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

Status
Not open for further replies.
Will reply to everyone, but will take a bit of time.

We civilized Romans don't want more smelly Franks, thank you very much.
Jokes aside, France is indeed the hardest nut to crack in the West. Magna Grecia gives Romania a foothold in Italy from which they can expand, aided by proximity to the Balkans. Iberia is under Islamic control, making expansion there very acceptable to all of Christendom and unlikely to piss anyone off who they have not completely pissed off already (read North African Islamic states). This is not really the case with France, and pacification would be extremely difficult post conquest, even if it was successfully pulled off.
But wouldn't Southern Gaul be extremely hard to defend?To my understanding,there's isn't any natural defenses to hold off a determined Frankish assault.
 
But wouldn't Southern Gaul be extremely hard to defend?To my understanding,there's isn't any natural defenses to hold off a determined Frankish assault.
Quick and dirty analogy here; in the early 1980s the ruling junta in Argentina determined that they had in hand enough force of the right kind to overwhelm and subdue British defenses in the Falklands Islands, and occupy them for themselves. They were correct, they did have that kind of force. But what they proved to require in order to go on holding their Islas Malvinas was the level of force to defeat the entire United Kingdom throwing everything they had (or could spare from other commitments) at Argentina. That they did not have.

So I'm guessing southern Gaul is held by a form of the balance of terror. It is costly and short term unprofitable to Romanize Latins into suitable subjects, so Rome has that motive to leave the status quo alone.
 
Quick and dirty analogy here; in the early 1980s the ruling junta in Argentina determined that they had in hand enough force of the right kind to overwhelm and subdue British defenses in the Falklands Islands, and occupy them for themselves. They were correct, they did have that kind of force. But what they proved to require in order to go on holding their Islas Malvinas was the level of force to defeat the entire United Kingdom throwing everything they had (or could spare from other commitments) at Argentina. That they did not have.

So I'm guessing southern Gaul is held by a form of the balance of terror. It is costly and short term unprofitable to Romanize Latins into suitable subjects, so Rome has that motive to leave the status quo alone.
For a medieval empire,this is generally not the case.There's a reason why a lot of continent stretching empires have borders along mountains and rivers--it's because they cannot afford to spend large amounts of troops to defend everywhere.Dacia was abandoned by the Romans due to the Danube border being more defensible.Equally,the enemies of these empires which were much smaller seems to have noticed and take advantage of this.As soon as there's some sort of disaster,the Franks will most likely take advantage of that and retake control.
 
I'd say both of you are touching on the right sort of points, since the modern map (very much intentionally) does not say the whole story.

There was once a Kingdom of Provence, which was kinda like any other medieval European state except that it was more interested in trade and the Med, and picked up a big friend along the way. Said big friend helped with defenses of that kingdom but did not really poke much, allowing cultural flow to happen both ways (not necessarily equally). A de-centralized Northern Francia did not try its luck as much with this part, which was quite culturally distinct by the time revanchism would be an affordable thing. Said state expanded into Spain alongside the Romans, and then entered into a personal union somewhere down the line which became sufficiently problematic for the Imperial government in the long run, leading to complete annexation pretty late in the game.
 
1. Colonies: Under direct rule of Constantinople, without any freedom. The Cape, a bunch of small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans (not around China though), Australia and New Zealand, lots of coastal enclaves in Africa. Supplies natural resources to the Empire. Citizens there vote by postal/electronic ballot in their respective domicile constituencies. Typically characterized by low native populations that have been heavily neglected, with no major attempts to Romanize.
Heya, quick word to say it's a fun thread and I like your replies. Now I'm gonna dispute this.

I don't see why such an empire would have colonies in Western Africa or in the Cape. ITTL, trade routes would probably go directly to Morocco or Egypt. The need to short circuit Muslims was the drive to establish comptoirs OTL. No need for that here, it takes a lot of resources to establish and maintain yourself in those regions.

I'll wait to see the map but such a ERE would probably get a hold of the Western Indian Ocean trade routes. So probably Sofala/Kilwa, the equivalent of Port Dauphin. Maybe Gujarat? It would make sense.

Also a Byzantine Melakka? OTL the Ottomans established big trade routes with Indonesia in the XVIth century
 
For a medieval empire,this is generally not the case.There's a reason why a lot of continent stretching empires have borders along mountains and rivers--it's because they cannot afford to spend large amounts of troops to defend everywhere. Dacia was abandoned by the Romans due to the Danube border being more defensible.Equally,the enemies of these empires which were much smaller seems to have noticed and take advantage of this.As soon as there's some sort of disaster,the Franks will most likely take advantage of that and retake control.
Doubtful analysis: the fact that ancient empires tended to try to establish easily defensible borders doesn't mean that it's always easy for Empires to take over neighboring states lacking such strong defenses, as can be noted in the fact we are reading this in a Germanic rather than Latin-derived language. :biggrin:
 
