An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

1635: Darkness Before Us
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    1635 (Balkans/Southern Germany): They had wintered in Belgrade, proceeding north once the spring runoff had drained away from the marshes of southern Hungary, marching along what they call the Old Crusader Road. For while the sea passage of the Fourth Crusade burns most in the Roman psyche, they have not forgotten that it was by land that the first crusaders came.

    The army that Manuel Philanthropenos commands, at 25000 strong, is small by the standards of the previous year, but it is a lean and tough force. Its constituent elements include the Akoimetoi, now at full strength again, and the Chaldeans. They had been part of Mauromanikos’ force closing the Serbian back-door and thus, much to their annoyance, missed the battle of Thessaloniki. Both formations are eager for revenge.

    Yet their desire for revenge cannot compare to the rest of the force, a mix of Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Helladic tourmai, all of which have seen their lands ravaged by the allies. The battle of Thessaloniki was good, but a little ‘armed pilgrimage’, to use the Latin terminology, up the Old Crusader Road would be better.

    As the Roman army marches to Buda, linking up with the Hungarian army, relations with the Magyars are cool. There is no love lost on either side; too many on both sides have lost loved ones, either in this last war or in the War of Mohacs. The inhabitants of Buda make it very clear they will take up arms if the Roman soldiers enter the city; the Romans encamp outside.

    The initial object is the conquest of Austria for Hungary, per the terms of the Treaty of Belgrade. This is a fairly easy task; many of the Austrian fortifications already have Hungarian garrisons, courtesy of King Stephan’s offer to protect the region against d’Este last year. Vienna is not one of those settlements but the burghers there have no loyalty to the House of Wittelsbach and many are very eager to restore the already-centuries-old connection to the Kingdom of Hungary. As a result, Vienna holds out a mere fortnight before surrendering to the Hungarians on generous terms. Ten days later King Stephan rides into the city with crowds cheering, and for many Viennese the cheers are genuine.

    The Romans, while passing through Hungary and Austria, are generally well behaved, but as they cross over the border into Bavaria they quickly turn murderous. In their capacity for destruction, they yield nothing to the Allied ravagers that left Upper Macedonia as a ‘shattered reef’. In fact, some of the scouts doing much of the burning and butchering are former members of the partisan communes of Upper Macedonia, who learned their trade in that most brutal war and most eager to ply their skills here.

    The Lady Elizabeth has been trying to broker a peace with the Romans, offering what seems to her like reasonable concessions that fulfill all the Roman objectives. She will acknowledge that the Wittelsbachs have no claim on the Roman throne. She will acknowledge whatever ‘rearrangements’ Demetrios III chooses to do in Italy. She will cede Austria to Hungary; its acquisition by the Wittelsbachs was legally dubious after all. She’s also willing to not make a fuss over the annexation of Salzburg by Hungary either. Finally she’s even willing to abandon all Wittelsbach prisoners in Roman hands. When she makes the last provision, it is not her finest moment, but she reasons that it is better to abandon them then have Romans rampaging through Bavaria killing even more of her subjects.

    That is the limit she is willing to give, even at this point. But that would, she thinks, be enough. The problem she faces though is the Roman policy toward Germany in mid-1635, or more precisely the lack of any real policy toward Germany. Beyond the conquest of Austria for Hungary, the Romans have no real plan or goals. Whipped up by propaganda from the war, reveling at the might at their disposal, their goal is revenge. Their goal is blood and fire, a small repayment for all the suffering inflicted on them from the west.

    There is a vague nod to a goal when Demetrios III speculates about the demolishing of the Holy Roman Empire, a ‘German farce perpetuated by a scheming pontiff’ as the Basileus describes it. But he doesn’t seem too serious about that; if he were the Emperor would’ve committed far more than Philanthropenos’ and d’Este’s relatively small armies. This isn’t Poland or Italy where realpolitik holds sway. The Romans want blood.

    There is a noticeable exception to this. The Roman ambassadors to Antwerp, Bern, and King’s Harbor all argue strenuously in favor of Elizabeth’s overtures. The King’s Harbor and Antwerp ambassadors go even further, suggesting that all Wittelsbach prisoners be returned without any ransom demands and that Elizabeth even be granted a subsidy, all to help her fight the real enemy of today, the Triple Monarchy. All three ambassadors agree that a Triune acquisition of the Rhine would be disastrous.

    Such arguments fall on deaf ears though. Most Romans give no thought to the Rhine; it is far away and there are no Romans there. There used to be, but the undeclared naval war against the Triunes that started after the battle of Guernsey in 1575 ended with the Triunes wiping Roman shipping from the Atlantic. So the Romans, as a salve to their pride, often say that the loss of said shipping isn’t really that important.

    Demetrios III, while still a student at the University of Constantinople, had invested his earnings in one of the Antwerp runs that was destroyed by Triune privateers. That fiasco, and the humiliation of having to go cap in hand back to his father for money and being forced to have a very annoying roommate because of the limits of his new stipend, meant that as a young man Demetrios Sideros tried to forget the Rhine even existed.

    Now as Emperor he certainly can’t pretend any more that the Rhine doesn’t exist or ignore the dangers of the growth of Triune power. But given his antipathy to the region given his earlier experiences, it is easy for the calls of vengeance, fueled by the contents of his own writings, to override his judgment.

    And so Elizabeth’s overtures are of absolutely no use. It is far from the only woe she faces. The incapacity of her brother the Holy Roman Emperor raises serious questions about the leadership of Germany. In his occasional bouts of lucidity, Theodor discusses abdicating, but there is the question of who would succeed him. Lacking a direct male heir, he wants Elizabeth to be his successor, but while she can rule the Wittelsbach lands she cannot be Emperor. The vast Wittelsbach patrimony across the Holy Roman Emperor would give her substantial influence even without the Imperial title, but that is not the same.

    There are three male relative options for a successor for Theodor. One is Elizabeth’s infant son, born in the fall of 1634. His name is Karl Manfred, named for Charlemagne and Manfred I, a defiant name but that hardly makes up for his lack of years. The second is their cousin, the Prince-Elector of the Palatine Otto Henry II. The Prince-Electors of the Palatine are of a cadet branch of the Imperial Wittelsbachs, with frequent intermarriages between the two branches. The third option is Duke Eberhard III of Württemberg, Elizabeth’s husband. While he doesn’t have the rank or Wittelsbach blood of Otto Henry II, he is Elizabeth’s preferred choice because while Karl Manfred is too young now, she wants him to wear the Imperial crown someday, which will be more likely if his father wears it now rather than her Palatine cousin.

    However this is ignoring a key player who is not a Wittelsbach relation, Ottokar of Bohemia. Many historians have questioned exactly what Ottokar wants at this point; it’s possible Ottokar himself doesn’t know. He certainly wants to become Holy Roman Emperor and supplant the Wittelsbachs, and is willing to use the Triunes to do so. Yet at the same time he wants to take over an intact Holy Roman Empire, preferably without an overly-powerful Triple Monarchy next door. For the moment he is biding his time and hedging his bets, but there is no guarantee he will stay that way for long.

    For now, lucid Theodor and Elizabeth agree to keep the situation as is. It cannot last, but it is holding for now, and there is the concern that if they push for either Eberhard III or Otto Henry II to succeed Theodor, they’ll drive Ottokar firmly into opposition, likely into Henri II’s arms.


    Elizabeth Wittelsbach. The portrait dates from early 1634, shortly before her pregnancy with Karl Manfred.
    (By Raphael - Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain,​

    The Roman-Hungarian army follows the River Danube as it crosses over into Bavaria, linking up with d’Este’s troops at Passau. Passau is an independent bishopric, promptly garrisoned by lead elements of the Hungarian forces, who ride forward in an effort to safeguard the region from Roman reprisals. The Romans behave, grudgingly, as this is now allied territory, but they demand a large ‘contribution’ from the countryside, already severely stripped by d’Este last year.

    That is the dynamic as the Romans and Hungarians proceed, turning down the Isar River towards Munich. The Romans ravage and wreck, filling the Bavarian horizon with the plumes of burning villages. Hungarian soldiers commit their own share of atrocities, but everyone, Romans, Hungarians, Germans, and the Bohemians watching nervously from the north, agree that the Romans are the more brutal. It is even worse than d’Este last year.

    Tensions between the Romans and Hungarians, which were already elevated when back in Buda, only intensify. Strategos Philanthropenos and Prince Esterhazy, commander of the Hungarian army who was elevated shortly after his return to Buda, do not get along very well personally. The Prince sees little point in the expedition after Vienna falls, recognizing that the Romans have no real purpose here other than smashing.

    Still the Romans and Hungarians press on, facing little opposition until they reach the walls of Munich itself on July 29. This will not be like last year. While the Romans and Hungarians don’t possess heavy siege artillery, they have twelve and fifteen-pounder guns, much harder-hitting than the light field artillery that had been most of d’Este’s teeth in his previous attack.

    Another difference is that Elizabeth is not in the city. Recognizing that the city probably can’t be held, unlike last year, and concerned about what might transpire in the Holy Roman Empire if they are trapped, Theodor, Elizabeth, and Karl Manfred have fled, leaving the city under the command of Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemburg. The family’s objective is Württemberg, where Elizabeth’s husband can protect them. When he hears the news Manuel Philanthropenos embarks on an audacious and ambitious course.

    The army will divide. The Hungarians, along with a contingent of the Roman army commanded by d’Este, will remain and besiege Munich. D’Este has much better working relations with Tamás Dobó, Count of Várpalota, who’d commanded Hungarian troops in Austria last year and had sparred with d’Este. Meanwhile Philanthropenos will lead eighteen thousand Romans westward.

    There are several reasons for this. On the more selfish level, Philanthropenos is tired of dealing with the Hungarians. While in Mesopotamia he has proven himself to be a brilliant field commander, that is quite different from being the generalissimo of a coalition force, and at the second task he is far from great. Furthermore, cutting loose and undertaking a great raid into the heart of Germany, much like his raid into Mesopotamia and Syria, is highly appealing, far more prestigious than a tedious siege. One bad thing about having a great family name is the constant need to live up to it.

    On a more strategic level, capturing Theodor and Elizabeth would be a greater coup than even the capture of Munich, never mind the satisfaction of dragging Theodor through a Roman encampment in chains. There are quite a few Roman soldiers who bitterly regret that he slipped through their fingers after Thessaloniki and are keen to fix that error. Also if he strikes west, he threatens the remaining Wittelsbach power bases in southwestern Germany, namely Württemberg and the Palatine.

    Now it could be pointed out that Wittelsbach forces in southwest Germany are also threatening the Triunes. But Manuel Philanthropenos is a soldier, not a diplomat or politician. He is not at war with the Triunes, and his only brief regarding them is to make sure he does not start a war with them. But he is at war with the Wittelsbachs, meaning his mission is to destroy their power until he hears otherwise from Constantinople.

    Breaking camp from the west bank of the Isar, Philanthropenos and his forces march west, trapezites flying forward in pursuit of the Imperial Wittelsbach family. Near the western border of Bavaria, trapezites ambush the party in a dawn surprise assault, scattering the Wittelsbachs and their faithful retainers. Elizabeth, clutching Karl Manfred to her, escapes, but Theodor disappears into the woods.

    Two days later Roman trapezites ride into the village of Kissing on the trail of Theodor. They look around the village but can get no cooperation from the villagers, despite offers of money. The murderous reputation of the Romans mean that even while the money is tempting, no Bavarians are willing to draw attention to themselves by offering assistance. Best to not be noticed. Not finding anything promising in their quick search and unable to do much threatening since the Bishop of Augsburg with a contingent of a thousand musketeers is just 11 kilometers away, the Romans leave.

    Two days after that, Elizabeth rides into town with two hundred of the Bishop’s men, along with eight hundred provided by the Duke of Teck. The cousin of her husband, the Duke of Teck had arrived in the nick of time and driven off the Roman horse chasing her. There they find Theodor, dressed in a peasant smock and helping a group of peasants dig a ditch. The image of the Holy Roman Emperor, the heir of Charlemagne, in the muck wielding a spade alongside a group of lowly peasants, is an unforgettable sight. The story spreads wildly, the tale being told in many a pamphlet across the continent, with popular woodcuts appearing by January of 1636, the ultimate sign of the price of hubris. That is why he is known today as Theodor the Digger. Because, as Demetrios III described it, “he who would command all the earth, cannot even rule the earth held by a single spade”.

    Now protected by the Duke of Teck and Bishop of Augsburg, the Imperial Wittelsbachs are whisked away to the west, making their capture by Romans a practical impossibility. Still Manuel presses on with his attack, determined to lay waste to the Wittelsbach loyalists of southwestern Germany.

    The wreckage here is more strategic than in Bavaria, with the focus on burning rather than killing. Having men scatter to hunt down random peasants would be a dangerous dispersal in a foreign and hostile landscape, but anything of value that isn’t sucked up for the Romans’ own usage is destroyed whenever possible. As a Roman staff officer puts it in a phrase that comes to define the entire campaign, they advance “with darkness before us, and destruction behind”.
    1635: The Watch on the Rhine
  • 1635 (Western Europe): The Lower Rhine is the main goal of the Triune offensive, but the defense of the Lower Rhine depends, in many ways, on the Upper Rhine. Southwest Germany, through the offices of the Prince-Elector of the Palatine and the Duke of Württemberg, is still mostly loyal to the House of Wittelsbach.

    Furthermore, Southwest Germany is still capable of fielding a respectable army. While the German states here provided some men and money for Theodor’s assault on Rhomania, because of their strategic position vis-à-vis the Triple Monarchy, their contributions were comparatively limited. While allied with Henri, there were limits to how far Theodor trusted him. As a result, Prince-Elector Otto Henry II and Duke Eberhard III can, between them and the other states of the Upper Rhenish and Swabian Circles, field an army close to 40000 strong come summer 1635. Many formations are green though and while they are decently equipped, ironically with a strong string of Triune-made cannons, the Reichsarmee they’ve assembled is quite weak in cavalry. The war in Rhomania had been even bloodier on German mounts than on men, meaning even these territories had to contribute huge quantities of horseflesh.

    Nevertheless that is nowhere near enough to confront the Triune juggernaut. However King Albrecht III and the two German rulers have a plan; the reason that the Upper Rhine is crucial is that it is key to gaining more men. When Elizabeth rides into Stuttgart, her husband’s capital, she meets with representatives of the Bernese League who pledge 15000 more men against the Triunes. The very-welcome Bernese offer comes with two conditions. Firstly, in any combined army they must be posted on the opposite side from any contingents from the Swiss Confederation. In the words of Maximilian VI von Habsburg, Count of Aargau (and therefore the head of the House of Habsburg in the League because of his control of the ancestral seat) “in the course of battle, the Bernese will, out of force of habit, begin killing Swiss if they see them”.

    That is an expected and easily-granted condition. The other is more difficult. While the League army will mobilize, it will not move outside of League territory until it has been reinforced by at least 20000 Spanish troops.

    Lotharingia has a long practice of hiring Spanish soldiers to bolster its armies, a practice encouraged by the then-Kings of Castile as a way of gaining some extra money while returning officers brought back useful knowledge regarding engineering and technology to Castile. Spanish soldiers have been a mainstay in Lotharingian defense against Triune attacks, to the point that the route from Italy north over the Alps and along the Rhine to the Lotharingian heartland is typically known as the Spanish Road. Henri II is well aware of that history and the key mission of the Army of Burgundy is to cut said Spanish Road.

    King Ferdinand is most willing to enter the war, alarmed by the growth of Triune power and desiring to curb it. His preferred solution is one presented by the Duke of Seville, Ferdinand de Seville, formerly Yusuf ibn Ibrahim, the Emir of Seville. Since he switched allegiances, he has converted to Catholicism, the Spanish monarch himself becoming his godfather. Known as the Wolf Duke both because of his descent from the Wolf King [1] and his military exploits against the Marinids in the Granada War, he is one of the richest and most prominent grandees in the Kingdom.

    Duke Ferdinand proposes a grand army, comprised of Spanish, Arletian, Aragonese, and Bernese troops, at least a hundred thousand strong, massing and marching straight on Paris. With the Reichsarmee in southwest Germany and the Lotharingian army on the Lower Rhine, they can smash the Triunes between them.

    It is a bold and ambitious plan and one that has certainly kept Henri II awake at night. But there are several factors making said plan impossible, unfortunately for the foes of the Triunes.

    Firstly, Ferdinand is broke. The Granada War, while militarily successful, has practically bankrupted the Spanish monarchy. Interest rates have tripled since 1630, several royal properties have been mortgaged, and even hikes in the cruzada tax haven’t kept up. There is no more capital to borrow from Germany or Italy for obvious reasons, and the Romans, also tight on money because of their own wartime expenses, are not being very cooperative.

    To finance the war, Ferdinand needs the support of the wealthy Lisbon merchants and financiers. They are open to war, but war against the Romans. While Spanish vessels carry Terranovan and eastern wares to Lisbon, Lotharingian merchants dominate the carrying trade from Iberia to the Low Countries, meaning that the Triunes pounding the Lotharingians there does nothing to Spanish businesses; they’re already locked out. Furthermore as neutral carriers, that may give them the edge to open said locked door.

    Meanwhile the Portuguese element of the Spanish Kingdom has a long-standing tradition of viewing the Romans as rivals. They were battling in eastern waters before a Triune galleon ever rounded the Cape of Storms. Roman inroads on Java and their recent conquest of the Banda Islands have made serious inroads in Spanish trade in eastern Island Asia, while a proxy war using Malay allies between the Viceroyalty of Malacca and Katepanate of Pahang is becoming increasingly nasty, with Spanish and Roman “advisors” directly firing on each other on at least two recorded occasions with resulting fatalities on both sides. The cooperation against their mutual foe Aceh at the battle of the Lingga Islands in 1633 briefly warmed the air, but the temperature plummeted after the battles off the Sunda Kingdom in 1634.

    However, even if King Ferdinand could get the money for a great army to invade France, he wouldn’t be able to deploy it. The Wolf Duke’s plan had hinged on using the Roussillon Accord as a framework, but that is a defensive, not an offensive, alliance. That could be worked around, but annoyingly in January 1635 old King Basil II Komnenos decided to die.

    Basil II had been a strong monarch in his prime, but as is typical of the dynastic difficulties of the Arletian royal house, his successor is his grandson Leo (II), who is not quite ten years old at the time of his grandfather’s death. His mother, now Dowager Queen Joan, is supposed to be his regent until he comes of age, but Joan is no Queen Alexandra. Not particularly powerful or administratively experienced, most of her strength comes from her brother, Duke Raymond X of Toulouse. [2]

    However there are other notable figures who desire the Regency. The most significant is Melchior II de Polignac, the Duke of Valentinois. As a young man, he served as a volunteer in the Imperial Wittelsbach armies during the Brothers’ and Second Rhine Wars, earning accolades for his military valor and skill from no less of a figure than Marshal Blucher.

    Still retaining his rakish charm into middle-age, although his steadily expanding belly is cutting into that, he is also well-known for his cultural patronage, subsidizing artists and playwrights and architects. His famous chateau near Montélimar, which is still mostly original construction and houses an art museum with many of the works of his patronized artists, is a popular tourist attraction to this day.

    However as Basil II’s grip slackened in his dotage, Duke Melchior has grown more ambitious, and despite his earlier military career, for the last three years he has been in the pay of Henri II. He has become the leader of what is colloquially known as the ‘Ocean’ faction, which favors warm relations with the Triunes fueled by trade, such as the thriving export of Gascon wines to England and Normandy, accompanied by expansion overseas in Terranova and the east. Many in this group are wary of the Roussillon Accord, fearful that in the event of an Accord-Triune War that Arles will bear the brunt of it. Considering the geography, that is a very reasonable concern. They believe that keeping peace with their northern neighbor combined with overseas growth is the best recipe for Arletian security and prosperity. Melchior shares these beliefs, but his Triune stipend makes him especially devoted to said beliefs.

    Opposing the Ocean faction is the ‘Europe’ faction, which shared the viewpoint of the late King Basil II. They strongly support the Accord, are interested in landward expansion including in Northern Italy (hence the pushback of the Three Johns against the Romans), and had been ascendant until the King’s death. They are aligned with the Spanish, many members having commercial ties and even marriage alliances with important Spanish houses.

    The Europe faction argues that the Triunes cannot be trusted, and that after expansion to the east they will turn southward against Arles, which will now have fewer allies. To this the Ocean faction counters that while the Triunes have repeatedly made threats and invaded Lotharingia three times in the past seventy five years, they’ve shown no signs of aggression against Arles in several decades. Furthermore in the east, the Triunes and Arletians have often acted as allies against the established Romans and Spanish and the equally new and rather pushy Lotharingians.

    This last point is particularly important as the Ocean faction includes many of the great and good of the Kingdom of Arles, including powerful mercantile elements whose support would be crucial to financing a large land war. Queen Joan lacks the political strength to prevent the factional bickering, with the result that Arles is effectively stalled.

    So the ‘great army’ is out. But Ferdinand can still send a ‘small army’, twenty thousand strong; that he can afford. That will help the foes of the Triunes and give him time to work on the Lisbon financiers and support the ‘Europe’ faction in Arles. The Spanish army has long practice with provisioning troops for the Spanish Road.

    Except that the Spanish Road is already partially closed, without the Triunes even firing a shot. The southern terminus is Genoa, still blockaded by the Roman fleet. Even if the Romans were to stand aside, which they are not, Genoa is one spark away from exploding into revolt and Liguria has no provisions to support an army. Plus, the rest of northern Italy is busy sustaining the armies of the Dukes of Verona and Parma as they battle. Trying to march a Spanish army through there would be a nightmare.

    So rather than marching to Barcelona to board transports for Genoa, the usual route, the twenty thousand Spaniards will have to march overland to Bern, a substantially slower process. But it is the only option, Queen Regent Joan giving her assent despite the protests of the Duke of Valentinois and the Ocean faction who fear provoking Henri. The Duke of Toulouse counters that Henri is too busy being provocative to be provoked himself.

    The Spanish force, euphemistically named the Army of Observation (there is no official state of war between Spain and the Triple Monarchy), is commanded by the Wolf Duke. His second is Alfonso de Talavera, King Ferdinand’s favorite son, born of his Basque mistress. Popular at court and amidst the Spanish soldiery, the Roman ambassador notes that the Duke of Aveiro, to give Alfonso his title, is the spitting image of portraits of his great-great-grandfather, Andreas II Drakos. King Ferdinand is a grandson of Empress Helena I via her second-youngest daughter Anna.

    As the tercios [3] begin their long march to the Rhine, the other armies already extant are trading blows. The Bernese army is mustering at Pontarlier, a member of the League. While stationery, the Triune commander of the Army of Burgundy, Gaspar de Rochechouart, Duke of Nemours, has to take its existence into account. As a result, rather than focusing on overrunning the Franche-Comte, he switches his advance through southern Lorraine with his main target being the strategic city of Strasbourg on the left bank of the Rhine.

    He faces little opposition as he advances. While northern Lotharingia is studded with modern fortresses, they have sucked up the money leaving little for fortifying these southern regions. Furthermore, as the center of gravity in Lotharingia pivoted north and the court became more Dutch, these areas have been more and more estranged from their Lotharingian overlords. In addition, Bohmanism has been spreading with the support of King’s Harbor and fueled by dissatisfaction with corrupt clergy. Without the tools and the will to fight, the Lorrainers largely capitulate to Nemours once he promises to respect their privileges.

    Strasbourg, on the other hand, is well-fortified with a garrison recruited from Brabant. But while the garrison is defiant, expecting support from the Reichsarmee that Otto Henry and Eberhard are assembling as Nemours marches through Lorraine, the burghers are less sanguine. After all, it will be their homes bombed and their wives and children butchered if the city is stormed. The city also has one of the biggest Bohmanist communities outside the Triple Monarchy, and one persecuted by Lotharingian authorities due to their suspect loyalties.

    Whether the Bohmanist burghers were suspect beforehand, after a series of harsh taxes and business restrictions imposed on them, they certainly are now. It is also noticed by even their Catholic neighbors who are not directly targeted that the restrictions also tend to boost outsider manufactures to the detriment of native wares. By outsider, they mean goods from the Dutch lands.

    Thus the burghers are most ready to listen to the Duke of Nemours, who has express permission from Henri II to make any concessions necessary in order to get Strasbourg to flip quickly. It is vital to cutting the Spanish Road. After promising the removal of all anti-Bohmanist regulation, the promise to respect Catholic worship in the city, and certain tax exemptions, the city of Strasbourg agrees to put itself under Triune control.

    The garrison is a different matter but they recognize that resistance is hopeless without the support of the townspeople, especially after Nemours lets a delegation take a thorough tour of his fine artillery train. They agree to withdraw, being allowed to take out all their personal equipment and weapons and banners, plus one cannon. After they march out on their way to Antwerp, Nemours moves in and garrisons Strasbourg.

    Three days later the Reichsarmee arrives, too late to bolster the Strasbourg garrison as had been the hope, but the Germans bloody the probes Nemours has sent to the east-bank, driving them back. While Nemours has a numerical edge of close to 5000 troops after leaving garrisons in the conquests, that’s not nearly enough for the Duke to gamble crossing the Rhine in the face of the foe.

    However if he pivots north, he makes it easier for the Reichsarmee, Bernese, and Spanish forces to combine, and if they do they will comfortably outnumber him. So it won’t matter if he’s on the east bank by that point. If he swings south though there are other dangers. The Bernese army has shifted from Pontarlier to Mulhouse, the northernmost member of the League. While the League army by itself is too small to be a threat, if it piles into his flank while he’s forcing his way across the Rhine it could inflict damage far out of proportion to its size. He could attack the Bernese army at Mulhouse, but he doesn’t have permission to violate League territory from Henri II, and then there’s the risk that while doing so, the Reichsarmee might cross over into the west-bank. While Nemours sends missives to Henri II and reinforcements from the Army of the Center start to arrive, for the moment it seems to be a stalemate here at least.

    Enter the Romans. Otto Henry and Eberhard cannot allow their German territories to be ravaged; they are the larder and pay-chest of the Reichsarmee. With the Imperial Wittelsbachs and most of the great financiers of the Holy Roman Empire no longer able to provide capital, they are dependent strictly on what they can draw from their own estates. If the Romans burn said estates down, the army will collapse without even a proper battle.

    Fortunately the Roman army is a small one, just half the size of the Reichsarmee even after they leave a few thousand men to hopefully bluff Nemours. If they can kill it quickly, their absence might not matter. So while the Romans march west across the Bavarian-Augsburg border, the Reichsarmee of Prince-Elector Otto Henry II and Duke Eberhard III begins marching east.

    [1] The Wolf King, Mohammed ibn-Sa’d ibn Mardanish, was the ruler of Murcia and Valencia between 1152 and 1172, an ally of the Christians against their common foe the Almohads.

    [2] The Dukes of Toulouse are a different family from the Counts of Toulouse, who were destroyed like IOTL by the Albigensian Crusade. When Valois loyalists fled southward and eventually established the Kingdom of Arles at the end of the Ninety Years War, the former Counts of Brienne were enfeoffed with the titles ‘Dukes of Toulouse’. They claim descent from the original comital family, although such claims are diplomatically described as ‘genealogically creative’.

    [3] The Spanish army uses the tercio as its standard unit of organization. Originally they were mixed pike-firearm formations that mirrored the OTL unit, but at this point ITTL they have dropped the pike for the musket-ambrolar combination. However the designation remains.
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    1635: Ulm and Wennenden
  • @Basileus444 the circumstances that led to decolonization are completely different than the ones that the Romans are facing. The Romans are at their heart a mulitethic Empire with universal citizenship granted to those who abide by its laws. It unites various disparate peoples among the notion that there's one law, one faith, and one emperor. Though other versions of Chistianity are tolerated like the Copts, the Armenians, etc.

    Southern Italy was basically organized into Katepanate since it was distant from the Empire proper which had a more eastern focus due to the hostile powers near Constantinople. Still the Catepanate was directly answerable to the Emperor with the central government still keeping a watchful eye over the Catepan and coordinating efforts with him.

    Agreed. Decolonization is far from my thoughts at the moment, since any TTL analogue to the OTL version is so far in the future. After all, most of the regions of the world that de-colonized IOTL haven’t even been colonized yet ITTL.

    That describes the Katepanoi in Rhomania-in-the-East. They function as Viceroys because Constantinople’s too far away to manage things, but they’re still Roman officials that can be reviewed and recalled.

    1635 continued (Southern Germany): Otto Henry and Eberhard march hard east, wishing to minimize their absence from the Rhine theater. Meanwhile Manuel has made less progress than he would like. After sacking Augsburg, he’s been marching in the direction of Stuttgart leaving a trail of destruction behind him. Fleeing in front of the Romans, German refugees and isolated detachments of troops are concentrating in the Free City of Ulm.

    Ulm is not a significant Free City, but it lies on the west bank of the Danube and controls an important crossing. During the Brothers’ War it saw some substantial fighting and so its medieval fortifications have been improved by substantial if crude earthen works. Manuel forces a crossing of the Danube south of the city but doesn’t want to leave Ulm as it is behind him. While the Romans are living off the land and thus don’t have conventional supply lines, he is concerned about leaving such a large, if unwieldy and disjointed, force between him and the Roman-Hungarian army besieging Munich. Also a great many supplies on the land have been brought into Ulm, so if the Romans want to eat, taking Ulm is the best way to ensure a meal.

    Ulm is placed under siege on August 20th. The defenders outnumber the attackers by a decent margin, but only a thousand of the defenders have any real military experience; most are farmers handed a musket if they’re lucky and a farm implement if they’re not. Their artillery pieces are few and old, one of them bursting on the 21st and killing some of the actual soldiers. However the defenders of Ulm get word, just before Manuel can close the net, that the Reichsarmee is on its way so they reject a demand for surrender on the 22nd.

    Manuel is also aware that reinforcements are on their way, although he doesn’t realize their true extent. Given the largely penny-packet opposition he’s faced ever since crossing the Austro-Hungarian border, he does not expect them to be that large. However he has no desire to be trapped between Ulm, the Danube, and even a small relief army. So Ulm needs to fall now.

    An hour before dawn on the 24th the attack is launched, the Romans advancing behind a hail of cannonballs and then waves of grenades. Until dawn the assault is checked, but then the commander of the Ulm garrison, Colonel Andreas Erhard von Gaudi, is badly wounded. In tremendous pain, despite the pleas of subordinates, he asks that he be taken from the battlements into the city. At the sight, many of the civilian defenders panic and abandon their posts, the Romans flooding in behind them and overwhelming those still manning their own stations. Resistance collapses.

