Moonlight in a Jar: An Al-Andalus Timeline

Intermission I Part II: Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Angland
Excerpt: The Danish Conquest: A Foundational History of Ængland[1] - Daniel Eardwald, Grimsby University Press, 1983

* 2 *
King Sweyn I: Consolidation and Inheritance

Truthfully, systemic factors made the Danish conquest of Ængland almost inevitable - the combination of a weak king, friendly harbours nearby and an avaricious group of raiders also not far away made Anglo-Saxon England far too tempting a target for the Vikings to pass up. The conclusion of the campaign of the early eleventh century essentially ended the Anglo-Saxons as rulers of the whole island. Some pockets of semi-independent Anglo-Saxon rule did remain as King Sweyn I established his rule over the land, but they mostly persisted in pockets beyond the Pennines and around Southampton.

Upon receiving the submission of most of the Anglo-Saxon lords, Sweyn set up his seat at the town then called Gaignesborg[2], on the river Trent. The region at the time was well within the former Danelaw, still home to large concentrations of people of Danish extraction, and the invading army had been using it as a base for some time. The town itself, already prominent as one of the former seats of old Mercia, would become the centre of Danish Ængland for some time, though the capital would of course be destined to move to the Humber to Grimsby centuries later.

Forkbeard immediately set to work consolidating his position, starting with a systematic thinning-out of prominent Anglo-Saxon nobles he considered a threat. These included most of the sons of the former King, Æthelred. His sons Edmund[3] and Eadred were captured and put to death; the next year his youngest son Edgar attempted to escape by boat, only to be caught and turned over to Sweyn, who ordered him publicly beheaded. Aethelred's fifth son, Eadwig, managed to escape Sweyn's men, fleeing by boat to the mainland and eventually turning up in Bulgaria with some few loyalists.

His depredations weren't limited to the immediate family of the House of Wessex. While Sweyn permitted Uhtred to remain as ealdorman over much of Northumbria, he placed mayors of his own choosing over the historic Five Boroughs, namely Djuraby, Ljudegestre, Lingolin, Snodingheim and Stanford,[4] and an earl over most of Mercia. Another Danish earl was placed over the lands of old Jorvik as Sweyn effectively created a power base in the lower and central part of the island. For the most part he retained control over Gaignesborg and most of the Five Boroughs, with his five mayors chosen for their loyalty and administrative skill. At lower levels of administration, Anglo-Saxon officials such as reeves largely remained in place, and the Old English language didn't fall out of use, though the Eastern dialect of Old Norse was effectively the language of government.

Sweyn's power was at its weakest in the southwest, where the lords of Wessex made a show of loyalty to the Danes but otherwise did little to actually enforce Danish rule and law in the region. His authority also extended only narrowly into western Mercia, where some of the lords there continued to pay nominal allegiance to the Danes while actually ruling as minor landlords with a high degree of autonomy.

For the first two or three years, Sweyn spent the bulk of his time in England, leaving Denmark under the regency of his oldest son Harald. His second son Cnut, a boy of perhaps thirteen at the time of the conquest,[5] spent much of his adolescent years in Gaignesborg, learning at his father's side and showing himself to be a talented administrator and a decent fighter in his own right.

Upon putting down a revolt in London in 1009, Sweyn instituted a large military tax and collected a significant danegeld from the remaining Anglo-Saxon lords, which he used to pay off much of his army. The men were sent home, but fifty ships and a body of men under Thorkell the Tall were retained in Ængland proper to keep order in the land. The King then set to work establishing loyal priests where possible, though he continued his past practice from Denmark of installing Anglo-Saxon churchmen in positions of authority. He established Lyfing, abbott of Chertsey, as the Archbishop of Canterbury and filled a few empty bishoprics beneath him with loyal men, then set off for Denmark to set his house in order there, leaving things in Ængland in the hands of Thorkell and some other lieutenant whose name has been lost to time.

By 1011 Sweyn was back in Ængland, receiving report of a handful of rebellions put down by Thorkell and his men. The next three years saw a gradual outflow of men from Denmark to settle in England, particularly in Gaignesborg and around the Humber-mouth, with modern Grimsby becoming the most popular landing area for incoming ships full of men-at-arms or merchants. This would set the trend for future years, with incoming ships from Denmark and Norway typically arriving at the Humber and either landing at one of the villages at the rivermouth or turning up the Trent to Gaignesborg. Danes never truly came to outnumber the Anglo-Saxons, of course, but the Danish population of the Midlands in particular increased, and Anglo-Saxon tradesmen mingled more often with the Danes.

Certainly by 1014 Sweyn had completed the process of reinstating many of the old legislative tenets once associated with the Danelaw, gradually moving the laws of Ængland to align with those of Denmark. He hadn't quite finished his work, however, when a particularly cold winter felled him with a lingering illness, and he died at Gaignesborg at the age of 54.

Sweyn's body was returned to Denmark and buried with some ceremony, and his eldest son was elevated to the kingship of Denmark as Harald II. However, the fleet still based in Ængland instead acknowledged Sweyn's son, Cnut, as king. This left the two sons of Sweyn ruling over a divided realm, Harald in Denmark, Cnut in Ængland with the support of the fleet and the loyalty of many of the Anglo-Saxon lords. The split doesn't seem to have been a hostile one, and relations between the brothers seem to have been strong following their father's death. Cnut returned to Ængland and resumed his father's seat at Gaignesborg.[6]

The fleet's decision preempted an effort by some lingering Anglo-Saxon lords to assemble the witenagemot and elect a monarch of their choosing, and Cnut was obliged to jail and execute Leofwine, earl of the Hwicce, who had been left in place by Sweyn but had evidently been one of the first lords to arrive in anticipation of an old-style election. Cnut promptly placed his own man as earl over the Hwicce and set to work securing the loyalty of the earls, relying on good relations he'd cultivated with his father's appointees and a mixture of gifts and threats for those Anglo-Saxon appointees still hostile to him.

All told, the succession from Sweyn to Cnut was fairly smooth, owing to the years Sweyn took to consolidate his position and stock the kingdom with loyal earls. While occasional peasant revolts still troubled Ængland, by and large Cnut transitioned into power without major problems.

[1] By some point or another ITTL, English has become some kind of weird pidgin of Old English and Danish, hence the Danish-style Æ. Obviously our divergence here is that the period of Scandinavian rule over England will be significantly longer-lasting - most of Ethelred's direct line is gone at this point, and the Danes get a few years to get some loyal earls in place before their first succession.
[2] I had a devil of a time trying to derive an Old Norse etymology for Gainsborough. It's described as Gaeignesburgh in contemporary Anglo-Saxon sources and eventually comes from "Gaenbeald's fortress," but I'm not enough of a linguist to be able to nail this one to my satisfaction.
[3] Edmund Ironside.
[4] Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford. I've probably butchered the names - I'm rotten at building conlangs, and trying to marry Old East Norse to the Old English names as reflected in the Domesday Book has been a weird effort. On the plus side, I know what vowel breaking is now.
[5] Don't be fooled: Butterflies have reached Scandinavia by 995. This man has the same name as Cnut the Great, but he is not Cnut the Great - he was born in 994, not 995.
[6] As OTL.

