With thanks to @Practical Lobster and Chris Stewart of the History of China podcast and Chehrazad and Zam from Sufficientvelocity.com.

Inelid Qaghanate § Background

In the year 628, Khusro II was overthrown and killed by various factions of the Eranian nobility, including his son Sheroe, the Ispabudhan spahbed Färrukh Haurmizd and his son Rustäm Färrukhzad, the Mihranid Shährwäraz, the Armenian Varaztirots II Bagratuni, and the Känaräng Kandbak. Sheroe became Emperor Käwad II, and had all of his brothers and half-brothers executed. A few months later, Käwad II died in the devastating Plague of Sheroe, and his son Ärdäshier III became Emperor. Shährwäraz, along with the Parsieg factional leader Peroz Khusro and the Nemrozi spahbed Namdar Gushnäsp, overthrew and executed him, but was executed in turn by Färrukh Haurmizd, who installed Käwad II’s sister and wife [1] Boran I as Empress. Boran I was then deposed (but not killed) by the general Shahpuhr son of Shährwäraz, who was almost immediately deposed and killed by Färrukh Haurmizd, who installed Azärmiegdukht (another sister of Käwad II and Boran I) as Empress. However, shortly thereafter, Färrukh Haurmizd was killed by Quraysh and Taghlibid forces under Khālid ibn al-Walīd, who raided Mesopotamia. Azärmiegdukht, although ruling in Tisfon, was not recognised by the Pähläwieg noble houses, with the exception of House Mihran and House Suren. When Rustäm Färrukhzad marched an army from Khwarasan to get revenge on the Arabs, he first stopped by in Tisfon to depose Azärmiegdukht and reinstall her sister Boran, who had more approval among the Pähläwieg nobility.

Boran I ruled well, implementing just laws, lowering taxes, repairing infrastructure, establishing diplomatic connections, and successfully assuaging political factionalism to enough of an extent that she was able to call on both Parsieg and Pähläwieg forces during the Arab invasions. However, Eran was still too crippled to resist, and over the course of the 640s and early 650s, Mesopotamia was lost, with much of its treasures and population being moved to the Iranian plateau. However, from this point onwards, the Arab conquests ran out of momentum, and Boran I’s successor, Ärdäshier III’s son Yäzdgird III, was able to stabilise the state, bringing in line all of the Parthian houses except Ispabudhan, gaining support from the rising Táng [唐] empire, and campaigning successfully against the Tokhara Yabghus and the Arabs in the Caucasus. However, following his assassination in 672, the factional rifts reappeared, and Persia fell once again into civil strife, and all Sassanid emperors after Yäzdgird III would be subject to the intrigues of Parsieg and Pähläwieg nobles, Seric generals, and Turkic khans… [2]

ROME: From City to Empire to City Again (Angelo Trapanesco)

Although Heraclius I had managed to defeat the Sassanids and reclaim the eastern provinces, Romania was in a more dire situation than it had been at any point since the Crisis of the Third Century.

The Haemus was undefended against the Slavic tribes, and rapidly collapsed, with only Thessalonica, a strip of Thrace, and some coastal towns not being lost. In Egypt, Syria, and Osrhoene, an entire generation had grown up under Persian rule. Miaphysites had worshipped free of government interference. Many of Anatolia’s cities lay in ruins. Plague stalked the land. The state was nearly bankrupt. Mercenaries, many of whom were Arabs, dissatisfied with the prospect of returning to civilian life, turned to banditry and smuggling.

Heraclius I sought to unify Christendom, promulgating a doctrine which claimed that Christ had two natures but one energy, a compromise known as monotheletism. It found little ground on either side of the religious divide. Additionally, he issued an edict ordering the Jews of the empire to convert to Christendom, although it appears not to have been enforced at any level outside of Africa, which only served to increase Jewish discontent to an even greater extent…

The End of Antiquity (Márk Halas)

In the 620s, the Quraysh were almost certainly the strongest power in intermontane Southwest Asia [3]. The Romans and Sassanids were exhausted from a 26-year-long war, and the latter suffered from a four-year-long war on top of that. The Lakhmid Malkate, the most powerful Arab state prior to the war, had been destroyed by Shah Khusro II, while its western counterpart, the Ghassānid Malikate, had been hollowed out. Aksum, which had owned the Himyaar, had been expelled by the Eranians around 570, and its attempts to regain control over the Himyaar and the Hadhramut had met little success. Meanwhile, the Quraysh had defeated their rivals in the area during the Fiqar Wars, and stood as one of three significant powers in the Hedjaz, the others being alliance networks centred around the Banū Ghatāfan in the north and the Banū Thaqīf in the south. [4]

The military aspects of the rise of Arab power in the early 600s are quite clear. In the mid-620s, the Banu Ghatāfan seized the oasis city of Yathrib [5], and this was responded to with war by the Quraysh. The forces of the Quraysh fought the Ghatāfanids eight times, and five of those times, they were led by Khālid ibn al-Walīd al-Makhzūmī. The Quraysh won, and then went south and defeated the Banū Thaqīf and their allies, unifying the Hedjaz, and afterwards allied with the Banū Taghlib and moved on to the Lakhm. In late 630, Khālid ibn al-Walīd’s forces defeated and killed the Eranian general Färrukh Haurmizd, and then crossed the Euphrates and pillaged Mesopotamia until the arrival of a superior Eranian force, at which point they returned to the Lakhm. After that, the Arabs invaded Syria in several groups. Arab forces invaded from the south, defeating the Ghassānid (who were suffering from a civil war), while Khālid ibn al-Walīd’s force came out of the desert from the east, seizing Palmyra before converging with the other armies in Busra, where Khālid took over general command of the Arab forces and set up an operational headquarters. By this point, he was (or at least was claiming to be) a Miaphysite Christian. The Arabs continued to take cities in Syria until the Roman Emperor Heyrákleios I sent the only remaining Roman field army to defeat them in 636, coordinating with the Sassanid Empire.

Khālid concentrated the entire Arab army in Syria at Jābiya, starting a standoff against the Romans. The Arabs then retreated to the Yarmouk river, where their cavalry could be used more effectively. After a month-long standoff, a battle began. The Arabs won decisively, routing the Roman army, and essentially collapsing all resistance south of the Euphrates, and Khālid’s forces offered him the crown. He refused, but his men insisted, and in the end, Khālid’s son ʿAbd al-Raḥmān was given the title of Malik of Maliks, with lesser Maliks being given rule over Meshan, Asoristan, Khwarwaran, and Cilicia. Afterwards, Khālid fought against the Eranians, defeating an Eranian army before crossing the Euphrates and besieging Tisfon. The siege was, however, broken, and the situation in Mesopotamia turned into a stalemate. The Arab forces lacked sufficient power to decisively defeat the Eranians, but the Eranians were unable to drive the Arabs out. This situation lasted until the reappearance of the Plague forced the Arabs to retreat in 638. The next several years saw a standoff at the Euphrates, with Arab forces controlling the areas to the west south of the Taurus Mountains. Another Arab force under ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ al-Sahmī entered Egypt in 639, and finished the conquest of most of it by 641, barring a small area in the south around the city of Aswan, which was instead seized by the kingdom of Makuria, the northernmost vassal of the Aksumites.

From 642 to 646, the self-proclaimed prophets Maslama and Sajah unified the tribes of Yamamma under what would become a new religion and then went on to conquer the southern Lakhm, Oman, and the Hadhramut, while the Quraysh conquered the Himyaar and Aden. 644 also saw the resumption of regular Arab raids into Mesopotamia, which were not enough to seriously threaten conquest, but continued to make the reconstruction of Mesopotamia impossible. The situation turned even further against the Eranians in 649, when Syria and the Hadiyun Imamate simultaneously launched attacks on Mesopotamia, lead by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān and Maslama themselves, overwhelming the Eranian forces in the region and forcing them beyond the Tigris except in parts of Khwarwaran. In 651, the Qurayshi general Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān invaded Armenia; although this first invasion was repelled, he returned in 653, and this time successfully conquered it. In 653, the combined forces of the Imamate and Umayyad Armenia successfully besieged Tisfon, but Maslama was killed during the final stages of the battle, and the army’s order collapsed into a disorderly sack, resulting in brawling between Imamate and Umayyad forces, which allowed the Eranians to briefly retake the city. Fighting between Imamate and Umayyad forces continued until Sajah and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān arrived to calm the situation down. In the end, four more kingdoms were created in Mesopotamia: Taghlibid Osrhoene, Thaqīfid Meshan, Hāshimid Asoristan, and Fihrid Khwarwaran. All of these were nominally vassals to Makhzumid Syria, but the former two were ruled by adherents of Hanaf.
Seeing that Mesopotamia was now attacked from the north, west, and south, Boran I ordered that the lands east of the Tigris and west of Khuzestan and the Zagros be abandoned, stripped of valuables, and their populations moved to the Iranian plateau, similarly to how Heyrákleios I had abandoned Cilicia.

After this, the Arab conquests largely ran out of momentum. The only further gains that would be made by Arab states during the century of Arab hegemony would be the remaining Eranian territories west of the Zagros (gained during the succession crisis that followed the assassination of Yäzdgird III), some marginal territories in Africa ruled by Sahmid Egypt from the 660s to the 700s, and the establishment of outposts in the Horn of Aethiopia [6] …

… The political situation, on the other hand, is less clear, in part because we do not know what Arab governance looked like beforehand. There are three main schools of thought. The “orthodox” view is that Makhzumid Syria practiced a fairly standard form of Arab kingship, merely on a larger scale and supported by the Roman bureaucracy, while Maslama and Sajahs’ prophetic state was unprecedented. However, there are some inconsistencies between this story and the historical record. The first challenge to it comes from the Wisdom of Maslama and the Khatam themselves, which both refer to ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I as the “Malik of Rome, born in Makkāh”. Although this apparent error is typically justified as referring to “Rome” as an area of land rather than some sort of statement that ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I was a Roman Emperor, the latter interpretation is far less ludicrous than it might at first seem. Khālid ibn al-Walīd’s procession through the streets of Busra after the victory over the Persians and ‘Amr I’s after the fall of Alexandria, as described in the Grand Collected Historical Record of Eran, was clearly based on Belisarius’ Triumph, and many other ceremonies of state appear to have been based off of Roman ones. The opposing camp, therefore, believes that Sajah and Maslamas’ claims of prophecy were merely an Abrahamised extension of Arabian shamanic tradition, while Makhzumid Syria was more Roman than Arab. A variant of this position, most famously expounded by Yīlú Guǎn'ēn, claims that, although Maslama and Sajahs’ prophetic claims were not unusual, their state and ideology were also heavily Hellenised…

A New History of Romania (Yīlú Guǎn'ēn[伊婁 管恩]) [7]

In occidental studies, the Dark Ages is a term used to refer to the period from the mid-400s to the late 700s in western Oecumenia [8], from the mid-600s to the mid-800s in eastern Oecumenia, from the early 600s to the mid-700s in Mesopotamia, and from the early 600s to the late 700s in Persia; this name comes from the scarcity of textual and inscriptional sources from this time period and the deurbanisation that occurred during this period. No time during this period, though, is darker than the period stretching from the last Roman-Sassanid war through around 680, in part due to the severe mythologisation of this period. No histories of eastern Oecumenia survive from between around 630 to around 760, and, by that point, mythologisation had truly set in. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Khālid, ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, and Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān are viewed as the restorers of Syria, Egypt, and Armenia, respectively, and (with the exception of Muʿāwiya) as model kings, and Maslama and Sajah as prophets.

The only histories for this time period that avoid this issue are Northern Romanian and Perso-Turkic ones. However, our only surviving Northern Romanian sources for this time period are from the 800s, and give little information of the Arabs beyond military movements. We have better Perso-Turkic sources: the Grand Collected Historical Record of Eran was completed in the mid-700s, and references (mostly lost) Sassanid documentation. However, it, too, focuses almost entirely on the affairs of Persia and the steppe, and largely disregards the Arab-ruled states, although it does provide a substantial amount of information on the Arab administration of Mesopotamia and Khuzestan, and descriptions of some ceremonies in the Southern Romanian Empire and in the Hadiyun Imamate. What can we learn about these states, then? It is clear that both the Southern Romanian Empire and the Hadiyun Imamate retained the bureaucracies of the Romans and the Persians in the areas they controlled - this is most notable in Khuzestan, which was taken from the Eranians by the Southern Romanians in the 650s, retaken by the Sassanids in the 660s, conquered by the Hadiyun Imamate in the 670s, and finally conquered by the Eranians again in the 720s, and yet did not see any substantial change in its bureaucratic organisation. Mesopotamia saw a greater degree of change, but only because it suffered more from the wars of the Dark Ages.

