An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Map-September 1634
  • Here is the completed map I have been working on !


    There are a number of lands that are marked with the colors of two countries.
    Poland and Prussia : Ostpreussen, Polish conquest under Casimir.
    Poland and Lithuania : From Volhynia to Suwalkija, Polish conquests under Casimir.
    Prussia and EAN : Estonia, Northern losses in the Great Northern War
    Novgorod and EAN : Archangelsk, Northern losses in the Great Northern War.
    Georgia and Ottomans : Trans-Aras lands. Currently in Ottoman hands, but have repeatedly changed hands.
    Spain and Andalusia : Spanish end of the Reconquista.
    Near East : The Demetrian Agreement, see minimaps.
    1634: This is my Prayer
  • “This is my prayer; this last utterance I pour out with my blood. Then do you, Tyrians, persecute with hate his stock and all the race to come, and to my dust offer this tribute! Let no lover or treaty unite the nations! Arise from my ashes, unknown avenger, to harass the Trojan settlers with fire and sword – today, hereafter, whenever strength be ours! May coast with coast conflict, I pray, and sea with sea, arms with arms; war may they have, themselves and their children’s children!”-Dido, The Aeneid, Book 4.

    1634 continued: Although rather disturbed by the high losses, mostly to disease, of the previous force, Demetrios III elects to dispatch reinforcements to the Caribbean. There are no more colonists in this batch; setting up new sugar plantations really isn’t a priority.

    The priority, in the Emperor’s mind, is to send a message to Emperor Henri II. Looking to the possible post-war situation, it is clear to Demetrios Sideros that the United Kingdoms have the potential to be a far more serious challenge to Roman interests than the HRE. Reports from the Office of Barbarians regarding the status of the Triple Monarchy are disturbing.

    The Triune realm is not quite on the scale of the Holy Roman Empire, but with a population of over 22.5 million (substantially more than the Imperial heartland, but slightly less than the heartland plus despotates) it has to be taken very seriously. Henri’s domains still have lots of local privileges, internal tolls, and feudal dues that would have any Roman civil servant twitching in annoyance. Plus there are powerful nobles that would have every Roman Emperor since the Laskarids twitching (and the English Parliament, which would inspire a more spectacular and incendiary response from the Basileus in question), but it is far more cohesive than the HRE. There is no French Duke who could be an Ottokar.

    There is also an ethnic-political divide as well. The Triple Monarchy, despite also being known as the United Kingdoms in Plantagenet propaganda, is still a personal union. The Kingdoms are only connected in the person of Henri II, not being integrated like the Act of Union between Castile and Portugal that forged the Kingdom of Spain. And more than a few Roman diplomats have compared the situation in the Triple Monarchy to the Ottoman Empire, with the Persians=French, Turks=English, and Arabs=Irish. Which considering the issues that have given the last few Ottoman Shahs, is unpromising for King’s Harbor.

    But having said that, Henri rules over domains that are well-developed, growing in population, and has a capable administrative and financial structure (albeit hampered by those local restrictions). Both France (in Paris) and England have national banks and there are stock exchanges in London, King’s Harbor, and Paris. Henri II’s interest rates have consistently been just 2-3% higher than Demetrios III (although he has yet to demonstrate the ability to float loans the size the Basileus has to date), far better than Ferdinand or Theodor for example.

    The tour system, originally based off the Laskarid theme-tagma system, has developed into a cantonal district responsible for providing the manpower and money for a regiment. In peacetime, the ideal is that each tour has at least an active company to serve as a veteran cadre for new recruits, with some tours (predominately eastern French ones) kept at full strength, although these draw recruits from wider areas to lessen the burden on their home districts. Plus there are the various guard and foreign mercenary regiments (including the anti-English Scots formations whose origins date back to the Ninety Years War, which for obvious reasons are deployed only in France).

    After the defeats during the Second Rhine War at the hands of a younger Blucher, the Triunes also created a Military Academy to train the officers that command the tours. Unlike the Bavarian one, which has remained a minor usually-forgotten affair, a decade after its establishment the Triune one is a growing concern. Only nobles can enter, but one of the purposes of the Academy is to make young nobles more loyal and disciplined. It does well at that.

    All of that means Demetrios III finds it important to emphasize that Rhomania can project force into the Caribbean. This is a minor field for Rhomania, despite the hopes for new sugar plantations, but it is vitally important to the Triunes, who must defend their holdings. Every recruit and cannon sent off to Barbados is one less that can threaten serious Roman interests. Demetrios knows that in an all-out contest, any of the Atlantic powers could flood the Caribbean with far more reinforcements than the Romans, but the threat is still useful.

    There is only one new battle-line ship sent, a 50-gunner. Given the high wastages among the crews of the big warships, it’s not considered wise to send more of those ships. But there are also a pair of 40-gunners, plus two fregatai and two sloops.

    The light ships are most useful as the Triune reinforcement arrives just a week after the Romans, eight battle-line ships (although all 50 to 60 gunners) and six lighter vessels. Demetrios III is not the only one who can make statements. This is far too powerful for the Mexican-Roman fleet which is blockaded in harbor at Port Royal, Jamaica. But while the battle-line ships are penned up, they tie down the bulk of the Triune fleet and also mean the Triunes dare not attempt to land troops on Jamaica. The light ships, several of which avoid getting cornered, can still cause trouble.

    It is decided that with the extra light vessels, the range of operations should be extended beyond the Caribbean. The Triune colonies in northern Terranova have been unmolested; that should be remedied. Several Mexican and Roman warships split off to go north, including the Octopus which is still commanded by Eikosarchos Leo Kalomeros.

    The first action goes poorly. A Roman sloop (not the Octopus) encounters a small convoy in the Bahamas and moves to attack, but is intercepted by an escorting Triune sloop. In the two-hour duel, the Roman warship is forced to strike and made a prize.

    The plan is for the individual vessels to take up specific territories to harass, although neighboring ships can coordinate on bigger targets. The Octopus, along with the 30-gun Mexican fregata Xolotl (named after the founder of Texcoco) are sent well to the north. They sail past the colony of Carolina, named after the Lord Proprietor Charles Duc d’Anjou, Henri II’s uncle, then the colonies of Alexandria [1] and Maryland, named after their Lord Proprietors the Princesses Alexandra and Mary, Henri II’s two sisters.

    Then they arrive at their target, New England, where there are a cluster of smaller colonies rather than the large colonial realms granted to noble lords further south. The oldest of these is the New Town colony [2], centered on its first settlement and capital, New Town. At 5000 people, it is by far the largest Triune town in all of North Terranova, with a respectable shipbuilding industry that supports whalers and fishermen, in addition to larger haulers for shipping timber and fur to the Triple Monarchy proper.

    To the southwest of the New Town colony is the Colony of Shechem [3], named after its chief settlement, Shechem [4], which lies along the coast opposite Long Island. The only other proper town in the colony is the town/trading outpost of Hebron [5] up the Jordan River [6], although there are multiple prosperous villages. The colony is settled almost entirely by Puritans who named their settlements after prominent Biblical locations. Shechem was where God renewed his covenant with Abram for the first time in the Promised Land, pledging that the land would belong to his descendants. That is no coincidence; the Puritans view this as a new Promised Land, one pledged to them as the “new Israelites”.

    Christians have a long history of arguing over the proper details of their faith, and the Bohmanist Church of the United Kingdoms is no different. The Puritans are a branch of the church who largely believe that the Church is both corrupt and didn’t go far enough in its reformation away from the Papist idolatry. Two of their key distinguishing beliefs are the abolition of episcopacy (bishops) and in sola scriptura, which puts them at odds with the Triune bishops.

    While they are scattered throughout the Triple Monarchy, the English are more prone to fall into this category. They were largely ignored by the crown and church in their early years, but their greater numbers and volumes in the past few decades have resulted in harassment and persecution. (While many regular Bohmanists dislike the Puritans, there have been a few cases in northern England where English neighbors of English Puritans objected when they were harassed by a Bohmanist bishop who happened to be French.) So some decided, with the permission of the crown which saw it as a good way to export troublemakers, to set up a haven for Puritans in the New World. (Some had also settled in the pre-existing colonies, where the Triune Church had less clout than in the heartland.)

    Many Puritans were excited by the chance, an opportunity to remake the world, or at least a little corner of it, into the way it should be, rather than the way it is. Even though the colony is less than twenty years old, Shechem Colony already has over 5000 whites in its borders, nearly a tenth of all whites living in all the Triune colonies of North Terranova.

    The Puritan Church is hugely important to the governance of the colony. Every settler must dwell within 6 miles of a church, resulting in a tight network of villages. This is to ensure their godliness, and twice-weekly church attendance and tithes of all produce are required. All males who are at least 25, are members of the church in good repute, and met a property requirement are members of their village council. Church deacons have a double vote and a pastor has 5 votes, meaning that given the typical size of the council the deacons and pastors usually dominate village government.

    All deacons and pastors, who have a double vote in this case, in each recognized ‘church district’, elect one of their members to the colonial assembly. A church district is usually synonymous with a village, although larger communities have multiples based on population. The colonial assembly then elects three members, from which the crown chooses as the colonial governor. This is as it is set up in the charter.

    The system is set up that while the government is technically separate from the church, the clergy are the ones who rule. Local ordinances are highly concerned with the morality of the inhabitants, with laws passed that regulate gambling, card playing, use of music outside of church, the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, clothing, and sexual activity. Church members are required to observe and report the behavior of their neighbors. To have known of a neighbor’s sin and to not have reported it merits the same punishment. A group of three deacons or a pastor and one deacon can enter any home at any time with no cause in order to ensure that the occupants are properly following the precepts of the church.

    To be poor means that one is ungodly and is therefore a sin. There are some setups for poor relief, but to be on them means that one forfeits any political rights and typically the person is forced into involuntary servitude. For those in the community who are of “good repute” though there are strong provisions to support families if the breadwinner is sick, injured, or dies, the expense taken from the tithes paid to the church.

    Some Puritans argue against slavery, but they are a minority. Most small farms don’t have enough labor needs for slaves to be economical, but larger farms and enterprises use them. There are about 400 Africans and 1000 natives used as slave labor on larger estates, or in logging, sail-making, and construction. The pastor of the New Church in Shechem is the biggest slave-owner in the colony, his “thrift and wealth” considered proof of his godliness. The work of their bodies is considered by the Puritans to be more than compensated by the salvation of the souls that the Puritans provide.

    When the Puritans first appeared, they’d expected that their godly examples would convince the native Terranovans, ravaged by disease, to convert. By conversion, the Puritans also expected the natives to abandon their culture and start adopting Triune ways, including Triune clothing, land ownership, and food. With a few exceptions, the Puritans were mistaken. Now, near a generation after the first landings, the general Puritan view (there are some exceptions) is that the natives by their obstinacy have proven themselves not innocents, but “servants of Satan, the spiritual descendants of the Canaanites, who for the sake the godly should be destroyed, so that the New Israel will not be led astray as was the old. Thou shalt not cast pearls before swine.”

    The Puritans hate their neighbor to the east, the small Colony of Sanctuary, founded by Benjamin Church in 1625 on Rhodes Island [7] in Narragansett Bay. Benjamin Church was a dissident Puritan minister, although he’d preached in the New Town colony before he relocated to the settlement of Sanctuary he’d founded.

    Although still personally a Puritan, Benjamin founded his colony on the idea of religious freedom, believing that the relationship between an individual and God was not the business of the state. Although it must be said that freedom is only extended to Christians, but it is to all types of Christians. Plus his relations with the Narragansett natives are quite good, namely because unlike most Triunes (not just the Puritans) he actually deals fairly and honestly with them. He would like to see them convert, but doesn’t blame them for being unimpressed with Christianity considering the treatment they’ve received from most Christians they’ve encountered.

    Sanctuary to the Puritans is a seat of ungodliness. There be heretics and heathens, not chastised or educated, but allowed to live free. This is the work of Satan. And yet to their frustration this is not something they can easily smoke out. The Narragansett, swelled by the remnants of the destroyed Pequot tribe, are the most formidable native group in the immediate vicinity, although the more distant Mohawk, one of the members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, are mightier. Plus Church has a charter from Henri II, so launching a direct attack on him would earn the Puritans the ire of the crown. There have been legal efforts to get his charter annulled, but the Puritans were hardly the crown’s favorites before, so their efforts are going nowhere.

    About fifty miles south of Noepe [8] the Octopus takes a small Triune slaver on course for Shechem. On board as part of the cargo are 14 Ethiopian sailors, a crew of an Ethiopian slaver doing business in the Kingdom of Kongo which had been taken by a Triune raider and then sold to the slaver captain. Leo Kalomeros hits the roof, enraged at seeing a Roman ally being treated as such. They are freed immediately; the remaining slaves are kept as prize to be sold in a neutral port for money. Kalomeros and the Romans don’t care about them.

    The Octopus and the Xolotl, which has taken two prizes of her own, put in at New Ghent, a Lotharingian colony on the western end of Long Island. The Lotharingians are quite happy to trade in goods pilfered from the Triunes, well aware of the escalating tensions between Albrecht III and Henri II. There Leo Kalomeros and Ramon Olintecle de Tecoac, the captain of the Mexican fregata, hatch a plan.

    Inspired by the attack on Basse-Terre, the two look for allies for an assault on Shechem. Those are easy to find. There are a few Narragansett traders in New Ghent, who know the terrain and keen on revenge for Puritan insults and lies. More come from a contingent of Mohawk traders, who have a monopoly on fur trade with the Lotharingian colonists, for which they destroyed the Mahican, driving the survivors into Shechem. They too have suffered insults and lies from the Puritans, and revenge sounds good to them. Heading up north, the two ships pick up some warriors from the Paugussett tribes, who are hostile to their Puritan neighbors.

    Landing west of the town, they are challenged by the Puritan militia of Shechem town, led by their Pastor-Colonel, which outnumbers them close to two to one. They’d been forewarned by a brig who’d spotted the pair of ships off Long Island and managed to escape pursuit by hiding in a convenient squall.

    The militia and their Preacher-Colonel are veterans of skirmishes with natives so the native warriors, while respected for their fighting prowess, are not particularly fearful to them, although the Mohawks are disturbingly well-equipped with long-barreled Lotharingian muskets. But on board the Xolotl are Tlaxcallan soldiers for use as marines, disciplined and fierce. Their concentrated musketry volleys smash through the Puritan ranks, killing their commander and routing them.

    With the defenders scattered, the allies storm their way into Shechem town, looting and burning. Of the inhabitants, which didn’t evacuate before the battle, that get within their range, the native tribes scalp the males of warrior-age and make captives of the rest. The Mexicans shoot the warrior-age males and take captive the rest. The Romans under Kalomeros, still fuming from the Ethiopians and who find the Puritans to be a particularly noxious type of Latin heretics, just shoot theirs, shocking the natives by their brutality.

    There is a sizeable haul of loot. The Puritans may be no fun at parties, but they are frugal and hard-working, building up a substantial stockpile that is carried off, most sold at New Ghent. Several villages near Shechem are also hit, although in most cases the inhabitants flee out of range.

    The damage to Shechem colony is devastating. A little over 300 Puritans, over 6% of the white population, is killed or carried off, and an assessment by the colonial assembly three months later estimates the property damage to be equivalent of 15% of the colony’s entire property value. Benjamin Church, to his credit, offers assistance from his limited resources, but is denied. The Puritans don’t want any connection with his ungodliness, and a few believe him to have been in cahoots with the attackers because of the presence of Narragansett natives in the raid. He wasn’t.

    The Romans were, on a person-by-person basis, the most destructive and murderous of the attacking parties. But in the Puritan consciousness, they are overshadowed by the Mexicans. It was their gunnery that broke the back of the Puritan militia. Their Mesoamerican apparel and modern weaponry made them memorable in appearance. And unlike the Romans, who’d taken slaves as war booty to be sold in New Ghent, the Mexicans liberated the Africans they seized, although requiring them to come with them back to Mexico. Heathen in look, heretic in practice, enemy of property, clearly these are satanic spawn. They will not be forgotten.

    [1] OTL Virginia.
    [2] Roughly equivalent to eastern Massachusetts.
    [3] Corresponding roughly to Connecticut.
    [4] New Haven, Connecticut.
    [5] Hartford, Connecticut.
    [6] Connecticut River.
    [7] IOTL, the explorer Verrazano compared an island in Narragansett Bay to Rhodes, a possible explanation for the name of ‘Rhode Island’.
    [8] Martha’s Vineyard.
    1634: Always Faithful Been
  • @Sir Omega: I figure a ‘Danish West Indies’ level is the best the Romans can expect in terms of Atlantic possessions. They could certainly try for more, but one of the Atlantic powers would put that down if it got in the mood. Roman interests and power projection capabilities are vastly higher in the Indian Ocean and Island Asia.

    @Duke of Nova Scotia: Yeah, ‘Rhomania in the West’ is really just a way for the Romans to be ‘in the game’, but they’re not going to dominate the league. Even a smaller Atlantic state like Lotharingia or Scandinavia could take out ‘Rhomania in the West’ if it were so inclined. East is where Roman interests lie.

    @RogueTraderEnthusiast: Neutral port is a useful tool. The big three in the Caribbean are the Arletians, Spanish, and Triunes. In the event of a war between them, neutral carriers would have a booming business ferrying Caribbean cargoes to Europe under neutral flags. Rhomania could be one of those. Although that’s in the future; right now ‘Rhomania in the West’ is several dozen settlers in a seaside village, plus the naval forces.

    @Evilprodigy: That could very well happen. I have some very vague ideas for future wars between Mexico and a North American state duking it out for control of the Lower Mississippi. The Mexican siege of Vicksburg perhaps?

    @Komnenos002: Glad you enjoyed them. Details are still very much up in the air, but I’m planning for Mexico to be a much bigger player both in the western hemisphere and on the world stage.

    @JSC: From the accession of Andreas III to where I’m at in the TL, a few updates ahead of what’s posted, is 350+ pages in a Word doc. My plan is to try and keep up the regular schedule of updates so that things keep moving forward, but with the updates being shorter (5 pages?).


    “The drums of war cause earth to shake
    When the South Land comes near even devils quake.
    People long will tell of that night raid,
    That Gan Ning’s goose-plumed warriors made.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    “If ministers of Han have always faithful been,
    Wei leaders, too, prove their loyalty are keen.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    1634 continued: Andreas d’Este, currently serving as Kastrophylax of Venetia, is given command of ‘the tagma of Germania’ despite his fairly junior status. The primary reasons are that it is his proposal and he knows the area best and has been consistently lobbying for such a mission. That said, the proposal is only approved after the massive success of Manuel Philanthropenos’ raid into Persia, and Andreas and Manuel both meet in Constantinople in early January to discuss the plans.

    The garrison of Venetia is reinforced to provide the striking power. A few veteran tourmai are shaved off from both the Army of the Danube and the Army of Syria, to be replaced there by newer recruits. Included in the reinforcements are the best mountain troops in Rhomania, due to concerns about fighting their way through the Alps. These are men mostly from the Taurus and Anti-Taurus mountains, sure-footed and tough. An appreciable percentage are Helvetians, descended from the Swiss and German settlers placed in the eastern mountains during the early years of Helena I three generations ago. Although their cousins may be marching with Blucher, the Helvetians have proven to be steadfastly loyal to Constantinople. Their German-language skills have proven useful for mischief-making behind the Allied lines in the Danube campaign.

    When Andreas sets off from Venetia, at the same time as Blucher makes his lunge at Skoupoi, he has eleven thousand men. However to facilitate rapid movement he only has three-pounder guns and a pair of six-gun eight-pounder batteries. Optimistically, he can seize some heavier artillery from the Germans, but any serious fortifications will likely be immune to this force.

    There is clearly some sort of arrangement with Duke Mastino of Verona at the start as the Duke puts up no credible resistance to the Roman advance. Mastino has absolutely no interest in risking his men and material to stop Andreas from going forth and killing Germans; Mastino has absolutely no problem with that kind of ambition.

    The stripping of Lombard estates to provision Andreas’ army could be a problem, but mysteriously the estates stripped on the march to the Brenner Pass typically belong to people whom Mastino doesn’t like. Certainly none of his friends or clients suffer.

    There is debate about whether this is a local policy devised by Andreas, or if there is some impetus from Constantinople as well. Demetrios III doesn’t trust Mastino and is not fond of his local political allies. But the Duke of Parma’s continued under-the-table negotiations with OoB agents have Demetrios III feel like Farnese is stringing him along, and that irritates him.

    Progress across northern Italy is quick and penetration of the Brenner Pass unexpectedly easy. The Swiss and Tyrolese menfolk that would’ve been expected to defend the area are instead down in Upper Macedonia, causing such hardship for the Army of the Danube. Most of the Tyrolese scatter, fleeing into the mountains with what they can carry, rather than fighting the Roman force. There is more opposition at Innsbruck. The medieval walls are smashed down by the eight-pounders, but the citadel above the city, built by Frederick III back in the late 1400s, is a tougher nut. The castellan ruthlessly fires on the town once the Romans are in the streets, killing many of the inhabitants alongside the Roman soldiers but it succeeds in driving them off after moderate damage to the outer city. The Romans take their frustration out by flattening several of the surrounding villages before moving on.

    Continuing north they enter Bavaria, the primary seat of the House of Wittelsbach. When they began their rule of these lands, the First Komnenid dynasty was on the throne in Constantinople. Even now, after the massive expansion of their domains and powers, Bavaria is still the heart of Wittelsbach might.

    Plumes of smoke from burning villages begin to rise as the Romans proceed down the Isar River, using it to guard their left flank as they leave a swathe of destruction twenty-five kilometers wide. Any resistance is met with complete and utter annihilation of the place in question.

    And yet not every village is destroyed. Some surrender, providing a tribute of provisions in the hopes the Roman soldiers will go away. When that happens, Andreas leaves the villagers alone, but if there is an aristocratic manor house or another location holding records of required taxes or feudal dues nearby, that is destroyed. When the peasants find out that little detail, many are eager to guide the Romans to their targets and provide ‘deconstruction assistance’.

    This wrinkle is directly from the desk of Demetrios III, who is aiming to cause as many difficulties for Theodor as he can. Attempts to enforce said feudal dues should be more difficult in the future, especially when some of the more cooperative peasants sport mysteriously new muskets.

    A few miles south of Bad Tölz the Romans are challenged by a Bavarian army, thirteen thousand strong, an unexpectedly large force. Fifteen hundred are from a Munich palace regiment, with another two thousand new recruits with at least a month’s drill with their weapons. The remainder are either noble retainers or hastily conscripted peasants. If the peasants are lucky they have a fowling piece. More usually, they are not and instead equipped with farming implements. More formidably, the Bavarians have a pair of fifteen-pounder batteries, an original Triune-design well used in central Europe. They have a respectable range and firepower advantage over the Roman twelve-pounder that is its closest equivalent, much less the eight-pounders of the tagma of Germania.

    Elizabeth had been against sending the force, skeptical of its capabilities in the field, but the commander of the forces in Bavaria had insisted. The Romans needed to be challenged, preferably before they could cause much damage in Bavaria. Save for the darkest days of the Great Hungarian War, the Wittelsbachs, for centuries, had never tolerated such a thing for long. Besides, perhaps the sheer size might deter the Romans.

    The Romans are not deterred. They advance in silent grim formation, taking the punishment from the Bavarian cannons and a ragged long-range musket volley. Marching until they’re forty meters from the foe, the Romans halt and present arms. Some more shots pile into them, but still they are silent. The peasants especially start to waver, and then the Romans slam a volley into their ranks. They break. The steadier troops try to hold back the tide, but they’re far outnumbered and outflanked. The Bavarian army disintegrates within twenty-five minutes of the first Roman volley.

    For two hundred and fifty casualties (only sixty of which are killed, mostly from the fifteen-pounders), the Romans inflict near five thousand, mostly prisoners taken in the rout. The peasants are let go as little threat, but the other troops are more serious and Andreas doesn’t have the men to guard such a large number of prisoners, never mind the drag on his speed. So the remaining prisoners are brought to the banks of the River Isar and ambrolared to death, the corpses hurled into a series of mass graves. The area is still known to this day as the Field of Knives. The next day Bad Tölz ceases to exist as the Romans proceed leisurely north to maximize destructive opportunities.

    On June 9, as the siege of Thessaloniki is beginning, the Roman army appears beneath the walls of Munich. The city’s defenses are modern, but not nearly as sophisticated as the new Lotharingian forts or the more formidable Roman citadels. But the Romans still only have field artillery plus the fifteen-pounders captured at Bad Tölz and those have limited ammunition. However that battle, and the general lack of serious opposition, have the Romans feeling rather disdainful of their opponents. Besides, while ravaging the Wittelsbach heartland up to the walls of Munich is humiliating for Theodor, it would pale in comparison to a sack of the city. So they attack.

    Aside from one understrength palace regiment plus the remainder from the one destroyed at Bad Tölz, the defenders are all civilians, mostly equipped with fowling pieces and their tools of trade. And there are few cannons. The city’s defense is led personally by the Lady Elizabeth, clad in armor and riding along the battlements to encourage the inhabitants who defend them. At one point a Roman sniper has a clear shot but is ordered by his commander not to take it; she was crowned as a Roman Empress by Andreas III in Hagia Sophia and as such is still technically part of the Roman Imperial family.

    Although not showing just yet, she is pregnant with the child of her second husband, Eberhard III, Duke of Württemberg. They had married in the spring, at Elizabeth’s impetus who’d done the work to arrange the match, concerned to bolster the Wittelsbach dynasty before the Macedonian venture.

    While not on the level of her first husband, in the circles of the Holy Roman Empire he is a respectable catch. After the Wittelsbachs and Premyslids, the next tier powers are the Archbishop of Cologne, the Duke of Pomerania, the Welf Duke of Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Marburg, Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, and Hildesheim, and the Duke of Württemberg. Aside from his 750,000 subjects, Eberhard’s mother is a Habsburg and his sister is married to the Duke of Pomerania, very useful family connections.

    The fifteen-pounders start bombarding the walls defending the portion of Munich on the eastern bank; the lighter field guns are useless against the fortifications themselves but they can hamper repair work. Munich’s defenders have some artillery with which to respond, but the pieces are handled indifferently. Still, the breach is made by a party of Roman soldiers that launch an attack on a sally port, blasting it open with charges and then holding it until reinforcements arrive. They succeed, but with 40% casualties.

    This is on June 12, and now the Romans are inside east-bank Munich. Normally that would be the end. But the inhabitants of Munich, rallied by the Lady Elizabeth, swelled by refugees from the countryside, have heard of the Field of Knives and have every reason to fear the worst. So they keep fighting with ferocious desperation.

    Now it is the Romans’ turn to wage a nasty urban fight, battling from house to house, with many a Roman soldier brained by a flying cobblestone. Like the Allies at Skoupoi, the Romans steadily grind their way forward, helped by their far superior armament, inflicting disproportionate casualties but taking heavy losses of their own.

    Also like Skoupoi, the defenders have some local heroes to inspire them, chief of whom is Johann ‘of the Barrel’. A thirteen-year-old boy, he hides underneath the wreckage of a smashed barricade as Roman soldiers clamber over it, then blows a barrel of gunpowder next to him. At least a dozen Roman soldiers are killed or wounded by the blast, the whole scene seen by Bavarian rooftop snipers.

    A few blocks over, Lady Elizabeth is rallying the defenders in the streets, despite the danger, as she will not run but she also cannot just stand by in the palace and watch while her subjects are killed. A spent bullet glances off her cuirass, knocking her to the ground and bruising two of her ribs. There is a frantic battle between the Munich inhabitants and the Romans as the one try to protect and the other try to capture her. It is very close, the fight only ending when a tailor grabs a bandolier of grenades, lights one, and jumps into the mass of attacking Roman soldiers. He is immediately cut down, just before the live grenade goes off, detonating the rest and mauling the Roman soldiers around him. This throws the Romans back long off for the Bavarians to pull Elizabeth back out of range.

    After a day of street fighting, the Romans have half of the east bank city. Roman losses are steadily mounting even as more barricades fall, and Andreas is not sanguine about trying to storm the bridges, necessary to get to the west bank city where the real prizes are.

    But then Duke Eberhard arrives via the west bank city, coming with reinforcements to support his wife. A thousand are new recruits, little good in the field, but with more promise behind a barricade and equipped with proper weaponry. But the other thousand are the Duke’s palace guard, well-trained and well-armed, and they come with some light field pieces that are very useful in defending barricades with a storm of Vlach shot. Finding the battle too costly, Andreas withdraws his army, with nine hundred casualties, from the city, although not before wrecking or taking everything of value in the neighborhoods he captured during the fight.

    The battle of Munich thus counts as a Wittelsbach victory, but it is still a humiliation. For the first time in over a century, an enemy army has managed to pierce all the way into the Wittelsbach capital. Yes, it held, but the foe was only turned back after the arrival of troops that were not from Wittelsbach lands. And the foe is only rebuffed. Andreas decamps and begins moving north again, resuming the flattening of villages.

    The destruction isn’t as heavy as word has gotten around that if they submit and provide satisfactory tribute, the villagers won’t be harmed. But those who are not quick on the uptake suffer for it, and frustrated after the fighting at Munich (and Innsbruck earlier) the Roman demands are heavier and their definition of resistance lower.

    Moving slowly both to extract maximum plunder and ensure maximum destruction, and to show his disdain for whatever enemy forces can challenge him here, it takes a week for Andreas to arrive at the gates of Landshut. The prosperous town is the capital of the Lower Bavaria region, with a fine Wittelsbach palace built in Italianate style which dates from the early 1500s, with beautiful murals depicting Wittelsbach victories over the Hungarians in the Great Hungarian War and then the bounties of peace.

    Andreas demands a harsh levy of silver, food, specified tools and materials, and livestock, plus the admittance of a droungos of soldiers to demolish the Wittelsbach palace in exchange for leaving the town alone. The town council asks permission to send a messenger to the Lady Elizabeth for her opinion; Andreas denies the request. After a debate, the council votes to deny the Roman demand, taking comfort in the successful defense of Munich.

    Andreas answers by immediately slamming cannonballs into Landshut’s walls, which unfortunately for the inhabitants are still wholly medieval. They are quickly breached, the Romans flooding into the town. The townspeople, rather than fighting, choose to flee, running across the bridge over the River Isar to flee northward, the Romans slaughtering everyone who doesn’t run away fast enough.

    With Landshut as a base and a good ford across the river, Andreas occupies the town for a month, sending out raiding columns 2-3 thousand strong. They reach as far as the outskirts of Straubing and Ingolstadt, and one party works their way back to ravage the western suburbs of Munich. In the town of Dachau, they burn down a church in which three hundred Germans had been sheltering, ambrolaring anyone who flees the flames.

    The Romans, then and now, ‘acknowledge but do not apologize’ for these war crimes. It is unclear if there is any point to these other than terror, the cruel vengeance of a people finally able to respond in kind. It is doubtful the Germans being slaughtered care that much. Rape is rape, torture is torture, and murder is murder. As Demetrios III puts it, “at the time, the face does not care why the boot is stamping on it”.

    There is calculation though besides the savagery. The tribute collected from submitting villages is presented as if it were tax revenues, Andreas issuing law statements as if he were governor of the land, even sending some cavalry to arrest a (Bavarian) murderer. It is a blatant thumbing-of-the-nose at Elizabeth, helpless to intervene just 70 kilometers away. It is a humiliation of the highest order for the Wittelsbachs, an insult and a disgrace to their right to rule over these lands.

    After a month in Landshut, the fun and more importantly the food is running out, so the Romans move on, although not before blowing the palace and burning the town. In a bit of gratuitous cruelty, the Romans leave booby traps in the wreckage for rebuilders to spring.

    Continuing along the south bank of the Isar, the Romans march to where it meets the Danube, and then along the mighty river as it flows east. They face no opposition, villages and towns submitting to demands. They may get picked clean, but it is better than being massacred. Either the bloodlust has faded some, or Andreas realizes that being too arbitrary might jeopardize German willingness to submit, as at this stage the Romans are less quick to jump to the kill-and-burn-everything stage. The Prince-Bishop of Passau bends the knee to avoid a sack of his city with its medieval wall, forced to turn over church vestments and silver vessels to meet the Roman demands. They find squeezing a prelate of the Catholic Church most amusing.

    Now they enter Austria, and here the Romans start facing more opposition, not from the Austrians but from the Hungarians. King Stephan and the Hungarians, quite alarmed at the prospect of another Roman invasion of their country, have managed to raise an unexpectedly large number of troops, although paying for them is a concern. A large portion are Hungarian hussars and a respectable contingent are with the Allied army in Macedonia. But there was not enough forage to send all the hussars so Stephan, currently in Buda, has men to spare.

    He offers those men in defense of Austria. Elizabeth is extremely suspicious; she knows that Austria is viewed by Buda as part of her lost lands. But the only other option is to let Austria burn as an appreciable chunk of Bavaria has. Aside from peasant levies and some hopelessly outnumbered palace troops, she has nothing to send against Andreas. So she accepts Stephan’s offer of assistance. (At the same time, he is not lifting a finger to help Casimir, whose Galician domains are currently being invaded by a thirteen thousand strong Vlach-Scythian army.)

    Hungarian troops come flooding into Austria, five thousand cavalry and six thousand infantry strong, with several batteries of field guns including several fifteen-pounders that outrange the light Roman pieces. Having run out of ammunition for them, the captured Roman fifteen-pounders were spiked and dumped in the Danube.

    The army is commanded by Tamás Dobó, Count of Várpalota. Neither side is eager to engage the other, skirmishing some as the Hungarians shadow the Roman column. Although casualties on both sides are minor, the Hungarian presence keeps the Romans concentrated, limiting the damage. However Hungarian officers advise the villages in the Romans’ path to pay the demands, which they do. The terms are less onerous than those experienced by the Bavarians, partly because of the Hungarian shadow and also there is also less animus against the Austrians, a new possession of the Wittelsbachs.

    With the Hungarians blocking the approaches to Vienna, which is too heavily fortified to be threatened anyway, the Romans pivot from the Danube and lunge south. Entering the Austrian lands of the Prince-Bishop of Freising, whose Bavarian territories have already been ransacked, the Romans strip the place bare. The Hungarians, who’ve been doing a good job protecting the lands of their former subjects, do nothing to safeguard the sovereign lands of the Prince-Bishop.

    Continuing southeast, the Romans move to threaten Graz, the second city of Austria. The burghers, terrified of being a second Landshut, invite a Hungarian contingent to garrison the city, which they promptly do. Elizabeth protests loudly, with Stephan promising to withdraw once a proper Wittelsbach force arrives to relieve the garrison.

    With that avenue blocked, Andreas decides to swing back west where there is less opposition, entering the lands of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. The Hungarians decline to follow, remaining in Austria to prevent the Romans from backtracking.

    Salzburg is one of the great ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire. Although not an elector himself, the Archbishop of Salzburg is second only to said electors. His domain is compact but wealthy and populous, with a thriving salt trade, mining activities, and a respectable paper-making industry. On September 2 the Romans march into the city of Salzburg, the gates opened by the burghers to avoid a sack while the Archbishop flees out the back.

    Andreas quite likes what he sees, spying an opportunity for an even greater Landshut. Part of the plan had allowed for the possibility of wintering in the Holy Roman Empire, as a way of showcasing Wittelsbach bankruptcy and Roman might, plus giving the opportunity to cause more damage. Here seems like a good place. Summoning the provincial diet, Andreas d’Este ‘convinces’ the diet to pay a series of extraordinary levies to pay and feed his men, while raiding parties lash into the neighboring Bavarian districts for further contributions.

    The Allied commanders around Thessaloniki are aware of the basics of what is transpiring in the Holy Roman Empire, although not the details. Some information does get through to them, the most secure method a cavalry troop a few hundred strong, small enough to be stealthy whilst big enough to beat off irregulars. Theodor is frustrated and humiliated by the news, which only impels him more to take Thessaloniki as a means to restore his battered prestige.

    Of affairs in the east, they are more ignorant. They get some reports from captured Roman prisoners, plus one from the consul of the Kingdom of the Isles in Antioch, who pads his pay by feeding information to the Wittelsbachs. But the information seems ridiculous, contradictory even. The Romans have signed a truce with the Ottomans, letting them hold Damascus and Jerusalem while the Romans maintain some no-name towns in Mesopotamia. Yet the Romans are transferring two hundred thousand men west. Those two statements together make absolutely no sense. Never mind the logistical absurdity of that figure. There’s no way the Romans could march that number across their Empire without wrecking said army in the process. Bogislaw Griffin, heir to the Duchy of Pomerania and commander of the Pomeranian contingent, argues that Roman sea power would allow for a mass transfer from east to west, but he is largely ignored.

    What is expected are reinforcements from the east of some kind. There are too many reports of a Roman-Ottoman truce from independent sources for that to be false, and it is not surprising considering how deep the Allies have penetrated. But based on the outlines of the truce as reported by the Islander Consul, clearly the Roman force heading west can’t be that big. The two hundred thousand is a clear exaggeration. It will be composed of veterans, but battered ones, and besides there will still need to be large garrisons left in the east anyway. So the eastern reinforcements are indeed a threat, but not the monstrosity as has been claimed by Romans inclined to exaggerate.

    Theodor, while recognizing the threat, also spies an opportunity. If Tornikes is reinforced, he will march to Thessaloniki’s relief. Once he is defeated, the city will see the pointlessness of further resistance and capitulate. And with the defeat of the Roman armies of west and east, the disgust with the feckless Demetrios III and following uprising in Constantinople will be all the more effective. And then he can lead a combined Greek-German army against the Ottomans, liberate Jerusalem, and avenge the recent humiliations from the Turks, consolidating his hold on power. And with both Constantinople and Munich under his banner, the threats of Ottokar and Henri will be eliminated, perhaps literally.

    One big concern though is Blucher’s health. In January he weighed 210 pounds; in August he is at 145. In the middle of August he is unable to do a daily ride around the camp as he did before. Now it is usually every other day, but on the days he does not he is often seated outside his command tent, allowing regular troops to march by and see that their Marshal is still ‘well’.

    With Casimir and Bone-Breaker snarling at each other, keeping an eye on the Roman army in the field is primarily the duty of Count Pál Antal Esterházy, commander of the Hungarian contingent of the Allied army. At the beginning of September it numbers just over 5000, mostly hussars.

