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Holy Roman Empire Squared – A history blog AAR

Hi, all! This will be my first AAR, based on Memento Mori’s challenge of the same name. Here it is:

Memento Mori said:
1 - Start as Byzantium, true heir to the Roman Empire [Roman: 1/2]
2 - Go Catholic
3 - Become the Emperor, acquiring the Legacy of Charlemagne, and the Western Empire [Empire: 1/2]
4 - Renovatio Imperii, breaking with the concept of federalism and introducing the dominate once again [Empire: 2/2]
5 - Change government type from empire to theocracy
6 - Cause the downfall of the Papacy, and become the Pope [Holy : 1/2]
7 - Move your capital to Rome, the eternal city, conquering it if necessary. While you are at it, conquer every single province the original Empire (as well as Byzantine successor state) ever had [Roman: 2/2]
8 - Form the Kingdom of God! [Holy: 2/2]

Now you are twice-fold holy, as the papacy and Kingdom of God, totally Roman, as Byzantine emulating the original empire's greatness and having the capital in Rome and a double Emperor - uniting the generally hereditary Eastern Empire and the generally elective Western one.

As a further bonus you have grayed out, and thus harnessed the power, of the two main political entities in Europe.

And to make it even more epic - write it in a way so it is at least remotely plausible
This AAR will be fairly short. My goal is not so much to describe every detail of play but to share my experience with the forum and make the history ‘remotely plausible’ (assuming I succeed, of course). To that end, the style will try to represent myself as a blogger writing about the history and myths that naturally surround an event as epic as the ‘Roman Resurgence’. I have already written a number of updates, but I might be slow to post them anyway so if anyone ends up enjoying reading this as much as I have enjoyed playing and writing it, feel free to pester me for updates. It might not help but can't hurt to try :) All comments/criticisms/suggestions welcome. Screenshots will be thin in the first few updates at least, because I wasn’t originally planning to make an AAR, but then I decided, hey, WHY NOT?

I am playing HTTT 4-point-whatever-the-last-patch-for-Mac-was. The scenario is full grand campaign. No reloads, cheats, etc, but gamey tactics welcome if I can make them at least as 'remotely plausible' as the rest of the events in the AAR. In the interest of full disclosure, I did restart the game once when I discovered a particular gamey tactic that I wanted to try, which will be shown in the first update and justified in the second. If anyone could suggest reasonable borders I need for number 7, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Gameplay notes will be in parentheses. First update coming soon!
 

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Introduction
The question of why the Roman fortunes reversed so suddenly at the turn of the fifteenth century will probably always remain something of a mystery to historians. Suffering centuries of defeat at the hands of both Muslims and Christians, with only minor holdings in Greece to give some semblance of credence to Constantinople’s claim to ‘Empire’, Byzantium in 1399 seemed an unlikely candidate to survive fifty years. In this context, the Roman Resurgence took the known world by storm, and was the stuff of legend then as much as now.

Contents
Chapter 1.0: The Roman Resurgence
Chapter 1.5: Legends of the Roman Resurgence
Chapter 2.0: The Reign of Helene
Chapter 2.5: Legends of the Reign of Helene
Chapter 3.0: The Great Conversion
Chapter 3.5: Legends of the Great Conversion
Chapter 4.0: Empire Again
Chapter 4.5: Legends of the Western Empire
Chapter 5.0: The Renovatio Imperii
Chapter 5.5: Legends of the Renovatio
Chapter 6.0: Imperial Heyday
Chapter 6.5: Legends of the Imperial Heyday
Chapter 7.0: The Papacy
Chapter 7.5: Call me 'Pope'.
Chapter 8.0: Into the World
Chapter 8.5: Crisis in the New World
Chapter 9.0: Closing the Ring
Chapter 10.: The Aftermath
 
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Memento Mori

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Awesome!!! After years from the time I have given up hope for someone to try it, I see this aar! Good luck fulfilling the challenge! And remember, a part of the bet was that if you succeed, I will change my awesome quasim dragon to the flag of Suahili for some time :D
 

