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.
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?
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.
* A belief owing to the Il-Khanate and Golden Horde both converting to Christianity so rapidly after their first direct contact with the Empire.
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.
Konstantinos then made war on Tirol.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Between 1500 and 1550, the borders of the Empire did not change greatly.
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.
Konstantios continued the quest to regain Essex by declaring war on Scotland. This would be a tougher war than the one with England, as Scotland was larger and had powerful allies. Bavaria, Gondar, and Adal joined the war in defense of Scotland.
IV, V, VI, XVII, and XXI Legio fought against Bavaria (who was also at war with Saxony).
The region of Essex had been recovered.
When Norway asked for help against Denmark, Konstantios could not resist. After all, Denmark had done a poor job of turning people to the true faith. The mere threat of the Empire’s involvement was enough to convince Denmark to sign a peace with Norway.
The experiences of long sieges in the war for Essex, and the evidence that they would not have a long rest from fighting convinced the Legions to begin recruiting artillery centuries.
The Empire’s assistance to Norway against Denmark, such as it was, convinced them to ask for the Empire’s help the moment they declared war against Trøndelag. The Legions again held back, as it seemed the war would go easily for Norway.
When Muscowy joined in the war on the opposite side, Konstantios was distressed. But he was soon able to convince Muscowy to sever their other diplomatic arrangements. They would soon be fast friends again.
The 15 Year war was over, and peace reigned. But some of the harsh terms of the peace had left Konstantios XI with a terrible reputation.
He ignored the countries that still acknowledged the Pope (one had even given lands to the wandering heretic), at least for now. Instead, he recognized the long-standing claim in Iberia of a westwards route to India. No doubt the claim was born from desire; being on the far end of the Silk Road, Iberians would be desperate for an easier way to get the valuable goods. It was unlikely to be true, the world was too large for trade to cross the Atlantic. But English explorers had discovered a new land during the 15 Year War, which suggested that with a proper trade station, a route might be viable. Konstantios commissioned an explorer and sent him off.
Bartholomaios Nestongos did not immediately discover such a route, but he discovered islands that many nobles thought good for growing new trade crops such as sugarcane.
Konstantios took advantage of this idea to dispatch colonial expeditions throughout the newly discovered tropical lands. While Nestongos sought for a route to the north, nobles back in the Empire wondered if lands to the South might prove more temperate.
But on May 24, 1533, Nestongos made contact with the Cherokee nation.
While later proving that there was no easy western route to India, he also made contact with the Aztec nation.
Eventually, Nestongos would send maps to Constantinople. The cartographer Αμεριγκο Βεσπουσι, having realized that this was a landmass at least as large as the Empire, labeled it with his own first name.
Meanwhile in Europe, Konstantios recognized the success of the Persian Plan by proclaiming the Metropolitan of Hashashin to be the ruler of Persia resurrected.
He followed this by turning over control of much of Siberia to the long-time allies in Muscowy. When they used their new found strength to attack the Golden Horde, Konstantios could not resist their call to war. Devlat Berdi I Aralid would pay for daring to claim he was also an Emperor.
During the midst of the war, Konstantios took command of the Legions himself, and then proclaimed that he was the commander-in-chief of all the military forces of the Empire.
During the war, Nestongos continued to explore the coasts of the New World. The discovery of more rich lands to the south encouraged second and third sons of forward-looking noble families to begin colonies. Sure, they were poor for now, but the lands seemed ideal for sugar and other rich crops. Within three generations, the cadet branches they formed would be as rich and powerful as any family in the Empire.
Families that preferred to recover past glories insisted that Konstantios recover the region of Essex.
Before long, the Legions had driven the Golden Horde to the peace table. They forced Devlat to give up his vassals and to release outlying territories as new nations. Konstantios’ reputation took no harm from this peace, and he hoped that Muscowy could force an even harsher peace against the weakened horde.
The war complete, Konstantios promulgated a new law code, the last since the Code of Justinian, 1005 years before. Along with it, he established a formal system of courts to uphold the law.
The war against England for Essex was hardly worth mentioning. But Konstantios advantage of that: able bodied men throughout the Empire without means would now be required to train to join the Legions. He intended it as a poverty reduction method, the idea being to install discipline and skill to vagrants, so that they could find useful work. The success of this venture would be debated hundreds of years hence, with no real consensus being reached.
The end of the war with England saw the last of their lands within the Empire taken from them. They moved their capital across the Atlantic, to the rump state left them in South America.
