A Greater Alodia

Nobatia, Makuria and Alodia were the three medieval Christian kingdoms of Nubia. However Makuria which was in the middle annexed Nobatia to its north during the 7th century. Christianity in Nobatia was Miaphysite and firmly subordinate to the Coptic Church. Makuria was initially Chalcedonic but in the 8th century it officially became Coptic. In the 10th Century Alodia is strong and prosperous. The capital of Alodia is Soba, which is located near the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile. It has grown into a major urban center.

In 968 Queen Gudit (aka Yodit) of the pagan Kingdom of Damot attacks and destroys the remnants of the Axumite Empire. Her forces destroy many churches and monasteries. There are Jewish (Beta Israel) communities scattered around Lake Tana and the Simien Mountains. These have suffered persecution at the hands of the Christians. As a result they support Gudit who gives them free rein. As a result some of the Axumites wrongly conclude that Gudit must be Jewish.

POD: In 1009 an Alodian prince named Malachi marries a member of the Axumite royal family named Masoba. In 1016 he succeeds his uncle and ascends to the throne of Alodia. Strongly influenced by Masoba he sends an expeditionary force of cavalry into the Axumite remnant domains the following year. After Queen Gudit died her successor became increasingly complacent about the occupation and has weakened his forces there. As a result these are quickly defeated by the Alodians. Malachi gains considerable prestige and honor with his victory.

It is King Malachi’s intent to present himself to the Axumites as restoring their empire. He soon begins building new churches. He strengthens the weak cultural and commercial ties with Alodia, while suppressing the Jewish enclaves and brigands. In 1018 he installs his 6 year old son David as the new Axumite king, with himself acting as regent. Masoba infuses her son with a strong love for the Axumite people and their traditions. Malachi makes sure that his son understands that he is to be a loyal vassal of Alodia. The rulers of the Axumite Empire had been known as “King of kings” but under Malachi’s restoration they will merely be known as kings. Despite Alodia being matrilineal Malachi declares that the “restored” Axumite monarchy will still be patrilineal.

When the regency is over one of King David’s first official is to announce that the Axumite Empire (which he will soon start calling a "kingdom" instead of an "empire") will pay annual tribute to Alodia though in this he is merely following his father’s instructions. However he soon deviates from his father’s policies by curtailing the persecution of the Jews in exchange for their subservience. In 1033 King David decides to move the Axumite capital back to the city of Aksum which had been relegated to secondary importance for some time.

The outer areas of his domain are loosely defined and weakly controlled. During the 1030’s Damot slowly begins to encroach on the southern Axumite territory. In the spring of 1036 King Malachi arrives at Axum with a strong force of Alodian cavalry. He meets with his son and tells him that he has concluded that Damot remains a threat to the Axumites that must be neutralized. David concurs. He assembles bulk of the Axumite army which joins the Alodian cavalry. Father and son lead this joint expedition which invades Damot. As they approach its capital of Maldarede they fight the enemy’s army in a grueling battle. In the end they prevail but victory comes at a heavy cost. Furthermore a sizable fraction of the Damoti army has managed to retreat. King David was wounded in the battle. He recovers but for the rest of life will walk with a limp. He has impressed his soldiers with his leadership and bravery.

The Axumites gleefully sack Maldarede and burn its temples which they regard as just revenge. David wants to return to Aksum afterwards. His father tells him that will not solve the problem. It is necessary to annex Damot. To achieve that end he must leave two thirds of his army in Damot in order to complete its subjugation. The rest of the Axumite army along with the Alodian cavalry, returns to Aksum. News of their great victory is cause for celebration. King David has now become very popular with his subjects. When the celebration is over, King Malachi heads back to Soba with his cavalry. When he gets there, there is another celebration. During it he announces that the Axumite tribute will be doubled.
 
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Author's Comments: I am thinking of carrying this project forward 3-4 centuries. Our knowledge of the history of this corner of the world is quite thin, There are many theories about Queen Gudit/Yodit. One is that she was the ruler of a powerful Jewish kingdom in the north. Another is that she was a scheming prostitute who manipulated men very effectively. Yet another is that she was a member of the Axumite royal family. This comes in two versions. In one of these she is a Machiavellian schemer that brought everything down. In the other she started the Zagwe Dynasty and was actually fairly beneficent. What I went with the theory that she was the ruler of a pagan polity to the south which may or may not have called itself Damot. And of course there are those who think she didn't exist at all (though unlike some other disputed legendary figures there is a fair bit of evidence)
 
...one of King David’s first official is to announce that the Axumite Empire will pay annual tribute to Alodia...
Shouldn't that be "Kingdom"?

Also, is David the only son of Malachi? If so, he would be the heir to Alodia. If not, who is?

King Malachi ... announces that the Axumite tribute will be doubled.
This will provoke Axumite discontent against Alodia. But David is not likely to lead rebellion against his own father, nor against the crown he is heir to (if he is).
 
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Shouldn't that be "Kingdom"?

Also, is David the only son of Malachi? If so, he would be the heir to Alodia. If not, who is?
Alodia has been and remains matrilineal so King Malachi's heir will be a nephew not a son.

