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.
Konstantios was the grandson of Empress Zoe II. He inherited the Empire when he was almost six, just a month away, okay, fine he was five years old. He was a very smart and skilled emperor, everyone said so. And he had a regency council who made sure all his subjects loved him!
It was great being Emperor. He got to play anywhere he wanted in the Great Palace. And he had tutors who taught him all kinds of interesting things. And his armsmasters were teaching him how to fight now that he was the Emperor. It was the best time, even if he missed Lialia Zoe sometimes.
Dionysos Tornikes, Matthaios Manmakos, and Thomas Rhodocanakis governed the Empire for Konstantios. They did their best to control dissent. In fact, Thomas’ last act of governance before his death was to uphold the fishing rights of Imperial citizens in lake Balaton.
Iason Phrangopoulos was brought onto the regency council. He spent his time telling tales of the Emperor’s abilities and love for his people. Under his touch, the Empire became comfortable with the idea of a boy-Emperor who had yet to be publicly seen.
Konstantios was confused. The people in Holland agreed that the Pope was bad. That was good! But they were still bad Christians somehow? He wasn’t at all clear on what the differences in faiths were.
The expanding Imperial Bureaucracy needed more and more workers. 70 years previously, the nobles of the Empire had taken advantage of the Emperor’s sickness to pass a law requiring a noble title to study at the more prestigious of the Imperial universities. This limited the number of bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, many noble families had not handled the changes of the past century well. Many had been turned to beggars. Other families had died out entirely. A great many titles were left unheld by anyone. The regency council solved two problems at once by selling these titles to those who could afford them.
However, the new nobles found that the lack of family connections among the nobility made things difficult. Their wealth could still work wonders, as the older nobles needed them. But it made for a great deal of strife.
The Empire was at war with nearly the whole Catholic and Protestant world.
However, the Empire’s many allies joined in, and most of the opponents were small. The only large foes were Bavaria and Lesser Poland. Minor nations were easily convinced to stop fighting, and then Lesser Poland decided it wasn’t worth fighting.
The wars had been certain, but now they became, if not trivial, at least easy.
Being the Emperor of the Germans, Bavaria was able to bring a great many men to the field of battle. But Zoe’s generals were able to consistently force battle on their terms, and the Bavarians invariably lost. Still, Zoe held out for a strong peace treaty. However, IX. Legio was beaten back from Trent by a large Bavarian army. When most of that army pursued the Legion, Zoe realized she faced the same decision that Konstantios IV had faced. Sacrifice her men for a stronger victory, or accept a weaker victory to save her men? She chose as her predecessor did, and accepted a weaker peace.
And then on July 18, 1502, Zoe II died at the comfortable age of 62. While not considered the most ideal successor to the Reformer (Konstantios IV), she had strengthened both the Empire and the position of Empress. Ο βασιλιάς είναι νεκρός…
The Empire declared war on Toledo as soon as their truce ended. A few other nations came to their defense. Notably, León did. But it was no enough to save Toledo, which was annexed. The same nobles that gained appointments in newly Imperial Toledo insisted that the region of León be brought under Imperial control.
Many of the families that had not been pushing for new Imperial appointments for their sons began to recognize that by not becoming agents of the Empress, their power had been curtailed, and that this trend was likely to continue. They privately wondered if the more major appointments that many of them held might eventually cease to be hereditary. They began asserting their local powers again, resisting the work of the lesser agents (who answered directly to the Imperial government). But some money flowing through the hands of Zoe’s more covert agents uncovered enough embarrassing secrets that these families were brought in line.
Not surprisingly, Zoe promptly declared war on Badajoz. What was surprising was that León came to their defense. It was not much of a defense, and León was forced to both give up their claims to rule much of Iberia and to release Beja and Castillo Branco as sovereign states.
The nobles of the Empire looked north again, to Northumberland.
But Zoe delayed any action. Her reputation was bad from the Iberian wars, and not getting any better thanks to the Greek nobles’ work to supplant locals in Britannia. However, Bavaria soon made a legal case that since the Empire had not sought to force their claim to rule several provinces, that the Empire had in fact abandoned that claim. It was nonsense, of course, but the kind of nonsense that would make ruling those provinces later troublesome. And in the immediate, Zoe suffered a tremendous loss of prestige. She needed something to restore the people’s faith in her, and only a victorious war could suffice in the near-term.
And then the nobles complained about commoners being giving military commissions. Zoe needed the legions strong, so she refused to forbid the occasional practice of meritorious promotions, and the nobles again worked to resist her rule. Other nobles took to fighting amongst themselves. Fortunately, a gift from the state was able to buy peace between them. The discovery that Imperial agents were taking inordinate bribes didn’t help the stability of the Empire, either.
When Zoe restricted the privileges of the nobles yet further, Bartholomaios Melisurgos, an insane noble who claimed to be the rightful Emperor rebelled in Suakin. His insanity was demonstrated by the fact that he rebelled in a province where XVII. Legio was garrisoned.
