1296, Pt.1
1296, Pt.1

Preparations for a raid on the Slave Coast began in earnest in late February. The most vulnerable target was decided to be Soúldaía, which was located in a small cove along a difficult coast that would make any overland relief efforts nigh-on impossible, as well as being the primary Mamluke transport center, meaning it had a high density of men of fighting age. The closer port of Ealitia was passed upon due to the difficult currents in the water surrounding city, but would still need to be blockaded to prevent any interceptions of the returning transports.

With the target selected, logistical preparations began. Your typical mixed galley/hulk of the late 13th century had a crew of twenty and could carry a landing/boarding party of roughly fifty men, seventy if there was no need for supplies. There were sixty or so galleys and hulks, a mixture of native and foreign merchantmen, riding at anchor on the Propontís at the current moment, and if they were to successfully storm the port they would need to occupy twenty or so (~1,000) ships with the landing party, leaving space for about 2,000 slaves to be loaded on. This wasn’t as big of a group as Aléxios had originally hoped for, and so it was decided that they would have to take only men of fighting age.

While Soúldaía did have the most dense grouping of such persons, it was still entirely possible that things could go wrong and the strike force could land in the wrong part of the port. As such, in early March a small diplomatic mission was sent to the Lord Mayor (I don’t know the Italian term, sorry) of Soúldaía, consisting entirely of a group of Turcopoles dressed as Egyptians. This mission claimed to be sent from Cairo to purchase 2,000 men of fighting age. Due to some new, vaguely defined sailing technique, the slaves needed to be put out on the plains west of the city for pickup. While the Genoese were understandably suspicious, the large down payment (borrowed from Latin bankers via some fraudulent dealings involving the Serbs) given to him convinced the Lord Mayor to agree to do so. The date for the pick-up was arranged to be 29 March.

The party returned to the capital and the basileus issued a khrysobull impressing all the merchantmen in the harbor for the expedition. Volunteers were taken from the Imperial allagia and loaded onto the most durable-looking of the ships, while the rest of the vessels were ordered into a loose formation and pointed north. The expedition held a divided command, with the vessels being commanded by the Drungary of the Fleet Iōánnés Doúkomoúzálōn and the infantry being commanded by an unknown cousin of the Kantakoúzēnoi. They launched on 24 March.

However, things soon went south when the fleet was caught in a bad squall smack dab in the middle of the Black Sea. While none of the ships were lost, several were damaged and Doúkomoúzálōn was faced with quite the difficult decision: Carry on to make the contact on time, or slow down to not risk losing ships. He chose the latter. This slowed the voyage down considerably, Soúldaía only coming into view on 3 April, and unsurprisingly when they came into view of the shore, the coast was denuded and port’s defenses raised. The delay had raised enough suspicion for the Genoese to overcome their love of money and instead draw up their defences, even further complicating the raid.

Doúkomoúzálōn ordered his ships to move forward at 12:00, circle the port outside of ballistae range while he tried to decide what course of action to take. After staring at the fortress overlooking the harbor for the better part of the hour, the drungary ordered any of the sailors or marines who had experience in climbing onto one of the more durable galleys. When the formation next came to the side of the harbor closest to the fortress this galley broke away from the pack and made a beeline for the fortress, coming under heavy fire as it did so. However, the lead rods crashing down amidships didn’t stop the galley before it slid under the shadow of the headland the fortress rested upon. Safe from fire, the soldiers and sailors then piled out onto the rocky coast and began to pick their way up the the face of the headland. Fifteen minutes after the initial landing the first soldiers scrambled up on to the ramparts, beginning an intense melee combat.

With the soldiers in the fortress distracted and no longer firing on them, Doúkomoúzálōn ordered his ships to begin an attack run against the port. Rushing up through the shallow water the prows of the troopships made contact with the walls and raised ladders against them, scrambling up the rungs onto the wall. They were surprisingly sparsely defended, as most of the garrison had gone to guard the slave pens in fear of a slave uprising. The Rhōmans quickly secured the gates and threw them open, entering the city. This was done in clear view of the slave pens, and the luckless northerners began to riot against the guards, savage fighting occurring between both the guards and captives and captives who just didn’t like each other. The Rhōmans were unable to establish order for the better part of an hour, before one of the higher-ranking officers stumbled into a Livonian chieftain named Namejs (transliterated in Rhōman as Námekhsios) who happened to be the generally-recognized head of the Baltic slaves.

