• Attention All Comstar Customers, Due to unexpected interference by suspected Word of Blake operatives, the HPG systems update was *not* successful. No data was lost due to our careful and extensive backups; however, we will need to try again next weekend. Sincerely, Comstar Precentor Dune

Alternate History Vivat Stilicho!

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
I just remembered some old article about Tang dynasty making gold mines in Australia.Forget title,as usual,probably hoax - but why not made it real here ?
Or,even better,add Americas and Australia to that.
 
650-653: Apocalypse averted?

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
The midpoint of the century was marked by the settling of an uneasy truce in the Western Roman Empire, as Theodahad continued to strive to increase his influence over Italy and the Roman army but could not make a grab for the purple with Emperor Theodosius and his brother well out of Green hands. He also found that he could not press his new wife too hard, either, for not only did Egilona still retain motherly affection for her sons but she remained afraid of antagonizing Arbogastes, the Sergii and Eucherius of Mauretania over-much. The death of Pope Sylvester II in 650’s winter highlighted the limits of Theodahad’s reach: the Ostrogoth king was unable to push the candidacy of his preferred papabile, Martinus of Tusculum, over the strenuous objections of his rivals even as he thwarted their own machinations and eventually grudgingly acceded to the nomination of a compromise candidate, Appianus (or Appian) of Anagnia[1], at Egilona’s pleading.

Meanwhile in the eastern half of the Roman world, the first months of 650 were consumed by the brewing battles between Heshana Qaghan and Michaêlkouda of Nubia. They first met at the Battle of Cusae[2], on the border between Upper and Lower Egypt: on that March day the Nubians were victorious, prevailing on the basis of their greater numbers and the skill of their foot-archers in conjunction with the heavy Roman infantry Michaêlkouda had picked up from relieved Upper Egyptian cities on his northward march. But Heshana gathered additional reinforcements, including many Monophysites, to turn the tables at the Battle of Nilopolis two months later, where he put their cavalry to flight before inducing panic in the rest of their army – there the Turks killed two of Michaêlkouda’s brothers and 4,000 out of nearly 20,000 Nubians in the pursuit.

Heshana chased his foe back into Upper Egypt, but Michaêlkouda proved to still have some fight left in him when he turned around and rebuffed the Turks once more in the Second Battle of Cusae late that summer. However, he was unable to fully turn the tables and advance into Lower Egypt once more due to the Muslims taking advantage of his distraction to raid those parts of Ethiopia which he still controlled, forcing him to hasten back south to respond to this renewed threat and leave only a modest force (including virtually all of his Egypto-Romans) behind to defend Upper Egypt. Heshana for his part left Alexandria and the other Roman-held Egyptian cities on the coast under a loose state of siege before moving north with the majority of his own army toward the end of 650, for the Jewish administration he had left in Palaestina had antagonized their old Samaritan rivals to the point of a full-blown revolt on top of the existing Christian insurgency.

Further to the north, Heshana’s son Rangan Tarkhan was dealing with an unexpected threat. Increasingly aggressive Khazar incursions into the North Caucasus had driven those tribes up there who would not submit to their rule southward, straight into the path of his Southern Turks: portions of the Alans, Abasgoi[3], Legoi[4] and Kassogs[5] were reckoned among those who had fled the Khazar advance, though others among these mountain peoples had bent the knee to keep their homes and lives instead. Come the summer Rangan defeated this surprise confederation of invaders at a town which the native Georgians called Krtskhinvali[6], but did not annihilate them and instead successfully negotiated the integration of their warriors into his ranks in exchange for not only their lives but also a promise of land for their families, to be carved out of future Turkic conquests. With these reinforcements, Rangan was able to overcome the remaining defenders of Phasis and Archaeopolis in the winter of 650, bringing the entirety of Georgia under his control and earning the praise of his father for having demonstrated such initiative and resourcefulness.


North Caucasian elders resting after reaching the Georgian lowlands presently occupied by Rangan Tarkhan's Turks

East of Rome, in India the siege of Pataliputra continued as Mihirabhoja sought to starve his rebellious nephew into submission. Attempts at relieving the siege by Mahipala’s generals were foiled by Mihirabhoja’s own sons Mirahvara and Rajuvula at Rajagriha[7] and Champa[8], after which it became clear that the pretender’s defeat was now a matter of time. Those governors and generals who had pledged themselves to his cause began to desert and acknowledge Mihirabhoja as the true Mahārājadhirāja of all India, thereby restoring more and more of northeastern India to the latter’s rule while even Mahipala himself agreed to open negotiations in an attempt at attaining an honorable surrender.

However, although the war in the north was going in his favor, Mihirabhoja’s raids were having the precise opposite effect he intended in the south – the pressure he was applying on the Telugu kingdoms, whose conquest he intended to be the first order of business after he put Mahipala in the ground once & for all, had driven them together instead. As Nandivarma of the Later Salankayanas and Rajanayaka of the Eastern Chutus could not diplomatically agree on who should be overlord of both their kingdoms, they resolved to settle their differences in a pitched battle. The latter accepted the former’s challenge and was defeated in the Battle of Kammamettu[9], after which he upheld his end of the arrangement and acknowledged Nandivarma as his suzerain, in addition to wedding his daughter Rajanayakadevi to the stronger king’s own heir Kammanayanka. Nandivarma himself would soon marry his own daughter, Chandena, to the Ganga prince Rachamalla in a bid to construct a broader Andhran-Carnatic alliance against the Hunas who he was sure would return any day now.

Further still to the east, a new invention was beginning to make major waves in China. The printing block of Gong Xuanyi and Kavadh from almost 200 years prior had developed into an entire woodblock-printing industry of sorts under the auspices of the Buddhist monks whom the latter had helped to sponsor, and while still nowhere near as efficient as the future printing press, it still proved tremendously helpful in disseminating Buddhism to the masses by producing colored artwork, sutras and dharanis (mantra-bearing talismans) on a larger scale faster than any single monk could by hand. Naturally the Later Han began to take notice, and sponsored an imperial woodblock-printing workshop of their own to produce copies of the Confucian classics as well as a growing amount of art glorifying the dynasty, connecting it to the illustrious Former Han.


Carved woodblocks for printing dating back to the Later Han period

With Egypt having been left behind for now, 651 saw a renewal of the Turkic onslaught on the Eastern Roman Empire’s core. Rangan Tarkhan moved southward from occupied Georgia as soon as the weather permitted and mopped up the last Armenian holdouts in Tayk & Upper Armenia early this year, capturing the Mamikonians’ last major (but also majorly undermanned) strongholds at Ani and Ani-Kamakh[10] before moving on to besiege the gateway from Armenia into Roman Asia Minor at Theodosiopolis[11]. Meanwhile on account of the limited numbers at his disposal following the plague which bore his name and the defeats of the previous years, Emperor Leo had adopted a conservative strategy wherein he did not risk field battles, but instead concentrated his heavier legions in well-provisioned and fortified cities while detaching the lighter elements of his army (from Isaurian mountaineers to the Ghassanid remnants and light cavalry from Thrace & Anatolia itself) to harass the advancing Turks in the countryside.

Rangan’s father, on the other hand, needed to restore some semblance of order to Palaestina before he could continue on. He made a spectacle out of his punishment of Ezekiel ben Yair for having both failed to defeat Abel’s Christian zealots and now sparking an additional rebellion, first subjecting him to an expletive-ridden tirade in broken Greek (for the Qaghan of the Southern Turks spoke not a word of Hebrew and did not know nearly enough Aramaic to impress upon all within earshot the points he wished to make) for nearly ten minutes and afterward having the governor thrown from the walls of Jerusalem. This done, Heshana named Ezekiel’s brother Obadiah to succeed him – trusting that the latter now knew better than to disappoint him – before striving to force the Samaritans to the negotiating table. By the end of summer he had gotten his wish, attaining an end to hostilities on this front in exchange for carving out an autonomous Samaritan principality from the northern half of the old Roman province of Palaestina Secunda whose ruler Shachar ben Jacob would answer directly to him, and he left to the two governors the job of hunting down Abel’s rebels while he continued onward to aid his son.

However, it had taken Heshana some time to beat, cajole and intimidate the Samaritans back into line, time which Leo had used to reinforce Antioch and the Cilician passes ahead of his coming. Consequently, Heshana was no more able to take the former city than he had Alexandria – especially not with the Eastern Roman navy still able to resupply the defenders by sea without a hitch – nor could he easily make progress into the Taurus Mountains, though the Cilician Plain was much less immune to his onslaught and indeed he was able to take Tarsus (whose population he mostly put to the sword or led away in chains) with the aid of learned Persian and Jewish engineers. From the Cilician Plain Heshana thrust northward, seizing Arabissus[12] and linking up with his son outside of Theodosiopolis toward the end of 651 in preparation for further offensives deep into Anatolia in the year to come.


Heshana Qaghan's Persian auxiliaries and Babylonian Jewish engineers breaching the defenses of Tarsus under his supervision

Far to the south, Michaêlkouda chased the Islamic ghazw as they fled ahead of his approach (having first pillaged almost as far as Lake Tana) and finally managed to intercept them at Amde Werq. Emerging from the Debba Mountains overlooking the plateau and village, he was able to surprise the Muslims while they were still too heavily laden with booty and slaves to make a quick getaway, and annihilated the outnumbered expedition to the last man in the frantic two-hour running battle which followed. However, despite fear of additional Islamic raids kept the victorious king from immediately returning to Egypt and lending any further assistance to the embattled Eastern Romans. Michaêlkouda was right to be concerned, for although the Caliph Qasim was not inclined to invade Nubia in force again just yet and in fact was largely focused on establishing trading outposts down the Swahili Coast throughout the 650s, neither did he dissuade the warriors he had stationed in eastern & central Ethiopia from launching attacks into the Nubian-held northwest on their own initiative from time to time as the decade went on.

East of Heshana’s realm, Mahipala of the Hunas was unable to reach an agreement with his uncle that did not involve him being forced into a Buddhist monastery for the rest of his life, and as his desperation mounted while Pataliputra’s provisions dwindled to nothing he attempted a night-time breakout from his besieged capital in April. Mihirabhoja had expected him to try something like this once their negotiations broke down however, and the rebel prince was felled by a storm of arrows loosed by the Mahārājadhirāja’s elite archers. Not one to take any chances after all the trouble his nephew had caused him, Mihirabhoja further allowed his troops to sack Pataliputra (already brought low since its Gupta days by previous Eftal/Huna attacks) for three days and ordered the extermination of Mahipala’s entire immediate family.

The Mahārājadhirāja did not rest after this final victory over the rival pretender, and immediately began to move against the Salankayanas – just as he had rather publicly telegraphed he would with his incessant raiding of the Andhra region over the past few years. Alas, though the Hunas hoped to overwhelm their adversary with alacrity and terror as they usually did, but the length of their struggles with the Indo-Romans and then their own kind had cost them no small amount of blood and time, while the Salankayanas had invested theirs into building alliances and building up their own military forces for the inevitable showdown. Advance formations of Huna cavalry devastated the Deccan countryside but could not overcome the Salankayanas’ fortresses, and were further forced back by counterattacks involving not just Salankayana troops but also those of their new allies, the Kannada kingdoms of the Chalukyas and Gangas.

While Mihirabhoja pulled his forces back together and sought a decisive victory on the field against the South Indian rebels, Sogdianus chose this moment to make his move: Indo-Roman armies would burst out of their mountains in the autumn of 651, surging from the Caucasus Indicus eastward and southeastward over the Indus to exploit the Hunas’ continued distraction and mounting losses elsewhere. While surging straight toward the mouth of the great river had been a tempting proposition, Sogdianus did not wish to overextend his hosts and instead concentrated on first securing the northern Indus plain (so-called the ‘Punjab’ by the Indians), on top of adding the Himalayas to his realm. The king was of the belief that if the Mahārājadhirāja returned in force, it would be easiest to defend any gains made along the Roof of the World.


The budding Indo-Roman elephant corps of Sogdianus preparing to depart for battle against their former Huna masters

By the end of 651 the Indo-Romans had overrun the poorly-defended cities of Taxila and Sagala[13], and also compelled the surrender of the lake-town of Bandipora and Shrinagari[14] up in the mountains. Sogdianus would have crossed the Ravi River, but decided to instead prepare to fight a defensive battle when his scouts reported that Mihirabhoja had sent 30,000 men back northward under Prince Rajuvula to stop him. As part of those preparations, he also concluded an alliance with local Hindu peoples resentful of Huna rule & taxation, such as the Dogras, to buttress his smaller army. Fortunately Sogdianus had succeeded in asserting a modicum of old Roman discipline over his ranks, so as to prevent the barbaric Paropamisadae who comprised the majority of his soldiers from needlessly antagonizing the locals as they marched, the result being that he could plausibly portray himself as a liberator of sorts to the people of the Punjab and attract recruits from their ranks into his own. Crucially, it was from this Indian populace that he also acquired a supply of war elephants for himself.

The deepening rivalry between Theodahad and Arbogastes, and attendant Blue-Green factionalism, must not have gone unnoticed by Rome’s external enemies, as Avar and Iazyges raids were reported from the fortresses of Macedonia to the forest realms of the Thuringian and Lombard federates later in 652. The magister militum’s unwillingness to give his deputy the resources to effectively counter this harassment, and the promagister’s own unwillingness to obey his rival’s orders, paralyzed the Western Roman response and encouraged further such attacks in the years to come. Arbogastes had to look outside the box to find an effective answer to these barbarian incursions – and found it in their own rivals and neighbors.

To contend with the Iazyges the Romano-Frankish duke struck up an alliance with the Polans: the largest and most powerful tribe among the Veneti Slavs who lived next to them, and paid their chieftain Lech (supposedly actually the second of that name, having been named after the legendary progenitor of his people[15]) of Vicus Polani[16] to attack them from the north. Indeed, the winter of 652 saw Iazyges attacks on Rome’s northeasternmost frontier begin to slacken as the Sarmatians were forced to respond to intensifying Polish aggression against their lands, though their skillful heavy cavalry and horse-archers did at least prove well-suited to countering the disorderly and lightly-equipped Polani raiders in a timely manner. And to deal with the Avars he intrigued with the Turkic vassals of the ruling Yujiulü clan, who he tried to incite to revolt.


Polani tribal warriors, newly (if also indirectly) added to the Western Roman payroll, marching off to raid the lands of the Iazyges south of their homes

As for the Eastern Roman Empire, this year they faced a major Turkic push from the east. Heshana Qaghan took advantage of his greater numbers to keep Theodosiopolis under siege by a smaller detachment of his main army (which nevertheless still outnumbered the defenders), while moving the bulk of his forces further into Anatolia. A race had begun between the rural Eastern Roman populace to evacuate to their cities and fortresses with all the food and valuables they could carry on one hand, and the Turks looking for plunder and slaves before both reached safety on the other. Leo II’s cautious strategy directed Eastern Roman forces to avoid fighting the Turks in the field and instead force them to peel off additional detachments to carry out sieges which they could not possibly win quickly; the merits of his plan were proven when on the one occasion that his governors and legates did try to fight Heshana and Rangan Tarkhan, they lost the ensuing Battle of the Upper Halys[17], though even in defeat they had succeeded in covering the flight of more than 20,000 refugees from the countryside into Sebasteia[18].

By the end of 652, the Tegregs and their confederates had torn a more-or-less straight line from the Cilician Plain all the way to the eastern end of the Bosphorus, though they had sacked remarkably few towns due to Leo’s defensive preparations and careful conservation of Eastern Roman strength, while roving bands of Eastern Roman horsemen (often supported by light Ghassanid Arab cavalry and Caucasian skirmishers) attacked their supply lines and efforts to send what plunder they had looted back eastward. There was fear in Constantinople once Heshana’s banners were sighted outside of Chalcedon, opposite of the imperial capital on the other side of the Bosphorus, but Leo reportedly continued to demonstrate an abnormal calm and insisted that there was no chance the Queen of Cities would fall to these Turkic savages. The early panic was soon contained as word spread that the Augustus had assembled a new army in Thrace to crush the Turks once they crossed the Hellespont, although in truth they were not in fact Leo’s ace in the hole.


Rangan Tarkhan leads his father's vanguard onto the Hellespont, and beyond that, Constantinople

Over in India, 652 saw the first serious confrontation between Sogdianus’ Indo-Romans and the Hunas of Mihirabhoja on the latter’s soil erupting along the rivers of the Punjab. Rajuvula crossed the Indus at Deogarh[19], which the Indo-Romans knew as Alexandria-on-the-Indus, and lay beyond any of Sogdianus’ prepared defenses in the northern Punjab. The Hunas stormed right up along the Acesines[20] and Hydaspes[21] rivers, intending to reach Taxila and cut Sogdianus’ main army off from their mountain homes, but the rival king quickly got over his surprise and concentrated his forces to challenge Rajuvula east of the village of Mahlkerkot[22] in May, adjacent to the western bank of the latter river. Against the 30,000 Hunas under Rajuvula he commanded an army of 20,000, its core of Paropamisadae tribals, Sogdians and Tocharians having been reinforced by some 7,000 local Indians.

With the Hydaspes protecting his right flank, Rajuvula trusted in his greater numbers and committed to an aggressive strategy, driving his elephant corps and heavy cavalry toward Sogdianus’ center. The lighter Paropamisadae there did indeed seem to give way easily, their javelins and cloth armor proving to be of little use against the onslaught of the heavy Huna onslaught, but the Hunas could not long enjoy their success: the Indo-Roman king moved his heavy reserve of Sogdians, war elephants and armored Paropamisadae elite skirmishers to blunt their attack at this critical juncture. And while Rajuvula now ordered his infantry forward to drive his cavalry and elephants to their final victory, Sogdianus also signaled for his son Hippolytus to spring their pre-planned flanking movement.

Sogdianus had massed two-thirds of his army (including his new Indian allies) on his right, trusting in the Hydaspes to protect his left just as Rajuvula had done with the Huna army’s own right flank, and those troops now smashed past the sparse screen of cavalry the Huna prince had assigned to protect his left before careening into his engaged forward-most units and the infantry he had been pouring in to add to the pressure against the Indo-Roman center. Both princes met in single combat, but Hippolytus was triumphant and in slaying Rajuvula he also sealed the now-headless Hunas’ defeat: they were driven into the Hydaspes with great slaughter and pursued for four days afterward. The victorious Indo-Romans proceeded southward through the increasingly arid countryside, onto Multan and the great confluence of the Indus at Mithankot, from where they threatened the Sindh region.


Prince Hippolytus leads the Indo-Roman right wing to pin and crush Rajuvula's army against the banks of the Hydaspes

Mihirabhoja was enraged less by his younger son’s demise on the battlefield, and more-so by his failure to stop the Indo-Romans who had already embarrassed the Hunas once. The news came as one more frustration atop others, as the Andhran-Carnatic alliance continued to stymie his hopes to reconquer Southern India and he was losing as many battles to the allies as he was winning over them. Following the successful rebuffing of a major allied counteroffensive in the Battle of the Ramagiri Hills that June and a failed offensive of his own which was brought to a crashing halt at the Battle of Hanamkonda a month later, the Mahārājadhirāja adopted a defensive posture against the Salankayanas & their Kannada friends, while sending his crown prince Mirahvara northwestward with another 25,000 men and orders to collect what remained of his brother’s forces for another go at throwing the Indo-Romans back into their mountains.

653 saw continued hostilities between the Romans’ new Polani allies and the Iazyges. The latter’s superiority in cavalry made this contest an increasingly lopsided one in their favor as time went on and they invested more resources into battling the Poles, concerning Arbogastes to the point where he decided to begin intervening to tip the scales in the other direction. A troop of 200 Romano-Frankish cavalrymen from the March joined Lech II toward spring’s end, followed by another of 500 in the autumn, to support his raids and seek out the heavy Iazyges cavalry for combat. Meanwhile, the Dux Germanicae himself began to amass his own resources, those of his son Rotholandus and the Teutonic federates more inclined to obey him than Ravenna (for the Lord knows that Theodahad wasn’t going to lift a finger to help him) for a larger expedition to destroy the threat of the Iazyges once and for all in the years to come.

It was also in this year that the Western Augustus Theodosius IV celebrated his sixteenth birthday, on which he proclaimed that he had surely reached his age of majority and now intended to return from Carthage to Rome so that he might rule in his own right. His mother Egilona was content to give up the reins of power, for which even she was painfully aware that her hands was ill-suited, and retire to live out the rest of her days in peace & quiet, though Theodahad had tried to argue that her son was not ready and so she should maintain the regency for at least a few more years. The emperor and his stepfather came to blows almost immediately, despite Egilona’s efforts to reconcile them, as Theodosius sought to relieve Theodahad of command and either restore Arbogastes to the office of magister utriusque militiae or hand it off to his father-in-law Gaius Sergius. In turn the Ostrogoth king dissuaded him with blunt threats as soon as he was able to meet the young Augustus in a private setting over the week of Christmas, leaving the latter shaken but seething and determined to eliminate his troublesome stepfather – a direction in which Gaius, Arbogastes and his uncle Eucherius were happy to encourage & assist him to the best of their ability.


An exchange of written threats between Theodahad and his imperial stepson

Beyond Western Roman borders, the great war between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Southern Turkic Khaganate seemed to be fast approaching its climax. Heshana Qaghan made preparations to besiege Constantinople itself: reasoning that he could not blockade the city by sea without a navy, he sought instead to cross onto Europe at the Hellespont and attack the Oriental capital by land. To that end he seized ships from every port of every besieged Anatolian city he could reach, in addition to cutting down a good many trees, in an effort to build a pontoon bridge across the strait, for his Persian advisors had recommended he follow in the footsteps of Xerxes from a millennium ago. However, in trying to build this latter-day pontoon bridge, the Turkic emperor had left himself vulnerable to a deadly counterattack by his Roman counterpart.

On May 23 of 653, an Eastern Roman fleet descended upon the partially-complete pontoon bridge at the Hellespont with the aid of favorable winds, with the Eastern Augustus himself commanding them from his ostentatious flagship. The Turks attempted to stop them with land-based mangonels and some of their own captured & repurposed ships, but the mangonels were unable to sink more than a few of the Eastern Roman warships and Leo’s dromons made quick work out of the merchant vessels Heshana had loaded up with his own soldiers and slapped crude rams on before dubbing them ‘warships’. However said dromons were only clearing the path for Theodosius’ real secret weapon: a handful of fireships, equipped with siphons which pumped forth an alchemical fire that burned even on water[23], which promptly set Heshana’s bridge ablaze. Rangan Tarkhan was among the thousands working on or around the bridge who were burned to death by the unquenchable flames.

Between their losses from this dreadful fire and the imminent counterattack of Leo’s Thracian army, the Turks were forced to retreat well away from the Bosphorus Straits in a hurry. The Augustus gave chase and pursued his fleeing adversary almost to the edge of Asia Minor, and though Heshana now leaned on his eldest grandson Maniakh and his next oldest surviving son Törtogul to replace Rangan, neither proved an adequate substitute for the fallen prince. When the Turks did try to make a stand against Leo’s counteroffensive, they were defeated months apart at the Battles of Dorylaeum[24], Zela[25] and Caesarea[26], and the Eastern Romans rejoiced louder still with each triumph for it seemed that the tide of this war had finally, decisively shifted in their favor: if the end times seemed to approached them between the Leonine Plague and Heshana’s rampage, surely now it must have seemed that they had blown over.


