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AlfredtheLion

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Aug 5, 2013
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I'm a Byzantophile through and through. Which isn't uncommon on these forums, I suppose. I've always wanted to do an ERE AAR, and while I've mainly thought of doing it as a history book, I feel rather inspired to instead do a narrative starting with one of my favorite emperors, and favorite figures in general, Michael VIII Palaiologos. He's actually a distant cousin of mine, since we're both grandsons of Ioannes II Komnenos and Alexios I Komnenos.
Starting on July 25th, 1261, I'll play to the end of the game, using the same narrative style seen in my other, and still ongoing AAR, "Wolves of Grey and White".I'll be using Patch 2.5.2.2 with all DLC (Sunset Invasion disabled), and HIP in the following configuration:
EMF, Arkopack Armories, Arumba's Keyboard Shortcuts, CPRplus, VIET Events, SWMH, and Linbrook's Texture Map.
House Rules:
1. No Reloading (I'll be playing non-ironman just to be safe, but still)
2. No Cheating
3. Roleplay Ruler Traits
4. No Unrealistic Blobbing

Stauros Nika!
 
Prologue
Chrysotriklinos, Megálo Paláti, Konstantinoúpolis
July 25th, 6769 Étous Mundi
(July 25th, 1261 Anno Domini)
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No sound disturbed the Chrysotriklinos. Rays of sunlight streamed down from a crack in the dome, pouring in like soldiers through a breach. The sixteen windows high in the hall's vaulted ceiling were broken and boarded over. There was no other lighting, though broken chandeliers and fallen over candlesticks were much in evidence. The mosaic floor, a swirl of color and splendor, was covered in debris. He glanced among it for the valuable furniture he knew had once graced this hall, but found none, only rude benches and meagre chairs. Doubtless more worthy decoration had been sold off to replenish pitiful coffers.
Then Michael Palaiologos's blue eyes flicked to the eastern apse of the room. Long, sure strides brought him across the hall, footsteps echoing, hand resting on the orb pommel of his sword, the silver and gold of his armor's scales shimmering in the light. Neatly trimmed hair ended slightly above his shoulders, and a thick beard thrust down to pass his neck. Both were brown, nearing on black, and beginning to show hints of grey, which he misliked.
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A large golden tree caught his eye in the front of the eastern apse, an obvious mark in a drab hall of decayed glory. He knew it to be, in fact, gilded bronze, but to some visiting dignitary, it made no difference. More stunning still were the birds that had perched in the tree, birds wrought of gilded bronze with jeweled eyes, marvels of automata singing in a dozen avian voices. But they were all gone now, gone with the branches they had sat on. By the look of the marks, they had been hacked off crudely, doubtless to make an easy profit.
Behind tarnished bronze railing, the throne of emperors was supposed to sit on a bema. An immensity, he was told, all of wood and gold and set with jewels. But that was gone as well, replaced by simple carved wood, crude and sad. There was evidence of a complex mechanical system of gears and winches, which had once raised the throne on high, above all others. But it was torn out, with no Frankish device to replace it. Even the proud, roaring lions that flanked the throne were gone.
Michael ascended the steps of the bema, and took his place on the wooden throne, polished by Frankish behinds. He stretched his legs out languidly, stroking his beard as he gazed over the ruin he had reclaimed from the Latins.
"My inheritance." The words tasted bitter as they echoed in the stillness, but he would not let that subdue him. There was much to do, much and more, but he would do it.

