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Alternate History Vivat Stilicho!

The House of Submission

Circle of Willis

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Capital: Kufa.

Religion: Islam, of course.

Languages: Arabic, with the Hashemite court particularly favoring the Hejazi variant of the language which was natively spoken by the Prophet, his household and his closest companions. The majority of the Caliphate’s newly conquered subjects still speak their own tongues, including:
  • Aramaic
  • Hebrew (as a sacred language among the Jewish populace – they would have spoken Aramaic day-to-day)
  • Greek
  • Persian
  • Kurdish
  • Coptic Egyptian
  • Ge’ez
  • Turkic
A new power has risen east of Rome. The Arabs, long overlooked in the struggles between that Mediterranean giant and its succession of eastern neighbors – the Seleucids, Parthians, Sassanids, Hephthalites and finally the Turks – have burst forth from the desert sands of their homeland, fueled by both a demographic boom and fervent belief in One God which they claim is no different than the one worshipped by the Christians and Jews. But these people neither bow before the Roman Emperors and the seven Patriarchs of the Christian world, nor the scattered elders of the Jewish diaspora keeping the flame of the oldest Abrahamic religion alive outside their homeland. They proclaim that Muhammad ibn Abdullah is the final Prophet of the one and only God, who they call Allah in the Arabic tongue, to whom divine truth (as compiled by his son and companions in the Holy Qur'an, for Muhammad himself could not write) was revealed in the early seventh century, and they call their empire Dar al-Islam: the 'House of Submission' to the will of Allah.

When Muhammad died, he had unified the Arabian peninsula, but not yet ventured beyond its borders. It fell to his son Qasim, the Khalifah (‘successor’) and Warith an-Nābiyy (‘Heir of the Prophet’) to spread Allah’s final revelation to the masses living in jahiliyah (‘ignorance’) everywhere else around the globe, and to compel these unbelievers to submit themselves to the divine truth outlined to his father – by persuasion or by the sword. In that regard he has been exceptionally successful, thanks in part to his neighbors having inadvertantly weakened themselves either in wars with one another or themselves: first fell Aksum, weakened by decades of civil warfare, then the Southern Turkic Khaganate, which was already resting on a shaky foundation snatched away from the Eftals and Romans even before it beat itself senseless against the walls of Constantinople. In the space of a few decades, Islam spread from Arabia to overtake much of the Middle East, large parts of northeastern Africa and even extend into Central Asia and the eastern Caucasus.

However, the Muslims’ expansion seems to have hit a limit as of 680 AD (or 65 AH – ‘Anno Hegirah’, ‘year of the departure’ to the Romans – in their own religious calendar, which uses the year of Muhammad’s flight from Mecca for its epoch[1]). Buoyed by the might of its western half and late-comer assistance in the form of the Khazars, the Roman world was able to withstand Islam’s surging power and fight the armies of the Caliph to a bloody standstill in the western Levant. Qasim assures his kin and subjects that this is no matter: he has always been prudent (his critics would whisper ‘over-cautious’) when it came to warfare, and yet the results speak for themselves – when he strikes, it is always with the providence of Allah, who delivers conquest after conquest into the hands of His humble servant. No doubt one day, Allah will be so kind as to deliver those western and northern conquests which the Muslims were unable to secure in these past years too, and when He does no army nor Emperor can possibly resist His will.

More pragmatically, Qasim has concerns other than expanding at the moment. He is much more interested in consolidating the still-impressive conquests he has already racked up, which stretch from the Köpet Dag in the north to colonies along the Swahili coast in the far south, so that these lands will not escape the grasp of the Banu Hashim when he inevitably shuffles off his mortal coil. And speaking of which – being eighty-two years old as of 680, the first Caliph is also keenly aware that he is not long for this world, and is as concerned with his succession and the future of his realm as any other ruler who knows they might never wake up after going to bed every night would be. He had no brothers with whom to share or fight over the inheritance left by his venerable father: but he had several sons with his wives, and these sons (even the one martyred by the Roman infidels) all have children of their own. Even if his sons miraculously do not contend with one another for the right to succeed him, the generation after them are practically strangers to one another, this he knows…and Qasim is also painfully aware that his do not seem to be a people made for peace, prone to clan and tribal and brotherly rivalries when they are not battling outsiders, going all the way back to their forefather Ishmael who was cast out in favor of his half-brother (and Jewish patriarch) Isaac.

Conquering huge swathes of land has proven to be easier for these early Muslims than consolidating and ruling over them. The ancient tribal structure of the Arab peoples has proven as ill-suited for the administration of an empire stretching from Persia to Egypt as Rome’s own original political structure from its city-state days had for ruling over the Mediterranean Basin, and Caliph Qasim has had to make significant changes to adapt. Islamic rule now rests on three pillars: the Hashemite court itself, the wilayat or external provinces with their civil & military governors, and the majlis ash-shura or consultative assemblies through which the Arab tribes can most directly communicate with the Caliph.

As the direct male-line descendants of the Prophet Muhammad himself, it is considered only natural for the Caliphs or ‘successors’ to steward over the realm he left behind. They rule, at least in theory, as the divinely-sanctioned and nigh-infallible leaders of the Islamic faithful whose authority is absolute and whose final word cannot be challenged by any who claim to have submitted themselves to Allah, and their legitimacy is founded equally on their line of descent from Muhammad and the victories they have brought to Islam. Qasim ibn Muhammad had no surviving brothers, and so smoothly ascended to succeed his father when the aforementioned Prophet passed away: he is firmly of the opinion that nobody has the authority to determine the next Caliph but the incumbent one, and that a Hashemite monarch’s choice in this matter is always guided by Allah. In the past Qasim alternated between Mecca and Medina, but in more recent years he has resolved to build a permanent, fixed capital for his court at Kufa in Mesopotamia.


A depiction of Qasim ibn Muhammad, the first Caliph, late in life. While drawing the descendants of the Prophet is not strictly forbidden, unlike the case for his father, most Islamic artists still typically choose to portray the Hashemite Caliphs with their back turned or a halo of light shrouding their face as a sign of their respect for the Prophet's bloodline

In practice, of course, few men ever truly rule alone – least of all when they are in charge of an empire so massive it would be virtually impossible to govern without delegation. Thus even though Qasim has yet to construct a bureaucracy approaching the size & scale of that of the Romans, he has to date appointed a number of ministers (titled wazir, ‘helper’) and secretaries (titled katib, ‘writer’ or ‘scribe’) to assist him in his daily administrative duties. At this stage, most of these positions are dispensed on an ad-hoc basis with little established formality: by far the most important and consistent ‘vizierate’ is that of the wazir al-sayf or ‘minister of the sword’, who is responsible for the Islamic army’s logistics and recruitment. All of Qasim’s viziers are civil officials, though for obvious reasons the wazir al-sayf is usually a man with military experience, and he does not delegate military commands to them but rather keeps them close to him at court. Theoretically absolute authority or not, it would be uncharacteristic for Qasim, or any other Caliph, to arbitrarily make decisions without at least consulting with this privy council of top-ranking advisors.

To govern his vast conquests, Qasim has divided the territories of the Caliphate into a dozen provinces or wilayat. These are headed by governors (wali) appointed by the Caliph himself, working with a number of other provincial officials (sometimes additional Caliphal appointments, but often local recruits of proven loyalty and competence) of whom the most important are the sahib ul-kharaj (chief tax collector), the qadi (chief Islamic judge) and the emir (provincial military commander). As of 680, the fourteen provinces of the Hashemite Caliphate include:
  • Medina (northern Arabia)
  • Mecca (central Arabia)
  • Yaman (southern Arabia)
  • Kufa (western & central Mesopotamia)
  • Basra (southeastern Mesopotamia)
  • Al-Jazira (northern Mesopotamia)
  • Bilad al-Sham (Syria & Phoenicia)
  • Filastin (Palestine)
  • Misr (Egypt)
  • Habasha (Aksum)
  • Sawahil (east African coast)
  • Fars (southwestern & central Persia)
  • Azerbaijan (northwestern Persia)
  • Khorasan (northern Persia)
The frontier regions of Bilad al-Sham, Al-Jazira, Azerbaijan and Khorasan are unique in that they are more heavily militarized than the other, less restive provinces. They are not divided into civil districts but rather into ajnad (singl. Jund). Each jund is a zone administered directly by the local emirs who enforce a more severe sort of martial law, can requisition the resources which fall under their authority for warlike purposes, and often engage in endemic back-and-forth raids with the Dar al-Harb – the ‘house of war’, as the Muslims call every neighbor of theirs which does not profess Islam nor have an active truce with the Caliph.

As the Qur'an encourages Muslims to resolve their grievances by way of mutual consultation whenever possible, the majlis ash-shura has emerged as the closest thing the Caliphate has to a legislature. It is not exactly a permanent parliamentary institution (at least not at this stage), but an ad-hoc assembly of representatives from the many Arabic tribes who have embraced Islam called by the Caliph to deliberate over decisions of import which are known to impact the entire Muslim community, such as going to war or the division of the spoils of a victorious conflict. Ostensibly any Muslim who has reached puberty, is of sound mind and well-versed in the tenets of Islam can participate in a shura council: in practice, the tribal elders will appoint men from the ranks of their favored clansmen to represent their interests before the Caliph.


Banu Tamim envoys chosen by their elders to represent the tribe at a session of the Majlis ash-Shura perform evening prayers on their road to the new Hashemite capital at Kufa

Speaking of the tribes, tensions are simmering between the Quraish tribe to which the Banu Hashim clan themselves belong; the other Arabic tribes; and the masses of non-Muslims whom they rule over. In theory all men are equal in submission to the will of Allah, and He recognizes no tribal distinction between a Hashemite and (for example) one of the Banu Hanzala. In practice, few men can live up to this ideal and Qasim naturally has leaned most heavily on his own kin to administer the choicest parts of the Islamic empire, trusting his sons & grandsons above his in-laws & cousins who he in turn trusts more than distant Quraish kinsmen, and he inevitably favors those distant kindred over the men of other tribes. This in turn has allowed the various Sayyid princes to begin establishing their own regional power-bases under their elderly patriarch’s umbrella. So far, the Caliph has amassed so much booty and conquests that giving the non-Quraish tribes and clans a stake in upholding the unity of Islam has not been overly difficult, but this is likely to change as Islamic expansion stalls against stronger foes like the Romans.

The need to integrate non-Muslims into government, especially at the local level where they often will be better-versed in the politics and better-suited to administering their own kind than Muslim outsiders, has added an additional layer of competition for the non-Quraishi to deal with, as well. Major non-Muslim communities within the Caliphate’s borders include the Monophysite (and to a lesser extent, Miaphysite) Copts of Egypt, the Nestorians of Mesopotamia – both of whom were condemned as interminable heretics and persecuted by the Roman Ephesian authorities, but now hope to bounce back from the brink under Islamic rule – as well as the Jews of Babylon and the Buddhists, Manichaeans and lingering Zoroastrians of Persia. The Muslims are generally more favorably inclined toward the ahl al-kitab, or ‘People of the Book’, which is to say the other Abrahamic religions, than followers of non-Abrahamic creeds like Buddhism: they view Jews and Christians as merely misguided peoples clinging to imperfect and outdated renditions of the truth revealed to their final Prophet, and thus deserving of additional privileges and protections which they do not extend to mushrikun (pagan polytheists). Especially important non-Islamic leaders, such as the Jewish Exilarch of Babylon, are given the special rank of wasita: ‘intermediary’ between the Caliph and their people.


Hasdai ben Hasadiah, Exilarch of the Babylonian Jews, is helped along by his family to greet an envoy of the Caliph Qasim

The official name of the Hashemite Caliphate is a dead giveaway to its nature as a theocratic monarchy: Dar al-Islam, the ‘House of Submission’. Befitting a theocracy, the new Islamic religion dominates and completely pervades virtually every aspect of early Hashemite society, forming the basis for its legitimacy and laws as well as guidance on how it treats non-believer subjects. The Caliphs of the Banu Hashim clan, being the blood of the Prophet, govern the faithful with absolute authority from on high and answer to nobody but Allah, the one and only God in the eyes of the Muslims. To go against them is to go against the will of Allah, and they can easily excommunicate any Muslim who defies their command by issuing a declaration of takfir against them. When he ascended to succeed his father as leader of the faithful (Amir al-Mu’min, one of several Caliphal titles) Qasim set the precedent with his oath: “If I order anything that would go against the order of Allah and his Messenger, then do not obey me.”[2] (The implication, of course, being that Muslims should obey his commands without question in all other instances.)

The Qur’an is Islam’s foundational text, believed to not merely be written by divinely inspired sages (as was the case for the Church Fathers who compiled the Biblical canon in Christians’ reckoning) but the literal, unvarnished and certainly unchallengeable Word of God delivered to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel and written down by his companions & son. Even the Caliphs who claim descent from Muhammad himself do not dare to think they can in any way alter or contradict the contents of the holy Qur’an. The Qur’an outlines the core Islamic teachings, such as the existence of the eternal, singular and omnipotent God who alone merits worship from men: for instance while Islam acknowledges Jesus as a prophet who performed miracles, the new religion denies Christianity’s belief that he is the Son of God, the more specifically Trinitarian-Ephesian belief that he is God incarnate, or that he actually died on the Cross and was resurrected. These teachings are supplemented by the hadith, reports of Muhammad’s deeds and commands in life as also recorded by his companions and descendants: for example, the Qur’an itself does not prohibit the depiction of Muhammad in art, just idolatry in general – that particular tradition (and Islam’s general prohibition on religious icons depicting living beings) arose from the hadiths.


The extreme Islamic aversion to idolatry and the usage of images, as recorded through the Qur'an and especially the hadiths, has compelled Arabic artists to instead refine the art of calligraphy

The Hashemites descended from Muhammad, along with his other family members and companions in life as well as past prophets, are duly venerated as saints (awliya, singl. wali – ‘friend (of God)’, not to be confused with the Islamic title for provincial governors) after their death. Unlike the prophets, saints are not thought to be capable of interceding on behalf of men in their hour of judgment, but miraculous powers are still attributed to them and the faithful make pilgrimages to their gravesites called ziyarat (which however are not mandatory, unlike the hajj or main pilgrimage to Mecca, which all able-bodied Muslims are expected to undertake at least once in life) in hopes of acquiring a blessing from the deceased saint for themselves. At present, the most prominent Hashemite wali is Abd al-Fattah ibn Qasim, who was martyred at the hand of the Emperor of the Romans in the Battle of Manzikert, 671: his father has had him buried in the new Islamic capital of Kufa, where his tomb will eventually become one of many in the great Hashemite graveyard complex to come.

Outside the Banu Hashim themselves, in theory the entire Islamic community or ‘Ummah’ is supposed to share a position at the pinnacle of the Caliphate’s pecking order, all of them being equals under Allah. In practice, this ideal remains ephemeral: of course there are rich Muslims, poor Muslims, Muslims who give orders and Muslims who must carry them out, and there certainly is no sense of egalitarianism when it comes to relations between the sexes in the Caliphate – not that the Romans are especially 'progressive' in this realm either, but the notion of a female royal being allowed as much authority and autonomy from her husband as Helena of the Coal-Black Eyes (for example) is inconceivable to Caliph Qasim and his peers, who regard the Augusta with a mix of contempt and confusion that her husband has not simply snatched the reins of the Roman East out of her dainty hands. Worse still, Arabic society remains divided into clans and tribes with their own myriad old feuds and friendships, although the imposition of the new religion has made some progress in bridging over these ancient fault-lines. “I against my brothers, I and my brothers against our cousins, I and my brothers and my cousins against the world” – so goes the ancient Arab saying, and it holds every bit as true in 680 AD as it did in 680 BC. Many of these tribes still live as Bedouins – desert-dwelling pastoralist nomads, honing skills which also serve them well on the battlefield – though ironically the Banu Hashim themselves are not nomads, instead having previously been a sedentary clan of traders hailing from the coastal cities of the Hejaz.

The largest and most obvious geographic divide between the Arab tribes is that between the northern tribes (including the Hashemites themselves), so-called the ‘Adnanites’ for their mythical descent from one Adnan (himself a descendant of Qedar, founder of the first known Arab kingdom which bore his name and one of the twelve sons of Ishmael), and the southern tribes who claim descent from Qahtan (better known as Joktan to non-Arabs) who was actually a son of Eber, great-grandson of Shem son of Noah. By and large the Adnanite Arabs are in a dominant position over their Qahtanite kindred, who have fallen on hard times since the destruction of the Himyarite kingdom by Aksum, and form most of the strength of the Hashemite armies: it does not help the Qahtanites that their northernmost branch, represented by the Ghassanids and Banu Kalb, have firmly aligned themselves with the Roman enemy.

