An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
Why would there be a Great War in the early 20th Century here just because there was one OTL?
While there probably won't be the Great War it is pretty guaranteed there will be something comparable since every century since the 16th managed to have two or three major multinational coalition wars. Probably a higher chance since the world's powers will be far more distributed and equal.
 
The Ottomans, by the standards of the 1630s, are a well-educated and technologically advanced society, and not many people have the time, money, and interest to perform chemical experiments. The leading edge is not very far out there at this time and the Ottomans can easily be out there. Once disciplines develop and the knowledge required to master them becomes more extensive, more effort is needed to stay on the leading edge, but at this point one can still be a Renaissance Man.



Good point. I’m thinking that a good way to keep population growth done is to not bust the Malthusian trap wide open but gradually loosen it bit by bit so that any population surges can’t get very far. If the surges can be tamped down enough until ‘low births’ becomes commonplace, then population growth won’t be that extreme.
The big time fertilizer for the 19th century was guano, which synergized with pesticides, the rationalization of fertilizer use (knowing the optimal amounts of NPK for a given crop helps a lot), and crop rotation strategies to drive the early to mid 19th century gains in agricultural output. Synthetic fertilizers really came into their own in the late 19th and 20th centuries, but without mechanization and electricity they just aren't that competitive; ammonia was first isolated in the 1780s by Joseph Priestly based on earlier work by Henry Cavendish, but the system they used was even more energy intensive than the Haber process, and was even LESS practical for large scale use without mechanization and electricity.

For medicinal chemistry however, the required quantities of precursor reagents are considerably lower. For most drugs against infectious diseases, a full course of treatment uses well under 100 grams of the drug, whereas with fertilizers you need ~20 kg/ton of extra yield*/hectare. A few drugs will have the same issues I raised with using chlorine as a 17th century chemical weapon where they require refrigeration, but most of the essential small molecule drugs keep well at ambient temperatures.


As far as advances in medicine go, germ theory is absolutely crucial. The first OTL account of bacteria occured in the late 17th century:
"an unbelievably great company of living animacules a-swimming more nimbly than any I had ever seen up to this time...There are more animals living in the scum on the teeth in a man's mouth than there are men in a whole kingdom." (Leeuwenhoek 1683)
The idea of germ theory already existed as early as the 11th century (and precursors to it were around in classical times). Athanaseus Kircher** in fact proposed that the bubonic plague was caused by a microorganism as early as 1656. With faster advances in microscopy and microbiology, the experiments that convinced the medical community of the validity of the germ theory could easily have happened in the 17th century. Once you have a germ theory of disease that's taken seriously, a lot of major medical advances become surprisingly trivial. Take for example the DTaP vaccines; you just take the bacterial toxins and expose them to formaldehyde, which yield toxoids that when injected elicits an immune response without harming the patient. The only hard part of the process is the isolation and culture of the bacteria, but that was in place by the mid 19th century, and there's honestly no real reason it couldn't have been done considerably earlier. The first rabies vaccine came from rabbit spinal cord extract of a rabies infected rabit that was attenuated through heating, again nothing all that special. The tuberculosis vaccine use attenuated bacteria and bovine TB respectively. Polio, MMR, Varicella, Hib, Hep B, are the vaccines that require more advanced technologies, either mammalian cell cultures to maintain the virus or modern biochemistry to conjugate PRP to a carrier protein.

* And that's with modern mechanized agriculture too.


** https://www.mjt.org/exhibits/kircher.htm
 
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@Curtain Jerker The reason I asked about a "Great War" is because ever since I read this amazing timeline (Great War is from pages 76-100, well technically it starts on page 77 but 76 gives important information), I've become fascinated with a late 19th-early 20th century "Great War" that sees massive fighting across the world (and not like WW1 where 98% of the fighting was in Europe I'm talking a true world war. Heck, I'm planning one for my timeline for whenever it reaches the 21st century.
 
We just had a Great War ITTL. Fighting was in the Balkans, Italy, southern Germany, Syria/the Levant, Egypt, the Caribbean, and OTL New England. That doesn't count the Chinese/Korean/Japanese war, the Triunes vs the HRE, and the Spanish vs Rhomania-in-the-East. 800,000 Rhomans died (I think...). The 1630s have been a very bloody decade worldwide.

I think it would be a cool subversion if we didn't have a WWI/II analogue like so many timeline have. Would be a nice change of pace.
 
I got shocked by the low Constantinople pop figures until I remembered that the Romans deliberately pruned the city so as to improve sanitation.

