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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

AllmyJames

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Wait - I go away for a month and a Turk is on the Throne of Constantine?!

Nicely written, however, and it looks like the Ulfsons have been able to take advantage of their neighbours' apostasy. The Saxons are now the last line of Christian defence in the East - an interesting twist!
 

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I just read through the AAR then, and you now have me hooked. I've decided to suscribe immediatly. Keep up the good work!
 

Alfredian

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an entertaining bit of realpolitik there, Uffason's really are becoming socialised to the Byzantine way of doing things
Politics is more complicated than the traditional Saxon way of settling disputes with axes. Aethelwulf is definitely better at it then his father.

Soon we shall be ready to take on Rum :D
Or the Emperor, or the Croats, or the Cumans.......

Wait - I go away for a month and a Turk is on the Throne of Constantine?!

Nicely written, however, and it looks like the Ulfsons have been able to take advantage of their neighbours' apostasy. The Saxons are now the last line of Christian defence in the East - an interesting twist!
Glad to see you are back in AARland. Your Vicky2 readers were getting worried about your absence.

Christendom has certainly received a kicking in the 40 years after 1066. Spain, Anatolia and much of Russia already lost to Muslims & Pagans. Chaos in England and Germany has not helped with a fightback at all.

I just read through the AAR then, and you now have me hooked. I've decided to suscribe immediatly. Keep up the good work!
Thank you for reading Tapscott, and for making your first post here. Welcome to AARland.
 

Alfredian

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Part 15 – The Council of Michaelmas 1108

After Bishop Alexios made the announcements of Edward’s death and Saebert’s legitimacy he declared that the rest of the day must be spent praying for Prince Edward’s soul, and that a council would be held the next day to select the new prince. There was no doubt that Alexios planned to play the kingmaker in these events.

While Prince Edward had been able to dominate the High Nobility by virtue of his personal prestige, the patronage he had dispensed, and his position as older brother (or father) to all of the earls. None of the contenders for the throne in 1108 could claim the same authority.

There were seven contenders for the throne and all were roughly equal in power:
1. Earl Aethelwulf of Epirus. Eldest son of the late Prince Edward. He was the obvious heir under a system of primogeniture, but not everyone believed in this new system of inheritance.
2. Earl Ulf of Zeta. Aethelwulf’s younger brother and friend.
3. Earl Saebert of Lesbos. Second in line to the throne under primogeniture following his legitimisation and acknowledged to be the favourite son of Prince Edward. However the stench of bastardy still clung to him.
4. Earl Oshere of Turnu. The eldest of Prince Edward’s surviving brothers. Experienced, and the choice of those who believed the throne should normally go to the ruler’s brother, not his son.
5. Earl Eadulf of Pereschen. The youngest of Prince Edward’s brothers and a close friend of Earl Aethelwulf.
6. Earl Swithelm of Tirgoviste. A bastard son of Prince Cerdic who was declared legitimate in 1101. Married to the daughter of the King of Hungary, but otherwise uninspiring.
7. Eustratios Doukas. Son of the last Christian Emperor. He may not have held an earldom, but could count on significant support from those Greek Minor Nobles who resented the rule of the Helleno-Varangians.

In their chambers the contenders marshalled their arguments for the council meeting next day. Not all were in their chambers though:

“You sent for me brother”
“Of course. I need to know that you will support me tomorrow”
“When have I ever done anything but support you? Together we will put them all in their place. I need to know though, will you uphold me above that upstart bastard?”
“I can’t overrule father’s will Ulf. However, Saebert will never have power over you. He will get the form of his place in the new succession, but never the substance of it.”

A short while later:
“You sent for me nephew.”
“I did. Can I count on you tomorrow?”
“I am your friend, as well as your uncle. I will support you. Will you uphold me against my brothers?”
“Oh yes Eadulf. Who else can I really count on in the North but you. Time will certainly bring its reward.”

A short while later:
“You sent for me brother.”
“I did. You will support me tomorrow. If you do, I will confirm father’s whim in legitimising you. If not, I will take Lesbos from you and return you to the life your mother led in a Serbian gutter.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Just do as I tell you Saebert and you will get what is yours.”

