Collaborative timeline: Dunes of the Desert, a Timeline without Islam

"World history may have gone a different direction, had major empires not formed , or were their founders prevented form doing so due to premature death. Had Ashoka, Alexander the Great, Caesar or Genghis Khan deceased before they were mature enough and competent to assume a leadibg role in their countries, the development of history would have gone in a different direction. Were the Eternal City sacked by Celts or conquered by Carthage , the legions would have never seen the mists of Britannia or the shores of the Pontic Sea...

Yet one historical figure brought not only political, but religious unification as well to a region spanning from the Pillars of Heracles to the jungles of Papua, from the isles of Lemurs as far north as the marshes of Siberia.
Were the chiefs at Mecca capable of capturing this Prophet, in what way would history develop?"

As mentioned this is a collaborative timeline, aiming to respond as extensively to one of the questions that have been debated and discussed thoroughly: how would world history develop without islam? Despite reading several timelines, they fail to reach until present day.
Chapter 1: The Great Arab Migrations
The destructive wars between the Rhomaic empire and Eranshahr, ruled by Sassanids provoked a response to the south of both of these empires. The land was known as Arabia, mostly deserted, but it was transforming its general image at this point.
In the 7th century, the peninsula was genrally transforming- the irrigation system in Yemen had collapsed in the 5th century, resulting in migration northwards.
The northern Arabic tribes, also known as Adnanites, were now pushing further northwards into the lands of Fertile Crescent, which have been greatly damaged by the war.
Due to the enmity between Rhomania and Eranshahr, the Rhomanians were seeking for ways to divert the trade rpures away from Eranshahr. One of these ways led into Hejaz, the coastal region of Arabia bound by the Red Sea to the west.Various oasis cities developped in the region due to caravan trade, among them Mecca, Yathrib and Taima, to mention a few.
The region remained a backwater for over three centuries, a place out of reach for Imperial authorities, a place to escape justice, as well as Imperial inquisition.. thus Hejaz became a preferred destination for many heterodox religious movements, amongst them the most vocal were those trying to merge the code of Moses with the Gospel, known as Judaizers or more colloquially Ebionites. The area had also a significant Jewish presence: many Hebrews have already fled south after the destruction of the Temple, while their Arabic neighbours accepted the Jewish faith as well.
While some of the cities were developing really into some sort of trade republics, ruled by an oligarchy, other areas remained tribal.
Such was the case for the region of Najd, (Yamamah) which was dominated by the tribes of Ghatafan, Hanifa, Hawazin and Kab.. who were putting pressure on the Lakhmid and Ghassanid kingdoms, acting as border guards for the Rhomain and Persian empires.
However, the Lakhmid kingdom had been annexed by Ernashahr due to alleged treason, and the defenses of southern Mesopotamia practically non existet, due to Eranshahrs continued peril from the nrotheast.
Therefore, when the Arabic tribes from the south invaded Mesopotamia, they met little resistance.

The Sassanid army failed to make a meaningful resistance, and once again has lower Mesopotamia, synonymous with Babylonia been conquered by the Semitic tribes from the south.. the new conquerers created the Kingdom of Sawad. The Arabs were a tribal confederation of various tribes, but mostly Kalbid and Lakhmid clans.

The neighbouring Khuzestan (also known as Maishan or Characene) was taken over by the Kaab tribe, who established their own hold over the region. The region has been seen a s a continuation of Mesopotamia further east; it was a lowland, Aramaic-speaking region, and its Archbishop has been considered to be the most important in the ecclesaiastical hierarchy of th eChurch of the east, second after the Patriarch himself.. Yet this region was home to an interesting group the Mandeans. Their origins are somewhat mysterious: some claim that they are the continuation of the Old Mesopotoamian religion, others that they are descendants of the Jews taken into captivity, yet others view them as the followers of John the Baptist.
The Kaab tribe who established their hold in the region were viewed by distance and hostility by their new subjects. This was firstly due to the fact that they aimed to seize loot in an area so plentiful. They never managed to gain any support, thus when they were overthrown in 684 by the Sawat kingdom, none of the loclas casme to their side

The Ghassanids, on the other hand were still a highly influential Rhoman client, who practically guided Rhomaic policy in the Peninsula. Their interest was shifting southwards into Hejaz. This involved again shifting the major caravan oasis (originally Petra, later moved to Palmyra, and now again attention was to shift southward).

Anyhow, the Ghassanid kingdom, based in the semi-desert regions of Oriens, based in the Auranitis (Hawran) was a major power in the peninsula, yet it was being raided ever more often.
The kingdom remained thoroughly Miaphysite however, and was looking with suspicion on the Rhomauc religious policies aiming to restore religious unity to the empire in form of Constantinopolitan Orthodoxy. The Ghassanids were very well knowing that the pressure was going to continue, and saw what happened in Mesopotamia. And thus, they allied with the very same tribes they were fighting until now, with the aim of taking control over Syria as a whole, a step which be met by little resistance from the Syriac Miaphysites..and Arab Miaphysites already present.
The Rhomaic administration did not build a strong loyalty in Oriental provinces -neither in Syria nor in Egypt. This was due to a policy of religious, but also, national repression. Imperial administration made Greek the official language, and frowned upon documents written ind Coptic of Syriac.
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Chapter 2: The Conquest of the Levant
The Levant, also known as Oriens or Syria ( though the latter was used mostly to refer to its northern half) is a region bound by the Mediterranean sea to the west, the Taurus mountains to the east, the Red Sea and Sinai peninsula to the south and Syrian desert to the east. The eastern border is vague, as it may or may not include the region of Gozarto, the island formed by the upper Tigris and Euphrates.
The region has been fought over by different empires centered in Anatolia, Egypt and Mesopotamia with mixed success -it passed from Persians to Seleucids and then to Romans ...
Yet its people were different in language and mentality from the other parts of the Rhoman Empire, and spoke Aramaic varieties rather than Hellenic speach, which was confined to the major cities of Antioch, Berroa and the Decapolis. The Greek inhabitants were known as Melkites, along with a mix of other peoples as well, who arrived from different parts of the Roman Empire, for they upheld the same Chalcedonian creed as the Emperor
The majority, as has been already mentioned, were Miaphysite, Aramaic speaking Christians, who had been alienated by the imperial government due to its religious policies.
However, as one moved further eastwards, the landscape became more arid, and the Arab element of the population more numerous.
In the southern parts of the Levant, things got even more complicated, for the Hebrews, despite losing their language, never lost their religious heritage, rhough some accepted the Gospel. Those who did, and continued to observe the Jewish Halakha as well, were known mostly as Ebionites, and were deeply entrenched in the southern parts of the Levant. In addition, there were significant Samaritan and Jewish communities as well, though the latter were more dispersed after the destruction of the Temple.
Furthermore, there have been still some remaining Gnostic communities, especially to the south of Antioch in the mountains around Laodicea.

