The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

For it to be the end of the Empire means that the next dynasty will not have the powers of the Thalassan dynasty, but rather diminished powers with either the Senate or a noble's Council having greater powers.
Let me guess, Andronikos would be succeeded by Romanos the Mad and then Nikephorus the Last (of the Thalassans)?

We are currently three Emperors (counting Andronikos from Romanos III.

For it to be the end of the Empire means that the next dynasty will not have the powers of the Thalassan dynasty, but rather diminished powers with either the Senate or a noble's Council having greater powers.
In part it is a reference to how OTL China is usually referred to by Dynasty Empire. I.e. the Ming Empire and the Qing Empire (at least that's how it was referred to in my textbooks growing up). But yes, the Caesarii will have a very different governmental structure than currently exists.
Part 78: The Roman Empire in 1192
Part LXXVIII: The Roman Empire in 1192​

Before we move on to the turbulent reign of Andronikos, this is a good time to look at a wider picture of the Empire to get an understanding of how things stood inside the state, and hopefully get a clearer picture of why things are going to fall apart over the next fifty years.

As a brief overview, in the far northeast the Exarchate of Armenia controlled virtually of the Caucuses, headquartered at the city of Manueliopolis, a small city of about five thousand on the Black Sea Coast. This region was historically one of the primary centers of recruitment for Imperial armies, as younger sons were forced to look outside their home territory for prospects. Unfortunately for Armenia the military reforms of Manuel II had led to a significant decrease in its relevance to the Roman army. No longer did Armenia provide the crack horsemen of the Tagmata, or theme armies. Now the men of Armenia were shunted into either the local army, or sometimes the tagmas of Syria.

What worsened the situation in Armenia was the increasing relevance of their neighbors in Eastern Anatolia, the Anatolic Turks who ranged much of the Plateau. These semi-nomadic people maintained vast flocks of sheep and herds of horses, and paid their Imperial taxes with the latter. Indeed the horses of the Tagmata were often Turkish raised, including all the horses used by the Pedinoi mounted infantry.

Additionally, the Turks were facing many of the same problems the Armenians were, a growing population and not enough land or animals for them to share. Thus the Turks also headed for the army, but their light cavalry and in particular horse archers were always needed along the Danube. To say that many Armenian nobles resented what seemed to them preferential treatment for these foreign interlopers is an understatement.

Finally, as if all of this wasn’t enough of a blow to Armenia’s importance trade was beginning to shift as well. The Turkic control over Persia was growing ever firmer, and the Imperial apparatus there adopting to be similar to that of the old Sassanids, but with a significant mixture of Roman bureaucracy mixed in, mostly imported from the conquered lands of Mesopatamia. This control send trade south, through the Zagros Mountains, and then across Syria to Antioch and from there to the sea. And an alternative route was opening up as the Turks extended their control on the far side of the Caspian, so that trade could sail across that sea, along the northern edge of the Caucuses, or through one of the many river networks in the region, and on to Cherson, from which it was a relatively short and safe journey to Constantinople. Or, once Bulgari stabilized once again up the Danube to Germani. This journey was not without its perils, as the Cumans are still very much at the zenith of their power.

All of this contributed to the general decline that Armenia was going through, especially in economic terms.

As noted, it will not be many centuries before the region is really restored to a major Imperial priority. But of course, the biggest factor in its decline is still to come.

South of Armenia lay the critical Exarchate of Syria, encompassing virtually all of the old Diocese of the East. Syria was heavily fortified along the border, with phrourions maintained in large numbers at numerous points, and the once fortress cities of Dara and Nisibis now surrounded by other, smaller, fortified positions. Each city held nearly a full tagma of men, and more were held back around Antioch and Edessa. Beyond those on the border though these soldiers were untested, having faced no major campaigns in well over a century.

Syria was the main endpoint for the Silk Road, as good would travel to the coast here and then onto Italian or Greek ships bound for either Italy or Constantinople. As such the Exarchate collected a large amount of tax revenue, which was all taken by Constantinople, with the armies of Syria paid out of the coffers of the land tax. To clarify, the land tax, not just in Syria but throughout the Empire, was very much the primary source of tax revenue. It provided around three quarters of all Imperial revenue, with the taxes on trade being a small fraction of the amount. But, the revenue brought in from taxes on trade was virtually all profit, with the salaries of Imperial officials and soldiers paid out of the taxes on land, and taxes in kind on land were used to feed or cloth the soldiers.

Trade taxes were thus primarily used to pay for Imperial projects, such as a full rebuilding of Antioch’s sewage system in 1181 to account for the changing population of the city, or to pay for the rebuilding of Syrian cities after the disasters of the mid twelfth century.

Antioch was by far the largest city in Syria, and the second-largest in the Empire as a whole. By 1190 a full one hundred thousand people resided either in its walls or in the surrounding suburbs. This was part of a major population boom occurring all across the Mediterranean during this time, and Syria was overall less effected than other parts of the world. But it also had a higher base population.

The Exarchate was also one of the most religiously diverse regions in the Empire. The Jacoboi held a solid majority by this point, but there was also a significant minority of Islamic Christians, particularly on the outer portions of Syria and in Palaestina, as well as Chalcedonians near the Taurus Mountains. Keeping peace between these groups was not a constant struggle, but there was more unrest here than in more homogenous regions.

In the southern half of Syria was Palaestina, home of the Christ and the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem Jerusalem at this point had a population of only about thirty thousand native inhabitants. Each year hundreds of Pilgrims from across the Empire, as well as those from Western Europe, Turki, Arabia, and Africa made their way to worship in the churches and receive blessings from the priests. Naturally these travelers often brought gifts with them, and the city was very wealthy from endowments left behind. Churches were common in the city, and two of the most holy churches in the world had been built in the region. The first was the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built by Constantine the Great on the site of the Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The other was newer, built on the Foundation Church, built on the site of the old Temple during the reign of Constantine VI, and was more modern in its design. Based on the Hagia Sophia there were plans to make this church even grander, but they were shot down by the Emperor, who threatened to end the project if a church larger or more decorated than that in the Imperial capitol was constructed.

All in all, Syria was probably the single most critical province of the Empire. Not exactly the most important, that role went to Egypt or Italy, but it was the lynchpin on which the entire Eastern half of the Empire depended. If Syria fell, or were for some reason unwilling to fight on behalf of Constantinople there would be basically nothing standing in the way of an invader to penetrate the defenses and ravage Anatolia, much as the Turks had done two centuries prior. And if you haven’t been reading ahead, no that definitely isn’t foreshadowing.

Proceeding further south is the ever-important land of Egypt. Now of significantly lessened importance, but still one of the wealthiest and most prosperous lands under Roman control. It was also one of the most secure, far from the constant low-level border skirmishes of Armenia, Moesia, Syria, Africa, or even Ravenna. The only threat to Egypt was Markuria, which was we will see later is currently in no state to threaten it, and will not exist by the end of the Thalassans.