1014: King Sweyn I of Denmark and England dies after spending seven years consolidating his hold on England. The Danish throne goes to his son, Harald II, while in England, the Danish fleet there proclaims Cnut king. Much of old Wessex continues to remain only tenuously under Danish control.
Intermission I Part III: Vinland
"As to the men of Norway, some of their number believe the peculiar superstition that Heaven-Land lieth in the west beyond the Ocean Sea."

- Bertrand of Cluny, The Ways of the North-Men, 14th century


Excerpt: Heavenland: The Northmen in the Dar al-Gharb - Abdelmalik Hadidullah, Alwael Press, AH 1417 (AD 1997)

What was long known was that the Norse colonization of the West began in Greenland. New to our understanding is a full picture of just how far into the West these early sailors managed to get.

Settlement of the West largely occurred out of Iceland, itself an isolated fringe in the Norse world and well-positioned to push westward, into the cod-rich waters off Arjadida. While some of this settlement is reflected in the Sagas written by the ancient Northmen, archaeological evidence has steadily begun to support some of the Saga stories, and nowhere more closely than in Greenland, where evidence of no less than three Norse settlements has been found. The beginning of a serious effort to settle this land is tied in the Sagas and in popular tradition to Erik Thorvaldsson, known as the Red, for whom a long bay in southwest Greenland is named.

In any case the Greenland settlements seem to have sprung up around the 980s, allegedly during Erik's period of exile from Iceland. Other Norsemen followed him to the land he called Greenland, apparently as a means to entice others to go there in the first place. Of 700 settlers or so aboard the 25 ships said to have left Iceland in 985, only 14 ships reached the new land.[1]

The voyage opened another avenue of exploration to the Norse: The Sagas suggest that a merchant named Bjarni Herjolfsson, along with the initial settler flotilla, was blown off course and sighted land to the west.

Bjarni didn't report the sighting at the time; he returned to Greenland to dwell with his father at the archaeological site known as the Old South Colony.[2] But he also didn't forget it, and when his father passed in the mid-990s by the Christian reckoning,[3] he returned to Norway to see to some affairs at home, then turned to wondering about the lands he'd seen. His story seems to have sparked some interest, particularly with Erik, and with Haakon Jarl, then the effective ruler of Norway.[4]

With the blessing of Erik, Bjarni was urged to go to the west again to sate the curiosity of the Norse. Hiring a crew of perhaps 35 men and taking with him Leif, Erik's oldest son, Bjarni turned his ship to the west again and retraced his old route in roughly the year 999 by the Christian reckoning.[5]

The Sagas mention that Bjarni and Leif made landfall at a location called Markland, archaeological evidence for which has yet to be found. This region is described as a long, forested coastline with white sandy beaches. Here, the crew apparently disembarked and cut down a few trees to take back to Greenland, before turning south and sailing into choppy waters. After losing a couple of crew members to being tossed overboard by the rough waves and suffering damage to their ship, Bjarni and Leif managed to pull the leaking longship through the worst of the waves and swing towards the safe haven of a new patch of land, sailing into a sheltered bay surrounded by meadows and trees. They labeled this shore Höfnland, or Haven Land - a name which would have ramifications later - and the land more broadly as Vinland.

As the story goes, the pair wintered at Höfnland before setting out for Greenland again. Eventually the Sagas tell of Bjarni's death and burial at Höfnland, and later of Leif's return, along with his brothers, and his encounters with the skraelings, evidently the native peoples of the area. It's also evident that some manner of settlement was established, both in Markland and in Vinland, seemingly seen by the Greenlanders as a source of wood - Greenland otherwise had to import wood from Norway.

Backing the Sagas up archaeologically was a difficult task, and for centuries the old Norse stories were forgotten outside of a few wise men in the north, until Catholic ecclesiasts fluent in Old Norse took to translating them hundreds of years after their penning. Even then, finding archaeological evidence for these events was fleeting, until 1300 by the Islamic reckoning.[6]

Archaeologists exploring the bay now known as Northman's Landing at the northernmost tip of Arjadida[7] uncovered the foundations of a sod house in that year. Later studies dated it to about the time of the Sagas - the Christian turn of the millennium. Further digs in decades subsequent discovered the remnants of six more sod buildings, a bog iron-smelting smithy containing iron slag, a boat repair area containing wood remains and metal rivets, and several food remains, among them butternuts, which only grow in the Dar al-Gharb,[8] and barley, an Eastern World crop.

Modern consensus identify this site as the Höfnland of the Norse Sagas based on the geography around it, and identify the island of Arjadida as Vinland. It would seem, however, that the site did not remain settled for an extended period. Three other sites around Arjadida have also been identified as potential Northman landings, long before the discovery of the Dar al-Gharb. Research suggests that the Northmen here may have lasted fifteen to twenty years from settlement to the eventual decline of their settlements, though records continue to speak of Norse ships occasionally attempting to "find Vinland" or to return from Markland with timber. The colonies at Greenland, at least, lasted somewhat longer.

As for Höfnland, the name would linger in the Sagas, mostly forgotten after the settlement's abandonment - until its famous mistranslation centuries later as "Heaven Land" would spawn the myth that a Northman named Bjarni had sailed to the west and found the Christian Heaven. This is the origin of the Western Heaven narrative, or the Heavenland myth.[9]

[1] This is consistent with the OTL Sagas. The butterflies don't start to proliferate in a major way throughout the Viking world until the early 990s.
[2] The Eastern Settlement.
[3] And here come the butterflies.
[4] ITTL, Olaf Tryggvason's tenure as King of Norway doesn't come to pass - with all the silliness going on in England, Olaf gets lost in the shuffle following his raids on Ethelred's kingdom, then slips into obscurity in Ireland.
[5] For reference, we're at the height of the Medieval Warm Period here. Butterflies may lead to a different picnic, but they can't tweak the weather.
[6] 1883.
[7] Pistolet Bay, Newfoundland - not far from L'anse-aux-Meadows, but not the same place. Stay tuned. Oh lordy, stay tuned.
[8] The Western World.
[9] Stay tuned.

