Final Light: A Carolingian Timeline

CHAPTER 1.XXIX: The Treaty of Metz
Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


As the immediate shock after the death of Lothair III started to fade away with a new order solemnly put in place, questions arose within clerical circles whether or not the Roman Empire has now ended. Each regnum has now elected – or was forced to elect – its own king from their own pool of resources, and while at least Lothair III’s oldest son Charles II desired some restoration of the whole empire under his thumb, but the only realm which would ever at least be partially controlled by him was Italy. As Neustria was the sole non-Carolingian kingdom to arise from the collapse of the Empire and only the magnates of the other regna ever formally recognized his authority, tensions were brewing regarding the borders of the aforementioned subkingdom.

Dissatisfaction grew over the Frankish Western border where Lotharingian counties and duchies paid homage to the Widonids, the Babenberger, or none at all, not to mention the various skirmishes and incursions conducted by Neustrian nobles on behalf of Adalhard I into the Aquitanian realm.

Due to their shared interest in consolidating their newfound powers and fortifying their position against internal and external strife, in 950 AD, a Burgundian delegation was sent to the court of Adalhard I of Neustria to bring him to the negotiation table to settle the various border disputes and to end the annual raids conducted by Adalhard I and his Norman mercenaries.

Thus, in the evening of a day in Spring 951 AD, Adalhard I of Neustria and Louis III of Aquitania met in Mâcon, the place where Louis III’s distant ancestor Louis the German was defeated which led to the end of Frankish expansionist efforts into Aquitania and Lotharingia almost a century ago. This important place was most likely chosen on purpose which served as a warning to the interests of the Babenberger-Carolingians of Francia who eyed for the expansion of their immediate sphere of influence into these rich lands. Adalhard I himself came under pressure within his kingdom as well, with an, admittedly unsuccessful, uprising caused by pro-Carolingian Duke William Lackland of Normandy who, in accordance to Treaty of Chartres, was banished into exile with Adalhard I installing his second son Lambert as the duke of Normandy [1]. The negotiations of the Treaty of Mâcon were not long, but certainly impactful. Louis III chose to betray the political stances shared by his brothers Charles II of Italy and Henry I of Francia and recognized that a non-Carolingian king is ruling over a former Carolingian regnum. This directly clashes with the immediate interests of Charles II who is keen on at least ensuring that the dissolving empire remains in Carolingian hands and the interests of boy-king Henry I and his supervisors who fear the potential loss of Lotharingia to the Widonids. Nonetheless, the treaty was signed and a large banquet at the cost of Adalhard I and the confiscated treasures of William Lackland was held which would be remembered in history for its “excessive degeneracy” as noted by the, quite frankly put, very based accounts of Frankish chroniclers.

Another treaty would be set in motion by Pope Benedict IV and his successor Pope John XI, another member of the scheming Giacomii of Rome whose influence on the affairs of Lateran only continued to grow under the inability of Charles II to intervene in episcopal affairs, as an immediate result of the Concordat of Ravenna at the end of the Ravenna Dispute. In this proposed treaty outlined by none other than Aicone II of Milan together with his friend and pen pal Bishop Egon of Würzburg, an illegitimate son of Duke Adalbert I of Franconia, the division of the Frankish Empire should have been formalized, and with mutual exchanges of oaths to protect each other in the case of domestic strife or an attack on Christendom by the Norse heathens or Mohammedan Saracens. While initially disinterested in formalizing the end of the Carolingian Empire, Charles II would be swayed by Aicone II who outlined that the imperial title would still be one just as the church is one, and that the Frankish would still be united in purpose, lineage, and faith. Although the arguments of Aicone II only arose during the course of the XVth century as chroniclers tried to justify their contemporary state of the church, it is not unlikely that the bishop did in the end sway the opinion of Charles II regarding the state of the empire. As for Pope John XI, as the Giocomii increasingly distrusted Charles II, his primary interest was to weaken the emperor to a degree where the pontiff is once again able to exert political influence without imperial intervention.

Therefore, as interests intertwined and overlapped, embassies started being exchanged throughout the four kingdoms. Afterward, the clergy, on behalf of Pope Benedict IV, started to mediate some disputes between the various kings, dukes, and counts in order to reach an at least passable outcome for those negotiations. But in the end, the positions of Charles II, Adalhard I of Neustria, and Henry I of Francia, of whom everyone could not agree on their respective claims on the inheritance of the dead emperor Lothair III, proved to be irreconcilable. There were long-lasting negotiations, accompanied by the usual mutual distrust in the tense political climate, in the course of which the empire was inventoried.

But sooner or later a weak consensus was reached; it was agreed upon that the Treaty of Liège of 856 AD, a treaty almost a century old and already partially forgotten, should become the basis of the division, which took place under the aspects of the equivalence of the geographical-political situation and the economic yield. The preliminary negotiations came to an end from October 12 to 24, 951, when 210 emissaries of the three imperial brothers and Adalhard I met in the Aachen Cathedral, the place which was erected as the nominal seat of the early Carolingian Empire. The four kings published the result of these preliminary negotiations the following month at a meeting in Metz. The exact wording of the contract has not survived. Either it was never written down or the certificate was lost over time. Either way, the essential content can be reconstructed from contemporary sources.

The Annals of St. Gallen, for example, reported the following:

“When the empire was taken up by the nobles and divided into four parts, Charles went to meet the brothers and met them in Metz. Here, after the division was carried out, Henry received everything beyond the Rhine, plus the towns and districts of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz on this side; Adalhard the land between the Rhine and the Sea and then until the land around Borges, Burgundy, the Breton area; (south of it) Louis shall reign with his kingship carried around the counties to the left of the Loire and further until the influence of the Saône in the Rhone, and along the Rhone to the sea with counties on both sides. Outside of these limits, Louis got Arras through the kindness of his brother Charles. The rest up to Spain fell to Louis. Charles was to carry the imperial title and the lands of Italy. And after that, they swore mutual oaths, and when they had made peace and reaffirmed it by an oath against an oath, they went home to secure and arrange their part for everyone. Charles, who claimed Italy because it belonged to his empire by law, became a nuisance to the local lords and the pontiff by plaguing them with numerous taxes, but often suffering great losses in his own army from incursions of those disgruntled [...].”


But even the contemporary sources didn’t leave behind uniform testimonies, particularly over the matter of Lotharingia and its allegiance. In the last known pages of the East Frankish Annales Fuldenses, for example, it states:

“And Henry as descendant of the lineage of Charles Magnus was also given the lands of Lothair between the Rhine and Scheldt to its mouth and then the land around Cambrai, the Hainaut, the Lomonic between Meuse and Sombre and Castrician area (south of it) and the counties to the left of the Meuse and further until the influence of the Saône and the lands around Mâcon.”

This passage directly contradicts those of the Annals of St. Gallen, according to which Adalhard I was given control over Lotharingia. Here, not many sources seem to have survived the ages, but it is generally accepted that many counts and dukes of the area swore their allegiance to the king from whom they could profit the most, in particular Duke Herbert I of Upper Lorraine who chose to align himself with Neustrian interests, perhaps fearing that his possessions and powers might be confiscated by the powerful magnates of Francia, and Duke Adolf I of Lower Lorraine choosing, probably because of his dynastic possessions in Keldachgau, Deutzgau and Auelgau and his continued to support of the archbishopric of Cologne, Francia. Indeed, it seems that the most problematic questions such as Lotharingia and the general border region of Aquitania and Neustria were never truly answered nor was ever agreed upon a status quo, both of which would serve as the basis for future conflicts between the three kingdoms. Only on the extent of the Kingdom of Italy, surrounded by the Alps and the Mediterranean in every cardinal direction seemed to have been easy to decide on, but even here, many essential decisions seem to have been not done to not anger the various delegations. The important Alpine passes of St. Gotthard and St. Bernhard, the most known passes serve as the link between Francia and Italy, but despite all of this, conflicting documents arose over-taxation of incoming and outcoming traffic on both sides, with Francia seeming to have laid claim on the entire passage while Charles II seems to have exerted at least nominal control over it.

But despite all the confusion and disappointment following the Treaty of Metz, the kings tried, at least nominally and ideally, to maintain imperial unity by striving for similar economic and domestic policies and emphasizing the cohesion of Christendom, with the support of the Clerics. Nonetheless, the empire was, outside of Italy, rarely viewed as a single unit, and definitely not part of a shared single Carolingian territory in opposition to what has been felt after the Battle of Fontenoy and the Treaty of Liège. Therefore, the Treaty of Metz should be and almost always has been viewed as the final division of the empire, a total collapse of centralized power over all of Western and Central Europe. Although the Treaty of Metz wouldn't be the last treaty regarding the extent of the individual kingdoms, as the treaty will be modified or revised by the different parties in order to reflect the changing political landscapes, especially considering Lotharingia, it served as the foundation of these modifications. After this treaty, the area would never again see permanent reunification.

That the empire finally collapsed was not officially noted in any of the contemporary sources, although most contemporaries most likely agreed that the age of the Carolingian hegemony was over. And with unresolved questions over Lotharingia, the powers of the imperial title in Italy, the limited influence of some of the post-Lotharian kings over the increasingly completely feudalized society and various other political, economic, and cultural issues, new brutal conflicts and wars were inevitable. For this was the beginning of a new age for Europe, the prelude to what will be known as the High Medieval Period.






SUMMARY:
951:
The Treaty of Metz. The Carolingian Empire is semi-officially dissolved. [2]

FOOTNOTES:
[1] Gone, but not forgotten. He will become important somewhere else.
[2] It has been done. One century after the initial PoD, the empire breaks apart. For those who believed that this timeline will continue with a Charlemagne-esque figure being able to hold onto such vast stretches of lands forgets that the empire was pretty much dead as soon as Louis the Pious passed away with the various kings and magnates having failed to agree to a common ground on which their ambitions are to be settled. Regionalism, ambitions and plots within the aristocracy, Vikings, Saracens, Magyars, changes in climate, and a subsequent decline in trade have burdened the empire ITTL and IOTL, which can't be changed with the initial PoD and its butterflies. This timeline's "collapse" wasn't as chaotic as the one of our timeline, since we had more Carolingian kings to play with, but the dissolution of the empire was to be expected with the death of Lothair III and the failure of Charles II, who serves as some kind of recurring Lothair I, to reunite the empire. This timeline, unlike our one, has the advantage of the Carolingian Dynasty still sticking around, although, as we've seen with Neustria, this too can and will change.
In all honesty, this timeline was not supposed to be a Carolingian/Frankish Wank, otherwise, I would have chosen an earlier PoD in which I could have been able to prevent factionalism and oftentimes lacking interregional trade and diplomacy, such as the Battle of Fontenoy in 841 AD. I hope you understand why this was almost inevitable. As a spoiler for the next few entries, I'm trying to flesh out what has been happening in al-Andalus and the Byzantine Empire next, so expect some time-jumps between the entries. Thanks for sticking with the timeline for a century after the initial PoD, it has been a fun ride so far - so here's to the next century!
 