The large doors swung inward on rusty hinges, squealing foully. It's all foul. Michael decided as the intruder entered, long shadow thrusting across the chamber. But I will make it beautiful.
Michael was, by most reckonings, a tall man. Yet his height fell short of many of the Varangians. Skuli, for that was the intruder's name, was at least three inches taller, and he was hardly the tallest of the Guard. Bushy moustaches curved round either side of his mouth to meet with a thick beard that ran along his jaws. He kept it shaved on the chin, some queer northern fashion. His face was unlined and only lightly scarred, and the brown eyes set in it had always seemed rather dull and servile. He wore a spiked steel halfhelm over a mail coif, and his broad shoulders were covered by a thick fur mantle for the red cloak that hung on his back, a shield slung over it. His armor was not so ornate as his lord's, serviceable scale, but finely made. On its sleeves were dyed leather fringes, and on the skirt. Well tooled gloves gripped a signature Varangian axe, near as tall as its wielder, with a single heavy blade. On leather belt with a bronze buckle, there hung a stout sword, sheathed in wood and leather. The Guard was meant to impress and intimidate, and tended to.
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"Are you well, my Basileus?" He asked nervously, in accented but well spoken Greek. He had served in the guard since he was six-and-ten, and been trained since he was eight, but the northern roots remained in his voice, and he had been Akolouthos of the Guard for a mere week. The previous Akolouthos, an Angliká named Æthelmund, had very sadly, brutally, accidentally slit his own throat while shaving. An unfortunate thing, too. Young, and now former, Basileus Ioannes had been so fond of his staunch protector.
"Very well, my friend." He gestured around the room. "Only contemplating the revitalization of this chamber." He rose, descending the steps, and walked briskly past the captain to stand in the middle of the room. His Swedish shadow followed.
"An icon of our Virgin Mary was mounted over the entryway, you know." He gestured to the door the captain came through. "Gold and jewels...such splendor. Christ enthroned stood over mine own throne. All three of these things are gone now. Them, and more." He turned back to Skuli. "Mine is a much battered realm, and there is much that must be done to change that. I am grateful to have such a loyal and competent guard. It is a pity our friend Æthelmund was gathered unto God. He was loyal too, and competent, ever faithful to Ioannes."
Skuli had the grace at least to blush and hang his head. He was actually a useful tool, hardly a warrior of legend, but not without skill, or a certain low cunning. Michael preferred men like Skuli. Clever enough to cheat and lie and twist, but not with the hand that fed them. The Guard was full of such these days, it seemed. The impartiality of the Varangoi. Another glory faded. But the duplicity has its uses.
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"But you are faithful to me, aren't you?"
"Of course, your majesty." The younger man said quickly. Amusing. He was a stubborn bulk of steel and muscle, but knew that meant nothing to the man before him, his liege, or more importantly, the knower of his secrets.
"Good." He put a hand on Skuli's shoulder. "Get your men mounted. I have a mind to pray."
The Akolouthos bowed and withdrew, and the Chrysotriklinos grew still once more, save for the dust gently floating and filtering in the light of the cracked dome. Michael stood alone, giving the chamber another long, surveying look. A smile broke across his face, small but sincere. He smiled well, and often, but rarely were they sincere.
Eight years ago, they dragged me before old Ioannes and named me traitor, conspirator, hopeful usurper. They were right, but I got away, disgraced and banished. Crossed the border, sold my sword to the Sultan. Then old Ioannes died, and that fool Theodoros brought me back, only to die in turn and leave that snot-nosed boy, little Ioannes, on the throne. And what happened to him? Blind and dying in a monastery, father and grandfather both rotting in their tombs. And who took back our fair Konstantinoúpolis? Who wears the crown? Who sits the throne of eagles? The old man? The fool with the shaking fits? The snot-nosed boy? No. The traitor, the conspirator, the usurper.

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Wow this looks to be glorious. Besides a Palaiologos AAR is indeed a really change of pace here and much more challenging than a normal Byzantine starting scenario.
 
Wow this looks to be glorious. Besides a Palaiologos AAR is indeed a really change of pace here and much more challenging than a normal Byzantine starting scenario.
Wow, thanks! And indeed it is. Komnenos, Makedon, and perhaps Isauros seem to be the favorite families. Not that there's anything wrong with that at all. That's all awesome, and I love Byzantine AARs. But yes, the Palaiologean ERE is a bit of a different animal in terms of political standing. On the bright side, weakened though it is, the empire still has some teeth at this point. :p
I was just planning a Palailogeon AAR, still this looks interesting.
That would be great! I look forward to reading it. We gotta get more Palaiologean representation in here. :D


Some general notes:
Chapters for this may or may not be shorter than those for Wolves of Grey and White. I haven't fully decided yet, and it wouldn't mean reducing the detail of my style or anything. It just might work better for this if I break it into smaller, more manageable chunks as gameplay permits.
Sorry about the inaccurate and grammatically incorrect Greek on the map. I don't have any education in Greek, though I wish I did. So I'm using Google Translate. :p
 
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Ahhh the Palaioligians, one of my favorite ERE Dynasties aside from the Komnenoi and the Makedonians. Good luck trying to survive as a weakened Byzantium mate, you're the only thing that stands between Islam breaching Eastern Europe, plus you get to be the Underdog here :D.
 
