An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Mount Yosifon
  • Previously on An Age of Miracles: Lots of Things

    The old thread was locked because of its length so here is the continuation thread.

    Starting off with responses to the last batch of posts.

    HanEmpire: It is the Negus; I’m using his title as shorthand. Iskandar is a top-tier general, probably the best the Ottomans produce ITTL. Tabriz is well fortified but Iskandar has a knack for coming out of nowhere and launching an assault on a weak spot. He surprised Tabriz, meaning low supplies, and the Georgians are starting to fear him.
    Nikolaios Polos’s offensive plan against the Ottomans envisioned setting up a Mesopotamian client, although the idea was for a Shiite Arab state (from the southern, Basra era). They would be a minority estranged both from the majority of the subjects and the rump Ottomans and thus motivated to look to the Romans for support. However the Great Uprising pointed out some flaws in that plan.
    EmperorSimeon: Thank you.
    Arrix85: The Nile Germans kept their original territories at the tip of the Delta, with a portion of volunteers transferred up to Cairo. They’ve just spent a lot of their blood defending their homes; they are not about to give them up to Roman/Coptic bureaucrats. South of Cairo is an empty wasteland. All the Copts were killed or fled north and everyone else is moving south to the Idwait Malikate.
    The Idwaits have the naval base although the Romans took everything of value. The Idwaits are barred from building any ships for twenty years (which should do a number on any knowledge base) and even after that any Idwait navy getting beyond the token stage has a very high risk of getting a Copenhagen.
    Soverihn: It is a big territory with lots of potential resources. Although as Russian history shows, that only is not enough to make one into a great power.
    Stark: Ethiopia’s had some hard times. It has lost a huge chunk of territory (Darfur, Makuria) but those were lands that were hard to administer and yielded little in gains. From Gonder’s perspective they could easily be classified as dead weight, although their loss is still humiliating.
    AussieHawker: As long as the Romans/Ethiopians can maintain control of the Red Sea the Idwaits can’t do much to threaten trade other than invading Ethiopia or Egypt with a land army.
    JohnSmith: Logistics. Even if the full forces of Ethiopia or the Empire, it would be a massive pain to launch an expedition into the heart of Sudan. The main item that would make the Idwait Malikate valuable in the fairly near term is cotton. But then the Romans could just buy it, turn it into textiles, and then sell them back to the Idwaits. They’re already shipping it east so all that would be needed is setting up a branch office/warehouse.
    DonaldReaver: Agreed. Iskandar is, from Constantinople’s point of view, a problem a hundred times bigger than Hassan/the Idwaits. Ideally the treaty solves all the problems but in the likely event there are issues the Idwaits are easily contained.
    Parmenion1: Fighting Iskandar with one hand behind your back is a good way to get beat up. After Cairo and the canal were retaken the Idwait war lost all purpose for the Romans. Even without the Ottoman war the Romans wouldn’t have been interested in re-conquest although they might have imposed a tighter political relationship instead of just making the Idwaits a tributary.
    GdwnsnHo: I like surprises. Springing them on other people, that is.
    Duke of Nova Scotia: I admit the thought of making a Despotate of Upper and one of Lower Mesopotamia never occurred to me but that is a really good idea. Your views of Hassan are spot-on. He won his position by personal charisma and bravery on the battlefield but he has already proven to not be so good at political intrigue. Not to mention the gigantic social disruptions caused by the massive influx of Egyptian Muslims. That is going to be ugly.
    GamingWeasel: Thank you.
    Sh3baproject: I have plans for the Marinids that should be coming up fairly soon…
    The Kurds: I’m going to hold off on answering the questions about the Kurds as I think what is written for one of the upcoming updates should cover it.

    Mount Yosifon, Kephalate of An-Nabek, May 16, 1599:

    It was a highly inappropriate time to need to pass gas. In fact Leo Neokastrites was hard pressed to think of any more inappropriate time. To the northeast, a huge plume of dust was rising from the Syrian plain, the three droungoi of cavalry in full flight, hotly pursued by at least twelve times their number of Muslim horse. The sun to the west was not far above the horizon, dazzling the eyes of both pursued and pursuer alike.

    Leo glanced around at the other droungoi of the 4th Chaldean, hunched down on the reverse slope of the scrubby hill that had pretensions of being a mountain. They were behind the lower northern slope. Six hundred and fifty strong, not counting the two hundred and seventy down in the valley, they were covered in dirt, their eyes tired.

    Two days of night marching will do that. The bulk of the tagmata were needed north near Aleppo where ghazi forces whose combined strength was close to ten times larger than this band were pillaging the Muslim villages on the Roman side of the border and slaughtering everyone they could find. Thus it was Leo’s lone tourma that was available to curb this force with its southerly inclinations. It had been hard to keep ahead of it.

    Leo looked again through his dalnovzor, the horsemen increasing in size by an order of 10. The Muslims were deploying a prong of horsemen to the north, forcing the Romans to maneuver south, their advance further west blocked by the mountain. With the Romans veering southwest it was the easiest direction in which the Romans could be cut off. It was clear they were tiring although the turkopouloi still kept a steady fire of Parthian shots back at their foes.

    Leo looked down at Kostandin Thopia, standing about twenty five feet below the crest. He was a tall Albanian with a disturbing amount of nose hair, but who was also his simamandator, ‘signal messenger’, the dekarchos in charge of signaling his orders. “Number 6,” Leo said.

    Kostandin nodded, looking at his assistant and then picking up a twelve foot long pole that had a solid crimson banner, three feet square. His assistant picked up an identical pole but one with a bright orange flag instead. Holding his flag at a 30 degree angle while his assistant held the other at a 60 degree, Kostandin raised his as his assistant lowered his own, until ten seconds later the flags had reversed position. The flags were then set on the ground, picked up again, and the process repeated. That was not part of the signal, but a repetition of it to ensure that it was received. It meant “all guns deploy forward”.

    The four cannons, which had all been loaded ten minutes earlier, had their wheels wrapped in cloth to dampen the sound. The rocket forks did not need such precautions. Looking like two-tined forks four and a half feet tall with a spiked base, there was a plate in between the tines, the idea being the spike was placed into the ground and the plate struck with a hammer to sink it. However the plate was indented in the middle; if looked from the side it would look like a V. There were two holes also punched in the plate, one on each side next to the V. Metal rods with a hook on the end would be placed in the holes, and the other spiked end placed in the ground. These were to guide the rocket, the indentation to accommodate the delta-shaped guiding fins. They were a pain to lug around, but could be set up in less than a minute, with a couple of different length guiding rods to help accommodate different ranges and the lay of the ground. The 4th Chaldean had twelve, each fork equipped with three rockets.

    Leo waited thirty seconds as they moved forward toward the crest, then held up his palm towards Kostandin. Up snapped a banner, diagonal black and red. ‘Hold’. The Romans were now riding south-south-west, their right flank facing Leo. Leo pointed his right fist at Kostandin, then lifted his wrist. The simamandator waggled the standard to the right once, and then left once. ‘Proceed with previous order’.

    The cannons slowly rolled to the top of the crest, two horses pulling and six men pushing, but the Muslims, now riding right in front of them, were too fixated on their quarry. The battery commander looked over each gun quickly, looked at Leo and stuck his left arm straight out, palm facing the tourmarch, and raised his forearm until it was parallel with the rest of his body. ‘All guns ready’.

    Leo smiled and then bellowed at the top of his lungs. “SAINT DEMETRIOS AND NO QUARTER!

    All four guns roared simultaneously, hurling their cannonballs down below. Leo could see them skipping along the ground, plowing into the ranks of horses at the height of their waists. The rocketeers ran forward, cresting the hill and slamming their forks’ spikes into the ground fifteen feet down on the reverse slope. A hammer strike on the plate, the rods placed, a rocket set, a fuse lit, and twelve rockets added their shriek, nicely covering Leo’s own release.

    The mauroi were at the crest now, hurling their bullets into the Muslims, now roiling in confusion as their ‘quarry’ wheeled around and counter-charged…and four hundred Owais riders slammed into their rear.

    * * *
    Leo walked through the carnage, disemboweled horses lying atop men with their legs and faces blown off. Some of them were still alive, bleeding out through their wounds. Flies were gathering in great clouds to feed and phalanxes of vultures were gathering. The sun had dipped behind Yosifon, the western horizon a sheet of blood. It was doubtful any of the enemy wounded would survive the night. It would probably be a mercy to kill them now. Those vultures do not look inclined to wait until they’re dead. Therefore they would not be killed, save for those with golden teeth. Several of the Owais were picking their way through in search of such boons. Ottoman regulars might have been treated with some respect, but bashi-bazouk vermin get none, for they deserve none.

    About half the enemy force escaped the jaws of his trap because of their smallness, which was disappointing, but even the number destroyed outnumbered his entire command by three to two. It’s a start.

    He had lost sixteen men.
  • General Response: Malta is Roman; that’s a map error on my part.
    Castile is significantly more powerful than Al-Andalus now but is both getting more involved in overseas due to the union with Portugal and in the rest of Europe. I used the term ‘Spanish Road’ in the update I’m writing now. Also despite a huge size disparity Granada was able to put up a huge fight against Ferdinand and Isabella, thanks to excellent defensive terrain. The Guadalquivir, the backbone of Al-Andalus, isn’t as good of defensive terrain as Granada, which the Andalusi still own, but the resource disparity with Castile isn’t as bad as the OTL Granadines’ one.
    You can check my signature for how far the story-only thread is. Right now it is updated till 1578.

    1600: Egypt and Ethiopia have been the center stage for a time but neither Syria, Armenia, nor Azerbaijan have been silent. In southern Georgia there have been no great battles but numerous skirmishes and sieges as Iskandar slowly grinds down the various Georgian fortresses. Konstantin Safavid has been reluctant to commit the full field army of Georgia, somewhat intimidated by Iskandar’s victories. But so long as it remains a force-in-being Iskandar is forced to move slowly and cautiously, keeping his forces concentrated. Persian supply difficulties are enhanced by raiding parties of Alan and Kalmyk cavalry plus Cossack attacks on Mazandaran.

    Konstantin is further encouraged in his delaying tactics by the news in Syria. Open warfare between the Persian and Roman Empires has led to a mass influx of ghazis from all over the Muslim world to Iskandar’s standards eager to fight the desecrators of Mecca. Some of them the Shah incorporates into his army but most stubbornly refuse to submit to Iskandar’s discipline. Interestingly it is almost a direct copy of Andreas Niketas’ rule for his soldiers, which combines good and fair treatment with merciless punishment when its precepts are transgressed.

    Iskandar has no use for men who will not follow orders in field engagements. Throwing them at Georgian walls has its attractions but the ghazis are not so inclined. Their aspirations tend towards the raiding and pillaging. Unable to control them, Iskandar lets them loose on Roman Syria where their depredations arouse the full fury of the Roman populace. Buried memories of the Time of Troubles come to the surface and the war is fought on both sides with no mercy.

    That said, the Roman forces, both regulars and the better militias, often differentiate between Ottoman soldiers and the irregular ghazis, although this is largely based on the theater and if in doubt the decision usually errs on “kill them all”. Near Edessa and Amida it is mostly Ottoman regulars, further west the ghazis. The former when captured have a good chance of being imprisoned but are decently treated (by the standards of the day) and are subject to prisoner exchanges. The ghazis, viewed as brigands, are slaughtered on sight. Overall the regular Ottoman soldiery are not dismayed by this. Like the Shah, they have nothing for contempt for the ghazis who are zealous in attacking women and children but run screaming in terror when the first column of Roman soldiers pitches into their lines.

    The ghazis have made three attempts to stand up to the tagmata in open battle, encouraging themselves with tales of the centuries of raids their ancestors had launched upon Anatolia in the days of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. But those times are past and light cavalry has no business charging ranks of gun infantry and cannon batteries; they are slaughtered. The high death tolls however lull the Romans into thinking that the Ottomans have shot their bolt, much to the annoyance of the Georgians. Thinking the Syrian front is secure the Romans have put their efforts into quelling the revolt.

    Ottoman supplies, advisors, and a few troops have made their way to support the rebels but with troops heavily engaged in Azerbaijan and Transoxiana the Shah cannot spare too many. Without that expected aid the rebels have been ground down since Roman troops arrived in the area. Bedouin raids in the early stages were key to keeping the rebels isolated and uncoordinated, allowing the regulars to deal with each pocket piecemeal.

    By this time the process is complete except for a few insignificant backwaters. However the countryside, while conquered, is hardly pacified. With close to two hundred and fifty thousand dead or enslaved there are still over eleven hundred thousand Sunni Arabs in the Syrian provinces whose silence can only be secured by direct military force.

    The Roman government is unsure how to resolve the situation. The Arabs are far more resistant to Romanization than any of the other peoples of the Empire. Unlike the Bulgarians or Albanians they have not had centuries of exposure to Roman culture and a common faith. The Anatolian Turks developed their societies under the shadow of the Empire even as they were raiding it. The Arabs however developed their culture and faith under no such shadow and it is strong and vibrant. Though Damascus and Jerusalem are barred to them, mosques and madrasas in Shaizar and Homs still are frequently endowed and attended, never mind the continuing influx from beyond the Imperial frontiers.

    The seemingly obvious solution would be toleration on the part of the Romans, the stance taken towards the Anatolian Muslims. However the Romans do not see the situations as comparable. The Anatolian Muslims are largely Romanized, although in eastern Anatolia it is more of a mix, and thus letting them follow their customs is not so jarring to the concept of a unitary empire.

    Andreas Niketas after conquering the Mamelukes had aimed to allow the Muslims to follow their own laws amongst themselves. The problem quickly arose that Muslim law also regulates interaction between Muslims and peoples outside Islam. In a court case in Jaffa a Muslim man was accused of raping a Jewish girl of fourteen, the victim’s mother, brother, and a next-door neighbor bearing testimony against him. The Muslim claimed that according to Muslim law a Jew could not bring evidence against a Muslim in court, therefore their accusations were invalid even though all saw at least parts of the assault. The judge’s response was that such a defense was fit ‘merely for wiping my ass for making such a mockery of justice and reason’.

    Andreas was in Jerusalem and heard of this. Absolutely enraged he stormed down to Jaffa where the man had been found guilty. Taking the executioner’s place he personally cut the man’s head off and for spite had him buried with the corpse of a pig. The ensuing riot was answered with gunfire.

    In the minds of the Roman administration this incident drew more attention than it should because of the active participation of Andreas but it goes a long way to explaining the mindset of Roman bureaucrats. Viewed as troublesome, treacherous, and the sort of people who when given an inch then demand a mile and then treated accordingly, the Muslims of Syria and Palestine have largely become that. In such conditions only the stick is viewed as acceptable.

    To provide security, Roman authorities are looking for alternative sources of manpower. The result is some creative solutions. The Syrian/Jacobite Christians, though not in communion with Constantinople, have been largely left alone minus the payment of a few extra taxes and sumptuary restrictions. As a result they have a largely neutral attitude towards the Romans. However the Romans are not trying to kill them unlike ghazis who care nothing for the intricacies of Christian communions.

    Helena thus proposes to abandon all the sumptuary restrictions and the taxes save a ten percent surcharge, thus promoting them to a similar level as the Greek Muslims of Caria. In exchange they will provide militia troops to secure the Muslim countryside. Seeing a way to secure their villages and lighten their taxes, they accept.

    Encouraged, Helena extends the same offer to the Maronites, Alawites (both concentrated in Lebanon), Druzes, and Ismailis (concentrated in the Jaffa-Ashkelon-Gaza area since the late 1300s after fleeing Timur’s armies-the minorities left behind in the Beqaa and Hauran have been largely slaughtered by the Sunnis in the Time of Troubles and the survivors have suffered immensely in the current revolt as well), all of whom are willing to accept the offer. Manning small garrisons at towns, bridges, and hilltop forts with Christian Bedouins to provide countryside patrol work, the initiative is quite successful at freeing up Roman manpower. It does nothing to soothe Sunni discontent.

    In Constantinople though there is considerable concern over these concessions to religious minorities, especially when it is rumored that Helena is considering presenting the proposal to the Jews of the Syrian theme (she is not). Even Demetrios is skeptical of these initiatives, fearing that they will earn God’s enmity.

    Helena replies that they are going to burn in hell for eternity anyway, so persecuting them in this life is just pointless cruelty. ‘It has been given to our authority to command and order their bodies, punishing them for crimes of the flesh. However it is solely the prerogative of God to judge and punish their souls. By attacking them for their faith, we are laying charges against them because of the sins of their soul, which is not within our purview. Let us look to our tasks, which are more than enough for our efforts, rather than try to infringe on the works of God.’ She also follows it up by pointing out that if the desire is to gain conversions, following a ‘Latin style’ of torment is unlikely to go over well as the history of the Orthodox Church and Empire can attest.

    There are some exceptions to Helena’s rhetoric. Catholics and non-Anatolian/Greek Sunni Muslims should not be allowed to live in the Empire unperturbed by restrictions. There are a great many polities sharing their faiths. As such, their loyalty to the Empire will always be questionable. By treating them well the Romans could be harboring ‘a snake in their bosom with a bite that could fell the Empire’. The ‘bite’ of the minor groups favored by Helena’s recent actions is too small to be considered a threat as it cannot be backed by co-religionist foreign powers.

    Such arguments are enough to quiet most of those questioning Helena’s actions. The Metropolitan of Smyrna weighs in on her side, asserting that ‘to consider the sword or the whip to be a tool by which the souls of men can be brought to the light of God is nothing less than one of the foulest heresies of the Latins, the product of a brutish mind, a devilish fallacy created by Satan to bring dishonor and shame upon the Church.’

    Demetrios is calmed knowing that his mother has no intention of ‘favoring’ Catholics or Muslims. The ‘petty faiths’ to which she has reached out are small concerns to him, focused on the titans of Catholicism and Islam. However he does ask his mother’s intentions towards the Jews. Helena replies that she sees no reason to alter the current arrangement. Jews have to live in ghettoes and pay some extra taxes (higher than the new rates for the ‘petty faiths’), but unlike in Western Europe are not forced to wear an identifying mark or have occupations officially barred to them. ‘The Jews are industrious artisans and merchants, but their military capabilities are minimal at best. To use them as soldiers would be an inefficient use of them.’
    1600 Map
  • Here's a map. I'll respond to the other posts later when I get a chance.

    Map Legend:​
    1) Kingdom of Lotharingia​
    2) Kingdom of Aragon​
    3) Kingdom of Arles​
    4) Counties of Saluzzo and Nice​
    5) Republic of Genoa​
    6) Kingdom of Lombardy​
    7) Duchy of Florence and Commune of Pisa (pink in corner)​
    8) Commune of Siena​
    9) Papal States​
    10) Duchy of the Marche​
    11) Duchies of Ragusa and Split (Roman vassals)​
    12) Despotate of Sicily​
    13) Despotate of Carthage​
    14) Taking a vacation in Bermuda​
    15) Territories ceded to the Megas Kyr Anizzah at the Treaty of Van​
    16) Kingdom of Prussia​
    17) Kingdom of Poland​
    18) Kingdom of Vlachia​
    19) Kingdom of Majorca-Sardinia (Kingdom of the Isles)​
    20) Despotate of Egypt​
    21) Georgian territories currently occupied by Ottomans​
  • “Three miles from the city limits of Khlat is a small grouping of Anatolian pine (OTL Turkish pine) known as the Children’s Grove. There on April 13, 1546, soldiers from the 19th Janissary Orta hanged thirty one starving locals, male and female, nine of them Kurdish Muslims, for stealing food from an Ottoman supply wagon. The oldest was fifteen; the youngest was six. The most any one of them managed to steal was a seven-year-old girl who had a one-pound barley loaf and six-ounce block of cheese when caught. The younger ones, too light to have their necks snapped when dropped, choked to death over a period of twenty to thirty minutes.

    “Starting in 1602 on the anniversary of the hangings, the dignitaries of Khlat, including the Kephale, walk to the grove carrying a meal for the children and lay it to rest at the base of the trees, after which an Orthodox priest, an Armenian priest, and an imam pray for their souls. Even today, it is highly recommended that Persians not be in Khlat on April 13.”-Excerpt from Driven into the Arms of the Romans: A Cultural Guide to the Van Kephalates

    1601: The Romans and Ottomans have been at war with each other for several years now but both sides have not put a great deal of effort into battling each other. Both Empires have been distracted along other fronts, Rhomania with the Muslim revolts and Persia with the activities of Central Asian khanates. However the Muslim revolts have been crushed and a Persian garrison is now ensconced in Khiva. The Emir of Ferghana still harasses the frontier but it was Khiva that was the major threat.

    Although Rhomania still has forces active in North Africa, the Empires are now in a position to concentrate against each other. In Georgia the fighting has devolved, for the moment, into a series of probes and raids across the River Aras which divides the Ottoman and Georgian positions. Both sides acquit themselves well but the War Room suspects Iskandar is conducting a holding action here to keep the Georgians in place so he can concentrate on Syria.

    Furthermore there are reports that Iskandar is trying to make a separate peace with Georgia fixing the frontier at the Aras. Constantinople does not want that as it will give the Persians direct across to the kephalates around Lake Van, making for a far more serious Persian threat to Roman Armenia.

    To mollify the annoyed Georgians and to ensure they stay in the fight, Helena finally agrees to Konstantin Safavid’s proposal. It is surprising he has waited twelve years but the prize is a big one. In Tbilisi on July 1 he weds the widowed Queen Sophia Drakina while his son Vahktang marries Sophia’s seventeen-year-old daughter Anna. While relationships between the older couple are cordial but cool, the Roman ambassador notes that the younger bride and groom look quite well together and seem happy.

    Six weeks later two Roman armies, one basing out of Aleppo and another from Edessa, converge on the Sanjak of Al-Jazira. The Army of Aleppo is made up of the Chaldean tagma and the Varangoi while the Army of Edessa consists of the Thrakesian tagma and the Athanatoi. Although fairly small, both are well supplied, equipped for both speed and firepower, and tasked with conquering the border regions sold to Timur II in the treaty of Van.

    Their goal is to begin a broad-front offensive against Mesopotamia with the long-term objective of wresting the province from Ottoman control. The White Palace has no desire to retain said territory but its possession would be a good trade to induce Iskandar to return the Georgian territories south of the Aras. Furthermore it would be a good opportunity to thoroughly wreak this province which contributes so much to the Shah’s coffers and manpower pool even though it is no longer the political center of the Ottoman domain.

    To help coordinate the offensive the War Room sets up a branch office in Antioch where it immediately proves its worth. Further east is the Roman Army of Amida, comprised of the Opsikians and Skolai, comparable in capabilities to the other two armies. Its initial objective was Duhok, capital of a sanjak of the same name, which has been in Ottoman hands almost continually for three centuries. The ancient city, although flattened by Timur, has revived into a respectable metropolis of 12,000 souls, including 1500 Assyrian Christians, famed for the quality of the qadis educated there.

    However the War Room-East receives reports of an Ottoman raid-in-force. Storming the Bitlis pass, eleven thousand Ottoman cavalry and mounted infantry poured into the kephalates along the western and northern shores of Lake Van. There are several small kastra to serve as strongholds but their garrisons are far too small to take the field against the Ottoman army. However the Persians, running lightly armed for greater speed, do not have the artillery to take more than a handful of the forts. The ones taken do yield a rich harvest in prisoners, livestock, and other valuables.

    Aside from the kastra the larger towns of the districts are fortified but the raiders nevertheless bag a rich haul from the undefended villages. An attempt to seize the Armenian Catholicos on Akdamar Island in Lake Van however is foiled by the three light Roman galleys stationed on the lake. They have the highly annoying habit of appearing out of nowhere whenever an Ottoman troop gets with cannon range of the lake and shelling them.

    The raiders remain for fourteen days before heading out with a long train of captives said to outnumber the soldiers almost three to one, along with huge herds of sheep and a pile of provisions. Included in the loot is the seed corn. Those who escaped enslavement will likely face starvation come next year which was the point.

    Part of the reason for the departure is that there is little left to loot outside a fortification. The other is that resistance is getting increasingly hot. Caught off balance the locals put up almost no resistance the first three days but that quickly changed. Many of the kastra garrisons sallied out to destroy isolated parties, some of the soldiers staying to help organize and lead vigilante groups of the local Armenians and Kurds.

    Despite Ottoman expectations that the Kurds would support them as fellow Muslims, the Kurds are at the forefront of the fighting. The Kurds do not show any particular affection for the Imperial government and much of what they do show is an afterglow from Andreas Niketas. But even those who are orthodox Sunni Muslims (a minority-most are of the syncretic type typical of eastern Anatolia) absolutely despise the Ottomans.

    The Kurds have suffered much at the hands of the Ottomans, whether from irregular Turkoman raiders or line troops, and they are not a people inclined to forgive. Tens of thousands starved as the Ottoman offensives in the Time of Troubles requisitioned all their food and thousands more are buried in unmarked mass graves, Eastern Anatolian raiders executed by Ottoman troops for attacking their only sources of food, Ottoman supply convoys. In Khlat a Kurdish imam opened his small mosque to a party of Janissaries but when they kneeled to pray he pulled out a grenade and threw it into the room.

    By the time the Ottomans withdraw they are not being harassed solely by local forces. A flying column from the Theodosiopolis garrison is in action snapping at stragglers. Joining them are Helvetian contingents. Swiss and Germans recruited to work as miners and militia in the Taurus and Anti-Taurus Mountains, they are the Roman variant of the Nile Germans.

    Despite their long stay and the heavy resistance the Ottomans do not expect to see any large regular formations. Ignorant of the scope of the Roman forces massed around Amida they assume the Army of Edessa is the closest major body. It is highly unlikely it would be able to get moving in time to intercept the Ottoman column, even in its heavily-loaded state.

    The poor showing of the Romans at Ras al-Ayn and al-Hasakah, plus their dilatoriness in northern Syria the past year, have been a major boon to Ottoman morale. There was much concern over facing a rich powerful enemy who had conjured up so many great captains. The two defeats though argued that the heirs of Andreas Niketas and Andreas Drakos had gone soft in the long years of peace since the Time of Troubles.

    The White Palace and War Room might not agree with the extent of the Ottoman argument but do acknowledge it has a point. Much of the past year has been spent in reorganizing the army, primarily in retiring old senior officers and bringing in fresh blood. Officers that may have been deadly eikosarchoi in the Time of Troubles do not necessarily make for strong strategoi after rusting their blades for fifty years.

    The establishment of a War Room-Antioch was another mean to sharpen the army’s teeth. With their experience the officials are a major boon to the logistics of the various armies. Supplied with a huge number of mounts, the three armies field unexpectedly large numbers of mounted infantry and the greater number of artillery horses mean the train is faster as well. Supplying fodder is a nightmare even for the War Room officers and the advantage is guaranteed to disappear at an alarmingly fast rate, but the initial advantage is not to be discounted.

    The greater speed of the Army of Amida, plus the early warning relayed by the Skopoi and coordinated by the War Room, mean that the Ottomans are sorely surprised when they emerge from the Bitlis pass heading south. The Army of Amida is drawn up into full battle array. In perfect order, fifteen thousand men marching in step, banners flying, bands playing, they advance on the Ottomans, the forward cannons adding their notes to the gathering symphony.

    The Ottomans are completely surprised. Lightly equipped they have a decent chance of getting away if they flee immediately. However the shock combined with a reluctance to abandon all their loot stalls the argument for flight. The delay is fatal. To call the following engagement a battle is stretching the word. It lasts only fifty minutes, the Ottomans taking 3600 casualties to 510 Romans.

    It is a tremendous victory, helping to wipe out the shame of al-Hasakah. The wreckage of the Ottoman army, and to use that term for what is left is to abuse it as well, is scattered. Unlike the Romans many of the contingents do not readily reform at their original base of operations. Furthermore the entire train of captives is liberated, along with all of the baggage train. To the exultant cheers of the Van population they are returned.

    Eastern Anatolia has often been the object of neglect on the part of the Roman government, with the exception of the military sphere. Poor, rugged, with few cities (and by the standards of the western Aegean quite lame ones) and the attendant luxuries, the inhabitants have not had the governmental attention received by the Aegean basin. In some ways this is an advantage; tax auditors are considerably thicker on the ground out west.

    However the involvement of the Roman government since the days of Anna I Laskarina in building up infrastructure, buildings roads, mills, mines, forges, markets, and harbor facilities have done much to establish the immense prosperity of the region. The East meanwhile has gotten fortifications, bridges, and roads, and the latter two were designed with military, not economic, objectives in mind. More isolated from the cultural and economic pull of Roman civilization, the inhabitants have been affected by it less.

    This is not to say the inhabitants are disloyal, but the general attitude toward the Imperial government inclines more to indifference than approval. Anti-Ottoman animus and the fond memory of Andreas Niketas help counter this to some extent, but not fully. The battle of the Bitlis Pass does much to change that. Theodora exaggerates when she says it ensured the loyalty of the Armenians (meaning the followers of the Armenian Church, not the ethnicity) and Kurds for all time. But by the end of the year there are more Kurds in the Roman army rolls than ever in history, even when the Shatterer of Armies himself led the tagmata into battle.
  • Arrix85: Amida is part of the Roman Empire. I apologize for not noticing that on your first map; I know I've been vague about the exact borders.

