volksmarschall

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Subbed.

Long live the Whigs!

Now presenting, what reviewers consider the greatest sleight of hand in the history of the world. The Whig Party and Whig Intellectuals: Honey I Stole your Freedom, or how Ignorance, Sophistry, Social Engineering, the Degeneration of Human Nature and the Tyranny of Capital, Industry, and Debt is Really "Progress" and "Liberty." :p

I think I have the future title of a comedic English to Britain to America AAR now. Credit goes to AvatarOfKhaine.™ :p ;)
 

Nikolai

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Ah, I am so happy to find this AAR so early! :) As a historian myself, I appriciate the well written story you make here, @volksmarschall ! :)

You say "Ottomans cane knocking down the walls in 1267..." a typo on the date?
I imagine he started the game before 1453, so that this is not alt history? :)
 

Tom D.

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I imagine he started the game before 1453, so that this is not alt history? :)
It's already changed to 1467 :). I'm also enjoying this beginning, never thought I really would as I most of the times don't really have the patience to read walls of text :p - that's why I really like the pictures and paintings in between!
 

Nikolai

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It's already changed to 1467 :). I'm also enjoying this beginning, never thought I really would as I most of the times don't really have the patience to read walls of text :p - that's why I really like the pictures and paintings in between!
Changed TO 1467? It was that when I read it. Historically, Constantinople fell in 1453, but this is based on his game I think?
 

Tom D.

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Changed TO 1467? It was that when I read it. Historically, Constantinople fell in 1453, but this is based on his game I think?
Well I see the same sentence with 1467 so I guess so ;). And that is definitely based on the game, unless @volksmarschall used a time-machine to change the date of the siege to cover up his mistake :p.
 

volksmarschall

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My AARs are games within games. I like to include history and historiography into my AARs, but dates, events, and people obviously change to reflect the game. The game for readers becomes separating the two. So we learn about real history thru alt-history ... What a chore.

What does it say that someone who works as an editor and peer reviewer needs an editor? :rolleyes:
 

Idhrendur

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Well, as the famous question asks: who edits for the editor? :D
 

volksmarschall

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INTRODUCTION

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE


II

The Fall of Constantinople and the Roman Empire in the East

Although Pope Eugene called the acquisition of a Latin duchy, Athens, illegal, it was his successor, Pope Alexander VI, who was former Cardinal Archbishop of Anjou – and a friend of Rene I – who was Pope when the Venetians declared war on the Byzantines. Relations between the Latins and Greeks were already bad, but hopes of reunion were shattered at the Council of Florence. The Council of Florence is instrumental to our story. In part, the Council of Florence marks the rift between Russian and Greek Christianity too.

John VIII, ever the pragmatist, understood the precarious position of the Byzantine Empire. It certainly could not whether another storm against the Ottomans. Salvation, it seemed, rested to the West. This is, of course, among the many ironies of the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire over its nearly one and half millennia of existence.

The Council of Florence was called in the aftermath of the Hussite Wars to discuss the matter of the Hussite heresy. Also of topic was the West-East Schism and Roman episcopate supremacy (as part of the Western schism over who the actual Pope was since three men all claimed the title of Bishop of Rome). John VIII, Joseph II – who was Patriarch of Constantinople – and other Greek Christian delegates attended. The pro-Latin and anti-Latin groups in the small Greek contingency erupted against each other. John, as emperor, sought reunion with Rome because of the obvious political benefits that this would bring. The defeat at Varna still haunted the minds of Europeans, especially Latin Christians, who still sought some amount of revenge against the heathen Turks for their failures. However, the Greek religious delegation was unable to accept the principle of Papal superiority and the council failed at reunification.

5soYkPk.jpg

FIGURE 1: John VIII in “The Middle King,” by Benozzo Gozzoli, ca. 1470.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Russian patriarchy learned of this and felt betrayed. The Patriarchy of Moscow, as a result, became the titular and spiritual head of Slavic Christianity, which had, prior to Florence, seen Constantinople as the shining light of Russian Christianity rather than just Moscow. After all, it was the Greeks who provided the Russians their alphabet. It was the Greeks, in Constantinople, who showed the Kieven Rus’ delegates the Hagia Sophia – which was, along with the allowance of drinking alcohol, among the many reasons for the Baptism of the Russians when Kiev adopted Christianity. The attempt at Roman reconciliation, especially without Moscow’s awareness or consent, led to a rift between Russian and Greek Orthodoxy, one that even exists to this day where the Greeks are regarded as nothing more than crypto-Catholics.

