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

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I'm unfamiliar on the details but is Romania a Constitutional Monarchy in 2016 ITTL? Or something else entirely?
It is explicitly Basileia ton Romaion and not Politeia ton Romaion. In theory the Emperor has unlimited power but in practice that power is seldom used. The system could be more accurately described as Oligocratic where a small group of people (appointed by the Emperor) form a core executive committee that runs the country on behalf of the Emperor (kinda not unlike the British Privy Council). The Senate exists and is the major legislative organ of the Empire (closer to the British House of Commons/American House of Representatives than the American Senate) as it has been empowered by the Emperor (and not the other way around).
The core group (Curia) consist on the following people:

1. Senate majority (or in any case, pluralilty) leader-who is by custom appointed to be Chief Secretary of the Emperor (Prime Minister popularly).
2. The Secretaries for Finance, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense (all need to be confirmed by a majority of Senators present and voting and can be removed by the same way). The majority leader thus has enormous say in who gets these positions, though they need to get a majority vote in the Senate.
3. The leader of Opposition in the Senate.
4. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
5. A representative each from the last two governments (generally the Prime Minister of the day but they can nominate another person who held a position described in point 2). Sometimes these posts are empty due to deaths, and the government instead nominates people. Traditionally those nominations have been leaders of large opposition parties which are not the principal Opposition.
6. The Prefects of Aegean, Aegyptus, Asia, Europe and Oriens, along with the Urban prefect of the straits area (i.e. Constantinople, Chalcedon, Nikomedia and Ilion). They are elected either via direct vote (Constantinople) or by virtue of having majorities in the Prefectural Senate

The government thus has a guaranteed near majority (five cabinet officers and it is safe to assume that at least 3 out of the six regional prefects come from the majority party as elections happen at the same time-giving 8 out of 15), but the opposition is well represented.

There is no concept of Senatorial supremacy like Parliamentary supremacy in the UK Indeed, the Senate serves at the pleasure of the Emperor. However, there was once a failed republican experiment (Komnenos is descended from political exiles once the Politeia collapsed and the Basileia restored) that makes Emperors very wary of actually doing anything controversial. Better to remain a revered symbol of state and offer advice when requested than risk another rise of republicanism.

Paul Atreides wouldn't happen to be the son of one Leto, would it?

'fraid not. He is just a film actor who turned to Christ later in life and became Prime Minister. No supernatural powers anywhere, I am afraid-aside from forming a religion based government in a highly secular state where the theocratia is held up as an example of what not to do. Lasted only a term but the consequences were deeper.
(I liked Kyle Mclachlan's picture of Paul Atreides on wikipedia and decided to have a character of that name in the story.)
 
I liked that present day point of view. Would like to read more into it. Like how the city looks are there any colonies. How bout a map showing this future.
 
I liked that present day point of view. Would like to read more into it. Like how the city looks are there any colonies. How bout a map showing this future.

Tentative map of regions that elect Senators here:


The first page has another one with other countries. Stuff there is somewhat tentative but can be taken as canon at the moment.

Im being cagey about colonies for a reason, that time period is a long way off and I don't want to box myself in. The line about "Age of Empires" is very true though-this is not a world defined by nation states as it is by Empires (the big three being Rome, Russia and China-two of which are OTL surviving Empires in all but name) which may be "republican".

About Constantinople itself-huh, making figures is hard and I suck at describing visual things. Most of the city is your standard densely packed city that absorbed Chalcedon, Chrysopolis and even Nikomedia. Old Constantinople however is a historical heritage site, with the government and university owning most of the property there. Stuff like Holy Sepulcher, Hormisdas Palace etc are still standing. Big highlight would be a massive bronze statue of Constantine I standing in the old harbor of Theodosios. For maximum irony, let's have a plaque with the following inscription on it:

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
Our mighty Emperor with a sword, whose tip
Is imprisoned lightning.
Constantine! Equal of the Apostles!
Cries he from his silent lips. “Give me your persecuted,
unwashed, poor huddled masses seeking safety,
The unwanted exiles of your teeming shore.
Barbarian! Send these, your refuse to me,
or face my sword in their defense!”