Leo II unleashes his secret weapon on the Turks at the Hellespont: so-called 'Greek fire', which burned on water and could not be put out by any means at Heshana's disposal

Their celebrations may have been premature however, for Heshana boiled with rage at this latest severe setback and continued to call up additional reinforcements from the eastern reaches of his empire. Though it may have strained his empire’s resources and logistics to their limit, these reinforcements were sufficiently numerous and intimidating even at this late stage in the war that mere scouting reports of their strength persuaded Caliph Qasim, who had been contemplating expanding Islam northward into the lands of the Lakhmids and Turkic-occupied Syria, to postpone his plans – such was his hatred for the Romans who had now taken another son and thousands more loyal soldiers from him on top of his eye and many other earlier losses. Continued Khazar pressure on the North Caucasus was also driving ever more of the wild and hard-fighting mountain folk of that land into Heshana’s arms, and he consistently offered them the same deal which his son had (sweetened, where necessary, with some of the plunder he’d gotten out of Palaestina and Aegyptus) in order to add their strength to his depleted original armies.

Elsewhere, the Indo-Romans once more had to contend with the fury of the Hunas. In 653’s early months Sogdianus had advanced quite a ways into the Sindh region, but was stymied by a strong Huna bastion at Ranikot[27] built over and between several large hills by Mihirabhoja’s predecessors to prevent a Roman or Turkic attack. He was still laying siege to Ranikot when Mirahvara came upon him with an even larger army of 40,000, having gathered not just the scattered remnants of his brother’s army but also additional conscripts from towns on his way north. Facing worse than two-to-one odds and caught on much less favorable terrain than the banks of the Hydaspes, the Indo-Romans were resoundingly defeated by the Mahasenapati in the battle which followed, and although Sogdianus’ fiercely fought rearguard action prevented the annihilation of his army, the king himself was injured by a Huna arrow in the clash.

It fell to Prince Hippolytus to organize the retreat back through the central Sindhi desert and fend off the inevitable Huna pursuit, which he did admirably. A few months after the Battle of Ranikot, he was forced to commit to another major engagement with Mirahvara after the latter detached a corps of 8,000 horsemen and 18 elephants to cut off his retreat beyond the ruins of Ganweriwal. At Sogdianus’ advice, Hippolytus surged forth and crushed this forward detachment of Huna troops in a desperate battle north of the long-ruined city, clearing the way for his continued withdrawal. The two princes fought a proper pitched battle at Shorkot in August, in which Hippolytus prevailed after employing a traditional Roman strategem for dealing with the war elephants whom Mirahvara sent forth first: having his infantry open up ‘lanes’ in their formations, through which the great beasts stampeded and were promptly brought down by his Paropamisadae’s javelins and his own beasts, or driven back in panic toward the Hunas’ own lines. It was clear that while they had managed to stem their losses in the north somewhat, ejecting the Indo-Romans would still not be as easy as the Mahārājadhirāja and his heir had hoped, especially with an active second front to fight on down south.


Indo-Roman troops fighting back against Mirahvara's elephants after they have charged through 'lanes' opened up between the former's ranks

====================================================================================

[1] Anagni.

[2] El Quseyya.

[3] The Abkhaz.

[4] Lezgins.

[5] Circassians/Adyghe.

[6] Tskhinvali.

[7] Rajgir.

[8] Champapuri.

[9] Khammam.

[10] Kemah.

[11] Erzurum.

[12] Afşin.

[13] Sialkot.

[14] Srinagar.

[15] Referring to the legend of Lech, Čech and Rus: three brothers who traveled in different directions while hunting and respectively founded the Polish, Czech and Russian nations in the places where they settled.

[16] Poznań.

[17] The Kızılırmak River.

[18] Sivas.

[19] Uch Sharif.

[20] The Chenab River.

[21] The Jhelum River.

[22] Mankera.

[23] The exact composition of Greek fire remains unknown to this day, but some fragmentary medieval texts and modern scientific advancements have made it possible for today’s scholars to make some good guesses. One of these better guesses is that it was a combination of naphtha (distilled petroleum, imported from around Chersonesus) and resin thickeners.

[24] Eskişehir.

[25] Zile.

[26] Kayseri.

[27] Sann.
 

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
Another great chapter.
Muslims are waiting eating popcorns when ERA and turcs kill each other for them,
Indo-romans take on Hunas which is mission imossibile - they could not defeat them.But,they saved last hindu kingdoms in South.
Iazygs are on their road to annihilation - unless they become WRE vassals again,or WRE start cyvil war again.
Avars are waiting - probably thinking who is better target - WRE,ERE,or Iazygs?
And Polans started their state 250 years ahead of schedule.

P.S our polish neopogans belived that Great Lechia conqered almost entire Europe and part of Asia - but evul bad catholic priest hide all proofs of that.
Well,russian and ukrainian neopogans are as much stupid as them,but - we still are blessed with most stupid neopogans on Earth!
 
654-656: The storm rages on

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
The long-brewing struggle between the Blues, the Greens and the Stilichians came at last to a head in 654. Shaken by the news that her new husband and her firstborn son were openly threatening one another, Egilona called upon the two men to peacefully meet and reconcile with one another at the villa near Pisa which she had been given as part of the late Stilicho’s last will, and for love of her they both agreed. However, Theodahad and Theodosius IV evidently did not love her enough to not continue plotting against one another. No sooner had they exchanged seemingly friendly greetings and sat down for a luncheon did the Emperor’s party draw daggers concealed within their chlamys cloaks and attack Theodahad and his retainers, who promptly fought back – and turned out to have also been carrying weapons of their own, in violation of Egilona’s request that both sides come unarmed.

Now Theodosius had struck first, and so it was he who had the victory – indeed Theodahad was his first target, and the speed and surprise with which he had driven his knife into the older man’s throat had left the Gothic king with no time to retaliate. Of the latter’s companions only his heir and the Augustus’ stepbrother, also named Theodahad, survived and was taken prisoner. After these short but grisly killings around the lunch table, the Augustus explained to his horrified mother that the elder Theodahad had been plotting to kill his companions and take him hostage in an ambush immediately after their ‘peace meeting’, and revealed to her his evidence: correspondence collected by agentes in rebus working for Gaius Sergius, in which his late father-in-law communicated his intent to allies in the Senate.

Of course, arresting and executing those Green-aligned Senators while Eucherius, Gaius Sergius and the Senatorial allies of Arbogastes supported him would be Theodosius’ next course of action. The Western Emperor further solidified his hold on power by appointing Arbogastes to his old office of magister militum, Eucherius his deputy, and further obtaining from Theodahad II an oath of allegiance, a hostage (his own eldest son Thorismund) and the prefecture of Ravenna in exchange for his life and retention of the Ostrogothic crown. He had broken his mother’s heart and trust – from now on Egilona would no longer play any part in Roman politics, as much by her own choice as by her utter lack of trustworthy partners – but that, Theodosius deemed, was a necessary price to pay for his own survival. Unfortunately Theodahad II’s own heart was set on vengeance after this bitter defeat and hostage or not, he carried on with his own plots against the imperial house, much to the sorrow of both the Stilichians and Amalings alike in the years to come.


The Western Emperor Theodosius IV justifies his killing of Theodahad and reads out the names of the latter's co-conspirators to the Senate, while his uncles Eucherius & Arbogastes are in attendance to support him (and receive their new appointments)

Speaking of Arbogastes, as magister militum he was now able to marshal many more resources much more quickly for an expedition against the Iazyges and their king Argamênos, who were now in a state of open war with the Polans. That war’s early stage did not favor the Western Empire’s new Slavic ally overmuch, as the small cavalry units Arbogastes had sent to them proved insufficient to fend off any great number of Sarmatian horsemen on the plains of their homeland and they themselves did not have enough time to train and organize their own riders in sufficient number to respond. Nonetheless, Arbogastes bade Lech II to do the best he could in staving off the Iazyges for just a bit longer and swore to the Most High God that he would come to the Polans’ aid by no later than the next year.

The Eastern Romans were gripped in their own continuing struggle with the Southern Turks this year. Despite the great victories of 654, Heshana Qaghan would not relent and after spending the spring months gathering up his reinforcements, he pressed once more against Antioch. As the Eastern Romans had just enjoyed great fortune against him, now too did it seem he had some wicked luck working in his favor, for a terrible earthquake leveled that city’s defenses (and large parts of its residential areas besides) ahead of his advance. Fires set by the quake further damaged what little of the city was still standing, and then came the Turks to finish the survivors in a sack so brutal that the Romans would accuse Heshana of being the Antichrist in its aftermath.


The 656 earthquake which leveled most of Antioch (including its previously nigh-insurmountable walls) was a wonderful coincidence for Heshana and a ruinous one for the Romans, some of whom attributed it to sorcery on the Turkic Qaghan's part

These events had transpired in such rapid succession that there was little Leo II could have done about them (certainly he could have hardly rebuilt Antioch’s walls overnight), and the loss of the great Syrian metropolis which had withstood one Turkic attack after another was a sorely-felt one that silenced the premature celebrations in Constantinople. Nevertheless the Eastern Augustus strove to fight back, and repelled a major Turkic attempt to break their way back into Anatolia at the Battle of Anazarbus in the autumn of this year. In the face of this continuing resistance, Heshana sought to open a second front against the Romans and reached out to a prospective ally on the other side of the Hellespont: the Avars, who were finding that the Western Romans were becoming a tougher target under their new, undivided leadership.

As for the easternmost of the Romans, they faced Mirahvara’s renewed offensive in the Punjab this year. Sogdianus and Hippolytus had to give way before the Huna prince’s first thrust over the Hesidros[1], and were defeated in their first attempt to halt his advance north of that river near the town of Multan after Mirahvara’s elephants overpowered their own. Undeterred, the father-and-son team gambled on a major counterattack against the Hunas as they attempted to ford the Hydraotes, and managed to trick Mirahvara into crossing exactly where they wanted him to with a feint aimed at his original intended crossing point. The Battle of the Hydraotes[2] which followed was an equally great victory for the Indo-Romans, who crushed the Hunas’ vanguard shortly after it had established a foothold on the northern banks of the eponymous river, and enormously frustrated the Mahārājadhirāja Mihirabhoja who was busy contending with mounting pressure from the rebel Southern Indians. He instructed his heir to attempt one more great offensive against the Indo-Romans in the next year, so that he might put himself in the best possible position for the peace talks he was on the verge of suing for.


Even after being dealt yet another rebuke on the Hydraotes, these Hunas march to one more battle with the Indo-Romans, for good or ill

While Theodosius IV and his allies closer to home were in the process of removing Theodahad’s stooges from the Western Roman civil and military bureaucracy, the war in the northeast continued to escalate. In the spring Lech II and the Roman detachment linked to his army at first defeated Argamênos at the Battle of Calisia[3], a ruined caravan stop for Roman traders on the Amber Road in ages past, but the Sarmatian king rallied his warriors (both actual Iazyges and other Slavs) to defeat the Polans at the Middle Warta a few months later. By the early weeks of autumn, the Polans were firmly on the backfoot and had been besieged by Argamênos’ separated forces at both Vicus Polani, their capital fortress, and their sacred site at Collinus Polani[4].

By then however, Arbogastes had finished assembling a strong expeditionary force of over 20,000 men and crossed the border with both of his sons in tow, Dux Rotholandus as commander of this army’s Armoric contingent and the much younger Aloysius as an observer on his staff. The Western Romans fell upon Argamênos’ main army at Vicus Polani in October and easily defeated them, sending the Iazyges fleeing back east and then south to link up with their secondary force as it retreated from Collinus Polani. Even the combined host of the Iazyges barely came up to half the strength of Arbogastes’ army however, and Argamênos apparently decided that these odds were so insurmountable that he had to sue for peace at this point. The Western Romans and Polans marched unmolested to Vicus Iazyges[5], where the Sarmatian king had taken the original Slavic owners’ keep for his own seat, and wintered there at the Iazyges’ expense while Arbogastes and Argamênos hashed out a peace deal.


Legionaries of Arbogastes in the untamed Slavic and Sarmatian woodlands beyond their northernmost frontier. Ironically, despite being there to fight to the Iazyges, some of these men are probably Sarmatian descendants themselves, and their 'draco' standard was originally borrowed from the Sarmatians in the 2nd century

In the Orient, Heshana’s diplomatic endeavors bore fruit this year: the Avar emperor Móuhànhéshēnggài (or ‘Mouhan Khagan’ for short, to Roman ears) agreed to set aside the centuries-old grudge between the Rouran and the Tegregs to form an alliance with the latter’s southern khaganate, and launch an opportunistic attack on the Eastern Roman Empire’s Thracian possessions while they were still distracted by the Turkic onslaught in the east. The Avars promptly crossed the Lower Danube in force once again in late spring and early summer of this year, overwhelming the sparse Roman garrisons in the region to pillage the countryside, sack some towns such as the unfortunate Axiopolis[6] and besiege others like Dorostorum, forcing Leo II to send some legions back over the Bosphorus in response.

This weakening of the main Eastern Roman field army was exactly what Heshana had been waiting for. Once more the great Qaghan launched a massive offensive into Anatolia, this time approaching from further east rather than trying to force the Cilician mountain passes. He crushed Leo’s vanguard when its soldiers tried to intercept him at the Battle of Martyropolis[7], although he was unable to take the eponymous city itself and finish off the legionaries who had retreated there, before hastening to engage the Emperor almost immediately to the west at Karkathiokerta[8]. Despite being outnumbered 2:1, Leo and his 15,000 Romans fought fiercely and actually managed to put a large part of Heshana’s center to flight after two hours of heavy fighting: rightly calculating that this was not a feigned retreat but a true rout, the Eastern Augustus authorized his men to pursue. Unfortunately for him, the Qaghan had substantial reserves waiting in the rear of his army and sent those forth at this time, in the process also rallying his fleeing troops (or, at least, turning them back onto the field with his intimidating presence).

The Battle of Karkathiokerta ended in a bitter Roman defeat, with Leo himself being one of their 9,000 casualties: as had been the case with his father Constantine IV, only his descent from Heshana’s sister Ayla kept the Qaghan from desecrating his corpse. The same privilege was not extended to his fallen soldiers, whose severed heads Heshana used to bully the defenders of Martyropolis and nearby Amida into surrendering without further resistance. The Eastern Empire’s crown now fell onto the head of his underage son Constantine V, a boy of ten who was rightly fearful of his responsibilities – especially the prospect of having to fight the Turkic Qaghan whowas now responsible for the deaths of both his father and grandfather. The only bright spot to this gloomy start for the new Emperor’s reign was that the commander of the detachment the late Leo II had sent westward, a Hellenized Isaurian comes named Tryphon, delivered a stinging rebuke to the Avars at the Battle of Marcianople in the fall of 655, temporarily halting their advance toward the capital and persuading young Constantine’s regency council to promote him to fill the vacant office of magister militum (his predecessor in that role, Theocharistus of Nyssa, having also been killed at Karkathiokerta).


The Eastern Emperor Leo II staring stupefied at the commitment of the Turkic reserve, sealing his defeat and imminent demise, at the disastrous Battle of Karkathiokerta

Beyond the limits of Heshana Qaghan’s realm, the heirs of Belisarius were bringing their conflict with those of Mehama and Toramana I to its climax. At his father’s exhortation, the Mahasenapati Mirahvara assembled sufficient reinforcements to launch a renewed attack across the Hydraotes as soon as the seasonal floodwaters receded enough to make it possible, and this time Sogdianus and Hippolytus were unable to halt him when they tried to do so at a small town which they called Labokia[9]. Instead the Indo-Romans fell back, raised reinforcements of their own from the Indian populace (spreading rumors of Huna reprisals in the south, whose brutality they scarcely had to exaggerate, to motivate the locals), and attempted to mount another stand at Sagala to the north.

The following battle was a hard-fought one, with the Huna cavalry nearly delivering Mirahvara an early victory by caving in the Indo-Roman flanks only to be driven back by a counterattack involving Sogdianus’ elephants and Hippolytus’ cavalry reserve. The heavily armored and more disciplined Bactro-Sogdian infantry comprising Sogdianus’ center held out against the Hunas’ more numerous foot troops, while their lighter Paropamisadae brethren fended off Mirahvara’s own elephant corps with javelins and flaming arrows, until Hippolytus returned with his horsemen to put the Hunas to flight. Following his son’s defeat in the Battle of Sagala, Mihirabhoja finally sued for peace with his northern neighbor, conceding the upper Punjab as well as the mountains of Kasperia[10] to Sogdianus to the Indo-Romans so that he might finally turn his undivided attention back to the South Indians rebelling against his hegemony. The wounds Sogdianus had incurred at Sagala and Ranikot before that cut many years off his lifespan and guaranteed he would expire not long after this final victory, but at least the Belisarian king would get to die satisfied in the knowledge that he had unambiguously bested the much larger empire of the Hunas twice and that he had a proven successor in Hippolytus to pass his throne onto.


Indo-Roman heavy cavalry pushing back against Mirahvara's flanking maneuver early in the Battle of Sagala, thereby saving the day and securing Sogdianus' eventual final victory

Much further off in the east, Queen Inwon of Baekje died from a chill in the winter of 655. As her male relatives had been killed off or carted away to serve as court eunuchs by the Later Han during their counterattack against the Yamato many decades before, none remained to challenge the claim of her son, King Sujong of Silla. At this time Emperor Renzong had no reason to distrust Silla, by far the most reliably pro-Chinese of the three Korean kingdoms, and he was busy overseeing internal projects and the establishment of Chinese authority over the Turco-Mongolic steppe anyway, so he not only permitted Sujong to inherit Baekje & therefore unite it with Silla under the latter’s umbrella but also to annex the Gaya confederacy between their kingdoms, which had become so insignificant in the sight of the Dragon Throne that Renzong himself had nearly forgotten it even still existed. Thus was the southern half of the Korean peninsula unified under one kingdom, at last fulfilling the promise of reward for faithful Silla after they had stood with the Chinese against all enemies to the north.

Speaking of the Yamato, this year they sent a larger-than-usual embassy to accompany their tribute payment to the Dragon Throne, so that they might learn more from their suzerain and bring both advanced technology and organizational techniques from the mainland back home. It was as a result of this trip that woodblock printing began to surface in Japan throughout the latter half of the 650s, and that the incumbent Tennō Go-Jomei (‘Jomei II’, or ‘Later Jomei’) began to organize the administration of his island empire into a series of circuits and provinces with appointed governors – the Gokishichidō, or ‘five provinces and seven circuits’ – patterned after the administrative divisions of the Later Han. Crucially Go-Jomei’s embassy also introduced a new writing system called man'yōgana, which helped express the Japanese language through Chinese characters, and with which the Yamato began to produce written copies of both lasting national epics such as the Nihon Shoki (or ‘Chronicles of Japan’) and transcribed Chinese texts such as the Records of the Three Kingdoms.


Yamato ships returning home from their embassy to the Later Han, laden with an assortment of secrets from the administrative and technical to linguistic

Arbogastes, his army and the Polans wintered at Vicus Iazyges at Argamênos’ expense, and only left in the spring laden with a peace agreement reducing the Iazyges to a Western Roman tributary as well as reparations for the Sarmatians’ past attacks on their northern frontier. However, in truth Argamênos was seething at his humiliating defeat and only agreed to the magister militum’s terms to lull him into a false sense of security, while actually plotting to ambush the Western Romans and Polans at the earliest opportunity. Barely a week later, the Iazyges threw their full might into a treacherous attack on the allied army as it trudged back toward the Lombard border amid mud and spring-flooded ponds[11], with only Lech II’s Polani scouts and Rotholandus’ war-horn to warn Arbogastes of what was coming.

Though they still comfortably outnumbered the Iazyges, the Western Romans had been caught unprepared and amid tougher terrain than they would have liked. Argamênos’ cavalry spearheaded the Iazyges attack, converging on and smashing through the Romans’ flanks while Arbogastes and his generals were hurriedly trying to organize their own men into formation around & between the marshy ponds, and he was threatening the Occidental generalissimo himself by the time his Sclaveni levies had entered the fight. Both Arbogastes and Argamênos wounded each other in the duel that followed, but the horse-riding Argamênos had the advantage and probably would have killed the magister utriusque militiae had the fourteen-year-old Aloysius not stepped in to protect his injured father. Despite his youthful inexperience, the Western Augustus’ cousin was not only well-trained in combat but tall and strong for his age, while Argamênos had already been blinded in one eye and taken several other deep gashes from Arbogastes’ blade; Aloysius proceeded to bring the Sarmatian king’s horse down with a spear and finish Argamênos off with a sword while he lay stunned beneath the beast.

With their king dead and the Romans rallying, the Iazyges army soon faced defeat and fell apart. Following the conclusion of this Battle of the ‘Siling Lakes’ (so named because these lands were once settled by the Silingi Vandals, before their eventual migration to Africa and subsequent replacement by the West Slavs), Arbogastes allowed the Slavic warriors of Argamênos’ host to live so long as they enlisted in his ranks, but had the Sarmatian prisoners put to death. For this final act of treachery by their former federates, the Western Romans (and Polans) turned right around to burn Vicus Iazyges down and carry off in chains those of its people who they did not put to the sword, including the royal family. Argamênos had no sons of his own and his brother Amôspados had been killed at the Siling Waters with him, so the latter’s son Ininthimeus – the former’s nephew and heir-presumptive – was carted off serve the court of Theodosius IV back in Rome as a eunuch; however the late king did have daughters, who Arbogastes took back to Augusta Treverorum instead.

The Iazyges realm was dismantled and partitioned: Rome did not care to further extend its direct rule eastward, so most of this land was turned over to the faithful Polans save for its westernmost portions, where Arbogastes reorganized the peoples freshly freed from the Sarmatian yoke into additional Roman federates. Though they may have been placed under the Veneti umbrella with the Polans, the Romans recognized these particular West Slavs as distinct from their original allies and so did not simply add them to Lech II’s dominion, which in any case they had just doubled in size with their shared victory. Arbogastes recorded one tribe as the Boemi (Bohemians) after the long-gone Boii natives of their new lands, and the other Marharii after their name for themselves – ‘Moravljane’ (Moravians).


The last charge of Argamênos and his Iazyges at the Battle of the Siling Lakes. Their defeat there and the subsequent destruction of their kingdom marked the demise of the last Sarmatian polity of significance in history, although the Caucasian Alans continued to endure as a more obscure remnant of these once-mighty Eurasian steppe nomads

While the Western Romans saw off one threat on their border this year, their Eastern brethren continued to contend with two. Tryphon, who had effectively been left the seniormost commander in the Eastern Roman army not only by his elevation to the same office Arbogastes held in the Occident but also the deaths of Emperor Leo and his other superiors in past battles, first concentrated on holding off the Avars. From spring to late summer Mouhan Khagan made a massive push through the Moesian frontier, which Tryphon had been unable to stop until they reached Adrianople: he finally mustered enough forces to check the Avar onslaught in a great battle north of that city in the month of August, after which he pushed them back toward Marcianople and managed to recover some territory from Mouhan’s hordes before having to turn his attention back over the Bosphorus.

