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Thread: The Potter - A Byzantine AAR

  1. #1
    Who am I? Cecasander's Avatar
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    The Potter - A Byzantine AAR



    In any other world
    you could tell the difference
    And let is all unfurl
    into broken remnants
    Smile like you mean it
    and let yourself let go

    ‘Cause it’s all in the hand of a bitter, bitter man
    Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
    Take a bow, play the part, of a lonely, lonely heart
    Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
    To the world you thought you lived in

    Any other world - Mika


    ---



    When I was little, we lived in Adrianople. Every summer my parents would drive us south in our old station wagon, along the coastal motorway and past Athens to Patras. There we took the ferry to the island of Kefalonia, where my grandparents lived. They were my father’s parents; ancient people who had moved to the island after their last child had left the house. Although they owned a nice town house in the island’s capital of Kastro, they spent most their time in their old ranch house on the northern part of the island. My sister and I would pitch up our tents in the field outside the house, while my parents and my grandparents slept inside. I remember the four of them always sitting in front of the house, on the veranda overlooking the sea, drinking wine and talking about all kind of things I couldn’t grasp back then, until deep at night. Knowing they wouldn’t pay attention to me, I would then sneak out of my tent and watch the stars – so much brighter than in the city. When I got older I also got bolder, and sometimes walk all the way down the hill, and took a midnight hike along the pebble beach. We stopped coming to the island when my grandfather died – seven years ago – and my grandmother moved back to Thessaloniki. But even now, when I think about the summer holiday, I think about Kefalonia.

    The best I remember all the times that my grandfather sat on the veranda with my sister and I, on those warm summer evenings when the sun had just set. Then, usually after dinner, he would tell us the most fantastic stories. Usually he told us stories from the ancient Greek mythology. Somehow he managed to make those horrid stories suited for children, because I don’t remember him ever telling about all the rape and murder, and I knew most of the stories by heart. His favourite stories were those from the Odyssey. After all, my grandfather believed that Kefalonia was Odysseus’ Ithaca, so he took great pride in the trials of his great hero. The fact Odysseus lived thousands of years before him, and he himself was a born-and-raised Thessalonician didn’t seem to bother him. When we got older, my grandfather also began telling us about the great wars that the Greeks had fought in the generations past. He told us about Athens’ victory at Marathon – and about the famous messenger of course – and Sparta’s great last stand at Thermopylae, about the battle of Salamis and naturally about the conquests of Alexander the Great. I sucked in all these stories, and due to my grandfather’s incredible story telling I could see it happen before my eyes. Afterwards, he would always say to me; “Alexandros, always seek to know the history of things. Knowing the past will make you understand things. And understanding, my boy… understanding is the key to everything else.”

    It wasn’t until he died that I learned he had been a renowned classical historian in his younger years. I know he had been the one to interest me for history. And seven years after his death, perhaps as a belated gift to his grandson, my grandfather’s name got me in the Faculty of History at the Imperial Academy in Constantinople without any trouble. Not only that, when I inquired why I hadn’t received a college fee check yet, I learned he had paid for my study as well. I suppose he wanted me to become his successor. For a moment I realized this must be how being a rich kid much feel like. But there was also the thought that there was something more to this whole affair.
    Last edited by Cecasander; 25-08-2009 at 23:25.

  2. #2
    Who am I? Cecasander's Avatar
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    Well, this is going to be bit different.

    See, I always wanted to write an AAR about the Byzantine Empire. I liked to see if I could keep it alive, and write a compelling survival story. What if Rhomania would survive into present day? What would it be like, living in the ancient city of Constantinople if it was never attacked by Latins or Ottomans? So I came to the idea of having a narrative story set in the modern day, about a student living in ‘Byzantine’ Constantinople. And suddenly, a back story came to me, this afternoon, when cycling to work…

    Now, please give me some slack. I never done this kind of narrative writing before. I didn’t read a lot of it, safe Jestor’s excellent AAR “The Beautiful Girl and the History Class”, on which the project is loosely based. In fact, it will feature both a beautiful girl and a history class. I have an idea where I start, and I have several ideas in advance, but I am really an awful planner so I can’t comment lest people get disappointed or I have to retcon things.

    So, the history lecture which our protagonist Alexandros is going to follow will cover the Byzantine Empire starting 1187. Be free to join him in thelecture hall and ask questions to the professor, and see if you can answer his. Don’t forget there’s going to be a final test at the end of the trimester, so feel encouraged to take notes. Also keep in mind the workshops that will be held on Tuesday afternoon, starting in the second week of the trimester. For those not present at the first two trimester courses on Imperial history, it would be wise to reread your textbook or any other source on the history of the Empire of the Romans up to the year 1187


    ---

    Last edited by Cecasander; 20-01-2010 at 02:51.