As for "empire" vs "kingdom" the Alodians on the one hand want to appeal to Axumite nostalgia for its glory days. However they do not want King David or the Axumite nobles thinking he is somehow greater than the king of Alodia so he must simply call himself a "king" and not a "king of king" which is the equivalent of "emperor". At first they will let the Axumites continue to call their polity an "empire" but will phase that out.
 
Part 2

When King Malachi died in 1046, his nephew becomes King Zacharias II of Alodia. By this time King David has his hands full trying to integrate Damot into the Axumite Kingdom. The portion of the Damoti army that had survived the Battle of Maldarede harassed the Axumite army though eventually they were whittled down. The Sidama people who had been dominant in Damot resisted the Axumites every way they could. Attempts to convert them to Christianity were proving useless.

The strategy that David developed started with focusing on the Sidama. The trouble caused by the other peoples inside Damot were mostly haphazard and presented much less of the threat especially if they lived near the southern boundaries of Damot. David concluded that the root problem was there were too many Sidama roaming free inside Damot. So he executed any of them committing even a minor offense and he sold large numbers of them into slavery. Finally he exiled more than half of them to distant areas of his kingdom. Some Sidama soon began to migrate to the south and southwest outside the old boundaries of their kingdom.

King Zacharias was not as impressed by the Axumites and their glorious traditions than his uncle had been. He was more interested in his country’s relationship with its neighbor to the north, Makuria. He knew that many Alodians were proud of Malachi’s accomplishments so he realized that he would become very unpopular if they were undone during his reign. He was therefore pleased when his cousin reported things were getting better in Damot. However he firmly felt that there was no justification for any further Axumite expansion and categorically forbade David from attempting it. Zacharias never completely trusted his cousin and their relationship was usually icy. During Zacharias’ reign Alodian prosperity continued and literacy remained high.

King Zacharias died in 1063. The next king of Alodia was named Jethro. By this time the absorption of Damot into Axum had finally been achieved. Meanwhile the Axumites were starting to make steady progress converting Bete Amhara (Wollo) to Christianity. While the Axumite Coptic Church was slowly becoming more like the Alodian one there were still considerable differences.

King Jethro was more ambitious than his predecessor. King David had become fascinated with the idea of retaking the old Axumite seaport of Adulis on the Zula Gulf and using it again for profitable sea trade. He discussed this idea at length with King Jethro whom he persuaded to grant him permission in 1065. A year later the Axumite army succeeded in taking Adulis which had a Muslim ruler, though roughly half of its population was Christian. However the seaport was only a shadow of its former self. It had been centuries since the Axumites had any working knowledge of seamanship. The docks and warehouses needed work—a lot of work.

When King David died in 1077 the amount of sea trade that Axum was conducting remained disappointingly small. It was improving but very slowly. There was a great deal of competition and the biggest competitor was right next door in the Dahlak Islands. These were currently ruled by the Yemeni Najahids who were ironically descended from Abyssinian slaves exported to Yemen. In addition to outcompeting the Axumite traders, they were not above resorting to some piracy when the opportunity presented itself.

The Najahids were bitter enemies of the Sulyahids. In 1066 the leader of the Sulayhids, Ali Al-Sulayh decided to make his pilgrimage to Mecca. On the way his large caravan, which included his wife, Asma and his brother, Abdullah Al-Sulayh, was ambushed by the leader of the Najahids, Said Al-Ahwal. Al-Sulayh and his brother were captured and soon decapitated along another 170 males of the Sulayhid clan. Asma was captured as well and taken back to the Najahid stronghold at Zabid where she was imprisoned.

Ali’s son, Ahmed Al-Mukarram has been left behind to rule Yemen in his father’s absence. In 1082 he assembled a large Sulayhid force and marched on Zabid. There he destroyed most of Al-Ahwal’s slave army. He then quickly captured the city and freed his mother. However Said Al-Ahwal managed to flee and escaped to Dahlak. King Menelik had succeeded King David. When he learned of this he quickly contacted Al-Mukarram and proposed an alliance. With Sulayhid assistance the Axumites invaded the main island, Dahlak Deset. They were able to pull off a surprise landing at night. After a brief fight they succeeded in taking the capital and with it Al-Ahwal, whom they shipped to Sana’a, the Sulyahid capital. There he was soon decapitated by Al-Mukkaram.

King Menelik easily secured control of the rest of the Dahlak Archipelago. In addition to that he had secured the friendship of Al-Mukarram and his powerful wife, Arwa Al-Sulyahi. Going forward the Sulyahids made sure that Axumite traders were welcome in Yemen and Aden which they also controlled. Furthermore the Sulyahids were friends with the current Fatimid Caliph, Al-Mustansir Billah. Unfortunately Egypt was dominated by Turkish mercenaries at this time and the caliph had negligible political power. However the Sulyahids also had contacts in India which they shared with King Menelik. With this assistance the Axumite sea trade grew immensely which benefited Alodia as well.