    1602: The Roman advance has been slow, cautious, and methodical, but attended everywhere by victory. The old battlegrounds of Ras al-Ayn and al-Hasakah have both been taken. While the town of Ras al-Ayn survives the conquest, the village of al-Hasakah, smaller, poorer, and more shameful, is wiped off the face of the map.

    Although emotionally satisfying, these are minor tokens. The major citadel of Mardin has fallen after a hard-fought siege but with Stefanos Monomakos in command the issue was in little doubt. The ancient towns of Dara and Nisibis, who have seen these sights many times before but now far declined from their heights a thousand years ago, are also taken. Of little consequence strategically, Theodora’s prose takes a shine in her account of these venerable sites once more paying homage to Constantinople.

    Lacking antiquarian grandeur but far more important on the ground is the capture of Duhok, a ‘pretty little sapphire in the crown of the Shah’. The Army of Amida marches with pride, its banners emblazoned with the battle honors of Bitlis, Mardin, and Duhok. The three great victories won in the last campaign have been won by their arms. (The return of the eagle standards in an antiquarian phase at the beginning of Helena’s reign have been disbanded, the army returning to the traditional banners.)

    These are no mean achievements, but it is hoped that these are only the prelude of far greater things. The War Room has its sights on a prize greater than all those taken thus far combined. Duhok may be a ‘pretty little sapphire’ but Mosul is a dazzling diamond. It is the fifth largest city in the Ottoman Empire, thirty five thousand souls, behind only Baghdad, Hamadan, Rayy, and Basra. (Incidentally the fifth largest city in the Roman Empire is Nicaea which has double Mosul’s population.)

    The food situation has improved in northern Syria and eastern Anatolia. Improved local harvests help significantly, the War Room has worked out some snags that had hampered imports from Thrakesia such as a staggeringly inadequate quantity of hoops and barrel staves, and quantities of Egyptian grain are now available. The result is that the War Room is feeling ambitious on a scale unimaginable just three years earlier.

    Considering the improved logistics the War Room commits the Optimatic and Macedonian tagmata to offensive operations as well, designated the Army of the Euphrates. The plan is for four separate armies (one Macedonian tourma is detached and assigned to Aleppo, Edessa, and Amida each to even the sizes out) to broadly sweep down Mesopotamia, flattening all opposition.

    While the Ottomans can bring to bear armies far larger than any of the four armies individually the Roman forces are large enough to handle themselves on the defensive quite well and they are close enough for mutual support. The arrangement is similar to the Roman advance into Mesopotamia during the War for Asia but the logistics here are significantly better. Barges are assembled to transport supplies down the twin rivers and all the armies are amply equipped with bridging equipment.

    In support of the main body are militia contingents to secure supply lines, bridges, and fortifications, drawn both from the Orthodox troops of northern Syria and Cilicia and the ‘armed minorities’ of Lebanon. The Anizzah are there in force as well, both herding the vast flocks of sheep that follow Roman armies and working as forward scouts. The herds are a frequent Roman method of securing fresh provisions that has the advantage of some mobility. They are also useful, in the event of a reverse, in distracting ill-disciplined enemy troops in search of plunder.

    It is a very formidable force and it is not alone. Now that the Romans are on the offensive Stefanoz also moves to the attack, thirty thousand Georgian troops fording the River Aras. To the east an immense Cossack host, the largest assembled to date, has taken to the boats. Crossing the Caspian to Baku where they link up with Georgian reinforcements, they fall upon lush Mazandaran, the ‘garden of the Shahs’.

    The Ethiopians have, on paper, been at war with the Ottomans for some time now but the historian is hard pressed to find any mention of actual fighting. This is partly due to Ethiopian exhaustion, the need to rebuild their armed forces, and to put down any lingering inclinations to revolt. Tewodros has broken up the old kingdom of Majerteen into six separate provinces whose governors report directly to him. Even the loyal neguses are unnerved by this as it sets a precedent for dismantling their own positions.

    The other reason is that it is extremely difficult to attack the Persian Gulf when one is basing out of Zeila or Surat. Although the Omani were willing to act against their Yemeni rivals, the Ottomans are a different matter. This is not because the Omani care for the Ottomans more. They have more than once laid their covetous eyes on Muscat itself, Bahrain has traded hands at least a half dozen times since the mid-1300s, and the Wilayah of Hormuz is viewed as an intolerable affront in the halls of Persia.

    However at this time Shahanshah Iskandar is being hailed as the champion of Islam, an appellation the Yemeni, with their habit of overcharging hajj pilgrims, never gained. To openly side with the desecrators of Mecca against the victor of al-Hasakah would bring upon the Omani the opprobrium of the entire Muslim world, which naturally gives them pause.

    That said on a purely political level the Romans and Ethiopians seem to be far better allies than any other the Omani can gain, and the former is the only potential counter to the Ottomans. That is the factor that wins out now that the Omani fleet has been completely revamped. Although the five galleons are on the smaller side by European standards, the thirty seven new fregatai make for an extremely potent fighting force. With such a fleet Oman is the number three naval power in the western Indian Ocean after the Portuguese and Romans (Vijayanagar is number 4 but mainly active in the east, the Dutch and Triune fleets now trading in the ports of western India make for numbers 5 and 6) and her forces are more concentrated.

    The Omani enter the fray with a fierce attack on Bahrein, whose garrison falls in eight days although not without inflicting serious losses on its assailants. Reinforced by twenty Ethiopian and Roman warships, the Persians towns of Bandar Ganaveh, Delvar, and Asaluyeh are all taken and sacked. Unfortunately these settlements are of no economic or military value while the cities of Bushehr and Gamrun (OTL Bandar Abbas) beat off their attacks. The failure to seize Gamrun, strategically situated next to the island Wilayah of Hormuz, is a discouraging blow to the Omani.

    It is not the only failure of the coalition. Iskandar has been laid up in his capital with a serious fever but news on the assault nevertheless rouses him from his sickbed. Commanding his army, outnumbered almost three to one, from a litter, he “astounds the world by his audacity”, in the words of Leo Neokastrites, by launching an assault on the Cossack host at Juybar. Outmaneuvered and surprised the Cossacks are overrun and utterly defeated, the Host crippled for at least a generation to the discomfort of the Megas Rigas, who would sorely need that military strength.

    In the western Mediterranean, progress against the Barbary corsairs is painfully slow. At sea the Roman fleet is operating in force, however the bulk including the great ships are basing out of Trapani, Malta, and Carthage, too distant to be of much use off the hostile and rugged coast of Algeria. Smaller squadrons operating from Tabarka and Minorca, leasing dock space from the Hospitaliers, are more effective, but limited by numbers and the difficulty of maintaining supplies, particularly at Tabarka, which geographically is by far the most useful base.

    The difficulties at sea are mirrored by those on land. Coastal conquests are garrisoned largely by Sicilian and Carthaginian troops, with Sicilians making up about three-quarters. A few Sicilian tourmai also operate in the field with the Roman troops. The Sicilians are highly welcome reinforcements, with their tourmai comparable in quality to Roman formations, albeit with a much smaller artillery support.

    Nevertheless the Romans are vastly outnumbered and no troops can be spared from the Persian front. The rugged terrain and extremely limited transport capabilities limits Roman forays to the coast with the result that enemy resources in the interior are left untouched and unmolested. Furthermore there is a strong feeling amongst the soldiers and many of the officers that the offensive in North Africa has no coherent plan or goal, that it is just ‘doing something for the sake of doing something’. It is painfully inadequate to subdue the whole Barbary Coast, or even a respectable fraction. Naturally this does not encourage them.

    The Berbers are not the only foes of Rhomania in these parts. The directives to seize Triune merchantmen in reprisal for Guernsey are still in effect. Henry, who did not take kindly to the threat, authorized his own ships to attack Roman ships in the Atlantic and western Mediterranean. This was not as serious as it sounded. After all Guernsey had been caused by Triune pirates attacking Roman ships without permission. Theodora sarcastically but accurately describes it as ‘the Triune port officials no longer have to frown before clearing the prizes when they are brought into harbor’.

    The result has been an intermittent quasi-war between the Romans and Triunes. Merchantmen have attacked merchantmen and warships have attacked merchantmen but thus far there have been no warship vs. warship actions. Furthermore only a small fraction of encounters, perhaps a fifth, have escalated into hostilities. Most times both parties prefer to continue on their ordinary business.

    That is not the case on August 9th. The Roman fregata Clio is cruising off Monaco, awaiting an expected convoy. At 11:00 it appears on the horizon, four large galleons, and the Clio immediately makes for the attack. Her captain, Alexios Thaumaturgos, has been one of the most successful fregata captains in the Roman navy, responsible for capturing or destroying ten corsair and seven Triune ships. He plans to grab another ship or two and then repair to Messina. The Sicilians have a dry dock there and Clio’s bottom is overdue for a cleaning.

    However the convoy is escorted by the Sparrowhawk, a new frigate captained by Thomas Stott. It is a fine vessel, with six more cannons than Clio, eighteen-pounders to Clio’s fourteen-pounders, and sporting the new innovation of a ship’s wheel, making her much easier to maneuver. One of the Triune galleons masked the Sparrowhawk from the Clio on her approach but soon Thomas pulls ahead to engage the Clio.

    Recognizing the superiority of his opponent, Alexios turns about and attempts to flee. The Triune however has the advantage in speed as well as armament and gradually begins to overtake the Roman, and it is a clear day with no squalls to hide the Clio. At about 1410 Alexios shouts his famous order, “I’m not going to get run down by an Englishman! Hard to port!”

    Calling his opponent an Englishman is not a rhetorical flourish on Alexios’s part. The stereotype is that the French comprise the Triune Army and the English the navy. That is not completely true but close, as three-quarters of the Army is French and three-quarters of the Navy English. Furthermore units, based on territorial districts, and ships, largely recruited from the seamen of a particular district, are often wholly English or French. It is the same for the Irish, who mainly join the army. The Sparrowhawk is one of the wholly English ships.

    Thomas is surprised by Alexios’s move but quickly recovers, turning so that the battle develops into a broadside gunnery duel. The battle between the Clio and the Sparrowhawk, fought with broadside cannons which roll back on the recoil to be reloaded within a few minutes, is the new face of naval warfare. The Sparrowhawk quickly gains the advantage but the Clio is not about to go down cheaply, hammering the frigate’s hull while snipers posted in the rigging cut down everyone in sight.

    Whether intentionally or accidentally, the Clio hauls over a couple of points and slams into the side of the Sparrowhawk, both sides boarding. The Englishmen have a significant advantage in numbers but that helps the Roman grenades to reap a fruitful harvest. Sharks converge on the scene as blood flows down into the water, attacking everyone unfortunately enough to fall.

    Finally the English gain the upper hand and Lieutenant William Rye, of the 2nd Yorkshire Tour of Foot, posted on the ship as marines, demands the surrender of Alexios. The dialogue, in Mare (a mix of Greek, some Italian dialects, Provencal, Catalan, and Algerian, the lingua franca of Mediterranean mariners), is as follows:

    William: I must ask for your surrender, sir, to stem this effusion of blood.

    Alexios: I am not at liberty to do that.

    William: Sir, I am afraid I must insist.

    Alexios: This ship was given to me by the Empress. It is not in my power to give it up to another.

    William: I understand, sir. May God grant you peace.

    Alexios: Thank you, my good man.

    A moment later William shoots Alexios dead. A few minutes after that the rest of the Romans surrender. Casualties on both sides have been enormous, about half of the Romans and two-fifths of the English. Once the wounded have been taken care of to the best of the abilities of both the English and Roman surgeons and the sharks driven off with musket fire, the dead of both sides are buried with full military honors.

    The Sparrowhawk with her captives and the Clio limp into Monaco, where the OoB agent in the Grimaldi court immediately sends word to Trapani. Unfortunately for the Romans the three fregatai sent to blockade the harbor are two days late and Thomas Stott makes a clean getaway.

    The Triunes take pride in their victory, but the Romans too are not dismayed. The valor and skill with which the crew of the Clio fought and the irreproachable conduct of her captain cannot be looked upon with shame. Emperor Henry himself pays tribute to Alexios, calling him “a great man, who did not hesitate to do his duty to the utmost and to ensure the honor and dignity of his sovereign.” The Romans have lost a ship but they have gained a hero. It is not a bad trade in the eyes of many.
    The Flowering: An Interlude, Part 1
  • ImperatorAlexander: It wouldn’t be easy and we are talking about a generations-long process, but imagine how difficult it would have been for the British to drive the French out of India if the inhabitants of the Carnatic identified themselves as French.
    DracoLazarus: It wouldn’t have to be the Arletians, but it would have to be a western Mediterranean power. So long as Rhomania has to deal with even a halfway credible Iraq/Iran polity, it doesn’t have the power to decisively intervene in North Africa. It could back a Sicilian effort and even provide significant financial and logistical support. However sending an army of 50,000, which is likely the amount needed, to secure the Maghreb isn’t an option.
    Roman treatment of Muslims: The Romans brought the Muslim revolt during the Time of Troubles upon themselves, but by this point there is too much bad blood between the Romans and Levantine Sunnis. The Romans won’t trust the Sunnis with free hands as then the Sunnis could stab them, although the way the Romans have treated them it wouldn’t be unwarranted.
    The Romans trust the ‘petty faiths’ as they are too small and weak to be a threat, need Roman protection against the Sunnis, and have no foreign powers that share their faith to whom they can appeal. The Sunnis fail on all three counts. But I will agree that Andreas Niketas’s conquest of the Mamelukes was a general disaster for Roman-Muslim relations.
    Frustrated Progressive: However Iskandar is also a warrior Komnenid Emperor, and the last two, Demetrios Megas and Andreas Niketas, died of old age.
    I’ve never given much thought to what exactly they look like, but something similar to regimental colors.
    JohnSmith: He has one, a daughter also named Helena, who is married but has no issue as of yet. She has only gotten a couple of offhand mentions so far.
    Demetrios and the Succession: Demetrios is a mediocre Emperor at best, but the Triumvirate is determined at all costs that another Time of Trouble be averted. For that a clear and stable succession is absolutely important and that is why the hammer was dropped so hard on Andreas ‘III’. The precedent that any lucky general can grab the Imperial throne at sword point needs to die, now.
    Both Manzikert and Myriokephalon wouldn’t have been that bad for the Empire if they both had not been quickly followed by serious outbreaks of civil strife and succession disputes. Stupid Emperors are a serious problem, as the Angeloi clearly prove, but an orderly procession of mediocre rulers is arguably better than periodic free-for-alls that sometimes produce an Alexios Komnenos and sometimes an Alexios III Angelos.
    Demetrios only has one daughter, Helena the Younger, but she is a political and intellectual nonentity. If his line fails, the next in line is Helena’s eldest daughter Kristina. Her father-in-law is the Holy Roman Emperor.
    That said, the coming updates will start showing the transfer to the next generation of players.

    The Flowering of Rhomania: An Economic and Cultural Interlude,
    Part 1
    The Flowering is one of those common terms used (and abused) by historians and laymen alike, but with very little agreement on what precisely is the definition of the term. The most common and well-known usage is in political history, defining the period from the accession of Helena I to the beginning of the Eternal War. However in Roman economic and cultural history such a distinction makes little sense and is typically defined as the entirety of Helena’s reign.

    For all the fighting on the Imperial frontiers, a traveler in the Aegean basin c.1600 could easily be forgiven if they forgot Rhomania was at war. In the Aegean basin everywhere one could look they would find signs of prosperity, the long years of peace having reaped a huge bounty. Izmirli’s initial raid on the western Peloponnesus and his later and even bolder foray was a shock and embarrassment, but even the regions struck recovered quickly.

    In a pre-industrial society any economic discussion must begin by looking at the population. Between 1550 and 1620 the Empire’s population made an impressive rebound, passing 17 million by the end of the period. The Morea, Attica, Thessaly, and Opsikia were the main beneficiaries with Thrakesia, the Beautiful Province, and Chaldea as runner-ups. In the Helladic theme the number of towns with more than 7,000 inhabitants rose from nine to twenty.

    It was impressive but not unique, Germany after the Great Hungarian War and the Triple Monarchy after the 30 Years War made similar recoveries; all three empires suffered devastating and prolonged warfare on their soil but then enjoyed decades of peace afterwards. Russian political instability after the Great Northern War is a likely factor for why Russia did not enjoy the same boon.

    That said, Rhomania did gain an advantage over the two western empires by its greater patronage of immigrants. Estimations vary but it is believed that between three-quarters and one and a half million immigrants settled on Imperial soil (the estimate excludes Egypt, where the Nile Germans were the only group of significance, and Sicily, where general xenophobia discouraged settlement). The exact proportions are also debated but the historical consensus is that the order in prominence was Russians, Vlachs, Germans, and Castilians.

    Of those seventeen million, around 4.5 million lived in settlements with more than five thousand inhabitants. Constantinople at 320,000 was by far the largest city but its population was still comparable to its size two hundred years earlier, far short of the half-million on the death of Andreas Niketas. It should be pointed out though that the city was far healthier and safer than it had been a century earlier.

    Thessaloniki was half Constantinople’s size, Antioch slightly smaller. Smyrna was the city with the largest growth, passing 100,000 around 1600, an unparalleled height. Corinth meanwhile entered the list of major Roman metropolises with 40,000 inhabitants. Athens too was of a size likely unseen in a thousand years, but it fell far short of Corinth’s standards with 15,000 inhabitants, similar to Monemvasia and Mystra. To the east, Pergamon and Ephesos were ancient cities once again on the rise, whilst Sebastea had ten thousand inhabitants, its highest since Timur’s sack, when the city was twice as populous.

    Human and animal muscle is the main power sources for pre-industrial societies and Rhomania was no different. The increased population growth created increased production but the Empire during the Flowering saw increased production substantially beyond what could be expected from a demographic growth. The below figures all represent those increases beyond what can be explained merely by an increase in the labor pool. Naturally they should not be taken as exact figures but estimates.

    Between 1550 and 1620 almost every sector of Roman manufacturing saw increases. Iron mining production increased by 50% and copper by 30%, with smaller increases in lead and silver. Steel production, some made from blast furnaces using coke, grew by 60% and bronze by 40%. General wares made from all the metals increased by 85%, the shortfall made up by imports of Russian ingots. Shipbuilding grew by 45%, papermaking and printing by 120%, glassmaking by 50%, soap by 25%, coalmining by 40%, and ceramics, including porcelain chinaware, by 35%. Textiles, in wool, linen, silk, and cotton, far outshone the others, growing by 190%. Cotton was the biggest gainer, increasing by almost a factor of 6.

    One factor enabling this was the substantial growth in credit facilities, primarily the Imperial Bank. In 1620 it had offices in seventeen Imperial cities, plus branches in Messina and Carthage. As directed by its founding charter the Bank helped provide low-interest loans to those seeking to specialize in mining and textile production. The need both to maintain a strong armaments industry and to keep up with competing Latin and eastern textile works were the cause. The result had been to encourage innovation and improvements.

    What would be recognized as true factories, at least in the textile industry, were present in several Imperial cities by the end of the period although they varied substantially in size. The largest ones combined all the aspects of transforming the raw materials into cloth of all kinds, weaving, spinning, dying, and embroidering all taking place in different sections of the same complex. The largest factories even owned the factors in raw material production such as cotton plantations, mulberry groves, or sheep ranches, and sometimes even the transport, a textbook case of vertical integration.

    The biggest factories were in Constantinople, the Imperial factory employing 1500 and the Patriarchal 600 (the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria also owned textile factories but combined employed only 350 in 1620). The Patriarchal factory produced most of the clerical vestments and icon covers for the Empire but also exported some wares. Ironically some of the Cardinals of Rome’s vestments were made in the Patriarchal factory.

    Private factories were smaller, the largest around 400, but there were over sixty with 50 or more employees by 1620. There were textile workshops smaller than that and far greater in number but they typically did not combine the multiple functions of the factories, specializing in one task. Aside from purely household production, there was also the putting-out system of production, whereby factories sent the raw materials to be woven or spun at homes and then returned to the factory.

    This narrative holds true throughout the entire period, but a clear trend can be traced. By 1620, factories had quadrupled their share of production, although that growth clearly slowed after 1600. At first glance, this has the makings of an Industrial Revolution, but it must be pointed out that even in 1620 the factories’ share was probably no more than a quarter of the Empire’s total textile production.

    Still this often raises the question of why the Empire did not proceed further down the Industrial path rather than stalling at its 1620 level. One factor is the First World War which caused far more disruption to the Imperial heartland than the Eternal War.

    A more important factor however is again the Imperial Bank. Its charter, writ shortly after the Time of Troubles, emphasized mining, metallurgy, and textiles. Agriculture came second. The Empire, with its losses in population, had no issues with food production and as this period progressed Scythian and Egyptian grain became more and more plentiful and the great shipyards of Chaldea insured that transportation costs were quite low.

    Therefore there was no such incentive to improve agricultural practices. The Empire was more than capable of feeding itself, at least in good years, and exporting some produce (wine and olive oil exports grew by at least 25% in this period). Furthermore the only New World crop to make it in quantity to the Empire was cocoa, which could not be grown in the Empire anyway and was hardly the basis for a filling diet. There was some improvement, particularly in rice cultivation, but the lack of credit facilities significantly hampered serious growth. There was no proto-agricultural Revolution to support the proto-Industrial revolution, making large scale urbanization and industrialization impossible.

    Commerce and trade also grew substantially, although here it was paralleled by similar increases in Latin Europe. By 1575 the Roman merchant marine was the third largest in the world, with the Dutch in first and the Triunes second. Despite the sizeable increase in Roman shipbuilding and a comparable increase in ships registered to Roman owners, not to mention a large growth in the size of vessels, the order remained the same in 1620 and the proportions between the Dutch and Romans were almost identical in 1620 to their 1575 level.

    Increased credit facilities helped this increase and the growth in manufacturing likewise by giving Roman merchants valuable export material. The exception to this was some massive losses in eastern spice trade after the Great Uprising, although these were somewhat compensated by gains in other products. In 1620 the volume of cloves and pepper passing through Alexandria had dropped half of its 1590 levels, although cannabis was up by 15%, cinnamon by 25%, and kaffos by 30%. Mace and nutmeg imports, bolstered by direct Roman control of the Banda Islands, also were up by 50%. Nutmeg and mace per kilo were much more valuable than cloves or pepper but the far greater volume of the latter two made them more valuable market shares even with the lower profit per unit.

    Venetia suffered even more heavily than Alexandria, clove and pepper exports in 1620 a third of their levels thirty years earlier. It still remained an important port, the main conduit for Roman manufactures to Germany, but the benefits of improved cannabis and kaffos trade that compensated Alexandria did not make it to the Queen of the Adriatic as those items were absorbed by the Roman market.

    Another contributor to Roman commerce was a continuing development in Roman economic thought which had been gathering strength since the Laskarid period although Theodoros IV articulated it best. To put it into modern times, the Roman economy was moving away from a command toward a free market. By 1600 the list of Roman goods forbidden for export was practically eliminated.

    The main items had been Imperial-grade silks, which made the fortunes of many smugglers, and armaments to non-Christian powers, which was universally ignored by the eastern ship lords. Instead only the most advanced and newest makes of cannons were barred from export. It was a law still largely ignored by the ship lords but it nevertheless drastically weakened smuggling and the black market.

    The Roman government still intervened economically, since it was reasoned that a purely free market would be detrimental to the poor and it was the monarchy’s responsibility to secure their welfare. The government limited the maximum profit that could be gained on basic foodstuffs (grain, vegetables) to keep prices down for the lower classes but there was no price fixing.

    Other actions taken by the government was limiting loan interest rates to 17.5% and maintaining quality and health inspectors. The latter, whose duties included overseeing the Prostitutes’ Guild-inspected by female physicians-was responsible for keeping the outbreak of the French disease-syphilis-at a per capita rate half that of Latin Europe.

    Naturally the government also continued to enact taxes and port duties, but otherwise tried to let the market run its course. Theodoros IV likened the market to a pig that should be allowed to free-range forage so that it can grow large. A larger market yielded a larger cut for the government. Furthermore investment in commerce had lost all social stigmas, even the Triumvirate investing in trade. Money, along with Imperial titles/positions, were the elements that placed a person in Roman society, but what mattered was not how the money was gained but how much there was.

    As a pre-industrial society the main support of the Roman economy in this period was agricultural. However by the end of this period it is probable as much as 35-40% of the Empire’s GNP came from non-agricultural sectors, primarily trade and manufacturing. It was not such a radical feat for the Empire as its GNP in the 1100s from non-agricultural sources was possibly 25% (Angeliki Laiou, “Exchange and Trade, Seventh to Twelfth Centuries” in The Economic History of Byzantium, pg. 745).

    Although the Roman obsession with court ceremonial had been substantially curbed by the inclinations of the Great Komnenoi, the first three rulers of the Second Komnenid dynasty, the White Palace was still keen to showcase its wealth and power as prestige was an important component in diplomacy. One new method was the Ambassadorial Quarter, a series of palaces built for the use of resident foreign ambassadors and provided free of charge. The sumptuous décor and imperial largesse was impressive and also made it easier for the Office of Barbarians to spy on the ambassadors, an act of which the representatives were quite aware. Entry to the Quarter was effected through a large gateway, crowned by a stone arch. On that arch, writ in gold-gilded letters, in Latin, Castilian, Provencal, French, German, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, and Lombard, (note the lack of Orthodox tongues or Persian) were these words: We were already old when you were young, and we will be here long after you are gone.

    The new architecture was not just for the edification of foreigners. The Hall of History, which has an entrance connecting it directly to the waiting room that served the newest Imperial bedchamber, the Indian Sleep (called because of its architectural motifs based off eastern Roman designs), was finished in 1603. Princess Theodora oversaw the initial collection, a series of paintings and artifacts, including the Black Stone, dating back all the way to the Etruscans.

    On the cornerstone of the arch between the waiting room and the Hall of History, made from the green breccia of Thessaly, was writ in silver: A ruler who appoints any man to an office, when there is in his dominions another man better qualified for it, sins against God and against the state. The response to the Vicegerent of God, the Equal of the Apostles, taking advice from the Koran, was the first known use of the cliché ‘a broken clock is still right twice a day’.

    The most well-known display in the Hall of History was a new creation, a life-sized statue carved from Prokonnesian marble, of Andreas Niketas, which was stationed at the end of the hall adjacent to the exit. On the flat of his blade, a simple dirk, which faced the viewer’s right as he or she went through the doorway, was writ the most terrifying threat one can give a Roman. Know this, you who would rule my Empire and people. The day will come when you will have to answer to God for your deeds. And when he is finished then you will have to answer to me.
    The Flowering: An Interlude, Part 2
  • Spain and Portugal: It is very important to keep in mind that Castile and Portugal are not unified polities. They are in a personal union sharing a common monarch. The colonies and overseas Empire answer to Lisbon and to Felipe II as King of Portugal, but the Crown of Castile has no say in their administration. Castile has a small navy of galleons that are formidable in battle, but 90% of the Union's naval might comes from Portugal. As Evilprodigy pointed out I have always referred to the Portuguese in the east. This is why.

    Castile does provide significant resources for the Portuguese empire. Access to Castilian manufacturing and mineral resources makes it easier for the Portuguese to provide their ships with adequate supplies of items such as pots, nails, gunpowder, and cannons. Castilian manpower is also useful. Castile can't provide skilled seamen, but they can provide bodies that can serve as common seamen (how useful they are is an open question). Castilian soldiers on hire to the Crown of Portugal however provide the soldiers that serve on ships as marines and as outpost garrisons. Part of the reason Portugal is riding high in Bengal is that the minor native states cannot hope to stand up to a Castilian tercio.

    Also if anyone is paying attention to the teasers, I've decided to scrap 'The Dreams of Demetrios II'. The update, although it would have fleshed Demetrios II out, was rather superfluous otherwise and Demetrios II is mainly a transitional figure between the Triumvirate and the up and coming generation.

    The Flowering of Rhomania: An Economic and Cultural Interlude, Part 2
    The White Palace was not the only locale to see art and architecture patronized. The money generated by manufacturing, commerce, and agriculture funded substantial cultural achievements sponsored by less lofty but still wealthy persons. The Smyrna school of painting is the most well-known to the modern reader but the ‘Trebizond naturalism’ school had its start near the end of the period in question. Starting in 1603, the vast Imperial art collection was put on display for three weeks a year for public viewing, pending an entry fee.

    The patronization of churches and monasteries, a frequent pastime of the Roman wealthy, continued apace, encouraged by Demetrios II who had a few projects of his own. Aleppo, Acre, and Tyre, by the middle of the period wholly Christian and majority Greek, were the main sites of construction.