The loyalty of a large part of these imperial subjects was relatively low, and the preferred clients of the Emperor were Antiochian Greeks.

The countryside had been severely depopulated due to the war with Eranshahr, and thus when the Ghassanids together with other Arab clans invaded the country, they met little resistance before the Qalamoun mountains. The siege of Damascus was rather fast due to help from within the besieged city for the Arabs; though the Orontes valley remained firmly in Rhomaic hands. The city of Berroea, also known as Aleppo remained yet unattacked.
The Ghassanids thus moved their seat to Damascus, from where they hoped to conquer the rest of Syria.
This meant mainly the densely populated valley of the Middle Orentes, as well as the upper Beqqa valley between the Lebanon and Antilebanon mountains.

In the south, the Ghataffanid clans passed through the area known to the Romans as Arabia Petra, previously known as Nabatea. After crossing the Jordan river, they conquered the southern parts of the Levant, with exception of Galilee and a series of fortified coastal cities all the way to Gaza. The Rhomaic garrison of Jerusalem was allowed to retreat to the coast on condition of acceptance of the new borders.
The areas east of the Jordan have been part of the Ghasannid kingdom; though a large part of the populace moved into the regions of Aram-Damasq, it nominally remained part of Ghassanid domain. The relationship between this newly established Ghatafanid domanion in the south and the dominating Ghasannid kingdom remained a rather debatable one; before the invasions, they were suppoesd to be allies, yet the Ghassanids considered the Ghatafanids as their vassals. The latter were not to keen on that, but needed to stabilize their realm first.
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So are these migrations more independent of one another? It seems like different tribes are forming independent states, rather than a united caliphate as OTL. I am interested.

So are these migrations more independent of one another? It seems like different tribes are forming independent states, rather than a united caliphate as OTL. I am interested.

Indeed. I am trying to model the Arab migrations in a similar way as the Germanic ones, which struck the Western Roman empire. Right now we have independent realms in Lower iraq, Khuzestan, Damascus and Palestine..I sort of feel that there ought to be a southwards migration as well, while a tribe or two pouring into Egypt doesnot appear to be out of question..
Chapter 3: Turmoil in the Levant and invasion of Egypt
The relationship between the Ghassanids of Aram- Damasq and the Ghatafanids in Jerusalem was a rather complicated one, and within two decades serious disputes between the two have resulted in tensions. Yet neither the omnipresent and weakened Rhomaic empire, nor the Ghassanids meant the most severe peril for the Ghatafanid realm. The Banu Judham were to strike the Ghatafanid realm its deathly blow. The Banu Judham have lived in the area known as Arabia Petrae and previously were Rhomaic clients. Moreover, the Banu Judham have embraced the Ebionite brand of Christianity, which had many Jewish elements in it. This would ease their accpetance among the local populace. The Ghatafanids were defeated relatively easily, with most of their tribe moving into the Sinai peninisula, where they would team up with other clans, namely the Banu Hilal, Banu Suef and Banu Hassan in their quest to seize Egypt.

The mentioned Arab clans would invade the country on the Nile in 639. The Copts, descended from ancient Egyptians, yet thoroughly hellenized could not be counted upon. The differences between th Orthodox Alexandrian Greeks and Miaphysite Copts were not purely religious or national : the Greeks have been an urban society, while the Copts were mostly rural farmers. In fact, Egpyt had been a breadbasket of the whole Medtierranean basin, and it has been the control of Egypt that transformed Rome from a regional to a world power.
The governor of Egypt was a certain Cyrus, a Greek, as most of his bureaucracy. In order to gain domestic support and stabilize his rule, quite few Copts were elevated into government positions, yet the changes have come too late, for the Arabs have already seized the city of Pelusium at the eastern end of the Delta. The Rhomaic garrisson attempted for a battle at Heliopolis, yet it was defeated, and soon the Arabs were in control of Lower Egypt with the exception of Alexandria. Not long after Abu Zaid, the Arab commander got baptized and took the name Yaqub. The Arab invaders have managed to win the hearts of the Coptic populace, who have been tired of Rhomaic repression.While the Arabs now become the ruling caste, they have little experience in running a country; for running the administration, Yaqub appointed Sanutius, a Coptic nobleman to run the daily affairs of the country. Yaqub had very close relationship with the Coptic church, who gave him the legitimacy from the point of view of his subjects.
The Rhomaic empire had no forces to spare; its borders were overextended anyway. Therefore, Emperor Constantien the Bearded decided to appoint Yaqub as Exarch of Egypt, thus preserving still at least a low level of Rhomaic influence on the country of the Nile. Such an arrangement would prevent the fall of Alexandria, and allow both parties to somehow keep their face. The consequences of this in practice for the Yaqubid kingdom in Egypt were Rhomaic "advisors".

Meanwhile more Arab tribes were pouring northwards. Most importantly, the Hanifa have attacked the region of Aleppo, where they sacked the city and established their lordship. Further eastwards, the Tamim tribe took over the areas known as Gozarto and Adiabene, in the valleys of the Tigris and Khabour rivers. The middle Euphrates valley was conquered by the Dulaym tribe; and the Ghassanids pushed westwards, securing the middle Orontes valley. The Hanifa acknownledged the authority of the Ghassanid king in Damascus, whose realm was now between the Lebanon mountains, the Hawran and the Euphrates. The city of Edessa was thus the last Syriac city in Rhomaic hands.

That being said, the Rhomaic power in the Levant was confined to a coastal stripe, running from Antioch, around Laodicea, through Phoenicia all the way to Gaza; its southern third being open to constant arab raids outside the cities.
Chapter 4: The Arabian Peninsula
Since the times of the Roman Empire, the area between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf was called Arabia, and the Latins divided the region into three: Arabia Petrae (which was part of the Roman Empire), Arabia Magna, and Arabia Felix, which was at the southwestern tip of the peninsula.