Finally, as the night draws to a close:
“You sent for me my lord”
“There are some who would name you as Prince Eustratios. Would that please you?”
“It would my lord. It is less than I was born to, but it would suit me well.”
“What if I were to tell you to put this dream behind you? My uncles and I might be in dispute about which of us should wear the crown, but we all agree it should stay within the family. Anyone stepping into our quarrel is going to get torn apart. Possibly in a quite literal sense.”
“Still it is my only chance to rule and I must take it, or be forever a beggar at someone else’s court. No dignity, no future.”
“I can give you a future Eustratios. I will need reliable men to serve me. I will need reliable earls to assist me. Do you think you could do that, or would you rather be caught between my uncles and myself?”
“I am your man sire.”

Dawn broke and the council meeting began in the chamber of Thessalonike’s city council. Seated there were Bishop Alexios, Earl Oshere, and Earl Swithelm. The back half of the hall was packed with Minor Nobles; partisans of the contenders. The three seated men sat and waited uneasily. All were startled when a fanfare sounded and in strode Earl Aethelwulf with Earl Ulf, Earl Eadulf, Earl Saebert, and Eustratios Doukas in attendance.

Bishop Alexios: “At last you are all here and we can proceed to discuss the succession.”
Earl Aethelwulf: “The succession is already decided. I am my father’s eldest son and hold the title of Prince of Wallachia by right.”
Earl Oshere (to Ulf et al): “Do you all believe we should just let this puppy rule?”
Earl Aethelwulf: “They have sworn fealty to me and will stand by me against all comers. Who supports you uncle? It seems you are in a minority of one.”
Earl Oshere: “Swithelm, surely you at least have the sense to support me?”
Earl Swithelm: “Hail Aethelwulf, Hail our new Prince of Wallachia”.

With Swithelm’s adherence the throne was Aethelwulf’s and even his Uncle Oshere swore allegiance (although through gritted teeth). Aethelwulf accepted the homage of those present and bade them to return at Christmas with all of their important retainers.
 
Last edited:

Alfredian

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I am sort of celebrating coming joint fifth in the Q1 AARland choice awards (although trying not to mention that this was also joint last with no votes).

even more politics ... nice to see our exiled Saxons taking so well to the expectations of their new lands
They are getting used to it. It is just like home but with more sunshine and the requirement that you must bath more than once a year.

Thats some quality intrigue :D
Absolutely. Something Aethelwulf can do, but that his father (Edward) would not have considered.
 

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Part 16 – The Council of Christmas 1108

On Christmas Eve 1108 Aethelwulf Prince of Epirus, Defender of the Orthodox Church, called together his earls and the highest nobles within their domains, his bishops, and representatives of the main cities of the Theme of Epirus (as the land under Aethelwulf’s control was then known). They met in Thessalonike’s city council chamber. Records of Aethelwulf’s address to them survive and although parts of it seems archaic (e.g. those regarding forest law), it was to revolutionise the governance of the state and is still referred to in constitutional debates today. Here I will feature only the key passages:

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears; I come to bury the Empire not to praise it.

I know that some of you have as your dearest wish the re-establishment of the old Empire - it was my father’s dearest wish as well; yet I say to you this cannot be.

The Empire was like a great oak; solid from the outside, yet rotten at the core.

A healthy oak is not toppled by a passing beast, yet the rotten trunk of the Empire collapsed at the Turkish beasts brushed past.

It we plant the acorns from this rotten tree they will carry its taint. We will expend all our labours caring for the seedling and find that the rot will set in by the time our sons take over our burden.

What is the cause of this blight that killed the Empire? It is the premise that the Emperor can rule with unchallenged power like some eastern tyrant; casting down honest nobles at his whim. Breaking honourable men because he fears their valour.
What then can we do instead? I say to you that we must remember who we really are and who our ancestors were.

We are the Romans. Heirs of the great Republic. A Republic which brought nobles and merchants together for the good of all.

A Republic which conquered all the lands we think of as the heart of the Empire.
It was no Emperor that conquered proud Macedon where we now stand. It was a mere Praetor of the Republic - Quintus Caecilius Metellus - who finished that job.

There are those in the West who laugh when we call ourselves Romans. Those barbarous Franks fail to understand that Rome is not the pile of old stones where their ‘Pope’ resides. Rome is a body of citizens. Rome is wherever the Romans live.

How then shall we build our new Roman state. We have escaped from the tyranny of the so-called Emperor Muhammad. With what would we replace his tyranny?
You could hail me Emperor today; carry me through the streets on my shield and give me a purple robe.

