"Blessed are we above all men, for we live in an age of miracles." - John XII Cosmas, Patriarch of Constantinople, August 29, 1300 Hello everyone. I've had an alternate history idea rolling around in my head for a while and I've decided to make a timeline. There are two main points of divergence, first that the Laskarids of Nicaea don't suffer from epilepsy and thus are allowed to continue their centralizing trends. Second, that Charles of Anjou has a significantly harder time securing the throne of Sicily. So, without further ado, the Age of Miracles. 1204: Constantinople, the richest and most populous city in Christendom, as well as the capital of the Roman Empire, falls to the forces of the Fourth Crusade. The city is brutally sacked and many of its inhabitants raped and slaughtered by the soldiers of Christ. From the ashes the Latin Empire is formed, although three Greek states arise from the territories unconquered by the Crusaders. They are Trebizond, Epirus, and Nicaea. 1221: Theodoros II Laskaris is born, son of John III Vatatzes, and is a healthy infant, not inheriting the epilepsy of his father. (Point of divergence) 1254: Theodoros II Laskaris becomes Emperor of Nicaea after the death of his father. By this time the Latin Empire is reduced to just Constantinople and the surrounding territories, although its vassals control the Peloponnesus and Attica. Venice controls Crete and most of the Aegean islands. 1254-1260: A Bulgarian invasion of Nicene Europe is defeated while a marriage alliance is contracted with Epirus. Nicaea is the most powerful state in the southern Balkans, but does not advance on Constantinople which is well guarded by the Venetian fleet. Instead Theodoros and his trusted advisor, George Muzalon, work through a series of major reforms, many of which were started by his father. The main goal is the creation of a native Greek army backed by foreign mercenaries, rather than mercenaries forming the bulk of the army. Many soldiers are given lands, who pay for them by serving in the Nicene army. The majority are Greek but there are also many Cuman immigrants from Europe, who are settled on the eastern frontier. Further aiding this development is the crippling of the Seljuk Sultanate by the Mongols. Not only was Seljuk military might significantly reduced, but also the Seljuks are forced to purchase many of their goods in Nicene territory, providing substantial revenue for the imperial coffers. The money is used to improve the pay and equipment of the army and also to raise the salaries of officials to reduce corruption. To increase loyalty to himself, Theodoros and George appoint low born officials who owe everything to the emperor. 1261: Angered by Theodoros’ policies, many of the Nicene nobles rise up in revolt. Their leader is Michael Palaeologus, a skilled general who had been under suspicion for some time. An attempted assassination of Theodoros fails, so the nobles raise an army. It is composed mainly of the nobles’ retainers and the Latin mercenaries, who are angered by Theodoros’ pro-Greek policies. The new soldiers created by Theodoros, both Greek and Cuman, overwhelmingly side with him. On May 10, the two armies meet outside Cyzicus. The Latin mercenaries charge the Imperial lines despite Michael’s efforts to restrain them. However they charge over broken ground which breaks up the charge. The Cumans dart around the flanks, pouring waves of arrows into them, while the Imperial Greek infantry and cavalry smash into their front. For a short while they fight bravely but soon break under the ferocious assault of the Greeks. Theodoros’ army improvements show in the way his Greek forces are able to best a Latin army in pitched battle, contrary to the experiences of the Fourth Crusade. Viewing the destruction of the Latins, the remaining rebel forces begin to flee. The Cuman attacks soon turn the retreat into the rout. Michael is killed attempting to rally his forces, his head delivered to Theodoros by a Cuman soldier. The soldier is rewarded with an equal weight in gold. With much of its leadership dead, the rebellion collapses. Theodoros confiscates the dead nobles’ land, using it to help pay for heavily armored cavalry, equal to western knights, called kataphraktoi. The nobles that survived are stripped of most their land, some of which Theodoros keeps and the rest is used to further expand the army. As Theodoros cleans up the rebellion, the Seljuks chose this opportunity to invade the Empire. Theodoros’ army swings south, annihilating a Seljuk army near Philadelphia. Another Seljuk force retreats after raiding Bithynia, suffering heavy losses from the local troops. Smaller Seljuk bands do succeed in ravaging the Meander river valley for some time, before Theodoros annihilates a few of them in a pitched battle in August. 