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Alternate History Vivat Stilicho!

668-671: Renovatio Imperii Romanorum, Part I

Circle of Willis

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668 saw the Romans’ attention taken up by a new foe: the Bulgars, who had been steadily pushing through the sparsely populated and barely defended northernmost territories of the Avars throughout 667 and now neared the Danube. Having crippled and (for now) tamed the Avars in the previous year, Aloysius set out to confront these newcomers on the latter’s territory rather than risk having them further despoil the newly recovered and already-devastated Roman lands in Moesia & Thrace. After the Bulgar khan Bezmer audaciously demanded a large financial payment and the right to settle in Thrace (which would have immediately brought them into conflict with the Thracian Slavs), Aloysius broke off negotiations early in the summer and moved to engage his horde north of the long-deserted town of Histriopolis[1], near the mouth of the Danube.

The Romans deployed their forces behind those of their new Avar allies, supposedly because Aloysius believed the latter would be better suited to skirmishing with the horse-archers and mounted skirmishers of the Bulgars but really mostly because he did not trust them as far as he could throw them. In any case, Bayan Khagan’s greatly bloodied and diminished troops still managed to put up a passable fight, after which they retired through gaps in the legionary lines and the Romans stepped forward to finish the battle. After failing to break the Roman lines head-on, Bezmer tried to lure Aloysius’ forces out and throw them into disarray with feigned retreats, but the Emperor was wise to this strategy after spending years battling the Avars and retaliated at long range with his remaining artillery. In the end it was the Bulgars who would quit the field, dispirited and in disarray, after Bezmer Khan himself was impaled by a carroballista bolt, ending the Battle of Histriopolis in a Roman victory.


Bezmer Khan leading the Bulgar cavalry in their attempt to break through Aloysius' infantry lines outside Histriopolis

Aloysius pursued the Bulgars to their fortified encampment at Ongal in the Danube delta, but there he desisted from finishing them off, though his nephew and Rotholandus’ son Iudicallus (‘Judicaël’ in his native Armoric) had boldly volunteered to lead the assault on their stockades. Instead the Emperor reopened talks with Bezmer’s son and successor Grod, both to avoid the likely heavy death toll from storming the Bulgars’ fortified home and to try to gain a new ally after all the bloodshed of the past few years and the departure of all of his non-federate allies following the successful relief of Constantinople. Grod in turn agreed to sign a federate agreement with the Romans and to give up his sons as hostages in exchange for a new homeland under imperial protection. In a sign that his wife and the Eastern Roman court at Constantinople still commanded a degree of autonomy, the Augustus had to talk Helena into granting the Bulgars settlement rights in Cilicia – which, on top of not having been reconquered by Rome yet, had long been devastated and depopulated by Heshana’s repeated invasions back when it formed part of the Anatolian frontier with his expanded Turkic empire.

While the Romans secured a new ally, the severely exsanguinated and divided Turks on the other side of the Hellespont continued to crumble before the onslaught of the Arabs and their own internal fissures. The Caliph Qasim resolved to deal with Bögü, a younger son of Heshana, and secure Mesopotamia for Islam while sending Talhah ibn Talib to overcome the Syrian resistance being led by the warlord Külüg, a more distant relation of the ruling Tegreg clan. The old Caliph proceeded to lead his 20,000-strong army to victory over the diminished Turkic remnants in upper Mesopotamia at Daquqa, Karkha and most decisively Hdatta: at this final battle in the fall, also known as the Battle of the Upper Zab, the Muslims used their numerical advantage to cross the eponymous river at an undefended ford and outflank Bögü’s prepared positions along the riverbank. Bögü himself was killed and what remained of his army destroyed in the battle which followed, and his widow and subordinates submitted Arbela to Islamic rule without a fight soon afterward, bringing all of Mesopotamia under Islamic rule.

Talhah had a slightly more difficult challenge ahead of him in Syria, not so much because of Külüg himself but rather on account of there already being a multi-sided conflict there, which he could not win simply by eliminating the largest player in the Turks. ‘God’s Lance’ actually brought Külüg down well before the end of 668, dealing him one major defeat at the Battle of Sura in May and then a second, fatal one in the mountains northeast of Damascus itself: as had been the case at the Upper Zab, the Muslims unexpectedly overcame the defenders’ terrain advantage (this time with the help of locals who resented the abusive taxation and capricious tyranny of the Turks) to wipe their foes out in their camp. The Arabs founded on the site of their victory a new town which they named ‘Maaloula’[2], ‘entrance’, for from there they would soon enter Damascus itself peaceably.

However, Külüg’s demise delivered to Islam only northern Syria, and even there they were not wholly untroubled. Most of the cities previously occupied by the forces of Külüg did submit in a hurry, exhausted by the violent conquests of Heshana and then being further taxed and having their populations drafted to fight in his continuous campaign against the Eastern Romans: in particular non-Ephesian Christians welcomed the Muslims as liberators and safeguards not only against the Turks, who they had originally hailed for freeing them from Roman persecution but then come to resent for their harsh rule, but also against a potential return of the Romans. Ghassanid Arab remnants in the countryside continued to resist in the name of their Empress Helena and her new husband Aloysius however, and the collapse of Turkic authority plunged Palaestina into an open free-for-all pitting the Jews, the Samaritans and those Christian insurgents under Abel who had managed to survive up to this point against one another.


After many decades of increasingly restless peace, the forces of Islam burst forth from Arabia in a great conquering wave toward the end of the 660s. Qasim's prudence had timed their onslaught well, coinciding with the rapid decline of the Southern Turkic Khaganate following Heshana's defeat beneath the walls of Constantinople

Beyond the eastern bounds of the former Southern Turkic Khaganate, where Tegreg loyalists sought to keep the underage Doulan Qaghan afloat in Qom and other warlords were establishing themselves in Khorasan & the Iranian Plateau, the Indo-Romans had begun to expand into the Tarim Basin. Hippostratus proved himself no less canny and resourceful than his father and grandfather, managing an intrepid crossing of the Tian Shan Mountains with an army to intimidate King Amrätodane of Kashgar into accepting his authority – and then treating with the latter as a friend, and agreeing to help him fight his ongoing war with Kentarske of Khotan to the southeast. By the end of 668 Hippostratus would have defeated the latter and compelled him to recognize Indo-Roman suzerainty as well, surpassing even the wildest dreams of his progenitor’s overlord Sabbatius and projecting his authority into the western half of the Tarim Basin.

Come 669, the Romans did not cross the Hellespont until Aloysius was sure he had impregnated Helena with a son, so they instead remained around Constantinople for several months. Despite the popularization of jokes that (based on the combination of Helena’s beauty with her aloof and melancholic demeanor) the Emperor had married an ice sculpture, his Empress’ normally-taut belly once again began to swell in the summer. Only then did Aloysius lead his army, newly reinforced by around 20,000 Bulgars, onto Lampsacus and against the Turkic remnants still fighting amongst themselves in the hills and mountains of Anatolia. The delay incidentally worked to the Romans’ favor, for not only did Constantinople still have enough rations stockpiled (originally intended to feed its people through the Turkic siege) to feed the imperial army encamped around it, but it also gave the Turks themselves the mistaken notion that they had enough time to fight among themselves and defeat their nearest rivals before the Romans arrived on the other side of the straits.

The first to fall before the power of a reunited Rome were the generals-turned-warlords Chunak Tarkhan, Tishrat Tarkhan and Tuhun Tarkhan, who had been fighting over western and northwestern Anatolia. Aloysius crushed Chunak and destroyed his fragment of the shattered Turkic army at the Battle of Nicaea, and although Tishrat and Tuhun reconciled to present a united front against the returning Romans following their rival’s defeat, it was too little and far too late – the Romans defeated them as well at the Battle of Cyme[3]. The Bulgars almost immediately began to earn their keep, playing a significant role in these early battles as both a missile screen and a decisive additional heavy cavalry advantage for the Romans. These victories added Bithynia, the Troad and Ionia back to the Roman Empire by the start of autumn, but Aloysius was not done. The forceful and energetic Augustus proceeded further into the Anatolian hinterland, defeating a fourth Tarkhan named Niri first at Thyatira[4] and then again at Dorylaeum, where he took advantage of his far greater numbers to divide his army and envelop the Turks on the plain outside the town.

As winter descended and his wife’s pregnancy progressed, the Emperor swept into the mountains of Isauria to rout the few remaining Turks there and re-secure the allegiance of the Isaurian hill chieftains who had revolted against Helena after she arranged the assassination of their countryman Tryphon, promising them lenient treatment in exchange for hostages and military contributions – and annihilating a force of 2,000 Isaurians who tried to treacherously ambush him after seemingly accepting his offer to negotiate terms for their reintegration in the Battle of Sagalassos that November, then stacking their heads into a mound, to demonstrate the alternative should they insist on continuing in rebellion against Rome. With these triumphs Aloysius recovered the western half of the Diocese of Pontus as well as the entirety of the Diocese of Asia by the end of 669.


A Frankish spearman, a Croat cavalryman and an Isaurian scout (newly welcomed back into the Roman fold) of Aloysius' army as it marches through the forests and hills of western Anatolia

Not to be outdone by the Romans, the forces of Islam were also on the move and expanding their Caliph’s authority throughout the fragmented and exhausted lands of the Southern Turkic Khaganate. Qasim sought to lay down the foundations for a new capital at Kufa, from where he could oversee the fertile and much more heavily populated lands of Mesopotamia with greater ease than from his original seats at Mecca & Medina, so he sent his three oldest sons Abd al-Rahman, Al-Abbas and Ali to subjugate Persia in his stead. Abd al-Rahman and Al-Abbas stormed into the Zagros Mountains in the spring; by 669’s end the former was storming towards Qom, though he was delayed by the fierce resistance of the Buddhist Mazdakites who still fearlessly manned their fortresses despite their own heavy losses in Heshana’s failed wars, while the latter had already extended Islamic power as far as Isfahan. Ali meanwhile took an easier route than his older brothers, sweeping through Meshan and Khuzestan to eventually reach Shiraz by the end of the year.

Talhah meanwhile continued to expand Dar al-Islam’s reach west- and south-ward. From Damascus he acquired the Caliph’s permission to begin directing the migration of Arabs from overpopulated Arabia to the newly acquired ‘al-Sham’ (as they called Syria). Much like the Banu Hashim themselves many of these Islamic tribes claimed descent from Qays ibn ‘Aylan, a descendant of Adnan (himself a mythical descendant of Ishmael), as opposed to the Christian Arabs already in the region who largely claimed descent from Qahtan, the first Yemenite Arab, and whose ancestors migrated from the far southern reaches of Arabia in Sabaean times – for which reason they were reckoned as the ‘Yamani’, Yemenites, in Islamic records. Exactly as Talhah intended, the migratory Qaysites proceeded to do most of the fighting against the Christian Yamani who still stood against him in a bid to drive the latter (weakened by decades of warfare with the Turks) from their long-held ancestral lands.

Leaving the Qaysites to secure northern al-Sham for him, Talhah next rode into Palaestina. He smote the Jews and Samaritans alike at the Battles of Capernaum and Samaria, respectively, but then accepted their submission and directed their elders to send tribute and hostages to his master the Caliph. The Ephesian Christians under Abel were a different story, as they refused to surrender even after being driven from Jerusalem (which they had briefly retaken amid the collapse of Turkic power in the region) and suffering a further defeat atop Tel Lachish west of the holy city. On the other hand non-Ephesian Christians, especially those of a Monophysite disposition, generally welcomed Islamic rule as their brethren in Mesopotamia did.


The Arabs take Jerusalem from Abel's Christian Palestinian forces, who had themselves only just wrested the city from the crumbling Turks a short while before

A prisoner informed Talhah that they were unafraid to fight and die, for news had reached them of a Roman resurgence which had broken the Turks in the first place and the imminent return of the legions. When Talhah reported this development to Qasim, the Caliph scoffed and declared that ‘never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler’[5] – apparently under the belief that the Eastern Romans were still a separate entity apart from their Western Roman cousins, and that Helena was their official ruler rather than Aloysius – and instructed him to leave enough troops behind to control the lingering insurgency before proceeding into Egypt. This Talhah did, and by 669’s end he was standing at the doorway into Egypt at Gaza & Raphia[6].

On the other side of the Earth, the European settlers had begun to expand their footholds into the newly-christened continent of Aloysiana. In the north the Romano-British had explored a ways down and around the Saint Pelagius, and now sought to establish two additional outposts to oversee their allies among the Wildermen & deepen trade relationships with them: one to the north which they named Guínon[7] (‘white’, doubtless after the heavy snowfall common to the region) and one to the south, at a confluence with another river they’d named after Saint Alban, dubbed simply Trés-Rivères[8] after the three channels formed at the mouth of the Saint Alban where it joined the Saint Pelagius. Every summer, when the Wildermen came to fish and forage at these sites, the Britons would trade for high-quality furs with them.