    In 1606 Corinth founded a university, the first new campus in over a century, recognition both of the city’s growing size and prosperity and an impressive increase in enrollment. After factoring for population growth, university enrollment rose by almost 50% during this period, with a similar rise in faculty numbers.

    The vast majority were from the mesoi, the middle class, the class that had gained the most in the expansion of commerce and industry. By 1620 around two-thirds of university students, from which the government recruited its officials, came from the ranks of the mesoi rather than the dynatoi.

    Another factor in enrollment was a general expansion of literacy across the Empire. Once again factoring in population growth, secondary school numbers grew 30% and elementary 50% (elementary and secondary in this context means the level and type of lessons taught and had no connection to the age of students), many of them staffed by university graduates who did not achieve a government position. The schools were all private schools in the modern sense, but some did receive a stipend or tax exemptions from the Imperial government or city councils.

    Not included in the above were the new army schools, which were maintained by the Imperial government to teach army and navy recruits how to read. In 1593 Helena issued an edict that all officers down to even the tetraches (corporal) would need to have basic literacy starting in 1603. After that date promotion beyond the basic trooper would require reading and writing skills. The army schools originally were just for soldiers but after petitions the government agreed to take on sons of soldiers as well even if they were not intended for a military career. For the soldiers the government provided school supplies but deducted their cost from their pay and even with the slight markup the ability of the government to buy in bulk and at the cheapest price meant that the cost for soldiers was minimal. It was the responsibility of the non-military students to procure their own equipment.

    A fraction, but a growing fraction, of the civilian schools, allowed female students as well. Mostly the girls were taught in a separate room by another teacher, usually male, although female students over the age of 12 typically had a female instructor in order to ‘reduce temptation and preserve the female virtue’. A few schools, owned and taught by women, were solely for female students.

    The rarest, but not unheard of by the end of the period, were schools that taught females and males in the same classroom. In these cases the students often segregated by gender once they reached the age of 12. However there were a few, mostly concentrated in Smyrna, which did not segregate even after that age. Based on the numbers who went on to university learning was not hampered by the innovation although there was the occasional complaint that said students seemed to focus more on biology than other subjects.

    Female students by 1620 were allowed at all the Imperial universities, although in separate campuses, their numbers almost doubling during the Flowering. Medicine was the only degree offered to women at the beginning of the period but by the end Smyrna and Nicaea also gave degrees in Mathematics. One of the graduates of Smyrna, Zoe Chomatena and her husband Michael (in private letters Michael gives his wife most of the credit), developed logarithms during this time although their widespread adoption took place after this period.

    There was substantial pushback from elements of society against this comparative emancipation of women. However in the history of women, the Third Triumvirate has a very special place. The Empire had had women rulers before Helena’s accession, but almost all were poor rulers and the last two, Maria of Barcelona and Alexeia the Mad, were unmitigated disasters. Historical precedent strongly suggested that women should be kept away from the Imperial throne. The Third Triumvirate strongly suggested otherwise, with popular opinion both then and now attributing most of the disasters of the late period to Demetrios.

    Another element that pushed back against such chauvinistic arguments was their origin. Perhaps the most vocal blast against women wielding political power was The Unnatural Order, a book written by the Sire de Coucy, Enguerrand XII, who included in his titles that of Latin Emperor of Constantinople and in his family tree Enrico Dandolo and Charles of Anjou. It is difficult to imagine a pedigree that could be more noxious to the Romans. Shahanshah Iskandar wrote that the most effective way of converting the Romans to Islam would be for Enguerrand to praise the Orthodox Church.

    Surprisingly there was no such pushback against claiming distinguished Muslim ancestors, even during the height of the Eternal War. During the Flowering at least six kephales claimed descent from Alp Arslan and suffered no social opprobrium, possibly because Demetrios Megas had done the same. The tourmarch of the 7th Armeniac in 1607 claimed descent from Saladin and the Bishop of Chonae from Nur ed-Din. The number of Roman officials who traced their lineage back to Seljuk Sultans of Rum, if the claims were true in their entirety, would suggest that Rum fell primarily due to exhaustion from the bedroom. The most well-known example of course is the Sideroi.

    The increase in educated individuals was responsible for the massive growth in the papermaking and printing industries as larger markets developed. Bookstores were a common sight in Roman cities, with even Ainos (pop. 2500) having one. Another significant impetus was the increased number of newspapers and journals on specific topics in circulation. Most towns Arta-sized (7,000) and larger had at least a monthly newsletter and Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Antioch, Smyrna, Nicaea, Trebizond, Dyrrachion, and Aleppo had weekly newspaper issues. In the rest of Christendom there were ten other cities which could claim such. All publications had to receive a license from the Ministry of Propaganda which also vetted each issue.

    The Ministry’s mandate was to prevent calls for violent resistance, as well as attacks against the office and person of the Emperor/Empress. Criticism of government policies and officials was allowed, provided they were not too strenuous. The definition of strenuous was vague, allowing significant leeway to the censor in question, so it was far from a perfect system, but the censors were enjoined to be ‘reasonable’ and to take past behavior into account. Appeals could be made to a censor’s supervisor although frequent appeals were strongly frowned upon. The government’s rationale in all this was to allow people, in modern parlance, to blow off steam, provided it was kept within bounds, albeit unspecific ones.

    Kafkoi, the abbreviated form of ‘kaffos oikos’ (coffee house), officially entered the Greek vocabulary around this time. These were important social centers where people could meet, drink kaffos and eat a monem (sandwich), and discuss the latest journals and newspapers. Many had reading times, in which the most popular publications were read aloud for the benefit of the illiterate customers.

    The level of male literacy varied substantially across the Empire depending on the region, ranging from Cilicia’s rate of 65% to central and eastern Anatolia’s 25-30% rate, literacy in this context following the in-period Roman standard of being able to sign one’s name without difficulty. Proximity to larger settlements and the coast was a characteristic of more literate districts. Of the 171 kephalates of the Imperial heartland, 64 could claim a rate of 50%, and if the bar were lowered to 40% 122 kephalates could claim the distinction. The national average looked better than this as the more literate kephalates also tended to be the most populous.

    Female literacy rates also varied but trended towards one-half to three-quarters of the male literacy in the same kephalate. The national average again looked better as the higher-performing districts in male literacy also had their female rates tend towards the three-quarters side of the range.

    The most impressive cultural achievement is Tomorrow, Byzantion, which was first published in 1604. Running to a thousand and twelve pages in its nineteenth edition, published in 1999, one of its claim to fame is that it is both one of the earliest novels in the modern sense and is also considered the founder of the genre of historical fiction.

    It can also be styled the Roman national epic. It begins with an ordinary family living in Constantinople which is scattered by the onslaught of the Fourth Crusade. The narrative follows their separate adventures which span from the camp of Kaloyan “the Roman-Slayer” to the palace of the Sultans of Rum and over three decades until what is left of the family reunite. The first epilogue shows the youngest son, a boy of six in 1204, returning to the old family home upon the fall of Constantinople to Theodoros II Megas to die. The second shows his direct descendant being among the first to scale the walls of Rome.

    Considering that it was written during the opening stages of the Eternal War, the characterization is somewhat surprising. Roman, Bulgarian, and Muslim characters are well-balanced, some good and some bad, but their group has little bearing on that. However with the exception of Henry of Flanders, the second Latin Emperor, all the Latin characters are villains, from the cardinal who proposes that all Greek children be taken from the parents to be raised in the west to the perpetually-drunken Picard sergeant who celebrates Orthodox Easter by raping the first Greek woman he sees that day and castrating the first male. Henry of Flanders himself is in the novel, unlike in actuality, assassinated by his own knights ‘as he treated the Romans as men rather than as dogs, which to Latins is a sin’.

    The work is wildly popular from its first publication, both an exemplar and amplifier of the anti-Latin animus that underlies Roman culture to this day. In it is the famous phrase ‘the Latin is always at your throat or at your feet’. The memory of the Fourth Crusade and the Black Day and the scars on the Roman psyche were still extremely strong in this era despite the prosperity and the diplomatic overtures to the west. Latin states in the 1600s would ignore them at their peril.

    The Orthodox faithful however could take comfort for the impressive achievements of their church. The patronage of churches and monasteries has already been mentioned. Many of the new monasteries appeared in interior Syria, a deliberate scheme on the part of the Imperial government to Christianize the region after the Syrian Muslim revolt.

    The greatest success however was further east. By 1620 there were 19 Orthodox bishoprics in ‘Rhomania in the East’. Whether they reported to the Patriarch of Constantinople or the Patriarch of Antioch, who was traditionally head of churches in the east, was a constant bone of contention but had been settled in favor of Antioch by the end of the period. That was partially due to Helena’s intrigues as she wished to clip the Patriarch’s wings after being defeated in her bid to increase church taxes.

    To the credit of the Orthodox Church the jurisdictional dispute did not impede the great project of translating the Bible and several important liturgical and religious works into Japanese, Malay, Gujarati, Sinhala, and Tamil. By the end of the period all those peoples had “joined the ranks of the blessed nations who may praise God in their own tongue” and translations in Malayalam and Kannada were in development by the end of the period. This development also allowed the recruitment of native priests in respectable numbers, a process well advanced by 1620. The most significant fruit by then was the Malay bishop of Singapura and the Taprobani bishop of Trincomalee.

    This also led to some jurisdictional confusion. While Orthodox liturgy was performed in many languages, most were in churches outside the Empire. The practice in the east was the same as in Bulgaria. Village priests whose parishioners were non-Greeks had no need for Greek, but promotion to bishop required fluency. The result was that while there were Malay and Taprobani Orthodox Christians, there was no Malay or Taprobani Church. They were a special subset of the Greek Orthodox Church.

    The Shimazu were a different, simpler story, as they were outside the Empire. Still reliant on Greek bishops and religious texts for the most part at the beginning of the Flowering, by the end the Japanese Orthodox Church was a well-established organization. Drawing on native clergy and texts, it drove out the inroads made by Catholicism in former Chosokabe territories, aided substantially by the coercive forces of the Shimazu government. Lack of those forces meant Orthodox converts in Honshu were practically nonexistent.

    The growth of the Japanese church presented another jurisdictional problem. The earliest bishops had been subordinate to the Metropolitan of New Constantinople, but in 1582 the first Metropolitan of Aira (the site of the first known Japanese converts to Orthodoxy, even before the Shimazu conversion), with authority over all bishops in Japan, including Ryukyu, was instated. The first two were Greek but afterwards were all Japanese.

    However the Metropolitan was still subordinate, this time to a Patriarch. The Shimazu considered it humiliating, and the winning of the eastern jurisdiction by Antioch denied them the consolation that at least it was to the ‘Imperial’ Patriarch. The first request for autocephalous status came in 1586, two years later followed by another asking for Patriarchal rank for the Metropolitan. The Antiochene Patriarchs naturally resisted, but both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Triumvirate supported the Shimazu, the former out of annoyance at its loss and the latter by the need to retain good relations. The compromise, struck in 1592, was that the Japanese Church became autocephalous, the main concern, but its senior cleric remained a Metropolitan. In 1620 he had thirty subordinate bishops.

    Yet for all the accomplishments of the period, one can often find elements of sadness in Roman culture. It is dangerous to anthropomorphize states and generalize about societies with millions of inhabitants as there will always be exceptions. At the same time an average still can be a useful description even though it does not address outliers.

    Even in this time of plenty, Rhomania still bore scars, partially but never entirely healed. The Romans, like the Sicilians, did not forget their scars or how they had been received. They remembered the fortune is fleeting, fate fickle, and that at any moment, out of the blue, they could find themselves with their backs at the wall. A good example is a letter written by Demetrios Sideros, then prokathemenos (the second official in the civil hierarchy) of the Kephalate of Thyatira, in 1611 to his mother Aikaterine Drakina.

    “I stand on the summit of Mount Ida, looking to the west. Imagine what stories these stones could tell if they could speak. They have seen so much, standing guard over the Hellespont since the dawn of time.

    “Here on the plains Priam’s proud city was torn to the ground. The valor of Hektor and the height of its walls did not prevent the doom brought down upon it by the greed and lust of Paris. And yet the great Achaeans could not rejoice in their victory. Achilles lay dead, the mighty captain slain by a whim of chance, Ajax lost his mind. Agamemnon returned home to be murdered by his wife, his son made mad as he slew his mother in turn. Thus fell the house of Atreus. Odysseus returned home, after twenty long years, but he never knew his son in childhood.

    “Here Darius marched into Europe, the greatest sovereign the world had ever seen, to be humiliated by the Scythians. His son Xerxes built his bridge of boats so that he could march to even greater calamities. Then came Alexander on his way to win immortal fame, but his life was short and his empire scarcely longer.

    “Justinian sent out that great captain Belisarius to reclaim the lands of the west, yet there could be no joy in the extent for Roman arms, as the piles of dead from plague lay beyond measure, the heralds of victory choking on the stench of corpses.

    “Here came the great Arab hosts, glorifying in their new faith that enjoined them to rob and murder others, for gratifying their appetites they believed was pleasing to God. They had their full measure of wanted blood yet it was their own as they broke themselves against the walls of the City.

    “One would think the terrible din would end, but instead it grew. Here came the Latins, whose maws could devour all the gold in the world and never be satisfied, a people who think all good things belong to them alone, a faithless, grasping people hateful of all those who are not like them and eager to kill, dressing it up as the glory of God.

    “They took the City, winning themselves great wealth and fame as they raped women in churches. Yet their avarice and arrogance still was not satisfied and so the King of the Vlachs and Cumans laid them low.”

    “The people of that faithless vile republic came again to rape and slaughter so that they might sell goods without paying taxes. For their pains they gained the loss of their lands in Italy and the devastation of a Hungarian siege, their insatiable lust for gold to be sated only through the trade of stone and iron shot.

    “What stories these stones could tell if they could speak. Yet they cannot. But they see. They see all the pain and loss that passes by these ancient waters. How many more tears will they see, making their way to the wine-dark sea?”
  • 1603: The Sparrowhawk incident itself surprisingly has little impact on either the Empire or the Triple Monarchy. Although embarrassing for the Romans, the material impact, in comparison to all the other issues the Empire faces, is minimal. However it does encourage some Triune pirates to go after Roman merchants in the Atlantic. Diplomatic protests do nothing as the pirates are too well connected to important elements of Triune society. The 600 tonner Akova is captured in June by a trio of pirates, two of which were financed by the Duke of Norfolk and the third by the Bishop of Boulogne.

    One response by the Roman merchant consortiums who finance and run the trade convoys to Antwerp is to start hiring Arletian or more commonly Dutch warships as escorts. To make sure the escorts do not just take their fee and run when threatened by Triune forces, the escorts are paid with a percentage of the proceeds when the Romans make their destination. Considering that the more richly loaded Roman vessels bring a very large profit the Dutch are most energetic in protecting their charges.

    Skirmishes in the Channel are not much compared to the crisis brewing in Germany. For three hundred years the House of Wittelsbach has presented a united front to the world, rising from Dukes of Bavaria to becoming the most impressive dynasty of Holy Roman Emperors since possibly the Ottonians. That unity is now sorely lacking.

    On January 11, Emperor Wilhelm dies in Munich. Per his will the Margraviate of Brandenburg goes to his youngest son Ludwig, Saxony to his middle son Karl, and his remaining territories to his eldest son Frederick, King of the Romans and son-in-law of Empress Helena. It is assumed that he will be the next Holy Roman Emperor. However on January 20 Ludwig also dies, leaving only a widowed and childless daughter, Elizabeth, as his heiress.

    Karl, already in Saxony, moves immediately and sequesters his late brother’s lands, ‘convincing’ his niece to join a nunnery which conveniently invalidates her claim. Friedrich demands that Karl vacate Brandenburg and restore it to Elizabeth (the powerful Archbishop of Cologne Ferdinand von Hohenzollern is standing by to nullify her vows on the grounds of duress). Karl refuses on the grounds that the Duke of Saxony has held suzerain rights over Brandenburg for many generations and that their father’s separation of the two was contrary to historical and legal precedent and the Act of Transference by which the Wittelsbachs took control.

    Friedrich is more than annoyed by the rebuff, but then on February 19 Karl declares his bid for the Imperial title, claiming that his brother’s marriage to a heretic invalidates any prior claim, including his existed regal title, and spreading rumors that Friedrich and his children are closet Orthodox. The importance Friedrich places on the advice of his wife gives circumstantial evidence to Karl’s insinuations and Princess Kristina Drakina has steadfastly maintained her Orthodox faith (that she be allowed to do so was a condition of the marriage). Acting for himself as Elector of Saxony and Brandenburg and with the support of the Electors of Bohemia and Mainz, Karl declares himself the rightful Emperor.

    The start of the Brothers’ War is on March 1, when both acting as ‘Emperor’ pronounce the Imperial Ban on each other. Although the ruthless shunting aside of his niece disgusted many, Karl is an extremely formidable opponent. Saxony has 1.3 million inhabitants with a well-developed mining industry, making the Duchy richer and more populous than Bavaria. Brandenburg adds little in terms of wealth but is another 400,000 souls, although the Brandenburgers’ loyalty to Karl is not great. Aside from his direct territories Karl also has the backing of Bohemia and most of the Upper and Lower Saxon Circles (Friedrich’s isolated Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein is quickly overrun), plus significant backers in the Swabian and Franconian Circles. The Archbishopric of Mainz, fierce rival of Cologne, is another powerful ally giving Karl influence in the Electoral and Upper Rhenish Circles. The dubious legality of it actions is more than canceled out by the apparent opportunity to curb Wittelsbach power in the Reich.

    Friedrich has Bavaria, which is not quite on the level of Saxony (1.1 million) but still comparable, plus numerous scattered holdings throughout the Empire, although their small size and dispersion make their usefulness limited. However a marriage alliance between Friedrich’s eldest son Manfred and a daughter of Augustus I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Hildesheim (formerly a bishopric but secularized to provide military support in the Hungarian War) and Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Marburg, Head of the House of Welf, brings a formidable and former rival into the lists on Friedrich’s side.

    An even more powerful ally is the Archbishop of Cologne. Through fair means (and a few foul) the House of Hohenzollern, hitherto insignificant, has supplied the Archbishops since 1534 (as well as one pope). At this point Cologne’s territory comprises the entire Rhine Valley from the borders of Cleves to the town of Koblenz. By July ten thousand men march under the black Cross of St. George.

    The Burgundian Circle also backs Friedrich, giving him access to the money markets of Antwerp while his marriage with Kristina Drakina greatly facilitates his access to the bankers of Rhomania. A massive loan of 2.2 million hyperpyra, secured on Tyrolese silver mines and salt pans, is floated from the Plethons. With those funds he procures an army of Castilian mercenaries which lands in Genoa (taking the Channel route is considered too risky as Henry I favors Karl) and marches up what will be dubbed the Spanish Road to the central Rhine, joined on route by Bernese cohorts.

    King Theodoros Doukas of Lombardy is delighted by the chaos in Germany which means he does not need to watch his back. The Duke of Florence is Franz von Wittelsbach, a cousin of the brothers, although before his appointment to Florence he was effectively a non-entity in Germany. But his family name made Theodoros wary of attacking until now.

    His first goal is Lucca, the largest city in the Duchy after Florence itself, but to his frustration the Luccese do not welcome him as a liberator from their Florentine oppressors. One foreign monarch is much the same as another. So they slam the gates in his face and fire on his vanguard, forcing a siege. Theodoros commands a respectable army well equipped with cannons, but Lucca’s ramparts are modern and thick.

    By itself the Florentine army cannot beat the Lombards but Duke Franz is not alone. Pope Martin VII orders Theodoros to withdraw from Florentine territory upon pain of excommunication. Theodoros is a Catholic but is unmoved, thus Martin VII excommunicates the King and orders the Papal army to the support of the Florentines.

    Another Florentine ally is Duke Ercole II Malatesta. Succeeding to the throne in 1580, he has overseen a general increase in population and prosperity in the Duchy of the Marche. Although Ancona is dwarfed by Venetia, it is a respectable trade center comparable to Bari, Ragusa, and Dyrrachion although a budding glass industry has been ruined by Sicilian competition. Despite that blow the Marche is a respectable minor power.

    Pisa too joins the coalition, frightened at the close proximity of the Lombards whose cannonades can be heard on the Field of Miracles. However the city’s days as a great seaport have long since faded thanks to the silting of the Ebro so its contribution is limited. Genoa and Siena both stand aloof of the coalition, Genoa because of its vulnerability to Lombard attack and isolation from the coalition and Siena because of its hatred for Florence.

    The combined coalition army is 11,000 Florentines, 8,000 Anconitans, 5,000 Papal troops, and 400 Pisans. Theodoros’s army numbers 29,000 strong with 56 cannons to the allies’ 35 plus a 9 to 5 advantage in heavy cavalry and a 3 to 2 advantage in light horse. The Allies look south to the Despotate of Sicily who can bring another 15,000 men to the fight (eight thousand more are operating in North Africa in support of the Romans).

    Theodoros know he needs to smash the coalition before the Sicilians, marshaling at Naples, can reinforce. So despite the danger of leaving the Luccese garrison intact in his rear Theodoros breaks camp and marches on Florence itself, hoping to bring the coalition to battle. A large cavalry skirmish at Montecarlo between Lombard and Anconitan horse ends poorly for the Lombard cavalry, boosting the coalition’s morale although barely slowing the Lombard advance.

    The initial allied plan was to remain near Florence as a base, waiting until the Sicilians arrived to give overwhelming force. However the outcome of Montecarlo and an outbreak of plague in the city encourage the allied commanders, who run the army as a committee, to move westward. The Lombards do not appear as fearsome as their numbers suggest, it would be good to break them up before the army is infected, and why should good Catholics wait for an army of heretics and Jews before giving battle?

    The two armies engage at Vaiano, an Anconitan attack breaking up under Lombard artillery before doing much damage. Theodoros commits his foot who sweep the Anconitan line with volley fire and then charge with plug ambrolars fixed. Invented in the Georgian town of Ambrolauri, they are eighteen-inch-long blades whose hilts are fitted so that they can be jammed into the muzzle, giving the gunner a bladed weapon for melee. It is believed that the Lombards got the idea via their port of Rimini, which has some trade connections with Anaklia, the chief port of the Kingdom of Georgia (and the home of several resorts catering to Roman dynatoi).

    The Lombard infantry breaks through the Anconitan line, albeit not without serious loss and difficulty even with their new weapons. If the Papal commander had brought his reserve up when requested it is highly likely the breach could have been plugged. Instead the delay is fatal. Theodoros breaks the allied line, rolling up the Anconitans and pounding the Florentines severely on their flank. The Papal army withdraws with little loss. Based on the casualty ratio, 2100 Lombards to 2900 Allies, it is not a tremendous victory for Theodoros. However the Anconitans are furious at the lack of support they received from their allies, as they took 1900 of the casualties, and withdraw back to the March. The Florentines, blaming the Papal troops for the Anconitans’ grievances, bicker with them which backfires as the Papal troops retire back to Rome.

    There will be no help from Sicily either. Al-Izmirli has launched another raid against Sicily, his most deadly yet. At the battle of Capo Gallo he inflicts an absolutely crushing defeat on the Sicilian navy, sinking or capturing twenty one warships out of thirty eight and inflicting over fifty nine hundred casualties out of ten thousand Sicilians. Three out of five Roman warships also at the battle were sunk.

    The Barbary fleet took respectable losses of its own, ten warships and two thousand casualties, but not enough to prevent Al-Izmirli from descending on the Sicilian coast. Sailing along the northern Sicilian coast he sacks everything in sight, troops raiding as far as ten miles inland, with only Palermo remaining immune. Continuing east, although Al-Izmirli does not attempt to force the fortifications of Messina, the Despotic capital, he does sally close enough that the Despot can watch from his palace’s dock as Izmirli hurls many of his prisoners from Capo Gallo, chained together and weighed down, into the ocean. Aside from an act of terror, Izmirli does this to lessen the pending glut on the slave market and the subsequent drop in slave prices. Those who are left will fetch a higher price as a result.

    Reggio di Calabria is not as well fortified as Messina and falls to Izmirli, although attempts to probe into the Calabrian countryside are hurled back by the Sicilian army, whose vanguard has forced-marched from the muster at Naples. The prisoners the Sicilians take are divided into ten lots. A Droungarios is assigned to each lot and flips a Roman hyperpyron. If it is heads, the prisoners are burned alive. If it is tails, they are impaled and left out in the sun.

    Izmirli, though enraged, is not yet finished. A powerful reinforcement led by his son joins him, more than making good all his losses, although not enough to enable him to take on the Sicilian army, whose light cannons are already lumbering into view of the ramparts. Sailing south till out of sight of land to give the impression he is heading back to Africa or at least to harry southern Sicily, he then sails east.

    The Romans, suspicious that Izmirli may turn east, have taken some precautions. The Corfu and Crete squadrons, supported by two armed merchantmen from Venetia and two Ragusan vessels, have joined at Kythira and the Imperial fleet is stationed forward at Naxos, Andros, and Piraeus, split up as none of the anchorages can provision the whole fleet on short notice. The Thracian tagma is moving into Thessaly and militia kentarchia have marshalled at Corinth, Patras, Monemvasia, and Kalamata.

    However the Romans drastically underestimate the strength and speed of Izmirli’s fleet. Reports that isolated corsair ships are attacking the Mani draw out the Kythira force and in sight of the towers of Vatheia is attacked by Izmirli, who has a three-to-one advantage in hulls and four-to-one in men (although only two-to-one in cannons). Despite a vigorous attack from the Roman right wing, spearheaded by a fifty-gunner, that manages to drive three Barbary ships ashore where their crews are butchered by the men of Vatheia, the result is a Roman debacle. Fourteen out of nineteen Roman ships are sunk or captured, plus both Ragusan and one Venetian, and twenty one hundred men. Izmirli loses four ships and three hundred and fifty men.

    The men of Vatheia flee back to their town but are caught in the open and massacred, the town rushed and sacked. The Berber forces spend the next four days raiding the area and capturing much booty, although suffering heavily from the Maniots who are quite good with fowling pieces. One column of two hundred, probing northward, is annihilated when the Slavs of Mount Taygetos ambush them.

    Preferring victims who are not as good at fighting back, Izmirli heads east, sacking Kythira. Milos is the next to suffer but there Izmirli falls ill. Returning home with a small squadron, he leaves the rest of the fleet under the command of his son with strict orders not to remain in the Aegean for more than seven days. By that point the Imperial Fleet will have deployed from its anchorage at Constantinople.

    The Berber fleet proceeds on to Sifnos and then Serifos as the Imperial Fleet, far closer than Izmirli suspected, converges in overwhelming force. The corsairs approach Kanala, on the southern shores of Kythnos, with fifty seven ships on September 8. They overwhelm the town, fanning out to raid the rest of the island. The next morning the Imperial Fleet, one hundred and twenty two warships, including the Andreas Niketas, the first three-decker in the world, under the command of Megas Doux Alexios Angelos, great-grandson of Andreas Niketas and grandson of the Salty Prince, blockades the harbor.

    Mounting 98 cannons, Andreas Niketas was the most powerful warship of her day. Painted entirely in black when first in service, unlike this painting, the women of the Barbary Coast knew her as ‘Widow-maker’.

    Alexios has no intention of trying to force the harbor. The Berbers can sit there and rot. Supply ships organized from Smyrna keep him amply stocked while the Berbers cannot possibly hope to feed themselves for long. The Berbers know this. Slaughtering their prisoners to lighten their ships, on September 12 they charge out hoping that some of them might escape. Eleven succeed.

    The Romans are utterly enraged and the orders from the White Palace are to show no mercy. Pirates are the enemy of all mankind and these pirates have proven to be particularly noxious. Several hundred prisoners are taken including Izmirli’s son. They are all decapitated but pails of their blood are saved. Izmirli’s son is left for last and instead of being beheaded he is force-fed the blood of his men until he literally chokes to death on them. For good measure his body is buried with a pig.

    September 12 is a good day for Roman arms. On that same day at Aqrah the Army of Amida, 17,000 strong, is attacked by an Ottoman army 24,000 strong. Despite heavy attacks from Janissaries well supported by artillery the Romans hold their lines until the Army of Edessa comes crashing down on the Ottomans’ left flank, driving it back in disarray although the Ottomans avoid a rout. The day ends with the Romans in command of the field, taking a thousand casualties but inflicting twenty five hundred. At 3 PM, as Andreas Niketas sent her fifth Berber ship to the bottom and the Army of Edessa launched its flank attack, the city of Mosul surrenders to Stefanos Monomakos.
    Last edited:
  • Arrix85: Note that I said Hungary has interesting prospects in front of it, not profitable. ;)

    Frustrated Progressive: The Egyptian Komnenoi are Coptic religiously, but are still largely Greek culturally despite their patronization of Coptic culture. Roman culture in the Orthodox/Coptic world has a status similar to 18th century French culture to the rest of Europe.

    FinalTemplar: The final post in the Finished TL thread has a 1600 map.

