The State of the World - 1500
- Europe south of the Alps and the Middle East -
Nearly a hundred years had passed since the Jalayirid Caliphate's formation by Ahmad the Bald. In the meanwhile, much of the world had changed, both as consequences to the Caliphs' actions and others'. While the Caliphate is indeed mighty - it is in fact, about to meet a never before seen epoch of splendour, prosperity and wealthy, entering the so-called 'Great Islamic Century' - it has still many adversaries, within and without. To the North looms Russia, a massive giant who has so far found no worthy adversary in the field of battle; To the East stands the Chagatai Khanate - a worthy sucessor of Timur and Genghis Khan - and the empire of the city of Vijayanagar, stretching across southern India and bent on conquering the rest. Even further, to the Far East, the mighty Chinese and Khmer Empires stand, they too experiencing remarkable prosperity.
That is not to say that the Western Europeans are to be ignored. Most Catholics saw Lepanto as a mere setback, and already the Pope calls for the faithful to engage in another Crusade. However, now, they knew better than to listen to the Pope. Through spies and merchants placed along the Caliphate, they realize its true wealth: spices from India, silk from China, Cinnamon from Ceylon... the list goes on; the Europeans already begin their attempts to disprove Ptolemy's maps - that ascertained that the only way to reach India was through land - and carve some of the fantastic wealth of the East for themselves, enriching themselves and weakening the infidels at the same time.
Ignacio de Toledo, depicted in his study in Cologne.
To the Far North, in Scandinavia and Germany, heresy has taken its toll. Under Ignacio de Toledo, the Protestant faith, preaching the corrupt nature of the Catholic Church, its inability to truly carry on God's message and seeing the failure at Lepanto as proof of God having turned their back on them. All this the Caliphate watches carefully, seeking a way to benefit from the situation.
The Mediterranean and the surrounding lands
It is here that the failure of the 11th Crusade hit hardest. The Caliphate managed to expel the Christians from Africa, with military governments being set up and conversion efforts - of those audacious few who converted to Catholicism during the Iberian occupation - beginning. Piracy dimished considerably against Muslim shipping, with the annihilation of the Knights of St. John and the devastating use of the Barbary Pirates against Christian ships and coastal areas.
In Western Morocco, a protectorate was established to ensure the safety of caravans from Sub-saharan Africa in an area so far away from the central administration. The Caliphate's troops actually went farther inland that the Iberians, subjugation the triublesome Berber raiders that had caused so much trouble to the infidels. However, the not all is well in the Caliphate, as the central government seeks to limit the clergy's powers and stature, while favouring artists, philosophers, scholars and thinkers - all with ideas questionable from a religious point of view. Not to speak of course, of the existance of a woman in the highest position of leadership; periodically mullahs declare the Caliphate to be a farce due to this, leading to widespread uproar and arrests.
In Portugal, a 'revolution' headed by the burghers of Lisbon and a few cities deposed the king and what was left of the nobility - the high cadres having died in Lepanto, the ill-prepared response allowed the 'revolutionaries' to capture the king, and then expel the nobles and defenestrate King Joao III - in the same way as the Romans did to their last king, Tarquin. A council was set up, with the Edil - 'mayor' - of Lisbon presiding as chief and with delegates from the larger cities sitting in. Their decision was unanimous: The Most Noble Republic of Lisbon and its partners - the country started out as more of a League than a full state after the revolution, but slowly Lisbon took more power for itself, reducing the other cities from equals to subjects - would refrain from any conquests in Africa, instead proceeding to explore a possible path to India.
Joao III and his entourage being thrown out of the Paço Real's windows.
Remarkably, Spain chose not to intervene, most likely to blackmail from the powerful merchants of Seville, who pursued a similar agenda of exploration, and managed to get Crown backing for their projects later on.
Giovanni de Medici, who, together with his family, had been expelled from Florence, and managed to blend in within the Genoese high social circles, culminating in his bribe-fueled rise to power. Now that he held the power of Lombardy, his dream was to punish the de Pazzi family, the rulers of Florence that had expelled his family.
In Italy, after the end of the War of Lombardy, in which France and Genoa fought against Milan, Cremona and Venice, the balance changed considerably. While it was France who gave the killing blow to Milan, its troops had to be diverted to fight the Kingdom of England-Aquitane, who sought a way to grab more land from the French kings. Genoa, left to perform the mop-up, performed admirably - getting its revenge for the many times the Milanese occupied their fair city - taking the entire western valley of the Po, retaking Corsica and reducing Venice, its eternal nemesis, into a vassal. Not shortly after, its doge took on the title of king, crushing all opposition. Southwards, the Pisan Confederacy, caught between Florence and Genoa, continues to grow, in an uneasy truce between the two major powers on the peninsula - each of them backed by one Greater power, Genoa by France, and Florence by the Austro-Sicilians - who try to gain the support of the Confederacy's constituent cities - and all other, smaller states between them - in the event of war. Florence has kept its own as the peninsula's cultural centre, especially since Rome was sacked by Muslim forces a few years ago. With its extraordinarily able leaders and generals, beside a motivated, formidable army - as is the case with citizen armies - the Florentine Republic is a match for any other power on the peninsula.
The Kingdom of Austria-Sicily, composed of southern Italy, Austria proper, eastern Hungary and Croatia
In Naples and to the North stands the mighty Austro-Sicilian Kingdom. Having lost Sicily to the heathens and seeing its shipping mercilessly cut down by the Barbary Pirates, its support in the Southern part of the kingdom is eroding, who begin to see the King in Vienna as little more than a tax collector, unable to defend them from the Muslim hordes. Despite these stirrings of unrest, the Kingdom is mighty, and fields one of the largest armies in the world. Unable to strike back at the Caliphate, due to its tiny navy, the Kingdom must expand on the fickle plains of Central Europe. Surrounded by Bohemia and the german states under her protection, Russia and a restored Hungary after the fall of the reborn Jagiellon Empire, Austria-Sicily has many choices, all of them dangerous, all of them with great rewards for the bold and sucessful.
The coat of arms of Hungary.
Its obvious rival, Hungary, is biding its time to attack and reclaim the Eastern portion of its kingdom from Austria - and Croatia. The Magyars, with their tradition of horsemanship, will stop at nothing to ride to Vienna and assure their position as a the foremoost power in Eastern Europe. To do so, however, is an entirely differently matter. The Austro-Sicilians have their sites set on their lands too, and an unsubtle move may make the anger of Russia befall the young state.
To the south resides the Ottoman Empire, having accomplished little more than the conquest of Athens in the past fifty years. A series of disastrous dynastic successions crippled the state, allowing, for example, the Caliphate to take Syria and southeastern Anatolia. However, its culture is very vibrant, being at the crossroads of East and West. To proceed their march into Europe, they need only to strike during one of the numerous wars between the major powers. The Caliphate however, is also in the eyes of the Ottoman sultans, and a major defeat could propell the various factions and peoples within the Caliphate to ease its possible fragmentation; no empire could stretch from Persia to Morocco without some compromising with the local elites, and these were often fickle and willing to ally with foreign powers.
St. George slaying the dragon,
Lastly, in the Caucusus there is the Kingdom of Georgia, named after the dragon-slaying saint. Indeed Georgia is surrounded by warmongering dragons, a small country dividing the two great Muslim empires from the Russian Bear. It's only way of survival and, who knows, expansion is through playing its powerful and warmongering neighbours against each other.
Thus, in southern Europe and the Middle East we see a great number of conflicts, as states scramble for dominance. Up next, we shall seen Northern and Estearn Europe in detail.