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Alright, I'm going to try and go about this in a different way. Where my last two AARs (both of them CK ones) are currently in a state of limbo due to a collapse in my interest in them and a lack of inspiration, I'm hoping to actually finish this one. But instead of releasing an update once or twice a week, I am going to dump a large load of updates all at once (probably once a day), followed by a undetermined length of time as I compose the next series of updates at my leisure.

This AAR will also be different from Chronological Influences IV and The Blackadder Tale in that they will be history-book format. They will also be fairly devoid of graphics or screenshots. I do plan, however, to post a general overview of the size of my kindgom and the sovereign, along with his stats and traits, at the end of each monarch's reign, ala the delightful overview given in General_BT's Rome AARisen. So you can be at least a little reassured that I'm not just faking this all as I go.

As always, comments and criticisms, be they positive or negative, and discussion, are all highly encouraged.
 

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Meteora43-44.jpg


The Revival of the Byzantine Empire

~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~


Table of Contents

Part I: The Rise of the Batatzian Dynasty

Chapter I: Political Decay and Civil War
Chapter II: Tying Loose Ends
Chapter III: The Rise of Isaac III
Chapter IV: The Perpetual War Machine
Chapter V: The Wars for Azerbaijan
Chapter VI: A Childhood Promise
Chapter VII: The Road to the Eternal City
Chapter VIII: The Mad Tuscan
Chapter IX: The Years of Peace
Chapter X: A Bonding Experience
Chapter XI: Awaiting the Inevitable​

Part II: The Empire After Isaac the Great

Chapter I: Replacing Isaac
Chapter II: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Chapter III: "Next Year in Jerusalem"
Chapter IV: On the Brink
Chapter V: Righting Wrongs
Chapter VI: Settling a Score
Chapter VII: Something Long Overdue
Chapter VIII: Stormclouds
Chapter IX: The Horizon
Chapter X: Constantine XI's Great Reform
Chapter XI: The Road to Civil War
Chapter XII: The Wars of Ambition, Part 1
Chapter XIII: The Wars of Ambition, Part 2​

Part III: The Tragedy of Constantine XI

Chapter I: The Unintended Consequences of War
Chapter II: The Twilight of Islam
Chapter III: The Southward March
Chapter IV: Constantine's Respite
Chapter V: A Centennial Celebration


~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~

 
Last edited:

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Chapter I: Political Decay and Civil War

In 1185, Byzantium was at a crossroads. After the disaster of the Battle of Manzikert a century earlier, the Comnenian dynasty had successfully guided the state through stormy seas, managing to make at least a partial recovery from the devastation wrought by the Turks in the second half of the 11th Century. But that was at an end, a century-old dynasty coming to a close in an orgy of blood and rule by terror at the hands of the Emperor Andronikos Comnenos. Civil unrest born from Andronikus's tyrannical suppression of the nobility, which since the time of Basil II had risen to dominate the Byzantine state, much to its great detriment, proved to be his undoing. Isaac Angelos tapped the general discontent of the inhabitants of Constantinople, using the mob to catapult him into power and depose the Comnenian dynasty.

But Emperor Isaac II's reign would last barely any longer than his ill-fated predecessor’s. The man the people had placed on the throne was little more than an incompetent buffoon, lazy and unconcerned with the disintegration of Byzantine control of Bulgaria and Serbia, so hard-fought by Isaac’s predecessors. It was hardly surprising that within two years of his rise to the imperial throne that the pronoia of the provinces held little loyalty to the physically unimpressive Isaac Angelos. Indeed, by the latter half of 1186, many nobles were already beginning to grumble aloud their dissatisfaction at what was regarded as something of a blight afflicting the imperial throne.

But Isaac II was all but oblivious to the obvious danger rising outside the walls of the capital. Just days after the beginning of 1187, the emperor made his fatal blunder. While having sired only one son, Isaac declared a revision in the laws of imperial succession, codifying the 'rule by the strongest' that had already been the de facto method of succession since the time of the Macedonian dynasty. While on the surface this imperial edict posed no threat to the provincial pronoia, the nobility saw this as nothing more than the first arbitrary step in the return to imperial rule by terror as it had been during the days of Andronikos. Unwilling to wait and see whether the emperor would indeed turn on them, the nobles revolted against their liege.