Ahhh the Palaioligians, one of my favorite ERE Dynasties aside from the Komnenoi and the Makedonians. Good luck trying to survive as a weakened Byzantium mate, you're the only thing that stands between Islam breaching Eastern Europe, plus you get to be the Underdog here :D.
Same here, man. The Komnenids are inherently awesome. Well, the first three, at least. Ioannes is my favorite, I think. The Makedonians are glorious, and Basileios I's progression from peasant -> courtier -> emperor is very impressive. I've always loved the Palaiologean era because there are a lot of fascinating people involved, and there's a tragic majesty to it. And thanks! I think I can do it. I've played this start date quite a bit over the years. It's definitely a fun one, a good balance between having some bite left, but not being totally safe. At least it's not 1452 or something, and I have more than Constantinople and Morea. :D

Next chapter should be out today, everyone. Juuusst need to make myself stop playing EUIII, which I installed yesterday. Easier said than done. :confused:
 
subbed!

what are your goals? Anatolia and the Balkans? I don't think the game would last for more
 
subbed!

what are your goals? Anatolia and the Balkans? I don't think the game would last for more
Great!
Yeah, something like that. Mainly the Balkans + general western expansion, which was what Michael was chiefly focused on IRL. My first conquests will be soaking up those Latin states in Greece, as well as Epirus. Rum is a tributary to the Ilkhanate at the moment, and I don't want to get into that sort of mess, so Anatolia will be more of an opportunistic thing, mainly focused on just getting a stable border there. I'm definitely not trying to become an unstoppable blob, just a realistic, plausibly restored ERE. I thought I might try to revive the old Komnenid relations with Hungary. That'd be fun. Sicily is also a viable marriage option, I suppose.
 
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Hopefully Charles of Anjou won't set his eyes on the Balkans should he proved victorious in taking Sicily, or else you might have a stronger Western foe(Or a potential ally.)
 
Hopefully Charles of Anjou won't set his eyes on the Balkans should he proved victorious in taking Sicily, or else you might have a stronger Western foe(Or a potential ally.)
Yeah, that would be quite a challenge, as it was IRL. Luckily, Charles is currently reigning as Count of Provence and Duke of Anjou under Louis IX, and Manfred von Hohenstaufen yet rules in Sicily. So unless SWMH has some historical event chain for Charles's rise to that throne, which would be cool, I should be safe on that front. Sicily is damn tough anyway, though, maybe one of my chief threats other than Rum at this point. Maybe I'll try to secure a NAP and/or alliance using one of my daughters. :p
 
I bid you luck! Great beginning. Nice style, looking forward to more!

Cheers!
 
I bid you luck! Great beginning. Nice style, looking forward to more!

Cheers!
Thanks!

Sorry, everyone, for not getting that chapter done yesterday. I just got too tired at the end of the day. On the bright side, almost done with it now.
 