The Southern Romanian Empire under the Makhzumids consisted of a core region of Syria, Ghassania, and Osrhoene[9]. It also maintained a network of vassal states, these being the Malikates of Kairouan, Egypt, Armenia, Osrhoene, Khwarwaran, Asoristan, and Meshan. From 642 onwards, many of these states were additionally vassals of the Imamate.

Of the original set of Arab Maliks who reigned under ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Khālid, the one whose biography is the most ascertainable is ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, as he left inscriptions bearing biographical details, and because Egypt suffered much less destruction of records. He was born in or around Makkah; his father was a wealthy merchant of the Quraysh, while his mother was a slave. Working as a merchant, he had traveled to Egypt multiple times before 636, as well as to Axum, where he had converted to Miaphysite Christianity. By the time he invaded Egypt, he understood the Egyptian language[10] and Egyptian ways; he was an Egyptian to the Egyptians and an Arab to the Arabs, and as such was well-suited to rule over both. In addition, he was an effective military leader, using settled Arab, Bedouin, Syrian, and Egyptian troops in a carefully-coordinated manner and taking maximal advantage when Romanian forces made mistakes.

In 642, he began the construction of the city of Fustat, modern Yeraray[11]. “Fustat” literally means “the Tents”, as it was the location of a major Arab ordou[12]. The tents were replaced by brick and stone buildings, and a cathedral was built there; although originally fairly small and sparsely decorated, it would be expanded to twice its original size by ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAmr, and towers would be added. ‘Amr also commissioned the construction of two cathedrals in or near Alexandria, neither of which survive to the present, and the renovation of Coptic monasteries in the Valley of Natron.

ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I was the son of the decorated general Khālid ibn al-Walīd and the Khathʿamid poet Asma bint Anas, and was installed by Khālid as Malik of Syria and Malik of Maliks in the year 636. He distinguished himself both in administration and in warfare, campaigning against the Romanians in person seven times over the course of his reign, and, like ‘Amr ibn al-As, was known as a patron of the Miaphysite church. He also worked to repopulate many cities, especially coastal ones.

Although it is difficult to say anything bad about his reign while he was alive, ‘Abd al-Rahman I failed in one crucial way: he did not establish a stable succession policy, and, upon his death in 666, Makhzumid Syria fell into civil war between his son Khālid II and his brother Muhājir. Muhājir was initially winning, but Khālid II prayed before a copy of the Khatam and repeated that there was no God but God and the Khatams were the word of God, and with that received the support of the Hadiyun Imamate, and went on to win the war. The Malikates of Osrhoene, Asoristan and Meshan were annexed into the Imamate (as the Malik of Meshan succeeded to the position of Imam, the Malik of Osrhoene had been named, presumably by Sajah, as “Supervisor of Readers”, a position we have no information about the role of, and the Malik of Asoristan had supported Muhājir and been deposed). The remaining Malikates (Kairouan, Egypt, Armenia, and Khwarwaran) additionally became vassals to the Imamate rather than to Syria.

Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān was a member of the Banu Umayya, one of the three leading tribes of the Quraysh. His father was a merchant who frequently traveled to Syria. He rose through the ranks rapidly during Khālid I’s wars, and was made military governor of Cilicia. In 651 and again in 653, he personally led wars against the Byzantines alongside his brother Yazīd, who had had a navy built. In 651, Yazīd seized three islands in the Aegean, while Muʿāwiya invaded Armenia. His invasion was successful, but the next year, the puppet king he installed on the throne defected to the Romans, who also retook those islands which had been occupied by Yazīd’s forces. Muʿāwiya invaded Armenia again in 653, this time successfully. He was appointed as Malik of Armenia, while Yazīd was reassigned to Cyrenaica. During the mid-650s, Muʿāwiya additionally conquered Nakhchavan and Mardastan from the Sassanians, invaded the kingdom of Iveria and kingdom(?) of Colchis, and had his lieutenant Ḥabīb ibn Maslama al-Fihrī established as the king of Khwarwaran. However, from this point, the historical record dries up: It is known that he participated on neither side of the Makhzumid civil war in 666, instead fighting against the Romans, being defeated, and losing some land, that he reclaimed this land in the early 680s, and that he died in 684, but most documentation pertaining to his life was lost due to the sacking of several Armenian cities during the Second Fitna and its aftermath.

Maslama and Sajah originated from, respectively, the Banu Hanifa and Banu Taghlib tribes. The Banu Hanifa was a settled Samaritan Arab tribe that inhabited eastern Yamamma, while the Banu Taghlib was a Christian Bedu nomadic tribe that inhabited the lands south of the Euphrates west of the Lakhmids. Both of these tribes’ histories have been heavily mythologised: official histories from the 700s describe the Banu Hanifa as having been descended from followers of Moses who remained in Arabia when he and his followers returned to Israel after (according to Ihnafic and Arabian Jewish tradition) 50 years of ruling Arabia as Malik of Maliks; these same histories describe the Banu Taghlib as having been the first Arabian tribe to convert to Christianity, and as being the descendants of occulted Pythagoreans who fled into Arabia to avoid persecution by the Antiochus IV. All of these can be dismissed out of hand, other than perhaps the claim that the Banu Taghlib was the first Arab tribe to convert to Christianity, which is plausible, albeit unlikely.

About Maslama’s early life almost nothing is known, other than that he was born in the 600s or early 610s, became a shaman-doctor, and already had another wife at the time he married Sajah. Traditional accounts claim that he was born in 602 and began to receive revelations from God in 628, but these years correspond too closely with the beginning and end of the last Roman-Sassanid war to be useful. Official histories claim that he was literate, and the Kitāb al-ʿIlal, assuming it is authentic, supports this.

Sajah’s early life is described more thoroughly in the official histories. It is claimed that she was the only literate woman in the Banu Taghlib (something which is entirely plausible - literacy rates among nomadic Bedu were extremely low even among men), that she was knowledgeable in many languages (it is certain that she was literate in both Arabic and Greek; assuming that the Kitāb al-ʿIlal was authentic, one can add Hebrew and Syriac to that list.), and that she was taught to read and write by visions of the angel Elaios. It is also claimed that she was the last inductee into the Pythagorean mysteries, which is obviously false, and that she also became a shaman-doctor, which is certainly true. It is claimed that she received prophetic visions from a young age, but did not know what they were until she heard of Maslama’s declaration of prophecy in 638. From the initial Arab invasion of Mesopotamia in 630-631 up through the second Arab invasion in 637, Sajah lived among the component of the Banu Taghlib which lived in the borderlands between Osrhoene and Khwarwaran. It is presumable that she learned about Hermeticism during this period, though there is little that is actually Hermetic in her writings; most teachings of Sajah attributed to the Pythagoreans or Elaios are more likely to have come from Arab shamanic tradition and been attributed to these figures for added legitimacy.

It is said that Maslama revealed himself as a prophet in 638, when he was able to cure victims of the Plague of Aswan (or, in some more plausible versions, able to prevent plague through proper rituals), and afterwards declared himself as a prophet and began a campaign to unify the tribes of the Yamamma. After hearing of Maslama’s prophetic claims, Sajah (who had apparently performed the same miracles) realised that she was also a prophet, and went out to join forces with him; she supposedly left with 40 men, but by the time she arrived in the city of Yamamma, she had an army of 4000 and the backing of the Quraysh. After entering the city, she destroyed the idols and delivered a poetic speech decrying the idols and praising the One God; this is sometimes identified as the Empty Desert Sutra[13], but that was far more likely to have been delivered in the Hedjaz in the 650s, as it has a far more developed and Hellenised philosophy than would be reasonable for Sajah to have at the time, and names pagan gods that were more prominent in the Hedjaz.

From 638 to 646 in the traditional dating (I suspect this time period was shorter), Sajah and Maslama unified the tribes of Yamamma, southern Lakhm, Maxan, Uman, and the Hadhramut [14] into a single state, which they ruled for three years before beginning a jihad against the Persians in collaboration with the Quraysh, Syrians, and Armenians. Apparently, early on in the jihad, Maslama took upon himself the title of Taheb (Messiah), and granted to Sajah the title of Muhdiy (Divine Guide)[15]. After this, Maslama started claiming moral perfection and demanding his followers worship him in a manner akin to a god, which Sajah opposed, claiming that this was a form of idolatry, and would lead to Maslama being arbitrated against by God[16]. The Arab forces defeated the Persians, but in the siege of the Persian capital of Tesifon, Maslama was killed and the situation fell into a disorganised sack, leading to a brief conflict between Yamamman and Umayyad forces, which was ended through the intervention of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I, Muʿāwiya I, and Sajah. From this point onwards, Sajah became the sole leader of her movement. Sajah had two of her close allies (Dawūd ibn ‘Abd al-Malik[17], a member of the Banu Taghlib, and ʿĀmir ibn Jazʾ, the supposed first convert to Ihnaf from Yemen, respectively) installed as the Maliks of Khwarwaran and Meshan. From this point onwards, Sajah essentially became the hegemon-king of intermontane southwest Asia, although she continued to acknowledge ʿAbd al-Raḥmān’s nominal rule over the area. If the Kitāb al-ʿIlal is authentic, it is likely that it was written during the mid-650s.

In the late 650s, the Quraysh polity in the Hedjaz collapsed into civil war for unknown reasons, and Sajah used this to take over the Hedjaz and Himyaar, with ʿAbd al-Raḥmān being powerless to stop this.

In 661, Sajah wrote the Khatam, the holy book of Ihnaf. It was her third long-form work that is known of, the others being the Kitāb al-ʿIlal (although the identification of the received Kitab al-‘Ilal as Sajah’s is disputed) and the Empty Desert Sutra. Under her supervision, it was copied either seven or ten times. In 664, by the traditional dating, she named the third Malik of Meshan, Ziyād ibn Abīhi, as her successor. After this, she vanished into the desert with a small number of companions, mostly from the Banu Taghlib and Banu Hanifa, and did not return; hadith claim that some other members of the Banu Taghlib and Banu Murād buried Sajah at an undisclosed location and erected memorial steles for them, which they then hid with magic to prevent the sites from being used as icons…

ROME: From City to Empire to City Again (Angelo Trapanesco)

… Heraclius died in 641, leaving his 29-year-old son Constantinus and his 15-year-old son Heraclonas as co-emperor. However, Constantine III died of tuberculosis shortly afterwards. Foul play was alleged, and, following a tense standoff, Heraclonas and his mother were deposed and disfigured. Constantine III’s 14-year-old son Constans was crowned Emperor. During this chaos, Egypt fell completely, and the next year, Cyrenaica fell, too. Constans II attempted to retake Egypt in 644. Although the Romanians managed to retake Alexandria, ‘Amr ibn al-As [18] defeated them in battle once again, and the Romanians retreated across the Mediterranean. The Arab forces in Syria, meanwhile, launched constant attacks against the Romanians. In 648, the Arabs conquered Osrhoene and raided deep into Africa, and in 649, the Arab fleet attacked Crete. In 651, the Arab general Mu‘Awiya invaded Armenia unsuccessfully; a second attempt in 653 succeeded, though. Also in 653, Constans II had the Patriarch of Rome, Martin I (St. Martin the Confessor), arrested and exiled to Khersonesus for his condemnation of monotheletism. Likely in the 650s, Constans II created the theme system, dividing the Romanian military into several regional commands. By the end of his reign, there would be seven land themes (namely, the Opsikion (in northwestern Anatolia), Thrakesion (somewhat confusingly in southwestern Anatolia rather than Thrace), Anatolikon (in southeastern Anatolia), Kappadokiakon (in northeastern Anatolia), Armeniakon (in Armenia), Kolkhiakon (in Kolkhis), Sikiliakon (in Sicily)) as well as a naval theme, the Kibyrraioton. [19]

From 662 to 663, Constans II campaigned against the Slavs of the Balkans, marching from Constantinople to Athens and regaining control over the coast roads in Greece, before leaving for southern Italy, where he campaigned against the Lombards, to no avail. He spent the next three years based out of Sicily.