But even within the Adnanite ranks there is dissension, though it has yet to boil over while Qasim still lives. That Qasim and his close kin favor their own tribe, the Quraish, for promotion and plum administrative postings over others has not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the other Adnanites, such as the Tayy and Ghatafan: are they not all supposed to be equal in the eyes of Allah, and the Caliph their impartial ruler? For now Qasim has been able to appease them with slices of the vast bounty he’s reaped from his campaigns, much of which has been distributed to the poor as part of zakat (obligatory almsgiving), and he has also settled entire tribes in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria to both better hold down those conquests and to keep the tribesmen themselves (ever hungry for new territories and sources of wealth) happy. But Allah help the Hashemites should they ever run out of easy conquests and the pie they must split with the non-Quraish tribes starts to shrink…


Qasim distributing gifts to non-Quraishi tribal chiefs so as to reinforce their allegiance to him

Not even a century since the death of Muhammad, religious fissures have already begun to crop up within Islam itself, although the presence of a male line of clear successors and Qasim’s own skill at rulership have prevented them from evolving to the stage of a formal schism thus far. Some who profess to be Muslims question whether a just God who considers all believers equal would really elevate any among them, even if they be the blood of the Prophet himself, to rule over their peers in perpetuity – especially when the Prophet’s descendants are clearly but mortal men, prone to the same virtues and flaws as any other. Others prefer to trust strictly in the Qur’an and have no place for the hadiths in their hearts, believing that the pure Word of God needs no further embellishment or support or creative ‘interpretation’. While still comparatively few in number, if the Hashemites should encounter more defeats abroad or fail to live up to the high moral standards demanded of them at home, it is a foregone conclusion that heresies like these will swell in number as their own legitimacy wanes.

These khawarij (‘those who have left [the Ummah]’) and Qur’aniyyah (‘Qur’anists’) are denounced by the faithful followers of the Caliphs as heretics and apostates (murtad)…and there is only one, non-negotiable punishment for those who have been branded with this label: the sting of death. In turn, some of these heretical sects have already struck at Qasim, some of the first Kharijites most infamously trying to kill him for not going to war against the Romans and Turks quickly enough in the early 660s. Though they failed to assassinate him and were killed to a man in retaliation, they did successfully push him to instigate hostilities earlier than he would have liked.

Outside of the Muslims themselves, as has been previously mentioned, there exist large majorities of non-Muslims virtually everywhere across the Caliphate outside of Arabia. Of these, Jews and Christians are the most favored: Islam considers them to be ahl al-kitab, ‘People of the Book’, who have had the truth partially revealed to them by previous prophets and try to live by some of God’s commandments, even if their understanding of God is imperfect in the eyes of the Muslim faithful. Many of these have been recruited into the burgeoning civil administration of the Caliphate – in particular, while the Hashemites have a very personal reason to despise the ‘Rūmī’ or Romans, who they considered the last corrupt and decadent remnant of a bygone era that needs to get out of their (and their new age’s) way even before Aloysius Gloriosus struck down the martyr Abd al-Fattah, they recognize that not all Christians are Romans and that the ‘heretics’ cast out by Roman authorities can be very useful to them indeed. The Babylonian Jews have similarly been able to leverage themselves into positions of relative privilege within the Caliphate through their rapid submission to & collaboration with their new overlords, allowing them to protect & eventually absorb their Galilean cousins who’d been expelled by Aloysius and Helena. All in all, the combination of pragmatic religious tolerance and (for now, thanks to the vast amounts of war plunder they have amassed over the course of their conquests) low taxes has greatly endeared the new Muslim overlords to their Abrahamic subjects, who consider them a massive step up over the oppressive, dogmatic Romans and the chaotic, ceaselessly warmongering Turks.

Zoroastrians, Buddhists and other polytheistic ‘pagans’ are considerably less fortunate. The Muslims despise idolaters, and consequently believe the followers of non-Abrahamic religions to not only be unenlightened but more degenerate than the ahl al-kitab. It certainly does not help that the Qur’an dictates that these pagans’ sin of shirk (idolatry) is unforgivable unless they repent and turn away from their old ways before they die. In general, because Qasim is of the opinion that it is not practical to try to kill every single Buddhist, Zoroastrian and other varieties of ‘pagans’ in his realm unless they insist on causing trouble for the new order, so far the Caliphate has given these infidels the chance to live on their knees in exchange for paying the jizya tax, seemingly no different than the ahl al-kitab. But in practice they are overlooked for official appointments in favor of Jews and Christians instead, tend to be judged more harshly by Islamic qadi, and do not enjoy the same level of protections that the People of the Book do. For example, Christian and Jewish women are not compelled to convert before marrying a Muslim man, even if non-Muslim men are barred entirely from marrying Muslim women; the same is not true of, for example, Zoroastrian women.


An Islamic qadi judges a case which a Buddhist Turk, a Nestorian Mesopotamian and a Babylonian Jew have brought charges against one another. While the Hashemites favor a flexible approach to justice that does not go out of its way to offend and trample upon local customs unless they flagrantly contradict Islam's teachings, they can give 'pagans' like the Buddhist only so much leeway

Fittingly for the armed forces of a newborn empire on an expansionist streak, the early Hashemite army has built up a reputation for aggression, mobility and fervor in battle. A core requirement for all of its soldiers is that they must be Muslim: unlike the Turks or even the Romans (who had no trouble deploying pagan federates and allies), while the Caliphs are willing to enlist non-Muslims in administrative roles, they are determined to avoid arming anyone who is not a believer almost without exception, lest they eventually turn their weapons against the descendants of the Prophet. The ‘almost’ preceding that ‘without exception’ remark applies to the Jewish auxiliaries raised from Babylon and the ranks of the Galilean exiles, in whom Qasim saw very valuable and convenient allies against the Romans, although now that he has reached a truce with Aloysius & Helena it is likely that they will be made to disband in the coming years.

The Romans have found the footsoldiers of the early Caliphate to be, on average, much more lightly equipped than their own legionaries, not that this has stopped them from fighting extremely aggressively. While certainly well-armored Muslim warriors in mail coats and pointed helmets (around which they would wrap a turban) were known to exist, the majority of the Islamic infantry enter battle wearing scale or lamellar armor made of leather, one of the primary trade goods produced in Mecca and the other cities of the Hejazi coast; still others trust simply in their clothes and the will of Allah to protect them, often functioning as skirmishers boldly striking ahead of their more heavily armored fellows. Their standard weapons include javelins and thrusting spears (often made from reeds found along the coast of the Persian Gulf), paired with wicker or cow- and camel-hide shields – elite Islamic warriors did also wield swords, but rather than the iconic curved scimitar of later centuries, in 680 their blades would have been straight rather than curved.

On the offense these footsoldiers would have repeatedly surged toward their foes and then retreated, a tactic known as al-karr wa-l-farr (‘attack and withdrawal’) which was intended to wear the enemy down. Such a strategem inherently demanded great discipline and zeal from those who practice it, lest they be broken and driven into a real rout by said enemies, but fortunately for Caliph Qasim his soldiers have regularly demonstrated that they have plenty of both. When it has been determined that offense is not in fact the best defense in any given situation, Hashemite footmen will instead arrange themselves into a shield-wall called the tabi’a to defend both themselves and their archers. Either way, even though they fight on foot, these Arab infantrymen are known to ride horses or camels to the battlefield before dismounting, giving them an edge in mobility and endurance over most adversaries.


A heavy infantryman of the seventh-century Hashemite army. Note his usage of leather lamellar armor combined with an iron helm and aventail, as well as his straight sword

Speaking of archers, the missile component of the Islamic army has made a name for itself on the Caliph’s battlefields, and for good reason – they are the second most important element of the Hashemite fighting forces. The Arabs have a lengthy tradition of archery, similar to many other Semitic peoples like the Syrians or their ancient Midianite and Qedarite ancestors, and wield composite bows made from wood, goat horn and sinew to terrific effect against the enemies of the Caliph: they are known to possess a high rate of fire and good accuracy, even if they may still be outranged by the famous longbowmen of Nubia. Aside from the foot-archers who rely on the infantry to protect them in close quarters, the Hashemites also field large quantities of horse- and camel-archers capable of matching the mounted bowmen of the Turks, Eastern Romans and Africans shot-for-shot.

And on the subject of mounted warriors, by far the cavalry are the most famed and most important of the Hashemite military’s arms. Riding Arabian horses carefully bred by their Bedouin ancestors for agility, alertness and fidelity, those among the Arab cavalry who are not unarmored scouts or mounted archers are known to fearlessly gallop into combat in fine mail and turbaned helms, wielding two-handed lances and switching to swords or maces (a weapon they have increasingly picked up from their new Persian subjects) once they have charged into enemy ranks. Their only weakness is a lack of stirrups, but Qasim is working on introducing that new technology after his first bloody bouts with the Romans and Turks. Other, lighter horsemen armed with javelins and shorter thrusting spears fulfill the role of mounted skirmishers, and still other Arab cavalrymen eschew horseback combat entirely in favor of riding camels into battle: these beasts frighten horses with their stinging scent, and so the Caliphs typically deploy them to counter enemy cavalry, be they Roman cataphracts or Bulgar lancers or Khazar light riders.


Heavy Hashemite cavalry of Talhah ibn Talib's 'mobile guard' amassing for battle against the Romans in Galilee

There exist three prominent contingents, two of which are recognized as elites, among the greater Hashemite army of the seventh century. The first are the mubarizun, ‘champions’: these were small units of specially-picked master warriors who were tasked with hunting down enemy commanders on the battlefield or dispatching rival champions in duels to demoralize the foe. Of their Roman adversaries at least, only the indomitable Aloysius Gloriosus himself and a few of his mightiest captains are known to have withstood these champions of Islam in combat. The second elite regiment of the Islamic army are the tulay’a mutaharikkah or ‘mobile guard’, veteran heavy horsemen equally adept at wielding bows or lances in battle, who serve the nearly-undefeated general Talhah ibn Talib – himself reputed as the iron fist of the Caliph.

The third distinct (though not necessarily elite) element fielded by the Muslim army are the guzat (singl. Ghazi): their frontier raiders, brigands and zealots who have volunteered to continuously raid Islam’s enemies in search of riches and slaves even in nominal peacetime. Since most infidel realms are part of the Dar al-Harb, they are considered fair game for raiding by Muslims at any time, and when it comes to foes personally despised by the Hashemites (such as the Roman Empire) they may not even wait for the ink on their peace or trucial treaties to dry before breaking them anyway. They play an important role in Islamic offensive strategy, keeping targets for future expansion off-balance and continuously draining them of resources either by forcing a military response time & again or simply raiding them unopposed. The guzat will be responsible for centuries of endemic raiding and low-level warfare from the sands of Libya to the mountains of Syria and the Caucasus, as well as matching Khazar raiding parties on the steppes of Central Asia – and causing trouble even further beyond.


A guzat raiding party in the Caucasus is intercepted by local Georgians, supported by Cilician Bulgar federates sent by the Empress Helena

Finally, there are the non-Arabic contingents of the Islamic army to speak of. The Jews have been mentioned before: those who have been allowed to serve by Caliph Qasim are most valuable to him not as warriors, exactly, but as skilled siege engineers capable of overcoming Roman or old Persian defenses (this is especially true in the case of the Babylonians), of whom precious few can be found among the ranks of the Arabs themselves. As well Qasim has heard of the dreadful fire wielded by Greco-Roman sorcerers to drive the Turks from Constantinople, and has turned to engineers of Jewish and Persian heritage to concoct something similar for the Islamic army's use.

The Turks constitute a much larger division within the Muslim ranks than the Jews do: after being defeated, many Turks were motivated to convert to Islam owing to both Qasim’s leniency (if they should submit quickly) and the opportunity to resume their warlike, raiding ways under the cloak of the new religion. The children of other Turks who resisted to the bitter end and were put to the sword were often enslaved, and the boys will grow up to be the first ghilman (singl. Ghulam) – Islamic slave-soldiers, raised from youth under a strict disciplinary regime to become fanatical and fearless warriors for the Banu Hashim. The practice will doubtlessly soon be expanded to include non-Turkic ghilman, most notably Ethiopians from the fallen empire of Aksum. From the Turks the Muslims will absorb many new military traditions, ranging from the stirrup and the curved blade design to the very idea of deploying non-Arab slave-soldiers on a large scale, which may prove to be a double-edged sword in the hands of future Hashemites.

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[1] The hijrah happened in 622 historically, but in 615 ITL.

[2] Actually attributed to Abu Bakr, the first Sunni Caliph, historically.
 
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In OTL,early muslims were considered as christian heretics by ERE - which mean,that here they could remain christians.
Also,there were no arabic language yet - first modern Koran was written after 800AD.
Before that,we have something else.german scientists found older Koran in Yeman - 20% of text was different from current version.
So,you have at least 100 years for writing final Koran here.

And,choosong of Caliph - it would be problem.When Ottoman sultans were caliphs older son of more importany waifu simply killed all other sons - but,i doubt arabs could do that.
I see many cyvil wars.
 

stevep

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In OTL,early muslims were considered as christian heretics by ERE - which mean,that here they could remain christians.
Also,there were no arabic language yet - first modern Koran was written after 800AD.
Before that,we have something else.german scientists found older Koran in Yeman - 20% of text was different from current version.
So,you have at least 100 years for writing final Koran here.

And,choosong of Caliph - it would be problem.When Ottoman sultans were caliphs older son of more importany waifu simply killed all other sons - but,i doubt arabs could do that.
I see many cyvil wars.
Agreed. Very like other faiths Islam has been shaped by the beliefs and interest of those in power in later generations/centuries. With a more centralised dynasty it might take a bit less time for the Koran to have a 'final' form but even then since printing isn't about yet there will be plenty of scope for different interpretations.
 

stevep

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Capital: Kufa.

Religion: Islam, of course.

Languages: Arabic, with the Hashemite court particularly favoring the Hejazi variant of the language which was natively spoken by the Prophet, his household and his closest companions. The majority of the Caliphate’s newly conquered subjects still speak their own tongues, including:
  • Aramaic
  • Hebrew (as a sacred language among the Jewish populace – they would have spoken Aramaic day-to-day)
  • Greek
  • Persian
  • Kurdish
  • Coptic Egyptian
  • Ge’ez
  • Turkic
A new power has risen east of Rome. The Arabs, long overlooked in the struggles between that Mediterranean giant and its succession of eastern neighbors – the Seleucids, Parthians, Sassanids, Hephthalites and finally the Turks – have burst forth from the desert sands of their homeland, fueled by both a demographic boom and fervent belief in One God which they claim is no different than the one worshipped by the Christians and Jews. But these people neither bow before the Roman Emperors and the seven Patriarchs of the Christian world, nor the scattered elders of the Jewish diaspora keeping the flame of the oldest Abrahamic religion alive outside their homeland. They proclaim that Muhammad ibn Abdullah is the final Prophet of the one and only God, who they call Allah in the Arabic tongue, to whom divine truth (as compiled by his son and companions in the Holy Qur'an, for Muhammad himself could not write) was revealed in the early seventh century, and they call their empire Dar al-Islam: the 'House of Submission' to the will of Allah.

When Muhammad died, he had unified the Arabian peninsula, but not yet ventured beyond its borders. It fell to his son Qasim, the Khalifah (‘successor’) and Warith an-Nābiyy (‘Heir of the Prophet’) to spread Allah’s final revelation to the masses living in jahiliyah (‘ignorance’) everywhere else around the globe, and to compel these unbelievers to submit themselves to the divine truth outlined to his father – by persuasion or by the sword. In that regard he has been exceptionally successful, thanks in part to his neighbors having inadvertantly weakened themselves either in wars with one another or themselves: first fell Aksum, weakened by decades of civil warfare, then the Southern Turkic Khaganate, which was already resting on a shaky foundation snatched away from the Eftals and Romans even before it beat itself senseless against the walls of Constantinople. In the space of a few decades, Islam spread from Arabia to overtake much of the Middle East, large parts of northeastern Africa and even extend into Central Asia and the eastern Caucasus.

However, the Muslims’ expansion seems to have hit a limit as of 680 AD (or 65 AH – ‘Anno Hegirah’, ‘year of the departure’ to the Romans – in their own religious calendar, which uses the year of Muhammad’s flight from Mecca for its epoch[1]). Buoyed by the might of its western half and late-comer assistance in the form of the Khazars, the Roman world was able to withstand Islam’s surging power and fight the armies of the Caliph to a bloody standstill in the western Levant. Qasim assures his kin and subjects that this is no matter: he has always been prudent (his critics would whisper ‘over-cautious’) when it came to warfare, and yet the results speak for themselves – when he strikes, it is always with the providence of Allah, who delivers conquest after conquest into the hands of His humble servant. No doubt one day, Allah will be so kind as to deliver those western and northern conquests which the Muslims were unable to secure in these past years too, and when He does no army nor Emperor can possibly resist His will.

