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Thread: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Twenty-Six

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    Default [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Twenty-Six



    INTRODUCTION


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Hello all, fellow AAR readers and TW players! These words are meant to be both an introduction to the AAR you're hopefully about to read, and a disclaimer. First of all, I know the Byzantine Empire has been made to death as a faction for an AAR to be written about. And yes, I know I myself wrote an AAR about it - my first one, ended because my savegames were corrupted.
    Then, a year passed, and I discovered a new mod. As soon as I landed on Bellum Crucis, the mod I'm using - and of which I'll briefly talk later - I realized I needed to play a campaign as Eastern Rome. This modification is so rich, and detailed, that a playthrough as Byzantium would have felt radically different from the Chronikon - and I myself decided I would write it in a slightly different style. New challenges await me and the Roman Empire - and the readers, if you'll be willing to read my writings.



    ABOUT THE AAR


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    The Historia Rhomaike - that is, Roman History - is a fictional account on the lives and exploits of a series of Emperors which succeeded Manuel Komnenos, and, as many other works of byzantine historiography, it is meant not only to narrate, but also to teach about virtues and how to run the Empire itself. In real History, Costantine VII Porphyrogennetos' work, De Administrando Imperio, served more or less the same role: to both narrate, and educate Costantine's heir Romanos. In this AAR you'll read two different accounts, both fictional: one is the medieval opera, the Historia Rhomaike, and the other is a commentary to the opera written by fictional 20th Century byzantinist Alexios Kiriopoulos. Everything you see in brackets and cursive is supposed to be an excerpt from the original opera; everything else is a modern reflection on the opera. I thought this style would allow me greater freedom, since it gives both the challenge of writing in a hopefully plausible XIVth Century style, and the occasion to analyze in depth the reasons for campaigns, battles, reforms and rebellions. As such, you will read of foreign peoples, as well as the byzantines themselves, as they would have likely referred; so, people of the steppes will likely be referred to as Skythians or Skythinkoi; there will not be an Holy Roman Emperor, but rather a King of the Germans or Western Emperor. Constantinople was usually referred to as the City or the Queen of Cities; citizens of the Empire called themselves Rhomaioi, that is Romans, and the Empire was usually referred to as the Basileia ton Rhomaion, Rhomania or Rhomais. Often, foreign titles were translated with their Greek counterpart; that is, a general would often be referred to as Strategos, and, as personal names were often hellenized, it is likely I will resort to the same habit, for the sake of authenticity. The Empire's currency, at the time, was the hyperperon, introduced by Alexios I, known in the West as bisant; all monetary gains will be listed in this same currency. Years will however be listed in Western datation, for simplicity's sake.
    I will also roleplay a lot, so expect that, with the accession to the throne of a particularly incompetent ruler, the Empire would suffer setbacks or crysis. Generals will not always follow their directives, treachery and the shadow of civil wars will be a plague to in-game Basileia, and diplomacy will be truly used to wage and prevent war as much as brute force. I will also try to be as much historical plausible as I can - for example, when needed, I will refer to the Pope or Caliph of the moment with the one we have had in our own timeline, and I will also try to use at its best any historical info with which the game provides me every year. That is, hope you enjoy the read - and come to appreciate that stunning mod which is Bellum Crucis.




    ABOUT BELLUM CRUCIS


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    Bellum Crucis, currently at its 7.0 version, is a completely fan-made Italian modification for Medieval II Kingdoms. It has, pretty much as Stainless Steel, a big focus on historical autenticity, and realism, yet, in my humble opinion, it surpasses it in scope and lenght.
    Bellum Crucis features - obviously - a complete, historically-based and HQ rendered roster for 28 factions, somehow reminescent of the first Medieval - ah, such lovely days... - spanning from the peak of the Feudal Era to Proto Renaissance: the official time span, in fact, is from 1155 to 1453, year of the fall of Constantinople and often credited as the real "end" of the Middle Ages.
    But let's go to what really matters. Bellum Crucis implements a completely revised economy - yeah, actually, It's pretty tight on money -, improved diplomacy, the mechanics of internal strife and civil war, revolutioned building trees and guilds, implementation of tons of features such as technologies, religious conversions - yeah, you can change your faction's religion, under particular circumstances -, the scripted spawning of historical leaders - Richard the Lionheart, Frederick II Honenstaufen, Othman among many others -, undeniably upped graphics and textures, heraldry, merchantile fleets, acquisition of kingdoms through marriage, and many, many more improvements over both the vanilla and many mods.
    Unfortunately, the English version of the mod is currently under development: a WIP translation should be already out, but it is only halfway finished. There are, however, already a Spanish and Polish translation available, so...whoever can, just give it a try. It is worth it, seriously. Even just to take a look at the units, they're just stunning.
    I'm playing with the official version of the mod, just with some changes to the descr_strat, the battle_config, the EDB and the EDU as to achieve longer, more realistic and tactical experience on campaign map and in battles - perhaps just a tiny little bit shorter than EB II's battles, just for a comparison; this will sometimes force me to take riskful decisions, as not rarely it will be a battle against time, too; whoever got interested in this mod, and is interested in playing with these files, just PM me!



    ABOUT THE IMPERIAL ARMY

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    The following is meant to be a guide to Bellum Crucis' byzantine army. First of all, let me begin with a disclaimer: as Bellum Crucis is a modification for an essentially sandbox game, and so, essentially, the player is left with the freedom to take his choices as he wishes also concerning military matters, this is not meant to be a guide to the Komnenian, and later Palaiologan army - though my armies are largely inspired on the former model. For all those interested in the matter, I dare to suggest Birkenmeier's "The Development of the Komnenian Army", an excellent piece on the subject.
    PS: the list is meant to be constantly updated as the campaign progresses.


    INTRODUCTION

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    Since the VIIth Century, the fundamental entity on which Eastern Roman military relied was the so-called thematic system, introduced by Emperor Eraklios' successors as a mean to improve the State's military in the face of Arab aggression. According to the thematic system, the Empire was split in a number of regions - 33 at its height in the late 900's - each ruled by a Strategos who combined in his person civil and military responsabilities. Such themes were garrisoned and defended by military colonists who served into the army in return for allotments of land and lower taxes. Border regions were instead called Doukates, as they were led not by a Strategos but rather by a regional commander called Doux: these were the Doukate of Vaspurakan, Armenia, Antioch and Chaldia.


    This system, purely defensive in its organization, did not fit with the renewal of Byzantine expansionism in the late 800's; following the reforms of Emperor Nikephoros Phokas, thematic armies were subordinated to the tagmata, the capital's forces, which included regiments as diverse as the various Varrangoi, Scholarii Kataphraktoi, the Hikanatoi and so on. It was at the head of such large, permanent and professional armies which the warrior-Emperors of the late 900's and early 1000's - Nikephoros Phokas himself, John Tzimisces, Basil II Bulgaroctonos - led the Empire to its apogee.


    All of this, however, was cause of incredibly large State expenses. Basil's mediocre successors curbed military expenses, leading to the disruption of the thematic armies and an increasingly important role of mercenaries in the tagmata and the army in general. This was the kind of military which faced the Seljuks in 1071, and was defeated at Mantzikert.


    Following Mantzikert, the Komnenian Emperors - Alexios I, John II and Manuel I Komnenos, the latter being the Emperor whose reign is depicted in the first chapters of this AAR - reformed the army from scratch. The core of the army was formed by the Basileus' oikeioi, members of the nobility and his extended family, followed by their retainers, fighting as heavy cavalry. Alongside them, fought the regiments of the Imperial Guard, and indigenous units recruited through what remained of the thematic system - which more or less survived, keeping its administrative and bureaucratic raison d'etre but with provincial forces' importance diminished. Mercenaries, nonetheless, remained an important component of the army, serving both in the Guard regiments, or on occasional basis. The army which the Komnenian Emperors fielded - and which form the basis of the in-game byzantine army - were professional, large, well drilled and trained, and an instrumental tool in what came to be known as the Komnenian Restoration.


    Units or statements marked with an * are fictional, or introduced in my Roman army as a result of in-game events.




    GUARD UNITS

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    Throughout all of the Empire's history, sovereigns had been escorted and protected, in battlefield as in their Great Palace, by picked regiments of various ethnicity - mercenaries playing a prominent role since the inception of such corps. These Guard units are now listed in order of their prominence and seniority.


    Oikeioi: these are not specifically members of the Palace Guards, but rather, under the Komnenian Emperors, a heavy cavalry unit escorting the Basileus into battle, made up of members of his extended family connection, and their armed retainers. Serving as cataphracts - fully armoured riders, mounted on armoured horses - these men went into battle with armour and weapons of the finest quality: they usually wore klivanioi and lorikioi, meaning scale or mail armour, sometimes combined with a bambakion - padded armour which could also be worn alone by lesser troops, or a surcoat. Their defensive equipment was completed by a kite-shield, while offensive equipment consisted in a kontos, a long spear designed for charging, swords and, eventually, maces. Their horses were armoured, too, as they wore scale or mail armour on their forequarters, neck and head; for a long time after the deafeat of Mantzikert and the ensuing civil war, these were the only cataphract forces deployed by the Empire.


    Varrangoi: the Varangian Guard, established under the reign of Basil II from a regiment of 'Rus soldiers sent him by his brother-in-law Vladimir the Great of Kiev, is perhaps the most famous unit to have served under the Byzantine Emperors. Made up of Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Scandinavians and Russians, these foot warriors carried their distinctive two-handed axes and were entrusted with the safety of the Emperor and his family both at home and on campaign. By the reign of Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180's) they had access to the best byzantine armour, wearing lavishly decorated scale armour, helms of both Roman and Russian style, shields painted with religious or geometric motifs - which they carried on their shoulders - and wearing swords as their side weapon. They were famous for their scandalously high wages, and for them being utterly loyal to the Emperor, fighting to the death if necessary - but keen enough to swear oaths to their new master as soon as their previous one was dead.


    Vardariotai: as the Varangians, these men served the Emperor both in the Palace, as security staff during ceremonies, and on the field of battle, as lightly armoured horse archers: they were, after all, drawn from those Magyars whom had been settled in the Vardar Valley in Makedonia by the VIIIth Century Emperors. Established as a regiment during the latter part of Manuel I Komnenos' reign, they rode to battle on fast ponies, carrying composite bows and sabres, and wearing black or dark red silk robes. They proved their valour in many occasion, most relevantly in the 1225 AD Battle of the Shipka Pass*, when they all fell in meleè against Vlach and Bulgarian forces rather than whitdrawing from the field of battle.




    ETHNIC "ROMAN" UNITS: INFANTRY


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    "Ethnic" Roman infantry forces were raised by Komnenian Emperors, and their successors, on the basis of the strateia and pronoia systems. These were, basically, the remnants of the old thematic system: soldiers were granted plot of lands or reliable sources of income (such as taxation rights) in exchange for them fighting in the Empire's armies, or helping fund the Basileus' campaigns with money with which to raise mercenary forces. According to the size of the plot of land, or the value of the granted source of income - which, anyway, was not hereditary: the Basileus ultimately retained ownership of these assets - they would serve as more or less heavily armoured footmen; all of them, however, were efficiently trained and formed a reliable force, the very core of the Byzantine army, which Emperors such as John III Komneno-Doukas and his nephew Alexios III Palaiologos tried to preserve with their reforms*.


    Psiloi: lightly armoured troops, serving either as javelinmen or bowmen. Despite their humble looks - their defensive equipment consisting of woolen or cotton clothes, a buckler shield and, in the best of cases, steel helmets of simple design - they are quite useful on broken ground, making them a valuable resource in border skirmishes and as support troops.


    Stratiotai: being "holders of a strateia" these farmer-soldiers form the mainstay of provincial forces, serving as lightly armoured spearmen. They marched into battle wearing bambakion padded armour, steel helmets of simple design or turbans, kite shields and spears; their relatively light equipment allowed them high mobility, making them useful on broken ground as well as on flatter battlefields. They form the bulk of those garrisons employed in border stone castles, from which they can either sally out against enemy raiding parties, or slow down enemy advance.