  3. #3
    This looks quite interesting. I hope to follow this for some time.

  4. #4
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    I subscribe! It will be interesting to see how you manage with the bastion of the Orthodox religion!
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  5. #5
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    First post looks promising and very nicely done. I might very well follow this one.


    When I use this color I am speaking as a Moderator.

  6. #6
    Who am I? Cecasander's Avatar
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    @ All: welcome, and thank you all

    The first lecture will probable be posted tomorrow. I think it's going to be a two-parter, because it will be an introduction story and it's going be need a lot of text!

  7. #7
    This looks fascinating. I'll definitely be following.

  8. #8
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    Although I was born in the province of Thrace, I had been in Constantinople only three times before I went to study there. There had been two compulsory tourist visits – once with my high school history class – and once when my aunt had been hospitalized and we had to baby-sit her house. A dozen times more we went to Konstantinos Letos International Airport or crossed the Bosphorus Bridge to Anatolia when my parents drove to Attalia for the winter, but that didn’t really count as a visit. So when I actually moved to the great city, and started living in a dormitory just five minutes from the historical city, it was quite overwhelming. Adrianople is just a provincial town compared to the buzzing urban jungle of the Imperial City. Even now, after living here for six months, I often find myself looking for quiet, private places in this city, places without all the people and the numbing culture and history it emits. As my grandfather once told me, sometimes even an historian grows tired of old stuff.

    The Imperial Academy maintains three dozen buildings, spread across the city. The history faculty is located in the old academy complex built on the grounds of the old Komnesos fortress on the Fifth hill. Thick white-plastered walls shelter the buildings from the rest of the city, creating a sanctuary of rest and quietness within the city. The corridors and classrooms are only dimly lid through the small high windows in the fortress walls, adding to the sense of tranquility. The two top floors of the main building, however, rise above the fortress walls and had large, high windows. This was where the cafeteria is located, as well as the ceremonial hall. From there you have an absolutely astonishing view over the ancient city, as well as the Bosporus Strait and the Golden Horn. In the distance the high office towers of Pera and Kounopetra rise behind the old Galata district.

    It seems I am one of only three students left in the cafeteria. Most classes end at five, so a lot of students have returned home already. Only three classes are held later, including my own. The time table on the internet called it ‘Fire and Plague, the Empire in the late Middle Ages’. Essentially it’s a continuation of the classes I had in the first and second trimester. Even the professor who will be giving the lecture is the same. I had followed the previous classes – which covered respectively ancient and early middle ages – with some interest. Although I had been interested in the history of the Empire for a long time, the lectures this man gave were so-so and consisted mostly of long explanatory stories, diagrams and incredibly long biographies. Myself, I liked the classes about the ancient civilizations, or the course about the origin of the Abrahamic religions. The lecturer for that latter class was a young female professor who basically allowed us to ask questions half of the lecture, and explain the whole discussed matter accordingly. Suddenly I noticed that twilight had set in outside, and I quickly looked at my watch. Nearly half past five, I had to run.

    The main lecture hall was three floors below the cafeteria, on ground level. I usually took the stairs when I had to hurry down, as it was faster than waiting for those old elevators. When I entered the lecture hall, I noticed I was well on time. The lights were still on. When I entered, some of my fellow students looked at the door with anticipation, but turned away when they saw it was just me. There was no professor yet, apparently. I took a seat in one of the middle rows, and patiently joined the rest of the students. Most of them I already knew, but I also noticed quite a number of new faces. Were they seniors, who had failed this class in previous years? Was it such a difficult course? Suddenly an older woman in a black pantsuit stood before us.
    “The professor is somewhat delayed, due to last-minute changed in the schedule,” she announced in an accent I could not readily place. Then she sat down on a chair next to the lectern, staring into the distance as if she was trying to look straight through the lot of us. Was she someone from the faculty? I certainly never saw her before.

    When the professor finally came, he was ten minutes late. But he wasn’t quite what most of us expected, clearly. This wasn’t Sisinis! This man was much younger, somewhere in his mid-thirties. He wore his black hair long and somewhat unkempt. In fact, he looked a lot like some of my fellow students, but then fifteen years older, had it not been for the tweed jacket he wore. Not even professor Sisinis had worn those, and he was considered a fossil within the faculty. Maybe it was to counter his otherwise youthful and laissez-faire appearance. If so, it was certainly working… in a way… in that it made a number of students chuckle under their breath.