Namejs and his followers scrambled to board the transport ships, starting a rush for the ships amongst the less bitter slaves. The Rhōmans tried to limit the boarders to men, but naturally some slipped through the cracks. Suddenly, as the chaotic loading carried on, ballistae rounds began falling once again, the Genoese on the fortress having beaten back their attackers. Doúkomoúzálōn sounded a general retreat and the galleys and hulks, almost universally overloaded with desperate persons, began to pull back piecemeal. By 3:00 the last of the ships were beating their way back for home, carrying nearly 3,500 people. The troopships had been overrun with the panicking crowd, and every ship was overloaded, some so badly so that they could barely move.

It seems that God must’ve been watching over the returning ships, because even a slight stom would’ve sent half of the makeshift armada to the bottom, and it was only a windless afternoon that kept the dispatch ships from Soúldaía becalmed and unable to summon reinforcements. After nearly a week at sea and dozens of death by dehydration the ships limped into the capital, and the analysis of the losses were taken.

Of the 900 Rhōman soldiers and 1200 sailors of various origins who had embarked, only 650 and 800, respectively, came back. Of the 3,000 odd liberated slaves, about 2100 were men of ‘fighting age’ (14 to 34) with the rest being an odd mix of women, children and a few elderly. The unusually high number of men given the unselective manner of boarding was probably because the elderly and sickly hadn’t been given food or water, and some of the weaker had even been thrown off of the ships during the hurried withdrawal.

While the non-combatants were shoved in shoddy temporary housing in the suburbs, the men were promised land and wives if they fought for the throne. Most agreed, and on 14 April the first four allagia of the Eleutheroi began their training. Only having to supply food and gear rather than pay, it was a very cost-effective process.

However, [Removed for Historical Inaccuracy].
 
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The alternative, they said, was war.
War with Genoa. That would be interesting. Could the Romans see victory and take some Genoese controlled territory, or would Genoa give the empire a thrashing?
The most vulnerable target was decided to be Soúldaía
Where is Souldaia exactly, if you don't mind. Did a quick Google search and one of the results on the first page was actually a link to this TL, interestingly.
 
Ahem.

It has come to my attention that the Genoese were in fact in a minor civil war in 1296 and were unable to even muster a fleet against the Venetians when they raided Corsica. The draft that I just wrote is in fact worthless, and will need to be re-written. Please stand by.
 
You could say they chose that moment, and that target because they were aware the Genoese were way too busy to do or say anything to them.
 
1296, Pt.2: The Eleutheroi in Brief
1296, Pt.2

The Eleutheroi:

As previously mentioned, the reason for the regiment’s creation was to create a standing army loyal only to the basileus and motivated to fight because they would win their freedom by doing so. Little expense (past their, uh, ‘recruitment’) was to be spared, as most of the state’s meager funds were poured into the conditioning of the new force, with the end goal being the creation of an extremely powerful unit capable of facing off any force of equal or near size, be they Latin, Mongol or Turk. As such, the training and discipline methods for the new soldiers were suitably draconian, albeit effective.

The training period that the Eleutheroi underwent was, at the time, longer than that of any other state in the known world, perhaps bar those of the soldiers of the Delhi Mamluks or some Japanese feudal lord. This period lasted 16 months (1⅓ of a year), a slimmed down version of the old tagmatic training period. The reason for this was rather obvious; They were supposed to be the best soldiers in the Rhōman world, and Aléxios firmly believed such a long delay in training was worth the increased quality of the soldiery.

