OTL British Dominions.

Speaking of the Despotates, surely they will somewhat balance the demographic deficit of Rhomania no? Enough so that Rhomania + Egypt + Sicily should outnumber any European opposition save Russia

Any European opposition, that is doubtful to put it mildly. Rhomania + Egypt + Sicily might be bigger than the Triunes, but I doubt very much that they would be bigger than say the Triunes + Spain + Germany.
 
Any European opposition, that is doubtful to put it mildly. Rhomania + Egypt + Sicily might be bigger than the Triunes, but I doubt very much that they would be bigger than say the Triunes + Spain + Germany.
I meant any individual opposition. RSE combined should outnumber any individual European power, save Russia.
 
Roman Agricultural Production: As @Namayan pointed out, with modern tech. I guess I’ve never specified this, but all of the arguments I’ve been making are in an assumed pre-industrial paradigm, because that’s the ‘mode’ I’m in for all this research.

And by the time Rhomania is fully into modern agriculture, culturally it will have largely gone through the demographic transition. (I need to get more material on 19th century France, since the limited knowledge I have really suggests that is a OTL model for what I’m envisioning.)

That is with modern tech though.

I believe the higher income rates of ATL Romans is what ultimately will bring down the population down or lower than expected by some. Even if we assume the population of Roman homeland can grow crops enough for a larger population as large as France or Russia pre industrial, the higher per capita income and higher literacy rates of the Roman empire will bring population down.

I think the way I will see this is the Romans will have the demographics of 1913 France but will have administrative, industrial, financial qualities from the British, German and USA of 1913.

This. This. This.

Is there a more Roman past-time than setting animals to fight?

Well, based on the Partial Historians podcast, yes, and that would be patricians being rich assholes crapping on the plebeians…

The Empire's demographic troubles will probably spur a French-like solution then. Strong natalist policies that eventually work to counter the demographic transition and negative population growth that all developed countries suffer from, as well as strong assimilationist policies a la the French Colonial Empire, where the natives are taught to be good Romans with Greek education. Perhaps in time the Romans can drop the Orthodox part of the requirements and accept multi-lingualism as an alternative to Greek speaking.

These are good possible solutions. The natalist ideas could be the genesis for an expanding Roman welfare healthcare system. Think bread and circuses, but it becomes bread, circuses, and healthcare.

Assimilationist efforts are obvious for Rhomania-in-the-East. How successful though is an equally obvious question. For all the talk about French assimilationist policies, their effectiveness in Algeria seriously under-whelmes me.

If you do get down to writing one, please consider going over the army organization of the despotates like Sicily and Egypt too.

Point taken, although in their cases they both heavily follow the Roman model, just downsized.

Perhaps its an optimistic reading on my part but when it comes to reincorporating the various Despotates and minorities into Rhomanion proper, any political movement to that end could reinvigorate an idea of Romanitas, or essentially a collective Roman supranationalism. (Whilst that's very much a modern projection back onto history, it's probably accurate for what a ITTL movement would be doing). Effectively try to define Rhoman-ness as a collective Eastern Mediterranean identity that transcends religion and local cultures. Luckily that isn't so hard since there is a huge overlap already in terms of food (if it's anything like OTL), but I'm an outside observer and using food as a basis isn't a great start, I could be deeply wrong.

What might be ugly about such a definition is that it more than likely will be a little Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab, unlike some already extant ideas ITTL that are more Anti-Latin. (Essentially a different Other) but that isn't required I think.

Would that movement be predominant any time soon? Doubtful given what B444s already outlined, but just as there is a restrained vs aggressive military debate there is already discussion around how to handle the Despotates (see Athena's addressing of the issues with Sicily and North Africa). I could see that creating a Despotate Vs Central Vs Federalisation debate in the offices of the palace just as it has on the forum.

Different ideas and arguments are definitely guaranteed to happen; I don’t want to portray the Romans as monoliths, whether they’re being good or bad. The ‘hive mind vs. the potted plant’ is a trope I very much want to avoid, because it’s bad writing.

That said, there is the concern that such an idea makes Roman-ness rather vague and inchoate. An identity, to have any sort of meaning, does need to have some level of distinctiveness. Such a broad concept would probably need to have some serious Others as bogeymen to give it a focus, because it lacks that internally. And there’s also the concern that such a broadening would inspire a Greek backlash, because it obviously undermines their prominence.