    By the rules of war, any city or fortress that rejects demand for surrender and has to be stormed forfeits any rights to mercy. But before launching the attack, Manuel Philanthropenos said Ulm would be under “1204 Rules”, and so Ulm is handed over to destruction. Fires started, reportedly to take out houses where more stalwart defenders were holding out, soon get out of control. Adding to the hell-scape are the Roman soldiers, who demand valuables and torture or kill those who do not cough up quickly or in the expected quantities. It is sometimes claimed that these were merely tit-for-tat for the atrocities meted out by the participants of the Fourth Crusade, but murderous bloodlust is far more likely.

    Exactly how many are killed at Ulm is never established, but the city’s population had been swelled by refugees from the countryside. At least 500 alone were slain when they crowded into Ulm Cathedral for safety and the Romans then blew the church down on their heads. The most common figure cited is about 10,000.

    Still at the smoldering corpse-strewn ruin of Ulm, the Romans get word from their scouts about the approaching Reichsarmee, including the first approximate estimates of its true strength. Manuel has a couple of options. He can hunker down in Ulm. The escalade had not badly damaged the fortifications and Otto Henry and Eberhard can’t stick around for too long for risk of exposing the Rhine. But there is still the risk of getting pinned in place by an army that outnumbers them two-to-one and with all the bodies around Ulm is hardly the heathiest place to encamp for an extended stay.

    Another option is to retire back across the Danube, placing the river between the Roman and German armies. But that also means moving back into an area previously picked clean by the Romans while simultaneously putting them back from Manuel’s real target. The petty principalities here are one thing; he wants Württemberg. It also means allowing the Germans to re-fortify and re-garrison Ulm. The original Roman assault, while successful, cost the Romans nearly a thousand casualties, a significant percentage considering their small force. A better quality garrison could make Ulm effectively impervious to Philanthropenos’ force, while remaining a big enough danger to block his advance, hence the reason for the original attack.

    The third option is to advance, and that is what Philanthropenos chooses.

    Otto Henry and Eberhard are both confused and concerned when their own scouts report that the Romans are coming out of Ulm and heading west; they’d expected Philanthropenos to take either options one or two. Things become clearer when vanguard forces collide near the village of Heroldstatt about 26 kilometers west of Ulm. After what has been described as a “brisk scrap”, the Romans give way and the German horse report that the Romans are in retreat. This reassures the Prince-Elector and the Duke who now believe that Philanthropenos has only now realized the forces arrayed against him. They pursue.

    Battle of Wennenden.jpg

    On August 28th the Germans encounter the Akoimetoi fortified in the village of Wennenden, blocking the road southeast. Along said road, which leads toward the Blaubeuren Abbey where Manuel had his headquarters the last two days and whose library held some good maps of the area, is the Roman wagon train. It is partially jammed up on the road thanks to some broken-down vehicles. Clearly the Akoimetoi are the rearguard for a Roman retreat that is not going so smoothly.

    The Germans form up in the fields northwest of the village and advance. While, from the Germans’ point-of-view, their right wing is flanked by thick woods, their left flank is held swinging wide open in farm fields. As the result the left wing is reinforced, but given their greater numbers that also allows the German left to swing east of the village to hit the wagon train strung along the Blaubeuren road. Holding the Germans before they hit the wagons is the Chaldean tagma, who deploy parallel to the road, the musket volleys between the two armies scything through the crops of the fields in which they fight.

    By 10AM, both armies are roughly in the shape of a backwards r. While the Akoimetoi are holding in Wennenden, the Chaldeans are being pushed back, pressed by greater odds and with no natural defenses or secured flanks.

    Three kilometers south of Wennenden is the village of Seissen, the land in between consisting of flat farmland. But just south of Seissen the land drops a hundred meters into a wooded depression before promptly rising again to the fields that surround the next village, Hausen Ob Urspring. Any troops there, between the depression and the trees, are completely hidden by observers. The woods also curve north, to the west of Seissen and then near the outskirts of Wennenden, where they anchor the right flank of the Reichsarmee. However as one goes through the woods north of Seissen, the depression disappears, the elevation of the woods becoming level with the surrounding fields, and they are thick enough that it seems large bodies of troops cannot move through there.

    At roughly 10:20 AM, six hundred Roman cavalry, all veterans of woodland fighting in Bulgaria or Lower Macedonia, emerge from those woods. They’d entered the forest south of Seissen at the depression, completely surprising the Germans who’d watched and made sure before the battle that the Romans hadn’t slipped in any ambushers into the woods directly from Wennenden. The going had been rough but the horsemen, all from Macedonia, had been highly motivated and the Germans completely distracted by all the Roman soldiery in plain sight. Those plain-view Romans had matched the German scouts’ report of their strength so the absence of a few hundred Macedonians had gone completely unnoticed.

    The only advance warning the Germans get is when the few pickets stationed in the trees come tumbling out. There are some German cavalry posted here as flank guards, but the bulk of the limited German horse are on their left wing where the open fields give them more maneuvering room. They are not nearly enough; the one hundred kataphraktoi that are the spearhead of the Roman cavalry roll right over them.

    Barely slowed down, the Roman horse crash squarely into the right flank of the Reichsarmee, staggering the formations there, jostling and disordering them, snarling reserves that were coming forward against the Roman cavalry. But while the Romans have hurt the Reichsarmee, they have by no means killed it, and now they are at risk of getting swamped by an enemy that outnumbers them locally over twenty to one. The cavalry pull back to reform.

    But now the Akoimetoi come swarming out of Wennenden. While they’ve been firing all morning, they all have a second-issued D3 musket that has not been used that day, until now. With clean weaponry that hasn’t built up any powder residue over the course of the battle, the Guard start pumping volleys into the tangled mass of German soldiery at a rate of 4-5 rounds per minute per man. They cannot keep up that rate for very long, but the carnage they inflict on the packed ranks of humanity is tremendous, with multiple reports of a single Roman musket ball going through three German soldiers.

    And then the Roman cavalry slam into them again, this time into their rear. The Reichsarmee’s right wing shatters at the impact but the fleeing Germans are trapped between the muskets of the Akoimetoi and the sabers of the cavalry. It is sheer butchery.

    Finally the Germans here manage to break clear of the cavalry, fleeing to the northwest. While the cavalry pursue, their mounts are blown and so are unable to do more, but they’ve more than earned their pay today. Meanwhile the Akoimetoi wheel right, crashing into the exposed flank of what used to be the Reichsarmee’s center. Their rate of fire has dropped since the devastating salvoes from just out of Wennenden, but that is more than made up by their light cannons that are now unlimbering on the field and adding their weight of metal to the Akoimetoi’s attack.

    Hammered from the side while the Romans in front of them, invigorated from the news, begin counterattacking, the German center crumbles, albeit not as suddenly or catastrophically as the right wing. The left wing also begins retreating in good order, although the movement is difficult with the Romans hanging on to them.

    Manuel then commits everything he has, including the 4th and 8th Macedonian Guard tourmai, neither of which have seen action so far today. The Duke of Teck, commander of the left wing, is killed at this point, and the retreat turns into a rout.

    It is now 11:10, fifty minutes since 600 Roman horse emerged from the woods northwest of Wennenden.

    The Romans are on the Reichsarmee like a pack of starving wolves on a wounded caribou, the fire in their blood overwhelming their exhaustion. German infantry that form squares to defend them against the Roman cavalry are blasted to bits by light field pieces frantically hauled forward, while if the Germans disperse to avoid the cannon fire the cavalry ride them down. In one case, kataphraktoi with long lances that are longer than the musket-ambrolar weaponry of their opponents, attacking a square formation in the corners, the weakest point, are able to break the square by themselves. This alarms and dismays their compatriots who watch helplessly as the kataphraktoi then flay the formation from the inside out.

    Somewhere at this point, although no one can say exactly when and where, the Bishop of Augsburg, the Margrave of Baden, and the Prince of Hohenzollern (a cousin of Archbishop Bone-Breaker) are all killed. Somewhat later in the day death comes for both Prince-Elector Otto Henry II and Duke Eberhard III. The former is slain by a random cannonball that cuts him in half, the latter by a musket ball while leading the rearguard in a desperate stand a few kilometers north of Wennenden. Only nightfall ends the Roman pursuit.

    The Reichsarmee effectively ceases to exist. Many German soldiers manage to flee the field, but with their weaponry abandoned and leaders slain, they do not return to their colors, disappearing into the countryside. The senior-most remaining officer of the Reichsarmee, the Count of Fürstenberg, eventually rallies 10000 men at Stuttgart, not quite a third of its pre-Wennenden strength, but that third of the army is a broken reed.

    The remainder have been killed, dispersed, or are Roman prisoners. In fact, the number of German POWs after the battle is about half the size of the Roman army. Normally this would be a very serious danger to the Roman army in itself. D’Este last year, in a similar position after the battle of Bad Tölz, had massacred his non-peasant prisoners in the place now infamously known as the Field of Knives. However the Germans here are completely broken, with reports that a single Roman soldier armed with a musket plus a broken ambrolar and no powder and shot is seen hustling on thirty German captives. Thanks to their docility and Manuel’s distaste at the idea of massacring this body of captives, so much larger than that taken at Bad Tölz, most will end up as penal labor in Rhomania, leaving their bones there by some construction project.

    Official Roman casualties are listed as 89 killed and 376 wounded.
    1635: The Taste of Ash
  • 1635 (Southern Germany): After reorganizing after the shattering victory at Wennenden, Manuel Philanthropenos resumes his westward march. However the large slew of prisoners taken, which need to be guarded and escorted to the east, means that he proceeds with merely ten thousand soldiers. But except for the remnants of the Reichsarmee ensconced in Stuttgart, from which they decline to depart to meet the Romans in the open field, the Romans face little opposition as they fan out, burning and wrecking.

    Yet as raids go, it could be far worse. The pre-battle maneuverings, the fighting, and the post-battle cleanup delayed the Romans, so by the time they enter Württemberg the days are shortening. Furthermore many of the supplies the Romans need have been gathered up into Stuttgart, and while what is left of the Reichsarmee dare not take the field, they are quite capable of defending the ramparts against a Roman army no larger than their own. The Romans cannot remain long before returning eastward, and their limited numbers reduce the damage they could cause. So in a way, the Reichsarmee did succeed, somewhat, in the mission of stopping the Roman ravaging, although certainly at far too high a cost.

    The Lady Elizabeth is in Stuttgart when news arrives of the disaster. She has no time to mourn the death of her husband though. With Duke Eberhard’s death, the Duchy falls to her infant son Karl Manfred; the only other serious contender was the Duke of Teck, also slain, although he also leaves behind a son, a boy of five. With the support of the Count of Fürstenberg, commander of what is left of the Reichsarmee, she organizes the proclamation of Karl Manfred as the new Duke and herself as Regent. Anybody who might object either fell at Wennenden or is too shattered by the news. The fact that the Romans coincidently begin to retire two days after this happens helps to boost her position.

    It is small compensation for the news from the Rhine. The Duke of Nemours quickly receives news of Wennenden and acts promptly. Knowing he faces no threat from the east, he wheels south. At Mulhouse, the Bernese and Spanish armies have finally combined, mustering 34000 strong. Added to the Reichsarmee it’d be a most formidable force. However the combined army only gets word of Wennenden just before their scouts also report Nemours barreling toward them across the League frontier with 51,000 men.

    Henri II had been doing his utmost to secure Bernese neutrality. If the League stands down, the Spanish Road is clearly cut. Invading the League risks triggering the Accord, a major risk but one Henri is now willing to take. Clearly the League is up to no good, and if, as seems highly likely, the League intends to stab him, Henri would prefer to stab the League first and make amends later after the threat is eliminated. So once Nemours got his reinforcements, he also received permission from Henri to violate League territory if a good opportunity presented itself.

    The Spanish and League armies have been feeling rather confident since their forces combined. With the Triunes also facing off against the Reichsarmee, the danger point would’ve been before the two forces joined together. That would’ve been the best opportunity for the Triunes to defeat them in detail, but that opportunity seems to have passed.

    As a result, the Spanish and League forces are not prepared to retreat when the Triunes attack, denying them the chance to retire under the protection of the Mulhouse defenses. In a ferocious battle, the Allies inflict nearly seven thousand casualties on their foes, but can’t stand against Nemours’ numerical advantage, particularly when joined by an artillery nearly twice as strong as theirs. It is not a Wennenden as many of the Allied soldiers make it to Mulhouse, but it is still a serious defeat.

    One of the Allied fatalities though is King Ferdinand’s son Duke Alfonso. He had been leading the rearguard, commanding the large infantry squares that beat off several furious Triune cavalry assaults, when a musket ball struck him in the right temple, killing him instantly. After the battle, Nemours sends a note of condolence expressing regret for the loss of such a noble, a gesture most appreciated by the Spanish.

    Nemours does not stay and besiege Mulhouse, even though such a task is well within his capabilities. The threat posed by the joint army has been eliminated. After that is accomplished, Henri sees no gain in ravaging the League and risk triggering an Accord response.

    So Henri is extremely conciliatory. All League prisoners are released with their personal effects and weaponry, save for any coinage and their artillery, their only requirement being a pledge to not bear arms against the Triunes for a year. This gesture appeals greatly to the League members, who are now feeling rather exposed after the crippling of the Reichsarmee. As a result, the League has an easy time coming to terms with the Triunes. In November in the Treaty of Dijon the Triple Monarchy and Bernese League sign a non-aggression pact, to be good for four years.

    In an extra clause, it is stated that this non-aggression pact will be void in the event of a Triune attack on Arles, a clause which gives substantial ammunition to the ‘Ocean’ faction in Arles. There will be no threat from that quarter any time soon, as Henri has no intention of attacking Arles; his eyes are on the Rhine.

    Meanwhile Ferdinand is fuming. Henri has no wish to antagonize the Spanish monarch either, although he is not as generous with him as with the League. The prisoners from Mulhouse are released upon ransom, but Ferdinand’s anti-Triune strategy is in shambles. The dispatch of the Army of Observation and then the ransom has only furthered cratered his finances, not to mention his reputation. The Treaty of Dijon is the last straw.

    But there is more than the humiliation and frustration of seeing his efforts fall apart. There is the anger and grief of having lost his favorite son.

    And he blames the Romans. It was a Triune shot that killed Alfonso, but it was a good honorable death in battle. That Ferdinand can understand and accept. But that battle should not have taken place, would not have taken place, if those bloody-minded Romans hadn’t first distracted and then destroyed the Reichsarmee, giving the Triunes the opportunity to overwhelm the Army of Observation with far greater numbers. The Romans, if they were really as pragmatic and skilled in statecraft as they liked to claim, should have seen that the Triunes were the true threat, but they didn’t. They barged in, making a mess of everything, and now his favored son was dead.

    Ferdinand does not have the money to fight the Triunes, and even if he did he does not have the allies he would need now to prosecute such a war. But he can get money for war against the Romans in the East, for the good of Spain and some satisfaction for the death of Alfonso. And so King Ferdinand approves an expedition to reinforce Spanish holdings there and to wage war against the Romans beyond the line. It will be the greatest Latin armament dispatched to the east in history at that point.

    As Philanthropenos retires back to the Hungarian-Roman army besieging Munich, he receives updates on the siege that are hardly promising. Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemburg, commander of Munich, has proven himself to be an excellent counter-besieger, rallying the inhabitants and garrison of Munich to resist, when it might’ve been expected that the flight of the Wittelsbachs would have broken their morale.

    Helping him in this is the Roman conduct, both in 1634 and in this campaigning season. The inhabitants of Munich and the surrounding countryside have had ample experience of the Romans, none of it pleasant. They have no reason to expect mercy from the Romans, who’ve shown precious little of it, and so see no need to yield. If they must die at the hands of remorseless Greeks, then let the Greeks bleed first.

    Helping the defense is that the Hungarians are not keen to press the attack that hard. Prince Esterhazy knows von Starhemburg personally, from having fought beside him in the 1632-33 campaigns along the Danube. He knows the Count is not bluffing when he proclaims that even if the walls are breached and stormed, he will fight in the city, street by street, house by house, room by room. As part of the defensive arrangements, von Starhemburg has ordered the forging of chains to be strung along streets to help form barricades.

    Since he has had cold feet requiring the entire invasion of Bavaria, Esterhazy really doesn’t want to try and storm Munich against that kind of reception. So his siege is conducted very methodically, conserving the lives of his men, but also moving very slowly. D’Este, for his part, is more vigorous on the section of the lines that he holds with the Romans, but he lacks the numbers to compensate for the Hungarians’ lack of ardor.

    When Manuel Philanthropenos returns, the defenses of Munich are battered but still holding. With more Romans, the siege could progress faster now, but Manuel’s men present a new problem. The Roman ransacking and wrecking of Bavaria on the approach to Munich means that the peasants of the area have fled. Foraging expeditions have to travel further and further to bring in enough provisions.

    The returns are diminishing, not only due to increased travel time but increased resistance against the foragers. Official opposition is limited, although present in certain districts, but the tables have turned. Now it is German peasants bushwhacking Roman soldiers as they guard carts of supplies. The peasants usually suffer far worse than the soldiers, as had been the case in Macedonia, but Romans bleed.

    More supplies are coming in via convoys from Hungary and Austria, but these are also getting attacked. The attacker in this case is a quite large and disciplined peasant band, led by a red-bearded ex-sergeant named Friedrich Zimmermann, who has turned the farmers and laborers under his command into capable bushwhackers and skirmishers in a surprisingly short time. With each success he gains more recruits, making his next attack all the more ambitious and deadly. By early September he has three thousand men under his command, organized into three regiments, each of which has ten companies, all commanded by individuals Friedrich has selected for their abilities. Mostly armed with captured Roman kit, it is a formidable force and strongly appreciated by the locals for the defense against raiders as well as captured goods it provides.

    The logistical situation, which was already getting shaky before, becomes intolerable when Manuel returns with his soldiers and haul of prisoners that all need to be fed. The latter becomes a bit less of an issue when one of Friedrich’s raids liberate two hundred prisoners, most of whom promptly join Friedrich’s force.

    Because of the logistics, if Munich is to fall it must be taken quickly. Eyeing the situation, Manuel thinks the city could be stormed, if the Hungarians threw themselves into the assault as well, a doubtful proposition. And even then, the effort would make taking Ulm look like a schoolyard scuffle in comparison. Deciding it is not worth the cost and risk, five days after arriving at Munich, the Roman-Hungarian army breaks camp and retires east.

    The Romans and Hungarians end up settling in winter quarters in Austria, Passau, and Salzburg; eastern Bavaria is not in a condition to support a hungry army. The Wittelsbachs return to their capital in early December, but are greeted with less than full cheers by the inhabitants. Starhemburg’s loyalty is without question, but much of the goodwill Elizabeth had won during her brave defense of the city in 1634 was dissipated by her flight this year.

    Elizabeth though has certainly come a long way from her years as Andreas III’s Empress in Constantinople. Visiting hospitals, poorhouses, and orphanages, giving gifts of food, clothing, and money to the patients, indigent, and children, she soon wins back their loyalty. By Christmas she has regained a good portion of the goodwill she lost, for the people of Munich had loved her before and find it easy to love her again. On the other hand, they find the image of Theodor in peasant garb digging a ditch most amusing and approve of his madness, as that means he’s out of the way and Elizabeth is in charge instead.

    That said, a broken pot may be glued back together but it cannot truly be made whole, and while Munich may support her the wracked countryside is less forgiving. The contrast between Wittelsbach flight and Friedrich’s irregulars has been noted.

    Another action that is gaining her favor is the prospect of peace, at least with the Romans. Demetrios III is far more open to her overtures now than in the spring, the bloodlust having been somewhat sated, meaning more practical arguments can get some traction. The battle of Wennenden has created a power vacuum, one to the benefit not of the Romans but of the Triunes. Ferdinand has been seriously alienated, Demetrios would like to start implementing his planned reforms, and Asian affairs demand attention.

    A renewed assault on Bavaria would require more Roman soldiers and materials, particularly in logistical support. Because of the Roman incursions, much of eastern Bavaria hasn’t pulled in a decent harvest since 1633, and that one wasn’t particularly impressive either even by the standards of seventeenth-century agriculture. It would be an expensive undertaking and at this point, before his tax reforms have been implemented, Demetrios III desperately wants to reduce the strain on the Roman exchequer.

    And for what? Any Roman restructuring of the Holy Roman Empire enforced at gun-point would be promptly repudiated as soon as said gun was pointing elsewhere. The last thing Henri II needs is an opportunity to come riding in as a ‘protector of traditional German liberties’.

    In February 1636 the Treaty of Buda is signed between the Romans, Wittelsbachs, and Hungarians. In it the Wittelsbachs cede Austria to Hungary and recognize their possession of the Bishopric of Passau while the Romans keep the Archbishopric of Salzburg. The Wittelsbachs also state that they never had, or will ever have, any dynastic claim on the throne in Constantinople, no matter any future familial/dynastic connections. The Romans do not plan on there being any, but it is phrased such for diplomatic considerations.

    The Wittelsbachs furthermore pledge to respect any ‘arrangements’ the Romans make in Italy, while an accommodation is set up whereby they can ransom their many captives in Roman captivity. However because of lack of funds, the vast majority of those Germans end up working and dying in Rhomania, never returning to the lands of their fathers.

    Passau is soon restored to its bishop, although now as a Hungarian vassal. For a while Salzburg lasts as a Roman enclave, but after the three great financial scandals rock the Empire in the late 1630s the land is eventually ransomed back by the Archbishop who retains the territories as a Roman vassal as well.

    It is a treaty that could’ve been signed many months before it was, with far less death and destruction inflicted in the meantime. But the invasion of 1635 and the treaty were not without consequence.

    The most obvious is that Wennenden and the fallout were a godsend to the Triunes, devastating arrangements formed against them, and greatly facilitating their conquests.

    Another quick result was the return of the Roman ‘Turk’. In the late 1300s and 1400s the Romans were often portrayed as Turks in western European literature and art. It had faded after Theodora Komnena Drakina’s diplomatic expeditions to the west, although never disappearing entirely. It returns in full force as early as newsletters in late 1635.

    The strategic senselessness of the Roman attack in 1635 had been apparent to everyone, even Henri II who’d never expected it to get past Munich and privately referred to Manuel Philanthropenos jokingly as his best general. The only point of the attack, in the Germans’ eyes, had been destruction for the sake of destruction, blood for the sake of blood. It conjured up memories of tales of the great Mongol raids of the 1240s, terrifying bolts which seemed to exist merely to add more suffering and pain to the world [1].

    That connection is not that surprising for a couple of reasons. One is the ancestry of the House of Sideros. The other is that Roman light cavalry, the ones doing most of the raiding and burning, are called turkopouloi, and are still in 1635 attired like Turkish light cavalry with the addition of gunpowder weaponry. (Their ethnicity is by no means restricted to Turks.)

    The fruit of this is new and increased bitterness between the Romans and the Germans. The Germans resent the suffering inflicted upon them. Meanwhile the Romans resent the Germans’ complaints, rejecting them as whines about the shoe being on the other foot, an argument that hardly endears itself to the Germans.

    The final fruit takes longer to ripen, and is not the result solely of the 1635 invasion and Treaty of Buda, although those are key components. Outside of the Mediterranean basin, the year 1635 marks the high tide of Roman involvement in Europe for many decades to come.

    In the coming years, Roman attention will shift eastward and stay there. The Spanish expedition to the East, followed by the War of Wrath, as well as developments in India and Island Asia, will take center stage in the minds of those in power in Constantinople.

    In contrast, the 1635 expedition shows the limit of Roman power projection westward. At Wennenden, Philanthropenos had been massively outnumbered. He had still won, but such brilliant victories cannot be relied upon as regular. If he’d been facing the Army of Burgundy instead, avoiding a disaster would’ve been a miracle all by itself.

    But while after 1635 the Romans are willing to recognize the Triunes as the main Latin threat as compared to the Germans, there is too much animus against the Germans for the Romans to stomach backing them against the Triunes. While the Triunes are a threat, they are mainly a threat to other Latins rather than to Rhomania. Seeing a growing Triune hegemony, the Romans are inclined to entrench with their sphere of influence in the form of the Belgrade Treaty signatories and the various Orthodox powers. This inclination is strengthened by the financial scandals, which spur the sale of Salzburg back to its Archbishop as a way to make some extra money, plus the demands and interests of the East. In the fighting in central Europe after 1635, the Romans will be conspicuous largely by their absence.

    The Treaty of Buda marks the beginning of peace between the Romans and the House of Wittelsbach, but there is no peace in sight for Germany.

    [1] The Germans at this time are unaware of the Mongol withdrawal to deal with succession issues in the Khanate. To them it seems like the Mongols just showed up to kill for no reason, and then left.
    1635: The Children of Rome
  • 1635 (Italy): Kaisar Odysseus Sideros lands at the port city of Bari with 30000 men under his command. Although not the most convenient disembarking point in terms of his strategic objectives for the campaign, the great seaport is by far the most convenient and capable of supporting the army as it transfers from Roman Europe. Bari is the main port of trade between the Despotate of Sicily and the Roman heartland, used to moving bulk goods such as the equipment and supplies needed to support three tagmata.

    Odysseus Sideros is in command of the ‘Army of Italy’ despite being only twenty-two. But he is the Emperor’s son and heir after all, and he has proven his command skills in both Mesopotamia and Macedonia. Nevertheless he still makes a point of consulting the more experienced officers under his command. One of them is Tourmarch Andronikos Laskaris, the eldest son of Megas Domestikos Theodoros Laskaris. Also accompanying Odysseus is his good friend Michael Pirokolos and the Ottoman prince Iskandar the Younger.

    The Roman army first marches to Napoli, where Odysseus meets with the Despot of Sicily, Hektor I, uncle of Andreas III, Doux Gabriel Papagos, commander of Roman naval forces in the Italian theater, and Nikephoros Mytaras, Megas Domestikos of Sicily. There they discuss both military and political concerns.

    After the Duke of Parma Niccolo Farnese broke camp to wage war on the Duke of Verona Mastino IV della Scala for arresting King Cesare and placing himself as regent for Prince Andrea, Mytaras was able to press his attack on Pisa. Without hope of rescue, the city capitulated in mid-October and is now garrisoned by a small Sicilian force.

    Firenze however proved to be made of sterner stuff. Attacking in a winter campaign, the city shut its gates in the Sicilians’ face despite the lack of support from Parma, forcing a siege. Given the sheer size of the city, one of the greatest in Europe, Nikephoros’ forty thousand soldiers, while enough to besiege the city, were not quite enough to make said siege watertight. With a steady trickle of supplies, the city has managed to hold longer than expected, hoping for aid from the Duke of Parma.

    However by April the Duke has not appeared and supplies are dwindling. Wanting to avoid a sack of the city, Gonfaloniere Tommaso Guadagni meets with Mytaras to discuss terms. While willing to guarantee the Gonfaloniere’s life, family, and property against Verrazano, who expects to replace Guadagni and despises the man, Mytaras is in little mood to be generous after a nearly-six-month siege that has cost him heavily in supplies and equipment and nearly 2000 casualties, mostly from disease, exposure, and accidents rather than combat.

    Eventually terms are agreed. Firenze must accept a Sicilian garrison and accept their rule or that of their appointee, but their lives, homes, properties, and religious worship will be respected in return for a suitable ransom. That suitable ransom however is staggering, the equivalent of 2 million hyperpyra, an eighth of the Roman government’s annual income in 1620, to be paid either in money or in appraised goods.

    The ransom starts to trickle into the Sicilian encampment, although the siege remains until the ransom is appraised in full. It is an unusual sight in an army camp to see Livorno merchants there appraising the goods, whether they be bolts of Lucca silks, Milanese watches, or fine Florentine paintings. The merchants, who consistently appraise on the low side, then pay in coin on the spot for the goods to the supervising officers, and then take the goods to market in Livorno or elsewhere for their real value. This is of benefit both to the merchants, who make a substantial profit, and Mytaras, who can’t exactly give a Giotto to a dekarchos for his pay. The victims here are of course the Florentines, who end up paying closer to 3 million hyperpyra in terms of worth. After the ransom is completed, the Sicilian army marches in and garrisons the city.

    Gonfalioniere Guadagni retires to house arrest on his nearby estate in the Tuscan countryside. Alessandro da Verrazano is appointed to take his place, but many of his partisans have been killed in the past few years and so his commands are mainly enforced by Sicilian troops while he has several Sicilian ‘advisors’. Emperor Demetrios III is well aware of Verrazano’s questionable loyalties but at this stage has yet to determine a replacement. [1]

    The main topic of discussion is the Ducal War, as the conflict between the Dukes of Parma and Verona is already being styled. The people around the table in Napoli don’t have the authority to decide on these matters; that is the purview of Emperor Demetrios III, but the Basileus will undoubtedly listen closely to their recommendations.

    The Duke of Parma, marching north from the fight with Mytaras to his power base at Parma, has the advantage of commanding the highest-quality army in northern Italy, with some combat experience and that is loyal to him and trusts his leadership.

    However his opponent the Regent of Lombardy/Duke of Verona has several advantages of his own. Mastino IV is firmly supported by the Dukes of Mantua and Ferrara, while most of the notables of the Kingdom of Lombardy, regardless of their opinions of Mastino, look at the Farnese as jumped-up parvenus whose status is solely derived from familial relations to another corrupt pontiff. This means that Mastino firmly controls the great Lombard plain, the backbone and economic heart of the Kingdom. Milan itself is both a major manufacturing and commercial center. In terms of manpower and money, Mastino has a massive edge. While Parma’s army is loyal to him, how long that will continue under a lack of pay is questionable.

    Furthermore Mastino, in his capacity as Regent, has the better legal position. On the one hand, he did arrest King Cesare, but on the other hand, the charges of incapacity and incompetence certainly seem to fit, particularly to the grandees who prefer to blame their monarch for the disastrous war that the grandees themselves had been responsible for advocating. But Mastino is Regent and has Milan and Prince Andrea in his custody, and as the saying goes possession is nine-tenths of the law.

    The Duke of Parma with his army does ‘convince’ the Commune of Bologna to back him, giving him a much-needed boost of revenue. As Mytaras is marching on Firenze, he is heading toward Milan, hoping to take Mastino out before he can consolidate his position. Unfortunately for Farnese, the city of Piacenza defies him for three weeks, slowing him down. By the time he reaches the Po River, he finds the crossings guarded against him, and two separate probes are beaten back.

    At the same time, the Duke of Ferrara, Tiziano Vecelli, is harassing the lands currently under Parma’s control. A plot to open the gates of Bologna to Ferrara’s troops is uncovered just in the nick of time, but the near miss still serves to underscore the shakiness of Parma’s position. Meanwhile while Mastino is reinforcing Ferrara with men, money, and equipment, he himself shows no inclination to cross the Po and attack Parma head-on. He would rather wait until Parma’s money troubles start undermining the loyalty and cohesiveness of his army.