Egypt at this point is in relative decline, with crop yields largely static as other regions in the Mediterranean saw their outputs increase. There are numerous speculated reasons behind this change, but the primary one seems to be that Egypt simply had fallen behind in infrastructure compared to other lands. Irrigation was still only rarely used, and the old reliance on the Nile floods remained in place. This was fine so far as it went, and Egypt remained the single most agriculturally productive area in the Empire, but its importance was far less than the ancient days when the wealth of Egypt was the basis of the Emperor’s power.

Egypt was, ironically considering its history, largely Chalcedonian in religious character, and indeed was the strongest bastion for that sect’s thought outside of Greece. There was a sizable minority of Jacoboi in the region, and these men took up many of the most important jobs in the government. This led to not inconsiderate resentment on the part of the local population, but civil war was not yet the inevitable result, that will have to wait.

Demographically the most important city was Alexandria, the largest port in the southern Mediterranean. With some fifty-thousand people the city was one of the largest cities in the Empire, though not near the level of Antioch or Constantinople. This actually represents a major decline in population for the city, which had about twenty-thousand additional people two hundred years before. The decline was caused primarily by a shifting of the poor population out into the countryside through recruitment into the army, leaving the overall population larger, but less urban.

West of Egypt is the Exarchate of Africa, stretching all the way to the Strait leading out of the Mediterranean. Africa has recovered at least somewhat from the decline in infrastructure, but at the moment it is one of the less productive provinces, and one of the least important. With the Berbers crushed by Manuel II the only major threat to the Exarchate was gone. While some raids from deeper into the interior and occasional rebellions flared up the local garrison had little to do other than keep order.

The Berbers were at this point mostly quiet, their upper class slowly romanizing as the years wore on. Two major rebellions had broken out in the past century, but both were put down without significant difficulty by local troops and reinforcements from Sicily and Hispani. A third is coming, and the Emperor himself will arrive to put it down, in one of the most brutal campaigns waged by any Thalassan Emperor.

The largest city in Africa is of course Carthage, which by now had a population of nearly eighty thousand. Carthage was primarily a trading city, supported by the agricultural production of its large hinterlands. As such it really fits more into the story of Italian development. But Carthage was different in that much of its trade was overland, and looked south. The wealthy kingdoms across the vast desert there beckoned, and Carthaginian merchants carrying silks, spices, textiles, and perfumes, and a vast array of other goods now traveled down along the road, while north came ivory, gold, and of course slaves. The slaves would in turn be sold on to either Italian merchants taking them East, or loaded onto Carthaginian ships for sale further East as well.

To the northwest of Africa is what was frankly the least important and productive region of the Empire, Hispani. Conquered by Manuel II during the early years of his reign Hispani had never really been more than half-returned to Roman control by any means. And now that control is beginning to slip. Not quickly, as it will be more than fifty years before the entire peninsula goes into outright revolt, but as Imperial attention was always focused on the Eastern regions Hispani was long forgotten. Local garrisons were small, and staffed entirely by local troops. Roman officials were scarce, and largely existed only to collect the annual taxes due from Hispani’s lords. There was a larger Roman presence in the Exarchate of Hispani, but even here actual influence from Constantinople was low. The Exarch ruled as a sort of petty feudal king, maintaining relationships with his powerful noble families that he used to play each lord off of their rivals, keeping himself always on top.

There were few major cities in Spain, but the largest was Carthago Nova with about twenty-thousand people. Most of the smaller cities were heavily invested in trade, and in particular in the trade past the Strait and in the Atlantic. Merchants from Baetica controlled a network of trading hubs all the way to the Hibernia, as well as the Gallic and Brittanic ports in between. These merchants mostly carried finished Roman manufactured goods, in particular textiles, and brought back low-value goods in bulk, in particular lumber which they then sold on to Italy for ship-building.

We will skip over Italy for now and arrive at the core of the Thalassan-era Empire, Greece and Anatolia. These two regions had largely been excluded from Manuel II’s reorganization of the Empire, and were still administered directly from Constantinople. When I refer to Greece it needs to be understood, that this also really includes the western coast of Anatolia, as even then the two were highly similar.

Greece was at this time one of the most urban parts of the Empire, with multiple major cities. Of these cities the preeminent were Athens and Thessalonika. The latter had long been the primary center of Imperial administration of the Greek peninsula, but by 1190 Athens had overtaken that position. This had been for a multitude of factors, the most important of which actually had little to do with Athens itself, the decline of Corinth. For a long time Corinth had been Athens’s primary rival in southern Greece, and the two cities were constantly jockeying for position.

But when Corinth chose the wrong side in Manuel II’s civil war it had gone into a major decline. Trade and administration shifted from Corinth to Athens as the former city was punished by the Emperor, and by the time Manuel’s punishment ended Athens had gained total preeminence over its former rival. Over the proceeding century Athens had used this position to elevate itself further, while Thessalonika had stagnated in importance. Athens’s position at the entrance to the Aegean made it a perfect spot for ships heading from Italy or Africa to Constantinople to stop before the final trip directly from Athens to Lesbos. Now this wouldn’t have been a significant detriment to Thessalonika historically, as ships would still have passed by it since antiquity.

But, a second major development had occurred in the past two hundred years. Italian, and as the technique spread other, ships had begun sailing out of sight of the coast. Now this wasn’t an entirely new idea, the Poeni had done so over a thousand years before, but it had fallen out of practice by the fall of the Western Empire. But at some point in the 1000s Venetian or Syracuzan merchants had begun the practice once again.

We don’t know precisely who was first, or even when exactly they did it, but by 1100 it was firmly established practice in Italy. We know this not because anyone mentions it in the Chronicles, but rather from examination of ship timetables. In the 900s a merchant vessel leaving Venice would take close to a month to sail all the way to Constantinople, sometimes longer. In doing so it would make a number of stops along the way, recorded in surviving harbor records. But, in 1200 that same ship would make the journey in twelve days.

There were two significant developments leading to this, first as noted the ability of a ship to sail out of sight of the coastline allowed vast distances to be removed from journeys, in particular Syracuzan merchant ships now simply made a straight shot from Syracuze to Athens, rather than having to travel to Calabri and then on to Greece. But, and this is by no means separate, they began sailing at night. This was extremely dangerous while ships needed to sail close to shore, since there was a danger of running aground in the dark, but by maintaining ship movement through both day and night sailing speed was effectively doubled. We’ll talk more about other consequences next time, but for now, all of this meant that ships which previously stopped in Thessalonika were now no longer even arriving in that city.

