A Greater Alodia

Part 22 1135

At the end of 1134 Prince Epimachos was becoming very frustrated with the Venetians who were still holding on to the port of Damietta in order to pressure him into agreeing to a trade treaty that would give them exclusive right including exemption from all taxes. The fact that the volume of trade that Venetian ships was bringing to Egypt was impressive and growing made him put off a confrontation. However trade with both Genoa and Pisa has been growing as well. Furthermore Egyptian trade on the Mediterranean using their own ships, some of which are newly constructed, was also expanding.

So on 11 January, Epimachos issued an ultimatum to the Venetian delegation in Cairo that they had 15 days to turn over control of Damietta and that he was not going to offer any concessions in return. The Venetian delegates have succeeded in planting spies in Epimachos’ court so they had some forewarning that this was coming. Epimachos is quite serious about taking control of the port by force if necessary. In December there had been a steady buildup of Coptic infantry units near the port. Now they are reinforced by 800 Axumite foot soldiers. On 25 January as the deadline is about to expire, the Venetians suddenly announce that they are going to withdraw their mercenaries but they will need four days to accomplish this. Epimachos doesn’t want a fight and grants them the extra days.

In late January, the geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi visits the court of King Paul in Soba after spending a month with Prince Epimachos in Cairo. The king finds him utterly fascinating. One result of this is that Paul assigns Biktor of Faras the mission of exploring the White Nile River as far as possible. Biktor will make it to Lake No where he finds the impenetrable Sudd Swamp. He then returns to Soba where he tells Paul what he found. Paul decides to start a settlement on Lake No to trade with the local inhabitants there who are mostly Dinka. He recalls that Emperor Nero had sent an expedition to explore the White Nile and found the same dense swamp. For that reason Paul is going to call the settlement Neropolis.

In February Sultan Geedi of Showa finally feels that the crises in his realm have been resolved. He believes it is safe for him to travel to Sana’a to see both elderly Queen Arwa and the imam child, Abu’l-Qasim al-Tayyib. Because he is a devout Ismaili this means a great deal to him. He leaves him older brother, Mohamed in charge while he is gone despite Mohamed being a Sunni. On the way Geedi stops at Aksum to confer with King Sergios.

This meeting is uneasy. Geedi thanks Sergios for his assistance even though he knows that King Paul is the one responsible. Sergios is formally polite and respectful but he is sullen because he still hasn’t succeeded in crushing Jewish resistance in the Simien Mountains. His antipathy towards Moslems is not well hidden even when Geedi reiterates that he will continue to permit Christians practice their faith. They agree that trade between their realms is mutually beneficial and that the Adal Kingdom is a mutual opponent that bears watching.

On 9 March Imad al-Din Zengi begins a siege of Damascus but when King Fulk shows up with his army at the end of the month he promptly retreats back to his fortress at Homs. Fulk does not try to pursue. Instead he decides that it is time to besiege the fortress at Baalbeck. This siege starts on 11 April. The outer city holds out until 13 July and the citadel until 25 July. Meanwhile Zengi turned his attention to the large frontline strongholds of Principality of Antioch starting with al-Atharib which he captured in May. After that he takes Zardana, Tell-Aghdi, Ma’arrat al-Numan and Kafartab. While Zengi was busy doing this he sent Sawar to organize attacks on the Tell-Bashir, Azaz and Ayntab districts which prevents the County of Edessa from sending help to Antioch. After this successful campaign Zengi returns to Mosul.

On 14 April Alodia establishes a new settlement on Lamu Island near the location of the one that the Mogadishu Sultanate has destroyed. This includes building a new church. They work with the newly established Tamil settlements in the archipelago and acknowledge the authority of the Chola Dynasty. Meanwhile they attempt to establish a good trading relationship with the Tunni Sultanate which controls an important port, Barawa. The Alodians rightly assume that the Mogadishu Sultanate will remain hostile for a long time. In November they begin to extract salt from the plentiful deposits located near Hafun. Trading in salt will soon prove very lucrative.

Despite the ongoing charade of the Regency there is some festering Moslem discontent within Lower Egypt about what they increasingly perceive as Christian domination. As instructed by King Paul Prince Epimachos has avoided persecuting any Moslems with the conspicuous exception of the Nizari Ismailis. Moslem discontent erupted much earlier in Makuria controlled Upper Egypt as King Georgios IV has made it clear from the beginning that Christians are in power but it has leveled off and Georgios considers to be manageable. In both Upper and Lower Egypt Nubian rule has brought more order and increasing prosperity. This is serving as a counterweight to religious discontent.

By the spring of 1135 Lower Egypt has an army of over 20,000 loyal Copts. The Alodians regard its cavalry component as being mediocre but the heavy infantry has received decent training which had not been the case under the Fatimids. In addition there are still nearly 3,000 Alodian cavalry and 5,000 Axumite infantry stationed there. Epimachos has been ruling Lower Egypt without a vizier which he finds burdensome. On 9 October he finally appoints a vizier. It is Bahram al-Armani, an Armenian Christian. This soon agitates Moslem discontent still more.
 
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Part 23 Guess Who's Coming to Antioch

In the late summer of 1135 the Latin Patriarch of Antioch, Bernard of Valence, died. At that time he had in effect been running the Principality of Antioch which was under the regency of King Fulk of Jerusalem. The Archbishop of Mamistra, Ralph of Domfront finagled his way to become the new Patriarch of Antioch.