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BEYOND 1.II: Bardas I and Antigonos I
Excerpt: Born into the Purple: A Short Introduction to the Christian Orient – Abdenbi El Yaacoubi, Walili Publishing Company (AD 1976)


By now, too, it was clear that the Emperor was about to be assassinated. No longer capable of dealing with affairs of state, he thought only of appeasing the indulging in worldly pleasures, while still surrounding himself with his favorites who would accompany him in his drinking rampages and hunts. While Michael III was without a doubt a cruel and unstable ruler, bound to be a follower instead of a leader, his reported incompetence may very well be an exaggeration of Rhoman chroniclers to justify the usurpation of his throne, a fact supported by the Muslim chronicler al-Tabari who reports massive success of his campaigns against the Arab emirates at the frontier region al-Awasim. Nonetheless, by 869, the matters of state were now fully in the hands of his uncle Bardas, who was obsessed with the idea of killing the incompetent emperor to salvage what is being lost under his reign. Michael III would soon die, there was no doubt in that, leaving no porphyrogenioi, that is, no one born into the Purple; how would the succession be assured? For this, Bardas made his move in 869 AD.

One of the last completely sovereign political actions of Michael III was to imprison Bardas for suspicion of conspiracy, as a rumor spread within Constantinople that his own uncle was aiming for his head and that he was about to be killed. But Bardas, who spread that rumor in the first place in a dangerous move to coup his nephew, and Stylianos Zaoutzes, commander of the lesser ranks of the Hetaireia, the mercenary imperial bodyguard, which has in secret sworn its allegiance to Bardas, anticipated that order. From his “prison” in the palace of Blacharnae, he organized the last steps for the final assassination only a few hours after his voyage through the city.

Basiliscianus, another old drinking companion of Michael III, accompanied him to the Bucoleon Palace, recently renovated by the emperor’s father Theophilos, after another day drunk in the Hippodrome. Basiliscianus allegedly noticed that the eunuch Damian, the head chamberlain, the palace guards, and servants were behaving irrational and appeared to be under pressure, after which he knew what was about to happen, after having seen the murder of his friend Basil in 868 AD. He made a poor excuse for Michael III to leave him alone after which he fled the palace, after which he disappeared from the historic records. In the balcony with its view to the Sea of Marmara, Michael III was sitting alone during the sunset in an attempt to get sober without falling asleep. When he ordered a servant to bring him a cup of water, the plot unfolded; some of the conspirators who, with the knowledge of most officials of the palace, dressed up as eunuchs in an attempt to deceive those not part of the conspiracy, were observing the scene. As soon as the servant left, they threw off their robes and costumes, revealing their weapons and began to sneak up to Michael III. No one from his personal guard stepped in to defend him. It seems that he noticed them and called for the guards, but to no avail. His last seconds on Earth were spent desperately defending himself, still half-drunk, with the chair he was sitting on. But, this too, passed, and thus, Michael III the Drunkard found his death in his own palace at the hands of those he passed his power on.

His maimed body was hidden for one day in a sack hastily made from his clothes which created such a bad stench that it forced Stylianos to dispose the corpse directly into the Sea of Marmara. His mother Empress Theodora and her daughters, now released from the monastery, would weep uncontrollably, and a small funeral with little to no attendants was held the following day. Bardas I, as heir presumptive and caesar of the empire, was crowned basileus of the Rhoman Empire the day after.

The indifference of the people to this ribaldry seems doubly strange, especially when we reflect on the state of superstition the inhabitants of the Rhoman Empire had fallen, and on the important place occupied by the emperor within the society. Michael III was murdered amid three major disputes, one of which, the Photian Schism, questioning the very nature of the Eastern Church. Maybe, rather ironically, the Constantinopolitans profited from the follies and orgies of Michael III until the very last years of his rule, although the many anecdotes which survived do paint the picture of a great demoralization within the city thanks to the emperor who ultimately rendered himself contemptible to all classes of the society. Furthermore, Bardas I was not without enemies and many senators and followers of Ignatius who detested the vices of Bardas I spoke against him and his emperorship. The most remarkable figure was Bardas I’s son-in-law Symbatios, a patrician and postmaster of the empire, started to plot an assassination attempt as early as Bardas I had his close friend Basil killed. Despite these circumstances, relieved at last of the dead weight of his former superior, Bardas I lost no time in setting the Empire on a radically different course, back to the successes experienced through the previous Amorian monarchs. The overall situation of the state was not dire, the state treasury reported good and growing numbers while the Rhomanoi and their armies found unprecedented success against the Arabs and Bulgars. Bardas I would try to deal with his rivals by blinding them one after another, with Stylianos, a general named Christopher [1] and other suspiciously formerly close friends of Basil and Michael III either being forcefully tonsured or blinded. Bardas I had assassinated Theoktistos to obtain power before, court murders were to him no more than a tragedy in the amphitheater at which he was not present. All of these degrading punishments left a deep impression on the people and marked an end of the era of Michael III and his laissez-faire policies. It is quite difficult to draw an exact or even accurate picture of the Rhoman government and its structure at this period. Although minor facts can easily be collected through manuscripts, chronicles, and reports, they fail to deliver a coherent image of the state of the empire. Interpretations range from tyrannical despotism to a constitutional, or even enlightened, monarchy although all of this is interpreted from our modern ideas. Fact is that the regularity of the civil, financial and judicial administration, the bureaucracy of the military and naval establishments are remarkable and sign of a very complex, stratified government which, although it allows the interference of the basileus, does not require it which suffices as an explanation as to why Bardas I was able to inherit an empire which, despite the lack of an overly ambitious ruler, was not in a bad state.

Bardas I, even before his ascension to the Purple, had the reputation of being an excellent administrator and a just ruler, and he devoted his first months in power to reform the judicial branch of the empire, where he found his base of support within the Rhoman administration. The basileus was a man already in his fifties and found himself in a situation where lust and greed no longer seriously impacted his decision-making any longer; thus, he spent day and night reforming Justinian I’s Corpus Juris Civilis, the collection of imperial law, to adapt it to the growing commercial trade within the empire and to adapt it to the new environment of the late 10th century. While he would never complete it in his lifetime, his son Antigonos I, while less ambitious than his father, would complete the seventy legal books and manuals and implement it as the so-called Basilika, royal law, throughout Rhomania [2].

By early 871, Bardas I realized his vulnerability when he almost succumbed to severe fever and proclaimed his young son Antigonos, currently the Domestic of the Schools after Bardas I’s brother Petronas retired after the successful Battle of Lalakaon in which he defeated the heretic Paulicians and their Arab allies, co-emperor of the Rhomanoi. Bardas I knew that his time remaining on Earth was short and that he has to be quick to complete his ambitions and goals; and in October 871, he embarked on his old mission to retake Crete from the local Saracen pirates. His earlier campaigns usually ended before they even started, and his last one failed because Basil and Michael III indirectly sabotaged his efforts by failing to inform the transporting ships to embark. Antigonos I, a man in his early twenties, was tasked to oversee a campaign against the Paulicians in the Muslim emirates of the al-Awasim, the frontier region between the Rhomanoi and the fringes of the Abbasid caliphate which just emerged from the extremely violent Anarchy at Samarra after nine long and bloody years of assassinations and internal instability.

The Paulicians were a Christian heretical movement that developed in the 7th century in the sphere of influence of the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Apostolic Church. It was first mentioned in 719 at the Dvin Synod. According to descriptions by Petros Sikeliotes and Photius, it was probably a dualistic sect that rejected the Old Testament, parts of the New Testament, religious cult, worship of images and relics, church ceremonies, feudalism, and hierarchies. According to (discrediting) ecclesiastical traditions, the Paulician Christology is said to have had gnostic features. They rejected the depiction of the crucified Jesus Christ as a symbol of Christianity since the crucifix was for them a heretical deifying image of the Christian prophet. Under the Amorian Dynasty, the Paulicians were confronted with persecution and, thus, militarized as a result of the various purges conducted by the emperors. After Bardas I’s sister Theodora gave the order to exterminate the movement in 843, more than 100.000 Paulicians reportedly perished and fled towards the frontier region where they enjoyed the protection of the emirs and the caliph of Baghdad. The Paulicians and their Muslim allies conducted various very successful campaigns into Anatolia but were decisively beaten the Battle of Lalakaon of 863, in which the leader of the movement, Karbeas, and the emir Umar of Melitene passed away. The successor of Karbeas, Chrysocheir, the second and last leader of the principality of Tephrike, revived these raids which were as successful as those of his predecessor; indeed, Bardas I failed to counter the Paulicians near Ankyra or in Galatia which they devastated with the help of the Muslims.

It seems like the young Antigonos I initially tried to settle the disputes diplomatically and sent envoys calling for peace. The Paulicians didn’t reply, making the subsequent military efforts to enforce peace necessary. Chrysocheir managed to avoid the fight, but also failed to stop the Rhomanoi from pursuing his forces into the emirate of Melitene where the Paulicians set up their camp near the town of Sozopetra where decades before Emperor Theophilus suffered a tremendous blow to his campaign against the caliphate [3]. Chrysocheir occupied a local fortress from which he sent a letter asking for supplies and reinforcements from their base in Tephrike and the new amir of Melitene Abu Abdallah. Chrysocheir knew that this would not be enough. The disastrous defeat at Lalakaon shattered the power of the emirate of Melitene and also signaled the beginning of a gradual Rhoman advance in the borderlands. Thus, he also called for the help of one notable commander of the caliphate called Masrur al-Balkhi who was engaged in battles against Syriac Kurds in the far fringes of Northern Mesopotamia.