    However Parma then changes tack and pivots at Ferrara. It is the wrong way to Milan, but clearly the threat needs to be eliminated before Farnese can advance. Vecelli retires behind the fortifications of Ferrara, unable to face Parma’s larger army in open battle, and appeals to his ally for assistance. While Firenze is starting to pay out to Mytaras, the Regent-Duke crosses the Po, seizing Piacenza and then marching on the city of Parma.

    The Duke of Parma, lifting the siege of Ferrara, marches back as fast as he can, meeting Mastino in a brief battle. Mastino comes off the worst, although the damage is moderate, and is forced to retire north of the Po. Parma follows but is again rebuffed in an attempted crossing of the Po.

    Both sides earnestly desire Roman support. Parma, whose long-term position is the weaker, more urgently needs it but Mastino knows he needs to make some kind of accommodation with the Emperor and he certainly needs to keep him from backing Parma.

    Parma’s negotiations start under a cloud. While leading Cesare’s armies against the Romans and Sicilians, he’d sometimes corresponded with Roman agents purportedly with the possibility of changing sides. However it became clear that Parma was really using the talks as a way to buy time and glean intelligence. The coyness rather irritated Demetrios III who now personally dislikes the Duke.

    Duke Mastino, for his part, has no baggage with the Romans, and his willingness to stand aside and let d’Este march into Germany in 1634, while recognized as self-interested, has raised his credit in the White Palace. However his two chief allies, the Dukes of Mantua and Ferrara, are both fervently anti-Roman, their family histories built upon battle with the Romans. However Mastino is well aware that a Basileus beats two Dukes, and he’s certainly not willing to fall on his sword for either of them. It’s doubtful they’d do the same.

    When Odysseus arrives in Napoli, neither Parma nor Verona has succeeded in winning Constantinople’s support. For the time being, Demetrios prefers to let the pair exhaust their strength against each other while the Romans consolidate their control over the Italian peninsula south of the battling Dukes.

    Mytaras’ task, with Parma putting all of his energy against Verona, is rather easy. After establishing control over Tuscany he marches northwest up the coast toward Genoa. This is definitely pushing against the warnings by the Three Johns as Liguria, unlike Tuscany, is unquestionably part of northern Italy. But Genoa is a commercial rival of the city of Marseilles and the Romans are not advancing into Lombardy proper, which was the main concern, so Demetrios III has authorized this operation.

    Although the families that make up the ruling oligarchy of the city still hold sway, the situation in the great port city after Palmaria has only gotten worse. With the destruction of the Lombard fleet, the way is clear for raids along the Ligurian coast. The pillars of smoke that can be seen from the city towers in both the east and west hardly help people’s moods.

    Food prices have soared because of the blockade, and then soared some more because the rich families have hoarded foodstuffs for themselves, creating an artificial scarcity in addition to the real scarcity. Yet the grandees refuse to yield to the Romans, for Doux Gabriel Papagos makes two demands they still consider intolerable. Firstly, they must admit a scion of the House of Alessi, now Despots of Carthage, formerly Doges of Genoa, into the city. Secondly, they must pay a massive ransom, Firenze-style, and the Doux makes it clear he expects the grandees to be the ones footing the bill.

    The grandees see no reason yet to yield. The Roman navy can blockade and raid but it can’t take the city, while the Sicilian army is still in Tuscany at this point. The grandees themselves are well fed, as is the garrison whose food and pay comes from the grandees’ storehouses. The garrison moreover is comprised of soldiers from northern and eastern Lombardy, with no connection with the Genoese populace. The military force in the city that would’ve sided with the populace, the fleet and her sailors, is no longer around to cause trouble.

    The news that Mytaras is marching in their direction, and that La Spezia surrenders after only thirty six hours on terms, upsets their complacency. What is particularly troublesome are the reports that foodstuffs started pouring into La Spezia as soon as the city capitulated. The grandees try to repress that detail, but word gets out. The grandees hype up anti-heretic rhetoric to try and get the populace to rally against the Romans and Sicilians, but starving people are more concerned about food. In a new plan, the grandees dispatch an envoy to Arles, offering to put the city under Arletian control providing their privileges and positions are respected. They are aware of the Three Johns meeting and hope to use that as leverage against the Romans. However said envoy, who has to travel overland, will take quite some time to reach Marseilles.

    What is clear is that the grandees are willing to do almost anything, except share with the poor. On the morning of June 26 a large crowd gathers outside a set of warehouses owned by the Doria family, which are packed with foodstuffs and guarded by components of the city garrison. They demand food and they demand it now.

    The rich are not willing to share with the poor. But they are quite willing to murder the poor instead. Matteo Doria, the patriarch of the Doria family, who comes over to protect his property, orders the guard to fire on the crowd. In the ensuing carnage, between bullets and stampeding, forty three people are killed and more than two hundred are injured.

    That evening the people rise up, grabbing whatever weapons they can, and attack the grandees and garrison with everything their desperation can muster. It is utterly hopeless. The poor have numbers and the desperation of ones who have nothing to lose and that they must conquer or die. But they are fighting with cobblestones and ladles, fishing nets and gaffs, against musket and ambrolar and cannon.

    It is a battle fought utterly without mercy. Any member of the grandee families, no matter the age or sex, is killed on the spot, several of them literally being ripped apart by the hands of the crowd. Soldiers ensnared in fishing nets are beaten to death with shovels and gaffs.

    The fighting is audible to the Roman warships on blockade and sailors with dalnovzors can see soldiers forcing insurgents at ambrolar-point off the walls of the battlements to fall to their deaths below. There is particularly intense fighting along the harbor defenses, as insurgents try to seize the guns and let the Romans into the city. The closest Roman ships try to help, moving in to bombard the garrison, but the fighting is so thick and close that they can’t shoot without endangering their new allies, but many of the fishing ships, nearly capsizing with their cargoes of humanity, make a run for the blockade ships. Many of the harbor guns fire on the fishing vessels, killing several hundred at least. All this is being watched by Doux Gabriel Papagos; with the focus on Genoa he had moved up from Livorno to take personal command of the blockade fleet.

    By the morning of July 1, the uprising has been put down, but the killings are not over. The grandees, enraged by the actions of the poor, want their revenge. Regular are the noises of the firing squads as insurgents, or those with some suspicion of being insurgents, or those who’ve annoyed someone who then claims they are an insurgent, are put up against a wall and shot. The firing squads claim at least as many poor as were killed in the actual uprising.

    On July 4 the Sicilian army arrives at Genoa. The grandees, with the garrison thinned by the carnage and holding down a seething populace which has only been enraged rather than cowed by the squads, recognize that the jig is up. They agree to surrender, but with old habits decide to haggle over the exact cost of the ransom. The Doux, who takes over negotiations on the grounds that he has been blockading Genoa for two years now, is willing to dicker.

    While the Doux is negotiating with the grandees, at dawn on July 6 a party of Genoese longshoremen and fishermen, all of whom have lost family to the squads, open a sally port to a waiting party of Sicilian soldiers and Roman seamen. Rushing inside they seize the nearest tower and gatehouse, opening it as more Sicilians and Romans rush the defenses. While the Sicilians and Romans lodged inside the battlements, the garrison commander promptly capitulates. By noon the Sicilians and Romans are the masters of Genoa.

    And better yet, from the Doux’s perspective, the only promises he has made were to the garrison commander and the soldiers under his command. None were made toward the grandees. The Papagos family is of humble origin; he and his cousin the Katepano of Pyrgos are the first to make it big. The Doux is the son of a poor country priest, whose hands still bear the calluses of a fisherman’s labor. He had little sympathy for the grandees before and much for the poor of Genoa. He has absolutely none after what he watched at the end of June.

    On the morning of July 7th, the Doux, who is in command of the city rather than Domestikos Mytaras, issues a proclamation stating “The following families are hereby abolished…” Every family that ranks as part of the ruling Oligarchy is proscribed, the one exception being the Cómbo family, a gift from the Doux to his vanquished opponent at Palmaria. Roman sailors immediately start rounding up all members of said families and six Long Knives begin their bloody and ruthless work.

    Save for infants, no one who is a member of those families is exempt. Papagos had watched as women clutching infants to the breasts had been forced at ambrolar-point to walk off the battlements to their deaths. The squads had shot children as young as eight. Other children had been hanged. When being hanged, children often don’t have the body weight to make their necks snap when they drop. That means a child being hanged instead slowly strangles to death while they dangle at the rope, a horrible spectacle to watch. That had been the point of the exercise.

    The grandees had shown no mercy and the Doux will give them none in return. When he is done, 673 people have been executed, all beheaded by Long Knives. The wealth of the families is all confiscated. From the pile, Papagos withdraws the amount equivalent to the most strenuous ransom demand issued to the grandees. The remainder is distributed amongst the Genoese poor. According to the official Roman report, the amount paid as ransom to the Romans was 17.7% of the total value belonging to the families, although that figure includes assets such as houses and lands that aren’t easily converted into cash.

    Two weeks later Matteo Alessi, the second son of the Despot of Carthage, sails into harbor to take control over the scarred city. His family had once been near-autocratic Doges of Genoa and been forced into exile in Carthage, so the reestablishment of their control over the city is a major coup for them. Genoa’s status is deliberately left vague at the moment, with Matteo being appointed as a Roman governor answering to Constantinople on the same terms as Livorno currently occupies.

    Matteo, while not publicly praising the abolishment of the grandees, is privately pleased. After all, it was those families that had driven his family out and who would’ve been the greatest political threats to Alessi authority. Further afield there is some condemnation, but none with any teeth. People have other things to be concerned with rather than the execution of some Ligurian merchants.

    Aside from mopping up operations that bring the rest of Liguria under Roman/Sicilian control, the fall of Genoa marks the last major activity of Roman and Sicilian forces in northern Italy. Any more advance means getting involved in the Ducal War, and that is not desired at this time.

    Odysseus had absolutely no involvement with Genoese operations. Instead he is in command of a different offensive, an attack on Rome herself. Aside from raids and the seizure of Civitavecchia, the Papal lands have been largely ignored thus far in the war. All of that changes in June as Odysseus and his army cross the Sicilian-Papal frontier.

    Unlike Mytaras’ force which is mostly Sicilian with a few Roman tourmai, Odysseus’ is wholly Roman except for a pair of Sicilian tourmai. Like the army in Germany, it is a force eager to ravage its target. Demetrios III’s The Wars of Latin Aggression, while not focusing specifically on the Papacy, had been most thorough in its coverage of Papal actions against Rhomania. In the Roman psyche, the Papacy has been formed into an arch-conspirator, obsessed with destroying Rhomania and willing to use all manner to do so. The character of Pope Paul IV, who despises Orthodoxy, and his financial support to Theodor that made his invasion possible, lends much credence to that view. And so the soldiers marching at Rome view the city as the seat of a demon, the abode of the snake that has tormented them and their ancestors for centuries. Time to cut the head off.

    Prior to the march on Rome, Tourmarch Andronikos Laskaris had made a pilgrimage to the burial place of Conradin, in the monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the city of Napoli. It is an unexpected pilgrimage for the typical Roman officer, but not so for a member of this particular branch of the House of Laskaris. Andronikos is descended from Basileios Laskaris, the son of Ioannes III Doukas Vatatzes and Constanza/Anna, an illegitimate daughter of Frederick II “Stupor Mundi”. [2]

    While his branch are proud Romans and wholly Greek culturally, they do cherish their illustrious ancestry. In addition to the typical Roman grudge against the Papacy, an additional edge of resentment is levied at the institution that had destroyed their Hohenstaufen forebears. Revenge will be doubly sweet.

    The Roman army faces no opposition until they arrive at the walls of Rome, which is defended by the elite Swiss Guard and a large but low-quality militia. Pope Paul IV refuses demands for surrender, especially as one of Odysseus’ condition is that the Pope and all the Cardinals must surrender themselves into Roman custody, with no promise of their being able to ransom themselves.

    Many of the Cardinals are still in the city, although they would rather not be. Roman raiding parties from Civitavecchia have made leaving the city rather more hazardous than the Cardinals would like, so until now the safest bet has been to stay in Rome. But by the time fleeing is clearly the safer bet despite the dangers, it is too late to do so.

    The chances of a relief army reaching Rome are nonexistent. Even if Parma and Verona were not at each other’s throats, they could not get past the Roman fortresses in Tuscany. The Pontiff is not willing to surrender himself however, and believes that God will not allow his city and people to fall into the hands of “vile schismatics, enemies of God and his law”. If God has a preference though, he does not make it known, while the Romans have the advantage in both man and firepower.

    On June 30, the fighting (but not killing) in Genoa is dying down. At the Eternal City, both are just getting started. At dawn the Romans launch a massive assault at a pair of breaches their cannons have smashed in the city walls, the assault led by Andronikos Laskaris and his tourma. The fighting is intense and brutal at first, but the unbloodied civic militia cannot endure it as the Roman veterans can and they give way, Roman soldiers flooding into the city.

    Street fighting continues, mostly between the Romans and the Swiss Guard who battle desperately to cover the Pontiff as he flees to the Castel San Angelo. They succeed in buying him enough time but are massacred nearly to a man. With the destruction of the Swiss Guard, resistance inside the city with the exception of the Castel San Angelo collapses, the Roman soldiers running wild in a three-day orgy of violence and cruelty. The soldiers have no mercy for the people who inhabit the city where the Empire had begun. For them, Rome stands out in memory as the city of the Popes, the city of the demon viper, the arch-conspirator, rather than that of the Caesars. Plunder, rape, murder, all are present in all the forms in which cruel human imagination can muster. Only the Vatican library, where Odysseus places his headquarters, is spared the onslaught and destruction.

    While the deep-seated hatred in Roman hearts and the anti-Latin propaganda play a role, the sheer scale of the atrocities can be traced back to a single source, Odysseus Sideros. Once a quiet artist, often of landscapes, war has made him harder and darker. His most famous paintings, those of his imaginings of how dinosaurs would be, date from around this time. The eyes are intelligent, but cold, cruel, and inhumane. And strapped to his side is the sword of his most infamous ancestor, the dread lord Timur. This is not a man who shows mercy to his foes, not anymore. When some of his officers go to him at sunset on June 30, suggesting that they bring the soldiers under control as they’ve had their fun (a city that is stormed can expect no mercy, per the rules of war of the time) but now it’s enough, Odysseus replies that it will continue, and so it does for two more hellish days and nights.

    When Roman forces first headed to Italy in 1632, Demetrios III had issued orders that any captured Inquisitors and Templars were to be executed. However an exception had been made for any of the rank of bishop or higher. Executing someone of that high rank would be diplomatically troublesome. Five cardinals had been captured in raids outside of Rome, but all had been released upon the payment of stiff ransoms. However Odysseus, without the approval of his father, issues orders that all Catholic clergy bishop-rank and higher, including the Pontiff himself, are to be slain if captured. Many of the lower order clergy are also killed in the massacre and sack that follows the fall of the city.

    Aside from the Pontiff, many of the higher-rank clergy are in the Castel San Angelo. On July 3, Odysseus brings up his guns and begins hammering the mausoleum-turned-fortress. For three days the inhabitants hold out hoping for terms but Odysseus is adamant; only unconditional surrender will be accepted. On July 7, with the possibility of the Castel being stormed becoming ever more likely, the Castel surrenders.

    Lay people and clerics below the ranks of Bishop, except for Inquisitors and Templars, are released after surrendering all their valuables. Pope Paul IV is stripped nearly naked and hurled into one of the more unpleasant prison cells in the bowels of the Castel.

    According to legend, a few days later Andronikos Laskaris appears in the Pope’s cell with a death warrant signed by Odysseus. But before the end, Andronikos proves his Hohenstaufen heritage, adding an additional horror before the Pontiff’s death. That ancient dreadful enemy of the Papacy, long thought dead, has returned from the grave for its terrible revenge, and it is a scion of the Antichrist Frederick II himself who will yield the death blow. According to the story, Andronikos personally beheads the Pope somewhere in the bowels of the Castel with a family heirloom sword that dates back to the time of the Hohenstaufen Emperors. Whether the story, in whole or in part, is true is unknown, but what is beyond question is that Pope Paul IV is never seen alive again.

    After the fall of Rome, the Roman army fans out to bring the rest of Papal lands under their control. They face little opposition but word of the atrocities in Rome spread far and wide, appalling much of Catholic Europe, even that which follows the Avignon Papacy. The precedent, after all, is not one the Avignon Popes care to encourage. Demetrios III is infuriated because Pope Paul IV had been viewed as pigheaded and arrogant and bigoted by many even in his own church hierarchy, but now he has been transformed into a martyr. But Odysseus is unrepentant and his actions play quite well with the Roman army and people.

    Aside from the Pontiff, many of the Cardinals were also killed at Rome. But not all the College was in Rome, the scattered survivors collecting under the auspices of the most powerful Roman Catholic ruler, Ottokar, King of Bohemia.

    Meanwhile Odysseus is busy organizing a new government for the city of Rome. Back in the 1200s, when the House of Hohenstaufen still stood mighty and proud, the civic head of the Commune of Rome had not been styled the Podesta, as was common in most other Italian cities. Instead he had been titled ‘Senator of Rome’. The office is restored and on August 1, Kaisar Odysseus appoints Andronikos Laskaris, scion of the great enemy of the Papacy, as Senator of Rome. The insult is deliberate.

    [1] The meeting in the White Palace where the Lady Athena suggests the pirate Galileo as a new candidate takes place in March 1636, eleven months after Mytaras takes Firenze.

    [2] The marriage between Ioannes III and Constanza/Anna is from OTL but the existence of Basileios and his family line is one of the early TTL divergences that appears in Not the End.
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    1635: To Defend Germany
  • “The power of a bold man will
    overturn a state,
    The art of a necromancer also
    Produces wonders.”
    -Romance of the Three Kingdoms​

    1635 (Upper Rhine and Germany):
    Had Archbishop Ferdinand von Hohenzollern, otherwise known as Bone-Breaker, died on some battlefield in Roman Europe, that would’ve made life much easier for the Triunes come spring 1635. A veteran of the Brothers’ War, the Second Rhine War, and the War of the Roman Succession, the old prelate with the death of Blucher has an array of combat experience possibly unmatched in Christendom. He was already a general leading armies when Demetrios Sideros was still a freshman university student.

    The House of Hohenzollern has, for 101 years now, maintained a lock on the Archbishopric of Cologne. The means have frequently been of dubious legality, with repeated whispers of bribery in the Papal Curia, but the success has elevated a rather minor German noble house into one of great prominence through the Holy Roman Empire and Europe.

    During that time the Hohenzollern Archbishops, including Ferdinand who received the title in 1590 at the suspiciously young age of twenty-five [1], have substantially expanded their territory and authority. Ferdinand’s realm extends from the city of Koblenz at its southern border all the way up the Rhine valley to the border of the Duchy of Cleves, utterly dominating the Middle Rhine. Ironically the one fly in the ointment is the City of Cologne herself, an Imperial Free City and thus outside of clerical jurisdiction. There have been tensions and spats between City and Archbishopric since well before the Hohenzollerns got their hands on the later. The Archbishops have maintained the capital of their secular domains in the city of Bonn further south.

    Nevertheless the domains of the Archbishopric are some of the most prosperous and populous (by area) in all of Christendom. The Rhineland is a major thoroughfare for commerce and manufacturing, with fertile agriculture adding to the mix. After Antwerp (140,000 people) and Hamburg (110,000 people), Cologne at 97,000 is the third largest city in the Holy Roman Empire, triple the size of the Wittelsbach capital at Munich. Ocean-going ships can still sail up the Rhine all the way to Cologne to directly unload their goods, which include Triune-shipped chinaware from Guangzhou and nutmeg from the Roman-controlled Banda Islands, carried by Lotharingian fluyts from Alexandria.

    Despite the political tensions between City and Cleric, the economic ties between the polities are mutually beneficial. Cologne needs the foodstuffs, animal products, and rural manufactures of the Archbishop’s domains, while the Archbishopric needs the market, fiscal capital, and financial connections of the City. The expansion of the Lotharingian merchant marine in the past few decades has also been a boon to the Middle Rhine, whose wares can travel to more and further markets than before.

    Thanks to the wealth, Archbishop Ferdinand has historically fielded one of the best, pound-for-pound, of the princely armies in the whole of the HRE. New recruits were corseted by a greater number than usual of professional soldiers, although that is much less the case now. But both then and now all are well-equipped, including regular uniforms. He lacks siege guns, but Bone-Breaker’s field artillery is light and fast-firing and in his cannon-to-men ratio he yields no ground to Spaniards, Triunes, or Romans.

    Because of his strong resource base and the lenient terms of the Romans imposed after Thessaloniki, due to Demetrios III wanting him back in Cologne making trouble for Henri II, Ferdinand quickly bounces back. In June 1635 he has eight thousand men in the field, more than he ever mustered for Theodor’s campaigns in Rhomania, although here he has the advantage of fighting near home.

    That, of course, is nowhere near enough to face the Triune juggernaut alone. However King Albrecht III gives him a Lotharingian commission, ranking him a general and giving him the command of sixteen thousand Lotharingian troops with which to defend middle Lotharingia. Also reinforcing him are the forces of the Bishop of Liege. An independent clerical state, the Bishops have often butted heads with the Lotharingian monarchs, given that the bishopric nearly bisects the Lotharingian state. However he recognizes the Triune menace and is willing to place his forces under the command of the Archbishop, although not a lay Lotharingian general. He brings 4000 additional troops, although Bone-Breaker is unimpressed by their quality.

    The Army of Lorraine is the second of the three main Triune armies launching attacks all along the Lotharingian frontier. Numbering fifty thousand strong, it musters near twice the strength of Ferdinand and is commanded by Antoine Nompar de Caumont, Duke of Saint-Fargeau. Although he is descended from a family that has produced many fine soldiers and commanders, the Duke is twenty three and inexperienced, getting his posting because of his family’s political connection and great material wealth, helping to finance several tours in the Army. As such he is a poor choice to face Bone-Breaker even with his numerical superiority.

    Basing from Chȃlons-sur-Marne, Duke Saint-Fargeau marches into northern Lorraine, setting up a siege of Verdun, which is not part of Lotharingia but a small sovereign bishopric and member of the Holy Roman Empire. He faces little opposition to his advance, much like his colleague the Duke of Nemours further south who is on his approach to Strasbourg.

    Then breathless couriers fly into camp, bearing urgent reports. Ferdinand has stormed across the frontier, sacking the town of Sedan and massacring the garrison. A flying column of German cavalry and mounted infantry, commanded by Ferdinand’s “nephews” (illegitimate sons) Karl and Paul, has seized Rethel in a daring nighttime attack, securing a bridge across the Aisne River. And Bone-Breaker is heading straight for Reims, which is not well-fortified or garrisoned. The Archbishop couldn’t possibly hold the city for long, but the spectacle of having the city where the Kings of France are crowned in enemy hands for a single hour would be an utter humiliation.

    Leaving his siege guns and a contingent to continue the siege of Verdun, Saint-Fargeau frantically races west to defend Reims. As he does, Ferdinand, whose main force has never left Sedan, slashes south, piling into the unprepared and outnumbered Triune soldiers left at Verdun. Spread out in the siege lines, Ferdinand is unable to kill or capture more than a fraction of the men before they flee, but the whole of the siege train is destroyed or captured. The new cannons are fine and expensive pieces, a most useful addition to the fortifications of Verdun and Metz.

    Saint-Fargeau races back to Verdun when he hears the news but is far too late. When his lead troops march into range of the city, their former siege guns fire on them. To add an extra insult, Karl and Paul’s flying column attack an inn, an inn which they know to be the lodgings of the Count of Eu. The Count and all his papers are seized and bundled across the Lotharingian frontier.

    This has been a complete embarrassment for the Triunes. Henri II is fuming and Gaston, the Duc d’Orleans, immediately decamps from the siege of Lille to take command of the situation. He has veteran commanders in the north, where sieges predominate and where Vauban is, who can cover that area. He will deal with the Archbishop personally.

    Gaston, who has crossed swords with Ferdinand before, frankly admits to his cousin Henri II that the cleric is a better general than him. But Gaston is experienced and was heavily involved in the improvements made to the Triune army after the humiliation of the last war with the Wittelsbachs. He knows its capabilities, has vastly superior resources to his opponent, and knows how to use them.

    Saint-Fargeau is sent packing with a contingent to besiege Verdun. Gaston takes the bulk of the Army of Lorraine and calls on the Army of the Center for reinforcements. The Army of the Center has been gradually mustering and training new soldiers and formations to feed them into the field armies and Gaston takes the most trained soldiers. After all that and pulling some soldiers from the Army of Flanders, six weeks after taking control the Duc d’Orleans musters seventy thousand men, nearly triple that of Ferdinand.

    In the middle of August, Gaston invades Luxembourg. The army is too big and unwieldy to concentrate entirely, but the Triune forces move in parallel columns. Ferdinand tries to attack the columns and defeat them in detail, but each one is organized as a miniature army, able to defend itself quite capably while the other columns swerve over to hopefully pin the Archbishop between them. They never manage to catch the cleric in a trap, but he is steadily forced back.

    The city of Luxembourg resists briefly, until Henri II arrives at the siege to personally take command. The garrison commander, thoroughly intimidated and demoralized, yields on terms. Henri, wanting to deny manpower to the Lotharingians, then conscripts his prisoners into his army, a common practice. The loyalty of the Lotharingians may be suspect, but they don’t have the nationalist instincts of Romans, yet, and many of the soldiers are non-Lotharingian mercenaries. As long as they get paid they won’t be trouble.

    Gaston presses forward, advancing on Trier. Ferdinand keeps snapping at the edges and sends his “nephews” raiding back behind the Triune armies, but Gaston is not diverted. While Karl and Paul cause some damage, including the destruction of a 400-strong wagon train, it is not enough to halt the Triune advance. There are too many Triune soldiers protecting their logistics for the pair to make more of a dent, yet the Triune field army still far outweighs their father’s forces.

    Ferdinand uses the terrain to his advantage as best he can, but taking up defensive positions doesn’t help. The sheer numerical advantage of the Triunes mean that any position is outflanked fairly easily. While the Triunes have to spread out their forces for logistics, giving him opportunities to attack in detail, none of his slashes are decisive. And his forces are dwindling. In a characteristic battle at this stage, on September 15, Ferdinand catches three Triune tours strung out along a road and isolated from their compatriots. In the course of two hours he rolls over them, inflicting sixteen hundred casualties for two hundred and thirty of his own. The sixteen hundred Triune losses are made good within ten days, while each one of his losses is irreplaceable.

    Ferdinand’s army is not the compact veteran force it was in Bulgaria. The hard marching and fighting, while inflicting bruises on the Triune army, is wearing out his greener soldiers. Many of the forces from Liege have deserted, while disease, accident, and battle casualties are wearing down those from Lotharingia and Cologne. By September 20, he’s down to 17500 men, while Gaston’s complete forces including those guarding his logistics approaches 80000. That said, such Triune numbers are only possible because Gaston’s has had to pull some troops from the Army of Flanders, but that is little comfort to the Archbishop at the moment.

    On September 20 the city of Trier surrenders to the Duc d’Orleans, although the Archbishop-Elector has fled beyond the Rhine. With news of Wennenden and Mulhouse, there isn’t much stomach for fighting the unstoppable Triune juggernaut. Two days later the Free City of Cologne signs a treaty with the Triple Monarchy. The burghers of Cologne are terrified that if they don’t side with Henri, once he takes the Lower Rhine he’ll lock them out of the markets there which would be their financial ruin. One stipulation of the treaty is that the Cologne militia, reinforced by a few Triune tours, will attack the Archbishopric of Cologne. (By this point, with the main Lotharingian army tied down with the Army of Flanders and Ferdinand tangling with Gaston, smaller Triune forces have largely free range south of the Meuse.)

    Ferdinand is forced to continue retreating as lack of supplies and money cause desertions to increase. By October 1 he arrives at Koblenz, the southernmost of his cities, with sixteen thousand men only to find the gates of Koblenz shut in his face. The inhabitants are more scared of Gaston than Ferdinand at this point, and the Duc d’Orleans has made it clear that good treatment of the inhabitants is contingent on them helping Gaston destroy Ferdinand’s army. Both Gaston and Henri want Bone-Breaker broken.

    Ferdinand wants to head north, but one of the Triune columns has crossed over the Mosel. That means Ferdinand would have to force his way across with that in front of him, while the other two Triune columns are converging on him from the south. The only option is to try and retreat across the Rhine, although with those two Triune columns pressing on him trying to do so without the fortifications of Koblenz means that option is not much easier. Still it must be done.

    The battle of Koblenz as it is called takes place on October 2, as Ferdinand’s army begins crossing the Rhine in boats they’ve managed to snare while 45,000 Triune soldiers converge on their west-bank bridgehead. Ferdinand blesses his sons but has them be among the first to cross, to organize the soldiers as they arrive on the east-bank. Meanwhile he stays on the west-bank, rallying his men to fight as long as possible so that as many as possible can get to safety on the other side of the river.

    Musket and cannon balls fly fast and thick. The Triune artillery outweighs Ferdinand’s near five-to-one, yet four separate assaults on the Archbishop’s encampment are beaten back even as the ferries constantly carry soldiers across the river. At one point a soldier asked Ferdinand to stop exposing himself to Triune fire. It is not expected though for an officer to show signs of fear of the enemy, particularly in a situation like this when every man’s instinct is to panic and run for the boats. Ferdinand replies “When God no longer needs me to defend Germany, only then will he come for me.” [2]

    Two hours later God comes for him. He is slain by a single bullet to the heart. His body is caught by some of his faithful soldiers, who retreat across the river carrying it. He is buried on the right bank of the Rhine, surrounded by the 13000 soldiers who made it successfully to the right bank. His eldest son Karl takes command of the army with Paul as his second.

    Gaston does not pursue across the river. While sending his respects to Karl and Paul, honoring their father as a brave and skilled opponent, who was his enemy but for whom the Duke had the utmost personal respect, Gaston sends out his soldiers to secure the west-bank. There is practically no opposition. Mainz capitulates on October 17 and Bonn three days later. Only in the north, where the main Lotharingian army and most of their fortresses still stand, are there still serious forces contesting the Triunes.

    On the other side of Germany, King Ottokar, taking advantage of the collapse of what remains of Wittelsbach power, has marched his forces into Saxony. A Saxon delegation had arrived in Prague, protesting that Wittelsbach rule since the Brothers’ War has been in violation of the Act of Transference that placed Saxony under the Wittelsbach. In exchange for agreeing to the terms of the Act, the Saxons offer their loyalty to Ottokar. If anyone in the Holy Roman Empire can protect them, it is the Bohemian King.

    Brandenburg is more complicated. The Brandenburgers would like a powerful protector, a role Elizabeth seems unable to fill, and here in the north she doesn’t have the personal loyalty the Bavarians are willing to give. On the other hand, they’ve long resented the Saxon dominance over them and so aren’t as keen in joining Ottokar. The Bohemian monarch, since he has not been invited by a Brandenburg delegation, only secures Saxony and doesn’t proceed further, but would welcome the chance to prune the overly-large Wittelsbach tree.

