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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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For Another Thousand Years​

A Tale of the Roman Empire​

An Interregnum AAR​


A History of Modern Rome; University of Cevennes, 1973
The Roman Empire, having defeated the Third Crusade outside the walls of Constantinople, found itself capable of froming a new, and resurgent power. Though the Seljuks had managed to push through to Smyrna in 1388, a concerted attempt by the Empire allowed it to retake some of its long-lost Turkish territory.

In 1412, the Kingdom of Trebizond was re-incorporated into the Empire by treaty, and the Roman Emperors found themselves at the head of a territory that had dissolved the majority of the pre-existing Roman structures there, including the Akritai, centralizing the power in Trebizond greatly.

Taking advantage of this, Emperor Alexios the Fifth expanded the army greatly, creating an army of fifty thousand men under the banner of Rome. The fleet was likewise expanded, and, for the first time in two centuries, the military saw powerful central direction. Although Emperor Alexios was a great diplomat, and preferred the use of the pen to the sword, there was no doubting the threat that came from the Moslem in the south.

With such leadership, from our perspective, it seems inevitable that Rome rose to the power she is today..
 

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In 1419, Emperor Alexios VI took the throne. The son of Alexios the Fifth, and a equally capable diplomat and administrator, his direction was to prove invaluable in the early days of the Empire's resurgence.

2ir0z2x.png


At this point in time, Rome controlled all of Greece, the Ioanian isles, Rhodes, and the northwest of Turkey. Although not in any immediate danger, as she had been during the time of the Crusade, the Empire was a marginal regional power at best, despite her military. The rich lands of Greece could've easily been seized by an alliance in the north, or by the Caliphate, if either had professed the desire to do so, and Rome only had a single alliance with her vassal Krete, who had little in the way of men or ships, to fall back on if they found themselves at war.

Emperor Alexios VI so decided to reform the Akritai, placing them more under the control of the Emperor. Although they were only minor reforms, and were not felt for centuries to come, it allowed him more control over the border skirmishes the Akritai continually conducted, preventing the Turks from taking revenge when the time was not right.

With this accomplished, he directed monies into the 'foundations of the Empire'. His crown was held on only by the support of the nobles, and any popular revolt would easily unseat him in favour of any noble who managed to place the people behind him, in order to become basileus.

Immediately, despite the risk from the Turk, he reduced the pay of the soldiery to peacetime pay. The reasoning for this seemed particularly foolish from most perspectives at the time, but the Roman Empire was still a wealthy power, controlling the Bosphorus Strait at she did, and war seemed less of a threat than factors from within.

Almost all of Rome's taxes, apart from those sent to the troops (Alexios VI, unlike some Emperors, was strident in insisting his army was paid, no matter what, realizing that an unpaid army would quickly fall apart, and leave him with no power), were invested in the keeping of law and order. Banditry, though not prevalent, could be found in newly-acquired Trebizond and the Turkish territories, and many nobles spent their time feuding against each other. Directing his forces to prevent banditry, and to enforce peace between his vassals, Alexios saw stability slowly rise in the Empire.

Alexios VI would not be known as a great reformer, but he conducted reforms he deemed necessary to his cause. However, while he was not a true reformer, he believed in the old ideals of Rome - expansion and conquest.
 

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Don Matito: I've always had a soft spot for the Byzantines, but Interregnum always froze on me. I just got the latest version, (which works, be praised!), and figured I'd like to try out these alt-history Byzantines.

- - - -

In May 1419, Alexios sent his third nephew, Manuel, to marry an Albanian princess. The boy protested his marriage greatly - and sympathy can be felt for his protest, as, although the princess was the firstborn of the Albanian king, had suffered horrible burns as a child, and, despite her quick wit and loyalty, was hideous to look upon. Unable to marry her off to anyone, as Albania could not afford a large dowry, Gjon the First was delighted when Alexios made the offer.

