The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

So, how big is Constantinople ITTL and how big would TTL's Constantinople be compared to Baghdad during the height of its Abbasid golden age, Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty, or Cordoba during the height of Al-Andalus?
So, how big is Constantinople ITTL and how big would TTL's Constantinople be compared to Baghdad during the height of its Abbasid golden age, Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty, or Cordoba during the height of Al-Andalus?

Constantinople's population is still in the 250,000-300,000 range. Nowhere near some esitmates of Baghdad's population. But one thing to note is that the Romans have a lot of cities in the 50,000 range in the general region. Nicaea, Adrianople, Nikopolis, Dorylaeum, Ephesos, Athens, Corinth, Dyrrachium, etc. Plus cities that size away from Greece and Eastern Anatolia like Jerusalem, Aleppo, Clysma, Edessa, Theodosiopolis, Ravenna, Venice, Brundisium, and . There are also several cities in the 100,000 range. Syracuse, Antioch, Alexandria. Plus Thessalonika which is between those two categories. It should be noted the numbers in Eastern Anatolia don't count the people who fled from the Plateau when the Turks overran the place.

In general I'm leery about putting city sizes at this time period much higher than that since it becomes questionable how sustainable those populations are. Baghdad for instance benefited heavily from the level of investment the Caliphs made to the rich lands of Mesopotamia, but Constantinople doesn't have the same sort of surroundings. And comparisons to the Song are a bit unbalanced because rice is so different a cereal crop than Roman grains.

Any chance there's a map in the cards after all of these territorial changes are over? It's really been a chaotic few decades across Eurasia.
There will be one as of Manuel II's death, since things will have mostly settled down by then.
Btw did the empire survive to modern age?? I never see a age later than 12xx ;(
I’ve made references to the next dynasty, the Caesarii (who are actually about to be introduced here in a few updates), and a couple of references to a disastrous defeat in the early 1700s.
I’ve made references to the next dynasty, the Caesarii (who are actually about to be introduced here in a few updates), and a couple of references to a disastrous defeat in the early 1700s.
Ah damn I diden't see that date, can't wait to see how the modern world Looks in this TL
Next time we will follow Manuel back to Constantinople where he will celebrate his well-earned triumph, and settle down into what he likely hoped would now be a peaceful reign. But unfortunately for the Emperor, just as his external problems were solved his internal troubles were just beginning to bubble
Guess the backlash to Thessalonika has come!
Part 64: Internal dissension
Part LXIV: Internal dissension​

When Manuel arrived back in Constantinople at Christmas 1036 he received a hero’s welcome. The Emperor had carried all before him, and brought back large amounts of treasure that the crowds were eager to see displayed at his inevitable triumph. Preparations were of course begun immediately, and the Emperor declared that it would begin as soon as his loyal men in Italy could be ferried back to the Capitol to receive the honors due them.

The crowds cheered, the bishops gave sermons praising the Emperor to the hilt, and everywhere people knew that peace and good times were ahead. Except of course, that very little of this support was genuine or without reservation. The people of Constantinople were distrustful of Manuel still. Yes he had been completely victorious, but he also had barely been inside the city. He’d grown up in far away Theodosiopolis after all, and then spent two-thirds of his reign away on campaign. Even while he had been home the Emperor had spent much of his time in the army camps or locked away in the palace.

His oldest son however, John, was widely popular among the people. The boy was now sixteen, and when the Imperial army returned from Italy in March the best soldiers were promoted into the reorganizing Tagmata, of which John was placed as an officer, and granted nominal command over. We will discuss the eventual organization that the Tagmata took on under Manuel, and which it would retain until its destruction in 1247, later when discussing the wider Roman army that developed under Manuel.

Manuel’s triumph was held in early April, an was a splendid affair. Turkish and Frankish lords who had been captured were marched through the city in chains, and executed before the cheering crowds. The culmination of the event was the execution of Louis’s entire immediate family and their children by strangulation. The event lasted for three days, and was marked by great games put on in the Hippodrome as well as feasting a celebratory mass.