Meanwhile Alice of Jerusalem was once again trying to rule Antioch as regent. At first Ralph humored her but then she put forward the notion of marrying her 7 year old daughter Constance to Manuel, the son of the Byzantine Emperor, John II Komnenos. Antioch had a strong Greek element. She saw Zengi as posing a very real Moslem menace. She saw the Byzantine Empire as the only power strong enough to check it. A vassal state ruled under Byzantine suzerainty first by herself then jointly by a Byzantine prince and a Frankish princess might weld Frank and Greek together in the defense of Christendom.

As far as Ralph was concerned there was one very big problem with this idea. A strong Byzantine alliance would result in enforcement of the Treaty of Devol of 1108 which barred the patriarch of Antioch from being a non-Greek Christian. That would mean they would not recognize him as a legitimate patriarch. To avoid that fate he played upon the apprehensions of the Frankish nobles. They looked for a suitable substitute.

During 1135 King Paul of Alodia became increasingly worried about the Outremer. In his mind all four of those states had serious problems but he concluded that Antioch was in the worst state with its dysfunctional politics. As the year progressed it became evident that Zengi felt the same way. He thought he saw a way to end their political confusion. Paul’s eldest son Athanasios was 19 years old and unmarried. Paul had two of his agents stationed in Antioch. He instructed them to let it be known that Prince Athanasios was interested in marrying Princess Constance.

While Ralph along with his coconspirators were considering other more conventional possibilities the more he thought about Prince Athanasios, the more he liked. Alodia was the country that subjugated Egypt. It was a rising power that should be able to come to Antioch’s aid when needed—and that included protecting them from either the Byzantine Emperor or King Fulk, as well as Zengi. Paul’s agents assured him that not only would Athanasios keep Ralph on as the Patriarch of Antioch but he would rule jointly with him. They made it sure that he understood that because Athanasios was not the heir to the Alodian throne because Alodia was matrilineal. So there was no risk of Alodia trying to claim Antioch as a possession.

Meanwhile the same agents tried to persuade Alice by telling her that she would be the one ruling jointly with Athanasios. They made it clear to her that Ralph was not going to let Constance marry Prince Manuel under any circumstance. Meanwhile they heavily bribed Rainald I Maisor, the bailiff of Antioch appointed by Fulk plus a few key Frankish nobles to go along with the idea.

By late 1135 King Paul’s dream of an Egyptian Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy was starting to materialize. On 18 January, 1136 Egyptian transports escorted by two war galleys of Chola influenced design arrived at the port of Latakia. The transports carried Prince Athanasios of Alodia along with an entourage that included 300 Coptic foot soldiers and 40 members of the elite Alodian Palace Guard. Alice greets him at the docks.

Alongside her is Barachiel. Since his first meeting with Emperor John II Komnenos King Paul has kept him at Constantinople as his envoy. Barachiel found the complexities of the Byzantine court baffling at first but he was a quick learner. He diligently pursued a cordial and productive relationship between Alodia and the Byzantine Empire. He tried to avoid making enemies but two years ago barely survived being poisoned. While he suspected a few individuals of possibly being behind it he wasn’t sure.

King Paul had ordered Barachiel to leave Constantinople and proceed to Latakia. He arrived on 10 January. His primary mission is to serve as a key adviser to Prince Athanasios for six months then return to the Byzantine Court. Before he does that he has the task of nipping in the bud any last minute obstacles. It so happens that mercurial Alice is indeed having second thoughts. She still has considerable power inside Antioch and might be able to have the city’s gates barred to them. So Barachiel is diligently working his well honed charm on her. She was suddenly showing a maternal interest in her daughter instead fretting about her own status. She was relieved to find Athanasios somewhat handsome in an exotic way. Being Alodian royalty the prince spoke excellent Greek and had taken the trouble to start learning French.

From Latakia they proceeded to Antioch. The armed escort that Athanasios had brought with him was for more than show. Under the direction of Sawar Turcomans have been raiding deep inside the principality. As they traveled Barachiel gave the young prince copious counsel. Paul had instructed his son to treat Barachiel as his preeminent adviser. When they arrived at Antioch Ralph greeted Athanasios just outside the gate. While he too was having second thoughts he believed that he had come too far to turn back at the last minute. The basic strategy that Paul had outlined was that initially to give Alice the impression she was running the show but when he was alone with Ralph to give him the impression that he was in charge. Barachiel agreed with this strategy but filled in the details of how best to accomplish it.

Ralph did not get to perform the wedding ceremony. Before leaving Soba Athanasios had decided to formally convert from the Coptic to Armenian Orthodox Church. They were both Miaphysite churches with essentially identical theologies. There were considerable differences in its rituals. In many ways the Armenian Orthodox was closer to the Latin Rite. This did not bother Athanasios. He familiarized himself with them enough so he would not to make a fool of himself.

The primary reason for his conversion was that he had been informed that Antioch had a large Armenian population. He felt sharing the same faith would help win their support. While passing through Egypt he learned that his uncle Prince Epimachos had selected a Christian Armenian to serve as his vizier. He would in the coming days find a way to mention this fact to any Armenian he encountered.

Athanasios only got to meet Constance a day before the wedding. He tried hard not to scare her. On 25 January an Armenian Orthodox bishop performed the wedding ceremony which was a bit awkward but not intolerable. There was much celebrating in Antioch afterwards though some Frankish nobles conspicuously failed to participate.
 
There was much celebrating in Antioch afterwards though some Frankish nobles conspicuously failed to participate.
This 'd seems a a political move/declaration that'd have ominous consequences for the kingdom stability and the future of just the wedded royal couple… Given that, would appear as that the absents/discontent nobles might be preparing an uprising.
 
