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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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CSL_GG

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Prologue - Part I

001.jpg


The Fourth Crusade

In 1198, Pope Innocent III called for a Fourth Crusade in the wake of the Third Crusade's failure. Jerusalem, the holiest and most important city to the Christian faith was still in the hands of nonbelievers. Innocent III however could not have picked a worse time to begin his new crusade – Germany was in the process of degrading into a lengthy civil war over who would rule the Holy Roman Empire, and further west England and France had been brought into conflict. Inspired and religious leaders such as Frederick Barbarossa, and Richard the Lionhearted were at the time lacking. Without the power of the great monarchs and the money and men they would bring with them, the Fourth Crusade was from the beginning doomed to failure. This however was not to stop the most pious of aristocracy in France from attempting to organize a grand Crusade – the leader of this ill-fated expedition was Count Theobald III of Champagne. Taking control of the Crusade, he and his growing cohort traveling south through France, amassing a significant amount of troops (perhaps as many as four to five thousand, though some sources – notably Geoffrey of Villehardouin – quote the figure far higher).

On the way south from Ecry where the Crusade was proclaimed by Theobald, the two influential leaders of the Fourth Crusade were to almost come to arms over the selection of what city could better provide ships and supplies to the holy land. Theobald himself was keen to march to Genoa and petition the city commune to build them a fleet and supply them food and supplies for a one year expedition to the Holy Land. In terms of numbers, Theobald himself was conservative in his estimates, and Geoffrey claims that he stated the need for enough space for fifteen thousand men and horse. The other influential man holding sway over the Crusade was Boniface of Montferrat, an Italian by birth. While Theobald was keen to embark in Genoa, the Marquess of Montferrat claimed that Venice would be a far better place to embark – owing both to the fact that the traveling time to the Holy Land would be cut by several weeks and that the Doge of Venice was apparently quite keen to help the Crusaders. Both Theobald and Boniface however were unwilling to compromise. When informed of Theobald's decision to inquire with Genoa over the cost of mounting the expedition in early 1200, the last straw had been had by Boniface. Early the next day, he and his small host of no more then twenty men-at-arms, rode out of the Crusader encampment towards Venice in the hopes of assembling an Italian led force.

002.jpg

Pope Innocent III, the architect of the failed Fourth Crusade

Theobald now without the problems that the Italian brought with him, continued south to Genoa where his force of men (now over twelve thousand), awaited the construction of his fleet and the deliverance of his supplies. While waiting in Genoa, he was greeted with a Papal envoy sent by Innocent III himself. The envoy was to deliver the message instructing Theobald to sail at once not towards Palestine and Jerusalem – but instead to Egypt. Egypt, Innocent realized was the power base of the Ayyubid dynasty was and until the Ayyubid menace was subdued, a new Kingdom of Jerusalem could not be successfully put into place. Egypt at the time was ruled by the younger brother of Saladin - Abu-Bakr Malik Al-Adil I – who was known to the Crusaders only as Saphadin. Innocent was to underestimate Saphadin however when instructing Theobald and his force to land in Egypt, like his older brother, Saphadin was both a gifted military strategist and administrator. While the Crusader force could come up with as many as fifteen thousand men-at-arms, archers and knights in the end, they were to land in the most powerful and well established Arab state.

Both Theobald and Innocent III however were unaware of the dangers that awaited the Crusaders when the expedition finally left Genoa in early 1202. In only a few weeks the Crusaders were to land only a few miles from Alexandria and in full sight of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Their approach and landing near Alexandria had been warned of by several Venetian sailors who valued trade above religion. As a result Saphadin was awaiting the Crusader force with more then forty thousand men. Saphadin himself was to watch the relatively small Crusader force march towards the city from the Lighthouse before he emerged from the building ready to defeat the Fourth Crusade. The two forces met later that day just outside of the city – behind the Crusaders lay the desert and the ships that had brought them to Egypt, and in front of them lay Saphadin and his forty thousand men. All through the day the two forces met and though Theobald despite his disadvantage, was nearly able to break through the Ayyubid line, it was not to be.