Three basic differences IMO.

1. Land utilization in the interior of Anatolia. My understanding is that TTL this is back to farming from primarily pastoralism.
2. Land improvement. The Ottomans or at least the late Ottomans were not particularly interested in this. After the liberation of Macedonia, Greece drained something close to 2,750 square km of swamps in a decade in the 1920s. That is a LOT of land in a region of 35,000 square km. This accidentally does not take care only of more arable land, it also battles malaria which was endemic (unlike it seems earlier eras, or atleast so Hammond claimed for the ancient kingdom).
3. Land productivity. How fast are spreading... mules and iron plows TTL? I'm inclined to believe faster than in the Ottoman Era, what with Constantinople encouraging small farmers. This is not modern mechanized agriculture... but still means better yields than oxen and wooden plows.

All of these are present ITTL, but I don’t want to exaggerate the extent. A lot of this is due to technological factors. A lot of interior Anatolia is much more feasible for pastoralism than pre-industrial agriculture, for example. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but in the update on pastoralism in Rhomania I did use Ottoman figures as a reference. The TTL ratio of agriculture to pastoralism is more in favor towards agriculture than OTL, but pastoralism is still a very big factor.

Land improvement has also been a thing, although I would think even a poor 1920s country would be much more capable in that regard than even a rich 1620s country. Rhomania could drain that much land, but I doubt that quickly, because everything has to be powered by animal and human muscle.

Your number 3 is also happening, although with substantial regional variation. The presence of feasible transportation options and market opportunities is key. That iron plow costs a lot more than a wooden one (if I remember correctly, the Economic History of Byzantium mentions somewhere about the iron plow tip costing 5 times more than the rest of the plow) so you’re only going to pay for that if you can guarantee a market to sell the surplus.

So, in short, Roman agriculture is doing better than OTL Ottoman, but with substantial regional variation and the improvement is on a level of +15% as opposed to +150% (don’t get hung up on the specific numbers; they’re solely for a sense of scale). Now 15% is still a boost, but like I said, I don’t want to exaggerate the sense of scale. The Romans are still dealing with a lot of hilly terrain with thin soils and human and animal waste as the only source of fertilizer, just like their 1600s OTL counterparts.

Despotates, Populations, and Integrations: The Despotates and RITE are the biggest * that should be attached to all my demographic talk. I’m focusing on the heartland because that’s what I spend the most time thinking about, and focusing on that alone simplifies things greatly. So it’s certainly possible that these added to the heartland would make up the ‘great power demographic shortfall’. Devil is in the details, as there’s no guarantee either, especially Sicily (because pre-industrial Southern Italy had a serious disease pool problem, particularly malaria) will be major demographic powers in their own right. And if they’re autonomous, they’ll have their own interests and agendas and thus no guarantees they’ll all pull in the same direction.

And I do understand the allure and interest in Despotate integration. But I also foresee lots of problems and complications that could scuttle such efforts, and potentially even backfire. The purpose of the Despotate model was, OOC, an attempt to create something that would reconcile regional aspirations while still keeping them somewhat, even if rather loosely, Roman.
 
The Contexts of Roman Society, part 13-2: Rhomania in the World-To Forfeit A Soul
The Contexts of Roman Society, Part 13-2: Rhomania in the World-To Forfeit A Soul

By the end of the 1640s, the war hawks were still the most coherent ideological grouping in Roman society, but they were facing increasing competition in that quarter. The competition, which rose partly in reaction to the increasing demands of the war hawks, has been labeled as defensivism, although the term itself is much more recent than the phenomenon it describes.

Defensivism had deep precedents in Roman society. Rhomania in the Middle Ages repeatedly engaged in warfare, but in its own way was substantially less militaristic than its neighbors both in the east and west. Although there was the occasional nod in that direction, there was no concept of a holy war comparable to a Latin Crusade or a Muslim Jihad. In surveys of the possessions in medieval Roman households, weapons and military equipment are conspicuous for their absence. Military service was supposed to be done by professionals in the service of the state, not of a ‘people-in-arms’, which is a major reason why contemporaries of the medieval Romans often called them effeminate. [1]