950-969: The Forgotten Hero
Chapter 1: The Forgotten Hero

Latin Churchmen outside the Empire have an unfortunate tendency of distorting history by claiming 476 CE marks the end of Antiquity and the onset of the Dark Ages. This is no longer accepted by any serious scholar of history, as there is little evidence that indicates the deposition of a child puppet in Ravenna meant a radical change of affairs even in the West, where Imperial structures had been slowly collapsing for the preceding century. Nonetheless the reluctance of the priests is readily understandable in light of their high regard for Peter Sabbatius Justinian, whose reign is now viewed as time when the West transitioned out of Antiquity, on account of his wars of reconquest and the plague that bears his name. Theological victories over Monophysites after all matter much more for the ecclesiastical class than hard facts, which is the realm lesser mortals like historians must be concerned with.

Direct culpability for the decline of the East cannot however be completely laid on Justinian’s feet, despite the massive efforts by revisionist Imperial historians from the time of John Callinicus. It cannot be denied he did little to stabilize the East, but it is likely that any other sixth century Emperor would have faced similar challenges even if the western wars been averted. Speculation however is the realm of alternate history, and serious scholars mostly agree that Justinian’s reign heralded the long term decline of the East, allowing it to come apart like a house of cards within a century of his death. None of his immediate successors were exceptionally competent, but it is doubtful whether the presence of a greater man would have made any difference on account of the heavy dead weight of centuries worth decaying institutions and customs that would have been laid on his shoulders. The sad truth was that the Roman Empire was reaching the end of its natural span, tied down by it's long past and not even the intellect of Basil II could have done it any good at that stage. What it needed was fire to burn down the ropes so that it could rise again from the ashes, and no sane Emperor in that era could even contemplate such reforms, which we can list easily today with the benefit of centuries of hindsight.

For a while, it seemed like the Sassanid Persians would provide the impetus in their two decade long attempt to conquer the Empire in the early years of the seventh century. Egypt and the Levant gave way to the Shah’s men, and the hated enemy camped on the other side of the Straits itself, greedily eyeing the Queen of the Cities. It was a time for the Roman world to reinvent itself, and for a moment it seemed like Heraclius would be capable of leading the reformation, with his miraculous victories against the Sassanians and successful restoration of the Empire’s borders in the East.

Yet that was not to be, for Heraclius had to face a deadlier foe in the form of the Rashidun Caliphate, even before the decade ended. Fortune collected her due for earlier favors by delivering near miraculous defeats at Yarmouk and Egypt, throwing the Empire into turmoil. The last Roman soldiers left Alexandria in 645, marking the end of the Classical Hellenistic era. The Dark Ages had finally come to the East and it would be content with nothing less than the end of the Empire itself. That the political structure of the Eastern Roman Empire got a chance to reform itself before it suffered the same fate as its Persian brethren owed more to the geography of the Anatolian plateau and the sudden discovery of Greek fire than to any sudden genius in the Constantinopolitan Court.

Whether by skill or fate, the entity called the Roman Empire survived the crisis, despite two nearly successful sieges of Constantinople herself. But it was an Empire only in name: the Basileus ton Rhomaion only commanded Anatolia and a few other coastal towns and islands in the Greek East. For all intents and purposes, the Eastern Roman Empire of antiquity met its end in the hands of Islam before the borders between Christendom and Caliphate equilibrated in the eighth century. Romania’s weakness became even more clear when the Patriarch of Rome crowned a barbarian Frank Emperor in 800 to snub the ruling Empress in Constantinople. Beset with theological crises, coups and ever increasing jihadi raids in Anatolia, it seemed like even this vestigial entity was doomed to a slow death, to be reduced to Greater Greece at best.

Yet Rome survived its struggle against the Caliphate and emerged stronger on account of it. The raids stopped in the mid ninth century as the Caliphate started crumbling from within, while Romans scored multiple victories against the invading hordes. The tables had finally turned as the initial vitality of the new faith withered away while the old fighter had gotten a chance to get their house in order, optimized for survival. The Romans would not truly attack the East for another century, in order to recover some of the population lost over the course of raids and settle scores with Bulgars in the West. But they would not forget their humiliation, and would pass it down to their children: a reminder of lost glories and of the eastern foe that had almost undone the Empire. They might have obtained a respite from their persecution, but Churchmen implored the children in schools to never forget who they were and what they could still become if the treasonous Franks and Saracen infidels be brought to heel (1).

Imperial history credits most of the recovery to the dynasty founded by the first Basil, although evidence today indicates that the process was well under way in the reign of his predecessor, Michael III. It is undeniable that Basil I had some successes in Italy including ending the Emirate of Bari, but eastern reconquest would have to await the reign of his grandson Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, as intervening Emperors either chose to focus on the western frontier first or were reluctant to delegate too much power to the Anatolian landowners who pushed for eastern expansion. The Emperor Constantine himself was more a man of letters than a warrior and as such an unlikely candidate for military recovery, but his powerful co-Emperor and father-in-law Romanos I was entirely a different sort of beast. Romanos’ ally John Kourkouas launched offensive campaigns in East Anatolia in the 920s, resulting in the successful conquest of Melitene and recovery of the Mandylion of Edessa. Further advances however were halted on account of power struggles within the court that saw the Romanos and his sons being exiled, weakening the momentum at a crucial juncture.