The Byzantines were isolated. No help would come from their Slavic Christian neighbors, and neither would any help come from the Latin West. In fact, the failure at reunion made the Venetian-Byzantine War all the more reasonable from the perspective of the Venetians. The Venetian Doge, Bruno Donato, assembled his fleet and set sail for the Sea of Marmara, where they were met by Nicholas Palaiologos, an illegitimate son of John VIII.

Byzantine planning was, for its part, correct in what it would need to accomplish in order to ward off an Ottoman invasion. But the Byzantine fleet, which had been built to challenge the Ottomans along the Bosporus, was now needed to prevent Venetian aggression in Greece. On September 23, 1458, the decisive engagement at Marmara ended Byzantine naval reorganizing. The Venetian fleet was, initially, caught by surprise at the size of the Byzantine fleet – it comprised of 18 full war galleys. Nevertheless, the Venetians eventually overcame the Byzantine fleet and forced it to retire back to Constantinople. The result was the opening of Southern Greece to Venetian forces, which promptly landed and laid siege to Athens and conquered much of the Despotate of Morea.

The Venetian-Byzantine War, legally from 1457-1460, was really fought between 1458-1459 in a material sense. The fall of Athens and should have procured Venetian occupation of southern Greece, but, as if by the fate of luck, Bruno Donato had to leave Greece with his army to put down a rebellion back home. The end of the Venetian-Byzantine War was nothing more than a plundering and sapping of Byzantine strength and rebuilding efforts by the Venetians.

***

The Ottomans, as if they were waiting for the moment to strike, would soon come to march against the Byzantines in 1465. Sultan Mehmed II had always wanted to be the one who finally captured Constantinople and fulfilled the longstanding hope, and want, that the “city of the world’s desires” would fall into the hands of the Arabs, or the Turks – just as good and well irrespective of which Muslim Sultanate won the prize. And who, exactly, wouldn’t want to be “Caesar of the Romans”? Constantine’s legacy still loomed large in Europe, and the city of Constantinople was the illusive prize that had eluded the original Arab Conquests.

In reality, the importance of Constantinople was more political and strategic than religious. Constantinople was, for Arabs and Turks, and even for Europeans, the gateway nexus to Europe and Anatolia, and by extension, Palestine and the Holy Land. Crusading forces bypassed the straits at Constantinople to make landfall in Anatolia. Forces pushing into Europe from Anatolia crossed at the Bosporus close to Constantinople. Though the city had long since fallen from its splendor, it was still one of the larger cities in the world at the time. It sat at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The city was suitably located for the construction and storage of a large naval force. It dominated the trade lanes of the eastern Mediterranean. The fortified walls and forts posed a daunting task for any possible invading force – especially if properly manned and defended. Not to mention that Mehmed himself was something of a Romanophile.

The time was also right to strike. The Ottomans had just recently finished wars in southern Turkey and against the Kingdom of Georgia, and were more than ready to cross the Bosporus in full force. Byzantium’s strength had been sapped because of War with Venice. Only some 5,000 Byzantine soldiers and 11 warships were left to defend the city against any would-be attacker and conqueror.

HKk2Sz2.jpg

FIGURE 2: The Ottomans Crossing the Bosporus.

In the spring of 1467, from April to May, the Ottomans laid siege to the city. Mehmed personally led the besieging force. The Byzantines, if one wants to eulogize their final collapse, did fight with whatever valor one would fight with in such an impossible situation. But on May 9, the city fell to the Turks and the final demise of Rome was complete. That empire that enthralls the minds of many lesser men, and is the subject of much study in history departments, had lasted from 27 BCE to 1467 CE. Nearly 1500 years of existence, and an enormous legacy to bear and have shared.