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Post 1: Roman Resurgence
Holy[SUP]0[/SUP] Roman[SUP]1[/SUP] Empire[SUP]0[/SUP]

History
At the end of 1399, with Timur’s armies pouring into Anatolia and distracting the Turks, Emperor Manuel II instituted the ‘Greek People’s Decree’, granting special liberties to “all men of Greek lineage, under the Jurisdiction of the empire or outside of it”. Naturally these liberties were unenforceable outside of the Empire’s borders, but they ensured that if the Empire was able to make a quick and triumphant return they would be greeted as liberators and the populations reintegrated into the empire almost immediately. Further, the decree enhanced local commerce, which ended up providing a boost to the imperial coffers. These funds were used to expand the fleet (free subject move, ‘better admin’ event which I used to give myself full minting for several months, and a justification for how easy it is to grow when you are taking cores).

Image: The increased revenue following the decree was largely spent on expanding the Navy

On the 18th of February, 1400, as the last Ottoman armies crossed the Bosporus, the Empire declared war on the Turks. A fleet set sail from Constantinople’s Harbor under the questionable cover of a moonlit night, and headed for the Aegean, pursued by the Ottoman Navy. The chase crossed the entire Mediterranean until the Roman ships finally took refuge in Portugal. The fleet, however, had been a decoy. With the Ottoman fleet engaged on a chase across the known world, the Roman Navy dominated the Bosporus and prevented the Ottoman armies from crossing the straights into Europe. When the Turkish ships finally limped back, the scattered elements were caught and destroyed in detail by the Roman fleet. (I gamily led the Ottoman Navy across the Mediterranean with a couple cogs, and then for whatever reason the AI split its fleet into groups of 2-4 galleys which I killed one by one as they sailed back to Turkey)

Image: Artist's depiction of Turkish ships attempting to reenter the Bosporus after their odyssey across the Mediterranean.

With their large field armies stranded in Asia, the Ottomans lost their greatest advantage over the Romans. Even then, however, had the Ottoman garrisons in Greece and Bulgaria united with their Serbian allies they probably could have destroyed the Roman and Wallachian invaders, but lack of communication and an unwillingness to abandon their fortifications allowed the Christian allies to destroy the garrisons piecemeal, forcing the surrender of several important cities (I took Macedonia, Larrissa, and Burgas in the peace deal). With the influx of manpower and revenue from these new provinces, the Romans attacked Western strongholds in Greece, driving out Venetian, Napolitan, and even Castillian influence in the region and unifying the peninsula under their rule. Manuel also instituted rigorous training for all Greek troops (I took Epirius, Athens, Albania, Achea, and Crete, first annexing the relevant country as quickly as possible and then marching my army around to stomp out any landings; Castille was particularly annoying but I was eventually able to concede defeat and they went home; Military Drill helped).

Image: The men who made it happen - Greek soldiers in the winter of 1399.

With a unified Greece supporting the Roman war effort, three more Roman-Ottoman wars took place before 1425. By the end, all of Greece and Bulgaria, as well as most of Anatolia, were back under Byzantine control. The Roman Resurgence had begun.
 

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Awesome!!! After years from the time I have given up hope for someone to try it, I see this aar! Good luck fulfilling the challenge! And remember, a part of the bet was that if you succeed, I will change my awesome quasim dragon to the flag of Suahili for some time :D

(if anyone was wondering, why didn't I try the game myself: I have an early version where renovatio and KoG are unavailable)
Thanks! I hope you enjoy the AAR :) I like your avatar, though, why would you want to change it?
 