The pace again peaked under the leadership of Nikepheros Phokas, a scion of an important Cappadocian major land-owning noble family who was appointed Eastern Commander in 953 as a reward for the family’s loyalty to Constantine. His major offensives against the Caliphate in Cilicia and Northern Syria convinced most of the court that the Caliphate was by now a paper tiger which could be dealt with given sufficient resources and leadership. The wary Constantine however was not too willing to hand power to a potential rival after the experience with Romanos and keeping the bloody history of the Empire in mind. His sudden death in 959 changed little, for although his son Romanos II granted sufficient resources to Phokas for the reconquest of Crete, a triumph was nonetheless denied to the successful general once he returned back from his successful mission in 961. It is possible that Romanos in fact was sufficiently frightened to deny Nikepheros sufficient resources for his subsequent Eastern campaign in 962-963 which was marked with successful sackings of Cilician and Syrian cities (including Beroea (2)) but no territorial gains due to lack of manpower.


Nikepheros Phokas
It was however only a temporary setback for Phokas as the twenty six year old Romanos II suddenly died in 963 either from exhaustion from his own sexual depravities or poison from his wife’s hand. He left behind no brothers to claim the throne, and a mostly undistinguished legacy. However, he had been successful in fathering two sons who he had proclaimed as co-Emperors before his death: the three year old Constantine VIII and his elder brother, the five year old Basil II. The Empire however needed firmer hands than that of two children, and dowager Empress Theophano tried to proclaim herself regent with Nikepheros’ support. However, this provoked the ire of the minister Joseph Bringas, who feared loss of influence and thus tried to get the Western commander Marianos Argyros be proclaimed Emperor. He also attempted to convince Strategos John Tzimiskes (a nephew of Nikepheros) to betray his uncle and be made supreme commander in the East. Tzimiskes however went straight to Phokas to pledge his support, causing the Eastern army to proclaim Nikepheros Phokas Emperor and march to Constantinople. The gates of the City were opened to them by a loyalist mob after days of fighting within, in which Argyros had perished. Consequently, Bringas was exiled while Nikepheros married Theophano and was acknowledged as senior Emperor.

A military Emperor on surface enabled the possibility of more conquest, but Phokas was hesitant. His grip in Constantinople was weak and over-reliant on insiders like the eunuch Basil Lekepenos whose agendas did not neatly agree with his. Nikepheros ultimately decided that leaving Constantinople early would be problematic for his reign, and he chose to send his loyal nephew East as commander while he tried to navigate the court (3). In his mind it was a perfect oppurtunity for young John to earn his spurs while the Phokas clan could clear the court up. Brilliant on surface, it proved to be one of the bigger miscalculations of his reign as he provided his nephew with all the resources required and did not try to hobble his career.

John turned out to be successful--perhaps too successful, succeeding in conquering Cilicia before the year was out and marching into Northern Syria in early 964. Simultaneously, the patrician Niketas Chalkoutzes succeeded in seizing Cyprus and thus obtained a naval base for striking at spots within the Levantine coast. Recognizing that the inland Emirate of Beroea was in terminal decline, Tzimiskes struck for Antioch and miraculously succeeded in conquering it in a surprise attack in the winter of 964. He was even able to sack Tripoli in Phoenicia before withdrawing back to Northern Syria, but he had ultimately been able to acquire the port of Laodicea for the Empire, which could be used to launch attacks on cities like Tyre or Caesaria in the future.

Phokas however watched these developments with some amount of alarm. John’s major successes gave him tremendous political clout at a time when his attempts at controlling the court were not going well. John had been loyal so far, and thus there was little reason to antagonize him, but he could potentially become a future problem. Nikepheros also was annoyed by John’s application of the “Phokas doctrine” which involved expelling muslims without even a customary conversion offer. It was quite useful during the raid period by swamping the enemy with refugees but it was catastrophic for the long term economic growth of the purged region, and was thus quite suboptimal for conquest. Cilicia and Northern Syria had been heavily depopulated by the wars, and Phokas felt further expulsion was problematic if the Empire was to hold these areas long term. Nonetheless, being pro-muslim was a surefire way of losing Church support, and so Phokas had to grin and bear it. However, tension between him and John started growing as John kept on asking for more money, including a demand to finance the reconstruction of Antioch which had suffered massive damage from a fire caused by an interfaith riot of large proportions soon after the Empire had seized it.

