I was wondering about the state of some of ancient architecture of constantinople. Areas further out from the centre like forum of Arcadius will have long fallen into disrepair and probably built over but the augustaion, hippodrome, mese, and forum of Constantine should still retain alot of their classical greco-roman appearance. The Column of justinian, valens aqueduct and column of Constantine (the inscriptions on them would be in Latin too, funny if you ask me) might still be around too. If this is the case Constantinople (at least these parts) would be one of the most beautiful cities in the western hemisphere and probably the only place (and I guess other agean cities) where one can really have a glimpse back into antiquity.
Can't give specifics. A lot of damage was done by the fires of 1203 and 1204, which are pre-POD, plus there's TTL damage from fires and earthquakes. So, while a lot has survived or been repaired, there's also a lot that has been lost.
Is Classical Latin still considered prestigious among Roman high society? Perhaps its slowly falling behind Russian, French and Persian in terms of popularity?
Knowledge of Latin largely disappeared in OTL Byzantine times (pre-POD). I'd have to look it up to be sure, but I remember Theodoros II Laskaris making some disparaging comments about the Latin language in one of his OTL writings. ITTL society, knowledge of classical Latin is rare and not highly valued, with the three languages you mention being far more widely spoken as a second language. Plus Spanish for commercial reasons.
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Rhomania’s General Crisis, part 2.0-Enter the Tourmarches:
Herakleios III himself does not have much desire to rule, but that means others can rule through him. Until early 1659 that had been Athena, but her precipitous decline in health after the attempt on her life made it impossible for her to continue. That said, she did not depart entirely from the halls of power, but as soon as she stopped being dominant, she was significantly handicapped even in her comparatively minor efforts to exert influence later.
That was because she had had no institutional authority. She was the Emperor’s aunt, which meant precisely nothing in terms of legal power. She had acted as Regent for Herakleios when he was underage but that was long since passed. She had retained the power and authority she’d held as Regent, but that had been due to Herakleios’s inactivity and the force of inertia. But once the spell had been broken, even for a bit, it could not be put back together, even in a lesser form.
Those surrounding Herakleios III now, starting in the spring of 1659, would not make the same mistake. The small clique that developed around Herakleios III and ruled through him are usually known as the Tourmarches, with the system labeled as ‘The Regime of the Tourmarches’. They were called that because the majority were Tourmarches when the Regime began (although promotions happened). They were all war hawks of varying degree, but it must be noted that the Regime Tourmarches were a much smaller subgroup of the much larger ideological faction of the war hawks.
That was because the sheer power and influence the Tourmarches possessed is due to their personal proximity to the monarch, Emperor Herakleios III. A small group could do that, while a broad faction couldn’t. Unlike Athena, the Tourmarches would ensure some institutional authority for themselves and for war hawk fellow-travelers, but here they would have some success but also run into serious limitations. At the end of the day, what really gave them power was their connection to the Emperor.
That was made quite clear in probably the most famous of the Tourmarches, who was quite obviously not a Tourmarch. This is Anastasia Laskarina, Herakleios III’s mistress, whose fame admittedly largely comes from being fourteen years older than her lover. This has inspired, to put it nicely, much psychoanalysis in interpretations of Anastasia and of this period of Roman history, some good and much more not so good.
Anastasia is sometimes presented as the dark genius behind all this, the ultimate femme fatale. Other historians have argued against this, viewing such claims as another example of the tendency to blame the woman for all the bad things, especially if the woman is foreign in some way. Due to ancestry from Crusader nobility from the Principality of Achaia, Anastasia is described as rather French-looking, although no details about what that means are given and are in the contexts of other criticisms, in which this is added as an afterthought. Still, she is an intelligent and forceful woman in her own right and even those hostile to her and her relationship with Herakleios admit that she helps make Herakleios less boorish and obnoxious.
Anastasia’s only sibling is her older brother Isaakios, Tourmarch of the 1st Thracian. As a teenager, he fought at Thessaloniki and was wounded in the left leg, giving him a permanent limp. Suave and sophisticated and a prosperous landowner, whose estates near Adrianople and Komotini are possibly some of the most advanced agriculturally in the whole Empire, he is often the Tourmarches’ diplomat and friendly face, especially in dealing with elite Roman society. However, he is most important as the conduit between the Tourmarches and Anastasia and thus to Herakleios.