003.jpg

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, from which the defeat of Theobald could be seen

News of the defeat and the death of the Fourth Crusade traveled swiftly and from the remaining Crusader states the information slipped back to Europe. In Constantinople, the Byzantine Emperor – Alexius III Angelus – was to learn of the defeat before the rest of Europe. The Crusades themselves, he would remind himself were the result of the Byzantine Empire and his predecessor – Alexius Comnenus – and yet even they had failed to push back the Arab hordes. What hope remained for Byzantium, how without western help could the Empire fight off the heretical followers of the Prophet Mohammed? Unknown to him, and perhaps the rest of the world, it was to be Byzantium which was to push back the Arab horde. Yet that was in the future, the defeat at Manzikert was still sour at the lips of the Emperor and Alexius III was lethargic to the problems which faced the Empire. Indeed, his lavishing of gifts and bribes had drained the state of nearly all its money, leaving what remained under Byzantine hands under little protection. These problems were as we will see, reversed, but they were to occur under a different Emperor.

A man the equal of Justinian and Constantine was fast approaching and with him would come the salvation of the Byzantine Empire. A phoenix was rising.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Historical Notes / Historical Fleshing

1. In a cruel note of irony, Boniface was to arrive in Venice in late 1200 with a force of several thousand Crusaders from northern Italy. Petitioning with Doge Dandolo they were to agree to transport for forty thousand men – a sum which was to never be achieved. Unable to pay the Doge they agreed to capture the Dalmatian city of Zara for Venice in exchange for their debts – an effort that earned Boniface only his death.

2. Theobald historically died in 1200, but for the sake of this history, he's doesn't kick the bucket so early on

3. After the defeat of his force Theobald is captured by Saphadin and later on ransomed off to the remaining Crusader states. I'm of the opinion that around 1203 or so, Theobald would have only been around thirty years old at the most since his son - Theobald IV was only born in 1201. Perhaps he will reemerge in our story later on.
 

CSL_GG

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Prologue – Part II

004.jpg

A view from inside the Hagia Sophia

Rule of the Comnenid

At the time of the Fourth Crusade, the Byzantine Empire had been in existence for nearly 875 years. During that time, the Emperors of the Byzantine Empire could attest to the fact that they had been the bulwark which stood against the Huns, Bulgars, Arabs and other forces which had sought to bring to an end the era of the Rhomaioi and the Hellenes. However by the start of the thirteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was in the state of full collapse. Arguably the start of this internal collapse was the devastating loss to the Seljuk Turks during the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Stripped soon after of her most important provinces in Anatolia, the Empire was to lose its most important resource – manpower – which without, the Empire could not hope to reconquer the lands it had lost to the Turkish invaders. Though in the battle itself the Byzantine army had lost little in the way of men, it rapidly was rendered incapable of combating the Turks as Andronicus Ducas raised the standard of revolt as he returned to Constantinople. Romanus IV, who had presided over the military disaster was soon after deposed and put to death after a particularly clumsy and brutal blinding. Only when the Comnenid family was restored to the Imperial throne was the Byzantine Empire able to take stock of its losses.

005.jpg

Alexius I Comnenus

Alexius I Comnenus, seeing the state of the Empire was to take the bold step of calling to the Pope for help which was to unleash the First Crusade. While this Crusade regained much of Anatolia for the Byzantines on the short term, it was not to last. Moreover, the First Crusade was to leave relations with Byzantines and the west strained – Alexius found the Crusaders to be unfaithful and hostile to him, while the Crusaders viewed the Emperor as scheming and unwilling to help them. Despite these differences, Alexius and his son – John II, were to leave the Empire in far better shape then it had been before their reigns began. John II, having died in 1143, left the Empire to his fourth son – Manuel I. Like his father and grandfather before him, Manuel was to be an accomplished diplomat and statesmen, moreover he was to personally lead the armies of the Empire on an ill-fated expedition to Italy. Encouraged by early forays into Apulia, he launched into a full scale invasion of southern Italy which wasted whatever resources Manuel could have used in an attempt to further extract the Turks from central Anatolia. Back in the Balkans however, Manuel was to have further luck in regards to campaigning. Firstly, during the first few years of the 1150's, he was able to reduce Serbia to a de facto Byzantine vassal. Emboldening by this success, Manuel continued his drives northward into Hungary in an attempt to annex Hungarian lands near the river Sava, and despite the largely indecisive results of his two campaigns over fifteen years, he was able to annex parts of the Dalmatian coastline.

