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cover3li4.jpg


Liber Sancti Ioannis: The Book of Saint John


Preface:

Ladies and Gentleman I bring to you the Book of Saint John. The Book of Saint John is an extraordinary artefact which has just as much intrigue about the book itself as it does its contents. It was discovered only recently in a monastery in the hills surrounding the Tiber valley. The monastery, it is said, was once a hideaway for members of the Knights of Saint John after their expulsion from Malta by Napoleon in 1798. The author of the book is one Lionel Fortescue, a Knight of Justice, who during the occupation of the French, took to writing. Whilst one might assume he would write theological articles or the like, Lionel, in those dark days in which the Order, at least in his eyes, seemed all but destroyed, took his pen to write about the history of the Knights. But as Lionel began, he realised that the Knights history was an endless account of tribulation and failure but thankfully Lionel was an imaginative and inventive person and with this marvellous mentality he came up with the Book of Saint John.

The Book of Saint John consists of many different alternate timelines, represented as volumes, which provide insight into what Lionel thought the history of the Knights could have taken. Each volume, although providing a thorough history, tends to focus itself on one particular war or event which it provides with immaculate detail and each volume is well supported by a series of short poems scattered throughout. Although many of the volumes were either unfinished or lost, the surviving fragments provide a wonderful fictional presentation. Naturally, the original texts were written in Latin but they have since been translated into English for our contentment.

The Book of St John:
Volume 1: War of the Rhone
Volume 2: On Greece and the Byzantine Empire
Volume 3: The Tenth Crusade
Volume 4: TBA
 
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Well it's finally here, volume two. I intend to write this aar in the same way as the last one but doubt I will be able to write it as well but I will try. I've been struggling to find time to write this as my HoI2 aar has taken most of my time but I hope actually starting it will pressure me into finishing it. So don't be put off if an update is running late it is coming. In fact I really want to finish this aar relatively quickly so I can get on with volumes three and four, which may be another reason why the quality may not be the same.

This game is once again played as the Knights in WATKABAOI's 1337 scenario and will be about the same length. This time though I have more screenshots. Once again, I did not play past the end of the story.

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

Liber II: De Graecia et Imperium Byzantivm
Volume 2: On Greece and the Byzantine Empire

Part One: Backstory

Chapter 1: Italian Stallion



Welcome back to another page
Of the book that will outlast this age
The Knights are back pious as ever
Ready to take on whoever
Threatens the Christian hegemony
And all for the Lord’s integrity

This story starts much the same
As the previous tale to brandish this name
But don’t be drawn into the line of thought
That this will be another French onslaught
The French are not the enemy here
Osman’s descendents are whom the Knights fear

Closer to home this battle be fought
Will the Knights offguard this time be caught?
Or will the legend of Rhodes rise again?
There’s only one way to find out my friend
So pull up a chair and relax as we fire
This tale On Greece and the Byzantine Empire


Once again we begin in 1337, when the last of the crusader Knights passed away leaving the Knights of Saint John needing to close the book on the Holy Wars and instead find some other excuse for their existence. The first thing they had to do was to expand from the tiny rock that they had found themselves placed upon, Rhodes. It would not be easy however as the Knights found themselves in a poor political position. They were allied with two other remaining crusader states, Cyprus and Armenia Minor and surrounded by major powers such as the Ottomans, Byzantium and the Mameluks who would overpower the Knights’ alliance.

The Knights easiest chance of expansion lay in the West; Italy was still a plethora of city states. Grandmaster Helion de Villeneuve would have to build a navy first before his armies could set sail in which time the decision of whom to invade could be made. Unfortunately for the Knights most of these city states were allied with one another meaning the Knights would not have an easy task. In the end the decision was made to make the most of the waves and land at the foot of Italy and work the way up.

So in 1339 the Knight went to war with Napoli, Sicily, Modena and Athens. With Athens joining the war the Knights had the option of landing there but such a move would not be the most advantageous. Athens was not a rich state, devastated in much the same way as the Knights over the last couple of centuries it had taken its toll. Also Athens was on the border with the Ottomans and could be invaded at any moment, not the best proposition for the Knights. So the fleet went off to Apulia with the goal of taking Naples. Whilst the Knights were able to overcome the Neapolitan Army the thought crossed Grandmaster Villeneuve’s mind about Provence. It was owned by Naples but across the sea from the rest of the battlefront; it would take a separate invasion to take the province. However the Knights’ allies were on the task. Armenia Minor had landed in Provence already and was well on their way to seizing the province.