How bad are the non-Roman cities when it comes to death rates? How do the Westerners react to the cleanliness of the Romans?
All cities at this point in time are bad when it comes to death rates. Cities, unlike the last century or so, were demographic sinks; they grew through continuous immigration from the countryside, not the reproduction of their populace. Roman cities really don’t have much of an edge over non-Roman cities and are still appalling by modern standards.

As one example, Constantinople receives literally tons of goods every day. Anything coming in by land is via cart pulled by a draft animal or on the back of a draft animal directly. More comes into the docks via ships, but they’re ferried into the city itself by more draft animal labor. And all these animals poop, and they will do their business in the street. And if a street is being used, it can’t be swept, meaning that that cow-pie left at 9AM might not get cleaned up until 9PM when the street sweepers can get to work. If you visit Constantinople in 1640, either ride an animal or get some good boots.

I remember reading how the Spanish were amazed at how clean the streets of Tenochtitlan were. I suspect that was because the Aztecs didn’t have draft animals pooping all over the place; porters will use the public toilets.

It’s not something I’ve studied directly, but something I keep coming across cursorily while looking at something else, but the image of Latin medieval Europe as a cesspit of squalor where nobody bathed or washed clothing is greatly overdrawn. In terms of personal cleanliness, it looks like the early modern was a down-grade on the medieval period. (I wonder if part of this was people crowding into cities with inadequate sanitation whereas their medieval ancestors were still out in the villages where sanitation was less of an obstacle.)

Plus there’s also the class aspect; poorer people are going to have less access to water, less time to visit the bathhouses, and less money to pay the laundress. And most of Constantinople’s people is poor.

In short, I think there’s really not that much difference between Roman and non-Roman cities, although that’s not taking into account individual variations. The main difference is that of size. Constantinople looks and smells better than Paris, but that’s because it’s got 150,000 less people.

How fares King's Harbour? I remember its population was hovering between 150,000 and 200,000 during 1635. If its population increase is also proportional to London and Paris' own increase, that could probably place it in contention with Constantinople for a spot in the Top 5. We can really see that the Triunes are already well placed for the Industrial Revolution with an strong urban core ready to adopt new innovations.
I can’t find a recent reference to the size of King’s Harbor. However I’ve been picturing it as around half the size of Paris, so with the revision that would put it at a quarter-million, which would make it #4 in Europe. The next big city that is specified in the TL is Milan at 210,000.

I've also been thinking about this and think an upgraded version of Justinian's bridge over the Golden Horn (following the path of the current Haliç Bridge) would circumvent most of the problems brought up here. By being far enough from most piers and berths, the bridge would not need to be built monstrously tall. And it starts right outside the Theodosian Land Walls, so the security threat would still be manageable and not survival-threatening to the city. It's location would also place it in the middle of the city, so enough people wouldn't find it marginal to use.
I think the OTL bridge is right where the TTL Imperial Arsenal is…

I can feel Triune arrogance intensifying, now they're the clear top dogs in Europe, especially after the Rhine war and laying down the smack on Lothargia and Germany.
It’s not arrogance, it’s just recognizing the material benefits and accomplishments God grants to his chosen people…

Hmm... interesting.

May I bring to notice another possible Watsonian reason regarding population figures?

We may start by distinguishing three types of habitation: cities, towns and villages. I could say that OTL Europe had more war and rougher war in general than TTL till now, which not only killed more people, but drove many villagers into towns and townspeople into cities, which could be why OTL cities are bigger than TTL cities.

On the other hand, TTL hasn't seen the kind of rampant devastation and depopulation that OTL has, especially in areas like the Balkans. OTL Ottoman Europe in 1650 was, at the upper estimate, somewhere around 4 million. TTL Roman Europe is around 7 million, despite Roman Europe having only one major city not under OTL Ottoman control.

I say the villages and especially the towns have benefitted the most demographically from this, which may be the big reason why TTL Roman cities have experienced less growth than expected.
To quote myself from 1626 update: Romans traveling through Lombardy view the landscape of a vast array of large towns and small cities as rather similar to the Helladic or three west Anatolian themes.

That’s a good explanation. TTL is seeing less megalopolis than OTL. London, Paris, Constantinople, Milan, and Lisbon are reprising their OTL roles, but Naples, Madrid, Moscow, and Amsterdam are nowhere near their OTL size and there’s no clear TTL replacement. There’s more large towns and small cities than OTL, which is where the excess population is going.

