The Empire Strikes Back 68 – Minor Wars

In the wake of the Mailnese war, there was little war to be had, so Ioannes focused on administrating the Empire while his various truces expired. He also focused on administrating Kiev, often overlooked by the Emperors. With its great expansion, the feudal organization was insufficient to govern it well. So Ioannes reformed the government, centralizing the power and renaming it the Kingdom of Ukraine.
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He also convinced the Duchy of Atbar to surrender the last of their independence, and then transferred their lands (Dar Ja’al) to Ethiopia’s control.
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And of course when Muscowy requested help in their conquest of Ryazan, Ioannes was glad to send the Legions to help.

Around this time, the artistic renaissance clearly demonstrated its effects on other area of life as a group of natural philosophers began to make great discoveries about the natural world. Ioannes provided them support, organizing them as the Imperial Society of Constantinople for Improving Natural Knowledge (generally known as the Imperial Society). His most significant requirement was that their results must be published in a regular journal.
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Later that year, Scotland incorporated Ethiopia into their realm when their mutual King died. It had been bad enough that a nation in the Empire’s sway was ruled by a Scot, but this was intolerable. War was given for the sake of the Ethiopian people.

In 1646, Scotland agreed to the loss of nearly all their colonies and protectorates not in North America. They had lost a North American colony to the Aztecs, but on the whole their colonies there were safe for now.
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Just before the end of 1646, the truce with Hungary expired. I Legio, IX Legio, and XIX Legio moved to the attack. And when Lorraine announced their defense of Hungary, XVI Legio and XXIII Legio moved on them.
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Lorraine had often been a thorn in the side of the Empire, and Ioannes suspected many nobles would desire their lands soon. So the greater part of their Kingdom was given independence.
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Hungary was forced to give up the last of the Austrian lands the Empire desired, as well as finally give up their claims to several other promises.
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Roman Austria had been recovered. And the nobles soon hungered for the Roman Netherlands. Hainut was the first to fall, friendless and alone.
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The rest of the independent nations there would soon follow. But Ioannes had received notice that Smolensk now supported the Reformed faith. This, like the former religious disputes, would be solved with violence.
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Before I Legio and IV Legio could get in position, Muscowy declared war on Yaroslavl and asked the Empire for help. Ioannes agreed.
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Though this did not preclude a war with Smolensk at the same time. Sadly, Ioannes died of natural causes[1] before he could see his wars through. Demetrios was at war as soon as he ascended to the throne.
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[1]A surprising number of things count as natural causes when one is the Emperor.

The Empire Strikes Back 67 – The War of Three Emperors

Demetrios I was the son of and successor to Konstantinos the Zealous. He was excellent at war, skilled at diplomacy, and good at administration. His son Ioannes, who promised to be even more skilled, was appointed heir.
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Demetrios garnered good will among the nobles when he reestablished parliament. He insisted on appointing the members, but the nobles took this as a sign that they would again have some form of power. They did not see it for the trap it was. However, Demetrios had inherited three wars along with the Empire. His plans to neuter the nobles would have to wait. And wait they did. For he died on March 7th of 1639, Emperor for less than two years.