    “Ah, welcome everybody,” he said as he stood behind the lectern. “As you might have noticed, I am not your usual lecturer, professor Sisinis. It so happens that professor Sisinis has stopped giving lectures in the evening this trimester, but there were some problems with the scheduling office. Nonetheless, my name is Ioannes Doxiadis – you can just call me professor Doxianis – and I will lecture you this trimester about the Empire in the late Middle Ages. This class consists of twenty-four lectures - twice a week – and ten workshops, every week starting next week. And a final test at the end, as you might have expected. Anyway…”

    The man tapped something on the lectern, and an image appeared on the screen behind him. It was a painting of cataphracts charging into unseen enemies. The text on the bottom of the picture said ‘Fire and Plague, the Empire in the late Middle Ages.’



    “So, Fire and Plague. It was professor Sisinis who came up with the name for this lecture, in fact, in a way to describe the era we are going to study the next twelve weeks. Plague, obviously, refers to the waves of the Black Plague, or the bubonic plague followed by the pneumonic plague, that is going to ravaged Europe and Asia in the fourteenth century and returned several times after that. Fire refers to war. But war was nothing new to the empire, and occurs in every era. Fire also, however, refers to the so-called ‘cleansing-by-fire’ that took place in this era. We will see that the most important characteristic of this era for the Empire is the reconquest of land that was once part of the Empire, but that had been lost to the Turks, Arabs or Slavs. This practice, as well as the regreekification and rechristification, as they are known in modern times, was referred to in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as the ‘cleansing-by-fire’. And… last but not least, the fire also refers to the mythological phoenix, like which the Empire rose out of its ashes into this era and reestablished itself as a great power.”

    Professor Doxiadus looked around, as if he expected a question.

    “Before I go on, I would like to urge you to raise your hand and ask your question when you have one. I know some lecturers don’t like to be interrupted, but I think that enthusiasm and inquiry should always be encouraged. You can always write down your question and ask it at the end of the lecture as well, of course. So… no questions yet? Okay…”

    “Now, we will start this class in the latter years in the twelfth century, and more precise the year 1187. Some of you might wonder why this specific year. But if you’re a senior, or paid actual attention at history classes in high school, you know that 1187 is the year the Kantakouzenos dynasty took the Imperial throne. It was since then a Kantakouzenos who would be Roman Emperor for over three centuries, longer than any other medieval dynasty. It was also the Kantakouzenos dynasty who would then reforge the Empire and restrengthen it after centuries of slow decline.”

    A hand went up in one of the front rows. I couldn’t hear the question.

    “Yes, you are right that it wasn’t a continuous decline after Justinian,” Professor Doxiadus replied to the inaudible question. “I’m sure Professor Sisinis covered this last trimester. But as you know, the Empire had pretty much always been under siege ever since the creation of the East Roman Empire in 395. Huns, Goths, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Bulgars, you name it. After Justician died in 565, it began to loose territories left and right. But there are some powerful emperors and great strategoi who managed to defeat these enemies and drive them back. Good exemples are the emperors Basil I around 870 and Basil II around 1000; the latter even managed to bring the entire Balkan back under Imperial rule.”

    “Now, in the time our story begins, the Empire was also in a period of relative power. The Komnenos emperors has made alliances and agreements with Catholic lords and rulers, not in least with the Popes of Rome. This led, as you all know, to the first two crusades in which the European knights and Imperial cataphracts would reconquer a fair share of Anatolia from the Seljuk sultanate of Rûm. As a result, the Empire’s Asian possessions would in 1180 be five times larger than they had been eighty years earlier.”

    The portrait of a shifty-looking man appeared on the screen. Under the picture stood ‘Andronikos I Komnenos, Roman Emperor – 1183-1185’


