Orient Yourself Correctly: A Komnenian Tale

Kosta

Banned

Orient Yourself Correctly: A Komnenian Tale
The year 1081 was a time of great upheaval for the Eastern Roman Empire. An economic crisis started with a devaluing of gold and a masse influx of refugees from Anatolia bringing production in the east to a standstill rocked the Empire just as much as numerous aristocrats who seemed to rise and fall as many times as waves crashing into a pier. Turkish raids into the interior of the Empire made their way as far east as past Nikaia where they could physically see the Queen of Cities rising up from the shores of Thrace from across the Sea of Marmara. The brutal forces of the Pecheneg tribes made their way nearly into Makedonia from their stronghold across the Danube. On top of this, the ever-ferocious and ruthless Norman Duke, Robert Guiscard led an invasion through Kerkyra and to the mainland, with one thing on his mind and one thing only—the complete subjugation of the City of Constantinople. With all these barbarians at the very Gates of Rome, could the Empire make it out alive? The answer is yes. However, they could have done better. It took decades more to force the Pecheneg tribesman to cease-and-desist their activities (mostly by slaughtering most of their people in the year 1091 at the Battle of Levounion). The Turkish tribesman and the Eastern Roman Empire played a game of hot-potato with Anatolia for centuries to come, coming out the losers nearly four hundred years later. Robert Guiscard practiced a policy of sore-losing and did all in his power to make sure that if he could not rule Rome, that he would make it suffer. While one could argue that the self-appointed Emperor did the best that he could, his numerous defeats towards the end of his reign left a little something to be desired with his people. This timeline will be an examination of what if the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos successfully utilizes the uncounted thousands of Turkish men of fighting-age within Anatolia for the benefit of the Empire, and the Empire coming out on top. In writing this, my goal is to create a timeline with the most Turkic Eastern Roman Empire written (although the concept is not new and has been successfully used in the famous timeline The Unholy Roman Empire). Romans and Turks and Orthodox Christianity and Islam have not always been at odds with each other, far from it. This will be the case in my own work until its completion.


Author’s Note: My title comes from the most illustrious Peter Ball, of Congleton. The Roman Empire is re-orienting itself in a different direction of governing and politicking, and the very name “Anatolia” literally means “east,” but “Anatolia” is generally translated “Land of the Rising Sun” or “the Orient.” See what he did there? As puns are his metier, hopefully he can design a few more titles for me for my upcoming chapters. I’d also like to thank Luis Salcedo for his years of advice, information, and positive encouragement. Without him and my other Bacchanalian lads, I wouldn’t be able to write this.
 
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Kosta

Banned
Monday, 12th of April, 1081, Palace of Blachernae, northwest Constantinople
The newly crowned Emperor Alexios I, Emperor of Rome prepared for bed. He had just said his prayers on his komboskini. He started the Midnight Office of saying the Jesus prayer 600 times; now he figured that it was nearly two hours later. In this respect, his life did not change; he was still the same Alexios he had been just three years ago, before the conspiracy that catapulted him into the position of Emperor. He settled finally down in his bed to read and ponder on the Scriptures. His young wife had already long fallen asleep. Her copy of the writings of Saint John the Goldenmouthed lay next to her bedside table. Today, he decided to randomnly pick a passage from the Holy Writings, and reflect quickly before he fell asleep. It had been a long day, and the memories of just a few weeks ago, of him and his men cutting down men and women in the streets, or setting buildings to the torch, of looting the houses of God for precious metals, all this filled his head, refusing to let him go. These memories barraged him like a swarm of hornets, and his guilt hurt worse than the any swarm of insects could. Finally, his finger landed on I Corinthians 9:19-27:

“Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω· καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω· τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω· τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους· ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω· τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. Πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.
Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἐν σταδίῳ τρέχοντες πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον; Οὕτως τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε. Πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται, ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον. Ἐγὼ τοίνυν οὕτως τρέχω ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως, οὕτως πυκτεύω ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων· ἀλλὰ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ, μή πως ἄλλοις κηρύξας αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γένωμαι.”

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

To the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews, eh?” The Emperor thought to himself. His mind was working slowly, bogged down with exhaustion and guilt. “Then to the Turks, I will become as a Turk, that I might win the Turks! Eureka!” He quickly got up from bed, careful not to wake his young bride, and went to his desk. In his Bible, he wrote notes to himself for the next morning. “To Nikaia, I will go, and with Suleiman, son of Kutalmish.” He returned to his bed and fell asleep, entering into dark, uneasy dreams again.



Tuesday, 13th of April, 1081, Great Palace of Constantinople, southeast Constantinople
The Emperor was trying to enjoy his breakfast on one of the balconies today, a spongy omelette with onions and cheese. Easter had passed, and now the Ruler of Rome could enjoy a nice meal of eggs and cheese. The Protostrator, first Count of the Stables, was led in to see the pensive Alexios. He got down on one knee, head facing downward to address the Autokrator, the ‘Self Ruler’. The Emperor had him rise up to talk to him—he was never one for rigid protocol. After All, he had served with this very man on the battlefield more times than he could recall.