By 1344 all of Napoli had been captured except Corfu and a peace deal was arranged which saw Armenia Minor keep Provence and the Knights gain Capitanata and Apulia. This literal foothold of Italy would act as a base for the Knights further operations in Italy. Those further operations began immediately, after all the Knights were still at war with Sicily and Modena; Athens had succumbed to Achaea. In 1345, The Knights sailed their way up the Adriatic to land in Ferrara, a Modenese possession. Modena was a small nation unable to mount much of an army but what they did have was formidable enough. The Modenese were able to hamper the Knights attempts to capture Ferrara for several years. Eventually the decision was made by the new Grandmaster Dieudonne De Gozon that they should destroy the Modenese army before trying to capture the province. It wasn’t until 1349 that the Knights could do as such but when they did the rest was a foregone conclusion. Ferrara and Modena were captured and a peace was signed which saw the former go to the Knights.

gozonbz7.jpg

Grandmaster Gozon

Now the Knights had to deal with Sicily whom they had been preventing from invading Apulia by blocking the Strait of Messina. An attempt had been made to invade the island in 1344 but was comprehensively beaten back. In the years that followed Sicily had built up and had some 28,000 men with which to defend herself. For the next three years the war developed into a stalemate. The Knights were unwilling to risk their men against Sicily and the blockage prevented any attack by Sicily. During this time numerous attempts were made to reconcile and reach a treaty but Sicily was unwilling of a white peace. It wasn’t until 1351 that the Knights and Sicily reached an agreement, one that would set forth the Knight path for the next 60 years. Grandmaster De Gozon agreed to Sicily’s terms of a white peace on the condition that the Knights would join Sicily’s alliance. This would see the Knights ally with her three former enemies Sicily, Naples and Modena which created great uproar at first but the alliance was not entire nonsensical, together those nations formed a large part of Italy from where they could consolidate their positions, it allowed the Knights to escape it’s crusading tradition by leaving behind Armenia Minor and Cyprus.

Over the next six years of peace, memories of hostility between the Sicilian alliance members wavered but it wasn’t until they were all called upon to fight Bologna that allegiances were confirmed. This war was begun by another new member, the Papal State which gave religious credence to expanding the Sicilian alliance further north. Bologna was joined by Siena in opposition and so in 1357 the Knights took up arms again. The Knights led by their General Roger de Montaut moved swiftly to invade and lay siege on Marche and Romagna. Resistance was pretty weak as the Bolognese were launching their own offensive against Modena whilst Siena was struggling against the Pope. By early 1358 the Pope was able to annex Siena and at the same time Bologna annexed Modena and started to besiege the Knights’ Ferrara. Sicily called upon the only neutral party left in central Italy to join the fight, Firenze and they did so obligingly. This sparked an avalanche of war declarations that would not doubt destroy Bologna. The Northern Italian alliance of Milan, Genoa, Savoy, Liege and Armenia Minor declared war and were soon followed by Mantua, Wurtemberg, Baden and Verona. The Knights decided split their siege force on Romagna to press forward towards Modena as well. By the start of the 1359 Marche, Modena and Romagna had all fallen but then Bologna stormed into Ferrara. Just as the Knights were regrouping to launch an attack on the enemy army in Ferrara, Sicily signed a peace with Bologna. Marche and Modena would be delivered to the Knights whilst Ferrara and Romagna would return to their owners.

screensave15ai6.jpg

The Knights' territories in 1359 after the peace with Bologna.

Although Bologna had seemed to avoid vassalisation they were still at war with multiple nations and the Papal State continued her battery and annexed Bologna a year later in 1360. It was at this time that the Knights stretched their diplomatic muscle as they successfully vassalised their alliance leader Sicily. This brought about a strange relationship within the Sicilian alliance but one which would bring about a new page on the history of the Knights as they worked their way into superiority in Italy.
 

comagoosie

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I say this is a much better start than last time. You certainly have acquired many rich provinces in a relatively short time. Where to next?
 

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Where to next?

That's the sort of question I encounter a lot with the Knights. There's lots of opportunity but no obvious easy targets. Invading Italy always seems to be a good starting point as it gives you a base from which you can hunt Spain, France, the Balkans, Anatolia, the Holyland, Egypt or North Africa. Then you need to make a decision.
 

