Out of the Ashes: The Byzantine Empire From Basil II To The Present

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So the Turkish lords convert, but I imagine the populace remains Muslim, no? And the Turks east of the Zagros still remain Muslim, and still with the fervor of the newly converted. That is bound to have interesting repercussions...

Also, how much of an opposition did George face within the Church regarding the Crusade? Replacing a patriarch and a host of bishops on a theological issue where theological opinion has been pretty definite for over a century (IIRC, Nikephoros Phokas tried to have the soldiers fallen against the Muslims canonized, but the Patriarch was vehemently opposed) is the best way to create a mini-schism within the Church, particularly if Theodore is long-serving and well regarded (and stubborn). Of course, nothing succeeds like success (battlefield victories can easily be transformed into divine sanction), and much depends on the justification of the Patriarch's dismissal, but unless reconciled at some point, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the beginning of a pietistic/pacifistic movement with religious and social overtones, that could merge with alt-Bogomilism or go its own way. Contrary to popular belief, the Byzantine emperors did not always get their way with the Church.
The populace does in fact remain Muslim-with a big caveat that a considerable part had converted earlier when Michael and Nikepheros were screwing around in the region, and the region does have a non trivial number of Assyrians. That being said, the Turks remain muslim except for the very top leadership that got a little wet courtesy a priest. The understanding here (courtesy Leo and Andreas Makedon) is that the Empire is accepting of muslims, and they can go back to doing whatever they were doing once the Latin zeal dies down, provided they remain loyal. Of course Leo is not a completely uncharismatic figure, and his conversion is genuine-so he could potentially sway some of the nobles to the cross for real, long term. At the moment it is all superficial-a mummers farce which the Latins are being fed. The Persian Turks of course remain committed to Islam, and there will be quite a major clusterfuck regarding this down the road. Without going too much into details, the tensions between the two faiths for the Turks will lead to a rather major crisis of TTL 20th Century....

So the theological issue is not quite settled. Phokas may have failed to get canonizations done (the POD is from that period, and I see no reason to change it), but John and Basil had effectively encouraged communal tension in the Levant (and in Basil's case, exploited it to conquer the region-see the update titled Tale of Two Emperors, War in the East). The Orphans for instance where first conceived out of kids, well-orphaned by that war and interfaith riots. The Aegean elite of course had lost very little there and their attitudes have not changed directly. Those of Levantine Melkite extraction on the other hand have a much more hardline stance (see the story about Paul and Peter above) and some have indeed risen to high office (Paul did end his career as Patriarch of Antioch). This is not to say the Greek Orthodox opinion is pro-Crusade, but it is more divided than OTL (I'd say 65% opposed to 35% for it) and certainly not extremely opposed.

There is also the matter of the two Basils having converted the Patriarchate to an effective bureaucratic (as opposed to ecclesiastical) position. Well, they were hardly the first to do it but they filled the ranks with retired bureaucrats to manage the population transfers to Egypt (distribute tokens to faithful), hellenize masses (schools for Greek) and other welfare means. This is not to mean there are no real men of cloth left or respected, but the church is far more a government organ than, say OTL (no one is going to pull a Kerularious grade stunt and expect their eyes to last the week). The non-governmental men in fact are more in frontier territories and are more likely to be hardliners than the coastal elite :p

Theodore was another bureaucrat John II had appointed in 1070, and so he did not quite have the connections to create opposition (nor was he willing to push it beyond a point-he was sufficiently loyal to John II not rubber-stamp a reversal of stance but not to the point of gambling with his families life). The bureaucrats mostly fell in line and were replaced, really recalcitrant bishops with deep roots were quietly given dressing downs by sympathetic superiors and those with a shaky position are always replaceable. Your point about a new movement merging with neo-Bogomilism is however very much along the right direction-there will be people who will be starting to question this war (especially if things go south-they can't do much if Turks suddenly find Christ before a battle) and seek out like minds, who may or may not be more sympathetic to heresies in general. Ultimately, the conditions of 11th Century Byzantium TTL are fertile ground for new theological ideas, which could have interesting repercussions further down the road. Who in 100 CE would have thought a Jewish sect would make it so big in another 300 years?