Constans II returned to Anatolia in 666 upon the beginning of the Mazkhzumid civil war; after regaining control of Cilicia proper but being stymied in his attempt at reconquering Antioch, he launched campaigns into Armenia in concert with Yazdgird III, which succeeded in gaining at least some territory in Armenia as well as Colchis and the vassalage of Iberia. After a brief stay in Constantinople, he resumed campaigns against the Slavs in the Balkans, resettling many of them into Anatolia. In 671, after a brief stay in Constantinople, he returned to Italy, campaigning against the Lombards once again, and forcing the vassalage of the Duchy of Benevento while the Lombards were embroiled in a succession crisis. However, in 673, Constans II was forced to return to Anatolia due to renewed attacks from the south and east. He defeated an invasion by Mu’awiya’s forces, but a simultaneous strike by Khalid II was able to penetrate deep into Anatolia, possibly besieging Constantinople, before retreating (Romanian sources claim that this was a repelled invasion, while Arab and Syrian sources claim it was a successful raid.)

However, while Constans II was reigning, another power was forming to Romania’s north. The Avar empire had gone into decline after its failed siege of Constantinople in 626. The khan Kubrat unified the “Three-Bulgars”, the Onogurs, Kutrigurs, and Utigurs [20], into a single political entity, the Danube Bulgar Empire, and vassalised the nearby Slavic tribes. Under his successor, Asparukh, they moved south, crossing the Danube into Thracia in the 670s. In 680, Constans II decided to do something about this threat, and led his army into battle against them. It is unknown what occurred, but whatever happened, it ended in an absolute rout, with Constans II being killed and his army destroyed. A contingent of the Bulgar army arrived outside of Constantinople before the remnants of the Roman army and pillaged its suburbs, parading Constans II’s head on a pike outside the Theodosian Walls, but never seriously attempted to give siege. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Bulgar army destroyed the remaining demoralised and isolated Romanian forces in the Balkans east of the Strymon river. The city of Adrianopolis was sacked, and its population moved to the new city of Asparukhopolis [21]. Meanwhile, the situation in Constantinopolis degraded: the Emperor, Constantine IV, was badly ill, and, though he wished to pass the throne to his son Theodosius, but his younger brothers Heraclius and Tiberius had other ideas…

[1] … Yeah, the Sassanids were like that.
[2] I am romanising from Middle Persian, rendering short a as "ä", long a as "a", short e as "ai", long e as "e", short o as "au", long o as "o", short i as "i", long i as "ie", short u as "u", and long u as "ou".
[3] i.e. between the Taurus and Zagros.
[4] I follow the idea that the Quraysh were already a major power that controlled most of the Hedjaz before Muhammad IOTL. I also think that it is likely that Muhammad died in 637 or 638 from the Plague of Amwas and that the Ridda wars took place from 638-642.
[5] Medina.
[6] ITTL, “Aethiopia” refers to Africa, “Abyssinia” refers to Ethiopia, and “Africa” refers to the Maghreb.
[7] Mandarin had different sound changes from Middle Chinese ITTL - the reasons for this will become clear eventually. I have a rough outline of Chinese history ITTL up through the early 1500s.
[8] “Oecumenia” = “the Mediterranean world”.
[9] Basically OTL present-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, southeastern Turkey (beyond the Euphrates), and the Ha’il.
[10] Arabic does not displace Coptic in the Nile basin ITTL, so there’s no need to specify “Coptic”
[11] Cairo, from Coptic “Ier a Rē” (Eye of the Sun).
[12] ITTL, “ordou” is loaned into western languages to mean “tent city”.
[13] ITTL, Arabic “sūrah” and Syriac “surṭā” were historically assumed to be cognates or loans of “sutra”, and are typically translated to “sutra”.
[14] Yamamma = Najd, Lakhm = Kuwait and al-Ahsa, Maxan = Qatar and the UAE, Himyaar = northern/OTL Zaidi Yemen, Hadhramut = southern/OTL Sunni Yemen.
[15] The OTL term “Mahdī” seems to be a corruption of this form.
[16] If this reminds you of Khawarij, that’s not a coincidence.
[17] An “OC”.
[18] This is a pop-history work, and so accents are omitted.
[19] Note that the OTL Armeniakon is called the Kappadokiakon ITTL, and the addition of the Sicilian, Colchian, and actual!Armenian themes.
[20] I follow the view that the Bulgars of Kuber came from Avar vassals breaking off, and not a migration from “Old Great Bulgaria”, whose existence I am highly skeptical off.
[21] Silistre, Romania.
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Cracks in the House of Ihnaf
Iḥnāf is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred around the Khatam as-Sajah and the teachings of Sajah. Adherents of Ihnaf, called Muḥnifs or Ḥanīfs, number around 700 million[2], and are the world’s fifth largest religious population, after Buddhists, Christians, Daoists, and Hindus. Ihnaf originated in the 7th century in Arabia. The term originates from the root Ḥ-N-F, meaning “to bend” or “to incline”, and appears to indicate “inclined towards the true faith”.

Hanifs believe that Ihnaf is an uncorrupted and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed multiple previous times by prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. These earlier revelations are attributed to Judaism and Christianity, which are regarded in Ihnaf as spiritual predecessor faiths. Hanifs consider the revelations in the Khātam as-Sajah[3] to be the verbatim word and highest seal of God, and consider Sajah to be the greatest prophet. Ihnaf teaches that God is one, non-physical, formless, and incomparable; that angels were the first thinking creations of God and are extremely long-lived but mortal, non-physical but non-divine and comprehensible, and morally fallible but incapable of lying[4]; that there is a line of prophets who transmitted the word of God in writing including but not necessarily limited to Anthropos[5], Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Sajah, that the words of all prophets before Sajah were lost or corrupted to some or another extent; and that there exists at least one Heaven and at least one Hell. In most denominations, the main religious festivals are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Ihnaf has a variety of denominations, with the major differences generally stemming from the acceptance or rejection of various works and the manners of reasoning allowed to be used in jurisprudence. The main denominations are the Ra’yis, the Qiyais, the Hadithis, and the Zahiris; this division comes from their belief in what is acceptable in jurisprudence. In general, the Ra’yis, who are the dominant school in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Nusantara, believe that law of God can be derived through reason, and that humans, through possessing the power of reason, are the divinely appointed viceroys or arkhons of this world; the Qiyasis, who are the dominant school in Arabia and Mesopotamia, believe that jurisprudence should be conducted primarily according to scripture, but allow reasoning by analogy (qiyas); the Hadithis, who are the dominant school in Aethiopia, believe that only the sunnah (scriptures and traditional practices) can be used in jurisprudence, but allow esoteric interpretations; and the Zahiris, who are the dominant school in the Hedjaz and Syria, do not allow for esoteric interpretation, only allowing “clear” interpretation, but also acknowledge that reason can be used in jurisprudence.[6]

Articles of faith

1. God
Hanifs believe that there is one god, which is the unique, incomparable, perfect, omniscient, and non-physical creator of the spiritual world. God is referred to by several attributes, such as Al-Rahman, Al-Malik, Al-Rahim, and Al-Hakim. The Empty Desert Sutra claims that there are 109 names of God, of which 108 are in the Khatam.
The following attributes are considered unique to God: Immortality (Ihnaf teaches that the one god is eternal, and unlike most religions, and especially unlike most religions with the concept of reincarnation, does not believe in an immortal soul; it is generally believed that souls will cease to exist during the end of the world[7]); infiniteness; moral perfection[8]; and the ability to create souls.

2. Angels
Angels were the first thinking beings created by God, and serve purposes such as constructing the physical world, ruling over heaven and hell, and serving as interlocutors between God on one hand and spirits and humans on the other hand. They are non-physical, yet comprehensible; long-lived, yet not immortal; and incapable of lying yet morally fallible.

3. Prophets
Prophets are believed to be human messengers who are communicated to by God or by angels. The most important prophet in Ihnaf is Sajah bint ‘al-Harith, who is generally believed to be the last major prophet. Previous major prophets include Jesus, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Moses, and Abraham. The most important minor prophet is Maslama, who opened the path for Sajah.[8]

4. Scripture
The pre-eminent holy text in Ihnaf is the Khatam as-Sajah, often referred to simply as the Khatam. Most sects view it as the final revelation, arguing that the “gates of prophecy are closed”, but some (mostly Ra’yi) sects, view that there were multiple (generally minor) prophets after Sajah.

The Empty Desert Sutra, the only other work known to have been authored by Sajah barring some short inscriptions, is often seen as the second-highest scripture, although most of its contents are restated in the Khatam as-Sajah. The Kitab al-‘Ilal, an esoteric text from the 7th century consisting of descriptions of talismans, divination practices, and occult uses of various materials, is sometimes considered to have also been an inspired text written by Sajah. The hadiths, which are accounts of the sayings of the prophets (and especially of Sajah and Maslama, and, in sects that venerate him as a prophet, Owais al-Qarani), are also typically treated as crucial to understanding scriptures, outside of some Ra’yi and Zahiri sects.

Other scriptures include works and hadiths of other prophets. Most sects view at least some of the gospels and parts of the Old Testament as being divine works that were corrupted. Additionally, prominent works in local cultures are often viewed as being divinely inspired or even prophetic, such as the Kebra Nagast and Enochian Canon[9] in Abyssinia, the Bhagavad-Gita in India, and many of the Chinese classic texts in the Seres.

5. Heaven and Hell
Heaven (Jannah) and Hell (Jahannam) are established as existing in the Khatam as-Sajah; however, their nature is only vaguely described. “the fire” (al-Nar) and “the blazing flames (al-Jahim) are typically seen as being either synonyms of hell or specific domains of Hell. “paradise” (firdaus) is typically seen either as synonymous with Heaven or a specific domain of Heaven. The Khatam as-Sajah also lists some sins that can cause one to be reincarnated into hell, and states that good deeds can cause one to be reincarnated into heaven.
It is also said everyone will eventually reach Paradise after reincarnating until they cease to be sinful.

6. Omniscient judgement
God’s omniscience is clearly stated in the Khatam as-Sajah. It is also stated that God will serve as the ultimate arbitrator, and will make sure that the correct form of monotheism will be triumphant before the end of time. As a result of the omniscience of arbitration, wars should not be conducted against other monotheists, except to defend oneself, to defend others, against rulers who are kafirs by hypocrisy (i.e. who commit grave sins and do not repent for them), or against rulers who are kafirs by ignorance (i.e. who allow their subordinates to commit grave sins or who fail to rule) [10].

Acts of worship

1. Declaration of faith (Shahada)
The shahada is an oath declaring belief in Ihnaf. The expanded statement is “I testify that there is no God except God and that the Khatam of Sajah is the word of God”. Non-Hanifs wishing to convert to Ihnaf are required to repeat the Shahada in front of witnesses.

2. Prayer
Prayer in Ihnaf is seen as personal communication with God. Hanifs pray three times a day [11], at sunrise, midday, and sunset. The act also requires a state ritual purity achieved by means of either a routine ritual wash (wudu), or, in certain circumstances, a full-body ritual wash (ghusl). [12]

3. Almsgiving
Zakat is the giving of a portion of accumulated wealth to those who need it, such as the poor, captives who need money to be released, stranded travelers, and those in debt.