985: Norse settlement of Greenland begins. En route to Greenland from Iceland, a merchant named Bjarni Herjolfsson is blown off course and sights land to his west.
999: Norse sailors out of Iceland apparently make landfall in the Western World, recording the existence of places named Markland, Vinland and Höfnland. The Norse Sagas credit the discovery to Bjarni Herjolfsson, accompanied by Leif Eriksson.
1000: Earliest possible settlement for the Höfnland settlement, the first European contact with the Western World.
1020: The Höfnland settlement dwindles and declines.
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Intermission I Part IV: Otto III
Excerpt: The Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages - Rudolf Schulz, International Scholastic Press, AD 2002

About a year after the disastrous defeat of the Germans at Stilo at the hands of the Kalbids of Sicily,[1] Emperor Otto II passed away, but not before having his son elected King of the Germans as Otto III. He was crowned on Christmas Day 983, at the tender age of three.

The regency of Otto fell to Henry II, the deposed Duke of Bavaria. Immediately Otto began to scheme with Lothair, King of West Francia. The two agreed to forge an axis between them, with Henry granted the kingship of Germany over Otto in exchange for relinquishing Lotharingia to Lothair. The two agreed to join their armies, but Henry never came through, having second thoughts and holding his troops back.

It made little difference; Lothair caught ill on campaign in the winter of 984 and died on his way to Bresach, and the abortive campaign collapsed in on itself before a battle could truly be fought. By 985, Henry was soon to fall from power, albeit without dying; nobles hostile to his candidacy for the German throne, refusing to abandon Otto, lined up against him and won his submission, and he returned as Duke of Bavaria, while Otto's mother Theophanu took over as primary regent.

Theophanu's regency was largely spared internal conflict. The early years did see some external chaos raised as Louis V, son of Lothair, continued to press the Frankish claim to Lotharingia, but his attempt to besiege Verdun in 987 was brief and easily beaten back, the Frankish army having little support from the lords of West Francia given their hostility to the Carolingian claimant. The military struggle did give Otto's marshal - Bernard I, the Duke of Saxony - a larger role in the regency from that point onward.

As for Otto, he grew up under the tutelage of Bernward of Hildesheim, one of his father's court chaplains, and to some degree under the influence of Bernard.[2] As a young man he already showed evidence of a brilliant mind, even briefly coming along on campaign against the Polabian Slavs in the northeast in 988 when they captured Brandenburg. Foreshadowing things to come, the young king took chill and returned home, leaving the imperial armies to campaign against the Slavs with limited success. Viking raids also continued to trouble the north coastline.

More pressing were concerns in Italy, where the power vacuum created by Otto's youth allowed the Patrician of Rome, Crescentius the Younger, almost limitless power within the city. When Pope John XV was chosen in 985, Crescentius was likely involved in some capacity, and in any case his power in the city constrained the papal authority anyway. While Crescentius nominally recognized the authority of Theophanu during her time in Rome as Regent, he nevertheless concentrated a great deal of power to himself, outright attempting to seize power in Italy.

When Otto came of age in 994 - really just 14 years old, but an uncommonly gifted youth with a knack for politics, but with a hard and arbitrary demeanor[3] - he spent some time in the east, driving the Slavs out of Brandenburg for a short time. Then he turned south and made way to Italy, seeking to put Crescentius back in line. Fearing the young emperor's retribution, Crescentius shut himself up in his family's stronghold at the Tomb of Hadrian, and Otto arrived in 995 to find John XV in ill health but still holding on. The pontiff crowned Otto with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, and then at a great ceremony some time later crowned him Roman Emperor.

The newly-crowned Otto turned his attention immediately to bringing his wayward vassals into line. He called a synod alongside the pontiff and issued orders of banishment for many of those who schemed against John, including Crescentius the Younger. While the patrician pleaded for clemency, Otto stripped of him of his title and had him cast out of the imperial borders for good, though his son John Crescentius was permitted to remain.

By the time Otto was finished in Rome, he took his tutor - namely Adalbert, Bishop of Prague - and his mother and wheeled back northward to continue his efforts to put down the almost constant uprisings among the Slavs. He was forced to return to Rome in 997, however, when Pope John XV finally died a natural death.

While many of the conspirators against John had been exiled by the young Emperor, some few remained. During the course of Otto's long trip from the Slavic border towards Rome, these actors moved to welcome Crescentius the Younger back into Rome. The conspirators engineered the selection of Ioannis Philagathos as Pope John XVI, and he came to the throne in 997 without opposition and with quiet support from the Eastern Roman Empire. John XVI occupied the papal throne for a fairly short time, though he did hold it before Otto turned up, briefed on the situation by messengers out of Rome. He promptly exercised his veto over papal appointments and declared John illegitimate, a claim supported by the greater whole of the western bishops, and demanded his surrender. Imperial troops moved into the city and set to work rounding up the armies of the conspirators. John and Crescentius holed up in the Tomb of Hadrian again, and Otto laid siege to it, damaging the structure over a period of some months. In the meantime, he convened a synod within the city and chose Heribert, a chaplain from Worms who had been among his entourage, as the new pontiff. Heribert, then a man of just 27 years, took the regnal name of Sylvester II.

By early 998, Otto had successfully broken the will of the defenders of the fortress of the Crescentii, and his men went in and dragged Crescentius and Philagathos out by their beards. Crescentius was put to death after a show trial, and Philagathos was declared excommunicated, after which his eyes, nose, tongue, fingers and ears were cut off and he was ridden through the city naked on a donkey to the place of his execution, where Otto ordered him hung and then mounted on a pike as an object lesson.[5]

The fate of Philagathos seems to have terrified Otto's political opponents into submission, and many of the remaining conspirators swore fealty to the young emperor. He remained in Rome from then on, placing his seat on the Palatine Hill and making clear that he would deny his pet pontiff, the young and humble Sylvester,[6] many of the privileges Otto I had granted them - he would retain the right to veto papal candidates, but he refused to acknowledge the Donation of Constantine as valid, dismissing it as a forgery and giving no recognition to the notion of papal authority over secular Europe. He set to work installing Germans in positions of power en route to consolidating his position in the Holy City, and he sent swift rider to Byzantium in search of a bride, feeding his ambition to follow in the footsteps of Charlemagne.

By 1002, his bride arrived in the form of Zoe, daughter of Constantine, the brother of Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II. The young woman was chosen over her sister Theodora for her beauty, and she was given to Otto in marriage in a splendid ceremony on the Palatine Hill, at which point the young emperor set to work consummating the marriage.

In that same year, a revolt in the city of Tibur drew Otto's attention. He dealt with it ruthlessly, besieging the city effortlessly, then destroying much of it and driving many of its residents into the wilderness.[7] The people of Rome, who viewed Tibur as a rival city, met the decision with glee, but other cities in Italy responded with a mixture of fear and agitation, but few dared to act against the young, brilliant and cruel emperor.