The war complete, Konstantios had the church open a series of schools across the Empire, that the people would better know their faith. Historians would point to this reform as being the one that most decreased poverty through the ages, though Konstantios seemed to have no notion of that possibility.
The conference began in the largest hall available. The various leaders and great landholders of the Empire’s foes were gathered. Burly men with sashes of Justinian purple stood inside the halls, the Emperor’s personal guard, the Varangians. The Scholai Palantinae kept watch outside, an imposing force. When enough time had passed to make the gathered men uncomfortable, Emperor Konstantios entered and stood on a dais at the front of the hall.
“We are here to determine the new shape of the world,” pronounced Konstantios, beginning the conference. There was a murmur at this, and a voice carried just a little further, “We do not wish a new shape.”
“You are not here to determine anything!” bellowed Konstantios, “We are here to determine the new shape of the world,” he repeated, gesturing at himself. “You are here to learn your place in it.”
“We are the Imperial Diet,” the voice rose again, foolishly. A Varangian moved forward from the side of the hall, but stopped at a look from the Emperor. It had the air of theatre about it, but the point was made to all.
“At this moment, you are nothing,” declared Konstantios. “Your so-called Holy Roman Empire is not Holy, else the legions had not needed these exercises. It is not Roman, as the true Empire has held Rome since the early 12th Century. Furthermore, your claim to succession to the Western Empire, the Donation of Constantine, was proved a forgery in 1233. And as of now, you are not an Empire.”
While the members of the conference had expected something terrible, this was worse than they could have feared. Many grew pale. Some were sick. A few fainted. One or two rose, and glancing at the Varangians, sat back down. There was weeping from more than one.
One poor soul, in the depths of a turmoil not known for a millennium, asked between tears “By what authority do you do this?”
Konstantios stood proud. “I am the one true Emperor, established by God to tear down and build up nations. I have torn down. Now let me build anew.”
“What once were powerful member-states will now by autonomous nations. The former lords shall be kings. To protect the integrity of these nations, gavelkind succession will be replaced with primogeniture. Second and third sons can join the church, the military, or the administration. Particularly skilled ones may even find a place in the Imperial Bureaucracy. However, in the case of lands split between several states, there will be one generation of gavelkind, to create cadet family branches and eliminate territorial confusion. This is the new shape of the world. Find what opportunity you may. Imperial diplomats will find you to discuss the particulars of peace between your various nations and the Empire.”
After the peace of Westphalia, Imperial diplomats worked hard to make peace in Europe.
The process of peace-making took years. During these years, Theodoros, the heir to the throne, died. Konstantios nominated his grand-niece sister as heir, though she later died of an illness. Shortly after that, Konstantios’ wife bore him a son: Ioannes.
VII Legio spent most of 1516 doing the same on various islands in the Mediterranean.
II, V, and IX Legio brought eastern Denmark under Imperial control, and began moving to attack the minor northeastern Germans.
XI Legio fought off new incursions from the Low Countries, while I and XVI Legio brought the fight to those powers.
At the end of 1516, the Eastern war was all but finished. The front was now between the Low Countries, Central Germany, and Scandinavia.
When XVI Legio saw Amsterdam surrender to them, they attacked and defeated the Zeeland army in Utrecht. With it gone, the other legions felt safe to assault fortresses, and the front in the Low countries rapidly advanced.
In June, a Danish army regained Dresden, and their march towards Oberlausitz forced II Legio to retreat (V and IX Legio had nearly won their sieges in Leipzig and Meissen, and a nearby Brandenburg army meant they could not safely leave small forces to hold the sieges. They could not assist II Legio).
As II Legio moved from danger, Meissen and Leipzig surrendered. As the Legions maneuvered to attack the Danish army, the Brandenburgers attacked II Legio in Breslau. V and IX Legio carried the attack against the Danes.
Eastern Europe was under Imperial control. Finland would soon be likewise. IV Legio was moving to attack Danish holdings in Sweden.
The war had brought much discussion of tactics and strategy. Two opposing camps emerged, one that favored attack and direct assault on enemy armies, and one that favored sieges and drawing the enemy into traps. Konstantios sided with the defensive camp. “An army marches on its stomach,” he was reported to say, “Take away their cities and fields, and they grow weak. They’ll attack out of desperation, and then they can be shown the errors of their ways.”
By the end of 1518, the eastern front was in the area of the Elbe. The northern front was in the Southern tip of Sweden, and if the western front had not advanced much, it was for fighting off the incessant raiders from the Low Countries.