Over the course of these sixteen months, the Eleutheroi were to be trained to fight as heavy infantry, with shields, spears and swords, as shock troops, with shields and axes, and finally as mounted archers. No attention was given to light infantry or heavy cavalry, as those were to be supplied by the akritoi (militia) and nobility, respectively. Instead, they were extensive trained in the above three combat disciplines, with four months being given to heavy infantry combat, four to shock combat, and eight to archery. Once again, this was in the model of the old tagmata that had flourished during the golden era. Like the old tagmata, they were to form the core of a campaigning army, with the bulk being made up of part-timers.

The panoply of these men were suitably immense for a professional force; Each soldier had an iron helmet, a lamellar chestplate and greaves over a tunic, with pants to be worn on campaigns into Europe. Kite shields, their other defense, were standardized (or as standardized as they could be with late 13th century techniques) at five feet long and two feet across at the widest point. They were armed with a shortened kontaria spear, stretching 9½ feet long, a long, one-handed sword called the paramerion, and a one-handed axe called the tzikouria. They also had a horse assigned to each individual and a small recurve bow (toxon) and quiver, used more often for transport than for riding into combat.

The corps of the Eleutheroi was commanded by a protostrategoi (currently Nikēphóros) who lead the first allagion directly and indirectly the other three. The lower three allagia were led by isostrategoi, who commanded the first hundred (ekaton) of each of their allagia. Each ekaton was lead by an ekatostrategos. Each ekaton was then further subdivided into five units of twenty, the kontoubernioi, and were lead by a kontoubernarkh.
 
1296, Pt.3
You could say they chose that moment, and that target because they were aware the Genoese were way too busy to do or say anything to them.
I'll fix it when I get some free time.

1296, Pt.3

Less than a month after the return of the raiding parties, a frantic messenger galloped into the Imperial City. This rider was from Smyrnē, and had been sent by Aléxandros Sábbastikētis, who had left in command of the two allagia that had remained in the Maíandros a year and a half previous. While the emperor had been off wrestling power away from the Palaiológoi in Europe, Sábbastikētis had been fighting a losing war against the Turks, and his forces and defenses had been so badly depleted that he feared that he would not be able to turn back the fall raids. He needed reinforcements if the Thrákēsion’s defenses were to be maintained, and he needed them before the fall harvest.

Aléxios began marshalling reinforcements to aid the Thrákēsion, gathering the Bulgarian exiles who had taken up refuge in the capital and recruiting from the ranks of the landless Thrákēoi peasants. Within a month he had two allagia of mixed quality--a hard ‘meh’ in terms of experience and discipline--and with the veteran allagia he planned to send with the new units that would increase the defenders of the region by half. However, there was still the issue of command; the emperor went back and forth on leading the unit himself versus giving command to one of his generals, most likely Psarímárkos. Aléxios wanted to return to his old province, but most of his advisors feared that him leaving the capital would give Grēgórios an opportunity to amass power for himself at the expense of the emperor. He was still bound on accompanying the force, but the day before he was supposed to leave he was injured in a shooting accent and wound up with his sword-arm in a sling. Psarímárkos was appointed to the command and departed the city on 28 May.

Arriving in the Thrákēsion in late July, the new arrivals were quickly re-configured into more arrow-resistant marching formations, to reduce the most common cause of death while fighting against the Turks. They proved themselves able combatants less than a month after their re-assignment when they turned back a sizable, out of season raid in mid-August. They, alongside the provincial soldiers, were able to prevent the Turks from making major inroads into the river valleys, most of the actions occurring in the surrounding hills. It was while maneuvering through the mountains east of Philadélpheia that the Bulgarian unit made a surprising discovery.

While camping on the shore of a small lake, one of the soldiers, supposedly named Altimir, slips in the dark mud and landed on his face. Standing up, he braces his arm against a small rock partially concealed in the muck. When the mud falls off he recognizes the glint of gold. While the unit lacks the equipment to do any excavation, the location is marked before they move on. When a mining expedition was dispatched the next year, they would find one of the most productive mines in all of Anatolia and one which would ultimately help fund a reconquest.

However, things were not all victories and gold mines for the Empire in 1296. When the basileus had announced the reduction in number and status of court titles at that year’s Easter mass, it had set off a wave of discontent amongst the pronoiai. After all, if the emperor was going to try and revoke their rights, where else would he start. While many hesitated to take direct action, there was a small group of determined nobles who set about plotting an assassination.