    The Count is a distinguished military commander, serving as a colonel in the Black Army of Hungary at the battle of Mohacs, at which he lost two fingers from a kataphraktos who he then killed. During that war with Rhomania, he lost a brother, brother-in-law, two uncles, and seven cousins/cousins-in-law. He was one of 140 nobles who signed a declaration delivered to King Stephan in February that declared the undersigned would fight to the destruction of their lands, their families, and their lives before submitting to “the tyranny of the Greeks, for no good people forfeit their freedom save with their lives”.

    He is also a ‘Patriot’, dedicated to the revival of Hungarian independence, prestige, and power. More than a few Hungarians have gotten frustrated over the continued hold on power of the Ban of Croatia, Krsto Frankopan, especially given his dependence on Wittelsbach power to keep said hold. This naturally makes the Ban suspicious of the Count, but his military record is one of the finest in all of Hungary, and given his personal history, he can be counted upon to wage war with vigor against the Greeks.

    It is his hussars that bring in the Roman prisoners, the Count adding his skepticism to the chorus. He reports seeing a few new formations, but the forces he duels with are almost wholly those with whom he’s been sparring the whole season. A few Russians appeared earlier, but nothing like the fourteen thousand claimed, he observes. The eastern reinforcements are likely the same; some are coming, but in far fewer numbers than the claims. Besides, if the Romans really had that kind of numbers available, they’d send a force to besiege Skoupoi to block their retreat and while they know Vidin has fallen and Belgrade itself is besieged, there are no reports from the Hungarian garrison at Skoupoi indicating they are threatened.

    Like Theodor, the Count is eager for battle, ready to avenge the insults to his kingdom and King.

    One of the villages that submitted and paid tribute during the Roman march through Bavaria was the home of Friedrich Zimmermann. Life and work at the Monastery of St. Konstantinos has continued much as it has before, but there is something missing. Simply put, he and his men want a Catholic priest. Now the Hegumen deplores their heretical beliefs, but these seem like good and honest men, and he will not stand between a good and honest man and his God. He has just the right Catholic in mind as well.

    Johann Eck is a Franciscan friar from the Palatinate, a short pudgy man with a thinning crop of hair, not much to look at. Growing up poor, he was taught by a Franciscan friar in his home village who provided free lessons, impressing the friar by his quick learning. That opened the door to entering the Franciscans and further education. Showing a skill for languages, after just a few years he was posted to Smyrna.

    The Romans, who have a strong distrust at best for Catholic clergy, have a soft spot for the Franciscans. First encountering Franciscan and Dominican friars during the reign of Ioannes III Doukas Vatatzes in the days of the Empire of Nicaea, the Romans were quite impressed. Quiet, humble, ascetic, willing to engage in reasoned debate, these friars were a far cry from the usual arrogant, greedy, belligerent, and self-righteous Latins to which the Romans were used. Despite the recent wounds of the Fourth Crusade, there were some religious debates, but fairly amicable ones, and discussions on church union which showed promise, although they ended up not going anywhere in the end. Still the friars had made a very good impression. [1]

    The Dominicans, due to their involvement with the Inquisition, have soured in Roman minds. The Franciscans have been active in the Inquisition as well, but the association has not formed, so they still have a good repute in Rhomania. As a result, Franciscans are the most common type of Catholic clergy in the Empire, supporting the Latin merchant communities.

    Johann Eck, quickly learning Greek, soon became a major fixture of the city of Smyrna. Showing a great concern for the poor, he is known for his quick and sharp tongue. Demetrios Sideros, while Eparch of Smyrna, said he “was the only man who could silence the Lady Jahzara”. The friar had criticized Jahzara for her fine clothing, when she could’ve purchased something cheaper and given the difference to the poor. While Jahzara kept the clothes, she gave a sizeable donation to a charity Johann had organized, one which didn’t differentiate between Catholic and Orthodox.

    While mostly keeping the ascetic lifestyle, he does have an inordinate love of Roman wine and kaffos, not helped by the fact that several wine and kaffos houses give him free drinks. His sermons can and do draw in large crowds and hence lots of business, so it pays to keep him around.

    It is exceedingly unusual for Orthodox to listen to a Catholic sermon, but Johann keeps his preaching to topics of the Christian faith common to both churches, and everyone agrees that he can preach very well. A favored topic is on his favorite verse of the Bible, Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

    This he considers “the solemn duty of a Christian, without which one cannot be called righteous”, and he is not afraid to call out those who he considers lacking, no matter their station. During the summer he calls out Demetrios III Sideros, for the suffering his actions have inflicted on the poor during that season.

    Since the arrival of Latin prisoners in western Anatolia, Johann has been traveling around Thrakesia and Opsikia to provide for their spiritual needs. So it is he that arrives at the Monastery of St. Konstantinos, and he who makes the acquaintance of one Friedrich Zimmermann and, a bit later, that of Alexios Asanes. It is an unlikely trio, a pudgy friar, a tall red-bearded sergeant, and a Greek priest, but the three sit and talk around the fire. As generals and kings move their forces on the chessboard of the world, as empires and peoples send forth all their might and majesty into battle, these three insignificant men sit and discuss the world. The world as it is, and the world as it should be.

    * * *

    The White Palace, Constantinople, September 18, 1634:

    Eudoxia stirred under the blankets as Demetrios shifted out of bed, unfortunately disturbing the fuzzy cocoon of warmth wrapped around her body. Thunder boomed in the distance, the sound of rain beating on the roof of the Palace.

    She opened her eyes as Demetrios lit a candle, dispelling some of the darkness. The sun was rising by now, but the gloom canceled most of that out. As her eyes adjusted, she saw him examining some papers set next to said candle on the table. Thankfully he wasn’t going for a bottle of wine.

    “Come back to bed,” she whispered. Demetrios grunted. “You know, I have to be more interesting than whatever is on those.”

    He looked over at her, a bit of a smile on his face, a welcome and fairly rare sight since the Twelve Days. “Actually, it seems a couple of your ladies have the French disease. Can’t have that. I’ll have to punish you.” He made a swatting motion with his hand.

    She arced an imperious eyebrow. “Really. Well, you can try.” She held up her hands in a wrestling posture, fully expecting Demetrios to take her up on that.

    He did take a step, but then cocked his head toward the window, the thunder from the east still rolling. He stood there for a moment, then spoke.

    “It’s begun.”

    * * *

    [1] This is all from OTL.
    1634: The Lord He Served
  • “O let our enemy’s courage glow
    That our greater might may show.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    1634 continued: Unusually, Blucher is up and ready on the morning of September 18, feeling better than he has in months.

    The Allies don’t get much warning. Tornikes has been snapping at the Allied lines, steadily escalating his probes, inching closer and bolder for close to a month. So it doesn’t seem like anything unusual on September 17th. Then a night attack, led by scouts who’ve grown up in the area, engulfs the Allied outposts on Mt. Chortiatis, finishing up the operation just before dawn.

    It doesn’t take long for the scale of the Roman threat to become apparent. With a small force garrisoning the mountain itself, there is a Roman army about 60,000 (commanded by Tornikes) swinging south of the mountain to hit the Allies from the southeast. There is another 90,000 strong (commanded by Theodoros Laskaris) swinging north of the mountain, aiming to hit the Allies from the northeast.

    Blucher, taking command of the situation, immediately opts for a defensive strategy. There’s no time to march out anyway, and it’d be suicide against an army of that magnitude. The Allied camp, while strung along to blockade Thessaloniki’s landward sides, is very well fortified. Vauban had seen to that. There are a series of ditches, some of which are flooded, and tall earthen embankments. There are also wooden abatis, in some places entire tree trunks fallen so that they interlock, their tops facing the enemy, and caltrops strewn in other locations to cover the approaches. The clear lanes in between are covered by field artillery loaded with Vlach shot. Even with those numbers, the Romans will definitely not enjoy storming those defenses.

    Now the Romans could counter-siege the Allied besiegers, but such a large force, especially when combined with the people and garrison of Thessaloniki, can’t be supplied for very long. Perhaps when they’re forced to withdraw some or all of that army, it will be the moment to strike, but not before.

    An hour and a half later, with Tornikes and Laskaris slowly moving into position, Amirales lumbers over the horizon from the southwest, marching along the gulf coast. The two ‘eastern’ armies had been waiting for that. Amirales is the real shock; the rumors of 200,000 Greeks are evidently true. Although livid that there’s been no indication of such a behemoth from the Allied scouts, Blucher bites his tongue. Now is not the time for that. All that matters now is survival.

    Playing defense isn’t going to work now. With those kind of numbers, the Romans can punch through the camp defenses. They will pay through the nose still to do so, but Blucher is inclined to believe they’re willing to pay that price. If the Allies stay, they will be destroyed.

    There does seem to be a chance of escape. Roman forces are converging on the Allies, but not from the northwest, meaning that a line of retreat to Skoupoi is still open for the moment, and there are no reports to indicate that Skoupoi itself is under threat. That would mean leaving the camp defenses and staging a fighting retreat, with the enemy right on their heels, over terrain that has been stripped bare. Yet that beats staying and dying.

    A powerful column of troops moves out from camp to reinforce the Allied outpost at the village of Diavata, northwest of Thessaloniki, which secures the Skoupoi road. At the same time, the Paramonai and Roman tourmai directly under Odysseus pull ahead of Amirales, moving to take the same village. Meanwhile, Laskaris’ and Tornikes’ heavy guns open up on the Allied defenses in front of them, the cannons of Thessaloniki joining them.

    Thessaloniki Battle.jpg

    The semaphores have flashed the news to Constantinople, the people of the capital gathering in prayer for the victory of the Roman army. In Hagia Sophia, the Patriarch of Constantinople leads a service of supplication and in attendance are all the notables of the capital, including the Emperor and Empress.

    As the guns scream and powders stink, the Allied column moves to head off the Paramonai. Their assignment is to hold the road open so the main Allied army can disengage, a hard task as Laskaris and Tornikes are pressing harder in their sectors and Amirales is swinging to hit the camp from the west. Domestikos Theodoros Laskaris doesn’t want to give Blucher any chance of retreat. While a retreat-chase back to Skoupoi may destroy the Allied army, he doesn’t underestimate Blucher’s ability to keep a battered army together. And he is well aware of how his cousin Michael Laskaris was treated last year when he only destroyed half of the Allied army.

    The Romans advance forward in good order, the bands playing The Shatterer of Armies, the old favorite theme of Andreas Niketas. Odysseus’ Pronsky lancers and Roman kataphraktoi roll forward, heading towards the Hungarian horse that guard the right flank of the Allied ‘Diavata’ troops in front of them.

    The Hungarians break before contact, fleeing the steel despite the curses and insults of their German allies. But they are light cavalry, not equipped to stand up to the heavy horse of their foes. The proper choice would be the Poles, but they’re deployed in the eastern camp and thus not available in time.

    Refusing their right flank, the German troops fight as the Roman cavalry pressure them on the right flank while infantry and artillery pound them from the front. Fighting defensively, they give a good account of themselves against Odysseus’ men, although they can hear on the wind that Amirales has engaged and the Thessaloniki garrison has sallied.

    And then the Hungarians slam into the Allied rear.

    Count Pál Antal Esterházy hates the Greeks; he has lost far too much family to them for it to be any other way. But he is also a Hungarian patriot, and as such he also loathes the Wittelsbachs. The Greeks sundered their kingdom and ripped away provinces, but at least they had the honor to take them in open battle. They won those lands by right of conquest, but at least the Greeks have a right. The Wittelsbachs stole Austria, with lying tongues and thieving hands, with spies and tricks and insinuations. And then through a Croatian lackey, they’ve kept a stranglehold on the Magyar throat ever since.

    No. More. “For no good people forfeit their freedom save with their lives.” Those words had been writ against the Emperor in Constantinople, but they speak as well against the Emperor in Munich. And those who had signed, and the King who had received those signatures, had known it.

    King Stephan VII Hunyadi has been in contact with Emperor Demetrios III for some months now via their respective ambassadors in the Grand Principality of Pronsk (despite the major troop loans, the Grand Principality is not technically at war with the Allies). The Speaker of the Council of Lords, the upper chamber of the Pronsk Veche, facilitated their easy and most private correspondence. It was King Stephan who’d been Demetrios’ ‘special friend’. (While he intends to reward General Wallenstein, privately Demetrios despises the Quartermaster General as a traitor to his country-which he interprets as the HRE proper rather than Bohemia since the general serves Theodor directly, not Ottokar. But Stephan, as a sovereign lord, does not earn such condemnation in the Basileus’ eyes for his deviousness.)

    They have been discussing the terms for Hungary’s change of sides, as well as the most opportune moments for when to do so. Stephan didn’t know about the lunge into Macedonia before it happened, Blucher and Theodor having kept him out of the loop. Now Demetrios certainly hasn’t alerted Stephan of his war plans, but Count Esterhazy has been looking for a good point to use that particular knife.

    When the Hungarian commander, a secret Patriot that Esterhazy had managed to place there, of the Hungarian garrison of Skoupoi sent word that a Roman army was approaching to invest the city, the Count knew the time to act would be arriving soon and made preparations. That included not informing the Allied command; the messenger had been carefully selected as one who could be trusted and who knew to keep his mouth shut.

    That was also the real reason why Andreas d’Este didn’t press an attack against the Hungarian army shadowing him in Austria. The Emperor had made him aware of the negotiations, and King Stephan had likewise informed the Count of Várpalota.

    And now he decides to use that knife. Only a few of his officers that he can trust implicitly have been informed of the Count’s and King’s plans, but the Hungarian troops are well-disciplined. Although they don’t wear the black armbands of the Black Army, destroyed at Mohacs, they have the discipline; Count Esterhazy has seen to that. And it’s not as if Magyars need much reason to shoot Germans.

    Hit from three sides, completely blindsided by the sudden betrayal, the German column at Diavata is wiped off the face of the earth in a matter of minutes. Reforming, Odysseus and his new allies secure the village and block the Skoupoi road. The last chance for a concerted organized retreat for the Allies is gone.

    The action at Diavata, even if it had gone the Allies’ way, might not have been enough. Hit by four separate Roman forces, the ability of the Allied army to disengage even if there was an opening is highly questionable.

    Amirales has a hundred and forty cannons, Tornikes a hundred and sixty, Laskaris two hundred and ninety, and the Thessaloniki garrison three hundred and two. With them pummeling the Allied defenses in a rain of steel, the din great and terrible, Roman sappers creep forward with their satchels of explosives to blow holes in said Allied defenses, while above their heads Roman infantry pour in a hail of long-range musketry. Despite the covering fire, the sappers’ jobs are extremely dangerous and casualties heavy, but the promise of four years’ pay if they live and the same amount to their families if they die mean that they push forward.

    With the sappers having done all they can, the Roman troops crash forward, covered by the scream of their artillery. Some holes have been blasted, but the defenses are still formidable and the fighting is murderous. The Roman formations leading the charge take horrendous casualties, but everywhere the Romans have a tremendous numerical advantage. Stout positions are bypassed and surrounded as the Romans punch through weaker sectors, breaking into the camp.

    * * *

    The Field of Thessaloniki, September 18, 1634:

    The crash of cannons and musketry was no stranger to Blucher, after sixty years of war and too many battles to count, but the sheer number was unprecedented. But it was still just a battle, and his duty was clear. There was no way he could win this, and the odds of saving much of his army looked extremely slim, but he could, perhaps, if God be kind and willing, save his lord.

    “You need to flee, your majesty,” he said to Theodor, who was gaping at the sight before him. Powder smoke was strewn through the air, stinging Blucher’s nostrils, but a sea breeze meant it wasn’t choking, yet. It was getting thicker by the minute.

    The Greeks were breaking in on all points now, with serious fighting in the camp. Some of the Allied soldiers were fighting, some were surrendering, and some were running.

    “Colonel von Ompteda will see to it that you get safely out.” I hope. He looked at Wilhelm von Ompteda, his chief of staff, with his round head and pointy nose. The young Brunswicker was behind his sovereign, who was still looking dazed at the scene in front of him.

    “Out? But we can’t retreat,” Theodor replied.

    “Right, we can’t retreat, but you must flee.”

    “Flee?” he replied dumbly, the words clearly not sinking in to get through to him. He was too busy staring at the destruction of all his plans and hopes, but refusing to accept it. Blucher took a deep breathe to calm his rising frustration. It didn’t help much, not while he heard the roar of guns and the screams of his dying boys, all for the sake of this man.

    “Yes. I’ll cover your withdraw-”

    “But Nostradamus, the prophecy,” Theodor interrupted. Somewhere nearby one of their powder magazines exploded, hurling a mushroom cloud into the sky. Blucher could see an intact barrel flipping through the air, forty meters up.

    And Blucher’s patience snapped. His right fist smashed into his Emperor’s chin, a perfect hit. Theodor crumpled, caught by Ompteda and one of his aides, the two officers gaping at him. “Son of a…” He cupped his right hand with his left. That had hurt, a lot. His Majesty had a tough jaw. Definitely wasn’t the proper thing to do, but he couldn’t deny that right now, punching Theodor had felt really good.

    “Get him out of here,” he told Ompteda.

    Ompteda nodded. “I will.” A pause. “It’s been an honor to serve with you, sir.”

    “And with you, Colonel. God go with you.”

    “And with you, Marshal.” The pair shook hands, Blucher barely avoided a wince as his aide gripped his battered right hand.

    Blucher watched for a moment while his chief of staff and his assistant carried Emperor Theodor away, each holding one arm. Hopefully in the fog of war they’d find a way to get clear. But to give them even a prayer of a chance, Blucher had one last duty to perform.

    He mounted his favorite horse, an old gray warhorse much like himself that he’d named Methuselah a long time ago. Methuselah snorted quietly as Blucher got onto the saddle, surprisingly without any help. Today, of all days, he felt…better, his body somehow knowing it had not much further to go, yet determined to cross the finish with style.

    He rode towards the battle lines. Fighting was going on inside the camp, with almost a flavor of urban warfare about it. Given the long encampment, many of the canvas tents had been replaced by packed-earth structures for better protection from the elements, and now gunfire.

    It was a disorganized confused melee, knots of resistance surrounded by other units giving way, the battle lines far from straight. But right now, he didn’t need the specifics. He knew where the enemy was, and he knew where his lord was. That was enough.

    “With me, boys!” he shouted, his voice booming at full volume through the carnage. “Rally to me!”

    “It’s the Grand Old Man!” he heard a Bavarian sergeant cry out.

    “It’s Old Goat Whiskers!” a Saxon lieutenant shouted.

    “Rally to the Marshal!” came the command from a Brandenburg captain.

    “Rally to me!” Blucher shouted, riding forward, calling out into the din and powder cloud. “With me, boys!”

    He rode through the area, shouting out to his boys, gathering in those who were fleeing. “What are your orders, sir?” one of his aides asked.

    Blucher pointed straight ahead. “We need to set up a proper defensive line here, here, and here.” He pointed at three large earthen structures that had been used as depots during the siege, and now could serve as mini-forts. There were some men already fighting from that position, but the sound of gunfire was a lot louder from the Greek stations. But if they could hold the Greeks up there for a while, that might give Ompteda enough time to get the Emperor clear. This thrust from the northeast was the closest, and the biggest too.

    “Done, sir!” a Holsteiner Colonel shouted.

    Blucher and his aide and the various officers nearby got the men moving forward to those defensive positions. The Greeks were pressing hard, but those knots of resistance were tripping them up, never mind the difficulty of moving such huge masses of men through the crowded camp.

    Then Blucher started riding forward to the firing line. A Saxon corporal grabbed the bridle of Methuselah. “We’ll hold that line for you, Marshal. Don’t worry about that. But you should go to the rear.”

    “Marshal Blucher to the rear! Marshal Blucher to the rear!” The shout went up from men nearby.

    “No boys, not this time, my boys!” Blucher replied. “I’m too old for that sort of thing. From now on I’m only going forward! Who’s with me?”

    “We’re with you, Marshal! Forward!”

    “Forward!” Blucher shouted, blinking the tears from his eyes.

    “Forward!” came the call.

    The fighting was the hottest Blucher had ever experienced in his entire career. The layout of the camp, the narrow lines and interspersed buildings and the jumble of the detritus of any army camp and battle made a charge impossible. So instead the two sides hurled musketry volleys at a range of twenty five meters, at most, the sound like a kilometer-long piece of paper being violently ripped in half…every few seconds.

    The Greeks tried to maneuver around him, but while they had the numbers, Blucher had the terrain. The confused warren of the camp didn’t allow for quick movement. It was not enough for him to win the battle, but all he needed, if God was kind, was to win some time. And that he could, would do. If God was kind.

    He rode up and down just behind the line of his boys, shouting encouragement. “Keep on them, boys! Keep firing!” He was acting like a Captain here rather than a Marshal, but that seemed right. He was asking these men, his boys, to die, and the very least he could do, would do, was share their danger. “Keep firing!” No more politicking, no more managing a gaggle of different armies and generals, some of whom wanted to kill each other more than the enemy. Now all that remained was to carry out his last duty as best he could, and then finally he could rest. He prayed to God that his boys, and himself, would find peace and mercy when this was done, if not on earth than in heaven.

    Cannons were now in play on both sides, firing at ranges of twenty five meters, but neither side broke despite the slaughter. Blucher saw a Greek cannonball hurl through the air, neatly decapitating four men, the bodies all falling to the ground next to each other while the remnants of their falling heads thumped and bounced and spattered around them. He saw a German cannonball hit a Greek cannon, shattering its carriage in a shower of splinters while the barrel itself flipped up into the air and then fell, a spray of blood flying up on impact as it squashed somebody.

    And yet he, somehow, was untouched. He could hear the bullets whizzing around him like mosquitoes; one came close enough for the heat of its passage to lightly burn his cheek. If he was his normal weight, he’d have been hit by now; he could feel the rustle of his loose clothes as musket balls sliced through them.

    More fire, more blood, more death.

    Blucher turned his head, looking to the north. With the powder smoke, he couldn’t see but he hoped, he prayed, Ompteda would find a way. Theodor, to be blunt, had been a bad Emperor, probably disastrous even. But it had been Blucher’s duty to serve him, regardless of his faults. He had done the best he could as he saw it, and whether that would end up being for good or for evil was in the hands of God and his mercy.

    Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, Field Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire, never saw or felt the bullet that killed him.

    * * *

    “Who of all the official throng
    In the North was true like Shen Pei?
    Sad his fate! He served a fool,
    But faithful, as the ancient humans.
    Straight and true was every word,
    Never from the road he swerved.
    Faithful unto death, he died
    Gazing toward the lord he'd served.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    * * *

    1634 continued: The death of Blucher, once word spreads, breaks the spirit of most of the Allied soldiers still fighting at the battle line he’d formed. Most either break or try to surrender, although in the heat of battle many of those trying to yield are shot out of hand. Some of those are done in cold blood. A small band, carrying the body of their fallen commander, retreat to one of the largest earthen warehouses, and well-armed including with field artillery, defy all Roman efforts to force them to surrender. It is not until Archbishop von Hohenzollern appears, appealing to them in the name of life and the good of Germany, that they capitulate.

    The Archbishop with his Rhinelanders had been posted on the far west end of the Allied siege lines and thus was hit head-on by Amirales’ main force. After intensive bloody fighting at the camp ramparts, the Romans, supported by mass application of cannon fire and grenades, break through. Recognizing the inevitable, and wishing to spare the lives of his men, the Archbishop offers to surrender in exchange for a promise of safe and fair treatment for himself and his men. Amirales promptly agrees.

    But the Archbishop insists he will only personally surrender to the “meanest ugliest son-of-a-bitch” in Amirales’ army, as “he does have standards.” A hulking scarred nose-less tetrachos from Dazimon appears. The Archbishop replies that he’s “not quite as ugly as my mother-in-law, but you’ll do.” (Since he’s not married to his concubine, for obvious reasons, technically he doesn’t have a mother-in-law, but nitpicking Bone-Breaker’s jokes is also unwise from a health and safety standpoint, for different but equally obvious reasons.)

    The Archbishop surrenders, but also hands out silver ducats, equivalent once exchanged for half a month’s pay, to each member of the Dazimon tetrachos’ squadron. This is on the grounds that for the sake of his pride, his captors should get a nice reward for their ‘valiant and noble deeds’. The droungos’ mascot, a female Croatian shepherd dog, immediately takes to the Archbishop, who reciprocates the affection, which significantly raises the status of their captive in the eyes of the Roman soldiers.

    By two in the afternoon the Allied camp, save for a few stubborn pockets, has been overrun and the bulk of the Allied army killed or captured. But given the confusion and chaos of battle, the thick clouds of powder smoke, and the spacing between the various Roman columns, some Allied units manage to hack their way free.

    The largest is a contingent about four thousand strong that breaks out in the juncture between Laskaris’ and Sideros’ forces, fleeing north. But the Domestikos had prepared for something like this. Many of his troops were kept in reserve, particularly swarms of cavalry that would be useless in an assault on a fortified camp.

    The Allied troops, remaining steady and disciplined, beat off the cavalry attacks but they are constantly hounded and harassed until the Roman horse succeed in driving them into a large wood near Drymos, keeping them trapped in there until Roman infantry and artillery arrive. The Allies, hoping to hold out until nightfall and then slip away, refuse all demands to surrender. They’ve seen too many of their comrades killed while surrendering.

    The Roman commander there sets up his cannons, dividing the wood into various sectors and assigning particular batteries to each sector, then orders them to fire blindly into their zone. Accuracy is abysmal, but hits on trees send clouds of wooden slivers, some the size of a man’s forearm, screaming through the air. On three occasions, unable to endure the punishment, the Allies sally, but when that happens a signal flare shoots up and then every gun that can be brought to bear fires on that sector, driving the Allied troops back into the woods. About a half-hour before nightfall, having taken over a thousand casualties, the Allied troops surrender.

    The soldiers from the ‘Cannon Wood’, as it is still called today (and some of the trees from that time live, the scars still visible), are not the only Allied troops to fight their way free, but the remainder are in much smaller bands that manage to slip through the cracks. The reserve troops catch a lot of these, but preferring to leave nothing to chance, prior to the battle Laskaris arranged for the various irregulars to be stationed even further back, as a second web to ensnare any would-be escapees.

    * * *

    Northwest of Thessaloniki, September 18, 1634:

    The sun was going down in the west, although it still had an hour to go. People moved silently through the trees, quickly and quietly taking up their positions. Once peasant farmers and tailors, blacksmiths and millers, this, the art of war and killing, was now habit, instinct. Anna, once of St Andreas, hid behind a tree and looked at their prey.

    There were twenty or so Latins, bedraggled and battered, their clothing stained with powder and showing many a bullet hole. They showed no trace of finery, but all had some fine looking horses, which were currently drinking from the stream that ran past the base of the hill from which Anna looked down. There was another hill that overlooked the Latins from the other side of the stream and more of their group was taking up position there.

    The Latins, watering themselves as well as their horses, had a few guards posted, looking outward, but their shoulders were hunched with exhaustion. Anna hadn’t been at the battle, but she’d heard the great endless thunder.

    There was more than just her band preparing to strike. When the Latins had withdrawn from Upper Macedonia, they’d followed; their only source of provisions was the tribute the local garrisons paid to avoid attacks and any further un-pleasantries. Namely, the garrison fed them so the band wouldn’t feed on them. It was a system that had worked for everybody.

    So they’d left their mountainous homes and descended down into Lower Macedonia. Raiding had been more difficult since they didn’t know the terrain and the Latins generally moved around in larger groups. But they’d been joined by a group of Thessalian Arvanites who’d come to slit Latin throats and loot their corpses, plus some Epirotes who had tough mountain ponies. A pair of villages had agreed to support them as a defense force against Latin raiders, although the villagers clearly hadn’t been too happy about it. Latin foragers had already taken the stores they hadn’t managed to hide, and these were more mouths to feed.

    Up ahead, she could see Manuel looking down at the Latin forces. His clothes were dirty, like all of theirs, but it was the fairly-new uniform of a Roman officer. His rank insignia, covered in mud so they wouldn’t gleam, were those of a Droungarios. They’d made contact with Roman regulars since moving into Lower Macedonia, and for his service ‘behind the lines’ he’d been promoted.

    Still there’d been whispers, rumors about what they’d done back in Upper Macedonia. She expected she’d just have to get used to it. She’d seen horrible things; she’d done horrible things. But she’d done them to survive. She didn’t want to eat human flesh again, but if it was that or die, she knew she’d do it again. She refused to just lay down and die because what needed doing involved upsetting the sensibilities of someone fat and warm far away. And if they wanted to judge her for it anyway, well…Judge and be damned. Let them first endure what we have endured.

    Manuel crept back over to her, Gabriel taking up behind her, clutching his trusty ax to his chest. He never left her side in battle. Manuel pointed at one figure, nibbling at a piece of bread, in the center of the Latin group. “Can you take him?”

    “I can take him,” she replied.

    He smiled. “I knew you’d say that. Your shot will be the signal. Wait until I get back and then set up.” She nodded as Manuel went down the line. She, along with Zoe and Nikolaios, were still the best shots in their little company, so they’d be assigned to take out the leaders. The Upper Macedonians would take first blood, but the Arvanites would pitch in as soon as they did, and the Epirotes were mounted in the rear for any pursuit needed.

    Manuel was back in two minutes, nodding at her and Gabriel as he passed, just in time as the Latins were finishing up and getting ready to leave.

    Anna took a step back and Gabriel moved in front of her, placing his back to the tree as Anna put her left hand on his shoulder for support as she aimed her bow. Synchronizing their breathing so that wouldn’t throw her off, she concentrated on the wind, tightening her muscles, feeling the tension in her bow, waiting until the moment felt just right…and let fly.

    The arrow flashed out, a moment later followed by the snap of a crossbow and then the roar of a rifle, and then the crash of musketry as her arrow slammed right into her target’s right eye.

    * * *

    Anna looked out amongst the carnage. Between them, the Arvanites, and the Epirotes all of the Latins except two or three, and those all wounded, had been killed. They’d been unwilling to surrender, but Anna hadn’t been surprised by that. The Latins knew what happened to those captured by irregulars.

    Manuel flipped over the body of the one she’d shot, which had fallen face first into the stream. “I’ll be damned. He knew. Somehow he knew,” he said with a huge grin.

    “What are you talking about?” she asked.

    Manuel’s grin got even bigger. “Anna of St Andreas, a peasant born of peasants. You’ve just killed a king.”

    * * *

    1634 continued: Blucher is killed on the field of battle, Casimir by an irregular north of said field. Wallenstein is seized during the battle, but promptly released, although the Roman officers aren’t impressed by a man who would betray his lord and country. They feel the same as their Emperor, who said “I would use such a man without hesitation, but not respect him.” Vauban and Crown Prince Ottokar of Bohemia are also captured, well cared for but heavily guarded.

    Tens of thousands of Allied troops have been captured, and thousands more lie dead on the field. The entire Allied army wasn’t destroyed to the last man, but it has been effectively destroyed. The survivors still free, dispersed in shattered penny packets, a hundred here, forty there, and so on, are no longer an army.

    And of those survivors, there are irregulars and trapezites hunting them and a long march to the Holy Roman Empire through hostile territory. It is doubtful any will see their homeland again. All of the big fish have been killed or captured, with only one exception, the biggest catch of all of course. As the sun sets on September 18, no one at Thessaloniki knows where Theodor, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and would-be Emperor of the Romans, is.

    * * *

    The field of Thessaloniki, September 18, 1634:

    Athena walked through the Allied camp, her guards behind her and her faithful Illyrian mountain dog at her side. Her name was Taara, after the Hindi word for Star. She’d been a present from Maria of Agra, back when Andreas III still ruled and the world, or at least she, had not seen such slaughter. She was tense, on guard, stressed by the sight and smells around her, as was Athena. But she felt she had to look; she owed the dead that much.

    Thousands of men and thousands of animals had died in the field today, and every one had voided their bowels. The air stank of excrement and urine, interlaced with the stench of blood and sweat and powder. Flies swarmed in great columns, ravens gorging themselves in the most stupendous buffet of their lives, the true winners of the day.

    She looked down at herself, in her tourmarch’s uniform, stained with sweat and powder. She’d been on the ramparts all day, coordinating the Witch’s Tower fire with the sally of the garrison, and then the bull-rush of Tornikes’ army. She felt exhausted down to her bones, her whole body aching as she’d helped shove ball and powder and ramrod and cannon. Bruises were forming all over her body. And she’d had it easy. There was blood aplenty around her, but not one drop was hers.

    Taara’s ears perked up, a moment later Odysseus rounding the corner. He looked just as exhausted, his uniform stained with powder and sweat as well, with splotches of dried blood on his left sleeve and in his hair, although none seemed to be his.

    Their eyes met, and then they walked towards and embraced each other. Neither said a word. They just held and comforted each other as the sun slipped below the sky.
    1634: The Emperor's Journey
  • 1634 continued: The Roman victory at Thessaloniki is as near-total as such things come in warfare, but it was not cheap. Including the losses to the irregulars while they hunt down stragglers in the next two weeks, Roman casualties number over fourteen thousand, the vast majority from the storming of the camp defenses. (Their new Hungarian allies have 500 of their own.) As a result the damage is highly uneven; many formations are untouched while those who were front-line in the assault are half-wrecked.

    Demetrios III, who’d been fairly well-informed of the course of the battle via the semaphore, (it is rumored that he shouted “Kyrie Eleison” at the exact moment King Casimir was killed) arrives at Thessaloniki on the morning of September 23, having come by fast monore. He spends the whole day touring the battlefield accompanied by his children, and the next day the field hospitals with their piles of amputated limbs as tall as the Emperor.

    As of the battle of Thessaloniki, 256 medals of the Order of the Dragon and 720 of the Order of the Iron Gates, of all grades, have been issued throughout their entire history. For the fighting in the war to date on all fronts, including the battle of Thessaloniki, over 400 of the former and thirteen hundred of the latter are issued. Although it takes a few months before all are officially granted, many are issued personally by the Emperor or his children in the fields outside Thessaloniki. Every tourma that was front-line in the assault is also awarded ‘Guard’ status.

    As a new innovation, a campaign medal is also issued to all soldiers who participated in the ‘Thessaloniki campaign’, deliberately broadened so as to include Mauromanikos’ forces in the north. Tens of thousands are still extant today, a popular and valued item of Roman campaign medal collectors.

    One of those most honored is Anna of St Andreas, the slayer of King Casimir. [1] She is personally presented with the bounty for killing the Polish monarch by the Emperor, and is then also presented by the addition pledged by the Archbishop of Cologne by Bone-Breaker who expresses regret he hadn’t been able to see it. The Archbishop pays for his with a certificate from the Imperial Bank-Thessaloniki branch; he has an account dating back to 1623 and is also an investor in the first two Roman war loans.

    It is also believed that it is on the field of Thessaloniki that Demetrios formulates his idea for the ‘Hero of the Empire’ decorations, although those don’t start being issued until the spring of 1635.

    The Roman losses are heavy, but the Allied losses far heavier. Twenty nine thousand are ‘long-term’ prisoners. The reason for the ‘long-term’ qualifier is that many Allies were captured as wounded, but medical aid was focused on the Roman soldiers. As a result many prisoners die from their injuries and never enter onto the official Roman rolls as prisoners.

    The number of killed and of those who escaped is unknown, but the former number is quite large and the latter quite small. Most of those who survive the battle itself turn brigand and are gradually hunted down over the next few months. Others starve on the march or end up getting killed by Hungarians if they get that far. If any manage to make it back home, they disappear back to the villages without any documentary evidence. As far as Munich is concerned, the Allied army has ceased to exist.

    Even with the battle won, there is a lot of work to be done. The wrecked Allied camp and the tens of thousands of bodies are a huge health hazard and the thousands of Allied prisoners are put to work demolishing and burying. They will be kept on as penal labor, like prisoners taken earlier in the war, helping to rebuild what was destroyed in Macedonia earlier in the campaign. However some are conveyed further afield for work projects, including at least 1500 transported to northern Mesopotamia to build artillery-bearing roads. But that is in the future.

    Demetrios now has a clutch of high-value prisoners, most useful as diplomatic leverage. The Roman Emperor has the Crown Prince and much of the Bohemian army in his possession, which certainly gets King Ottokar’s attention. There are several more German princes or heirs in custody, chief of whom is Archbishop von Hohenzollern, well-loved by the various canine mascots of Roman formations.

    But not Theodor. It seems the Holy Roman Emperor has vanished off the face of the earth, much to the confusion of both his enemies and allies/subjects at Thessaloniki.

    Marshal Blucher knew soldiers, and he picked a good specimen in Wilhelm von Ompteda. His chief of staff is fluent in Greek, which while not common isn’t particularly unusual amongst the German nobility. But most unusually, he doesn’t have the typical German accent when he speaks Greek, bearing instead a Syrian accent. He had served as consul guard for the Lotharingian consul in Antioch for six years when he was younger and learned the language there.

    Traveling with only a few men he can trust implicitly, which also helps to avoid arousing suspicion, he escorts his charge north. With captured Roman uniforms, they travel disguised as a small Roman cavalry troop. With only a couple of uniform sizes at this point in time, the ill fit of some of the uniforms on the German troopers actually helps their disguise. No regular Roman army unit would have uniforms that all fit perfectly; only the Guard might. Fortunately for Ompteda, after the destruction of his army Theodor proves to be quite instruct-able, letting Ompteda do the talking. And with Ompteda’s decidedly un-German accent, none of the units he encounters suspect the identity of one of the troop soldiers.

    Traveling through Serbia is fairly easy, as nobody in their right mind wants to mess with Roman soldiers at this point, and Ompteda has a good supply of hyperpyra and a quick tongue. In Bosnia, formerly part of the Serbian Kingdom but now occupied by token Hungarian forces, the sight of Roman soldiers is more unusual, but again nobody is inclined to make trouble for the party.

    Croatia is more complicated, given the shakeup in Buda. Krsto Frankopan is the Ban of Croatia and the ‘power behind the throne’ since 1619 when he took over the regency council for the then-underage Stephan. But his hold has been shaky for the past few years, with mounting Magyar resentment over his Croatian relations and clients holding key offices and Stephan’s growing assertiveness. As a result he has been more dependent on Wittelsbach support to maintain his position.

