Interesting update, especially regarding Turkish Christianity and Marcionism. One quibble regarding "each theme be ready to supply at least 15000 men for war". Have the themes been reorganized into larger provinces? Because if not, then this is unrealistic. The largest "classical" theme, the Anatolics, had been able to field this number (at least according to Arab geographers) in the 9th century, but certainly not after various provinces had been split off, and the military lands had begun falling into disuse in this role. ITTL, with the depopulation of Asia Minor in favour of other areas, such numbers are impossible, especially since the other themes were much smaller (in particular the numerous Armenian themes and generalships created in the age of reconquest IOTL, which had a permanent garrison of one to two thousand men at most). Overall, thematic armies were useful for defensive warfare, but not for prolonged offensive campaigns, which is why they were neglected IOTL. A more realistic option might be to limit the number provided by the "great" themes to fewer men, but have them serve as a professional, standing army, rather than be called to arms at need. That leaves of course the problem of how to replenish the ranks if a major military disaster happens, but this might be (partly) dealt with by having the thematic troops serve in phases: men in active service for say 15 years, and then in one or two reserve echelons. Or you could have them serve in rotation locally, in a field army, and in reserve. All of this depends, however, on how much of a manpower pool the Empire has to sustain both agriculture and a standing army at the same time.
How friendly is the new Emperor with the Latins? Seeing as the Roman military isn't in a decrepit state relative to OTL would he be open to simply throwing Latins at the Turks until he can move in with a proper army to clean up?
To be fair the OTL First Crusade benefited from a perfect storm of factors that made it a success. With a more united Seljuk Empire, smaller crusading force (probably a lot more overconfident as well) and Mesopotamia instead of Central/Eastern Anatolia being the focus it could easily end up being a flop, but that's not great from a narrative perspective.Unfortunately (as OTL first crusade post Antioch showed, Alexios not turning up made no difference to what the Latins could do)-the best laid plans of mice and men can go terribly wrong and he may have just worsened the situation.
To be fair the OTL First Crusade benefited from a perfect storm of factors that made it a success. With a more united Seljuk Empire, smaller crusading force (probably a lot more overconfident as well) and Mesopotamia instead of Central/Eastern Anatolia being the focus it could easily end up being a flop, but that's not great from a narrative perspective.
Random question, but how has the Empire's recovery of Egypt affected the developed of those petty Sub-Saharan states (Or even Axum if that's still a thing)? It could be useful maintaining some Christian clients down south so they Romans have some more ports which they can use to raid Arabia and Iran.
The Seljuk Empire's unity is questionable at this point. It has not openly fragmented (which is great), but factionalism is rampant and their Sultan is useless. They also have fellow nomads knocking on them in the East, and trade decimated by the Roman navy starting to operate near the Persian gulf (they have seized a base in Oman temporarily). Mesopotamia is also rather flat and easy to march across with two rivers making it simple to supply troops. The Normans also have their own headquarters right there, instead of a long way off in Sicily. Finally, Mesopotamia itself has switched hands far too often in near past (Kaisar Michael and his son had held it from 1040-1064-and there are still people who remember Christian rule reasonably fondly) and the Turkish control is too light. Baghdad for instance did not recover from Basil II, and any siege will be laughably short if they make it that far.
Finally, the Crusaders actually have a candidate for the Seljuk throne with them, which is not the worst thing in the world. Granted, he is an apostate, but he also knows the region and could be useful when it comes to pacification. It will still be close run thing, but I suppose there are no prizes for guessing that the Seljuks will not be winning. The Turks are running low on manpower and are overstretched, and the surplus of Latin Europe combined with Normans are sufficient to break them.
I'd be glad to hear suggestions about the Crusade though The exact details will be fun to write about
Fair enough, but even as decimated as it is by Basil Mesopotamia should still have a formidable population base (On that topic, how does Basil II compare to the Mongol Invasions or even Timur for population wrecking?) that will be difficult to completely swallow up. Given that the Crusade has a less concrete goal that OTL recovering the Holy Land + Jerusalem will we see Crusading fervor be diverted towards Mecca and the Hedjaz?
Great update! I'm just curious about the status of the other great families of the Empire (Aside from the Komnenoi), i.e. Bryennios, Doukas, Melissenos etc. I think most of them were fairly prominent in this time period OTL but Basil's purge of the dynatoi obviously happened differently here.
There are of course exceptions to this. Lack of land does not mean lack of money-Alexander Komnenos' family had invested heavily in trade, and so had a couple of others. The big money of the Empire is now mostly in Alexandria (after Constantinople itself of course), where some big families are based. There is substantial investment in the eastern trade (both nice things like spices and not nice things like slaves), and although Venice/Genoa control distribution within the Mediterranean zone (mostly), the former dynatoi makes sure it reaches Egypt first. Many of the families also sent children to the army, where they served as officers and retired comfortably with a land grant-but it does not necessarily mean they'll feature prominently in histories. That being said, Basil III's second wife (mother of John II and George I ) was a Doukas, and they haven't done too badly in trading Scythian grain.
Overall the dynatoi are mostly broken, and their money tied up in trade instead of large estates. This may change-none of the current Emperors have a commitment to the land ceiling act the way Basil III did.
Keeping the great families focused on trade is an excellent way of keeping the Empire focused on expansion and keeping those pesky Italian states out. Once they get a taste of the riches of the Indian/SEA spice trade will the Dynatoi even want to reclaim their estates over building more red sea ships?