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    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

volksmarschall

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You just cannot understand girls. :)

Maybe they are somehow related?
But most of us try so hard to understand them! :p

Another fantastic update, keep up the amazing work!
 

Cecasander

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asd21593 - That's no laughing matter :(

humancalculator - Thanks, I'll try ;)

VILenin - Well, I made a rough sketch of what it would look like, but it's really difficult to tell if it really ends up that way. A lot can happen in 800 years. I did image that the contemporary empire has autonomous republics for various ethnics, much like Russia in our own time line. And I reckon Constantinople would develop much like Istanbul did, sans the mosques.

volksmarschall - A dictionary would be nice at times though. Or a mind reader...

Next update should be done tomorrow night, by the way.
 
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Cecasander

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As it happens, time passed and I forgot all about the incident during the weekend, which I spent at my parents in Adrianople. The next Tuesday the schedule on the internet said the workshop was cancelled because of ‘logistic reasons’, whatever that meant. As I never had been a great fan of workshops (I just liked listening and taking notes instead of actually doing something), I didn’t care much. I went home those two hours and did some homework. When I returned to the fort later that afternoon I was almost too late. Professor Doxiadus stood at the lecture hall door. “Ah, you’re Professor Elias’ grandson, right? You’re just on time,” he said. I muttered some half-arsed excuse and quickly found myself a place on the end of one of the front rows. The professor waited for another half minute, until he walked to the lectern.

A picture with four female portraits appeared on the screen behind him.


“Well, welcome back everybody. I am sorry today’s workshop was cancelled, but there was a bit of a crisis at the archeology department, that required my attention. And as you might know, professor Sisinis is sick this week, and professor Korais surely couldn’t handle all of you alone. But it had mostly been just an introductory lesson, so we’ll just move that to next week, and I’ll start off with some of the matter I had wanted to discuss. Namely, Mikhail Kantakouzenos’ evil, homicidal genes.”

We laughed. Well most of us. Others just snickered. I suddenly realized I didn’t see Kalina anywhere. Was she late too?

“Yes, evil genes… or well, bad genes. You’ll understand what I mean in a minute. You see, Mikhail VIII, first Emperor of the Kantakouzenos dynasty, had a notorious problem producing offspring. It wasn’t so much that he couldn’t get his wife pregnant – as is usually the case – quite the contrary actually. Anyway, Mikhail married for the first time on January 9th, 1191, a few weeks after he had come of age, to a girl whose name has only been passed to us as ‘Thomais’. It is generally believed that this girl was his teenage sweetheart, a commoner girl, as we do not know her last name or even know what she looked like. Hench the first – blank – picture on the screen; we don’t have a portrait. We do know that she became pregnant very soon. We also know she died while she gave labor, and that the child died as well. Finally, we know she died exactly one year and a day after she got married. Needless to say, Mikhail was distraught. But he soon married a woman named Leonto Tzirithon – second image – the daughter of a local nobleman. Soon she too became pregnant and survived labor. Moreover, the child was a son and he was named Andreas. Andreas was sickly though, and he had to be surrounded by doctors around the clock. And the next time Leonto became pregnant, she would die in labor too. Her son would die three months later. Again, Mikhail was distraught. He soon married yet another woman. As you might have guessed, the nobles of Constantinople were a little less willing to provide a wife, so he would an older – that is to say, 29-year old – daughter of lower nobility. Her name was Anastasia Theodorokanos, and she too became pregnant. And believe it or not, but she too would die in labor, together with her child. Then the stories really started. People said that Mikhail’s seed was corrupted or even pure poison. Others believed that he personally murdered his wives after they couldn’t give him a healthy heir, and then burn the babies. It took a while for Mikhail to find a fourth wife, another 29-year old courtier who was called Kristina Narbiotes, and she too became pregnant. This time a whole army of doctors, priests and midwives was present when she went in labor. Only because of this, she survived labor and gave birth to a health… girl.” There was some more snickering. “Yes yes. But the true irony is that Kristina would outlive her husband and would never become pregnant again. The only good news is that at least one of Mikhail’s children – the girl named Aikatenina – would survive infancy.”

I couldn’t but laugh at the poor man’s misery. At least he got to sleep around.

“Now we’re coming to Mikhail VIII’s greatest feat, which will ironically also be his undoing. It can be speculated that after an unflattering civil war and trouble producing offspring, the Emperor had wanted to do a great deed in order to bring some respect to his dynasty. And although his dynasty was weak at the moment, the Empire itself was quite powerful. So it was decided that Mikhail would turn the Imperial armies to its eternal enemies, the Turks. But the Empire was in peace with the Sultanate of Rûm, which was bound by treaty. The Emperor had to find an excuse to invade. This excuse came in August 1198, when the bey of Ankyra broke his bonds with the sultan. Immediately two armies were sent; one by the Emperor and one by the Sultan. They met at the town of Ankyra. Although the bey was quickly subdued, the Imperial army led by strategos Laskaris of the thema of Nicaea refused to acknowledge the Turkish claim on the land around Ankyra and a battle broke out. Thus the Turks and the Romans were once again at war.”

A map appeared on the screen, showing Anatolia crossed by red and green arrows. I assumed these were troop movements.