    Skoutatoi: these are heavily armoured infantrymen, made up from those who hold bigger strateias or pronoias, and as such rich enough to buy heavier and more effective armour than their poorer comrades. Their defensive equipment consisting in mail, scale or reinforced padded armour, helmets and kite-shields, they are the Basileia's armies' workhorses, well trained and armed with long and sturdy spears called kontarioi, and swords of the spathion or paramerion type, meaning straight or curved swords.




    ETHNIC "ROMAN" UNITS: CAVALRY


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    As with the infantry, Roman citizens were enlisted in the army's cavalry branch in exchange for the granting of strateias and pronoias; these "middle-class" soldiers, however, shared duty as cavalry forces with lesser nobles and the aristocracy's armed retainers, being organized in different units and classes according to their equipment and their role on the battlefield. These units are listed from the lightest to the heaviest.


    Prokoursatores: lightly armoured cavalrymen, these men perform scouting and patrolling duties. They are armed with helmets, buckler shield, padded armour and long spears, and are particularly useful to chase down fleeing enemies, threaten enemy missile forces, and lure enemies into ambushes. They are also armed with paramerioi sabres should they be forced to fight, and javelins to fulfill their skirmishing duties.


    Pronoiarioi: the holders of pronoias were often rich enough to serve either as lancers, or as mounted archers. Whatever their active role on the battlefield, they were compelled by Imperial laws to wear either klibanion or lorikion armour - scale or mail armour -, helmets of good quality, and a shield, either a kite-shield for lancers, or a buckler for the hippotoxotai. Lancers were, obviously, armed with a kontos - a charging spear - while hippotoxotai were to be skilled in the use of the composite bow; all of them wore, as sidearms, swords or sabres.


    Kavallarioi: richer pronoiarioi and lesser noblemen served as heavily armoured cavalry, though not as heavily as the cataphracts of the Imperial oikos. Beginning with the reign of Manuel I Komnenos, byzantine nobility came to be greatly influenced by Western chivalric traditions such as jousting; as a result, these men came to fight in a style closer to that of the so-called Latins. Wearing mail or scale armour, helmets of the finest quality and strips of mail which protected their faces, these men rode into battle on top of fine steeds and fought as their Western brethens.




    MERCENARIES

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    During the Komnenian period, hiring mercenaries to fill in the roles left vacant by regular troops, or to bolster the army's numbers in occasion of certain campaigns, remained a valuable strategy. Service in the ranks of the prestigious Byzantine army attracted men from every corner of the known world, to serve in the most desparate of roles, and in varying numbers. These units are then listed according to their ethnicity and religion.


    LATIN AND FRANKISH MERCENARIES


    Italian Sailors: not really a mercenary force, but rather a force conscripted in times of dire need. Venetian, Pisan, Genoese and Amalfitan merchants residing on Imperial territory could occasionally be summoned either to serve in the Imperial fleet, or to act as a militia force, armed with whatever they could afford.


    Latinikoi: a collective name given to those Westerners serving as heavy cavalry forces. Hailing from France, Norman Southern Italy, Langobardia (Northern Italy) and the Levantine Latin Kingdoms of Jerusalem, Tripoli and Antioch, these men are by far the most appreciated mercenaries in Byzantium's service, apart from the Varangians; Anna Komnena, daughter of Emperor Alexios and author of the Alexiad, described the Western knight as "irresistible; he would bore his way through the walls of Babylon".


    Nemitzoi/Alamanoi: these are mercenary troops, hailing from the Kingdoms of Western Europe and more commonly from the so-called Holy Roman Empire - which Rhomaioi referred to as Kingdom of Alamannia, Kingdom of the Germans. Armed with heavy kite shields, mail armour, steel helmets of various sorts and offensive weapons such as swords and maces, they were quite useful both mounted and on foot.


    SKYTHIAN, BALKANIC AND RUSSIAN MERCENARIES


    Alanoi: Christian Orthodox people of skilled riders living on the Northern side of the Caucasus, the Alans were much praised as some of the best light cavalrymen to have ever rode on this Earth. They wore padded or brigandine armour, used shields of various forms, and protected their heads with characteristic hats: their main weapon was a charging spear lighter than the kontos, but longer.


    Bulgarian and Vlach mercenaries: much appreciated by the byzantine military, these skilled warriors fought for the Empire both before and after the rise of the Second Bulgarian Tzardom following Koten's uprise in the 1220's*. Serving as either skirmishing troops or as heavier armoured spearmen, they were renowned for their sturdiness, and fighting skills which were best applied in wooded or montainous ground.


    Crimean Goths: hailing from Chersonesos, these are the remnants of those Goths who did not flee westward under the pressure of Attila's Huns in the Vth Century. They fought on foot, wearing scale armour, large round shields, plumed helmets, axes and swords: they had such an outstanding reputation as fighters that they were often hired to serve in Cherson's garrison, and sometimes on offensive campaigns such as John Kantakouzenos' Anatolic campaign of 1233-1235 AD*.


    Skithinkoi: a collective name given to those Cuman, Pecheneg and, more broadly, "Skythians" from the steppe, serving as mercenary light cavalry forces in Roman service. They rode into battle on swift and sturdy ponies, and comprised both lightly armoured troops - wearing little to no armour, partial brigandine armour in the best of cases - and heavier troops, scale armour being worn both by the rider and his steed. Whatever their armour, they were all skilled in the use of the Skythian composite bow, and used secondary offensive weapons such as spears, sabres and maces.


    EASTERNERS


    Armenians and Georgians: the Kingdom of Armenia had been the first to officially embrace Christianity as its State religion, in Late Antiquity. Since then, Armenia had always been the matter of contentious between Eastern Rome and its neighbours, from the Sassanid Persians, to the Arab Caliphate and the Seljuks; as such, Armenian forces had always played a prominent role in Roman armies, Armenia being one of the main recruiting grounds of the IXth-XIth Century Byzantium. People of the Caucasus had been known to Byzantium to field the cream of archer, cavalry and infantry forces: they are a resource not to be underestimated.


    Tourkopouloi: meaning "Turks' sons", these men are the inevitable product of the Seljuk invasion of Anatolia, and Byzantine influence on the region. These Christianized Turks, first enlisted under Alexios I Komnenos, served in the Emperor's armies as mounted archers and skirmishing cavalry, and in the ranks of the Military Orders of Levantine Outremer as auxiliary troops.


    Turkish mercenaries: following the battle of Mantzikert, Seljuk conquest of Anatolia was undertaken by a number of clans and tribes of Turkoman ancestry, which soon found their way into Byzantine service first as garrison troops - something which hastened the fall of Anatolia - and then as mercenaries in the decade-long civil war which then brought Alexios I Komnenos to the throne. Being muslims, on the contrary of their blood-related Tourkopouloi comrades, their use as mercenaries was seen with suspicion by Alexios' successor John II, but it was resumed by Manuel I Komnenos as a result of his early reign's entente with Sultan Kilij Arslan II and continued well into Palaiologan era*.






    GLOSSARY


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    To enchance immersion in the AAR, I will often use a terminology that was characteristic of Late Byzantium; here you may find a useful, I hope, glossary of such terms - I tried to be as accurate as possible!


    About surnames: byzantine surnames had two forms, one for the female and one for the male gender. Thus, the offspring of the Komnenid dinasty, for example, would be referred to as Komnenos in case of a son, Komnena when it was a daughter. Other examples may be found in Arbantenos/Arbantena, Doukas/Doukaina, Laskaris/Laskarina, Palaiologos/Palaiologina, and so on.


    Basileia ton Rhomaion/Rhomania: the Roman Empire, the land of the Romans. These were the name with which the subjects of Constantinople addressed their country, they themselves being referred to as Romans or Rhomaioi. The term "byzantine" wasn't used at all until a century or so after Constantinople's fall to Mehmed II.


    Basileus/Vasileios : the sovereign of the Basileia, the Roman Emperor, with the female form being Vasilissa. He was, according to byzantine belief, Christ's representative on this Earth and his mandate had divine origins. Because of this, any phisical imperfection was unacceptable in a wanna-be Emperor, since he had to be an image of divinity on Earth; political mutilation was accordingly used to get rid of potential pretenders, with the most infamous case being that of Romanos IV Diogenes, whom after the battle of Manzikert was blinded by the Doukas family and died as a conseguence. Any mutilation would make a pretender ineligible to the throne; the first to reign despite a mutilation was Justinian II "Rhinotmetus", or "slice nosed", who had had his nose cut off after his overthrowing and returned to rule after a decade-long exile.


    Basilike Hetaireia: throughout its existence as a sovereign, the Byzantine Emperor enjoyed the protection of a large quantity of guard corps, the most famous one being the Varangian Guard. However, he was often escorted by a Palace Guard, the Basilike Hetaireia, which was made up of ethnic Roman aristocrats' sons.


    Caesar: a dignity bestowed by the Emperor on prominent aristocrats. It used to be the second ranked in public acclamations, directly below the Basileus and his Synbasileus (Co-Emperor), until the creation of the dignity of Sebastokrator.


    Catepan/Catepanate: a Catepan was a provincial governor which had both military and civil powers. Catepans were usually given power over a group of minor themes (the Catepanate of Italy is an example of this trend), but were anyway inferior in rank when confronted with the now vanished title of Exharc.
    Domestikos: field commander, directly below the Megas Domestikos (commander in chief of the whole Roman army). Up to the XIth Century, and mayhaps throughout the reign of Alexios Komnenos, there were two distinct Domestikoi, one for the East (Anatolia) and the other for the West (Balkans and what remained of the Catapanate of Italy).


    Droungarios: commander of a Droungos, equivalent to a modern battalion, within the system of a thematic army. There were two senior Droungarios which held however a far more important position of command: those of Kybirrhatoion and Samos kai Aigaion, which were responsible for the Empire's most important thematic fleets beside the Imperial one, led by the Megas Doux.


    Eparch of Constantinopolis: the urban praefect of the capital. He was responsible for maintenance of public order and the satisfaction of the capital's enormous need for supplies from the outside.


    Exarch: it was the governor of provinces which were particularly distant from Constantinople, and thus needed a particularly strong civil and military presence to be established. Exharcs acted as a kind of modern era viceroys, reporting directly to the Emperor. Famous Exharcates were those of Italy, based in Ravenna, and Africa, based in Carthage; the latter fell to the Arabs, while the former vanished as a result of the growing independence of Lombards and Venetians. The title has by the reign of Manuel Komnenos long lost any real power, but it may well be revived in case of an Imperial resurgence...


    Great Schism of 1054: it is one of the events which forever altered relationships between Rhomania and the West, and a milestone in the History of Christianity. The Patriarch of Constantinople had always opposed the superiority which the Bishop of Rome, whom is known as the Pope, claimed over the whole Church; the Patriarchs of the East thought in fact of the five senior Patriarchs (Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, Carthage and Rome) as being equal in both religious and theological matters. The phenomen of Caesaropapism (basically, the Pope's pretense to hold both secular and religious power, claiming superiority as the most senior entity in Medieval world) led to a breaking point in 1054, when Patriarch Michael Cerularios and Pope Leo IX excommunicated each other, with the paradoxical result of the whole of Christendom nominally excommunicated. Since then, the Eastern autocephalous Churces of Greek rite have cut any tie with Western "Latin" Church; the Byzantines' standing among Western princes is largely affected by them being considered "Schismatics" and heretics.


    Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofia: the Church of Holy Wisdom, Constantinople's most prominent liturgical site and one of the most famous cathedrals of the World. It was built by Justinian, and then underwent successive reparations and enlargements throughout its history; a particular mention has to be made of its dome, which was the most spectacular architectural opera built since the Pantheon and was surpassed in complexity and ambition only by Brunelleschi's Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze, in Renaissance. The way it was built allowed light to propagate throughout the Church and reflect over its golden decorations, a sight which must have been wonderous to see.


    Hetairioi/Hetairiarches: these were the mercenary forces employed in Byzantine armies, led by a Hetairiarches whom was responsible for their hiring and command. These mercenaries were divided in ethnic battallions.