The former group was composed of a small group of conspirators, most likely less than two dozen, who were primarily from the European side of the Propontís. Most were from the lower nobility (read, paroikoi who were barely able to afford their own homes), but at least three were major landholders. No one’s quite sure why it was composed primarily of lower nobles, as it was the upper nobility who were most threatened, but the fact of the matter was that it was. The leader of the plot, Geōrgios Kabásilas, was able to bribe a servant in the palace to leave a door open in the kitchens. On the night of 12 August Kabásilas and three co-conspirators crept in through the unlocked door, planning to assassinate the basileus in his sleep. However, they never got farther than the servant’s quarters because, in a stroke of pure luck, all entrances to the building were sealed and the building subject to an extensive search.

While Aléxios had been returning from a ride with only a single escort a few minutes previous, a mentally unstable priest named Iōánnés Drimys had leapt out from a crevice in the wall, stabbed the guard through the neck and tried to do the same to the emperor. He stabbed Aléxios in the chest but the dagger bounced off a rib and fell from his hand. The two grappled for several minutes before the basileus repeatedly slammed the would-be assassin’s head into the wall, killing him. The sound had brought more guards, and the emperor was hustled away to an outlying monastery while the palace was sealed and searched.

Kabásilas and his allies were captured. Torture was unable to loosen their lips, but after a day of bargaining one of them, a minor bureaucrat named Mikhaēl Koúrkoúas told all in exchange for his family being able to keep their possessions and his sentence being reduced to being exiled to a monastery. The other conspirators in the capital were then swiftly arrested and blinded, but a delay in communications allowed several of the plot members in the provinces to escape with their lives and moveable property. Most notably, the affluent Aléxios Leontárēs was able to flee to Thessalia with several thousand in currency, then move further on to Epiros before he could be extradited.

In the aftermath of the close call, the first Protokrypteros, one of Grēgórios’s lackeys and a well-connected nobleman named Nikētas Xanthópoúlos, was sacked in favor of one of Aléxios’ loyalists, Geōrgios Tágaris. Tágaris embarked on a ruthless campaign of intrigue against the enemies of the basileus (and his own). Tágaris not only exposed another assassination plot, he also uncovered a fermenting coup amongst the ranks of the army, whose leader was, ‘co-incidentally’, standing between his brother and a promotion. While he was no doubt working for his own good, there was evidence to support that at least most of the rings he uncovered were legitimate. The largest of these, with nearly sixty members, made a failed attempt on the emperor’s life in October, thankfully being averted before they even got to the palace. The lands of the conspirators--whether or not they actually were conspiring against the throne--were seized for the throne, once again bolstering the state’s treasury.

However, this period ended suddenly in early 1297, when a rider arrived from Andrónikos Tarkhaneiotes in Lárissa. The Latins, more specifically Prince Floris of Achaea, had crossed the Gulf of Corinth with a sizeable force and was moving north.

(By the way, there really was a mentally unstable priest named Iōánnés Drimys who tried to kill the emperor in 1305. Unfortunately, he was caught before he could get a shot at Andrónikos.)
 
1297, Pt.1
Look, if y'all aren't going to comment I'm going to have to start breaking into your houses and stealing your tonsils.

1297, Pt.1

In order to understand the course and effects of the Thessalian Campaign of 1297, you need to understand the historical context behind it.

As everyone reading this knows, in 1204 (well, technically it was 1203, but few care) the Fourth Crusade was derailed by the Venetians and took out Kōnstantînoúpoli instead of Cairo. Rhōmaíōn exploded in a massive fireball, so to speak, with Imperial remnants forming around Nikaia, Trapezoús, Arta, and, briefly, Kórinthos. However, the Latin knights weren’t content with the lands they had first taken from the Rhōmaíōi and they spread out throughout the former empire like an ever-spreading layer of gray-goo. In 1205 Boniface of Montferrat conquered Thessaloníkē, and following this his knights rode south. They stormed through Thessalia, Boiōtía and Attikē, where they were welcomed as liberators by the locals, who had recently been conquered by the ill-tempered Despot of Kórinthos, Léōn Sgoúrós. The Latins defeated Sgoúrós in several battles, ultimately treeing him in the citadel of Kórinthos, where he held out for five more years. After reducing the powers of Kórinthos, the Latins then carried on further into the interior of the Mōriá, defeating the Despots of Arkadía, Lakōnía and Monemvasía in a string of battles. With the local nobility either dead or fled, Guillame d’Champlitte declared himself the Prince of Achaea.