More pragmatically, Qasim has concerns other than expanding at the moment. He is much more interested in consolidating the still-impressive conquests he has already racked up, which stretch from the Köpet Dag in the north to colonies along the Swahili coast in the far south, so that these lands will not escape the grasp of the Banu Hashim when he inevitably shuffles off his mortal coil. And speaking of which – being eighty-two years old as of 680, the first Caliph is also keenly aware that he is not long for this world, and is as concerned with his succession and the future of his realm as any other ruler who knows they might never wake up after going to bed every night would be. He had no brothers with whom to share or fight over the inheritance left by his venerable father: but he had several sons with his wives, and these sons (even the one martyred by the Roman infidels) all have children of their own. Even if his sons miraculously do not contend with one another for the right to succeed him, the generation after them are practically strangers to one another, this he knows…and Qasim is also painfully aware that his do not seem to be a people made for peace, prone to clan and tribal and brotherly rivalries when they are not battling outsiders, going all the way back to their forefather Ishmael who was cast out in favor of his half-brother (and Jewish patriarch) Isaac.

Conquering huge swathes of land has proven to be easier for these early Muslims than consolidating and ruling over them. The ancient tribal structure of the Arab peoples has proven as ill-suited for the administration of an empire stretching from Persia to Egypt as Rome’s own original political structure from its city-state days had for ruling over the Mediterranean Basin, and Caliph Qasim has had to make significant changes to adapt. Islamic rule now rests on three pillars: the Hashemite court itself, the wilayat or external provinces with their civil & military governors, and the majlis ash-shura or consultative assemblies through which the Arab tribes can most directly communicate with the Caliph.

As the direct male-line descendants of the Prophet Muhammad himself, it is considered only natural for the Caliphs or ‘successors’ to steward over the realm he left behind. They rule, at least in theory, as the divinely-sanctioned and nigh-infallible leaders of the Islamic faithful whose authority is absolute and whose final word cannot be challenged by any who claim to have submitted themselves to Allah, and their legitimacy is founded equally on their line of descent from Muhammad and the victories they have brought to Islam. Qasim ibn Muhammad had no surviving brothers, and so smoothly ascended to succeed his father when the aforementioned Prophet passed away: he is firmly of the opinion that nobody has the authority to determine the next Caliph but the incumbent one, and that a Hashemite monarch’s choice in this matter is always guided by Allah. In the past Qasim alternated between Mecca and Medina, but in more recent years he has resolved to build a permanent, fixed capital for his court at Kufa in Mesopotamia.


A depiction of Qasim ibn Muhammad, the first Caliph, late in life. While drawing the descendants of the Prophet is not strictly forbidden, unlike the case for his father, most Islamic artists still typically choose to portray the Hashemite Caliphs with their back turned or a halo of light shrouding their face as a sign of their respect for the Prophet's bloodline

In practice, of course, few men ever truly rule alone – least of all when they are in charge of an empire so massive it would be virtually impossible to govern without delegation. Thus even though Qasim has yet to construct a bureaucracy approaching the size & scale of that of the Romans, he has to date appointed a number of ministers (titled wazir, ‘helper’) and secretaries (titled katib, ‘writer’ or ‘scribe’) to assist him in his daily administrative duties. At this stage, most of these positions are dispensed on an ad-hoc basis with little established formality: by far the most important and consistent ‘vizierate’ is that of the wazir al-sayf or ‘minister of the sword’, who is responsible for the Islamic army’s logistics and recruitment. All of Qasim’s viziers are civil officials, though for obvious reasons the wazir al-sayf is usually a man with military experience, and he does not delegate military commands to them but rather keeps them close to him at court. Theoretically absolute authority or not, it would be uncharacteristic for Qasim, or any other Caliph, to arbitrarily make decisions without at least consulting with this privy council of top-ranking advisors.

To govern his vast conquests, Qasim has divided the territories of the Caliphate into a dozen provinces or wilayat. These are headed by governors (wali) appointed by the Caliph himself, working with a number of other provincial officials (sometimes additional Caliphal appointments, but often local recruits of proven loyalty and competence) of whom the most important are the sahib ul-kharaj (chief tax collector), the qadi (chief Islamic judge) and the emir (provincial military commander). As of 680, the fourteen provinces of the Hashemite Caliphate include:
  • Medina (northern Arabia)
  • Mecca (central Arabia)
  • Yaman (southern Arabia)
  • Kufa (western & central Mesopotamia)
  • Basra (southeastern Mesopotamia)
  • Al-Jazira (northern Mesopotamia)
  • Bilad al-Sham (Syria & Phoenicia)
  • Filastin (Palestine)
  • Misr (Egypt)
  • Habasha (Aksum)
  • Sawahil (east African coast)
  • Fars (southwestern & central Persia)
  • Azerbaijan (northwestern Persia)
  • Khorasan (northern Persia)
The frontier regions of Bilad al-Sham, Al-Jazira, Azerbaijan and Khorasan are unique in that they are more heavily militarized than the other, less restive provinces. They are not divided into civil districts but rather into ajnad (singl. Jund). Each jund is a zone administered directly by the local emirs who enforce a more severe sort of martial law, can requisition the resources which fall under their authority for warlike purposes, and often engage in endemic back-and-forth raids with the Dar al-Harb – the ‘house of war’, as the Muslims call every neighbor of theirs which does not profess Islam nor have an active truce with the Caliph.

As the Qur'an encourages Muslims to resolve their grievances by way of mutual consultation whenever possible, the majlis ash-shura has emerged as the closest thing the Caliphate has to a legislature. It is not exactly a permanent parliamentary institution (at least not at this stage), but an ad-hoc assembly of representatives from the many Arabic tribes who have embraced Islam called by the Caliph to deliberate over decisions of import which are known to impact the entire Muslim community, such as going to war or the division of the spoils of a victorious conflict. Ostensibly any Muslim who has reached puberty, is of sound mind and well-versed in the tenets of Islam can participate in a shura council: in practice, the tribal elders will appoint men from the ranks of their favored clansmen to represent their interests before the Caliph.


Banu Tamim envoys chosen by their elders to represent the tribe at a session of the Majlis ash-Shura perform evening prayers on their road to the new Hashemite capital at Kufa

Speaking of the tribes, tensions are simmering between the Quraish tribe to which the Banu Hashim clan themselves belong; the other Arabic tribes; and the masses of non-Muslims whom they rule over. In theory all men are equal in submission to the will of Allah, and He recognizes no tribal distinction between a Hashemite and (for example) one of the Banu Hanzala. In practice, few men can live up to this ideal and Qasim naturally has leaned most heavily on his own kin to administer the choicest parts of the Islamic empire, trusting his sons & grandsons above his in-laws & cousins who he in turn trusts more than distant Quraish kinsmen, and he inevitably favors those distant kindred over the men of other tribes. This in turn has allowed the various Sayyid princes to begin establishing their own regional power-bases under their elderly patriarch’s umbrella. So far, the Caliph has amassed so much booty and conquests that giving the non-Quraish tribes and clans a stake in upholding the unity of Islam has not been overly difficult, but this is likely to change as Islamic expansion stalls against stronger foes like the Romans.

The need to integrate non-Muslims into government, especially at the local level where they often will be better-versed in the politics and better-suited to administering their own kind than Muslim outsiders, has added an additional layer of competition for the non-Quraishi to deal with, as well. Major non-Muslim communities within the Caliphate’s borders include the Monophysite (and to a lesser extent, Miaphysite) Copts of Egypt, the Nestorians of Mesopotamia – both of whom were condemned as interminable heretics and persecuted by the Roman Ephesian authorities, but now hope to bounce back from the brink under Islamic rule – as well as the Jews of Babylon and the Buddhists, Manichaeans and lingering Zoroastrians of Persia. The Muslims are generally more favorably inclined toward the ahl al-kitab, or ‘People of the Book’, which is to say the other Abrahamic religions, than followers of non-Abrahamic creeds like Buddhism: they view Jews and Christians as merely misguided peoples clinging to imperfect and outdated renditions of the truth revealed to their final Prophet, and thus deserving of additional privileges and protections which they do not extend to mushrikun (pagan polytheists). Especially important non-Islamic leaders, such as the Jewish Exilarch of Babylon, are given the special rank of wasita: ‘intermediary’ between the Caliph and their people.


Hasdai ben Hasadiah, Exilarch of the Babylonian Jews, is helped along by his family to greet an envoy of the Caliph Qasim

The official name of the Hashemite Caliphate is a dead giveaway to its nature as a theocratic monarchy: Dar al-Islam, the ‘House of Submission’. Befitting a theocracy, the new Islamic religion dominates and completely pervades virtually every aspect of early Hashemite society, forming the basis for its legitimacy and laws as well as guidance on how it treats non-believer subjects. The Caliphs of the Banu Hashim clan, being the blood of the Prophet, govern the faithful with absolute authority from on high and answer to nobody but Allah, the one and only God in the eyes of the Muslims. To go against them is to go against the will of Allah, and they can easily excommunicate any Muslim who defies their command by issuing a declaration of takfir against them. When he ascended to succeed his father as leader of the faithful (Amir al-Mu’min, one of several Caliphal titles) Qasim set the precedent with his oath: “If I order anything that would go against the order of Allah and his Messenger, then do not obey me.”[2] (The implication, of course, being that Muslims should obey his commands without question in all other instances.)

The Qur’an is Islam’s foundational text, believed to not merely be written by divinely inspired sages (as was the case for the Church Fathers who compiled the Biblical canon in Christians’ reckoning) but the literal, unvarnished and certainly unchallengeable Word of God delivered to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel and written down by his companions & son. Even the Caliphs who claim descent from Muhammad himself do not dare to think they can in any way alter or contradict the contents of the holy Qur’an. The Qur’an outlines the core Islamic teachings, such as the existence of the eternal, singular and omnipotent God who alone merits worship from men: for instance while Islam acknowledges Jesus as a prophet who performed miracles, the new religion denies Christianity’s belief that he is the Son of God, the more specifically Trinitarian-Ephesian belief that he is God incarnate, or that he actually died on the Cross and was resurrected. These teachings are supplemented by the hadith, reports of Muhammad’s deeds and commands in life as also recorded by his companions and descendants: for example, the Qur’an itself does not prohibit the depiction of Muhammad in art, just idolatry in general – that particular tradition (and Islam’s general prohibition on religious icons depicting living beings) arose from the hadiths.


The extreme Islamic aversion to idolatry and the usage of images, as recorded through the Qur'an and especially the hadiths, has compelled Arabic artists to instead refine the art of calligraphy

The Hashemites descended from Muhammad, along with his other family members and companions in life as well as past prophets, are duly venerated as saints (awliya, singl. wali – ‘friend (of God)’, not to be confused with the Islamic title for provincial governors) after their death. Unlike the prophets, saints are not thought to be capable of interceding on behalf of men in their hour of judgment, but miraculous powers are still attributed to them and the faithful make pilgrimages to their gravesites called ziyarat (which however are not mandatory, unlike the hajj or main pilgrimage to Mecca, which all able-bodied Muslims are expected to undertake at least once in life) in hopes of acquiring a blessing from the deceased saint for themselves. At present, the most prominent Hashemite wali is Abd al-Fattah ibn Qasim, who was martyred at the hand of the Emperor of the Romans in the Battle of Manzikert, 671: his father has had him buried in the new Islamic capital of Kufa, where his tomb will eventually become one of many in the great Hashemite graveyard complex to come.

Outside the Banu Hashim themselves, in theory the entire Islamic community or ‘Ummah’ is supposed to share a position at the pinnacle of the Caliphate’s pecking order, all of them being equals under Allah. In practice, this ideal remains ephemeral: of course there are rich Muslims, poor Muslims, Muslims who give orders and Muslims who must carry them out, and there certainly is no sense of egalitarianism when it comes to relations between the sexes in the Caliphate – not that the Romans are especially 'progressive' in this realm either, but the notion of a female royal being allowed as much authority and autonomy from her husband as Helena of the Coal-Black Eyes (for example) is inconceivable to Caliph Qasim and his peers, who regard the Augusta with a mix of contempt and confusion that her husband has not simply snatched the reins of the Roman East out of her dainty hands. Worse still, Arabic society remains divided into clans and tribes with their own myriad old feuds and friendships, although the imposition of the new religion has made some progress in bridging over these ancient fault-lines. “I against my brothers, I and my brothers against our cousins, I and my brothers and my cousins against the world” – so goes the ancient Arab saying, and it holds every bit as true in 680 AD as it did in 680 BC. Many of these tribes still live as Bedouins – desert-dwelling pastoralist nomads, honing skills which also serve them well on the battlefield – though ironically the Banu Hashim themselves are not nomads, instead having previously been a sedentary clan of traders hailing from the coastal cities of the Hejaz.

The largest and most obvious geographic divide between the Arab tribes is that between the northern tribes (including the Hashemites themselves), so-called the ‘Adnanites’ for their mythical descent from one Adnan (himself a descendant of Qedar, founder of the first known Arab kingdom which bore his name and one of the twelve sons of Ishmael), and the southern tribes who claim descent from Qahtan (better known as Joktan to non-Arabs) who was actually a son of Eber, great-grandson of Shem son of Noah. By and large the Adnanite Arabs are in a dominant position over their Qahtanite kindred, who have fallen on hard times since the destruction of the Himyarite kingdom by Aksum, and form most of the strength of the Hashemite armies: it does not help the Qahtanites that their northernmost branch, represented by the Ghassanids and Banu Kalb, have firmly aligned themselves with the Roman enemy.

But even within the Adnanite ranks there is dissension, though it has yet to boil over while Qasim still lives. That Qasim and his close kin favor their own tribe, the Quraish, for promotion and plum administrative postings over others has not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the other Adnanites, such as the Tayy and Ghatafan: are they not all supposed to be equal in the eyes of Allah, and the Caliph their impartial ruler? For now Qasim has been able to appease them with slices of the vast bounty he’s reaped from his campaigns, much of which has been distributed to the poor as part of zakat (obligatory almsgiving), and he has also settled entire tribes in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria to both better hold down those conquests and to keep the tribesmen themselves (ever hungry for new territories and sources of wealth) happy. But Allah help the Hashemites should they ever run out of easy conquests and the pie they must split with the non-Quraish tribes starts to shrink…


Qasim distributing gifts to non-Quraishi tribal chiefs so as to reinforce their allegiance to him

Not even a century since the death of Muhammad, religious fissures have already begun to crop up within Islam itself, although the presence of a male line of clear successors and Qasim’s own skill at rulership have prevented them from evolving to the stage of a formal schism thus far. Some who profess to be Muslims question whether a just God who considers all believers equal would really elevate any among them, even if they be the blood of the Prophet himself, to rule over their peers in perpetuity – especially when the Prophet’s descendants are clearly but mortal men, prone to the same virtues and flaws as any other. Others prefer to trust strictly in the Qur’an and have no place for the hadiths in their hearts, believing that the pure Word of God needs no further embellishment or support or creative ‘interpretation’. While still comparatively few in number, if the Hashemites should encounter more defeats abroad or fail to live up to the high moral standards demanded of them at home, it is a foregone conclusion that heresies like these will swell in number as their own legitimacy wanes.

These khawarij (‘those who have left [the Ummah]’) and Qur’aniyyah (‘Qur’anists’) are denounced by the faithful followers of the Caliphs as heretics and apostates (murtad)…and there is only one, non-negotiable punishment for those who have been branded with this label: the sting of death. In turn, some of these heretical sects have already struck at Qasim, some of the first Kharijites most infamously trying to kill him for not going to war against the Romans and Turks quickly enough in the early 660s. Though they failed to assassinate him and were killed to a man in retaliation, they did successfully push him to instigate hostilities earlier than he would have liked.

Outside of the Muslims themselves, as has been previously mentioned, there exist large majorities of non-Muslims virtually everywhere across the Caliphate outside of Arabia. Of these, Jews and Christians are the most favored: Islam considers them to be ahl al-kitab, ‘People of the Book’, who have had the truth partially revealed to them by previous prophets and try to live by some of God’s commandments, even if their understanding of God is imperfect in the eyes of the Muslim faithful. Many of these have been recruited into the burgeoning civil administration of the Caliphate – in particular, while the Hashemites have a very personal reason to despise the ‘Rūmī’ or Romans, who they considered the last corrupt and decadent remnant of a bygone era that needs to get out of their (and their new age’s) way even before Aloysius Gloriosus struck down the martyr Abd al-Fattah, they recognize that not all Christians are Romans and that the ‘heretics’ cast out by Roman authorities can be very useful to them indeed. The Babylonian Jews have similarly been able to leverage themselves into positions of relative privilege within the Caliphate through their rapid submission to & collaboration with their new overlords, allowing them to protect & eventually absorb their Galilean cousins who’d been expelled by Aloysius and Helena. All in all, the combination of pragmatic religious tolerance and (for now, thanks to the vast amounts of war plunder they have amassed over the course of their conquests) low taxes has greatly endeared the new Muslim overlords to their Abrahamic subjects, who consider them a massive step up over the oppressive, dogmatic Romans and the chaotic, ceaselessly warmongering Turks.

