The Empire Strikes Back 57 – The New World

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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But on May 24, 1533, Nestongos made contact with the Cherokee nation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Families that preferred to recover past glories insisted that Konstantios recover the region of Essex.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Empire Strikes Back 56 – The Peace of Westphalia

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.”

Konstantios strode out of the hall. As he left, the people in the hall looked about at each other. There would be new alliances, new rivalries. The shape of the world had indeed changed.
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After the peace of Westphalia, Imperial diplomats worked hard to make peace in Europe.

While they did so, the Legions began drilling with firearms, incorporating musketeers into the ranks of pikemen.
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And the leaders of Friesland took advantage of the new political realities to change loyalty from Bavaria.
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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.
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Denmark and Upper Lorraine had their influence on Scandinavia completely removed as part of their peace deals. Their former lands would later be given to Norway.
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The Pope had his lands completely stripped from him.
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Konstantios began distributing new-won lands to nations he felt deserved them. The Fifteen Year War was ended in 1527.
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The Empire Strikes Back 55 – The 15 Year War, Part II

With the arrival of a Hashashin army in Swabia in February 1516, VI Legio sought to reclaim the towns that had fallen to enemy control in Lombardia.
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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.

In August of 1516, the leaders in Ersekujvar sent a messenger to Konstantios, begging to be allowed to swear fealty. Konstantios accepted their request.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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Their victory was swift and total. When II Legio won their battle, V Legio moved to destroy the retreating army, while II and IX began besieging nearby provinces again.
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In the midst of the war, the Catholic church held a council to consider reforms. They proposed several, but this was not enough to mollify Konstantios.
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By the end of 1517, the last major battlefronts were in southeastern Denmark and the Low Countries, though a Tirol army had slipped into the Balkans.
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Eastern Europe was under Imperial control. Finland would soon be likewise. IV Legio was moving to attack Danish holdings in Sweden.

Early 1518 saw the last provinces in Finland fall to the Empire. II and XIV Legio also marched towards Sweden, this time to gain control of Upper Lorraine’s northern holds.
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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.”
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That March, the Legions had brought the Teutonic Order to the negotiating table. Imperial diplomats were ready for them.
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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.
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It was not until June 1519 that I Legio found the opportunity to attack the last large Danish army.
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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.

The end of 1519 saw the wars drawing to a conclusion. The Scholai Palatinae began escorting Konstantios to a suitable location for a peace conference.
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Smolensk agreed to a harsh peace at the start of 1520.
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Kurland did likewise.
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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.
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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.
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