    Parthenon: The Parthenon as of now is intact and well maintained, and still used as a place of worship. It's been a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary for the last thousand years.

    1604: The battle of Kanala was a major boon to all the corsairs’ enemies but the campaign leading up to the battle highlighted some serious issues with the Roman navy. There had been many in the Roman administration and navy aware of the issues for quite some time. Andreas Angelos, Megas Doux during the reign of Empress Alexeia ‘the Mad’, tried to address some of them but was preoccupied by the need to rebuild fleet strength after the Orthodox War and the progress he made was ruined by his death and the Time of Troubles. Izmirli’s raid on the western Peloponnesus was a sign that the issues could not be ignored but his penetration into the Aegean, even with the final result, made it clear.

    Since the days of Empress Anna Laskarina the Imperial Fleet was stationed at Constantinople with a few small provincial squadrons stationed at certain locales. Part of the reason for that was the need for provisions. The Romans had a thousand years of experience in feeding huge populations along the Bosporus; the addition of the fleet was not a significant burden. However Constantinople was not so well placed for a quick reaction force. If the Imperial fleet had not already been forward deployed the corsairs would have gotten away without consequence.

    In the 1300s it was doubtful the Mameluke fleet could even range as far as the Aegean most of the time and Rhodes was well fortified and garrisoned to guard against that threat. The Italian navies were a more serious challenge and only late in the 1300s was the Imperial fleet strong enough to challenge Venice or Genoa with significant confidence without the naval genius of Licario who was behind most of the Roman naval victories of the late 1200s.

    Then much of it was wrecked in the Laskarid civil war and Demetrios Megas’s victories over the Venetian fleet were due to the purxiphoi innovation, a device which in its earliest form lost most of its effectiveness once the novelty wore off and which was quickly imitated by the Italians anyway. In the Smyrnan war a maximum effort by the Serene Republic fielded a fleet the Romans never dared challenge directly. It was not until the reign of Andreas Niketas that the Roman navy clearly surpassed the Venetian in armed might.

    The Roman strategy, although never articulated as such, was that of a fleet-in-being. The Roman fleet was still powerful enough vis-à-vis the Genoese and Venetians that it had to be treated with respect and its mere presence helped keep the Italians in line most of the time. When more force was needed, it could still deter raids. The Italians wanted to trade in the empire and killing and antagonizing would-be customers was counterproductive.

    Defeating the Imperial fleet was the best option, from the Italian perspective, of forcing good trade agreements. However in the waters of Constantinople, the comparative Roman naval weakness was compensated by their superior knowledge of the potentially treacherous currents. The crippling of the Roman navy in the Laskarid civil war was because the fleet came out and was smashed in open battle in the Aegean. Keeping the fleet in Constantinople preserved the fleet as a fleet-in-being and also made it untouchable from a surprise attack as a hostile fleet would first have to force the Hellespont. The consequences for the Empire if the Roman fleet had been surprised in Smyrna harbor on the Black Day could have been disastrous.

    However now the assembled naval might of the entire Italian peninsula, including the Despotate of Sicily, could not match the Imperial fleet. The other great Christian naval powers, Castile-Portugal, Lotharingia, the Triple Monarchy, and the Empire of All the North, are Atlantic states. The one Mediterranean naval power capable of challenging the Empire is the Barbary corsairs. Unlike the Italians they have no desire to trade with the Romans so holding back from lucrative raiding to avoid ruining future trade opportunities is not an issue. And a Constantinople base is poorly situated to guard against such attacks as has been shown.

    Although it will take several years until it is fully put into effect, it is decided that the Imperial fleet will have some regular Aegean stations. Half of the Imperial fleet will still be stationed at the capitol but squadrons will also be located at Piraeus, Naxos, and Kos. With this move the distinction between the Imperial Fleet and the provincial squadrons becomes significantly less meaningful, but one of the latter is still located in Crete and called the Crete squadron as opposed to a number as is the designation of Imperial squadrons.

    Another issue with the Roman navy is that ship types have changed immensely since the 1300s. At that time flotillas were homogenous, composed either of dromons, the Roman battleships similar to Italian war galleys, or monores, light galleys that made for excellent couriers and scouts. However since then Andrean dromons (galleasses), purxiphoi which have been superseded by the great dromons (galleons), and fregatai have joined the ship lists. These have mostly just been added onto preexisting squadrons which still had the original ship types as well. By 1600 the result was highly heterogeneous squadrons composed of ships with wildly different capabilities. The larger provincial squadrons, less organized than Imperial squadrons but also heavily reinforced with newer ship types, such as Crete, were the worst in this regard.

    Squadrons are to be entirely reorganized so that they are composed of a single ship type. Provincial squadrons are to be equipped solely with fregatai instead of the previous mish-mash that when combined could neither fight nor run away. The quasi-exceptions are Crete and Malta where the provincial fregatai squadron is to be bolstered by a galleon flotilla.

    Another significant development is the establishment of a Naval Academy to train naval officers, although training in basic seamanship for the regular crew is still done onboard ship. The goal is to make the navy more professional in imitation of the senior army service. Besides teaching naval tactics and ship-handling skills the Naval School will also teach navigation with a resulting emphasis on mathematics and astronomy. Later developing courses in architecture and ship design, attendance lacks the social glamour of the School of War but nevertheless attracts attendees from the lower ranks of the mesoi and the banausoi, the ‘people of markets and crafts’ who aim for social advancement but lack the financial means needed for the School of War.

    There are innovations in the army as well with the creation of new ‘sleeping’ tourmai. Recruited on the basis of the themes, these in march and battle are numbered after their theme, proceeding from eleven on. Numbers 1-10 are taken by the permanent formations. Recruited from volunteers and conscripts, these formations unlike the permanent ones are only intended to be active in wartime. However unlike previous wartime formations, in peacetime they are not to be disbanded but merely mothballed, their standards and battle honors kept to be reactivated in future times as a way to bolster esprit de corps. Composed primarily of new recruits they are supposed to have three months of drill before arriving at the front but even then it is highly recommended that they be corseted with regular tourmai given their comparative lack of training.

    Those going to the ‘sleeping’ tourmai are recruited for the duration of the war, with volunteers getting a 10% pay increase over conscripts. In order to make service in the permanent formations more attractive there is also a revision to the terms of services. Previously when one signed up a soldier had 16 years in the field and 6 in garrison. Twenty two years is a long commitment.

    Now the setup is that a soldier signs up for an eleven-year period, with his pay increasing based on years of service. After his first service is up the soldier can sign up again if they wish for four-year periods which come with their first-period Year 11 pay. They can also sign up for garrison duty instead of field service but that entails a drop down to their Year 3 pay, although with the higher possibility of alternative incomes in garrison duty an enterprising and lucky individual may not see a loss in income.

    The Romans are not the only ones instituting reforms. Iskandar inherited a powerful army from his grandfather Osman Khomeini but one with a distinctly less modern look than his Roman foes. Many of the cavalry were timariots, well-equipped and capable of great valor, but these feudal troops did not mesh well with the mass tactics needed for the gunpowder age. The azabs from which the bulk of the infantry were drawn, were more varied. Some were near-worthless conscripted militia whilst others were highly effective and disciplined troops organized in a manner similar to the Laskarid and Second Komnenid theme-tagma troops. The formations at the high end of the spectrum were quite formidable and should not be underestimated but could not measure up to the standards of full-time soldiers.

    The Janissaries and many sipahi formations were full-time soldiers, brave and skilled in battle, but jealous of their special prerogatives and by Iskandar’s accession entry into the regiments was often based on heredity with former members. Not wanting to dilute their privileges by expanding their rolls, these were not the way for Iskandar to develop a numerical parity of professional troops with the Romans.

    The Shahsevan were his first innovation, albeit not a very imaginative one, as they were essentially a Persian copy of the Janissaries. But it was an easy improvement and they were well established by the start of the Eternal War, earning significant merits including the storming of Tabriz. However ominous signs of rivalry with the Janissaries were present from the very beginning, kept in check by Iskandar.

    Convalescing in the Iranian plateau Iskandar has not led field armies except against the Cossacks in over two years. But he has not been idle, setting up across the Iranian plateau the new army troops known as Qizilbash. Called thus after their red fezzes, they are Iskandar’s formidable counter to the Roman tagmata.

    Qizilbash infantry advancing during the War of Wrath. Their forebears during the Eternal War would have looked similar, minus the socket ambrolars.
    The Iranian plateau is divided in territories called Khassa, crown provinces, each one responsible for the recruitment, organization, and supplying of a division. The recruits are drawn mainly from the Iranian peasantry to serve as gun infantry and are full-time troops although in peace time they can supplement their income by working as artisans, shopkeepers, and laborers when off duty, with sometimes a platoon owning a business and maintaining it collectively. Paid in grain, salt, and silver typically from taxes on wine, consumed in prodigious quantities despite Islamic proscriptions, they are loyal to the Shah, well-disciplined and keenly aware that bravery and skill in war will bring further honors and rewards.

    There is a question of how aware the Romans are of the scope of Iskandar’s developments. Sleeping tourmai reinforce the armies in Mesopotamia whose combined strength numbers over eighty thousand, not including Bedouin auxiliaries or militias used as garrisons or siege troops. But these are spread out in a broad front from invested Kirkuk, well east of the Tigris, to also besieged Haditha on the west bank of the Euphrates. Another twenty thousand Romans are in Arabia or North Africa, plus another twenty five thousand are to be formed at Theodosiopolis next summer for an offensive from the west against Iskandar’s conquests south of the Aras.

    * * *
    September 14, 1604, Constantinople:

    “Am I interrupting?” Ioannes asked, a huge grin on his face.

    It should be blazingly obvious I’m reading, so yes, Demetrios Sideros thought. “No, not at all,” he replied, Ioannes stepping into his bedroom.

    If it weren’t for those damned Frogs…Demetrios thought. Some fat Duke of Earl is probably spending my money on his poxed whore. His father had given him a substantial stipend with which he could have afforded his own place with a few servants who knew their employment depended on leaving him alone. Unfortunately he had the bright idea of putting the stipend into an Antwerp run which usually mounted a decent profit. Except for when the Triune pirates got past the Dutch guards, which is what happened to the ship he had helped financed. His father had been more than a little irritated and the replacement stipend was just enough to cover Demetrios’s room and board in this shared flat.

    I hope I get the government scholarship. His application, along with his first-year grades, had gone in just a week ago.

    His flat-mates, like Demetrios, were young men between eighteen and twenty years old, although Demetrios doubted any of them would get the scholarship. Ioannes’s main talent was managing to twist every lesson into a tavern song although Demetrios had to admit he knew no one with a greater knowledge of Muslim wine odes.

    “What’s this about?” Demetrios asked.

    “I heard you’re getting married.”

    Congratulations, you can read. One disadvantage of having Timur II and Empress Helena as a grandfather and grandmother and Megas Domestikos Theodoros Sideros, the Scourge of Mesopotamia, as his father was that the newspapers cared about him. Seriously, why the hell does my private life mean squat to you people?

    Demetrios nodded. “Who’s the bride?” Ioannes continued.

    Apparently I was wrong; you can’t read. Otherwise you could have gotten the answer from the paper and you could bloody leave me alone.

    “Jahzara,” Demetrios answered. “She’s the daughter of Prince Yohannes, the Negus’s niece.” He doesn’t want to kill her as killing royalty is not something that should be encouraged, but at the same time he wants her out of Ethiopia, preferably married to someone with a prominent name but little political power so it is exile without looking so. She turned sixteen in a month so Tewodros wanted it resolved soon. In a week she was supposed to land in the Queen of Cities. Assuming everything went on schedule, it would be four days before the wedding.

    “An Ethiopian? You’re in trouble,” Ioannes said. “They’re a passionate people, all that tropical heat. I should come along and help satisfy her; I don’t think you’re up for it.”

    How about you go screw a chair instead?

    He probably has.

    Thank you for that mental image.

    “Actually the heartland of Ethiopia is high in the mountains so it is quite cool.”

    Ioannes snorted. “Sure. You just keep telling yourself that as she rides you into the ground.”

    Just because I don’t chase everything with a vagina does not mean I am impotent. “I still don’t think that will be necessary.”

    Ioannes grinned at Demetrios’s slight glower. “I was just kidding. But she’ll have a lot of ladies-in-waiting that will need companionship.” She’s the daughter of the man who tried to take the Negus’s throne. Somehow I doubt it. But maybe she’ll bring a female elephant that can ride you into the ground.

    “Probably. I’ll keep you in mind for the guest list. Although since it is being held at the White Palace that’s not my call.” The last part is true. So is the first; I’ll keep you in mind for the list of guests the Varangians are supposed to hit in the face when they try to enter.

    “Thanks.” Ioannes pointed at a silver book clasp at the corner of Demetrios’s desk which had a light etching of a horse archer at full gallop on it. “That’s pretty. Can I have it? Anna broke hers and needs a replacement.”

    You come in here to disparage my manhood, make jokes about sleeping with my fiancé, and then ask for my stuff so you can give it to your girlfriend? How about you go sodomize yourself with a Varangian axe that has been lit on fire? “Sure, if you really want it.”

    Ioannes reached over and picked it up. “Thank you.”

    Go to Hell. “You’re welcome.”
    1605 and the Birth of a Prince
  • 1605: The past few years have been hard for the Romans in the Far East. Dutch, Triunes, and the occasional Hansa and Scandinavian vessels are now plentiful in India and some of them, particularly the first two, are setting up shop in Indonesia. The attack on Mecca has given the Romans the hatred of the Sultanates of Sulu, Brunei, Semarang, and Aceh, which combined with the Portuguese Viceroyalty of Malacca make shipping through the straits of Malacca laborious at best.

    Therefore most traffic between New Constantinople and Taprobane is going south of Java and Sumatra. To support these operations the Romans have a factory at Nusa Dua in south Bali, a small settlement on recently discovered Christmas Island, and in February an expedition composed largely of western ship Lords and Taprobani tourmai seizes Simeulue off the west coast of Sumatra.

    These are small consolation prizes for the loss of Ternate and Tidore which the Romans formally recognize two weeks after the fall of Simeulue in the Treaty of Makassar. Originally protectorates of the Empire, their rebellion had been heavily supported by Portuguese eager to end the near Roman monopoly on cloves. With Roman strength in the east seriously depleted by the battle of Pyrgos the Portuguese have a naval advantage, although an attempt on New Constantinople was a miserable failure but not enough to even the odds.

    In the treaty Ternate and Tidore are recognized by the Romans as Portuguese protectorates. The Sultans of the two islands would beg to differ but as far as the White Palace is concerned that is Lisbon’s problem. However what the First Moluccan War, as it is eventually styled by historians, teaches the Romans is that indirect rule, whilst having the advantage of being cheap, oftentimes results in getting what one paid for. For a secure Empire, more direct methods are preferred.

    The severing of the Red Sea connection by the Great Uprising forced Rhomania in the East to turn even more upon native sources. Taprobani in particular are common sights as Roman officials and soldiers, but ranks of Malay are growing as well. From Singapura and Pahang Roman authority has been steadily expanding with the aim of linking the two Roman territories, a goal accomplished in December with the fall of Mersing.

    The Malays have sometimes been called the Armenians of the Far East, and while it is important not to take the analogy too far, even at this stage it is accurate. To the Romans, the Malays have a reputation for being smart, industrious, and brave, an ideal combination. Malay soldiers and officers serving in the new eastern tourmai have proven their valor and skill in battle. Of the nineteen recipients of the Order of the Dragon with Swords, the highest decoration that can be given to a Roman, by 1605 three have been Malays, one of them the first to receive it posthumously.

    Another factor facilitating the rise of the Malays is that by the thousands they are converting to the Orthodox faith. Although Islam has made some inroads in the region, its roots are quite shallow and clearly unable to stand up against a surprisingly aggressive missionary effort in which some Shimazu priests participated. In 1605, the five Metropolitans of the East reporting to the Patriarch of Antioch were New Constantinople, Colombo, Jaffna, Pekan (seat of the Kephale of Pahang), and Singapura.

    In Tuscany the Lombard star is clearly in the ascendant. Although King Theodoros is unwilling to risk challenging the largely intact Florentine army under the great bastions of the Duke’s capital and risk triggering another coalition he has not been idle. Lucca capitulated after the battle of Vaiano and Theodoros then struck down the coast, both Pisa and Livorno surrendering after token resistance. The fall of the town of Cecina on Christmas Eve brought him into direct contact with the Commune of Siena.

    Despite the bad years after the Black Death, Siena has been a respectable Italian power since the 1200s. But it is clear that the Dantean War, although it made quite clear the city’s independence, crippled Siena. It is a third-rate power in a world that is growing less tolerant of such nonentities. The fatalistic mood is noted by contemporaries. Alfonso, King of Majorca and Duke of Sardinia, wrote that the Sienese were ‘a people ready to die who required only one last thing before the end, that they see the Florentines board Charon’s ferry in front of them’. So despite the clear threat that a resurgent Lombardy poses, and the rivers of blood shed by their fathers to avoid such a fate, the Sienese align with Theodoros against Florence.

    In Germany repeated sparring between the brothers had led to significant bloodshed but with neither side gaining any clear advantage. The Army of Cologne, commanded by ‘Bishop Bone Breaker’, Archbishop Ferdinand himself, has won several minor but indecisive victories in Altmark. But success in western Brandenburg is counterbalanced when a Saxon and Pomeranian army under the command of General Wilhelm Sebastian von Blucher ejects the Bavarians from Bohemia after a crushing battle at White Mountain. Although Emperor Henry I of the United Kingdoms is dying, his grandson Arthur II is eagerly turning his gaze to the Rhine.

    Although in the west the rumors of the Marinid Sultan’s activities are cause for alarm, if anyone would pay attention to them, the war in the east continues to go well. The Georgian army has retaken Ardabil while the Army of Armenia overruns the hard-fighting but vastly outgunned garrison of Khoy. It is a clear forward step on the road to Tabriz.

    In Mesopotamia the Roman columns have been heavily reinforced with sleeping tourmai, the Army of Amida swelled to thirty thousand strong. With Kirkuk garrisoned behind it, it is now marching south along the road to Baghdad. To the west the twenty five thousand men of the Army of Edessa snap up the Ottoman towns along the banks of the Tigris. On the opposite side of the Tigris are the Armies of Aleppo and the Euphrates, each containing fifteen thousand men.

    * * *​

    The White Palace, Constantinople, March 12, 1605:

    Theodora yawned, rubbing her left eyeball. It had been only three and a half hours since she had gotten up, but then at seventy five it was no surprise she needed lots of beauty sleep. I’m not Helena, that’s for sure. She still hadn’t figured out what her sister had done but the Empress still looked at least ten years younger than either her or Alexeia, despite being older.

    Helena the Younger did not take after her namesake in beauty. The only child of Emperor Demetrios II, she was a small woman, with the eyes of a doe and a pouty face. Theodora thought of a pudgy little bird, vastly out of its depths, when she looked at her grand-niece. It was hard to figure out how intelligent she was, considering that half a dozen words a day seemed to be her maximum speech. If she wasn’t a Drakina, she’d probably be the wife of a bored secretary who spends every other night with his mistress. Theodora strongly suspected her husband Alexios had a mistress on the side; it had taken over eight years for him to impregnate his wife.

    She yawned again. Stay awake! Falling asleep whilst they awaited the next Imperial prince or princess would be rude, but she had to admit she was having a hard time caring anymore. She had buried her husband Alexandros eighteen months earlier and abdicated her governmental responsibilities. Helena still kept herself involved in government, although despite her appearance her stamina was fading. Demetrios, for all his faults, would be sole Emperor soon.

    Theodora had had high hopes for him, personally tutoring him in history and foreign affairs. But he has never been quite right in the head since the death of his first wife and his near-death. However replacing him wasn’t a credible option. Theodora strongly doubted his daughter would be any better and with the failure of that line the next in line was Helena’s eldest daughter Kristina and her descendants. Kristina’s eldest son was Manfred Drakos-von Wittelsbach, the new King of the Romans. Stupid title. Romans have Emperors. But what else do you expect from Germans? They’ve had Imperial pretensions for eight hundred years. Why would they stop now? And why do I smell strawberry jam?

    “Because that’s what I’m eating?” Theodora blinked. She was no longer in the waiting room of the Purple Chamber of the White Palace. Instead she was in a small garden, one that looked like that of the palace in Smyrna. It was mostly sunny, a few streaks of cloud chasing each other to the east as the trees gently slapped each other. A man with shoulder-length silver hair and a craggy face was seated at a small table under the shade of a cypress, a light lunch spread before him. He was spreading strawberry jam on a piece of bread. “Have a seat, Theodora,” he said, pointing at another chair with the knife.

    Theodora sat down. “Where am I?” The man took a bite of his bread, set it down next to a couple of hyperpyra, and then started to put jam on another.

    “You tell me,” he said.

    “If I knew, I wouldn’t ask. Who are you?” He flicked one of the coins over, the gold skittering across the table until Theodora slapped it. Lifting her palm she saw ΘεόδωροςΚομνηνός. “Theodoros IV?!”

    The man smiled. That’s a creepy smile. “Pleased to meet you.”

    Theodora’s eyes bulged. “Wait, am I dead?”

    “Perhaps.” He took another bite.

    “Perhaps? What kind of answer is that?”

    “An unspecific one. You could be dead, or you could be dreaming, or…” He shrugged.

    “Or what?” This isn’t what I thought dying would be like.

    “Or I decided to bring you up to the land of the dead for a little chat, even though your time here has not come.”

    “That seems like something you would not be allowed to do.”

    ‘Theodoros’ rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone assume that I was joking about having angels in my pay? I never joke about money.” Can’t argue with that.

    “So what did you want to tell me?”

    “People are stupid.”

    “I knew that.”

    “Yes, you do. The problem with people’s stupidity is that when history tries to repeat itself, they are too dense to notice and cooperate. Sometimes it needs to be obvious. Bread?” He held out a piece.

    “Thank you,” Theodora said, taking it. She opened her mouth and took a bite but her teeth instead found open air and then her lip.

    * * *​

    Alexandra looked at her son, Alexios di Lecce-Komnenos, the new Despot of Sicily, his father, her husband, having passed away just ten weeks earlier. He cradled his new son, her grandson, in his arms, showing him proudly. He was a healthy looking boy, with a few streaks of light brown hair.

    “Was he really born holding a blood clot?” Jahzara asked. The Ethiopian princess was clad in a dress of shimmering Marmara blue silk with a lion traced in gold thread drawing the eye to her ample bodice, an emerald necklace and matching bracelets complementing them, far outshining her husband Demetrios Sideros. He was standing next to her, about an inch taller but clad in a low-quality gray silk suit. Probably can’t afford anything better. Theodoros is always a miserable miser when it came to money. She approached the Despot, tugging her husband along.

    Alexios beamed. “Yes, he did. Look, you can see for yourself.” He reached over to pry open his son’s fist but the infant beat him to it, dropping the clot on Demetrios’s shoe.

    Alexandra couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as Demetrios went white. “I’m so sorry about that. I’ll get it ba-”

    Jahzara elbowed him in the ribs. “I thank your Highness for your generous gift.”

    Alexios smiled. “It was our pleasure.” I doubt that, but Jahzara has the right of it. Better to laugh it off as nothing rather than embarrass yourself by apologizing profusely. But then it was hard to expect a university student to understand court etiquette. Despite his close relation to the Imperial family this was probably the fourth time Demetrios had been inside the White Palace; his father never cared for the place.

    Alexios moved on to show his son to Emperor Demetrios. Jahzara reached over quick, swiped the clot off her husband’s shoe, and then started dragging him to the corner.

    “What are you going to name him?” Empress Helena asked.

    “I was thinking Demetrios,” Alexios said, looking at the Emperor who smiled.

    “His name…is Andreas.” Alexandra turned to look at the voice. It was her mother, Princess Theodora, a bit of blood tricking down her face from her mouth. She had fallen asleep earlier, but she was now sitting up straight in her chair, her eyes locked on the newborn.

    “Why?” she asked. Helena’s frown clearly showed that the name made her think of her rebellious, dead son first rather than either her father or Andreas Niketas.

    “It has been one hundred and sixty years to the day.” Theodora replied, her eyes drooping. A moment later her head dropped; she was asleep again.

    “That was different,” Emperor Demetrios said as Alexandra walked over to her mother. Something is not quite right here.

    “I don’t approve of such a name,” Empress Helena said. “Andreas Niketas and Andreas Pistotatos were great men, but now with such connotations a name can inspire rashness in youth.”

    Alexandra wasn’t paying attention. She gently shook her mother’s shoulder. “Mother?” There was no response.

    * * *​

    On March 12, Kaisarina Helena the Younger delivers of a healthy son at 11:46. It is one hundred and sixty years and seven minutes after the recorded delivery of Andreas Doukas Laskaris Komnenos. He is named Andreas Drakos. But as a new generation comes into being, the old must pass. At 12:24, Princess Theodora Komnena Drakina, great-granddaughter of Andreas Niketas and Kristina Shuisky, passes to whatever lies beyond.
    Battle of Dojama-Al Khalis
  • Yeah, the similar names are confusing but it is historically accurate (War of the Three Johns, are you serious?). The next generation will, due to some cultural changes, have some more variety.

    Namayan: Singapura’s value is pretty small now, but it is adjacent to Roman Malay, which after Taprobane is the largest and most populous cohesive piece of Roman territory in the east.

    Aishio: A Khan in Constantinople is dead. The initial burst of inspiration I had didn’t last long and I never got it back.

    West bank of the Alwand River, ten miles downstream from Qasr e-Shirin, October 19, 1605:

    Iskandar looked over the map of Iraq, taking a drink of Malmsey and then setting the silver chalice, inscribed with a duck, I never figured out why Andreas Niketas seemed to like that bird, made in Prousa, down on the right corner to cover the Omani Wilayah of Hormuz. If only it were that easy. The map was on his portable table, made of a series of smooth hardwood boards designed to be fitted together so they could be disassembled and assembled at will. I like this design more than that Swede’s version; that one made no sense.

    The corners were held down by four iron weights, although these were marked by the Komnenid family crest, formerly owned by Theodoros IV himself and bequeathed to his eldest daughter Anastasia. Iskandar smiled a little looking at them. His interest in his Christian ancestry was viewed with more than a little disgust by some of the ulema. But it is a mighty line regardless of its faith, and was not the first Komnenid Emperor proclaimed a better Muslim than the Caliph in the streets of Baghdad itself?

    Centuries-old history was not why he was there though, in the midst of a camp of forty eight thousand men. The Roman offensive into Mesopotamia had begun rather slowly and cautiously but was now picking up speed as Constantinople found more men to pour into the region. Their advanced scouts were harassing the outskirts of Baghdad and with their lead columns near Ar Ramadi and Ba’qubah it would be a matter of weeks before the largest city in all his domains would be under siege.

    The best known positions of their various forces were marked on the map with pins with little red flags, a thick sprawl across northern and central Mesopotamia. Most of them were topped with a red ball, denoting minor garrisons comprised largely of the militia. If their positions were attacked, the militia would likely accord themselves well but they were not a field force.

    Iskandar’s problems were the far fewer pins topped with yellow, professional Roman troops. A good percentage of them were of the new ‘sleeping’ tourmai but corseted with the long-term Roman regulars they would be a most potent force in the field, even ignoring the fact that the yellow pins indicated a troop count of eighty five thousand.

    However those eighty five thousand were not concentrated. Feeding such a vast host in the same area would have strained even Roman quartermasters and while at Aqrah the columns had shown great skill in cooperating despite dispersion, this still presented an opportunity. The Armies of the Euphrates and Aleppo were on the far side of the Tigris. They were far weaker than either the Armies of Edessa or Amida but that still meant he “only” faced fifty five thousand Roman regulars east of the river. From reports from cavalry squadrons and gunboats operating out of Baghdad the Romans did not have a secure ford south of Samarra, meaning that it would be a long haul for Euphrates or Aleppo to come to the support of Edessa or Amida.

    The Armies of Edessa and Amida were significantly stronger than their western counterparts. Besides their fifty five thousand regulars they had at least another ten thousand auxiliaries, not including the Druze militia garrisons of Al-Daur which had demonstrated their ability to best timariot cavalry in the field. Besides their greater individual strength these two armies, given their higher exposure to counter-attacks, operated closely.

    But now a gap was opening up. The Army of Edessa, commanded by Alexios Philanthropenos, had, faced with less opposition, pulled ahead of Amida and was now setting up siege lines around Ba’qubah. The Army of Amida, under the command of Domestikos of the East Theodoros Sideros, son of Timur II himself, was to rendezvous there for the final approach to Baghdad but was a few days’ march behind.

    “My lord,” a voice said from outside the tent. “The Beylerbey of Kermanshah is here to see you.” Excellent.

    “Send him in,” Iskandar replied and looked up, very high up, as Zahir-ud-din Mohammed Babur entered the tent. A barrel-chested Pashtun, six and a half feet tall, the Conqueror of Khiva and commander of the assault that broke the Roman left at Ras al-Ayn, was missing two fingers on his left hand and boasted a scar that stretched from his forehead to his chin, just to the right of his right eye. “How many men did you bring?” he asked.