Chapter I
Michael
Drómous ton Konstantinoúpolis
July 25th, 6769 Étous Mundi
(July 25th, 1261 Anno Domini)
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There are three kinds of men in Konstantinoúpolis, Michael mused as his black courser clopped lightly on well-worn stone. Várangoi surrounded him, but the city-dwellers peeked around their armored forms to get a better look at their new Basileus, merchants and soldiers and common men, wastrels and vagrants. They are the first kind. Rhomaíoi and bárbaroi. The city had too many Latins these days for his liking, a byproduct of the catastrophe near sixty years earlier. But they are of little concern, these lowborn. The Rhomaíoi understand the order of things, and the bárbaroi...well, the bárbaroi are still outnumbered, and they will learn.
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Thus of the three, there are two kind of men in Konstantinoúpolis in the court. He went on as they turned down a side street that doubled as entry road to their destination. He enjoyed his private self-speech. Oftimes his was the only intelligent conversation to be had, and always the only he trusted. There are flatterers, and there are fools. Fools are tools, flatterers opponents, felow players. He sighed, passing it off as a huff of exhaustion in the heat of the day. Theodoros was a fool who believed in flatterers, up-jumped merchant's sons and peasant warriors, and packed the council with their ilk. They had been a thorn in his side since he had summoned been summoned back to court, and he hadn't managed to displace them. Not yet, anyway. Still, men who understood how the game was truly played could be reasonable, if they got what they wanted. And they at least offered intelligent conversation.
Skuli raised a gloved fist, and their little procession came to a halt. The northmen swung heavily down from their saddles and pulled longaxes from their saddle sheaths. Michael dismounted more gracefully, wishing he was not sweating quite so heavily. The ride to the Church of St. Mary was a fairly short one from the Chrysotriklinos, but the sun really was damnably hot, and the cloth beneath his armor was well soaked.
He drew his sword, and offered it to Skuli as he eyed the two courtiers on the steps. Aides to the Patriarch.
"Wait out here."
The Akolouthos raised a sweat-slicked eyebrow, his fair skinned face glistening beneath the halfhelm.
"The church is not yet repaired, Majesty. Surely-"
"Mayhaps, but I will not soil it with weapons, finished or not."
Skuli took the sword reluctantly, and he and his six men took their place at the base of the church steps, ready to bar the way if needed.
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The Patriarch's aides bowed respectfully, sweating in their silks. Michael pitied them for their heavy black overcapes.
"Koubikoularoi." He said, nodding. They were eunuchs, chamberlains for the Patriarch. Supposedly just companions, but they had far more uses than that. He had many of his own, though they wore purple. These two...Eugenios and Isais, that's it. "The Patriarch is within?"
"He is, Your Majesty." Eugenios said, powdered hands rubbing together. Why do eunuchs always smell of lavendar? "Diligently overseeing the restoration of our beautiful church of St. Mary."
"A true servant of the Lord." Michael said, trying to conceal his apathy. He looked up, squinting in the sun. The church was starting to look well again.
"Indeed." Isais said, bobbing a shaved head that shone in the sun.
Michael left them there to perspire. He had a passing suspicion that the Patriarch had set them out to watch for him, though no doubt if he asked there would be some meek placation of wanting to avoid getting in the way of the laborers. But it didn't matter, either way.
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The church was refreshingly cool in contrast to the sweat and dirt of the streets, though the roof was incomplete on the right. Happily, the sun had now passed into the western sky, where it could be shielded. The laborers had chiefly stripped down only to their breeches, tunics tied around their waists, the heats induced by their work defying the shade.
He approached a man who looked to be a sort of overseer, well garbed, though his thin face was pale and wet. A temperate man, then. His sort were usually inclined to eat well, it seemed, for they could afford to. Large green eyes widened as he turned.
"Y...your Majesty." He dropped to one knee. They do know their place.
"Rise, goodman." Michael said courteously. The man did so. "Where is His All Holiness the Patriarch?"
"There is a small chamber on the far right, my Basileus. There." He gestured. "I can escort you, if it please you."
"Not necessary." He waved the man back to his task, and then resumed his own. With any luck, the profits of this will be twofold.

