Could the Exarchates of Africa and Ravenna have survived without the rest of the Byzantine Empire?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mr_Fanboy, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    Imagine a world where the 7th century had gone somewhat differently, where the Arabs had successfully taken Constantinople (how much of the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia and Southeastern Europe would stay under Arab control long-term is up for debate), but the Arab conquests of North Africa had petered out after Egypt. Firstly, how plausible is such a scenario?

    Secondly, what would be the implications for the Roman Empire? At the time, the empire had organized its still-extensive possessions in Italy and North Africa into the Exarchates of Ravenna and Africa, respectively. With the core of the empire under Muslim rule, what would come of the Roman possessions in the Western Mediterranean (again, assuming the Arab conquests had halted, at least in the short-to-medium term). Would they form into a cohesive entity, separate into an "Italian" Roman Empire and a "North African" Roman Empire, or dissolve entirely? Though much of Italy would still be the target of Germanic invaders, could the Romans i at least Southern Italy and Sicily have held on without support from Constantinople? What would be the broader implications of all of this for the Western Mediterranean - say, for the Franks, Visigoths, etc?
     
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  2. SwordLord Well-Known Member

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    My guess is no, they would be against a massively overwhelming force. If the Empire couldn't stop the Arabs, Africa certainly couldn't either. Ravenna would probably fall to the Lombards
     
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  3. TruthfulPanda Gone Fishin'

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    I see no reason why the Exarchates would not have survived. All it takes is a briliant leader or two. At times the story of the initial Arab conquests reads like the 1940 Invasion of Norway - a string of one lucky break after another.
     
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  4. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    Here's a stray thought I had, but I have no idea if it is plausible or not. Say after the initial caliphate falls in this scenario, the Greeks reassert independence along with the Persians - though, as with the Persians, they convert to Islam in the process. Say the Exarchates in the West bounce back and form a cohesive entity in a good chunk of the Western Mediterranean. Then you'd have a Christian Roman Empire and an Islamic Roman Empire.
     
  5. SwordLord Well-Known Member

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    Unlikely, the Greeks would almost certainly still be Christian when the first Caliphate would fall. The Persians were still mostly Zoroastrian at that point, but the ruling class was Muslim. The Greeks may even cause the fall, as if they were to rebel that would draw Arab forces very far away from the rebellious Egypt and Persia
     
  6. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    Any particular reason the Greek elites would be less likely to convert to Islam than the Persian elites were, though?
     
  7. SwordLord Well-Known Member

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    IOTL, the Greeks converted far less then other groups, I don't see why this would change ITTL. Greece also had far less religious tolerance then Persia, so the Greek people would never accept being ruled by Heathens. The Greeks may also get some help from Africa, though they would likely be busy trying to get Egypt out of Arab hands.

    Empires of that size, ruling over that many people(including three very powerful and rebellious peoples) never last long, the Arabs would likely follow that rule.
     
  8. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    My point wasn't that the caliphate would somehow last significantly longer IOTL, it just seems like the Arabs make some inroads in elite conversion among the Greek population while they are there. Perhaps less so than was the case for, say, the Persians, but still.
     
  9. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

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    The Exarchate of Africa would probably be conquered by the (Christian) Berbers at some point.
     
  10. SwordLord Well-Known Member

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    They might, but not enough for it to last.
     
  11. Iluvatar Man of Kent

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    If the Arabs can't topple the Exarchate of Africa, I don't know who else could. Ravenna is less certain but the Emperor (presumably in Carthage) could probably retain Sicily and parts of southern Italy. Who knows what happens after that.
     
  12. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    Apparently Syracuse, in Sicily, was the capitol of the Byzantine Empire for a few years in the seventh century. Might that be the capitol of the rump Byzantine Empire IOTL, instead of Carthage (assuming it stays as one cohesive entity)? After all, it's roughly halfway between the empire's Italian and North African territories.
     
  13. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

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    In such a scenario, how serious would the refugee situation be for the two Exarchates - that is, would a significant number of Greeks flee west to Italy and North Africa? If so, how would would affect everything?
     
  14. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    The Emperor Constans II moved his court to Syracuse, where he was murdered. However, this was at a time, in the 660s, where the wars with the Arabs were fairly quiet and the Emperor was not needed in Anatolia.

