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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
I.a - Historical Prelude

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Historical Prelude, Part 1: The Fourth Crusade







Our tale begins, as many a tale of the Middle Ages does, with a crusade.


Saladin during the reconquest of Jerusalem. (Wikimedia Commons)

After eighty-eight years of Crusader rule, the Holy City of Jerusalem was captured in 1187 by the armies of Salah ad-Din, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt. The fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem sent shockwaves through Christendom, and a new Crusade, the Third, tried and failed to permanently re-secure the city. When Innocent III arose to the pontificate in 1198, he sought to renew the crusading spirit, and to organize a campaign against Egypt itself before moving onto the Holy Land. His efforts soon bore fruit, and a number of nobles at a tournament in Champagne took up the cross, pledging to return the Holy Land to Christian hands once more.


Pope Innocent III. (Wikimedia Commons)

Where previous Crusades had advanced overland through the often treacherous, Turkish-held hinterlands of Anatolia, this new, Fourth Crusade sought the aid of the maritime republics of Italy to travel by sea to the Nile Delta in preparation for the conquest of Egypt. Genoa expressed its disinterest, but Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice, jumped at the chance to provide transport for the soldiers with the Republic's mighty fleet. The named price: that the crusaders would assist in the intimidation of some recalcitrant Venetian tributaries in the Adriatic on their way.

Though threatened with excommunication in the event of any attacks on fellow Christians, the city of Zara fell to the crusaders and Venetians in 1202. At about this time, the leaders of the crusade were diverted from their original course as they intrigued with Alexius, the son of exiled former Byzantine Emperor Isaac, pledging to aid him in his bid for the throne against his uncle, also named Alexius.


The Sack of Zara. (Wikimedia Commons)

Whether the massacre of Venetian merchants and citizens in Constantinople over ten years prior had anything to do with the devolution of the situation is uncertain, but soon the plan to impose the younger Alexius onto the throne had fallen apart, and Constantinople, the center of the remnant of the Roman Empire, was besieged. Though many crusaders had branched off of the path of the main force, a potent army was still arrayed against Constantinople. The Latins raided the city on and off for over a year, and it wasn't until April 1204 that weather conditions had improved enough for the invaders to press their advantage.


The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, by Eugene Delacroix

The Sack of Constantinople would go down in infamy. The church of Hagia Sophia was stripped of its relics and icons, the horses were pulled down from the Hippodrome and spirited away to St. Mark's in Venice, and the victorious crusaders reveled in the material and carnal pleasures of the spoils of war. Constantinople had preserved the cumulative intellectual and material wealth of centuries of Roman civilization, and it all flowed out of the city and into the waiting hands of the crusaders. The crusader Geoffrey de Villehardouin had this to say in his Chronicle of the Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of Constantinople about the volume of wealth found in the Bucaleon Palace: "Of the treasure that was found in that palace I cannot well speak, for there was so much that it was beyond end or counting."

The treasures of the Queen of Cities weren't the only spoils won by the Latins and Venetians. In the ensuing partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae, or "partition of the lands of the Empire of Romania" (that is to say, the land of the 'Romans', the Byzantine Empire), the Empire was divided between Venetian possessions and a Catholic empire centered around Constantinople, the so-called Latin Empire. The remainder of the lands were either occupied by Greek successor states in Epirus, Nicaea, and Trebizond, or by the tiny Crusader fiefdoms subservient to the Latin Emperor.

Among these, tucked away in the mountainous peninsula of the Morea, was the Principality of Achaea.

 
I.b - Historical Prelude

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Historical Prelude, Part 2: The Principality of Achaea




Baldwin of Flanders, who had gone with a party of crusaders to Syria, hastened to Constantinople upon the news that he was named the Emperor of the city, while the erstwhile leader of the Crusade, Simon de Montfort, took over the city of Thessalonica and having himself crowned King there. From his new capital, de Montfort endeavored to cement Latin control over Greece. He commissioned 600 crusaders, headed by William of Champlitte and Geoffrey de Villehardouin (the nephew of the chronicler mentioned above), to undertake the conquest of the Peloponnese (called Morea in the Middle Ages) from the local Greeks.


Medieval locales in the Morea.

Upon a smashing success at the Olive Grove of Koundouros, the peninsula fell mostly under Frankish control, though a few holdouts persisted for another eight years. Champlitte was confirmed as the Prince of Achaea, and held this distinction until 1209 when he died in transit to his native France on his way to confirm an inheritance there. Thereafter, Villehardouin was invested with the Princehood, and his family would hold it for sixty-nine years.