However, he was still somewhat wary of an alliance, knowing that Albania would be used as a buffer against any Catholic powers Rome chose to war against, and refused Alexios's first offer. In June, however, Alexios sent a gift - the sword "δικαιοσύνη", or "Justice", (A note to the reader. The sword can be found in the Museum of Ireland's main exhibit, as it was sold off by the last descendent of Gjon in 1818, and remains readable to this day), offering it as a testament to the Albanian king's wise rulership and love of justice. Although this was baseless flattery, as Gjon was as brutal as any other feudal lord of the day, Gjon warmed to Alexios, and met with him in Athens in July, agreeing to an alliance.

2cehxmc.png


Albania only had five thousand men, and no navy, but, where the Roman forces had long been degraded in quality and in training, from centuries of the Emperor slowly losing power, Albania's forces were highly-trained, and could defend their mountains indefinitely. His western border so secured, Alexios ordered the army into Roman Turkey, to prepare for his first great campaign.


14uvqr4.png

With 50,000 men prepared for the invasion, Alexios's forces were more than a match for the divided enemies they would face.

Preparing the men and increasing their pay meant that, when the invasion came, it would be far easier to pull off. War with the former Seljuks was not like war within the Empire itself. Mountain warfare was brutal and bloody - and whoever was entrenched was sure to win, or at least inflict great casualties on their enemies.

The past few times Roman Emperors had attempted to reconquer the Seljuks, they had been met with success in the plains, but, time after time, they were defeated in the mountains, and took such casualties that they were forced back beyond their original borders.

Alexios, however, had delivered a plan to his generals, after almost a month of conferring with them.

24zvn2r.png

The declaration of war delivered, Alexios chooses not to bring his allies into the war.

The Romans had plentiful cavalry in comparison to the Turks, but their infantry was lacking. They needed a way to draw the enemy out onto the open plains, or otherwise they would have no way of re-conquering their old lands.

Approximately seventy thousand Turks would be marshalled against the Romans, however, due to the fragmented nature of their leaders, and poor relations between some of them, the Romans would never have to face even a fifth of that at any one time.

Emperor Alexios sent out his personal ship, escorted by half the Roman Navy, to Trebizond. The visit had been left open for the people to know, and the Turks reacted accordingly. Assuming Alexios would be in Trebizond, and would attempt to strike them from behind, they acted pre-emptively, drawing their forces away from the well-defended mountain borders in order to seize Trebizond.

One Turkish general thought differently, and was derided by his colleagues - the Rum were obviously going to ship their army around to Trebizond! Mehmed, however, led his force down into Anatole - where Iakobos Barys, a Roman general, lay in wait. He assumed the Romans would already be on the march, and far out of Anatole, already taking advantage of their trap, and so decided to destroy their supply lines.

However, circumstances, in this case, the inefficiency of the Roman army, stood against him. Barys had not yet begun to march, preferring to see what happened to the other generals in the mountains first. Although he was contravening the orders of the Emperor, Barys was still a fine general, and, after the other forces succesfully penetrated the Turkish mountains, he saw a chance to redeem himself from what seemed to be a career-ending mistake.

Mehmed had twelve thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry, the largest single unit of cavalry in the Turkish forces. Barys commanded twenty-five thousand men, however, and, upon being alerted to Mehmed's approach, sent his cavalry units far off, near distant hills.

Mehmed saw the Romans apparently preparing to move, and decided to take his chance, and attacked. Barys was, however, more than prepared for the attack, and, when Mehmed rushed in, covered layers of spikes stopped his cavalry, and, as his infantry piled up behind his cavalry, Barys's own vast cavalry force bore down on them, annihilating his force entirely.

10enhif.png

Iakobos Barys lost four thousand men in the battle - the Turks lost sixteen. The magnitude of the victory here would expedite Roman advances for the rest of the war.
 

Lordling

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Mettermrck: I want to develop a more historically-bent Roman Empire (One that I play according to the abilities of my monarch, the relations between my nation and others, and events), rather than a gameplay-driven one. Therefore, it's likely the Empire won't be seeing a reconquest of Europe.