    Enter Karl von Hohenzollern, eldest son of Archbishop Ferdinand. He currently commands an army, which while on the small side is still an army and those are in short supply these days. Although many of the soldiers are technically Lotharingian, these mostly-mercenaries, who are the most tough and faithful to Ferdinand of those that had fought west of the Rhine, are now loyal to the House of Hohenzollern rather than the Lotharingian Valois. That their pay from Antwerp is now in arrears also has an effect on their change of loyalties.

    He no longer has lands and so desires compensation as well as a means of supporting his army. Unlike his father, who remained a Wittelsbach loyalist, Karl is skeptical of the family, blaming them for the disaster currently befalling Germany. Finally, he has ancestral connections with the Ascanian line that ruled Brandenburg before the line died out in the male line and Brandenburg was inherited by Saxony.

    So Ottokar presents Elizabeth with his demands. Firstly, Saxony and its electoral title will go to Bohemia. Secondly, Brandenburg and its electoral title will go to Karl, who will certainly be grateful for Ottokar’s efforts on his behalf. Thirdly, the Imperial title will be recognized as vacant due to Theodor’s incapacity and a new election held. In return however, Ottokar will guarantee Wittelsbach claims to Bavaria and recognize Karl Manfred as Duke of Württemberg.

    Elizabeth hates these terms but is powerless to resist. With Triune forces in control of most of the Rhine’s west-bank and some forces probing east of the river, a strong and sane Emperor is needed. The only option on the table now is Ottokar and he knows it.

    After a foregone election, on February 1, 1636, Ottokar is crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by the new Pope Clement VIII in the city of Prague.

    Despite the proclamation, spirits across Germany fail to lift. Ottokar is not German after all, and his contacts with Henri are well known and not forgotten. The death of Archbishop Ferdinand casts an unshakeable pall; Germany, it seems, no longer has a defender.

    But perhaps there is another. If any hour would call him forth, surely it would be this hour?

    According to legend, the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa lies asleep beneath the Kyffhäuser. Waiting motionless at a stone table, his beard growing through the table over the centuries as he sleeps, he awaits the time of Germany’s most desperate hour when he shall come forth. The ravens riding the winds above the mountain signal his presence below. The figure of the King-under-the-Mountain has merged with that of his grandson Friedrich II “Stupor Mundi”. It is said that he will return, to again do battle against a corrupt and hedonistic church, to cleanse the church, to tear down the rich and oppressive, and lift up the poor. He will return, to remake the world into a better place.

    Such tales are far from unique to the Germans. The legend of Andreas Niketas, asleep beneath a mountain until Rhomania shall call him forth to battle yet again in her hour of need, is little different. Considering such a time as this, it is little wonder that these tales would be told by Germans, hoping, wishing, praying for its promise to be fulfilled.

    And it would seem those prayers have been answered. No historian knows, and likely will never know, where or when it began, but it did. The call goes forth: “Hear, O Germany, and know. The ravens have left the Kyffhäuser.”

    On February 1, 1636, the same day as Ottokar is crowned Holy Roman Empire in Prague, a pudgy Franciscan friar named Johann Eck, accompanied by a Greek priest and a tall red-bearded ex-sergeant named Friedrich Zimmermann, stands before a crowd of peasants near the town of Amberg in northern Bavaria. There Johann asks them a question.

    “I ask you, when Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentle man?”

    [1] To help add a little perspective to the length of his tenure, when he became Archbishop the Great Uprising was just starting and a young Shahanshah Iskandar was marching on Uzbek Samarkand.

    [2] Slight adaptation of the words of the commander of the soldiers defending the Peitang/Beitang Cathedral, which was besieged by the Boxers during the Boxer Uprising. However since most of the people in the Cathedral were Chinese Christians in contrast to the people in the Legations, this part of the Boxer Uprising is usually ignored.
    The Triple Monarchy
  • The Triple Monarchy of France, England, and Ireland

    Unlike Spain, where the Kingdoms of Castile and Portugal were joined in constitutional and not just personal union, and like Scandinavia, the imperial title of ‘Empire of the United Kingdoms’ masked a more disjointed picture. For the sake of appearance and convenience, Henri Plantagenet could style himself as Emperor Henri II, but to his subjects he was the King of France, England, or Ireland, depending on the subjects in question.

    This was not as great a disadvantage as it might appear at first glance. The Holy Roman Emperors had ruled over a far more fragmented realm, and while Triune grandees could be difficult, none had the might to be an Ottokar. Rhomania was more centralized and organized, but Constantinople required the Despotates to match the demographic resources of the Triple Monarchy.

    Henri’s subjects number about 22.75 million, comfortably above the Roman heartland’s pre-war 18 million. Of these, 15.5 million are French, 4.5 million England, and the remainder Irish.

    As is suggested by the substantial population difference, the French are by far the dominant people in the Triple Monarchy, furnishing the bulk of the manpower, material, and money for Triune endeavors. It is not a coincidence that the commanders of all the major Triune armies in action in 1635 are all French nobility.

    France is not as unitary, however, as the themes of the Roman heartland or even the principalities of Bavaria or Saxony in particular. In many ways it is still a medieval agglomeration of territories, with different regions speaking languages barely intelligible to ‘outsiders’, with varying levels of privileges and taxes, as well as internal tariffs on goods passing from one province to another. One common issue is salt smuggling, as while all regions have a salt tax, the rates can vary massively.

    The Triune monarchs are not blind to the disadvantages of this, but attempts to streamline have all failed against pushback from local powers. There have been some successes though, with some tariffs being moderated, and while efforts to broaden the tax base have mostly been nullified, fake exemptions have been culled from the rolls. These financial reforms have also been combined with promotion of manufactures and the merchant marine, the construction of infrastructure projects, and the establishment of national banks and stock exchanges.

    All of these reforms are products of the flurry of activity that came after the utter humiliation of the Second Rhine War. The First Rhine War, fought from 1574 to 1578 under Henri I, had ended in a major victory over the Lotharingians, seizing the Pas de Calais and Burgundy proper. However the Second Rhine War from 1609 to 1619 (there was a lull in the middle due to peasant rebellions and bad harvests) ended in disaster, with Triune armies shattered by a younger Blucher and Bone-Breaker and German horse raiding the outskirts of Paris and King’s Harbor. No land had been lost, but the massive indemnity, which proportional to King’s Harbor income was higher than the tribute the Romans paid to Iskandar the Great, was a most bitter pill to swallow.

    It was determined that such a thing should never happen again. The years after 1619 had seen a flurry of reforms. Aside from the financial measures, more schools to train officials as well as a military academy were founded, with increased anti-corruption efforts. New and improved artillery and muskets were developed, while regular uniforms for soldiers started to be produced in what the mid-seventeenth century would consider mass quantities. It is all these measures that have allowed Henri II to field an array of power that would’ve amazed even his father.

    It is not just in military and financial fields in which the Triple Monarchy is blossoming. French is, along with Greek, the great scientific and cultural language of Christendom. Italian, which dominated in the late medieval and early modern, has lost its primacy. Lotharingian botanists, who are pioneers in the field, publish their works in French to ensure a wider audience. Triune art and music is appreciated and respected across Latin Europe, regardless of political feelings towards King’s Harbor.

    The Kingdom of England is set apart from this. It is its own separate kingdom with its own administration. The English peerage is its own category distinct from the French nobility, while the English Parliament retains its rights and privileges, including the most important one of approving taxes for the crown. While Triune monarchs visit on special occasions such as when they want to impose their will during a particularly important Parliament session, most of the time monarchial authority is represented by a Lord Lieutenant of England. Sometimes this position is filled by a junior member of the Plantagenet family, other times by a prominent and trusted English grandee. It has been made quite clear that on pain of riot, a Frenchman cannot occupy this position.

    The Kingdom of Ireland is in a similar setup, with an Irish peerage, Parliament, and Lord Lieutenant, although none of them are viewed as impressively as English or, better yet, French equivalents. The Triune monarchs generally find the Irish Parliament easier to manage than the English as the Anglo-Irish and Gaelic Irish rarely get along, making it easy for the crown to divide and rule. But at the same time Ireland is usually a very distant third in terms of Triune priorities and attentions.

    The secular administration mirrors the religious, with each kingdom having its own national Bohmanist church, while the monarch is the Supreme Head of each church, just as personally he is monarch of each kingdom. However the official doctrine of each church is identical, with questions of theology usually being settled by councils with representatives of each church, although the French delegates typically vastly outnumber their English and Irish counterparts. Furthermore the Triune monarchs have a much easier time filling bishoprics with personnel from outside the kingdom compared to secular offices, and many a French cleric has found themselves posted in England. In this way the three churches on paper appear more as one church in reality.

    Despite the administrative separation of the kingdoms, there is substantial interchange. The London-King’s Harbor-Paris conduit has often been described as the axis around which the Triple Monarchy turns. Cross-Channel trade is substantial, because while tariffs exist on goods passing between kingdoms, the rates are kept fairly low and there haven’t been any Anglo-French wars to cause disruption of trade. While King’s Harbor lacks the population of London or Paris, the presence of the court means a high demand for foodstuffs and manufactures is always present. Being the Gascon wine merchant who supplies the Triune crown is a very lucrative business and growing demand for Arletian wares in King’s Harbor and elsewhere in the Triune realm is a crucial factor in the Ocean faction’s friendly views of the Triple Monarchy.

    French is commonly known amongst the merchants of southern England, particularly in London, given the need to communicate with customers in France. Many mercantile and noble families in England have married into the families of their opposite numbers in France, as a means of gaining financial partners and advantages. As in the days of the early Normans, there is many a noble family that has holdings on both sides of the Channel. However, in nearly all of these cases the French element is dominant. The French market, because of its sheer size and the presence of King’s Harbor and the court, simply is the more lucrative one. London is a massive market by itself, but the second-largest city in England, Norwich, has only 22000 people. In contrast, France has eight cities that size or larger.

    With these marital and mercantile contacts, French culture is spreading in southern England, at least amongst the upper and middle classes, with French art and music appreciated and patronized. Many texts written in French sell well in bookshops in London and most respectable families consider knowledge of French to be essential, in the same way as middle and upper class people in eastern Europe consider Greek to be required learning.

    But all this is not to say there is no pushback against this growing French influence. English as a literary language is no slouch. The Ninety Years War that saw the Plantagenets become monarchs of France had helped crystalize English identity, primarily against the French. In the late 1390s, an English noble stating that it was to be expected that his French was poor as he was English did not raise any eyebrows, while it would’ve been considered absurd a century earlier. While those sentiments have faded and the nobility’s linguistics mirror those of the early Plantagenets, they have not been forgotten.

    The 1300s had also seen the rise of English vernacular literature which is still going strong three centuries later. While many French texts sell in English bookshops, English texts outnumber them over three to one. While a wealthy wool merchant, noble, or cleric may go and see the latest French opera, they will the next week go and see the newest English play. Although it must be pointed out that many doing so will then consider the French, by virtue of the language, being more ‘high-culture’.

    In the north of England however ‘French-ness’ is much less on the ground. Trade in northern England goes mainly to the Low Countries and Scandinavia, not so much to France. A merchant family in York, if they have a royal client, has the monarch in Malmo, not in King’s Harbor. The noble families north of the Humber have also intermarried to a far smaller degree with French nobility than those south of the estuary. There are no bookshops selling French texts in York.

    The connections that are growing in northern England are those with Lowland Scotland. The two regions share much in common. Both are part of far larger polities, the power centers of which are far away, different culturally, and which typically ignore the concerns of such ‘peripheral territories’. To the northern English speaker, Scots is far more intelligible than the French spoken even in London, much less in King’s Harbor or Paris.

    Another common thread is religion. Bohmanism has been spreading not only in Lotharingia but also in Scotland, and in the latter Bohmanism is often viewed as an act of defiance and assertion of Scottish identity against the staunchly Catholic Malmo. In 1635, at least half of Edinburgh is Bohmanist, and the Earls of Mar, Douglas, Angus, and Argyll all are Bohmanist.

    Puritanism has been growing in the Triple Monarchy ever since it first appeared near 1600. Although it is present all across the realm, it is especially strong in northern England, where its disapproval of the official Bohmanist Church is often used as a stand-in for discontent with the Triune monarchy. From there it is also spreading into Scottish Bohmanism. Furthermore while all Puritans share the belief that the official Bohmanist Church is too Catholic, the various Puritan groups do vary in their beliefs, with northern English and Scottish Puritans falling closer together in their beliefs.

    For instance, both Puritan groups have sent petitions to their respective Imperial masters protesting the sentencing of people to labor in the New World. Given the high death rates of such laborers, it is effectively life-time slavery and these Puritans, unlike those of Shechem, have little patience with slavery. “To put in chains those whom God created free is a sin.” (These Puritans don’t have an issue with penal labor or temporary servitude, as long as it is temporary-a common limitation mentioned by Puritan pastors is seven years-but it should not ‘consume a life wholly’.)

    Also these Puritans do not stop there. These Puritans, unlike their religious cousins in southern England and France, are not active in the ports that support the slave trade. They argue that enslaving Africans is wrong. “They differ in the color of their skin. That is merely because they and their forefathers have dwelled in a land that sees an intense sun. It speaks nothing to the Africans’ character or intelligence. Man looks on the outward appearance; the Lord looks on the heart. The soul of an African is every bit as precious in the eyes of God as the soul of an English child.” The argument of their religious brethren in Shechem that slavery is justified because the slaves are converted to Christianity is rejected. “Faith cannot be delivered on the point of a whip.”

    (Modern viewers shouldn’t go too far in praising the enlightenment of these Puritan abolitionists. In regards to native Terranovans, they believe that they need to be converted to Christianity and forced to adopt Triune manners and customs lest they fall back into their ‘heathen ways’.)

    Unsurprisingly, both petitions are promptly rejected. To the disappointed petitioners this only serves as more proof that Malmo and King’s Harbor are corrupt and ungodly.

    The war fuels further discontent in the north. Off the Low Countries the Triune and Lotharingian fleets do battle with armaments that dwarf those mustered at Thessaloniki, the sound of cannon fire echoing in the streets of London, Antwerp, and King’s Harbor. [1] Honors are evenly matched in these massive naval battles, triple the size of Palmaria. Lotharingian convoys to the east are badly disrupted, but Triune efforts to press attacks on the Lotharingian coast are beaten back.

    While the Lotharingian main battle fleet is tied down in these fights, the Lotharingian merchant marine is outfitted for war as privateers swarm out from every Lotharingian sea port and fishing village. They reap a bountiful harvest, striking at every target in range and there are a lot of targets. The most feared are the Dunkirkers, operating fast but heavy-armed vessels that can easily run down and overpower the coasters working the Channel trade. On September 7, a Dunkirker takes down a wine hauler within sight of King’s Harbor, blowing apart a pinnace that tries to intervene for good measure. The Dunkirker is taken five days later off Brittany, but that is not much of a salve for the humiliation. A pair of privateers from the small town of Amsterdam meanwhile sail across the Atlantic where in nine days they take thirty four Triune fishing vessels working the Grand Banks.

    In southern England the privateers generally steer clear of attacking land targets. With the Triune fleet nearby there’s too much risk of being cut off while in the act, but in northern England and in Ireland the privateers have much more freedom of movement. With the fleet in the south and the armies in France sucking up manpower at a prodigious rate, there is little to guard against these attacks.

    The inhabitants of northern England do have their own defense mechanism. The people attacking them are their former business partners after all, and the Lotharingians are willing to trade instead of raid. The Lotharingians get needed materials while the English get needed money. These trades are, of course, highly illegal and King’s Harbor demands that the Northumbrians cease and desist immediately. This infuriates the Northumbrians. Embargoes against Lotharingia have devastated their pocketbooks, while King’s Harbor demands taxes while offering them little to nothing in protection.

    The men of the north have their own ways of getting back though. One merchant, unable to pay for the Lotharingian goods he’s purchased, instead provides intelligence to the privateers. Using said intelligence, a squadron of privateers overruns a convoy of colliers carrying Newcastle coal to London. The coal will be most helpful in Lotharingian hearths and furnaces over the winter. Meanwhile London will be freezing; the Northumbrians consider that a bonus.

    In an effort to resolve these issues over smuggling and Lotharingian naval raids, the city of York asks the Earl of Westmorland to meet Henri II. He proceeds to King’s Harbor but when he arrives, he finds out that Henri is at the front, but before he can proceed there is an ‘incident’. Demetrios III is far from the only monarch to have stupid arrogant courtiers.

    Apparently some of the French courtiers mocked the Earl for his utterly atrocious French complete with thick accent. Enraged by the insults, the Earl had snarled that he was an Englishman, and thus should not be expected to speak good French. But with his anger, his accent grew worse, which only increased the courtiers’ mockery of him, with the Earl eventually withdrawing humiliated.

    It is a scene watched and remembered by Westmorland’s son, the seventeen-year-old Richard Neville. Upon returning to England, it is said that Richard said to his father a phrase growing in usage in Yorkshire: Edinburgh is closer than King’s Harbor.

    [1] Londoners during the Anglo-Dutch wars could hear the noise of the sea battles carrying across the water, an experience not matched until the artillery bombardments of the First World War.
    Fringes of Empire
  • The Fringes of Empire: Nile, East, and South Africa

    By the time of the Nile floods of 1634, the Egyptian army was laying siege to the city of Asyut. While the city was well-fortified by Idwait standards, support from Malik Hassan VIII was minimal as he threw all of his efforts into destroying the grandees who’d tried to assassinate him for failing to protect their estates north of Asyut. The Malik is enthusiastic about this, unsurprisingly given the Idwait history of grandees murdering their Malik, but much less so about tangling with the Egyptian army. While little larger than it was during the days of the Great Uprising, the army of the Despots now is far better supplied, armed, organized, and led. The wild fury that had overrun many an Egyptian gun line during the Great Uprising now flies apart under a hail of disciplined musketry.

    Asyut holds out for some time, mainly due to the flooded Nile seriously hampering siege operations, before capitulating on terms that spares the inhabitants the massacre/slavery that the Egyptians have done to the countryside in the north. Onward Despot Andreas II presses. While he faces local resistance from the inhabitants who elect to fight rather than flee, it is usually unorganized and purely local. There is no sign of the Malik. With the Idwait grandees’ lands concentrated north of Aswan, Hassan VIII has no intention of expending any sweat defending the region.

    While the countryside is ravaged with more massacres, the bloodshed is somewhat less mainly because more Idwaits manage to flee. Many make it to the towns of Qena and Qus, both with strong enough defenses to force terms on a similar level to Asyut. North of Aswan, the Egyptian army finally clashes with a force of Hassan’s in battle, which the Egyptians win. However the Malik had only wanted to buy himself time to strip Aswan of anything valuable before retiring south of the First Cataract. Aswan capitulates as soon as the Egyptian artillery train arrives, getting the Asyut treatment.

    When Andreas II rides into Aswan, the Nile will soon enter its 1635 floods. He is at the pre-Uprising border, the river barges that have been supplying the Egyptian army can’t proceed past the Cataract, and it is clear by the fortifications Hassan is throwing up at the Cataract that the level of opposition is about to increase drastically. At this stage the Malik has crushed the grandees that Andreas II didn’t destroy.

    Hassan nevertheless knows that in an all-out war, he will lose. He had started this conflict with the belief that the Ottomans were about to overrun the Nile Delta. That is clearly not happening. And to the south an Ethiopian army is also pressing up the Nile, although much slower than the Egyptians. But he has a major weapon, his land is still vast and rugged and quite poor. Conquering it will cost far more than it is worth.

    The Negusa Nagast of Ethiopia agrees. The new King of Kings is Kwestantinos III, son of Tewodros I who died in January 1635. A few years younger than the Empress Jahzara, he is her first cousin. During a reception in Constantinople to honor the announcement of the new Negusa, Jahzara had asked the Ethiopian ambassador if Kwestantinos had gotten any stronger since that time she beat him arm-wrestling when they were children. It is reported that Demetrios III never looked more mortified in his reign than at that moment.

    Kwestantinos III at that point is just south of the Sixth Cataract, facing a fortified barrier thrown up by an Idwait army commanded by Hassan VIII’s son and heir. The region between the First and Sixth Cataract comprises the old Kingdom of Makuria, one of the kingdoms of the Ethiopian Empire prior to its collapse in the Great Uprising. On the one hand, its loss was an insult and humiliation. But on the other, Kwestantinos has retaken the city of Soba and the Nile up to the Sixth Cataract, the most valuable bits of Makuria, while the rest had been of little value even when it was an Ethiopian vassal kingdom. He would rather put his military forces into more profitable ventures.

    In early 1636, the treaty of Aswan is signed between the Idwait Malik-ate, the Empire of Ethiopia, and the Despotate of Egypt (with Roman approval). In it, the Ethiopians and Egyptians keep all of the land they have seized. For Egypt this includes the ports of Marsa Alam and Berenike, both taken by the Egyptian navy in early 1635, which leaves Suakin the only outlet for the Malik-ate on the Red Sea. Hassan’s realm now extends from the First to Sixth Cataracts.

    However Hassan has reason to be pleased. Firstly, he was not destroyed which is always nice, and in a way his position has improved. He rules a much smaller realm, but one where he is less likely to have his throat slit in the night and where he can reasonably expect to pass his throne on to his son. That is worth quite a bit. Also the arrears of tribute are canceled and no more demanded; it is apparent to everyone that they cannot be paid, so there is no point to demand them other than to destabilize Hassan’s position. And Hassan manages to play up his importance in keeping the Idwaits quiet and not causing trouble.

    While the Treaty of Aswan marks the end of the Nile War as it is called (although the events are connected to those of the Great Latin War, the conflicts are viewed as separate in the historical record) it is not quite the end of bloodshed in this corner of the world. Many of the inhabitants in the towns that surrendered to the Egyptians on terms were refugees from the countryside who now have nothing to which to return. Their land has been confiscated in their absence, many plots given to ‘remainers’, Nile German settlers, or held by the Despot to later dole out to settlers.

    Destitute they march south to what remains of the Idwait Malik-ate, hunger and raiders carrying off many in these sad forlorn caravans. When the survivors stagger across the border, there is some charity on hand to aid them. But even where there is the will, and that is by no means guaranteed, the resources are often not there to help. No one knows how many of those who walked these marches died in the process, but it is said that no vulture in these lands went hungry that year.

    Those carried off by raiders would end their days in slavery, and slavery is something that is well associated with Africa by this point. The slave trade is a vital part of the Ethiopian economy. Slaves work the kaffos plantations that produce Ethiopia’s primary export to Rhomania, the largest trade partner by an appreciable margin. The roads, bridges, and harbor facilities that are built are mainly done with slave labor owned by the Ethiopian monarchy. Aside from the slaves that Ethiopia exports to Rhomania, Ethiopian merchants sell slaves to many buyers across the Indian Ocean.

    Many of Ethiopia’s slaves come from raids into the African interior and said raids are the main drivers for Ethiopian expansion in that direction. However more come from the Ethiopian outposts along the Swahili coast, which also furnish gold and ivory, other valued trading commodities in the Indian Ocean economy.

    The Swahili coast is comprised of several small city-states, most of which are vassals to either Ethiopia or Oman, although some of the larger city-states have a sort of ‘pocket hegemony’ over smaller cities in their vicinity while still being a vassal to either Ethiopia or Oman. The chief city-states are Mogadishu, Mombasa, Pemba, Zanzibar, and Kilwa, with the first three answering to Oman and the later pair to Ethiopia.

    The Comoros Islands in contrast are independent, ruled by a king although local chiefs hold most of the power in their domains. The Comoros Islands have managed to stay independent because they mark the boundary line between the Ethiopian/Omani dominion and that of the Spanish to the south. Both parties would rather see the Comoros independent than fall into the other’s hands so the islanders are able to play both sides against each other. It is a delicate act but one they have played quite well.

    The Spanish portion of the Swahili coast looks similar to that in the north, with local city-states paying tribute to the non-local imperial power. Inhambane and Mozambique are the chief vassal cities, while the city of Sofala is the seaport of the Kingdom of Mutapa located in the interior. Sofala doesn’t answer to the Spanish but Spanish merchants are highly prominent in the seaport, eager for the products of the gold mines.

    For the Swahili cities it makes little difference on the ground whether one’s overlord is in Gonder, Muscat, or Lisbon, as all three follow the same pattern. In each city there is a fortified factory (trading post) where the Imperial merchants stay, the head of the factory also serving as an ‘advisor’ for the local ruler. Internal affairs and trade with the interior, a vital component in procuring the demanded trade goods, are managed by the locals while the Imperials dominate the seaborne trade, the overlord also receiving a set amount of trade goods in tribute. So long as the trade and tribute flows, the locals are left to manage their own affairs.

    Trade between the cities is managed by the local merchants and even the oceanic traffic depends heavily on Swahili sailors, recruited by all three Imperial powers, although in each case the Swahili earn a lower salary than those from the metropole. Another source of manpower is the growing number of offspring from Imperial-local couplings, especially prominent in the Spanish cities. These Afro-Hispanics help crew many a Spanish galleon in Indian waters.

    The island of Madagascar is independent, although Malagasy merchants and sailors play an important role in the local trade economy. Madagascar is split into multiple petty kingdoms often battling one another, leaving power vacuums. Into those power vacuums enter African, Indian, and European renegades, creating what are known as ‘pirate towns’ or ‘pirate republics’, small communities of freebooters that pirate naval traffic across the Indian Ocean, particularly menacing European ships on their homeward journeys around the Cape.

    As the Romans get more interested in keeping an eye on the Cape, there have been talks of subsidizing the pirates as a tool against the Latins. No Roman ships need round the Cape. But the pirates are not easily controlled and more than one Roman ship traveling between Taprobane and the Eastern Katepanates have been nabbed off Sumatra by them. To all the Imperial powers affected, the pirate raids are just pinpricks, but painful pinpricks nonetheless.

    At this point the Mascarene Islands are still uninhabited although they are known to Latin traders who often stop off on the islands to provision. Aside from humans hunting, the introduction of new animals has devastated local animals such as the famous flightless birds like the dodoes, amongst others. The practice comes from the Caribbean, where Latins would seed an island with populations of pigs and/or chickens who would reproduce naturally, allowing future sailors to swing by and take some to supply their larders.

    The Cape area has often fulfilled the same function, although there provisions are gained by trading with the local Khoikhoi. Cattle-based pastoralists, the Khoikhoi are happy to trade with the Europeans although they have gotten far savvier as to the value of the trade goods offered over the century of exchange. There have been attempts on the part of the Europeans to just steal the cows but usually these have ended in miserable failure. In one case the Khoikhoi simply called the stolen cows, who obediently turned and headed back to their masters. In another, the Khoikhoi directed a cattle stampede at the would-be thieves. Much as in the rest of Africa, Europeans have discovered that it is easier and less risky to trade with than raid the Africans.

    Unfortunately for the Khoikhoi, South Africa is one of the few parts of the continent that aren’t murderously unhealthy for white men. One of the Triune commercial initiatives undertaken to improve the economy during Henri II’s early reign was thus to set up a colony at the Cape. With Triune farmers there, the Cape could provide more victuals for Triune ships than that procured from the Khoikhoi trade. The Khoikhoi naturally object; traders are good but neighbors are bad. However the Triunes arrive in greater numbers than the initial Portuguese sailors of a century past and they are equipped with far deadlier flintlocks than the earlier matchlocks.

    Looking at a map, it seems surprising that it took a century of Europe-India seaborne traffic for one of the Latin powers to establish a settlement at the Cape. However the Cape is named the Cape of Storms, strongly suggesting the expected hazards for shipping. Furthermore the Portuguese, the first to arrive, set up camp at Mozambique. While far less healthy than the Cape, the gold and slaves of Sofala were far more valuable trade goods than the beef and leather from the Khoikhoi. Additionally the island of St Helena, where fruit trees have been planted and chickens introduced, makes for another valuable victualling point, which while frequently visited by all who ply this trade route have yet to claim it.

    The establishment of the Triune colony at the Cape thus does little more than raise a few eyebrows; it is hardly perceived as a serious threat. With the Mascarenes and St Helena still open to all, re-provisioning is hardly an issue. And in addition, the Triune settlers soon display a willingness to trade their farm products for desired manufactures regardless of the seller’s origin. The settlers are only supposed to trade with Triune merchants with Triune wares, but King’s Harbor is very far away. The way to India is still wide open.
    The Jewel of the World
  • The Jewel of the World: The Empire of Vijayanagar

    “Vijayanagar the Magnificent, Vijayanagar the Splendid!
    Vijayanagar of the Seven Walls, City of Victories!
    Gather all good and beautiful things,
    And you have glimpsed the shadow of Vijayanagar.”
    -Andreas Kineas, Assistant to the Roman ambassador to Vijayanagar, 1636​

    Vijayanagar means the City of Victories, an appropriate name for the mighty metropolis that rules over the richest empire on the planet. At more than 700,000 inhabitants it is the largest city on Earth, overshadowing Luoyang and Constantinople, its only real rivals. It is said, with only slight exaggeration, that every tongue on Earth can be heard within its seven circuits of walls. Certainly it dazzles all who lay eyes on her.

    The city is immense, with massive temple complexes that incorporate architectural elements from the various strands that make up the fabric of the empire. The great water tank works that support agriculture in the surrounding countryside also inspire respect. Being an architect or engineer is an important occupation in the great metropolis.

    The Emperor Venkata Raya I, scion of the Sangama dynasty that founded the empire near three centuries past, rules the greatest Imperial edifice that southern India has ever seen. From Cape Comorin in the south it stretches to the heights of the Vindhyas in the north, its eastern frontier marked by the Wainganga, Pranahita, and Godavari Rivers. There are tributary states that exist beyond those bounds, but their submission is intermittent. However the lands thus inscribed are firmly under the authority of Vijayanagar.

    Given the vastness of the empire and the wide variety of landscapes and people, it is not feasible for it all to be directly ruled by Venkata Raya. The lands of the empire are therefore divided into three tiers. There are first the lands ruled directly by the Emperor. Then there are the lands granted to Nayaks, who rule their holdings as feudal vassals in exchange for providing a set amount of troops on demand. Their holdings are not heritable and revert to the state on the death of the Nayak, with no guarantee that the heir will receive a holding. Admittedly, oftentimes they do, but it is common practice to give them an equivalent holding in a separate region of the empire to avoid families building up local power bases. Finally there are the vassal states proper, who render regular tribute and troops, but which are heritable by the vassal’s family. These are concentrated mainly on the northern and northeast fringes of the empire, with the Roman Kephalate of Surat considered one of these vassals in Vijayanagar’s eyes.