As incidental trade in Thessalonika declined however it gained a new significance militarily. The city became the headquarters of the Greek tagma, as from its base near the city the soldiers could be rapidly deployed through the mountain passed north of the city up to the Danube. What’s more, this garrison caused a number of industries to develop in the city related to repairing army equipment, weapon and armor manufacturing, and textiles. These goods could then be sold onto the quartermasters of the Roman army for distribution to soldiers (or sold by the nearly universally corrupt men who were supposed to distribute it), or shipped north through the river valley leading up to the Danube, where it would then be sold to the army.

Thessalonika also acted as one of the stop-off points for pilgrims coming out of Bulgari, or from further north in Germani or among the now converted Polans, and from the city they could try to find a ship headed for Constantinople or Athens, and from there a ship to Egypt or Syria. If they were really lucky they might even find a ship going directly to the East, though at this stage that was rare.

If they were unlucky and there were no suitable ships they would then have to proceed on foot to Athens or Constantinople to find passage. And if they were really unlucky they would wind up on a ship of a less than scrupulous captain and find themselves sold into slavery at the destination. Despite assurances from Imperial authorities that such a thing was impossible…it wasn’t. There are numerous sources which say it occurred, if infrequently, and six different court cases have been found alleging the practice, in all six the captain was convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. Though we don’t know if the sentences were actually carried out.

Across the Aegean lay the coast of Anatolia, which as noted was very similar to the Greek mainland. Here the most important cities were places that had declined, and then resurged in importance since antiquity, but the single most important cities were Nicaea, and Dorylaeum. Dorylaeum was a fortress, home to a full tagma garrison, and guarded the most direct route off the Anatolian plateau. While it had not been used in that capacity for nearly two hundred years by 1200 the position was still strongly defended, and will continue to be so. Until of course the city was razed in 1248.

Nicaea was the largest city of Anatolia, with a population of around fifty thousand. Situated on a major lake it served as a key Imperial center for the region, effectively serving as Constantinople’s center of power in the region. Bureaucrats and adminstrators lived here in abundance and administrered the entire plateau. It was at Nicaea that Turkic leaders brought the sheep, and more critically the hundreds of horses, with which their taxes were paid.

On the plateau itself, things were largely divided between the more Greek West and the Turkic East. The Greek west was agricultural, with village farms dotting the landscape where long ago Manuel II had sent his veterans. These had lands divided into long strips, with each family responsible for specified areas. Each strip was long, but narrow, with different farmers designated for each strip of land, and then the order would repeat so that rather than a large block of land being worked by one family they actually had a large number of these strips of land. This is often surprising to modern readers, but the reason was fairly simple. Plows pulled by oxen, or by this point horses, were very good at going in a long, straight line. They were very bad at turning off of that line. It was thus more efficient to make each area worked by a farmer to be long enough to be plowed in one day in a straight line.

Crops were largely planted by use of a seed drill, a device that is claimed to have been invented sometime in the 1000s by a monastic community in Syria. This story is repeated often, and normally held to be true in simplistic histories of agriculture. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you it’s a massive lie. The first references to the story we get are in chronicles from the late 1100s, and the origins actually lie not in Syria at all, but further East. The first seed drills were invented in Da Qin sometime before the first century of our lord. They seem to have been a local device, until the instability of the previous centuries drove a number of merchants out of the country entirely. One of them brought with him such a device, and it was adopted in Syria during the 1000s, and spread from there into Anatolia, and then to the rest of Europe.

Note that at this point it had not spread to Egypt, which has been theorized to be another reason that Egyptian agricultural output was stalling at this time. Supporting that viewpoint is that there will be an increase around the time the drill is imported in Egypt in the 1300s. Though we don’t know precisely when that occurred, so its difficult to draw a direct link between the two.

On the eastern side of the plateau the Turks were still the dominant force. Rather than the village farms which dominated in the west the East was covered by grazing herds. Tens of thousands of sheep and horses were raised here. The Turks mostly maintained their traditional lifestyle of nomadic wandering, but by the year 1200 were beginning to settle down. Turkic leaders maintained homes in Caesarea, and the Turkic strategos, the one of the last men to bear that title, also was expected to maintain a home in Constantinople and live there for a few months out of the year.

The Turks were thus one of the primary sources of horses within the Empire, and as noted provided the vast majority of those used by the Tagmata. As time had gone on Turkic soldiers had also gone on to take up many of the positions within that body, where they fought as heavy cavalry. Due to that use of Turkic riders however many of the Anatolik Turks had lost the skills with horse archery that defined the nomadic lifestyle outside the Empire.

North of Greece was the Danube frontier. This was the other location where the position of Strategos was maintained, normally given to a Magyar leader, or that of a Slav. Although at this point there was little difference between Slavs and their Roman neighbors, apart maybe from names. The Slavs had long begun speaking Greek, and adopted Roman customs. The Magyar weren’t quite so well integrated, but their leadership were expected to know Greek, and often Latin due to the latter languages remaining preeminence in military affairs. The number of men in the region sometimes fluctuated, but was never below six full tagmas, and could rise as high as ten if the Cumans were making significant amounts of trouble in the north.

These soldiers were divided with five in Moesia, including those beyond the Danube, three in Dacia, and two in Illyricum. The regional economy was heavily reliant on agriculture of course, as all of the world still was, but industrially it had significant regions dedicated to military production, or trade in military goods. What’s more, trading posts operated all along the Danube as goods flowed up the river and into Germanni. The Danube was at this point of the most critical trade routes in Europe, in both directions. From out of the north came an array of low value but still sought after goods such as timber, and furs, while from Roman markets came finished goods, and the eternal export of textiles. But it wasn’t just Roman goods that went up the Danube either. On the contrary, the vast river networks of the lands of the Rus actually sent their goods down into the Black Sea, then up the Danube rather than directly overland, due to the Roman route being easier, cheaper, and critically safer.

On the death of Manuel III, the route was temporarily in decline as Bulgari was not yet finished with the instability and Civil War that followed their defeat at the hands of the Romans a few decades before, but that war will be over by the year1200.

That concludes our rundown of the Empire as it stood in 1192. The Roman Empire of this time period is very much the economic lynchpin that kept trade functioning in Europe, and on the surface it appeared highly stable and powerful. But, there are a large array of problems just under the surface that we will see rear their heads in the next fifty years. From religious conflict kept in check by a tolerant Imperial administration, to the centralization of power in Constantinople. All will play their part in the end of the Thalassans.