- - - - -

As the Turkish forces concentrated their fury on Trebizond, Rome quietly split up her armies, and ensonced themselves firmly in the Turkish mountains surrounding the Roman plains in Anatole and Smyrna. Besieging enemy fortresses, but well-fortified themselves, every Turkish attempt to root them out in the early months of the campaign failed miserably. Although the Romans lost another five thousand men to disease and Turkish arrows, the Turks lost almost ten, attempting, time and time again, to retake their home provinces, but with no luck.

On May 11th, the Romans were moving into the northern mountains, and already held the southern ones. The Battle of Antayla saw a Turkish force attempt to oust the Roman one, with little success. Eight thousand Turks lost over a thousand of their number, and were forced back, in retreat. Where the war had been seen as folly by some of the generals, the populace at home cheered for Alexios and his glorious victories.

1fzr0n.png

The Roman position on May 11th. Roman advances made are shown in red, Turkish movements are shown in green.

On August the 9th, a second attempt was made to oust the Romans from the mountains, but with no more success. Although the Turkish force in Trebizond was more than sufficient to destroy any of the Roman ones, the idea that the Emperor was in Trebizond still hung in the air like a prize, each Turk wishing to grab it. The reality of the situation was that Alexios was riding out from Constantinople with five thousand men to reinforce the north, and ensure he could negotiate treaties from the from.

x4rcsk.png

The Battle of Angora. About five hundred infantry and a thousand cavalry are lost by the Turks, with perhaps a third of that lost to the Romans.

However, the Emperor was delayed, as a small Turkish fleet sailed into the Bosphuros, which had been left undefended as to allow the Turks to believe the Emperor was truly in Trebizond, and, as the fleet had luckily been recalled at that moment, the blockade lasted only two days. Five Turkish ships, including among them two warships, were sunk, leaving the Romans yet another victory. Although destroying an enemy you outnumbered ten to one was no real glory, the Turks had been attempting a desperate maneuver - land a small force at Constantinople, and starve the populace into giving in. Like many of the moves made by the Seljuk remnant forces in this war, it had the potential to be a masterful stroke, however, since two of the three navies the Seljuks had under their banner refused to undertake it, it was another fool's venture.

24oxc8x.png

The Battle of Marmara. Almost as soon as the battle is joined, three enemy galleys are sunk by the Roman fleet. The remaining two ships last only a little longer.

The army of the successor state of Candar was in Trebizond, and a pair of skillfully-executed sieges by the Romans left their ruling family captured, and in the hands on the Roman Emperor.

However, the Candar refused his initial offers, and, enraged by the possibility that the enemy armies could be returning to take back his hard-gotten gains, Emperor Alexios ordered the majority of the family killed. A bloodbath of massive proportions ensued, the one-hundred-and-thirty members of the Candar ruling family reduced to seventeen, twelve of those female, and the heir a mere ten years old.

"Your father has defied me. Your mother has defied me. Your brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts have defied me. I ask you now, boy. Will you take up the crown of Candar, and rule as my vassal, or will the streets find yet another rivulet of your vile family's blood?"
- Emperor Alexios VI, Negotiations with Candar.

Suleyman II, ten years old, accepted Alexios's offer. He would be named Sultan of Candar, and would cede Kastamon to the Roman Empire, to be held in perpetuity, and pay half of his taxes to Rome. A Roman regent and two thousand Roman men remained in Angora to enforce Alexios's will, and, immediately, the men from Trebizond were recalled. By now, the Turks were aware of Alexios's gambit, but it was already too late. Candar, the most powerful contributor to the war, had been removed.

Soon after, Teke was taken. However, the bloodbath was not repeated - Uthman I, ruler of Teke, had heard of Alexios's reputation, and immediately capitulated to all his demands, sending two of his three sons as hostages to Constantinople, marrying his daughters off to minor Roman nobles, and allowing a Roman regent (or 'advisor' as he was named, as Uthman was of age) to be by his side.