    “Though they had been largely successful the Komnenos dynasty would soon fall though. The last Komnesos emperor, Andronikos, had not been a popular ruler. He had previously been guardian of the 10-year old Alexios II. But Alexios’ other guardian, Maria of Antioch, was a ‘Latin’ and thus was distrusted by the citizens of Constantinople. Andronikos would use this distrust to muster support to claim the throne himself. He raised an army and marched into Constantinople, imprisoning and then killing Maria and Alexios. After that, he began to purge the majority of ‘Latins’ in Constantinople. Andronikos became increasingly paranoid and violent, and ordered the killing of prisoners, foreigners and nobility. These acts of terror would make Andronikos even more enemies, of course, and most of the aristocracy would at some time revolt against him. Eventually even the king of Sicily would invade the Empire with no less than 80.000 men, to bring order to the land and break Andronikos’ power. In the end it was one of Andronikos’ own men who brought him down. His name was Isaakios Angelos. He had been suspected of disloyalty, but he had managed to kill the emperor’s agents and seek sanctuary in the Hagia Sofia. From there he riled the people of Constantinople up to a revolt against Andronikos, who at the time was out of the city. The people took Angelos as their new emperor. When Andronikos returned in his city, he learned what happened, and tried to escape. But the mob captured him, and at with the approval of Isaakios he was tortured and abused for three days. Eventually he died at the Hippodrome after being torn apart. Thus the Komnenos era died in a barbarious bloodbath.”

    Another portrait appeared, this time of a more friendly-looking man. ‘Isaakios II Angelos, Roman Emperor – 1185-1187’



    “Isaakios Angelos wasn’t the savior of the Empire that the nobility had hoped for, though. Although he managed to defeat the army of William of Sicily along the Strymon river, his naval operations against the escaped Komnenos family members on Cyprus or against the Latins in Acre led to the destruction of a large part of the once-great Imperial navy. Furthermore, his financial mismanagement and fraudulent tax collecting led to a great revolt of Vlachs and Bulgars, which led the foundation of… well… okay, do we have any Bulgarian students here?”

    Somewhat surprised and a little cautious, about a dozen hands were raised.

    “Okay, every Bulgarian should know this. What happened in 1186? You.”

    Professor Doxiadus pointed at girl a few rows before me. She didn’t seem nearly old enough to be a university student to me.

    “The foundation of the Second Bulgar Empire, sir. By Ivan Asen and his brothers.”

    “That’s right. And do you also know what happened when emperor Isaakios Angelos went to fight the Asen brothers?”

    There was some snickering in the lecture hall, apparently coming from some seniors.

    “They killed the emperor, sir. They killed him in battle because they had an agreement with Anatolian noblemen.”

    “That’s right, thank you!” The girl sat down again. “Now, this probably needs some more explanation, as it is important for the rest of our story. Like I said, there were a lot of noblemen who were not very happy with Isaakios Angelos. Two of them were the strategoi of the themes of Cybhyrrhaeot and Thrasecia, Andronikos Kantakouzenos and Theodoros Mangaphas. They had decided to dispose of the emperor, and they had planned to put Kantakouzenos’ 12-year old nephew Mikhail on the throne, who was also related to Angelos and therefore had a claim on the throne. The two strategoi already had disposed of two of the emperor’s cousins, who were in the way in the line of succession. But they would need something more powerful to dispose of the emperor, who was most likely surrounded by his army, an army against which they could not raise enough men themselves. So Kantakouzenos sent a messenger to Ivan Asen, offering peace and recognition of the Bulgarian Empire if he managed to kill the emperor in battle. The strategoi knew that would need peaceful borders if they wanted to consolidate the power of their puppet emperor. Asen in return knew such a peace would give him some time to organize his forces into an effective army. So at the next opportune time, Bulgars raided Isaakios’ encampment and murdered him on the spot, thereby ending the very short reign of the Angelos dynasty.”

    A new picture appeared, this time with three portraits. The subscript said ‘Roman Emperor Mikhail VIII Kantakouzenos, flanked by the strategoi Andronikos Kantakouzenos and Theodoros Mangaphas’



    “At the same time, Kantakouzenos and Mangaphas rode to Constantinople with the young Mikhail. Once Isaakios’ death was announced, they quickly put him on the throne before any of the Angelos – or any other noble family for that matter – could act. And thus… thus was the glorious rise of the Kantakouzenos family to the Imperial throne. Now, as you might have guessed, the rest of the aristocracy was not very amused or impressed, so Mikhail Kantakouzenos and his caretakers needed some firm but subtle actions to consolidate and justify the boy’s power. They had places him as… oh!”

    Professor looked at his watch. I did the same, and saw it was half past six.

    “Okay, this introduction lesson is going so fast! Listen, we’re going to take a fifteen minute break. Get yourself some coffee, because when you get back I’m going to talk these last thirty, forty minutes about the situation the Empire was in at the ascend of Mikhail Kantakouzenos. Also, think for a moment about what options Kantakouzenos had in dealing with these critical aristocrats.”