This is actually serious btw-Romania does accept lots of refugees and has for the past couple of centuries. There are not too many paths to citizenship, but yeah-much better than genocide. The threat is not quite empty either. Alt-Persia tried an Armenian genocide sometime and well, the country has not quite recovered from the experience of having the Empire intervene. The Empire sees itself as a defender of civilization and oppressed people (well, when it is not the one doing the oppression), although the desire to be world's policeman is actually not that high.
 
Also, how many of you got the significance of the bit about "Christ the Emperor" statue?
So the empire is now a 40k style empire where the emperor's 'incapacitated' and a council is ruling on behalf of this 'emperor',who is also Jesus Christ?
 
That image isn't working. Here's a fixed link:
Thanks! No idea what happened with that post-but really appreciate that you caught and fixed it.

So the empire is now a 40k style empire where the emperor's 'incapacitated' and a council is ruling on behalf of this 'emperor',who is also Jesus Christ?

Uh, I may have given the wrong idea. The bit in question was:
"And there is the great masterpiece!" cried William. "Christ as Emperor".
The statue itself was quite small, and not particularly remarkable as a work of art. Yet this was considered a main draw for the complex by most, and I drew closer to see what the fuss was about.
Proximity however did little to change my opinion on that. Jesus was sitting on a throne, garbed in the standard medieval Imperial apparel. The whole thing was barely six inches tall and was visibly composed of fragments stuck together. Extremely unremarkable for a political hot potato.
"Isn't it a beauty", crooned William.
"I suppose so, " I said, moving on to see the dome mosaic which was far more impressive. Basil definitely had better craftsmen than Constantine Palaiologos, and it showed.

So the thing in question is just a small statue of Christ, garbed in Imperial attire and sitting on the throne. Don't think I actually gave enough clues though: it was commissioned out of certain spoils of war to celebrate the ultimate triumph over Empire's worst foe.
 
So the thing in question is just a small statue of Christ, garbed in Imperial attire and sitting on the throne. Don't think I actually gave enough clues though: it was commissioned out of certain spoils of war to celebrate the ultimate triumph over Empire's worst foe.

Oh, right.

They carved a statue of Christ out of the black stone of the Kaaba. That's quite a beautiful symbolic statement :)

I see why some Muslims might be slightly annoyed by this, though.
 
New Equilibrium (1018-1024)
Chapter 8: The New Equilibrium

It has often been argued by historians that the system of governance in the 10th-11th century Empire was extremely Emperor centric, with the Autokrator intervening in most matters of governance. This was however most certainly not true in the 1006-1018 period, with Emperor Basil being involved in the conquest of Egypt and the subsequent pacification. Any plans for the Emperor’s return to Constantinople were nixed when the physicians recommended the warmer weather of Egypt for Empress Helena, who was paralyzed from waist down from an injury sustained in the battle of Edessa. In a manner highly uncharacteristic of a man who had spent his whole life ignoring the demands of his family in favor of the needs of the state, Basil himself decided to stay with his wife in Egypt. Contemporary historians had not criticized his decision overmuch (it must also be noted that nearly all of them owed many favors to the Emperor), but their relative silence about his role in governing Egypt (versus the attention paid to Xiphias and Komnenos) speaks volumes. However, it must also be noted that there is a possibility that those accounts were written in a manner to ensure the Emperor did not get the blame for the massive mismanagement of Egypt under Xiphias’ rule (he was presented as more active in the Komnenos years by most sources). Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Paul of Kallinikos was lying when he mentioned the Emperor taking care of his wife as if he was her servant “in a manner consistent with his simple lifestyle”. Their grandson Basil had also noted the tenderness of their relationship in his later letters, lamenting that it was not a joy either of his parents had known.

The Emperor’s absence from the capital was not as problematic as it might appear on the surface. The fastest ships of the Empire carried instructions from him to his ministers in Constantinople, and his unambitious brother Constantine served in the ceremonial role in the capital, as he often had when Basil was campaigning. In fact, several historians had argued that it allowed the bureaucracy to mature and be somewhat independent of the Autokrator. There were no coups due to the personal popularity of the Emperor, and most ministers were content to run the affairs with the usual efficiency without objections. A substantial stress had been imposed by the population transfers to Egypt, but the chief minister Stephen of Baghdad had been able to get that system running somewhat efficiently with considerable expense and difficulty. Overall, governance had not suffered a lot from the Emperor’s absence as the state agents did not try to push their luck too much in the absence of oversight. Quality of life was indeed noted to have gone down, but it was mostly due to larger fiscal demands than a deep systemic rot in the administration.