V2hTnvK.png

FIGURE 3: The Siege of Constantinople, 1467.

The Byzantines have, recently, been brought back into the limelight by popular history. Much of this non-academic history portrays the rise and fall of the Byzantines in a noble and heroic light. It should not be much of a surprise than Anglos dominate this brand of Byzantine studies. In part, it continues to play up the old Dark Age motif of a weak, craven, and decrepit post-476 Western and Central Europe that was “saved” because of the sacrifice of the Byzantines in warding off prospective Arab invasion.

Of course, that narrative discounts the fact that the Arab conquest was already halted by Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers which, much like the Battle of Salamis over and against Thermopylae, was far more important to any “saving of the West” from wanton and would-be eastern invaders than the many sieges of Constantinople. And since Charles Martel was a Frank, and the father of the Carolingian Dynasty that eventually helped bring forth the great Carolingian Renaissance, it is without any surprise that the inheritors of the Whig historiographical tradition would like to sweep under the rug any possible connection between the French and Europe’s supposed salvation by pushing one’s sights ever eastward to that glistening city on the Bosporus that would, under Turkish rule, become glistening once again. It was, after all, the Frankish Kingdom that was the only real power of Western Europe in the eighth century, and the only power that remained capable of achieving the victory at Poitiers.

But the Fall of Constantinople, which marked the end of the Roman continuity, also marked the beginning of the longstanding rivalry between three rival houses for control of Europe and the Mediterranean: the Osmans, Habsburgs, and the various families related to the blood of the Valois. There is, in a way, a certain truth to the “Constantinople as Shield of Europe” thesis. The city, after all, was situated at a great location – which is why Constantine had chosen to build the Nova Roma on top of the old Greek colony of Byzantium anyway. While the Kingdoms of Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia, among others, had long since replaced Constantinople as the real frontier shield, Constantinople had weathered that storm until the thirteenth century after the sacking of the city in 1204 by the Crusaders. Since then the city was nothing but a rump waiting for Ottoman restoration. The capture of Constantinople by Mehmed, and the moving of the Turkish capital there, really was a reminder to various European kingdoms and principalities that the Ottomans were a force to be reckoned with if the disastrous defeat at Varna hadn’t already proven that. It also set the stage for two centuries of conflict between the Angevins and Osmans.
 

stnylan

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Earlier this year I read a book on the Siege of 1453. Remarkable how close-run a thing it was, even then.

It is human nature the divide history into epochs - after all it was the Renaissance that gave us the concept of the middle ages, and yet for all these divisions are human artificialities the fall of Constantinople does stand as a symbol of the passing of time.
 

Nikolai

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And so the city of men's desire has fallen. Now comes the Ottoman behemoth.
 

Asantahene

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Nice setting up of the pieces here. Constantinople has fallen and so is ushered in the age of the Turk
 

Idhrendur

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Correction of real-life historiography (at least the historiography of the Paradox forums), or a historiography that should itself be questioned, given the perspective of the narrator? Or both? Nicely written!
 

volksmarschall

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Correction of real-life historiography (at least the historiography of the Paradox forums), or a historiography that should itself be questioned, given the perspective of the narrator? Or both? Nicely written!

Well, "real life historiography" is, when you study it properly, rich and diverse. But what dominates the internet, Wikipedia, and the forum fan boys is this putrid "popular history" that, in many ways, follows the old Whig historiographical tradition. Now, there are reasons I can go into, but won't, as to why so many people never receive the other historiographical views, but I'm referring to the histories we already know: those popular podcasts, book by jounralist historians like Roger Crowley (1453), or Lars Brownsworth (Lost to the West) and John Julius Norwich (his Short History of Byzantium or his fuller three volume history) are good examples of these neo-Whig interpretations that shower the Byzantines with supreme honor and glory and try to argue the Renaissance is the result of preserved Greek texts that came West after the tragic decline and fall (which is demonstrably false), which also continue to peddle the equally wrong presentation that Western Europe was some backwater thugville countryside. Professional academia in Europe has never been ensnared by this Whig interpretation of history, but the English-speaking world has. And since the 1970s as I name dropped Peter Brown, the English speaking academy, apart from those terrible History or BBC programs about "The Dark Ages," has moved beyond these stereotypes -- and for good reason!

