The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

God damn did the Mongols fuck everything up. Nomadic horse tribes legacies are basically mass murders on steroids and chaos whenever they leave. We should go back in time to give people machine guns to defend people
Yes, people, including horse nomads.
's a bad idea, says I.
Part 94: The Recovery of Armenia
Part XCIV: The Recovery of Armenia​

Julius left behind a large garrison in Antioch, nearly ten thousand men, or half his entire force at that stage, both to illustrate just how important holding the fortress city was to Roman interests, and also to make sure the locals didn’t start getting ideas when the Emperor departed. He set off in summer of 1255, moving back into Anatolia and making for Nicaea. The trip was hot and miserable, but enough farmland had been restored that the army could at least make the crossing without either carrying all their food on their backs or pack animals, or just starving. The Emperor himself was rarely with the army, rushing across the peninsula on horseback to issue decrees and settle land disputes, of which there were many.

Some he was able to settle according to the law but in many cases the records were gone, along with so many of the owners. What’s more, the Turks took the opportunity to expand their domain inside the Empire west, taking old farming land over as new pastureland for their herds of sheep and horses. But Julius could not afford to alienate the Turkish leaders and so let them without objection. This did not make him popular with people kicked off land they’d been hoping to start their lives over on, but there really was no choice.

The army arrived in late August, and Julius returned to Thessalonika, again using it as his temporary administrative capital. He oversaw consular elections for the year, though the power of the office was still largely non-existant they had been given the job of administering Senatorial meetings. These early elections were only formalities though, as the candidates had been selected by the Emperor, and the Senate only was allowed to choose between them.

In this role Julius passed another winter of his reign, spending all his time on administrative work and trying to negotiate the reacceptance of Imperial rule over Armenia. These efforts were unsuccessful, but the time was still badly needed. With the Caliphate bogged down in their Egyptian quagmire, and the Bulgari basically having the same trouble in Moesia and Dacia that Julius was now having in Anatolia and Syria, the external threats were nonexistent, at least for the moment.

The most important issues settled during the winter of 1255 was the issue of voting requirements and office requirements for the Senate. After fierce debate it was decided that to qualify to vote an adult citizen must pay at least five hundred nomismata. But here Julius did something deeply devious, and unpopular in the future, he ensured that rather than specifying how many coins had to be paid, he instead specified how much gold was required, by weight. This meant that future devaluations of the coinage would be accounted for, although inflation would not. Hmm…sure hope that in a couple hundred years a massive amount of gold doesn’t suddenly flood the European markets and drive the value down. But hey, what are the odds of that?

Finally, a further payment of ten nomismata, again measured by weight, was required to retain the right to vote from year to year.

One notable point about the voting requirements was that it did not specify male citizens, as a number of very wealthy Italian widows more or less bought the right to vote from Senators, on top of actually buying the right to vote from the Emperor. The most wealthy Senators also bought “votes” for their wives, in effect giving them double representation. Some also bought votes for their adult children, and in particular unmarried daughters to gain additional power. Julius did not care, so long as they were able to pay. And few were at the steep prices demanded.

The rules for who could be a candidate however were stricter, requiring both a minimum age of forty, and an additional payment of five hundred nomismata. Additionally, the requirement that the citizen be male was enforced in this case.

This cash was immediately put toward expanding the army being readied to retake Armenia. As Greece now had order restored he focused efforts primarily there, and particularly among the still landless refugees being supported by Sardinian and Sicilian grain that was constantly being shipped into the region as farming recovered. These people had already been put to work repairing infrastructure or building phrourions in the Hemus Mountains for the inevitable clashes with Bulgari. Now they were given armor and weapons, and began to drill for combat. When a force of twenty thousand was assembled Julius sent them off to Theodosiopolis to occupy the region, and look threatening. Meanwhile his real plan was put into motion. A large fleet was massed at Thessalonika and heavily loaded with Italian marines, then sailed through the Bosphorus, and out into the Black Sea, the Emperor and his flagship at its head. The fleet abandoned the coast, skilled Italian sailors navigating by night until in May 1256 they arrived outside Manueliopolis, completely unexpected. In a rapid assault the Imperial fleet breached the city’s seawalls and stormed the port.