These numerous campaigns however, far from allowing a grand restoration of Byzantine fortunes, only brought on the rapid collapse which was to occur in the following decades. While a competent general, and even more so in regards to diplomatic tact, Manuel made several critical mistakes – the worst of which was his seemingly random attacks on neighbors which sacrificed men, material and gold at an alarming rate. The Imperial treasury which had been rejuvenated by his two predecessors was rapidly diminished during the wars he was to start during his reign. More incredibly however was his seemingly nonchalant attitude towards the Seljuk Turks which presented the only large and looming threat against the Empire. Due to this inept handling of the situation confronting the Byzantine Empire, after the death of Manuel his successors could not look to any of their neighbors to lend them aid against the growing Turkish threat, even the Papacy was hostile to the Empire as shown when Alexius II Comnenus sent an envoy to Pope Lucius III and was rejected out of hand.

006.jpg

The Byzantine Empire after the death of Manuel I

Yet for all his faults Manuel could not be said to have worked against his Empire. Upon his death the Comnenid dynasty was quick to disintegrate, first under Alexius II who was strangled by a bow string – and finally under Andronicus I. Andronicus however, was unlike Alexius, a capable administrator and general and for all rights if he had ruled instead of Manuel, the Empire would have been in far better shape during the closing decades of the twelfth century – yet by the time of his donning of the purple he was already aged and his steps to quash feudalism in the Empire gave him only his death.

And so with Andronicus went the Comnenids – despite all their faults, one could say that the dynasty had left the nation far stronger then it had been when Alexius I assumed the purple in Constantinople. The Empire which had been at the very brink of destruction after the savage blows at Manzikert had been given new legs – but even when Andronicus lived, his successor was donning the purple – the reign of the Angelid dynasty had begun.

Byzantium still had far to fall before she would rise again.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Historical Notes / Historical Fleshing / Post Notes

1. This was more of a historical post, as there is no real alternate history going on here, but it sets up my next update well I think. Next update of course will focus on the Angelid dynasty which as we all know really sucked in regards to keeping it together. The one thing I think I made up was Alexius II sending an envoy to Pope Lucius III.

2. You may have noticed that i've got an image at the beginning of every post. I'm going to be making that a regular thing - focusing on monuments within Constaninople constructed by the Byzantines. This would be my first one then, and i've got the Hagia Sophia.
 

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As much as I hate to see Mundus Exardesco diminished, this AAR is just as well researched and well writted.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one :)
 

SeanB

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Very well done AAR, very good history - thank God you didn't use eagle in your title, we already have like five floating around. :p
 

unmerged(17693)

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How long is this prologue gonna take? :D
 

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markiep said:
How long is this prologue gonna take? :D

Not as long as the other one :p

My next post will take care of the Angelid dynasty and I plan to do a dynasty a post until we get to 1400 or so.
 

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Prologue – Part III

007.jpg

The Column of Phocas

The Angelid Dynasty - Part I

Isaac II

”Of that Byzantine Empire the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed . . . There has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all the forms and elements of greatness . . . Its vices were the vices of men who had ceased to be brave without learning to be virtuous . . . Slaves, and willing slaves, in both their actions and their thoughts, immersed in sensuality and in the most frivolous pleasures, the people only emerged from their listlessness when some theological subtlety, or some chivalry in the chariot races, stimulated them to frantic riots . . . The history of the Empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude, of perpetual fratricides.”

– W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals

While the above mentioned quote by Lecky was intended to sally the reputation of all of Byzantine history, one cannot however gloss over his paragraph when looking at the Empires most ”base and despicable” period of imperial governance – the Angelid dynasty. Though they were to rule for less then twenty years the three Angelid rulers of the Byzantine Empire laid the once mighty nation to its very lowest ebb, and of the three rulers which were to don the purple during the reign of the Angelid – Isaac II, Alexius III, and Alexius IV – perhaps only the usurping Phocus (602 – 610) would hold more scorn by the citizens of the Empire and historians since. The reasons for the three Angelid's spectacular series of failures during their reigns, were those reasons why many Empires collapse – bribery, scandal, ineptitude, civil war, and vicious excess.