Within the Axumite Kingdom the treatment of Moslems varied considerably at this time. In many places including the capital city of Aksum mosques were prohibited. As part of his agreement with Al-Mukarram, King Menelik had pledged not to destroy any of the mosques in the Dahlak Archipelago or otherwise interfere with the practice of Islam there. He also agreed to build a new mosque in Adulis to replace the one that his father had destroyed. Because the Sulyahids were Ismaili Shiites the mosque he erected was Ismaili.
 
Authors Comments: In OTL Ethiopia didn't conquer the Kingdom of Damot until the early 14th century when Damot was larger and more powerful. They had similar problems absorbing it and adopted somewhat similar solutions. The Sidama remained very resistant to Christianity. As late as 1960 a majority of them were still pagan. Since then many of them have finally come around to Christianity but it is mostly Protestant faiths not the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

In OTL Said Al-Ahwal was able to return to Zabid in 1087 only to be killed within a year. So the butterflies I have unleashed in Yemen remain relatively small.

Queen Arwa's real name was Sayyidah bind Ahmed. She was a fascinating woman. There will be more about her in part 3.
 
Part 3

When King Jethro of Alodia died in 1085 he was succeeded by his nephew Dioskoros. In the next few years he began to hear reports about a people called the Daju who were taking over in the lands to the west of Alodia. He wondered if they posed a threat to his realm. In 1086 Al-Mukarram, who is suffering from paralysis, turned over all governance of his realm to Queen Arwa though he continued to live until 1091.

Logginos was a wealthy Alodian merchant who had moved to Adulis from Soba in 1078 to become the owner of a few vessels. He is a bit of a charmer and is fluent in Nubian, Greek, Arabic, Coptic and Ge’ez, the main Axumite language. He ingratiates himself with King Menelik. He moves to Dahlak Island soon after it falls. He makes frequent visits to Sana’s where he succeeds in charming Al-Mukarram and his wife. While the Sulayhids have become favorable to all of the Axumites Logginos earns himself even more favor. In 1086 Logginos visited Socotra. This island had been conquered by Axum in the 9th century but later taken over by Arabs from Oman. It was ruled by Muslims of Omani descent, who had become independent of Oman though most of its people were Christian. Logginos worked his charm on the emir. He convinced the emir that the Axumites had no intention of reconquering Socosta but were interested in trading with it.

Logginos visited Mogadishu in 1088. He managed to get an audience with the sultan but for once his charm failed him and it did not go well. This sultan did not like Christian traders. A few months earlier he was visited by an Axumite trader whom he felt insulted him. He had the trader flogged then told him to leave the sultanate immediately never to return on pain of death. In 1090 Logginos visited the island of Kilwa, which was the center of the Kilwa Sultanate that loosely controlled the Swahili Coast. He managed to speak with the sultan. This was conducted in Arabic. Afterwards he would make it a point to learn Swahili as well. In 1093 he visited the kingdom of Gujarat on the west coast of India. Though it was ruled by Hindus Gujarat was a religiously diverse nation that included some Ismailis. Queen Arwa had provided Logginos with a list of useful contacts in Gujarat.

With the backing of King Menelik Logginos established a modest sized town on Lamu Island in 1097. This proved a useful base for the Axumites to conduct trade with the Swahili Coast. King Menelik died in 1102 and was succeeded by King Kaleb II. The following year Logginos visited Cairo. He briefly paid his respects to Fatimid Caliph, al-Musta’li, bringing with him a letter from Queen Arwa testifying that he was someone she held in high regard. However the person he really wanted to see was the vizier, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, who held all the real political power in Egypt. In addition to the letter from Queen Arwa Logginos possessed a letter from King Kaleb authorizing him to conduct negotiations relating to trade on his behalf. The two of them hammered out a trade agreement. Some of it was codified in a letter addressed to King Kaleb. Logginos by nature was very vigilant. While he was in Egypt he observed that many of the soldiers in the Egyptian army happened to be Nubian. He also noted that despite the best efforts of the vizier there was a lot of chaos in Egypt.

King Kaleb II believed that his predecessor focused too much on the north of his kingdom. In 1104 he launched a campaign to subjugate the pagan Gafat people who lived southeast of Damot. They were smaller and less powerful than Damot but still managed to put up more resistance than Kaleb had expected. Furthermore once he defeated them it proved difficult to incorporate them. After more than two frustrating years he was forced to resort to a combination of enslavement and internal exile like King David had done with the Sidama. King Dioscoros of Alodia dies in 1007 and is succeeded by King Petros II. The following year King Petros instructed King Kaleb to refrain from further expansion unless he gets approval first.

Aksum’s good relationship with Queen Arwa has resulted in increased prosperity. There is considerable fondness for Arwa in much of the Axumite kingdom. As a result there is some propagation of Ismaili Islam in parts of the kingdom. Some Coptic clergy are increasingly unhappy about this.
 