This 'd seems a a political move/declaration that'd have ominous consequences for the kingdom stability and the future of just the wedded royal couple… Given that, would appear as that the absents/discontent nobles might be preparing an uprising.
The danger of Turcoman raids was one of the reason Athanasios was provided medium strong protection. It was not the only one. Antioch is a mess. However it is worth pointing out that while the nobility is overwhelming Frankish, they constitute only a small fraction of the population, badly outnumbered by the Armenians and some others like the Jacobites. Alice (whom I'm starting to dislike less) had her supporters. Raymond was fortunate that she went into a funk. She could've caused him a lot of trouble. And he had his own set of problems with the patriarch.

That was OTL. ITTL he would likely have still more problems. King Paul is favorable to the Byzantine Empire in general and John II in particular.
 
Part 24

Marrying off his son was only one of the steps that King Paul undertook to help the Crusaders in late 1135. He had contacted King Fulk and declared that he would be willing to send a sizable expeditionary force to assist in the capture of Homs, which he believed should be Fulk’s next objective. Fulk did not require much persuading as capturing Homs would make it much harder for Zengi to attack the County of Tripoli. Indeed Pons readily agreed to participate in the operation.

Prince Epimachos sent the expeditionary force in three pieces. The first consisted of 2,500 Axumite foot soldiers landed at Aqaba. The second was 1,200 Alodian horsemen who crossed the border at Pelusium where Fulk has reduced his border guard to a mere 200 foot soldiers. The last component was 1,500 Coptic foot soldiers brought by sea to Tripoli. Putting these 3 pieces together with Fulk’s army and Pons’ small force took longer than planned. The siege didn’t start until 23 March. At this time Imad ad-Din Zengi was very busy in Iraq where he was supporting the caliph, al-Rashid in a campaign which did not end well.

Homs surrendered to King Fulk on3 July. The losses the Crusaders suffered during the siege was not prohibitive. So after two days of celebration Fulk, Pons and General Ngonnen, the commander of the Alodian forces had a meeting where they decided to proceed north to besiege the fortress of Hama.

In Antioch Prince Athanasios struggled to gain acceptance. The people made jokes about him. Rumors circulated that he seduced Princess Alice or vice versa. He did in fact take a lover in less than a month and two more before the end of the year. Barachiel did impress on Athanasios how important staying in Alice’s good graces was going to be initially. Among the Frankish nobles there was a pronounced lack of enthusiasm. There was a minority actively working against him. The larger group tentatively accepted him but only because they believed leadership was needed in the difficult current situation.

In April a strong force of Turcomans led by Afshin, a general of Sawar sacked Latakia. Alice was at Antioch when that occurred but she was deeply upset because had been given lordship over Latakia. Afterwards some Antiochene nobles strong encouraged Athanasios to take action but the action that a majority of them wanted was to invade the kingdom of Cilicia.

This puzzled Athanasios until Barachiel explained it. Marash was supposedly a vassal of the County of Edessa but it had become increasingly independent with some complex ties to Antioch. A few months ago King Leo I of Cilicia captured the fort of Sarventikar which belonged to the lord of Marash. In the minds of several Antiochene nobles this was regarded as a sign that Leo posed a threat to Antioch as well. Barachiel pointed out that after sacking Latakia Afshin had gone on to pillage the lands of Marash. This demonstrated that Afshin and his boss Sawar posed a greater threat than Leo.

On 2 June Egyptian ships again arrive at the port of St. Symeon carrying an additional 400 Coptic foot soldiers. These ships also brought an Alodian nobleman named Christophoros of Thyra. He had fought with distinction during the Conquest of Egypt and had become part of King Paul’s inner circle. Paul had decided that he would be a good adviser to his son esp. when Barachiel was absent. When he arrived at Antioch he saw that under Barachiel’s tutelage Paul was doing a delicate balancing act keeping both Princess Alice and the patriarch happy.

Barachiel bluntly told Christophoros that they would have to get rid of Ralph eventually but for the time being his support was needed. Alice was another matter. It was possible that she would behave herself and remain a powerful ally. It was just as possible that she would do something immensely foolish and they would need to eliminate her. Athanasios himself presented another problem. The young prince yearned to demonstrate his prowess in battle. He accepted that attacking Cilicia was not the best strategy but he demanded that some action somewhere must be taken.

Zengi had ordered Sawar to do what he could to prevent the fall of Homs. These frantic efforts had amounted to little more than pinpricks which merely delayed the inevitable. Once Homs was lost Zengi was adamant that Hama must not be lost as well.

Sawar reinforced it as best he could. This meant that the Antiochene border fortresses he had seized last year were being held by minimal garrisons. Barachiel had some information that the fortress at Ma’arrat al-Numan was very weakly held. Just before he left for Constantinople on 19 July he shared this intel with Athanasios who marches out the next day with the greater part of the Antiochene army. He brought Christophoros along with him and effectively left Alice in charge in Antioch.

A week later he was able to take the fortress, which had only partially repaired the damage it suffered the prior year, with a surprise assault which included Frankish, Armenian and Egyptian units. In retrospect it was an easy victory against a weak opponent but it served to instill confidence in the young prince and earn him some much needed prestige with his subjects.

This victory is cause for a two day celebration during which Athanasios scouts Kafartab to the southwest. This is another of the Antiochene border fortresses that Zengi captured last year. There is some reason to believe that it too is inadequately manned. Leaving a decent sized garrison at Ma’arrat al-Numan Athanasios begins to besiege Kafartab on 1 August. Late the following day a band of Alodian horsemen that are performing reconnaissance in conjunction with Fulk’s siege of Hama make contact with the Antiochenes and then Athanasios. Because Kafartab has a weak garrison like Ma’arrat al-Numan its siege only lasts 8 days before it falls. A week later Christophoros of Thyra leaves to meet with General Ngossen outside Hama.

