The Reign of Alexios V, House of Gryf
Part the First: Minority of the Monarch
I was born on the 17th of August in the year of our lord 1373 and on the 12th of January 1375 at the death of my father, I became the Emperor and Autocrat of all the East, the Iberians and Perateia. Sounds impressive doesnít it, but that was not quite the case. In reality I inherited a small, relatively poor stretch of hilly land on the southeast coast of the Black Sea far from my Houseís origins in Denmark of all places and with only the fealty of a band of Azerbaijani horsemen, the King of Cyprus and the loyalty of a small band of fanatical Knights ensconced in a land of heathens. A fine list of vassal for a great Emperor, no? Plus I didnít even get to sit on my throne or step foot on my soil for many years later as I and the remains of my family were sheltering in foreign courts thanks to a bunch of angry Catalans that had swarmed over, assaulted our castles and sacked our
citiescity to defend the honor of said King of Cyprus. Oh, and we were in the middle of an Ottoman Jihad. All in all, not a good way to start oneís reign, luckily I didnít have to deal with that mess, my messes were to come much later.
The Regency Council at the start of Alexeios v's reign
Since I had come to the throne before my second birthday there was a Regency, officially the regent was my mother Empress Zoe, a member of the Imperial Family of Rome(the silly Greek one, not the silly German one) so far from the throne of Constantine she might as well be on the moon. In actuality though, most of the power rested with our greatest(and only) generals and my fatherís councillors not least because they stayed behind to defend the country. Initially the mood was grim, the wars were not going well at all and the first priority was to get the heck out of them. I recall the memoirs of the regency council mentioning an attempt to negotiate a peace with the Duke of Burgundy, leader of opposing forces in the War for Cyprus, but the silly bugger would have none of it under any circumstances.
The Duke of Burgundy is one stubborn bastard.
This outrage motivated Marshal Nikomedes Atan, older brother of one of our greatest artists Eirenaios Atan, to inspired heights as he lead the defense of the realm, outing the Aragon forces occupying Giresun(after only a two year long siege) and then working with the newly converted Horsemen of the Ak Koyunlu Horde to chase down and rout their forces in the field before liberating the Trebizond itself, dealing a savage if not lethal blow to the enemy's war effort.
The Battle of Erzincan, Eirenaios Atan's great masterpiece which hangs even today in the national gallery
In the meantime the Ottomans had grown weary of their own war having failed to occupy the Knights of Saint John in Smyrna and exchanging sieges with the Eastern Roman empire, therefore were happy to bow out of the war at the cost of merely acknowledging their victory rather than actually giving them anything.
Who needs prestige, eh? Not Trebizond!
With the Turks out of the war and the our homeland free from occupiers things were actually starting to look up, and while Burgundy still refused to negotiate, the King of Aragon actually started to make demands, they were of course refused and new levies paid for with Chancellor Manuel Kamilís War taxes were raised and sent south with the rest of the army to assist Armenia in repelling their own Aragonian problems. Together our armies were a match for the only enemy left in the field and he knew it, rushing from Adana to defeat our little coalition as soon as possible so as to remain unmolested, it proved a good idea for him, at least initially as during the battle no less, Armenia betrayed us by signing a peace with Burgundy ripping up our treaties of friendship and withdrawing in exchange for peace, leaving our army vastly outnumbered and it was routed entirely. We would work with Armenia again eventually, but that betrayal would never be forgotten.
The Betrayal at Mus - Origin of the well known Trebizon proverb "Armenians are ****ing ****s"
Luckily the Khan of our vassal Horde swept over the Aragonís army before it could recover from the battle and eliminated them too. At this point it became apparent the Duke of Burgundy had shot himself in the foot. Aragon was the principal contributor to the war and if you include the Kingís other throne of Trinacria, the only contributor. Without his conquests in Armenia and all his armies in the field defeated it was almost as if we were right back at the beginning and so in exchange for reparations and such he bowed out, leaving Burgundy with nothing. It wasn't long before the Dukeís other allies having done nothing and without the prospect of getting anything also withdrew from the war without even making demands, forcing him to accepting a white peace. And so, at least temporaily, the realm was saved.
Duke Philippe II learns the value of the phrase "Quit while you're ahead"
The war may have ended but fighting seems to go on and on, about a year after the peace was signed and I had been able to come home there was a revolt. The Turkic settlers of Erzincan had been quick enough to adapt to life in the Empire, some years previous they had learnt Greek, bought the clothes, built the buildings, ate the food and so on but unfortunately they still worshipped Allah and refused the divinity of Jesus Christ and so a band of fanatics were able to whip the people up into a mob and rebel against the crown. A new army had to be raised given the destruction of the old Pontic Legion which was difficult given the financial and manpower costs incurred in the wars but thanks to Atan and Kamil it was managed but not before the zealots had taken control of the province and their army, while easily defeated after their first loss, had to be chased all over the country, meaning it took nearly two whole years for the rebellion to be completely suppressed. By this time the treasury had recovered somewhat and at the suggestion of Empress Zoe we invest in a mission to convert the population to the religion. It drained the treasury again but was surprisingly effective. Only six months later the missionaries were complaining that they couldnít find anymore heathens.
