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Thread: A Year's Education - Russia Megacampaign, pt. I

  1. #241
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    With new leadership, the nature of the war changed with a wholly new strategy. The Cypriots were the greatest naval power in the Empire, and they used the navy well. In a tense battle off Crete, the Elegemitoi scattered the fleet of the Katakaloi, the most distinguished naval force on Ekaterina’s side, and prevented Crete from sending reinforcements throughout the war. They also severely defeated the Monomach fleet at the approaches to Tripoli, leaving Syria and Thrace isolated from each other, unable to deliver reinforcements, and, more importantly, food and supplies. Their plan would be to hold the Monomachs in Greece, and defeat them in Syria. This was a very good plan. Ekaterina’s early campaign, although it made deep inroads beyond Thrace and into Macedonia, wasted a lot of men, and when the exceptionally hot summer came, plague and thirst wasted the Monomach army. The new Emperors held Ekaterina at Thessaloniki, then pushed back to Nikopolis, then stopped pursuing, knowing that her forces were in no shape to attack them again. At the same time, Elegemites armies from Greece under Theodore himself landed in Syria, and pushed Ekaterine’s forces (much-reduced as men were transferred to fight in Europe the previous year) back, until they besieged the great coastal city itself. After a tough, four-month siege the fortress was stormed and the slaughter was terrible; it was also then that the legitimate wife of Heraklios and her children died, in the confusion and the chaos. For Ekaterine, that proved an unexpected support.
    Her followers were seeing things go badly; her spies reported grumbling. All her sins, her indiscretions, her ambitions - were clear signs that she would fail. She decided to go on the grandest show of penitence in royal history, walking barefoot from church to church in Constantinople, and donating vast riches to monasteries, even if she needed to pay her troops. Then, leaving most of her army within the walls of the city, she headed back to Kiev. Her relief force scored a stunning victory over the unprepared Knytling army, and once again they retreated. Kiev and Pereyaslavl, eager to avoid repercussions, welcomed Ekaterine once again. Once in control of the Russian heartland, she did what she did in Constantinople, but on a grander scale, visiting every city between Chernigov and Pereyaslavl on an ambitious penitent journey, bewailing the sins of her youth, and the fate of her son - the only remaining heir of Herakliy Nikiforovich, her husband to whom they were joined in secret. A priest was found to confirm the story, of course. That last message stuck; as the Russian people forgave her, they also acknowledged her son. Talk arose in Kiev of making Fedor the next Emperor. Over the winter, more troops were levied and hired, and Ekaterine’s war effort resumed. The situation in Greece was a stalemate. The Elegemitoi couldn’t take Constantinople, the Monomachs couldn’t take Thessalonki. Tmutarakan was then chosen as the next target. A small part of the Monomach army was directed south, to support Constantinople. Another sailed down the Dniepr and landed at several Knytling-held fortresses, trying to draw the opponent south. The last and biggest marched east and quickly took both Novgorod and Ryazan and then struck south along the Don. The Knytlings retreated purposefully, gathering numbers, and finally faced the army at Bela Vezha. The battle was very bloody, and although Ekaterine’s levies suffered much higher losses than the experienced though demoralized professionals of Dimitri, Tmutarakan’s forces were much reduced, to the point where they couldn’t defend anything outside their own city. Still, Ekaterine needed her troops intact, and she also needed to move faster than the new Emperor Ioannes. She met with the Knytling prince and proposed a treaty Dimitri couldn’t refuse; she would cede Crimea to him, while he would return her Severia, and Cumania would go to Itlar Dimitrievich. The Knytlings could remain allied to the Elegemitoi, but there were to be no more hostilities between Kiev and Tmutarakan.