He was scratching at a piece of partchment when Michael entered the private chamber.
Arsenios Autoreianos was a spare, plain man, his ascetic disposition at odds with the robes of his office, all rich blacks and whites. Lively brown eyes were set in a wrinkled, unremarkable face some sixty years aged. A thin, pointed grey beard shot from his chin, and under it a heavy gold cross. His black mitre concealed a balding scalp. Not that His All Holiness cared for such vanities as hair.
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"Your Majesty," his bushy eyebrows rose, "This is an unexpected pleasure."
Michael did not wait for an invitation to sit in the rather uncomfortable looking chair on his side of the dull desk. Nor did he fail to note that the Patriarch failed to stand for his liege. Still upset about Ioannes the Snot-Nosed, Your All Holiness?
"I hope it results in pleasure for both of us, my friend." He replied warmly.
"I am sure it will be, Majesty." Arsenios set the quill aside. "I was going over the accounts for this undertaking. With some difficulty, alas, I was never a man of numbers."
Michael leaned over and took the parchment, blowing the ink dry. Twelve thousand lítra of brick...twenty-four thousand hyperpyroi...two thousand módioi of mortar...one and a half thousand hyperpyroi...one hundred skhoinion-length beams of oak...five thousand hyperpyroi...
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On and on it went, from wages to candlesticks. Michael frowned, a long finger sliding down to a specific item.
"Had we not decided upon fifty stained-glass windows, Patriarch? You mark only forty."
"We did, Majesty, but it came to me that fifty given unnecessary, given the squarish dimensions of the church. And so I used the five thousand hyperpyroi to buy bread and broth for the beggars. The streets are full of them. Such are the fruits of war, I fear."
"Far be it from me to know, being a grievous sinner, but you are truly a good Christian, Holiness." Michael hung his head. The Patriarch reached out and patted his hand.
"Worry not, Your Majesty. A man in your position...the loftiest perches pose the greatest falls, the brightest lights the darkest shadows. No man could resist such dangers at all time. God understands this, and I have no doubt you will find His forgiveness for it."
Good...good...now, to close the matter.
"And your forgiveness, Holiness?" His voice grew softer.
"Mine? You are Basileus Autokratōr, I but a simple servant of our Lord."
"Yet you are also a spiritual advisor to me?"
"Of course."
Michael looked up, meeting the other man's eyes. They were intelligent eyes, well read and well used, but still clear. Doubtless, Arsenios Autoreianos knew the game they were playing here. Michael never got an impression of unique cunning from the Patriarch, but he had mind enough to know he had the advantage in this particular game.
"The...measures I undertook to secure my position as Autokratōr...weigh on me, upon my soul. These are dangerous times we live in, fearful times, and in the moment I felt I had to seize power decisively, if the Rhomaíoi were to endure. And yet, to blind a boy...a child..."
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"A monstrous act indeed." The Patriarch murmured. Now to close this.
"Perhaps...perhaps it is to soon to hope for your forgiveness, or that of God. And yet I find myself unable to fully focus upon my duties without some form of...reconciliation."
"Oh?" A bushy eyebrow arched.
"It was a monstrous act, Your Holiness. But my ends were and are noble and true. And the monstrous act cannot be undone. Even the Basileus Autokratōr cannot restore the eyes of Ioannes Doukas Laskaris, nor will I risk the safety of our people by seating him in the Chrysotriklinos." Michael leaned in. "The choice is yours, Holiness. You may excommunicate me, and bring the wrath of God. Yet before you do, ask 'What will it accomplish?'."
"And what would you have me do instead, Majesty?" Autoreianos asked as mildly as he could.
"Take your own time to forgive me, Holiness. But I ask that you help me prove myself worthy of forgiveness. Aid me in making sure my monstrous act was not in vain."
"How would I do this?"
Careful...
"The empire is not what it was, in any regard. Our economy has deteriorated, our territories, our military, our governance. I continually see doubt in my authority. I am Basileus Autokratōr, yes, but these are mere words if men do not believe in them. What power has a Basileus to guide his people if none follow him faithfully? What rule does the Autokratōr maintain, if he ever must bow and yield to lesser men?"
"None, and none."
"Indeed. And such has been the way of things for decades, Holiness. Particularly under Theodoros, I'm afraid."
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"I agree," the Patriarch said, "His Majesty, may he rest in peace, was a kind man. A gentle soul, as they say. And yet his kindness made him, perhaps, overly open. These...these common men he brought in...they upset the natural order and balance of things."
"Yes, yes," Michael said. This is all excellent. "Common men are not bad men, but they have their place. For example," he turned and gestured, "it is the providence of the common man to carry out these good labors, and to oversee each other in them. That is their natural state, as it is the providence of we who rule to...well...rule." He smiled.
"Indeed, and thus the mingling of common and noble has lead to much confusion and misrule, for His Majesty was ever eager, over eager, to listen." He had gotten the Patriarch to venting now. That was good too. Autoreianos would be talked into the logical conclusion by his own self. Even the frown that now creased that old face was a good omen. "It even seemed to me they wished to limit the authority of the Church, these merchant's sons."
"So few of that sort make time to pray these days." Michael replied, running a thumb over the rough wood of the chair's armrest. "And they cause the nobility to become confused in their own purpose. They behave as though they have sworn but idle oaths to me, and expect rich estates and titlage in return. Their manner suggests a Latin influence."
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The Patriarch's eyelid twitched. A touchy subject, of course.
"Most worrisome, in the church and in secular governance both." He said. "And what would you do about this, Your Majesty?"
The kill...
"Act decisively, of course." And not in a way you will find monstrous. "Strip the power from the grasping nobles and merchant's sons that have invaded the court. I would make things as they were, a government that can be truly lead, where the Basileus is genuinely Basileus, and the title Autokratōr is true."
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The older man made a hmph of acknowledgement.
"A bold plan, Majesty, and an ambitious one. I am in favor of removing these loathsome Latin degenerations from our governance, of course, but I worry about how this will affect the Church."
"Holiness, you need not worry on that score. Was not the Church better treated before these merchant's sons and and grasping nobles took power? In return to proper rule, proper treatment of the Church will follow." He took a breath, lacing his fingers, almost in prayer. "What I ask is...a costly favor, I know. But we, and the realm, will benefit from it. And in time, well...I remember those that help me, Holiness, those who understand my hopes and plans for the Empire."
Autoreianos frowned again.
"Majesty, nepotism is a toxic weed, it-"
"I speak not of nepotism, Patriarch. Only recognizing those who have the ability and will to truly serve our empire and people, and helping them in return. And I believe you are one such man." He rose, growing tired of this dance. "I regret to say I know little and less of what would most beneficial to the Church. Compared to you, at least. However, if you would provide the support of the Church in this matter, in restoring rightful control over the affairs of ruling, then I would certainly be in a position to provide whatever assistance Your Holiness thought fitting."
The Patriarch nodded, the black mitre tipping forward slightly on his balding, spotted scalp.
"Your proposal is of interest, Majesty. I ask but a few days to consider this, and to pray. These are weighty matters."
Michael inclined his head respectfully.
"But of course, Holiness." He made for the empty doorway of the chamber. "I have other matters I must attend to, I fear."
"Worry not, Your Majesty." Arsenios Autoreianos offered a warmer-than-expected smile. "I do as well, and diligence is a virtue."
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Indeed it is. Michael thought as he made his way back down the steps of the church. The koubikoularoi had repaired to some shaded palce, apparently, though the slight scent of lavendar lingered in the hot, heavy air.
That heat did not bother him quite so much as it had, once he was mounted and they were on their way again. His sword had been restored to his side, the threat of excommunication lifted from his head, the support of the faith at his back. They took a left turn, away from the church, and then left again, down to the Kontoskalion.
He had a merchant's son to meet.
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a cunning men... and he has a plan...
 