That makes more sense considering the previous developments in the TL. It's kind of sad that the City of the World's Desire has lost its status as the largest city in Christendom, but hey, numbers don't count for everything.
I’m one of those people that thinks ‘most populous city’ is a contest one wants to lose, but that’s a personal preference. (Don’t enjoy big cities.) Especially since Constantinople on that peninsula is rather cramped for room to grow.

It is a little sad put it is likely the cleanest and most beautiful city in Christendom due to keeping the population within the limits the city can support. Also, the fact that Rhomania is pruning the larger cities means that it likely has far more small and midsized cities and large towns.
I’m pretty sure buried in the early part of the TL is a reference to Trebizond being considered the most beautiful city in Rhomania, which I’m going to stick with even if it’s not really there. The medium-sized cities like Nicaea or Trebizond are overall nicer than Constantinople. Less slums and all the sanitary amenities, but with less strain on the system (see the draft animal poop problem mentioned at the beginning).

I like the changes made here.

Firstly, I didn't realise overall population actually was higher. That tracks with the changes from OTL and is fine as-is.

While Roman cities aren't as large as Paris, their urbanisation rate is good. Considering they've tried control population sizes for sanitation reasons and also regularly resettled people, this again makes sense.

Part of me is sad that the Queen of Cities isn't kicked down a few notches, but it's probably a far more pleasant place to live.
Yeah, Constantinople in 1640 is a much nicer place to live than the Constantinople of 1500, when it was around half-a-million, much cleaner and airier and better fire protection.

I would argue that the numbers are still too low.. Considering most ittl european nations have congregated into pretty much nation states. And not alot of infighting and depopulation is happening due to war and famine etc. Sure alot of People died due to the Roman advance into HRE but alot of its lands were still untuched by war some were drafted to fight. So population would build up alot more over time.

A solution to overpopulation in europo is to have a much earlier and larger exodus to the americas/colonies from europe. I see a grim fate for the empire of Mexico coming if this is the case.
There’s still a ton of issues pushing down population growth. Disease is endemic, agricultural yields are rather low, infant mortality rates are high, and it is really easy for nature to ruin the harvest and really hard to import foodstuffs in bulk unless you’re in a major port city (which means the diseases are more likely to get you anyway).

Would Paris and London be as high proportionally to OTL without being the capitals of their respective countries ITTL?
They're still capitals. The Triunes haven't gone through with an Act of Union, so the person of the monarch is the only thing holding their three constituent kingdoms together. Aside from the crowned head each kingdom has its own governing system in place: England has a Parliament in London, France has an Estates General in Paris, Ireland has an Assembly in Dublin.

If any of the Kingdoms implements a different succession system, or if the Kingdoms start having conflicts of interests, then the whole thing will fall apart.
Yeah, London is the capital of the Kingdom of England, Paris is the capital of the Kingdom of France, and King’s Harbor is the seat of the monarch. It’s…complicated. Plus London and Paris are both major commercial and cultural centers with lots of history behind them, and none of that has gone away.

Hey! At least the city doesn't smell like sh*t like those so called top cities by those latin europeans.
Actually, it does. It’s inevitable when goods have to be brought into and through the city via mechanisms that poop (see the draft animal poop issue at the beginning of the post).

I discovered this TL a couple of weeks ago, and have been working my way through it. I've really enjoyed the whole thing.

In the most recent update, is Anna Albanese a nod to Artemisia Gentileschi?
Thanks. She is. I was originally going to use her Judith slaying Holofornes painting but then I discovered Serrani’s and loved it and so used it instead.

The kingdoms implementing different succession would be an interesting way to start a civil war. Maybe different parts want different heirs for different reasons. The general estates has firm control over the firstborn son due to some form or disability. The other two kingdoms (three if we add Lotharingia) want a competent king so they turn to the second born who promises more autonomy and less frenchification for their support against the French. Could actually lead to a permanent split if they can stalemate. You could even get some kind of extremely weird border with the French gaining South East England as it is increasingly French in nature while the new Triune kingdom gets Artois and Pircardy (if Lotharingia doesn’t have these already.) or perhaps Brittany if they do as the balance to losing London.

I don’t think this will happen but I like sharing my ideas when I have them so there you go.
A more likely succession issue would be the monarch only has daughters because then you run into the Salic Law.

Love this timeline, and not gonna lie I can't wait for there to be a Great War in the early 20th century ITTL
Why would there be a Great War in the early 20th Century here just because there was one OTL?
I think there would be a massive post-Industrial Revolution war as industrial powers go to war and things escalate to a horror beyond their worst nightmares because the powers that be didn’t understand the new powers of destruction they possess. If the statesmen of 1914 had been expecting anything like the OTL slaughter of 1914-18, they would’ve acted very differently. But they had no reason to expect it since it was an unprecedented experience.