    Kataphractoi: "cataphract" meaning "completely armoured", these were amongst Byzantium's most celebrated units, with their roots tracing back to the Late Roman Empire. They were revived under Nikephoros II Phokas in the Xth Century as a completely mail and scale armour clad cavalry, with armoured horses, carrying an heavy spear (kontarion or kontos), bows, javelins and maces. They were recruited out of the wealthy landowners of the Anatolic heartland, the loss of which has meant their disappearance as a numerous and elite force in Byzantium's heartlands; however, if Anatolia is recovered, their tradition could be restored.


    Kavallarioi: basically meaning "horsemen", it will here be used to refer to byzantine heavy cavalry which Manuel Komnenos re-equipped and trained along Western knights' lines. A useful force, more mobile than the cataphract cavalry, but also less heavy and not as invulnerable.


    Latins/Franks: a collective term used among Byzantines and Moslems to define Western Catholics, with the latter being preferred in the Islamic World. It is a referrence to them following the Roman "Latin" rite, as opposed to orthodox Greek rite, and of an equiparation of the whole of the Western world with the Franks led by Charlemagne and his heir, contesters of Constantinople's legacy as sole heir to the Roman Empire.


    Megas Domestikos: equivalent to the contemporary Western rank of Grand Seneschal; basically, commander in chief of the army, second to the Emperor alone.


    Megas Doux: Great Admiral, responsible for the tenure and command of the Imperial Fleet and entrusted with the governorship and defense of the Hellas and Peloponnesou theme, in Greece, along with much of the Greek archipelagos; these provinces, along with the themas of Kybirrhatoion (Southern Anatolic Coast) and Samos kai Aigaios (South-Western anatolic coast and Dodecanesos) were prevalently devoted to the construction, mantaining and manning of the Imperial Fleet and the thematic fleets.


    Megas Konestaulos: a title which originated after contacts with Western feudal world. The holder was basically the responsible for the upkeep and lead of the Western mercenary heavy horse employed by Byzantium (chiefly, Normans and Franks, collectively known as Latinkon).


    Megas Logothethes: the head of civilian administration of the Empire, similar to the contemporaneous islamic viziers.
    Oikeioi: under the Komnenian dinasty, the Emperor's personal armed retinue, made up of his extended family relations and trusted followers; they were called upon in times of war and armed in the fashion of cataphract cavalry. The most senior nobles of the Empire were similarly followed by their own Oikeioi, though obviously of lesser quality and numbers.


    Persians/Persioi: archaicism with which Byzantine historians referred to people who ruled into what had been ancient Persia: Abbasid Arabs, Great Seljuks, and later on Khwarezmians.


    Porpyrogenneta/Porphyrogennetos: "Born in the Purple", an honorific title with which it was tradition to address Imperial offspring born in the Great Palace's delivering room, the Porphyra, which was, according to sources, decorated with purpur marbles and silks. It was meant to testify that the Emperor's son or daughter had been born after the accession of their father and thus a guarancy of legitimacy.


    Sebastokrator: a court dignity created by Alexios I Komnenos to honour his brother Isaac. It is, in terms of prestige, directly below the ranks of the Emperor and his co-Emperor.


    Skythians/Skythinkoi: Greek archaicism used to address peoples from the steppes, mainly of turkish stock: Pechenegs, Cumans, Oghuz Turks, Magyars. In time, each was finally referred to with a characteristic nomenclature (Pechenegs-Patzinaks; Cumans-Komanoi; Magyars-Magyaroi, and so on) though the collective name persisted.


    Saracens: term in use in the whole of Christendom to define Islamic countries, without any distinction being made between Arabs, Berbers, and Turks, though the latter are characterized in Roman sources as "Turkoi".


    Strategos: general.


    Theme/Themata: following the losses in the Arabian-Byzantine wars, the Empire underwent a significant military reform which brought to the creation of part-time, professional quality defense forces known as Themata, each stationed in its own Thema. These were made up of small landowners, whose plots of lands had been granted by the State in return for their service and that of their descendants; some themas, such as the Kybirrhatoion and Samos kai Aigaion, also field thematic fleets. The battle of Manzikert and the losses in Anatolia shattered the thematic system, though its remains still constitute an important part of the Empire's military and administrative divisions.


    Vardariotai: christianized Magyars of the Vardar Valley, serving in Byzantium's armies as an elite corp of horse archers, often associated with policy forces and the protection of the Emperor.


    Varrangoi: Scandinavian, Rus' and Anglo-Saxon mercenaries, organized in the Tagma ton Varangon and dedicated to the protection of the Emperor. They were instituted as a corp under Basil II in the XIth Century, and have since then developed a reputation of fierce fighters, equipped with some of the finest byzantine armours and weapons, with scandalously high pays and a staunch loyalty to the throne.



  2. #2
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE

    PROLOGUE - The Historia Rhomaike


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    Since its beginning, the Byzantine Empire, alternatively known as Eastern Roman Empire or Basileia ton Rhomaion, inherited the historiographic traditions of both the Hellenic and Latin Classical world, a tradition which has its roots in Herodotus and Tukidides, as well as Latin historians as Titus Livius, Seneca and even the works of Emperors such as Marcus Aurelius and Trajan. Being for a long time the only heir to Roman civilization - with another claimant emerging in the IXth Century, with the rise of the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne - along with the Roman Church, byzantine scholars and historians had an important role in assuring the survival of Classical sources and works, as well as filtering and transmitting to a largely barbarized West the innovations of the Eastern world; it is argued, moreover, that it was Constantinople's struggle with the Arabs in the VIIth and VIIIth Century - the most prominent episode being the former's siege of the City of the Straits in 717-718 AD - which granted the largely barbarized West time to develop its own, characteristic culture, allowing the formation of National States to become a reality.
    The Empire thus seems to have served a far more important role than contemporaneous Western Historians suspected - it was the bastion of Romanitas from which Latin Law, culture and civilization spread again in the Mediterranean.
    Apart from transmitting Classical history and civilization, Byzantium developed its own, characteristic literature and historiography - with the works of Prokopios, Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, Michael Psaellos and Choniates being the most prominent ones, spanning from the reign of Justinian to the beginning of the Arabian invasions, from the recovery of the Balkans under Basil II to the emergence of the Seljuk Turks in the XIth Century and the long struggle of the Komnenian Emperors to restore Byzantium's power.
    In 1966, a series of parchments were found in the dungeons of the Palace of the Magnaura, Constantinople's University. At first, the scarcity of the material did not allow scholars to discover the identity of the author, nor the years in which he wrote; it must sure have been after Manuel's reign, since some of the excerpts - which were later found to constitute the first chapter of the opera, which was temporaneously dubbed Historia Rhomaike - consisted in a reflection of the Basileus' reign and the events which followed his death. Later excavations in 1971-72 provided scholars with a second, much more consistent series of parchments which allowed them to attribute the work to Ioannis Kalekas - a XVth Century Greek historian - and understand the character of the opera, which was meant to be a description of the reigns of a series of Emperors which ruled after Manuel's demise. As such, the Historia Rhomaike provides a valuable source with which to verificate the plausibility of other historians of the same period, such as Choniates and Zonaras - which, for example, are sometimes prone to accusations of partiality.
    The following work is thus meant to provide an exhaustive analysis of Kalekas' writings - and, hopefully, provide a new light on Byzantine Historiography of XIIth-XVth Century.
    Prof. Alexios Kirioupoulos, Department of Roman History, Athens' University of Classical Studies, 1996




    CHAPTER ONE - Of the accession of Manouil I and the downfall of Andronikos, his cousin (1143-1165 AD)

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    "Of the loins of Ioannis, Second of His Name, in Christ the Eternal Emperor of the Romans, and his wife, Empress Irene of the Magyars, four sons were born. Of these, two died before their Most Gracious father the Emperor, and - alas! - two survived to whitness his unfortune death in Kilikia by means of a poisonous arrow with which he erroneously cut himself; these were Isaakios, whom was the older one, a prince of valiant stock, though prone to anger, and then resided in the Megas Palation, and Manouil, which had followed his father, Ioannis dubbed Kaloioannis for his kindness of soul, on campaign in the lands of Thoros, Lord of Kilikia. On His Imperial deathbed, the Most Gracious Emperor asked for Ioannis Axouchos, whom was Megas Domestikos, and, being the truest friend of the Emperor, and attended at His Grace's final hours on this Earth, and made him swear he would not pledge loyalty to Isaakios, whom was the older of his sons and was the rightful heir, but rather to Manouil, for he was not as prone to anger as his older brother, and had proved to be worthy of praise in the storming of Neocesareia. Axouchos, despite his personal simpathy for Isaakios, complied and set sail for the Queen of Cities, whence he put Isaakios under arrest and proclaiming Manouil as new Emperor in his stead. It was so that Manouil, ho Megas, gained the throne, in the year of our Lord 1143 AD, may God bless His memory."


    It appears evident, from both Kalekas' writings and those of Choniates, that Ioannis Axouch's loyalty to the former Emperor's wishes proved instrumental in granting the accession to the throne of Manuel I Komnenos; Isaac, who resided in the Great Palace and had easy access to the Imperial regalia, was put under arrest and released only after his brother's crowning, in August 1143 AD. Manuel further consolidated his hold on the city by ordering two golden pieces to be given to every householder in Constantinople, and 200 pounds of gold to be given to the Byzantine Church. He later reconciled with Isaac, whom proved to be a key figure of the Imperial regime up to his death in 1154, and began dealing with the armies of the Second Crusade, which had been called by Pope Eugenius III in response to the fall of Edessa to Zanki, Atabeg of Mosul.



    "Happened in those years that the city of Edesse, and the County which was formed out of its surroundings and was ruled by the Franks, fell to Zanki, Turkish Amir of Mosul, whom went as far as threatening the Franks in their domains of Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem; and the bishop of Rome, whom at that time was called Eugenius and was the third Bishop of Rome to bear such a name, was so shocked by news of this act of war on behalf of the Saracens that he called upon the Kings of Frankia and Germany to lead an armed pilgrimage in the Holy Lands. The Emperor Manouil in His infinite wisdom, made preparations for the arrival of the Latins in the Basileia; he called upon the army to escort their safe passage, and undertook reparations of the mighty walls of the Queen of Cities, so that they may resist the Franks in case of a treacherous assault on their behalf, for the Franks are a greedy race, and in their thirst for gold and pillage they would not stop in front of the perspective of fighting a Christian brother. The Westerners, led by Conrad, Third of His Name and King of the Alamanoi, that is, of Germany, and the Frankish King Louis the Seventh, crossed the Bosporan Strait and marched towards the Holy Lands, whence they met with Baoudouinus King of Jerusalem and laid siege to Damascus. There, they were defeated by Norandinos, the son of Zanki, the Amir of Mosul, to whom the Saracens of Coele-Syria and Chorasan look to as their leader and champion against the true sons of God."




    At this point, the text incurs in an interruption and we have to rely on other sources for the events between 1150 and 1170 AD, which saw Manuel Komnenos dealing with the Empire's enemies both in Europe and Asia. In 1155-1157 AD Manuel personally campaigned in the Levant, invading Cilicia along with Alexios Briennios, Droungarios of the Kybirrhatoion theme, and successfully wrestled the country from Thoros II; he then proceeded to visit Antioch, where Raymond of Chatillon acted as a regent for the young Prince Bohemond III, and met with Baldwin III of Jerusalem, with whom he made an alliance which proved instrumental in the creation of a more or less united Christian front against the renewed vigour of the Islamic world. By then, it was evident from his policies that Manuel was interested in the West, from which he was fashinated; he wed Bertha of Sulszbach, sister-in-law of Conrad III of Germany, and sponsored rebellions in the Norman kingdom of Southern Italy, with whom King William I the Bad however dealed successfully. Though it achieved nothing, even contemporaneous chronists, such as Choniates - traditionally hostile to the Manuel - praise the worthyness of this enterprise, for it was a consistent policy devoted to the weakening of the Normans, traditional enemies of Byzantium since the Dyrrachian War between Robert the Guisckard and Alexios I Komnenos, without major hostilities breaking out.
    However, it would be neither his alliances in the East, nor his attempts to spark rebellions in Italy, which are portrayed in the next fragment of Kalekas' Historia; rather, it is court politics, and most prominently the relationship between Manuel and his cousin, Andronikos Komnenos.