    This setup is often called a ‘mixed empire’, with a centralized core surrounded by a large slew of territories ruled intermediately through vassals or tributaries. The Empire of Ethiopia is a much smaller and poorer variant of the same model. The centralized core of Vijayanagar is concentrated on the southern Deccan and the lands of southern India and by themselves provide the bulk of the wealth and power that undergirds the empire.

    It is a wealth that staggers all those who see it. It is estimated by the Roman ambassador in 1636 that Venkata Raya’s annual revenues are 4-5 times that of Demetrios III’s, with no one familiar with Vijayanagar arguing those figures. That revenue comes from a variety of sources.

    Vijayanagar is sometimes known as the Jewel of the World, an apt title. Prior to their discovery in Africa and Terranova, with the exception of a small seam in Borneo, every diamond in the Old World comes from Vijayanagar, from the great mines at Golkonda. This resource is guarded most assiduously by the Emperors; for any Raja of the empire to enter the citadel of Golkonda is an automatic death sentence. It is not just diamonds; all kinds of gems, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and more flow from the mines, and it is the flow of gems that gives the Vijayanagara their deserved reputation for glittering wealth.

    The jewels are what catch the eye, but the real engine of the Vijayanagar economy (outside of agriculture which by necessity is the bulk of any pre-industrial economy) is the textile industry. Cotton is cultivated in prodigious quantities and worked by hundreds of thousands of textile workers. South India already had a well-developed textile industry but it has been reinforced in the last few decades by Bengali immigrants bringing their own skills and expertise. The 1636 ambassadorial figures also estimate that Vijayanagar produces 5 times more cotton textiles than Rhomania does of all textiles combined, and Vijayanagar also produces silks.

    These cotton fabrics are the main export, with bolts being used as currency from East Africa to Indonesia. The cotton is sold as bolts or as clothing, either plain or dyed with the many dyes that the empire also produces. Textiles dyed and decorated by the workshops of Vijayanagar and Tirulnevi are especially renowned for their high quality.

    Another major export of the empire is metalworks, particularly from Bidar, the former capital of the Deccani Sultans and still a major city with 90,000 inhabitants. The people there produce all sorts of products from cannons and muskets to finely inlaid metal screens.

    Trade is also a major part of the economy. There is the internal trade; feeding the City of Victories alone is no small task, it being twice the size of Constantinople and not being a seaside city. Coastal traffic between the various ports, including between the east and west coasts, is thick, the ships crewed and owned by Vijayanagara natives, typically Tamil and Malayalam.

    Those two peoples are vital to the running of Vijayanagara trade and maritime traffic. Tamil and Malayalam merchants are prominent in all the port cities and they often act as bankers too. Roman Ship Lords are frequent clients of them in that capacity, and successful foreign merchants have extensive contacts and contracts with their merchant houses. Much of the Taprobane shipyards were constructed with the support of loans from Tamil and Malayalam families.

    Foreign merchants, be they Ethiopian, Roman, Latin, or natives of the east, simply have to trade with Vijayanagar. Its products are highly valued and the moneys from merchant houses are key to financing the whole Indian Ocean trade network. The seaports of the Empire also provide vital manpower. Just as in Africa, it is common practice for western traders to hire native sailors to bolster their crews, who by this stage are universally known as lascars. They come from all over the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia and are hired by all parties, even for regular warships when needed, but the majority come from Vijayanagar’s seaports. Given the death rates from diseases for European crews, lascars are essential for European trade in the east. Even the Romans who can draw on native manpower from the territories under their control frequently have recourse to Vijayanagara lascars, given their deserved reputation for seamanship and gunnery.

    Just as a Latin or Roman ship trading in Nellore or Kollam may have a diverse crew, so Vijayanagar has a diverse population. Aside from the many peoples who are native to the lands of the empire, no less than 40,000 Rajputs serve in the army, either as Nayaks or retainers to Nayaks. There is no greater honor than to receive a badge of office from the Chakravartin, the Universal Emperor.

    Although the Vijayanagara Emperors are firmly Hindu, there is a noticeable Muslim minority, a legacy of the conquest of the Deccan. Islam is tolerated, with mosques and madrasas present even in the City of Victories, with the general rule being that Muslims inside the Empire are alright, although Muslims outside the Empire are typically viewed less favorably. There are many Nayaks who are Muslim, practicing their faith but still serving the Protector of Cows and Brahmins with the cavalry demanded by their investiture.

    One factor behind this is that the Islam of the Deccan, with its long contact with Hinduism, has syncretized somewhat with the dominant Hindu faith, much to the horror of more orthodox Muslims from Arabia or the Ottoman Empire. As can easily be attested from viewing any of the mansions of Muslim nobles in the capital, the strictures against human pictorial representation are ignored, often spectacularly in a sensual manner. It is not entirely one way. Festivals that originate in one faith, honoring a holy man, can be celebrated by participants of both, and Sufi Fakirs are recognized as holy men by Hindus who respect their ascetic lifestyle.

    The diversity is not just from India’s diverse peoples. Vijayanagar lures many who are not born within the bounds of the subcontinent. Vijayanagar has a ‘Yavana quarter’ for the Romans (and a few Georgians, Ethiopians, and Japanese who’ve been lumped in with them) who have taken up service there, and another foreign quarter for Latins. Most are soldiers, hiring out as mercenaries in service for the Emperor, but some are artisans or officials, drawn by the pay, opportunity, and tolerant atmosphere. In 1640, a fifth of all heartland-born Romans in the east are in the service of the Vijayanagara, not Roman, Emperors.

    These immigrants usually come with the intention of staying, intermarrying with the locals and starting families, with many converting to the faiths of their in-laws (90%+ of the immigrants are male). Some of these are very successful, even those who do remain Orthodox. In one case, a Roman convert to Hinduism is a Nayak with a contingent of 2000 horsemen under his banner. The stream of Roman immigrants increases for a short while after the conclusion of Roman participation in the War of the Roman Succession, as discharged Roman soldiers with a taste for the military life travel to Vijayanagar to work as mercenaries.

    The Vijayanagar military is noted by many visitors. While the forces of the Nayaks and the vassal states still have a medieval look to them, the regular forces are more modern, with regiments of flintlock-armed infantry backed by field artillery. Uniformed and disciplined, they are a formidable force. One regiment of the military that always catches foreigners’ attention is the so-called Amazon Guard, an all-female regiment including officers which is equipped and uniformed like the other regiments. Often used for palace security, Venkata Raya has expanded its size and derives much pleasure from using it against persons or groups that have particularly annoyed him. Most foreigners have a hard time taking the women seriously at first, but those who’ve seen them in action cannot find fault with their strength, bravery, or skill at arms. [1]

    The Vijayanagara navy is also something being noted by foreigners. When the Romans first arrived in India, the Vijayanagara were at a naval nadir due to rebellions in the coastal cities but that issue has been rectified. Drawing on a large and skilled maritime manpower pool, the Vijayanagara are able to field an impressive and capable fleet; the greatest naval defeat of a western power at the hands of a native power was of the Romans by a Vijayanagara fleet in the 1580s.

    This is something that especially increased under Venkata Raya’s reign. Sea power is essential to keeping all these foreign powers behaving, protecting the thick coastal traffic, and reminding the Malabar coastal cities, sheltering on the opposite side of the Western Ghats from Vijayanagar, who is supreme. While native shipbuilding techniques still hold true for merchant ships, the Vijayanagara, like the Omani, now copy western designs for their warships. Unlike the Omani, the Vijayanagara have the manpower to build battle-line ships, not just sloops and fregatai. In 1636 the three most powerful warships east of the Cape are the Shiva, Ganesh, and Krishna, all 88-gunners, built specifically to overawe the smaller Roman, Spanish, and Triune warships in Indian waters.

    While coastal traffic is extremely important, there is very little overseas maritime traffic that is Vijayanagar-controlled. Given that everyone wants to come to Vijayanagar, there is little incentive to sail out in search of customers. There is some, but usually it is a Tamil merchant purchasing cargo space on a foreign trading vessel. There are some overseas trading communities, particularly in the Hindu polities of Southeast Asia, but none comparable in size to the overseas Chinese communities across Southeast Asia.

    Long-distance Vijayanagar maritime activity usually has a political focus as the Emperor maintains contact with the Hindu polities of Island Asia. He has no formal authority over them but is viewed as an exemplar and inspiration for minor Hindu rulers and occasionally provides more tangible aid as well. After the fall of Surabaya, Sanjaya, the ruler of Mataram, received from Venkata Raya a shipment of muskets, two batteries of cannons, and a letter recognizing him as a Maharaja, a gift that reportedly pleased him as much as the capture of Surabaya.

    [1] Author’s inspiration from the Zuffur Plutun (Women’s Battalion) of the Nizams of Hyderabad. See White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India by William Dalrymple, which heavily inspired much of this update in addition to this specific element.
    The Other Indian Empires
  • Faith and Steel: The Other Empires of India

    “A wise man does not play chicken with an elephant.”-unknown origin.​

    Vijayanagar may be the most spectacular, but it is far from the only Indian polity or even major power on the subcontinent. Two others make that grade as well, albeit not to the level of the great southern empire. These are the Kingdom of Oudh and the Viceroyalty of Sutanuti.

    The year 1635 is a good one for Kishan Das, the Maharaja of Oudh, who has finally retaken the capital of Lucknow and murdered his traitorous brother Karan Singh and his entire family for good measure. From Patna in the east to Firozabad in the west, from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to Maihar in the south, he is again lord and master.

    Although on a map Oudh appears paltry in comparison to Vijayanagar, due to the high population of the Gangetic plain Kishan Das’s demographic resources are far more comparable to Venkata Raya’s than the map would suggest. Oudh mirrors Vijayanagar in many ways, for instance following the three-tier land administration model with direct holdings, feudal-style nayaks, and vassals on the periphery. The Oudh army is also divided into three categories based on the type of land holding that originates the troop in question.

    Oudh lacks the massive import and export trade of Vijayanagar, but the sheer size of the internal market supports a well-developed textile industry, while Oudh perfumes are prized as valuable exports beyond the border. Another significant boost to the economy is Kishan Das’s possession of Varanasi, the holiest of the Sapta Puri, the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. The Maharaja is a massive patron of Varanasi, encouraging the pilgrims who flock there from as far away as Mataram, although much less so during the recent war with his brother.

    The death of Karan Singh is at first a major blow to the power that bankrolled his initial coup, the Viceroyalty of Sutanuti. Viceroy Bertrand de la Faye had sponsored Karan Singh to pull Kishan Das away from his attack on the Viceroyalty in 1632. Kishan Das had won three battles during his offensive, but while none had been decisive, the track record clearly showed the threat the Oudh monarch could pose to the Triune Viceroyalty.

    On the western frontiers of the Viceroyalty between it and Oudh lie the Rajas of Jharkand and Bihar, the latter being the feeble core remnant of the once mighty Empire of Bihar that in its heyday dominated most of the Gangetic plain. Those days are long gone now. While both states are de jure independent, they are very much satellites of the Viceroyalty. Meanwhile the Viceroyalty stretches from Koch Bihar (no connection to the Raja of Bihar) in the north to the Bay of Bengal, from Asansol in the west to Chittagong in the east.

    Administratively the Viceroyalty looks much like Vijayanagar and Oudh with a three-tier land management system, although vassal states make up a larger percentage of the territory in question. In the two native empires though, vassal states are given autonomy in exchange for regular tribute payments, while the Viceroyalty enforces certain commercial conditions in the vassals to facilitate the trade of Triune merchants.

    The Viceroyalty also looks much like the Katepanate of Taprobane to the south. It is an administrative department of the Triune government [1] with the Viceroy appointed by the Triune monarch. Like the Katepanoi, the Viceroy has complete civil and military authority, both governor and general, a union of powers made necessary by the distance from the metropole. However Triune merchant companies are important powers in their own right, filling the niche that in the Katepanates is occupied by the Ship Lords, although these are usually proper companies rather than more personal ventures.

    The Viceroy maintains his authority over the various vassals under his banner through several different methods. Firstly is by the threat of foreign powers, such as the Bhutanese and Tibetans in the north, the coalescing Toungoo Kingdom in the east, and the Maharaja of Oudh in the west.

    The second method is through the commercial constraints in the terms of vassalage. While Bengal is populous, rich, and productive, most of that ends up being siphoned off into Triune hands. Triunes can trade between vassal states without paying dues, while Bengali merchants must pay a toll every time their goods cross a frontier. This gives Triune traders a huge advantage and a much bigger market. Also the Viceroyalty has gained the support of the wealthy Bengal banker families. While goods are subject to dues, their money can flow freely throughout the Viceroyalty to the benefit of family coffers, who repay their Triune benefactors with plentiful and low-interest loans.

    An extra benefit for the Triunes is that Bengali wares, particularly the textiles the region produces in quantities comparable to Vijayanagar, fuel Triune trade throughout the east. Bengali cotton can be traded in Indonesia for spices or Pyrgos for silver, which can then be shipped to China to trade for chinaware or tea, rapidly growing in popularity back home. As a result, the Triunes have less need or interest in trading in Vijayanagar.

    Some of this money helps pay for the sepoys that are the muscle of Viceroyalty. These are native troops trained and equipped in the European manner, although in battle they are supplemented by Indian troops supplied by the vassal states. There are a few European regiments in the Viceroyalty, who earn higher pay than the sepoys, but disease keeps the strength of these white regiments limited.

    There is some intermingling between Triune and Bengali culture. Many officials and officers sent to India are attracted by elements of native culture; Viceroy de la Faye commissions a translation of the Ramayana into French during his tenure. With few European women there is much intermarriage, although frequently the Indian wives are abandoned if the husband returns to the Triple Monarchy.

    Those who form more durable attachments with Indian women, as opposed to just using the many brothels, are the most likely to assimilate. Many is the Triune official who is Triune in public by day but in private by night lives more like a native Bengali notable. There are rumors that some go completely native to the point of converting to Hinduism, such as the resident in Bihar. In addition to the official stipends from the Viceroyalty to various temples, which has been found to be a good and cheap way to get loyalty, there are personal endowments. Two examples can be found in the Colonel of the 1st Asansol Sepoy battalion and the Harbormaster at Chittagong. Both pay for candles for a temple where they are stationed, the Colonel after a bowel complaint disappeared after he visited the temple, the Harbormaster after the priests prayed for the survival and rescue of him and his family after a boating accident.

    That the threat of Kishan Das does not reform and march again against the Viceroyalty is due to news from the west. The small Sikh state centered on Delhi took Agra while Kishan Das was fighting with his brother, and he wants it back. A small force that tried to retake Agra in 1635 was eviscerated by Ranjit Singh; clearly more force is needed.

    The Sikh state is not like the great territorial empires of India. The Sikh faith, founded by Guru Nanak a hundred and fifty years before, had been born in the lands between the Punjab and Delhi. The number of Sikhs had steadily grown over the decades, drawing both from the Muslim and Hindu populations. As their numbers grew though, local notables grew concerned about their power.

    The first third of the 1600s left northwest India in an uproar. Iskandar’s invasion shattered the local balance of power that had been formed after the destruction of the Delhi Sultanate by the combined might of the Hindu empires of Bihar and Vijayanagar. But then the Ottomans were expelled by the Vijayanagara, but they failed to fill the power vacuum. In the cauldron of chaos, those jealous of the Sikhs combined against them.

    Although the Sikhs were defeated and driven from the heartland of their faith, they had been by no means destroyed. The chaos that had cast them down could be used to raise them back up again and in 1630 a reformed Sikh army took the once great city of Delhi.

    The 1630s would be a transformative time for the Sikhs. Delhi was to be a new heartland. The Fifth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, started the construction of the Harmandir Sahib outside the city just five months after the conquest. Also as a way to distinguish Sikhs from non-Sikhs, he instituted the fellowship of the Khalsa, which required a special rite of baptism and the five symbols of Sikhism. [2]

    Although the Guru was often referred to as the sovereign of the Sikh state by foreign observers, the Sikh state is much more of a confederacy than a centralized state. During the fighting in the Punjab the Sikhs had been organized into units called misl, commanded by a warlord who led that formation in battle. In 1635 there are six. While the misls cooperate against non-Sikh forces and recognize the Guru as the spiritual authority, the Sardars (chiefs of the misl) are largely autonomous with their own forces and holdings. Ranjit Singh is one of the Sardars, with the conquest of Agra greatly adding to his power base and prestige.

    Sikh forces at this stage are still mostly cavalry, although the horsemen are adept with lance, saber, and musket. The horsemen are largely supported with jagir land grants, like the Nayaks of Vijayanagar, with being paid solely in coin having mercenary connotations. There is some infantry, recruited mainly from non-Sikhs, although not much in the way of artillery. Ranjit Singh’s adoption of Roman artillery was crucial to his takeover of Agra.

    The Romans supplying cannons to Ranjit Singh had absolutely infuriated Kishan Das. The Triunes had used trickery, marshaling his brother against him, but the Triunes had been his enemies; such stratagems were to be expected. But the Romans were supposed to be his friends; he is not the kind of man to forgive such treachery.

    The Sikhs are well aware that Kishan Das intends to march against them, and while the 1635 assault was beaten back, the next one will certainly be much larger. Thus they search for allies. They find exactly what they need in Venkata Raya, who is no friend of Kishan Das. The two great native empires have been fishing in the waters of the petty states that lie between them and Venkata Raya sees the Sikhs as another tool in these diplomatic maneuverings.

    In 1636 the Empire of Vijayanagar and the Sikh Confederacy sign the historic Treaty of Agra. In it the Sikhs agree to become vassals of Vijayanagar, although the tribute is light and the Guru is not required to present himself at the Assembly of Princes. In exchange Venkata Raya will protect the Sikhs against Oudh.

    Another benefit for Venkata Raya is that per the terms, the Sikhs will facilitate Vijayanagara recruitment of Gurkha troops to their north. Venkata Raya had discovered these short but tough men while campaigning in northern India against Ibrahim and he is very desirous of getting more for his armies. By 1640, there will be 4000 Gurkhas in Vijayanagara service, their cries of ‘Ayo Gurkhali’ striking fear in the heart of Vijayanagar’s enemies, the start of a proud and illustrious tradition that endures to the present day.

    Kishan Das is utterly furious when he hears the news. While he wants Agra back, he is not willing at this point to risk crossing swords with Venkata Raya and so is forced to stand down. However he is not going to take this lying down.

    His diplomatic counter-thrust is both unexpected and ingenious. Six months after the Treaty of Agra is signed, another historic treaty is signed in Patna between the Kingdom of Oudh and the Viceroyalty of Sutanuti, in which the two are pledged to be allies. It is a startling shift in the dynamic of power in India. With the pair as allies, there is a power bloc uniting most of the Gangetic plain, a power bloc comparable to that of Vijayanagar.

    There are certainly tensions between the allies and a coalition is always more unwieldly than a unitary power, but Venkata Raya is well aware of the threat this poses. De La Faye was well aware when signing the treaty that it would anger the Vijayanagara Emperor, while Kishan Das is angry over the Sikh situation. Thus both take very little time to start fishing around in east central India, amongst the petty Rajas of Orissa and Chhattisgarh and the Adivasi chiefdoms in the great forests that still exist there. It is the typical game of diplomacy and espionage the great powers play with the small fry on the periphery of their domains, although the combination of Oudh and Sutanuti make their efforts particularly effective. One example is the new Raja of Cuttack who agrees to join the northern alliance in early 1637.

    Venkata Raya is willing to look further afield than the petty states of India in search of allies against the new menace to the north. Both Rhomania and Spain seem to be good choices.

    [1] The Viceroyalty is officially part of the Kingdom of France, although English traders are allowed to trade on the same terms as French merchants with no difference in customs requirements.

    [2] The Khalsa is the same as OTL, although the setting is different and taking place sixty years earlier than IOTL. Also the OTL requirement that all Sikh males take the surname Singh while Sikh women take the surname Kaur is not implemented here.

    I am taking all my Sikh information from Empire of the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Patwant Singh and Jyoti M. Rai.
    The Indus and Central Asia
  • Holding the Middle: The Indus Valley and Central Asia

    West of the Sikh Confederacy, in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and the Indus Valley, there are no greater powers, only a shifting kaleidoscope of petty Rajas and Emirs. The closest thing to a hegemon is Ethiopia, via its enclave centered on Thatta and Hyderabad. Periodic columns combined with a river flotilla make forays up the Indus, forcing tribute from local lords, but the submission lasts exactly as long as the Ethiopians are present and no longer. The Ethiopians lack the resources to force a more durable and widespread authority, much to their annoyance. They had hoped that Thatta could be a major trade port but the chaotic political landscape has brought commerce to a shrieking halt.

    Many of the states pay lip service to being vassals of Vijayanagar, but nobody is fooled by the pretensions, including Venkata Raya. It is a cheap source of prestige for everyone involved, but otherwise meaningless. Of a decidedly more tangible nature is the complete collapse of Ottoman power still left in the region after Ibrahim’s defeat at the hands of Venkata Raya.

    In 1634 a charismatic Afghan warlord took Kabul from its Ottoman garrison, a devastating blow to Ottoman authority in the eastern marches of the empire. However the division of spoils proved unsatisfactory to some of the warlord’s underlings, including his two brothers, the ensuing quarrel quickly escalating into gunfire. The Afghan infighting, still unresolved two years later, means that they are unable to capitalize on their capture of Kabul.

    However Ibrahim is not in a position to take advantage. The war with the Romans has left him practically bankrupt, meaning he can’t pay any army he would send, while the Afghans don’t have the wealth to make a ‘the pay is your loot’ policy practical. Furthermore for the sake of the Ottoman economy and exchequer the Shah needs to demobilize many of his men. The Qizilbash and Janissary infantry all supplement their peacetime pay with side jobs, whether as small merchants, artisans, or growing vegetable plots. The Azabs also are prominent components of the economies of their local areas, with farms and businesses that need to be managed. The mass and long-term mobilization of these men for the war has left a hole in the Ottoman economy and so Ibrahim needs them back at their fields and shops. (His father had faced similar problems, but his victorious and conquering armies brought back plunder which compensated for losses in production.)

    With the loss of Kabul, the land route to Ottoman India via the Khyber Pass is cut. The only other land route would be from Kandahar via the Khojak and Bolan Passes, but those deposit the traveler on the lower Indus, far to the south of the Ottoman sliver of the Punjab. There would then be a long march upcountry through unfriendly terrain. Furthermore, a good way to make Venkata Raya care about what’s happening along the Indus would be to send an Ottoman army marching through non-Ottoman Indian territory.

    The governor at Bhakkar, the capital of the Ottoman Punjab, is Alemdar Mustafa Pasha. Taking advantage of his newfound isolation and Ibrahim’s inability to project power, he has turned himself from provincial governor to independent warlord. He maintains authority over the former province through a mix of the Ottoman garrison that sides with him, some Afghan mercenaries, and local levies. Controlling the area between the Indus and Chenab Rivers, he is the most significant of the local lords in western India.

    North of the mountains, events are proceeding much better from Ibrahim’s perspective. Theodoros I Laskaris, King of Khazaria and Siberia, is dead.

    Outside of Russia, Theodoros is mainly remembered for when, as a prince, he seized Vladimir and tried and failed to suborn the Zemsky Sobor, the direct catalyst for the sundering of the Rus. However in his middle-age, when he became King of Khazaria, he proved himself to be an exceptional military commander, although because these exploits took place in Central Asia, people then and now have largely ignored them. Devastating the Uzbeks and Oirats, forcing the cities of the Tarim Basin into vassalage, in just five years he turned Khazaria into the clear titan of the central steppe.

    However on January 2, 1634, he died and his steppe empire collapsed with him. The tribes of the steppe and the cities of the basin promptly threw off their vassalage and his son, Basil Laskaris, has been unable to re-impose Khazar hegemony. One reason is that he does not seem to have the military acumen of his father. A second reason is that Theodoros’ victories, while impressive, had also been expensive both in men and money, and it had been a strain even while Theodoros was alive keeping everyone in check.

    Another reason is that China is once again a major player in the geopolitics of Central Asia. United under the Zeng dynasty, the conquests by the Yuan and the Tieh, as well as the serious damage done by the Later Yuan, have made it absolutely clear to the Chinese that managing the steppe is an absolutely key priority. (Admittedly, earlier Chinese history made that a clear lesson already, but events over the past few centuries have made it especially explicit.)

    Therefore any rebel against Khazar dominion can count on Chinese clandestine support, the Zeng providing both money and military equipment. The Chinese have nothing against the Khazars personally, but the Chinese will not, if they have anything to say about it, tolerate any one power dominating all of the steppe. Khazaria, on the death of Theodoros I, is the power closest to fitting the bill and thus Khazaria must be humbled.

    Chinese forces have pushed as far west as the Jade Gate, establishing a garrison there. The cities of the Tarim Basin have all asserted their independence, with the Chinese supporting them all while simultaneously making sure each stays small. It would not be ideal for Khazar dominion to be replaced by another hegemon.

    North of the Tien Shan events do not proceed as ideally from the Zeng’s perspective, the humbled Dzungar Khanate promptly regaining the ground lost to Theodoros. However the Khans, who often encamp at the ruins of fallen Urumqi, lack the other dominions held by the Khazars, so even so they are much less of a threat than Theodoros was in his prime.

    Basil Laskaris survives these humiliations, although he seeks compensation in other areas. Siberian expansion has been proceeding at a steady pace, although slowed during his father’s reign by his Central Asian focus. He invests more into these efforts, financing exploratory missions as traders and trappers proceed across the vast reaches of the north. They will bear impressive fruit in just a few years, reaching the Pacific Ocean in 1640 and establishing Okhotsk eleven years later.

    In the opposite direction, Basil is immediately supportive of the new Zemsky Sobor, his father’s death being a godsend in this regard. The other principalities have not forgotten the actions of then Prince Theodoros, but do not hold the sins of the father against the son.

    One consequence of the collapse of Khazar power in Central Asia is the first contact between China and the Ottoman Empire since the days of the Tieh. Emissaries from both polities meet at Yarkand in the Tarim Basin, with an Ottoman delegation later traveling overland all the way to the Chinese capital of Luoyang. It is a most fruitful meeting for both parties as they share common interests. Both seek to keep the steppe fragmented and weak.

    Both also consider the Romans to be enemies. The Ottoman rationale is obvious. Meanwhile the Chinese have many grievances with the Romans and seek to weaken their power in eastern waters. The most obvious means of doing so would be to attack and destroy Pyrgos. However the trade there, particularly with the steadily growing flow of Mexican silver, has already grown to be too lucrative for the Zeng to wish to destroy. Well aware of the geopolitics of western Eurasia, the Chinese see supporting the Ottomans as an excellent means of siphoning Roman strength away from East Asia.

    The Ottomans present gifts which the Chinese style as tribute, then presenting counter-gifts of greater value. This is the start of an overland trade between Persia and China using the old Silk Road route, a valuable boost to the Ottoman economy especially in its current strained state. The volume and speed of trade is low due to the transportation difficulties, but unlike the maritime routes dominated by other powers, Persia and China control the narrative to the benefit of both. The staggeringly impressive fortifications of Mosul erected in the last years of the 1630s would not have been possible without the revenue derived from this overland trade.

    The development of the overland trade is a blow to Triune merchants working in the Ottoman Empire, who ferry goods from China via the maritime routes. This doesn’t bother Ibrahim all that much. The performance of the Triune-developed Ottoman navy did not match up to the promises he was given, significantly cooling the Shah’s opinion of the Triple Monarchy. That said, it does not destroy the Triune-Ottoman alliance. Both parties still have need for each other.
    The Lands Below the Winds: The Mainland
  • The Lands Below the Winds: The Mainland

    Indochina, Southeast Asia, The Lands Below the Winds, regardless of the name one chooses, it is clear that this is a region of diverse and many terrains, environments, peoples, cultures, and states. Unlike China with its long periods of unification (and many periods of division as well, it must be said) or even India which saw brief periods of near unification at the heights of the Mauryan Empire and Delhi Sultanate, Southeast Asia has never been an Imperial power. The area is certainly no stranger to empire, with Srivijaya, the Cholas, Majapahit, and the Cham, amongst others, building powerful domains, but none, even at the height of their glory, came close to uniting all of the lands below the winds under a single banner.

    A major reason for that is that this far-flung area is also a lightly peopled one, with population centers scattered few and far between. From the mountains of northern Burma to the volcanic islands of the Moluccas dwell 25 million people, less than that of Germany. Even Mataram, a demographic powerhouse by Indonesian standards, has 3 million people, comparable to that of the Thrakesian theme alone.

    Because of the fragmentation and comparatively low population, western influence is much more broadly and deeply felt in Island Asia. An additional factor is that as a vast archipelago, western naval superiority has much greater influence than it does on the continental landmasses of India and China. Western influence is correspondingly less significant in the territorial kingdoms of mainland Indochina, where sea-power means less.

    Not all of the mainland realms are large territorial monarchies. The Buddhist Kingdom of Arakan controls the Arakan coast between the Bay of Bengal and the mountains that shut it off from the polities of the Irrawaddy River valley. A maritime-focused state, the Arakanese are quite proficient pirates, still using native-type vessels but often arming them with the latest cannons, sometimes cooperating with the pirate towns of Madagascar. Arakan is also a center for the eastern slave trade; with the vast lands and smaller populations, control of people matters more than territory.

    On the other side of the mountains, the Mon Kingdom of Pegu dominates the lower Irrawaddy. Its territory is small but heavily populated by the region’s standards, with Pegu herself claiming more than 110,000 inhabitants, making it one of the biggest in all of Southeast Asia. Controlling trade at the mouth of the Irrawaddy, with contacts as far away as Pyrgos and Osaka, Pegu is wealthy and prosperous, although that wealth makes its maritime traffic a frequent target of Arakanese pirates. As a result Pegu is allied with Sutanuti as they share a common enemy.

    While the Arakanese can be annoying and sometimes painful, they are far from an existential threat. The same cannot be said for Pegu’s neighbor to the north, the Toungoo Kingdom which by 1630 dominates the middle Irrawaddy. The expansionistic aggressive monarchy eyes the wealth of Pegu enviously, although the Toungoo have yet to seriously push an attack.

    A key factor in the lack of Toungoo offensives south is that the Toungoo have their own problems to their north. The Upper Irrawaddy lacks a large territorial monarchy on the model of the Toungoo or Pegu, but the newly formed Confederation of Shan States cannot be despised. The Shan States have the weakness of a coalition facing a unified foe but they have enough strength to make the Toungoo Kings hesitate in throwing all their might to the south.

    Traveling east, the next great river network of Indochina is the Chao Phraya River, dominated by the Buddhist Siamese Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The capital city, also called Ayutthaya, is another great trading city with over a hundred thousand inhabitants, situated upriver from the coast where ocean-going and riverine craft meet to exchange cargoes.

