And here is my entry in our @B_Munro
cover contest! The writeup doesn't cover everything I wanted to fit in, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Agent of Byzantium
It is 1907th year after the birth of Jesus (if the calculations performed by Dionysius Exiguus are correct). As it has for centuries, the center of world civilization is Constantinople. From their seat in the Queen of Cities, the Basileus of the Roman Empire commands a domain that stretches as far afield as Lake ‘Nnalubaale and the New World. The might of the Roman Empire is legendary throughout the world, and no nation could weather the storm of a direct Roman attack.
- The point of divergence appears to be in the year 581. A young Muhammad, upon hearing a Syrian monk named Bahira proclaim that Muhammad would be a prophet, converted to Christianity and became a priest. As a Christian, Muhammad was renowned for his hymns, especially those written after his flight from the Persian invasion of 614. Muhammad died of old age and was later sainted. His rousing liturgical music made him a popular saint to later generations of Romans.
- Constantinople itself is the grandest city in the world. The inhabitants of the city proper and its immediate surroundings number nearly 20 million. Traders from every land in the world can be found there and every nation worth anything has an embassy there in hopes of gaining favor with the Emperor and his court.
- The Roman Empire itself is a multinational state. Its rulers speak Greek, but hail from dozens of ethnic groups. In fact, the current dynasty, the Lakhanodrakons, descend from an Armenian poet-civil servant during the reign of Nikephoros III. Though official business of the central government is done in Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Aramaic are used as regional languages and spoken by many in the Empire. Many Slavs, Africans, and Arabs have adopted Greek as their first language, though dozens of tongues can be heard throughout the Roman Empire.
- What unites the Roman Empire is their Orthodox Christian faith. The Patriarch in Constantinople is regarded as the spiritual head by a large proportion of the world’s population. Though in theory the Empire permits free practice of all religions, other Christian sects are persecuted by local government officials and clerics. Despite this, there are a fair many Nestorians in the eastern provinces of the Empire. Jews of the oldline variety (as opposed to the kind espoused in the theocratic Egbira city-states around Lake Chad) can be found in urban areas throughout Rome.
- The divisions between the Latin and Greek populations of Rome were simply too large to overcome despite the attempts of generations of Emperors and Generals to keep the Empire together. In a series of events much the reverse of those of Diocletian, the Neo-Latinate Empire was established in the 16th century. Though the Emperors in the city of Rome claim to be the direct cultural descendants of the ancient Latins, they are heavily influenced by Gothic, Frankish, and Greek culture, hence the term Latinate. Though the Neo-Latins often look down their nose at the Byzantines, viewing them as upstart usurpers, most Neo-Latins follow the directives of the Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople. From their ports in Hispania, the Neo-Latins became a major seafaring power in the Western Hemisphere. They established colonies in Atlantis, many of which remain under the rule of Rome (the city, not the country) to this day.
- The Christian world extends north into Europe and deep into Africa. The Turkic and Slavic states of the steppe and taiga are firmly Orthodox (with the exception of the restless Jurchen Iconoclast peasantry) and look to Constantinople for guidance in religion and culture. The lineage of the Bishops of Rome that once called themselves Popes is still extant and they keep up what is referred to as the Roman Catholic Church in the town of Samarobriva in the Francosaxonian Confederacy. The so-called Catholic World includes the Angles, Franco-Saxons, and their neighbors the Thuringians and Pomorzians. The Catholic world has shown several cracks as the Pope is seen than little more than a puppet of the Francosaxonian monarchy. Notably, the Swedish Church of the North and Carolslandish Heterodox churches have split off. However, because these churches are more in line with the Catholics than Orthodox, Romans look snobbishly lump them in with Catholics these splitters so despise.
- Unable to challenge Rome, the Catholic world was forced to look outwards for prestige and riches. Their ships plied the Atlantic, founding colonies from the Arctic to the Cape of Christ at the tip of Africa. These colonies traffic in gold, salt, slaves, tropical woods, and furs that fetch high prices in the ports of the Mediterranean. There are even several adventurer states; the Chiliarchies of Grifosland and the Fog Coast. Grifosland, in southern Atlantis, makes money off massive plantations while the Fog Coast is a multinational affair hosting blockade-runners and pirates from every nation.
- The ancient Helleno-Persian conflict came to a final end in 1787 when the Romans captured New Ctesiphon, forcing the flight of a cadet branch of the ruling dynasty to Bukhara. The Persianate state of Panjab, which had long since converted to Nestorianism, gobbled up the eastern half of the old Persian Empire, which the monarchy claimed much of north Asia. Panjab and Furthest Khorasan have become the two successors to that empire, with each one proclaiming itself as the true heir to the Sun Throne. Furthest Khorasan was forced to acknowledge the Magiac States, collections of Zoroastrian religious colonies established by monks in previous centuries. The relationship between the Shah and the Magiac States is tenuous and the Shah’s court is divided between factions loyal to his temporal authority and a one supportive of the establishment of an outright theocracy.