In 1004, Otto celebrated the birth of his son, also named Otto and with eyes every bit as bright as his father's. The next year he received word that the Eastern Roman Emperor, Basil II, was on his deathbed, having been struck in the head by a Bulgar axe while conducting a strike against a band of raiders in the shadow of Skopje. The situation left Zoe's otherwise sonless father, Constantine, likely to inherit the Eastern Roman Emperor. The thought of Zoe inheriting the Empire after her father - and passing it to young Otto IV - left Otto delighted at the potential to reunite the Roman Empire entirely.

His dreams were fatally dashed just after the new year in 1006. The climate of Italy had long disagreed with him, and a pilgrimage to Ravenna earlier in the year had left him grappling with a lingering malady. His condition worsened, and on April 17 he died at age 25, under the care of his court physician, leaving a dire situation behind: Italy primed to explode after the harsh rule of Otto, German nobles eyeing the Eastern Roman Empire with suspicion, Greeks in the East dreading the prospect of Constantine's daughter eventually passing their realm to a Saxon barbarian "emperor" - and the electors faced with the prospect of handing all of this to a two-year-old boy.

[1] No shit: The Kalbid Emirate seriously handed the HRE its ass on a platter. In an actual battle. In actual reality. (The ERE may have helped.)
[2] Note the absence of Gerbert of Aurillac.
[3] The difference in Otto's mentors changed him: ITTL, he's grown up to be a cold-hearted monster alongside his acknowledged genius.
[4] OTL, John was an antipope elected when Otto's hand-picked pontiff was unseated.
[5] OTL, Otto let Philagathos live, albeit without his eyes, nose, ears, fingers and tongue. ITTL, our young emperor has grown up a little more brutal and arbitrary.
[6] Heribert is not the same kind of man Gerbert of Aurillac was as Pope Sylvester II, though Otto favours the name because of the connotations of Sylvester as Pope at the time of Constantine. Gerbert was an older man known for his worldly learning; Heribert is intensely kind and spiritual, but not nearly so learned. Unspoken here is a major scientific butterfly: Gerbert, who had studied in al-Andalus and knew much of the learning of the Arabs, reintroduced the armillary sphere and the sighting tube to western Europe. Heribert may be a nice guy, but he's miles behind Gerbert in learning and won't be reintroducing that kind of knowledge. The transfer of knowledge between the Muslim world and the Christian world has slowed down because we averted Almanzor and sidelined Gerbert.
[7] ITTL, our more brutal Otto trumps OTL's milder Otto, who let Tibur survive and provoked a Roman revolt.

994: Holy Roman Emperor Otto III comes of age, a brilliant but cruel young man.
997: Pope John XV dies. As Emperor Otto III attempts to make his way to Rome from the northeastern border, Crescentius the Younger returns to the city and engineers the installation of Ioannes Philagathos as Pope John XVI.
998: Pope John XVI is captured and put to death, alongside Crescentius the Younger. Emperor Otto III affirms Heribert of Worms as Pope Sylvester II.
1002: Otto III marries the Byzantine noblewoman, Zoe. Later that year, he demolishes much of the city of Tibur, delighting the Roman aristocracy but infuriating - and terrifying - much of the rest of Italy.
1004: A son, Otto, is born to Otto III and Empress Zoe.
1005: Basil II Makedon, Eastern Roman Emperor, is hit in the head with an axe while leading troops near Skopje. He survives but is effectively brain-dead, and surely soon to die.
1006: Holy Roman Emperor Otto III dies, opening the door to a massive succession crisis, as his heir apparent is his son Otto IV - a boy of perhaps one and a half.
After learning a bit more on the kalbids after this post, they must have some of toughest soldiers to take on knights even when the emir dies. With reinforcements from berbers they could take southern italy, they had the power originally to do it but threats from the north kept them in check, with more soldiers and byzantine support (which seems probable) they could probably sack rome if they have a good leader.
The Kalbids suffered from a lot of the same problems the Andalusians did, with the added caveats that a) they were subjects of the Fatimids but lost their naval support when the Fatimids moved to Cairo, and b) Sicily is a lot smaller than Andalusia, and a lot closer to the Pope. But while they lasted, they were no slouches, and they actually had some naval raiding capacity. It took the Normans years to eat them, even with the island divided. That said, the Normans may have been good mercenaries, but they were still just a big gaggle of mercenaries. Raiding Rome probably means an eventual revenge raid or showdown with the Holy Roman Emperor.

That said, the Kalbids here are bolstered somewhat by the addition of the Zawids, who are far enough to the edges of the Fatimid realm that the Fatimids don't care about them being there. The Zawids were known to be fearsome warriors and established themselves as a power OTL as the taifa kingdom of Granada, but they also helped destabilize al-Andalus and were one of the factors whic. We'll see how Zawi fares in Sicily.

Side note: I'm gradually working up a map. Turns out south-up orientation looks cool.
I thought muslims have sacked rome before in raids? They didn't cause much anger even when the pope was there for a major smackdown.
I thought muslims have sacked rome before in raids? They didn't cause much anger even when the pope was there for a major smackdown.
The Aghlabids hit it in a major raid in the 840s but their escape was a bit of a gong show. They didn't breach the Aurelian Wall, but sacked a bunch of the churches outside the wall, like the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura.
they were subjects of the Fatimids but lost their naval support when the Fatimids moved to Cairo

Surely if the fatimids aren't doing their liege duties and they dont care couldn't the kalbids go independent and allie with byzantine. Sorry for asking this but how is the abbasid caliphate doing, originally by now they have lost alot of legitimacy, to the arabs for favouring turks and perisans, and they where quite agresive with anti umayyad rhetoric when they were weak and declining.
Intermission I Part V: Byzantine Update to 1011
Excerpt: Crying Survivor: Last Centuries of the Eastern Roman Empire - Yunus Pagonis, International Scholastic Press, AD 2008

- Chapter 4 -

The Crisis of the 11th Century[1] is one of the more difficult time periods in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire to trace, often compared to the Crisis of the Third Century during the classical period. Much of the surviving history comes in fragments, and much more of it is editorialized to glorify claimants and conquerors; still more was lost in the Rape of Constantinople. This chapter attempts to tie together these disparate sources.

What is clear is that the Crisis is inextricably tied to events in the Holy Roman Empire, that of the German people. It is common in allohistorical fiction to hinge the Crisis entirely on the untimely death of Basileus Basil II Makedon[2] in 1005, struck on the head by a Bulgar axe while leading troops to intercept a raiding party in the shadow of Skopje after years of successfully beating back the Bulgars. However, the Crisis could not have happened without the intertwining of the Holy Roman succession with the Eastern Roman one, and the reactions of both parties to it.