Ioannes took his place. He was skilled at military matters, a genius at administration and diplomacy, but young and inexperienced. He announced his younger brother Demetrios as heir, and focused on the wars.
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The war in the north had slowly wound in favor of Muscowy. With the Legions’ help, they were able to capture the main cities of the different nations opposing them and force them to surrender, typically with harsh terms. By the time Ioannes came to rule, the war was half over or more.
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The war against Mali worked more slowly. There were rumors of an army yet unkilled by the Legions, so they did not dare to spread out to besiege the land, and so little territory was just captured. But the Empire was sure to win eventually.
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In February of 1640, a routine correspondence with England mentioned that Maranea had been captured by Mali. It was clear that the missing Malinese army was in that region, so XII Legio moved to hunt them down.
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By the end of the year, all in the north but Hlynov had surrendered, and even that country was fully occupied. Ioannes made peace with them and left them to Muscowy’s mercies.
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While the Mali war still raged, Ioannes implemented reforms of the Imperial mint. The silver stavraton coin was to be replaced by the gold líras. A sample of the minted líras would be stored every year. If the currency was questioned, it could be compared to a standard measure stored by the Emperor. And if the líras at question disagreed with the measure the master of the mint would be punished most severely: castrated, half-hung, and quartered. Thus, the currency could be trusted to not be debased.
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And finally in early 1642, Mali was fully defeated. They were forced to give up their coast, their overseas trade now handled by Imperial merchants. Sufficient garrisons were created to keep trade flowing. As well, their central land was returned to a descendant of the Songhai ruling class.
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The war, while lasting only five years, was later called the war of three Emperors. While this could have and should have been a satirical reference to the quick succession at this point in time, it became propaganda of the danger and strength of Muslims.

The Empire Strikes Back 66 – The Zealous

In the aftermath of the civil war, the Empire was feeling the pain of the war. Konstantinos had instructed his agents throughout the land to try to bring peace and order, and had authorized them to spend money to make it happen. Some gifts, some feasts, and a whole lot of quelling the hotheads would be needed to restore stability. As well, the legions needed some time to recover, and to be placed where they might be helpful. But during the war, Holstein had declared support for the Reformed heresy. So in January of 1631, Konstantinos declared yet another war.
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Holstein fell quickly and reaffirmed the true faith. Poland, once again showing the temerity to get involved in a war with the Empire, was once again cut to size.
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Konstantinos had additionally had his agents reporting on what might help pacify the nobles who were not under arrest in Constantinople. The agents told of greed for the rich mines of Austria.
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So when the legions were in position, Konstantinos declared wars on all the nations holding Austrian land. The many nations that jumped to their defense made the war stretch (and caused the loss of III. Legio), but soon enough all of Austria but Graz belonged to the Empire again.

The truce with Hungary would not end until 1641, so Konstantinos looked in a direction not ever undertaken by previous Emperors: south. Mali had learned much from the long-ago Imperial expedition[1] across the Sahara. But they had not learned to follow the true faith. Instead, they followed the teaching of Mohammed and were directly ruled by the Imams who lead the Zikri variant of their faith. And Muslims had been a bane to the Empire ever since they had exploded out of Arabia. A strong Muslim nation bordering the Empire (much less one that had formerly gone toe-to-toe with other Christian nations and won) was unbearable. Konstantinos would put this to rights. The Dutch, who had clashed with Mali several times in Africa, were only too happy at the idea of Mali being weakened and allowed II Legio and XVI Legio to use their African holdings as a staging area. And so in March of 1637, the Empire struck at Mali.
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At the same time, Mucowy began to reclaim more of their territory from the Golden Horde. Konstantinos sent I Legio and IV Legio to help.
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Various groups of old nobles near Calais thought that with the Empire engaged on two fronts, they could threaten to revolt to force lowered taxes. An earlier Konstantinos might have negotiated a settlement. But after the civil war (and with men who had lost everything in that war flooding to join the Legions), he was more interested in stamping out the idea of revolt entirely. He called their bluff, then sent in XXIII Legio.
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But sadly, in the midst of these wars, Emperor Konstantinos was found dead in his rooms. He was remembered as ‘Konstantinos the Zealous’ for his efforts to bring all into the fold of the true faith.

[1] A vassal back in the CK2 era went on an independent conquest spree down into western Africa. But by now it’s remembered as an official expedition. The nature of the expedition is the stuff of legend and story. It was a bitter blow years later when no Prester John was to be found on the other side of the Sahara.

The Empire Strikes Back 65 – The Particularist Revolt

The Imperial colonies had grown greatly in just a few years. This was largely due to the locals. Where the peoples of the Empire expected to “bring civilization to the natives”, the natives proved to be more canny and clever than the incoming settlers. They took advantage of the Imperial technology, adopted Greek as a trade language, and reorganized their localities on their terms. The connection to trans-Atlantic trade was a major boon for them. As was the political organization from the Empire. Those settlers who had dreams of rulership were mostly disappointed. A few rose to prominence, but there was little aristocracy in the colonies. Or at least, the aristocracy was not so formally defined.