Isaakios is a fervent war hawk, strongly believing in the need to militarize society and expand the Empire, but he is also interested in the prosperity and prestige of himself and his family, but nothing more than that. He is loyal to the Sideros dynasty, with no interest in reviving the Laskarid claim to the throne, at least explicitly. (Given the proliferation of Laskarid lines from cadet branches, with frequent intermarriages, trying to figure out the dynastically rightful Laskarid claim is the sort of task tailored to drive genealogists insane.) On the other hand, he is interested in what has been labeled the Fujiwara plan, and it is possible he was aware of the Japanese exemplar.
Herakleios is married to his first cousin Sophia, an arrangement by Demetrios III in an effort to unite many of the varied dynastic claims in a neat bow. This marriage has not produced any offspring though by 1659. Anastasia, now entering her forties, is unlikely to produce any children with Herakleios, and there are concerns that Sophia will turn out too much like her mother Athena and pose political challenges. Isaakios and Anastasia wish to remove Sophia, one way or another, and have Herakleios wed a young and pliant Laskarid cousin who will produce heirs and otherwise stay out of the way.
The other Tourmarches are not supportive of this, but are not opposed to it either. Replacing the Sideros dynasty outright would’ve been a touchy subject, even among many war hawks frustrated with Imperial action, but this ‘Fujiwara’ plan doesn’t raise hackles. And if that is the price of doing business, that is a price they are quite willing to pay.
The most intelligent is Andronikos Gyranos, 1st Tourmarch of the War Room, and the one who is the closest to envisioning a complete system and vision for the Empire. He has served at the War Room for all of his career, as a junior officer helping to arrange the logistical efforts that sustained the mass army at Thessaloniki. This is rather unusual for the Roman army, which prefers to rotate officers between staff and field work to ensure understanding and cooperation between the two groups. This is possibly because his superiors noted that for all his intelligence and formidable analytical and organizational ability, he lacks that gambler’s instinct, that willingness to take risks, if necessary in the moment, required of all good field commanders.
Gyranos desires a forward and expansionistic foreign policy, which he believes vital for the security of the Empire, which he regards as too small demographically to sustain itself in geopolitical competition. He recognizes the strain this will place on Roman society though, and to enable society to endure such costs he wants to completely jettison all concepts of just price and just interest and just profit. It was big farms and big manufacturing processes that produced most of the supplies and materials that sustained the armies of the War of the Roman Succession. He believes that these legislations limit the ability of such institutions to grow and expand.
He is quite aware that this will put pressure on the small folk, but tiny workshops and farms cannot feed and equip the tagmata efficiently, and so it is a price that must be paid. Hopefully, expansionism and growth will create new opportunities and resources for the small folk to make up for what they must sacrifice at the beginning.
Many dynatoi who would benefit financially from the elimination of these legislations are attracted to this idea. They like his other ideas much less. Gyranos also wants an extremely harsh inheritance tax, allowing only 120 modioi of land or equivalent in capital assets to be passed down to each inheritor. Any surplus from an estate after filling these bequests is to go to the state. Gyranos wants this proviso to prevent the consolidation of a large and wealthy dynatoi class that may then use its resources to resist the demands of the state. The example of 1203-04, where Constantinople had much wealth but the state was unable to utilize it for defense, looms large and ominous in Gyranos’ mind.
He also advocates for universal primary education, ensuring that all Roman children have at least a basic level of reading, writing, and mathematics. He views this as a good in and of itself, but also sees this as a means to inculcate values of loyalty, patriotism, and militarism in youth. These are to be the future soldiers and officers of the Roman Empire. Since it will be difficult, if not impossible, to match numbers with the likes of Latin coalitions, quality must be as high as possible to compensate, and so it would be best to start young. Also, as new discoveries, both geographical and scientific, show, there is a lot of information out there in the world, much of which may be useful both to the Roman state and society. The more minds able and trained to process that, the greater the likelihood that information will be discovered and utilized.
This proposal, while not widely supported, has many advocates, not all of them war hawks, although those with different motivations would seek to adjust the program. Where Gyranos is truly unusual, especially among war hawks, is that he wants the universal education to be for girls as well as boys, with the same level and kind of training. (There is speculation that he was inspired by the model of ancient Sparta on this point, but there is no conclusive evidence of that. Meanwhile, Gyranos does criticize the Spartan system since, being based on a massive resentful population of helots held in check entirely by terror, it was constantly handicapped in trying to do literally anything else.)
The two other Tourmarches, Konstantinos Plytos and Thomas Nereas, have overlap with Gyranos but are more similar to each other than each with Gyranos. Both are tourmarches in the guard tagmata and field veterans of the War of the Roman Succession, fighting throughout the Danube and Macedonian campaigns, and highly decorated for their deeds.
Furthermore, while they agree with Gyranos on abolishing any ‘just economics’ legislation to free up commerce, for the same reasons, they disagree on all the other aspects, viewing them as unnecessary and likely to alienate potential supporters such as wealthy dynatoi. While they like the idea of universal education to inculcate appropriate values, they are concerned that too-educated small folk might start getting ideas. (Gyranos wanted the education partly to give small folk new opportunities to make up for their losses in improving the efficiency of production.)
In this regard, there’s also the matter of the Orthodox Church, responsible for much of the primary education that exists in Rhomania currently. Best not to step on those toes if not necessary; Gyranos envisioned the confiscation of church property to fund his educational initiatives, because he believed a government-run organization would ensure better quality of teaching.
Here though they see Gyranos’ points and respect his motivations, even if they don’t agree. But his desire for female education is just bizarre, with Nereas finding it potentially degenerate. Gyranos’ wife Irene is an excellent equestrian, a half-head taller than her husband, and reportedly enjoys wrestling as foreplay. One ‘joke’ for why the couple has no children despite their passion for each other is that, in lovemaking, she’s always on top. Given the general war hawk belief that part of the problem is too much feminine influence in government, this side of Gyranos’ life is viewed, at best as silly, at worst as suspicious.
Gyranos has his own annoyances. He views his ideas for reform as a complete set, a system, and doesn’t like the prospect of having only pieces of it implemented. To him that undermines its value and he thinks his colleagues are focusing too much on short-term gains and not enough on long-term strategy. But some is better than nothing. Still annoying though.
Plytos is the closest the Tourmarches have to being a ringleader, although his status is informal and based on his personality. He is good at managing people, even if they might not get along, and getting them to work together for a common cause. He is the glue that keeps the likes of the Laskarid siblings, Gyranos, and Nereas together. The latter two in particular often rub each other the wrong way.
Said to resemble a short brick wall physically, he is also credited with having the best singing voice in the Roman army, although that might not be a stiff competition. One of his favorite pastimes is to get together with a small group of friends, where they play musical instruments and he sings. Like Isaakios Laskaris, he is a wealthy landowner utilizing the most advanced techniques, including widespread cultivation of corn and tomatoes alongside the usual vines, olive, and fruit trees.
Thomas Nereas is the most infamous to the modern Roman. His war experience had been tragic even by the standards of the time and place. His family estates were destroyed and his entire immediate family, even down to second cousins, died during the war years. Many of these were directly related to the war, although not all. Both of his sisters died in childbirth, one at the same time as the Third Battle of Ruse and the other a month before the battle of Thessaloniki.
As a result, he was largely cut off from any life outside of the Roman army, and the Roman army effectively became his life. It was the army life that sustained him during his dark night, and in return he gave the army his all. Nothing else mattered. Some said that for him, the Roman army was God. He is known as a hard driver of his men, but scrupulously fair to them and concerned for their livelihood. His men may not like him personally, as Nereas is not the most likeable personality, but they would storm hell if he asked it, and he’d be in the breach himself.
Another aspect of Nereas’ war experience also shapes his personality going forward. During the early phases of the Macedonian campaign, in the fighting for Skoupoi, he was part of the flying column detached from the main Roman army with the mission of taking up position north of Blucher and attacking the Germans from that direction. After the main Roman army had been defeated at Skoupoi and retreated south during the Twelve Days, the column still tried to perform its mission.
The plan was to utilize local knowledge and trails to surprise the Latins while they were still tangling with the main Roman army, and the column had hired a local hunter and trapper who could show them the needed secret shortcuts. But the man made them lost and then demanded a huge sum of money before he would show them the way out, at which point the enraged column commander killed the hunter. The column had to find its own way out of the mountains, by which point it was too late for them to do anything.
Those events Nereas remembers well. The column might’ve changed history, but instead might as well have been on Saturn. Treason and sabotage had ruined that chance. Nereas will absolutely not tolerate such a thing happening again. Like that greedy hunter, the traitors and saboteurs that stand in the way of his mission must be wiped out, totally and without mercy. It is the only way to survive.