Hama does have a strong garrison and the besieging forces are being repeatedly harassed by Sawar’s Turcomans. Ngonnen’s quick Alodian cavalry proves very useful in screening the Crusaders from these hit and run attacks but they still cause some disruption. This delays the fall of the fortress until 2 September.

By this time the Crusaders have been experiencing some supply problems despite Prince Epimachos sending food by sea to Tripoli from Egypt. The victory celebration is limited to a single day. King Fulk has already decided to give both Homs and Hama to the County of Tripoli though there are a few details to work out. For one thing he was unsure what General Ngossen’s intentions were. He was surprised to learn that Ngossen is going to take the entire expeditionary force north to Kafartab where he will place them under the command of Prince Athanasios.

While Paul most definitely wanted the Crusaders to capture Homs, he also had a secondary motivation for this offensive. He wasn’t sure how Fulk would react to his son becoming the ruler of Antioch. He was certain that some Antiochene nobles would petition King Fulk to intervene. Aiding him in this operation would make it difficult for Fulk to take any action interfering with Antioch.

In early August the Danishmend emir, Mohammed II ibn Gazi invaded Cilicia and started destroying its harvests. On 12 August King Leo defeated them in battle though he suffered heavy losses in the process. As they retreated the Danishmend army passed through a portion of Marash’s territory which they ravage. This results in a brief skirmish between them and the Frankish forces stationed there.

The Axumites continue to have trouble dealing with the guerilla war that Jews led by Gideon are waging in the Simien Mountains. In May General Pentewundem comes up with the idea of creating a new type of light infantry specially trained and equipped for fighting in mountains. This ends up requiring a great deal of experimentation with the Simien Mountains serving as a laboratory. By the end of the summer it becomes evident that these mountain soldiers need to be able to fight effectively in small units.

King Vikrama Chola died in 1135. Lazaros had a good relationship with his successor, Kulothungo Chola II, when he was coregent. This continued when he was king. The Alodian presence in Kollam continued to expand. During 1136 the salt and pepper trade---salt from Hafun exchanged for Indian s black pepper at Kollam grew rapidly.
 
Part 25

The afternoon of 8 September Christophoros of Thyra returns to Antioch accompanied by the Alodian cavalry. He is relieved to find that Princess Alice hasn’t burnt the place to the ground. He serves as a herald for Prince Athanasios who is two days behind traveling with the bulk of the Antiochene army which is considerably bigger than when it left Antioch. There is a celebration when Athanasios returns. He has become more popular due to the success of his brief campaign.

On 26 September Barachiel returns from his trip to Constantinople. He did not get to meet Emperor John II Komnenos. That is because the emperor was in Attaleia with an army. Through his contacts at the Byzantine court he learned that John was going to invade Cilicia soon. Having advised Athanasios against attacking Cilicia earlier in the year he now tells him to prepare to do so in the spring to curry favor with the emperor who might very well be coming to Antioch when he is finished with Cilicia.

On 28 September Athanasios marches out with his army again. On 3 October he takes weakly held Zardana with an assault. Alodian cavalry prevent a last minute attempt by Sawar to reinforce the garrison. The following morning there is a brief fight with some Turcomans who have not learned that the fort has been taken. These are quickly defeated. Athanasios then returns to Antioch to spend the winter.

In March Imad al-Din Zengi, who has returned from Iraq, decides to try to retake Hama. An initial assault on 29 March, 1137 fails so Zengi with a strong force begins a siege. Pons is worried that this key fortress will fall. The Tripolitan army is too weak to confront Zengi’s army in the open so he calls on both King Fulk and Prince Athanasios for assistance.

The Antiochenes arrive first. On 13 April the Alodian cavalry begin to skirmish with the Turcomans guarding the perimeter. The following morning Frankish knights from both Antioch and Tripoli reinforce the Alodians. That night Zengi gets scouting reports about the enemy infantry approaching Hama and decides to withdraw just before first light. The Alodian horsemen harass his retreat. When Fulk’s army reaches Hama, Athanasios heads back to Antioch. When he arrives there is another celebration. While it is going on he decides that it is time to imprison the bothersome Latin Patriarch, Ralph of Domfort.

Meanwhile the Byzantine offensive into Cilicia has started. King Leo I has tried to preempt the invasion by besieging Seleucia but that failed. With his modest fleet protecting his right flank from seaborne threats Emperor John methodically sweeps through Cilicia taking the cities of Mersin, Tarsus, Adana and Mamistra. Athanasios has sent Christophoros to the fortress at Kaysun where he quickly persuades the Lord of Marash to join with Antioch in an invasion of Cilicia. This offensive begins on 9 June and soon reaches the great fortress of Anzabus which it besieges.

On 7 July the vanguard Byzantine army is approaching Anzarbus. Athanasios hastens to meet John and promptly does homage to him. This is not very difficult for him to do. Indeed it is precisely what his father sent him to Antioch to do. John is pleased by this but he has a list of demands. The first is that a garrison of Byzantine troops be stationed in the citadel of Antioch. Athanasios agrees to that.

Next John brought up terms of the Treaty of Devol he wants implemented. One sticking point is the return of the port of Latakia to direct Byzantine rule. Athanasios agreed to that but respectfully pointed out that it was part of Princess’ Alice’s dowry. John is open to the idea of making Alice the governor of Latakia provided a Byzantine garrison is located there. Lastly John demands to appoint a Greek patriarch for Antioch. He is pleasantly surprised when Athanasios tells him that should not be much of a problem as he has already incarcerated Ralph of Domfort and would be happy to turn him over.