The event also marked what was possibly the only chance of Manuel’s reign going forward peacefully. The Empress Maria’s younger brother Alexandros, the powerful head of the Kommenos family had been a major supporter of Manuel’s regime, and had kept many of the noble families happy by promising on behalf of his sister and brother-in-law that the wartime taxes were just that, wartime. When peace was restored they would be lifted and things would go back to how it had been.

But as his horse went through the streets on the third day the young noble fell, broke his neck, and died. The greatest link between the magnates and the Imperial family was dead. Manuel himself had few connections to the great men of the Empire, having spent much of his life in Armenia, and then on campaign he was uncomfortable in the palaces of Constantinople and rarely met personally with petitioners. Instead Maria or John took the lead in such matters. For the people of Constantinople this was seen as a slight, especially since Maria herself by this time was deeply unpopular due to being the face of Imperial taxes, fees, and conscription.

Despite the triumph then Manuel was little liked by his subjects, even as they feared and respected him. The message from the top was clear. Nothing and no one could stand against the Emperor. God had shown His favor on the battlefields of Anatolia and Gaul. It is likely that from here Manuel would eventually have settled into a peaceful reign except for two points. First, he was still staring down the mountain of debt taken on to pay for his extraordinarily expensive war against the Franks, and his soldiers were owed land. A lot of land. Land that the Emperor did not have.

This had always been an issue that Manuel was aware of, but when he was a teenager it had looked far away, something he needn’t worry about for many years. But now those years had gone, and every single man who had served with him needed to be paid off. There was significant land that had been retaken in Anatolia, and which still lay abandoned, and it was here that the Emperor turned first. Hundreds of new farms were divided, and groups of men turned in their weapons and armor and marched away onto the peninsula to be settled.

These plots were still technically state-owned, and as such could not be bought, sold, divided, or expanded. Each was theoretically sufficient to support a man, his wife, and a number of children, but would not pass onto the man’s heir unless that heir also served in the army for a period of at least five years. Notably if the heir died while in the army the man’s younger children would not have to fulfill the military duties of their older brother.

That said, Manuel also didn’t want to have to throw families off this land, as finding new settlers would be more expensive, and so he instead took the simple expedient of simply making military service mandatory for the eldest son of each family on land owned directly by the Empire. At first this was merely to ensure a supply of soldiers from a relatively small number of locations. But as we’ll see, after the coming Civil War it expanded to virtually every holding in the Empire.

Now it should be noted that what Manuel is about to do wasn’t intended to be quite as far-reaching as it ended up being, but he had to have known what the men he appointed to carry out the order would do. In 1039 Emperor Manuel issued an order levying a special tax on all holdings larger than what would be needed to support a family, which basically meant about twenty acres. This tax basically took all of that land, subtracted out the twenty acres, and then the Emperor confiscated ten percent of the remainder.

This tax, the Land Decimation was horribly unpopular among many of the great men of the Empire, and it was here that talk of rebellion really began in earnest. If the initial announcement wasn’t enough it soon became clear that when Manuel said all land would be included, he meant ALL land. Including for instance land on which magnates ran businesses, but the tax was levied on simple area, not value.

And when the Emperor’s enforcers went out, they focused heavily on the most valuable land. So it wasn’t just ten percent of these men’s land, but the best ten percent. These men were well paid by the Emperor, and their work was coordinated by the Emperor and Empress. Land surveyors suspected of corruption were hauled back to the capital in chains and publicly tried by the Emperor, with many not given a right to speak in their own defense before execution.

The straw that broke the camel’s back though was the very clear point that monasteries, and the Church in general were not exempt. This had the approval of the deeply anti-monsastic Gregorious, still Patriarch of Constantinople at this time, but other bishops were not nearly as understanding. They railed against the Emperor’s tyrrany from the pulpit, and agitated the common people of the Empire to stand against this invention of the devil.

These were of course loudest in Greece, Anatolia, and unfortunately for Manuel, Italy.

