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Nikolai

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Very good writing so far.:)
 

J. Passepartout

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I need to get into that Islamic history course and have some fun with Salah ad-Din. Hopefully it isn't at the same time as this one.
 

Cecasander

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humancalculator, asd21593, Nikolai - Thanks, and welcome all :)

Enewald - I use DVIP, don't really know which version though. And yes, the duchy system is a bit silly in this case. That titles would pass from father to son wouldn't be too impossible, but having a zero-year old strategos is! :p

volksmarschall - Wow, I'm honoured! Doxiadus is a pretty easy character to write - he basically writes himself. I'm glad you approve. Thank you! *Goes off to write acceptance speech*

Enewald & J. Passepartout - Yes, I'm afraid Saladin is a bit of a joke in my timeline, at least as far as I can see (played about 10 years in advance). Sufficient to say, the Third Crusade was a bit more effective than it was in the real world.

To everyone; your readership and comments mean a lot to me. If only to know I'm not just writing this for myself :p
 

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Pottericon.jpg

Two days later, I found myself waiting for professor Doxiadus again. The schedule on the internet had said the class would start at six o’clock today, but it was already ten past six and the lecture hall was still closed. Most of my classmates were waiting by the door, talking about all kinds of trivial things again. I had been walking back and forth through the corridor, and even walked around the courtyard for fifteen minutes. When I looked outside, I saw how the light around the courtyard had turned on. I never liked it how it became dark to soon in winter. Grey clouds quickly passed by through the deep blue sky. That usually meant nasty weather, and I had forgotten to bring an umbrella.

I suddenly heard “Hey Alex,” behind me. I turned around, and saw my classmates walking into the open lecture hall. Apparently Doxiadus had arrived. I quickly hurried in, and found a place on the same row I sat Tuesday. Professor Doxiadus was already at the lectern, waiting for us to get ready. “Hey, you mind if I sit next to you?” “What? Oh…” It was the green-eyes girl, who smiled at me as she sat down two seats left of me. “… S… Sure,” I said. She opened her mouth to say anything, but then the professor turned on his microphone, and projected a map on the screen behind him – the same themata map he has shown Tuesday. In the two second I had between her eyes turning away and Doxiadus starting to speak, I could see she was a very pretty girl. Her black hair was pulled backwards with some hairclips and reached past her shoulders. Although her pronounced high cheekbones certainly revealed a Slavic ancestry, strangely her nose and chin somehow reminded me of my cousin Zoë.

Thermae1187-1.gif

“Welcome everyone. I would like to apologies for my late arrival. It has everything to do with the duties that I have at the Archeology department, where I still work half of the time. I already had the schedule changed, but apparently half an hour wasn’t enough. The fact is that I do not know if next week will be any different, so again keep an eye on the schedule then. Okay… due to these circumstances, this lecture won’t be as long as last time.”

Some students sighed relieved.

“One and half hour, no more. Less if we drop the coffee break.”

“Can we please keep the coffee break, sir?” a voice a few rows behind me said. Everybody looked around. It was the same senior from Tuesday.

“Okay, we’ll keep the coffee break for Alexios’ sake, but you’ll better pay attention, boy. We don’t want you sitting here next year. Which time is this? Third?”

“Fourth, sir,” Alexios said grinning.

“Right… nonetheless, let’s get to it. Today we will discuss the first ten years of Emperor Mikhail VIII’s reign. First I’ll show you the map again, which names all themata in 1187, because these names will be important for next story. I hope you all have the printed map with you today, or else you might have a bit of a problem following the course of this story. Furthermore I would like to make it clear that, although these themata are all ruled by a strategos, they are not necessarily the ones with the most power. Mikhail’s predecessors have tried to eliminate the aristocracy – quite successfully I might add – but these are by far powerless. Especially in the larger themata the strategos could never be able to govern everything at once and a fair amount of power falls to his subordinates and to the so-called archons, which are local rulers. This too is important to understand before the next story, as it partially explains why some strategoi and themata act in the way that they did.”

The portraits of two elderly men appeared on the screen.