    “Eight thousand, your majesty,” Babur replied. “The Qizilbash are fresh, but they all have at least six weeks’ drill and are eager, although a whiff of Vlach shot might curb their enthusiasm.”

    “It has a tendency to do that,” Iskandar replied, jotting down a few names on a piece of paper. He handed the paper to Babur. “I have a special assignment for you.”

    * * *

    On October 24, the Army of Amida, thirty one thousand regulars strong, is attacked by an Ottoman army forty eight thousand strong commanded by the Shah himself near the village of Dojama. Although Theodoros Sideros’ scouts warn him of the approach, Iskandar’s presence in-theater especially with a force this size is a complete strategic surprise. Aliquli Jabbadar, the commander of the Ottoman armies in Azerbaijan, Ardabil, and Gilan, has done an excellent job of convincing his Roman and Georgian counterparts that his forces are larger than they are and Iskandar’s departure from his capital was done under an intense veil of secrecy to throw off Roman spies.

    The Ottoman attack drives the Romans back towards the Tigris, the Romans retiring in good order for a while despite the disparity in numbers. However morale wanes when the Romans quickly find themselves with their backs against the river. Engineers frantically set to work building bridges so that the army can escape to the other side.

    * * *
    Just east of Dojama, Sanjak of Ba’qubah:

    Tourmarch Nikephoros Gylielmos looked beside to the left and right, long ranks of kataphraktoi and koursores and skythikoi, clad in lamellar and plate, horses snorting and pawing the ground. They smelled the powder in the air and knew what that meant. It was a bright day and fortunately the sun was now high in the sky. Boosting the early-morning Ottoman attacks had been the sunrise blinding the Romans as they faced their opponents.

    They were his men, Seventh Optimatic, Third Opsikian, and his own First Anatolic Guard, three thousand of the finest cavalry in the world. Everyone had a mount at least sixteen hands high and all were Imperial Kappadokian breed, the result of two hundred and fifty years of painstaking breeding by the Imperial stud farms, using mounts from Portugal to Kyushu. They were the steel fist of the Empire.

    And they had been posted in the vanguard. The engineers were working fast so that the army could ford the Tigris to safety, but building foot bridges that could accommodate infantry were one thing. Building ones that could carry cannons or heavy cavalry were another matter. The odds of getting out of the pocket in which the Romans had found themselves was minimal. A previous attempt by the Third Optimatic to smash its way out had succeeded in destroying the tourma. It flattened several ortas of azabs but then disordered was caught in a scrum with sipahis and then taken in flank by the new red-hat infantry and badly cut up.

    In front of him were a line of cannon hurling round shot at the Ottoman columns approaching. They were in some disarray, having marched hard and already bloodied by the Roman fighting retreat, and the constant picking at their ranks by the clouds of Roman skirmishers was not helping. But the akritai were already starting to fall back, leaving the first line of defense to the heavy cavalry and artillery. Those fated to die anyway. But that does not mean I have to go down quietly.

    He trotted over to Michael Kapikian, the commander of the batteries in front, who was currently shouting at his crews to switch to Vlach shot. “Tourmarch, I would like to execute Dragonfire.”

    Michael’s head snapped around to look at him. “Dragonfire?”

    “Yes, Dragonfire.”

    “Are you sure?”

    Nikephoros laughed. “One way or another I will be dead by sundown. So yes I’m sure.”

    “Very well, God go with you.”

    “And with you.” Nikephoros turned around as Michael bellowed at the gunners to load double Vlach shot.

    “PREPARE FOR DRAGONFIRE! ALL UNITS, ALIGN BY CANNONS! PREPARE TO ADVANCE!” he shouted, trotting back to his original position as his simamandators waved their flags. The gunners were filing behind their pieces, making sure to leave clear the fifteen-to-eighteen yard gaps between their weapons. The skirmishers were retreating, falling back through the gaps in the artillery, bullets whizzing past their heads.

    “Steady, men. There are enough kills for all of us.” There are probably ten thousand men in those columns. Michael’s simamandator held up a striped blue-orange flag and a solid crimson one. “Forward trot,” Nikephoros said to his trumpeter. Two short blows. A second later the other trumpets took up the call and then three thousand medium and heavy Roman cavalry began to march, the skirmishers calmly filing between the gaps in the horse formation.

    The Roman guns were silent and the Ottoman infantry, encouraged by the lack of bullets and shots, were surging forward. Drums boomed and they burst into a run, shouting. All formation cohesion disappeared. Stupid people. It will be good to trim the glut.

    The Persians were a hundred yards ahead now, a few firing but most charging, although Nikephoros could see a few officers trying to reestablish a formation and some units wavering as they saw the masses of silver calmly advancing. Fifty yards.

    Nikephoros drew his saber and hefted it above his head. “LAST ONE TO STICK HIS SABER UP A PERSIAN ASS BUYS THE WINE! RIDE THEM DOWN!”

    “SMASH THEM FLAT!” Three thousand voices shouted, the next line in the favorite song of the kataphraktoi, “Ride them down.”


    “AND GRIND THEIR GUTS!” Thirty yards.

    “ST. JUDE!” Twenty yards. The artillery simamandator dropped the blue-orange flag. “CHARGE!”

    The trumpets blazed and the horsemen leapt forward, a great rumble as their hooves slammed the ground. It was a great sound, a terrible sound, but one that soon met its superior. The artillery simamandator dropped the crimson flag and at a range of fifteen yards from the enemy, forty one Roman guns fired double Vlach shot. Ten seconds later the Roman cavalry slammed into what was left of the Ottoman lines.

    * * *

    Ibrahim Bey swore as he saw the Roman guns belch. He could hear the shrieks as men were shredded by tens of thousands of jagged metal bits. That’s not how this was supposed to turn out. The Romans are on the run, pinned against the river. This is supposed to finish them off.

    “BEY, WHY WERE THESE TROOPS NOT PULLED BACK?!” Ibrahim wheeled around to see Shahanshah Iskandar charging up, flanked by a dozen grim bodyguards, his eyes livid. “Is it because you wanted your Azabs to get the kill rather than the Janissaries or Shahsevan or Qizilbash?” Yes. Ibrahim swallowed. He had ‘lost’ the Shah’s order to pull his troops back. “Well they’re getting their share of killing.”

    The Roman cavalry charge, bursting out of the powder cloud on the heels of hell’s vomit, had completely shattered his Azabs who were flying back in full retreat, the Roman cavalry slaughtering every one of them within reach.

    “Order the Yazd Qizilbash and Fourth through Twelfth Janissary Orta forward,” Iskandar said. “Contain that charge.” He looked at Ibrahim. “You will join their attack. If the Roman horse break through, I suggest you do not return.” Ibrahim swallowed again but nodded.

    * * *
    Iskandar lowered his dalnovzor. I guess Ibrahim won’t be coming back. The Roman kataphraktoi had their fire up so rather than retiring, on sighting their new opponents they immediately reformed and charged. The Ninth and Twelfth Janissary Ortas no longer existed and the remainder were flying backwards as well. But the Janissaries had managed to get off one volley, ragged but at point-blank range, before they were overrun, and by now the Roman cavalry was seriously disordered and their horses blown. Perhaps there is an advantage here. “Deploy the Shahsevan.”

    * * *

    According to the tagmatic history of the Anatolics, Tourmarch Nikephoros Gylielmos was killed by the Janissary volley. Naturally this did nothing to bring the rampaging Roman cavalry under control and the ensuing Shahsevan counter-attack, backed by the Mazandaran and Khorasan Qizilbash, swept them from the field.

    That was bad enough but the rout of the Roman cavalry badly demoralizes the Roman infantry moving up to support what appeared a moment ago as a miraculous turning of the tide. Their formations disordered as well, the fresh Ottoman troops blast through the center of the Roman lines, breaking the Army of Amida in two and sounding its death knell.

    Of the thirty one thousand Roman regulars that went into battle that morning, by 3 PM only fourteen thousand have escaped being killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The vast majority are light cavalry or infantry who manage to ford the Tigris, many by abandoning their weapons, but the army’s supply train, heavy cavalry, and artillery are all utterly destroyed or captured. The Ottomans paid heavily with six thousand casualties of their own, more than half inflicted by the kataphraktoi, but considering the haul even such losses are more than worth it.

    Theodoros Sideros was thrown from his horse just a week before the battle and is in such agonizing pain despite prescriptions of cannabis and opium as to be practically incapacitated throughout the entire of the battle. His second, down with dysentery, was in little better shape. For the most part the Army of Amida was commanded by Michael Sgouros, an old peacetime strategos far more concerned with what the enemy could do to him rather than what he could do to the enemy. Still Theodoros is unwilling to try and escape after such a disaster. He is left on his litter with his sword and a brace of kyzikoi in the middle of the battlefield and is killed by timariot cavalry.

    The fighting at Dojama however is only half of the story. Hearing the sound of the guns, the bulk of the Army of Edessa, twenty one of its twenty five tourmai, broke camp and marched towards Dojama. However at Al Khalis it was met by Babur, commanding eight thousand Qizilbash and Azabs corseted with a few Janissaries with orders to delay the Romans at all costs.

    It is an order he fulfills beyond all expectation. Skillfully parrying Roman efforts to outflank him for a time, he throws back six separate Roman assaults. When asked if he will surrender as his troops are running low on ammunition he replies, “F*** ammunition, I still have my teeth.” After six hours he is overrun, some of the Janissary ortas throwing their hardtack and cheese after running out of bullets, but not before inflicting fourteen hundred casualties and effectively holding the Army of Edessa up for the whole day.

    Survivors from Dojama during the night alert the Romans to their plight and Alexios Philanthropenos orders an immediate crossing of the Tigris, but only two tourmai have crossed by morning. On October 25, the Army of Edessa must execute one of the most difficult maneuvers an army can face, a (quasi) amphibious withdrawal under fire. Iskandar, not wanting this second prize to escape, attacks unceasingly and the fighting is savage.

    Leo Neokastrites and the 4th Chaldean are in the thick of the fighting. On three separate occasions they meet Ottoman attacks by a near point-blank volley and a sudden charge that sweeps the enemy from the field. However unlike the cavalry at Dojama Leo keeps his men under control and they retire before a fresh Ottoman counter-attack catches them in the open. In the process the 4th Chaldean capture their tenth Ottoman standard of the war, a record for all the tourmai in the Roman army.

    Thanks to the bravery and skill of the 4th Chaldean and other Roman tourmai, twenty one of the twenty five tourmai manage to cross the Tigris, along with most of the food stores, and add fifteen hundred Ottomans to the casualty lists. But the bulk of the artillery has to be abandoned along with the heavy cavalry war horses, although most of both categories are destroyed to keep them out of Persian hands.

    Despite the escape of the bulk of the Army of Edessa, the battles of Dojama and Al Khalis are the most humiliating debacle for Roman arms since the battle of Gordion, possibly even Cappadocian Caesarea. In exchange for wiping twenty one Roman tourmai off the field, wrecking or capturing over eighty cannons, six thousand war horses, over half a million rations, and 700,000 hyperpyra in the army pay chests, Iskandar has taken fifteen thousand casualties of his own. The losses are severe, but whilst Roman casualties were mostly veteran regulars, many of them now prisoners, Ottoman casualties are mostly wounded and concentrated in the less valuable Azab units.

    Moreover Iskandar’s prestige in the Dar al-Islam could not be higher. On November 6, in the city of Baghdad, the Sharif of the Hedjaz gives the keys of Mecca and Medina to the Shahanshah.
  • HanEmpire: At the moment the keys are largely symbolic but they provide an opportunity for Iskandar to start sticking his fingers into Arabia, which previously was comprised of independent states. The Omani are not amused.

    Lukeanus: Yes. Having a big eastern power to pressure the Romans is always a good way to keep this from being a Byz-wank. Safavid Persia did much the same to the Ottoman Empire IOTL, which is why it always annoys me when there are Ottoman-Europe threads and no mention of Persia is made.

    Voyager75: Somebody’s paying attention.

    Frustrated Progressive: He is in a position to do so, but Iskandar’s goal is to proclaim himself such on a more auspicious occasion. Say, leading a hajj to Mecca and personally returning the Black Stone.

    Domestikos and Neokastrites: At this stage Neokastrites is still a relatively junior tourmarch. It’d be like appointing a lieutenant colonel to the joint chief of staff. But there are reasons why he’s showing up a lot.

    Stark: Glad you’re enjoying it.

    Altwere: Maybe once Game of Thrones ends. It’s a little too similar in spots for it to air at the same time.

    Roman territory changes: Won’t say anything here because updates will cover it.

    Admortis: I’m not going to be able to update images. My Internet is slow so posting images takes a painfully long time. Thanks for the praise.

    Turkish culture in Anatolia: Western and coastal Anatolia is practically entirely culturally Greek and religiously Orthodox. The exceptions number less than 100,000 out of a population of 9+ million. Central and eastern Anatolia is a mix, but the dominant culture is a Turko-Greek-Armenian hybrid, although the Greek element has been slowly gaining ground. To put it in EUIV terms, ‘central/east Anatolia’ is a separate culture in the Roman culture group while the Roman Empire is a cultural union. Any affinity with the Turks of the east has been completely broken.

    1606: The immediate fallout from the Battle of Dojama-Al Khalis for the Romans is surprisingly mild. The Ottoman casualties number over 1 in 4 of the soldiers who entered the battle and even with the loss of most of the artillery and heavy cavalry trying to force a crossing of the Tigris in the teeth of Alexios Philanthropenos is unlikely to go well. The consolation prize for the Ottomans is the lapping up of numerous garrisons established by the Roman offensive just prior to the battles.

    Meanwhile the Armies of Edessa, Aleppo, and the Euphrates, plus the Amida survivors, congregate at Tikrit, a force numbering over sixty thousand strong, while the War Room rushes new cannons and war horses to the front. Iskandar is also reinforced by fresh Qizilbash infantry plus Pashtun and Sindhi cavalry, the latter from the Emirate of Sukkur, so that nine months after Dojama both armies are comparable in size.

    What follows is a campaign of maneuver warfare combined with incessant skirmishes, both sides trying to lure the enemy into a disadvantageous battle but both too wary to fall for the trap. Iskandar however has the better of it, forcing the Roman army now commanded by newly promoted Domestikos of the East Alexios Philanthropenos to retire to Al Fathah to maintain its supply lines. On the Euphrates the Roman garrisons also retire from Al Ramadi back to Al Hadithah.

    One unexpected benefit from Dojama for the Romans is that their heavy cavalry has gained a moral ascendancy on the field. Although the great charge at Dojama ended up backfiring terribly for the Army of Amida, for the Azabs, Qizilbash, and Janissaries that were run down in droves by the unstoppable silver avalanche the sight of an advancing line of kataphraktoi is an unbearable specter.

    It is believed that Andreas Niketas was the first to say that ‘morale is to material as three to one’. Despite this exception, Dojama-Al Khalis has done much to dispel the myth of Roman martial superiority that had formed out of the juggernaut offensive into Mesopotamia. Although some of the Turkish commanders resent the Shah’s treatment of Ibrahim Bey the rank and file positively adore their monarch, supposedly a few calling him the Andreas Niketas of Islam.

    Although many on the Roman side are painfully aware of Iskandar’s blood relation to the Shatterer of the Armies, there are also many that are quite eager to challenge any such claims. Almost immediately the effort begins to find out exactly what went wrong at Dojama-Al Khalis. Gordion had been lost by the treachery of Stefanos Doukas. Cappadocian Caesarea had been lost by Timur’s repeated flank attacks dissipating the Roman reserve until a great assault shattered the Roman center, but it had taken the terrible warlord almost the full day to succeed and nightfall snatched away half the fruits of his victory. The main clash between Iskandar and the Army of Amida lasted little more than two hours.

    The most thorough and often undiplomatic critique of the Roman performance is a report written by Tourmarch Leo Neokastrites. Completed ten months after the battle and composed in spare moments whilst on campaign along the Tigris, he submitted it to the strategos of the Chaldean tagma, Alexios Gabras (transferred from Jeddah just too late to miss Al Khalis) who forwarded it on to Philanthropenos, both of them adding comments and some extra analysis but leaving the text largely intact, before it finally arrived at the White Palace.

    Despite the revisions of Gabras and Philanthropenos at least 80% of the document is from Leo’s pen and there is much consternation in certain circles at the sight of a junior tourmarch criticizing the conduct of officers far above his pay grade. One of the more polite responses attributed it to ‘typical Pontic impertinence’, although said commentator probably failed to note that Gabras and Philanthropenos were also Pontics as well. Neokastrites was born in the Leonkastron, the former Genoese quarter in Trebizond, Gabras in Kerasous, and Philanthropenos in Kadahor. It is a reflection of the fact that the Pontic lands provide a disproportionate amount of the army officers.

    Leo began by criticizing the last few months of the campaign, in that the Armies of Amida and Edessa had acted as if the other did not exist. Theodoros Sideros, instead of acting as the Domestikos of the East in full command of all the armies in Mesopotamia, had behaved as if he was simply commander of the Army of Amida. The previous close cooperation between the armies that highlighted the early campaign and secured the victory at Aqrah was largely absent.

    The bulk of Leo’s condemnation though comes from the conduct of the Army of Amida during the battle itself. Considering Theodoros Sideros’ incapacity during the battle, Leo’s venom is directed at Michael Sgouros. He panicked, thinking only of fleeing across the Tigris when challenged by Iskandar. His conduct may have made some sense if the Army of Amida had been alone, but as soon as Alexios Philanthropenos heard the sound of the guns the Army of Edessa immediately moved out to support as Sgouros should have realized.

    Because of Sgouros’s failure to remember the existence of Edessa, he used his heavy cavalry as his main front-line on the grounds it would not be able to escape across the light bridges hastily assembled by the engineers. Such grounds were also reasonable, unless Amida was supposed to act as an anvil while Edessa played the hammer. While Babur’s ferocious resistance meant that Iskandar may have broken the anvil before Edessa got within range, as was undoubtedly the point, a regular defense by infantry and artillery supported by cavalry in reserve would have substantially increased the odds of such a tactic succeeding.

    Leo continued his criticism to include the methodology of the defense itself, not just its composition. The idea of a closely coordinated artillery volley and cavalry charge certainly was attractive and Gylielmos’s Dragonfire maneuver undoubtedly succeeded brilliantly. However it managed to get its timing down perfectly with no mishaps, greatly assisted by the fact that neither the artillery nor cavalry were under fire at the time. While it could be highly effective, if successful, Leo viewed it as flamboyant and complicated, too risky to be a truly useful tactic.

    Furthermore Gylielmos posted himself in the first line, which meant he was killed and unable to control his forces after the initial charge. That gave the Shah the advantage to counterattack ruthlessly and turn a brilliant charge into a terrible debacle. A posting in the second reserve line would have enabled him to regroup the kataphraktoi before it was too late.

    There are many in Constantinople who agree with Leo’s analysis although they would not care to admit it. Michael Sgouros is summoned to Constantinople, stripped of his rank, dishonorably discharged, his possessions confiscated, forcibly tonsured, and exiled to one of the danker monasteries in the marshes of the Danube delta. But the Megas Domestikos Anastasios Drakos-Komnenos (the uncle of Demetrios III, Despot of Egypt) is inclined to punish the tourmarch by withholding the proposed Order of the Iron Gates for his conduct at Al Khalis.

    Such conduct earns a furious counter-blast from Sinope when Princess Alexeia enters the lists in support of her captain of the bodyguard during the siege of Pyrgos, with whom she has been in constant contact since her return to the west. The letters from a daughter of Andreas Drakos protect Leo Neokastrites from any repercussions to his career and also ensure that he does receive an Order of the Iron Gates.

    As the Romans and Persians duel in Mesopotamia the war continues on other fronts. Tabriz falls to an army of thirty two thousand Georgians and twenty two thousand Romans on September 16 after a well-fought siege, the garrison put to the sword for failing to capitulate. It is a victory that seriously undermines the Ottoman position in Azerbaijan and with the Georgian fleet in command of the Caspian a descent into Mazandaran, the ‘Garden of the Shahs’, is well within the realm of possibility. Aware of the danger, Iskandar withdraws from Mesopotamia to his capital to gather new forces to confront the Romans and Georgians in the north come spring. With his victory at Dojama-Al Khalis ghazis from the Dar al-Islam again are flocking to his banner, but now with his enhanced prestige he is able to impose some discipline on them.

    The fighting in Arabia is heating up as well when Ottoman garrisons are established in Mecca, Medina, Yanbu (the port of Medina), and also in the siege lines investing Jeddah. The formidable defenses of the port can see off this new threat but the small garrison is helpless to do anything more than guard the ramparts.

    But Egyptian tourmai and ships are now entering the battle and quite eager to take the fight to the Muslims. There has been some serious fighting in the south of Egypt as many of the Muslim refugees try to sneak back to their deserted homes. Any found north of the border are slaughtered in droves. Hassan, not willing to provoke another war with the Romans, tries to stop the migrations but with the migrants compelled by hunger and homesickness makes little headway.

    Despite many claims that the land had been completely depopulated, many of the poorest Muslims had in fact remained in the Despotate rather than emigrate to the Idwait Sultanate. Many of the Coptic landlords who formerly held estates here before the Great Uprising are now dead or ruined so they live largely without interference from the Despotic government, which is more concerned with rejuvenating the Delta and the Nile German lands. Now with farms of their own taken from their absent neighbors the ‘remainers’ are uninclined to be shuffled aside by fellow Muslims returning. Many of the Muslim dead are slain by Muslim hands.

    Thus the Egyptians begin their attack by sacking the Idwait port of Marsa Alam on the grounds that the construction of Idwait warships was a violation of the treaty. Said warships were a quartet of large skiffs armed with half a dozen heavy arquebuses and a catapult for throwing grenades. Despite facing such formidable opponents, the six Egyptian gun galleys and one galleass, supported by three Ethiopian galleys, have little difficulty in flattening the town.

    Joined by more reinforcements, the combined Egyptian-Roman-Ethiopian fleet then lands seven thousand men to besiege Yanbu. Despite the desperate resistance of the Ottoman-Hedjazi garrison the town is overrun after a siege of seven days, the populace put to the sword on the grounds that they continued to fight even after the walls had been breached. As the soldiers establish their posts the shout goes up “On to Medina!”

    Far to the west the Roman advance against Islam still continues as well as an army of ten Roman and six Sicilian tourmai, plus twenty five hundred Bedouin auxiliaries, occupy the town of Tigzirt, not far from the great city of Algiers. Algiers, with a population of thirty five thousand (plus at least fifteen thousand slaves), is the home of Izmirli, the greatest of the pirate ports. Even with the losses at Kanala, Algiers alone can field at least sixty corsair ships. Though its fall would not end the corsair menace, it would neuter it.

    But first the city must be taken. It is well fortified and blockading the home port of Izmirli is not something that can be accomplished easily even with the promised support of the Hospitaliers and an Arletian squadron. And it is not just the sea that the Christians should watch, for Iskandar is not the only champion Islam has raised.

    * * *

    Constantinople, April 11, 1607:

    Demetrios Sideros frowned. Scrit, scrit. His quill scratched out that sentence. Too…clunky and I need a synonym for ineffectual.

    Jahzara leaned over his shoulder. “I thought you said it was done.”

    “It is. I just don’t like it.”

    “I read it. It’s brilliant.”

    That is not the word I would use, Demetrios thought. “It’s alright.” Actually I think it stinks. Who would read this crap?

    Jahzara rolled her eyes. “So when are you going to publish it?”

    “I’m not planning on publishing it.”

    Jahzara sat down, glaring at him across the table. “Why not? You’ve spent so much time working on this. This could make you famous.”

    Yes, as an idiot. “It’s finished, but it is not good enough for that.”

    “Well, in that case,” Jahzara said, leaning over across the table so that Demetrios could get a good look at her cleavage. “How about you come to bed? It is getting late.”

    She’s not usually this forward. What is she up to? She reached over to adjust her hemline, giving Demetrios even more of a view. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Demetrios. He smiled. “Sure.”

    * * *

    Jahzara stood at the foot of the bed, pulling a shawl around her shoulders. Demetrios was sprawled across the bed, snoring lightly. He’ll be there for a while. She had been more energetic in their lovemaking than usual to make sure of that. Hera had done that to Zeus during the Trojan War so she could fulfill her own plans without interference. And while she was no Hera, he was certainly no Zeus. And even if he figures out what I did, it’s not like he can say that he didn’t enjoy it. And there’s no way he would admit what I did to others.

    She walked silently out of the room, her servant Brehan handing her a lit lamp. Nodding in thanks, she continued on to grab Demetrios’s manuscript. It was good, not perfect, but still good. She knew her husband; he would never release it until it was perfect which would never happen.

    Giyorgis stuck his head into the room. “Your horse is ready, milady,” he said in Amharic. She nodded, taking the papers and folding them into her purse. She was married to a grandson of both Empress Helena and Timur II, possibly the most illustrious bloodline on the planet. She would make sure he, and she, achieved a status commensurate with his pedigree. Even if I have to drag him kicking and screaming.
    Last edited:
  • So has Roman trade recovered from the Great Uprising?

    Short answer, no. I go into more detail in a later update.

    1607: In the Constantinople papers in mid-April an article written by Demetrios Sideros is posted. It is titled Differential Taxation: A Moral and Economic Necessity. It is to that date the most articulate argument for tax brackets, levying varying tax rates dependent on the taxpayer’s income rather than just one base percentage, as is the tax policy of the time.

    It is an impressive display of learning, especially coming from a twenty-two year old still in university. One theory on the streets is that it was really written by Princess Theodora shortly before her death. The street rumor however is completely false. Using a wide array of historical examples, primarily from the reign of the Good Emperor but stretching all the way back to Konstantinos Megas, Demetrios argues that different tax rates are not unjust provided “one does not follow the typical Latin practice by over-burdening those least able to pay whilst the rich are untouched. But it is a plain fact that taking a tenth of a dynatos’s income scarcely inconveniences him, whilst taking a tenth of a laborer’s pay means that starvation is an ever-present danger. By taking, for example, only five percent of a laborer’s pay as tax one removes him from the threat of starvation, something clearly pleasing in the sight of God. The damage to the state’s coffers by such actions can be more than made up by taxing the dynatos at twenty percent. While he may have to forgo buying a new carriage, he still is not threatened by hunger.

    If one has a weight that needs to be moved and has one strong man and one child, no one would split the weight evenly. No, the bulk would go to the man and a fraction to the child. Each would be given the weight he could bear. By refusing to follow this basic principle, the state forfeits the extra money that would come from the higher tax rates and earns the just enmity of the poor, whose curses carry straight to the ears of the Divine Judge.”

    Naturally such opinions are extremely popular with the poor but earn Demetrios the opprobrium of the rich. Several dynatoi pen scurrilous articles attacking his character, claiming that his Ethiopian wife is the one “wearing the pants”, to use a modern equivalent of their terminology. The attacks are only encouraged by the silence of Demetrios who does nothing to defend his character. But the article does gain Demetrios the attention of key officials in the bureaucracy, many of whom are from the mesoi and banausoi and have little sympathy for the dynatoi. Immediately after graduation he is given a posting in the Kephalate of Thyatira. His supervisors are surprised that the man who stirred up such a storm in Constantinople is incredibly quiet and mild-mannered in the provinces but note his hard work, attention to detail, and intelligence.

    The war in the Constantinople papers is quickly overshadowed by the war in the east. On June 1, the combined Georgian-Roman army in Azerbaijan engages the Ottoman army under the command of Iskandar, both sides disposing of sixty thousand men. The battle of Astara that follows is one that will be remembered with pride and shame by all three great nations.

    Both sides hurl themselves into the battle, the initial Roman offensive cracking but not breaking the line of Qizilbash who throw back six separate assaults, protecting themselves with ramparts of their own and the enemy dead. On the right wing, the Roman artillery make the hills look like ‘a constant sheet of fire’ but still the Qizilbash hold.

    In the center the small town of Astara itself has the misfortune of being caught squarely between the two armies. Both sides pour troops in to seize it, the Ottomans gaining it first, then thrown out. The Ottomans take it again, are expelled again, take it back again, are expelled again, and still return to the attack as the Romans and Georgians pile on reinforcements, the fight for the town taking on a significance of its own far out of its strategic importance.

    The fighting here is at point-blank range, soldiers blazing away at each other from inside the same buildings, stabbing swords into enemy bellies as their assailants plunge knives into their hearts. When powder and steel fail, it is the turn of flesh and bone as men resort to fists and teeth, one Roman dekarchos reportedly beating a Janissary to death with the Roman’s severed left arm. On and on the killing goes on, maddened farm animals tearing through the streets, bulls afire pitching into troop columns, until the houses catch fire themselves and collapse, crushing both combatants in their shared funeral pyres.