Most of the peninsula somehow gravitated into the basin of the Red Sea. Indeed, the lands of Yemen were very closely related to the lands of Axum, just across Bab el Mandab. The area had been governed as a Sassanid satrapy, yet the actual influence of the Persians was rather low.
Due to the weakening of the Persians, once more the Kingdom of Axum tried to project influence across the Bab al Mandab. Indeed, its people were closely related, for the South Semitic speaking peoples of Axum have indeed originated in Yemen, the biblical land of the Queen of Saba

The local Persian satrap, Badhan was ready to accept the suzerainty of the Axumite negush; and the nominal Axumite reign spread over to the regions of Himyar, Qataban and Sheba. The cities of Sanaa and Najran have already been home to Christian bishops; while Judaism had also strong support in the area. Gradually, Axumite influence spread into the neighbouring regions of Asir. Axum developped into a key player in international world trade, controlling the Red Sea route between Egypt and India. They owned also a quasi- monopolly on the trade with incense. This resulted in reversing the trend of Arabisation of Yemen, and the Geez edition of the Bible was spread along with the Miaphysite faith not only across Yemen, but also into the realm of Hadharamawt.

The land of Mazoun (1) further east has been for long exposed to Persian influence, as well as to Mesopotomian one as well. This meant also exposure to Nestorian Chrisitanity. due to weakening of Eranshahr, the area became once more independent.

The land of Hejaz stood at the confluence of both Ethiopic but also Middle Eastern influences. The society in this region was gradually becoming more sedentary; while the civilization of Thamud had collpased due to volcanic eruptions, the oases of Mecca and Yathrib were becoming centers of new merchant republics and kingdoms, respectively. The presence of a strong Ghassanid kingdom, as well as an independent Egypt and powerful Ethiopia hastened the progress of Miaphysite missionaries to the region, who also met with Jewish faithful and Ebionites (2), especially in the northern parts.
The lands of Arabia Petraea , they were incorporated into the Banu Judham kingdom.

As for the interior of the Arab peninsula, a region called al Yamamah, previously rulled by the Kindah confederation, the area remained rather tribal.

For an external observer, the customs of Christians of the Arab peninsula were rather strict, regardless of their denomination(3), with a society strictly opposed to vice, and combining the religious law with secular.

(1) Mazoun was the Persian name for Oman. I used a French spelling, the spellingf Mazoon looked unppeasing to me.
(2) Ebionites were a Judaizing-Christian sect, who have sought refuge in Hejaz. We presume, that Ebionite practices, along with Nestorian and Arian influences had a great impact on islam.
(3) This may be due to the specific cultural context; similar to the tradition of John the Baptist, earlier Jewish presence etc.
Chapter 5: The Fall of the Sassanids
The incursions of the Arabic tribes resulted in a general weakening of the Sassanid monarchy in Eranshahr. Emperor Yazdegirds attempt to reclaim the capital in Ctesiphon has resulted in a defeat in the Zagros mountains (the well knwon battle of Nehawend. The murder of the Shahanshah in Merv meant the overthrow of the Sassanid dynasty: the Mihranid clan took over the remnants of the Sassanid empire in the southern, eastern and central parts : the lands of Carmania and Yazd, while the Dayubids assumed control over Tabaristan on the Caspian coast. The lands of Parthia were took by the Karen dynasty, who were soon attacked from the north by the incoming Oghuz tribes.
while the lands of Adarbiadagan assumed independence.

The Oghuz were a Turkic tribal confederation, who have been adopting Nestorianism by this time, they inhabited the lands between the Caspian and Aral Seas to the Syrdaria river. The Karenids failed to defend the northern border of Greater Iran, and thus Khorasan became the seat of an Oghuz khanate: the Khanate of Khorasan, which soon expands to the neighbouring regions.

The collapse of the Sassanid state has resulted also in changes to religious life in Eranshahr. The Iranian-speaking peoples of the empire have been predminantly Zorastrian, while Chrisitanity was gaining ground amongst the non-Iranian peoples in the borderlands. The three fire temples of Adur-Gushnasp of the kings in Media, Adur Farnbag of the Magi in Pars and Adur Burzenmehr in Parthia of the farmers were now located within different realms. The one in Parthia was now controlled by the incoming Oghuz, while Mihranids assumed control over Pars.

The state organization of the Zoroastrian religion, and the rigid system has undergone significant changes- reform movements of Mazdakism and Zurvanites spread quickly across the region. This resulted in a necessary restructuralization of the Zorastrian clergy.

Meanwhile, Christianity was gaining new converts, also among the Iranian peoples. The greatest density of Christian presence was found along the Great Silk Road : from Rayy to Merv, and further east into Herat and Farah. While the dominant denomination was the Church of the East, also the Syriac Orthodox Church, led by the Maphrianate of the East based in Tagrit proved to be strong competition; the Orthoodx Church of Antioch was also active to a smaller extent.

The collapse of a unified Iranian empire, met with a strengthening of Ethiopia once more shifted Rhoamaic preferred trade routes: from Himyar and Hejaz back to the Mesopotamian valley. In general, this proved to be a great disaster for the whole region, resulting in a dramatic depopulation of the area, due to damaging of the irrgation systems. Thus ends one long era of Persian history, yet the civilizational identity of Eranshahr, and the legacy of the Sassanids were to remain part of the cultural Persian DNA.
Chapter 6: The Africae

The areas south of the Mediterranean (1) has been known to the Greeks as Libia, to the Romans as the Africas , while the local Libes or Berbers called this area Tamazgha. The northern border of this region was thus the Mediterranena Sea, in the south it ends in the endless desert of the Sahara. Its western border is the Atlantic ocean, while most usually its eastern border has been either the Sirte or even the border of the Nile valley.
Roman imperial administration used to divide the area into a western part called Mauretania and an eastern part they called Africa (2). Africa gravitates more towards Italy and the central Mediterranena, while Mauretania looks towards Hispania.
Culturally though, the area was divided into two entities: a maritime lowland region, previously popualted by Punics and later by Latin speakers, mostly urban and greatly Romanized, and a highland area in the Atlas mountains, further inland, populated mostly by tribal Berbers.
The lowland Africa as such during the Migration period had been conquered by the Vandals, and later the Rhoman empire; the highland Berber areas were experiencing a similar development as did Gaul: gradual creation of Romanized states by Barbarians, and their adoption of Roman customs. These Berber subroman kingdoms were thus created, from west to east: Altava, Warsenis, Hodna, Aures, Nemencha, Capsus, Dorsale, Cabaon. They have been under the influence and just beyond the borders of the Rhomaic empire.
While at the times of the Roman Empire at its peak, the region had over 3 million people, after the Rhomaic reconquest it has been reduced to a 2,5 million. As has been previously mentioned the population of the area consisted of four ethnic groups:
  1. The indigenous Tamazgha/Berbers : living in the highland areas , domineering in former provinces of Sitifensis, Caeserensis, Numidia
  2. Latins: living in the maritime lowlands: in Zeugitana, Byzacena and Tingitanis, and the urban centers of the other aras as well
  3. Punics: surviving in the eastern parts of Tripolitania
  4. Greeks: Settled after the Rhomaic reconquest; a small urban bureaucrati elite

In religious terms, all peoples living witihn the borders of the former empire were Christians, more or less. Apart from a handful of Jews and Mithraists. But the Chrisitianity in the area was not a monolithi religion. The Vandals tried to impose Arianism on the locla population with minimal success, yet the repressions against both Chalcedonian and Donatist Christians somehow smoothed their differences. Generally speaking , Donatism was associated with anti-Roman sentiments; thus after the events of the migration, most of the staunch Donatists would have moved to some of the more "backwater" of the Berber kingdoms.

