AHC: Byzantium's Sea Emperors

The Byzantine navy never seemed to have held prestige in Byzantine society compared to the army and such. It also nearly disappeared entirely under the Komnenos which left it at the mercy of italian city states.

So the challenge is with a PoD from 990 through 1050, find a way to make the Byzantine navy the most important component of it's military forces. I was thinking perhaps an aspiring noble of Macedonian decent, becomes an admiral and scores several victories for Constantinople. He eventually leads a coup and becomes the new emperor (while also putting down a rebellion from the dynatoi and redistributes their recounquered landholdings). He introduces reforms designed to make the navy a sort of rapid response unit. So even though the empires armies are much smaller compared to the past, they could still quickly reinforce any of their territories. Perhaps he takes a page from Norse mercenaries in Byzantine service and adopts Viking tactics and ship design?

Do you think this is feasible? Or is there a more plausible scenario?
 

ar-pharazon

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This is interesting and I think a reformed or better Byzantine navy could better hope to hold out longer.

Maybe seek to control access to the Black Sea, hold Crimea, and for any possible reconquests of Egypt.

And to ensure the Italian city states don't have free reign in the Adriatic or Aegean.
 
It is a bit early, but I have had a soft spot for a Sextus Pompey TL because when I played as them in Total War I was a Marine Machine.

Now, I'm not sure I entirely agree or disagree with the premise. The Romans, at least IMO, suffered that they had Mare Nostrum - there wasn't anyone else to fight at sea. So the idea of needing to dominate it was less important. The idea that others would rise to oppose them, unthinkable.

They need a reason - so perhaps there are no successful Italian Campaigns, but there are successful Sicilian, African, and Balearic Campaigns. All naval, all need to be defended, and all allow the development of a system to rapidly deploy Roman forces across the Med.

Another way is an Egypt is Roman PoD, where the Caliphate takes the Levant, but the Romans use a strategy that allows them to hole up in Egypt in the south, and Anatolia in the north - threatening Syria if they attack Egypt, and threatening Palestine if they attack Anatolia. The desire to retake the Levant, and the need to maintain logistics with Egypt would increase the demand for a strong navy. (Plus, the Exarchate of Carthage would want support too, creating more demand).

This could lead to dominant Cypriot and Balearic fleets, perhaps also a major fleet in Carthage/Sicily. The Balearic Fleet supports Western military actions - ready and active forces approx 20,000 strong. The Cypriot is the same, but focused on recapturing individual cities on the Levantine coast, whilst the Carthaginian Fleet is in charge of anti-piracy actions.
 
Now, I'm not sure I entirely agree or disagree with the premise. The Romans, at least IMO, suffered that they had Mare Nostrum - there wasn't anyone else to fight at sea. So the idea of needing to dominate it was less important. The idea that others would rise to oppose them, unthinkable.

They need a reason - so perhaps there are no successful Italian Campaigns, but there are successful Sicilian, African, and Balearic Campaigns. All naval, all need to be defended, and all allow the development of a system to rapidly deploy Roman forces across the Med.
I disagree that the Byzantines needed a sea faring enemy to spure them to rebuild the navy. They did nothing about it when Venice and the Normans kept stomping on them. Even after numerous disaters at sea against them they still only had 20 ships by the fourth crusade (and most of them weren't even functional).

I think this is an effect of the dynatoi class wanting larger land armies. So maybe Romanos would be a good PoD for this.

Recapturing Sicily is also very plausible during the timeframe I set up. George Manaikes did it with his Norman mercenaries until he rebelled.
 
I disagree that the Byzantines needed a sea faring enemy to spure them to rebuild the navy. They did nothing about it when Venice and the Normans kept stomping on them. Even after numerous disaters at sea against them they still only had 20 ships by the fourth crusade (and most of them weren't even functional).

I think this is an effect of the dynatoi class wanting larger land armies. So maybe Romanos would be a good PoD for this.

Recapturing Sicily is also very plausible during the timeframe I set up. George Manaikes did it with his Norman mercenaries until he rebelled.
You're right, there were factions preventing it - and I think a few treaties as well. However, I read that as there was an incentive, but the other factions opposed it in favour of their own.
 
Another way is an Egypt is Roman PoD, where the Caliphate takes the Levant, but the Romans use a strategy that allows them to hole up in Egypt in the south, and Anatolia in the north - threatening Syria if they attack Egypt, and threatening Palestine if they attack Anatolia. The desire to retake the Levant, and the need to maintain logistics with Egypt would increase the demand for a strong navy. (Plus, the Exarchate of Carthage would want support too, creating more demand).

This could lead to dominant Cypriot and Balearic fleets, perhaps also a major fleet in Carthage/Sicily. The Balearic Fleet supports Western military actions - ready and active forces approx 20,000 strong. The Cypriot is the same, but focused on recapturing individual cities on the Levantine coast, whilst the Carthaginian Fleet is in charge of anti-piracy actions.
Moving the capital to Syracuse in a time of crisis could be a first step towards a Byzantine thalassocracy as well. edit: Didn't realize the late POD.
 