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Part 4

In the September of 1113 some rich Alodian merchants persuaded King Petros II to embark on a military campaign out of Atbara against the relatively weal Beja kingdoms to the northeast. In less than three months they reached the Red Sea near the port of Suakin, which has been steadily growing in importance. Suakin is located on a circular island at the end of a long inlet. The following April a flotilla of Axumite ships arrive from Dahlak Island. With their help the Alodians capture Suakin. This allows Alodian merchants to trade without going through Adulis. The Fatimid Caliphs previously had an interest in Suakin which had initially made Petros reluctant to take this step but he became convinced that Egypt was too preoccupied with other more pressing problems to interfere. As a precautionary measure in case the Fatimids do try to retaliate, King Petros orders King Kaleb to increase his navy. Over the next three years Petros constructs a decent road between Atbara and Suakin to facilitate commerce. Indeed the trade conducted using Suakin soon proves lucrative.

Having learned that the Crusaders had taken Aqaba, Logginos paid it a visit in October of 1118 despite his age. Accompanying him was King Kaleb’s younger son, Prince Sergios. The young prince was very religious and was excited to be able to see the Holy Land. So too were the Axumite clergy he brought with him which included a bishop.

In preparation for this trip Logginos learned some Latin. He put it to good use establishing a working relationship with the local officials at Aqaba. From there he proceeded to Jerusalem stopping at Bethlehem along the way. This time Logginos brought a letter written in Latin from King Kaleb authorizing Logginos to negotiate on his behalf and not just on trade related issues. The letter is addressed to King Baldwin. This created some confusion as King Baldwin of Boulogne had died in April. Baldwin of Bourg had been elected as regent acting on the behalf of the underage Prince Bohemond of Antioch. Furthermore he was told that Baldwin was in the field with the army.

Logginos rejected the option of trying to negotiate with an underling. King Kaleb wanted to send a large force of Axumite soldiers to reinforce the Crusaders. Logginos did not like that idea as it would likely mean that Axumite troops would end up fighting those of the Fatimid Caliphate. This would draw the ire of Queen Arwa as well as the Caliph. Logginos worried that they might retaliate by taking the Dahlak Archipelago which would be devastating to his business. Logginos did manage to do some negotiating about trade on a purely personal level with the some officials in Jerusalem. In addition to Latin he learned a smattering of French which proved helpful.

Meanwhile the bishop he brought with him was doing some negotiating as well with both the Catholic clergy and secular officials. For the most part these concerned arrangements for Alodian and Axumite pilgrims to visit the Holy Land. There was also some discussion about that perennial medieval fixation, relics. Catholicism was something the Axumites had not directly encountered in centuries but because the Axumite bishop knew only most rudimentary Latin the otherwise inevitable theological squabbles were largely avoided. Logginos took the prince and clergy on a leisurely tour of the Holy Lands. He was in no hurry to get home.

When Logginos finally returned to Adulis he proceeded to Aksum, where he reported what had happened to King Kaleb, who was disappointed by the inconclusive results. Previously Kaleb had a high opinion of Logginos but felt that the merchant had failed him this time. Perhaps his age had robbed Logginos of his skills. However there was another complication in this matter. A week ago King Kaleb received a letter from King Petros which forbade from sending any Axumite soldiers to assist the Crusaders without getting his permission. Before leaving for Aqaba Logginos had sent a letter to Petros which both informed him of what Kaleb was planning and summarized what he regarded as its possible negative consequences. Logginos was not the only one at the court in Aksum who knew of Kaleb’s intentions. He had gleefully shared it with his inner circle and from there it had spread. So it was not obvious to Kaleb that it was Logginos was responsible for Petros’ intervention.
 
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Part 5

In the following months a vigorous political debate erupted in both Aksum and Soba. On one side there were those who wanted to assist the Crusaders. Some of the strongest voices in this group began to call themselves Crusaders. Their opponents did not want to get involved. Because one of the arguments brought up by this group was that fighting the Fatimids would offend Queen Arwa, the Crusaders disparagingly labeled all of them as, “Arwa Lovers”. Confrontations between the two groups often resulted in brawls. King Kaleb II of Axum was a Crusader from the start but King Petros II of Alodia is undecided. Logginos returns to Soba and spends the last two years trying to dissuade Petros from assisting the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

When King Kaleb dies in 1120 he is succeeded by King Bazen II, who is thoroughly enthralled by Queen Arwa al-Sulyahi, whom he had visited twice. During his reign Ismailis are shown considerable favor throughout his realm. In the August of 1123 Sultan Geedi of Showa converted to Ismaili Islam from Sunni. Two months later he is deposed by a Sunni. In the February of 1124 Geedi is restored to his throne with the assistance of King Bazen. Even though Geedi then proceeds to grant Christians more leeway than they had previously the Crusader Axumites are incensed by this development. They start rumors that King Bazen is secretly a Muslim. In November he is assassinated. His younger brother Sergios assumes the throne.

Ironically Bazen had worked out a compromise solution with King Petros though it was not yet announced publicly. In October Petros sent an envoy to Aqaba with a letter for King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. Petros had instructed this envoy to be very aggressive in delivering the letter to Baldwin. The envoy was able to briefly meet with Baldwin outside of Aleppo which he was besieging. In the letter Petros declared that he was willing to send a force to assist Baldwin but only on the firm understanding that they must never be used against units of the Fatimid Caliphate.