The New World Irish meanwhile settled additional villages and trading posts around the region which Liberius had taken to calling ‘Nova Hibernia’[9] (‘New Ireland’) in his correspondence, while the aforementioned abbot himself was sending armed scouts accompanied by Wilderman guides further inland from Cois Fharraighe to chart the interior. It took the largest of these parties half the year to make it to what their guides called ‘Glooscap’s Bay’[11] after their benevolent dust-born god (but which the Irish named Bá na Fortúin, ‘Bay of Good Luck’), and a similar amount of time to get word back to Liberius; the same was true of a secondary exploring party which had gone west and uncovered a headland at the entrance of the Bay of Good Luck, which they named Rinn Dearg[12] (‘Red Cape’) after the copper deposits there. These discoveries helped Liberius draw a more accurate map of the region his Irish cohorts were settling, and find ideal sites to direct new settlers to in the future.


The Irish on the shores of the Bay of Good Fortune

670 was another year full of good news for the Romans, who sorely needed it after the defeats and civil wars of the past several decades. Come the spring, Aloysius renewed his offensive against the Turkic warlords in Anatolia, driving the forces of Chebi Tarkhan across the Cappadocian plateau and those of Inel Tarkhan back eastward along the Pontic coast. While campaigning in the summer, the Augustus also received word that his Augusta had finally given birth to a son, thereby securing the line of succession and hopefully ensuring that Aloysian rule over the reunified Roman Empire would last longer than a generation: although Aloysius had wanted to name his newborn heir after himself, per his agreement with Helena she had the right to name their secondborn, and she chose to have the new Caesar of all Rome baptized as Constantine after her own father and twin brother. Per the preexisting plans of his father and the grandfather he would never meet, almost immediately after his birth the young Constantine was betrothed to Maria of Arelate – daughter of the last Stilichian emperor Theodosius IV and now ten years his senior – to tie up that particular loose end and ensure no ambitious claimant could use her hand in marriage as a weapon against the Aloysians.

In any case, the Emperor celebrated the birth of a purple-born heir by scoring yet another victory over the Turks in the Battle of Potamía[13], where Grod’s Bulgars hunted down Chebi Tarkhan as the latter attempted to flee the battlefield and brought his head back to the victorious Augustus. After receiving the submission of the remaining Turks in Cappadocia who had yet to die or flee and achieving a similarly bloodless victory over the hugely outnumbered and dispirited garrison at Trebizond in the fall, Aloysius detached thousands of troops from his main army to allow his wife’s Georgian and Armenian vassals to retake their homelands, while moving to secure Cilicia with the Bulgars to whom they had promised the region. By the end of 670, he was settling the Bulgar civilians in their prize while Mithranes of Georgia had scoured the Lazica region of the remaining Turkic presence there and Arsaber of Armenia had re-established his court at the hilltop fortress of Ani. Stilicho had proposed that he and the African army be sent back to Leptis Magna so they could push into Egypt and unite with the main Roman host at Jerusalem after the latter marched through Syria & Palaestina, but Aloysius rejected this strategy due to having recently had to disperse yet more of his men into the Caucasian kingdoms.


Grod of the newly-established 'Cilician Bulgaria' departing from Aloysius' council chambers, federate contract in hand, to settle his people in the land which the Augustus and Augusta had promised him

Events to the south would rapidly complicate the Romans’ plans for the reconquest of the Levant. By this point the forces of Islam were making steady progress throughout western Persia, where the Caliph’s heir Abd al-Rahman finally managed to push past the Mazdakites and lay siege to the Turkic capital at Qom; as a precaution, young Doulan Qaghan had fled from his great-grandfather’s seat with a small escort and headed to Khorasan, where he was put off by the chilly reception given to him by the other warlords and soon moved even further north into the lands of the Khazars. As his oldest sons alternately cut their own paths through the lingering Turkic warlords and received the submission of Persia’s cities, Qasim sent his fourth son Abd al-Fattah north to add the land he called ‘Arminiya’ to the Islamic fold.

As the Roman-backed Arsaber was fighting to re-establish the Mamikonian kingdom there, this immediately created an obvious source of tension between the older empire and the young upstart on its southern border. Even before 670 had ended, detachments of Armenian soldiers and freedom-fighters had begun to engage in skirmishes with the advancing Arabs of Abd al-Fattah between Lakes Van and Urmia. Aloysius dispatched envoys toward the still-under-construction city of Kufa, both to determine the strength of this new potential enemy and to try to avert further violence. It was not so much that he feared the power of Islam (indeed Aloysius was normally an irrepressible and warlike spirit, who eagerly sought out new foes to defeat for glory’s sake), but that he was also concerned about the Khazars who Mithranes reported were looming large over his northeastern border along the Caucasus, with whom he had entered negotiations as well – even Aloysius Gloriosus knew he would be in deep trouble if he had to fight a new two-front war against both the Arabs to the south and these Khazars to the north.

Down in Gaza, Talhah ibn Talib did not have to immediately worry about this new enemy emerging to his north, and instead devoted his full attention to the conquest of Egypt. There yet another grandson of Heshana, Turghar Tarkhan, had established himself in Memphis (a city already largely abandoned by the Romans, which made it perfect for the settlement of his Turkic followers and heretical Copts from the countryside) and proclaimed he would now bear the title of Khan in his own right, supported by the Monophysites whom he allowed to run roughshod over their former Ephesian neighbors and persecutors. Talhah threw open the gateway into Egypt by first bloodlessly seizing Rhinococura[14] and then defeating a combined Turkic-Coptic host in the Battle of Pelusium, so that by high summer he was already in Egypt proper. He defeated Turghar’s forces yet again at Phelbes[15] in July, but could neither immediately overcome Memphis’ defenses (even in their dilapidated state) nor cross onto the western bank of the Nile before 670’s end.


The Hashemite army on the verge of taking Phelbes, Egypt

Far east of Rome, the Indo-Romans continued to do their part to bring the torch of Romanitas into the Tarim Basin. After taking some time to consolidate his hold over Kashgar and Khotan in the western reaches of the Tarim Basin, Hippostratus next campaigned to secure the submission of Kucha, Karashahr and Qarqan[16] to the east and southeast. Having only recently begun to recover from the devastating Turkic and Chinese incursions of the past centuries, these oasis-kingdoms could offer little resistance against the Indo-Roman army, whose Sogdian and Paropamisadae core was not only backed by the meager forces their new Tocharian vassals could offer but also a diverse array of mercenaries ranging from Turkic horse-archers to Persian lancers to Indian longbowmen and even a few war elephants.

Hippostratus was not the only king trying to expand his reach into this critical central juncture of the Silk Road, though. Emperor Renzong of the Later Han had passed away, and his successor Hao Xianggui – better remembered as Emperor Mingzong, the ‘Bright Ancestor’ – was eager to expand Chinese power even further west. A 35,000-strong Chinese expeditionary force, including a large contingent of mounted Tegreg auxiliaries, pushed past their one-time Karluk allies to restore the Dragon Throne’s hold over Dunhuang and Anxi. By the year’s end, the expeditionary commander Ren Xiaofeng stood at the Jade Gate through which the Chinese traditionally passed into the southeastern Tarim Basin, unknowingly setting up a confrontation between himself and Hippostratus of the Indo-Romans in the near future.

The first half of 671 was taken up by the ongoing negotiations between the Romans, Khazars and Muslims. Aloysius was unable to reach an agreement with Caliph Qasim and his sons, who sought to occupy almost the entirety of Syria save Antioch and its environs, three-quarters of ‘Arminiya’ (including the lands around the other two ‘Armenian seas’, Lakes Sevan and Van, but excepting a sliver of territory in the northwest around Ani which they were prepared to concede to Arsaber) and eastern Georgia – the idea of making such extensive concessions was, of course, unacceptable to the Emperor. That said, Aloysius did manage to strike a deal with Kundaç Khagan, the incumbent Qağan of the Khazars: he persuaded Helena to set up a match between her eldest daughter Irene to Kundaç’s own son Kundaçiq, although Helena in turn insisted that the two should not be formally wed for some years yet on account of the bride still being well underage. The Romans also acknowledged Khazar gains in the Caucasus, including western Abasgia (centered around Pityus[17], though Georgia was set to retain Sebastopolis[18] and the nearby fortress of Anakopia).

With his northern flank secured, Aloysius turned his full attention back onto the recalcitrant Muslims. In this year he contended chiefly with Abd al-Fattah, who had defeated Arsaber’s Armenians early in the year at the Battle of Archesh[19]. After re-consolidating his forces, the Augustus set out to engage Abd al-Fattah at Bagavan, immediately arresting the progress of the Arab prince’s northward offensive and causing him to flee after only a short clash out of fear at the size of the Roman army (backed, as it was, by its large Bulgar and African contingents on top of Arsaber’s and Mithranes’ much less intimidating contributions). Abd al-Fattah fled back over the Arsanias River[20] with the Romans in hot pursuit, but then had the idea of turning around to attack Aloysius (who had led the pursuit & outpaced his own army) near Manzikert[21] with a thousand-strong detachment of horsemen and camel-riders. Unfortunately for him, the 2,000-strong body of Roman cavalry protecting the Augustus was not as weary as he had expected, and they were also much more heavily equipped than his own men. The battle which followed resulted in another Islamic defeat and Abd al-Fattah’s own demise at the hands of the Roman Emperor: he had challenged Aloysius to single combat in a last-ditch attempt to turn the tables, and though both Iudicallus and Haistulf of the Lombards offered to fight in his stead, Aloysius personally accepted this challenge and prevailed within minutes.


Out of options, Abd al-Fattah ibn Qasim charged straight for Aloysius' position at the Battle of Manzikert. In turn the golden, winged Augustus was more than happy to answer his challenge, and would soon render him a very personal casualty for the House of the Prophet

Although four-fifths of Abd al-Fattah’s army had been left out of the Battle of Manzikert, the death of their commander had left them listless and demoralized, and by the end of August they had been expelled from Armenia altogether by the Romans. Qasim was not only infuriated by the killing of one of his sons but also surprised by the re-emerging power of Rome, which he thought had been spent by thirty years of defeat and retreat before the Turks. Now correctly identifying Aloysius as their leader and a more serious threat than he had first thought, the Caliph assembled new armies – one which he placed under the command of his oldest grandson, Ali ibn Abd al-Rahman, and the other led by his nephew Umar ibn Zayd – and directed them to stop the Romans, who had ended the year by beginning to cross into northern Syria. Further complicating matters for Aloysius despite his victory, the Continental Saxons grew bolder after testing Rome’s northwestern-most defenses and began to mount larger incursions into his ancestral March as well as the kingdom of the Thuringians, placing pressure upon him to wrap affairs in the east up more quickly.

Qasim also sent a missive to his top general Talhah, then still battling his way through Egypt, alerting him to the possible or even probable necessity of his return north to defend Syria in the coming months or years. Talhah in turn was motivated to hurry up and bring the fighting in Egypt to a quick end, so as to free himself up for the new task ahead. He crossed the Nile this year and inflicted further defeats on Turghar Khan’s forces at Sais, Cabasa and finally near Alexandria itself, after which the populace of that city – having already survived a previous sacking by Heshana – surrendered without a fight. Turghar himself sallied forth from Memphis but was trounced and slain by Talhah at the Battle of Heliopolis, for although he outnumbered the Arabs by almost 3:1, Talhah had eliminated him & his Turkic contingent very early on in the fighting by way of a cavalry clash, after which his Coptic troops fled or surrendered.

Turghar’s son Tarkhun fled Memphis for Nilopolis, which laid to the south between Memphis itself and Oxyrhynchus. From there, he struggled to rally the ever-increasingly-diminished Turkic presence as well as the indigenous Monophysite Copts to continue fighting against the Turks and Romans alike. Talhah for his part enforced a pragmatic governing policy as ordered by the Caliph: after pacifying a new conquest and ending disorder, he tolerated Christians of all stripes and kept taxes low on account of the vast amounts of booty which the Muslims had been able to plunder from enemy camps & corpses and cities that dared resist their onslaught, which served to greatly reduce the willingness of the locals to continue standing against the introduction of Islamic rule. It also did not help Tarkhun that Rome’s Nubian allies were pushing in from the south, while the Garamantians were doing the same from Libya in hopes of recovering their territories south and east of Cyrenaica.