With the acquisition of Northumbria, Zoe listened to request from her nobles again. After all, nobles who felt they had a say in the government were not so inclined to revolt. A faction of Iberian nobles claimed a navigator in their employ had proved there was a western route to India. As this would benefit the western Empire if discovered, Zoe agreed to send an explorer at the first opportunity.
The wars for Helvetia had been won, and the Timurid lands were quickly being pacified. Konstantios finally felt he could lay down his crown. He died in his sleep, 103 years old. The succession passed to his nine year old niece, Zoe. While the court scrambled to put together a regency council, a distant cousin in Rouergue proclaimed himself the rightful Emperor. He even raised 4,000 troops for his rebellion, which was swiftly put down.
A female Empress, while not unprecedented, was seen as uncommon. The legitimacy of Zoe’s rule was questioned by many. Manuel Rhagabe was brought on to the council of regents to address this issue. He began marrying less members of the Doukas family to other royal families to ensure their would be another heir. He spread rumors and tales of Zoe’s life. Not all of them were true. Perhaps not even many of them were true. But the result was a steadily growing acceptance of the new Empress.
Meanwhile, Philemon Melissinos took advantage of his greatly increased authority. He had seen that waves of noble horsemen could not forever win on the battlefields of Europe, and so he began the greatest reforms of the military since Gaius Marius.
Thirdly, he began a massive recruitment of infantry to add to the all-cavalry armies.
Once this was complete, he retired from the regency council, dieing shortly thereafter.
In late 1455, Zoe began ruling the Empire herself. She was skillful enough as a ruler, but was not exceptional in her abilities. She continued sending loyal nobles to begin administrating Timurid lands.
And when her cousin Michael was born, she took such a liking to him that she named him heir, even though he was from a distant branch of the family. Her habit of taking him to meetings of various dignitaries would have been normal, advisable even (how else would a future ruler learn? she would always insist), if not for the fact that he was still an infant. Her more trusted advisers were able to convince her to wait until he was older, but not before there had been some diplomatic incidents.
In July of 1467, all of the Timurid lands had been placed under Imperial control. But they were underdeveloped, suffered from near-constant rebellion, and bordered Muslim nations to the East. While the Empire’s view on Islam now seems xenophobic and strange, at the time it was a very real issue. The most successful invasions of the Empire had been by Muslim empires. To blame it on the religion is now properly recognized as foolish, but in the 15th century, religion was one of the main sources of decision making in the Empire. The Persian question was thus very real. So Zoe elevated a priest in the Has Monastery* to rulership over the province of Azerbaijan. While Metropolitan Ibn’La-Ahad was not allowed an independent foreign policy, he was given full control to rule in Azerbaijan. And as rapidly as she could, Zoe began giving him more provinces in the Persian region.
Meanwhile, noble families were frustrated in their efforts to find more Imperial appointments for their sons. Some used trickery and guile to replace every non-Greek official that they could in Britannia.
Others clamored for Zoe to reclaim the Castillian region for the Empire.
And the Toledo decision to attack Leon, while a distraction that sped the war against them, proved to be their saving grace against immediate annexation.
The increasing stability of Persia allowed trade to flow along the old silk road. Imperial citizens developed cravings for spices. The merchants of the Empire pushed for a sea route to India to be discovered.
But her (matrilinear) marriage with King Totse of Kiev eventually produced an heir of her own body, little baby Konstantinos.
* Actually the Hashshashin, but the localization glitched, and I only noticed it later.
By January 1433, Konstantios was ready for a campaign in the Alps. He began by declaring war on Upper Burgundy for Schwyz. The usual assortment joined in defense.
The Empire fought in Wales, in the Netherlands, in Smolensk, and in the Alps. Denmark’s alpine provinces were captured, and Konstantios took advantage of the opportunity to take control of the ones in Helvetia.
As other belligerents fell, the Swiss in Zurich revolted from Austria, forming an independent duchy. Konstantios was pleased to have an easier war ahead.
In March of 1436, the fortress of Schwyz fell after a long and bitter three year siege. Upper Burgundy had long been clamoring for peace, and now it was given them.
With nothing more to fight for in this war, Konstantios made peace with Smolensk, in such a way that the Pope would be further weakened.
By October, he was again prepared for war.
The constant wars had not allowed Konstantios to focus on ruling the Empire. The aristocrats took advantage of the opportunity to ensure that family influence was important for securing a position in the growing Imperial Bureaucracy.
The war was initially fought in northern Italy and in Croatia. But the Themas swept away all attackers. Bavaria inexplicably offered a white peace before they saw much action. Denmark soon followed suit. And while Hungary did not offer a peace, they accepted one.
In August, Konstantios finally held a coming of age party for his son. The party was the talk of Christendom, all other courts emulating the clothing, the dances, the foods in the feast.
During the party, Konstantios declared that he would give Moravia a gentle peace. Surely they did not consider it gentle, but they remained independent. Of course, it was not Konstantios being magnanimous, but him recognizing that his reputation was becoming quite dark. Annexing Moravia was sure to stir up too much trouble.
