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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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The Double-headed Phoenix of the House Palaiologos (Palaeologus), Emperors of the Roman Empire (Imperatorum Romani Imperii)
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Basileus Basileon, Basileuon Basileusi
King of Kings, Ruling over Rulers

Prologue - Palaiologoi History -

...It has been our way, the way of the Palaiologoi, to always support the Empire, and her Emperor. No matter how incompetent, how shrewd, how dishonorable - it is our Duty as her citizens, her subjects, to make her survival a paramount in our lives. And through our struggle, casting out our lives, and the lives of our sons, the sancity of our daughters to secure the Imperial Legacy, and to abandon our wives in order to help safe-guard against the Empire's enemies - through all this, what did the Emperors graciously bestow upon us? Petty lordship in Makedonia. This was their "thanks", to make us heílotes, bound to them as their slaves. With Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Ducats - we supported the Imperial Throne. Even as the Doukas were destroying it, destroying what Basileus Basileos Makedon had built up! What Justinian had saved! What Octavianus had created! The humiliation and desecration at Manzikert showed this much, as the Emperors began betraying one another, coups were becoming yearly. Romanos IV would be forced to resign power by the Doukas, primarily Michael Doukas, who were eventually overthrown by Nikephoros Botaneiates!

Yet still the Palaiologoi held firm in their support for the Empire through the Emperor. Even Georgios, the aid of the Usurper Bonateiates and Alexios Komnenos, did this in his own way. In an attempt to preserve the Empire, he supported his own Emperor. The Corrupt and decadent Bonateniates fell as he came, by rebellion. The Komnenoi were next in line for their turn on the Imperial Legacy - and the Palaiologoi served them as they had done before. Generations passed, and the Komnenoi had served the Empire well. Reversing the Calamity of Manzikert, while simulataneously putting the other Imperial Families and Western families by intermarrying with the Doukas, and attempting to partially reconcile the Schism between the Orthodox and the "Catholic". A politically-sound move...And by the time of the third Komnenoi Emperor, Manuel, The Empire was restoring it's borders to their proper administration. Yet there was a flaw with the Komnenoi, a flaw which they failed to realize until it was far too late...

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(Basileia Romaion, circa, 1170 AD (1920 A.U.C.)


...Their asking of aid to the Westerners, those who defiled Rome and stole her lands, who took the name of King of the Romans and a Holy Empire of the Roman, who were given this crown by the traitorous bishop of Rome - had betrayed the trust of Alexios Komnenos. Was it naivety? Perhaps, thinking that all of Christendome would be united against a common foe, and would inadvertently restore the Empire of the Romans to its proper place. Or a political guile, that simply backfired on him. Whatever grand plan Alexios may have had, it failed. Utterly. We could only watch helplessly as the Crusaders took on the Principalities and Kingdoms for their own. It was first seen with Antioch and Edessa, how the Franks were looking at the lands with envy and greed. After Palestina Prima, Secunda along with pieces of Phoenice and Palestina Salutaris were "liberated" by the Crusaders, they decided that the deal made with Alexios Komnenos had been null and void. Why would they barter with those not of the Church, the "Apostolic" Church of Rome, and give territory back to those who did not earn it? And, in some bitter sense of irony that festers in me, they were right. What are we, those of Rhomania, if we must rely on barbarians and cretins to fight our battles for us? While an outrage, it was to expected of those Crusaders. They had decided to anoint a Frank, Baldwin of Edessa they called him before his coronation, as King of Jerusalem.

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Baldwin, the Prodotis, being pronounced "King" of Jerusalem, "King" of the Provinces Palestina Prima, Secunda, Salutaris, and Phoenice. Circa, 1099 A.D. (1852 A.U.C.)