The first to revolt was Alexios Branas, dux of Adrianople, in late January. Within a week, the two most powerful princes of Asia Minor, Andreas Laodikeia and Andronikos Kantakouzenos, followed suit. Isaac's fate could have been sealed then and their if the dux Nikephoros of Abydos had joined the rebels in Asia Minor, who had already formed a tenuous coalition of mutual self-interest, and thereby isolating Constantinople from the loyalists in Greece and Macedonia. The balance between Isaac and the rebels was almost completely equal for the time being. While Isaac could technically still call upon the vast reserves of the other pronoia, the emperor wisely chose not to press the issue. The remaining nobles preferred to remain neutral, waiting to see the results of the first engagements of the rebellion before committing to either side.

Unlike his peers, however, the governor of Thrace, 'Prince' Basil Batatzes, could not enjoy this liberty. Given the precarious situation Constantinople was in, the governor of all the lands north of the capital up to the border with the Bulgars held a critical strategic position that could easily swing the outcome of the war in either side's favor. Hardly a humble servant of the Emperor Isaac, Basil had made his disgust with the Angelid rule of the empire quite known, and certainly had his eye on the throne. But Batatzes also had grave misgivings as to whether or not the rebel coalition could actually take Constantinople or defeat Isaac's army, which was already marching on Andrianople. Rather than throwing his lot in with them, Basil did something quite unexpected and appealed to the czar of the nascent Second Bulgarian Empire, Ivan Asen. Ivan was all too eager to meddle in Byzantine affairs, believing Basil's request was an excellent pretext to secure the new Bulgarian kingdom's independence and perhaps to gain the imperial throne for himself.

Now backed by the Bulgarian czar's army, Basil too turned against Isaac that March, pitting the beleaguered emperor against two factions: the rebel coalition and Batatzes and the Bulgarians. With Isaac and his army preoccupied with finishing off Branas's forces to the west, both Basil and the rebels marched on Constantinople. Too weak individually to storm the city, Basil, Andronikos, and Andreas came to a tentative alliance. Neither side expected the truce to last, but the siege of the city demanded their cooperation for the time being. For the next two months, Constantinople faced life under siege by the combined rebel armies, and the uneasy truce between competing nobles held firm. To the west, Isaac, having successfully defeated Branas, managed to obtain valuable reinforcements from the pronoia of Macedonia but was being repeatedly blocked from moving to relieve the city by Ivan Asen's forces.

As of 1187, no army had ever managed to storm Constantinople. The Theodosian Walls were impregnable, and had time and again resisted Bulgarians, Arabs, and rebels for centuries, and the coalition was hardly any more formidable than these foes. But inside the city, Isaac's grip, loosened by his absence, was rapidly collapsing. Members within the imperial court, acting more for what rewards the next emperor might bestow upon them than out of any disloyalty to Isaac, finally took action on June 27, deposing Isaac's cronies and taking control of the city with virtually no blood spilt.

A dilemma immediately arose for the new rulers of Constantinople: who to give the city to? The conspirators knew full well that simply throwing open the doors would shatter the alliance and result in a bloodbath that would likely destroy the rebels and bring Isaac back triumphant. But the coalition was divided by the interest of Andreas and Andronikos, while Basil was something of a Bulgarian pawn. Finally, after a long night of heated debate, the conspirators decided to favor Basil, who they felt would never willingly hand the city over to Ivan Asen. On the 29th, after alerting Basil, the conspirators opened the city for the rebel and Constantinople was his.

For Basil, and not Adreas or Andronikos, to capture Constantinople, changed many things in the conflict. Not only had Basil successfully emerged as the most legitimate candidate for the contested throne, but he also reduced the rebel coalition to a non-issue. Having invested their full efforts in the capture of the capital, the rebels had sacrificed much of their power base in Anatolia. The loyalists of Sinope and Trebeizond had certainly not been idle in the past two months. Basil's windfall also rallied many of the still-vacillating nobles behind Isaac; few within the Byzantine Empire were willing to allow a Bulgarian czar to sit on the imperial throne. As Basil rapidly consolidated his position inside the capital and the rebels turned back to Anatolia to reclaim their lost lands, the loyalists began to amass around the emperor's last significant base, Adrianople.

Wasting little time, Basil and his army departed Constantinople within days of the city's fall, cutting north to avoid the loyalists holed up in Kaliopolis while en route to Adrianople. Ivan Asen, finally having repelled the last of the Byzantine incursions into Bulgaria and the whole of his army in position, also began to march on the city from the north. All involved in the conflict knew that the final outcome would be decided there.

Battle was met on July 15, Isaac desperate to keep Ivan's Bulgarians from laying siege to the city. Unable to properly coordinate all the pronoia within his army and badly outmaneuvered by the early arrival of Basil's own troops proved decisive in Isaac's defeat. His army was separated, half retreating to Kaliopolis while Isaac fell back toward Thessalonika. Repeated but haphazard efforts were made to relieve the siege, but Basil and Ivan had the city firmly trapped.

