The Amalingian Empire: The Story of the Gothic-Roman Empire

  • The Introduction

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo [FN1]
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964
    Having once made up my mind to set to parchment the life of my patron and friend, Theodemir the Great, King of the Goths and Emperor of Rome, it became my desire to be as faithful to the man as possible. In the years since his death, a great many legends and myths have emerged, and they do a great disservice to the man. For, that is what he was, and remained through his life. A great man, the greatest since Caesar, I have no doubt, and one of great faith in our heavenly Father, but a man all the same. And so, it shall set down the stories as he told me, as I witnessed, and as I have been told by those who knew him well. In doing so, I do not aspire to reach the levels of eloquence set by the great fathers of literature, for I am but a simple servant and have no desire to promote the name of Wulfila, but only to glorify Theodemir. I pray to God that I am capable of this task, and that no lies, intentional or not, shall fall from my pen.
    I am sure that there are many men of leisure and learning who feel that the history of this present age should not be neglected and that the many events which are happening in our own lifetime should not be held unworthy of record and be permitted to sink into silence and oblivion. On the contrary, these men are so filled with a desire for immortality that they prefer, I know, to set out the noble deeds of their contemporaries in writing which may well have no great merit, rather than permit their own name and reputation to disappear from the memory of future generations by writing nothing at all. However, that may be, I have decided that I myself should not refuse to write a book of this kind, for I am very conscious of the fact that no one can describe these events more accurately than I, for I was present when they took place and, as they say, I saw them with my own eyes. What is more, I cannot be absolutely sure that these happenings will in fact ever be described by anyone else. I have there decided that it would be better to record these events myself for the information of posterity, even though there is a chance that they may be repeated in other histories, rather than allow the extraordinary life of this more remarkable emperor, the greatest man of all of those living in his own period, to sink into the shades of oblivion, together with his outstanding achievements, which can scarcely be matched by modern man.
    Another reason had occurred to me and this, I think, not an irrational one. Even by itself it would have been sufficient to compel me to write what follows. I mean the care which Theodemir took in my upbringing, and the friendly relations which I enjoyed with him and his children from the moment when I first egan to live at his court. By this friendship he found me to him and made me his debtor both in life and death. I should indeed seem ungrateful, and rightly could be condemned as such, if I so far forgot the benefits he conferred upon me as to pass over in silence the outstanding and most remarkable deeds of a man who was kind to me, suffering him to remain unchronicled and unpraised, just as if he had never lived.
    My own meager talent, small and insignificant, nonexistent almost, is no equal to writing this life and setting it out in full. What was needed was the literary skill of a Cicero. But, in his wisdom, God has seen fit to give his servant few of the skills needed for this task. As they say, the lord builds great things from dull tools. I pray, again, that my own meager talents shall be enough to do him justice in my assigned task.
    Here then you have a book which perpetuates the memory of the greatest and most distinguished of men. There is nothing to marvel at in it beyond Theodemir’s own deeds, except perhaps the fact that I, not a Roman by birth and a man but little versed in the tongue of the Romans, should have imagined that I could compose anything acceptable and suitable in the style of the Latin histories, and that I should have pushed my impudence so far as to scorn the advice given by Cicero in Book I of the Tusculanae Dispurariones. Speaking about Latin authors, he says that, as you can read for yourself: “For a man to commit his thoughts to writing when he can neither arrange them nor bring any new light to bear upon them, and, indeed, when he has no attraction whatsoever to offer to his reader, is a senseless waste of time, and of paper too.” This distinguished orator’s advice would certainly have deterred me from writing had I not made up m mind to risk being condemned by other men and endanger my own small reputation by setting these matters down, rather than preserve my reputation at the expense of the memory of so famous a man. [FN2]
    Book I: The Early Amalings
    The Amalings, of whom the Goths have long been accustomed to choosing their kings, descended from a great man who earned the name Amala, which means the mighty. It was from the children of Amala that the Gothic people have reached their greatness in power. Following the death of the great Ermanerick, the Goths broke into two. The East Goths, who remained loyal to the Amalings, fell under the sway of the Huns, while the West Goths fled from the plains of their home under the Baltilings and come into the land of the Romans.
    After the death of Attila the Great, and the collapse of the Huns, the Goths under the Amalings continued to prosper on the European plains, beyond the borders of the Romans. It was during this time that Theoderic came to power after the death of his father, Theodemir the First. After nearly twenty years of rule, Theoderic invaded Italy at the request of Zeno, the Roman Emperor of the East. Italy had fallen under the sway of the wicked and vile Odoacer.
    Theoderic led the Goths into Italy and quickly subdued the land, agreeing to hold it for the Emperor Zeno. Shortly after, Theoderic married the Queen Audofleda, sister to Clovis of the Franks. It is told that Audofleda had been a pagan before her marriage, but due to his great piety, Theoderic convinced her to see the light of the true faith, and she accepted God and his Son into her life. Because of their faith, God granted Theoderic and Audofleda’s wish, and the queen soon bore the king two children; first Amalsuntha, who deeds and end will be recounted later, and Theodemir who was born 496 years after the birth of our savior, or the year 1249 according to the founding of Rome. Theoderic had an heir, and the people rejoiced.

    [FN1] Wulfila the Squinter. Not to be confused with Wulfila the Great, the Arian who converted the Goths to Christianity. Although named after him, they are two very different people.

    [FN2] Much of the text of the introduction is taken directly from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (as translated by Lewis Thorpe), with a few noticable, and important differences.
    Chapter 1: A Portrait of a King as a Young Man
  • Chapter 1: a Portrait of a King as a Young Man

    Chapter 1: A Portrait of a King as a Young Man Part 1
    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    The Gothic state throughout the early life of Theodemir the Great was a hodge-podge. Theodemir’s father, Theodoric, was determined to settle his long-wandering people within the confines of the Italian peninsula and to provide for them a homeland. In order to accomplish this goal, the Gothic king was concerned not only with the physical settlement of his people but also with their transition into settled life, and the possible corrupting influence of Roman culture upon the Goths.

    Theodoric’s dream was of two peoples sharing a single kingdom, remaining side-by-side, but unique and separate. A realist, Theodoric understood that contact with the Romans in Italy would invariable change the Gothic people, but he felt that as king it was his duty to act as a steward, moderating these changes as much as possible, allowing for the Gothic adoption of the best aspects of classic culture while maintain their own cultural integrity. In order to accomplish these goals, Theodoric passed edicts forbidding Goths to study at Roman schools, maintained the legal separation between the Roman and Gothic peoples. He also strove to secure the position of the Goths in Italy, creating a vast network of alliances, based on marriage, with the Germanic kingdoms of Thuringia, Frankreik, Vandalia and the Visigoths of Hispania.

    The birth of Theodemir in 496 played an important part in Theodoric’s plans. The Gothic King, just three years into the Ostrogothic settlement in Italy, had produced a male heir. His birth was immediately seen as a god-given blessing by the royal court, and amongst most of the Goths and Romans in Italy, as it stabilized the succession. Perhaps most importantly, Theodemir combined in himself the bloodlines of the Amalings and the Merovingians, as his mother, Theodoric’s second wife, was the sister of Clovis I, King of the Franks.

    Theodoric moved, over the next several years, to strengthen the alliance system that he had created. By 494 the King had already married his daughter, Theodegotha to Alaric II, King of the Visigoths, and Ostrogotha to King Sigismund of the Burgundians. In addition, he formed a marriage alliance with the Vandals by marrying his sister, Amalfrida to King Thrasamund. Finally, in a coup-de-grace, Theoderic arranged the marriage of his daughter Amalsuntha to Eutharic, a Visigoth nobleman of the Amaling line, and Theodemir to Amalafrida, a Visigoth princess of the ruling Balti line. In doing so, Theodoric moved to secure his dynasty’s claim on the Visigothic throne.

    One of Theodoric’s chief aims was securing the succession of his son to the throne. Due to the composite nature of his kingdom, this simple task would take a great deal of diplomatic maneuvering. The Gothic King’s first concern was gaining the support of the Emperor in Constantinople, whom Theodoric still served as a vassal. In order to do this, Theodoric raised Theodemir to the rank of Consol in 512, shortly after the victory of Vouille which he shared with the Emperor Justin. This position gave the young man, only 23 at the time, a great deal of exposure amongst the Roman population of Italy. Furthermore, although the role was chiefly ceremonial, Theodoric used it as an excuse to give administrative duties to his son, readying the man to eventually serve as King. [FN1]

    The support of the Emperor was crucial, but Theodemir would never be able to serve as a viable king of the Ostrogoths if he was unable to win the loyalty of his own people, as well as the support of the Roman people. Theodoric had always been a supporter of providing his children with a Roman education, even while he denied this same right to his own followers. When it came to the education of his son, however, he was struck with a problem. Although the Gothic nobility was unlikely to harbor many concerns about the Roman education of a princess, they proved much more nervous about that same education being provided to a young man who would eventually serve them as king. However, the Romans were unlikely to accept the rule of a man who they viewed as an uncultured barbarian. Theodeoric’s own time as a hostage in Constantinople had give him a deep appreciation for Roman law, education and customs, and this had made his rule over Italy acceptable to many Romans. This was a benefit that Theodemir would not possess. Therefore, it was imperative that Theodemir received a Roman education, while still remaining independent enough of Roman tradition to win the support of the Gothic nobility. This would prove to be a struggle, to appeal to both the Roman and Gothic peoples of his realm, which would consume Theodemir for much of his life, and would eventually influence many of the greatest reforms of his reign. [FN2]

    However, all of these concerns would have to be put aside in 511, when Clovis, King of the Franks and one of the greatest rivals to the Amalings in Europe, invaded the Visigothic kingdom …

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964
    Chapter 2 The Early Life of Theodemir the Great

    Clovis had long desired to bring all of the lands of Gaul together under his own rule, but had been stopped from doing so by the strong bonds of friendship between Alaric and Theodoric King. In the 36th year of Theodoric’s reign [507 CE], he and Alaric celebrated the betrothal of Theodemir to Alaric’s niece Amalafrida. However, as often happens between men of valor and glory, jealousy can rear its head, and so it did between those two princes of men. Three years after the two kings came together to betroth their own relation, they began to feud in a petty manner than was beneath them! [FN3]

    Clovis, a heretic and bandit, saw the weakness between the two kings and decided to exploit it, as a lesser man often will strike at the righteous in their lowest moments. He gathered his Reiks [translator note: literally, ‘Prince’. Came to be used in Early Gothic to denote a rank of nobility roughly equal to Earl] and, in the spring of the 40th year of Theodoric’s reign [511 CE] he proceeded south to harry the Western Goths and drive them from their land.

    He might have succeeded, had Theodemir not seen the injustice about to be down to his brother-in-law and the West Goths. While Theodoric’s heart had been hardened to Alaric, Theodemir’s had not, and he begged his Father for the chance to show his worth and win glory in a righteous cause. Theodemir was then in his 15th year and greatly wished to take to the field of battle to increase his own renown. His pleas eventually found his Father’s favor, and Theodoric King agreed to send his son, with an army, to aid Alaric in battle.

    The armies of the Goths met the army of the Franks at Vouille and there utterly defeated them. Theodemir valiantly tricked Clovis by rushing his army into battle, feigning youthful valor and foolishness, and then retreating after the counter-attack. This caused the Franks to break rank and pursue their opponents, losing all order, before being attacked by Alaric’s men who had laid in wait.

    In the attack, the Franks were defeated utterly and Clovis himself was captured by Theodemir. At first, Theodemir had planned on sparing the Frankish King, who was also his uncle, despite the craven way he had attacked Alaric and the West Goths. But then he received word that Alaric himself had fallen in combat, killed bravely while leading a charge to blunt a Frankish attack. Enraged, Theodemir beheaded Clovis. This act enraged Audofleda, Theodemir’s mother and Clovis’ sister, and afterwards a great rift opened between Mother and Son. Theodemir would later claim that killing Clovis was his greatest regret, as so much blood sprang from that one man’s death.

    [FN1] There is historical precedence for this action. In 519, Theodoric did just this for Eutharic, his daughter Amalsuntha’s husband, in an effort to establish that man as his heir apparent. In this timeline, it only makes sense for him to do the same for his son in order to boost his legitimacy in the eyes of the Roman people.

    [FN2] In OTL the education of an heir was of great importance to the Gothic nobility. In the years following Theodoric’s death the Roman education given to his grandson Athalric, by his mother Amalsuntha, was nearly the cause of a revolt and one of the reasons that his Mother remained so bitterly unpopular. As Theodemir is even more likely to take the throne, his education is of equal importance. Theodoric, as a strong figure, is not going to be challenged, but in later life it will be Theodemir’s duty to somehow show enough appreciation for Roman customs and culture to gain their loyalty, without alienating the Gothic nobility.

    [FN3] Amalfrida is a character born post POD, as she is two years younger than Theodemir. Although she is often referred to as Alaric’s ‘niece’ she was, in fact, his daughter sired outside of his marriage.

    One of the problems with telling any story is the need to get through the introduction. I apologize for this post being slightly bland (although you will notice that one important butterfly has emerged already as a result of Theodemir's birth!), but I felt its important of establishing the background of this TL. The next post will wrap up the early life of Theodemir and set him firmly upon the Gothic throne. And from that point onward, things should get very interesting indeed!
    As always, comments and critques are always welcome!
    Chapter 2: Portrait of a King as a Young Man Part 2
  • Chapter 2: Portrait of a King as a Young Man Part 2

    Chapter 2: Portrait of a King as a Young Man part 2
    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Theodemir’s bravery on the fields of Vouille had saved the Visigoths from Frankish aggression, but at a terrible price. Alaric II was dead and his son, Theodoric’s grandson, Amalaric was still a minor. The Visigoths were in disarray and unable to follow through their victory by invading the Frankish lands of northern Gaul. Rather, they returned home where the nobles met to elect a new king, Alaric’s bastard son Gesalec.

    Meanwhile, the Franks were in even greater turmoil. With Clovis dead at Theodemir’s hand, the surviving sons of the Frankish king were forced to settle for themselves the division of the Kingdom between them. Chlodomer was dead, along with his father at Vouille, this left Childebert I to take all of the lands from modern day Brittany, east, to the lands surrounding Paris, as well as Orleans. Theudoric was given the region of Metz, and Chlotair received the region of Soissons.

    The death of Clovis caused repercussions, however, even within the Ostrogothic court. Although Theodoric was initially enraged by his son’s actions, relations between the father and son were quickly mended. Theodomir was his father’s only heir, and had won admiration within the Gothic court for his bravery in battle; it would make little sense for the Father to remain alienated from his son. Furthermore, the death of Clovis and the division of the Frankish kingdom into three had removed much of the pressure along the northern border of the Ostrogthic kingdom.

    The division between Theodemir and his mother, however, would never fully heal. Audofleda would blame her son for Clovis, her brother’s, death for years to come. Although they would eventually reconcile, their relationship would remain strained throughout the remainder of her life. This would continue to cause Theodemir much grief, even in his later years, and would help spark the first great crisis of his own reign.

    Before moving forward, however, it might be useful to take some time in order to examine the young man who had managed to so greatly unsettle the political stability of Western Europe in a single battle. Up until this time, we have talked about Theodemir only as one might a chess piece in a long drawn out game. I feel that this is a flaw inherent to the field of History itself; it becomes so much easier to discuss the actions of a man or nation when they are divorced from their humanity. In other words, we historians occasionally forget that the people we are dealing with were once living, breathing human beings with dreams, loves, envies and faults, just like everyone in this room currently. We do a great disservice to men like Theodemir when we fail to take their humanity into account.

    There are two histories of the life of Theodemir the Great. The first was written by Wulfila the Stammerer, and the second by Sigmund the Burgundian. Of these, Wulila’s work is, by far, the most lauding, which is what one would expect from an author who was taken in by Theodemir and acted as one of his closest associates. Sigmund’s work is much more critical of the Emperor, which is hardly surprising considering Theodemir’s role in the conquest of Burgundy. However, and for this we can feel truly blessed by the patron saint of Historians, both of the works are, above all, honest. Both Wulila and Sigmund try to stay as close to the facts as they can, and point out their own biases when it is important. Between the two of them, a very clear picture of Theodemir the Great develops.

    Physically, we know, Theodemir differs somewhat from modern romantic depictions of him. We do know that he, like most other Goths, foreswore Roman fashions in his dress. Much like his father before him, he was known for a mane of thick, long hair. Contemporary depictions often describe him having either blond or red hair, as well as a long flowing mustache, although he appears to have gone beardless for much of his life. Unlike his appearance in modern works, however, Theodemir was not the six-foot tall warrior of legend. In fact, he appears to have been of medium-to-short in height, even for the era.

    Whereas legends, and popular fiction often portray Theodemir as a great military genius, the historical record does not back up this view. Although his victories against internal foes, the Franks, Burgundians and, later, the Byzantines were certainly great victories, Theodemir seems to have shown the keen political sense to exploit his foes weaknesses, rather than to dominate them through simple force of arms. The Franks, following the rapid expansion of Clovis, had become too spread out, and their collapse was imminent in any case. Likewise, the political and military turmoil faced by the Byzantine Empire after the death of Justin I made it difficult for them to ever bring their full weight to bear upon the Goths. In fact, the true genius of Theodemir lies in his administrative ability and skills in diplomacy. It was these skills which allowed him to restructure the Kingdom of Italy and the Goths and build the foundations of the future Gothic state. And, even here, he was not infallible, as the several revolts which occurred under his reign attest.

    Personality wise, Theodemir was known as a dynamic figure. Ever since he was a young man, he was forced to walk the very thin line between his Roman and Gothic subjects. Although the Goths, of all of the Germanic tribes, were one of the most culturally influenced by the Romans, they still strove to maintain their own cultural traditions and group cohesion. As a result, as a young man, Theodemir found himself in a very difficult position. As a rule, although he was openly appreciative of aspects of Roman culture, and saw himself as a champion of Roman institutions, he continued to associate more with the Gothic traditions of his past. This conflict between ruling two such different people, and attempting to maintain both a political unity, but cultural independence, remained one of the biggest pressing concerns of Theodemir’s reign, and his unique solutions to these problems were groundbreaking. Despite his drastic reorganization of the state, he always maintained that he remained a staunch supporter of his father’s dreams of Goths and Romans living side by side.

    The future Emperor was usually considered to be a judicious figure, and a paradigm of virtue. Several contemporary reports have compared him to the figure of King Solomon, likely because of the fairness of his courtly decisions, as well as his sponsoring the compiling of the Codex Theodemir. However, he was also given to periods of deep moodiness which some historians have posthumously diagnosed as depression. Furthermore, much like his father before him, Theodemir was capable of acts of severe brutality while under the strain of great events, as well as great forgiveness, as exemplified by the eventual fates of his Mother, sister and nephew.

    Theodoric and Theodemir officially reconciled On Christmas Day of 512. Throughout the remainder of his life, Theodoric began to rely more and more heavily upon his son. In 515, Gesalec, King of the Visigoths and the illegitimate son of Alaric II was overthrown in a coup, and fled to Vandalia. The nobles of the Visigoths quickly convened and raised Alaric’s son Amalaric to the throne. However, since Amalaric had not yet reached his majority, Theodoric was chosen to act as the regent for his young grandson. Theodoric wasted no time, and named Theodemir his representative amongst the Visigoths, giving his son a great deal of administrative experience, as well as giving him the opportunity to forge important ties amongst the nobility of the Visigoths. [FN1]

    As Theodoric’s main representative in Hispania and Southern Gaul, Theodemir’s first duty was to engage the deposed Gesalec, who had fled to gain support amongst the Vandals. In 514, the two met in battle near the city of Cordoba, and Gesalec was slain in the conflict. For the remainder of his time in Hispania, Theodemir ruled the land as near-king, with the tactic support of his father and the local nobility, collecting taxes, fielding armies against incursions by Franks, and maintaining local laws. He remained in close contact with his father in Italy, however, and even lent him his support in the elder Amali’s war in alliance with Sigismund of Burgundy in 522. [FN2]

    The result was that Theodemir not only possessed experience in ruling, but had built up a large support base amongst the nobility of both the Visigoths and Ostrogoths by the time his father passed away in 526. Upon hearing word of his Father’s death, he quickly set sail for Ravenna where he was raised on the shield by the Gothic military and proclaimed king in Rome. However, the transition from Theodoric to Theodemir would soon run into problems, and Theodemir would quickly face the first great crisis of his reign.

    [FN1] There has been long been rumors that Theodoric may have been behind the coup, as part of his long running policy of bringing together the Visigothic and Ostrogothic kingdoms under the Amali line

    [FN2] This conflict occurred much as in it did in OTL. In 512, Sigismund, King of Burgundy, strangled his own son, Theodoric’s grandson, after the young man insulted his father’s new wife. He was overcome with guilt over the entire experience and, after he was attacked in 522 by Clovis’s sons, he went to Theodoric for help who was, understandable, a bit less than willing. After he was killed, his brother, Godomar rallied the Burgundians and was able to hold the throne for ten years. In this timeline, Theodoric and Theodemir came to Burgundy’s defense a bit sooner and, as a result, they fielded a small army to help Godomar who is now somewhat indebted to them for his throne.

    All right, now that Theodemir has taken the throne, the background of this tl is officially done with and we can get down to the real work. One important note that I have didn't get a chance to put into a footnote. The Amalaric of this TL and one of his cousins share a name with OTL counterparts. However, they were born far after the POD. I gave the same names to figures who would fulfil similiar roles in this tl simply to avoid confusion. This should be the only time this occures in the TL.

    Once again, thank you all for reading, and all of your questions or feedback and totally welcome!

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    Chapter 3: It’s a Family Affair
  • Chapter 3: It’s a Family Affair

    Chapter 3: It’s a Family Affair
    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997
    Lecture 2: The Reign of Theodemir the Great

    At the time of his Theodoric’s death in the autumn of 526, Theodemir was in Toulouse, serving as his father’s representative to the Visigothic courtAccording to accounts, a rider had been dispatched from Ravenna within hours of the Ostrogothic king’s death, and made the 690 mile trek to Toulouse in five days time.

    Theodemir understood that time was of the essence. Although he was widely considered to be the Theodoric’s natural heir, a power vacuum would exist in the capital until he could arrive, and that gave plenty of time for rival claimants to attempt to assert their power in his absence. The next day, Theodemir hastily assembled a traveling party and set out from the Visigothic capital to the city of Arles, on the border between the two gothic kingdoms. Once there, he mustered his supporters with the local military garrison, and marched on Ravenna, determined to reach the city within two weeks.