An observer during the last year of Andronicus I Comnenus however, would be excused for believing that of all the noble families in the Empire, the Angelid's were far from the most obvious successors to the Comnenid dynasty. Only a few decades early the very name Angelid would have been confided close to the Lydian city of Philadelphia, where the family was but a small portion of the aristocracy. This all changed however when a daughter of Alexius I was to marry Constantine Angelus decades before Isaac II rose to take the purple. Henceforth the rise of the small noble family from Philadelphia was swift and during the tumultuous last weeks of Andronicus's reign, the future Isaac II became the focal point of the aristocratic resistance against the last Comnenid ruler. So far was this focus, that several men loyal to Andronicus were to attempt to murder Isaac – only to fail. Soon after, Andronicus was dead at the hands his aristocratic enemies, but only after being subjected to several days of cruel tortures which ending in his gutting by an Italian soldier.

008.jpg

In Sicily, Southern Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Normans were to be a large threat to the Empire

The new reign of Isaac II was initially met with strong approval by both the now entrenched aristocracy and the public at large. Quickly after his reign began he made the strategically wise decision to wed himself to the daughter of Hungarian King Béla III. This was to prove significant for two reasons, firstly it secured the northern border of the Byzantine Empire, as Hungary was one of the largest powers in the Balkans and moreover had been previously antagonized during the reign of Manuel Comnenus. Secondly, it enabled Isaac to strip most of his northern border of large garrisons in attempts to force back the Normans in Sicily. Such a victory was quickly taken, however after the defeat of the Normans, it seemed as though all positive aspects of Isaac's reign had been already exhausted. Had Isaac died then and there his brief appearance on the Imperial stage would have been viewed as an apparently successful reign – however unfortunately for all, his reign was to continue on for several more years.

Soon after the end of the campaigning in Sicily came the first signs of widespread disillusionment with Isaac II. In 1186, seeking to both fund further military ventures against the Normans and Bulgarians, a series of heavy taxation measures were instituted throughout the Empire which were to antagonize the significant Bulgarian and Vlach populations within the Byzantine Balkans. One possible reason for which Isaac would have needed to raise taxes was the fact that the Imperial treasury was by now all but bare – due mostly to his practice of bribing potential opponents in a most obscene manner. Initially Isaac had been able to balance these bribes out by selling public offices, however he was to hand these out at a startling rate, so much so that John Julius Norwich was to state that he ”sold government offices like vegetables in a market.” While Andronicus Comnenus was to try his best to stamp out corruption, it could be seen that the man who followed him had no such ambitions. As a result of this fire sale of public offices, it could leave nobody surprised when heavy taxation was imposed in 1186. Even more so then the revolts by Bulgarian and Vlach settlers, the real threat at the time however lay with Serbian attempts towards independence. This task was rapidly accomplished by the Serbian Grand Zhupan – Stephen Nemanja and like Bulgaria before it, Serbia was independent in all but name.

009.jpg

Grand Zhupan Stephen Nemanja was to gain Serbian independence

The disillusionment which had rapidly filtered throughout the Serbian, Bulgarian and Vlach communities within the Empire were to by 1189, turn into open civil war by prominent members of the Byzantine nobility. By now the corruption and idiocy of Isaac II had become too much for them and the standard of revolt was raised throughout several parts of the Empire, ranging from the Balkans, to the Peloponnesus, and as far afield as Cappadocia. The lack of coordination between these revolts however doomed them from failure as soon as they started and one by one Isaac turned to destroy each of them. For a time Isaac continued to seem safe upon his throne in Constantinople until in 1195, his elder brother - Aleksios Angelos – donned the purple while Isaac was away on a hunting expedition. The army, sick of the corruption prevalent throughout Byzantine society at the time (and probably having not been paid for a fair amount of time), lending its aid to the new Emperor – known from then on as Alexius III.

The fate of Isaac II during all of these was the very definition of irony. Alexius III, seeing no reason to spare the life of his younger brother by sending him to exile in a monastery – ordered his soldiers to string Isaac upside down from the same pillars Andronicus Comnenus had hung from nearly ten years previously. Over the next four days, Isaac was to undergo the most heinous of tortures at the hands of his enemies and the general populace of the city. Hours into this torture his brother, now the Emperor visited his brother and as Isaac pleaded with him to spare his life, his brother cut out both of his eyes. Now blinded he continued to live on until the fourth day when the torture was ended as a knife was lodged into his jugular.