Next time we will hone in the region skipped this week, Italy, and cover the political developments that have occurred there and will lay the bedrock for the Empire as it will stand when the Thalassans burn themselves to the ground, and a new dynasty takes power.
Last edited:
Part 79: Italy in 1192
Part LXXIX: Italian Development to 1092​

Italy was of course the homeland of the original Roman kingdom, founded in the 700s before our lord. That then gave way to the Roman Republic, which stood for nearly five hundred years before being overtaken by the Caesars who transformed the unstable Republic into what we now remember as the Principate, that is to say the Imperial Republic. In this government the old Senate remained powerful, but was balanced out (or outmatched) by a powerful executive who ruled as the Princeps, or first citizen. As time went on however the idea of the princeps gave way to an executive who was first, foremost, and ultimately only the military ruler of the Empire.

Thus, came the Dominate, formed under the foul Diocletian. The princeps became the Dominus, the Lord and God of the Roman state. Fortunately this formulation lasted only a few decades, to be replaced by Contantine the Great who rejected the pagan evils of the Roman past and embraced the true religion. At least that’s our normal narrative. In effect though Constantine’s actual political changes were basically non-existent, even if his religious changes were naturally completely correct.

For our purposes today though what the Dominate represents for the wider Empire don’t matter nearly as much as what it meant for the home peninsula. The end of the Principate also brought about the end of the special status granted to Italy by virtue of being the origin of the entire Empire. It became simply another Diocese, and a secondary one compared to those which defended the borders.

That last a few centuries, and then the unthinkable happened. The barbaric Goths overran the peninsula, severing it from rule by its rightful Roman masters. That in turn lasted only a short time before Justinian I began his idiotic campaigns to reconquer the West, and in the process severely damaged what was left of the Roman East, utterly failed in Spain, and managed not to reconquer but instead destroy Italy. The Gothic Wars and subsequent Lombard conquest devastated the home peninsula. Cities were destroyed, populations wiped out. And for all of that the Romans were left controlling scraps of coastline and defensible cities.

It is during this period that a number of major events occurred. The first is that due to the devastation caused much of the Italian population, that is to say much of the surviving Italian population abandoned the old cities and set up new settlements in more defensible regions, in swamps, on cliffs, etc.

One particular example of this was the city of Amalfi, today little more than a small town in Campania, which was settled at the mouth of a ravine for ease of defense. Sort of, the town itself began as a trading post in the three hundreds, but only rose to importance when its position suddenly became very relevant.

Then came the following century of crisis. In the Balkans Avars and Slavs overran the Danube defenses and drove the Romans south of the Hemus Mountains. No sooner were they beaten back then the Arabs overran the east. In this storm of events Justinian II made the incredibly short sighted decision to retake Italy rather than Syria, a move which should probably have gotten him a sword in his chest. But he didn’t, and with Frankish help Italy was retaken from the Lombards in the 600s. Italy however had once again been severely damaged by the war, and would not truly begin to recover until the Thalassans began shipping colonists from the overcrowded capitol to the peninsula.

From here life began to return to normal. The last of the Lombard dukes were stripped of their power, and trade in the Mediterranean began to recover, slowly. In the times of the Western Empire the trade networks had been supported almost entirely by the Imperial administration. Vast amounts of goods needed to be shipped to the military fronts, everything from grain to weapons and cash to pay the soldiers. And of course the massive grain fleets that kept the Empire fed were a key vehicle for small time traders. The details aren’t important. But the main point is that when the West fell this trade ceased. And in the 600s the Eastern trade collapsed as well. Why? Because with the Arabs constantly raiding Anatolia and Egypt the shipment of goods from those areas also declined precipitously. Into that vacuum stepped the cities of Italy, which needed a way to purchase the food needed to sustain themselves.

What did they trade you ask? Slaves. Large numbers of slaves. Mostly pagan, but there were also undoubtedly Christians captured as well. These slaves came mostly from the north, where captured prisoners of Frankish military campaigns, or raids by the Italians themselves, sent large numbers of Slavs, Avars, Saxons, and others south, and then on to either the Roman fields, or to the Caliphate. Yes, they sold possibly Christian slaves to the Arabic Caliphate. A lot of people find the idea shocking, but probably shouldn’t. As recent events showed even modern courts can require an absurd level of evidence to free an enslaved Christian, and they often still require compensation to the owner.

Its absolutely something you should be angry about, and needs to stop.

But before I go off on a tangent, I’ll skip ahead a bit. When Leo reconquered the East he revived the old trade networks along with it, and granted the Romans a spectacular addition on that front in a port on the Arabic Sea. More goods flowed in from the East than ever before, and the Italians were right there to jump on them. Normally Italian ships purchased cargos in Egypt, or Syria and carried them on to the West, where the newly powerful court of Frankish kings, and later Frankish Emperors, highly desired the exotic goods. For this they received gold, furs, amber, and yes more slaves. These were then sold on to the merchants in the East, keeping the cycle of trade going. Notably however, all of this was done without reliance on Imperial support.

A major disruption occurred when Louis, last Frankish Emperors, stormed south into Italy and conquered virtually the entire peninsula. Trade was obliterated under the newly hostile regimes which faced one another on the peninsula. But just a short time later Manuel retook Italy, and the cities of Italy were so, so grateful they spontaneously gave him vast amounts of gold and presents to thank the Emperor for restoring them to Roman rule. While of course men with pointy bits of metal stood nearby to make sure the spontaneous gratitude was sufficiently thankful.

The rebellion happened, then, but more importantly for our narrative was the appointment of the Emperor’s oldest daughter and her husband to the position as the first Exarch of Italy. Based in Capua the Exarch of Italy was, like most of the exarchs, an administrative post more than anything else. While Ali Umayos was granted significant land holdings in southern Italy his primary duty was to collect Imperial tax revenue and send it on to Imperial agents. This he did with aplomp, and little difficulty. The rebellious Italians had already tested the unbeatable Emperor, and did not want to try again, especially with his large Ravennan garrison just to the north.

But after Manuel’s death things began to change. Tax revenue was withheld unless the exarch caved to demands, and Ali’s successors were far less capable. Until a man named Romanos took power in the exarchate in 1108. He called together a meeting of the leading Italian cities: Venice, Syracuze, Beneventum, Neapolis, and Ravenna primarily, and worked out a deal under which the cities would be given a say in laws put into effect within the Exarchate, and in exchange they would provide the tax revenue required of them in accordance with their population. This agreement in hand the representatives left. And they immediately began to go back on it. Not openly of course, but the baseline of the agreement left open to interpretation how their population was counted. A race to the bottom began as each city tried to minimize its population count in order to minimize its tax burden.

Irritated by this, and the fact that he was still having to make up portions of the tax revenue from out of pocket Romanos called the cities back to a conference that took place in Rome in 1114. Here the previous agreement was once again agreed to, and it was also agreed that the cities would send representatives to Rome for discussion each year, and each would receive voting power based on population. This was in no way a representative body though. The wealthy men had all the votes, population was only used as the measure for how many votes were received in order to eliminate, or at least keep in check the outright fraud used to keep tax burdens down.