“The main goals for Mikhail was the former thema of Dorylaion – which has been lost only a few years prior – and of course the city of Ankyra. Other goals was of Ikonion, the lands of Phrygia and Galatia and the Turkish capital at Kaisareia. Although the Imperial army at the time outnumbered the regular Turkish armies four to one, the Emperor had no desire to destroy the whole of the Sultanate of Rûm. The reason for this is probably because he believed the - fragile - themata system of the time would not be able to cope with keeping all the Muslim Turks in line as an occupying force. This has probably been a good call, as now the new themata had the opportunity to properly integrate into the Imperial machine. One unexpected victory was made early in the war, when the prince of Cyprus, Isaakios Komnenos, offered his loyalty to Mikhail and reconciled his ancestral house with that of the Kantakouzenos family.”

“Emperor Mikhail VIII was killed on April 16, 1199 when his army was marching its final march to Kaisareia. He fell in battle after a group of Turkish raiders had attacked the flank of his column, which had broken its formation. It is believed that his death is actually the result of an accident, as the Turkish raiding parties at this time were composed of only a few dozen lightly armed horsemen who would have no real chance against armored catapracts. The body of the Emperor was quickly embalmed and was brought to Nicaea. Mikhail’s brother Demetrios and strategos Laskaris would take command of the Imperial army and would march further to Kaisareia. In the end it would be Demetrios who would succeed him, and Mikhail would go in history as one of the most dual emperors; as the man who wanted to compensate his incapacity to let his wives survive childbirth by fighting the Turks, who brought Cyprus and the Komnenoi back to Constantinople and who managed to survive a civil war against half his strategoi before he came of age. In later years however, he would be remember with the most appropriate name imaginable; Mikhail Atyhis – Mikhail the Unfortunate…”

“Okay people, we’re going to have a break now. Fifteen minutes I reckon, as we’re going faster than I had anticipated. When you get back, we’ll start with a fresh new emperor!”

As I sat only a few meters from the door, I was one of the first outside. A large group of seniors rushed past me at the door and beat me to the coffee machine. They were walking, talking and pushing in a kind of symphony, as if they were one single entity of senior life that lives off coffee. When they were provided, they walked back in sync, apparently oblivious to the rest of us. I couldn’t think about ever being in one such clique. Eventually I got my coffee and installed myself near the door, away from most of my classmates. “Ah... Alexandros Elias, right?” I turned around, somewhat surprised. It was professor Doxiadus, standing in the door with a notebook in his hands. “Yes sir?” “Did you happen to see Kalina? I haven’t seen her this lecture yet.” My surprise even increase, and I had to watch out my voice won’t get too high. “No… no sir, I haven’t seen her since Thursday evening.” He must have seen use leave together last time. But since when do lecturers inquire about individual students? The lecturers I had so far didn’t know at least half the students by name. Then again, most of those students were first years, and Kalina had already said she knew the professor. “Ah, how unfortunate… She must be sick then, she never misses class.” “Do you know her personally, sir?” It was more of a statement rather than a question. Doxiadus laughed. “Haha, yes. Past year and a half she followed lectures at the archeology department, and now she follows these lectures too.” He paused for a moment, as if he was wondering if he was violating someone’s privacy. But apparently he didn’t care, or maybe he thought we knew each other better than we actually did. “In fact, her mother and were old classmates, in fact…. As a matter of fact, your grandfather tutored both of us in our senior year. Nice man, your grandfather.” I could how my face slowly got red. Previously, when teachers mentioned my grandfather, they could never tell anything but how nice and smart and well read and well mannered he was. But this man worked and studied close to him for some time. “You knew my grandfather well, sir?” Professor Doxiadus smiled. “Oh yes, he was my tutor for two years and then helped write my promotion paper. Afterwards we worked together both here and at archeology. Until… well, you know… I still regret I couldn’t attend his cremation, as I was wound up in… in Inka.” I nodded seriously. I know how he must have felt. “He was quite an adventurous man… he traveled a lot in his young years, was interested in everything. Later he specialized in Greek history though. You look quite a bit like him when he was younger, actually.” We suddenly realized most other students had already gone back into the lecture hall. “Listen, I think we should talk about your grandfather some time. I’d love to hear how you experienced him.” I nodded. Then we both went back inside. I found my stop, and professor Doxiadus got back behind the lectern. The picture of a very stern-looking man appeared on the screen.

“Before the coffee break we had left the Roman Empire with her Emperor Mikhail the Unfortunate dead and buried in Nicaea and her armies stranded somewhere between Ankyra and Kaisareia. But now we’re going to take those armies further ahead, and we’re going to take a look at its commander. He is this man here, Demetrios Kantakouzenos, brother to Emperor Mikhail VIII Kantakouzenos and de facto heir to the throne. Now, there are some remarks here. First off, he was not Mikhail’s natural brother, but in fact the son of one of Mikhail’s father’s friends. Demetrios’ father was a lower nobleman like Mikhail’s, but he had lost the approval of Emperor Manuel, and thus would be exiled. So Mikhail’s father adopted Demetrios and raised him as his own. When Mikhail gets places on the Imperial throne, five-year younger Demetrios is put in his court and in his shadow, but the two boys get along fine. When Mikhail’s infant son Andreas dies, he officially adopts Demetrios as his full brother, and makes him his heir presumptive.”

