The Empire Strikes Back 30

During the truces with European rulers, Konstantinos had waged a campaign against Egypt, waging war against vassals who had rebelled against the Egyptian king. He eventually conquered enough that he could usurp the kingdom, and once he had granted it to one of the new vassals he had set in place, everyone was willing to swear fealty.

The Egyptian campaign won, he began a campaign against Jerusalem. This one would likely take longer, as the vassals of the king displayed no rebellious tendencies.

When his truce with the Germans expired, he immediately fought a war for the duchy of Susa.

That complete, he turned his gaze west.

This was Toulouse. Of old it was an Imperial territory, though it was later overrun by barbarians of all stripes. After being conquered by the Franks, it was made part of the duchy of Aquitaine. After years of Frankish infighting, the Carolingian Franks reconquered it, and Charlemagne organized it as part of the kingdom of Aquitaine. While the Frankish authority faded, leaving the Capet dynasty merely kings of France, Toulouse still swore allegiance to them. It stayed loyal through civil wars, Muslim invasions, everything (though some of the coast fell under English rule in the early 13th century). Finally, in 1310, Konstantinos declared war on France to regain it for the Empire.

It was one of the riskier wars fought by the Empire in quite awhile. The King of France sent a massive army (nearly as large as the collected forces of the Emperor) to break the initial sieges. The Scholai Palatinae gathered in order to withstand this army, the last ten thousand arriving by boat after the battle had begun. The gathered Scholai Palatinae were able to smash the French forces in what was a decisive battle, and the rest of the war was just sieging and winning foregone battles.

After the king of France surrendered, Konstantinos again tried to take advantage of the duke of Provence rebelling against his liege in order to declare a war on the duke for the duchy.

During this war it was discovered that Gerasimos of Perre, the King of Croatia, was trying to fabricate a claim on the Empire. Furious, Konstantinos sent men to arrest him. But Gerasimos escaped and began a rebellion.

Unfortunately for him, 27000 of the Scholai Palatinae were idly sitting out the war for Provence. They were sent by sea to Croatia, where they quickly put down the rebellion.

Both wars won, Konstantinos again looked to the western sea. He noticed that the old king of France, the one to whom he had a truce, had died…

This was Iberia. Long a territory of the Empire, it had fallen to wave after wave of barbarian invasion. Eventually, it was overrun by Muslims, with just a small Christian foothold in the north remaining. But the christian kingdoms pushed back, regaining most of northern Iberia by 1066. From then on, there was a constantly shifting series of wars and alliances among Christian and Muslim kingdoms. A few times, it looked as if the Muslims would control the entire peninsula. In the late 12th century, an eastern Iberian Muslim kingdom even conquered much of Aquitania from France, though two Christian kingdoms held the western half on Iberia at that time. Those Christian kingdoms fought and critically weakened the Muslim kingdom, but themselves fell to civil war, which allowed other Muslims to conquer much of the Christian lands. In the latter half of the 13th century, France had its revenge, pouring over the Pyrenees and conquering a significant amount of north-eastern Iberia. The christian Kingdom of Leon slowly regained power, and by the time that Konstantinos declared war on the powers in Iberia (France; Seville, during a rebellion from Leon; Leon itself; and the Almoravid Sultanate) for the Mediterranean coast, Leon held the majority of the peninsula. France held the lands north of the Ebro, as well as the duchy of Galacia in the northwest, and inconsequential Muslim kingdoms held the remaining territory.

By the time those wars were complete, Konstantinos’ truce with Jerusalem had expired.

After the war for Ascalon was complete, he was again able to usurp the kingdom, and the duck of Oltrejourdain agreed to swear fealty to Konstantinos. The duke of Jerusalem (formerly the king) would not so agree.

With the Jerusalem campaign again waiting for a truce to end, Konstantinos fought a series of minor wars whenever a truce expired. Though he waged fewer than expected.

When two simultaneous civil wars broke out in France, the opportunity was to great to miss. Konstantinos, an honest man, was unsure, but his wife, heir, and advisors were proud, and longed to see the Empire restored to its full glory. He yielded to their pressure, and began declaring war on the various rebels.

The wars were successful, but before the last of them was fully concluded, Konstantinos XIV died, succeeded by his oldest son, Konstantinos XV.

The Empire Strikes Back Interlude: More Maps

The Empire just before Niketas was deposed.

The Empire just after Konstantinos recovered it.

The Empire now (March 1305).