BranasKontostephanos.jpg

“Introducing the Emperor’s main antagonists for this act. Left is Alexios Branas, strategos of Macedonia, right is Ioannes Kontostephanos, the strategos of Paphlagonia. As you can see, they were both quite old for their time; well past fifty, which was a respectable age for an army man. Both had served no less than four emperors, and had fought hard to preserve the Empire. However, they were also strong supporters of a decentralized Empire. Three times they met with Mikhail Kantakouzenos and his uncle, and three times they demanded reforms. The second and the third time they carried support letters from other strategoi. Branas and Kantostephanos wanted the themata system reformed into some form a feudal system, where the strategoi would have more power and the post would be inheritable to his sons. Andronikos Kantakouzenos, the Emperor’s uncle and regent, in particularly didn’t want any of this, for the simple reason that the rise of a dynastic feudal system would seriously threaten the power of the Kantakouzenoi who were currently the only dynasty with power. After the third audience, Branas returned to Adrianople, raised his army and simply returned with an army at the gates of Constantinople. When he refused to return, Mikhail declared war on his person, and the civil war broke out.”

“Now, Alexios Branas was an old man, a veteran, as I said. He had played a leading roll in the wars with the Bulgars and with Sicily. His army and his thema weren’t very big, though, and soon Adrianople and Macedonia would again submit to the Emperor. Quite literally, as they would be governed directly from Constantinople. Branas himself escaped capture and secretly found sanctuary in the court of his son Theodoros, who was the archon of Kaliopolis. No more than a few weeks later, in December 1187, Kontostephanos declared war. Although his army never made it to Constantinople and Paphlagonia would also submit to the Emperor, he too would escape justice. Both men would work underground now, continuously trying to set up strategoi and noblemen against Mikhail. In the spring of the next year, Abydos, Epirus and the Aegean would revolt, and their submission would become more difficult due to the distance. In fact, most Aegean islands would not be reconquered for more than two years. When Abydos and Epirus were reclaimed, Dorylaion and Dyrrhachion would revolt and in September the city of Thessaloniki would also rise up.”

“The greatest crisis occurred in November 1188. Previously, Ioannes Kontostephanos had been working with a number of powerful noblemen along the Lydian coast. Now, however, he had managed to take up arms against their master. And this they did quite effectively – more effective than Kontostephanos could have ever anticipated, surely – by simply taking over the thema of Cibhyrrhaiot while Andronikos Kantakouzenos had once again left to aid his cousin in Constantinople. They basically removed the strategos from power while he was away. Then they elected a straw man, raised the army of Cibhyrrhaiot and marched north. Before the Emperor or the rigorous strategos could act, the army had taken Abydos, crossed the Hellespontos and besieged Adrianople. As Mikhail’s army was busy relieving Thessaloniki from the rebels, other armies had to be raised. The problem with this was that calling upon a strategos would mean demanding him to choose sides, and a lot of strategoi were not willing to stand up to their peers by fighting for the child emperor. He and his uncle had therefore decided that it would be safest to field as less armies as possible, as a loyal army could soon become a rebel army if the strategos was swayed. “

“Soon another player entered the game, our good friend Kilji Aslan, the Sultan of Rûm. Not surprisingly, the Rûm Turks had found this civil war quite amusing, and a good time to attack. They would quickly initiate raids against Trebizon and Armeniacon, keeping these armies occupied. When Cibhyrrhaiot fell, the Turks would invade the thema of Dorylaion, and take that city without much bloodshed. Emperor Mikhail quickly handed the land over to the Sultan as a peace offering, in order to safe himself another enemy. He also gave the strategoi of Trebizon and Armeniacon authority to deal with the Turks autonomously, a reward for the fact these themata were one of the few which would not rebel. These themata, and later also Paphagonia, would therefore become known as the ‘frontier themata’.”

“Things first got worse before they got better, as in May 1189 the thema of Thracesia deflected to the rebels. It’s strategos had been, as you know, Theodoros Mangaphas, who had been a friend, ally and fellow kingmaker of Andronikos Kantakouzenos. In May he would be disposed of and murdered by his own noblemen – though supported by those of Cibhyrrhaiot and our friend Kontostephanos – and replaced in name by his infant son. This was a farce of course, but it allowed the armies of the two powerful themata to join forces and hold back the Emperor’s army, which had successfully retaken Thessaloniki, Adrianople and Abydos in the winter. The armies clashed near the city of Kyzikos for several times during the summer and autumn of 1189. The chances were turning for the Emperor’s forces, though, now that he had all of his European land back. So when the Imperial armies were reinforced across the Hellespontos, the rebel armies bled to death on the fields of Kyzikos. In November the rebels were on the run, their lines broken and the Imperial army could freely take back the capitals of Thracesia and Cibhyrrhaiot. The fall of these two mighty Anatolia themata meant a final turning point in the civil war.”

Nine little maps appeared on the screen, showing the Empire in yellow and blue. Judging from what professor Doxiadus had just told, I’d have said the blue areas were held by rebels at the time.

