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

Who were the Romans going to fight in the Mediterranean? They controlled it all. In an empire with a chaotic succession, fighting the Persians was a way to prove your value as emperor.
Only for one or two hundred years. Seems as though it'd be better for the Romans to focus on retaking Italy, Hispania, and Gaul after circa AD 500 than to fight the Persians.
 
Chapter 44
644

Britain


As Kent and East Anglia waged war upon the Pagan Saxon dynasties of southeastern Britain, the Celtic peoples of the western Kingdoms (Wales and Cornwall) and Northumberland would bicker for years debating what to do. These Celtic nations were no less prone in internal dynastic disputes and Empire-building than the Saxon mercenaries of the southeast who had managed to achieve control over the region over the past centuries.

But the Hiberian clergy who had been preaching the Catholic faith for decades on Britain managed to push several allied Kingdoms in the same direction, that of a unified church. Kings which normally would have happily feuded among themselves were convinced to unite their forces against the invading Saxons (though, again, the Saxons had been present for generations in southeast Britain) and pressed to "free" the Celtic peasant majority being forced into apostacy by the heretic Byzantine Pope.

Thus an alliance was formed with the intent of reconquering the southeast in the name of the Lord. The Celts would receive a major piece of luck when the Pagan King Cenwahl of Wessex was forced from his throne. A Saxon King with an oddly Celtic name, Cenwahl was forced to flee to Gwent where he was received into the Church largely in hopes of aid to regain his throne. He was also given a fourth wife (he'd divorced his first two, which got him into this mess, and the third died) in the form of a Gwent Princess (actually a bastard but at least a pretty and, as it would turn out, fertile one). This would at least prove wise as the forces of Gwent and local Celtic Kingdoms were able to get Cenwahl back on this throne.

Despite his Saxon origins, Cenwahl was declared an apostate by the Church of Byzantium and the other Saxon Kings and forced into a permanent alliance with the Celts. His wife would give birth to two sons in quick succession before Cenwahl died defending his Kingdom against a Kentish incursion. Two of his Celtic brothers-in-law took command of his Kingdom on behalf of his nephews and promptly evicted thousands of Saxon gentry, replacing them with Celtic and Carthaginian-Church figures in government.

In the meantime, much of Essex and Sussex were conquered by East Anglia and Kent, which pushed their Pagan rulers into the camp of the Celtic Kingdoms of the north. In short order, Sussex was regained (with the King declaring for his western "allies") and western Essex returned to her King.

At this point, in 645, a general peace was made given the exhaustion and bankruptcy of all parties. It was a peace not intended to last as, for the first time in a century, the "Saxons" (i.e. Germans of Saxon, Frisian, Angles, Jutes and other peoples) were put on the backfoot against the Celtic-speaking Brittanic peoples united at least nominally under a church.

Uyghur Khaganate

For years, the Khazars had been gradually converting to the Miaphysite faith (though, like the Armenians, would not take much direction from the nominal Miaphysite Pope in Alexandria). As the new frontline against the expanding Manichaean Uyghur Khaganate, the Khazars would be shocked to find envoys from both Persia and Ghassanid Syria arrive with offers to help. Persia feared Uyghur aggression along their northeastern frontier while Syria desired to aid their co-religionists the Khazars.

Though "aid" came in the form of weapons and some gold from their "allies", the Khazars at least knew they need not fear an attack from the south.

Perhaps the major outcomes of this diplomacy were the private discussions between the Persian and Syrian envoys who would return to their respective capitals and encourage a reconciliation between Persia and Syria.

On the surface, there were hindrances to this. The Nestorian Christian faith had been allowed to prosper in the southern Persian provinces. This was offensive to the Miaphysites who found the Nestorian take on Christ's dual godliness and humanity heretical, even more so than the Catholics of Byzantium. But the Ghassanid King and the Persian King realized they had common cause and were willing to make a greater attempt at peace with modest alliances against the Manichaeans in the north and even against the Arabs in the south.

The Nestorian Lakhmid King, al'Numan, had been willing to put aside the ancient Ghassanid-Lakhmid rivalry, something absolutely no intelligent men of the age believed was possible. This led to the resurgance of the Lakhmid Empire.

