From Exile to Triumph: a Western Roman Timeline

The Bulgaria of the West you say? Hmmm....The Byzantines had Basil II the Bulgar Slayer so the Romans would have a Francicus Maximus or Gallicus Maximus
The "Bulgaria of the West" without the whole Kleidon part.

What they need is a long and stable dynasty that establishes the tradition of peaceful succession from father to son. This was how the Capetians strengthened their hold on France and gradually expanded the power of a King away from the weakened elective monarchy. The Romans had many opportunities in the form of the Macedonian dynasty, Isaurian dynasty, Constantinian dynasty, Julio-Claudian dynasty, Nerva-Antonine, Severan, etc. Perhaps the dynasty of Nepos accomplishes this purpose.
No they won’t. I might even ditch them soon. Having one single successful dynasty for the entire length of this timeline is not my aim. Rather the Nepotians will represent an age of necessary recovery before starting again a new era of Crisis like the Third century. And if something like the Third century happens again, it’ hard to imagine any dynasty surviving through this many disasters and and losses.

Still doesn't really make much sense to me as to how they beat the Romans. Both the Romans and Persians have their own buffer/client-states of the Lakhmids and Ghassanids. If something were to threaten them, then this would draw the notice of the Persians or Romans. The Eastern Empire is also more stable here with control over its provinces and no Gothic War or massive war with the Persians to sap their resources. The Romans fought four times with the Persians. The fought under Justin and Justinian in the Lazic War over Iberia, Khosrau's invasion of the East, when Justin II refused to pay tribute, and when Khosrau II invaded after Maurice was assassinated. There also was no civil war like the one Heraclius started with Phocas.
But I never implied that these invasions will happen out of the blue. Specific circumstances will allow the Arabs to expand against the empire, though it won’t be just an "external invasion". Some of these circumstances will have to be same of OTL for obvious reasons (the need to weaken both empire is still there) but others are going to be different. Right now everything seems perfect for the empire (more or less) but who can say it will be so around the end of the century.
 
Chapter LI: Meeting the real enemy
Chapter LI

The Gothic war came to an end on its sixth year. That was the official version the victorious generals would deliver to the emperor and the people of Rome. But reality always was different than what pompous announcements were willing to admit. Rumors on local Gothic warlords leading a last desperate resistance from their powerbase were to be silenced and forgotten, their names unworthy of the attention of the emperor and of later historians. In time lesser Roman commanders would take care of them as the heroes of the war were expected to return to Italia in a short time. Still there was time, before their final departure, to settle their affairs in the region and ensure that the result of their efforts would endure the test of time. On many aspects the reorganization of Pannonia mirrored the one that took place in Africa some years before, with some noticeable differences. The most important one was that the administrative apparatus was already there and only needed to be extended from the already existing Illyrian Diocese. The other important difference was the critical situation of the four Pannonian provinces and its inhabitants: news from the few surviving city councils and other related civil authorities reported a dire situation, with Pannonians and Goths alike either starving or fleeing towards safer and more prosperous provinces. 6 years of military campaign and raids on Pannonian soils had brought devastation and ruination to the fields, something that would take its tool for many years to come.

Amongst the measure taken by Agricola and the Illyrian administration was a partial tax exemption for many of the cities most affected by this situation. A tax exemption that would concerned mainly taxes paid in goods. Another measure was the opening of the military supply of food and the distribution of its surplus to the people of Pannonia. A small commission of 20 men appointed by Agricola among local Pannonian notables and directly responsible to the Vicarius were tasked to ensure its effective distribution to their countrymen and that the whole thing would not degenerate into a speculation affair. To complete the list of initiatives undertaken by Agricola there was a distribution of frontier land to allied barbarian soldiers, especially Gepids, in return for their military service in the new Pannonian border units and their help to return Pannonia to a well populated and well farmed land, a proclamation of tolerance for the local established Arian community and finally the return of displaced communities to their depopulated place of origins. Military workforce and prisoners of war would also be employed, once an area was cleared from local resistance, to repair and restore to their full usefulness local infrastructure and defensive works.