    As reserves on both sides pile into the town, the Georgians on the left wing launch their assault, spearheaded by the Royal Guard. Equipped with plug ambrolars, flintlock muskets, steel ramrods, and paper cartridges, they are the most advanced infantry in the world and consternation sweeps through the Ottoman ranks when they receive the Georgians’ fire. Still the Qizilbash and Janissaries stationed there hold the Georgian infantry, but then the Georgian infantry hold them as well. Two hundred Georgian kataphraktoi rip into their flank.

    The heavy cavalry are outnumbered well over forty to one but the Ottoman infantry are tired, their morale strained, and surprise is total. The entire Ottoman wing collapses, the Georgian army in hot pursuit, as the Skolai and elements of the Macedonian tagma drive the Ottomans again out of Astara.

    Iskandar, painfully aware of the defeat staring him in the face, reacts quickly. Rallying the survivors from Astara with the cry “All those who still serve God, follow me!” he hurls himself into a counter-attack against the Georgians as the Shahshevan regroup the routing wing troops. At the sight of their Shah fighting in the front-rank, they return to battle with a vengeance.

    Now it is the turn of the Georgians to be completely surprised. Their formations disordered and tired after their rapid advance, they are confronted by counter-attacking infantry. Fierce fighting seesaws back and forth for a time until three hundred sipahi lancers come crashing out of the murk. This time it is the Georgians who break, the Ottomans driving them pell-mell back to their original lines.

    With even a moment’s relief the Royal Guard would have reformed and provided a rock for the rest of the Georgians to rally upon, but Iskandar knows that if he relaxes his grip for a moment he is likely doomed. So he keeps up the attack despite the exhaustion of his troops and his reserve. But the sight of the Royal Guard in disorderly retreat unnerves even those Georgian troops not engaged and as soon as the Ottomans get close enough to send shot whizzing about their heads they fall back.

    The collapse of the Georgian position leaves the Romans dangerously exposed and they begrudgingly retire. But the Roman reserves have been crippled in Astara and Iskandar, wringing a last bit of strength out of his troops, threatens to turn their flank. Faced by seemingly overwhelming force, to escape the Romans abandon the bulk of their artillery, wounded, and many of the soldiers holding Astara.

    The carnage is unimaginable. Out of the sixty thousand Ottomans twenty three thousand are casualties, out of the twenty five thousand Romans ten thousand are casualties, and out of the thirty five thousand Georgians nineteen thousand are casualties. The Georgian army has been effectively finished as a fighting force, although it will be quite some time before the Ottomans are in a position to take advantage of that.

    Far to the west the armies of Islam are also on the move. The Marinid Sultan is Mouley Ismail, who thus far has done nothing in reaction to Roman actions, either in Arabia or North Africa. Building on a resurgence of Marinid might, he has solidified his control in Morocco, caring little if the Romans crush Algerian emirs recalcitrant in their loyalty to Marrakesh. It is a respectable accomplishment but nothing that places Mouley Ismail above the more vigorous Marinid Sultans that have periodically revived their unusually long-lived dynasty.

    But that was just a springboard for a great offensive to the south, a Moroccan invasion of the lands of the blacks on the opposite side of the Sahara where the kingdoms of gold lie. Since the collapse of the Jolof Empire the region has been a patchwork of states although when the thirty seven hundred Marinid gunners, eight hundred cavalry and seven cannons arrived the Kingdom of Zaga had a new and shaky hegemony over the Niger River valley.

    At Tondibi the assembled might of Zaga challenged the northern interlopers; the Marinids were outnumbered six to one. Four hours later the might of Zaga was no more, cut down by the gunpowder weapons of the north to which they could make no reply. In the ensuing vacuum the Marinids have been able to seize a sizeable section of the Niger valley, including the great city of Timbuktu, filling Mouley Ismail’s coffers with gold and his armies with hardy and brave Zanj slaves.

    The Sultan is now in a position to intervene decisively against the defilers of Mecca and he does so with overwhelming force. Near the fishing village of Dellys the Roman-Sicilian army, seventeen thousand strong, encounters an immense host. “The horizon from north to south was covered in rank after rank of Sudanese, strong of arm and broad of chest, flanked by cloth-armored Berber horse and heralded by a host of skirmishers, all supported by at least a dozen batteries built and manned by Triunes,” in the words of one of the Sicilian droungarioi. Exactly how many Mouley Ismail fielded is uncertain, with reports ranging from two hundred thousand to ‘only’ sixty thousand.

    The Roman attempts to withdraw prior to a confrontation fail in the face of waves of Berber cavalry swirling around them. But the fighting retreat is conducted skillfully despite the massive disparity in number and the Marinid host soon learns to fear the frown of eighteen Roman warships that reach the coast by mid-afternoon. Covered by their artillery, the battle is merely a major disaster for the Romans rather than a total one, with casualties close to 30%, although every Roman wound was repaid with a Marinid one.

    What follows afterwards, in the release of tension after the ships arrived, is what makes Dellys one of the most humiliating defeats in Roman history. The troops are tired and low in morale, many having served here for eleven years straight and keenly aware of how low their situation is in the War Room’s priorities. Even before Mouley Ismail entered the fight, the resources allocated were inadequate. Now they are patently absurd. Roman/Sicilian forces are scattered in small garrisons along the coast, too small by themselves to stand any chance against that host, but even combined with the forces left after Dellys that leaves the Roman-Sicilians only twenty thousand men.

    What follows is a complete collapse of the Roman position in North Africa as all of those newly-won garrisons, save the island of Tabarka itself, are abandoned. Eleven years of blood and sweat vanish in about as many weeks, the extent and speed of the retreat surprising even Mouley Ismail himself. Izmirli too, smelling blood, sallies. An initial attack on a pair of Roman galleon squadrons fails against their massed firepower, but storms, so often the bane of those who would invade North Africa, scatter the Romans. Izmirli snaps up a detachment of four galleons, plus another seven isolated Roman warships, and two troop transports carrying the 3rd Bulgarian tourmai.

    As this is happening, Stephan Tomasevic, a Bosnian émigré descended from the former Princes of Pec, flees with his retinue into Roman territory where he is quickly conveyed to Constantinople. Since al-Hasakah, the Hungarians have returned to persecuting the Orthodox in Serbia, much to the vexation of the Serbian nobility and Emperor Demetrios, who has continued his habit of surreptitiously supplying them with money and arms.

    In the spring, the new Hungarian King, Andrew VII Hunyadi, instituted a new practice, that all Serbian nobility were required to hand over one son and daughter to him to be raised at court as Catholics, and that the court-Catholic children are to be given primacy in inheritances forthwith. Tomasevic refused to hand over his son with the famous cry, “His soul belongs to him and God alone, and you are no God!” Stephan beat the initial Hungarian attack on Pec, but could not stand against the Black Army contingents sweeping down from the north.

    Andrew is extremely irritated by the warm welcome accorded to Stephan in the White Palace, well aware of Roman activities in Serbia, and determined to put a stop to it. He is especially incensed with Demetrios since Andrew is married to Demetrios’ younger sister Theodora. With Roman arms hammered by Astara and humiliated by Dojama and Dellys, now though seems to be the time. On November 1, with the aid of well-placed bribes in the understrength garrison (the Bulgarian tagma is in North Africa), units of the Black Army seize Serdica/Sofia. According to the War Room, “assuming no opposition and reasonable weather, the Black Army can be at the Herakleian Walls in two weeks’ time.”
  • HanEmpire: The Poles are free, except they're allied with Hungary.

    Evilprodigy: I can't give you an exact number without knowing OTL 17th army pay levels to use as a comparison. But in the Roman armies the pay of a basic infantry recruit is comparable to that of an unskilled day laborer, nothing great. But there are the possibility of pay raises as pay goes up based on your years of service and also the higher ranks get paid more. Also getting posted to one of the guard tagmata or serving in a tourmai that earns guard status is another pay increase. More illustrious branches of the military such as the kataphraktoi get paid more too. Also unlike a day laborer a Roman soldier has job security plus barracks to sleep in and rations to eat without paying for either. So while a skilled artisan wouldn't think twice of joining the army, many agricultural laborers without farms of their own are often enticed.

    MarshalofMontival: They're busy eyeing the Rhine valley and the Netherlands while the Germans fight each other and also slowly expanding their foothold in the New World.

    1608: With the crippling of the Georgians at Astara, the allied position in the trans-Aras has become untenable. Aside from the heavy casualties, the near-annihilation of the Royal Guard demoralized the regular Georgian tagmata, giving Iskandar a morale ascendancy, one that by no means is restricted to the Georgians. In the spring the War Room instructs the strategoi to avoid all direct military confrontations with Ottoman units under the command of the Shah if at all possible, hardly instructions that curb the Georgian suspicion that the Romans are proving to be a frail reed on which to lean.

    Iskandar pushes against a near-vacuum of opposition, driving back the Roman-Georgian lines back to their status two years earlier with minimal losses. It is a clear-cut example of the advantage of having a formidable reputation as Iskandar himself admits that his post-Astara army was in no position for another major battle.

    One disadvantage of the Shah’s prolonged presence in Azerbaijan is that it could encourage the Romans to resume the offensive in Iraq, but the Roman forces there are in no position to do so. With Hungary’s seizure of Serdica, the eastern front is no longer the top priority of the War Room. Roman forces have been withdrawn west to the frontiers of Anizzah territory and to Mosul to set up secure defensive lines, not without laying waste much of the countryside with substantial wreckage to the canal network. This is in preparation for transferring several tagmata to Europe, even if an arrangement is not made with the Shah.

    Other Roman forces are in motion as well. The War Room has decided to cut its losses in North Africa, maintaining 2500 men at Tabarka and four thousand at Carthage but withdrawing the rest to Apulia to potentially be used to menace the Hungarian flank. This is much to the dismay of the Carthaginians and Sicilians but the Romans do not have the manpower to stare down Iskandar, Andrew VII, and Mouley Ismail.

    An initial peace proposal to Mouley Ismail fails as the Sultan insists on regaining Tabarka and receiving a substantial tribute from Sicily and the Empire and the cession of Carthage, his only concession the recognition of Carthaginian Mahdia and Roman Djerba. The Romans are not that desperate for peace and it is highly unlike Mouley Ismail seriously expected the offer to be taken.

    But what he has been unable to take by the pen he is willing to hazard with the sword. Although harassed by the Tabarka garrison he pushes into Carthaginian territory, a Carthaginian-Berber army outnumbered four to one declining to engage. Retiring into Carthage itself, Mouley Ismail follows to place the great city under siege, launching skiffs to contest control of Lake Tunis. Three days after the Sultan pitches his tent, Izmirli, leading a huge Berber fleet, blockades Carthage by sea.

    Serious peace negotiations begin with Iskandar himself. The Roman proposal is that they will withdraw all forces from the Arabian Peninsula, including Yanbu where the Roman offensive stalled miserably after the seizure of the port due to sandstorms, smallpox, and raids from the Southern Anizzah. Although often willing to follow the lead of their orthodox northern cousins despite the lack of any formal allegiance to the Empire, their Muslim faith has won out due to the continued Roman threats to the Muslim Holy Cities. The new Jeddah fortifications are to be destroyed prior to the Roman withdrawal, at which point an Idwait emissary will receive the Black Stone to return to Mecca.

    Aside from that, the Empire will pay Iskandar two million hyperpyra and Georgia six hundred thousand (the negotiations are conducted by a joint Roman-Georgian delegation), with all frontiers restored to the pre-war positions. The Romans also offer a quarter million Syrian Muslims to be transferred to northern Mesopotamia, moving expenses to be met by the Roman government.

    This is by far the most generous Roman offer to date, but Iskandar is unsatisfied. While the western war has never been a great desire for him, his realm has paid dearly in blood and coin and he wants recompense. Also with the Roman setbacks in North Africa and the hostilities with Hungary, he sees no reason not to drive a hard bargain.

    His counter-offer is that the Romans will evacuate Arabia, although they may destroy the Jeddah fortifications. That proviso helps the Romans save face and since the fortifications are all landward anyway, they would not help defend against another maritime assault. But Georgia must cede all its trans-Aras territories, in exchange Iskandar waiving the tribute from both Constantinople and Tbilisi.

    Up to this point the Christians are willing to accept Iskandar’s terms. But the Shah also insists that the Romans personally hand him the Black Stone on the battlefield of al-Hasakah, his first major victory over the Romans (the Roman negotiators were authorized to hand the Black Stone over if absolutely necessary to secure peace but the place of transfer is too much to stomach). That is humiliating enough but Iskandar also wants to be granted the title ‘Defender of the Syrian Muslims’ and for said people to be guaranteed certain rights, the Shah to ensure those rights are maintained. The Romans, quite well aware of how their ancestors in the 1400s had used a similar tactic via the Coptic Christians to harass the Mameluke Sultanate, refuse point blank.

    By pressing these humiliating terms only on the Romans Iskandar hopes to split the Romans and Georgians so that the latter will make a separate piece. Considering the wretched state of their army it is a tactic that nearly succeeds. But the infant royal Safavid dynasty derives its legitimacy from the marriages with the Drakina Queen and Princess, and the promise of an annual 300,000 hyperpyra subsidy keep Tbilisi in the fight, at least on paper. The talks break up, peace elusive.

    In Europe, the Hungarians did attempt to force the Gates of Trajan in winter but failed. The good weather feared by the War Room report did not appear. But the only troops in Europe are the Thracian tagma plus various militias and irregulars such as Albanian stradioti the White Palace can scrounge up.

    Epirus and Albania with their mountainous terrain and ornery inhabitants are harassed by Hungarian hussars but largely left undamaged. An attempt to force the Gates of Trajan in the summer fails this time against the fortifications and the impressive tenacity of the Komotini and Xanthi militia, forcing the Hungarians to focus their attentions away from Thrace toward Macedonia.

    A thrust spearheaded by the Black Army seizes Ohrid in June, then breaks into two prongs, one heading east towards Thessaloniki, the other south into Greece. Both are harassed but militia formations here are weak and few in number. Veroia falls in early August, Larissa a week later. The east prong gets a bloody nose courtesy of the Thracian tagma at Sindos, a small suburb town of Thessaloniki. The damage to the Hungarians isn’t serious but does spare Thessaloniki a siege, although Magyar raiding parties roam as far east as Drama. The southern prong is repulsed from Volos largely due to Roman warships cruising offshore but the Hungarian army reaches Siderokastron, not far from the pass of Thermopylae, before a halt is called.

    As early modern invasions and occupations go, the Hungarian has been rather mild. But still there have been the occasional massacre or other atrocities, particularly in the larger towns where most resistance was staged. And while the Orthodox in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Thessaly, unlike Serbia, have not been persecuted, the upper clerical hierarchy has been imprisoned and beaten, and several of the major churches seized, washed, and converted to Catholic churches. But Andrew VII is not too greedy. The initial reason for the attack was to get the Romans to stop supporting Serbian rebels, and so he is willing to back off some. To that end he dispatches a delegation to Constantinople.

    The White Palace, Constantinople, September 17, 1608:

    Demetrios Sideros swallowed, looking nervously across the hall. He was clad in the finest outfit he had ever worn in his life. He wore a dark blue silk shirt and pants, interlaced with silver thread. Gold thread adorned his collar and cuffs, a pea-shaped diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald set on each of his cuffs as well. A light purple cloak, although not the shade of Tyrian purple, also outlined with gold thread and fringed with mink, was clasped to his shoulders. A gold chain was around his neck, a diamond centered in each of the six-centimeter long ingots surrounded by two rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. It felt odd; he was used to much plainer clothes. But I can afford it now with my inheritance, and Jahzara likes to be at court.

    Jahzara stood next to him, as usual resplendent in finery. She was wearing a floor-length dark blue dress made of the finest Chinese silk, with the usual stitching of the Lion of Judah across her ample bodice. That much was usual, but interlaced in the fabric were dozens of tiny diamonds and emeralds so that she literally shimmered when she moved, sometimes showing her calves through the short slits along the sides.

    He swallowed again as the doors to the throne hall opened and the herald boomed. “The Count of Pec, Ambassador of his Apostolic Majesty, the Great King of Hungary, King of Croatia and Austria, Duke of Friuli, Aquileia, Transylvania and the Banat!”

    Demetrios pushed his eyeglasses a little up his nose, his eyes glancing behind him. The Empress Helena was indisposed but Emperor Demetrios was here, seated on his throne, but the purple curtains were drawn so that no one could see him. The mood amongst the court against the Hungarians was angry, as could easily be seen by the glowers and mutterings as the Hungarian Count walked forward.

    As a mark of disdain, the Emperor would not speak to the Hungarian envoy. I’m the one who is supposed to address him. Jahzara glanced over at him, smiled faintly, and held out her left hand. He clasped it and she squeezed gently. I should be angry with her; she arranged this. But her presence was comforting nonetheless.

    * * *
    The Count came to a stop, bowing toward the throne, although Jahzara noted that the bow was only a slight bow of the shoulders, hardly an appropriate obeisance to an Imperial Majesty. From the whispers in the ranks of courtiers she wasn’t the only one who noticed.

    She examined the Hungarian. He was short and a little pudgy, but with long, powerful arms. A luxuriant and likely waxed mustache congregated under a bent nose, but no beard. His eyebrows were some of the bushiest she had ever seen. His hair was short, slick, and thin. Eh, I’m not impressed.

    She looked up to the middle of the court to see Stephan Tomasevic and a flutter of desire filled her heart. Stephan was tall and broad-shouldered, with muscular arms and legs, a manly beard of black and gray covering his hard, angular face. Reportedly he already had three lovers amongst the ladies of the Roman court. I’d like to be one of them. But whilst Stephan was far more of a man than Demetrios, the blood of Sideros was far more rarified than Tomasevic.

    The Hungarian count stopped, bowed to the veiled throne, and began speaking some meaningless pleasantry, completely ignoring Demetrios. She glanced at him and spotted a very faint flaring of the nostrils. The Count finished and Demetrios answered with another series of pleasantries, the ambassador not so much as turning his head. Jahzara’s own nostrils flared. Wait, what? Did he just call the ambassador’s master a Sultan? There was some murmuring in the crowd.

    The exchange continued a little while in much the same vein. The ambassador continued speaking at the veiled throne, seemingly unaware of Demetrios’ presence. But the court was not, as Jahzara noticed that every time Demetrios referenced a Hungarian title he used the Arab equivalent. Finally the Ambassador, his nostrils flared, looked at Demetrios for the first time, and snarled “We are not Mohammedans.”

    Flatly, Demetrios replied. “Yes, you are.” A murmur swept the crowd.

    The Magyar’s face reddened in rage. “If we were anywhere else, I would kill you for that, boy.”

    “This boy, emir, is of the blood of Andreas Niketas and Timur.”

    He sneered. “Very little of that blood, apparently. And I am a Count, not an Emir.” He looked back at the Emperor’s throne. “Now, in exchange for-”

    “YOU ARE AN EMIR!” Demetrios bellowed. Jahzara gasped in surprise; she’d never heard Demetrios raise his voice. “AND A MOHAMMEDAN! THOUGH YOU DO NOT PRAY TO MECCA IN BODY, YOU DO SO WITH YOUR HEART!” He quieted down. “You and your kind claim to be Christian, but your actions speak loudly than words. Whenever we are faced by a great Muslim foe, your…kind, rather than aiding us as true brothers in the faith would do, instead use the opportunity to attack us instead. You come here, offering peace while you issue threats you would never dare to raise were we not facing the greatest Muslim warlord since the days of Shah Rukh. You claim to be Christian, yet you act like a Muslim.

    “At least the Muslim is honest about who he is. But amongst your kind, honesty is a rare thing indeed, almost as rare as an earnest desire for peace. So I say,” he continued, his voice rising again. “There can be no peace with Latins, men of stone and iron and lies. There can be only war!” The court cheered at the words, the ambassador glaring with rage.

    Jahzara looked over at Demetrios. He glowered back at the Hungarian. So you do have a backbone after all; that’s good to know. But she did catch a furtive glance at the throne. The Emperor was in no mood to capitulate to Buda’s threats but Demetrios’ words were hardly proper diplomatic material.

    The curtain parted to reveal Emperor Demetrios. “Go back to your master, Magyar,” he said. “And tell him what you have heard here. You wish to be paid for your troubles. Very well, we shall do so, but not in the gold you request but in iron.”
    1609 and the Sundering of the Rus
  • JohnSmith: It's complicated. The Avignon Papacy has historically had the best relations with the Empire, but Hungary follows it as well so any Catholic expansion in Serbia is to Avignon's benefit. The Roman Papacy meanwhile is following a delicate balance between the Kingdom of Lombardy in the north and the Despotate of Sicily in the south. Both are a threat so making nice with Constantinople is a good way to protect against Sicily but Hungary is also very useful at keeping the Lombards honest.

    1609: Despite the belligerency with which the Hungarian envoy is met it is plain that fighting wars in the east, in the Balkans, and in North Africa is untenable. In the east chances for peace on acceptable terms are not good. With the withdrawal of forces to Europe the Shahanshah has resumed the offensive, sweeping the Romans out of all pre-war Ottoman territory with one exception.

    That one exception is Duhok. Ideally Mosul would have been retained as a more substantial bargaining chip but the difficulty of supplying such a major fortress farther from Roman lines was deemed too high. Iskandar in early May is able to march in without opposition, although the burnt-out husk of the metropolis is a pathetic shadow of its glory five years past.

    Duhok though is meant to be held at all costs. Its late-fifteenth century walls have been massively reinforced with packed-earth bastions and an artillery park of over two hundred cannon, garrisoned by nine thousand regulars and eight thousands of the best militia, with enough rations to feed them for fifteen months. When Iskandar settles in for a siege on June 1, he is further challenged by clouds of Roman light cavalry and tribal auxiliaries. Despite their limited success attacking his supply train, their activity wears down his own cavalry and hampers foraging. Meanwhile a second Roman army at Cizre looms menacingly over the Persian left flank, making no move to attack but a constant reminder to the Shah to remain on guard. On the Armenian front, a similar defense anchored on Theodosiopolis is also able to blunt the Ottoman attack.

    Despite this peace talks continue between ambassadors in Aleppo but repeatedly stall on the question of the Black Stone. The Romans are willing to return it but are emphatically not willing to hand it over directly to Iskandar or any Persian official for that matter. Iskandar’s earlier stubbornness has only caused the Romans to withdraw their earlier inclination to give it up to the Shah personally if absolutely necessary. If the Omani or Idwaits were to receive the Black Stone that would be acceptable to Constantinople but the Ottoman ambassadors reject such proposals, counter-proposing that it be delivered to the Sharif of the Hedjaz. As a client of the Shah, Empress Helena and Emperor Demetrios are adamant that such a thing cannot be done. Under no circumstances must the Shah be given the propaganda coup of restoring the Black Stone to the Kaaba.

    More success beckons in the west against Mouley Ismail. An attempted siege of Carthage has been a miserable failure, despite the massive damages to the farms and villages outside of the walls. Heavy losses against the defenders of Carthage and Mahdia combined with raids by galleys and fregatai based from Tabarka and Djerba, whilst not fatal, are extremely irritating.

    The Treaty of Carthage is signed in April and despite the climb-down from the Sultan’s demands a year earlier it is still a sizeable Marinid victory. Carthage’s borders are reduced to a region bounded by the line of (dead) Bizerte-El Fahs-Hammamet, plus the enclave of Mahdia, a loss of two-thirds of her pre-war territory. Djerba and Tabarka also remain in Roman hands. In addition Carthage, Sicily, and the Roman Empire herself must each pay Mouley Ismail an annual ‘gift’, in exchange for which the Sultan forbids any corsair attacks on the three states. Finally, to the impotent rage of the Shah, the Black Stone is handed over to the Sultan himself outside the gates of Carthage.

    He makes no attempt to return this to Mecca. It is highly doubtful that the Romans, Egyptians, or Ethiopians would grant it safe passage. More importantly by holding it, Mouley Ismail is arguably the premier sovereign of Islam, a position previously occupied uncontestably by Shah Iskandar. The Black Stone is deposited reverently in Marrakesh, housed in a perfect replica of the Kaaba (Mouley Ismail himself had completed the hajj just a year prior to the Roman conquest). Despite the fundamentalist nature of Hayyatist Islam, the dominant variant in Marinid Africa, there is very little complaint when the Grand Mufti of Marrakesh states that a visit to the new Kaaba qualifies as a hajj.

    Iskandar is positively livid when he hears of the deal but there is nothing he can do about it. In fact by removing the Black Stone from the equation it makes the possibility of Roman-Ottoman peace more tenable. Furthermore at the same time as the Black Stone is placed in Marinid hands a great battle takes place at Rajanpur near the west bank of the Indus. A great coalition of petty states left over from the collapse of the Delhi Sultanate and Bihari kingdom smashed a Sukkuri army, gravely weakening the one respectable power in northern India. But the coalition members, rather than following up their victory, instead have turned on each other in a messy free-for-all. Some of the immediate losers such as the Emir of Multan and the Rajput King of Jaisalmer have already appealed for the Shahanshah to intervene.

    With the riches of India beckoning ever more strongly Iskandar is more willing to make peace in the west. The agreement is brokered at Khlat in autumn and like the treaty of Carthage is still a Roman defeat. The Romans withdraw from all Ottoman territory still held as well as Jedda and Yanbu, in both cases destroying the new fortifications as they withdraw. By the terms Iskandar is not to build any of his own along the Red Sea. Ten million hyperpyra also restock Iskandar’s now perilously empty coffers (almost a full year’s revenue for the Roman government), a million pledged for next year, with a quarter million promised for every year of the peace after that.

    Furthermore although no Georgian ‘gifts’ are incoming, the Georgians are forced to cede all of the trans-Aras lands. It is a humiliation in Tbilisi causing much resentment against the Romans. Constantinople shares the frustration as the loss greatly complicates the defense of Armenia. It is a situation neither Orthodox nation regards as permanent; the accord signed at Khlat is not a peace but a six-year truce.

    Saying the war stops though is not accurate; it merely changes form. Gone are the great organized armies, but the frontier is filled with raid and ambuscade. The northern Anizzah, roused to full fury by ghazi attacks, scourge much of northern Mesopotamia with their cavalry columns, amply backed by Roman supplies, arms, and men. As soon as the Romans evacuate Arabia, the southern Anizzah, seeing the loot their cousins are amassing, change sides and let fly as well. The hajj to Mecca, still viewed as the proper pilgrimage outside of Marinid lands despite the Grand Mufti’s claims, is more dangerous after the truce than it was during the war.

    Further to the north both sides harry each other, with frequent raids punctuated by skirmishes and the occasional pitched battle, a few of which have as many as ten thousand combatants. Neither side has a clear advantage nor causes much damage. With both imperial powers focused on far distant frontiers, this simmering mess is the status quo for the entirety of the truce period.

    King Andrew had counted on the majority of Roman forces being deployed in Asia. The sweeps of last year have not been repeated this summer. Thessaloniki remains defiant and a push down into Boeotia stalls at Thebes, largely from supply problems caused by raiders from Epirus.

    When the autumn harvest comes in though the situation is drastically transformed. Even before the truce at Khlat was signed the War Room started transferring troops westward. In September the Hungarians find ten thousand Egyptians in the Peloponnesus, fifteen thousand Sicilians in Epirus, and twenty five thousand Romans marching down the Via Egnatia towards Thessaloniki. Faced with foes on three sides, the Hungarians promptly fall back to Ohrid, chastened but largely unharmed.

    Winter imposes a truce of its own but the season is not idle. Andrew appeals to Krakow and Munich for aid. While the Poles promise to send twenty thousand men come spring, the response from Munich is not encouraging. Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich IV has, since the defection of General Blucher, managed to win a series of medium-sized victories over his brother Karl, but the ‘Saxon Emperor’ is by no means done. Furthermore Triune attacks on Lotharingia have commenced again, endangering the Empire’s western frontier. There will be no aid from Germany.

    Roman diplomatic efforts are more successful. King Theodoros Doukas of Lombardy has in the past few years conquered Florence and Pisa, forced the Duchy of the Marche into vassalage, established Siena as a client state, and squashed a noble conspiracy with somewhat lurid efficiency. The possibility of gaining the Duchies of Verona and Padua, ruled by an illegitimate branch of the Hunyadi family as a Hungarian vassal, plus the Veneto and Friuli administered directly by Buda, has him quite interested in a Roman alliance.

    The hang-up is that the Duchess of Verona and Padua is Anna Drakina, granddaughter of Empress Helena by her daughter Aikaterine. The Duchess’s younger brother is Demetrios Sideros, who has already been promoted to the rank of prokathemenos, the second in command, of the Kephalate of Thyatira.

    The compromise is as follows. Theodoros will, in exchange for providing twenty thousand men against the Italian holdings of the Hungarians, be recognized as Duke of Verona and Padua. In return he will ensure that the Duchess Anna and her children are not harmed and will recognize her as the Duchess of the Veneto and Friuli, providing full military support in effecting a ‘proper and smooth transfer of the titles’. A to-be-determined ‘tributary due’ will be established after an assessment of the region to be split halfway between Milan and Constantinople. No mention is made of her husband.