And what did the Komnenoi do? Nothing, but stare bitterly at those who had betrayed the deal, had not done their end of the bargain as if the Franks would hold up their end of the bargain? Those who destroyed the Occidentalis (West) in Gallia? Those who were the first "King of the Romans", and had only for a time recognized the Legitimacy of Konstantinpolis. And what could we, the servants of the Empire, do? Serve and obey loyally. As all good God-fear vassals should - and for the while Ioannes and Manuel had made up for Alexios's error. With the reorganization of the military into a professional fighting force, as well as bring the Imperial Justice to the Bulgarian Armies. Destroying and crushing them - and any who would dare try to intervene on our soil. Namely those barbarians, the Magyars, whom claim to have become “civilized Christians”...

But it came to an end, as forseen by the failed invasion of Aegyptus by Manuel with Crusaders…not co-operating with the Emperor. Some even refused to aid in the destruction of one of their greatest enemies - the Moslems of Aegyptus! The continued appeasement and offering of flowers to the West, in an attempt of reconciliation with traitors and thieves, was shown to be in error as seen with the battle of battle of Myriokephalon, destroying their sense of invincibility. Rather than making our greatest enemies fight each other, destroy themselves as we watch the Komnenoi attempted to always directly confront our foes. This bravery, while admired throughout the Empire even in defeat, led to the end of the Komnenoi military-supremacy of Alexios and Ioannes. So true that even Maneul saw that Myriokephalon was the Komnenoi’s own Manzikert, their own crafting as they ignored the tenacity, ferocity, and elusiveness of the Seljuks that had been in play since Manzikert. It is because of this, that the Komnenoi had lost. Due to Manuel’s timing, however, our Imperial Forces were not completely destroyed as under the Doukas. A sign of their competence…but this would show to be selective among the Komnenoi.


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Status of the Imperium Romanum, circa 1180 A.D. (1933 A.U.C.)

Even as the Empire held together, and the Empire scoring minor victories against the Turks - the Komnenoi were finished. Manuel fell on September 20th 1180 A.D., dying of slow fever. While he had died in a manner less than satisfactory toward his physique, his Legacy suffered an even greater disgrace –By his own Family’. His Son, Alexios the Second of his Name, was to be crowned Autokrator. However, he never was. At least not while his mother, Maria, reigned. He was instead given to Alexios, Protosebatos (First Honored One - Cousin of Alexios II), to be trained. Supposedly, while the Basilissa reigned - likely attempts to both retain unto the Throne as long as possible and maintain the Komnenoi Line. An as faithful vassals, we were forced to watch as a civil war nearly broke out. The party against the Empress was quickly defeated, yet Androkinos Komnenos (Grandson of Alexios the First) took advantage of the situation.

Being that Bassilia Maria was...a person of Latin origin, the Palaiologoi allowed this to happen. As did most of the vassals, Androkinos entered the City of the World's Desire and was crowned Autokrator. He allowed his cousin to be crowned Co-Emperor, yet this was more so an honorary title than one of a real chance at power. After he was officially crowned, Androkinos removed any loose ends. He caused the death of Alexios, what seemed to be suffocation via strangulation. The move secured him the Throne, and the Empire, yet it damned him to the same fate of Alexios and Manuel. Bent on removing the corruption and decadence of Manuel – he had earned himself enemies of the Aristocracy and People of Konstantinpolis. His rule was marred by supposed harsh Justice, revolts at every corner, as well as the foreign Normans going as far as Thessalonica and sacking as the Norse they are. When trying to arrest Isaac Angelos, his time had come to an end – as the Emperor was absent at the time. It failed, and Isaac was allowed to encourage the population to depose of the Emperor. …A welcome-home surprise of fatal consequences. He was executed at the Hippodrome, ironically by Latins – those were murdered at the start of his reign, and his son and the Co-Emperor Ioannes were murdered by his own men!


It is through the Komnenoi’s failures of taking the correct measures, relying on the wrong people, and their own corruption (be it of decadence or tyranny) that led to their downfall. Isaac Angelos just happened to be at the right place, said the right words, under the right Tyrannos. The Komnenoi continued to defy their fate, ruling as Despotes of Trebezoind. Rather than learning from their mistakes, they intended to repeat them. Dividing an already fractured Empire, Our Rhomania , and endangering it further. Such hopes for the Angelos to do as the Komnenoi once did – to restore the Empire to its former glory were held. Until it was too late.