    He need not have worried. Upon arriving at Ravenna in later Mid-October, he found the city gates opened for him. He made a grand procession as he marched to the center of the city where the city garrison quickly raised him on the shield, and pronounced him King of the Ostrogoths. A delegate from the Roman Senate, who had ridden to Ravenna upon hearing of Theodoric’s death, announced the Senate’s acceptance of Theodemir as King of Italy. Although word would not arrive from Constantinople until the resumption of the sailing season, Theodemir must have felt assured that his hold upon his father’s throne was secure. He would quickly be proven wrong.

    There were three major forces which resisted the rise of Theodemir’s rule over the Ostrogoths. The first was Audofleda, Theodoric’s widow and Theodemir’s mother. Audofleda had never forgiven her son for his killing of her brother, Clovis, king of the Franks. The eventual reconciliation between his husband and son isolated her influence within the court, and spawned a desire for vengeance.

    Second, was Theodemir’s sister Amalasuntha. A year older than her younger brother, Amalasuntha had given birth to a son, Athalaric in 516, with her husband Eutharic. Amalasuntha possessed a deep love of Roman culture and learning, all of which she attempted to pass on to her son, and was suspected of secretly being Orthodox. Amalasunthra was a favorite of the roman elements of Theodoric’s court, and had expressed her strong devotion to the cultural heritage of the Romans, and her desire for closer connections to the imperial power in Constantinople. [FN1]

    Finally, the policies of Theodoric towards the end of his life had created a small but dedicated faction opposed to his rule. The execution of Boethius only a year before in 525 had greatly insulted many Roman aristocrats and Orthodox Christians. Rumors had begun to spread through Rome that same year that Theodoric planned to renounce his policy of religious freedom and begin a major persecution of the Orthodox Church in response to the Emperor Justin’s persecution of Arians in the Eastern Empire. Theodemir had been largely absent from Rome for much of the past decade, helping to rule the Visigothic kingdom for his cousin Amalaric. This meant that, despite his roman education, and experiences in Aquitaine, he was largely an unknown entity to many of the Roman aristocrats in Italy. [FN2]

    Within months of his ascension to the throne, these three forces would combine in an effort to topple Theodemir and place Amalaric on the throne in his stead.

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964

    Chapter 3: The Early Reign of Theodemir

    Audofleda had never forgiven her son for the death of Clovis, her brother. She nursed her anger while her husband still lived, but with the death of Theodoric, she could no longer control her hatred for her own flesh, and decided to do the unthinkable. One night she came to her daughter, Amalasuntha, and spoke to her of treason. Together they hatched a plan to place Athalaric on the throne.

    Theodemir caught wind of their plans and sought to place all three under house arrest in the palace. But, a guard of the palace who was sympathetic to their designs, passed word onto the conspirators, and they escaped from the palace one night in the height of winter. The next morning, Theodemir was notified of his mother, sister and nephew’s escape and sent a party to capture them, but it was too late. They had with them a guide who led them off the main roads, and into the hands of those sympathetic to their quest.

    The conspirators made their way to Rome where a small cadre of traitorous Senators met to declare Athalaric king of Italy. These Senators then moved to secure their control of the city of Rome, greatly oppressing the wise citizens of that city who remained loyal to Theodemir, the true king. Since Athalaric was but ten years of age, and a minor, the rebels decreed that Amalasuntha should act as his regent. To increase her power, she married a Roman noble by the name of Boniface. The rebels quickly dispatched messengers to all corners of Italy to draw their supporters to Rome, so that they might march on Ravenna once the winter had ended. They even sent a courier to Constantinople to obtain the blessing of Emperor Justin, but he refused them. [FN3]

    Theodemir spent the winter drawing those forces loyal to him together. It grieved him to see his own mother and sister turn against him, but he knew that he would be forced to destroy all opposition to his rule if he was to maintain Gothic strength in Italy. During this time, he made many trips to the Basilica of Christ the Redeemer and prayed for guidance on how to proceed. By the beginning of May, he had drawn together his army and marched South to meet the rebels in battle.

    The two forced met near the city of Perugia, where once rebels against Augustus had found refuge, and Theodemir quickly chased his enemies from the field of battle. They retreated to Rome, with the King following behind them. Now Theodemir found himself vexed. He had no desire to subject Rome to a length siege or sack, because he feared it would drive others into the hands of the rebels, but he could see little other choice. However, God was with him, for upon seeing his army reaching the city walls, the citizens of Rome, who had been oppressed for months by the rebels, threw open the gates and delivered Amalasuntha, the rebel ‘king’ Amalaric, and Audofleda to the King.

    Seeing this as a sign, Theodemir decided to show mercy upon the city, and many of the rebels. He promised to spare any of the rebels who would swear a personal oath of loyalty to himself and donate land or money to his kingship. Most responded readily to this, seeing that Theodemir was not the brutal warlord his enemies had made him out to be, but was, rather, a gracious and kind lord. Some refused however, perhaps because they were wicked at heart, or doubted Theodemir’s word. These unfortunate souls, including Amalasuntha’s husband, were executed.

    Next Theodemir turned to his own family. Against the advice of his many of his closest advisors, he spared his young nephew, seeing that the boy had simply been used as a piece in a game far beyond him. Amalaric was sent to a monastery, high in the Alps, where he lived a life of piety and religious devotion for years to come. Amalasuntha, the boy’s mother, was also granted her life, sent to a nunnery, in southern Italy, far from her son, and the court life of the Kingdom. Finally, Theodemir forgave his mother and sentenced her to house arrest in the palace, and the two were reconciled in the presence of the Bishop of Ravenna.

    Finally, in June [527 CE], Theodemir was given the title of King of Italy by the assembled Senate in Rome. To mark the occasion, he officially returned the lands of Boethius to his family, which had been seized when Theodoric ordered the philosopher’s execution. Both Flavius Boethius and Flavius Symmachus, the sons of that eminent man, would serve as Consul of the Senate and would go on to ve faithful allies of Theodemir throughout the rest of his days.

    [FN1] in OTL Amalasuntha was forced by the Gothic nobility to not proceed with her son’s Roman education, as they feared that he would be to sympathetic to Romans ideas as king. In this timeline, rather, her son is not the direct heir to the throne and so does not fall under the eye of the nobility as easily. As a result, she is able to impose of him many of her own Roman sympathies which allow him to become a rallying point to the anti-Theodemir forces. It’s worth noting that Amalasuntha and Amalaric both end up having substantially longer and happier lives in this TL.

    [FN2] in OTL Theodoric was likely planning a persecution of the Orthodox Church as a result of Justin’s persecution of Arians. It seems likely that some of the anti-Gothic sentiment which had been rising in the Roman aristocracy was allayed because of the throne being taken by Amalaric with Amalasuntha as regent, as the later was well known for her pro-roman tastes. In this timeline we had an heir who is much stronger, capable, but who has more connections in Toulouse than in Rome. It seems reasonable that the Romans might assume that Theodemir will simply continue some of the later policies of Theodoric.

    [FN3] Justin, at this point, was in the last year of his life. Although he had named Justinian his co-ruler and would name him his heir a few months later, he was in no position to meddle in the affairs in Italy. Justinian would be more willing to do so, but likely wants to wait to see how events play out before taking any sides in a civil war in Italy. In any case, it’s a moot point as Theodemir smashes the rebellion early, and grealy increases his popularity amongst the Roman population in the process, dramatically strengthening his position in Italy.
    Chapter 4: The Beginnings of the Franco-Gothic Blood Feud
  • Chapter 4: The Beginnings of the Franco-Gothic Blood Feud


    Chapter 4: The Franco-Gothic Blood Feud Part 1

    Who can forget now the fury of frightful Theodemir
    That slayer of Salians of whom songs are sung
    When he avenged the insults to the Amaling line
    Pounding old Paris the pride of the north
    Reducing to rubble its raised walls
    And dealing out death to the defending Merovings
    The rivers still reek with their royal blood!
    That evil ended so also will this!
    - Excerpt from Anglo-Saxon poem “Doer”, author unknown [FN1]

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    After the defeat of his sister and nephew at Perugia, and his subsequent crowning in Rome, Theodemir returned to Ravenna to take up the important duties of administrating his realm. Save for his several month stay in the capital following the death of his father, Theodemir was still largely an unknown force amongst much of the Gothic nobility, who had not known him since he went to Toulouse as his father’s representative at the Visigothic capital. As a result, much of his first few years in power were spent building up a powerbase amongst the Gothic and Roman nobility of the realm. He appears to have, initially, kept many of the court officials of his father although, over the course of time, he began to build up a circle of advisors who were loyal mainly to him and not to the memory of his father.

    The period of 527 through 531 was a learning period for Theodemir. Although he had a great deal of administrative experience as a result of his time in Toulouse, Theodemir likely found it difficult to transition from the Visigothic capital to Ravenna, where he was forced to build new relationships, and come to some grasp the political realities of Italy. Surely, during this period he did not show much of the administrative genius and vision which would mark the later years of his reign, with one single exception. In 529 Theodemir made two declarations which would have subtle, but long reaching, influence upon the development of the Gothic state. First, he reaffirmed his father’s policy of religious freedom, which he had previously made a pledge to do in Rome, making tolerance the official policy of his government. Secondly he called for scholars from throughout his realm to come to his palace in Ravenna where he set up a school for the expressed purpose of translating Greco-Roman works into Gothic, for the education of the children of Gothic nobles. [FN2]

    This brief learning period came to an end, however, with the reemergence of Theodemir’s old rivals, the Merovings. The three surviving sons of Clovis had never forgiven the Amaling king to his killing of their father, and brother. Their invasion of Burgundy in 522, to avenge themselves upon King Sigismund, furthered their hatred, as Theodoric and Theodemir rushed to the defense of the Burgundian king and routed the Franks. However, revenge for these slights, if it were to happen, would have to wait. Following their defeat at the hands of the Goths and Burgundians, the Franks chose not to attack either Gothic kingdom, as the two practically remained united under Theodoric. [FN3]

    The death of Theodoric opened up an opportunity; Theodemir had risen to the throne of the Ostrogoths, while his nephew Amalaric came unto the Visigothic crown. However, problems still remained; in an attempt to end the feud, Theodoric had arranged the marriage of Amalaric to the Frankish princess Chlotilda, Clovis’ daughter. As long as the marriage remained strong, there appeared to be little recourse that the brothers could take, as they had taken a vow to protect their sister’s honor.

    However, religious issues soon gave the Meroving kings the chance that they needed to exact revenge upon their rivals. The marriage between Amalaric and Chlotilda was an unhappy one from the beginning. Amalaric was a devote Arian who continually attempted to harass his wife into converting from the Orthodox faith. Chlotilda soon became a pariah at the Toulouse court, with crowds jeering her as she made her way to mass each Sunday. This proved to be the opportunity that the Franks needed to punish the Goths and drive them from Gaul. They may also have hoped that, since the two kingdoms were close, but no longer united, that they might be able to push the Visigoths from Aquitaine, without incurring the wrath of Theodemir, who they likely hoped to turn on next.

    This proved a mistake on the parts of Theuderic, Clothaire and Childebert. During his time in Toulouse, as the representative of his father, the official regent of Amalaric, Theodemir had grown fond of his nephew who, by his own admission, he had come to see as a younger brother. Although he likely did not endorse Amalaric’s stringent Arianism, he was unwilling to let the younger man face down the Merovings alone. Furthermore, there were political concerns at hand. Theodemir’s wife had given birth to their first son, Theodebert, while he served as acting regent, and he had professed the desire to betroth his son to Amalaric’s first born, his daughter Erminhilde. Any offspring of such a marriage would stand of a strong chance of being able to unite the gothic thrones. Upon learning of the proposed war against the Visigoths, Theodemir quickly marshaled his forces for war.

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964

    War came to Theodemir, once again, in the fourth year of his reign. The Sons of Clovis, wishing to avenge themselves for the treatment of their sister, Chlotilde, by Amalaric, brought their forces together for this task. So deep had the bad blood become between the Merovings and the Amalings that the Franks could think of nothing else excepting taking revenge upon all Goths for the defeat of their father. It is said that Clothaire, the most vile of the three, vowed that if Theodemir came to the defense of his nephew that he, Clothaire, would take our king’s head as a trophy. This may be hearsay, but I am led to include it, because the future actions of that man make it seem likely.

    The three brothers planned their assault as follows: Childebert, the King of Paris, would march south in Aquitaine and attack the city Poitiers. Theuderic, King of Mainz, would march down the River Rhone in order to meet Theodemir, if he should join the war. Finally, Clothaire would move towards Clermone, where he would either be able to lend assistance to his other brothers, or move directly on Toulouse.

    Upon hearing of the invasion, Amalaric took his army north, where he hoped to engage Childebert first, knowing that Theodemir would cross the Rhone and engage Theuderic. The army of Amalaric met Childebert at Poitiers, mere miles from the site where both of their fathers had died years earlier. The Visigoths were victorious and defeated the Franks, who then began to retreat back to the north. Meanwhile, Theodemir had crossed the Rhone at Arles where he fortified himself and waited for Theuderic.

    It did not take long. Theuderic’s army arrived a month later, in June, and engaged Theodemir. The battle was brutal, and it is said that thousands died on both sides. However, the defenses of Arles held, and Theodemir was victorious. It was here that Theodemir made a grave error; being still full of youthful vigor, he chose to pursue Theuderic’s army and destroy it utterly. He harried his rival as the two made their way north, but was caught by surprise, at Javols, when Clothaire arrived to give his brother aid. [FN4]

    Again a battle raged, but this time is was Theodemir who suffered the pain of loss. After inflicting heavy losses upon his foes, but suffering just as badly, he was forced to retreat to the South where he returned to Arles. Here, he would be able to send for reinforcements from his own Kingdom, as well as withstand any siege, as he controlled the Rhone’s east bank.

    In the north, Amalaric continued his offensive against the King of Paris. He marched into his enemy’s territory and began to besiege the capital of Paris, where Childebert had taken refuge. The siege lasted for months, and it seemed as if Amalaric was assured victory, but Cildebert refused to surrender while there was still fight left in himself and his troops. In November, as just the hard chill of winter was upon the land, Childebert rallied his troops and sallied out of the city gates at his enemy. As the season for fighting was over, and because the granaries of Paris were still full, the attack caught Amalaric by surprise. In the melee that followed, the Visigoths were routed, and the king was cut down by men unknown. His body would eventually be returned to Toulouse from the battle field, and it lays there to this day.

    When word arrived of Amalaric’s death, Theodemir was enraged at losing a man who had been like his brother. However, winter had set in, and he was unwilling to attack rashly, as he had at Javols. Thuederic and Clothaire had been unable to take the east bank of the Rhone, and his reinforcements would arrive soon. Their own supplied running low, the Franks were weakening, and he was confident he would route them in the spring. And so it occurred. Theodemir’s forces came out of Arles that spring and soundly defeated the Franks. Thuederic and Clothaire were driven from the field and forced to retreat with a fraction of their original armies.

    Theodemir was enraged at the unjust invasion of the Visigothic kingdom, and his nephew’s death. However, for the moment, he held his temper and chose to bide his time. The Franks had been defeated, but pursuit would have been costly. Also, the Visigoths were now without a king, and he felt obligated to return to Toulouse to help usher in Amalaric’s successor. And so, Theodemir sent out messengers under the flag of truce to the two defeated Kings and, later, to Childebert of Paris. He would allow the safe access out of Aquitaine, if they would agree to a yearly tribute of gold.

    Having no choice, they all agreed, and peace was signed. However, the conflict only nurtured in the hearts of the Merovings and Amalings an even greater hatred. For the Merovings, they had lost in battle to the killer of their own father, and then forced them to sign a humiliating peace. For Theodemir, he still raged at the loss of Amalaric. Further atrocities would be committed on both sides, before a true peace could be reached.

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Theodemir’s election as King of the Visigoths seems to have come as a genuine surprise. Although he had ruled the land, in the name of his father and nephew, for over a decade, he had never lusted for the throne itself. His plans, much like those of his father, seem to have been to closely ally the ruling houses of the two realms in marriage and arrange the unification of the Goths under his son Theodebert. However, turning down the throne never seems to have crossed his mind. In May of 533, Theodemir officially became King of both the Ostrogoths and Visigoths.

    [FN1] Although its largely unlikely that the same poem would be written in OTL and ATL, I’ve always been a particular fan of the “Deor,” as it has a beautiful message, and also acts as a great encyclopedia of Germanic myth at the time of its writing. I figured it was pretty likely that a similar poem would be written in the ATL.

    The main point of the excerpt, besides showing off how much of a Germanic myth geek I am, is to show that Theodemir becomes a figure of legend in Germanic cultures in this TL. In OTL it was Theodoric was did so, becoming Dietrich of Bern, and generating an interesting cycle of myths about him, although most have been lost, and those that do survive largely tie in with the Nibelungs. In the ATL Theodemir overshadows his father and generates a myth cycle on par with that of Charlemagne OTL.

    If interest in this TL continues to grow, I do plan on delving into this at some later date (because, as stated, I’m a myth-geek!)

    [FN2] Theodemir remains, much like his father before him, primarily concerned with creating a stable home for the Gothic people, and maintaining their cultural identity. Theodoric tried to accomplish this by limiting the intellectual influence that Roman culture would have on the Goths by denying them the chance to attend roman schools. Theodemir, however, realizes that to run a strong kingdom, one needs well educated courtiers. If Goths are denied Roman education, then these positions will be filled mainly by Romans, who will form an intellectual upper class. His idea is to translate several of the most popular works of the Greeks and Romans into Gothic, stimulating literacy, and possibly inspiring a gothic literary class (the later is a bit hazy in his mind at this time, but it is still there)

    [FN3] You will be excused if you believe that I based this section off of a little known Godfather movie. The Goths and Franks are very much focused with the other not ‘messing’ with ‘the Family”

    [FN4] Theodemir is not, as has been stated previously, a military genius. He is competent, perhaps even very good, but he’s not great. At this point in his life, he is still capable of making some rash decisions on the battlefield that can cause his defeat. I’m trying to show that our lead actor at the moment is not some undefeatable wunderkind.

    On a side note, I hope that the military campaign sounded somewhat reasonable. Truth be told, I'm not a military expert and really am looking forward more to writing the political and cultural aspects of this timeline. As a result, the description of the war might have rang a bit hollow. If so, I apologize.

    One more point of interest, I do plan on having a map or two up to show the changed circumstances here very soon!
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    Chapter 5: Engineering and Empire
  • Chapter 5: Engineering and Empire

    Chapter 5: Engineering an Empire
    “States are not based on military victory alone, but by the rule of law and wisdom of wise kings.” – Statement attributed to Theodemir the Great

    Toulouse, Capital of Visigothic Kingdom

    May, 533 CE

    Theodemir stood proudly on the shield, as the assembled Visigothic soldiers raised him above their heads. A soft breeze blew through the streets of the Visigothic capital, catching his long hair, so that it billowed behind him like a trail of smoke. The assembled nobles, responsible for the election of the new king, let out a hearty cheer which was soon picked up by the mixed gothic-roman crowd who can come to view the event.

    Theodemir raised his hand to signal the crowd to quiet. Although having been taken aback by the decision of the nobles to elect him as King, he had quickly overcome his shock. It had been the policy of the Amlings to mediate the unification of the two Gothic kingdoms for several generations now. Although he had planned for it to occur during the reign of his oldest son Theodebert, Theodemir had always believed that one should be ready to exploit every opportunity given. The loss of Amalaric had hit him hard, but through his cousin’s death, the two kingdoms could now, finally, be united. The Merovings had, inadvertently, united their southern foes, and would pay dearly for their crimes in the future.

    “My fellow Goths”, Theodemir began as the crowd once again roared its approval, “and my fellow Romans, too.” The roar, this time, was deafening. “It is with the gravest heart that I accept your call that I assume the crown of the Visigoths. Many of you know me from the past, for it was I who came to help tutor Amalaric, your former king, and helped oversee this grand land, until he was capable of doing so himself. It grieves me that he is not here, now, and that we were raising toasts to our victory over the Merovings. But, he died fulfilling his duties of King, defending the people of this realm from the ruthless aggression of those who would break the peace for their own personal gain.”

    “Know this. I take the throne with the full respect that the traditions of this land, and these people, deserve. Together, we shall march forward from the tragedies of the past. We are partners, and when we work in concord, as we did in the past, there is nothing that our peoples cannot accomplish. Let this mark the beginning a partnership between the Goths of the West, the Goths of the East, and the Roman people of this land, as well.”

    If he had been a younger man, in his twenties, we would have been overwhelmed by the surging energies of the crowd. Even now, at nearly four decades of age, it was difficult to not get swept away by the emotions of that evening. But that would be a mistake. Although his was popular now, Theodemir understood how popularity could ebb and flow over time. There would be many who would oppose his efforts to draw the two Gothic nations together, and the reforms that he would be forced to enact. But those efforts would be necessary, if the Goths were to grow and prosper.

    As he was lowered from the shield, Theodemir allowed himself a silent sigh, and cast his gaze back over his shoulder. When it become evident that he would be elected as King of the Visigoths, he had sent for Theodebert, hoping for the boy to be present for the occasion. But he and his mother had yet to arrive. His son was only 9 years old, but it would not be too early to introduce his heir to the Visigoths, for it would be under him that the two Kingdoms would become merged into one.

    It was a shame he could not be present, but an unavoidable one. There would be time to do the necessary work, such as officially arranging a marriage for the boy, in the future. Now was the time to celebrate his ascension, in a typically Gothic fashion, and begin laying the framework for the future. And then, finally, he would be able to avenge the death of his cousin. Business, as they say, before pleasure.

    Government in Early Germanic Europe
    By: Lotar Van Scheldt
    Trans: Cuthert Asholt
    Antwerp: National University of Frankreich Publishing, 2001

    Chapter 3: The Early Gothic State
    The reforms enacted by Theodemir the Great had such a great impact upon the future Gothic state, that many have credited him as being the true founder of Gothland. This is patently absurd, the modern state of Gothland developed over a course of centuries following the collapse of their Empire, and is akin to claiming that Julius Caesar was the founder of the Italian Republic. However, it would be equally foolish to deny that Theodemir’s reign did not have a significant impact upon the development of the Gothic people during their initially settlement in what was then northern Italia and Aquitaine. In fact, the governmental structure which he engineered can be seen as largely responsible for the Goths’ successes throughout the 6th and 7th centuries.