Ah crap, this is going to start bad, go worse and end bittersweet.
Idk if anyone will think the end to be bittersweet. Interconfessional middle eastern wars are messy...... But yes, things will be getting worse soon.
Makes you feel kinda of bad for Mesopotamia and the , they're having it worse than OTL if that's even possible. First Basil II, now this, will there be anything left if a Steppe Horde like OTL Mongols decide to come knocking in a hundred years?
Makes you feel kinda of bad for Mesopotamia and the , they're having it worse than OTL if that's even possible. First Basil II, now this, will there be anything left if a Steppe Horde like OTL Mongols decide to come knocking in a hundred years?
It was kind of necessary for the TL from the start-the Romans can't have long term peace in the East without Mesopotamia being boned over, forget about gobbling it up. This is the only region in the ME with the population base to match Anatolia+Greece (and if you believe the 30 million pre-Mongol claims, the whole Empire), and thus a perpetual threat if united under Islamic leadership. At the same time it is a much more intractable problem for conquest-it has too many muslims outside the Assyrian north, and holding it from Constantinople is hard, especially against a Persian power (the Osmanli pulled it off, but at a terrible cost over centuries). All the successes of the Empire and its allies have been are against a broken Mesopotamia-the dynamics move against the Empire should it be united (which is why Manzikert proved to be so critical for the Empire-a loss there would have compromised everything they had achieved in this TL).

In the end, the Romans win even if the Crusades fail-the ensuing bloodbath would buy them precious time to Hellenize Egypt properly, to a point they need not station half their army there and can actually hold the line against an united Islamic power.

Also, climatic factors in Central Asia would make steppe migrations inevitable. Whether they make it to Mesopotamia or not is yet to be seen-maybe Persia will see the threat and unite early to face Romania (the Crusades did have a similar effect on Islamic powers OTL), which would make them a formidable wall that alt-Mongols might not be able to breach. Ghenghiz is not exactly your average run of the mill steppe leader, and one like him may never arise at all.
Now that we have moved well into the Crusader era, I was thinking of a counterfactual with this counterfactual as a fun exercise-this will be sort of half baked consequently.

The Roman Empire in this TL initially did not roll sixes as much as it avoided hitting ones (the whole instability going from Romanos II to Basil II getting his act together near 990) over a crucial thirty year period that led it take over the ME, if only tenuously (courtesy the weakness of existing powers and striking before the Fatimids could consolidate). This did not prevent a Turkish state from forming, and the moment of reckoning came for the Empire (reasonably stable, but having started demilitarization) somewhere in Armenia. It was either that or a slog over Syria, but the latter was more favorable for the Romans as they rule the waves too effectively.

The biggest break for the Empire in this TL was Manzikert, via a deus ex machina I am somewhat ashamed of, but needed there for Arslan's conversion. It could have easily gone the other way though: Ioannes II could have been the Sultan's captive.

The obvious question arises as to what happens next. You may have noticed that I made John II a somewhat OTL Alp Arslan like figure with the kindness, while Arslan was closer to Romanos Diogenes (at least as per the Skylitzes account). This is not too implausible, as OTL Arslan did not exactly face the great-grandson of the man who burned Baghdad and the Caliph down, and was also ten years older and wiser. Ioannes II is unlikely to get mercy-some of the Sultan's advisors may recommend setting him free to foment a civil war, but the young Emperor would have likely quietly accepted retirement to a monastery without a fuss if he saw the alternative was civil war. This would have been apparent to his captors as well, and so Ioannes II would have been roasted in Baghdad.

The Empire is in a dicey situation, and the Normans are likely to stab them in the back by carving out a fief for themselves in East Anatolia. Perhaps far more importantly, the policies and legacy of Basil III would be finished. The obvious successors are both children-George and Alexander. The Doukai had not quite made it big yet, and their side had suffered a heavy setback with John's failure. It is far more likely that Alexander's mother would call upon her father for help, and the Senate would rubber-stamp Basil Komnenos to the purple (being the grandson of Constantine VIII would not hurt there). Whether he will keep Alexander around or not is more questionable, as he might just choose to elevate his sons to power as well, instead of relying on the grandson. This is perhaps the seed for another nasty civil war-the man was ambitious, marrying his daughter to a close friend much older than her for power.