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Chapter 2: Sicilian Affairs


It was 1370 and ten years has passed since Bologna’s defeat and the Knights’ vassalisation of their alliance leader Sicily. The Knights were now ruled by Ramon II Berengar who was going quite nuts. He decided, completely unprovoked, to declare war on Cyprus which his allies didn’t think highly of. The Papal State, Firenze and Napoli all chose this point to exit the alliance leaving only Sicily onside. After the declaration, a Council was quickly conceived to deal with the Grandmaster who was declared temporarily insane and a regent was established. Nonetheless the war still had to be fought and so a fleet of Knights was sent off to Cyprus. The Cypriots could not round up nearly as much men as the Knights could and were easily defeated in the invasion. There was nothing Cyprus could do to stop the rampaging Knights who captured the island and then annexed it into their realm in 1371.

raymonga5.jpg

The crazed Ramon II Berengar.

After the annexation of Cyprus the Knights and the Sicilian alliance enjoyed a long period of peace. It was during this time that the Knights flexed their political muscle to manipulate her neighbours into becoming the dominant force in Italy. In 1373 Napoli inherited Achaea which gave them the Peloponnesus Peninsula and saw resentment from the Byzantines who had been in frequent wars with Achaea for decades. The inheritance whilst not immediately affecting the Knights would turn out to be a important preliminary action for the future of the Knights. 1378 saw the expiration of the Sicilian Alliance and the end of the awkwardness of having a vassal as the alliance leader. However relations with Sicily were now quite pleasant and as such it was agreed that the alliance should be renewed, this time however the Knights would be the leaders.

Over the next few years the Knights had to search for new alliance member candidates. It was the job of the alliance leaders to expand the alliance; another reason why the expiration of the old alliance was a good thing as Sicily had failed with expanding the alliance after the war with Cyprus. Unfortunately most of the old friends had made new alliances that the Knights had to wait to expire before invitations could be sent out. Nonetheless in 1379 Mantua joined the alliance and 1383 Firenze and Verona followed suit. In 1387 news was received from the only other remaining crusader state. Armenia Minor, whom the Knights were originally allied when the Italian wars broke out, had lost control of Provence. The province had declared independence but soon found itself at war with Savoy and was annexed soon after. Not that this had any bearing of the Knights, Armenia Minor was well behind them, however it is interesting fact that Armenia Minor would survive for at least another century despite being the only Catholic nation in Asia and surrounded by larger powers.

A year later, after another decade of peace has passed, the alliance once again expired. However this time the Knights were going to be more cunning. Sicily was a vassal of the Knights but much of the island’s riches were still withheld from the Knights. The Knights craved a greater economy, despite successes in Italy most of the gains were the poorer provinces of the peninsula. Sicily would never accept any diplomatic means of annexation so the Knights would have to invade. When renewing the alliance the Knights only renewed it with Mantua, Firenze and Verona which the Sicilians took as an insult. Soon enough relation degraded between the two nations and in 1389 the Knights cancelled their vassalisation and declared war. The Sicilians still had the reasonably large army left over from the last war with which to protect themselves but the Knights had been building up a similar force for some time. In 1390 just as the Knights were invading Sicily, Sicily was able to negotiate an alliance with Napoli and the Knights soon found their Italian provinces under threat from Neapolitan invasion. Worse than that actually, whilst the Knights were besieging Messina, Sicily had managed to get some men around to Ferrara and started a siege. The war was not going as planned as even the navy found themself outgunned leaving the troops in Sicily cut off. Luckily Messina fell quickly enough for the Knights to transport their army back to the mainland and besiege Naples. Capatanata fell to the Neapolitans but soon after the Knights took Naples and a white peace was established between them. This left the Knights with Sicily to deal with whose armies had been evicted from Sicily but maintained a threat around Ferrara. However it wasn’t long before their generals realised that their homeland had fallen and in 1392 Sicily conceded defeated and agreed with the Knights terms of ceding control of Sicilia and becoming a vassal once again of the Knights. Sicilia was the richer of the two Sicilian provinces and had been a good gain for the Knights and it now paved the way for the rest of Sicily to be annexed through diplomacy at a later date.