    The first several years of Theodemir’s reign saw him largely maintaining the same structure that had been forged by his father, Theodoric, with only minimal changes. The greatest innovation which he introduced during this time was the ordering of the translation of important Greek and Roman works into Gothic. Theodemir also invited the children of nobles to come to the palace at Ravenna to study from these translated works. As Goths, save members of the royal family, had been forbidden from pursuing a Roman education since the time of Theodoric, this would become the only legitimate avenue of education for Goths. This royal school would eventually evolve into the Ravenna Academy during the reign of Theodemir and his immediate successors.

    With the ascension of Theodemir to the kingship of the Visigoths, the King faced the first great administrative challenge of his reign. Although the two kingdoms would not officially be united under Theodemir, the ties which he built between the realms would prove instrumental to their eventual merger under Amalaric I.

    Despite the boost of prestige to the Amaling line that Theodemir’s dual kingship provided, ruling two kingdoms was not without its challenges. Although the Roman governmental structure remained functioning in Italy, it remained much weaker in the lands of the Visigoths. Prior to assuming the throne of the Ostrogoths, Theodemir had been acting regent for the Visigoths and was well aware of the way in which that government functioned. However, he remained dedicated to establishing the pattern of governance which he Father had built in Italy. This quickly began to sap Theodemir’s resources, as he attempted to expand his control throughout much of Western Europe. This necessitated far reaching reforms across his two realms.

    The first of Theodemir’s great reforms was to establish the two realms of East and West Gothland. In the East, this comprised the lands of Northern Italy from the River Arno in the South to the Alps in the north. West Gothland was to contain the region of the Erbo River in southeast Hispania, as well as the lands of southern Aquitaine around the capital of Toulouse. Gothic settlements were to be restricted to within only these regions and those lands would be ruled only by Gothic law.

    The creation of East and West Gothland did not represent a dramatic change to the status quo, but rather the official recognition of the lay of the land. At this point Gothic settlements still remained largely within the boundaries which Theodemir officially recognized. The restriction of settlement outside of these lands served the king’s purpose in two important ways. First, it concentrated the Goths to two localities, greatly limiting the chance of their eventual diffusion and assimilation into the larger Roman cultural sphere. In doing so, he was simply continuing the policies of his father to their logical conclusion. Secondly, it restrained the nobility to given territories, thereby allowing the King to consolidate his power to a greater extent. This was in response to a growing problem in the Visigothic lands, where nobles would flee to southern and central Hispania to escape the control of Toulouse.

    The establishment of East and West Gothland would prove to be one of the most monumental events which allowed for the eventual expansion of the Gothic state. The decision to restrict the practice of Gothic and Roman law to distinct geographic boundaries marked a shift in the evolution of the Germanic kingdoms in former Roman lands, where previously, the law was determined by the ethnicity of the individual. It also led to the creation of the Codex Gothum, which was to apply to the Gothic lands of both the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, and was heavily based off of the Euric Code. Theodemir set out to finally settle the last of the land issues left over from the initial settlement of the Ostrogoths. Using the gold obtained by tribute from the Franks, the King bought out the last of the Roman landlords in the lands of Goths and redistributed it to his supporters. [FN1]

    The final reform of Theodemir during the first 15 years of his reign dealt specifically with Italy. The rebellion of the Romans during the first year of his realm had left a lasting impact upon the King. Although he enjoyed good relations with the Romans of Italy from that time onward, he also understood that their good graces were required for the stability of his kingdom. As a result, he chose to expand the powers of the Roman Senate, giving them limited administrative duties across all of Italy, south of East Gothland. This not only increased the loyalty of the Romans to the King, but also allowed him to turn his attention elsewhere, which would become a necessity following his further conquests in Gaul. [FN2]

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964

    Theodemir’s reforms greatly excited members of the nobility, especially those in the West, who had become used to the light hand of previous kings. These nobles feared the just hand of the King, fearing he would punish them for the excesses which they routinely took part in against their subjects, both Goth and Roman. Turning away from the true king, they began to plot treason. Meeting in the city of Toledo they elected on of their own number, a certain Hermenegild, to be their king and set about attempting to overthrow Theodemir.

    In the 10th year of his reign [538 CE] those rose up against him and caused much mischief in the lands of Hispania, drawing much support from the larger land holders in West Gothland. Theodemir quickly responded to their threat, and set out, defeating them outside of Toulouse that year. However, he a king who believed in justice and mercy, and agreed to pardon those rebels who agreed to swear an oath of allegiance to him, even sparing Hermenegild, who he exiled to a monastery, sparing his life if that man would choose the cloister over the manor.

    Theodemir’s mercy was wasted on these wicked men. A year later, the most obstinate of them rebelled again, this time choosing Athalbert to lead them into battle. Once again our king met them in battle, this time at Narbo, where they ambushed Theodemir, and would have destroyed his army had it not been for Theodahad, Rieks of Liguria and cousin to the king, who gave his life while repelling the rebels. Our king mourned for his relative and vowed to return with a force to destroy the rebels once and for all. [FN3]

    In the 12th year of his reign, Theodemir returned. The rebels during this time had made their capital at Toledo, and expanded their control throughout much of Southern West Gothland, holding the lands on the south shore of the Ebro River. However, they were unable to withstand the might of his army, which he commanded with the help of his son Theodebert. Together they were able to push the rebels back and place Toledo under siege. That winter was brutal on both sides, but the next April there was a revolt in the city, and the citizens threw the gates open to the King’s forces. The rebels were viciously dealt with, and Athalbert himself was executed and his head sent back to Toulouse as a trophy.

    However, some of the rebels had managed to escape the city before it fell, and they made their way to the lands of the Suibi, where they continued to harass Theodemir for many years, helping that people expand their realm further to the south into Lusitania.

    Ravenna, Capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom
    October, 543 CE

    Theodemir cursed lowly to himself. Ever since he had been raised to the throne of the Visigoths, he had made it his practice of spending the summer months in Toulouse, before returning to Ravenna for the winter. This had become all the more important since the revolts of Hermenegild and Athalbert four years earlier. But, ever since Toledo and that horrid siege, his joints had begun to act up as winter’s chill set in. He knew the legends of his people, and knew they had originally hailed from far in the north, and on days like this he sincerely wondered how his ancestors had managed to deal with the cold.

    It was not his joints, today, that were causing his irritable mood. “It should have arrived by now,” he said! His tone of voice must have carried more edge to it than he had intended, because he noticed several of his advisors flinch away.

    “Perhaps the tribute is just held up”, Bonaventure, one of his chief Comes said. “Clothair has been late with his tribute in the past.”

    Theodemir shook his head. His hair, once a thick mane of blond had begun to grow grey and was thinning on his crown, whipped through the air, exaggerating gesture. “He has been late in the past, yes, but never this late. It was always just soon enough that he could claim that it had been delayed by this excuse or that. His brothers’ gold had all arrived as planned back in April. No, that bastard is up to something. I can feel it. Didn’t even one of the old Roman historians once say that the Franks weren’t to be trusted?”

    “Father, if I may speak?”

    The king looked over at Theodebert, his eldest son. He smiled as he remembered the boy’s wide-eyed response when he had seen Toulouse, back when he had first arrived in that city. He was no boy now, but rather a strapping man in his prime, at the age of the 19. In many ways, he was the spitting image of his father, but had the cold grey eyes of his Mother.

    “Yes, son, what is it?”

    “Clothair may be trying to break our treaty of the last decade, but there might also be over circumstances. I’ve heard that he has been having some difficulties with the Burgundians. Rather than jump to conclusions, perhaps we should send a small party to Soissons? He would never violate the rules of hospitality, it would hurt his standing amongst his brothers too much, and a small force might intimidate him into giving us our due.”

    Theodemir nodded slowly. It was just the sort of plan that he would expect from his eldest, bold, but logical. But he had his misgivings. “It’s too risky. If Clothair is determined to break his treaty with us, than I would fear for the safety of whoever was sent, and I suspect you are volunteering to lead this mission?”

    Theodebert smiled, “It is only a risk if we act foolishly. And who says the mission is about the tribute? We all know that there is bad blood between our families, but doesn’t Clothair have a daughter who is of marrying age? Brunhilde, I believe is her name. And it is well time that you arranged a marriage for Amalaric.”

    The King nodded, “So, you suggest we go under the cover of seeking her hand in marriage for your brother? It might work, and it would be good to settle our feud if possible, although I still burn for what he did to my cousin.”

    “Yes, Father, and they equally burn after you slew their father.”

    Theodemir shot a glare at his son. His killing of Clovis had been one of the worst mistakes of his life, and it continued to cause his pain decades later. It was alienated his own mother and sister, led to the death of his cousin, and cost the lives of countless members of is army.

    “I’m sorry Father, I spoke out of turn. I was simply saying that there are wounds on both sides, and the best way to heal them would be through marriage. And, furthermore, if that was out excuse for the visit, they wouldn’t question our sending an honor guard there to help me negotiate the deal.”

    Theodemir sighed, “You are as headstrong as I am, Theodebert. Don’t let it lead you down the wrong paths, as I occasionally am. But, your plan makes sense. Gather you’re people. You won’t be able to begin until after Winter passes, so you have some time to plan. But I want you to bring Wulfila with you. He’s been your friend since you were young, and I would feel safer if he was there to advise you.”

    “Thank you Father,” Theodebert said, “I hope to make you proud. One way or another I’ll bring an end to this feud between ourselves and the Merovings.”

    [FN1] The Euric Code was the first law code of any of the Germanic peoples, having been compiled for the Visigoths a few years before the Ostrogoths even arrived in Italy. It was a blending of traditional Visigothic law with some influence from the Code of Theodosius. Among other things, it codified the stratification between the Roman population and the Visigoths. Theodemir’s code is heavily based off of it, but is slightly less harsh on the Roman population in East and West Gothland, although a certain stratification still exists.

    Among aspects of it that I did not touch on in the main post, for instance, is a law that a Roman man may not marry a Gothic woman, for fear that the children would take after their father. However a Gothic man may marry a Gothic woman for the same reason. It also creates, by extension, eliminates any chance of a Roman inheriting Gothic lands through marriage.

    [FN2] This is not without precedent. Prior to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Roman Senate was a dying institution. However, Theodoric gave them more power, allowing them to serve as advisors to himself, greatly increasing the Senate’s prestige, and returning it to an advisory body like it had been under the earlier Roman Emperors. The Senate’s disappearance in OTL seems to have come about as a result of the collapse of the Gothic kingdom in the Gothic Wars. It makes sense that Theodemir, in his current situation, would choose to continue, and expand upon, the policies of his father.

    [FN3] The sacrifice of Theodahad will end up becoming a central incident in the story cycle of Theodemir the Great, much as the death of Roland became in the Charlemagne Cycle in OTL. I felt Theodahad deserved a better end than the one he got in real life, at any rate. Another event that will find its way into stories is just around the corner.

    And so ends my longest chapter yet. I apologize for the length of it, but if I'm going to go forward with this, I needed to at least begin to describe the internal transformation of the Gothic kingdoms, and hint as to how they will develope in the future. I could go into more detail, but the post was becoming excessively long as it was. I plan on returning to the topic in future posts.

    I hope you enjoyed the newest update. I expect to have the next one up soon. I apologize for the length between the last chapter and this one, I felt that I needed to do some more research into the structure of the Ostrogoths before I could move foreward.

    As usually, any and all comments or questions are welcome!
    Chapter 6: The Family Feud
  • Chapter 6: The Family Feud

    Chapter 6: The Family Feud
    “Vengeance is an all consuming fire, and like fire, it must be treated with respect and awe. A man, motivated by such a desire, is capable of great feats. A small state, fueled by some injustice done to it in the past, can vanquish a great empire, many times its own size. But beware! For vengeance can also make a man reckless, and many great kings have seen their kingdoms turn to ash; consumed by the flame in their hearts.” – Einer Skulson, in The Art of Politics and War [FN1]

    April, 544
    Soissons, Kingdom of Soissons [Soissons, France]
    Theodebert was not impressed by the palace of Chlotair, the Frankish king of this benighted land. Raised in his father’s court at Ravenna, he had come to be used to a certain level of opulence, which would have been unheard of in all of the lands of the Franks. The building, calling it a palace was simply too much, was a squat villa which even the poorest Gothic Reiks [FN2] would have found distasteful.

    Theodebert wondered if there was even enough room in the structure to house his royal guard of a hundred soldiers. This was a very real problem for the Gothic prince, and heir to the thrones of both the Ostrogothic and Visigothic thrones, besides the annoyance it caused him. Relations between Theodebert’s father, Theodemir, and the Frankish Merovings were not good. Theodemir’s killing of Clovis in combat as a young man had destroyed relations between the Goths and the Franks. The Frankish invasion of Aquitaine, and the killing of the Visigothic king, had only escalated the hostilities even further. Although Theodemir had defeated the three Frankish brothers, and forced an annual tribute upon them, relations were never good. And now Clothair had, apparently, refused to deliver his tribute.

    In other words, there was no way in hell that Theodebert planned on being separated from his guard at any point during this mission. He had come to put pressure upon Clothair to deliver the tribute and, if possible, to end the feud by arranging the marriage of his brother Amalaric to Clothair’s daughter Brunhilde. Although he had no great love for the Franks, whose unprovoked invasion of Aquitaine before his birth had become legendary, he desperately wanted to maintain the peace between the two people; war between them would drain the Goths forces and weaken them, at a time when the East and West Goths were only just starting to integrate.

    The Prince sighed, deeply, his nerves getting the better of him. He and his forces had arrived at the border several days earlier and been met by the Frankish patrol who had escorted them to the capitol. He and his men had been camped outside the villa since, awaiting an official invitation from Clothair. It had been announced that an official banquet would be organized for the evening, and Theodebert paced nervously, waiting for the messenger to return.

    “I don’t like this,” Wulfila said, looking at his friend. The two men were roughly the same age, although, whereas Theodebert had the look of a prince and warrior about him, Wulfila was short of stature and rather plump. He wore his life as a scribe on his sleeve.

    Theodebert nodded, “I don’t like it either, but we don’t have much of a choice. And Clothair wouldn’t be foolish enough to break the rules of hospitality and attack us in his own court, it would be an embarrassment. And, even if he did, he doesn’t have enough forces at hand to take defeat us without heavy losses.”

    He looked over at the horizon and saw a figure approaching. “And here comes our invitation. I swear, diplomacy is a lot more difficult than war.” [FN3]

    Later that Night

    The central banquet chamber of Clothair’s compound was being lit by torches which cast shitting shadows around the room. The King sat at the head of his own table, surrounded by his own retainers. The man was 47 years old, but the weight of rule sat heavy upon him, and he looked even older, his long grey hair hung limply below his shoulder, contrasting with his balding crown.

    Theodebert sat at the head of his own bench, directly across from the Frankish king. He raised the glass before him to his lips, with little of the joy such an action would usually bring him, and grimaced. He much preferred the wine of his own country, not this northern swill. “We come, as I said, to discuss the betrothal of my brother to your daughter.”

    Clothair shook his head, cutting the Gothic prince off short, “Now isn’t the time to discuss business. We are still waiting on some of our guests who have yet to arrive. They may have a thing to say on the proceedings. I think you will have a great deal to say to our other royal visitors.”

    Theodebert furrowed his brow, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware of any other guests staying with you. My visit was ill-timed.”

    “Oh no,” Clothair replied, “the timing was very fortunate, in fact. In fact, you might say, that they have very much wanted to meet with you.”

    As if on cue, the doors to the banquet hall opened, and a contingent of heavily armed men entered, blocking the doors. Theodebert rose to his feet and grabbed the blade he had hidden in his boot. His men rose and dashed for the weapon pile behind them. “Burgundians,” he managed to cry out, “but we’re allies!”

    Clovis leapt to his feet, “You dare draw weapons on me, when I invited you into my home?”

    “You invite assassins in to attack us? Traitors who said they are our allies, and then claim that I am breaking the peace,” Theodebert snarled. He had since tossed aside his knife and grabbed the sword given to him by one of his men.

    “Oh,” Clovis began with a slight chuckle, “I think you will find that they are no longer your allies. The Burgundians have grown sick of the Gothic boot on their neck. I’ve offered them what your Father denied them. True independence.”

    The Frankish soldiers and their Burgundian allies advanced on the isolated Goths. Before he fell, Theodebert could take some silence in the fact that he had been right earlier that day; if the Franks betrayed him and his men, they would not win an easy fight. [FN3]

    The Fall of the Merovings
    By: Anonymous
    Trans. Harold Smith
    1998, Freedom Press: Alberton, Republic of New England [Richmond, Virginia]


    “The Fall of the Merovings,” as the Merovungenleid is often known in the English language was first composed in the 13th century by an anonymous scop in the court of Otto the Bold, Earl of Saxony. The epic was written in the style popular in Saxony at the time, which merged the older ‘Saxon Line’ with the skaldic verse popular within the Norse courts. The work is comprised of stanzas, with each stanza containing three to five long lines, and ending with one short line. The long lines, as in the poetry of other Germanic peoples, were held together by three alliterative stresses, although following the traditions of the Saxon people, the lines were much looser than in other traditions and contained many more unstressed syllables than would be found in English or Gothic writings. The short line, borrowed directly from the Norse, contained only two stressed alliterations, and was used to bring the verse to conclusion.

    Although written in the 13th century, “The Fall of the Merovings” was based upon an oral tradition which stretched back centuries. The tales of Theodemir the Great, or Deitmir of Bern as he was known in the Saxon lands, no doubt began to circulate shortly after that king’s death, gaining great traction throughout the Germanic lands, from Vandalia in the south to the northern reaches of Scandinavia. Over time, these stories mingled with the tales of the other great Germanic heroes and villains, such as the Volsungs, Attila the Hun, and Ermaneric. In fact, the tales of the Volsungs, the death of Attila, and the fall of the Nibelungs came to have a direct impact upon the Theodemir Cycle, as Theodemir’s father, Theodoric, was said to have fled into exile and taken service with Attilla, before the fall of the Huns.

    As a part of the oral tradition, the tale of the Merovings, the great Frankish dynasty of Clovis, and their great fall from grace, evolved considerably in its telling. It is our great fortune, then, that we have an account of much of the story from Wulfila Strabo, who observed the events first hand, which allows us to separate fact from fiction. For instance, we know that the dramatic scene of the death of Theodebert was largely unchanged from the real event. In 544 Theodebert, Theodemir’s son, traveled to Soissons, the court of the Frankish king Clothair, to either arrange the marriage of that king’s daughter to Theodebert’s brother. Although we cannot be assured that:
    “In bloody battle the bright one flared
    He halted the hearts of a hundred men
    The men of the Merovings he mowed down in fury
    Until an arrow opened his heart
    Then to Valhalla he ventured with a valiant host”
    We do know that Theodemir fought bravely before being cut down in battle.

    Other aspects of the tale do not hold up to the historical record. For instance, in the story, all three of Clovis’ sons took part in the war against Theodemir, and only Clothair’s son Chram survives the conflict. We know this to be patently false; although Clothair and Childebert made war on the Goths, Theudoric remained neutral throughout the war and, due to his unusual insight, retained his kingdom and his life. It is also unlikely that the cream of the Gothic Reiks were killed in the conflict, by the simple fact the Theodemir’s realm did not collapse upon the end of hostilities, although the loss of life must still have been magnificent.

    “The Fall of the Merovings,” recounts one of the central moments of the Theodemir Cycle. Beginning with the departure of Theodebert from Ravenna, the treachery of Clothair, and the young prince’s ‘return’ to Ravenna, the story them moves out of the courts and onto the field of battle. The central theme of the work is the growing rage of Theodemir and his Frankish counterparts, which grows with each engagement, until finally reaching an apocalyptic crescendo during the Siege of Paris in which it seems that the entire world will be consumed by the fury of the Amalings and Merovings.

    May, 544
    Ravenna, Kingdom of the Ostogoths

    “Theodemir, King,” one of the palace Comes began. The man was trembling, and his entire face had gone as white as a corpse. “Your son’s party has returned.”

    Theodemir looked at the man, and he suddenly felt a deep dread building in his heart. “Theodebert,” he said simply. This couldn’t be happening. He had had reservations about his son’s trek the entire time. It was fool hardy, and stupid. It was obvious that Clothair was goading them to war, and it was easier to respond in kind. If the boy hadn’t been so persistent, hadn’t blinded him with words of peace. Finally, drawing himself up, and steeling himself, the king did the only thing he could do, “send them in,” he said in a flat tone.

    The doors to the chamber opened, and six men came in, carrying a shield between them. They were all broken men, shattered physically, yes, but one could see a great weight rested on their hearts. Much heavier than the shield they were carrying with them. Theodemir stared at them, and it was only then that he noticed the man in the lead was Wulfila, loyal Wulfila. The scribe must have lost thirty pounds, and he had a tightly wound bandage where his right hand used to be.

    “Wulfila,” Theodemir said, “What has happened? Where is Theodemir, where is my son?”

    “Theodemir, King,” the scribe began, his voice breaking, “Clothair, King of Soissons wished that we, personally, deliver to you his tribute.” And with those words Wulfila fell to his knees, and broke into body shaking sobs. “I failed you, lord. I tried to protect him, but I failed.”

    Theodemir stood up and, in a daze, walked towards the shield, which the men had placed upon the palace floor. Summoning his courage, he took the richly made tapestry which hung over the shield, and ripped it away. Looking down, he let out a gasp, as everyone else in the assembly joined in a spontaneous scream of horror.

    He couldn’t show weakness. Not now. Not in front of everyone at court. He reached out and grabbed a table for support, and, through a monumental force of will, he kept back the tears which were beginning to well up in his eyes. His hand suddenly struck out and, finding a gold chalice full of wine, he grabbed it and threw the cup against the wall with all of his might. The red liquid soared through the air behind the cup, eventually falling to the floor and staining it the color of blood.

    “Clothair,” he began, his voice building into a shriek of pure rage, “Clothair DIES!”

    And with that, he cast his eyes down at the shield one last time. The broken swords and spears piled high atop it and, perched above the mound of broken iron was the head of his first born son. And nailed into the head was a note, written in Latin, which read “Here is your tribute.”

    And then the war came …

    FN1: Skulson is this TL’s Machiavelli, for lack of a better term. His work on government and war, written at the behest of a Nodic king, goes on to become the most influential writing on those subjects since the Romans. Consider him more of a Sun Tzu, if Sun Tzu was focused more on the warfare of couriers kings, and less of armies and generals.

    FN2: Reiks, as has been explained earlier is a Gothic term for nobility. As the term develops in the gothic state it will, generally, come to represent the same thing that Duke or Earl means in OTL.