010.jpg

An early coined minted during the reign of Alexius III, many would be made to cover the lavish spending under his reign

Alexius III had arrived and his start had been far from glorious. Many within closed circles murmured about the ill-fortune by which their new Emperor was bound to come across after killing his own brother. Talk was so loud indeed, that to even retain his crown past the first month after his brothers death, he had been forced to pass out what remained in the Imperial treasury as if it were candy. While Isaac II had been a disaster for the Empire, it seemed as though Alexius III was about to outdo him.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Historical Notes / Historical Fleshing / Post Notes

1. It occurs to me I never really mentioned the last two Comnenid Emperors too much, and while I got to Andronicus and explained why he got his ass kicked, I didn't speak a word about Alexius II (1180 - 1183). Sufficied to say he followed after Manuel I and apparently according to wikipedia his reign consisted of a civil war in Constantinople itself between himself and his party against Maria (the wife of the late Manuel). Open riots in the streets and such. I'll consult my copy of Byzantium: The Decline and Fall by John Julius Norwich about it.

2. The Column of Phocas as we all see is the opening image of this update, but why it? Well if you've ever read up about the Emperors of Byzantium you'd know that Phocas was before the Angelid dynasty, probably the worst Emperor. He came to the throne via a coup against Maurice I (which was the first violent one in the city of Constantinople). The Column itself was the last one set up in the Roman Forum and as such isn't in Constantinople/Istanbul but as it was part of Byzantine territory at the time, I went and used that. Phocas was pretty bad in regards to his reign because he basically killed everyone he thought was after him and the throne and he was only dethroned by Heraclius. Heraclius himself was quoted saying this when Phocas was brought before him....

"Is this how you have ruled, wretch?", Phocas of course punted the question back with...

"And will you rule better?"

Sufficied to say, Heracluis was pissed and killed Phocas himself and cut off his head.

3. You may not that I don't have any images of either Isaac II, or Alexius III. I just couldn't find any with a small series of searches on Google.

4. Isaac II didn't die like that. No he was alive until 1204 and lasted well into the Fourth Crusade. He was deposed by his brother in 1195 but he was only blinded, but I felt like killed him off real good. :p
 
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CSL_GG

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Prologue – Part IV

011.jpg

The Walls of Theodosius

The Angelid Dynasty – Part II

Alexius III

With the overthrow and regicide of Isaac II by his elder brother, the first ruler of the Angelid Dynasty had come and gone and in his place came a man far less suited to the task. While the man who had ruled before him had at least attempted to refill the treasury after his excesses, the new and far less competent Emperor did no such thing. As Alexius III viewed it, the attempts by Isaac II to raise new funds via taxes had led only to the widespread dissatisfaction of citizens in the Balkans – mainly the Serbs, Bulgars, and Vlach communities. The long standing result of the revolts in 1186 was to be the independence of Serbia and the increasingly restless Bulgar and Vlach communities. While what remained within the treasury upon the death of Isaac was able to keep Alexius afloat for almost a year, the lavish gifts he required to bribe what men he needed to rapidly forced Alexius to at least consider the idea of raising a new taxation effort.

012.jpg

Unwilling to order new taxes, Alexius III instead took to minting coins which rapidly debased their worth

More stunning problems however were ripe for the Empire however then the complete depletion of the treasury. Upon his rise to the Imperial throne and the deposing of his younger brother, Alexius III had strove to either bribe or eliminate whatever opponents were seen to his reign. One of the first such potential rivals he saw was the young wife of Isaac II – Maria and though the relationship was broken soon after the birth of her first son, she was still a potential problem. Within a week of overthrowing his brother, Alexius had begun to hear rumors that several ranking members of the aristocracy – including at least one member of the Comnenid family – had begun to plan the overthrow of himself in an effort to place one of Isaac's two sons. Maria it was thought was one of the major participants in this conspiracy and she was hastily arrested, along with her son, the future Alexius IV. Maria though she denied any involvement in plans to overthrow the new Emperor, was quickly put into a regime of particularly brutal torture – however her son was far more lucky, only having to suffer the horrors of an isolated prison cell.