Emperor Basil Komnenos would begin with a bloody purge of the Doukai, and would likely succeed (the Orphans being mostly dead in Manzikert and the few remaining unwilling to assist John II's family). This may not go smoothly and it may take a few years to centralize control . Hungarians, Pechenegs, Cumans etc would also smell blood in the water and try to bite pieces out of the Empire in the moment of weakness. An allied Sicily is a huge benefit, but the leadership of the Island (mostly related to Samuel the Bulgarian-OTL Tsar and TTL first strategos of the province) may have their own ambition, especially with command over the Western fleet. Not enough for direct rebellion, but enough to get large concessions (including hereditary succession-almost a de facto practice there courtesy Samuels descendants being everywhere) in return for help. Sicily will start drifting out of the Constantinopolitan orbit fast under confident leadership, although they may not explicitly declare independence.

The next issue obviously is the East, and handling the Normans will be a hard task since the East is so heavily depopulated. In fact, a lot of the region is filled with slaves working on lands the Empire confiscated from dynatoi and placed under their own management. Basil III had been trying to reduce this commitment, but Ioannes II TTL stopped (the revenue was too good for the crown, and most slaves were effectively free gifts from Egypt based merchants) . These slaves are unlikely to be the pro-Roman faction here-or pro Norman. The Turks and the Normans will have a showdown in the region-but the outcome is clear, seeing that the Normans have no base to fight from, making their position unsustainable. The Turks may not complain too much if the Normans go to Cilicia, as they want Anatolian grazing land, but the Normans are getting pushed out of other regions. Of course, some of the leadership converting to Islam and joining the other side is not implausible either. In any case, East anatolia and most of the Central inland Anatolia is gone by the time the Empire has its act together. They will be in a sticky situation-the land is poor and has not many Greeks left by then, but is strategically valuable. Basil Komnenos will likely try to be conservative in seeing what can be done, and the answer will likely be not much-the Turks are too strong. OTL Komnenoi had enjoyed screwing around in Syria more than Anatolia itself, and so I see the leadership following a similarly economically motivated route. Especially Basil Komnenos whose wealth is tied up in Egyptian trade.

The problem of course is the muslim minority in the Empire that may start making loud noises. The circumstances of Manzikert and the Turkish threat will likely drive a paranoid leadership into taking extreme measures. Egypt itself is safe-the last century's interconfessional wars have meant that the Seljuks will be unable to take Palestine without killing half the people there (same for Syria, so their Levantine flank is safe for now), but muslims making trouble can be viewed as a big problem. A major persecution will likely result (tax collectors know faith all too well), which can make remake demographics of Egypt. A new wave of Anatolian settlers fleeing Turks will wind up replacing some of them, but not that many-the major flow had already occurred. By the end of this though, the tail will be wagging the dog-Egypt would be the most important bit of the Empire by far, and the strategos of Egypt will not let his family (and his troops families) be hostages the way they were under Basils II and III.

Lack of local Christian support and topology means reconquest of Anatolia will remain a pipe dream (there may be a Crusader wave carving out their own statelets that the Turks will reconquer as they feud with the Empire), and sooner than latter some Emperor would move to Alexandria over Constantinople-continuously threatened from the North and the East, and no longer the most economically viable or central location. An alt-black death would likely lead to the collapse of the remainder of Anatolia (already struggling as the Empire seems more interested in trading with the Indies) outside some coastal fortresses still held by the Empire. Sicily will likely declare independence, with Sardinia, Corsica, Carthage and South of Italy, charting its own future as a bi-lingual Roman Empire tied too closely to the Papacy. Pontus will likely follow suit if has not done so already. Egypt will be left with Greece (contested with Sicily), southern Anatolia, Syria and Palestine. And of course Constantinople, a decaying fortress guarding the straits.

An united Turkish power armed with gunpowder will change that game and the Theodosian walls will fall. The Empires will fight over Greece and Syria (I see the Empire being driven to Morea in the former case but holding the line in Syria). Around then someone will finally find the New World and the dynamics of the game will change. The era of Med centrality will finally end and a new age would start.