During the last years of war Valens had entertained an extensive correspondence with Anicia Eudoxia were the empress mother exposed her worries about the current power holder behind her son and put forward the veiled idea of Valens taking that place. As the mother of the emperor and member of an incredibly prestigious senatorial family, Eudoxia naturally wielded an incredible amount of power and influence in the West. A position now rivaled and almost overshadowed by that of Eleutherius, who had built for himself and equally incredible powerbase based on two pillars: his position as Praepositum Sacri Cubiculi and his relation to the emperor through his niece marriage to Theodosius. Empress Eusebia was Eleutherius’ way to undermine and erode the empress mother’s position at court. Therefore Eudoxia needed her own “champion”, someone whose successes and links to the imperial family could represent an equal threat to Eleutherius’s power itself. Together, Eudoxia believed, the two of them could have ousted Eleutherius from the palace and silence the empress, all of this for the good of the empire and to ensure that behind her son were people who could rightly guide in the delicate matters of imperial politics.

Valens, who had come to see the empress mother as his closest ally inside the palace, still struggled to see how Eleutherius and his niece represented such a threat for Rome and how a new power struggle would benefit the empire. Of course he had his own ambitious, to make for himself a name like his father and grandfather before him did, yet he was sure that this ambition didn’t necessarily need to clash with Eleutherius, a man whose name nowadays was in the lips of everyone wielding a ounce of power yet he had never met before. Let the emperor have the comfort of the palace and Eleutherius his eunuchs and sycophants, he would content himself of the command of the armies. But perspectives tend to change the closer you get to men of great power, as Valens had the chance to witness. Back to Mediolanum, the many officers who left the Illyrian army that year were welcomed by the usual celebrations that followed a great victorious war. Except that this time the role of the officers and soldiers in the last war was entirely disregarded in favour of the benevolence of God and the divinely guided decisions of the emperor. How curious, he had seen none of them on the battle. The following days were spent on banquets and occasional official meetings with the emperor on the throne hall, traditionally reserved for the usual distribution of rewards, titles and praises. Few were noticed by his ears and eyes, something that irked him even more when the same dismissive attitude was lavished on him.

It was only a few days after the official end of the celebrations that he was summoned again to the palace, where he was bestowed the title of Patricius in a very simple ceremony with few witnesses including Eudoxia and the now ever present Eleutherius. Later on the attention shifted to another matter of more importance to him: Serena. Since his return to Italia he had been worried about this, since he had expected that her political situation would quickly catch the attention of the imperial court. The protection previously offered by the distance was no longer there and Valens had already prepared himself for the inevitable long struggle that would ensue, even by trying to win the support of those whose voices could sway the emperor towards his position. He was surprise to discover that the whole matter took a single day to be resolved since a decision had already been taken, but also that the court fully knew the extent of his “involvement” in the whole matter, something that worried him. Not only Serena was allowed to live, while her brother Paulus was granted a minor position as assistant of the Consularis of Sicilia and a place where to live when in Rome, but he also had the imperial permission to marry her, if he wished so, despite the political significance and weight both of them had, a member of the imperial family and the relative of two usurpers. After the end of the ceremony he would find out Eudoxia’s role in ensuring this outcome, even though he had previously rejected her attempts to recruit him in her intrigues.

But what would baffle Valens and his fellow commanders Iovinus and Athalaricus was the fate of a man all of them had served under. Despite having had some disagreements in the past with him over the conduct of the war, the three young officers had grown to respect the old experienced Magister Militum. Alas this respect Agricola had built around himself during the many years, especially among the senators, and his illustrious lineage was too much for a man like Eleutherius to have outside his pay book. If he couldn’t have Agricola with him no one else would. Besides his vast estates would have made a fine addition to his ever growing wealth. Accused by Eleutherius’s lackeys of many crimes, including misappropriation of a larger than usual part of the Gothic treasury, misconduct of the war, exceeding his power with his own reorganization of Pannonia and even being allegedly in contact with some conspirators, Agricola would find out his reward for the many years at the service of the emperors to be an exile to a minor forgotten Dalmatian island, the same one where the usurper Glycerius died, his family forbidden from reaching him in any way and half of his assets stripped from his family and put to auction, an auction that would see Eleutherius and those close too him becoming even richer than they already were.

An horrified Valens quickly realized the truth in those missives, what Eudoxia had told him was true after all and with Theodosius under is influence few were the restraints placed upon him. Yet he wasn’t sure what kind of threat this Eleutherius was to him or those close to him and even though deep inside him he felt the urge to disembowel the conniving eunuch, he couldn’t afford the take on such enemy so easily. Furthermore Serena, the only other person fully aware of his own thoughts, urged him not to undertake the same path her father, for his own ambition, pursued. Nothing positive ever came out of it. In the end, influenced by this, Valens resolved to follow the more cautious approach and not openly join the empress mother in her schemes. However he would heed her advice to keep his eyes open and occasionally banquet with some of her like-minded friends.