In such a state, and given the loss of Egypt, as well as Cyrenaica, now seized by the Banu Hilal clan, Gregory the Patrician, Exarch of Africa, openly revolted against the Emperor in Constantinople. The reasons were not only due to Emperor Constans incompentence vis-a-vis the Arab migrations, but also theological differences, for the emperor aimed for a theological compromise called Monotheletism, yet Gregory was a staunch supporter of Chalcedon.
In his struggle, Flavius Gregorius allied with Kahina, a chieftess who managed to unite the Berber principalities of Aures, Capsa and Dorsal.

(1)We are speaking of the maghreb right now
(2) The border between them appeared t be just a little westwards of the OTL Algero-Tunisian border
Q: After looking at Sardinian sound changes, could the Latin "Africa" be transformed into later Romance Apilca? Also, Zeugitana and Byzacena, Nmidia , Trioplitania would result into ...?
Chapter 7: The Silk Road

The Silk Road was an ancient trade route running across the entirity of the vast Asian continent, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the coasts of the Yellow Sea. This distance is some 4 350 miles across. This route had been connecting the empires of the Golden Eagle and the Jade Dragon.
Well known on its route is the Empire of Eranshahr, for it has long been a major rival for the Romans. But at the middle of its length, in the valleys of the Oxos and Jaxartes , west of the Tianshan emerged a civilization often overlooked by historians, that of Sogdia. It were Sogdian merchants who travelled from Cathay to Rome. They would have brought silk from Cathay to Rome, and bronze to China. But the caravans brought something far more valuable than that stored on the backs of their camels: ideas. So it was that they brought the gunpower westwards, but not only that.
Sogdia was indeed a multicultural area : and through Sogdia came the northern transmission of Buddhism into China; yet Sogdia used to be a Zoroastrian realm, but it also facilitated the transmission of first Manicheism and later Nestorian Christianity further east.

Yet Sogdia was ruled by the by the Western Gokturk Khaganate, a nomad empire spanning across much of central Asia. It was a multiethnic empire, with Sogdian being employed as one of the principal lingua francas. Sogdian was an Iranian language, closely related to Khwarezmian (downstream of the Oxus) and Bactrian.
Sogdia became a center of civilization, one can say a beacon of civilization for the neighbouring nomadic peoples, who adopted the Sogdian alphabet to write down their own languages :it gave rise to the Turkic and Uyghur alphabets.

Just to the south of Sogdia were remnants of a once powerful Hephtalite confederacy; now limited to the region of Bactria. The legacy of the empire were now a series of successor states on both sides of the Hindoukush. These people had been previously ruled by a Greco-Bactrian aristocracy, who descended from the soldiers of Alexander the Great. Now most of them adopted Buddhism and continued to hold on to an urban civilization. The degree if hellenization went so far that the Greek alphabet was adopted to write Bactrian.

The Nestorian missionary enterprise was modest at first: Syriac merchants would here and then preach the faith as commanded by the Lord. Later, there would be monks or priests who travelled along, sporadically bringing the Gospel to the peoples of Central Asia.Yet they found a system of Buddhist monasteries as stops for the caravans.
The Patriarchate of the East decided to challenge this with a series of monasteries. The Patriarchate created an Order of Mar Addai: its members were at first educated in Persian and Sogdian, and then sent along the Silk Road, where they were to pick a site for a monastery : a polyfunctional center, which was to have a church, a school, a library and an inn. These were to be the first colonies of the new faith; one can say missionary bases. New members of this order were first sent to an existing monastery for at least some five years and later they would be sent to establish a new one. This network of monasteries was particularly rapidly growing in the new Oghuz khanate of Khorasan.
Thus one can say that the Nestorian monastery has also been viewed as a base to reach out for what is behind its walls, and you would get priests, scribes, physicians, teachers and charity workers, all under one roof. In fact, a quite a lot of towns in Central Asia has been established as communities which grew around these monasteries.
The success of this operation was seen quickly on the satrapies of Harey, Margiana and Abarshahr
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Following with interest, although I have a minor nitpick: it would be great if the TL simply used the English terms for the various states. I know it sounds fancy to say "Rhomaic empire and Eranshahr", but it's really just needlessly confusing. After all, you probably won't call Finland Suomi in an English text.
Following with interest, although I have a minor nitpick: it would be great if the TL simply used the English terms for the various states. I know it sounds fancy to say "Rhomaic empire and Eranshahr", but it's really just needlessly confusing. After all, you probably won't call Finland Suomi in an English text.
I agree that Eranshahr would be replaced by an English term; yet if Byzantium were to survive until today (which is quite likely), it would not be called Byzantium , but rather something like the term used im the timeline.

My stance in writing ATL history is also to look at the terminology: if there is a pattern Hispania-> Spain then we use this pattern to Britannia> Britain, Mauretania> Maurtain..
yet if Byzantium were to survive until today (which is quite likely), it would not be called Byzantium , but rather something like the term used im the timeline.
For Byzantium I meant the usage of the term Roman Empire. But that is probably just my personal peeve. I dislike the term "Rhoman" or "Rhomanian" or any version of it. I understand that it comes from Greek, but the English name is Roman Empire. Whether it would be called as such today is indeed doubtful. I assume they would refer to themselves as such officially, but they will likely be just called Greeks or the Greek Empire unofficially. It would be interesting to have a modern Eastern Roman Empire officially call themselves Byzantium, for example after a republican revolution, but that is the topic for a different thread :)

Bottom line is: don't mind me, use whatever terminology you like, this is your timeline after all, just wanted to point it out :)
Chapter 8: An empire in crisis
The reign of Constans II in the Rhomaic empire was that of difficulties. The Empire had already lost much of the Levant, and Rhomaic direct rule in Egypt was lost as well, although this was neutralised by the fact that the new Kingdom of Egypt had become a Rhomaic exarchate, although this arrangement was quite delicate. Further westwards, in the Africas, Gregory the Patrician was in open revolt against Constantinople.
As mentioned the Exarchate of Africa was in open rebellion to Constantinople for a variety of reasons: one of them was Constantinople´s inefficiency of defending the empire; with its priorities now fixed at the northern Levant, Gregory doubted that imperial armies would be used to defend the city of Carthage should need arise. Furthermore, Gregory was in staunch opposition to the Emperor on religious issues.