Yet I say to you this should not be. My father renounced his claim to the throne to buy peace with the Arabs. I renounce my claim because it is not right for one freeborn Roman to rule unchallenged over another.

I am Prince of the Theme of Epirus. I command our armies and would die to defend our people; yet this should not give me boundless power.

I ask you to look at the chamber we are standing in. When we moved the capital here I begged my father to build a council chamber great enough for a Roman Senate to meet in.

That is what I would ask you to do. To become a Senate and assembly. To rule together for the good of all.”


This speech represents one of the few times Aethelwulf stepped beyond the practical approach for which he is known. Some have argued that even here he was more pragmatic than romantic. He knew that it is easier to inspire men to follow a dream which empowers them, than to serve you purely for reward. Once they have dreamt the dream these men are far more likely to be loyal compared to men you have bought (and who others can buy again in time).

He goes on to say how the new republic could be structured:

“The whole of our reborn Republic will be bound together by two great institutions.

The nobles and bishops will meet together in the Senate, while the great cities will send representatives to an Assembly.

The Senate will make the laws, while the Assembly will ensure that they are not detrimental to trade or the common citizen.

Both will meet here when we come together to celebrate the great festivals of Easter, Michaelmas and Christmas.

However the defence of the realm cannot wait for the meetings of the Senate, so we must preserve the core of our military structure. Earls will remain for each part of the Republic, and such Princes as shall be required will lead our armies.

Also no man will be required to break his oath of loyalty to his patron. The bond between noble and retainer must be inviolate.”

“In normal time the will of the Senate shall be carried out by two Consuls, duly elected by their peers.

However my friends these are not normal times and we must search for a way to meet the terrible challenges that face us. Infidel barbarians control Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria, Constantinople, and lands not two days ride from here. Western barbarians control Italy, Spain and Gaul.

We will not be able to meet these challenges if the leaders of the republic change twice a year.

However I ask you not to make me Emperor with boundless power, but to seek an ancient constitutional solution.

I ask you to name me both Senior Consul, and Dictator for Life. In this way I will serve you all, protect our new republic from harm, and enforce the law.”

Needless to say the nobles (who were all Aethelwulf’s vassals) approved his proposal. They kept their lands and power. They gained senatorial honours. They got one more reason to look at neighbouring realms and see them as barbarians.

The representatives of the cities were also greatly pleased by this development. At last a ruler had acknowledged that they had a role in government, and had given them a way of defending their rights from the nobles (minor and great). They had been keen on the Uffason’s since Prince Cerdic married Adelasia Corregio (who was from a Venetian merchant dynasty) and now saw their loyalty rewarded.

What did Prince Aethelwulf gain from this change:
1. A way of motivating his followers with the dream of the Republic.
2. A way of using the power of the cities to keep his nobles in check.
3. He retained the principle that nobles command the State’s armies, and that those nobles should retain their client-patron relationship with him.
4. He keeps his military title as Prince, and adds the new one of Senior Consul and Dictator for Life.

The Council of Christmas 1108 was achieved a great change, but used a veneer of continuity with the ancient past to do it.

The new constitutional arrangements puzzled the rulers of the Frankish west. They saw that Aethelwulf had the powers of a King, so some referred to him as the King of the Greeks. Other Franks failed to understand the constitutionality of his position as Dictator and assumed he was like an old-style tyrant. They began to refer to Aethelwulf’s self-styled Republic of the Romans as the Despotate of Epirus.
 

Alfredian

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Apologies for the first line of the speech. I couldn't help myself.
 

loki100

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that was nicely done, the idea of setting city against feudal lord is neat and a way to balance the power dynamics.

as to the first line, well I've no right to complain ... I managed to slip 'infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me' into my CK AAR
 

Alfredian

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that was nicely done, the idea of setting city against feudal lord is neat and a way to balance the power dynamics.
The balance of power between classes is always interesting, but especially so when you have rapid change undermining old assumptions of how society should work.

Part of Aethelwulf's aim with establishing a Senate and Assembly is to bring the conflict over that balance of power into an open forum (apologies for the pun).

as to the first line, well I've no right to complain ... I managed to slip 'infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me' into my CK AAR
You can't beat the classics of british drama.