    It is most likely Frankopan’s success in blocking the proposed marriage between Stephan and the Lady Elizabeth that prompted Stephan to turn towards the Romans. His marriage to Mary of Bohemia gained him Ottokar’s support, but Rhomania is a much bigger stick than Bohemia and he can hopefully avoid another Mohacs.

    Stephan had not known exactly when the ‘flip’ would happen, but like Count Esterhazy he’d expected the actual moment to come during the Roman relief of Thessaloniki. After the battle, word was immediately sent to Stephan as quickly as possible and so he is the first major figure in the Latin West to learn exactly what transpired down in Macedonia.

    Several of the Patriot nobles, under instruction from their King, have been staying in or near Buda, and he quickly gathers them, informs them of what is happening, and with their support swoops down and arrests the Ban’s supporters and appointments in the capital and tosses them in dungeon under charge of treason. There are a couple of exceptions who have a ‘swift adjustment of loyalties’ and thus just get knocked down a pay grade. The vacancies are filled by Stephan’s supporters.

    Croatia is in an uproar at the news; the Frankopans are a major noble family there with a lot of influence. Stephan doesn’t want to do anything to risk breaking the union with Croatia, so he emphasizes that he is only moving against Frankopan, not Croatians in general. The new Ban of Croatia is another great Croatian noble and landowner, Juraj Kobasic, whose wealth comes mainly from selling the products of his holdings to the Duchy of Dalmatia. While not a Hungarian ‘Patriot’, he has grievances against both Frankopan and the Wittelsbachs over estates in Austria he lost when the Wittelsbach took Austria.

    The situation is still confused when Ompteda and his party arrive in Croatia and here the presence of Roman soldiers, even though now allies, raises more eyebrows and questions. But as this is happening, the Croatian soldiers that’ve been blockading the Istrian and Dalmatian cities of the Duchy are returning home. Behind them are the merchants of said cities, now looking eagerly to resume old business arrangements; the first to get back to the coastal cities with goods previously blocked by war can expect to make a killing. And they have bodyguards, some of which are Dalmatian soldiers. The Duchess, who is Demetrios III’s older sister, has three thousand men under arms who are armed and equipped to Roman standards. So Ompteda just pretends to be Dalmatian rather than Roman and manages to work his way through the country; his Syrian accent doesn’t raise many eyebrows as the Dalmatian soldiers have Roman trainers.

    Finally they arrive in Austria, Wittelsbach lands. Except the ordeal is still not yet over; the Hungarians have garrisoned Graz and several other fortresses in the region (although not Vienna) during the process of defending the region from d’Este. Count Dobó, who is also a member of the Hungarian Patriots, is ecstatic when he hears the news of the switch in alliance.

    On December 1 the party finally arrives at Klagenfurt, whose castellan is Johann Rantzau, a Danish nobleman in service to the House of Wittelsbach. The castellan is flabbergasted at the sudden appearance of his Emperor but does his utmost, with limited resources, to make his sovereign comfortable and help him recover. And yet the ordeal is still not over, for d’Este is encamped at Salzburg, blocking the main route to Bavaria.

    Despite Rantzau’s best efforts to keep the news quiet, rumors immediately start buzzing and soon Andreas d’Este has heard reports. His eyes sparkling at the prospect of such a prize, the Roman strategos personally leads a contingent of his men to attack Klagenfurt despite the winter weather. Included in the capture of Salzburg were nine fifteen-pounder guns.

    Rantzau, knowing of the heavier pieces and not confident in the state of his city’s defenses, is unwilling to gamble with his master’s freedom. Theodor rides out of Klagenfurt with a small body of horsemen, Ompteda once again his captain of the guard, while four other parties with Theodor-lookalikes in them take other paths. Andreas runs down three of the five parties in total but Ompteda, who spent the better part of twenty years in this corner of the world, knows the land far better than the Roman riders. Plus while the locals have little reason to help Theodor, they’re not keen to help the Romans either; by now all Germans know of Dachau and the slaughterhouse there. As far as the locals are concerned, a pox on both their houses.

    After nightfall on Christmas, Theodor returns to Munich. There is no fanfare; he is far from a conquering hero. Also his sister Elizabeth is horrified when she lays eyes on her brother for the first time in many months. Theodor is thirty years old. Yet the shock of seeing his great plan burn down before his eyes, and then the harrowing three-month ride from Thessaloniki, has turned most of his hair and beard white, although it is reported that the strain of the Twelve Days and the siege of Thessaloniki had started the process months earlier. This change of appearance had, however, helped greatly in evading capture on the long ride home from Thessaloniki.

    He turns in for bed. But when servants come to serve him breakfast in the morning, he screams out “Death to the traitors! You wish to sell me to the Greeks!” and proceeds to start attacking everyone around him with anything that comes to hand. When Elizabeth tries to calm him, he screams that he doesn’t know this woman and tries to beat her with a candlestick. Reportedly it is Elizabeth and Ompteda who manage to wrap the Emperor up in a blanket and wrestle him to the ground, although not before three servants are dead and two more badly injured.

    He then falls into a coma for two days, but when he awakes he still doesn’t recognize Elizabeth. There are some bouts of lucidity over the next few weeks, but they are random and interspersed with moments like the multiple times when Theodor insists everyone in his presence must wear wooden shoes otherwise the Greek spies in the floor will be able to hear everything they say. Or when he recognizes Elizabeth, congratulates her on her pregnancy, but then remarks that Theodor will give birth to an elephant before she delivers.

    To say this is stressful for Elizabeth is an understatement. Although as a female she has no legal right to authority in the Holy Roman Empire, she has managed to wield a shaky de facto control over the realm since the news of Thessaloniki started to arrive. It helped a great deal that she was one of the first to know.

    Also helping is the strong partnership she has already established with Wolfgang von Dahlberg, Archbishop-Elector of Mainz and Arch-Chancellor of Germany. They have a close working relationship but everyone knows that she is the dominant party, yet von Dahlberg’s presence helps add a legal and masculine face to Elizabeth’s agenda.

    Also many of the principalities are either leaderless or have their heirs in Roman captivity. Ottokar, who is by far the best placed to internally challenge Elizabeth, is unwilling to turn on her in case he needs her support in getting his son and heir’s freedom (although he is negotiating with Demetrios III in secret). The other Imperial states follow a similar line.

    Finally, she is Regent of the Wittelsbach lands, making her effectively the greatest territorial ‘prince’ in the Empire anyway. Theodor’s madness doesn’t change anything, as now he is mentally absent instead of physically absent.

    Still her position is extremely shaky and is standing partly because nobody big is currently pushing at it, a situation that will almost certainly change in the 1635 campaigning season. And Theodor’s condition, which quickly becomes the worst-kept secret of Europe, is a ticking time-bomb. In a way, it’d be easier if he was dead or even had been captured. It would certainly make things simpler.

    Demetrios III Sideros, who hears through the Office of Barbarians of Theodor’s reappearance and then insanity, is less bothered by the escape than most around him, including his son. He was skeptical of the idea that a captured Theodor could be twisted into signing any sort of peace treaty Rhomania desired. Things are never that simple.

    There is the example of Guillaume II Villehardouin, the Prince of Achaea captured at Pelagonia in 1269 by an army under the command of then-Emperor of Nicaea Theodoros II Laskaris. There had been hopes that the entire Principality might be regained at a stroke, but Guillaume had wiggled, arguing that he couldn’t alienate lands without the consent of his barons or that he couldn’t sign a treaty under duress (never mind forcing the opponent to sign a disadvantageous peace under duress is the entire point of war). His stalling, which allowed time for the Achaean barons to recover and rally, meant that the price for his release ended up being the towns of Mystras, Androusa, and Kalamata, useful but a far cry from the original hopes. It had worked out in the end; those towns, along with Monemvasia which never fell to the Franks, became the base for the invasion that properly put an end to Achaea. [2] Nevertheless, Demetrios was never convinced that possession of Theodor, as opposed to the destruction of his army, would make much of a difference.

    In fact, until Theodor reappears in Bavaria, the Basileus hadn’t given him much thought. With a major face-to-face meeting with King Stephan in Belgrade, which falls to Roman forces a fortnight after the battle of Thessaloniki (Skoupoi is handed over as soon as the garrison commander gets word that the Romans are now officially his allies), he has other things on his mind.

    * * *

    At one spot on the field of battle, a father had been shot. His son, who was serving as a junior officer in the tourma the father commanded, rushed to his side. The father lived just long enough to see his son killed in front of him.

    At a hospital, a fatally wounded man was visited by his wife, who’d travelled from Constantinople to see him. She was pregnant, about six months along. The last thing he felt was his child stirring in his mother’s womb, an orphan before even being born.

    Some say war is glorious, magnificent. Parts of it are. The massed ranks of men, the colorful banners and gleaming armor, the thunder of great artillery calling out.

    Some say war is necessary. That is certainly true. Men are brutes and animals at the core, and too often violence and muscle is needed against men.

    Some say war is righteous. The Latins certainly think so, which is an argument for it not being so. The cause may be virtuous, defense of one’s land, one’s people. But the actual war, the blood and bone and shattered bodies, the weeping of those left behind and the happy cries of fattened ravens, the stench of ten thousand ruptured and rotting bowels, that cannot be righteous.

    Necessary perhaps, magnificent in parts, virtuous in cause, but do not call it righteous.

    Empires are built on wars. They cannot be without wars. And if wars are not righteous, what does that say about Empire?

    Necessary, but call it not righteous. And never forget the cost.

    -Excerpt from the personal journal of Demetrios III Sideros, printed in the posthumous Collected Writings of Demetrios III Sideros.

    [1] Any suggestions for a Greek patronym that would acknowledge this feat of hers would be greatly appreciated.

    [2] These events follow closely the OTL events after the battle of Pelagonia, the changes being the date of the battle and the towns ceded to the Nicaeans. I didn’t declare it originally because this was at the start of the TL where quality is poor, but ITTL Monemvasia never fell to the Latins (IOTL it lasted until 1248, post-POD). This is to make the Roman re-conquest more plausible and why Androusa and Kalamata were substituted for Monemvasia, which was part of Guillaume’s ransom IOTL, ITTL.

    For a post-POD OTL example of monarch capture not being a big prize in the long run, see Francis I after Pavia. Also Napoleon III after Sedan.
    1634: The Treaty of Belgrade
  • 1634 continued: Prior to the summit at Belgrade, there is some ‘housekeeping’ to be done in Serbia. King Durad and Emperor Demetrios certainly agree that Despot Lazar needs to go. The Serbian people, whether from an honest preference for Durad or a desire to be on the winning side, feel the same way.

    Durad, to emphasize that he is not a Roman puppet, marches into Serbia with just the Serbs originally under his command, plus new additions. The various Serbian defectors and prisoners gathered in over the summer and fall, both in Macedonia and those taken by Mauromanikos, were all remanded to Durad’s custody. He made a simple offer, join him and receive food and pay as soldiers in his army, or they can die as traitors. Few quibbled. But nevertheless all in Serbia know that if needed, there is a scarily-large army behind him.

    Lazar knows of the might behind his younger brother. For good reason, he does not come off well in the history books; at best he is impetuous and prone to panic at the sign of trouble. But the prospect of impending doom here concentrates his mind wonderfully. Fleeing to the Holy Roman Empire isn’t practical or even promising, and knowing his brother he is unlikely to survive long in his custody. Yet he is not inclined to go out meekly.

    No one in Serbia is going to support him now against Durad and Lazar knows it, planning accordingly. When members of his own personal guard come to arrest him in Durad’s name, he is seated at a table in his personal study, wearing his usual baggy clothing. He hurls curses upon them as oath-breakers, for they swore allegiance to him on his accession to the throne. While some look embarrassed, others seem less bothered.

    The captain of the guard, whom Lazar had appointed just a few days into his reign, starts lecturing Lazar on his failings as a ruler. The Despot/King seems to agree, and then pulls a kyzikos out from under the table and shoots the captain in the face. He is dead before he hits the floor. Pulling out more weapons from under the table, he attacks the rest of the surprised guards.

    Not expecting any resistance, much less this, the guards are even more surprised when they find out that under his baggy clothing Lazar is wearing Macedonian plate armor, impervious to their swords. Aside from the captain, Lazar kills or wounds four more guards before he is cut down, but his final words before he dies are that he will report their betrayal of a king to the King of Kings.

    As an exit, it certainly has its advantages compared to the fate of the rest of his family. His three young children, two boys and a girl, none of whom are more than nine, and his wife were to be smuggled out of the country. Lazar had stayed behind deliberately to divert attention away from them. An Arletian ship has been chartered, with the assistance of the Prince-Bishop of the Black Mountain, to carry them to safety. But the children’s personal tutor betrays them, pocketing a sizeable fee for his troubles. By the end of 1635, all of Lazar’s family are dead, reportedly of illnesses contracted in captivity. Given the young age of the children, there is some plausibility to this, but more than a few then and now suspect foul play.

    As for the tutor, in 1637 he travels on a business trip to Constantinople. Three days after arriving, his body is found lying face-first in a ditch with multiple stab wounds. Apparently there had been an argument in a nearby gambling house over accusations of cheating and things had escalated.

    The conference at Belgrade is not just between Emperor Demetrios III and King Stephan VII. Both King Durad I of Serbia and King Roman I of Vlachia are also present, plus a representative of the Sovereign Prince-Bishop of the Black Mountain.

    Demetrios wants security on Rhomania’s European frontier. As the War of Mohacs and now this have clearly shown, the current system needs to be changed from Constantinople’s perspective. Many have called for the annexation of territory in the west, as a buffer zone against future Latin aggression. Yet Demetrios, for all his desire to ‘break the cycle’, is not in that number.

    With Serbia, he has already opted for a friendly independent neighbor as opposed to a disgruntled vassal, electing against conquest. Hungary would’ve been far worse. The Serbians were at least Orthodox, there are 3 times more Hungarians than Serbians, and Hungary is far better placed to receive aid from co-religionists. In short, it’d be another and bigger Syria, and the Emperor wants nothing to do with that.

    Demetrios sees another way. While he included Hungarian attacks in his wars of Latin aggression, he is also aware that those are of fairly recent occurrence, and were not always the case. In 1396 the Roman Empire and Kingdom of Hungary signed the Treaty of Dyrrachium, which had outlined spheres of influence and the maintenance of Serbia and Bulgaria as buffer states, to ensure that the two powers never came to blows.

    The Treaty had been fundamental to good Hungarian-Roman relations throughout the 1400s. It was a Hungarian attack on Venetian territory that broke the Venetian siege of Constantinople in 1456. When Pope Julius II had called for the Tenth Crusade against Rhomania, Hungary had refused to join the call. But the treaty has been dead for a long time now, and it must be admitted that it was the Romans that broke it, not the Hungarians.

    Demetrios wants to create a new Treaty of Dyrrachium, but better and more durable, which is why he wants the Serbians and Vlachs on board as well. And right now he has very good leverage.

    The first step is to soothe the ruffled feathers of the Vlachs. They’ve done excellent service as a Roman ally and naturally expect rewards for it. Plus the Hungarians are their historical enemies and much of the Vlach war effort was spent raiding the Hungarians and vice-versa. The tool used is naturally money, firstly subsidies to Targoviste in recognition of her war efforts. Demetrios also grants King Roman several Roman titles that come with yearly retainers that he can distribute to his notables as rewards and recognition as he sees fit, plus some granted directly to Vlach commanders by the Emperor. Demetrios also makes promises regarding Galicia.

    For starters, all four states agree to recognize the antebellum borders of all the parties in the Haemic (Balkan) peninsula. Furthermore all signatories will guarantee said borders against any power violating said frontiers, whether that be one of the signatories or a non-Haemic power. This is a great boon to Hungary, Serbia, and Vlachia as it gets them formal Roman backing, while the Romans now have a cordon of buffer states.

    Demetrios’ greatest concern for the stability of this treaty is the Hungarians and Vlachs coming to blows. Also the antebellum borders are unfavorable to the Hungarians and the Basileus is well aware of the resentment still felt by the Magyars against the Romans.

    During the negotiations, Demetrios agrees to provide men, material, and money for a Vlach re-conquest of Galicia, controlled by Targoviste between the Tenth Crusade and the Time of Troubles, and a Hungarian re-conquest of Austria. Once retaken, both Galicia and Austria shall be included in the territories guaranteed by the treaty. This has the advantage of focusing both powers’ attentions away from each other.

    To help secure those conquests, the Empire also pledges to provide a two-thousand-strong garrison for both Vienna and Halych, which had served as the capital of Vlach Galicia. Rhomania shall provide the men and pay, while the Hungarians or Vlachs will provide provisions. Demetrios views both Austria and Galicia as ‘forward bastions’ for European Rhomania, while the Hungarians and Vlachs like the idea as it serves as a tripwire that will ensure Roman intervention in the case another power tries to retake said lands.

    In a side negotiation with Durad, Demetrios also ‘convinces’ the Serbian king to lease the Belgrade citadel to a Roman garrison. The Romans will repair the Belgrade city defenses and citadel at their own cost, and start paying an annual installment for the lease of the citadel in 1639. The Empire shall be responsible for paying and provisioning the garrison, but any provisions for the garrison imported into Serbia shall be exempt from any Serbian customs. Durad isn’t happy about these, but he can’t refuse and Demetrios is insistent; Belgrade is too strategically important. There are the face-saving gestures though that the Serbian banner will still fly above the fortress at equal level to the Roman tetragram and that the Roman kastrophylax will personally present the annual installment at the Serbian court.

    King Stephan had not been aware of Demetrios’ exact plans prior to the summit. The terms for Hungary’s change of alliance had merely been that Hungary would not forfeit any territory, including in Croatia, and that any Roman armies marching through Hungary would be disciplined and orderly and pay for provisions and lodging at fair rates. So while the confirmation of the losses from the War of Mohacs is painful, this is a welcome surprise.

    But he had an inkling. King Stephan is commonly known now as “the Silent”, not just for his laconic nature, but also ability to keep secrets and to hide his feelings. He’d been sidelined ever since he became King at the tender age of seven in 1614 after the disaster of Mohacs, overshadowed by his regents. Used to being ignored and underestimated, he’d turned that into a strength. He’d also learned to carefully research potential allies and enemies, and that included one Demetrios III Sideros.

    It was Demetrios’ treatment of King, not Despot, Durad that convinced Stephan he could get a fair treatment from the Roman Emperor. And Stephan had brought up the Treaty of Dyrrachium when discussing the post-war order, although Demetrios seems to have already been thinking around those lines.

    Stephan also sent Demetrios, as gifts, several histories and also texts on the latest astronomical discoveries, having heard of the Emperor’s stellar observations with Athena. They include the first work to document sunspots, a description of Saturn’s ring system and recently discovered moon Titan, and also a star that is later revealed to be the planet Uranus. Reciprocating, Demetrios at Belgrade returns some of the books and artwork looted from the Royal Palace in Buda, with the promise to return the remainder in the spring, a gesture which pleases Stephan and the Patriots greatly. They view those losses as a national disgrace and humiliation; that is a sentiment the Romans, looking back at 1204, can easily understand and appreciate.

    That is not the only thing to be returning to Hungary in the spring. While all Hungarian prisoners are kept at their work stations, dating from the battle of Thessaloniki they are paid the going rate for that labor as done by Roman workers. In the springtime they will be released and provided transport to return to Hungary.

    Finally, the Treaty of Belgrade includes provisions to improve navigation along the Danube, with reduced “most-favored-nation” tariff levels on certain products shipped along the waterway, and an agreement to bar merchants from non-signatory powers (Dalmatia is listed as a signatory for this purpose). Many of these are agricultural and animal products in high demand in the cities of the Aegean basin. This is another effort by Demetrios to tug the other R-SHV (Rhomania, Serbia, Hungary, Vlachia) powers into the Roman orbit, but with a light touch, in the way Vlachia already, plus Scythia and also Georgia, became Roman satellites.

    Demetrios III uses an astronomical analogy to illustrate his goal. “The Empire shall be like Jupiter, the lord of the planets, with the signatory powers, alongside the Despotates, vassals, Russian principalities, and Georgia, as a greater number of Avashvilian [Galilean] moons. The exact nature of their orbits are determined by their distance from Jupiter and their own innate mass, but they are indisputably satellites of some nature.”

    Continuing, he says “But there are other planets as well within the universe. Perhaps the Triple Monarchy can be represented by triple-bodied Saturn. (Early observations of Saturn with a dalnovzor were unable to identify the rings of Saturn as such, Saturn appearing as one large central and two smaller adjacent objects. Demetrios had not yet read the book explaining Saturn’s form as a ring system that had been sent by King Stephan when he wrote this.) It has its own path and place, and so long as it does not cross paths with Jupiter or attempt to steal its satellites, all will be well.

    And finally, it must be noted that both Jupiter and Saturn, and the other planets as well, orbit the Sun, as far above Jupiter as Jupiter is above the Avashvilian moons. A reminder that for all the mightiness of Empire, there is always at least one being greater.”
    1634: The Strife Will Cease
  • 1634 continued: Belgrade is merely the first, albeit the most significant and long-term, negotiation Demetrios conducts over the course of the winter of 1634-35.

    In stories, there’s usually the great battle at the end, the villain is toppled, and everyone lives happily ever after. Real life is typically messier. Demetrios III has gotten what he wanted, the effective annihilation of the Latin invading army, with a slew of high-value prisoners that can testify to Rhomania’s might and the wisdom of not invading it. But is it enough?

    He encouraged the Hungarian change-of-alliance because he wanted to establish a better framework for Roman-Hungarian relations going forward. That he considered crucial. But at the same time, it gives the Latins a perfect excuse to justify their defeat, not that they need the help. In some of the smaller German states, the Jews are being blamed for the debacle, because the Romans had vast superiority in money and Jews are good with money, so clearly they had a hand in it. So goes the argument.

    Also while the Allied army was destroyed, the damage inflicted on the HRE by d’Este is still a fraction of what Macedonia and the Danube valley suffered. That scale needs to be balanced.

    But there is another side to Demetrios III Sideros at work. This is the side that operates on a ‘business as usual’ basis. This is the side that is concerned about creating a power vacuum in central Europe to the advantage of Henri II and is guided by the strictures of realpolitik.

    The two sides are never reconciled. In domestic policy and in other foreign affairs, Demetrios III Sideros knows what he wants and acts accordingly. But regarding Germany, the two sides oscillate, with the result that Demetrios III’s policy is rather schizophrenic, sometimes conciliatory and sometimes brutal. For some of the princes he is conciliatory, for others he is brutal.

    The first negotiation to be concluded is that with Archbishop Friedrich von Hohenzollern. The dominant ruler in the Rhineland, Demetrios wants the Archbishop in a place where he can cause maximum annoyance to Henri II, which is Cologne, not Constantinople. The Archbishop quickly ransoms himself and his army, paying with his shares of Roman loans and war popes. After pledging that he and his men will not fight against the Romans, he sets off back to Cologne by way of Arles and the Bernese League with a picked selection of his men, the remainder to follow in the spring.

    The next is with King Ottokar, who wants his son and army back. This is a trickier situation than with the Archbishop, as the Bohemians are clearly within the Triune orbit. However Demetrios does not want to drive Ottokar deeper in Henri’s arms, and having both the Wittelsbachs and Premyslids toothless guarantees a gaping power vacuum in central Europe which Henri is ideally placed to fill. Finally, Ottokar’s interest in becoming Holy Roman Emperor means there are limits to how far he is willing to see Henri go. So eventually a similar agreement is made, with the Bohemian prince and army to be released upon payments of ransoms and a pledge never to fight against the Romans. While Prince Vaclav is released upon the first installment, Ottokar won’t be getting the bulk of his troops back prior to the summer of 1635.

    By far the most important negotiations are with the Triunes. Vauban doesn’t have the proper credentials to negotiate, but Henri sent his pre-war ambassador to Rhomania on a fast ship to Constantinople to conduct talks.

    Demetrios painfully knows how dangerous a weapon Vauban is but Henri is willing to pay quite a handsome sum in exchange for his general’s release, and Demetrios, viewing the government’s books, really wants the money.

    Both Henri and Demetrios, while eyeing each other warily, want the war between them to be over. The Caribbean is the main reason for this. Primarily to disease, both sides have lost two-thirds of the men they’ve sent to the Caribbean throughout the war. [1] Demetrios wants to stop the hemorrhaging of blood and treasure, especially for a theater that isn’t that important to Rhomania, while Henri wants to cut his losses to also focus on more important issues.

    There is also an unexpected twist because of events in Java much earlier, the news arriving in time for them to be a factor in the negotiations. While King Sanjaya of Mataram is allied with the Romans and the Sultanate of Semarang aligned with the Triunes, the Christian state with the strongest ties to the Hindu Sunda Kingdom of West Java is Spain, although there is a large Lotharingian trading district as well. With Semarang on the ropes, the Sundanese are growing concerned that they’ll be next, and they have reason to be concerned.

    While Sanjaya isn’t ready just yet to tackle the formidable fortifications of Semarang herself, his forces are roaming the rest of the Sultanate pretty much at will, and they’re not particularly respectful of the border between Semarang and Sunda. The forays across the border haven’t seen any territory change hands but have snatched up inhabitants to be used as slaves in Mataram. Given that Island and Southeast Asia is lightly populated, manpower is more significant than land anyway. The combined area has a population of just 25 million, slightly more than the Roman heartland plus Despotates. [2]

    These operations have been supported by Roman vessels, mostly Ship Lords who get a cut of the proceeds for their aid. The Sundanese, supported by Spanish allies, launched a counterattack, resulting in a large naval battle off the coast of Java. The victory goes to the Romans, but it is a near-run affair with heavy losses on both sides. The Spanish in the region, looking for revenge, launch raids on Roman holdings in the region, including a bold raid that snaps up two Roman cargo-haulers just fifty kilometers from New Constantinople.

    Although the fighting took place beyond the Line, which is set at Malacca, where according to treaty hostilities beyond the Line will not carry over to ‘before the Line’, the Spanish are outraged. Feeling confident after the fall of Granada three weeks before the battle of Thessaloniki, many Spaniards argue for the dispatch of warships to the Indies. The Romans are extremely formidable in the Mediterranean, both at land and at sea, but the Spanish are well within their treaty rights to reinforce their holdings beyond the line. And if Rhomania retaliates by attacking Spain before the line, it will be a violation of the Line treaty and activate the mutual defense clauses of the Roussillon Accords.

    Demetrios does not want a naval war in Island Asia against both Spain and the Triunes. That is unlikely to go well for the Empire. Henri meanwhile wants to be able to concentrate his naval forces against the Lotharingians.

    With the newly installed Mexican ambassador to Rhomania participating on behalf of Emperor David III, the Treaty of Constantinople is signed between Rhomania, the Triple Monarchy, and the Empire of Mexico in February 1635. Jamaica is recognized as a Mexican territory, with the Triune forces still at large in the interior of the island to be repatriated to the Triple Monarchy. The Roman claims on the islands of St Giorgios and St David are also recognized. Henri also promises to rein in the various Triune pirates that’d been the cause of Mexico’s entry into the war, and he largely keeps his promise, although that is because the Triune monarch wishes to turn that naval manpower against other targets.

    In the east Henri also makes concessions, in exchange for Vauban, rather than paying cash. The Triunes will cease support for Semarang, Makassar, and the Island of Run, the one island in the Banda Islands not under Roman control. Despite its geographical proximity, because of the currents Run is difficult to access from Great Banda and the natives have remained free with the support of Triune advisors and weaponry. Demetrios gets a much freer hand for the Katepano of Constantinople while Henri calculates that with himself out of the way, the Romans and Spanish will focus on each other. That will distract the Spanish fleet from supporting the Lotharingians, and he can recoup his eastern concessions by taking the Lotharingian quarters there for the Triunes.

    All loot and prizes taken during the war will remain with the captors, with prisoners exchanged and ransoms to be paid to make up the difference. The numerous Triune artillery pieces captured at Thessaloniki are included in the ‘loot’ category.

    There are similar negotiations with some of the larger German principalities, not just Cologne, Demetrios or his Logothete of the Drome (Foreign Minister) Manuel Tzankares deliberately negotiating directly with them rather than through the Holy Roman Emperor. The Duke of Pomerania Wartislaw X, despite his new relation with the Lady Elizabeth (Elizabeth’s sister-in-law is the Duke’s wife), is able to get a light ransom for his son and men through the intercession of the Novgorodian ambassador. The Duke’s sister is the wife of the First Posadnik, the chief executive of the Novgorod Republic. Also the Duke is open to the possibility of an anti-Polish alliance.

    The Duke of Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Marburg, Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, and Hildesheim (Hesse-Brunswick for short) Philip Sigismund II is the third most powerful German prince after the Wittelsbachs and Premyslids. Although he lacks the flamboyance and charisma of Archbishop von Hohenzollern, his lands are larger and more populous, although not as well developed. But as head of the House of Welf/Guelph, he has formidable contacts amongst the smaller principalities and dominates central Germany. Furthermore, he still has a decent army back in his lands without counting the men in Roman prison/work camps.

    The house of Guelph backed the Bavarian-Imperial Wittelsbachs during the Brothers’ War, but has a longstanding history of rivalry with the Wittelsbachs and has eyed the Imperial crown on more than one occasion. Duke Philip personally keeps his political preferences to himself. Does he want to take the Wittelsbachs down, and if so, does he want the Imperial crown for himself or will he back Ottokar? What is his connection, if any, to Henri II?

    Demetrios is not sure, and also torn between his desire for a force in central Europe to counterbalance Henri, and also revenge against the Wittelsbachs. It is a dichotomy that will not go away any time soon. After some delays, he eventually elects to release the Duke on payment of ransom, his men to be released on the payment of installments.

    The various minor princes are largely ignored as the focus is on the major players. They lack the money to pay the demanded ransoms unlike the bigger states who manage to squeeze a last bit of blood from the stone, especially as the Romans are charging their ‘guests’ for their upkeep. (The richer Free Cities, such as Hamburg and Bremen, which still have money don’t have any men to ransom.) They lack the political significance or contacts of Cologne or Pomerania or Hesse-Brunswick. So Demetrios lets them rot, until if and when they can scrape together enough coin to pay for their release. In the meantime the prisoners from those territories are kept on their work gangs, their labor most useful with their minimal pay.

    The prisoners from the Wittelsbach lands are also kept on their work gangs. The Lady Elizabeth tries to open up negotiations in the beginning of 1635, arguing that it is in Rhomania’s interest to have a strong Germany to keep the Triunes in check and offering concessions, including the recognition that the Wittelsbachs never had any claim on the Roman throne in the first place. Her wording shows she clearly understand the Roman viewpoint and is willing to cater to it, but it does her no good. Demetrios refuses to even open negotiations. He is bound by the Treaty of Belgrade to support the Hungarian re-conquest of Austria anyway.

    The one exception is a group of prisoners currently assigned to the Monastery of St Konstantinos. The Hegumen there, while certainly willing to take advantage of the cheap labor offered by the Allied prisoners, thought this would be a temporary affair. But it is now looking like many of the German prisoners will end up being of the permanent variety of cheap labor, and the Hegumen is a staunch opponent of slavery and this smells too much like that for his liking.

    So at his request Friedrich Zimmermann and his men are released, although how they’ll pay to return home is up to them. Unaware of the political climate in the Holy Roman Empire, they wish to return to their former villages and lives. Johann Eck comes to the rescue, managing to smooth-talk some donations in Smyrna. He travels with Friedrich and his men as they take transport to Venetia, then walking up the Alpine road back into Germany. Alexios Asanes is allowed to accompany them, on condition he never returns to a Roman/Despotic domain.

    There is the question of how to prosecute the war against the Wittelsbachs and German princes still at war with Rhomania. A great host, nothing like the one mustered at Thessaloniki, but still mighty could be sent, but Demetrios doesn’t want to conquer Germany. Burn it, wreck it, maybe even break it, but he doesn’t want to conquer it. There is also the need to lighten the strain on the exchequer and also concerns about the hosts gathering in France. The last thing Demetrios wants is an all-out brawl with Henri over Germania. So the emphasis for the 1635 campaign is on quality, rather than quantity.

    As the world warms in the light of spring, forces begin moving again in Eastern Europe, although nothing like the monsters of yesteryear. The Hungarian army, now swelled to 23000 men under the command of Count Esterhazy, is joined by a Roman contingent 25000 strong led by Manuel Philanthropenos. They will meet up with Andreas d’Este, still encamped at Salzburg. Another eight thousand Romans have linked up with the Vlach-Scythian army that already started taking bites out of Galicia last year. There are troops boarding transport for Italy and more are earmarked as potential reinforcements for an even greater anti-Polish army, depending on the results of the new Zemsky Sobor meeting in Vladimir in the early summer of 1635.

    * * *
    Amiens, Kingdom of France in the United Kingdoms, May 12, 1635:

    Emperor Henri II of the Triple Monarchy rode through the ranks of grenadiers drawn up in review. There were rank after rank of them, resplendent in clean new red uniforms, their muskets and bayonets shining. Next to them were fine cuirassiers, their armor gleaming in the early morning sun. And down the line were cannons, both light field pieces and heavy siege guns. Newly promoted Marshal Vauban had done good work, especially considering the short time since his return from the Greek lands.

    The Greeks had certainly caused him more harm than he’d expected and he’d already spent more money than he would’ve liked prior to the war that really mattered to him, but it was over. And they’d damaged the Wittelsbachs even more than he’d hoped in his wildest dreams, but apparently Theodor’s ambitions had far overshadowed his sense.

    “I hope everything meets your majesty’s approval.” Henri looked at the rider, next to but just a little behind on his right. His first cousin, son of his father’s brother, Gaston, Duc d’Orleans, was a slender man with long brown hair and a rakish beard. Finely dressed and with a bit of belly, he looked like a dandy that was getting a little too old to be such, but he’d cut his teeth fighting the Wittelsbachs during the Second Rhine War, crossing swords with a younger Blucher.

    “More than meets, our good cousin,” Henri replied. “We trust that all is well and ready with the other armies as well?”

    “Indeed, your majesty. All the equipment and transport is as ready as it will ever be, and the quartermasters all have at least three months’ worth of flour, salt, and meat. All we need now is your permission to proceed.”

    Henri didn’t respond immediately, again looking out at the massed ranks and the army camp sprawled over the Picardy countryside. This, the Army of Flanders, was 60000 strong, the mightiest but by no means only host he could unleash. Further south was the Army of Lorraine, 50000 strong, and the Army of Burgundy, 40000 strong. There was also the Army of the Center coalescing in the rear to provide replacements and garrisons for the field armies, as well as keeping an eye on Arles.

    He paused for a moment, reflecting on the word of the Duke of Parma, that wars began when one willed, but did not end when one pleased. They were wise words.

    But only for a moment. “Very well, cousin. Proceed.”

    “Repair the roads for marching feet to tread,
    The strife will only cease when all are dead.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    [1] For comparison, after the English conquest of Jamaica in the 1650s, the English army in the following year went from 7000 to 2500 strong due to tropical diseases and poor supplies.

    [2] The figure is based off an estimate of the OTL population of Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines in 1600 as 23 million, see Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680, vol. 1, The Lands below the Winds (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 15. The high population of the regions today is a nineteenth and twentieth century phenomenon.

    End An Age of Miracles Part 13: The War of the Roman Succession
    This update brings to an end Part 13 of An Age of Miracles: The War of the Roman Succession. The war continues but there is a radical paradigm shift going forward from what went before, so this is a good position to break up the Parts. The Parts are the PDF files that have been posted up for Megas Kyr patrons on Patreon and this part will be joining their number. There will be some delay with that though as between the regular updates and the special monthly one adding the next PDF is low down on my priority list, especially since it's fairly easily accessible since it's all threadmarked here. But it will be going up as a PDF on Patreon at some point, and it will be a big file. This portion is far larger than any previous part; from the update that starts after the Night of the Tocsins to now is 295 pages, and that doesn't include any images or maps. (Yet more evidence that I am insane.)

    But while this part is ending, An Age of Miracles is continuing. But I am going to try something a little different, at least for a while. Normally this TL is chronological, with the occasional exception. But going forward I have planned a series of topical updates, as there are some things I want to cover and they don't lend themselves well to a chronological format. So the plan is to have several topical updates which are focused on internal Roman developments and then switch to regional updates, focusing on a specific area (Italy, Germany, etc.). These will be like the regional-chronological updates that have been common in Part 13 and should cover the rest of the 1630s.
    When the Powder Clears
  • “I saw the fragments of a shattered stone
    One spring time on the hillside, when, alone,
    I walked to greet the sun. The pines distilled
    Big drops of dew unceasing; sadness filled
    My heart. I knew this was the Stone of Tears,
    The stone of memory of long-past years.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    When the Powder Clears: The Great Latin War in Roman Memory

    Although the war continues in 1635, the battle of Thessaloniki and the Triune invasion of Lotharingia radically alter the dynamics of the Great Latin War/War of the Roman Succession. It is the same conflict, and also a far different one. And it is the 1631-34 war that stands out in Roman memory and culture.

    Eight hundred thousand dead.

    That is the total Demetrios III gives for Rhomania’s lost throughout the entire war, nearly all of which comes in the first three years. The numbers include the Egyptian, Sicilian, and Dalmatian slain, but not those of the Syrian rebels, although the loyalists are counted. They include not just those killed by violence, but also the estimated dead from the war-caused famines. (Missed births aren’t counted as Demetrios III has no way to calculate those).

    The Great Latin War has sometimes been called the first World War, given that forces involved fought in fields as far-flung as Jamaica and Java. It has also been called the first modern war, especially the Roman and later Triune war efforts. Mass propaganda and central banks played a key part in rallying and paying for the unprecedented armies. Although war popes had been used for financing Roman armies as far back as the Tenth Crusade, their use during the Great Latin War dwarfed previous efforts by scales of magnitude.

    The amount of documentary evidence regarding the war, compared to the wars of Andreas Niketas or the Time of Troubles, is staggering. The War Room study of the 1633-34 campaigns on the Danube and in Macedonia, finally completed in 1644, is twelve volumes long. There are 79 surviving tourma histories that chronicle the war in entirety, plus about an equal number available as fragments of various size. And there is also the 3-volume History of the Great Latin War, which still undergirds Roman understanding of the conflict today. It was written by Demetrios III, completed just a few months before his death and published three years afterwards.