This meeting went better than John had expected which makes him a bit suspicious. He can’t help but wonder if King Paul has a grand plan. Meanwhile the siege of Anzabus continues with Byzantine trebuchets soon joining in the bombardment. The fortress is forced to surrender on 2 August. However King Leo has managed to escape from Anzabus and retreats up into the high Taurus Mountains. John has Athanasios send part of his army to pursue Leo.

Together with the rest of his army he accompanies John and the Byzantine army as it mops up several Armenian castles. After that they proceed to Antioch, where they enter the gates without trouble on 16 August. John then gets to meet Alice whom he finds both obsequious and conceited. The Franks are aghast when Byzantine troops are given possession of the citadel. Some of them hastily send word to King Fulk entreating him to come to their aid. Barachiel had warned Athanasios that there might be some rioting and suggested positioning units of Axumite heavy infantry as a precaution. These fierce warriors intimidated most of the Franks. The riots were quickly quelled in their early stage.

A week later Pons of Tripoli arrives at Antioch and reluctantly pays homage to John. Two days later Count Joscelin II of Edessa arrived at Antioch and did likewise. Then on 3 September King Fulk approached. The discontents saw this as the answer to their prayers. Falk however was accompanied by a small military detachment and the next day he too paid homage to Emperor John. The Antiochene discontents are crestfallen.

Meanwhile the Danishmendids had learned that most of the soldiers in Marash were away fighting in Cilicia. In early August they invaded Marash. What few defenders were left behind were forced to hole up in the fortress of Kaysun. This operation was not a hit and run raid. The attackers occupied Marash and on 28 August besiege Kaysun.

News of this reached John while he was at Antioch. As soon as Fulk paid his homage the Emperor began issuing orders. Together with Athanasios and Joscelin he was going to take most of their combined armies to relieve Kaysun and smite the Danishmendids. The Alodian cavalry had already been sent out to reconnoiter. He is leaving behind 3,000 Byzantine and 500 Axumite soldiers to guard Antioch. He assigns Fulk and Pons the responsibility for defending the fortresses at Hama, Homs and Baalbek while they were gone.

On 9 September the Danishmendids occupying Marash beat a hasty retreat to the west when their scouts report the size of the enemy army heading their way. The massive Ahir Mountain lies to their north preventing them from retreating in that direction. It also boxes in the Danishmendid horse archers. The speedy Alodian cavalry infiltrate their outer defenses and harass their rear as they try to retreat. This allows the Byzantine and Frankish heavy cavalry to charge some of the impeded units with devastating effect. They captured nearly half of the baggage train. Nevertheless most of these Danishmendids escape to the west. Instead of pursuing them John has his army turn to the east to reach Kaysun. The Danishmend troops conducting the siege realize they are in trouble and quickly retreat to the northeast. Alodian cavalry harass the rear of this bunch as well.

After that John lets his army rest for two days then sends them on to attack the fortress of Elbistan. There is an initial battle on 17 September where the Danishmendids ambush the Byzantine vanguard in rough terrain. John doesn’t let this setback deter him. He regroups his forces which includes having Joscelin make a diversionary attack directed at Malatya.

At the end of September John resumes his advance towards Elbistan. After a series of skirmishes he skillfully uses his numerical superiority to crush a Danishmend army at the Battle of Elbistan on 13 October. Half of the Danishmendid remnants flee to the north. The rest take refuge in the fortress. John decides against a quick assault and begins a methodical siege which takes the fortress on 29 October.

Meanwhile a portion of the Antiochene army has been besieging the Armenian fort at Vakha where Prince Leo I is holed up. The defenders put up stubborn resistance but by the night of 30 October Leo concludes that it will fall and tries to sneak out and escape under the cover of darkness. This fails and he is captured. The following day the fort surrenders.
 
Author's Comments: Some persons are still alive who are dead in OTL. The most conspicuous is Count Pons of Tripoli. Another will show up in the next part.
 
Part 26

In early November Hugh II of Jaffa returned to the Kingdom of Jerusalem after completing his three years of exile which he spent in Apulia. Roger II of Sicily had named him the Count of Gargan and hoped that he might choose to stay. Hugh proceeds to Jerusalem to meet with Queen Melisende. She tells him that she is displeased with her husband’s decision to pay homage to Emperor John though she knows he did it with great reluctance.

Many of the nobles are outraged. When they are alone Hugh suggests that working together they might be able to usurp Fulk. Melisende is tempted but she feels taking such a drastic step would be very dangerous esp. as it has now become clear that King Paul fully supports the emperor. She feels that given Fulk’s current unpopularity she can terrify and intimidate his ministers and ultimately her husband as well. Hugh is disappointed by this and tries to get her to reconsider. She says that she might reconsider in the future but stubbornly sticks to her strategy. She even goes so far as to warn Hugh of dire consequences if he does something presumptuous.

In Egypt the vizier Bahram al-Armani is actively encouraging Christian Armenians to immigrate. The fighting raging in Cilicia during 1137 has helped increase that immigration.

Meanwhile Zengi has received accurate reports that most of the Byzantine army is fighting the Danishmendids he begins a siege of Homs based on inaccurate reports that Fulk is still at Antioch. Instead Fulk has stationed himself at Homs with more than half of his army. Fulk patiently waits until Zengi has fully invested Homs on 9 November. That night Fulk sorties forth and attacks with great effectiveness.

At first Zengi thinks this is probably a desperate ploy by a badly outnumbered garrison so he orders an immediate assault on the opposite side of the fortress. When this fails badly he then begins to worry that the garrison is much bigger that he believed and decides to order a quick retreat. After its initial success Fulk’s sortie became confused in the darkness. As a result it wasn’t until twilight that he realized that Zengi had retreated. He had hurt Zengi but he hadn’t come close to obliterating him as he had hoped.