    "Now happened in those years (the first half of the 1160's decade) that the Emperor came to be much displeased by the behaviour of Andronikos, whom was born as the son of Isaakios Komnenos, who himself was the son of Alexios, First of His Name and by God's Grace Emperor of the Romans, and so was a cousin of Manouil, may His memory be held high in Heaven. He was much akin to his Imperial cousin, for he possessed many virtues such as bravery, and cunning, and was handsome in appearance; but his vices surpassed his virtues, as he was licentious, and often entertained with married women, and seduced them and caused them to commit the sin of adultery; and he himself was adulterous, and often malicious, and had an ambition which knew no boundaries. He had been a favourite of Manuel, in Christ Emperor of Rome; but he conspired against the throne, and was for this act of treachery imprisoned."



    Both Kalekas and Choniates and much of contemporaneous historians provide us with detailed informations on Andronikos' misbehaviours and his affairs with married, or soon to be married, women of the Imperial Court; in particular, we are informed of the origins of his bitter feud with John Komneno-Doukas, a feud which would later on bring much bloodshed and chaos to the Empire.
    This John Komneno-Doukas was another grandson of John II Komnenos, Manuel's father, and a valid member of both the Imperial military and administration, serving in the capability of Doux of Thrakesion, the theme most frequently raided by the Turkmen tribes under the yoke of the Sultanate of Rum and the gateway to the Sultanate itself. He happened to have three sisters, of which one, Eudokia Komnene-Doukaina, was in turn seduced by Andronikos during his stay in the capital. When this came to be known, it incensed John, whom had by now achieved the dignity of Caesar and hatched a plot to catch Andronikos in bed with his sister Eudokia and imprison, or murder, him. Eudokia warned her lover of the plot, whom bounded out of harm before the ambushers could act, and rewarded the woman - further incensign John - by seducing her older sister, Maria Komnena- Doukaina. The feud continued to trouble Manuel and his courtiers until 1165, during the negotiations for an alliance to be established between the Roman and Hungarian Crowns; Andronikos seduced Princess Elizabeth of Hungary, which was to be bethrohed to Komneno-Doukas. Andronikos' misbehaviour utterly ruined negotiations with the Hungarian King Geza II, and provoked his fall in the eyes of his Imperial cousin: he was forced in confinement, from which he escaped, beginning a rocambolesque flight together with Elizabeth, whom became his second wife; and though this came much to Manuel's displeasure, his attention would soon be diverted to Anatolia, where winds of war began to blow.




    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Megas Doux
    - Stephanos Kontostephanos ( tenure ? - 1149 AD)
    - Alexios Komnenos (tenure 1150 - 1161 AD)
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)


    Megas Domestikos
    - John Axouch (tenure 1118-1150 AD)
    - Constantinos Makrodoukas Palaiologos (tenure 1156-1173 AD)


    Megas Logothethes
    - John Angelo-Doukas (tenure 1156-1176 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis


    - Michael II Kourkouas (tenure 1143–1146 AD)
    - Cosmas II Atticus (tenure 1146–1147 AD)
    - Nicholas IV Muzalon (tenure 1147–1151 AD)
    - Theodotus II (tenure 1151–1153 AD)
    - Neophytos I (tenure 1153–1154 AD)
    - Constantine IV Chliarenus (tenure 1154–1156 AD)
    - Luke Chrysoberges (tenure 1156–1169 AD)



  3. #3
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter One

    A great start! I am impressed with the explanations of the thinking behind your AAR, the mod and the detailed glossary. I like the way that you have created a back-story, with the discovery of the parchments. There is plenty to intrigue readers in your opening chapter, such as the 'bitter feud', the ruined negotiations with the Hungarian King and the 'rocambolesque flight' of Andronikos. Adronikos seems like a great character because he is causes so much chaos and conflict! The reference to the 'winds of war' sounds ominous, I wonder what will happen. Looking forward to your next chapter!

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    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter One

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    A great start! I am impressed with the explanations of the thinking behind your AAR, the mod and the detailed glossary. I like the way that you have created a back-story, with the discovery of the parchments. There is plenty to intrigue readers in your opening chapter, such as the 'bitter feud', the ruined negotiations with the Hungarian King and the 'rocambolesque flight' of Andronikos. Adronikos seems like a great character because he is causes so much chaos and conflict! The reference to the 'winds of war' sounds ominous, I wonder what will happen. Looking forward to your next chapter!
    Thank you for the praise, Alwyn I'm glad to be writing once again on these forums. Yes, politics and intrigue will feature - I hope - in a much more prominent way in this AAR than they did in the Chronikon...and Andronikos will sure be a character to keep an eye on, I assure you!


    CHAPTER TWO - Of the death of Sultan Masud, the partitioning of his kingdom and the seizure of Amaseia (1165-1166 AD)




    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    "...then, in the Year of Our Lord 1165, happened that a great comet was seen in the skies above the Queen of Cities, and many an astrologers and soothsayers flooded the Bukoleon Palace, for, though wise in many other ways, Manouil believed, and not commendably, that the fortunes of human life are assisted by the motions of the stars, and the position and configurations of the various planets, and not only by Divine Providence, which indeed is the only judge of the success or downfall of the doings of men. And this comet was interpreted by those cognizant of the ancient art of the Chaldeans as a wondrous portent, namely, that it was a portent of the death of a powerful prince, and of the beginning of the downfall of its people. (...) Then, it came to be known that Masud, Soldan of the Turkoi which dwelled in Anatolia, had died of a sickness, and that the Crown of the Turks was disputed between his three sons, Clitziasthlan, Sankaros and Sahannes, and that civil war had befell on the Persians, as a consequence."




    The sudden death of Me'sud I, Sultan of Rum, opened indeed a time of great turmoil for the Seljuks of Rum, and new perspectives for the fate of Roman Anatolia. The civil war between the Sultan's heirs, in fact, offered Manuel the chance to intervene in Seljuk politics and try to regain portions of the inner plateau of Anatolia, lost to the Roman Empire since the decade following the battle of Manzikert and the following civil wars which had ultimately brought Manuel's grandfather, Alexios I, on the throne.


    Manuel carefully sounded the ground by exchanging diplomatic embassies with Kilij Arslan, the senior of the three brothers, whom had seized control of the capital, Konya, and of the westernmost portion of the Sultanate - the one bordering with the beating heart of byzantine Anatolia, the themes of Kybirrhatoion, Thrakesion and Optimakion, securing his alliance against Sancar, whom had founded a beylik (n.d.r., an independent domain) in Northern Anatolia, with its capital at Amaseia. Together with his allies, the Danishmendid Turks, he constituted a severe threat to the rich and relatively undefended themes of Paphlagonia and Chaldia, which Manuel sought to strenghten. Thus, for his anatolic campaigns of 1166-1168, and for much of the following ones, Manuel would often hire in his service the marauding tribes of turkmen which resided in Kilij Arslan's domains, thus neutralizing what constituted a permanent threat to Roman interests in Thrakesion.


    For his campaign against Sancar of Amaseia, Manuel assembled a mighty host of 20.000 men, a third of which provided by the turkic tribes under Kilij Arslan's yoke. The army was split in four divisions, of roughly 5000 men each, which Manuel entrusted, respectively, to the Caesar John Komneno-Doukas, to Megas Doux Andronikos Kontostephanos, and the Doux of Nicea Andronikos Angelo-Doukas; he would personally lead the fourth battalion, made up of the capital's elite regiments, including the famed Varangian Guard, and of his oikeioi, his household troops - 700 cataphracts made up of the finest warriors of byzantine aristocracy. The campaign began under favourable omens with a brilliant victory gained by the joint forces of Komneno-Doukas and Kontostephanos at Sinop, which opened the way to Bafra, where Sancar's lieutenants, Qilich of Yarkand and Gunduz Alp, had rallied an army of roughly the same size as the Emperor's.






    Sources aren't univocal in their determination neither of the battlesite nor of the day in which the two armies clashed. Choniates, for example, explicitely states that the battle took place on Sunday 8th June, 1166 AD, nearby the town of Bafra, while other sources tend to posticipate the battle to "mid-July"; Kalekas, in his Historia Rhomaike, confirms this later datation, explicitely claiming that a battle was fought on 8th June - in this case, between the forces of Komneno-Doukas and local amirs.


    What is given as a fact, anyway, is that the Roman army had little trouble in dealing with the enemy host, already fractured by the rivalries between the various clans and tribes which had been called upon by Sancar's lieutenants. In particular, Gunduz Alp's contingent openly defected to the Basileus' side the moment the turkish troops in Manuel's service flied Kilij Arslan's flag, decisively undermining the cohesion of the seljuk army and sealing its fate. Furthermore, both Choniates, Kalekas and Zonaras' work report a rather curious incident:



    "...and it was then that, from the ranks of those Turkoi whom had pledged their alledgiance to the Emperor of the Romans and his ally and vassal Clitziasthlan, came forward a rider of much fairer complexion than those of the Persian stock who surrounded him, and brought before the Emperor a man, clad in Roman clothes and tied and chained as a vulgar criminal. And then him (the rider) boasted with a loud voice to be a relative of the Emperor, and that, though he was clothed in the fashion of the Persians, he was Roman indeed. For he was Ioannis, son of Isaakios Komnenos, and as such a cousin to His Highness the Emperor; and, as much as his father had been, he was of a rather subtle and deceiving mind, for he had plotted against his uncle the Emperor Ioannis, and then had fled to the Persians, and wed a daughter of their Soldan, and converted to the heresy of the Hagarenes; and since he was, though subtle and deceiving, a rather valiant men, he was called by the Persians "Tzelepes", which in their tongue is a title bestowed upon knights of the finest stock. (...)
    ...and then this Tzelepes bowed, and told the Emperor: "Your Grace, know that in my veins flows the blood of the Caesars, as much as it does in yours, and though I know in your eyes I made the deadly sin of turning to the enemies of your Nation and of the Christian Name, know that I did not did this out of hate for thee, but out of love for this Nation of the Persians, which is second only to Rome herself. And know that, though I am but a traitor in your eyes, that I bring you a gift that might please your heart.". By doing so, he pointed at his prisoner, whom turned out to be none-less than another cousin, that Adronikos whose habits much ill had brought to the Emperor, and whom had so cunningly fled from prison! - and, alas, one may think this reunion of so far flung branches of the Komnenian name is an invention of mine, but look, and know that, more often that not, Divine Providence and the Ways of God are more bizarre than our wildest imagination is."




    Pleasantly surprised by this unexpected turn of event, Manuel willingly set John-Suleyman Tzelepes free, providing him rich gifts and bidding him farewell; then, while Tzelepes rode eastward - where he and his descendants would play a rather prominent role in the struggle between the Danishmendids, the Eldiguzids and the Kingdom of Georgia - the Emperor turned to his cousin Andronikos, whom threw himself at his feet and begged for mercy. Much to Komneno-Doukas' dismay, the Emperor had his cousin stand up, kissed him on the cheeks and forgave him, bestowing rich gifts upon him and sending him to Hungary, so that the Hungarian King Geza II would both keep an eye on him, and agree to an exchange of hostages with which to secure peace between the two countries. Manuel was later widely criticized for this act, particularly in light of Andronikos' later career; but, in that context, the Emperor might have tried to mitigate the effects of Andronikos' misbehaviour by using him as a pawn with the Hungarians, with which war seemed about to become more than a mere threat.
    Two weeks after the battle, anyway, the Basileus' army finally reached sight of Amaseia, Sancar's seat, and began preparing siegeworks. It took a couple months for Sancar to realize no help would have came from his Danishmendid allies, worried by the resurgence of Georgia under the lead of Mepe Giorgi III; and so, on 19th September 1166, just as the cold season was about to close in, Sancar surrendered the town and the outskirts to Manuel; he would flee eastward, and keep on giving the Emperor, and his ally Kilij Arslan, major headaches for a long time to come.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    About John/Suleyman Tzelepes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tzelepes_Komnenos
    A map to clarify anatolic politics around our timeframe (actually, thirty years later, but it may be useful after all: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...atolia1200.png





    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)


    Megas Domestikos
    - Constantinos Makrodoukas Palaiologos (tenure 1156-1173 AD)


    Megas Logothethes
    - John Angelo-Doukas (tenure 1156-1176 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Luke Chrysoberges (tenure 1156–1169 AD)





  5. #5
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Two

    Good chapter, with plenty of political intrigue - and a well-chosen screenshot. Adronikos seems to be skilled at surviving - I hope to hear more of his adventures, and of Manuel and John-Suleyman Tzelepes (an intriguing historical character.)