Nonetheless, that state of affairs came to an end in 1018 when the Empress did not wake up at all. Her devastated husband ordered the construction of a massive mausoleum for her in Egypt (the only major architectural undertaking in his reign-which we today see as the Helanaeum of Alexandria), and packed up to return to Constantinople after being prodded by his now nineteen year old grandson. He soon discovered that he was redundant with respect to running the Emperor, although his orders were heeded immediately and he was given all his due deference. Twenty years earlier no one would have expected that he’d not be directly involved with tax policy and subsidies to foreign governments, but now he was consulted only before the final execution, with the new men in the government having worked things out earlier. His letters to Alexander Komnenos note an increasing bitterness about this as he found that his ideas seemed to be less effective than the projects the new minds had planned, and his attempts to impose his will went unopposed but yielded worse results than the plans he had rejected. This had caused him to withdraw from public life and leave most of the responsibilities to his grandson, who regularly took his grandfather’s place in court. Forever a soldier, he yearned to be free to wage war without the fiscal constraints imposed by the need to assimilate his conquests. And yet he knew it was impossible, noting that he had stopped his younger son Michael from conquering chunks of Mesopotamia beyond what the Empire already had, much to the latter’s chagrin.

Basil nonetheless was on the same page as his ministers when it came to the dynatoi. The Armenian raids had weakened them, and the ability of their tenants to migrate to Egypt had effectively dealt a death blow to most of their estates. The decline in the overall number of Anatolian thematic forces in favor of tagma troops had accelerated their decline in influence. The final nail in their coffin came in the form of a general land ceiling law in 1021 that prohibited ownership of plots larger than what was required to feed a family of ten (with the exact sizes to be assessed in each area for fertility). A provision was made to allow transfer of extra land to the owner’s children if there were any, but otherwise all extra land was to return to the state. Careful exceptions were carved out for Mesopotamia and non-coastal Levant to prevent unrest there, but there was no mercy for Anatolian landowners. This catalyzed a desperate attempt of a revolt under the leadership of the disgraced Nikepheros Xiphias and the last members of the Phokas clan, before Kaisar Michael brought in his Assyrian troops from Mesopotamia to put all the resisting lords and their retainers to the sword. Seeing first hand that he was no longer even needed for waging war, Basil prepared to abdicate his throne in favor of his grandson. There were some issues in the succession nonetheless-Constantine VIII was nominally the next in line, although he was pliable without much of a personality, and Basil the Younger was his heir too. Emperor Basil’s eldest son John the Drunkard had drunk himself to death in 1019 (though rumours of poisoning by kouropalates Samuel persisted for long, with some even suggesting the Emperor had himself given the command to clear the path for John’s son Basil the Younger) but his younger brother Michael lived and was a successful commander in the Mesopotamian front. Emperor Basil had long resolved not to leave the Empire to his younger son (who he felt was not intelligent enough) but he nonetheless was quite popular with the army, creating a potential recipe for a crisis.

The problem however fortunately sorted itself out with Michael marrying his Assyrian mistress after his long suffering wife passed away in 1022[1]. There were long standing rumours that he himself had converted to Nestorianism and his rapid remarriage in an Assyrian church before his wife’s burial had antagonized the Chalcedonian hierarchy considerably. Basil used that excuse to convince Michael to send his eldest son Christopher to Constantinople (ostensibly to ensure he was brought up Orthodox), where he became a cupbearer for his cousin Basil the Younger. Carefully orchestrated subsequent rumors of Michael going “native” killed off most of his support with the Greek officer class, indicating that skipping him in the succession would not be viewed as negatively as it might have been earlier. The Kaisar wisely did not attempt to push his luck much further after Alexander Komnenos was recalled from Egypt to be Domestic of Anatolia, since the latter was both a staunch supporter of Basil the Younger (who had been Komnenos’ protege in Egypt) and the man most popular with the army. The Aegean elite of the Empire were solidly behind Basil the Younger, while Michael himself had aided the destruction of his only potential allies-the East Anatolian dynatoi.