    Professor Doxiadus left the lecture hall before any of us. When I got into the queue in front of the coffee machine, I was him talking to the woman in the black pantsuit. Suddenly she looked at me, and even from that distance I could feel her eyes try to pierce through me. I shivered involuntarily, and quickly turned my attention back to the coffee machine. A little voice inside my head said I should stay away from that woman.

  9. #9
    Odd that this woman is present. Not a TA or something?

    Too bad you can't turn those images around. I was thinking that with Andronikos and Isaakios, it would be fun to have their paintings staring each other down, like with the portraits of Thomas Cromwell and Sir Thomas More in the Frick Collection in NYC. Not the best of friends in real life, now they are sitting on either side of a fire place, staring at each other, with an El Greco poised above them.

  10. #10
    Magister Philosophiæ volksmarschall's Avatar
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    Excellent work! It should be interesting to read more on the history of the Byzantine/Roman/Greek Empire! It's also interesting to see what the Byzantines will do with their navy in ruins, after all, I think the Byzantines can't accept naval insuperiority in the Mediterranean or the Aegean.

    Great work!
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  11. #11
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    J. Passepartout - Who knows who she is? It's a mystery! And Andronikos and Isaakios are just side figures to the story, so I didn't really give it much though. But allowing the other to be lynched by the mob would certainly be explained as 'Not the best of friends in real life' by future generations

    volksmarschall - According to wikipedia, Andronikos had a fleet of around 100 ships to resist the Norman invasion in 1185, and the next year Isaakios send out two fleets of 70 and 80 ships. Although these were destroyed, the Empire should still have some shipbuilding capacity left. Though it cannot be compared to the fleet of the 8th/9th century.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Cecasander View Post
    But allowing the other to be lynched by the mob would certainly be explained as 'Not the best of friends in real life' by future generations
    Indeed, nothing like letting your rival die. Hopefully Andronikos is Sanctified so that he and More are equals in their bloody deaths.

  13. #13
    Romanorum Imperator Augustus asd21593's Avatar
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    Couldn't be more interested than I am now.

    Great stuff!

    *subscribed*
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    -not writing at the moment-

  14. #14
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    Omfg, I freaking love this AAR!!!!

    So, you still count the Angeloi as a dynasty?

    And how come some bulgarians still exist?

    And the Rum Turks are actually called as Rum Turks?
    When did they btw get that name?
    They could be also called Western Turks in this time-line, or not?

  15. #15
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    With my coffee cup in my hands, I leaned my back against the wall and looked outside the window. Outside the sky had already turned dark blue. A few paces away from me my classmates were discussing the new professor. One of the seniors had said that Doxiadus had been transferred here only two months ago from the archeology department – which was also part of the history faculty but was housed outside this complex. I followed their discussion from a distance. Although I have been following classes with these people for nearly six months, I never really fit in. Or maybe I never really wanted to fit in. In any case, I was being tolerated. Nikos, one of the classmates I had better contact with, smiled at me. His eyes motioned me to come and join the conversation, but I politely smiled back. Suddenly the group started moving. It was time.

    “Okay, I’m going to do this on a somewhat higher pace, because aptly I want to be done with the introduction and get us into the real action. As that’s not going to happen…”

    Professor Doxiadus tapped something on the lectern, and a colorful map appeared behind him. I suddenly noticed the woman in the pantsuit was no longer sitting next to him. She was, in fact, nowhere to be found.



    “This is a map of the Empire and its neighbors, as you might have guessed. The purple area represents the Roman Empire. Had it not been for the Bulgar rebellion, it would be at its greatest extend in a century. It contained the Greek heartlands of Hellas and Macedonia, Thrace of course, and the Aegean Islands and significant parts of western Anatolia and the Pontus. Now, let’s start with Europe, where we have Sicily in mint-green to the west, and the island of Kerkyra which had been ‘liberated’ by the Sicilian king in his campaign against Emperor Andronikos Komnenos, but which would instead soon fall under the influence of the Republic of Venice. North of the Empire are the Bulgar Empire in dark blue and the Kingdom of Serbs in light grey, both having been part of the Empire on and off over the years. Also to the north are the Kingdom of Bosna in bright blue, the Kingdom of Vlachs in medium blue and the Cumani Tatars in bright green, and of course the Kingdom of Magyars in white. Although the Magyar were by far the most powerful of these people, they could at this time never produce enough influence of force to subdue the others. This gave the Roman Empire some breathing space, as the Balkan kingdoms in effect worked as buffer states between the Latin states – like the Magyar Kingdom – and the Cumani, and the Empire.”