    The victorious army sailed over the Pontus to Trapezund, marching through friendly territory to Syria, but was unable to make much progress beyond Aleppo; the Elegemitoi had sufficient numbers to stop them, and naval dominance to keep it that way. The army in Constantinople marched to Thessaloniki, only to be handed a heavy defeat by the larger Elegemites force. Another approach had to be attempted. The weak point in the Elegemitoi plans was Bulgaria. Splitting the forces from Constantinople, the Monomach army struck through Wallachia and Bulgaria towards Vidin, another Imperial city whose loyalty tended towards the Monomachs. The operation caught the Emperor by surprise and its success was total. The Elegemitoi were forced to react and leave their defensive positions, chasing the Monomach army which pushed ahead into Croatia, still allied with the Emperor. Croatian soldiers formed a large part of the garrison in Thessaloniki, and the small country found itself barely defended. After the fall of two border fortresses, the Croatians signed peace. After almost three years of war, the opponents were now somewhat evenly matched, but to Ekaterine it looked like might still win. The Elegemitoi were now losing support as rapidly as they had taken it from the hapless Andronikos, their allies had deserted them, and everywhere except in Syria she was gaining ground. At the same time, she could not raise as many troops as her opponents, and they had to be collected from a much larger area.
    As summer rolled into autumn, the elder of the Elegemitoi brothers, at the head of an army sent in pursuit of the Monomachs in Western Macedonia was caught in an ambush and killed. The younger brother was quickly acclaimed sole Emperor by his supporters. He was the one truly brilliant general of this war, though also by far the most bloodthirsty. After a long and elaborate diversion, he lead Ekaterina’s commanders to think that he was trying to sail with his forces to Syria to finish off the job. Her spy network, for once, didn’t have enough solid information to provide her with, and she gave the go-ahead to an advance on now-weakened Thessaloniki. However, the Elegemites navy instead attacked Constantinople itself, breaking through the seaward defenses under cover of night. The Monomach garrison panicked, and everyone of importance, including Ekaterine, fled the city. It was a remarkable failure on the part of Monomach intelligence and army, of course, and a remarkable success on the part of the Elegemitoi. Theodore’s troops then sacked the capital, committing bloodshed indiscriminately, ending any hope of a pro-Monomach popular uprising. Reinforcements sailed in through the harbour daily. Ekaterine watched in powerless fury. With dedicated defenders inside the walls, Constantinople was far too much to handle for her. Peace was signed at last, with both Theodore and Ekaterina knowing that the war would have to be continued in other ways. Bulgaria and Russia were made Monomach possessions. Theodore was to remain Emperor. Ekaterine was to surrender Aleppo and Alexandretta. This was 1228.
    The Emperor and Ekaterine exchanged several assassination attempts over the next few years, with one of them nearly ending the life of Ekaterine’s son Fedor. However, Ekaterine’s agents in the end proved more successful. The Elegemitoi ambitions were thwarted, and young prince Manuel in Cyprus was not up to the task of replacing his uncle as Emperor. The nobles of the Empire chose another man, of the venerable Russian dynasty that took Nikomedia around the same time that the Rurikids took Constantinople but Hellenised thoroughly. Although elderly, Konstantine Nikomedikos unexpectedly proved a worthy political opponent, keeping Ekaterina’s ambitions at bay, and weakening her power-base by granting the Tsardom of Bulgaria to the Chervens of Varna, and reconciling with the Trapezuntine Ariminikoi. This strengthened the Emperor's position and undermined Fedor’s already-shaky legitimacy; Fedor even lost Vidin to the Cherven Tzar as a result. His mother was highly disappointed in him, of course. He was proving to be an unworthy successor, but he was her son. Still, she had to make sure the legacy continued in case he died. Her Kievan voivoda, Sviatoslav Gavras, fought a quick war in 1231 to annex boyar Volhynia, and with help from Alexander Philanthropenos of Lithuania placed Arsenios Nikiforovich to the throne. In case Fedor’s line were to die out, Arsenios would inherit the vast Monomach lands. In 1333, after having eluded the blades of Ekaterine’s best assassins for two years, Konstantine Nikomedikos died of old age, childless, naming Andrew Knytling, the son of Daniel of Tmutarakan as successor. He was the Empire’s second chance, a charismatic man who managed to endear himself to the Greeks through diplomatic skill and adopting the Greek manners wholesale. Ekaterine knew the young man well, and despite the recent civil war, the two Rurikovich branches reconciled and relations were warm. She met with him and convinced him to accept her back as a subject of the Empire. This was a tremendously important move, of course. It would have returned him half the Empire and his prestige would rise if he accepted; at the same time this assured Monomach return to the throne within a generation or two. However, Knytling fortunes were far from secure, Tmutarakan having proved very vulnerable during the Civil War and the Greek nobles still divided over having any non-Greek Emperor. She remedied that by promising his nephew the throne of Syria – in its entirety. Andrew agreed, and they signed the accord in Tripoli in 1334. Ekaterine died shortly thereafter – not quite defeated still, because her descendants now had a good chance to inherit the throne – and keep it, if they proved strong enough.
    Last edited by RGB; 03-11-2007 at 10:30.
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  2. #242
    Captain bowl of soup's Avatar
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    He returns! And with a great update again too!