“Demetrios would not be crowned until he returned to Constantinople though. And before that, he had to bring the Sultan of Rûm, Kinji Aslan to his knees. In July 1199 the Imperial armies stormed the town of Kaisareia and took the sultan hostage. The old sultan was then forced to surrender the northwestern half of his realm to Demetrios. When he did return to the Imperial City, his claim was better accepted then his brothers has been. Only the strategos of Epirus and the archon of Heracleia objected, and would have to be brought back to the fold. The following year and a half were exceptionally peaceful and prosperous. The only event to note was Demetrios’ marriage to a local noblewoman Theodoro Kalampakes, who would give him a son called Ionnikos in August 1200.”

“Now, Demetrios’ strength was actually his weakness. Unless Mikhail, who had been rather strong-willed and very intelligent, he was incredibly plain and unexceptional. He was a slow things and a bad decider, and is believed to have little self-confidence. This is the reason why he gained support from the strategoi and the nobles so quickly; he could easily be pushed around. Some historians have therefore considered the peace and prosperity a result of self-regulated anarchy rather than good rule. One matter, however, was a thorn in the strategoi’s side. Which was the issue of the newly conquered lands. After Demetrios had been crowned, most Anatolian strategoi, as well as high nobles, had tried to influence the Emperor in how to arrange these lands. As a result, Demetrios’ incapacity to decide for himself got the better of him, and he kept administrating these lands himself. And this resulted in revolts, religious uprisings and a rampant crime in these areas, showing up almost overnight. Some lands were eventually handed out to faithful noblemen, like Alexios Doukas who was made archon of Galatia, but the strategoi remained unhappy. Eventually strategoi Laskaris of Nicaea and Nicolaus of Armeniacon decided to bring these lands to the fond on their own, and revolted against Demetrios’ government of these areas. For once, Demetrios stood up for himself, and he raised his armies and marched to Nicaea. Soon a great flaw to his plan and to his reign showed; the strategoi had an army and a treasury that was bigger than his and the war was dragged on for almost a year until the two strategoi swore loyalty again. Demetrios learned his lesson though, and although he would be slow at handing out new land the empire would forever be changed.”

“It is around this time that the first signs of feudalism were introduced into the themata system. It began very slowly with a few concessions to loyal strategoi after this latest uprising. Soon however, these concessions were extended to more strategoi, and within a decade the powers and privileges of the strategoi had feudal undertones. For example, several of the most powerful strategoi positions were inheritable from father to son after this decade, and strategoi were entitles to assign land to family members. Although the Emperor was technically still entitled to place and remove strategoi at leisure, doing so would now most likely incite a civil war. The irony of the whole situation was that the strategoi had never been so loyal to a Kantakouzenoi before, and this alone kept the Empire in one piece as the newly empowered strategoi knew that their position would immediately be undermined by their peers if they would leave the Imperial throne.”

A colourful map appeared on the screen, showing the Empire and what I believed to be some of its neighbours.

“On the request of Queen Thamar of Georgia, Demetrios agreed to destroyed the last part of the Rûm Sultanate. Between the capture of Kaisareia and late 1203, Thamar’s armies had aggressively expanded the Georgian kingdom to both sides of the Kaukasus mountains, but also soon found its way south to the Turkish lands. They would also besiege Kaisareia and kill the old sultan Kilij, and his only son Suleyman would die in battle a few weeks later, leaving Kilij’s 12-year old grandson who was also called Suleyman as the Sultan of Rûm. The Imperial army would conquer the areas showed here in pink, leaving the young Suleyman alive but only in charge of a small land in the Kurdish mountains called Taron, showed in light green. The strategoi left converted Turkish bey named Börü of Edessa in charge of this area, and left the matter here. By the way, the red areas are part of Queen Thamar’s Georgia, which was certainly at the apex of its power around then. It’s really quite impressive. Soon after this short war, disaster struck Demetrios’ household though, when his four year old son Ionnikos and two year old daughter Ioanno both died within three months. Half a year later their mother would also die, probably of sorrow. The Emperor was distraught, to say the least, and some of his most powerhungry strategoi believed he would soon loose it.”

The portrait of a young woman with short hair appeared. She seemed to bend forward a little.

“Then came Prokopios Synadenos to Constantinople. She had been the daughter of the archon of Naxos and had come to the Imperial City as an advisor. But when Demetrios saw her, he immediately fell in love with her. And it should be said that she would be considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, had she not had a hunchback… Yes people, the Emperor’s new wife had a hump. But apparently Demetrios didn’t matter. And rightfully so, for her looks were not Prokopios’ greatest asset, it was her mind. Every bit of creativity, assertively, wit and strength Demetrios had lacked, she had enough for both of them. She turned out to have a talent for administration, and in the matter of weeks had almost single-handedly reformed the Imperial treasury system to be filled with gold again. All in all, she was the proverbal strong woman that stands behind every man. The strategoi quickly became aware of the strength of this woman, and could only back away somewhat. It is therefore believed that her presence at least temporally stopped the degradation of the Imperial throne, and some historians hold her responsible for single-handedly keeping the Kantakouzenoi in power… though that’s quite debatable. In any case, she did rescue the Kantakouzenos dynasty by giving Demetrios two healthy heirs; Nikophoros in 1207 and Anthemios in 1209. She was believed to be quite a bedpartner.”