In Asia Minor, Heshana Qaghan had followed up his hard-fought but decisive victory at Karkathiokerta with renewed assaults into the Roman provinces east of the Hellespont. The Turks overran much of the inner Anatolian plateau this year, crushing the weakened garrisons standing in their way and swatting aside efforts by the Ghassanid and Caucasian troops who had survived both the loss of their homeland and Leo’s final defeat until they reached Gordium and the high mountains of the southwest. Tryphon returned in October to defeat a northern Turkic detachment under Maniakh Tarkhan as it tried to cross the Sangarius River, then swept south to surprise Heshana and drive the Qaghan into retreat beneath the mountains of his own native Isauria, preventing any more of Roman Anatolia from falling into Turkic hands this year.

However, Tryphon’s competence at war was easily matched if not exceeded by his ambition (which was further fueled to monstrous heights by his successes), and it did not take him until the year’s end to start throwing his newfound political weight around. Buoyed by his record of recent victories, the general began to make demands for additional power of the court of Constantinople, starting with the placement of his brothers and cousins in offices of high rank (and high salaries). Most prominently he also undermined plans by Constantine V’s regency council to construct an alliance with the Western Romans and bring them into the war by marrying the emperor’s twin sister Helena to Theodosius IV’s own brother Romanus, by instead demanding the much younger princess’ hand for himself. Considering Tryphon’s leadership to be critical to holding off annihilation at the hands of the Turko-Avar alliance and fearful of the prospect of a military coup if they were to upset him, Patriarch Plutarch II and the empress-dowager Martha – as the heads of the aforementioned regency council for the latter’s son – reluctantly agreed.


Tryphon of Isauria, the skilled yet nakedly ambitious general whom the imperial court at Constantinople were quickly finding they could neither live with nor without

The Eastern Romans did catch something of an additional lucky break late in 656, thanks to circumstances well beyond their control. Dissent was bubbling in the House of Submission, as younger and more aggressive leaders in the ranks of Islam’s armies chafed at their Caliph’s unwillingness to commit to more foreign wars without some sign from the divine and clamored for a renewed offensive against the Nubians, or a war with the distracted Turks, or at least an attack on their Lakhmid lapdogs. Qasim had tried to keep them distracted with raids on Nubia, as well as the construction of outposts & ports on the Swahili coast and slave raids further inland there; but Michaêlkouda’s determined resistance was making the former prospect less attractive, and the latter was no longer enough to satisfy those voices which clamored for the shedding of infidel blood and the expansion of Islam to new lands with greater riches to plunder and more slaves to take than the tribes of East Africa.

In this year, the Heir of the Prophet decided he needed to find an outlet for his more extreme generals (so to speak) before he had a fitna – civil war – on his hands. He authorized a 10,000-strong incursion led by the loudest of the young warhawks, Ubaydallah ibn Aws al-Tamim, into the lands of the Lakhmids with the hope that he was sending them into a win-win situation for himself, no matter the outcome: either they would prevail, slightly embarrassing him but expanding Islam’s hold to the north, or they would fail and vindicate his cautious approach to foreign policy (as well, their deaths would rid him of some troublemakers). Ubaydallah’s host took the Lakhmids by surprise, and furthermore this Arab kingdom had been badly drained by its failed rebellion against the Eastern Roman Empire and then continued participation in Heshana’s war against their former overlords across the past two decades, so the Muslims were able to easily overwhelm the scant few defenders they had at home and take their capital of al-Hira by New Year’s Eve. Just as Qasim had calculated and hoped however, Ubaydallah’s incursion gained the attention of Heshana Qaghan, who decided to make dealing with this new threat into his first priority for the next year.

Well east of Rome, the Hunas’ troubles did not end with their treaty with the Indo-Romans. Now that he was no longer had any other fronts to concern himself with, Mihirabhoja brought his concentrated might down on the South Indians this year; but his many past distractions (on top of the earlier failed invasion of the Indo-Roman kingdom under his late father) had considerably sapped Huna strength, and it showed in the surprisingly slow advance of his armies throughout 656. The Battle of Kanker was an early and welcome victory for the Hunas, but their southward push against the Salankayanas was brought to a grinding halt in the forested hills of Abujmarh soon afterward and the Kannada kingdoms constantly assailed the western flanks of their columns. Frustrated, the Mahārājadhirāja refocused on driving down the east Indian coast instead, where the Salankayanas had fewer natural defenses; with another victory in the fall at Bezawada[12] and the sack of Nellore soon after that, he did at least achieve greater success on this front and left the Salankayana kingdom landlocked by 656’s end.


Though they now faced the undivided wrath of Mihirabhoja and his Hunas, Nandivarma of the Later Salankayanas and his Kannada allies nonetheless swear to fight on to victory or a glorious death together, and to never seek a separate peace with their oppressor

====================================================================================

[1] The Sutlej River.

[2] The Ravi River.

[3] Kalisz.

[4] Gniezno.

[5] Kraków.

[6] Cernavodă.

[7] Silvan.

[8] Eğil.

[9] Lahore.

[10] The Greek name for Kashmir.

[11] The Milicz Ponds in northern Silesia.

[12] Vijayawada.
 

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
The long-brewing struggle between the Blues, the Greens and the Stilichians came at last to a head in 654. Shaken by the news that her new husband and her firstborn son were openly threatening one another, Egilona called upon the two men to peacefully meet and reconcile with one another at the villa near Pisa which she had been given as part of the late Stilicho’s last will, and for love of her they both agreed. However, Theodahad and Theodosius IV evidently did not love her enough to not continue plotting against one another. No sooner had they exchanged seemingly friendly greetings and sat down for a luncheon did the Emperor’s party draw daggers concealed within their chlamys cloaks and attack Theodahad and his retainers, who promptly fought back – and turned out to have also been carrying weapons of their own, in violation of Egilona’s request that both sides come unarmed.

Now Theodosius had struck first, and so it was he who had the victory – indeed Theodahad was his first target, and the speed and surprise with which he had driven his knife into the older man’s throat had left the Gothic king with no time to retaliate. Of the latter’s companions only his heir and the Augustus’ stepbrother, also named Theodahad, survived and was taken prisoner. After these short but grisly killings around the lunch table, the Augustus explained to his horrified mother that the elder Theodahad had been plotting to kill his companions and take him hostage in an ambush immediately after their ‘peace meeting’, and revealed to her his evidence: correspondence collected by agentes in rebus working for Gaius Sergius, in which his late father-in-law communicated his intent to allies in the Senate.

Of course, arresting and executing those Green-aligned Senators while Eucherius, Gaius Sergius and the Senatorial allies of Arbogastes supported him would be Theodosius’ next course of action. The Western Emperor further solidified his hold on power by appointing Arbogastes to his old office of magister militum, Eucherius his deputy, and further obtaining from Theodahad II an oath of allegiance, a hostage (his own eldest son Thorismund) and the prefecture of Ravenna in exchange for his life and retention of the Ostrogothic crown. He had broken his mother’s heart and trust – from now on Egilona would no longer play any part in Roman politics, as much by her own choice as by her utter lack of trustworthy partners – but that, Theodosius deemed, was a necessary price to pay for his own survival. Unfortunately Theodahad II’s own heart was set on vengeance after this bitter defeat and hostage or not, he carried on with his own plots against the imperial house, much to the sorrow of both the Stilichians and Amalings alike in the years to come.


The Western Emperor Theodosius IV justifies his killing of Theodahad and reads out the names of the latter's co-conspirators to the Senate, while his uncles Eucherius & Arbogastes are in attendance to support him (and receive their new appointments)

Speaking of Arbogastes, as magister militum he was now able to marshal many more resources much more quickly for an expedition against the Iazyges and their king Argamênos, who were now in a state of open war with the Polans. That war’s early stage did not favor the Western Empire’s new Slavic ally overmuch, as the small cavalry units Arbogastes had sent to them proved insufficient to fend off any great number of Sarmatian horsemen on the plains of their homeland and they themselves did not have enough time to train and organize their own riders in sufficient number to respond. Nonetheless, Arbogastes bade Lech II to do the best he could in staving off the Iazyges for just a bit longer and swore to the Most High God that he would come to the Polans’ aid by no later than the next year.

The Eastern Romans were gripped in their own continuing struggle with the Southern Turks this year. Despite the great victories of 654, Heshana Qaghan would not relent and after spending the spring months gathering up his reinforcements, he pressed once more against Antioch. As the Eastern Romans had just enjoyed great fortune against him, now too did it seem he had some wicked luck working in his favor, for a terrible earthquake leveled that city’s defenses (and large parts of its residential areas besides) ahead of his advance. Fires set by the quake further damaged what little of the city was still standing, and then came the Turks to finish the survivors in a sack so brutal that the Romans would accuse Heshana of being the Antichrist in its aftermath.


The 656 earthquake which leveled most of Antioch (including its previously nigh-insurmountable walls) was a wonderful coincidence for Heshana and a ruinous one for the Romans, some of whom attributed it to sorcery on the Turkic Qaghan's part

These events had transpired in such rapid succession that there was little Leo II could have done about them (certainly he could have hardly rebuilt Antioch’s walls overnight), and the loss of the great Syrian metropolis which had withstood one Turkic attack after another was a sorely-felt one that silenced the premature celebrations in Constantinople. Nevertheless the Eastern Augustus strove to fight back, and repelled a major Turkic attempt to break their way back into Anatolia at the Battle of Anazarbus in the autumn of this year. In the face of this continuing resistance, Heshana sought to open a second front against the Romans and reached out to a prospective ally on the other side of the Hellespont: the Avars, who were finding that the Western Romans were becoming a tougher target under their new, undivided leadership.

As for the easternmost of the Romans, they faced Mirahvara’s renewed offensive in the Punjab this year. Sogdianus and Hippolytus had to give way before the Huna prince’s first thrust over the Hesidros[1], and were defeated in their first attempt to halt his advance north of that river near the town of Multan after Mirahvara’s elephants overpowered their own. Undeterred, the father-and-son team gambled on a major counterattack against the Hunas as they attempted to ford the Hydraotes, and managed to trick Mirahvara into crossing exactly where they wanted him to with a feint aimed at his original intended crossing point. The Battle of the Hydraotes[2] which followed was an equally great victory for the Indo-Romans, who crushed the Hunas’ vanguard shortly after it had established a foothold on the northern banks of the eponymous river, and enormously frustrated the Mahārājadhirāja Mihirabhoja who was busy contending with mounting pressure from the rebel Southern Indians. He instructed his heir to attempt one more great offensive against the Indo-Romans in the next year, so that he might put himself in the best possible position for the peace talks he was on the verge of suing for.


Even after being dealt yet another rebuke on the Hydraotes, these Hunas march to one more battle with the Indo-Romans, for good or ill

While Theodosius IV and his allies closer to home were in the process of removing Theodahad’s stooges from the Western Roman civil and military bureaucracy, the war in the northeast continued to escalate. In the spring Lech II and the Roman detachment linked to his army at first defeated Argamênos at the Battle of Calisia[3], a ruined caravan stop for Roman traders on the Amber Road in ages past, but the Sarmatian king rallied his warriors (both actual Iazyges and other Slavs) to defeat the Polans at the Middle Warta a few months later. By the early weeks of autumn, the Polans were firmly on the backfoot and had been besieged by Argamênos’ separated forces at both Vicus Polani, their capital fortress, and their sacred site at Collinus Polani[4].

By then however, Arbogastes had finished assembling a strong expeditionary force of over 20,000 men and crossed the border with both of his sons in tow, Dux Rotholandus as commander of this army’s Armoric contingent and the much younger Aloysius as an observer on his staff. The Western Romans fell upon Argamênos’ main army at Vicus Polani in October and easily defeated them, sending the Iazyges fleeing back east and then south to link up with their secondary force as it retreated from Collinus Polani. Even the combined host of the Iazyges barely came up to half the strength of Arbogastes’ army however, and Argamênos apparently decided that these odds were so insurmountable that he had to sue for peace at this point. The Western Romans and Polans marched unmolested to Vicus Iazyges[5], where the Sarmatian king had taken the original Slavic owners’ keep for his own seat, and wintered there at the Iazyges’ expense while Arbogastes and Argamênos hashed out a peace deal.


Legionaries of Arbogastes in the untamed Slavic and Sarmatian woodlands beyond their northernmost frontier. Ironically, despite being there to fight to the Iazyges, some of these men are probably Sarmatian descendants themselves, and their 'draco' standard was originally borrowed from the Sarmatians in the 2nd century

In the Orient, Heshana’s diplomatic endeavors bore fruit this year: the Avar emperor Móuhànhéshēnggài (or ‘Mouhan Khagan’ for short, to Roman ears) agreed to set aside the centuries-old grudge between the Rouran and the Tegregs to form an alliance with the latter’s southern khaganate, and launch an opportunistic attack on the Eastern Roman Empire’s Thracian possessions while they were still distracted by the Turkic onslaught in the east. The Avars promptly crossed the Lower Danube in force once again in late spring and early summer of this year, overwhelming the sparse Roman garrisons in the region to pillage the countryside, sack some towns such as the unfortunate Axiopolis[6] and besiege others like Dorostorum, forcing Leo II to send some legions back over the Bosphorus in response.

This weakening of the main Eastern Roman field army was exactly what Heshana had been waiting for. Once more the great Qaghan launched a massive offensive into Anatolia, this time approaching from further east rather than trying to force the Cilician mountain passes. He crushed Leo’s vanguard when its soldiers tried to intercept him at the Battle of Martyropolis[7], although he was unable to take the eponymous city itself and finish off the legionaries who had retreated there, before hastening to engage the Emperor almost immediately to the west at Karkathiokerta[8]. Despite being outnumbered 2:1, Leo and his 15,000 Romans fought fiercely and actually managed to put a large part of Heshana’s center to flight after two hours of heavy fighting: rightly calculating that this was not a feigned retreat but a true rout, the Eastern Augustus authorized his men to pursue. Unfortunately for him, the Qaghan had substantial reserves waiting in the rear of his army and sent those forth at this time, in the process also rallying his fleeing troops (or, at least, turning them back onto the field with his intimidating presence).

The Battle of Karkathiokerta ended in a bitter Roman defeat, with Leo himself being one of their 9,000 casualties: as had been the case with his father Constantine IV, only his descent from Heshana’s sister Ayla kept the Qaghan from desecrating his corpse. The same privilege was not extended to his fallen soldiers, whose severed heads Heshana used to bully the defenders of Martyropolis and nearby Amida into surrendering without further resistance. The Eastern Empire’s crown now fell onto the head of his underage son Constantine V, a boy of ten who was rightly fearful of his responsibilities – especially the prospect of having to fight the Turkic Qaghan whowas now responsible for the deaths of both his father and grandfather. The only bright spot to this gloomy start for the new Emperor’s reign was that the commander of the detachment the late Leo II had sent westward, a Hellenized Isaurian comes named Tryphon, delivered a stinging rebuke to the Avars at the Battle of Marcianople in the fall of 655, temporarily halting their advance toward the capital and persuading young Constantine’s regency council to promote him to fill the vacant office of magister militum (his predecessor in that role, Theocharistus of Nyssa, having also been killed at Karkathiokerta).


The Eastern Emperor Leo II staring stupefied at the commitment of the Turkic reserve, sealing his defeat and imminent demise, at the disastrous Battle of Karkathiokerta

Beyond the limits of Heshana Qaghan’s realm, the heirs of Belisarius were bringing their conflict with those of Mehama and Toramana I to its climax. At his father’s exhortation, the Mahasenapati Mirahvara assembled sufficient reinforcements to launch a renewed attack across the Hydraotes as soon as the seasonal floodwaters receded enough to make it possible, and this time Sogdianus and Hippolytus were unable to halt him when they tried to do so at a small town which they called Labokia[9]. Instead the Indo-Romans fell back, raised reinforcements of their own from the Indian populace (spreading rumors of Huna reprisals in the south, whose brutality they scarcely had to exaggerate, to motivate the locals), and attempted to mount another stand at Sagala to the north.

The following battle was a hard-fought one, with the Huna cavalry nearly delivering Mirahvara an early victory by caving in the Indo-Roman flanks only to be driven back by a counterattack involving Sogdianus’ elephants and Hippolytus’ cavalry reserve. The heavily armored and more disciplined Bactro-Sogdian infantry comprising Sogdianus’ center held out against the Hunas’ more numerous foot troops, while their lighter Paropamisadae brethren fended off Mirahvara’s own elephant corps with javelins and flaming arrows, until Hippolytus returned with his horsemen to put the Hunas to flight. Following his son’s defeat in the Battle of Sagala, Mihirabhoja finally sued for peace with his northern neighbor, conceding the upper Punjab as well as the mountains of Kasperia[10] to Sogdianus to the Indo-Romans so that he might finally turn his undivided attention back to the South Indians rebelling against his hegemony. The wounds Sogdianus had incurred at Sagala and Ranikot before that cut many years off his lifespan and guaranteed he would expire not long after this final victory, but at least the Belisarian king would get to die satisfied in the knowledge that he had unambiguously bested the much larger empire of the Hunas twice and that he had a proven successor in Hippolytus to pass his throne onto.


Indo-Roman heavy cavalry pushing back against Mirahvara's flanking maneuver early in the Battle of Sagala, thereby saving the day and securing Sogdianus' eventual final victory

Much further off in the east, Queen Inwon of Baekje died from a chill in the winter of 655. As her male relatives had been killed off or carted away to serve as court eunuchs by the Later Han during their counterattack against the Yamato many decades before, none remained to challenge the claim of her son, King Sujong of Silla. At this time Emperor Renzong had no reason to distrust Silla, by far the most reliably pro-Chinese of the three Korean kingdoms, and he was busy overseeing internal projects and the establishment of Chinese authority over the Turco-Mongolic steppe anyway, so he not only permitted Sujong to inherit Baekje & therefore unite it with Silla under the latter’s umbrella but also to annex the Gaya confederacy between their kingdoms, which had become so insignificant in the sight of the Dragon Throne that Renzong himself had nearly forgotten it even still existed. Thus was the southern half of the Korean peninsula unified under one kingdom, at last fulfilling the promise of reward for faithful Silla after they had stood with the Chinese against all enemies to the north.

Speaking of the Yamato, this year they sent a larger-than-usual embassy to accompany their tribute payment to the Dragon Throne, so that they might learn more from their suzerain and bring both advanced technology and organizational techniques from the mainland back home. It was as a result of this trip that woodblock printing began to surface in Japan throughout the latter half of the 650s, and that the incumbent Tennō Go-Jomei (‘Jomei II’, or ‘Later Jomei’) began to organize the administration of his island empire into a series of circuits and provinces with appointed governors – the Gokishichidō, or ‘five provinces and seven circuits’ – patterned after the administrative divisions of the Later Han. Crucially Go-Jomei’s embassy also introduced a new writing system called man'yōgana, which helped express the Japanese language through Chinese characters, and with which the Yamato began to produce written copies of both lasting national epics such as the Nihon Shoki (or ‘Chronicles of Japan’) and transcribed Chinese texts such as the Records of the Three Kingdoms.


Yamato ships returning home from their embassy to the Later Han, laden with an assortment of secrets from the administrative and technical to linguistic

Arbogastes, his army and the Polans wintered at Vicus Iazyges at Argamênos’ expense, and only left in the spring laden with a peace agreement reducing the Iazyges to a Western Roman tributary as well as reparations for the Sarmatians’ past attacks on their northern frontier. However, in truth Argamênos was seething at his humiliating defeat and only agreed to the magister militum’s terms to lull him into a false sense of security, while actually plotting to ambush the Western Romans and Polans at the earliest opportunity. Barely a week later, the Iazyges threw their full might into a treacherous attack on the allied army as it trudged back toward the Lombard border amid mud and spring-flooded ponds[11], with only Lech II’s Polani scouts and Rotholandus’ war-horn to warn Arbogastes of what was coming.

Though they still comfortably outnumbered the Iazyges, the Western Romans had been caught unprepared and amid tougher terrain than they would have liked. Argamênos’ cavalry spearheaded the Iazyges attack, converging on and smashing through the Romans’ flanks while Arbogastes and his generals were hurriedly trying to organize their own men into formation around & between the marshy ponds, and he was threatening the Occidental generalissimo himself by the time his Sclaveni levies had entered the fight. Both Arbogastes and Argamênos wounded each other in the duel that followed, but the horse-riding Argamênos had the advantage and probably would have killed the magister utriusque militiae had the fourteen-year-old Aloysius not stepped in to protect his injured father. Despite his youthful inexperience, the Western Augustus’ cousin was not only well-trained in combat but tall and strong for his age, while Argamênos had already been blinded in one eye and taken several other deep gashes from Arbogastes’ blade; Aloysius proceeded to bring the Sarmatian king’s horse down with a spear and finish Argamênos off with a sword while he lay stunned beneath the beast.

With their king dead and the Romans rallying, the Iazyges army soon faced defeat and fell apart. Following the conclusion of this Battle of the ‘Siling Lakes’ (so named because these lands were once settled by the Silingi Vandals, before their eventual migration to Africa and subsequent replacement by the West Slavs), Arbogastes allowed the Slavic warriors of Argamênos’ host to live so long as they enlisted in his ranks, but had the Sarmatian prisoners put to death. For this final act of treachery by their former federates, the Western Romans (and Polans) turned right around to burn Vicus Iazyges down and carry off in chains those of its people who they did not put to the sword, including the royal family. Argamênos had no sons of his own and his brother Amôspados had been killed at the Siling Waters with him, so the latter’s son Ininthimeus – the former’s nephew and heir-presumptive – was carted off serve the court of Theodosius IV back in Rome as a eunuch; however the late king did have daughters, who Arbogastes took back to Augusta Treverorum instead.

The Iazyges realm was dismantled and partitioned: Rome did not care to further extend its direct rule eastward, so most of this land was turned over to the faithful Polans save for its westernmost portions, where Arbogastes reorganized the peoples freshly freed from the Sarmatian yoke into additional Roman federates. Though they may have been placed under the Veneti umbrella with the Polans, the Romans recognized these particular West Slavs as distinct from their original allies and so did not simply add them to Lech II’s dominion, which in any case they had just doubled in size with their shared victory. Arbogastes recorded one tribe as the Boemi (Bohemians) after the long-gone Boii natives of their new lands, and the other Marharii after their name for themselves – ‘Moravljane’ (Moravians).


The last charge of Argamênos and his Iazyges at the Battle of the Siling Lakes. Their defeat there and the subsequent destruction of their kingdom marked the demise of the last Sarmatian polity of significance in history, although the Caucasian Alans continued to endure as a more obscure remnant of these once-mighty Eurasian steppe nomads

While the Western Romans saw off one threat on their border this year, their Eastern brethren continued to contend with two. Tryphon, who had effectively been left the seniormost commander in the Eastern Roman army not only by his elevation to the same office Arbogastes held in the Occident but also the deaths of Emperor Leo and his other superiors in past battles, first concentrated on holding off the Avars. From spring to late summer Mouhan Khagan made a massive push through the Moesian frontier, which Tryphon had been unable to stop until they reached Adrianople: he finally mustered enough forces to check the Avar onslaught in a great battle north of that city in the month of August, after which he pushed them back toward Marcianople and managed to recover some territory from Mouhan’s hordes before having to turn his attention back over the Bosphorus.