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The Coronation of Isaac Angelos as Autokrator of the Basileia Rhomaion was hopeful to many Vassals. With the victory over the barbarian Normans as his first act, it had seemed Rhomania would survive. (Circa 1185 A.D., 1938 A.U.C.)

The taxes of Angelos, due to the situation he was in with Crusaders at one door demanding entrance and Isaac attempting to parley with Moslems led by Saladin, as well as financing his forces led to an uneasiness with the vassals. Those in Bulgaria were not impressed, and held their own rebellion. To restore “proper” Bulgarian rule, as if they had not learned the lesson of Basileos Boulgaroktonos…and it appeared Isaac was intent on teaching them this lesson. If one looked deeper, the Emperor forced this to happen. The Bulgarians were intent on negotiation with the Emperor and brought terms that would be favorable for the plans of Rhomania. For her survival – whether or not the Bulgarians were truly interested in Rhomania’s peace and stability is for discussion of historians. The Autokrator refused, causing the fires of rebellion to ignite.

Leaving the rebellion to be fought by others – they began to turn on him. One by one, ally and friend became enemy and betrayer. It was this that allowed the Bulgarians to create their state, to continue defying Imperial Law. Whilst absent from Konstantinpolis, attempting to finish the Bulgarians off with another offensive, Alexios Angelos had convinced the troops to be acclaimed Emperor. In all likelihood Alexios was using the rebellion’s success as well as his position as sebastokrator to encourage the troops to rally to this new autkrator. He captured his younger brother, and blinded him. He kept Isaac’s son under lock and key in Konstantinpolis while doing a horrendous mistake. In order to compensate for this atrocity against kin, he had begun to squander and deplete the treasury of Rhomania. Being so pathetic as to pay tribute to the “Imperator Romanorum”, the German Enrikos (Henry) VI and had also tried to lessen the aggression of the Bulgarians and Roman Nobles by bribing them. This had backfired, and gave them a sense of security and exploiting the Emperor’s spineless attitude when coming to reality.
Rhomania was nearly bankrupt, her authority diminished, and being assaulted from all side paved the way for the greatest atrocity the Franks would ever commit against Rhomania and her people.

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The “friends” of Alexios IV Angelos, restoring the fool to his throne and robbing Rhomania of its wealth.

Alexios, son of Isaac, had managed to escape the City of Konstantinpolis and sought to restore himself on the Throne of his father. And, rightfully so, as the Throne was to be his when his father was no longer able to hold unto the Throne and govern the Imperium to his best ability. Yet, he had sought to correct this in the wrong manner. Much like the Komnenoi, he had too much reliance on the West. The Franks were to go to Aegyptus, to relieve the “Jerusalemites” of one of their enemies and take down the largest threat to their Kingdom. It would also give the West goods that one benefited the Imperium – notably grain and massive income.


Yet Angelos had promised them many things. Reunification of the Churches, complete Byzantine support in their Crusades, stationing of troops in the Holy Land…but the real promise that brought the Crusaders on board – was gold. A promise to help end the debt the Crusaders had accumulated to the Venetians, and finally free them of their bond to that Republic. Was it perhaps Alexios had not realize the economic situation of Rhomania? Or was it an attempt to garner support to take the Throne and pay off the Crusaders eventually, if not force them out of the city? It does not matter – all that matters is that it failed, in the long run.

Alexios had managed to achieve his main goal – retake the Crown. But, it soon came to the young Autokrator’s reality that they had not the funds to pay their new ‘allies’ of the West. Tension grew, and the Autokrator stooped so low as to sack his own cities in order to pay the Cruaders off. The Citizens of Rhomania and the Crusaders had enough of the Autokrator, and he had burned too many ships to turn back now.