The medieval Romans were certainly not pacifist, as those facing Nikephoros Phokas or Alexios Philanthropenos on the battlefield could attest, if they survived the experience. But throughout much of medieval Roman intellectual thought, conquest was not celebrated for its own merits. What belonged to the Romans must be defended, and what had been lost that was rightfully Roman should be retaken, but it was not right to go and seize from others what rightfully belonged to them. In the early tenth century, Arethas favorably compared Leo VI above Alexander the Great himself. That was because Leo VI had waged just war to reclaim what had been taken from the Romans but which rightfully belonged to them. In contrast, Alexander was greedy and unjust, failing to recognize the Hellespont as the natural limit to his ambition in his quest to steal what did not belong to him. [2]

This precedent strongly influenced the defensivists as they articulated their ideas in the late 1640s. Many of the most prominent and influential were members of the Orthodox clergy, who were guided by concerns over Roman morality. They were far from alone in this regard. In the summer of 1648, Thrace was devastated by an earthquake. This was followed by the freezing of the Bosporus in early 1649, and then a volcanic eruption at Kolumbo in 1650. Throughout these years, plague raged. And those were just the most striking examples as climatic conditions turned more erratic and destructive.

Romans lacked the means to explain such phenomena through natural means, although those historically-minded recognized extremely disturbing parallels with the mid-6th century. Athena was one of these, musing in 1650 about the similarities, speculating if the earth went through a cycle whereby every 1100 years or so it became sharply hostile to human life. Most though believed the cause was a manifestation of God’s anger towards human behavior. Denunciations of drunkenness, greed, fornication, and sodomy were never absent, but there seems to have been a sharp uptick after 1645.

Defensivists, especially the clerical ones, were not immune to these ideas, but they thought there was more to the matter. Bishop Manuel Rekas considered homosexuality to be a most grievous sin, but highly doubted that sodomy was more common in Roman society in 1650 as opposed to 1575, when God’s wrath had not manifested in bizarre and deadly climatic conditions. For God’s wrath to be manifesting now, there had to be more than just the typical moral failures decried in all generations.

The reference to the year 1575 was not random, for that year was during the height of the Flowering, commonly dated as stretching from about 1560 to 1595, albeit with fuzziness around the edges. This era was perceived as a golden age of peace and prosperity, bounty and beauty, in stark contrast to the years of iron and pain that had marked the Roman experience of the first half of the 1600s. Now rose-tinted nostalgia was a factor as Romans of the 1640s looked back, but certainly the mid/late 1500s were much more beneficent to Roman life and happiness than the era of the Flowering’s children and grandchildren.

To re-cultivate the Flowering, to make that now-barren garden bloom again, was the goal of the defensivists. It must be said that some of their representation of the Flowering had never existed in reality; not all of that Golden Age had been made of precious metals. Furthermore in the ways they wished to go back to that era, they relied on innovations that would make their proposed re-creation different from the model. For example, Rhomania at the beginning of the Flowering had been appreciably less urbanized and commercialized than was the case three generations later. Most defensivists did not want to roll these back, but wanted to regain the perceived fairness and good conduct of Flowering Society by reviving the ideas of just profit and just price. This image of the Flowering, as a period of peace, prosperity, justice, and morality, whether accurate to the time period or not, heavily influenced the defensivists.

And that is where the defensivists ran, with the force of a wine-mad triceratops, into the war hawks. For the war hawks thought to secure and prosper Rhomania by massive military expansionism, while the Flowering had been marked by peace and diplomacy. It had even begun with some territorial concessions to Timur II, then at the height of his power. (The cession admittedly soon ended up in Ottoman hands, but the historical connection with the House of Sideros possibly added to the appeal when used as a precedent for the cession of Malta to the Despotate of Sicily.)

During those decades, the White Palace had emphasized good relations with the West. Many now were critical of those endeavors, as the resulting marriage ties had given Theodor his opening. But the defensivists countered that Theodor’s opening had come about because of Drakid dynastic failings. The Latins existed, and existed in far greater numbers than the Romans, and it was important to just deal with those facts, annoying as they might be. For what other option was there?

The defensivists also used the War of the Roman Succession to bolster their point. During the conflict Rhomania had received substantial military aid, mainly manpower, primarily from the Russian states, but also Arles and Spain. There had even been a good chance that the latter two would’ve joined the Romans in the war had not the entry of Lombardy on Theodor’s side upset the geopolitical table. Spanish and Arletian hostility had arisen later, after the Romans had ignored their concerns about the geopolitical arrangement of Italy.