The Monophysite bishop of Heliopolis, sent by Talhah ibn Talib, performs obeisance before the Caliph Qasim at his new capital of Kufa

Beyond the troubles in the Middle East, a collision between the Indo-Romans and the Chinese in Central Asia was now imminent. Hippostratus had just barely received the submission of those eastern Tarim city-states he had approached the year before when Ren Xiaofeng marched into the Basin with his army, whose numbers the Indo-Romans could barely match even after receiving military contributions from their newest vassals, and received the bloodless surrender of Cumuḍa[22] at the region’s eastern edge. Since Ren proclaimed that the Middle Kingdom was placing the entirety of the Tarim Basin back under Chinese suzerainty and even ‘invited’ Hippostratus to bow down before his Emperor, it was clear from the very beginning that there was no room for negotiation between Luoyang and Kophen, and that battle was inevitable as the Chinese set out to enforce their rule by arms where words had failed them.

Hippostratus and Ren Xiaofeng would first meet at the Battle of Miran in the southeastern sands of the Tarim, where the former’s cavalry proved victorious against the Tegreg Turks of the latter. This small skirmish was soon overshadowed by a much larger clash at Charklik to the west, where the Chinese pushed their Indo-Roman rival to retreat: however, Hippostratus successfully covered his withdrawal in a furious rearguard action and would fight another day. That other day arrived in August of 671, when Ren pursued Hippostratus to Qarqan. With the support of the petty-king of Calmadana who ruled from that city, the Indo-Romans set an ambush for the oncoming Chinese army in the dunes east of the city, and rapidly routed the Turks who were supposed to be guarding the latter’s flanks.

The Chinese were mauled in the main engagement, with Ren himself being counted among the 15,000 casualties inflicted upon them by the Indo-Romans: a worthy victory by Roman standards, and one which would have been a serious setback either to the Romans themselves or to any of the enemies they faced around the Eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately for Hippostratus, by Chinese standards 15,000 casualties barely amounted to slightly trimming one of the Dragon’s claws, especially for a dynasty still in its prime like the Later Han. Mingzong was mildly irritated at the news of this defeat and responded by sending 50,000 men under another general, Wang Huo, to succeed where Ren had failed.


Elite Indo-Roman soldiers of the army of Hippostratus at Qarqan, savoring what they felt to be an overwhelming victory over the Chinese

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

[1] Istria, Constanța.

[2] Maaloula, Rif Dimashq.

[3] Now Namurt, near Nemrut Limanı Bay.

[4] Akhisar.

[5] Actually said by Muhammad historically, in reference to a daughter of Khosrow II (either Borandokht or Azarmidokht) briefly taking power in the Sassanid Empire in the early 630s.

[6] Rafah.

[7] Saguenay.

[8] Trois-Rivières.

[9] Nova Scotia.

[11] The Minas Basin.

[12] Cap d’Or, Nova Scotia.

[13] Ortahisar.

[14] El Arish.

[15] Bilbeis.

[16] Qiemo.

[17] Pitsunda.

[18] Sukhumi.

[19] Erciş.

[20] Murat River.

[21] Malazgirt.

[22] Hami.
 

ATP

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Jul 16, 2020
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Turks are spend forces,and now we would have Roman-Khazar -muslim triangle there.
Romans should keep Libya,but Egypt would be mostly muslim./Nubians could keep part of it/

In OTL Khazar become jews becouse they need Monotheism,but was threathened by christian ERE and muslim arabs.
It should not happen,if they were roman allies.

Saxons - could be problem,and better send Roman slavic allies to fight them.There is no place for calvary there.

Bulgars and Avar remnants - very useful against arabs.

China vs Indo-romans - dragon would win.

America - more settlers there,and ,when they would keep going South,it is matter of time till somebody try to reach Europe from America there.

Now it is kind of race who would be first - romans from Spain going to America,or irish from Carribean going to Spain.

Cruel joke for everybody -
Why muslim fight mazdakian monks so fierce? to discover which side represent RELIGION OF PEACE,islam or buddhism.
 

stevep

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Oct 18, 2020
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Ouch. Once I heard about the Indo-Romans reaching into the Tarim Basin I feared trouble. Earlier thought they might suffer, as well as from the oncoming Muslims in a few years, from assorted nomadic forces. Suspect their homeland is too distant even for the Later Han but, baring sudden unrest in China, which seems unlikely at the moment their in for a lot of hurt as they simply can't match the Chinese numbers, even without their Turkish subjects.

Ongoing Imperial-Muslim war, but who will have the better staying power. The empire has a powerful young general and with the strength of the west is more powerful than OTL but has a lot of areas to cover and the Muslims have a lot of scope for gathering support. The Khazer's will be a significant factor in securing the NE flank and I wonder, with Iran in turmoil might they be lured into empire building there or possibly simply looting? Think there's a good chance of them going Jewish again for the same reason as OTL. It denies either the empire which dominates the Christian world [although lacking Jerusalem, Alexandria and possibly Antioch centres] or the Islamic caliphate influence over its citizens/subjects that choosing either of the other Abrahamic faiths would bring.

Grod might regret aggreeing to a new territory so far south-east as its going to be in the front line if Antioch falls and very much of a blood shield for the empire. If his forces include all the Bulgars - or even those who formed the Danubian Bulgaria of OTL I wonder if that will mean less pressure on the Transylvanian border as I think it is now or if not who will replace them.
 

PsihoKekec

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Man, this is going to be a very different Bulgar nation, a foederati on Rome's hottest border, right now they are the perfect people for this task, but as the decades turn...

Later Han definitely have numerical edge on Belisaurians, but the long supply routes will be pain in the ass, so it can turn into long term quagmire, that would drain the Belisaurians and set them up for future losses against Hunas or Muslims.

BTW, was this the first time that a descendant of the Mohammed was slain by infidels?
 

Circle of Willis

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The Belisarians have definitely waded into a difficult battle, to be sure. If it drags out, it could prove an even more bloody and challenging one than their war with the Hunas - and after all even lands beyond the Tarim aren't necessarily immune to China's wrath, as the Dayuan/Greco-Bactrians can attest to historically. But the good general's scions are for the most part tough cookies, and Hippostratus might still be able to find some way to escape the maw of the Chinese Dragon.

Certainly much more hard fighting lies ahead for both Rome and the Muslims, and it's equally certain that it will echo for centuries after the lifetimes of both Aloysius & Qasim. The Khazars will definitely be playing an important role in this struggle, as well. Also with 'Bulgaria' now referring to the territory of Cilicia, the Armenians had best hope they don't lose their grip on too much of their homeland, as the existence of a Cilician Bulgaria means they won't easily be able to retreat & found a second kingdom there ;) As for the Bulgars themselves, since there's no existing Slavic populace to assimilate into in their new home (or even that many Greeks left after the Turks were through with the place) I'd imagine they will retain a lot more of their Oghur-Turkic character, and if they survive the next centuries their language will probably resemble Chuvash more than anything.

Abd al-Fattah is indeed the first prince of Muhammad's lineage to be not only defeated, but outright killed in battle with an infidel enemy, making him a more personal martyr for the Hashemites than most. Their greatest loss before was his son-in-law Zayd, but at least that guy died from plague, not a heathen's blade. Now the 'Rūmī' aren't just an aging and decadent remnant of a bygone age still futilely clinging to life in Islamic eyes, but an object of personal animus on the part of their rulers too. (Speaking of which, so long as the Aloysians retain the purple, the Arabs will probably draw no distinction between the Rūmī/Romans and Faranj/Franks, with the former serving as a catch-all term for not just the subjects of the Augusti but more generally all of their Christian opponents from the west)
 

stevep

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The Belisarians have definitely waded into a difficult battle, to be sure. If it drags out, it could prove an even more bloody and challenging one than their war with the Hunas - and after all even lands beyond the Tarim aren't necessarily immune to China's wrath, as the Dayuan/Greco-Bactrians can attest to historically. But the good general's scions are for the most part tough cookies, and Hippostratus might still be able to find some way to escape the maw of the Chinese Dragon.
That is going to be a hell of a challenge, especially since they can't afford to commit too many forces to that relatively distant northern front, or make too many demands on their population in terms of taxation or conscription especially since a lot of their territory has only recently become part of their empire. Either some attack on their core territory while the bulk of the army is way away in the north or a major revolt could cause them serious problems.

Certainly much more hard fighting lies ahead for both Rome and the Muslims, and it's equally certain that it will echo for centuries after the lifetimes of both Aloysius & Qasim. The Khazars will definitely be playing an important role in this struggle, as well. Also with 'Bulgaria' now referring to the territory of Cilicia, the Armenians had best hope they don't lose their grip on too much of their homeland, as the existence of a Cilician Bulgaria means they won't easily be able to retreat & found a second kingdom there ;) As for the Bulgars themselves, since there's no existing Slavic populace to assimilate into in their new home (or even that many Greeks left after the Turks were through with the place) I'd imagine they will retain a lot more of their Oghur-Turkic character, and if they survive the next centuries their language will probably resemble Chuvash more than anything.
Have all the Bulgarians followed Grod into Roman service a long, long way from where they were living before and does this also butterfly the OTL Volga Bulgars? I could have seen a fair number not following a defeated leader into an uncertain exile. Although even if they have all gone some other steppe group will replace them unless the Khazers get that far west TTL. Which depending on their relations with the empire could butterfly any Rus expansion out of Scandinavia.

Neither Bulgars nor Armenians, the latter already badly battered by the Turks are in a good position if the Muslims win big in the region. I think I would rather be the Armenians however as their further away and have more defensive terrain while the Bulgars as recent steppe nomads in a narrow section of land are possibly no in the best position if their new homeland is overrun.

Abd al-Fattah is indeed the first prince of Muhammad's lineage to be not only defeated, but outright killed in battle with an infidel enemy, making him a more personal martyr for the Hashemites than most. Their greatest loss before was his son-in-law Zayd, but at least that guy died from plague, not a heathen's blade. Now the 'Rūmī' aren't just an aging and decadent remnant of a bygone age still futilely clinging to life in Islamic eyes, but an object of personal animus on the part of their rulers too. (Speaking of which, so long as the Aloysians retain the purple, the Arabs will probably draw no distinction between the Rūmī/Romans and Faranj/Franks, with the former serving as a catch-all term for not just the subjects of the Augusti but more generally all of their Christian opponents from the west)
Ouch that is going to make that both personal and religious. Never a good idea, especially between two Abrahamic faiths. :eek: This is going to be messy.

Good point that there are going to be no 'Franks' in the Muslim viewpoint unless something changes dramatically.
 
672-675: Renovatio Imperii Romanorum, Part II

Circle of Willis

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The Roman campaign of reconquest more fully came to grips with the Muslim one of plain conquest in 672. From his staging point in southern Armenia, Aloysius was able to sweep southwestward and take back Amida, Birtha[1] and Germanicea[2] before the reinforcements Qasim had sent from Lower Mesopotamia could arrive in theater. That they did before he could seize Antioch and Beroea however, forcing the Augustus to revise his plans. Ali ibn Abd al-Rahman and Umar ibn Zayd had arrived separately – the former having left his father’s side in the Zagros to march through Assyria while the latter moved to Damascus before swinging northward along the Romans’ own roads – and they attempted to converge upon Aloysius’ position in northern Syria from two directions; anticipating such a maneuver thanks to the warning of local Christian Arabs who were flocking to the chi-rho, Aloysius in turn plotted to engage and crush the Hashemite armies separately.

The Romans first moved south to take out the army of Umar, which was the faster of the two and thus had come closer than that of Ali. With the guidance of Ghassanid and Kalb[3] tribesmen, Aloysius’ host moved through the Harim Mountains east of Antioch and emerged to take Umar’s men completely by surprise at Barcusus[4] in May. The following battle was a worse defeat for the Arabs than Bagavan and Manzikert had been combined – Umar fled in terror and abandoned his army to their devices, with the result being that the Romans killed a thousand-and-a-half and took another 5,000 prisoners out of their host of 10,000.

The disgraced Islamic general did have the sense to not flee all the way back to Kufa, where he would assuredly have faced his uncle’s wrath, but instead joined the army of Ali, which by now had marched into Syria. He warned his cousin of the power of the resurgent Romans, but unfortunately for both of them, by this point Ali had strayed too close to Aloysius to retreat and had little choice but to give battle as the Romans closed in. The Muslims sought to make their stand on Mount Simeon but were intercepted by the fast-moving Bulgar and Arab auxiliaries of Aloysius’ army while still moving through the Belus Valley[5], where these rival horsemen kept them occupied long enough for the Emperor to arrive with his main force. Ali beat a hasty retreat with 3,000 of his quickest cavalrymen and camel-riders, while Umar partially redeemed himself by leading a rearguard action which prevented Aloysius from completely destroying this army as he had the latter’s own, although the Arabs still lost a third of their force overall.