King Baldwin asked the envoy how many troops he could expect. The envoy did not know and when pressed would only say that it would be substantial. Baldwin had just been released from his second period of captivity a few months ago. At this point he felt that he could use all the help he could get. He did not see the stipulation about the Fatimids as being a problem. The last Egyptian attack out of their fortress at Ascalon was well over two years ago. So he accepted King Petros’ offer and composed a brief letter to King Petros.

The envoy then returned to Soba bringing this letter plus a few lesser documents provided by officials of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. King Petros decided to follow what had been Bazen’s recommendation as to size and sent 800 Axumite soldiers and 200 Alodian horsemen along with some supplies. Their commanders had been taught some Latin. These arrived at Aqaba the following March. They were first used in June at the Battle of Azaz where they proved useful. King Baldwin’s evaluation afterwards was that they were well disciplined and brave but they were unfamiliar with the enemy they faced and the tactics of the crusaders. Training soon corrected these problems.

The following January they are deeply involved in the Battle of Marj Al-Saffar during which they suffer heavy losses. This causes King Sergios to send an additional 500 soldiers in May with the approval of King Petros. In the March of 1126 they participate in the successful siege of the fortress of Rafaniya. The Crusader faction in Alodia and Axum was mollified at first but eventually some of them begin to grumble about the small size of the commitment. However the news they were receiving did not make it seem like there was any imminent threat of Muslims retaking Palestine. Meanwhile there is increased trade with the Kingdom of Jerusalem. There is also a growing stream of Alodian and Axumite pilgrims to the Holy Lands.

Author's Comment: The involvement of the Alodians/Axumites had only a small impact on the outcome of the Battle of Azaz and the Battle of Marj Al-Saffar.
 
Why aren't the Crusader faction going themselves or supporting the troops sent?
Good question. Unfortunately the answer is complicated. To start the Crusader faction is a fraction of the Christians of Alodia and Axum. (both polities have large pagan, Muslim and Jewish minorities) They are however a very vocal minority Within it are those who are very much for war as long as someone else is doing the fighting Furthermore most of them still believe that it is a decision left up to the monarch. But surely there is a significant that wants to go fight on their own initiative How do they get to Aqaba? They have to depart from either Adulis or Suakin which are well controlled by the army which is not going to admit a large armed group Furthermore the shipping is owned by a fairly small number of merchants. These merchants are overwhelmingly Arwa Lovers and they are not going to rock the boat (inadvertent pun) Logginos has the most ships and he would not transport armed civilians to Aqaba.

And if somehow a bunch made it to Aqaba would they be welcome? If it happened before Petros and Baldwin reach an agreement I think they would be treated with immense suspicion One thing that factors into this is language. In Alodia the common language is Nubian with the upper class speaking some Greek as well. In the northern part of Axum the language is Ge'ez (further south it is Amharic or Argobba) If they show up and at best there is a leader who haltingly speaks Greek with a heavy accent that only makes things worse

OK but what about unarmed volunteers? I can see that happening but until Baldwin and Petros have worked things out they are going to have problems After that things will be better but they are unarmed with little or no training and a language problem. Most of them of them will end up becoming auxiliaries. By 1127 there could be around 3,000 of them in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
 
Part 6 The Damascene Event

King Petros’ health deteriorated in late 1127. In December he receives a letter from King Baldwin II of Jerusalem requesting as many men and soldiers that Petros can spare but not specifying why other than to state that they would be used against the Fatimids. Petros does not have any information indicating why. He discusses the matter at great length with his advisers. He eventually decides to send only 200 Alodian cavalry and 600 Axumite infantry. King Sergios of Axum has forged a special unit composed of Axumite soldiers who were very eager to serve in the Holy Lands. At that time it had over 1,700 soldiers. He used them to comply with King Petros’ instructions.

King Petros dies the following March. The new king of Alodia is Paul, who was fascinated with the ancient kingdom of Kush. Before becoming king he was a darling of the Crusader faction in Soba because he had on several occasions expressed sympathy for their cause. Three days after his coronation he initiated a large shipbuilding program, mostly merchant vessels but also a few warships. The following month he sent a letter to King Sergios instructing him to do likewise. Meanwhile he began creating a network of spies. Some of these operated in Axum, Showa, Yemen, Makuria and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem but the largest number were in Egypt.

In June Pagan the Butler pays King Paul an unexpected visit. When they meet in private, they do not need an interpreter because Paul has mastered Latin. Pagan bluntly tells King Paul that King Baldwin was disappointed by the small size of the forces that his predecessor had sent. Surely a powerful Christian nation like Alodia could afford to do more. Paul is very curious about what King Baldwin wants to accomplish. At first Pagan doesn’t want to answer that but eventually he admits that Baldwin’s objective is Damascus. King Paul then promises to send 1,500 Alodian horsemen starting in September. He also says that there will be additional Axumite infantry but is vague as to how much and when. Pagan is very grateful and returns to Jerusalem.

A month later King Paul travels to Aksum to discuss the matter with King Sergios. They eventually decided to send 5,000 Axumite soldiers starting in November. An Alodian general named Ouggamaet will command both the Alodian and Axumite forces. King Baldwin was very happy when these units arrived. He combined them with the Alodian and Axumite units that were already there. This allowed the newcomers to absorb much of the knowledge and experience that the old units had acquired.