His son, also named Geoffrey, built a magnificent castle at Clairmont (Chlemoutsi) on the Ionian coast, but commonly ran afoul of the church and frequently hazarded excommunication for his appropriations of church funds. His successor, William II, managed to avoid these dangers, and in his reign the Principality flourished as a center of knightly virtue and commerce. He himself was a troubadour, patronizing the florescence of the arts, and moved the capital to Mystras during his reign.

Between 1256 and 1258, William successfully waged war against Venice and Athens for control of much of the island of Euboea, and the Principality reached its height. His fortunes, however, reversed when he intervened in a conflict between the Nicaeans and the Despot of Epirus, and was captured as part of the losing coalition in the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259. In exchange for being ransomed back safely, much of the Morea, including the capital of Mystras, was ceded back to the Byzantines. He managed to drive back further attempts to conquer his lands, but never regained the areas lost.

At around this time, the Latin Empire had fallen to the Nicaeans, and the Byzantine Empire was restored. Achaea found itself isolated with the disappearance of the strongest Latin power in the region, and was forced to align itself in a more westward direction, to the states of Italy. Upon William's death, Charles of Anjou, who had seized the kingship of Sicily, ruled the Principality in absentia, and afterwards it fell to a succession of feuding Angevin claimants. William's daughter, Margaret, contested the Principality for a while yet, but ultimately failed in reestablishing the dynasty.

In this period, the Principality was wracked by disputes between competing Angevin princes and even a brief invasion by Catalan mercenaries who had broken away from the hire of the Byzantine Emperor. By the end of the 14th Century, though, the Principality was safely under the suzerainty of the King of Naples. In this period, Pedro de San Superano, a noble from Navarra, took the principality, and campaigned with some successes against Athens and Thessaly. He died in 1402, leaving his infant son in a regency under his Genoese wife, Maria Zaccaria. The regency, however, was undermined by the regent's ambitious nephew, Centurione Zaccaria, who coerced his aunt into ceding the regency to him. With the approval of Ladislao Durazzo of Naples, Centurione II became the Prince of Achaea, rising to power in a perennially unstable fiefdom, surrounded by enemies and opportunists on all sides.

And so our story proper can begin...
 

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>EU4
>No Achaea


Bah.

I haven't finished my Michoacán AAR yet, but I've wanted to do this for a very long time. There aren't enough Achaea AARs around, which is such a pity. Content coming tomorrow.
 
II. - Our Prince

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Our Prince

The current Prince is Centurione II Zaccaria. Though the first of his name to rule the country, his ancestors, including Centurione I, have ruled the Barony of Arkadia within the Principality for many years. The Prince was born in Genoa in the 1270s, and recently maneuvered his way into the regency by force of personality and military support, at his aunt's expense. Centurione is an ambitious man, dedicated to his subjects and to his Catholic faith.

The highest levels of government, including the office of Prince, are held by Lombards from Genoa, Venice, and elsewhere in northern Italy. Much of the nobility is still made up of Frenchmen, whose ancestors have held ancestral lands in the Principality since the Fourth Crusade. In many cases, the Italians and Franks don't live in Achaea itself, holding their ancestral fiefs in absentia. Below the Catholic ruling class, the vast majority of the population are Orthodox Greeks, with a minority of Slavs and Aromanians scattered around the area in small tribes and families as well.
 
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Aside - Italian Ambition

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Our Lombard dominant culture also means that this option is available to us in the long-term, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
 
III. - Gaining One's Balance

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Gaining One's Balance
Andreville*, Principality of Achaea, 15 January 1404




Centurione II Zaccaria, Prince of Achaea, was in a very precarious position.

In the eyes of many in his new realm, he was a usurper; in the eyes of most of the rest, he was a heathen and an occupier of lands which should have answered to Constantinople.

It is into this state, grudgingly accepted by most but loved by none, that he was confirmed into his role by the King of Naples. These thoughts he ruminated upon in the governor's palace in Andreville, the capital of his tiny realm. He was nothing if not ambitious - his principality may have been but a speck on the map, threatened by destruction on all sides, but he would see to it that it rose above its humble prospects, or be damned trying.

Recently, he had sent out diplomatic feelers to the Prince of Wallachia and the Duke of Athens, forging dynastic ties with both to help shore up his legitimacy at home. Both had responded positively; in particular, close ties with Athens would benefit the Principality in the short term. His overtures to the Doge of Venice had also borne fruit, and in return for promises of support for the Venetian holdings in Greece, the Republic would aid Achaea against its enemies.