Having now prevailed in the Battles of Barcusus and the Belus, Aloysius was able to recapture the cities of northern Syria with ease: by mid-autumn the chi-rho flew once more above Antioch, Beroea and Chalcis-on-the-Belus as well as numerous other smaller towns and villages in the region. To the east the Emperor had also re-established Roman rule as far as Rhesaina and the upper reaches of the Aburas[6], seriously threatening the Caliphal province of Al-Jazira almost immediately after Qasim had formed it. Frustrated at the failure of his grandson and nephew, the Caliph recalled his third son – the one also named Ali – from Persia, where he had gotten as far as Istakhr this year, and directed him to stop the Roman onslaught, hoping that he would prove more competent than the first two Islamic generals who had gone up against the Roman eagle and lived to tell of their defeats. The two Alis and Umar would winter in Damascus before setting out to confront Aloysius again in the next year.


The Romans' new Bulgar auxiliaries, led by their king ('Kanasubigi') Grod, overpower the Arabs on the northern Syrian plain

Talhah ibn Talib would have returned from Egypt to aid his master’s flagging scions in their losing fight against the Roman Emperor, but for the continuing clashes in Egypt. Tarkhun Khan continued to hold out from Nilopolis, even as the Muslims advanced onto Aphroditopolis[7] north of his seat and the Nubians seized Oxyrhynchus to the south. The Garamantians also expanded into and beyond Cyrenaica under the orders of Aloysius, presenting a new threat to Talhah’s western flank this year. Accordingly, the great Muslim general turned to smite them at the Battle of Zygra[8] late in the year and (having heard of the defeat of every Islamic army sent against the Garamantians’ Roman overlords thus far) sent the head of their king Izîl to Kufa in hopes of lifting the spirits of Caliph Qasim.

In the distant east, the army of Wang Huo crossed into the Tarim along the exact same route Ren Xiaofeng had used before him. Hippostratus was kept well-informed of the Chinese approach by his scouts and spies, but that did not make the task of fighting this even larger host much easier for his own army, which had been unable to fully recover from its own casualties even despite a concerted recruitment drive on the part of the Indo-Roman king. Nevertheless, kings had to fight battles with the army they had rather than the one they wish they had, and so Hippostratus moved to engage Wang even in spite of his facing a 2:1 disadvantage in numbers. He fell back from the lands of Calmadana rather than risk fighting the Chinese at their full might, but sent forth his cavalry in mobile raiding parties to delay the Later Han offensive and whittle down their numbers with hit-and-run raids in the sands of the Tarim as much as possible.

When Wang stopped to water his army and their mounts at the Keriya River in July, Hippostratus seized his chance to mount a counterattack with all the strength he could still muster. The Battle of the Lower Keriya which followed was initially to the Indo-Romans’ advantage, as the decimation of the Chinese scout corps by their Paropamisadae and Tocharian riders & Turkic mercenaries had allowed them to smoothly cross the river and largely catch the Later Han unawares, and Hippostratus managed to seriously maul the flanks of the strung-out and dispersed Chinese army. But Wang pulled his men back together after the first two chaotic days, and still had more than enough to make a difficult fight out of things. It would take Hippostratus another three days to achieve his victory, by the end of which Wang and 20,000 out of the remaining 42,000 Chinese soldiers who had invaded Tocharia lay dead, had been taken captive or scattered into the Tarim sands. That done, the Indo-Roman king breathed a massive sigh of relief, despite his own not-inconsiderable casualties: surely this had to mean the Chinese were finally done?


Chinese conscripts surrendering to Turkic (specifically Oghuz) mercenaries in the employ of Hippostratus

Aloysius resumed his southward offensive in the early months of 673, marching from Antioch down the Levantine coast with the objective of meeting the more heavily Ephesian populations of Syria’s seaside cities (as opposed to the more heavily heretical and less loyal hinterland regions) and adding their strength to his army. In this the Roman Emperor had the success he envisioned, proceeding as far as Berytus with only minimal resistance posed to him by the token Islamic garrisons or Qaysi nomads installed over the course of Talhah’s initial conquests and padding his host out with a few thousand Syrian archers to accompany his Christian Arab contingent. The Libanus and Antilibanus Mountains also gave him shelter against the inevitable Islamic retaliation.

That retaliation came later in the summer, as Ali ibn Qasim led a newly re-constituted, better-prepared and consolidated army of 20,000 over the latter mountain range with his less capable relatives in tow to bring the Christians’ counteroffensive to a halt. After being alerted to their coming by Ghassanid and Kalbi scouts, Aloysius detached a force of 7,000 under Haistulf the Lombard to intercept these Muslims before they could fully cross over the Antilibanus range, but Ali stole a march on the Romans and caught them by surprise south of Heliopolis-in-Phoenicia[9]. In the Battle of the Plain of Aven (so-called after a site mentioned in the Book of Amos) which followed, Haistulf fought hard, but the element of surprise and the sheer disparity in numbers had ensured a Muslim victory before the fighting even began. The Lombard prince was only able to escape the site of the first Islamic triumph over a Roman army with 2,500 of his men.

His friend’s alarming loss compelled Aloysius to personally lead the Romans into their next battle with Ali’s army, and as the Hashemite prince continued his offensive relentlessly, he would get his chance to fight only weeks after the Battle of the Plain of Aven. After using a mix of his Syrian archers and a small army of hastily assembled scarecrows to successfully bluff Ali into taking the southern route through the Libanus Mountains, Aloysius awaited the Muslims at the trading town of Jezzine east of Sidon. The elder Ali attempted to retreat back into the mountains when he saw that the Romans were ready for him and already comfortably held the high ground, but the Augustus‘ Syrians inflicted heavy losses on his ranks from their vantage points on a number of rocky promontories around the town and Aloysius himself led a cavalry charge to ensure the Arabs could not get away easily. A thousand Romans were lost to nearly ten times as many Arabs, either in the battle itself or over the following days as Aloysius pursued the routed Islamic army with the guidance of the Christian locals. The victory at Jezzine secured Phoenicia for Rome, so much so that the Empress Helena felt safe enough to sail to Berytus and have the Caesar Constantine (by now three years old) meet his father for the first time late in the year.


Aloysius attacks the army of the two Alis, who are already demoralized and in disarray, beneath Jezzine

While the Romans retook much of western Syria and Phoenicia in the aftermath of these victories and now prepared to launch an offensive toward the holy city of Jerusalem itself, the Muslims had greater luck in the east. Qom finally fell to the army of Abd al-Rahman ibn Qasim after a two-year siege, and since the former capital of the Southern Turks had bitterly refused all of his entreaties to surrender, the Caliph’s eldest son and heir saw fit to allow his men to sack the city, divide its treasures among themselves and carry most of its population away as slaves. Al-Abbas meanwhile had picked up the slack in the absence of their younger brother Ali, and pushed as far eastward as Istakhr and Bam this year: as he and his army advanced, they were hailed as liberators from the Turkic tyrants and warlords by the local Persian populations of the cities they took. The quick pace of his expansion also brought Islam’s reach dangerously close to the border of the Indo-Romans, whose king Hippostratus had yet to leave the Tarim Basin for fear of a renewed Chinese offensive.

Further still to the east, in Southeast Asia there were two major developments this year. The first was that many of the Funanese petty-kingdoms had been unified into a royal confederation called ‘Chenla’ (‘pure beeswax’) by the hill-chieftains of the Dângrêk Mountains in their west, who expanded first by force of arms but then increasingly with diplomacy and marriage. The remainder of the land of Funan, primarily in the east, was subsumed by the Champans who could not possibly expand northward due to the presence and power of the Later Han. Both kingdoms were Indianized owing to their strong commercial ties to Srivijaya to the south and the Indian states to the west: Chenla favored Buddhism and close ties with the Hunas while Champa favored Hinduism and traded more intensively with the Hunas’ enemies, but the two religions commanded large masses of believers in both kingdoms[10].

Half a world away, the New World Irish launched a second attack on the Romano-British outpost at Pointe-de-Luce. This time a hundred warriors from four petty-kingdoms took part in the assault, leaving the British who faced them outnumbered 4:1. Even so, luck was again on the side of the Britons, for the Irishmen (having spent many years battling their neighbors) did not trust the contingents from rival island kingdoms and were further battered by strong winds and choppy waters as they approached their objective. Although none of the Irish curraghs were sunk by Mother Nature before they even came close to Isle de Sanctuaire this time around, the Britons managed to sink one with a boulder and drive the others away with their longbows – once one curragh retreated, the rest followed even as they accused their neighbors of cowardice, all fearing betrayal by their erstwhile allies. The British victory in 673 kept their maritime lifeline back to the motherland open for a few years more, even as the Ephesian Gaels would no doubt come back for a third round in the future and still continued to enjoy a long-term advantage over their foes on account of their greater numbers in the region.


Leudonus, the captain of Point-de-Luce's scanty few but determined defenders, sees yet another group of seaborne Irish raiders off

674 saw the Romans reach a new high-water mark in this first of many wars with their new Islamic neighbor. Aloysius set out from Berytus in the spring with Helena accompanying him, for the Augusta sought to be physically present for the recovery of the holy city of Jerusalem and to bring the True Cross back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre once it was definitively secured from enemy hands. Once more it fell to the two Alis and their kinsman Umar to try to stop him, and this time the Muslims had added to their ranks several thousand Jewish and Samaritan warriors raised from among the locals, neither of whom particularly yearned for the return of Roman rule to say the least. The Augustus, for his part, was not unaware that Ephesian Christian insurgents continued to operate under the leadership of the now-aged but irrepressible Abel and sought to make contact with this local ally of his own.

The Roman army’s first stop was the harbor of Ptolemais-in-Phoenicia[11], the last town still held by the forces of Islam on the border between Phoenicia and Palaestina, whose garrison quickly surrendered to the overwhelming might and numbers of Aloysius’ army without a fight. That done, the Romans proceeded eastward into Galilee, not only so that they might recover the site of Christ’s birth before that of his death but also to try to catch Ali ibn Qasim’s own host off-guard while they were still assembling and training their new recruits in the hills and mountains of that region. In these early battles for the core of the Holy Land Aloysius proved unstoppable: he battled the Muslims on the Plain of Zebulon, at Sepphoris where Mary the Holy Mother was born, at Nazareth where she raised her son the Messiah, and at Cana where the latter performed his first miracle – and prevailed each time.

Towards the end of summer, a battered Ali sought to rally and halt the Emperor’s progress at Jezreel in the far south of the region, but again he failed and was driven from Galilee altogether. Though the weather cooled and Saxon attacks in the far west continued to mount, Aloysius was driven to push for Jerusalem before the year’s end and certainly had no inclination to turn back or relent when he was this close to his objective. Joined by Abel’s ragged remaining partisans after they emerged from their base in Mount Carmel, the Romans surged southward toward Jerusalem, while Ali no longer had strength enough to effectively oppose them after his earlier defeats and retreated from Palaestina altogether after suffering a final loss at the Battle of Emmaus (where the Samaritan contingent broke first beneath the lances of Aloysius’ heavy cavalry, prompting their Jewish counterparts to cry treason and quit the field as well, which in turn rapidly snowballed into an Islamic rout) in November, allowing the imperial couple to hold a splendid progress into the nearby and undefended Jerusalem itself before Christmas.


Aloysius Gloriosus prepares for his triumphal march into Jerusalem after driving the Arabs from the battlefield of Emmaus

A slew of rewards and punishments followed the restoration of Roman rule in Jerusalem, some of which were in hindsight premature developments which did not take into account the additional Muslim reinforcements gathering around the region. Naturally, Aloysius and Helena installed Abel as the new Patriarch of Jerusalem, filling an office that had been vacant for years since Heshana had been unable to appoint a replacement on account of his own death: the last legitimate Patriarch there, in the eyes of the Ephesians, was the martyr Abrisius who had been cut down by Heshana’s Jewish allies. Speaking of which, it was at this point that Helena – still remembering well how the Galilean Jews had betrayed her grandfather to his death, and feeling no sense of debt to them (unlike the case with the Constantinopolitan Jewry, whom she rewarded for helping in her capital’s defense by releasing the hostages she had taken from their families and apportioning a share of the plunder from Heshana’s camp to their surviving warriors) – forcefully advocated for a decree of expulsion targeted at this last remnant of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland in the centuries after Hadrian. Aloysius, having spent some time fighting his way past said Jews, saw no reason to not let her have her way in this instance.

Unsurprisingly, the Romans’ effort to expel the Jews of Galilee as they consolidated their control of the region pushed said Jews right into the arms of the Muslims. The Caliph Qasim finally determined that his descendants were unable to defeat the Roman threat themselves and left his capital of Kufa, which was still incomplete, to personally take command of the counterattack being marshaled to the east which was now being joined by the battle-ready among the first Hebrew exiles from Galilee. From Mesopotamia he would also bring a not-inconsiderable number of reinforcements with him, including 8,000 Babylonian Jews roused to fight in support of their Galilean kindred as well as a division of 10,000 Turkic converts who had accepted Islam after their defeat at his hands on top of his elite Arab household corps.