That'll teach those heathens not to be uppity, it's half a year of fasting for them from now on!
Aside from the fighting in the intermission between wars, the Regency dealt with a variety of domestic issues. Troubles among the noble families culminated in a few high profile assassinations and rather than let the aristocrats swamp the countryside with blood as per their ďancient rightsĒ managed to take control of the situation. Army reforms increased the quality of our troops after an embarrassing incident where a group of soldiers assigned to guard a grain wagon were routed by a young boy, his sister and a cat. The coffers temporarily swelled when a wealthy merchant and patron of the church died without heir and his assests could be seized, the church frowned a bit at that but when most of that money was invested in the Mission to Erzincan they seemed mollified. There was a also another revolt when some silly noble, dismayed at the Regencies increasing transfer of power to the Crown(the title includes Autocrat, what do these people expect!?) raised his flag in rebellion. Unfortunately for him, with the army reforms, experience from the Islamic revolt and the able command of Marshal Atan meant he and his band of hopeful idealists were slaughtered. I must have been about six or seven at the time and watched from the walls, good sport that. We also briefly found ourselves neighbours to the dreaded Mamluks when in one of their wars with the various Turkic bands they took Sinope, the people there rebelled immediately afterward and for some reason the sultan or caliph or whatever just left them alone until they eventually declared themselves a new country, at which point their original owners declared war and re-conquered them.
The fun never ends in the Empire of Trebizond!
Iím getting ahead of events now though, just after crushing Kamilís Rebellion(No relation to Chancellor Kamil) the Ottomans renewed their Jihad on the Knights of Saint John, dragging us and the Romans into another war. This war would go down in history as one of the best wars in our Empireís history. For the first eight months of the war, we did absolutely nothing. Not for lack of trying mind you, but we had no navy, no money to build a navy and the ottoman navy would crush it anyway and none of the neighbouring bands would let us through. The Ottomans gleefully forgot about us and even the Knights and concentrated on their old enemy. That proved to be a deadly mistake. Their army and the Roman one pretty much annihilated each other leaving the two in a stalemate and at the wrong sides of the Marmara. However their only ally was some sand castle on the other end of Arabia whereas the Romans the Knights, and their small band wreaked havoc in the Anatolian country side. The Eretnids were still refusing our armies access until Nikodemes sent Eirenaois to entreat with their leader, the Artiste decided to impress the Eretnids with civilisation by singing one of his many epic ballads. After a week he returned with the pledge that so long as the the man never set foot on their land again we could move all the troops we liked through.
Marshal Atan and the three thousand strong New Legion hurried through to harass the Ottoman levies before they could be built into a strong army while the Knights and the Romans busied themselves besieging and sacking everything they could, with the remants of the main Ottoman army stuck in the far end of Thrace deep in hostile Greek countryside. The process was slow but very effective as hundreds of small band of Turkish peasants freshly raised with barely more than a spear in their hands were minced up by the legion, leaving our allies to their occupations and our homeland entirely free of trouble. After two years the Ottomans were ready to give up and sign a white peace, but we were certainly not, we was going to get something out of this!
Feels good to be the one begged for peace rather than the one begging for it.
At home things were better than a long time, no doubt constant news of victory helped a great deal, but also the competent management by the regency and the ensuing stability were contributors. Such was the feeling of contentment among the people that Chancellor Kamil proposed selling off some minor honorary titles to help expand our armies, the other members were initially reluctant and if I had been in my majority would have shot the idea down entirely, but Kamil estimated we could bring in from the sales nearly double a whole years worth of taxes and so the idea was leapt at. The people seemed really seemed to take to the whole thing, perhaps some of them actually thought that if they worked hard enough, saved enough, they too could become wealthy aristocrats. Such fools are peasants.
Tony Blair looks on with envy after his Cash for Honours didn't turn out quite as well.
Anyway it was now I think nearly four years into the war, the Knights had taken Balikesir and Denzli and the Roman Empire held the northern coastline and we were busy trying to take the central highlands when the Ottoman army that had been trapped in Thrace pointlessly besieging Kozani finally got it into their heads that it might be a good idea to try and win back their homeland and rushed across the Marmara, smashing the Roman rear guard at Bithynia and settling down for a siege. While it may have been possible with combined arms to defeat this army and return to our business the council had learnt themselves the lesson handed to Burgundy and decided to quit while ahead and negotiate a profitable peace. We managed to get the revocation of claims on our land and reparations worth a couple few years of income, the Ottomans ceded Bursa to the Romans and Balikesir to us and since it was dirt poor, full of barbarian heathens and rather more difficult to get to than an itch in the centre of one's back the council promptly sold it to the Romans for more than double the reparations weíd gotten from the Turks. Even as an 11 year old I thought that was a pretty good deal, plus it meant we could afford a birthday present. I was expecting a great horse or a grand set of armor, but it turned out to be a wife as I was betrothed to Charlotte Lusignan of Limisol, a daughter of the King of Cyprus. Still canít complain, at least we were rich and somewhat more respected than before.