Now, you might ask, why did I go on a tangent about the foundation of the Principality of Achaea? Its history doesn’t seem that relevant, and I could’ve found all that out with fifteen minutes on Wikipedia. Good question, schizophrenic voices. It was because I was trying to illustrate a point, namely that Latin heavy cavalry can easily power through Rhōmaíōi infantry, and thus the primarily foot-based armies of both Thessalia and the Empire needed to fight them on uneven ground, because they would be smashed into splinterwood if they tried to fight on the plains. In hindsight, it would’ve been easier to just say that outright, but I’m not deleting my last half hour of work.

Anyway, as the close of the 13th Century drew near, the Principality of Achaea was in a state of flux. A nominal vassal of the King of Naples, it had gained a degree of autonomy after the Sicilian Vespers, leaving the Princess of Achaea, Isabella d’Villehardouin, effectively to her own devices. However, since the Middle Ages were just ever so slightly sexist, her husband held most of the power. She was currently married to a Walloon nobleman named Floris d’Hainault, a veteran mercenary who had spent his reign trying to legitimize himself by warring with the Rhōmaíōi. He had retaken Kalamáta, just up the coast from Coron-Modon (the westernmost finger of the Pelopponese) in 1293, and raided into Lakōnía in 1295. However, since there was no army in Lakōnía to challenge him because of Theódōros’ Revolt, Floris began searching for another target.

One soon presented itself. Back in 1294, Andrónikos Tarkhaneiōtēs had beaten Guy d’l’Roche, Duke of Athens, in battle. (Or at least that was the common belief. Mikhaēl Ylavãs’ role seems to have been entirely forgotten). By invading Thessalia and defeating Tarkhaneiōtēs, he could not only legitimize himself via victory in battle, but also one-up his neighbor and possibly receive an invitation from the Athenian barons to take Guy’s throne.

In late 1296, Floris began amassing forces outside of Pátra. While many of his vassals were more than a little reluctant to back him, he was able to persuade the barons Hugues d’Caritena and Renaud d’Veligourt to join him. With the forces of Karytaina and Damala, respectively, backing him, Floris could muster a grand total of 400 knights and men-at-arms, several dozen of which were would-be crusaders, and roughly 1500 levymen.

With the aid of some coerced fisherman, Floris made the monumentally poor decision to cross the Gulf of Kórinthos in winter. Somehow, he managed to make it to the far coast with most of his ships intact and, on 11 December, landed on the plains west of the port city of Galaxeídi. The city’s defenses were undermanned because it was assumed that no one would be stupid enough to cross the Gulf in winter and the city’s Éparkhos surrendered to the Latins rather than face (and most likely lose) an unexpected siege. The city was swiftly occupied and a skeletal garrison installed in her citadel before the Achaeans continued north.

A shepherd, one Mattathías tōn Penteória, saw the Latins land and raced north, using small mountain roads and valleys to reach Salona on the 14th. There he warned the fortresses’ commander of the approaching Latin army, giving the Salonans time to prepare for a siege and send riders north to Lárissa. Because tōn Penteória was far from a trained scout he drastically overestimated the size of the invading force, and as such the rider sent to Andrónikos reported an attacking force three times larger than there was in reality. When the Latins arrived outside of the city on the 18th the commander realized the mistake he had made, but by then it was too late to call back the rider because of the siege.