Doxiadus chuckled and some of us laughed along. Having a man like professor Doxiados talking about sex just seemed so out of place.

“Now, before I end today’s lecture by showing the themata map at this point, I would like to point out two instanced that show the reinforced power of the Emperor. In both instances Emperor Demetrios was on the battlefield himself, and led his army successfully against a foe, in the process increasing both the power and the territory of the Empire as a whole. The first instance was during the uprising of the Turkish bey Börü, who had previously been appointed ruler of the remains of the Sultanate of Rûm. Demetrios deposed Börü and replaced his beydom with two archontiae. The second instance was when the Cumani horde threatened the thema of Cherson on the Crimea. The Emperor would personally lead an army of 15.000 across the Black Sea to not only defeat the Cumani chieftain Itlar, but also extend the thema of Cherson to encompass the entire Crimean peninsula. This, if anything, brought the Emperor a lot of new prestige.”

The familiar white and yellow themata map appeared on the screen, showing that the Empire grew quite a lot in the past thirteen years or so.

“Now, as you see, the Empire in 1210 had no less than seven more districts, then it had in 1197. With the exception of Cyprus, these are all in central Anatolia, and all of them are archontia rather than themata. I don’t remember telling that last week, but archontia are ruled by an archon rather than a strategos, and are lower in the Imperial hierarchy. In fact, most themate are divided into archontia, which in return all answer to that particular strategos. The archontia on this map – all areas marked with an asterix – are independent archontia, that don’t have a strategos above them and thus answer directly to the Emperor. These archons therefore also have less power than the strategoi, and the archontia are often considered as an extension of the Emperor’s direct power base. Talking of which, the actual areas directly governed by the Emperor are tagged with ‘Imp’ on this map. After the first war with the Sultanate of Rûm, the archontia Ikonion, Dorylaion and Galatia had also been in this category, but as I have told, Demetrios had been forced to give away most of these lands after the rebellion of 1203. Oh, yes?”

Professor Doxiadus pointed at the round-faced girl three seats right of me.

“Sir, you were talking about archontia, as areas ruled by an archon. Is that the same as an archontate?”

The professor laughed.

“Quite the same, yes! The proper Greek term is archontia, but most western - that is to say Latin – historians use the term ‘archontate’. If you are more comfortable using ‘archontate’ at your tests or something, I wouldn’t mind.”

He took a big breath.

“Okay, that wraps it up for tonight. I hope it wasn’t too long or boring, because I had to squeeze in a few things that I had wanted to cover this afternoon. The day after tomorrow we’ll just continue with Demetrios. Please keep an eye on the schedule, as I might be late again. Also, I had today’s themata map printed again, so you can pick it up on your way out. And finally… thanks and good night!”

The professor grinned, and began handing out prints as the first students passed. I quickly packed my bag and followed them. Doxiadus also gave me a map, but then he held my hand as I took it. “Alexandros… should you see Kalina before I do, could you tell her to please call her mother. She is really worried…”
 

Cecasander

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Some more commentary is needed on Demetrios. When Mikhail died unfortunately during the last leg of the Rûm campaign, he did not have any living male heirs. Apart from his infant son, who had died a few years prior, his only family had been his uncle - the strategos of Cibhyrraiot - and he had already died just after the end of the civil war. Thankfully, my succession laws (which is gavelkind, I believe?) allowed me to continue playing by having the game create a 'distant cousin' with really sucky stats. But as the Kantakouzenoi were nobodies before Mikhail's reign, a distant cousin didn't make sense so I made him a adopted brother.

Demetrios' stats were exeptionally sucky though; 2-3-3-3, so I made him a lame duck emperor who only won back some of his dignaty after marrying a woman with really good stats (Prokopios married him in 1206, and her stats were 9-11-11-13). Now I just hope their children will get some descent stats, and don't die on me again. I honestly can't remember having so much bad luck at having a heir :p
 

Enewald

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Wow, he sucks! :rofl:
Allowing the Georgians to attack Anatolian heartlands!!! :eek:
 

unmerged(59077)

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Don't need to be remarkable to gain territory as long as the overall machine functions smoothly :D
 

unmerged(87106)

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Don't know if you already explained this, but who owns Crete?

Otherwise, great update!
 

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I thought they'd patched out country cousins? Good thing that wasn't the case, otherwise this would've been a short game. Though in that situation you could have always loaded up as a new dynasty and taken the throne. As I see you're playing the Empire, not necessarily the Kantakouzenids.
 

Cecasander

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Enewald - At least it's an ally, and one that can easily be backstabbed :p

RGB - Very true. But high martial and stewardship make bigger armies, and bigger armies mean even more conquering

asd21593 - Crete is independent, after I let it go in 1196 (I believe). It's currently ruled by a member of the Angelos family (the previous imperial dynasty).

