Let Me Tell You about My Be-eeeesssst Friend! A Byzantine-Sasanian Re-approachment - 602 AD

ancient enemy? wut the turks were more of then than not allies to both persia and the byzantines and never got in to a war with the byzantines but after the destruction of the helphetatlies got more in touch with the byzantines
i guess the weakening of the turks in the west can allow for an earlier rise of the khazars and if the east is weakened the tang would have an easier time getting to central asia.
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ancient enemy? wut the turks were more of then than not allies to both persia and the byzantines and never got in to a war with the byzantines but after the destruction of the helphetatlies got more in touch with the byzantines
i guess the weakening of the turks in the west can allow for an earlier rise of the khazars and if the east is weakened the tang would have an easier time getting to central asia.
I was referring to Persia as Byzantium's ancient enemy.
Chapter 12: The Year of Three Popes


Organa would personally invest the architects of his new Coptic Church in Alexandria. This would endear him both to the Miaphysite Church and the common people who had hated the Greek overlords. Indeed, Coptic clergymen had been forbidden from even entering the city of Alexandria under Byzantine rule.

"King" Organa would largely leave much of the government functions alone, including many of the laws. Those laws he DID change were actually quite popular. While the Greeks were not slaughtered and their Catholic Church banned, naturally all restrictions against the Copts were withdrawn. The Copts were rapidly trained into an army. Indeed, so many volunteered that there were near riots in some cities when the army was fully embodied and disappointed volunteers were told to go home. Patriotic militias were popular. As one of the predominant manufacturing centers of the old Byzantine Empire. This allowed the army to be well-armed.

It was considered only a matter of time before the Byzantines invaded. While nearly a third of the 150,000 Bulgarian tribesmen could be classified as warriors, the Copts soon made up the majority of the army and navy (reaching 40,000 and 10,000 respectively, in 612, as they prepared to defend themselves). The Coptic language rapidly replaced the Greek in the bureaucracy (often the Miaphysite priests served as the literate bureaucrats). Certainly, the Bulgarian dialect of the Turkic language were never considered to be the language of state. Therefore, the Copts would serve in virtually all civil positions.

The Bulgarians, whom some feared would loot the entire nation, were surprisingly satisfied with the lands they were given. Indeed, the nation was so populous and rich that the Bulgarians would be astonished at the riches handed to them. They would have been even more astonished to find out that this tribute represented only a fraction of the annual taxes extorted from Egypt by the Byzantines over the years.

Waiting the entire year of 612 for the Byzantines to attack again (it was not immediately clear just how limited Byzantine resources were in Egypt), the King would shrug and decide to test his army's mettle by marching them upon Cyrenaica as it was feared the coastal province would fall into the hands of the Exarchate of Africa (it was still unclear if this was a breakaway kingdom yet and only by 613 would "King" Theodore of Africa send a delegation to Egypt). Evidently, Theodore was more interested in protecting his vast coastline from the Byzantine Navy than picking a fight with a neighbor (and adding to its vast coastline).


For the winter of 611-612, Heraclius the Younger would debate marching south and retaking Africa from his brother, Theodore, who made himself a King. Heraclius was certain his father intended Africa and Hispania both for the elder brother. But Heraclius would determine not to face his brother for two reasons:

1. His grasp over Hispania was weak to say the least. The heretic Arian Visigoths were largely pushed out of the Peninsula and no longer a threat but that was hardly the same as claiming full control over the natives. Should he depart, the native peoples may overthrow him or one of his generals may determine to take the throne in his absence.
2. Heraclius had been gone from Africa for some time and he was unsure if he had any support among the Romanized populace of the cities or the Berbers of the hinterlands. It was a bad idea to pick a fight one could not win.

In the end, Heraclius determined to stay in Hispania. He married the daughter of a local dignitary and went about forming a dynasty in the usual way.