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    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Two

    CHAPTER THREE - Of the death of Empress Eirene and of the events which followed (1166-1169 AD)

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    With the recapture of the beylik of Sancar Kutalmish, a reorganization of Imperial policy in Anatolia had to be made, with Manuel dedicating large efforts in the restoration of the theme of the Armeniacs, of which the northern half had been more or less brought under Roman control. The capital of the theme was restored in Amaseia, where a temporary triumvirate was established out of Adronikos Palaiologos, Constantine Makrodoukas and John Komneno-Doukas; furthermore, the Imperial treasury went under serious pressure owing to the large expenses needed to strenghten Roman outposts in the area, where seljuk raids continued unabated from the strongholds of Neocaesareia, Zile and Merzifon; it took another victory over invading Danishmendid forces, in 1168 AD, to firmly establish Roman rule over the former beylik. In this occasion, Zulkarneyn Danishmend - Sancar's closest ally and supporter - was defeated by a largely mercenary seljuk army under Komneno-Doukas' command, and nearly lost his life on the field; after this setback, Danishmendid forces would not directly threaten the theme of the Armeniacs, though they would often support Sancar Kutalmish's attempts to regain his former dominion.


    More or less at the same time, a grievous event took place in Constantinople: Empress Bertha of Sulszbach, to whom Greek sources refer to as Eirene, died of labour. Despite his infidelities during her lifetime, Manuel is described by contemporaneous chronists as "roaring like a lion" in grief at her death. Bertha, whose womb had allegedly been cursed by former Patriarch Cosmas II Atthicus, had bore no son to Manuel; as an heir was much needed, Manuel then sought for a new bride, once again a Westerner, out of his Crusader allies.
    In 1167, an embassy led by Alexios Briennios and John Kamateros reached Antioch in order to negotiate the terms of the wedding between Manuel and Maria of Antioch, daughter of the former Frankish Prince of Antioch, Raymond of Poitiers. Through this, Manuel sought to strenghten his ties to the Frankish kingdoms of Outremer, presenting himself as their overlord and champion, and impose Roman rule over Antioch - which had been a thorn in the side since his grandfather, Alexios I's, reign - through legal means. Furthermore, according to Choniates, Maria



    "...was like unto the laughter-loving, golden Aphrodite, the white-armed and ox-eyed Hera, the long-necked and beautiful ankled Laconian, whom the ancients deified for their beauty, and all the rest of the beauties whose good looks have been preserved in distinguished books and histories."




    The marriage took then place on December 24, 1167 AD, in Hagia Sophia, and was performed by three Patriarchs: Luke Chrysoberges, Patriarch of Constantinople; Sophronios, Greek Patriarch of Alexandria, and Athanasios I, Greek Patriarch of Antioch. The marriage was celebrated with feasts, gifts to the church, and chariot races in the Hippodrome for the people. This strengthened the connection of Antioch to the Romans, and also strengthened the position of Maria's mother Constance, who now held the regency of Antioch as a vassal to the Emperor. After a first miscarriage, in 1169 AD Maria, whose fair looks clearly showed her Norman ancestry, finally bore Manuel his first son, and sole heir, Alexios Porphyrogenetos Komnenos.





    Manuel's marriage to Maria of Antioch truly marked the apex of his reign; Roman power in the Balkans was uncontested, with the Serbian Principality under strict terms of vassalage, and relationships with foreign powers such as Venice and Hungary were still stable, despite much had happened that could have potentially led to a crysis; in the East, potentially hostile seljuk rulers were kept in check by Manuel's shrewd alliance with Kilij Arslan of Rum - whom, however, was growing increasingly powerful, owing also to Roman support against his brothers - and the resurgence of the Georgian Kingdom; and, in Outremer, Imperial policy had changed from the belligerant one undertook by Manuel's father John II to a more accomodating, and apparently fruitful, policy of feudal overlordship which also kept in check muslim aggressions against the Franks. But, though the 1160's decade ended brilliantly for the Emperor and his dreams of glory, the intricated network he had built, and which had restored the Empire once again as the most prestigious and impressive sovereignty in the Christian world, would prove to be a too fragile of a legacy to last.


    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)


    Megas Domestikos
    - Constantinos Makrodoukas Palaiologos (tenure 1156-1173 AD)


    Megas Logothethes
    - John Angelo-Doukas (tenure 1156-1176 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Luke Chrysoberges (tenure 1156–1169 AD)





  7. #7
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Three

    Ah, a well-chosen strategic marriage and a shrewd alliance provide an era of stability and growth. However, it seems, this stability is vulnerable - I look forward to finding our what new threats Manuel, Maria and Alexios will face.

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    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Four

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    Ah, a well-chosen strategic marriage and a shrewd alliance provide an era of stability and growth. However, it seems, this stability is vulnerable - I look forward to finding our what new threats Manuel, Maria and Alexios will face.
    Ah, Alwyn, thank you for your kind replies and prolonged interest in this AAR! Trust me, there's plenty of threats to come. Some will be dealt with more or less effectively, others...we will see!


    CHAPTER FOUR - Of the fire of Galata and the war with Venice (1170-1172 AD)


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    The first cracks in Manuel's lifelong work to restore the Empire's power and improve its relationships with the West, rather ironically, were not provoked by events taking place in delicate exchequers such as Outremer, Anatolia, Hungary or Italy, but in the Queen of Cities iself.
    Since the days of Alexios I's proclamation of the Chrysobulla, in 1082 AD, Venetian merchants had been granted prominent benefits such as free trading rights and exempt from taxation throughout the Byzantine Empire in return for their defense of the Adriatic Sea against the Normans, which, together with the Seljuks, had constituted the largest threat in ages to the stability and integrity of the Empire. As time passed by, Venetian monopoly began to pose a serious threat to Roman trading independence, something Manuel's father, John II Komnenos, tried to solve through an unsuccessful war against the Venetians; however, what John could not achieve by force of arms, he gained through diplomatic means: at Imperial invitation, Venice's main competitors - merchants of the other three Seafarers' Republics, namely, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi - were granted better facilities in the Empire's docks, and began to pose a serious threat to Venetian monopoly. By the 1170's decade, this, coupled with the Italians' parochialism and warliking mind, had brought tensions between the Latins' community of Constantinople to such a point that these could only deflagrate in a violent act. This act finally took place in early 1171 AD, at nightime, on the very shores of the Bosphorus.




    "...happened than that the Venetians, always envious of whomsoever seemed to be a threat to their affairs - for of all those of Frankish stock, the Lombards, and the Venetians in particular amongst these, are known for them being much fond of gold and riches, to the point of being the manifest incarnation of the deadly sin of avarice - resolved to wage an act of war upon their brothers by kin and tongue, the Genoese, whom happened to inhabit a rather large swathe of land which faces the Queen of Cities, on the northernmost side of the Golden Horn, to which the Lombards refer to as Galata, a name which has spread amongst the Romans too to describe this town, to which our forefathers referred to as Pera. Anyway, the Venetians' leaders whom resided in the Queen of Cities, and whom had been elected by their fellow colleagues of Venice, said one to another: "Let's assemble our ships, and sail to this town of Galata; then we will burn our enemies' houses and return to our homes safe and unhindered, for they do not expect such an attack to be undertaken; therefore we must be swift, lest they perceive what we are about to do and report this to the Emperor, or worse, bring this same fate upon our houses and businesses. For it is wise to struck first, when it is known your enemy is about to undertake the same enterprise". And so they did, sailing down the Golden Horn and looting their kinsmen's properties and bringing much chaos to the Queen of Cities whole. And this the Emperor repayed by having them all (the Venetians) arrested, and their businesses and properties seized, in such a brilliant maneuvre that ten times a thousand of them were put under arrest, and none remained to lead the affairs."




    The shocking news of the massive confiscations and arrests in Constantinople truly set Venice on fire. It was in this occasion that the six districts of Venice (San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, Castello and Cannaregio) were founded, in order to tax the Venetian citizens and fund the war effort; moreover, the first public bank of the world, the Banco Giro, was founded, and Venetian embassies visited Istrian and Dalmatian cities under Venice's control to enforce the enrollment of men into the Republic's navy. In September 1171, Doge Vitale Michiel II finally set sail at the head of an armada of 120 ships out of the Lagoon to attack the Romans, whose Emperor had appealed to the maritime themes of Samos kai Aigaion, Kybirrhathoion and Hellas to assemble the Imperial fleet. While this forces assembled under Megas Doux Andronikos Kontostephanos' command, Vitale Michiel's ships granted him control of Euboea and Chios, where the Venetian commander chose to Winter with plans of launching a major strike against Constantinople on the arrival of Spring.




    While Kontostephanos' forces assembled in Smyrna, Manuel cunningly sent an embassy, led by John Angelo Doukas, Doux of Thessalonike - the Empire's second city -, and John Kamateros, to Chios, so that they would begin peace talks with the Venetians and divert their attention while Kontostephanos' forces regrouped. As talks dragged on through Winter, a plague broke out amongst Venice's sailors, effectively cutting down the fleet's potential and striking down thousand of Italians; meanwhile, Kontostephanos' fleet had now reached the number of 150 ships, more than enough to completely overcome the depleted Venetian forces. The Megas Doux, however, would not reach a complete victory, as Doge Vitale II Michiel was forewarned by Aaron Isaakios, Manuel's chief astrologer, and somehow managed to retreat with at least a fraction of his original force; Doge Vitale II returned his fleet to Venice on 28 May, but the losses suffered and the failure to gain any concrete objective led to his lynching by the angry mob. His successor, Doge Marino Dandolo, took a decision which would leave a lasting sign on Venice herself: he had the murderer found and executed, and his house destroyed; a decree was then passed that no stone building should ever be built on the site again, making it a rather curious empty spot in one of the most strategic sites in all Venice.


    Though ultimately successful, Manuel's gamble against the Venetians greatly decreased the prestige the Emperor amongst Westerners, this resulting, in particular, in a shifting of Italian Communes' simpathies towards the Western Emperor, a man worthy the stature of Manuel, Frederick I Hohenstaufen, dubbed "Barbarossa". The ideological conflict with his German "Western colleague" would be a major theme of Manuel's Italian policies, which consisted in the payment of large subsidies to those Communes, such as Bologna, Milan and Asti, which openly defied Barbarossa's attempts to restore Imperial control over Northern Italy. This also brought to a temporaneous alignment of interests between Venice and Frederick: in order to neutralize the Venetian threat, Manuel resolved to leverage on his cousin Andronikos Komnenos' ties with the Hungarian court to involve King Geza II in the quarrel with the Republic and force Venice to peace. Though it was a temporaneously successful move - with Venice acknowledging the loss of part of its right, in order to have the Romans whitdraw their support to Geza - it would also spark a long lasting conflict between Venice and Hungary, and determine an alteration of the status quo of the Balkans - a move which would have much traumatic consequences a decade later.
    Andronikos Komnenos' role in the matter, however, restored his reliability in his Imperial cousin's eyes, and allowed him and his wife Elizabeth to return from Hungary and resettle in retirement in Oeneaeum, on the Black Sea shores, in a manor which Manuel granted them. Contemporaneously, however, Manuel also gave Andronikos a slight by making Komneno-Doukas, whom had given great proof of military skills in the Armeniacs exchequer, Domestikos of the East, senior commander of the armies of Anatolia...and as such, one of the most powerful men of the Empire's military.