As far as advances in medicine go, germ theory is absolutely crucial. The first OTL account of bacteria occured in the late 17th century:


The idea of germ theory already existed as early as the 11th century (and precursors to it were around in classical times). Athanaseus Kircher** in fact proposed that the bubonic plague was caused by a microorganism as early as 1656. With faster advances in microscopy and microbiology, the experiments that convinced the medical community of the validity of the germ theory could easily have happened in the 17th century. Once you have a germ theory of disease that's taken seriously, a lot of major medical advances become surprisingly trivial. Take for example the DTaP vaccines; you just take the bacterial toxins and expose them to formaldehyde, which yield toxoids that when injected elicits an immune response without harming the patient. The only hard part of the process is the isolation and culture of the bacteria, but that was in place by the mid 19th century, and there's honestly no real reason it couldn't have been done considerably earlier. The first rabies vaccine came from rabbit spinal cord extract of a rabies infected rabit that was attenuated through heating, again nothing all that special. The tuberculosis vaccine use attenuated bacteria and bovine TB respectively. Polio, MMR, Varicella, Hib, Hep B, are the vaccines that require more advanced technologies, either mammalian cell cultures to maintain the virus or modern biochemistry to conjugate PRP to a carrier protein.

* And that's with modern mechanized agriculture too.


** https://www.mjt.org/exhibits/kircher.htm
Once microscopes can actually see them (they exist ITTL but aren’t good enough to do that yet) I can see some sort of germ theory developing. It’d be pretty easy to test just by using boiled vs un-boiled water with patients and comparing the results. Washing surgical instruments and hands in recently-boiled water alone would do wonders for reducing infections in surgeries.

Vaccines wouldn’t be so easy, but if smallpox variolation is already a thing when TTL germ theory gets started, doctors would be already exploring why variolation works and have a better mindset for investigating.
 
I think the OTL bridge is right where the TTL Imperial Arsenal is…
Truth be told, location of the OTL bridge isn't the most optimal location for a shipyard as the Golden Horn as it may get a little cramped (especially when building large ships) compared to location of the OTL Ottoman Arsenal (in Haskoy).

I can’t find a recent reference to the size of King’s Harbor. However I’ve been picturing it as around half the size of Paris, so with the revision that would put it at a quarter-million, which would make it #4 in Europe. The next big city that is specified in the TL is Milan at 210,000.
There are a bunch of cities in the 150,000-200,000 range, London, Lisbon, Texcoco, Baghdad, Lucknow (capital of Oudh), Thessaloniki, Antioch, Smyrna, and probably a few more Indian and Chinese cities. King’s Harbor would fall somewhere in this bracket.
I found this. I wonder what are the largest cities now in Italy besides Milan since the Megalopolises (Naples, Milan, Venice) aren't as big as OTL but smaller towns are also bigger. Is it fair to assume most cities like Genoa, Bologna and Florence which are somewhere in the middle to have maintained their OTL trajectory?
 
Once microscopes can actually see them (they exist ITTL but aren’t good enough to do that yet) I can see some sort of germ theory developing. It’d be pretty easy to test just by using boiled vs un-boiled water with patients and comparing the results. Washing surgical instruments and hands in recently-boiled water alone would do wonders for reducing infections in surgeries.

Vaccines wouldn’t be so easy, but if smallpox variolation is already a thing when TTL germ theory gets started, doctors would be already exploring why variolation works and have a better mindset for investigating.
Smallpox variolation had been a thing for more than 100 years in the west by the time germ theory started getting taken seriously in the mid 1800s. The problem with connecting the dots is that small pox is a viral disease, and you can't see viruses without an electron microscope, which requires a theory of particle physics and electricity. That actually lead to there being holdouts in the medical community against the germ theory as a universal explanation for communicable diseases into the early 20th century, and was a serious objection to germ theory up until we started finding diseases that were unambiguously caused by bacteria which we could actually see.


What's really needed for the germ theory to take off is earlier advances in microscopy. The basic layout of the optical microscope is considered to have been perfected in the 1830s by Joseph Lister (the father of the famous physician), and by the end of the century germ theory was accepted enough that in the late 1800s the scientific community accepted the existence of viruses despite the inability to directly visualize them on a microscope. The specific hurdles that need to be cleared to yield a modern style optical microscope are the issues of chromatic and spherical aberration. Achromatic lens were invented in the 1750s, while the optimal spacing to minimize spherical aberration came in the 1830s. If ITTL those two things happen around the same time in the early 1700s, by the end of the century germ theory and microbiology could be well established, leading to DTaP+TB vaccines in the early 1800s.
 