    The prominence of Ayutthaya as a local trading center is nothing new, but its prominence as a major international port is a development of the last generation. Improved rice-growing techniques in the fertile river valley have led to an agricultural explosion, the Thai producing a large rice surplus for export. The farmers have customers from all over Southeast Asia, not only locals but westerners as well.

    Ayutthaya is a cosmopolitan center, with Triune visitors comparing it to Paris. [1] Foreigners live in settlements in the outer city, divided by nationality. There are Triune, Roman, Spanish, Lotharingian, Arletian, and even a Japanese community of some 500 merchants and their families and servants. Aside from rice, the Thais export vegetables, deerskins, and tropical woods, especially teak. The teak from Pegu and Ayutthaya is highly valuable as the best shipbuilding material in the region, although they are not the only sources of teak.

    While Ayutthaya keeps its ports open to all who care to come and pay, the Spanish are paramount in Ayutthaya, to the extent that the Foreign Minister of King Naresuan is a Spaniard, Bernal Diaz del Castillo. A prosperous merchant with a suspiciously large amount of military experience, Bernal Diaz has no official affiliation with Lisbon but he certainly favors his countrymen in treatment. When King Naresuan expresses a desire for foreign aid to improve the standing army, still largely bow-and-sword infantry, Bernal Diaz promptly arranges the arrival of a Spanish military expedition that arrives in 1635 and punctually begins equipping and training Naresuan’s palace guard with gunpowder weaponry.

    Ayutthaya, like the empires of India, is a mixed empire. Many areas of the kingdom are autonomous, owing tribute and military aid but otherwise left alone. The most prominent of these are Tenasserim and Nakhon Sri Thammarat. Some outside observers question whether the latter should really be considered part of Ayutthaya, as the city is exceptionally independently-minded. Far from Ayutthaya, Nakhon Sri Thammarat dominates the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest portion of the Malay Peninsula, where an overland trade route exists for merchants who wish to bypass Roman Pahang/Singapore and Spanish Malacca. Because of the wealth the city gains from this transit trade, the city is staunchly anti-Roman and anti-Spanish, favoring the Lotharingians.

    The Roman Katepanate of Pahang, whose foundations date back to the exploits of Andreas Angelos “the Salty Prince”, the piratical illegitimate son of Andreas Niketas, dominates most of the east and south of the Malay Peninsula that lies south of the Kra Isthmus. Tin and gold mines were the main attractions for the Romans, although fisheries and tropical forest products are other important economic outputs.

    Pahang rules a domain that looks similar to native states. There is a central core ruled directly by the monarch, in this case the Katepano, but much of the land is ruled by native vassals who provide tribute and military service. The more prominent vassals have Roman advisors though and the children of the elite are encouraged to get a Roman education, typically in Taprobane.

    Spanish Malacca controls the western side of the Malay Peninsula south of the Kra Isthmus, in similar style to Roman Pahang. It is not on Pahang’s level when it comes to size, but otherwise the two are well matched. Malacca at 80000 people is twice the size of Pekan, the capital of Roman Pahang, and over five times that of Singapore. Malacca is far better situated than Pekan for maritime trade, being on the Straits of Malacca, while it is far better developed than much younger Singapore.

    Returning north to Ayutthaya and then proceeding eastward, the next great river system is that of the Mekong and its tributaries. The political shift here is the sudden collapse of the once mighty Cham Empire which had dominated eastern Indochina since the late 1300s. The Cham had spread their suzerainty far, but the difficulty of projecting power over diverse and rugged lands and over many people meant, like other states, that the Cham devolved local power to vassals. However the exceptional stretch of the Cham Empire meant that the outlying vassals grew increasingly independent even as they paid lip service to the Cham. For many decades these vassals remained as de jure part of the Cham Empire, mainly because such vassalage cost them little. However the outbreak of a massive Vietnamese revolt strained the rotten structure and it collapsed in the late 1620s.

    Along the Middle Mekong the city of Vientiane has filled the power vacuum, prospering through rice cultivation and local trade which help to finance the famous Buddhist temples of the area.

    East of Vientiane lies the new Kingdom of Dai Viet, ruled over by the Le dynasty responsible for liberating the Vietnamese from their Cham overlords. Their power base is the Red River Delta and the new Vietnamese state has forged close ties with Zeng China, in large part due to Zeng aid in the rebellion. The Chinese had sought to cut the Cham down to size much as they’d done with the Khazars.

    That said, the Vietnamese well remember the history of Chinese aggression toward them, so they remain wary. They maintain this wariness to all other foreigners as well, concerned about inviting in a new overlord after having just expelled the old. They are willing to allow some foreign trade but keep the foreigners under tight restrictions and surveillance. Not welcome are the Romans, well remembered for being allies to the Cham.

    The Cham, although they have lost their empire, still control a respectable domain and remain a great power of the region. They control the coastline from Da Nang in the north to Kampot in the south, as well as the lower Mekong and Mekong Delta, the latter providing massive amounts of rice and fish, both for feeding the port cities and for export. Some could argue that even now, after the collapse, the Cham could still be considered an empire. There are still many Vietnamese living in the northern reaches of the Cham state while there is a large Khmer minority in the Mekong Delta.

    The Cham are somewhat unusual for Indochina. Firstly, they are Hindus whilst all of their neighbors mostly practice variants of Buddhism. Furthermore, they are the one mainland native realm that is a reliable ally of the Romans, a fact of which the Katepanoi of Pahang and Pyrgos are well aware. They were both dismayed at the collapse of Cham power and much Roman effort, including the provision of weaponry, men, and even ships, was spent to prop up Cham power. Vietnamese pressure on the northern border of the Cham has not ceased even after the Cham Kings in Vijaya gave up any pretense of control north of Da Nang. South of that though the Cham are not willing to go. Six hundred years ago those lands were Cham; they were lost to the Viet once, they will not be lost again.

    [1] Substitute French for Triune and this is OTL.
    The Lands Below the Winds: Sumatra
  • Estonia: I had to check on what I posted earlier. The interior was conquered by the joint Russian-Prussian forces during the war. In the peace treaty imposed by the Lotharingians Pernau went to Prussia and Narva to Novgorod. The Scandinavians kept Reval and St Petersburg (TTL foundation but OTL location), but just the cities, nothing outside the walls.

    Assyrians: Probably not. An independent Assyrian state would almost certainly be considered problematic by Roman officials overlooking the eastern frontier. The Romans would react to nationalist Assyrians and Kurds similar to the Turks IOTL; they wouldn’t want bites being taken out of the eastern border. The better situation (for Constantinople) would be to make sure they never become nationalistic in the first place.

    And now for the regular update.

    The Lands Below the Winds: Sumatra

    Islam in Sumatra likely began at the port city of Pasai in the north of the island, along the northern stretch of the Strait of Malacca, in the late 1200s. The faith of the Prophet had spread eastward via Arab traders, who were interested in the gold, forest products, and pepper of the region. Pasai was on the outskirts of the Majapahit thassalocracy, but even so the Majapahit cared little for the faith of their commercial partners, only the quality and cost of their wares.

    Despite this lack of concern about religious makeups on the fringes of their maritime empire, the prestige of the Hindu Majapahit realm meant that Islam made little progress save for the area of the Strait of Malacca, northern Borneo, and some parts of the Herakleian Islands. These were all areas that were on the outskirts of the thalassocracy. The rest of Indonesia followed older Hindu-Buddhist traditions.

    The Majapahit started to decline in the late 1400s, although they were still quite formidable and impressive when Andreas Angelos arrived in the region. However the arrival of Roman vessels and later other western traders undermined Majapahit commercial hegemony, with the state gradually shriveling to be destroyed finally in the mid-1500s.

    The fall of the Majaphit allowed for the first serious entry of Islam into central Indonesia with the establishment of the Semarang Sultanate, which came to rule the north coast of central and east Java starting in the mid-1500s. It was Semarang that finally finished off the rump Majapahit state. However Semarang was never able to expand beyond that coastal strip, soon faced by a Javan interior united under the banner of Hindu Mataram. The Mataram-Semarang wars, although they were roughly a stalemate until the Roman-Mataram alliance radically altered the power dynamics, ensured that Islam never penetrated into the Javan interior, heavily populated by Indonesian standards.

    Islam might have had more success in Sumatra, where no Hindu kingdom could muster the power of Mataram. Islam did expand in northern Sumatra, with one noticeable addition to the Dar al-Islam being the new city of Banda Aceh. The Sultans of Aceh were fervent patrons of Islamic learning, with several justly famous mosques and madrasas dating from the late 1500s and early 1600s, the height of Acehnese power.

    The Acehnese came to prominence when there was no great Indonesian power, and moreover in an area that was peripheral to the areas where prominent local realms dominated, the mainland and Java. The ambitious Sultans were eager to fill this power vacuum and create their own empire. These ambitions were given religious legitimacy by the claims of the Acehnese Sultans to wish to protect and expand the Dar al-Islam, claims given more substance by the Portuguese attacks on Malacca which finally succeeded in taking the great port in 1565, destroying an Acehnese fleet for good measure.

    The Acehnese battled heavily with the Portuguese/Spanish and also the Romans, as all three had a common interest in dominating the important thoroughfare of the Straits of Malacca. However the expansionist Acehnese also fought frequently with their native neighbors, most of whom were the older Muslim cities of the area. Pasai was brutally sacked in 1603 and never recovered.

    These campaigns were mostly successful, but they also gave the Acehnese a reputation for cruelty. Some of the tales were certainly exaggerations written up by their many enemies, including the other Muslim cities of northern Sumatra, and others are the typical excesses of an aggressive militaristic polity. However some of the cruelties were due, in the minds of contemporaries to the south in Sumatra, to the Islam as practiced by the Acehnese.

    The ‘port Islam’ of Pasai and the other old Muslim cities had been spread by merchants converting their business partners. It was Islam, but it was a relaxed variety willing to compromise with and incorporate local beliefs. However the Acehnese received Islam from an exodus of Muslim officials and scholars fleeing the destruction of Mameluke Egypt at the hands of Andreas Niketas and Brihan of Merawi. They argued that the disasters of the Dar al-Islam were due to the corruption of the Muslim faith and insisted on the need for a faith purified of any heathen elements. Impressed by the learning and expertise of these scholars, the Acehnese Sultans had taken up their creed with all the enthusiasm of the neophyte. One oft-cited example of Acehnese brutality in Sumatra is the cutting off of hands as punishment for stealing, an Islamic custom that had not been known before in Indonesia. [1]

    With this reputation, some modern historians have called the Acehnese “the Assyrians of Island Asia”. Ironically, for all their claims of wishing to safeguard and expand Islam, the actions of Acehnese ghazis did much to discredit Islam in the eyes of would-be converts in the rest of Sumatra. The Muslim traders who’d spread Islam before Aceh’s conversion were devastated by Acehnese attacks, who wished to place all commerce under their control. Acehnese merchants plied the trade routes even outside the Acehnese realm, but they were feared as the thin end of the wedge and no one wished to get too close and friendly with them.

    Furthermore, converting to Islam was no way to protect oneself from Acehnese aggression. A frequently-used casus belli of the Sultans when facing a Muslim opponent was to argue their Islam was not proper, which also justified, in Acehnese eyes, their enslavement. In the lightly populated lands of Indonesia, control of people was more important than control of land, and enslaving defeated populations was a way for war leaders to boost their power and income. Muslims were not supposed to enslave fellow Muslims, but if they were not ‘true’ Muslims, then that rule did not apply, so the Acehnese argued, and did, repeatedly. Hindu rulers to the south of Aceh certainly saw no profit in converting to Islam. Those who at Pasai were not killed or enslaved by the Acehnese and managed to flee to Pegu or Palembang, in their despair, soon converted to Buddhism or Hinduism.

    Inside the Acehnese realm, the Sultans encouraged the spread of Islamic learning and culture and the enslaved Muslim opponents of the Acehnese helped to distribute Islam out of the port cities and into the countryside. If given more time and a broader area, Islam might have made substantial inroads despite the bad taste Acehnese actions had given the faith. However the Acehnese never managed to spread beyond the northern third of Sumatra and parts of the west coast. The Hindu states of central and southern Sumatra might not have been able to stand against Acehnese might in full flower, but the constant fighting with the Spanish and Romans over the Strait sucked away much Acehnese strength. The ruthlessness and cruelty of the Acehnese meant that absolutely no one shed a tear at the crushing Acehnese defeat at the hands of the Romans at the Lingga Islands. And those tearless one soon began sharpening their own knives as they realized the extent of Aceh’s sudden weakness.

    The first to take advantage are the Minangkabau people who live in the highlands of western Sumatra. They are a politically fragmented people, with the largest polities being a few villages at most. Despite this, due to the rugged terrain and relative remoteness, they were never formally inducted into the Acehnese realm. However with the Acehnese fleet dominating the west coast of Sumatra, where Minangkabau would carry their goods to trade with outsiders, the Acehnese were able to force the Minangkabau to trade only through Aceh. For their trouble, the Acehnese took a substantial cut of the pepper and gold the Minangkabau exported, while simultaneously using their monopoly to inflate the prices for desired Minangkabau imports. Some village lords converted to Islam in the hopes of earning better trading terms, but those hopes proved futile, fatally undermining the spread of Islam amongst the Minangkabau.

    After the battle of the Lingaa Islands though the Acehnese navy lacked the ability to force the Minangkabau to trade on their terms. Some of the villages reached out to some of the more enterprising Roman Ship Lords, who’d already done some trade with them as smugglers. The Ship Lords were most eager to expand their operations, trading Vijayanagara textiles and metal goods for Minangkabau pepper and gold. This trade marked the first substantial Roman involvement in Sumatran affairs.

    Other parts of northern Sumatra that were formally part of the Acehnese realm were more hesitant to act. They were far more exposed to an Acehnese counter-attack, and while Aceh may be weaker, no one wished to be the first to stick their neck and find out that Acehnese steel was still sharp. So they looked for foreign steel to parry any blows.

    It was fortunate for the Acehnese that at this very moment, the western powers that would make for the best allies were all facing each other down. Triune and Lotharingian ships waged naval war on each other all across the globe, from the fishing grounds of Newfoundland to the shadows of the volcanoes of Indonesia. Rhomania and Spain were not yet at that intensity of battle, but everyone knew that would change as soon as the rumored Spanish fleet arrived. The Arletians and Scandinavians weren’t numerous enough to appear as worthwhile allies.

    Native powers weren’t any better. Pegu and Vijayanagar had the military might to be good allies for the would-be rebels, but the issue was that if they came, they might never leave. There were a few Tamils in Venkata Raya’s court who seemed overly fond of reprising the Chola.

    The next two largest powers in Sumatra were Siak in central Sumatra and Palembang in the south, both of which were Hindu kingdoms centered on riverine cities. The capital of each marked the point on the river where sea-going vessels met river craft. Each exercises a loose hegemony on the smaller polities in their vicinity, but neither compared in power and scope to the Acehnese realm. Furthermore, neither possessed much in the way of an ocean-going fleet.

    Finally, both Siak and Palembang were facing foreign problems of their own. Both had aligned with the Lotharingians, at that point the weakest of the major western powers in eastern waters. The alliance had ensured pepper exports, cloth imports, and helped to keep the likes of the Romans and Spanish at bay. However with the Lotharingian-Triune war, these Sumatran Rajas were finding themselves under threat due to King’s Harbor’s desire for the lands of the Rhine. They were far from the only Indonesian polities to find their affairs intertwining with concerns and rivalries from lands far beyond their horizons.

    [1] OTL inspiration came from Ibn Battuta, who served as a judge in the Maldives. He said that the first time he ordered a thief’s hand cut off, people fainted in the courtroom.
    The Lands Below the Winds: Java and the East
  • The Lands Below the Winds: Java and the smaller eastern islands

    The island of Java is heavily populated by the standards of Island Asia, with only the larger mainland realms comparable in demographic size. Of the Javanese states in 1635, Mataram is by far the largest both in territory and population, although its lack of maritime ports has hampered its technological development until the formation of the Roman alliance. (Mataram controls much of the south coast of Java, but it lacks the natural harbors and easy access to the interior via rivers that the north shore possesses.)

    Fervently Hindu, Mataram has been locked in a long struggle with Semarang, the most powerful Muslim state in Island Asia after Aceh. While controlling only a strip along the north coast of Java, a gunpowder and wealth edge has enabled the Semarang to stalemate the much more numerous forces of Mataram, at least until the advent of the Mataram-Roman alliance. Now in the late 1630s Semarang is clearly declining fast, especially after Henri II makes peace with Rhomania and orders Triune aid to the Semarang to cease.

    Roman involvement in Java has grown massively in the decade of the 1630s, although admittedly that was from a small base. Roman trading quarters now exist in every port city taken by joint Mataram-Roman forces, including the great port of Surabaya. The most important trade item is mundane but essential, rice. Unlike the other Katepanates who have larger landmasses under their control, New Constantinople’s domains consist entirely of small islands, specks on a map. Their value comes from those islands’ abilities to grow rare spices, for example the ethnically-cleansed Banda Islands, whose native population had been exterminated by the Romans during the conquest.

    But because real estate is limited and the profit is in spices, the temptation is to put all available real estate into spices and not into much-less-profitable rice and vegetables. The massive rice fields in the Javanese interior around the city of Mataram provide a bountiful crop surplus the Romans are now able to access, a considerable boon considering earlier Roman difficulties in acquiring reliable food sources.

    However, while the Mataram-Roman alliance is valuable, it is also expensive. Practically all of the ships available to the Katepano of New Constantinople are tied down in coastal operations off Java. Semarang cannot take on Roman battle-line ships, but those are few and far between, while Semarang ships can, even without Triune naval aid, pose a threat to light warships and armed merchantmen, the bulk of Roman naval forces in eastern waters.

    Mataram and Semarang do not control the entirety of Java though. The western third of the island is the Kingdom of Sunda, an ancient state nearing its one-thousandth anniversary. During that long history, its fortunes have waxed and waned, the last century being particularly difficult. At the beginning of the Semarang Sultanate in its most expansionistic phase, after finishing off Majapahit (who’d been an overlord of Sunda), the Sultans turned their gaze on Sunda.

    Pitched battles on both land and sea were rare, but devastating Semarang raids ripping through the countryside enslaving thousands of Sundanese had badly depopulated the kingdom. At several points it seemed like the long history of Sunda was about to come to an end.

    In 1581 the Sundanese Raja appealed to the Portuguese for aid, who responded with a force of 400 arquebusiers. The next year the combined Sundanese-Portuguese army inflicted a smashing defeat on a Semarang army at the battle of Cimanuk. Although further slaving raids would continue, the battle of Cimanuk marked the end of Semarang’s existential threat to Sunda. Afterwards Semarang would turn its gaze toward the interior of Java, its raids there helping the Rajas of Mataram to coalesce their power by offering protection against the attacks.

    Sunda and Portugal/Spain maintained their strong alliance, with trade prospering and benefiting both parties. No less than seven Sundanese princes have made their way to Lisbon for education, all showered with honors at the court of the Portuguese and later Spanish kings. In coastal Sunda, there is a small but noticeable minority of Catholic converts, unique in all of Indonesia. In Cimanuk and Banten there are small but capable shipyards that are quite adept at outfitting Spanish-style vessels and even building smaller warships. Sundanese sailors are common on Spanish vessels in the east.

    On the opposite side of Java from Sunda is the Blambangan Kingdom, much smaller in area than Mataram or Sunda and much poorer than Semarang. Although Hindu, Blambangan has often allied with Semarang as a counter to Mataram, which is the greater threat. The collapse of Semarang power is extremely alarming to the rulers of Blambangan, although for now Mataram’s efforts are focused westward.

    Western influence in Blambangan in 1635 is minimal, although there is a small Lotharingian presence. The non-Javanese power that weighs most on Blambangan is Gelgel, the most powerful of the Balinese states. The island of Bali, although small, is heavily populated and divided into several states, Gelgel and Mengwi the most powerful. The pair exercise hegemony over smaller states outside of Bali, their writ extending as far east as Sumba.

    The rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands is also comprised of small native polities with varying degrees of trade with western merchants. In Timor and the various smaller islands east of Flores such as the Alor archipelago and the Tanimbar Islands, Roman influence is clearly dominant. The city of New Constantinople is on Ambon and between that and the new Roman stronghold of the Banda Islands, they are the clear hegemon in these waters although the degree of control they can exert over the native polities varies.

    New Constantinople is clearly on the rise. The manner of conquering and controlling the Banda Islands is repulsive on an ethical level, but economically it has been a huge success. New buildings, including a fine Katepano’s palace and courthouse, as well as expanded harbor and storage facilities, are being constructed, with Wu immigrants playing an important role in the expansion of the city. That said, New Constantinople still suffers from a serious lack of manpower.

    Going north from New Constantinople, the large islands of Ceram and Halmahera remain firmly under the control of their native peoples. Outsiders are uninclined to press the issue, given the locals’ tendency to eat those who cross them. Ceram remains a thorn in the side of New Constantinople, with the locals performing occasional raids on Ambon. To get shipwrecked on Ceram is most hazardous. Roman counter-raids hit Ceram every now and then (a young Leo Neokastrites cut his teeth on such raids) but two attempts to conquer Ceram and permanently end the threat have ended in fiascos.

    Tidore and Ternate certainly rate much higher on the Roman civilization-ism scale. Both islands are small but sophisticated polities, originally wealthy through the spice trade. However most revenue from that now goes to their Spanish overlords, much to the native Rajas’ annoyance. But they are not willing to seek Roman help either. The two islands used to be vassals of Rhomania before the then-Portuguese wrested control from the Romans, so the Rajas see little reason to throw off the new master by inviting in the old.

    Tidore and Ternate are both small and united, attributes that cannot be used to describe Sulawesi to the west. By far the most powerful entity in Sulawesi is Makassar, which dominates most of South Sulawesi and wields a ‘mini-thassalocracy’ in the surrounding waters as far as Buru, which is a vassal. Its rise to prominence is extremely recent and in response to growing Spanish and Roman power in the Moluccas. Makassar is wholly dedicated to free trade and fiercely opposed to the monopolies both the Romans and Spanish try to impose on their territories and vassals, which attracts all other parties who have reason to oppose said monopolies. As well as local peoples, this draws in Triunes, Lotharingians, and Arletians, eager to trade for spices which come either the lands of the mini-thassalocracy or smuggled ones from Roman and Spanish holdings.

    Makassar may dominate but it is far from unchallenged. There are several small Buginese polities although their disunity and small size mean that most are little more than an annoyance to Makassar. Some are already vassals of Makassar, while a few more troublesome ones have been destroyed outright. However Makassar is primarily a maritime power, and given its tendency to irritate the Romans and Spanish the state is often distracted from conquests in Sulawesi.

    This distraction has allowed the Wajo Kingdom to expand in scope to a size unprecedented by Buginese standards. This success has gained the attention of both the Spanish and Romans, but efforts to use Wajo as a weapon against Makassar have failed since the two Christian powers spend most of their time and energy countering the other. Both would like to use Wajo against Makassar, but neither want the other to be the one to do so. Meanwhile the Wajo rulers use the opportunity to get gifts from both sides, while not having to do much of anything in return.

    Central Sulawesi, like South Sulawesi, is independent, but there are no states here to draw outside attention. Isolated from the outside world by rugged terrain, the Torajans are still animists with no polities larger than the village.

    In contrast, the island of Buton just to the southeast of Sulawesi is a Roman vassal, while Banggai in eastern Sulawesi and Manado in the northeast pay tribute to the Spanish. The latter two are both legacies of Tidore’s and Ternate’s own Imperial ventures, which first the Romans and then the Spanish took over as they began to build up their own empires in this diverse region.
    The Lands Below the Winds: Borneo and the Herakleians
  • Do the Ottomans have a Caspian Sea Navy? I assume the Georgians are still the premier naval power in the Sea to protect their capital. Aside from Mazandaran, Georgia could take the rest of non-allied Caspian Coast as a gateway to rich Transoxiana.

    They have a small one, as do the Georgians, but both are pitiful by Mediterranean/Indian Ocean standards.

    The Lands Below the Winds: Borneo, the Herakleians, and Rhomania-in-the-East

    The island of Borneo may be the largest in Island Asia, but the polities here are not of the same scale as can be seen elsewhere. In the south the Hindu Kingdom of Negara Daha is the largest, but it is still a minnow that seems big only in comparison to the even smaller fry around it. Until recently it was under the sway of the Semarang Sultanate, its current independence due not to its own efforts but to the pressure of Mataram on the Sultanate’s resources.

    In the north the city of Brunei is a prosperous trading port, with merchant junks sailing to Pyrgos and Vijaya, the Cham capital. Through trade has come Islam, the ‘port Islam’ of Pasai, and it is in this region of Indonesia where Islam has been most successful. Spreading through merchants and mystics, much of coastal north Borneo and some outlying regions have converted. The rugged interior, in contrast, remains untouched by Islamic expansion and completely independent from any control by the coastal states.

    After the decline of Semarang writ in southern Borneo, there is relatively little in the way of outside imperialism in Borneo. Brunei sees many foreign traders, including those from the Greater West, but none have a significant presence. Most Bruneian business conducted with Christians is done in Pyrgos.

    The exception to that is the Sultanate of Sulu. Centered on the Sulu archipelago in the Herakleian Islands, the Sultans have established their own mini-thassalocracy that encompasses much of coastal Sabah, Bulungan, and Kutai, although their authority does not extend much inland. Western Mindanao is also part of the Sulu realm.

    The Sulu ‘Empire’ is not a commercial network dominated by Sulu merchants or a regular territorial empire, but is rather commonly described as a giant protection racket. The Sulu ‘empire’ was built and is maintained by piracy, with slaves being one of the prime booties. The regions of the empire pay protection money to avoid being raided, with piratical attacks re-commencing should a territory fall behind in its dues.

    Sulu piracy resembles that of the Barbary corsairs, in that very little of it is managed by the state but rather private individuals and sometimes consortiums. Nobles will finance pirate voyages directly while less affluent individuals will pool resources to fund an expedition. In the latter case the operation looks much like a merchant venture, with investment shares being traded in the Sulu markets sometimes. The Sultan provides official legitimacy to these ventures and takes a cut of the spoils while enforcing a few rules, mainly to not raid Sulu tributaries.

    Despite that restriction, there are still many targets for Sulu raiders. To the south is Makassar, whose free trade policies draw in many opposed to Roman and Spanish mercantile domination. Relatively few Sulu raiders head that way though as many Sulu pirates prefer to sell their goods in Makassar where the market is better. More are active to the west, poaching on traffic between Brunei and her mainland trading partners. However the greatest draw, although also the greatest danger, lies to the north.

    Pyrgos was founded much later than New Constantinople or Pahang (although promoted to a Katepanate prior to Pahang), but it is certainly the most dynamic of the three at this point in time. New Constantinople has spice wealth but limited demographics. Pahang is much better endowed than New Constantinople with manpower and practical resources such as tin, lumber, and foodstuffs, but it is cramped by Spanish Malacca, Aceh, and Nakhon Sri Thammarat.

    Katepano Alexandros Papagos, the Katepano from 1615 to his death in 1629, earns most of the credit for that. At the start of his tenure, Roman authority extended roughly over 30% of Luzon proper. At the end, it stretches across all of the Luzon island group except for Palawan, as well as dominating most of the Visayas. Roman administration is somewhat of a patchwork, as about 60% of the Roman domain is controlled by local rulers who are tributaries of the Katepano, the remainder ruled directly by Roman officials. Said officials are a mix of Roman heartlanders, Digenoi, and Romanized locals from the Pyrgos area.

    An important factor in Papagos’ success, and a pillar of the new Roman order, is the new Japanese colonies. Papagos recruited many ronin who saw no place for themselves in the new Shimazu Japan (with the support of the Shimazu who were keen to see political opponents leave), finding them to be most effective soldiers. Those ronin who had families brought theirs to Pyrgos and they were settled in key areas to provide protection against raiders and brigands and to enforce Roman authority against any local rulers who might try to escape their tributary status.

    Another important pillar in the new Roman order is the Orthodox Church. Behind Papagos’ armies come priests who quickly set to work trying to convert the locals. One advantage Orthodox priests have over Catholic missionaries in all of Island Asia is that they are allowed to marry and have families, which the locals find far more reasonable than the Catholic position. Orthodox priests are encouraged to learn the local languages and marry locally as a way to build roots in the communities.

    Another factor driving conversions is that it is clearly a way to gain favor with the Romans. Local rulers convert while their sons get Roman educations in Pyrgos or elsewhere, which typically brings their subjects into the Orthodox Church as well. Furthermore, many ambitious men see the possibilities open to the Romanized inhabitants of the Pyrgos region and want in on the action. This is true for both the civil service as well as the military. As Papagos extended Roman control, he also set up new tourmatic districts to support soldiers, and while regular troopers do not have to be Orthodox to join, the army serves as a vehicle for conversion.

    Even before Papagos took up his office, Pyrgos was a prominent port facilitating trade between China and Island Asia. Supplying the Chinese demand for pepper doesn’t yield the per-kilo profit that shipping them to Europe does, but it is far easier, quicker, and safer to transport to China and the market is immense. Indonesians desire Chinese silks, teas, and porcelains. The Japanese, with their long history of wokou, have difficulty trading directly in China, but sail down to Pyrgos to conduct commerce.

    The sailings of the Mexican Pyrgos galleons has drastically accelerated this trend. Although the sailings are less than twenty years old at this point, already 3-4 galleons arrive every year loaded down with Zacatecas and now Potosi silver. The Chinese are most eager to get their hands on that silver while the notables of the Mexican Empire want their own silks and porcelains. Chinese trade with Pyrgos has doubled in the past 15 years, with the regular traders producing silks and porcelains deliberately crafted to suit Mexican tastes. All the while Pyrgos benefits as being the site of exchange.

    Pyrgos in 1635 has grown much larger than it was back in the days of the Tieh siege, reaching 30000. Aside from the mix of Roman heartlanders, a growing number of Digenoi, and the natives, there is a Japanese merchant community (not to be confused with the Japanese colonies that are settled ronin and families) as well as both Zeng and Wu communities. The Zeng make up over a third of the city, dwarfing the Roman heartlander numbers and dominating many facets of city life, such as the laundries and bathhouses which are almost all Zeng owned and operated. (There is little cultural difference between the Zeng and Wu but the Romans throughout the East sharply delineate between the two, viewing the Wu as much more reliable.)

    The fringes of the Katepanate of Pyrgos are the preferred target of many of the Sulu pirates. There are wealthy merchant vessels to seize while slave raids bring in valuable human cargo. By 1635 Luzon is mostly safe from such attacks but Palawan and the Visayas are contested territories. While the Sulu use larger vessels to attack merchant ships inbound and outbound from Pyrgos, the ‘slave-snatching’ is typically conducted with proas, native outrigger vessels. These ships stand little chance in battle against a Roman warship, but are so fast that it is extremely difficult for even the fleetest Roman fregata to force an action.

    On several occasions the Katepanate has sent large battle fleets south into the heart of Sulu territory. The Sulu lack the might to contest these incursions, but while the fleet may be blasting a Sulu settlement from offshore, pirates from other ports have a field day against the lightly-guarded Roman territories. To truly stop the raids would require a sustained campaign of conquest and it is far from clear that Pyrgos has the resources to maintain such an operation.

    Of the western powers in Island Asia, it is clear that the top two are the Romans and the Spanish. They are the only ones with territorial holdings in the region. The Triunes have Bengal but nothing farther east. They, along with the Lotharingians, Arletians, Scandinavians, and Hansa, have many trading posts and arrangements with local rulers, but nothing that can compare to the Viceroyalty of Malacca or the Roman Katepanates.

    The Romans are ahead of the Spanish; there are three Katepanates to one Viceroyalty. However there are certain issues in the Roman position that must be considered. Firstly, their widespread nature means the Romans have many concerns with which to deal: supporting Mataram and Champa; opposing the Acehnese and Sulu; curtailing Makassar. The Spanish face similar issues but not to the same extent. While smashing the Acehnese at the Lingga Islands was a boon to the Romans, it was an even greater boon to the Spanish who were more exposed to Acehnese attacks.

    Another important aspect is the divided nature of Roman administration. Each Katepano in their territory is the supreme civil and military authority, with each one mainly operating in their own sphere. Pyrgos has to deal with the Sulu pirates; for Pahang the Sulu are a complete irrelevance. They can cooperate with each other on issues of joint concern, such as supporting the Cham for Pahang and Pyrgos, but there is no official coordinating authority. Their boss is in Constantinople.

    The Katepano of New Constantinople originally had charge of both Pahang and Pyrgos but lost that when both were promoted to Katepanates of their own. New Constantinople might have some moral authority due to being the most senior, but that is counterbalanced by its lack of manpower and strategic materials compared to the other two. The Katepano of Taprobane has seniority and material superiority over all three eastern Katepanates, but even Taprobane is too far away to be a reliable coordinator and Taprobane’s concerns, bound up with the Indian subcontinent, are vastly different anyway.

    Each Katepano has his own army and fleet units. There is no combined Roman fleet in the east, but rather the squadrons under the command of the various Katepanates. The Romans have seven fourth-raters and twelve fifth-rates in the east in 1635 but no more than seven of these in total can be found in one place, Singapore. Each Katepano moreover is inclined to favor his own theater. Pyrgos looks north to its trade with China and Japan and east to the Mexican galleons, but aside from battling the Sulu is less interested in matters south. New Constantinople is deeply invested in the Mataram alliance; Pahang doesn’t care. Because of the presence of Spanish Malacca, Pahang is deeply opposed to the Spanish. [1] Meanwhile the Katepano of Taprobane is often inclined to view the Spanish as allies against the Triune Viceroyalty of Sutanuti.

    The strongest links between the various Katepanates are the many Ship Lords whose numerous vessels ply the waves between Island Asia. There are several Ship Lords who have vessels registered in Pahang or New Constantinople but who do much of their business in Taprobane or Pyrgos. However since in the east armed merchantmen are still a substantial component of war fleets, Ship Lords are disproportionately powerful vis-à-vis the Katepanoi compared to the heartland, so there is a limit in which Roman officials can push Ship Lords to undertake activities against their interests.

    In the east, armed merchantmen are used all the time in military operations. The Roman government pays a ‘rental’ for the ships, although it imposes the price, as well as specified compensation for any damage or loss. However the fees the ship owners get does not compensate for the missed opportunities, the cargoes of cloves or silks that could’ve been shipped in the meantime. Ship Lords may volunteer their ships for an operation that will directly benefit them; the Katepano of New Constantinople had no difficulty in finding helpful Ship Lords for the Banda Islands expedition who saw opportunity in seizing such valuable real estate. But a Ship Lord who trades mainly in Malaysia and Sumatra will not volunteer his vessels against the Semarang. This is one reason for Pyrgos’ lack of resources in combating the Sulu. Ship Lords see more profit in continuing trade with convoys and escorts while eating the occasional loss rather than tying up their ships in extended campaigning.

    [1] Although also willing to cooperate with the Spanish against their common Acehnese foe. But then, Romans are under no obligation to be more consistent than other humans.
    Restoring the Celestial Empire: Zeng China
  • Restoring the Celestial Empire: Zeng China

    It has been a long and very hard road but China is once again unified [1] under native rulers, the Zeng dynasty. It is an accomplishment that has been disgustingly absent for the past several centuries. In fact, not since the days of the Tang seven centuries ago has China seen such a thing. The Song even at their start had to deal with the Liao and later the Jin. Then came the Mongol conquest and then the divided China of Shun and Wu, which were at least native Chinese, but were both swept aside by the Tieh invasion.

    Even as the Zeng bask in the glory of having destroyed the Tieh and sent the Later Yuan Mongols back to their felt tents, this obscenity is far from forgotten. The seven centuries of humiliation, painful as they are, cannot be argued away or ignored. They must be understood, so that such a thing will never ever happen again. This imperative is why the Chinese are already, despite still recovering from the wars of reunification, meddling so vigorously in Central Asia.

    This resulted in the contact with the Ottomans, which had not been intended but quickly seized upon. While the Chinese consider all foreigners to be barbarians, there are varying degrees of barbarians. The Ottomans are rather civilized as barbarians go and are far preferably to the likes of the various steppe nomads. (The Khazars, especially under Theodoros Laskaris, with their odd mix of ‘civilization’ and nomad, were further down on the civilized barbarian scale. Plus their sheer power under that monarch made the Zeng nervous.)

    Even as the Zeng prepare for the future, they are looking back to the past. The memory of the Tang, the last time when China was united under a native ruler (leaving aside any questions regarding the ancestry of the Tang themselves), is incredibly intoxicating and there is a conscious effort in the Zeng court to replicate those days.

    The Zeng originally began in the south, but they chose for their capital the ancient city of Luoyang, seat of Chinese monarchs as far back as the Eastern Zhou over two millennia ago. Chang’an was the capital for most of the Tang period, but Luoyang’s still impressive pedigree plus easier logistics and better strategic position helped it to win out. The court dresses in ceremonial garb dated back to the Tang period while those who can trace their ancestry back to Tang notables gain prestige from their genealogies.

    Although the complete reunification of China is a very recent accomplishment, southern China has been under uncontested Zeng control for decades. This fact gives the Zeng substantial economic clout, more than might be expected for a China recovering from years of infighting. Aside from the plentiful rice harvests that undergird the whole structure, Chinese production of tea and silk is supplemented by growing exports of ceramics. The famous blue-and-white porcelain that is the poster child of ‘chinaware’, while long present in the Middle Kingdom, makes its debut on the world stage at this time, traded for silver in Pyrgos.

    The Zeng are conflicted when it comes to Pyrgos. Although the Zeng came to the aid of the Romans at the time of the Great Siege, in fact providing the bulk of the relief armada, relations with the Romans have never been good since that time. Zeng rulers in the south wanted to control trade, principally so that it could finance their wars in the north, while Roman Ship Lords tried to avoid customs duties and official monopolies. More fair-minded Romans considered Roman behavior at this time as akin to Italian merchants in the Roman Empire in the 1100s, with the Romans reprising the Italians and the Chinese standing in for the Romans, with similar results.

    Romans traded with the Zeng, with at times crucial saltpeter imports. But they also smuggled incessantly, frequently shooting it out with customs agents who caught them in their nocturnal forays. This diverted Zeng efforts from the reunification effort. Plus the Romans were quite happy to trade with the Tieh or Later Yuan; many times Zeng forces have found themselves on the receiving end of weaponry obtained from Roman sources.

    (The sale of cannons is forbidden save by special permission from the Katepano. However Ship Lords frequently ignored such rules. Ironically the proximity of the Zeng powerbase of southern China to Pyrgos meant that it was relatively easy for the Katepano to block unauthorized weapons sales to the Zeng. Meanwhile Ship Lords trading in northern China with enemies of the Zeng were mainly unsupervised. The Zeng, ignorant or choosing to be ignorant of such details, perceived this trend as the Katepanoi favoring their enemies, which considering the Great Siege, was the height of ingratitude.)

    Another issue is the Roman import of opium, which the Romans acquire from several sources. Some comes from Anatolia, where poppies are grown in certain areas. More comes via the Ethiopian outpost on the Indus, which receives opium grown in Afghan territory. The third main source was Bengal. Under Spanish rule it was easy for Roman Ship Lords to trade for Bengali opium but under Triune management this has become much more difficult.

    The difficulty in acquiring Bengali opium due to Triune monopolist desires has had the unintended side effect of lessening Roman imports of opium to China in recent years, but the memories of illicit Roman drug smuggling does not fade quickly. Plus it is still happening, just in lesser amounts.

    Despite all the issues with the Romans though, the Zeng support the trade via Pyrgos, also for several reasons. The Zeng want the goods the Romans have to offer, the pepper and other spices of Island Asia, the tropical forest products, and especially the shiny flow of Japanese and Mexican silver. Already that supply of bullion has become critical in Zeng financial planning and Luoyang has no desire to disrupt that trade.

    That trade could take place somewhere other than Pyrgos, such as Guangzhou for example, but Luoyang much prefers having it take place on Roman territory despite the inconvenience it poses to Chinese merchants. Firstly, said Chinese merchants still have to pay export and import duties on their goods as they leave and enter Chinese ports, so it is not as though the Zeng lose much in the ways of customs revenue.

    The main reason for wanting all trade to take place in Pyrgos is to resolve the smuggling issue. Having all the trade with China be funneled through the Katepano’s capital naturally means much income for him. Every smuggler that goes to trade directly with the Chinese along the China coast will be cutting directly into his customs revenues, incentivizing him to actually do something about those smugglers, whereas before he didn’t care.

    Another purpose is to keep all those pesky barbarians a little farther away. While not absolute, the restoration of China to full nativist control after so many years of turmoil and division and foreign subjugation has led to an upsurge in xenophobia. The Yuan in both iterations plus the Tieh all used many foreigners in their administration due to distrust of the Han Chinese which has bred much resentment. The Zeng are quite willing to sell porcelain to the barbarians for their silver, but would much like it if those barbarians would, for once, stay out of the Heavenly Kingdom.

    The Zeng are eager to restore the Heavenly Kingdom back to the heights it enjoyed during the fullness of Tang. To restore battered northern China, settlers are brought in from southern China to empty settlements and farmlands. This is an opportunity to indulge in some land reform as the death of landlords allows vacant land to be distributed to poor peasant families. More settlers as well as resources are poured into Luoyang to restore to the level of a true Imperial capital. By 1635 it has already passed the half a million mark, well beyond Constantinople and only outmatched by the City of Victories.

    In most foreign areas Chinese prestige is also on the uptick. The fortuitous collapse of the Khazar Empire has opened a power vacuum into which the Zeng eagerly and capably rush. On the eastern steppe the Mongols have been decisively humbled and will never pose a threat to China again, although no Zeng official will ever look in that direction again without discomfort. The reports of Khazar trappers and traders to the north raise some eyebrows but are not nearly substantial enough to cause alarm.

    To the west, Tibetan raids can still be irritating. However the highland dwellers have also been driven back into their mountain fastness, unable to take advantage of Chinese disunity for a bit of plundering. Zeng forces are unable to strike into the Tibetan plateau, but vigorous defensive measures mean that by 1650 even the residual threat still remaining in 1635 will dissipate.

    To the south the collapse of the Cham Empire is equally welcome. Although Dai Viet is stoutly against becoming a Chinese province, the Viet monarchs are willing to pay tribute to the Zeng court. Due to Viet distrust of outsiders and Chinese influence because of its support of the anti-Cham rebellion, Dai Viet is effectively a Chinese satellite. The remaining Champa Kingdom also pays a small tribute to Luoyang, out of respect for Chinese magnificence. Aside from that token gesture, Champa can hardly be described as a Chinese satellite, but in terms of prestige that token gesture is good enough for Luoyang.

    The good situation on all other frontiers is most beneficial to the Chinese court. Because the layout in the northeast, with the Jurchens, Koreans, and Japanese, is decidedly more difficult.

    [1] With one notable exception which is about to become very important.
    The Edge of the World: Korea and Japan
  • It seems that most of the posts were speculations or conversations amongst the people, so it in the interests of brevity and getting to the next update, I'll be going straight to the next update. Apologies if I missed a burning question and feel free to repost it. Thanks.

    The Edge of the World: Korea and Japan

    The Joseon Kings of Korea have much to be proud of in reviewing their history of the past few decades. While China has been ravaged by war and disunity, the Korean Kingdom ceased paying tribute to the Tieh back in 1594 and despite some scares, has bowed to no one since. Taking advantage of the chaos outside their borders, in the past two decades Korean writ has extended northward to embrace the Liaodong Peninsula and much of the Jilin area, lands that have not been ruled by Koreans since the days of Goguryeo and Balhae.

    Doing so has resulted in much interaction, both hostile and peaceful, between the Koreans and the various Jurchen clans. Any Roman familiar with Constantinople’s playbook would recognize the Korean system. Friendly chiefs are granted subsidies and titles while trade is common, with many Jurchen notables traveling south to become royal bodyguards at the capital of Seoul.

    Those clans not willing to play nice are met with force, although much of the military might is supplied by other Jurchen clans. Subjugated clans pay tribute as Korean vassals, which helps subsidizes the retainers Seoul pays to keep the other clans sweet. Korean hegemony does not extend over all the Jurchen clans, but they are certainly the most dominant foreign power in the region.

    In the lands of the Jurchen, the Korean monarchs often have to rely on Jurchen auxiliaries for military muscle. However in Korea itself they have a monopoly of force, the Kings enforcing strict limitations on the number of retainers the yangban-the Korean term for the upper class-families may possess. The yangban do not seem to mind, as in exchange they completely dominate the bureaucracy. While the Koreans have an exam system modeled off of the Chinese system, only those of the yangban families are allowed to take the exams and become officials. Leaving aside the class barrier, appointments are supposed to be meritocratic based on test results, but the competition between yangban families for the plum positions can be fierce and even cutthroat, particular when the King is of a less forceful personality.

    Korean society is very class-centered with extremely limited social mobility. Most of the Korean population are known as sangmin, a mix of farmers, laborers, fishermen, and artisans. The majority are poor farmers, very few of whom own their own land. Most are tenants, with a royal, yangban, or monastic landlord.

    Below them are the nobi, which can be called slaves or serfs, depending on one’s definition. Nobi can be bought and sold like property by their masters, but some possess something in the way of property and legal rights. Some nobi work in yangban households and are paid a salary, while others work in the field and are practically indistinguishable from free tenant farmers. A few nobi even have nobi of their own.

    There is nothing race-based about the nobi. Just as nobi can purchase their own freedom if they have the money or perform military service, freemen can sell themselves into slavery to pay debts or be forced into servitude as punishment for a crime. While the proportion varies from time to time, even reaching a third of the total Korean population at certain points in Joseon history, typically nobi make up about 10% of the Korean people.

    Aside from the monarch and the yangban, another major power player in Korea is the large Buddhist monasteries. The monasteries vary in size, but the greatest are prominent landowners on par with the most significant yangban, with many tenant farmers and nobi of their own. While neo-Confucianism has had some impact on the Korean court, Chinese influence is currently at an all-time low. No Korean students have gone to study in China for two generations and Buddhism remains the dominant faith of the land.

    While the majority of Koreans toil in the fields with little hope of advancing in status, the literate classes are benefiting from a cultural and economic boom. The Hangul script, nearing its two-hundredth birthday, is growing in use with text production also rising rapidly in the last two decades. One common genre is books on agriculture as yangban landlords seek to improve crop yields or produce new items.

    Those yangban wish to do so in order to participate in commerce and trade, which is proving fruitful to its participants. (That said, this is done with intermediaries as gentlemen are not supposed to sully their hands in trade.) There is a vigorous Korean commerce with the Japanese who value Korean textiles and ceramics while the Koreans want Japanese silver and the wares of Southeast Asia. Most Korean merchants do not go further than Nagasaki or Osaka, but they are sometimes active down in Pyrgos.

    The shift in Korean-Japanese relations is due entirely to the reunification of Japan. During the Sengoku Jidai many of the warring daimyo had raided westward as a means to boost their wealth. Shimazu success had much to do with their own highly lucrative raids against China, with substantial support and firepower from their new Roman allies. However the Shimazu never raided Korea for two reasons. Firstly, China was simply a more lucrative target. Secondly, one of the earliest Shimazu vassals was the So family that ruled Tsushima, through which legitimate trade between Korea and Japan flowed during the Sengoku period. Taxes on the trade was another useful revenue stream for the Shimazu, one which they did not want to disrupt by piratical raids on the Korean coast.

    With the Shimazu now in control of all of Japan, they have been cracking down on the wokou. The last thing they want are loose cannons running around making messes that need to be cleaned up. The Shimazu want any Japanese force to be directed and controlled by them, for their political purposes and not the self-aggrandizement of an ambitious daimyo.

    Keeping an eye on the daimyo is a key task for the Shimazu, as the reunification of Japan did not result in the destruction of the samurai class. Systematically crushing each individual daimyo domain would’ve been a long and grueling process, one certainly beyond the means of the Shimazu. The Azai had ruled most of Honshu, with resources far outmatching that of the Shimazu. The latter had only turned the tide by convincing many of the Azai’s vassals to switch allegiances and fight for the Shimazu.

    In 1635 Japan has 190 han, the term for daimyo landholdings. Each han is ruled by a daimyo who has autonomy in their realm, but pays taxes to the Shimazu Emperor based on how much rice their territory can produce. The daimyo have their own castles and samurai retainers, with the han varying in size, the largest as much as 20 times bigger than the smallest. There are three daimyo grades, the first being those families related to the Shimazu, the second being their earliest and most loyal vassals from the Sengoku period, and the third being those who fell into line at the end of the Sengoku period. All three grades benefit from gifts of land taken from those daimyo who opposed the Shimazu rise, but only the first two grades can hold offices in the central government.

    While the han take up much of the countryside, the Shimazu control the cities, trade, and vast landholdings of their own, including practically all of Kyushu. Their landholdings dwarf those of even the most prestigious daimyo, which combined with all their other resources gives them financial reserves that allow them to easily outspend their feudal vassals.

    An important rule to keep the daimyo in check is the stipulation that they must spend every other year at the capital, and the other year on their estate, while their wife and heir must reside at their capital residence. The expense of maintaining two establishments, plus the travel costs, limit the amount of funds available to even the wealthier daimyo, limiting the trouble they can cause. Although in 1635 this stage has not been reached, eventually the poorer daimyo will need financial subsidies to keep up appearances, subsidies the Imperial government will be happy to provide as a means of keeping further control.

    The Shimazu, after setting themselves up as the new Emperors, selected Osaka as their capital. The ancient capital of Kyoto had too many connections to the old Japan. Osaka is centrally located, with sea routes leading south and a new Imperial road leading up to northern Honshu. With the daimyo and their retinues constantly shuttling back and forth between the capital and their han, improved transportation and hospitality amenities such as roadside inns are increasing drastically in quality and quantity. The Imperial court and the daimyo also wish to cut an impressive figure, especially when presenting themselves to the Emperor, leading to an increased demand in Chinese, Korean, and Indonesian goods.

    While Osaka is the Imperial capital and the main port for intra-Japanese trade, Nagasaki is the prime port for trade between Japan and the outside world. While all comers are welcome provided they behave and paid the customs dues, the Romans and Koreans, followed distantly by the Lotharingians, are the main foreign traders.

    Nagasaki is also the only port of departure and arrival for the Red Seal ships, those Japanese vessels that are authorized to trade with the outside world. The Shimazu are all for encouraging overseas trade, but want it controlled so that they can exact maximum revenue from it. Only those vessels with a Red Seal permit can sail overseas, and must do it through Nagasaki. (Allowances are made for storm-damaged Red Seal ships that return to another Japanese port, but they are boarded by officials and not allowed to offload any cargo unless the ship is in danger of sinking.) In exchange for the payments, it is made quite clear to the peoples of the Western Pacific that anyone attacking a Red Seal ship will incur the wrath of the Japanese Emperor.

    Most of the Red Seal ships go to Pyrgos, but some sail as far as Java or Ayutthaya. One place that suffers greatly due to the rise of Pyrgos is the Ryukyuan Islands, which had initially served as a conduit for trade between Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Producing little of interest themselves, the Ryukyuan Islanders had thrived in the past few centuries as a port of call. Even after the establishment of Pyrgos they held their own, until the arrival of the Mexican silver galleons put an end to the struggle.

    Nagasaki, like most of Kyushu, is almost wholly Orthodox Christian. As for the rest of Japan, the extent of Christianization wanes as one heads east and north. The Shimazu Emperors have made no effort to prorogue Shinto shrines or Buddhist monasteries in their entirety, having already done enough to embroil the countryside after their annihilation of the Yamato dynasty.

    That said, many monasteries had turned themselves into fortresses with their own armies of monks during the Sengoku Jidai and many resisted the imposition of Shimazu control. Many of the Shimazu campaigns to solidify their dominance over Honshu were against these monastery-fortresses, which served a twofold purpose. Firstly, the campaigns destroyed a military threat to Shimazu control. Secondly, the buildings, lands, and tenants of the defeated monastery-fortresses were then turned over to Japanese Orthodox churches and monasteries, helping to spread Orthodox Christianity across the Japanese islands.

    By 1635 these campaigns, and others like them against Japanese still resistant to the new Shimazu order, are largely done. There will be a few more minor ones in northern Honshu, but the ones truly dangerous to the Shimazu are past. With Japan now finally secure, the Shimazu feel free to direct their gaze to the wider world.
    Lords of the East: Korea, China, and Japan
  • Lords of the East: Korea, China, and Japan

    The Zeng had not taken kindly to the Korean occupation of the Liaodong Peninsula. Given their insistence on restoring all of China to native Chinese rule, having even a small corner still controlled by foreigners was unacceptable, even if said foreigners were Koreans and not the typical steppe or forest nomads. Ancient Korean claims dating back to Goguryeo and Balhae were dismissed.

    Furthermore, the Jurchen were an issue. Given Jurchen history during the years of the Song dynasty, the Zeng were very keen on being the ones dominating the Jurchen clans. Having the Koreans be the paramount power in the region was also unacceptable.

    The Zeng wanted the Liaodong Peninsula back, primacy in the Jurchen lands, and the Koreans to retreat back across the Yalu and become Chinese tributaries as they had been in the past. That was the proper relationship between Korea and a China that was going to restore the fullness of Tang. Gao Qiyu, the Jingtai Emperor of Zeng China, did not expect much of a fuss from the Koreans given the promise of frequent tribute missions (which served as a guise for trade) and subsidies to support Korean students who wished to study in China.

    King Danjong of Korea however was not much interested. Coming to the throne in 1630 at only nineteen, he is continually conscious of falling in the shadow of his father, already known as Sejong the Great. Towering in physique as well as ability, Sejong had overseen the conquests in the north while presiding over a prosperous heartland. (The tenant farmers and nobi locked into a life of backbreaking labor with no prospect of relief might take a lesser view of Sejong, but nobody who actually mattered would’ve troubled themselves to ask their opinion.)

    Danjong is physically smaller than his father was along with a weaker, more easily influenced, personality, which can’t help but fuel already extant concerns about inadequacy. Fighting against those feelings, Danjong was loathe to give up his father’s and predecessor’s accomplishments. The resumption of the highly profitable trade missions to China, which have been in abeyance for decades, is most desirable, and if the Chinese wish to call it tribute Danjong and the yangban are fine with that. However he is not willing to give up Liaodong and the Jurchen primacy, which Luoyang demands before receiving any missions.

    Fueling his resistance is a contempt for Chinese military prowess, an attitude he is far from alone in having. The Koreans had thrown off their foreign yoke decades ago, far earlier than the Chinese, and with substantially less difficulty. While China was getting hammered by the peoples of the north, the Koreans were subduing the Jurchens to their north. Given recent Chinese performance, the Koreans see little to fear from Zeng wrath. (A counterargument, that Korea was an afterthought to the Tieh and Later Yuan while China was the main event, is ignored if it is even imagined.)

    The Jingtai Emperor had been most displeased at the Korean rebuff and in 1634 sent an army of 10,000 men to the Korean Liaodong. Given its relatively small size, the Chinese aim clearly wasn’t to conquer the peninsula outright, but it breached the frontier as a show of force. The aim was to assert Chinese claims and to unnerve the Koreans into giving way. The effort backfired however when the Korean governor attacked the Chinese interlopers and drove them back to Chinese territory with heavy losses.

    The Emperor was now utterly incensed, along with the whole Zeng court. It wasn’t just that the assertion of rightful Chinese claims had been met with violence, although that was bad enough. It was that a substantial portion of the Korean army had been comprised of Jurchen soldiery; the Koreans had dared use loathsome nomads against the Middle Kingdom itself. In the atmosphere of the Zeng court, where the wound of foreign, particularly nomad, domination still was raw, Korean actions were acid in that wound. The Koreans had unwittingly conjured up the Chinese nightmare while the memories were still fresh. In the Zeng court, it was no longer about the Liaodong or putting Korea back in the tributary system, it was a matter of breaking Korea as a threat to the Celestial Empire.

    In 1635 a much larger army, with the most conservative estimates starting at 100,000 men, invaded the Korean Liaodong. Despite sharp and bloody fighting, the heavily outnumbered Koreans were quickly ejected from the region with the death of the Korean governor who had fought the 1634 battle. His replacement was Kim Cheon-Il who reorganized the battered Korean army units and parried Chinese efforts to breach the Yalu River line.

    Despite his success, Kim Cheon-Il was greatly concerned. He was heavily outnumbered and his spies reported more Chinese reinforcements entering the theater. Thus Kim Cheon-Il was constantly sending messages to Seoul requesting reinforcements of his own, while also recommending that Korea cede the Liaodong to China.

    Kim’s communiques did not go down well in Seoul, where the royal court saw things substantially different from Kim’s command tent. They still believed in the automatic military superiority of the Koreans over the Chinese; Kim’s highly successful defense of the Yalu despite the numerical odds was proof of that. The earlier defeat in Liaodong was blamed on the governor being complacent after the 1634 victory.

    Now if Kim had been requesting reinforcements so that he could go on the offensive and retake the Liaodong, the King and Court would’ve understood and heartily approved and supported such measures. However despite several pointed references in Court missives sent to Kim, the general is clearly still looking to remain on the defensive. That he then suggests capitulating to the Chinese, abandoning all the work of Sejong the Great after just one reversal, is the last straw for King Danjong. Kim Cheon-Il may have had his moment, but clearly he has lost his spirit and needs to be replaced with a leader with more drive.

    The choice of replacement is Won Gyun, who has long had personal grievances and rivalries with the Liaodong governor and Kim Cheon-Il. He was incensed when the latter was picked instead of him to command the army but since then he has used his position at court to steadily undermine his rival. Certainly Kim’s missives and recommendations haven’t helped his standing in Seoul, but Won has been exploiting them as much as possible, bending the King’s ear. King Danjong is most happy to hear that the problem is only the character of the commander.

    Kim Cheon-Il is recalled to Seoul in disgrace and is replaced by Won Gyun. Originally Kim Cheon-Il was supposed to be executed for defeatism but he has supporters of his own at court and is instead demoted to a common trooper.

    Shortly after Won Gyun takes up his new command, the autumn rains commence and turn the landscape into a sea of mud, making an offensive impossible. Nevertheless Won is champing at the bit to go onto the attack. Having condemned his predecessor for staying on the defensive, he can hardly do the same, particularly as Kim is still around and available to be reappointed. As soon as the winter freeze is in, hardening the ground, he marches northwest into Liaodong. He attacks with the bulk of the Korean army, reportedly 60,000 strong.

    Opposing him is another general new to the scene, the previous Chinese commander having been replaced (although not executed) after the repulse on the Yalu. Li Rusong is a veteran Zeng commander, experienced in warfare from the re-conquest of Northern China. From Tieling in the borderlands between pre-war Chinese and Korean territory, he is much more aware of Korean attitudes vis-à-vis the Chinese than his predecessor, his awareness complemented by a vigorous and successful intelligence-gathering operation over the autumn. Aware of Won Gyun’s machinations and the strategic implications thereof, Li sets his own plan into motion as Won advances.

    The Koreans face little resistance as they march over the frozen landscape, combat limited to minor skirmishes in which the Chinese give way after a short bout. Won is pleasantly surprised at the ease with which he forces the Qian Mountains, a Chinese force mustering for a serious battle but giving way as quickly as in earlier encounters. It seems that all that was needed to scatter the Chinese was a proper vigorous display of Korean martial prowess.

    Descending from the mountain passes, the Koreans enter the Liao River plain, where their first impediment is the fortified city of Anshan. Won sets up a siege although it is impossible to dig trenches in the frozen ground. That matters little as Li Rusong marches up from the south to finally offer battle in earnest.

    The battle proper begins on February 5, 1636. Won is eager for battle, preferring that to a long and difficult siege, especially as it appears that he has a slight numerical advantage. Spreading his lines, Li Rusong matches, but with his inferior numbers there is a clear weakening of the Chinese center where Li’s banners fly prominently. Charging forward, the Koreans push the Chinese center back, bending it but crucially not breaking it.

    At which point Li Rusong springs his trap. The Chinese wings, reinforced and largely unmolested, pivot inward, slamming the Koreans from both sides. Suddenly pressed on three sides, it is not long before the Koreans rout and break for the rear. There is still an opening there but the Koreans are savaged before they flee the kill-zone, flying back to their original camp.

    Li Rusong doesn’t follow up with an immediate attack on the camp as sunset is drawing near, but the Koreans, concerned about being trapped between the Chinese army and Anshan Citadel, retire the next morning, having to leave behind much of their baggage to move faster. Li follows, harassing their line of march, but makes no attempt to force another pitched battle.

    The reason why becomes apparent as the Koreans reach the Qian mountain passes. The reason Li’s army was so small was that he’d sent men to block the passes. As the Koreans attempt to break through, the Chinese guarding the passes attack from above as now Li pitches into their rear. Crazed panic grips the Koreans.

    It is complete carnage. The Korean retreat is blocked by a palisade, and with their loss of baggage and artillery at Anshan they have no easy way to blast through the barrier. Those climbing it are shot down in droves by Chinese archers and arquebusiers. Those who make it then tumble into a ditch dug, sometimes with explosives, on the other side. Only once enough broken and dying bodies have filled the ditch can others clamber safely onto the other side, only to discover to their horror an identical obstacle and bloody gauntlet. Few made it through the first; less make it through the second.