But the funny thing about the Whig view over Byzantium is that it has gone through waves itself. Gibbon, for instance, loathed the Byzantines. In the mid-19th century, thanks to a now unknown historian named George Finlay, it shifted toward a more positive view. Leading to this contemporary "glory, glory, glory" Byzantine mantra that dominates the popular histories and most peoples imagination. I believe I mentioned way back in Decline and Fall that I had written a historiography paper tracing the outline and evolution of Byzantine historiography.

It's never so much a "correction" as it is a presentation of what is neglected from one-sided studies. But let's just say that despite all the glowing ratings that these works receive on amazon, they're generally met with allergic reactions from professional historians. Though, one can easily understand why they sell well. But it does pain me in real life as someone who has published academically in Byzantine studies to hear and read the continuous assertion of "Dark Ages" and how "Constantinople was the only light" for a thousand years, or other just factual and historically inaccurate claims and statements said by people who think they know something. :p

The writer won't dwell on it in any explicit way, but the explicit Francophobia, anti-Catholicism, and Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism that was originally part of the Whig tradition is still with us in many ways even if contemporary writers have to mask those elements in more clever ways (though he has mentioned that already). But then again, the real life volksmarschall is actually something of an open Anglophile. For instance, this is just so stupendously marvelous and aesthetically exceptional.

And the real life volksmarschall is also a major Francophile too. :p
 

stnylan

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Oh I would love to invite you down to my local pub, imbibe a few, and chin-wag about this stuff until closing.
 

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Oh I would love to invite you down to my local pub, imbibe a few, and chin-wag about this stuff until closing.

When I graduate from Yale I have a number of English schools on my shortlist for continued schooling for PhD and post-doc work -- If I end up heading across the pond I should let you know and if we're close by, maybe figure out an arrangement. In vino veritas! ;)
 

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When I graduate from Yale I have a number of English schools on my shortlist for continued schooling for PhD and post-doc work -- If I end up heading across the pond I should let you know and if we're close by, maybe figure out an arrangement. In vino veritas! ;)
Well hopefully something might be worked out :)
 

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Yay! I have a new Volksmarschall AAR to follow! :D

By the way, I have to ask about the “Fortuna Blesses Louis-Joseph” painting on the first page. Of all the ways Fortuna could have blessed Louis-Joseph, why that way? o_O
 

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Yay! I have a new Volksmarschall AAR to follow! :D

By the way, I have to ask about the “Fortuna Blesses Louis-Joseph” painting on the first page. Of all the ways Fortuna could have blessed Louis-Joseph, why that way? o_O

The actual painting is from Peter Paul Reubens, the greatest of the Baroque period painters. The real title is "The Birth of the Milky Way." You should be able to piece two and two together now. ;)
 

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INTRODUCTION

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE


III

The Ottoman Push into the Balkans

Before the rise of the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia, Arabia was a diverse land religiously and politically – although the land was largely a barren desert with the notable exception of several important oases and a few areas of arable land that was still hard to cultivate due to the rugged nature of the terrain. Southern Arabia does receive enough rainfall to be fertile-enough land for farming but the majority of the Arab peoples were a nomadic desert culture that valued water above all things.

The two great empires to the north, the Byzantines and the Sassanids, were always on the periphery of Arabia, or more precisely, Arabia was always on the periphery of the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires. But the worthlessness of Arabia to the two agrarian empires was the main reason both powers bypassed the interest of an invasion for nomadic people would be hard to settle, and the Arab Peninsula had virtually arable land near the empires. It was Southern Arabia, not northern or central Arabia, that had land suitable for agricultural cultivation.

The many tribes constantly fought for power – mostly for economic reasons. The most powerful of the pre-Islamic Arab tribes were the Quraysh. The Quraysh had centered their political power in the city of Mecca, one of the few semi-urban regions in the entire peninsula. Sitting on top of a large oasis, the city was also a famous religious destination for pilgrims of the region – containing the famous Ka’ba Shrine. The Quraysh society was centered around caravan trading, subsistence agriculture, and the importance of the religious pilgrimage during pilgrimage season. In ancient Arabic society, there was a period of several months of truce to allow people to practice their religious faiths and embark on the journey to Mecca. During the peace, Mecca was the center of the Arab world – and made a great fortune on the influx of travelers heading to the Ka’ba.