The citizens finally revolted, and proclaimed their own Emperor. Nikolaos Kanabos was “elected” by an assembly of the Roman Senate, various priests and citizens, all in an attempt to dethrone an ungrateful tyrannos. Held in the Agia Sofia, as if God himself had decided to designate the Emperor – so the priests would have told you. Whether or not Christ God had anything to do with the matter is of no importance, it failed and its location was an attempt at rallying to the new Emperor. It failed; he suffered the same fate as the Komnenoi, Strangulation. At the Holy site no less! As if God decided he was not fit to be Emperor, or he was a fool elected by hardy fools.

In a last bid to reconcile with the Crusaders, he had sent Alexios Doukas Mourtzouphlos to receive aid from the Crusaders while the people rebelled against him. He was sly, that Doukas, and had used his access of the Palace to arrest the Autokrator, end the Rebellion, and end a failing Dynasty. He was very anti-western, a trait to be admired. But, at the wrong time. His attempt to strengthen the city’s defenses came too late, and the Crusaders sieged the our Eternal City of the East. They had taken the city, and the Autokrator fled to Alexios III Angelos’s base at Mosyopolis. Angelos had blinded, making in illegible for the Throne, and captured once again. He had the death of a traitor, and his death echoed the end of a united Rhomania.

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The Venetians, with their Crusader Pawns, siege the Imperial Capital and begin their sack. Under the Guidance of Dodge Enric Dandolo and Baldwin van Flaanderan - the Crusaders and Venetians overthrow what remained of the Imperial Administration of Alexios V

The Crusaders, guided by Veince, began to sack and take control of the city. Intending to take the gold they were promised, by force. Guided by the Venetian Dodge, Enric Dandolo, the Crusaders marched all the way to The Mega Palation, installing themselves as the ‘rules’ of the City. And the pillaging began, mass rape and destruction of holy symbols, what remained of the gold of the Imperial Reserves was taken without care. The Catholic Crusaders showed their brutality, and lack of care in the Christ they sought to serve. They had even stolen the Bronze Horses from the Hippodrome, and sent it back to their masters – the Venetians! Such an insult…is only reserved for heretics, barbarians, and those who do not know their betters! Most of the statues were melted down, whether for greed or desperation, some were outright destroyed.

Even the Imperial Library, and our women, was violated. They had ignored their Bishop of Rome, on threat of excommunication. And what happened? Nothing. No retribution from the Holy “See” of the “Pope”, no contempt or scolding from their Fellow Catholics. A dead silence went throughout Christendome, as a city of Christendome was torched for Christ. Nuns, Girls, Men, Boys – all put to the torch in one way or another. By the Spear of Man, or the Spear of War.
By the time Rhomania had regrouped in Nicaea, the Franks had implemented what they called “Partito terrarum Imperii Romaniae”, or the partition of the Imperium’s territory. They had decided that they deserved to rule over us, and one can tell who really controlled the situation. While the Crusaders controlled Konstantinpolis with the new title of “Imperium Romaniae”, as much of the land was controlled by him. Naxos, the Agean Isles, Crete – all Venetian Colonial possessions of our lands. Another unfortunate

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(After the Synthí̱ki̱ tou Nymfaíou (Treaty of Nyphaeum), the political situation of Asia-Minor and the Imperium Romanum was stabilized to an extent, in 1214 A.D. (1967 A.U.C.). Henri "I" of House van Flaanderan becomes "Imperatum Imperii Romaniae", David Komnenos no longer is a Latinki Symmachos (Latin Ally), and the Houseof Laskaris could now focus on it's defense against the Sultunate of the Seljuks.)

In the end, there stood four states claiming to be the Imperium Romanum. The Imperium of the Franks, called the “Latin Empire” or the Imperium Romaniae, and the three successors to the Imperium Romanum. The Laskaris of Nicaea, the Komnenos Doukas of Eprius, and the Komnenoi of Trebezoind.

