January 8th, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Bishop Anatolios
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    Sermon of Bishop Anatolios of Rohas
    Sunday, January 8th, indiction 7, AM 6277 (January 12th, AD 769)

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    (…)
    The Israelites have turned to worship of false idols in their moments of fear and despair.

    Dark times have fallen over Romania in the past. The oldest ones among us might even remember when the walls of the City itself were threatened, when it seemed that the Lord has forsaken us, his chosen people. And before that, twenty years of usurpers, of men unfit to wear the purple, twenty years of anarchy!

    For forty years have the Israelites been condemned to walk the desert. We have the mercy of the Blessed Virgin to thank for getting only half as much.


    (…) and just as Moses cleansed the idolatry from his people and led them in times of trouble, so too is our Basileus Konstantinos leading us, the Romans, back into God’s everlasting grace and favour.

    The Basileus’ trusted strategos Michael, our leader and protector, has been cleansing the idolatry from our lands ever since God’s Vicegerent on Earth sent him to us. Some time ago I have discovered one of his officers, the young droungarios Raphail, kissing an icon that he carries secretly around his neck while praying in this church. I have tried to help him see the errors of his ways, but he rebuffed, saying that it kept his father safe in the wars against the Saracens. A false conviction in every regard, an image cannot do any such thing, the Lord is the only one that can decide our fate, and He does so based on merit or purpose.

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    I had written to Patriarch Niketas about this young man and he advised me to inform the strategos about the incident, which I did. I have pleaded with Strategos Michael not to be too hard on the young droungarios, iuventus - ventus, in time, he’ll see the falsehoods of his beliefs. The strategos acquiesced to my request, but noted that heresy of any kind will not be tolerated of any officer in the Thracesian Theme for it will surely bring God’s disfavour and defeat.

    Additionally, as part of Raphail’s punishment, I have had to bar him from attending communion in this church. He is allowed to come pray for his soul whenever else he wishes, but I cannot risk his pollution infecting the community or desecrating the sacraments.

    As you have surely noticed by now, a new man stands today where Raphail once stood. Most of you already know Leon, a capable and orthodox solider, a former hekatontarches, now the droungarios of the Thracesian Theme. He has loyally served the empire for a long time and I know no man more deserving of his new post.

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    Let us pray for the safety and health of the Basileus, the Patriarch, our strategos, and for young Raphail, may he see the Truth and join us soon.
     
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    February, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Startegos Michael and Basileus Konstantinos
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    Letter to Basileus Konstantinos V from Strategos Michael Lachanodrakon
    Monday, January 30th, indiction 7, AM 6277 (February 3rd, AD 769)

    My most pious kyrios, Basileus by the grace of Christ, God’s Vicegerent on Earth, I wish to humbly express my suggestion for your daughter's, Nobilissma Anthousa, hand in marriage to my firstborn Kyrillos once they both come of age.

    Your humble servant and friend,
    Strategos Michael Lachanodrakon

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    Letter to Strategos Michael Lachanodrakon from Basileus Konstantinos V
    Wednesday, February 8th, indiction 7, AM 6277 (February 12th, AD 769)

    My friend and strategos Michael,
    I accept your suggestion for my daughter’s hand. From what my logothetes has told me, your boy seems to be developing into a sharp minded and diligent young man, much like his father.

    The formal introduction and announcement of the betrothal will have to wait however. The Slavs that have infringed on Roman lands in Achaia continue to reject the word of our Lord and defy imperial authority. Ready your men for an expedition to cleanse the lands of our forefathers from these pagans.

    May this letter find you in good health,
    Basileus Konstantinos

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    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Theophylaktos
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    From the writings of Theophylaktos, droungarios of the Thracesian Theme
    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 (March, AD 769)

    We had started preparations mid-February in the seventh indiction, as soon as strategos Michael informed us of the Basileus’ plan. The men were not as eager to march to liberate “the lands of our forefathers” as the Imperial Court expected them to be and I did not blame them.

    Our homeland was in Anatolia and in Thrace, our forefathers settled these lands and enlisted to protect Christianity from the Saracens, not to go off to some long forgotten pagan lands in the Peloponnese. What did the bureaucrats of the City think, that the average theme solider reads the heroic exploits of Hellenes from the heathen poleis? Most the men know of those lands only from what the clergy has told them of the missionary work Saint Paul and his students. How it took long to divert the people who lived there from their wicked ways, to see the light of the one and only true God and the glory of the Son, both divine and human. Not much sympathy for the people of those lands could be derived from those tales.

    A far more effective boost of morale have been the stories that I sent my kentarches to deliver to their men. The stories about how the Slavic tribes led by Mijat raided our churches in the ineffective and lazy Theme of Hellas, how they denied Christian practices to Romans that were left in their lands, trapped, and how the Slavs in Thessaly provided safe harbours for Saracen pirates. Those should keep them eager for battle during the long march west.