In short, the defensivists thought that Rhomania was secure in its present state. The success of the Romans in defending themselves in that war showed that. Yes, it had been costly, but it had been successful, and such high costs could be obviated in the future by avoiding certain errors, such as alienating Georgia, and regaining and retaining the friendship of Spain and Arles. Plus now there was the Russian factor to consider.

But the plan of the war hawks would not help make Rhomania secure; it would make it more insecure. Such a program would spread out Roman forces and sharply increase their list of enemies. Of what good was Italy if its possession ensured the hostility of Spain, Arles, and Sicily? A free Hungary would look askance at Germans marching through its territory. A Hungary subservient to Constantinople would likely welcome and even encourage them.

There was more to the defensivists’ argument than just disputes over foreign policy; for them there was also a moral issue at play. They saw a growing darkness in the soul of Rhomania, grown hard and callous and cruel in the decades of near-constant and grueling war since the start of the century. And they feared what it portended. The Great Crime was just the most extreme example. Now they believed in putting down rebellions and certainly weren’t interested in seeing an independent Sunni Syria, but did it really have to end with so much blood and death? Had it really been necessary, or had it ended that way because that was how the Romans wanted it to end?

They saw the war hawk program as an expression of that darkness, and more worryingly a way in which it might grow. A thirst for blood, for conquest, an eagerness to hurt the outsider and to steal what belonged to them and not to the Romans. This thirst is what Bishop Manuel Rekas identified as the key difference between the Romans of 1650 as opposed to 1575, and he considered that it was this lust for blood that was kindling the fire of God’s wrath.

But that consideration is also why he emphasized that Rhomania was secure, that it did not need to claw and hack at the world to make itself safe. For he identified the root of the darkness, and that root was fear. What it came down to was that the Romans were afraid. The trauma of the Fourth Crusade and the Black Day had never truly faded, and likely never would, and the trials of the early 1600s had only exacerbated them. That was the context behind his famous saying in a sermon in Constantinople: “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”

This was the true attraction of the Flowering for the defensivists. The Fourth Crusade and the Black Day could not and should not be forgotten, but these traumas did not have to warp and darken the Roman soul. The Flowering was proof of that, and the defensivists hoped that the spirit of the Romans in that time could be regained.

They hoped, and they prayed. For clearly God’s wrath was building, and even if he did not enact justice, the hearts of men could bring forth much evil on their own. For if the wrath of the war hawks was turned upon the world, what would be the wrath of the world? And if the wrath of the war hawks could not be turned outward, how long before it would be turned inward? How long could darkness reside before consuming its host?

These were alarming questions. As Patriarch Adam II of Constantinople, the highest-ranking defensivist, said “I sense a great evil in the heart of Rhomania. This tumor must be excised, lest it doom us all. But I fear the surgery will be terrible in its own right.”

For the defensivists, the Flowering must be regained. Rhomania could be secure and safe, but it must regain that spirit of peace and diplomacy, not continue along this path. And to do so, it must emphatically reject this spirit of conquest, of seizing what rightfully belonged to others. What rightfully belonged to the Romans must be defended, but no more must be taken, for that was not just.

This sparked the obvious question: what rightfully belonged to the Romans? For the defensivists, the answer was simple. They looked back to the Flowering for their ideal Rhomania, and so it was the borders of Rhomania during the Flowering that they considered to be rightfully Roman.

There were some caveats to this. While they might deplore the Great Crime, no defensivist thought to try and reverse it. Such evil was done; it could not be undone. What was needed was to ensure that such a thing would never happen again. (Even then, some critics found this to be rather ‘convenient’.) And one curious blind spot among the defensivists was any acknowledgment of Rhomania-in-the-East, which might as well not exist in their writings. They were concerned with the heartland, and the heartland alone, perhaps because it was the threats to the heartland that was the source of the fear and darkness that they hoped to exorcise.

But once those were considered, the position of the defensivists were clear. The borders of Rhomania during the Flowering were what were right and just for the Romans to possess, and no more. Any more, no matter the justification, was an act of injustice, of theft, of blood, of darkness, of evil. And this was no mere rhetoric either. As Father Andronikos Hadjipapandreou, the most famous of the defensivists, said: “Evil must be opposed. No matter the cost, for to surrender to evil is to pay an even greater price.”

But the defensivists were not the only ones who thought they were in an existential struggle for the soul and people of Rhomania. As Tourmarch Thomas Nereas, one of the literal Tourmarches, also said at around the same time: “The Roman people must become steel. This must be done in fire, and the slag cast out into the waste dump. This is necessary, so let it be done. Mercy will hinder this task, so let it be abandoned.”