King Theodosius would soon find his political problems multiplying. In some ways, the Byzantine Empire was getting back on its feet. The Danube remained quite secure as the Avars were willing to enjoy the peace. New settlers from Georgia, Armenia, Anatolia and Greece were granted lands (nearly 100,000 migrants in just the a few years) along the Danube, the population making it more secure. New fortresses along the Danube would ensure future barbarian incursions would be modest in scale....or really, really big....as the fortresses would be able to dominate the supply lines of any invader. The larger population would be adequate to fight of modest raiders. And large-scale invasions by hundreds of thousands of invaders seemed unlikely in 612.

The economy of Byzantium was stabilizing...at least in what was left of Byzantium (mainly the Balkans, Anatolia, Armenia and Syria). The new Ghassanid Kingdom was proving adequate to protecting Syria from Arab raiders.

Peace with Persia, to the surprise of many, remained in place and had reached nearly 30 years (minus those wars in which Maurice put Khosrow back upon the Persian throne and Khosrow put Theodosius upon the Byzantine throne). Both had greater problems than one another. Fighting over border territories in Mesopotamia or Armenia, provinces which normally were problematic anyways for whichever Empire "controlled" them, would seem of secondary importance.

Theodosius was battle endless demands from citizens, soldiers and priests to retake the Empire. The wealthy African provinces had declared effective independence (Carthage would formally declare so in late 612). Lacking resources to invade Egypt, which reportedly had 50,000 Bulgarian warriors and 50,000 well-armed Copts under arms, the Emperor would quietly condemn the "rebels" but do little to nothing. Indeed, Byzantium continued to import Egyptian grain throughout 612. The last thing Theodosius needed was a famine in the capital.

As it was, the greatest crisis was within the capital itself. Years after Pope Gregory's death, the Roman priests in exile would gather with Roman nobles in exile and announced they had selected a new Pope. Hearing rumors of this, the Byzantine Catholics would summon a number of bishops home and select their own Pope. The two parties would both demand the Emperor's support. The city would be divided between the "Roman" Pope and the "Byzantine" Pope.

Eventually, the Emperor would pronounce that the "Byzantine" Pope had his support. Outraged, hundreds of Roman priests, nobles and various supporters would sail away from Greek shores for the only reasonable destination: Carthage. Here the "Roman" Pope was declared the one true leader of the Catholic Church by King Theodore of Africa.


King Agilulf of the Lombards would see the problems associated with forcing the Latins of the Italian Peninsula to the Arian Church. Instead, he opted to close down the Catholic monestaries, usually exiling the priests from Italian shores just to be rid of them. Arian priests were given local churches. Violence continued, however the rising number of Arian settlers would reduce the efficiency of this rebel activity. As the Latins were not forced to attend the Arian church, the amount of organized resistance would quietly subside in the absence of clergy and noble leadership.

Agilulf, believing that the Arian Church needed to be codified, pronounced that Rome would have a new Pope. Naturally, this was a Lombard Arian Pope.

Few Latins would immediately recognize this church. Some, lacking a Catholic clergyman, would almost have to engage the Arian priests for weddings, etc. A few would willingly convert for lack of other options. Commoners did not care overly much for nitpicking the nature of the Trinity and one priest was as good as another. The new Latin bureaucrats and ambitious men willing to serve the new administration would take the lead in quiet, unforced religious conversion.

As Latin religious fervor was hardly universal, some Italians would simply go along to get along and give their nominal allegiance to the Arian church.

By the end of the second decade of the 7th century, the Arian Church was proving quite well installed among the people of Italy, even if most of the Latin natives only gave sullen obedience and lip-service while secretly longing for their Catholic Pope.

One of the most devastating developments for the Catholic majority (soon to be minority) in Italy was the diversion of Papal Authority between two contenders, one in Byzantium and one in Carthage. This prevented any unified front against the Arians in Italy.