Zoroastrians, Buddhists and other polytheistic ‘pagans’ are considerably less fortunate. The Muslims despise idolaters, and consequently believe the followers of non-Abrahamic religions to not only be unenlightened but more degenerate than the ahl al-kitab. It certainly does not help that the Qur’an dictates that these pagans’ sin of shirk (idolatry) is unforgivable unless they repent and turn away from their old ways before they die. In general, because Qasim is of the opinion that it is not practical to try to kill every single Buddhist, Zoroastrian and other varieties of ‘pagans’ in his realm unless they insist on causing trouble for the new order, so far the Caliphate has given these infidels the chance to live on their knees in exchange for paying the jizya tax, seemingly no different than the ahl al-kitab. But in practice they are overlooked for official appointments in favor of Jews and Christians instead, tend to be judged more harshly by Islamic qadi, and do not enjoy the same level of protections that the People of the Book do. For example, Christian and Jewish women are not compelled to convert before marrying a Muslim man, even if non-Muslim men are barred entirely from marrying Muslim women; the same is not true of, for example, Zoroastrian women.


An Islamic qadi judges a case which a Buddhist Turk, a Nestorian Mesopotamian and a Babylonian Jew have brought charges against one another. While the Hashemites favor a flexible approach to justice that does not go out of its way to offend and trample upon local customs unless they flagrantly contradict Islam's teachings, they can give 'pagans' like the Buddhist only so much leeway

Fittingly for the armed forces of a newborn empire on an expansionist streak, the early Hashemite army has built up a reputation for aggression, mobility and fervor in battle. A core requirement for all of its soldiers is that they must be Muslim: unlike the Turks or even the Romans (who had no trouble deploying pagan federates and allies), while the Caliphs are willing to enlist non-Muslims in administrative roles, they are determined to avoid arming anyone who is not a believer almost without exception, lest they eventually turn their weapons against the descendants of the Prophet. The ‘almost’ preceding that ‘without exception’ remark applies to the Jewish auxiliaries raised from Babylon and the ranks of the Galilean exiles, in whom Qasim saw very valuable and convenient allies against the Romans, although now that he has reached a truce with Aloysius & Helena it is likely that they will be made to disband in the coming years.

The Romans have found the footsoldiers of the early Caliphate to be, on average, much more lightly equipped than their own legionaries, not that this has stopped them from fighting extremely aggressively. While certainly well-armored Muslim warriors in mail coats and pointed helmets (around which they would wrap a turban) were known to exist, the majority of the Islamic infantry enter battle wearing scale or lamellar armor made of leather, one of the primary trade goods produced in Mecca and the other cities of the Hejazi coast; still others trust simply in their clothes and the will of Allah to protect them, often functioning as skirmishers boldly striking ahead of their more heavily armored fellows. Their standard weapons include javelins and thrusting spears (often made from reeds found along the coast of the Persian Gulf), paired with wicker or cow- and camel-hide shields – elite Islamic warriors did also wield swords, but rather than the iconic curved scimitar of later centuries, in 680 their blades would have been straight rather than curved.

On the offense these footsoldiers would have repeatedly surged toward their foes and then retreated, a tactic known as al-karr wa-l-farr (‘attack and withdrawal’) which was intended to wear the enemy down. Such a strategem inherently demanded great discipline and zeal from those who practice it, lest they be broken and driven into a real rout by said enemies, but fortunately for Caliph Qasim his soldiers have regularly demonstrated that they have plenty of both. When it has been determined that offense is not in fact the best defense in any given situation, Hashemite footmen will instead arrange themselves into a shield-wall called the tabi’a to defend both themselves and their archers. Either way, even though they fight on foot, these Arab infantrymen are known to ride horses or camels to the battlefield before dismounting, giving them an edge in mobility and endurance over most adversaries.


A heavy infantryman of the seventh-century Hashemite army. Note his usage of leather lamellar armor combined with an iron helm and aventail, as well as his straight sword

Speaking of archers, the missile component of the Islamic army has made a name for itself on the Caliph’s battlefields, and for good reason – they are the second most important element of the Hashemite fighting forces. The Arabs have a lengthy tradition of archery, similar to many other Semitic peoples like the Syrians or their ancient Midianite and Qedarite ancestors, and wield composite bows made from wood, goat horn and sinew to terrific effect against the enemies of the Caliph: they are known to possess a high rate of fire and good accuracy, even if they may still be outranged by the famous longbowmen of Nubia. Aside from the foot-archers who rely on the infantry to protect them in close quarters, the Hashemites also field large quantities of horse- and camel-archers capable of matching the mounted bowmen of the Turks, Eastern Romans and Africans shot-for-shot.

And on the subject of mounted warriors, by far the cavalry are the most famed and most important of the Hashemite military’s arms. Riding Arabian horses carefully bred by their Bedouin ancestors for agility, alertness and fidelity, those among the Arab cavalry who are not unarmored scouts or mounted archers are known to fearlessly gallop into combat in fine mail and turbaned helms, wielding two-handed lances and switching to swords or maces (a weapon they have increasingly picked up from their new Persian subjects) once they have charged into enemy ranks. Their only weakness is a lack of stirrups, but Qasim is working on introducing that new technology after his first bloody bouts with the Romans and Turks. Other, lighter horsemen armed with javelins and shorter thrusting spears fulfill the role of mounted skirmishers, and still other Arab cavalrymen eschew horseback combat entirely in favor of riding camels into battle: these beasts frighten horses with their stinging scent, and so the Caliphs typically deploy them to counter enemy cavalry, be they Roman cataphracts or Bulgar lancers or Khazar light riders.


Heavy Hashemite cavalry of Talhah ibn Talib's 'mobile guard' amassing for battle against the Romans in Galilee

There exist three prominent contingents, two of which are recognized as elites, among the greater Hashemite army of the seventh century. The first are the mubarizun, ‘champions’: these were small units of specially-picked master warriors who were tasked with hunting down enemy commanders on the battlefield or dispatching rival champions in duels to demoralize the foe. Of their Roman adversaries at least, only the indomitable Aloysius Gloriosus himself and a few of his mightiest captains are known to have withstood these champions of Islam in combat. The second elite regiment of the Islamic army are the tulay’a mutaharikkah or ‘mobile guard’, veteran heavy horsemen equally adept at wielding bows or lances in battle, who serve the nearly-undefeated general Talhah ibn Talib – himself reputed as the iron fist of the Caliph.

The third distinct (though not necessarily elite) element fielded by the Muslim army are the guzat (singl. Ghazi): their frontier raiders, brigands and zealots who have volunteered to continuously raid Islam’s enemies in search of riches and slaves even in nominal peacetime. Since most infidel realms are part of the Dar al-Harb, they are considered fair game for raiding by Muslims at any time, and when it comes to foes personally despised by the Hashemites (such as the Roman Empire) they may not even wait for the ink on their peace or trucial treaties to dry before breaking them anyway. They play an important role in Islamic offensive strategy, keeping targets for future expansion off-balance and continuously draining them of resources either by forcing a military response time & again or simply raiding them unopposed. The guzat will be responsible for centuries of endemic raiding and low-level warfare from the sands of Libya to the mountains of Syria and the Caucasus, as well as matching Khazar raiding parties on the steppes of Central Asia – and causing trouble even further beyond.


A guzat raiding party in the Caucasus is intercepted by local Georgians, supported by Cilician Bulgar federates sent by the Empress Helena

Finally, there are the non-Arabic contingents of the Islamic army to speak of. The Jews have been mentioned before: those who have been allowed to serve by Caliph Qasim are most valuable to him not as warriors, exactly, but as skilled siege engineers capable of overcoming Roman or old Persian defenses (this is especially true in the case of the Babylonians), of whom precious few can be found among the ranks of the Arabs themselves. As well Qasim has heard of the dreadful fire wielded by Greco-Roman sorcerers to drive the Turks from Constantinople, and has turned to engineers of Jewish and Persian heritage to concoct something similar for the Islamic army's use.

The Turks constitute a much larger division within the Muslim ranks than the Jews do: after being defeated, many Turks were motivated to convert to Islam owing to both Qasim’s leniency (if they should submit quickly) and the opportunity to resume their warlike, raiding ways under the cloak of the new religion. The children of other Turks who resisted to the bitter end and were put to the sword were often enslaved, and the boys will grow up to be the first ghilman (singl. Ghulam) – Islamic slave-soldiers, raised from youth under a strict disciplinary regime to become fanatical and fearless warriors for the Banu Hashim. The practice will doubtlessly soon be expanded to include non-Turkic ghilman, most notably Ethiopians from the fallen empire of Aksum. From the Turks the Muslims will absorb many new military traditions, ranging from the stirrup and the curved blade design to the very idea of deploying non-Arab slave-soldiers on a large scale, which may prove to be a double-edged sword in the hands of future Hashemites.

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

[1] The hijrah happened in 622 historically, but in 615 ITL.

[2] Actually attributed to Abu Bakr, the first Sunni Caliph, historically.
Good summary although I have read that a number of the raiders in early Islam at least included non-Muslims, basically out for loot and possibly prestige.

Another reason taxes are lower currently than under previous rulers is also that the early Islamic state hasn't yet built up a large bureaucracy or that heavy a military compared to most of its predecessors. Nor is it that ornate and attracted to luxury but of course that will come.

OTL Islam tended to have an anti-African bias with for instance merchanary or slave troops from black Africa being very rare and sometimes destroyed when their creator fell from power. Possibly with less land in the north and the earlier conquest of Axum and parts of Nubia this could be reduced somewhat here.

One other factor that might come into play in coming generations/centuries is that because Muhammad was a merchant as well as a raider and given the symbolic role of nomadic Arabs the religion tends to have little interest in farming and agriculture. IIRC discussing this once someone mentioned that while there are numerous mentions of trade in the Koran there's only one of agriculture/farming.

As you say the divisions inside the faithful, on multiple levels, are likely to cause fission or at least tension and this could come up when Qasim dies. Although again the presence of a powerful Roman empire holding significantly more land including having taken key areas back from Islam could be a factor in keeping it united a bit longer. Its probably that the next caliph will be a proven warrior but if he pays too little attention to the economy or even the court that could cause problems. Ditto with if the continued conflict means leaders are more fanatical and hence start abusing the non-Muslims earlier that could be a problem although their likely to still be more tolerant than the Romans.

Which in the east might open up prospects for the Khazars as they are still pagan and hence can more more tolerant of groups such as the Buddhists, Zoroastrians etc which might meant they can contest a good chunk of Persian. Possibly TTL instead of Judaism they go Buddhists to give them a sophisticated religion able to resist Christian and Muslim inroads?

One other factor is between the Khazars and the Indo-Romans is the road to central Asia closed for Islam, at least for the moment? If so that's potentially a huge change. You might see the Later Han doing a Tang and expanding further westward only to ultimately be checked by the Khazars rather than Islam?
 

ATP

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Good summary although I have read that a number of the raiders in early Islam at least included non-Muslims, basically out for loot and possibly prestige.

Another reason taxes are lower currently than under previous rulers is also that the early Islamic state hasn't yet built up a large bureaucracy or that heavy a military compared to most of its predecessors. Nor is it that ornate and attracted to luxury but of course that will come.

OTL Islam tended to have an anti-African bias with for instance merchanary or slave troops from black Africa being very rare and sometimes destroyed when their creator fell from power. Possibly with less land in the north and the earlier conquest of Axum and parts of Nubia this could be reduced somewhat here.

One other factor that might come into play in coming generations/centuries is that because Muhammad was a merchant as well as a raider and given the symbolic role of nomadic Arabs the religion tends to have little interest in farming and agriculture. IIRC discussing this once someone mentioned that while there are numerous mentions of trade in the Koran there's only one of agriculture/farming.

As you say the divisions inside the faithful, on multiple levels, are likely to cause fission or at least tension and this could come up when Qasim dies. Although again the presence of a powerful Roman empire holding significantly more land including having taken key areas back from Islam could be a factor in keeping it united a bit longer. Its probably that the next caliph will be a proven warrior but if he pays too little attention to the economy or even the court that could cause problems. Ditto with if the continued conflict means leaders are more fanatical and hence start abusing the non-Muslims earlier that could be a problem although their likely to still be more tolerant than the Romans.

Which in the east might open up prospects for the Khazars as they are still pagan and hence can more more tolerant of groups such as the Buddhists, Zoroastrians etc which might meant they can contest a good chunk of Persian. Possibly TTL instead of Judaism they go Buddhists to give them a sophisticated religion able to resist Christian and Muslim inroads?

One other factor is between the Khazars and the Indo-Romans is the road to central Asia closed for Islam, at least for the moment? If so that's potentially a huge change. You might see the Later Han doing a Tang and expanding further westward only to ultimately be checked by the Khazars rather than Islam?
as child i read "1000 and 1 nights" ,and later discovered uncensored version.Except mentioning sex,it also showed africans always as bad people without any virtues.
Romans was enemies there which could be at least brave,but not africans.And,they ALWAYS must be slaves.

Here,it should be changed.

Khazars as buddhists - i like it.
 

shangrila

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as child i read "1000 and 1 nights" ,and later discovered uncensored version.Except mentioning sex,it also showed africans always as bad people without any virtues.
Romans was enemies there which could be at least brave,but not africans.And,they ALWAYS must be slaves.

Here,it should be changed.

Khazars as buddhists - i like it.
Hah, though the meaning of African might also change. The Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie famously responded to a Western journalist asking about being a black leader with "Who are you calling black", and being insulted at the very idea of being thought of as the same race.

I mean, objectively, Africans have most human genetic variation just among themselves, and East Africans are visibly very different from West Africans or Bantus, so I can see alt-Islam treating Ethiopians as simply not black.
 

Circle of Willis

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There being male-line successors to Muhammad is definitely going to alter the development of Islam ITL, and has already done so to a large extent. No Fitna yet nor a Sunni/Shia schism are the most obvious divergences, but something that really stood out to me is that the Rashidun Caliphate was a more democratic entity than its contemporaries and successors, with a shura council electing the next Caliph (who wasn't even considered a monarch at first) - I found a hadith in which Muhammad prophesied there'd be 30 years of elected Caliphs before Allah decides that kingship is the way to go instead (clearly corresponding to the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty). Qasim being around means Islam pretty much skips that phase over entirely, and carves out a niche for the male-line Sayyids where unless they screw up really hard, they might at worst be reduced to a Yamato-like status (even if they shed their earthly power, they'd surely still be looked up to as nominal leaders of the Ummah because of their patrilineal descent from the Prophet Muhammad). Unless of course, the Kharijite types were to take over.

Good call also on the influence that the Hashemites will have on the development of the Qur'an. You're right in that with Islam having a more centralized, monarchic power structure than IOTL means its canon will probably be developed more quickly than it was historically. And of course, the Hashemite Caliphs will have an interest in stressing the importance of obedience to their rule as they put it together. Even now, the alt-unified Islam is taking a more Shiite direction thanks to the Hashemites - stuff like the recognition of a specific bloodline tied to Muhammad as the only rightful leaders of the faith, veneration of saints (including a certain Sayyid martyr), etc. jives way better with the sort of system they're hoping to build than the Sunni or Kharijite/Ibadi counterparts do. (For an example of a future teaching likely to be developed by the Hashemites, they're almost certainly going to be telling their subjects that the Mahdi will come from their lineage, as well)

Aksum was the Muslims' first conquest abroad so they may well develop a less hostile/condescending view of black Africans going forward, or at least of Ethiopians as @shangrila suggests. Also worth noting that Ge'ez (the language of the ancient Ethiopians) is IIRC a Semitic language, not a Nilo-Saharan one like Nubian, and bears some similarity to South Arabian languages like Sabaean/Himyarite, which should serve to further distinguish them from their neighbors. It's quite possible that Islam will develop to have a more positive view of Ethiopians while still disdaining Nubians and other African peoples who hold out much longer against them, although overall much of their hatred will likely end up directed against the Afro-Romans - now well positioned to be the main obstacle to their westward expansion along the southern Mediterranean coast, and to work with Christian kingdoms like Kumbi to resist Islam's spread elsewhere in Africa as well. (And conversely the feeling is likely to be mutual, suffice to say in this timeline 'Moor' and 'Saracen' will not be interchangeable terms and mistaking one for the other will probably be considered at least as offensive as mistaking a Chinese guy for Japanese or vice-versa)

Speaking of Ethiopia, I've added some missing provinces representing them & the Swahili coast to the Caliphate's list of internal administrative divisions, as well as correcting an error where I forgot to color a quote by Qasim.