    FN3: Clothair wanted the weapons left close so the Goths would draw them first. He was hoping to spur an international incident of sorts, or at least make it seem as if he was the one wronged, in order to draw his brothers into the conflict on his side. The Burgundians, meanwhile, had been ‘guests’ at Soissons, ever since his spies told him that Theodebert was coming. The new king of Burgundy has wanted to declare his independence from the Goths, who see Burgundy more as a protectorate than an in dependent kingdom, and Clothair was only too happy to promise him this. Of course, whether or not Clothair plans on ever fulfilling his side of the bargain is another matter entirely; especially as Gothic armies are likely to strike Burgundy first.

    My apologize for the long wait betwee my last update and this one; real life has a nasty tendency of getting between me and my writing. I should, hopefully, have another post here in a day or two.
    I figure there will be one more post about the Gothic-Frank conflict and then I'll need to turn my attention to the East and fill everyone in on events in Constantinople, which are going to have some very strong ramifications for the Goths in the West.
    As usual, comments and questions are not only welcome, they are requested! I hope everyone has been enjoying this little tale of a surviving Gothic Italy.
    Chapter 7: This is Why We Fight
  • Chapter 7: This is Why We Fight

    Chapter 7: This is Why We Fight
    With fire and fury fearsome Theodemir
    Slew the Salins the slayers of his son
    The plains of Paris he purged of life
    Watering the wheat with the weeping tears
    Of the fearless Franks and the ill-fortuned Walings.

    - Excerpt from “The Merovungenleid”

    Outside of Ravenna, Kingdom of the Ostrogoths
    May 545

    Theodemir, King of the Ostrogoths, Visigoths and Italy, sat heavily upon his horse, slumping forward in his saddle. The last year had not been kind to the King; the death, no murder, of his eldest son had driven him into a rage and then a deep depression. Theodebert had been his pride and joy; the absence of the boy from his life continued to weigh heavy upon the King’s heart.

    Theodemir had always been single minded. It had been by sheer force of will that he had pushed through the reforms of his kingdoms, and had crushed the rebellions against him. His goal had always been the same; the preservation of the Gothic people, and securing for them a place of respect in history. But now that quest was being overshadowed by a stronger desire; vengeance for the death of his son, and the destruction of Clothair, and everything that he had built.

    “The army is ready to march, Father.”

    Theodemir looked over and nodded at his second son, Amalaric. The young man had insisted on coming on the campaign after Theodemir had revealed his intent to have his son stay in Ravenna and act as steward in his absence. It was the right choice; Amalaric was now the heir-apparent, and he needed to have the support of the military if he hoped to hold the kingdom together. And, besides, Theodebert had been his brother as well; and, unlike in most royal households, they had been close. But Theodemir was still worried about his decision to let Amalaric accompany the army. He knew his son was a skilled fighter, but battles were chaotic, and accidents were always a possibility. Having lost one son, he was terrified of losing another. And, even more than that, the king would himself possessed of an almost superstitious fear; his second son had been named Amalaric after the former king of the Visigoths, Theodemir’s cousin who had been like a little brother to him. That Amalaric had been taken from him by the Franks; cut down in battle after the three Meroving brothers had invades Aquitaine. Was history about to repeat itself?

    “We have lost so much to those men,” the King muttered to himself.

    “I would hardly call them men, Father,” Amalaric said, “more like rabid dogs. I’ll gut Clothair myself if I find him”

    “Watch your temper,” Theodemir said, “the last thing you need to do is to charge blindly into battle and get yourself killed. Clothair will meet his doom, but I will not lose another son to that man. I won’t lose anyone else to the Merovings, ever again.”

    “I won’t do anything stupid, Father.”

    “You’d best not, because if you want to die so bad I’ll kill you myself, and save Clothair the trouble. We are Amali; we don’t act stupid.”

    Amalaric bowed his head, and seemed to sulk. Well, just as well. He had always been more given to brooding than either his brother or father. Whereas Theodebert had been given to boldness, Amalaric had always been content to staying in the background. If life had taken a different turn, the younger son might have made quite the scholar some day; he had always been much more at home amongst his books than the martial arts. But God had laid down a different path, and there was no arguing with the Almighty, no matter how cruel his actions sometimes appeared. Not for the first time Theodemir reminded himself that God had seen his own son tortured and killed, after all.

    Theodemir sighed, a common expression these days, and placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Don’t sulk like that, it’s not becoming of a prince. You wanted to be here after all. Now, stay by my side and you’ll do fine. When this is all over, we’re going to have Clothair’s head on a pike!”

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    The death of Theodebert came as a great shock to Theodemir. The feud between the Amalings and Merovings had claimed many lives in both sides of the conflict: Clovis, King of the Franks, his son Clodomir, Alaric, King of the Visigoths, and his son Amalaric, to name only the most prominent. However, all of these deaths had occurred on the field of battle; the assassination of Theodebert was different, and it spurred the Gothic king into a rage. He vowed to destroy Clothair, and anyone else who stood by his side.

    It is difficult to fully understand Clothair’s motivations in breaking with the style of the conflict; he left few sources behind, and most of what we know of him comes from Gothic sources, which continually painted him as a brute and a fool. The few references which come to us from later Frankish histories were recorded years after Clothair’s death, and so are equally unreliable.

    However, it is possible to make a few educated guesses. First of all, the death of Clovis on the battle field was a tragedy for the Franks, but not an unexpected one considering the life that he had led. Society at the time expected that Clovis’s children would seek vengeance, which they attempted to do in 531, invading the Kingdom of the Visigoths. The crushing defeat of the Merovings, and the tribute imposed upon them by the peace treaty, only furthered the humiliation. But, perhaps just as important, was Aquitaine itself; the Franks desire for that province had led to Clovis’ invasion and death, and the conquering of that territory had been one of the stated aims of the 531 invasion as well.

    In any case, Clothair must have known that his killing of Theodebert would lead to another war between the Franks and the Goths. He likely hoped that the threat of Theodemir would lead his brothers, Childebert and Theudoric to his defense. Coupled with his new allies, the Burgundians, Clothair must have felt that he had enough strength to vanquish the Goths on the field of battle. If so, he grossly miscalculated; although Childebert did openly ally with Clothair, Theudoric spurred his brothers’ talk of an alliance and remained neutral in the war.

    Theodemir spent the remainder of 544 and the beginning of 545 marshalling his forces for the coming war. Although the core of his army was constituted by Goths from both East and West Gothland, he also relied heavily upon Romans from Italy and Hispania. Although it is impossible to know for certain the total size of the forces that Theodemir had brought together, Wulfila does give us an estimate of one army of 50,000 and a smaller force of 20,000. However, by Wulfila’s own admission, he was not well versed in military affairs, and so it is difficult to say for certain if his estimates were correct.

    Theodemir’s strategy for the campaign itself was rather bold. Clothair’s forces had been moving into Burgundy for several months, where he was shoring up his defenses, anticipating the Gothic attack. Knowing this, Theodemir planned a feint; he would send his smaller army of 20,000 directly into Burgundy to engage Clothair and distract the Frankish king. Meanwhile, Theodemir’s main forces would move north, through the Alps, and seize Aventicum. It was a dangerous gambit, and one that would prove costly, but it was designed to take Clothair completely by surprise and keep him disorientated.

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964

    The crossing of the Alps was treacherous, but all were motivated by an overwhelming desire to destroy Clothair’s forces. The death of Theodebert had been a great shock to the Goths and Romans, and all men were united in a desire to gain revenge for his treacherous slaying. Our love of Theodebert and Theodemir, both, held us together during the worst of the march. I, who am not even a soldier, but a scholar, marched side by side with those brave men, and bore my weight well. [FN1]

    We were in luck. Upon coming to Aventicum, the citizens were so shocked by our presence, that they threw the gates open to us, and welcomed Theodemir as if he were their own king. We later found out that Gundomar King was very unpopular within the region as he had chosen to ally himself with the Franks against the Goths. Although Aventicum is a poor city, nowhere near as grand as it once was, we found ourselves treated well by the citizenry, and were soon refreshed and ready to march on Clothair, himself.

    Clothair was shocked by the arrival of such a large army to his North; he must have known that the army that had been harrying him was not Theodemir’s main force, but did not know where we would attack him. Our appearance in Aventicum startled him, and he chose to pull out from the capital at Vienne, and marched to meet us.

    Our two armies met near the city of Geneva. It was a great battle, and many men fell on both sides. But, in the end Theodemir was victorious; our smaller army arrived and caught Clothair’s flank, and his army retreated from the field; they had been beaten, but not defeated. The Franks, and the remainders of the Burgundians, retreated to Childebert’s Kingdom of Paris where they found reinforcements. Theodemir was left occupying Burgundy; as the Gundobar had fallen in battle, the kingdom was left without a king. [FN2]

    Alas, if only Clothair had also fallen that day, so many lives would have been spared, for Theodemir was still enraged, and nothing by the death of his son’s killer would satisfy him any longer. If Clothair had died then, perhaps Theodemir would have been spared the single greatest weight upon his heart. But God does not work according to our desires but, rather, to the unfolding of his own plan. Clothair lived and the war continued.

    [FN1] Wulfila is trying to not sound too arrogant here but he is certainly sproud of his ability to carry his own weight during the march.

    [FN2] Wulfila is not a military man, and so his grasp of tactics is rather lacking, meaning that his depictions of battles are short and to the point, and a bit flat. The fact that this means that this author doesn’t have to go into many of the details of battles, which he knows little about either, is entirely coincidental I assure you!


    All right, at long last we get to the great war between the Franks and the Goths. I'll finish it up in another post (hopefully tonight!) and then we get to turn our eyes to the East to figure out what those Romans are up to!
    Chapter 8: Come the War, Come Hell.
  • Chapter 8: Come the War, Come Hell.

    “They killed my boy!” – Theodemir the Great, after the sack of Paris

    September, 545 Vienna, Burgundy

    The man approached the Gothic camp waving the white flag. It was only the single man, with a small guard of five guards. Word quickly spread through the Gothic camp that Clothair was offering peace, but such was not the case. The guards quickly sent words back to the King, who was intrigued enough by the mysterious peace offering, so allow a meeting.

    After being heralded in to Theodemir’s man tent, the messenger laid himself prostrate. “My Lord,” he began, “I grieve for the bad blood between us, and the tragedies you have been forced to endure.”

    “Have you come from Clothair, to bed forgiveness for your sins before God,” the King said. Theodemir was a small man, with a reedy voice, but when enraged he could make himself seem three times the size of a regular man. Since the assassination of his son, he had allowed rage to dominate his senses.

    “No, my Lord, I come from Theudoric, King of the Franks. I have been sent to express my condolences, and to state that Theudoric, King, had no part on the foul betrayal of your kin. We are saddened by all that has transpired, and wish you the best.”

    Theodemir snorted, “One Frank is as good as another. You have all betrayed my family, betrayed God himself. My son came as an envoy of peace, and you subjugated him to the most unnatural of tortures. I have nothing in my heart, but hate for your kin. Any son of Clovis should be purged from the face of the Earth, for their presence is an affront to God and all that is good a holy.”

    “My Lord,” the envoy began, “we wish no further conflict with you or the Gothic people. Pray, tell this humble servant what it would take to win, if not your friendship, at least sate your rage?”

    Theodemir leaned forward, and his eyes glowed with hate, “Tell your master,” he said with a deep snarl, “that the freemen of the Goths march upon his brothers to right wrongs and restore balance in this world. We want no part of his pleas for mercy or neutrality. He is of tainted blood, and shall share the same fate as his kin. Should we wish to prove otherwise, than he should joined our efforts, and help us put Paris to the torch. Should he do so, than we shall grant him clemency, and acknowledge that he had not part in the great sins perpetrated against out house!”

    The envoy recoiled, “But, my Lord, to strike at one’s own brothers is a sin.”

    “Yes, and don’t pretend, for even a second, that you Franks have not partaken in that practice in your past. Now go! You have my terms. Deliver them if you will. Should I hear nothing more from your lord, than I will be forced to feel Theudoric an enemy, and he shall face the full fury of my arms, after I have dealt with his brothers.”

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of England Publishing, 1964

    Theodemir’s words were bitter to the envoy of Theudoric, but they were just. The children of Clovis had dealt so much hurt to the Amalgians, and Theodemir was given to rage at them all. I am certain that he would have marched upon Theudoric and destroyed him and his people if he had been given the chance. However, such was not the will of God. After the envoy departed from our camp, Theodemir continued to plan for his invasion of Frankland.

    After our victory over the Burgundians, Theodemir moved North into Gaul. The Franks retreated before him. Theodemir met the forces of Childebert outside of the city of Tours, and in that battle, the Goths were victorious, although Childebert himself retreated from the field of battle and fled to meet his brother in the city of Paris.

    But the King of the Goths was a man possessed. After these two great victories he did not do what most other men would do, and wait to secure his strength. Rather, he decided to march directly on Paris and to capture the main of the Franks in that city and destroy them once and for all.

    Arriving at the city, Theodemir caught Cothair and Childebert behind the city walls of Paris. He moved quickly, and began scouring the land for resources, putting to the sword all those who resisted. The fields of Northern Gaul burned, and the sons of Gaul were slaughtered as if they were so many sheep. Thousands perished in Theodemir’s quest for vengeance for the death of his son, until the Seine ran red with the blood of the slaughtered, and the stench of death choked the entire land.

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Various estimates have been calculated to describe the destruction which the Goths rained down upon Northern Gaul; scholars have calculated that between 20 and 50 percent of the male population of the province was killed by the order of Theodemir. Although it is difficult to determine the exact magnitude of the death, it is safe to say that Northern Gaul was rendered a desolation by the Goths. Theodemir appears to have practiced scorched earth upon his enemies; he burned fields, slaughtered livestock, and slew peasants, creating refugees which fled towards Paris and taxed that city’s supplies of food and other resources. Sources from the time, especially Wulfila Strabo, describe that Theodemir left Northern Gaul a ruin, and massively depopulated the once prosperous region.

    In any case, Theodemir surrounded the city of Paris and laid siege to the Franks. Although his armies had been bloodied by the war, Theodemir was able to send for further reinforcements from his lands in Italy and Hispania to help maintain the siege. These soldiers not only lay siege to the city itself, but scoured the countryside for further resources, stripping the land bare, and further adding to the despair which had plagued the region.

    Paris, during this era, was a city which straddled the river Seine, walled on both the North and the south banks of the river. Theodemir appears to have cut around the city to threaten it from the North, storming that section of the city after only three months of siege. However, while trying to storm the river, the Franks were able to put his fleet to the torch, and hold out on the Southern bank of the river, their backs to the burnt ash of the land.

    The siege of Paris would last for almost a year. Although the Goths had captured the northern half of the city, they were unable to take the Southern half after the loss of their river fleet. Chilebert and Clothair might have been able to hold out had Theodemir not entered into negotiations with Theuderic, the third son of Clovis. Fearing for the safety of his own kingdom, and the existence of the Franks themselves, Teudoric openly allied himself with the Goths and sent an army to help reinforce the Gothic siege of Paris.

    In February of 532, the Goths, and their Frankish allies, stormed the city of Paris and overwhelmed their starved and freezing defenders. The sack would leave the city desolate, with nearly 90 percent of the population exterminated during a week-long orgy of violence and looting. Although Clothair died while helping defend the walls, Childeric was not so lucky and felt the full brunt of Theodemir’s rage, being drawn and quartered in front of the Gothic forces, and pieces of his body being sent to the four corners of the Gothic realm. The scene was captured in early Germanic poetry:

    “The rivers ran red with the blood
    Of those fearless Franks who fell in defense
    Of their King and kin, Clovis’ heirs.
    The glory of the Goths was gruesome to behold
    And Proud Paris perished at their whim.
    While Theodemir and his thanes Thanked God for their victory.”

    When the sack of Paris was complete, a peace was crafted between those remaining parties. The Goths were to annex Burgundy, with Theodemir being crowned King of the Burgundians, and the kingdoms of Childebert and Clothair being incorporated into the realm of the Goths. Theuderic was allowed to keep his kingdom, the modern realm of Frankland, intact; however, his betrayal of his brothers would cost him heavily as he was assassinated by his own son Theuderic II, and he gained the nickname “the Unfaithful.”

    Theodemir returned to Ravenna a conquering hero. He had united all of the European lands of the Western Roman Empire within his lifetime, and had become the dominant power besides Constantinople.


    Okay, it seems likw its not every day that a TL gets ressurected after such a long hiatus. However, while working on my other TL "The Prodigal Sons" on the After 1900 board, I couldn't help but continue to return to this TL in my thoughts, and thought I should continue it as best as I could.

    And so, here you are, a new chapter. I can't say its as well written as I could have liked, but it is what it is. We now have a Gothic King which has brought Italy, Hispania and Gaul into the same fold and, more or less, recreated the Western Roman Empire.

    Now that my thesis has been completeed, I should have more time to continue this TL. I suspect I will have one more post explaining the integration of Burgundy and Gaul into the Gothic lands, and then we will look at the Eastern Roman Empire for a post or two.

    As I always say, any comments or questions are always welcome!
    Chapter 9: Why You Can’t Go Back to Constantinople
  • Chapter 9: Why You Can’t Go Back to Constantinople

    Constantinople, Romania
    February 23, 533

    “My Emperor, we have to get to the boats,” Gregory called out, while scanning the horizon. Much of the city was in flames, and the fires cast an eerie glow over the street. This irritated Gregory, who would have greatly preferred to be moving under the complete cover of darkness.

    Gregory grasped the Emperor by the shoulder, and gave him a strong tug by the tunic, “we need to get to the docks, now,” he cried out. Under normal circumstances, such an act of touching the Emperor would have been unthinkable, but these were hardly the usual times. Two thirds of city had risen up, and were seeking the head of the man whom he was dedicated to protect. They had only narrowly escaped their last encounter with the mob of Constantinople, and … well, it was best not to dwell on that too much.

    “We have to go back for her,” the Emperor suddenly declared, “we have to go back! The mob will tear her a part, we have to go back for my wife!”
    Gregory’s hand struck out on its own accord, and struck His Grace on the cheek, who recoiled back as if he had taken the bolt of a crossbow. “She’s dead,” he snapped, “She’s dead. And so are we, if you don’t start moving. We need to get to the docks, now!”

    Much to Gregory’s own shock, the slap seemed to have shook the Emperor from his daze. Tears welled up in his eyes, likely at the thought of his dear Theodora, but he pressed his lips together and gave on vigorous nod of his head. “We get to the docks, and sale for Thrace. And, when I get back, I am going to tear these rebels apart for what they did to my Queen,” his voice caught in his throat for a second, and Gregory suddenly found himself terrified that he was going to bear witness to the great Justinian crying like a small child. But, no, the Emperor regained his composure a second time, and began to move forward.

    As the two began to move through the streets of Constantinople towards the docks, Gregory found himself wondering if he would be better suited fleeing to the rebels. He had, of course, just struck the Emperor’s own person; even, if for a good cause, there were some men who would never let such a slight go unpunished. He sent a silent prayer to God that the Emperor was as good of a man as Gregory had always believed him to be.

    And with that silent prayer in mind, Gregory plunged ahead with the Emperor on his right, as they made their way to the docks and possible freedom.


    Map of the Imperial Palace and Hippodrome

    The Empire of the East: a History of Romania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaeland, 2010] [FN 1]

    The Nika Revolution of 533 must have caught Justinian I greatly by surprise. By all rights, his reign, so far, had been a successful one; coming to the purple in 527, he had begun to enact a grand architectural program within Constantinople, determined to see the seat of the Roman Empire match the glories of Rome during her height; despite the ever going conflict with the Persians, Justinian had been able to secure an “eternal peace” between the Empires of Roman an Iran. Finally, he had begun to plan, what he felt would be the greatest accomplishment of his reign; taking advantage of the internal divisions within the Vandal Kingdom, in order to return North Africa to the Roman Empire. [FN1]

    Unfortunately, such grand schemes were costly, and for months Constantinople and the rest of the Empire had been suffering the financial affects of the Emperor’s grand designs. While Justinian planned with Belisarius and German, his two greatest generals, for the upcoming invasion of Vandalia, the masses in Constantinople fumed under the pressure of the imperial yoke.

    Matters finally come to a head in February of 533, following the conclusion of races at Constantinople’s Hippodrome. What began as simple hooliganism, soon turned political when the rioting Blue and Green factions were met by soldiers who had been sent to restore order. After a short conflict, the soldiers were routed, and the rioters, now convinced of their own power, began to spread out throughout the city, voicing long standing complaints about the rule of Justinian.
    Soon, members of the senate in Constantinople who had long resented Justinian’s rule, moved and took control of the riot. They sent words to the leaders of the rebellion, and soon took control of the situation.

    As the rioters surrounded the Imperial palace, keeping the Emperor and his soldiers at siege, a small contingent broke off and headed to the home of Hypatius, a former Consul of the Senate in Constantinople, and the nephew of former-emperor Anastasius I. When Hypatius initially rebuked the rioters, and professed that he had no wished to be crowned Emperor, the mob overran his house, and carried the Consul and his wife off, initially against their will.
    An hour later, Hypatius had apparently had a change of attitude, and consented to be crowned. As a well-attended, yet impromptu, coronation at the Hippodrome, Emperor Hypatius I was raised to the Purple, flanked by leaders of the rebellion and before the rousing cries of the rioters. Deciding that it was best to take control of the city as quickly as possible, Hypatius then announced that the time had come to storm the Imperial palace.
    As luck would have it, for the sudden-Emperor, his planned attack occurred just as Justinian and his entourage had planned to retreat to the docks. They were quickly noticed, and pursued. According to the historian Procopius, who had in the palace when the revolution occurred and was with Justinian’s party, it was in this sortie than the Empress Theodora was struck in the head by a rock thrown by a rioter, and fell. At this point, pandemonium ruled, and in the ensuing chaos, Justinian was apparently able to slip away, somehow undetected. Procopius, himself, was captured by the rebels who took him to Hypatius. The eventual fate of Theodora is unknown, but it is safe to assume that she died as a result of her injuries. [FN2]

    Justinian arrived in Thessaloniki by ship, and quickly rendezvoused with Belisarius, who was still building and equipping the army for the invasion of North Africa. Declaring that he was still loyal to Justinian, word was also sent to Germanus, and plans were taken to retake Constantinople and to throw down the Usurper.
    Meanwhile, Hypatius may have been coming to regret his forced promotion to the seat of Emperor. He found himself the proud owner of a city which had been largely burned to the ground by his own supposed supporters, and completely indebt to the power brokers of the Senate. Working in his favor, however, was that those rebel Senators who had raised him up, were amongst the most powerful and wealthiest aristocrats in the Eastern Roman Empire, and knew full well that their heads would be forfeit if Hypatius was to fall from his throne. They also knew that Justinian had been preparing an army of his own for the North African adventure, and would be able to respond to the revolution in due order; therefore, it was in their best interests to fund an army to defeat him.