Arab religious society was not monotheistic, nor was it universal. Rather, the religious makeup of the peninsula was very diverse, as I mentioned above. The religious nature of the region is what historians and religious scholars consider henotheism, the belief that there is one universal, or supreme God, but that there are other minor gods as well (part of the pantheon). In that sense, Greek Paganism was actually a form of henotheism, as men like Plato and Aristotle believed in One God, but lived in a society that reverenced the larger pantheon. The same holds true in Arabia. The elusive One True God was to be worshipped or paid homage at the Ka’ba Shrine, which is why many Arab pilgrims flocked to Mecca and allotted great power to the tribal confederacy that controlled the city and the shrine itself. Among the Arab religions at this time, there was no understanding of an immortal soul, or life after death. Rather, “immortality” was seen through one’s life legacy, known as khulud. Performing heroic deeds in one’s life that would be remembered for generations to come, as the Arab peoples were an oral society that practiced the great art of oral tradition – would bring about one’s “immortality.”

w5iWr8d.jpg

FIGURE 1: A depiction of ancient Mecca. Mecca was a fortified trading center in the middle of the expanse desert of Arabia. The Ka’ba Shrine was a major pilgrimage spot before Islam, and the combination of being a pilgrimage destination and trading center gave the city serious power in 7th century Arabia.

When Muhammad took control of Arabia, and Muslims looked back upon their non-Islamic past, they would call this era of “paganism” and political and religious disunity as the Jahiliyya, or the “age of ignorance.” Worse, the center of this ignorant age was the Ka’ba Shrine. Although the elusive One God of Arab henotheistic society was rumored to be contained in the shrine itself – much like how God was contained in the Old Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Shrine contained many statues of the various other gods of the Arab pantheon as well.

Muhammad was born in 570 C.E. to a cadet branch of the Quraysh tribe that his uncle was chief of. He was soon orphaned as a young boy, only to be taken in by his uncle – Abu Talib. Muhammad was raised as any other Arab was raised, illiterate, a nomad, but raised very religiously (Arab Henotheism). He soon wed the lovely and powerful Khadija, a famous trader and merchant who had amassed great wealth, who is counted as among the first converts upon Muhammad’s revelation. He had four daughters with her, of which Fatima is the most important for the development and evolution of the Islamic world.

In 610 C.E., Muhammad was at Mt. Hira outside of Mecca where he received a great revelation from God during the 27th day of the month of Ramadan. He soon returned home exclaiming to have had a vision of the Divine, and the “Believers” movement was born (historians do not use the term “Muslim” to refer to the first followers of Muhammad). In Muhammad’s message, he preached that there was One True God, the God of Abraham, and that the Arab people should turn away from their current “sinful” lifestyle and come together to build a new community of faith and radical egalitarianism where all would be equal as compared to the static and hierarchal society of the pagan Arabs. Naturally, this message was not appealing – especially to the reigning Quraysh who saw Muhammad and his band of radical followers as a danger to their power and authority. Almost immediately, the Quraysh struck and oppressed Muhammad and the Believers’ movement.

Why? As I mentioned, it threatened Quraysh authority. Much like the message Jesus preached which was seen as a message of treason to the Roman-Jewish authority, as well as blasphemy to the most conservative of Jews – Muhammad’s message create a sense of fear from among the powerful in the Quraysh tribe. Muhammad’s rejection of Arab Henotheism threatened to destroy the religious pilgrimages of which Mecca was dependent upon for their survival. His message of equality appealed to the poor and disposed (this would later be used by Muhammad’s successors to create Arab unity behind the Islamic religion). The economic power of the Quraysh was also threatened. For the next seven years, Muhammad received several more progressive revelations, preached his message despite persecution, and had gathered a large enough following that in 622 C.E., the Quraysh expelled Muhammad and his “Believers” from the city of Mecca. It was during this trialing time that the archangel Gabriel is believed to have taken Muhammad on his famous “Night Journey” (the Mihraj) to Jerusalem, whereupon he ascended into heaven on a winged-horse to meet with the great prophets of God in the past: Moses and Jesus.