So when Fulk returned to Jerusalem in December he faced harsh criticism for letting Zengi get away as well as for paying homage to John. The fact that he had captured Homs and Hama is largely ignored. Everyone at the court is afraid of Melisende and Fulk finds his authority undermined to such an extent that it is almost impossible to do anything without her approval.

On 12January, 1138 Egyptian ships bring 500 Alodian cavalry and 800 Coptic infantry to the port of St. Symeon as ordered by King Paul of Alodia. The Alodians did not bring their mounts with them so they must purchase suitable replacements and break them in. They proceed to Antioch.

Emperor John II Komnenos had returned to Antioch with nearly half of the combined army he had left with intending to spend the winter there. The remainder guarded his gains. Likewise Count Joscelin II returned to Edessa to spend the winter. In early February the Danishmend ruler, Melik Mehmed Gazi decides to attack the relatively weak forces left behind at Elbistan where the Alodian general, Ngossen is in command. Though outnumbered Ngossen’s defenses hold and he is not forced to retreat into the fortress but his losses are serious. Two days later the Danishmendids try to trap him using a feigned retreat but he doesn’t take the bait. John is on the way from Antioch. The Danishmendids withdraw as the emperor draws near.

John’s men are tired from a forced march. The strategy that John has devised is for a three pronged attack on the Danishmends. One prong will be under the command of Joscelin and would have the capture of Malatya as its objective. John will personally command the strongest prong which will advance north from Elbistan towards the Danishmend capital of Sivas. The final prong will be led by his oldest son Alexios and will advance east through Bithynia. John was well aware that taking Sivas would be very difficult. His hope that his advance would pose enough of a credible threat that Mehmed Gazi would make peace and agree to become a tributary.

The offensive began on 23 March with Joscelin’s advance towards Malatya. Joscellin demonstrated little enthusiasm for this operation. His rate of advance soon slows to a crawl. John’s attack began on 30 March. It males good progress at first capturing Darende in 5 days but after that it began to experience serious problems. The Danishmendids realized that they were outnumbered and try to avoid a pitched battle. Instead they concentrate on using their horse archers to harass their enemy with a flurry of skirmishes. The terrain immediately north of Darende was very rough. It was well suited for conducting ambushes. Meanwhile John decided that it has become necessary to send a portion of his army to reinforce Joscellin.

On 3 April Prince Alexios begins his eastward attack in Bithynia. For two days it encounters only weak border forces but after that it too has to deal with a steady stream of skirmishes with Danishmendid horse archers. This slows its progress. Then on 11 April Alexios suffers a limited defeat in a hard fought battle. This checks his progress but he only withdraws a small distance to an easily defended location. Mehmed Gazi’s reserves are split between being used to counter this offensive and his father’s.

It wasn’t until 11 May that John captured the important crossroads town of Gurun. The next day Joscellin finally reached Malatya and begins a siege. Mehmed Gazi hopes to bottle up John’s army in the defile immediately north of Gurun. The morning of 15 May nimble Alodian cavalry that have swung around the mountains attack the rear of the Danishmendid forces in the defile while Byzantine infantry are making a diversionary frontal attack. The Alodians capture the commanding officer and most of the baggage train. In the late afternoon Byzantine cavalry arrive to exploit the confusion that has been sowed by Alodians.

There are trapped pockets of Danishmendid resistance in defile that aren’t eliminated until 18 May. The next day John resumes his march north towards Sivas. His crushing defeat at the Battle of Gurun causes Mehmed Gazi to begin negotiating with John. As these negotiations get underway John learns that the Anatolian Seljuks under the leadership of Mas’ud had invaded Cilicia and raided Adana. He then decides to drop demands that the Danishmendids become tributaries. Under the peace treaty Mehmed Gazi agrees to participate in a two month punitive campaign against his son-in-law, Mas’ud and to cede Elbistan, Malataya and his holdings in Paphlagonia. He was also forced to recognize Chaldia as being part of the Byzantine Empire. Previously it formed an alliance with its governor Constantine Gabras who was ruling it as a tyrant. This forced Gabras to affirm Constantinople’s authority.

This combined punitive expedition proves to be easier than John had expected. Mas’ud is soon forced to sue for peace. He is forced to pay a very substantial indemnity. During the peace process Mas’ud tells John that Zengi had pressured him into raiding Cilicia. Prince Athanasios has already been trying to persuade the emperor that Zengi poses a very serious threat to the Outremer. John has been impressed by Athanasios and takes his counsel seriously.
 
Part 27 Queen Arwa al-Sulayhi RIP

On 12 June, 1138 Queen Arwa al-Sulayhi died. She had outlived her children. The glorious Sulayhid Dynasty was over. This would set in motion a chain of events. Up until then Queen Arwa had been the viceregent and guardian of the boy imam, al-Tayyibb. Before she died Arwa selected Dhu’ayb ibn Musa to be her successor in those roles.

The Sulyahids were descended from the Hamdan tribe. The current governor of the capital city of Sana’a was Hamid ad-Dawla Hatim belonged to the Hamdan tribe. He was a devout Ismaili and would not think of harming the imam. The viceregent was another matter but Hamid felt that he was of minor importance except in the necessary role of protecting al-Tayyib. The regent, Abd al-Majid was in Fustat and had refrained from interfering in Yemeni affairs. Indeed Queen Arwa had become concerned about how terse and perfunctory the letters from the regent had been. There was even some chance that Dhu’ayb might prove useful. The Zurayid Dynasty who had considerable power including control of the key port Aden was Ismaili so possessing the imam should give him some leverage over the Zurayids. Though at this moment the two Zurayid brothers were busy fighting each other.