    No sooner had Justinian pulled an army together, than he marched upon Constantinople directly. The army was not at full strength; Germanus’s forces were still being levied, when Justinian made ordered the march, and it was likely expected that he would arrived to reinforce the besieging army. This decision would prove to be a tactical error, and must have sprung from Justinian himself, as nothing in the life of Belisarius indicates that he would have proposed such an effort himself.

    Hypatius’ allies were quick to raise their own forces and march upon the capital in the defense of their new Emperor. Unfortunately for them, they were stuck on the wrong side of the Bosporus, with their Emperor trapped within the ruins of the city. And, so, a stalemate of sorts began; Justinian held the ground in Thrace, surrounding the city and denying any landing of Hypatius’ men. However, Hypatius’ men held the east side of the straight, thereby denying Justinian the chance to entirely encircle Constantinople and cast down the usurper.

    In September, the stalemate was finally broken after five months of siege. Apparently growing impatient, and desiring justice for the murder of his dear wife, Justinian ordered an attack across the Bosporus. Bringing up what naval forces had remained loyal to him, Justinian ordered the crossing of the straight, feeling himself to be in a stronger position now that his cousin, Germanus’, forces had finally arrived to lend him further support.

    The move apparently caught Hypatius’ forces by surprise, and they were slow to respond to the attack. This gave Justinian an initial advantage in the battle, which would go on to be called the Battle of Nicea, and his forces plunged ahead, hoping to exploit their advantage. However, in the chaos of the battle, the Emperor and his personal guard became separated from the main of his own army, and they were set upon by his foes, and Justinian was cut down. With word of Justinian’s demise, the moral of his army broke, and they quickly surrendered or fled.


    Hypatius I, was quick to show forgiveness upon his enemies. Acting against the advice of his own advisors, according to Procopius, Hypatius offered to pardon both Belisarius and Germanus if they would put down their arms and offer their allegiance. This was quickly done, and Hypatius made a great scene, in the Hippodrome, of course, of publically pardoning his foes.

    This would, eventually, prove to be a grave error. [FN3]

    [FN1] Hey look, foreshadowing of a sort!

    [FN1] I figure than an event such as the Nika riots would bound to happen during the early reign of Justinian, considering his early policies, and the forces against him. Up to this point, Justinian had very little support amongst the traditional nobility of the Byzantine state; after the riots in OTL, he was able to take a strong stand, execute Hypatius, and exile the rebel Senators, which allowed him to solidify his rule. In the ATL, this does not occur.

    [FN2] Theodora was, at least according to tradition, the only person that kept Justinian from fleeing into exile. In the ATL, she meets an unfortunate demise, and Justinian chooses not to make a stand. Also, in the ATL, since the riots occur a year later, Belisarius is not in the capital to help in suppressing the revolt but, rather, assembling his army for the campaign against the Vandals.

    On a side note, perhaps in this ATL, the term “Vandalized” might come to mean catching a very lucky break. Such as “I’ve been Vandalized, thank god! I was about to lose my kingdom, until my enemy was overthrown by a revolt in his capital!”

    [FN3] Oh what? You thought this was over? Need I tell you that I’ve just spent the last several months reading “A Song of Ice and Fire”? Oh no; this isn’t over by a long shot. Not yet. Besides, I’m sure some of you have been wondering why Theodemir was able to go on his great campaign against the Franks without worrying about the Romans to the East!

    Since this update occured more less than six months after the previous, I am considering it a nice break from my previous posting speed!

    In all seriousness, I hope this read well. It has been a while since I last read Byzantine history, and I was worried I'd lost my grounding in it. I always knew that they were going to have a large part to play in this ATL, and had been putting back referencing them in any detail until I'd completed the narrative of Theodemir's vengeance against the Franks. How that that has been done, I needed to turn to the East and explain what is going on in the Empire (after all; if the Byzantines were healthy, they likely would have to to the aid of their allies in Gaul. The Byzantines, in this period, had long had a policy of making sure that no single Germanic tribe go too pwoerful in the West.)

    I hope you've enjoyed the most recent chapter! I have about two more to write about the Byzantines, and then the narrative should unite again for the end of Theodmir's reign.
    Chapter 10: The Coming Storm
  • Chapter 10:
    The Coming Storm

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV [FN1]
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    Shortly after the defeated of Justinian I, Hypatius must have come to realize just how difficult ruling the Rhomanians would prove to be. Mere months after the defeat, and death, of his rival, Emperor Hypatius I was faced with a number of difficulties; his capital city had been half burnt in the riots which had lead to his rise to power, that same city was garrisoned with soldiers who’s loyalty rested solely upon his own ability to pay their wages, and his purse strings were held firmly in the hands of those Senators who had joined forces with the mob to lift him to power.

    Hypatius held several cards in his own favor however. First, the City had bled enough over the past year, and whatever tensions which had exploded during the Nika Riots had largely subsided, as the poor citizens of Constantinople returned to their primary concern of survival. Secondly, the Emperor’s pardoning of Germanus and Belisarius had won over the loyalty of many in the City, who felt that it was a compassionate gesture; both Germanus and Belisarius were quickly developing a cult following of sorts; both generals were being romanticized as true patriots, who had only rebelled to show their loyalty to their Emperor, but who had come to see the errors of their ways and beg forgiveness from the One True Emperor. Finally, as meager as it might seem, was the good luck that the Persians had chosen to honor their peace treaty, and had not used the momentary chaos in Rhomania to push their own claims in Armenia.

    Of those problems facing Hypatius’ rule, his primary concern remained the rebuilding of Constantinople. Although the great sea and land walls had not been damaged in the riots or the fighting, great swaths of the city had been burned during the Riot, and had yet to be rebuilt. Securing funds to rebuild the capitol, however, was no easy task. The Senators who had pushed the mob to declare for Hypatius had done so for the sole reason that they had felt themselves oppressed by the high taxes which Justinian had leveled against them.

    Although most of these Senators could accept, in theory, that it was for the good of everyone to rebuild Constantinople, none wished to hinder themselves with the necessity of turning over gold to the Imperial coffers to help said construction. Hypatius was left with few options; he could turn to the peasantry to secure his funds, and did, in fact, increase the tax burden upon small farmers in 534, but leaning upon them too greatly was likely to cause dissatisfaction with his own reign. The Emperor could also turn to the Church; but the Patriarch Epiphanius had grown old and weak, and was expected to soon pass from the mortal coil, and there was already a jockeying between rival bishops to replace the current ruler of the Eastern Church; a jockeying which was filled with rhetoric against an Emperor who wished to push his authority too far.

    As a result of these difficulties, Constantinople continued to languish in a state of half-ruined desolation. In 535, Hypatius was able to secure some funds from the Church to help rebuild the Hagia Sophia, which had been all but destroyed during the rioting of two years prior. However, construction is the rest of the city regained stagnant.

    During this period, another crisis quickly enveloped the Empire, when the ailing Patriarch Epiphanius passed away in his sleep. The church fathers gathered to choose Anthimus I as Patriarch; a move which was seen as an attack by the Church against Hypatius, as Anthimus was a Myaphite, and was believed by many to be a secret Monophysite; a doctrine which was held by the late Emperor Justinian.

    Although Hypatius had pardoned both Belisarius and Germanus, he never grew to truly trust the two generals. The growing cult status of the two, in the eyes of the poor citizenry of Constantinople, had further convinced the Emperor that the two former rebels must be gotten rid off. “Lacking the heart,” according to Procopius, “to kill the two outright, and thereby deprive himself of two expert military men, and also risk the ire of the citizens of Constantinople, the Emperor chose to exile them to the corners of the Empire, and away from The City.” As such, he chose to give Germanus control of the armies of Egypt, and placed Belisarius in command of those forces in Armenia. He obviously held the hope that he would still be able to count upon the loyalty of both Generals, but wished to remove them from whatever political intrigue might exist within the capitol.

    According to the historian Procopius, Hypatius “never slept easy, once he came to the Purple, so consumed was he, by fears of plots and rebellions.” Although this strikes the modern ear as slightly melodramatic, it is safe to say the Hypatius never felt secure upon his own throne. As Emperor, he never proved able to build his own powerbase, separate from those Senators who first rose him to power, and this caused him to turn inward, and become hesitant in his deals with other nations. Hypatius sent envoys, ladened with what small tribute he was able to produce, to Gothland, Vandalia, and Persia, pledging his continued interest in peace between the Empire, and its neighbors. Whereas, once, an Emperor had dared to dream of a reconquest of North Africa and, possibly, Italy, now a new Emperor took such a conservative stance in dealing with his neighbors, that many began to grossly underestimate the power of the Empire.

    The fragile peace which had existed within Rhomania for the past four years began to disintegrate in 538. Perhaps, fittingly, the crisis which was to lead to rebellion against Hypatius stemmed from both religious and financial matters.

    Relations between Hypatius and the Patriarch Anthimus had never been cordial. Although the Emperor saw the election of the Patriarch as a snub against his own person, he had previously never felt comfortable in making a move against the Church, less me arouse another perceived enemy. However, by 538, the Emperor had had enough. Months earlier he had requested a raise in taxes throughout the Empire, hoping to finally secure the funds to bring Constantinople back to the place it had been prior to the Nika Riots, as well as expand the Army in response to raids across the Danube the Gepids, as well as the ever present danger of Persia.

    Although the Senators had agreed to minimal tax increase, it was no where what the Emperor felt was needed. Needing to make a point of his power, but not wishing to break with his Senate allies, Hypatius chose to turn to the Church. In a strongly worded letter, Hypatius asked that the Church donate funds to the Empire, for the good of Christianity, and suggested that a refusal could indicate the Christ’s Church was not loyal to Christ’s Regent on Earth.

    Initially, the move appeared to be good politics. Anthimus was not popular among the general citizenry of Constantinople; many of whom felt that he was a heretic. However, the Emperor did not foresee the strong reaction of the Church. The patriarch responded, in an equally harsh letter, that the Church had undertaken to protect the followers of Christ, and that the Empire no longer seemed able to do so. Any attempt to strip funds from the Church would adversely affect the Church’s efforts to support its flock, and to tend to the poor. The letter stopped short, just short, of openly condemning the Emperor. Although excommunication was not suggested, it was obvious that the Church refused to give any further funds to the government.

    Hypatius had foreseen this move, and quickly declared that the Patriarch was a heretic, and ordered his soldiers to arrest the head of the Church. Hours later, Imperial soldiers arrived at the residence of the Patriarch, and demanded is immediate surrender.

    No one can be sure what happened next; did the Patriarch refuse to comply, or did the soldiers over-react? In an case, a scuffle broke out, and, by the time it was over, Patriarch Anthimus was dead at the hands of the Emperor’s soldiers. Immediately, riots began to break out throughout the capitol; although the citizens might hold reservations as to the orthodoxy of the Patriarch, they were horrified by the overreach of the Emperor’s power. These riots quickly, and brutally, put down by Hypatius’s soldiers, which did little to endure him to the people of Constantinople.

    Word of the Patriarch’s death and the riots reached Alexandria within weeks. Although the Egyptian people possessed a tense relationship with the See of Constantinople, they were moved by stories of the Patriarch’s martyrdom, and rumors about his adherence to monophysite doctrine. Within days, several prominent nobles had met with Germanus, and suggested that now was the time to seek revenge for the slaying of his cousin, Justinian, and that they would support his efforts to bring down the tyrant Hypatius.

    [FN1] From the tone of this piece, you might summise that Dr. Mcgowan's work is a bit more of a popular history. Such assumptions would prove founded.


    And there we have the second episode in, what I'm planning on being, a four part segment dealing with the Byzantine Empire, before it remerges with the general narrative of the Gothic state. As I've stated before, I am somewhat rusty on my study of the Byzantines and, so, I hope that this entry strikes a true chord.

    In the next episode we will look at the effects of Germanus' rebellion against Hypatius. Not that it will remain the easy, of course; what fun would that be?

    As always, all comments and suggestions are welcome, and encouraged!
    Chapter 11 A Storm of Swords
  • Chapter 11
    A Storm of Swords

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    The first great defeat of Germanus was not militarily, but political. Before declaring his intentions to strip the Purple from Hypatius and restore the dynasty of Justin to power, Germanus had sent letters to his old ally and comrade, Belisarius, who remained in command of the Empire’s forces in Armenia. In these letters, Germanus had pledged to name Belisarius the highest general in the Empire, and to “rely upon his support in all matters.”

    Belisarius, for whatever reason, did not respond to his comrade’s call to arms. Although tensions had certainly existed between Justinian I and Belisarius, there had never before emerged any conflict between the two generals of the late-Emperor, and scholars have continued to debate Belisarius’ hesitancy to join his former friend in overthrowing Hypatius. Arguments have tended to emphasize the general’s sense of duty in protecting the Roman frontier with Persia, his own growing antipathy towards the Dynasty of Justin, a sense of loyalty towards the government in Constantinople, as well as salacious rumors that he had been bought off, as it were, by the current Emperor. It seems likely that Belisarius, who had been so badly tarred with the brush of “rebel” for his part in Justinian I’s aborted attempt to regain the throne, simply chose to remain neutral for the time being, to see which way the winds of history would blow. In any case, Germanus, a cautious, if brilliant, general, utterly believed in the support of Belisarius in the events that were to come. He would prove to be bitterly disappointed.

    Germanus’ first true threat was the army commanded by Coutez. Although Hypatius had been fearful of executing Germanus, and depriving him of the notable general, he had banished the former Emperor’s cousin to Alexandria, and stationed the loyal Coutez close by, in case the House of Justin should rise in revolt. However, despite Coutez’s loyalty to Constantinople, the same could not be said for his troops, which were largely made up of Syrians. Word quickly spread through the ranks that Germanus was marching to avenge the death of Patriarch Anthimus, in particular, and the Monophytes in particular. When Germanus’ army approached, Coutez’s soldiers began to riot, turning their coats and joining the rebels. The soldiers attempted to capture their general, but he apparently died in the fighting; an act which was to have ramifications for Germanus’ cause, as it pushed Coutez’s brother, Buzes, firmly into the camp of the loyalists in Constantinople.

    Germanus’ march, throughout the campaign season of 539, was relatively easy, as he marched his army north from Egypt and into Syria, whose governor readily threw his support behind the House of Justin. In September of that year, Germanus pulled off his greatest victory, up to that time, by capturing Antioch after a short siege. He now controlled the entirety of the Empire’s South, and stood ready to strike deep into the heart of the Empire’s Anatolian heartland.

    However, Rhomania did not exist within a vacuum. As word spread of the Empire’s civil war, the enemies of Rome were also on the move. To the North, Bulgars began to press into the Balkan peninsula, drawn by the promise of glory and plunder as Hypatius moved troops from the Danube border in order to strengthen the capital and make a move against Germanus. However, the greatest danger lay to the East as the Persians, under their Emperor Khosrau I, mobilized and pressed into Rhomania.

    The Persian attack came in two waves; the first aimed towards Syria, and the second towards Armenia; the goal was to sweep away any resistance posed by Germanus to the South, while the northern wave struck at Armenia. It was hoped that, by driving out both Germanus and Belisarius, the Roman heartland of Anatolia would be left open, and the Persians would be able to exact concessions from Hypatius; likely including the creation of Armenia as a Persian vassal, and the capture of several key stronghold along the border.

    News of the Persian forays did not reach Antioch until May of 540. Germanus, who had set up his administration in the city, was faced with a daunting challenge; either march out of Antioch and meet the Persians, thereby weakening his own position against Hypatius, or lose his entire Southern flank to a foreign foe.

    Rather than see Roman territory fall into the hands of Persia, Germanus interrupted his own war for the throne, and marched South. Over the next year, in a series of battles, he was able to check the Persian advance, but not fully disrupt it. Although he remained strong in Antioch, he was unable to prevent the fall of Egypt to the Persians, nor the collapse of much of the defenses of Syria.

    Meanwhile, to the North, another tale unfolded. Believing Belisarius to be neutral in the struggle for the crown, the Persians chose to bypass Armenia for the time being, relying, instead, of raiding deep into Anatolia. The forces loyal to Hypatius suffered a series of defeats, further undermining the legitimacy of the Emperor’s claim to the throne.

    From 540, through 541, the Empire appeared to be falling apart, due to internal strife and foreign aggression. The Bulgars, seen as savages by the Greeks, sacked Thessaloniki and raided as far south as Athens, spreading fear in their wake. All the while Khosrau continued his advances into Rome, securing control of Egypt and marching into Syria, while pressing forward into Anatolia.

    It was at this moment that Belasarius chose to strike. Unwilling, he claimed, to see the Empire of Rome fall into utter chaos, he marched forth from Armenia, cutting off the main northern thrust of the Sassanid army. This maneuver caused the main Persian army, which had long come to see Belisarius as a neutral in the conflict, to retreat back East to deal with their new foe. At the Battle of Manzikert, the Persians were soundly defeated in the North, and fled back to the East.

    To the South, Germanus also managed to push back against the Persian threat, although in a much less dramatic fashion. Choosing, momentarily, to turn his attention to the Persian threat, he pushed steadily towards the south, liberating much of Syria and isolating the Persian forces in Egypt. Figuring that the destruction of the main Southern army would free him to pursue his own claims to the throne, he made a treaty with the Vandals to the West, to help support him in his goals of retaking Egypt.

    For all of his efforts, however, it would be Belisarius who reaped the greatest sort term reward for his efforts. After staying neutral in the conflict, and only openly engaging in it after a foreign power had entered the fray, Belisarius had won the hearts and minds of a Roman people who had grown dissatisfied with their own Emperor.

    In March of 543, Emperor Hypatius, feeling that Belisarius had proved his lately and worthiness, invited the general to Constantinople to be rewarded for his efforts. It would prove to be the greatest mistake of his life.


    Okay, I feel like I should explain. I took a bit of time away from this timeline because A) I was finishing my thesis, B) I had gotten myself stuck in a bit of writer's block and C) I wanted to turn my attention towards writing actual fiction.

    The problem is, of course, that this timeline always stuck with it; it would gnaw at my mind at weird moments, and I would find myself plotting out the next several decades and centuries. Obviously, I was not meant to abandon it so haphazardly!

    At the same time, I didn't want to start a version 2.0 (for those of you from the newsgroup days, you will recognize that this timeline actually IS a version 2.0!). It had a great start and I'd built the foundations of a good narrative. The only thing stopping me was that ... well, I had stopped and allowed myself to be side tracked (also, come to think of it, the title isn't as dazzaling as I'd like. But that's another matter).

    And so, here we come to today. I've added a new update, and I hope you all will enjoy it. I can't promise you that I will update this terribly regularly (I do have another TL on the 1900 board, and I'm still dedicated to writing some fiction as well), but I am determined to see this timeline progress. Sorry for the long hiatus, and I hope I haven't lost too many readers in the progress!

    Long live the Gothikrike! :D
    Chapter 12: The Soldier King
  • Don-Nasi-Constantinople.jpg

    Chapter 12
    The Soldier King

    “Belisarius has gone down as one of the greatest folk heroes of the Rhomanio. Seen as a brilliant military leader, a devout patriot, and simple soldier, he had also attracted stories which paint him as a true friend of the ‘every man.’ To many a young Rhoman, to even this very day, he is held up as a shining ideal for which to strive. All of which, of course, makes his tragic downfall all the more poignant.” – Gregory Miller, Belisarius, a Life

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    Belisarius’ arrival to Constantinople in May of 543 set off a period of wild celebration in the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The General’s stinging defeats of the Persians over the past year had excited the imaginations of a population which had grown weary of war, and the anxiety which Germanus’ rebellion, and the Persian invasion, had caused.

    Belisarius’ entrance into the city sparked off near riots as the citizenry of the capital surged towards the military parade to capture only a glimpse of the conquering hero. The fact that the General had not uet won the war, mattered little to the populace; he had dealt the Persians a series of defeats and delivered to the Rhomans the one thing which had been sorely lacking in the years since the fall of Justinian: hope.

    The Emperor himself had lent a hand in creating the popular fervor, openly declaring that Belisarius was a new Cincinnatus, who would deliver the Romans from their darkest hour. Although hamstrung by his powerful Patrician allies, Hypatius still possessed a certain flair for the dramatic; and it was in full view for Belisarius’ arrival. First, was the formal military procession as the General entered the capital, and then the great parade which was thrown in his honor (such parades had often been the staple of Roman conquests in the past. The fact that Belisarius had yet to conquer anything was considered a moot point). Finally, the festivities were capstoned with a series of chariot races at the rebuilt Hippodrome; perhaps as an attempt to remind the populace that it had been a series of races, years earlier, which had raised Hypatius to the throne as the people’s Emperor. [FN1]

    One need not have read Skulson to understand the beleaguered Emperor’s goals. Although having come to power in the Nika Riots, as a representative of the citizens of Constantinople, Hypatius’ power stemmed largely from the rich landed families who have worked to secure his position in the first place. As such, even before the outbreak of the Civil War and invasion, he had come to be seen as an ineffectual leader, who was unable to put enough pressure upon the Rhoman elites to even finance the rebuilding of the capital city. The Civil War had made things even worse, as news reached the capital of Germanus’ string of early victories. Then, of course, had come the Persian invasion, and Hypatius’ armies had been largely ineffectual. Had it not been the Persians, Germanus might have been able to march upon the capital by now, rather than being harassed and harried in the south; and had it not been for Belisarius, the Persians might well have reached the city walls. As such, it was of the up most necessity for Hypatius to shore up his support by associating himself closely with Belisarius.