In the meantime, the young Antigonos I, preparing for a lengthy siege, was able to occupy and loot the areas leading up to Sozopetra, only to be notified that his scouting forces were defeated in a small skirmish outside the fortress which seems to have been abandoned by the Paulicians to move South towards Hadath or Adata as it is known in Greek. Chrysocheir received a note that at the very least al-Balkhi was able to sum up enough forces to defend the Paulicians as part of the annual summer raids of the Abbasids. Armenian sources with a positive opinion on the Paulicians and their rejection of the trinitarian doctrines will report that the relationship between the Arabs of Mesopotamia and the Paulicians was one of equals, fighting alongside each other against a common enemy. The failure to note that the occupation of the Armeniakon was allowed by the Arabs in order to exploit their very capable soldiers to partake in the annual caliphal raids is not rare in these contemporary sources. Thus, the reportedly pious al-Balkhi most likely has acted not truly on behalf of the protégés of the caliphs, but rather to stop the major raiding efforts of Antigonos I before it truly blossoms.

Chrysocheir and his army retreated northwards towards Tephrike in the vain hope that they will reach the town before the Rhomanoi were able to inflict serious casualties on the army. It seems that the retreat purposefully looked disorganized in order to lure the Rhomanoi attacking the Paulicians in small numbers, but Antigonos didn't fall for that trap. Al-Balkhi arrived after around five days with a reportedly large, but due to the long march, the relatively exhausted army at the back of Antigonos I main force which was moving towards the Pass of Melitene in which the Paulicians tried to hastily fortify itself.

Not much has been delivered of the battle that ensued, but it can be reconstructed to a limited extent thanks to contemporary poems and chronicles such as the one of al-Tabari. According to the later, Antigonos I realized that he was about to be encircled by the Paulicians and the caliphal army, after which he led the Rhoman army against the caliphal one, fearing that the Paulicians might be harder to beat as they had more time to prepare their defenses. Despite the ensuing difficulty of coordinating the separated forces, al-Balkhi was able to get some Paulicians from the Pass of Melitene to attack the Rhomanoi from the behind. The Rhoman army threw his entire force towards the right flank of the caliphal forces in an attempt to break through the front. The Arabs stood still, although suffering "tremendous" casualties, weakening al-Balkhi further. An attempt of the Paulicians to lure the Rhoman left flank out of the battle failed, although it exposed the Paulician rear after which their forces were surrounded and "a carnage never seen before" ensued. Whether or not Chrysocheir was part of the Paulician army which left the Pass of Melitene is not known, although it is believed that, due to the reported incompetence of the Paulicians at the Battle at the Pass of Melitene, that the army attacked the Rhomanoi against the orders of Chrysocheir who hastily retreated to Tephrike and abandoned the Arab army.

Antigonos I didn't pursue the Paulicians and continued to try to rout the forces of al-Balkhi. The Rhomanoi moved quickly to take advantage of the ensuing confusion regarding the retreat of the Paulicians. What exactly followed is not known, and modern scholars still discuss possible further reconstructions of the battle. In the end, the Rhomanoi decisively won and were able to imprison al-Balkhi who almost died from wounds sustained in battle, with only a small force of infantrymen to flee from the battlefield. While casualties on both sides were high and the Rhomanoi failed to complete their objective, mainly to imprison or kill Chrysocheir, they were able to get their hands on one well-known and extremely talented Abbasid general in a battle which wasn't decided by strategy, but rather the cowardice of the Paulicians.

Thus, after the Battle of Lalakaon, the Battle at the Pass of Melitene allowed the Rhomanoi to alter the balance of power in the borderlands back to their favor. Once Antigonos I returned after a short raid into the emirate of Tarsus to Constantinople, another triumph was held displaying the looted riches. Al-Balkhi was only released after the emirs of the Thughur and Awasim paid a large tribute to the Rhomanoi in 875 which filled the Rhoman treasury further. Al-Balkhi's absence was noted by the regent of caliph al-Mu'tamid, his brother al-Muwaffaq, whose caliphate began to be attacked from all sides: the Zanj rebellion was a serious and yet to be defeated threat for the Abbasids of Samarra and the legendary figure Ya'qub ibn Layth al-Saffar, the Persian coppersmith of Sistan and a warrior of the Muslim faith, began his advance towards Iraq to restore the authority of the caliphate [4]. The money Antigonos I raised was used to reinforce and renovate the Haga Sophia which began to dilapidate, making him a popular figure within the city. With the Battle of the Pass of Melitene, the fate of not one, but two worlds, therefore, changed forever.





Antigonos I being celebrated within Constantinople.


SUMMARY:

869:
Michael III is assassinated in a palace coup. He is succeeded by the instigator and his maternal uncle Bardas I.
872: The Battle at the Pass of Melitene. Co-Emperor Antigonos I inflicts a severe blow to the campaigns of the Paulicians and imprisoned 'Abbasid senior military official Masrur al-Balkhi who will only be released three years later after the emirs of the borderlands paid tribute to Constantinople.


FOOTNOTES:
[1] He was related to Basil I and become he Domestic of the Schools IOTL soon after the Basil I became Byzantine emperor.
[2] Basil I IOTL would start working on the reformation of the Corpus Juris as well, although he just “inherited” the efforts already made by Bardas. With competent Bardas I having enough time to work on it himself, it should be no surprise that his legal works will contain a couple more books.
[3] Antigonos’ campaign against the Paulicians started a bit earlier (or a lot earlier, depending on which source you follow) than OTL’s campaign of Christopher. This means that the Paulicians will have a different path to take home, which in turn means more butterflies.
[4] Oopsie. We’ll look at the Abbasids in the next update, I promise.
 
Judging by the "fate of two worlds" and the in-universe book's title referencing the Christian Orient and being born in the purple, perhaps the Rhomans, big losers in the "converting Slavs" game, turn towards Asia and Egypt instead of wasting time on Southern Italy and the Balkans...
 
Judging by the "fate of two worlds" and the in-universe book's title referencing the Christian Orient and being born in the purple, perhaps the Rhomans, big losers in the "converting Slavs" game, turn towards Asia and Egypt instead of wasting time on Southern Italy and the Balkans...
Well... Perhaps, although I can tell you that this doesn't happen in the 9th century. For now, the Abbasids are still quite strong, despite the Zanj rebellion and the dynastic feuds outside of Iraq.

Where are the capitols on that map?
Well, since we are still in the 10th century, the idea of a capital city where a town exercises a primary status amongst the other ones didn't really exist yet. (East) Francia, for example, rotates between Fulda, Frankfurt, Ratisbon, and even Aachen at times ITTL, as the court simply travels with the king. In Neustria, the king resides in Le Mans where his base of support is hiding from the economic and political might which Paris is, and Aquitania is not really clear-cut, although Arles serves as the residence for Louis III. Only Italy and the Umayyad Caliphate (there will be another update regarding them after the Abbasid one) arguably have something along the lines of a proper capital, namely being Rome and Cordoba respectively.
 
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I was going to take issue with Aachen being an (East) Francian capitol but then I noticed the smaller (disputed) underneath Lotharingia.

I'm looking forward to when the various nations settle on official national capitols.

I like the idea of "Francia" slowly becoming more Germanized as they absorb more of the German tribes to the East.
 
Antigonos is an interesting name for a Christian Emperor given the obvious "paganism" of the earlier Hellenistic ruler. However I don't know enough about medieval Greek names enough to discuss how plausible it is.
 
Antigonos is an interesting name for a Christian Emperor given the obvious "paganism" of the earlier Hellenistic ruler. However I don't know enough about medieval Greek names enough to discuss how plausible it is.
Well, while his life was rather uneventful after the death of his father Bardas and his cousin Michael III, Antigonos was a figure who actually existed in our timeline, who happened to be born to Bardas before the PoD. Not much is known about him, except that he was relatively young and appointed to become Domestic of the Schools by Bardas, although even that appointment was out of strategic reasons, not because of exceptional talent.

But I definitely agree with you that his name is rather "unchristian", although definitely not an extremely rare Greek name, compared to the ones usually taken by the emperors and I honestly don't expect it to become a commonly used name anytime soon.
 
What is the name used for Bardas's imperial dynasty?
Truth to be told, I am sadly no expert on Byzantine genealogy and I don't know whether to consider the ascension of Bardas I as a continuation of the Amorian Dynasty (putting him in a somewhat comparable, although reversed, situation to Justin II where he inherited the empire through his mother while Bardas I did so through his sister Theodora) or whether there is already enough genealogical distance between Michael III and Bardas I to warrant a completely new dynasty. If the latter is the case, I think his Armenian heritage wouldn't be enough to name the dynasty after it, unlike Basil I who reportedly didn't even speak Greek without a heavy accent, so I would name it after Bardas I himself, since he is probably the most successful emperor of his little dynasty. If the latter is the case, I'd probably go with Bardasian/Bardean/Bardasid, but, as you can see, even there I might need some help regarding the names. I'm open to suggestions, but for now I'll probably handle him as a continuation of the Amorian Dynasty which Bardas I for all intents and purposes really was.
 
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Excerpt: Phransiya – Akllasumaq Kichka, Quitu Scholastic Press (AD 1982)


As the immediate shock after the death of Lothair III started to fade away with a new order solemnly put in place, questions arose within clerical circles whether or not the Roman Empire has now ended. Each regnum has now elected – or was forced to elect – its own king from their own pool of resources, and while at least Lothair III’s oldest son Charles II desired some restoration of the whole empire under his thumb, but the only realm which would ever at least be partially controlled by him was Italy. As Neustria was the sole non-Carolingian kingdom to arise from the collapse of the Empire and only the magnates of the other regna ever formally recognized his authority, tensions were brewing regarding the borders of the aforementioned subkingdom.

Dissatisfaction grew over the Frankish Western border where Lotharingian counties and duchies paid homage to the Widonids, the Babenberger, or none at all, not to mention the various skirmishes and incursions conducted by Neustrian nobles on behalf of Adalhard I into the Aquitanian realm.

Due to their shared interest in consolidating their newfound powers and fortifying their position against internal and external strife, in 950 AD, a Burgundian delegation was sent to the court of Adalhard I of Neustria to bring him to the negotiation table to settle the various border disputes and to end the annual raids conducted by Adalhard I and his Norman mercenaries.