Chaos and confusion reigned among the Armenian garrison, who were taken completely by surprise. The Armenian Rex didn’t hear solid reports for nearly an hour after the port was lost, and by then Julius’s troops were taking control of the city’s gates, and preparing to storm the citadel.

By nightfall it was all over. The Rex was captured, and executed. His family taken into custody and placed under Julius’s protection, to be displayed to local magnates who thought there was some point in still resisting.

Caught equally by surprise was the Armenian army, massed on the border and readying for what they thought would be the showdown with Julius near Theodosiopolis. But they learned that not only was the Emperor not there, but their families were now at the Emperor’s mercy back in the heart of the kingdom’s territory. Many of the men now deserted in droves, or defected to the Imperial banner. Those who did not do so immediately were soon forced to admit they had no chance. Behind them word was already spreading about magnates going to Manueliopolis to pay homage to the Emperor, and explain how they had all been perfectly loyal men, but who simply had not had a chance to express it under the old regime.

And wouldn’t the Emperor be so kind as to not dig too closely into that after he is given a very generous gift.

Not everyone gave up of course. For the next ten years a rebel named John Laskaris, no relation to the later political family from Anatolia, would wage a war against the Romans in the mountains before being captured by loyalists and executed. Other smaller insurgencies continued, but most of the region was now content to give the new regime a chance.

As he had done in Syria Julius set about forming a provincial Senate that would elect members to join him in Constantinople, voting requirements were slightly lessened to account for the smaller wealth of the Armenian magnates, Julius still wanted them to be paying for the privilege after all, and in 1257 elections were held, a Senate formed, and Julius departed for Constantinople.

The theoretical capital of the empire was in shambles when the emperor arrived. It had been neglected with his long campaigns in the East and West, and rebuilding would be expensive, far more expensive than the Emperor could really afford. Even now as Julius finally settled into the city and began repairs the outer city was simply abandoned. The vast land between the Constantinian and Theodosian Walls was left a ruin, all efforts focused inside the Constantinian Walls. The once great buildings and estates outside were left to decay.

Even with this effort the expense was enormous, with Julius devoted hundreds of thousands of nomismata to the limited efforts. And yes, hundreds of thousands was not a lot of money for the treasury. Where in the heady days of the late Thalassans revenue had been over ten million nomismata per year, annual revenue had now fallen below four million. Almost all of that from Italy or Africa. But Julius still had large garrisons to pay for, and an army to rebuild. So he was left to scrape together what cash remained to pay for rebuilding the capital. Most of the voting money went to this project, with an old palace remodeled to serve as a new Senate building, the old one had been consumed in the fires of the siege. Slowly things began to come together. Money began to come in from Anatolia, farms were rebuilt, and Constantinople began to resemble a city again rather than a warzone.

In 1259 Julius declared Constantinople to be rebuilt, and threw open the gates for a grand celebration of all that had been achieved over the past eleven years. The celebration was muted though. All one had to do was look out past the Constantinian Walls to see how much there was still to do. And to those who might have been looking to the future the entire project must have seemed prophetic. Because here, inside the walls of the Romans things were pleasant, and relatively peaceful. But out there, beyond the walls the shadows grew longer, after the sun went down the endless night stretched out, far beyond the light of the city.

And this was fitting because the Romans were not the only ones who were readying for what was to come. Beyond the Hemus Mountains the king of Bulgari looked south, in the deserts of Syria the Caliph looked north and west, and in the vast lands of the Rus their kings looked south.

Another long, hard era had come to the Romans.
And this was fitting because the Romans were not the only ones who were readying for what was to come. Beyond the Hemus Mountains the king of Bulgari looked south, in the deserts of Syria the Caliph looked north and west, and in the vast lands of the Rus their kings looked south.

Another long, hard era had come to the Romans
Fortunately, none of them have the ability to threaten Italy, which is now the economic heart of the Empire.
Great to see this back!
And this was fitting because the Romans were not the only ones who were readying for what was to come. Beyond the Hemus Mountains the king of Bulgari looked south, in the deserts of Syria the Caliph looked north and west, and in the vast lands of the Rus their kings looked south.
Aren’t the Bulgari south of the Rus? It’ll be tough for the Romans to survive if a multi front war in this state, so some help would be good.
Great to see this back!