His attempts to court the Kingdom of Serbia were less successful. Serbia had fallen on poor fortunes since it's height under the great Stefan Drusan, but was still a going force in the Balkans. However, the Kingdom found little use in allying with tiny Achaea, preferring instead to attempt to capitalize on the ongoing civil war in the Ottoman Empire.


Despite this particular waste of diplomatic efforts, Centurione had still succeeded beyond his best hopes in winning friends and allies for the Principality. Satisfied with his work, he departed the city for his residence at Clairmont. There was work yet to be done.


Clairmont.

*Andravida, in Greek. It was the first capital of the Principality, until the reign of William II, but the capital moved to Mystras afterwards. Mystras was conquered by the Nicaeans in 1260, whereafter I can find no reference to the capital of Achaea. The game says it is Mystras, but this city was still Byzantine in 1404. Andreville seems like a reasonable bet.
 
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IV. - On Review

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On Review
Clairmont, 28 January 1404





Centurione Zaccaria scanned the rows of burnished armor and pikes as they flashed in the mid-day sun. Captains shouted orders in French, the Latin and Greek soldiers alike obeying the commands, turning, about-facing, presenting arms. The Prince observed the proceedings from his balcony, the courtyard brimming with two-thousand soldiers, the largest force the Principality had ever assembled. Centurione turned away, stepping inside to come face-to-face with their commander.

Apostolos Asan cut an imposing figure. The Prince was a tall man for his day, but even he was dwarfed by the Greek. He had come under sharp criticism for giving the Principality's highest military command to a non-Latin, but the Asans were Catholic converts, and Apostolos was immensely popular with the Greek subjects. Refusing him command for his nationality and possibly schismatic leanings could spell a disastrous revolt, one in which the talented Asan would fall within the rebel camp.

"You've shown skill before, Asan," he said in French. "I hope you know that I am making a considerable risk by appointing you."

"I will not disappoint you, your highness," Apostolos assured, his French accented but fluent.

"Be it as you say. You've reviewed my considerations of plans for the coming campaign season?"

"I have, my lord, and they appear strategically sound. Do you feel it wise to provoke the Emperor of Constantinople like so?" The Greek wisely avoided referring to his people's greatest monarch as 'Emperor of the Romans'.

"I have it on authority from sources in the Venetian quarter of Clarentia that Manuel Palaiologos and his men are arrayed against the beylik of Smyrna*. If they wish to meet us in combat, they will need to abandon their siege to cross the Aegean."

"And the Duke of Athens will not allow them to cross his domain from Thessaly... Yes, this operation should succeed, God willing."

"God willing," Centurione affirmed with a nod, as the troops outside practiced their battle cries.


*That is, the Saruhanoglu Turks.
 
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V. - Wedding Plans

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Wedding Plans
Clairmont, 6 April 1404





The warm months of spring had come to Clairmont, and a grand new army had come to Greece.

Ladislao Durazzo, the King of Naples, had arrived in Epirus at the head of 3,000 soldiers, seeking to enforce his claim upon the Despotate. The Durazzos were flexing their muscles in Greece again, and in the interest of maintaining favorable relations with his nominal overlord, Centurione II Zaccaria was reconsidering his diplomatic strategy.

The arrangements had gone through the previous month - the Prince's daughter was to be betrothed.

The precocious 11-year-old had been a constant source of joy to Centurione and his wife, Creusa Tocco, and though they were sorry to see her go, both agreed it was for the good of the Principality, and that she would be in safe hands in Naples. The 6th of April was to be the last day Maria would spend at her home at Clairmont, and the parents spent it doting upon her. Now, however, it was nearing evening, and the time had almost come to say goodbye.

"Don't tug on your dress like that, Maria," Creusa reprimanded her softly as the family stood together by the gates of the castle.

Reluctantly, the girl obeyed, clasping her hands together nervously behind her back instead. "I'm scared..."

Centurione shared a glance with his wife briefly, before kneeling down, placing a hand on Maria's shoulder. "The King of Sicily* is a mighty ruler, child, and his son is your age. You will be safe and happy, so there is no need to fear."

She didn't seem convinced, so he sighed and continued. "Take my love with you, my daughter, and know that Our Lord in Heaven watches over you, wherever you go."

At this she nodded, wrapping her little arms around him in a hug, sniffling quietly.