    Great stuff!

    Looks like the civil war was a very chaotic thing, is it over?

  3. #243
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    An update!
    And a really good one too. What course will the Empire take? Will Russian rule continue? Will a new dynasty establish itself or will the Empire decay into an elective monarchy like it's western counterpart?
    As you can see you've got me all hooked up.

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  4. #244
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    Glad to see my favorite AAR running again.
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  5. #245
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    bowl of soup: nice to see you again! I'm very glad to be back, really.

    The Civil War is over, yes. It was a stalemate, but one outcome is that Bulgaria and Russia are now Monomach domains, not Imperial cities or anything. Now that Andrew Knytling let them in again, the Monomachs are undoubtedly the Empire's most dominant power. But their opponents haven't been completely defeated yet, and they hate them. So stay tuned for more nastiness.

    Lord V: yay! I still have (some) readers.

    All I want to say right now is that the game threw me another curveball in a relatively short time. Stay tuned!

    Deamon: that's high praise! I like being people's favourite.

    I'll try to be much better and update much more regularly from now on.

    -----

    Thank you guys. I was afraid that I'd get no responses at all considering how much time has passed and how many good new Byzantine AARs there are now.
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  6. #246
    Second Lieutenant theycallmetight's Avatar
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    Excellent update RGB, I'm glad you decided to continue this, I feared that it was lost forevever
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  7. #247
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    Great to see this AAR make a return. All in all Ekaterina did well to at least end the civil war, but I doubt that the intrigue will end with her passing.
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  8. #248
    Revolutionary Leader VILenin's Avatar
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    FINALLY!! I'd begun to worry that you'd abandoned this.

    Man, there's nothing in Byzantine history quite like a good 'ole civil war. The rise and fall of dynasties, the birth of new kingdoms and the general violence and bloodshed that weaken the Empire. It looks like this one ended just in time for the Mongol invasions, but will the Empire be able to fight back the tide from the East?
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  9. #249
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    I'm glad this is still alive. Fantastic update, of course. I particularly like the novel you alluded to with the seven deadly sins. A Knytling Emperor? What could possibly be worse on the horizon?
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  10. #250
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    theycallmetight: hopefully it's here to stay and be finished. Though I've seen you lurking before I'm very very happy to see you posting here.

    Lenin: This one was raging all the while the Mongols were invading the neighbours to the east. Truly, the Byzantines are reckless in pursuit of power even with the Mongols at the gates.

    ComradeOM: I was winning, you know, until Constantinople fell unexpectedly fast. I just couldn't get enough warscore to get that Emperor title.

    Jimbo: I liked that novel too. It's always the most fun for me when I come up with literature written about the events I'm writing, except much later. It's somewhat of a theme for this AAR anyway.

    And the Knytling Emperor - brace for it - was actually pretty good, but my attempts at establishing a lasting Knytling Rurikovich dynasty didn't work out.

    --------

    A quick question: would people prefer me to carry on with the story or would you like a little pause so I could write about some academic subject relating to the Empire of the period, like, say, the military organisation, or the changing nature of Feudalism, or the demographics of the Empire?
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  11. #251
    Captain bowl of soup's Avatar
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    That's a tough one, of course i'd like to see what'll with the mongols and all that.

    But I'd say some more info about the feudal system and the demographics would be quite interesting. Also to make some comparison to actual history.

    Here's my idea: If the period of civil war and strife is ended with this last update, I'd say do the academic update. However if this period hasn't ended yet, which seems to be the case, continue with the story until that part is finished. Also you've been away for a while so a more academic aproach might be a bit much right away. Let people get into the story some more before the info.