The head injury didn't kill Basil; he was taken back to Constantinople in a deep coma and turned over to the court physicians. It did halt his campaign of conquest against the Bulgars and tie up imperial leadership in a fit of scheming. The heir apparent to Basil, in the event of his death, was his brother Constantine - a man with but three daughters issued from him, one of whom was married to Holy Roman Emperor Otto III.

THe matter was complicated further in 1006 when Otto died at a young age, leaving behind his youthful son Otto IV. This lad of just two was the son of the Saxon Emperor and the Empress Zoe, the daughter of Constantine. In 1006, with Constantine effectively serving as an indolent and unwilling regent to his comatose brother, Zoe stood as the heir apparent to the throne, her eldest sister having been disfigured by smallpox and standing ineligible to become ruler.[3] Simply following the family line would inevitably result in the crisis of a half-Saxon barbarian, heir presumptive to the Holy Roman Empire, taking the purple, under the guidance of his mother, herself tainted by Saxon exposure.

Even as Basil continued to cling to life, the dynatoi schemed and plotted around him, with many of them seeking ways to subvert Constantine. While Constantine busied himself with hunting and drink and left the affairs of state to his advisors, key figures wasted time and gold plotting against each other, diverting resources away from the Bulgar conflict.

Meanwhile, in the Holy Roman Empire, the electors of that kingdom faced a deeply divided succession, with many of the electors rallying behind the young Otto in the hopes of laying claim to Otto III's dream of reunifying the Roman Empire. The infant was hastily crowned King of Germany and placed under his mother's regency, but he faced an immediate challenge from Herman II, Duke of Swabia, who laid claim to the kingship in his own right. By 1007, with inconclusive battles wracking the Empire, Otto IV and Zoe were confronted with a series of peasant revolts in Rome as word of the tyrannical Otto III's death spread.

With the Holy Roman Empire grappling with the succession, back in Constantinople, Basil II finally succumbed to his injuries after a year and a half of clinging stubbornly to life. The regency of Constantine was made permanent, but the dynatoi already resolved to remove him, seeking far and wide for both strong candidates and the means to install them smoothly.

Perhaps a stronger Basileus could have navigated these challenges, but Constantine VIII is known to history as a venal, hedonistic man, given to frittering away time and gold on pleasures and hunts while neglecting the affairs of state. He seems to have been shockingly blind to the scheming of his nobles, leaving most of the work of running the empire to a handful of courtiers, themselves easily swept up in various schemes and plots. The war against the Bulgars fell into the hands of two generals: Nikephoros Xiphias, a man likely originating from a line of Italo-Greek nobility, and Theodorokanos, an Armenian who had served Basil loyally for many years.

A year into Constantine's rule, the Greeks received word that the Holy Roman revolt of Herman II had largely been put down, with the infant Otto IV now under the regency of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria and himself a pretender to the throne. In the east, trouble haunted the border with the Fatimid Caliphate, as Emir Mansur ibn Lu'lu of Aleppo, an unpopular man challenged by numerous factions, fell under the hegemony of Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah.

On the Bulgar front, meanwhile, Roman forces suffered a sharp defeat at Polikastro,[4] being pushed back to Thessalonica as the Bulgars took advantage of confusion and mistrust in the Greek ranks to rebound and push their case. Later in 1009, though, a body of Greek men under Nikephoros Xiphias dealt the Bulgars a defeat at the Battle of Veria and continued to push against the enemy. Xiphias managed to rally the troops and resume the annual raids against the Bulgars in earnest, and though actual progress was slow, he could return to Constantinople with at least some positive reports of his progress.

The successes in the west raised the hopes of some among the dynatoi, still struggling to push Constantine VIII into the necessary duties of running the empire. The indolent emperor's forays into politics were increasingly viewed with terror; while the histories don't name names most of the time, it's apparently that several palace eunuchs were put to death after being found to be plotting against Constantine, while at least two high-ranking noblemen were blinded and castrated after Constantine accused them of some conspiracy. Among the most irksome executions was that of John the Orphanotrophos, Basil II's former protonotary and confidant, whom Constantine accused of attempting to scheme with a usurper. Beyond that he spent much of his time in the hippodrome and out at hunt, to the point that actual power lay with whichever court functionary could be found to go around Constantine.

The situation abruptly changed in 1011, when word came that Constantine VIII had died. Surviving accounts suggest he was assassinated, but no assassin is named, and most seem to have rejoiced in his demise and thrown themselves with gusto into the ensuing power struggle.

Two factions quickly emerged: A group of old Basil loyalists supporting the patrikios Romanos Argyros, and a group of Basil's enemies, led by Nikephoros Phokas, surnamed Barytrachelos, supporting the general Nikephoros Xiphias. Yet a third faction supported Theodora, the youngest daughter of Constantine. No faction supported Zoe; though an emissary from Otto IV arrived and made her case, the message merely galvanized opposition towards anyone but her, and the Greeks scrambled to find any option that would end up with someone on the throne who would not pass on the purple to a half-Saxon barbarian.

Ultimately Barytrachelos attracted greater support to his faction owing to the purging of some of Romanos's key supporters during the paranoid years of Constantine; the loss of John the Orphanotrophos, who supported Romanos before his death, was keenly felt in the Romanos faction's slow reactions. Buoyed by a wave of reports about his success in the west, Xiphias also boasted the loyalty of the troops on the Bulgar front.

The military support of Xiphias left many at court reluctant to act against him. He was hastily wed in a ceremony to Theodora, who was apparently less than pleased with the situation. Nevertheless the two were crowned Empress Theodora and Emperor Nikephoros III Xiphias in an extravagant ceremony intended to win over the Romanos faction, emphasizing Xiphias's military successes and the public's willingness to embrace him.

Almost the day Nikephoros III was crowned, the dynatoi went right back to scheming, particularly as hostilities with the Bulgars continued to demand Nikephoros's attention in the west. With the new emperor expected to be regularly away, factions continued to maneuver to outfox Barytrachelos, who held a great deal of power in Nikephoros's court, and to maneuver around Theodora, herself showing a high degree of ambition to govern.[5]

[1] Want to see the Pendulum Fallacy slowly put to death? :D
[2] He didn't live long enough to become known as Bulgaroktonos. I sense an army of Basil lovers mobilizing with pitchforks even as I type.
[3] No physically imperfect people allowed! Only perfectly pretty people get to wear the purple.
[4] Analogous to a Byzantine loss at the Battle of Kreta OTL.
[5] I'm thinking it's about time to get back to al-Andalus, what do you say? Falling dominos from our original POD have cascaded through Europe and placed the ERE on a very different course. We'll come back to Byzantium, Nikephoros III, the Fatimids and the Crisit of the 11th Century later - we didn't quite get to 1021 with either the HRE or the Byzantines - but the al-Andalus stuff is where the main story is, and I don't want to spend too much time away from it.

