The Empire Strikes Back 42 – The Reformer

This was Konstantios IV Doukas, Emperor of the Romans.

He would be known to future generations as the reformer. On his ascension to the throne, he summoned the various dukes, counts, barons, and other assorted nobles to Constantinople. He proposed to them a radical restructuring of the Empire. The various rulers under the Emperor would be more akin to the military governors of old. They would still rule their lands, but only the Emperor would reign. All diplomacy with other lands would be done by the Emperor, and only by the Emperor.

The governors would no longer supply levees to the Empire. Instead, they would ensure there were a sufficient number of recruits to the Scholai Palatinae from their territories. The more savvy of the nobles recognized that this was a perfect method of disposing of the more troublesome commoners in their lands.

As well, the governors would no longer pay a percentage of their income as taxes. Their lands and people would be taxed, and the governors would do the collecting, but they would not be directly taxed. Again, the savvy nobles recognized that this could mean greater profits for them.

Finally, agents of the Emperor were to be allowed access throughout the lands. These agents would be in charge of various projects to improve the infrastructure and such. Their initial projects would pacify the peoples and increase the stability of the realm.

The nobles were not entirely happy at these reforms. While their feudal burdens were eased, they did recognize the loss of privilege. While none were inclined to rebel, nearly all maintained the notion that they had the right to reign in their lands. But for now, the benefits of reform were worthwhile.

During the various visits to Constantinople, Konstantios inquired of the various governors what course the Empire should take. Despite the Timurid threat to the east, most of them were eager to see the former French King humiliated further. They suggested that Britain should again be Roman. Or at least Mercia should, for now.

Konstantios also assessed the institutions of the Empire. The church already preached loyalty, constables in the major cities kept crime down (and tax incomes high), the army and navy had armories and docks, and markets had been established everywhere. As well, there were major universities in many cities (Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Varna, Adrianople, Kozani, Sevilla, Córdoba, Amastris, Mus, Dayr Az Zor, Van, Alexandria, and Tripoli). Finally, there were textile manufactories in Nicaea and Cherson. Truly the Empire was wealthy.

The control over the Mediterranean meant an increase in trade. Konstantios began commissioning merchants to trade for the profit of the Empire.

There were various provinces that still swore by the Pope. Konstantios sent missionaries to lead them to the truth.

The ships donated by the different governors were sent to Constantinople to be organized into fleets. It turned out most of the donations were cogs, suitable only for transporting troops.

The Scholai Palatinae were moved about and shuffled into different units to avoid attrition in the east. They were split into provisional units of 11,000 horsemen, each in a different province. The armies in Constantinople were sent to the unwatched borders with the Timurids, except for 1000 men who would watch over the City of Man’s Desire.

Finally, Konstantios considered the ideas that would rule the Empire. He had the opportunity to adjust the nature of the government while all the governors visited.

And with his agents beginning to go throughout the land, there was the idea to instill an idea in the popular imagination.

In case that wasn’t entirely clear, I’m looking for advice on my sliders and first NI.

The Empire Strikes Back 41

By 1408, the Empire was ascendant in Europe. But the Empire’s strength was in it’s people. How united were they?

In the East and on the Italian peninsula Greek was the dominant language. There were a few isolated locations that still spoke Armenian or Arabic survived, but were minor.

In Africa west of Egypt, Arabic was the common language, with Greek rapidly spreading in popularity. Along the coast of Iberia, Arabic was also spoken along with the Spanish derivatives of Latin.

In the shadows of the Alps and in France, various doggerel versions of Latin (Italian, Occitan, Frankish, Norman) were spoken. Though Greek was also rapidly spreading through the French interior.

The peoples of Brittany still spoke a Celtic variant.

The course of the Empire would also be determined by its rulers.

Egypt had long been a united member of the Empire, along with Jerusalem-Syria. The latter was in the midst of a civil war at the time of the reforms.

Asia minor and environs had remained ruled by a series of dukes. Though some of the territory was also controlled by Egypt.

Most of Greece belonged to the Emperors, the rest ruled by Dukes.

Much of Bulgaria was also ruled by Sicily. The Balkan regions not controlled by Sicily were themselves small Kingdoms.

France and Italy were ruled by various Dukes.

Iberia had a King in Aragon, and Dukes rulingthe southern coast.