“Kyrie [Lord, Master], the horses are all watered, fed, and saddled. The Imperial messengers are all ready, each with a copy of your directives and letters to Suleiman the Turk. They can be ready to leave this instant, should you desire it, and be to Nikaia [Nicea] by the week’s end. However, after they cross the Hellespont to Chalcedon, their journey will be greatly slowed once they enter Turkish-held territory. We have equipped each of them with the banner of your House, and each of your missives are bound with your seal, Master. Should the worst happen, they each have a bag of nomísmata [solidi] to keep bandits at bay. The riders are all gathered within the Royal Stables, Lord; you may speak with them there.”

The Emperor, still reclining on his couch, looking pensively out towards the Bosporus, got up and looked the man in the eyes.
“Go and find my chaplain, and bring him to the Stables. Leave me to dress properly and after, I will walk down to the Stables. Go immediately, Protostrate.

Less than an hour later, the purple-clad Emperor made his way to his stables. He loved the smell of the stables; of the musty straw, the leather of the saddles and stirrups, and the odor of the horses. Saddling up his horse, Sgouritzin [«Σγουρίτζην», literally ‘dark bay’] was always when the rush of adrenalin before battle started for him. Getting a chance to visit Sgouritzin was well worth getting the soles of his purpureus boots soaked with piss.

He saw the party gathered in front of the stall of Sgouritzin as he made his way down the long row of the enclosures of the steeds. Apparently, they knew him all too well. His Spiritual Father had met him there, the chaplain of his forces that had travelled across the Empire and back with him. Alexios just noticed now how weary and old his Father Confessor seemed. He had his hair pulled back—it had become frizzled and grey during his time serving the spiritual needs of not only the commander, but the entire Army. He had taken to walking with a staff now (an unornamented one, careful not to imply that his staff was equal to the Staff of Asklepiós, the gilded stave of the chief spiritual-healer of the City), and his face had more wrinkles in it than Alexios could remember. However, even as his Spiritual Father approached old age, his eyes still lit up as he saw his charge approach. The Protostrator knelt again on one knee: the four young men delegated to be the Emperor’s messengers crouched low to the ground, careful not to look up at their Ruler. His chaplain, however, unsurprisingly did not kneel down. For the first time in awhile, the Emperor was able to crack a smile.

“You may begin the blessing, Father.” The Emperor said, amusedly.

“Thank you, Autokrate.” The priest nodded his head and opened his Bible. He cleared his throat and informed the six other men gathered that he had chosen a passage from the Book of Proverbs 21:31: “O ἵππος ἑτοιμάζεται εἰς ἡμέραν πολέμου παρὰ δὲ κυρίου ἡ βοήθεια.”

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”
“So then, it is with the Lord that you will ride swiftly and victoriously straight to the hands of the Scourge of God, Suleiman, son of Kutalmish. Bring him our Master’s words so that our Master might become an Apostle of Christ to the Turks. You four brave-lads are doing God’s work. May nothing harm you. Go, now; may your steeds be as the steeds mentioned in the Book of Abbakoum [Habakkuk]—as swift as the leopards and more fierce than the evening wolves. And may you four fly as swift as the eagles that are hastening to eat. God be with you all!” The priest doused the horses and the four men with his randistirion [holy water dispenser]. They untied their horses’ bridles from the their stalls and they mounted up, with a sword, dagger, banner, and all. One of the steeds was a dark bay, like Sgouritzin, while the other three were a dapple-grey, a chestnut, and a ruddy dun. They sped through the Royal Stables, towards the streets of the City going east, so that they might catch passage across the Bosporus and on to their destiny.

“Do you think they’ll make it?” The Protostator asked the other two.

“We have placed them in God’s hands, I know they will.”

The Emperor only laughed, and started to walk back towards the Palace.
 
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After the talks you and I have had over it, I'm excited. I'm looking forward to seeing how you execute the many ideas you had mentioned in the next couple of updates. Make us proud!
 
This looks interesting. One of the first timelines I ever read, way back in the day, was the "Manzikert" TL back on SHWI. Although the POD was different, is also had the Turks moving into Anatolia and being Christianized and Hellenized (even ended up with the Turkish Emperor at one point). I'm sure this will be going different places; but I've always been fond in the idea myself.

Looking forward to this one!
 

Kosta

Banned
After the talks you and I have had over it, I'm excited. I'm looking forward to seeing how you execute the many ideas you had mentioned in the next couple of updates. Make us proud!

Aw jeez, it only took me like what, two years to finally get a TL off the ground :D? I will try to make all of the Bacchanalians proud! Huzzah!