4. Fasting
The Ramadan fast precludes food and drink, as well as other forms of consumption, such as smoking, and is performed from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. [13]

5. Jihad
Jihad literally means “striving” or “struggling”, but in a religious context, it is defined as “encouraging rightness and forbidding wrongness”. It includes efforts to uplift society’s morals, spread Ihnaf, conduct warfare against state’s lead by kaffirs, cultivate the good in oneself, and fight against one’s evil desires. [14]

6. Self-control
In Ihnaf, self-control is viewed as an important virtue. Lack of self-control is seen as one of three causes of sin (the others being malice and ignorance), and sins from lack of self-control are seen as intermediate between sins from malice and sins from ignorance. Self-control is seen as using reason to control one’s instinctual desires towards greed, lust, and other such things, and giving to those who have little when one has much; hadith state that one who sees a starving man when one has a stack of provisions should give their surplus to him, that one can wear jewelry, but not heavy jewelry, and that one should not wear gold ornaments. [15]

A New History of Romania (Yīlú Guǎn'ēn [伊婁 管恩])
Ziyād ibn Abīhi was born in the year 622, 623, or 624 in Ta’if. He was the illegitimate son of a woman named Sumayya, about whom little is known; his name literally means “Ziyād, son of his father”. Being one of the relatively small number of literate early converts to Ihnaf, he was given a bureaucratic position in the Himyaar in the 640s, and rapidly rose through the ranks due to his skills at writing and accounting. In 654, he was re-assigned to Qiyāda [16]. Upon the death of ʾUways ibn ʿĀmir, he was given the title of King of Meshan by Sajah. In 664, he assumed either the title of Imam, likely upon Sajah’s death. After shoring up his own rule, he intervened in the succession crisis in the Southern Romanian Empire [17] and secured the conversion of Khālid II to Ihnaf. In terms of administration, he repaired the Persian bureaucracy of Mesopotamia, and took power out of the hands of the tribal chieftains and into the hands of the Hanif elite.

Following the assassination of Yäzdgird III, Ziyād ordered the invasion of Khuzestan. The project was successful. Within five years, Khuzestan had been conquered, and, in late 678 or early 679, the situation in Eran worsened with the mysterious death of Peroz III. Arab forces overran Pars, though most cities were not captured, and Ziyād prepared for a campaign to conquer Eran outright. However, at Nahavand, they were defeated, but not by a Persian force. The Chinese general Buói Yángjěm [裴行儉] had brought an army of 10,000 Seric troops, plus 20,000 Central Asian and Sakastani auxilia [18] and 17,000 Persian soldiers, which routed the Arab army all the way to the Tigris. After this, another Táng [唐] force under the general Āṡr̀ná Dǎudzī [阿史那道資] (likely the same person as the Āṡr̀ná Dǎujīn [阿史那道真] who served in campaigns against the Tibetans in the 700s), drove the Arabs out of Pars, and raided into Khuzestan, before returning to Esfahan to enthrone Närse II as Shah and Buói Yángjěm as regent, beginning 400 years of Chinese and sinicised Turkic rule in Eran. Āṡr̀ná Dǎudzī was named as Khwarwaran-Spahbed, and, although he was the most powerful person in Eran from Buói Yángjěm’s death in 682 up until Qapaghan Qaghan’s conquest of Eran.

Although the campaign was successful at its initial objectives (Khuzestan was conquered), Ziyād’s promised conquest of Eran failed, and this caused the first cracks to appear in his rule. However, he received another opportunity to launch a conquest in 681, with the fall of the Northern Romanian Empire into a succession crisis. However, his military preparations were distracted by the death of Muʿāwiya I and the fall of Umayyad Armenia into civil war, and by the time a peace between the Umayyad princes had been worked out, the succession crisis in Constantinople had also been resolved; Kownstantĩnos IV was deposed and executed, his son Theodósios was made a eunuch, Heyrákleios II and Tiberius the Sicilian reigned as co-emperors, and the Northern Romanian military had prepared for the inevitable invasion. Although the Arab forces still managed to force their way past the theme armies and even laid siege to Constantinople, they were unable to score decisive defeats against the Northern Romanian armies, and at Constantinople, it became obvious that the Bulgars were planning their own attack once the Arabs had breached the walls. Rumours spread that tribal chiefs who had little love for Ziyād had been subverted by Asparukh, who had promised them principalities in Anatolia if they handed Constantinople and Thessalonika over to him. The situation exploded in 683 with the death of Ziyād. Ziyād’s appointed successor lacked a lot of legitimacy, especially among supporters of the tribal chieftains. Saʽīdah bint Dawūd [19] produced the Kitab al-‘Ilal, which she claimed to be another text written by Sajah, which claimed that she would be Imam at a time when the Imamate no longer needed to be at war, beginning the First Fitna. Upon the collapse of the Imamate, the civil war in Armenia resumed, and the Arab armies around the Marmara surrendered to either the Northern Romanians or the Bulgars, with the majority choosing the latter, as Asparukh promised the Arab commanders lands in Greece [20] once it was conquered.

The First Fitna initially favoured the Ilalis; from Osrhoene and Khwarwaran, their forces rapidly advanced south, seizing Mesopotamia, and eventually taking Qiyāda itself, imprisoning the Imam and forcing him to give up his claim. However, the people of Qiyāda opposed the occupation, and, after the Ilalis failed to capture the city of al-Ḥīra [21], they revolted, expelling the Ilali forces and freeing the imprisoned Imam. Meanwhile, the “Eight Loyal Clans” (the Banu Shayban, Banu Tamim, Banu Yashkur, Banu Hanifa, Qays Banu Tayy, Banu Azd ‘Uman, and Banu Kindah), along with the Ihnafic elites of Yamamma, the Hadhramut, and Khuzestan, unified under Ziyad’s son ʿAbbād ibn Ziyād, and his advisor ʿAbd Allāh ibn Ibāḍ. Their forces were able to turn the tide in favour of the Shurites, and they were able to retake most of Mesopotamia, and, with the aid of the Southern Romanian Empire (who annexed the lands in Osrhoene that had been ruled by the Heraclians before the Arab invasions), ejected the Ilalis from the Mashriq entirely, with Saʽīdah bint Dawūd fleeing to Armenia, which had been unified under Ibrāhīm ibn Muʿāwiya. Campaigns against Armenia were less successful, with only the areas south of Lake Van being annexed to the Imamate. Ibrāhīm ibn Muʿāwiya granted Saʽīdah bint Dawūd and the former Malik of Khwarwaran rule over Nakhchavan and Urmia, respectively.

Following this conflict, the third Imam resigned his post, and the question of who the fourth Imam was to be went to another shura, which selected, unsurprisingly, ‘Abbad ibn Ziyad, who would become the penultimate Hadiyun Imam.

In the Footsteps of the Conquerors: Retracing the Paths of Philip, Alexander, and Seleucus (Beroz Qasimi)
The Pythagorites are one of a number of groups who consider themselves to be the true successors to Hellenistic Greece. Their origin came during the final phase of the Roman Empire, when the Hameus was already dominated by the Bulgars, the Imamate was the greatest power in Southwest Asia, and the Eastern Roman Empire was cracking under its penultimate dynasty [22]. With the beginning of the First Fitna, the Arab soldiers who had besieged Constantinople rapidly found themselves stuck in a hostile situation, especially those aligned with the Ilalis, who were abandoned by the greater part of the Arab navy as it returned to Syria. These stranded Arabs (and some Syrians) mostly defected to the Bulgars, whose khagan Asparukh readily accepted their submission, and promised their chieftains rule over lands in Greece and Berezia once they were conquered.

While most of the Arabs of Greece rapidly assimilated, becoming indistinguishable from the Drugubites, Aromanians, and Greeks they ruled over, those who followed Ihnaf remained distinct, although they also went native to a substantial extent, and in religion and culture, they diverged strongly from the Hanifs, becoming their own religious group. Some of the peoples of the surrounding areas, including some Aromanians, Greeks, and Bulgars, but primarily Drugubites and other southern Slavic groups, adopted this religion.

Unlike most Hanifs, they view Saida as a major prophet, use Greek translations of the Khatam and the Kitab al-‘Ilal as holy texts, use the Julian calendar (although some have switched to the Ignatian calendar) instead of the Ihnafic calendar, revere the cross, view God as the sum of the souls of all thinking beings, and place a great degree of emphasis on Jesus and Pythagoras. Although they originally mostly inhabited Thessaly and Epirus, most of the Pythagorites today live in Hungary, Serbia, Berezia, or Calabria [23] as a result of persecution.

Pythagorism [24] is not an ethnoreligion, and Pythagorites view themselves as ethnically Greek, Bulgarian, Moesian, or Vlach. However, they do not proselytise, and, historically, they only proselytised during the 700s and 800s…

A New History of Romania (Yīlú Guǎn'ēn)
Heyrákleios II’s decision to continue campaigns in Italy while the Bulgars were overrunning Greece might seem like a strange idea. After all, the second Romanian-Bulgar war saw the Bulgars conquering all of mainland Greece barring Boeotia, Attica, the Peloponnesus, and a coastal strip across the strait from Corfu before dividing it between six Arab principalities, and yet Heyrákleios II seemed to barely notice. The reason for this is that Greece had already largely slipped out of Romanian hands, and the areas which the Romanians had anything like firm control of were the areas which the Bulgars did not conquer. For the most part, the “Romanian” armies which the Bulgars defeated consisted of allied Slavic tribes, and it is unclear whether there were more than three engagements between the Bulgars and actual Romanian forces (and one of those three engagements was a decisive Romanian victory, which kept the Bulgars out of Boeotia and Attica). However, this was still a morale loss for the newly-enthroned monarch, and the Bulgars were clearly too powerful to wage war against immediately, especially with the events of 681 still clearly remembered. However, the Lombards, who were still reeling from their loss in 671, were a far easier target, and the second rebellion of the prominent Arian nobleman Alahis in 688 provided another opportunity. Romanian intervention was able to secure the annexation of the two prefectures of the Lombard kingdom that most directly threatened the Romanian position in Italy, namely Reggio and Parma. After this, the Romanian lands in Italy, Sicily, and Africa were placed under the rule of Tiberius as a restored Western Roman Empire, which is typically known as the Syracusine Empire.

Although Tiberius nominally ruled all of southern and central Italy barring Tuscany and Spoleto (and, following the Lombards’ succession crisis in 700, would extend his nominal rule to the Po), the only areas in mainland Italy which he controlled were Calabria, the cities of Ravenna, Forli, the Pentapolis [25], and Rome, and their immediate surroundings. The rest of Syracusine Italy was ruled by what are known as “feudatories”. Although “feudatory” is often translated as fārjîn [藩鎮], this is not in my opinion accurate. The general impression most people [26] have of feudalism is that is was a system similar to that of steppe-nomad vassalage systems, where lords ruled as hereditary prefects over areas or groups small enough that bureaucratic functions could be conducted through interpersonal relationships, and raised levies of notables under their command; this is roughly accurate to the nature of European feudalism under the Carolingian dynasties, but the feudalism of the Dark Ages was a far baser and more barbaric form of political organisation, where the vassalage system often extended down to the level of individual landlords, who openly ruled over enslaved peasants and only answered to their own lords when it was time for war, and even then only rarely. These landlord-satraps typically sided with whoever seemed the most powerful at the time, which should explain how central Italy so quickly switched from rule by the Neustrian Lombards to the Romanians to the Tuscan Lombards and finally to the Franks with few pitched battles…

Fihrid Malikate of Kairouan
The Malikate of Kairouan, officially the Malikate of Ifriqiya, was an Arab-ruled vassal of the Hadiyun Imamate ruled by the Fihrid branch of the Banu Hashem which ruled parts of Tripolitania and southern Africa from 679 to 706. Its capital was the city of Kairouan (modern Tikirwan) from 679 to 702 and Leptis Magna (modern Liftis) from 702 to its disestablishment in 706. Kairouan was an Arab garrison-city created during the first Arab invasion of the Maghreb in 669. In the year 680, during the second Arab invasion of the Maghreb, the areas previously administered by Sahmid Egypt west of the Libyan desert were placed under the command of the Sahmid general ‘Uqba ibn Nafi in preparation for a second effort at conquering the Maghreb. Although this effort was successful at taking Tunis from the Romanian exarch and imprisoning him, and ‘Uqba ibn Nafi raided as far as Tangiers, his forces were eventually defeated by a coalition of Romanian and allied Berber forces, and he was killed in 683 in battle, after which his son Abu Ubaida became Malik and the situation in the Maghreb largely returned to its status prior to the war, except that Kairouan was now its own state and the Exarchate of Africa was dissolved and placed directly under the administration of the Syracusine Empire. The Arabs launched another invasion into the Maghreb during the Twenty Years’ Anarchy, as Tiberius I of the Syracusine Empire recalled many troops from Africa in his futile attempt to avenge his brother and nephews and depose the regency of the eunuch Theodosius Constantinidus [27]. Although the Arabs scored initial victories and held the cities of the Maghreb for five years, they were repelled by the forces of the Berber queen Dihya, who sacked Kairouan in 702. Although Abu Ubaidah escaped and re-established the state in Leptis Magna, that city too was captured by the Berbers in 706. Afterwards, Abu Ubaidah was ransomed back to the Imamate.