Aren’t the Bulgari south of the Rus? It’ll be tough for the Romans to survive if a multi front war in this state, so some help would be good.
The Rus are northeast of the Bulgari. The latter are in OTL Hungary, while the Rus are in OTL Ukraine. So the Bulgarians looking south means Greece. The Rus looking south means Anatolia’s north coast.
The Rus are northeast of the Bulgari. The latter are in OTL Hungary, while the Rus are in OTL Ukraine. So the Bulgarians looking south means Greece. The Rus looking south means Anatolia’s north coast.
Surely the Rus also look west,and bulgari to the east, and so on. No reason to gang up on the romans, or is there?
Surely the Rus also look west,and bulgari to the east, and so on. No reason to gang up on the romans, or is there?
Well the Carpathians are in the way...

But no, they both have plenty of squabbles. And the Bulgari in particular are going to end up biting off more than they can chew this century with another neighbor of theirs. The Rus and Bulgari specifically won't be fighting each other directly, yet, simply because they don't really share a border. They're too far away, and the Rus* are mostly focused on taking control of the rivers going to the Black, Caspian, and Baltic Seas.

*Though the Rus aren't even close to being united at this stage. But that's going to be changing soon.
Part 95: The Thirteenth Century Crisis
Part VC: The Thirteenth Century Crisis​

Looking back historically there are four periods typically labeled by historians as the worst in Imperial history. First was the Third Century Crises, marked by endless wars both internal and external, defeat, revolt, and general decline. This century would last from the death of Alexander Severus, though arguably went back even further to the death of Septimius Severus, and would continue until the reign of the Great Constantine. With brief interludes occasionally, in particular that of Aurelian.

Constantine set as much of the Empire back on course as he could, but the subsequent disaster of the Apostate’s rule undid much of his work, leading directly to the collapse of the western half of the empire a century later.

From here things remained more or less stable, sometimes moreso and sometimes less, until the seventh century, from the death of Constantine IV, and with it the loss of much of the East, until the accession of Leo IV saw the Romans storm back out of their strongholds and retake the East and more beside.

The third began with the death of Romanos III and will continue until Peter I will strike the first major blow against Constantinople’s many enemies in the north at the end of this century, and presses Roman territory into never before reached regions of Europe. The crisis years will not fully end however until John V.

And finally, of course there will be the Century of Humiliations as it is so aptly called, but we’ll get to that.

But all of that is well into the future. For now Julius II had managed to restore some semblance of order to the Roman world, but now found himself beset on all sides. To the north Bulgari lords established for themselves Marcher lands, aimed squarely at Roman positions in Greece. To the East, Arab raiders prepared to return to the tactics they had utilized in the 600s to devastating effect. The Emperor must have wondered if he should have just kept Africa and Italy under his personal Imperium and simply abandoned the East altogether.

But if so, Julius never displayed such thoughts. Over the course of his reign he will depart on campaign again and again, using ambush and fabian tactics to drive off raiders in East and West. Fortresses were built or expanded along the Hemus Mountains and in the Caucuses. Garrisons were trained and put in place. Even so the Emperor was hard-pressed with his limited field army. In particular Julius lacked a strong force of light cavalry, as these were primarily provided either by the Turks in Anatolia, the Magyar in Moesia, or Bedawi from Syria. Now the Magyar and Bedawi were unavailable, and the Turks were busy defending the Anatolian peninsula.

Julius was thus forced to improvise, and set about creating a force of mounted infantry. These troops had been used in some ways previously, but this force was highly specialized. A mixture of light and heavy infantry these men were trained to ride, but then to dismount and fight on foot. This saved drastically on training time required since they would not be required to fight as cavalry, while still giving them much needed additional speed on campaign.

These soldiers were armed in the typical Italian fashion of the time. They were armed primarily with maces and spears, as well as the hoplon shield used by the late Thalassan army, armor at this point not having reached the point where the shield was obsolete for heavy infantry. The key difference between Italian troops and those of the rest of the Empire at this time was in their armor. While both wore coats of mail, the Italians had taken to attaching overlapping plates to the inside of their tunicas, resulting in a much stronger, if heavier protection. This is also the beginning of the breastplates which will emerge in the coming century in the Imperial army. As this armor improves mail will begin to decline, as it proves far cheaper to produce these coats of plates. Supporting this group of heavy infantry were crossbowmen, using newer models developed among merchant guards in Italy. These were heavier and required more time to reload, but also could punch through a shield at close range.