    The Imperial Protostrator, Strategos Michael Melissenos, has assured us that they will be no intrusions in our lands from the east as the Saracens are preparing to march their forces north this season, towards Abkhazia and possibly Chaldia. The Protostrator’s Anatolic Theme will be able to handle any leftover Saracen forces coming from Tarsos so we can commit our full force to the war in the west. This is something that will also keep the men at ease in case of a longer campaign, as we have recently received reports that the Archon of the Serbs, Vojislav, has announced his support for Chief Mijat.

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    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Theophylaktos pt. 2
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    From the writings of Theophylaktos, droungarios of the Thracesian Theme
    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 (March, AD 769)

    Riding through narrow mountain passes always give me an uneasy feeling, even when moving deep in Imperial territory. The most ambitious and foolish of the Saracen raiders have not passed through the lands north or east of Sardeis for over two indictions, yet I still could not keep my eyes from examining every shadow on the slopes.

    I’ve noticed the Samos theme scouts at the moment they started tracking us, six miles before we hit camp. They were sloppy. I knew where to look and there was no reason for them to conceal themselves from us, but still, shadow-mimicking should be second nature to a good theme army lookout, whatever the situation. It definitely did not help to disprove the rumours of Strategos Theodoros Krateros being a priest in military uniform - good at propaganda, but lacked a leader’s ability to inspire discipline.

    Once we hit camp, Petronios Skepastos, the Komes of Smyrna and tourmarches in the Theme of Samos, arrived with half a dozen of his bucellarii to escort us the remainder of the way to Pergamon. My father served as a droungarios in his father’s tourma, before the Basileus created the Theme of Samos and assigned to it the coastal parts of the Thracesian Theme. A lot of men knew these parts well, the ones that we picked up at Sardeis even have family members at Pergamon and would surely want us to make a full day stop there. However, Startegos Michael has informed us that we won’t be stopping any longer that we did at Philadelphia, when we just did a small resupply after being on march for three days. The strategos decided to travel light on supplies until we passed the Hellespont. This would enable us to move at a good pace while conserving our strengths. In his words, we were the real protectors of Smyrna and Abydos, not the sailor themes that lived there, supplying us while moving through their land on imperial orders is the least they could give back in return.

    Komes Petronios greeted me with more warmth than was expected of a man of his station and birth, and definitely more than one would expect at the first sight of him. He had stern look on his face, with a scar going from below his right eye into his bushy beard that he probably grew to cover it up. He was powerfully built, but one could see that he was not accustomed to traveling light on supplies. His gaze was constantly shifting, as if he was searching for something while lost in his thoughts. Military life can really take its toll on men in different ways.

    We set camp about 55 miles form Pergamon, on the third day since we left Sardeis, ninth since we left Laodikeia.


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    March 17th, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Leone Galbaio
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    Letter from Leone Galbaio to his brother Giovanni
    Friday, March 17th, indiction 7, AM 6277 (March 21st, AD 769)

    Egregio fratello,

    I write to you on my last day in Pergamon. However, as much as you may protest, I will not be leaving for the ports of Smyrna and board a Serenissima ship. I have acquired some extra funds in the last two weeks of my stay in Pergamon (of which I will speak about later in this letter) and have decided to travel towards the City of the Emperors by land and do some business along the way.

    There is no need to fear for my safety caro fratello, I will be a guest of Strategos Michael Lachanodrakon and his host until we reach the Via Egnatia. He is traveling with the full might of the Thrachesian Theme towards the lands we do business in, therefore making his acquaintance will be an important asset to secure our Theban post. You may have heard rumors of the unforgiving and zealous nature of this strategos, but worry not, as our friend Comes Petronios assures me of the strategos’ nobility and honour. Besides, Lachanodrakon would be foolish to act against a son of the Doge while marching west where our Armada could make or break the outcome of the conflict.

    It seems that what our father’s agents have been reporting for some time is finally confirmed, the Emperor has decided to move against the Slavs in Greece. That being said, the primary focus of the aggression is not the same as they have reported. This might be old news by the time this letter gets to you, but the Emperor called war against the Slavs of Miljat of Achaia, not Vuk of Thessalia or Budimir of Epirus that were considered to be the most likely targets. This makes little change in what’s to come, as my new friend Ioustinos informed me that Budimir will soon be receiving a declaration of war as well, and Vuk will be lucky to keep his lands for a little longer if he strikes a truce with the Emperor in the current war. As far as our interests are concerned, move a few of our family’s slave ships to Corinth in a couple of months. It’s likely that a siege or a great battle on the Peloponnese will yield a considerable amount of fresh slaves for the Roman soldiers, that many would probably want to get sell of before having to march through the mountains again.