Isaac however had a second son from his first marriage, known to us only in the third person as Manuel during his early years. Unlike the rest of his family it seemed as though Manuel had indeed been given administrative and military gifts far above those of the rest of his family. If sources are correct by his twenty-fifth year, he had been given the command of several military garrisons in eastern Anatolia – most likely in what remained of Byzantine Cappadocia – and granted the title of Strategos. So well was his performance in this area against Seljuk raiders that he was oft mentioned in the same tone as Basil I “the Bulgar Slayer”. With the death of his father by Alexius III, he came immediately under suspicion and Alexius immediately ordered him to return to Constantinople to take up control of the Varangian Guard. He was further lured on my the promise of a promotion to the title of Protospatharios. Such an offer following the murder of his father undoubtedly was suspicious in the extreme to Manuel, for it was public knowledge that the new Emperor distrusted the apparently gifted Strategos. It was certain that if he returned to Constantinople other then at the head of his own army, he would be quickly silenced – either killed or thrown in the same dungeon as his half-brother.

013.jpg

The Varangian Guard, composed mostly of Scandinavians it was the elite Imperial Guard

The choice itself was simple – Manuel would raise the standard of revolt. His Cappadocian soldiers were only too happy to oblige. In the year since the new Emperor had taken the purple, no pay had been received from the Imperial treasury and only through his personal savings could Manuel hope to keep them from disbanding. As a result it took no great oratory skills to convince his men to follow him in disposing of his uncle and Manuel promised only a few elementary things – ”food, regular pay, and women”. In early 1197 the men under his command, perhaps as many as three thousand, marched away from Cappadocia and towards the great Imperial capital. Alexius back in Constantinople had expected no less and had arranged his own army of twenty thousand men within the city, from where they crossed the Bosporus in late May. The two forces were to meet outside of Nicaea as the first winds of fall began to blow through Anatolia.

Manuel, who had initially started with only around three thousand men had boosted this figure by as much as three times on the way through what remained of Byzantine Anatolia. The majority of these soldiers were dissatisfied men who being promised back pay and potential plunder eagerly abandoned the Emperor they had only recently pledged to obey. These turncoats however could not have supplied Manuel with all of the men he was to field in front of Nicaea in 1197 and it is clear that at least one fourth of his force was composed of Turkish mercenaries. Opposing him was Alexius III and fearing for his rule he had rejected all calls for a more experienced Strategos to lead the army in his stead – it was a fatal mistake. Though he had more then double the men which his opponent had, they were of a much lower quality and perhaps as many as one half of them were mercenaries from the Balkans – including a significant number of Pechanegs and Hungarians. More over, those troops were ultimately bound to break under the first blows they suffered, many of them, especially those troops from the Empire itself had come to detest Alexius and the fact that during the entirety of his reign most of them never saw a coin which they were due. In the battle itself it was this doubt which festered within his own troops that doomed Alexius III. It was a pitifully short affairs and much of it was bloodless, taking only an hour to commence and end.

The death of Alexius III was to be much quicker then the man he replaced, for within minutes of being taken to Manuel he was decapitated – allegedly by Manuel himself. As the new Emperor entered Constantinople a week later, the citizens could see, proudly displayed, the already decomposing head of Alexius III. His reign had lasted less then three years and in that short amount of time he finished what his brother started with the complete emptying of the Imperial treasury. The aristocracy which Andronicus had strove so hard to eliminate less then twenty years before, was now even more powerful then it had even been due to the excessive amount of bribery it had been a part of. More alarming however was the threat which loomed to the Empire which had by now been laid low by fiscal and other irresponsibilities.

014.jpg

King Emeric of Hungary

To the north of the Byzantine Empire was the now growing power of the Kingdom of Hungary. During the rule of both Isaac II and Alexius III, it had been ruled by King Béla III, and he had initially forged close ties with Isaac when he arranged to marry the daughter of Béla soon after his coronation. Soon however Isaac had cast aside the marriage and his daughter was finally killed by Alexius III soon after he took power. This of course did little to endear him towards the Empire and by the mid-point of Isaac's reign, Hungary was all but openly aiding the Serbs in their fight for independence. Béla himself was to die in 1196 on the eve of Manuel taking up the fight against his uncle, in his death came his son Emeric and during the crisis surrounding Manuel's march upon Constantinople, the Hungarian King turned his eye south towards the Byzantine Empire with an envious eye.