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Truth be told, location of the OTL bridge isn't the most optimal location for a shipyard as the Golden Horn as it may get a little cramped (especially when building large ships) compared to location of the OTL Ottoman Arsenal (in Haskoy).


I found this. I wonder what are the largest cities now in Italy besides Milan since the Megalopolises (Naples, Milan, Venice) aren't as big as OTL but smaller towns are also bigger. Is it fair to assume most cities like Genoa, Bologna and Florence which are somewhere in the middle to have maintained their OTL trajectory?
The Arsenal was built back when galleys and some galleasses were the main warships so space was less of an issue. Plus at the point putting it on the north side of the Golden Horn would’ve meant the arsenal would’ve been closer to the Latin quarters in Galata than Constantinople proper, a serious security issue.

Medium ones like Genoa and Florence are similar to OTL. Naples and Venice are medium-sized rather than the big ones they were IOTL. Other major ones would be Verona, Messina, Bari, Palermo, Syracuse, Pavia, Mantua, and Ferrara.

Smallpox variolation had been a thing for more than 100 years in the west by the time germ theory started getting taken seriously in the mid 1800s. The problem with connecting the dots is that small pox is a viral disease, and you can't see viruses without an electron microscope, which requires a theory of particle physics and electricity. That actually lead to there being holdouts in the medical community against the germ theory as a universal explanation for communicable diseases into the early 20th century, and was a serious objection to germ theory up until we started finding diseases that were unambiguously caused by bacteria which we could actually see.


What's really needed for the germ theory to take off is earlier advances in microscopy. The basic layout of the optical microscope is considered to have been perfected in the 1830s by Joseph Lister (the father of the famous physician), and by the end of the century germ theory was accepted enough that in the late 1800s the scientific community accepted the existence of viruses despite the inability to directly visualize them on a microscope. The specific hurdles that need to be cleared are the issues of chromatic and spherical aberration. Achromatic lens were invented in the 1750s, while the optimal spacing to minimize spherical aberration came in the 1830s. If ITTL those two things happen around the same time in the early 1700s, by the end of the century germ theory and microbiology could be well established, leading to DTaP+TB vaccines in the early 1800s.
Yeah, good point about smallpox. My bad.

Thank you for the information on microscopes.
 
The House of Iron: Chips and Cheese
The House of Iron: Chips and Cheese

The mobilization of Roman industry and society for the efforts required in the Great Latin War/War of the Roman Succession was unprecedented and a truly remarkable effort, made possible only by the economic advancements from the Flowering combined with the administrative reforms of Demetrios III Sideros. Yet it was hardly a perfect sweep, with plans rushed, leading to inevitable sloppiness, and even those well implemented would be subject to growing pains.

Most of Demetrios III’s limited energy in the late 1630s would be focused on internal affairs. Foreign policy would be left adrift as a result, which explains the rather poor Roman performance in this area in this period. For example, Demetrios’ ‘wait and see’ policy regarding the Ducal War in Italy was definitely left on the stove too long. Furthermore the lack of clear directives from the top allowed a clique of ultra-war hawks to form in government circles. In numbers they weren’t that many, but they made up for that and more in volume, and they knew how to use the burgeoning Roman press to spread their message. Their brazen greed, contemptuous indifference to the concerns of others, and sheer bloody-mindedness was tailor-made to alienate foreigners. Demetrios III in his history makes it quite clear that their rhetoric provided opportunities for both Henri II and Ibrahim that they never would’ve received otherwise, and which they skillfully exploited to Rhomania’s detriment.

Some historians have criticized Demetrios III for this lapse, with some fairness. Demetrios himself acknowledged that a lot of his own rhetoric from the war provided the intellectual underpinnings for the war hawks. But in his defense, the damage done by the war hawks wasn’t truly apparent until it was largely too late. Furthermore, leaving aside the Emperor’s bad health, internal affairs were a large enough plate to deal with already.

Not all of that was specifically to do with the various administrative reforms. By the end of 1637 most of the serious spade work had been finished and it was mostly a matter of smoothing off any edges. But then the three great financial scandals of the late 1630s started to break and Demetrios was left scrambling to clean up the mess.