I am suddenly picturing Frankie Howard running a bar in Venezuela
 

Alfredian

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Part 17 – Aethelwulf – Consul and Prince (1109 to 1115)

In 1108 Aethelwulf had re-established the Roman Republic. It might not have been the Republic and Cicero or Cato the Younger had known it, but to its (mostly Greek) citizens (who had seen a thousand years of autocratic emperors) it seemed quite close to the ideal. While the new senators busied themselves drafting laws, reinventing old Republican honours for themselves, and hearing court cases, Aethelwulf surveyed the lands around the republic and declared to his earls:

“In Emperor Muhammad we have one great enemy on our borders. We must have no others. I mean to befriend my neighbours or crush them.”

The Republic was granted some breathing space straightaway, as Emperor Muhammad of Byzantium, Emir of Edessa died in his bed to be replaced by his 13 year old son Ilyas.


Aethelwulf began securing his borders began in 1109 by wedding Elfweard (one of his three legitimate half-brothers) to the daughter of the Hvalimer, Count of Rashka. Hvalimir was the son and heir of the Prince of Rashka, who was the only independent Serbia ruler. Hvalimir had been Aethelwulf’s friend for a little while and this marriage secured the bond between them. Elfweard received the Earldom of Arta (on the Adriatic as a wedding present). The Serbian frontier was secure.

The situation on the Danube went downhill straight after this and in 1110 Earl Oshere of Turnu rebelled. He was Aethelwulf’s uncle and (as the Council of Michaelmas 1108 had shown) was not reconciled to the right to rule passing form father to son (instead of brother to brother). Aethelwulf had to march straight to Turnu and break his Uncle by force. Many of the young men of Turnu perished in this struggle, but what of Earl Oshere? Our good Prince simply offered Oshere back his lands if he would swear fealty and renounce his claims to Aethelwulf’s titles. An important message was sent out here. It was that all members of the Uffason family would be provided for and even black sheep could be brought back into the fold if they were penitent.

Aethelwulf stayed on the Danube through to Spring 1111. Having settled affairs with Uncle Oshere, Aethelwulf attacked the remaining independent Petcheneg tribes on the Danube. They were crushed and their lands given to another of Aethelwulf’s younger half-brothers. Osred (the new earl of Birlad), was married to the sister of the Prince of Athens (one of the last remaining independent Orthodox Princes). This short burst of activity secured a portion of the Danube and the Republic’s southern frontier with the Theme of Athens.

In the Summer of 1111 the peace of Greece was shattered as Emperor Ilyas declared war on Basileos Kourtikes, the independent Orthodox Prince of Achaia. The young Emperor needed to prove his worth with a conquest, and this one did not seem difficult. While the Emperor might have seen this as simply aimed as reclaiming a rebellious Theme, it did not look that way to Aethelwulf or the Senate. To them it looked like another Muslim encroachment on Greek lands. Lands that they saw as belonging within the natural frontiers of the Republic. The Senate therefore granted Aethelwulf authority to claim the Theme of Achaia and unite it with the Republic.


Aethelwulf set sail almost immediately with just those troops that could be levied from around Thessalonike. Yes this was to be a war against the Prince of Achaia (who felt he held his lands from the last Christian Emperor and would hold them until a new Christian Emperor arose), but most of all it was to be a race to win the war before the Emperor’s Arabs and apostate Greeks could arrive in the Peloponnese. The Republic’s forces arrived in small contingents. Those from the Aegean Islands joined with Aethelwulf to invade the northeast, while those from the Adriatic followed Earl Ulf of Epirus into the northwest. Aethelwulf eventually met Prince Basileios in battle near Corinth and broke his forces with the heavy cavalry that was becoming a distinctive feature of the Uffason’s armies. Basileios gave up his title as Prince of Achaia to Aethelwulf, but was allowed to keep all his lands as an Earl within the Republic. All the other Counts within Achaia swore homage to Aethelwulf at the same time.

As an aside, we might note that this heavy cavalry was a result of the young Helleno-Varangians absorbing Greek ideas about the social superiority of the cavalryman over the foot soldier. The older generation of Varangians mocked this, saying the Greek only liked fighting on horseback as it made it easier to run away.

When Emperor Ilyas’ fleet finally arrived in the Peloponnese he found Aethelwulf and his army in place, backed by the local levies of the Achaian Counts. He turned round and sailed away. The 15 year old Emperor had not covered himself in glory during his first campaign. His next attempt at expanding his domains would come in 1113, but was aimed at the King of Sicily, not the Republic.