The three great powers of the region (Persia, Lakhmid and Ghassanid Syria) believed that continuing this peace was in their best interests as internal political convulsions and fear of outright warfare in the region abounded as rumors of an inevitable Byzantine offensive and Arab Musselman invasion continued apace.
 
Chapter 45
645

Byzantium



Maurice II of the Byzantine Empire would be forced to do the unthinkable...ally with the Persia and Syrian Kingdoms. Just as Persia feared the Turkic hordes assuming control over the vast plains of Central Asia assaulting her northern borders, the Syrians were concerned about their northern allies, the Khazars being overrun by the Uyghurs.

In 644, the Uyghur Khaganate (formerly west and east Turkic Khaganates) assaulted the Khazar Khaganate. Beyond causing great damage that loose confederacy of Turkic tribes, the Uyghurs would break through the Khazar ranks and assault some of Caucasus peoples...including the Catholic Georgians, an ally of Byzantium.

Thus the three powers of the Near East would indirectly ally with a Turkic nation against other Turkic nation, an odd twist of fate.

One event which fell beneath the notice at the time but would have lasting effects over the coming century. The Byzantine Pope would quietly downplay Latin in the liturgical rites and allow more direct teaching of the faith in the predominant Greek of the region. Despite the Byzantine Greeks often referring to themselves as "Roman" and their language as "Romanish", the fact was that the Byzantine Empire was predominantly Greek and Latin was becoming less and less important in every aspect of life (Greek was already the language of the government, administration, military, etc).

But the church had long remained a holdout for years after Rome fell to the barbarians. "Latin" was the core of the old Roman Empire...but more and more Byzantines including the Emperor and the new Pope began to see this as a symbol holding the Empire back.

But the true reason for the liturgical change was the fact that the Pope wanted the word of God to be in the language of the people and many priests spent so much time learning Latin that the actual day to day cares of the people were being ignored. As part of the reforms pressed upon the Church, the Pope would review the large numbers of monasteries and convents for their usefulness to the church.

As the Church of Carthage would become ever more Latin, the two Catholic Churches would grow further and further apart.

Hispania

Heraclius I of Hispania would see his son to adulthood before expiring in on a sunny day in 645. King Constantine I of Hispania would rise in his place. Though not as aggressive as his father, Constantine would further consolidate the "Heracliun Dynasty" in the west and cunningly maintain alliances with the Gauls, Hibernia, Britain and even his cousin in Africa.

Kush Mountains

Two generations prior the Hephthalites, mix of plains nomads and urbanized mountain men, had menaced the Persian Empire. But a crushing defeat had largely broken the alliance into a handful of petty Kingdoms.

Though much of the area was Buddhist, there was a diverse undercurrent of Nestorian Christians, Manichaeans, Tengrists, Hindus and assorted local faiths. The expulsion of the Nestorians from the Steppe had brought internal war to the region. Within the region, the Nestorians would gain the upper hand. Even an attempt by the Manichaean Uyghurs to turn the tide made little progress as the mountain men were little intent on obeying the words of plainsmen.

Eventually, the Nestorian faith would become ascendant in the mountains.
 
Chapter 46
646

Kingdom of Northumberland


After a few years of peace, the Isle of Britain convulsed again in war. The young King of Northumberland, allied with his Celtic relatives of the west and invaded the Saxon Kingdom of Anglia, a staunch supporter of the Byzantine Catholic Church. United in faith, the Celts would gather forces in numbers uncommon to Britain. Tens of thousands of soldiers flooded into East Anglia, the Celtic priests at the fore.

Within a few months, the key Saxon strongholds in Anglia had fallen.

In a particularly cunning bit of diplomacy, the King of Northumberland would ally with the southern Saxon Kingdom of Kent. He offered southern Anglia to the King of Kent. As Anglia fell, the exhausted King of Northumberland honorably ceded the agreed upon lands.

The King of Northumberland would spend a few years consolidating his gains before he turned his eyes upon Kent itself.

Slavic Realms

Though it would take years to see any effect, the missionaries sent to the Slavic tribes would slowly gain ground. The Slavs were a stubborn and largely rural people with few large cities thus the Byzantine Catholics would have trouble attracting a following.