This article on Maghrebi history is a stub. You can help us by expanding it.

[1] Some parts taken from Wikipedia’s article on Islam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam)
[2] I eyeballed this off of OTL present-day population numbers - don’t put too much stock into this number; it’ll probably be retconned by the time TTL reaches the “present day” (which may or may not be the actual present day, as technology may advance at a different rate).
[3] The work is considered to be a Seal, not Sajah herself. (see point [8])
[4] This idea of angels is similar to those in some Gnostic and Hermetic beliefs.
[5] This figure is more similar to Anthropos of the Poimandres (Corpus Hermeticum I) than to Adam Kadmon. Additionally, the first human in Ihnaf (and, apparently, in OTL Maslama's teachings) was supposedly a woman.
[6] Similarly to the Kharijites, Hanifs don’t believe there needs to be a single leader of the faith, so the theological schools represent the primary axis of division, rather than the Caliphal succession.
[7] Similar views occurred IOTL among the Jahmites and Murjites
[8] Maslama/Musaylimah is viewed in a similar way to John the Baptist. The idea of God as being the only being capable of moral perfection appears in at least some Kharijite beliefs.
[9] “Enochian Canon” is a term used to refer to the portions of the Ethiopian Old Testament and Ethiopian Tanakh that don’t appear in most non-Ethiopian versions of the Old Testament and Tanakh.
[10] This is basically identical to moderate Kharijite beliefs.
[11] One of the few things we know about Musaylimah’s teachings is thrice-daily prayer.
[12] [OTL] Wikipedia’s article on Islam has a lot of typos. The one on sawm has some especially egregious ones.
[13] All four of these appear to have been common among Arab Christians prior to Islam.
[14] Jihad is considered to be a pillar of Islam in Ismailism and Khawarij and is one of the “Ten Practices” in Twelver Shi’ism. Encouraging rightness and forbidding wrongness is generally viewed as a separate thing in OTL Islam, but was used synonymously with “jihad” in some early Islamic writings.
[15] All of these are supposed sayings of OTL Musaylimah. It does not appear that he preached asceticism, but rather moderation of indulgence and selflessness (meeting the needs of others before the wants of oneself), and viewed reason, self-control, and the ability to moderate indulgence as what separated humans from animals. He appears to have viewed the world, including the physical world, as fundamentally good.
[16] Located across the Shatt al-Arab from Abadan; it’s essentially *Basra.
[17] i.e. the Arab kingdom of Syria
[18] The professional force deployments in Iran by the Chinese ITTL is roughly twice the size of the professional force deployment at OTL Talas, and the Central Asian auxiliaries deployed in Iran by the Chinese ITTL are slightly smaller than those at OTL Talas. Given that the Chinese could put five-digit armies in OTL Afghanistan in the early 700s, when their situation was substantially worse than it was around 680, and given that the Sassanid logistical network in 679 ITTL is operating better than in OTL 641, the logistics of this campaign actually are fairly reasonable.
[19] Daughter of the Taghlibid king of Osrhoene from the last post.
[20] “Greece” ITTL refers to the peninsula; “Hellas” refers to the Greek cultural area.
[21] Approximately OTL Kufa, from its Lakhmid name.
[22] Beroz Qasimi views the Byzantines as being a continuation of the Roman Empire until… an event in the 700s which we’ll get to when we get to it.
[23] Calabria ITTL refers to the two peninsulae of the boot of Italy and a coastal strip between them. Berezia is more or less OTL Albania. Moesia is more or less OTL North Macedonia. I’m not going to reveal the locations of TTL’s Hungary and Serbia yet.
[24] Pythagoreanism is used to refer to the Pythagorean movement, and Pythagorism is typically used to refer to this specific group.
[25] Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia, and Ancona
[26] in Yilu’s target audience, which is to say East Asian history nerds
[27] Theodosius (the son of Constantine IV) is an alternate Justinian II. What did you expect to happen? I’ll describe the events of the *Twenty Years’ Anarchy when I get to them.

My current plan for the future: the next post will give some background on the Tang dynasty and the Gokturks and give a more detailed recounting of Pei Xingjian's expeditions in Persia from the Chinese point of view. The next proper post will cover the revival of the Gokturk empire under Elterish and Qapaghan, the reign of Wu Zetian, the Li-Sun rebellion, and the establishment of Balhae. After that will be two posts covering the Twenty Years' Anarchy, the reign of 'Abd Allah ibn Ibad, the establishment of the Maghrebi Berber kingdom, and the collapse of the Lombard and Visigothic kingdoms.
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Alternatehistory.com broke my formatting again. I’ll fix it tomorrow, probably.
[EDIT: I have fixed the formatting and an incomplete note]
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Will buddhism rejuvenate itself in india?
I doubt that Indian Buddhism will have a major revival; by the 700s (and especially by the 900s), it was already in decline outside of Bengal, Bihar, and Kashmir. Pali Buddhism may or may not survive as the major religion of greater Bengal, but other than that, the only real place for a Buddhist revival would be through foreign Buddhist dynasties, and I am unsure to what extent a Sinicised Mahayana Buddhist *Ghaznavid empire would be able to reintroduce Buddhism. My suspicion would be that Buddhism will have a similar distribution in TTL India to Islam in OTL India, with Mahayana Buddhists in Sindh and Punjab and Pali Buddhists in Bengal while most of the subcontinent is Hindu or Jain (and some Christians, Jews, and Hanifs along the western coast).
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Just read this, really enjoyed what you've done. The Chinese intervention is a wildcard handled perfectly! It feels like something that could have historically happened
I'm sorry for how long the next update's taking - it turns out that summarising the North-South period, Sui Dynasty, and (pre-630) Gokturk Empire takes a lot of words. It's mostly complete (all I have to do now is proofread, change the transcription of Chinese names to TTL Mandarin, add diacritics in some other places, and add footnotes), and it's almost as long as the first two posts put together (and there was some other stuff I cut, like a much more in-epth summary of various court drama under the Northern Wei and Northern Zhou.) Getting distracted by working on a Crimean Gothic conlang (which will show up in this timeline eventually) probably didn't help.

... I've basically written a tenth of a novel already.
Overview of the Xianbei empires
The Xianbei Empires

[This post is pretty much entirely OTL background, but includes a decent amount of foreshadowing. Also, even where the events are the same, TTL’s historiography is very different from OTL’s.

In the year 534, when Yùwö́n Tôi assumed his regency, the Ṡerbi ruled the least populated quarter of China. In the year 738, when Emperor Ñüénhuě of Táng [唐元惠帝] died, the Ṡerbi empire stretched from the Euphrates River and Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Indus River and the edge of Töbäd [1] in the south to the edge of the taiga in the north. How did this happen?

The Northern and Southern Dynasties

Following the collapse of the Xôr [漢] Dynasty, China was divided into the infamous (and overrated) Three Kingdoms of Tsáu Nguǐ [曹魏], Ċǘk Xôr[蜀漢], and Sūn Nguó [孫吳]. Tsáu Nguǐ eventually became controlled by the Sr̄mà clan, with the emperors being puppets. Following the conquest of Ċǘk Xôr in 263, Sr̄mà Hiém [司馬炎] deposed the last emperor of Tsáu Nguǐ and declared the Jîn [晉] dynasty, and shortly thereafter, defeated Sūn Nguó, briefly reuniting China.
(the following account of the Sixteen Kingdoms period is very simplified)

However, after the death of Sr̄mà Hiém, the Jîn dynasty fell into chaos as eight princes fought to control the throne, recruiting a large number of “barbarians” into their armies. This led to an uprising by the Klang [羌], Ttei [氐], Hunna [匈奴], and Kiat [羯], who established the states of Jěu [趙] (Hunna and Kiat, in the north) and Ċéng Xôr [成漢] (Ttei and Klang, in Sichuan). Additionally, the state of Lióng [涼] was founded by the (Han [2] Chinese) semi-autonomous governor of Lǘngyú [龍游] [3], Ċōng Mǔ [張茂], and was largely neutral. Jîn was reconstituted in southern China by the military commander Sr̄mà Yüè [司馬睿] who allied with the Ṡerbi to try and defeat Jěu. The Ṡerbi [鮮卑] established the states of Yên [燕] in Hö́bōk [河北] [4] (lead by the Monguor [慕容] clan) and Dǒi [代] in the Ordos Loop (lead by the Tağbach clan). In 348, the Jîn conquered Jéng Xôr, and in 350, Jěu fell into total warlordism. The Ttei warlord Fó Jiēn [苻堅] briefly reunified northern China under the Fó Ċín [苻秦] dynasty in 370, but Fó Ċín was more of an alliance of warlords than an actual empire, and following a devastating defeat by the reconstituted Jîn empire, which controlled southern China, in 383 and Fó Jiēn’s death in 385, the coalition collapsed, with Lióng, Yên, and Dǒi being restored as independent kingdoms, although Dǒi was renamed to Northern Nguǐ [北魏] in 386. Taghbach Büri, or Emperor Tôiwò of Northern Nguǐ [魏太武帝], reunified northern China in the 430s, defeating the Duquhun [獨孤渾] Khanate (which had defeated the Ċín rump states and declared the Northern Hǎ [北夏] empire) in 431, Yên in 436, and finally Lióng in 439.

The Sixteen Kingdoms period also marked the beginning of the decline of Confucianism. The belief that all people were inherently good and the world was just seemed naïve in a time of barbarian invasion and warlordism. Instead, Buddhism and Doaism became more popular. Buddhism had begun to percolate into China during the time of the Xôr, but it became more popular during the 16 Kingdoms Period due to the monk Kumarajiva, who was able to properly translate the sutras into Chinese. Daoism during this period was heavily influenced by Buddhism. For instance, the Way of the Celestial Masters, which became prominent in the north, included ideas such as the cycle of rebirth, karma, monasticism, dietary restrictions similar to Buddhism, and even claimed that Buddha was a student of Làudzr̀ [老子]. The decline of Confucianism in China would continue, until, by the end of the Middle Ages, the previously "orthodox" forms of Confucianism in China [5] had shared the fate of Mohism.

Emperor Tôiwò’s successor Emperor Wö́nċéng [魏文成帝] made Buddhism the state religion, and formulated a new law code that would be the basis for the one implemented across Persia and Central Asia by Qapaghan Qaghan. After Emperor Wö́nċéng, though, the empire declined. The next-to-next Emperor, Ṡiâuwö́n [魏孝文帝], introduced a policy of sinicisation, changing most Ṡerbi names to Han (or at least more Chinese) names, banning the Ṡerbi language (although this ban was not enforced outside of a few cities [7]), and instituting a system in which positions were appointed hereditarily rather than based on merit. As you can imagine, this resulted in a spiral of corruption and severe disaffection by Ṡerbi nobles, which culminated in a series of civil wars between various corrupt officials and the powerful Ñèjō [爾朱] clan of Huns. Ultimately, both would lose out, and northern China was divided between the warlords Yùwö́n Tôi [宇文泰] in the west and Gāu Xuōn [高歡] in the east, who theoretically ruled as regents over puppet “Northern Nguǐ Emperors”.

Meanwhile, in the south, the remnants of the Jin empire were overthrown by the Former Sûng [前宋] dynasty, which rapidly fell due to a string of insane inbred emperors, and was replaced by the Southern Tsé [南齊] dynasty. However, the Southern Tsé dynasty fell due to the extermination of most of the royal clan by Emperor Miáng [齊明帝], and was replaced by the fanatically Buddhist Southern Lióng [南涼] dynasty.