    If Constantinople fell, almost certainly at one of the Exarchs would have been proclaimed Emperor, or maybe a surviving Emperor would have fled west. Something like this was apparently considered during the last great Persian war. Now what happens next would depend on whether the surviving East Roman remnants coalesce around one Emperor, or there are several "Emperors" running micro-states, as happened after 1204.

    The scenario where each Theme and Exarchate more or less proclaims its own Emperor is less interesting. The East Roman remnants get gobbled up over the next century. mostly by the Arabs, but by the Lombards in Italy and the Bulgars in the Balkans. The issue of whether a Christian Europe survives would come down to whether the Danube Bulgars and the Magyars convert to Islam.

    A surviving centralized empire, probably based on Sicily, would be a more interesting departure. If it could come to an agreement with the Lombards on the grounds that they each have to prop up each other to survive, not only against the Arabs but against the Franks as well, this state would be a viable Roman successor state and would probably manage to hold on to a good deal of Greece, with holding Carthage a stress but not impossible depending on how the arrangement with the Lombards went.

    One thing about the period between the mid seventh and the mid ninth century is that you get the impression that the remaining East Roman holdings in the Western Mediterranean were left more or less to survive on their own resources, which is what led to much of them like Venice breaking off into independent city states. In the second scenario, the sort of revived "Western Roman Empire" couldn't draw on anything from Anatolia, but they didn't really get that help IOTL, but might be motivated to reach an agreement with the Lombards, which the IOTL Byzantines never really needed to bother with. This entity would also not be called "Byzantine" by later historians.
     
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  15. RogueTraderEnthusiast Winner: WillamOfOckham "Most AH.com Title" 2018

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    I do like the idea of a PoD where an Exarch makes themselves Emperor, but makes the disasterous decision to invest vast resources in Africa or Italy, based on a reckless treaty in the east, that is broken at the worst moment, leading to the fall of the East (or at least Anatolia). It would make a relocation to Africa and Italy more plausible, and if the Romans of Anatolia can be convinced to abandon Anatolia to move to Italy or Africa, that would transform the Roman position in the west. They'd still need to make pacts/arrangements with the Lombards and Berbers, but it'd be a very interesting TL.
     
  16. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

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    If the Arabs have taken over Anatolia and Greece, they might well be too preoccupied with organising their new territories to think about further westward expansion, at least for the time being.

    Not to mention that, as others have said, OTL's Arab conquests were pretty implausible anyway. Historically, few states based in the eastern Mediterranean have managed to establish effective rule over North Africa as well.
     
  17. Teejay Gone Fishin'

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    An Arab conquest of Anatolia would result in the long term in a Arab speaking majority Muslim Anatolia. Greek Christians would remain a majority in coastal Ionia, Bithynia and the Pontus. Because central Anatolia is covered steppe and Bedouin tribes would settle into the region on mass. The same process that happened in Anatolia in OTL after the Turkic invasion would happen if the Arabs conquered Anatolia. What happens to the various Slavic tribes I have no idea of an Arab conquest of the Byzantine Empire.

    In this TL you propose, the Byzantine court would flee Westwards and the Roman Empire would initally include Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Southern Italy and North Africa. However Sicily and Southern Italy would be it's core territory

    However effective rule of this state in North Africa would be at least east of the Fossia Regia and coastal areas beyond that. Although Latin cultural influence would extend across the whole of North Africa and into the Berber tribes living in the Sahara. In the long run Latin Christian kingdoms could emerge in the Sahel.

    This map of the Romano-Berber* kingdoms in the sixth and seventh centuries gives an idea of the potential maximum area this state would control in North Africa.

    [​IMG]

    Linguistically African Romance would be a lingua franca would the whole region. However only where in OTL Tunisian Arabic dialect is spoken and cities beyond that that African Romance would the spoken language of the majority. I believe that African Romance at least in the varieties spoken in both Numdia and Africa was closest to either Sardinian or Southern Italian languages.

    Further west in in the old Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana the local Vulgar Latin variety would close to what became Mozarabic in OTL. I read an article once about the Berbers who formed a large part of the Muslim armies which conquered Spain spoke Vulgar Latin instead of Berber, that supports my argument that Vulgar Latin was the linga francia of North Africa in this period. When I find the article I will post it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
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