The father and daughter separated as there came the sound of hooves moving up the path. Centurione rose to his feet, looking to where a small party on horseback bearing the crest of the King of Naples awaited. Maria hesitated for a moment longer, before taking shy steps toward the Neapolitans, a soldier helping her up onto the back of his horse with a nod. The head of the party gave a bow, and turned to depart for the ship waiting just off the coast.

They eventually disappeared from view, the setting sun glinting off of the Ionian Sea as Maria left Clairmont for the last time.


*When the Kingdom of Sicily was divided upon the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, the island of Sicily itself became the Kingdom of Trinacria. The Mezzogiorno remained the 'Kingdom of Sicily', and the term 'Kingdom of Naples' is not contemporaneous.
 
VI. - A Morean Vacation

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A Morean Vacation
At the frontier of the Byzantine Empire, 6 July 1404


A clear, warm summer's night enveloped the Greek-held border fortress of Argyrokastro. The castle had been built two centuries earlier by the Princes of Achaea, and was overrun with the restoration of the Empire between 1259 and 1261. Now the garrison kept a lonely watch through the night, receiving no aid in their task from the new moon overhead.

On the fortress' north wall, a watchman patrolled boredly, waiting for the midnight watch to begin so that he could catch some well-earned sleep.

A faint noise somewhere outside distracted him from his reverie. He stopped and turned, trying to use the feeble light of his torch to shed light on the outside of the walls. "Poios tha páei ekeí?[1]" Scarcely visible in the faint light cast by the torch, the watchman saw human forms in the darkness. "Synagermó! Simánoume syn--[2]"

He trailed off with a 'hurk', grasping at the arrow buried in his neck, and fell. By the time the call to arms had rung through the fort, a hundred Achaean soldiers had fallen upon the castle, seizing it after a short battle. The invasion of the Byzantine Morea had begun.



[1] - "Who goes there?"
[2] - "The alarm! Sound the alarm!" [cut off]




That's all for today. Thoughts? Comments?
 

GreatUberGeek

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Looks really cool. So you're using the 1404 start date?
 

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Yep! 1405 would have done the job just fine as well, but I thought having one more year with which to work couldn't hurt things. I intentionally chose the point when the Ottomans were at their weakest so that other states around them could start picking them apart and bring all my neighbors down to a manageable size.
 
VII. - The First Victory

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The First Victory
Mystras, 22 March 1405

Smoke rose from the proud acropolis of Mystras, heretofore the capital of the Byzantine Morea. The walls were scaled or smashed, the palatial complex in varying states of disarray or destruction, and the remaining people of the city cowered in their homes.

Atop the palace on the hill, a trio of Latins hoisted a banner into the wind: a modified Cross of Jerusalem cast in gold, on a field of red.

 
VIII. - A Meeting in Athens

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A Meeting in Athens
Athens, 23 August 1405

A glorious, late summer's morning bathed the ancient city of Athens in its light. All around, the city was filled with the tones of the Greek language as its citizens began the tasks of the day in its markets and craftsmen's halls. High over the city, the Acropolis, the administrative center of the city, bustled with activity. High atop the rest rose the Latin-built tower which the locals called "Frankopyrgos", and the church of the Virgin Mary, once the Parthenon. The palace and its complex adjoined to the ancient Greek buildings via the Propylaea, and it was here that Centurione II Zaccaria had come to meet with Antonio I Acciaioli, the Duke of Athens.



Antonio I Acciaioli and the coat of arms of the Duchy during his family's rule.

The Duchy was nominally subservient to the Principality, but Centurione found it prudent not to make mention of this during his discussion with the Duke. He had been somewhat excited with the prospect of speaking Italian with a fellow monarch, but he and Antonio soon found their Ligurian and Tuscan dialects more or less mutually unintelligible, and had switched to the safer medium of French instead.

He and his Greek wife, Maria Melissene, had hosted an elaborate dinner for the visiting Prince the previous night, and upon a night's rest, the two rulers decided to talk shop.

"This is truly a wondrous city," the Prince said appreciatively, admiring one of the ancient buildings outside as the pair walked down an open hall.

"We have put a lot of effort into restoring it to its Classical glory," the Duke said. "I've sought to make it a center of culture and chivalry to rival any in Christendom."

"It has recovered admirably from the late siege," Centurione remarked. Just a few years prior, the Republic of Venice had forced the Duchy into an interregnum after the duke Nerio. After some years of Venetian control, Nerio's son, Antonio, returned and besieged the capital, throwing the podestà of the city out, and was proclaimed duke by the people of the city.