Civilway1187-1192.jpg

“After these two themata, it was really a matter of cleaning up for Emperor Mikhail and his forces. Directly after taking Lydia, the armies were sent overseas to retake the Aegean Islands, and directly after that the strategoi of Archaia and Dyrrhachion agreed to swear loyalty to the Emperor again. Although as you can see, this was not the end of it. But eventually Kontostephanos would be arrested in May 1191 and Branas would be found two and a half years later. The civil war would officially end in October 1196, when the Emperor allowed the Cretan strategos Konstantinos Angelos to renounce its loyalty. Yes, he allowed him to leave the Empire… This is never really explained in any source, though you could be guessing it has something to do with the fact this young man is family to the previous emperor.”

The professor looked at his watch. “Okay, listen. I’m really nearly done, it’s only ten more minutes or so. Does anybody think their life would be in immediate danger if they skip the break now and get off fifteen minutes earlier? Alexios?”

“I am supplied, sir!” Alexios said enthusiastically from the back, holding a slim silver can.

“Want to get some coffee afterwards then?” the girl next to me suddenly said.

“Sure… that would be nice,” I stuttered, and she just smiled at me. I never have been good with pretty girls. Before she could answer, professor Doxiadus continued his lecture.

“Okay, like I said this civil war had some interesting, strange things going on at the end. The fact that Emperor Mikhail allowed Crete to become independent under an Angelos prince could be called unusual. Another curious case is that of the thema of Nicaea, or rather, that of strategos Nikolaos Laskaris. As you can see, Laskaris was one of the last strategoi to rebel against the Emperor, even after Kontostephanos has been captured and executed. Yet for the rest of the war he had been one of the Emperor’s most loyal subjects, and had in fact played a major roll in the battles around Kyzikos. But at the siege of Heraclea, which would lead to the capture of Kontostephanos, the armies of Nicaea simply left the siege and marched to lay siege on Constantinople. The Emperor had been surprised at this move, needless to say, and it would take an additional two months of warfare before Laskaris was brought down into submission again. Now, the strangest thing is that the strategos was allowed to keep his post, and even was allowed to keep the city of Nicomedia which had been added to the thema some time before the siege of Heraclea. It should be said that a lot of the rebellious strategoi were allowed to keep their post after they repented and vowed loyalty, for the simple reason that the Emperor didn’t have enough capable men to replace them, and it would take a lot of time to make a strategos integrate into a working thema. As the themata had to quickly be able to raise an army, this was time the Emperor did not have.”

A familiar, but somehow different map appeared on the screen.

Thermae1197.gif

“Now, finally the question is… well, it’s a question I always like to ask after lectures; where does the Empire stand now? The simple answer is of course ‘pretty much where it started’. After all, only a decade has passed, and although it did loose Crete and Dorylaion it was mostly still in one piece. Some themata borders changed one way or the other, like Philipopolis which would be integrated into a newly created thema of Macedonia or Kaliopolis which would in turn be given to Thrace. Secondly, the thema of Paphlagonia was dismantled and partitioned into two archontia’s, namely Nicomedia and Heraclea, with Nicomedia being integrated into the thema of Nicaea. Thirdly, the thema of Cibhyrrheiot would also be partitioned after it had proven itself far too powerful. The western coast, as well as the western islands would form a new thema called Samos. Fourth, the thema of Thessaloniki and the archontia of Abydos would from now on be governed directly by Constantinople. Fifth, the Empire would not become a feudal state, but would in fact become even a bit more centralized. And finally, and most important, the war strengthened Mikhail’s rule and that of his dynasty, by showing he was capable of surviving a civil war – a rare power for a Roman Emperor of any time.”

“So, this concludes today’s lecture. I hope you didn’t mind the length. Also, remember that the workshops of this course start next Tuesday at half past four, and the room schedules for each individual class will also be posted online. Professors Sisinis and Korais and myself will each take one class. Now, have a nice evening and a good weekend. I know I will.”

Professor Doxiadus walked away from the lectern laughing, as if he had just told the greatest joke in the world. I noticed the woman in the black pantsuit again, standing at the door. She walked away with him. Was she his wife or his girlfriend or something? She was fifteen years older than him, at least! I shrugged, and turned to the strange girl next to me, who apparently had packed already and had her backpack over her shoulder. “So,” she said. “So,” I replied, “Where would you want to go?” “Well,” she said with a smile, “I wonder if the cafeteria is still open.”
 