In Asia Minor, Heshana Qaghan had followed up his hard-fought but decisive victory at Karkathiokerta with renewed assaults into the Roman provinces east of the Hellespont. The Turks overran much of the inner Anatolian plateau this year, crushing the weakened garrisons standing in their way and swatting aside efforts by the Ghassanid and Caucasian troops who had survived both the loss of their homeland and Leo’s final defeat until they reached Gordium and the high mountains of the southwest. Tryphon returned in October to defeat a northern Turkic detachment under Maniakh Tarkhan as it tried to cross the Sangarius River, then swept south to surprise Heshana and drive the Qaghan into retreat beneath the mountains of his own native Isauria, preventing any more of Roman Anatolia from falling into Turkic hands this year.

However, Tryphon’s competence at war was easily matched if not exceeded by his ambition (which was further fueled to monstrous heights by his successes), and it did not take him until the year’s end to start throwing his newfound political weight around. Buoyed by his record of recent victories, the general began to make demands for additional power of the court of Constantinople, starting with the placement of his brothers and cousins in offices of high rank (and high salaries). Most prominently he also undermined plans by Constantine V’s regency council to construct an alliance with the Western Romans and bring them into the war by marrying the emperor’s twin sister Helena to Theodosius IV’s own brother Romanus, by instead demanding the much younger princess’ hand for himself. Considering Tryphon’s leadership to be critical to holding off annihilation at the hands of the Turko-Avar alliance and fearful of the prospect of a military coup if they were to upset him, Patriarch Plutarch II and the empress-dowager Martha – as the heads of the aforementioned regency council for the latter’s son – reluctantly agreed.


Tryphon of Isauria, the skilled yet nakedly ambitious general whom the imperial court at Constantinople were quickly finding they could neither live with nor without

The Eastern Romans did catch something of an additional lucky break late in 656, thanks to circumstances well beyond their control. Dissent was bubbling in the House of Submission, as younger and more aggressive leaders in the ranks of Islam’s armies chafed at their Caliph’s unwillingness to commit to more foreign wars without some sign from the divine and clamored for a renewed offensive against the Nubians, or a war with the distracted Turks, or at least an attack on their Lakhmid lapdogs. Qasim had tried to keep them distracted with raids on Nubia, as well as the construction of outposts & ports on the Swahili coast and slave raids further inland there; but Michaêlkouda’s determined resistance was making the former prospect less attractive, and the latter was no longer enough to satisfy those voices which clamored for the shedding of infidel blood and the expansion of Islam to new lands with greater riches to plunder and more slaves to take than the tribes of East Africa.

In this year, the Heir of the Prophet decided he needed to find an outlet for his more extreme generals (so to speak) before he had a fitna – civil war – on his hands. He authorized a 10,000-strong incursion led by the loudest of the young warhawks, Ubaydallah ibn Aws al-Tamim, into the lands of the Lakhmids with the hope that he was sending them into a win-win situation for himself, no matter the outcome: either they would prevail, slightly embarrassing him but expanding Islam’s hold to the north, or they would fail and vindicate his cautious approach to foreign policy (as well, their deaths would rid him of some troublemakers). Ubaydallah’s host took the Lakhmids by surprise, and furthermore this Arab kingdom had been badly drained by its failed rebellion against the Eastern Roman Empire and then continued participation in Heshana’s war against their former overlords across the past two decades, so the Muslims were able to easily overwhelm the scant few defenders they had at home and take their capital of al-Hira by New Year’s Eve. Just as Qasim had calculated and hoped however, Ubaydallah’s incursion gained the attention of Heshana Qaghan, who decided to make dealing with this new threat into his first priority for the next year.

Well east of Rome, the Hunas’ troubles did not end with their treaty with the Indo-Romans. Now that he was no longer had any other fronts to concern himself with, Mihirabhoja brought his concentrated might down on the South Indians this year; but his many past distractions (on top of the earlier failed invasion of the Indo-Roman kingdom under his late father) had considerably sapped Huna strength, and it showed in the surprisingly slow advance of his armies throughout 656. The Battle of Kanker was an early and welcome victory for the Hunas, but their southward push against the Salankayanas was brought to a grinding halt in the forested hills of Abujmarh soon afterward and the Kannada kingdoms constantly assailed the western flanks of their columns. Frustrated, the Mahārājadhirāja refocused on driving down the east Indian coast instead, where the Salankayanas had fewer natural defenses; with another victory in the fall at Bezawada[12] and the sack of Nellore soon after that, he did at least achieve greater success on this front and left the Salankayana kingdom landlocked by 656’s end.


Though they now faced the undivided wrath of Mihirabhoja and his Hunas, Nandivarma of the Later Salankayanas and his Kannada allies nonetheless swear to fight on to victory or a glorious death together, and to never seek a separate peace with their oppressor

====================================================================================

[1] The Sutlej River.

[2] The Ravi River.

[3] Kalisz.

[4] Gniezno.

[5] Kraków.

[6] Cernavodă.

[7] Silvan.

[8] Eğil.

[9] Lahore.

[10] The Greek name for Kashmir.

[11] The Milicz Ponds in northern Silesia.

[12] Vijayawada.
Great story,as usual.
Iazygs are dead - but,they survived longer then OTL anyway.And,if you gave one of Iazyg King daughters to Lech son,polans could claim that they are sarmatians in this OTL.

Gniezno was only place in Polan territory with small shrine/commies in 1966 seek any sign for those to counter catholic church - and found ONE small shrine in Gniezno.
Apparently,polish pogans do not have priest caste,like other western slaves.
Well,they do not have real cities,too,only strongholds made from earth and wood.Which was not cities,but refugium for people in time of war.

Czech in OTL was gradually united - in Great Moravia times there were 14 czech princes,after its fall 4,and before 1000AD one family purged others.
Now,it could happen earlier.
poor Moravians - no Great Moravia for them.

ERE is fucked - unless muslims would save them by their actions.Here turks could beat them - which mean that ,at least for now,islam would remain african religion.
Would they manage to convert lemurs,too? there existed big ,advanced lemurs in those times - maybe smart enough to undarstandt what religion is.
Unfortunatelly,King Julian species is too dump for that.

Hunas are winning - so,after crushing South,they would go for Belizarius descendents again.But - it would take at least one generation.
face of dude with arrow in his back,and his friend with sword,is really priceless.

Yamato is smart enough to not try anything in Korea - so,more conqest on islands?

And Avars are doing well.

P.S When cyvil war in WRE? muslims this time could have no strenght to prey on them,after war with turks.
 

stevep

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Reaction score
1,963
Another chapter of chaos and other events. I see some possible parallels with OTL event in that wondering if Tyhoon will be TTL's Phocas, although possibly a more successful one militarily. Also at least this time the Roman forces survived a treasonous ambush so no Teutoburg Forest this time around. :)

Not sure how the Turks will go against the Muslims. They should crush them but have been in an hard fight for some years now so could see an upset. However suspect the Turks will win for the moment as they still need to take the ERE down a bit I suspect. However even if they do there will be further raids after this and with the Lakhmids pretty much destroyed the Turks will need to guard the frontier as well as lands further east. Plus a success could find a number of the local Christians welcoming the newcomers.

There will obviously be problems in the future for the west but it looks more secure at the moment than the east which is still reeling from attacks from both Turks and Alans. The Furthest east Romans, on the Indus are looking in decent condition at the moment and assuming the Hunas continue to implode could end up becoming a powerful force in N India. Especially with their prime other potential threat, the western Turks totally distracted by what's likely to be a life or death struggle with the ERE. Assuming the Turks go down in the forthcoming Muslim onslaught would the Romans be able to defend their own lands, which could also prevent Islam getting into India, at least by conquest.

Hints of problems for China with a unified Korea in the future which might gain aid from Japan but the odds for the former to successfully defend itself against the Later Han colossus seem so thin that I assume something will happen to weaken the dragon empire.

Anyway looking forward to seeing how things develop.
 
657-660: Vale, Stilicho(nes)

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
While in the West the Blues were returning in triumph from the fields of the Sarmatians & the Greens continued to scheme toward a comeback, the East continued its deadly struggle against the Avar-Turk coalition throughout all of 657. Although mercifully Heshana had been distracted by the sudden Muslim attack on their Lakhmid allies, Mouhan Khagan mounted relentless offensives against the territory which Tryphon had recaptured in the previous year, inflicting a heavy defeat upon the Eastern Romans at the Battle of Nicopolis in the spring and capturing Philippopolis with his mangonels in the summer. An eastward thrust out of Dacia led by his sons also succeeded in prying the entirety of Scythia Minor from Roman control, with even the provincial capital of Tomis[1] surrendering in the first week of June.

Tryphon did not intervene immediately against the Avars’ resurgence both because he was not entirely certain that Heshana Qaghan’s baleful gaze had been definitively lifted from Asia Minor in the first months of 657, and then because he wanted to launch a counteroffensive against the Turks after he became quite sure that they had been distracted. The Eastern Romans successfully pushed the forces Heshana had left behind under Törtogul Tarkhan across the spring and early summer months, inflicting an especially sharp defeat on the Qaghan’s eldest living son at the Battle of Laodicea Combusta. The Helleno-Isaurian general had managed to drive the Turks back to the upper reaches of the Halys in Cappadocia by the time the Avar pressure on his western flank could no longer be ignored.

Returning over the Hellespont in late June and definitively setting out from Constantinople with a rested & reinforced army in the following month, Tryphon first swung north to engage the sons of Mouhan Khagan as they descended from Scythia Minor. At the Battle of Anchialus the Romans sent Tulugui Tarkhan and Zuhui Tarkhan riding for the hills, after which they turned to engage Mouhan’s primary horde as it stormed on toward Adrianople and followed up with a second victory over the latter at Vereja[2]. Tryphon aggressively pursued Mouhan as he fell back, reeling, and heaped additional defeats upon the Avars at Diocletianopolis[3] and Storgosia[4]. Mouhan apparently had enough after these hard blows and sued for terms in November, and though Tryphon was willing to continue until he had pushed the Avars back over the Danube altogether, the regency council in Constantinople decided to take his offer out of fear of the lingering Turkic threat after the latter recaptured a poorly-defended Mazaka in the winter.

Heshana Qaghan, for his part, was having a little more trouble dealing with the Muslims than he (and most reasonable observers) thought he would at first glance. Despite being considerably outnumbered, Ubaydallah’s army trounced the old Turkic emperor’s vanguard at Anbar west of Ctesiphon and laid briefly threatened the city before being forced away by the arrival of Heshana’s main army. The Arab cavalry proved a match for their Turkic adversaries both at range and in close combat, and Ubaydallah was able to fight them to a standstill at the Battle of Saniyy to the south before falling back to win another victory outside of al-Hira, compelling Heshana to pull back to Babylon before 657 was half-over.


Ubaydallah's Arab horsemen galloping to engage Heshana Qaghan's Turks at Saniyy

The frustrated Qaghan drew additional reinforcements from that metropolis’ garrison before going back on the offensive, sending forth parties of Turkic horsemen to fend off Ubaydallah’s efforts to raid the Mesopotamian countryside while concentrating the majority of his army against that of the Muslims. At the Third Battle of al-Hira he no longer underestimated Ubaydallah and, after sacrificing a party of less reliable North Caucasians to persuade the Islamic general that his feigned retreat had worked, successfully drew the latter into a feint of his own, overwhelming the Muslim cavalry and camelry with sheer numbers and largely destroying them. Heshana went on to recapture al-Hira, while Ubaydallah escaped the slaughter with scarcely over 1,000 men and appealed to the Caliph for reinforcements – an appeal which was ignored back in the Holy Cities, for Qasim took his defeat both as a sign that he should not go to war with the Southern Turks just yet and an opportunity to dispose of some of his internal enemies before they could gain the prestige and followers to threaten a fitna.

Out east, the Hunas continued to struggle against the South Indians. The losses they had incurred over the past decade of fighting made a strategy of simply grinding their foes down untenable, and the limitations on their resources became apparent with the Salankayana-led counterattack which reclaimed the ruined Nellore this year. Although simultaneous northward attacks by the Gangas and Chalukyas were brought to a halt in the hills of Desh[5], Mihirabhoja no longer had the men to respond both to these Kannada kingdoms and the Salankayanas, and all of his efforts to negotiate a separate peace with any of the three kingdoms failed in this year: per the holy oaths they had sworn to their gods and staked their honor on, the allies insisted that either he negotiate with them as a bloc, or else fight on to their deaths or the downfall of the Huna empire itself.

Toward the end of 657, the Mahārājadhirāja surprised everyone – including himself – when he finally relented and agreed to enter peace negotiations with all three opposing kings. Apparently deciding that keeping half of his empire was better than betting and potentially losing it all, Mihirabhoja agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the kingdoms of the Deccan and Tamilakam and to no longer demand tribute from them, although he did successfully push for the return of any lands north of the Godavari River which might have been seized by the rebels. In truth, Mihirabhoja was not moved by the human cost of these wars (beyond whatever impact they might have had on his ability to achieve his strategic objectives) but more-so by yet another emerging threat on his northern frontier – this time it was the Tibetans who had taken notice of his difficulties and, with their own avenues for expansion elsewhere presently choked off by the dominance of the Later Han, now placed pressure on the Licchavi rulers of the Kathmandu Valley and the petty-kings of Monyul[6], both of whom were under the protection of the Hunas.


Although arguably the Indo-Romans bore the greatest responsibility in weakening the Hunas, Indians by and large credited Nandivarma and his cohorts for liberating the southern half of the subcontinent from the rule of the Eftal dynasts

The early months of 658 saw Tryphon launching an ill-advised attack toward Scythia Minor in spite of the ongoing peace negotiations, which was repulsed by Mouhan Khagan and his sons at the Battle of Odessus[7]. Mouhan nevertheless graciously carried on with the talks, while the regency council took the opportunity to weaken the newly-disgraced general by demoting him and instead appointing a figure more amenable to their interests, the Pontic Greek Nicanor, to replace him as the supreme commander of the Eastern Roman armies in the field. In their final treaty, the Avars agreed to return half the treasures and all the slaves they had taken in the recent campaign, and to leave all Eastern Roman territories save Scythia Minor. They also pledged not to attack this half of the Roman Empire again for five years.

Nicanor and Tryphon (whose popularity with the troops had made it impossible for the regents to dispose of him altogether) were sent eastward to retake Mazaka and evict the Turks from the remainder of Eastern Roman Anatolia, which at first they were able to do despite lingering mistrust & resentment between the generals and an attempted poisoning of Tryphon’s wine (which instead killed his aide-de-camp). However, these tensions and Tryphon’s growing antagonism toward the regime in Constantinople moved to the fore in a most dramatic fashion once Heshana Qaghan returned that summer after finishing off the remnants of Ubaydallah’s shattered host at the Battle of As-Sinafiyah. The Eastern Romans moved to meet him on the edge of the Cilician Plain north of Adana, this time fielding a smaller army than Leo II had at Karkathiokerta – about 12,000 strong – against a larger Turkic host of 35,000.

Despite this rather glaring numerical disparity, the Romans did enjoy a terrain advantage from forming up in the southeastern foothills of the Taurus Mountains. Alas, whatever theoretical chances they may have had against Heshana were quickly dashed when Tryphon decided to prioritize his ambitions and grudges over the security of the Eastern Roman Empire, and simply abandoned Nicanor to his fate after the latter came under attack by Heshana’s horse-archers. The majority of the Eastern Roman army followed Tryphon’s orders to retreat, leaving 4,000 men to be annihilated along with Nicanor himself in the Battle of Adana. From there, the rebellious general hastened back to Constantinople and effected a coup against the now-defenseless regency council, while Heshana eagerly followed to retake as much of Asia Minor for the Turks as he could.


The already hard-pressed Nicanor is alerted to Tryphon's betrayal and abandonment along with the majority of his army, guaranteeing his defeat and doom at the hands of the Turks

While Tryphon obviously could not kill the empress-mother Martha nor Patriarch Plutarch II, instead being forced for reasons of political necessity to merely confine them to indefinite imprisonment, the rest of their ministers were not so fortunate. The general began an exhaustive purge of the regency’s other ministers and court officials & bureaucrats whose loyalty he found wanting, a purge which soon escalated to also hunting down their families and confiscating their wealth & estates which he then dispensed to the population of Constantinople for almost every day in the month of August to curry popular favor.

Tryphon asserted himself as the new, sole regent for Constantine V and began to install his own relatives and subordinate officers (whom he knew he could depend upon, unlike the Constantinopolitan elite who viewed him as an uncouth half-savage from the province of Isauria) to fill the gaps created by the purges: most notably he awarded to his brothers Sisamoas and Konon the civil office of magister officiorum and the high-ranking military one of magister militum praesentalis (making him responsible for the defense of the capital), respectively. All the while, the Turks retook all the ground they had lost in Anatolia over the last few years and then some, seizing most of the Pontic coast from Trebizond to Sinope by the end of 658.

Meanwhile in India, with an uneasy peace settling along his southern frontier, Mihirabhoja marched his bloodied and weary armies to fight yet another war in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. The Tibetan ruler Mangnyen Tsenpo, now no longer the over-bold young conqueror who challenged the Later Han but a greatly aged and wizened leader, had directed his forces to assail both the Licchavi and Monyul, and overran both kingdoms with ease by the time the Hunas were in position to respond. Despite efforts by Buddhist monks to broker a peace between the two emperors, Mangnyen was unwilling to withdraw from his conquests and Mihirabhoja was unwilling to cede even more of his mandala to outside rivals, so protracted hostilities between the two Buddhist great powers. This year, the Hunas’ edge in heavy cavalry and elephants gave them the victory in the Battle of the Chitwan Valley.

On the other side of the Earth, the Romano-Britons were making their return to the New World exactly ten years after their first disastrous expedition had set out. The Riothamus Albanus had carefully prepared his second expedition, providing them with weapons and shields, twice the supplies of the first one and extra salt with which to preserve their provisions at great expense to himself, and also acquiring the services of two outcast Gaelic monks who had converted to Pelagianism and taken wives as translators. Three ships bearing seventy-two men, twenty-nine women and eighteen children set out for Londinium to Pensans and from there across the Atlantic, making stops on Paparia away from known Irish monastic settlements before continuing toward the Gaelic-held islands to the southwest.


The second wave of Romano-British settlers braving the bitter autumn rains of the northern sea on their voyage to the 'Isle de Sanctuaire'

Studiously avoiding interaction with the Irish settlers as much as they were able, the British eventually managed to row and sail their way to an island mercifully free of hostile Irishmen, which they dubbed ‘Isle de Sanctuaire’[8] – the ‘Island of Sanctuary’ – and sought to establish their colony. Unfortunately, they soon found that the Irish had good reason to not want to settle it: not dissimilar to the site of Porte-Réial, the colonists’ chosen sanctuary was a bitterly cold and windswept place, with little in the way of arable soil and stormy waters surrounding it which had threatened to sink many a ship. Before the end of the year they had already begun to look for an alternative, and their eyes were drawn further west rather than north to the even more frigid and lifeless shores they had passed on the way to Isle de Sanctuaire.

Come 659, the tenuous peace between the Avars and the Eastern Roman Empire held, as despite the new Eastern Roman regent’s opposition to the agreement in the first place Tryphon knew better than to actually break the truce while facing the resurgent Turks. The Avars, for their part, did not attack Thrace again in favor of refocusing their full might against the Western Romans: Mouhan Khagan persuaded his junior tarkhans and chieftans not to launch a rebellion against him for his extremely limited success against the Orient by assuring them that he had an ace up his sleeve for the fight against the Occident. Macedonia had been part of the Western Empire for fewer than thirty years at this point, with much of the Greco-Roman population still concentrated in or around large cities such as Thessalonica and Dyrrhachium while the countryside was inhabited chiefly by unassimilated Slavic tribes of dubious loyalty who had come with the Avars, so outside of those aforementioned fortified cities most of the diocese rapidly fell to Mouhan’s attack in the spring.

While the Western Roman Empire marshaled its forces, the Avars next turned their sights onto the Slavic federates who were holding Pannonia and Dalmatia for the Stilichians. Theodosius IV ordered Theodahad of the Ostrogoths to join the Horites, Dulebes and Carantanians in holding off Mouhan’s onslaught, which the Gothic king did without enthusiasm. In the first week of May their combined forces were able to thwart the Avar vanguard under the Khagan’s heir Tulugui Tarkhan at the Battle of the Upper Naronus[9], using the valleys through which the river flowed to neutralize the Avars’ cavalry advantage, but their victory proved to be short-lived – before the month had ended, the main Avar host had caught up to them and delivered unto the Roman federates a resounding defeat at the Battle of Aquae Sulphurae[10] to the north. Theodahad was able to escape with ‘only’ a quarter of his Ostrogoths killed, but only tatters remained of the Sclaveni contingents, and both the Dulebian prince Rodoslav and his Carantanian counterpart Dragomir were both killed.

By this time the Augustus Theodosius had pulled together no fewer than sixteen legions from Italy, southern Gaul, Hispania and the cities of Dalmatia, further augmented to a total strength of 22,000 with auxiliary reinforcements supplied by the Bavarians and Alemanni and the remnants of the Sclaveni under the Croat prince Hranislav. However, he was suspicious of Theodahad II’s survival as well as that of a majority of his men, and ordered the Ostrogoths to remain behind at Aquileia – which seemed to have suited his stepbrother just fine. Confident that Theodahad would not dare attack him from behind so long as he kept the Ostrogoths’ heir hostage at Rome, the Emperor set out from the capital in mid-June (leaving his newly pregnant wife Sergia there to await his return) and marched to challenge Mouhan Khagan’s slightly larger army near a Slavic village which the Romans had recorded as ‘Cladosa’[11].

The battle which followed seemed to favor the Romans at first. Theodosius’ cavalry had the better of the clash with their Avar counterparts and Hranislav killed Tulugui Tarkhan with a spear to the face, for which he received the Emperor’s congratulations and authorization to pursue the retreating Avars. The legions and Teutonic federates also generally made quick work of Mouhan’s Slavic and Gepid infantry, and within a few short hours of combat it appeared as though the Romans had already won the day. Mouhan had intended for his horsemen to execute a feigned retreat and lure the Romans into a position where he could spring his large reserve into action, putting the pressure back on them, but Theodosius was ready and sent in his own reserve to finish breaking the Avar army.