Indeed, the battle between the two Popes (and Papacies as both East and Western Popes would die after a few years and the institutions would continue the battle over the course of many Papacies in future generations) would lead to a diplomatic cold war as the assorted Popes and their allied temporal rulers would fight for influence among the thrones and peoples of Hispania and the rapidly evolving Frankish Empire.
Three Popes? This promises to be a very strange Christianity -especially with the various offshoots who acknowledge no Pope at all. Looking forward to seeing the mess that inevitably develops.
- Byzantine didn't need Popes, they already have Patriarch of Constantinople.
- while Roman Priest and Nobles had no power to even elect Pope, they are exiles with no special Rights and Pope need permission from Emperor or Exarchs.

Pope is not important yet. The result of occupation of Rome would mean Patriarch of Rome now fallen to heresy, which would lost it lot of soft power, since its now no o longer always Orthodox. Other Western Bishop (such as Carthage) would challenge its place. There no need from anyone not in Rome to claim to be Patriarch of Rome / Pope.
Chapter 13


King Theoderic II of Burgundy had fought his cousin Chlothar II of Neustria and his own brother Theudebert II of Austrasia for years, turning the Frankish Kingdoms inherited from his great grandfather into blood-soaked grounds.

Despite a state of mutual exhaustion, Theoderic was preparing to invade his brother's domains again when he fell sick with dysentery. Fortunately, he recovered swiftly but his campaign was suspended.

By the end of 613, the trio of Frankish Kings would be seeking allies wherever they could find them.

Among those contacted were the King of the Lombard Kingdom, the Avar Khagan, the new King of Hispania and other Germanic tribes to the east, including the King of Bavaria. Already, nominal Frankish vassals of all three Kingdoms were proving restless including the Alemanni.


King Organa arrived in Cyrenaica uncertain what to expect. Much more lightly populated than Egypt itself, the isolated Cyreniacans were a mix of Coptic and Greek Orthodox. For the most part, the Bulgar was accepted as the new ruler. There was reportedly some attempt by Greek Orthodox citizens to entice the Byzantine Emperor or King of Carthage to assume power but to no avail, apparently. The King of Carthage had already sent emissaries to Alexandria with the promise of peace.

Organa got the impression that Theodore of Africa was more concerned with his brother in Hispania...or at least keeping Heraclius IN Hispania.

Toledo, Hispania

King Heraclius of Toledo would find assuming power over the local Latin nobles more difficult than he expected. Having evicted the heretical Arian Visigoths from the Iberian Peninsula, he would have expected more gratitude.

But the nobles would fight for ever advantage. Eventually, Heraclius would have to make an example out of a few of them.

By 614, he would receive multiple requests for aid from each of the Frankish Kingdoms, all offering significant territorial concessions. Though tempted, Heraclius knew his throne was already fragile enough. He could not risk leaving Iberia, nor his wife (the daughter of a local Latin Duke) and newborn son. For the time being, Heraclius would consolidate his holdings.


Though it took some time, the transfer of the Lombard Kingdom capital to Rome was achieved. King Agilulf would find that the ancient capital was a hotbed of dissent and resistance. Though the troublesome Catholic priests had been ejected, the Latin population remained largely uncowed. Even the arrival of tens of thousands of Visigoths, Vandals and other Arian peoples (or just Germanic Catholics or pagans willing to obey) did little to crush the Latins. Rather than force them into Arian churches, the King opted to let matters stand for the time being.

Even the entreaties by the various Frankish Kings would do little to withdraw his attention from the Italian Peninsula.
However, ITTL mercantile republics would be far less likely to emerge with Italy being thoroughly destroyed (much more deaths and destruction than IOTL) and Lombardized like that. Either Venice or the Byzantine Empire would have a field day dominating Adriatic/Italian Mediterranean trade.
Chapter 14

Septimania (Southern France)

The King of Hispania, Heraclius, would invade Septimania not so much for additional lands but with the intent of pushing the last of the Visigoths out of western Europe. There was still a base of support, no matter how tenuous, in Hispania for the old guard including some Arians and men who owed their power and position to the old Visigoth era.

In truth, the King was tired of dealing with intransigent Latin nobles and regional politics and saw the invasion of Septimania as a public relations coup as well as a chance to get the hell away from Toledo.

Of course, the King would not dare do so if the Franks had not been at one another's throats.