Phokas’ refusal to fund reconstruction only increased tensions as John moved to gain resources by other means, including a devastating repeat sack of Beroea that all but finished the Emirate there. This immensely displeased the Emperor who wished to use it as a buffer state, but what was done was done. Even a direct order to evacuate the city could not change the fact that it had been damaged beyond repair, and the Emir chose to hide in the mountainous city of Callinicum than actually recover what the Emperor had granted to him. This diplomatic failure allowed Phokas to finally recall John and appoint the Arab Michael Bourtzes governor of the new territories, in the hope of getting a more pragmatic administration [1].

Keeping John in Constantinople away from his army was also problematic as the anti-Phokas faction of the court swarmed to him. Assassination was definitely an option, but Nikepheros never ultimately went through with it: whether on account of kinship or because John had so far not acted against him. An opportunity to use his skills suddenly came up when Phokas’s bastard cousin Manuel failed to make any headway in Sicily and a replacement was needed. John’s name was immediately suggested by many members of the court, and Phokas acquiesced: seeing it as a convenient opportunity to reduce John’s clout. The man had lived all his life in the East and did not understand the subtleties of Italy, making him a convenient scapegoat for any disasters.

It must have therefore come as a shock for him to see John actually make significant headway in Sicily soon after landing in Messina in 966, especially on account of his hardline approach against muslims (by now renamed to be the Tzimiskes doctrine). At first seemed like there would be brief success in Messina and Taormina before expulsion again, but John’s cruelty against muslims led to violent retribution against the Christians on the island, who were uniformly Orthodox. Massive rioting in Syracuse in fact allowed a swift naval conquest of the City, allowing the Romans to dig in the heels and hold the Eastern third of Sicily, aided by local Christian scouts. Turning it into a war to defend the persecuted Orthodox Christians in the Island also earned support from the Patriarchs of both Rome and Constantinople, who pressurized their respective Emperors to assist the noble cause. While little direct support came from Otto I of the German Empire, he nonetheless desisted from making a move against the Southern Italian themes which allowed John to focus entirely on his Sicilian front. Nikepheros was forced to send more money and men on account of heavy pressure from the Patriarchate, even though it seemed like it would only enhance John’s stature.

An angry Phokas decided to return to the field by marching against the Bulgarians in the West in alliance with the Rus Principality of Kiev. The campaign proved to be rather successful at first, bringing back gigantic chunks of the Balkans back to Imperial control in 967-968. However, the Rus were far more successful than planned and it soon seemed like they would not be content with lands north of the Danube alone. While Phokas systematically wore down Comes Nicolas in the West Balkans, Prince Sviatoslav had seized Tsar Boris II himself and was seemingly in control of the Bulgarian Empire. Alarmed, Nikepheros planned to march against the Rus, but was stopped by a sudden sickness that forced him to return to Constantinople and leave command to his brother Leo. Leo made peace with Nicolas and attempted to launch a joint expedition against the Slavs, only to be brutally betrayed and slain at the Gates of Trajan, along with his son and their army. The Slavic hordes were now prepared to march to Constantinople itself, and the ailing Emperor was unable to do much to resist them. Panicked, he recalled John Tzimiskes back once more, only to be told that John was already on the way back, after being crowned Emperor in Italy under the direct auspices of the Patriarch of Rome himself[2]. Desperate, Phokas tried to hold the tide back but was defeated at Adrianople, forcing him to retreat behind the walls of Constantinople. The Slavs wisely did not press against the Theodosian walls, but raided Thrace and Macedonia with impunity. Conceding defeat, Nikepheros had his nose and right thumb amputated off and resigned from office, choosing to retreat to a monastery in Mt Athos before the knives came out. The path was now clear for Tzimiskes to enter the Capital as unopposed senior Emperor in 969 and mark a new beginning for the Empire.

Mainstream Imperial history has not been kind to Nikepheros, viewing him as a raider general more than a successful Emperor. The Phokas doctrine is viewed as his greatest contribution: as a crude, failed model that only became useful with the refinements of Tzimiskes and Basil. Few remember the contemporary label of “White Death of the Saracens” on account of the glories attained by his successors. It is not a particularly fair assessment of the first man who willingly armed his rivals to attain glory for the good of the Empire, instead of hobbling them like his predecessors. By all accounts, including that of his greatest rivals, Nikepheros mostly acted for the good of the state over his personal preferences and therein lay his downfall. Resignation allowed him to save his life, but he deserved considerably better than the pauper’s grave he was fated to lie in--as the first Emperor who oversaw significant military victories against Islam. It is true that he was a failed diplomat and an incompetent administrator, but he shone in military matters and was a committed soldier of the Empire to the end, making sacrifices that no Emperor since Heraclius had made. His few defeats notwithstanding, Nikepheros laid much of the foundations for the millitary successes of his successors, but is seldom recognized for such: the hero the Empire chose to forget.