The Northern Jū dynasty

Yùwö́n Tôi was a duke who had held court in Jōng’ōn [長安] during the collapse of the Northern Nguǐ dynasty. Emperor Ṡiâuwò [魏孝武帝], who had been installed as a puppet by Gāu Huān, the warlord who controlled the lower reaches of the Yellow River, fled to Yùwö́n Tôi’s court; Yùwö́n Tôi, however, poisoned him a year later and installed a more pliant puppet.

Yùwö́n Tôi hired many talented officials to staff his government, and issued the Six Principles Edict, which stated the six principles that government would be conducted by. These were:
The Clear Heart Doctrine (清心思) - Officials should not desire many things.
Encouraging cultivation (敦教化) - Instituting moral education
Exhausting the benefits of land (盡地利) - Encouraging the usage of land in such a way as to maximise utility
Selecting virtuous officials (擢賢良) - Finding capable officials to promote regardless of their family backgrounds
Sympathising with the accused in lawsuits (恤獄訟) - Forbidding torture and assuming innocence until proof of guilt
Equalising taxation duty (均賦役) - Instituting progressive taxation and requiring wealthy families to pay their fair share.

These Six Principles Edict would be reissued by Emperor Ñüénhuě of Tóng, with some edits, such as changing what moral education is supposed to be instituted and suspending the assumption of innocence in the cases of charges of rebellion, brawling with authority, and corrupt appointment. [8] As such, it is seen as an important milestone in the development of Neo-Legalist political law. [9] Yùwö́n Tôi also reversed the sinicisation policies of the later Northern Nguǐ, changing Chinese names back to Ṡerbi names, and also granting many Han Chinese generals, commanders, and officials Ṡerbi names.

Although Gāu Xuōn held the largest army and the majority of China’s population, he was disliked by the populace, while Yùwö́n Tôi was a military genius, a master of PR, and had formed an alliance with the Rouran qaghan Yokjüliou Anakay [郁久閭阿那瓌]. Additionally, the Han Chinese warlord Hú Jiàng [侯景] started a rebellion against Gāu Xuōn, which was defeated, but he then escaped to the Southern Lióng dynasty, where he started another civil war. This, combined with a succession crisis, lead to the collapse of the Southern Lióng , which was split between Yùwö́n Tôi in the west and the general Jín Bâṡiēn [陳霸先] (who would become Emperor Wò of Southern Jín [陳武帝]) in the east. After the deaths of Gāu Xuōn and Yùwö́n Tôi, their sons usurped the Nguǐ princes they held as puppets, and installed themselves as emperors of Northern Jū [北周] and Northern Tsé [北齊].

Yùwö́n Tôi’s nephew Yùwö́n Huǒ [宇文護] killed both of the first two emperors of Northern Jū, Emperor Ṡiâumìn [周孝閔帝] and Emperor Miáng [周明帝]. Emperor Miáng, however, had arranged that his successor be his intelligent, cunning, and patient brother Yùwö́n Yǖng [宇文 邕], who would be known as Emperor Wò [周武帝], who successfully organised a coup against Yùwö́n Huǒ with the help of many officials, Empress Dowager Ċītnuó [叱奴太后] (Yùwö́n Tôi’s wife), and the Göktürks. He proceeded to ban Daoism and Buddhism and restore Confucianism as the state ideology, and conquered the Northern Tsé dynasty. He was succeeded by Emperor Ṡüēn [周宣先], who, although he made a few good policy decisions like repealing the religious bans, went insane, declaring himself a living god, banning several common characters, banning women from wearing makeup, and requiring all wheels to be made from single blocks of wood. His son was usurped by Empress Dowager Yóng’s father Yóng Jiēn [楊堅], who founded the Ṡüé [隋] dynasty.

The unified Former Göktürk Qaghanate

In 545 or 546, the Ashṙna khan Bumṙn, a vassal of the Rourans, crushed a revolt against the Rourans by the Tegreg people. For this, he requested that Yokjüliou Anakay give him a Rouran. princess as a wife. Yokjüliou Anakay responded by insulting him, after which Tumen revolted with the help of Yùwö́n Tôi, declaring himself Qaghan of the Göktürks. In 552, Yokjüliou Anakay committed suicide after being defeated by the Göktürks, and the Rouran empire essentially collapsed. However, Bumṙn Qaghan (who renamed himself Illig Qaghan after the death of Yokjüliou Anakay) was unable to enjoy his victory, as he died in 553, before the complete defeat of the Rourans. His son Issik took power, but died, presumably in battle, either later that year or in early 554. He was succeeded by Muqan the Great.

The Göktürk nobility were not, in fact, of the people known today as Turks. [10] The Ashṙna clan was, in fact, of sinicised Ṡerbi origin, and originated within China, being one of the highest-ranked Ṡerbi clans, and one of the first to adopt a sinicised name, Ná [那], even before the reign of Emperor Ṡiâuwö́n. How the Ashṙna branch within the Rouran qaghanate originated is unclear; the traditinal historiography is that they originated from northern rebels against Empress Dowager Huó [胡太后], but it is more likely that they actually left China much earlier, during the Sixteen Kingdoms Period. This Chinese influence can be seen in their military structure, most notably in the institution of the Tumen System, in which forces were divided into groups of 10,000, which were in turn divided into groups of 1000, 100, and 10, rather than according to tribal lines. This system allowed for much greater operational flexibility, more advanced tactics, and, most importantly, the ability to have a force that could be counted on to follow the interests of the state and the qaghan with little relation to tribal politics. Originally, there were only two tumen, one for Bumṙn Qaghan and one for his brother Ishtemi Yabghu, but, over the course of the Former Göktürk Empire’s existence, the greater part of the forces of the Öneki-Oghuz (the twelve core tribes) were organised under this system, and following the restoration of the empire in 683, it would be further expanded; by the death of Qutlugh Sebig Qaghan in 753, essentially the entirety of steppe nomad forces in Asia, both under the Göktürk successor states and under the Táng dynasty, would be organised in this fashion. [11] However, the central tumen of forces directly under the qaghan would remain the most prestigious military organisation in the empire.

Under the Rourans, they served as “metallurgical vassals”, working iron in the Chinese way, which was superior to those typically used on the steppe. Although metallurgical vassals were often looked down on, they were often well and stably connected, which allowed them to easily move into leadership roles; this can be seen not just with the Ashṙna, but also with the Khitans and Qangli, who also originated as metallurgical vassals of the Qay and Kipchaks, respectively, but came to dominate those confederations.

Genetic testing has shown that Göktürk nobles had very little Turkic ancestry, being primarily a mix of Ṡerbi and Han Chinese, and preferred to intermarry with Chinese nobility over the nobility of Turkic people like the Tegreg [鐵勒]. Additionally, the decipherment of various inscriptions has proven that their court language was, in fact, an early form of the Dadar language. [12]

Muqan Qaghan began his reign defeating Rouran remnants, which he completed within two years. Afterwards, he allied with the Sassanians against the Hephthalites. The Hephthalite Empire was partitioned along the Oxus River, with the areas to the north being taken by the Göktürks, and the areas to the south by the Sassanians. He campaigned against the Avars, driving them west, and conquered people like the Tegreg to the west, the Kirghiz to the north, and the Khitans to the east. He also adopted the Sogdian script, and introduced Buddhism into the empire, converting to Buddhism and patronising Buddhist pagodas.

After his death in 572 or 573, the throne passed to his brother Taspar, who played Northern Jū and Northern Tsé off against each other for his nine years on the throne. However, after his death in 581, a succession crisis plunged the empire into a civil war, which only ended after Ṙshbara Qaghan pledged vassalage to the Ṡüé Dynasty. He was succeeded in 587 or 588 by his brother Bagha Qaghan, who died in battle against the Sassanians. His successor, Ṙshbara’s son Tulan, broke off from the Ṡüé successfully, but was assassinated in 599. After this, Tardu, a western governor and nephew of Bumṙn Qaghan, took power, and launched an invasion against China, which failed. He was killed in 603 or 604, and the Göktürk Empire split.

The Ṡüé dynasty

Yóng Jiēn, or Emperor Wö́n of Ṡüé [隋文帝] was born into the prestigious Han Chinese Yáng clan in a Buddhist Monastery and was raised by nuns until the age of 10. At 14, he was made assistant to a prince, and, while still in his teens, he was married into the Duqu [獨孤] clan of Huns. He was a natural warrior, with an irate personality, but was also regretful of his rasher actions, and he was a micromanager. He rebuilt and expanded the Great Wall, built a new capital city, completely reformed the government system, and created the imperial examination system and the Grand Canal. Emperor Wö́n was deeply distrustful of others; the only people he trusted were four chief advisors and his wife, Empress Duqu [獨孤后]. Empress Duqu was a shrewd and capable administrator, and would ride alongside him in his carriage, and when government meetings were being held, she would wait in an adjacent room, having her personal eunuchs report on the proceedings, and, if Emperor Wö́n made a decision she did not like, she would make him reconsider it, and therefore was influential on policy; for this, Emperor Wö́n and Empress Duqu were called the Two Sage Emperors. He married three women (the lowest of any adult Chinese emperor up to this point) but only had sexual relations with Emperss Duqu, Emperor Wö́n had ten children, five of them sons; however, by the time of his death, four of those sons had been deposed, disinherited, or outright executed.

Although Yùwö́n Tôi and Emperor Wò of Northern Jū had clamped down on corruption in the northwest to some success, severe corruption and graft ran rampant in the northeast and south. This, combined with feudalisation and the breakdown of boundaries between military and civilian governments, had lead to severe inefficiencies in the tax system. Yáng Jiēn needed literate, dedicated, and incorruptible scholars for the civil service. He replaced the old methods of appointments with the famous imperial examinations. Three types of examinations were created: general examinations, classical examinations, and literature examinations. Additionally, he made all civil service positions temporary and rotating, and set up a cadre of traveling officials employed by the powerful Control Agency (then called the Rear Palace Office [御史臺]) [13] worked to audit regional and local authorities and root out corruption. He subordinated the militaries to civilian authorities, demilitarised the empire, and eliminated hereditary positions. He also eliminated the conscription of peasants, and replaced it with a fully professional army primarily recruited from semi-nomadic peoples.

Although Emperor Wö́n was a confucian, at least according to him, he did not follow the more standard confucianism of Miǎngdzǐr [孟子], but rather that of Ṡǖndzr̀ [荀子], who taught that human nature was corrupt, and that only through the rigorous teaching and strict enforcement of ethical norms could they become good. At heart, he was probably more of a legalist, even sentencing one of his own sons. In one edict, he even said that cutting off all feelings toward’s one’s kin was necessary to realise one’s full service to the state. He also was devoutly Buddhist. He implemented Buddhism as a state religion, and declared himself to be a Bodhisattva Qaghan and Chakravartin Raj: an ideal monarch, defender of the faith, and representative of the Buddha on Earth.

Emperor Wö́n also embarked on a series of ambitious construction projects, such as the rebuilding of the Great Wall, the construction of a new capital in the suburbs of Jōng’ōn, and the creation of a canal system that would link Jōng’ōn to the Yellow River, the Yellow River to the Huái River [淮河], and the Huái River to the Yangtze River. To populate his new capital, he had the populations of the Northern Tsé capital of Ñǎp [鄴城] and the Southern Jín [陳] capital of Jiênkōng [建康] relocated to the Jōng’ōn area, and had those cities torn down. To build these projects, non-taxable populations in the area were required to spend twenty days a year performing corvee labour. The Great Wall restoration and expansion alone required the conscription of 200,000 labourers a year, and between all of these projects, millions of peasants were forced to perform unpaid backbreaking manual labour for three weeks a year. Tax rates were also high.