Still, thousands were converting every years. Progress may be minor but existed nevertheless.

Persia

As Mardanshah formed his new court in Persia proper (having moved from Ctesiphon, Asoristan to southern Persia), the King would see massive shifts in the direction of his policy. removed from the effects of the Nestorian and Jewish south. The Zoroastrian Church would ascend to a point unseen in generations. The attempt to unify the Persian people was quickly becoming a division between Persia and her non-Zoroastrian subject peoples.
 
Chapter 47
647

Meccan Imamate


Over the course of the previous few years, both the Caliphate and the Imamate had occasionally sought to regain the initiative in spreading their faith by conquering neighboring regions (the Muslim ardor ebbed greatly when the conquests slowed to a halt) but all attempts to acquire territory, tribute and followers failed be they directed against the Jews of the south, the Magyars of the southeast, the apostate heretic Maslamahan Hanifites of the east, the Lakhmids to the northeast and the Ghassanid Dynasty in Syria to the north.

Indeed, any attempt to marshal the limited resources of either the Imamate or Caliphate against infidels would only lead to the other Muslim state to invade. Thus, for years, a lingering standoff emerged, each fearing to act lest they leave their respective capitals of Medina and Mecca vulnerable.

As the two Islamic sects diverged over esoteric points such as the use of icons for historical (but not holy) figures, the phrasing of certain stories of the Qur'an and even the exact dates over when the Prophet received given revelations, the two nations solidified their mutual antagonism. Fearing defeat, each Muslim state proceeded to make alliances with assorted infidels. To secure their southern flank, the Imamate would agree to a far-reaching peace treaty and trade agreement with Israel (Yemen). After several defeats to the Ghassanids, the Caliphate would make peace with their northern neighbors.

Neither the Imamate nor the Caliphate could stomach anything other than a non-aggression pact with the Maslamahan Hanifites to the east. Given that the apostates had allied with the Lakhmids (and theoretically their allies Persia, which also nominally counted Magyar-dominated Oman and Israel as allies and client states), no military leaders of note would recommend launching an invasion in ANY direction. Not only was the chance of success against the inifidels low...but the other Muslim state would almost certainly take the opportunity to invade...and probably win.


Hispania

Heraclius II of Hispania, seeking to protect his diplomatic flanks, would arrange the marriage of his son to the granddaughter of Theodore I of Africa. Second cousins, the part were far enough apart that no one could complain about incest (both Heraclius and the heir to Africa had married local nobles in order to guarantee regional support).

It was a large step between the two "Carthaginian" Catholic nations, one which promised to reduce the tension after Theodore usurped his elder brother Heraclius I's stronger claim to the African throne and bring about an alliance intended to maximize the power of the Carthaginian Church.

Kent

Eorcenberht of Kent, though he gained southern Anglia by way of his alliance with the Celts, would look at the map and wonder if he'd made a devil's bargain. As the last major Saxon Kingdom in Britain, and one supporting the Byzantine Church no less, his throne seemed very, very insecure.

Seeing the slaughter of the Saxon clergy and nobility in Northumberland, Mercia and Kent over the years led some to dismiss Eorcenberht as a traitor to his faith. But the Saxon King hardly cared overly much about petty religious dogma, especially as the main difference between Byzantine and Carthaginian Catholic faiths was....who was in charge of the Church, one Pope or the other.

By now certain that the Carthaginian Celts planned his own Kingdom's conquest next, the King would determine that maintaining his Dynasty required a daring move. He pronounced that the Kingdom of Kent would now follow the Carthaginian Church. In this, he hopes for peace were dashed not by the Celts but by his own Saxon nobles, many of whom were horrified by the decision.

Over the past decades, the Kentish Kings had led the suppression of the Pagan Britons of their realm, making Kent (and perhaps East Anglia) the most Christian Kingdoms in Britain. However, the Saxons were not particularly beloved by the local Britons who were already agitating for closer ties to other native peoples, including their religion (not that the peasants cared anymore for Church doctrine than the King).

Dozens of Saxon nobles would rise up in rebellion, including members of Eorcenberht's family. A vicious civil war ensued bringing misery to southern Britain.