Basil III was proclaimed as junior Emperor on the same standing with Basil II and Constantine VIII on April 24th of 1023 in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, with all the dignitaries of the Empire (and some from abroad) in attendance, including his uncle the Kaisar Michael. The Kaisar was compensated with virtually unchecked freedom in Mesopotamia (in the form of a hereditary Duchy) and a large annual cash subsidy to protect the eastern borders of the Empire. The writ of the younger Emperor however ran de-facto absolute in all other lands, and Basil II finally felt confident to formally retire in 1024-only the second Emperor to have done so willingly and the first since Diocletian.

The former Emperor did not move into a monastery or a large palace, as one might have thought. Eternally a man of action, he set off from Egypt with a fleet of ten ships to explore the East, accompanied by many of the veterans of his wars (and the unfortunate German Emperor). His eventual fate remains unclear as there are no confirmed records of his fleet going beyond Taprobane, though multiple legends in India , South-East Asia and China say that he eventually wound up on those shores. The government in Constantinople had never confirmed nor denied any of these rumors The closest had been Empress Alexandra referring to Emperor Taizu of the Sheng as “brother” though Constantinopolitan court officials categorically stated that it was not because of the supposed familial connection arising Chinese Emperor’s claim of being descended from Basil. Their eastern counterparts however saw it differently, but Constantinople never acknowledged any other blood descendants of the Emperor save those within the Empire itself. The Empire today strikes a delicate balance between respecting local claims (impossible to deny due to later infusion of Greek blood in many localities) and accepting that their beloved Emperor lies in the bottom of the ocean (or a cannibal’s stomach) somewhere. The only official statement on the matter comes from the Theokratia when Patriarch Andrew I proclaimed that the Lord had created a straight path to heaven for Basil’s ships, through which they had passed from this world to the next. The modern, secular government has issued no statements on the matter and had let the earlier proclamation stand, to keep the veil of mystique around their beloved Basileos Megas.

Sadly enough, marine archaeology has so far not uncovered any evidence otherwise.



An artist's impression of the Emperor sailing from Berenike on the Red Sea.

Vasilas' notes:
[1] Helped along by the mistress of course.
 
And so ends the story of Basileos II. Not of the Empire of course, bigger challenges lie ahead. The Turks are coming and will get there reasonably soon (say 1-2 updates). It is to be seen if this triumph of the Empire is as hollow as Heraclius' had been.
 
I highly doubt any Chinese emperor would ever claim that he was a descendant of a foreigner if they could help it--except through the female line maybe,but even then it's not saying they would try to boast about.The Li Imperial family of the Tang Dynasty spent much effort trying to cover up the fact their ancestors were not Hans--going as far as to claim that they descended from the Han Dynasty general Li Guang and Laozi.

Is Xi'an supposed to be capital of China in this timeline?If it is,I think the rulers of China would have reverted the city back to it's old name of Chang'an since renaming the city Xian to begin with was more or less an attempt to diminish the city's status after the capital was moved elsewhere.Not that I actually recommend Xian as capital--since over farming during the Tang Dynasty made the area around Xian dry and barren,making it difficult to supply as a capital city.
 
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I highly doubt any Chinese emperor would ever claim that he was a descendant of a foreigner if they could help it--except through the female line maybe,but even then it's not saying they would try to boast about.The Li Imperial family of the Tang Dynasty spent much effort trying to cover up the fact their ancestors were not Hans--going as far as to claim that they descended from the Han Dynasty general Li Guang and Laozi.
I agree an 11th century Emperor would not even contemplate this in any form. However, a later Emperor may sing a different tune (certainly not domestically, but when it comes to trying to get concessions from a "sister" ) depending on circumstances at that point (plus someone might not be able to avoid family ties-let's say family X trades with west and uses this claim with Roman merchants, then circumstances make someone from family X who is now a farmer Emperor. Covering up can only go so far.). And yeah, the supposed claim is via the female line (else someone might just ask-well, why isn't your name Makedon then?)