As to the future religious direction of the Khazars and the impact the Indo-Roman state will have on Central Asia...definitely huge spoilers for the chapters ahead so I won't be able to say much about them here, haha. The Khazars definitely do enjoy a variety of options in which to go religion-wise, Judaism (the historical choice) would let them round out the Abrahamic triad in western Eurasia between the Romans & Muslims, while Buddhism or Manichaeism would help solidify ties with the Turkic refugees that didn't convert to Islam and open up additional interesting possibilities up north in the future (Buddhist Varangians/Rus'?).

The next few updates might take a little longer than usual to release BTW, as college is definitely entering a busier phase and I've got some catching up to do after shaking off my cold. But not too long - probably they will only be delayed by 1-3 days compared to the usual weekly schedule. We'll have to see how the next couple weeks shake out.
 

ATP

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@Circle of Willis ,college is always more important.Not mention family or drinking with friends.So,take your times.
@shangrila ,your idea of aksumites as "honorary aryans" is very good.

And,you are both right,that Khazars would be better as buddhists or zoroastran,not jews here.Which would change History,becouse most easter Europe jews are descendents of khazars.
 

stevep

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Hah, though the meaning of African might also change. The Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie famously responded to a Western journalist asking about being a black leader with "Who are you calling black", and being insulted at the very idea of being thought of as the same race.

I mean, objectively, Africans have most human genetic variation just among themselves, and East Africans are visibly very different from West Africans or Bantus, so I can see alt-Islam treating Ethiopians as simply not black.
as child i read "1000 and 1 nights" ,and later discovered uncensored version.Except mentioning sex,it also showed africans always as bad people without any virtues.
Romans was enemies there which could be at least brave,but not africans.And,they ALWAYS must be slaves.

Here,it should be changed.

Khazars as buddhists - i like it.
It might depend on the circumstances. There were mixed race people in Arabia prior to Islam - generally with black slaves as their mothers - and they faced some discrimination but it seemed to get worse after Islam came into being. - A reference on the AH site in a discussion a decade or more back IIRC. There were some poets in the group and they were called the Black Crows I think but only reference I can find is for an American pop group so could be remembering it wrongly.

It could be that the markedly greater importance of black early Muslims might mitigate that TTL especially with less conquests elsewhere. Which would be good.

PS See Circle of Willis covered a good bit of this here.

Assuming that the empire keeps control of most of N Africa, or at least from say Tripoli westwards that would mean a substantial black Christian community inside the empire and probably others further south outside it. As such instead of Europe being somewhat belieged by Islam to the south and west and hence blacks [of the Moorish type] being seen as enemies you could also see significantly less racism inside the empire.
 

ATP

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It might depend on the circumstances. There were mixed race people in Arabia prior to Islam - generally with black slaves as their mothers - and they faced some discrimination but it seemed to get worse after Islam came into being. - A reference on the AH site in a discussion a decade or more back IIRC. There were some poets in the group and they were called the Black Crows I think but only reference I can find is for an American pop group so could be remembering it wrongly.

It could be that the markedly greater importance of black early Muslims might mitigate that TTL especially with less conquests elsewhere. Which would be good.

PS See Circle of Willis covered a good bit of this here.

Assuming that the empire keeps control of most of N Africa, or at least from say Tripoli westwards that would mean a substantial black Christian community inside the empire and probably others further south outside it. As such instead of Europe being somewhat belieged by Islam to the south and west and hence blacks [of the Moorish type] being seen as enemies you could also see significantly less racism inside the empire.
Not only that.Last Egyptian pharaohs hired phoenixans to circle round Africa,which they did.And,Greeks knew about that.So,Romans could try that - and meet muslim lemurs at Madagascar!.
 
680-683: A House Divided

Circle of Willis

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The first half of 680 saw the Romans finally, fully committing themselves to fending off the Continental Saxon threat which had risen up to nearly overwhelm their northern frontier. Aloysius arrived in Augusta Treverorum in the spring, having stormed up the well-established Roman roads to return to his capital quickly despite harsh winter conditions in the preceding months, and immediately took charge of the war effort. Prior to his arrival, Wecta’s leadership and haste in pulling the disparate Saxon warbands together into a large host had given the barbarians the advantage over Rome’s Teutonic federates, allowing them to defeat Haistulf of the Lombards and Amalafrid of the Thuringians; in turn his eldest natural sons, Sauromates and Germanus, had done what they could to defend the only home they’d known – the March of Arbogast – against the Saxon incursions.

Aloysius’ arrival and that of his Romano-Germanic legions, formidable veterans who had formed the core of his great host in the east, rapidly turned the situation on its head. He found Wecta, who had previously seen off the combined forces of his friends Haistulf and Amalafrid at the Battle of Castellum Cattorum[1] in February, had once again advanced well into the March of Arbogast itself and was laying siege to Novaesium[2]. Naturally the Emperor’s first move was to set out from Augusta Treverorum and relieve the fortified town: the Saxons were unable to overcome his veteran legionaries despite their greater numbers, and were then swept from the field by a combination of his cavalry (including not just heavy horsemen from the vicinity of Augusta Treverorum but also a contingent of cataphracts from the Greek East placed under his command by his wife) and Novaesium’s sallying garrison.

Wecta escaped the slaughter of his warriors at Novaesium and retreated back over the Rhenus. He attempted to rally his forces and draw Aloysius into the Teutoburg Forest, where once the Germanic tribes had shattered three Roman legions and put an end to Augustus’ plans for northward expansion, but this new Augustus of all Rome outmaneuvered him with the help of the Roman army’s superior cavalry and reinforcements from Lombardy and Thuringia. Aloysius, Haistulf and Amalafrid converged upon the Saxons on Campus Lippiensis[3] before they could complete their retreat into the woods to the north, and there resoundingly defeated Wecta once again. Yet Wecta too eluded the Emperor’s wrath a second time, fleeing through the great Teutoburger Wald at the insistence of his two eldest sons, who then gave their lives to cover his retreat.


Defeated on the Campus Lippiensis to the south, the sons of Wecta take on an overwhelming force of Roman pursuers beneath the trees of the Teutoburger Wald to buy their father time to flee

Aloysius spent the summer months rooting out the remaining Saxon raiders on his territory and those of his federates, giving Wecta time to gather yet another army in the Saxon homeland. The Emperor decided to attack before his foe could launch another invasion through the empire’s northern border however, pushing down the Visurgis[4] to go where no Roman army had gone before and engage the Saxons on their home turf as their warriors were still assembling. The Romans attacked Wecta’s third half-organized host in the hilly uplands of the Visurgis, at a village which the natives called Süntel, and there defeated them again – killing some 5,000 out of their 15,000 warriors (not all of whom actually participated in the battle, instead fleeing before the advance of the legions), though this was a smaller force than those which Aloysius had overcome at Novaesium and Campus Lippiensis. This time, Wecta was cornered and chose to furiously engage Aloysius head-on than to surrender to his sons’ killer: the Emperor obliged his challenge and cut him down after a duel in which even Roman chroniclers conceded that the would-be king of the Saxons comported himself with courage and dignity.

Having finally killed Wecta and broken a third great Saxon host, Aloysius was now strongly tempted to conquer Saxony altogether, but the Saxons’ continuing resistance in the uncivilized woods & hills of their homeland and events in the east compelled him to change his mind. Although the ink had barely dried on the Peace of Edessa, Islamic guzat had already begun to harass the entire Roman eastern and southern frontier from the Caucasus, to Palaestina, to Libya. Muslim corsairs operating out of Gaza and the conquered ports of Egypt were also targeting the islands of the eastern Mediterranean and even the Aegean, as well as the southern Anatolian shoreline. Since Helena struggled to rebuild the legions of the Orient after thirty years of devastating warfare and many bloody defeats against Heshana’s hordes, she had to appeal to her husband for help.

Believing his eastern (re)conquests to be of greater value than the woodlands of Saxony, and being especially unwilling to allow Jerusalem and the other holy sites in Palaestina to be sacked by or outright fall back into Islamic hands almost immediately after he had regained them for Christendom, Aloysius in turn decided to simply extort tribute and hostages from the Saxons this time. Having restored some semblance of peace & order to his northern frontier, the Augustus now hastened back to reinforce his eastern one: not being able to settle down in any one place actually benefited Aloysius in such a way, for he enjoyed a diet of meat, sweets and wine almost as much as he did the company of beautiful women and he would no doubt have grown immensely fat and complacent in short order if his lifestyle were to become any less active. Instead, Aloysius had no choice but to remain as fit and sharp as ever by the time he encountered Helena in Rome that winter – there, they jointly addressed the Senate as a ruling couple for the first time. Helena had also brought their son Constantine (now a boy of ten) along, so that he might join his father’s court and not only study the art of war but also grow more familiar with the Occident under the latter’s tutelage.


Aloysius, Helena (now both nearing forty) and their son Constantine (aged ten in 680) meeting once more in Rome

In the east, old Qasim was preparing for the next war with Rome in more ways than just allowing his guzat to harry the Roman frontier, where they traded blows with an assortment of foes from Georgians to Christian Arabs to Moors. The Muslims were building new armies even as they were also laying down roots across their conquests, both by settling loyal Arab tribes and organizing local administrations staffed by collaborators (whether recent Islamic converts or non-Muslims who had nevertheless expressed loyalty to the Caliphate). Key to this new fighting force were the ghilman, mostly Turkic and Aksumite slave-boys trained and indoctrinated to become fanatical soldiers for the Blood of the Prophet: while it would be some years yet before they would come of age and begin demonstrating their true potential on the battlefield, when that moment came they would bring new terror to the enemies of Islam both to the west and the north, and the finest warriors among them would form the Qaraghulam (‘black servants’, referring not necessarily to their skin color but to the color of their turbans and uniforms) corps who the Caliphs would come to trust with their lives.

The Khazars were also making their own preparations to continue the fight with Islam, especially as the Roman princess Irene left her mother’s court in Constantinople to formally wed Kundaçiq Tarkhan and solidify the Roman-Khazar alliance. Kundaç had welcomed Doulan Qaghan, last ruler of the Southern Tegregs, to his court as an honored guest for some years before assigning him estates in the Turkic parts of Khorasan, and married the latter’s sisters to several of his younger sons. Many other Tegregs who had fled the Arab conquest were quickly integrated into the Khazar army and court, where the more erudite among their kind had begun to disseminate the teachings of the Buddha or the Prophet Mani to the still-pagan Khazars. If Kundaç were to fail in his increasingly obvious efforts to carve a Tegreg rump state out of northern Persia, then at least he was building the foundation for their absorption into the Khazars.

On the other side of the world, Liberius had spent most of the previous year and the first half of this one organizing an expeditionary force out of the disparate and disunited Gaels of the New World to attack the heretical stronghold at Pointe-de-Luce. His efforts finally bore fruit in June, at which point no fewer than 200 Irishmen – the single largest organized warband in Aloysiana up to this point – sailed to attack the Pelagian Britons during a rare bout of good weather and did not waver even under withering fire from their longbows and catapult, eventually making landfall to wipe out the hugely outnumbered but stubborn defenders and raze their fort to the ground at the cost of 39 of their number. Atop Pointe-de-Luce’s smoldering ruins the Irish built their own outpost, Tor Mór (‘High Tower’), from where they could interdict any attempt by the British to resupply or send additional colonists to Porte-Réial. The New World Britons were now effectively cut off from their motherland, though at least the Riothamus Albanus and then his successor Artorius IV had managed to bolster their number to 2,000 and ensure their settlements were well-stocked and fortified in the years before this calamity.


The Irish host assembled by Liberius coming ashore to destroy Pointe-de-Luce

Aloysius’ seaborne journey from the southern Italian port of Barium[5] to Palaestina, which took up the first months of 681, was an eventful one. Aside from swatting aside attacks by over-bold Muslim corsairs of increasing number & intensity the closer he drew to Cyprus and the Levantine coast, the Augustus was also nearly assassinated in bed by the Saxon Geilana, who had been given up to him as a hostage by her father (one of the chiefs who had followed Wecta into defeat) and who he had taken as yet another mistress. Aloysius was able to turn the tables on his murderous concubine and kill her with her own dagger, but the incident left him with a scar across his chest and no small amount of embarrassment – Helena needed no persuasion to hasten back east after hearing the news, no doubt in preparation to reproach her husband in person. Her wrath was unlikely to have been cooled, at all, by Aloysius’ decision to demand ‘recompense’ from Geilana’s father in the form of her two younger sisters as additional hostages and probable concubines.

After surviving this near-death experience at sea and several smaller battles with raiding Islamic fleets, the Emperor finally made landfall at Iamnia, and not a moment too soon: the city was under siege by 3,000 guzat, and its walls had been left in a dilapidated state from years of warfare and repeated capture-and-recapture by the Romans & their enemies. Aloysius and his reinforcements promptly put the Muslims to flight, and after linking up with the Banu Kalb he relieved Bethlehem in similar fashion before authorizing counter-raids into Islamic territory. Leaving Palaestina behind in June, he next traveled northward along the length of the Roman-Arab border, lending his strength to the Ghassanids and finally the Armenians, Georgians and Cilician Bulgars as they all worked to fend off additional Islamic raids this year.

In the process of bolstering his eastern border and demanding reparations from Qasim (who offered various excuses but nothing of actual substance), Aloysius was also confronted by Helena in Antioch in the late weeks of August. Their undoubtedly stormy conversation would have gone unrecorded but for a ‘secret history’ written by the Syro-Greek historian Apodakos of Byblos, who managed to worm his way into Helena’s court by feigning sycophancy but in truth was one of the rare contemporary Christian sources unsympathetic to both halves of the imperial couple (considering Aloysius to be a bloodthirsty & lecherous semi-barbarian on one hand and Helena an icy, stiff-necked & prideful tyrantess on the other). Evidently the topic wandered from Aloysius’ infidelity to his bastards, who Helena feared threatened the rights and lives of their legitimate issue: while unable to completely cease her husband’s philandering ways, Helena was able to force him to be more discreet with his affairs, to not acknowledge any additional illegitimate children he might sire, and to keep the three he had acknowledged well out of young Constantine’s way.

Now by this time, said three oldest and best-known natural children of Aloysius had reached adulthood, and it was only natural that Helena would be concerned that they (especially the sons) might challenge Constantine’s succession in the future. Following his talks with Helena, from his saddle Aloysius tried to simultaneously provide for them and assign them to places well away from the imperial power-centers at Augusta Treverorum, Rome and Constantinople. His eldest son Sauromates, born of the Iazyges princess Aritê (and thus the most prestigious of Aloysius’ royal bastards), was made Count of Barcino (Comes Barcinonensis), far away from any people who might be even remotely related to his mother’s kind; his natural daughter Modia, the child of one of his mother’s handmaidens, was married off to Amalafrid the Thuringian; and his younger bastard son Germanus, born of another one of his father’s household servants, was awarded an estate on the far side of the Danube, where he was supposed to live in obscurity and relative comfort among the Gepids. Of these three only the sons had met their youngest half-brother after joining their father’s army, and if they did not resent him before they almost certainly would have begun to do so now, after being shunted aside by their father despite contributing to the victory over the Saxons and being willing to march with him against the Arabs.


Germanus and Sauromates, the eldest sons of Aloysius, who were resented and feared by their stepmother and came to despise her and their youngest half-brother Constantine in turn, despite efforts by their father to provide for them and paper over the cracks in his family

Away from the early Aloysians and their family drama, the Hashemites were about to undergo some drama of their own. Caliph Qasim suffered a bad fall late in 681 – while it would have been trivial had it occurred while he was younger, the Heir of the Prophet was eighty-three as of this year and consequently the injury left him bedridden. As even he feared he may never rise from his bed, the Caliph summoned his children to his side and sought to clarify the succession while he still had time left on God’s green Earth. Qasim designated his eldest son Abd al-Rahman, a proven warrior and leader of men who had most recently managed to stave off the Khazar threat in the eastern Caucasus, to succeed him; his second son Al-Abbas, who had established himself in Persia, and third son Ali, who remained the most popular of the brothers with the Quraish tribe and the people of Arabia generally, both objected to this imposition of primogeniture, as did some of their half-brothers birthed by the Caliph’s junior wives. Qasim would have none of it however, and compelled his younger sons (as well as the sons of Abd al-Fattah) to swear holy oaths that they would not betray his will and their oldest brother by starting a fitna, or civil strife, when he died.

In China, 681 was the year in which the last stretch of the Grand Canal started by Emperor Renzong exactly forty years prior was finally completed. His great-grandson and the incumbent at the time of the project’s completion, Emperor Pingzong, celebrated this feat as the greatest one of his reign, and for good reason. The Grand Canal would serve to further facilitate trade across China, most notably making it possible for merchants to move over 150,000 tons of grain up & down the country annually, as well as serving to extend Han Chinese migration and attendant cultural influence southward. Indeed the Canal would contribute to the eventually extinguishing of the last surviving remnants of the pre-Chinese Baiyue culture which had once dominated south of the Yangtze: outside of Vietnam where it still endured, the last memories of the Baiyue would linger only in the form of recorded poetry & music such as the Yuèrén Gē (‘Song of the Yue Boatman’) and substrate elements in the future Wu, Min and Cantonese dialects of the Chinese language.