And it is finally posted! Great first update, remember to update regularly and all that jazz.

I'm drafting up a quick update even as we speak!

This has promise. Subscribed.

Thank you kindly, stranger.

Yes. This looks interesting. If Alexi's gambit works, you butterfly away the Crusades!

That is 100% my intention, yes, and to go beyond.

This looks interesting. One of the first timelines I ever read, way back in the day, was the "Manzikert" TL back on SHWI. Although the POD was different, is also had the Turks moving into Anatolia and being Christianized and Hellenized (even ended up with the Turkish Emperor at one point). I'm sure this will be going different places; but I've always been fond in the idea myself.

Looking forward to this one!

Ah, regrettably, I am 10 years behind the disaster of Manzikert and I cannot save the tragic hero that is Romanos Diogenes, but I am trying to balance keeping the culture and religion of the Turkish peoples alive with their loyalty to Constantinople and not to Isfahan. However, I've talked it over with multiple people and for the most part in reconquered areas of Anatolia, Turks either tended to Christianise or flee back to Seljuk territory. But, I can proudly say that even centuries down the road, I do not plan on exterminating Islam from Anatolia and the Upper Euphrates. It might be greatly lessened, yes, and even different from the Hanafi School of Sunni Islam we tend to see in Turkey in our world (I plan on making the majority of Romanian "Byzantine" Muslims Shi'a Alevis and Sufis), but not extinguished.

This looks interesting.

Thank you!

Great start! Will you be keeping the narrative style, or change over to the "textbook" approach?

Believe it or not, I don't know how to write in the textbook style that we see in great works, like Malê Rising, Anahuatlacanco, With the Crescent Above Us, and Isaac's Empire (all favourites of mine). For me, when I write, I tend to shove details of the scenes into the faces of my audience. I can picture what Alexios is wearing, what he's saying, what he's thinking, and how he gets things done. I cannot write in such a studious and academic matter and convey important ideals to the audience, unfortunately. I'll definitely practice and ask for critiques from my friends, but I'll be sticking with this narrative style into the foreseeable future.

This looks fascinating indeed, keep up the good work. I'm subscribing. :)

多謝, old friend! Again, thank you for all the ideas about Yue Fei and China in a few decades! You and Marcus both! 多謝 to you, too, Marco!

I'm really liking this. Continue!

Thank you, friend. I'll be commenting on yours soon enough.

So it is a pun...

Bravo and continue!

Yes, and I cannot claim credit for it. It is 100% the intellectual property of one Pete Ball (who goes by MrP around here, if I am not mistaken), on loan for my storyline. Actually, a lot of what I've come up with is all thanks to you and the rest of the game. Your "Vive Le Canada!" was my first love around these parts, and your ability to always think of new beginnings and ends in history inspires me. I only wish that I had written that bit about the Greco-Corsican community's exodus to Canada. Believe it or not, I think that getting involved in my own work will prompt me to write more for others, not less. If you'd have me back, I'd love to contribute.

Thank you again to everyone for their kind words. I might just stop working on the new update for the night and continue watching Boardwalk Empire. This next one will only be a quick update, establishing that Suleiman ibn-Kutalmish has received the missive of the Emperor.
 
Actually, a lot of what I've come up with is all thanks to you and the rest of the game. Your "Vive Le Canada!" was my first love around these parts, and your ability to always think of new beginnings and ends in history inspires me. I only wish that I had written that bit about the Greco-Corsican community's exodus to Canada. Believe it or not, I think that getting involved in my own work will prompt me to write more for others, not less. If you'd have me back, I'd love to contribute.

Well I am still waiting for it! :p
 
Matur nuwun, friend! Thank you also for being the first person to respond to my TL over at Bacchanalia's forum. It really meant a lot to me, as you know how easily discourage I am.

Well, it's certainly unique enough that the accommodation of turkic muslims into Rhomanian society and to becoming later the Bektashi equivalent as your TL's central premise. I hope they won't cause too much trouble for the Roman politics ;)
 
A good start, and I'm looking forward to seeing more as another adviser of this timeline!

One small thing I would suggest is using footnotes as I do in Isaac's Empire, rather than bracketing information. It makes things all look so much tidier. Using Internet Explorer, you can also copy and paste a text directly from a Word document to AH.com and retain all of your footnotes without having to laboriously copy them.
 
Interested to see where you take this. Not as many Byzzie TLs here as there used to be.

That's probably for the best. An awful lot of them were bloody terrible. :p

This looks good, although Kosta has a lot of work to do if he wants to beat Pururauka's The Mauricians, which is one of my all time favourite TLs already, being so scrupulously researched and convincing. I suppose I should doff a cap to The Revival of Rhomanion too, although I think that suffers a little from being too optimistic on the Laskarid state. Basileus444 is certainly a better writer than I in terms of the frequency of his updates though!
 
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