With his army dangerously separated and Constantinople in Basil's hands, not even the arrival of news of the rebel coalition's surrender in Asia was enough to embolden Isaac to carry on the fight. On July 28, Isaac Angelos bowed to the inevitable. Basil had already sent numerous envoys to discuss a cessation of hostilities, but only now did the emperor respond. The two men met at last and began their negotiations. Isaac, and the few allied nobles present with him, were relieved to learn Basil had no intention of continuing his supposed servitude to the Bulgarian czar. With his fear, a genuine display of concern for the fate of the empire, assuaged, the Angelid emperor admitted defeat and forfeited the throne to the usurper. For his part, Basil proved immensely lenient; much to the shock of all present; Basil allowed Isaac to retain all his titles, including his nominal jurisdiction of Constantinople itself, save for the imperial dignity. There was to be no mutilation, no exile to a monastery, and no evisceration by enraged mobs as had befallen the unfortunate Andronikos just two years before. After the details were worked out and the Patriarch could be brought from Isaac's camp, Basil Batazes was crowned Emperor Basil III on August 2, 1187. Isaac's reign had lasted little under two years.
 

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What!

Constantinople no more the capital? :eek:

The whole idea of Romanoi in based on controllong the second Rome... :eek:o

mean!
 

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In all fairness, those reign summaries originally came from thrashingmad...

As for the new emperor - "With a name like Basil, he has to be good!" :D
 

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Force Change: Indeed, everyone does love Byzantium, and it was through finally reading Ostrogorsky's History of the Byzantine State and the general disgust at the seeming incompetence of the later empire, that really inspired me to give this a go.

Enewald: The same might have been said when they moved the capital from Rome. ;)

It's not as if the emperor can't rule from Constantinople, it's just that he chooses not to for the time being. Besides, there's an ex-emperor in charge, if that's any better.

Capibara: Thank you. It's appreciated.

General_BT: "In all fairness, those reign summaries originally came from thrashingmad..."

Psh... mere details.

"As for the new emperor - "With a name like Basil, he has to be good!""

So certain are you? ;)
 

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Chapter II: Tying Loose Ends​

It would be inaccurate to say that the Byzantine state was exhausted by the civil war between Basil and Isaac, but the empire certainly was in grave need of a period of political stability in order to recoup the losses suffered during Andronikos and Isaac’s reigns. Thus, the Emperor Basil III enjoyed the great support of the pronoia and the general Byzantine aristocracy as news of his great successes spread. Most importantly, it completely undermined the position of the Bulgarian czar, who was still besieging Adrianople and still clung to aspirations of the purple. But deprived of his freewheeling vassal, Ivan Asen’s ambitions evaporated almost immediately. Basil’s troops pulled away from the siege and it would only be a simple matter to call up Isaac’s from across Greece and Macedonia, a confrontation the struggling Bulgarian Empire would scarcely afford to risk. At length, Ivan grudgingly withdrew from Adrianople and retreated back home, having gained nothing from his endeavor. Tragically, the unfortunate czar never did see his home. On the road from Adrianople, Ivan’s column was ambushed and the czar struck down by an arrow. Childless, Ivan’s mantle fell on his younger brother Peter, who would be too preoccupied with solidifying his own throne from conniving boyars to seek the imperial crown for himself.

Basil had executed a political masterstroke; he had risen from the position dux of Thrace to the imperial purple in a series of maneuvers that outwitted opponent after opponent. Yet his victory was not total. The emperor would be the first of his kind to reign outside Constantinople, which was technically still under the jurisdiction of Isaac Angelos, who of course had no intention of relinquishing control of the largest, wealthiest, and most important city in Europe. Even worse, the long period of peace and growth under Basil’s stewardship was not to be; while on route to his lands, the emperor’s lingering illness, which he had endured as best he could since the siege of Constantinople, took a sharp turn for the worse. On the occasions when Basil was fit enough to leave his bed and rule, he was hounded by terrible coughing fits. The burdensome responsibility for the day-to-day affairs of state fell on Basil’s wife, the Empress Eirene, and a small clique of Basil’s loyal courtiers, a superbly talented group of nobles headed by the general Theophilos Sagopoulos. Neither Angelos nor the nobility moved to depose Basil in his weakened and vulnerable state. Isaac was completely discredited while the nobility was content to mind its own affairs and focus on benefiting from the resumption of peace.