Britain

The Saxons were hardly the only people warring among themselves in the Isle. Having been met with great success conquering various Saxons Kingdoms in the southeast, the Kingdoms of Northumberland, Mercia-Anglia, Powys and Gwynedd fell out over dynastic issues and commenced warring among themselves.
 
Chapter 48
648

Lombard Kingdom (Italy)


Arioald II of Lombardy had been raised a devout Arian by his father, Arioald II, and his mother Gundaberga. Following in his father's footsteps, he closed all Catholic churches, convents, abbeys, etc and evicted all priests and nuns who refused to serve the Arian Church. Those who refused to depart the peninsula or continued to agitate the commoners were executed in the most graphic manner.

By 648, the Peninsula was nominally Arian. Waves of Gothic, German and other tribes long deemed "barbarians" by the Romans had conquered the Latin peoples and subjugated them. Every year, more and more Latins would participate in the Arian Church services. While the Lombards seldom FORCED people to attend or even declare their allegiance lest they spur rebellion, the Arian Church was plainly in ascendance.

Now achieving a majority on the peninsula, Arioald was willing to stamp out what was left. The peasants mattered little. But the Latin nobles allowed to remain in Lombardy would continue to vex the Arian King by secretly maintaining their Catholic faith. Hidden rooms were built into their homes to hide Catholic Priests and allow private services to continue. Much more confident in his position, the King would offer rewards for the discovery of such Catholics in his Kingdom. Servants were the most common informers.

As the King confiscated all Catholic property (and usually executing the priests and nobles), the Years of Terror would largely pay for themselves.

For all the domination of the "Barbarian" conquerors, the actual Latin culture in existence prior to the invasions would change little. When the Arian tribes settled on the Peninsula, they seldom to never had a coherent written language. The Catholic priesthood and Latin nobles were more than capable of fulfilling the bureaucratic role. Eventually the Lombard, Goth, Vandal and other nobles would educate their children in the "Roman" style. The Latin language was becoming dominant even among the Lombard gentry. As virtually all writing was in Latin, even Arioald would use the language throughout the day.

As the native Italians were more advanced in many areas - technology, manufacturing, art, etc - the conquerors made no attempt to alter them.

By the end of the century, most of the barbarians were learning Latin as a first language, it already being made the official language of the Court.


Kingdom of Kent

As the Civil War among the Kentish Saxon nobles tore the little nation apart, the Kings of Sussex and West Essex would take advantage of the situation and invade. While Sussex would be driven out of Kent, the King of West Essex would manage to reconquer those lands which had constituted East Essex.

King Eorcenberht would managed to defeat his own nobles and wipe out much of the Kentish Saxon gentry. Eorcenberht would attempt to regain those lands of East Essex which had been opportunistically seized in the past war but was repulsed by the King of newly united Essex.

Then the King of Sussex invaded again but the bumbling monarch walked into a Kentish trap and was killed along with a large part of his army.

The King of Essex would offer peace and Eorcenberht would be obligated to accept. Part of the treaty included accepting dozens of Carthaginian Catholic Celtic priests in high positions as well as marrying his daughter off to the heir to Essex while accepting an Essex princess as a match for his own son and heir.

The Byzantine-Catholic Saxon gentry would attempt to rebel again but Eorcenberht would brutally put them down, effectively wiping out the nobility. He was forced to replace them with Celtic Carthaginian Catholic nobles.

At this point, the last significant Byzantine Catholic Kingdom in Britain had fallen. All other Kingdoms paid at least nominal allegiance to the Carthaginian Church with the exception of the Jutish Kingdom of Whitwara on the Isle of Wight which remained stubbornly Pagan.

As the Celtic Kingdoms which, with Hispanian and Irish help, had successfully overthrown or converted the Saxon Kings of southeast Britain, the short-lived religious unity ended and the assorted Kingdoms fell into warfare among themselves.
 
Whew, finally caught up! What would happen if the Romans and Iranians hadn't been weak enough for the Arabs to take over is something much pondered, but seems very rarely explored. Perhaps of just how massive of a change from OTL it would be. But you seem to be tackling it pretty well!
 
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