With the monies he acquired from Uthman, Alexios decided to crush the Turks once and for all. They would all live under Roman rule - he could not allow them to continue to be a threat towards the Empire. Although other Christian states were just as much of a threat, (especially towards Orthodox 'heretics'), Alexios was fiercely religious, and saw the Moslems as an affront against God.

However, it was not to be. His vassals in Morea had taken out many debts, and sent almost twelve thousand men in this campaign, and, as a result, were facing closure on their loans by Genoan bankers. Alexios knew he could either fund them, or let them collapse. The collapse would mean he had a chance to pick up new personal lands, but, if Morea collapsed, he could no longer rely on a significant contigent of his men. The choice was obvious. He paid the Moreans, stating that it was only through loyalty and brotherhood they had taken out the loans to help defend Christendom, and it was only right for him to recognise that, and aid a fellow Christian, as they had so selflessly done for him.

bhjdi.png


The real result was that Morea became a more dedicated follower of Alexios - their forces were more often marshalled, and the Moreans would follow Alexios's children for almost a hundred years unquestioningly. When the position of megas domesticous cropped up, a Morean was almost always appointed, the Emperors knowing they could rely on the Moreans. using the Emperor's money to recover from their losses, and become a wealthy house once more.

However, the loss of the money crippled Alexios's planned spring offensive. Remarshalling his forces into new groups, Alexios decided to see if the Turks would come to him. If they could be lured out once more, it would be a simple matter to end the war.
 

Emperor_krk

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I'm most happy to see you starting a new AAR, and especially a Roman one :). Interregnum's Byzantium is very fun to play, and especially when you don't know the events that are coming upon you (which, for me, is not anymore the case :(, having played Byz in Aberration and Interregnum, like, 5 or 6 times already :p). Very nice updates. I'm eagerly awaiting more of them, and I hope this AAR doesn't end as quickly as the previous Roman one. Good luck to Byzantine Autokratoria! :D
 

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Played the Byzantines a bunch of times myself, but never in Interregnum.

I like Byzantines. I like history book style. I like maps and picutres... Subscribed.
 

Lordling

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Emperor_krk: The last one was hamstrung by spectacularly high BB. I think this one will be more conservative in its conquests.

Don Matito: Actually, I'm making them vassals only because they're now one-province minors. It means they can't ally with anyone, and a larger person is more likely to snap them up, which means I can then take that territory without the BB hit.

Brian Roastbeef: Thankee kindly. In any case, here comes the next update!


- - - - - - -

It was not until summer next year that Alexios had the forces to successfully continue his offensive. Having placed his forces in the north and south of Turkey, assuming rightly that his new vassal-Sultans would be too afraid of him to dare his wrath in letting enemy forces through, he managed to fend off all Seljuk attacks, of which there were six. None of their offensives by the Seljuks had any great effect, and, indeed, they merely bolstered Roman morale.

2gvr1uo.png

On August 20th, Iakobos Barys led his forces into Trabzon, fending off the Turks mere days before the castle would've fallen.

Iakobos Barys led the main body of the Roman Army down into Trabzon, defeating a force two-thirds his size, but, more importantly, slaughtering the Turks there nearly to the last man. Although he lost nigh four thousand men himself, it was a victory on the scale of his previous one in Anatolia, and one that would place him highly in the Emperor's eyes for some time. However, the battle cost them dearly, and forty days later, another Turkish force, this time from Karaman (who, having sent their armies to the north, were now facing sieges on their southern cities by the smaller southern Roman army), rousted him from Trabzon, annuling his previous victory. However, they had gotten supplies to the fort, and helped repair the walls, and so Trabzon was prepared for another siege.

1zyyfsx.png

Trabzon was retaken by Barys, and the siege lifted, but the Turks still had some fight left in them, driving him out again.