1007: After months and months of setbacks in his recovery from being hit in the head with an axe, Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II succumbs to death. He is succeeded by Constantine VIII, whose heir apparent - his daughter Zoe - is the mother of current Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, currently an infant facing several rebellions.
1011: Emperor Constantine VIII is assassinated. A power struggle follows, but a faction supporting Romanos Argyros is eventually outflanked by a faction centred around Nikephoros Xiphias and Nikephoros Phokas Barytrachelos. Xiphias marries Constantine's daughter Theodora and is installed, with Theodora, as Emperor Nikephoros III Xiphias.
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What is the pendulum fallacy?
The Pendulum Fallacy is the idea that if a nation or ideology loses something, it has to compensate with gains somewhere else - ie. a TL where the Soviet Union loses Ukraine but compensates by gaining Afghanistan for no real reason, or where the UK loses Scotland but somehow ends up with the rest of Ireland to make up for it. Also seen in the form of my personal pet peeve - TLs where the US loses the Confederacy but makes up for it by conquering Canada. This is despite a weaker power being less likely to be in a position to make compensatory gains.

One of the medieval ones that (allegedly) pops up sometimes is "the Byzantine Empire survives and Islam is compensated by having al-Andalus survive."

I'm trying to avoid "compensating Christianity" or "compensating Islam." A more successful Islam in which al-Andalus survives would likely mean the ERE is more likely to fall. Conversely, if al-Andalus collapses later in this TL, it posits a stronger Christendom, which makes the ERE more likely to survive.
The Pendulum Fallacy is the idea that if a nation or ideology loses something, it has to compensate with gains somewhere else - ie. a TL where the Soviet Union loses Ukraine but compensates by gaining Afghanistan for no real reason, or where the UK loses Scotland but somehow ends up with the rest of Ireland to make up for it. Also seen in the form of my personal pet peeve - TLs where the US loses the Confederacy but makes up for it by conquering Canada. This is despite a weaker power being less likely to be in a position to make compensatory gains.

One of the medieval ones that (allegedly) pops up sometimes is "the Byzantine Empire survives and Islam is compensated by having al-Andalus survive."

I'm trying to avoid "compensating Christianity" or "compensating Islam." A more successful Islam in which al-Andalus survives would likely mean the ERE is more likely to fall. Conversely, if al-Andalus collapses later in this TL, it posits a stronger Christendom, which makes the ERE more likely to survive.

I wonder why people subscribe to that fallacy. Part of me suspect it's more of author appeal or sympathy for the countries that ended up losing out. Reality isn't nearly as forgiving.

In any case, here's to bringing Constantinople into the House of Peace. Well... earlier. :biggrin:

Deleted member 67076

Well at least with the Dynatoi probably coming back to rule the Armenians militias won't be disbanded and thus the Turks won't be let in. I hope.
Just want to say that I've just been reading through this and enjoying it. The future framing texts seem to suggest a more developed Islamic world (or at least part of it) in modern times, but that might be just me writing my own assumptions into the text: in any case, it looks like there will be many future vicissitudes ahead, and i'll be most interested to see where you go with it. And although it's not the main thrust of the TL, having a Britain which remains firmly integrated into the northern Germanic world, even after they stop being subjects of the Danes, has some fascinating potential future knock-on effects - the culture is going to be very different.
ACT II: Al-Muntasir and the Aquitanian-Andalusian War
She comes forth to the Wadi al-Kabir
She draws from the waters of peace
She draws forth the moonlight in a jar
As though it could be saved for the darkest night
Even as the curtains fall upon the land
Each one shimmering like a coat of chain
O, she comes up to the city
And pours out drops of serenity.

- Ibn Sallama (999 - 1056)


With great flashes of steel and a mighty cry, did ride forward the host of the Rüm, all mighty thousands upon thousands of them, and all were men of al-Aqtan. And lo! did the khalif al-Muntasir raise forth the banners, and call forth the leaders of the host, and cried out to the faithful, "God is great! God is great! Press on, press on!" And a roar rose from the host of the faithful, and a thousand hearts soared, and they raised the steel and the spear, and followed the khalif as he rode upon a pure white mare into the teeth of the host, and--

"Would it kill them to break up their paragraphs?" muttered Iqal as he squinted at the book in front of him.

Sunlight streamed in through the window of his bedroom, on the fifth level of the tenement building in midtown Shillah. It complemented the reading lamp sitting on his desk as he pored over the old tome he'd picked up from the library. He'd been pushing through it for the last hour and growing increasingly worn out the writing style of almost a century past. The story wasn't a bad one, but reading the original Arabic in translation to his own dialect was never fun.

With a sigh, he reached for a thin green ribbon, marking his place in the book and easing it closed. He set it down for now in the middle of his desk, with the cover page up to reveal the title: Sirat al-Muntasir-billah.[1]

Iqal Alnamany, age nineteen, pushed his chair back. The fellow fussed briefly with the hem of his summer tunic, then pushed a few locks of dark hair out of his face. As he moved away from the desk he briefly debated grabbing some maize crisps from the cabinet. Then he caught himself, reminding himself that he'd already put on a few too many pounds over the summer. Last time I make a swine of myself over the holidays, he reflected bitterly as he passed up the crisps and headed instead for the sitting room.

He made it about halfway there before something on his wall chimed insistently - the low "boop-boop" of the commie going off. With a blink he darted over the wall mount where the subtly curved black device sat charging its lithocell again. He quickly checked the screen.

His eyes brightened. He tapped a button on the back of the commie[2] and tucked it into place against his right ear, the lower part of the curve positioned close enough to his mouth to pick up his words. "Salaam, Alnamany speaking," he said, though he knew who it was already.

"I'm about to throw this book out the window," came the slightly filtered, lower voice Iqal recognized as his classmate and friend, Feyik Katani. "Honestly, Iqal. Are you getting through this thing?"

"Sort of," Iqal admitted as he rested his shoulder against the wall. "I mean, it's a weird style, 'cause it's so old. But it's interesting."

"And that's the part that's biting at me. There's all this stuff I want to learn about the old country but it's like trying to climb a mountain just to find it."

Iqal made a little face. "Well, Dr. Mirza warned us it'd be slow going, right? I mean... it's interesting to me too. I didn't know a lot about history before we started taking this class, either. Not history before the Voyages, I mean."

"I knew a little," admitted Feyik's voice. "Look, maybe we should try and read it together. Like we did with those first couple chapters of Palm of the West. That worked out pretty good, right?"

"We still have to do our writeup on that," pointed out Iqal, stroking his sparse beard with mild consternation.