Notes:
[1]: A vain hope. Bourtzes was a hardliner with all the zeal of a new convert. He was tolerated as he did not provoke war with neighbors, but his forced mass conversions horrified even the Patriarch of Constantinople.
[2]: Emperor of “Greeks” of course, as John had reached an understanding with Otto I regarding spheres of influence in Italy and Imperial brides, which Nikepheros II had rudely refused to the German Emperor. It is suspected that it was a long conspiracy, with Leo Phokas being betrayed by his own men as well as Bulgars, though surviving sources are understandably sketchy about this.


OTL Author notes:
(1): Good mythology for later day Romans to believe in. Almost certainly not true, but they believed this is what was done on Sunday's and lack of sources mean their version got to stick.
(2): Aleppo for OTL peeps.
(3): POD. Phokas himself went East in OTL.
 
How much did John conceed to the Germans regarding the Imperial Title? Did he insist that Otto be called Emperor of the Germans? Because at this point there is no Emperor of the Romans until John is formally crowned in Constantinople?
 
How much did John conceed to the Germans regarding the Imperial Title? Did he insist that Otto be called Emperor of the Germans? Because at this point there is no Emperor of the Romans until John is formally crowned in Constantinople?
cough, cough-Basil and Constantine-cough, cough. There was no debate over titles, although an understanding that both will recognize the other as Roman in the long term, like WRE and ERE. Assuming the deal lasts of course: byzantine foreign policy was interesting.

Concessions similar to OTL actually, seeing Otto's position in Italy was shaky as ever. Apulia and Calabria remain with Empire, while Capua, Benevento and Salerno accept Otto as overlord. In truth the German Emperor wanted Greek troops to leave Italy for Constantinople, where a long civil war would let him seize Apulia and Calabria as well. Phokas resigning however changed that, as western troops were sent back almost immediately.

Oh, and Otto also gets an Imperial bride for his heir out of the deal.
 
:D

Does the multitude of varities within Christianity result in a more tolerant(for inter-faith differences) society pre-human rights etc?

I wonder how it can result in 78% greeks, but I assume there is some heavy colonizing of conquered areas, where soldiers are given (the best)land in exchange for service.
Lastly, what's up with Northern Europe in this tl?

I eagerly await more!!
 
:D

Does the multitude of varities within Christianity result in a more tolerant(for inter-faith differences) society pre-human rights etc?

I wonder how it can result in 78% greeks, but I assume there is some heavy colonizing of conquered areas, where soldiers are given (the best)land in exchange for service.
Lastly, what's up with Northern Europe in this tl?

I eagerly await more!!
Umm, far from it. I am planning this to be a rather bad dystopia, I fear. I would not be too optimistic about about Romans being particularly tolerant: the Phokas/Tzimiskes doctrine for instance heralds pretty bad things to come in the East.

Large land donations in fact did make a heavy contribution to Hellenization, as did a measure of assimilation and ethnic cleansing. A millenium is a long time for changing demographics (OTL Levant post Arab conquest is a decent example).

I fear I'll have to disappoint on the Northern European front, will be mostly ignoring it when it does not affect the Empire :( Sorry...
 
Umm, far from it. I am planning this to be a rather bad dystopia, I fear. I would not be too optimistic about about Romans being particularly tolerant: the Phokas/Tzimiskes doctrine for instance heralds pretty bad things to come in the East.

Large land donations in fact did make a heavy contribution to Hellenization, as did a measure of assimilation and ethnic cleansing. A millenium is a long time for changing demographics (OTL Levant post Arab conquest is a decent example).

I fear I'll have to disappoint on the Northern European front, will be mostly ignoring it when it does not affect the Empire :( Sorry...
The Byzantines were like the Mongol Empire--extremely brutal in warfare, but cosmopolitan and tolerant at peace, compared to their contemporaries. It doesn't seem very in character for them to become essentially a Nazi Greek empire.
 
The Byzantines were like the Mongol Empire--extremely brutal in warfare, but cosmopolitan and tolerant at peace, compared to their contemporaries. It doesn't seem very in character for them to become essentially a Nazi Greek empire.
Contemporaries are a relative thing: Tolerant compared to the Latin west? Probably yes, but not as much as the early Caliphates. That being said, they are at war right now, and are not really showing much eleison if the populace is not willing to beg it from Kyrie every Sunday. Policy mostly set by frontier commanders who have not broken out of their raiding attitude and are not really ready to rule (Phokas opposed Tzimiskes going that extreme for instance, knowing that policy suited for raid is not good for annexation). Not the wisest thing to do long term of course, but they have a siege mentality in mind, and would need rather strong leadership to keep them in check. Leadership unfortunately is more willing to milk it for personal gain than consider long term benefits. Tzimiskes will be singing a different tune once the full weight of the crown hits him, but others might step into his earlier role. There is also a question of how much attitudes will change as this approach generates success.

Also, population transfers is a thing the Empire was known to do quite often for pacification: which I think falls under ethnic cleansing (and is what they are doing now, sort of instead of massacres). Not necessarily sending them to be gassed at concentration camps, but prime ships are not going to be used for the transfers or best physicians be made available.
 