Waiting for reinforcements to arrive from Europe delayed Baldwin’s Damascene offensive. Eager to do battle Ouggamaet took advantage of the delay to have the Alodian cavalry positioned as the vanguard of the attack with most of the Axumite infantry not far behind. He also made sure that they had adequate supplies on hand. On 4 September the emir of Damascus, Taj al-Muluk Buri massacred his vizier and the Assassins who supported him because he learned that they had conspired to turnover Damascus to Baldwin. Because of this the Assassin commander of the Damascene fortress at Banyas agreed to surrender in exchange for refuge in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Baldwin accepted the offer and ordered Ouggamaet to proceed to Banyas as quickly as possible.

The Alodian cavalry proved themselves to be speedier than European knights. Once they secured possession of the fort they rested their mounts and waited for the knights to catch up. After that they sprinted forward again and advanced to within 6 miles of Damascus. They then waited for the knights to join them. The Axumite infantry was also moving relatively fast.

On October 26 some of the Alodian cavalry appeared to dangerously spread out while foraging. Learning of this Buri boldly committed his elite cavalry under the command of Shams al-Khawass to attack the foragers. However Ouggamaet had set a trap with the foragers alert to the danger and the rest of his cavalry positioned to envelop the attackers. Buri’s cavalry was mauled and nearly encircled. Shams al-Khawass was badly wounded. He made a desperate retreat back to Damascus but the Alodians doggedly pursued. Meanwhile Ouggamaet sent word to his success to William of Bures who commanded 500 knights. He also ordered his Axumite infantry to advance quickly.

When the cavalry reached Damascus a gate was opened to let them in. Unfortunately Alodian cavalry were still their midst and were admitted as well. Adding to the confusion Shams al-Khawass passed out and fell from his horse at this point. A bitter struggle for control of the gate ensued. The Turcomans were on the verge of regaining control of the gate when William of Bures arrived in the nick of time. This soon let Axumite infantry into the city. The ferocity of their attack terrified most of the Muslim defenders. Buri’s courage failed. He soon decided that the battle was lost and made his escape. This caused the teetering morale of the Muslim defenders to collapse. When additional knights arrived the battle was nearly over.

Damascus had fallen!

Needless to say King Baldwin was ecstatic. The dagger threatening the Crusader line of communication had been removed. He had already been impressed by the tenacity and bravery of the Alodians but Ouggamaet had demonstrated unexpected tactical skill. He lavished praise on Ouggamaet and his men. He ordered a celebration though in fact it had already started. There was a great celebration in Jerusalem when they learned of the battle.

There was also great joy in Soba when they learned of this victory and the heroic role their warriors had played in it. King Paul ordered a festival. He did not participate in it though. Such things gave him little pleasure. He was in fact something of an ascetic but he was also driven by a sense of purpose. He spent hours in prayerful contemplation. When he was done he was convinced that the Battle of Damascus had confirmed what he had long suspected. The next day he assembled his court and told them solemnly:

“We are on a mission from God.”
 
Part 7

The churches in both Alodia and Axum are Coptic with a non-Chalcedonic Miaphysite theology. There are some significant differences between them though a century of interaction is very gradually eroding them. When contact is established with the Crusaders through Aqaba their clerics encounter Roman Catholics who with few exceptions ren’t very amicable. However they do eventually run into Armenians who are also Miaphysites. By 1130 some interfaith dialogue is staring to blossom. Some Alodian and Axumite clerics are starting to travel to Antioch and Edessa, where the Armenians are much more numerous.

A fraction of Damascus’ garrison had escaped with Taj al-Mulik Buri when Damascus fell. He also possessed troops in his other forts. In the spring of 1130 he contacted Imad al-Din Zengi who was the powerful atabeg of both Mosul and Aleppo. Buri proposed that they make a combined effort to retake Damascus. He was willing to become Zengi’s loyal vassal. Zengi’s long term strategy was to first unite his fellow Turks using both carrot and stick before taking the Crusaders head on. The reports he had received of King Baldwin II recently receiving strong reinforcements from both Europe and East Africa made him even more cautious. So what he did was to mislead poor Buri into thinking that he was going along the plan. By manipulating Buri and his sons he was able to seize the key fortified towns of Hama and Homs, appropriate a great deal of money and kill Buri.

When Mahmud II, the Seljuk Sultan of Baghdad died in 1131 a war of succession ensued. Zengi decided to take advantage of this situation and marched on Baghdad. He was defeated by the caliph’s troops and just barely escaped capture and with it almost certain execuion with the help of the governor of Tikrit, Najd al-Din Ayyub.

In the March of 1130 Alodian ships landed 40 soldiers and 180 slaves on Tiran Island which is located at the entrance of the Tiran Straits which connects the Gulf of Aqaba with the Red Sea. In antiquity the island often served as a toll station but at this time it is uninhabited. In the ensuing months the Alodians establish a good sized fortified supply dump making use of the ruins. During 1130 King Paul of Alodia intensifies the ship building program.