Note

Yep I’m back, time to get this going on. I thought that a recap update with all the political consequences of the past updates would be a good way to resume this timeline. But now it’s time to move our gaze elsewhere for (unless I have one of my usual change of mind) it’s time to see how things are going in Africa for Belisarius. Anyway let me know what you think of these longer, albeit less frequent, updates.
 
Glad to see this back! And as always, great update. Well, I definitely root for Emperor Valens coming, although that will mean civil war, I guess. As a side note, Eleutherius reminds me a lot of Heraclius, the primicerius sacri cubiculi to Valentinianus III. This, the support of the Empress Mother, the early successes in the military makes me think of Valens as Majorian. Hope this is less "tragic" than it sounds.
 
Glad to see this back! And as always, great update.
Thank you!

Well, I definitely root for Emperor Valens coming, although that will mean civil war, I guess.
That would mean the loss of Eudoxia’s support since all she wants is to replace Eleutherius not her son. Also Valens belongs to a remote branch of the imperial family while we’ve possible candidates with better credentials than him including Iulia Galla and therefore her husband Belisarius.

As a side note, Eleutherius reminds me a lot of Heraclius, the primicerius sacri cubiculi to Valentinianus III.
That’s the intended result: a rival whose power is based on his wealth, influence, closeness to the emperor and network of people rather than on pure brute strength (i.e. the army).

This, the support of the Empress Mother,
Meanwhile the empress mother is playing her great-great-grandmother “Galla Placidia’s role” in keeping her son Theodosius, as much as possible, under his influence.

the early successes in the military makes me think of Valens as Majorian. Hope this is less "tragic" than it sounds.
It has to be tragic. Though your last sentence just gave me an idea to make this even better.
 
Last edited:
Chapter LII: African troubles
Chapter LII

Africa, 535

Less than a year had passed since emperor Marcianus’s return to Italia. Worrying news from the north forced him to do so. Along with him many soldiers and their officers. Something Belisarius’ new African Comitatus clearly lacked, men and experience. And what he had was barely enough to keep the bustling population of Carthago under control. On the bright side he could count, for all financial and administrative matters, on the help of Praefectus Liberius. At the beginning of summer of the new year the Magister Militum was reached by reports of growing unrest around the area of of Hippo Regius, at the western end of the territory under his control. Nothing unexpected as the question of land redistribution, while necessary to further the interest of the Rome and its people, was expected to result unpopular among the Vandals. A display of force, thought Belisarius, would be enough to quell the dissenters.

A few months later another report came from the local authority at Hippo Regius, stating that a unit comprising 500 men had been defeated by a group of them. A true and proper rebellion was taking shape south of the city, as discontent Vandal landowners and former warriors were gathering together to make another stand against Rome. Even worse the rabble had successfully and almost unanimously appointed a leader named Gundericus, who styled himself as King of the Vandals. To make him an even more dangerous foe was the help that came to his cause from several Berber polities located west of his territory and who had come to see Rome’s return to Africa as an unpleasant development compared to the existence of the previous weak Vandal kingdom.

a3f58aed73bf98ec441887cb5bb2f649 (1) (1).jpg

Against such threat, Belisarius had no other choice but to prepare for a full blown war against the rebels. Summoning the few units still at his disposal, his allies in the region and appointing new officers to finally substitute the ones fallen one year earlier, took him around a month and by the time the Roman army came to the scene it was already autumn, too late to take any decisive action, especially against an enemy that seemed to prefer to delay any decisive and resolutive action.

536

War quickly resumed between Belisarius and Gundericus, with each army engaging the other in minor raids and skirmishes. Earlier that year imperial courier from Mediolanum brought the news of Marcianus’ death and his successor’s rejection of his request for more men for his army. Apparently the war in the North had proved to be more bloody than expected, with the Goths taking an heavy toll on the Roman army. Yet he couldn’t help himself but think that the young boy was completely underestimating the situation in Africa. And while Belisarius had to personally compensate for Theodosius’ shortsightedness with its own value, he also had to worry about the extra political significance of the boy’s rise to the throne.

These thoughts filled his mind until on a day of April the enemy army showed signs of being ready to end the whole affair on a pitched battle. The rebellion had been going on long enough with its numbers increasingly growing with every day passing. To Belisarius’s estimation that day on the battlefield, somewhere South of Hippo Regius, there had to be at least 10000 Vandals between warrior and people angry enough to pick any weapon against the Romans. That number was almost double by the Berber allies Gundericus had successfully enlist in his army. A frightening sight as the Romans and their allies barely numbered 9000 men. However that wasn’t the first time Belisarius had to face an enemy numerically far more superior that his own forces but that was fine to him, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

belisarius-and-captains.jpg

Problems come when a general doesn’t know the men he is fighting with, as the Magister Militum found out that day. Almost 2000 men, mostly barbarian, and their commander Ioannes passed to Gundericus’s side during the battle, bribed by gold and promises of a prestigious positions in his new kingdom.