Perhaps in that TLs 20th Century a revitalized Egypt that had not allowed itself to fall heavily behind in tech (hard, seeing the natural resources of the area-but maybe fellow Christian powers helped just enough or it became a colonial power) would march into Constantinople once again and restore the Empire as it once was. That is not quite the most likely outcome though.
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Interesting Alt Alt Timeline, but it looks like even more depressing than what happened to the Empire in OTL. Just one steady decline, fragmenting all the way. Would an ATL Alexios I type figure been able to turn it around? The Empire still has substantial resources even if they lose Alt-Manzikert.
Interesting Alt Alt Timeline, but it looks like even more depressing than what happened to the Empire in OTL. Just one steady decline, fragmenting all the way. Would an ATL Alexios I type figure been able to turn it around? The Empire still has substantial resources even if they lose Alt-Manzikert.
I dunno, the fact that they likely make to the present makes it somewhat less depressing than OTL 1453 (or the Treaty of Lausanne, depending on what you view as the end). Even if an alt Selim the Grim gets Egypt, Sicily will live and keep the dream alive (and they honestly have the best chance for a race to the Straits).

As for Alexios parallels-Basil Komnenos would be the equivalent, but I don't think the Empire could be saved under these circumstances. They have no local population base in Anatolia to serve as a fifth column and their control of the seas would mean zilch on the plateau. A motivated Empire could reconquer Anatolia-but I think the problem is one of plenty. They have loads of resources, and Central/East Anatolia are just not as valuable as Egypt, discouraging reconquest ideas. A resource starved Empire (Laskarids OTL) could and would put up a fight-but this Empire has just too much to care for having Anatolia back, as no one is likely to think on the scale of centuries to see where the road is leading to.

The best thing for that counterfactual-counterfactual Byzantium will be a revolt in Thrace that leads to the formation of three distinct entities: a Byzantine Empire, a Syracusian Empire and an Alexandrian Empire. The latter will be the legitimate one and the strongest, but the Byzantine state could endure and make it to the present as a Greater Greece. The main problem is Byzantine/Syracusian conflict over Morea (which is why letting Egypt hold it works better, it lets the two weakest join up against the strongest Roman fragment) and that a Byzantine revolt might not occur before the collapse is irreversible (depends on the time when Syracuse decides to go its own way).

Of course, they may never be able to move the capital-seeing what happened to Constans II. But I think they will, both because of Komnenoi interests in Egypt and because the resource disparity would only grow over time, causing them to try to preempt Egypt breaking free on its own.
If this trend with the Crown overruling the Church continuing how lucrative will it be for the Empire in the long term? Pushing for more control over the Church revenues would be a massive financial boost.
If this trend with the Crown overruling the Church continuing how lucrative will it be for the Empire in the long term? Pushing for more control over the Church revenues would be a massive financial boost.
I can tell you where the state takeover of the Church ends in this TL: Theokratia
The Church is getting administrative cred and is getting closely tied to the government, to a point where people may be more willing to trust it than the other organs of the state, should sufficiently big disasters come about. It is a two way street, and while strong Emperors (Basils II & III, and even George I) can control the flow to their choice, a more weak minded (or pious) leader could see a reverse flow of influence from church to state. Other factions wont like it at all, but will they be in a position to oppose? Church money is small pennies in this game.
Combining the offices of temporal and spiritual leaders in one person is a recipe for megalomania. But what I'm even more interested in is how the Empire overthrows the Theokratia and transitions back (if at all?)
I should really be working on finishing the Crusade update, but I recently read some stuff about Indian elections that got my creative juices flowing about the TTL modern world. I don't really know much about the politics of the region (though I know a lot more that before courtesy some recent reading) but I could not really ignore an actual priest heading the government. And not even a vanilla version like Makarios III- this gentleman called Yogi Adityanath would probably put a lot of my explicitly contrived dystopian characters to shame.

All names left mostly unchanged from OTL, I'll perhaps return someday to retcon names to account for butterfly effect. Things may or may not have been made more cray than OTL.

Priest Elected President of Hindustan!
With barest minimum to avoid runoff.
International community in shock.
Foreign office issues sternest warning in decades.

Yogi Adityanath (formerly Ajay Singh Bist) has been elected President of Hindustan in what is regarded as a massive electoral upset. Adityanath had romped to victory with only 40.01 % of the popular vote, a shade more than the 40% minimum required to avoid a runoff election. Most observers had expected him to win the first round handily, but expected President Modi to pull through in the runoff as the center left was would likely unite behind him. Adityanath however had prevented this outcome by pulling off an upset victory in the first round, buoyed by massive riots over supposed consumption of meat in sections of the Gangetic plain.