    “To the east was a whole mish-mash of kingdoms and especially of religions. North and south of the Caucasus mountains were the Orthodox kingdoms of Alania and Georgia in white and red. Together with the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia, here in grey, they would be considered the traditional allies on the Empire’s eastern flank. Then there was Cyprus, which – as I said before the break – was occupied by family members of Andronikos Komnenos was would not accept the reign of either the Angeloi or Kantakouzenoi emperors. Isaakios Angelos had sent a fleet of 80 galleys to the island in 1186, but the fleet had been destroyed by a large Sicilian fleet who just happened to be raiding the island themselves. In a death knell between the Empire on side and the Sicilians and the crusader states on the other, Komnenos Cyprus would not last long. But at this time it was still a sovereign state. Then we come to these crusader states, the Principality of Antioch and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, here in orange and cyan. These won’t need any introduction, as I understand professor Sisinis covered the crusader thoroughly during the last trimester. Sufficient to say, the Empire and the crusaders are at odds with each other at the issue of who should govern the Holy Land; the Latin crusaders who conquered the land from the Arabs, or the Roman emperor who had considered the crusaders more as subcontractors and who still believed they had a claim on the area from before the 7th century. These disputes were fundamental, needless to say, and they created a split between the Orthodox Christians and the Catholics that prevented them to cooperate in securing their borders against Turks and Arabs. Finally in grey, the area around Baalbek, held by the Knight Order of Saint John , which was technically independent from Jeruzalem and which had the impressive Krak de Chevaliers as their headquarters here.”

    “Okay, then it is time for the real enemies, here. Which are the Muslims, of course. Directly east and south of the Empire were the Turkish sultanates of Erzerum and Rûm. These were two of many small sultanates that emerged from the collapse of the Seljuk Turk Sultanate. The names of these sultanates are ironically derived from the fact the Roman Empire had once ruled over these lands. The Roman Empire itself was referred to as Rûm by both the Turks and the Arabs, and as a matter of fact still is to this very day. The white area on the lower right side of the map is finally the Ayyubid Sultanate, ruled by none other than the famous Saladin. Saladin would be a thorn in the Latin side, mind you, but otherwise he will not be very important for our story and will therefore be largely ignored. If you want to learn more about this… colorful man, go to the schedule office and have them sign you up for Islamic History.”

    There was some laughter, surprisingly also coming from seniors.

    “Finally, the mint-green area you see north of the Hospitaller Knights, is occupied by the famous, feared Isma’ili Shi’ite order of the Hashshashins, or Nizari as they called themselves. These unpleasant fellows were supporters of the defunct Fatamid Caliphate and sought to bring the Arabian rulers – and those of Egypt and Syria in particular – to the Shi’ite branch of the Islam. As the crusaders also occupied Muslim lands, once belonging to the Fatamid Caliphate, they too became a target. The order – or sect, as it’s usually called – was simply to small to raise meaningful armies. Therefore they tried to reach their goal by plots, intrigues, infiltration and of course, murder. It was these political murders that make them probably the most famous assassin order in history… Well, they were quite fascinating, but as I am getting seriously off-topic, I once again refer you to Professor Okur’s Islamic History class.”

    I smiled at professor Doxiadus, who had enthusiastically crossed the border of his specialization. I always liked the teachers who were not rigidly devoted to their own field, but stay interested in the history at large. Professor Sisinis certainly had not been such a man.

    “Okay, now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to take a look inside of the Empire. But first, could someone refresh my memory and tell me what a thema is? You?”

    Doxiadus pointed at a tall student three rows behind me. Judging from his long blonde hair he was a foreign exchange student.

    “It was a military district, right? They were ruled by the Strategoi, who were the Empire’s generals.”

    “You’re absolutely right, but the themata were not just military districts, not were the Strategoi only military commanders. Especially around this time, as the Empire suffered from several incompetent emperors, the state became less centralized and the themata became administrative entities as well as military ones. Thus the strategus acted as a civil governor as well as a military commander. In the following decades this would evolve into something even more elaborate, but we’ll get to that at another time.”

    A map appeared on the screen, showing the Empire and its divisions, which numbered.



    “These were the nineteen themata of the Roman Empire as of Mikhail VIII’s ascend in January 1187. Yes, nineteen, not twenty-one as you might guess. Numbers four and twelve are the cities of Constantinople and Thessaloniki, which did not fall under any thema and were instead directly governed administratively and militarily by the emperor himself. Now, I will use this map format in the future to show the growth of the Empire and the changes in themata. Therefore I have a printout of this map for all of you, which you can pick up after this lecture.”