    Aside from the various official histories, there are surviving newspapers from all corners of the Empire. While most of the Antioch papers were destroyed by a fire in the archives in 1702, many from Thessaloniki survived long enough to be photographed, although many then were destroyed during the Great War. Most of the Imperial Herald issues, as official government papers and thus stored in three separate locations, have survived to the present day. The same system means that many government ordinances of the era, including the complete arrangements of the first two war loans, also survive.

    There are also numerous diaries and accounts from soldiers who fought in the various battles, of both high and some of surprising low ranks. This is the case on both sides, as many Rhineland and Saxon soldiers particularly have impressive literacy rates for the period. However, due to both higher literacy in general and post-1634 conditions in particular, many more of the Roman accounts survive. A digital archive composed in early Internet days by the Remembrance Society, which aimed to scan electronic copies of all known extant Roman accounts, created a 2772 page PDF file.

    There are also many ‘local interest’ histories covering small aspects of the conflict, not just the tourma histories. These focus on specific people or locations and their involvement in the war. The earliest is published in 1637 about the battle of Kidonochori, written by the son of the village miller, who’d watched the battle and then taken in an Allied dog whose owner had been killed and had come looking for food.

    The most famous of these ‘local interest’ papers are the first ‘Hero of the Empire’ awards, instituted by Demetrios III in March 1635. Unlike the earlier Order of the Iron Gates and Order of the Dragon, these are not exclusive to the military but awarded to anyone showing ‘exemplary service, valor, and dedication to the Empire’. Between March 1635 and September 1637 one hundred are issued and aside from the decoration itself the Emperor writes a short biographical paper about the recipient and the action/activities for which it is being awarded. These are all printed in the Imperial Herald.

    The first two recipients are his son and daughter, but the subsequent heroes are surprisingly varied. Although as a university graduate and government official, Demetrios was among the elite compared to the bulk of the Roman populace, his upbringing and pre-Imperial life has been far less rarified than would be the norm for someone born to expect to become Emperor. As a minor government official, he spent much time on provincial inspection tours; it’s highly probable he’s had more contact with the little people than any Emperor since Andreas Niketas.

    The social standings of the Heroes vary from the Kaisar and several strategoi to a common farm laborer who organized a village band that helped hunt down and kill Latin soldiers-turned-brigands during the retreat from Ruse. Twenty two of the heroes are actually heroines, including the Lady Athena. The heroines include women who fought as soldiers, either disguised or as part of the Witches, or who acted as spies and saboteurs behind enemy lines.

    One of the heroines is Anna of St Andreas, she who killed King Casimir. For that feat, her family’s patronym becomes Vasiloktonos (King-slayer), so famous that after she marries and has children her descendants continue her name, alongside their cousins that are descendants of Gabriel. Demetrios’ biographical sketch of her doesn’t mention cannibalism, but does state that war often breaks down the conventions of a peaceful society.

    She, along with the other survivors of her band, return to the ruins of St Andreas. Anna finances the reconstruction with the reward for killing Casimir. New settlers are brought into all of Upper Macedonia to repopulate the area, including St Andreas, which helps the survivors in their shared and unspoken goal of putting the painful past behind them. No one who lived through that horror cares to remember, or the things they did during it, and there is also the added burden of survivor’s guilt.

    Some of Anna’s descendants still live in St Andreas today, although Anna’s pre-and-post war home no longer exists. They oversee part of a sprawling business started by Anna shortly after moving back to St Andreas. Using part of the reward money, she financed a pig farm which over the years expanded, marketing pork products first throughout Macedonia and then the Empire. Vasiloktonos hams and sausages are common sights in Roman grocery stores today.

    Another fairly common sight are war monuments and museums. Aside from the memorials at Sopot and Drenovac, the most prominent are those at Ruse and Thessaloniki, located near the ‘Siege and Battle’ Museums that focus on the local events of the war.

    The urban sprawl of Ruse and Thessaloniki has since swallowed up the 17th century battlefields, save for Memorial Park and Cemetery in Thessaloniki. While many of the dead from the battle of Thessaloniki had been shoveled into mass graves, especially the Allied dead, many of the higher-ranking Roman dead were gathered together to be buried on this one plot, where Tornikes’ men had gathered to make their breakthrough attack on the Allied camp defenses. Strategos Likardites, who’d had a nervous breakdown after the Twelve Days and committed suicide, was exhumed and buried there with the men of his command. As the city expanded the park was surrounded but left intact. Aside from the cemetery, the park portion is known for its varied and numerous array of flowers, a ‘symbol of life in remembrance of death’ in the words of a local writer.

    Further from the city to the southeast, near the base of Mount Chortiatis, lies the Imperial Cemetery. It has been a practice going back at least as far as the 1455-56 siege of Constantinople to have specific plots to house the dead of a particular battle or conflict. The Imperial Cemetery is meant to house some of the dead from every one of Rhomania’s wars, starting with the Great Latin War. Although most will be buried where they fell, some, whether due to their rank or in recognition of their heroism, are laid to rest here, including at least one unknown soldier from each conflict.

    The grounds, with the permission of the Imperial government, are maintained by the Remembrance Society, founded in 1670 by a pair of Thessaloniki historians. Concerned about the death of veterans of the Great Latin War, they wanted to ensure that their memory and sacrifices would not be forgotten. Their early compilations of memoirs were the ancestors of the modern digital archive. Since its founding it has worked to protect and gather war memoirs from Rhomania’s continued conflicts, as well as hosting exhibitions and reenactments. They are far from the only group in Rhomania doing such work, but they are the largest.

    So the Great Latin War is well remembered, but what does it mean for Rhomania, going into the future?

    The Great Latin War helps to enforce a Roman penchant for brutality that is particularly evident during the middle third of the seventeenth century. The classical Romans literally had a word for killing every tenth inhabitant (decimate) and that spirit has been revived.

    The Empire has been frequently at war since the outbreak of the Great Uprising in the early 1590s and while the intensity varied and there were frequent gaps and lulls, one noticeable feature was that the danger came from all sides. To the south the Idwaits, to the east the Ottomans, to the north the Hungarians, and to the west the Marinids and corsairs. While much of the fighting was on the frontier, there were several notable incursions such as al-Izmirli’s raid into the Aegean and the Hungarian invasion before Mohacs. This helped to foster a militaristic and bitter attitude amongst the Romans, bolstering a siege mentality already and still extant today.

    Demetrios Sideros’ poetry while overlooking the Hellespont as a young man encapsulates the siege mentality constantly underlying the Roman psyche. However mighty and magnificent the Empire may be, there is always the remembrance that fortune is fleeting and that at any moment the Romans may have their backs up against the wall, fighting for their lives. The period from 1590-1630 strengthened that feeling and heightened Roman xenophobia, as can be seen by the mob attack on Latins in Smyrna in 1611.

    The Great Latin War dials that feeling up massively. The threats from all sides are much larger and better coordinated, and the incursions bigger and more destructive. Demetrios’ desire to break the cycle is borne out of anger and desire for revenge, but also fear, fear that there will be a next time, and perhaps next time will be the final time.

    In the coming decades, as a new equilibrium is established and Rhomania feels more secure regarding its survival and prosperity (although bickering on the edges of empire never goes away), the brutality dials back down. The possibility is still there, and resurfaces from time to time, but never to such extent as in the mid-1600s.

    Some have ascribed this to the Timurid inheritance of the Sideroi, but that is not the reason. Timur could be heartless, but the Romans did not need to learn that from him. The darkness that appears comes from the Roman psyche; no other source need be found.


    That is also the reason why Romans, looking back at this time, are rather unapologetic about the darkness. They acknowledge, but do not apologize. Horrible things were done, but they were done to survive, and the Romans are not about to apologize for not rolling over and dying, especially to the descendants of those trying to make them die. That is the Roman view then, and the Roman view now.

    It is hard for Romans to trust Latins. Now an individual Latin may be trusted, even befriended. The Venetian friend of Niketas Choniates who protected the historian’s family during the sack of Constantinople in 1204 is well known. But just as much of modern Roman political theory rests on the idea that a person is smart but people are stupid, a Latin can be trusted, but Latins cannot be trusted. They can be worked with, and oftentimes it is for the best to do so, but always keep at least one eye open and a hand on the sword pommel.

    This is partly because of the way Rhomania views the Latin West. Romans know that Latins are divided into various different nations and peoples, but there is a strong tendency to lump them all into an amorphous mass, a single entity known as ‘Latins’. This is a trend that goes back centuries even before the Great Latin War. It was the growing contact just prior to and during the early Crusades that saw the formerly rather nuanced Roman view to morph into a notion of a united Latin west. [1] There are frequent exceptions to this monolithic view of course, but it is a facet that can only be ignored at great peril.

    The Great Latin War also makes clear the danger of a united Latin Europe. From the Roman perspective there have been repeated spurts of Latin unity, and far too often they seem created for the purpose of bringing fire and sword to the Romans. The Great Latin War is the most obvious example. But there are also the Crusades, and surely those must be counted as an effort to unite Latin Europe in a common cause? The Fourth and the Tenth naturally stand out the most in this narrative, but it is noted that the First Crusade, before it had even seen a Muslim, had already taken Roman provincial towns and even attacked Constantinople herself.

    No matter what face the Romans present to the west, no matter the power of the Empire, there is always that element of fear, perhaps out in the open, perhaps buried beneath the surface, but it is always there. There are too many dead to overlook, too many traumas to forget, too many scars to ever truly heal.

    Oddly enough, this does not exist when Romans look at the Muslim world. A more nuanced look is more likely here and while there is always awareness of the need for security and vigilance, there is not this underlying constant fear, despite the clear threat various Muslim rulers and states have posed throughout the Empire’s history. Partly it because of who the Muslims are. The Muslims, simply put, are expected to act as an Other, and so when they do, it is viewed as reasonable. The Latins though were supposed to be brothers in the faith, fellow Christians. That the Muslims be enemies is expected, but the betrayal of their brothers cannot be forgotten.

    Another reason is that Muslim aggression, despite its dangers, makes sense to the Romans. Simply looking at a map, no Roman wonders at the hostility between the Empire and the Caliphate or the Turkish Sultans or the Ottoman Shahs. But it is hard to understand that from the Latins. Doesn’t a Frenchman have better things to do then march thousands of kilometers to assault a people who’ve done nothing to them? Yet Demetrios III Sideros brings up the several issued threats of the French monarchy to invade Rhomania in the 1300s and restore the Latin Empire, [2] which the Romans found to be entirely random and unprovoked. Historians believe such proclamations to have been made for the sake of internal French propaganda and were never acted upon, but the Romans cannot help but be disturbed by these actions anyway.

    Many have said that the Romans need to learn to forgive and forget. There is certainly an argument for that, and it is quite clear the Romans have made little effort to do so. But no one is blameless in this. It is just as clear that Latins have generally failed to take Roman concerns in consideration, or to even acknowledge them, and often belittle those concerns when raised.

    Or when Latin states raise security concerns vis-à-vis Rhomania, these are legitimate issues. But if the Romans do the same vis-à-vis Latin states, the Romans are treated as if they are fearmongering or paranoid or acting out. Now hypocrisy between states and peoples is to be expected; the idea that X is only bad when other people do it is far from exclusive to Latins, and Romans are certainly guilty of the same sin. But still this does nothing to allay said concerns, and frequently confirms Roman suspicions.

    Niketas Choniates wasn’t entirely against Latins. His Venetian friend has already been mentioned. He praised some Latins, noticeably Frederick Barbarossa, and there were times where he felt that Latins were in the right and the Romans in the wrong. That is in his history. But also in his history are slaughters and savageries. And so his pen also wrote these words:

    “But because the land which was our allotted portion to inhabit, and to reap the fruits thereof, was openly likened to paradise by the most accursed Latins, who were filled with passionate longing for our blessings, they were ever ill-disposed toward our race and remain forever workers of evil deeds. Though they may dissemble friendship, submitting to the needs of the time, they yet despise us as our bitterest enemies; and though their speech is affable and smoother than oil flowing noiselessly, yet are their words darts, and thus they are sharper than a two-edged sword. Between us and them the greatest gulf of disagreement has been fixed, and we are separated in purpose and diametrically opposed, even though we are closely associated and frequently share the same dwelling.”
    -Niketas Choniates, O City of Byzantium (translated by Harry J. Magoulias) p. 167​

    “…separated in purpose and diametrically opposed, even though we are closely associated and frequently share the same dwelling.” That seems as good an epitaph as any.

    [1] See Alexander Kazhdan, “Latins and Franks in Byzantium: Perception and Reality from the Eleventh to the Twelfth Centuries” in The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World. Edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parvis Mottahedeh, Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2001, pg. 86.

    [2] This happened IOTL.
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    The Sideros Reorganization, Part 1
  • Restructuring the Empire: The Sideros Reorganization, Part 1

    Romans in the later years of Helena I/Demetrios II had not been blind to the need to improve the systems under which the Empire operated. The unprecedented power of the Ottomans under Iskandar the Great had been an immense strain with several humiliations for the Empire. Although in its own way, the war against Iskandar had been a very rough and tough training school for the even greater challenge that had been the Great Latin War. The ‘sleeping tourmai’, introduced as a way to enlarge the armies fighting against Iskandar, had been absolutely crucial to the rapid expansion of the Roman armies in the first year of the war. The quartermasters who’d help provision the host that marched to Nineveh learned from the experience and then summoned that expertise to support the even greater hosts at Thessaloniki.

    But the war against Iskandar brought no satisfaction and no glory, so the accession of Andreas III had been viewed with great anticipation as a chance for a new start, to remake the world of men into a better place. He bore the name, even the birth day, of the Good Emperor. How could it be otherwise?

    There had been ideas and plans, then Eparch Demetrios Sideros a major player in those ideas and plans. In just his few years on the throne of Rhomania, Andreas III saw more of it than any Basileus since the Good Emperor, and that had been part of the plan, to see the Empire as it was, not just how Constantinople saw it, so that the plans would be the right plans. But then he had died and everything had been subsumed in the war and the struggle for survival.

    But now the opportunity has finally arrived and Demetrios III Sideros has no intention of wasting any time. The war indeed continues, but the pressure is off, and that is good enough for the Emperor who is now occasionally taking cannabis-laced-kaffos to ease the pain from kidney stones. Fortunately much of the preparatory work has already been done.

    The first order of business, which illustrates the new order of things, is some personnel rearrangements. Former Logothete of the Drome Andronikos Sarantenos is arrested at his Pontic villa, charged with treason, given a prompt trial and even prompter decapitation by Long Knife. After all, Demetrios had merely chosen to overlook his actions if he retires; that does not constitute a pardon.

    Many in the army are quite pleased by that, particularly Alexios Gabras, currently serving as Kastrophylax of Tyre, who is soon even more pleased. Megas Domestikos Nikolaios Mouzalon retires in April 1635, replaced by Theodoros Laskaris, leaving the post of Domestikos of the East vacant. Gabras is appointed in his place, serves for one day, and then retires with the pension and respect afforded to a Domestikos. His honor has been restored.

    Some modern historians have been skeptical of this. He did lose Nineveh after all. But many in the army don’t feel that way. In their minds, he was guilty of Nineveh, but it was for Mashhadshar for which he was punished, and on that he was innocent. Mashhadshar had been Sarantenos’ doing. But regardless of what was deserved, these actions remove a longstanding grievance of the Roman army.

    Strategos Thomas Amirales is then appointed as the new Domestikos, with orders to begin preparations for a resumption of his Mesopotamian offensive once the truce expires.

    Military preparations require money and in 1635 the Roman government’s debt is an order of magnitude higher than it was at the accession of Demetrios III. The changed nature of the conflict, from survival to opportunism, allows the White Palace to discharge tens of thousands of soldiers, which helps a lot. But the discharges have to be staged since Constantinople is very concerned about ex-soldiers turning brigand. Also many of the soldiers, who were landless laborers beforehand, are being settled on now-vacant land along the Danube or in Macedonia to rebuild those areas. But they need start-up tools, seed, and animals if their farms are to have a chance at productivity. An interest-free loan bank is opened for these soldiers-turned-farmers, but the capital for that is another drain on the exchequer.

    Really not helping is an economic slump. With the change of the war’s nature also comes a cratering of the demand for war materials. Work orders decrease, workers are laid off or piece work lessened, and some firms go out of business. The effects are felt everywhere, including in shipping and customs as there are less Black Sea galleons hauling ores and timber from Azov to the foundries of the Aegean. Wages are down while food prices are still high because of the disruptions caused by the setup for the Thessaloniki campaign. Grain riots are frequent throughout the spring and summer. Fortunately there is a bumper crop from Egypt as the Egyptians promptly cultivated the fields captured from the Idwaits in 1634, the effects felt the next year. Between that and imports from the S-H-V (Serbia, Hungary, Vlachia), of which Hungary contributes a surprising amount, the first fruits of the Treaty of Belgrade, help to stabilize food prices by the winter of 1635/36. But the Roman economy is still definitely slumped.

    Because of the low wage-high food price situation throughout most of 1635, which is the best way to get the pre-modern equivalent of a nuclear explosion, Demetrios doesn’t do anything in regards to tax reforms that year. He doesn’t want to risk any sparks that may trigger this particular bomb.

    The year 1636 is much more promising. While wages and work are still depressed, food prices are lower and stabilized, and with food consuming less of the budget, there has been some pickup in a few industries, including textiles. Thus it is 1636 that sees the beginning of the Sideros Reorganization.

    It has been joked by some historians that if Theodoros IV Komnenos had been reanimated at any point between his death and 1630, it would’ve taken him only a page of notes and fifteen minutes to be up to speed with Roman administration. While there had been some changes, most had been inspired by Theodoros IV’s notes and frequently the adjustments were little more than tweaks. The only substantial change was the shift from the theme-tagma system to a standing army paid entirely in cash during the early years of Helena I Drakina.

    The year 1636 sees a radical shift from the Laskarid administrative framework that was inherited by the Second Komnenid dynasty. It is by no means discarded, but the years 1636-40 see Roman administration shift from its Late Laskarid structure to its modern form. Now the joke is that Demetrios III, once he understood the concept of computers, would only need fifteen minutes and a page of notes to understand Roman administration in 2019.

    The biggest change is to the tax system. As pledged, Demetrios removes his wartime tax scheme with its ‘differential taxation’ in 1636 to promptly replace it with the more developed model he’d recommended to Andreas III. He’d felt that model was too elaborate to be implemented in wartime, with too much risk of interrupting revenue streams, but that is no longer such an issue.

    Roman taxpayers are divided into 4 categories, each of which is divided into four tiers based on their level of income. The categories are as follows:

    Paroikoi: By the early seventeenth century, the term has expanded to cover all ‘small agricultural workers’. There are wide variations within this category, which includes tenant farmers and freeholders, landless agricultural laborers and prosperous peasant landowners with plow teams (zeugaratos) and portfolios that may reach into non-agricultural areas. Anna Vasiloktona before the war would be an example of a high-end zeugarata, approaching if not breaking the upper barrier of this category. This also includes fishermen and the like as they ‘farm’ the sea, mine workers as they ‘farm’ underground, and lumberjacks as they ‘farm’ the forest. Essentially, those who produce a raw material of some kind are here.

    Banausoi: These are the people of the marketplace and crafts and this category includes artisans, small-scale shopkeepers and merchants, as well as most schoolteachers and low-level officials. These can vary widely from butchers to goldsmiths. While the division between the Banausoi and the next level is based on income, regarding merchants the general rule of thumb is that merchants selling retail are Banausoi and wholesale merchants are not. Those working in hospitality are here as well, including tavern, inn, and cookhouse keepers, as well as prostitutes. Transport workers, such as sailors or caravan muleteers, are also here. Essentially, those who transport materials, produce a good out of some raw material, or sell raw materials/goods on a small scale, are here.

    The criterion for placement amongst the Paroikoi or Banausoi is based on the primary occupation, although the exact tier is purely based on the income. There is certainly some crossover. For example a hypothetical household may be based on a village farm-holding, making it Paroikoi, but it may do some textile work under the putting-out system. That work wouldn’t make them Banausoi but the income derived from it would affect their tier level.

    There are a couple of reasons for this division based on occupation. Firstly, it seems a useful tool to support industries as needed by tax adjustments. While the tiers are based on incomes, certain specific trades will be associated with various tiers. An adjustment of Banausoi Tier IV (the highest) will affect gold and silversmiths, but is unlikely to do anything to cobblers, and definitely won’t affect peasant farmers.

    It is also because of collection, considering the provisions for tax collectors (see below). The Paroikoi are overwhelmingly concentrated in the countryside, while the Banausoi are concentrated in the towns and cities.

    The next two categories are the Mesoi and Dynatoi, the middle and upper classes respectively. While also divided into four tiers each, these are on a straightforward income placement. These also vary widely, with doctors, lawyers, university professors, wholesale merchants, major landowners, and prominent officials as examples.

    The various tiers within the four categories all pay different rates, with the highest tiers paying a greater percentage than the lower, as those taxpayers are wealthier. There is some variation on this with the Paroikoi and Banausoi as there, unlike with the upper two categories, some of the tiers overlap when the categories are compared side-by-side. The Banausoi pay a slighter higher rate than the Paroikoi of comparable income.

    There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, agriculture is still by far the biggest component of the Roman economy and employing the vast majority of the Roman populace. Agricultural production wasn’t promoted much during the Flowering in contrast to manufacturing because in the immediate aftermath of the Time of Trouble, feeding the reduced population of the Empire was not a difficulty.

    Times have certainly changed in that regard. In 1550 the populace of the Roman heartland numbered 11.25 million. In 1630 it stood at eighteen million. Sicily’s growth is similar, going from 1.9 to 3.5 million. Egypt’s is far less impressive, going merely from 2.8 to 3.1 million, but the Great Uprising did happen during that period and the latter figure covers a smaller area, the post-Uprising Despotate. It is estimated by some historians that a Egypt that didn’t experience the Great Uprising would be past 5 million at this point.

    In 1635, the Imperial heartland’s population stands at about 16.7 million, the decrease due both to war dead and the exclusion of interior Syria, controlled by the Ottomans under the terms of the Demetrian truce. Of that number, 12.3 million reside in the 6 Aegean themes, the Helladic, Macedonian, Thracian, Opsikian, Optimatic, and Thrakesian. The Chaldean has a bit over a million, the truncated Syrian theme about one million, Bulgaria a bit less, and the Anatolikon and Armeniakon between them mustering about 1.25 million.

    Feeding the Aegean basin, even with imports of Scythian and Egyptian grain, is becoming more difficult, the war and particularly the preparations for the battle of Thessaloniki exacerbating matters. So there is this spur, spearheaded by the Sweet Waters of Asia complex, to diversify and improve agricultural efficiency. The lower tax rates for the Paroikoi are an inducement for that.

    The Tier IV Paroikoi are an excellent exemplar of this. To be a zeugaratos, one merely needs to a peasant landowner wealthy enough to own a full plow team of oxen (or horse equivalent, the term preexisting the use of horses for plowing). But the wealthier zeugaratoi, those whose lands and income approach the line between Paroikoi and Mesoi like the pre-war Vasiloktonos family, can be considered a Roman economic equivalent to English yeomanry and they are described as such by English travelers.

    Although they don’t have the freeholdings comparable to those of mesoi landowners (who are identified as landed gentry by those English travelers), they still have the capital to invest in improvements and to diversify and improve their holdings, since they already have experience in growing for the market. Aside from cereals, they often produce wine, olive oil, fruit, cheese, butter, and silk for sale at the local trade fair, unlike a poorer family living on the margins of subsistence.

    At the same time, they are also generally less difficult about taxpaying than the dynatoi, and often have a more business-like attitude than some of the dynatoi, especially some of the older families. Used to wealth, they spend it lavishly and often frivolously, in a manner often criticized as reminiscent of Latin nobility.

    Secondly, while the Roman Empire is a money economy, out in the countryside where the bulk of the populace and Paroikoi live, it is often a mixed economy with both money and barter playing a big role in transactions. Paroikoi in general have a harder time getting the high-value currency that is needed for paying taxes in contrast to the town and city dwelling Banausoi. The lower rate acknowledges that.

    Village-dwelling Banausoi can be hurt by this, but the village blacksmith would be a low-tier anyway. Most artisanal work in the smaller villages is done on the side by Paroikoi families anyway, with the goal of personal use rather than selling on the market. Villages that support full-time artisans that would be categorized as Banausoi probably have a market, meaning that the area is more monetized than a smaller village off the beaten track.

    Tax collectors for the new system have four levels, corresponding to the Paroikoi, Banausoi, Mesoi, and Dynatoi, with the higher-level collectors considered higher in rank and paid more. This is an anti-corruption effort, as obviously dynatoi would have an easier time bribing a tax collector than a Paroikos. The penalties for corruption also go up as an official advances in level.

    This is also an effort to reduce tax fraud. Instead of being responsible for collecting taxes for everyone in a certain area, the Dynatoi-level collector is only focused on the few dynatoi in his region. So he can make sure they’re paying their proper dues since he isn’t examining the various peasant villages; that is the task of his junior Paroikoi-level colleagues. This does lead to the possibility of some tax fraud squeaking through on the Paroikoi level as the collectors there are covering more people. But providing the dynatoi pay their dues, that is no issue for the exchequer.

    The Kephalate of Skammandros provides a good example of the system in action. The Kephalate, situated in the upper left corner of Anatolia, is a small but prosperous district of the Opsikian theme. Its biggest town is the port of Abydos, a common stop for vessels entering or exiting the Hellespont. Throughout its territory are several smaller towns and large villages, plus smaller villages in between the bigger settlements. The Kephalate as a whole has about 75000 inhabitants.

    The Banausoi and Mesoi level collectors are stationed in Abydos and the smaller towns and large villages with enough of their category’s population to justify their presence. While the Abydos-stationed ones concentrate on the taxpayers in the towns, their counterparts in the smaller settlements may cover a few adjacent towns/villages. The Paroikoi-level collectors meanwhile cover the countryside in their assigned areas.

    Oftentimes if there are a few artisans that are categorized as Banausoi but live in an area removed from Banausoi-concentrations, those artisans for tax gathering purposes get assigned to the Paroikoi-level collectors covering the region in question. The dynatoi-level collector also covers the town and countryside, depending on where the dynatoi are located, since they could be industrial magnates, large-scale merchants, or major landowners. Sometimes if a poorer kephalate doesn’t have much in the way of mesoi or dynatoi, the mesoi and dynatoi-level collectors may have a couple of kephalates as their ‘territory’.

    The taxes under the tier system that are collected are the income and the head tax, the rates of which vary depending on the category and tier of the taxpayer. Other taxes, such as import/export duties, inheritance taxes, and various consumption taxes such as those on wine, paper, silks, carriages, etc. are unaffected and collected in their regular manner.

    The sixteen-tier system is still the basis of the Roman tax system today, although it’s been changed so that the tiers are now all stacked by income, rather than with occupation affecting the categories. The setup for the tax collectors is also the same, with the tiers grouped in four categories which retain the old names, and the collectors focusing only on the tiers in their category.

    In the Main Hall of the Office of the Treasury today, there are two large portraits of Emperors, the only representations of Roman Emperors in the building save for a portrait of the current reigning monarch. They are Theodoros IV Komnenos and Demetrios III Sideros.
    The Sideros Reorganization, Part 2
  • @Hopeless Situation: Thank you; that is most useful information. I think if there were already Roman colonizers in Aotearoa they’d react the same way as the OTL British; a united Maori are far more dangerous than separate chiefdoms.

    But something like the Musket Wars seem promising. If Latins started poking around Aotearoa, the Romans would likely equip a pro-Roman chief in a bid to unite Aotearoa in exchange for kicking the Latins out and becoming a Roman Despot.

    @Christian: China is doing better now that it’s been reunited under the Zeng. There is just starting to be a tech gap now. The Christians are more advanced in astronomy and making cannons (look at the OTL Jesuit missions to China; it’s similar to TTL), and the westerners are using flintlocks while the Chinese are still using matchlocks (IOTL European armies phased out matchlocks by the early 1700s while the Chinese kept using them until the mid-1800s). They are open to trade but not exactly the easiest to work with; think a somewhat looser version of the trade with China under the Qing.

    @Albert Blake: A lot of that had to do with the Tieh rubbing Andreas Angelos the wrong way. Demanding a son of Andreas Niketas kowtow does not go over well.


    Restructuring the Empire: The Sideros Reorganization, Part 2

    While still merely the Eparch of Constantinople, Demetrios Sideros had instituted a sort of ‘city council’, where he and important civic officials met to discuss and debate important issues. This was certainly not unique to him but he regularized the meeting regimen to an unprecedented degree. He carried over the practice when he became Emperor, where again such things were usual but again he systematized the practice. Taking an unused study in the White Palace and furnishing it as a meeting room, the first of what is considered the ‘Imperial Cabinet’ meets only two months after Demetrios III’s accession. However the term ‘Cabinet’ is derived from Triune practice as a similar procedure had been implemented by Arthur II as part of the raft of reforms implemented after the defeat in the Second Rhine War.

    The various positions at the beginning are as follows in order of prominence:

    Patriarch of Constantinople.
    Megas Logothete: Highest official in the Roman bureaucracy. Essentially a ‘Prime Minister’ but he is an appointed bureaucratic official by the Emperor.
    Megas Domestikos: Highest-ranking soldier in the army.
    Logothetes tou Dromou: Foreign Minister. (The Office of Barbarians is a sub-department.)
    Logothetes tou Genikou: Finance Minister, also known as Megas Sakellarios.
    Megas Kouaistor: The “Great Judge”. Functions both as a Minister of Justice and also the Attorney General for the Roman Government.
    Megas Doux: Highest-ranking sailor in the navy.
    Protasekretis: Head of the Imperial Chancery.
    Eparch of Constantinople.

    In 1636 a new member joins their number as part of the Sideros Reorganization, the Logothetes ton Sekreton. Demetrios had noticed how the Megas Logothete had not been able to both supervise all the various Kephales and also oversee the Logothetes who headed the government departments, especially given the vast expansion in the number of Kephales. There are, as of 1635, 171 Kephales and 4 Katepanoi that report directly to the Megas Logothete.

    Prior to the War of the Five Emperors, each of the themes had a military leader, the Strategos, and a civilian leader, the Katepano. During said war, the various pretenders had rather easily suborned the various Katepanoi into supporting their cause. While they didn’t bring any troops, they brought the money that kept the troops happy and loyal to their strategos. Demetrios Megas, after winning said war, had disbanded the Katepanoi and replaced them with a system of smaller Kephales so that any prospective rebel strategos would have to track down multiple officials who could make themselves scarce, which in theory would make his job harder.

    Helena I had kept that system in place, partly because by her day it was an old tradition and bureaucracy tend to keep those going. But also it was because she, like Demetrios Megas, had a great fear of rebelling strategoi, having grown up during the Time of Troubles. This remained even after the significant increase in the number of Kephales, increasing the strain immensely on the Megas Logothete.

    Demetrios sees that this cannot continue. So in 1636 he effectively revives the old Laskarid system from the fourteenth century. A new official, the Mesazon, is instituted. He is a civilian administrator, a mid-level supervisor who oversees the various Kephales in a particular theme. So now the 171 Kephales report to one of twelve Mesazons, and the Mesazons all report to the Logothetes ton Sekreton, who reports to the Megas Logothete. Because of his sensitive position, the Eparch of Constantinople continues to answer directly to the Megas Logothete.

    The reason the new officials are called Mesazons and not Katepanoi is that the latter term is now associated with the viceroys of ‘Rhomania in the East’. Because of their distance, Katepanoi both have civic and military authority, which is emphatically not to be the case in the Imperial heartland.

    Demetrios III, while aware of the loyalty issues raised by both Demetrios I and Helena I, is not as concerned as they and he has his reasons. The Roman army of 1635 is radically different already from that of 1425 or 1550, unlike the civilian bureaucracy. It is now a professional standing army paid entirely in coin rather than a coin-land mixture, with an officer corps that goes through academy training and a professional staff organization courtesy of the War Room.

    While one can raise questions about the effectiveness of the Drakid-era Roman army, it was certainly loyal. Parts did rebel under Andreas ‘III’ in the War of the Rivers and there was the concern with the Akoimetoi during the Night of the Tocsins, but those appear to be special cases involving individuals with exceptionally strong blood claims to the throne. While there were concerns that Leo Neokastrites might rebel with the eastern tagmata in support of one of Andreas III’s bastards by Maria of Agra in 1630, nothing materialized in that vein.

    The military also undergoes some reforms as well. The first action, undertaken in early 1635, is straightforward, the installation of the Paramonai as the fifth guard tagma, comprised of the various foreign troops in the formation that are willing to stay and keep fighting for and getting paid by the Roman government. Odysseus Sideros stays on as its strategos.

    The second is the removal of the School of War from Constantinople to new grounds near the prosperous town of Ainos on the Thracian Chersonese (Gallipoli Peninsula). This is something that had been recommended as far back as the early years of the Eternal War and the location had been selected and purchased as one of Andreas III’s earliest acts as Emperor.

    The rationale is that it is believed that the cadets, all young men typically with a keen eye for the fancy and beautiful ladies of the capital, had focused more on dash and glamor rather than on brains. This is one explanation for the heavy casualties Roman officers took during the Eternal War, particularly at key points during the First Battle of Nineveh. It is expected that being near a small town with fishwives will sober them up and get them to concentrate on their studies.

    Their studies are also changed, as the curriculum of the Drakid era is also blamed for Roman officers ‘having more bravery than brains’ in the words of Manuel Philanthropenos. Now bravery is still absolutely crucial and there is absolutely no tolerance for a cowardly officer, but bravery is far from the only virtue that when taken too far becomes a vice.

    Unsurprisingly, the Drakid-era curriculum focused intensely on the military careers of Andreas Drakos and Giorgios Laskaris (despite the ‘issues’ at the end of the Time of Troubles, Helena to her dying day still referred to Giorgios as Uncle). They were both brave men who often fought near the front and paid the price in battle wounds. They were held up as an example for officers to behave. Andreas Niketas came in for a similar treatment.

    But what had been missing was some very important context. Most of Andreas Drakos’ and Giorgios’ front-line fighting and battle wounds had come when they were junior officers, not tourmarches or strategoi. Furthermore, many times when they were in the front, rallying their men and risking injury or death, they’d been fighting fellow Romans or leading green troops or too-battered formations against usually numerically superior enemy forces. In those situations, morale was absolutely critical and everything needed to be done to stoke it. But at key moments, such as the Battle of Kotyaion, Andreas Drakos had been in the rear, overseeing and orchestrating the army as a whole, as had his senior officers.

    Despite his reputation, Andreas Niketas had rarely been in the thick of the fighting. He was injured during the siege of Constantinople during the Smyrna War but he’d been a boy then. He’d been planning to do so to cover the retreat of the Roman army at Cannae, but during the battle as it unfolded he’d positioned himself in the rear to oversee the army, not in the front ranks. He’d refused to take cover during the bombardment, but there was a difference between that and being in the first rank in a charge at an enemy formation. The one time he had done so was at Edessa, when he led a surprise night attack on an Ottoman army that outnumbered him close to ten to one. That was certainly a special case.

    So the ‘cult of courage’, as Philanthropenos described it, needed to be adjusted. As he said, ‘a Roman officer should taste powder, but not choke on it’. Leo Neokastrites had once criticized the defense of the Roman perimeter at the Battle of Dojama, where the cavalry commander had placed himself in the front rank. He’d been killed in the attack, which made his unrestrained men overextend themselves, giving Iskandar a perfect opening to counterattack and break the Roman perimeter. He should’ve been in the second rank, where he was still an example of courage to his men, but back enough he could direct the attack and not be an obvious target.

    Andreas Niketas and Andreas Drakos would’ve put their officers in such a position, but the Drakid-era army, by looking at them through a flawed lens, ended up not emulating them. It’s been noted by many scholars, both then and now, that Roman strategoi of the Drakid era weren’t as impressive as the battle titans of the 1400s and early 1500s, and this is considered the cause by many.

    The Sideros era sees a renewed focus on the tactics and strategies of their great captains, rather than just emphasizing their bravery. Andreas Drakos’ method of expelling the Ottomans from Anatolia is a widely studied area. Although he fought a major battle at Kotyaion, that’d been unintentional with his real target the Ottoman supply depot. Destroying that, he managed to throw the main Ottoman army out of Anatolia and inflict massive casualties, all without another major battle and minimal casualties of his own (excluding Kotyaion of course). That’s a far better example for Roman strategoi than the younger Andreas Drakos with his unfortunate tendency to get shot.

    Another change is the reinstitution of frequent large-scale army exercises, which had been common during the Second Komnenid dynasty particularly. However during the Drakid era their frequency dropped markedly, partly because of the expense for a battered empire coming out of the Time of Troubles. The other, even more important, reason was that Helena I was suspicious of her strategoi and didn’t want to give them opportunities to practice and collude. Neither of those rationales apply anymore so Demetrios III reinstitutes the exercises on their schedule as put down by Andreas I’s training code of 1489.

    During the ‘bulk-up’ of the Roman armies in 1632 and 1633, many of the officers needed to lead the formations had been given abbreviated training. While many served with skill and valor regardless, this did have a noticeable effect on overall quality. So many of the discharged officers from the war aren’t completely discharged but instead put on a reserve list. Those on the list still get half-pay with the understanding that they can be called up at any moment for whatever reason. This way an expanded army will have access to an expanded pool of trained officers.

    This has been an occasional practice beforehand but the late 1630s are the first time it is standardized. It is also in addition to the older practice of kastron troops/officers. These are soldiers or officers who’ve already served their time but stayed on to garrison various Imperial fortresses, with the understanding that in wartime they may be used to bolster the field armies.

    While as Eparch, Demetrios Sideros had instituted the first regular Constantinople police force, called tzaousiosi. The term derives from a Turkish word meaning courier or messenger, but eventually shifted over to those soldiers whose job was to keep order in the army, IE military police. The term was then used for those performing the same function in a civilian context.

    Normally army troops or the Teicheiotai were used for such a purpose but Demetrios created a standing force distinct from those groups. The primary goal of the police is to keep order and stop crime in the city, and potentially defend the city against attack. The army and Teicheiotai’s priorities had been exactly the reverse.