[1] Nicolas Oikonomides, “The Contents of the Byzantine House from the Eleventh to the Fifteenth Century,” in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990).

[2] Angeliki E. Laiou, “Economic Thought and Ideology”, in The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh to the Fifteenth Century, pg. 1126.
 
All of these are present ITTL, but I don’t want to exaggerate the extent. A lot of this is due to technological factors. A lot of interior Anatolia is much more feasible for pastoralism than pre-industrial agriculture, for example. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but in the update on pastoralism in Rhomania I did use Ottoman figures as a reference. The TTL ratio of agriculture to pastoralism is more in favor towards agriculture than OTL, but pastoralism is still a very big factor.

Land improvement has also been a thing, although I would think even a poor 1920s country would be much more capable in that regard than even a rich 1620s country. Rhomania could drain that much land, but I doubt that quickly, because everything has to be powered by animal and human muscle.

Your number 3 is also happening, although with substantial regional variation. The presence of feasible transportation options and market opportunities is key. That iron plow costs a lot more than a wooden one (if I remember correctly, the Economic History of Byzantium mentions somewhere about the iron plow tip costing 5 times more than the rest of the plow) so you’re only going to pay for that if you can guarantee a market to sell the surplus.

So, in short, Roman agriculture is doing better than OTL Ottoman, but with substantial regional variation and the improvement is on a level of +15% as opposed to +150% (don’t get hung up on the specific numbers; they’re solely for a sense of scale). Now 15% is still a boost, but like I said, I don’t want to exaggerate the sense of scale. The Romans are still dealing with a lot of hilly terrain with thin soils and human and animal waste as the only source of fertilizer, just like their 1600s OTL counterparts.
Let me put it in some numbers if I may. The core empire is a believe 16.5 million based on earlier of your posts as of now, I'll assume it as the 1650 population and try some projections (using numbers from Maddison). Now Maddison's figures are for 1600 and 1700 but the 1600-1650 period wasn't exactly good for Europe demographically, populations in 1650 were at levels similar or even somewhat lower than 1600 so I think we are safe to go this way. By Ottoman core in the table with base data I'm adding the populations of Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania, as it is roughly comparable to the imperial core territory. For the Balkans it is te same sans Turkey.

Base Data1600/1650
1700​
1820​
1870​
1913​
France
18500​
21471​
31246​
38440​
41463​
Western Europe
73778​
81460​
132888​
187499​
260975​
East Europe
16950​
18800​
36457​
53557​
79530​
Europe
90728​
100260​
169345​
241056​
340505​
Ottoman core
10.850​
11.450​
15.010​
18639​
26043​
Balkans
2.950​
3.050​
4.936​
6846​
11043​
Core Empire population1600/1650
1700​
1820​
1870​
1913​
French case
16500​
19150​
27868​
34284
36981​
West Eu avg
16500​
18218​
29720​
41933
58365​
East Eu avg
16500​
18301​
35489​
52135
77419​
Europe avg
16500​
18234​
30797​
43839
61925​
Ottoman case
16500​
17412​
22826​
28345
39605​
Balkan case
16500​
17059​
27608​
38291
61766​
Worst case
16500​
17059​
22363​
27512
29676​
Best case
16500​
19150​
37135​
54554
87998​

I think we can easily discount both the worst and best cases here beyond saying that the core imperial population can be somewhere between 30 and and 88 millions. But the projections to the early 19th century and the early industrial revolution are pretty interesting I think. At worst we should be talking about a core imperial population of ~23 million if the empire does no better than the Ottomans. At population growth rates comparable to France or the southern Balkans which seem to me reasonable we get a population in the 27-28 million range. Why these numbers are significant? Because they mean that at a minimum the empire would be comparable to Germany in population and more likely comparable to France.

Post that and the industrial revolution the question is more one of whether demographic transition French style hits the empire or not. I suppose it could but it looks to me quite unlikely, the whole rest of Europe, Ottomans included did not. If the empire is growing at average European levels which seems to me reasonable and is only a little higher than what the core territory under the Ottomans did, we get to ~46 million. ~40 million if you are doing as bad as the Ottomans. Both numbers are pretty respectable, putting the core empire at the same level with France and Britain...
 
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