After the war with Sicily the Knights fell back into pacifism content with the fact Sicily was there vassal once more. It was an appetising though for the Knights that they would soon be able to annex Sicily and thereby give itself a great launching pad for further Mediterranean endeavours. Ten years passed without incident until once again the alliance needed renewing. This time Sicily was invited to join the alliance and relations increased once again between the nations. It seemed inevitable that Sicily would soon be made a province rather than a vassal of the Knights as the line between them slowly became hazier.

screensave17cn7.jpg

The Knights' territories and surrounds in 1408.

Then in 1409 something happened which the Knights had never planned for. The Sicilian King Martin I, who was a part of the Aragonese House of Barcelona, died without an heir. This meant that according to the rules of succession that the Kingdom would pass to the King of Aragon and immediately the nation of Sicily was annexed by Aragon. The Knights were left speechless; one moment a vassal and the next moment gone and there was no means of objection. For decades the Knights had planned the annexation of Sicily and this turn of the events left them needing to venture elsewhere. The days of the Knights and their Sicilian affairs were over. Luckily just as fate had taken away something, it left a door ajar for the Knights, a door that led to France of all places.
 

comagoosie

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France :rolleyes:, again!:eek:

Insane king, yeah right, I think you are secretly thankful for that king, you gained Cyprus!

About time sicily is gone, who cares if it was a vassal, just them being alive is too good for them :p
 

Enewald

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Hmm, knights going west?
Aren't they suppose to help christians on the holy land? :p
 

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Hehe multiquotes are useful...

France :rolleyes:, again!:eek:

Insane king, yeah right, I think you are secretly thankful for that king, you gained Cyprus!

About time sicily is gone, who cares if it was a vassal, just them being alive is too good for them :p

Well that insane grandmaster was just what was needed to make the leap. Cyprus's days were always numbered.
I would've liked Sicily, all my games as the Knights end up with such aethetically poor borders. I can't even get all of Sicily one colour!

France? Sacre bleu! Good luck there! :D

Yes France again. I'm addicted to them. It seems every AAR I do involves invading France. They're the centre of my universe and must die.

Hmm, knights going west?
Aren't they suppose to help christians on the holy land? :p

All in good time my friend. Crusades can always be put on hold for a little frog-bashing.
 

unmerged(81979)

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Yes France again. I'm addicted to them. It seems every AAR I do involves invading France. They're the centre of my universe and must die.

Heh... I feel that way sometimes... :rofl:
 

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Chapter 3: The Fall of France


The tale of France is one of promise and then catastrophic collapse. It begins in 1337 when they attempted to claim Gascoyne from the English. The Duke of Armagnac would not accept the French king’s claim and soon found his lands invaded and added to the royal domain. Nobody would dare doubt the French king. The war for Gascoyne continued until 1342 but despite French victories in Gascoyne and Holland the war would end with nothing more than a reimbursement for the French. In 1345 the French vassal of Foix escalated a border dispute with Aragon with brought both sides to war. The French joined their liege but soon discovered the Castile and Portugal were siding with the Aragonese. A year later Flanders made their intentions clear for wanting to claim Calais but when their offers were dismissed by the owners Auvergne they too declared war. This brought France to war once again with England and the rest of the Low Countries and this time with enemies on both sides France did not fare as well. They were forced to practically hand back the funds they had received from the English in the last war in exchange for peace which allowed them to focus on the Pyrenees. Castile had destroyed Foix and occupied Toulouse before the French were able to fight back. By 1348 though the French were on top and the Castillians agreed to cede Toulouse back to the royal domain. Despite some tough wars France had gone nowhere.

Over the next twenty years or so France was allowed to consolidate. She annexed first her vassal of Auvergne and then of Bourbonnais before winning a war against Lorraine which gave Bar to France and vassalised Lorraine. Later in 1365 France was able to annex the rest of Lorraine but lost Brittany as a vassal to the English. By 1373 France had made good relations with Trier and after being involved in a war which saw Trier annex Luxembourgh, France made her move to vassalise Trier. Two years later and France once again went to war with England over Gascoyne, but by this time the French had become a force to be reckoned with and were able to hold off the English challenge. They succeeded in capturing Gascoyne in the treaty of 1375.