"Agh. Friend. So many writeups," Feyik groaned. "I'm running out of nibs."

"Why don't you just use the calculator?"

"What, and spare Mirza my gorgeous calligraphy? You're bent," Feyik laughed.

Iqal laughed along with him. "Fair enough. Okay, look, let's meet up at the madrasah tomorrow and we'll get through this thing, okay? I mean, once you get past the grammar it's an awesome story. Plus I want to see how it ends. He said al-Muntasir's really important historically, so...."

"...Yeah, I want to see it too. Okay. Tomorrow after lunch?"

"Let's do it," Iqal agreed as he turned to the calendar hanging on the wall not far away, jotting the engagement down and making a note to pump up the wheels on his cycler before riding into the maze of streets that was the trade district of Shillah. "See you then?"

"See you then," Feyik agreed before hanging up with a faint ping.

Sliding the commie out from its hang around his ear, Iqal slid it back into the recharger. He slid his thumbs into his belt loops casually, glancing back towards the bedroom and the book sitting on the desk.

Stuffy old writing style or not, he wanted to get to the end of it - to piece together how his ancestors got to this place, the city of Shillah in the land of Cawania. To understand the story of who he was and how his life was ever made possible. That would be much, much more fun with a friend.

Outside, he could faintly hear a bird singing - the distant, warbling song of a blue grosbeak.

It put a smile on his face.




[1] The Life of al-Muntasir.
[2] Yes, the phone analogue of this future is called the commie. It's slang for "communicator."
[3] Time to get back to the past.
ACT II Part II - Map as of 1021 AD
Note from Dr. Mirza: As we go into our study of the reign of al-Muntasir, it is helpful to read Palm of the West and Life of al-Muntasir-billah in context. Let us first begin by examining the state of the world in the year 412/1021, when al-Muntasir became Caliph.

Enclosed here is a recreation of a map[1] produced by the cartographer, Ibn Rustam:


The Caliphate of Córdoba lay at the westernmost edge of the Islamic world, separated from the Sunni Caliphate of the Abbasids by the hostile Shia Caliphate, that of the Fatimids, and bordered by a turbulent Francia still wrestling with a central authority which had lost nearly all its clout after the disastrous war of succession between Hugh Capet and Charles of Lower Lorraine. While at this point the Frankish king, Adalbert the Young, was in his early twenties and ruling on his own, his long regency left most of the Frankish dukes taking matters into their own hands. For our purposes, the most important of these dukes were those of Aquitaine and Gascony, bound up in a marital alliance between Duke William of Aquitaine and Queen Sancha of Pamplona.

More broadly, this map reflects the deep divisions in the Mediterranean world at the time. The southern coast was almost entirely controlled by Muslims, the North almost entirely controlled by Christians; Iberia represented a very old frontier, while the islands in the Mediterranean, such as Sardinia and Sicily, proved a more modern battlefield.


Excerpt: The Triumphal Myth: De-Mythologizing al-Muntasir and Medieval al-Andalus[1] - 'Asma Zakari, Falconbird Press, AD 2006

In Andalusi legends, the fifth Caliph of the west, al-Muntasir, holds a special place in the public consciousness. His contemporaries largely held him up as a living legend and a larger-than-life figure. The most common parallel drawn in studies of him is that of the Frankish emperor, Charlemagne.

A close reading of the sources, however, when combined with an overall study of the time period in which he lived and the time which followed, reveals that al-Muntasir is a figure of a dual nature. On the one hand, his exploits, aggrandized in many histories, clearly inspired many of his contemporaries, and he contributed significantly to changing the short-term fortunes of Islam in spain. On the other hand, his reign crystallized a number of growing trends in the history of al-Andalus, among them the diminishing of the direct power of the Caliph at the expense of the Hajib, the preeminent role played by Siqlabi slave-soldiers and the shifting of the country's ethnic dynamics to empower certain groups.

Separating truth from faction is no easy task with this Caliph. We know that he came to power through the untimely death of his elder brother, Abd ar-Rahman IV, and that Abd ar-Rahman was likely killed. While history credits the assassination to the eunuch Ragad and to Abd ar-Rahman's sister A'isha, it's likely that the conspiracy ran deeper. Al-Muntasir himself, then just Hayyan ibn Hisham II, doesn't appear to have been part of the conspiracy, but the fact that the new Caliph quickly chose a blood relative - his brother al-Azraq - as his Hajib suggests that al-Azraq was in on Abd ar-Rahman's assassination.

As with much history from this period, the best primary source remains Joseph ibn Abram's Palm of the West. Many of the surviving Muslim historians of the time were based at court, and their writings commonly lionize al-Muntasir and his exploits, sometimes beyond any semblance of reality. Joseph, being a Jew, seems to have less of a tendency to myth-make about the young Caliph. That said, even Palm of the West should be read carefully, with an eye towards the signs of mythologizing which inevitably tend to crop up.


Excerpt: The Palm of the Distant West Nurtured in the Soils of al-Andalus - Joseph ibn Abram al-Qadisi, AH 442 (AD 1059)

Chapter 3
The Reign of al-Muntasir-billah

It was under the saddest of circumstances that the young man, al-Muntasir, he who was once Hayyan ibn Hisham II, came unto the caliphal power, upon the assassination of his elder brother and caliph Abd ar-Rahman IV, at the urgings of their own sister and the eunuch Ragad. With the two interlopers cast aside and into the hands of justice, did Hayyan send summons to the masters of the marches, and to the commander of Madinat as-Salih, and to Mujahid of the Siqlabi, and al-Mu'izz the lord of the Zenatah Berbers, and bid them to come to Córdoba and be received by him.

Now the lords of the land had held little love for Abd ar-Rahman, and had admired al-Muntasir for the many virtues he held, for where Abd ar-Rahman was a man of cold disposition and selfish pride, contrasting to him was al-Muntasir, whose humility and air of a well-spoken battler were praised by the old families, and by the Saqaliba. Thus it was that the factions at the court supported him strongly, and he was crowned with great ceremony, and welcomed by the people, and given gifts of horses and gold by the wealthy men of the land. And among his first acts was to choose as hajib his brother Muhammad, he surnamed al-Azraq, and though this was not always the usual arrangement, it was accepted by most.

Yet soon following the coronation came rider from Fes, carrying with him the missive from al-Mu'izz ibn Ziri, who had been a friend to Abd ar-Rahman. The messenger came unto the court of Madinat az-Zahara and delivered the message, and conveyed that that king, he being lord of the Maghreb as affirmed by Abd ar-Rahman, insisted instead that the rightful caliph was the infant, Hisham ibn Abd ar-Rahman IV, and bade that the infant be recognized.