On August 1, 1189, Basil’s ordeal was brought to its tragic end as the emperor succumbed to his illness during his sleep. Basil III had only been forty years old when he died, prematurely cutting short what should have been a long and fruitful reign. To honor the dead emperor, the Patriarch beatified Basil, lauding the emperor for his leniency toward his defeated foes and his generosity to both the Church and his many vassals, who he had often granted large sums of money in order to encourage construction projects for the benefit of the whole of the empire. Although he had only been on the throne for just under two years, spent wasting away in bed more often than not, Basil III is well-deserving of his contemporaries’ and historians’ praise as one of the empire’s better rulers, a skilled statesman and general, moderate and keenly aware of his responsibility as emperor – which can hardly be said of his predecessor.

The combination of Basil’s beatification, his popularity, and the skill of the councilors surrounding the empress were critical in ensuring the Batatzian dynasty’s survival after Basil’s premature demise. As mentioned previously, Isaac Angelos’s return was inconceivable. Thus, Basil’s three-year old son Isaac was made emperor, with a regency council established to rule the state during his minority, headed by the empress dowager and the general Theophilos. As sound as the foundation for Isaac Batatzes’s minority was, the entire edifice was terribly vulnerable to the predatory pronoia. Having only taken power two years earlier and with a child little more than an infant on the throne, Eirene lived in a state of perpetual crisis, always fearing the nobility might deign to depose the child-emperor, constantly courting rival factions to produce stalemates, impasses, and conflicts between the pronoia. It was common during the 1190s for the people of Constantinople to regale each other with stories of Eirene’s intrigues: blackmail, cloak-and-dagger schemes, and intricate web-weavings too numerous to mention. Yet for all her talents, Eirene was simply unable to resist the united efforts of the aristocrats. In 1191, several of the pronoai, headed by the old rebels Laodikeia and Kantakouzenos, demanded concessions from the regency council and demanded something resembling the Western concept of a feudal contract. While technically reinforcing imperial authority over the whole empire and the nobility’s subservience to the throne, the concessions solidified aristocratic control over the provinces, the culmination of nearly two centuries of decay in the centralized bureaucracy since the death of Basil II. So long as troops were still levied and tax revenue sent to Constantinople, the pronoia ruled their lands as they pleased.

In certain cases, Eirene’s paranoia was well-founded. The ‘era of peace’ during Isaac’s minority was not entirely as such – though few such times truly ever were. As early as September 1190, Theodoros Cherson rebelled, seceding with Byzantine Crimea. His rebellion lasted until March of the next year until the dux was defeated and exiled. Cherson’s disloyalty encouraged the next major rebel, Mathias of Dhyrachion, to reject Byzantine suzerainty and separate his theme from the empire. Theophilos saw personally to putting down the insurrection, leading a large host of pronoia levies, encouragingly enough, to victory in March 1192. While there would be numerous other minor incidents to break out across the empire, these two rebellions represented the most serious and significant internal threats to the regency.

Where the first half of the 1190s was a time chiefly concerning the events of the internal situation of the state, the latter half was quite the opposite. It was to the Empire’s great benefit that none of the momentous events of the 1190s were of direct consequence to Byzantium, though they certainly drastically changed its foreign policies. Under the leadership of Saladin, the Ayyubid kingdom launched its famous Countercrusade, galvanizing the Muslim states of the Middle East into action against the Latins. The first to fall was the de Hauteville Kingdom of Sicily in 1195. The Norman kingdom, weakened and vulnerable after its fruitless war against the Bulgarians, disintegrated under the combined Ayyubid and Abbasid assault, Sicily and southwestern Italy falling to Saladin, with the rest of the former kingdom granted to the caliphate. The Latin disaster continued in 1196 and 1197 with the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and almost all of Outremer to the emir of Azerbaijan, save for Antioch, various French fiefdoms around Tripoli, and the Hospitaller and Templar orders in Baalbek and Hebron respectively. In 1198, the ever-expanding emirate swallowed up the Georgian kingdom, as well.

Throughout the empire, the people braced themselves for that they believed to be the inevitable onslaught of the Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor. But the same religiously-fired jihad that had destroyed the de Hautevilles and reclaimed Jerusalem did not materialize in Anatolia. The Seljuks were pinned between the Byzantines and Azerbaijan, which was as just as much a threat to the Turks, if not greater, than Byzantium. At best, the Turks could seize the empire’s Asian provinces; the true prize, Constantinople, would forever remain beyond the landlocked sultanate’s grasp. But the Empress Eirene and the regency council were constantly on guard, kept in a state of perpetual fear of a Seljuk invasion, a fear that would make a deep impression on the young Emperor.