The Muslims also enjoyed an unexpected break in Egypt when Tarkhun Khan – hard pressed on all sides by both the Islamic army and the Nubians – decided that to bend was better than to break, and negotiated his surrender to Talhah ibn Talib. The Islamic general accepted his yielding, offering in turn either to let him live unmolested (but without honors and offices) if he simply stood down or to send him to Qasim and recommend that he be made a governor of at least part of Islamic Egypt if he converted. After Tarkhun chose the latter course in hopes of retaining at least some measure of power, Talhah went on to pry Oxyrhynchus from Michaêlkouda’s Nubians before returning northeastward at the Caliph’s command, so that together they might envelop the host of Aloysius in Palaestina. The presence of ‘God’s Lance’ was a particularly welcome morale boost for the Muslims, for like Aloysius himself Talhah was so far undefeated, but unlike Aloysius he was much older and more experienced: in any case it was clear that one of the two great war-leaders’ winning streaks would be brought to an end as soon as the next year.


The Muslims did not kill every Turk they encountered on their warpath, but rather recruited them wherever possible, for they sought additional warriors to further extend their conquests and defend against Rome's resurgence. Not a few of these Turks (especially non-Manichaeans) converted to Islam as well, as conversion opened additional doors to them in the new order of things

While Islam’s expansion into Khorasan and their first raid into Bactria alerted Hippostratus to the presence of a less-than-ideal new neighbor to his west this year, further east beyond the lands increasingly dominated by the Abrahamic religions, Srivijaya was continuing to grow in power and wealth. The formation of a new, friendly trading partner to its north in the form of Chenla gave them both a new source of wealth and a vector for increased involvement in the politics of mainland Asia – in 674 one of the daughters of the Srivijayan Mahārājā Vijayatunggavarman, the princess Dharmadevi, married Isanavarman, heir to the throne of Chenla. It was in the same year that Vijayatunggavarman also extended his empire’s reach across more of Java, bringing to heel lesser dynasties such as the Sanjayas & Selendras: in accordance with the mandala system his thalassocratic empire was based on, he did not outright annex these petty Javanese kingdoms (most of which were inclined to Hinduism rather than Buddhism) but rather more simply compelled them to pay him obeisance & tribute.

The Muslims began to mount their great counteroffensive against Rome in the late spring months of 675. Over the winter Talhah ibn Talib had marched his army out of Egypt and back to Gaza, from where he advanced against Aloysius’ legions as they fanned out to secure Palaestina. At Azotus Paralios[12] he engaged a large Roman detachment commanded by Rechiar, heir to the kingdom of the Alemanni, and Rufinus of Divodurum, the milk-brother of Aloysius himself (that is, the son of his wetnurse or nutrix) – and handily trounced his foes, felling the latter and 4,000 Romans before they could secure the city and with it, more of the Palestinian coast. Rechiar fell back in a hurry with the other 4,000 survivors to rejoin Aloysius, who was enraged by the death of yet another close friend and ordered his forces to consolidate back at Bethlehem for a vengeful counterstrike.

The Augustus set out to confront Talhah in May, and the great Islamic general calmly waited for his arrival at Azotus proper, further inland from where he vanquished the host of Rechiar and Rufinus. After collecting the remainder of Ali’s host, Talhah’s army numbered 15,000 strong and was composed of many battle-hardened veterans of his campaigns against both the Ethiopians and Turks (and he even retained some fellow especially old veterans of the Arabian wars in his personal company), but the Romans held a comfortable 2:1 advantage in numbers and were hardly inexperienced fighters themselves. To adapt to this situation, Talhah amassed 7,000 men on his right and took personal command of that flank, leaving his left and center relatively undermanned with his best cavalry forming a mobile reserve.

Using their superiority in numbers and heavy equipment, the Romans successively broke the weak Arab left and center and surged almost all the way to Talhah’s encampment. However the commitment of the cavalry reserve stemmed the tide, as did the involvement of the Muslim women who had followed their men to battle as far as their camp and now emerged from their tents, singing songs to shame said men back into action. Meanwhile Talhah himself had beaten the odds to break the Roman left in a furious and hard-won fight, where Grod the Bulgar was slain, after which he kept his troops from pursuing the fleeing federates and Romans on that wing and instead directed them to attack Aloysius’ main divisions from the rear. The Emperor managed to prevent a rout and break out through Talhah’s contingent, but the Muslims had prevailed on the battlefield and killed 6,000 of their number for 1,500 Arab dead; for the first time, Aloysius Gloriosus had been clearly beaten on the battlefield, and by an inferior force at that.


The women and children of the Islamic camp shame their left-wing and center back into the fight against their Roman pursuers outside Azotus

The Battle of Azotus was not the end of the Romans’ woes. Talhah chased the retreating Romans to Eleutheropolis and there executed his own bluff to defeat them a second time, making the stream of small Arab contingents trickling to him up through Nabataea appear like a continuous and inexhaustible tide; unable to easily gather his own reinforcements from the thoroughly devastated Eastern half of the Roman Empire and especially the wartorn Levantine provinces, Aloysius tried first to drive Talhah from the field with a hasty attack, and when this failed he gave the order to retreat to the more defensible hills of Galilee. In this manner Talhah was able to bloodlessly regain Jerusalem and most of Palaestina Prima from the Romans toward the end of June.

While these battles were raging in Palaestina, Qasim was making a move in northern Syria, and his oldest son Abd al-Rahman was also returning west to help. With his own larger host of 25,000 he easily recaptured Beroea, which was called Halab in the Arabic tongue, from the small Roman garrison left behind by Aloysius. The Caliph was tempted to move against Antioch next and sever the overland connection between the Augustus and the rest of his empire, but knowledge of the Romans’ mastery of the sea (and thus their ability to simply resupply Aloysius over the Mediterranean) as well as word of Talhah’s victories in the south persuaded him to march to Emesa, then on to Damascus and try to crush the Roman army between theirs instead, after which they could retake the remainder of the Levant unopposed. Coordinating with his liege, Talhah began to attack the Roman positions in Galilee closer to the start of autumn in a bid to keep Aloysius off-balance and if possible, to drive him straight toward the greater host of Qasim. Abd al-Rahman meanwhile was marching from Qom into the vulnerable Caucasian kingdoms of Georgia and Armenia, swiftly retaking a stretch of the Caspian shoreline from them up to Darband[13].

Now by this time Aloysius had rallied in Nazareth, and while humbled somewhat from the first real losses of his career, he was still very far from having lost his indomitable fighting spirit. After a number of preliminary skirmishes in which the Roman light troops were often led by Sevar, the son of Grod and his successor as Kanasubigi (or settled king) of the Bulgars of Cilicia, come September’s first week the two sides met for a third proper battle near Ophel[14] in the Valley of Megiddo. At first it appeared as though the Battle of Ophel would be an intentional repeat of the Battle of Azotus, with the Arabs at first falling back in feigned retreat toward their camp before the onslaught of the Roman cavalry (actually mostly Bulgars, Dulebian Slavs and Greeks from the eastern provinces) and then counterattacking.

However, as they pursued the retreating Romans Aloysius sprang his own trap, fixing the Arabs in place with his heavy legions while also personally leading the heavy Roman reserve into the fray out of Ophel and committing a large Slavic contingent under the overall leadership of Vojislav the Serb to envelop the Islamic army. Like Aloysius himself at Azotus, Talhah managed to escape this trap and avoid total disaster, but the Arabs were driven from the battlefield in disarray and lost 5,000 men to scarcely a thousand Romans – thus 675 saw him and the Emperor mutually break each other’s winning streaks. From Ophel the Romans inched forward to recapture Mount Carmel and Scythopolis, while Qasim had hesitated at the news of his top general’s defeat but ultimately resolved to continue from Damascus anyway. In light of the Battle of Ophel, the Arabs altered their strategy and sought to consolidate their forces on the eastern bank of the Jordan before marching together to crush Aloysius in the next year, while Aloysius had been alerted to the Caliphal army’s approach and hoped to defeat his foes separately.


Frankish federate troops keeping the Muslims at bay on the Jezreel Plain near Ophel, while the Roman heavy cavalry surges into action to envelop their flank

In the east, the Indo-Romans had only barely begun to turn to face the new threat rising in their west when the one they thought they had decisively defeated returned. Now piqued by the defeat of his first two expeditions against the ‘Houyuan’, Emperor Mingzong of Later Han sent a third army twice the size of the second one – 100,000 men – to chastise them and bring the Tarim Basin back under Chinese authority. Xue Zhisheng led these men through the Jade Gate, but he was soon surprised by the means with which Hippostratus responded: by offering to peaceably return to Luoyang with him, prostrate himself before the Emperor and pay annual tribute to the Dragon Throne. While it was not exactly the climactic opportunity for glory that he expected, Xue had learned well what these Indo-Romans were capable of from the examples fashioned out of Ren Xiaofeng and Wang Huo before him, and so accepted these terms rather than needlessly back Hippostratus into a corner he would have no choice but to fight his way out of.

As it so happened, the canny Indo-Roman king had deduced that China was too powerful for him to fend off. From simply listening to traders from Constantinople and elsewhere he’d not remained deaf or blind to the rapid expansion of Islam in other directions, especially recently against his fellow Romans, as well. If becoming a Chinese tributary was what it took for him to acquire peace with an enemy he was now aware he did not remotely have the resources to hold at bay indefinitely, and better still acquire their aid against the other enemy emerging on his opposite flank who had demonstrated they could fight the Roman West’s great champion of the century to a standstill, then it was a price the incumbent heir of Belisarius was willing to pay to secure the survival of his kingdom – the Chinese at least were more familiar to him as previous trading partners over the Silk Road, did not follow a strange new religion, and (as far as he could tell from their treatment of the Tibetans) could be trusted not to go any further than demanding timely tribute from him.


Hippostratus and an attendant making preparations to leave for China. Despite having won every battle, the Indo-Roman king determined that – having had to face three Chinese armies, each bigger than the last – this was not a war he could win, and that it was better to pay tribute for Chinese protection than risk having his realm torn asunder between the Later Han and the ascendant Muslims



1. Holy Roman Empire
2. Helena's Court
3. Franks
4. Burgundians
5. Alemanni
6. Bavarians
7. Thuringians
8. Lombards
9. Visigoths
10. Basques
11. Celtiberians
12. Carantanians
13. Dulebes
14. Horites
15. Serbs
16. Gepids
17. Thracians
18. Bohemians & Moravians
19. Romano-British
20. Anglo-Saxons
21. Picts
22. Dál Riata
23. Irish kingdoms of the Uí Néill, Ulaidh, Laigin, Eóganachta & Connachta
24. Africans
25. Hoggar
26. Kumbi
27. Garamantes
28. Nubia
29. Polans
30. Vistula Veneti
31. Antae
32. Avars
33. Khazars
34. Georgia
35. Armenia
36. Dar al-Islam
37. Indo-Romans
38. Southern Turkic remnants
39. Kimeks
40. Oghuz Turks
41. Karluks
42. Hunas
43. Later Salankayanas
44. Kannada kingdoms of the Chalukyas & Gangas
45. Tamil kingdoms of the Cheras, Pandyas & Cholas
46. Anuradhapura
47. Tibet
48. Later Han
49. Goguryeo
50. Silla
51. Yamato
52. Champa
53. Chenla
54. Srivijaya
55. Irish of the New World
56. Frisians
57. Continental Saxons
58. Bretons

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

[1] Birecik.

[2] Kahramanmaraş.

[3] The Banu Kalb were one of several large Bedouin tribes inhabiting Rome’s Syrian frontier, traditionally allies of the Eastern Romans and vassals of the Ghassanids until the Islamic conquest.

[4] Now the ruins of Banqusa in northern Idlib Province, near the Turkish-Syrian border.

[5] The Quweiq Valley.

[6] The Khabur tributary of the Euphrates.

[7] Atfih.

[8] Sidi Barrani.

[9] Baalbek.

[10] Historically, both Chenla and Champa were majority-Hindu.

[11] Acre.

[12] Ashdod-Yam.

[13] Derbent.

[14] Afula.

@stevep By the way, to answer your question about the Bulgars: assuredly not all Bulgars have traveled westward with Bezmer & Grod to eventually end up enlisting with the Romans, much like the case was historically. As the Khazars pushed westward, some of the Bulgars living in their way would have found it easier just to flee northward up the Volga. That said, any 'Volga Bulgaria' that emerges is of course far from guaranteed from following the exact same course that our historical one did.
 
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stevep

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Well Hippostratus definitely made the right choice. He can't stand against China in such an exposed position even without the threat of Islam appearing from the west. Its going to make a serious threat anyway unless he could strike west while the armies of Islam are concentrating against Aloysius but then he would still have to either hold such lands or find suitable allies there.