The Empire Strikes Back 29

Konstantinos had reclaimed the Empire for his family line, but the internal warring had left it a wreck of its former self. There was a war to weaken the right of the Emperor even more than the existing wars had lowered them. A war that was lost the moment it became his to fight.

The role of the Emperor could not be weaker except if it was completely removed.

As well, territory had been lost from the Empire. Egypt and Jerusalem had wholesale declared independence. A portion of Sicily was controlled by Norway. Ferrara was independent, Verona had sworn fealty to the Germans, and Genoa had fallen to Iberian Muslims.

Now, Konstantinos was diligent, honest, and charitable, but he had not many ambitions of his own once the throne was recovered. Fortunately for the Empire, he was close to his wife, and she was both just and proud. Her sense of justice encouraged him to restore a proper hierarchical balance to the Empire. And her pride encouraged him to continue reclaiming the old western Imperial lands. By this time, wars were mostly fought by the Scholai Palatinae.

This was Sardinia. Long an Imperial territory, it had eventually slipped from control after the loss of Justinian’s conquests. It had ended in the lands of the Germans, though on occasion a county would achieve independence…only to be swiftly conquered by Muslims. The northern end of the island had yet to be reclaimed by the Germans, so Konstantinos took advantage of the opportunity to restore it to the Empire.

While waiting for truces to expire, Konstantinos held a grand tournament to both celebrate his reign and to keep everyone’s fighting ability sharp.

Eventually, all Italian lands not held by the Empire instead swore fealty to the Germans, with whom Konstantinos had a truce. He saw that there was only one Mediterranean island not controlled by Christians…

These were the Balearic islands. Long ago conquered and settled by the Empire, they had fallen to Muslims. They achieved independence for a long while, before being conquered by France in the early 12th century. All but Minorca achieved independence in the late 1250s, but were not able to withstand the powerful Iberian Dhunnunid Sultanate. The Dhunnunids were largely beaten in Iberia, but held Mallorca until 1293, when Emperor Konstantinos declared war for it.

As truces expired or other rulers’ vassals rebelled, Konstantinos declared war to reclaim old Imperial lands.

During this time, prince Konstantinos came of age. The Emperor found him a suitable wife, and according to long tradition placed him in charge of the barony of Blachernae, where he could gain experience is leadership, but be close to the Imperial court.

Between another set of wars, Konstantinos attempted to invent a flying machine. It went about as well as one might expect.

The Egyptian campaigns were eventually enough that Konstantinos could declare that he was rightfully the King of Egypt, usurping the title from the existing holder. All the former Egyptian vassals agreed to swear fealty to him, though the former king stubbornly held onto his remaining land.

However, When the kingdom had been granted to the Duke of Alexandria, the former king agreed to be his vassal. In Early 1305, the Egyptian campaign was completed!

The Empire Strikes Back 28

This was Doux Konstantinos V of Thrace.

His father had lost control of the Empire to another branch of the Doukas family, and then died in the dungeons of his deposer.

Fortunately, the same loyal regent who had led the duchy after the loss remained regent of Konstantinos.

At age six, Konstantinos was sent to be educated by the King of Croatia.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Azerbaijan started a faction to place Konstantinos on the throne. Nikolaos, the regent, pledged Konstantinos’ support to this faction. Unfortunately, the Duke soon participated in a war to lower crown authority in the Empire, and the faction disbanded. Konstantinos was technically on the Emperor’s side, but the Scholai Palatinae were kept clear of any fighting. Until holdings that were being improved were threatened. Nothing should distract the workers.

Less than a year before Konstantinos came of age, the ruler of the Il-Khanate converted to Orthodox Christianity. The lands to the east were surely to be converted to the truth.

Finally, on June 28, 1278, Konstantinos came of age and took control of his holdings.

He immediately sought a wife (the daughter of a Mongol!) and created a faction that sought to make him Emperor. After he was married, he began working to improve his ability to wage war. It would be a needed skill to reclaim the Empire for his line.

On the 22 of September, 1278, he demanded his faction’s claim. Sure, he was the only member. But he had the Scholai Palatinae supporting him. But the Emperor was not cowed. War would decide this issue.

But the Emperor was distracted by his other wars. The Scholae Palatinae made strategic strikes to seize the Emperor’s few holdings, and in a very short time, he was forced to surrender. Konstantinos was now Emperor Konstantinos XIV of the Empire!

The Empire Strikes Back 27

Niketas had lost the Empire to Loukas. But he remained resolute that his branch of the family would become ascendant again. It was not hard to do so. He still ruled a large and rich demesne.

And commanded the full force of the Scholai Palatinae.

And it was not hard to find supporters for his claim to the throne.

But he was imprisoned, and could not press his claim if that was not remedied.

Meanwhile, he helped the Emperor fight against the independence faction. It would not do to regain control of a diminished Empire. During this time, the ruler of the Golden Horde converted to Orthodoxy. This would no doubt make future history interesting.

Niketas died before he could see his plans enacted, leaving his four year old son in rulership.

The Empire Strikes Back 26

In 1264, a faction demanded Loukas Doukas be placed on the throne. Emperor Niketas I refused .The ensuing war well-divided the Empire. But Niketas could raise impressive amounts of men, in addition to the power of the Scholai Palatinae.

In the midst of this war, an independence faction declared their intentions. They were also refused, but things were now beginning to look dire.

Before long, most of Niketas’ armies were turned or destroyed. There remained two divisions of the Scholai Palatinae in Italy, an army in Croatia, an army in southern Greece, and an army in Syria. They sieged whatever they could and hoped to not run across a larger army from the various rebels.

After conquering Genoa (which had thrown it’s lot in with the independence league), one of the Scholai Palatinae division realized the risk of the pretender war. The leader was in Armenia. Though they might seize the holding of supporters, they might well lose the war from the loss of Eastern territory. For that matter, there were reports that the Emperor’s demesne was under assault. They began to travel east.

But it was too late. Loukas was proclaimed Emperor, Niketas imprisoned. The trajectory of the Empire for the past 200 years seemed horribly disrupted.

The Empire Strikes Back 25

This was Niketas I of the Empire. He ascended to the throne in 1260, at the age of 58.

Proud, paranoid, greedy, and envious, he was not happy that his father had not bothered to claim any of the lands that could be claimed by the Empire.

And with the harsh laws his father had passed, he was not popular. He decided to hold a grand tournament to celebrant his ascension, and to hopefully turn opinions his way a little.

The tournament concluded, he considered the many factions in the Empire. One man was connected to many of them: Doux Gennadios of Cyrenaica. In the eyes of many, he had acted dishonorably towards Niketas, so they would not complain when soldiers were sent to arrest him. Unfortunately, the arrest did not go well.

The levies of Egypt were deemed sufficient to handle his rebellion.

Soon enough it was crushed, and Gennadios was led to the Emperor’s dungeons.

Now, this was Carinthia. First settled by the Empire at it’s height, the region had been overrun by Huns, Lombards, and finally Franks. But in 1261, Niketas declared war against the Germans to reclaim it for the Empire.

This was Verona. Conquered very early by the Empire, it was likewise conquered by Lombards and then Franks. In 1191, it achieved independence from the Germans, but in the 1240s, Lombardy conquered the central portion. In 1262, Niketas declared war on Verona proper, swiftly conquering it. He then declared war on Lombardy for the county of Verona, leaving the county of Padua under Lombard control.

The existing duchies of northern Italy were controlled by rulers that Niketas had truces with. So he marched the Scholai Palatinae further west. After all, there was a very great amount of the Empire to recover. Such as Provence. The first Imperial province past the Alps, it had been part of the west Empire. It was conquered in turn by Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, and Franks. It also had achieved independence from the Germans in 1191, initially holding land west of the Rhone as well as Provence proper. But a near-immediate was with Lancaster, which held the southern reaches of England lost them that territory. Eventually, they were held in a personal union with Alsace. When It in turn was conquered by the Kingdom of Lotharingia, the coastal region declared independence…and was swiftly conquered by the Dhunnunuid Sultanate, which held the title of the Kingdom of Aquitaine, but held territory in eastern Iberia. This was this situation when Niketas declared war on Lotharingia in 1263 for Provence.

During this war, the Duke of Armenia’s faction tried to install Loukas Doukas on the throne. Niketas did not respond well to their demands.

The Empire Strikes Back 24 – The Glorious

This was Konstantinos XIII of the Empire.

He had ascended to the throne in 1189, at the age of 9. Despite a revolving cast of regents, the Empire flourished during his childhood. Nearly all threats to his rulership were diffused, and territories were gained in Muslim Armenia, central Italy, and eastern Sicily.

When he reached the age of majority, he constantly warred against rulers who held long-lost Imperial lands. Soon, all was recovered. As well, he took advantage of a plot in Egypt to bring it back under the Imperial fold.