The completion of the Grand Canal marked one of the Later Han's most important and long-lasting achievements, massively facilitating the transport of resources and people across northern & southern China and solidifying the Sinicization of the lands south of the Yangtze

Come 682, Aloysius still dared not leave the eastern frontier for fear of a renewed Muslim offensive, and helped beat back raids from Georgia to Syria over the spring and summer months. Helena meanwhile capitalized on her husband’s defense of the border and the restoration of trade along the Silk Road (though at times hampered by ghazi activity) to accelerate her efforts to rebuild the Eastern Roman legions, launching an especially extensive recruiting drive among the Christian Syrian, Armenian and Greek refugees who had fled the advance of Islam and were now struggling to find a place for themselves either in the remaining cities of the Orient or the wartorn hinterland of Anatolia. However, toward the start of fall the Islamic raids on the border began to slacken thanks to a factor neither of them had any control over.

On August 30 of this year Qasim ibn Muhammad, Heir of the Prophet and the first Caliph, expired at the age of eighty-three after a yearlong struggle to hang on to his life in bed. Despite having just sworn to acknowledge his eldest brother Abd al-Rahman as their father’s successor, Ali intrigued to secure the Caliphate for himself through a proxy: at a gathering of the majlis ash-shura in Kufa, his allies among the leaders of the Quraish advocated for his ascension in Abd al-Rahman’s place, while he did not raise his claim personally (so as to avoid directly breaking the oath) but had prepared a speech to ‘humbly’ accept their recommendation should the other Arab chieftains (be swayed to) agree. However Abd al-Rahman and Al-Abbas worked together to quickly shut down their younger brother’s scheme, forcefully reminding those assembled of Qasim’s last will and the oath Ali himself had sworn, and eventually intimidating Ali himself into backing off and vocally refusing the Caliphate.


Ali ibn Qasim instructing his supporters on what to do at the majlis ash-shura in Kufa following his father's death

No sooner had the shura recognized Abd al-Rahman as the second Caliph and Warith al-Warith an-Nābiyy (‘Heir of the Heir of the Prophet’) did he face another challenge from his family, however. Two younger half-brothers of theirs, Abd al-Jalil (the son of Qasim’s third wife Jahaira) and Khalil (son of Qasim’s fourth wife Asiyah) raised their standards in rebellion, professing that they were better-suited than any of the sons of Aisha to lead the faithful. They drew their supporters from the tribes of eastern and southern Arabia, who resented the heights to which the Quraish specifically and the northwestern Arabian Adnanites generally had risen to under the senior Hashemites, and forced Abd al-Rahman to waste time & resources setting the House of Submission back in order rather than even think about contending with the Romans and Khazars once more.

Although Ali had just tried to challenge Abd al-Rahman for the succession, when faced with the mutual threat of their half-brothers, as the youngest surviving son of Aisha he fell in line and lent his support to the rightful Caliph: per the ancient Arabic saying, though he may have stood against his brother, Ali was willing to stand with his brother against more distant kindred of theirs. Battle was joined between the senior and junior Hashemites at Al-Wafrah[6], where the latter had been advancing on Basra when the former descended upon them. Abd al-Rahman made a last-ditch attempt to avert violence between the grandsons of the Prophet by assigning a horseman to ride ahead of his army, raising a copy of the Qur’an before him: but one of the Qahtanite soldiers of Abd al-Jalil acted without orders to kill this envoy with an arrow, most likely motivated to force a conflict so that the sons of Jahaira & Asiyah could not abandon his people in any hypothetical peace talks, and so conflict became inevitable.


Abd al-Rahman ibn Qasim, the second Hashemite Caliph, and his full brothers Al-Abbas and Ali. Despite their disagreements, the eldest surviving grandsons of the Prophet knew well enough to lock ranks when confronted with threats who did not share the blood of both of their parents

The larger army of the senior Hashemites enveloped and drove back the host of their younger half-brothers, although by all accounts the latter’s soldiers fought well and cost the elder grandsons of the Prophet more blood than they would have liked to spill. Following their defeat in the Battle of Al-Wafrah, Abd al-Jalil initially retreated back southward to the pilgrimage stop at Hafar al-Batin, but there halted and surrendered after coming to the conclusion that further resistance was futile. Since they were loath to shed even more Hashemite blood, Abd al-Rahman and his full brothers agreed to let him live under permanent house arrest in Kufa, surrounded by guards and servants whose loyalty to the lawful Caliph was unimpeachable. On the other hand Khalil, the younger of the pair, continued to remain up in arms and retreated to rally their remaining partisans along the Persian Gulf’s western coast.

Far off to the east, in the Land of the Rising Sun, a new Emperor had taken power and turned the page on a new day with new policies. Prince Nagaya succeeded his father as the Tennō Kōtoku, and actively strove to build on his ancestors’ efforts to bring the Yamato up to speed with the latest social and technological advances on the continent. Among his early edicts were the adoption of the Chinese system of court ranks and fashion, as well as the military organization and equipment of the Later Han – Kōtoku once more began to build a new army, comprised entirely of landless retainers who fought for him in exchange for a salary of rice (koku) and placement in the dormitories of his palaces, who would have no allegiance to any magnate or chieftain other than himself. He also made an effort to improve relations with the Korean kingdoms across the Tsushima Strait, who were similarly stuck beneath the Chinese yoke. It was Kōtoku’s intention to not only strengthen the position of the Emperors in Japan itself, but to eventually shake off the Chinese yoke and cease sending tribute to Luoyang, though given how much more overwhelming Later Han’s military might was compared to that of the Yamato at this time, his lofty ambition would have to be realized in the long term if he was to achieve it at all.

On the other side of the world, the British and Irish were both expanding their colonies further still into the mainland of northern Aloysiana. Liberius returned from Tír na Beannachtaí to oversee the establishment of the first Gaelic settlements north of the Isthmus of Túathal[7], starting with the outpost of ‘Corraigh’[8] (‘stir, din’ – so named for the loud flocks of birds found by the first Irish explorers there) in the marshes immediately north of the Isthmus early in the year. Towards the end of Holy Week (at least as calculated by Liberius and the Romans) adventuring parties found a much better site for settlement in a river valley northwest of Corraigh, where the Abbot would found ‘Gleann an Aiséirí’[9] (‘Valley of the Resurrection’) later in the year.

As for the New World British, now on their own, they sought to extend their settlements further up the Saint Pelagius River to buy themselves time and space ahead of a probable future Irish incursion against Porte-Réial. By the end of 682, aided by allied Wilderman guides and their canoes, their own adventurers had charted the river’s course all the way to its source: a great lake which they named after Celestius, Pelagius’ greatest disciple. In so doing these explorers had greatly outpaced the settlers who were supposed to be following them, and who had only gotten as far as establishing a new town at ‘Derrére-Refuge’[10] (‘Last Refuge’) on a large island about halfway up the Saint Pelagius[11]. With no hope of receiving further settlers from the motherland in the foreseeable future, the Britons also sought to bolster their population by inviting Wildermen to live with them – though of course they required any native who wished to live behind their palisades to undergo baptism and forego bearing arms. This habit stood in contrast to the Irish practice, where although the Gaels were content to trade and periodically intermarry with the Wildermen, they did not generally invite the latter to permanently live in their towns or otherwise make a great effort to assimilate them.


New World Britons, now isolated from their homeland, trading with the Wildermen and inviting them to be baptized so that they might live as neighbors united in Pelagianism in a bid to survive

The infighting which had beset the House of the Prophet gave the Romans some breathing room, which they put to good use in 683 by continuing to steadily rebuild their war-torn provinces and bloodied army. About the most notable occasion in the Roman world this year was the marriage of the Caesar Constantine to his longtime betrothed Maria, daughter of the last Stilichian Emperor Theodosius IV, back in Rome itself during the high summer, with the recently elected Pope Adeodatus officiating the ceremony. The groom was thirteen at the time of their wedding; the bride, twenty-three. Despite the decade-wide gap in the couple’s ages, their marriage did serve to firmly bind the legacy of the senior Stilichian line – also referred to as the ‘Great Stilichians’ in historical circles, to contrast with their ‘Lesser Stilichian’ kin who were still extant and ruling Africa – to the Aloysians who had supplanted them and absorbed the Sabbatians through Helena’s and Aloysius’ own match: their descendants would be descended from all three of the great imperial dynasties which had ruled the West, the East and then all Rome during the seventh century, a most prestigious lineage indeed. By this time Constantine was shaping up to be equally diligent at studying arms as he was the classics, though he was noted to lack true enthusiasm in the martial arts – being instead of a scholarly bent – and to have generally taken after his mother’s more reserved nature despite resembling his father in looks.

As for the Banu Hashim, the Caliph Abd al-Rahman was working to end his remaining half-brother’s uprising in a hurry. The senior Hashemites surged southward to attack Khalil ibn Qasim early in the year while he was still trying to muster new recruits, eventually catching up to him and forcing battle near Thāj in May. Once again, the superior numbers of the Caliphal army and the skills of its more experienced commanders proved decisive, and when the dust had settled Khalil was beaten by the sons of Aisha. However, thanks to his own ferocity and the fury of his followers, he and his army avoided annihilation – managing to break out through the incomplete encirclement laid against them by Al-Abbas and Ali even as Abd al-Rahman was pressing against their front lines.

From Thāj, Khalil and some 3,000 remaining followers escaped across the eastern Arabian desert and over the waters of the Persian Gulf to Tarout Island, just off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. They fortified the ruined hilltop site of an ancient temple to the pagan Semitic goddess Astarte, for whom the island had been named in the first place, and projected a sufficiently formidable appearance that Abd al-Rahman was inclined to repeat his offer to negotiate a settlement rather than immediately storm their fort and risk heavy casualties. This time Khalil agreed to talk, and in a settlement arbitrated by a triad of respected qadis, secured clemency for himself similar to Abd al-Jalil. Abd al-Rahman also pledged to not persecute the rebel Qahtanites and to be more equitable in his choice of appointments and settlement rights in the future, though in practice he still favored his fellow Adnanites over these other Arabs.


Caliph Abd al-Rahman riding into battle at Thāj to remind his youngest half-brother Khalil of the Hashemite clan's pecking order

This bout between the sons of Qasim had not been severe enough to be termed a proper Fitna (Islamic civil war or schism), but it did foreshadow more serious struggles between the generations further removed from Muhammad and Qasim. In any case, Abd al-Rahman’s troubles were not entirely over yet. The Caliph had barely returned to Kufa when he was confronted with another uprising to the southwest: some of the Adnanite tribes of the Nejd, offended that he was so willing to reconcile with Khalil and the Qahtanites (to the point of giving them gifts and promising them equitable treatment in the future) after their stubborn resistance, had aligned themselves with the so-called ‘Kharijite’ sect which did not recognize a Caliphate on the sole basis of patrilineal descent from Muhammad, and raised their own standards in rebellion.

The men of the Nejd had a reputation for being more barbaric and brutal than the Hejazi who lived in cities along the western Arabic coast, and these rebels wasted little time in living down to that reputation. Electing a chieftain named Abd al-Wahhab ibn Muljam to be their rival Caliph by acclamation, the insurgents scoured their desert home for supporters of the Hashemites and ruthlessly put them to death. When Abd al-Rahman sent a herald to request that they stand down and engage in peace talks, Abd al-Wahhab had the envoy executed and bluntly proclaimed that the outcome of this war could only be decided by Allah’s will on the battlefield, not by ‘bleating around a table like goats made men’. Enraged by word of their atrocities and the killing of his servant, Abd al-Rahman proclaimed that he would give the rebels their wish after all – he denounced them all as takfiri (effectively excommunicating them) and swore to annihilate them. The Kharijites avoided pitched battle in favor of harrying the much larger Hashemite army once it left Mesopotamia to invade their desert lands, hoping to wear Abd al-Rahman’s ranks down to a more manageable size with raids and ambushes.

As for the third great power of western Eurasia, the Khazars spent 683 laying down the foundations for a fixed capital. In order to comfort his Roman wife Irene who disdained the nomadic lifestyle’s constant traveling, Kundaçiq Tarkhan first had a palace built on an island in the Volga River’s delta with the help of exiled Persian engineers in addition to some Roman ones sent by her mother, but his father Kundaç identified the site as a good, central location for a capital city from which to govern his realm and acted accordingly. As surely as Kufa bloomed into a metropolis worthy of being the seat of the Caliphs, so too would this city of ‘Atil’ to the north grow over the decades into the first great Turkic city on the Pontic Steppe, home to many faiths and many merchants and jewel of the Khazar Khaganate.


Kundaçiq before the growing city of Atil, which he originally founded to give his wife Irene a home away from home

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

[1] Kassel.

[2] Neuss.

[3] The site of Schlangen, North Rhine-Westphalia.

[4] The Weser River.

[5] Bari.

[6] Wafra, Kuwait.

[7] The Isthmus of Chignecto.

[8] Sackville, New Brunswick.

[9] Moncton.

[10] Montreal.

[11] Island of Montreal.
 
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shangrila

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The parts about Arab corsairs in the Med is not realistic, IMO. The historical Arab corsairs came from the cities of coastal Syria, and then as the Arabs spread West, North Africa, Spain, and the islands they conquered. Egypt itself has no trees with which to build seagoing ships, and historical Egyptian powers had raised their navies from Syria as well.

The Caliphate has people with seagoing tradition under their rule, primarily Auxumites and Yemenis, but they can't easily reach the Med. They really need a Suez canal to bring in significant fleets. The early Caliphate did build a canal historically until it was shut down for political reasons a century later, and its completion should be the point at which the Muslims start to contest the Med.
 
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ATP

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Good.Muslims would have problems with choosing next candidate,till turks take over.Osmans do not had problems with killing brothers.
Natural sons of Emperor - small problem,if they rebel nobody would support them.
And,it is time for sending fleet to Baltic sea.
Goths remembered in their songs about Gothland,and when they retake island,they would control Baltic.
Unless Vikings say no to that.

Saxons defeated - normal thing.I read about early Byzantine - russian battles,in times when they still were vikings.
They used schield wall - and always lost,becouse ERE simply used heavy calvary to strike at flanks.
And vikings do not had any calvary.

So,unless saxons get both calvary and archers with longbows,they are doomed.

P.S it would be funny if they survive and become Polani kings,like in 18th century OTL !
 

Circle of Willis

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Tbh, I just used the word 'corsair' because I wanted to spice the text up beyond just using the basic 'pirate' or 'raider'. Especially since there are already plenty of ghazi raiders roaming on land, who pose by far the bigger menace than the Muslims who've taken to the sea. So far the latter category of raiders aren't any more than a mild annoyance (with even Aloysius, who has no experience playing admiral unlike his command on land, being able to swat them away with ease) precisely because the Arabs constituting their ranks have neither much of a seafaring tradition nor the resources to build seriously threatening fleets - you're right that the Yemenis (Qahtanite Arabs) have a much stronger maritime tradition but can't help yet. (Nor would they particularly want to help at this time, given the lingering Adnanite-Qahtanite tension within the Caliphate and that Abd al-Rahman is just beginning to try to give the latter a bigger stake in his empire, only for that to cause him even more problems)

As for an early Suez Canal...all I can say about that, is that it's a huge spoiler for a ways down the road.

Similar to the lesser sons of Qasim just now, Aloysius' bastards are unlikely to pose much of a threat to the succession anytime soon (and if they do Helena certainly won't bat an eye as she plots their demise), but they are indicators of a problem which may plague future generations of Aloysians. Namely, family trouble coming from cadet or bastard branches inclined to challenge the main branch of the family for the purple. Though also like the Hashemites, it's unlikely that there'll be much trouble with the generation immediately after Aloysius & Helena - the imperial couple live apart most of the time and the latter probably isn't the most enthusiastic about her marital duties even when they are together, the result being that Constantine has no full brothers to worry about in addition to his much older half-siblings.
 

PsihoKekec

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While it doesn't matter how minor the cadet branches are, if someone is willing to use them as pawns in the throne gambit, then they will use them, but the official branches garner a lot more support than bastard branches.

Kundaçiq Tarkhan first had a palace built on an island in the Volga River’s delta
Is that location of present day Astrakhan or some nearby stretch of land?

[3] The site of Schlangen, North Rhine-Westphalia.
And today I learned that in Germany there is village called Snakes (in english).
 

stevep

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Circle of Willis

I think you have two [9] markers for footnotes. i.e.

On the other side of the world, the British and Irish were both expanding their colonies further still into the mainland of northern Aloysiana. Liberius returned from Tír na Beannachtaí to oversee the establishment of the first Gaelic settlements north of the Isthmus of Túathal[7], starting with the outpost of ‘Corraigh’[8] (‘stir, din’ – so named for the loud flocks of birds found by the first Irish explorers there) in the marshes immediately north of the Isthmus early in the year. Towards the end of Holy Week (at least as calculated by Liberius and the Romans) adventuring parties found a much better site for settlement in a river valley northwest of Corraigh, where the Abbot would found ‘Gleann an Aiséirí’[9] (‘Valley of the Resurrection’) later in the year.