    Each Kephalate has a Kastrophylax who oversees any local kastra (distinct from Imperial kastra that are garrisoned by army kastron troops and commanded by army Kastrophylaxes), commands the militia, and helps to keep the peace, probably through the militia, conscripting men for temporary service, or calling on nearby regular troops. He has the authority to do that without committing treason. Often the Kastrophylax is a retired dekarchos.

    However the militia-kastra setup for each Kephalate varies widely in terms of number and quality. The Kephalates of western Anatolia have token militias, so for serious instances men have to be conscripted, in which case they usually are bad and often resistant, or the army has to be used. In contrast, the allagions of North Syria are large and of very high quality, as they expect to immediately reinforce the regulars in the event of an Ottoman war.

    Demetrios resolves to fix that by creating Tzaousios departments for each kephalate that shall function on the Constantinople model. It can be used for provincial defense but their primary purpose is to keep law and order. In many kephalates with weak allagions, those militias are disbanded although some members end up becoming tzaousiosi. In other kephalates that have powerful allagions, the allagions remain untouched with the tzaousiosi being added as a security force. Many discharged soldiers who have no inclination for farming join these new tzaousios departments and many half-pay officers take charge of these units as half-pay isn’t enough to support their lifestyle.

    Although each department functions as a local constabulary, a new cabinet official, the Megas Tzaousios, is appointed who oversees all of the various departments.

    There is some more reorganization relating to the tzaousios but this takes place in the shadows, unsurprisingly considering its nature. There had been confusion during the war between the division of responsibilities between the Ministry of Propaganda and the Empire’s Eyes, which was what had allowed the Constantinople newspapers to cause so much trouble.

    To avoid that happening again, and to prevent any confusion with the new tzaousiosi cropping up, Demetrios delineates the responsibility of the four ‘security departments’. The Office of Barbarians is responsible for all espionage outside of the Empire, and so there is little question there.

    The Ministry of Propaganda’s purview is in regards to anything being published inside the Empire. It issues the licenses all prospective publications need, censors them as required, and punishes those responsible for breaking the press laws.

    The tzaousiosi are to function solely as a constabulary, keeping law and order amongst the populace. They can be called on to enforce the directives of the various security departments, but their brief is local.

    The Empire’s Eyes is responsible for all internal espionage. They spy on all foreigners inside the Empire, including the ambassadors (they know it, and Roman ambassadors are watched in foreign capitals). They are also responsible for counter-intelligence as needed. They also keep an eye on the Roman populace itself, watching for threats or sedition. It is they who monitor the letters sent through the post and they who make up the secret police, whose brief is the whole Empire.
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    The Sideros Reorganization, Part 3
  • Restructuring the Empire: The Sideros Reorganization, Part 3

    These various reforms take time to implement and for the effects to be truly felt. It takes time to assemble the new tax rolls and assign officials, to organize departments and offices. While every initiative of the reorganization leaves Demetrios III’s desk at some time in 1636, the new system isn’t fully in place until shortly before his death.

    The rest of the 1630s continues in the postwar economic slump. Aside from the lack of demand from the Roman government and army, trade with Western Europe is rather disrupted because of the war along the Rhine and the upheavals in central Europe. Some economists blame the new higher taxes on the rich for lessening civilian demand and thereby weakening the economy; the Roman government has consistently to this day viewed such arguments as tenuous at best and certainly self-interested. Many of the taxes end up going back out into the Roman economy anyway as the government invests and develops certain projects, some of which were proposed decades earlier but not made possible until the greater income made available by said higher taxes.

    There are several economic initiatives that take place during this time that are significant, even though they do not bear fruit until the reign of Odysseus at the earliest. The most ambitious and definitely most significant is the Don-Volga canal. Roman war industries had relied heavily on Russian raw materials and a canal between the two great rivers would immensely ease transport of said materials.

    After negotiations with Great Pronsk, Georgia, and Khazaria regarding the placement of the canal and the divvying of canal dues, construction begins in 1638. Construction takes fourteen years, involving an army of mostly Russian and Georgian laborers paid by Roman coin. (To compensate the Romans, it is agreed that all canal dues will accrue to the Romans for the first thirty years of operation, after which Great Pronsk, Georgia, and Khazaria shall each receive one third.)

    When finally completed after significant expense of coin and blood (prisoners were given labor sentences here, including seven thousand Allied POWs, of which at least three thousand died during construction), the Don-Volga canal is an immediate boon. More Russian raw materials are available for Roman industries, enabling them to expand production. This lowers the cost, but this makes said products more available to the Roman populace, the growing demand making up for the lower price of each individual piece.

    This also spurs Roman investment in Siberian development, the canal’s completion considered the point where Siberia really begins to take off. Roman capital provides the means to improve infrastructure, the goal of which is to make it easier for Siberian materials to make it to Roman workshops. But this makes it easier for the growing Russian populace to emigrate eastward, providing the manpower to develop Siberian industry.

    Another canal proposed in the late 1630s is a Corinthian canal. Unlike the Don-Volga canal which seems like a great idea to everyone, this one is contentious. Monemvasia, the Gibraltar of the East, the second most populous town in the Helladic theme after Corinth itself, has spread out far beyond the Rock that was the medieval town. Aside from the great causeway connecting the island to the mainland, substantial work was done during the Flowering to expand and secure harbor facilities.

    The port that exports most of the Empire’s malmsey wine, one of the Empire’s most successful trade goods in Latin Europe, the Monemvasiots make up a disproportionately large portion of the Empire’s merchant marine. Also as the only town of the Peloponnesus to never fall under Latin rule, they have a certain moral clout. Aside from Malmsey and other local exports, Monemvasia’s harbors are a common port of call for merchant vessels entering or exiting the Aegean or ships moving from the central to eastern Mediterranean or vice versa. As a result, the Monemvasiots are very concerned that a Corinthian canal would seriously damage their business, their lobbying killing the proposal.

    While not as visually impressive or historically significant in their own right, there are several other infrastructure projects that get started up in the late 1630s. There had been such works back during the Flowering but the expenses of war starting in the 1590s had sucked up the needed revenue. With the tax reform that is not such an issue. Also the work projects are a way to provide jobs for dismissed soldiers as well as civilians and refugees whose livelihoods have been destroyed at some point.

    Most of the work involves drainage of swamps and lakes, the largest being at Lake Askania at Nicaea, Lake Copais in Boeotia, and Lake Giannitsa in Lower Macedonia. None of the lakes are completely drained away at this time, although eventually the latter two are completely drained. Lake Askania remains to this day as one of the major lakes of western Anatolia. The reasons for these projects are to produce more arable land, reduce flooding risks, and destroy unhealthy swamps.

    Also during 1634 an army engineer, part of the army under Amirales’ command, had been given a brief leave and had spent it exploring Attica. On his last day before heading back to his post, he explored the remains of the ancient mines of Laurium. Three years later he comes back with a team to start setting up mining operations again; there are still ores here.

    By the end of Demetrios III Sideros’ reign, the mines are producing lead in quantity with a smaller production of silver. It provides a substantial boost to the local economy, particularly Athens as Piraeus is where the ores are usually shipped out. This is what provides the push that soon elevates Athens to the second city of Hellas (after Corinth), passing Monemvasia which lacks the space to grow, unlike the ancient city of Theseus. [1] To pump water out of the mineshafts, two primitive steam pumps are used, Spanish inventions that initially require Spanish artisans to build and operate the devices.

    However modern Athenians proud of this turn of events are less pleased to find out that much of the lead ends being an ingredient in various products of the Roman cosmetic industry, with rather unhealthy effects on many Romans.

    Historians love to divvy up histories into distinct periods. It is crucial for organizing things but such labels are usually meaningless when viewed from the ground. No one woke up and realized that they were out of the early modern and were now in the mid-modern (the period defined as extending from the War of the Roman Succession to when the Industrial Revolution is considered to have fully arrived).

    Many of the Romans easily could not have noticed the Sideros Reorganization. Their daily lives had changed little. The rates may be altered somewhat and the officials sporting different titles and badges, but they were still census officials and tax collectors. For the Paroikoi, which still made up the vast bulk of the population, dwarfing the other three categories, their lives went on much as before.

    That is because the Roman government, for all its capabilities, was still an early-seventeenth-century government. Its reach fell far short from what would be expected by a modern Roman citizen. Villagers had relatively few interactions with government officials, save for the tax collectors and the circuit kouaistor, and in regards to the latter villagers preferred to settle cases amongst themselves if possible.

    Those Romans in towns and cities were a different story, but it is estimated that in 1635 slightly less than 30% of Romans dwelled in a settlement 2000 strong or more. It was a different story with the Orthodox Church as every village had a local priest. Aside from his religious duties, he was often called upon to mediate disputes and represent the village to Imperial officials.

    Some villages are effectively owned by monasteries as they own all the land of the village, the inhabitants all tenants of the monasteries. In those cases the monks govern the village although the tenants have the right of appeal to the Kephale. When monasteries attempt to block said appeal, and they have, the government usually, but not always, comes down hard on the monks.

    Other villagers are owned by dynatoi, great landowners who control the entire area. These are fairly rare by 1635, far less common than the monastic villages. While many dynatoi have large landholdings, these are usually in central Anatolia where the landscape is dominated by pastoralists. The landlord in these cases also governs the village, although with the tenants also having the right of appeal to the Kephale. The government takes an even dimmer view of dynatoi blocking appeals than they do monasteries.

    Tenant farmers have to pay rent to their landlords, either in money, goods, or labor or a mix thereof. In this situation, the government taxes the farmers still but removed what they pay in rent from their taxable income. But they then turn around and tax the landlord, adding the rents to his taxable income. This works out better for monastic landlords because as a church institution, their tax rate is lower.

    With the new differential taxation setup, this actually benefits the Roman government as the dynatos gets taxed at a higher rate than any of the individual paroikoi. Naturally there is a lot of pushback for this, but aside from the Roman army itself the tax collectors can call upon the new tzaousiosi. In past generations it was hard for the central government to enforce taxes on dynatoi landlords as said dynatoi were the officer corps of the army. With the School of War supplying that need, the dynatoi no longer have that leverage.

    There are also farmers who are directly tenants of the state, working government lands. For taxation purposes they are treated as freeholders. While they are encouraged to improve the land with tax exemptions, they aren’t allowed to alienate or divide their holdings, and often held to a contract to work the land for a specified number of years.

    The majority of the villages are freeholders however, governing themselves directly. The interest of the Roman government certainly extends to the villages, ensuring taxation and recruitment are unimpeded and protecting trade, law, and order. But in internal affairs, the government usually stays out unless asked. While the Roman Empire is highly bureaucratized by the standards of the early 17th century, it is still far short of what would be expected of a modern state.

    Rhomania is an autocracy, the Emperor an absolute monarch. Now the theory doesn’t always fit the facts, as the personality of monarchs vary and the Imperial bureaucracy is always a major player. But as a general rule, that statement typically holds up.

    But at the local level, Roman society can be surprisingly democratic. Villages are typically governed by some sort of village council, elected by voters. While the specific criteria vary from village to village and region to region, usually each landowner has a vote and elects a certain number of landowners to the council. There are always property requirements for voters and sometimes higher ones for council members. Sometimes women are allowed to vote if they have enough land in their own name, although none seem to have been allowed to serve on council. The number of councilors and length of service vary widely.

    While republics conjure up images of Venice in the Roman psyche, the Roman government doesn’t seem to be bothered one bit by these arrangements. For the most part, the councils keep order inside the villages, with the village priest, circuit kouaistor, or Kephale stepping in if called upon. This saves the Roman government a lot of administrative costs. The councils too often act as representatives of the village and intermediaries with the government, for example in requests for tax exemptions due to a disaster or to petition for infrastructural development.

    The allocation of taxes is often done with the input of the council, a setup that while decreasing administrative costs certainly opens up possibilities of corruption. Ideally if councilors are directing taxes away from themselves onto their neighbors, the neighbors can appeal to the government. Circuit kouaistors make annual rounds throughout the district, with the goal that justice will be easily available to all Romans. That said, no system is perfect and the goal is certainly more feasible in the more densely populated themes.

    In the towns and cities, the grip of the Roman government is tighter with officials appointed directly by Constantinople. But there are exemptions. Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Antioch, Nicaea, and Trebizond all have communes, city councils elected in a similar fashion to those of the villages although with wealth rather than land as the qualifier. Certain positions and duties are filled by them rather than the Kephale, with the right to levy some taxes on city-dwellers to support those activities. Many other towns and cities have elected councils that act as advisory boards to the governmental officials, with the right to appoint minor town officers such as fire marshals and town clerks. In settlements that are the residence of the Kephale, the Kephale or his Prokathemenos preside over the council, including the commune cities.

    This was all in effect before the Sideros Reorganization and continues afterwards. But the growing number of Roman officials means that there is steadily growing contact between the countryside and officialdom. On the one side is a somewhat democratic (if one is a landowner) system, on the other a (in theory) meritocratic bureaucracy where placement requires education and passing exams, both overseen by the Emperor. The intermingling of these two strands is the history of modern Roman political theory.

    [1] Credit to @Lascaris for the drainage and mine suggestions.
    The Era of Mad Geniuses
  • The Era of Mad Geniuses: The Historic-Romantic Era at its height

    The 1630s and 1640s are best well known today for their rather destructive and constructive activities in the military and political spheres. That is largely because those come with a cast of characters still vividly remembered today such as Theodor the Digger and Elizabeth the Unbowed, Archbishop Bone Breaker and Henri the Spider, the Raven King and the Comet. In terms of historical works, fiction or not, regardless of medium, these figures and others remain some of the most popularly known in society across the entirety of the Greater West. [1]

    But creativity and vibrancy was not restricted just to the military and political spheres. The era held many substantial feats in both cultural and scientific achievements, to the point it is sometimes jokingly called ‘the era of Mad Geniuses’.

    That is an unofficial, although more entertaining, label for the age which falls under the umbrella of the Historic-Romantic period. Like most historical epochs, there is constant debate over when exactly it began and ended, or what it actually meant. But unusually for historians, most agree that the height of the Historic-Romantic was the 1630s and 1640s.

    One of the more common starting points for the Historic-Romantic is 1618, when construction work for a Sicilian villa unearthed what turned out to be the ruins of Pompeii. The news shot across the Greater West, being spoken about in Norway and Ethiopia by 1620. The earliest, and very primitive by later standards, excavations began in 1627, the workmen overseen by two teams of antiquarian scholars, one from the University of Bari and the other from the University of Constantinople.

    The digs greatly interested then Eparch Demetrios Sideros. Sometimes he has been called the ‘father of archaeology’, although such a claim is rather tenuous. The inspiration seems to have come from his youthful explorations of the ruins of Troy while serving as Prokathemenos of the Kephalate of Skammandros. These were hardly systematic studies, and while he followed the early Pompeii digs, he wasn’t involved in any way.

    The late 1630s are when the budding discipline of archaeology really begins to move. The Great Latin War obviously halted studies but in 1637 a new and larger team starts exploring. Andronikos Andreatos, who’d been part of the earlier team, is the one who discovers and starts the practice of using plaster to fill in the holes in the ash layers that contained human remains, creating the famous Pompeii casts showing the bodies of those who died in the destruction.

    At the same time, the Rosetta stone, discovered by Egyptian soldiers during the war, is being examined in Constantinople with the hopes of translating the mysterious and now lost written language of ancient Egypt. This takes much longer to bear fruit, with many scholars trying their luck but none succeeding until 1649.

    Many have argued that 1618 is too late for the start of the Historic-Romantic, arguing for 1612 when Krikor Zakari published his The Movement of the Celestial Spheres, which outlined the three laws of planetary motion. Or even earlier, such as 1604, with Bille’s supernova, the massive celestial explosion studied by the Danish astronomer Eske Bille that was visible during the day for three weeks. The supernova appeared less than a fortnight after the wedding of Demetrios and Jahzara, which was supposedly interpreted as an omen, but there does not appear to have been any connection drawn between the two events until after Demetrios’ accession.

    Some even go as far back as 1572, with the supernova studied by the Portuguese Mem de Sá, the last great naked-eye astronomer and the so-called “Father of Empiricism”, but the 1604 date is more popular given it was viewed through Eske’s dalnovzor at his Scanian observatory.

    It is a great age of astronomical discovery, from sunspots to Saturn’s rings. The geocentric view of the universe comes under increasing attack, much to the dismay of the Catholic Churches of both Rome and Avignon. While discussions of a heliocentric ‘Menshikovian’ system are fine as hypotheses, and may even be used as an aid for astronomical calculations, their presentation as facts are viewed as contrary to scripture and the idea of the perfection of heaven. Heavenly bodies like the sun are, unlike the earth, supposed to be perfect, meaning no spots.

    It doesn’t help that the model was proposed by a heretic Russian. Certainly many clerics in both churches are far less doctrinaire than their leadership, some patronizing or even participating in the new studies of the heavens with their ever-more-powerful dalnovzors. However to this day both the Orthodox and Bohmanist Churches, who have far less qualms with the new astronomical theories, are rather smug vis-à-vis the Catholics regarding this.

    The Triunes prove themselves to be quite accomplished in the caliber and number of their geniuses. The Academy of Sciences, opening in King’s Harbor in the 1620s, provides an excellent venue for Triune scholars to meet and discuss research and discoveries, encouraging more of the same. An Academic Journal, which starts publishing yearly in 1634, publicizes the most significant discoveries.

    And many of those discoveries are most significant. The discovery that white light is actually a multicolored spectrum, the development of calculus, and the formulation of the laws of universal gravitation and laws of motion are all products of the Academy from 1630-1645. While in modern physics, the rule is ‘publish in Greek or perish’, the Triunes uncontestably dominate the early days of the field.

    More discoveries come from the earliest microscopes, invented in Caen in 1630, used to study plant, animal, and even human tissue in unprecedented detail. The earliest microscopes lack the magnification to display microorganisms, but the second generation that start being produced from workshops in Normandy and Flanders in the late 1650s do have the capability.

    Roman scholars have their own claims to fame regarding the natural sciences during this period. Roman soldiers during the Great Latin War also end up unearthing some of the first bones identified as ‘terrible lizards’, dinosaurs. Like archaeology at Pompeii, the first probes into this field of study are extremely crude by later standards, but they mark the beginning of greater things. The fossils that end up making their way to Constantinople are mainly from the Egyptian discoveries, but there are some other bones taken from China and Portugal that had ended up in dynatoi’s ‘cabinets of curiosities’. A few more are actually captured in North Terranova in raids on the Triune colonies, where local digs had unearthed these mysterious bones.

    Dinosaurs end up taking off quickly in Roman imagination due to Kaisar Odysseus. When the bones were assembled for viewing by the Imperial family, he then took up his painting canvas and brushes and created images of what he imagined these beasts would have appeared alive. These works are justly famous and captured minds across the Greater West, paintings of powerful muscled beasts, covered in scales, some with tales as thick as ship’s mainmasts, but with the power to use them as whips against foes. Or others with mighty tail spikes as big as a man’s thighs, or yet others with simple yet massive claws and teeth. And all with eyes of alien yet powerful intellect, the leviathans of ancient days, the Behemoth of the Book of Job.

    These images have stuck in the Roman psyche literally for centuries. Odysseus did not know of the myriad of species discovered in later decades, most of which were not known until the 1800s, but when one watches the Jurassic Empire series, one sees the dinosaurs as he imagined them on the silver screen.

    People are not just looking up at the sky or into the ground, but also across the earth. New information about far flung plants, animals, peoples, and nations is growing more available and detailed. The Triunes, Arletians, and Spaniards all have interest in developing catalogues of information about their Terranovan holdings. The Romans, with their intense interest and desire to make an ‘Encyclopedia of the East’, surpass them in scale, but not in principle.

    If one is discussing mad geniuses of this age, one cannot forget Demetrios III Sideros. Aside from his numerous historical works, he is also the ‘father of science fiction’, a title he definitely deserves. His work, A New and Ancient World: An Account of the First Expedition of Men to the Moon, only comes out after his death, with the rumor that he finished it on the evening of the day before he died.

    A New and Ancient World is definitely a product of its age, incorporating the new discoveries in astronomy, paleontology, and archaeology, creating a world of ancient beings and beasts upon another world. The science by today’s standard is certainly laughable, but that is a common feature of science fiction anyway, and modern retellings often just relocate the action to Mars or later some exoplanet.

    The Sweet Waters of Asia complex plays a major role in developing agricultural knowledge, with some correspondence between the wardens there and the managers of the great Lotharingian botanical gardens. The latter house specimens gathered from all the various lands to which Lotharingian merchants sail. With easy access to early microscopes, the Lotharingians help to produce sketches of unprecedented detail of plant forms, with immense catalogs detailing the characteristics of their collections.

    Alchemy is an ancient subject and it is at this time that it is typically regarded as transitioning into the modern field of chemistry. The first formulation (although with antecedents going back to Aristotle) of what is recognized as the scientific method, emphasizing careful observation, skepticism, and experimentation, appeared in 1599 from the pen of Mem de Sá on his deathbed.

    Demetrios Manuskkathas, a professor of philosophy at the University of Constantinople, popularizes the concept with his detailed studies of gases conducted in the late 1630s and early 1640s. The word ‘gas’, as opposed to ‘air’, is his invention. Manuskkathas’ Law, describing the inverse relation of pressure and volume of gases, is a basic of modern chemistry. He argues against the idea of the four elements of matter, earth, fire, air, and water, instead advocating an ‘atomic system of matter’. In all his studies, he insists on the need for repeated experiment before asserting a statement is true.

    Manuskkathas establishes a tradition of prominent Roman chemists which continues to this day. The early start is greatly aided by research into dyes and acids and bleaches, inspired by the importance of the Roman textile industry. Some of the greatest of the textile magnates, who made a lot of hyperpyra providing clothing for the Roman armies in the Great Latin War, are keen to invest those profits in ways to both improve and cheapen their products to boost sales, particularly after the collapse of governmental demand.

    Although not helpful in terms of making clothes, the first major fruit of Roman chemistry is the barometer, invented by Andreas Tzimplos of Sinope in 1635, who also argued that air had weight. Later, after learning of Manuskkathas’ Law, he took barometric readings at sea level and then had his friend, the archimandrite of the Sumela monastery, take readings at his monastery nestled in the cliffs 1200 meters up. The experiment proved that air pressure decreases with altitude.

    In large part due to lobbying from Manuskkathas and other scholars, one of the last acts of Demetrios III’s reign is a substantial change to Roman curriculum, largely unchanged since the Laskarid university structure fully formed out during the reign of Anna I Laskarina. Since those days, three hundred years past, Roman universities have offered degrees in law, philosophy (including basic scientific and historical components), medicine, mathematics (including engineering components), astronomy, and music. Philosophy is now broken up into history and natural philosophy (science), with natural philosophy later divided into the life sciences (the study of anything alive or once alive) and the earth sciences (the study of all non-life phenomena with the exception of astronomy). These of course are later subdivided more as various modern fields appear in their own right, but the march begins here.

    It is an age of discovery, and people living in that era, at least those educated with access to the new founts of knowledge (and it must be pointed out that that is a small fraction of all those alive), know it. Perhaps that is what gives the era its undeniable drive. There is a spirit of new knowledge, new worlds, new powers.

    Yet as people look forward, they also look back. As they seek to remake the world, they view earlier worlds for their templates. Theodor sought to create a new world, a new empire, under his banner, yet that empire was to be the Roman Empire of West and East of old restored. The great political projects of the age, Theodor’s march, the Raven King, the Gathering of the Rus, the War of Wrath, all repeatedly called back to earlier eras for their pathos and justification. Even the Triune drive on the Rhine with its recent precedents in the First and Second Rhine Wars still called up Charlemagne and the ancient Franks. Much was made out of the discovery of the Tomb of Childeric, the father of Clovis himself, in Tournai in 1637.

    It is not just in the Greater West that this is happening. On the other side of Asia, the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese call back to the days of Tang, Goguryeo, and the battle of Baekgang as they move their pieces on the chessboard of the world.

    Outside of the great hall in Vladimir where the Zemsky Sobor met in the days of an united Russia, and where the delegates meet for a new one to decide the future of the Russias, the Russian sculptor Nikita Minin unveiled a statue that for many symbolize the age, although it was meant to illustrate the task of the delegates meeting there. A blindfolded man is both stepping and reaching forward for something, but nobody knows what, perhaps not even himself. To his side is a woman, Clio, Muse of History, whispering in his ear, her words unknown save to the recipient.

    [1] A term that covers what would be considered the West IOTL, plus Rhomania, Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Ethiopia and sometimes the Ottoman Empire. ITTL when one describes the west, one is understood as referring to the ‘Latin’ West. The TTL additions are sometimes referred to as the ‘Near East’ by those in the Latin West.
    The House of Sideros in the late 1630s
  • @Namayan: I haven’t done anything to convert TTL rates into OTL modern GDP so I can’t say regarding that number. There is wide variation in the Empire; Smyrna has a far higher per capita GDP than a Kephalate on the eastern Anatolian frontier. I wouldn’t say Rhomania has the highest per capita GDP of all countries. A rich city-state like Lubeck is its own sovereign entity and its per capita GDP would be higher than Rhomania’s. I am planning a GDP course as you describe, but there will be the TTL Norway’s and Liechtenstein’s and the like that will take the top positions.

    @emperor joe: No, but it helps.

    @Evilprodigy: I agree.


    Books on the Shelves and in the Air: The House of Sideros in the late 1630s

    As of 1635, the Imperial Sideros family consists of the Emperor Demetrios III, the Empress Jahzara, Kaisar Odysseus and his wife Maria of Agra, and Kaisarissa Athena and her husband Alexandros Drakos. Odysseus and Maria have one son Herakleios (age 3 in 1635) and Athena and Alexandros have one daughter Sophia (age 3 in 1635). Herakleios and Sophia are to be married when they come of age; Demetrios is ignoring the consanguinity issues in the name of ‘gathering the bloodlines’, given the weight of dynastic claim carried by Alexandros Drakos. He wants that tied into the Imperial line to avoid any dynastic debates in the future.

    There are also Andreas III’s still living illegitimate children Theodoros of Nineveh (age 12 in 1635), Alexandros of Baghdad (age 11), and Nikephoros of Trebizond (age 7). The latter two are the sons of Maria of Agra and hence half-brothers to Herakleios.

    Demetrios has been unsure of what to do with the bastards. They’ve been raised and educated on a large estate on the outskirts of Chalcedon, the closest he’s willing to allow them near the seat of power. The one exception was the wedding of Odysseus and Maria in 1631.

    However after 1634 the Emperor is more relaxed. The Sideros dynasty has survived its trial by fire with prestige high after the battle of Thessaloniki, more than compensating for the Demetrian Truce in the east. (The Roman strategoi and the War Room are the big exception to Roman society in not disliking the Truce, recognizing the strategic significance of the territories kept in northern Mesopotamia.) Also Odysseus’ prestige in the army after the Twelve Days and his command of the Paramanoi in Hellas is running extremely high, overshadowing that of his brother-in-law now.

    Viewing them as less of a threat, Demetrios is willing for the bastards to come to Constantinople, although not to live in the White Palace. Theodoros starts to attend one of the elite secondary schools in the capital (for primary education all of the boys were tutored), one of the university-preparation schools whose graduates have included several Logothetes. With the boy expressing an interest in chemistry, Demetrios arranged for Theodoros to work as a lab assistant for Professor Manuskkathes, aiding in several of his major experiments on gases.

    Demetrios finds Theodoros the easiest of the bastards with which to deal. His interests in chemistry are not threatening politically and the fact that he is not a son of Maria of Agra helps as well. His daughter-in-law has been regularly lobbying for her sons by Andreas III to be allowed to stay in the White Palace so that she can see them more. Their move to Constantinople doesn’t help in this regard as their nearness makes the still remaining distance seem even more aggravating. To make it even more frustrating for Demetrios, Odysseus sides with his wife, both because of his deep love for her and love for Andreas III and therefore his children.

    While Odysseus still paints and draws regularly, his famous dinosaur paintings dating from this time, he has definitely become a soldier. The Paramonai participate in the campaign in Italy starting in the summer of 1635 and he is there commanding as a strategos. This is against the wishes of Demetrios III. The Kaisar’s presence raises eyebrows and concerns in both Lisbon and Marselha, making them wary of Roman plans.

    Relations with Spain are already tense, partly because of events in Java in 1634, which only grow after events in Germany and Italy in 1635. However when rumors that King Fernando was considering christening himself ‘Emperor of Hispania’ reach Constantinople, a Roman courtier remarks in the hearing of the Spanish ambassador that ‘The title of Emperor seems to be getting devalued nowadays’. The Spanish are not pleased by the insult; they are proud about finishing the Reconquista in victory and about their far-flung holdings across the surface of the world. Triune arrogance is irritating; Roman arrogance is no better.

    There is also the fact that while the Arletians consider the Rhine to be very important, for the Spanish Italy must take priority over Germany. It is far closer.

    However despite Demetrios’ concerns about the optics of having his only son and heir leading armies in Italy, Odysseus insists on going. He has developed quite the taste for the military lifestyle. Like his father he is a heavy reader. Aside from his ancient history like Arrian’s biography of Alexander, he also has Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, as well as a Greek translation of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese epic that is a recent addition to Roman bookshelves. Its tales of great warrior heroes appeals greatly to Odysseus who takes a shine particularly to and Zhao Yun and Guan Yu. His library also includes the complete collection of the old Acritic songs as finalized and compiled by a large literary effort during the Flowering. The pride of place in the collection of course goes to Digenes Akritas, the epic of the ‘Two-Blood Border Lord’.

    Considering his taste in reading, and that he is a young man of twenty two in 1635, it is hardly surprising that he prefers the smell of gunpowder to the sound of lecterns. Demetrios had wanted him to take some law courses at the University of Constantinople as training for administrative duties. But Odysseus insisted on following the way of the sword, not the pen, and eventually his father gave way.

    At Odysseus’ side is Iskandar the Younger, the youngest son of Iskandar the Great, sixteen years old in 1635. The relationship is sometimes said to be comparable to that of Andreas III and Odysseus, although this time Odysseus is the elder. Iskandar has no official status, but he is constantly at Odysseus’ side when he is scouting, hunting, or on inspection tour.

    The young Ottoman prince has been given the finest education Rhomania can offer, although he is still a practicing Muslim. If he were to become an Orthodox Christian, his value as an alternative Shah to Ibrahim would evaporate instantly. Still he has been heavily imbued with Roman culture, with many of the same books on his shelves as his friend Odysseus. However also on those shelves are heavily annotated copies of the works of Theodoros IV and also Demetrios III.

    Even though it is reported that Demetrios III once said “I can rule the Empire, or control Athena, but not both”, Athena actually gives him far less trouble in the late 1630s. Remaining in or near Constantinople after returning to Thessaloniki, her service there was recognized in the public bestowal of the honorific ‘Heroine of the Empire’ and she participated in the triumph that was staged in late 1634, which featured contingents from all over the Empire celebrating the victory at Thessaloniki.

    After that, she starts attending classes at the University of Constantinople. Like her brother she has been given a fine primary and secondary education, but unlike her brother has not taken any university courses. Odysseus had some, but his degree plans got thrown out of the window by the start of the Great Latin War.

    Women at Roman universities, while not unheard of, are still rather rare. Most of those are in the field of medicine, with the understanding that they’ll become doctors for female patients and issues. There has been a tradition for that going back as far as the mid-1000s. Of those remaining, music is the typical area of study with the odd one entering into mathematics. The latter are quite rare.

    What is unheard of though is a woman taking classes in law. Not even Theodora Komnena Drakina, acknowledged by all to be the wisest of the ‘Petticoat Triumvirate’, did so. Her advanced education was done via private tutors. It is proposed that Athena do the same. As a Kaisarissa, studying law does seem a reasonable pursuit, in contrast ‘to most women who have no need for a knowledge of the law’ as some argue. But even those who are most supportive of her education desires consider it unseemly for her to do so in such a public venue as a university lecture hall.

    Athena does not think much of those arguments. However acknowledging that female attire may prove distracting in a hall that is otherwise all male, she shows up to the first lecture in late 1635 dressed in male clothing and her hair cut short so that it only goes to the base of her neck. It is a look that would be recognizable to the denizens of Thessaloniki who saw her often in her uniform and that is the haircut she sported towards the end of the siege. But now she is in civilian attire (her commission had expired at the end of 1634) and aside from the special circumstances of the triumph, where her hair was longer anyway as she’d started growing it long again after the battle of Thessaloniki, Constantinople is not used to such a thing. Furthermore this isn’t like the women who pretended to be men to be soldiers. Athena may be in men’s clothing but no one would think she is a man.

    Athena had not shown up alone, being accompanied by a couple of bodyguards and her new private secretary, Alexeia Kukuritzia [1], one of those women who’d pretended to be a man to fight in the war. Athena and Alexeia had met during the siege of Thessaloniki when Athena saw through Alexeia’s disguise, Alexeia entering Athena’s service after the war when she found it difficult to return to her former life. Very well educated and written for her station, Alexeia became the Kaisarissa’s personal secretary.

    Having grown up as the daughter of a peasant, albeit a wealthy one, and then serving as a soldier, Alexeia is used to practical clothing. Since she is no longer a soldier, she cannot wear the uniform and it’d be unbecoming for a retainer for an Imperial family member to be wearing peasant clothing. Women’s clothing for the upper echelons of society are not the most practicable, and so Alexeia is also wearing men’s clothing, similar in style to that of Athena’s, although with less finery.

    The students in the hall see this as an absolute outrage and riot. So enraged they are at the image before them that they drive Athena and her retainers from the chamber with physical force, some students attacking her guards while others throw objects. A textbook hits Athena on the left cheek, bruising her, while a few others try to tear off her ‘wrong clothing’. Massively outnumbered, Athena and her retainers all get forced out with torn clothing and bruised skin.

    The students, caught up in the moment, cheer at having driven out that ‘unnatural and ungodly and foul sight’. It is not seemly for a woman to dress as a man or for a woman to study law and statecraft; those are the preserve of men.

    Then they realize that their professor has hightailed it out of there. He wants absolutely nothing to do with what will come next. As the students calm down from their fury, they remember exactly who the woman was that they’d just attacked. Perhaps if Athena had been more obviously ‘Imperial’ in appearance, they would’ve remembered before rather than after. But Athena had only a couple of retainers and her attire, while fine, had been more comparable to that worn by a low-level dynatos than a child of the Emperor. Regardless, before they can make their own getaways, the doors of the lecture hall crash open and in come a contingent of tzaousiosi, a bruised Athena accompanying their leader.

    Decidedly not turning the other cheek, Athena had gone to the nearest tzaousioi post and reported the ‘incident’ to the chief there, accompanying them back. She did that instead of returning to the White Palace, in which case it would’ve been Vigla smashing their way into the hall, and they would’ve done with loaded muskets and fixed ambrolars.

    The tzaousioi are armed, but mostly with clubs and whips, with many mounted. While mounted combat doesn’t usually work in an urban environment, mounted tzaousioi are much better at crowd control than those on foot. The students quickly surrender.

    Demetrios III suggests that as her first law assignment Athena determines the punishment for the students. However she replies that as a party involved in the ‘incident’, she cannot render a fair and unbiased judgment. Because the incident involved a member of the Imperial family, the case is taken up the Megas Kouaistor himself, but that doesn’t lessen the severity of the punishments. All those who laid hands on Athena herself forfeit their lives, as do all of those who did the same to her retainers. As her retainers were protecting her, an attack on them is considered an attack on her in the eyes of the law. Their heads end up on pikes in the Forum.

    Of those who did not lay hands, it is impossible to determine who exactly threw the various projectiles, but any student in that hall with a government scholarship forfeits said scholarship and has to reimburse the government for any moneys already received. As for the remainder, they are given the regular punishments for inciting and participating in a riot.

    Athena attends the next lecture with fading bruises and a fresh clean set of men’s clothing. If the students have any opinions regarding that, they keep said opinions to themselves. She ends up scoring 2nd out of 82 students.

    The Imperial family also starts growing again in this period. In 1636 Maria gives birth to a boy although he only lives fourteen months. However in 1639 she has another son who is named Demetrios after his grandfather, much to the irritation of history students.

    Athena is also spending more time with her husband as he is now stationed back in the capital. The result of that is a son, Ioannes, named after his paternal grandfather and born in 1637, and a daughter, Jahzara, born in 1640. Although Athena has two more children in the 1640s, neither of them live past their third birthday.

    The birth of the Imperial granddaughter Jahzara is also what truly marks the beginning of the use of that Ethiopian name for Roman baby girls, rather than the accession of Demetrios III. The younger Jahzara also marks another special occasion, as after negotiations with the Mexican ambassador it is agreed that she will marry the Prince of Texcoco, the title of the heir to the Mexican throne. He is named David, as is typical of the Mexican Imperial family, and is six years senior to Jahzara.

    She is to journey west to wed him in Texcoco once she turns fourteen, but a quartet of Mexican tutors are sent so that she will be familiar with her new homeland before she arrives. Emperor David III, delighted to establish such close contacts with the homeland of his family, takes the selection of the tutors very seriously. One is a Tarascan noblewoman, another a Tlaxcallan nobleman, the third a nobleman from Texcoco, and the fourth a noblewoman of conquistador descent. The four elite groups of the Empire of Mexico are thus all represented, although it must be pointed out that all four groups are by this point heavily intermarried; the Tarascan and Texcoco tutors are cousins.

    * * *

    The White Palace, Constantinople, March 22, 1636:

    Athena scratched a note in her notebook and then looked up at the sight in front of her. She was in the corner of the Cabinet room, which was dominated by a long table. At the head was her father, at the base facing him the Patriarch of Constantinople. At the Emperor’s right hand was the Megas Logothete and at his left was the Megas Domestikos. The other cabinet officials were arrayed further along the table on either side, seated in order of precedence. In the center of the table were several plates with pitchers of wine and carafes of kaffos, with platters bearing cheese slices, mini chicken monems, and bowls with chopped fruit. In the corner opposite Athena were a trio of empty wooden boxes that had originally contained White Tower pizzas. Demetrios preferred to have food with these meetings.

    Not that Athena minded. She loved pizza.

    “Alright, now on to Tuscany,” Demetrios said, shifting a piece of paper off to his side. “I want another option to Verrazano.”

    The Logothete of the Drome, Manuel Tzankares, cleared his throat. “Well, there’s Leonardo de’ Pazzi.”