They are not yet however the large, cranked models which will emerge as the visual model we think of as the Caesarii army. This is still very much a transitional force. That said, it is still remembered as the first of the new legions created by the Caesarii in this openly nostalgic restoration of the empire. Some ideas put forward by particularly foolish senators that the soldiers be armed in the manner of early principate troops was thankfully rejected forcefully by Julius, who had no illusion about the usability of short swords on a modern battlefield.

The legions will eventually grow to ten thousand men during the final years of the reign of Katerina, when the recovery of the Danube left the Roman state in solid enough position to field full field armies once again. For now however Julius organized his legions into groups of four thousand, and will organize three during his lifetime to serve as a mobile support force. Only the first will be fully mounted however as financial difficulties prevented further mounted infantry creation.

Cavalry was thus left entirely to local forces. And by this we mean the Turks of Anatolia. The terrain of Greece often precluded significant cavalry use, and the brush wars against the Bulgari will instead see large-scale battles decided almost entirely by infantry for the first time since perhaps Adrianople.

To organize these local forces Julius reorganized the empire into diocese, largely along the lines of Manuel’s exarchates. The sole exception to this is that Italy was merged into a single diocese. More formal rules rules regarding rule was put in place, with each diocese governed by a Senate elected along the lines discussed last time, and the Senate electing a consul from within their ranks to act as half of the executive branch. A second consul, from a different diocese and appointed by the Emperor was also put in place, who would maintain control over non-garrison troops was also created. By splitting duties as the old republic had done Julius looked to both separate power, and to leave no one man in charge of all military forces within a region, but not divide things so much that the local army would collapse immediately when threatened.

The need for such forces was soon demonstrated.

The first major external threat of Julius’s sole reign came not from the Bulgari, who were still asserting control over the devastated Moesia, nor from the Arabs, who were still swamped by their own long campaign in Upper Egypt, but from the Rus.

To the north Kiev had emerged from the battering it had received from the Cumans, and now looked to reassert itself as the greatest city of the north, though that title had by now rightly been claimed by even more distant Novgorod. Regardless, the devastation of the nomads at the hands of Romanos, and then at Constantinople, had seen Kiev successfully expand its territory over a large part of the steppe, and in 1260 a large fleet of Rus ships entered the Black Sea, and began raiding the northern coast of Anatolia, which was still largely intact. Julius readied his forces and crossed the strait, by boat since the old bridge had not been replaced. A further Imperial fleet sailed along the coast, and over the summer of 1260 a number of quick sea battles were fought, the Imperial ships now utilizing early ignimalum, a safer alternative to liquid fire for a moving fleet. These early ignifera were small and usually either thrown by marines prior to attempts to board, or launched from engines mounted on the decks of larger ships.

Against the Rus however they provided a good testing ground against an enemy who could not answer back in kind, valuable experience for what was coming. It was here as well that Julius’s son, Alexios, appears as an officer aboard the Imperial flagship, though he likely had no actual authority. The young man was now 20, married, and will prove a solid partner for his father during Julius’s final eight years of reign. He already had his two twin sons as well, the unfortunate Leo and more fortunate Marcus.

The Rus fleet were beaten back, and the raiding force retreated back to the north. Casualties were light on both sides, but the campaign had still been expensive for Julius’s limited treasury. Returning to Constantinople he was forced to ask the Senate to approve a per capita tax on the Italian upper class. After some debate this was granted, though at a lower rate than Julius initially wanted. And of course, this was in addition to the normal taxes the Emperor simply had the right to levy without additional approval or oversight. Funds were turned to building up a naval squadron on the north coast of Anatolia, as well as a small force at Cherson for future fighting against the Rus. Cherson’s defenses were strengthened as well, and a number of new settlements founded in the region from Italian colonists offered cheap or free land. The former inhabitants, more similar to the Rus than the Romans, were put on ships and forcibly shipped to central Anatolia, where they joined other Italian and African colonists shipped in to try and do at least some repopulating of the region.

This colonization marked the first deliberate attempts by the Romans to fully incorporate the entire peninsula into the Empire, and heralded the goals of many future Emperors as they worked to resecure the grain supply cut off from Egypt. It also marked a major battleground against the Rus in future, as attempts by Kiev to exert control over what will eventually be the Diocese of Tauria began to center on the peninsula.