Author's Comments: In OTL Zengi succeeded in taking Hama but failed to take Homs in 1130 while he gets both. The difference is because a Buri that lost Damascus should be even easier to manipulate ITTL. The butterflies are starting to get bigger but things like the OTL unpleasantness involving Antioch and Baldwin's daughter still plays out very close to what happened OTL
 
Part 8 Operation Piye

On 7 October 1130 the Fatimid Caliph al-Amir bi-Ankham Allah is assassinated. He left behind a 6 month old son, Abu’l-Qasim al-Tayyib. There was no designated regent. Neither was there a vizier because al-Amir had switched to direct personal rule in 1125. This precipitated what was effectively a coup with Abd al-Majid becoming the regent and Hazarmard becoming vizier. This arrangement did not last very long. The army quickly rose up in revolt and invaded the palace. They executed Hazarmard and installed the Armenian al-Afdal Kutayfat as the new vizier on 21 October. They retained Abd al-Majid as regent, but he became a powerless prisoner in a palace.

King Paul’s spies in Cairo expeditiously passed these developments on to Soba where they aroused intense interest. That interest grew even more intense when Kutayfat proclaimed the end of the Fatimid dynasty and that Ismailism would no longer be the state religion. In the May of 1131 Paul visited Dongola, the capital of Makuria. He spent 4 days talking in private with King Georgios IV. Three weeks later the Makurian army started advancing down the Nile. It pillaged Aswan then after a brief pause continued further north. It then started to encounter stiffer resistance as strong Egyptian reinforcements from the north arrive.

Meanwhile King Paul had sent letters to both King Baldwin II and his general, Ouggamaet. In them he declared that Alodian and Axumite forces are no longer under Baldwin’s command but are to make an elaborate demonstration outside the Egyptian fortress at Ascalon in the hope of misleading them into thinking a siege is imminent. Baldwin finds this development perplexing as previously the Alodian monarchs prohibited using their troops against the Egyptians. Then one of his advisers reminds him that the prohibition was using it against the Fatimids and that officially Egypt was no longer Fatimid. The demonstration goes forward. It has the desired effect of causing Kutayfat to rush reinforcements to Ascalon. King Paul’s instructions are that after 4 weeks the demonstrations should cease and Ouggamary should begin moving his army to Aqaba.

Just before dawn on July 29 a large fleet of Alodian ships out of Suakin arrive at the port of Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez. They are escorted by Alodian men of war. In the last 30 years the emphasis of the Egyptian navy was on building Mediterranean warships to use fighting the Crusaders. Their presence in the Red Sea has been neglected. The decrepit ships they still have assigned there spend most of their time in port due to questionable seaworthiness and a shortage of crew. Those warships at sea tend to operate alone. So the warships of the Alodian fleet fought their way up the Gulf of Suez against uncoordinated penny packets with poor morale.

King Paul has created a special unit of 400 Alodian marines who are trained in amphibious operations. These are the first ashore. After a brief hard fight against weak ill prepared local forces they have secured the harbor. After that they begin offloading 3,500 Alodian horsemen and their mounts. This proved to be a lengthy process. It is not completely finished when another fleet of ships shows up carrying 2,000 Axumite foot soldiers from Dahlak Island two days later. These do not use the port but land instead on the shore just south of the city. Their offloading proceeds quicker than the cavalry.

As this was getting underway the first Egyptian counterattack occurs but it is quickly defeated by the Alodian cavalry. The following day ships carrying 6,000 more Axumite infantry from Adulis arrive and start offloading onto the shore. Meanwhile the ships that have finished offloading are being sent to Aqaba in order to pick up Ouggamaet’s army and bring them to Egypt.

Some supplies need to be offloaded as well. While the process is being completed Alodian cavalry have been busy reconnoitering. Doing so results in a few skirmishes with Egyptian soldiers. They are not going to wait for Ouggamaet’s army to arrive. They march on Cairo but find a hastily assembled army of 14,000 men blocking the road. The battle happens on 3 August. While he is not in command this day, Ouggamaet has sent a document to Prince Epimachos who is. It describes what tactics the Crusaders have found most effective when fighting the Egyptians. This plays a role in what occurs this fateful day but the poor morale of the Egyptians is the biggest factor.

The battle began with an exchange of arrows followed by a dispirited attack on an Axumite shield wall that was easily repelled. Meanwhile Alodian cavalry got the better of their counterparts. Some of them quickly swerved to attack the Egyptian archers from the rear. This caused panic in first the archers which spread to the rest of the Egyptian army. As they flee the Alodian cavalry pursue and cut them down.

Nearly 3,000 prisoners are taken this day. Many of these are Christian Nubians. Some of these are willing to fight for a Nubian monarch. The panicked Egyptians do not try to make a stand inside Cairo, but continue retreating. Kutayfat abandons his palace at the last minute and joins them. The capital is taken. The regent, Abd al-Majid is released from his prison.

Furthermore the baby imam, Abu’l-Qasim al-Tayyib is found alive! The plan of King Paul was to appeal to the Fatimid officials in Egypt by telling them that they were restoring Ismailism. Abd al-Majid was to be a puppet regent. Prince Epimachos will be ruling from Cairo with authority rough equivalent to a vizier. King Paul had contacted Queen Arwa of this and she enthusiastically supported it. To Paul’s pleasant surprise she committed herself to sending 1,000 Yemenis to Egypt to assist in the fight. These arrived at Ain Sokhna on 12 August. In addition to their fighting strength they add legitimacy to the political and religious narrative that Paul has concocted as Queen Arwa was well respected by the Fatimids.