Three years ago the regent, Abd al-Majid had tried to escape his imprisonment and nearly succeeded. Aware of how much trouble he could cause if free Prince Epimachos had wanted to kill him at that time. However King Pail had forbidden that. His main reason was that he thought that might upset Queen Arwa whom he deeply respected. He was prepared to wait until after she died to take care of the regent, He thought that would be soon but Arwa ended up hanging on longer than he had expected.

It was finally time and Paul gave the order and the regent was poisoned on 2 August. Epimachos waits two days before making a public announcement that he had died from a stomach ailment. Meanwhile he was meeting with the Coptic Pope, Gabriel II of Alexandria who also lived at Fustat. On 5 August Epimachos announces the end of the Regency and the Fatimid Caliphate. On 7 August Pope Gabriel crowns Epimachos as the King of Egypt in an elaborate ceremony.

King Paul had been strongly tempted to give Egypt a matrilineal succession like Alodia and Makuria but decided to make it patrilineal. He was also tempted to give Epimachos the tile of “Pharaoh” instead of king but was talked out of it by his inner circle.

Even before Queen Arwa died some Muslims in Lower Egypt had started a few riots over what they perceive as the preferential treatment the vizier, Bahram al-Armani was giving Christians. During August the rioting increases. Nevertheless by this time the smarter Egyptians had already figured out that the Copts were in charge in Egypt. By the end of month the rioting has been quelled.

However there was someone else who had a bone to pick and that was King Georgios IV of Makuria. He objected to Epimachos being crowned as king of Egypt because this implied that he had authority over all of Egypt when he had no power over Upper Egypt which Makurias controlled. Paul had learned that Georgios could be overly sensitive at times. To mollify his neighbor Epimachos’ title was officially changed to “King of Lower Egypt” though when Makurians weren’t around it often reverted back to being “King of Egypt”. Though it wasn’t publicly proclaimed Lower Egypt was an Alodian vassal that paid tribute just like Axum.

The news that the regent was dead altered the situation in Sana’a. Dhu’ayb was no longer the mostly ceremonial viceregent but had become the regent. Supposedly this meant that he was the ruler of the Fatimid Caliphate until the imam reached maturity but was there a Fatimid Caliphate anymore? As far as Egypt was concerned there wasn’t. That left the Ismailis living elsewhere---esp. those in Yemen.

Hamid had a long talk with Dhu’ayb in private. He made it clear that he was not going to let the regent command him on anything substantive. Instead he expected the regent to exert his influence on the other Ismaili rulers inside Yemen in ways that were beneficial to Hamid. Dhu’ayb made it clear that he wasn’t going to be Hamid’s puppet. Hamid then declared that Dhu’ayb would not be allowed to leave the palace and Hamid would control who got to see him. He would also read all correspondence. Hamid made vague but ominous threats about what would happen if Dhu’yab caused trouble.

By the end of September nearly 400 wealthy Fatimid supporters had left Egypt with their families and servants. They headed for Sana’a so they could be around the imam who gave them some hope that the caliphate was not over. They were at best a mixed blessing for Hamid. They had brought their wealth with them which was all well and good but he found them annoying and potentially a threat. He sharply limited their access to Dhu’yab and the boy.

Paul had a long time to think about what he would do when Queen Arwa passed away. Yemen was already fracturing. He believed that at least initially it would fracture still more after her death. He did not see that as being antithetical to Alodia’s interests. The possibility that bothered him the most is that it would unite under a Sunni dynasty and become an ally of the Adal Kingdom. He was bothered that the city of Zabid was ruled by a powerful vizier named Anis al-Fatiki who kept Fatiq III, the last of the Najahids as a figurehead.

The Najahids were Sunni and had been bitter foes of the Sulayahids. In her final years Queen Arwa had tolerated this situation but now that she was gone Paul decided that it was time to take action. For some time Paul had been considering turning Zuqar Island into a base. He thought it would be useful if there was another war with the Adal Kingdom. On 29 August Alodian ships out of Suakin landed 300 Alodian marines on Zuqar Island which is the largest of the Hanish Islands off the coast of Yemen near Zabid. There were only a handful of Yemeni fishermen living on the island. They offered no resistance. After that 400 slaves were landed. These were put to work constructing a base. An ample amount of supplies was then offloaded from the ships and stored at the base.

On 16 September Axumite ships out of Adulis arrived at Zuqar Island. The Alodian marines then secured a beachhead on the mainland at al-Fazah. After that the ships offloaded 2,500 Axumite foot soldiers. Supplies were offloaded from the ships as well as the supply dump on Zuqar Island. The combined force then headed north and easily defeated a small band of Najahid cavalry on 18 September.

The following morning they engaged a force which ironically consisted mostly of former Abyssinian slaves, long the mainstay of the Najahid army. The fighting was intense for nearly an hour before the Axumites prevailed destroying more than half of the slave army. Some of the remnants holed up in the city while the rest skedaddled towards the mountains to the east. Zabid was only moderately fortified. The night of 20 September the Axumites captured it in an assault. They captured Fatiq and his vizier, Anis. They beheaded Fatiq the next day which ended the Najahid Dynasty. The Axumite commander initially wanted to execute the vizier as well but was persuaded that he might prove useful in administering the city.
 
Part 28

On 7 October the new Axumite mountain soldiers succeed in capturing the rebel Jewish leader Gideon alive in the Simien Mountains. He is taken back to Aksum where King Sergios tortures him for two days before personally beheading him. This makes him very happy. He sees merit in the experimental mountain troops and increases his support for the experimental project.