I'm following too many Byzantine timelines and can't keep them straight. I honestly thought this was Age of Miracles until I came back to doublecheck. Still, I'm looking forward to how Byzantium rationalizes conquering Arabia.
 
Contemporaries are a relative thing: Tolerant compared to the Latin west? Probably yes, but not as much as the early Caliphates.
Only the Umayyad Caliphate really, when they tolerated pagan Berbers and Jewish Arabs for a brief period. Other than that, the Byzantines were more tolerant than most of their Christian and Muslim contemporaries. In fact, the Byzantines viewed the Arabs and Persians very fondly for a long time especially in this earlier period.

An excerpt of a letter from the Patriarch Nikolas Mystikos to the Caliph of Baghdad in 855/866:

Two Sovereignties, That of Arabs and of Byzantines, surpass all sovereignties in the world, like the two shining lights in the firmament. For this one reason, if no other, they should be partners and brethren. We ought not, because we are separated in the ways of our lives, our customs and our worship, to be altogether divided nor should we deprive ourselves from communication with one another in default of meeting each other in person. That is the way we ought to think and act, even if no necessity of our affairs compelled us to it.​

In 987/988, Basil II signed a truce with the Fatimids where the Fatimids were recognized as the protectors of Christians under their rule, and the Byzantines recognized as protectors of Muslims under their rule.

A mid-12th century poem by John Tztetzes shows that the Byzantines had a favorable attitude towards Muslims and Catholics at the time. (Although unfortunately anti-Semitic towards Jews). Quoted from this post which references it from Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire.

One finds me Scythian among Scythians, Latin among Latins,
And among any other tribe a member of that folk.
When I embrace a Scythian I accost him in such a way:
"Good day, my lady, good day, my lord:
Salamalek alti, salamalek altugep."
And also to Persians I speak in Persian:
"Good day, my brother, how are you? Where are you from, my friend?
Asan khais kuruparza khaneazar kharandasi?"
To a Latin I speak in the Latin language:
"Welcome, my lord, welcome, my brother:
Bene venesti, domine, bene venesti, frater.
Where are you from, from which theme [province] do you come?
Unde es et de quale provincia venesti?
How have you come, brother, to this city?
Quomodo, frater, venesti in istan civitatem?
On foot, on horse, by sea? Do you wish to stay?
Pezos, caballarius, per mare? Vis morare?"
To Alans I say in their tongue:
"Good day, my lord, my archontissa, where are you from?
Tapankhas mesfili khsina korthi kanda," and so on.
If an Alan lady has a priest as a lover, she will hear such words:
"Aren't you ashamed, my lady, to have a love affair with the priest?
To farnetz kintzi mesfili kaitz fua saunge."
Arabs, since they are Arabs, I address in Arabic:
"Where do you dwell, where are you from, my lady? My lord, good day to you.
Alentamor menende siti mule sepakha."
And also I welcome the Rus according to their habits:
"Be healthy, brother, sister, good day to you.
Sdra, brate, sestritza," and I say "dobra deni."
To Jews I say in a proper manner in Hebrew:
[Anti Semitic bile that I have omitted due to its irrelevance and because its nonsense]
So I talk with all of them in a proper and befitting way;
I know the skill of the best management."​

There was also a mosque in Constantinople, built for the Arab prisoners of war during the Arab-Byzantine wars, and many of the frontier conflicts ended in friendly exchanges and freed prisoners between the Byzantines and Arabs.

That being said, they are at war right now, and are not really showing much eleison if the populace is not willing to beg it from Kyrie every Sunday. Policy mostly set by frontier commanders who have not broken out of their raiding attitude and are not really ready to rule (Phokas opposed Tzimiskes going that extreme for instance, knowing that policy suited for raid is not good for annexation). Not the wisest thing to do long term of course, but they have a siege mentality in mind, and would need rather strong leadership to keep them in check. Leadership unfortunately is more willing to milk it for personal gain than consider long term benefits. Tzimiskes will be singing a different tune once the full weight of the crown hits him, but others might step into his earlier role. There is also a question of how much attitudes will change as this approach generates success.
Well of course, the Byzantines were both Roman and medieval, so they were very brutal on the battlefield against their foes, as their foes were to them. But that doesn't translate into being oppressive at peace (except against Christian heresies). Just look at Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer, who was unusually cruel to the Bulgar army commanded by Khan Samuel, but after the war, tolerated the Bulgarians, giving Bulgarian leaders court and administrative titles and allowing them to join the Byzantine elite. The people of Bulgaria, having no monetary economy, were allowed to pay taxes in kind rather than in coinage, an arrangement that kept the Bulgarians satisfied with Byzantine rule until additional taxes were levied in the late 12th century.

With the Fatimids, Kalbids, and Abbasids, there is no such bad blood but even that did develop, precedent shows that the war itself would be brutal, but the Byzantines would assume a pragmatic policy of integration after the conquest and see the elites of their enemies as equals.