Careful in his deliberations, al-Muntasir did send missive back to al-Mu'izz, and bade him to recognize that his choosing was affirmed by the decision of the ummah, and that the Muslims must not have more than one commander of the faithful. Yet al-Mu'izz held to his loyalty to Abd ar-Rahman, and cast defiance into the teeth of al-Muntasir, and declared him a usurper, and recognized instead the caliph of Baghdad as the rightful commander of the faithful, though in fact the influence of the Baghdadi was impossible to extend so far west from the ancient lands of the Muslims.

Such a betrayal forced the hand of al-Muntasir immediately, and created a crisis in the land, for with al-Mu'izz came a great part of the man-power of the Caliphate, the Berber warriors of the Maghrawa, who were loyal to him. Thus did al-Muntasir give the command to al-Azraq to redouble the trade in the Saqaliba, and to begin arming more of them as warriors, to counter the might of the Berber, and in the meantime gathered his own retinue, then to take ship to the south in tail of an emissary bound for the cities of the coast, where the Maghrawa had yet to extend their influence.

Now the emissaries visited the tribes opposed to the Maghrawa, and found receptive ears among the Banu Ifran, those foes of the Maghrawa, who had warred in the past with the caliphal power, but now saw hope of receiving a return to the caliphal fortune. Thus did al-Muntasir and his host land in Sale, and there made parley and negotiation with their leader Abu Nour,[2] and the Banu Ifran did swear fealty to al-Muntasir to battle against the Maghrawa, in exchange for recognition of their lands.

With his host bolstered by the veteran Africans, the Banu Ifran, did al-Muntasir wheel to the east, and lash out against al-Mu'izz, and by the year 413[3] had reduced some of their fortresses, and marched on to Fes with an army of Andalusians, Saqaliba and warriors of the Banu Ifran, and there he did invoke takfir upon al-Mu'izz, and called upon the denizens of the city, "Men of Fes, harbour not the man who calls himself amir, yet swears fealty to false usurpers! Turn over the kuffar, and follow the rightly-guided path!"[4]

And the people of Fes heard the exhortations of al-Muntasir, and some among them began to doubt the decision of al-Mu'izz, and some number of the Maghrawa flowed from the city, and abandoned the cause. Yet al-Mu'izz remained defiance, and held fast for some time, and the host continued to reduce the walls.

Now at this time, was battle also afoot in the east, where the men of Genoa and Pisa were called forth by the high priest of the Romans, and sent forth to burn the settlements of Sardinia, where Mujahid had been sent with his men. And even as al-Muntasir did reduce Fes, in that year did the merchant-warriors of these cities sail to the fortresses of Mujahid on the island, and did take fire and sword to them, and defeated the garrisons of the Muslims who had been left there, and began to land in the friendly lands of the island, there to wage war against the Muslims. And on the north of Andalusia, in the valley of the Douro, did the lords of Leon and Pamplona and little Viguera hear tell of the travails of the Caliphate, and began to muster to raid again across the border - and even in the north, did the Queen of Pamplona begin to carry tales to the knights of Aquitaine, and told them of the lands of the Andalus, and enticed them of its wealth and power, and exhorted them to follow the men of Pamplona into battle.

Thus it was that great haste befell al-Muntasir, who battled foes on two sides, in Fes and in Sardinia, and with more beginning to stir in the north, long quelled during the time of Hisham II and his years of peace, yet seeing signs of weakness. Hearing word of this, he sent Wadih north to muster the remaining garrison of Madinat as-Salih, and resolved in the late months of 413[5] to complete his work in Fes.

Now his stratagem was an act of deception, for he waited until the onset of the night, and then sent forth some number of the Saqaliba in secret, and bade them to sneak into the city under the dark of night, and they slipped in disguising themselves cleverly as tribesmen, before going in the darkness to the gates of the city, and there would they massacre the sentries and cast the gates open just before the dawn. Now as the flaming signal was lit among the host of al-Muntasir did the Saqaliba throw open the gates, and the host of the Andalusians burst into the city, and put the loyalists of al-Mu'izz to the sword. It is said of the battle that al-Muntasir did ride at the head of the host, upon the back of the snow-white mare who was called Fajr,[6] and smote many of the enemy himself, for he was a fearsome warrior in his own right, and one who had led and fought in many battles.

Now soon enough were the allies of al-Mu'izz routed, and al-Mu'izz captured in battle, and taken before al-Muntasir, who stripped him of his honours, and demanded his submission. And al-Mu'izz acceded to this demand, and al-Muntasir did grant him mercy, and permitted him to retire to the countryside within sight of Córdoba, there to remain under guard for all his days. For a time he did entrust loyal men to administer Fes, with the promise that the Maghrawa would hold it again when he was convinced of their fealty to him, and he guaranteed that the Banu Ifran would be respected.

[1] In this setting, cartographic conventions in the modern era retained a south-up orientation. I leave it to you to imagine why this might be, though there is a reason.
[2] This guy was a real but very obscure person who OTL became a taifa leader in Ronda.
[3] 1022.
[4] Al-Muntasir is pulling a power play on al-Mu'izz here and effectively excommunicating him, hoping to intimidate his followers into changing sides. He probably couldn't do this were he not a caliph. Effectively he's both King and Pope at the same time, at least in Andalusia; in fact the Abbasids are the recognized Sunni Caliphs and al-Muntasir is the schismatic, but don't tell him that.
[5] 1023. The war takes a couple of years. OTL, Almanzor fought a similar brief conflict when Ziri ibn Atiya refused to swear fealty to him; al-Andalus was certainly capable of beating down the Maghrawa.
[6] Dawn. You can see the beginnings of myth-making around al-Muntasir already. Even Joseph, a Jew, isn't immune to a little bit of lionizing of this caliph.

1021: Al-Mu'izz ibn Ziri, king of the Maghrawa Berbers, refuses to recognize al-Muntasir as Caliph, supporting the son of Abd ar-Rahman IV. He eventually rebels and swears fealty to the Abbasids, who are none the wiser and powerless to help anyway. In need of allies now, al-Muntasir begins buying in more Saqaliba to train as soldiers, then cultivates the troublesome Banu Ifran as an ally against their Maghrawa rivals.
1022: Pope Sergius V requests that the merchant cities of Genoa and Pisa intervene against the Umayyad invasion of Sardinia. Pisan troops score a victory over the Córdobans but the island remains a battleground.
1023: Through crafty tactics, Caliph al-Muntasir successfully breaks the defenses of Fes, routing the loyalists of al-Mu'izz, whose support he softened up by invoking takfir on him. He permits al-Mu'izz to live under house arrest and holds Fes as a protectorate for a time, while bringing the Banu Ifran into the fold as a counterbalance to the Maghrawa.
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