A complete disaster was narrowly avoided thank to the experience and discipline of Belisarius’ own Bucellarii, who allowed the rest of the army to retreat safely from the battle but it was now clear that the rebellion was now completely out of control. By forced march the roman army crossed the whole distance that separated them from Carthago, leaving the cities of the region to fend for themselves. Back to Carthago Belisarius witnessed the speed by which the news of their defeat and subsequent fall of Hippo Regius had reached the city, throwing its people into chaos. The notables of the city, fearing the retaliation of the Vandals against them, demanded the general his protection and that of his army against a probable siege. Promises of money and supplies for his army were made in a desperate attempt to weather the incoming storm.

Belisarius needed to prepare his counterattack and for that he needed time, more time. Something that a city that was going to be besieged would not give him as the city’s reserves of grain were not enough to feed the populous city and his army for more than 2 month. If he wanted to save the Diocese from being completely overrun by the rebels, he had to leave Carthago in the hands of Gundericus. He would use the fleet to ensure the evacuation of those who most had to fear from the returns of the Vandals, the notables, the local administration, the treasury and his wife. Despite her being expected to give birth to a baby in a matter of a month or two, Belisarius could not allow his wife Galla to remain with him in Africa and so she was embarked for Syracuse, far from the dangers of war. As for himself, Belisarius planned to move with his army to Marcianopolis (Hadrumentum) where he would bide his time, waiting for a chance to strike.

aaa.jpg

537

Months passed and besides the news of the fall of Carthago, the rest of the year was pretty uneventful. Gundericus had “peacefully” conquered the capital with the promise that no Roman blood would be shed. While true to his word, he and his army delighted themselves with the booty they could loot inside the city while Guntericus enjoyed his new royal position in his new capital. The complete ejection of the Romans from his kingdom postponed to after the end of the sumptuous celebrations held in Carthago. By then the Romans only had control over the southern portion of the Diocese, the area around the city of Marcianopolis and the two cities of Utica and Diarrhytus. Those months were not spent idly by the Romans, their army having undergone continued physical exercises, while Belisarius had enlisted the help of new tribes originating from the Tripolitanian region.

The time had come for their counterattack when on two different days two fleets reached his city. The first one from Sardinia had on board his stepson Photius and his Domestici, with them the news that Diarrhytus had been reinforced with Vandals warrior loyal to him and supplies, forcing Gundericus to divert part of his forces from the main Roman army to the city defenders. An even more welcome news came from Sicilia, where his wife had worked tirelessly to preserve her husband reputation against the attacks of whispering voices in the imperial palace, for she knew Belisarius’ fall would have meant her own political downfall. Among these voices she knew there was Eusebia’s, but thanks to her mother those voices had not been able to deal any damage to them yet. Iulia Galla had also used her influence and power to gather weapons and men among the inhabitants of Sicilia for her husband’s army. On an unrelated note she also informed him that their child was born healthy and a boy named Flavius Anicius Theodosius Belisarius. A political reasoning was behind the choice of that particular name: a subtle reminder to the palace that the three of them were, to all effects and purposes, part of the imperial family, their blood not so easy to shed. It was also an homage to her brother, the emperor, in the hope that this would earn them at least an ounce of imperial favour.

d37wqax-d99926e6-dbe8-4067-9eec-d528e6900d8e.jpg

With his reinforced army Belisarius set to march against the rebels and free Africa from their yoke once and for all. On his part Gundericus was ready to face the Romans a second and final time, leaving behind enough men to keep at bay the defenders of Hippo Regius and the people of Carthago, whom he didn’t trust. The two armies met on the Adys plain, not far from Carthago itself, with the Vandal army blocking the Roman from crossing the river that lied between them and the city. Opposed to the 18000-strong Vandal-Berber army were this time around 12000 Romans and allies. For the first few hours the two armies fought an even fight despite the Roman numerical disadvantage. However the higher mobility of the far more numerous Berber cavalry fighting for the Vandals was countered by a mixture of heavy infantry and light cavalry of the Roman right wing led by Photius himself that forced them on an increasingly narrower space between Roman spears, the river and the bulk of the Vandal army. With the noose tightening around their neck, both literally and metaphorically, and their only land escape route to Carthago cut off by Photius, most of the Vandals resorted to the crossing of the river behind them.