The English colonies were different. The Anglo-Saxons had spent centuries caught between the anvil of Scotland and the hammer of the Empire. When they had the opportunity to leave and form new homes, they remembered their ancestors of a millennia before and took to the sea. The natives in the lands that they occupied swiftly became a lower class. And the English were ravenous for new land.

The political boundaries between the Roman colonies and the English colonies was ill-defined, and the English took advantage of this to keep spreading. Konstantinos sympathized with their desire for a homeland, and so he gave them an offer. Accept the locals as equals, and the entire Brazilian region would go to England.

The English were well pleased with this offer. They might not be able to simply expel the Brazilians from a given area of land, but there was so much land that there would not be a need. They agreed.
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For the aristocracy of the Empire, this was too much to bear. They had suffered under the Emperors’ slow centralization of power, they had been taxed, they had seen merchants be given more and more rights, their requests to the Emperor had been ignored for decades, and now territory was just given away? This was intolerable! It would not stand!

The revolt was sudden and severe. The revolutionaries raised the Empire’s flag over their one million troops[1] as a sign of opposition, the Emperor’s flag being much more well known for centuries. The most significant cities were immediately under their control, the only exceptions being ones hosting various legions.
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Konstantinos’ reply was just as strong. He declared himself the absolute ruler of the whole Empire. Justice would be by his agents, taxation by his agents, all administrative work by his agents. Nobles would not be allowed to field their own armies. Nobles would no longer be much more than significant landholders. Of course, this would be a legal fiction of sorts, just as the nobles’ former rights of justice, taxation, and administration in their lands had been a fiction. Imperial agents had long been assigned to the different provinces and directed the power of Constantinople into local affairs. Once the revolt was ended, local powers would soon be at work directing the local powers to their own ends. But the legal framework had now been set.

Gallia was defended by II Legio, XIX Legio, XXI Legio, and XXI Legio as a result of the religious wars in the Germanies. The rebels there did not last long.
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Lombardia was defended by VII Legio, XIV Legio, XVI Legio, XVIII Legio, and XX Legio, also placed due to the wars of religion.
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Britannia was defended by IV Legio and XVII Legio, long resting after the wars with Scotland and England.
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Iberia, Egypt, Syria, and the Imperial heartland were undefended as the revolt began.

The Lombardian campaign slowly pushed their opponents south, towards the morass of revolutionaries along the peninsula.

The Gallian campaign defeated the rebel armies, but found that an army of Norman patriots had traveled to try to carve out an independent nation.
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In Syria, I Legio and IX Legio made their move.
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In Egypt III Legio, X Legio, and XV Legio did the same.
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The Britannian campaign subsided to a siege of Oxford by XVII Legio, while IV Legio shipped off for Iberia.

The opening move of the Syrian campaign was a resounding defeat.

Meanwhile, three legions made a bold stroke into central Italy while two sought to bring Liguria and Mantua back under control.

As the Egyptian and Syrian campaigns diminished to sieges, III Legio and IX Legio were transported to Anatolia to attempt to bring matters under control there.
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In turn, IV Legio, XXI Legio, and XXII Legio began their work in Iberia.
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When the rebels on the Italian peninsula inexplicably began to move south, the Legion took advantage of the opportunity to push the boundaries of the war.
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The war continued everywhere, but slowly tightening for the rebels. In Iberia, XXI Legio got too eager for battle, racing ahead of their IV Legio and XXII Legio. Their eagerness saw them all captured at Lisboa. The complete capture of the celebrating rebels in Lisboa two days later was scarce comfort, as too few soldiers could be found to reform the lost legion.
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The rebels in Dacia were more clever than most. When four legions moved to attack them, the rebels quickly moved to attack one first, before the others could change their course. Thanks to Pavlos Diasorenos’ clever tactics, III Legio was able to withstand a force twice their number. The legions all moved to intercept the rebels in Transylvania.
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By 1629, only the Sicilian and Greek regions had rebel troops remaining. The legions continued to press forward.
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VIII Legio was lost as the Sicilian campaign moved to the island of Sicily. And then III Legio was lost in the Greek campaign.