Is Xi'an supposed to be capital of China in this timeline?If it is,I think the rulers of China would have reverted the city back to it's old name of Chang'an since renaming the city Xian to begin with was more or less an attempt to diminish the city's status after the capital was moved elsewhere.Not that I actually recommend Xian as capital--since over farming during the Tang Dynasty made the area around Xian dry and barren,making it difficult to supply as a capital city.

Nope, capital is not Xian. The city is still of historical interest (courtesy a certain someone who got buried nearby) and that's why the modern POV person is visiting. Im a tad torn between whether the capital is at Beijing and Nanjing (it'll be Beijing for the last part of the Imperial era, but then I am wondering if the new system will move it or not).
 
I agree an 11th century Emperor would not even contemplate this in any form. However, a later Emperor may sing a different tune (certainly not domestically, but when it comes to trying to get concessions from a "sister" ) depending on circumstances at that point (plus someone might not be able to avoid family ties-let's say family X trades with west and uses this claim with Roman merchants, then circumstances make someone from family X who is now a farmer Emperor. Covering up can only go so far.). And yeah, the supposed claim is via the female line (else someone might just ask-well, why isn't your name Makedon then?)



Nope, capital is not Xian. The city is still of historical interest (courtesy a certain someone who got buried nearby) and that's why the modern POV person is visiting. Im a tad torn between whether the capital is at Beijing and Nanjing (it'll be Beijing for the last part of the Imperial era, but then I am wondering if the new system will move it or not).
Unless the regime's a barbarian regime turned Constitutional monarchy--there are a number of ideal locations for a capital.

If it's a maritime regime,the capital will most likely be in Nanjing,but Nanjing suffers from the fact that it has poor communication with North-West China since it's so much farther to the South-East.The other good locations for a capital would be Wuhan,Xiangyang,Luoyang or Kaifeng.Kaifeng was a major trade node since it's just next to the grand canal and it's the capital of the Song Dynasty--the problem with Kaifeng was that it's rather indefensible in a war since the whole city's just situated on a massive plain.Luoyang's a good capital in the sense that it's the capital of numerous dynasties(or at least served as a secondary capital),situated in the center of China and has eight passes that could defend the enemies against.Wuhan,like Nanjing's also situated along the Yangtze which made it relatively easily to supply and is in a far more center position than Nanjing.Xiangyang was proposed thrice as a capital in the history of China because it's highly defensible(given it's surrounded by a number of mountains and that it actually resisted the Mongols IOTL for a total of six years and only surrendered due to lack of starvation),it's at the crossroads between a number of important places like Sichuan,Luoyang and Southern China as well as being connected to the Yangtze River through the Han River,which made it easy to supply.The fact that Beijing became capital was due to a myriad of factors rather than it being a good capital.

Beijing was a 'good' capital in the sense that for the CCP,the receive legitimacy by using the capital of China for the past six hundred years as capital--not to mention Beijing being close to the USSR which was a major ally at the time of the PRC's formation.For the Ming Dynasty,it was a 'good' capital in the sense that the man who usurped the throne(Yongle) needed to be in a place where he is most secure not to mention where he has direct control over most over his armies--Beijing served this for Yongle as it was his fief before he usurped the throne and that from Beijing he could direct and control most of his armies more securely as the city's basically just at the frontier.Meanwhile,Beijing's a 'good' capital for barbarian regimes like the (Jin,Yuan and Qing Dynasties) because it's close to the steppe where they can get the fuck out easily if Chinese rebelled.

Otherwise,Beijing's not a good capital in the sense that it's ridiculously close to the enemy(a good number of barbarians were able to gain an upper hand in negotiations simply because they could easily threaten Beijing as opposed to a more southern capital like Nanjing),it's also quite hard to supply Beijing as it's so far up the north where agricultural produce are not optimum and that grain has to be imported from the south from shipments(which was an enormous burden upon the finances of the Ming Dynasty).Despite being situated just next to a river,Beijing suffers from water supply problems.It also suffers from things like sandstorms.It's actually so bad that there's increasingly frequent talks about moving to capital to Xiangyang in modern times.
 