Thus, in the evening of a day in Spring 951 AD, Adalhard I of Neustria and Louis III of Aquitania met in Mâcon, the place where Louis III’s distant ancestor Louis the German was defeated which led to the end of Frankish expansionist efforts into Aquitania and Lotharingia almost a century ago. This important place was most likely chosen on purpose which served as a warning to the interests of the Babenberger-Carolingians of Francia who eyed for the expansion of their immediate sphere of influence into these rich lands. Adalhard I himself came under pressure within his kingdom as well, with an, admittedly unsuccessful, uprising caused by pro-Carolingian Duke William Lackland of Normandy who, in accordance to Treaty of Chartres, was banished into exile with Adalhard I installing his second son Lambert as the duke of Normandy [1]. The negotiations of the Treaty of Mâcon were not long, but certainly impactful. Louis III chose to betray the political stances shared by his brothers Charles II of Italy and Henry I of Francia and recognized that a non-Carolingian king is ruling over a former Carolingian regnum. This directly clashes with the immediate interests of Charles II who is keen on at least ensuring that the dissolving empire remains in Carolingian hands and the interests of boy-king Henry I and his supervisors who fear the potential loss of Lotharingia to the Widonids. Nonetheless, the treaty was signed and a large banquet at the cost of Adalhard I and the confiscated treasures of William Lackland was held which would be remembered in history for its “excessive degeneracy” as noted by the, quite frankly put, very based accounts of Frankish chroniclers.

Another treaty would be set in motion by Pope Benedict IV and his successor Pope John XI, another member of the scheming Giacomii of Rome whose influence on the affairs of Lateran only continued to grow under the inability of Charles II to intervene in episcopal affairs, as an immediate result of the Concordat of Ravenna at the end of the Ravenna Dispute. In this proposed treaty outlined by none other than Aicone II of Milan together with his friend and pen pal Bishop Egon of Würzburg, an illegitimate son of Duke Adalbert I of Franconia, the division of the Frankish Empire should have been formalized, and with mutual exchanges of oaths to protect each other in the case of domestic strife or an attack on Christendom by the Norse heathens or Mohammedan Saracens. While initially disinterested in formalizing the end of the Carolingian Empire, Charles II would be swayed by Aicone II who outlined that the imperial title would still be one just as the church is one, and that the Frankish would still be united in purpose, lineage, and faith. Although the arguments of Aicone II only arose during the course of the XVth century as chroniclers tried to justify their contemporary state of the church, it is not unlikely that the bishop did in the end sway the opinion of Charles II regarding the state of the empire. As for Pope John XI, as the Giocomii increasingly distrusted Charles II, his primary interest was to weaken the emperor to a degree where the pontiff is once again able to exert political influence without imperial intervention.

Therefore, as interests intertwined and overlapped, embassies started being exchanged throughout the four kingdoms. Afterward, the clergy, on behalf of Pope Benedict IV, started to mediate some disputes between the various kings, dukes, and counts in order to reach an at least passable outcome for those negotiations. But in the end, the positions of Charles II, Adalhard I of Neustria, and Henry I of Francia, of whom everyone could not agree on their respective claims on the inheritance of the dead emperor Lothair III, proved to be irreconcilable. There were long-lasting negotiations, accompanied by the usual mutual distrust in the tense political climate, in the course of which the empire was inventoried.

But sooner or later a weak consensus was reached; it was agreed upon that the Treaty of Liège of 856 AD, a treaty almost a century old and already partially forgotten, should become the basis of the division, which took place under the aspects of the equivalence of the geographical-political situation and the economic yield. The preliminary negotiations came to an end from October 12 to 24, 951, when 210 emissaries of the three imperial brothers and Adalhard I met in the Aachen Cathedral, the place which was erected as the nominal seat of the early Carolingian Empire. The four kings published the result of these preliminary negotiations the following month at a meeting in Metz. The exact wording of the contract has not survived. Either it was never written down or the certificate was lost over time. Either way, the essential content can be reconstructed from contemporary sources.

The Annals of St. Gallen, for example, reported the following:

“When the empire was taken up by the nobles and divided into four parts, Charles went to meet the brothers and met them in Metz. Here, after the division was carried out, Henry received everything beyond the Rhine, plus the towns and districts of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz on this side; Adalhard the land between the Rhine and the Sea and then until the land around Borges, Burgundy, the Breton area; (south of it) Louis shall reign with his kingship carried around the counties to the left of the Loire and further until the influence of the Saône in the Rhone, and along the Rhone to the sea with counties on both sides. Outside of these limits, Louis got Arras through the kindness of his brother Charles. The rest up to Spain fell to Louis. Charles was to carry the imperial title and the lands of Italy. And after that, they swore mutual oaths, and when they had made peace and reaffirmed it by an oath against an oath, they went home to secure and arrange their part for everyone. Charles, who claimed Italy because it belonged to his empire by law, became a nuisance to the local lords and the pontiff by plaguing them with numerous taxes, but often suffering great losses in his own army from incursions of those disgruntled [...].”


But even the contemporary sources didn’t leave behind uniform testimonies, particularly over the matter of Lotharingia and its allegiance. In the last known pages of the East Frankish Annales Fuldenses, for example, it states:

“And Henry as descendant of the lineage of Charles Magnus was also given the lands of Lothair between the Rhine and Scheldt to its mouth and then the land around Cambrai, the Hainaut, the Lomonic between Meuse and Sombre and Castrician area (south of it) and the counties to the left of the Meuse and further until the influence of the Saône and the lands around Mâcon.”

This passage directly contradicts those of the Annals of St. Gallen, according to which Adalhard I was given control over Lotharingia. Here, not many sources seem to have survived the ages, but it is generally accepted that many counts and dukes of the area swore their allegiance to the king from whom they could profit the most, in particular Duke Herbert I of Upper Lorraine who chose to align himself with Neustrian interests, perhaps fearing that his possessions and powers might be confiscated by the powerful magnates of Francia, and Duke Adolf I of Lower Lorraine choosing, probably because of his dynastic possessions in Keldachgau, Deutzgau and Auelgau and his continued to support of the archbishopric of Cologne, Francia. Indeed, it seems that the most problematic questions such as Lotharingia and the general border region of Aquitania and Neustria were never truly answered nor was ever agreed upon a status quo, both of which would serve as the basis for future conflicts between the three kingdoms. Only on the extent of the Kingdom of Italy, surrounded by the Alps and the Mediterranean in every cardinal direction seemed to have been easy to decide on, but even here, many essential decisions seem to have been not done to not anger the various delegations. The important Alpine passes of St. Gotthard and St. Bernhard, the most known passes serve as the link between Francia and Italy, but despite all of this, conflicting documents arose over-taxation of incoming and outcoming traffic on both sides, with Francia seeming to have laid claim on the entire passage while Charles II seems to have exerted at least nominal control over it.

But despite all the confusion and disappointment following the Treaty of Metz, the kings tried, at least nominally and ideally, to maintain imperial unity by striving for similar economic and domestic policies and emphasizing the cohesion of Christendom, with the support of the Clerics. Nonetheless, the empire was, outside of Italy, rarely viewed as a single unit, and definitely not part of a shared single Carolingian territory in opposition to what has been felt after the Battle of Fontenoy and the Treaty of Liège. Therefore, the Treaty of Metz should be and almost always has been viewed as the final division of the empire, a total collapse of centralized power over all of Western and Central Europe. Although the Treaty of Metz wouldn't be the last treaty regarding the extent of the individual kingdoms, as the treaty will be modified or revised by the different parties in order to reflect the changing political landscapes, especially considering Lotharingia, it served as the foundation of these modifications. After this treaty, the area would never again see permanent reunification.

That the empire finally collapsed was not officially noted in any of the contemporary sources, although most contemporaries most likely agreed that the age of the Carolingian hegemony was over. And with unresolved questions over Lotharingia, the powers of the imperial title in Italy, the limited influence of some of the post-Lotharian kings over the increasingly completely feudalized society and various other political, economic, and cultural issues, new brutal conflicts and wars were inevitable. For this was the beginning of a new age for Europe, the prelude to what will be known as the High Medieval Period.









FOOTNOTES:
[1] Gone, but not forgotten. He will become important somewhere else.
[2] It has been done. One century after the initial PoD, the empire breaks apart. For those who believed that this timeline will continue with a Charlemagne-esque figure being able to hold onto such vast stretches of lands forgets that the empire was pretty much dead as soon as Louis the Pious passed away with the various kings and magnates having failed to agree to a common ground on which their ambitions are to be settled. Regionalism, ambitions and plots within the aristocracy, Vikings, Saracens, Magyars, changes in climate, and a subsequent decline in trade have burdened the empire ITTL and IOTL, which can't be changed with the initial PoD and its butterflies. This timeline's "collapse" wasn't as chaotic as the one of our timeline, since we had more Carolingian kings to play with, but the dissolution of the empire was to be expected with the death of Lothair III and the failure of Charles II, who serves as some kind of recurring Lothair I, to reunite the empire. This timeline, unlike our one, has the advantage of the Carolingian Dynasty still sticking around, although, as we've seen with Neustria, this too can and will change.
In all honesty, this timeline was not supposed to be a Carolingian/Frankish Wank, otherwise, I would have chosen an earlier PoD in which I could have been able to prevent factionalism and oftentimes lacking interregional trade and diplomacy, such as the Battle of Fontenoy in 841 AD. I hope you understand why this was almost inevitable. As a spoiler for the next few entries, I'm trying to flesh out what has been happening in al-Andalus and the Byzantine Empire next, so expect some time-jumps between the entries. Thanks for sticking with the timeline for a century after the initial PoD, it has been a fun ride so far - so here's to the next century!
i love this.
 
Treating him as a continustion of the Amorians makes sense historigraphically
Thanks for the reassurance, it's not particularly important anyway. We (should) know from the updates during the Meridian Campaign of Lothair III that the Bardasid branch of the Amorian family will end somewhere in the 920s, with the Chrysabian Dynasty taking over amid a war against the Catholic Bulgars.

i love this.
I'm pleased that I could entertain you with that chapter!
 
BEYOND 1.III: The Persian Coppersmith
Excerpt: Al-Tabari's Chronicle: The Revolt of the Zanj – translated by Guillem-Renald Pujol (AD 1893)


TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: This extract of al-Tabari's chronicle covers the first half of the reign of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tamid in Samarra. Although the 870s were a decade of relative calm in the capital, compared with the anarchy of the years immediately preceding, the end of these times were looming from Persia, Basra, and the Levant. Chief among them was the revolt of the Zanj, a people of semi-servile status, who were based in the marshlands of southern Iraq, were led by a somewhat shadowy and dubious figure claiming Shiite descent named Ali bin Muhammad. Another figure led a campaign against the caliph Al-Mu'tamid who served as a puppet in all but name for his brother and regent al-Muwaffaq, a Sistani named Ya'qub bin al-Layth al-Saffar. Further notes can be found in the brackets.