    The problem was, of course, that Belisarius was not a strong supporter of Hypatius. Having risen to initial prominence under Justianian I, for his creation of a unit of heavy calvary/archers, he had taken part in the deposed Emperor’s attempt to retake the throne. Afterwards, he had humbly taken Hypatius’ pardon, and gratefully taken his assigned post in Armenia. Belisarius’ main loyalty was to the Roman State, and not to an individual Emperor; he was thankful for Hypatius’ pardon and his continued ability to serve the Empire, but was not personally loyal to Hypatius himself. In fact, it had not been the Civil War which had first roused Belisarius from his slumber, it had been the invasion of the Empire by Persia. From that point onward, he had fought as a representative of the Roman Empire, and not of a single Roman Emperor. [FN2]

    So, the question remains, why did Belisarius allow himself to become associated with Hypatius’ faction? It would seem that he carefully weighed the options, and thought that Hypatius had a better chance to retain his throne than did Germanus, and that a strong ruler was needed to push back against the Persian forces.
    A History of Time of Troubles
    By: Procopius
    Trns: Matthias M. Schaible
    [London: University of London Publishing, 2006]

    It came to pass that Belisarius’ arrival in the capital unleashed the passions of the people, both rich and poor. For years Hypatius had held the throne, and for years it seemed as if God had punished all of Rome. He was a weak ruler, and possibly demon sent. Stories abound of his lethargy and wickedness. It is said that he once allowed a child to burn to death, after falling into a fire, because he was too busy to rush to the child’s help. [FN3]

    Now, many felt that Hypatius was weak, and would be unable to save the Empire in its time of need. Even those who had once supported the Emperor were now turning away from him. They came to Belisarius and offered him the crown. However he had seen what these same men had done to Hypatius, elevating him to the throne and now turning their back on him. Still, being an ambitious man, he set them a challenge: “We shall see who the people prefer,” he stated, “Hypatius or myself. I shall abide by their decision.” [FN4]

    The next day, riots began after the chariot matches had been completed. The crowd cried out for Belisarius, to save them from their enemies. When soldiers were sent in to quell the mob, they instead joined them, and a great mob began to form in front of the Imperial palace. Hypatius did not know what to do; much like Justinian before him, he went out to meet the crowd; but they continued to call for Belisarius. Finally, members of Hypatius’ own guard betrayed him; they captured him and delivered him to the General.

    Now Belisarius knew who the people wished to lead them. He met the crowd and accepted their calls, and agreed to become their Emperor. However, he showed pity to Hypatius; he ordered the former Emperor should be sent into exile and that his ears should be removed “So that a crown cannot fit upon his head any longer.”

    And so, it was that Belisarius came to be crowned Emperor of Rome and tasked with driving out the Persians and destroying the rebels in the land.

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    Having secured the throne, Belisarius, ever the military man, moved to quell the threats to the Empire. Giving himself time to reinforce his own army, he struck directly at the Persians, who continued to be a presence in Anatolia. In the Battle of Caesarea, Belisarius personally led his army and destroyed the invading Persian force in 544. This defeat was enough to send Khosrau I to the bargaining table. Although the Persians still held land in Syria and Egypt, they had been greatly weakened by the efforts of Germanus. No longer feeling it was possible to take control of Armenia, as had originally been planned, the Persian Shah agreed to a reconstituting of the Rhoman/Persian border, and a small annual payment in exchange for an “Eternal Peace” before the two Empires [FN5]

    Now the problem which faced Belisarius, was to turn his attention towards the Balkans, and push back the Avars who had sacked Athens, or to march directly upon Antioch and end Germanus’ rebellion. Eventually, it was decided to seek a truce with the Avars, which would, at least, hold them at bay while he strengthened his power within the realm. In April of 545, Belisarius marched upon Antioch, seeking to put an end to the rebellion, once and for all.

    Germanus was a greatly weakened figure by this point; while Belisarius had gained the glory in fighting the Persians to the North, it had been Germanus who had blunted the edge of their southern spear. For two years he had managed to sustain his position in Antioch, while marching through Syria and conducting a guerilla campaign against the Persians. Although his efforts had gained him support in both Syria and Egypt, it had left his forces bloodied and exhausted; he simply did not have the strength to meet Belisarius in open battle.

    In May of 545, a representative of Germanus’ army, still stationed in Antioch, met with Emperor Belisarius and offered him a deal; Germanus who immediately leave for exile, as long as the city of Antioch would suffer not harassment, and his soldiers would all be given pardon. The Emperor, who did not wish to see his forces, weakened as they were against the Persians, and who still looked forward to a long campaign against the Avars, quickly agreed. Days later, Antioch was handed over the Belisarius, and Germanus slipped away into exile. He would, of course, return.

    [FN1] There really isn’t a lot of information about the real Hypatius in OTL, and that which does exist, paints him as almost an archetypical Roman Patrician, and a weak one at that. In this case, I figured, whether he had a flamboyant bone in his body, or not, this would be the perfect chance for him to strengthen his own rule. If he wouldn’t think of it himself, he likely had some advisor who would. Of course, in this case, it turned out to be the exactly wrong thing to do, but, hey, can’t win them all!

    [FN2] From me own reading, this does not seem to fall entirely outside of Belisarius’ personality. However, I would admit, I have been largely influenced by L. Sprauge D’Camp’s portrayal of him, which I read in High School, so long ago.

    [FN3] In OTL, Procopius claimed that Justinian was possessed by Demons, which caused his head to occasionally disappear, much to the horror of visiting dignitaries. I doubt that a claim like this would be too far out of the realm of possibilities.

    [FN4] Procopius’ depiction of Belisarius is rather … nuanced, due to the political realities of the time under which he is writing.

    [FN5] As I mention later on in the update, the unsung hero of this campaign in Germanus who is able to hold the Persians at bay, harassing them in the South, and weakening their position enough that, following the Battle of Caesarea, they agree to throw in the towel. Not, of course, that Germanus is getting any credit for this at the time.

    Okay. So, once again, thanks for all of the support here guys. I'm not sure how many times a TL gets revieved after a year, but I'm going to do my best to do just that!

    Now, this should bring the Byzantine section of the TL to a momentary conclusion (although it will soon merge into the main Gothic story line). I plan to turn back to the Goths and show the development of their state following the conclusion of the war against the Franks.

    So, I need to ask (especially as I took such a long break), does anyone have any questions going forward? Also, does anyone want to see what's going on in a specific part of the world? Although butterflies abound, I'm not sure how much things would have changed outside of the Mediteranian world as of yet; but I do plan on turning my attention towards Great Britain and Germany eventually; and we've got so many steppe nomans starting to flood in ... who knows WHAT could happen! :D
    Chapter 13: Don’t Fear the Reaper
  • Chapter 13
    Don’t Fear the Reaper


    “Winning the war is easy. Its winning the peace that is hard.” – Emperor Belisarius I of Rhomania

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    Belisarius had no sooner returned to the capital, than he turned his attention towards matters to the West. All the while the Empire’s attention had been focused internally, and on the East, the forces of the Avars had made steady incursions deep into the Balkan Peninsula; reaching as far south as Athens. Having settled matters with the Persians, and accepting the surrender and exile of Germanus, the new Emperor felt himself ready to deal with his last remaining foes.

    Belisarius, of all possible commanders was the one man who was best fit to lead an incursion against the Avars. Prior to the fall of Justinian I, and the resulting waves of social unrest and civil war, Belisarius had begun his rise to prominence by convincing the then-Emperor of the need to create a new dynamic fighting force, the Bucellarii, which would combine the strengths of two of Rome’s greatest foes; the Huns and the Goths. The Bucellarii would act as the heart of every army Belisarius would create during the length of his career, and would go on to become one of the most renowned fighting forces in the history of Europe. [FN1]

    Belisarius was confident that his forces would be able to sweep away the Avars and drive them back across the Danube. Partially, he was confident of the strength of his own forces, but, more so, he was sure that the Avars had allowed themselves to become ensnared in a tactical mire. Following the sacking of Athens, the Avar Khan had realized the danger of attempting to hold the city; the mountainous terrain of the region made it difficult of his army to maneuver and the presence of a Rhomanian force in Corinth to the West. As such, he had pulled his forces back North to Thessalonica, which had fallen the year earlier and where he had set up his temporary capital.

    This move, however, left the Avars vulnerable to a counter attack by the Rhomanians. Belisarius’s plan was to land a small Army to the Southwest of Thessalonica where it would meet up with those forces which had previously been stationed in Corinth. At the same time, the full strength of the Rhoman fleet would sail into the bay and harass the city directly, while the Emperor’s main force would march in from the East. It was hoped that the Avars, unused to sieges, would abandon the city and move North, where they would be attacked on both sides by the Rhoman forces.

    Belisarius’ plan was pulled off with great success; the Avars, faced with the Rhoman navy and a popular uprising in the Thessaloniki, abandoned the city and rode North, hoping to find a better environment to give battle. Outside the village of Evropos, to the north of the city, they were fallen upon by Belisarius’ imperial army and those forces which had moved in from the southwest. In the ensuing battle, the Emperor’s Bucellarii were able to harry the Avars and then charged them with lances and swords, scattering their enemies. The Avars were soundly beaten and the Khan was forced to limp back north, after securing safe passage from the Rhomans, and agreeing to pay an annual tribute. Belisarius had won another great victory for the Empire, but the true horror was waiting for him in Constantinople. [FN2]

    The Norræna Fræðibók [FN3]
    Entry: The Plague of Belisarius

    The Plague of Belisarius (545-46) was an epidemic which affected the Eastern Roman Empire (Rhomania), including its capital of Constantinople, and much of Europe from the years 545-546. It is remembered as one of the greatest plagues in human history, rivaling the Great Death of the 13th Century. Estimates of the death total range from between 20 and 25 million people worldwide during the initial contagion, and waves of the plague would return to strike the Mediterranean basin until the 8th Century. Modern historians have named the plague after Belisarius, as it was during the first years of his reign that it first reached the Western world. [FN4]

    The outbreak of the Plague in Constantinople is thought to have been carried by rats who had were carried to the city within grain ships headed from Egypt. Constantinople, being then one of the largest cities in the world, was entirely dependent upon grain shipments to feed its population. Procopius, the famed Rhomanian historian, writes of the first cases of the plague in Suez Egypt in 544. By his own estimates, at the height of the plague, over 10,000 people a day were dying within the Empire’s capital, although modern historians have questioned the veracity of those numbers.

    The effects of the plague within the Empire were far reaching. Having just emerged from a five year period of civil war and invasion, the Empire was already struggling. Belisarius, upon receiving the first word of plague, immediately ordered the capital under quarantine, but this did little good as the sickness was soon reported in every major port within the Empire, including Antioch and Thessaloniki. Over the course of the next year, the plague by some estimates was to kill nearly 40 percent of the population of Constantinople:

    “There was no room to house the dead. Great piles of bodies were built upon the streets and burned. Few priests could be found to give sympathy to the dying, and those who did were soon dead themselves. The pestilence swept through the farming communities, leaving them empty. Both city dweller and farmers died alike. The Emperor was weakened by misery, and turned to his wife for support, as he knew he could do nothing to end the suffering” – Procopius. [FN5]

    In February of 546 the plague struck close to the Imperial family, as Belisarius’s daughter Joannina fell sick and died of the illness. Belisarius was to have a church built for his beloved eldest daughter and, upon the chapel’s completion, would have her reburied within its walls. [FN6]

    As the plague ravaged Rhomania, further weakening the Empire’s strength, it also began to move West, reaching Rome and Ravenna in September of 545 and Massalia and other major ports shortly thereafter. Much as it had in the East, the plague found a land which have been ravaged by years of war. From there it is thought to have reached as far away as Gaelia and Scandinavia. Although the estimated total number of dead in the West did not reach the same levels as in the East, this is because the population of the West was already substantially lower than that of the Eastern Empire.

    It is believed that the Plague of Belisarius was the earliest outbreak out the Bubonic Plague.


    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Theodemir had only just returned to Ravenna, following the conclusion of his campaign in Gaul, when news of the Plague first reached him. The first response by the King was remarkably similar to that of his Eastern counterpart, Belisarius, in that he quickly sealed the gates of the city and attempted to impose a rude form of quarantine, which he quickly abandoned when it became obvious that his efforts were for utterly ineffectual. The King’s second response, however, shines a bright light upon his character; he quickly ordered his two remaining sons out of the capital, sending them to a stronghold in the Alps, along with his wife. Having already lost one heir, he was unwilling to put his family in any more danger.

    Rather than flee the capital himself, however, he declared his intention to stay and offer a steady hand to the citizens of the realm. Daily, it is recorded, mainly by Wulfila Strabo, of course, but others as well, Theodemir organized the relief effort, continuing to run the government as best he could, and making public appearances to maintain the people’s faith in him. This is likely what is remembered in the old folk story, of the King challenging Death to a duel for the lives of his countrymen. A less fantastic tale, albeit one that reveals a great deal of Theodemir’s character, was his public berating of a group of priests who refused to administer to the dying, for fear of losing their own lives. We also have evidence that the King petitioned the Arian Bishop of Ravenna, Fadar John, to give more support to the downtrodden and dying.

    For months the plague raged and both Ravenna and Rome are said to have lost nearly 30 percent of their population. The effects were similar throughout Italy and Gothia, with Hispania likely suffering less than the other provinces. However, one of the most dramatic examples of the Plagues desolation was in northern Gaul. Having already suffered the full weight of Theodemir’s revenge against the Meroving Franks, the land now found itself being cleansed by the great sickness. Paris, once the capital of the Frankish kingdom had already been burnt by Theodemir, along with much of the countryside; now it was the plague’s turn to kill off the survivors of the war. Many survivors in Gaul blamed Theodemir for the plague, and believed it was a further step in his vengeance against the Franks and their Gaulish allies. The destruction was so great, that the modern name for the region Authia, stems from the ancient Gothic word Authida, which means ‘wasteland’. [FN7]

    Meanwhile, in Britain, the plague appears to have caused renewed fighting between the Britons and the Saxon invaders, after years of stalemate. No one is quite sure why, or even if, the Britons were more greatly affected by the plague than their Germanic counterparts but, whatever the case, the Saxons were soon pressing deeper into Briton territory. [FN8]

    The effects of Belisarius’ Plague upon the West were as great as those caused by the Great Death centuries later. The plague had struck a land already depopulated by years of war and a declining economy. To the North, much of Northern Gaul lay utterly in ruins and was depopulated. Although Hispania had emerged relatively unscathed, at least in comparison to the rest of the realm, the economy of the region had still been greatly affected, and there were rumors of renewed Suebian efforts to expand their territory into the rest of the peninsula. Gothia had been first harder, especially such cities as Ravenna and Masalia. However, it was to be the Romans of Italy, and the Kingdom’s urban centers, which would be struck the hardest by the Plague … [FN9]

    [FN1] The Bucellarii in OTL are pretty much what is described here. I figure that this versatile force ends up becoming on the mainstays of the Rhomanian military and, as a result, coupled with the eventual romantic portrayal of Belisarius which emerges, they go one to be seen in a similar light to the Knights of OTL Europe. Of course, the Eastern Empire is hardly Feudal, and so the analogy only goes so far …

    [FN2] I am not going to lie; I have very little background in military history, which is one of the reasons why my accounts of military encounters in this TL have been so vague. After looking at some maps of around Thessaloniki, Evropos appeared to be a good place for the armies to meet up. If anyone can suggest another place, or a more reasonable series of events, I am all ears!

    [FN3] This is my attempt to try to reconstruct what a native Nordic phrase might be for “Norse Encyclopedia” (much like the Encyclopedia Britannica). Sadly, I don’t speak Old Norse (or even Icelandic), and so I went with an Icelandic translation of the phrase “Norse Lore Book”. Does it work? I don’t know! I’m certainly no linguist. But, hey, A for effort, right?

    [FN4] The Plague of Justinian in OTL was largely as devastating as I’m describing it here. I’m of two minds over whether it would be better or worse in this ATL. On one hand, the Plague struck just as the height of the Gothic Wars, which had decimated Italy, giving a firm group for illness to spread. However, in the ATL, trade in the Mediterranean is going stronger than in OTL do to more stable trade networks, so it is likely spread faster and to different places. My eventual conclusion was that these factors would likely cancel one another out and leave us with a Plague that is pretty much as bad as in OTL (albeit, maybe, a bit more widespread, although there is some evidence of it hitting Ireland in OTL as well).

    [FN5} Procopius in OTL and in this ATL views Belisarius as a bit of a weak willed buffoon, controlled by his evil, cheating, wife. As Belisarius is Emperor in the ATL, he had hushed up his feelings somewhat; but, as anyone who knows about the Secret Histories can tell you … somewhat wasn’t a lot for this guy. Oddly enough, Belisarius’ reputation continues to be strong to the present day in the ATL, which means Procopius, although still considered a good source for the time, is judged even harder than in OTL.

    [FN6] In OTL, Belisarius had only one daughter with his wife. In the ATL he manages to have two. This is, of course, not that same daughter as OTL, as she was born after the POD, but simply shares a name with her OTL counterpart.

    [FN7] This is my, likely silly, attempt to reconstruct a Gothic phrase and how it might be bastardized over time.

    [FN8] In OTL, fighting between the Anglo-Saxons and British picked up right about this time as well, leading some to speculate that the Plague had have had a hand in doing this. In the ATL, the same thing occurs. My attitude is that the butterflies have yet to terribly impact what’s going on in Britain. They are having an impact, of course, and the same people being born in OTL and not going to show up in the ATL. But the broad trends are still roughly the same … for now.

    [FN9] It just makes sense that the more ‘urban’ Roman populations would get hit harder than the more rural Gothic population at this point. Italy has certainly not been denuded of life (and is in much better shape than OTL at this same point), but the Romans definitely get hit moderately worse than their Gothic co-nationals. I suspect this will have a noticeable impact on how things develop.


    So, I lied. I had promised to look at the structure of the Gothic state during this update, but realized that I really needed to explain the Plague and its impact upon both the East and the West before I could really move forward with the narrative, after all. I hope you all forgive me!

    In any case, after a year long hiatus, I just produced three chapters in about a week! Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

    As always, comments, questions, random thoughts are always welcome! Feel free to fix my horrible attempts to butcher other languages or correct any details you feel just don't fit. I don't care; I just want comments! :D
    Chapter 14: A Tale of Two Empires
  • Chapter 14
    A Tale of Two Empires

    “The Roman Empire died in 476 with the overthrowing of the last, true, Emperor Romulus Augustulus. From that point onward, the Eastern Roman Empire would move, with ever quickening speed, to becoming an Empire of the Greeks. In the West, the Empire that was reformed by Theodemir and his dynasty, despite wrapping themselves in the vestments of Rome, was utterly Gothic. Rome was dead, but its children would forever cling to its name, while they moved further and further apart. – Martin di Columbo [FN1]

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    The Plague of Belisarius had a great impact upon the development of the Gothic West. As the waves after wave of the disease ravaged the Kingdoms of the Goths, Theodemir found himself facing the difficulty of not only administrating those lands hardest hit by the pandemic, but maintaining the fragile remnants of the Roman system upon which he relied.

    Although the plague had struck the Gothic realm hard, it had done even more damage to Southern Italy, where the old Roman administrative system still held out. As a result, Theodemir was forced to rely upon the Roman Senate to administer the lands of old Italia more so than he likely would have wished. Furthermore, in the lands of Gotland, he would find himself relying, to an even greater extent, upon the graduates of the Gothic college of Ravenna.

    Perhaps the greatest difficulty the King faced, however, was in the situation which presented itself in northern Gaul. In his efforts to route out the Merovings of Gaul, Theodemir had practiced a scorched earth policy that had laid waste to the region; so much so that modern estimates predict that over 50% of the population had been wiped out. As Gothic garrisons continued to search for, and destroy, any pockets of resistance, that number increased to 55%. And, naturally, none of this takes into account the effects of the Plague, which are estimates as claiming another 10 to 15 percent of the population of that benighted region. By 547, the northern reaches of Gaul had been so depopulated that Gothic chroniclers had taken to calling the region “The Authida,” meaning ‘The Wasteland,” which survives as the name ‘the Authia’ for those territory surrounding the city of Paris.

    It was obvious that Theodemir needed to turn to help outside him realm n order to stabilize the region. The population movements this would inspire would presage, even set the precedence, for those which occurred under his heir Amalaric I.

    The Norræna Fræðibók
    Entry: Britanny

    Britanny is a historical region comprised by the majority of the modern Kingdom of Britanny, which is one of the six Celtic nations. The name Britanny designates the territory as “Little Britain” and signifies that it was settled by refuges of the on going Saxon-Briton wars of the 6th and 7th centuries. The majority language of the modern state is ‘Breton,’ or Brezhoneg, which is one of the P-Celtic languages, and is directly related to the languages of Cymru, Cornwall and Alt Clud.

    At the end of the 5th century, the Roman province of Armorica was settled by refugees fleeing the conflict between the Saxons and the Britons. These settlements were, according to local folklore, the result of the British warlord Conan Meridoc who sailed from Britain to support the Roman usurper Magnus Maximus. Whatever the truth of the legend, by the time of Theodemit the Great, Briton tribes had settled the region of Armorica and claimed it as their own.

    The second d wave of Briton settlement occurred as a result of the famous “Edict of Cornwall,” in which Theodemir the Great negotiated the nominal subjugation of Armorica, which had remained steadfastly independent of Frankish rule, and opened up northern Gaul to settlement by Briton refugees. The Edict would invite refugees to settle the depopulated regions, offering local political control, in exchange for taxation by the Gothic crown as well as annual military levies. In effect, the settlement of Brittany would be the first case of the Goths renewing the old Roman tradition of Federation. Over the next century, Britons, fleeing the collapse of Britain in the face of Saxon invaders, fled to Gaul to take up service to the Gothic crown. In time, these Briton settlers would forge their own identity in the old Roman provinces of Baio-Casses, Lexovii, Caletes and Velio-Casse, effectively bringing much of non-Frankish Gaul under their control. [FN2]

    Despite the initial settlement, the folk of Britanny remained politically disunited; placing their loyalty upon their local political leader, and not upon a single King of Brittany until the onset of the Theutish Invasions of the 8th century. This trend would make northern Gaul difficult to rule for the Theodemir and his successors, as the region was plagued by continuous revolts by local leaders, protesting increased levies and taxation.

    It would not be until the collapse of Gothic rule in the 9th century that the region of Brittany would be united under Mael Map Pagrid, and the Breton state which he created would prove to be short lived.

    It is of interest that refugees from Britain would prove to not be the only settlers of the region. Place names and folk traditions indicate that Brittany was also settled by numerous communities of Gaelic speakers from Gaelia. These settlements, in many ways, would act as a foreshadowing of the raids and settlements of the Gaelic Rautharing Age. [FN3]

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Following the collapse of Meroving Gaul, and the Plagues of Belisarius, Theodemir was forced to reexamine the administration of his Kingdom. Whereas, previously, he had relied heavily upon the continuation of Roman administration, this was no longer feasible; the plagues had ravaged the remains of the Roman intelligentsia, outside of Italia, and the newly added territories were those in which the Roman system was by far the weakest.