By the way I forgot to mention last time but like some of the elements of irony - can only remember one now with the big imperial victory at Manzikert . ;)

Its going to be a long and multi-fronted war I suspect between the empire and Islam with a lot of devastation of many of the areas. Plus the other issue will be how long Aloysius can commit so much of the Roman strength in that one theatre. Unless they can drive the Muslims out of either Iran [have to find a suitable subject there] or Egypt their also going to have to continually watch both areas, which will also over time become major sources of both wealth and manpower if they stay in Islamic hands. Mind you with the Arabs having the upper Nile as well as Nubia now very isolated and probably not going to last long even controlling Egypt won't protect Africa from Muslim attacks.

The other unknown factor here could be the Khazars as they could have a big impact but if so which way?

The Roman-Brits have been spectacularly successfully in holding open the path to their new colony but how much longer this can happen I don't know. Unless their homeland makes a major effort to protect the region but that would incite hostility from the empire or if its too busy to do much at the moment probably the Anglo-Saxons.

I don't know if there's going to be some clash in SE Asia, with Srivijaya extending its influence northwards and possibly clashing with the Later Han in what's now Vietnam - although don't know if the Chinese would be inclined to try building a fleet to carry such a clash to Srivijaya itself. Plus we don't know what is going to happen with the Huna. Will they continue to decline or possibly revive and if so will they look north or south?
 

ATP

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Good chapter,as always.Muslims probably would hold Palestine,but not Syria.
Indo-Romans was smart.There is no smart to kick with donkey.
Britons - if WRE hold,they should copy indo-romans and pay homage to Rome.

And,since romans need money - why not made amber road again? there are their allies who could led them to prussian lands,and they could not oppose them even if they wanted.
Or send ships to take Gotland island for Roma and made voyages for amber from that place.

P.S i read,that Columbus meet on Azores some old dude who was in America once.And,thanks to that he knew that he must come from Canaries to America and come back through Azores.
So,it could happen again - all we need is one irish ship who do that,wreck on Azores,and thanks to that romans could sail to Carribean.
 

shangrila

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Signed up to this forum mainly to compliment you on this Timeline. Remarkably well done for so little feedback.

Some bits get a little repetitive, but that's a worse crime for a fictional narrative, history does rhyme after all. I do think Federate Kings die too often, I think you reach for that button first to give a battle stakes, but it happening that often should lead to a lot more political turmoil. And really, generals didn't do that much dying in history. The Muslims too, this early into their expansion, I feel that suffering defeats and the death of a sayyid should have more consequence in internal stability. They relied on alot on it really seeming like God was with them to cow and convert the immense masses of highly civilized peoples they conquered. Especially Persians, who've been chafing under rule by barbarian nomads a long time in this timeline.

The Roman Empire developing into a kind of stable federation instead of the barb federates either breaking it up as happened historically or being fully absorbed as in the Eastern Empire is the most interesting idea in this timeline. Rationalizing and formalizing the legal and political framework for that: taxes/the bureaucracy, political representation for Romans in Federate territories, formal representation for Federates in Rome, that would truly be a Renovatio Imperii. The appointment of Kings to the Consulate, and thus technically the Senate provides an interesting possible foot in the door to true Federalization. It might even be a first step into solving the structural issue of Roman Emperors being military dictators with no legitimacy but force of arms. Hey, it's called the Holy Roman Empire now, Electors and Diets and Circles are surely on the way.
 

PsihoKekec

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Hippostratus showing that both military prowess and political astuteness of Belisarus are still running strong in the bloodline.

For now the continuing war is plastering over the issues from the unification of both halves of Roman Empire, but for how long? War weariness is bound to show in former WRE and then all the differences between to halves will come front.

Also, how many bastards did Aloysius father while campaigning away from Helena?
 

ATP

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Signed up to this forum mainly to compliment you on this Timeline. Remarkably well done for so little feedback.

Some bits get a little repetitive, but that's a worse crime for a fictional narrative, history does rhyme after all. I do think Federate Kings die too often, I think you reach for that button first to give a battle stakes, but it happening that often should lead to a lot more political turmoil. And really, generals didn't do that much dying in history. The Muslims too, this early into their expansion, I feel that suffering defeats and the death of a sayyid should have more consequence in internal stability. They relied on alot on it really seeming like God was with them to cow and convert the immense masses of highly civilized peoples they conquered. Especially Persians, who've been chafing under rule by barbarian nomads a long time in this timeline.

The Roman Empire developing into a kind of stable federation instead of the barb federates either breaking it up as happened historically or being fully absorbed as in the Eastern Empire is the most interesting idea in this timeline. Rationalizing and formalizing the legal and political framework for that: taxes/the bureaucracy, political representation for Romans in Federate territories, formal representation for Federates in Rome, that would truly be a Renovatio Imperii. The appointment of Kings to the Consulate, and thus technically the Senate provides an interesting possible foot in the door to true Federalization. It might even be a first step into solving the structural issue of Roman Emperors being military dictators with no legitimacy but force of arms. Hey, it's called the Holy Roman Empire now, Electors and Diets and Circles are surely on the way.
Federate roman empire? i remember some old joke about roman empire never falling and becoming EU,but here it could happen for real.
And such EU would cover USA !

And,if scientific progress go faster,we could have them on Moon about 1500AD.Fighting both Han Empire and White Huns there.

Jokes aside - we should have much smaller muslim world here.
 

Circle of Willis

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@shangrila Thanks for the kind words & constructive criticism! :) Funny enough, in my first draft of this past chapter I actually had a couple more Sayyids dying (either that grandson or nephew of Caliph Qasim), but revised it before posting. In general I am trying to thread a needle between having characters important enough to be given names dying in battles and more realistic rarity of such situations. From my experience reading through other AH TLs in the past & observing audience reactions to them, leaning too far the first way is definitely a poor and unrealistic trope, but leaning too far the second way causes readers to lose interest as their eyes start rolling over the plain, dry-as-dust numbers.

Especially in a pre-modern TL - audiences seem much more accepting of keeping the deaths of those of 'nominal importance' (to use the old TV Tropes parlance) to a minimum in TLs closer to the modern day (certainly after the advent of industrial warfare) when generals leading from the front lines becomes almost unheard of for the most part. That said though, I do try to keep the general body count more limited to factions hailing from 'heroic' cultures with a strong emphasis on not just martial pursuits but personal valor & leadership from the front (such as the more barbaric Teutonic federates), characters who have been blindsided or pushed into impossible situations (as happened with some of the Stilichian emperors who fought Attila, or the Chinese ones who got jumped by Hippostratus in more recent chapters) or characters who have been already established as liking to lead from the front & take risks (such as Aloysius himself).

As to the possibility that the Roman Empire will transition into a more stable federation as a via media between the Emperors and their federate vassals - I can't say much about that, because that is a huge spoiler for the centuries ahead. But I can say that 1) it's certainly much more probable at this point that the Romans absorbing the barbs outright (the Stilichians have already tried a couple times and got worse results with each attempt, culminating in the Aetas Turbida which set in motion their decline over the first half of the 7th century) and 2) whatever game the Aloysians will be playing now that they wear the purple, it'll have to be a long one, as the Stilichians' example has demonstrated how much damage trying to force quick changes in regards to the federate relationships can do - more gradual, slow-but-steady developments and the establishment of precedents over the coming centuries and less quick power-grabs or just writing a constitution one day and calling it done.

On the other regulars' points - yep, a good general and king knows both how to achieve victory and when victory is impossible, and Hippostratus can hardly take the Indo-Romans to their zenith without navigating the travails of the evolving geopolitical situation around him. Even if he doesn't get overwhelming Chinese help against the Muslims when they come for him, at the very least he can ensure he won't have to fight on two fronts this way, as that would definitely doom the Indo-Roman state to a quick end.

The Khazars definitely will have a part to play in the Roman-Arab wars to come. Their interests will likely put them at odds with both, so barring a total conversion to either Christianity or Islam, they will probably go back & forth between the two great empires to their south (and accordingly give whichever partner they've chosen the advantage, at least until they change sides again).

As far as relations between East & West and Aloysius' philandering tendencies go, since with his marriage with Helena have linked the two issues - he probably hasn't fathered too many while on campaign in Anatolia/Syria, haha. It's still fairly early after their wedding and Helena is at least superficially good-looking enough to keep him interested, plus since she still wields much influence over the East he really can't afford to piss her off while in her half of the empire. Great chance he'll fall back into his old habits later (especially when dealing with threats far in the west that keep him away from her bed) but at the very least, even if Aloysius has another hundred bastards he's much less likely to acknowledge them now (barring circumstances like siring them on a Senator's daughter or someone else with connections) than he was with his first three - Helena won't stand for any more potential competitors to her own son's claim and she definitely has both the will and the power to seriously impose such a demand onto her husband, even if she may not be able to stop him from breaching his marital vows entirely.

By the way guys, I noticed I left the Continental Saxons, Frisians & Bretons out on the last map. That error has now been fixed.
 

shangrila

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Curious that no one has tried to absorb the Saxons before now. From the map, it looks like that would put the border at the Elbe river, the advantages of which should be evident.

As to the possibility that the Roman Empire will transition into a more stable federation as a via media between the Emperors and their federate vassals - I can't say much about that, because that is a huge spoiler for the centuries ahead. But I can say that 1) it's certainly much more probable at this point that the Romans absorbing the barbs outright (the Stilichians have already tried a couple times and got worse results with each attempt, culminating in the Aetas Turbida which set in motion their decline over the first half of the 7th century) and 2) whatever game the Aloysians will be playing now that they wear the purple, it'll have to be a long one, as the Stilichians' example has demonstrated how much damage trying to force quick changes in regards to the federate relationships can do - more gradual, slow-but-steady developments and the establishment of precedents over the coming centuries and less quick power-grabs or just writing a constitution one day and calling it done.
Oh I wasn't thinking a Constitution gets written down one day . . . more like one gets imposed on an underage or weak Emperor Magna Carta style. The Aloysians are heavily Germanized, and it's the Germanic custom of notable warriors ratifying and consulted by chieftains that eventually developed into the HRE's Electors and Diet. Even doing it as political display can become custom, and then customary law, before becoming fully mandatory.

And the Stilichians getting demoted from Imperial House to what looks to be the largest and wealthiest Federate might turn out backhandedly to be a stabilizer. It would be hard to get a rebellion going without them and without them taking over, but thanks to Augustine and the Stilichians, the Mauro-Vandal-Afro-Romans are the most hardcore Ephesian and Roman unitarists. A Stilichian associated revolt against a weak Aloysian might hit that sweet point of not being able to impose a restoration without too much damage to Rome as a whole, but able to force permanent institutions and rules on the Emperor and the mass of little German federates that are his closest allies.
 

ATP

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Indeed,continental saxons look small.They should go down like iazygs.
And Magna Charta look like good idea for next Emperor.

P.S Ireland still had Ard Ri,High King formally ruling all others Kings.
How much power he still had?
some of those Kings were so small,that they really could lead 30-40 person strong "armies"
So - when somebody conqer Ireland?
 
676-679: Renovatio Imperii Romanorum, Part III

Circle of Willis

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676 picked up right where the previous year had left off. Having been alerted to the northward approach of Qasim’s main army on the left bank of the Jordan by his own Christian Arab scouts, Aloysius began to maneuver through the mountains of Galilee to intercept him as soon as weather conditions permitted. The Augustus rapidly broke through a small guarding force which his Caliphal counterpart had left to hold the Galaunitis[1] region, much more quickly than the Arabs had anticipated: instead of marching to storm their strongly positioned headquarters at the old Jewish fortress-town of Gamla, famously defended twice against overwhelming Roman power in 66-67 AD by Flavius Josephus, he sent a few hundred of the fastest and most skilled climbers among his Arabs and Levantine Christians to scale the steep ravines around the Arab camp and plant his blue-and-white standard atop the cliff. The Arab defenders, already demoralized by news of the previously seemingly invincible Talhah’s defeat and the strength of the Roman army, yielded the next morning, for which Qasim cursed them as traitors and apostates – but the damage was done, and he now had to turn to face the oncoming Romans on the Yarmouk plain rather than risk a river crossing to link up with Talhah’s army.

Starting from April 26, Qasim sought to fight a mostly defensive action north of the Yarmouk to hold the Romans at bay until Talhah arrived, which he estimated would take three to four days. The first day opened with duels between his mubarizun (champions) and those sent by Aloysius, who would have participated himself had he not come down with a cold during the march out of Galilee. The Caliph held back his own kindred, not wishing to unnecessarily shed any more of the Prophet’s blood, and maintained discipline even after Haistulf the Lombard – foremost of the Christian champions, who would also take Aloysius’ usual place at the front line for most of the coming battle – taunted the Muslim army with the head of the first man he had sent out. In total, half a dozen champions from each side fought on the morning of the 26th of April: of these, the Romans won the first three bouts and the Muslims the last three.