    “Replacing one traitorous twit with another. Not an improvement.”

    “Francesco Rucellai? He can be trusted to keep his word.”

    “At long distances he’s been mistaken for a beached whale, and is slightly dumber. He’d have to be constantly propped up.”

    “How about Niccolo degli Albizzi?”

    “Well, he doesn’t break horses when he sits on them. But he’s also related to the Duke of Gandia which could cause problems down the line. So possible but not ideal.” The ‘Duke of Gandia’ was an Aragonese title, but the Kingdom of Aragon was ruled by a cadet branch of the Trastamaras and a vassal-in-all-but-name of Spain.

    “How about Galileo Galilei?” Athena suggested.

    “The pirate?” the Logothetes tou Genikou, Thomas Vatatzes, asked. The skinny pointy-nosed man, who’d helped Demetrios formulate his differential tax plan, speared a piece of cheese with a toothpick and ate it.

    “The pirate,” she repeated. Galileo Galilei was a member of a Florentine family that in Rhomania would’ve been either top-tier mesoi or bottom-tier dynatoi. But he’d made a name for himself at sea, privateering for whoever was interested in his services, and pirating when anyone was not. He was probably one of the most traveled people in the world, having been from Mexico to Japan the long way. His greatest coup had been seizing three Ottoman ships carrying pilgrims to Mecca shortly after the Roman withdrawal, including Iskandar the Great’s aged former nanny. The mighty Shah had paid 100,000 hyperpyra to free her, reportedly from the coin paid to ransom the future Andreas III. The party Galileo had thrown in the Ethiopian port of Zeila was still described with whispers of awe.

    “You look through his career,” she continued. “And he is consistently loyal to a contract. Any agreement made with him will be kept, provided we keep up our end as well.”

    “And make sure there’s no expiration,” Demetrios replied, but smiling a bit.

    “Definitely. But we already have contacts with him.” Galileo had returned to Tuscany and invested in land and businesses with his…earnings, but had been one of the most prolific Livorno smugglers during the war so far.

    “He’s a faithful Catholic,” the Patriarch mused. This was Jeremias II Tranos, who’d replaced Isidore III, the Patriarch who’d been the staunch ally of the Lady Elizabeth while Andreas III’s Empress, who’d died in 1631. As Hegoumenos of the Monastery of the Theotokos of Bessai on Mount Galesion, he’d drastically improved the monastery’s finances by imitating agricultural innovations pioneered at the Sweet Waters. The duck souvlaki they served to pilgrims were famous throughout the Empire now. Personally though the new Patriarch preferred to be the astronomer in his spare time.

    “But he has absolutely no loyalty to Pope Paul IV, not after that whole thing with Celeste.” That was the pen name of Galileo’s daughter, who’d done some impressive research on sunspots and then run afoul of the Inquisition. She’d gotten off with just an order to cease writing, largely thanks to the Archbishop of Siena who’d been subsidizing her research in the first place. But the whole affair had really irritated Celeste’s father.

    “Good,” Demetrios replied. “Manuel, what do you think?”

    “He’ll need some propping up in the beginning; he doesn’t have much of a powerbase in Firenze proper. But the Kaisarissa is right; he can be relied upon if we can make an agreement with him.”

    “Very well, please see if you can do so. And if Verrazano happens to fall off his horse one day and break something important, that would be nice too.”

    “I think I’ll get volunteers for that at the Livorno station.”

    “Not surprised.” The Emperor looked down at the page in front of him. “Well, gentlemen, I believe that is everything.” A pause. “Very well, this meeting is concluded. Father?”

    The Patriarch gave a closing prayer and the officials rose, gave their bows first to Demetrios and then a shallower one to Athena, and then left. Athena was about to get up herself when her father spoke. “Nicely done.”

    “Thank you, father.”

    “Inspired choice. I think he’ll do nicely.” A pause. “They’re also getting more used to you.”

    “I noticed that.”

    Another pause; Athena took a drink of wine. “Do you ever wish you’d been born a man?” Athena sputtered, some wine flying from her lips.

    She cleaned herself up and looked at him. “Did you time that question?” she asked suspiciously.

    “Well, yes, since you made it easy.” He smiled slyly, Athena returning it, but then her father gave out two rasping coughs that shook his whole body. He took a drink of wine himself but then raised an eyebrow at her.

    “Well, it would certainly make things easier. But…that also means whatever I accomplish is even more impressive because of the greater obstacles.”

    “Greater obstacles, yes,” he mused quietly. “You’re going to rule someday.”


    “Oh, Odysseus will succeed me as Emperor. He’ll reign. But you’ll rule.” He pointed at her. She opened her mouth, then clicked it shut. “You know I’m right.” She nodded. “You know Theodor is a cousin of ours, right?”

    “Of course.”

    “That means we share the same blood, and the same madness. Odysseus has dreams, big dreams. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Theodor shows what happens when dreams are taken too far. That’s where you come in, to keep the Empire grounded. It’s a great responsibility, but a necessary one.” A pause. “But you’ll do just fine.”

    “Are you, are you, speaking as a sorcerer when you say that last sentence?” Given the rumors of his curses, which far predated the fates of Casimir and Theodor, Demetrios III had a bit of a reputation for clairvoyance.

    “No, not a sorcerer. Speaking as your father.”

    [1] She was the subject of the ‘Heroine of the Empire’ special Patreon update.
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    Minorities and the Empire, Part 1
  • Minorities and the Empire, Part 1: The Language of Discourse, the Doctrine of Civilization-ism, and the Dynamics of Roman Europe

    In an age that likes to claim to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, many Romans like to proclaim mid-modern Rhomania as a harbinger of that, a beacon of respect for minorities in a hostile world.

    They are wrong. The Roman ‘minority system’ was not a precocious prequel to modern ideals of multiculturalism, but an effort to manage and control and utilize minorities in the Empire for the benefit of the Empire.

    Rhomania, both then and now, has been remarkably resistant to the modern ‘ideal’ of racism. Characteristically, it is viewed as a stupid Latin ideology that condemns people simply for cosmetic reasons, which is neither rational nor just. However, ‘such a belief is to be expected from a vain and shallow people such as Latins’.

    As that quote amply illustrates, Romans are no strangers to prejudice; they just view race as an invalid criterion. Roman prejudice against Latins is quite well known, but ‘Latin’ in Roman minds is a cultural-religious-political construct, not an ethnicity. Many prominent Romans are of Latin descent, as shown even by their family names such as Gylielmos which is derived from Guillaume. It is not hidden. However since such individuals and families are culturally and religiously and political Roman, the only thing Latin about them their genome, there are no barriers or prejudice against them in Roman society. That is true both now and in the mid-modern period. Helvetians were honored as heroes of the Empire just after the Great Latin War and nobody saw anything untoward in that.

    The Roman use of the term ‘Arab’ in common discourse is similar. It is a religious and cultural term, not an ethnic one. An Arab=Sunni in the Roman mind. An individual who is of Arab ethnicity but who follows Orthodoxy, such as an Anizzah, is not called an Arab but a Melkite.

    While in this system, all Arabs are Sunnis, not all Sunnis are Arabs. Arabs, in Roman eyes, have a connotation of being religious fanatics and country bumpkins. Considering the many achievements of Arabs throughout history, this is not a fair reputation and many Romans will distinguish between the ‘sophisticated Arabs of the Abbasids’ (which many consider to have been beneficially influenced by Roman and Sassanid civilization) and their ‘fallen descendants’. That isn’t much of an improvement, but Roman prejudice is under no obligation to be more rational or reasonable than the prejudices of other peoples.

    The Persians are a different matter. The history between Rhomania and Persia is a long and bloody one, but going back to the days of the Parthians the rivalry, however fierce, was viewed as that of equals. No one would ever think to call the Persians barbarians. So while the Persians of the 1600s are unquestionably Sunni, in Roman eyes they are sophisticated and intellectual. Iskandar the Great was a terrible foe, but no Roman would call him a brute. When Kaisar Andreas was summoned to the Shah on the field of Nineveh, the dialogue between the Kaisar and Prince Osman was consciously, on both sides, that of Alexander and Porus.

    A side effect of that is while all good Romans perceive Islam as a false faith, when Persians speak of Islam Romans give their faith more respect. Extremely cynical when it comes to holy warriors, many Romans suspect Arab Sunni Islam as a pious cloak for simple greed, invoking God as an excuse to rape and enslave their neighbors and loot their possessions. When Latin Catholics speak, save for the exception of Franciscan friars, Romans feel the same way.

    While Arab and Persian are used mainly as stereotypes, the Roman use of the word ‘Turk’ is much more nuanced. At this point there is much Turkish blood in the Roman body; Demetrios Megas, the founder of the Second Komnenid dynasty, was half-Turkish, and he is far from the only example. Yet Turkish raiders have also inflicted incalculable damage to the Empire over centuries, typically while espousing the ghazi ethos while doing so. It cannot be said that there is no prejudice when the term is used, but context is usually taken in consideration when used.

    The Roman contrast between what they perceive as Arab and Persian, and differing reactions to said labels, is an offshoot of civilization-ism. This is an ideology that values cultures and/or peoples by their perceived level of sophistication and development, with city-based societies with advanced political and social structures at the highest level, and hunter-gatherers on the bottom, with innumerable gradients.

    Civilization-ism does not care about skin color or any biological characteristics of the individual people, only about the society created by said people, although it will then make judgments about the peoples of said societies once they are graded. In this mindset, the dark skin of Ethiopians and Khoikhoi is irrelevant. But while the Ethiopians would be recognized as operating on the highest level of humanity, the Khoikhoi would be at the lowest.

    One could say this is a product of the differential taxation system of Demetrios III, which placed every person (who paid taxes) in various categories, some of which were ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ than each other. However in inchoate form this ideology has existed for generations prior to the Sideroi. David the Great, the conqueror of Mexico, strongly believed in this, clearly distinguishing in his writings between the city-dwellers of Mexico that he respected and the natives of the Caribbean who he despised as primitives.

    That said, civilization-ism is refined and developed as people discuss the idea in kaffos oikoi and universities throughout the Empire, especially as more information about the world is made available during the climax of the Historic-Romantic. Peoples around the world are studied and graded, with debates about classifications and qualifications, a continuation of the Roman desire to systematize knowledge of the world.

    Despite its growing widespread nature, there are some disputes, such as how much allowance should be made for geographical context and availability of resources. An isolated poor people would have a much harder chance of developing ‘high culture’. There is also debate about how people can ‘change their grade’, whether it’s something an individual can do or a process that really takes generations. More Romans fall towards the former view, although agreeing that individuals from certain societies may have more to travel than others.

    Historians debate over the origins of civilization-ism. Some say that it is a development of the tension between the farmer and the nomad, which caused so much trouble for Rhomania during the medieval era. Others say it is a product of Roman expansion into ‘Island Asia’, where they saw affluent port cities with developed economies and sophisticated polities and also headhunter cannibals, who to the Romans all physically looked the same. Perhaps it is a development of a culture that uses ‘two-book man’ (a man who only owns/reads two books) as an insult.

    One chilling purpose of civilization-ism is that it helps to dehumanize the Arabs of Syria and Palestine. Because of their reputation for provincial backwardness, the Arabs are considered ‘lower’ on the scale and therefore of ‘less value’, in contrast to Persians for example. Or even their non-Sunni neighbors, whose material culture isn’t much different, but they’re viewed as ‘higher’ and ‘more valuable’, far from the first time an ideology is exploited for political purposes.

    A longer-term effect of civilization-ism is rather subversive. Just as civilization-ism does not care about skin color, it is also not supposed to care about religion, although monotheist religion is often considered a mark of a sophisticated society. (But then the Chinese, which no Roman would consider below the highest level of civilization, don’t have a monotheistic religion, as some Romans argue.) That said, in 1635 religion is a pivotal marker of identity.

    The Aegean themes, the maritime lands, and the Chaldean theme are overwhelmingly Greek and Orthodox and thus match the ‘default’ state of Roman-ness. Belief in the Orthodox Christian faith and speaking the Greek language are the two main markers of Roman identity. Given their dominance of the Aegean themes, wherein dwell close to 3/4ths of the Imperial heartland’s population, it is unsurprising that Greeks make up the bulk of the Imperial heartland’s people, roughly 13 million out of 16.7 million in 1635.

    (In the context of discussing various peoples inside the Roman Empire, the term Greek is used. Sometimes Greek is used in a cultural/ethnic sense while Roman is a political identity, but a Greek speaker would identify themselves as a Roman if asked. So would an integrated Armenian or Melkite for that manner.)

    Rhomania has a great many minorities, but after the devastation of Syria and conversion of Egypt and Sicily into Despotates, their numbers can’t compare to the Greek majority.

    The Bulgarians, unsurprisingly, reside mainly in Bulgaria; those deported from Bulgaria to Anatolia have been absorbed into the Greek milieu. These are almost entirely poor peasantry living out in the countryside, with the towns of Bulgaria populated largely by Greek-speakers. There are a few exceptions such as Ruse, but Bulgarian town dwellers are also heavily absorbed into Greek culture. Greek is the language of politics, culture, and commerce.

    Most Bulgarians stay where they live, in common with most paroikoi across the Empire. As with those other paroikoi, their best chance for advancement is to join the army, which functions as a vehicle for Romanization. The language of the army is also Greek.

    There are some flickers though of Bulgarian culture. The priests of the countryside speak Bulgarian to their parishioners, with plain village churches adorned with simple but breathtaking icons painted by talented locals. There is also the Zograf Monastery on the Holy Mountain, which contains a fine library with many medieval Bulgarian texts.

    The Albanians are semi-Hellenized. While they speak their own language, their script uses Greek lettering. While Albanian peasantry only speak Albanian, those of the middle and especially upper classes also speak Greek for the same reasons Bulgarian town dwellers do so.

    There are also the Arvanites, those of Albanian descent who’ve settled in Greece over the last couple of centuries. Across the social spectrum they are bilingual in their own dialect of Albanian and in Greek. In certain areas of Hellas they make up the bulk of the population and are often well known for their skill in animal husbandry.

    Another common ethnic minority in Roman Europe is the Serbs. Many of these live around Novo Brdo, the region of Serbia conquered by Roman arms when the rest was overrun by the Hungarians. The silver mines are mostly dry now, but for reasons of prestige the White Palace is uninclined to relinquish it. Most other Serbs are scattered throughout Macedonia, having emigrated for work opportunities. Some Serb notables are absentee landlords of estates, which suits the Roman government. The estates still pay tax to Constantinople but provide a useful level for keeping the Serbian version of dynatoi in line.

    There are also Vlach and Russian immigrants who’ve moved to the region for the same reason Serbs did. Vlachs have a stereotype of being shepherds, working their herds across well-worn grazing pathways. The main reason for Vlachia’s relatively low population in 1635 is that the Hungarian-Polish invasion that ravaged Vlachia during the Time of Trouble drove many Vlachs south of the Danube, a flow encouraged by Helena I with great benefit to Rhomania.

    There are also some Latin elements, primarily in Attica and the Morea. Some are the remnants from the Crusader states, descendants of Latins who entered Roman service during or after the Laskarid re-conquest. Others are descended from Italian traders, principally the Genoese of Modon (Methoni) and Coron (Koroni), which were only absorbed back into Rhomania by Andreas I on the eve of the Tenth Crusade.

    A key item to note about all the western minorities is that they follow the Orthodox faith. Only the Latins were not already Orthodox, and those living in Rhomania have long since converted to Orthodoxy. As such, in the eyes of the White Palace they do not really count as minorities. Those who speak Greek fluently without a foreign-sounding accent face no bar to advancement.

    It is a far more complicated affair as one crosses into Asia.
    Minorities and the Empire, Part 2
  • @ImperatorAlexander: Makes sense. Doing the rewrite is something I want to do, but there is the hurdle that it’d require a lot more research than the TL currently does since I’d be working with historical figures that actually existed, being back near the POD.

    @emperor joe: Yeah, that’s not happening. I don’t know nearly enough about OTL Greek to be able to speculate on what changes it might undergo ITTL.

    @TheWanderingReader: Doing a rewrite has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite a while now. The start of the TL is really not good. And I have significantly more knowledge of and resources about that material; my library has grown a lot since 2011.


    Minorities and the Empire, Part 2: Anatolia, Syria, and the Noble Heresies

    One factor simplifying the cultural/religious landscape of Anatolia by 1635 is the large-scale disappearance of Islam from the region. Although not facing any active persecution since the Time of Troubles, Anatolian Muslims have gradually drifted away from their faith. Surrounded by Greek Orthodox and eager for advancement, there were many worldly reasons for conversion. These incentives were given an extra boost as the Eternal War with Iskandar heated up and the Sunnis of Syria-Palestine revolted yet again. Although Constantinople had not actively pushed for this, this result is most pleasing in the halls of power.

    In eastern Anatolia there are still some practicing Muslims in Roman lands but they are dwindling as well. Yet more ghazi raids during the Eternal War that, as usual, looted and murdered indiscriminately as soon as they crossed the frontier of the Christian Empire had soured the local Muslims. Having Shah Iskandar as the protector of the Holy Cities of Islam made things even more awkward for them. The lure of societal advancement beckoned for them as it did for their co-religionists further west and, between the various push and pull factors, most Muslims of eastern Anatolia have converted by 1635 with the few holdouts largely disappearing by 1660 at the latest.

    The Orthodox Christianity to which they convert is a looser folk version of that practiced in the capital. Out here on the borderlands, Christians and Muslims had shared holy sites, venerating local holy men revered for their miracles and charity, less concerned about doctrinal purity. So for Muslims, conversion is not as big of a change as it would appear. There are a few Muslim elements that the converts carry over, such as the insistence on a tax on the faithful for charity and that all believers should go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

    By this stage there is no coherent Turkish group in Anatolia, but there is an extremely large amount of Turkish DNA in modern genetic samples of Anatolian populations. The Turkish population has either intermarried or completely Romanized. The traffic is not entirely one-way. Even in a mechanized age the light cavalry equivalents of the Roman army are still known as Turkopouloi. Throughout Anatolia in the 1600s one can see asikoi, a Greek version of the Turkish ashik, telling tales of mighty heroes and romantic escapades. Though not as common nowadays, they are still present in the Empire.

    The Kurds then and now are a distinct group, congregated on the eastern reaches of the Empire. Overall they have not been particularly loyal to the Empire, but not disloyal either, preferring the rule of the Basileus to that of the Shahanshah, but not excited about it either. They have sometimes been called the ‘Albanians of the East’. They have their own language and script, which flourishes locally under the brushes and pens of local artists and writers, but there are many Kurds who speak Greek fluently. The most Hellenized are those who serve in the army or who are of the middle and upper classes, involved in wider commerce and culture.

    A key difference between the Kurds and Albanians is that while nearly all Albanians live under the writ of Constantinople, many Kurds do not or only do so because they live in the northern Mesopotamian lands conquered by Amirales. Those recently conquered or those Kurds living outside the Empire have absolutely no reason to be sympathetic to the ruler on the Bosporus.

    Just like in Roman Europe, there are Russian and Vlach elements in the population, some having been absorbed into the general cultural milieu and others retaining aspects of their original culture. There are also many Georgians living in eastern Anatolia, some of whom are permanent emigrants potentially sending earnings to their families back home, while others spend a few years working in the Empire and then return home with their earnings. The Roman government encourages this, recognizing the usefulness of migrant labor where local resources are not up to the task. By authorizing and organizing this labor (there is a Serb & Vlach equivalent in Europe) the Empire gains additional labor in times of high demand, and their earnings can and are taxed.

    In the mountains of eastern Anatolia there is also a Helvetian population, the name of the descendants of various Swiss and south Germans that were settled there during the Flowering to rebuild the area. The Helvetian language, which is a Germanic language that is the product of the merging of the various settlers’ dialects, is still spoken today. In the 1630s, the language of the Helvetians was much closer to that of the dialects of their homelands, which made the Helvetians very useful in covert operations. However by 1640, most Helvetians of the younger generations had converted to Greek Orthodoxy and could also speak Greek fluently, removing most of the stigma against their Latin ancestry.

    Most of the minorities discussed so far are ethnic minorities, but these are again mostly Orthodox, even the Kurds of the pre-war borders, by the 1640s. As such they don’t really count as minorities by the Roman government. The Armenians are a different matter.

    As far as minorities go in the Roman heartland, the elephant in the room is the Armenians. While projected numbers vary widely, it is estimated that a little over a million inhabitants of the Empire are Armenians. Although far smaller than the Greek portion of the population, by Roman minority standards the Armenian portion is massive.

    This is an extremely important fact. Roman legislation regarding minorities was written solely with the Armenians in mind, with latter groups following the same model but never approaching the importance of the original. Said Roman minority legislation continues because the Roman government, since the days of the Anatolian re-conquest, recognizes the fundamental importance of keeping the Armenians on board the Roman project.

    Armenians make up a disproportionate portion of Rhomania’s cultural, economic, political, and military elites. Many Greeks are of Armenian descent, their ancestors having fully Hellenized and thus considered to be fully Roman. One significant example, who is a bit unusual for still having an Armenian rather than Greek name, is the famous astronomer Krikor Zakari.

    Those Armenians don’t count as ‘Armenians’ in the eyes of the Roman government; that distinction goes to those Armenians who follow the Armenian Church. It was for the Armenian Church that the category of ‘noble heresy’ was created. What ‘noble heresy’ means is that while the Armenians are viewed as heretics by the Orthodox (that opinion is mutual), they should not be persecuted for their faith, unlike, say, Catholics.

    Lay Armenian parishioners have to pay slightly higher taxes, on the order of 10-15% more on the base, than their Orthodox neighbors. However the Armenian Church and its properties and personnel benefit from the lower tax rates levied on church resources, although again with the tax raise on the base. Significant exceptions are the Armenian Catholicoi, those of Etchmiadzin (the highest), Aghtamar, and Cilicia (based in Sis). The first and last have complete tax exemptions on their direct holdings, while Aghtamar has to pay for the upkeep of a galley on Lake Van as part of border defense. Considering most of the Catholicos’ holdings are on the shores or islands of Lake Van, the tax here is of direct benefit.

    There are restrictions though; it may be ‘noble’ but it is also a ‘heresy’. There are taxes for repairing and building churches, as well as size limitations in relation to Orthodox churches that must be followed. (Certain historic churches are exempted from these requirements.) Proselytizing is prohibited, although authorities typically don’t bat an eye if a ‘heretic’ or ‘infidel’ joins the Armenian Church. If the convert was an Orthodox though, heads can roll. But the White Palace’s desire is to interfere with the Armenian Church as little as possible, to the point that an overly confrontational Orthodox cleric finds themselves spending an early retirement in one of the less comfortable Tauric or Danube delta monasteries.

    Armenians are spread out across the eastern reaches of the Empire, but their main focus is on the rich Cilician plain, one of the most prosperous regions of the Empire. By 1650, adult male literacy there is around 70% and female 50%, a record outside of Puritan towns. They write and speak Armenian with regional dialects and like the Kurds have a vibrant culture with their own writers and artists. Many of their cultural creations are translated into Greek and enjoyed by Greeks.

    Most Cilician Armenians are bilingual in Cilician Armenian and Greek as the prosperous Armenians are heavily involved in wider culture and commerce. While being of the Armenian Church limits one’s career prospects to the local level, an Armenian Church follower who speaks Greek can rise higher than one without fluency in Greek.

    As one passes through the Syrian Gates from Cilicia into Roman Syria, the ethnic/cultural landscape grows even more complicated. The Antioch-Aleppo region and most of the coastal cities, particularly the larger ones such as Tripoli, Tyre, and Acre are majority Greek Orthodox. Most of the coastal Greeks south of Alexandretta are descendants of inhabitants of western Anatolia that Helena I transferred early in her reign to populate the devastated area.

    The Anizzah, Owais, and Haddad, the nomadic tribes that watch the Empire’s frontier, are the most well-known of the Melkites. Remaining Melkites dwell in the coastal cities and in some of the larger interior cities. Damascus and Arra were populated mostly by Melkites during the Great Latin War. In the countryside of the interior Melkites were practically nonexistent.

    Melkites aren’t a separate group by Roman standards but Roman Syria has many of those groups. The biggest are the Maronites, Alawites, Druze, Shia, and Syriacs, the latter being what the Romans call those following the Syriac Orthodox Church. All of these are considered in Roman legislation as ‘noble heresies’, although several aren’t heresies, being various Islamic sects.

    All of these groups are much smaller than the Armenians, but follow a similar model to the Armenian Church. The laity pay somewhat higher taxes with religious properties and persons getting some reduced rates. Again there are restrictions on the construction of new religious sites and bequests, and bans on proselytization. Unlike the Armenian minority, these Syrian minorities provide militias to secure their tolerated status although those serving in the militias do not have to pay the higher tax rate, only the base rate.

    These setups are of much more recent origin than the Armenian status, dating from the Great Uprising and Eternal War. Those militias, which also provided a necessary service in protecting these groups from the Sunni majority, gave good service to the Romans both then and in the Great Latin War.

    Of these groups the Maronites rank highest in Roman eyes, followed by Druzes, as they produce the best militias. The excellent and valorous service of the Maronite militias has dispelled a residual undercurrent of Roman mistrust for them. During the Crusade era, the Maronites were affiliated with the Catholic Church, a connection the Romans forced them to break when Lebanon was conquered by Roman arms. The Maronites resented that, unsurprisingly considering it was forced at the barrel of a gun, and maintained under-the-table connections for a time. But gradually those dwindled away, particularly after the Roman Papacy had to relocate to Mainz, and by 1635 those are distant and unlamented memories.

    Prior to the Great Latin War, the majority of Roman Syria’s population was Sunni Muslim, and if one included the lands controlled by Ibrahim during the Demetrian Truce, that would still be the case after the war. Heavily repressed, with strictures that grew ever tighter after each failed revolt bloodily put down, the Sunnis have often taken out their frustration on the minority groups nearby in each new rebellion who then retaliate, an escalating cycle of hatred. Much of the bloodshed in Syria during the Great Latin War came from this aspect of the conflict, usually brushed over in general military histories. It also means that many in the Syrian minorities wholeheartedly supported the mass slaving and killing expeditions unleashed by Roman arms on interior Syria.

    There are also Jewish communities scattered throughout the Empire, mainly in the larger cities but also in many towns in Hellas. The Jews are legislatively in a category all their own, paying higher taxes than noble heresies and with tighter restriction on religious properties and bequests, but exempt from conscription.

    While the White Palace certainly won’t discourage converts to Orthodoxy from these tolerated minorities-after all that is where most Melkites originate-there isn’t an official effort to gain converts from these populations. With the Ottoman Empire on the other side of the frontier, destabilizing the eastern frontier is generally considered a really bad idea on the part of Roman administrators. The minorities provide useful services and in return are left alone. For large-scale conversion efforts, one must go further to the east.
    Minorities and the Empire, Part 3
  • Minorities and the Empire, Part 3: Ordering the East

    When the first Pepper fleets arrived in India from newly-conquered Roman Egypt, fairly good relations with the native Hindus and with the Buddhists of Taprobane were established. It was a far different manner with the local Thomasine Christians. They were called Nestorians by the Orthodox, practitioners of a heresy far fouler in their eyes than anything the Catholics had done. At the beginning it did not matter much. Most Nestorians the Romans encountered were Kashmiri merchants, and as foreign traders their religion didn’t matter to the Romans, only their wares.

    That changed in 1583 when after the Treaty of Kozhikode between the Roman and Vijayanagari Empires, the Romans lost all their trading quarters in Vijayanagar but were granted the city of Alappuzha as a Roman holding outright. The city had been captured during the war by a Roman fleet.

    The Roman holding, which became a Kephalate under the Katepano of Taprobane, extended slightly beyond the city to include some nearby villages in a narrow coastal strip. The area contained a substantial minority of Thomasine Christians, the first extensive body of these believers to come under Roman rule. There were some who wanted to expel the lot; that was what had been done with the handful the Romans found in Surat. However the need to ensure the viability of this tiny toehold in southern India, surrounded by a decidedly lukewarm Vijayanagar, meant such inclinations were not followed. The Thomasines were forced to live outside the city defenses but allowed to stay in the villages.

    The Thomasine Christians played a crucial role in the economy of Alappuzha, working in artisanal industries and providing valuable contacts for Indian merchants in the interior. Many were hired as local agents for Roman Ship Lords to procure goods for export to either Rhomania or Island Asia. (Indian cotton textiles are a valuable commodity there.) While still barred from spending the night in Alappuzha itself, they were treated effectively as a noble heresy, without any official status.

    In the Roman heartland, such a thing would not be possible. But Rhomania-in-the-East is decidedly looser with the rules, not because of any greater enlightenment on the part of Romans in the east, but simply out of pragmatism.

    How long that situation may have continued if left alone no one can say, but the Demetrian Truce radically changes the situation. The population of the northern Mesopotamian territories captured by Amirales has a respectable minority of Assyrian Christians, also labeled as Nestorians by the Romans. And the frontier with Persia is a region that the White Palace certainly cannot ignore.

    The Assyrian Christian population of Mesopotamia is a shadow of what it was in centuries past, before Timur had come and massacred them by the thousands. Numbers-wise they are quite small but their strategic position gives them prominence far above mere demographics would suggest.

    The initial Roman instinct is again to expel the lot, but as in Alappuzha pragmatism wins out. This is to be the staging ground for when the war resumes and turning the region into a depopulated waste hardly helps in that regard. But here the fuzzy gray area in which the Thomasines of Alappuzha reside is not an option; Roman bureaucracy wants things to be tidier then how they’re operated in the east.

    However putting Nestorians on the ‘noble heresy’ list is too much for the Romans and the Orthodox Church is adamantly against the idea. It would be far more preferable if the Nestorians would, to be blunt, stop being Nestorians. There have been a few conversions to Orthodoxy in Alappuzha, but nothing to suggest a wave of converts is in the offing.

    The result of this Roman preference is the twin Synods of Amida and Alappuzha in 1638, which although distant geographically are extremely similar in content and aim. There are meetings between Orthodox clergy and Assyrian/Thomasine priests and bishops, although the fact that both synods are held in Roman cities is quite telling. The well-read Assyrian Bishop of Mosul complains that the Romans treat him as the Catholics would treat the Orthodox Romans in discussions regarding church union during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

    He has a point, although Orthodox Christians to this day deny it. The negotiations are extremely one-sided. While the Assyrian/Thomasine Christians will continue to worship God in their own language, many parts of their liturgy that contain Nestorian theology are stripped away and a long list of their religious texts are condemned as heretical. Not only texts that postulate Nestorian theology are banned; others whose ‘crime’ is to condemn historical Orthodox figures, usually for opposing Nestorianism, are also proscribed.

    The new Assyrian and Thomasine Orthodox Churches created are in communion with the Roman Orthodox Church but are autocephalous. The Romans had not wished to concede this but were forced to do so by the Assyrian/Thomasines, who used the Japanese Orthodox Church as a precedent. Having given ground in so many other areas, they cling to this concession all the more ferociously to the point that without the Romans compromising here, the Synods would’ve failed. The Metropolitans who head the two churches are supposed to be approved by the Patriarch of Antioch, who would’ve been their head if the churches were not autocephalous, but this soon becomes ceremonial.

    Many Assyrian and Thomasine Christians go along with the Synods, possibly for rather worldly reasons. While they lack proficiency in Greek, a serious handicap if any ambitious Assyrian/Thomasine wishes to rise above the provincial level, their Orthodox status grants them preferential treatment on the local level. They are taxed on the regular rate with no surcharges and have opportunities for government scholarships at university. (While non-Orthodox may study at Roman universities, they cannot receive government scholarships. This has been a rather effective tool in encouraging ambitious young men to convert.)

    However many do not, wanting to remain true to the faith of their forefathers, regardless of Roman pressure that often escalates into threats and more. The Assyrians are given a grace period of three years to decide if they wish to join the Assyrian Orthodox Church; those who do not will be expelled at the expiration of that window. As for the Thomasines, the laxer ways of the East protect them. The Thomasine Orthodox may reside in Alappuzha, but those who do not convert continue their lives and work out in the villages.

    Northern Mesopotamia is in serious flux and it is quite clear to everyone, including the Ottomans, the Romans intend to stay. The nomadic tribes of the area are Turkish, the stock from which the ghazis that have raided eastern Anatolia since they moved to Mesopotamia over three centuries past have sprung. During previous Roman occupations, such as during the Eternal War, the tribes typically retreated to the badlands while harassing and waiting the Romans out.

    However now the Romans are not busy facing down Ottoman field armies and can concentrate efforts on the tribes. The Roman reaction to them is simple: Leave or die. The latter half of the 1630s is filled with a military effort to crush the tribes. Captives are deliberately dispersed, often being sold into slavery, with children usually being taken away to be raised by Orthodox families. Romans who decry this practice, pointing out the similarity to hated Catholic proposals vis-à-vis Orthodox children, are loudly condemned. The empty tribal lands are given to the Anizzah, who played a large part in this vicious little war.

    With the settled peoples the Romans are subtler. For the Sunnis, a list of restriction and requirements is distributed through the land. If they are willing to accept the list, then they may stay. If not, they have 1 year to leave without paying any export dues on what they take with them. The list is a harsh one, with substantial tax surcharges, tight restrictions on the construction and upkeep of religious buildings and of religious bequests. There are other social restrictions, such as types of clothing and colors they are not allowed to wear.

    The inspiration for many of these come from the Nullification Acts issued by Alexeia I prior to the Time of Troubles. The purpose of these petty insults is to encourage the Sunnis to leave voluntarily, and many take the hint and leave. They migrate to central Mesopotamia where Ibrahim settles them in areas devastated by Philanthropenos’ raid, while others find work on the Mosul fortifications, where they are inspired laborers.

    However the Romans don’t want all of the Sunnis to leave. Kurdish Orthodox military officers and priests circulate amongst the Kurds of the region, distributing a Kurdish version of the list that is decidedly less onerous. There are still tax surcharges and restrictions on religious foundations and bequests, but not quite as tight, and all the ‘petty insult’ aspects are dropped. So while some Kurdish Sunnis still emigrate, the proportions are smaller. Some Kurds, with the example of their northern Orthodox brethren, elect to convert to Orthodoxy for the same reasons as their northern brethren had.

    The edicts were designed to ‘fix’ the ‘Sunni problem’ but the Romans hoped for some conversions. Taking a cue from the Remainers of Egypt, they presented financial inducements in the form of offering converts a cut of their neighbor’s property if they emigrated. Some take up this offer, but here in Northern Mesopotamia hatred of the Romans is high, a centuries-old tradition. Just as the Romans have developed an identity based on not being Latin, many of those dwelling in Mesopotamia have developed an identity based on not being Roman. Thus it is estimated that about half of the population in the Ottoman territories controlled by the Romans during the Demetrian Truce end up leaving during that period, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

    Some of the empty lands are given to new converts, on condition they subsidize priests brought in to educate them in their new faith. The remainder are split up between some Bithynian and Pontic Greek settlers and displaced Syrian loyalists, a mix of Melkites and the noble heresy groups.

    Despite the laxer treatment of the Thomasine loyalists compared to the Assyrian loyalists in the East, in recent decades as Roman officialdom grows more powerful vis-à-vis the Ship Lords there is some tightening of the rules. The Roman desire for information about the East is followed and matched by a desire to categorize everything, including the people. However the Katepanoi, the Viceroys of Rhomania, recognize the need for pragmatism and treating the locals well.

    There is a religious hierarchy in the Roman territories. Orthodox Christians are the highest on the list, followed by Buddhists and then Hindus. Being fluent in Greek boosts one’s status, regardless of religion. Both Buddhists and Hindus are effectively ‘noble heresies’ in the way they are treated, but the strictures on them are lighter than those imposed in the Imperial heartland. Religious bequests face no limitations provided a levy, based on a percentage of the bequest’s value, is paid to the Romans. They can also rise much higher in Roman ranks than a ‘noble heretic’ could in the heartland, although the real factor behind that is the recognition that heartland Roman human resources are limited and heavily outnumbered by the Easterners.

    Race is viewed as irrelevant; religion and language are the criteria that matter. As a result there are many eastern peoples of high status in the Roman administration and army, although the Kephale & Tourmarch level is a glass ceiling for non-Orthodox. The principal effect of stronger Roman administration is that the categories are enforced; there is no more of the ‘Orthodox-in-public but Buddhist-in-private’ that was a feature of many of the earlier Easterners who served in Roman administration.

    There are a growing number of Orthodox Easterners, principally in the Katepanate of Pahang. At this stage, the richer one is, the more likely one is to be Orthodox as the same cultural and economic and social pulls present in eastern Anatolia operate here as well. While learning Greek is still necessary to remove all social barriers, to encourage conversions the Orthodox Church sponsors substantial translation works. Once the Bible and certain liturgical works have been translated into an eastern language, it is authorized for Christian worship and natives worship in their own language.

    Many of these are Digenoi, the offspring of mixed Roman-Easterner marriages, which is encouraged by the Roman government. There is no half-breed stigma against these individuals, who are valued for their skills and loyalty to the Empire. The most prestigious are the Malay-Roman Digenoi, mirroring the Malays themselves, where Orthodox conversion is at its highest. Malay and Malay Digenoi rise high in Roman service, particularly in the military, renowned for their valor.

    Over the past few decades, Roman control of larger swathes of territory has grown in Malaysia and in the Herakleian Islands. Much of this control, particularly when is more than a day’s journey from the coast, is loose, the territory and people controlled by local chiefs or rulers bound by terms of vassalage to a certain Katepanate. (Despite being part of the Empire since the reign of Nikephoros IV “the Spider”, the interior of Taprobane operates on a similar model)

    These vassals have to maintain a Roman advisor. Ideally the advisor is to stay out of the vassal’s way unless Romans or Roman interests are involved, but some are inevitably busybodies who like to interfere. The vassal has the right to appeal to the Kephale whose territory envelopes the vassal state’s, but such appeals go much better for the vassal if they’re higher up the religious-linguistic hierarchy in place. Many local notables send their sons to the various Katepanate capitals for a Roman-style education for this reason.

    The Taprobani, the Malays, and the Herakleians are the main Easterners that live under Roman dominion, but there is also a sizeable Wu Chinese population in Singapura who are responsible for putting that city on the map. Many have converted to Orthodox Christianity but still maintain some Chinese customs. Festivals are still celebrated, just with Christian iconography added, and while ancestors aren’t worshipped, they are venerated and prayers for their souls prayed at shrines that commemorate their forefathers.