Surprisingly, the Muslim Countercrusade of the 1190s was in fact a windfall for the empire. The Seljuks were pinned in place by two powerful enemies, the Norman threat, which had been a continual source of danger for over a century, was extinguished, and the Principality of Antioch, led by the descendants of the hated Bohemond, was now dangerously isolated. Internally, an incident in June 1196 would prove greatly fortuitous for the Batatzes. A large band of Cuman mercenaries, formerly under the employ of Outremer, demanded safe passage across the Bosphorus from Isaac Angelos. For a modest sum, the governor of the city granted this grossly dangerous request. On June 16, a large contingent of the Cuman host was attacked by a mob and went on a rampage, killing many civilians and ransacking a section of the city before being put down by the garrison. The incident proved an ideal pretext for Eirene to move against Isaac. With the nobility and general populace of the city backing the dowager empress in this flagrant lapse in judgement, Isaac was forced at last to cede jurisdiction of the capital and the surrounding area to the regency. It was a resounding triumph that permanently dashed any of the former emperor’s designs to retake the throne and greatly enhanced the Batatzian dynasty’s legitimacy, firmly securing it behind the mighty Theodosian Walls.
 

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phew, back to Constantinople... where was the capital before that? :rolleyes:

You should attack seljuks soon...

And what statts does the child emperor have?
 

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Enewald: As of the start of the scenario, Isaac (age 1) has stats of 7,8,5,8.

Just to give some context, Byzantium's borders (and those of the surrounding major powers) are as such:

Map1.jpg


~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~​

Chapter III: The Rise of Isaac III​

In January 1202, Isaac Batatzes’s minority came to an end, concluding the thirteen-year regency headed by his mother and the council of nobles and an era of nearly uninterrupted peace and prosperity for the empire. It also inaugurated one of the most remarkable imperial careers in the entire history of the Byzantine Empire. Unable to participate in the affairs of state and lacking a father, as Eirene never remarried and remained forever faithful to her departed husband, Isaac had thrown himself fully into his education, scouring the vast libraries of Constantinople for all the great works of literature, philosophy, and history from Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Isaac seemed possessed with a demonic energy and an insatiable desire to learn and study, fueled by an obsession with defending and serving his family. At first, many in the empire had worried that the budding emperor would become a violently anti-aristocratic reformer reminiscent of Andronikos Comnenus, and rightly so, because the nobility had proven to be the greatest threat to the Batatzian dynasty and Isaac’s notion of duty to the family.

But in December 1200, that all changed. The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia had been destroyed by the Iconion sultanate, bringing to mind the terrible defeat at Manzikert and the Seljuk onslaught across Asia Minor. For weeks on end the emperor cursed himself for being born too late to save the Armenian kingdom. Against his mother’s wishes, the fourteen-year old boy publicly vowed to free Anatolia from the Saracens and reclaim the empire of Basil II once he was old enough to do so. Such wild promises from someone barely more than a child naturally only bemused the aristocracy in their outlandishness.

Once Isaac was at last old enough to hold power without the regency, that same energetic fervor for education was directed outward toward the expansion and glorification of the Byzantine Empire. Where before the nobility was rightly seen as little more than a threat to his family’s very existence, they now became vital tools through which Isaac could accomplish his lofty ambitions. In other words, the Byzantine state became the vessel through which the young emperor’s boundless energy could be focused and his ambitions made into reality. The young emperor immediately began to concoct plans for a general invasion of the Turkish realm and the “liberation” of Asia Minor.

Originally, Isaac had planned his all-out attack for the summer of 1203, but outside factors were to push him to move prematurely. On June 10, 1202, Rome fell to the forces of the Abbasidian caliphate, forcing the Pope to flee and take refuge amongst the Catholic powers. Immediately, a crusade was called to liberate the throne of St. Peter. While some within the empire could not help but relish the humiliation being brought upon the iconoclast Catholics, Isaac was utterly horrified by the seemingly unstoppable Muslim Coutercrusade. On all fronts, in the Levant, southern Italy, Iberia, and the Caucuses, heathens were advancing victorious. It seemed as though the armies of Islam were unstoppable and that Christianity would be swallowed whole before too long. Unable to contain himself any longer, Isaac gathered 25,000 soldiers and invaded the Sultanate of Iconion in September. From the start, Isaac achieved total success. In November at Dorylaion, Isaac annihilated nearly a third of the entire Seljuk army. Almost unopposed, Byzantine armies swept across Anatolia, conquering all of Kappadokia with barely any blood shed by the summer of 1203. Again and again the Turkish armies would fall back, desperate to avoid battle with the numerically superior Byzantines on equal terms. Iconion fell August 30, Seleukia two months later. On January 12, 1204, the last remnants of the sultan Kutlug of Nikaea’s armies were obliterated before the walls of Caesareia. By April, it was all over. Kutlug’s scant remnants fled to Taron, beyond the reach of Isaac’s armies. The entire sultanate had been wiped off the map in little under two years, a nearly unprecedented achievement in military history up to that point.