The scandals broke in order of severity, going from mildest to worst. The first, which became clear in early 1638, is known as the ‘Trebizond Yard Scandal’, although the name is more specific than the extent which was hardly exclusive to Trebizond.

Naval procurement was a particularly good field for cultivating corruption. This was hardly exclusive to Rhomania. The quantity of money needed to construct battle-line ships, the vast array of materials and technical sophistication involved which meant numerous contractors, all provided plenty of opportunity for graft, from high to low.

One of the ubiquitous examples is that of ‘chips’, a common tradition in shipyards across all of Christendom. Shipwrights, in addition to their regular compensation, were also allowed to keep any ‘chips’, which meant any leftover timber pieces (or other pieces like rope or sailcloth, although lumber was by far the most common) were theirs to take. These chips were sold on the side for extra money, and since any sales were pure profit, this was a highly valued and fiercely guarded practice. The only restriction was that the chips had to be carried out by the shipwright personally. The issue was that ‘leftover’ tended to get broadly interpreted and sometimes shipwrights would walk out with a fully worked ship-timber plank; so long as they could balance it on their shoulders and walk out of the yard, this was technically allowed. [1]

Chipping is an example of low-level graft that was constantly active in the background, and generally accepted as the price of keeping skilled craftsmen happy. Any one of the naval powers would be happy to poach qualified shipwrights from competitors. But it shows how naval construction was a field in which a lack of corruption would be far more surprising than its presence.

The Trebizond yard scandal was on a much larger scale, but in its own way was typical of a naval procurement scandal. What made it special was its size. There had been a massive wave of naval construction for the war effort, both beforehand in preparation and during to keep fleet levels up. The constant blockading of the Italian coast had taken its toll on Roman hulls, and this is before the naval powers knew how to copper bottoms to protect hulls against marine life. (There had been some experiments with lead sheathing, but these made the iron nails underneath rust and fall out, which was obviously a problem for structural integrity. The experiments were quickly discontinued, but that meant more building to repair or replace the ships compromised.)

Shipbuilding timber needs to be properly seasoned, meaning left to dry after being cut, for up to three years before actually being used in construction. Many of the largest structures at naval yards were vast drying sheds in which timber would season. This was expensive because it was large long-term storage and it was especially important that the timber not get wet in the process since that would defeat the whole point; a ramshackle shed would not do.

However timber, once fully seasoned, wouldn’t leak nearly as much as green timber, substantially lengthening the longevity of a vessel before it needed major rebuilding or replacement. Considering the expense of building a battle-line ship, this was extremely important to Admiralties. One could build a warship from green timber, but it was an expensive choice best avoided unless absolutely necessary. The Roman Admiralty’s 1627 regulations state that a seasoned warship is, assuming normal operational wear and tear and proper maintenance, expected to last around 25 years, a green-timbered ship only 5 years, at most.

Private contractors had been used to build warships for the Roman navy, as was usual, but in the unprecedented urgency and volume of orders, quality standards had lapsed. Several contractors were paid to build warships with seasoned timbers which they claimed to have on hand. However what they actually had were timbers in the drying shed that had not completed the process and those were what they used to build the warships.

Ploys like this are expected, which is why the Roman Admiralty prefers to build warships from its own yards where quality control is easier to enforce. However the Imperial Arsenal, while effective for churning out galleys in the 1400s, is too cramped to build very many of the much larger battle-line ships at any one time. The Venetian Arsenal suffers from a similar problem. Thus private contractors are all the more important.

Another factor encouraging the use of private contractors is the growing difficulty of procuring naval supplies. Contracts to build warships places the onus of getting the material on the contractor rather than the government, much to the relief of the latter. For example, mandates to protect the remaining Pontic forests for ship-building timber are two centuries old by this point. However the skyrocketing demand for lumber required by 17th-century battle-line ships compared to 15th-century galleys plus the other calls for timber from a growing population mean that those mandates are now distinguishable mainly by their glaring ineffectiveness. It is much simpler, from Constantinople’s perspective, to pay the contractor and let them deal with getting the literally acres-worth of trees needed to build just one battle-line ship from wherever in Russia to the Pontic yards.

Naval maintenance in early 1638 reveals that nine of the Roman battle-line ships were made with the green-timber, well over 10% of Rhomania’s entire battle-line. [2] The Piraeus Yard superintendent reports of one 64-gunner that if it were to sail to Spain, the Spanish wouldn’t need to do anything to make it sink other than sit back and watch. (Unbeknownst to him, the Spanish navy is suffering similar procurement-corruption scandals from their own unprecedented naval buildup for the Andalusi War.)