Not for the first time, Heraclius would wonder if perhaps he might use this new territory as a platform to invade and reconquer Italy for what he perceived as the Roman Empire.


King Theodore had already taken a wife and produced an heir. His wife was already pregnant a second time and he was quite well along to producing a dynasty.

Multiple threats abounded though. There was always the fear that his brother Heraclius would return from Hispania with the intent of regaining Carthage (even though Carthage or the "Exarchate of Africa" had never been an official Independent Kingdom prior to his departure from Africa to Europe).

Similarly, the Byzantine Navy, though a specter of what it once was, remained the most powerful in the Mediterranean. Perhaps only the fact that more important regions like Italy and Egypt had fallen from the Byzantine grasp in recent years kept the Byzantine Navy from Carthaginian shores.

Seeking an ally, Theodore reached out to the only power without any particular interest in conquering Carthage: Egypt.

The new King of Egypt, Organa, was apparently willing to make an alliance...or at least presented one region which did not prove a threat.

Theodore also worked hard to make allies of the Berbers to the south, offering missionaries to convert those of native tribes, economic opportunities for trade and the occasional bribe to important chieftains. This kept any major insurrection from the nomadic peoples south of the coast from attacking the vulnerable port cities.


After the Byzantine failure to reconquer Egypt, the Emperor would spend months in isolation, fearing that he'd failed his predecessors. Fortunately, his wife provided yet another heir and that brought Theodosius from his doldrums.

The Emperor was forced to reevaluate just what he COULD do in this era of apparent Byzantine collapse (for which many blamed Theodosius). Though he longed to regain Italy, Egypt and Carthage, Theodosius doubted any of these things were possible at the moment. Indeed, he could barely contain his Ghassanid client state which appeared to be strengthening. On the surface, that was a good thing.

Of course a stronger Ghassanid Dynasty also meant it may prove more independent. Already thousands of Ghassanids had joined the Bulgars in Egypt. How many more may join the Egyptians...or Persians....or Arabs...or....god forbid...the Miaphysite majority in Syria.

With a minimal amount of funds available for the army, a cross-Mediterranean invasion seemed impossible for the moment. Thus Theodosius chose to wait...uncertain when he would be able to act again.

Meanwhile, the Pope selected by the Byzantines (who happened to be the old Patriarch of Byzantium) would formally declare those supporters of the Pope selected by the exiled Roman clergy and nobles to be a heretic. This was easy for the Emperor to support as this same Pope had declared the Emperor a heretic and sailed off for Carthage, apparently in hopes of forming an army in Carthage to invade Byzantium. No matter what the general populace of Byzantium thought of the Emperor, they were never going to support an invasion of their city.

Thus, the spiritual civil war ended as quickly as it began.

Theodosius would quietly (and ever so slowly) gather his resources over the coming years.

Ctesiphon, Persian Empire

Khosrow II of the Sassanian Empire would similarly see the weakness of his own Empire. Unlike the Byzantine, however, the Persian Empire was newly solvent despite years of war. Taxes from Mesopotamia, long the wealthiest portion of the Empire, flowed in an debts were paid.

More than any time in his life, Khosrow realized that the wars against the Byzantine seldom brought in adequate revenues to justify their costs. Indeed, they very, very seldom did and usually proved to be expensive wastes of blood and treasure which brought rebellion upon the Empire and Coups upon the Royal Family.

Perhaps he was just growing up, Khosrow thought, amused that a man of his advanced years was only now growing up.

With the wars to the northeast, northwest and south largely won, the Empire was at peace for the first time in years. Proddings from court personnel to invade the Byzantine would fall upon deaf ears. Wars between Persia and the Byzantine usually fell upon Armenia (largely Byzantine) and Mesopotamia (largely Persian). As Mesopotamia was far richer, it seemed likely that any war with the Byzantine would prove a waste of time and money.

Besides, Khosrow's sons were still growing up. He'd prefer they be men before they were forced into war.

Let time take its course and Persia regain its breath.