Rome I should note was chosen as the meeting spot as it was far enough away from the Exarch’s center of power to not be too clear that he could have them all executed if things didn’t work out, while still being close enough that he could march a force up and do just that. And also something about the city once having been important, probably not a big deal.

I should also note now, that at first this was very much a trading cities only body, but as the century wore on other towns demanded representation too, and were slowly brought into the larger body. Finally, by 1158 every major city in Italy, that is to say those with a population of at least five thousand, were represented, and smaller towns still sent non-voting representatives to make arguments in their own interest. And while city representation was theoretically based on population, it was in reality based on tax burden, as these cities provided the vast majority of tax money collected inside Italy. This wasn’t because agriculture wasn’t important, it was extremely important, but rather that the taxes on those lands were levied on cities which claimed dominion over that land. Thus the same land tax was levied as existed in other parts of the Empire, but the city was responsible for paying the tax, and no one much cared where that money came from. This led to the rather unfortunate side effect of the cities taxing small farmers into oblivion, then the rich men who ran the cities buying it up for production of cash crops, but no one who got a vote cared.

Until 1176, when the city of Ravenna was seized from inside by unemployed men and women who had been rendered destitute by the practice. The exarch, Aurelius defused the situation, but it was clear that something had to change. That something was a restoration of the old patronage networks that had once defined Roman life. Rather than the wealthy of the city individually having clients however the new system made the poor the clients of the entire city. In Venice for instance city leaders set up free hospitals, grain doles, and free housing for the populace. Not good housing, but at least a roof for the poor of the city. In really good years bonuses of cash were handed out.

None of this was done out of charity as certain modern rewriters of history might have you believe, but rather because it was felt that to keep the current governmental structure intact the entire population needed to share in the prosperity. As one lord of Venice noted, “better to give the wretches a scrap rather than have them take the meal.”

So no, no one was living well off of the patronage, but they were at least living. And that was enough for the time.

And that out of the way, its time to address the other big development in Italy during the 1100s, nostalgia. As Italy grew more wealthy the access of the population to a classical education naturally increased. It is estimated that somewhere close to a third of the population of Italy could read by 1100, and everyone in the upper class was expected to be able to read both Greek and Latin. Those who traded in Syria were also expected to at least be passable in Arabic as well.

This led to a resurgence among the upper class Italians of old Roman culture, or at least some rather distorted version of it. In particular in naming conventions, as old Roman names became fashionable among the wealthy. By 1160 the Exarch’s gathering of the wealthy of the peninsula was styling itself as a Roman Senate, and had begun funding a rebuild of the old Senate House, long since fallen into disrepair.

This project was completed in 1170, and other projects to restore some measure of Rome’s past glory began as well. The old Baths of Diocletian were torn down and remodeled as the Baths of Leo, named for the current pope. By 1200 Rome was at least a respectable city, though we should remember that these projects were actually pretty small in scale, as Rome at this point had a population of only about twelve thousand, completely dwarfed by any of the peninsula’s major cities.

Thus, began the rather odd dual role that Rome played as both effective capital of the Exarchate of Italy, even as the official capital remained at Capua, and also as the capital of the Christian Church, a role which at this point it also still shared with Constantinople.

North of the Exarchate of Italy was the Exarchate of Ravenna, which infuriatingly did not actually include Ravenna. It was instead headquartered at Mediolanium, and was primarily responsible for holding the Alpine passes into and out of Italy. By this point in our story the Romans have regained control over both sides of the passes, granting total control over all traffic into and out of northern Italy.

Historically the most important passage into and out of the Alps had been along the coast to the West, and this remained a major route for pilgrims, but traders now actually mostly went through the north. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important is the weak central authority inside the Kingdom of Gael, something we will discuss later. While Germanni had the same problem, it was lessened by the fact that lords along the Alps were also far weaker.

Trade from Gael actually tended to come by sea at this point in history, either from the southern ports of the kingdom, or interestingly up the Rhodonus River to where a Roman garrison town had sprung up on the shores of the Lemanus Lake, and then down into northern Italy from there. The site had once been a small town used against a barbarian tribe in the days of the ancient empire, but the settlement had been abandoned sometime after the West fell.

This town, Genava, was a small port, and the lake on which it sat was a key passage point in trade between south and north. On the far side sat an independent town, Lousana, which made a living transporting goods overland from the lake to the Brouy River, several miles north. That river was short, and might seem unimportant, but is a tributary of the important Rhine River, and thus was one of the shortest paths to the Sea, though the trip overland was less than desirable. Most of the trade over this route was light, but valuable goods, in particular silks bound for the courts of Franki and similar items.

Politically, the wealth of the Italian Exarch, backed up by the Italian merchant cities, had led to a degree of dominance by Italy over the northern exarchate of Ravenna. One of the major points leading to this was the ability of the Italian cities to simply pay Ravennan soldiers in cash what was supposed to be granted as land. Even when this did not occur the land that was provided was normally in Italy. Specifically it was the land that the taxes mentioned above were often driving inhabitants off of and into the cities. This created a vicious feedback loop, where a retiring soldier would be given land, taxed off of it, brought into the cities, and then his children would enlist in the Ravennan army for a full fifteen year service period to try and get land of their own. Only to receive similar land on departing from the army, starting the entire cycle over again.

If a soldier was lucky he would be posted at the border crossings, where he could impress a traveling merchant, who upon the soldier leaving the army would offer him a position as a guard, either for the merchant’s household or caravan. This represented a significant increase in pay, often for less dangerous, or at least easier, work. Not only would the position ensure the soldier retained employment, it also gave him an avenue for securing the futures of his children. Connections made in the merchant houses could get sons and daughters apprenticeships in important professions, or land them positions as servants in houses of the wealthy.

And the position brought on legal protection, as actions taken against a member of a wealthy household, or patronized by a wealthy household, would result in that house taking legal action to defend their client. And if legal avenues failed, well a dagger in the back in some dark alley would also work. All told the positions at the border were highly coveted, and soldiers competed for the limited positions, to the point that commanders ensured there was always a steady rotation through the posts to ensure brawls amongst the men were never too severe.

However, a key consequence of the policy was tying the Italian elite ever closer to the Ravennan army.

But for those consequences we will have to wait until Julius II seizes control of the army of Ravenna for his chance at Imperial power.