    The negotiations with Vlachia are much easier. In the spring the Vlachs will invade Transylvania with thirteen thousand men. The Vlach support is welcome but not quite enough to cancel out the Poles. However the next preferred ally from Constantinople’s perspective, the Great Kingdom of the Rus, is not an option, on account of it no longer existing.

    In retrospect appointing a Megas Rigas used to the autocratic traditions of the Roman court to preside over a ‘constitutional federative monarchy’, as political scientists term the early Vladimir-Russian state, was a bad idea. Old Ioannes Laskaris, son of Giorgios Laskaris, the friend of Andreas Drakos, has never cared for his largely figurehead status in the lands west of the Volga.

    East of the Volga is a different matter. Here he is in charge and from his capital of Kazan he has pushed expansion eastwards, encouraging immigration from Germany and Georgia, along with a strong Armenian strain especially prominent in the Ural Mountains. But the lion’s share of newcomers is from the Russian principalities. In 1600 the city of Tyumen, an important nexus not only in the fur trade but with long-distance commerce with the caravan cities of Central Asia and China, can muster three thousand souls. Exploratory expeditions have made it to the western shores of Lake Baikal.

    Immigration plus the new mines and foundries of the Urals have given Ioannes a respectable military strength, enabling him to force the Kalmyks and Bashkirs into submission. Given significant autonomy they provide the Megas Rigas with tribute and formidable light cavalry to supplement his Russian infantry. Over his thirty year reign he has made impressive progress, more than the Shuiskys had done in a century.

    Still manpower is a significant issue and as Ioannes thinks of the future of his dynasty, over the past several years he has been scheming to remake the Russian crown in the image of the Roman. The veches of the principalities have had none of that though and tensions have risen steadily, finally exploding in 1607.

    Theodoros Laskaris is the second son of Ioannes and Eudoxia Drakina. The latter is the twin sister of Aikaterine, the mother of Demetrios Sideros. The most capable and most belligerent of Ioannes’ sons, in that year he leads an army of Armenian infantry and Kalmyk cavalry to seize Vladimir and the members of the zemsky sobor. It is only a partial success, as sixty percent of the members escape while many of Ioannes’ supporters are alienated by the move.

    A Pronsky army moves to retake the city but is joined by a smaller Novgorodian detachment whose commander arrogantly demands command of the combined force. The ensuing row between the generals nearly comes to blows but the Novgorodians depart. Theodoros retreats in the face of the Pronsky army but when Vladimir falls the Great Pronsk veche declares that it will reorganize the government of Russia to prevent such an event from occurring again.

    Novgorod, Lithuania, and Scythia protest, all four principalities mobilizing troops as tensions rise. A Novgorodian claim to preeminence is rejected with vitriol; the previous Novgorodian preeminence in Russia has been crippled by the loss of the Baltic and White Sea coastline during the Great Northern War. The attempt however fractures the pending anti-Pronsky alliance.

    Normally the monarchy might have served to smooth these inter-principality tensions but no one trusts Ioannes Laskaris after Theodoros’ little invasion. Somewhere along the Novgorod-Pronsk frontier shots are fired, people are killed, and in dismaying speed the land of Russia turns into a five-way free-for-all.

    Perhaps the sheer confusion keeps the destruction and death down somewhat but when the dust clears two years later the Principalities of Novgorod, Lithuania, Great Pronsk, and Scythia plus the Kingdom of Khazaria, as the Romans style Ioannes’ Trans-Volga domains, are independent and separate states.

    It is a shock to the Romans, who have been largely unaware of the growing regionalism in the Great Kingdom. The Romans are now indisputably the great power of Orthodoxy, with Great Pronsk, the number two contender, only having five million inhabitants. With the colossi of Catholicism and Islam beckoning it even more falls on Constantinople to ensure that the one true faith will endure.
  • Rhomania vs Europe: Rhomania has an advantage, not in technology, but in training, organization, and logistics. The various European powers could throw together elite forces that were comparable to Roman tagmata but with a less developed economy and government apparatus they couldn’t field as many. A Triune Tour or Arletian Lance or Hungarian Black Contingent could go toe to toe with an equal number of Roman soldiers and the odds would be close. But while the Latin versions total 30,000 or so at maximum Rhomania can put eleven tagmata plus the Guards into the field.

    That said the gap is narrowing. IOTL the capability of western European armies shot up massively between 1600 and 1700 (Louis XIV was fielding 400,000 men at one point) and a similar movement is happening here, albeit earlier. Governments are getting more organized and centralized, better able to pay and maintain standing armies which comes with the advantage of having drilled soldiers. It won’t be too long before the European powers can field professional armies comparable in size to the Romans (the Ottomans already come close). The Roman academies plus the War Room still give an edge but the former at least will be popping up soon as well.

    German Intervention: I’ll get more into it in a later update, including the progress of the Brothers’ War. Andrew knows that he can’t go toe-to-toe with Rhomania alone. He needs a great power backing him up. At first it was to be the Ottomans but that didn’t pan out. So now he’s wooing the Germans. The Germans have no animus against the Romans but the idea of having both the Triunes and Romans as neighbors is not exactly a welcome one. Hungary, now that its German ambitions have been completely scotched, makes for a nice buffer. Also Hungary still controls Austria which is still part of the Holy Roman Empire. If the Romans violate the Austrian frontier, Friedrich would have to respond per his responsibilities as Emperor.

    1610: The first blood shed is not in the Balkans as might be expected but in Sicily. The past few years have been hard on the Despotate and the humiliation of paying tribute to a Sultan whose subjects still hold tens of thousands of their neighbors and family members is a bitter pill for the Sicilian people.

    The bitterness and resentment overflows in January. Since the Time of Troubles the freedom of the Sicilian Jews has led to the creation of the largest Jewish concentration in all of Eurasia, and it is a community that has become quite wealthy and prosperous. Tapping into the Jewish communities of Rhomania and the Muslim east, they have been quite successful merchants and moneylenders, with a few even making their way into government positions. It is a repeat of the Golden Age of Sepharad in Al-Andalus, including the growing resentment of the Jews’ neighbors. Many of their Christian neighbors are in debt to said moneylenders due to a series of bad harvests.

    Another cause of debts is the need to ransom family members from Barbary captivity, a lengthy and expensive process. Many poorer families have to put up their farms or livestock as security and many have had Jewish moneylenders seize said security for failure to pay. Much of the profits go into impressive cultural creations, magnificent synagogues, great works of poetry and philosophy, but that does nothing to ease the wrack of starvation amongst Sicilian peasants scourged by Barbary corsairs and then fleeced by the moneylender.

    The corsairs are beyond reprisal; the moneylender is not. On January 9th, a riot in Capua snowballs into an attack on the Jews. Unsurprisingly the debt records are the first target and go up in smoke but the rioters immediately turn on the Jews’ other property and persons. Three days later five hundred Jews are dead, including eighty burned alive in a synagogue, and an estimated two hundred thousand hyperpyra worth of property looted or destroyed.

    Most towns in the Despotate with substantial Jewish populations imitate that of Capua. Despot Alexios, consort of Empress Helena the Younger, does nothing to stop the pogroms, although whether that is due to indifference to the Jews’ plight or fear of his Christian subjects is unknown. By the end of March the pogrom wave has ended, but not before five thousand Jewish corpses and three hundred Christian dot the Sicilian landscape.

    Dead Jews are not a concern in Constantinople, live Hungarians are. A combined Roman-Sicilian-Egyptian force storms Ohrid early in the campaigning season while a wholly Roman army surges into Bulgaria. Initial skirmishes and minor battles are a mixed bag from both sides but Roman reinforcements are pouring into the area at a rate far outpacing that of the Hungarians. When the winter comes, the Hungarians have lost all of Bulgaria save the citadel at Vidin plus a good chunk of southern Serbia.

    Although dismayed by the scale of the Roman counterattack and the breakoff of hostilities with Persia, King Andrew still has hope the situation will turn around. Aside from Vidin he has the great citadels of Smederevo and Belgrade protecting the border with Hungary proper; storming them will be no easy or quick matter. At this point the Roman Empire has been engaged in extended hostilities for over fifteen years, first with the Great Uprising, the assault on Mecca, and then the Eternal War.

    It has been a substantial strain on the Roman exchequer. The debt level has increased by 1200% since 1595 and interest rates have been slowly but steadily creeping up since the turn of the century. Imports from the east have yet to return to their pre-Great Uprising level and given the increasing number and aggression of western European merchants in the east it is doubtful they ever will. Further economic dislocation, although not limited to Rhomania, comes from a general rise in inflation. Imports of Mexican and Japanese silver have increased the amount of bullion circulating. Prices all over Europe are going up; in both King’s Harbor and Constantinople the price of bread, fish, and wine are all double that of 1550.

    Economic fissures are showing up elsewhere as well. While providing some naval glory, the undeclared war with the Triple Monarchy killed any Roman maritime traffic in the Atlantic. Gone are the great ships with holds stuffed with silks and spices easing into the quays of Antwerp or Lubeck. Traffic between the North/Baltic sea region and Rhomania, unless conducted via the rivers of Russia, is now wholly in Dutch or Triune hands. Roman merchantmen now never pass beyond the Pillars of Hercules and indeed are a rare sight west of Sardinia.

    This is especially troublesome as the cost of naval supplies has been going up even further than the rate of inflation. Mediterranean lumber stores have been used and abused for millennia and efforts at conservation, particularly in the Macedonian and Pontic forests, has only slowed the process. Furthermore with larger galleons becoming the norm for naval warfare, the great trees of the Baltic seaboard, New England, or Vinland are the ideal source for masts. It is not cheap to ship them to the arsenal in Constantinople. Such concerns are causing many in the White Palace to turn a jealous eye on Dalmatia, particularly Istria.

    Roman products are also facing stiffer competition. Portuguese and Arletian sugar production has skyrocketed in recent decades as plantations in the Antilles work up, far outpacing those in Roman lands. By 1600, outside of the Empire proper, the Despotates, and the Orthodox states, only Hungary is a reliable consumer of Roman sugar.

    Textiles are doing much better but a new Arletian silk and cotton industry has stolen the French market and linens in Bavaria are competing with silk imports. Neither are serious losses but are paralleled by much bigger slumps in metallurgical exports to the same regions. Mining and metallurgical production in southern Germany and Silesia have increased substantially; the once thriving Roman armaments export sector still ships many products but now its range is bounded by the Alps and Carpathians in the north. German presses have done the same to the Roman book trade as well.

    While the presence of alum at Tolfa has been known for quite some time, it has been difficult for Tolfa’s owners to make capital out of the discovery due to Roman resistance and north Italian political instability. However the King of Lombardy now holds those mines and production here has skyrocketed at a miraculous rate. Italy (outside of Sicily and Venetia), the Triple Monarchy, and Iberia now look to the Lombards and not the Romans as their source of alum. The substantial rise in exports of wine to the west, particularly malmsey, is not much of a salve.

    To counter this trend there has been a steady increase in taxation, with practically every tax levied in the Roman state going up by some degree since 1595. The ones on basic produce, salt, grain, and the like, have been comparatively mild so peasant and urban tax revolts have thankfully been very few and minor but this does much to explain the common Roman nostalgia for the time of the Flowering. Some historians also argue that the tax hikes are partially responsible for the disappearance of the last traces of Islam in western and central Anatolia.

    The Jews are, unsurprisingly, the hardest hit by all this. Although they are not restricted to the moneylending trade as in the west, the Jewish communities have been generally prosperous, working in silk and cotton textile production and exportation. The ghettoes of Thessaly are renowned for their silverwork and those of the Skammandros for their tapestries. Their tax increases have been double that of everyone else. Resented both because of traditional Christian anti-Semitism and their general resistance to Romanization, no one sheds a tear or lifts a finger to protest this. The Roman government though makes sure that there are no pogroms; corpses make for poor taxpayers. Constantinople even welcomes Jewish immigrants fleeing Sicily.

    But the attention of the White Palace is focused on other matters. In November the Princess Alexeia, youngest daughter of Emperor Andreas II Drakos, passes away in Sinope. The Empress Helena the Elder is now the last member of the Triumvirate still alive.

    Even on her deathbed Alexeia still has some influence in the capital. On Christmas day in the Hagia Sophia Emperor Demetrios II crowns Stephan Tomasevic but not as Despot as expected. Instead he is acclaimed “Stephan VII, King of Serbia, from this day to the last day a free and independent state.”

    Four days later in a separate ceremony Leo Neokastrites is promoted to Strategos and given command of a newly formed guard tagma. The new formation is called the Akoimetoi; in the tongue of England it is translated as the Sleepless Ones.
  • JohnSmith: It’s quite possible. At this stage bank certificates are used in the marketplace but only for bulk orders or particularly valuable items. A certificate would be fine for ten horses but if you wanted to buy only one you’d get laughed in the face and told to come back with real money.

    ImperatorAlexander: He does have heirs.

    RogueTraderEnthusiast: The Serbians will have one port (Bar). The old Kingdom of Serbia had that. Keeping them landlocked would be a blatant Roman attempt to keep them poor and subservient so it is a bone to throw them. Between Venetia, Ragusa, and Dyrrhachium it’s not likely to be an economic threat.

    A Roman-Vijayanagar alliance would make sense but the Romans are the western power with which the Vijayanagari have had the most experience so there’s more…history involved. Ironically the Roman ship lords have been reprising the Italians with the Vijayanagari playing 12th century Byzantium, so there’s bad blood.

    Luis3007: An united India in this period, providing it wouldn’t need to keep all its power focused on staying united, would be able to tell off any power in the world save an united China.

    Christos: They did not; that was in an earlier proposal that Iskandar rejected. In the Khlat truce only money passed to the Ottomans.

    Arrix85: That makes more sense and is much more feasible/sustainable for the Romans.

    If you could make a list complete with regnal years I’d greatly appreciate it. If not let me know and I’ll do it. It’s a reference tool I should’ve made a long time ago.

    Veranius: I don’t think so but the order was Theodoros II Megas-Ioannes IV-Manuel II-Anna I-Konstantinos XI-Theodoros III-(War of Five Emperors)-Demetrios I Megas-Theodoros IV-Andreas I Niketas-Herakleios II-Nikephoros IV the Spider-Alexios VI-Alexeia I the Mad-(Time of Troubles)-Andreas II Pistotatos-Helena I (reigning with Demetrios II and Helena II).

    1611: Again the blood spilled comes from an unexpected quarter. In early February in Smyrna the Muses’ Theater, one of the largest and most prestigious in the whole Empire including Constantinople, begins showing the Cretan Cycle. The Cycle is a series of four plays detailing the Revolt of St. Titus, centered on the ringleader Ioannes Kallierges. The Revolt of St. Titus was the largest revolt against Venetian rule in Crete, spanning a good chunk of the 1380s. Unfortunately for the rebels the Roman Empire had recently lost the bulk of its navy in the Laskarid Civil War and was struggling in simultaneous wars with Bulgaria and the Ottomans. Despite some impressive military successes against the Venetian occupiers, Ioannes was eventually hunted down and executed.

    On February 13 the last play is showing, the final act of which is the execution of Kallierges. He utters his final lines, his supposed last words, to the Venetians while his weeping wife and daughters look on. “No invader can keep an imprisoned population captive forever. There is no greater force in the world than the need for freedom. Against it armies and tyrants cannot stand. We taught this to the Latins once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free!” The sword falls and then his head.

    In this tense moment of drama, a visual representation of the stubborn Roman refusal to die despite the odds, despite the best treacherous efforts of their so-called brothers in the faith to end them (Kallierges is captured despite promises of safe passage and a banner of truce) a guffaw of laughter is heard. Some say it was a Milanese who laughed, others a Hungarian, others a Frenchman. Why he laughed is unknown; it is extremely unlikely the Romans surrounding him care.

    Whilst the details are unknown every account agrees on what comes next. Within a few minutes the laugher is hanging dead from a tree outside the theater and within an hour a mob is storming the Foreign Quarter of Smyrna, a mob growing in size and viciousness and not particular about which foreigners it murders. The Smyrna Allagion (local militia garrison/city watch paid and organized by the civic government) limits its efforts to making sure the fires started do not spread beyond the Foreign Quarter, a task in which they are mostly but not entirely successful. By the mob burns itself out and disperses the next morning, anywhere from one to three thousand foreigners are dead, a mix of Arletians, Castilians, Triunes, Dutch, Lombards, Hungarians, and Germans.

    Constantinople is as indifferent as the Smyrna Allagion. A fine is levied on Smyrna for the damages, but only for those caused to the Arletians and a few Ethiopians caught up in the attack (foreign nationals from Orthodox states, in which Ethiopia is counted for trade purposes, reside in a different, not attacked district). The protests of everyone else are ignored.

    The trade level of Smyrna itself is relatively unaffected. Foreign merchants who want to trade in the wares of western and central Anatolia have to go to Smyrna so those slain are soon replaced by new traders, albeit rather nervous ones who stay in the Quarter during the night. Some slack is inevitable though and enterprising Copts start to fill the gap. Although having their greatest port, Alexandria, under direct Roman rule is galling, the credit made available by the Imperial Bank-Alexandria branch has allowed some skilled and lucky Copts to amass respectable wealth. The rise of a Coptic class of mesoi causes much concern and annoyance amongst the great Coptic landowners of the Delta, previously the uncontested power in the Nile valley prior to the Great Uprising.

    Meanwhile war comes to Hungary on multiple fronts. The Lombards lay siege to Verona, the Roman navy raids Dalmatia and invests Zadar, Vlach forces harry Transylvania, the homeland of the ruling Hunyadi dynasty, and a massive Roman host storms into northern Serbia. Vidin, Belgrade, and Smederevo are all placed under siege simultaneously while Roman and Hungarian gunboats contest control of the Danube.

    The last is an unequal contest given the vastly superior Roman numbers but the two Serbian citadels provide a much larger challenge. Vidin capitulates after two months but torrential rain in Serbia turns the roads into rivers of mud, wracking the Roman camps with hunger and dysentery. The Hungarians suffer from the twin blight as well but it is the Romans who break up first, abandoning the sieges. Aside from the two towns though, the rest of Serbia has now been removed from Hungarian dominion, along with a few minor Bosnian districts.

    1612: As the Romans once again place Belgrade and Smederevo under siege, this time with larger artillery and supply trains and more cooperative weather, Shah Iskandar faces the assembled might of the Indus valley at Bahawalpur. The Persians number 35,000. The size of the Indian army varies from 55,000 to 150,000 depending on the source. By the end of the day the Shah is master of the field.

    Onward he surges, taking Delhi seven weeks later. Reinforcements arrive from Khorasan to swell his army to fifty thousand men just in time to face the hosts of the Ganges river valley in all their might and majesty, “a force not even Xerxes in all his glory could summon.” The two armies collide on the outskirts of Aligarh. Rank after rank of armored war elephants are met by the roar of Ottoman culverins and despite a moment of concern when Rajput cavalry break through the Persian right flank, when the sun sets once again Iskandar has routed another great armament. Not until one reaches the banks of the Narmada river and the realm of the Vijayanagari Emperors is there a force in all of India that can stand up to the Shahanshah.

    It is a year of glory for great empires. The Triunes, once again launching a drive on the Rhine, successfully overrun Burgundy and the Franche-Comte. The Brothers’ War steadily moves in Friedrich’s favor. As the Bavarians surge north the Khazars forge east, Theodoros Drakos Laskaris shattering an Uzbek host as Iskandar triumphs at Aligarh.

    In Serbia Smederevo and Belgrade both finally fall after a stubborn resistance within a week of each other. It is said that it takes over two months before the cities stop stinking of rotting corpses. Although technically under Serbian rule, both citadels are garrisoned with Roman troops for the time being while King Stephan works to consolidate his rule. While the Serbs are glad to be free of the Catholic Hungarians, a great many are concerned about the Romans becoming their new overlords instead. Furthermore many of the great Serb magnates, though thoroughly disenchanted with the Magyars as well, do not look fondly on having a king in their midst rather than one hundreds of miles away.

    In Italy the Lombards have advanced as far as the outskirts of Gorizia, with raiding parties making it as far as Zagreb before being turned back by local Croat forces. The Roman navy, backed up by Sicilian and Egyptian contingents, has taken Zadar, giving the Romans complete control of Dalmatia. Istria too has capitulated.

    The war is clearly going in the Empire’s favor but the strain on the Romans’ reserve of manpower and money because of the constant warfare is immense. Accordingly in October Emperor Demetrios II agrees to a truce between Hungary and Rhomania and its allies to last fifteen months, a deal sealed by a small Hungarian tribute.

    Andrew is willing to make peace and recognize Serbia as an independent state but wants his Dalmatian, Istrian, Italian, and Bosnian territories back plus the restoration of Verona and Padua to his cousin. Demetrios however refuses any treaty that does not involve Verona, Padua, the Veneto, Friuli, Istria, Dalmatia, and the Banat (to Vlachia) changing hands. That is too much for Andrew to stomach so a truce is all that he obtains. But with the Brothers’ War winding down, he is hopeful that when next the Romans march the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be ready to challenge them.

    At first glance, the hope Andrew places in Germany is surprising, considering the long and bloody relationship between the Holy Roman Empire and Hungary during its golden age (the 1400s). But the days when those two made war are long past. Intermarriage between Bavarian and Austrian and Hungarian nobility are common and trade is respectable. It is true that Friedrich is Demetrios’ brother-in-law, but then again so is Andrew.

    More importantly, having Rhomania on the doorstep of the Holy Roman Empire, with the Triple Monarchy looming ominously on the opposite side of the Rhine, is not a situation that can be viewed with equanimity in Munich. Roman agents in Croatia, coupled with the alliance with the Lombards who recently dispossessed Friedrich’s cousin Duke Franz of Florence, have drawn condemnation from the Bavarian Imperial court.

    1613: Although the Balkans fall into an uneasy quiet the year is of seminal importance in the history of both China and Japan, for both realms witness the end of an era. In China the sprawling three-way war between the Zeng, the Yuan, and the Tieh has been a confusing and bloody mess, the slaughter and devastation comparable only to the original Mongol conquests.

    But fortune has smiled upon the Zeng the last decade despite the annoyance and disapproval of the Roman Ship Lords. Yuan armies have been driven north beyond the Yellow River although thus far any attempts by the Zeng to advance further have been stymied.

    Deadlock in the north though is counterbalanced by success in the west when finally on the third attempt a mass offensive breaks through the Tieh defenses and overruns Sichuan, the last province of the once great domain of Timur and Shah Rukh. When the last Tieh Emperor is slain, incidentally sword in hand-more like a steppe warlord than a Chinese Emperor-in his palace at Chengdu as it burns down around him, thus ends an era in Asian history. For two hundred and fifty years a scion of the House of Timur has held sway as one of the Lords, sometimes the Lord, of Asia. But those days are done.

    The last branch of the house of Timur resides only in the far western periphery of the continent that once trembled at the mere name of Timur. There Demetrios Sideros has recently been promoted to be Kephale of Skammandros. It is a small province in the Opsikian theme along the southern coast of the Hellespont known primarily for its linen weaving, its capital of Abydos a prosperous if unexciting town of eight thousand. Included in the kephalate is the site of ancient Troy, an area in which Demetrios spends much of his free time exploring and writing.

    Perhaps the influence of walking these legendary lands explains Demetrios’ choice of a name for his son. As the last Tieh Emperor falls to the swords of Zeng infantrymen, Demetrios is not in Troy but in Abydos where Jahzara gives birth to a healthy son. His name is Odysseus.

    Emperor Demetrios is delighted by the news, becoming one of Odysseus’ godparents. But his delight is nothing compared to the ecstasy he feels when news arrives from Japan.

    For years Honshu had been under the control of the Azai but their rule was shaky at best, with major revolts breaking out in the east and north simultaneously in 1611. This was bad enough but the Shimazu, spying an opportunity and concerned that a consolidated Azai would attack them next, launched their own offensive first.

    Rallying disloyal Azai vassals to the Shimazu banner, several of whom have already converted to Orthodox Christianity (mainly in western Honshu), the Shimazu have done quite well considering the on-paper disparity between the Shimazu and Azai before the rebellions. The showdown comes on October 11 on the plains of Sekigahara. The Azai and Shimazu sides are roughly equal in size, around forty five thousand. The Shimazu army includes two Roman tourmai, both comprised of Roman Malays and Digenoi.

    For two days the battle seesaws until a Shimazu charge, backed up by a sudden sharp rainstorm that plows into the eyes of the Azai foot-soldiers, smashes through the Azai left wing and rolls up their entire army. Victory is total.

    For the first time in almost two hundred years, Japan is unified. But Japan has changed. The Shimazu, influenced by the ways of Orthodox Christianity and Roman Imperialism, have no truck with a figurehead emperor claiming descent from the sun-goddess Amaterasu. On December 1 the Imperial line of Japan, already over two thousand years old, is wiped out. A week later in a ceremony modeled directly after the coronation of Roman Emperors Shimazu Yoshihiro, a graduate of the University of Constantinople, is crowned Emperor of Japan in the Cathedral of Aira by the Metropolitan, the premier of Japanese bishops.

    The news is brought to Demetrios II by a letter from Emperor Yoshihiro himself, who addresses the letter as “To the Emperor of the Setting Sun from your Imperial Brother the Emperor of the Rising Sun.” It is a relationship Japan had tried, and failed, to establish with China centuries ago. Demetrios takes no offense at Yoshihiro’s statement of equality with himself though, unlike the Chinese of old, and responds in kind, furthering increasing Yoshihiro’s intended mirror image by arranging the Metropolitan of Aira’s promotion to Patriarch.

    Demetrios is thus in a very good mood when the truce with Hungary expires. The Serbs, the only Orthodox people ruled by a heathen people, have been liberated and now Japan itself is wholly under the rule of a Christian Emperor. Now what needs to be done, as the premier lord of the true faith, is to ensure that the heretics never again dare raise their hand against the people of God. Andrew’s attempt to extend the truce, even to the extent of tripling the tribute, is of no avail. Demetrios’ mind is made up; when the season of war returns again the armies of the Empire shall march into Hungary itself.
    1614, the Fall of Hungary
  • HanEmpire: Shimazu having to expend a lot of effort to consolidate their authority is another option (they’ll have to do that anyway). The Romans too are also seeing a large pool of trained manpower that can be tapped for their own uses given sufficient shiny incentives.

    Arrix85: Thank you very much for doing this. In my defense I’ve been trying to follow early modern European dynastic trends but….dear God, what have I done?...was my first reaction.

    RogueTraderEnthusiast: I don’t have much planned for Japan right now. Manchuria though is going to get interested as within the next 50 or so years the Khazars will be in the neighborhood.

    Person123: China will be getting relief soon.

    1614: The size of the Roman armament, under the personal command of the Megas Domestikos Anastasios Drakos-Komnenos, which surges into Hungary that summer is described hysterically by some contemporary Hungarian chroniclers at the absurd but oddly precisely figure of 517,451. Exactly where that number comes nobody knows. At this stage a combat contingent a tenth of that size is much more likely.

    Waiting for Polish and Bohemian reinforcements and pleading with Emperor Friedrich personally for aid, King Andrew does not oppose the Romans on the frontier. Still, harassed by Hungarian and Croat Hussars and suffering from supply difficulties in the marshy terrain, Roman progress is slow.

    On August 17th the Hungarian army commanded personally by King Andrew finally moves forward to challenge the Roman invaders. The forces under his command are quite formidable, the Black Army of Hungary twenty thousand strong, another eight thousand Hungarian infantry, four thousand German mercenaries, all well-armed veterans, four thousand Bohemian troops, also veterans from the Brothers’ War, plus eleven thousand Poles which include seven thousand heavy-armored cavalry.

    Furthermore Andrew has a tentative promise of aid from the Emperor Friedrich, alarmed and annoyed by the presence of Roman agents in Austria. With the fall of Saxony and the defection of Bohemia, his brother’s days are numbered. The Bavarian Emperor is still not quite yet in a position to intervene directly but his support helps explain Andrew’s success in recruiting German and Bohemian troops.

    Considering the possibility of substantial German reinforcements, Andrew’s decision to confront the Romans at first seems surprising. But despite the supply difficulties the Romans show no signs of stopping. Furthermore he is concerned now that having the Germans help him repulse the Romans might just be inviting one bear into his country to help throw out another. The end result for Hungary would be the same.

    Despite the power assembled under his banner, the Roman armament facing opposite him on the plains of Mohacs is even greater. For the first time since the battle of Cannae during the reign of Andreas Niketas himself the full force of the guard tagmata is assembled on one field, the Athanatoi, the Varangoi, the Skolai, and the Akoimetoi. The Macedonian, Thracian, Opsikian, Optimatic, and Thrakesian tagmata are gathered as well, sixty six thousand total. Marching alongside them are ten thousand Vlach infantry and two thousand cavalry.