While Aethelwulf had been trying to make small strategic gains for the Republic, one big change had occurred in Europe. For once it was not a change that saw kingdoms fractured and the power of Christendom reduced. In 1110 King Vojtek of Bohemia inherited the Kingdom of Hungary and suddenly found himself King of the strongest Christian realm.

Aethelwulf responded to this by marrying his half-brother Eadulf to King Vojtek’s daughter as soon as Eadulf came of age. The ‘happy couple’ (who could only converse in halting Latin) were given the Earldom of Naxos as a wedding present.

With his Danubian frontier further secured by this marriage, Aethelwulf could turn to the Republic’s north-west frontier. This region was split between Aethelwulf’s Roman Republic and three others: King Hranislav of the Croatians, Emperor Ilyas, and the Serbian Prince of Rashka (whose granddaughter was married to Aethelwulf’s half-brother). The Emperor was by far the strongest of these three, and the way his European lands interlinked with those of the Republic made war with his look distinctly unattractive. Aethelwulf had nothing against the principle of reclaiming the Empire from the Muslim Emperors, but was not going to start a fight unless he knew he could win it, and profit from the victory.

Therefore Aethelwulf’s first step was to set off on a state visit to the court of King Hranislav of the Croatians. This was a huge success, with Aethelwulf and Hranislav becoming personal friends. Hranislav was declared a ‘Friend and Ally of the Roman Republic’.


The Prince of Rashka was left totally isolated when (in 1115) the Senate declared that the Serbians had failed to fulfil their duty as federati, and that the land they lived in would be reclaimed by Senior Consul Aethelwulf on behalf of the Republic. This may seem like a very thin casus belli, but Aethelwulf had thought long and hard in planning it and come up with a claim to the Principality of Rashka that was arguably legal from a Roman perspective. All of the territory south of the Danube had been part of the Empire from ancient times. Various tribes of barbarians had been allowed to settle within the Empire but they did so as allied nations – federati. In exchange for their land these allied tribes were required to give service to the Empire. By failing to provide this service (a long time before) the Serbs had therefore forfeited their right to the land, which the Republic could reclaim (regarding itself as the legitimate successor to the Empire). Needless to say this policy was being applied selectively (i.e. it did not apply to Hranislav King of the Croatians). Also we should note that this legalistic justification is not something Aethelwulf’s father (Prince Edward) would have stood for. To him it would have seemed dishonourable to invent a claim to land, and dishonourable to attack a fellow Christian lord.

Aethelwulf set off to war in his Consular regalia, escorted by his 24 lictors (as was his due as Dictator). He swept aside the Prince of Rashka, occupied his strongholds and called together the Serbian nobles from the Republic’s territories (old and new). Firstly he gave the away the Prince’s former demesne to Eustratios Doukas. From being the landless son of a failed Emperor Eustratios had earnt himself an Earldom through his loyal service. Aethelwulf had accepted the title of Prince of the new Theme of Rashka when a new cry went round the assembled nobles. Aethelwulf could not catch it at first, as he knew very few words of Serbian (most of which are unrepeatable in polite company). One of the lictors was originally a local boy. He whispered:

“They are hailing you king sire. They shout “Aethelwulf King of Serbia”.
 

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as ever a wonderful mixing of in-game events and characters to make a narrative. Now Hranislav is indeed a man of some contradictions, laying aside the obvious one I do so like the idea of someone being shy, cowardly and vengeful.
 

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What an interesting turn of events! Saxon Romans - who'd have thought?

Romulus Augustulus et al. must be turning in their graves ;)
 

Alfredian

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Quite a delay between posts this time. Bad combination of work, etc. I have been struggling to find time for reading, let alone writing. Anyway, better late than never.

Now Hranislav is indeed a man of some contradictions, laying aside the obvious one I do so like the idea of someone being shy, cowardly and vengeful.
Like a bad supervillain in a chess-club.

Romulus Augustulus et al. must be turning in their graves ;)
Well we wouldn't want to take too much notice of that western riff-raff
 

Alfredian

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Part 18 – Aethelwulf – Consul and King (1116 to 1123)

How can one man be both a King, and yet also Senior Consul and Dictator for Life of a republic? This was a question that Aethelwulf was forced to wrestle with after the Serbs acclaimed him their King. The solution that he found reflected the baroque nature of the new Roman Republic. He would be both a King to the Serbians, and a Consul to the Greeks, and yet bind them together into a single state.