    As a result, Theodemir found himself relying upon a system of loyal Reiks, or nobles, for the administration of his realm. Although Goths were generally not allowed to own property outside of the territory of Gotland, Theodemir now moved to make an exception to his own law; local territorial governors were allowed plots of land, under the assumption that such land would be used to provide military units on a yearly basis to the Gothic crown. Governors, furthermore, were appointed directly by the crown, although they were allowed to choose subordinates of their own choice without crown supervision. Such governors, at least initially, served at the pleasure of the King, and could be recalled at will by the crown.

    Although, within the territories of Gotland, the Reiks would find themselves under the constant watch of the crowd, governors of territories in Gaul and Hispania operated with a great deal more independence, and many were able to carve out powerful realms for themselves within the old Roman provinces. Theodemir’s policy of appointing Reiks with few connections to their newly acquired territories would begin to fray under the reign of his successors. Even during his reign, the policy was never administered to the full satisfaction of the crown, as Theodemir appointed several governors in northern Gaul who were recent emigrants from Britain.

    The situation was somewhat different in Italia, comprising those lands of the Italian peninsula south of Gotland, where territorial governors were nominated by the Roman Senate, although they still faced confirmation by the crown. Over time, the Senate would gain more powers in confirmation, and few Emperors would choose to veto the Senate’s choice of appointment.

    Although later historians would blame Theodemir for the decentralization of the Western Roman world, such critiques are not always fair. Faced with the burden of administrating a large realm, while witnessing the further dissolution of the Roman system of governance, Theodemir and his successors simply made due with the best that they had. Gothic society, much like the Germanic societies to which it was related, already placed an emphasis upon the notions of personal loyalty to the clan and the warlord; Theodemir simply worked to exploit such cultural notions in order to better administer his own realm. That this system eventually frayed has little to do with the genius of Teodemir and Alamaric, and more to do with the historical trends which would influencing development in the West.

    Meanwhile, the structure of the Arian church was beginning to undergo reformation. Whereas, previously, Arian Bishops had vied for the same seats as those of the Orthodox Church, the continued patronage of the Gothic state brought about a more parallel structure. Now, Arian Bishops were opened appointed to sees, where Orthodox bishops already existed. As such, for instance, cities such of Lyon, Marisales and Toulouse often supported an Arian as well as Orthodox Bishop; and the Bishop of Ravenna, known locally as the Fadar, was coming to hold a place in the hearts of Arian faithful similar to that of the Patriarch of Rome (known locally as “il Papa” or “the Pope”).

    Although Theodemir and his successors often strove to appoint local officials who would be accepted by the population, as well as hold fast to their decree of religious freedom, they favored churchmen and officials of their own faith so that, although being Orthodox was not an automatic hindrance to one’s advancement, being of the Arian church was much preferable.

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    Following his defeat of the Avars, Emperor Belisarius I moved to consolidate his power within the Rhoman capital of Constantinople. Unfortunately, much as Hypatius and Justinian I before him, he was often constrained by the powerful families which had cemented their control over the capital and set themselves up as king-makers.

    Faced with the prospect of further invasions from both the East and the West, Belisarius moved to institute a number of reforms and building projects meant to secure the safety of the Empire. Primary among these was the creation of a series of forts which would guard the Danube, and Anatolia from invasion by the Empire’s foes. Unfortunately, such building projects would cost the state a fortune in gold, and many of the leading families of the Empire showed themselves to be as unwilling to pay for them as they had similar projects proposed by Hypatius.

    A soldier at heart, Belisarius was utterly convinced of the needs of the projects, and acting accordingly. Unable to understand that his power rested upon the shoulders of such noble men, he moved to pass the necessary taxes and to confiscate that which was needed from the citizens of the state. Although few would speak out against him, at the time, as everyone had seen the fury of the Persians and Avars combined, the resulting taxes did much to alienate Belisarius’ support amongst the ruling classes of the Empire.

    More successful, were Belisarius’ efforts to reform the Rhomanian military. Identifying every large population center, the Emperor organized a series of garrisons which could be called on for defense in case of invasion. Each city would be required to field a defense force relative to its own size and ability to pay. In case of invasion, such garrisons could be combined to create larger field armies to fight for the cause of the Empire. Furthermore, in addition to the garrisons, the Empire would support four freestanding and independent armies; the Army of Greece, stationed in Athens, the Army of the Empire, stationed in Constantinople, the Army of Syria, stationed in Antioch, and the Army of Egypt, stationed in Alexander. Despite the taxes involved, it was felt that such a system would deter the Empire’s enemies and allow for a quick and solid defense in times of invasion.

    Despite his popularity with the citizens of the Empire, as a result of his own manner as well as his military victories, Belisarius quickly made enemies among the upper echelons of Rhoman society. Unwilling to strike at his directly, these leaders chose instead to weaken the Emperor by striking at his wife who, rumor had, was having a series of affairs. In the Senate of Constantinople, they brought their charges and caused Belisarius’ wife, Antonia. Antonia’s trial, conviction and execution, greatly undermined the Emperor’s authority.

    In 551, Belisarius passed away as a result of prolonged illness, likely dysentery, some say brought upon by a broken heart. His successor was Photius, his adopted son from his wife’s previous marriage. [FN4]

    [FN1] Martin di Columbo, is an *Italian nationalist from this world’s 20th century. As such, his view of both the Rhomans and the Gothic-Roman state is rather harsh, to say the least. He views Italy, and Italy only was the true successor to Rome’s splendor.

    [FN2] *Britanny comprises much of OTL Normandy and surrounding environs. I hope that my listing of the Roman provinces was correct, as I did some map research, but, if not, please let me know J

    [FN3] I’ve foreshadowed an increased Celtic presence earlier in the TL, this is just a bit more of the same ;) The Gaelic Rautharing Age will be explain in more detail in a further post. Extra points go to anyone who can figure out what I’m talking about before I get there J

    [FN4] I just have difficulty seeing Belisarius becoming a fully successful Emperor, especially in this ATL where the Eastern Romans have seen so much chaos in the last few decades. I don’t see him being enough of a politician to really navigate the waters of Constantinople politics successfully; his biggest lasting impact will be upon military organization, a topic which he is well versed, and over which even his staunchest opponents will have difficulty going against him.


    Okay, so there you have it. No cool graphics this time (as seems befitting of an entry largely describing the administration of a state), but a lot of good information. I hope you found this an interesting read. Despite the amount of information detailing the adminsitrating of the Gothic Kingdom and the Eastern Roman Empire, I tried to slip enough details and foreshadowing in there to keep you all interested :)
    Chapter 15: A Frank Discussion
  • Chapter 15
    A Frank Discussion

    “It is impossible to overestimate the impact of Theodemir’s victory upon the Franks. Within the span of two years, two of the three branches of the Frankish royal house had been exterminated, the boundaries of the realm shrunk dramatically, and those territories which remained outside of the hands of the Goths were thrown into turmoil. It must have seemed as if all of the work of Clovis had been undone in a single generation.” – Lothair Vanderfrisland “Clovis’ Heirs”

    March, 547
    Outside of Paris, formerly the Kingdom of Paris

    Paris still smoldered. Even now a thick acrid smoke could be seen to waif above the ruins of the city. Whenever the wind blew in from the North, as it did today, the pillars of smoke seemed to teeter in the air, and their peaks collapsed downward, spilling over the denuded plain. The smoke brought with it the sickening sweet smell of death and decay; strong enough to choke a man, unless he had grown accustomed to it, or, perversely, come to enjoy it.

    Theudoric, King of Metz, looked across the table and just such a man. Theodemir, King of the Goths, seemed to revel in the desolation he had caused. Occasionally, he would cast his eyes about at the wreckage of the city to the North, and one could see a hunger in his eyes. When he ran his tongue across his thin, bloodless lips, the King appeared like nothing more than a hungry wolf; especially when he leaned in over the table and smiled that smile-that-wasn’t-a-smile, and more of a baring of fangs. The sight made Theudoric, a hard man himself, shiver and send a prayer up to a God that he had never truly believed in. [FN1]

    “Now, for the signing of the treaty between us,” Theodemir said as he set down a map. “I promised you that your Kingdom would survive intact, and I will keep my word to you, Frank.” The Goth filled that last word with such hatred and enmity, that Theudoric found himself wondering how the man sitting across from him rationalized the Frankish blood that flowed through his own veins.

    “As for your brothers’ kingdoms; I am claiming all of Neustria as my own. It is fair and just; the weregeld to be paid to me for the slaying of my son, Theodebert.”

    “And Soissons,” Theudoric found himself saying? He felt old. Terribly old. Years of war and it had all come down to this; dickering for the remains of the Kingdom his own father had carved out of the decayed husk of the Empire.

    “The border between the Goths and the former Kingdom of Soissons will be on the western bank of the River Somme.”

    For the first time, Theudoric felt real anger welling up inside of him; “So, I am an ally, and yet you wish to strip me of lands which are rightfully mine? With Clothair dead, along with his children, the entire Kingdom of Soissons is rightfully my inheritance.”

    He knew he was treading on dangerous ground; but the loss of Soissons, which had been the site of one of his Father’s greatest battles, as well as the rich lands to the East was too much to bear. He had come to write off Neustria from the beginning, and after seeing the desolation pressed down upon it by the Goths he was almost glad to do so, but this was almost too much to.

    Theodemir began to stand, his short frame almost absurd against the image he was trying to project, his balding head glowing spotty and red with rage. “You dare,” the Gothic King hissed, “after I spared your life. You are lucky I allow you anything in return for your service beyond your own head! Should your own son not have fallen in combat against his Uncles, and feeling remorse for you as a man who as a man who had recently suffered the same ill-fate, I might well have left you nothing except your lands around Metz. But I can be merciful. Merciful!”

    Theudoric winced, thinking of his own son, Theudobert, who had laid down his own life in the storming of Paris. “It was a bad war to be named Theudobert,” he thought to himself, “the death of one started it all, and a second died at its finish.”

    “Father,” another voice said, and Theudoric looked up to see Theodemir’s son Amalaric resting his hand upon the King’s shoulder, “enough blood has been spilled, I think. Do you not agree? Let us leave our ally to settling the affairs of his own family. Much like us, they have suffered much grief these past years. And Theudoric, King, do you not believe it best to leave here as a friend?”

    Did the Prince just smirk at him? Theudoric could have sworn that he had. Not for the first time, he wondered what it was that drove the Goths. They were a strange people indeed, seeming to possess the craftiness of the Greeks, the strength of the Romans and the ferocity of their fellow Germans.

    “Very well,” Theudoric said, keeping his voice as steady as he could. “It would seem that I am dead already, and you have killed me with your kindness. Let’s just finish this.”

    “Excellent,” Theodemir said and motioned to one of his scribes, which brought forth three copies of the same document; two in the Latin script and one more in the characters of the Goths. “Affix your seal, and our business will be done.”

    Theudoric pressed down his seal, and took one of the documents in Latin as his own copy. He was defeated; though he might now live another week, a month, a year, or several, he knew that the end was coming, and he had just pressed his own seal upon the death certificate.

    Clovis’ Heirs
    Lothair Vanderfrisland
    [Northsea Publishing: Dorestad, Frankland, 2003]

    Theudoric I returned to his capital of Metz a defeated man. Although the Franks had known combat between sibling Kings before, the crimes of Theudoric seemed immense. In order to save his own realm, the King had conspired with the Frank’s greatest rivals, the Goths, helped slay his own two brothers, and watched as the Frankish dominion was driven back and much of the work of Clovis undone.

    At this point, the chronicles fall silent. Theudoric is mentioned no more by any contemporary writers until his death, two years later, in 549. Wulfra Stabo, the principal biographer of Theodemir the Great, simply states that “in that year, the last living son of Clovis was killed by treachery.” Later tradition, which grew up around the stories of Theodemir the Great, state that he was personally slain by his own son, Theudoric II, who invited his Father on a hunting trip and then shot him in the back, but there is no hard evidence to say whether this is true or the creation of later poets and story tellers. [FN2]

    What is for certain is that, following his death, Theudoric II came to power in Metz, but would only reign for five years, from 549 through 555. During this time, the Kingdom of the Franks fell into a period of chaos and civil war. We know that the chief instigator of the conflict was Theudoric II’s own brother, Clovis, who had been denied a part of the realm due to his minority, and that the war would wage for three years until the fabled Battle of Cologne where both brothers perished in combat.

    With the passing of Theudoric II and Clovis, the main line of the Merovings became extinct, and the country was left without a single ruler. The lands of the Franks became disunited as each minor Reik declared himself an independent ruler. At the same time, those regions which had previously been vassalized by the Franks began to declare their independence; most notably the Reikdom of the Alemani, whose rulers, although of Frankish descent, quickly moved to secure their own power. By 559, during the last year of the reign of Theodemir, the Gothic Empire had come to recognize Carloman I as Reiks of Alemannia. Carloman would found a Carolingian dynasty which would rule Alemannia, sometimes as independent rulers, sometimes as allies or vassals of the Empire, until the coming of the Theut in the early 9th century. [FN3]

    The chaos within Frankland would not be quelled for a generation. Beginning in 573, Chlothar, the petty King of Antwerp, began to expand his power through a series of alliances. We have very little information relating to Chlothar during the early years of his reign, but it is probable that he was the son of a small Frankish nobleman who had been able to secure his independence following the Battle of Cologne. Later genealogical records suggest a descent from the Merovings, but the names of Merovech of Chlodio do not appear until the 7th century, and may have been fabricated to strengthen the new dynasty’s sense of legitimacy.

    At some point, probably in the year 575 or 576, Clothar defeated a large Danish army, lead by the warlord Herebeald who sent an army to raid into Frisland and northern Frankland. This victory, remembered in the poem “The Battle of Dorestad” marks the first written evidence of the Old Frankish language, and would lead to Clothar being named King of the Franks by the lower Reiks of the Frankish lowlands.

    The next year, Clothar set forth with an army to subjugate the rest of the Frankish territories, moving against the small town of Maastricht, and Aachen, where he wintered for the year. In 578, the King of the Franks defeated his last remaining rival, Chlodoman of Metz and captured the city which was to become his capital.

    Clothar I of the Franks would reign over a united kingdom for the next fifteen years. Not much is known of his activities during these years, although some references in documents of the Gothic Empire indicate that he enjoyed some form of diplomatic recognition during his reign, and, records of the Gothic Church indicate that missionaries were sent to Frankland during the reign of Emperor Amalaric I. However, it would not be until the 592 that the Gothic Church reported that the mass of Frankish nobles had accepted baptism at a ceremony presided over by the future Saint Siggo of Marsalies.

    It was following the conversion, and the expansion of the Gothic Church into Frankland, that we truly begin to see the Franks reenter the historical spotlight. [FN4]

    [FN1] As this is told through the eyes of Theudoric, Theodemir is certainly not going to come off as well as he does in certain other sources. At this point Theudoric is a man who has found himself caught between two untenable options; he could have supported his brothers in their war against the Goths and likely lost his life and his kingdom, or he could have supported Theodemir against his own family. Either way, he knows that he is likely a dead man.

    [FN2] I swear that, once I’m completely finished with the reign of Theodemir, I’m going to turn my attention towards doing a full write up of the myths, folklore and cycles which surround this King. I’ve made some mention of it before, even at length in at least one post, but I’d like to chart out the entire story cycle.

    One of the things which brought me back to this timeline (when I initially decided to rewrite it, after coming back to Grad School) was the thought that I had read a lot more Germanic mythic material, and thought it would be fun to explore how that body of lore could have evolved in a different timeline. I’m a mythology buff at heart, and I’ve noticed that such topics don’t receive much attention in this group. So, if your interested in it, just sit back and I will cover it, and if you’re not … to bad; I am ;)

    One final note, that is somewhat related. You may notice I continue to use the word “Reiks”. In OTL it was a name for Gothic nobles and in the ATL it has come to become roughly equivalent of the word “Duke.”

    [FN3] Carloman is a Frankish nobleman who rose to power in the Duchy of Alemannia due to his close relations of Theudoric I. Following the King’s demise, and the ill-fated civil war between his two sons, Carloman seeks the support of the remaining native nobility in the Duchy and works to declare his independence. This is not overly difficult, due to the fact that the Frankish lands have fallen into utter anarchy. He is able to gain the support of the Goths, who see him as a good buffer against any possible renewed Frankish aggression (assuming, of course, that they are ever able to pull together as a united state again). Despite this, Carloman and his descendants operate at a distance from Ravenna and are never considered to be part of the Kingdom/Empire.

    Carloman is a relatively interesting figure and strong leader. Unfortunately, due to a lack of sources in the ATL, not much is remembered of him as time progresses, and he becomes one of those shadowy figures of late-Antiquity/the early Middle Ages.

    [FN4] I feel I should go into some detail about Christianity amongst the Franks at this point (plan on dealing with the religious landscape in further detail sometime in the near future, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.) In the ATL, Clovis was killed shortly after his conversion to Christianity. As a result, many Frankish nobles come to see Christianity, at least the Orthodox variety of it, as a religion which had lead them to disaster. The fact that Clovis’ children continue to adhere to it (continually hoping for some support from the Roman Empire or Church in their struggles against the Goths) up to the point when they are utterly defeated by Theodemir, does not bolster much faith in the minds of the average Frank. By the point that the Franks are reunited, I believe it isn’t unrealistic that they would need a second conversion. At that point, the Gothic Church is the more likely way to do, in order to secure good relations with the Goths on their Western border, and because Theodemir’s conquests have made it something of a prestige religion amongst Germans (more so than it was before, at least).

    Alright, after a few very good questions concering my intentions with the Franks, I felt that I should turn my attention to them to show the ramifications of Theodemir's conquest of Gaul. I want to thank all of you who asked good questions and made some suggestions (a keen eye might note some small retcons in this point; although, hopefully, not for long, as I'd like to go through and remove any inconsistencies from earlier posts).

    Having dealt with the Franks, I feel that I've now set up the stage for the last years of Theodemir's reign and can progress into it. It's funny; when I first tried my hand at this TL as "For Want of a Son", the reign of the *Theodemir(called Valamir back in those days) consisted of two of three posts. Here we are on Chapter 15, and I'm only now moving into the final act of the first ruler. Either I've gotten better at this as I've gotten older or I've just gotten more long winded ;)

    As always, questions and comments are not requested; I'm requiring them! :D
    Chapter 16: Everything that’s Dead, Someday Comes Back
  • Chapter 16
    Everything that’s Dead, Someday Comes Back

    “Belisarius was a great Emperor, but one given to the weaknesses which always plague man. Although brave and sincere, he was corrupted by that most true of all emotions, love. When his wife was proven unfaithful, Belisarius fell into the pits of despair, and he no longer cared about the task of ruling the great Empire. On his death, he passed the rule to his wife’s first son Photius, who was unfit to rule.” – A Children’s History of the Rhoman Empire, by Georgios

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    The rise of the Emperor Photius shone a light upon the failings of the past three Emperors; Justinian, Hypatius and Belisarius. While Belisarius had, in his own manner, warred against the power of the noble elite of Constantinople, Photius lacked much of his adopted-father’s charm and abilities. As a result, the nobles of the city began to hinder the new Emperor, forcing him to abandon many of the reforms of Belisarius as well as those building projects which were meant to restore Constantinople to the preeminence of Cities in the Western world.

    Photius, in a way which Belisarius, due to his popular appeal, did not experience, began to feel himself at the mercy of the Empire’s elite. Although he was granted all of the dignities which were becoming of an Emperor of Rome, he found himself hindered at every effort to make lasting changes to the structure of the Empire. As a result, due to the nobility’s continued efforts to fight off higher taxation, the Emperor focused more upon the lower classes; financing his building and military projects at their expense. Despite his Orthodox views of faith, this began to make him highly unpopular with the general population of the Empire.

    Chorson, Empire of Rhomania
    March 31, 552

    Germanus felt older. Older than dirt. Although only in his late 40s, he had seen enough to age a normal man. Rising to prominence under his cousin Justinian, he had fought for the ill-fated Emperor after the Nika Riots. Granted a pardon by the pretender Hypatius, Germanus had turned his attention towards strengthening the Empire’s military in Egypt and Syria.

    He had not wished to rebel, initially, although the disgrace of seeing his dynasty pushed from power had offended him. Instead, Germanus had thrown himself into his work, rebuilding the Empire’s Southern reaches; forgetting his cousins’ grand schemes to reconquer the West. For years he had worked at this thankless task, until it was too much to bear.

    The attack upon the Patriarch had been the last stray. Although a devoted Orthodox, Germanus had been disgusted with the treatment of Patriarch Anthimus, and it had been this which finally stirred in him the seeds of revolt. For years Germanus had fought back, not just against Hypatius, but against the Persians who he drove out of Syria and Egypt. But, it had been for naught; the rise of Belisarius had put an end to Germanus’ pretentions to become Emperor; those had ended at the Siege of Antioch when he had been forced to renounce his claims in favor of Belisarius and accept house-arrest for the good of the Empire.

    But, now, Belisarius was dead, and his successor was none too popular with the Rhoman people. Germanus might be old, but he was still convinced of his own right to rule, which had been so unfairly stripped away from him after his many victories against the Empire’s foes. His family, those nephews and cousins who had survived the war, still clung close to him in his exile.

    “The time has come,” his nephew Justin said more than once, “now’s out chance to make a make.”

    The worst thing was that Germanus thought he was right. Although he had no strong desire to be Emperor, the act that the Empire had suffered so greatly over the past decades spurred him on. The problem was that he was under constant watch, and that he had no true allies in his battles.

    “Why not turn to the Goths,” Justin asked once, years ago, “Theodemir is no ally of Constantinople, and might help us in our cause.”

    But, no, spies continued to feed Germanus information, and he knew that the Goths were embroiled in a bitter war against the Franks. To ask their help then, while Belisarius remained so strong, was a fool’s errand. But, then, the plague had struck; the war between the Goths and Franks had wound to a halt, and Belisarius had died from, they said, a broken heart. A fitting end to one who had once been a friend, but proven himself untrue and a traitor.

    As word reached even for Chosan of Photius and his unfortunate reign, Germanus sensed a chance. He had his allies, those few who were left, to stage a riot in the small town, so that he could flee, unopposed. His destination was clear, Ravenna, the capital of the Goths, for only with their help could he ever secure his family’s place back upon the Rhoman throne. [FN1]

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    The arrival of Germanus sent shock waves through the Gothic court. The Rhoman had spent months, after fleeing Cherson, traveling through Avar, Lombard and Gepid territory in order to reach the capital of the Goths. Theodemir was initially wary of the rebel’s promises, but also deeply impressed by the travails which had beset the Prince.