Over the course of the next half-century, the four states battled one another in order to claim the Throne for themselves and end the dispute once and for all.
Konstantinos Laskaris was chosen Autokrator by what remained of the Varagian Guard, and had fled to Nicaea by the Siege’s end. His time lasted for a year before dying in battle and his brother, Theodoros Laskaris, Son in Law to Alexios III Angelos, had taken the throne after this. Our Family had served the Laskaris during these troubled times, though some of our blood was tied to the Angeloi due to marriage. Yet, the Angeloi were mostly destroyed, and between Three Autokrators – we had rallied behind the Laskari. Chosen by the Guard of the Autokrator, like times past with the Praetorian Guard.

Over time, the Komnenos Doukas proved useful allies if only inadvertently. While Michael Komnenos Doukas was too submissive to fully go against Henri, his half-brother Theodore took over at a perfect time. With the Synthiki tou Nymfaiou, the Latin Empire began to become complacent. Henri's "accidental" death in 1216 A.D. allowed for Theodore to both capture the new Imperator (Peter de Courtenay) and simultaneously executing the Frank. This led to a time of turbulence in the Imperium Francorum, a regency of the Robert was implemented. By the time he was "crowned", it was too late to save Thessalonica from The Despotate of Eprius. The Latins were helpless to the Imperium's forces - Eprius and Our forces of Nicaea were battling and sieging the Franks - taking back rightful territories in Hellas Proper. But, Eprius's assault was halted with the aggression from Bulgaria, who shattered the Armies of Eprius. Their ability to take down the Latinokratia was destroyed, making ours all the more powerful. With this, a potential enemy and ally was dwarfed in size. The other Frankish 'Kingdoms' (Such as the "Principality of Achaea") would be powerless to stop us in our advances, and Ioannes III Doukas Vatatzes was clever about to bring victory. Or attempted to

While noticing the overwhelming Victory of the Bulgarians against the Epiroate Forces at Klokontista, he offered an Alliance to the Bulgarians to bring an end to the Latins with a siege of Konstantinpolis. While it was unsuccessful concerning the main objective, the capture of Konstantinpolis, it was a victory in a different light. The Latin Empire was completely surrounded by Nicaean Forces, and it showed the Bulgarians could still be bartered with and made into allies against the Enemies of the Imperium. Use them as pawns, while pretending they are equals. A clever tactic, as the Bulgarians had no idea of the subversion. The annexation of Thessalonica brought Nicaea back into Hellas proper, stronger than ever. Rivaling, if not overcoming, the "Tsardom of Bulgaria".

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While a failure, it proved to be the beginning of the end of the "Imperium Romaniae", as the Roman colors were everywhere outside the city. Watching and waiting for the time to strike.

...Yet Theodore II Doukas Laskaris nearly destroyed everything. As expected, the Bulgarians did not like betrayal. Especially after the Roman forces under Ioannes had exploited the recent death of "Tsar" Ivan Asen II, despite his neutrality and accepting not only a marriage pact with Ioannes but joining us in an Alliance against the Latins. The loss of Thrace and Thessalonica was bitter to them, no doubt. They attempted the same exploitation of death - with Theodore II Doukas Laskaris. A scholarly twit who decided to barter more to the bureaucrats of the middle class rather than the Aristocratic Families of Rome. Despite this, he proved himself a capable commander...Dealing crushing and effective blows to the Epriotes in the West (though nothing his father did not do, yet his father lost the territories and Theodore did nothing to regain them while on the advantage!) and the Bulgarians to the North.

But the fool was sickly, and many were already preparing for his death. Including, me, Michael Palaiologos. We knew that Theodore suspected that, immediately after his death, the plans he had would die with him - and potentially take his son with him. He had already known of our hatred for the man likelist to be Regent of the Young Ioannes IV Laskaris - Georgrios Mouzalon. A low-born who was favored by the Autokrator, given titles deserved to kinsman such as protosebatos, protovestiarios, and even invented a new damnable title for the rat! Stratopedarchēs, Master of the camp, Financial leader, and apparently the first venerable kin of Theodore? It was not too surprising as to who would be Regent, but the question of 'how long' he would remain was of the utmost paramount.