Just three more years passed before France tried expanding again, this time invading Berg and Kleves. Neither of these small states could muster resistance towards France and both fell before the end of 1379. France was becoming the Beast of the West again. The invasion of Berg and Kleves was the last straw however as immediately Savoy declared war bringing with it Austria, Milan, Genoa and Armenia Minor. The French found themselves under the pump in this war as Savoy’s men were able to march all over the South East of France. In 1381 they signed a peace with Savoy for a loss of $250 and hoped to recover from this military defeat. Charles VI was now in power and wanted to repair some of the reputation caused by his reckless father. Just two months later however Aragon declared war. France was already weakened by Savoy and could not handle the Iberian alliance once more. And just a few days late Flanders declared war again although this time separate from England. France was unable to cope and in 1382 was forced to cede Toulouse and Languedoc to Aragon.

The news just kept getting worse for France. England declared war in 1383 bringing with them Brittany and Burgundy amongst others which left France with enemies on several fronts. Whilst France did succeed in annexing Flanders, the English succeeded in defeating her and winning back Gascoyne and handing Kleve to Gelre. After that the French stabilised and were able to fight off a few more enemies before things appeared to settle down. France’s power had definitely been held in check. This series of wars culminated in 1389 when the pope of Rome and the pope of Avignon went to war with one another. France sided with Rome and swiftly captured Avignon and killed the antipope. After this France experienced its first reasonable period of peace in a while.


France in 1389

In 1396 France won a war over Cologne and took Elsass and with its subsequent annexation of Trier France reached its height. From there it was all downhill with the end beginning in 1399. Within twelve months of each other England, Gelre, Friesland, Holland-Hainaut, Navarre, Brabant, Switzerland, Aragon, Castile, Portugal, Austria, Rhine Palatinate, Savoy, Armenia Minor, Milano, Venice, Burgundy and Nevers all spontaneously declared war on France and her cagey allies Scotland, the Pope and Orleans. Soon after Liege, Cologne, Hannover, Hessen and Nassau joined the party and France found herself at war with 23 nations. More so than even in the last game.

screensave16hp2.jpg

France, her allies and her enemies in 1399. Later wars would involve still more foes including Norway, Denmark, Mecklemburg, Silesia, Poland and Hungary.

At this point the Knights were still involved in their Sicilian affairs and were not interested in waging war against France but by the time that Sicily was annexed by Aragon the situation in France had escalated. After nearly a decade of constant war with innumerable enemies France was beginning to subside. By 1410 Guyenne had fallen to Castile, Berri to Nevers, Orleans to Burgundy, Flanders to Gelre, Berg and Trier to Nassau and Avignon has declared independence again. Furthermore France’s armies were spent and the invasions were continuing. The Knights realised that the battle for France was now an inevitable success and it was now more of a land-grab than anything else and the Knights wanted more land. So in 1410 the Knights declared war on France.

Initially a little bit of diplomacy was required to even get an army into France. The Knights would have to cross the lands of Milan and Switzerland to reach the front but luckily these two nations were willing to grant the Knights access. The Knights began besieging Lorraine but this plan soon became unstuck when the Duke of Burgundy arrived and commandeered the siege. The Knights immediately moved on in search of lands they could capture freely, all of Eastern France had already been claimed. They attempted a raid on Paris itself but this was a stronghold for the French, the king had given up on most of the provinces and retreated to Paris. To defeat the armies there would be beyond the Knights. They kept marching until they found themselves in Caux in 1411. There they found enough peace to capture the province and then in the next year they moved along to Normandie. By the end of 1413 Normandie was captured and the Knights continued southwards into Maine. After Maine was taken they besieged Anjou, all of this with the littlest of French resistance and luckily without the interference of other invaders. By 1416 the Knights had control of four provinces and were now heading towards Southern France where the French still had some armies. They tried to find more provinces to besiege but discovered the region was dominated by the Burgundians. By 1418 the Knights had realised little more could be gained and so decided to cash in on their land-grab. The French were good negotiators and the Knights were only able to walk away with Normandie and Maine, which was not bad considering the number of nations getting involved. France continued to collapse for another ten years until it held only four provinces before it stabilised but its hatred throughout Europe still made all other nations resent it. The end for France was probably nigh.

screensave10vy6.jpg

France in 1428 (for more screenshots of the devastated France see my post in the Strange Screenshot thread made over a year ago when i actually played this game)


The Fall of France was quite extreme
Two dozen nations brought down the regime
Over thirty years France decreased
On conquered lands, the foes would feast
Some took nothing, some took a lot
Here’s a list of who took what.