For the Rhomaic empire had been paralysed due to Chrisitological disputes for two centuries already: on one hand, there were the proponents of the council of Chalcedon, who argued that Christ was a single man with two natures, one human and one divine. This position was the one favoured among ethnic Greeks. In the Orient, the Monophysites, or rather Miaphysite position was more widespread : claiming Christ to have one nature, that being divine.

The resulting antagonism appeared most visibly in Syria between Orthodox Antiochian Greeks and Miaphysite Aramaics; or Egypt between Orthodox Alexandrian Greeks and Miaphysite Copts. These struggles were seen also as struggles between centralism and devolution.

The Emperor had had enough. The debate around the whole thing was very passionate, yet he himslef failed to understand what are the key differences between the parties. The consequences, were one of thiese Chrisitological positions true and the other not, were for him too irrelevant, yet the whole debate has torn empire apart, and easened the Arabs to seize much of Syria and Egypt. The Arabs further supported the antigreek, Miaphysite sentiments.

The Type of Constans was to end this debate forever. The discussing of the whole topic in public was banned, and all documents arguing for either side are to be destroyed. The official position of the Church is, form now on, that of the previous Ecumenical councils, full stop. Anyone who disagrees was to be penalized.

Yet opposition to the whole issue was strongest in the west: in Africa, but also in Italy : where the Exarch of Ravenna Olympius had to be deposed, so that a new one could depose the Roman Pontiff.
Emperor Constans decided to move his capital to Syracuse, having a more central position within the Empire, and being a base to operations against Africa and the Lombard duchies in southern Italy - this resulted in the reconquest of Salerno and Benevento, while the campaigns against Africa were halted and resulted in a sort of compromise, allowing further autonomy, yet accepting the suzerainty of Constantinople... this being a similar arrangement as that with Egypt.

The situation in the east was rather problematic: The empire has been holding firmly onto northwestern Syria- Antioch, Laodicea (1), Tortosa (2), annd then ancient Phoenicia from Tripoli to Tyros, while the coast of Palestine was even more vulnerable, all the way to Gaza. The campaigns against the Arabs in the north resulted in limited victories: most notably, the conquest of Berroea (3) from the Banu Hanifa. Yet further south, the war with Banu Judham resulted in the Arabs conquerring Jaffa, Arsuf and Ceasarea, thus limiting the Empires rule to an enlarged Gaza with environs and the coastline to the north of Mount Carmel.

Moreover, the Empire had lost a large part of the interior Balkans to the incoming Slavic tribes. Imperial rule was now limited to the coastal cities. The incoming Slavic tribes were unfied by Bulgars, a Turkic tribal confaderacy, who has established themselves on the lower Danube, with their realm establishing hold over the Wallachian and Moesian plain(4). Many Slavs were being resettled into Bythinia and inner Anatolia, due to fear of them siding with the Bulgars, who had to be bribed several times in order not to attack the Empire

The Rhomaic empire was now undergoing a change of the society, from an imperial urban, bureaucratic and mercantilistic one to an increasingly feudal, rural society.

(1) Latakia
(2) Tartous
(3) Aleppo
(4) Northern Bulgaria plus Dobruja
Chapter 9: The Caucasus
Between the Rhomaic Empire and the.once glorious empire of the Sassanids was a region where the two of these competed for influence. It lay betwee the Pontic and Caspian Sea: there lay the mountains of the Caucasus.
To the south of the Caucasus lay three great realms : Armenia, Georgia and Aghbania.
The realm of Armenia effectively acted as a buffer state between the Roman Empire and Parthia; it was one of the first realms to adopt Christianity. The Armenian nobles took advantage of the havoc which appeared with the Arabs and reasserted their independence. The new Armenian kingdom extended from the Euphrates almost to Lake Urmia.
This new Armenia would somehow fill the power vacuum in the region.

Directly south of the Caucasus lay the realms of the Kartvelian peoples: though they were not fully unified. They spoke a variety of closely related tongues: there were the Laz, the Svan, the Mingrelians and the Georgians. These peoples were getting more and more under the influence of Constantinople, through contact across the Black Sea. This was particularly true for the kingdom of Lazica, also known as Mingrelia in the western part of the country; Iberia, known also as Kartli had been ruled by Persia, and was more open to Armenian and Aramaic influences; its rivers were flowing eastwards into the Caspian sea.
The Kartvelians were mostly Christian, as such they were subject to the Patriarchate of Antioch

Perhaps the least known is the kingdom of Aghbania, extending in the lower Kura and Araxes valleys. The Aghbanians have been greatly influenced by their western neighbours, the Armenians and spoke and Eastern Caucasian language. They, like the Armenians, adopted the Miaphysite branch of Christianity.

Further north, beyond the Caucasus, have been living various peoples : Circassian, Alans, Vainakhs and the peoples of Dagestan. The Alans were an Iranian people, and a fraction of them have departed for Hispania and further to Africa with the Vandals during the Age of migration. They, along with the Circassians, have become the focus of Rhomaic and Kartvelian missions, aiming to convert them to Christianity. Yet these attempts had only a rather supperficial effect: while the ruling class had become at least nominally Christian, the majority of commoners would at best adopt some elements of Christian religion to their native Aetsag Din mythology...
Chapter 10: The Broken Crescent
In the second hlaf of the 7 th century, the Fertile Crescent is now dominated by Arab kingdoms, who filled the depopulated border regions between the Rhomaic and Sassanid Empires.

In ancient Mesopotamia, the Kingdom of Sawad thrives. Covering roughly the areas of former Babylonia and Khuzestan, Sawad is a feudal realm with its capital at the city known in the West as Ctesiphon, in Arabic Taysafūn, while Assyrians refer to it as Qtēspōn. The Arabs have dramatically altered the ethnic composition of the area: speaking in general more broadly, Arabic prevailed and gained predominance in the Euphrates valley; while an Eastern Aramaic variety survives in the valley of the Tigris. This Bābīlian variety (or Babylonian) shows a strong Akkadian substrate, as well as strong influences from Persian and Arabic; and diverges greatly from the Syriac of Gozarto and Niniveh.
The Sawadian dialect of Arabic in turn takes up a great influence from Babilian Aramaic as well.