Word of the invasion reached Lárissa on 25 December, leading the Despot to remark that “This Christ-Mass is but the second worst that I have felt.” He in turn dispatched a courier to the capital asking for, then set about gathering an army to meet the invaders. The initial reports but the number of Latins at 6,000, with over a thousand of those being knights. All of Thessalia in arms could barely hope to match that, and he would need reinforcements from the north to see them off. That would take time, and so he would most likely be forced to limit himself to harassment attacks on the Latins. As such, he raised three allagia of medium cavalry and marched south. He approached Salona in late February and began to bleed the Latins, ambushing foraging expeditions and raiding the outskirts of the enemy camp. However, from his behavior Floris understood that he (Andrónikos) thought that he was outnumbered, and labored to make him continue to believe this. Fighting nimble cavalry in the warren of hills and valleys surrounding Salona would be a death sentence, and so he needed to take the city quickly and with minimal losses.

On 3 April, the catapults that had been erected outside of the city (The Latins were barbarians in every sense of the word, but by God could they lay siegeworks) switched from firing stones to firing baled straw. Confused, the garrison remained on the walls for several hours while they tried to figure out why they were having their own crops being hurled at them. The amount of foodstuffs thrown up to them could extend the siege for several weeks. The whole thing was very strange.

And then they started throwing embers.

The dry straw caught and fire raced across that section of the walls. Men trampled each other as they struggled to get to the stairwells. In the chaos, the Latins got multiple siege ladders onto the wall and doused the fire with a primitive bucket brigade. They then fanned out through the town, looting, raping and killing as they went. The gates were opened and the rest of the army flooded in.

Floris now had the city, but there was still the Thessalian cavalry to deal with in the hills beyond the wall. He couldn’t stay there--there were almost certainly reinforcements coming--and penetrating twenty miles into enemy territory in four months was hardly the kind of impressive victory he needed. He would need to keep moving forward, but how? He would be pinned down and destroyed the second his army left the city.

On the 8th of April, Andrónikos’ scouts spotted a large column moving west out of Salona. The Despot maneuvered his cavalry to form an ambuscade along the north-western road near the town of Prosēlion. The column arrived in the town on 11 April and the Thessalians sprung from their ambush, coming screaming down the mountainside in a storm of arrows. But when they actually reached the column they found not dead Latins but instead a group of blind, tongueless Greeks chained together.

Floris had taken the male Salonans, shackled them together and then mutilated them so they would not be able to alert their countrymen, then shuffled them out of the city under a light escort to draw attention away from his own breakout the following night. Cold, but effective. By the time the Thessalians became wise to his plan the Latins had already force-marched all the way to the formerly Latin castle of Graviá, located on the Phthiēan plain. Floris had successfully escaped the labyrinth of valleys and was now on grounds of his choosing.

However, he was still not where he entirely wanted to be. While the Phthiēan was rich, it was still less so than the Malian Plain, which lay three day’s march over the mountains to the north. It was also a major Thessalian stronghold, and by threatening it he could force the Thessalians to battle. The only problem was getting there; The route involved spending several nights in the mountains, where he would once again be vulnerable. In order to make it he needed to slow his enemy ground.

After over two weeks of planning, he had developed a strategy. On 27 April the Latins marched out from Graviá and moved directly north, seemingly making a break for the passes. Tarkhaneiōtēs, cautious but optimistic, sends a large force after him to continue the harassment. The next day the Latins moved up to Mprálos, in the foothills of the mountains, and Andrónikos took the bait. Once again he rushed his men forward to lay an ambuscade, but in doing so he left his baggage train with a minimal escort. While the wagons were fording the Kifēsōs River, the Latin rearguard which had stayed behind in the city fell upon them and burned it, crippling the Thessalian supply train.

Andrónikos suddenly found himself in an untenable position, with his forces cut off from their food. He ordered his horsemen back to keep them supplied while another supply train was cobbled together from the local’s resources. During this window of time, the Latins successfully crossed the mountains and descended onto the Malian Plain, where they ravaged the fertile plains for several days. Finally, on 4 May, the Thessalians crossed the mountains in pursuit. However, by this time there were several bands of hearthless peasants roaming the plains who had had enough of the new Despot, who couldn’t even protect them from a few hundred stinking Latins, and had now taken to the same kind of brigandry that had put them in their predicament in thee first place. After mopping these up, Andrónikos finally crossed the Sperkhios on 11 May, once again in pursuit of the Latins.