As for the New World British, now on their own, they sought to extend their settlements further up the Saint Pelagius River to buy themselves time and space ahead of a probable future Irish incursion against Porte-Réial. By the end of 682, aided by allied Wilderman guides and their canoes, their own adventurers had charted the river’s course all the way to its source: a great lake which they named after Celestius, Pelagius’ greatest disciple. In so doing these explorers had greatly outpaced the settlers who were supposed to be following them, and who had only gotten as far as establishing a new town at ‘Derrére-Refuge’[9] (‘Last Refuge’) on a large island about halfway up the Saint Pelagius[10]. With no hope of receiving further settlers from the motherland in the foreseeable future, the Britons also sought to bolster their population by inviting Wildermen to live with them – though of course they required any native who wished to live behind their palisades to undergo baptism and forego bearing arms. This habit stood in contrast to the Irish practice, where although the Gaels were content to trade and periodically intermarry with the Wildermen, they did not generally invite the latter to permanently live in their towns or otherwise make a great effort to assimilate them.
Assume that the 2nd is the actual Montreal given its location so the 'Valley of the Resurrection' would be somewhere else.

In the longer term the British are going to struggle to maintain any independence unless their Irish opponents are largely isolated from the old world and the British appeal to the locals is successful.

Sounds like Helena is understandably unhappy with Aloysius's inability to control himself with other women/girls. Plus his older sons are going to be understandably resentful their loyalty is being ignored but I suspect baring serious internal problems their not going to be in a position to do much about it. Now if Aloysius's rape toy had been able to actually kill him it might have been a different matter.

The Islamic empire is going to have some problems settling down, especially if Ali tries to find a way out of his oath again but sounds like Abd al-Rahman is cementing his position so I suspect that he's going to be resuming open war soon against the empire, which could be a real pain for it. Especially if Aloysius was to take one gamble too much at some point. Not to mention those slave soldiers are going to be formidable at some point.

Sounds like unrest is stirring in Japan but whether the new emperor can gain any real independence without a major crisis in China seems unlikely in the near term. Although if there is new pressure from the Muslims could the Indo-Romans call on aid from their overlord - which could make for an interesting conflict.
 
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684-687: Squaring Accounts

Circle of Willis

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With the Hashemite Caliphate still mired in its internal troubles, 684 proved a quieter year still for the Holy Roman Empire. The fourteen-year-old Caesar Constantine took advantage of this lull in the fighting along Rome’s easternmost border to simultaneously try to improve his relationship with his father (having spent his youngest years raised at his mother’s court, he was closer to her than Aloysius and invariably took her side in her own personal conflict with the Emperor) and indulge in his growing scholarly interest. It was at his suggestion and with his input (increasing over the years as he himself accumulated military experience on his own) that Aloysius began to write Virtus Exerciti (‘Bravery (or Virtue) of the Armies’), an updated military manual which built on the foundation laid by De Re Militari with another two hundred years of fighting experience and the thoughts of both the first Aloysian Augustus and his heir.

It would be many years before the treatise would finally be completed, in part because no small number of the latest reforms to Roman military organization and tactics it recommended were actually in the process of being implemented over Aloysius’ reign. Still, once it was done, Virtus Exerciti would stand the test of time as the premier – and primary – source on the Roman army of the late seventh and early eighth centuries, in-between the chaos of the fifth and sixth centuries which the Stilichians had fought valiantly to restrain and the glorious heights (with occasional valleys) of the ninth to thirteenth centuries. The inclusion of numerous well-preserved illustrations, both of Roman legionaries in this time period and in the form of a late-seventh-century update to the Notitia Dignitatum (chiefly of the heraldry depicted on the shields of the Western and Eastern legions, old survivors and newly constituted forces alike) would also go a long way to helping the historians and reenactors of the future more easily visualize the Roman soldiers who closed the page on the turbulence and division of the fourth to seventh centuries. It would be quite some time before the Roman Emperors saw need to overhaul the structure of their military and make substantial changes to what Aloysius and Constantine had written down yet again.

Among its highlights, Virtus Exerciti would outline the formal division of the Roman army into the exercitus praesentales (itself an amalgamation of the remaining comitatenses and limitanei formations into a number of mobile imperial armies), the auxilia palatina ('palace auxiliaries') drawn from the federate kingdoms to support it, and said kingdoms' own autonomous forces; a synthesis of Western and Eastern Roman methods of warfare; the shift in Roman tactics away from its traditional reliance on infantry, with heavy cavalry emerging as its decisive combat arm in the centuries to come, as well as notes on combating ambushes, feigned retreats and other tricks employed by Rome’s various enemies since Attila’s day; and updates to military discipline, including an end to extremely brutal punishments and especially the ancient practice of decimation. Aloysius & Constantine forbade the practice on both religious and practical grounds: it had infamously befallen Saint Maurice’s Theban Legion and its continued practice thought to dishonor the memories of their martyrs (not dissimilar to why Christian Rome no longer crucified those whose crimes would have merited such a punishment in the past), and was also observed to both needlessly eliminate manpower which the Empire could not afford to lose and to cripple the morale of the survivors[1].


Illustration of a Saxon tribesman surrendering to an early Aloysian-era legionary from the March of Arbogast in the pages of the Virtus Exerciti. Note the evolution in the Northern Roman's equipment: the ridge helmet has been replaced with a morion-like kettle hat of Frankish design, and he is wearing lorica squamata (scale armor) rather than the more traditional lorica hamata (chainmail)

As for the Romans’ Islamic enemies, Caliph Abd al-Rahman spent 684 moving to suppress the first major dogmatic rupture in the new religion. His army was battered by Kharijite raiding parties, but being similarly comprised of Arab warriors – including many loyal Nejdis, whose contingent alone outnumbered the followers of Abd al-Wahhab – they pushed through the sands without crippling loss and managed to reach the traitor’s seat at Diriyah, located in the narrow Wadi Hanifa, in April. There the Hashemites wasted no time in storming the walls, overwhelming the defenders with their sheer numbers and putting the Kharijites to the sword in retaliation for their attacks on Hashemite loyalists and murder of Abd al-Rahman’s envoy.

Abd al-Wahhab was not among those slaughtered by the vengeful Caliph however, having fled ahead of the Hashemites’ arrival with his strongest sons and most zealous followers. Retreating to Qarma[2] to the southwest, he rallied his tribe – the Banu Hanifa – to continue resisting Abd al-Rahman for the rest of the year. It would take another eight months for Abd al-Rahman to finally suppress this Kharijite rising amid the scorched sands of the Nejd, the first of many that his dynasty would have to face, and to return to Kufa with Abd al-Wahhab’s head in his possession. Only then could the Caliph finally turn his attention away from internal matters (for now) and refocus on foreign affairs – namely, plotting to build upon his guzat’s raids and renewing war with the Roman enemy to the west. Since these relatively small and contained rebellions had not excessively bled the Arab armies, Abd al-Rahman felt safe enough to try pursuing victory abroad to bind these wounds and more firmly unify the Islamic world under his still fairly-new leadership.


Abd al-Rahman ordering his captains to fan out across the Najd and hunt down Abd al-Wahhab and the remaining Kharijites following the fall of Diriyah

It was not only the Romans who Abd al-Rahman needed to worry about, however. His difficulties with the Kharijites had not gone unnoticed by the Khazars, who consequently increased the frequency and ferocity of their raids against the northern borders of the House of Submission. Throughout 684 Khazar pillagers in the Caucasus, operating out of their major base at Darband, laid waste to the wilayah of Azerbaijan where they sacked Shabaran, Kamachia[3] and the ancient Persian fortress-town at Khursan, although they were unable to overcome the defenses of Baku to the east of Khursan, which consequently was flooded with refugees fleeing their raids and evolved into the Arabs’ main power-base in the Caucasus. A good deal of those riches collected at lance-point by these raiders would be added to the growing Khazar capital at Atil.

To the east, other Khazar war parties laid further waste to the Islamic part of Khorasan and penetrated as far as Nishapur before they had to turn back in the face of stiffening resistance. Mindful that Kundaç Khagan was likely to attack from the north if he were to attack the Khazar monarch’s Roman in-laws, Abd al-Rahman bade his brother Al-Abbas to return to his Persian strongholds and prepare a first strike against their northern neighbors while he himself oversaw preparations for the assault in the west and south against Rome. The Caliph’s strategy was an aggressive one, in which he intended to strike the first blow against both the Romans and Khazars simultaneously and keep the two allies from uniting their forces.


Khazar raiders battling a defending Muslim force in the eastern Caucasus

Aloysius had just crossed over the Hellespont – intent on mediating a succession dispute among the Franks and keeping the Continental Saxons down – when Islamic attacks along the border began to heighten again, compelling him to hasten back to the front. Having heard by now that the Caliph Abd al-Rahman had put an end to the disorder in his realm, both Augustus and Augusta were convinced that a renewed Islamic offensive against their Syro-Mesopotamian frontier was imminent and accordingly began to concentrate resources and troops to defend that region. The Ghassanid and Kalb warriors responsible for defending Syria & Palaestina, as well as their Armenian and Georgian neighbors to the north, were reinforced by the Cilician Bulgars and also Helena’s newly organized Oriental legions. Aloysius garrisoned the infantry he’d brought with him from the Occident in a few major regional centers designated as the lynchpins of the Romans’ defenses, such as Edessa in the north and Jerusalem in the south, while massing his mounted troops into a large mobile reserve at the Ghassanid capital of Hama.

The Khazars noticed a spike in Muslim military activity along their shared borders as well, initially in the form of retaliatory raids but rapidly escalating to more extensive chevauchées which pushed deeper into their own territory. Critically, late in the summer Al-Abbas led a strong force of 15,000 men out of northwestern Persia to attack Darband, which after all had been the Khazars’ forward base for attacks into the Arab portion of the Caucasus and western Alborz Mountains. With the help of Persian and Babylonian Jewish engineers, the Muslims were able to overcome the city’s defenses before Kundaç and Kundaçiq could ride to its rescue, after which they ferociously sacked it and enslaved the few thousand among its populace who they did not simply put to the sword. The outraged Khagan believed that the Hashemites had just struck the first real blow in a new war and made preparations for an aggressive push against Islam on both sides of the Caspian, and not even the harsh winter at the end of this year could cool his fury at this latest defeat.

Meanwhile in the New World, a giant lost his life. Liberius gave up the ghost two weeks before the Christmas of 685 – the year’s hard winter was too much for the 75-year-old, who was already ailing and resolved to have his last few hot meals distributed to the children of Cois Fharraighe, since they were unlikely to do him any good. Born a Roman prince of the Great Stilichian household, he had survived the violence of the Aetas Turbida and many decades living among peoples his kin would certainly have considered savages in this unfamiliar new continent, and now ended his days as the Abbot of Saint Brendan’s Monastery and the closest thing the fractious Gaels of Aloysiana had to a supreme governor and coordinator: his last deed of note being helping drive the heretical Britons from Tor Mór and overseeing the establishment of the first Irish colonies beyond Isthmus of Túathal.


The tidal mill of Cois Fharraighe (soon to be renamed Cuan Fuar), modeled after those employed by Irish monasteries back in the old country such as Nendrum, which was the last building project completed by Liberius before he passed away

The soon-to-be Saint Liberius would be buried not among his family in the ancestral mausoleum of the Stilichians nor among the early Christian martyrs in Rome’s catacombs, nor even on the grounds of Saint Brendan’s, but among his adopted people at Cois Fharraighe, where the colonists overwhelmingly voted to rename their growing village Cuan Fuar – ‘Coldharbor’ – in mourning. The same illness (brought on by the autumn and exacerbated by the harsh winter) which claimed his life, most likely either the common cold or flu, affected those settlers as well, but exacted an especially devastating toll on the local Wildermen living around Cuan Fuar and the other Irish colonies on the mainland. Thus, ironically, Liberius had managed to give his flock one last gift in death by making their expansion further inland easier still – although none among them thought of it that way at the time, since the disease did not discriminate between pagan Wildermen and those who had converted to Christianity & allied with the Gaels, whose loss was mourned almost as much as that of Liberius himself by the settlers.

As for the Britons who had just been defeated and cut off from their homeland by the work of Liberius two years prior, they had been hard at work entrenching their settlements on the mainland of Aloysiana and making sure that the Irish would not be able to destroy them utterly without a steep cost in blood. Good stone was hard to come by around the Saint Pelagius River and those British engineers to whom the memory of Roman stoneworking had been passed on to rarer still on this side of the Atlantic, but nevertheless Porte-Réial and Derrére-Refuge’s inhabitants augmented their existing palisades with ditches, crude earthen ramparts and additional watch-towers. Admittedly the latter were more like covered firing platforms for their longbowmen, but together with the ramparts and ditches, still represented significant improvements in their defenses. Those Wildermen who had taken up the Britons’ offer to live with them were put to work as part of this fortification effort, though their numbers were not as great as the settlers would have liked – finding converts willing to cohabitate within the same walls was difficult enough to begin with, but as the Irish had found out, diseases which would only inconvenience Europeans more often than not proved fatal for the natives of this New World.


Model of the first wall of Derrére-Refuge. To increase their chances of survival, the New World Britons fortified their few existing towns as much as they possibly could using a combination of traditional palisades, earthen ramparts, the loose stones they could find, and natural barriers such as the many rivers crisscrossing their new home

The summer of 686 saw the renewal of hostilities in the eastern Mediterranean. While Al-Abbas braced for the inevitable retaliation of the Khazars on the northern front, his brothers were mounting their attack in the west to ensure the Romans would be of no help to Kundaç and Kundaçiq. Ali spearheaded the initial Islamic offensive into Syria and Palaestina, at first ordering intensified raids against the Ghassanids, Banu Kalb and the remainder of Roman Mesopotamia in a bid to trick their overlord into thinking he was going to push for Hama, Jerusalem or Edessa before launching his main offensive into the Gaulanitis instead. Despite the rough terrain, his trickery had paid off and he was able to overwhelm the region’s scant remaining defenders, capturing Caesarea Panias[4] in the first major act of the new war (where the Khazars were not concerned, anyway).

As Ali fought to push toward the Phoenician coast in an attempt to split the remnants of the Roman Levant in twain, Aloysius sprang into action. The Augustus swept southward from Hama with the Ghassanids while also trying to coordinate with the Banu Kalb moving northward out of Palaestina, hoping to catch the Muslims in a strategic pincer. His plan did not survive contact with the realities of warfare, as Ali turned while marching down the Leontes[5] to surprise the Kalb army and defeat them in the Battle of Lake Hula[6] before resuming his drive to the coast. Unbothered by this defeat, the irrepressible Aloysius aggressively pushed southward anyway and threatened the Muslims’ flank right as they were approaching Tyre. Ali rushed to intercept them before they could cross the Leontes and cost him that favorable ground.

The Roman advance had moved with such alacrity that Ali could not stop them from crossing entirely, but his scouts did correctly identify where the Romans would cross and the Arab prince promptly sprang a fierce attack against their bridgehead. As usual however, Aloysius was personally commanding his vanguard of elite legionaries and heavy horsemen, and proved no less formidable in combat than he had the last time he fought the Arabs head-on. Even Ali’s mubarizun could not overcome the Emperor’s valor and the Arabs beat a hasty retreat as more of the Roman and Ghassanid troops poured in behind their indomitable Emperor. Ali’s tactical retreat toward the Gaulanitis became a strategic one which drifted even further east after he failed to stop Aloysius’ pursuit on the plains beneath an occupied village, only recently built by the Banu Kalb, called Marj Ayyun[7] west of Caesarea Panias.


The march of time and even the death of his original faithful warhorse Ascanius still did not stop Aloysius Augustus, now approaching fifty, from leading his army into the Battles of the Leontes and Marj Ayyun and smiting any Islamic warrior who approached him

Despite these defeats, Ali did not seem any more bothered by the failure of his offensive than Aloysius was at the Banu Kalb’s defeat at Lake Hula, and it soon became apparent why. The Caliph himself understood that the Romans would be ready for him in the Levant, and the offensive which he had tasked his youngest living full brother with leading was in & of itself a feint, just one on a grander scale than the ones Ali had carried out early in the campaign. Abd al-Rahman meanwhile had amassed a large army in Egypt, swollen with recruits both from the Hejazi homeland and the Arab tribes which had elected to settle in that conquered land, and sprang his own attack where he knew the Roman defense would be at its weakest: North Africa. This grand southern host of Islam flattened what remained of the Garamantes almost immediately, and by the end of 686 they had gone on to sack Arae Philaenorum[8] and besiege Stilicho of Africa in Leptis Magna, where he had been assembling his army to relieve the Garamantes only to receive them as fleeing refugees and then face their pursuers instead.

