The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

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?
Combine that with how the city of Tanais (after which the battle is named after) is close to the OTL site of Rostov-on-Don and how the "people he lost to were better than the Goths at sieges", all the dots seem to point to "he got defeated by the not!Mongols, even if said not!Mongols are ethno-linguistically Turkic people closely related to OTL Yakuts or Tuvans".
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Part 65: The Last Campaign I
Part LXV: The Last Campaign I​

The 1040 uprising was well coordinated as such things go. Conspirators seized control of the cities of mainland Greece, announcing the abdication of Manuel, and the coronation of his son John. Rumors flew of civil war, but for now these were little more than rumors. Many of the great men of Greece saw the missives coming, with the familiar seal of the Prince, now joined by the Seal of the Emperor, stolen in the initial struggle and accepted what they were told.

For those of you reading ahead this will not help them when the time comes.

The lords of Coastal Anatolia similarly went along with the plan. As did the magnates of Moesia, Dacia, and Italy. Africa however refused, declaring publicly that they rejected the coup, and firmly stood behind Manuel, who had driven back and then subjugated the Berbers. The Berbers themselves wanted no part of any of this, but soon came under attack by suspicious Africans who believed them to be in on the plot. Africa was consumed in a miniature Civil War as the two fought one another. The lords of Hispani were non-commital to either the African position, or the one in the capital.

They opted instead for careful neutrality, wanting to see what would come from the East before committing to either side.

The Eastern provinces however universally declared for the Emperor. In Syria in particular Ali Umayos mobilized the Syrian army and was prepared to march into Anatolia on the Emperor’s behalf, but was stopped by word of Turkish raids against the border. Ali will play a key role in the coming civil war, fighting the Turks in the deserts of Syria to a standstill, while the Armenians and men of Central Anatolia put down the rebellion.

Had he not been as successful Manuel might well have been forced to divide his forces, with potentially disastrous consequences. We will deal with his campaign another time however, for now only noting that in 1043 Ali’s loyalty was rewarded with an Imperial bride. Maria Minor was married to him in 1041, a marriage notable in that Ali agreed that any children of the union would legally remain in the Imperial family, rather than the Umayoi. This is the first recorded instance of this occurring. Though in practice it had happened several times in the past, notably with Marcian II and his wife.

We will of course have major dealings with the family which resulted.

Returning to the Emperor however, Manuel and his family landed at Trebizond and immediately made for Theodosiopolis. Setting up a headquarters in the mountains Manuel sent out orders to the Armenian army to muster and join him, and prepare to march West. To Anatolia he sent out a call for both the Turks and his demobilized men to attend him as well.

And they came. This was Maneul’s real talent. Not great administrative skills, not any particular battlefield brilliance, insight. He inspired men whereever he went. It is hard to get across the sort of respect, and even awe, that the men who served under the Emperor held him in. Not that this was entirely the result of charisma. No, something deeper was at play here too.

You see, Manuel wasn’t just an Emperor. He was the Emperor who had reclaimed the home peninsula without even fighting on it. He had conquered Spain as an afterthought. He had returned to Gaul for the first time in six hundred years. He had retaken Anatolia when it seemed lost forever. He had made good his promises of land to his men, and (so far as many of these men were concerned anyway), he had set the Empire right with God. Who could look at his victories and doubt that God was pleased?

Certainly not his soldiers. This rebellion then wasn’t just a power play. It wasn’t just a question of whether the Emperor was a tyrant (which let’s be clear he very much was). It wasn’t even a question of competence. No, this was about whether the Empire was on the path to righteousness. Many of the plotters believed it was not. But to the men who had served in Anatolia, in Africa, in Hispani, in Aquitaine, it clearly was. Opposing the Emperor wasn’t just incorrect, it was blasphemous.

Most would have still revolted had he not followed through on promises made before and during the campaigns. But that hadn’t happened.

Instead, the Emperor had assembled a solid army of thirty thousand by spring 1041 and he departed for Central Anatolia at the head of half that number. The remainder were left to hold the fortresses looking south into Turkish territory. The Emperor planned to gather more soldiers from loyal homesteads as he went, and secure all of the Plateau by late summer.