The Islamic champion Shaddad ibn Masud strikes down Caecilius of Confluentes, last of the six Christian champions to engage in a duel before the Battle of the Yarmouk began in earnest

Three days of battle followed, with Aloysius (for once) having to direct the battle from the rear rather than fighting on the front alongside his men. Each day saw the Muslims driven inch by inch toward the Yarmuk River to their backs, though they made even the most heavily armored of the Roman wedges pay a stiff toll in blood for each advance, fueled as this particular army was by the fanatical spirit that could only come from being directly led by the Heir of the Prophet himself. On the third day the Romans actually broke through into the Muslim camp: but not only did the Muslims’ camp followers emerge from their tents to shame them into continuing to fight, but so did Qasim himself, though by this time he was 78 years old and unable to walk without a cane. His own bodyguard corps, the tabi’un or ‘successors’ whose parents or grandparents once walked with Muhammad, had chained themselves to one another in ten-man lengths around him to demonstrate their own willingness to fight to the death for his cause. Thus was the most successful of Haistulf’s onslaughts turned back, and that night Talhah’s army joined that of his master, bringing them both much-needed numbers and a massive morale boost.

The Muslims counterattacked on the morning of the fourth day, and their increased numbers and restored ferocity caught Haistulf, Stilicho of Africa and Aloysius’ other generals (who had gone to bed thinking one more push would suffice to drive their foes into the Yarmouk) off-guard. Now it was the Arabs’ turn to tear through the Roman formations and push into their camp, where Aloysius emerged from the imperial tent attired for combat, mounted on faithful Ascanius and leading his personal candidati to rally his fleeing men. The Emperor had by this time partially recovered from his illness, and proved that even while still dealing with a headache and mild fever he was at least half as deadly a combatant as he was at full vitality, which was still too much for any Muslim who dared to stand against him. This show of bravery and martial might succeeded in restoring his men’s fighting spirit, and the Muslims could not withstand their renewed vigor: indeed they were pushed away after six hours of fierce battle.

On May 1st, the fifth and final day of the Battle of the Yarmouk, the Muslims arrayed for battle in the morning only to find that the Romans were withdrawing from the battlefield. As it turned out, engaging in combat for hours on end did not help a man’s recovery from illness and Aloysius was once again too sick to fight; he also determined that despite having badly mauled the smaller enemy army, he could not inflict upon the Muslims a total defeat with the numbers he still had, and ordered a tactical retreat back into the relative safety of the Galilee where he could await reinforcements from Greece and Italy. Qasim ordered an immediate attack in hopes of crushing the Romans before they could complete their withdrawal, spearheaded by the Galilean Jewish contingents who had the most reason to despise Rome and seek the return of their homeland, but this hasty and haphazard assault was beaten back by Stilicho’s rearguard.


Stilicho's rearguard holding off the Arabs and Galilean Jews of Qasim's pursuing force as the Roman army withdrew to their mountains

Nonetheless Qasim proclaimed the Battle of the Yarmouk to be his victory, for the Romans had quit the field first and left it in Muslim possession, and thus it followed that the Heir of the Prophet remained undefeated still. The Muslims’ losses had been almost as grave as those of the Romans though – 4,000 to 5,000 – and at this stage they were less able to absorb such casualties than the reunified (Holy) Roman Empire. No doubt still shaken by how close he came to being overrun despite still managing to find his courage on the third day, the Caliph also accepted Talhah’s advice to leave their combined army under the latter’s command, so that the Heir of the Prophet might never be stained with the indignity of defeat in any of the battles which still lay ahead. Both sides did not resume any offensive for the rest of 676 (which Aloysius, after finally recovering from his illness, declared to be proof that he won the Battle of the Yarmouk instead) and instead spent the rest of the year gathering reinforcements.

Up north, the Muslims more clearly had the upper hand. From his foothold along the Caspian the heir to the Heir of the Prophet, Abd al-Rahman, pushed westward against the Georgians and Armenians, who were ill-equipped to stop him. Mithranes lost Tbilisi in just a few months, and Arsaber too lost Artaxarta where he had just barely begun to re-establish his court; both kings fell back with all the troops still in good enough condition to follow them to their old temporary capitals in the west, Archaeopolis and Ani respectively. With Aloysius busy in Palaestina, it fell to Helena to try to mitigate the situation in the north: and while the Empress was no general, she was not without weapons or options in how to deal with this secondary front. She called upon her soon-to-be in-laws, the Khazars, to join the fight: for his part Kundaç Khagan had already accepted Tegreg refugees into his court, including the underage Doulan Qaghan, and fortunately for the Romans he was considering contesting control of Khorasan and Transoxiana as well as the Caucasus with the Muslims anyway, so Helena just had to commit to paying the Khazars a hefty tribute in gold, silver and tea for the next five years to seal the deal.


Helena demonstrating another benefit of Roman civilization – heated, scented baths – to the impressed Esin Khatun, chief wife of Kundaç Khagan and mother of her future son-in-law Kundaçiq

Once the two giants had ‘cleared their heads’, so to speak, and gathered reinforcements they resumed hostilities in the early months of 677. Aloysius struck first in hopes of catching the Muslims off-balance and pre-empting their offensive: splitting off a part of his larger army to push for the holy cities of Palaestina to the south once more, he swung around the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and across the Jordan to re-emerge on the river’s eastern bank in April with the main part of his host, and at their head he crushed a smaller southern detachment of the main Islamic army at the Battle of Pella[2]. The Emperor was most certainly successful in his intent to surprise the Arabs, for up to this point Talhah and the lesser scions of the Banu Hashim had been planning an attack on Capernaum and indeed were within days of launching their assault: but now they found themselves hurriedly crossing the Yarmouk to deal with the looming Christian threat to their rear.

After the Muslims overcame a Roman force under Haistulf which tried to contest their crossing at Gadara[3], Aloysius and Talhah spent two weeks trying to outpace and outmaneuver the other before they finally met again at the Battle of Arabella[4], east of Pella. Once again the two great generals appeared to equally match one another, blow for blow – the Augustus’ African and Christian Arab light troops were no less skilled than their Islamic counterparts and lost the initial skirmish only due to (ironically, given that at 15,000 strong, the Roman army as a whole outnumbered the Muslim one of 11,000) numerical inferiority, and when it seemed that the speedy and ferocious Arab infantry might succeed in whittling down and demoralizing his lines, he scattered them with his heavy cavalry. The Emperor withdrew in good order after ‘only’ three days of battle this time, with both sides having lost about 3,000 men, but it soon became apparent to Talhah that he ought not to celebrate his seeming victory overmuch.

While the Romans and Muslims were battling east of the Jordan, west of that river Stilicho had led the Romans’ 9,000-strong southern detachment into Palaestina Prima. Accompanied by Patriarch Abel, the African king quickly rooted out the sparse Muslim garrisons in most of the province and recaptured its cities – from Neapolis in Samaria to holy Jerusalem itself, Azotus & Azotus Paralios along the coast where Aloysius had met his match for the first time, Jericho in the east and Hebron & Beersheba in the south. Indeed, within four months the pair had come to threaten the connection between Qasim’s conquests in Egypt and those in Syria, and the only reason Aloysius withdrew from the field at Arabella rather than try to press for a total victory was revealed: he had tied the largest Islamic army in the region up on the wrong side of the Jordan while his generals snapped up the poorly-defended Jerusalem and other cities in the Holy Land, and with that done he could abandon his salient beyond the Jordan. Talhah tried to pursue the main imperial army as it fell back across the Jordan, but the Emperor turned and successfully drove the Muslims back at the Battle of Bethania[5] so that his legions might cross the river without harassment.


Stilicho, King of Africa, enters Jerusalem after retaking it for Christianity for the second time in three years

While Aloysius linked back up with Stilicho and repelled further Islamic counterattacks into southern Palaestina at the Battle of Adam’s Bridge[6] and the Battle of Arad later in the year, the Muslims’ troubles were also beginning to grow in the north. The Khazars openly entered the war on the side of the Holy Roman Empire this year, with Kundaçiq descending upon Abd al-Rahman’s host in the Caucasus while his father Kundaç Khagan simultaneously led the attack on Muslim Khorasan on the other side of the Caspian. In turn Abd al-Rahman, not having the troops to defend against both Kundaçiq’s horde after it sacked Darband and the Georgians & Armenians who had been regained hope after this news, managed an orderly withdrawal from most of his now-untenable conquests over most of 677.

By the time winter arrived and made further large-scale fighting impossible, Abd al-Rahman had managed to preserve the greater part of his original army, drawn up some reinforcements from Mesopotamia, and stabilized the Caliphate’s northern border between the eastern Caucasus and the southern Anticaucasus[7]. The struggles of his brother Al-Abbas in holding Khorasan & Islamic Transoxiana against the Khazar onslaught kept him from assembling as many troops as he would have liked, however. In the face of the greater part of Khazar power, the second-oldest grandson of the Prophet had little choice but to withdraw south of the Oxus and even then was still defeated by Kundaç Khagan at the Battle of Merv, although toward the end of the year Al-Abbas managed to rally in the mountain range which his Turkic converts & auxiliaries called the Köpet Dag and to drive Kundaç’s hordes back at the Battles of Nishapur and Saanabad[8].

Further still to the east, the Muslims’ intensified struggle with the Romans and now the Khazars prevented them from immediately moving against the Indo-Romans who had long ago splintered off the Eastern Roman Empire. Having secured peace on his eastern flank by bowing to the Later Han (or as he would describe it himself, “I allowed the Dragon to bite off a hand so that I might escape his lair while he ate”) and confident that the Muslims would not be in any shape to attack him anytime soon, Hippostratus sought to resume trade along the Silk Road to enrich himself and his trading partners. Al-Abbas had been working to suppress banditry and warlordism in the parts of Persia that he had conquered before the Khazars descended upon him, and both he and his new Persian subejcts were eager to revive trade as much as possible so that they might refill their coffers and begin restoring normalcy & prosperity to Persia.


Prominent Sogdian merchants enjoying Hippostratus' hospitality before their caravan resumes its westward trek

678 saw this first of many Roman-Arab wars reach its final stage, with the Muslims mounting additional offensives into Roman-held Palaestina in a push to recapture Jerusalem. While it was not as important to them as Mecca and Medina were, but still held some value as a place of worship used by past Islamic prophets (including Jesus himself, called Isa in Arabic) and the site of Muhammad’s night journey or isra (in which the Buraq, a winged human-faced donkey-mule, flew him from Mecca to Jerusalem to temporarily ascend with Heaven, commune with the past prophets and ultimately speak with God Himself), and of course they also knew how valuable it was to the Christians and sought to deny it to them on that basis too. Talhah sought to concentrate all efforts on retaking Jerusalem and driving the Romans out of Palaestina, concerned that the smaller Muslim army could not afford to split itself up against its larger adversary, but Qasim overruled him and demanded a secondary offensive into Galilee to try to cut off Aloysius’ landward route of retreat: if the Muslims could also take the cities on the Palestinian coast, as Talhah had planned, then they could trap the Emperor in the region entirely and deal a mighty blow against his empire.

In the Caliph’s defense, he had listened when Talhah explained the dangers of splitting his limiting forces and attacking both Palaestina proper and Galilee with undermanned armies, after which he promised to direct reinforcements to bolster both offensives. Unfortunately for the two men, intensifying Khazar pressure in the north forced Qasim to divert his intended reinforcements northward, where they did prove helpful in bolstering his older sons as they fought to hold the line against Kundaç & Kundaçiq. However this did mean Talhah had to attack Aloysius on two fronts in March with only the troops he already had, having brought up a much more limited number of soldiers from Egypt to shore up the army he was leading into central Palaestina while a small host of just below 7,000 crossed the Jordan to invade Galilee at Capernaum.

Aloysius had been marshaling his own army for an offensive, but now put his greater number of soldiers to use defensively instead. The initial Muslim onslaught in the south snatched the port cities up to Ioppe away from him, as well as Hebron: but in the Battle of Bethlehem the Augustus and Patriarch Abel evened the score, forcing Talhah to retreat after nearly enveloping the Islamic army with their greater numbers (for there the Romans fielded 20,000 men to the Muslims’ 12,000) before fanning out to the west and – while unsuccessful in reclaiming the entire Palestinian coast – managing to drive the grandsons of Qasim out of Ioppe and Iamnia[9] where they had been garrisoned. Meanwhile up north, Stilicho and Iudicallus defended the Roman rear against Talhah’s secondary army, leading their larger host of 10,000 to similarly thwart his lieutenant Amr al-Ashtar in the Battles of Sepphoris & Tiberias: like his superior, Amr managed to fight his way out of an encirclement and avoid the total destruction of his army, but at no small cost to his army which could ill-afford it. On both fronts, the Muslims had killed enough Romans to make Aloysius reconsider immediately going on the offensive and pursuing them.