Trebizond had to build a another treasury since the matresses of the Imperial Palace were getting awfully lumpy.
It did not take the council long before it started to spend the stupendous wealth gained in the war and title sales, the Chancellor invested heavily in building new fangled workshops across the country declaring that it would only take a generation or two for them to show a return, Marshall Atan spent his apportionment on nearly double the army. A much better idea if you ask me, but no one did. My mother spent some time arranging marriages for some of my imperial cousins and the various other orthodox monarchical families in the area, one poor girl was even packed off to our vassal Horde and the Roman Emperor offered to reabsorb us free of charge. That offer was not accepted, no surprise there.
The Empire of Trebizond might have given up the claim over all the Romans but it wasn't going to give up that Imperial crown any time soon.
After that there was an unfortunate period where some of the aging members of the council died off. Poor Eirenaios drank the water he washed his paint brushes in after Bogumil dared him too on a particularly raucous night of drinking and didnít survive much longer after that, a terrible loss for our nationís culture to be sure.
One of Eirenaios' unfinished works, for some reason it dissapeared without a trace just after the turn of the 16th Century
His death left a prominent gap in the councilís membership and that couldnít go unfilled, prominent general Iones Kamil and friend of the Marshal managed to get his nephew Manuel Kamil, again no relation to either his namesake the esteemed chancellor or the long dead pretender. Manuel had been on campaigns with the Marshal and his uncle and was somewhat knowledgeable on military matters and had a passion for trying to improve the soldiery and one of his first actions was to requisition funds for the building of training fields in Trebizon. Our greatest loss was yet to come however as the Chancellor Kamil followed Eirenaios to the afterlife barely a year later, his loss was felt throughout the government and particularly in the treasury which he had run like his own personal empire and without his competence was thrown into chaos.
It seems fate would not tolerate a council of Kamils, the spitting was becoming atrocious.
He had the good sense to leave behind an apprentice but while Bulut was quite competant he was no true replacement and the council resolved that the Empireís government and economy could no longer be reliant on just one man to run it and with Bulutís help and a few trips to Constantinople for ideas we began the implementation of a proper bureaucracy from which we could later build the needed apparatus of State.
Philippos Bulut would become a name cursed by every Trebizondian merchant
Fortunately after this we had no more domestic upsets for quite a while and managed to chug along quietly, Manuel Kamilís training fields came to be and with the reforms of the past were an immediate boon.
Neighbours admire our proffesional soldiery and their ability to defeat straw dummies.
Outside the realm, the Sultan/Khan of the Chobanids conquered the various other Ids and declared himself successor to the ancient Kings of Kings of Persia and resurrected the old empire, which was not news that was welcomed in the Hellenic world.
It was around this time that the people of Sinope had their shortlived revolution as I described much earlier. And then the final war of the regency happend. The Mamluks, obviously upset at having failed to supress the people of Sinope decided to pick on someone, and that someone was unfortunately our vassal, the Horde of Ak Koyunlu. This was not going to turn out well.
Like I said, the fun never ends.
I wonít go into much detail over the war as it wasn't one to win, we tried to form a front with our allies Armenia and vassal Ak Koyunlu in some nice defensible mountains in Mus, Armenia, site of the betrayal, but of course our allies are stupid and King Abbas marched into the plains of Aleppo with only five thousand men. We followed with out own army in the hopes our numbers would be enough to hold until the twenty thousand soldiers sitting in Constantinople could come along and join us. Of course, they never came and we were soon defeated.
Allied forces - The bane of almost every leader
The remains of the New Legion retreated north and hid in the Etrenidís territory, venturing out occaisionly to strike at an isolated mamluk band now and then but was powerless to prevent the vast sixteen-thousand strong armies from pushing in Urfa and eventually Erzincan and still the Roman Emperor would not come despite the obligation of our alliance. The bastard said he didnít have enough ships to transport his men and ran into our old difficulty of being refused military access but the bugger could have sent them a bit at a time to a staging area surely. After a year had passed and no aid was coming the council negotiated a peace, and I even got to attend since I was nearly a man. The council agreed that the horde would give up Urfa but the Mamluk Sultan wanted something more, with our treasury depleted from the investments, the loss of the our previous Chancellor and of course the war we did not have any tribute to give, but the Sultan accepted a different form of concession, and so we revoked our protection of the holy order of Knights at my suggestion, the Knights had fewer men than the Horde, travel to and from them was difficult and Cyprus was rather wealthy so they were the easiest to loose and I hoped we could one day soon incorporate the Horde and their remaining lands fully into the Empire.
It could have been worse, couldn't it?
Signing the treaty was effectively the last action of the Regency Council as only six months later I was at long last deemed old enough to rule in my own name.
Emperor Alexeios V might not have been a particularly great man, but great things awaited him. Whether those things are great tragedies or not remains to be seen...