I've been thinking about the Cathars lately, indeed, since I've tackled on the matter of Aquitaine. I'm still unsure about what to do with them. I don't know a lot about their developments or the Albigensian Crusade. I'll need more research and some good books on them to explore a bit more their possible roles in-TL. We'll need to discuss this topic later on in better detail.
Basically, the Cathars had Gnostic beliefs (any wiki article on them is a good introduction) and a priesthood that was a lot less corrupt than the Catholic priests, at least among the Perfect. They revered John the Baptist, primarily used the Gospel of John, believed that the Old Testament God was actually Satan in disguise and the New Testament God is the true High God, thereby explaining why the world and all of Creation is so bad and sinful. This belief was once held by many of the Gnostic sects of Egypt in the Late Roman Empire, the Bogomils (persecuted by the Rhomaion Empire), etc. It's understandable to see this view crop up from time to time due to the drastic differences between these versions of God. The Catholic Church tried to convert them back into their fold through an intense missionary program. In spite of their best efforts, including that of Bernard of Clairvaux, very few Cathars were willing to recant. That made the Catholic Church fear for their position of power.

One of the reasons so few Cathars were willing to recant and why the Cathar Perfects appeared to be a lot less corrupt than the Catholic priesthood: If a Perfect lapsed (sex, meat, etc. --Perfects are required to be vegetarian and celibate), all those he “consoled” - i.e. welcomed into the ranks of the Perfects - also lapsed, and had to start over. In effect, the Cathars created an astonishingly effective method of social control for their clergy - peer pressure was very useful in keeping Cathar Perfects on the straight and narrow. Reading between the lines of Bernard of Clairvaux's reports against them, he seemed to admire them and wished that the priesthood of his own Church was as good. Women were also allowed to become Perfects, by the way, which increased their appeal to the masses while also earning more of the Catholic Church's ire.

In addition, France had very little control over the increasingly autonomous Languedoc lords and their lands which were becoming prosperous via trade. Incidentally, the Medieval cultural phenomenon of the troubadours and courtly love came from there, possibly influenced by trade contacts with Al-Andalus and their love poets. The Church and the French king promised the northern French barons the riches of the Languedoc as long as they eliminated the Cathar religious threat. Hence, the Albigensian Crusade. It was as much to destroy the religion as to bring the rich lands of the Languedoc back under northern French control. Furthermore, the Languedoc (more specifically the House of Trencavel) was nominally under the protection of Aragon but the Count of Barcelona abandoned them under Church pressure and out of fear of being invaded by the French barons while still in the midst of the Reconquista.

The microhistory book of Montaillou is a good on-the-ground look at a village in the Pyrenees after the Albigensian Crusade based on the Fournier Register. The investigation was made by Jacques Fournier in the name of the Inquisition. Fournier would later go on to become Pope Benedict XII. :)
58. The Woes of Archbishop Suger in the Earthly Kingdom of God (1155 - 1160 A.D.)


Metropolitan Archbishop and Patriarch Suger of Jerusalem. Contemporary depiction in the stained glass of the Cathedral of Saint Denis in Emèse (c. 1180)

When Suger of St. Denis was invested in the Metropolitan Archbishopric and Roman Patriarchate of the Holy City, he found an Outremer rather different from the one forged by the swords of the first generation of Crusader conquerors. By the middle of the 12th C., impoverished and insignificant knights from Europe had become barons, while those with more renown and resources, such as the magnates from Toulouse, from Sicily, from Lombardy, from Lorraine and from Bavaria, had grown to become wealthy and formidable dukes, able to furnish a dozens of cavaliers under their banners. In the market districts of the Levantine emporia, one would find so many Italians, and even Flemings and Dalmatians bartering with the Saracens and Syrians, that one might have the impression that they were still in Europe. In some few newly established settlements in the Outremer were being built and were inhabited solely by Franks, with no Syrians or Palestinians to be seen.

In his first years in the office, certainly driven by an enterprising enthusiasm, Suger endeavored to convert the Saracens of the Outremer en masse to Christianity, and thus, in his view, redeem the Earthly Kingdom of God, still inhabited, as it was, by these heathens. We can infer from his contemporary correspondence with Pope Victor and his successor Stephen, however, that he did not really devise any systematic plan or project to sustain this undertaking, and this explains why it resulted in a complete fiasco and was soon abandoned. While he did commission copies of the Qu’ran from his intellectual peer, future Saint Peter of Montboissier, to assist in the task of converting the Saracens, those among the local Latin clergy never bothered with trying to actually understand the Islamic scripture; they simply read the Islamic message in the light of its inconsistencies and disagreements with the Biblical text and Catholic doctrine, and thus they failed to comprehend the finesses of the so-called “Saracen creed”. Very few of them actually set out to the interior of Palestine and Syria to preach to the Muslims, and one can wonder what impression they ought to make on the jaundiced peoples of the provincial communities, those that scantly a couple generations ago pertained to the most privileged strata of society, and regarded the [Oriental] Christians with contempt. To be fair, Suger’s effort failed not only because of the recalcitrance of the local Muslim communities - who actually had no desire of accessing the privileges and benefits of the Frankish-dominated political universe, and regarded apostasy as the ultimate crime - but also due to the negligence of the local Latin and Greek clergymen, who believed it to be a fruitless task, and of the opposition of the Frankish lords that had carved their fiefs in the Levantine hinterland, whose wealth generally depended on the so-called “Saracen tax”, levied upon the unbaptized subjects.

After abandoning his initial theological endeavors, Suger nonetheless realized that the were various political, administrative and diplomatic incumbencies to his care. Until his last days in this world, even bone-weary due to the advanced age, he remained vigorous in mind and temper, and sought to leave a dignified contribution to the Earthly Kingdom of God.

It was surprising to assess that his various predecessors in the Archiepiscopal throne - barring Gregory of Rome, whose political acumen and personal ambitions made him strive to control the reins of the government as must as to join the armies in campaign - , had neglected the actual administration of the State, deferring it to the Princes of Jerusalem, who had become all too used to rule it as a de facto feudal monarchy. Indeed, the Metropolitans seemed to have become all too consumed by the ecclesiastic or monastic matters, or with judicial arbitration, or simply with living a life of leisure in some pleasurable Mediterranean palace. On the other hand, all of the preceding Princes of Jerusalem, men such as Bohemond of Taranto or Richard of Salerno, were solely concerned with warfare or martial pastimes and cared little for the necessities of political management.

Thusly, the political and legal fabric of the realm had been sewed in ad hoc fashion, to deal with the immediate exigencies of the various peoples that inhabited it, and this explains why the Normans and Provençals had, each, their own customs and ordinances, as did the Bavarians, the Lorrainers, as well as the Venetians, Genoese, Amalfitans and Pisans, all of whom had by-laws to rule their own districts. The Armenians, the Syrians, the Greeks and even the Saracens under Frankish rule all had their own legal systems, usually centered in their proper religious and cultural mores. While Suger understood that these ethnocultural microcosms had to exist in autonomous form to preserve harmony and peace in the Realm, he was concerned with the lack of central norms to discipline concurrent aspects of daily life, such as torts and reparation for wrongdoings, tenure and succession of real estate, contracts and oaths, and usage of violence by Christians, among others.

One situation that brought him dire concern, for example, was the verification that many serfs had abandoned their bondage in Europe, most notably from France and Germany, and established themselves in the Outremer, which, to a man deeply concerned with the idea of a divinely ordained structure of society, caused an intolerable revulsion and had to be repressed. From a more pragmatic stance, however, seeing that, to ensure the perpetuation of the Earthly Kingdom of God, the Outremer ought to have a sizable population of Europeans, Suger issued charters to preserve the prerogatives and rights of free men, lest they might be maltreated by the caprice of the lay princes, or, even, of the more mundane clergymen. With Pope Stephen’s sanction, he attempted to foster immigration from France, because, as per his own words, recorded in one of his many extant letters to the Holy See: “the virtuous and merry souls of the realm of St. Denis and St. Remy ought to bring the plough, the sickle, the hammer, the loom, the brush, the quern, the chisel, as they too ought to bring the sword, the spear and the helmet, so that they can devote the whole of their lives to the service of the Cross in God’s Kingdom”.

While the Latin Outremer had a Chancery ever since its formative years, having been created by a bull of Pope Paschal II in 1103 A.D., the production of official documents in the span of more than fifty years seemed rather scarce, and the various Chancellors who headed it cared little about its affairs. Suger sought to remedy this by appointing various notaries from among the monks of the monasteries of Palestine and Transjordania, and commissioned the production of scores of reams of paper that kept the pulp mills of Damascus busy for successive years, something hitherto unseen in the Latin Outremer. Indeed, now that the dust of the conquest wars had finally settled, the Frankish lay nobility, the Church and the monasteries, as well as the guilds, had accumulated patrimony, estates, cattle, precious goods, money, and had to account for multiple sources of revenue and complex expenses, as well as for the produce and dues of the subjects, a grave concern for those that held suspicious oversight over Oriental Christian or Muslim communities.


The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem saw the Pope as being the sole source of spiritual and temporal authority in the Holy Land, and he would never dare forget that his own position, as that of the lay noblemen, was one of direct subordination. Even if the Kingdom had been actually conquered from the infidels by the force of the arms of the Crusaders, it had been founded in earnest by mandate and assent of the Vicar of Christ. This can be seen by the way that Suger more often than not refers to the lay rulers of the Outremer as “delegates” (advocati or sometimes ministeriales), in detriment of their more preferred titles of feudal significance. Indeed, Suger judged that the Pope was much more than a king who held a feudal contract over his vassals; no, the Pope was a representative of God in Earth, and thus he held ultimate suzerainty over the Christian souls, irrespective of their political roles in the feudal legal context. It seems to frustrate him, though, the fact that the equestrian lords were apparently too obnoxious or too arrogant to adjust to this nuanced dynamic, and insisted in addressing their relationship with the Holy See as being that of a mere seigneurial allegiance; one, in fact, that they had more often than not neglected, seeing that the vast distancement of the Papacy towards the realities of the Frankish Orient allowed them to exercise their own personal dictates according to their own desires. In one of his letters, the Archbishop goes as far as saying that, once the Realm has been thoroughly pacified, and the five sees of the Pentarchy are firmly under Christian government, there might be no need for the presence of a knightly class of nobles, and the defense of the holy sites will be confided to the warrior-monks of the armed fraternities - who, according to Suger, are more earnest and disciplined than the bellicose Crusader warlords.

Suger’s doubtfulness in relation to the Latin-Levantine secular potentates can be understood in the context in which he lived in. Firstly, one can not fail to remember that he hailed from France, a proud kingdom that had de facto fragmented under the rule of various grandees, in Champagne, Anjou, Burgundy, Normandy, Aquitaine, and others, who had grown powerful and tyrannical under the weak government of successive Capetian monarchs. Starting with his original benefactor, King Louis VI, the Kings in Paris would attempt to regain their political strength vis-a-vis the misrule of the great dukes; his successor, King *Phillip II would restore a semblance of dignity to the royal scepter inherited from the Carolingians, but, even then, his overarching ambitions would incite the enmity of his realm’s traditional rivals, England and Germany. Secondly, in the Outremer itself, the Patriarch witnessed various disputes and petty grievances between the lords that, before coming to a solution by arbitration and adjudication, were aggravated by threats of bloodshed and violence. Ever since he arrived in the Outremer, he saw the incumbent Prince of Jerusalem and Duke of Galilee, Raymond II of Caesarea, almost come to blows with his main political adversaries, the Norman magnates that had become the masters of western Syria, chief among them being Tancred of Damascus and Bohemond II of Tyre.

Their hatred and distrust was mutual, and thus the grievances multiplied over the years. Ever since the start of Raymond’s rule as Prince, Bohemond and Tancred contested his election, in an effort to undermine his legitimacy. Even worse, after the fiasco of the German expedition of the later phase of the Second Crusade, the Normans pointed Raymond as a scapegoat to undermine his authority. After all, he had been the Latin-Levantine herald that commanded the Crusader vanguard when they entered the region of the Nile Delta. It was, of course, all too convenient for them to ignore the fact that the causes of the campaign’s failure were related to the poor and uncooperative leadership - unsurprising, considering that the Crusader lieutenants, notably the Dukes of Bavaria and of Swabia, hated one another -, to natural causes, such as epidemics and climate, and to the assertiveness of the Fatimid army, which saw the opportunities to exploit the weakness of the beleaguered Crusader host. In any case, the Normans expected to galvanize the support of the Lombards and of the French and English Normans who had come to the Outremer more recently, and bonded over with the Bohemondine faction due to similar interests and cultural affinities. On the other hand, the Raymondine faction was coherent in their mutual suspicions against the Normans, who, as a collective entity, had grown far too powerful and wealthy after harnessing the riches of Syria, and was stringed together by a network of marital alliances. Thus, the Provençals and allied with the Aquitanians, the Bavarians and the Lorrainers, and this explains why Raymond was quick to bestow his favor over the lords of Beirut, Tortosa, and Tiberias, respectively.

The first point of contention, which forced Suger to intervene and plead for Pope Stephen’s mediation, involved the very definition of the military campaigns that the Latin-Levantine princes should undertake to expand the reach of God’s kingdom. To the Archbishop’s astonishment, barely a couple years after the end of the Second Crusade, Raymond was confabulating with his allies to plan another expedition against the realm of Egypt, in a joint invasion with the Rhōmaîoi, with the purpose of eradicating the Saracen presence in that nation. To Suger’s relief, upon establishing diplomatic contact with Basileus John II Komnenos, the latter made it clear that, having only recently reconquered Armenia, he would not employ his forces against the Fatimid Caliphate - not in the least because, unbeknownst to the Franks, the Caliph, after the end of the German Crusade, forged a secret treaty of Constantinople, accepting to pay tribute in exchange for a long-lasting truce. The Basileus feared the Crusader expansionism, and had his own designs in Egypt, which he considered an integral piece of the Rhōmaîon monarchy. In any event, Suger produced a bull, signed by the then incumbent Pope Victor, that prohibited the Latin-Levantine knights of raising arms or levies against foreigners, even Saracens, unless it served to defend the realm against a hostile incursion. The bull would later be ratified by Pope Stephen X, in response to Suger’s concerns with the preservation of Christian manpower and resources, in a period of remarkable scarcity due to the diminishment of commerce and outbreak of epidemics. The legal precedent was the “Peace and Truce of God” policy adopted by the Catholic Church ever since the early 11th Century, which, in its original conception, served to prevent violence between Christians, and now, surprisingly, was used to prevent violence even against the so-called enemies of the faith.

Needless to say, the Pontifical resolution caused a massive uproar in the Frankish world, dominated as it was by this martial class of knights to whom warfare was not only a fixture or a profession, but a way of life. Even in Europe it saw some criticism, and, in some cases, surprisingly, from those among the clergy, especially in Hispania and in eastern Germany, places where the local Church was frequently involved in the nobles' wars against the Moors and the pagans. In the Outremer, it caused a general sentiment of perplexity, but, seeing that there was disunity among the nobles, no one dared disrespect the Papal determination, lest one might face excommunication and interdict.

Thus, when Count Tancred of Damascus, in 1150, put the rebellious walled town of Denisine [ancient Dionysias/OTL As-Suwayda] to siege, after they refused to pay extortionate tributes, Raymond of Caesarea intervened and, in the pretense of ensuring the compliance to the Papal determinations, mustered his knights to oppose Tancred. This one, realizing that Raymond had his own designs towards the rulership of the region, named by the locals “Hauran”, and by the Franks “Damascanese” - a particularly fertile expanse of populous cities that served the strategic purpose of securing the eastern frontier of the Latin Outremer -, refused to comply, and only deposed arms when he was faced with the coming of the Patriarch himself, accompanied by the Templarians. Raymond did not waste the opportunity, and, presenting himself as a liberator, freed the local Syrian and Saracen communities from their tributes, and granted the rulership of the region, with the seat in the citadel of Adratum [OTL Daraa], to Bernard of Rodez [Bernat de Rodés], young son of the Gascon Count Hugh II of Rodez [Uc de Rodés]. Bernard was created Count, but his rule would remain challenged by the Normans until the end of the 12th Century.

Now, in 1151, when the word spread that Raymond was secretly devising an agreement with the Consul of Genoa to prepare an invasion of the Fatimid province of Cyrenaica - likely in response to the Siculo-Norman raid ordered by Roger of Apulia only three years before -, Tancred of Damascus accused the Prince of sedition and demanded a sanction from the Archbishop. Raymond quickly gave up his plans, but, nevertheless, saw himself humiliated, and his distrust of Tancred grew even more.

Howbeit the Archbishop might, from an institutional point of view, disregard the pretenses of the temporal nobles, seeing them as mere subordinates to the State of the Church established in the Holy Land, he was pragmatic enough to realize, with time, that he could not actually do it in practice, and that the harmony in the realm needed was dependent on the consensus of the nobles and of the legitimacy of his own position. For this reason he, more than any other of the previous Archbishops, often resorted to plead for a direct Papal approbation to sanction his own policies, in an effort to contain the quarrelsome spirit of the barons. Pope Victor had been very sympathetic, but Pope Stephen was an even more dedicated governor, even in absentia. It was certainly this synergy between the Holy See and the Latin Patriarchate that ensured a modicum of stability in the Crusader State in the turbulent years between 1145 and 1160. Inside the Outremer, Suger was very dependent on the support of the Templarians and of the Michaelites to enforce policy in the event of any disobedience.