VILenin - But I like the Kantakouzenoi!

Also, 200th post :D
 

VILenin

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VILenin - But I like the Kantakouzenoi!
That's fine, I get very attached to my Komnenoi too. I just mean that if it comes down to the dynasty or the AAR, then the story must go on.;)
 

J. Passepartout

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I had been going to suggest that looking incompetent is very good when one wants to goad one's enemies into some foolishness but after reading further I felt less enthused about Mr. D. Good thing he married well.
 

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Regretfully for Kalina’s mother, I did not see her daughter before the next lecture. That Thursday evening I was actually on time for once, and I found myself a seat on one of the back rows. Slowly the lecture hall began filling up with students. Some worn scarves and gloves as they came in. Although it was early March, it had become quite cold the past few days and the weather forecasts had all predicted snow in the weekend. As much as I liked snow, I had also learned not to rely too much on the weather forecasts in Constantinople in winter. It changed every single day. Professor Doxiadus was only a minute late as he came in, accompanied by the black pantsuit women who now actually wore a grey pantsuit. I guess I should start calling her pantsuit woman now. She watched the student like an eagle, as if she expected us to start rioting if she looked at the floor or the door for a second. Then Kalina came in, and the pantsuit woman followed her instead, as she walked to my row. “Hey, mind if I come sitting next to you?” she asked. Her face was red, she probably had been outside. Her long black hair had been tied up in a pony tail, although some strains of hair still stuck out. Her smile and her demeanor made me wonder if she had forgotten about last week. “Oh, of course not!” I quickly said as I noticed I had been staring at her. She sat down, but Doxiadus began before she could reply. An image appeared on the screen behind the professor, showing two familiar faces and three portraits.

“Welcome everybody, I hope nobody has had their nose or ears frozen off yet. Remember if you’re outside and you’re really cold, you should just start smoking.”

There was some laughing, apparently mostly from seniors. I noticed Kalina chuckling too.

“It wasn’t that funny, Alexios! Besides, I know what you usually smoke, son.”

Alexios and his friends laughed. They were on one of the front rows today.

“You betcha, sir! It always keeps me warm.”

“No son, it just numbs your senses… anyway… today we’re going to cover an interesting period in Imperial history, a period that is known both as the Era of the Child Emperors and the Era of the Iron Council. It is also known by Latin historian as the First Interregnum. And as I like that best, I’m going to use that one. Now, as you know the rule of the Kantakouzenoi dynasty thus far has not been considered a particularly strong reign, but also one that by pure chance gave the Empire the vitality it had lacked for decades. It seems that sudden people and events had saved the young dynasty from falling, and at the start of our story – in 1210 – it had been in power for 23 years. The reign of Mikhail the Unfortunate had seen a civil war against most strategoi and the start of the reconquest of central Anatolia as Mikhail’s final deed on the mortal plane. The reign of his adopted brother Demetrios had seen the rise of the strategoi as de facto powers behind the Empire, and only because of his marriage with the strong Prokopios Synadenos he had not been removed from power completely. Last week I also told that Prokopios would give Demetrios two healthy heirs – Nikophoros and Anthemios – and in fact a third son – Basileios – would be born in 1210. So there you have the picture behind me; father, mother and three young boys who are all that is standing for the Kantakouzenos dynasty. The boys’ portraits are still blank, as they were simply too young to have their portrait taken at the time. Apart from that, it almost idyllic. And as usual in Imperial history, such a state never stays that way too long.”

“Trouble starts in the autumn of 1211, when the strategos of Trebizon rebels against the Emperor. If you paid attention last lectures, you know that Trebizon was one of the few themata that had not yet rebelled against the Kantakouzenoi yet. And it so happened that the strategos at the time was one of the Komnenoi, a young man named Alexios who despite his famous depressive spells and suicide attempt was known as a very able administrator. It is never really understood why he rose up now, nor is it known why Demetrios had insisted on leading the Imperial army against the rebellious strategos himself. But there he was, in the middle of winter, riding along the Pontic coast towards Trebizon. In the first battle against Komnenos, Emperor Demetrios already fell off his horse and broke his left arm and several ribs. Although heavily wounded, the Emperor won the battle and pressed on against the city of Trebizon. But then, as Komnenos attacked the Emperor’s positions in order to lift the siege on his city, Demetrios was struck in the chest by an arrow. He died instantly, and joined his brother in the line of Kantekouzenoi emperors who died too young in battle.”

“Unlike his brother, Demetrios had three healthy – yet very young – heirs. A week after he had been killed, and was on his way to be buried in Constantinople, his oldest son Nikophoros would be crowned Emperor Nikophoros IV Kantakouzenos. The boy was only four years old at the time, and thus was far too young to rule. If this is the case, it is usually a procedure to have the high nobles elect a regency council which would rule in the infant’s name. This time however, there would be two regency councils! That’s right. Two groups of people would for the next decade and a half feud for the regency powers.”

Behind the screen, no less than nine portraits appeared.