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Well, 990-1050? Find a way for them to somehow recapture Egypt (somewhat implausible I appreciate) but still otherwise be unable to access the fineries of the east. Enterprising Roman merchants eventually take a sea route down the Red Sea to India and eventually build a significant maritime heritage.

(and yes I'm aware the "Byzantines in the Indian Ocean" is a really overused trope)
 
Moving the capital to Syracuse in a time of crisis could be a first step towards a Byzantine thalassocracy as well. edit: Didn't realize the late POD.
I wonder, Constans II was rumoured to be considering that move - and may have been why he was killed. I wonder if he'd both survived and had implemented such a move. That is probably worth discussion. It seems plausible enough. What would be weird is that the Patriarch would probably stay in Constantinople, making the City of the Worlds Desire, the Patriarchs stomping ground.

I'd be curious as to the justification though - that the sea is a better defence than the walls?
 
You're right, there were factions preventing it - and I think a few treaties as well. However, I read that as there was an incentive, but the other factions opposed it in favour of their own.
That's why I suggested the Dynatoi rebelling. If they make a big army and are defeated in a climatic battle like Hastings then that should demolish their influence.
 
I wonder, Constans II was rumoured to be considering that move - and may have been why he was killed. I wonder if he'd both survived and had implemented such a move. That is probably worth discussion. It seems plausible enough. What would be weird is that the Patriarch would probably stay in Constantinople, making the City of the Worlds Desire, the Patriarchs stomping ground.

I'd be curious as to the justification though - that the sea is a better defence than the walls?
I've read Constans II thought administration of the Empire would be easier from a more central location. If he could found his own imperial capital it would also give him some advantage in sidelining established power blocks in Constantinopolis.
 
I disagree that the Byzantines needed a sea faring enemy to spure them to rebuild the navy. They did nothing about it when Venice and the Normans kept stomping on them. Even after numerous disaters at sea against them they still only had 20 ships by the fourth crusade (and most of them weren't even functional).

I think this is an effect of the dynatoi class wanting larger land armies. So maybe Romanos would be a good PoD for this.

Recapturing Sicily is also very plausible during the timeframe I set up. George Manaikes did it with his Norman mercenaries until he rebelled.
I was thinking about Romanos Lekapenos myself.
 
The Byzantine navy never seemed to have held prestige in Byzantine society compared to the army and such. It also nearly disappeared entirely under the Komnenos which left it at the mercy of italian city states.

So the challenge is with a PoD from 990 through 1050, find a way to make the Byzantine navy the most important component of it's military forces. I was thinking perhaps an aspiring noble of Macedonian decent, becomes an admiral and scores several victories for Constantinople. He eventually leads a coup and becomes the new emperor (while also putting down a rebellion from the dynatoi and redistributes their recounquered landholdings). He introduces reforms designed to make the navy a sort of rapid response unit. So even though the empires armies are much smaller compared to the past, they could still quickly reinforce any of their territories. Perhaps he takes a page from Norse mercenaries in Byzantine service and adopts Viking tactics and ship design?

Do you think this is feasible? Or is there a more plausible scenario?
The problem is that Byzantium always faced major land-based threats from two directions, so too much emphasis on the navy would open them up to attack by land. I guess it might be possible if, say, Byzantium's eastern and northern neighbours were neutralised somehow (convenient civil war/Mongol invasion/marriage alliance/etc.), whilst a hostile power arose in Italy and kept threatening to invade Greece. Then the Straits of Otranto would be the strategic hotspot Byzantium needed to defend, and the Emperor might start building a powerful fleet to contest any enemy crossing, and/or take the fight to them.
 
The problem is that Byzantium always faced major land-based threats from two directions, so too much emphasis on the navy would open them up to attack by land. I guess it might be possible if, say, Byzantium's eastern and northern neighbours were neutralised somehow (convenient civil war/Mongol invasion/marriage alliance/etc.), whilst a hostile power arose in Italy and kept threatening to invade Greece. Then the Straits of Otranto would be the strategic hotspot Byzantium needed to defend, and the Emperor might start building a powerful fleet to contest any enemy crossing, and/or take the fight to them.
That's why I also proposed that the dynatoi lose big in a rebellion so that my hypothetical emperor can break up their estates and give the themes a second wind for a while. Also Bulgaria was pretty soundly beaten by Basil so I believe their border in the west is relatively secure for now while the emperor could theoretically avoid Manizkert and a fight with the Seljuks in a number of ways.

Also while I'm not a military expert, what I'm proposing is that the Byzantines create a Marine corp to project force rapidly wherever needed and use viking style tactics to get behind enemy lines and harass them until a larger force can arrive.
 