Cecasander

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Sorry for the somewhat sucky ending, but next installment will be a little break from the lectures, as Alexandros and the green-eyes girl go have coffee. I didn't have time or inspiration to write it last night, so it will be up later. Don't miss it if you want to read a new low in character interaction.

Also, I changed the layout of my themata map a bit, so it also shows which areas are 'archontia' (countries rather than duchies in-game) with an asterisk and which areas are controlled by the Empire himself with '(IMP)'. I am somewhat struggling to use game images in this AAR as it somehow would not fit into the whole lecture thing (plus I love making my own maps :p), but I also feel it draws away from the game a bit. Any thoughts on that?
 

Enewald

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Well, the green-eyed Slav is quite strangely social. :p

So only Cherson, Hellas and Pontic themes stayed loyal?
Impressing. :rolleyes:
 

unmerged(59077)

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There's just something about Byzantines and university classes, eh?

Nicely done so far!
 

J. Passepartout

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I would suggest the reason for allowing Crete to leave is that our good leaders want to teach the insular fellows the economic pain of leaving the Empire and having a naval blockade.
 

Cecasander

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Enewald Yes, those and Phillipopolis (which is a county). What happens is that I had three times nobles coming to partition to me - twice for a feudal system and once for electoral - and as I rejected those, it gave me a total of six vassals with the 'rebellious' trait. And the strategos from Macedonia already started with that. So that's a recipe for disaster.

asd21593 Haha, you betcha... or does she, really?

RGBCan't have too much Byzantine history classes. It must just be the appeal of being able to save the East Roman Empire. After all, it's cool to imagine a world where there's a country which combines all of our world's the major trouble spots in one :p

J. Passepartout That's a good idea. Not to mention social suicide. After all, you should never dump the hot girl, the hot girl should dump you
 

Cecasander

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Coffee in the darkness

Pottericon.jpg

The cafeteria was empty, as I had expected. It had been open though, even though the staff had already gone and the coffee had to come from a machine. Like a proper Greek, I lived on coffee, so I could always taste the difference between fresh and machine coffee. Although the stuff that came out of the these machines wasn’t quite as bad as the black bathwater that they had at my old high school. The large cafeteria windows would have given a magnificent view over the city at night, had it not been so foggy tonight. We could still see the southern shore of the Golden Horn here though, which looked like a beach made of light along a pitch dark sea. A pair of tiny lights on the water revealed a few boats, and in the distance the red navigation lights of the sky scrapers of Kounopetra sometimes could be seen peeked the fog.

“So, here you go… errr,” “Kalina,” the girl said with a smile when she took the cup of coffee I gave her. She had a few freckles around her nose, I noticed as I tried not to look too deep into her eyes. When I looked into her eyes, I was sure I knew her from somewhere. I sat opposite of her at the one of the formica tables next to the high windows. “That’s a nice name. Is it Bulgarian?” “Actually it’s Russian, I think. It means rowan. You know, like the tree?” I nodded vaguely, trying to remember what a rowan tree looked like again. I have never been into trees and plants, to be honest. “Apparently they used rowan to ward off evil, at least that’s what my father used to tell me when I was little,” she continued; “and you are…” “I’m Alexandros Elias,” I said, “which doesn’t really mean anything as far as I know.” Kalina smiled at me. “I knew that. You’re Professor Cadmus Elias’ grandson, right?” Huh? “Yeah, but… how the hell do you know that?” She smiled even broader and her eyes twinkled, as if she had just uncovered my greatest secret. Which she hadn’t, really. I guess… “Professor Doxiadus told me. My mother had lectures from your grandfather for six years, and he also lectured Doxiadus.” “Really?” Although I had heard some teachers talk about my grandfather a couple of times this year, it never crossed my mind that he actually gave lectures here. Which made sense, now that I thought about it. “Yeah, my mother was actually pretty close with him, as he was her tutor for a couple of years. Remember last week, when I stared at you? You look a lot like your grandfather in the pictures, when he was young.” I never really realized that. My mother had once said I took most genes from her side of the family. But it was true I had inherited my father’s (and his father’s) nose and his frizzy black hair. “My mother was devastated when she heard he had died. She flew all the way from Neo Karkhedo to attend his cremation.” I must have seen her there. Maybe that’s why Kalina looks so familiar. I stood up. “We were all devastated, my sister and I maybe even worse than my folks,” I said as I looked outside. The fog was getting ticker. “Want some more coffee?”