Qtēspōn is considered to be one of the largest cities in the world: a center of science and culture. The.result were developments in agriculture, mainly a three crops system. It hosts many scholars and is home to one of the world's greatest libraries, rivalling that of Alexandria, and universities. All works by Greek classics are being translated into Syriac, which maintains its position as an ecclesiastical language of the Church of the East.
The seat of the Catholicos of the Church of the East is located in Qtēspōn, yet the realm is a multicultural one.
Apart from the majority Nestorians, Sawad is home also to significant Jewish community. The Jews are mostly urban, living in the cities to the west of Qtēspōn , in Pumbeditha, Piroz Shapur and Nehardea (1) . They speak tgeir own Babylonian Jewish dialect, and are headed by an Exilarch.
The Mandeans live in the east of the realm, in the regions of Maishan and Hozestan. Furthermore, the realm hosts a significant amount of Manicheans, who live in the smaller towns. The seat of the religious head of Manicheism, the Kahna, was also Qtēspōn. The Manicheans are somewhat tolerated, yet they find themselves in a rather hostile realm. Apart from the Manicheans, also noteworthy are the Zoroastrians, who are mostly ethnic Persians.
There are also smaller Gnostic communities to be found in Sawad; predominantly urban and secretive.

Further north from Sawad lies the realm of Adiabene; known to the Arabs as Jazira. The ruling Arab clans have almost completely assimilated into the local Assyrian population; their cultural influence being limited to a reintroduction of cavalry and horseriding into the military traditions of the region. Should Sawad be considered the Athens, then Adiabene is the Sparta. This region is now thoroughly Christian, with a gross majority being Nestorian, and a Miaphysite minority (concentrated in the city of Tagrit(2). Tagrit is home to the Maphrian of the East, the secondmost important dignitary of the Syriac Orthodox Church, having authority over all lands east of the Khabour. In Adiabene, the local dialect still remained divergent from literary Syriac, having a strong Akkadiam substrate.

Further west, the Ghassanids continued to wage war upon the Rhomaic empire, taking advantage of the latter's preoccupation with the wars against the Avars and Boulgars. This resulted in a conquest of not only Beroea (3), but also Edessa. Ultimately, this expansion would halt at the foothills of the Taurus, to incorporate the regions of Cilicia, Antioch and ancient Phoenicia
The Ghassanid kingdom was an Arab Monophysite realm; and Arabization progressed in the desert areas , in the oases of Tadmur, in the Hawran, and the lowland areas of the greater Damascus apart the city itself. Anyhow, the Ghassanid kingdom provided a halt to the encroaching Hellenization, most evident in th Orontes valley, which was rearamaized, and boosted the positions of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
The coastal regions of Antioch and Phoenicia were ruled indirectly, for they could not be easily integrated into the realm: therefore the Doucate of Antioch was made, with an Antiochian Greek governor. Further south in the Bargylus mountains (4), a Gnostic community(5)was given autonomy as well. The region of Phoenicia, between Tartous and Acre, a coastal region with Mediterranean sea on one side and the Lebanon mountains on the other, was pretty much left to itself, with tribute being collected to Damascus. Its people were Christians, yet they were of the Monothelite creed and acknowledged neither the Greek nor the Syriac claimant for the Patriarchal Throne in Antioch.
They were followers of Mar Maron a monk living originally at the banks of the Orontes river.
The Phoenician coast developed into a series of city states on the coast: of Tripoli, Beirout, Tyre and Sidon, and local chiefdoms in the valleys. The population here spoke a dialect of western Aramaic, yet Beirut itself was distinct for it maintained a Latinate variety.

The Melkites, Antiochian Greeks found themselves now in an unfavourable position. Before, they usedto be the protegees of the Emperor, now they found that most offices were filled by Syriacs or Arabs. Most of them remained, yet a smaller part fled to either Cyprus or Anatolia. Western Cilicia was ethnically Greek at this point; the lowlands Syriac and the highlands Armenian.

Regarding southern Levant, the area was home to the Banu Judham kingdom, whose capital was Jerusalem. The populations lived side by side, including Orthodox, Miaphysites, Ebionites, Samaritans and Jews. The Banu Judham themselves were Ebionite, and promoted this branch of Christianity (6). This gave them the loyalty of the Samaritan and Jewish populations; they even ousted the Orthodox Patriarch (who fled to Acre) and replaced him with an Ebionite Patriarch of Jerusalem.

In Kemet, the disputes between the tribal chiefs resulted in the Banu Hilal moving out of Egypt into the Cyrenaica; from there, they were ousted as well by the Yaqubid kingdom, thus they were forced westwards into Tripolitania. Kemet also expanded eastwards, gaining control of the Sinai and Gaza. As mentioned the Arabs taking over Egypt adopted the Coptic Christianity and made Coptic the official language. Yet denser Arab settlements appear in Bani Suef and Cairo regions, where Arabic takes up Coptic influences and gives birth to a newnvariety called Misri Arabic. Coptic in this period also takes up Arabic influences, especially in Middle Egypt. The tensions between Rhoman Empire and Kemet resulted in war, which led to an end of Rhomaic influence. This led to an exodsu of Alexandrian Greeks, Melkites, to Crete

(1) situated in the Anbar province near Fallujah
(2) modern day Tikrit in Saladin province
(4) Syrian coastal mountain range
(5) OTL precursors of the Alawites perhaps
(6)Its Judaizing ways, and strict morality would resemble islam very much
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Chapter 11: Rhomaic Empire and the Twenty yaers anarchy
The Rhomaic Empire was in a bad shape. It had lost practically all of the Levant, and most of the Balkans as well. The Balkan peninsula has been lost ot the Slavic tribes, who have delved deep into the heart of the empire, as far south as the Peloponesse. This was to be dealt with, as soon as possible. By the year 700 AD, the emperor has had enough. He set on a campaign to stabilize the northern border, which was to be established at the Haemos mountains (1), and extending further westwards to separate the Axios (2) valley from the of Upper Moesia. Thus the entirety of Thrace and Upper Macedonia was to be reclaimed. The local Slavic tribes either submitted to the Empire, were forced northwards, resettled to Asia Minor or extinguished. Especially the tribes living near the newly established borders were resettled across the Marmara sea, mostly to the regions of Bithinia or Troas and Mysia, where they became freeholders. The borderlands were to be settled by Greeks, but also by the Vlachs, an eastern Romance population, who survived the Slavic invasions by retreating to the mountains, especially near the Iron Gates, lying opposite the southern Carpathians (3). The upper reaches of the Axios saw also incoming Arnautian (4) tribes, descending from the original Illyrian population of the entire eastern coast of the Adriatic sea.