To the north of Mecca, the city of Medina had been more hospitable to Muhammad’s message and opened their doors to him (Medina was also a rival to the Quraysh in Mecca). Realizing the danger, the Quraysh attempted to assassinate Muhammad but this plot ultimately failed – and Muhammad and his supporters made their journey to Medina to find safe heaven. This journey is remembered as the Hijra, 622 C.E., which begins the start of the Islamic Calendar in contrast to the Gregorian Calendar.

a742Bod.jpg

FIGURE 2: A depiction of the Hijra, one of the most important and formative events in Islam. Like the Exodus to Judaism, or the journey of Aeneas to Rome to Christian Europe, the Hijra was a journey of an oppressed people over a desert to a new land of life.

In Medina, Muhammad preached his message of personal piety and equality and was well-received. The Quraysh feared that Muhammad was planning a strike against them from his new powerbase in Medina. A large war party was sent north but was defeated at the Battle of Badr (624 C.E.) as the Believers took the high ground protecting the only oasis water well between the two cities and held it against the Quraysh attacks. For the next six years, Muhammad and the Believers fought a long war with the Quraysh, eventually leading to the capture of Mecca in 630 C.E. During one of the battles, the Battle of Uhud (625 C.E.), Muhammad was wounded but his forces rallied and saved themselves from defeat. The wife of one of the major Quraysh leaders, Hind, was even believed to have eaten the liver of Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib, one of Muhammad's uncle and closest confidants who was killed ensuring Muhammad's safety. The Battle of al-Khandaq was the great turning point in the war – and the Believers defeated the Quraysh and paved the way for their triumphant entry into Mecca by 630.

After capturing Mecca, the Believers forced the conversion of the Quraysh, all of whom converted. At the Ka’ba, Muhammad’s victory was proclaimed. Bilal, one of Muhammad’s most trusted lieutenants who was rumored to have the most beautiful of singing voices, climbed to the top of the Ka’ba and called for a universal prayer of all Believers. At the prayer, Muhammad dictated the terms of the new religion and its authority: higher social standing for women, love-relationships would be contained to marriage, Arab Henotheism came to an end, and Muhammad would be recognized as a Messenger of God. Afterward, the Ka’ba was sacked – all henotheistic and pagan influences of the past were destroyed. The Ka’ba would now become a pilgrimage site for Believers only. Mecca was now under Muhammad’s control, and the birth of Islam was imminent.

***

The Kingdoms of Serbia and Albania had become the real location of the “shield of Europe” since at least the mid-14th century. In some respect, the Constantinople as shield thesis gave one final respite for Serbia and Albania in the 15th century – for the concentration of the Ottoman war machine against Candar, then Georgia, and at long last, Byzantium, Turkish attentions once again moved into the Balkans.

The Kingdom of Hungary was ruled over by the Habsburgs, and Mehmed was in no position to want to challenge the Holy Roman Emperor Matthew, even if he was only 16 years old at the time. Lazar II was the reigning King of Serbia, a despot and tyrant, but one beloved by his people and a “defender for the faith” of Serbian Christianity. The Kingdom of Serbia had long been a thorn in the side of the Byzantines, and, during the Palaiologoi period, once could say that the Palaiologoi had more problems dealing with the Serbs than the Turks. Serbia was a unique form of decentralized feudalism. The king was the nominal figurehead, but the true power was held primarily by the landed aristocracy. In a certain sense, Serbia’s political infrastructure was a direct legacy of the old Roman Empire and the Latifundia System which, built on the back of slavery, when slavery was abolished, became the nexus upon which feudalism rested.

This is part of the oddities too, of understanding the nature of kingship and dominion in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The tribal kingdoms were kingdoms, but in practice and actuality, these kingships were far more decentralized and power was in the hands of the locale communes, townships, and manor villas. The modern nation-state, in its conflict with kingship, ironically becomes far more centralized, authoritative, and codified than any of the old kingdoms and principalities ever were. Even the “republics” of Italy were more centralized and codified than their kingdom counterparts – the kingdoms do not begin their centralization until well into the 17th century, where the more stereotypical impression of absolutist kingship becomes more and more visible and apparent.