It was almost another year before the Romans decided to advance again. Having suffered heavy casualties as a result of constant skirmishes, which had taken over half their original army as a toll, Barys demanded more men before he attempted to seize Trabzon once more. Alexios, in return, demanded his resignation for cowardice in a fit of pique, knowing that for as long as the army was away, the less secure his throne was - but Barys remained constant, and refused to turn his army away.

Although Barys could've rebelled at the time, Alexios ordered half his army away, and it was not until June 9th that the two were reconciled, and Barys re-swore his oath of allegiance, and Alexios re-healed the breach that could've destroyed his Empire.

30rqzbq.png

Iakobos Barys finally gets the reinforcements he so desired.

However, as he advanced cautiously into Trabzon, the Karaman were more than ready for him, or so they thought. However, an elaborate trap devised by Barys, influenced by his previous trap of the Turk, allowed him to feign retreat, and encircle and destroy ten of the thirteen thousand Karaman who were ensonced in Trabzon. However, this tactic, too, was to work against him, when the rear elements of his army panicked and fled in actuality, believing the retreat was real, and, just as he was on the verge of final victory, his army collapsed around him, fleeing back into the mountains.

For the campaign, it was a collossal success, but for the Emperor, it seemed another intolerable failure. Although he was not relieved of his command, Barys was told that another failure would see him relieved of his head. Constantinople grew restless, and there had even been an uprising in Morea - which, although it had been swiftly crushed by the loyal lords there, gave Alexios pause about continuing the war.

30ic6ya.png

Barys manages a wholesale slaughter of the Karaman in Trabzon, but still fails to take the province back.

Thankfully, on December the 6th, Barys won a stunning victory, eliminating all the last vestiges of the Karaman army, including the men who had come to reinforce it. His faith in Barys restored, Alexios ordered him towards Dulkadir, where he swiftly destroyed their army, and captured their city in a stunning few months.

212svfb.png

Barys manages a stunning victory in Trabzon.

From then on, the First Seljuk War was a matter of sieges. Negotiating peaces and the transferrance of lands proved a simple matter, and, on August 20th, 1424, the Roman Empire was technically master of all Turkey and Greece - although some lands were still held by the Seljuk successor states, they owed their existence, and owed much tribute to Constantinople.

Despite early setbacks, the First Seljuk War had been a stunning success for Emperor Alexios, who took many new personal lands from the Turks, increasing the power of his family over the nobles. The Barys family, formerly fairly poor, was granted a large part of the former domain of Dulkadir, in return for their loyal service and tolerance, and the Roman Empire was re-established as a regional power.

Formerly, it had been seen as a declining old empire, containing worth truly only in its history and former glory. However, this victory, though seen by the Muslims as more aggression from Rum, awakened the Abbasid Caliphate to the threat of Rome, and allowed the smaller Orthodox states to the north to, for the first time in centuries, view Rome as a potential ally of strength.

2i2aeqc.png

The Roman Empire in 1424
 

stnylan

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Excellent start to the Roman reconquista.

Just an editorial comment: if you intend to use a fair number of screenies it helps if you use jpegs instead of png files, as they take far less time to load on the page. You notice such things if your internet connection is a little variable :)
 

Emperor_krk

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Indeed, what stnylan is saying is true.
Neatly done with the Seljuks. What now, more expansion? How about taking what is rightfully yours in the Balkans? *looks at Serdica and Varna...* ;)
 

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Nicely done! That Trabazon campaign was sure bloody but you managed it in the end. Looks like you're well on the way to recouping Asia Minor, a good base to launch further campaigns of expansion. I notice Barys' relationship with the Emperor is touch and go. Without constant success, can he survive? :)
 

unmerged(62674)

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Don't forgot to incorporate Mesopotamia, Italy, Egypt and the West!

OT - i can't afford Interregnum. Would be nice to get link of them.
 

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Heh. I played through yesterday, and I've played.. a century of the game so far. I have almost 200 screenshots ready to be posted. Considering it took me 4 updates to do 5 years.. expect this to take awhile to get through.

stnylan: I didn't actually notice, as I've always used .pngs with maps out of habit. I might do that, though.