"Not even those bastards could keep me from my birthright." A pause. "No offense to your allies intended, of course."

Centurione waved a hand. He didn't especially trust the Venetians himself - they were too unscrupulous and money-minded for his liking, but they were useful to the Principality in the short term. "I feel I should be frank, your grace..."

"Ah?" The Duke's eyes glinted in curiosity.

"Constantinople seems to be experiencing a reprieve in the past few years. Thessaly and much of Macedonia are under their control, and beyond their own borders, the heathen Turks are waiting for any chance to invade the Christian lands. Your own realm was threatened by the bey of Mentese this past winter, was it not?"


"That it was. But, God be praised, the Zorzis in Bodonitsa held them off near Thermopylae. They never menaced our city directly."

"It's a dark day when the Turk can threaten even the heart of Greece," Centurione said with a grimace.

"So it is, so it is..." Antonio stopped in place, turning to regard the Prince with a peculiar flame burning in his eyes. "Can I trust in you to do a Christian's duty in fighting the Mohammedans?"

"Of course," Centurione answered, practically scandalized. What manner of Christian monarch would he be if he said no?

Antonio regarded the Prince's answer with intense scrutiny for a moment longer, before a grin split his face. "I believe that we have an accord."

 
IX. - Of Knights and Naples

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Of Knights and Naples
Clairmont, 23 March 1406





"So the King in Naples truly is flexing his muscles in the region," Apostolos Asan said worriedly. "Should we take precautions in the northern frontier, your highness? Their Epirote holdings aren't so far from our hinterlands."

"What's the need?" Centurione wondered. "Our royal cousin has only ever been helpful toward the Principality."

"I think you might be misreading his diplomatic motives, my lord..."

Centurione scowled, turning to the Greek general. "And I think you should mind your place, marshall. Now, head back to Andreville. Our army's drills will soon be overdue."

There was an uncomfortable pause before Asan bowed stiffly, departing and leaving the Prince to his ruminations.
 
X. - A Bitter Victory

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A Bitter Victory
Smyrna, 9 September 1406





Smoke rose from the city at the mouth of the Hermos*, forces of the Emperor in Constantinople marching through the ruined gates. The siege of predominantly Greek Smyrna had taken over two grueling years, long enough that any relief the Christian populace may have had at their liberation from Turkish rule had been smothered by the starvation and disease in the city.

The long and costly destruction of the Saruhanoglu had drained the Empire's treasury and cost it the Morea to the Latins of Achaea. It should have been a glorious victory for an empire kicked out of Asia almost fifty years prior, but nonetheless, Manuel Palaiologos is not said to have left his quarters at Blachernae for five days afterwards.


*The Gediz River.
 
XI. - The Eagle's Clipped Wings

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The Eagle's Clipped Wings
Belgrade, 19 June 1407



No eagle-emblazoned banners flapped proudly over the capital of the Kingdom of Serbia, and no proud cries rose from the throats of its people. There were only the wails of widows, husbands and sons slain by the Turks. Even an Ottoman Empire chained down by a fierce civil war had not been prostrated enough for the once-mighty Serbs to vanquish. The loss had been unexpected and humiliating, the Kingdom's paltry cash reserves emptied by the victors. Serbia's territorial integrity had not been compromised, but the sting of defeat lingered all the same.

To their neighbors, this just confirmed what they already knew; that the age of Serbian power in the Balkans was at its end, and the Turks would continue their ascent as they emerged from their civil war. Mehmed I eyed the jewel on the Bosporus hungrily.

For the Republic of Venice, however, this series of events set off some alarm bells which would reach the ears of even distant Achaea in two weeks' time...
 
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XII. - Lion's Roar

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Lion's Roar
Durazzo, 2 July 1407

 
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GreatUberGeek

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Ooo...this will be interesting either way. I would accept. This may be your only chance to knock them down.
 
XIII. - The Boys March Off to War

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The Boys March Off to War
Clairmont, 20 August 1407

As levies of men went up throughout the twelve baronies of Achaia and armies moved north through Athenian and Neapolitan lands, the Zaccaria celebrated a new addition to the family: a healthy baby boy, named Andrea, was born on the 20th of August. The baby's arrival filled some of the void that Maria's departure had left a couple years before, and though letters still passed between Clairmont and Naples every so often, the Prince was overjoyed to have a child about the palace again.