The peninsular region of Anatolia, or Asia Minor now formed the core area of the Empire. The area had been already a prospering area during the time of the Roman Empire, especially in the western coastal part, which was home to many urban centers such as Smyrna or Ephesus. Greek culture has already been extant throughout the entire coast, and the western regions have seen a hellenization during the diadochi period and the Roman Empire, yet several languages have surviving in the interior regions: this was particularly the case of Galatia, a Celtic language found in the rural parts of central Anatolia. Yet an even more ancient tongue could be found at the northern foothills of the Taurus : the Isaurian language was the last surviving idiom of the Anatolian branch, among which were also the now extinct languages of the Hittintes, of Luwians and Lydians. Hellenization was encouraged by the fact that it were the liturgical language of the Christian Church.

In the political realm though, the Empire has been paralysed by internal struggle during the first decades of the 8th century. The religious issues were thought to have been over, for the Miaphysites were found mostly in areas that were lost to the Arabs who had established their own realms, yet other religious movements were spreading within the borders of the empire: in particular, Paulicianism was considered a dangerous heresy by the orthodox churchmen. Gnostic in nature, it arose in the mountainous eastern provinces of the empire among the local Armenian populace. Claiming to restore the original spirit of Christianity according to Apostle Paul, they rejected the Old Testament all together.). Despite waves of state persecution, they managed to spread further, taking advantage of the anarchy that befell the Rhomaic state.

(1) The Balkan mountians, central mountain range of Bulgaria

(2) Vardar
(3) In the areas of Bor, Zaječar and Vidin
(4) Albanian
Chapter 12: Visigoths, Berbers and Tafircans
The Iberian Peninsula had been seized by various Germanic tribes- at first, it were the Vandals and the Suebi, who had made themselves at home; later, they had been displaced by the incoming advancing Visigoths. The Visigoths were an East Germanic people, who at first settled in Aquitaine, in the valley of the Garonne, centerred around the city of Tolosa (1). From there, they were pushed away away by the advancing Franks. Thus, the Visigoths took over Spain, moving their capital to Toletum (2).
The Germanic Arian horsepeople formed the new aristocracy of the realm, ruling over a Catholic urban and rural Hispano-Romance populace. In the beginning of the 8th century, Visigothic Spain was in much a different shape than two centuries earlier. Due to legal and religious unity, the Visigoths by now had mostly been assimilated into the Hispano-Roman society. The largest density of Visigothic settlements could have been found in places like Tierra de Campos near the town of Palencia. Other settlements occured near the Tagus (3) estuary, at the upper reaches of the Duero, and around the cities of Mérida and Toletum.
(Tierra de Campos)
The Tierra Campos maintained its Visigothic identity long after other Visigothi communities were assimilated. The ethnic enclave near Palencia became a formidable cavalry sourcefor the country.
In the year 700, Visigothic Spain saw itself bordering the now-independent Exarchate of Africa, called Kingdom of Tafirca (4), and a Frankish empire to the north, periodically weakenned by gavelkind succession issues. A constant source of trouble were the unsubdued northern tribes. At times, they would submit to the king at Toletum, yet more often than not, the Vascones, the Astures and he Cantabri and even the Gallaecians remained an unsubdued hillfolk with little respect for the kingdom.
The Visigothic kingdom remained however, a land power. Despite occupying the peninsula, it lacked a good navy. The northern coastal areas were controlled by rebelling tribes, the southern areas were under Rhomaic and subsequently Tafircan control. The majority of rivers were flowing westwards, into the unknown western ocean; the major ports were Valentia and Tarracco. The Visigothic kings knew of this trouble, therefore they took advantage of the Banu Hilal invasions of Tafirca.

Gregory the Patrician has moved his capital from Kartagu (5) to Isfetula(6) to be shielded from Rhomaic naval attacks. His alliance with Kahina´s Berber confederation further south provided a sense of security for the new realm. Yet the Banu Hilal, an Arabic tribe were moving westwards. Due to disputes with the king in Egypt, they at first moved to Cyrenaica, but the area was conquered by Egypt as well, so they were moving into Tilbutana (7). The bulk of their military forces were elite desert cavalry; the Tafircans relied on infantry, both heavy and light, and their Berber auxilaries, who provided formidable cavalry and archers. Gregory decided not to march into Tilbutana, for the area was arid. The king of Cabaon, a Berber chieftain ruling from Tilbuli (8) called for aid, yet none arrived, and his kingdom was overrun. The Arabs would then attack the heart of the kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Visigoths took advantage of Tafircas preoccupation with the Arabs, and secured the coastal areas of Baetica (9). The remaining garrisons offered little resistance, most were evacuted southwards into the region around Tiźi (10). This gave Hispania a good sea access. The commander of Išeftu (11), a certain Julian rebelled against Gregory and took hold of all remaining cities near the southern shore of the Straits of Gibraltar.

When king Gregory faced the Arabs in open battle he was slain. The Arabs took over the countryside: the remaining forces retreated into the fortresses. The defenders were led by two men : Gennadius and Eleutherius - and managed to expel the Arabs from Đugitana, the northern parts of the Proconsular Africa surrounding Carthage. Yet the Arabs had to face a prolonged heavy resistance led by Kahina, the leader of the Berber tribla confederation in Numidia : These Berbers effectively ended any Arab presence to the west of Girba. Thus, the Banu Hilal lordship was now confined to Tilbutana and, after a short campaing Phasania (Fezzan) as well.

In the aftermath, we can see Eleutherius (Alotriu) becoming king of Tafirca, yet losing large parts of the realm to the berbers in the south. The consolidation of Maurtaňa in west around Išeftu marks the beginning of n independent history of the Maurtaňans, a Romance people of the western Tamazgha (12).