The Byzantine victory changed everything. Isaac, only 18 years old, had given the Byzantine Empire perhaps its greatest military triumph, doing in two years what the Comneni had failed to do in a century. The empire’s eastern border was considerably shortened and made exceptionally easier to defend. Not even the economy of the state had suffered. The regency had acquired and saved so much tax revenue over the course of its thirteen years that imperial coffers were filled to overflowing. Isaac’s financial reserves were thus more than adequate to sustain the invading armies, with enough left over to provide generous donations to various pronoia and aristocrats who obediently followed the war to its end. The emperor’s popularity was unsurpassed, his authority absolute. No other nation enjoyed such high standing as the Byzantine Empire, and Isaac’s reputation, won on the field of battle, was known far and wide. His marriage celebration to Antoinette Kulinic, daughter to the King of Bosnia, on June 6, 1206 was one of the most splendid demonstrations of imperial pomp in centuries. The emperor’s popularity was unsurpassed, his authority absolute.
 

Enewald

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Absolute Emperor is good as long as the Emperor is not insane. :D

Woohoo for killing the turk!

The Czar is waiting...
 

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was Isac leading the battle himself? or was he just using his vasal troops? If so how big was his martial score at the age of 18? Was all his reading refering to the court education ?
 

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Enewald: "The Czar is waiting"? :confused:

Scorpi: Yes, Isaac was leading from the front, and I believe he had a martial score of about 8 or 9. As for all his reading, it was more an explanation for his exceptionally thorough self-education, though he did recieve a court education in-game.

asd21593: "The more Byzantine AARs, the better..."

I couldn't agree more. :p
 

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Chapter IV: The Perpetual War Machine​

Even though Isaac Batatzes had achieved a greater military success in two years than most Byzantine emperors would gain in a lifetime, the fact that the Sultanate of Iconion fell with such rapidity only egged the young emperor on. Isaac would linger in Constantinople with his new wife for only two years before he was once again swept up by his own seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy. The tedious and endlessly repetitive daily cycle of running the Byzantine state simply grew intolerable to bear any longer. Acting more on his instinct and spur-of-the-moment impetuousness rather than thoughtful judgment, the emperor departed the capital and road eastward, taking with him his personal army contingent. When he arrived at the empire’s easternmost frontiers, Isaac had added to his army of ten thousand an additional twenty, composed of the local pronoia, Turkish mercenaries, and freshly settled thema land-holders.

This army was intended for the Emirate of Azerbaijan, a small Turkish realm that had expanded greatly at the expense of both the Kingdoms of Georgia and Jerusalem, and even held parts of Armenia Minor. By 1208, Azerbaijan was quickly becoming a powerful regional state, and a potential rival for control of the freshly conquered Seljuk lands. For over a decade, Azerbaijan was to be the subject of great concern in Constantinople. In October, Isaac crossed the frontier and commenced his invasion. Where against the Seljuks Isaac had been bold he was now overconfident, convinced his imperial armies could swat down the upstart emirate. Not even the appearance of a forbidding omen in the sky, most likely a comet, could dissuade him from his self-assurance. Fortunately for the emperor, he would only pay a small price for his hubris. On February 4, 1209, Isaac’s bastard son David’s army was defeated in Mesopotamia; the defeat was only slight and David retreated in good order, but it was enough to wake Isaac up to the very real danger Azerbaijan’s opposition posed. On April 2 at Karin, Isaac managed to restrain himself from making a frontal attack on the vastly larger enemy forces, holding off repeated waves of infantry until reinforcements could arrive and inflict a terrible defeat. Due partly to the unexpectedly fierce Azerbaijani resistance and partly because of financial difficulties, Isaac was forced to conclude a pace in October, after only a year of campaigning. Although he had driven the emirate from Armenia Minor and pushed the frontier further eastward, Isaac had failed to inflict the same crushing defeat as had been the case with Iconion; a partial victory, but a victory nonetheless.