    He pointed to the pack of paper that lay on the lectern. I suddenly noticed the woman with the black pantsuit standing in the open door, looking around. Or scanning, rather. Was she some kind of security guard or something? Knowing the looking at her would only draw attention, I turned back to professor Doxiadus, who had projected a number of portraits on the screen behind him.



    “Okay, now let’s look at some of the faces of the Empire. These four men were the four most powerful strategoi at the start of our story. You should remember the first one, which is Andronikos Kantakouzenos. As I said before the break, Andronikos was the uncle of emperor Mikhail VIII and had been the one to have planted him on the throne in the first place. Because of this, and because of the fact the emperor was only 12 at the time, Andronikos Kantakouzenos was also the regent and thus in essence the de facto ruler of the Empire until Mikhail would come of age. He was the strategos of both Cibyrrhaeot and Samos, which contained the coastal areas of Ionia and Lykia, the island of Rhodes and a number of islands off the coast. The reason why he was the strategos of two themata is never really discovered, but it’s known that those two themata had a close bond with each other in the past and had in fact been a single thema until 893. The next man is Alexios Palaiologos Komnenos, the strategos of Archaea, also known as the Thema of the Peloponnesus. As you might have guessed, this man was a relative of emperor Andronikos, although from the Palaiologos branch of the family. The Palaiologoi would in the future become one of the most powerful families of the Empire, and would in affect replace the Komnenoi family completely. The next person should also look familiar, as it is Theodoros Mangaphas, the strategos of Thracesia. His thema was a strange construction that originates from the fact that he was an ally of Kantakouzenos, and therefore received some spoiled land after emperor Andronikos’ death, outside his original thema. In essence Mangaphas had become a vassal rather than an ally to Kantakouzenos, but as they were close friends they would both never consider it that way. Finally, there was Mikhail Choniates, the strategos of Hellas. Now, on the map I named this thema Athina, but that is actually a contemporary name for that thema. More so because the capital of the thema of Hellas was in Thebes, not in Athens. Choniates was of humble birth, but he was one of the most senior and most respected strategoi. His early support of Mikhail Kantakouzenos is considered by some historians as the divining safeguard for the fledgling Imperial dynasty.”

    Another four portraits appeared on the screen. I heard some seniors grunt a few rows behind me.



    “Sorry, guys, this is the last slide, I promise… Hey look, Alexios, I told you to get some coffee,” professor Doxiadus said with smile. One of the seniors – Alexios, apparently – held up an empty paper cup to show he had gotten coffee.

    “Alright. Now, these people here are some of the Empire’s allies or enemies. Let’s start with this Bulgarian hero”, he winked to the little Bulgarian before me “Ivan Asen. He and his brothers Teodor and Kaloyan raised a revolt against Isaakios Angelos in 1185, after being denied a grant of land and being forces to pay heavy taxes the emperor needed to fight Sicily. The Asens had quickly taken over Moesia and had managed to either defeat or avoid the Imperial armies. Peace was, like I said, arranged when Ivan Asen made an agreement with the Kantakouzenoi. Within only a few weeks, thus, the blood feud was changed into an alliance between the emperors of Romanion and Bulgaria. Oh, yes?”

    Professor Doxiadus pointed at a student on the second row, who had raised his arm.

    “Sir, my high school teacher said that the Asens were Vlachs, not Bulgarians.”

    Doxiadus laughed. “Let me guess… your teacher was a Dacian?”

    “Yes sir.”

    “Okay, well, you see… there is a long, intense debate going on between Dacian and Bulgarian historians, about whether the Asens were Vlachs – that is to say, proto-Dacians – or Bulgarians. It has everything to do with using certain sources and translations… it’s more a matter of national pride, of course, and that’s quite silly if you ask me. It happens all the time in the field of historical research.”

    “What do you think yourself, sir?” the guy asked.