1262-1265: Theodoros is outraged by the Seljuk attempt to profit from the noble rebellion. All thoughts on taking Constantinople are forgotten as Nicaea prepares to punish the Turks. The year of 1262 is spent in defensive actions as Seljuk forces attempt to penetrate the frontier. Some succeed to perform minor pillaging, but Turkish losses are high. Meanwhile along the coast the Nicene fleet is expanded to include 120 vessels. In 1263 the counterattack begins. The Nicene fleet divides in two, one force moving along the coast of northern Anatolia, the other along the southern coast. Theodoros himself moves up the Sangarius River, defeating a Turkish army near Dorylaeum. By the end of the year Sinope, Amorium, and Attaleia have all fallen to the Greeks. The next year sees Turkish resistance intensify, mainly in the interior. Paphlagonia is almost entirely cleared of Turks by winter, while the southern Anatolian coast is taken as far east as the mouth of the Lamis. Theodoros attempts to march on Iconium, and although he wins two battles with the Turks, his heavy casualties force him to delay his plans. At the same time the Constantinople Latins attempt to raid Nicene Thrace but are ambushed by the local Cumans and largely wiped out. On April 27 Theodoros crushes an army led by the Sultan himself, allowing him to invest Iconium, which falls three weeks later. During the siege Trebizond attempts to take Sinope by surprise but fails. A week after the fall of Iconium the Empire and the Sultanate make peace. The new border goes from the mouth of the Lamis river northwest to the Lake of 40 Martyrs, then north to the beginning of the Sangarius. It then follows the Sangarius until the point where it is closest to the Halys. The border then goes east to the Halys, where it follows the river to the Black Sea. Ancyra is just south of the line between the Sangarius and Halys and remains Turkish. Nicene territory in Anatolia is almost doubled. 1266: A combined land-sea force attacks the Empire of Trebizond. The city itself falls in July and the entire state is annexed by Nicaea. The Emperor of Trebizond is somewhat compensated by a new estate near Nicaea. In Italy Charles of Anjou attempts to invade the Kingdom of Sicily, ruled by Manfred Hohenstaufen. Charles is defeated at the Battle of Benevento and forced to retreat from Italy. However it is well known that he will try again. 1267-1268: In France Charles of Anjou licks his wounds and rebuilds his army. Theodoros works to repopulate Anatolia, settling Cumans and Greeks on the frontier. Many Turkish tribesmen, impressed by Nicene victories, convert to Christianity and join the Nicene army. Theodoros settles them in Europe, where it is doubtful they will be forced to fight other Turks. He also continues to enlarge the navy, in preparation for an assault on Constantinople. To help guard against Venice, he asks Epirus to hand over Dyrrachium. They do so grudgingly. 1269: Epirus, Thessaly, Athens, and Achaia, the remaining states in Greece, form an alliance to combat Nicaea. Combined they can assemble a powerful army with a large corps of Latin heavy cavalry, but mistrust and rivalries between the allies hamper cooperation. At Pelagonia the allied army is shattered, partly through the defection of the Thessalian army and the premature withdrawal of the Epirote one. After the battle, Thessaly becomes a Nicene vassal. Epirus is completely overrun, the Despot killed in battle in September. Nicene attempts to invade Attica are hampered by the Venetians of Negroponte, which lead to several inconclusive clashes with the Nicene fleet. At the same time Charles invades Italy again, only to be defeated again at the Battle of Capua. He is forced to flee back to France a second time. 1270-1271: A truce is signed between the various Balkan states. The Nicene border now is at the Sperchius river. Theodoros focuses his attention on Anatolia, where minor Turkish raids have resumed along the frontier. 1272: A Nicene army skirts the edges of Constantinople in an attempt to frighten the Latins, only to learn that the garrison and Venetian fleet is away attacking the Nicene island of Daphnusia. The army sneaks into the city and captures it with almost no bloodshed. When the Venetian fleet returns, the sailors see their homes in flames and their families huddled along the shore. They load their families and flee to Negroponte, many of the refugees dying from lack of provisions along the way. Charles of Anjou invades Italy for the third time and is victorious at the Battle of Naples. Manfred’s mainland dominions are quickly captured although Manfred himself retreats to Sicily to rebuild his strength. 1273-1274: Theodoros, styling himself as the new Constantine, works to rebuild dilapidated Constantinople. He also is crowned as Emperor again, but this time as Emperor of the Romans. Turkish raids continue in Anatolia, but are fiercely contested by the Roman army. War also continues with Venice in a series of naval actions. The Genoese Licario, in Roman employ, overruns many of the smaller Aegean islands. 