    There are also some Japanese communities. Some are merchants from Japan who trade in Pyrgos and New Constantinople, while others are ronin for hire. Many of those ronin are samurai who cannot stand serving under the Orthodox Shimazu after their murder of the Imperial line, but are quite willing to take the coin of the Orthodox Romans.

    In addition there are Zeng Chinese, some expatriates and others merchants. The Zeng are a crucial pillar of Pyrgos’ economy. Aside from the trade with mainland China that they oversee, they also provide many important services. Eighty five percent of laundries in Pyrgos in 1640 are owned and operated by Zeng Chinese for example. Because of the power and wealth of the Heavenly Kingdom, the Zeng are not discriminated against. They must pay taxes, of course, but at a rate 10% higher than those paid by Greek Orthodox.

    By the doctrine of civilization-ism, the Chinese are ranked very highly. The expansion of trade with China and some diplomatic missions in the 1620s help to warm Roman-Chinese relations somewhat. However they are still fraught at times. The Chinese view the Romans as barbarians, and the Romans know and resent this. There are also the issues regarding Korea as well, which hardly help matters. Yet at the same time the Chinese want the pepper of Island Asia and the silver of Mexico while the Romans want the porcelain and silk of China, so both sides make do.

    These communities of peoples living in Rhomania-in-the-East whose origins lie outside Roman domains are there voluntarily, following economic opportunities. Far to the west in the Caribbean, the story is vastly different.
    Minorities and the Empire, Part 4
  • @ImperatorAlexander: Again, keeping in mind that this is all speculative at this stage, but I’m thinking a First Opium War level tech disparity at most. So it’d be wooden junks against wooden steamers, at the most extreme. Plus on the rivers and at key coastal sites the Chinese could be backed by riverine/coastal fortifications which would do a lot to even the odds. It would hurt China, but China isn’t the kind of country that can be brought down by naval action alone.

    Another point to add is that the Europeans would be wanting to trade with China after the war, and killing all the Chinese is counterproductive to that. Dead men can’t buy things.

    @Frame: It depends on the colony. Looking at North Terranova, Newtown and Shechem are both predominately English-speaking. The proprietary colonies further south, Carolina, Alexandria, and Maryland, are predominately French. Although there are minority speakers in all of the colonies to some extent.

    * * *

    Minorities and the Empire, Part 4: Slavery, Rhomania-in-the-West, and the Limits of Roman Tolerance

    Rhomania is no stranger to slaves or slavery. Although it is no longer a slave society like classical Rome, slaves have been ever-present in some capacity or the other. By 1635, most Roman slaves in the past few centuries have worked on the Cyprus or Crete sugar plantations, but always with a minority working in Roman mines and another larger minority working as house slaves in the abodes of the dynatoi. (There is also slavery in Rhomania-in-the-East, but those follow native practices of slavery.)

    These slaves are almost entirely Sudanese, the generic Roman term for sub-Saharan Africans that are not Ethiopians. (The Kongolese, despite their extensive contact with Ethiopia, exist on the far periphery of the Roman horizon in 1635.) They are a major Ethiopian export to the Empire, a common sight at Marienburg am Nil as while being transported to Alexandria they are used to haul barges of goods incapable of locomotion from Suez to Marienburg am Nil along the Pharaoh’s Canal.

    Slavery is very important to the Ethiopian economy. Aside from the income of selling slaves to the Romans, Ethiopian kaffos plantations use a mix of slave and tenant sharecropper labor. And kaffos is in huge demand in Rhomania. The Great Latin War helps to spike this demand as soldiers and government contractors that were previously unable to acquire the beverage now are able to do so through rations or perks for early deliveries of material. After the war they want more and Ethiopia is happy to provide.

    Some brands of kaffos still treasured in the Empire today can trace their descent to this time period. At the high end is Royal Ethiopian, still considered the premier kaffos for close to four centuries. Other famous brands are ‘Axum Gate’ and ‘Istifanos’, the latter named after the famous Ethiopian monastery which owned the field producing the kaffos beans. On the other end of the scale is ‘Original Cypriot’, which today in Rhomania is the low-quality stuff sold to tourists for more than it is worth. Its name purportedly references the initial attempts to grow kaffos on Cyprus; Demetrios III described the result by saying ‘if Vauban had possessed this, he could’ve taken Thessaloniki by melting the walls with the liquid’.

    The Ethiopians procure their slaves from the interior of Africa, sometimes by trading and sometimes by raiding. As a result most Ethiopian and Roman slaves are pagan.

    Roman plantation slavery is brutal, back-breaking, and often hazardous work. It isn’t on the murderous scale of Caribbean plantations, but that is not an accomplishment either impressive or laudable. It is still heartbreakingly cruel and dehumanizing.

    However a key difference is that once a slave earns their freedom, provided that they’ve converted to Christianity and can speak Greek fluently, there is no color bar. The idea that black=slave, as what arises across the Atlantic, never forms in Rhomania. Continual contact with the Ethiopian Empire, which while not on the level of the Ottomans or the Triunes is still a powerful civilized state, puts the lie to any idea that black-skinned peoples are inferior solely because of said black skin. When Romans look down on certain African peoples, and they do, it is on the basis of civilization-ism, not skin color.

    Many slaves, after becoming free, remain in the sugar business, working as overseers. A few families descended from freedmen eventually become plantation and slave-owners themselves. Others settle down as artisans with a trade; one charitable initiative is to fund schools to teach freedmen a trade. In Antioch they become stereotyped as carpenters, making fine kaffos tables and chairs.

    By 1635 the Roman sugar industry, a powerhouse two centuries ago, is on its last legs, beaten down by the Atlantic islands and then the Caribbean and Brazil. Roman demand for sugar is at an all-time high, often for use in chocolate and kaffos, but the Latin sugar is of better quality and produced in far higher quantities, the sheer supply driving down the price to make it cheaper than Roman sugar despite the greater shipping costs.

    At the same time there is a small but growing current in Roman thought that argues for the abolition of slavery. (An important caveat is that no one sees a problem with using penal or prisoner-of-war labor, and while they are not used on plantations their conditions oftentimes approach that of slaves.) Admittedly the timing is rather convenient as the movement grows as plantation slavery declines due to economics; nobody was protesting plantation slavery when sugar exports were a major part of Roman trade.

    Those who argue against slavery are a mix of secular intellectuals and religious leaders. The religious leaders, like the Hegumen of the Monastery of St. Konstantinos, are concerned about proselytization. The Orthodoxy of some of the Sudanese freedmen is questionable and they believe that if an association forms of Orthodoxy as the religion of the slave driver, this will make it significantly harder to convert Sudanese in the future.

    There are others who think similarly but do not want to impose any sort of legal ban. Plantation slavery is on its way out already in Cyprus and Crete; let it die naturally. But they are concerned that a slavery ban would anger the Ethiopians who provide the slaves for the Roman market. As plantation demands wane, the Ethiopians have been keeping their captives instead to expand Ethiopian kaffos plantations. But there’s still the ‘house slave’ market, which has grown slightly as a share of the Roman slave market in the past 30 years.

    One proposal is that the Roman government directly purchase an agreed number of slaves from Ethiopia every year, the slaves to be given plots of land to work, paying rent on their produce. Part of the rent would go to pay for priests to teach them Orthodoxy and the Greek language. These ‘state slaves’, who would resemble involuntary tenant farmers more than anything else, could be used to repopulate devastated districts. They’re also viewed as a source of military manpower; Sudanese and Sudanese-descent individuals have given valuable military service to Rhomania as far back as the Smyrna War. Demetrios III likes the idea although nothing comes of it during his reign. (The idea may have come from the new contacts with Mexico; Texcoco has undertaken this program, albeit on a small scale, to repopulate districts where the native Terranovans have been devastated by disease.)

    The establishment of Rhomania-in-the-West radically alters the relationship with Rhomania and the institution of slavery.

    There had never been any questions in the White Palace regarding the use of slavery in the new Caribbean territories; the plantations of Crete and Cyprus had used them, and there seemed no reason to change. However it had been planned to follow the Roman-style of plantation slavery as practiced in the Eastern Mediterranean, not the new Caribbean/Brazilian model. That plan died very quickly.

    The early history of the islands of St Giorgios and St David (the latter was claimed in 1633 but no settlers were landed until 1639) is difficult, although nothing out of the ordinary for Caribbean islands. Tropical diseases, including a strain of malaria from Hellas, ravage the settlers, with the odd hurricane to provide a different source of devastation. With sugar profits the only reason for remaining here, little to no land is devoted to growing foodstuffs, meaning the infant colonies are dependent on infrequent supply ships or, more realistically, neighboring Puerto Rico.

    Puerto Rico is one of the oldest Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, settled by the Portuguese in pre-union times. Unlike the small sugar islands of the Antilles, larger Puerto Rico has a much more balanced and diverse economy, producing cereals and animal products in addition to sugar and tobacco from some plantations. The island is sometimes called the ‘bread and beef basket of the Caribbean’ until its position is usurped by Triune Terranova.

    In Eurasia, Rhomania is one of the big boys, but here, far from Constantinople, the Romans are very little fish. The Roman garrison at Jahzara is comprised of two brigs, a few dozen soldiers, and a small fort with a few guns. The sailors and soldiers are in constant need of replenishment; by 1640 the cemetery’s strength is over six times that of the fort’s. The removal of trees for lumber and to clear ground for sugar cane increases soil runoff, the dirt piling up in the lowlands and helping to create stagnant pools, ideal nurseries for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. (Meanwhile in the heartland, drainage projects financed by the Sideros Reorganization are eliminating mosquito habitats and thus recurrence of malaria, although the connection between insect and disease are not noted at the time. The Romans believe malaria to be caused by ‘unhealthy miasmas’ emitted from swamps and try to treat them with sweet smells to counterbalance the bad air.)

    And so the grim logic of the Caribbean asserts itself in Rhomania-in-the-West as well. Black slaves are imported to labor in the cane fields, but there are few Romans to oversee them because of the deaths from disease. Also because of the greater expense of shipping slaves across the Atlantic, the owners don’t want to release slaves after fulfilling a set work quota as is the practice in Cyprus and Crete; they favor the ‘slave-until-death’ model used by their Caribbean neighbors. That is against Roman law, but Constantinople is far away and none of the slaves live long enough to have reached that quota anyway.

    There are also none of the economic opportunities available for freedmen here as there are in the Empire proper. The heartland can always use more artisans or cowboys or farmers, but there isn’t space to support those in St Giorgios. The freedmen would be crammed up right next to the still enslaved, remembering grievances and noting the few Romans around. Given the limited number of free compared to those enslaved, to keep the slaves in line, especially without the social releases present in Cyprus and Crete, requires a system of brutality and dehumanization.

    Many Romans of the present day point out that the plantation slavery practiced on St Giorgios is no worse, and on a smaller scale, than on Barbados or Guadeloupe. That is true; the crime is the same evil, just smaller in scope. The horror of slavery on the other islands, of vicious slave revolts and equally vicious repressions, of the whipped-to-the-bone backs of little girls and mothers killing their own children at their births as a better mercy than the hell that is life here, all that is played out here as well.

    The Romans also get involved in the Atlantic slave trade. The number of ships and number of slaves transported is a small fraction of the total carried across the ocean, but Roman slavers are no better than any Latin. In Rhomania there are rules detailing how much storage must be given to a slave during transport and those rules are enforced on slavers departing from Alexandria. (It must be pointed out that the Spanish have similar regulations regarding Atlantic slavers that are completely ignored by said slavers because of the lack of an enforcement mechanism; the Arletians, Triunes, Lotharingians, and Scandinavians don’t care even that much.) The fact that the voyage is a rather short one also helps. But there are no Roman customs agents enforcing those rules when Roman slavers drop anchor off Kongo or Benin and there is more profit in cramming the holds, even if some die on the way. The operating cost per voyage is mostly the same, regardless of the amount of ‘cargo’.

    Plantation slavery on Cyprus and Crete gasps its last in the early 1650s, the establishment of Rhomania-in-the-West speeding the process a bit, but it would’ve been gone in the next decade or two anyway. Mine slavery, also dwindling as the free Roman labor pool expands, steadily trickles down as well, largely disappearing by 1700. Penal and prisoner labor is still common however.

    House slavery continues longer, its slight growth also enduring, but even at their height house slaves never number more than 75,000 out of a heartland population of 20+ million, a far cry from a slave society. Furthermore, house slaves are better treated with laws limiting what owners can do to them, with said laws generally well enforced. It helps a lot that most house slaves and masters are in major cities and thus easy for Roman administrators to see what is happening. In the late 1600s their terms of service are limited to 11 years, although the main reason is to ameliorate Ethiopian annoyance at the reduced Roman purchases; the shorter terms mean that more slaves ‘need’ to be purchased to make up the difference.

    None of this excuses the dehumanizing aspects of a human being owned by another person, but slaves are still persons under Roman law, with certain rights protected by that same law. For that reason, house slaves rarely excite the passion of Roman abolitionists. Looking solely at the material circumstances of their lives, many house slaves compare favorably to landless unskilled laborers who live a hand-to-mouth existence dependent on intermittent jobs to earn their daily bread. It is economics that eventually put an end to house slavery. Freeborn domestic labor becomes cheaper as the population grows while simultaneously Ethiopian imports decrease in the early 1700s, raising the cost of slaves.

    It is in Rhomania-in-the-West that Rhomania’s involvement with slavery remains vicious and enduring, as mentioned participating fully in the horrors of Caribbean plantation slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. Its existence helps to lengthen the duration of slavery in the Empire, as future Latin abolitionist interference with Roman Atlantic slave traders encourages Roman slave purchases in a backlash to said Latin interference.

    And this stain on Roman honor is for little gain. Rhomania-in-the-West never amounts to much, a few puny islands that are miniscule specks on a map of the Caribbean. While the plantations prove profitable, their production is puny; at its height Roman Caribbean sugar comprises 1.5% of the Caribbean sugar exported to the Greater West. Any initiatives to broaden the significance of Roman holdings flounder at the expense of blood and coin to do so. A proposal to turn Jahzara into a major free port dies under the glare of Constantinople’s hatred of the doctrine of free trade, which conjures up memories of the humiliations under the Italians in the 1100s and 1200s. That Rhomania doesn’t abandon the islands is due to the matter of prestige, its help in facilitating connections with Mexico, and its occasional value as a listening post in economically important Latin waters.

    The Roman Empire contains a wide variety of peoples, from the descendants of Swedish Varangians to the Malays of Pahang to the Sudanese freedmen of Cyprus. Most are integrated into the Empire in some form, whether by embracing the Greek language and the Orthodox faith, or by being slotted into some tolerated category.

    One final category that has not been mentioned yet are the Atzinganoi, much better known elsewhere as Roma. The linguistic confusion of calling themselves Roma inside the Roman Empire, while not intended, would lend to suspicion that they are trying to take the mantle of Roman-ness away. Given the continued Latin tendency lasting up to the present day of denying the Romans’ Roman heritage, they are very touchy in such matters.

    The Atzinganoi are very much tolerated, in that while accepted, one doesn’t tolerate something one likes. Their dark skin and exotic apparel raises far less eyebrows in Rhomania than in Latin Europe, and many Atzinganoi settle down to work, usually as artisans or in animal husbandry. However their members span the whole gamut of society. Those who still travel often do so as entertainment troupes, performing acrobatics and musical numbers. Still they have a reputation for magical practices, particularly fortune-telling. The Orthodox Church repeatedly condemns visiting Atzinganoi magicians, but the fact that clerics have to keep doing so shows that people keep doing it despite the proscriptions.

    However a key note is that toleration of someone not confirming to the minimal standards of Roman-ness requires that they fell into one of the various tolerated categories. New categories can and would be created, but there is no toleration for those who fall outside of a tolerated category. Bohmanists, Anabaptists, and other religious groups arising in the Latin West find no welcome in Rhomania, and the religious authorities of tolerated groups can and do find support from the Roman government in disciplining their own religious dissidents.

    Rhomania in 1635 compares favorably with many of its contemporaries in terms of toleration of diversity, with the glaring and brutal exceptions of Catholic and Sunni subjects. But it is no multi-cultural diversity-embracing haven as is sometimes presented, a precocious prelude to modern ideals. The Roman Empire is a multi-cultural diverse empire; that is the nature of empires. And the Romans are pragmatic. Diversity is tolerated because the maintenance and prosperity of the Empire requires it to be tolerated, and diversity is tolerated, not loved.

    While the restrictions and duties laid on minorities are light, they are emplaced and enforced. To be Roman, truly Roman, one has to be Orthodox and one has to speak Greek fluently, preferably without a foreign-sounding accent.

    Already by 1635 and far more in the decades to come, many of the minority peoples, particularly in the East, will come to meet those standards and be embraced as fellow Romans. That is typically considered to the credit of the Romans, although nowadays the cultural genocide aspects of it are questioned. But while that is happening, the Great Crime against the Sunnis is also being perpetrated by the Romans.

    The Romans, like all peoples, are complicated, capable of great mercies and great cruelties, in their hearts able and willing to do both good and evil. The integration of the Malays stands next to the genocide of the Syrians. The monstrosities of Caribbean slavery coexists with Roman contempt for race-based discrimination. Both sides exist and both must be acknowledged for a true picture to emerge. Abhor the evil, praise the good, but remember both.
    The Wooden Walls
  • Safe Shall the Wooden Walls Continue: Navies in the mid-1600s

    “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”-Psalm 107: 23-24 (KJV)​

    To a modern viewer, used to nuclear-powered submarines and interplanetary spacecraft, sailing ships seem hopelessly primitive. Yet just as black-water vessels mark the pinnacle of technological achievement today, the great blue-water ships of the mid-1600s marked the summit of human knowledge and ingenuity of their day.

    Building and maintaining the great battle-line ships that were the backbones of war fleets required assembling mass resources and constructing them into technically varied and detailed apparatus, necessitating large numbers of skilled laborers. Many of the materials needed long-distance transportation and special storage; the best ship timbers needed to be seasoned literally for years before being used in construction. It is not a coincidence that the first industrial-level project in the history of the Greater West, the Arsenal of Venice, was a shipyard, as were the great projects that followed, the Arsenal of Constantinople and the shipyards of Trebizond, Chatham, and Brest.

    Just as armies grew greater in size and organization in the 1600s, so did the navies. The mid-1600s are dotted with titanic naval struggles that would’ve been unimaginably vast to the contenders’ grandparents, and still stupendous compared to conflict on land. The Roman field armies at Thessaloniki fielded roughly 600 cannons, most of which were twelve-pounders or lighter. The battles between Triune and Lotharingian fleets frequently saw eight thousand cannon being used, most of which were twelve-pounders or larger. Even the much smaller battle between the Romans and Lombards at Palmaria included nine times more artillery than the combined Roman field armies at Thessaloniki. A single large Roman battle-line ship threw more cannon weight-of-shell than a couple of tagmata.

    Feeding such gargantuan monsters required a tremendous amount of organization, material, and wealth.

    In 1635 the three main naval powers of the Greater West were the Triunes, Romans, and Lotharingians, with the Spanish, Scandinavians and Arletians occupying a second-tier but still significant level.

    All six have naval administrations overseeing naval yards, some of which include dry docks. The administrators are salaried, although corruption and graft is extremely common given the low pay involved. Construction and procurement is a mix of government and private, varying from state to state. Typically the biggest warships are constructed in government yards such as the Arsenal of Constantinople, while smaller warships are ordered from private shipyards.

    Supply contracts, whether for shipbuilding materials or victuals, on the other hand usually go to private contractors who bid for the orders. Here is where much of the serious graft takes place as administrators ensure the contracts end up in the hands of their friends/family or even their own hands. This naturally generates incentive to skimp on the cost and thereby qualities of the materials/victuals concerned to ensure maximum profit. Governments are well aware of this issue; for the Romans they can look all the way back to Belisarius’ Vandal expedition which was delayed when sailors got sick from substandard biscuit. However the private sector is the only way of guaranteeing the necessary volume for maintaining these huge fleets.

    Efforts are made so that certain requisitions come from government stockpiles to help ensure quality. The Roman navy’s weaponry, including cannons, muskets, powder, and shot is typically provided by government metal works, assembly shops, and powder mills. These are operated specifically to serve the military’s need and not to generate a profit for the government, in an effort to keep costs low. This usually works in peacetime, but in war even in this field the Roman government must resort to private contractors to ensure the needed volume.

    The Roman navy of 1635 is a professional structure, with prospective officers having to spend three years as midshipmen at sea and pass Academy training, with everyone paid in cash. Unlike the army though, it is disjointed from the theme system. Even with the fully professional army, the theme is the basis for supply and recruitment. The Thrakesian theme still supplies, mans, and pays for the Thrakesian tagma. The difference is that now it does not provide plots of land for pay; coin from taxes on the local inhabitants provides the pay. This is also why some themes could support much larger tagmata than others during the Great Latin War.

    During the Laskarid and Second Komnenid dynasties, the Roman navy was supported on a similar basis as the tagmata. Its theme consisted of Kibyrrhaiotai and the various islands, those territories providing the land plots and recruits. However in these times those territories cannot provide nearly enough cash to support the war fleets, although most sailors and naval officers are still drawn from those lands. Their taxes contribute to the upkeep of the navy, but are supplemented significantly from the Imperial treasury. Otherwise Rhomania would not be one of the great naval powers.

    While all the naval powers use purpose-built warships, armed merchantmen can still make up large percentages of war fleets. They have the virtue of being comparatively cheap, especially since there’s no peacetime upkeep. Rhomania has a Merchant Reserve system. Ships and their crews on the list have to maintain certain gunnery proficiency levels and can be called up for military service, but in exchange the owners get noticeable tax exemptions. Lotharingia has a similar system, in which all Indiamen have to be assigned; as a rule these Lotharingian Indiamen, large and comparatively heavy-built for commercial vessels, are the best armed merchantmen of any of the powers with the exception of the largest Roman Ship Lord vessels.

    During the Great Latin War this proved a quick way to supplement the navy and much of the blockade of the Lombard coast was conducted by these reserve merchantmen. However one often gets what one pays for. While cheap, they are not particularly effective; their best service during the war was serving as naval auxiliaries, particularly in supplying Roman armies.

    With the growth in number of larger battle-line ships, the armed merchantmen lack the toughness to slug it out. Furthermore, while the number of guns they carry may be comparable to battle-line warships, typically said guns are lighter. Also the proliferation of light warships, brigs, sloops, and fregatai make things even more hazardous. Merchantmen are built for cargo hauling, not speed. This makes them poor blockaders or scouts, while the lighter weight of their guns make all but the largest vulnerable to a skillfully handled light warship. While all naval powers still use armed merchantmen to buff up their numbers at the beginning of the 1600s, their use in combat operations fades away well before the end of the century. The Roman and Lotharingian merchant reserve systems continue, but solely as a way to easily gain auxiliaries in times of war, within no intention to use them in combat save possibly as convoy escorts. (Privateers looking for loot rather than a fight will typically shy away from well-armed merchantmen, even if regular light warships might not be so easily deterred. However privateers are, due to their much higher numbers, the main threat to commercial traffic.)

    Naval strength is usually measured in terms of battle-line ships. The approach is anachronistic for the beginning of this period, as the sharp delineation between battle-line and light warships wasn’t as clear-cut back then. Also the rating system wasn’t fully established. However both the rating system and dividing line were clearly established by the latter third of the 1600s, and while altering in detail, would be followed through the end of the Age of Sail. One major change in the future would be that smaller warships still considered battle-line warships in the mid-1600s would not be considered such a century later.

    The naval ratings in 1650 were as follows:

    First-rate: 90 guns or more.
    Second-rate: 76-89 guns.
    Third-rate: 61-75 guns.
    Fourth-rate: 50-60 guns.
    (First through Fourth are considered battle-line ships in the mid-1600s, although fourth-rates would eventually drop out in later years.)
    Fifth-rate: 37-49 guns. (Sometimes called a poor-man’s battle-line ship. They often function as such in far-flung waters.)
    Sixth-rate: 25-36 guns. (Fregatai of the time are all considered sixth-rates, with larger ones later moving up into the fifth-rate.)
    Seventh-rates: 13-24 guns. (Usually known as sloops. Over the course of the seventeenth century, there would be a trend to the upper end of this scale.)
    Eighth-rates: Less than 12 guns. (Brigs are the eight to eleven gun ‘big boys’ of this group and are what are typically referred to when referencing an eighth-rate, although technically even a two-gun ketch would fall into this category.)

    There is, of course, more to a warship than just her number of guns. Sea handling ability, thickness of planking (armor), and the weight of the individual guns matter too. As a general rule, the more cannons a warship carried, the heavier the guns were. Thus a larger warship might have a throw-weight much higher than a smaller one far out of the proportion one would expect just by looking at the number of guns. A ninety-gunner might have a throw-weight twice that of a seventy-gunner.

    Most battle-line ships of the era were fourth and third rates. This is because although they were weaker than second or first-rates, they were much cheaper. Cannons require gun crews and bigger guns require bigger crews. Across the board, the naval powers could build and maintain two 70-gunners afloat for the cost of a single first-rate.

    The weakness though is that a single third-rate would be at a disadvantage against the first-rate. The third-rate’s lighter guns could fire faster, theoretically making up some of the disadvantage of fewer pieces. However first-rates, which were very expensive and also prestige symbols, were built to be very tough with thick planking. Firing faster does little good if cannonballs can’t penetrate the hull.

    That said, while first-rates were a terror to any of their smaller foes, there never were very many of them. Even after fourth-rates stopped being considered battle-line ships, third-rates still made up the vast majority of battle-line ships right up to the age of steam.

    In 1635 only two states in all of the Greater West had first-rate ships, Rhomania and the Triunes. The Romans only had three, the 98-gun Andreas Niketas and the 92-gun Theodoros Megas and Konstantinos Megas. The Andreas Niketas, considered the first true three-decker, is already over thirty years old in 1635. Despite having slightly less guns, the newer Theodoros and Konstantinos are considered better warships. Slightly bigger and longer, they handle better at sea than Andreas Niketas, and because of that they’re fitted with a few more big guns so the throw weights of all three are comparable.

    The Triunes have seven. Although none are as old as Andreas Niketas, they suffer from similar problems. Over-gunned for their size, they are poor ship-handlers, restricted to summer operations in the Channel and North Sea. The Atlantic and further waters have to be covered by smaller warships. However these first-rates are designed specifically for slugging it out with Lotharingian warships in the Channel and North Sea, where their toughness and firepower give them a significant advantage. Due to the shallow depths of their coast, Lotharingian warships are on average smaller than those of the other powers, although they help to make up that with sheer numbers.

    Of the naval powers, Rhomania has the most battle-line ships at 91 hulls. (On paper, that is; ready for active service is often a different matter as ships laid up regularly deteriorate despite efforts and are not necessarily ready for battle.) Of these, there are the three aforementioned first-raters, seven second-raters, twenty eight third-raters, and fifty three fourth-raters. Of those fifty three, thirty nine are 50-gunners, putting them just above the line. The ratios are comparable for the other major sea powers.

    Those numbers include the Sicilian fleet, the only one of the Despotates to muster battle-line ships, although both Egypt and Carthage have some fifth-rates. The Sicilian contribution is four small third-raters and fourteen fourth-raters and their numbers were included in the totals of the Roman fleet unleashed on Lombard Italy. The Roman and Despotic navies are used to close cooperation and the services get along very well, with joint exercises, identical training regimens and doctrines, and ships designed to the same pattern.

    Seven of the Roman fourth-raters are stationed in the East, all but one 50-gunners. They are reinforced by twelve fifth-raters, all 40 or 44-gunners, which are usually big enough to face any threats while being relatively economically. Most have Malay, Taprobani, or Digenoi crews and officers, bearing the brunt and winning much of the glory at the battle of the Lingga Islands against Aceh in 1633.

    Armed merchantmen from the Ship Lords still play a much larger role in Roman fleets in the East, comprising the bulk of the combatants in the various naval battles against the Triunes during the Great Latin War. They suffer from the same weaknesses as armed merchantmen in the west, but Latin fleets here also are mostly armed merchantmen. Latin battle-line ships can sail directly from their home waters, unlike the Romans who have yet to circumnavigate Africa, but they lack the naval yards of Taprobane that are responsible for the locally built fourth, fifth, and sixth rates that made the Lingga Islands and the Java campaign possible. Also the wealthier Ship Lords possess some very large and tough merchantmen, built from teak and displacing over 1000 tons. When fully outfitted for war, these ships have a throw-weight comparable to a fourth-rate.

    The Triunes are slightly behind at 88 battle-line ships, but because of their seven first-rates and fifteen second-rates, their combined throw-weight is higher than the Romans. The Lotharingians have 86, but nothing bigger than a third-rater and most of those are on the smaller side, although they also possess more large fifth-raters than any other power.

    The Spanish meanwhile have 56 battle-line ships, three of which are second-raters. Partly making up for the fewer number of hulls is that their third-raters are generally on the larger end of the scale, ten of them fine 72-gunners that are considered, size-for-size, the best warships of their day for all-around quality. Most of these ships are new, built for the Andalusi war, playing a vital part in dominating the waters between Iberia and Africa.


    The Triune first-rate Oriflamme, mounting 102 guns, making her the most powerful warship in the world based on throw-weight at the time of her construction.
    [By Jan Karel Donatus van Beecq -, Public Domain,]​

    Scandinavia meanwhile has 43 and Arles 41, although both, particularly the former, can reinforce with large numbers of fifth-rates. That was how the Scandinavians were able to field a comparable fleet to the Lotharingians at the battle of Kronborg in 1633.

    The immediate aftermath of the battle of Palmaria, with the addition of the Lombard prizes, marks the relative peak of the Roman navy. Building and maintaining battle-line ships, especially as the size of them steadily increases over the course of the seventeenth century, is expensive, especially so for Rhomania.

    Laws and Inspectors to protect forests in order to guarantee a supply of naval timber have been in place in Rhomania since the early 1400s. Despite such efforts, timber shortages are a serious problem by the early 1630s, even with the boost provided by the Istrian and Dalmatian forests taken from Hungary, the reason those lands were valued by the White Palace in the first place.

    Warships have grown massively in size since the 1400s, with a single battle-line ship consuming hundreds, even thousands, of trees in her construction. And not any odd piece of lumber will do. They have to be of the right shape and size for their purpose. Especially difficult to procure are good mast timbers as ideally the mast should be from a single straight tall tree. Given the lack, many Roman masts consist of smaller timbers bolted together to form a larger spar. It works but makes said mast more vulnerable to breakage, which is why so many Roman vessels lost their masts during the battle of Jamaica.

    The Romans import naval stores, including hemp, canvas, pitch, and turpentine, from Russia and Georgia, but these can’t compare in volume to the Scandinavian and North Terranovan sources of naval stores. Even with the eventual completion of the Don-Volga canal, making the shipment of large timbers and other bulky naval goods much easier, the Triunes for example can produce a similar-sized warship for cheaper than the Romans. While on the scale of a single ship, it isn’t significant, but over the course of a fleet it makes for substantial extra expense for the Romans compared to the Triunes.

    The Romans try to compensate for this, and not just with the Don-Volga canal. Warships are designed at the Constantinople Arsenal with blueprints, with efforts made to standardize construction and create proper ship classes. There is always some variation because of the pre machine tool era, but the Guard-class fregatai and Belisarios-class third-rates are considered to be marvels of the Age of Sail, admired both then and now.

    Due to the cost, the Romans build very few first or second rates during the Age of Sail. As ship sizes increase the mainstay of the Roman fleet becomes the third-rate, typically mounting 70-74 guns, with a few second and first rates added in as prestige symbols and squadron flagships. Other navies have the same pattern; even for the Triunes, a first-rate is a massive expense. However the proportion of first and second to third rates remains lower in the Roman navy after 1650 compared to the other major players.

    In 1635 however, that is in the future. The Roman navy may rest proudly on its laurels. Its honor has been restored on the Danube, and its service around Italy and particularly at Palmaria recognized with respect across the Greater West. But great as Palmaria was, it quickly pales in comparison to the battles to come as the Triune and Lotharingian fleets put out to sea.
    Not the End: The Empire Under the Laskarids
  • Introduction
    It should’ve been the end. That is what one would’ve expected if they’d surveyed the scene along the Bosporus on the twelfth of April in the year 1204. Constantinople, the Queen of Cities, the Apple of the World’s Desire, the great unbroken citadel of the Romans, that had stood proof against all foes for near a thousand years, had fallen. Foreign troops ran amok through her streets, looting her palaces and churches, raping and murdering her inhabitants.

    Prior to the fall of The City, the Venetians and Crusaders had met and agreed on the division of spoils, including the distribution of the empire of which Constantinople was the head. Assuming they achieved their aims, that was a reasonable discussion to have. When the head is cut off, the body dies. It may convulse, and convulse violently for a time, but eventually it falls still. In a near-contemporary example to the Fourth Crusade, and on a much larger scale, Southern Song loyalists fought to the bitter end in a series of holding actions, retreating ever further south before the Mongol advance until nothing remained but the sea, but the writing was on the wall well before the battle of Yamen. The head had fallen years before; the body took longer but it eventually followed.

    Although they did not have the example of the Southern Song before them, the Latin forces of the Fourth Crusade, as they established the Latin Empire in Constantinople, might have thought similar of the Roman loyalists setting up shop in the exile states, to the far east in Trebizond, to the west in Epirus, and across the Sea of Marmara to Nicaea. That these were the convulsions of a decapitated body, soon to be stilled. And likely the first to end would be the nearest, the Nicaea of one Theodoros Laskaris.

    * * *

    Romans are well known for their historians and their history. But like all peoples with their histories, they tend to favor certain periods and characters more than others. For the Romans, the Second Komnenid dynasty is the clear favorite. The number of books, articles, documentaries, and even games of all types on that period literally stands in the tens of thousands, and while Andreas Niketas leads the pack, many other members of that gifted and probably insane family are well known and loved. The series The Komnenoi is a cultural icon, its finale watched live by 41 million people.

    The First Komnenid dynasty, because of its connection to the Second, also comes in for a great deal of attention. The series I, Alexios, which was inspired by The Komnenoi and which follows the life of Alexios I Komnenos as a young man, had 9.9 million viewers for its season four premiere.

    The Laskarid dynasty thus comes out as the proverbial middle child. (It is also literally the middle child, as the Laskarids were related to the Komnenids.) This is much more of an issue in the popular view. In academia there are many monographs and multi-volume works on the subject, but these are either too technical or verbose to be palatable to the curious general reader, which is deeply unfortunate considering the importance of the Laskarid era to the history of Rhomania. In terms of popularity amongst the general public after publication, the History of the Laskarid Dynasty written by Demetrios Sideros takes the prize, even before he became Emperor Demetrios III.

    It was not always this way. The Laskarid period was intensely studied even while it was still continuing, and onward through the Second Komnenid and Drakid periods. Ironically, Demetrios Sideros changed that. His highly-praised history, read from Edinburgh to Vijayanagar, established itself as the dominant narrative of the period and historians from the early Siderid period chose to cover other eras. Furthermore, the security of the Empire after the War of the Roman Succession and the Sideros Reorganization marked a substantial shift from the Laskarid-era, which continued on in many ways past the fall of the Laskarid dynasty through the Second Komnenid and Drakid period.

    Demetrios III’s history is still read, both by the general public and scholars, to this day, but there have not been any substantial efforts to create a more modern equivalent. This book then is an effort to fill that gap. It was a chaotic time, shadowed by dangers. It was born in the Fourth Crusade and ended in the War of the Five Emperors, encompassing the Black Death and Timur’s invasion. Yet it also contained Theodoros II Laskaris, who argued that nobility dwelled in the character and not the blood, consciously molding himself into a new Marcus Aurelius as he marched on the Bulgarians and Turks. It also contained Anna I Laskarina, the under-studied Empress who dominated most of the 14th century.

    There were more than just the Laskarids themselves. There was St Ioannes of the Turks, a former Sufi mystic still known to many of the Anatolikoi as “The Master” who converted many of the Turks to Orthodoxy through his practices of hesychasm mysticism and poetry. There was also Ikarios, the great Doux who was the terror of the Latins at sea. There was Alexios Philanthropenos, the second ‘White Death’; it is believed that the young Andreas I was reading an account of the campaigns between Philanthropenos and Osman when he was informed of the death of his father Theodoros IV. Riding alongside Philanthropenos was Roger de Flor, whose Catalan Company proved such a potent sword against Rhomania’s foes.

    It was a time both dangerous and vibrant, grim and beautiful, like all ages with a cast that spanned the whole gamut of humanity for good and ill.

    The Laskarid family ruled first Nicaea and then Rhomania for a total of two hundred and nine years, starting in an era of unprecedented crisis for the Romans. In the twilight of the Laskarid era, as he looked across the dusty field of Kappadokian Kaisareia, Demetrios Komnenos, himself wed to Zoe Laskarina, sister of Theodoros III Laskaris, swore that Rhomania would not perish on his watch. He kept his oath, but only because first the Laskarids had made and kept that very same oath.

    And for that, they deserve to be remembered.

    -Andreas Stzadas
    New Nicaea, New Bithynia
    17 September 2019


    So this is the start of my new project, Not the End: The Empire Under the Laskarids. It is a rewrite of the initial portion of the TL, which is substantially lower in quality and detail than later sections. As you all have likely figured out, the premise is that this is a popular history of the Laskarid era written in the Age of Miracles present.

    I don’t have any idea yet exactly how big this project will be. It won’t be at the same level of detail as the rest of the TL, because if so this would be another 1000+ page monster. But it will be a substantial step up from the original product in 2011, where the time period from 1204-1414 was covered in 85 pages, more than 50 of which is set between 1400 and 1414. I have much more research material for the era in question than I did 8 years ago, and I like to think I’ve become a better writer since then.

    Unlike the main TL where the voice is deliberately left vague, this is meant to be a history book written ITTL by a TTL historian. This is also a book about the Roman Empire under the Laskarids, so its focus will be on Nicaea/Rhomania, with focus on foreign peoples only when it impacts that narrative. This is to keep this project streamlined.