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Basil III was proclaimed as junior Emperor on the same standing with Basil II and Constantine VIII on April 24th of 1023 in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, with all the dignitaries of the Empire (and some from abroad) in attendance, including his uncle the Kaisar Michael. The Kaisar was compensated with virtually unchecked freedom in Mesopotamia (in the form of a hereditary Duchy) and a large annual cash subsidy to protect the eastern borders of the Empire. The writ of the younger Emperor however ran de-facto absolute in all other lands, and Basil II finally felt confident to formally retire in 1024-only the second Emperor to have done so willingly and the first since Diocletian.
Giving a branch of the Imperial family full autonomy over such rich lands still seems like a recipe for Civil War. But then again, they're right in the path of a Turkish invasion, very small window for any shenanigans.
 
Giving a branch of the Imperial family full autonomy over such rich lands still seems like a recipe for Civil War. But then again, they're right in the path of a Turkish invasion, very small window for any shenanigans.
Could go both ways.A hereditary Macedonian duchy would mean that any potential non-Macedonian pretender would have to think twice before they try to usurp the throne.In my opinion,one of the major reasons why none of the other Roman Dynasties lasted as long as the Palaiologian Dynasty was that the Palaiologians were quite into giving out fiefs to family members.
 
Unless the regime's a barbarian regime turned Constitutional monarchy--there are a number of ideal locations for a capital.

If it's a maritime regime,the capital will most likely be in Nanjing,but Nanjing suffers from the fact that it has poor communication with North-West China since it's so much farther to the South-East.The other good locations for a capital would be Wuhan,Xiangyang,Luoyang or Kaifeng.Kaifeng was a major trade node since it's just next to the grand canal and it's the capital of the Song Dynasty--the problem with Kaifeng was that it's rather indefensible in a war since the whole city's just situated on a massive plain.Luoyang's a good capital in the sense that it's the capital of numerous dynasties(or at least served as a secondary capital),situated in the center of China and has eight passes that could defend the enemies against.Wuhan,like Nanjing's also situated along the Yangtze which made it relatively easily to supply and is in a far more center position than Nanjing.Xiangyang was proposed thrice as a capital in the history of China because it's highly defensible(given it's surrounded by a number of mountains and that it actually resisted the Mongols IOTL for a total of six years and only surrendered due to lack of starvation),it's at the crossroads between a number of important places like Sichuan,Luoyang and Southern China as well as being connected to the Yangtze River through the Han River,which made it easy to supply.The fact that Beijing became capital was due to a myriad of factors rather than it being a good capital.

Beijing was a 'good' capital in the sense that for the CCP,the receive legitimacy by using the capital of China for the past six hundred years as capital--not to mention Beijing being close to the USSR which was a major ally at the time of the PRC's formation.For the Ming Dynasty,it was a 'good' capital in the sense that the man who usurped the throne(Yongle) needed to be in a place where he is most secure not to mention where he has direct control over most over his armies--Beijing served this for Yongle as it was his fief before he usurped the throne and that from Beijing he could direct and control most of his armies more securely as the city's basically just at the frontier.Meanwhile,Beijing's a 'good' capital for barbarian regimes like the (Jin,Yuan and Qing Dynasties) because it's close to the steppe where they can get the fuck out easily if Chinese rebelled.

Otherwise,Beijing's not a good capital in the sense that it's ridiculously close to the enemy(a good number of barbarians were able to gain an upper hand in negotiations simply because they could easily threaten Beijing as opposed to a more southern capital like Nanjing),it's also quite hard to supply Beijing as it's so far up the north where agricultural produce are not optimum and that grain has to be imported from the south from shipments(which was an enormous burden upon the finances of the Ming Dynasty).Despite being situated just next to a river,Beijing suffers from water supply problems.It also suffers from things like sandstorms.It's actually so bad that there's increasingly frequent talks about moving to capital to Xiangyang in modern times.

Thanks for the detailed analysis! The last dynasty kept Beijing as the capital because of precisely the reason you mentioned about the barbarian dynasties needing a fast exit route. I'll have the capital moved to Xiangyang in the post imperial period (unless I get another crazy inspiration that doesn't get knocked out of me) since you make a very strong case for it over Nanjing. The sandstorms bit was completely new to me, things you learn every day :)
 
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