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The Imperial Senate is called to take an oath before the Dying Autokrator

Theodore had sought many things - a national army made up of Greeks, primarily, as well as curbing the aristocrats and the Church in an effort to focus power around himself. By the death of Theodore, Georgiros had realized that most of the army opposed this. Indeed, the Latin mercenaries the Laskaris family had utilized were, in a word, outraged at this. And as Megas Konostaulos, it was my duty to keep them under control until the time was right. Their anger was fully justifiable, and I would utilize it most profoundly. He knew his fate, and tried to escape it. Calling a Meeting of the the leading nobles, military commanders and officials. He had offered to resign, to give up his position as regent to someone preferred by the Assembly. I was the first one to try and talk him out of it. He would not escape his fate, not after marrying my niece. Not after taking away what was rightfully mine, not after being favored by that fool of a Autokrator. He would get what he deserved.

And so he did. I played no direct part in it, but the Latin Mercenaries and the people did as they will do. Remove a dictator from power, or one who threatens their rights. And who is to deny them of their justice? Certainly not I, I am but a servant of their will. Quickly what remained of his administration was destroyed, and while I gave no..edict on Damnatio Memoriae - it was implemented by the people and army themselves. Who was Georgios Mouzalon? I have no idea. Was he the butcher's boy? Some lost soldier who died against the Latins? Hard to say.

In the end, I became Regent, Megas Doux, to the young and feebly Ioannes IV Laskaris. As it was meant to be - of course. The final plan was to eliminate the Franks once and for all. My long-time friend, and ally, Alexios Strategopoulos had been freed from his prison through my influence some short while after Theodore's death. His capture was the fault of the Laskaris, as was my brother Ioannes, who had not predicted nor forseen the fact that the Latins may help the Epriotes in order to halt us from achieving full victory in the region. With his release, I could fully utilize his military prowess in the final attack.

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The Liberation of Konstantinpolis from the Latins, and Restoring the Imperium on,1261 A.D. (2014 A.U.C.)

Alexios had done the near impossible. He took Konstantinpolis with such ease, it was a near "miracle". After the affair, Alexios had told me he learned from the thelematorioi (independent farmers) that most of the Latin Army and all of it's navy was off raiding Daphnousia, an isle under our control. The situation that makes, or breaks, men - would he take the risk to take the city or lie in wait? In taking that risk, he secured our victory. Using a small attachment of forces inside a monastery near the Pege Gate, he and what he brought followed the thelematorioi, who led them into the city. Utilizing the aspect of surprise, he quickly overcame the Latin guards and opened the gate. Allowing the city to be taken by Roman forces, once again.

An unfortunate outcome was that the coward, Baldwin II, had managed to escape due to the Venetians returning from the raiding. Fearing for his own life, he jumped aboard and left his Empire to crumble. Likely the Venetians saw the battle as lost and not worth the effort, men, or loss of coin it'd take to retake it. If they could retake it.

On August 15th, 1261, I entered the Holy Ayia Sofia - a place True Roman Autokrators had not entered in half a century since the city was lost in 1204 AD. In was...an interesting prospect. A reborn Imperium, a reborn Autokrator - all on the day where Mary had died and ascended to Heaven. A stroke of luck, on my part, was the citizens of Romania adored it. The zealous vassals had begun to call me "To Foinix Autokratoras" - the Phoenix Emperor. I..did like the sound of that.

On that day, I became Autokrator. I, Michael VII Palaiologos, whose veins hold the same blood as Autokrator Alexios III Angelos, Who Managed to Destroy the Latinokratia, Who has managed to Unite the Imperium under a single Autokrator and who will Destroy Rhomania's enemies. No longer will the Imperium suffer incompetent Autokrators, those who would lead her astray and to her doom.

Let the Phoenix of the East Rise, For Our Words are King Among Kings, Ruling Over Rulers

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Ave Imperium Romanum
 
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Table of Contents
Part I: Michail/Michael VIII Palaiologos - To Foínix Autokratoras/The Phoenix Emperor
 
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An exciting setup here - with a broken Byzantium readying itself to come back from the brink of destruction. I look forward to seeing a Byzantine AAR where the Romans are actually the underdogs. :)