    For infos about Doge Vitale II Michiel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitale_II_Michele





    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)


    Megas Domestikos
    - Constantinos Makrodoukas Palaiologos (tenure 1156-1173 AD)


    Megas Logothethes
    - John Angelo-Doukas (tenure 1156-1176 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Michael III of Anchialus (tenure 1169–1177 AD)




  9. #9
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Four

    Interesting start to your AAR, I'm always a fan of ERE AARs so looking forward to more.

    Can't wait for an English version of BC either.
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  10. #10
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Five

    CHAPTER FIVE - Of Sancar's flight to Comania, and the events which took place in the theme of the Chersonites (1173-1177 AD)

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    "...and this Sankaros, who had fled Amaseia in front of the might of Manouil, in Christ Eternal Emperor of the Romans, took shelter in the court of Zulkarneios, Soldan of the Danishmendid tribe of the Persians, and there started to pour poison into his ears against the Romans, so that this Zulkarneios, who was a fine leader of men and held in high esteem amongst the Persians, would restore him onto his throne. (...) However, when Zulkarneios' host faced defeat at the hands of Ioannis Komneno-Doukas, who was then the Doux of Amaseia with Makrodoukas and Andronikos Palaiologos, this Sankaros fled once more, and, desguising himself as a merchant, set sail from Kutaisi to the city of Tamatarcha in Comania. Happened these years that the nations of the Patzinaks and Komanoi were reconciliated by one of their Kings, named Kongek, son of Otrok whom he had overthrown. He had led them to many victories in the lands of Russia, where much damage and despair was brought by his raids; and, whence he heard by word of the Persian prince of the city of Cherson, of its riches, and how easy for him to plunder it would have been, he called his kinsmen at arms and brought them in the Chersonesos, burning crops and grain and stealing the herds and enslaving the Chersonites."




    The presence of such an irreducible enemy of Manuel at the court of Tmutarakan presented a diplomatic incident which could seriously hamper Roman interests in the Black Sea region. Through Cherson, in modern-day Crimea, in fact, flowed much of the trade with Russia, Galicia-Volynia and Khazaria; furthermore, the theme of Cherson was of fundamental importance to the Basileia, as it was both the granary of the Empire - having nonetheless been described by Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos' De Administrando Imperio as the Empire's granary, with the Eparch of Constantinopolis relying mainly on Chersonite grain and crops to feed the capital - and its outpost in the steppes, from which to keep and eye on the migrations of peoples such as the Comans themselves.





    In May, 1175 AD, Konchek and Sancar set their camp in front of the fortifications of Cherson. The Cuman host - which entity some chronists report to have been of at least 80.000 souls, including women and those unfit for fighting - then proceeded to ravage and loot the countryside, encouraged by the relative impotence of Cherson's governor, Catepan Andronikos Angelo Doukas. Despite its importance in byzantine trade and diplomacy, in fact, Cherson's garrison had never been nearly as strong as those on the Danubian frontier, which also faced similar threats from the Westernmost tribes of Pechenegs and Cumans. As such, Palaiologos was in severe inferiority both in terms of troops' numbers and quality; he could do nothing but to hold onto the walls and collect supplies from the sea, over which the Cumans had no power at all, so that their siege would be unsuccessful.


    When words of the Cumans' attack on Cherson reached Constantinople, Manuel, whom was at that time ill, resolved to entrust command of the relief force to Alexios Axouchos, son of that John Axouchos whom had been John II's Megas Domestikos and helped Manuel in his seizure of the throne. Together with the relief fleet, Manuel also sent his namesake Manuel Arbantenos, son of Nikephoros, the Doux of Boulgaria, so that he may try a diplomatic approach with Konchek and avoid blood to be spilled; alongside him, travelled Andronikos Angelos, a courtier whom had visited the Caucasus and there learned the turkic dialect spoken by the Cumans. According to Kalekas' Historia, Arbantenos and Angelos

    "...approached the Skythian King with all the gifts worthy of his status, that is, silks, coin, and a fine armour made in the same fashion as the Emperor's. And so they approached him, assuring him of the Emperor's benevolence and great affection for the Coman people, which ruled over the vast lands of Skythia where men are hardier and Winters are unforgiving; and this they told him, that if he renewed his friendship with the Emperor, and whitdrew his army, than the Emperor would not take revenge for his actions, but rather repay Kongek with large subsidies to be paid annually; and another sum, they added, would be paid if the Skythian King handed over to them the Persian Prince Sankaros, whose malice and vices had brought the King in error; to this he complied, delivering Sankaros to the Emperor's representatives, and returning back to his domains in the Taman paeninsula."



    Arbantenos and Axouchos returned triumphant to Constantinople, bringing Sancar in chains before the Emperor's throne, in the Bukoleon Palace; he would end his days as an hostage in the Roman court.
    Arbantenos was rewarded by Manuel with the hand of his first-born daughter, Anna Porphyrogenneta Comnena, whom he had had from his first wife, Bertha of Sulszbach; shortly thereafter, his second born daughter, Maria, was bethrohed to Isaac Angelo-Doukas, son of the Caesar John Angelo-Doukas, Doux of Thessalonica.
    Then, after having solved the Chersonite question and wed both his daughters to promiment members of the aristocracy - thus securing their families' alledgiace - Manuel began preparations for a new campaign in Anatolia, which would ultimately be the last military enterprise of his long reign.

    About the thema of Cherson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherson_(theme)





    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)


    Megas Domestikos
    - Constantinos Makrodoukas Palaiologos (tenure 1156-1173 AD)
    - John Komneno-Doukas (tenure 1173 - 1182 AD)

    Megas Logothethes
    - John Angelo-Doukas (tenure 1156-1176 AD)
    - Constantinos Palaiologos (tenure 1177-1182 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Michael III of Anchialus (tenure 1169–1177 AD)



  11. #11

    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Five

    I am really enjoying this AAR! I really like the level of detail in this AAR, as it really allows one to immerse oneself in the world of the Eastern Roman Empire, which has always been my third most favorite topic, behind Francia and the Anglo-Saxons. I wonder how Manuel will fair on his new campaign! Looking forward to the next post!

  12. #12
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Five

    Quote Originally Posted by Rabbit55821 View Post
    I am really enjoying this AAR! I really like the level of detail in this AAR, as it really allows one to immerse oneself in the world of the Eastern Roman Empire, which has always been my third most favorite topic, behind Francia and the Anglo-Saxons. I wonder how Manuel will fair on his new campaign! Looking forward to the next post!
    Thank you for the praise, Rabbit I'm glad you, as others, appreciate the level of detail I'm trying to implement. I felt that, in my previous Roman AAR, I had not focused enough on court affairs, diplomatic gambles, and so on...So I'm now striving to characterize as much as possible those characters I might introduce, and give as much details I can to the overall story.

    Hopefully, next update will be there in a couple days - depending on how busy I am in this weekend

    Edit: I also added a map of the byzantine themes as they were in 1025 AD to the OP, to improve geographical understanding of events narrated in the AAR.

  13. #13
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Five

    It's great to have you back with us and back writing a new* AAR, Roman Heritage!

    I'm really enjoying it so far; I think your choice of format is very original and could have some very interesting effects on what stories you can tell and how you can tell them. I'm looking forward to finding out!

    *OK, not all that new. New to me...






  14. #14
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Five

    Arbantenos and Axouchos seem to be rising stars, I wonder if we will hear more of them. Like Rabbit, I am impressed with your level of detail and, like Caillagh, I look forward to seeing the effects of this inventive format on your story.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Six

    Thank you, Alwyn and Caillagh, for your kind replies - expecially since I was not sure this format was the best medium with which to deliver with which to deliver this story - glad I'm doing this decently So, here's your new update. Next one will be a little bit more laborious to write, so I'm not expecting to post it until Friday or so, I think...and it's being particularly painful to write, since I'm trying my best to convey what I have in mind in a both professional and captivating way. Let me hear your comments on this one, anyway good read!

    CHAPTER SIX
    - Of the recapture of Neocaesareia, and the illnesses Manouil suffered thither; and of his demise and the accession of his son Alexios (1178-1180 AD)


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    By 1178 AD, Manuel I Komnenos felt confident enough to launch a new campaign in the anatolic scenario, where he had been absent for what had been a decade.
    Though Komneno-Doukas had made slow, but significant progresses - with the seizure of the seljuk strongholds of Merzifon and Zile, respectively the western and southern key to the rich basin of the river Kelkit, where Amaseia lies - it was also true that a major campaign was needed in order to definitively secure the theme of the Armeniacs, and bring relief to Kilij Arslan II, whom, from his capital of Konya, had relentlessly fought for a decade against his brother Sancar and his Danishmendid and Saltuqid allies, in a continuous alternation of victories and debacles. By 1177 AD, it became clear that, without Imperial intervention, Kilij Arslan risked to lose his easternmost territories - and give the various turkmen beys in Shahan's service the opportunity to raid into the Armeniacs' theme; this Manuel could not allow, and, with great plans which included the restoration of Roman rule over Northern Kappadokia, he began assembling troops from the anatolic themes of the Optimates, Paphlagonia and the Thrakesion, which were those more accustomed to turkish warfare.


    While not much is known of Manuel's journey to Amaseia - with only meagre information furnished by Zonaras, who claims he and half the army travelled by ship to Sinop - it is now common understanding that, alongside Imperial tagmatas and the anatolic thematas, fought also a robust contingent of turkish auxiliaries, raised both through the good offices of Kilij Arslan II, and turkmen leader whom had settled in the Armeniacs. Furthermore, it was thanks to these turkish auxiliaries that Manuel paved the way to Neocaesareia, Shahan's westernmost stronghold in Kappadokia: turkish chieftains were in fact particularly able to gain their kinsmen's surrender and negotiate their enrolling in the Imperial army. When Manuel's host began the siege of Amaseia, it had swollen to something really close to 35/40.000 effectives, the biggest army he had ever assembled and personally led in campaign.





    It should be noted, in fact, that the seizure of Neocaesareia represented not only a strategical goal, but also a symbolic one. It, under Melik Gümüştekin Ahmet Gazi, better known as Danishmend Gazi, founder of the Danishmend dinasty, became capital - with the name of Niksar - of a flourishing domain. With Mesud's campaigns against the Danishmends, it passed under seljuk domain; in 1140 AD, John II, Manuel's father, led a failed siege onto the fortress. It was in this occasion that Manuel first displayed the bravery which his father appreciated in him and which earned him the throne; on a sidenote, it was also in this occasion that Tzelepes turned coat and converted to Islam.
    According to Kalekas, a great number of ladders, rams and a siege tower was assembled; this, together with the catapults Manuel had had the previdence to bring from the arsenals of Constantinople, would allow Roman forces to overcome the stronghold's garrison, which constituted of 7000 between turkmen, anatolic levies, and armenian mercenaries. The major effort in storming the walls was made by the Varangians, which, according to Kalekas




    "...first began shouting insults against the defenders, in their barbaric and disgraceful tongue, obsessively beating their axes on the shields they carried, by means of which they produced a noise alike to that of a fragorous thunder; this they did, until the labour of rams and catapults brought down a section of the walls, wide sixtyfive cubites at least. (...) They stormed through this breach, and, by way of their vicious axes and swords, they cut through the Saracens and forced them to retreat to the inner fortifications. (...) This fortifications the Emperor's men valiantly assaulted, bringing even more casualties to the heathens, to a point that their Emir, Masud by name, surrendered the garrison and the castle to Manuel, in Christ Eternal Victorious Emperor of Rome."