So the fall of the Byzatine Empire has begun. Taking power from men of talent from The City and replacing them with grasping nobility of little talent. It may be good in the short run, but it is a bad trend.
 
a cunning men... and he has a plan...
And it cannot fail! It's so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.
So the fall of the Byzatine Empire has begun. Taking power from men of talent from The City and replacing them with grasping nobility of little talent. It may be good in the short run, but it is a bad trend.
Indeed it is. Though my long term plan with passing "Absolute Rule" is to take power from...basically everyone, and then making use of whoever I want from what remains. Namely the men of talent. Passing Absolute Rule lets me centralize the government more fully, allowing me to have a demesne of 13 or so. With that kind of power and income, I won't be worried about all my powerful vassals demanding council positions, because I have other ways to appease them, and can crush any rebels. This would probably be a terrible idea if I was trying to undertake the Restore the Roman Empire decision, but since I'm focused on creating a smaller, highly centralized empire, I think this'll work fine. And thus I'll be more free to have a meritocratic council, not worrying about the strong arming of nobles and stuff. :D
 
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And it cannot fail! It's so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

Indeed it is. Though my long term plan with passing "Absolute Rule" is to take power from...basically everyone, and then making use of whoever I want from what remains. Namely the men of talent. Passing Absolute Rule lets me centralize the government more fully, allowing me to have a demesne of 13 or so. With that kind of power and income, I won't be worried about all my powerful vassals demanding council positions, because I have other ways to appease them, and can crush any rebels. This would probably be a terrible idea if I was trying to undertake the Restore the Roman Empire decision, but since I'm focused on creating a smaller, highly centralized empire, I think this'll work fine. And thus I'll be more free to have a meritocratic council, not worrying about the strong arming of nobles and stuff. :D
Well, that sounds good, let us hope it works.
 
Quite interesting choice indeed, it would seem the days of the Theme system are over. Makes your vassals a bit weaker too. Though it is a bit worrisome if the Seljuk Rumites decide to come knocking on your lands. On another note, any plans to bring the Empire of Trebizond under your rule?