The Events of the Year 261 [OCTOBER 16, 874 – OCTOBER 5, 875]


[...] In Shawwal (July 9 -August 6, 875), Ya'qub ibn al-Layth marched toward Fars. Ibn Wasil [1] was still encamped in al-Ahwaz, and from there he set out for Fars; in Dhu al-Qa'dah (August 7, -September 5, 875) he clashed with Ya'qub ibn al-Layth, who routed him and destroyed his army. Ya'qub sent off men to Khurramah to strip clean Ibn Wasil's fortress, the contents of which reportedly reached a value of forty million dirhams. He also took prisoner Mirdas, Ibn Wasil's maternal uncle.

During this year, the troops of Ya'qub ibn al-Layth assaulted the inhabitants of Zamm al-Bazanjan[...] for the assistance they had rendered to Muhammad ibn Wasil. The troops killed them, forcing Musa ibn Mihran al-Kurdi [an ally of Muhammad ibn Wasil] to flee. On the 12th of Shawwal (July 20, 875) of this year al-Mu'tamid held an assembly in the Public Audience Hall [the so-called dar al-'ammah], at which he appointed his son Ja'far his heir, giving him the honorific title al-Mufawwad ila-Allah. He also made him governor of the western regions, attaching Musa ibn Bugha to him as governor of Ifriqiyah, Egypt, Syria, al-Jazirah, Mosul, Armenia, the Khurasan Road, Mihrajanqadhaq, and Hulwan. Al-Mu'tamid also appointed his brother Abu Ahmad [al-Muwaffaq] heir after Ja'far, making him governor of the eastern regions. In the absence of Masrur al-Balkhi, his son Muhammad ibn Masrur [2] was attached to him as governor, although only until his skilled father al-Balkhi returned [NOTE: it is generally believed that al-Mu'tamid expected an early return of al-Balkhi which was only offset by the reluctance of the emirs of the borderlands to pay the ransom], of Baghdad, the Sawad, al-Kufah, the Mecca Road, Medina, the Yemen, Kaskar, the Tigris districts, al-Ahwaz, Fars, Isfahan, Qumm, al-Karaj, al-Dinawar, al-Rayy, Zanjan, Qazwin, Khurasan, Tabaristan, Jurjan, Kirman, Sijistan, and Sindh. Al-Mu'tamid also bestowed upon each of his heirs two standards, one black, the other white. He stipulated that, in the event of his death, if Ja'far could not fulfill the duties of the caliphate, it would pass first to Abu Ahmad and then to Ja'far. On these terms the oath of allegiance was rendered by the people, and copies of the succession decree were disseminated. One such copy was despatched with al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Abi al-Shawarib to affix to the Kaaba [in Mecca]. In Shawwal Ja'far al-Mufawwad made Musa ibn Bugha his deputy over the western regions and sent Muhammad al-Muwallad to him with an agreement to this effect.

Muhammad ibn Zaydawayh deserted Ya'qub ibn al-Layth this year, withdrawing thousands of his troops from Ya'qub's army and going over to Abu al-Saj [3], who welcomed him. Muhammad stayed with him in al-Ahwaz and received a robe of honor from Samarra. Ibn Zaydawayh then requested of the central authorities that al-Husayn ibn Tahir ibn 'Abdallah be sent with him to Khurasan.

On the 7th of Dhu al-Hijjah (September 12, 875) Muhammad ibn Masrur set out from Samarra as Abu Ahmad's vanguard. According to report, robes of honor were bestowed upon him and twenty-eight [4] of his commanders. The two heirs publicly escorted him, and al-Muwaffaq followed him from Samarra on the 21st of Dhu al-Hijjah (September 26, 875).

Leading the pilgrimage this year was al-Fadl ibn Ishaq ibn al-Hasan ibn Ismail ibn al-'Abbas ibn Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abdallah ibn 'Abbas. Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Abi al-Shawarib died this year after he had performed the pilgrimage.



The Events of the Year 262 [OCTOBER 6, 875 – SEPTEMBER 23, 876]

Among the events taking place this year were the arrival of Ya'qub ibn al-Layth in Ramhurmuz in the month of al-Muharram (October 6 -November 4, 875) and the despatch of Isma'il ibn Ishaq and Bughraj to him by the central authorities. The central authorities also released from prison Ya'qub ibn al-Layth's supporters. At the time of the dispute between Ya'qub and Muhammad ibn Tahir, the authorities had imprisoned Ya'qub's servant Waif, and other supporters who had stood by him. They were released from prison following Ya'qub's arrival in Ramhurmuz on the 5th of Rabi' I (November 9, 875). Thereafter Ismail ibn Ishaq left Ya'qub for Samarra bearing a message from him. Meanwhile, Abu Ahmad [al-Muwaffaq] held an audience in Baghdad, to which he summoned a group of merchants, informing them that the Commander of the Faithful had appointed Ya'qub ibn al-Layth governor of Khurasan, Tabaristan, Jurjan, al-Rayy, and Fars and head of security in Madinat al-Salam. One of Ya'qub's companions, Dirham ibn Nasr, was present at the audience. Al-Mu'tamid had sent this Dirham from Samarra to Ya'qub [with a message] granting the latter what he had requested. Dirham went to Ya'qub accompanied by 'Umar ibn Sima and Muhammad ibn Tarkashah.

Messengers of Ibn Zaydawayh arrived in Baghdad during the month of Rabi I (December 14, 875 - January 11, 876) this year to deliver a communication from him. A robe of honor was bestowed upon him by Abu Ahmad [al-Muwaffaq].

Later this same year those who had been sent by Ya'qub ibn al-Layth returned to the Caliph and informed him that Ya'qub was not satisfied with merely corresponding with the Caliph, but he rather preferred to come in person to the caliphal palace. Ya'qub left 'Askar Mukram, while Abu al-Saj went to meet him, and was received honorably and given presents. After the messengers had returned with Yaqub's reply, al-Mu'tamid, on Saturday the 3rd of Jumada II (March 15, 876), assembled his troops in al-Qa'im, in Samarra, leaving his son Ja'far in charge of Samarra with the assistance of Muhammad al-Muwallad. Departing from the city on Tuesday the 6th of Jumada II (March 18, 876), al-Mu'tamid reached Baghdad on Wednesday the 14th of the month (March 26, 876). He passed straight through the metropolis, however, and proceeded to al-Za'faraniyyah, where he set up camp. From al-Za'faraniyyah he sent ahead his brother Abu Ahmad [al-Muwaffaq] as the vanguard, while Ya'qub proceeded with his army from 'Askar Mukram, arriving within a farsakh's distance of Wasit [5]. Ya’qub crossed over the Tigris on the 22nd of Jumada II (March 21, 876) and advance toward Badhibin. The next stage was the arrival of Muhammad ibn Kathir, on behalf of Ya’qub, opposite the camp of al-Muwaffaq, who then proceeded with his army to al-Nu’maniyyah.

Meanwhile, Ya’qub had reached Badhibin and entered it on the 24th of Jumada II (March 23, 876). On Thursday, the last day of the month (March 29, 876), al-Mu’tamid left al-Za’faraniyyah and advanced as far as Sib Bani Kuma, where he was joined by Muhammad ibn Masrur who had traveled along the western bank of the Tigris before crossing over to the side where the Caliph's forces were located. Al-Mu’tamid remained in Sib Bani Kuma for a few days in order that his various troops and regiments could assemble together. For his part, Ya’qub advanced by stages from Badhibin to Day and from there toward the government forces. Al-Mu'tamid remained camped in Sib, along with 'Ubaydallih ibn Yahya, while he sent his brother Abu Ahmad to engage Ya'qub in battle. Abu Ahmad stationed Musa ibn Bugha on his right flank and Muhammad ibn Masrur on his left, while he himself, with his elite cavalry and the pick of his infantry, held the center. The two sides met on Sunday, at the beginning of Rajab (April 1, 876), at a place called al-Ouidha which was between al-Mada’in and Dayr al’Aqul. Ya’qub's right wing attacked Abu Ahmad's left flank, driving it back in disorder. A large number were slain, including some of the government's commanders, like Ibrahim ibn Sima al-Turki, Tabaghu al-Turki, Muhammad Tughta al-Turki, and one known as al-Mubaraqa’ al-Maghribi, among others. Then those [on the left flank] who had been driven back tried to regroup, while the rest of Abu Ahmad's forces stood their ground and launched a counterattack against Ya’qub's forces. They stood their ground and engaged the foe with courage and determination. Many of Ya'qub's valiant warriors were killed, among them Muhammad ibn Kathir, Ya’qub himself was struck by one arrow in his hands. According to what was said, the two sides continued fighting until the time the afternoon prayer had passed. Another attack of Ya’qub against the left flank left Muhammad ibn Masrur’s troops routed, leaving him to stand fast with the elite of his forces until they managed to withdraw from the field of battle.

Owing to the attacks Ya’qub launched against them, Abu Ahmad's camp was thrown into a state of confusion. A complicating factor was the withholding of the soldiers' allotments, which had been assigned to them from the revenue of Samarra. When the position of Abu Ahmad had deteriorated to such an extent, he was ordered to depart for the court in Samarra and surrender both the army and his administrative duties to Ya’qub. It had become apparent that many on Abu Ahmad’s side had developed an aversion to fighting with him when they saw Ya’qub still standing despite his wounds and those who still stood firmly by him. More than ten thousand men fought on both sides, and five thousand were reportedly captured by Ya’qub’s army along with a great many containers of musk and such an amount of dinars and dirhams that it wore out its bearers. Abu Ahmad fled to Baghdad where he hoped to conduct a last defense against the renegade Ya’qub ibn al-Layth.