On 11 October a very powerful earthquake struck Aleppo and the surrounding areas. There were many casualties. The small fortresses at Zardana, Atharab and Harem were destroyed. Aleppo was not completely leveled but the walls of its citadel collapsed. At this time Prince Athanasios of Antioch was trying to convince Emperor John II Komnenos to mount a spring offensive to capture Aleppo. Initial reports made it seem that there wasn’t anything left to capture. Later reports refuted that but it was fairly obvious that the fortress had been badly damaged. The sooner they could mount an attack the better. The emperor is soon persuaded and together they begin making plans. John has come to appreciate Athanasios and as a reward has declared the Lord of Marash will henceforth be a vassal of Antioch instead of Edessa.

Meanwhile Egyptian merchants, most of whom are Copts, are becoming increasingly common in the Principality of Antioch. Occasionally they are accompanied by a wealthy Alodian. The increased trade is slowly starting to benefit Antioch. A combination of Byzantine and Egyptian warships was clamping down on piracy.

In February of 1139 John ordered all merchants and travelers from Aleppo and other nearby Muslim towns arrested lest they report the military preparations they had seen. In late March an army from the County of Edessa plus a contingent of Templars joined the Byzantine and Antiochene army near Antioch. On 30 March the combined army crossed the boundary and occupied Balat. On 2 April they appeared before Biza’a which held out under its commander’s wife for 4 days. Another week was spent rounding up the Muslim soldiers in the district most of whom have taken refuse in the grottoes of al-Bab. Zengi at this time is outside Hama. He had what he considers to be good information that King Fulk is back in Jerusalem where he was having trouble with his consort. Zengi is trying to decide if he can take Hama by assault when he receives word of the Christian invasion. He speedily dispatches his lieutenant Sawar with some troops to reinforce Aleppo’s garrison.

When John arrives at Aleppo on 17 April he finds its walls more strongly defended than he had hoped. However it is clear that the earthquake had seriously weakened its defenses which have been only partially repaired since. He begins a very methodical siege. By 8 May he captures all of the city. He also captures Sawar who is badly wounded. Six days later Zengi approached with a relief army unaware that it has fallen. When John moves to engage Zengi realizes he is badly outnumbered and promptly retreats after a brief skirmish. The nimble Alodian cavalry harass Zengi’s withdrawal.

After that John proceeds to the fortified city of Shaizar. This was not under Zengi’s control but an independent emirate run by the Munqidhite dynasty. It was already under some pressure because the Crusader possession of Homs and Hama effectively cut its lines of communications to the Muslim communities to the east. John increased this pressure by making a conspicuous demonstration of the size of his army and preparing a siege.

This was enough to cause the Emir to negotiate. He agreed to become a vassal and pay a substantial annual tribute. After that John returned to Antioch with his army. He remains there for 3 weeks before returning to Constantinople. He decides to hold off on annexing Latakia outright. He has succeeded in installing a Greek Patriarch for Antioch but that comes at the cost of friction with Rome. This imperils the informal alliance he has established with Pope Innocent II in order to counter King Roger II of Sicily.

On 25 May Sultan Geedi of Showa stops at Aksum on his way to Sana’a. The following morning he meets with King Sergios. Geedi is a devout Ismaili. Since their last meeting Queen Area has died and Epimachos has been crowned as the King of Upper Egypt. Like many he had his suspicions about the regency but thist was still very disillusioning.

His feelings towards King Paul were not as warm as they had been previously. His largely negative opinion of King Sergios has remained unchanged though. So it was another awkward meeting with Sergios once again doing a poor job of hiding his dislike of Muslims. The only thing positive that came out of it was that Geedi did not detect any hints that Sergios was planning to attack Showa in the near future. What Paul’s son was up to as the ruler of Antioch did not interest the sultan very much.

He was more interested in the seizure of Zabid. He asked Sergios if Axum was reverting to getting entangled in Yemen as his distant forebears had. Sergios was very proud of the success of the invasion but other than that his reply strengthened Geedi’s suspicion that the operation had been Paul’s idea not his own. Since the Najahids had been the enemy of the Sulayihids Geedi was glad to learn that the last of them was dead. The key question was what was Paul’s long term designs in Yemen and how they would affect the new imam. That Sergios proved to be no help in answering those questions did not surprise Geedi.

From Aksum he proceeded to Adulis where he boarded an Axumite vessel headed to Yemen. Once there he made his way to Sana’a and demanded to see both the imam and his new regent. To do this meant having a long awkward conversation with Hamid he governor first. The sultan was too powerful a figure to be denied access to Dhu’ayb ibn Musa and the boy. However Hamid did insist in being present during the meeting. This limited Dhu’ayb’s ability to speak freely. Geedi soon concluded that the new regent had almost no real power—just like his ill-fated predecessor. The child was in good health but was still very sad at the loss of Queen Arwa who had been like a mother to him.

Afterwards Geedi again spoke with Hamid. He very solemnly told Hamid to protect the imam with the utmost diligence and warned in the sternest terms what might happen to him if he failed to do so. He also criticized him for not showing the new regent more respect. This made Hamid bristle.

Geedi had planned to leave Sana’a the next day but that night he discovered the community of wealthy Fatimid supporters who had left Egypt. He impressed them and found them interesting. He spent an entire week socializing with them. Towards the end of the week one of them warned him that Hamid was becoming worried that he might be organizing a coup. This was not Geedi’s intention but he realized how it might seem that way. In light of this he decided it was time to go home. However he had discovered that four of the Fatimid enthusiasts were already having second thoughts about the wisdom of coming to Sana’a. He suggested that they might better serve Ismailism by coming back with him to Showa. Three of them accepted his offer.
 
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