Emperor_krk: The Balkans are going to be mine, yes. And more! SO MUCH MORE! Bwahahaah! Well, until I start losing, of course.

Severance: My aim from here on in is to keep the Empire stable. I've learned from my mistakes - hyper-expansion leads to collapse. Only by slowly expanding and consolidating can I hope to win.

Mettermrck: Well, Imperial generals tend to die when they fail. Or, since your average Emperor tends to be jealous of their power, when they do too well.

Chief Ragusa: Keeping the Empire stable and strong is my first priority. I never want to have more than 15-20% unconverted provinces, if that.

M4 Emperior: It's going to be tough - Italy is allied, and the Italian powers have fleets that can sink mine into the oceans several times over, and Mesopotamia is occupied by the Abbasid Caliphate. The Islamic power which can curbstomp me with relatively little effort.

Duke of Wellington: Well, I've done well so far, at least.. though what the future will bring remains to be seen.

- - - -

The Empire had won a great victory. It was undeniable. Whilst many lords grumbled about the Emperor, and his liberties with their men, the fact remained that the borders of the Empire meant that they were no longer boxed in by the Muslim powers in Turkey, and, of course, the Roman Empire was allotted much more respect overseas. However, in some quarters, respect meant fear.

"The Romans have launched a new crusade to retake their old lands from the infidel. Yet they are now perilously close to the true crusaders in Jerusalem, and could threaten them even as we speak. With all the perfidy and treachery that is the essence of Constantinople, who is to say that they do not?"
- Pope Innocent III.

Despite the suspicion from the Pope, the Emperor continued his celebrations, undeterred by the Catholics.

The Imperial Fleet

All the ships of the Imperial fleet sailed out into the Straits of Bosphuros, celebrating in front of the City itself. Stephanos Doxapatros, the new admiral of the fleet, commanded the entire fleet in his first capacity as Megas Doux. He had been appointed by the Emperor, as the previous Megas Doux had been killed by an infected cut, and Stephanos was the Emperor's distant cousin.

In 1425, Alexios managed to obtain an oath of loyalty from the new Albanian king, Gjon the Second, who was now his son-in-law. Gjon the Second was, by all accounts, a weak king, although an intelligent one, and he was all too aware of the fact that Albania could easily be snapped up by a hungry Catholic power.

Gjon the Second gives his oath of allegiance to Alexios.

Though the Seljuks were forced to pay tribute to the Emperor, Gjon did so on a promise of protection. (Alexios gave no promise of protection to the Seljuks, merely a promise that he would re-enact the slaughter at Candar if they dared defy him)

He submitted himself to the Emperor as a vassal, and Alexios accepted most graciously. A promise of no less than fifteen thousand men were to be sent to Albania if she were ever besieged or attacked, and a promise of liberation if Albania was ever taken.

With the weakness of his position in mind, Alexios decided that he would need new allies. Albania was insufficient - although it paid into the imperial treasuries, in the case of war, there was no doubt that it would fall quite easily. The Kingdom of Jerusalem looked on the Empire with suspicion, aided by the Pope, and if war was to come again to the Empire, it was unlikely that such a successful campaign would occur.

Thus, Alexios sent gifts and messengers to the north, into Serbia and Bulgaria. Both responded quickly - having seen the Emperor's military might against the Seljuk, where they had once been disdainful, they were now eager to ally with the mighty Roman Empire.

It is notable that Alexios reformed amidst having a tiny army, some twenty-thousand men, equal to the army of Serbia or Bulgaria. However, his statemenship lay in making others believe what was blatantly untrue - that the Empire could muster a hundred thousand if it needed, and most of those horsemen. With a few well-placed bribes among hhis lords, he impressed the kings of Serbia and Bulgaria with a vast cavalry salute as they entered Constantinople, making them positively slavering for the opportunity to safeguard their sovereignity by using the Roman Empire.