Africa was ruled by various Dukes, with those in the western reaches expanding across the great deserts.

The Empire Strikes Back 40

This was Konstantinos XVI of the Empire. He ruled from 1363 to 1408, just months shy of 45 years.

He had come to the throne during a civil war, one of many from his grandfather’s reign. He won the civil war, and later finished reconquering the Mediterranean.

After that, he took advantage of repeated civil wars within France to reconquer nearly all of Gallia.

Shortly thereafter, the Empire was attacked by the Timurids. Konstantinos was able to convince them to agree to a white peace, and used the ensuing peace to prepare.

For the Timurids attacked again. This time, Konstantinos was able to force them to surrender. He again spent the peace preparing for another invasion. But before it came, he died.

Konstantinos XVI was succeeded by Konstantios IV, the reformer.


And that’s it for part one of The Empire Strikes Back! Part two should come in the not-too-distant future!

The Empire Strikes Back 39

The Empire had forced the Timurids to agree to a truce. But the truce was only for one year. Knostantinos was convinced that there would be war again in short order. He began to prepare.

He moved the Scholai Palatinae into holding positions in the Levant. He sent the levees home to recover. He spent his money on new recruits into the Scholai Palatinae.

While he was making these preparations, the mayors of the Empire requested lower taxes. Konstantinos rebuffed them, for the Empire needed the money.

When the truce finally passed, Konstantinos saw that the Timurids had gone to war with the Golden Horde for their remaining Persian territories.

He relaxed a little, using levies in Gaul to attack French rebels.

When he had conquered those rebels, the French King was at peace. But then Konstantinos declared himself the rightful King of France, leaving the former king merely the duke of Oxford. Dukes that had formerly sworn fealty to the Duke declared their independence. Konstantinos declared war against the Duke of Valois and the Duke of Oxford.

Finally, on February 4, 1396, the Timurids again declared war.

Konstantinos used the same strategy. He used the levies of the Empire to besiege Timurid holding. He held the Scholai Palatinae back to counter the Timurid forces. This time, the Timurids were more scattered. The Scholai Palatinae were able to destroy several groups of around 10,000 men. But eventually a larger group gathered in Rafha. Before it could get larger, one group of the Scholai Palatinae attacked, along with one of the groups of levies. And were victorious!

The Imperial forces chased the defeated forces, defeating them in battle after battle. But before they could be completely destroyed, the main Timurid force appeared.

The imperial armies retreated, doing their best to avoid fighting the impossibly large army.

Soon enough, the sieges proved enough to force the Timurids to surrender. It was again just a one year treaty, but the Timurids did pay reparations.


These reparations were used to hold a glorious Triumph to honor the soldiers who had won this war.

Konstantinos spent the following years preparing the Empire for the next war with the Timurids. But the war never came. In 1408, Konstantinos XVI died during an intense lovemaking session with his wife.

The Empire Strikes Back 38

During May of 1389, while the forces of the Empire were in the west, the Timurids in the east finally turned their attentions to the Empire. Their main forces did not lie on the border, which meant the Empire had time to prepare. The levies were called up and ships sent to transport them to the Levant.

The levies besieged as many Timurid border provinces as they could. By the time most of the levies were in position, a large Timurid army had arrived in Karbala.

And shortly thereafter, another arrived in Deir.

The fleets sailed to Iberia to bring the Scholai Palatinae, the only hope of defeating such a large army. The levies assaulted as many holdings as they could, in the hope of making the war look in the Empire’s favor. And in Constantinople, as many men were added to the Imperial retinues as was possible.

Just as the Imperial forces were assembled, it looked as if the two main Timurid forces were moving to meet up. At this news, Konstantinos nearly despaired. He sent letters to all tacticians and scholars of war, asking for advice. And while they could offer no sure plans (apart from a strange one involving large numbers of boats and some seemingly-impossible logistics), they gave enough hope for him to continue.

The Scholai Palatinae spread themselves out to avoid attrition. Any forces in Timurid lands continued to besiege them. And a force was sent to reclaim lands conquered by the Timurids. Then, another ray of hope: the Timurid forces did not combine, and the main army continued besieging lands instead of moving to attack. The smaller force did move to attack, and many men were sent to fight it.

But when the main army began to travel towards the battle, the supporting forces stood down. No reason to throw away more lives.

And then, another miracle. The main force sought instead to split the armies of the Empire. The battle would still be lost, but perhaps the Empire would bleed the Timurid army. And every day the Timurids chased Imperial forces was a day they were not besieging Imperial lands.

As expected, the former battle was lost. Five Imperials had died for every Timurid. But it was a start.

Eventually, another Imperial army was forced to engage in battle. Against the main Timurid army. They fought bravely.

Meanwhile, enough Timurid lands were taken that it seemed likely Timur would agree to a white peace.

And he did so, just before the latter battle was lost completely.

The Empire Strikes Back 37

Konstantinos XVI had truces with anyone he cared to war against. So he spent several years building cities and recruiting more men.

This was France. First conquered by Julius Caesar, it eventually fell to various invaders. It was conquered by Franks of the Merovingian dynasty, under whose care the kingdom split and weakened. The rulership was seized by the Carolingian dynasty, who went on to conquer much of central Europe. France eventually became independent of the Germans, and conquered much land of it’s own: Aquitaine, Aragon, even parts of England. But repeated wars with the Empire had weakened it severely. The eastern reaches were controlled by the Germans, or by Lotharingia. In 1384, the King of France died. Shortly thereafter, a succession war began. In 1385, the Empire invaded.

The Scholai Palitinae invaded the lands of various French rebels (and eventually the lands of the French king), subduing them. Once subdued, Konstantinos stripped them of their titles and gave the lands to worthy servants of the Empire.

A brief war with Lotharingian rebels gave the Empire some of eastern France.

By 1388, there were no French vassals left who did not have a truce with the Empire. The Empire controlled the majority of France yet again.

But in the east, the Germans held a few holdings in Imperial counties. A war was declared to win them back.

It was apparent that it would be a long task to remove the Germans from the holdings. And yet they could not be allowed to remain in control of Imperial lands. That war finished, the Scholai Palatinae were sent south to Iberia, there to await the ending of the relevant truce. In the meanwhile, Konstantinos resumed the old task of reigning in the power of his vassals.

The plot was not directly successful, but local levies were enough to win the ensuing rebellion.

The Scholai Palatinae were positioned near Leon with the truce mere months from expiration, when Khagan Timur declared war on the Empire.

The Timurids controlled much of the east. This would be the hardest war the Empire had faced in decades.

The Empire Strikes Back 36

Konstantinos XVI (the Wise) had seen the complete reconquest of the Mediterranean. Well, nearly complete. There was a long independent mosque on the coast of Morocco, and Leon held the county of Ifna.

The Wali ruling the Mosque was attacked. The Empire still had a truce with Leon, and so reclaiming Ifna must wait.

Meanwhile, yet another French civil war was happening. The Scholai Palatinae were sent north to reconquer what they could.

The French civil war ended before they could conquer anything, so Konstantinos declared yet another war on France.

During the course of this war, France sent an army of 40,000 men against a unit of the Scholai Palatinae with 20,000 men. The Scholai Palatinae won, though having lost most of their men to death or injury. While the unit recovered and recruited new soldiers, the French attacked the now 8,000 strong unit with 15,000 men. Again, the French lost, and the Imperial soldiers pursued, completely destroying the French army. In the end the Empire won the war. The Catholic rulers were stripped of their titles, and replaced by Greek lords.

After this was complete, a war was declared against Lotharingia, a German kingdom that controlled land in France.

When this was complete, the Scholai Palatinae repositioned. By the time they were ready, the truce with Leon was finally over.

That war was won quickly.

While waiting for truces to end, Konstantinos XVI looked to the political situation of the wider world.

The Hungarian realm had fallen to pieces, and the Germans had conquered those pieces. The Golden Horde had inherited the Il Khanate, but its western reaches had also been conquered by the Germans during a rebellion. A rebellion against the Golden Horde still raged in Scandinavia. And a new group of Mongols had appeared in the east, the Timurids. These mongols were Muslims, and had conquered most of Persia and Mesopotamia. But the seemed to have no designs on the Empire. Not yet, at least.

The Empire Strikes Back 35

This was Emperor Konstantinos XVI of the Empire. He ascended to the throne at the age of 37, in the midst of a civil war.

He continued fighting the war, destroying the most dangerous his opponents’ armies, finishing the sieges of several of their holdings, and reclaiming most of the lost imperial holdings.

But then in the middle of the war, a faction declared that one of his cousins was the rightful rule of the Empire, sparking a second civil war.

The wars slowly turned in Konstantinos’ favor. And when his daughter came of age, she was quickly married to the ruler of the Golden Horde. And the Horde joined the wars on the side of the Empire.

Eventually the first civil war ended. The instigator was thrown into the dungeon. And the forces of the Empire were focused on the second civil war.

A great many undefended trade ports were captured, and the Doge of Venice soon acquiesced.

The levies were sent home. The Scholai Palatinae were sent to Constantinople to recover. And Konstantinos again sought to increase the authority of the Emperor. If he succeeded, his vassals would no longer be able to wage war among themselves. And any non-orthodox ruler’s title could be seized with no objection from the other rulers.

That accomplished, Konstantinos called for a grand tournament to celebrate the peace within the Empire.

While the tournament was being prepared, Konstantinos revoked titles from as many non-Orthodox rulers as he could. Greek speakers were given the opportunity to convert, but peoples of other cultures quickly found themselves leaving the Empire for more friendly courts. The vacant titles were handed out to new rulers: Greek speakers of the Orthdox faith.

Though humble, Konstantinos was also diligent. When the Scholai Palatinae had recovered, he sent them off to continue the reconquest of the Empire.

This was Mauretania. Once part of the Empire, it had been captured by Vandals in the 430s, reconquered by the Empire in 533, then lost to the Muslims in 698. More recently, it had fallen to brutal infighting; there were at least three simultaneous civil wars against the Almoravid rulers. In 1369, Konstaninos declared war on them all to reclaim the long lost Imperial province.

Imperial forces inexorably advanced across the province. Armies fell before them, fortifications were brought low, false rulers deposed. Everything was conquered, barring one province held by Leon. When the Scholai Palatinae reached the Atlas Mountains, Konstantinos recalled the old phrase supposedly written on the Pillars of Hercules, “Ne Plus Ultra”. He recognized the wisdom in this: what was there further out but deserts and endless sea? Sure, traders moved across the desert, but they were of little significance. So he declared “όχι πιο πέρα”: No Further.

Likewise, the people of the Empire had their own take on an old saying. Thallasa Mas: Our Sea.

The Empire Strikes Back 34

This was Konstantinos XV of the Empire. He had ascended to the throne in 1328, at the age of 48.

During his time, he increased the authority and power of the position of Emperor. He caused several cities to be founded, cities which grew rapidly. He promoted the growth of universities, recognizing that learning made the Empire strong. As well, he succeeded in reclaiming much of the north-western Mediterranean for the Empire, including most of Aragon and Andalusia.

This was in spite of three major civil wars. Two of those he defeated, the third raged on when he died.

He died on the 21st of October, 1363, eighty-three years old. He was succeeded by his grandson, Konstantinos XVI.

The Empire Strikes Back 33

The Empire had survived a major civil war. The Scholai Palatinae were recovered. It was time again to reclaim old territory.

The war with the Germans was harder than it had seemed it would be. They were able to send several armies into Imperial territory. Armies that outnumbered any given nearby group of the Scholai Palatinae. But between attrition, solid Imperial generals, and the sheer power of cataphracts, each was beaten and driven back. In June of 1341, the ruler of the Germans surrendered.

After that, Konstantinos continued waging war against other rulers. In this process, he saw no consequence to breaking truces with Muslim rulers, so he continually did so.

But again, the wars were disrupted by a powerful faction attempting to declare independence.

Some of the levies of the Empire were raised, but not all. The war was initially hampered by the Scholai Palatinae being in Iberia. And after the defeat of several levee armies, Konstantinos raised the levies of the entire Empire.

In 1362, the civil war ended when the leader of the independence faction died. And yet the war for Aragon was still not concluded (the Duchess of Valois being a rather stubborn old lady).

Shortly after that war was won, Empress Thora died. Konstantinos remarried, but his new wife was not terribly fond of him.

In time, a new independence faction arose, and again began a civil war.

In the middle of this war, Konstantinos XV died of extreme old age. He was succeeded by his grandson, Konstantinos XVI.

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