President Modi had reluctantly conceded defeat, acknowledging that many in his own Hindustan People's Party would defect to the challenger if he did not call for a truce. With this, Adityanath had finished the political career of a man who was viewed as a right-wing extremist (some whisper mass murderer) but who nonetheless moved the country far to the right by shattering the centre-left stranglehold over the country-and yet was left begging their support to avoid being beaten from a challenger from his right flank. Adityanath was once a loyal lieutenant of Modi, but he had defected to make his own party after Modi appeared to be giving too many territorial concessions to neighbors. A dyed in the wool irredentist, he has vowed to not rest until "Hindustan, that is Bharat, stretches from Kashmir to Kanyakumari", and "exterminate the infidels".

Such talk has of course not endeared him to any of the neighboring countries. Indeed, officials in the Foreign offices of both India and Bengal are worried about the possibility of war breaking out. Constantinople for once acted proactively, with Foreign Secretary Alexander Cohen flatly stating that both India and Bengal were a part of the Oikoumene, and Romania would not remain silent if their integrity was threatened. The political elite in both countries were likely breathing in relief with the knowledge that the Imperial purple cloak was still draped around them, attempts by Constantinople to reach out to the Modi regime notwithstanding.

A lot of blame has been laid on the Erdogan government for being too willing to get in bed with Modi's men. A member of the Indian bureaucracy (unnamed by request) caustically observed that Erdogan's Turkish rage against Muslims had led him to ignore geopolitical reality and back someone like Modi in the hope of scoring one against them. The Erdogan governments backing of Modi with promises of investments had in fact buoyed him to power, and allowed him to gut the center-left. Modi was quite willing to ignore non-muslim minorities in Hindustan as Constantinople did not want bad press from state sponsored persecutions from there, and while Andrea Laiou had not interfered in the electoral process of Hindustan after defeating Erdogan, she had not exactly invested effort in resurrecting the center left, seeing Modi as the best of a bad lot. That policy of ignoring Hindustan has now come to haunt them with an irredentist hardliner in office, once who lays claim to not just parts of the Oikoumene-but exclaves of the Empire itself.

Officers in Constantinople laugh at the suggestion that Adityanath could achieve such a thing without having his country become nuclear wasteland. Even the slightest action against the Oikoumene could provoke Constantinople to pull out of all the investments promised under the Modi regime and bring the economy down. Worst case, they could always enforce a naval blockade that would likely bring the import dependent country to knees in days, lacking in oil as it is. But nonetheless there is fear-fear that his message of Hindu unity could unite the community into a monolithic block in India and Bengal, finishing the Roman influence there. The existing ethnic divisions there were unlikely to vanish overnight, and a substantial Christian and atheist population would remain-but the ability of Constantinople to actively protect them was questionable. Conservative politicians privately admit that this is a deadlier adversary than the Sick Man ever was, and no such golden chance like the Charanis incident was likely to happen and galvanize public opinion. The Anastasios precedence means that one referendum would be all that it takes to alter the geopolitical balance in the region. Bengal would likely hold, with all the the fond memories of the Imperial days when they lorded over the rest-but holding India could be hard in a flat up-down vote, without major economic bribery.

"We should have supported the Hindustani center-left more," admitted a Conservative Senator in private. "Corrupt thugs that they were, their values at least were closer to ours. Now we have an actual theocrat."

That in fact is a big problem. Not a single party in the Roman Empire would be willing to deal with a theocrat, money or otherwise-the political cost of doing so is too great. Cohen would likely find some face-saving measure to avoid cutting off diplomatic relationships, but ties would be increasingly strained as Adityanath would push his own agenda.

"We hope it is all rhetoric-a war in India would be a mess we absolutely do not want to get involved in, but must should the unthinkable happen. All we can hope for is that he will yell himself hoarse and be replaced."

And would Constantinople sponsor a coup should that not be the case?

"And get burned again? If there is one thing I learned in politics, it is that you gotta let the loonies kill themselves-stopping them is too much effort."

Nonetheless, backdoor communications with Persia would likely open to ensure that Russia does not get too close to this iteration of Hindustan. China could likely be also counted on to keep the containment going, but they would likely not actually commit to action if the situation warranted for it. For now, sanctions are the best weapon left to the civilized-against this barbarian theocrat.
Will this be updated sometime?c
We don't know. The author will update it when they choose to. If you're wondering about the status of a TL, the best option is to PM the author directly, instead of necroing the thread and making everyone following it think there's been an update.
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