    Anyway these are my thoughts, the decision is yours, as the greatly esteemed writer of this here AAR

  12. #252
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    Bowl of soup just read my mind, If the period of civil war isnt over yet, then continue with the story, if it is then Id love to hear about feudalism in the empire
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  13. #253
    Tzar of all the Soviets RGB's Avatar
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    Well, the civil WAR is over, as it were, and in any case the next update is about the Mongols. I think I may do a Mongol update followed by a "this is what the Empire was like at the time" update and then go into the last leg of the story.

    Thanks for the suggestions. The Mongol Update is somewhat hefty and may take just a little time.
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  14. #254
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    Lenin: This one was raging all the while the Mongols were invading the neighbours to the east. Truly, the Byzantines are reckless in pursuit of power even with the Mongols at the gates.
    I admire your fortitude, then, to press forward under such nerve-racking circumstances. It does make for a characteristically Byzantine moment, infighting while the vultures circle.
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  15. #255

    Thumbs up

    Hello RGB...nice to see adding to this Graeco-Russian saga once more...I wonder if all this distinctly Byzantine politicking will degrade the Russians respect for divinely appointed autocrats as it did during the Time of Troubles...

    Good stuff as always...especially the map...

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  16. #256
    On Probation thrashing mad's Avatar

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    Nice to see you getting back to business of writing . Well that was one hell of epic civil war - very well written with deadly sins bits at the beginning, that highlights in a simple yet smart way main players of the Empire. Yeah, it seems that Monomachs would be elected sooner or later, given vast domain they possess. But there will be Mongols - you probably already played this part, but good luck anyway - I have bad experiences with them.

    I wonder how long Russian-Byzantine Empire would last, maybe those two geopolitical centers would be separated by Mongol wedge driven into Black Sea Steppes?

    Anyway, history is fascinating so far - I`m looking forward for more. And give us those bonus updates about demographics, military and political/social/economic changes - one doesn`t write megacampaign everyday, so there`s never too much of detail and quality.

    And don`t make few-months-long pauses anymore.

  17. #257
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    Finally got done with that Mammoth of an update ! But it was excellent . Obviously what struck me the most was the careful structure you placed of putting the factors of the civil war into the frame of the Cardinal sins . I thought that was exceptionally well done . The war itself was indeed exciting . Very confusing , but at least in the end it had a semi-good ending . Nonetheless , as you pointed out , it was definitely a terrible thing .
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  18. #258
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    Simply amazing. Byzantine politics at its best! Excellent update, looking forward to more!
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    The Barbarian Empire

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    - Emperor Theodore the Great after the Battle of Dwin

    The Barbarian Empire, as the period of the Rurikovich-Monomach dynasty at the helm of the Eastern Romans is known was a period of dramatic territorial expansion and political change in all of Eastern Europe. One of the most interesting topics of the period, if one is to judge by titles published, is the history of the rise – and decline – of the Empire’s military. The army’s history is of interest to not only military historians, but also those exploring the social, political and demographic changes of the area between 1069 and 1277, for it was the army – its newfound strength and resilience – that put the Monomachs on the throne of Constantinople, kept them there, and expanded their domains beyond what anyone could have foretold when Basil Skleros named Vladimir Monomach as his successor. Further, the story of this army is largely the story of its cavalry arm, which the glory-hungry and warlike Monomachs elevated to the most easily recognizable symbol of their Empire; the mail-clad warrior in his pointed helm, charging like thunder with his lowered lance at whoever happened to earn the Emperors’ displeasure was as iconic in the 19th century to both Greeks and Russians as he was in his own day.