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Thanks! I hope you enjoy the AAR :) I like your avatar, though, why would you want to change it?
I am already enjoying it, and as for the avatar - I like it too, but when people make a bet, they usually promise to do something crazy when the bet is fulfilled :D But don't worry, it will stay Swahili for only a couple of weeks [with an adequate explaining signature, of course], then it's going back ;)
 

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A little help on the historicalness aspect: try not to see it from your perspective, wondering 'how do I explain the Byzantines going on a pseudo-WC rampage?'. Try to see it from the perspective of the Emperors, Kings, Dukes, and peasants who lived it. Because it would likely be just as incomprehensible to some of them, but at the very least, we know that the growth of the Empire was comprehensible to the Emperor (or perhaps you could have the expansion of the new Empire come about as it did in the old Roman Empire: as generals conquered foreign lands in order to achieve their domestic ambitions).

As Collingwood said, if we know that someone thought a thought, we know that we can also think it.
 

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so many byzzie aars ^^
 

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Memento Mori: Well then, I'd better succeed!

Magnive: Thanks!

Merrick Chance': Thanks for the advice! I just popped over to your Prussia AAR, which is quite impressive (I'll have to read it in full when I get a chance, and then start following your France one :) ). The next update is going to be 'Legend' which will try to see the events of this update from the perspective of individual initiatives, and discuss how these individuals actions were interpreted both at the time and by history later on. I am planning to do a follow-up like that for every chapter. Let me know if you think it works!

Deus Eversor: Well, at some point the vanilla version of the game becomes too easy and kind of monotonous. It is fun to try and work the system to do something bizarre.
edit: whoops, completely misread that word in your post... Yeah, lots of Byzantium in the forum right now, but I hope mine is at least a little different!
 
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I'd like to say that I give this advice because I love your concept, I love the way that you write, and while I dislike Byzantophilia (and the magical properties that it imbues on a highly corrupt system), I think that an exploration of why a hypothetical Byzantium could succeed regardless of her structural problems would be a really, really interesting endeavor.
 

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Tufto: Great to have you on board!

Merrick Chance': ooooo, that does sound interesting. I love reading and writing explorations like that. The problem is, I am not a Byzantophile or particularly knowledgeable about their history, and I don't really know enough about their social and political structure to comment on it meaningfully. I'm afraid I would fail at that particular endeavor if I tried to do it in specific terms.

Also, I agree - Byzantium is ridiculously overpowered if you can survive the first 10 years of the game. I've started the justification for this above, mostly in terms of a lot of luck, but I was largely planning to use the excuse of the fairly exceptional emperors/empress I was lucky enough to get after Manuel II dies. I've read some things on wikipedia but if you have suggestions for places to look for information about late Byzantine government I'd love to start incorporating it into the story.
 

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well i love Basileia Romaion so i'm happy :)
and yeah, i didn't saw such idea beafore, to reintegrate Roman Empire by quasi-diploannexing hre ;D

well i do not wonder why Bizantium is op if survived... come on, we all know Rome is op :D the only reason rome fell is because of the halfbrained emperrors ;)
 

quicksabre

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well i do not wonder why Bizantium is op if survived... come on, we all know Rome is op :D the only reason rome fell is because of the halfbrained emperrors ;)
Well, it certainly helped me with this game, that's for sure!

Post 1: Roman Resurgence

Legend
One of the most famous of the legends that emerged from this time is the legend of Kastor Kantakuzenos, a staunch supporter of Manuel II. Kastor’s historical relationship with the Emperor is unclear, but in the legends he is most often described as a great general who was mortally wounded while scouting Turkish positions across the Bosporus. He is also occasionally described Manuel II’s closest friend. The first two are unlikely, as there are no records of him leading any Byzantine units prior to his death on October 13, 1399, but the last may have some kernel of truth based on a handful of letters and the fact that the emperor refused to gather more advisors for nearly a decade following his death. Regardless of Kastor’s exact standing, that he was of some importance at court is beyond doubt.