The Knights took Normandie and Maine
Caux was a Venetian gain
Holland claimed lands Artesian
Elsass returned to being Austrian
Holland also picked up Luxembourg
Whilst Nassau gained Trier and Berg

Aragon gained Languedoc and Toulouse
The French, to England, Gascony lose
Armagnac to England too
Whilst Gelre gained Poitou
Add to that the Flemish lands
And also Pas de Calais sands

Berri to Nevers, Guyenne to Castile
Saintonge flew under the Teutonic Seal
Avignon regained liberty
Savoy took Limoges, Poland Picardie
Milan gained the region of Auvergne
But Burgundy reaped the largest return

Orleans and Champagne
Bourbon and Lorraine
All ended up as lands of Burgundy
As well as Lyon, the silk city
And that was how France was split
Not quite dead but close to it.


Meanwhile the Knights were pleased with their new possessions and despite their remoteness from the rest of the realm they were not too difficult to govern as the Knights had had significant connections with the French for centuries and the cultures were not all that different. After the war with France the Knights once again entered a peaceful period in which they improved their relations with their Italian allies. In fact since 1400 the Knights had managed to vassalise each of their vassals; Mantua in 1403 and Firenze and Verona in 1408. By the 1430s ties between all these nations had increased and given the Knights strengthen they were able to annex each of them into their realm. Mantua was swallowed in 1433, Firenze in 1436 and Verona in 1441. Now the Knights were without doubt the largest Italian state and ready to move into bigger and better things.
 
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comagoosie

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:rofl:

That was nasty for france. 23 nations against it, sounds painful, at least you were able to grab 2 provinces, let us just hope that you can keep them easily :D

Nice map btw!
 

Enewald

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Good old burgundy. :D
Usually france kicks everyone, or gets kicked very early. :rofl:
 

The Swert

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Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case with major powers, France did not die. In the 1460s it inherited a large Burgundy (which by then had annexed Holland, Brabant and Savoy) and was once again a major power in Western Europe. :( Anyway on with the show...


Chapter 4: The Grecian Plea


In 1440 the Pope received a plea from the plebs in Greece for a Catholic nation to come and liberate them from their Byzantine masters. Attica and Achaea had been Byzantine possessions for 70 years but there were still significant remnants of the catholic crusaders in the region. Whilst the Byzantines had been successful in conquering Greece it had suffered in more recent times. Numerous wars with Bulgaria, Venice and the Ottomans had taken its toll on the Empire which was now reduced to just Constantinople and the Greek possessions. However this was not new and was not the reason that the plea was sent.


The Balkans in 1428 with Greece under combined Byzantine and Venetian control

The Ottomans declared war on Bulgaria, Bosnia and Venice in 1432. With the demise of Byzantium, the Greek states still felt relatively secure from the infidel because they were under the wing of Venice. Venice, in the wars against Byzantium had gained the rest of Greece: Thessalia, Epirus, Cephalonia, Naxos as well as Albania, Crete and much of the Dalmatian Coast. They seemed like a pretty confident and upstanding defender of Greece. However when war broke out in 1432 the Venetians, despite their allies, found themselves overwhelmed. All of Venetian Greece and Albania was lost before the Venetians were able to put a halt to the Ottoman assault further up the Dalmatian Coast. In the peace of 1434 the Ottomans gained Zeta, Albania and Epirus. It was clear that Venice could not be the champion of Greece that the Greeks desired. The Ottoman Empire, after being rather reserved for the first hundred years, was now beginning to spread its wicked wings. In subsequent years they invaded and all but annexed Georgia. They attacked Candar who only escaped by having Egypt as an ally. Armenia Minor didn’t escape the expansion either; the Ottomans would claim Karaman from the other crusader state.

In 1440 Venice attempted to claim back the lost land and turn around the trend against the Anatolian Menace. It was a foolish attack by the Venetians, who once again had plenty of support from Bulgaria, Bosnia, Milan and Armenia Minor. Within weeks the main Venetian offensive was defeated and they were put on the back foot once again. It was then that the Greeks in Attica and Achaea sent the plea to the Pope. Venice was in the process of losing the rest of Greece to the Ottomans and with Byzantium in an even worse position than Venice it was only a matter of time before Greece would be an Islamic province. They hoped that there would be a capable Catholic nation willing to take on the fight of protecting Greece from the infidel, even if it did mean liberating it from Byzantium first.