Zuhui Tarkhan's second army bursting forth to charge the surprised Romans at the climax of the Battle of Cladosa

However, it was at this critical juncture that an entire second Avar army led by Zuhui Tarkhan, now his father’s new heir-apparent in the wake of his elder brother’s demise hours earlier, emerged from the south. Zuhui led the majority of his cavalry on a ferocious attack against Theodosius’ now-exposed command post, felling the Western Augustus and most of his staff, before turning to roll up the rest of his army. The leaderless Western Roman force fought gamely on for another three hours, but toward twilight they were ultimately routed with grievous casualties – about half of their army was wiped out either on the battlefield or in the rout, including Hranislav of the Horites and his eldest son Hranimir, who tried to bring Mouhan Khagan down in a valiant but futile last charge fueled by desperation and despair.

The Avars had taken no small loss themselves, and Mouhan was left grieving for his eldest son as night fell. The true benefactor of this Avar triumph was Theodahad II: it was he who had been feeding a suspicious Mouhan information on Western Roman movements through Green agents (originally implanted under his father) who had managed to escape the earlier purges and continued to linger within the imperial army, making the Avar victory at Aquae Sulphurae and their ambush of Theodosius IV possible in the first place. With the Emperor killed and his army shattered, the Goth king took his own forces and swept into Italy, inciting his allies in Ravenna who’d been dispossessed or at least demoted after his father’s downfall to rebel against their replacements and open the gates to him. From there he threatened Rome itself, where Gaius Sergius and his daughter the Empress threatened to kill his heir – their hostage – Thorismund if he did not stand his forces down and present himself to face imperial justice.

To the astonishment of the Sergii, Theodahad threw these terms back in their face and boasted that he still had other sons to continue his lineage even if they did kill Thorismund, after which he continued to hurry onward to the Eternal City. Despairing, Gaius Sergius did go on to execute his now-useless hostage and spike his head above the Salarian Gate, but of course this did not dissuade Theodahad for the Ostrogoth king had resolved to pursue his revenge and the overthrow of the Stilichians at all costs. Rather than bother with a siege, the Ostrogoths and their Italian allies from Ravenna stormed Rome’s walls head-on, trusting that they could overcome the much-depleted garrison in the wake of the Battle of Cladosa and that said defenders were not numerous enough to even fully man the Aurelian Walls.

They were correct in their assessment, although the few hundred defenders left did put up a fierce enough fight to cost 2,000 Ostrogoths their lives. Theodahad prevented his men from sacking the capital since he had other intentions in mind for it, but he did explicitly order the death of Gaius Sergius (who was felled at the walls) and Theodosius’ brother Romanus, who had gotten as far as Ostia where he’d sought sanctuary in the Church of Saint Aurea[12] but was ruthlessly dragged out by Ostrogoth soldiers and beheaded as soon as they were sure they’d gotten off the church grounds. Theodahad found his uncle Julianus, grandson of the usurper Otho II through his elder daughter Juliana and another long-time hostage at the Roman imperial court, hiding in a cistern out of terror that he would either be killed by his Stilichian kindred or his Amaling ones; instead Theodahad compelled the Senate to hail him as the new Western Augustus, although Pope Sylvester adamantly refused to do the same and instead locked himself in a tower out of disgust at the Ostrogoths’ violation of sanctuary to kill Romanus.


Theodahad explaining to a stunned Julianus that he will not be killed in the ongoing purge of the Stilichian imperial household and its loyalists, but actually elevated to the purple (even if only to serve as the Greens' pawn)

This usurpation of the purple by the Amalings (even if it were through a branch with Stilichian blood) was obviously poorly-received in Africa and Germania. Eucherius of Mauretania and the magister militum Arbogastes both agreed to denounce Julian as an illegitimate ruler and Theodahad as a traitor, pledging themselves to the cause of Sergia Aurata’s unborn child should it turn out to be a son – though they did remain suspiciously silent as to what they would do should she give birth to a daughter instead. For her part, the fearful Augusta had managed to flee aboard a ship from Ostia ahead of her far less fortunate brother-in-law, and opted to sail for Arelate rather than Carthage out of concern that her late husband’s paternal uncle might seek to usurp the throne for himself and kill her child should a son be born to her. In any case, Theodahad and his puppet Julian II now faced a geographically divided but still formidable opposition, and sought to shore up their position by arranging for the Amaling usurper’s marriage to the Visigoth princess Fredenanda toward the year’s end.

The Sabbatic dynasty in Constantinople did not enjoy much better luck than their Stilichian counterparts had this year. Many feared that Tryphon would seize the Oriental throne for himself, but few expected him to do it within a year of overthrowing Constantine V’s original regency council. Yet that was precisely what happened: after foiling yet another poisoning attempt by demanding his would-be poisoner, one of many court officials who disdained his usurpation of power, drink the drugged wine first and personally killing the man when he refused, Tryphon suspected that he would never be able to rest so long as Sabbatic partisans remained active – and that the best way to neutralize them would be to eliminate the male line of the dynasty founded by the conquering Sabbatius 160 years ago.

So it was that the Isaurian general had his Isaurian guards suffocate the fourteen-year-old Constantine to death in his bed on a February night. The demise of the Eastern Augustus, who unlike Stilicho and Theodosius IV had never gotten a chance to rule in his own right, was followed within the week by the empress-dowager Martha’s ‘suicide’ (supposedly out of despair) by suddenly falling out of the window of the Blachernae Palace where she was being confined, while the uncooperative Patriarch Plutarch was said to have fasted to death in confinement after denying (or being denied, some might say…) food and water for ten days. Meanwhile Tryphon himself claimed the purple by virtue of his marriage to Helena, the late emperor’s younger twin and now the sole remaining member of the Sabbatic dynasty to still live, with the acclamation of both the army and the Senate of Constantinople (not that the latter had much choice) as well as a proper coronation once a more sympathetic Patriarch, Antony, had been invested.


Tryphon about to execute yet another one of his old rivals after catching the man trying to flee Constantinople in the wake of his coup

Tryphon did at least manage to win a few victories with which to vindicate his usurpation of the Eastern Roman throne, defeating the armies of Heshana Qaghan at Synnada[13], Dorylaeum and Amastris[14]: with these triumphs he halted the Turkic advance before it could penetrate into the mountains of the southwest or threaten the Bosphorus once more. However, the new Augustus also lacked the manpower to launch any serious counterattack this year and instead had to wait until he’d assembled new legions in Achaea and Ionia for that purpose. Heshana took advantage of this lack of offensive action on the part of the still-scrambled Eastern Romans to drive the garrisons of Sinope[15] and Amisos[16] to surrender, eliminating the last major pockets of Roman resistance behind his lines and allowing him to consolidate his forces for another offensive drive in 660.

While the Roman world descended into civil strife and the Hunas continued to wrestle with the Tibetans along the roof of the world, the Romans’ British descendants strove to establish the first European colony on the New World’s mainland this year. Leaving the bitterly cold and inhospitable Isle de Sanctuaire behind, the colonists sent by Albanus made their way to what they soon learned was the mouth of a great river and there founded their new settlement[16], which they named Porte-Réial[17] with the hope that it would turn out better than the last colony to bear that name. They had also passed an island on their way to founding this new colony, which they dubbed ‘Isle de Sacradé-Sanc’[18] – the Island of the Holy Blood, so named after the many wild grapes there with which these Pelagians made the Communion wine for the first Christian service (heretical though it may have been in the eyes of the Ephesians, had they known of it at all) to be celebrated on the soil of the mainland.

The first months of 660 saw the Avars take hold of Roman Dalmatia and most of Pannonia, driving those Slavs who would not once more submit to death or slavery under their yoke deeper into the territory of the Bavarians, Lombards and Carantanians. Arbogastes took the initiative to prevent a domino effect and the complete breakdown of the federate borders which had been carefully preserved for almost two centuries in the east by swearing to assist the Sclaveni in recovering their territories, freeing their subjugated countrymen and shattering the Avar threat once and for all, in the meantime settling the Croat and Dulebian refugees in temporary encampments in Noricum and the territories of these neighboring federates – and dispensing bribes out of his own pocket to keep them neighborly for a time.

Despite this, Arbogastes did not act immediately, preferring to wait and gather his forces (including the survivors of Theodosius’ army) in the north until Sergia Aurata gave birth to her & Theodosius’ child. Consequently the entire first half of 660 was dominated by battles between the Greens and Eucherius’ Moors, who first contended for control of the high seas. Patriarch Boniface of Carthage firmly opposed Theodahad’s seizure of power and declined to recognize Julian II as Augustus of the Occident, ensuring that his seat and its fleet would fall into the hands of Eucherius in short order, and the Stilichian king of Mauretania took full advantage of this gift as well as the loyalty of the Western Empire’s African legions. After a poorly-planned and over-hasty first attempt at landing on Sicily was repelled in the Battle of Lilybaeum, the Moors rebounded to thrash Theodahad’s fleet in the Battle of Malta and the Battle of Caralis[19].

Once the seas were cleared, Eucherius landed near Paestum in Lucania, completely bypassing his first intended landing zone in Sicily and catching Theodahad (who had expected him to stick to his original plan) off-guard. The Ostrogoths moved both their army in Capua and the one they’d sent down to Messina to await the Africans’ arrival in Sicily to try to crush Eucherius between them, but the imperial uncle was cannier and engaged them separately – first routing the southern army at Marathea[20], then turning to drive the northern one back toward Capua in retreat from the plains of Abellinum[21] soon after. As a rule, the African king executed any Ostrogoths who fell into his hands but allowed Italian legionaries to live if they would swear a holy oath on the Bible to fight for him, and following these victories the cities of southern Italy (where the influence of the Greens was not nearly so prominent as it was in the north) by and large fell in line behind him.

Unfortunately for both sides, it was then that Sergia Aurata delivered her child on a midsummer night: a daughter, quickly baptized as Maria. Naturally Eucherius took the opportunity to declare himself the rightful Augustus, by virtue of being the most senior male Stilichian still standing. However Arbogastes declined to support his claim, instead asserting that his legitimate son Aloysius – as the son of Serena, elder sister to both Stilicho and Eucherius – should take up the purple instead, and fetching the young man from the monastery where he’d been shunted off to learn some discipline an entire year prior after managing to impregnate the elder Iazyges princess Aritê, one of his mother’s servants and the daughter of a merchant from Avaricum in rapid succession. Arbogastes married Argamênos’ younger daughter Leimeiê off to Lech II’s own heir Jaroslaw so as to reaffirm that alliance, then marched the combined might of the north and the Sclaveni (both from within and without Western Roman borders) southward to crush all opposition to his son’s claim.


Arbogastes informing Eucherius' envoy to leave Augusta Treverorum at once and tell his master that, in fact, the Dux Germanicae and all who followed him had chosen a much different course than the latter had hoped

Theodahad assigned garrisons to defend the Alpine passes from the Blues’ approach and also counted on Visigothic reinforcements sent by his uncle’s new in-laws to even the odds, but Arbogastes routed this new army and killed the Gothic count Ardabastus at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae[22]. While Aloysius was eager to fight his way through the Alps, his father went on to simply bribe the legion-and-a-half Theodahad had stationed to guard the pass at Alpis Cottia[23] into letting them pass and joining his ranks. Meanwhile, Eucherius defeated the Greens once more at Beneventum, where he took Theodahad’s brother Odotheus prisoner and then promptly executed him, and came to threaten Rome itself toward the end of summer.

By autumn, it was clear that the Green position had become dire and that while Theodahad may have gotten some momentary revenge on the Stilichians, he was now staring down utter disaster on two fronts – a thorny position Julian had likened to the killers of Venantius immediately after their great crime, writ large. While Arbogastes descended on Rome from the north with many thousands of Teutons, Sclaveni and Romano-Germanic & Gallic legionaries – certainly more that he could comfortably detach smaller forces to secure his supply line and tie up Green bastions such as Mediolanum while keeping a formidable main army with himself – Theodahad sent his other brother Modaharius to at least delay the Romano-Frank, turning his attention and the bulk of his remaining forces to Eucherius in the meantime. Under his leadership and driven by the sort of valor that could come only from desperation, the Greens managed to push their African foes back a ways at Teanum and Ager Falernus[24], but Eucherius’ Moorish skirmishers lured them into a disastrous defeat on the frozen Volturnus that winter while they were marching to relieve the besieged Capua. Theodahad threw himself into Eucherius’ ranks in despair and rage, killing several men before being brought low himself, and for his crimes the African pretender ordered his corpse to be quartered for public display at the forefront of his army.

While Eucherius was finish the struggle with Theodahad, Arbogastes had destroyed Modaharius’ smaller army at the Battle of Tarquinii[25] and stole a march on Rome itself, entering the Eternal City unopposed on Christmas Day while Eucherius and his men were still licking their wounds from the Battle of the Volturnus and had just convinced the defenders of Capua to yield to them. Julian II had yielded to them without a fight and begged for mercy, but Arbogastes had none of it to spare and put the usurper to death alongside Theodahad’s next eldest son Thrasaric. Pope Sylvester continued to decline to crown a claimant at this time even as the Senate rushed to transfer their allegiance to Aloysius with such haste that even the Romano-Frankish prince was disgusted at their sycophancy, and negotiations between the Blues and Eucherius broke down in a matter of days as neither side was willing to relinquish their claim to the purple, so it was clear the war would have to continue until one had been decisively beaten by the other. Though his position may have seemed weaker than that of Arbogastes & Aloysius, and there were serious concerns that the Stilichians’ time on the imperial throne might finally be up, the Mauri king was determined to at least not give up on Rome’s doorstep without even trying to fight – that after all would have been most disappointing conduct for a Stilichian.


Eucherius of Mauretania, aged 42 as of 660 AD, here seen pondering how to evict yet another treacherous faction led by a rival family of Romanized barbarians out of the Eternal City despite having a smaller and more war-weary army

With the Avars still digesting their new conquests and the Thracian frontier remaining somewhat stable as a result, the Eastern Romans had a much less ‘exciting’ 660 than their Western cousins did. Tryphon moved his Achaean reinforcements over the Aegean to join the new army he’d been building in Anatolia at Ephesus, and from there launched his planned counteroffensive against the Turks. He almost immediately ran into Heshana’s own renewed offensive however, and the two sides fought sanguinary battles east of Nicaea, then at Pessinus and Gordium. Each of these were hard-fought victories for the Romans, pushing the Turks well away from the Bosphorus and back into Galatia, but Tryphon’s losses were more grievous and less sustainable than those of Heshana. The Eastern Emperor’s greatest triumph this year thus was not won on the battlefield, but in the porphyry chamber of the Great Palace in Constantinople, where his young bride gave birth to their first child late in the year – a daughter, who he named Irene after his own Greek mother.

Further south, in this year Caliph Qasim faced the first instance of a specter that will haunt many more Islamic rulers for many centuries into the future: Muslims who thought themselves more Islamic than even he, the son of the Prophet. Some of Ubaydallah’s surviving soldiers, denouncing Qasim as a corrupt ruler who shamed his blessed father’s memory and ought to be replaced by someone more ‘righteous’ for his failure to back them up against Heshana’s Turks, made an attempt on his life as he was being carried from Mecca to Medina in a litter (old age having weakened him to the point where, despite having been a vigorous fighter in his youth, he could barely stand on his own these days).

One of Qasim’s wives shielded him from the would-be assassin who got closest (at the cost of her arm) and that man & his fellow conspirators were cut down by his guards immediately afterward. However, the incident left the aging Caliph shaken even as he denounced his near-killers as khawarij (‘Kharijites’) – ‘outsiders’ who had exiled themselves from the Ummah with their treason. Accordingly, he began to gather the resources for a more serious northward offensive against the Turks in order to appease the assassins’ sympathizers; in this manner they thus essentially managed to realize their late master’s goal, though they had failed to end the Caliph’s life as they’d intended and even lost their own.

Further off to the east, the Hunas successfully wrested back the land of the Nepala from Tibetan hands in 660. In the spring Mihirabhoja defeated Mangnyen Tsenpo once again at the Battle of Devghat, after which he followed up with another victory at Kathmandu itself in the summer, and so sent the Tibetans fleeing from the valley altogether. However, the Mahārājadhirāja was much less successful in challenging his northern foe for Monyul – there, come autumn the Tibetans descended upon the Huna army under Mirahvara as they rode through the Paro Valley and resoundingly defeated them in the Battle of Kyichu. Once again the heads of large Buddhist monasteries along the Himalayan border sought to arrange a truce and peace talks between the two emperors before even more Buddhist blood was unnecessarily spilled, but although both Mihirabhoja and Mangnyen agreed to the former once the snow began to fall, negotiations between the pair were unfruitful on account of Mihirabhoja’s refusal to lose even more territory by ceding even just Monyul to Tibet, ensuring that hostilities would continue on into the next spring.

Last of all, in April of this year Liberius was finally elected Abbot of Saint Brendan’s on Tír na Beannachtaí by his brothers, having first endured the death of Abbot Conall and then being defeated in his first attempt at the office by the latter’s handpicked successor Ruarc four years prior. Now he could finally realize his ambition to return to and more thoroughly explore what he believed with certainty to be the mainland of the New World, and indeed he immediately did so with gusto. Within eight months he had successfully retraced his steps to the cross he’d erected on his last visit 15 years ago, and was personally overseeing the establishment of a new Irish colony at ‘Cois Fharraighe’[26] (‘Seaside’), this time recruiting settlers from Ulster wjho'd been boxed out of the other preexisting Irish colonies so that this final quarter of the Emerald Isle might have a part (perhaps even the biggest) in claiming the New World for Christianity and the Gaels alongside their brethren. Toward the end of the year, while looking for the Wildermen he'd met on his first journey to the continent, the last grandson of Otho II reported his momentous discovery of an entire new continent to Rome – unaware that the Holy Father had slightly bigger problems involving his kindred to worry about at the time.


Cois Fharraighe, the first-ever European settlement on the as-of-yet-unnamed landmass west of the Atlantic Ocean, built overlooking the great natural harbor which Liberius hoped to eventually transform into a greater port and doorway for further exploration & colonization of this region

====================================================================================

[1] Constanța.

[2] Stara Zagora.

[3] Hisarya.

[4] Now part of Pleven, Bulgaria.

[5] A hilly region of the Pune district in today’s Maharashtra, most famous for being the homeland of the Marathas.

[6] Roughly equivalent to modern Bhutan.

[7] Varna.

[8] Anticosti Island.

[9] The Neretva River.

[10] Ilidža, now a suburb of Sarajevo.

[11] Velika Kladuša.

[12] Now the Basilica of Santa Aurea. The present-day basilica was built in 1483, but Ostia must have had a church dedicated to its patron saint since at least the 3rd century, when it was made into a bishopric.

[13] Şuhut.

[14] Amasra.

[15] Samsun.

[16] Cap-Diamant.

[17] Quebec City.

[18] Île d'Orléans.

[19] Cagliari.

[20] Maratea.

[21] Avellino.

[22] Aix-en-Provence.

[23] Col de Montgenèvre.

[24] Near Monte Massico.

[25] Tarquinia.

[26] Halifax.
 

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
Damn, the most recent civil war just might fragment WRE for good.
Indeed.Now we would have WRE in Africa and maybe Spain,and HRE elsywhere.
With ERE still standing under new dynasty.

Muslims must attack turks before both them and ERE fall - so,they would conqer less then in OTL.

Hunas now face 3 dangers - so,they would probably never unite entire India.
But - they at least would finish off caste system on their lands.Which would survive only in 3 South kingdoms.

Polani get their sarmatian princess,so at least this time sarmathian myth would be real.

Britons managed to create their hidden city in Quebec.It would be funny if they survive there,but all countries on their borders would be catholics.
Only protestants in North America in Quebec- yes,i like author joke.

And Avars manage not only survive,but get some territories.Not ideal,but - certainly better then Iazygs.
 

stevep

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Reaction score
1,963
Well that was bloody and very messy, especially for the two Roman empires and the Huna. Both empires were effectively beheaded and are left weakened and in turmoil. I get the feeling the belated Muslim storm is coming and is going to shatter the Turks and remove Typhoon from the eastern empire, leading to a new period of disorder there.

In the west it all depends on how quickly the conflict is resolved and how much blood shed but I can't see the two rivals accepting each other's existence. Even if the Stilichian blood is now pretty thin in both claimants.

The Pelagians of Britain may have locked themselves into a dead end as its going to be difficult to either keep the colony secret or reinforce it as the Gallic settlers southern movement is likely to locate them. Unless they can get a lot more settlers - or possibly convert locals - and then spread up the St Lawrence and into the Great Lakes, possibly then down the Mississippi. However its difficult to see them getting enough people fast enough to build up the critical mass that would allow them to build a state with a long term hope of survival.
 

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
Well that was bloody and very messy, especially for the two Roman empires and the Huna. Both empires were effectively beheaded and are left weakened and in turmoil. I get the feeling the belated Muslim storm is coming and is going to shatter the Turks and remove Typhoon from the eastern empire, leading to a new period of disorder there.

In the west it all depends on how quickly the conflict is resolved and how much blood shed but I can't see the two rivals accepting each other's existence. Even if the Stilichian blood is now pretty thin in both claimants.

The Pelagians of Britain may have locked themselves into a dead end as its going to be difficult to either keep the colony secret or reinforce it as the Gallic settlers southern movement is likely to locate them. Unless they can get a lot more settlers - or possibly convert locals - and then spread up the St Lawrence and into the Great Lakes, possibly then down the Mississippi. However its difficult to see them getting enough people fast enough to build up the critical mass that would allow them to build a state with a long term hope of survival.
True about pelagians.There is about 100 of them,and,according to what i read,group need at least 500 members to survive.
At least on tribal settled level./nomads tribes could be smaller/
 
661-664: The Redemption of Arbogast

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
661 picked up right where 660 left off, with this latest Western Roman civil war coming to its climax. Arbogastes had wintered at Rome itself while Eucherius did the same in Capua, and over the cold months they had agreed to meet with Pope Sylvester as a neutral mediator in a last-ditch attempt at averting further violence. Alas, no mutually agreeable peace agreement could be found when both sides claimed the purple and were keenly aware that they were unlikely to survive for long if they just let their enemy have it, so the two great generals of the Occident settled on the next best thing. In hopes of ending the war quickly and decisively rather than have it bleed Rome for many more years while the Avar threat continued to sit on their eastern provinces, they instead agreed to engage in a great pitched battle at a set time & place.

Come the spring, Eucherius marched to decide the fate of the House of Stilicho in the Alban Hills. Arbogastes awaited him outside of Velitrae[1] southeast of the Eternal City, his and Aloysius’ army of 25,000 drawn up for battle when Eucherius’ own of 15,000 got there on the morning April 30. Though the Stilichian army was considerably smaller and more tired, having had to do the lion’s share of the work in bringing down the Amalings, Eucherius was determined that they should do or die in those hills. They received an unexpected boost when Aloysius’ sense of sportsmanship proved strong enough to override his father’s tactical sense & wishes and the northern pretender gave them a chance to form up properly, although in exchange Eucherius did have to swear an oath on the Bible to gracefully acknowledge his last living nephew as Augustus of the West should he be defeated.