It would be another two years before Isaac was once again itching for a fight. The success against Azerbaijan had opened the road to the Seljuk sultanate’s final holdout in Taron, which had fallen in the spring of 1210, but Isaac had delegated the responsibility to his generals. The emperor’s attention instead turned westward toward an almost irresistible opportunity. The crusade to liberate Rome had made very little headway. Though Latin armies had reached the city’s walls, the Abbasid caliphate troops had repeatedly beaten them back. The results had left much of the former Norman kingdom devastated and poorly defended. Castles remained in a state of disrepair, the local nobility was unreliable, and veteran soldiers were hard to come by. Seeing a golden opportunity, Isaac gathered an army in Epirus and crossed the Strait of Otranto in April 1212, landing at Brindisi. Southern Italy’s Abbasid overlords could do little to stop this massive Byzantine invasion, and the local Ayyubid forces refused to come to their Muslim comrades’ aid. After losing Brindisi, Taranto, and Bari, what little opposition could be scraped together was crushed in November and on February 1, 1213, Isaac marched triumphant into Naples. The emperor was, however, deprived of the crowning triumph of marching to liberate Rome itself. Almost simultaneous with Isaac’s attack, the Doge of Venice had sent an army south, overwhelming the beleaguered garrison and snatching up the Eternal City. Still, Isaac’s Italian campaign was an unequivocal success and the emperor could content himself with the fact that Rome was once more under Christian rule. Byzantine authority was once more reasserted on the peninsula, the revival of the dreaded Norman Kingdom of Sicily, which a mere century earlier had been nothing but a persistent threat looming in the west, was now all but impossible, and the emperor had shown that his military success over the Seljuks had not been just a mere fluke.

While the Emperor Isaac’s stunning and rapid series of conquests since 1202 had certainly reasserted Byzantine dominance in the eastern Mediterranean and reversed the deteriorating imperial condition, the reclamation of nearly all of Asia Minor and portions of southern Italy had even greater implications. Now in the possession of huge tracts of new land, the emperor had placed himself in a position to reinvigorate the old system of themes. Since the death of Basil II, the system had slowly broken down with disastrous consequences over a century earlier, depriving the Byzantine state of its most vital source of power, vitality, and security. While perhaps not sharing this same benefit of hindsight, Isaac wisely chose to breathe new life into the themata, establishing countless soldier estates mainly in newly-conquered Anatolia that reinforced and solidified a permanent Byzantine administrative apparatus over the once Turkish lands.

Thus, whether fully realizing it or not, in reestablishing themes, the emperor was laying the foundation for a renewed and stronger Byzantine state. Combined with the voluminous revenues procured from provincial taxes and trade, the result was an empire that was actually strengthened with every new conquest. Unlike the expansion under the Comnenid Emperors John or Manuel, which badly exhausted the empire’s resources, Isaac’s conquests only added to Byzantium’s power. More land to establish new themata gave the empire access to new manpower, allowing for new land to be conquered, and so forth. So long as the empire remained fiscally solvent, Isaac could campaign ceaselessly, each new conquest a springboard for yet another military adventure. It was an imperial perpetual war machine.

From the distant and detached view of the Byzantinophile or contemporary historian, one can hardly find a fault with the process begun by Isaac. Yet underneath the veneer of military triumph and state-building lay a darker side. The Byzantine Greek settlers arrived in the foreign Turkish and Italian lands with an alien culture and an alien religion. The emperor took a great interest in seeing the native Seljuks converted from Islam and bloody clashes between native Muslims and settler Greeks were common as a result. Peasant revolts were common, and just as commonly put down with brutal efficiency. Dissenting clergy and nobles were punished harshly, with spilt blood usually the outcome. In perhaps its most callous form, Isaac did not hesitate to use the Turkish levies as front line arrow fodder or first-wave attacks. In Italy, where the countryside had already been ravaged by war and diseases brought by armies from France, Egypt, Greece, and Iraq, whole sections of the peninsula were depopulated and left barren. And while whole cities were known to spontaneously convert, as was the case with Taranto and Ankarya, the conversion of both was a process drenched in blood and tragedy.
 

Enewald

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But at those times surely all the greeks living in eastern Anatolia have not converted to islam and begun speaking turkish?

They just lost those land 100 years earlier, they can no be that turkish yet... and I am sure in southern italy there were still many greeks living...

But Isaac is still a good Emperor.
 

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Enewald: Perhaps there are, but their ranks have certainly been thinned over the years, and a century of alien rule almost certainly has greatly eroded away at the native Greeks' sense of cultural unity with their Byzantine brothers.

In-game, at least, the provincial cultures of the Sultanate of Rum are all Muslim Turks.