He also launched a series of massive military campaigns, defeating and vassalising the Tuyuhun [吐谷渾] empire and conquering Vietnam, but failed to conquer Champa.
His successor was Yóng Guòng [楊廣], his fifth son. Yóng Guòng’s reign started with the moving of the capital to Lókyóng [洛陽] and the construction of 40 palaces in the provinces. He also launched invasions of neighboring states, which would ultimately prove to be his downfall, as three invasions of Korea, each of which resulted in six-digit casualty counts, severely destabilised the Ṡüé dynasty, which was not helped by a massive flood of the Yellow River in 610, or the massive number of workers taken to work as corvee labourers, or the number of them who did not return (mortality rates in the construction of the Grand Canal were 40-50%). In 614, a major revolt broke out near the imperial capital of Lókyóng, which was lead by the President of the Board of Rites. Although it was rapidly crushed, eight more rebellions would break out over the course of the year. When Yóng Guòng visited the border city of Ngǎrmǔr [雁門], he found himself besieged by Göktürk forces personally lead by Shibi Qaghan. During the siege, he promised that commanders who helped save him (rather than staying neutral, or even defecting to the Göktürks, as many did) would receive fabulous rewards, and promised that he would cease warfare and remain in Jōng’ōn. Once the siege was lifted, he reneged on these promises.

The officials surrounding Yóng Guòng kept him in an information bubble, and he only realised that he was in dire trouble on the new year of 616, when he found that the messengers from 20 prefectures would not be arriving because they had been captured or killed. By 617, Dōryó [單于], Lǘngyú, Lièngdūng [嶺東], and northern Hö́dūng [河東] [14] were in rebel hands.

Lr̀ Ñüén [李淵] was a decorated war hero from the Lr̀ clan (also known by its Ṡerbi name Dǒiyà [大野]), which was one of the most powerful clans in the empire. Lr̀ Ñüén ran the logistics of the second Goguryeo-Ṡüé war, and now was assigned to defeat bandits and raiders in Shanxi, which he succeeded in doing with ease, and was assigned to lead the garrison in Tôiñüén [太原]. In 617, due to a prophecy circulating that the next emperor would be surnamed Lǐ, Yóng Guòng began executing everyone he could find with that surname. Lr̀ Ñüén realised that he was at risk, and launched a rebellion; given that he was a decorated military aristocrat and controlled a nearly-impregnable fortress city overlooking the Yellow River plain, he was in an excellent position to do so. He pledged loyalty to Shibi Qaghan, and received a large number of auxilia from him, including cavalry forces and even horse-archers. Meanwhile, his daughter, who is known as Princess Jiēu of Piángyóng [平陽昭公主], escaped the capital along with the other women of the Lr̀ clan and raised an army from the peasants of the countryside, redistributing loot and the contents of government food stores in exchange for support from the local population, and also found support from the monks of Ṡèulím [少林]. After two defeats close to the capital by two armies of the Lr̀ clan, Yóng Guòng escaped south, but was assassinated by his generals in 618, essentially ending the Ṡüé dynasty. China fractured into around 200 different warlord states.

The eastern Former Göktürk Qaghante

Yamṙ Qaghan, whose personal name was Aṡṙna Ñemgar [阿史那染幹], was initially a subordinate khan serving under Tulan Qaghan, but was insubordinate and conducted assassinations without his approval. He ended up having to flee to China in 599. Following an attempt by Tulan Qaghan to invade China, Ashina Ñemgar was appointed qaghan of the Göktürks in exile by Emperor Wö́n of Ṡüé, and married to the princess Ñěċéng [義成公主]. In 603, following the death of Tardu Qaghan, he assumed the title in truth as well as pretense, although only over the eastern half of the former empire; the western half seceded under a junior branch of the Ashina clan as the Onoq Qaghanate. Yamṙ Qaghan was a good friend (or, more likely, “good friend” of Crown Prince (and later Emperor) Yóng Guòng, and would frequently travel all the way to China to “visit” him, after which Yóng Guòng would invariably heap treasure on him. He was also a friend (without any scare quotes) of the Ṡüé general and diplomat Jóngsūn Jǐng [長孫晟], the father of the future empress Jóngsūn Wógù [長孫垢] and the future prime minister Jóngsūn Wógř [長孫無忌].

After Yamṙ Qaghan’s death in 609, he was succeeded by his son, Shṙbṙ Qaghan. As Yamṙ Qaghan had not had children with Princess Ñěċéng (thankfully, given that she was almost young enough to be his daughter), she was, according to the Göktürk custom of levirate marriage, married to Shṙbṙ Qaghan, who was much less friendly to the Ṡüé. Shṙbṙ Qaghan frequently made attacks on the Ṡüé dynasty, and on one occasion, besieged a city the Emperor was visiting, and only called it off after Princess Ñěċéng intervened on his behalf. However, he would continue to back anti-Ṡüé forces, including a rebellion led by the Ṡerbi general Lr̀ Ñüén, who had allied with him, his children Lr̀ Ṡiêmín [李世民] and Princess Piángyóng, and Jóngsūn Jǐng’s son Jóngsūn Wógř. However, after the assassination of Yóng Guòng and the usurpation of the Ṡüé dynasty, and hearing of Shṙbṙ Qaghan’s plans to place the northeast of China under Táng control by invading it personally, she decided to act, and had Shṙbṙ Qaghan assassinated, installing his younger brother Chula Qaghan, and amassing a collection of Ṡüé dynasty loyalists, chiefly among them Yóng Guòng’s wife Empress Ṡēu [蕭皇后], and his infant grandson Yáng Jiàn [楊暕] was made nominal emperor of the Ṡüé in exile, with (who else?) Princess Ñěċéng as regent, and the Göktürks became hostile to the new Táng dynasty.

Chula Qaghan turned out not to be as much of a puppet as Princess Ñěċéng hoped, and she had him, too, assassinated only a year and a half after he was enthroned. Although it was discovered that he was poisoned, Princess Ñěċéng was successfully able to pin the blame on the Master of Ceremonies. The next qaghan (and her next husband) was Shṙbṙ and Chulas’ remaining brother, Illig Qaghan, who was a complete puppet of Princess Ñěċéng. [15]

Under Illig Qaghan, the Göktürk qaghanate pursued a policy of nearly single-minded opposition to the rising Táng state, launching massive invasions every year from 621 to 626, not with the intention to raid, but rather to conquer China and restore the Ṡüé dynasty. However, in 627, a massive famine led to the deaths of much of the Ashina clan’s livestock. When the Göktürks tried to requisition horses from the Tegregs (i.e. the actual Turks), they rebelled, and were followed in rebellion by the Qay. After the general Āṡr̀ná Ċíbbuātbít [阿史那什缽苾] failed to defeat these rebellions, he was flogged and imprisoned, and he rebelled after being released. The combination of famine, rebellion, civil war, and Táng intervention lead to the collapse of the qaghanate. In 630, at the Battle of Yīmṡān [陰山], Táng forces destroyed Illig Qaghan’s orda and killed Princess Ñěċéng; Illig Qaghan attempted to flee, but was captured, and surrendered the Göktürk Empire to the Táng.

The Táng dynasty under Emperor Ṡínngéu

Lr̀ Ñüén, who would be known as Emperor Ṡínngéu of Táng [唐神堯帝] [16], followed a policy of pardoning those warlords who submitted freely, and even those who were honourably defeated in battle were often simply rolled into the Táng army. Even when the enemy armies were defeated through other means, Emperor Ṡínngéu would typically only have the commanders executed, and would either have their armies joined with the Táng army or demilitarised, not executed en masse as was the norm under earlier dynasties. This policy of clemency helped massively in the Táng early expansion, and they faced essentially no resistance in Hö́dūng or Guānnuǒi [關內] [17]. A warlord who controlled Lǘngyú attacked Guānnuǒi , but was defeated by forces lead by Táng Ṡínngéu’s second surviving son Lr̀ Ṡiêmín, who would disassemble his state over the course of 618. In the end, that warlord would be betrayed by his officers, who defected to Tang. By 619, all of Gansu would be brought under Tang control. In 621, an alliance between three would be defeated by Lr̀ Ṡiêmín at the Battle of Huòláu pass [虎牢關], and Hö́nóm [河南], Ṡiāndūng [山東], and Hö́bōk [18] fell to the Tang. The last major holdout, a restored Lióng dynasty that controlled the south, was defeated soon afterwards, reunifying China. However, 621 also saw the death of Chula Qaghan and his replacement by Illig Qaghan, who, under the influence of his wife, the Ṡüé princess Ñěċéng, tore up his treaty with the Táng dynasty and began a series of invasions into China with the intention of restoring the Ṡüé dynasty, which went so far as to seriously threaten the capital of Jōng’ōn, though they were eventually defeated.

Meanwhile, Crown Prince Lr̀ Jiânċéng [李建成] was growing suspicion of his more popular younger brother. When Emperor Ṡínngéu had been away from the capital, Lr̀ Jiânċéng had had a guard captain raise a personal army. Emperor Ṡínngéu heard of this and recalled the crown prince to the summer palace, at which point the guard captain rebelled, but was assassinated by his own troops. Lr̀ Ṡiêmín began to raise troops of his own in Lókyóng, but had to evade assassination attempts against him and his allies. In 626, he had had enough, and launched a coup, assassinating Lr̀ Jiânċéng and another of his brothers, and forcing his father to step down and putting him under house arrest. Immediately after this, a Turkic force of 100,000 troops went to the Huǐ river [渭], just outside Jōng’ōn, and Lr̀ Ṡiêmín, the new Emperor Wö́n of Táng [唐文帝] had to bribe them to leave.

The Táng dynasty under Emperor Wö́n

Emperor Wö́n of Táng was an energetic, confident, tireless, and melodramatic ruler, but also one who listened to his officials and actively sought criticism from his ministers and advisors. He would be held up as a model for Neo-Legalist governance, being open to criticism, frugal, fair, and unwilling to raise taxes on the populace without a very good reason. However, he was actually more informed by Confucianism, even if it was the Confucianism of Ṡǖndzr̀.

Disputes between the Sino-Ṡerbi and Göktürk elements of the First Turkic Qaghanate caused a civil war. Three groups split off from the Göktürks: The Kipchaks, lead by the Sürtardush clan, the Toquz-Oghuz, lead by the Üghur Yaglaqar clan, and the Qay, lead by the Khitans. Additionally, when Āṡr̀ná Jíbbuātbít, a nephew of Illig Qaghan’s, failed to suppress these rebellions, Illig (or, more likely, his wife) had him flogged and imprisoned. When he was released, he, too, rose up in revolt, and China intervened. This war ended with the usurpation of Illig Qaghan, the death of his wife, and the election of Emperor Wö́n of Táng as Tengri Qaghan. Many Turkic tribes were resettled into China’s northern frontier provinces of Guānnuǒi, Hö́dūng, and Hö́bōk. In 638, Songtsen Gampo requested a royal marriage to a Tang princess, which was rebuffed, and, afterwards, declared war on China and the Tuyuhun kingdom, but he was defeated. In 641, the Sürtardush qaghan, in a massive blunder, attempted to have Emperor Wö́n assassinated. The Toquz-Oghuz allied with the Táng, and together they defeated the Sürtardush, with the Kipchaks being driven west, and the Tokharian and Scythian city-states of the Tarim basin submitting to Táng authority or being destroyed and their populations wiped out.

Following the death of the retired Emperor Ṡínngéu and Empress Jóngsūn in 636 [19], a rivalry between Emperor Wö́n’s first two sons developed. Although both were intelligent and talented, they were also both eccentric. Lr̀ Ċénggȫr [李承乾], the crown prince, preferred the culture of the Turks to that of the Han Chinese, dressing in Turkic clothes, and preferring the Ashṙna language to Chinese. After being rebuked by officials, he tried to have them assassinated. Emperor Wö́n of Táng had a male lover of Lr̀ Ċénggȫr , who was blamed for this incident, put to death, after which Lr̀ Ċénggȫr plotted to assassinate Emperor Wö́n and his brother Lr̀ Tôi [李泰]. However, this plot was discovered, and Lr̀ Ċénggȫr was demoted to commoner status and exiled to the provinces. Most of Emperor Wö́n’s advisors favoured Lr̀ Tôi for crown prince, but Táng Wö́n’s brother-in-law Jóngsūn Wógř opposed him, and wanted to install Lr̀ Jř [李治], the third son of Empress Jóngsūn and ninth son of Emperor Wö́n. Lr̀ Tôi begged for Emperor Wö́n to ignore Jóngsūn Wógř and install him. After Lr̀ Tôi suggested that he kill his sons and make Lr̀ Jř his heir, Táng Wö́n had Lr̀ Tôi as well exiled to the provinces, and made Lr̀ Jř his heir. After this, Emperor Wö́n fell into a deep depression.