His dying words, according to late 15th century historian Georgios Mikrulakes, were ‘The straights are our life! Keep them safe for God and Man’. As earlier accounts universally fail to mention this, it is likely a nationalistic fabrication. The first mention of Kastor’s death as a turning point in Byzantine history appeared late in the reign of Manuel II’s daughter, the Empress Helene, in a poem by the court artist Philemon Komnenos. The poem, ‘Kastor’s Courage’, was part of a trend in the1450s to create the greatest Roman hero. It depicts the largely imagined exploits of a 14th century James Bond, who caps off his career by concocting the harebrained-but-genius plan that would save the Roman Empire.

The poem was very popular, but even if true the idea to block the Bosporus and the Ottoman armies would not have been strictly Kastor’s brainchild. A mysterious group known as the ‘forumites’ had advocated this plan for years as one of the most effective ways to save Byzantium, although even within the group there were seem to have been questions raised about issues of honor. Several versions of the story include forumite agents altering records or otherwise pulling the strings of the royal court. This argument, however, is simply ludicrous. The group itself is known exclusively from their own writings, and corroborating evidence even for their existence, never mind such meddling, is, as far as this writer can determine, completely absent.

The most likely source of Byzantium’s bizarre strategy in the first War of Reqonquest was Admiral Andronikos Psellos. Psellos’ appointment as high commander of the Roman Fleet came in late 1399 and was contemporaneous with its prewar expansion. He also personally led the Roman decoy squadron on its deliberately ill-fated ‘escape’ attempt, and kept the Turks ignorant of his lack of strength for the duration of a nearly 2000km chase. Psellos was often considered pompous due to his flair for showmanship and his arrogant advocacy of his own ability. But these qualities would have been essential to the kind of scheme utilized by the Byznantines in this war, and strongly suggests at least that he was heavily involved in planning.

Image: Approximate route of Psellos' voyage

‘The Pursuit’ is also a popular legend, and involves Psellos’ use of seagulls and/or merpeople to lead the Ottoman captains while staying too far away for them to accurately gauge the composition of the Roman fleet. A more likely explanation for the success of the plan is not with Psellos, daring as he might have been, but with the Ottoman admiral. As the third son of an important noble, and with no prior naval experience, Selim Serdar was certainly a political appointment, assigned the apparently simple task of destroying whatever Byzantine ships dare stray from the safety of Constantinople’s harbor. I also suspect that he suffered from a certain level of cognitive dissonance. Upon seeing the ships ‘fleeing’ under the cover of night, Serdar ordered pursuit. Unwilling to admit that he had allowed the ships to escape, and unwilling to admit that admit that the initial order to pursue may not have been necessary, the only course open to him was to affirm that his decision was correct in the face of evidence and continue the pursuit until his fleet could destroy the Romans. It seems impossible that a fleet could keep sufficient contact to pursue an enemy for 2000km without realizing that it was less than a quarter of the strength they had originally believed, even if their prey was trying to lead them on. Indeed, it was not until the chase reached the Straights of Gibraltar that Serdar finally decided to send an element of his fleet back to Turkey. 40% of it, however, remained under his personal command and continued the chase all the way to Lisbon. In this way Admiral Selim Serdar, more than any other personality of the time, is responsible for the phenomenon that the Eastern Empire was soon to become.

Image: Print of 'the Pursuit', including seagulls.

(sorry about that third paragraph :p)
 

Malurous

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Interesting stuff, I remember reading about Memento Mori's challenge at some point.

Weren't you a fellow Milanese knight back in the day or am I imagining things? One more reason to give this one a follow. ;)
 

quicksabre

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Interesting stuff, I remember reading about Memento Mori's challenge at some point.

Weren't you a fellow Milanese knight back in the day or am I imagining things? One more reason to give this one a follow. ;)
I was indeed, the 'Ghost Knight'. I only recently took it out of my signature, in fact, when I finally decided that 3 years was enough time to be a character in a completed aar. Good times.

I would love to read an epic book from XIX cent. of your timeline about this pursuit :p
That would be really funny. If I get bored some time maybe I'll write an excerpt :)

Loving it!
Thanks!
 

BootOnFace

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Always wanted to see this done in an AAR. Good luck.