Schwyz was not so fortunate. It was a vassal of Bavaria, and Konstantios knew it would be a great deal of trouble to start a new war with a better casus belli.
In February 1438, Bern fell to Thema Lombardia, and Nürnburg was annexed.
Konstantios forced a few minor states to convert to orthodox Christianity before he accepted a peace from Greater Poland. The war was finished.
In 1440, there had been enough graduates from Imperial universities that Konstantios could start establishing secular courthouses throughout the Empire. Control of legal matters could be slowly wrested away from the church and local nobles.
While Konstantios prepared for the next war, Prince Konstantios went hunting. Though he was an expert horseman, he was found beside his horse, his neck broken. Again, the heir to the Empire had died before his time.
Konstantios suffered a deep grief at the loss of a third son. When he recovered, he was a much more cynical man, brimming with anger. He took this anger out on Tirol.
When St Gallen fell, Tirol was quick to surrender. But knowing there was a long truce with Moravia, Konstantios purposefully drug out the war, so to force many lesser states to stop worshiping the Pope.
While Konstantios took out his rage on those who would dare defend Tirol, his brother was able to convince the court to name a niece as heir. This was not ideal, but did ensure a Doukas would remain on the throne.
When the truce with Moravia was passed, Konstantios again attacked. Moravia was soon overcome, though the nations that came to its defense fought for much longer.
The brighter of the noble families saw the opportunity in becoming Imperial administrators. They pushed for the institution of Imperial administration in Timurid lands.
Meanwhile Konstantios felt that he had accomplished enough for one life. When he went to sleep, he never woke back up.
The Empire had won its war against Scotland. Lincoln was the only province in Mercia under any others’ control.
There was a peace treaty with England until 1423, so Konstantios focused on the East. The Timurids had attacked again, but were far weaker this time. Nearly all their northern territory was occupied; Sanaa and Qara Koyunlu had declared independence.
And large swathes of land were controlled by rebels seeking independence.
The Themas did their best to leave the rebels be. ‘The enemy of our enemy is our friend’ they would say. So they began to occupy northern Mesopotamia and western Persia. The villages of Qarabagh were soon settled with Imperial citizens, and the Empire began to administrate the province. More settlers sought homes in the hills of Azerbaijan. And once that was settled, in western Persia. Hamadan, Luristan, and Khuzestan soon were Imperial provinces.
A disease sweeping through the court killed the seven year old Konstantios. Again the Empire was bereft of an heir. In Shoa, a temple was built in his honor.
And soon, yet another Konstantios was born.
Qara Koyunlu could not resist attacking the Empire. They were swiftly overrun.
During this time, relationships grew warm between Ethiopia and the Empire. Chief Iyâsû even swore an oath of vassalage to Emperor Konstantios. Konstantios in turn sent advisers to Massawa to teach Iyâsû how better to govern. When Ethiopia had recovered from the changes, a second set of advisers was sent. And then a third. Ethiopia became the most rapidly-advancing nation south of the Sahara.
The time of truce between the Empire and England had long passed. Nearly all Timurid land was under Imperial military control, and the Themas had been moved back into position. Konstanios declared a new war against England. Scotland, Denmark, and a host of others joined the defense of England.
Shortly thereafter, Léon took advantage of the distracted Empire and declared war over Andalucía. Konstantios decided to pursue the war against England and its coalition first. But Léon had built a fleet of large ships, and prevented the Imperial fleets from leaving the Mediterranean. The fleets dropped off the Themas in Occitania, and the Themas marched to war.
By July of 1427, Denmark had realized there was nothing for them to gain from the war. Hungary, having just lost an ally, agreed to peace as well.
While the wars went surprisingly well, an ill-advised attack on Léonese forces led to an Imperial defeat. Thema Ægyptus and Thema Occitania were split from each other. The Léonese army pursued Thema Occitania, and before any help could come, massacred them all at Alicante.
And yet the wars continued. Konstantios used the continuing wars as an excuse to increase the power of his agents throughout the Empire. This led to some amount of confusion and uncertainty, and the agents proved their worth by quickly resolving this uncertainty.
It was not until February 1429 that Crimea surrendered. But that was two more Themas that could join the other wars.
Unfortunately, even the new Imperial fleet could not break past the Léonese ships by force.
Subterfuge, careful sailing at night, and a few naval races did see two more Themas delivered to Britannia.
The war in Iberia had long been won before a peace was signed. Konstantios was determined to punish all those who had attacked the Empire. Léon was forced to release Badajoz and Toledo as buffer states and their treasury was looted.
When the Empire made peace with England, not only was the last Mercian province finally taken from them, they were diplomatically isolated as much as possible.
Scotland was forced to give up much of their overseas territory, abandon any claims in Imperial Brittainia, and to be diplomatically isolated.
The nobles who had urged the conquest of Merica found many of their second sons made part of the Imperial bureaucracy in Mercia. Other nobles noted this, and urged the reconquest of Helvetia.