Next time we will continue our overview of the world on the death of Manuel III by looking what is happening in Western Europe.
Thus, came the Dominate, formed under the foul Diocletian. The princeps became the Dominus, the Lord and God of the Roman state. Fortunately this formulation lasted only a few decades, to be replaced by Contantine the Great who rejected the pagan evils of the Roman past and embraced the true religion. At least that’s our normal narrative. In effect though Constantine’s actual political changes were basically non-existent, even if his religious changes were naturally completely correct.
Considering how Diocletian is viewed ITTL, I assume academic histories of his reign more heavily emphasize how stuff like the Edict of Maximum Prices and the Tetrarchy were catastrophic failures (the former was often ignored and caused heavy damage to the economy in how counterproductive it was and the latter collapsed five minutes after his retirement). And speaking of Diocletian's TTL's reputation, I assume that historians ITTL would place more emphasis to the efforts of Aurelian and Probus or something along those lines when discussing the end of the Crisis of the Third Century.
Last edited:
why?! lmao XD
Because the name is a reference to the Exarchate of Ravenna that existed in Italy after the Lombard invasion of Italy. And it did initially contain that city, but for political and economic reasons the city was sent over to Italy administratively in the late 1000s.

Considering how Diocletian is viewed ITTL, I assume academic histories of his reign more heavily emphasize how stuff like the Edict of Maximum Prices and the Tetrarchy were catastrophic failures (the former was often ignored and caused heavy damage to the economy in how counterproductive it was and the latter collapsed five minutes after his retirement). And speaking of Diocletian's TTL's reputation, I assume that historians ITTL would place more emphasis to the efforts of Aurelian and Probus or something along those lines when discussing the end of the Crisis of the Third Century.
Yes. Pretty much all of Diocletian's efforts are portrayed in the worst light possible due to the persecutions, and his refusal to elevate Constantine to the purple. Aurelian as mentioned a while back got portrayed as a closet Christian in Manuel II's history, though by the time of the ITTL author's day that has been pretty thoroughly debunked.
Aurelian as mentioned a while back got portrayed as a closet Christian in Manuel II's history, though by the time of the ITTL author's day that has been pretty thoroughly debunked.
But yeah, when talking about how the Crisis of the Third Century ended, the efforts of Aurelian and Probus in ending the crisis are probably emphasized by historians? Also, regarding the end of the Crisis of the Third Century, maybe Diocletian is blamed for the deaths of Carus and Numerian by historians ITTL?
Last edited:
Slavery still exists in the modern era ITTL?
I was wondering if people would pick up on that. Yes, as I think has been hinted at heavily, the modern world ITTL is deeply flawed, but flawed in a very different way than OTL. That's one of two remarks the author made to what in his time is modern politics.
I was wondering if people would pick up on that. Yes, as I think has been hinted at heavily, the modern world ITTL is deeply flawed, but flawed in a very different way than OTL. That's one of two remarks the author made to what in his time is modern politics.
What about my question about the economic role of slavery in this world? Is it a spoiler?
What about my question about the economic role of slavery in this world? Is it a spoiler?
Not really a spoiler, but I just haven't given it a lot of specific thought. My overall outline for the form that the world ends up in at the author's modern day is rather vague since we're not going to take things all the way up to then. There's a few specific things that I want to have the author either take note of, or take jabs at (the other point about his modern day is one of these at his political opponents), to give an idea how things work, but a general picture of the economy I don't think will emerge, or really be relevant.
So, yeah, what about my question on how the end of the Crisis of the Third Century is seen ITTL? I assume Aurelian, Probus, and Carus (including the possibility historians ITTL argue both he and his son Numerian were murdered by Diocletian with Aper killed to avoid Carinus knowing before it was too late) are people who recieve more attention by historians ITTL due to Diocletian being viewed ITTL.
Part 80: The West in 1192
Part LXXX: The West in 1192​

To begin our look at the West on the death of Manuel III, we shall begin in the far northwest, and then work out way down, focusing on the various kingdoms in the islands, the former Frankish Empire, and Bulgari. There are of course a lot of things happening outside that bubble, but this is still a series focused on the Romans, and so focusing on the groups most important to the Roman Empire is necessary simply to keep focus.

In the far northwest of Europe of course lay the Verdant Island, called the Kingdom of Gronland by the locals, which a century ago ruled territory that extended into the Transmere. That territory has now been lost. As might be expected exerting control over territory so far flung proved impossible for the simplistic petty kingdom structure of Gronland, and it broke away after a short war in the 1130s. That territory maintained trade links back to the island kingdom, but otherwise was fully autonomous, until finally being subsumed into local culture in the coming century. But that local culture adopted technology from the Gronlanders, and maintained trade links to the island, trading timber and furs for iron tools, an unknown technology in the Transmere at this time.

But for now it doesn’t really factor into our narrative.

South of Gronland lay the Norman kingdom of Alba. Once a major kingdom which ruled over all of both local islands Alba has now lost all of its territory on the island of Britanni. In 1131 a war broke out with the king of Caledonia, which saw the Alban king killed and his castled taken, leaving Caledonia control of Eorwic. The defeat ended the ruling Norman dynasty, and a subsequent power vacuum saw the king’s sister and first cousin go to war over the throne. At the end of the war the sister, Queen Matilda, was victorious, and secured her position as queen of the island, and one of the great warrior queens of Norman history, second only to Queen Contance of the West, who conquered an empire.

But Matilda would never be able to fulfill her dreams of restoring Alba’s supremacy over the islands, as she would be consumed by further rebellions for much of her twelve year reign, finally dying in battle at the age of forty-one. She was succeeded by her son, William who would spend much of his reign fighting rebellions as well, before finally being defeated in 1149 by a coalition of lords and reduced in influence until he controlled little territory except that around the capital as his personal holdings. The march back to relevance for Alba would be long and difficult.

The island might well have fallen under the control of its eastern neighbors if they had been in any better shape. But Brittani is many things, stable is not one of them. The Kingdom of Brittani had been forged during the previous century, conquering the vast majority of Saxon lands, leaving only a sliver under a Dane king in the eastern portions of the island. A century of warfare on the fringes has left the Britons in full control of the lands south of Caledonia. The kingdom of Brittanni was another highly decentralized state, ruled from the old Roman capital at Londinium.

The king however was weak, and forced to rely heavily on certain powerful lords, particularly those in the north of the kingdom along the border with Caledonia, who grew rich off of plunder from border raids and skirmishes, even as the region itself was damaged.

Caledonia was in little better shape, the king not only checked by powerful border lords of his own, but also by the natives of the highlands of Caledonia, who were effectively ungovernable.

South of the island of Brittani was the kingdom Gael. Founded you will recall following the temporary Roman conquest of Aquitaine, and subsequent withdrawal just a few years later, Gael extended from a less than defined border in the East, south to the Alps and Pyrenees in the South. The capital had shifted a number of times over the past century, normally being just wherever the king happened to be staying, but by 1192 it had begun to solidly exist in the city of Toulouse in the south.