For the Byzantines to try and violently suppress Islam in particular, instead of having a slow policy of peaceful conversion or indirect influence, seems out of character theologically and politically, as well as suicidal for any large empire which would face unrest and revolts.

The only way I could see them going down that path is if the POD was later, after the core of the empire in Greece and Anatolia has gone through more hardship at the hands of the Seljuks, and the Crusaders have also caused chaos and tension. Through extreme brutality one emperor is able to restore the hegemony of a collapsing, nearly destroyed Byzantine Empire which has already faced atrocities from Crusaders and Seljuks. Then the Byzantines might have a more Spain/Reconquista/Expulsion of the Moriscos type worldview.

Also, population transfers is a thing the Empire was known to do quite often for pacification: which I think falls under ethnic cleansing (and is what they are doing now, sort of instead of massacres). Not necessarily sending them to be gassed at concentration camps, but prime ships are not going to be used for the transfers or best physicians be made available.
The Byzantine Empire performed population transfers, but it was generally to strengthen lowly populated regions with extra settlers and soldiers, rather than to remove people, unlike various 19th-century and 20th-century atrocities.
 
Only the Umayyad Caliphate really, when they tolerated pagan Berbers and Jewish Arabs for a brief period. Other than that, the Byzantines were more tolerant than most of their Christian and Muslim contemporaries. In fact, the Byzantines viewed the Arabs and Persians very fondly for a long time especially in this earlier period.
Fair enough, I was not too clear about what I include as "early Caliphates" (Rashidun and Umayyad). That being said I am not entirely convinced that the Byzantines were particularly more tolerant than Abbasids. Any suggested reading on that?

An excerpt of a letter from the Patriarch Nikolas Mystikos to the Caliph of Baghdad in 855/866:

Two Sovereignties, That of Arabs and of Byzantines, surpass all sovereignties in the world, like the two shining lights in the firmament. For this one reason, if no other, they should be partners and brethren. We ought not, because we are separated in the ways of our lives, our customs and our worship, to be altogether divided nor should we deprive ourselves from communication with one another in default of meeting each other in person. That is the way we ought to think and act, even if no necessity of our affairs compelled us to it.​

In 987/988, Basil II signed a truce with the Fatimids where the Fatimids were recognized as the protectors of Christians under their rule, and the Byzantines recognized as protectors of Muslims under their rule.

A mid-12th century poem by John Tztetzes shows that the Byzantines had a favorable attitude towards Muslims and Catholics at the time. (Although unfortunately anti-Semitic towards Jews). Quoted from this post which references it from Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire.

One finds me Scythian among Scythians, Latin among Latins,
And among any other tribe a member of that folk.
When I embrace a Scythian I accost him in such a way:
"Good day, my lady, good day, my lord:
Salamalek alti, salamalek altugep."
And also to Persians I speak in Persian:
"Good day, my brother, how are you? Where are you from, my friend?
Asan khais kuruparza khaneazar kharandasi?"
To a Latin I speak in the Latin language:
"Welcome, my lord, welcome, my brother:
Bene venesti, domine, bene venesti, frater.
Where are you from, from which theme [province] do you come?
Unde es et de quale provincia venesti?
How have you come, brother, to this city?
Quomodo, frater, venesti in istan civitatem?
On foot, on horse, by sea? Do you wish to stay?
Pezos, caballarius, per mare? Vis morare?"
To Alans I say in their tongue:
"Good day, my lord, my archontissa, where are you from?
Tapankhas mesfili khsina korthi kanda," and so on.
If an Alan lady has a priest as a lover, she will hear such words:
"Aren't you ashamed, my lady, to have a love affair with the priest?
To farnetz kintzi mesfili kaitz fua saunge."
Arabs, since they are Arabs, I address in Arabic:
"Where do you dwell, where are you from, my lady? My lord, good day to you.
Alentamor menende siti mule sepakha."
And also I welcome the Rus according to their habits:
"Be healthy, brother, sister, good day to you.
Sdra, brate, sestritza," and I say "dobra deni."
To Jews I say in a proper manner in Hebrew:
[Anti Semitic bile that I have omitted due to its irrelevance and because its nonsense]
So I talk with all of them in a proper and befitting way;
I know the skill of the best management."​

There was also a mosque in Constantinople, built for the Arab prisoners of war during the Arab-Byzantine wars, and many of the frontier conflicts ended in friendly exchanges and freed prisoners between the Byzantines and Arabs.
Sounds realpolitik to me. Had a look at the stackexchange post and it seems like the letter was more to stop closure of Eastern Churches due to rumors about the closure of the Constantinople Mosque. The Abbasids had also not become total jokes yet, and Byzantine military projection ability at that time was wholly inadequate to settle the issue, leaving diplomacy as the only reply. Similarly, Basil had to deal with a bunch of rebellions and chose to fight Bulgars over the Arabs, making treaties like that practical. A more aggressive Empire might choose a different route to handle the issue. Call me cynical, but I can see the Byzantines being capable of quite some evil if commanding officer felt the situation demanded it, or there was a chance to profit significantly from it.