Things looked dire for Tarkhaneiōtēs, as he was still outnumbered and the peasant militias he had hoped to bolster his numbers with were thoroughly alienated. However, all was not lost, for in the second week of May Aléxios and his army finally descended onto the plain from the north; Floris and his men were now in between a hammer and anvil, so to speak. Now, the only question was whether Andrónikos could drive the hammer down upon the invaders, or whether they would slip away again.
 
very good work
Thanks. Any suggestions or criticisms? I'm not trying to be pushy, just curious.
Interesting. Bit odd you glossed over the Latin Empire and the passing of its vassal Achaea to Naples but ok.
It was more to show how quickly the Latins had conquered the region rather than an exhaustive history.
More byzantines is always welcome. My favorite historical country.
Welcome aboard!

I'm thinking of changing the title. It's rather stiff, and doesn't really inform a new reader about anything. An Age of Miracles implies a drastic and surprising recovery, Isaac's Empire tells us that a fellow named Isaac restores/creates an empire, but For Want of a Farrier doesn't really impart anything. Does anyone have any ideas? I can't think of an especially good ones at the moment.
 
I'm thinking of changing the title. It's rather stiff, and doesn't really inform a new reader about anything. An Age of Miracles implies a drastic and surprising recovery, Isaac's Empire tells us that a fellow named Isaac restores/creates an empire, but For Want of a Farrier doesn't really impart anything. Does anyone have any ideas? I can't think of an especially good ones at the moment.
What about To Restore an Empire or Alexios Philanthropenos: A Byzantine Revival as titles? These both tell the reader that the TL is about restoring the empire. The latter has the bonus of mentioning Alexios in the title itself.

Just throwing out some suggestions.
 
Thanks. Any suggestions or criticisms? I'm not trying to be pushy, just curious.

It was more to show how quickly the Latins had conquered the region rather than an exhaustive history.

Welcome aboard!

I'm thinking of changing the title. It's rather stiff, and doesn't really inform a new reader about anything. An Age of Miracles implies a drastic and surprising recovery, Isaac's Empire tells us that a fellow named Isaac restores/creates an empire, but For Want of a Farrier doesn't really impart anything. Does anyone have any ideas? I can't think of an especially good ones at the moment.
well not sure all i can think of is exploring how he might form or reform the monarchy type government ie take what works best from western ones and use them as an base
 
Ugh, looks like the Latins are at it again. Hopefully Alexios and Andronikos will be able to put a stop to their marauding and make Greece wholly Roman once more!

Also, as far as the title goes, I'm fine with the current one, but I can see what you mean with its generality. I don't really have any suggestions that wouldn't be equally nonspecific at this point though. Maybe something like "Green Banners Over Rhomanion" to reflect the dynastic shift?
 
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1297, Pt.2
What about To Restore an Empire or Alexios Philanthropenos: A Byzantine Revival as titles? These both tell the reader that the TL is about restoring the empire. The latter has the bonus of mentioning Alexios in the title itself.

Just throwing out some suggestions.
Since we are discussing titles here, how about " Renewal : A Rising Byzantium " as a title ?
What do y'all think of "Byzantium's Resurrection: A Second Alexiad"?

Advance warning, this one won't be very good. I've had a rather busy day and it's quite rushed.

1297, Pt.2

On 15 May, the positions and strengths of the three armies in the Malian Valley was as thus; Andrónikos Tarkhaneiōtēs with his 1500 cavalry were camped at Kómma, on the north bank of the Sperkheios with a series of large irrigation ditches between them and the other two armies. Floris and his 400 horse and 1200 foot were located in the small fortified town of Stavrós, in the hills on the northern edge of the plains, some five miles north-west of the Thessalian position.There was a smaller force of Latin infantry to the west at Amoúrē under the command of Renaud d’Veligourt, who had had a falling out with the other Achaean commanders. Finally, there was Aléxios’ army of 1000 infantry (mostly levies from the borderlands) and 2000 light horse, which was still in the foothills around Stírphaka, six miles north-west of Floris’ camp.