Away in the Balkans the Theme of Dacia and Moesia came under attack from renewed Pecheneg raids, and any soldiers the local nobility might have hoped to utilize were tied down for the next several years trying to hold back the nomads. This weakened both sides, as the Magyar lords had been planning to side with the Emperor over the rebels, but with everyone now under threat neither they nor the locals could send men.

In Constantinople the puppet Emperor John chafed under his controllers, who were led by an Anatolian nobleman named Andronikos Doukas, who emerged as the chief lord of the rebellion. Andronikos set about calling up the old theme armies, mostly those of Greece and Eastern Anatolia. These were mostly untouched by the changes to that army that had developed over the past thirty years. Joining them also were the European Tagmata, under the command of John.

These men were largely either Western mercenaries brought on permanently, or local Constantinople forces who owed their primary allegiance to their popular prince. As word came of Manuel’s advance out of the Armenian mountains Andronikos crossed the Hellespont with his army of about twenty-five thousand, and set about marshaling the remaining forces of Anatolia. By late May Manuel had secured Dorylaeum, and was poised on peninsula looking down on Nicaea, which was held by the rebels. His army had swelled to about forty thousand, mostly veterans from the Western campaigns. But he held off for the time being. Timing for the invasion was critical. His army was large, and would need to secure the ports of Anatolia on a strict timetable. Specifically he needed to defeat the rebel army, secure Nicaea, and be in a position to sweep down the Anatolian coast and secure it ports in order to keep his army supplied from still loyal Egypt.

It was in June that the Emperor marched out of Doylaeum and descended on Nicaea. The city was well-fortified, and could be supplied by Lake Askania, making a siege impossible. That left two options, the city would either have to be convinced to surrender, difficult given the supply situation, or taken by storm. Neither option particularly appealed to Manuel, who did not want to waste manpower on taking the key region. And so he made a fateful decision, bypass Nicaea and feint at Chalcedon, hoping to draw the rebels into a battle.

Andronikos took the bait.

In early July 1041 Andronikos moved his army north, positioning it on a group of hills. The rebel army was made up of thirty-thousand men. Of these there were seven thousand light cavalry, fifteen thousand thematic infantry, and critically three thousand Tagmatic heavy cavalry with five thousand Pedinoi heavy infantry. This force was positioned at the top of a hill on the right flank, overlooking their comrades who held the center. John had successfully convinced Andronikos to let him lead the wing himself. Andronikos had agreed, but put one of his own sons in actual command, with orders that he hold back as a reserve force.

Unknown to Andronikos himself however, when his son was on the far side of the hill inspecting his troops John had him seized by loyal officers and murdered. A loyal man named Konstantine Castominos then took the son’s armor and disguised himself, then sent new orders to his men.

Against the rebel army Abbasios had deployed his army in a slightly different formation than normal. The pikemen had been put on the flanks with the crossbowmen deployed through the line. The heavy cavalry of the Asian Tagmata was dismounted and deployed in the center. Abbasios hoped to use this formation to hold the rebel cavalry on the flanks, while the center was smashed aside by the knights.

The Imperial army began its advance up the hill, and battle was joined soon afterward as the rebel army moved to meet them on the slops. All along the lines the armies pinned one another, but in the center the knights began pushing forward, but as they moved forward the thematic armies began to rally and leave them surrounded on three sides.

The fighting grew more desperate, when a great trumpet blast rang out, and with a roar John’s men charged the rear of their own army, smashing the entire flank in minutes. Seeing the battle going so poorly the other flank disintegrated, men fleeing in panic as they believed the battle was lost. Andronikos himself was captured trying to make his escape, and put in chains.

John himself came to Manuel, and knelt to offer him the diadem which had been unwillingly placed upon his head, according to legend stating that he had kept the Emperor’s possessions safe for his return. Manuel accepted the gift, and embraced John, leaving none in doubt that any rebellion on the young prince’s part had been unwilling.