The Bulgar War was about to start and so was the reign of Manuel II Angelus.

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Historical Notes / Historical Fleshing / Post Notes

1. Well this is the first post when i've gotten into some real alternative history. Lets see, whats the biggest thing I fucked up....ah yes! The reign of Alexius III, I cut that a wee bit short as he lasted until 1203 in reality instead of 1197.

2. Manuel Angelus, if I am to believe John Julius Norwich (and I do), he was the son of Isaac II from his first marriage. I've really no clue who he was and what he did see as I'm pretty sure he won't have any real info on him so I basically made him into the guy who gets to off Alexius III.

3. Emeric and his father before him certainly did have aspirations in the Balkans regarding Byzantine territory. (Bela did help the Serbs) But Emeric didn't go to war with the Byzantines during his reign. (Which btw ends in 1204)
 
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Sir Humphrey

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Great stuff, riviting stuff. Excellent footnotes. :)
 

unmerged(17693)

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Excellent stuff! And these footnotes are interesting, keep it up!
 

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Prologue – Part V

015.jpg

The Obelisk of Hippadroma

The Angelid Dynasty – Part III

Manuel II

With the death of his uncle, Manuel II had avenged his fathers death and put an end to the reign of corruption which had become even too much for the aristocracy which had begun to wrap itself even tighter into Byzantine society. The scene that greeted the new Emperor however was entirely grim – the Empire was bankrupt and its defenses, particularly in the Balkans had been stripped by Alexius III in an attempt to keep his throne. Alerted to this fact and knowing that the new Hungarian King was obviously looking south with envious eyes, what men he could spare from the capital he sent north to secure the few border fortresses of value that remained in Byzantine hands. His forces however were by now on the very verge of large scale mutiny. The promises of pay and more importantly – loot – had so far not been kept, several regiments of foreign mercenaries were calling loudly for their pay at once and for the loot they were promised.

Key among these potential trouble makers which Manuel had brought with him from Central Anatolia, were the few hundred Turkish men-at-arms which had fought hard in the brief battle outside of Nicaea. Attempts by Manuel and his other commanders to parlay their rage by promising loot in the apparently upcoming campaigns in the Balkans did nothing to dissuade the Turks from their restlessness. Throughout the rest of 1197 the Turks and other ethnic mercenaries came close several times to open blows with Greek forces personally loyal to the new Emperor, but by the first week in 1198 the Turks had had enough. The commander of the Turkish mercenaries and his men were to march past the Forum of Constantine on their way to the Hagia Sophia. Stopped by men loyal to Manuel, the two forces came to arms and the smaller Greek detachment was quickly overrun. The Turks now running wildly managed to make it to the Hagia Sophia before Manuel or any others within the city could do anything to stop them. What they were after in the Church could be nothing other then the plunder they had been promised before the march to Nicaea had begun the year before, but it seemed suicidal to any observer to attempt any such action. John Camaterus – the sitting Patriarch of Constantinople at the time – was to attempt to bar the Turks from entering the Church, but his protests earned him only an agonizing death.

016.jpg

Seljuk Turk mercenaries would learn not to cross Manuel II

Manuel II quickly overcame the shock which the news was to give him and within an hour of the first sword being drawn, well over three thousand Byzantine soldiers were ready to assault the less then five hundred Turks which had remained in the city over the winter. The battle which followed could only be described as a massacre and no Turk escaped with his life on that day in January. As an example to all those who would dare take up the course of treachery, Manuel was to have all of the Turks hoisted only the Walls of Theodosius and impaled for all to see. Within the still significant mercenary formations in the city, all talk of lost pay and potential loot stopped overnight.