“Here are the ladies and gentlemen who will rule the Emperor for the next few years. The three people above are the official regency council, who had been appointed to look over Demetrios’ sons and who nominally had the support of the nobles of the strategoi. The first portrait you should surely recognize by now, for it is Prokopios Synadenos, wife of the late Emperor Demetrios I Kantakouzenos and mother to his sons Nikophoros, Anthemios and Basileios. Her title of Queen-Regent would officially as the most powerful person in the Empire, although of course the truth is more complicated than that. Second is Aikatenina Kantakounos, nobody else but the only surviving child of Mikhail the Unfortunate. She was only 15 when her uncle was killed, but being one of the few pure Kantakouzenoi in Constantinople, as well as her wits and intelligence got her a seat next to her aunt. Thirdly is Mavros Meschos, the Megas Domestikos of the Imperial army. The Megas Domestikos acted as a Grand Marshal did in a royal Latin army, as chief commander, and thus technically stood above the different strategoi. This hierarchy was quickly changing now, of course, so Meschos could be considered effective commander of the armies fielded from the Imperial-held lands only. All in all, although assigned the de facto government of Romanion, the regency council was not the most powerful body in the Empire.”

“This honor goes to the six men below the official regents, the six most powerful strategoi. They were officially called the Council of Nicomedia, but were – and are – best known as the Iron Council. These strategoi had had the greatest stake in the Imperial army and politics during Demetrios’ reign, and had sought to increase their power even further. The death of the Emperor, and the fact his heirs were very young, gave them a lot of extra space as the office of Emperor – and the aligned offices like Megas Domestikos – would quickly loose ground. It was therefore in the best interest in keeping the official regency council and the child emperors in check, and preventing them from regaining any of the power the Imperial office had lost in the past decade. If this meant plotting against the child emperors and infiltrating and bribing their court, or even committing infanticide, so be it. In 1212, the Iron Council was composed of the men on the screen. They were… Andreas Petraliphas of Hellas, Damianos Choumnos of Samos, Ioannas Laskaris of Nicaea, Eleutheros Batatzes of Thrace, Romanos Panaretos of Macedonia – who was also an archbishop in addition to a strategos – and Alexios Paleiologos Komnenos of Peloponessos.”

Some hands went up.

“Now, I know what you’re going to ask,” Professor Doxiadus said laughing. “No, you don’t need to remember those names. Just the themata they rule; Hellas, Samos, Nicaea, Thrace, Macedonia and Peloponessos.”

The hands went down as fast as they had went up.

“Now, we’re going to cover the Iron Council further at the Tuesday’s workshop, because the role of the Iron Council will not be played out at the end of this lecture, or even this century. For quite along time it will be active, although over time it will transform into what can we considered as an eastern version of the medieval parliaments in Latin countries. At this point they are just a collection of power hungry military men.”

“Before we’re going to take a coffee break, I’m going to cover the glorious one and a half year reign of Nikophoros IV. Now, it could be said that young Nikophoros didn’t have a lot of friends. An in fact, his reign was also the period the Iron Council had the biggest direct power over the regency council and the Imperial Throne. The only positive event in this period – the return of Crete to the Empire – is largely due to the diplomatic work of the strategos of Peloponessos – as one of the Komnenoi – in persuading his Cretan cousin in joining his party. The reign of Nikophoros is mostly known for its three assassination attempts on the young boy. The first one, in December 1212, occurred when the Emperor and a few of his retainers were attacked by a masked man on their way to the Hagia Sophia for prayer. The assailant had managed to escape, and could not be found even after the entire palace district had been closed off and searched. The second attack – in April of the next year - was more carefully executed, when the assassin slipped into Nikophoros’ bedchambers when the young Emperor was asleep. He had apparently not considered that the Emperor would be guarded by his bed by some of his caretakers. The assassin could be overpowered by to guards, but managed to flee through the open window. But then in September 1213, Nikophoros suddenly dropped dead during dinner. As his taster was found dead after that, he is most likely poisoned. The murder was never really solved. The prime suspect was the Italian spymaster Artemio Alermano, who was believed to have ties with the Iron Council, although this could never been proven. He would eventually be blinded, but would remain a member of the Imperial court and spent most of his remaining days with long episodes of depression. With Nikophoros killed, his brother Anthemios would be crowned Emperor. But before we cover this second child emperor and his brother, it’s time for coffee!”