The Battle of Velitrae opened with Eucherius’ Moorish skirmishers darting forward to try to bait Aloysius and Arbogastes off their hills, but even the younger and more hot-headed of the duo saw through this trick and held firm on the high ground. Frustrated, and knowing that he had to be the one to attack since his enemies already held Rome behind them, Eucherius grudgingly gave the order to advance. In a bid to offset his serious numerical disadvantage, he had packed the majority of his troops (including all of his heavy legionaries) into a massive offensive wedge in his center, while amassing his cavalry on the left to counter the Blue right (where his scouts correctly identified Aloysius had stationed himself with the heavy cavalry of Gaul and Germania) and leaving only a small force of skirmishers, mounted and afoot both, on his right to hold off the Arbogasting left under the command of Rotholandus.


Eucherius' African legionaries collide with the Germanic ones of Arbogastes, with the latter's Teutonic federates are springing into action to support them

It was apparent that the Mauri king’s intent with this oblique arrangement of his troops was to echo the strategy of Epaminondas at Leuctra by trying to defeat Arbogastes’ center in detail with the majority of his troops, though even with this deployment the magister utriusque militiae’s center still outnumbered his own. Nevertheless the Africans fought ferociously against their even-at-best odds, charging through multiple volleys of plumbatae and crossbow bolts to engage their foe on the Alban Hills. And though Arbogastes’ heavy infantry and the many Teutonic federate troops backing them up (who had even pulled their wagons into a ring to aid them in defending the heights) did not lack for valor of their own, by high noon the Stilichian loyalists actually had gained the upper hand over them despite their greater numbers and terrain advantage.

Unfortunately for Eucherius, by this time Aloysius and the Blue cavalry had broken his own with a downhill countercharge and now swung to engage his center, while Arbogastes continued to grimly hold his ground and force the loyalists to fight hard for every inch of his high hill. The son proved a worthy hammer to his father’s anvil and inflicted devastating losses on their opponent, driving those loyalist troops who did not fall before their charge or surrender on the spot into retreat. Upon catching sight of the despairing Eucherius still fighting a swelling number of Romano-Frankish legionaries and refusing to retreat even as his own men were put to flight all around him, Aloysius called out to his uncle to surrender, but the latter evidently decided that a man can only be defeated when he quits or is killed and answered this entreaty with a javelin. After catching said javelin with his shield, Aloysius obliged Eucherius’ challenge and charged forth: much like the case had been with Argamênos, he had the advantage of still being unhurt while his opponent was worn out and had taken many blows already, and though Eucherius put everything he had into the fight, ultimately Aloysius prevailed with a lethal thrust to the heart that pierced past the scales of his uncle’s lorica plumata.

With the defeat and death of Eucherius at the climax of the Battle of Velitrae, what remained of his army surrendered and it seemed that the poor fortune which had haunted the Stilichians for the entirety of the seventh century thus far was set to reach its climax, costing them their 243-year-old hold on the throne of the Western Roman Empire. However, although Pope Sylvester interpreted the battle’s result as divine sanction for a change in dynasties and agreed to crown Aloysius as Augustus, he and his father remained aware that the situation was still fragile – Hispania (from where the Visigoths had sent aid to their Ostrogoth cousins, though it did not save them) and Africa (where Eucherius’ fourteen-year-old son Stilicho was crowned soon after news of his death arrived in Carthage & Altava) could very well refuse to kneel before the new ruler of the Occident and instead insist on fighting on.


Aloysius' cavalry smashes into the Thevestian contingent of Eucherius' army in the final stage of the Battle of Vellitrae, shattering them and the remaining hope of the Stilichians at retaining the purple

To that end, Aloysius’ first act as Emperor was to extend a merciful hand to his remaining enemies and try to persuade them into bending the knee to his new order as quickly as possible, even returning Eucherius’ corpse to his court in Altava with his armor and praise for his courage in battle (coupled with a less-than-subtle reminder of the vow he had sworn immediately before engaging the Arbogasting host at Velitrae). The Visigoths of Hispania at least yielded by the end of the year, King Reccared (incidentally also the brother of Egilona and thus uncle-by-marriage to the late Theodosius IV and Romanus both) having decided not to follow his Amaling in-laws into oblivion. Africa proved a more stubborn nut to crack, as although the widowed queen Bradamantis argued that the situation was hopeless and they should acknowledge her triumphant half-brother as Augustus to prevent further needless loss of Roman lives, the more warlike nobles of her late husband’s court and Patriarch Boniface of Carthage advocated continuing the fight and accused her of wishing to forsake the Stilichian legacy for that of her own family.

Elsewhere, the Eastern Romans continued to struggle to hold the line against Heshana’s relentless attacks. The toll from just their most recent battles began to show, as Tryphon lacked the strength to hold the Turks back at the Battle of Ancyra and had to fall back to stronger defenses along the Sangarius River, in the process losing most of central Phrygia as well at the Battle of Akroinon[2]. In general, 661 saw the Eastern Romans retreating away from the center of Asia Minor and toward geographic-based defenses such as the aforementioned Sangarius and the mountains of the southwest from which Tryphon himself hailed, once more conceding the recently-recaptured but unsustainable territories in Galatia and central & southern Phrygia.

Far to the east, the struggle of the Buddhist giants in the Himalayan foothills was reaching its peak this year. Mihirabhoja mounted a final offensive into Monyul in the early summer of 661, recapturing the town of Jaigaon which stood on the gateway into this eastern mountain-land and advancing to defeat the Tibetans again in the Battle of Chukha, thereby retaking most of the Monyul lowlands by the end of August. However, when he attempted to pursue the Tibetans into the highlands, Mangnyen Tsenpo ambushed him in the Dochu Pass – successfully pinning the Hunas on both sides with contingents of his heavy infantry and having his skirmishers raining arrows and javelins on them from above, while the narrowness of the pass and the presence of forests beneath the mountains limited the Hunas’ ability to maneuver in turn – and there decisively defeated them. Mihirabhoja was killed in the disaster, and it fell to the new Mahārājadhirāja Mirahvara to repel the inevitable Tibetan counteroffensive as Mangnyen moved to build off his victory at Dochu Pass.


Huna horse-archers scrambling to engage the ambushing Tibetans in the Battle of Dochu Pass

On the opposite end of the world, the Gaels and Romano-British continued to work to secure and build up their new colonies. Between the two, Liberius surely had an easier time at Cois Fharraighe, which rapidly grew as the losers of the endemic skirmishes between the petty-kings of the isles to the northeast migrated to join the promising new settlement with no (Irish) neighbors just yet, while word had gotten from the second Porte-Réial back to Londinium. The Riothamus Albanus was eager to avoid a repeat of his first colony’s catastrophic failure and sent to Porte-Réial everything they asked for: rations (including more salt), arms and armor, and a hundred additional colonists this year.

Both colonies also began to interact with their Wilderman neighbors. Liberius personally handled negotiations with the nearby Mikma’q who called the site of his town Jipugtug (‘Great Harbor’), trading smoked fish and assorted baubles to them for peace. Meanwhile the Britons of Porte-Réial were able to avoid disaster thanks to their Irish converts & translators, who helped them establish peaceable relations with the neighboring camps of the semi-nomadic tribes[3] living around the great river which they dubbed the ‘Saint Pelagius’ after the founder of their sect[4]. Nonetheless, as a basic security precaution, the British did erect a palisade around Porte-Réial even as they sought to open trading relations with their new neighbors and explore up the length of the St. Pelagius.

Negotiations between the new regime in Rome and the African provinces continued late into 662. In addition to working through Bradamantis as best they could, Arbogastes and Aloysius effectively employed what could best be described as a ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach to crack the resistance against the latter’s ascent to the purple. While Aloysius continued to assume a friendly manner, promising leniency and to leave the remaining Stilichians in power in Mauretania (pointing out that young Stilicho and his siblings were after all his own nephews & nieces, and claiming that he had no wish to spill more of his own blood if he could avoid it at all), Arbogastes amassed troops and ships in Sicily and Hispania for an invasion if the Africans remained defiant, and regularly had his legionaries openly parade in ports such as Syracuse and Lilybaeum so that Stilichian spies might report their might back home. The duo also strongarmed Reccared into contributing Visigothic troops to their invasion force in Hispalis and Gades[5].

While the talks were ongoing, lest he give the impression of being an overly soft ruler, Aloysius was also enacting a final exhaustive purge of the defeated Greens. No doubt he was driven in part by the nearly two-hundred-year-old rivalry between their factions, but the treacherous manner in which the Amalings usurped the purple – tricking the last Stilichian Emperor to his death alongside many thousands of loyal Roman and federate troops, then seizing the opportunity to march on the capital while the Avars were swarming the border regions and murdering his brother in blatant breach of the tradition of religious sanctuary – seemed to have genuinely offended him and given him the idea to retaliate in kind, as well. Hundreds of known Green affiliates (Senators, civil officials & bureaucrats, military officers, etc.) were executed and their heads put on spikes, while their heirs & other, slightly more fortunate Greens were dispossessed and their estates and riches given over to opposing Blues or, more rarely, divided between their tenants in exchange for those tenants joining the depleted ranks of the Western Roman army. Aloysius offered his last great purge of the Greens up to the Stilichian court as another gesture of reconciliation, demonstrating his commitment to getting justice for Theodosius IV and Romanus.


A proscribed Green about to be dragged off to his death by one of Aloysius' lictors, backed by a squad of assorted Teutonic federate troops & legionaries

Ultimately, the Aloysian/Arbogasting camp made three critical breakthroughs (and an incidental fourth) in the negotiations near the end of 662. Firstly, Bradamantis issued a well-received public response to the criticism that she was a puppet of her father and half-brother in which, while she expressed that she did indeed want to avoid conflict with her family and stressed that this was only natural on her part, she also dearly loved her son’s Moorish subjects and wished to spare them from unnecessary bloodshed. Secondly, Arbogastes crossed into Mauretania at the Pillars of Hercules while Aloysius remained with the troops in Sicily – and he did so unopposed, bribing the garrison on the African side of the strait to stand aside as he did with the Green legions assigned to bar the Alpine pass where he wished to march two years prior, greatly demoralizing those in Altava and Carthage who wished to keep fighting. Thirdly, Pope Sylvester II and Patriarch Boniface reached an accord: the Papacy abide by the terms of earlier church councils and make no effort to bring Carthage back under its direct authority, and in a further gesture of reconciliation Aloysius would generously sponsor the expansion and renovation of the Patriarchal seat’s great Basilica of Saint Simon[6] into one which could almost rival the splendor of that of Saint Peter. Fourth, the Donatists of Hoggar stirred once more and took their chance to raid the African frontier in this moment of weakness across Roman Africa.

Following these developments, the court of Aloysius and that of Stilicho of Mauretania were able to hash out an agreement at Iol Caesarea in time for the Christmas of 662. Stilicho and his family agreed to acknowledge Aloysius as the legitimate Augustus of the West and to send his younger brother Speratus to the new Emperor’s side. In turn Aloysius swore a holy oath to do no harm to his nephews; to grant Stilicho in the next year, making him one of the youngest in Roman history after Gordian III; and to leave the Stilichians in control of Mauretania with its borders unchanged. He also followed through on the deal he’d arranged through the Pope to finance the expansion of the Basilica of Saint Simon in Carthage. Many a contemporary historian would remark that although the first Stilicho may have utterly crushed the first Arbogast at the Battle of the Frigidus, in the end the latter had the last laugh through his descendants even if it may have taken them nearly 300 years, a previous failure and forsaking the old gods whom he had fought for against both Stilicho and his overlord Theodosius I.

With this ‘Peace of Caesarea’, the Western Empire closed the book on nearly 250 years of Stilichian rule, though the dynasty itself not only continued to survive in the plains of North Africa but also remained celebrated generally celebrated both for its great longevity (especially compared to previous attempts to institute dynastic rule in the Roman Empire) and the courage & competence demonstrated by its thirteen Emperors as they navigated Rome through one crisis after another. That they finally fell not even necessarily due to any great incompetence on their part (besides that of Florianus II, whose actions inaugurated the Aetas Turbida), but rather a relentless streak of misfortune and multiple Augusti being struck down in the prime of their life by assassins or the plague throughout the seventh century, further contributed to the fondness with which they were remembered and the lamentation that accompanied their downfall. For his part, although he seemed poised to inaugurate a new era as the first Arbogasting to take on the purple and progenitor of a new ‘Aloysian’ dynasty, Aloysius was not unaware that the remaining Stilichians could abuse his clemency to make a grab for their lost crown after rebuilding their strength and thus would not feel entirely secure atop his throne for years to come.


The coronation of Aloysius by Pope Sylvester brought one long chapter of Roman history to a close, and opened another

In the Roman East, Tryphon and his generals detected a slackening of Turkic activity on the Anatolian front – this year they did not have to deal with major incursions, just periodic raids out of the occupied central plateau. In truth, Heshana Qaghan had himself received word that the instability wracking the Roman world in recent years had disrupted trade and, more crucially, diplomatic relations between the two halves of the opposing empire: Tryphon had not been recognized as a legitimate Augustus either by Aloysius or Theodosius IV (at least in the last few weeks of the latter’s reign when he launched his final coup), and did not bother to extend the courtesy to his Western counterpart in return. Consequently the Turkic emperor decided to take this opportunity to refocus on the south, where his Monophysite allies and allied Turkic detachments had been ineffectually keeping Alexandria and a few other cities on the Egyptian coast under a porous ‘siege’ for quite some time, and finally eliminate those pockets of Roman resistance well behind his lines.

With Western Roman resupply disrupted and no reinforcements forthcoming from the badly depleted Eastern Roman armies in western Anatolia, Heshana had few problems in executing his strategy. Due to still lacking a navy, he had little choice but to storm Alexandria’s formidable defenses if he was to get that particular siege over with before he dropped dead from old age, but first built a tightening ring of circumvallations around the city which allowed him to move his siege ladders & assemble his siege towers very close to the walls before springing the assault. Consequently the Turks were finally able to overcome the city’s garrison, and following the fall and inevitable sack of Egypt’s primary metropolis, the other Roman cities on the coast submitted in the last months of 662. The only downside to Heshana’s focus on Egypt was that Tryphon had taken the opportunity to go back on the offensive and recapture Ancyra and Gordium for the Eastern Romans, pushing the forces he’d left back up north under Maniakh Tarkhan & Törtogul Tarkhan toward the Halys.

662 saw the Hunas chased out of Monyul in disarray, for following the Battle of Dochu Pass their army was no longer capable of opposing the Tibetans’ renewed onslaught in that region. However, over the spring Mirahvara gathered reinforcements which proved instrumental in fending off Mangnyen Tsenpo’s army at the Battle of Kathmandu in the summer, following which the Tibetan Emperor accepted his suing for peace. The Buddhist monks had better success in brokering a lasting agreement between the two emperors now than when Mihirabhoja still lived, as Mirahvara proved willing to concede Monyul and parts of western and eastern Nepal to the Tibetans – although he was able to argue for his Licchavi vassals retaining the Kathmandu Valley and most of the eastern part of the country. With this arrangement, the Hunas finally found themselves back at peace for the first time in nearly 30 years, their empire considerably truncated but at least still standing, while Mangnyen had managed to redeem himself somewhat for his defeat at the Later Han’s hands before his death.

Far to the west, as the mainland colonies at Cois Fharraighe and Porte-Réial continued to grow, the settlers living within their palisade walls noticed something going wrong with the neighboring Wildermen: as was the case with the indigenes who’d made first contact with the monks at Saint Brendan’s, many began to grow feverish and die from illness soon after trading with the new arrivals. Liberius was able to make amends with the Wildermen around Cois Fharraighe (who he had learned called themselves the Mi’kmaq) with gifts in the form of iron tools and by treating their sick as best he could. Alas the Britons of Porte-Réial had less luck and were besieged by a host of enraged Wildermen, who blamed them for this deadly plague on account of not only the timing but their apparent immunity to it – their already tough lives in this rather cold part of the mainland was about to grow tougher still.


The British of Porte-Réial defending their palisade from an assault by the Wildermen

The Britons could not safely venture beyond their palisade to explore or forage (one party which sought to explore upriver was caught and tortured to death by the natives, who placed their heads on stakes to taunt the defenders) until the start of fall, forcing them to rely on their stockpiled rations and fishing to survive, when they received resupply and reinforcements from a third fleet sent by their Riothamus: with the additional soldiers they broke the natives’ siege, killing thirty men in a furious sally spearheaded by twenty armored cavalrymen and supported by their longbowmen from the watch-towers along the palisade. Thirteen Wildermen were captured out of the well over one hundred who had laid siege to Porte-Réial, and though the man they identified as a chief to death would die on the rack so that they might avenge their lost expedition and nine more died from disease in captivity, three managed to survive and were promptly conscripted as additional translators and guides for the colony.

The new Western Roman Emperor spent 663 working to consolidate his reign. First and most notably, Aloysius moved the imperial capital to his hometown of Augusta Treverorum, where he would be surrounded by loyal friends and could minimize the danger of being done in by his remaining internal enemies like Venantius had been. Besides following through on his promise to name Stilicho of Mauretania the Western Consul for this year, he also capped off his purge of the Greens by scattering the royal house of the Amali once and for all – banishing the youngest sons of Theodahad II across the Atlantic to join their kinsman Liberius, pity having kept him from simply executing them as his father had advised, and arranging marriages for his daughters and nieces to known Blue partisans of prominence.

In addition to installing Blues in the military and as governors of Italy’s various cities and provinces, thereby diminishing the influence of the Greens and ensuring the ascendancy of his faithful partisans, Aloysius also had to juggle the rivaling interests of the remaining African Stilichians and the Sclaveni. The former sought help in fighting off the Hoggari yet again; the latter clamored for an expedition against the Avars so as to recover their homelands, and in any case the huge number of Slavic refugees from occupied Pannonia and Illyria was putting an inordinate strain on the Germanic and northeastern Italian lands where they’d been settled, on top of creating mounting tensions between them and the Bavarians, Lombards, Ostrogoths and Italo-Romans already living there. Encouraged by the hot-blooded young men of the court (many of them heirs to the Teutonic federate kingdoms) he grew up with, and in order to avoid a war among his own federates, Aloysius prioritized eastern affairs and a large military buildup even as he spared a few thousand reinforcements to aid the Mauri against Hoggar.

But events in the East also factored into Aloysius’ decision. The Avars themselves had not forgotten that their truce with Constantinople expired in this year, and between the West still sorting itself out while the East continued to at best hold an ever-shortening line against the Turks, Mouhan Khagan saw opportunity. All he was waiting for was for the Eastern Romans to demonstrate such weakness that he felt he could storm into Thrace and Achaea without fear of stiff resistance, and that sign seemed to materialize later in the year. Heshana had marched back north after his conquest of Egypt, pushing past the slings and arrows of the Christian insurgents in Palaestina and bullying the Jews and Samaritans into upholding their truce right as it was about to break down again along the way, and immediately went to work reversing Tryphon’s gains from 662.

The Eastern Roman army beat back the first two Turkic thrusts from over the Halys at Germanicopolis[7] and Botieum[8] in the summer, but then made the mistake of pursuing them over that great river. Heshana sprang his trap in Cappadocia and inflicted a severe defeat upon Tryphon at the Battle of Rhegedoara northwest of Mazaka, where his force of 40,000 Turks put to flight the 18,000 Romans of the latter and killed or captured (and then executed) nearly two-thirds of them. This defeat was a major setback for the Eastern Romans to be sure, but Tryphon believed the empire could still bounce back as it had after the first siege of Constantinople and even the death of Leo II. He may have been right, but history will never know, for upon returning to the capital he found that all his surviving enemies had seized upon this moment of weakness to bring him down: the Eastern Emperor was stabbed to death at the Baths of Zeuxippus in a conspiracy involving various disaffected aristocrats, which turned out to have been masterminded by his wife in his absence.


The bloodied bathrobe & corpse of the fallen Emperor Tryphon are exposed to the Constantinopolitan mob for abuse, at the same time that his adherents were being purged by his widow's order

Though the Empress Helena (by now nicknamed Karbōnopsina, ‘with the coal-black eyes’, by the court after her most striking physical feature) must have deeply resented her husband for murdering most of her family and using her to make a grab for the purple, and the Constantinopolitan magnates despised Tryphon as a grasping and tyrannical quasi-barbarian, they certainly could have chosen a better time to kill off the man who (however unpleasant he might have been) was standing between them and annihilation at Heshana’s hands. And while all involved could agree on massacring Tryphon’s sycophants in the capital, neither Patriarch Antony nor the Senate of Constantinople were willing to flagrantly breach tradition and crown a woman (either Helena or her toddler daughter Irene) Augustus of the East, placing pressure on her to remarry to a suitable groom in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the Turks took advantage of the Eastern Empire’s sudden headlessness to press forward, reversing all of their foe’s 662 reconquests and then some – by the end of 663, Heshana’s hordes had made it to the gates of Nicaea and Ephesus, while the people of Isauria had largely defected to the invader (finally allowing him to conquer their indomitable mountain homeland peacefully where before he could not do so by force) in a rage over the treacherous assassination of their preferred Emperor and the purge of their fellow Isaurians from the high offices of the Empire. The Avars, too, capitalized on the chaos to renew attacks into the Eastern Empire's remaining European portion.

Over the Atlantic, the first hostilities between (non-exclusively-Irish) Europeans in the New World erupted this year when the fourth expedition sent by the Riothamus to shore up his colony was attacked near Isle de Sanctuaire by Gaels from Tír na Beannachtaí who believed that any vessel flying the dragon-standard of Britannia’s heretical monarch was fair game for piracy. As with their predecessors however, these ships bore complements of armed soldiers, and they were able to repel the much more lightly equipped Irish boarding parties at the cost of seven dead to nineteen Irishmen. The incident persuaded the British to establish a fortified outpost and beacon-tower on Isle de Sanctuaire where their ships could seek refuge from the Gaels before continuing on to Porte-Réial, which they named Point-de-Luce[9] (‘Point of Light’).


The British sink an Irish raiding vessel in the waters of the New World

On the mainland itself, Porte-Réial and Cois Fharraighe continued to stabilize. The Britons of the former utilized their three newly-gained hostages/guides/translators to open talks with their Wilderman neighbors, persuading some tribes that the Romano-British had nothing to do with the plague that befell them and to stand down & resume trade, and bullying others into fleeing well away from them – to where, the Britons scarcely cared. More determined upriver expeditions, this time unmolested by the Wildermen, charted the course of the St. Pelagius River as far as a great lake which they named the Maiden’s Lake (‘Lac-de-Virgine’, or ‘Lacus Virginis’ in proper Latin) after the young daughter of the explorers’ leader, Maurice of Glevum. As for the Irish, Liberius heard about the battle off Isle de Sanctuaire late in the year and took a break from overseeing the continuing development & expansion of Cois Fharraighe to pen a warning to the Irish kings on the isles, advising them to watch the seas more closely and prevent the heretics from sending more aid to their colonies or better still, searching for & destroying that New World presence themselves.