His ambitions fulfilled, he had planned to cease his warring. But a scholar convinced him to conquer several regions so that his research could show the Donation of Constantine was a forgery. When this was done, he sent letters throughout the lands declaring that he also rightfully ruled the west Empire. While this changed nothing in practice, it allowed for a continuous greater glory of the Empire.

That accomplished, he spent the extensive remainder of his reign improving his holdings, founding new cities, tightening his rule, creating titles, and distributing said titles. After all, an Emperor should rule over kings.

Finally, in 1260, at the great age of 79, he died, and was succeeded by Niketas I, his third son.

The Empire Strikes Back 23 – The Donation of Constantine

Konstantinos had reclaimed the whole of the Empire. It was enough to fulfill any man’s pride, even his. But now his advisors had sent a scholar to him. They claimed this scholar had news of great import, but that he tended to speak long. Konstantinos steeled himself.

“My liege, as you will recall, the Empire is of great age. It had had a great many civil wars, even discounting those during the era in which is was a republic. It was these civil wars which led to the division into East and West Empires.”
“Yes, yes, and the West fell to barbarians. Now only the East remains, therefore we are simply the Empire.”
“Quite true, my liege. But there are some who claim that via translatio imperii, they are the successors of the West Empire. They style themselves the Holy Roman Empire.”
“Fah! Germans! They are none of those three. All civilized men know it!”
“Agreed, your majesty. Those within the Empire know the folly of those that claim to compare. But many outside the Empire ascribe to their views. After all, the former Patriarch of Rome, the Pope, supposedly granted the West Empire to the Germans, having inherited it from the Donation of Constantine.”
“A document that is surely a forgery!”
“My liege, that is why am here today. I have evidences that could prove that it is false, to the satisfaction of all, both within the Empire and without. But I need access to more records, stored in the archives of the Duchy of Genoa.”
“Proved false? That would be…hmm… You shall have access to all my archives in Genoa.”
“My liege, I fear I shall also need access to archives in Nice, still held by the French.”
“Very well, scholar. You shall have access to the archives in Nice.”

When the war had been won, Konstantinos spent some time letting the Scholai Palatinae recover their strength. Eventually, Konstantinos demanded a report from the scholar.

“My liege, I have found several sets of correspondences mentioning the false Donation. With the letters written by the other members of these relationships, I could know the name of the forger and where he lived.”
“And where would these letters be?”
“In Tunis, my Lord.”
“Where in Tunis?”
“All over the duchy, I am afraid.”
“Hrmph. Prepare your desert clothing, scholar.”

The war for Tunis was swiftly won, but a few baronies were pledged to other local rulers. Two more short wars were fought for them. During the latter, Konstaninos received a request for aid from his daughter in law, the Duchess of Leon. He had married his heir to her when she was Queen of Leon, and apparently she had lost the title at some point. But now she was warring to reclaim it. Konsantinos sent the Scholai Palatinae and many levies. But the King of Leon did not submit easily. After over two years the war was finally won.

As the troops were being shipped home, the scholar met Konstantinos on the fleet.

“Have you a name scholar?”
“Yes, my Lord. And not just a name, but an exact house where he lived. And it’s known kept his records there.”
“Excellent! Where is it?”
“Hahaha! Scholar, you have given me excuses to entirely take control the trade of the Sea. To Venice!”

The city of Venice fell swiftly. The Scholai Palatinae could barely be restrained from sacking every bit of the city that had destroyed the former retinues of the Empire. But the house with the records was kept safe.
“My liege, I have it! The complete tale of how the Donation of Constantine was forged. I have written a report, with extensive references, for you.”
“Advisers! Have you examined this report?” demanded Konstaninos. When they confirmed that they had, and it was accurate and unassailable (if boring), he continued. “Have copies made and sent throughout the lands of the West Empire.”
And then he smiled sardonically. “And send copies to the Germans. And the Pope.”
He turned back to the scholar. “Well done, scholar. For this, you shall be greatly rewarded. What is your name?”
“Kaisarios, my Lord.”
“Well then. Doge Kaisarios of Venice, your name will be forever remembered within the Empire!”

And in late 1233, the report was sent throughout the land. It made little practical difference in most locations that had long been lost to barbarians. But all now recognized the Empire as the Empire, and not just the empire of the Greeks.

Having fulfilled all that his ambition and pride could desire, Konstantinos spent the rest of his days improving his demesne, tightening his control of the Empire, and receiving reports of the ravages of the Mongols.

Finally, on the ninth of May, 1260, he died of old age. He was succeeded by his third (and only living) son, Niketas.

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