Circumstances changed greatly after the death of Emperor John II Komnenos, and the accession of his son Manuel. While the deceased Basileus had striven, by diplomacy, to create a modus vivendi between the Crusaders and the declining Shi’ite Caliphate, Manuel dreamed of reenacting the feats of the great conquering emperors of old, from Caesar to Justinian, and saw the weakness of the Fatimid Caliphs as an invitation for a prospective triumph. He knew that the current Vizier, Ibn Maṣāl, was investing vast sums of money of the realm to bolster the armies of the Caliphate, especially by acquiring and training new mamluks to serve as an elite force loyal to the Caliph - and, by extension, to himself as the Vizier -, and, accordingly, he ought to submit the Shi'ites lest they become a force to be reckoned with once again. After all, the Empire had been steadily recovering from the nadir of its fortunes, so it might happen that Fate decreed a Fatimid revival in a near future as well, or so the Komnenoi feared.

While Manuel had qualms about the swift Frankish expansionism in the Levant, he saw them as the lesser evil, and believed it was better to take advantage of the moment to preemptively overtake Egypt, with the assistance of the Latins, which would be very much necessary to ensure the success of a war of conquest. Indeed, Manuel believed that the Franks might be allowed to share of the spoils of victory, but, once Egypt was secured as an Imperial territory once again, it would reaffirm the subordinate and servile position of the Crusaders to the Crown of Constantinople. Seeing that the submission of Egypt was such an immediate necessity, one can assume that perhaps the Basileus feared that the Crusaders might reduce Egypt before the Rhōmaîoi. They lacked the manpower to do so, but, if the realms of Europe joined in another great Crusade, they might indeed humble the Caliphate. If this did happen, Manuel knew that the Crusaders would become the most formidable power in western Asia, and, likely, rival the Empire.

Upon the new Basileus' accession and after his throne was secured, however, Manuel had to look to Armenia still, which would be the cynosure of Constantinople’s eyes during the early years of his reign. The successive destruction of the most powerful Turkic princedoms of the region - the Rûm Seljuqs, the Danishmendids, the Artuqids, the Inalids, and the Shah-Armens, among other smaller beyliks -, in the span of a few decades, coupled with the annexation of the Frankish Duchy of Edessa, left the Empire in a better position in Asia. It was, however, badly overstretched and left without significant buffers against the formidable Emirate of Mosul, whose aggressive expansion jeopardized the Empire's interests. The Komnenoi pursued a policy of in-depth defense; they sought to impose military control of the Armenian provinces to allow, in first place, the economic and demographic replenishment of the Anatolian ones, specially Sebasteia, Lykandos, Coloneia, Charsianon and Armeniac; only then would they direct their efforts to repopulate the countries beyond the Taurus: Melitene, Teluch, Mesopotamia and Armenia proper. It meant, in consequence, that the whole vast country between Edessa and central Armenia - now under the suzerainty of Georgia - became a heavily-fortified and underpopulated frontier with few persistent communities of Armenian, Turcoman, Kurdish and Syrian stock, mostly concentrated in the more remote regions of desert or mountains. The occupation and refortification of strongholds such as Samosata, Kharput [OTL Elazığ] and Edessa [OTL Sanliurfa], now mostly abandoned by the Franks, and Constantia [OTL Viranşehir] and Amida [OTL Diyarbakır], were a strategic boon to Rhōmanía. This cordon of fortified settlements, however, while it could deter an enemy bent on territorial conquest, such as the Mosuli or the Seljuqs, hardly impeded the passage and roaming of the various bands of Turcoman and Kurdish ravagers that infested Jaziria and western Armenia, and regularly advanced into the Imperial provinces bordering the Taurus mountains, as well as into the enlarged Kingdom of Georgia.

The Turcomans might not be an existential threat, because they lacked any organization or even long-term purpose beyond plundering and mayhem, but their very dispersion and unpredictability made them hostile to the harmony of the frontier provinces. Even worse, the Turcomans seemed to be coming in even greater numbers from the periphery of the Islamic world, seemingly attracted by the recent growth of Shams al-Din Ildeniz [OTL Shamseddin Eldigüz], Atabeg of Azerbaijan. A new rival of the Toghtekinids of Mosul, Atabeg Ildeniz “Azam” (i.e. the Great) would achieve prominence in the twilight generations of the Seljuq monarchy, and is fated to become the most powerful of the Islamic potentates in western Persia. In the years of 1156 and onward, he was dedicated to the jihad against the Georgians, and his far-reaching promises of plunder and conquest attracted many adventurers among the Turkic tribes. Many others came to Jaziria to serve under the banner of Emir Shihab ad-Din Muhammad [Şehābüddīn Mahmud], the successor of Sayf al-Islam, and were encouraged to raid deep into Rhōmaiōn Armenia. In the 1160s, Ildeniz would impose himself as a de facto power-behind-the-throne in relation to the weakened Seljuq dynasts and commandeer a vast part of Persia and Mesopotamia in a series of wars against Mosul, Georgia, Fars and Khwarezm.

While the rise and fall of the Eldiguzids, and the feats and deeds of their progenitor Shams al-Din Ildeniz, will be of minor relevance in our Chronicle, because they were never fated to meet the Crusaders in war or peace, they are worth mentioning for two reasons. Firstly, because it was his agency that resulted in the proliferation of the Turcoman warbands in the late 1150s and over the whole of the 1160s in Armenia, a factor that resulted in an even more aggravated diaspora by the Armenians, whose scores of families migrated to the Crusader State, to the Kingdom of Georgia, and to Rhōmaiōn Cilicia. Secondly, because the instability of the region made Basileus Manuel beseech military support of the Franks, and this in turn produced another chain of events relevant to describe in this passages.

By the end of the 1150s, the Papal “Peace of God” in the Outremer was conveniently and silently abandoned - even Metropolitan Suger knew that it was unsustainable as a policy, because it would be seen, by their enemies, as a demonstration of weakness. He did dream with an Earthly Kingdom that mirrored a paradise of peace and virtuousness, but he knew too that, against the infidels, God’s princedom had to be protected by the swords of sinful warriors.

Even then, Suger might have only reluctantly authorized a Latin-Levantine expedition to Armenia, to assist the Rhōmaiōn against the Turcomans. If Manuel indeed needed Frankish assistance, it is doubtful; the Tagmata alone might suffice to contain such a threat. Yet, it seems that his objective, if we can infer that from the account of John Kinnamos Grammaticus, was to ensure that the Crusaders were committed to the causes of the Empire, in the holy wars against the infidels, as per their various agreements established and ratified ever since the First Crusade, and not solely to their own agenda of dominating the Holy Land and Syria. Perhaps Manuel wanted to force the Franks to make good of their promises of allegiance, as should any vassal do towards their liege.

As it happened, then, according to John Kinnamos, the Doux Frangoi, recently bestowed with the honorific of Megas Konostaulos [lit. “Great Constable”], went to campaign in the seasons of 1159 and 1160 in the former lands of Edessa. It is likely that Prince Raymond either did not actually venture there, or, if he did, it was solely in its initial phase, because, in later events, he is already found in Syria. It was his son, in fact - Raymond-Jordan -, that commanded the Franco-Oriental army, likely joined by his allies of Bavarian Tortosa.

It is conspicuous that the contemporary Latin and Greek sources give scant detail to the fact that the Franks and Rhōmaiōn suffered a significant tactical reversal while assailing the fortified settlement of al-Ḩasakah. Niketas Choniates, writing fifty years after the event, attributes the victory to the “Scythians that ruled Armenia”, which could refer to the Emirate of Mosul or even the Shah-Armens, considering that, in the very first year of the reign of King George III of Georgia (1156), they staged a large rebellion against him, likely supported by Mosul. The more contemporary account of Ibn al-Qalanisi, then living in exile in Baghdad after the Frankish conquest of Damascus, commemorates the victory against the Franks by the “ghazi” that expelled the “polytheists” definitely from Jaziria. In context, the name ghazi usually refers to the independent Turcoman or Kurdish groups that rampaged through this conflagrated frontier.

The defeat was, in any case, a momentous one and tarnished the impressive record of successes of the Christians in the region. After this, Manuel Komnenos became more seriously committed to a series of punitive expeditions in the region over the course of the next five years, and sometimes even led the army in person to war against the Turcomans, the Shah-Armens and the Emirate of Mosul. Manuel also reinforced the bonds of alliance by marrying his cousin Andronikos into the House of Bagrationi. Manuel then assisted his ally King George III in quenching the rebellion of the Shah-Armens and Turcomans against his rule, resulting in the execution of Nāṣir al-Dīn Sökmen II, and the extinction of the Ahlatshahs.

On the side of the Franks, the casualties were significant, and, to the Prince of Jerusalem, particularly severe. His son and heir Raymond-Jordan was captured with other Latin-Levantine knights, and was given as a prisoner to Mosul, where he would languish for two years in captivity.


Notes and comments: the mention about Suger commissioning the production of paper seems a gratuitous one, but it is a nod to the fact that the middle to late 12th Century saw the gradual shift from the usage of parchment to that of paper, whose fabrication had been mastered by the Muslims. Considering that the Levant is in immediate contact with the Islamic world and that, according to the wiki, Damascus had its own paper industry. I figured that the first real contact of the Europeans with paper ought to happen in the Outremer.

I admit I had my doubts in relation to the idea that the Papacy would actually foster a period of truce with the Muslims. While it does seems out of character for the Crusaders, I believe it wouldn't be too far-fetched if we consider that OTL Saint Bernard was very reluctant to preach the Papal summon of the Second Crusade. It seems that he, for some time, had some qualms towards the idea of Crusading, as did some of his contemporaries. ITTL, certainly preoccupied with Suger's assessment of the situation in the Outremer. The region is experiencing an economic and demographic recession, and, as we have briefly touched in the penultimate chapter, more tropical epidemics such as typhus and yellow fever are starting to take their toll on the Latin-Levantine communities, as they are seeing, even in the middle of the 12th C., a much greater influx of immigrants and visitors than IOTL, now that the overland route of Asia is much more safer than it was historically, dominated as it was by the Rûm Seljuqs.

IOTL, Manuel Komnenos married firstly to Bertha of Sulzbach and, after her death, to Maria of Antioch. While Bertha should exist ITTL, her significance in the world stage is non-existent, because her historical father-in-law, Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III, never comes to power. Seeing that the Welfs had no suitable royals to marry into the Komnenoi dynasty, and considering that the Komnenoi are seeking a more significant rapprochement with the Kingdom of Georgia, I figured that it would make sense for Manuel to marry with Rusudan, considering that her historical marriage with Mas'ud Seljuq was in the same timeframe of Manuel's historical marriage to Bertha of Sulzbach. This is particularly relevant, because it means that Manuel's progeny will likely be different from that he sired IOTL.

Barring Bohemond II of Tyre (who is not an actual Hauteville) and Tancred of Damascus, most of the other characters mentioned in this chapter are historical.
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Unlike other TLs this one's updates are large enough to leave the reader satisfied yet detailed and intriguing enough to make them also eager for more.

I wonder what the real long term effects this will have in the Anatolian and Armenian plateau. Could an Eastern Rome free of the Turk threat in time shift into a geopolitical force similar to the later Ottomans?
@Fire and shadow - See the post threadmarked between Chapters 48 and 49. That should give an approximate idea. Sadly, I don't have a map of the current situation. If you don't mind looking up a bit, I'll refer you to the use of Google Earth or Maps to have a more accurate picture, based on the toponyms mentioned in-TL. For the time being, I'm in a dire need of maps too.

@EmperorOfTheNorthSea - thanks for the compliment!

On the ERE, I'm not really sure. As I mentioned in other posts in the thread, the TL is focused in the Crusader State, and, as I see it, the ERE is needed to be strong enough to deter more powerful Islamic threats, but not powerful enough that the existence of the Crusader State itself becomes irrelevant to the Empire. I mean, if the ERE becomes strong as the Ottomans ITTL, why should they coexist with the *KoJ/CS?? The Ottomans were the masters of the whole eastern Mediterranean, and the Romans, if they had their resources and manpower, would certain attempt, in the least, a restoration of Justinian's borders. They might not extinguish the Crusader State, but would certainly undo their sovereignty and impose an actual vassalization.

In its current form, in the hands of the most capable Komnenoi Emperors, the empire is getting back in shape somewhat, but it lacks the strength to completely destroy the alt-KOJ, and thus a detente is needed to ensure the well-being of the Empire too. Now, not even the Komnenoi were immune or above the endemic dynastic wars or usurpations that plagued its internal stability. It is this sort of issues that should prevent them from becoming an existential threat to the Franks in the Outremer.

@JohnSmith - Well, now I see that I forgot to mention that Manuel's marriage to the Georgian princess Rusudan should actually be dated to 1145 or 1146, well before his accession to the throne. As I said in the footnotes of the chapter, his progeny will certain be different from IOTL, considering that none of his historical marriages happened. Historical Manuel had seven children, most of them illegitimate, but this points out that he was somewhat "fertile", while I couldn't find any mentions about historical Rusudan having children in any of her three marriages. Considering, though, that she lived well into her eighties, and having no reason to suspect that she was infertile, I'll be working with the premise that, by the time of his coronation, in the middle of the 1150s, Manuel should have one or two children. In any case, he will most certainly be succeeded by a male heir, who will be an alternate Alexios II Komnenos.

EDIT: considering @JohnSmith's question, I edited the chapter to leave it a bit more clear about Manuel's marriage and progeny. By the 1158, he already has a son, named Alexios too.
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EDIT: considering @JohnSmith's question, I edited the chapter to leave it a bit more clear about Manuel's marriage and progeny. By the 1158, he already has a son, named Alexios too.