66dmc0.jpg

A map of the Empire in 1429 - blue lines indicate where the Emperor collects tribute, green is where the First Alliance of Constantinople extends to.

Thus impressed, the monarchs of Serbia and Bulgaria sent tales of Roman might and power far beyond what was true through the Catholic west, and the hand of the Pope and that of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was stayed. Attacking the Roman Empire would see them crushed mercilessly, and, when the Pope convened a secret council to discuss a war on Rome, (the Vatican records of 1429 can be accessed if one is a qualified theological scholar, or can otherwise prove your legitimate need for them by contacting the Roman Museum of Constantinople, in which the records remain, after the looting of Rome some centuries later), his allies shied away from the prospect.

However, six days after the council was convened, Alexios had a terrible stroke, leaving him unable to move. His friend, Ioannes (unrelated to the new Emperor), saw him in this state, and slew him, afterwards claiming it was an assassin. Rather than letting the Emperor's pride be defiled, and the nobles slowly take back the power he had consolidated, he chose to do a dreadful thing, and preserve the sovereignity of the Empire for years to come. (His journals, uncovered in Cairo in 1785, attest to this dreadful deed, as, after he fled to Cairo, he committed suicide, leaving his journals behind as to explain why he did what he did)

Ioannes VI was crowned Emperor. Thankfully, he was a more than capable man.


Ioannes VI was crowned with all the pomp and ceremony typical of a Roman Emperor. As the closest heir, he took the throne, changing nothing within the Roman hierarchy. A cautious and peaceful man by nature, he had no desire for sweeping reforms, rather, he believed that through negotiation and diplomacy, one could accomplish much before resorting to the sword.

By keeping the old Emperor's appointments, many of whom had been indoctrinated by Alexios to be loyal to the throne, not the man, he took up the crown with no noticeable lack of stability in the Empire.

He downsized the army even further (no Roman monarch has ever reduced the size of the navy, as the navy is the key to controlling the lucrative Mediterranean and Black Sea trade), but kept it secret, ensuring that more men than ever could be levied than before, by creating cantonments across the Empire. He also created many internal tax reforms, quietly working to make the lot of the people better.

He was, though, an imposing and dangerous-seeming man when he wanted to be. He invited the king of Bulgaria, and queen of Serbia to Constantinople, and told the Bulgarian King to submit to the Empire.

"For, do not the taxes of the Empire ensure your safety? What are you, but an extended border. Take no offense, for I mean none, but without taxes from your lands, I cannot truly pledge to defend them. The Pope schemes against Orthodoxy, and unless we stand united against it, we have little hope against his cunning."

The queen of Serbia was unconvinced, but the Bulgarian King pledged taxes there and then. Ioannes made a token gesture to increase the size of the army, but also built a second academy of fine arts in Macedonia. Some would call him foolish, but, in an age where kings and queens spent on whimsy, the grand academies of art would generate almost a twentieth of the Roman Empire's income for some time yet.

35mqjr4.jpg

Bulgaria accepts vassalship within the Empire.

In 1431, Ioannes brought the Serbian Queen back. Quite openly threatening, he ordered her to pay tribute, "or nevermore plague the august Basileus with your petty demands for protection."

An rather underhanded measure, as there were no other Orthodox countries bordering Serbia she could ally with, and Hungary was openly hostile to Serbia. Realizing that paying taxes to Rome was preferable to being slain by the maygars, she grudgingly submitted her vassalage.

34eompw.jpg

Serbia becomes a vassal soon after.

Ioannes found more oppurtunity in 1432, when the Golden Horde suffered a collapse, the outer regions of its influence asserting their independence. Most importantly, the ancient kingdom of Armenia was revived, and, although the Horde decided to war on them, Ioannes resolved to make them an ally, should they survive. The rich mines of Armenia would give the empire suzerainty in its minting of coins for centuries, and ensure that the hyperpyron was much harder to debase in the future - and perhaps even revive the debased solidus as a currency.

24v4f36.jpg

The Golden Horde collapses, with many outer regions declaring independence.