I'm currently travelling (and thus away from my books) but a quick Wikipedia look mentions that John Kourkouas in OTL expelled non-Christians from Mellitene after a rebellion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kourkouas, sources cited include Treadgold and Runciman, so I am taking that at face-value) after an initially tolerant policy. Perhaps learning from this (or just frustration?) Nikepheros Phokas apparently either massacred Muslim residents or Chandax or sold them to slavery (Treadgold has been cited). His eastern campaigns too were marked by expulsion (or "safe passage") of muslims as per this article (which I think also cites Treadgold, along with others). While I have no doubt that many periods in Imperial history were marked by tolerance, this particular time probably was not one of them. Additionally, it was probably easier for the Romans to be OK with a mosque for traders at the heart of Constantinople, than leave a strong Islamic minority/plurality in Eastern border regions to act as a fifth column for their co-religionist states.

Well of course, the Byzantines were both Roman and medieval, so they were very brutal on the battlefield against their foes, as their foes were to them. But that doesn't translate into being oppressive at peace (except against Christian heresies). Just look at Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer, who was unusually cruel to the Bulgar army commanded by Khan Samuel, but after the war, tolerated the Bulgarians, giving Bulgarian leaders court and administrative titles and allowing them to join the Byzantine elite. The people of Bulgaria, having no monetary economy, were allowed to pay taxes in kind rather than in coinage, an arrangement that kept the Bulgarians satisfied with Byzantine rule until additional taxes were levied in the late 12th century.

With the Fatimids, Kalbids, and Abbasids, there is no such bad blood but even that did develop, precedent shows that the war itself would be brutal, but the Byzantines would assume a pragmatic policy of integration after the conquest and see the elites of their enemies as equals.

For the Byzantines to try and violently suppress Islam in particular, instead of having a slow policy of peaceful conversion or indirect influence, seems out of character theologically and politically, as well as suicidal for any large empire which would face unrest and revolts.

The only way I could see them going down that path is if the POD was later, after the core of the empire in Greece and Anatolia has gone through more hardship at the hands of the Seljuks, and the Crusaders have also caused chaos and tension. Through extreme brutality one emperor is able to restore the hegemony of a collapsing, nearly destroyed Byzantine Empire which has already faced atrocities from Crusaders and Seljuks. Then the Byzantines might have a more Spain/Reconquista/Expulsion of the Moriscos type worldview.
I don't disagree with this (although I think a couple of anti-Semitic persecutions happened under Basil I and Tzimiskes OTL). However, there is one crucial point to be noted: Peace has not yet been achieved on the Eastern frontier. It's slow war, but it is still war which allows atrocities to happen-augmented by the difference in religion. Hate to divulge future plans, but the Empire TTL _will_ go down the peaceful assimilation route once the borders in the East stabilize and it feels comfortable enough to exploit the local economy by stopping persecutions. Which can take a while, as Basil's Bulgarian war shows (that was what, 50 years long? At least 18 going from the final campaigns in 1000-1018). But yes, long term there is no other way, until numbers drop so much that alternative means be tried.

Also, regarding the bad blood part: there is a non-trivial amount of source exaggeration and interpolation of future anti-Islamic animus. The way I am trying to write this is by attempting to see how 2016 TTL people see the past, and they know that there is a rather long and bloody history between Rome and Islam (it gets better and then worse, and then becomes much much worse), leading to a tendency to view the past through their eyes. People (incorrectly if I may add) tend to extrapolate the impact of the 7th Century crisis to conclude that 10-11th century Romans were more anti-Islam than they actually were. I'll also add that a lot of the Armenian and Eastern Christian elements in the Roman army might have an entirely different worldview than the Constantinopolitan nobility.

Plus, I am trying to write a dystopia and so will be making things worse as much as I can, intentionally (not to ASB levels, say only things with 10-20% chance at least of happening will happen).

The Byzantine Empire performed population transfers, but it was generally to strengthen lowly populated regions with extra settlers and soldiers, rather than to remove people, unlike various 19th-century and 20th-century atrocities.
Hm. Pretty sure that Macedonian Emperors forcibly moved Paulicans into the Balkans fearing that they were collaborating with Muslims, and I also recall reading that Slavs were pushed into Anatolia for pacification (Peter Charanis says this in http://rbedrosian.com/Ref/Charanis/Charanis_CSSH_1961_Population_Transfer.pdf). In any case, this page on Michael Bourtzes mentions him deporting Arabs to Anatolia, which was unlikely to be lowly populated at that time. Agree economic reasons were important, but does not mean it could not be used for other things. Moving muslims to Thrace away from other muslims gives pressure to assimilate, while placing Orthodox Bulgars in a land filled with heretics and infidels with a Greek Bishop in charge could push hellenization.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top