Cairo had been captured but the war is not over.
 
Part 9 Battle of Arthribis

A little more than a third of Kutayfat’s army remained when the Alodian cavalry stopped their pursuit. Prince Epimachos’ supply situation was complicated and that impeded his ability to pursue. Kutayfat was able to retreat to the north. As he did he issued orders withdrawing 3 quarters of the troops he had at the Ascalon fortress immediately. He also sent orders for the army that was fighting the Makurian invasion in Upper Egypt to immediately withdraw and join him. Lastly he tried to summon as many units as he could from the corners of the Fatimid domain. He was already finding that some of the local commanders were refusing to follow his orders while others did so very reluctantly without any urgency. Complicating matters the Nizari Ismailis (Assassins) had a strong presence in Alexandria. On 4 September they rose up in revolt.

Meanwhile the Makurian army had suffered a defeat just south of Luxor and was retreating upriver with the Egyptians pursuing. When they suddenly withdrew King Georgios who was in the field with his army surmised that King Paul’s plan had worked. He was prepared for this contingency. He ordered the Makurian army to immediately turn around and harass the Egyptian withdrawal. Kutayfat was not aware how far south they had gone. Dealing with the Makurian harassment slowed the Egyptian withdrawal and steadily whittled down its strength.

West of Cairo is Gezira Island. Soon after capturing Cairo the Alodian marines in small boats easily seized the island which had only a few inhabitants. The Alodians had brought 6 disassembled ballistae and a mangonel with them along with experts in their use. They were already assembling a pair of ballistae on the east bank of the Nile. They soon began assembling the remainder on the island with 2 positioned on its west side and the others on the east side. The mangonel was deployed on an elevated position near the east side. 200 Axumite archers were brought to the island which was progressively fortified. Gezira was able to block and shipping carrying soldiers on the Nile. This disrupted Kutayfat’s ability to receive reinforcement from Upper Egypt using the river.

Kutayfat was disappointed when he learned how much longer it would take the reinforcements from Upper Egypt to reach him. He worried that Prince Epimachos would eventually receive reinforcements from Alodia and Axum. He didn’t consider that they might be coming by sea from Palestine which was much closer. The Fatimids had very stale intelligence about the size of the Alodian/Axumite forces assisting the Kingdom of Jerusalem. They were unaware of the large reinforcements King Paul had dispatched there. He was also unaware the nearly 2,000 Egyptians, mostly Nubian bowmen have joined Epimachos’ army.

So with a reinforced army of 27,000 men Kutayfat marches back towards Cairo. Meanwhile Epimachos has turned over command of his combined army to General Ouggamaet who moves north with only the Yemenis left behind to guard Cairo. On 13 September ships from Suakin arrive at Ain Sokhna with 2,500 more Alodian cavalry but Epimachos decides to keep them at Cairo when they are done offloading.

The afternoon of 16 September the vanguard of Egyptian cavalry begins to skirmish with Alodian cavalry. The next morning the Egyptian horsemen unsuccessfully attack nearly 5,000 Axumite soldiers northeast of the large town of Arthribis. Hours later the main body of Kutayfat’s army moves forward to attack. Before the Egyptian archers get within range the Axumites quickly retreat in the direction of the town. The Egyptians give chase with most of their cavalry moving to the fore.

Before the Egyptians arrived Ouggamaet had a trench dug around Arthribis as well as erecting palisades and placing caltrops in certain sectors. He had most of his remaining infantry hiding in the town or trench. As the enemy cavalry approached they suddenly unleashed a volley of arrows. The Axumites who had been retreating entered the defenses and fended off the cavalry with spears. Before long the Alodian cavalry entered the fray and enveloped the Egyptian archers.

Once again the Egyptian morale collapsed and panic ensued. However once they see that the enemy bowmen are in headlong flight the Alodian cavalry turned their attention to the Egyptian heavy infantry and cavalry engaging the Axumites. Most of the Egyptian heavy infantry and nearly half the cavalry were crushed against the anvil of Arthribis’ defenses. While this is going on nearly all of the Egyptian archers escape in disorder with many discarding their bows. However the Alodians do succeed in capturing most of the Egyptian baggage train.

The following day Ouggamaet wanted to pursue but was hampered by Epimachos’ orders not to move too far away from Cairo. When he gave those orders Epimachos had been worried that Cairo, which was weakly defended, could be vulnerable to Egyptian cavalry coming from up from the south. In the early morning as Kutayfat was rallying what was left of his shattered army the Alodian cavalry struck again which soon causes another panicked retreat. This time the Alodians get to run down some of the archers but in a few hours they get orders from Ouggamaet to turn around.

Author's Comments: This installment advances the TL by less than 2 months. In this period Fustat not Cairo was the capital but they are very close to each other so "Cairo" here is sort of a Greater Cairo.
 
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