1275-1276: In early 1275 the Empire launches a massive invasion of Latin Greece. The massively outnumbered Latins are swept aside and by the end of the year, only Venetian Modon and Croton remain out of Roman hands. Licario succeeds in taking Negroponte the next year, and Naxos shortly after that. In Italy, Manfred is killed in an attempt to recapture Taranto. Charles of Anjou is now King of Sicily and his appetite for further conquest leads him to look east. 1277-1282: A mass uprising in Crete against the Venetians allows the Empire to conquer the island. However Modon and Croton, well supplied by the Venetian fleet, continue to hold out. Venice offers an alliance to Charles to assist in his planned attack on Constantinople. However he is distracted by the invasion of Conradin Hohenstaufen. Conradin is defeated at Tagliacozza but retreats back to Germany. Hungary invades Dalmatia in 1278, forcing Venice to fight on two fronts against Hungary and Byzantium. With ships devoted to the Dalmatian theater, the ability of the Venetian fleet to continue provisioning Modon and Croton is in doubt. Reluctantly Venice offers peace terms, although a treaty is not signed until March 1279. Venice is allowed to maintain control of Modon and Croton, as well as the Aegean islands of Kythera, Patmos, and Syra. All other Venetian territories in the Aegean basin are signed over to Constantinople. Venice is allowed to regain its old quarter in Constantinople, but all Venetian merchants are required to pay a five percent import/export duty. While still half of the normal fee paid by others, the Venetians have gotten used to paying none. They are also barred from the Black Sea. Sporadic skirmishes continues on the Anatolian frontier. The military debacles of the thirteenth centuries from both the hands of the Greeks and Mongols mean that the Seljuk sultan has increasingly little control of his subjects. Annoyed by these raids, Theodoros takes Ancyra in May 1279 and installs a garrison. Cumans are dispatched into Seljuk territory in a series of counterraids. However in October his attention is wrenched to Europe. On October 2, 1279, Charles of Anjou annihilates Conradin’s army at the Second Battle of Benevento. Conradin is killed rallying his troops, ending the Hohenstaufen dynasty (he had two children, a boy and a girl. But both died before they were six months old). Charles of Anjou is now supreme in Italy. His court also harbors many refugees from the Latin states now overrun by Byzantium. Charles makes careful arrangements for his invasion of the Empire. Pisa is forced into an alliance with Charles and Venice joins with the promise of regaining all its lost territories and trading privileges. Charles also is able to induce Hungary to end its failed invasion of Dalmatia. When news of the alliance reaches Constantinople the few inhabitants of the Venetian quarter are arrested and their property confiscated. Modon and Croton are again placed under siege, but remained supplied by the Venetian fleet. He turns to Genoa for support. Genoa is offered Venice’s old quarter and Genoese merchants will only have to pay a token two percent import/export duty. The Byzantine emperor will also encourage the Tatar khan to allow the Genoese to establish a colony in Kaffa. Furthermore in exchange for Genoese naval support in the attacks on Modon and Croton, the two cities will be handed over to Genoa, although the Commune will have to pay an annual rent of 16,000 hyperpyra. Genoa accepts and the combined Byzantine-Genoese fleets are able to starve the two cities out in the summer of 1280. At the same time the Venetian Aegean islands fall to Licario. The next year sees sporadic naval actions in the Adriatic sea. Venice’s fleet mainly focuses on keeping the enemy out of the Adriatic while Charles is reluctant to commit his own vessels until his grand fleet is complete. Thus Greek ships are sometimes able to raid the shores of Italy itself. In September 1281 a squadron of Roman warships raiding Apulia is approached by citizens of Bari, which is still inhabited by large numbers of Greeks. They offer to hand the city over to Theodoros. The squadron commander Thomas Komnenos, who conquered Corfu eight months earlier, accepts, quickly garrisoning the city without bloodshed. He then rushes over to Epirus, stripping many of the garrisons to bolster the force at Bari. Charles is outraged at this and places Bari under a land blockade. He demands more exactions from Sicily, increasing dissent there, in his urge to get his fleet ready. His relations with Venice are also souring, as Venice is impatient to see some gains from the war in which it has lost what little it had been able to keep in the treaty of 1279. On March 30, a French soldier is killed for molesting a Sicilian woman in Palermo just after Vespers. The incident sparks a mass revolt called the Sicilian Vespers. Nearly all of Charles’ armada is burned at Messina three days later. The king of Aragon Peter I, who has claims on the island through his Hohenstaufen wife, is invited to take control in May. Charles flies into a rage, going to Bari to order an immediate assault. It almost succeeds, but is thrown back with massive casualties. Charles offers peace in exchange for getting back Bari and Corfu. Theodoros demands Bari and Corfu in return for peace, although he offers a payment of 90,000 hyperpyra. With Aragonese squadrons raiding Italy, Charles is forced to accept. For the first time in two hundred years, Byzantium has a foothold in Italy. But Theodoros does not get to enjoy his triumph for long. On November 19, 1282, he dies at the age of sixty one. He is buried with full honors and eventually revered as a saint. He is succeeded by his son John IV Laskaris, who is thirty three years old.