The Italians were particularly angry at this entire affair, because by now they had grown used to the far lighter taxes levied by the less efficient administration of the Franks, and the return of Roman administrators brought with it both higher taxes, and stricter enforcement. Frankish disintegration had also seen their biggest market in the West wiped out. What’s more, the annexation of Hispani had led to the Gothic merchants getting their tax dues reduced to those normally charged to Imperial merchants, which were about half those charged to external ones. Italy thus had run into a severe financial depression. The shows of thanks to the Emperor had not helped.

But the Emperor was unmoved by protests from upper crust Italians, he had a lot of bills to pay and more land that needed to be seized. As Anatolia’s free land and taxed land began to run out in Manuel’s bid to set up a quarter of a million men with new farms he thus turned to Italy, and began an assault on the vast swathes of land controlled by the churches there. With first papal control of Latium, plus the various other grants of land going back half a millennium the monastaries and bishops of Italy controlled a quarter of the land on the peninsula, and virtually all of the best land. This had been one of the reasons trade had grown so important to the wealthy locals.

Manuel wanted half of that land back for the government in Constantinople.

This was too much, and in Rome riots broke out against Imperial agents. Riots that soon spread up and down the peninsula, until virtually every city was effectively in revolt. Imperial troops were spread thin as Manuel tried to cut costs, and only Ravenna and Venice maintaining control of their population on the mainland, while on Sicily the south-eastern third centered on Syracuze maintained order.

News spread like wildfire into Greece, and Dyracchium joined the general rioting. Nobles and bishops seized on the opportunity, and declared themselves in revolt against the tyranny, cruelty and selfishness of Manuel’s regime.

The Emperor sent out orders in every direction calling soldiers back to their banners, but it was too late. A cabal of wealthy magnates from Anatolia as well as clergymen and important middle class artisans were in motion. They invoked lingering anger at the Thessalonikan Council, and called for the deposition of the Emperor in favor of his popular son John. The populace of Constantinople, who as noted had never been overfond of Emperor Manuel were swayed, and riots began in the city itself.

Imperial troops were overwhelmed at their posts and fled back to the Emperor’s residence to defend it.

Messengers could not reach the European branch of the Tagmata, and the harbor was cut off. Worse, John, Manuel’s son had been caught in a different palace during the rioting, and was captured by the rebels, and taken to the Hagia Sophia where a rebel bishop (Gregorios having read the crowd earlier in the day and fled to Chalcedon before taking a ship to Trebizond for refuge) placed a diadem upon his head, with John silent throughout the affair until the roaring of the crowd made him promise the return of good and honest government, and careful adherence to Orthodoxy. If anyone noticed how vague the mob-declared Emperor’s promises were they showed no sign of it.

Word reached the Emperor of his son’s apparent betrayal, and the Emperor by his own admission almost despaired at his fortune. But his other children were still with him, and his wife. Taking stock of the situation Manuel realized there was nothing he could do from Constantinople. If he wanted to remain in power he would have to once again claim his throne by right of conquest.

Dressing his entire family in the clothes of slaves and taking every bit of gold they could carry Manuel fled the palace, barely making it to the harbor and aboard a ship of the still loyal Imperial fleet before the rebels realized he was gone. The loyal guards he left behind were all killed.

When asked about the reason for his flight, Manuel repudiated the old decision of Justinian by saying that while purple was a fine color he saw no reason he should want to wear such a shroud.

The Imperial fleet raised anchor and fled the city, heading to Armenia where loyal troops still waited, and where the loyal men Manuel had settled in Anatolia could be called back to their lord’s banner.

Next time we will cover the civil war that follows and Manuel and Abbasios wage one final campaign together, to crush their domestic opponents and bring about a new era of Imperial administration. And the rebels learn that when you force your leader into a role against his will its often not a great idea to then actually let him rule afterward.
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which it would retain until its destruction in 2047
Is this a typo? Otherwise that’s a very long lasting institution!
Will be interesting to see if Manuel discovers if his son is essentially a hostage, and the war doesn’t destroy the line of succession.
Let me guess: This involves some ATL equivalent to the Mongol Empire, even if this alt-Mongol Empire is led by Siberian Turks (basically the Yakuts).
Now that you mention it the date range seems awfully familiar. What other force could be capable of wiping out the entirety of the Tagmata and make Cannae look like a picnic?