Immediately Napoli answered the call to arms, they were perhaps the best positioned state to do so as they already had a foothold on Morea. Joining Napoli in this crusade against an incompetent Byzantine Empire was the Pope and Genoa. The Knights were not exactly tantalised by this proposition as they were still hopeful of the Venetians, who were strong enough to defeat the Byzantines only a few decades ago. Unfortunately the Venetians instead of proving themselves to the Christian world only succeeded in proving their incompetence. By 1443 their war with the Ottomans had gone just as bad as the first. When they signed a peace the Ottomans gained the other half of the Venetians’ Greek possessions; Naxos, Cephalonia and Thessalia were lost to the Infidel. That was the trigger for the Knights to get involved; the Ottoman Empire had doubled in size within the last ten years and was now not just a threat to Christian Greece but to Rhodes and the Knights as well.


The Balkan in 1444 after the Ottoman expansion

In the meanwhile Napoli had been leading the fight for Byzantine Greece in what was a slow process. In four years of warfare the Neapolitans had captured only Attica. If Napoli thought that they could be the champion of Greece then they had another thing coming. The Knights declared war on Byzantium in 1444 and as soon as the first invasion force landed in Achaea the Pope realised the seriousness and intent driving the Knights. It was a cut above the haphazard approach of Napoli and so the pope quickly moved his support. He signed a lenient peace with Byzantium immediately to prevent the weak Neapolitans from getting any further in Greece and let the Knights go at it. The Byzantines already had all their armies in Greece so it was easy for the Knights to land at Constantinople and assault the city before the end of the year. Then it was just a matter of defeating the Byzantine armies in Greece which took time but was not hard, they truly were a relic. Achaea fell in 1446 and a year later Attica was captured and the sparring was over. In November 1447 the Knights of St John took over lordship of Attica and Achaea and as an extra bonus made the Byzantines a vassal. Why be a saviour of Greece when you could save Constantinople as well?

The attention of the Knights was quickly returned to the other side of Europe when in 1448 an invitation was received from England to join their alliance with Gelre and the Teutonic Order. The Knights hadn’t had an ally since annexing Verona but they were able to observe the way that England and Gelre worked during the Fall of France in which both nations had played a major role picking up six provinces to between them. The Knights liked what they saw and such an alliance would protect their provinces in Northern France; they could no longer just afford to consider the Mediterranean theatre. Furthermore there was the Teutonic Order, it would be a match made in heaven to see both Knightly Orders together as brothers. The Knights accepted the invitation and soon found themselves involved once more with the French politics. It had been thirty years since the Knights invaded France during the midst of a massive war but yet somehow France still existed, holding on to three provinces. The Knights decided it was time to finish France off.

The year 1453 marked the end of the ‘Hundred Years war’ which meant that according to Salic law England’s claim to the French throne ended. This was the perfect time to attack France as England would have the anger of defeat within them whilst the French would have the complacency of victory. Unfortunately France had just annexed Nassau thereby doubling in size but even if France could not be completely destroyed in this war her neighbours could surely finish her off. The Knights invaded Anjou whilst the French headed for Maine. The French were stronger than before having had a chance to rebuild. It took several months to defeat them in Maine but once they were a siege was laid on Paris. By January 1454 both Anjou and Paris had fallen and the Knights went on the march to the eastern provinces to support Gelre who were already invading former Nassau. A siege was laid on Trier and all was going well until the town rebelled against the Knights breaking the siege and sending the Knights in retreat. Before the Knights could regroup the war was brought to an abrupt end by the English king who had other plans. France was forced to cede Anjou to the Knights and Berg to Gelre but once again France was denied that ultimate defeat. Immediately afterwards England vassalised the Teutonic Order and the English King’s plan was made clear.

This was the last war that the Knights were involved in before it would be tested as a Champion of Greece and Constantinople. Six years later the Ottoman Empire would attempt to continue its recent run of form by launching a new war on the brave Christian defenders. The Knights would need a great leader if they were to defeat this worthy foe. Stand up and deliver Knights of St John, your time has come again.
 
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Enewald

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Knights shall save the greeks!
And make them serfs. :p