664 brought new danger – and new opportunity – to the entire Roman world. The Avars once more rode to war against the beleaguered Eastern Empire, carving through its Thracian frontier and rapidly pushing through Macedonia & Thessaly (again bypassing strongly fortified coastal cities such as Thessalonica) while its badly bloodied and disorganized forces struggled to hold the line in western Asia Minor against Heshana’s Turks. That was also proving more difficult than in previous years since the Turks had found an upswell of Isaurian recruits eager to avenge the wrong done to the greatest of their people in the seventh century just the previous year, allowing Heshana to expand his army at little expense and have plenty more highly motivated troops on hand for assaults on the remaining Eastern Roman cities on the eastern side of the Bosphorus. Though he was unable to crack either Nicaea or the cities of Ionia this year, the Qaghan did manage to drive a geographic wedge between them by capturing Pergamon[10] late in the summer, after which he subjected the former capital of the ancient Attalids to a sack from which it would never recover.

Faced with military disaster on all fronts and a pressing need to remarry, Helena resolved to kill multiple birds with one stone and revived the scheme her mother had once thought up to wed her to a Western Roman Emperor or his relative. Since the Stilichian whom she originally intended to marry (Prince Romanus) had been dead for five years at this point and his remaining kin displaced from their throne for three, the Eastern Empress instead offered her hand in marriage to Aloysius in exchange for his aid against her people’s many enemies. Up until then the aforementioned Western Emperor and his father had given much thought to marrying him to Maria, the posthumous daughter of Theodosius IV, but as she was only four (certainly very far away from being able to conceive an heir) and he already had Stilichian blood ties from his mother Serena, they had come to think of that match as less than ideal: Arbogastes believed its main benefit, even more-so than siring a future Caesar, would have been to deny little Maria’s hand to any other ambitious rival claimants.


Helénē Karbōnopsina, Empress of the East and last of the Sabbatic dynasty. Dark-haired, dark-eyed, and dark of temperament – it was difficult to think of a stronger contrast, physically and in manner, to her intended husband. But if ever there was a time that justified a match as strange as theirs, the turbulent 660s must have been it

The prospective match to Helena completely changed their calculations. The last living Sabbatian was only a few years younger than Aloysius himself; presented a unique opportunity to reunite the East and West after nearly 300 years of separation since the death of Theodosius I; had proven she could bear healthy children; and as a final ‘selling point’, she was also reputed to be a very beautiful woman, if also one said to possess a rather grim and melancholic disposition. To Aloysius (who had already fathered several illegitimate children but no lawful Caesar), this proposal was an obvious choice and he immediately lunged for the chance to follow up his successful claiming of the Western Roman throne by reuniting his half of the empire with the Orient, no matter that his would-be bride was strongly suspected of having arranged the death of her first husband and such a woman clearly would not be some meek maiden he could push around easily. That this marriage would bring him into direct conflict with the Avars, who he was intending to fight anyway, was just one more positive in the warlike Emperor’s view. As for Maria, it was decided that she would be wed to Aloysius and Helena’s first son once one was born instead.

Pope Sylvester II died in August of this year, and to succeed him the people of Rome elected Gregory, archpriest of the Basilica of Saints John & Paul on the Caelian Hill. Almost immediately after his ascension to the Chair of Saint Peter, Pope Gregory found himself presiding over a new ecumenical council – dubbed the Second Lateran Council after its meeting place – summoned by Aloysius and Helena with the primary purpose of coordinating a Christendom-wide response to the emergency facing the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Naturally the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Babylon all called out for aid as first order of business, being either already occupied by or on the ropes against the Manichaeist and pagan Turks – and the West, it seemed, was ready to answer.

Hopeful of using this common enemy to paper over the cracks that had emerged between Rome and Carthage with the downfall of the Stilichians (as well as to further reconcile the surviving Stilichians to Aloysius), jointly with the latter’s Patriarch Boniface the new Pope issued a fiery call to arms to dispel forever the oppressive presence of the Avars; free the Churches of the East from the Turkic terror; and reunify the Roman world, all at once. Knowing that his family’s progenitor and namesake of his father was ‘best’ remembered not for being a brave and capable lieutenant to the Emperors Gratian & Valentinian II, but rather as the latter’s probable murderer and the spearhead of the last attempt to restore the supremacy of the ancient Roman gods, Aloysius enthusiastically took this chance to found a new legacy for his dynasty as champions for Christendom and ordered the preparation of religious icons and banners as part of his ongoing military buildup. While not typically counted among the great holy wars of future centuries, this prominent adoption of religious imagery and terms to try to unite all Romans (and indeed all Ephesian Christians) under the new emperor’s banner in spite of whatever rifts may have existed between them has led some historians to reckon the war Aloysius was about to wage against an assortment of almost entirely non-Christian enemies not only as the next stage of the Thirty Years’ War between the Eastern Romans and Southern Turks, but as the ‘Zeroth Crusade’.


Flavius Aloysius Augustus, the first non-Stilichian Emperor of the West in 241 years, aged 22 as of 664. Though he'd demonstrated himself to be a brave warrior, a forceful leader and a canny statesman (albeit one who still needed his more experienced father's help on occasion) already, his challenges were not even close to over with his assumption of the purple

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Romano-British put a temporary stop to their upriver exploration in favor of consolidating their continental base at Porte-Réial, as well as fortifying their other outpost at Point-de-Luce. This proved to be a wise investment of their time & resources, as after failing to intercept another convoy from Britannia on the high seas, the Gaelic petty-king Murchad Mac Échtgal of Cuan Ghaofar[11] (‘Windy Bay’) sent a force of 50 men spread out over four small ships to burn the latter to the ground. The Britons lucked out when one of the boats sank in the choppy waters around Isle de Sanctuaire, and despite still facing a two-to-one numerical disadvantage, managed to spot and repel the attackers before they could land with the help of their lighthouse & longbows.

Despite the outpost’s survival however, Liberius’ message had by now reached Paparia and the monks there began to more actively watch their shoreline for British ships as well. As it inevitably became more and more difficult for the Riothamus to directly send supplies and new colonists to Porte-Réial (although he would certainly continue to try), and word of the attack on Point-de-Luce reached the larger settlement, the Britons on the mainland resolved to forge alliances with as many of the local Wildermen as they could to improve their odds of survival, despite the extremely rocky start to their relationship. Through their translators (Irish and Wilderman alike) they made amends with some of the tribes they had previously butted heads with, and resumed trade with or even began to hire guards from others – though out of mistrust the colonists were careful to only ever let a very small number of Wildermen into their village at any time, and to keep them under supervision (especially if trusting them to walk along the palisade and help watch for threats) while they were there.

====================================================================================

[1] Velletri.

[2] Afyonkarahisar.

[3] The Iroquois have yet to settle the lower reaches of Saint Lawrence River in the seventh century – indeed, historically their oldest settlements in this area only date back to 1000. Prior to their coming from what’s now Ontario and attendant development of agriculture, the core of present-day Quebec was still inhabited by obscure hunter-gatherer peoples likely related to the Dorset culture and their neighbors in the Maritimes.

[4] The St. Lawrence River.

[5] Cádiz.

[6] Now in ruins, and known as the ‘Basilica of Damous El Karita’.

[7] Çankırı.

[8] Near the site of Lake Tatta, now known as Lake Tuz in central Turkey.

[9] Rivière-aux-Saumons, Anticosti Island.

[10] Near modern Bergama.

[11] Corner Brook.
 
Last edited:

PsihoKekec

Swashbuckling Accountant
Joined
Aug 23, 2019
Reaction score
24,851
Location
Slovenija
And the first crusade is a go. It saddens me to see to Stilichian dynasty of emperors end, it's members struggled against mighty odds to keep Western Roman Empire together against outside threats and constant treachery, but nothing lasts forever.

I reckon the marriage of Aloysious and Helena will be a turbulent one, a kind of union that Armando Iannucci could make a movie about.
 

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
Indeed. I had planned the Stilichians' rule to end with their 13th emperor for quite some time, but nevertheless this remained a tough chapter to write, theirs being the dynasty founded by & carrying the name of the guy in the timeline's title from the very beginning and all.

Heh well, a satirist would unironically be better suited to making a movie out of their marriage than an actual romance showrunner/producer/director. Even if it reunites the two Romes, a match between a known playboy who's already fathered several bastards and a black widow who fairly obviously had both motive & opportunity to whack her first husband is not likely to grow in a particularly romantic direction. But who knows, stranger things have happened and whether it becomes loving or strictly remains a marriage of political convenience, hopefully it'll at least remain a better love story than Twilight/Fifty Shades of Grey/Reylo :LOL:

The next chapter will be a narrative one, we haven't had one of those in three months (or 40 years in-universe). I've also realized that I slightly messed up the footnotes of the new chapter, and have fixed it just now.
 

stevep

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Reaction score
1,963
Well there's a chance for the western empire to have some stability and also rescue at least part of the east although even if the Avars and Turks are defeated they are then likely to then face a Muslim onslaught. Since Aloysious's crusade is termed the 0th one by later sources that does suggest that there will be such operations in the future, presumably to seek to regain lost lands. I suspect that he will have success against the Avars, who are more vulnerable and probably at least some against the Turks but then be facing an aggressive Islamic expansion.

As Aloysious has committed himself to this massive operation its not going to endear him to the N Africans who can now rule out any real aid against the Hoggar although they should be able, without a threat from the north, to handle that issue themselves.

The Britons are hanging on in N America and expanding their foothold but their heavily outnumbers and also with very fragile supply lines while the Gauls are likely to return in greater numbers now they know where the easternmost foothold is. Plus of course with the western empire being put on a crusade footing their old homeland is likely to come under new attacks. :(

The Huna finally have a period of peace which they desperately need but can the new emperor establish security and probably as importantly economic revival?

Pity that the Stilicho dynasty has lost power, although with the right circumstances its not impossible for it to make a come-back if the rest of the empire is in dire enough straits. I suspect that your not going to be taking that path however.
 

PsihoKekec

Swashbuckling Accountant
Joined
Aug 23, 2019
Reaction score
24,851
Location
Slovenija
Come to think, if both halves of empire are united, then North Africa will see more fighting as Turks will seek to push West, but due to logistics it will likely be a secondary theater of operations, the main one being Asia Minor.
 

stevep

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 18, 2020
Reaction score
1,963
Come to think, if both halves of empire are united, then North Africa will see more fighting as Turks will seek to push West, but due to logistics it will likely be a secondary theater of operations, the main one being Asia Minor.
I suspect in that scenario the Muslims will occupy Egypt as the population would rather have them than the empire due to the religious differences. That would mean a western desert front so to speak but probably a relatively minor one as long as the Ephesians in western N Africa are fairly united. Plus the Muslims might concentrate on finishing off the Nubians 1st and their likely to go under markedly earlier than OTL. However there have been suggestions that the Hoggar would quickly fall to Islam and probably convert so that would be another issue, although with the Ephesians are also established to their south the Islamic spread south of the Sahel is likely to be more difficult.
 

ATP

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Reaction score
5,237
WRE end cyvil war,ERE is on last legs,so - they would face now Turks,Avars,and muslims.
Depending on how it go,we could have:
1.United Roman Empire,crushed Avars,Turks and muslims.
2.United Roman Empire,Avars and Turks still strong,muslims crushed
3.Uniter RE,Avars survived,turks destroyed,muslims new power
4.WRE and ERE survive ,but relatively weak,strong Turks and Avars,muslims defeated
5.The same,but muslims win over turks
6.WRE and ERE survive,turks not,muslims still weak
7.WRE fall,ERE survived,strong muslims or turks.
8.ERE fall,WRE survived,strong muslims or turks.

Or...turn it into good tragedy - kill all main actors!

No matter what happen,we have 3 major differencies:
1.slavic states under WRE
2.african christian state
3.christians in North America.

Even if both WRE and ERE fall,those 3 should survive.

Hunas finally have peace,too.Sogdians or hindu southern states could be in danger.

Britons in Quebec - they should find mines in Canada.locals certainly mined copper,i once even read about bronze spearheads mede there about 500AD.
 
Romantic Battle

Circle of Willis

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Reaction score
4,368
Palace of Bucoleon, Constantinople, 20 June 666 – 5:30 PM

“Most august empress, I bring dire news from the Mesoteichion[1].”

At the sound of those words the Augusta Helena lowered her goblet to the desk and her eyes away from the window through which she’d been watching Turkic ships burning on or sinking into the waters beyond Constantinople’s seaward walls, having taken a small breath to calm herself and muster the self-control to not hurl her winecup at the wall. The Turks and Avars had been throwing themselves at Constantinople’s defenses for months now, concentrating on its landward defenses and southern sea-walls since a great chain pulled across from Galata kept them from even entering the Golden Horn to the north, and most distressingly not even being burned by the liquid fire invented under her father seemed to cease their unrelenting assaults this time around. “Prince Bakour. What have the Avars wrought now?”

Bakour the Georgian was kneeling on the floor behind her, looking worse for the wear. The prince was paler than usual, his cloak was tattered and spattered with blood, and she could tell at a glance that a spear or sword must have struck his helmet from the dent left in it – that wasn’t there in the morning. “Though their accursed engines of war have failed to breach our defenses, by weight of numbers they have managed to scale a portion of the outer wall, and our men were too few to hold them back there. Fighting now rages in the peribolos[2] and there is little doubt that the Avars will try to surmount the inner wall as soon as they can reach it. They are also attempting to break down the Gates of Charisius.”

Fortunately for Bakour, he had been one of Helena’s companions in childhood, and the happy memories they shared held her back from venting her stress and fury upon him. Unfortunately, the third son of the dethroned King of Georgia was not a particularly useful match even in much better times than this turbulent era, or else she would have been glad to make him Emperor of the East. Struggling to maintain her composure, Helena managed to say, “Do you know how long you can hold them at the inner wall?”

“Much longer, I expect.” Bakour lifted his eyes to meet his empress’ gaze, pale-green locking with the coal-black ones for which she had been nicknamed. “We’re diverting legionaries from the walls around the Palace of Blachernae, from which we have just driven the Avars and their Sclaveni thralls back in disarray, to reinforce the defense of the northern Mesoteichion. By your leave, I will lead the cataphracts and clibanarii stationed around the aforementioned palace in a counterattack through the nearby postern-gates into the peribolos myself, as well.”

“You have it, good prince. Ride forth and destroy those savages before they can enter the city proper.” Helena remained impassive as the Chosroid prince rose with a nod & a bow, but as soon as he had left and the guard shut the door behind him, she forcefully seized her wine goblet and drained its contents completely in a single gulp. The odds were long and growing longer by the hour, but even as their situation grew more desperate and justified increasingly desperate measures in turn, the Empress hoped he would return to her alive and well – that she hadn’t just given one of her few real friends permission to charge to his death. He was just starting to grow that mustache she’d recommended to look more manly, too.

Considering how much attrition had worn away at the strength of the East, Helena was well aware that their fates depended now on the arrival of the man who was to be her husband. All she knew of him, she had heard through her ambassadors and his: that he was a great warrior who’d pried his crown from the hands of the Stilichians, not through betrayal and murder as Tryphon had done to her own family but in honest battle, and would make for a handsome consort – golden-haired, golden-skinned and towering, combining the might of a Teuton with the civilized manner of a proper Roman, though her handmaid reported one of his blue eyes was marred by a thin dark stripe[3]. Quite the contrast to the lean and pale Bakour just now, he whose hair (though not his temperament) was as dark as her own.

She didn’t know how many of these flattering remarks were actually true, but in her dire straits the Empress cared most of all that he brought her badly-needed help and that he would not be half as vile as her first husband.

Only a few minutes (and one refilling of her golden cup) had passed before another man arrived with more grim tidings. This time it was a messenger serving Gondophares of the Sassanids, whose family her father and grandfather had reconciled with despite having helped precipitate this disastrous long war with the Turks in the first place with their foolish rebellion more than thirty years ago. “Imperial majesty! Several of the Turkic vessels have managed to push past our fleet outside the Harbor of Theodosius, and drew close enough that the soldiers on-board have been able to reach the shore and assail the Jewish Gate.”

Helena’s eyes narrowed at that. The empress had far less love for Gondophares than she did for Bakour, and when she addressed his runner she did so in a much sharper tone. “How numerous are they, and can Strategos[4] Gondophares hold them back with the forces available to him there?”

“Not more than a thousand, if mine eyes do not deceive me.” The man replied quickly, perhaps sensing his empress’ displeasure bearing down upon him. “We have prevented them from gaining a foothold along the sea-walls thus far, and fireships and dromons alike are moving to destroy their route of retreat as well as prevent the Turks from landing additional reinforcements. The Jewish troops in particular are fighting hard to keep them at bay. Yes – I think we can hold them there, my Empress.”

Ah, so the situation was not as bad as she’d feared at first. Helena figured she’d made the right decision, taking a child from most Jewish households hostage to compel their fathers and brothers to fight for her. While it brought her no especial pleasure to resort to a tactic as cowardly as this, she was prepared to do anything it took to prevent them from betraying her as their kin in Palaestina had done to her grandfather, and coupled with the threat of the Turkic-Avar alliance sacking their quarter just as they would the rest of Constantinople if they’d prevailed, it seemed to have provided sufficient motivation to her Jewish conscripts that they’d seriously commit to their duty to the Eastern Empire. “Splendid. Advise noble Gondophares to continue overseeing the defense along the southern walls, and to double his efforts to destroy those Turks who have come ashore on the beach.”

Helena had dismissed Gondophares’ runner with another wave, and returned to her seaside window once he’d departed. As thrilling as it was to see her fireships’ siphons dousing the Turkic ships with unquenchable flames or her dromons tearing them apart with rams before they could get close enough to let their soldiers disembark on her shores and scale the sea-walls of her city, she always soberly reminded herself that these were for the most part the ships of her people, seized from ports which had fallen into enemy hands and rowed by galley slaves or hapless Greek and Syrian citizens pressganged by the Turks, sometimes with the safety of their kin placed at stake to ‘motivate’ them. Not too different from what she had done with Constantinople’s Jewish population, actually.

That thought shamed and disgusted the Augusta. But, such was war – even a lady of refinement such as Helena herself knew that they had to do everything necessary to prevail. And she in particular really didn’t have any more room for mistakes, not since she allowed passion to overrule her judgment and took the first chance she got to off her abusive, murdering brute of a first husband almost as soon as he returned to the capital in disgrace & defeat, no matter that it cost her empire a capable general and drove the Isaurians and other mountain-folk of Anatolia into Heshana’s arms. Well, she couldn’t take that decision back now (nor did she think she would even if she could, not after he’d strangled her twin in his sleep and threw their mother out of the Blachernae Palace’s highest window), and the Empress of the Orient hoped she would never have to consider a similar course of action with her second husband.

Speaking of which, he was still nowhere to be found, while the Turks were closing in with every hour. True, Helena’s soldiers and captains were still enough to hold the foe back for probably many months still at minimum, but the mere thought that the Queen of Cities – the New Rome and glorious seat of her ancestors – was in any danger of falling filled Helena with a certain terror that pervaded her sleep. And that danger increased by the day, what with the Turks and Avars’ combined strength outnumbering her own by well over ten to one, and they could replace their casualties far more easily than the Romans could. After all they were not even risking their own, for the most part, in the fight for control over the waters around Constantinople! Still the defenders had to fight on, despite the daunting odds, for the sake of hundreds of thousands of citizens, as well as the many thousands more from both sides of the Bosphorus who had sought refuge behind its mighty walls: this must be for the Eastern Roman Empire what the ancients called aristeia, a ‘moment of excellence’ in which the heroes engage in a final bout against overwhelming odds, determined to burn out in one last blaze of glory rather than fade away.

And as for herself? The Augusta glanced, just for a split second, straight down over the window’s ledge, and tightened her grip on the ledge so strongly that her pale knuckles turned almost bone-white. Humility was a virtue, and one she had just enough of to admit that she was too prideful to do as Christ and the martyrs did. Heshana, tormentor of her family and killer of her father and grandfather, must and would never be allowed the pleasure of marching her naked and in chains down the roads of his capital back in Persia, that Helena was certain of. Nor would she allow a similar fate to befall her young daughter Irene, the last reminder of Tryphon whom she nevertheless had to love as her first child, presently playing innocently in the neighboring Great Palace without any knowledge of the danger they were all in. Though suicide was a sin, she had resolved that if her city were to fall, she would rather fall with it – and take her daughter with her – than allow either of them to be subjected to the disgrace of captivity and probably an even slower & more painful death afterward (as the first Shapur had done to Emperor Valerian), or worse.

It was amid these morose musings that another messenger arrived. Helena pushed some of her shadow-dark locks out of her eyes (and with them the beginnings of some tears borne from contemplating thoughts blacker still), then gracefully reached for her refilled goblet and drained half of it before deigning to speak to the kneeling man. “Ah, I recognize you – you have borne to me many a bitter message from Arsaber since this siege began.” The Golden Gate which Arsaber defended had borne the brunt of the Avar-Turkic assaults from day one, and almost all the news she’d ever gotten from that section of the walls was poor. “Now what additional ill tidings has the King of Armenia sent from the southwestern walls?”

“I do bring tidings from my redoubtable king, great empress, but for once they are not ill in the least.” The Armenian sounded excited, which instantly got Helena’s attention. “From the Golden Gate he has witnessed the arrival of your august husband-to-be, Emperor Aloysius, with all the might of the Occident behind him. The last I saw before he ordered me to depart our tower and report this news to you was their legions, as numerous as sand on our seashore, forming up for battle while mounted skirmishers were surging forth to engage the Avars’ own reserve forces.”

Well! It would seem to Helena that she had begun to despair too early, and that her husband was good for something after all. She allowed herself a thin smile and finished draining the remaining wine in her goblet. “Guard! Accompany me to the Old Golden Gate. I wish to observe my lord husband’s arrival from the highest tower along Constantine’s walls. And you…” She pointed a long finger at the messenger. “If we survive this siege, for bearing me the best news I have heard all year, I promise you and your family an estate of your choice, wherever it remains in my power to grant you the deed.”

The Anthemian (or ‘Long’) Walls, outside Constantinople, 20 June 666 – 6:07 PM

“Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, ut non pereamus in tremendo iudicio.[5]” After concluding this final prayer Flavius Aloysius Augustus, Emperor of the Roman West, rose to his impressive full height from his knees and exited his tent, whereupon he was immediately greeted by his father and lieutenants. “If you have all gathered here already, then I gather the army is prepared to fight to and through the gates of Constantinople?” He queried – not in Latin, naturally, but in Francesc[6], the language he had gotten used to speaking since he was young. As the Emperor himself would put it: he spoke Latin to God, Francesc to men, Gallique[7] to women, and Frenkisk[8] to his steed.

“Our infantry are so numerous that they still need time to form ranks. The carroballistae are also not fully battle-ready just yet.” Aloysius’ father and magister utriusque militiae Arbogastes, who remained as tall as his august son even as time’s passage increasingly turned his golden beard into silver and weighed down his once-mighty frame, replied matter-of-factly. “However your companions have already arrayed the cavalry into three large wedges, per your orders. The African skirmishers under Simon of Sufetula have also proceeded to engage the Avars at a distance and keep them from forming up to oppose us.”

“Splendid! Then, with them I shall ride forth at once to shatter the Avars from behind. We shall dash them to pieces between our lances and the city walls, and I shall fashion from their skulls a dower for my bride.” Aloysius replied, brimming with confidence, as they made their way past the cheering ranks of the Western Roman army towards its forefront. His father and envoys (some of whom he counted among his many friends) all insisted that his soon-to-be wife was a great raven-haired and alabaster-skinned beauty, whose figure they likened to a statue of Venus, and that he would no longer even think of philandering after laying eyes on her. Now that was no small praise indeed; Aloysius doubted it but he supposed he’d only know for sure whether it was true after laying his eyes on her for the first time, and the fate he’d heard befall her first husband gave him some pause.

More important to the Emperor than whether his soon-to-be wife lived up to all that flattery, though, was the prospect of finally reuniting the two Romes in the marital bed with her.

“As I have just said, Augustus, the infantry who comprise the greater part of your army will not be able to follow you immediately.” Arbogastes did not seem happy at that decision, but Aloysius dismissed his father’s concerns with a wave.

“Our scouts reported that the Avars are already busily assaulting the walls of Constantinople, and have been doing so for this entire day by the look of it. Whatever troops they have left to face us are likely to be battle-weary, of the poorest quality, or both.” Aloysius noted that his father did not seem to trust his assessment of the Avar forces, so he pressed on, “Between ourselves and our faithful federates we have with us near ten thousand heavy horsemen – almost a full fifth of this army, and more than have ever ridden with any Roman host in this century or the last. The Avars could not possibly withstand our charge, even if they were not already divided and drained in their efforts to storm Constantinople’s defenses: did you not behold how rapidly the men they’d stationed to defend the ruined length of the Anthemian Wall wilted before the least of our strength only a few short hours ago?”

“These Avars before us are not the only men you need to fear, son.” Arbogastes reminded the emperor. “Do not forget, your brother has sent us warning that some of the Sclaveni who smiled before you and feasted with you in their halls have turned their cloaks already – or perhaps they had kept faith with their Avar masters all along – and now march to assail the rear of this host with the Avar prince Zuhui. The Turks have also landed thousands of troops on this side of the Hellespont to assist their allies, and it is reported that they even have elephants imported from as far as India with them.”

“All the more reason why I should surge ahead to rescue my dear wife, while you should remain behind with the infantry and carroballistae. I will leave to you, Father, the task of holding back Zuhui’s reinforcements – if Rotholandus has not dealt with them already – and the elephants of the Turks. If worst comes to worst, lest we forget, Stilicho is still en route with the majority of the African army.” Those damned Donatists from Hoggar had delayed the Moors for months, such that Stilicho had to send a 2,500-man detachment to join Aloysius in a sign of loyalty ahead of his actual army, but at Naissus he had heard that the Africans had finally overcome that threat and set sail from Carthage to join them. The original plan was to unite at Thessalonica, but the gravity of the Avar and Turkic threats had convinced Aloysius to hasten to Constantinople and direct Stilicho the Moor to do likewise instead.

“If he finds us – the men who have dispossessed his family of the crown they had held for nearly a quarter of a millennium – embattled and mired in great difficulty, do you truly think he will be in a great hurry to rush to our aid?”

They had had this conversation many times before, and it annoyed Aloysius more every time he had to think about it. “Of course.” The emperor replied curtly, his dark blue eyes narrowing. “If nothing else, because we have his brother Speratus at our court, and he knows we will return the lad to him in pieces if he fails.”

“I am certain that is what Theodosius Quartus thought too, before the Amalings betrayed him to his death. And lest you forget, Speratus is only one of Stilicho’s brothers, much as Thorismund had only been one of several sons of Theodahad.”

“Be that as it may, the Stilichians are not the Amalings. They are a more dutiful sort and I expect they will keep faith with both liege and kin, come what may.” Aloysius snapped back, as much to convince himself as to get his father off his back. Truthfully, if the situation were reversed and he was marching in Stilicho’s shoes, the emperor thought he might well have done as his old man was warning about and betray the Stilichians for a chance at the purple. For a moment he ran a hand through his golden curls, as he typically did when frustrated or stressed – a trait his mother claimed had been passed down through her from grandmother Tia, who had died in the same year he was born in, though he’d inherited the darker molten-gold coloring of his father rather than the sandy blonde of their side of the family. “Though of course, if I can prevail without them, I shall – and in fact I would prefer to.”

Arbogastes departed with a wordless bow, his expression at this exchange inscrutable, while Aloysius continued on to his armored stallion at the forefront of the central cavalry wedge. A servant removed his purple cloak, after which he climbed into Ascanius’ saddle with a few smooth and well-practiced movements, carefully avoiding ruffling the great eagle-wings whose wooden frames had been fastened to either side of its high cantle before they departed Mediolanum. On his left his armor-bearer lifted to him his helmet – gilded down to its aventail, of course, like the rest of his armor, and encrusted with the twelve gemstones said to form the foundation of New Jerusalem’s walls in the Book of Revelation, from jasper to carnelian to amethyst – and to his right, his sword-bearer held aloft his red-and-white lance and his round shield, painted with a white chi-rho on a blue field. After donning the former and retrieving the latter, the Augustus of the Occident turned to his remaining companions and began to address them.

“Haistulf, take the left wing and lead them down the northern banks of the Lycus toward the Gates of Blachernae. You will enter Constantinople through those gates as well as its neighbors, the Gyrolimne Gate and the Gate of the Bootmakers.” The emperor pointed northward, at the leftmost mass of his horsemen.

“Have you tired of my presence so quickly, honored Emperor?” The heir of Theodulf of the Lombards queried with a cheeky grin. The ladies called him Haistulf the Handsome, but the Augustus thought it more accurate to call him Haistulf the Fair instead. His people were so named for their long beards, but this prince’s face was wholly smooth, and between his elfin face and grace, lean frame and the way his long strawberry-blond hair took on a pinkish hue in the light of sunset, an observer could not be faulted for thinking him an especially fair eunuch or even a young woman. Aloysius of course knew better, having grown up with Haistulf at his side, and was aware that despite his decidedly un-serious countenance, the Lombard was no less competent at arms than the rest of his comitatus – the younger man was very proud of the fact that no foe had been able to mar his fine features with even a single scar in combat thus far.

“Far from it, my friend. But the caballarii need you more, as do your own soldiers, right now.” Aloysius chuckled as he fastened his helmet’s straps beneath his square chin. “And once we are in the city, I suspect my wife will want to quarter you at Blachernae anyway, well away from us in the Grand Palace.”

“Oh. Well, mighty Augustus, be assured I will accept that assignment with grace as I shall this one. I certainly would not wish to get between you and the fair Helena.” Another emperor might have chastised Haistulf for such insolent innuendo, but being as used to the ribald jokes of his friends as he was, Aloysius simply laughed it off even as the Papal legate Ecclesius and the Carthaginian Patriarch’s own representative Igider leveled disapproving glares. The Lombard pulled his own brimmed iron helm over his head and departed with a bow, after which his august friend immediately turned to another companion.

“Zdeslav, you have the right. Lead the southern contingent down the Via Egnatia towards the Golden and Xylokerkos Gates, through which you are to enter Constantinople. Destroy all who stand in your path – give these Avars neither rest nor pity.”

“My pleasure, Augustus.” The dark-headed second son and rightful successor to the fallen Prince of the Horites replied with a smirk. Zdeslav Hranislavić and his people had been waiting for this moment for a long time, Aloysius was sure: finally a chance to crush the Avars utterly between themselves and the Eastern Romans, and avenge the many past humiliations and tribulations those barbarians had visited upon them for more than a hundred years. Not coincidentally, the emperor had packed not only the Horites but also their fellow Sclaveni federates and those newcomers who had remained committed to their newfound allegiance to Rome into his right wing. “Though I would have thought you would want me to leave some of them for you, so that you might still have a chance of catching up in our contest.”

“There may come a day where you will exceed me in fighting prowess and your list of fallen foes grows longer than mine, dear friend, but it will not be this day.” Aloysius boasted. “No doubt my bride will prepare a feast worthy of a glorious emperor, once we prevail. But let whoever slays more barbarians today – which will assuredly be myself – dine and drink at the loser’s expense once we return to Trévere[9].”

“I accept your terms, imperial majesty. I am sure the best man will prevail.”

As with Haistulf, Zdeslav’s jab may have been taken much more badly had it not been for his longstanding friendship with the Emperor. As it was, Aloysius merely remarked, “Have no fear, I shall!” before allowing the shorter and squatter Horite to leave with a wave and a laugh, before returning his attention to the companions still with him.

“The rest of you are to remain with me, save Agilolf and Rechiar. Cegel, Geovean, Rufin[10] – take command of your vexillationes[11] and follow my lead. Sigismund, Merogais – do the same with your Burgundians and Franks. Agilolf, Rechiar – return to assume command of your peoples’ contingents among the infantry under my father. The Baiuvarii and Alemanni have need of their princes.” As these members of his stalwart comitatus, the sons of great magnates living around Trévere and federate princes alike, departed to take up their commands Aloysius now began to address the great wedge of heavy cavalrymen formed behind him.

“Nothing lasts forever, faithful soldiers. No dynasty, as all gathered here must well remember, and no empire either.” Fortunately, Aloysius’ African troops were either skirmishing with the Avars well out to the front or still absent from the battlefield – they likely would not have appreciated the reminder. “One day, even Rome will fall, as Constantinople seems poised to do to-day. A day will come when the Aurelian Walls should come crashing down and unwashed savages pour through the Salarian Gate, and I pray I will be long dead and every scrap of flesh has left my skeleton in its catacomb on that black day.”

“But it will not be this day!”
The Occidental Emperor was riding back and forth now, and his voice dropped its somber tone to rise in volume and fervor as he shook his lance in the air. “And as nothing good lasts forever, neither will any foul thing. Indeed, we are here today to put an end to the division between West and East which has split the Roman world apart for nearly three centuries. This day, both Romes – the first and the second – still stand. This day, both Romes are fighting to survive for another thousand years. This day, both Romes will drive back the barbarians beating at their gates and tormenting their good people. This day, legions of Rome – and faithful friends of the Eternal City, as well – you will prove that the end is still very far off for our glorious empire!”

Now Aloysius came to a halt, and pointed his lance down the devastated fields where the Avars had trod after first breaching the Anthemian Wall while the Western Romans had only just set out from Italy. “Before us lies Constantinople, to be sure. But more than that, there lies the future! Ride forth with me, valiant soldiers of Christ, to save the Queen of Cities and my wife – your empress – within her, like a legion of heroes from the ancient tales. Ride now with me, to reunite the first Rome with the second; to renew the legacy of Caesar; and to shut out the barbarians who have tried and failed, time and again, to snuff out the light of God and the civilization upon which it shines most brightly!” The soldiers began once more to cheer loudly: first the men of the Germanic provinces who could actually understand what he was saying, followed by the Gallo-Romans whose tongue was still close enough to Francesc that they too could comprehend his speech, and then the other federates and peoples of the Roman West who were simply caught up in the moment. “Let our Eastern brethren know: day has come again for Constantinople!”

Having repeated the words of his ancestor at the Battle of Lutetia when it seemed all was lost for Flavius Aetius and his legions, Aloysius next looked above and raised his hands to offer a final prayer to Heaven. “Lord, you know this may well be the busiest night of my life. If I forget Thee, do not forget me.” That done, he pointed his lance in the direction of the besieged Queen of Cities and urged Ascanius forward. “Now onward men, to glory and victory!” The emperor’s loyal steed complied and began to trot toward the Eastern capital just as the cheering of his soldiers reached a roaring peak, and his banner-bearers kept pace with him as he led them all forward: both flew labara, but where the man to his left held aloft a golden chi-rho on scarlet as was customary for all Augusti, the one on the right flew the same standard in Aloysius’ own colors – the same blue and white which adorned his shield, with the addition of a wreath.

The Africans fell back as Aloysius’ great wedge and its additional wings to the left and right approached, the lightly or wholly un-armored mounted skirmishers and archers retreating through the gaps between the Western Roman formations before reforming to join them at the rear. Aloysius and his soldiers continued to trot steadily toward the reforming Avar cavalry lines opposing them, no matter that those Avars had begun to shoot at them: the Augustus personally caught two arrows with his shield, and a third had managed a glancing blow against the crown of his helm. They were disciplined enough to save their strength and stamina for as long as they could, proceeding in silence even as some of their number began to fall to the foes’ missiles, and only couching their lances under-arm & surging to a full gallop when Aloysius gave the command: to Ascanius alone he had urged in Frenkisk, “Hlaup! Wal-hlaup![12]”

The Western Emperor led his wedge into the Avar ranks without a sound save the thundering of Ascanius’ hooves, while those Avars had themselves attempted a counter-charge at the last minute to meet the Romans head-on. Between his wholly gilded armor, the wings attached to his saddle and the sunset behind him, he seemed to them an avenging angel descended from Heaven to save the faithful in Constantinople and punish them for their sins, and Aloysius was sure he saw fear in the faces of the first Avars to draw near to him. He drove his lance through the mail and leathers of an opposing Avar horseman, the momentum of Ascanius’ charge and the strength of Aloysius’ own muscles being such that the shaft broke and the barbarian was thrown from his saddle into the man behind him, while this other man’s lance narrowly missed him entirely and instead tore through his right wing – ah, so those things were good for more than lifting the spirits of his men and intimidating his enemies after all. Another Avar to his left tried to fell with him similarly, but the man’s lance scraped harmlessly against Aloysius’ shield, and another Roman cavalryman ended his efforts with a spear-thrust to the face.

Aloysius grasped his spatha‘s ornate hilt, and in one motion both drew it from its scabbard and swung it against a fourth Avar: the blade bounced off the man’s own lamellar helmet, failing to break through the brow plate, but it did rattle him enough that he inadvertently provided the rider behind the emperor with an opening to finish him off. Then they were through the ranks of the Avar cavalry, which was evidently being shattered all over by Aloysius’ much deeper wedge – bah, what chance did three ranks have against twenty? – and the formations under Haistulf and Zdeslav peeled away to pursue their assigned objectives. Up ahead another line, this time of infantry, was forming to resist them: but as Aloysius drew close he could see that these were Sclaveni, round-eyed and of a ruddier complexion than their Avar overlords. More than that, they were a poorly-equipped and clearly ill-motivated rabble – their sorry formation, such as it was, began to disintegrate before the Romans even made contact with them, one Slav conscript throwing down his spear and fleeing after another. It seemed to the Emperor that his assessment of the quality, or lack thereof, of the troops the Avars would be throwing at him was accurate.

As Mouhan Khagan’s Slavic infantry routed, Aloysius directed his cavalry to press onward to Constantinople. Not even when they were thundering through the Avar siege camp, which laid on the blood-soaked field between the Anthemian Wall and the Theodosian ones, did Aloysius permit his men to break discipline and start looting, exhorting them through his messengers and captains: “Do not be distracted! There will be time to pillage this place later; and any baubles you will find here are nothing compared to the reward that awaits you after we deliver Constantinople from the barbarians!” The prudency of this measure soon became apparent, for by the time the Western Romans had overrun the Avars’ mangonels and were cutting their crews down left and right, other (and evidently much better-equipped) Avars and Slavs were emerging from the city gates or climbing back down the ladders and siege towers, and forming up to oppose them.

Aloysius had no doubt about it, more hard (and much harder) fighting still lay ahead for the legions of the Occident. He only hoped it would not be so hard that he would have need of the questionably loyal Stilicho’s reinforcements after all…

Turkic camp north of Branchalion[13], outside Constantinople, 7:30 PM

“Grandfather, we need more men west of Gelibolu[14], immediately.” Maniakh Tarkhan had said by way of greeting, visibly exhausted.

Though unable to see his much younger grandson’s tattered appearance and blood-spattered mail through either eye – one being a false one made of glass, the other turned blind by advanced age – the much older man seated on the throne before him could still hear these words, and responded accordingly while stroking his long silver-gray beard. “Have the Romans of the West come after all?”

“They most certainly have. More than that, they have torn through the ranks of our Avar friends – “

“Allies,” Heshana Qaghan interrupted insistently. “Circumstances have made an alliance with the Rúrú[15] a sound prospect. That does not mean our former oppressor has become, or will ever be, our friends.” It disappointed the Turkic emperor greatly that the younger generation, including his own grandson, seemed to be increasingly forgetting their roots on the other side of the continent.

“Yes, our Avar allies, of course. Well, I mean to say that they are dead or scattered, and our own ranks are crumbling quickly against their assault as well. Mouhan Khagan was in the middle of fighting off a counterattack from within the walls when these Western Romans came and began to tear through his rear. Most of his men have lost all discipline and control over their bowels – now they are fleeing every which way, some claiming he is already dead and others suggesting that he will be soon, and the contingent we have landed beyond the straits is similarly struggling to hold against the Western Roman assault.”

Heshana scoffed at the news. Truly it seemed that the Tegregs had surpassed their old Rúrú masters in every regard, from the size and splendor of their empire to courage and martial prowess. Or his half of the Tegregs had, at least – years ago, news came to him of the downfall of his northern cousins at the hands of their former Chinese allies-turned-rivals. “A pathetic showing by those swine, then. Mouhan claimed his son Zuhui was on the way with additional reinforcements. Have these men not yet come?”

“They have not.” Maniakh affirmed. “My scouts report they will arrive shortly, but – “

“Then fight on with what you have until they arrive.” Heshana cut in dismissively. “Surely you cannot have already lost half, or even more, of the thirty-thousand I gave you, boy.”

“No, but I will soon without reinforcements!” Maniakh protested. “Our position west of the straits is untenable without the Avars, Grandfather. They comprised the greater part of our allied forces there and without them, I cannot long hold the combined strength of the Romans at bay, much less carry on the landward assault on the gates of Konstantinopol[16]. My men have breached the Golden Gate, only for most of them to be trapped in the courtyard of the fortress immediately behind it. And yes, they have another Western Roman wedge bearing down upon them from behind!”

“You said it yourself, your reinforcements under Mouhan’s son are near.” The Qaghan snapped back. “Your uncle Törtogul needs more men to support his attack on the seaward walls, which he has already managed to land thousands of men beneath the Gate of the Lion and the Jewish Gate – “

“Great Qaghan!” Grandfather and grandson were interrupted by a newcomer, a messenger with urgent news it seemed. Heshana could smell soot and sulfur off this man, who sounded decidedly desperate. “Your noble son, Törtogul Tarkhan, sends dire news to you from the city walls. He has been unable to either break down the Gate of the Lion or surmount the walls around it with the rams and ladders he landed, and the beach-head he established at the Harbor of Theodosius has already been cut off and annihilated to the last man. Worse still, word has spread to some of the Greek crews of our ships of the arrival of more Romans from the West, and they have mutinied in his name and that of their empress. Under these circumstances, we cannot break through the fleet of the Eastern Romans and reinforce Törtogul Tarkhan, no more than we could our previous beach-head at the Harbor of Theodosius!”

Maniakh slowly turned back to his grandfather, sounding quite shaken by the rapidity with which the siege was unraveling. “Grandfather, perhaps it would be best if we were to just cut out losses, sound the retreat and fall back to the east…”

“Nay!” Heshana suddenly snarled, spittle flecking the younger man’s armor and robes. Grasping his staff with one withered hand, he pushed himself up from his seat with a strength none assembled had expected from a man in his eighties (in the process nearly pulling off the wolf pelt draped over the throne), and began to angrily pace around the imperial tent. “We have come too far to retreat now. We press forward – we may prevail, or we may perish, but all the same we will only go forward, and not take a step back.” They had come so far, and so close to the object of his desire for the past sixty-odd years, for him to even think about retreat now. The old Qaghan had once been forced to retreat from these walls by the sorcerous fire of the Romans: this time, he was determined to depart from the premises only either as a conqueror, or a corpse.

“Tarkhan, to you I shall assign another fifteen thousand men and twelve elephants: those are your reinforcements, with which you are to hold the Western Romans back until Zuhui’s Avars arrive. I shall take command of the attack on the seaward walls myself. Fetch my armorer and order all our reserves to prepare for the next assault!” Heshana growled. “Victory still remains in reach, despite these reversals. We need only redouble our efforts both on land and at sea, especially with the Avar reinforcements so close by while those of the Romans are still far-off at sea, and my first order of business will be to use the skins of those mutinous Greeks to remind their fellows to continue rowing and following our orders. The sun has already set on the Roman world: we need only make them realize it, and inaugurate the age of the Turk by taking this city before us!”

====================================================================================

[1] The middle section of Constantinople’s walls.

[2] The inner terrace of the Theodosian Walls, separating the main inner wall (megas teichos) from the smaller outer wall (mikron teichos).

[3] Coloboma – a birth defect, a hole in the eye that often gives those afflicted the appearance of a keyhole-shaped pupil.

[4] Although the Sabbatians never got around to formally replacing Latin with Greek as the Eastern Romans’ official language as Heraclius did historically, Greek remains the universal spoken tongue across the Orient, and would have been the language Helena spoke outside of court functions. Had Helena been speaking Latin instead, she would have rendered her first two generals’ names as Bacurius (Bakour) and Caspar (Gondophares) while Arsaber (derived from the native Armenian Arshavir) remains the same.

[5] An early version of the Prayer to Saint Michael, uttered on Michaelmas (29 September) well before Pope Leo XIII added the better-known modern prayer for recitation after Mass in 1886. These words translate to ‘Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, that we might not perish at the dreadful judgment’.

[6] ‘Frankish’ – Moselle Romance, the heavily German-influenced Romance remnant which historically persisted in parts of the former provinces of Germania Superior/Prima and Germania Inferior/Secunda until the 11th century. Thanks to the long-term preservation of Roman authority in those areas ITL, far from being doomed to fade into obscurity this descendant of Vulgar Latin has instead become the primary spoken language of the Arbogasting court.

[7] ‘Gallic’ – Northern Gallo-Romance, precursor to most of the langues d'oïl, though its Old Frankish influences would be (even more) minimal ITL compared to OTL with the Franks firmly under Roman control rather than the other way around.

[8] Old Frankish – the language of the barbaric Franks, which would eventually diverge into the Franconian dialects of German and the Dutch language.

[9] The hypothetical Francesc/Mosellan rendering of Augusta Treverorum/Trier’s name. Compare to the French Trèves and Luxembourgish Tréier.

[10] Francesc/Mosellan renderings of the Latin names Caecilius, Jovian and Rufinus, respectively.

[11] Once a term for temporary task forces detached from the legion in Principate times, by the time of the late Roman Empire the vexillationes referred to elite permanent squadrons of cavalry or infantry capable of independent small-scale operations away from the main army.

[12] Old Frankish for ‘run’ and ‘run well/gallop’ respectively. Compare to modern Dutch ‘lop’/’wel-lop’.

[13] Bolayır.

[14] As far as I can tell, this is the rendering of Callipolis/Gallipoli in not just modern Turkish but also other Turkic languages such as Azeri and Turkmen, so I’ve decided to apply it as the Old Turkic (as would have been spoken by the Tegregs) rendition of the same as well.

[15] A shortening of Ruǎnruǎn, the Rouran’s name for themselves, originally written with the Chinese characters for ‘unpleasantly wriggling worms’.

[16] A more primitive Turkic rendering of Constantinople’s name than the Turkish Ḳosṭanṭīnīye, taken from Turkmen and Uzbek.
 
Top Bottom