    Finally, about the business that I mentioned at the begging. It was a joint venture with Ioustinos, who I’ve already mentioned. He is Comes Petronios’ secretary, the private secretary they call mystikos. He has correctly assumed that Lachanodrakon will be using the fact that his army is passing through peaceful lands on imperial orders to travel low on food supplies, carrying only as much is needed until the army reaches the next larger settlement. As you know, when at war, theme troops can buy most goods at fixed low prices and have precedence over regular citizens. This often causes a sudden surge in price for certain goods after a particularity large army has left the area and drained its resources. Now, if some goods were scarce to begin with, the army does not have to be that large for this scenario to apply. For the past few weeks, our merchants have been buying food and wine in Pergamon and stockpiling them in nearby Smyrna, while also minimising the transfer of any goods from Smyrna to Pergamon. Once the Thrachesian Theme leaves, the local market will be in high demand for the goods we’ve stockpiled. Our merchants get a high return in resale over a relatively short distance, Ioustinos gets his cut for providing us with agents and extra warehouses, Petronios gets a higher tax income from the assessment of goods coming into the Pergamon marketplace, and I get compensation for taking the blame for “taking advantage of my generous host Komes Petronios Skepastos and his people in times of war”. Not that it matters, Petronios approved the plan and will be taking no real actions against our merchants, and I will be long gone once the accusations start.

    The Romans are as every bit as cunning as our father had described them. It’s good that they avoid mercantile business, otherwise they would prove worthy adversaries. Their snobbish attitude towards us is a nuisance, but a tolerable one as long as they bring us profit.

    Time runs short and I have some errands to run before I leave in the morning, therefore I cannot write more. I will send to you another letter as soon as I reach a city that has our countrymen operating in it, but cannot say for certain when that might be. Do not expect me to say much until I leave from Lachanodrakon’s care. From what I’ve heard, he keeps capable agents among his men, and makes an effort to gather as much information as he can.

    Once I reach the City of the Emperors, you may write to me again. Until then, I hope that this finds you in good health.

    Your loving little brother,
    Leone Galbaio

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    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 - Theophylaktos pt. 3
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    From the writings of Theophylaktos, droungarios of the Thracesian Theme
    March, indiction 7, AM 6277 (March, AD 769)

    It’s the thirteenth day since we left Laodikeia, and we have finally reached the sea. I felt the salty air brought by the western wind in our previous camp and waited anxiously during this day to pass the last hill obscuring our view of the majestic Aegean. If I had not been made leader of the Sardis Tourma, I would have ridden with the scouts of whichever tourma was leading the way, just to have a moment to look at the sun pearls sparkling on the waves in peace. Those floating spots of light make me hear the softest lyric tunes. Better than any other, as it does not have that one solider that sings like a donkey’s fart ruining the melody. The only voice accompanying this lyre is the Holy Spirit in the constant breeze going through the sharp-leaved olive branches. No wonder some of the best pagan poetry originates from the island on the other side of this canal. If fate had only favoured me, like it those some other men, to come by this place more often, I would have surely been writing poems that could make even Strategos Michael quaver.

    I am not sure what to make of my temporary tourmarches assignment. On one hand, it is a sign of the Strategos’ trust in my abilities to leave a third of his army in my command, even if it is the one with the softest men. However, the way ahead through the Opsikion Theme is a peaceful one, and even a lesser commander could do the base minimum of camp and supply inspections for an entire tourma. Not only that, but picking the newly-appointed droungarios Leon to travel with him and Nikodemos on an “important mission” seems to indicate a lack of trust by the Strategos in my discretion about his private matters. Maybe Dorothea influenced his decision, hoping to get some information from Leon later on. She is a shrewd mind, however, her virtuous nature makes her unwilling to see all the aspects of that of her husband’s, even when they are obvious to half of the army. If only Strategos Michael read the works of Procopius in more detail than just the battles, maybe he would know better than to take his wife on an army march. Thankfully Kyrillos is still too young to fight and is the only heir to Laodikeia, so she and the boy will travel back to the Thracesian Theme lands with Komes Vassos once we pass the Hellespont.

    Vassos Koutzodaktylos, the Komes of Sozopolis, has been put in command of the entire theme. This is commonplace in a scenario like this, Komes Vassos is the second in command of the Thracesian Theme, an honour awarded to him both by his position as a large landowner and his bravery on the battlefield. Although, that bravery can be easily mistaken with recklessness. His manner is overly aggressive and ill-suited both for the cautious warfare with the Saracens and the unpredictable behaviour of the Slavs. Because of this and his position, he is usually kept back, protecting our lands while the Strategos leads the troops on a campaign into enemy territory. This happens rarely enough that it has not yet hurt his pride and, on this occasion, it might even bolster it, as he is entrusted with keeping the Strategos’ family safe for a potentially years-long campaign. Full governance of the Thracesian lands will be entrusted to him and bishop Anatolios, with Dorothea only acting as a representative of the Lachanodrakon family interest, if Kyrillos does not come of age in the meantime, but I hope that the campaign does not last that long.


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