~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~​

Chapter V: The Wars for Azerbaijan​


On May 5, 1215, the emperor once more invaded the lands of the emir of Azerbaijan. Unlike before, he did not ride east with the reckless enthusiasm as he had done in 1208. Doubts seemed to persistently plague Isaac for the first several months of the invasion, as the emperor refused to make the bold moves that had been common in the last three wars. While prudent, Isaac’s timidity worked against him; the invasion had been undertaken because the majority of Azerbaijan’s mobile forces were preoccupied in dealing with a resurgent French threat in Lebanon and quarrelsome Cuman nomads on the far side of the Caspian Sea. When Isaac did advance, his movement was constantly hampered by the rugged and uncomplimentary terrain. In spite of all this, the emperor successfully reclaimed the last bits of Trebizond from the Turks and portions of Armenia and Georgia before the emir’s armies finally arrived on the scene. In March 1216, the emperor concluded a peace, giving the Muslim emirate assurances that he was content with the extent to which he had pushed the empire’s borders and would not seek anything more in the east. The remote Azerbaijani state was, frankly, low on Isaac’s list of enemies.

Yet peace was not to last. Just a day under six months after peace, news arrived in Constantinople that the comes of Ani had come under attack by the emir, threatening to undo the previous war’s gains. Incensed by what he regarded to be Azerbaijani duplicity, Isaac publicly vowed that he would not rest until the empire reached the shores of the Caspian and the emir was driven from his capital. To do this, the emperor mobilized the entire imperial tagmata and nearly the entirety of the Anatolian themes and pronoia. In all, the imperial force lumbering eastward numbered almost double what Isaac had used to crush the Iconion sultanate. But it would take time for those troops to reach the frontier and assemble into its full force. Hoping to buy time, the emperor mustered what few reliable soldiers could be had in the far east to stall the emir’s forces.

The month of August saw Isaac in a state of incessant worry, fearful that the meager Byzantine defenses would be overrun at any moment, that the emir would push up to Trebizond before the Byzantine armies were ready, that the countryside would rise up against him, or that a protracted war would drain the imperial coffers. Yet all his concerns were to prove unfounded. Whatever attack Azerbaijan originally planned never materialized. The Turkish armies lounged on their side of the frontier, succumbing to idleness. Within the next six months, most of Isaac’s forces were in position, a vast host of almost forty thousand. Not wishing to take any chances, but determined to crush Azerbaijan once and for all, Isaac divided the imperial army into fourths, staggered in a rough wedge formation, in such a way that the emir could not outmaneuver the Byzantines and would be forced to a direct confrontation. For their part, Isaac’s forces were to advance in unison, a steady, inexorable wall. Perhaps not quite as glorious as in the past, Isaac’s strategy was designed to assure a methodical and inevitable victory.

On April 30, 1219, the first major engagement took place at Dwin. Outnumbered almost two to one, Isaac held against incessant Turkish assaults until reinforcements arrived late in the day, in time to inflict thousands of casualties but too late to crush the emir utterly before darkness brought the battle to a conclusion. The Battle of Dwin was a draw, but the Azerbaijani army fell back, losing the strategic initiative. On June 2, the first part of Isaac’s promise had been complete; his army had reached the Caspian Sea. Standing knee-deep in the water, the emperor declared that this was to be the empire’s eastern extremity, the soon-to-fall fortresses of Azerbaijan and Tarbiz the great eastern outposts from which imperial influence could be extended either northward into the Caucuses or south into the Holy Land. Isaac came one step closer to realizing this dream on September 1 at the Battle of Shemakha. The Emir chose that to be the last stand before the Byzantines were to reach Azerbaijan. Outnumbered and pinned to the capital, the Azerbaijani Turks suffered a catastrophic defeat, ending any effective resistance to the emperor’s advance. On January 3, 1220, Azerbaijan fell after a short siege and the fortress of Tarbiz on April 27. With the fall of Tarbiz, the period of war with the emirate of Azerbaijan finally came to a close. Though remnants of it were to remain on the eastern side of the Caspian and around Jerusalem for some time, their power was forever broken. For his part, Isaac had won yet more fame as a great military leader in fulfilling his promise in less than two years’ time and securing the empire’s eastern lands with the capture of Azerbaijan and Tarbiz, from which a powerful imperial presence could be asserted.

But as had been the case with his victory over the Seljuk Turks, the Emperor Isaac was not to remain content with this victory for long.
 

General_BT

Blasted Conniving Roman
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I think its time Isaac the Conqueror turns his attentions south to the Holy Land... how are the Latins holding up, anyways?
 

Enewald

Enewald Enewald Enewald
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More conquering... and what of the mongolian hordes? :rolleyes: