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SeanB

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Hey. I've been contemplating doing this AAR for a while, as it has been floating around in my head and I've simply been dieing to put it down as an AAR. See, when I originally thought up this idea, it was as something that I had wished I had done for the Fallen Eagle. It has always gnawed at me a bit, the unrealistic start of the Fallen Eagle. Bankrupt, restricted to Constantinople and Thessaloníki and with no army to speak of, the Byzantine Empire had utterly no chance of recovery without some sort of massive, crusade level intervention.

In hindsight, I wish I had modified the map a bit, given an alternate history backstory, and basically given the Empire a more stable starting position from which it could feasibly grow from. In 1419 it was hopeless. In 1261, it wasn't. ;) This AAR will paint an alternate history scenario that pre-dates 1419. Unlike the Fallen Eagle, you won't really see much expansion here. This is more centered around Imperial Politics in the 15th century, individual characters, and their war for survival against the Turks and Hungary.

Fallen Eagle fans fret not, for this isn't a replacement for the Fallen Eagle which I've spent nearly three years of my life on. The Fallen Eagle remains my number #1 AAR. This is simply a different kind of tale from the Fallen Eagle, though with the same country. This is about the lives of the rulers of the Empire, their people, and their struggle to survive and prosper in the chaotic 15th century.

And with that said, I give you the prologue...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Shield of the West: A Byzantine Empire tale​

A low rumble settled over the great mountains and forests of Bithynia. Brilliant lights danced within the dark clouds that slowly swept over the face of the pale white moon. The first sprinkles of rain fell shortly thereafter, their drops falling through the leaves of the ocean of trees to the surface, becoming dew for the various inhabitants of the forest. Despite the coming storm, it was a peaceful night. The distant echo of the thunder merely added to beauty of the surrounding tree-covered hilltops and the great mountains that rose across the land.

Though many roads weaved their way through it’s forests and valleys, connecting the many great cities of the province, these did not diminish its natural beauty. The Hellenes of Anatolia have since before the birth of our Lord called this land their home. It was Bithynia where Emperor Constantine held the Council of Nicaea, forever anointing the Empire with the blood of Christ. It also served as the Empire’s capital in its darkest hour, where all hope seemed lost after the betrayal of its Christian brothers to the west. It was also the last line of defense for Constantinople, Queen of Cities and gateway to the east against the Turkish Hordes that had plagued the Empire since the 11th century…

Though no longer serving as the throne of the Emperor, Bithynia remained an important province. To the east of it laid the lands of the Turkish barbarians, the scourge of the Empire and an ever-present threat to its very survival. Yet the people living here did not fear the Turks as their neighbors to the south did, for they were protected from attack by a great wall that ran along the river Sangarius, built by Theodore III in 1317. This defense had not only prevented the Turks from reaching The City, but had also allowed for Bithynia itself to prosper in peace.

The beautiful land of Bithynia had not seen war in over 100 years. From the Mysian Mountains to the north, to the river Sangarius in the south, it was remained untainted by the blood of the fallen. The great city of Nicaea stood as its capital, as well as the capital of Anatolia. And it was from this city that a single carriage, escorted by half a dozen kataphractoi, made its way down the finely paved road towards the Bosphorus. The rain gently beat against its rooftop, as its occupants gazed at the beautiful scenery that surrounded them.

“The forest is so beautiful…we really should visit Bithynia more often, Isaac.” A young, elegant woman in a beautiful and ornate dress stated, her lips spreading into a slight smile as she looked at the older man who sat across from her.

“Of course, my dear Maria. If it pleases you, we shall return once my meeting with the ‘Pope’ in Constantinople is concluded.” He replied, gently reaching across the carriage to stroke her hand.

“Oh? Are you planning to try and convince him to unify the Churches again? I’m sure it shall turn out better than the last dozen or so meetings between your representatives.” She chided him with a slight grin.

Isaac chuckled slightly and shook his head at her teasing, “We must have faith that God will one day reveal the error of his ways to him, so that we may finally heal this unnatural rift that has grown between us.” He exclaimed as he stared out the window at the increasingly heavy rain.

Maria gently smiled at him, “Perhaps God shall work through you to finally open his eyes. Are you still planning to ask for his aid in reclaiming Antioch?“ She questioned him, her brow arched slightly.

“Perhaps…” He said with an uncertain tone to his voice, “But such a venture could prove costly should it fail. I do not wish to be known as the Emperor who destroyed all that my family has worked so hard to build since the liberation of Constantinople…” He replied in a less than confident tone of voice.

Maria smiled gently and squeezed his hand, “You will not be, my love. Your father would be proud to see what a capable ruler you have become. As proud as I am to be your wife.”

Isaac smiled at his wife, leaning over to gently kiss her on the lips. “Thank you, my dear Maria. I pray that my meeting with the Patriarch of Rome shall be productive and fruitful for the both of us.”

“As do I.” Maria replied, “Though, I wouldn’t refer to him as the ‘Patriarch of Rome’ to his face. That might cause something of a stir.” She reminded him, chuckling slightly.

“Ah, of course, of course. I’ve simply been spending too much time around the Patriarch of Constantinople as of late.” He replied with a laugh of his own.

“Mother, father!” A young voice suddenly broke their conversation, “The guards…isn’t their armor going to rust in the rain?” He questioned as he turned from the window and looked at his father with a befuddled expression on his face.

Isaac looked at his son’s confused face and allowed for a solid laugh to escape from his throat. “If it does, my son, I shall personally buy them replacements.” He stated as he watched the guards ride along side them. He could tell they were uncomfortable in the gloomy weather. While it was a beautiful sight from inside the carriage, it was no doubt far less pleasant outside.

The boy’s mother gently stroked his face, “Do not worry about the guards, Alexios. They are simply doing their duty to your father. They will be just fine.”

The young boy snuggled close to his mother as the small carriage continued to make its way towards Constantinople. Under heavy guard and safe from any would-be bandits, it was a carriage worthy of carrying Isaac III Laskaris, Emperor of the Roman Empire.

Under the wise rulership of the Laskarid Dynasty, the Roman Empire had slowly recovered from the disastrous 4th Crusade of 1204, which had nearly destroyed the Empire. Over the past 160 years since the recapture of the Queen of Cities, they had diligently fought to protect the Empire from enemies in both the East and West and reclaim their lost land. Despite the constant challenges that faced them, the Laskarid Dynasty, the longest ruling Dynasty in Roman history, has prevented the legacy of Constantine from falling to the swords of heathens and schismatics.

The Empire’s journey from 1204 to the present was not a smooth or easy one by any means, however, and the Empire’s current prosperity was forged in the blood of countless slain, both Christian and Muslim. It is a tale of redemption and survival, a tale of political intrigue and epic battles. It is a tale of the Shield of the West…

ScreenSave14.jpg

The Roman Empire in 1419. Though relatively small compared to its glory days under Basil II and the Komnenids, it is prosperous and strong, capable of holding back the Turkish hordes to the East, for now...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There you go, the prologue. The next set of updates shall be prequels, letting you know how the Empire got to it's current point, so if you're feeling confused now, don't worry. I shall soon be revealed. ;)
 
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unmerged(58610)

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An AAR in which the Laskarids did not get overthrown. I'm interested reading about the minority report of Ioannes IV and what he did as Emperor. It's one of those fascinating "what-ifs".
 

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these Byzantines seem to be in a much better position (territorially at least) than in our timeline. good luck, and hopefully you can stave off the Turks forever!
 

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Very pleasurable reading. I will most certainly follow. The Laskarides, you say... Wouldn't you like, however, to have that Palaiologi shield and flag replaced with a more proper one? Like, one of those the Laskarid coats of arms described HERE? I could make it, if you wish. :)

Is this some older version of MyMap?
 

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I am in for the ride. :D
 

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:groan: More Byzo-love.

Well, since the Ottos can't develop properly this promises to be an easy game. What's the plan? Besides a great story, of course! :)
 

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Aftermath of the 4th Crusade: The darkest hour

The light danced off the walls of the dimly lit house of Georgios Frantzis, historian and head chamberlain of the Emperor. The three small candles that sat upon his desk flickered peacefully in the night as Georgios took a bite of his tsoyreki sweet bread. Times at the palace had been busy as of late, leaving him with little time to pursue his true calling in life. Though he truly enjoyed being the head chamberlain of the Emperor’s palace, his true passion was always literature.

Finally, tonight he would be alone and at peace, and would be able to continue writing the first volume of his tome. Placing the bread down on a silver platter, the man, in his mid 30s, picked up a solid white quill from its wooden stand and gently dipped it in ink. Opening a large and incomplete tome, he slowly began to write upon its rich, sheepskin pages…

The so-called 4th Crusade…the darkest hour of Roman History since the original fall of Rome to the treacherous Barbarian King Odoacer and his army. It was at this time that the very existence of the Empire itself was at its most tenuous. For the first time since its founding by Emperor Constantine the Great, the Queen of Cities had fallen to a foreign army. Holding a population of over 200,000 before the 4th Crusade, it was reduced to a pitiful 35,000 by the time of its eventual liberation.

The devastating affect that the brutal sacking of The City by the schismatic barbarians had cannot be understated. Priceless artifacts and countless architectural and literary works were either destroyed, or carted off to Venice or Rome to be gawked at by heretics and their false Pontiff. Forced to retreat to its last Anatolian holdings, it looked as if the true legacy of Constantine would be crushed under the feet of the pretenders and their murderous army of unwashed Latin schismatics.

In spite of these dark times, however, the Greek will to survive and live freely from the yoke of foreign oppression never faltered. Though they had been driven from their glorious capital of Constantinople, the Greeks still faithful to the ancient ideals and legacy of Constantine continued their fight against the Latins usurpers under the leadership of Theodoros I Laskaris from their new capital of Nicaea. Controlling much of western Anatolia, these survivors of the 4th Crusade would find that the path to recovering their homeland and their honor would be fraught with peril.

LatinEmpire2.png


Caught between the schismatic pretender state that dared to call itself “Romania” and the centuries old rivals of the Empire, the Seljuk Turks, victory seemed to be a dream reserved only for fools and madmen. But it was a dream that the Emperors of the early Laskarid Dynasty held as their ultimate goal. From Anatolia, the inheritors of the true mantle of Rome fought a desperate fight against the Latin armies who had penetrated into the northwestern part of Anatolia, mere miles from their new capital of Nicaea.

Under the leadership of Theodoros I, the Empire was able to resist further Latin incursions into its territory during the early 13th century. This was accomplished mainly through an alliance with Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria, and together they were able to halt the Latin advance and eventually go on the offensive against the schismatics. Theodoros’ attack was unfortunately soon stalled by the invasion of the Seljuk Turks under Sultan Kaykhusraw. This attack had been instigated by the treachery of former Emperor Alexios III Angelos, who, angered by his son-in-law Theodoros I’s refusal to crown him Emperor, persuaded the Sultan to attack Roman Anatolia in his name.

The Seljuk army was however soundly defeated outside the city of Antioch, with Sultan Kaykhusraw himself being slain in personal combat with Theodoros I. Alexios III was soon captured by the victorious Roman army and imprisoned in a monastery in Nicaea until his death in 1211. This effectively removed the threat of the Seljuk Turks for the time being, and allowed Theodoros to turn his focus back to combating the Latin pretenders in Constantinople. His attempts to drive them from Anatolia were frustrated however by Henry of Flanders, the so-called ‘Emperor of Constantinople’.

Despite the valiant efforts of Theodoros I, the Latin schismatics proved themselves to be resilient foes, and in 1214 the Emperor concluded a peace treaty with Henry of Flanders at Nymphaion. Though it was regrettable that he proved unable to vanquish the Latin occupiers, the treaty did give the Empire a short reprieve from the constant warfare that had dominated the lives of its people for the past decade. Despite a second attempt to drive the Latins out of Anatolia in 1220, he was once again repulsed. Theodoros died in November of 1221 and was succeeded by son-in-law Ioannes III Doukas Batatzes.

Despite being unable to defeat the schismatic Latins occupying Constantinople, Theodoros I will be forever remembered as the first Emperor to lead the resistance in Anatolia against the Latin pretenders. His resilience in the face of the crusaders allowed for the dream of one day driving the schismatics from Greece to remain alive in the hearts of the free people of the Empire.


Georgios Frantzis gently laid his quill down on the table, leaning back in his seat to stretch his bones that ached from the hard wooden chair he sat in. Glancing at the loaf of tsoyreki that still sat on his plate, he quickly took another bite of it, savoring its sweet flavor as he pondered his next words. It was an honor to be chronicling the exploits of the men who kept the dream that is Rome alive in its darkest hours. Georgios desired more than anything to do their memory justice in his work, which he hoped would be endorsed by the Emperor when the time came to present it to the Imperial Court.

Laying the half eaten bread back down on the plate to his left, he once again took up his quill, and after another quick dab in the inkpot he began to guide its elegantly sharpened point across the sheepskin parchment once more.

Almost immediately after ascending the throne, Ioannes III faced strong opposition from the hereditary members of the Laskarid Family. He had been chosen by his father-in-law to marry his daughter, Eirene Laskarina, but it came as a great shock when Theodoros I named him his heir apparent. The Laskarid Family, feeling cheated out of the throne, detested Ioannes to the point that they would conspire with the Latin pretenders against him. Despite having received a great deal of support from Latin “Emperor” Robert I, the coup plotters were soundly defeated by Ioannes on the battlefield in 1224.

Ioannes then turned his attention to the schismatics themselves, forcing the pretender Robert to make territorial concessions in Anatolia in 1225. This was not enough to quell Ioannes burning desire to see the heretical Latins driven from his ancestral lands however, and he launched a daring incursion into Europe, seizing the great city of Adrianople from under the nose of Robert Courtenay. His victory was short lived however thanks to the betrayal of Theodoros Komnenos Doukas, ruler of Epirus.

The treacherous Despot would soon feel the sting of defeat himself however, as he was driven from Adrianople in 1230 by Tsar Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria. Seeing Bulgaria as a potential ally against the Latin pretenders, the two Orthodox Monarchs formed an alliance against the Regent of Constantinople, John of Brienne. This alliance proved to be highly successful, leading to the near-capture of Constantinople in 1236. Had cowardice not swept over Asen II, then Constantinople would have surely been returned to the hands of the faithful. Asen chose instead to withdraw his armies and adopted a policy of ‘neutrality’, thus causing the siege of the City to fail.

Nevertheless, following the death of the Bulgarian Tsar in 1241, the Emperor moved to restore Imperial rule in northern Greece. He scored an important victory at Thessalonica, annexing it completely in 1246 along with a large portion of Thrace. Following this, Ioannes III isolated Constantinople, and pushed the boundaries of the Empire further west, coming into conflict with the rogue state of Epirus. The last years of his reign were filled with further victories over his rivals in Bulgaria and Epirus, as well as his acquisition of the important island of Rhodes.

Ioannes III was known well for his fair hand and sense of justice, and was a capable administrator who brought much prosperity to the lands under his control. After ruling the Empire for over 30 years, Ioannes III passed away on November 3rd 1254, leaving the throne to his only son Theodoros II Laskaris.

Resting his quill on the table once more, Georgios Frantzis took another bite of his tsoyreki sweetbread. The next Emperor he would write about was arguably the most important of all in this volume of his tome. This Emperor was the one who restored the rule of the faithful to Constantinople after all, he would need to be careful with his wording if he wished to impress the Imperial Court.

Taking a deep sigh, Georgios laid the last remaining part of his tsoyreki down and once again took up his quill. He prepared to complete the final chapter of Volume I of his tome, which he prayed would do the great men spoken of in its pages justice.

Upon the new Emperors ascension to the throne, Bulgaria, under the leadership of the young and headstrong Mihail Asen I, attempted to drive the Empire from it’s newly reacquired homeland. Despite being a man of peace at heart, the Scholar-Emperor took to the field and dealt a decisive defeat to the Bulgarians near Adrianople. By 1256 he had forced the Bulgarians to sign a treaty advantageous to the Empire, thus removing Bulgaria as a major threat for the time being and allowing him to focus on his rival in Epirus.

One at the time controversial aspect of Emperor Theodoros II was his seeming preference for Burghers and other educated members of the middle classes when it came to appointing bureaucrats. This caused great resentment from the great aristocratic families of the Empire, and would eventually lead to conflict between them and the Emperor. This conflict would result in the exile of Mikhael Palaiologos for conspiring with the Seljuk Turks to overthrow the rightful monarch.

Like his father, Theodoros II suffered from Morbos Komitialos, causing him to often have violent, life-threatening seizures. Though many feared that this was a sign of demonic possession at the time, many Roman scholars of the 14th century suggest that it should be viewed as a sickness or disease, and treated accordingly. Regardless, the Emperor was forced to constantly battle this affliction for his life. It was only his utter devotion to the good of the Empire that allowed him to live as long as he did.

As if to know that his time in this world would not be long, he made the last years of his reign his most successful by far. From 1258 – 1260 He heroically defended the eastern borders of the Empire from Turkish incursions with an unmatched ferocity. These incursions are thought to have been at the behest of the still exiled Mikhael Palaiologos who, in his lust for power incited the heathen Seljuks against his own people. Eventually, on December of 1260 the traitorous noble was finally captured and executed for treason by the Emperor.

This ended the last significant opposition to the Emperor’s rule within the Empire, and finally allowed him to focus his efforts on what had been the dream of every Emperor since Theodoros I…the liberation of Constantinople. Since 1204 the City had been ruled by the Latin pretenders who had dared to call themselves Emperors, dared to call themselves Roman. The false Empire that they had founded had fallen far since then however. Resisted by the faithful Greeks who populated their realm, the territory of the “Latin Empire” had been gradually eaten away by the Empire and the other orthodox states that surrounded it. By 1261, the empire of the schismatics was but a shadow of its former, unholy self.

Having been almost completely deprived of its territory outside the City, the Latin Empire barely had an army to speak of. The great City of Constantine, once with a population of over 400,000, was almost deserted. When the Emperor finally marched upon its gates in early 1261, he found that they were already open for him and his army. The joyful people of the City cheered as their rightful Emperor road down the streets of Constantinople in triumph. The pretender Emperor Baldwin II had already fled the City when Theodoros’ army arrived, leaving its small garrison without leadership and demoralized.

Though the liberation of the City was a truly joyous occasion, it was also a saddening experience. As they rode down the almost barren streets of the Queen of Cities, it was clear that the schismatics had decimated the population beyond imagination. In 1204 the city had perhaps as many as 200,000 people, but by 1261 it had less than 35,000. It was but a sad shadow of its former glory, but it was still the City from which the teachings of Christ first spread throughout the Empire. It was Constantinople, greatest city on the face of the Earth, and nothing could ever change that.

One of the first things Emperor Theodoros II did upon reestablishing the City as the capital was to abolish all of the Latin customs, restoring the authority of the Orthodox Church and the Patriarch to their rightful homes. He restored the damaged monasteries, churches and public buildings that had wasted away during the Latin occupation, and once again made Greek the official language of the Empire, completely abolishing Latin and French, which almost none within the Empire spoke word of.

Theodoros used great caution however in restoring the old administration that existed in 1204. Realizing that it was as much to blame for the weakened state of the Empire as was the incompetence of the post-Komnenid Emperors, the Emperor endeavored to reform the bureaucracy of the Empire, abolishing old and redundant offices and titles that were no longer relevant to the current political situation. Offices that performed closely related duties were merged, and the number of Komes was reduced to a level appropriate for the size of the Empire at that time.

Though overjoyed at having regained so much of the Empire’s lost territory in Greece, he proceeded cautiously when it came to future conquests in the west, so as not to weaken the Anatolian frontier. He felt it essential to maintain a strong garrison in the Anatolian regions of the Empire in order to guard against Turkish aggression. Nevertheless, he successfully forced territorial concessions from Epirus and the Principality of Achaea in the years immediately following the liberation of Constantinople. By 1266 the Empire was at peace with its neighbors and the rightful Emperor once again sat at Constantinople.

ShepherdByzempire1265.jpg


Though only 43 years old, Theodoros’ Morbos Komitialos had taken its toll upon his health, and for the last month of his life he was restricted to his bed. On March 11th 1266 the Emperor passed away, leaving the throne to his 16-year-old son Ioannes IV Laskaris. Theodoros II Laskaris was celebrated as one of the greatest Emperors in history for his recovery of Constantinople, despite the challenges he faced both internally and externally as he battled against a crippling affliction. His body was laid to rest within the Hagia Sophia that he helped to return to the faithful.

In order to aid his young son in ruling the Empire, Theodoros’ trusted Megas Domestikos Georgios Mouzalon served as regent for the first few years of his reign before faithfully turning over full responsibility to the Emperor upon his 18th Birthday.

With the death of Theodoros died the last of the great Emperors who ruled in Nicaea. Though they never had a chance to sit upon the throne of the Great Palace, these men where true Romans like none since great Constantine himself. When all hope seemed lost they refused to give up on the ideals that the Empire had held sacred for nearly a thousand years, and from the darkest pits of despair they vanquished the pretenders and returned the faithful to the City of Christ…


Gently lifting his quill from the final page of his tome, he placed it back in its stand. Waiting a moment for the ink to completely dry, he gently closed the newly completed book. It was the first volume of his history of the Roman Empire. Picking up the last piece of tsoyreki he quickly finished it in a single bite. Letting out a content sigh, Georgios stood from his chair, his bones popping as he did so, and let out a solid yawn.

Gently pushing his chair into the table, he blew out the candles that still burned on its surface. Though he had completed volume 1, he knew that it was but the first step towards completing his ultimate work of literature. Slowly sitting on the edge of his bed, he gave one last yawn before sliding under his covers. He would hopefully still be able to get a good enough nights sleep to serve the Emperor properly once morning came…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There you go. A long post despite it only being a few days, lol. Hope you enjoyed that. :)
 

SeanB

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M4 Emperior: Mymap with AGCEEP. The current borders were done by me, however. Took a lot of headaches to get all the errors out of it, lol. Still has a few actually.

Chief Ragusa: Well then, you'll really enjoy the next update I'm sure. It deals with those very subjects. ;)

rcduggen: Yes, the Empire in this timeline is incomparable with its pathetic historical state. Though not in the largest or most powerful state it has ever been in, it is stable and prosperous, and for the current Emperor that is what is most important.

Emperor_krk:
I would very much love a Laskarid shield and flag. That'd totally rock! :D As for MyMap, I'm not sure. I downloaded the most recent one at the time, but that has been a few months ago.

Mr. Capiatlist: Good to have you along for the ride. :D

CatKnight: Hey, theres always room for Byzantium! :p And yes, this is a heavily story driven AAR which is more personally focused than the Fallen Eagle. Once the historical "catch-up" part is over, it will focus on the lives of the current Emperor and his close friends and political enemies.
 

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Is this Frantzis the same person that served the last Palaiologi in real history? Just out of curiousity :).
Great writing! The way you explain the alternated history of the Roman Empire is very descriptive and 'believable'. I like it a lot! :)

I'll make those Laskarid shields/flags later tomorrow and PM them to you. Also, in case you haven't yet played much of this, you could want to download the latest version of MyMap (1.65). I could make the map for you in the desired way as well, if you wish.
Let me know.
 
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Mr. Capiatlist

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Awesome update. I am excited to see where Jingoist Byzantium ends up.
 

VILenin

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Interesting premise of a longer-lasting Laskarid (yay for alliteration!) dynasty. It seems like this Byzantium succeeded in balancing the demands of the eastern and western border, rather than ignoring the former and suffering as a result.

If we keep this up soon all the active EU2 AARs will be byzantine ones. And what a great day that will be. ;)
 

unmerged(59077)

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Heh!

That's a much more survivable-looking Byzantium. Long live the Laskarids!
 

Andreios II

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Wow this looks really good! It should be interesting to see how an Empire with more.... limited ambitions may behave and evolve throughout the game's timespan. I'll definately follow this :D

How did the Laskarids survive in this timeline? I dunno much about the dynasties apart from the Komnenoi and the Palaiologai xP

In any case LET'S GO!
 

Emperor_krk

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Andreios II said:
Wow this looks really good! It should be interesting to see how an Empire with more.... limited ambitions may behave and evolve throughout the game's timespan. I'll definately follow this :D

How did the Laskarids survive in this timeline? I dunno much about the dynasties apart from the Komnenoi and the Palaiologai xP
Read the latest update, man...
 

Saulta

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A nice what-if story and awesome writing skills... This AAR has my attention, period!
 

SeanB

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Reign of Ioannes IV: The Restoration

The wind pounded harshly against the windows of Georgios Frantzis’ house. Their shutters creaked and clanked against the windowsill as they were battered by nature’s fury. Rain relentlessly pounded against the rooftop, as the rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. It was a strangely violent storm for this time of year, when one would expect to gaze upon the beauty of a clear blue sky by day, and the great patterns of the heavens at night.

Despite the harsh weather however, Georgios Frantzis was content with being confined to his house. He had hoped for the chance to begin writing the second volume of his tome, and this provided the perfect opportunity for just that. Rather than distract him, the sound of the storm provided a strangely serene background for him to concentrate on his work.

Turning the first page of the blank tome, he picked up a solid white quill from its stand, giving it a quick dab in the inkwell. The quill had been plucked from the wing of a swan, and was considered to be of the highest quality available. Being the Emperor’s Head Chamberlain often brought a certain amount of wealth and prestige, which afforded him the occasional luxury here and there. With a slight smile upon his face, Georgios quietly set to writing the second volume of his tome.

Constantinople, Queen of Cities, greatest city in the world…at last, the city built by the Roman Empire’s first Christian Emperor was once again under the just rule of the faithful. Rescued from the brutal and barbaric tyranny of its schismatic rulers, the City stood once more as the capital of the Roman World. It was here that, for the first time in over 60 years, the new Emperor was crowned by Patriarch Arsenius Autoreianus in the Hagia Sophia. Emperor Ioannes IV Laskaris, only 16 years of age at the time of his ascension to the throne, would now carry the weight of restoring the power and prosperity of the Empire upon his young shoulders.

Under the care and supervision of his father, Ioannes had been well educated and groomed for his future role as Monarch almost from birth. Well versed in Roman history, politics and military strategy, the young Autocrator had been provided the very best education an aspiring Emperor could ever ask for.
Nevertheless, he was still considered too young and inexperienced to rule completely on his own, and so Megas Domestikos Georgios Mouzalon, who had loyally served Ioannes father throughout his reign, shared power with the young Emperor as Regent for the first two years of his reign.

Though he was Regent, Georgios Mouzalon did not have absolute control over the Imperial Court. Unlike typical regencies, Emperor Ioannes IV retained a degree of authority under Mouzalon. A strong willed young man, the relationship between the Emperor and Mouzalon was more of a partnership than that of a Regent and a minor. While initially Mouzalon was the more dominant of the two, as he approached his 18th birthday Ioannes began to consolidate his power base within the military and with his father’s appointed bureaucrats.

The army loved the Emperor, as Theodoros II would often bring him along on his many campaigns against the Latins and Turks to see firsthand how war was fought. From roughly the age of 12 he had been made to eat and sleep along side the regular soldiers whilst they were on campaign. This gained him the respect and affection of the men serving under his father, which guaranteed him their support during his own reign as Emperor.

This meant that the army was chiefly loyal to the Emperor, even during his minority. Though this author does not question the loyalty of Georgios Mouzalon, who won many great battles for the Empire, it is worth noting that any attempt to depose and replace the young Emperor would have likely failed at that point. Despite being only 16 years old, Ioannes IV was already becoming a capable ruler in his own right and would often accompany the Imperial Army in Anatolia on patrols through the themes that bordered the Turkish parts of Anatolia.

As Regent, Georgios Mouzalon proved to be both a capable administrator and military leader. His most notable exploits include repeatedly repelling attempts by the Ghazi Turks under Bay Ertugrul to conquer the towns of Sogut and Eskisehir and the surrounding land. Though they at one point managed to briefly occupy the region, in 1265, Mouzalon was finally able to permanently drive them from western Anatolia and back into the lands of the Seljuk Turks, where they attempted to carve out their own independent Baylik from the dieing husk of the Seljuk Sultanate.

During the minority of his reign the Empire was mostly left in peace. Regent Georgios Mouzalon had negotiated an alliance with the Mongols in order to keep their aggression from spilling over into Roman lands, and to make the Latins think twice before attempting to restore their schismatic ‘empire’ of Frankish bastards. This alliance helped to secure the Empire’s northern flank, and also guaranteed the safety of the black sea port of Chersonesos. In 1267 the Emperor convinced Mouzalon to begin rebuilding the Roman Navy, so that they would be able to stave off any potential attack by the Latin naval powers of Venice, Genoa and Sicily.

Though the Emperor once again ruled Constantinople and much of Ellada, they were still financially poor compared to the Empire prior to 1204. This made any attempt to restore Roman naval supremacy a delicate and difficult task that required substantial amounts of hyperpyron to fund. The Empire could scarcely afford the substantial cost of such a project in 1267, if it weren’t for certain reforms made by Emperor Theodoros II. Under his reign many of the old thematic komes had been stripped of their titles and privileges due to the fact that they no longer held the lands that they supposedly governed over.

Desperately needing more money to fuel the rebuilding of his navy, Emperor Ioannes IV further stripped many of these old thematic komes of their property and wealth, most often at sword point. This caused heavy unrest amongst the nobility of the Empire, who were already greatly upset by the perceived hostility of the Laskarid Dynasty to the Old Nobility. The Clergy however continued to support the Emperor, most likely due to them receiving a 10% tithe on all of the confiscated property of the komes. The army of course still continued to support the Emperor, as he also granted much of the confiscated property of the nobility to veteran soldiers who had served both him and his father during their many campaigns against the Turks and Bulgarians.

The wealth the Emperor received from the confiscated property of the now defunct thematic counts allowed him to easily finance the reconstruction of the Imperial navy, eventually building a fleet of 80 warships by the mid 1280s. During this period many more nobility would lose their inherited fortunes as the Emperor sought to strengthen the Empire both militarily and diplomatically. Only the nobility serving in the military, those who had proven their loyalty to the Emperor and his father before him where safe from having their inheritance confiscated. Among the Dynatoi of the Empire, the reign of Ioannes IV is one of the most bitterly remembered in the past 400 years.

Nevertheless, Ioannes IV used the wealth of the nobility to both maintain a strong army and greatly strengthen the economy and internal prosperity of the devastated western lands of the Empire, including Constantinople itself, which saw a great restoration during his reign. By 1268 Ioannes IV was the dominant partner in his shared rule with Georgios Mouzalon. At 17 years of age he was considered wise beyond his years and had already made several visits to the Papacy during his reign. He recognized the need to keep warm relations with the Catholic Church, though he declined to reunify the Churches, knowing that such a move would incur the resentment of both the common people and the Orthodox Clergy.

On December 25th of 1268 Ioannes IV celebrated his 18th birthday, and on January 7th 1269 he took full control of the throne. Regent Georgios Mouzalon, loyal to Theodoros II and later to his son, willingly gave up his position to the adult Emperor, who rewarded him by promising him that the position of Megas Domestikos would be his for the rest of his life. He would serve the Emperor loyally until his death in 1276.

The 1270s were a time of intense diplomatic maneuvering by the young Emperor. He sent many ambassadors to Rome during this time, attempting to warm relations with the Papacy, though always politely declining to unify the Churches, using the hostility of the Greek population as his primary reason. His ambassadors stated that it was still too soon after the 4th Crusade for the Greek population to accept any union, but promised the safety and protection of any Catholic or Latin peoples who remained in the Empire.

This diplomatic policy was able to hold back Latin aggression during the Papacy of Clement IV and his immediate successors, but upon the ascension of Martin IV following the death of Pope Nicholas III, it became clear that peaceful relations between Rome and Constantinople was nothing more than wishful thinking on the Emperors part. But for the most part Ioannes IV’s policy of constant contact with Rome, with the promise of eventual unification, was able to hold off Latin aggression throughout the 1270s.

During this time, Emperor Ioannes IV focused on consolidating his hold on Ellada (Greece) by waging several successful wars against the rival Orthodox powers in the region, Bulgaria and Epirus. He was able to force the Bulgarians further north of Thrace by 1275, and won a decisive battle against the army of Nikephoros Komnenos Doukas near Arta in 1278, occupying the Epirot capital until 1287, when it was retaken by Nikephoros after the Emperor was forced to withdraw most of its garrison to help repel a Turkish incursion into Roman Anatolia. These successes nevertheless served to once again affirm the Empire as the dominant power in Ellada and the Balkans in general.

By 1280, Ioannes IV had done much to repair the significant damage that had been done by the 4th Crusade, though there still remained many scars from that dark period. His rule in Constantinople had been fully consolidated in the 70s, having survived three assassination attempts and two large revolts by his own nobility, who wished to place the son of Michael Palaiologos, Andronikos, on the throne as he was considered to be a member of the Old Nobility, who would restore the traditional privileges and wealth of the Dynatoi, which had been greatly diminished under the reign of Ioannes IV. Their attempts failed however, and after the failure of the second revolt, Andronikos was forced into exile in Serbia.

By 1281, it had became clear that Charles of Anjou was preparing for an invasion of Constantinople with Papal support. In order to prevent such a potentially catastrophic war, Ioannes exploited the tension between the population of Sicily and their Frankish overlords, eventually inciting a full scale revolt against Charles in 1282 with the help of Peter III of Aragon. This revolt culminated with the invasion of Sicily by Peter III on August 30th of 1282 with the financial support of Ioannes IV. This resulted in Charles loss of Sicily to the Aragonese King, cutting his domain in half and forcing him to abandon his plans for a Crusade against the Empire.

The majority of the 1280s were dominated by the growing threat of Serbia, which in 1282 captured the Bulgarian capital Skoplje, which the Bulgarians were unable to retake due to a vicious attack by the Mongols under Nogai Khan, which devastated the lands of Tsar George I Terter. Fearing future Serbian ambitions on Roman territory in Macedonia, Ioannes IV had a string of forts constructed along the Empire’s border with Serbia, hoping they would be enough to deter raiders and delay any serious incursion long enough for an army to be sent against them.

Turkish incursions in the late 80s forced the Emperor pull soldiers from the Epirot capital of Arta, allowing it and the surrounding lands to be reoccupied by Nikephoros Komnenos Doukas who had been driven from the city nearly ten years prior. His army was too weak to follow up on his victory however and he immediately made peace with Ioannes IV. The ambitious Osman I, leader of the Kayi tribe of Turks, was behind the incursion. Since his father, Ertugrul, had been driven from western Anatolia in 1265, he had defeated several other rival Turkish clans within the decaying Seljuk Sultanate, carving out a small but powerful Baylik near the city of Ankara.

Convincing several other Turkish clans in the region to join in his incursion into Anatolia, he had assembled an impressive army of over 20,000 men. The Emperor met them near the city of Adalia with a force of 18,000. Despite the Empire being slightly outnumbered, the superior skill of the Roman soldiers coupled with the tactical abilities of Emperor Ioannes IV resulted in the Turks being forced to retreat back into Seljuk territory, though at a high cost to both sides. The losses suffered during this battle would delay any plans for reconquest for the next several years.

In the late 1280s and throughout much of the 90s the Serbs began making incursions into the Macedonian territories of the Empire. Though the forts constructed by Ioannes were able to deter most of their raiding parties, larger incursions often times required the Emperor to personally lead the Imperial Army against them. This forced Ioannes to further delay his plans for the conquest of the Latin states in southern Ellada. After defeating a final incursion by the Kingdom of Serbia in 1297, he signed a peace treaty with King Stefan Uros II Milutin, agreeing to have his daughter Anna Neda marry his eldest son Manuel Laskaris.

With the Empire and Serbia at peace and with Bulgaria weakened by a decade of invasions by both the Serbs and the Mongols, the Emperor could finally turn his attention to the Latin states of ‘Athens’ and ‘Achaea’. Both were remnants of the old ‘Latin Empire’ of the Franks, and despite their failure to convert the population under their rule, they had outlasted the liberation of Constantinople. The Principality of Achaea, as it was called, was in 1299 ruled by Florent of Hainault. In 1259, Emperor Theodoros II captured the then Prince of Achaea William II Villehardouin, at the Battle of Pelagonia. Upon the recapture of Constantinople, he was ransomed back to his principality in exchange for territory in southeastern Morea.

Desiring to unify the peninsula under Roman rule once more, Ioannes made an alliance with Frederick III of Sicily and Aragon, promising to help him retake Trinacria from his rival to the throne of Sicily Charles II. Marching on the Principality’s vassal the Duchy of Athens from the north in late 1299, after a two month long siege they captured the Duchy’s namesake, and prepared to march on the Principality directly. The weak Latin states could barely muster an army of their own, having relied on the protection of the King of Naples, who was now engaged with his Aragonese rival for dominion of the two Sicilies.

A fleet from southern Italy consisting of roughly 100 ships was dispatched from southern Italy with the hopes of landing an army in Morea and defeating the Empire, however it was defeated enroot by a combined Roman-Aragonese fleet of 127 vessels. In the summer of 1300, a Roman army of 15,000 defeated a much smaller Latin army lead by Florent of Hainault, and forced him to flee the peninsula. By this time, the cost of the war and the risk of having southern Italy being invaded by Aragon prompted Charles II to make peace with the Emperor. Charles II had no particular love of Greece, and felt that it was not worth weakening his position against Aragon over.

Agreeing to secede the territories of the Duchy of Athens and the Principality of Achaea to the Empire in exchange for peace, the Emperor returned his fleet to Constantinople, having sent it to harass the coast of southern Italy during the war. Charles II, even more humiliatingly was forced to pay annual tribute to the King of Aragon and Sicily for the next ten years. The reconquest of southern Ellada was met with great enthusiasm from the native population, who rejoiced at being reunited with the Empire of the True Faith. The recapture of Athens only strengthened the legitimacy of the Laskarid Dynasty, and greatly pleased the Patriarch who was most joyful when he received news that the Bishop of Athens would once again answer to him.

In 1303 Emperor Ioannes IV once again seized the Epirot capital of Arta from the Despotate of Epirus, but once again was forced to quickly travel to Anatolia to stop another incursion by Osman I Ghazi, who had been building an increasingly powerful empire in the lands of Seljuk Turks. Though he was once again defeated and sent back to his dominion in the east, the Emperor was forced to call of his plans for annexing the realm of Thomas I Komnenos Doukas, though the Empire was able to maintain a relatively strong garrison in Arta this time, which forced Thomas to retreat to the city of Berat, which would serve as the capital of the Despotate for the rest of its existence.

The last decade of Emperor Ioannes IV’s reign were spent improving the economy and prosperity of his new western acquisitions, as well as a brief campaign in southwestern Anatolia against the Ghazi Turks, which saw the reconquest of the region by the Empire, securing the Anatolian coast adjacent to the important island of Rhodes. In 1309 the Emperor formed a brief alliance with the Emir of Karamanogullari, in an attempt to halt the alarming expansion of the domain of Osman I, which had already conquered large portions of the former Seljuk Sultanate. Sending 5,000 Serbian mercenaries to aid the Emir, he was distraught when he heard that they had been defeated at the Battle of Adana, which also saw the death of Emir Yahsi Han Bey.

Fearful of the growing strength of the Turks under Osman, the Emperor strengthened the existing forts bordering Turkish Anatolia, while constructing many new ones. Though he prevented the Turks from overrunning Roman Anatolia, he was unable to prevent the eventual rise of the Sultanate of Ottoman. Nevertheless, his tenacious defense of Anatolia from the persistent incursions of Osman helped to inevitably keep the Turks from the gates of Constantinople, allowing the Queen of Cities to continue to recover in peace.

A shrewd diplomat, skilled administrator and an able commander in the field, Emperor Ioannes IV Laskaris has forever earned a place amongst the greatest of Emperors in Roman history. Though it was his father who recovered the City, it was he who allowed it, and by extension the Empire, to grow and prosper. When the city was recaptured from the crusaders in 1261 its population was a mere 35,000. By the end of Ioannes IV’s reign in 1313, it was around 110,000. In 1313 the Imperial navy consisted of 100 ships, and could rival the individual fleets of Genoa and Venice.

The Roman army was capable of defending the Empire from enemies in both the east and west, with which there were always plenty. Through the confiscated property of the nobility, Ioannes was able to pay for mercenary soldiers with greater ease, as well as pay for the equipment and training of many more Greek soldiers. The confiscated wealth also allowed the Emperor to institute the reforms and projects that the Empire required without overtaxing the population, allowing for the war-ravaged land and it’s people to recover and eventually prosper once more.

Dieing on September 7th 1313, Ioannes IV Laskaris left the Roman Empire in a strong position. The lands within the Empire prospered and grew, and its army kept its borders secured from those who would wish to do it harm. Its strong navy ensured that trade through the Aegean was at least in part to the benefit of the Empire, and its reformed and efficient bureaucracy kept corruption to a minimum. Ioannes son Manouel Laskaris was crowned Emperor in the Hagia Sophia on September 24th as Manouel II. He inherited an Empire painstakingly built in his father’s 47-year reign, and it was his duty to continue the work that his father started…

Placing his quill gently back into its stand, he closed the newly completed tomb. The sound of the pages crinkling as the book was shut were almost indistinguishable from the sound of the fire that burned near the back of the room. Georgios Frantzis smiled as he leaned back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief. The second volume of his tomb was at last complete.

Hearing the sound of birds chirping, Georgios soon realized that he had been up all night finalizing the second volume. The storm had finally subsided and dew gently dripped from the leaves of the trees that swayed gently in the morning breeze outside. The other members of the Imperial Court would surely note his lack of sleep as he went about his duties today, but he had no regrets.

Standing from his chair and stretching his tired body, he smiled as the sun shone through the slits in his shutters. He was now one step closer to his dream…

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There you go! Enjoy. Oh, and yeah. Ioannes lived several years longer than he did historically here too. I figured that he would be in better health as the Roman Emperor than as a blind monk. ;)
 
Last edited:

unmerged(58610)

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It helps not being blind.

Was the Manuel who married Anna Neda the same one who acceded as Manouel II?

If anything is a given in Byzantine politics it is that exiles don't stay out of the way. Those Palaiologos' will "be back".
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Amazing up date. Rome seems like it will make it out.