All kidding aside, it’s great the succession is much more secure with an adult heir and an orthodox mother versus an underaged hated Latin regency.
Surely Andronikos inclusion was very purposeful so it looks like the Roman’s relatively smooth ride will be ending soon.
The Komnenoi could barely handle the Turks. Here they're in stronger position but messing too much with the Crusader States invites the attention of the western powers who by this time are certainly equals of the Byzantines.
What is the present status of Edessa? I remember the Turks taking it (though I may be misremembering) and then it being retaken by Christians, but I can't remember who took it (Byzantium, Jerusalem, or independent Count of Edessa). Or is it still Muslim-held?

In any case, very enjoyable timeline. I look forward to the future Crusader shenanigans.
The truce does appear to be an odd one. It seems in line with what wouls in the modern day be seen as being good cheek-turning Christians, so it does appear those values were present in that time, albeit less emphasized given how this declaration rare as to seem out of place in the high middle ages.
I really love this story! Keep on writing.

As a Belgian, I'm curious if we're gonna see more of the Count of Flanders. Theoderic/Thierry of Flanders and his heir Philip are really interesting characters. Also curious if the County gets fucked over as much as it did in OTL or if the counts are able to regain much of the territory they lost to other rulers/the French kings. (counties of Boulogne, Artois, Guines,...)
Looks like some cracks are starting to appear in the Roman-Crusader relationship.....

The Komnenoi's efforts to create a solid defensive infrastructure will reaps benefits in the future. Western Anatolia is still one of the richest, most prosperous regions, and protecting them from Turkoman raids will enable them to develop even further.

In terms of demographics and resources who are the top dogs in Europe and the Levant? The Romans have almost restored the Empire of Basil II so I'd expect them to be high up there, but of course that'll change in the Crusaders conquer Egypt, Cairo and Damascus will be a potent combination.....
God I hope that Manuel doesn’t fuck up like he did IOTL. Or that Andronikos doesn’t get up to any of funny business this time around.

And what happened to that daughter of Bohemond? Surely she can’t be dead already.
Hey, my folks.

There has been quite some time I don't post here, or in the Forum generally (although I like to enter sometimes to see the threads on the pre-1900 section).

This time, here, I'm bringing some unfortunate news. Me and my wife had been expecting our first son since March, and he was born in the 22nd of October. Two days later, however, without ever leaving the hospital, he passed away. The circumstances were very traumatic, even more because we were surprised and appalled by the occurrence; he had been a very healthy child, and all the tests we did during pregnancy suggested he would be very well. We even have a grave and serious suspicion that his deceasing might have occurred due to medical errors during his period in the intensive care. In any case, me and my wife have decided to avoid dwelling or obsessing with the causes or the circumstances of his death, and to look forward to our future as a couple and to plan, in the future, for another pregnancy.

As you can imagine, his passing devastated us, and the past weeks, since the end of October, have been ones of mourning. We have been devoting ourselves to produce our own well-being, together with our families and loved ones, so we can find release from this sorrow. Right now we are on my mother-in-law's home, and by Christmas we'll be on my parents house to pass holidays.

Writing is a passion of mine, one I've been devoting myself too since I was young, from my 13 or 14 years of age, or so. This is, then, about half of my lifetime, as I'm nearing the 30s. And dedicating myself to this passion project that has been constructing this fictional world in this TL has been extraordinary, and is a project that I intend to see fulfilled as long as I have this sense of purpose and creativity to go on. However, right now, in this moment, I simply lack the physical and mental energy to continue. I do intend to resume writing some day near today; perhaps, with luck, some new update can be forwarded. However, I'll only do this if I genuinely believe I'm in a proper state of mind to sit down, write and conceive a good story. If it is not the case, I'll not do it, and I'll then prefer to postpone it to another opportunity, to when I'm actually feeling better about doing it, because I'd rather wait to create the best story I can write than to simply throw up a bad one.

Now, its a funny thing. I don't know anyone here by your real names, or faces, and neither where you live and how are your daily lives. But here in this Forum I have a genuine sense of community, of shared passion and of belonging, so much that I wanted to talk about this and, perhaps, this might even make me feel a little bit better in what has been the worst moments of my life. For anyone that has suffered through the loss of a loved one, I say too that I feel your pain and heartbreak, and hope that everywhere else, with those that you love, you too can find peace and comfort and can rediscover this ultimate meaning of life: that is to live with love, to give and to receive, and to appreciate the precious moments, short as they might be.
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