(1) Toulouse
(2) Toledo
(3) Tajo
(4) Kingdom of Africa. Implemented some of the sound changes
(5) Carthage
(6)Roman Sufetula, modern Sbeitla
(7) Tripolitania
(8) Tripoli
(9) Andalusia
(10) Tangiers
(11) Septum, moder day Ceuta
(12) Berber word for the maghreb
Bonus: Devlopment of South Romance languages (crossposted)
Tafilcan (inspired by Sardinian and Punic sound changes)
  • Africa-Tafilca -
  • Zeugitana -Đugitana-Đudana
  • Carthago -Kartagu
  • Utica -Utka
  • Hippo Diarrhytus -Ibudardu -Ibdardu
  • Thabraca- Tabalka -Taboka
  • Hippo Regius - Ibargu
  • Calama -Kalma -Koma
  • Thagaste -Tagšta
  • Tipasa - Tifša
  • Sicca Veneria -Isđabera -Isđabra
  • Bulla Rega -Buđarga
  • Thaburto Maius -Tuburtu Mađu
  • Neapolis -Nablu
  • Byzacena - Bisdakena
  • Hadrumetum -Tadulmetu -Tadmetu
  • Thapsus -Tafšu
  • Thysdrus - Tusdul -Tusdu
  • Ruspe - Arušpa
  • Taparura -Tabura -
  • Iunci- Đuki
  • Sufes -Isfeš
  • Sufetula - Isfetula -Isfeta
  • Tripolitania -Tilbulitana -Tibwitana
  • Leptis Magna -Lebtimana
  • Tripolis -Tilbuli -Tibwi
  • Sabrata -Isbalta -Isbota
  • Girba -Girba
  • Tacape- Takba
  • Numidia - Numiđa
  • Constantine - Kustina
  • Mileve -Mileb
  • Chullu - Xuđu
  • Lambaesis - Labši
  • Bagae - Bage
  • Theveste - Tebešt
  • Capsa - Kafša
Where š is the sound written in Englsih as sh, X stands for the 'j' or La Rioja and đ is a sound between d , z, and first consonant of Germany.

Maurtañan (inspired by Sardinian, Punic and Spanish with Mozarabic as well)
  • Mauritania -Mawrtaña-Mortaña
  • Sitifensis -Išfeši
  • Sitifis -Išfeš
  • Igilgilis -Igiłi-Iżił
  • Saldae-Išawż -Išoż
  • Tubusuptu -Tubšuft
  • Caesarensis -Kešereš- Kešreš
  • Caesarea - Kešal-Kešo
  • Tipasa -Tibša
  • Icosium -Iqšu
  • Russuccuru -Arušuql- Aršuql
  • Iomnium-Żoñu
  • Lambdia -Labża
  • Kartena -Kartena-Kartna
  • Mina -Mina
  • Portus Divini -Furtużibni
  • Siga-Išga
  • Altava -Awtba -Otba
  • Tingitana -Tiżtana
  • Tingis - Tiżi
  • Septum -Išeftu
  • Lixus -Likšu
  • Volubilis -Bulbił
Ż as French ge or j,š as in English sh, ñ similar to Spanish, ł is soft las in Portuguese lh ,q is kw.
Chapter 13: Europe by the year 700 AD
Now let us take a look at the rest of Europe . At the northwestern end of the civilized world, lie the British isles. During the seventh century, there has been a consolidation of the area, as the number of petty kingdoms has been reduced, and the Anglo-Saxon region is now orgaqnized into a series of seven kingdoms, knwon as the heptarchy : Wessex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria. The Brythonic languages survive in Wales, in Devon, and along the entire Lancashre coast, which is knwn toether with Galloway as the kingdom of Strathclyde. Moreover, the Dumnonians have crossed the Channel into Aremorica, and smaller Brythonic settlements occrued in Galicia as well. Ireland is now fully Christianized, and Gaelic peoples have begun their push to Caledonia, whose eastern parts are still populated by Picts.

Pockets of Latin speakers are still surviving in the British isles, though. One of their major ciites is Verulamium (1). Other remainig areas are rural areas in the westernmost parts of Yorkshire and the easternmost parts of Glamorgan in Wales.

Across the Channel, the regions of Gaul and Germany were dominated by Franks. The core lands of the Frankish empire extended from the Loire river in Gaul to the eastern ridges of the Rhine river. Tributary to the Franks were other duchies and kingdoms at their borders: Aquitaine between the Pyrennees and the Loire, Burgundy in the Rhone basin, Alamania in the upper Rhine and Danube regions, and Bavaria between the Alps and the Bohemian forest. Thuringians also paid tribute to the Franks, yet further north, the Germnaic pagan tribes of Saxons and Frisians remained unsubdued.

As for the ethnic makeup, we can see that the Seine valley cultivated its Latinate tongue, while the Middle Rhine remained speaking a Germanic variety. Pockets of Celtic speakers survive in the more inaccessible parts of the Massif Central.

The Middle Danube remained a dominion of the Avars, a tribal confederation of steppe nomads and their Slavic neighbours. Yet their rule has become diminished, and was now restricted only to the Carpathian basin, yet even there the local Slavic chiefdoms struggled to preserve their independence- in particularly in the regions of West Slovakia.

Further southeast, another nomadic people has established themselves on the lower Danube. The Bulgars, a Turkic people have established their khanate along with Slavic peoples and Vlachs in the former Roman province of Lower Moesia and in Wallachia. This realm is now a constant source of headaches and nightmares in Constantinople, and its emperors would like to push the borders of the Empire further north, to the Danube, as was the case in the good old days.

In the good old days, Italy was the heart of the Empire. Now, imperial control over the peninsula was limited to a few coastla fortresses and their environs: Venice, Ravenna, Foggia, Lecce, Tarent, Tarent, Naples, Rome and Lucca : Rhomaic hold was secure over Sicily and Calabria as well. The interior, however was under the control of the Lombards, a Germanic tribe who had been ousted from Pannonia by the Avars, and now established themselves in Italy. The Annotarian region was divided into two provinces of Neustria in the west and Austria in the east by the Addige river; the remaining regions of Tuscia, Spoleto and Benevento were organized as autonomous duchies.

Across the Adriatic Sea, there was another former Roman province, which was overrun by Barbaric peoples. The region of Illyria, also known as Dalmatia, was now mostly overrun by Slavic peoples. The Carantanians ahve established themselves in innermost Noricum, the Croats in northern Dalmatia, the Narentonians in the Neretva valley. Braniches to the osouth of the lower Sava, in a region opposite Syrmia. Further, there were Serbs in Dioclea.

The Latinate population was now either confined to a series of fortified coastal towns along the Dalmatian coast, fled to the islands or retreated into the mountains and becmae nomadic highlander pastoralists, known as Morlachs. Similarly, the Thraco-Ramnce and Daco-Romace population of Moesia mostly retreated to the mountaisn a fed themselves as shepherds. In fact, the word Vlach has become almost synonymous with the word shepherd in many Slavic tongues. They live in the mountains on both side of the Danube gorge, while a great number of the them settled in Upper Macedonia, after its reconquest by the Empire

(1) St. Albans
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