Up in the north, even before the Arabs struck at Rome Kundaçiq Tarkhan had begun to spring his assault into the wilayat of Azerbaijan, storming through the Gates of Alexander in a rage with 20,000 warriors behind him and quickly passing the leveled Darband to attack Al-Abbas head-on. He overwhelmed the first serious Arab attempt at resisting his fury at the Battle of Khachmar[9], annihilating the 3,000 who dared stand in his way and razing the hastily fortified town to the ground. However Al-Abbas would avenge the defenders of Khachmar two weeks later, holding back the advance of the Khazar prince at Kamachia. The two generals went on to wage a number of fierce battles across the northeastern Arran lowlands[10], neither managing to decisively defeat the other, which effectively meant that Al-Abbas (as the defender) continued to hold the advantage.

Despite this victory, toward the end of the year Al-Abbas found his western flank threatened by a combined offensive of Georgians, Armenians and four Eastern Roman legions (4,000 men) added to stiffen the Caucasian ranks at the request of the former’s king Mithranes. This Roman & Caucasian army had burst out of Partav[11], the largest remaining city of old Caucasian Albania to remain under Christian (specifically Georgian) control, and although Al-Abbas tried to prevent them from linking up with their Khazar allies at the Battle of Yenikend[12], the arrival of Kundaçiq’s cavalry in the middle of the fighting forced him to retreat lest he be massacred between the two enemy armies. In the face of this coordinated Khazar-Roman threat, Al-Abbas ordered a withdrawal behind the Kura River, which he used to his advantage in fighting off an attempt by Kundaçiq and Mithranes to cross at Galagayin[13] shortly before the descent of the Caucasian winter forced both sides to cease major actions until the snows had cleared.


Mithranes and Kundaçiq consulting with the leading officers of their Roman allies while encamped near the Kura River

While his son spearheaded the offensive in the eastern Caucasus, Kundaç himself was leading the one in Khorasan. The even greater and more intimidating Khazar horde on the other side of the Caspian was twice the strength of his son’s, numbering around 40,000 strong, and not even the decision of the Islamic captains in that region to hole up in their fortresses and towns rather than face the nomads in the field saved them. The Khagan had sufficient numbers to spare, so he simply divided his vast army up to isolate and defeat the smaller Muslim garrisons in detail – whether by starving them into submission, negotiating their surrender, getting traitors within the walls (often Tegreg Turks whose conversion was not genuine and who could most easily be bribed or intimidated into changing their allegiances) to open the gates, or most rarely by storming the defenses. As Al-Abbas was away holding the line in the Caucasus, his less capable generals were unable to restrain Kundaç’s onslaught until he came up against the Sassanid-era Great Wall of Gorgan stretching from Mount Aladagh to the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea, which they had hurriedly restored as best they could with the help of local Persians under Al-Abbas’ orders, closer to the end of the year.

When 687 started, so did the race for Leptis Magna. The city was the capital of the province of Tripolitania, and while not as wealthy as it had been during the reign of its native son Septimius Severus, with a still-considerable population, a strong economy centered around its olive presses and stout defenses it would have been quite the catch for the Muslims, while the necessity of keeping it out of enemy hands was obvious to the Romans. Having been trapped behind the city walls by the speed and ferocity of the Islamic offensive, Stilicho of Africa had no choice but to defend the city as well he could with some 14,000 soldiers – a still-incomplete assembly of the larger army with which he’d hoped to save the Garamantians and counterattack into Cyrenaica, but too large a number and including too many quality African legionaries for Aloysius to lose. On the Emperor’s part, he also felt a certain debt to Stilicho for ensuring a Roman victory at Constantinople twenty-one years prior, and was honor-bound to repay it by saving Stilicho from defeat now.

While Aloysius hastened back to the ports of Phoenicia and prepared to sail to Leptis Magna’s relief, Abd al-Rahman had been warned by Ali that the Augustus was no longer distracted by him (and that he needed more time and resources to launch another offensive against the Roman Levant). In any case he was already acutely aware that the Romans would not give such an important city up to him without first doing everything in their power to avert defeat, and so resolved to take Leptis Magna by force – despite the obvious risks and probable toll in lives – before Aloysius could reach him. Engineers from Persia and Babylon were tasked, as they had been at previous fortified cities, with devising ways to breach the walls of the Tripolitanian capital, which had easily resisted Berber raids in the past but would now be put to their greatest test under barbarian arms yet.


Islamic sappers retreating and pulling their wounded Babylonian Jewish engineer away from a losing engagement in one of their siege tunnels beneath Leptis Magna, which the Romans have dug a counter-tunnel into

For three months, while Aloysius simultaneously organized his legions & fleet for the trip to North Africa and fended off opportunistic attacks mounted by Ali so long as he was still in the Middle East, Stilicho fought furiously to defend Leptis Magna from the encroachment of Abd al-Rahman’s host, which outnumbered his own army by almost three-to-one. After easily repelling both daytime and night-time escalades early in the siege, the Africans had to deal with daily missile exchanges with the archers and slingers of the Islamic army, ox-drawn catapults assembled under the eyes of Abd al-Rahman’s Persian engineers and attempts by the Jewish ones to undermine their walls. The Romans’ own engineers dug counter-tunnels through which Stilicho’s Moorish legionaries marched to attack the Islamic sappers before they could dig themselves into a position from which to collapse the city walls.

In early April, with Aloysius having taken to the sea and fast approaching him while all of his own efforts at toppling Leptis Magna’s defenses had failed so far, Abd al-Rahman attempted a risky strategy out of desperation: sailing a number of troops into the city by sea on one hand, and sending another fleet of his own to stop Aloysius in the southeastern Mediterranean at the same time. But the first maneuver was stopped by Stilicho’s deployment of a chain at the entrance to Leptis Magna’s harbor. The second meanwhile rapidly degenerated into a suicide mission as it became apparent that the inexperienced and badly outnumbered Arab fleet – assembled from ships seized in Alexandria’s harbor and manned by conscripts or galley slaves rather than the seasoned seafarers of southern Arabia – had no hope against the Roman navy, which promptly smashed through them with ease at the Battle off Gauda[14]. Helena had furnished her husband with fireships from Constantinople, but these turned out to be unnecessary overkill in that clash, from which the Islamic fleet had fled in disorder and with great loss.

Aloysius’ legions disembarked east of the city – no doubt hoping to catch the Muslim host between their own advance and Stilicho’s army, which could be expected to sally from the gates once the imperial standards came into view. Abd al-Rahman was not unaware of the danger and tried to pre-empt it with a furious cavalry attack on the Romans as they got off their ships, in which he deployed the oldest of his Turkic and Aksumite slave-soldiers (who were also the only ones to have fully completed their training so far). On the Roman side, this engagement would also be the Caesar’s baptism of fire, as Constantine had been among the first Romans to disembark and now found himself being thrust into combat for the first time. Aloysius did not abandon his son altogether, sending veteran legionaries to support him on the front line of the Roman landing zone, but he also wanted to see whether the young man could stand up for himself without his father being there to hold his hand through his first battle.


Flavius Constantinus, only son and heir of Aloysius & Helena, coming ashore east of Leptis Magna with the first of his father's soldiers

In that regard, the Augustus saw nothing that disappointed him. The seventeen-year-old Constantine may not have been a martial genius, but by all accounts he conducted himself with calm and competence, ably fighting in a shield-wall (organized by the comes accompanying him) with the legionaries and resisting the Arab onslaught with spear, sword and plumbatae. With him on the front lines and Aloysius leading a counter-charge to force the Muslims back at the earliest opportunity, the Romans successfully held their beach-head long enough for Stilicho’s sentries to see what was happening and report to the African king. The ghilman on the other side did not lack for courage either, bravely fighting on despite failing to break the Roman lines and withdrawing only when commanded by their Caliph, which Abd al-Rahman so ordered after the Moors sallied to avoid getting crushed between Aloysius’ legions and those of Stilicho – no Heshana Qaghan, he. Aloysius and Constantine met Stilicho as they combined their armies and harried the retreating Arabs before them, at which point the Emperor took the opportunity to praise his vassal and dynastic rival for having stalwartly defended Roman Africa from the risk of Islamic conquest, proclaiming of the so-called ‘Lesser’ Stilichians: “Lesser in name, but not in deed nor spirit!”

Despite Abd al-Rahman’s retreat, the war was not over, in North Africa or elsewhere. Indeed by spring’s end and the first days of summer, right after his brother was forced to withdraw from the walls of Leptis Magna, Ali ibn Qasim had sufficiently reorganized and reinforced his army to renew the attack on the Levantine frontier. This time he concentrated his attacks in the north, especially targeting the Mesopotamian limes, in a bid to force the Romans to divert their strength away from the Caucasus and thereby slacken the pressure on his second brother Al-Abbas. By the time Aloysius had determined that he’d sufficiently stabilized the African front so that he could leave it in Stilicho’s hands and trust that Abd al-Rahman wouldn’t overrun Leptis Magna the instant he left for the Levant again, closer to the end of the year, Ali had driven the Ghassanids to Antioch in the west and overrun Edessa & the rest of Roman Mesopotamia up to Amida in the north.

Helena and her generals had managed to hold the line at Amida and Antioch in large part because they did exactly as Ali had hoped and shifted troops away from the Caucasian front to reinforce the Levantine one. This development could not have come at a better time for Al-Abbas, whose efforts along the Kura had faltered in the spring and early summer: in the early stages of Ali’s offensive, Mithranes & Kundaçiq had broken through the Arab defense at the Battle of Balıqçı, near a lake whose unpleasant taste led the Khazars and other Turkic peoples who would visit the region to nickname it ‘Hacıqabul’ – the ‘bitter water’. The Muslims had to retreat further south, past Langarkanan[15] and into the mountains around Ardabil, before the redeployment of Roman and Caucasian troops (mostly the Armenian contingent under King Arsaber) to Mesopotamia caused the allied offensive to slow down and gave Al-Abbas room to breathe. By the end of 686 the senior Arab prince had launched a successful counterattack which forced Kundaçiq and Mithranes back beyond Langarkanan and, ironically, toward the Kura. Kundaç meanwhile had not made any significant attempt to break through the Great Wall of Gorgan and ravage inner Persia this year, being more focused instead on trying to consolidate his hold on Khorasan while being battered by guzat and installing Doulan Qaghan as a puppet ruler in Nishapur.


A heavily armored camel-rider of the Islamic army. Besides countering the 'dromedarii' auxiliaries fielded by the Ghassanids and Banu Kalb under Rome's banner in the Levant, they were among the tricks employed by Al-Abbas to push his cavalry-centric Khazar foes back in the Caucasus

In the distant Orient, King Harivarman of Champa was overthrown in a coup spearheaded by his cousin Prabhasadharma, who had cultivated a strong relationship with Srivijayan traders and enlisted the support of mercenaries from the southern islands for his plot. While Prabhasadharma proceeded to give the merchants of Srivijaya trading privileges, including installing a Srivijayan named Kariyana as the harbormaster of his capital Simhapura’s[16] port, and arranging for himself a marriage to the Srivijayan Mahārāja Sangramadhananjaya’s daughter Bhimadevi, the exiled Harivarman made his way into Chinese-ruled Jiaozhi and from there, northward to Luoyang. After arriving at the Chinese imperial court, he prostrated himself before the recently enthroned Emperor Zhongzong, offering to recognize the Later Han as his suzerain if they would restore him to his rightful throne.

Zhongzong had not been sitting atop the Dragon Throne for long, and thought that a victory abroad might serve as proof that his hold on the Mandate of Heaven was no less strong than that of his ancestors. He issued a demand to Prabhasadharma to return the Champan throne to his cousin, and to the Srivijayans to stand aside and leave Champa to its rightful master – both Harivarman and himself as its overlord, newly recognized as such by the lawful ruler of that kingdom. Sangramadhananjaya was reluctant to antagonize the Later Han, knowing full well from his kingdom’s numerous trading contacts that every single regional power which had fought them this century was promptly defeated, but unfortunately Prabhasadharma had already officially married his daughter by the time the Chinese emissaries arrived at his court, and even setting aside the political cost of ceding this newly gained zone of influence to the rival empire to his north, honor now demanded the Srivijayan king-of-kings not abandon his new son-in-law without putting up even the most cursory resistance. Consequently, Srivijaya prepared for war while the Chinese assembled a large army in Jiaozhi, and Sangramadhananjaya hoped that his kingdom would finally be the exception to the long string of anticlimactic defeats suffered by China’s enemies throughout the seventh century.

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

[1] Making this treatise more or less a delayed equivalent to Maurice’s Strategikon. Its reforms and the overall state of the Roman army going into the 8th century will be explored in greater depth in the next factional overview to look at the Holy Roman Empire.

[2] Dhurma.

[3] Shamakhi.

[4] Beneath Mount Hermon, at the source of the Banias River.

[5] Litani River.

[6] Now the Hula Valley in far-northern Israel.

[7] Marjayoun.

[8] Ra’s Lanuf.

[9] Khachmaz.

[10] Barda, Azerbaijan.

[11] ‘Arran’ is a historical name for the lands around the Kura & Aras Rivers. The specific warzone being fought over by Al-Abbas and Kundaçiq approximates to modern north-central Azerbaijan.

[12] Yenikənd, modern Kurdamir Rayon.

[13] Qalaqayın.

[14] Gavdos.

[15] Lankaran.

[16] Trà Kiệu.

Thanks @stevep , I've gone back to fix the footnotes. Anyway this update did come a bit later than I would have liked, and the next few updates will probably be even spottier as November-->December gets really busy and the semester enters its final stretch, but I promise we're definitely going to finish this century before the end of 2022. In fact, the next update will bring us into the final decade of the seventh century!
 
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PsihoKekec

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glorious heights (with occasional valleys) of the ninth to thirteenth centuries.
So there will be some six centuries before the next mayor reorganization. It looks like a quite a fight with Muslims and there is a question of how long will Aloysius be able to keep up burning his candle at both ends, though Constantine seems to be shaping up as a decent heir to his parents.
Hashemites good a good lesson on why the naval power is crucial in controlling the Mediterranean basin and they do not have the answer to this problem, probably won't have for quite some time.
 

stevep

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Circle of Willis

Take your time. RL and your studies come 1st and we can wait for developments in the story. Also rushing it is likely to detract from the quality.

Well an interesting foretelling with a reference to the empire "and the glorious heights (with occasional valleys) of the ninth to thirteenth centuries. ". That suggests after another century of struggle a period of unrivaled [apart from occasionally] power. Which is likely to be bad for most/all their neighbours. Also I can't help thinking that if those heights end in the 13thC that OTL was the period of the Mongols. Although I think you said earlier you wouldn't be going that far.

Did decimation last as a punishment until about this period OTL in the ERE?

It also comes to mind that the Nejd OTL is the heartland of Wahhabism although possibly that goes with such desolate terrain?

So Srivijaya finds itself in conflict with the Dragon Throne. As you note this has not gone well for other rivals recently, with only really the Indo-Romans surviving by making peace and accepting Chinese overlordship. However its power is likely to falter sooner or later and we also know that some other elements are restless under China's rule. Plus the Srivijayaians might have an edge in terms of naval power.

Which makes me think what is the situation of the Indo-Roman kingdom in the current Imperial - Islamic conflict as they border the Islamic empires Persian lands to the east? I wonder if either the empire or the Khazer's would seek to draw them into the conflict against the common enemy.

Good that Aloysius recognises the loyalty and bravery of the African Stilichians and doesn't leave them in the lurch. “Lesser in name, but not in deed nor spirit!” is a great line.

Unfortunately I think there is a footnote error again as I think you have two 14s.

In the face of this coordinated Khazar-Roman threat, Al-Abbas ordered a withdrawal behind the Kura River, which he used to his advantage in fighting off an attempt by Kundaçiq and Mithranes to cross at Galagayin[14] shortly before the descent of the Caucasian winter forced both sides to cease major actions until the snows had cleared.
and
The second meanwhile rapidly degenerated into a suicide mission as it became apparent that the inexperienced and badly outnumbered Arab fleet – assembled from ships seized in Alexandria’s harbor and manned by conscripts or galley slaves rather than the seasoned seafarers of southern Arabia – had no hope against the Roman navy, which promptly smashed through them with ease at the Battle off Gauda[14]. Helena had furnished her husband with fireships from Constantinople, but these turned out to be unnecessary overkill in that clash, from which the Islamic fleet had fled in disorder and with great loss.
Anyway thanks for a great chapter.

Steve
 

shangrila

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Aloysius should have pushed into Egypt, not necessarily to conquer but to make the Muslims react for once. The Roman Levant as it is, is basically indefensible, making a good offense probably the only thing that could work, while there still is a strong Emperor on the throne. And Cyrenaica is a good pickup in any case, Greek speaking and (presumably) Ephesian.
 
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