Such economic plans, though, were not worth challenging the mighty Golden Horde on. Although Ioannes had no doubt that they would destroy the Horde cavalrymen in the mountains of Turkey, the fact remained that the Pope and Jerusalem were hostile, and if he sent his men to the north, a strike from the west remained a horrifying possibility.

Therefore, he simply increased the size of the army, and weighed up the possibility of war. Unless the Pope was otherwise occupied, he would not strike.

He was right to do so, for, in late May, 1434, Sicily decided to gain a base in the east, for useage in controlling the seas. Although urged not to do so by Jerusalem and the Pope, they aimed for Albania, deciding that the Roman Empire would not dare fight back for such a minor state.

However, Ioannes saw such an attack as underhanded treachery, and denounced it as such, pulling the nobles behind him to war on Sicily. Sicily asked her allies, the Papal States and Ragusa, to join her, which they did, although Jerusalem decided not to attack the Empire.

2rh79kh.jpg

Sicilian imperialism, and competition with Genoa leads to a war between the Churches.

Bulgaria and Serbia, however, remembering how they had been strongarmed into paying taxes, decided not to war against Sicily. Ioannes, furious, ordered them to Constantinople, or "else my armies will root you out, despite the damned Sicilians!".

When they arrived, Ioannes showed them a letter. It was addressed to the King of Hungary, denouncing the Bulgarians and Serbians as traitors, and offering him the chance to march into Bulgaria and Serbia, and take what he would. Ioannes even offered him ten thousand gold solidus in the letter, in return for "disciplining those who have none of their own".

Realizing that such a letter could well mean the end of their countries, Bulgaria and Serbia committed their men to the war. It was a gambit Ioannes had entered into, but it had paid off.

He also sent messengers to Wallachia, for Krete had also betrayed them - but he had no weapon with which to threaten Krete, and their concerns were real. Superior Sicilian naval power could lead to the end of Krete, and so Ioannes forgave them.

Wallachia gladly entered the war, with a promise that a full quarter of the war indemnities, when they were paid, would be given to Wallachia.

2ep0u35.jpg

The First Alliance of Constantinople is renewed, thanks to the cunning of Ioannes.

However, several days later, at the urging of the Pope, the King of Jerusalem (under the threat of excommunication), entered the war against Rome. Alexios left the defense of the west to his allies, and brought his army to Anatolia. He met the Jerusalem forces there, and handily defeated them, ensuring they had no more great forces with which to attack the Empire.

33ac9xc.jpg

The Jerusalem army is destroyed by a Roman force of cavalry.

In 1435, Ioannes turns back, and returns to Constantinople. His victory over the Kingdom of Jerusalem has been one bright note in a dark cacophany. Macedonia, Hellas, and Morea are under siege, Albanian forces are fighting a continually attacking Sicilian enemy, and Serbia faces invasion as well.

The war looks grim, and Gjon threatened to surrender to Sicily as a vassal unless Ioannes managed to throw the Catholic powers out. Faced with an ultimatum, Ioannes was said to grin.

"So, my vassal seeks to order his rightful lord, does he? No matter. I am embarking on a course of action already, and his petulant cries find no haven in my ears. He will pay for his impudence, in time. For now, though, the heretic Catholics will pay for their treachery."
- Ioannes VI, upon his return to Constantinople.

69i7lw.jpg

The stage looked grim, as none of the Roman vassals or allies had managed to muster enough forces to push out the Pope's allies.

However, the Aegean Sea remained solidly Roman, and no fleet, Sicilian or Ragusan, had managed to oust them. This meant that Constantinople had to be approached by land - and from Constantinople, Ioannes could ride with his army like a vast avenging storm, destroying all before him in his terrible wrath.

vs2io3.jpg

Ioannes destroys eight thousand Ragusan men, some of whom had just arrived, preparing to march on the City of Men's Desires, Constantinople.
 

stnylan

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Ragusa is small fry. That army in Hellas might be a tougher fight :)