Following these events in al-Ouidha, al-Mu’tamid and his soldiers were in such a state of dread that many evacuated the camp for various other places, as disquieting rumors spread among the common people. Ya'qub ibn al-Layth had reportedly gone to Dayr al-’Aqul [6] and then headed for Baghdad. As he approached the city, intending to enter it, Abu Ahmad sent word to him requesting that Ya’qub receive him, but he refused to comply. So Abu Ahmad had some of his kinsmen intercede on his behalf with Ya’qub, after which, in the evening of the 4th of Rajab (April 3, 876), Ya`qub entered the city and encamped in one of the suburbs. An envoy of al-Mu’tamid, Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Bugha rode out to meet Ya’qub in his pavilion, where he was closely questioned about his intent. Ya’qub then began to upbraid and rebuke the caliph for neglecting his duties [7] and informed him that he wanted to go to Baghdad, to remove Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq from the role as regent and governor, the Abu Ahmad who betrayed him and was punished for this treason through the battle [8]. When news of this reached Abu Ahmad, he said, "Is there no choice of punishment other than either the whip or death? Is there nothing better? Is imprisonment not enough? Are we not the servants of Allah and only the servants to him?”. Musa ibn Bugha is reported to have said that their whole affair involving Ya’qub would have come to naught had Masrur al-Balkhi been present. He urged upon Abu Ahmad to resign and surrender to Ya’qub who is willing to welcome him in grace. He then mentioned what vile things Ya’qub does to traitors he had heard concerning them, which unsettled Abu Ahmad. Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq, fearing for the lives of his brother and both of their children, surrendered in honor. Ya’qub had entered the palace of Baghdad where al-Mu’tamid and Ab Ahmad al-Muwaffaq were biding their time. He imprisoned Abu Ahmad in al-Matbaq [9] and his chamberlain in the prison by the Syrian Gate. He also placed troops to guard the residence of al-Mu’tamid under the command of Muhammad ibn Kathir. Ya’qub had also put this Muhammad in charge of the double bridge [10] of Baghdad and the administrative districts of Qatrabbul, Maskin, and al-Anbar. These were the very same duties that Abu Ahmad, on al-Mu’tamid's behalf, had been responsible for previously.

On the 14th of Rajab (April 13, 876), Ya’qub assembled the servants of the caliph and those he had captured after the Battle at al-Ouidha to issue a formal apology to those who had to suffer from his actions, but he continued to explain the necessity of it in the face of the rebellion of the Zanj and the Kharijites. The following days, the remaining cities of Iraq recognized the authority of Ya’qub over Iraq in exchange for his protection. On the 19th of Rajab (April 18, 876), Ya’qub ibn al-Layth was then presented to the Caliph, who bestowed upon him a robe of honor to accord with his rank. A statement was read out in public, in which it was said:

"The renegade called Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq had always professed loyalty to the central authorities until he committed such foul acts as marching upon the mutatawwi’ Ya’qub ibn al-Layth; acting as leader of the public prayers in and beyond Iraq and committing other misdeeds; marching repeatedly into Samarra and Madinat al-Salam and seizing its revenues; advancing upon the seat of the Commander of the Faithful, on the pretext of requesting powers of which the Commander of the Faithful had already given him more than he deserved, in an attempt to appease him and avoid [direct contact] by taking a better way. The accursed brother had schemed against the Commander of the Faithful, although he had been given vast lands to govern. He was ordered to be humble in his correspondence. He had been granted valuable estates as fiefs; but that had only made him more unjust and oppressive. The Caliph then ordered him to welcome Ya’qub, but he refused. When the accursed one was on the road between Madinat al-Salam and Wasit, flying flags, some of which bore the sign of the cross, the Commander of the Faithful set out to repel him. The Commander of the Faithful dispatched his brother Ya’qub ibn al-Layth, the pillar of the state, in the center of his army. Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq and his supporters rushed into battle, and he fought until he was severely wounded and Iraq was safely rescued from the enemy's hands. Abu Ahmad's forces retreated in full flight, broken and plundered, while the accursed one was forced to surrender all his accumulated fortune. In the caliph’s benevolence, Abu `Imran Musa ibn Bugha, Ibrahim ibn Sima among others are to be forgiven for their missteps and placed under Ya’qub whose title imad al-dawla [the pillar of the state] shall be recognized as such. In the gratefulness of all Muslims, Ya’qub ibn al-Layth al-Sistani shall be bestowed the title amir of Iraq and protector of the state."

Ya’qub ibn al-Layth was appointed as governor Baghdad, the Sawad, al-Kufah, the Mecca Road, Medina, the Yemen, Kaskar, the Tigris districts, al-Ahwaz, Fars, Isfahan, Qumm, al-Karaj, al-Dinawar, al-Rayy, Zanjan, Qazwin, Khurasan, Tabaristan, Jurjan, Kirman, Sijistan, and Sindh by al-Mu’tamid. The coppersmith was also given the two standards formerly held by Abu Ahmad. al-Mu’tamid continued to be under house arrest on behalf of his safety [11]. In his benevolence, Ya’qub pardoned the Turkic soldiers and mercenaries and welcomed Masrur al-Balkhi who returned from his imprisonment by the Romans. Only Abu Ahmad, who was stripped from his honorific title al-Muwaffaq, remained in al-Matbaq, although he was well-fed and was allowed to see his sons every Thursday and Friday.



SUMMARY:

876:
The Battle of al-Ouidha. Ya’qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar narrowly defeats the army of al-Muwaffaq who is subsequently imprisoned. Al-Saffar puts caliph al-Mu’tamid under house arrest, essentially giving up control over the Abbasid Caliphate to the Ibn al-Layth. The Saffarid Empire is established, stretching from Mesopotamia to Sindh [12].


FOOTNOTES:

[1] A Kharijite military adventurer who rather consistently ruled over Fars between 870 and 876.
[2] Butterflies start here.
[3] A lot of names, but you'll sooner or later realize that we'll be focussing on only a handful. Most of it so far was just paraphrasing what al-Tabari has written down. In regards to Abu al-Saj, he was a Sogdian emir and commander in the service of the caliph who ruled over Ahvaz.
[4] Instead of thirty-four.
[5] A farsakh amounts to around 6 kilometers. IOTL, al-Muwaffaq encountered flooded terrain created by Masrur al-Balkhi, who had breached the dike on the Tigris in order to hinder Ya’qub's passage. ITTL, things look a bit different, to the advantage of Ya’qub.
[6] Where the battle took place IOTL, a few hundred meters South. Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq won it, thanks to al-Balkhi. IOTL.
[7] Ibn al-Layth al-Saffar is an extraordinarily interesting figure, but he is usually referred to as some sort of Persian proto-nationalist who has abandoned Islam. This was a result of the OTL efforts of the ‘Abbasids and Samanids to blacken his name which was quite successful until the modern age when more critical papers began to be released. Most evidence suggests that the religious al-Saffar was actually earnestly concerned about the situation of the caliphate and feared that decadency might lead to its demise. Most contemporary sources had a positive image of him, and Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar fought the Kharijites in the East and manifesting that he was a mutatawwi', a religiously-motivated volunteer, which was attested by multiple Sunni scholars. Similar to Guthrum, both didn't have some proto-imperialist goals in mind in their actions. Most modern Orientalists doubt that he was "Christian" and fought under the banner of the Sassanian Empire as reported by some sources after he has passed away, probably in the aforementioned effort to blacken his name. Thus, since the modern consensus is the more sensible one due to outlined reasons, I'll try to follow it in the timeline. While it does imply that we won't see a reborn Sassanian Empire, it's not unreasonable to think of it as a soft start for a new Persian dynasty...
[8] Another piece of knowledge which came about thanks to modern Orientalists' efforts to paint a less opinionated picture of Ya'qub. One oftentimes cited reason why Ya'qub "betrayed" the caliphate and thus Islam was his invasion of Iraq which IOTL narrowly failed. There's enough evidence from contemporary sources such as the Ta'rikh-i Sistan that suggests that it was indeed al-Muwaffaq, the de-facto regent of the caliphate at the time, actually encouraged Ya'qub to invade Iraq who then chose to betray him for his own gain; as Ya'qub wanted to go to Baghdad to remove al-Mu'tamid from the caliphate to instate al-Muwaffaq, the latter informed his brother about this conspiracy against him which might explain his personal campaign against the "renegade" Ya'qub. Another reason to believe that Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq indeed betrayed Ya'qub is a certain Ibn Mamshadh who was executed for being an 'Abbasid spy, but that's another matter. For now, it suffices to know that al-Muwaffaq actually tried to work with Ya'qub in some sort of unbalanced relationship in which al-Muwaffaq invited Ya'qub to depose his brother and install a fit caliph alias al-Muwaffaq himself to the throne. The ever-scheming al-Muwaffaq actually had no interest in this outside of gaining a casus belli against a potential rival to the East which is why he lured him to the Iraqi marshlands where he betrayed him.
[9] A well-known prison in Baghdad.
[10] al-Tabari mentioned it multiple times as some sort of important chokepoint within the city, but to this day nobody really knows what he meant with this. Since it seems to be important, I don’t think Ya’qub would leave it unguarded.
[11] Truly a hallow play… The experience of betrayal of the highest magnitude and the lack of truly fit caliphs left him no choice but to “liberate” al-Mu’tamid from the regency of his brother al-Muwaffaq.
[12] The empire has yet to be stabilized; the competent and capable Zanj are still revolting in the South while the Kharijites are making their moves in al-Jazira alias Upper Mesopotamia. al-Saffar has to deal with those as soon as possible if he wants his empire to survive. So don't get your hopes for a rematch between the Byzantines and the Persians!
 
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Ooh, big changes. I suppose al-Mutawwad is publicly on board with the Saffarid protectorate? It would seem dangerous to be otherwise.
 
A new Persian Empire sounds neat. Question tho: you mention Muhammad ibn Kathir dying in battle but also as keeping watch in Baghdad. Are there two different Muhammads?
 
Ooh, big changes. I suppose al-Mutawwad is publicly on board with the Saffarid protectorate? It would seem dangerous to be otherwise.
If you're talking about al-Mufawwad, the son of al-Mu'tamid, then yes, certainly. During the Batte at al-Ouidha, he was, like IOTL tasked to defend Baghdad from Ya'qub's army together with Muhammad al-Muwallad. He never had his time in the spotlight IOTL, since he was quickly sidelined in favor of al-Muwaffaq and his son al-Mu'tadid. But from what we know about him, he seems to be quite laid back and not always playing an active role where he could or should, meaning that he might become a good puppet-caliph in the case that his father al-Mu'tamid is conspiring against al-Saffar.