    It is a complete and utter disaster, of a scope rarely seen in military history. According to the Koreans, only 1 out of every 12 men who marched out with Won Gyun ever return to the lands south of the Yalu. Won Gyun is not one of them. Accounts of his death vary, some saying he died valiantly, sword in hand. Others say he was trampled to death by his own soldiers or died in one of the ditches from falling. At a stroke Korea’s regular army has been effectively annihilated.

    This time Li Rusong does not hesitate to press his advantage. Moving forward, he marches across the Yalu, where the water is frozen thick enough to support artillery. In his race, he arrives at Pyongyang with only 25000 men, the remainder straggling up the road, but surprise and shock more than make up for his lack of numbers. The city falls after only two days; Trooper Kim Cheon-Il is one of those killed defending the battlements.

    After Pyongyang, Li Rusong halts his advance to bring up more troops and supplies, with worsening weather putting a halt to further winter campaigning. But the Zeng court, ecstatic with the success, is already organizing Liaodong as a Chinese province and making plans to turn Pyongyang into the base of a Chinese commandery to oversee the region under Chinese hegemony. Preparations are made to send more reinforcements to Li Rusong to support new operations in 1636 aimed at bringing all of Korea into obedience to the Middle Kingdom.

    As winter wanes, war waxes in intensity. Despite frantic recruitment efforts, the Korean army is still woefully understrength and under-equipped to face the Chinese juggernaut. Still the Chinese are not having everything their own way. Resourceful yangban are gathering ‘Righteous Armies’ of peasants and leading them in guerrilla attacks on Chinese detachments and outposts. The great monasteries are rallying their monks and leading them in raids as well.

    King Danjong, now terrified of losing it all, also appeals for aid outside of the Land of Morning Calm. A Korean embassy arrives in Osaka, begging for aid in the court of the Shimazu Emperors.

    Shimazu Yoshitaka, second of the dynasty to rule all of Japan, has only been on the throne for two years at this point. While the daimyo seem largely pacified, that is not something that can be assumed. A campaign in Korea would do wonders in keeping them occupied. More importantly, the Shimazu are extremely alarmed at the possibility of Korea being in Chinese hands. It would be a dagger pointed directly at their own domains, and given their history of piracy, the Chinese have many grievances against the Shimazu. Plus the Japanese cannot forget the great armadas that were sent against them by the Yuan that were only beaten by the divine winds. Given that Zeng China seems to be acting extremely expansionistic here, there is much concern in Osaka that the Zeng will try and emulate the Yuan once Korea is pacified.

    So the Japanese respond vigorously to the Korean call for support, Yoshitaka pledging to send an army by summer, although a small expedition of 4000 is sent to Busan just a few weeks after the agreement is made. Yoshitaka meanwhile sends an embassy of his own to Pyrgos, requesting the Katepano send aid as well, although the request is of the ‘will not take no for an answer’ type.

    The Katepano complies with the request. While the Chinese element makes up the largest portion of the traders in Pyrgos, the Japanese are also extremely important. In addition, all the Katepanoi of the east have clear instructions from Constantinople to stay on good relations with the Japanese. Their common Orthodoxy is a part of that missive, but it is clear to both the White Palace and the Katepanoi that good relations with the Japanese are crucial to Roman strength in eastern waters.

    The Katepano does not provide ground forces. Yoshitaka does not need them; he is drafting plans to mobilize and send as many as 150,000 men to the Korean peninsula. [1] What the Katepano provides are warships. The Japanese have many vessels of their own, for trade and transport, but they have relatively little in the way of heavy warships. They were not needed in the campaigns to subdue and pacify Japan and wokou raids were done mainly with lighter and faster vessels.

    Thus far all the fighting has been on land, but naval warfare will be critical in the campaigns to come. The size of the Chinese forces invading Korea mean they are dependent on seaborne supply routes, as will any Korean-Japanese armies moving to oppose them. Furthermore, the Chinese are soon aware of the alliance and know that cutting the maritime link between Korea and Japan would be a major blow against their enemies. Whoever controls the Yellow Sea will almost certainly win the war.

    The Katepano of Pyrgos sends two fourth-raters and three fifth-raters, a quarter of the Romans’ big warships in the east, along with more vessels provided by Ship Lords with Japanese trade connections. There are also numerous light warships, including those that came from the Caribbean by sailing around Terranova and across the Pacific. [2] Leo Kalomeros will get his share of action as the Roman and Japanese naval contingents sail to reinforce the Korean fleet, now under a new commander, Yi Sun-sin.

    [1] The Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 IOTL at the start of the Imjin War was that big.
    [2] For the Katepano of Pyrgos, the Spanish threat is minimal while keeping the Japanese happy is paramount.
    The War in Korea: 1636
  • The War in Korea, 1636


    The Korean navy in the mid-1630s is not large or what would be considered a blue-water navy by the likes of the Romans, Omani, or Spanish. While Korean merchants sail to Japan and occasionally further afield, for protection they are dependent on the naval forces based in their destinations. Given the landward focus of Korean foreign policy since the Tieh yoke was overthrown, the army has sucked up most Korean military expenditure. The need to defend the coast against Japanese wokou provided some impetus for a strong navy, but with the unification of Japan that impetus has waned.

    The Korean navy is a coastal defense force comprised almost entirely of panokseon vessels, multi-decked vessels propelled by a mix of oar and sail. Romans who see them call them the Korean version of an Andrean dromon, the Roman term for a galleass. Despite the oars, due to their thick planking they are fairly slow, but at the same time said thick planking enables them to stand up well to enemy gunfire.

    The main strength, from the Korean viewpoint, is their small turning radius and shallow draft. The Korean coast is strewn with small islands and narrow channels, often with treacherous currents. Having warships that can deploy and maneuver through these tight waterways is crucial to defending the region. A western-style battle-line ship has far greater firepower, but all the cannons in the world cannot do any good if they cannot be deployed where needed.

    An individual panokseon would be horribly outmatched in a one-on-one gun duel with a battle-line ship, but that is less of a drawback than it sounds. After all, the only thing that can stand up to a battle-line ship in a duel is another battle-line ship. Compared to almost everything else, panokseon are heavily armed.

    Panokseon vary in size, the largest ones up to 30 meters, comparable in length to Roman and Spanish fregatai and with similar firepower. While the number of hulls registered to the Korean navy in 1635 has declined in the past few decades, the overall trend is to larger panokseon. These larger ships mount anywhere from 20-50 cannons, although the higher numbers would include a large percentage of light anti-personnel cannon in their totals, rather than just anti-ship ordnance. [1]

    The relative unimportance of the navy in pre-war Korean military thought is clearly shown by the complete inexperience of the naval commanders appointed. Yi Sun-sin is a military veteran, but as a cavalry officer fighting against recalcitrant Jurchens. Prior to his appointment as fleet commander, he’d never been on a warship that had fired its cannons at even a practice target, much less fought in a sea battle.

    The Zeng, with their base in southern China and maritime connections, had been a respectable naval power at their beginning. But they’d never quite recovered from the bloodletting at the battle of Pyrgos and with first continuing warfare in the north and then the establishment of Luoyang as their capital, the Zeng are decisively turning away from the sea.

    At the start of the Eulhae War [2] though that process is not complete. While Chinese trade is conducted with the outside world through Pyrgos, there is still a decent amount of sea traffic between Chinese port cities. This unsurprisingly has attracted pirates. The unification of Japan and the concentration of Roman trade at Pyrgos has lessened the official backing said pirates can get but there are still plenty of free-lance pirates around to cause trouble. Many of these base themselves from small settlements on Kiponissi [3], which while claimed by both the Chinese and the Katepanate of Pyrgos is really controlled by the natives save for the pirate enclaves.

    Thus the Chinese have a large navy at their disposal, at least in terms of numbers. Unlike the Korean panokseon which is propelled by oar or sail, the Chinese use sail-powered war junks. Like the panokseon, these can vary wildly in size with larger war junks comparable to small battle-line ships and mounting a similar number of guns, although most are of a smaller bore. The Chinese have a few of these great war junks, but the vast majority are much smaller and lightly armed. The Chinese fleet is geared to running down smugglers and chasing off raiders, not slugging it out with another war fleet.

    Li Rusong’s primary goal in 1636 is Seoul, the Korean capital. While there is no guarantee taking it would be a knockout punch, it would be a devastating psychological and strategic blow. As he marches southward, he does not face an enemy army in pitched battle but instead a swarm of small forces, the Righteous Armies of the yangban and peasants as well as the monastic troops. In a direct field confrontation with anything approaching equal numbers, the Korean forces break quickly against Chinese troops, but they snap at foraging parties, scouting groups, and isolated detachments. Furthermore, when defending castle or town walls, they are much better at going toe-to-toe with the Chinese army although their lack of artillery is a serious disadvantage.

    By the summer of 1636 the regular Korean army is expanding rapidly as new recruits come in, but the organization as a whole suffers much from the loss of veteran troops and officers, as well as equipment. In fighting the Jurchens the Koreans relied much on the bow, as their firearms are still matchlocks. However most of their best archers perished in Won Gyun’s debacle and it takes years to train a proficient archer. Matchlock-men can be trained far more quickly, but most of the Korean matchlocks were also lost in the same debacle and given the low demand for them in the past, Korean gun production is startlingly low. Some compensation comes from Korean proficiency with and number of cannon, but the best Korean artillery-gunners were again lost in the north and those skillsets cannot be built up rapidly.

    The Koreans are working rapidly, and effectively, to shore up these weaknesses, but even the best efforts take time which is not available. To compensate, the Koreans plan to use the Japanese troops being sent over. The Japanese are willing to cooperate, but considering that they will be contributing the bulk of the regular forces, insist that the commander of the expeditionary force, Konishi Yukinaga, also be placed in command of all allied ground forces. Reluctantly King Danjong agrees, but only after extracting a pledge that Yi Sun-sin will be in command of all allied naval forces.

    The Japanese can field an extremely large army but getting it to the field of battle is another matter. They are also terrified of the prospect of Chinese war junks getting loose amid heavily-laden troop transports, so the Japanese host is ferried over in stages to Busan to begin the long march north. Much to Yi Sun-sin’s annoyance, he is tied up in convoy escort duties as this takes place, and it is a long process.

    Meanwhile Li Rusong’s progress south is bloody but steady, overwhelming all opposition with a major victory against a mix of Korean regulars, irregulars, and a Japanese contingent garrisoning Sariwon. Nevertheless as Chinese forces enter the Yesong River valley and follow it south to the sea, resistance only increases. Opposition to the Chinese, and the blood price it demands, is paid mainly by the Righteous Armies, but (green) Korean regulars and more Japanese troops are steadily arriving in theater as the summer passes.

    By the time Li Rusong reaches the Yesong delta, his supply lines are under such strain from the guerrilla tactics that he is forced to march not southeast toward Kaesong and Seoul, as he would wish, but west to secure the port of Haeju. The Righteous Armies are playing havoc with the supply convoys on land but are toothless at sea, so if he can take Haeju for use as a supply base, it will immeasurably ease the strain on his logistics.

    Haeju is held by two Righteous Armies, one under the command of a local yangban Yi Kwang and the other under the Buddhist abbot Hyujŭng. Both of them have sworn to fight to the death and rally their men to do the same. They have no answer to the storm of Chinese cannon fire but they fight in the rubble of the battlements, in the ruins of the city, contesting each and every block as they are steadily ground down into dust. Korean losses are unknown, but estimated as high as 11000, far higher than the reported Chinese 1800, but they cost Li Rusong two precious weeks and burn the docks at the end. Chinese engineers promptly set to work restoring them but it is clear Haeju will be no panacea for the Chinese supply issues.

    Once Haeju is secure and naval stores start arriving, Li resumes track for Kaesong. It, along with whatever defense could be mounted at the Imjin River, is the only remaining serious obstacle between him and Seoul. But in those weeks taken up by Haeju, the Kaesong garrison has ballooned from 7500 to 28000, including four thousand Japanese armed with flintlock muskets, while laborers have reinforced the defenses with piles of packed earth.

    The siege is brutal on both sides. Li Rusong pounds on the Kaesong battlements while the garrison gives back with equal fury, while Korean and Japanese troops arriving from the south harass the Chinese camp. When Konishi Yukinaga arrives in person finally with the bulk of the Japanese expedition, he launches a major attack on the Chinese camp. It is beaten back, largely due to the Chinese field fortifications, but losses are heavy on both sides and Li’s troops are becoming irreplaceable. Furthermore a few Korean and Japanese parties manage to make it inside the walls of Kaesong with critical supplies of rice and gunpowder.

    A week later at the beginning of September, Yi Sun-sin, finally free from convoy escort duties, arrives on the scene. The Chinese fleet, which has faced hardly any opposition thus far, has been ravaging the Korean coast with scores of villages looted and burned, their squadrons scattering in the process. Over a three-week period, Yi wages and wins four separate sea battles against Chinese contingents, using the same tactics in all the engagements. Experienced in fighting the Jurchen on land, Yi follows the book he knows. He uses the Roman and Japanese (who have a mix of eastern-style junks and smaller western-style warships) vessels as relatively immobile infantry/artillery with more mobile panokseon as ‘cavalry’ that can harass and flank enemy forces.

    In each battle, a small force challenges the Chinese who are in the middle of raiding, which retreats to open waters as the Chinese pursue into the ambushing main fleet. The heavy-armed but sluggish Roman and Japanese warships are stationed in the center of the allied line, where their gunfire disorders the Chinese advance as the panokseons swing to the side and smash into the Chinese from both flanks. By the end of September, Yi has destroyed 61 Chinese ships of varying size at the cost of 5 of his own, while Leo Kalomeros has shown much skill in playing the bait and needling the Chinese into giving chase. The lopsided score is somewhat less impressive when one realizes that due to the scattered nature of the Chinese fleet, in every battle Yi has a numerical advantage of at least 5-to-1.

    Casualties on the Chinese side are extremely heavy as Yi deliberately drew the Chinese squadrons into deeper waters to increase their losses. If they’d fought in the shallows, Chinese sailors could’ve run their ships aground and fled on land. That would not do; Yi wants their heads, or at least their ears. Many are salted down for shipment to Seoul as demonstrations of their victory.

    The fifth battle, fought at the entrance of Haeju Bay, is much more significant on a strategic level, although as far as combat goes it was the easiest from the allied perspective. Instead of a raiding warship squadron being destroyed, it is an important supply convoy carrying provisions Li considers crucial for continuing the siege at Kaesong. When news arrives of the convoy’s destruction, he is forced to abandon the assault, retreating back to the Yesong River, although an allied effort to harass him is mauled in the process.

    Fighting continues on land as the two armies bicker at the Yesong, but neither commits to a serious push. Li is waiting for more supplies and reinforcements while Konishi has learned a healthy respect for Chinese field fortifications. Sending weapons and trainers to the Righteous Armies, he does all he can to encourage their depredations against Chinese outposts and convoys. This is at odds with the policy of the Seoul court, which is wary of the increased military power of the yangban and monasteries exemplified by the Righteous Armies and views them more as a threat to its own authority rather than an aid against the Chinese.

    At sea Yi prowls but after the destruction of the convoy can find precious little to fight. He blockades Haeju for a time but has to break station as his forces are all running low on powder, an issue also facing the allied armies after the intensive fighting at Kaesong. Korean powder production, like their manufacture of matchlocks, is unimpressive and comes far short of the demands being placed on it.

    Despite the carnage and the suffering and the difficulties felt by both sides, as 1636 wanes there is little sign that the Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans intend to give way. The Jingtai Emperor is disappointed but still approves of Li Rusong’s leadership (less so his naval commanders) and Luoyang commits even more troops and supplies to the fight. The Japanese alliance only proves that Korea is even more of a threat to the Middle Kingdom than was supposed. [4]

    [1] Regarding turtle ships, I am drawing entirely from Samuel Hawley’s The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China (which I highly recommend). He argues, convincingly in my mind, against the idea of turtle ships being ironclads. He has several arguments. There is no contemporary evidence for iron plating being used on the turtle’s back, which certainly would’ve been noted by the many Korean sources. Yi Sun-sin had limited resources when he built his first turtle ships. If he’d tried to armor his ships, he probably wouldn’t have had any metals with which to make cannons, which defeats the point of having the warship in the first place.

    The turtle ships were certainly armored, but likely by thick wooden planking and perhaps seawater-soaked mats as protection against incendiaries. Japanese warships were lightly armed, mostly with firearms and not with cannon (Toyotomi tried and failed to get Portuguese warships for the invasion), so that would’ve been armor enough. The ‘turtle ironclad’ argument probably derives from the West. Widespread knowledge of Korea and the Imjin War in the West only came about in the mid-1800s and the reports of armored Korean ships were confused with the new ironclads of the American Civil War. See pgs. 195-98.

    Given these arguments, turtle ships will not be appearing ITTL. Against the 1630s Zeng Chinese ships, much better equipped with cannon than OTL 1590s Japanese ships, turtle ships do not seem useful.

    [2] The Korean and most commonly used name for the conflict. It is derived from the Korean year Eulhae that corresponds to the western year 1635, when the war is commonly considered to have started in earnest; the opening gambit in 1634 is often ignored. (This is from the OTL Imjin War, which gets its name as the Japanese invaded in 1592, Imjin being the Korean year name at that time.)
    [3] OTL Taiwan. The name is Greek.
    [4] The reinforcements are partly financed by silver gotten in trade at Pyrgos. While there is no formal agreement, the Chinese, Romans, and Japanese all continue to trade at Pyrgos as if nothing were amiss. The trade is far too lucrative for all parties to let something like a war disrupt it.
    The War in Korea: 1637
  • The War in Korea, 1637

    "When wisdom comes from Seoul."-Korean expression, equivalent to the Terranovan 'when pigs fly'.

    The winter of 1636-37 is much quieter than the previous winter. There are skirmishes and probes and raids, but nothing that significantly alters the dynamics on the ground. For both sides the main concern is that of supply.

    The allied supply lines are free from harassment save from the occasional bandit or Chinese raid but the demand for food and equipment is still prodigious. The fighting is taking place in the north while most of the food in Korea is grown in the south, and neither the Koreans nor the Japanese have much experience or organization for mass logistics. The Koreans in the Jurchen campaigns fielded high-quality mobile armies, but small ones. The Japanese are more used to mass armies, but that was done for shorter durations in their home islands, where the need for ground transport was minimal. Large wagon trains are not simple things to organize, and one axle busting in a bad place can jam up the whole train for a day if it turns out one misplaced the spare parts and/or tools.

    The Chinese on the other hand are quite experienced at the logistics of mass armies, having cut their teeth in the battles for northern China. They know all the equipment, and in what quantities, that are needed to keep supplies flowing and have their re-conquest organization still in place with the same experienced officials. Accidents, mistakes, and simple bad luck can and do happen, but the key in war isn’t to be perfect, which is an impossibility, but to make fewer mistakes than the other side. When it comes to logistics, the Chinese are absolutely the side making the fewest mistakes.

    On the other hand, the Chinese supply lines are under constant harassment from the various Righteous Armies. The most substantial operations during the winter are by Chinese units against some of these Righteous Armies. If the Koreans are caught in the open, the Chinese invariably win, but the Koreans are mostly successful in avoiding a field battle.

    Nevertheless the Chinese pressure on the Righteous Armies keeps them from attacking the Chinese supply lines so much, albeit at the cost of sucking away vital manpower. During the winter that is acceptable but will be a serious problem come the resumption of active campaigning. To avoid the issue, Li Rusong spends much of the winter wooing the Jurchen clans with the Luoyang court supporting him. By spring several have been brought into the Chinese orbit, providing cavalry to guard the Chinese supply lines and letting Li use his Chinese troops for the advance.

    Even with Jurchen support and Chinese experience, Li’s logistics are still shaky. Plus given the successes of the allied navy, he doesn’t want to be completely dependent on seaborne supplies. That means instead of flooding the area with huge numbers of men and animals that need to be fed, like the Japanese expedition, Li has concentrated on making his men as individually dangerous as possible instead. “I need no more swords or spears or bows, but muskets, muskets, and more muskets,” Li is reported to have said. By spring, at least 6000 of his troops are armed with a flintlock musket and ring ambrolar combination that is copied from an Ottoman example sent via the Silk Road. The Ottoman weapon is itself a copy of the Roman D3 musket; after capturing models in Syria the Ottomans immediately began making their own.

    Far more immediately obvious is the storm of artillery Li Rusong unleashes, 330 cannons to the 130 allied pieces. The sheer firepower smashes apart the defensive line, the best Chinese troops racing into the gaps, not to seize territory but make havoc, snarling Konishi’s efforts to restore his position. Badly mauled, the allied army gives way, retreating back down the road to Kaesong, the Chinese slashing at the rear. A Roman attaché, a veteran of the Danube campaign, is reminded of the German retreat from Ruse, where a Korean rearguard manages, at the cost of its own near-annihilation, to keep the pursuers at bay.

    Not wanting to be pinned down, Konishi reinforces the Kaesong garrison but pulls back to Panmunjom with the bulk of his army. Kaesong is well manned and equipped for a siege, with plentiful provisions, powder, and artillery, but that is at the expense of the field army. Many invaluable stores had been lost at the Yesong, while all that can be spared was deposited in Kaesong. To stay in the field, the allied army desperately needs new kit.

    Due to the urgency, sea transport is the only option, with vessels sailing from southern Korea and Japan to the mouth of the Imjin River, carrying everything from rice to bullets to shoes. Much to Yi Sun-sin’s frustration, he is again tied down to convoy duty, escorting the slow transports on their hauls rather than hunting the enemy as he would prefer. A few scattered attacks on the convoy achieve little save to scare allied command, which continues to deny Yi permission to go on the offensive as a result.

    Li is most grateful as he has issues of his own. There was a limit to how much he was able to stockpile over the winter and the mass artillery barrage used up much of the gunpowder he’d already accumulated. Lacking the firepower he had at the Yesong, his initial assault on Kaesong, despite the low morale of the garrison, is hurled back with over a thousand casualties. Again he is forced to settle down into a siege of the stubborn city, Chinese supply ships putting in at Haeju with their essential cargoes.

    Even the relatively short land route from Haeju to Kaesong is threatened by Korean partisans holed up in the Molak Mountains, but those by themselves are manageable from the Chinese perspective.

    As are the raids on the seaborne part of the supply lines. Yi Sun-sin’s fleet is mostly locked down in convoying, but he finds an outlet for his aggressiveness by letting loose the Roman ships. In Seoul, King Danjong and the court are mostly concerned with the actions of the Koreans under Yi’s command; they have little authority over or ability to punish the Roman portion of the fleet. The Japanese, on the other hand, after asking for the ships, feel it would be best for the Romans to decide the best way they should be used, so long as they be used. Considering the Roman-Spanish battles off Java, there is some concern that if they don’t let the Romans act aggressively, the Romans might decide to vacate the theater. The Romans, after all, have little stake in the fight save to keep the goodwill of the Japanese. (Japanese ships are, like the Koreans, tied down in convoy escort duty because of Osaka’s concerns for the vulnerable transports.)

    Most of the Chinese vessels are sailing in convoys too big and well-armed to be attacked by the comparatively few Roman ships. The Romans concentrate on snapping at isolated ships and raiding coastal detachments, on a few occasions landing equipment for Righteous Armies or even raiding parties. The most notable successes are scored by Leo Kalomeros and the Octopus. Happening on the remnants of a convoy that had been scattered by a storm, in a three day spree off Sochong Island he captures or sinks six Chinese junks, two of them well-armed escorts.

    Despite these small victories, they are still pinpricks to the Chinese, painful but nowhere near fatal. Yi has over a hundred and eighty panokseons at his command, but the raids are by a mere eleven Roman ships, soon reduced to nine. A fifth-rater hits an underwater rock and sinks with the loss of all her equipment, a particularly heavy blow even though the crew is saved. Two weeks later a Roman fregata gets pinned up against Cho Island by five war-junks and is blasted to pieces.

    The Romans on the spot also have their hands tied by orders from their superior, the Katepano of Pyrgos. The Katepano sent the ships to retain the goodwill of the Japanese Emperor, but he does not want to risk the ire of the Chinese Emperor either by too brazenly helping the Japanese. The Roman ships can fight in Japanese and Korean waters, but are not to wage war in Chinese waters (and in the brief, the Liaodong is considered Chinese). With proposed attacks on the Chinese coast thus mooted, the Roman fourth-raters, the most powerful warships north of Borneo but too slow for raiding, are left without a clear mission and stuck on convoy duty along with the panokseons.

    Meanwhile the fighting around Kaesong is intense. After resupplying his army, Konishi probes the Chinese siege lines but an early probe is ambushed and cut to pieces. Alarmed, Seoul orders him to stay on the defensive, rather than the big push to relieve Kaesong that Konishi had been planning. As the Korean portion of the army increases (Korean reinforcements are arriving but not Japanese ones) and since he is dependent almost entirely on the Koreans for logistics, despite Konishi’s status as Supreme Allied Commander he is forced to listen when Seoul speaks. After the debacle at Anshan and all the repercussions, the wisdom at Seoul is to not commit to any large battles but to rely on harassment and defensive fighting.

    Under relentless attack with no sign of relief and a growing belief that they have been abandoned to die, the morale of the Kaesong garrison gives out as their rations do. After a two-month siege they surrender to Li Rusong, who treats them well and parades them through the Chinese-controlled settlements of northern Korea. The stories of the good treatment from Li Rusong in contrast to the lack of support from Seoul that seems content to leave them as meat shields has some effect, as a few Righteous Armies take the pardon offered by Li Rusong to disband.

    With Kaesong in his hands, Li marches on the Imjin River line. Konishi stands to the defensive, but unleashes a few cavalry raids behind the Chinese lines, mainly to encourage the remaining Righteous Armies. While the attacks on the Chinese are easily beaten off by the superior Chinese cavalry, they do succeed in their main goal of getting some equipment to the Righteous Armies and boosting their morale. But to Konishi’s rage he receives a rebuke from Seoul. Even doing that token offensive work is apparently too much for King Danjong and his court.

    The Korean court is blindsided on September 3 when a combined message arrives from Konishi, Yi Sun-sin, and the Roman naval commander, although if they’d been paying closer attention to their mood they could not have been shocked. All are absolutely outraged at the restrictions imposed on them and demand to be let loose. Yi, as a Korean subject, is very diplomatic, but the Japanese and Romans are decidedly less so. The Romans go so far as to threaten to withdraw their naval forces. Their fourth-raters are wasted here but are needed in Java. Given Konishi’s own displeasure, such a threat is much less damaging to Roman-Japanese goodwill as it would’ve been even a few weeks earlier. Stunned, the Korean court gives way.

    Ironically, Konishi for his part remains on the defensive, blocking Li’s advance across the Imjin but doing no more than raiding and supporting the Righteous Armies. Right now the plan is only for the navy to attack, but a joint protest from both the army and navy undoubtedly had a much greater impact on the Seoul court than just one from Yi. Yi, in contrast, gathers the full force of the fleet, some 217 warships of varying types and sizes, and sails toward Haeju Bay.

    The Chinese fleet, which comprises the bulk of Zeng naval strength, opposing him is slightly larger, mustering 262 warships of varying types and sizes. For a time there is a standoff as Yi tries to lure the Chinese out into deeper waters while the new Chinese commander, wise to Yi’s tactics from last year, declines. But the Chinese cannot remain quiescent for long; with Yi in Haeju Bay, Li’s supply line is effectively cut.

    On September 15, with the wind at their backs, the Chinese finally sally out. Yi’s battle array is similar to his previous battles, with the Roman ships in the center and panokseons and Japanese ships on the wings, both sides in a west-east line with the Chinese to the north. As the Chinese approach, the panokseons begin maneuvering to take the enemy in the flanks, the Chinese extending their line to avoid that outcome.

    As the Chinese line thins, the panokseons on the wings suddenly swivel and charge into, rather than around, the Chinese fleet, each wing punching through and isolating the Chinese fleet into three sections. Disordered and confused, the Chinese response is as fragmented as their fleet. The Chinese admiral in the central section orders the west and east sections to wheel inward and cut the Koreans in half in their turn, but the two sections either fail to see or ignore his commands.

    The east Chinese section, faced with only distant cannonading from the enemy on one side and the open sea on the other, makes a break for it and escapes intact. The west section is more tightly pressed, pinned between the Korean coast on the one hand and shorter-range enemy barrages on the other. However the allies are focused mainly on the central section, allowing the western ships to squeeze through the gap albeit with serious losses. The central section, completely surrounded by the enemy, is pounded to pieces over the course of the afternoon and annihilated.

    The battle of Haeju Bay is far from a complete sweep; 159 Chinese ships escape and regroup at the port of Nampo. But it is a battered and demoralized fleet that has also lost its largest and most powerful warships which had been concentrated in the center. Allied losses of twenty panokseons, four Japanese vessels, and a Roman fifth-rate that is shot up so badly that it is dismantled rather than repaired, plus another thirty ships damaged, are heavy but well worth the price. To compound the Chinese pain, a supply convoy sails in Haeju Bay on September 20th ignorant of the battle and is snapped up by the allied fleet.

    When he receives the news of Haeju Bay, Li Rusong knows his offensive is done. Badly wrecked Kaesong would make for a poor forward base and maintaining supply lines entirely bad land that far south against Righteous Armies near impossible. Grimly, he begins a march north, the allied army following but cautiously.

    Li halts his retreat at the Taesong River, which means he keeps control of Pyongyang and the port of Nampo, which now functions as a new northern version of Haeju port. Konishi attempts to break through the Chinese lines and take Pyongyang, but he is now suffering from supply issues. The area between Pyongyang and Kaesong has been ravaged by fighting and Chinese requisitions, leaving nothing for the allied troops. In contrast, Li’s logistics have improved somewhat with a convoy arriving in Nampo and shorter land lines that are easier to protect.

    Yi attempts to blockade Nampo and force another battle to finish what he started, but while the fleet is rounding Changsan Cape a storm brews up and batters the flotilla enough that he reluctantly turns around back to Inchon. With that, active campaigning ceases for the year although small raids, ambuscades, and skirmishes continue.

    The Jingtai Emperor and the Luoyang court are far from pleased at the news from Korea, but again they place the blame on the navy rather than Li Rusong. After the battle of Haeju Bay, the opinion of the Luoyang court is now divided. Subduing the whole Korean peninsula is clearly impossible, but some feel that a Pyongyang commandery in the north is still possible and would help compensate for the costs of the war. Others feel that Korea should be abandoned; the main prize Liaodong has already been secured and all forces should be sent to protect that. However even those who favor pulling out of Korea fear that doing so will open the possibility of yet another foreign invasion of China. As long as Li and his army are in Pyongyang that will not happen. So for now the Chinese army in Korea remains where it is. The Koreans, meanwhile, are committed to driving the Chinese completely out of the peninsula. The war will continue.