    An attempt to jam up the Roman army and beat it in detail by attacking the van while it works its way through the marshes has some initial success, routing several detachments of Roman akrites working as skirmishers. A prompt counter-charge by the Akoimetoi backed by the 4th, 5th, and 10th Macedonian tourmai and the 5th Thrakesian smashes in the nose of the Hungarian van and drives it back before the Magyar reserves can intervene. The 8,400 Romans under the command of Leo Neokastrites proceed to beat off three more Hungarian attacks, giving the rest of the Roman army enough time to deploy out of the marshes.

    By this point it is two in the afternoon. Battle becomes general a half hour later. An offensive launched by the Thracian and Opsikian tagmata is caught in a scrum by the Black Army and the Poles and badly punished, the Poles surging on in a great charge that carves a bloody swath through the Roman akrites until Macedonian fusillades begin cracking their skulls.

    Meanwhile a furious firefight between the guard tagmata and the Bohemian/German mercenaries gradually chews through the latter while the Optimatic tagma curls around the Hungarian flank. The Optimates surge ahead as the guard kataphraktoi and turkopouloi, accompanied by the Vlach horse, pounce. At this point it is about four.

    In less than twenty minutes the right third of the Hungarian army is annihilated as a fighting force, the center routing as the Thrakesian infantry pile into them. The exception is the Black Army, which holds out for another hour and a half despite being outnumbered over 2 to 1 by the Roman forces opposing it directly, before it is enveloped and annihilated in turn.

    The losses on the Hungarian side are nothing less than catastrophic, close to nineteen thousand killed, wounded, and captured. The Black Army, by far the most formidable section of the Magyar army, is smashed beyond repair. And one of those slain, found dead face-down in a ditch in his golden armor, is King Andrew.

    Andrew’s successor is his seven-year-old grandson Stephan, his son Bela having pre-deceased him because of the plague five years earlier. Stephan’s mother also died during the same outbreak so one would think that Stephan’s grandmother would take charge of the regency. Said grandmother is Theodora Drakina, youngest daughter of Empress Helena and little sister of Emperor Demetrios. Both Constantinople and Buda have studiously pretended to forget her existence since the outbreak of hostilities.

    That is no longer possible but what is left of the Magyar nobility is not going to tolerate a regency headed by a ‘Greek’ princess. The Count of Pec, the Archbishop of Kalocsa, and the Voivode of Transylvania immediately begin bickering over who should take charge instead. Whilst the crown jewels, treasury, and court are hurried out of Buda to take refuge in Gyor little is done in the chaos to ensure an adequate defense of the capital. Included in the convoy is the Dowager Queen Theodora, although reports of her abuse by the Archbishop are almost certainly Roman propaganda.

    The Roman army appears before the ramparts of Buda in a thoroughly foul mood. They took six thousand casualties of their own at Mohacs, the supply situation is even worse, dysentery is rearing its foul head, and the stings of hussar attacks show no signs of abating despite the victory. An initial sally by the garrison (mostly hastily drafted locals leavened with a few pardoned brigands) captures some Roman skirmishers and in a show of bravado or stupidity hurls said captives to their deaths from the ramparts.

    A second sally though the next day is ambushed and cut to pieces, the panicked survivors fleeing back with the Romans hot on their heels. The gates are not closed in time.

    Better to have been an inhabitant of Smyrna on the Black Day than to have lived in Buda when the Roman soldiers come pouring through the defenses. The common brutality of soldiers and the frustrations of the campaign are bad enough. But they are joined in the Romans by the seething hatred of the Romans for the Latins.

    It is a sentiment long latent but given new potency in the early years of Helena’s reign as she and her sisters worked to improve relations with the kingdoms of the west. Despite the political rationale behind it, it is a policy that disgusts the Romans. The wounds of the Fourth Crusade and the Black Day, the War of the Five Emperors and the Time of Troubles, are still there. Despite the frustrations of Islamic relations, the noble figure of Shahanshah Iskandar has nevertheless won the admiration and respect of the Roman people.

    In a way, he encapsulates the love-hate relationship between Rhomania and Islam going all the way back to the early 900s when the Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas Mystikos said in a letter to the Abbasid Caliph that the Empire and the Caliphate were the two polities ‘which stand above all lordship on earth’ and that therefore they were ‘brothers superior to and preferred above their brethren’. Certainly such attitudes on either side are not guaranteed or even common, but there is always an undertone of respect and even admiration even if frequently dormant. “Go to the land of the Rum, for there be beauty unlike anywhere else on earth” wrote an Ottoman court poet during the Time of Troubles, continuing a centuries-old Muslim tradition of respect for Roman capacity for beauty and craftsmanship (and women).

    But the Latin…they were supposed to be brothers in the faith. But instead there has been backstabbing and betrayal. The memory of Kallierges rings out strongly in the Roman psyche. Perhaps the bitterness over the wounds caused by the Latins compared to those inflicted by the Muslims is that the former came from those who should have been friends and brothers. Certainly the Romans have learned and borrowed much from the west, particularly the Italians, but one valuing their teeth would be wise not to say so out loud. To the people on the street the Latins are the scourge of God, a murderous, devouring people whose only god is gold.

    The pent-up Roman hatred bursts forth in a sickening volcano. The population of Buda normally is around forty thousand but with refugees from the countryside was close to double that when the city fell. For four days they are subjected to a barrage of mass rapine, pillage, and slaughter, made all by the more horrifying by the systematic approach. Although whether or not it was organized from the top, the Roman atrocities are not random and disorganized. The Roman soldiers work through each district thoroughly and orderly.

    The one section of Buda to be spared is the great library of the Kings of Hungary, the largest in Europe after the Imperial library in Constantinople. Its contents are carefully packed up and carted off to enlarge those of the Queen of Cities.

    The city of Pest, safe for the moment on the other side of the Danube, watches in horror. The citizens of Pest wisely, albeit unheroically, make no attempt to rescue people on the opposite shore, thus avoiding Roman wrath spilling onto them. The city surrenders peacefully five days after Buda falls, accepting a Roman garrison and paying a substantial fee in coinage and also in grain, sheep, cheese, and wine. The occupation here is therefore comparatively quiet now that the Roman soldiery are somewhat calmed down, with any thought of disturbance quelled when the citizens are conscripted into digging mass graves for the dead of Buda.

    Latin Europe is horrified by Buda. Even by the standards of city sacking Buda seems excessive, although some of the more lurid details may have been fabrications. Was it really true that Roman soldiers had spread out swords, points upwards, and thrown infants down on them while placing wagers on which blade they’d be skewered?

    In Rhomania and Vlachia though celebrations run wild, with races in the Hippodrome and fireworks over the Golden Horn. After the years of frustrations and debacles in North Africa, Mesopotamia, and the trans-Aras, here is an unequivocal triumph. That the Latins have been clearly reminded of the might of the Empire makes it ever sweeter.

    The campaigning season effectively ends with the captures of Buda and Pest, but winter negotiations go nowhere. Roman garrisons are installed throughout occupied Hungary. Meanwhile the Voivode of Transylvania, Janos Zapolya, secures control of the regency in early December. Given that his power base is in significant danger of being handed over to the Vlachs as the war stands now, he places his hope in the Emperor Friedrich. A fugitive Duke Karl is murdered on November 27th by a Pomeranian blacksmith after he is caught stealing some sausages for food. The Holy Roman Emperor is now Duke of Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg, and Schleswig-Holstein. No prince in the Reich has a hope of challenging him now.

    Furthermore the six-year truce signed with Iskandar at Khlat is due to expire. Negotiations are underway to renew the accord but that is no guarantee they’ll succeed. So Janos can comfort himself that the situation is not necessarily as dire as it might appear. But on the other, Mohacs still tore the heart out of the Magyar nation. At this point, its survival could depend on the Germans and the Turks. For a proud people with a noble and distinguished history, that is possibly the hardest blow of all.
    Monarchs List
  • HanEmpire: Serbia will be de facto independent, but economically and culturally it’s going to be in the Empire’s orbit. How close said orbit will be is up in the air, along with how much Serbians like or dislike said relationship.

    The Vlach mindset is firmly in ‘get land first, worry about integrating later’ mindset.

    Gianni_Rivera: If Vijayanagar could land and supply a good-sized army they could take Ceylon. But the Romans have naval supremacy by a good margin and there are a few Taprobani tourmai established. So the Vijayanagara would have to land an army at least 10,000 to have the odds certainly in their favor, hardly an easy task when dodging a superior navy. Now an alliance with a Latin naval power could fix that deficit…

    ImperatorAlexander: Demetrios wants both punitive damages and lands, mostly for his allies admittedly. Considering his success he’s having a hard time quitting while he’s ahead, something that’s hardly his strong suite. To be fair, it’s a common failing amongst monarchs.

    Arrix85: One problem is that Hungary is largely a power vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum and the Romans are the closest force.

    Sir Omega: Ironically when it comes to nationalism, the Romans are the closest to the modern type. Unfortunately a large formative component of nationalism is hatred of the ‘other’.

    Frustrated Progressive: The reason for the alliance is weakened but there’s still the HRE to watch out for. HanEmpire’s response covers the pros and cons of such a move.

    For my organizational purposes, I did something which I should’ve done a long time ago and compiled a monarch list for the major polities in the timeline. I figure I’m not the only one who will find it useful. There are obvious gaps for certain countries and question marks regarding some of the reigns. If the year is followed by a question mark (1550?) that means that is the first time a certain monarch is mentioned but the narrative does not mention when he/she actually took power. If there’s just a question mark that means there is no information I could find in the timeline. Some monarchs (Arles, Mexico) haven't appeared yet in posted updates but I've written about them in upcoming updates.

    Please let me know if you find errors or have questions.

    Emperors of the Romans:

    Theodoros II Laskaris (1254-1282)
    John IV Laskaris (1282-1316)
    Manuel II Laskaris (1316-1324)
    Anna I Laskarina (1324-1381)
    Andronikos II Laskaris (1373-1376): attempted to usurp power in the Laskarid Civil War
    Konstantinos XI Laskaris (1381-1401)
    Theodoros III Laskaris (1401-1403): killed at Cappadocian Caesarea
    John V Laskaris (1403-1410)
    Thomas I Laskaris (1410-1414)
    Demetrios I Komnenos (1414-1439)
    Manuel III Doukas (1414-1431)
    Theodoros IV Komnenos (1439-1458)
    Andreas I Komnenos (1458-1517)
    Herakleios II Komnenos (1516-1518)
    Nikephoros IV Komnenos (1518-1528)
    Alexios VI Komnenos (1528)
    Alexeia I Komnena (1528-1537)
    Ioannes VI Komnenos (1537-1541)
    Isaakios III Angelos (1541)
    Stefanos I Doukas (1541-1543)
    Alexios VII Papagos (1544)
    Manuel IV Klados (1544)
    Giorgios I Laskaris (1544-1547)
    Andreas II Drakos (1547-1548)
    Helena I Drakina (1548-ongoing)
    Demetrios II Drakos (1587-ongoing)

    Holy Roman Emperors (Wittelsbach):

    Otto IV (1404-1409)
    Otto V (1409-1421)
    Conrad III (1421-?)
    Frederick III (1471?-1501)
    Manfred I (1501-1542)
    Wilhelm I (1542-1603)
    Friedrich IV (1603-ongoing)

    Ottoman Sultan/Shahs:

    Osman I (1305-?)
    Mehmed I (1380?-1403): Executed by impalement by command of Timur
    Osman II (1403-1449): Killed at Ramsar by Timurid forces
    Bayezid II (1449-1473)
    Mehmed III (1473-1481): Yes, I know I skipped Mehmed II, editing error on my part. Let’s say Mehmed had an elder brother also named Mehmed who reigned very briefly and then died for Mehmed III to succeed him.
    Suleiman I (1481-1536)
    Bayezid III (1536-1552): Slain in defense of Baghdad by Timur II
    Osman III Khomeini (1552-1588?)
    Iskandar I Khomeini (1588?-ongoing)

    Megas Rigai of Russia:

    Alexei I (1437-1460): Father of Kristina, Empress of Blackbirds
    Nikolai I (1460-?)
    Mikhail III (1528?-1538)
    Mikhail IV (1538-1552?)
    Dmitri I (1552?-1573)
    Ivan I (1573)
    [Zemsky Sobor] (1573-1574)
    Ioannes I Laskaris (1574-1609, King of Khazaria 1609-ongoing)

    Kings of Georgia:

    David VI (?-1293)
    Konstantin I (1293-1327)
    Giorgi V (1327-1346)
    Alexei I (1346-1369)
    Vakhtang III (1369-1394)
    David VII (1394-1411)
    Konstantin II (1411-1461)
    David VIII (1461-?)
    Alexei II (1519?-?)
    Giorgi VI (?-1559?)
    Stefanoz I (1559?-1589)
    Sophia I Drakina (1589-1601)
    Konstantin Safavid (1601-ongoing)

    Kings of Arles:

    Charles I (1427-1468)
    Louis I (1468-1510)
    Charles II (1510-1526)
    Basil I (1526-1567)
    Leo I (1567-1600)
    Basil II (1600-ongoing)

    Emperors of Mexico:

    David I (1547-1580)
    Michael II (1580-1602)
    David II (1602-1613)
    David III (1613-ongoing)

    Kings of Hungary:

    Andrew III (1404?-1442)
    Istvan I (1442-1460)
    Ladislaus IV (1460-1468)
    Andrew IV ‘Arpad’/Komnenos (1468-1512)
    Stephen VI (1512-1519)
    Miklos Hunyadi (1519-?)
    Andrew V Hunyadi (1575?-?)
    Andrew VII Hunyadi (1609-1614)
    Stephen VII (1614-ongoing)

    Emperors of the United Kingdoms:

    Arthur I (1522-1567): Technically doesn’t count as the Empire was proclaimed by his son but all historians list him as the first anyway.
    Henry I (1567-1605)
    Arthur II (1605-ongoing)

    Emperors of All the North:

    Catherine I (1545-?)
    Peter I (1572?-?)

    Kings of Castile:

    Ferdinand V (1417?-?)
    Pedro II (1534?-?)
    Felipe II (1578?-?) [King of Portugal 1583-?]

    Kings of Vlachia:

    Vlad I (1418-?)
    Dragos I (1478?-?)
    Vlad IV (1584?-?)
    Roman I (1616-ongoing)

    Kings of Lombardy:

    Andrea I Visconti (1548-?)
    Amadeus I Visconti (?-1597)
    Theodoros I Doukas (1597-ongoing)

    King of Kings of Ethiopia:

    Yekuno I (1414-1437)
    Yohannes I (1437-?)
    Kwestantinos I (1484-?)
    Kwestantinos II (1542?-?)
    Andreyas I (1590?-1599)
    Tewodros I (1599-ongoing) [Uncle to Demetrios Sideros’ wife Jahzara]
    Last edited:
  • JohnSmith: The long reigns were an accident on my part from not paying attention but it does explain Wittelsbach success. At least my subconscious knows what it's doing...

    Arrix85: You're right; I got the Egyptian and Sicilian lists mixed up. As for Georgia, there are no Georgian monarchs mentioned between Alexei II and Stefanoz which is why I listed them consecutively but there's enough room for some more to fit it. I hereby declare that Alexei II was succeeded by his son Giorgi VI who reigned briefly and did nothing of importance and was succeeded by his grandson Stefanoz.

    1615: Historians are unsure of how thoroughly Iskandar is aware of the Roman situation vis-à-vis Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire in the spring of 1615. His victories in northern India have been extremely impressive and his lieutenants have secured further triumphs over other smaller forces. However no one paying attention, including the Katepano of Taprobane and the Kephale of Surat, can fail to notice the growl of annoyance emanating from seven-walled Vijayanagara, currently the greatest city in the world.

    More than a growl comes from the lord of all India south of the Narmada in the spring when some vassals in the Deccan attempt to throw off their servitude with some Persian support. In one battle the vassals are crushed absolutely despite the twenty five hundred Khorasani gunners and six hundred Turkish cavalry in their ranks. Whilst no attempt is made by the Vijayanagari to pursue the few fugitives who make it across the frontier, the ability of the Defender of Cows and Brahmins to send great hosts to the doorsteps of northern India is one noted by all parties.

    Northern India too isn’t being entirely cooperative either. The Indus valley is the region easiest to control from Persia but is also the site of Sukkur in the south and Kashmir in the north, the largest states in northern India before Iskandar’s arrival. Although compliant for now, Sukkuri and Kashmiri nobles have made their way to foreign ports with dreams of one day returning. As a further annoyance, raiding the Indus delta seems to have become the new favorite pastime for Ethiopian pirates. They are quite good and have a suspicious number of newly forged Roman guns in their arsenals.

    Further east, despite a progress of Iskandar made as far as Oudh, Persian control is effectively nonexistent east of Delhi save for a few isolated garrisons who can only maintain contact when patrols are out in force. Meetings between the Portuguese Viceroy of Sutanuti, the Prince of Jharkhand, the King of Bihar (a rump compared to its former glory but still a respectable regional power), and emissaries from the King of Tibet and his Gurkha vassals do nothing to sooth Iskandar’s concerns.

    What it comes down to is that Shah Iskandar does not want to leave India at this juncture and spend more blood and gold on the war with the Romans. The truce is renewed for another six years with a Roman payment of 2.5 million hyperpyra plus a quarter-million for every year afterward. Meanwhile the low-intensity battling continues without a beat although the Shah does dispatch three thousand more light cavalry to western Mesopotamia to combat Anizzah raiders.

    Much to Janos’ fury, German troops are marching west not southeast. Triune forces are on the doorstep of Antwerp (direct intervention during the Brothers’ War itself had been blocked by a serious of miserable harvests across northern France plus some serious peasant uprisings in Brittany and Normandy) and Emperor Friedrich places his priorities there. The Triunes have already violated the territories of the Holy Roman Empire; the Romans are merely threatening to do so.

    The Voivode though is unwilling to give up, especially concerning the harsh Roman demands. A late and soggy spring delays Roman preparations for a new offensive, who advance secure in the knowledge that German intervention is not happening. It is thus a considerable surprise when the Akoimetoi roll up to the gates of Vienna and see Bavarian banners flying from the ramparts. Just three days earlier six thousand Bavarian infantry, veterans all, had marched into the city.

    The Triune army at Antwerp was completely shattered, even more than the Hungarians at Mohacs, by a joint attack by Bishop ‘Bone-Breaker’ and General Blucher. With that great success Friedrich rapidly transferred forces east just in time to check Roman encroachments in Austria, which despite its long control by Hungary still ranks as one of the principalities of the Empire.

    Finally the possibility of the two empires colliding head-on has arrived. Roman foragers skirmish with Bavarian scouts; lives are lost on both sides. With reinforcements that arrive shortly afterwards, Leo has more than enough man and firepower to take Vienna despite the Bavarian garrison. Such a victory would provide the Romans with a powerful base from which to operate in future campaigns and do much to cripple what strength remains to the Hungarian monarchy. But while Friedrich can brush off the skirmishes an assault on Vienna is too much to suffer without reprisal. Leo withdraws.

    The Roman retreat from Austria is a victory of sorts for the Hungarians but it is due solely to the Germans, who also take the initiative in terms of peace negotiations. On both sides the effort is largely spearheaded by royal women. On the Roman side Empress Helena the Elder, displaying energy which she has not shown in several years, takes the lead. Roman bloodlust has been somewhat sated by Mohacs and Buda and thus peace is more welcomingly viewed both by Demetrios and the Roman public.

    On the German side a major figure is Empress Kristina, eldest daughter and child of Helena the Elder. Unlike her hapless little sister Theodora, Dowager Queen of Hungary, she has a more forceful personality and the general respect of the Bavarian nobility. She also has a much closer relationship with her little brother Demetrios, another important asset.

    Mother and daughter get a chance to meet, for the first time in nineteen years, in Venetia where peace talks are held. Significantly the talks are between the Romans and Germans; Janos Zapolya is left stewing out in the hall even when King Theodoros Doukas of Lombardy arrives for his share of the pie.

    The treaty hammered out is effectively a total Hungarian capitulation. The Kingdom of Serbia is recognized as an independent state and also to be granted control of the Kingdom of Bosnia as well. Transylvania and the Banat are to go to the Vlachs. Per the arrangement with the Lombards, Verona and Padua are annexed to the Lombard Kingdom. The Veneto, Friuli, and Gorizia present more complications. Per said agreement they are to be constituted as a new duchy under Anna Drakina-Sidera (elder sister of Demetrios Sideros), former Duchess of Verona and Padua, as a vassal of Rhomania. The region in question though is crawling with Lombard troops and tax collectors and Theodoros is not inclined to withdraw.

    In exchange for five hundred thousand ducats, another million to be paid over the next six years, and the promise of preferential grain purchases to feed Venetia, Helena recognizes the Lombard conquest. Emperor Friedrich does the same when Theodoros promises another equal payment on the same schedule, plus a pledge to abide by any feudal ties between the territories and the Holy Roman Emperor.

    To compensate Anna, Hungarian Dalmatia and Istria are ceded to the Empire. They are amalgamated with the Roman vassals of Ragusa and Split, both governed by communes. The result is the new Duchy of Dalmatia and Istria, in which the two communes still enjoy significant autonomy. Anna is installed as the Duchess of the new vassal state (Helena pointedly ignores the existence of her still-living husband who ends up back in Buda and successfully filing for divorce).

    The question of Croatia is a sorer spot. Croat forces, operating practically entirely on their own, had beaten off the Lombard and Roman attacks on the core of Croatia save for a few raids. Empress Helena is interested in the possibility of a Despotate of Croatia which intrigue some Croats as a means of exchanging a nearby master for a far-off one. Friedrich though has no desire to see a Roman Despotate so close to Imperial frontiers. The possibility of an independent Croatia (aired by Friedrich as a compromise!) is scotched by the unenthusiastic response of Krsto Frankopan, Ban of Croatia. The Ban, eyeing Janos’ teetering position, has ideas regarding his own future status in the Hungarian state. Thus Croatia is left in union with Hungary.

    To cement the accord, a dynastic marriage is arranged. Friedrich had been quite disappointed by the birth of Andreas III, who blocks a Wittelsbach claim on the Roman Imperial line. Here is an opportunity to ‘address’ that. Friedrich and Kristina’s eldest son Manfred has two children of his own, a boy Theodor born in 1604 and a girl, Elisabeth, born in 1605, just two weeks before Andreas himself. Andreas and Elisabeth are to be married.

    There is concern in many Roman circles over this; the Wittelsbach desire to have blood sitting enthroned in the White Palace is well known. But Friedrich is insistent and for all Kristina’s desire to secure peace between her brother’s and her husband’s realms, her ambition to see a granddaughter as Roman Empress also cannot be denied.

    Hungary is left holding the bag. Janos still has to ratify the agreement, something he is naturally quite reluctant to do. The treaty is especially painful as the loss of Transylvania wipes out most of his family’s holding. But one condition of the Andreas-Elisabeth marriage is that Friedrich convinces the Hungarians to sign. Pressed from all sides, Janos has no choice.

    It is a disaster. The only difference, save the retention of Croatia which is due mostly to Krsto’s intrigues, between the treaty of Venice and the Roman terms issued before the campaigning of 1615 is that Hungary is not obliged to pay a monetary tribute. But that saving is counterbalanced by the Bavarian garrisons in Austria. The Roman bear may be satisfied but there is no strength left in Hungary to expel the German bear sprawled comfortably in the foyer. What if he too decides he wants a meal?

    * * *

    Constantinople, November 12, 1615:

    Andreas looked around the interior. The mausoleum had not changed since he’d been here last week, not that he expected it to have. The interior walls were a dull white, marble carved from Hymettos, the sunlight coming through a series of pointed-arch windows. The room was circular, only about eight meters in diameter, with one entrance behind him. He knew the dome on the outside was sheathed in hammered bronze. Every week, members of the city’s guilds in rotation polished that bronze so that it gleamed almost blindingly in the noontime sun.

    The tomb itself was granite from Skammandros, a dull gray-white mixture somber in appearance, the lid topped by an effigy of a man lying on his back as if asleep. The man was of a medium height with a round face, although one without much trace of fat. Andreas rubbed his short nose. I like to think that I have his nose. He certainly had the same narrow unibrow.

    Next to the man’s right shoulder was a small stand with a platter of fresh pastries, covered in chocolate and sprinkled sugar, not exactly the cheapest fare in town. All around the tomb were strewn fresh flowers. A hundred years after his death, the Good Emperor was still honored with such devotion and respect by the common people. I want to be remembered like that. He closed his eyes and started to pray.

    He hadn’t gotten very far when he heard someone very ostentatiously munching on something and smacking their lips. He turned around to see an old man. He was of medium height with a round face, but with what looked to be a toned frame with little fat. Hazel eyes looked out at him underneath a thin white unibrow. He had short white hair covering his head and a full cropped beard. He was wearing a black shirt with silver thread on the cuffs and neck, plus a small silver chain around his neck, from which hung a small green jewel. He wore riding pants of the same color. His hands weren’t gloved so Andreas could tell that they were very rough, even aside from the many wrinkles, hands that looked like they’d grasped a sword often.

    He popped the last bit of one of the chocolate pastries in his mouth, sighing in contentment. He looked at Andreas and smiled. “It’s a good thing that these weren’t around when I was your age; I’d be as fat as a Frenchman if I were.”

    “Those are for him!” Andreas blurted, somewhat surprised that was the first thing that came out of his mouth. How do you get here? His guards were outside the only door to the mausoleum and they wouldn’t have let the man in alone and not followed. He looked at the man’s waist; there was a worn sword-belt there and off his right hip a dull silver scabbard. The hilt of the blade in there looked like standard-issue Thrakesian tagma. But they’re in Hungary and he has no insignia?

    He looked back at the man’s eyes. He had a slight smile. “I’m not going to hurt you, Prince Andreas.” He looked at the chocolate pastries. “These on the other hand…” He grabbed another and started chowing down.

    “Those are for the Emperor!”

    The man looked at him, swallowed the bit in his mouth, and held the half-eaten remainder between the right thumb and forefinger. “He doesn’t mind.” He looked at the tomb. “Do you?” Silence. “See.”

    “I guess that’s alright then.”

    “Good.” The man stuffed the rest in his mouth.

    “Why are you here?” Andreas asked.

    “Why are you here?” the man answered. “You come here every week; are you expecting the décor to change?”

    “No, I come here to pray.”

    “This isn’t a church.”

    “I know but…this seems like the right place to pray, for my prayer.”

    “And what are you praying for that here seems to be the best place? If it’s this chocolate you’re praying for I would think the White Palace kitchens would be a better spot.”

    Andreas couldn’t help but smile as the man started eating another one. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an old man this happy. Then he stopped grinning; the man looked at him. Andreas hesitated. “I’m praying that I’ll be like him.” He pointed at the tomb.

    “Why? You want to be a great war leader, to conquer distant lands?”

    “No, I want this.” He gestured at the flowers and the chocolate. “A hundred years after his death. No one alive can remember him. Yet the people still do this, in honor of his memory. I want to be like that; I want to be an Emperor that is still loved a hundred years after I’m gone.”

    “Being loved after you’re dead is actually easier than when you’re alive.”

    “Well then I want that too.”

    “You just want everything, don’t you?”

    Andreas shrugged. “Yeah.”

    The man chuckled. “Well, you’re off to a good start.”


    “You’re letting me eat this chocolate.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “The baker who put this here didn’t put it here for me. She put it here for him.” He pointed at the tomb. “But he can’t use it, so you let me have it. A good Emperor cares about his people and is willing to sacrifice for them. In this case it isn’t really a sacrifice, but you’re starting on that principle.”

    “That’s it?”

    “No, not even close. Andreas was loved because he cared about the people, and the people knew it. He was willing to give his life to protect them. Came close a few times. Why did he do that? He’s a sovereign, a ruler of millions, why would he put his life on the line for some herdsmen?”

    “Because are we not all children of God?”

    The man smiled. “Precisely. Regardless of your station, your soul is no more or less valuable in the eyes of God than any other. But because much is given to you, much is expected. Remember that, and act on it in all you do.”

    “That doesn’t sound easy.”

    The man smiled again but this time sadly. “No, it isn’t. It’s possibly the hardest thing in the world.”

    “I don’t know if I have the strength.”

    “I think you do.”

    Andreas nodded, warmed by that comment. “I have to go now. I have sword practice.” The man nodded and Andreas started walking out the door. In the entryway he turned back and gestured at the platter; the man had gone through half of them. “Try to leave some for the Emperor.”

    The man laughed. “No promises. These things are quite addictive.” Andreas smiled and headed out.

    He reached his horse and started to mount her. “You were in there quite a while,” Ioannes commented.

    Andreas looked over at the pug-nosed Epirote, the commander of his bodyguard. “I was talking with an old man. Do you know who he is?” I forgot to ask.

    “There was no one else in there. We didn’t let anyone past.” Andreas stared at him in shock. He looked back at the mausoleum, his hanging mouth clicking shut. “Is something wrong? Are you alright?”

    Andreas smiled. “Yeah, I’m alright.”