In order to maintain the navy at current strength, substantial and unexpected and expensive construction is needed. Fines from the private shipyards responsible help some, but they are limited as the level of fines is dictated by the original contract. The yards were paid to furnish seasoned-timber warships, and since they delivered green-timber ships they must pay back the difference from what they would’ve been paid for delivering a green-timber ship in the first place. In addition they must pay a breach-of-contract fine which was already specified in the original contract. Beyond that the Roman government cannot go without jeopardizing relations with the other private yards, whose expertise and resources they need.

This unexpected budget item comes at the same time the treasury is doling out a large outlay to the Ethiopians for their services in the east. Which also happens simultaneously with another demand on the Roman exchequer that, while not permanently affecting Roman-Vlach relations, serves as a useful example that for small states, having even a friendly great power as a neighbor can be constricting.

Large subsidies from Rhomania kept the Vlach state from going bankrupt from military expenses during the recent war, but that was all they did and they ceased after the fighting stopped. By 1638 the Vlach state is broke. The Banat estates that helped fund the royal exchequer, stripped and ruined by the Germans, are still well below pre-war production levels, wounded veterans unable to work are demanding disability payments, and many would-be taxpayers and laborers are crossing the Danube south into Rhomania.

The Vlach Diet that assembles in Targoviste knows that things need to change. An earlier royal effort to get some more Roman subsidies goes nowhere as it unfortunately arrives just after the Trebizond Yard scandal breaks. More debits is not what Constantinople wants right now. The Vlachs are irritated by this, feeling they are ill-compensated for the pivotal role they played in the Ruse campaign.

The Diet thus raises export duties on cereals, cheese, mutton, beef, wool and leather, all commodities Vlachia exports in bulk to Rhomania, particularly to feed hungry Constantinople. The great landowners are, in a sense, voting against their interests since this will raise their own expenses. However their Vlach pride has been affronted and they also reason that the White Palace, which needs to feed Constantinople, will pony up the extra cash needed for the price markup. (Vlachia can’t provide all the food for the Queen of Cities and the other cities of the Aegean basin, hence the need for Scythian and Egyptian grain, but its proximity makes Vlachia the ‘first-call’ breadbasket for Constantinople.)

Another issue the Diet wishes to address is a limit on emigration. Vlachia is a poor, under-developed, and under-populated country, with less than 2 million people even after its post-war acquisitions; its capital Targoviste is the largest city, more than twice the size of the next biggest, but it has only 16,000 people, one-twentieth that of Constantinople. And the main cause for this is Rhomania.

Low import duties on Roman products mean that Vlach artisans are faced with a tidal wave of Roman wares that are often of higher-quality and comparable or even cheaper in price. Textile workers are especially hit hard. Extremely limited capital means it is practically impossible for artisans to finance expanded operations (export of bullion out of Rhomania without a license can result in the death penalty), so Roman economies of scale swamp them. Many, rather than struggle against the tide, prefer to immigrate to Rhomania where wages are higher anyway.

Large landowners, who profit from feeding the hungry masses of Roman cities, expand their holdings at the expenses of smaller landowners who can’t compete. Many of the latter are forced to become either tenant farmers or landless laborers. For those farmers who do not care for that their choices are limited. They can try to go into forestry or mining, but the guilds fiercely guard their privileges and independence and one way they do that is not to antagonize the great landowners (who comprise the Diet) by poaching laborers. They can try to enter the church but that often costs money (monasteries are some of the biggest landowners in Vlachia).

The best option is to emigrate to Rhomania, especially after the Empire has a major de-population event, such as losing 800,000 in a war with Latins and Ottomans. In those situations Constantinople sets up lots of incentives to entice new blood, and poor Vlachs are always the first ones to answer and in the greatest number. Georgian laborers are a common sight in Anatolia, but they come and work for a few years, save up money, and then return home with their earnings to marry and start a family. Vlachs though usually never go back to Vlachia, and remittances are rare. Rhomania is effectively a vampire sucking Vlach lifeblood away when it is feeling depleted. The Diet wishes this to stop.

The Roman government is most displeased by what it hears is transpiring in Targoviste. Simultaneously trying to raise the cost of provisioning Constantinople and restricting the flow of new labor to recover from a de-population event is hitting the White Palace in two very sensitive areas. The Roman ambassador immediately starts putting pressure on the Diet members and the Vlach government behind the scenes.

An agreement is eventually reached, although one weighted heavily toward Rhomania, unsurprisingly considering the disparity in power. The proposed increases on customs duties and emigration restrictions are both dropped. In exchange, the Romans will pay the disability payments requested by Vlach veterans since the injuries were incurred in defense of the Empire. This helps some of the Vlach financial issues, but hardly resolves them.

To do that, the Vlachs must turn to other methods. One is to step up the pressure on the Székelys minority in Transylvania, whose loyalty inclines more to Buda and whose faith is Catholic. Lands and properties are stripped away as penalty for minor infractions, and if those aren’t available trumped-up charges will do. The Hungarians protest, but the final part of the agreement is that the Romans back the Vlachs in this dispute.

Another reform the Diet makes is a different tax increase from the one initially proposed. The customs duties increase would’ve fallen predominately on the major landowners who produce for the foreign market, not the smallholders. Instead the Vlach people get increased consumption taxes on various items, a form of taxation that falls more onerously on the already suffering poor. They are also burdened by new laws restricting internal movement for the agricultural poor designed to circumvent Roman disapproval of emigration limits. Off the estates they have to have a passport from their landlord and can only move away if they are debt-free, a rarity, and even then only during a fortnight period after the harvest. Effectively they are staked to the land.

[1] This is all from OTL.
[2] The 91 battle-line ships mentioned in the ‘Wooden Walls’ update include 18 Sicilian vessels.
 
Fascinating update touching on corruption and economics. However, in chaos arises opportunity. Maybe Rhomaion can enact more reforms so they won't need to scramble to come up with stopgap measures for each scandal. Also, once the East and Italy is settled, one can hope for a new Imperial Arsenal so Rhomaion can reassert dominance over Mare Nostrum. Is the next update(s) going to focus on the next 2 financial scandals or are the Ethiopian and Vlach affairs considered the eponymous scandals?

Rhomania is effectively a vampire sucking Vlach lifeblood away when it is feeling depleted.
How the turntables

pressure on the Székelys
a form of taxation that falls more onerously on the already suffering poor.
Sounds like Vlachia is ready for some revolution ala Zimmermann and Asanes.
 
So Constantinople is effectively watching their neighbor and ally head down the road to being the 17th century equivalent of a third world country and pick a fight with their larger less reliable neighbor. If it continues and the Hungarians pick a fight during the reign of an aggressive emperor, we could see him decide ruling the Vlachs is easier than having to constantly subsidize and save them.
 
So Constantinople is effectively watching their neighbor and ally head down the road to being the 17th century equivalent of a third world country and pick a fight with their larger less reliable neighbor. If it continues and the Hungarians pick a fight during the reign of an aggressive emperor, we could see him decide ruling the Vlachs is easier than having to constantly subsidize and save them.
That sounds like the kinda cold and aggressive logic our favorite heir might be in favor of. It would completely undermine the Alliance though if the two bigger members ate a smaller member. Nothing said that alliance is rock solid though.

That said there’s a need for Rome to find a new source of people to repopulate areas with and Artisans to steal. Some capital would also be nice. And while we’ve suggested Lotharingia in exile locations before Constantinople might suck up a lot of their dissidents with the offer of free land, better paying jobs, and saftey from Triune raids. That’s only a temporary fix though. Eventually the population will likely grow used to triune rule. Long term though repopulation efforts might be what the Romans end up paying Ethiopian slavers for. Free them and give them a year of free Greek lessons. Not free like the Vlachs but it keeps Ethiopia happy.
 
I'm not surprised at all that the Vlachs did that. Low land productivity & low population & immigration opportunities next door are all strong incentives to keep workers tied down to the land, and Vlachia's got all three.
Are there many rich and powerful Rhomans who have joined in the fray and taken the opportunity to essentially retire into the countryside?
The Imperial government likely has an entire administrative arm limiting plot sizes for rural landowners to prevent countryside revolts.
 
I meant retiring into rural Vlachia, which is even more likely if Rhomaion has leashed its landowners.
Ah, they could do that. Why would they do such a thing though? Vlachia's the Ruritania of the Orthodox world, a forgotten land of unwashed peasants and illiteracy. There's no culture there for a Roman retiree to enjoy.
 
Ah, they could do that. Why would they do such a thing though? Vlachia's the Ruritania of the Orthodox world, a forgotten land of unwashed peasants and illiteracy. There's no culture there for a Roman retiree to enjoy.
Agreed, they are going to want to be rural but within a few days of Constantinople. The greater the wealth grows and land costs go up the farther they will go.
 
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