But the legions continued to press the rebel armies, and finally in June of 1630 no rebel armies remained. Only the city of Palermo resisted the Konstantinos’ will, and VII Legio had brought them to desperation by siege. They held out until September.
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The revolt had lasted four and a half years. A short time from a historical perspective. But a long time to live through. And for the estimated one million Imperial soldiers lost in battle or the uncounted numbers of the rebel forces, it was far too short a time to live and to die.[2] But now the peoples of the Empire could begin to rebuild what had been lost.

[1] I count 1103 units total, as opposed to the Empire’s 489.
[2] I have 463K manpower out of a max of 848K. On average I gained 6K per month during the war, so it adds up to a really bug number of losses. Also, while not literally true, for all practical situations, the Empire has bottomless reserves.

The Empire Strikes Back 64 – The Fall of the Papacy

Konstantinos began the 17th century by continuing the wars of religion. On the 20th of February, 1600, he declared war on Styria. Their allies joined them, of course, though converting them to Orthodoxy before the war would have been a better defense.
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In the midst of this war, a colony was founded in Banten, on the island of Java. Konstantinos commissioned the Imperial East India company to transport and sell the spices that would surely be flowing from this colony.
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Styria agreed to a peace after IV. Legio stormed and captured Kärnten. Their other allies took a little longer to agree to a white peace.

Despite the near-constant wars, so many artists, philosophers, and poets were in Thrace that it was becoming hard to find new patrons. Konstantinos gave the more adventurous ones the funds to start a new university in Algarve. In the coming years, many more groups would request funds to start new universities. Konstantinos funded the ones that picked more practical locations.
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While XIX. Legio marched east to help Khiva in a war against Tibet, Konstantinos declared war on the largest Protestant nation in existence: Norway.
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Displaying a lack of sensibility to the Emperor’s desires, the members of Vouli took the time during the war to request that Konstantinos provide an opposition to the English colonies in North America with a new Imperial colony. He remained focused on the war. Despite being outnumbered, XI. Legio attacked the Norwegian army.
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Meanwhile, XIX. Legio explored the Tibetan lands, hoping they did not run into any Manchu armies (Manchu having joined the war in the east in Tibet’s defense).
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When the Delaware colony failed, accusations flew. Many claimed that Konstantinos let it fail on purpose. As evidence, they pointed out his lack of effort to colonize North America at all. Before matters got too out of hand, Konstantinos was able to produce the ministers whose ineptitude had allowed the colony to fail. That he had bribed them to confess remained a secret for now.
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Vouli decided a North American colony was not worth the effort, and instead asked Konstantinos to recover an Imperial province in Hungary. Again, Konstantinos ignored the request.
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Meanwhile, by the end of 1602, Norway had agreed to become Orthodox again.
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The following war against an inconsequential Baltic power drew in Adal. It took time for three legions to march to eastern Africa, but in March of 1605 XII, XIV, and XX Legio forced Adal to give territory to Ethiopia.
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At the beginning of 1606, the Empire again went to war, this time against Meckelemburg, a Catholic nation. Most of the northern German nations rose to its defense and Lesser Poland eagerly joined the war.
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Before 1607, all but Lesser Poland had been forced to the negotiating table. For Lesser Poland’s efforts, they were stripped of their outer territories in September of 1608. As recompense, Konstantinos would later declare them the Kingdom of Poland, no longer the Lesser.
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While the nations freed were initially exuberant, they grew worried when the Empire broke all treaties with them. They may have been relieved when there was no immediate attack. Unbeknownst to them, this was because Konstantinos had received word of the powerful effect of artillery in war, and was taking the time to ensure the legions were equipped with plenty.

Meanwhile, the Empire had developed closer ties with the Cherokee. They were suffering from a terrible plague. When they requested aid, Konstantinos sent healers, led by the most compassionate priests he could find. It was little wonder when the Cherokee leaders turned to the true faith, again demonstrating that a pagan was merely waiting to hear of Christ (a belief dating to the Il-Khanate’s and Golden Horde’s wholesale conversions centuries before).
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After just a year of peace had passed, the Empire began wars against the newly freed nations, also forcing them to Orthodox practice. They would have fallen easily, but for their allies. Those allies were punished: broken up, humiliated, or even absorbed. The absorbed ones were given in pieces to friendly states, unlikely to arise again.

As this war finished, the Inca sent word, asking for healers and missionaries to be sent to them. There had apparently been good word from the Cherokee.
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It was 1615 before the Imperial diplomats had specified all the border changes from the last war. Once that was done, Konstantinos declared a war on the last nation supporting the Reformed church. Many allies defended them, as always, and many allies fell, as always.
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Shortly thereafter, Reformed zealots — believing they had nothing to lose — attacked Michael Doukas while he was hunting. They killed him, mutilating his body, and leaving it prominently displayed. The shock of their actions reverberated throughout the Empire. Konstantinos was even more convinced he must remove all heresy.
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Just before 1620, the last political support for Protestantism was removed, though Protestant communities remained in Köblenz and Slesvig.

Early the next year he began one of the last wars against the Papists.

The Inca had been most impressed by the Imperial customs mentioned by the priests that had traveled to help. An exchange of diplomats a nobles began between them and the Empire.

The next Papist war brought a resurgent Golden Horde to the fight against the Empire. The Golden Horde was broken apart again and forced to concede again that they were no longer a significant power in the world.
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The penultimate war against the Papists was a minor thing.
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During the war, the Cherokee recovered enough from their religious confusion to take a hint from the Inca and request closer Imperial ties.

Finally, in December of 1625, Emperor Konstantinos began the final war against the Papacy. No-one came to the Pope’s defense, and he himself was trapped be rebels who controlled his small territory. XXI. Legio found an army from the Netherlands at the gate and helped them gain entry. The Pope was forced to surrender his lands to the Dutch, and would after that point wander between the few Catholic enclaves not yet stamped out by their rulers.
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Konstantinos commissioned a monument to mark this final victory. And then he made a decision whose ramifications were unprecedented since the time of Diocletian.

The Empire Strikes Back 63 – 1600 Update

From 1550 to 1600, the Empire had not expanded too far in Europe. Portugal and more of Britannia had been returned to the Empire, but that was all.
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The continuing wars of religion had brought nearly all nations back into the Orthodox fold. The forms of Orthodoxy became quite diverse, of course, but the church was in communion with itself. Sadly, Norway’s rulers had strangely turned to Protestantism. Fortunately, the only significant population of Protestants were in the capital.
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Northern Ireland had been captured by Mali, after an ill-fated war started by Scotland. The fabled Imperial expedition had apparently not formed a great Christian kingdom in Timbuktu. Or perhaps it had, and the Zikri nations around it had destroyed it and taken its secrets for their own. How else would a region that had so long been isolated be so strong as to stand against a Christian kingdom?

Meanwhile, there had been great expansion in the Americas.
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The wave of colonization owed much to the memory of when the Greek city-states had colonized the Mediterranean. The colonists would find a suitable location and build a small city. They would manufacture or import modern goods, and trade those to the locals for food. As the cities grew, goods would be traded for land, used to create farms and plantations. Later colonists or sometimes natives would work those farms. Sometimes the natives would race to establish their own farms and plantations, seeing the riches they could gain by emulating the Imperial settlers. Soon they would be attending Mass, speaking Greek (at least while trading and working, if not at home), and living in cities of their own.

Or at least that’s what the colonists envisioned. Where they expected savages scrabbling in the dirt, they instead found rich cultures. There were, of course, a large variety of such cultures. Some centered around fishing, others farming. A few even roamed constantly, surviving on hunting, gathering, and short-term farming. If they lacked anything, it was a political organization. And perhaps a few technologies. Not that those technologies were needed for their lifestyles. Perhaps that was why the locals had yet to invent them.

In general, the colonists were able to establish villages. And they did trade with the locals. But the locals had a far greater influence than the colonists would have expected. For instance, Greek style clothing did not fit well in tropical climates. Most colonists adopted local clothing styles. Those that did tended to suffer for their stubbornness. And while the truism that pagans were just waiting to be introduced to Christianity* was demonstrated (at least among the locals that had the most contact with the colonists), their beliefs also influenced the practices of the local churches. Several more branches of Orthodox Christianity were forming.

Over time, the cultures of the colonists and the locals syncretized into something new. Some of the locals moved into the growing cities, becoming skilled craftsmen and traders. Some colonists moved out of the cities, adopting local lifestyles. But the trend over time was for the cities to grow, and for cash crops to be grown more and more.

However, a few locations did not experience this peaceful syncreticism. On Triada in particular violence would break out frequently. It was never clear how it started, as frequently the city of Elladikos was completely destroyed. But always more colonists would come to rebuild and to trade. Other locations had more limited outbreaks of violence, the locals and the colonists eventually finding a new way of life and culture together.

In North America, contact had been made with some organized groups, the Cherokee confederation and the Aztecs. There were some basic diplomatic agreements in place, but still they were too far from Constantinople for much to be known of them. The Incas in South America had been contacted, but even less was known of them. Scotland had begun colonizing North America, and England had worked to acquire a few new territories as well.
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In eastern Africa, Adal had expanded along the coasts, even beginning to take control of the south-western coastal regions.
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In Hindustan, three great Kingdoms had coalesced.
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However, most of the region was no longer Hindu, long Muslim rule having taken its toll.
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The Spice Islands consisted of a variety of Kingdoms, some great, some small.
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Muscowy worked to civilize the nomads of the steppes.
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Meanwhile, Central Europe remained a mess. Though ‘Lesser’ Poland was quickly becoming a Power.
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The Empire maintained many friendly relationships.
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And became ever more homogeneous (mostly via the expansion of it’s borders in the Americas).
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This was the known world in 1600.
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* A belief owing to the Il-Khanate and Golden Horde both converting to Christianity so rapidly after their first direct contact with the Empire.

The Empire Strikes Back 62 – Solomon’s Gold

Iberia was fully returned to Imperial control. The members of Vouli then suggested that Konstantinos might impose a little more order on the upper Nile regions.
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Konstantinos agreed to the value in that, but insisted that he would remember his grandfather’s goals and must fight a few more minor wars in Europe.

The first of these was against Volhynia. Konstantinos was unusually harsh with them. “I am also King of Kiev,” he explained. “I must also look to their interests.” Soon enough, the Volhynian lands were transferred to Kiev control.
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Konstantinos then made war on Tirol.

As frequently happened, the war became larger than had been hoped. But many of these opponents wanted cutting down to size.
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A foolish overextension led to V. Legio being trapped and massacred in Schwaben. Konstantinos did not react well to this news.
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Most of the other belligerents received a peace appropriate to their status, but Konstantios forced the most humiliating defeat he could on Bavaria for the slaughter of V. Legio.
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The Pope’s lands were cut down to size purely on principal.
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In the following peace, Konstantinos focused on promoting the burgeoning artistic renaissance sweeping the Empire. He attracted the most skilled court artist he could.
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And also promulgated the ideal of being a patron for artists. The Empire found itself becoming culturally renowned, not simply powerful.
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Knowing how to fight better than how to negotiate, Konstantinos sought to bring order to the upper Nile by forcing Atbar to become an Imperial vassal. XX Legio stormed the city of Al Damar and forced their acquiescence within a month of war being declared.
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Vouli was well pleased. They asked Konstantinos to send explorers east. As they explained, they had found evidence of the place Solomon’s riches had been taken, and an Imperial expedition might uncover not just riches, but knowledge lost for millennia.
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Iason Argyros was commissioned to lead a group from the Eastern Fleet stationed at the northern end of the Red Sea. His first expedition found the isles. And found them to not be what the rumors had promised. Still, the proof that there was yet much land to be colonized galvanized many people to seek their legacy abroad.
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Meanwhile, Vouli complained of an insufficient supply of skilled artists. They requested an art academy to be established in Galicia. Konstantinos complied.
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Eventually, bored with peace, Konstantios declared war on Lubusz. The goal, as always, to bring them to the faith. IV. Legio crushed them in no time flat, and prepared to move on to ‘Greater Poland’.

Swabia and Denmark chose to defend Greater Poland, but this did not worry Konstantinos.
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Denmark was forced to the true confession, saving an additional war. Greater Poland was a vassal of Swabia, so the best peace was one that released them from that protection.
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As 1599 drew to a close, Khiva asked the Empire for their help in a war. Konstantinos agreed, as it seemed clear that drawing the Empire into the war was purely to intimidate Chagatai. There was no need to send the Legions.
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The Empire Strikes Back 61 – The Reign in Spain

Ioannes VII became Emperor as 1565 drew to a close. He was not a skilled leader. In fact, fighting was all that he was good at. He had some awareness of his lack of ability, but his pride made him insist he was just as good as his father. So he wasted little time in starting wars with non-orthdox nations.
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And of course, he led the legions himself.
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While the strength of the Legions was enough to win the wars, Ioannes did not show the restraint his father did in victory. Instead of just converting the rulers of a heretic nation, he would also seize as much territory as he could from within the old Imperial borders.
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While many of these wars were minor…
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…others dragged in many allies, even what had just been Imperial allies.
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During the midst of this war, dissidents began circulating broadsheets denouncing Ioannes. He did not respond well to this, and the bodies of the guilty parties (or those thought to be the guilty parties) were displayed as a warning.
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Later, Theodoros, who was ruling as Ioannes regent, died of a disease.
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Ioannes was too distracted to appoint a new heir. Or even a new regent.
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Finally, Boules declared an infant cousin to be the heir.
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This proved to be wise, as Ioannes died on campaign in 1574. Most of his nine year reign had been spent at war. The regency period for Konstantinos was expected to be a peaceful period.
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Local nobles were able to take advantage of the Boules-dominated regency to increase their own power.
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And not much happened for many years. Infrastructure was built, technology advanced, colonies were founded, traders opened new markets. And then in 1585, Khiva asked for help in a war against Sibir. Muscowy had occupied nearly all of Sibir, so Boules agreed to help in a war they knew the legions would not have to fight.
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When Muscowy asked for help in a war, they were more worried, but could not refuse.
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In the midst of the war, Konstantinos XVIII came into his own.
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He wasted no time in siring a son.
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He waited until the Golden Horde had been quite devastated before making a peace with them.
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But he was rather more kind to Smolensk.
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After the war, he looked to the low countries, which Friesland had united. He sent them his blessing to proclaim themselves the kingdom of the Netherlands. They likely would have done so on their own, but the Emperors loved to insist it was their right to create kingdoms.

Konstantinos then looked to Iberia, where the goal of reclaiming Portugal had long been neglected. Castelo Branco stood no chance against the Empire, but their friends’ assistance was an annoyance to Konstantinos.
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When Castelo Branco fell, the dream of regaining Iberia was complete.
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The Empire Strikes Back 60 – The Holy

Before launching the war for Portugal, Konstantios took advantage of his steadily improving government to convince people to found new colonies.
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Despite having a great many powerful allies, León faced the Empire alone. Before the end of the year, they had been completely defeated. They were forced to give up their eastern provinces in exchange for peace.
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During the war, Konstantios’ third son Markos got into a fight with his father. Konstantios wished Marcos to help govern one of the colonies, but Markos wished to work as an artist. Konstantios threatened to disown him, and Markos left Constantinople during the night. Konstantios mourned the loss, and was distressed that the fight had been so disruptive to relationships in the Empire.
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Months later, Konstantios had word of Markos in Île-de-France. He traveled there himself to reconcile himself to his son. When he arrived at the art academy, he found Markos had created a magnificent statue, the likes of which had not been created for over a thousand years. Father and son were reconciled, and Konstantios’ praise inspired others to excel where they might.
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Konstantios had not changed too much, though. He declared war on the Golden Horde, ostensibly to help his allies, but really to continue punishing them for claiming to be an Empire. While their armies were no match for the Legions, their large wooded territory took a long time to occupy. But they were defeated, and forced to release most of their lands, and give up nearly all of their claims to far away lands they once owned.
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With this defeat, the Golden Horde’s cultural hegemony over much of Europe and Asia was broken. Where once many had striven to emphasize the parts of their culture most similar to the Golden Horde, now they strove to emphasize the parts that were different. Even in the lands they still held, the people distinguished themselves from their leaders.
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After this war, Konstantios sought to make founding colonies even more promising: the first thousand people to found a new city would be granted titles of nobility to go with the lands they claimed in the area.
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Before Konstantios could resume efforts in Portugal, Norway again asked for assistance. This time in a war of aggression against Denmark. Konstantios was pleased to see Denmark taken down yet further, so he agreed to help.
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The Legions did the bulk of the fighting, but there was nothing to negotiate for that the Empire wanted. One by one Denmark’s allies were removed from the war. Finally, Norway forced them to surrender. Most impressive was how Norway forced Denmark to release Holstein, as Norway had conquered Holstein in the war. The small nation moved south as a result of the war, to Norway’s benefit and Denmark’s loss.
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While that war was being fought, Konstantios began another war against Castelo Branco. Castelo Branco had pounced upon the weakened León and completely conquered them. This opportunism might have served them well, if they had not been in lands the Empire sought to recover.
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They fell within a year, and while they were yet too strong to completely absorb, they were left destitute.
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Now, the Empire was governed by administrators assigned by the Emperor. But during the middle ages, local nobles had gained much power, until the Empire could be compared to the feudal kingdoms of the rest of Europe. These nobles would often petition the Emperor when they had a specific desire, and it was a reality that the ones nearer to Constantinople had the ability to petition the Emperor more. Konstantios felt overwhelmed and distracted by these requests, so he streamlined the process. He would assign a regional Kyvernítis (governor) to handle local needs. For petitions that could not be addressed by the Kyvernítis, the nobles could pick a representative who would meet at a regular Oloméleia tis Boules (Session of Parliament) in Constantinople. Konstatios promised to call a Oloméleia at least once every three years, and if he did not, he would sacrifice the tax income owed to Constantinople. 1562 was truly a monumental year for the Empire.
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Three years later, Konstantios XI died in bed. He would be known as ‘The Holy’ for his efforts in protecting the faith. On 17 December 1565, Ioannes VII took the throne.
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Theodoros, his much more skilled younger brother, was declared Heir the same day.
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The Empire Strikes Back 59 – 1550 Update

Between 1500 and 1550, the borders of the Empire did not change greatly.

More of England had been conquered.
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The Persian plan was being applied to north central Asia.
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And there were some colonies in the Americas.
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Despite the stable borders of the Empire, its influence was greatly felt in Scandinavia, where Norway had regained most of its traditional borders and Norrland had made strides towards uniting Sweden.
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The Empire’s influence was also felt in the Germanies, which had become a very dynamic and chaotic region in the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia.
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Orthodox Christianity dominated the Old World, though a few newly-formed nations insisted on heresy.
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The Empire itself was becoming much more homogeneous, but still had a strong variety of cultures represented in the west.
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The Empire maintained friendly relationships with many nations.
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This was the known world in 1550.
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This was the portion controlled by the Empire.
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