All of that was for the future though, as Julius returned home mostly triumphant, and settled in for a peaceful winter. The Rus returned in less force to raid Armenia the next year, and again an Imperial fleet was dispatched to battle them in the Black Sea. Again, they were defeated and driven off, with the Imperial Caesar leading the counterattack.

Thus was the dynamic of Julius’s remaining years spent. The Emperor in the capital, administering the Empire, raising his two grandsons, and making trips to Italy every few months to ensure his power base there remained both secure and reasonably docile. The heir in the field, battling the Rus, or the sporadic Arab and Bulgari raids on the borderlands.

It wasn’t until 1266 however that a major attack emerged once again. The Arabs had by now consolidated their hold on Egypt, and taken the majority of the southern holdouts, leaving the Caliph free to look toward the remainder of Syria as a potential conquest.

The war that followed isn’t particularly interesting. Caliph Salah marched an army of twenty thousand out of Arabia and laid siege to Antioch. The siege lasted for the entirety of the next year, and was a dismal failure. The Caliph retreated with much of his army dead of disease or lack of supplies, with Roman reinforcements from Laodicea constantly harassing and ambushing his foraging parties and supply trains. Indeed it was estimated in Julius’s accounts that nearly one million nomismata of supplies were captured en route to Antioch by Roman raiders operating from the port city. Attempts to siege Laodicea itself were even less successful, as Cyprus provided an unassailable base from which supplies and reinforcements could be gathered, and then shipped. Indeed it was noted at the time that Cypriot and Laodicean soldiers rotated to ensure laxness and ill morale never set in fully.

By the end of 1267 Salah was asking for a peace. Julius magnanimously agreed, and soon a treaty was hammered out. The peace was set to last for the next ten years, and would see the Arabs pay two hundred pounds of gold to the Romans per year, in exchange the Romans would return all prisoners taken, and a number of valuable religious objects captured over the course of the siege.

Both sides walked away knowing that this was not the end of things. But Salah needed time to reorient his strategy to take Antioch, which he planned to be his great new capital, and from which he hoped to eventually conquer Anatolia, and even Constantinople itself, and take on the title of Roman Emperor for himself. But to do that he decided, he was going to need Cyprus. And for Cyprus he was going to need a navy.

Salah will live to wage his next great campaign against he Romans, one which will be both longer and harder fought than the rather perfunctory Antiochan War. Julius will not however. As on his way back to Constantinople from Antioch in 1268 saw him come down with a fever on the Anatolian peninsula. He lingered long enough to make it to the coast, but his final wish to die in Italy, which really was his real home, would not be granted. He died on May 6 at the age of 53. He had been Emperor for 19 years.

Julius II had gone down as one of the greatest Emperors in Roman history. Some of this is rather grandiose. The claim he somehow restored power to the republican institutions of the old principate are true, but overstated. His moves certainly were in the right direction, but everyone knew who held the real power. In practice Julius did little but given the wealthiest and most influential men in the Empire a place where they could air grievances and then do what he told them anyway. But it was a step in the right direction.

And regardless, when he took power the Empire could well have been on its way to a final, permanent collapse. Indeed had things not gone the way they did its possibly that Julius would have essentially reversed the events of the fifth century, having to watch the East fall while some remnant of the West survived. But his ambition, and quick action stopped such an eventuality. And so the Empire would live on. Weaker, more fragile, and beset by enemies, but it lived on. And in such life the seed of a return to real greatness were planted.

And so I feel no need to argue with the judgement of history. Julius II well earns his place among the greatest Emperor’s in Roman history.
Let me guess, this will be the fall of the Caesarii.
This is later. After the period following the Caesarii. Basically the Caesarii period will see the Roman administrative advantage diminish as the rest of Europe catches up, and its economic advantage will diminish. Then the post-Caesarii period sees the catch-up turning into surpassing, until the post-post Caesarii period leaves the Romans in the dust. It won’t be until after this period things really improve. And it will be due to the one real, solid advantage the Romans still possess. No more details though.
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By the sound of things the small upstarts will eventually surpass Rome as technology surges and resources from the New World enter the field.