    The main purpose of this project is to remedy the weakness of the 1221-1403 period. However given the chosen format, it will be starting in 1204 and will continue on to the end of the Laskarid dynasty in 1414. The first chapter is all pre-POD because of said format, but that helps to set the stage for the post-POD world. While the POD is set in 1221, the impact of the POD isn’t felt substantially until the 1250s, especially after Theodoros II Laskaris lives past his OTL death date. There will be changes from OTL before then, such as a longer-lived Frederick II ‘Stupor Mundi’ but that is when said changes start getting really noticeable. In short, there will be lots of OTL history particularly in the beginning, but I think that is interesting in its own right and I hope you all agree, and it is the platform on which early TTL history is built. Following on this, earlier chapters will be less detailed as in there I’m largely summarizing OTL history, although perhaps with some tweaks, with a tighter focus once the alternate history becomes more ‘alternate’.

    A key point to note in this. The end stage of this project in 1414 will match the main TL state as it was in 1414, however in the interim there will be changes. Some I already have planned and I’m certain others will pop up. This allows me the opportunity to change things that I dislike or disagree with in the original timeline. In the case that the narrative in Not the End disagrees with An Age of Miracles, Not the End should be considered as the ‘canon’ narrative.

    Another note is that while this is meant to be a TTL history book, I’m not going to go to the extent of making up TTL writings to cite. That seems excessive to me, although I may indulge in the odd reference to Demetrios Sideros’ history of the Laskarids. So if and when citations show up in the text, these are from my OTL sources.

    For the final note, this is not taking the place of the regular Age of Miracles timeline. Not the End: The Empire Under the Laskarids is a special project for ‘Megas Kyr’ patrons on Patreon. The first section is posted here as an interlude in the main narrative available for everyone, and later sections will be available for those ‘Megas Kyr’ patrons. October’s special update will be section 2 of Not the End, with a new update in the series every month. Updates will be at least comparable in size to the regular updates, so ‘Megas Kyr’ will be receiving an extra update every month for their support as before, but now those special updates will be part of this new project.

    I hope you all enjoy this new project and thank you to all who have supported me, especially those supporting me on Patreon. I really appreciate it. Thank you.


    Chapter 1: My Mother Anatolia

    Theodoros II Laskaris referred to Anatolia as “the holy land, my mother Anatolia”.[1] He was speaking personally for himself, but he could be speaking as well for the entire Laskarid dynasty that sat upon the thrones of Nicaea/Rhomania. They were children of Anatolia, even after Constantinople was won. They may have dwelled in the Queen of Cities, but they were not of it. Their home lay east with their mother.

    It was the river valleys of western Anatolia that they loved. From Constantinople, the setting sun fell on the dark Thracian plain. From Nicaea, it glided onto the shimmering waters of Lake Askania. Even the arid central plain or the mighty escarpment of the Pontic Mountains seemed to attract them more than the lands of the west. This was most evident in the lives of Theodoros II Laskaris, Manuel II Laskaris, and Anna I Laskarina, but this pull eastward was present in all of the Laskarids to some extent. The Second Komnenid dynasty continued this trend at its beginning, favoring the palace at Smyrna more than the Blachernae, only ending with the construction of the White Palace by Andreas Niketas.

    Per usual for Roman Imperial dynasties, the Laskarids originated in the east. The name is probably derived from the Persian lashkari, meaning warrior, with the official family genealogy stating the Laskarids of Rhomania are descended from the Kurdish Shaddadid noble family.[2] But in the 1170s, when Theodoros Laskaris (later Theodoros I) was born, the family had risen enough to have married into a cadet branch of the ruling Komnenoi.

    By 1200, the family was prominent enough that Theodoros was married to Anna, the second daughter of the Emperor Alexios III Angelos. Given that Alexios III had no male heirs, his sons-in-law were the next in line to the throne. While Theodoros was married to the second daughter, the husband of the eldest daughter died before 1204, at which point Theodoros was granted the title of Despot. This is not to be confused with the post-Time of Troubles version of the title. In 1200 Despot was the designation given to the heir apparent.

    This good political position promptly became a bad one when the forces of the Fourth Crusade and Alexios III’s nephew also named Alexios arrived at Constantinople in 1203. Alexios III made a brief show of resistance and then promptly fled into Thrace, the power vacuum filled by the new Emperor Alexios IV, Alexios III’s nephew, and Isaakios II Angelos, the father of Alexios IV and the brother of Alexios III. In 1195 Alexios III had deposed and blinded his brother to seize the throne. Considering his relationship with the deposing and now fled uncle/brother of the Emperors, it is unsurprising that Theodoros Laskaris was promptly thrown in prison.

    Before September 1203 Theodoros managed to escape from Constantinople so he was not present when the city fell. Alexios IV had been unable to keep the promises he had made to the Crusaders, but his efforts to do so had only alienated the Romans. Tricked by a courtier, he was deposed himself and murdered by the courtier who took the throne, annoyingly for students of this period, as Alexios V, known as Mourtzouphlos for his bushy eyebrows. Isaakios II also, rather conveniently, died at this time.

    Frustrated with Alexios IV and with the Romans in general, and greedy for the opulent spoils they expected from the plunder of the Queen of Cities, the soldiers of Christ decided to assault the richest and most populous city in Christendom. Before the attack, they arranged a division of the spoils, both from the city itself and the Roman Empire entirely, expecting all of Rhomania to fall into their hands once the Queen of Cities did.

    Contrary to many Roman accounts of later centuries, Pope Innocent III had not sanctioned the assault. Those suspicions come from the argument that for so supposedly powerful a pontiff, Innocent III’s efforts to halt the crusade seem to be rather feeble. Also while he expressed dismay at the destruction of churches in Constantinople, his later joy at the opportunity to unite the churches under himself and his claims that the fall of Constantinople represented God’s will for Catholic supremacy suggested then and now to many Orthodox that his tears, such as they were, were of the crocodilian variety. Certainly the hostile behavior of the Papacy later in the 1200s and beyond to Nicaea/Rhomania seems indicative of a papal conspiracy against the Romans, but there is no proof of any plot during the Fourth Crusade.

    However, it is uncontestably clear that clergy in the crusader camp justified the attack on the grounds of the Romans’ heresy. Geoffroy de Villehardouin, one of the leaders and historians of the crusade, wrote that the clergy justified it on the grounds that the likes of Alexios V, who’d betrayed and murdered his lord, could not own land and also pointed out that the Greeks were separate from the Catholic Church, giving crusading indulgences for the fight ahead.[3] Robert of Clari also gave similar rationales, stating the priests accompanying the crusaders preached that the Greeks were the enemies of God and granted absolution for what they were about to do.[4]

    After the walls of Constantinople had been breached by the invaders, Alexios V fled from the city and during the night Konstantinos Laskaris, the brother of Theodoros, was offered the throne. Declining the honor considering the dubious circumstances, he also fled the city when it became clear resistance was hopeless, linking up with his brother in Nicaea.

    Students of Roman history are familiar with the main three exile states, Trebizond, Epirus, and Nicaea. Trebizond came under the rule of yet another Alexios, the grandson of Andronikos I Komnenos whose brutal murder had marked the end of the First Komnenid dynasty. Nicaea accepted Theodoros Laskaris as its overlord. When he’d first arrived at Nicaea, prior to the fall of Constantinople, the inhabitants had been reluctant to let him enter, as he had been a prisoner of the reigning Emperor in Constantinople. And while Alexios III was still active in Thrace at the time, he might be expected to be annoyed with his son-in-law for not coming to his aid. However after the fall of Constantinople and needing protection against the victorious crusaders, Nicaea accepted Theodoros Laskaris as its ruler. Epirus started slightly later, its ruler Michael Angelos Doukas originally serving the crusader lord Boniface of Montferrat before establishing his own independent redoubt in the mountains west of Boniface’s domain.[5]

    The Latins were also divided. Baldwin, Count of Flanders, had been elected by the crusaders and Venetians as the new Latin Emperor, but he faced a serious rival in Boniface of Montferrat. When Baldwin advanced against Alexios III and Alexios V, both of whom were in Thrace after the fall of Constantinople, he encroached on territory promised to Boniface. Enraged, Boniface attacked Baldwin’s forces, although fortunately for the Latins the other crusaders and Venetians quickly intervened. Boniface, denied the Latin Imperial title, became King of Thessaloniki.

    Aside from the most well-known four, the Latin Empire, Nicaea, Epirus, and Trebizond, there were many smaller states at the beginning of the Exile period. Corruption and incompetence under the Angeloi had led to fragmentation in the provinces, with local elites taking charge in their districts well before 1204. Aside from the Latins and the Trebizond Komnenoi, Theodoros Laskaris also faced Theodoros Mangaphas in Philadelphia, Sabas Asidenus at Priene, and Leo Gabalas in Rhodes. An Italian adventurer ruled Attaleia and there was also Manuel Maurozomes, the father-in-law of the former Seljuk Sultan Kaykhusraw I, who’d converted to Christianity while staying in the Constantinople of Alexios III after being forced into exile.

    There was no clear hegemon to dominate the area. The biggest players, the Venetian Republic and the Sultanate of Rum, had serious limitations. Venice, while powerful at sea, could not project its might inland. The Rum Sultans certainly did not have that issue, but the 13th century would see the Sultanate plagued by frequent infighting amongst the ruling family. Far worse, its eastern position meant that it was the Sultanate that faced the Mongol peril.

    Theodoros’ record against the Latins did not start off well. He was defeated at Poimanenon in 1204 and in early 1205 at Atramyttion by Henry, the brother of Emperor Baldwin I. This was the high point of the crusaders. Boniface advanced into Hellas, capturing Alexios III, and simultaneously more crusaders invaded the Peloponnesus, while Baldwin captured, blinded, and later executed Alexios V.

    At the same time, Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria was seizing border territories in Thrace, much to the annoyance of Baldwin I, who rebuffed an alliance with the Tsar who’d accepted the authority of the Pope in exchange for a crown. Now annoyed himself, Kaloyan incited a rebellion amongst the Romans of Thrace. Baldwin marched on Adrianople, one of the cities which had expelled their Latin garrisons, and besieged it. Before he could retake it, Kaloyan arrived with a larger army and attacked, annihilating the Latins and capturing Baldwin I, who would die as the Tsar’s prisoner.

    Henry of Flanders immediately wheeled out of Asia to shore up the disastrous situation in Europe, giving Theodoros a much needed respite. Henry took the Latin throne as Emperor, battling back against Kaloyan who turned on his Greek allies, who then sought the aid of Henry against the Tsar.

    Henry’s distraction was Theodoros’ gain. The initial Latin assault into Anatolia had badly damaged Mangaphas’ strength and Theodoros was able to seize him. Sabas Asidenus was defeated later in 1205 when a more formidable threat appeared on the horizon. Kaykhusraw had been restored as Seljuk Sultan and invaded with his father-in-law Maurozomes, but Theodoros managed to defeat the pair as well, although Maurozomes kept some border towns as a vassal of his son-in-law.

    The constraints of war and diplomacy meant crossing the religious divide. Alexios Komnenos’ brother David ruled Paphlagonia to the east of Theodoros’ domain and Henry allied with him against Nicaea. When Theodoros tried to march on David, Henry attacked. The first assault was beaten back, but the second in the winter of 1206-07 took Nikomedia and Kyzikos. But then Theodoros persuaded Kaloyan to launch another offensive against Thrace, and to beat off the Bulgarians Henry was forced to sign a truce with Theodoros, returning the two cities.

    The chaos of the past few years finally started to wind down. Boniface of Montferrat was killed by the Bulgarians in the summer of 1207 and Kaloyan died a few months while attempting to take Thessaloniki. Meanwhile Kaykhusraw took Attaleia from its freebooting Italian lord.

    The year before the Patriarch of Constantinople Ioannes Kamateros had died. Although Theodoros had invited him to Nicaea, he had refused and remained in Thrace. In Constantinople there were hopes amongst the Orthodox population of electing a new Orthodox Patriarch, as in the earlier crusader states there had been parallel Latin and Orthodox patriarchs, but the Latins in Constantinople blocked the effort.[6]

    Instead Theodoros Laskaris appointed a new Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael IV, although for obvious reasons Michael stayed in Nicaea. His first official act as Patriarch was to crown Theodoros Laskaris as Emperor on Easter 1208.

    While the Laskarid domains in 1208 were rather small for an Empire, there was an Imperial air in the diversity of the inhabitants. Aside from the Greeks of western Anatolia, there were Armenians in the Troad, and various Turks and Latins in Nicaean service. Many Seljuk Turks, losing out in the various struggles for power in the Sultanate, would make their way to Nicaea. Nikephoros Rimpsas was a Christianized Turk and high-ranking military officer under Theodoros II, while the prominent landowning families of Amiras and Amourasanes show by their names their Islamic ancestry.[7]

    The reverse was also the case. As already shown, Manuel Maurozomes took service under his son-in-law the Seljuk Sultan Kaykhusraw I, his family continuing to do so for decades afterward. The court at Konya/Ikonion “maintained a Greek chancery” and in negotiations with the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1216 used a Greek official as the Seljuk ambassador and conducted the talks in Greek.[8] Michael Palaiologos would, decades later, lead a contingent of Greek troops as part of the Seljuk army against Mongol invaders.

    During the early 1200s, this concept of switching loyalties from Rum to Nicaea or vice versa worked both ways, the direction dependent on the circumstances of the individual in question. The switching of loyalties was also common in Europe, where local elites might change allegiances from the Latins to Epirus to Bulgaria or back around the other way. Perhaps the most prominent defectors in these early years would be Alexios and Isaakios Laskaris, brothers of Theodoros I, who defected to the Latin Emperor Robert of Courtenay after their nephew-in-law Ioannes III Doukas Vatatzes took the throne of Nicaea in 1221. Later in the century none other than the Seljuk Sultan Kay-Kawos II would enter Nicaean service, preferring that to facing the Mongol terror.[9]

    However the system of fluid loyalties, while vastly complicating the fluid geopolitical landscape by making territories flop back and forth between the competing polities, also made the rise of a resurgent Nicaean/Roman hegemon easier. Once Nicaea/Rhomania managed to establish itself as the big fish, in an admittedly still not-very-large pond, there was a precedence for elites to transfer loyalties. Greatly helping this would be the lack of an alternate ‘outer hegemon’, as conflicts in Italy closed that avenue of support for anti-Nicaean forces, while the Mongols smashed the Seljuk state but never filled the power vacuum themselves. During the late 1200s, many Turks could look on the past for justification in choosing to serve the illustrious Emperors rather than bowing and scraping to the parvenu Osman.

    Latins were also present in the Empire of Nicaea, despite the origins of the Laskarid state. Latin mercenaries were, if nothing else, exceptional fighters, and they came with the added bonus that every Latin mercenary in Nicaean service was one not available to the Latin emperors. Even as early as late 1210 this was a large enough concern that Pope Innocent III wished to excommunicate Latin soldiers going to Nicaea for better pay than they could receive in Constantinople.[10]

    However in 1208, despite his elevation, Theodoros I’s position was still shaky and the geopolitical situation highly fluid. In 1209 the Emperor Henry of Flanders marched into the Kingdom of Thessaloniki, where Latin nobles had taken advantage of the death of Boniface and the infancy of his son, enforcing his authority over the region. Further to the south the Lordship of Athens under Otto de la Roche and the Principality of Achaea under Geoffroy de Villehardouin, the nephew of the historian, were well established by this time, although fighting against native Greeks were still ongoing in certain parts of Achaea, such as Monemvasia which never fell to Latin rule.[11]

    Alarmed by Henry’s power, Michael of Epirus agreed to become a vassal of Constantinople, also ransoming his captive cousin Alexios III Angelos. The former Emperor then went to the Seljuk Sultan, who was now allied with Henry against Nicaea, while Theodoros I was now allied with Boril of Bulgaria.

    In 1211 Kaykhusraw, with Alexios III in tow, invaded Nicaea. Of the two thousand men Theodoros mustered, eight hundred were Latin mercenaries, and they were recognized as the best part of his army. At Antioch-on-the-Meander the two armies met in a bloody battle in which the outnumbered Nicaeans, particularly the Latin cavalry, inflicted heavy losses on their Turkish foes. But the counterattacking Seljuks annihilated the Latin contingent and were pressing hard on the retreating Nicaean troops when Theodoros and Kaykhusraw met in single combat. The official Laskarid story, as detailed by Demetrios Sideros, is that Kaykhusraw was winning, unhorsing Theodoros and then ordering his attendants to tie up the Emperor. Momentarily distracted, the Sultan was caught completely off guard when Theodoros slashed the rear legs of the Sultan’s mount, which reared up in pain and threw off its rider. Unhorsed himself, he was promptly beheaded by Theodoros and his head put on a pole, at which point the Turks panicked and fled.[12]

    Alexios III was captured in the aftermath and it seems there was little love lost between father and son-in-law. The former Emperor would be confined to a monastery where he would live out the rest of his days. And while Theodoros signed a peace with Kaykhusraw’s successor Kay-Kawos I[13] which would keep the eastern frontier of Nicaea secure for decades, his army had been very badly damaged.

    Taking advantage of Theodoros’ weakness and having already defeated a Bulgarian attack, Henry invaded Anatolia in the fall. In a battle at the Rhyndacus River, the Latins again triumphed over the Nicaean army, seizing much of northwest Anatolia. However Henry also suffered from a lack of manpower and was unable to push any further, so the mutually exhausted Theodoros and Henry signed a truce in 1212.

    Two years later with his west secure Laskaris marched on David Komnenos who ruled in Paphlagonia, resuming the offensive that had been interrupted by Henry back in 1206. This time he was successful, taking David’s capital of Pontic Herakleia. The prince fled to Sinope where he was killed by the Seljuk Sultan Kay-Kawos I who also seized the city, defeating an effort by Alexios Komnenos of Trebizond to stop him and then following it up by forcing Alexios into vassalage. Reduced to a coastal enclave in northeastern Anatolia, the ‘Empire of Trebizond’ would be a minor player uninvolved from now on in the struggles for power over Constantinople.

    To the west other players were also being forced out of the great game. In early 1215 Michael Angelos Doukas of Epirus was assassinated, a fitting end for an undoubtedly capable man but also an extremely untrustworthy one to call as an ally. He was succeeded by his half-brother, unhelpfully named Theodoros Doukas, driving out his nephew, Michael’s son, in the process. Beginning his reign with a very successful attack on Bulgaria, he seized Ohrid as the first step on the march to Thessaloniki. Emperor Henry marched out to oppose him but died at Thessaloniki in the spring of 1216.

    When Boniface died, he left an infant son as his successor to the throne of Thessaloniki. When Henry died there wasn’t even that much. The nobles of the Latin Empire elected Henry’s brother-in-law Peter of Courtenay, husband of Henry’s sister Yolanda, both of whom were in France at the time. Yolanda came by ship to Constantinople but Peter preferred to march an army overland through Epirus from Dyrrachium. He likely wished to impose his will on the troublesome Theodoros Doukas but the Epirote ruler proved far too wily, ambushing and destroying the Latin army on the march, at which point Peter of Courtenay disappears from history.

    Yolanda thereby became Empress-Regent of the Latin Empire, a precarious position albeit one made easier after she married a daughter to Theodoros Laskaris. Just a little over a decade old, the Latin Empire was already so dubious a prize that her eldest son declined the honor, the throne eventually passing to her second son Robert of Courtenay, who only arrived in Constantinople in 1221.

    By this point Theodoros Laskaris had outlived three Latin Emperors, two Tsars of Bulgaria, a Seljuk Sultan, and Michael Doukas of Epirus. It had been touch-and-go at times, particularly in the first few years and during Kaykhusraw’s invasion, but he bequeathed to his successor a state that comprised roughly the northwestern third of Anatolia.

    His successor was his son-in-law Ioannes III Doukas Vatatzes, the husband of his daughter Irene. He would face many challenges during his long reign, starting with his resentful uncles-in-law. Theodoros Doukas of Epirus would be a constant problem while in the east the Mongols were soon to make their debut. But Ioannes III would face those challenges with courage and skill, soon to be aided by his co-emperor, his son who was born shortly after his grandfather’s death and who was named after him, and who would eventually succeed him as Theodoros II Laskaris.

    [1] Dimiter Angelov, The Byzantine Hellene: The Life of Emperor Theodoros Laskaris and Byzantium in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 37.
    [2] Angelov, 17.
    [3] Geoffroy de Villehardouin. “The Conquest of Constantinople,” in Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. Margaret Shaw (London: Penguin Books, 1963), 85.
    [4] Robert of Clari, “La Conquete de Constantinople,” in Chronicles of the Crusades: Eyewitness Accounts of the wars between Christianity and Islam, ed. Elizabeth Hallam (Godalming, Surrey: Bramley Books, 1997), 220.
    [5] For a more detailed account of the following political narrative, see Warren Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 710-19.
    [6] Michael Angold, “After the Fourth Crusade: The Greek Rump States and the Recovery of Byzantium,” in The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire, ed. Jonathan Shepard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 734.
    [7] Angelov, 52, 253-54.
    [8] Angelov, 53.
    [9] Angold, 754.
    [10] Angelov, 30.
    [11] IOTL Monemvasia fell to the Prince of Achaea William II in 1248. This is one of the early divergences ITTL.
    [12] The single combat is from OTL. See Savvides, Alexis G.C. (1991). "Acropolites and Gregoras on the Byzantine-Seljuk confrontation at Antioch-on-the Maeander (A. D. 1211). English translation and commentary" (PDF). Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü Tarih Araştırmaları Dergisi. 15 (26): 93–101.
    [13] Also seen this rendered as Kaykaus.
    1635: Queen Alexandra
  • 1635 (Baltic and Poland): From the west the Triunes, from the southeast the Romans and Hungarians, and adding to the mix, to the north the Scandinavians. Peter II, Emperor of All the North, is Henri II’s brother-in-law, a surprising diplomatic reversal, but one that largely went unnoticed by the other powers of Europe as it coincided with the death of Andreas III. Peter II’s reign has thus far been a humiliating one, marred by the losses to the Novgorod-Prussia alliance and then the battle and treaty of Kronborg.

    He is not ready to turn on the Lotharingians, even with the Triunes pounding on their western frontier. However he is more than willing to turn his gaze toward Schleswig-Holstein, former Danish territories long in Wittelsbach possession. Retaking those would do much to restore his tarnished laurels and boost his popularity in the Kingdom of Denmark, the second-most-important of the realms under his rule, and one where hopeful whispers of independence have never gone away. To be fair, such whispers exist to some extent in all the kingdoms save Sweden, the heart of the Empire of All the North, particularly in Scotland, but Danish prominence means their whispers are by far the most significant.

    Henri II is not bothered by the lack of Scandinavian support against the Lotharingians, provided Peter marches south. Schleswig-Holstein holds a significance out of proportion to its economic/demographic weight. During the darkest days of the Great Hungarian War, the lowest point of the Wittelsbach dynasty, Emperor Manfred I Wittelsbach was forced to flee to Schleswig-Holstein, where he held on until the tide turned.

    If Peter takes those lands, it will remove that option from the present-day Wittelsbachs, and it will help secure the Baltic, which is also important because Manfred held on with substantial support from his Russian in-laws. While Russia is politically fragmented, unlike during the Great Hungarian War, both Peter II and Henri II are well aware of the behemoth to the east. Peter II’s ambassador to Great Pronsk accurately calculates the population of the combined Russian principalities to be around 30 million [1], while reports from Triune traders in China tell Henri that the Khazars are trading with China along the Middle Kingdom’s northern frontier.

    Peter’s invasion of Schleswig-Holstein is small compared to the armies that have been fielded along the Danube or on the Rhine in recent years, but his target is not well fortified or garrisoned. The populace, who have no love for Peter but also no wish to die for the Wittelsbachs, do not put up much of a fight once the Scandinavian monarch pledges to respect their privileges. Complete conquest takes only two months.

    Getting more ambitious, and with more reinforcements from Sweden and Finland now available, Peter II pushes deeper into the Holy Roman Empire, his goal now a restoration of the Danish Empire of Valdemar II in these parts. Here the going is tougher as the main prizes, the great port cities of Hamburg and Bremen, are well fortified, well supplied with lots of money still in their coffers, and their populaces are united in the desire to keep the Scandinavians out. Bogged down in sieges of the great cities, the Scandinavians are hampered by pinprick raids from Pomerania commanded by the heir to the Duchy, Bogislaw, returned from Roman captivity after Thessaloniki. His father Duke Wartislaw X has no desire to see his Duchy subsumed, as would be the case if Peter II fulfilled his Valdemar ambitions.

    The Scandinavian invasion and Pomeranian response has the unintended side effect of relieving a bit of pressure on the Kingdom of Poland. Aside from King Casimir, many of the great Polish nobles were slain during the campaigns along the Danube and in Macedonia.

    Casimir is succeeded by his eleven-year-old son Aleksander, who would take the Polish throne as Aleksander III, but considering his minority he is unable to fill the power vacuum. Fortunately for young Aleksander, he has a most powerful ally, his mother.


    Queen Alexandra Piast, née Sapieha
    (By Marcello Bacciarelli - Poczet królów polskich z Zamku Królewskiego w Warszawie Marcelego Bacciarellego [1], Public Domain,
    Queen Alexandra was born in 1604 into the Sapieha family, one of the greatest Lithuanian houses, vast landowners with estates comparable to some German principalities, with several family members in the ranks of the Lithuanian Veche, the legislative body that ruled the Principality of Lithuania. Like most of the upper-class across the Russian principalities, she has been well educated, although at home because of her gender. Her tutor was Georgian-born, a graduate of the University of Constantinople, teaching her reading, writing, Greek, history, philosophy, geography, mathematics, and the limits of scientific knowledge as they exist at the time. Religious instruction came from a Scythian priest educated at the seminary in Kiev. By age 14, she is fluent in Lithuanian, Russian, and Greek, also speaking decent German and French, although she has a much easier time reading both.

    At 14, she was married to Casimir who was four years her senior and still just Crown Prince of Poland at that point. The marriage alliance had been the brain child of Casimir’s father, King Aleksander II, whose earliest memories dated back to the Great Northern War and who was named after Aleksander I “the Valiant”, the not-then-King who’d restored Polish fortunes after the Poles had been crushed by the Russians at Plock in 1472 in the eastern theater of the Tenth Crusade. Protecting Poland against the threat from the east was a top priority of the King, and this marriage alliance a key part of that strategy.

    It is not a happy marriage. Although Alexandra converts to Catholicism for the wedding, Casimir still claims to smell whiffs of heresy on her and finds her far too worldly. She is pious, but not nearly to Casimir’s extent, and fond of hosting a salon where educated guests discuss historical, philosophical, and scientific topics of interest. Reportedly, when he was still Eparch of Constantinople, one of the topics was The History of the Laskarid Dynasty by Demetrios Sideros. To make matters even worse from Casimir’s perspective, she brings kaffos with her, the beverage becoming the choice drink at her salons. Kaffos, in Casimir’s mind, is “the drink of heretics and infidels, and therefore repulsive to the faithful in Christ”.

    But being obedient to his father, he weds her. Three months later Aleksander dies and Casimir takes the throne, but considering divorce a sin he remains married to Alexandra. Still he spends little time with her and the minimum necessary in bed to produce an heir. Their first two children, a boy and girl, die at fourteen months and three days respectively, but Prince Aleksander has lived. Casimir had not touched Alexandra since his birth, although it must be said that unusually for a royal with a wife unattractive to him, he had no apparent mistress.

    Casimir was not particularly close to Aleksander either, having spent most of the boy’s youth either overseeing his new Prussian and Lithuanian conquests or waging war in Rhomania. Some historians speculate that Casimir’s assaults on Lithuania were really perpetrated by the King’s annoyance at having been saddled with a Lithuanian bride. Furthermore, the prince favored his mother in looks and later in personality too much for Casimir’s liking. As such neither personally seem to be deeply affected by the King’s death.

    However while Casimir did not care for Alexandra personally, she was left to act as Regent while he was off waging war in Rhomania (she had also done so earlier in his personal wars), so she has an established power base and administration already in place. Promptly informed of the disaster at Thessaloniki by a rider from the Lady Elizabeth, she rallies the remaining nobles to Krakow using her Regent’s seal, presenting them with her son Aleksander in full regalia, insisting that they pledge their fealty to him as their rightful sovereign and recognizing her right as regent until he comes of age.

    Many of the nobles were as of yet unaware of the death of Casimir, but with their king’s son in front of them, the Queen in her by-now-usual position as Regent, and it must be mentioned four thousand musketeers and three artillery companies bivouacked in the city, they make little fuss. Thus Alexandra is able to seamlessly transition from being Regent of Poland for her absent husband to being Regent of Poland for her underage son. All administrative positions carry over into the not-so-new regime, although with the deaths of many nobles she can award allies and entice new ones by distributing vacant offices.

    Thus within a few weeks of learning of her husband’s death, Alexandra is in clear command of a united Poland. And she still has a decent army. While most of the elite Polish hussars now fertilize Macedonian fields, most Polish infantry and all of their artillery stayed at home. It is a cavalry-weak army, which removes the main Polish strength, but it is an army still with teeth.

    But her situation is still grave. Even before the winter of 1634-35, a Vlach-Scythian army started pressing into Galicia, and in 1635 it now has 8 Roman tourmai and a substantial artillery train added to its ranks, mustering over 30,000 men. By itself it is a major threat.

    Fortunately for her in early 1635 it is the only major threat. The Prussians, who certainly want to retake the historic region of Prussia lost during Casimir’s wars of conquest, were bankrupted by the Baltic war. They’d asked for Roman subsidies in order to move, but now with Casimir dead Poland isn’t much on Demetrios III’s radar, focused on Germany and Italy as he is, and he’d declined to pay in the amounts they wanted. Now the Prussians may move on their own, but Alexandra is certain she is safe in that area until at least 1636.

    A much bigger threat, the return of the eastern nightmare that had haunted the namesakes of her son, thankfully is not present either. There had been rumors that a great Russian host might be massing to retake the Lithuanian lands lost to Casimir, but Russian attentions are absorbed in the Zemsky Sobor meeting in Vladimir. It is clear to Alexandra that for the moment, she is safe in that area as well.

    Lithuania though offers hope to Alexandra as in June Ivan Sapieha returns to Lithuania. Ivan is her big brother and Alexandra his favorite little sister. In a letter he writes from the Vlach port of Odessa, he tells her that while he has to insist on the return of all the Lithuanian lands conquered by Casimir, he “has no designs on the Kingdom of Poland proper. That is the realm of my beloved little sister. To harm that is to harm you, and that is an abominable thing in my mind.”

    He returns to Lithuania with the ranks of his retainers thinned by the war in Rhomania, but he has several decorations and Roman titles in recognition for his service, lots of shiny hyperpyra, and his retainers are fully kitted out in Roman army surplus. And he has the full backing of Demetrios III Sideros, making Ivan a huge threat to the Kesgailos and Gostautai families, the rivals that had threatened him before he took service in the Empire.

    The two families had been snapping at each other in his absence, to the point of the occasional raid on estates and bushwhacking of isolated parties, although both try to cloak their activities under the guise of ‘brigands’. With the return of Ivan they join forces to oppose him. While Ivan is well financed and with foreign support which helps him to recruit allies, the two families have more native Lithuanian men and material behind them. The would-be winner is by no means clear. Three weeks after entering Lithuania, Ivan fights a pitched battle with Kesgailos-Gostautai retainers, the combined combatants numbering over three thousand and the total casualties of both sides adding up to over four hundred. It seems that Lithuania is on the verge of civil war.

    That is most definitely not in the interest of the Zemsky Sobor and Demetrios III, both of which are able to act promptly. Together they force a truce on the combatants, the Zemsky Sobor providing the men and Rhomania the money for the muscle to enforce said truce. In an event that showcases the interconnectedness of the Roman sphere, the various parties meet at Smolensk to negotiate. To arbitrate the dispute as neutral parties are the Doux of Adygea, the ruler of the Adyghe people in the Kingdom of Georgia [2] and the Ethiopian ambassador to Rhomania, who’d volunteered his services.

    Over the course of several months they go over the various disagreements, gradually working out compromises. The opponents are generally conciliatory, given the unpalatable options available if they’re not, although they all agree that the Doux and Ambassador really are fair and impartial. The result is the Treaty of Smolensk, which resolves various land and legal disputes, with Ivan getting the prize of being ‘elected’ First Posadnik (Chief Speaker), the chief executive office of Lithuania, although it can hardly be considered a fair election considering that it was one of the conditions of the treaty.

    While all this is happening, Alexandra can get no support from her brother, but there is also no threat from the east, meaning for now she can concentrate all her strength on Galicia. Although the Polish army does not face the Vlach-Scythian-Roman army in open battle, the Poles skirmish and raid repeatedly, bogging them down and frustrating their logistics. The allied army advances, but it is a slow slog, not the grand sweep that had been envisaged last year.

    Ivan, immediately upon becoming First Posadnik, starts working for a peace treaty for Poland. Several factors help in this regard. Firstly, the much stiffer resistance Alexandra presented in Galicia than expected. Secondly, the lack of animus Demetrios III Sideros levels against Poland, his hatred having been focused on Casimir. And thirdly, that it is Ivan Sapieha working to do the brokering. The Lithuanian nobleman, who was personally decorated by Demetrios III Sideros as a ‘Hero of the Empire’ a week before he left Constantinople to return to his homeland, is in the high esteem of both the Basileus and Kaisar, who commanded him in Macedonia.

    So eight weeks after the Treaty of Smolensk is signed, delegations from Rhomania, all the Russian principalities, Poland, Vlachia, Prussia, and Hungary converge on Kiev. Queen Alexandra attends in person despite the hazards of the journey, secure at home but doing she needs to be present at these talks.

    Although she has more than would’ve been expected a year earlier, she does not have too many cards to play. She’s managed to stymie 30000 foes this year, but the next could easily see 100000+ arrayed against her. It is apparent that she must yield up Casimir’s Lithuanian conquests; even Ivan says he must insist on getting those. She can expect some pushback from the nobility, but fortunately most already recognize the necessity of concessions and those that would be most expected to be obstreperous, because they hold land there, are dead. Casimir awarded those grants to his most loyal supporters, most of whom, because they were loyal supporters, rode with him to Thessaloniki.

    That mostly, but not entirely, removes the Russian threat. The principalities are much less likely to move now that Lithuanian grievances have been addressed; the other Russian states did not lose anything to Casimir. However it is not impossible either, as a Roman-financed Russian army can always be arranged by Demetrios’ agents.

    Alexandra, thanks to her education, know precisely how to play to the Romans. Immediately on arrival in Kiev she presents several gifts to the ambassador for Demetrios III, all of them items taken from Constantinople either during the Fourth Crusade or the Latin Empire that have ended up in Poland. Acts like these are guaranteed to put any post-1204 Roman Emperor in a good mood, much less Demetrios III with his historical interests.

    Unfortunately for her such gifts can do nothing to change the Romans’ two conditions for peace with Poland: Galicia must go to Vlachia and Prussia to the Kingdom of Prussia. Vlach Galicia is a condition of the Treaty of Belgrade, which Demetrios is not jeopardizing under any circumstances whatsoever. Prussia is more unusual, since Prussia isn’t in the war, yet, but it was a conquest of Casimir and the Emperor gets amusement out of wiping out Casimir’s legacy within eighteen months of his death. Plus Prussia, with its dynastic ties with Rhomania (the rulers are Komnenoi, descendants of Theodora Komnena, daughter of the last Second Komnenid Emperor), has promise as an outpost for Roman influence in the Baltic. This is particularly important in Demetrios III’s mind as he is now, as a result of the Scandinavian invasion of Schleswig-Holstein, aware of the significance of the Triune-Scandinavian alliance.

    The Queen is forced to give way on this, but keeps it to these conditions only. Vlach Galicia, as the territory exists between the Tenth Crusade and the Time of Troubles, will be restored to Targoviste, but not one speck of dirt more. Some territories outside that sphere already occupied by Vlach forces are returned to Poland without compensation to the Vlachs. Prussia is ceded to Prussian control mostly on the basis of the pre-1618 borders, but in the case of several border disputes that had been the initial casus belli, the prize goes to Poland. After all, Prussia wasn’t in the war, so there are limits to how much Riga should receive.

    Alexandra gets concessions of her own though to help balance the scales. Largely by force of will, she gets all of the signatories to agree, in the treaty itself, to recognize Aleksander III as the rightful King of Poland and herself as his Regent. This will help her position back home immensely as she has to force through the earlier-mentioned capitulations, and it also means none of the signatories can conspire against her without breaking their word.

    She also takes advantage of the events in western Germany, which none of the signatories can ignore, to get another benefit, this time for the Kingdom of Poland. The signatories agree that after the transfer of the promised lands, the remaining territorial integrity of Poland shall be guaranteed by the signatories against “the Emperor of All the North, the Holy Roman Emperor and any of the associated principalities, including the Kingdom of Bohemia, and the Emperor of the United Kingdoms”. This is a massive boon for Poland’s western security, even if this provision is limited to eight years, although open for renewal.

    In return, so long as the guarantee is in effect and Poland is not facing a western invasion, Poland must pledge two thousand cavalry to the Romans upon six months’ notice of said call, if said call is made before 1640. If the call is made after that mark, Poland must provide 4000 cavalry. That the increase goes into effect before the Roman-Ottoman truce ends is not a coincidence.

    And so Alexandra returns to Poland with the Treaty of Kiev. Poland has certainly been humbled, but save for Galicia all of the cessions have been Polish for less than twenty years. Yet it is intact, secure, and thanks to her quick and smart thinking both at Krakow and Kiev, stable. In these times, that is quite the prize.

    [1] Russian population estimates have been few and far between in the TL, but in my notes I have a Russian population of 14 million listed for 1540. Assuming an average annual growth rate of just 0.75%, this would put the Russian population at over 28 million in 1635. This is the canon rate; please disregard other information contradicting this as errors on my part.

    [2] Many of the various peoples of the Georgian Kingdom have self-autonomy under their own rulers, with Tbilisi handling foreign affairs and leaving them alone provided they pay specified tribute amounts. Some of the various elites and rulers are well integrated into Georgian society, acting as Georgian officials and officers while simultaneously being rulers of their peoples. The Doux of Adygea, who has also served as Georgian ambassador to Sicily and Vlachia, is a key example of one of these.