- The western and eastern coasts of Africa fall into either the Catholic European or Roman spheres. These areas are a hodgepodge of settlements, trading posts, and fortresses, often boasting lots of intermarriage between races. East Africa in particular has largely adopted Orthodoxy, though their practice of it includes many traditional African ceremonies. Among the larger states in Africa is the Third Ethiopian Empire. Once antagonistic to the Romans for religious purposes, the two have settled into an tradition of economic competition. In the west, the Jenne Empire, which has stood nearly 400 years, adopted Christianity, but their own form that includes the Christian God as the first among many. As Jenne becomes more connected to the wider world, adherents of the so-called Church of Africa have visited Jerusalem and begun proselytizing throughout the Empire. Perhaps the most interesting African state is the Egbira Rabbinical Poleis. The followers of a mad rabbi and his entourage that journeyed deep into Africa carved out a state, proclaiming themselves the lost tribe of Israel. Their form of Judaism is vastly divergent from that practiced elsewhere in the world, and proclaims opposition to the Rabbinical form of the faith that has predominated since the sixth century. The Egbira faith is referred to as Neo-Karaite Judaism by outsiders and Third Reform Judaism by its adherents. The state itself is largely closed and avoids interaction with the outside world. Recently, Egbira engineers have attempted to divert Lake Chad and irrigate their land, something which threatens environmental collapse throughout central Africa.
- The Indian subcontinent has is divided on religious lines between the Nestorian, Buddhists, and Hindus. Buddhism gradually took hold in the Dravidian south, while Nestorianism came with the Persians over the Indus and into the Punjab. In 1688, the King of Bengal was crowned as Chakravart of Banglastan by a number of radical Hindu priests. The Chakravart was established as a vehemently Hindu state, opposed to any attempts to expand other faiths. The Chakravart waged wars of expansion, conquering states along the Bay of Bengal and up the Ganges. This forced to establishment of the Southern League by Buddhist states in south India that felt the need to band together for defense. India remains a tense place as the Chakravart comes further under the control of the priestly caste and increasingly sidelines the Chakravart. It is no secret that the Chakravart would like to unite all of the former Hindu lands, and the commercial Buddhists of the Southern League are eagerly seeking alliances and new technologies to protect them from the Hindu expansionists. Southeast Asia and the islands of Iava are part of Greater India, and though many of the islands have fallen to Chinese or Roman administrators, most inhabitants remain Hindu or Buddhist and have ties to the subcontinent. Banglastan’s biggest rival is the Sublime Tai State. A de facto monarchy, the State is in practice ruled by radical Buddhist priests. Though both sides avoid war, cross-border raids are common between the Chakravart and the Sublime State.
- If any state can rival Rome it is China. From Peking, the Emperor rules all China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, as well as colonies in the Pacific and Atlantis. China is, however, something of a gentle giant and it prefers to exercise its might through trade and diplomacy rather than outright war. China’s population largely follows a faith called Messianic Buddhism, which posits that a Final Buddha, a man by the name Fu Tingguang, lived and died in Hopeh in the 16th century after Christ. A prolific writer, the Final Buddha put down many tracts that his followers believe to be the path to enlightenment. Messianists believe that they can achieve enlightenment, but Fu Tingguang was the last time anyone would ever achieve Buddhahood, and that his writings and teachings are the path to enlightenment and no future teachers are needed. Messianic Buddhism is fused with the philosophy of Confucianism, and the concept of an order in the universe features prominently. Though not inherently so, Messianic Buddhism in its form practiced in China extolls its practitioners to support the Emperor. Messianic Buddhists have a long-standing feud with practitioners of old Buddhism, who they believe ignorant and backwards. Though Messianic Buddhism has spread throughout China and its empire, there are still many practitioners of Chinese Folk Religion in the south as well as Shintoists in Japan. Chinese settlement of Japan and Korea has forced emigration from these territories to Atlantis, and in the south of Atlantis, in the Chinese colony of Yinshan, Japanese Shintoists are believed to outnumber all other groups combined.
- Isolated from the rest of the worlds in the Fos (light) Mountains of southern Atlantis, the Chachapoya Imperium rules over millions of people. The outgrowth of the Chachapoya culture, the Imperium is highly advanced and tends to keep to itself. Little is known about it outside its borders. But apparently, its government has an extreme amount of power. Mining operations are run by the state and state-owned ships carry raw materials to ports around the world. The Imperator of the Chachapoya is treated as a living god, so much so that the religion of his people is referred to as Emperor-Worship. With so little known about Chachapoya, there is considerable fear in surrounding Atlantean states that someday it will break from its borders and seek to conquer new lands.
- Technologically, this world is roughly on par with OTL, but this has been the case for roughly a century. Most of the world has been peaceful for years, and a lack of war has led to only minor advancements in many technologies. One area where technology is significantly ahead of OTL is air travel; airships are a common sight in every country and passenger lines transport many people each year.
- Monarchy is still the norm and democracy is largely unheard of. The concept of Christian Monarchism was expounded by Nikephoros IV in his 1573 treatise ‘On the Crown’ in which he set down his philosophy of a benevolent dictatorship, with the monarch as the father of the kingdom, being stern when necessary, but with his primary goal being to make the country more prosperous economically and to grow spiritually. The concept of the trade union is widespread, especially in Rome and the Mediterranean, and trade unions often function as a second family for workers and are recognized by the government for the purposes of collective bargaining. Theorists in Mesopotamia have suggested these unions take the next step and form a sort of syndicalist government.