Andronikos was hauled in chains to Nicaea, which threw the gates open as they realized no further aid would be coming. Manuel was not kind to the city. Vast quantities of wealth were confiscated, all festivals and races were banned for a period ten years, and hundreds of leading men were arrested. Each was brought up on charges of treason, and none were allowed to speak in their own defense. As might be expected all were found guilty, and sentenced to be executed.

But here one of the black marks against Manuel absolutely must be placed. Because he didn’t just convict them of treason, but of blasphemy and heresy. They were not to be given a swift execution, but rather a slow one. Two hundred men were led out of the city to prepared stakes, and burned alive. The message to everyone was very clear. The Emperor was God’s chosen, and to stand against him was to oppose the will of God. It would not be tolerated.

Burning at the stake is a horrific method of execution, and after Manuel is gone will become a favorite of the late Thalassan Emperors, in particular of the Mad Romanos. All of it can be traced back to this decision. The Caesarii would lessen the practice, but would not abolish it until their final years.

For now though the defeat of Andronikos took the wind out of the rebels. Many had legitimately expected God to intervene and grant them victory over Manuel, but now they were left in a terrible position. The thematic armies they commanded were scattered, and with Nicaea lost it was only a matter of time before the Anatolian coastline was lost as well.

As Manuel marched south citizens threw their gates open, and threw conspirators and traitors to the Emperor, who executed them all, though not as brutally as at Nicaea since there had been no resistance to his march. Its been estimated that half the magnates of Anatolia were executed, and all their lands confiscated. What’s more, every monastery the Emperor came across was seized and its inhabitants expelled, to be replaced by a small garrison. By Decamber 1041 all of Anatolia was under the Emperor’s control, and he settled into winter quarters in Ephesos to await the spring, and a crossing into Greece.
Hope Manuel isn’t going full mad king.
No. Think of this period as the end of Manuel's "early" reign. Where he tends toward cruelty over mercy or the like. Similar to the way Augustus reigned, get all the violence out of the way early and then reign with more leniency later (since all the people who'd be in a position to take advantage are dead.)
Part 66: The Last Campaign II
Part LXVI: The Last Campaign II​

As March of 1042 approached Manuel faced a stark position. While he had retaken Anatolia for a second time, he was now stuck there. Rebel ships patrolled the Aegean, blocking any attempt to bring his army across. Taking Greece was virtually impossible without a fleet of his own, but the Imperial fleet was trapped north of the Black Sea, while the Venetian and Syracuzan fleets were fighting a running battle against the powerful Corinthian fleet, as well as the fleets of Western Italy.

Abbasios however came up with a solution. They would use the Imperial fleet, but would cross not to Greece, but to Moesia. There Manuel’s Imperial army could hopefully defeat the Pechenegs, join up with the Magyar who remained loyal, and put down the rebellious magnates. This had several key benefits. First, it demonstrated that the Emperor was firmly focused on repelling foreign foes, which would give him even firmer moral ground to stand on in putting down the rebellion. Second, the Magyar offered something he badly needed, more soldiers. Western Anatolia would require a large garrison to remain behind to stop the locals from getting ideas, as well as to stop any counterattacks that might come from Greece.

But with the Magyar added to what forces could be taken across the Black Sea, as well as any thematic troops who changed sides again, Manuel would have another powerful army which he could march south into Greece and bring the region back under control. Third, it completely bypassed all naval squadrons controlled by Constantinople. That was important, as the large defensive fleets of Greece were expensive to maintain at sea, and did not often venture past the Golden Horn. With the Imperial fleet in the area they would not risk open battle there. Manuel thus led fifteen thousand men north, bypassing the rebel held city of Chalcedon, and arriving at Sinope in mid-April. The Imperial fleet met him there, and the army embarked on ships, heading for Mesembria.