When the Republic declared war on the (Serbian) Prince of Rashka it did so using the justification that the Serbs had long ago accepted land in exchange for a promise to serve Rome against her enemies, but that the Serbs had defaulted on this obligation. This logic states that there is no such country as Serbia, so Aethelwulf could not be King of Serbia. However, the Republic accepted that the Serbs existed as a people, as the Serbs were collectively held responsible for their ancestors’ default.

Aethelwulf accepted the title King of the Serbians (not of Serbia) and pledged that they as a people would once more fulfil their obligation to fight for Rome. This of course meant fighting for the Republic, not the heathen Emperor Ilyas. Meanwhile, in his role as Senior Consul Aethelwulf was busy binding the Serbian nobles into the Republic by appointing them as senators. Senators who were likely to vote with their new King, not any Greek opposition that might develop within the Senate.

Aethelwulf’s position was both elegant and contradictory, and this confusion is shown in the charters and other legal documents of the day. Some describe him as King, some Senior Consul, some Dictator, while others use older titles such as Prince of Epirus, Earl and even Strategos.


At the start of 1116, Aethelwulf was the only Prince in the Republic, and the whole realm was organised into a single Theme (like a Frankish duchy) for defence purposes. Clearly this was too much for him to govern alone, so he set about creating a tier of Princes that would stand between him and the Earls. This was not done in a reckless way, and certainly not so as to create any rivals for the Senior Consul’s power. Many earls still paid homage directly to Aethelwulf. Nevertheless this was an innovation that improved the running of the Rupublic’s outlying territories and gave the earls the dream of greater wealth and prestige.

The princes he created were:
• Prince Hvalimir of Rashka. Aethelwulf’s long-term friend, and also son-and-heir of the Prince of Rashka that Aethelwulf defeated and displaced to become King of the Serbians.
• Prince Eadulf of Wallachia. Aethelwulf’s friend, but also his uncle. As Earl of Pereschen he was well used to the Republic’s Danubian frontier.
• Prince Basileios of Achaia. Basileios had been Prince of Achaia before being vassalised by Aethelwulf following the war of 1111.
• Prince Ulf of Dioclea (on the Adriatic coast). Aethelwulf’s friend, only full-brother and the Earl of Zeta.
As you can see, Aethelwulf elevated men he could trust, and who already knew the lands they would be responsible for as prince.

We can also see that Aethelwulf was not out to eradicate the Greek or Serbian High Nobility. Instead he preserved it wherever possible, for example retaining Theodoulos Palaiologos as Count of Corfu, despite his being the grandson of the hated Prince Nikephoros of Epirus (Cerdic’s enemy). This desire for continuity did not necessarily extend to his new princes. Prince Eadulf of Wallachia stripped his brothers (Oshere and Swithelm) of their earldoms, to give their land to his sons. Prince Hvalimir of Rashka also expelled Eustratios Doukas. None of these decisions aroused much ire from Aethelwulf. After all, Uncle Oshere was not a loyalist (having rebelled only e few years before), and Eustratios still maintained a claim to be Emperor over all the Greeks. They received a promise of future compensation, and had to settle back into life at court.

Aethelwulf’s court in Thessalonike was a cultural melting pot, where Orthodox Christians from all across the east came together. Prominent amongst these were the Georgians. They had seen their homeland crushed by the Seljuks and faced with the choice between apostasy or exile, many chose the latter. Thessalonike was attractive to the Georgians for many reasons. There was a tradition of taking in exiles (like the Helleno-Varangians). There were lands to be won in the Republic’s service. Importantly, there was also the figure of Iya Bagratuni, Aethelwulf’s second wife. Although only from a minor branch of the Georgian royal family, she had caught Aethelwulf’s attention and held it well enough to become his wife and to present him with five children.

Importantly, in 1108 she provided him with a healthy son, something his first wife had not managed. The day of his birth Leofric Uffason was appointed Junior Consul of the Roman Republic, and Master of Horse (the Dictator’s deputy), and soon found himself Crown-Prince of the Serbians as well. Leofric was born into a mighty and cultured court, and was taught to rule all of the people of the Republic. He therefore learnt to be fluent in Greek, Latin and Serbian, and had a reasonable grasp of Arabic. What he lacked was fluency in English. This was very much a reflection of the development of the Helleno-Varangian culture within the nobility. Many English cultural practices had become fashionable (e.g. epic poetry, beer-drinking), but the English language had withered, becoming little more that a collection of loan-words that were integrated into everyday Greek language. Even English-style epic poetms were translated into, and now composed in, Greek.