Such a naval power or navy oriented Byzantium would almost certainly focus itself to the raiding of the Islamic coast to nullify the otl Islamic piracy that strangled Byzantium for centuries and plagued the Latin coasts of Europe. Byzantium would also be more likely to capture Egypt with a significantly enhanced naval power that otl and we could even see Byzantium taking an interest in invasion in toward the Volga. Such may be of great benefit to Byzantium in terms of capturing slaves, subduing nomadic hordes and by creating a presence that allows for the increased amount of mercenary and tribes that could be eligible to be transported to Anatolia for use in buffering the frontiers.
 
Byzantium was for a long time a massive naval power. Especially after the loss of Palestine and Egypt there was constant back and forth conflict at sea for control of the Mediterranean.

A lot of this was characterized by raiding, such as raids to burn the shipyards at Alexandria. Or by naval expeditions that defeated Islamic forces near Mallorca.

There was even entire themes that fielded major fleets along with the imperial fleet that was sometimes considered a part of the Tagmata.

This declined in part due to foolishness of certain Emperors, loss of some of the themes that provided the largest fleets, and political issues.

One late Emperor of the Palaiologos dynasty even built a fleet of 100 warships, recognizing the importance of controlling the sea, only for his immediate successor to disband the whole thing and instead rely on Genoese mercenaries because apparently he decided that was cheaper.

Byzantine Naval Forces 1261-1461 and Byzantine Warship vs Arab Warship are interesting books to read if you are at all interested in the topic.
 
Byzantium was for a long time a massive naval power. Especially after the loss of Palestine and Egypt there was constant back and forth conflict at sea for control of the Mediterranean.

A lot of this was characterized by raiding, such as raids to burn the shipyards at Alexandria. Or by naval expeditions that defeated Islamic forces near Mallorca.

There was even entire themes that fielded major fleets along with the imperial fleet that was sometimes considered a part of the Tagmata.

This declined in part due to foolishness of certain Emperors, loss of some of the themes that provided the largest fleets, and political issues.

One late Emperor of the Palaiologos dynasty even built a fleet of 100 warships, recognizing the importance of controlling the sea, only for his immediate successor to disband the whole thing and instead rely on Genoese mercenaries because apparently he decided that was cheaper.

Byzantine Naval Forces 1261-1461 and Byzantine Warship vs Arab Warship are interesting books to read if you are at all interested in the topic.
To my knowledge,Byzantine efforts to rebuild the navy,starting with the Komnenians were always troubled by the fact that their navy was way too inexperienced to deal with the Italians,and by the time they become a bit more experienced after a defeat or two,they just get disbanded.
 
To my knowledge,Byzantine efforts to rebuild the navy,starting with the Komnenians were always troubled by the fact that their navy was way too inexperienced to deal with the Italians,and by the time they become a bit more experienced after a defeat or two,they just get disbanded.
That was a problem, but not as huge as one might think. It's not as if they didn't have access to skilled sailors, Greece and Coastal Anatolia had plenty. They, at different times were able to put together plenty of capable marines and sailors. If they had managed to get several emperors in a row that recognized the importance of naval supremacy at the very least in the Aegean they'd likely have been in good shape, but especially towards the end of the Empire such forward thinking was the exception rather than the rule.

Also there is the consideration that in the late Empire money was often scarce and the dynatoi who preferred large armies (as these often strengthened their own positions) simply could not be ignored.
 
That was a problem, but not as huge as one might think. It's not as if they didn't have access to skilled sailors, Greece and Coastal Anatolia had plenty. They, at different times were able to put together plenty of capable marines and sailors. If they had managed to get several emperors in a row that recognized the importance of naval supremacy at the very least in the Aegean they'd likely have been in good shape, but especially towards the end of the Empire such forward thinking was the exception rather than the rule.

Also there is the consideration that in the late Empire money was often scarce and the dynatoi who preferred large armies (as these often strengthened their own positions) simply could not be ignored.
They could alternatively hire Italian officers to command the fleet,with the crew of the fleet remaining natives.I was under the impression that it was always an officer problem rather than the crew--seeing how back in those days,there's not much difference between sailing a merchant vessel and a war vessel.
 
They could alternatively hire Italian officers to command the fleet,with the crew of the fleet remaining natives.I was under the impression that it was always an officer problem rather than the crew--seeing how back in those days,there's not much difference between sailing a merchant vessel and a war vessel.
Indeed. During the reign of Michael VIII Palaiologos, Licario of Verona was used as a potent Roman naval weapon against the various Aegean crusader lordships left over from the Fourth Crusade and because of his activities the next Roman-Venetian treaty was skewed slightly in favor of the Romans (although it was soon re-negotiated to keep the Venetians from backing Charles of Anjou). A lot of Italian ships in the late Byzantine period had Greek sailors. (I'm getting my information from Byzantium and Venice by Donald Nicol.)

The problem is that the Romans absolutely have to have a strong army so limited resources are available for the navy. No number of galleys could've stopped the Turkish conquests of the 1070/80s for example. No number of galleys would've been able to stop Krum or Symeon of Bulgaria ravaging Thrace or Macedonia. Rhomania has too many long land frontiers far from the ocean for the navy to be the #1 service.
 
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