The Battle of Bethlehem was a hard-fought one, and in the end would prove decisive to both pushing Rome and the Hashemites to the bargaining table and determining their immediate post-war borders

At this point, with both Rome and the House of Submission having dealt heavy blows unto one another, outside events intervened to persuade Aloysius to seek peace. Namely, he had neglected his western frontier too long in favor of trying to retake the Middle East for his wife: word reached him that Saxon raiders were bold enough to strike at farmsteads within sight of Augusta Treverorum’s walls, and that another warlord named Wecta had risen among that people, promising to be the one to drive the Romans out of Germania once more. This Wecta had already defeated and killed Theodulf of the Lombards when the latter marched to stop him with what levies his people and the neighboring Thuringians could still muster, so Haistulf (now king of Lombardy) added his personal pressure upon the Emperor to return west. That the Khazars’ assault seemed to have ground to a halt as well, blunted by the reinforcements joining Abd al-Rahman in the Anticaucasus and Al-Abbas in Köpet Dag, gave Aloysius sufficient impetus to sue for peace. Helena supported his decision at this time, the recovery of not just Anatolia but also large parts of Armenia & Georgia and now the Levantine coast too having greatly exceeded her initial expectations of her husband’s abilities.

The Emperor was correct in his estimation that Qasim too was ready to welcome peace, or more realistically at least a truce, though he and his house still bore a deep grudge against Aloysius and the Aloysians for the killing of Abd al-Fattah. Aloysius himself thought the vendetta was a petty one, since he’d slain Abd al-Fattah in battle and the latter had been the one to attack him in the first place, but he had bet that the old Caliph was not the sort of man to allow such a grudge to overwhelm his political sense. The Arabs may not have been bled white – certainly they were not as poor-off as the Southern Turks had been on the precipice of Heshana’s demise – but their losses were no laughing matter and their strategic prospects no longer seemed limitless, for the Romans had proven a much more resilient enemy than the Turks and now the Khazars had joined the fray to hammer away at their extreme northern borders.

The Caliph himself had received a reminder that he was not invincible in his own battle with Aloysius at the Yarmuk, and that he was not infallible when the strategy he’d forced onto Talhah ibn Talib fell apart before the Emperor in the preceding weeks. Hoping to smooth over tensions with the man who was still his greatest general, Qasim declined to blame the reversals in central Palaestina on him (even though that was the point of removing himself from command and leaving Talhah in nominal control over the war’s direction in that region in the first place) and instead chalked it up to Allah’s ineffable will. An uneasy truce settled across the Middle East as the leaders of all three great powers – the Romans, Muslims and Khazars – began to meet in Edessa (now on the northern Roman-Arab frontier) to formally redraw the region’s map and hash out a peace agreement that would hopefully last longer than a year.


Aloysius & Helena bid welcome to the Arab and Khazar delegations at the hastily-restored citadel of Edessa

The truce which began in mid-678 also gave the Indo-Romans a chance to reconnect (to the limited extent that such reconnection was possible) with the ‘proper’ Romans from whom they had split off on the other side of the nascent Islamic empire. It was through the Persian trade routes that Hippostratus sent to the Empress Helena & Emperor Aloysius, at that time wintering in Amida near the negotiation site in Edessa, a Christmas gift of especially fine woollen clothes woven from the undercoats of pashmina goats by the most skilled of his own Kashmiri subjects. In exchange the imperial couple officially forgave Porphyrus’ secession from the Eastern Roman Empire a century prior (not that they could realistically do much about it anyway) and recognized the Indo-Roman kingdom as a legitimate partner of the Roman Empire.

After many months of negotiation, interspersed with periodic frontier skirmishes from Galilee to Khorasan even in spite of the nominal truce, the three feuding titans of western Eurasia seemed to finally reach a peace settlement in 679. This ‘Peace of Edessa’ effectively froze the battle-lines where they stood at the end of 678: the Romans regained Asia Minor (which the Muslims had never been able to invade), while most of Georgia up to Shamkur[10] and western & central Armenia, up to and including Lakes Van & Sevan, were restored to their respective vassal kingdoms. Rome also formally regained the length of territory in the western Levant which it still controlled, extending from Antioch in the north and Amida & Edessa in the east through Phoenicia and into Galilee & Palaestina down to Bethlehem & Iamne. They did keep Jerusalem, which was non-negotiable for the Emperor and Empress, and made the Jordan River & Dead Sea into a natural southeastern boundary for their lands.

While Georgian and Armenian refugees returned to rebuild their devastated homelands, Aloysius and Helena directed the Christian Arabs who had fought for them to resettle in this long Roman salient along the Levantine coast. Shortly after the ceremony in which they reinstalled the True Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and pledged to repair both it and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the imperial couple also acknowledged the reformation of the Ghassanid federate kingdom in northern Syria centered around Emath (which the Arabs referred to as Hama) and the creation of a new one ruled by the Banu Kalb in the south, centered around Tiberias and encompassing Galilee & the fringes of Palaestina. By this point the Ghassanids had been so weakened by war that they could neither realistically defend the entire Levantine border themselves, nor keep the Banu Kalb under their authority.


Aloysius and Helena deposit holy relics as part of their proper triumphal procession through the secured Jerusalem

On the other hand, the Romans recognized the cession of the Syrian hinterland, southern Palaestina, all of Egypt, and almost the entirety of Mesopotamia to the Hashemite Caliphate. There was certainly no hope of driving them out of Persia in the name of Doulan Qaghan or any other rival monarch either, so in the east Islam’s power would extend to the Indo-Romans’ mountains uncontested. The Khazars continued to hold Darband in the eastern Caucasus and most of Transoxiana & Khorasan on the other side of the Caspian, withdrawing from the Köpet Dag toward Merv in an apparent sign of goodwill, but in practice endemic back-and-forth raids with the forces of Islam would soon turn the territory between the Köpet Dag and the Oxus into a no-man’s-land.

While Aloysius was far from satisfied with these gains – he believed the territory they controlled in the western Levant lacked strategic depth and that Jerusalem was still too vulnerable to an attack from the south – he could not realistically push for more, while also dealing with the emerging Saxon threat far to the west. After celebrating this apparent triumph with his wife and son, the Emperor hurried to sail back to Ravenna from Antioch, and once in Italy he began the march north along the road to Germania, hoping to at least push past the Alps before winter made the mountains impassable. Haistulf, Rechiar and the other Teutonic princes were detached from the main army and sent ahead of Aloysius’ coming to engage Wecta’s Saxon horde, which lacked the means to storm Augusta Treverorum but was more than capable of doing heavy damage to the Romano-Germanic countryside. Despite being outnumbered, these battle-hardened veterans of the war against the Turks and Arabs did achieve an early victory over the forward-most Saxon warbands at the Battle of Aquae Mattiacorum[11] before 679 ended, signaling to Wecta that he needed to pull his men back together if he was to have any chance of surviving the Augustus’ imminent retaliation.


Wecta's warriors putting a village in the March of Arbogast to the torch

The Arabs and Khazars were not without their own troubles. Thanks to Roman strength, Qasim may not have been able to expand Islam’s reach as far as he would have liked, but still he had practically quadrupled (if not more) the size of his Caliphate and consumed most of the carcass of the Southern Turkic Empire, in addition to not-inconsiderable parts of the old Roman east. To consolidate and effectively administer these lands the Caliph had to reach out to vast non-Islamic masses he had just conquered, repeating his successful policy of tolerance (in exchange for submission and the jizya tax) from Egypt & Aksum to secure their cooperation and recruit administrators from their ranks. The Khazars meanwhile were unsatisfied with their gains, far less exhausted than the Romans, and did not have to consolidate their newfound control over as many territories as the Muslims: naturally they had begun to raid the northern frontiers of Dar al-Islam before the year even ended, sparking retaliatory raids by Islamic ghazis and fears that the peace between these two new empires would break down before the ink even finished drying.

On the other side of the world, the Gaels were beginning to push outward from the Nova Hibernian peninsula. Well north of their budding colony at Cois Fharraighe, adventuring parties had discovered a great mountain range[12] dominated by maple trees whose leaves turned a brilliant orange in the autumn, and which their Wilderman guides revealed contained a remarkably sweet sap. They had dubbed the mountain range ‘Crainn Siúcra’, the ‘Sugar Trees’, after the aforementioned trees: and in this year one party led by Túathal Mac Áed ventured beyond the hills and mountains blanketed in those saccharine trees, traversing the isthmus (soon to be named after Túathal himself) which separated the peninsula from the rest of the continent. The discovery was welcome news to Liberius, but he could not immediately capitalize on it because he was not even in Nova Hibernia for most of this year – as the decade was coming to an end the old Roman prince-turned-abbot had sailed for Tír na Beannachtaí, where he sought to pull as many of the Irish petty-kings as he could reach into a council and coordinate a decisive strike against the heretic-held Point-de-Luce, once and for all.

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

[1] The Golan Heights.

[2] Tabaqat Fahl, Jordan.

[3] Umm Qais.

[4] Irbid.

[5] Al-Maghtas, also known as ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’.

[6] Jisr ed-Damiye.

[7] Approximately from the area of modern Sumgait in the east, moving southwestward to southern Karabakh and Nakhchivan in the west.

[8] Mashhad.

[9] Yavne.

[10] Shamkir, Azerbaijan.

[11] Wiesbaden.

[12] Cobequid Mountains.

Wrote a large part of this while under a cold myself (at least the symptoms didn't start showing when I wrote that Aloysius was ill for one battle, that would've been one creepy coincidence) but, here's hoping it still holds up compared to other chapters. The next chapter will be the second-to-last factional overview for this century, centered on the Hashemite Caliphate as it moves to stabilize and consolidate its rule over all its new territories. I'm feeling better now than I was earlier in the week, or even yesterday – still got a cough & runny nose but at least I'm no longer feverish or feel like I've got a rhino breakdancing in my head – so hopefully I'll have recovered enough to still finish it in no more than a week from now.
 

shangrila

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Well, this was the result I expected. Aloysius being sick saving Qasim is certainly going to end up played up by the Muslims as another sign of divine aid. The question is if the Romans can exploit a Fitna unlike the vastly weaker historical ERE, which took cash to stay out of the 2nd Fitna despite the Arab Syrian army pulling out almost completely to put down the more eastern Muslim factions.

The business of Islam being tied to the direct dynastic line of Muhammed is an interesting allohistorical issue. I don't expect it for narrative reasons, but historical religions tied to a single ruling house descended from their prophet tend to die out when that house falls from power, which is inevitable for any dynasty. Like the Isma'ili Shia and the Fatimids for instance.
 

ATP

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Saxons are too powerfull here,i think - but,now they would be deal with anyway.
It would be funny,if poloni for no reason decided that they want saxon Kings,like in 18 th century OTL!
shaming womans and elders - next time deal with them using archers schooting over heads of fighters.Cold-blooded,but should work.

russian tribes should arleady be there,so it is time for khazars to start ruling them,like in OTL.
And do not forget vikings - if anybody else start coming earlier,they could come early,too.
At least to Russia.

In OTL they could loot becouse there was no seriuou opponents - but now,only pace which they could safely loot now is Ireland and America.
Speaking about Ireland - they shuld have Ard-Ri,High King still.No matter,if they do not truly unite,somebody would conqer them - vikings,saxons,romans - do not matter.
 

PsihoKekec

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I think we are looking at the beginning of the golden age of the Indo-Roman realm, Chinese are sated, Hunas are in no shape for second go, while Muslim threat is manageable, due to their war with Khazars, so income from the Silk Road can be used to good result. Hopefully the heir of Hippostratus will have at least some of his rulership, but this dynasty was so gifted in this regard it is almost guaranteed to skip a generation.

I don't think there will be Fitna after Qasim dies, but after his successor dies, there is a good chance there will be one.
 

shangrila

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Interesting video on how Federate "land grants" worked before the late 430s to 440s:


Namely that the Federate "Kingdoms" were really semi-autonomous Roman armies with semi-hereditary leadership paid for by 1/3 shares of tax revenue from particular provinces which they are responsible for garrisoning. And the settlement really did not involve ownership or rule of the land in question except insofar as any late Roman general has significant political influence over the area of his garrison. Even the title of King seems to be an anachronism applied to Federate leaders, with contemporary sources referring to them as generals or commanders.

The switchover to actual barb rule seemed to come about initially from the Roman government granting settlements to territories that had already been lost to rebellion or invasion, and then general loss of control in the 440s. Since the Roman government never suffered this progressive collapse in this TL, there may be overestimation of how much actual rule the Federates have over their land grants, which may be more like Chinese vassal principalities in autonomy.
 
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