In 1117, Archbishop Nikanor of Dyracchion seceded from the Empire. He was also known to be an apostate, who retained his rank as bishop, while practising as a Muslim to please Emperor Ilyas. What caused him to secede is unknown, but Aethelwulf instantly declared war and forced the Archbishop to become a vassal of the Republic. Yet even then the wily old Archbishop hung onto his position. The Teflon Priest (Teflon being the name of his palace) had an incredible ability to slide away from the consequences of his despicable actions. Even today those to whom blame cannot be stuck are named after him.

Also in 1117, Saelred Atheling (the Earl of Ragusa) rebelled against Prince Ulf of Dioclea. Saelred felt that as he was the true heir to the English throne he should be a prince himself, and certainly not subject to Aethelwulf’s younger brother. Ulf crushed the rebellion efficiently, and drove the Athelings out of the Republic. They became exiles once more.

1118 saw the virtual destruction of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily by a combined attack from the Turks and Emperor Ilyas as well. The Sultan and the Emperor divided the spoils between them in a rather haphazard way each claiming a portion of Sicily and Southern Italy. What was clear was that Christendom’s southern and eastern frontiers were in tatters. The past 40 years had seen the loss on Anatolia and the eastern Balkans (including Constantinople) to the Turks and Arabs, with Emperor Ilyas (an Arab Muslim) claiming authority as Emperor. In the West, the Arabs and Berbers had crushed the remaining Christian Kings in Iberia, occupied southern France, and gained footholds in northern Italy.


The situation was not a lot better in the east, where the Russian princes were succumbing to the growing power of their pagan neighbours (principally the Republic of Vyatichs).

Aethelwulf’s Roman Republic found itself as a Christian peninsular, surrounded to the west, south and east by Muslims who wished to destroy it. The Uffasons had long been friends of the merchant class, but could do little to alleviate their suffering. Trade collapsed as Muslim rulers controlled the sea lanes into the Adriatic, the western Mediterranean, the Levant and the Black Sea. Trade could still take place, but the cost in bribes paid and vessels lost was high.

How could Aethelwulf respond to this crisis for Christendom? His father (Prince Edward) had done so by launching a David and Goliath war against the Muslim hordes, but Aethelwulf knew that the Arab Goliath had won and his father had lost. A glorious defeat was not what he wanted and Aethelwulf was determined to avoid being drawn into a war on Emperor Ilyas’ terms.

Aethelwulf’s response to the increased Muslim threat did not come until 1120, and was to attack the (Christian) Prince of Athens. He did not even bother with a complex justification this time, just asked the Senate to declare war. The Republic must be strengthened, and any Orthodox rulers who would not join voluntarily would be brought onboard by force. Aethelwulf’s terms were simple from the start. The Prince could do homage and keep all his lands, but if any blood was spilt he would lose his prized capital of Athens. Aethelwulf led the invasion from the north; Prince Basileios of Achaia led the invasion from the south. Aethelwulf had to do all the fighting, but pushed through the Athenian forces to meet up with Basileios in Attica. By this point the Prince of Athens had lost the support of his two main vassals and came crawling to do homage. Aethelwulf allowed him to remain a prince, but took Attica into his personal demesne as promised.


This war did not make Aethelwulf look like a paragon of virtue, but did impress those who valued function over form. He spent the next few years rebuilding the fabric of the Republic and filling the treasury. However all work and no play makes jack a dull boy, so he spent much of his private time alone with his ‘friend’ Agatha (who was also his first cousin). In time this could have caused real trouble, as his wife’s Georgian relatives sought to defend her honour.

None of them had time though, as in the spring of 1123 Emperor Ilyas declared war on Hvalimir Prince of Rashka. Aethelwulf could either desert his friend and vassal, or take on an unwinnable war against the power that had crushed both the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Sicily.
 

Alfredian

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AARland needs YOU


I have just noticed that the AARland Choice Awards are underway. Please do vote even if you normally prefer not to comment.

It is also a good way of finding AARs that other readAARs think are really outstanding.

Mystic Meg moment:
I am confidently predicting that this AAR will maintain its consistant number of voters (none) from the previous two rounds.
 

loki100

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great stuff as ever, do like the way you are putting this together and the rather pragmatic character of Aethulwulf - though it appears his scope for ducking and diving has just ended

as to votes ... well you just never know