Following the Turkish revolt within the city, Manuel became convinced that it was once again time to raise taxes in an effort to if not refill the Imperial treasury – to at least make ends meet. Manuel himself had two goals in mind when he informed his General Logothetes, that new taxes were needed – key among these goals was the ability to pay his soldiers the wages they had been entitled too. Secondly, Manuel was of the opinion that several fortresses within the Empire were badly in need to repairs and further upkeep. In Constantinople itself, Manuel was much concerned about several sections of the city walls – particularly the sections bordering the Golden Horn. How much taxation that would be required to fund these efforts however remained open to argument. The General Logothetes, who was responsible for taxation, was heavily in favour of taking every coin he could from the citizens that was needed. Manuel II however had noted how fickle the public attitudes were having four Emperors in less then twenty years and decided that unnecessarily antagonizing them was a most risky venture. As a result Manuel cast his eyes towards the aristocracy which had benefited so much under the reigns of Isaac II and Alexius III, and except for a few of the more prominent families he began to confiscate as much gold, silver, and other valuables as he could.

017.jpg

Using what funds he could get, Manuel strove to improve the land walls

This sudden increase in fortunes for the Imperial treasury was only a stopgap however and by the end of 1198, all that Manuel had acquired from the aristocracy had been spent either paying his forces, or improving the defenses of the capital and several border fortresses. By now the Hungarian King had become increasingly restless on the northern border of the Empire as Manuel II seemed to be solidifying his gains. Soon enough Emeric thought he had waited long enough and he sent several emissaries south to Constantinople. The messages they carried were simple – the Empire was to begin to pay an annual tribute of one thousand pounds of gold, or else Emeric would invade with the full force of his Kingdom. Manuel II, much as his opponent believed he would, laughed at the proposed tribute and threw all of the Hungarians that arrived before him in the dungeons underneath the capital. Accordingly, in the Balkans, Emeric began his assault into what lands remained in Byzantine hands.

Throughout 1199, Emeric advanced through both Serbia and Bulgaria towards Thrace. Both of the aforementioned states lent their power to Emeric to avenge past feuds with the Byzantines. As the combined Hungarian-Serbian-Bulgarian army closed in on its first target – Adrianople – it presented a formidable obstacle for Manuel. Combined the three groups had mustered at least one hundred thousand troops, and seeing the hopelessness of resisting, the garrison within the city surrendered rather then fight and die. With the principle city on the way to Constantinople now in Hungarian hands, it was only a matter of time before the vast army could encamp itself outside of the city.

018.jpg

Though joined by Serbs and Bulgarians, the Hungarians would comprise most of Emeric's army

Where however was Manuel II when his army was needed outside of Adrianople? Manuel had believed that it would be suicide to expose his smaller army against the might of all three of his northern enemies and in order to strengthen his position in the capital he had put his twenty-thousand men to work strengthening the land walls, building siege engines, and bringing provisions into the city. As Manuel saw it, the Empire could afford to lose all of the Balkans for the short term – but it could not lose the capital which had endured since its founding by Constantine the Great. Accordingly when word reached him that Adrianople had fallen, observers noted that Manuel was as calm as if he had been informed that the weather had changed. Such a quote is significant that it shows the defining character of which Manuel II was composed – never it can be said, was he not a decisive leader in the time he spent wearing the purple, and never did he let events sweep him up.

As the Hungarian, Serbian, and Bulgarian forces approached the city, its Emperor and defenders were confindent that they would repulse the attackers and regain what they had lost in the Balkans. Manuel II looked towards the lands walls for salvation. Built during the reign of Theodosius nearly eight hundred years beforehand, they were perhaps the best build web of defenses ever constructed up to that point. Consisting of three interconnected sets of walls, they were a dominating feature that had made Constantinople unconquered by her enemies since they had been built. Work during the previous two years had enhanced them even further and every soldier and citizen in the city believed they were impregnable. Even more then the walls however, the soldiers who would defend them looked towards their Emperor for moral support – during his short reign, he had proved to be a gifted tactician and had brought them only victory. Yet fate was about to intervene even as King Emeric approached the city.

Healthy and vigorous one day, by the next Manuel II had contracted a particularly deadly case of the ”flux”, as the common citizens referred to it. Undoubtedly the real disease which afflicted him was a typhus, but what was clear at the time was that he was dead within two days of contracting it. With the most powerful force ever put against the Empire, the ship was now rudderless.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Historical Notes / Historical Fleshing / Post Notes

1. I was initially going to do this entry on Manuel II and his successor, however as one can see this entry got pretty big and I broke that idea up

2. As Mettermrck informs me, just about everything was called "the flux" back then, so I stuck to that. But I always like explaining it with a real disease - the short list was typhus and dysentry and the first won that battle.
 
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