Great story,as usual.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, 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 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, 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.
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, 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 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, 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. 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. 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 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, 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 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
 The Sutlej River.
 The Ravi River.
 The Greek name for Kashmir.
 The Milicz Ponds in northern Silesia.
Indeed.Now we would have WRE in Africa and maybe Spain,and HRE elsywhere.Damn, the most recent civil war just might fragment WRE for good.
True about pelagians.There is about 100 of them,and,according to what i read,group need at least 500 members to survive.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.
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.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.