His passing was not noticed by rebel lookouts, and when the Emperor suddenly appeared in the Moesian city panic set in among the magnates. They had believed the Emperor safely trapped in Anatolia, and with his arrival fled with whatever they could carry inland. Days after Manuel’s arrival news came from Italy however that might have been worse for the rebel cause. Imperial troops had withdrawn from Aquitaine, and had marched into northern Italy, defeating a local force and marching all the way across the peninsula until they met the garrison out of Ravenna. This force then turned, met, and defeated a rebel army near Mediolanum, putting it to flight and capturing the most important city of northern Italy.

Mere days later a Syracuzan/Sardinian fleet had met the combined fleets of Neapolis and Pisa, destroying or capturing many ships. This victory spelt doom for Corinth’s naval efforts, as the now undistracted fleets of the Western Mediterranean were free to move into the Adriatic, though the final clash there will not occur for several months yet.

Meanwhile in the Western Mediterranean the Baetican merchants had dispatched a force of Goths to Africa, where they were able to quell the sporadic fighting there between the local Romans and the Berbers, adding Carthage’s not insignificant naval assets to those of Syracuze.

All of this would have been in vain however had the Greek expedition not succeeded, so we shall now return to it. Manuel set up a temporary headquarters at Mesembria, and began gathering information. The rebels had either retreated into Dacia, or south of the Hemus Mountains, leaving Moesia easy pickings. They had however left behind both the local theme troops, and the Magyar who were engaged south of the Danube against the Pechenegs. The nomads were raiding south into the region, and the local soldiers were hard pressed without reinforcements from the south. So in May Manuel marched out of Mesembria, heaving northwest. He picked up scattered soldiers along the way, swelling his army to about twenty-five thousand. Many of these soldiers were inexperienced, and lightly armed, but they knew the land and were fighting for their homes. They could at least be relied on to get a few volleys are missiles away before running.

The main body of Pecheng raiders was only about ten thousand strong, and Manuel met them near Nicopolis. The Romans deployed in their normal fashion by this point, and the subsequent battle was a relatively minor affair overall. Abbasios had honed his anti-nomad tactics against the Turks, and the Pechengs were not the Turks. They had never encountered the retrained Roman army, and broke against the wave of bolts and wall of spears that greeted them. Most devastating of all however were the heavy Roman cavalry of the Tagmata. These soldiers were armored head to toe in the Frankish fashion, and their horses also wore some armor.

The knights rode through a hail of arrows, and were barely slowed. The Pechengs did not retreat quickly enough, and took the full charge of the Roman cavalry in their left flank. Hundreds were slaughtered, and two thousand captured while the rest abandoned their captured booty and fled back across the Danube as fast as they could go.

Manuel let them go, but forced his captives to agree to fight for him in the civil war, and only then to be released. He entered Nicopolis on June 1, and set about enacting vengeance upon the property of the rebel magnates. All lands held by anyone who could not account for themselves, or provide evidence of their service against the Pechenegs in Moesia by July was stripped of all land, and it was forfeited to the Emperor. They and their families were proscribed, and only special pleading to the Emperor personally could save their lives. It would not save their property and Manuel seized vast tracts of land across the province. Some he handed back to loyal Magyar lords, who came to dominate Moesia in the decades to come.

The rest he kept for himself, and would settle more soldiers on in the future.

Moesia secured Manuel marched West into Dacia, where the local troops fell over themselves to surrender and join up with the army that had successfully driven the Pechenegs back north of the river. Spontaneus mutinies broke out amongst units of thematic troops, their officers murdered by men who wanted to save themselves the Emperor’s wrath. Or who just wanted to kill particularly unpopular or brutal superiors. In truth it seems that while a large number of Dacian officers were rebels, or at least had rebel sympathies, many of the murdered were supporters of the Emperor who may have betrayed the soldiers’ own lack of loyalty had they been allowed to meet Manuel.

The same proscriptions that had been put into effect in Moesia were soon meted out to Dacia, and magnates were betrayed in large numbers, oftentimes it seems likely the innocent were rounded up with the guilty. Only the most profound pleading could save these people’s lives, and in turn they had to give up all claim to land seized by the Emperor, reduced from positions of power and authority to being now mere tenants as they had once employed. Hundreds though were executed. The worst offenders were burned at the stake, while others were beheaded by axes, and their heads were displayed on the walls of cities and towns so that all could see the price of defiance.

Dacia was pacified by August, and by then the war was truly winding down. In mid-July the Corinthian fleet had been ambushed and much of it captured by Syracuze, Venice, and Carthage. These cities split a vast amount of captured booty from the ships, not least of which were the ships themselves. Corinth was basically finished as a major commercial hub, the role of great naval power of southern Greece would instead fall fully to Athens, Corinth’s longtime rival.

Athens’s rise was bolstered by its clear calculation about which way this war was going, and before word came from the north that Manuel had smashed aside the defenses of Macedonia and was marching on Thessalonika, Athens had switched sides, bringing the Aegean now firmly back under Imperial control.

The rebels now held only the sliver of territory between Thessalonika and Constantinople in Greece, as well as parts of southern Italy. Thessalonika soon found itself surrounded by the Imperial army on land and the Athenian fleet at sea. The people of the city endured two weeks of siege before a mutiny broke out among the garrison. City leaders and magnates were put in chains and forty were driven from the city. They were captured by the Emperor, and six were burned alive for their role in leading the rebellion. Of the remainder sixteen were executed and all their lands confiscated. The rest escaped execution, but were rendered paupers by the Emperor’s confiscation of their lands.

With all of Greece now secured Manuel turned his army East and marched on Constantinople itself. The city had built for itself a strong militia, and work was done to refortify the Theodosian Walls as the Emperor approached. The city had never fallen to assault, only to trickery or lack of watchfulness. It was hoped that this would continue. If the defenders were lucky new rebellions would break out across the Empire, or the Emperor’s army would break itself.

Even with the Imperial and Athenian fleets in place blockading Constantinople by sea was virtually impossible. Across the Strait Chalcedon still held out as well, and offered a route to supply across the bridge which stood. The Emperor however was tired of this rebellion, and so he accepted the bait offered. A gate was left unlocked by a loyal man inside the city, and the Emperor sent his men through in a general assault.

Fighting lasted for three days as the Imperial army fought its way into the capital, suffering and inflicting heavy losses. Finally however, all resistance was quashed, and Manuel II rode through the streets of his capital to total silence. The populace stared in terror from windows as the Emperor made his way through the city, bodies scattered through the streets until he came to the Hippodrome. Here he had grim news. Romanos Abbasios, his close comrade and greatest follower was dying. He had been struck by a stone cast from a rooftop.

The Emperor wept for his friend, and swore to him that he would make the city pay for its great crime. But Abbasios stayed the Emperor’s hand, and said that to do so would make the general die in vain, for it would only cause another revolt, and so the general’s death would be in vain. He instead told the Emperor to forgive the people, and to punish only those who had misled them. Then, he died.

That’s the legend anyway. Examination of Abbasios’s skeleton show that his skull was completely crushed by the stone’s impact, and so he would have died immediately. Manuel was the master of spinning the truth however, and when he ordered the people assembled to be informed of their punishment he told the legend, and so he pardoned all but those who had led them into blasphemy and treason. Public executions followed. Bishops, monks, and nobles were marched onto scaffolding to be beheaded, or were tied to stakes to burn.

Hundreds were killed in the city, adding to the thousands killed in the civil war. But when the killing ended it was over. The last challenge to Manuel II’s reign had passed, and he will enjoy his middle age and then his old age in relative peace. He had already reigned for twenty-eight years, and had in that time achieved more than any Emperor since Leo.

Next time then we will move into the early year’s of the Third Pax Romana, the rewards meted out to those who had been loyal, and finally talk more about the Emperor’s children, whose families will play such a pivotal role in the coming centuries.
Great tl.
Thank you.

So, how much of the nobility got purged so far for rebelling against the Emperor?

Less than might be imagined, but still a lot of them. There were perhaps 2000 executions, but a LOT of confiscations. A lot of that was monasteries and bishops (and if Manuel didn't have just a bunch of time to spin that he'd probably be cursed to hell by future generations). The landed magnates of Greece, the Balkans, Italy, and Anatolia were hit hard, which basically wipes out the magnates as a significant political force, at least for a while. There are still major landowners, and landowning families, but their block now owns far less land, meaning that they control less wealth relative to the Emperor, and as he's just shown what will happen if they cause trouble that wealth is less potent than it might seem.

And yes, this is a very temporary state of affairs since stopping the accumulation of wealth and land is rather on the lines of tilting at windmills for the Romans, but it is at least temporarily achieved.
And yes, this is a very temporary state of affairs since stopping the accumulation of wealth and land is rather on the lines of tilting at windmills for the Romans, but it is at least temporarily achieved.
Guess the decline of Manuel's system and the revival of power of the landowning families and landed magnates would be a sign that the final decline of the Thalassans (and the road to their downfall) will be beginning soon.
Part 67: Winning the peace
Part LXVII: Winning the Peace​

The first priority when the executions stopped was to reward those who had remained loyal, and to do so in ways that wouldn’t be too harmful to the Emperor’s interests. To this end Maria Minor, Manuel eldest daughter, was married to Ali Umayos, a match only slightly slowed by the fact Ali was already married. Gregorios, now returned to Constantinople granted an annulment on flimsy pretexts, and the pair were married almost before the ink was dry on his order. I should also note here that through a fluke of lineage Ali was the last surviving male descendant of Khosrow VI, the Persian prince who had once fled across the border into Armenia to escape the armies of Khorasan.

This will be important in about three hundred years.

The Magyar leader Bela was made Strategos of Moesia, and granted all the power which came with that office, and as a further bonus his daughter Sarolt was married to prince John.. He was not however granted the lands of the former Strategos, who was now dead. The Emperor kept those for himself, and supported Bela’s household and staff from out of those estates himself. Similar stories were repeated across Greece and Anatolia, as the Emperor steadfastly refused to give up any lands he had confiscated, preferring instead to settle his soldiers on them and tax the new farmers.

Modern scholarship looks as this as essentially feudalism imported from Western Europe, and it is easy to see why. These farmers were bound to the land, and their families carried both financial and military obligations for its use. Additionally, the Emperor took on responsibilities previously handled by the magnates, assuring these landed subject a certain minimum income from their land, which he would pay out should their harvests fail whether from storm, drought, or other disaster.

In essence Manuel made himself the magnate of the Empire, to whom all others paid rents. All in the same form of taxation which still marked the Roman Empire as unique in the West. Additionally, the warehouses and plantations that produced the sole source of silk in the West were now once again under the direct rule of the Emperor, who set about expanding production as quickly as possible, and exporting it for sale. In this he saw even more profit than might have otherwise been expected, because in the East Daquin was racked by what seemed to be endless internal strife, and silk production there had plummeted.

For a time then Constantinople was the primary source of silk for the entire trade network that stretched into the East. For a short time, gold flowed in the direction of Europe rather than endlessly away.

Also helping the Emperor’s financial outlook was that something approaching two-thirds of his debt had been held by people who had then rebelled, and as might be imagined none of that was being repaid. The remaining four million nomismata was a significant amount, but far more manageable. With the increased revenue coming from the Emperor’s new lands annual revenues exceeded ten million nomismata for the first time ever, and will only dip below that amount twice in the coming century.

Facilitating collection Manuel brought back to power an old organization, the epikroi. This group had long fallen out of Imperial favor, and had been corrupted by bribes and incompetence since its initial founder died. Manuel and Maria however were intent on getting the office back into shape.

The number of officials was expanded, from about one hundred to well over one thousand. Each of these were handpicked men from the palace over a period of nearly a decade, and acted in small groups that rotated with each assignment. They were well-paid and loyal men, who could be counted on to support the Emperor’s interests in their assigned provinces. The primary task initially was working out how much each parcel of land was actually worth, and levying taxes accordingly. That said, the Emperor’s new role as the greatest magnate also required some leeway on their part, since tenants hit badly by disaster would need to have their taxes eased, eliminated, or even paid back depending on the scale of problems. When major disasters struck this had the unfortunate effect of basically paying back an entire year’s revenue back to the area.

As the Emperor and Empress focused on their work their public appearences lessened, and then ceased. In their place their children performed the ceremonial duties of their parents. The rulers themselves withdrew from public life entirely, which will be mimicked by their successors. It is here then that the former role the Emperor, as the center of public life that had existed since sometime after the fall of the West ended

The Basileos had spent hundreds of years leading religious processions, overseeing chariot races and games of tzykion, and engaging in public ceremonies all across the capital. But under Manuel this ended. His people saw him seldom, and when they did it was in his full majesty atop the Imperial throne on its hydraulic lift as they lay in supplication in front of him. He towered over them, and expected total submission before any judgement or grant was given. Only his family and a few select men were allowed to meet personally with the Emperor without these measures in place.

Top of that list was Gregorios, who had taken the opportunity after the rebellion to once again stir up religious trouble in the city. After yet another encounter that had nearly spiraled into a riot Manuel made Gregorios the bishop of Rome and sent him out of the city, with strict instructions not to spark yet more trouble in Italy. As a token that Imperial favor did still rest with the bishop however he remained Ecumenical Patriarch, and for a time at least the title of Pope and Patriarch were unified. Gregorios will die in 1050, but his successor will carry on the unified title, until the Patriarchy is finally put to rest entirely by Julius II and his Italians.

And since we have now reached the time that Manuel’s children truly enter our picture, we should introduce the others.

We have previously discussed the two eldest. Prince John was Manuel’s oldest son, and dutifully loyal to his father. He had proven his loyalty when he led his men against his supposed allies, and from there had gone on to be the Emperor’s man through and through in the years that followed. It was on John that most ceremonial duties fell. He led the processions which began mass, and he oversaw public games and celebrations. He also led a number of small campaigns in Moesia against Pecheneg raiders. John’s Magyar marriage was deeply unhappy, and he and his wife spent little time together. They did however still have three children as both knew the responsibilities of their union. These children were Eudoxia, Leo, and Helena.

The second child was Maria Minor, now married to Ali Umayos. Umayos had left his lands in Syria to his brother and moved to the capital with his wife by 1045, and to these two was given significant landed holdings in southern Italy taken from the last rebel holdouts who had surrendered there when word came of Constantinople’s fall.

As part of Manuel’s project of settling his children across the Empire as local powerholders he them take on separate family names. Maria and Ali adopted as their family name the title used by Imperial princes, Caesar. As both spoke primarily Greek they thus called themselves the Kaiseroi.

As their descendants settled into Italy however they adopted Latin, and with it the name changed, to the Caesarii. Anyone who’s been paying attention or reading ahead knows just how important the descendants of Maria and Ali will be.

Also granted land there I would add was a young man from Eastern Anatolia who took the name of his home as his family name, Castominos. Later this would become Castominos, and be the founder of my own family, though it wasn’t until the Caesarii rose to Imperial power that our family would truly begin its rise in Italian politics.

The third child was Helena, who entered a convent and so we will not deal with.

Fourth was a son, Mattias. He at this point was only seven, having been born in 1038. He will eventually take up a position in Antioch, and adopt the name Amyroi, from a Greek adoption of an Arabic word, for his own family.

Fifth was another son, Manuel, now five years old, who will marry an Armenian noblewoman and settle in the Caucuses, founding a city named Manueliopolis, after both his father and himself. He will have a single daughter before dying of a plague that swept the Mediterranean in the 1060s. That daughter will marry into a local family, the Guaramoi.

Sixth was now but an infant, young George, still an infant, who will marry into a Spanish family and settle in Baetica.

Last was Theodora, who will unfortunately die in infancy, the first of the Emperor’s children to predecease her father.

I should also note now that it was at this time that Manuel officially adopted the moniker Thalassoi for the family, after his first Imperial ancestor who had come to power “from the sea”. So, we’re finally out of the highly anachronistic territory of referring to the Thalassan dynasty by that name. But as there is no other word used before this, I chose to stick with convention.

In 1050, Manuel turned his attention to his next big project, rebuilding the Hagia Sophia. The great cathedral had fallen into disrepair over the past century, and especially in the last fifty years. Damage and neglect had piled up, and the massive dome that set atop the top of the Church had cracked in 1049, leading to the church to be closed. This was of course completely unacceptable to the Emperor. He might have withdrawn from public life, but the Church was a central piece of Imperial propaganda. It was the Emperor’s great house built to God. Having it in such a state was both embarrassing, and also rather dangerous. Manuel’s entire power base was built on his clear divine favor.

Also, giving the perpetually cyclical workers of the Empire something to work on would keep them too busy to plot treason.

The church had to be repaired, and quickly. Architects were brought in from across the Empire. Arabs, Greeks, Egyptians, Italians, Africans, and Goths were all gathered to begin the massive project. Thousands of people were hired to do the labor necessary to get the project finished. The scale of the project rivaled that of the initial building of the Church, as Manuel also decided he wanted the building expanded to mark not just that the Empire was as pious as it had been in Justinian I’s day, but moreso. The main building itself was significantly expanded, but the main changes happened in the building’s surroundings. New chapels, gardens, small prayer rooms, and other important additions were made. New artwork was commissioned, and the ceiling of the building was painted to reflect the sky, as if one was looking into heaven itself.

Naturally the old iconic decorations were nowhere to be found when the project completed. The only statues left were those of Christ, the Emperors, and a few statues of Mary holding the infant Christ. And if some of the Imperial statues were remarkably similar to old statue of saints, well no one need mention it.

The project took eight years, longer than the building’s initial construction, and cost a fortune. By Manuel’s own accounts he spent almost twenty-million nomismata on the project. Which sounds huge, and it is, but amounts to only about two and a half million gold coins per year. By contrast Justinian’s initial construction taking about six years took over thirty million gold coins, or five million per year. And his revenues were less than half what Manuel’s were. So yes, the Hagia Sophia restoration was a massive undertaking, but it was one that the Empire could afford. Sadly, the construction would for the Emperor be bittersweet. Two days before the building opened to the public his wife, the Empress Maria came down with a fever. The Emperor did not attend the festivities as he remained by his wife’s bedside all day, before she died early that night. Maria was 57 years old and had been Empress and indeed co-Emperor in all but name for 41 years. She had deftly steered the state's finances for her husband's wars, and managed adminstration with great skill and finesse, and for that the Emperor was deeply indebted to her. She had six children who survived her, all of whom were personally stable, friendly, and pious.

Maria’s death was a grievous blow the Manuel, and one from which he never really recovered. He will pull back from public appearances entirely after she was gone, and will in time leave the city entirely, settling in a palace outside Chalcedon he will have built in the coming years. His children will take even more control over the Empire, and in time their arrangement will be formalized and solidified as we will take a look at next time when we discuss the beginning of the late Thalassan Imperial organization, the Exarchates.
The second child was Maria Minor, now married to Ali Umayos. Umayos had left his lands in Syria to his brother and moved to the capital with his wife by 1045, and to these two was given significant landed holdings in southern Italy taken from the last rebel holdouts who had surrendered there when word came of Constantinople’s fall.

As part of Manuel’s project of settling his children across the Empire as local powerholders he them take on separate family names. Maria and Ali adopted as their family name the title used by Imperial princes, Caesar. As both spoke primarily Greek they thus called themselves the Kaiseroi.

As their descendants settled into Italy however they adopted Latin, and with it the name changed, to the Caesarii. Anyone who’s been paying attention or reading ahead knows just how important the descendants of Maria and Ali will be.

Also granted land there I would add was a young man from Eastern Anatolia who took the name of his home as his family name, Castominos. Later this would become Castominos, and be the founder of my own family, though it wasn’t until the Caesarii rose to Imperial power that our family would truly begin its rise in Italian politics.
Two great houses make their first appearance!