A new Persian Empire sounds neat. Question tho: you mention Muhammad ibn Kathir dying in battle but also as keeping watch in Baghdad. Are there two different Muhammads?
Indeed, there are two (or more, depending on whether or not you count "less important" ones) military commanders called Muhammad;
Muhammad ibn Kathir was a general under the wings of Abu Ahmad al-Muwaffaq who participated in the battle against al-Saffar, while Muhammad al-Muwallad, the other Muhammad, was tasked to protect the city of Baghdad in the case that al-Muwaffaq is forced to retreat. ITTL, he not only retreated but lost more than half of his men, meaning that Baghdad is pretty much lost to al-Saffar which explains why it wasn't mentioned any longer.
 
BEYOND 1.IV: Map of the Orient, ca. 880 AD

Tulunids: A notable Mamluk Egyptian dynasty led by its founder Ahmad ibn Tulun who ruled from 868 to 884.
Born in Baghdad, as usual for a Turkic military slave (or Mamluk), he first prominently appeared in historical records when he participated in the civil war between the Caliphs al-Mu'tazz and al-Musta'in and accompanied the latter to exile in 866. After the murder of al-Must'ain, Ahmad was sent to Egypt as deputy governor by the Turkic rulers of Samarra. Soon he had consolidated his position in Egypt so that from 868 he no longer paid the taxes due to the Caliphs. These funds enabled him to promote the Egyptian economy by expanding irrigation systems and building his fleet. He also carried out extensive construction work, with the Ibn Tulun Mosque being the most famous one, which was built between 876 and 879, or the expansion of the port of Akko. Ahmad ibn Tulun tried to suppress the great influence of the Christian Copts in the administration in favor of the Muslims and Mamluks. The prosperous economy enabled Ahmad ibn Tulun to build a large army with which he occupied Cyrenaica in the 870s and Syria and Cilicia before the 880s. When he wanted to penetrate Mesopotamia, the Saffarids proved to be a task too big for Ibn Tulun's army, thus he not only was humiliated, his control over Cilicia started to vanish as he reached Fustat again.
The importance of this remarkable figure can be seen above all in the fact that Egypt became an independent empire under him, and that for the first time since the Ptolemies. On a more hilarious side note, Ibn Tulun is said to have been very fond of the art of cooking; and many traditional Egyptian dishes and spice mixtures are said to have been created by himself.

Shaybanids: The history of Upper Mesopotamia is a history of the Banu Shayban, one of the many clans of the region that preceded Islam. During the time of the prophet, they sided with the forces of Muhammad and the Banu Hashim and in the subsequently established caliphates, they played a key role in the conquest and conversion of Iraq and Persia. Now, following the Anarchy at Samarra, the clan under Isa ibn al-Shaykh al-Shaybani established almost total control over al-Jazira after he had gained the support of Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar against his long-time rival Ishaq ibn Kundaj who, as one of the many remnants of the era of the regency of al-Muwaffaq, failed to adapt to the new situation in the Orient. Although, this also has led to a new blossoming of Kharijite activity in the eastern reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris and for this, they will be bad-mouthed by the historians of the next centuries.

Abbasids and Saffarids: Al-Mu'tamid in his golden cage was forced to recognize the younger brother 'Ali ibn al-Layth as the successor to the amir of Iraq by the incumbent title holder and ill Ya'qub ibn al-Layth in 879. This, however, led to the disgruntled 'Amr ibn al-Layth to go into open revolt in the name of the "true heir and caliph" al-Muwaffaq against his brothers in the same year, although this act of disobedience would cost his life after 'Ali ibn al-Layth succeeded his brother in the same year. Nonetheless, the Saffarid Empire was still in the phase of consolidation and many parts of Dar al-Islam are in open revolt against the new Sistani Dynasty.

Bagratids: An ancient dynasty still kicking around in the 9th century in Armenia. While their origins are still shrouded in mystery since the Armenian Bagratids did their best to legitimize their rule according to their current circumstances. They initially claimed to descend from the sun god Angl-Thork, the pre-Christian patron god of the Orontids, then they claimed to come from the mythical ancestor of the Armenians, Hayk and then, under biblical influence, they claimed to come from a lost branch of the Hebrews. In the 9th century, they were one of the most prolific forces against the Abbasids and fought skirmishes whenever they could. They will, later on, claim the title "King of Armenia", although more information on that would be out of the scope of this short map update.

Yazidids: Related to the aforementioned Banu Shayban, the Yazidids, which are also called Mazyadids by some sources, were the rulers of Shirvan in what is in our timeline (Iranian) Azerbaijan. As the so-called Shirvanshahs, they acted almost completely autonomously although they commonly paid tribute to other Iranian Muslim Dynasties. Under the Saffarids, they'd continue to act autonomously although as a Persianized Arab Dynasty, they will grow more receptive to Baghdad. Not much more can be said about them, sadly, since they were quite obscure in our timeline, despite their remarkable resilience.

Shirvani Hashimids: As rulers of Darband, they were usually subjects to the authority of the Yazidid Shirvanshahs, although these two Persianized Arab clans heavily intermarried.

Sajids: The Sajids were a Muslim dynasty that ruled in Iranian Azerbaijan. Originally from Central Asia and of Sogdian descent. Abi'l-Saj Devdad was appointed as amir of Azerbaijan by the Saffarids in 879 and served the Saffarid Iraqi amirs more than he followed the ways of the Caliph. Towards the end of the ninth century, the authority of the Sajids will weaken due to less competent heirs and palace coups, but the overextension of the Saffarids will allow Muhammad ibn Abi'l Saj to form a quasi-independent state. Muhammad and his successors will then devote a significant part of their resources to try to take control of neighboring Bagratid Armenia in the name of Islam, although this will in the end fail.

Gilites and Justanids: The former an ethnicity dominated by the Shahanshahvand clan and the latter a Zaydi Shia Persian Dynasty, both had in common that they were detested by their surrounding neighbors and both were protected from them by the mountains of Tabaristan. Justan III, the incumbent head of the Justanids, was detested by 'Ali ibn al-Layth in particular who would try to raid their domains in two occasions, both of which were doomed to fail due to lacking supplies and geographic knowledge of Tabaristan.

Bawandids: Another Tabaristani Iranian Dynasty which claimed to be descendants of the Sassanids through the "lost brother" Baw of Khosraw I, although they only appeared in historiographic sources when the Abbasids conquered the region when the Bawandids were led by their ruler Sharwin I. They usually alternated between independence and submission to other domains which were opposed to the Abbasids which allowed them to thrive in the area. Again, quite an interesting dynasty, but more information on them would be too much for such a minor clan in Tabaristan.

Dulafids: The Dulafids would die out in two decades in our timeline, but this timeline will prevent Abbasid meddling in the future succession disputes within this Arab family. Not much can be said about them as of right now, although they were one of the few Arab dynasties which enjoyed cordial relations with the Saffarid rulers.

Ma'danids: In Makran, on the other side of the Saffarid Empire, there were the Ma'danids. This area was plagued by Kharijites and infidels when this family first appeared in history, but they still managed to exert some authority in the region, even after they started to pay tribute to the Saffarids.

Habbarids and Munahibids: As part of the Banu Quraysh, they enjoyed much prestige, and as rulers of Sindh, they were showered with tax incomes. The Habbari Amirate acted autonomously for quite a while by the time the Saffarids appeared on the stage, and when Ibn al-Layth entered Baghdad, they started to stop naming the Abbasid caliphs in their Friday prayers, a significant split with their relationship to the caliphate. When news broke of the collapse of real Abbasid authority, the Munahibids, another Arab family, broke off the Habbari Emirate and established their rule in Multan. While both amirates are still within the sphere of influence of the Saffarids, it can't be denied that the influence of Iraq is steadily decreasing in this area.

Samanids: Oh well... Fighting the Turkic nomads in Transoxiana is one thing, invading through Khorasan and establishing an empire there is another. While the former was a thing in both our and this timeline, the latter will never happen in this one. The succession dispute between the brothers Ismail and Nasr will go in favour of the latter thanks to Saffarid material support in that matter, meaning that they will stay behind with the other local dynasties as domains on the Central Asian front of Dar al-Islam.

Ahmad Ibn Abdallah al-Khujistani and Khorasan: al-Khujistani was a Tahirid soldier and fought against the Saffarids, which defeated his former overlords, whenever he could. When Ibn al-Layth entered Iraq, he and his anti-Saffarid followers seized Nishapur and proclaimed their own amirate in the area. But this revolt was disorganized and the city was repeatedly seized by local warlords and adventurers, and 'Ali ibn al-Layth will eventually try to quell the rebellion in rich Khorasan once and for all.

FOOTNOTES:
I'm back, finally! This timeline will now continue in a more regular matter, although I'm still a bit preoccupied with work and other stuff. But truth to be told, I'm really happy that I can finally write something for this timeline again. We're going to visit OTL Poland next, so stay tuned!
On a side note, I reported this timeline to remove the poll, let's hope it doesn't get deleted instead.
 
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BEYOND 2.V: Wislania and Polania
Excerpt: West Slavic History and Culture – Reinhard-Maria Steinmetz, Donauer Leserschaftsverband (AD 1888)


The origins of the West Slavic tribe called Golensizi is not easy to determine and still hotly debated among scholars and the inhabitants of the general area. There is also a viewpoint of a scholastic minority that doubts the entire existence of the tribe on the grounds of Ptolemy’s accounts of the geography of the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond; he mentioned a Lycian city called Kalyndia which was never found or rediscovered as an archaeological sight in Lycia. That the geographic term Galindia, which was used to describe a region near the Baltic Prussian tribes and the area inhabited by Golensizi, originates from that mysterious Kalyndia is not unlikely, considering that a considerable amount of toponyms originate from Ancient Greek or Latin terms or bastardization of those names, but it fails to convince that the Golensizi never existed in the first place.

Truth is, that of the five Golensizi civitas [1] mentioned by contemporary chroniclers only the Grätz civitas, which was located at the crossing of an important trade route from Moravia to Polania through the Oppa river, is historically tangible, and in the vicinity of which the new town of Opavia developed around the late 11th century. That the toponym of the town called Holasovice along the Oppa River could be derived from the Holasici, the Bohemian term for the Golensizi, is practically confirmed, although it is unlikely that it is one of the five civitas mentioned before, considering that the town was first mentioned in 1127 as a village on the route towards Giecz and Posen.