    “Well, if they ruled a Bulgarian empire, they’d be Bulgarian enough for me, and that’s all I’m saying… Anyway… Next in line is Stefan Nemanja, King of Serbs. Although that’s technically incorrect, as his son Stefan Nemanjic was the one to proclaim the Kingdom of Serbia and Nemanja was the Grand Prince of Rashka. This did still make him the leader figure for all Serbs, though. As you might have remembered, the Serbs had a fairly small realm, after repeatable invading and being kicked out of Romanion. He would in his later years be called Stefan the Monk, and would in fact become a saint to the Serbians in the future. Why did I put him in this list? Because the Serbs might mean trouble in the future. Now, the next portrait is, as you can see, of a woman. Yes, the Kingdom of Georgia was ruled by a queen at the time, namely Queen Thamar. She was the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right, and her energetic rule would later be dubbed as the Golden Age of Georgia. She was supported by her military, and thus could fairly easily influence her neighbors. Don’t forget that most of these neighbors were weakened sultanates that had succeeded the Seljuk Sultanate. Queen Thamar had allied the Kantakouzenoi in order to secure her western border, and to gain the support of the Patriarch who would legitimize her claim to the throne. We will come back to Thamar and her kingdom in one of the following lectures, as it’s a really interesting issue, really. Finally… yes Alexios, finally… we come to the last portrait and that is one of Kilij Arslan Seljuk, the Sultan of Rûm. As you might notice, he was a relative of the old Great Seljuks, and this gave him quite a lot of prestige not just from fellow Turks, but also from Arab rulers. He had in fact been allying himself with Saladin before, and has almost single-handedly doubled the side of the Sultanate of Rûm up until 1187. In 1186, the old sultan had divided up much of his land between his nine sons, though, and as it went in those days these sons quickly started to fight each other for supremacy. This would be a major stain on the sultan’s reign, as it essentially rendered the Sultanate of Rûm powerless. This would, of course, become the Sultanate’s undoing.”

    “Okay, that is all for today…” In an instant people started standing up, talking and cleaning up their stuff. “Don’t forget to get a copy of the themata map from here, and I’ll see you Thursday evening again!” professor Doxiadus shouted to get heard over the ruckus. I also stuffed my notepad and my pens in my backpack, followed the rest of the students down and picked up a map. Suddenly I felt somebody pressing against my arm. I turned around and saw two impossibly green eyes staring at me. For a second, the girl looked as if she had recognized me, but then she said "Oh, I’m sorry,” and turned around. When I looked again, she had gone into the mass. Who was she? For a moment I was absolutely sure I knew her, but now that I thought about it, the only thing I could remember were her eyes…



  16. #16
    Who am I? Cecasander's Avatar
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    Here ends the introduction, I hope it wasn't too long or boring. I intend to make other lectures a bit shorter than these two (they were 5 pages each in word) but I often tend to ramble so I can't promise anything. Also, in case you failed to notice, I call Romanians Dacians in my timeline, as, well, there's still a Romania in place.

    asd21593 - Thank you, thank you and welcome

    Enewald - Good to have you on board. So many questions... let's see.

    The Angeloi aren't really a dynasty as they only produced one emperor, but his family continues on as a aristocratic dynasty. Though Isaakios' rule was probably too short for the surviving Angeloi to settle themselves in the imperial apparatus, and thus won't be considered a major family.

    The Bulgarians survived for the same reason the real Bulgarians survived 500 years of Ottoman rule; it's very hard to destroy an ethnic group. 'My' Bulgarians are heavily 'Greekified', but they maintain a lot of traditions, language and such. I imagine that people like the Bulgarians, Serbs and Turks would live in some kind of semi-autonomous states within Romania, kind of how any ethnicities live in republics in Russia in the real world.

    They would call themselves Rum Turks. I'm believe the Greeks called their land the Sultanate of Iconium/Konya, and simply called them Turks. Like professor Doxiadus explained last lecture, the Sultanates of Rum and Erzerum (Erz-u-Rum, lit. Land of Romans) were named after the fact the Turks and Arabs considered those lands 'Roman'. Kind of how some American states are named after the Indian tribes that once lived there, I suppose. I must admit I'm not familiar with the term Western Turks.

  17. #17
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    So you're playing a mod where are realistically vlach culture?
    Good.

    So there is going to happen an change in the future theme policies. That be due to CK since it does not represent those 'duchies' as republics or archbishoprics. The Emperor really ought to be able to name the new strategoi then and then.

    So Saladdin is a mere joke?

  18. #18
    Lt. General humancalculator's Avatar
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    Great AAR so far.


    Subscribed!
    Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war) - Pvblivs Flavivs Vegetivs Renatvs

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  19. #19
    Romanorum Imperator Augustus asd21593's Avatar
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    Great update!

    Creepy eyes!

    My AAR Library
    -not writing at the moment-

  20. #20
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    I've nominated your work for the "Best Character Writer of the Week." Keep up the amazing work!
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