    After the surrender of Neocaesareia, and Kilij Arslan's attacks on the Southern Cappadocian plateau, the road to Sivas-Sebasteia, Shahan's capital, was now open; but Manuel never reached it. In late 1178 AD, Manuel contracted a severe pneumonia while wintering in Amaseia, which hindered him from any progress eastward; his decision to entrust the army to Komneno-Doukas in the await for his recovery did not pay, as his conditions worsened. By Spring 1179 AD, the turkish fraction of his forces deserted to Shahan, or returned to their bases in the Kelkit basin; it would now be impossible to march eastward without serious risks, as Shahan's army would now enjoy both strategical and numerical superiority. Furthermore, Manuel's conditions had worsened; and they certainly did not improve, despite the Emperor's return to the capital shortly therafter.
    By Summer, 1180 AD, the aged Emperor's conditions - Manuel being now in his sixty-second year, the thirtyseventh of his long reign - had became so severe that his closest advisors and senior members of his military staff began pleading for the Emperor to appoint a regency to look after his twelve-years old son and heir, Alexios Porphyrogennetos Komnenos. However, due to Manuel's belief in astrologers, they failed to do so, as, according to Niketas Choniates*, the Emperor




    "...did not accept that his end was drawing near, but insisted that he knew for certain that another fourteen years had been lavished onto him. He said this to the wise and thrice-blessed Patriarch Theodosios who suggested that he take paternal thought for the affairs of the State while his mind was still healthy, and seek out a man who would selflessly care for the boy-heir to the throne until he came of age, and loyally put the Empress before himself and care for her as if she were his own mother. But those pestilential astrologers had the audacity to say that the Emperor would shortly recover from this illness and, so they said, devote himself to love affairs, and they shamelessly predicted the razing of enemy cities to the ground."




    And so, on September 24, 1180 AD, Manuel I Komnenos, after thirtyseven years of reign, exhaled his last breath.
    Much could be said to provide a judgement of this ambitious and cunning Emperor. He inherited from his father John II an Empire well onto the road to recovery, and brought this recovery further by diplomatic and military means, expanding his area of influence to Outremer, the Balkans and Italy; he reconquered lands in Anatolia, endured the passage of the Second Crusade, defied the Venetian fleet, brought the Principality of Antioch under Roman vassalage, and restored the Empire's prestige. This, however, was not gained without major pains: his opulent reign favoured corruption at all administrative levels, taxes became an unbearable burden onto peasants and gentry, major resources were wasted in inconclusive campaigns such as those in Italy in the 1150's and his last campaign, that of Anatolia, in 1178 AD. However, Manuel's worst mistake was that of being just a man, and a supersticious one, too, something which prevented him from appointing a regency for his weak son Alexios II.
    Without a capable guide, the fragile structure he had raised would soon collapse. With Manuel's death, the Empire began an ignominious descent into chaos.


    *actual citation from Niketas Choniates



    The Roman Empire and its neighbours in 1180 AD, the year of Manuel's death. Blue stands for allied and vassal countries, such as the Principality of Serbia, the Frankish Kingdoms of Outremer, and Kilij Arslan II's Sultanate of Rum.







    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)

    Megas Domestikos
    - John Komneno-Doukas (tenure 1173 - 1182 AD)

    Megas Logothethes
    - Constantinos Palaiologos (tenure 1177-1182 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Chariton (tenure 1177–1178 AD)
    - Theodosius I Boradiotes (tenure 1178–1183 AD)





  16. #16
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Six

    As a sidenote, I'd like to encourage you all to vote in the MAARC vote thread for whatever AAR you liked the most. This was submitted, too!

    Also, just wanted to tell you next update is shaping up pretty nicely - though it's likely to be slightly longer than expected. Have a nice day!

  17. #17
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Six

    As promised, here's your update. Be warned, it's a really long update, compared to previous ones - but one I expecially liked writing. I'd be really glad to hear - well, read - your comments on this one, expecially on its lenght (next one might be quite as long as this) and the way events are handled. Is it difficult to follow? Btw, have a nice day and read!


    CHAPTER SEVEN
    - Of the reign of Alexios Porphyrogennetos and the regency of his mother, Mary of Antioch; and of the events which followed as a result of the latter's affairs (1180-1183 AD)


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    With Manuel's death, the throne passed onto his only son, Alexios II, nicknamed "Porphyrogennetos", with his mother, Empress Maria of Antioch, to act as a regent, together with Patriarch Theodosius Boradiotes and a council of twelve appointeès.
    This turn of events, however, was welcomed neither by the aristocracy nor the common folks. Manuel's pro-western behaviour had been tolerated as long as the Emperor had been able to capitalize on them, but had caused much dissent in byzantine society. This, coupled with the extorsive nature of his fiscal system, and the growing economic rivalry with the merchantile republics of Genoa, Pisa, Venice and Amalfi, had brought to the formation of an increasingly anti-Latin sentiment among the population, something that would seriously threaten the stablity of the incapable regime of Empress Maria and her inept son.


    Thanks to a 1179 AD speech by Eustathius of Thessalonica, in fact, it is now common understanding that Manuel largely spared his son the rigours of governmental responsibility, despite his official status as co-emperor, and those of campaigning, with the possible exception of the 1178 campaign in Anatolia, where the boy emperor may have witnessed the rebuilding of the key fortresses of Sinop and Zile. The new boy emperor (only eleven years old at his accession to the throne) took furthermore absolutely no interest in government, but indulged in his favourite pastimes of hunting and attending chariot races. In short order, the protosebastos and protovestiarios Alexios Komnenos, Manuel's nephew, prevailed over the other members of the council, and became Maria of Antioch's lover, much to the chagrin of kaisarissa Maria Porphyrogenita Komnena, Manuel's daughter from his first wife Bertha-Eirene, who was thus excluded from power.
    Once in power, the protosebastos sold offices to the upper tier of the aristocracy at high prices, alienating the middle and lower classes of Constantinople by his greed and parsimony; furthermore, he and Maria revoked privileges to the Church in 1181 AD, thus making many enemies amongst the senior ranks of the religious hierarchy. Opposition to the regime began to shape around the figure of kaisarissa Maria Porphyrogenneta and her husband, the Caesar Isaac Angelo-Doukas; an attempted coup failed and was then revealed in March 1181 AD, and some of the conspirators are listed for us by Eustathius and Choniates: amongst them, two of the sons of Andronikos Komnenos, Manuel's disgraced cousin, whom would later play a prominent role in the crysis.





    Maria and her supporters shut themselves in Hagia Sophia, to avoid being put under arrest; a fierce fight ensued in the church's outskirts, as the regency's troops forced much of Maria's outnumbered forces to surrender. Patriarch Theodosius in the meantime had sent a messenger to the regents asking for a truce on the kaisarissa's behalf; this was granted, and the megas doux Andronikos Kontostephanos and the megas hetaireiarches John Komneno-Ducas, whom had been stripped of his command in the East out of the protosebastos' suspicion, were sent to negotiate with Isaac Angelo-Doukas and Maria. The result was a truce, and the kaisarissa did not lose her rank; the protosebastos and the Empress, however, remained as unpopular as ever.




    "...it was said amongst common folks that the Latin Empress and the protosebastos Alexios had became lovers, and had indulged in such affairs and excesses of which it is not commendable to speak of; but so disgraceful were such excesses on the Empress' behalf, that the people began to murmur against her and the protosebastos, and, believing it was due to her disgraceful influence that the Emperor neglected his duties to the people and the Empire, began invoking for a savior whom would teach him the ways of an Emperor and bring an end to this chaos the Empress had brought about to the Queen of Cities."




    It was at this point of our history that Andronikos Komnenos arose again as a major player. Taking advantage of the regency's impopularity, Andronikos - invited by letters written from Maria Porphyrogenneta herself - passed from Paphlagonia, where he had been residing, into the Pontus, all the while writing letters in which he posed as the champion of the boy-emperor's rights.
    He moved slowly, to give a false impression of a large and cumbersome army; however, Nicaea in Bithynia refused to submit, and John Komneno-Doukas lost no time in securing command of an army with which to defend the city from his old enemy. In the meantime, Andronikos Angelo-Doukas, a relative of Maria Porphyrogenneta's husband, marched out from Nicomedia and fought with Andronikos Komnenos at the village of Charax, to be roundly defeated in spite of his superior numbers. Angelo-Doukas was so worried about being punished for this failure in battle, that in the end he defected to Komnenos' cause; so it was that, in early 1182 AD, Andronikos arrived at the Bosporus, camping at Chalcedon, on the opposite shore from Constantinople. Although his host was small, he spread his men out, and the impression given by the campfires was of a much greater force; Komneno-Doukas, in the meantime, began to harass his supply lines with his meagre forces, trying to build time for the regency to recover and crush his decade-old nemesis.


    Conscious of how little trust they could put in the army or the populace, Maria and her lover Alexios decided that a naval blockade was the answer to the crysis; the Imperial fleet was entrusted to Megas Doux Andronikos Kontostephanos, whom, however, changed sides and defected to Andronikos Komnenos. This provoked the fall of protosebastos Alexios, and allowed Andronikos to enter the city unopposed; protosebatos Alexios was first imprisoned, and then blinded, an ominous sign of what was to come. As genoese merchant Oberto Canella puts it into one of his letters, addressed to the Council of Genoa:




    "...as soon as news of the Empress lover's barbarious blinding reached the City of Byzantium, and this Andronikos had made a triumphant entry into the Golden Horn, accompanied by the Grand Duke of the Fleet, a great upheaval arose through the treacherous Greeks; common folks began to cry for the Empress' destitution from power, and the expulsion of our folk, whom they called Latins and which the Empress had favoured, from the City of the Straits; and soon words turned into acts, as the mob grew unruly, and savage, and brought about a great purge of the Venetians, and Genoese, and Pisans whom had resided peacefully in the city for years; and when news came to Andronikos, whose army was still encamped at Kalkedon, what did he do? He had the army ferried to the City, and let his troopers join these atrocities and pillage the houses, and businesses, and dockyards our forefathers had built and enlarged with the Emperors' agreement. It was a miserable day, let me tell you: no man, woman or children was spared by murder, or slavery, as the Greeks sold the survivors as slaves to the Saracens and Turks of Persia and Syria; and not even the priests were spared, as the Greeks went as far as seizing Cardinal John, the Legate of the Pope, and behead him barbarously.
    May the blood of our brothers forever fall on the Greeks' hands, for they, like Cainos against Abel, have turned on their brother, and murdered him."





    At length the patriarch Theodosius met with Andronikos, who, Choniates tells us, feigned obeisance to him and the boy-Emperor.
    One of Andronikos' first actions as new guardian of the emperor was to reward his Paphlagonian and other supporters with offices and money. Then the persecutions started again, with many being punished, even by blinding, without a charge being laid formally against them. Choniates accuses Andronikos of poisoning the kaisarissa Maria Porphyrogenita, despite her previous support of him; in light of later events, she was obviously perceived as obstacles to his true aim, accession to the throne. All of these deeds were performed by Stephanos Hagiochistophorites, Andronikos' favourite courtier and trusted lieutenant. According to Eustathius of Thessalonica, he was of humble origins - his father had been a tax collector - and was as such confronted by the riducule and hostility of the Imperial Court; when he attempted to seduce an aristocratic lady and take her to wife to advance his position, he was publicly flogged and had his nose cut off. He then fled and joined Andronikos in his travels, becoming his lieutenant and most trusted advisor.


    Through Hagiochristophorites, Andronikos then incited the populace against Maria of Antioch; she was arraigned on a charge of treason, for she had sought the help of her niece's husband, Manuel Arbantenos, to set a new coup; the failure of this deed brought to Maria's arrest, and the blinding of both Arbantenos and his wife, Anna Porphyrogenneta. A puppet court condemned the Empress to imprisonment in a dungeon near the monastery of St Diomedes; the sentence was commuted to death, the decree affirmed by the signature of the emperor Alexis himself; Hagiochristophorites was tasked to perform the sentence of death by strangulation, another testament to the bloody nature of the new régime.