Nonetheless, the Golensizi seemed to have played a rather active role in the history of Moravia, Bohemia, and Francia. It seems that the tribe associated itself with the Moravian principality until the very end in 929, after which it seemed to have acted independently from the Bohemian tribal union. Archaeological evidence near Krakau suggests that they clashed with the Vistulan and Polanian tribes of the North and East multiple times, although they most likely were conquered or integrated into Bohemia by the early 940s, most likely as the provincia Holasicensis, as mentioned by a Thuringian chronicle of the time.

A look east reveals the Vistulan tribes who were closely related to the Golensizi. Like the Golensizi, it is now impossible to determine from where the names Wiślanie, Vistulan. Vistulia, and the Vistula river itself were originally adopted from, or whether or not the terms even precede the Indo-European invasion. Another problem arises from the differentiation between the Vistulans and the Chrobatians, as according to some Rhoman and Italian chroniclers, some of the tribes remained in their old homeland while the others migrated towards Croatia.

Historians are even arguing over the location of Chrobatia mentioned by the different sources, even going so far as denying its existence. But the latter opinion is itself not very convincing, as a characteristic archaeological feature of Wislania is the material culture found around Krakau and its main river, the main argument for its existence being the so-called white ceramics most likely deriven from the Chrobatians. The issues regarding the origin(s) of the Vistulans, though, remain largely unresolved. It is not certain that the described Chrobatians were located in the general territory administered by the Vistulans, although it is likely that the Chrobatians were located beyond the Carpathians inside or near Wislania until the 10th century, intermarrying with the local Vistulans and other West Slavic tribes.

The land of the Vistulans did not particularly stand out compared to the Polans of the North, and they certainly did not have a larger population compared to other West Slavic territories, although certainly exceeding those of the Golensizi. Probably, until the mid-8th century, the local population did not even build forts which could be due to frequent migrations of the tribes around the Vistula river. This changed, however, with the arrival of the Magyars in the Carpathian basin and extensive raiding campaigns conducted by the Moravians, Bohemians and their allies, the Golensizi in particular, which forced the Vistulans to invest in the now-characteristic feature of Wislania, namely castles and fortified settlements, which, although small in overall numbers, were huge in sizes, often exceeding 10 hectares. The great Vistulan strongholds were located, among others, mainly in or around Krakau, Stradau, Demblin, Naszacowice, and Podegrodzie. These fortresses, called gord for their distinctive structure, were among the largest built by the Vistulans, with Podegrodzie exceeding 25 hectares.

Archaeological research has shown the low degree of development of a small amount of these castles, which indicates that these could have served as a shelter for the surrounding population and their property during raids and wars. However, it cannot be excluded that some of them were indeed administrative and military centers.

It is presumed that Krakau was the main city of the Vistulans. This is indicated by the size and degree of development of the castle on Wawel Hill, and the later significance of this castle. Archaeological evidence around the Wawel Castle, mainly spears, axes and even bows suggests excessive contacts with the Magyars, Polans, and Bohemians.

Practically nothing is known about the political history of the Vistulans until the second half of the 9th century. Only the scriptures written by Saint Methodius contain a description of events traditionally associated with this tribe, according to which, the mighty prince "did harm" to Christians. This could manifest itself in plundering expeditions to the territory of Greater Moravia, although it may have been “only” the persecution of Christian missionaries. Methodius did not suggest that the Vistulans were incorporated into Great Moravia, but such theories were once popular. According to some scholars, this theory is supported by the discovery of signs of destruction as a result of invasions of a dozen strongholds at the end of the 9th century below the Vistula River, although it is impossible to prove that these were the remains of a hypothetical Moravian invasion or just a result of raiding campaigns of the Magyars or surrounding West Slavic tribes.

Nonetheless, the period up to the beginning of the 10th century could have been a period of Great Moravian influence, if not cultural, then at least political. It cannot be ruled out that a hypothetical prince of the Vistulans served as a vassal of the Moravian throne. Still, as the Magyars established their rule over Pannonia, it can’t be ruled out that they invaded Moravia with the Magyars either.

All (hypothetical) dependence of the Vistulans on a powerful neighbor ended with the fall of Great Moravia under Mojmír III, after which the Bohemian nobility conducted raids into the unorganized West Slavic tribes. The consolidation of a state in the following years has been initially hampered by the proximity of Magyars which certainly raided parts of Vistulia, but after the Battle of Wenzelbach in 939, the raids decreased in frequency and size in the area, as the Magyars intensified their looting efforts in Italy and Francia [2]. This allowed the Vistulans to focus on the Golensizi which appeared to have rebelled against the industrious, although incompetent, prince Wenceslaus I of Bohemia. Raids conducted by the Polans and the Bohemian forced both the Golensizi and the Vistulans to develop their tribal and proto-feudal structures, although the exact process is not known nor explained through contemporary sources. Still, it is generally assumed that they followed a path similar to the ones taken by the Polans.

The emergence of an increasingly centralized and coherent principality of the Vistulans probably took place through planned conquests of surrounding tribes. The first traces of their violent behavior can be found in Silesia, where at the beginning of the 10th century older and smaller castles of the petty ruler of the Silesian tribe were systematically destroyed with the help of Golensizi which were most likely independent again by that point. The local population was either relocated to Wislania proper or sold into slavery to the Magyars, Bulgars, and Rhomans, though possibly used in Vistulan proto-feudal structures. The conquered area was consolidated in the 950s and 960s by the expansion of castles in Silesia. Furthermore, perhaps due to a fear of Magyars reintensifying their looting campaigns in the West Slavic region, wooden and earth walls and a chain of castles were built on the periphery of the Vistulan principality. This planned expansion required large amounts of resources and an equally large number of soldiers, implying that a certain degree of centralization was reached. Archaeological evidence at this time shows changes in the locations of settlements, in the course of which the areas inhabited by the Golensizi were subjected to massive destruction and depopulation, while the central area of Wislania experienced internal colonial expansion and an increase in population. Evidence suggests that larger battles between the Polans and Vistulans were fought, although the results were inconclusive which forced the Polans to redirect their expansion efforts into Polabia and Pomerania with similarly brutal campaigns.

Why the leaders of the Vistulans and Polans relied on streamlined expansion can be explained through the necessity of a larger agricultural output, which seems to have been limited inside their respective power base. While luxury goods came from interregional exchanges in return for serfs who were particularly in demand on the oriental and southern European slave markets, the local population had to nurture itself with still underdeveloped agricultural land which quickly reached its limits. This eventually resulted in famines running rampant in the general area between Polania and Wislania. To feed their population regularly, for which the own territory and the population were not sufficient, raids on and conquests of foreign territories and the depletion of the enemies’ resources were an indispensable instrument.

Despite the apparent hostilities, the close cultural relationship between the Vistulans and Polans as part of the larger Lechitic group didn’t cease to exist, especially with the advent of Christian missionaries in the area, which was welcomed especially by the Silesian Golensizi as they seemed to disapprove of their former Vistulan allies. Here, we find the first known Vistulan Prince in historiography named Radomil who opposed the semi-legendary prince of the Polans Siemomysł and his son Czsibor in a battle in Mazovia [3] in the latter half of the 960s in an account of the German missionary and monk Ermin of Rotendorf in his reports for the Lateran.

Only little is known about Radomil I of Wislania, but it seems that he inflicted defeat on the Magyars twice near the Carpathians and, perhaps after this event, quelled a revolt of the restless Golensizi. The period of contact between Bohemia, Polania, and Wislania resulted in the favorable economic development of the settlement of Krakau which grew to be an important trade hub on the Prague-Kyiv trade route. Additionally, the civitas was mentioned as the capital of the Vistulans, according to some Andalusi scholars, from which we can assume that Radomil I ruled from this city.

It has become a mainstream opinion in West Slavic historiography that the Vistulans and the Polans were the two strong Lechitic tribes capable of unifying the North-Eastern European Plain. But the combination of the aforementioned different circumstances meant that this ultimate goal was, for now, impossible for both of the Lechitic people to reach, although, this too will change with the accelerating Christianization of the West Slavs [4].




SUMMARY:
960s
: The Principality of Wislania (also known as Vistulia) emerges as an independent force of the Lechitic people, which now rivaled the expanding Polanian state.

FOOTNOTES
[1] Well, you might ask yourself here what exactly a civitas is. Truth is, most historians don’t know either, but there are several educated guesses of whom most may be true at the same time.
According to the most popular theories, the term civitas in the West Slavic areas means either
  • central castle complex belonging to a respective tribe, possibly with a small, associated settlement,​
  • a proto-feudal, organized, and somewhat notable settlement with a political center around a main castle​
  • an early urban settlement, often fortified, in which a non-agricultural population lives​
  • a certain number of settlements in which a group of Slavic settlers, organized in the manner of gentile society, have settled, or​
  • border districts of Slavic tribal territories, which enclose the central area of settlement and primarily perform military tasks, similar to the marches of the Frankish Empire.​
[2] This is the main butterfly for this region, in the case you couldn’t tell.
[3] No name of any Vistulan prince or ruler has been preserved throughout history which is why we’ll have to stick with Old Slavic-Polish names for the Vistulan lords for now. On the matter of Mieszko I of Poland of OTL, he was, thanks to the strengthened Vistulan tribal union and the new and slightly different interactions with the Pomeranian and Polabian tribes butterflied away, sadly. I considered Siemomysł as the last person who is pretty much the same as OTL, afterward the butterflies would have changed too much to be able to justify the same Piasts as IOTL. ITTL, Siemomysł, father of Mieszko I has only one single son named Czsibor who would succeed him after his father’s death around 965/966.
[4] I’ll spoil a little bit by saying that this is not that much of a Poland-screw as some might think now. The geography of the area practically forces both Wislania and Polania to constantly clash with one another, with Polania having the advantage of being an older and more organized state than the young Vistulanian principality. The advent of Christianity might change some things in the region, but for now, what is in our timeline Poland is split between Polania in the North-West and Wislania in the South-East ITTL.
OOC: I'm still not sure whether I should or will stick with Vistulia instead of Wislania and I'd like to hear your opinion on the names.
EDIT: I settled for Wislania and corrected some glaring grammatical mistakes. Note to myself: don't write late at night.
 
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Wislania sounds more Slavic than Vistulia IMO -- interesting to see a rival statelet competing with the Poles (for now)...
 
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