The city was selected for a number of reasons, including its proximity to Roman Hispani, from which a large number of goods passed, but also for being upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, and having a good route to Bordeaux, one of the two most important ports in the kingdom, the other being at Massilia. The settling of the capital at Toulouse signaled a decline in importance in northern Gael, which will not be rectified for many centuries, and will leave the king of Franki a window to expand his influence and power in the region. The kings of Gael were mostly energetic however, despite their overall weakness, and set about trying to establish a power base for themselves across the country. Their northern holdings were mostly passed along to bishops to rule in the king’s stead, with the hope that these men would be less likely to become entangled in local political fueds than appointed lords.

The policy was less than successful as you might imagine.

However, the kings of Gael were in large part the most powerful monarchs in the West overall, with a large vassaldom to call upon, and a kingdom which stood at a crossroads between Hispani merchants and the northern trade routes, and as such collected a steady revenue from this traffic. Gaelic merchants were less adventurous than their foreign neighbors, but did a great deal of overland travel, transporting goods such as salt from the coast to the interior of the kingdom for steady, if less than spectacular profit.

East of Gael was the kingdom of Franki, the self-declared remnant of the Frankish Empire. Situated primarily on the Rhine the Frankish king ruled a long, but narrow kingdom running from the Rhine Delta in the north to the Alps in the south. By far the most urban of the kingdoms of Western Europe, the Frankish King faced a dilemma similar to that faced by the Exarch of Italy, but on a grander scale. In Italy if the cities ever got too out of line the Exarch could call in the Emperor to politely order everyone into line, and if that didn’t work then a bunch of rich men could be rounded up and get their heads cut off. Whichever was easier.

But the Frankish king simply didn’t have the power to do such a thing himself. Hi lack of powerful noble lords, and the loss of so much territory that had once been the Emperor’s left him quite unable to raise funds in anything approaching an adequate manner. And the Frankish king needed funds. To both East and West Marcher lords of Germanni and Gael were on the offensive, conducting raids, sieges and simple land grabs whenever possible, so that the territory of the Frankish king looked increasingly fragile as the 1100s wore on. There simply was not enough money to hire mercenaries, not enough lords to call to the banners, and not enough knights even if the other two hadn’t been an issue. Indeed, the knights who might have been available for hire were far too often looking for more lucrative jobs in the Roman Empire as auxiliaries, the Wandering knights introduced in the section on the Second Nubian War.

Therefore the king had to get the towns and cities, far more of the former, of the Rhine onboard if he was going to turn back the tide from either direction. To this end he called the first meeting of what will be called the Frankish Senate in 1146, gathering representatives of the towns of Franki, as well as the nobles and ordered them to give him the cash he needed to fight the wars needed.

They flatly refused. But, they did begin private discussions, and the next year when Aachen itself was raided the king once again called this gathering, and when he made the demand yet again a compromise was reached. The king would be granted a sum approximating seventy-thousand nomismata to raise an army and campaign for the next year. Using these funds king Phillip I, regnal names for Franki are not considered continuous with those of the Empire, gathered a force of about six thousand Brittannic archers, militia from the Rhine cities, and knights, and set about a war against the Marcher lords of Gael. He met with considerable success, and retook a number of villages on the periphery of the kingdom, as well as capturing a number of noble prisoners for ransom.

The next year however yet more raids came, and Philip used more of the cash voted to him to raise another army and repel it, as well as forces from out of Germanni. These Rhine militiamen are particularly important. Coming from the wealthy cities along the coast and in the Delta primarily these men were well equipped in a fashion based on Roman infantry. Each man had a mail shirt, and a metal helmet, and was armed with a weapon known commonly as a short pike, but at the time known as a falchard. This weapon really wasn’t a pike at all, and its design will heavily inspire the armies of the Caesarii, and Europe as a whole, over the following centuries after it was used to devastating effect at Constantinople. The falchard was a heavy, partially curved blade ending in a sharp point, set upon a pole that was over six feet in length. Either the concave or convex side of the blade would be sharpened, though not both under most circumstances. The falchard seems to have evolved out of simple farming scythes. These men were the most effective infantry force in Europe, at least on this side of the Alps, and demonstrated that over the course of Philip’s campaigns. When placed alongside the devastating bowshot of the Britons (who rapidly adopted the falchard themselves) the effect was devastating.Philip was soon raiding the Marcher territories himself, and by 1160 had peace treaties with many of them. He died in 1163, having sworn to never call another meeting of the Senate. Note that this name is extremely anachronistic, but its conventional to use it, so I will be doing so.

His far weaker son however was soon beset once again by assault from all sides, and having squandered the stronger treasury his father had left was forced to once again call a meeting of this Frankish Senate. They utterly refused to give him any money whatsoever, and in retaliation the king, Charles II, signed a horrible treaty with the Marchers, and returned to wage war on his own subjects.

That might have been disastrous for the kingdom as a whole, but fortunately for them Charles managed to mysteriously stab himself while alone in his tent while his guards heard positively nothing. And you better not question them too hard unless you would also like to have a most mysterious accident. He had no sons, and so a new king was chosen from among his extended family. Philip II was a lord from the Delta, and proved far more willing to cooperate. In 1172 Philip II signed a Charter of the Realm, which laid out a number of provisions under which he would govern, primarily among those being a requirement to call the Senate into session at least once every ten years, and that he would have the rights to collect certain fees, tolls, and taxes at all times in response.

Much as we might celebrate this charter however, which predated Julius II’s Great Charter by almost a century, it should be noted that it wasn’t really that revolutionary. All he had done was put into writing what was basically policy already, giving his nobles and wealthy magnates a legal say in the government, but on in which the king was still more or less all powerful. Still, the Charter of the Realm is a solid document, and if you are ever in Aachen I would highly recommend seeing it, though your Late Latin would need to be quite good to understand much of it.

It was in Franki at this time that the first of what we might recognize as the Guilds were taking shape. They were delayed in Italy by an institution of social welfare by the city leaders as a way of forestalling any kind of social revolution. But in Franki no such system was in place. And so the craftsmen took it upon themselves to implement it. A guild, as you probably know, is an organization of all the craftsmen in the city. So the blacksmith’s would have a guild, the goldsmiths, the masons, etc. These organization set out strict requirements for membership and training, though despite certain claims to the contrary by those nostalgic fools, women were allowed to join. Indeed, we have records of women not only as members, but as masters. Girls and boys could both be apprentices, though girls were of course far rarer, and it wasn’t unusual for both husband and wife to be masters in their craft, even if only one had been through the formal process.

This was considered pretty normal, and notably when one of the partners died the other would be expected to continue on, even training the apprentices still under their care. Now it is true that widows were often required to take on new masters when their current apprentices were gone, or to simply close up show, but this wasn’t always the case. And they were still considered beneficiaries of the guild afterward, and their children were often expected to be members, and masters in their turn.