Now, just from the numbers and from a bird’s eye’s view the plan of attack for the Rhōmaíōi should be obvious; Andrónikos’ cavalry and the Imperial light horse should surround the Latin forces and drive them towards the Imperial infantry, thus destroying them. However, as always the situation on the ground was far more complex than what it seemed.

You see, while both Aléxios and Andrónikos knew where the other’s army was, they didn’t have the exact details of their counterpart’s position. Because of this, they had to spend several days blindly sending out couriers to try and pin down their locations. These couriers had only a vague idea of where they were going, and because of this many of them swung wide and wound up miles off course. On the 17th, one of those disoriented riders mistook the Latin camp for the Thessalian and rode straight into it. Floris found a sudden and extremely clear picture of both enemy positions dropped into his lap, which he put to good use.

Andrónikos received a bull from “the Emperor” telling him that the Imperials were going to reposition themselves at Lamía. Frustrated by this--he had explicitly told Aléxios not to do this in the previous dispatches--he decamped his men and marched for the city, hoping to at the very least link up and end this nonsense. However, as you’re no doubt aware this letter was not from Aléxios, who was in fact moving south-west to cross the river. At the same time, Floris, who had decided to disengage and return to his land after the arrival of the Imperial force, was also moving south-west intending to ford the river.

The Latins arrived first, reaching the bridge at Loútrá late on the 18th. Floris rushed his men across and then encamped on the southern side of the Sperkhios, with the only northern approach being the bridge. This would prove to be a fortuitous decision, because early the next morning who should appear but the outriders of the Imperial army? The cavalry quite literally stumbled over a sleeping Italian on the bridge itself, causing a chaotic uproar and a brief melee before the Turks fell back. Knowing that they would soon have reinforcements, Floris ordered his men up and they fled into the nearby hills, leaving only an empty village for the Imperials when they arrived several hours later.

Looking down from the hills, Floris supposedly realized that his enemy had far too great of an advantage for him to fight them while cut off from his seat-of-power. He gathered all the knights he could and, leaving the peasants to their own devices, began moving south through the hills and mountains. However, several of these peasants decided that they would like to not die and immediately defected to Aléxios, informing him of the Latin’s planned withdrawal. The basileus acted immediately, not hesitating to abandon the Thessalians and move to intercept the retreating Latins.

The Imperial cavalry rode through the hills, trying to form a makeshift dragnet to catch their foe. However, given the limitations of late-13th century communications, there were several glaring gaps and the Latins were able to escape. However, it was by no means an easy flight; Floris had to bribe local shepherds to lead them out through narrow passes and hidden cliffside roads. While these initially came from the small train traveling with the Prince, these were soon exhausted and Floris was reduced to selling off parts of his armor. By the time he reached the gulf he had only a sabaton and an armored glove, and of the three hundred or so knights and squires that had followed him into the mountains, less than four dozen were still with him. On 7 June they took ship back to Patrá, believing that they had escaped from the Rhōmaíōi.

Here they were wrong. You see, with the brewing conspiracies that were occurring in the capital (one of which had killed Gregoras, expelled his other supporters as well as the royal family and then seized the throne in the first week of May) Aléxios felt that he needed to justify this expedition by a glorious victory. He also believed that since the Latins had already fled battle several times they would be demoralized, and thus would be easy pickings for his army. As such, when his forces reached Galaxeídi in mid-June he began impressing the local fishermen to ferry his army across to Moría.

Andrónikos disapproved of this, believing that the Latins had been sufficiently humiliated and that any offensive actions would be met with reprisals, reprisals that would come down upon him and his realm. Aléxios told him that if he was so sure the Latins would come after him for revenge, then they’d need to be sure not to leave any alive to seek revenge. While this sounded badass it did little to assuage the despot’s fears, and he returned to Lárisa, leaving behind two allagia of cavalry that his nephew had ‘borrowed’ in exchange for the next five year’s tribute payments.

And thus, the Imperial Army set off from Galaxeídi on 24 June, bound for the most powerful of the Latin states and completely unaware of the political chaos in the capital.
 
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