Professor Doxiadus and the pantsuit woman walked outside before any of the students. Kalina also stood up. “Want to get some coffee too?” “Sure,” I said and I followed her down and out of the lecture hall. She insisted to buy coffee this time, so I waited for her to return with two paper cups of steaming hot liquid goodness. “Hey, listen, I’m sorry about last week. It was rude of me to start about your grandfather,” she said as she gave me my coffee. I looked at her. “No, it’s really okay. I mean, I understand if you’re curious.” Kalina laughed. “Yeah, I’m just too curious for my own good sometimes. But errr… let’s just not talk about your grandfather again, okay? Unless you want so yourself.” I knew it was selfish to accept that offer, but it somehow also made me feel good. Suddenly Kalina turned to the door to the lecture hall as the pantsuit woman walked to it. She stared at Kalina angrily, and when I looked at Kalina I also saw fury in her green eyes, who looked both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Then the woman was gone, and Kalina smiled at me again. “Who… what was that?” I asked flabbergasted. “Well… she’s a friend of my mother.” “Oh... Oh yeah, that is right, professor Doxiadus asked me to ask you call your mother Tuesday. What was that about?” Kalina became a little pale, and she looked at the ground. “My mom and I don’t get along so well, recently. She… she makes all kind of demands like I’m a servant of hers, instead of her 20-year old daughter who lived hundreds of kilometers away.” I sighed. “Must be that believe by parents that because they raised and fed you, they have the right to command you around the rest of your life.” Kalina shook her head, while she slowly looked up to me. “No, my mother didn’t do a lot of parenting. My father was always there, but my mom… she was always working. I don’t really feel like I owe her anything. Even if she gives me all this ‘I’m still the one who gave birth’ crap. And when I do help her, it’s never enough.” “She sounds like someone who would be happy with just trying your best,” I said insightfully. She shook her head, and focused her full attention to her cup of coffee. What was up with this girl and her mother? And mostly, why did I have the feeling this somehow involved me? The way the pantsuit had looked at Kalina, I remember her looking at me too at the first lecture. Perhaps I should have a talk with this woman, just to know who she really was. “Listen,” I said, “If you want, we could add your mother to the list of tabooed subjects too.” Kalina finally smiled. “That would be nice, Alex. I’m sorry to have dumped this crap on your plate.” I shrugged. “It was Doxiadus… oh…” I pointed to the door, where the pantsuit woman stood waiting for us. Apparently we were the only students left in the corridor. “Hurry up you two,” the woman droned without looking at either one of us. We quickly got inside and walked up to our row. Behind us, professor Doxiadus said “Ah, good you two could join us again,” but although some students laughed, the professor sounded very genuine.

“So, we left with the 6-year old Emperor Nikophoros IV Kantakouzenos being poisoned. While the investigation to the murder was still underway, his brother Anthemios would be crowned as the new Emperor. Like his predecessor, he was only four years old when he was crowned, so no great deeds could be expected from this fresh new Emperor. It was widely believed in both the Imperial court as well as the city of Constantinople that Nikophoros had been killed to give the regency council two more years of reign. Although the commoners wouldn’t see the difference between the regency council or the Iron Council, Queen-Regent Prokopios increased security measures around her two sons and attempted to assemble a small group of trusted caretakers who would be allowed to be alone with the boys. Needless to say, they also weren’t allowed outside the palace. This too would give the impression to the people that the Queen-Regent wanted to draw power to herself by keeping her sons prisoner. Of course, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

Two new portraits appeared on the screen.

“The early reign of Anthemios was marked by new rebellions in the Pontic themata. Matthaios Axuches of Armeniacon had rose up against the Imperial throne in the latter days of his brother’s reign, and he when he defeated his revolt would be succeeded by that of Alexios Komnenos of Trebizon. Yes, the same strategos who caused the death of Emperor Demetrios two years earlier. He was a scornful and often-depressed man, apparently, who took another chance at independence. It should be said, however, that these revolts were aimed at the Iron Council as much as the Imperial office. After all, Axuches and Komnenos were two strategoi who had been left outside the Iron Council even though their armies and treasury could compete with that of the Iron Council strategoi. This time Megas Domestikos
Mavros Meschos was merciless as he led the Imperial armies along the Pontic coast though. Both strategoi would be stripped of lands, titles and office and would be exiled. Alexios Komnenos had the best luck in this light, as he had a fairly large lordship on a personal title in Derbent, along the Caspian coast. He and the Trebizon Komnenoi would rule this land for some time.”

“All in all, the reign of Anthemios was a prosperous time, in which the Imperial economy as a whole prospered. During this time Phrygia would also be colonized by Greeks from Constantinople and Sinope, who would quickly outnumber the Turks in that area. The Archontia of Theodosiopolis and Mesopotamia would be reclaimed from the Sultanate of Erzerûm by the new strategoi of Trebizon and Armeniacon. But at the same time the fight between the regency council and the Iron Council would begin to take its toll, when in April 1216 the strategoi demanded the institution of elective succession laws. The proposal had supposable meant to place a responsible adult on the throne rather than a six-year old. And although the Queen-Regent has managed to block this new laws, the whole issue caused quite a falling out with her niece Aikatenina and in effect with the Megas Domestikos, for he was married with her. This issue lingered on for two years, while Aikatenina Kantakouzenos established ties with the strategoi of the Iron Council and in the process bringing her husband to his rightful place. But this also meant the integrity of the regency council had now been compromised by having two of its three members openly align with the Iron Council, and Queen-Regent Prokopios thoroughly discredited. When Anthemios was assassinated in June 1218 and Aikatenina was the prime suspect, she would not be prosecuted. It was clear to everybody that she has acted on behalf on the Iron Council now, though, and the general public began to realize that the Iron Council might not have the well-being of the Empire in mind when killing children. So slowly, the general opinion within Constantinople began to sway in favor of the Queen-Regent.”