Their victory meant that the only opposing forces of concern were a Bavarian army in Jylland and a Hannoverian army in Hamburg.
The latter snuck through Danish territory to attempt to besiege the Low Countries. XV Legio soon put an end to that.
In April, III and XIV Legio attacked the last Bavarian force in Jylland. Having nowhere to retreat, the Bavarian army was soon destroyed.
September 1520 saw Namen’s leaders ask to join the Empire. Konstantios agreed to this, as it fell within what should be the Empire’s borders.
In December of 1520, Östergötland’s leaders requested to join the Empire. Konstantios agreed with the caveat that they would be soon be put under the protection of an Imperial ally. The leaders suspected Konstantios’ intentions, and agreed wholeheartedly.
By the end of 1520, only three provinces were not under Imperial control and not besieged by a legion. And only one Elector of the Holy Roman Empire remained free.
1521 was straightforward as can be in the last stages of a war. By the end, only three provinces were not under Imperial control (two Danish, and one rebel Hungarians hoping to start a new kingdom in Ersekujvar). All HRE electors were under Imperial arrest. Konstantios called for a peace conference.
The Empire was at war with nearly all of the Catholic and Protestant world.
Scotland used the opportunity to declare war on the Empire in the attempt to regain some of their lost lands.
Victories many the Legions won in the wars of religion. Battle after battle went in their favor. Bavaria was left confused. A few lands quickly fell under Imperial control.
But there were losses too. A surprise attack in the Roman Netherlands forced XIII Legio to reverse to Caux to reconsider their campaign. During the maneuvers, the forward detachment that held the standard of the Legion was completely destroyed. The legion was left in complete confusion, and Gallia was left open to the enemies of the Empire.
A daring naval mission was sent to rescue a cohort pinned in Zeeland. When they had rejoined the other survivors, and new forces had been raised to replace the lost ones, they were reorganized as the XVIII Legio (XIII being forever retired as a legionary number). Sadly, later in the year, XVIII Legio was also destroyed.
As 1512 continued, the enemies of the Empire pushed west into Roman Helvetia, besieging the mountain fortresses. But XV Legio, which finished besieging Swabia, returned to push them back.
By the end of 1512, the regions of Lombardia/Austria and Roman Netherlands were being heavily contested, but the advantage of the wars seemed to lean towards the Empire.
Early 1513 saw the Empire advance heavily into eastern Bavaria, the region that had once been Hungary. The Helvetian region was swept of attackers. But Gallia was under attack with no relief. I Legio was busy fending off attacks in Occitania, and XVI Legio was pinned in Valinciennes, recruiting new men for the infantry.
Meanwhile, the Empire’s foes sent ships to bring armies behind the front lines and attack Mediterranean provinces. The western fleet was sent to drive back these ships, and brought them to battle in the Aegean sea.
In August, Konstantios gave instructions to his diplomats. Peace could be made with lands outside the Holy Roman Empire, but only if they were willing accept Orthodox authority. Peace was made with the Scottish alliance before the end of the year.
The end of 1513 saw most of eastern Bavaria occupied, though small forces were seeking to regain many of the provinces. Two legions were advancing into Smolensk, and had barely beat back a counter-attack. Imperial allies were advancing into Lesser Poland. Gallia was freed from the attacking armies, and the the legions were preparing to push into the low countries.
During the spring, the western fleet drove all enemy ships from the Mediterranean and then blockaded the Straits of Gibraltar. When a legion could be spared to sweep away the few enemies, the heart of Empire would be secure again.
Summer saw the low countries start to stabilize. But new forces assaulted Helvetia, and by the fall, Denmark had recovered Savoie.
The end of 1514 saw the eastern front greatly expanded, and Bavaria’s heartland about to fall. III Legio had made a daring raid against Karelia, but had been driven back. Yet the conquest of Smolensk continued, and Karelia would be close behind. And a French nationalist revolt in Paris was being put down by I Legio.
Also in May, the last Bavarian province fell to the Empire.
In July, VI and XV Legio defeated another Danish army in Helvetia. It was pursued to Wallis, then Savoie, where it was destroyed.
And in October, VI Legio defeated the last Danish army in Helvetia.
At the end of the 1515, enemy troops were still flooding into Helvetia, but VI Legio continually fought them off. Lesser Poland and Smolensk were almost completely occupied, and XII and XVII Legio were destroying the Smolensk army.