Following the overthrow of King Yeongnyu [榮留] by the general Yeon Gaesomun [淵蓋蘇文], a war between Goguryeo and Táng began. However, this invasion also failed, and, while campaigning in Goguryeo, Emperor Wö́n took ill, an illness that would kill him in 649, and his weak, cowardly, and ineffectual ninth son took the throne; he would be known as Emperor Huóngtiēn [唐弘天帝].

Later that year, the Tang general Āṡr̀ná Hö̌luò [阿史那賀魯] rebelled against the Táng, taking over the Tarim Basin and the Onoq Qaghanate and establishing an empire reaching as far as the Dan and Oxus. In the autumn of 657, a western campaign lead by Suō Diěngfāng [蘇定方] departed from China, and in December, they arrived at Āṡr̀ná Hö̌luò’s orda on the Idet River, a tributary of the As, [20] where they easily defeated a force five times their size. Afterwards, Āṡr̀ná Hö̌luò was brought back to China as a prisoner of war, and the Central Asian territories of the Onoq Qaghanate was split into two parts under two puppet qaghans, while the parts west of the Urals broke off under the Khazars. However, just four years later, the puppet qaghans rebelled.

The Tang dynasty under Emperor Huóngtiēn

Wò Jiêu [武照] was born as the fifth daughter of a wealthy lumber merchant from Tôiñüén who was an early ally of Emperor Ṡínngéu, for which he was named a duke. She read and studied government, politics, music, and literature. In 638, she was fictively married to Emperor Wö́n, and became a secretary of the inner palace. (At the time, most of the women who worked in the inner palace were fictively married to the Emperor, with the exception of female members of the palace guard.)

It had been a long-standing tradition for the Emperor’s wives (even his fictive wives), with the exception of the Empress, to take up vows of Buddhist nunnery and live the rest of their lives in seclusion. Wò Jiêu was spared this fate, either through the will of Emperor Wö́n or the intervention of Emperor Huóngtiēn. It is unclear whether or not she was alone in this. She was made a concubine of Emperor Huóngtiēn, ranking only below Empress Wáng [王皇后] and the four highest-ranking consorts. Empress Wáng and the prime consort, Consort Sēu [蕭淑妃], were rivals. Wò Jiêu bribed or seduced her fellow concubines, forming a spy network, and also allied with officials outside of the inner palace. By 654, she had displaced Consort Sēu to become prime consort. Later that year, Wò Jiêu had her third child and first daughter, who died shortly afterwards. Wò Jiêu took this opportunity to accuse Empress Wáng, who was childless, of having poisoned her daughter. Although the Emperor made an attempt to depose Empress Wáng, this failed, as the Chancellery thought that the support of the powerful Wang clan was too important. However, following the removal of a key supporter of Empress Wang from the Chancellery, and accusations of the Empress and her family using witchcraft, the subject was broached again. Although four chancellors, including Jóngsūn Wógř, still voted in favour of demoting Empress Wáng, the fifth chancellor said that it should be up to the Emperor. Emperor Hongtian had Empress Wáng and Consort Sēu demoted to commoners and imprisoned (and then Wò Jiêu had her goons assassinate them) and their close families were stripped of titles, given humiliating surnames, and exiled to the south. Wò Jiêu was made empress, and her first son, Lr̀ Húng [李弘], was made Crown Prince. Of the five chancellors, three were exiled, with only the one who had supported her accession and Jóngsūn Wógř remaining. [21]

However, in 659, Jóngsūn Wógř had charges leveled against him by the minister Ṡiò Jôngdzūng [許敬宗], who “found” after an “investigation” that he had been plotting against the Emperor, after which he was exiled to the south and then assassinated, and his family sent to labour camps. This was followed by a massive purge of Wò’s opponents. The number of chancellors was reduced to three by 661, and the position of head of the Department of State Unfairs was left officially unfilled, although in practice it was headed by Empress Wò [武后]. In 660, Emperor Huóngtiēn suffered a stroke that left him half-blind and partially paralysed, and Empress Wò was de facto ruler of the empire by 662.

Emperor Huóngtiēn and the chancellor Jǒngguǒn Ñé [上官儀] hatched a plot to depose the empress for her employment of a Daoist monk to do witchcraft on her behalf., but she heard of it beforehand, and when she confronted the Emperor, he pinned the blame entirely on Jǒngguǒn Ñé. Jǒngguǒn Ñé, the Prince of Lióng , and many others were killed. In 666, she would begin to sit on a throne in her husband’s audience chamber, albeit behind a screen. Like Emperor Wen of Ṡüé and Empress Duqu, Emperor Huóngtiēn and Empress Wò were also referred to as the “two sage emperors”, but, in practice, she was the sole ruler.

Empress Wò, believing that the ghosts of Empress Wáng and Consort Sēu were haunting her, moved to the city of Lókyóng. In total, the capital would be moved over a dozen times during the reign of Emperor Huóngtiēn, at massive expense.

Silla, the southeastern kingdom on what is today known as the Sillan Peninsula, was threatened by the alliance of Nihon, Baekje, and Goryeo. In 658, when Yeon Gaesomun began raiding the Khitans, China and Silla initiated a war against them. Baekje was conquered in 660, but an invasion of Goguryeo in 662 failed. However in 666, Yeon Gaesomun died, and Goguryeo fell into civil war, after which it was conquered, and partitioned between Silla and the Chinese protectorate of Ōndūng [安東].

In 666, the Fȫng and Jén sacrifices [封禪] were performed. It was the most sacred rite in China, which could only be performed by the greatest of emperors, and had last been performed during the reign of Emperor Guōngwò of Xôr [漢光武帝]. Both Emperor Wö́n of Ṡüé and Emperor Wö́n of Táng had attempted it, but had both been turned back by bad weather or ill omens. On the new year, Emperor Huóngtiēn and Empress Wò ascended Mount Tôi [泰山], and performed the sacrifices. This occasion was observed by representatives from across Asia: from Japan, Silla, Goguryeo, the Chenla kingdoms, the Khitans, various Central Asian states, Kannauj, the Gurjar Empire, Persia, Romania, and even a delegation from the “Biákjr̀” [白士], believed to refer to the followers of Sajah. The camps set up around Mount Tôi were tens of kilometers, with a population similar to a large city, and the supply lines were hundreds of kilometers long.

The 670s and 680s saw a series of campaigns against the Tsangpo empire [22], which mostly ended in military defeat: despite strong opposition by the Táng dynasty, the Tsang were able to take over the western parts of the Tarim Basin, although the Tsang were unable to take full control of the Silk Road or cut China off from Central Asia due to China managing to retain control of the Turpan Basin. 676 saw a rebellion by the western Göktürk prince Āṡr̀ná Duōjiē [阿史那都支], who allied with the Tsang to try to seize full control of the Silk Road once and for all. However, the Táng dynasty sent an army lead by the general Buói Yángjěm [裴行儉] with the dual purpose of defeating him and then continuing on to rescue China’s largest vassal state, the rapidly declining Sassanid Empire. He defeated Duōjiē’s forces with ease, and, after meeting up with another army lead by Āṡr̀ná Dǎudzī [阿史那道資], continued on to Persia, where he successfully defeated an Arab invasion of that country.

In 675, the crown prince, Lr̀ Húng, died of unclear circumstances, perhaps having been assassinated by his mother. Empress Wò’s weak-willed third son would eventually ascend to the position of Crown Prince, and would become Emperor after Emperor Huóngtiēn finally died in 684…

Government Apparatus

The governance of the Ṡerbi empire was conducted through the “Five Departments and Six Ministries”, which is the basis for most modern systems of government in Asia and many outside of it. The five departments were the Chancellery, the Central Secretariat, the Department of State Affairs, the Department of the Palace, and the Control Agency. The Central Secretariat, whose members were recruited from lower levels of government, would introduce, debate and draft legislation, the Chancellery, whose members were appointed by the Emperor, would review it. If the Emperor approved, it would be sent to the six ministries of the Department of State Affairs, which were the Ministry of Personnel, Ministry of War, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Rites (which was in charge of state rituals, registers of Daoist and Buddhist priests, and foreign affairs). The Control Agency was responsible for monitoring the behaviour of officials in the palace, for reminding the Emperor to do his job, and, most importantly, for making sure that local and regional governments did what they were supposed to do and were not corrupt. Finally, the Department of the Palace managed the maintenance of the imperial palaces, the imperial library, the eunuch bureau, khasqiyate, and the capital police forces.

Land was divided through the equal-field system. In medieval China, most agricultural land was owned by the government, which would assign it to families. All adults were entitled to a certain area of land; able-bodied men received 40 mù [畝] (2.7 acres), women received one-half to three-quarters of that, depending on the time period, and families with oxen received more. After the death of a family member, their land would be returned to the government to be reassigned. Officials were paid through being assigned the tax revenue from a certain area of land.

The Tang dynasty also invented fiat currency, in the form of the Kōiñüén Tūngbàu [開元通寶] cash coin, in the 7th century. (If you have fallen victim to the popular misconception that it was the Eastern Oghuz Khasqiyate that was first to issue fiat currency, that is through a confusion between fiat currency and government-issued paper currency, which was, in fact, first issued by the Eastern Oghuz Khasqiyate.)

[1] Tibet
[2] The reason why I’m using Han rather than Xor is because it’s a naturalised loan, like Yangtze.
[3] Gansu
[4] Hebei
[5] Note the “in China”. Also, I should note here that a lot more Mohist ideas survived than you might suspect; even the concept of rectification of names is of Mohist origin!
[7] There is some evidence that the Xianbei language was spoken as late as the Yuan dynasty.
[8] “Brawling” in this case refers to extrajudicial violence, and “brawling with authority” means using a position in government to cause or justify extrajudicial violence (e.x. police brutality). These three crimes are three of the four “unforgivable crimes” outlined in Book 2 of the Hanfeizi, although they are not explicitly enumerated there.
[9] Legalism was a fairly diverse school - it wasn’t all burning books and burying scholars! Neo-Legalism is a term used to describe Xunzian-derived schools of thought that believe that modern sage kings can create new rites.
[10] No, really. This was one of the biggest surprising things I found out while researching for this TL.
[11] IRL, Qapaghan and Bilgä both attempted to expand this system to the entirety of the Göktürk Empire’s forces, but failed due to pushback from the nobility, and after the collapse of the Göktürk Empire and the An Lushan rebellion, this system was largely abandoned until it was revived by the Hura-Qidi and fully implemented by Chingghis Khaan
[12] Said inscriptions include what are known IOTL as the Bügüt Inscriptions and Khuis Tolgoi Inscriptions
[13] IMO, the common translation “Censorate” gives a severely incorrect idea of what its role was prior to the Southern Song.
[14] Doryo is Inner Mongolia. Liengdung is Guangdong. Hödung is Shanxi.
[15] This is an unorthodox take on these historical events; the “standard” take (that all of this was Illig Qaghan’s doing) seems to be implausible based on how Illig Qaghan was treated as pathetic and harmless by the Tang; he was even offered a position in Guiyi, inside of formerly Göktürk lands! This is hardly something you would offer a brilliant general who has broken oaths before and almost brought down your dynasty once. It seems more plausible to me that Princess Yicheng was behind these events.
[16] Posthumous names continue to be used instead of temple names ITTL. The reason for that will soon become clear.
[17] Northern Shaanxi and the parts of Ningxia and Inner Mongolia south of the Yellow River
[18] Hönom is Henan. Ṡiandung is Shandong.
[19] Empress Zhangsun is IMO a highly underrated figure. I intended to write a lot more about her in this post, but this post is long enough already.
[20] The Dan is the Don River. The Oxus is the Amu Darya. The Idet is the Irtysh. The As is the Ob.
[21] You might have heard a very different and much more lurid story about the rise of Wu Zetian; this was made up out of whole cloth by Ouyang Xiu, Song Qi, and Sima Guang.
[22] The Tibetan Empire, here named after the region of Tibet it originated from combined with “po” (state)
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Kufic-style font for the Sogdian script.

(Kufic is called "Hiraic" because Kufa is still called al-Hira.)