    It is widely held that the Byzantine army has been in steady decline for several generations by that 1069. The thematic system of recruitment had for years sustained the Roman state against its vigorous Eastern enemies, but since the beginning of the eleventh century the stratiots – a social class of landowners obligated to serve the Empire militarily – have been losing both numbers and combat readiness. The estates of the stratiots, overwhelmingly small-time farmers in peacetime, often lost money to the point of bankruptcy, and often became indebted to their wealthy neighbors, who would buy out the estates to enlarge their own; in return, the poorer stratiots could be sent to fight in the place of their wealthy patrons, and sometimes even served as a personal army; it is documented that some of the wealthy dynatoi – the term was resurrected under the Ducid emperors – could field upwards of a thousand heavy cavalrymen drawn from their impoverished Stratiot compatriots. This, naturally, did nothing for stability in the realm.
    Despite occasional efforts by different emperors at rebuilding the army – such as lowering land taxes, paying subsidies to the warrior class, or even settling Slavic population on empty land to fight for the Empire, the decline continued. Though Byzantine manuals of the time describe the heaviest class of cavalry as extremely well-armoured - helms with 2-layer mail hangings covering all but their eyes, klivania with mail or lamellar upper sleeves, splinted lower sleeves, skirts of padding faced with mail, and splinted grieves – one can tell with some confidence by how impressed contemporary Byzantine observers were by Frankish crusaders’ “unstoppable” charges (especially considering that most Frankish heavy cavalry only wore mail hauberks) that most Byzantine cavalrymen were not armoured as well as regulations would suggest, and the decline continued especially quickly after rash decisions by rulers like Constantine Monomachos (from whom the later Rurikovich Emperors descended, in part) to cut down expenditures. Most stratiots were unable to afford full suits of armour even though later lamellar armour is made of much lighter, and cheaper, leather with metal splints rather than traditional katafractoi armour.


    The martial ability was likewise on the wane. First the katafraktoi and then the medium-armed prokoursatores lose bows from their regulated equipment by the turn of the tenth century. The reason is given by several historians of the period: there were no men skilled with bow and horse that the Empire could draw from. Within another hundred years even light cavalry would replace the bow with throwing spears and shields, something that was used by less experienced warriors when the thematic system was introduced. The army, then, was in no shape to oppose the rising star of the Seljuks; the dreadful defeats at the close of the 11th century are a testament to that. The Turkish warriors had crossed over into Europe and the Roman strength was insufficient to dislodge them by the time Vladimir Vsevolodovich, the first of the Despots of Constantinople, set foot in Thrace.
    The Rus armies of the time were fighting a bloody, but ultimately successful war against the Polovtsy – the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs of the Black Sea steppes. The early Rus nobility fought both on foot and on horseback, but overall cavalry numbers are small until the late 10th century, where Rus princes established local dominance and began widely recruiting from the local steppe population – Qarakalpaks, Berendey Oghuz, Pechenegs, Kasogians and later Kipchaks to make up the bulk of their mounted druzhina. Rapidly the Rus warriors learned to imitate their neighbours, and a rapid change in equipment and tactics followed. Nonetheless, it was not the mounted Rus warrior, proficient with both spear and bow and clad in mail that impressed the nobility of Constantinople and set up the Barbarian Empire. When Vladimir arrived to inherit Basil Skelros, he came much like Rurik must have come to Novgorod generations ago: with Varangian troops at his back. His druzhina, was fairly typical of a Rus prince, of mixed descent and varying individual quality, and all afoot since transporting hundreds of horses was beyond the capability of his fleet; however, he hired a very large contingent of Scandinavian warriors who were familiar to the Greeks as ferocious and dependable troops.

    These Varangians were to form the basis of a wholly new “Varangian Guard” since their predecessors had already fallen on the battlefields of Syria. The Varangians were later one of the six regiments of the Army of the Emperor’s presence, but as all guard regiments they were transformed into cavalry by Vladimir’s son Miloslav (the Despot Heraklios). Subsequent recruitment into “Varangian” guard was mostly done from the Novgorodians, although largely from the Slavic population.
    Nonetheless, throughout most of Vladimir’s reign, including the short war with the Seljuks in 1108, the army was mostly on foot, and cavalry was too expensive to recruit as neither horses nor armour nor much less capable warriors were available from the Constantinople area. Basil Skleros himself had around 600 stratiots under his command, and they, together with occasional mercenary horse, were all that was available to the Despotate until Vladimir managed to bring the Rus of Pereyaslavl to align themselves with him once again. Part of how that feat was accomplished was the birth of a truly feudal Byzantine Rus, and hence a feudal Russo-Byzantine army...
    Last edited by RGB; 08-11-2007 at 05:48.
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  20. #260
    On Probation thrashing mad's Avatar

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    Very interesting update. So, in this alternative history Byzantine military will be influenced by Rus`, not the other way around? Looking forward to next part - I`m curious how Russo-Imperial army would look, when 'Scourge from the East' will arrive. I suppose that division of lands those huge landowners got in XIth-XIIth centuries is the key here.

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