“Is that why you are here? Because I’m the grandson of the great Cadmus Elias?” I said dryly. It had been lingering in my mind for a few minutes. Why else would she be here, alone with me? What had I been thinking, anyway? Kalina looked up from her coffee slowly; as if her mind was only slowly letting the words pass through her conscience. “What? No! I mean, partially… but…” Her white face suddenly became flushed. If I didn’t think so. Why else would a pretty girl like her hang around with the likes of me? “It’s okay… I mean, it’s not like I could help it, or blame you for that matter.” Her beautiful green eyes stared down at the formica pattern on the table. Oh god, I must have ruined it now. Couldn’t I have just enjoyed her company, instead of blearing out accusations? It’s not like I sit around with girls often. God, I sucked at this. “No… no, I said its okay, Kalina…” I tried to mend our conversation again. “My mom and Professor Doxiadus told all kinds of stories about your grandfather. When I heard you were at my lecture group… It must be hard, living with his legacy following you.” Her eyes were still fixed on the table. For a moment I couldn’t catch if she was sincere or not… “It’s not so bad. Really. I mean, it’s not like I intend to live in my grandfather’s shadow… I intend to live up to it,” I said bravely, as I smiled at her. “Heh,” she said softly.

“You know?” She finally said, and she looked at me with her big green eyes. In order not to become too captivated, I started counting freckles. “Well, you know… it wasn’t just your grandfather, you know?” “No, I understand.” “I needed coffee, and you seemed like a nice guy. I am sorry if you… I hope I didn’t offend you.” “No. What? No, of course not!” Her eyes looked a bit foggy. She wasn’t going to cry, was she? What was I supposed to do? How could I tell her it was okay, and that I really didn’t mind having a coffee with her for any reason? That I myself have been rude? Should… should I give her a hug? The man in me wouldn’t want anything else, but I barely knew this… strange girl. “We could talk about my grandfather if you want,” I tried. “No… no… If you don’t mind, I’ll go now. I’m tired,” she said. I could feel her sadness as she looked at me. I could almost feel is physically. I screwed up epicly, great… “Ah… ehm, I’ll come with you. Walk you out, I mean.” She seemed to smile a bit again, although it could just be indifference. “Sure.”

We walked down together in silence. She walked rather slowly, as if she was still making up her mind about leaving or not. But when we left the front gate of the complex, she apparently decided to leave as quickly as possible. “Listen,” she said as she turned to me. She held my arm. “I’m really sorry. Please forgive me…” I sighed. “No, I should be sorry. I shouldn’t have been so rude… I don’t know what possessed me." “No, I’m sorry about… I’m…” She shook her head. Her hair danced wildly around her face. “No, no, never mind… forget it, okay? Just forget about it.” Then she turned around, and walked off. Something in my head said I should run after her, but I resisted and instead watched her walk across the street. At that point I realized I had literally held my breath, so I sighed, and walked home very confused. My mind tried to make sense of what had happened today. I should not have accused her of only wanting to hang out because of my illustrious grandfather. Though it may or may not be the case, she took it particularly hard. She didn’t get angry, she just got very sad, upset… whatever; I didn’t even know how to call her response. Was it something I has said? Damn, this was complicated stuff. I had successfully managed to circumnavigate the whole girl issue in high school by simply not caring, and spending most of my time studying. If this was what student life would be like, this would actually become tricky for me. As I tried to get my mind off the whole matter, I suddenly realized I had not been at my grandfather’s cremation, because I was horribly sick with despair at the time. So I couldn’t have met Kalina’s mother. Then why did she look so familiar?
 
Last edited:

unmerged(59077)

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Why? ...errrr.....because....well...the simplest explanation I have is a parallel universe.
 

J. Passepartout

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I wonder if he has had this sort of problem before, assumptions that he got a leg up because his grandfather was a famous author and scholar.
 

Enewald

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You just cannot understand girls. :)

Maybe they are somehow related?
 

Cecasander

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RGB - Wait... that's your simplest explanation!? :p

J. Passepartout - Well, he's a bit of a loner, so I don't think most of his classmates know. Then again, I could imagine most of the faculty would know.

irishking194 - Thanks :)

Enewald - Could be. Their father would probably the Emperor's big-black-mask-wearing right hand, who will be introduced in the next installment when he tried to take over the faculty.
 

humancalculator

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VILenin

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Great AAR! Just read through and I really like it so far. I also appreciate the differentiated text colors as those dang quotation marks are hard to see sometimes.

As a fellow byzantophile I've put a lot of thought into how a contemporary Empire might look or function so I'm interested to see what yours looks like in the present and how it got there.:)