Cartago_location_map_it.svg.jpg

And while some of them were lucky and quick enough enough to make it to the other side of the river, most were not. Under the pressure of the multitude that was trying to flee, many were trampled by their own fellow soldiers. The majority were just not foolish enough to attempt the crossing, instead preferring to surrender to the Romans. Gundericus not among them, was presumed to have drowned in the crossing, since nothing was heard of him after that day. With the rebellion destroyed and Roman authority once again reestablished in Africa, Belisarius could finally move to reoccupy the cities and fortifications lost the previous year.

e79114f44f13347b820eb87ff32c7d75.jpg

538

The capture of so many prisoners, including high ranking Berbers, allowed Belisarius to open negotiations with their tribes/kingdoms of origin. And although it would take many years to further stabilize the Diocese and reach a new equilibrium between Rome and the Berber people of the hinterland, new agreement were being negotiate between their leaders and Belisarius himself. The “semi-Foederati” system that had existed since the day of Diocletianus and that had already been established with those tribes that first sided with Rome, would be applied to them as well. Rome would content itself with control over the coastal, most Romanized and most developed urban centres, while the Berbers would enjoy great autonomy in the hinterland, formally ruling these lands in the name of Rome thus extending imperial reach in the region. With the most productive part of the region once again part of the Diocese, the Romans had now enough resources to buy the services of those new tribes tasked with garrison duties and to fund the new African Comitatus, whose task would be to protect the productive core of Africa and its income, and to put additional military pressure upon those tribes. Among the many cities captured, peacefully and less peacefully, by the Roman navy there were Saldae, Icosium, Caesarea and other minor coastal Mauretanian settlements, linked to each and to Carthago thanks to Roman dominance of the Mediterranean.


Notes

Took me almost an year but the Vandalic war and its epilogue are finally over. Now we can move to more peaceful arguments like the plague, the V Ecumenical Council, Procopius’s line of the imperial family, the Eastern emperors, the aftermath of Agila’s assassination and the Neoplatonic academy. However I’ll probably take some time to think how to best handle them.

Also with this last update about the last events of Marcianus’ reign, I can finally say that right now we are halfway through the story since I expect to end it the during the first years of the VII century (more or less). Still lots more updates to come.
 
Last edited:
whats going on in the east ? I may not remeber but was justinian dethroned and who is currently ruling ?
I think Hypatius and his Ananastasian dynasty is the one ruling the Eastern Empire.
That’s right. You may find the relevant informations in chapter XXXIV and XXXV, but to summarize it:

Nika happened with the support of Thracian Goths, Justinian lost the throne to Hypatius, joint African expedition, Athalaricus’s assassination (the Ostrogoth not the Visigoth), Theodoricus new king of the Thracian Goths, Amalaric’s invasion of the East and finally the battle of Naissus. All those events took place between 532 and 539.

Any possibility of a map?
Sure. Here is the up-to-date map.

Blank_Roman_Empire (1) (1).png
 
Huh. You know looking at the map I wouldn’t mind if the WRE didn’t get Gallic or Iberia back just as long as North Africa was reconquered completely. Just something about the aesthetics you know.
 
Huh. You know looking at the map I wouldn’t mind if the WRE didn’t get Gallic or Iberia back just as long as North Africa was reconquered completely. Just something about the aesthetics you know.
Good thing that the most productive regions of the West make for a pretty esthetically pleasant map. Maybe the ERE could do with an analogous redrawing of its borders.
 
Good thing that the most productive regions of the West make for a pretty esthetically pleasant map. Maybe the ERE could do with an analogous redrawing of its borders.
Well from an aesthetics P.O.V it's either reconquer the entirety of the west not including Britain or keep what you've got and just add Africa. It's bizarre how these work out sometimes.
 
Idependand south roman empire !
Independent South something. Whether or not this something should be called also Roman is up to you and to your concept of “Romanity”.

Well from an aesthetics P.O.V it's either reconquer the entirety of the west not including Britain or keep what you've got and just add Africa. It's bizarre how these work out sometimes.
Well since I ruled out the possibility of a complete restoration of the West at the beginning of the timeline, you can already guess the likely development of this Western Roman empire.

Take rest of Hispania and Rest of Africa
Rome will certainly try to reinforce its grip over Africa but you can forget the bulky Africa of the past, at least for a long while. And let’s not forget that the empire may even lose what it got in the past years or will get in the near future.
 
Top