    Meanwhile, loyalist forces in Anatolia began to rally around the figure of John Komneno-Doukas, Andronikos' bittermost enemy, who seized Nicaea and the whole of Bithinia, with intentions to march onto the city and free the boy-emperor of his bloody guardian. Andronikos' supporters, the demagogues who incited the populace, said that this opposition could only be silenced by granting him the imperial office; Andronicus at first feigned reluctance to receive the crown, but, needless to say, was soon proclaimed co-emperor, to the accompaniment of much rejoicing by the people at large. The following day, Andronikos was proclaimed first in rank among the co-emperors. He was subsequently crowned, and barely had this happened that




    "...Hagiochristophorites, whom was Andronikos' lieutenant, stormed into the Imperial apartments along with Konstantinos Trypsichos and Theodoros Dadibrenos, and there they found a lady-in-waiting of the former Empress shielding His Imperial Majesty Alexios the Porphyrogennetos, with her own flesh and bones. They stabbed her in the belly, and teared her body apart as the boy Emperor cried and shouted. Then Stephanos Hagiochristophorites, whom was from there on dubbed by common folks Antichristophorites, Bearer of the Antichrist, grabbed the Porphyrogennets and trottled him with a bow string made of the finest silk."




    Alexius' body was then decapitated, and while the head was being displayed to Andronikos, the remainder was thrown into the sea. Andronikos I Komnenos' bloody reign had officially begun.






    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)

    Megas Domestikos
    - John Komneno-Doukas (tenure 1173 - 1182 AD)

    Megas Logothethes
    - Constantinos Palaiologos (tenure 1177-1182 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis

    - Theodosius I Boradiotes (tenure 1178–1183 AD)


  18. #18
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Eight

    And here comes our eight chapter. Hope you enjoyed the previous one, and hope you're going to enjoy this, too. Have a nice day!


    CHAPTER EIGHT
    - Of the reign of Andronikos Komnenos, and the evil which befell onto him and the Empire (1184-1185 AD)



    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The prolonged political turmoil which preceded and followed Andronikos' gruesome accession to the throne did not go unnoticed by the Empire's neighbours.
    While Andronikos made his way to the throne, in fact, the sultan of Konya, Kilij Arslan II, seized the opportunity to free himself of vassalage to the Empire, and capture Sozopolis in Phrygia, with the surrounding towns; he then proceeded to sack and destroy Cotyaeum, ravaging the Meander Valley; there he was stopped by John Komneno-Doukas, who put aside his plans of marching against the capital to prevent the complete overrunning of byzantine presence in the Thrakesion theme at the seljuks' advantage. While he did so, however, Andronikos' general Alexios Lapardas marched upon Nicaea, Jonh's headquarters, which was however competently defended by Komneno-Doukas' brother-in-law and lieutenant, Alexios Palaiologos.


    Andronikos' generals then laid siege to Prusa, which defended itself as valiantly as Nicaea; however, its walls were breached and the garrison's commander, Theodoros Palaiologos, was blinded at the orders of the emperor, and set on an ass to be carried to Nicaea as an ominous sign to John Komneno-Doukas' partisans. Theodoros' co-defenders Leo Synesius and Manuel Lachanas were hung on vine-stakes along with forty others and various other men were cruelly mutilated. There was a general slaughter and the Prusaeans' animals were seized as booty by Andronikos' forces. Similarly at Lopadium no mercy was shown, with many impaled and left to rot in the sun. These brutalities enforced Andronikos' rule over much of Asia Minor, further isolating Komneno-Doukas; in Europe, however, Andronikos' generals would not be as successful.


    Seeing the byzantine succession crysis as an unrepeatable occasion to free themselves of Roman yoke, Serbian Princes Stephen and Stracimir Zavidovic Nemanja refused to pay homage to Andronikos and openly affirmed their independence, in this supported by the Hungarian King, Geza II, whose relationship with Andronikos had been a complex one. It should not be forgotten, in fact, that Andronikos had married his niece Elizabeth two decades earlier, and had for a time sought shelter at the Hungarian court, where he had acted as a medium of communication between Manuel and Geza. With his accession to the throne, however, Andronikos had repudiated his Western bride Elizabeth, in favour of Anna Arbantena, sister of that Manuel Arbantenos whom had been Maria of Antioch's last defender, in order to gain allies and stabilize his hold onto the capital, in the meanwhile giving display of his anti-Western behaviour.


    In response, Geza II marched onto the Balkan frontier towns of Branitshevo and Belgrade, and, while his generals recovered Sirmium and Dalmatia, advanced up the Morava to Nish, proceeding even as far as Sardika-Sofia, removing the relics of the local saint, even though he abandoned the latter. The Byzantine army, setting out in the summer of 1184 under Alexios Branas, Andronikos Lapardas and the blinded Manuel Arbantenos, was ineffective against him. As a consequence, Andronikos met with the hungarian King in Sofia, allowing him to retain these conquests in order to secure peace on his northern borders and dedicate himself to even more pressing matters.




    "...and as news of the fate of the Latins whom resided in the Queen of Cities, and had there been butchered following Andronikos' plots and maneuvres, a great commotion arose between the Kings of the West (...) ...and so it was that the King of the Alamanoi, Fredericus, who unrightfully prized himself with the title of Emperor of the Romans, began musing with an idea of invading the land of the Rhomaioi, over which Andronikos, so he said, ruled unlawfully and in ways worthy of a tyrant of ancient tales, and restore the Empire under one banner, that of his own and the House he belonged to. And a great army he assembled, and many Frankish and Latin princes supported his claim, for these peoples recognized no honour nor friendship among the Rhomaioi; and they were not completely guilty of this, for it was only fit to believe so, as Andronikos and his courtiers had brought much dishonour onto the Roman name."




    In Constantinople, such news provoked great upheaval. Andronikos took swift measures to collect money in order to repel German invasion, imposing new taxes on the clergy and the dynatoi, the rich landowners and aristocrats whom formed the ruling elite of the Basileia. Furthermore, he curbed the excesses of imperial tax collectors in the provinces and stopped the sale of public offices, awarding them on merit. The aristocracy greatly opposed these measures; and though the German threat receded with Frederick I Barbarossa's death in mid 1184 AD, and the accession of the much less ambitious Conrad IV onto the German throne, Andronikos did not forgive the aristocracy for its opposition to its reforms. The bloodiest part of Andronikos' reign, in fact, was yet to begin, as Andronikos' grew increasingly paranoid and restless.


    Happeded these years, in fact, that the grandson of Manuel I's elder brother Isaac, another Isaac, had been captured by the Turks, but was ransomed upon the pleas of his affines Constantine Makrodoukas and Andronikos Angelo-Doukas. However, this younger Isaac proved, if we can believe Nicetas Choniates, to be even a crueller tyrant and greater lecher than the emperor himself, as he seized Cyprus as his own kingdom; Andronikos then held Makrodoukas and Angelo-Doukas responsible, inciting the mob, through his sinister henchman Stephanos Hagiochristophorites, to stone them. At the same time, a certain holy man named Alexius Sicundenus was promoting a pretender who claimed to be the emperor Alexios II. Upon hearing of this, Andronicus is said to have commented wryly that Alexios Porphyrogennetos must have been an impressively fine swimmer, if he could surface in Crete, where Sicundenus lived.




    New plots were discovered in Constantinople, further straining Andronikos' mental health and resources; he felt so insecure on his throne that even past henchmen and women could be the victims of his wrath, such as Trypsichos, one of Alexios II's murderers, which was blinded, too. Andronikos' lieutenant Hagiochristophorites then began a purge of local aristocracy, in an attempt to secure his master's hold onto the capital and the Empire; perspectives, in fact, did not look bright. Even the man who had allowed Andronikos to enter the city, Megas Doux Andronikos Kontostephanos, was found to be involved in a conspiracy against the tyrant: he and his four sons, including his heir Simeon, were blinded when it came to be known that they had plotted Andronikos' overthrowing together with Komneno-Doukas. Andronikos' nemesis, in fact, had not been idle.




    "...and while the Emperor let this Hagiochristophorites free to blind, and torture, and kill those men of great renown and virtue whom resided in the Queen of Cities, and whom had opposed the Emperor's reforms (...) Ioannis, of the Komneno-Doukai, who had seized Nikaia and defended it against both the Persians of Iconium and the Emperor's armies, sent his lieutenant Alexios Palaiologos, who had married his sister Maria, to Iconium. (...) There, he secured Clitziasthlan's support in his goal of overthrowing Andronikos, whose rule much bloodshed had brought to the Empire; and he returned with an host of Persian mercenaries, five times a thousand in numbers, with which Komneno-Doukas and Palaiologos marched onto the Queen of Cities, to free her of the tyrant Andronikos had became."




    When news came of Komneno-Doukas' approach to the capital, Andronikos fell in a miserable state, believing all these calamities which had affected his reign had been God's punishment for the barbarious murders of Maria of Antioch and her son Alexios II. With the Emperor unable to confront his enemies, the field army was entrusted to Lampardas and Arbantenos; but they soon switched sides to Komneno-Doukas, bolstering his forces. Hagiochristophorites' hold onto the capital tightened, as Andronikos' paranoia reached incredible peaks: popular rumour said that a celebrated image of Saint Paul was shedding tears, and even a court soothsayer, Skleros Seth, had foretold that the name of Andronikos' successor would start with an "I". Andronikos and his followers took this to mean the young aristocrat Isaac Angelos, and on 11 September, 1185 AD, Hagiochristophorites and his attendants went to Isaac Angelos' house near the Peribleptos Monastery. Isaac at first panicked but then resolved to go down fighting, and, wielding a sword and riding his horse, charged his assailants; faced with this unexpected attack, Hagiochristophorites turned in flight, but Isaac struck him on the head and left him dead. Soon, the populace arose again in tumult, as it had done two years before in Andronikos' favour: as John Komneno-Doukas forces approached the city's gates, Andronikos' tragic parable reached its end.




    "The common folks of the Queen of Cities, beggars, artisans, traders and butchers, captured Andronikos as he was about to flee to the Great Palace (...) The mob then tied him to a post, where he was for three days beaten and injured. Having him immobilized in such fashion, they cut off his right hand, pulled out his teeth and hair; his left eye was gouged out and they poured boiling water onto his face, for he had been handsome, and licentious and malicious. (...) Then, he was hung by his feet between two pillars of the Hippodrome, and two Franks came forward; seeing this with his only remaining eye, he is said to have muttered "Oh Lord, have mercy on me!"; but barely had he asked for mercy that they tore him apart with their swords, putting an end to his miserable agony - never before had an Emperor been so loved by his people one day, and hated to their guts the following."





    The Roman Empire in 1185 AD. Losses have incurred both in the Balkans, with Serbia's rebellion and the Danubian frontier lost to Geza II of Hungary, and Anatolia, where part of the Thrakesion theme is lost to the now independent Kilij Arslan II of Rum.


    For infos about characters named in this, and the preceding chapter:


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIMA_prophecy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexios_II_Komnenos
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andronikos_I_Komnenos
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_of_Antioch
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_the_Latins
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephe...hristophorites






    TITLES AND KNOWN HOLDERS

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Megas Doux
    - Andronikos Kontostephanos (tenure 1161-1185 AD)

    Megas Domestikos
    - Alexios Angelo-Doukas (1182-1185 AD)

    Megas Logothethes
    - Stephanos Hagiochristophorites (tenure 1184-1185 AD)

    Ecoumenical Patriarch of Konstantinopoulis
    - Basil II Kamateros (tenure 1183–1186 AD)





  19. #19
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Eight

    I've been a bit swamped recently so haven't had a chance to keep up with the updates but don't be discouraged by the lack of replies - I'm looking forward to catching up!

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  20. #20
    Decanus
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    Default Re: [Bellum Crucis] HISTORIA RHOMAIKE - Chapter Eight

    Quote Originally Posted by Shankbot de Bodemloze View Post
    I've been a bit swamped recently so haven't had a chance to keep up with the updates but don't be discouraged by the lack of replies - I'm looking forward to catching up!

    +rep
    Thank you, Shankbot! Hope you're doing well.
    Actually, I'm not discouraged -but I'd like to hear people's impression on such chapters, since I have a suspicion they might be a little bit too lenghty. I think I should try to find a happy medium, but what I'm really interested in knowing is: was it too much of a trouble to follow the story, or was it not? I'm trying to improve my skills.

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