This system was not unique to Franki, but it was far more inclusive there. As such it might not be so surprising that the Cathari arose inside the kingdom as well. And it is from this group that one of, if not THE most influential writer of the time period will emerge. Sadly, we are a number of years short of the birth of Heloise, first female bishop of Aachen, but that will be something to look forward to when we return to this place when the Pope sends out his call for soldiers, and a very popular, well-spoken woman is angling for an election to that position.

Philip II for his part viewed the Cathari as harmless weirdos, but noted in a letter to the Pope when the latter was considering excommunicating the entire group that, they were harmless, and indeed better followed the wider laws of the Church than any of his other subjects. The 1176 mission north returned with much the same view, saying that the Cathari far from being dangerous heretics seemed rather to be ascetic extremists, forgoing many mortal pleasures and steeping themselves in prayer, fasting, and penance. One particular point of conflict with the Cathari however was their refusal to celebrate Christmas, which they viewed as, to paraphrase Heloise in one of her letters on the topic, “a horrid throwback to paganism more at home in the heathen times before the Great Constantine than a holy day.”

The popularity of the Cathari with the tax collectors of Franki also had something to do with them not celebrating the feastdays which lingered, taking only the holy week before and after Easter as days of rest in addition to the Sabbath. They were thus some of the most productive members of their communities, and indeed viewed it as holy duty to work their lord’s land as industriously as their own, something their neighbors absolutely did not do.

To the east of Franki then lay the final breakaway kingdom of the old Frankish Empire, the Kingdom of Germanni. Ruled in 1192 from the city of Regensborg, near the old border with Bulgari. Germanni was unique among the Western lands as it maintained an elected monarchy, chosen by the powerful Marcher princes, originally a group of eleven men along the western, southern, and eastern borders of the kingdom. But the southern lords had been smashed by the Ravennan army, and now were but a shadow of their former selves. Following a German civil war in the aftermath their votes were stripped away, leaving a group of eight men to elect the king, always from among their own ranks.

As might be imagined this solution to the question of who would be king was deeply unstable, and prone to vicious infighting among the various princes. Worse still for overall organization the capital shifted anytime a new king was elected, if the king was from a different family which was often the case. The most popular choices however were Regensborg, the largest city in the kingdom at about forty-five thousand, Frankford, or Magdeborg.

The most powerful nobles within Germany, the noted Marcher lords were, as in other realms, lords who maintained their power along the border, and so were able to launch military adventures against their neighbors, pagan or not, and plunder regularly. The wealth brought in through these raids attracted more men to their banners, and their power increased steadily. The king, as one of the border princes, was unable to exercise any significant control over his Marcher subjects, leaving him weak and largely ineffectual against them.

Germanni overall isn’t that important yet, and won’t be for another century when the long wars against the Baltic pagans begin. Ironically, on paper it was probably the strongest of the surviving Frankish remnants, but the weak central government ensured that meant little. And one final detail, while the Marcher Lords always elected one of their own, this was custom rather than law. And so technically the position was open to anyone who could get himself put in place…

East of Germani are the lands of the Polans, those people who had long been foes of the Bulgari. But in the 1100s the Polans suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Bulgari king, one which resulted in the Polani army completely routed, and their king forced to sue for peace. In the subsequent agreement the king of Polani agreed to be baptized as a Christian, and pay tribute to the Bulgari king. That lasted right up until the Bulgari king died in Italy just a few decades later, which allowed the Polani king to break free and set his own course. And the course he set was drastically different. Seeing that the Christians were gaining ground everywhere he threw himself into his faith, and began campaigns of conversion among his people, while completely reorganizing their society. He adopted Frankish clothing and structures, adopted the Latin alphabet, and by 1192 had a functional feudal state in place similar to that of his neighbors. But unlike them the king of Polani was far more powerful. He held vast tracts of land, greatly outstripping all of his nobles and he commanded a large swathe of knights and men at arms.

Much like Germanni though Polani will become more important in a later century.

To the south of Polani was the kingdom of Bulgari, now a shadow of its former self. Last time we looked at Bulgari the kingdom was collapsing into civil war. It is now many, many years later and that civil war is ending. It hasn’t been fought continuously of course, but over the past fifty or so years there has been a new king ever three years, almost all of whom died violently. This period of instability also saw major shifts in territory as both the Moravi and Serbi broke away from the kingdom, forming their own smaller states in what was the periphery. In the north the Polani have pushed south as well, retaking a fair amount of their old lands. Currently Paul VI holds the throne, but he will be killed in 1195, and his successor will be the one to permanently end the crisis years in the Bulgari kingdom in at Battle of Pliska in 1198. But I’m afraid the most glorious days of the Bulgari kings are behind them, and the next two centuries will not be kind to it.

On a broader scale, Europe’s population at this time was increasingly rapidly as well, driven by an invention which was revolutionizing agriculture in northern Europe. Invented somewhere in Franki in 1126 the heavy plow was far better than the old Roman plows, which were of course built for use in the softer soil of the Mediterranean, but in the denser soil of northern Europe was far less good. Agriculture yields were thus increasing, and the population increases led to even more land being cultivated, and new villages to be founded, ones which were in good positions to negotiate better contracts with their lords. The population of non-Roman Europe having increased from about forty million in 1100 to forty-eight million a century later. The population growth occurred in all sections of society, from peasant to noble, though of course growth in the former category was larger and more responsible for the large increase in overall population. Indeed, the increase in the noble population was primarily an important point for two reasons, first it provided a steady stream of young men with military training and the means to purchase horse, arms, and armor, but not enough land to actually support them all financially. As such they became wandering knights, looking for lords to pledge their swords to. Many would find their way south into the Romans Empire, and become auxiliaries looking for a payday there after a battle, or else looking to catch the attention of their superiors and be sent to Constantinople for further training, and eventually a position as an officer in the Roman army.

Note however, that these men were auxiliaries and as such fought under Roman officer. Those men who were sent to Constantinople were almost never posted with their comrades. For our narrative only one of these men needs to be remembered, and he has just been born in 1192. His name of course is Constantine.

And on that note we will continue next time, as we look at the developing state in Turkish Persia, the wars on its Eastern border which are coming to an end, and finally look past Persia properly for the first time and discuss events in Da Qin, where in 1192 a messenger has arrived at the capital of the northernmost kingdom to inform his king that the northern wall is breached, and horsemen are pouring through.

The Huns are coming.
Last edited:
So, yeah, what about my question on how the end of the Crisis of the Third Century is seen ITTL? I assume Aurelian, Probus, and Carus (including the possibility historians ITTL argue both he and his son Numerian were murdered by Diocletian with Aper killed to avoid Carinus knowing before it was too late) are people who recieve more attention by historians ITTL due to Diocletian being viewed ITTL.
Pretty much. Aurelian in particular is highly thought of by historians naturally. And yep, Diocletian's murder and usurpation of the throne is a lot more disparaged.