Serbia, as a legacy of this decentralized yet “centralized” system of political governance, was unsuitable for being the new shield. The Ottomans had achieved a greater degree of centralized authority than the Balkan kingdoms could ever wish of achieving. Lazar’s rule did not extend much beyond his immediate land holdings – he was dependent upon the Serbian aristocracy for his power.

Indeed, it was a spat between the Serbian nobility and the Ottomans which brought forth the kingdom’s halving, between Montenegro in the south, and Serbia in the north, with the Ottomans punching through the center and coming to border the eastern boundaries of the Kingdom of Bosnia. When Lazar, unable to keep the peace, assembled the Serbian armies, he rallied together some 12,000 soldiers according to the Turkish chronicler Abu Za’r, and many were subsequently slaughtered at the fields of Zeta. The resulting “flight from Zeta” saw Lazar fleeing like a whipped dog, far ahead, with the equestrian aristocracy, of the few thousand remaining foot soldiers and peasants who had come to meet the Ottoman force.

The Battle of Zeta also devastated the Serbian aristocracy. Just as the aristocracy was bloodied at Maritsa almost a century earlier, the fields of Zeta ran scarlet with the blood of the dead and dying Serbs – including over 200 knights and around 30 noblemen. The professional and ruling class of Serbia had been eviscerated at the hands of the Turks, and the rest of the fighting was nothing more than pillage and occupation. The same was true in Albania, which quickly fell from the might of the Ottoman invaders.


fC27AWN.jpg

FIGURE 3: “The Dead at Zeta.”

B6yzcgR.png

FIGURE 4: “The Divided Kingdom,” ca. 1475.

I began this chapter with the backstory of the rise of the Prophet Muhammad and the birth of Islam to highlight one of the themes upon which the great philosopher, historian, and sociologist, Ibn Khaldun, had long ago noted in his work Muqaddimah. If we recall back to the Preface, I stated among the professional historians of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Medieval Europe was far more polarized, diverse, and tribalistic than wrongful impressions sometimes proclaim – and for obvious reasons. One of the successes of the Arab to Muslim story is how effective, barring of course obvious splits between the Kajarites and Shi’a, the “Believers” movement (as they called themselves initially) was in transcending the tribalism of Arabian society. According to Khaldun, one of the strengths of early Islam was its ability to foster universal commitment to a common good that transcended the tribalism that had characterized pre-Islamic Arabia.

In some manner, this deeper centralized and universalized inheritance came to the Ottomans which naturally gave them an advantage – besides just sheer numerical superiority of course – to many of its eastern and frontier European opponents. The Roman Empire may have codified singular legal rule over its empire, but the Romans never truly “Romanized” their empire in the manner that some people sometimes described. The “empire” of the Romans was a tributary and tribalistic confederacy, as all actual historians of the period know. Much like how kingship and the Medieval period was anything but absolutist and centralized, the Roman imperium was more like a giant confederacy of tribes who pledged allegiance to the “strongest chief” (the Roman emperor) who, in their loyalty to pay taxes, were provided safety, infrastructure development, and the protection of Roman law.

The Serbs, then, fell to the simplest recognition that historians and other commentators have long noted. The more decentralized and “weak” tribe always seems to lose to the more centralized and “strong” tribe. The collapse of the Balkan Frontier, while bringing forth the beginning of the Habsburg-Ottoman conflict, also marked the beginning of the Angevin conflict with the Turks. Under Pope Alexander VI, the Crusade for Oran was a blundering success. The manner of this blundering to glory, on the part of Rene, I will cover in the proper section and place. Nevertheless, the revival of Frankish-Islamic struggle is as much the result of actual conflict between the two parties as it is the rapid success of the Ottomans overwhelming the last vestiges of the Byzantine Empire, legacy of the Roman latifundia system, and the Balkan Frontier.
 

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I do like the historical voice adopted. It is so delightfully prejudiced.