“After the murder of Anthemios, Demetrios youngest son Basileios would be crowned as Basileios III Kantakouzenos, and he would be the last of the three child emperors. Basileios was seven at the time, and he already showed great potential. The Queen-Regent was even more protective to her last son – as is understandable – and threw her niece out of the regency council. Although Prokopios could not afford to offend the Megas Domestikos too much, he too was no longer allowed at the young Emperor’s quarters. With her claiming the sole regency position, and having lost the support of the people of Constantinople, the Iron Council had actually suffered a defeat with the death of Anthemios. As a result, the pieces on the chess board were reset and both sides began to find new allegiances again. As the Iron Council had managed to get Aikatenina Kantakouzenos and Megas Domestikos Mavros Meschos on their side, Queen-Regent Prokopios would find unlikely allies in the house of Angeloi – in the form of the mater familias Theodora Angelos - and the King of Sicily, Jacopino. As a result of this uneasy peace, the Empire once again flourished. In fact, those who are familiar with the history of Thessaloniki know that this period – around 1220 – is the time both the Imperial Academy and the renewed Hagios Demetrios are completed, and the second quarter of the thirteenth century would be one of the city’s golden ages.”

“We’ll end this lecture at Basileios’ 12th birthday, on August 28, 1222, for that would be the day he would first begin to take some duties over from his mother. This day is therefore by some regarded at the start of Basileios III’s reign. But before I let you go, I have to show you two more maps. That is right, two.”

The familiar white and yellow themata map appeared on the screen.

“The first one is, of course, the themata map as of 1222. As you see, not much has changed in the past twelve years, apart from some conquests in the east and some changed in the thema of Armeniacon after the last revolt, the rejoined thema of Crete and the establishment of the thema of Anatolia. I haven’t printed this map, as I believe it wasn’t really much of a change from the last, but I will upload it on the network tonight. And now, a desert for you…”

Another map appeared on the screen, this time in different shades of red. It took me a second to recognize where this was.

“As I said in the first lecture, the Kingdom of Georgia had experienced a golden age under the reign of Queen Thamar. As you see on the map, the kingdom nearly tripled in size until 1205, and it contained the entire Kaukasus region. But eventually the Khwarezmian Shahs became annoyed by the continuous Georgian raids into the northwest of their realm, and sent out their grand army from Urchengh to punish Queen Thamar and neutralise the Georgians. Although Georgia was well capable of taking on their smaller neighbours, the vast Khwarezm Empire was simply too much for them, and after a number of expeditions the entire kingdom had been dismantled into a handful of scattered holdings. Why is this important to our story? Well, for one, the Roman Empire had been Georgia’s only chance for survival, but opted not to – due to higher interest in central Anatolia and the internal conflicts – and this had set a lot of bad feelings between the two. Secondly, Georgia’s heartland now lie in central Anatolia, and thus in the way of the Roman Empire. The results will be discussed next week…”

People started to pack their bags at the mention of ‘next week’. Over the ruckus, professor Doxiadus reminded us that next week’s workshop would go on, and it would cover the Iron Council somewhat deeper. When I had my bag packed, both Doxiadus and the pantsuit woman were already gone. Kalina was already standing, but she apparently waited for me. We both walked out of the lecture hall. “Say, you want to get a coffee?” I asked as we got clear of the crowd. “Oh, I got a lot of homework due for tomorrow, Alex…” Kalina said remorseful, “But… do you have anything for Saturday?” I shook my head. I already visited my parents last weekend. No need to get then too accustomed to me emptying their refrigerator. “We could get some coffee downtown then, if you’d like,” she said with a smile. “Sounds great,” I replied, not yet aware of what it had meant. “Give me your cell phone number, then I’ll text you tomorrow for a place and time, okay?” We swapped phone numbers, and then we parted. It was until I almost reached my apartment building that I realised I had an actual date for the weekend. I felt my heart racing. Bloody hell, I might as well ask my flatmates for some advice. Guess there’s a first for everything…
 
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Cecasander

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I never realize how much text I write until I post it. These lectures are so easy to write, it is just too fun to stop. :p I apologize for the lack of non-portrait pictures, but apart from infanticide and a few revolts and some 'good' events, nothing really happened. In case you didn't get it, the next update will be another background story, covering Alexandros and Kalina's date. I will probably use it to show some of 'modern' Constantinople too, so don't miss it!

Cyreidel - Thanks, and welcome :D

J. Passepartout - Agreed, Demetrios is just the wrong man on the wrong place. I'm sure he would be an excellent garbage man or oarsman though. ;) And his marriage is one of those strange strikes of fortune that sometimes safe the Roman Empire...
 

J. Passepartout

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Interesting stuff. I imagine a lot of documents have conveniently been destroyed in connection with the Professor's comment on the truth about the assassination.

I notice our good woman says 'our grandfather'.
 

Cecasander

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J. Passepartout - Indeed, and things have a way of disappearing in 800 years time. And the 'our' was a typo (has been changed, thanks) ;)

Beamed - *Nudge nudge*, *wink wink*
 

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Advice?
Bah. :p
Never plan that kind of stuff beforehand. :D

Hmm... Kaisaeria, Tyana and Lykandos need to be re-conquered...
And how is the cultural map mode of those times?
 

unmerged(59077)

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It's a dangerous job, to be the child Emperor, apparently.

Almost as dangerous as being Queen of Georgia :eek: