The Empire Strikes Back 46 – The Scottish Play

The Empire had a goal: to reclaim Mercia. The war with England had brought half of it into the imperial fold. Of the remaining three provinces, Scotland held two and England held one.

 photo 46-1_zps52bb8d0a.png

While the Themas reorganized in the wake of the victory over England, adventurous groups sought to reestablish a hold on the trade routes to central Africa. They left to form a settlement in Tuat.

After the war with the Empire, England was devastated. Its armies had been completely smashed, its fleets sunk, and the garrisons in it’s forts disheartened. Scotland had recognized the opportunity and declared war.

 photo 46-2_zps29c0631c.png

Emperor Konstantios IV, lacking the diplomatic skills to recognize that a Scottish victory that took Lincoln could save the Empire a war (and a full truce) in recovering Mercia, declared war on Scotland when the Themas were back in position in November 1413.

 photo 46-3_zpsee43377d.png

Gondar backed Scotland in the war. Thema Levant moved to punish them for this choice. Meanwhile Themas Ægyptus, Africa and Thrakes struck from imperial Mercia to besiege southern Scotland.

 photo 46-4_zpsf8391101.png

This plan was interrupted by the arrival of a Scottish army in Lancashire and a second Scottish army in Yorkshire.

 photo 46-5_zps7ddc090b.png

When the first Scottish army attacked Thema Ægyptus in Marches, Thema Africa moved to support them. Thema Thrakes was forced to hold by themselves in Derby. The Themas won both battles, but were weakened enough that pursuing the retreating Scots would have been foolish.

 photo 46-6_zpsbc7e8336.png

Indeed, as soon as their retreat was completed, the Scottish armies sought battle again. Again the Themas won.

This time, they pursued the isolated Scottish force to Marches, where it was completely scattered.

 photo 46-7_zpsa8943a34.png

When the other Scottish army put Oxfordshire to siege, the Themas went on the attack. There mere march of them convinced the Scottish army to siege London instead. So the Themas again sought to besiege southern Scotland. Themas Aragón, Andalucía, and Croatia joined the assault on south Scotland.

 photo 46-8_zps121dc87c.png

Scotland eventually signed a peace treaty with England so they could focus on the war with the Empire. They combined their forces into a host of 24,000 men and attacked Thema Africa in Marches. The other Themas sent detachments to help. The Themas won, but at incredible loss of life.

 photo 46-9_zpsdaee4f96.png

After a months of sieges, the Scottish again forced battle. Again the Themas won, again at great cost. This time, however, they pursued the disheartened Scottish forces. And in Oxfordshire, they scattered them beyond hope of recovery.

 photo 46-10_zps96bd309b.png

In the midst of the Scottish war, the Timurids again attacked Roman lands. The Themas that were not yet fighting moved to the Levant. More settlers soon began moving to Qarabagh.

Southern Scotland fully passed to Roman control, but the Scottish were not yet willing to surrender. The Themas began to besiege Ireland.

 photo 46-11_zps95ec0074.png

In due time, Gondar agreed to a harsh peace. Chief Iyâsû Solomonid of Ethiopia had developed a close relationship with the Empire. His brother had even married one of Konstantios’ daughters. Konstantios thought it best that Ethiopians be ruled by Ethiopians, as they had been for recorded history. So when Gondar gave up control of Shoa, Konstantios planned to gave it to Ethiopia.

 photo 46-12_zpsf629ed2d.png

With no more allies, Scotland was amenable to peace.

 photo 46-13_zps150fe92d.png

The Empire Strikes Back 45 – The Three Themas

Konstantios had been faced with a dilemma: he could accept a Timurid surrender and prevent a certain devastating loss of soldiers, or he could keep fighting and resettle some strategic Timurid provinces, bringing them into the Imperial fold.
 photo 45-1_zps89057185.png

Konstantios knew he needed the support of the military to hold the Empire together. As well, a time of peace could be put to use strengthening the Empire, while the Timurids’ multitudinous wars would only cause them to weaken. On June 18, 1410, he accepted the surrender.

With the end of the war, Konstantios had his agents focus on making the Empire more productive.
 photo 45-2_zps7c763416.png

Meanwhile, the armies of the Empire were moved about, garrisoning the various regions. The most elite soldiers were sent to Constantinople, to join the more limited Scholai Palatinae. The other armies were renamed for the region they garrisoned.
 photo 45-3_zps859262f8.png

During this peace, Heraklios Doukas, heir to the throne, decided to go hunting. The day passed and the dogs found no scent. As the sun was sinking in the west, they finally found a boar. In the deepening shadows, Heraklios missed the thrust with his boar spear, and before anyone could react, the boar had dealt him a fatal wound. That they killed the boar shortly thereafter was scant comfort.

Konstantios did not seem to react when he touched his son’s body and felt the chill of death. Whether it was fear of looking weak, the attempt to stay strong for the sake of the Empire, or something else that led him to not show his grief was unknown. The rumors were known: that he was cold, that he was uncaring, that he had preferred one of his other children to be his heir. He was not viewed quite the same thereafter.
 photo 45-4_zps8e782753.png

Konstantios continued to build the cultural standing of Constantinople, recruiting artists from northern Italy. Their triptych honoring the life of Heraklios mollified the rumors surrounding his death a little.
 photo 45-5_zps963ff83d.png

By July of 1411, the armies of the Empire had finally recovered. Thema Ægyptus, Thema Africa, and Thema Gallia were positioned across from England. It was time to reclaim Mercia.
 photo 45-6_zps5893c2b6.png

During the Eastern War, England had reconquered Oxford, and were at war to reclaim London, which would push the de Normandie family out of Britain.
 photo 45-7_zpsc4cc3fb6.png

As well, they had formed alliances with several other kingdoms. So the Empire faced a larger coalition in this war.
 photo 45-8_zps0bc4fc65.png

Soon enough, England had reclaimed London. The three Themas moved to attack the Anglo-Saxon army. The two battles of Kent completely shattered the English Royal Army. Scouts had seen the English Third Army in Oxford, so the three Themas sought it out. It was crushed in the battles of Oxfordshire and Wessex. The three Themas began besieging the whole of England.
 photo 45-9_zps5b20d6c4.png

Meanwhile, Thema Croatia hounded the Hungarian army until it was completely surrendered. Thema Dacia joined them to break the Danish siege of Moravia. But a Danish force sought them out instead.
 photo 45-10_zpse4b62818.png

The Empire won the resulting battle, but Danish reinforcements prevented the pursuit that would have been preferred. When the Danish armies marched to the west, the Themas again moved to break the siege of Moravia.

Hungary was the first coalition member to ask for peace. Konstantios had no reason to refuse.
 photo 45-11_zps58b03a30.png

In Krain, Austrian nationalists fought the Danish besiegers.

In Moravia, the Themas smashed the Danish besiegers. They moved to lift the siege of Sudety.
 photo 45-12_zpsae8110f8.png

That was swiftly done, and they moved to drive back Danish excursions in Austria and Lombardia.

In August 1412, Lyon was forced to surrender. They agreed to break their alliances, and their leaders would follow the Bishop of Aquitaine rather than the Pope.
 photo 45-13_zps1f4a1701.png

England resisted until July 1413, when they finally acquiesced and released most of English Mercia to the Empire.
 photo 45-14_zps43542202.png

That accomplished, Konstantios accepted the offer of peace from Denmark.
 photo 45-15_zpse96abf19.png

Two other events of significance took place during the war:
A settlement on Madeira found that sugar cane grew well there.
 photo 45-16_zpsc867d7c1.png

Konstantios sired a new heir on his wife.
 photo 45-17_zpsb0a27fdc.png

The Empire Strikes Back 44 – War in the East

In addition to all the other changes, Konstantios instituted administrative reforms in the Imperial government. Officials would be appointed by their merits, and would have clearly delineated areas of responsibility. This would allow for better administration with less political infighting.

 photo 44-1_zps08b06d78.png

However, the initial crop of officials were all from territories directly controlled by Konstantios. This was not unnoticed by the other rulers.

 photo 44-2_zps3bddf6c3.png

Greagorios Monomakos raised 6000 men in revolt in the province of Judea, protesting this centralization of power. At the same time, the Timurids declared a new war.

 photo 44-3_zps786c945b.png
 photo 44-4_zpscfa51a4f.png

While the various nobles visited Constantinople to take part in the reforms, Konstantios was able to identify many who had the potential to be masterful advisers. He hired three: Matthaios Iagaris, a skilled artist who would make the various public works more beautiful, thus improving the stability of the Empire; Philemon Melissinos, a military officer who would help spread the best practices all over the Empire; and Thomas Psellos, a former overseer of peasants, who could identify ways of increasing the taxes.

As the new agents of the Empire began their duties throughout the land, they were inclined to use old Greek names for the cities and territories. Over time, these names would become the ones used most frequently by the commoners.

 photo 44-5_zps386c6cfd.png

With Konstantios taking a more direct role in trade, he put in place policies that gave advantages to Imperial traders in the Black Sea.

 photo 44-6_zps944d2a82.png

By October, the Scholai Palatinae had sufficiently reorganized from the military reforms. Two armies were dispatched to put down the Judean rebellion, while the rest moved into Timurid territory.

 photo 44-7_zpsf96dffb3.png

Meanwhile, Konstantios commissioned a tapestry to show the glory of the returned Empire. Many graduates of the University of Van were determined to take part in its creation. There were so many skilled graduates that Konstantios also commissioned an epic telling of the Empire’s past glory and a series of paintings.

 photo 44-8_zps4d38b47e.png

By 1409, the rebels had been defeated and nearly the entire Timurid border was besieged. Only then did small Timurid forces begin to appear. The battle of Azerbaijan demonstrated the superiority of Roman Cataphracts to Timurid archers and cavalry swarms.

 photo 44-9_zps3fb1605d.png

Throughout the year, there were numerous Roman victories in Azerbaijan and Murgan, and a Timurid army was beaten and pursued from Al Jawf to east of the Persian Gulf. More and more territory fell under Imperial control.

December of 1409 saw a Timurid push towards the center of the war front. Battles raged in Hamadan, Iraq-I-Arab, and Basra.

 photo 44-10_zps8f988479.png

It was apparent that the Timurids would not easily give up. So Konstantios sent settlers to restore long-abandoned villages in Qarabagh and Shirvan, which had once been part of Imperial Armenia. Settlers were also sent to Alania. While not historically part of the Empire, the Caucasus Mountains made for a defensible border. More settlers were readied to travel to Murgan (the last Armenian province under Timurid control). They would travel as soon as the capital was under Imperial control.

 photo 44-11_zpse4497847.png

1410 saw the Timurid attack succeed. But they considered it a Pyrrhic victory. Even as the Scholai Palatinae retreated, the Timurid armies withdrew to recover.

Meanwhile, the Empire had stabilized from Konstantios’ reforms. Konstantios had his agents seek out all local advances in military equipment, training, tactics, and logistics. These advances were shared all over.

 photo 44-12_zps4b38a681.png

They were sorely needed. While the armies in the south held, the armies near Armenia and Persia began losing more battles. That the Timurids never pressed the advantage was scant comfort. And then in May, there was a disaster. Imperial armies in Gilan grew confused as they routed, and fled deeper into Timurid territory. By the time they realized their mistake, there was no hope of turning back before they reached Ajam. And one of the withdrawing Timurid armies was likewise marching for Ajam.

 photo 44-13_zpsb09a8ef6.png

Before they could arrive, the Timurids decided that they had had enough, and sent a messenger to concede defeat. Konstantios had to decide: accept the surrender and save his men? Or refuse the surrender and finish resettling the Timurid provinces.

 photo 44-14_zpscfbc2d8b.png

The Empire Strikes Back 43 – Europa 1408

This was Iberia circa 1400. The Mediterranean coast and most of the Pyrennes were controlled by the Empire, but the rest was controlled by Leon. At this time, there was a rebellion by nobles who felt King Bosón Jimena’s rule was too strict.
 photo 43-1_zps7624a162.png

These were the British Isles. They were mostly ruled by Scotland and England, with a smattering of petty kingdoms ruled by members of the de Normandie family. Though England was ruled by Anglo-Saxons, it mostly ruled over Norwegians, remnants of the second Danelaw. Most of the Anglo-Saxons lived in the South and West, though many in the South-central regions now spoke a mongrel French/Saxon language.
 photo 43-2_zpsb86216f7.png
 photo 43-3_zpse626060f.png

This was the Holy Roman Empire, the last great refuge of Catholicism. Emperor Meinhard II Salian, King of Mazovia and Silesia, had been forced to take great concessions by the members of the HRE more powerful than he, which was nearly every ruler. The Golden Bull of 1408 greatly changed the nature of the HRE. The rulers of the HRE who answered directly to the Emperor would be kings and queens in their own right. The five most prestigious (Tirol, Galich, Karelia, Volhynia, and Korsun) would be permanent electors of future Emperors. Where the Empire’s reforms were a centralization of power in Constantinople, the HRE’s reforms were a decentralization of power to it’s outermost edges.
 photo 43-4_zps6efe20b0.png

This was the remnants of the Golden Horde. They had once ruled from the Urals to Iceland, and even briefly to the Horn of Africa. But the Timurid invasion provoked a series of rebellions, and the steppe Empire had fractured. Only time would tell if they could reassemble themselves.
 photo 43-5_zps04cc1828.png

This was Abyssinia. Long an independent kingdom, it had been conquered by Muslim powers, who were themselves conquered by the Il-Khanate. After the Il-Khanate’s inheritance by the Golden Horde, the Timurid invasion isolated the region, which broke into several minor kingdoms. At the turn of the 15th century, Gondar and Adal dominated the region.
 photo 43-6_zps7bf7c4ad.png

These were the Timurids. Unlike the other Mongol hordes, they had yet to convert to Christianity and settle. They had conquered much of the Central Asian region once ruled by the Il-Khanate. The Orthodox Christians of the land groaned under the oppression of their Shiite rulers, and many had converted to Islam in the false hope of relief.
 photo 43-7_zps74c73e71.png

And this was central Africa. Though there had once been trade between them and the north, but the routes had been lost. There were rumors of an Imperial expedition, and of a great Christian nation in Timbuktu, but the deserts were silent.
 photo 43-8_zps57a0a895.png

Thus was the known world in Anno Dominae 1408.