    “Theodemir did not take his promises lightly, but still chose to dine the rebel from Rhome. When Germanus spoke of his travails, traveling through the lands of Avars, and Germans, Theodemir often stood up and exclaimed with excitement when the descriptions of those lands matched with those from the legends of our own people; for it is well know that, before coming to Italy, the Goths ruled a vast Empire from their capital of Arheimar. [FN2]

    “Soon, Germanus had become a favorite of Theodemir’s Court. After his many adventures, many Goths wished to help him reclaim his throne; especially as he continued to promise peace between their realm and his, should he take the throne. Still, the Gothic King was unsure. ‘What,’ he asked, ‘is in it before my people? Surely, it is great to help a godly man reclaim his inheritance. But, still, I must risk my own realm in favor of yours. Should we lose, the full weight of the East shall crash down upon the West, as the mighty tides of the ocean rise up and drown our shores.”

    “Theodemir, King,” Germanus responded, “should you help me, I promise you the unending favor of the East. We shall honor you as a righteous man who risked all in order to right a wrong done upon my House and the Rhomans. But, I understand your reluctance. If you were to come to me, and I were Emperor, I too would question the wisdom of helping you. And so, I offer you this: the Empire of the West. I shall give you the crown which would strengthen your own rule, and allow the Romans of the West to see the true benevolence of your reign. Furthermore, I would be happy to marry your youngest daughter, to prove my sincerity and the eternal friendship between both of our houses.”

    So Wulfila Strabo describes the visit of Germanus to the court of Ravenna. Having conquered much of the West, it is unlikely that Theodemir had not thought of reclaiming the Roman crown to solidify his own rule. Certainly, the title of Roman Emperor would do much to calm the continued talk of rebellion which had circulated amongst the Roman population for years.

    And yet, it is unlikely that Theodemir, now in his 50s, would have undertaken such a quest, had he not been assured that the Rhoman people had already risen against their own Emperor. The high taxation and lack of support had caused a smattering of revolts to flare up throughout Syria, Egypt and, most telling, Anatolia.

    Either pressured by his court, or else fully aware of the opportunities gained by supporting an Emperor’s claim to the throne, Theodemir cast his support behind Germanus and marshaled the Gothic armies to take Constantinople.

    A History of the Time of Troubles
    By: Procopius
    Trns: Matthias M. Schaible
    [London: University of London Publishing, 2006]

    When word reached Photius that Germanus had escaped from his imprisonment, all knew where he went, and a great excitement spread through the capitol. Surely, it was said, the Goths would soon be coming to restore the House of Justin and cast down the coward and usurper who currently sat upon the Rhoman throne. The only men who showed fear was Photius’ closest advisors and those Senators who continued their support of him. [FN3]

    And yet, Photius proved to be less of a man than his predecessor. Had he acted swiftly against the Goths, perhaps his reign would have been saved; but, instead, he refused to act. In the chambers of his council he expressed worry over the coming of Theodemir and Germanus, but initially did nothing. Some said that his wife, Julia, advised him not to act, because she was secretly conspiring against his her husband and, after his death, had been promised the hand of a Gothic nobleman. In any case, her words were like honey to him, and Photius did nothing, save to ordering the strengthening of the city’s defenses.

    However, with the dawning of the year 554, news arrived from spies in Ravenna that the Goths were considering the plans of Germanus, who had offered their King the Imperial dignities of the West. A group of Senators marched upon the Emperor and demanded that he take action, and if he did not, they would surly find an Emperor who was more willing to defend the Empire from its threats. They did this, not for any great love of the Empire, but because they wished to save their own lives, for all knew that they had supported Photius, and they feared they would meet their end, should Germanus take the City.

    Photius was moved by their counsel, and began to marshal his forces. He planned to move preemptively against the Goths by moving in Dalmatia and Pannonia, and thereby draw them into a fight and prevent them from moving into the Balkans. At the same time rumors were spread of the savagery of the Goths; stories told of Adrianople, and the brutal sacking of Rome. They meant to scare the people of the City, and Rhomans everywhere, and present the Goths as savages who would destroy the Empire. And yet, so oppressed were the Rhomans, that they seemed to prefer the Goths to Photius, for rebellions began to spring up throughout the Empire; first in Egypt, and then later in Syria and Anatolia.

    The damage wrecked by the Rhomans in Pannonia and Dalmatia was grievous; they burnt field and village in an effort to goad the Goths into open combat. So great was the devastation, it is said, that a decade later, the provinces had yet to recover and there were still desolate lands where once people had thrived. And yet, Theodemir, refused to give open battle, and waited for the right moment to strike. [FN4]

    Soon, the reason for his caution became clear. The Avars, who had scourged our land once before, crossed over the border, and began to move towards Thessaloniki. Photius had sent envoys to the Avars before the campaign, offering to cancel the tribute imposed upon them by his foster-father, and fool-like, he had been beguiled by their promises of neutrality. But the Avars held no more love for him than they did for Belisarius, and had allied with Germanus and the Goths.

    Now Photius was forced to retreat to meet the greater threat to Constantinople. It was then that Germanus and Theodemir moved against their foes.

    The Norræna Fræðibók
    Entry: The Battle of Nysos

    The Battle of Nysos was a battle between the forces of Emperor Photius of Rhomania and Germanus along with his Gothic allies during the summer of 554.

    In 552, Germanus, cousin of the Emperor Justianian I, had fled from his exile in Cherson and reached the Gothic capital of Ravenna. After months of entreating Theodemir I, King of the Goths, to support him in his quest to take the throne of the Rhoman Empire, the Goths were swayed. At the same time, Photius, the current Emperor, launched a preemptive attack against the Goths and ravaged the lands of Dalmatia and Pannonia.

    However, Photius was forced to withdraw after hearing word that the Avars had broken the peace and were moving towards Thessaloniki. At this time, Germanus and Theodemir launched their own attack, crossing the Adriatic Sea and quickly pursuing Photius. They caught up with the embattled Emperor near the city of Nysos.

    Although the battle was initially indecisive, as the Rhomans under Photius were able to repel the Gothic assault upon their lines, Photius was killed on the second day of battle, after falling from his horse and being trampled. When news of the Emperor’s demise reached his troops, the army fell into panic and began and unstructured retreat. Taking advantage of the situation, Theodemir ordered his heavy cavalry to chase the fleeing Rhomans who took heavy casualties. In the end, many prominent officers, and two Senators, were captured by the Goths, along with their army’s baggage train.

    Germanus then sent out messengers to round up the survivors, offering them full pardons if they were to join his forces as they marched upon Constantinople. This swelled his own forces, and also ensured that he would move against the capital with a contingent of Rhoman soldiers, rather than an entirely foreign army.

    Despite a vivid description of the battle in the works of both Wulfila Strabo and Procopius, who recorded similar accounts from soldiers who had been there, the current site of the Battle of Nysos has been lost. However, in 1954, locals erected a memorial to the battle situated roughly three miles to the southeast of the town, to commemorate fifteen hundredth anniversary of the battle, the where historians have speculated the conflict could have occurred. [FN4]

    The Empire of the East: a History of Rhomania from Constantine I to Justinian IV
    Ewan McGowan
    [Royal University Press: Carrickfergus, Kingdom of Gaelia, 2010]

    With the death of Photius, the Empire was thrown into chaos. Those forces which still remained loyal to the slain Empire, including those Senators and ranking members of high society who had supported him, quickly sought to find a suitable replacement. However, fearing the forces of Germanus, no candidate was willing to take the throne and possibly forfeit their own lives.

    By the time Germanus arrived at Constantinople with his army of Goths, Avars and Rhomans, the capital city of the Empire was embroiled in a near Civil War. A cohort of loyalists has seized power and used draconian measures to ensure that the city would be able to withstand a siege, but their support weakened daily.

    By the end of October of 555, order in Constantinople was at the breaking point. When city dwellers met to protest the price of bread, the acting city government ordered the troops to dispurse the crowd. Instead, the soldiers joined the protestors and quickly gained control of the city, and threw the gates open to Germanus, who marched into the city with his Rhoman soldiers, while the Goths and Avars camped outside the walls. By the end of the day, Patriarch Thomas I has overseen the coronation of Germanus as the Emperor of Rhomania.

    The new Emperor moved quickly to secure his own power; he officially accepted the support of the rump Senate, and proved to be largely forgiving, having only the most stringent supporters of Photius imprisoned or executed. The House of Justin had returned to power in Rhomania after an absence of over two decades.

    Constantinople, Empire of Rhomania
    November 1, 555

    Theodemir stood in the Hagia Maria, and looked around in wonder. At 59 years old, he had thought that he had seen it all, but the wealth present in Constantinople still dazzled him. Nowhere was this wealth more present than in what had become the main church in Constantinople. Already, he knew, Germanus had begun to make plans to renovate and expand the building; in part to show his thanks for the support of the Patriarch, and also to fulfill the vision of his cousin, the late Emperor Justinian. The thought confused him that any building could be made even more luxurious. He made plans to speak to the Fadar of Ravenna and talk about creating an equally spectacular church for the head of the true Christian church.

    Theodemir had not wished to have the ceremony transferring the vestments of the Western Roman Empire to be done in the cathedral; he would have much preferred it being done on the steps of the Imperial palace, and thereby circumnavigate any potentially upsetting religious debates which might occur. But, Germanus had pressed the issue and, eventually the Gothic King had given in. He was a king, after all, and understood fully why the Emperor had made such a push; he wished to wow the Goth with the splendor of his realm.

    So be it. Whatever issues might arise amongst his own people could be easily dealt with, and the thought of being coroneted in an Orthodox church might well work to his advantage in dealing with the Romans of his own land who seemed always ready to rebel, no matter how many favors he threw at them.

    Theodemir made only one demand, and it was one which he refused to back down upon; he would not bow when he took the crown, nor would he allow it to be placed upon his own head. No, this was a transfer of power, not the blessing of a higher lord. He would take the crown from Germanus and place it upon his own head. [FN5]

    The music had started; a deep rich sound which seemed to come at him from every direction due to the effects of the church. Taking a deep breath, Theodemir made his way down the main isle of the church, and watched with bemusement as the Rhoman nobility stared at him. What had they expected; a barbarian dressed in wolf pelts, a great battle ax still strung to his back? No doubt. The thought made him want to laugh; an urge he tried to suppress to not break the solemn mood of the ritual, and, partially failing, found himself breaking into a wide smile instead.

    In front of him stood Germanus, dressed in the finest clothing and full regalia of the Emperor of the East. Staring at the figure he knew that gone was the man with whom he had broken bread, had become friends with on their campaign to retake the throne (and such good friends, at that. Never before had Theodemir met a non-Goth with whom he felt such a bond). In the place of that heart soldier was The Emperor. [FN6]

    “Theodemir, King of the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians and Romans,” a voice called out in a deep voice. “Step forward.”

    Theodemir began to walk toward the Emperor, his own retinue following closely behind him. He wished Amalaric was here, but he had left his heir in Ravenna to govern in his absence.

    “For your deeds and loyalty to the Empire of Rome, I hereby give back to you that which was taken from the West; the full regalia of the Emperors of the West, and hereby recognize you as Emperor of Rome in the West.”

    Germanus held out the crown, which Theodemir grasped firmly in both hands and placed upon his own head. “And I, Theodemir the First, Emperor of Rome, do hereby recognize you, Germanus, as my eternal brother and partner in the East. May the glory of Rome long shine in this world.”

    At this point the Patriarch Thomas stepped forward and sprinkled holy water upon Theodemir’s head, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I hereby bless you as Emperor of Rome.” Theodemir grimaced slightly; this was not entirely unsuspected, but might not play well with his own people. At least the Patriarch had not tried to recognize him as an Orthodox heretic. Showing benevolence, he looked at Thomas, “I think you for your blessing.”

    At that point his men broke into a cheer, and the chant of “Theodemir, Emperor Theodemir” rang through the hallowed chambers. He was not unpleased to note that the Rhomans were calling his name as well.

    The Glory of Emaneric’s Heirs: the Lectures of Dr. Valamir Fralet
    Trans. Edwin Smith
    Bern [OTL: Verona, Italy]: Skipmann and Sons Publishing, 1997

    Upon his return from Constantinople, the newly crowned Emperor moved to solidify his new title. He was formally blessed by Fadar Theodosius in Ravenna, and then had the Senate of Rome properly recognize his new title. Despite this, his failure to seek a blessing from the current Pope in Rome, Simplicius II with whom he had been feuding, caused minor difficulties during the last years of his life, but did not seriously hinder his legitimacy.

    For the last four years of his reign, Theodemir focused upon securing his hold upon those territories he had inherited and conquered during his life. He continued to build bridges between the Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Burgundians, helping to eventually foster the merging of these kingdoms under his successors, and also made efforts to placate the Senate in Rome and the Roman communities of Gaul and Hispania.

    Finally, and most significantly, he worked to secure a stable succession, having the nobles of both Gothic Kingdoms, and also the Senate in Rome, recognize Amalaric as his chosen heir and co-ruler. From experience, he must have known that such efforts would not make for an entirely peaceful transfer of power, but would help his son when the time came.

    In the end, Theodemir was planning a war against the Suebi, to restore control of the Rome over the entirety of Hispania, which he took ill and died. His death was met with sorrow from all corners of the Western Empire, and even from abroad; his old friend, and ally, Germanus I sent a large donation to the Goths to construct a memorial fitting of the Gothic Emperor. His mausoleum, which dwarfs that of his Father, stands to this very day and remains one of the most visited sites in Ravenna.

    The Life of Theodemir the Great
    Wulfila Strabo [FN7]
    Trans. Athelrad Edwardson
    London: National University of Sexland Publishing, 1964 [FN6]

    And so passed from this world, Theodemir the Great, Emperor of Rome, and King of the Goths; the world had not seen his like since the days of Caesar or Alexander. Many were his passions and sorrows and, thought he died, like all men, a sinner, surly he was one specially blessed by God; for it was he who rebuilt the Empire of Rome, and brought peace and stability to our lands.

    I feel myself blessed to have been able to call him lord, teacher and friend. He will forever be missed, and this world may never see the likes of him again.

    [FN1] My feeling is that Belisarius was popular enough, that any effort to move against him would be crushed. Germanus, not a foolish man, understood this and chose to bide his time.

    [FN2] Arheimar is the Nordic translation of the name for the original Gothic capital upon the steppes, and means “River Home”. It is only recorded in the Hervar Saga, but that same Saga includes authentic Gothic names which had not been used in centuries, as well as fragment of incredibly old poetry, and so the name seems to reflect a very real tradition. The Saga was eventually translated by one Christopher Tolkein as “The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise” and is well worth a read if you A) enjoy Germanic history or B) want to see where J.R.R. Tolkein got some of his ideas from  Seriously, its awesome!

    [FN3] Procopius is exaggerating somewhat; the damage done to the region was not so great as that done to, say, Northern Gaul by Theodemir in his war against the Franks. But, well, it makes for good propaganda. It should also be noted that Procopius is writing under the reign of Germanus I, and, even in OTL, had a disagreeable relationship to Belisarius. In the ATL, such band feelings carry on to his depiction of Belisarius’ heir. Also, the reference to the Empress Julia fits into Procopius’ OTL penchant for blaming men’s behavior on manipulative and evil wives.

    [FN4] Not all battles have their exact position recorded in history, and so is the case with this one. However, its important, and so it doesn’t seem unlikely that the citizens of the city would try to erect a memorial situated, somewhat, where they felt it took place.

    [FN5] This is a big difference from the crowing of Charlemagne, obviously. I figured, with forewarning of what was about to occur, Theodemir would make such a demand. He, after all, is not going to want to be seen in anyway as subservient to the Eastern Emperor; especially after he just managed to win that Emperor his throne. I also wanted to take this moment to show a bit of levity in Theodemir’s character; for so many chapters, he has been consumed with hatred for the Franks, and I thought it would be good to show that there is more to him than forever burning rage.

    [FN6] Theodemir and Germanus: The bromance of late antiquity ;) Seriously though, I like to show some humanity to my characters, and demonstrate that they are not simply pawns enslaved to historical forces. I figured from their background, either having experienced setbacks and moments of tragedy, but still possessing a strong will and grit, that Theodemir and Germanus would have actually gotten along fairly well.

    [FN7] This is a minor retcon on my part. In previous posts, I’ve always listed the nation as “England.” The more I thought about it, especially since I reference them as Saxons more often than not, I thought it would be interesting if the nation goes by the alternative name of Sexland (Sex, being the common Anglo-Saxon shortening of “Saxon” as in Wessex, Essex and so forth). Okay, you have m permission to giggle like school children for a bit; but you’d better get it out of your system now! :)

    Okay, so, as I promised, here is the new chapter, and its the one which brings to an end the Reign of Theodemir the Great. I hope you enjoyed it, and felt that it was a good conclusion to this part of the story.

    Having finished off this part, I think my next post will look into the 'mythology' which comes to surround Theodemir and his family (I figure that this ATL will certainly feature a "Matter of the Goths"), because that is a topic I've played aroun with and actually find very interesting. After that, I will look at the beginning of the reign of Amalaric, and then move on to exploring the effects of butterflies upon the region; especially the Gepids and Lombards, the Arian Church, as well as the Vandals and what's going on in Britain.

    As always, please feel free to shoot me any questions or comments; trust me, I eat them up :)
    Interlude #1: The Map
  • Ravenna, capital of Gotland

    Luitprand spread out the map on the table in front of him, and smiled the charming Lombard grin of his.

    "Its a copy of an old Gothic map from 500," he said, his teeth flashing white in the light. "This would have been originally created by a scribe at the University of Ravenna just before Theodemir became Emperor of Rome."

    "I know what it is," Gloria said, her voice sharper than she intended. Since she was a child, she had heard stories of Lombard men and their charm, and had no intention for falling for it. "How do I know its authentic?"

    Luitprand shrugged, "Well, its not original, I don't came I it. But its a copy of an original, and if you look at the ink work, it can't be from a time later than the 900s."

    Gloria nodded, "The Theutish invasions," he said to herself.

    "Well, yes," Luitprand said, "and the fact that, if you look in the power right hand corner, its deep dated and signed by the artist."

    She blushed then, and took a magnifying glass to look at the signature; it looked authentic. Although she was no Doctor of History, she had studied enough to to be able to tell the clumsy fakes which still sprouted in the markets of Ravenna like mushrooms.

    "The one thing I don't understand," she said, trailing off.


    "The caption. It seems to show more of a sense of humor than I'd expect from an ancient scribe."

    Luitprand nodded, "The students of the University of Ravenna were well known for their sense of humor," he said. "and this is the work of one such student, Master Munro. His works are well known to collectors of antiquity."

    "Well, fine," Gloria said as she took one last look at the document, "How much."

    "5 thousand."

    "Five thousand? Are you insane. I'll pay 2000 and not only bit more."

    Luitprand sighed and managed to convey such despair, anguish an boredom in the expression that he almost won Gloria over. "I could do 3000," he said, "but, you understand, these maps are not easy to find, and I have a wife and three children."

    "Sure you do," Gloria said, "and each child is by a different mother, and none of them by your wife, I'm sure. 2500."

    "Deal," the Lombard said and smiled again. He held his hand out to shake.

    "Deal," Gloria responded, looking one more time at the map. It would be such a good conversational piece in her Atha Claith apartment.


    OOC: A special thanks to B_Munro for creating this awesome map for us to enjoy. My hat is off to you, sir (and, as a man who wears a bowler, a top hat, a Frilby AND a Fedora, I have many hats to doff to you!) Thank you so much!
    Chapter 17
  • Chapter 17

    “There are four great Spills in European literature; that of the Britons, the Romans, the Gaels, and the Germans. Of these, the German Spill represents two distinct eras; the Gothic and the Theut. Despite this, the two branches of the German Spill represent two interwoven literary threads, rather than distinct branches which, sprouting from a common source and diverging from one another” – Vitus d’Gaul [FN1]

    The Spills of the Goths
    By: Adal Wulfswair
    St. Athalric University Press, Massalbaurgs, Gotland [OTL: Marseilles, France], 2007 [FN1]


    The legends of the Germanic peoples represent one of the greatest bodies of literature of the European Migration Ages; those years from the collapse of the old Roman order in the West to the establishment of the Theutish dominions. These stories were held sacred by the many different Germanic folk, and passed from one nation to another on the lips of elders in the village hall, sung by poets in the court of kings or, ever so rarely, written down and preserved for future generations by court scribes and scholars.

    Often, the tales that were handed down to us disagree upon many fundamentals. The epic Aírmanareiksaggws, written during the 7th century of the Christian era, tells the story of the great Gothic King Airmanareiks, his efforts to create a Kingdom in Aujum centered upon the old capital of Athahaim, and his eventual defeat by the Huns. In this song, Airmanareiks is remembered as a great warrior, but also a King known for cruelty. His fall is brought upon by the brothers of Sunilda, after Airmanareiks has his wife ripped apart by horses, believing her to be unfaithful. The brothers ally with the Huns, causing Airmanareiks’ noble suicide after his armies have been defeated. A second epic, now lost to us, named the Vithimirussaggws, dealt with Airmanareiks’ successor, Vithimirus, and his efforts to hold back the Hun’s power. However, only three centuries later, Vithimirus’ appears as an antagonist to Theoderic; a cousin who usurped Theoderic’s rightful throne, and who was responsible for the King’s exile to Hunland. [FN2]

    Of course, the central figure of the Gothic tales was Theodemir the Great, immortalized as Deitmir der Grosse by the Saxon poet of the “Merovingleid.” A great deal of historical information has been passed down to us about this incredible Emperor, who united the Goths and restored the Empire of the West. Of these, perhaps the most informative remains the writings of Wulfila Strabo, who wrote the first biography of Theodemir, as well as references to his reign by the Rhomanian historian Procopius, as well as royal documents from the Kingdoms of the Goths, the Rhomanian Empire, as well as stray references from surviving documents from the Frankish Kingdoms, as well as the Vandals, and other Germanic peoples.

    A great deal as been written about the historic Theodemir, and rightfully so, for he helped to construct the future of Europe. However, much less has been written about the mythic figure which supplanted the historical king in the minds of many of the Germanic and Walish folks of Europe. This is, to me, is a great shame, as the character of Theodemir has proven to be as important to the development of Europe was the historical king.

    First, it is important to establish that there are actually three traditions of Theodemir present in the folklore of Europe; both of which do not argue upon the actual details of his life, but differ greatly in their interpretation. The first, and earliest, are those stories which stem from the Gothic period itself, and is represented in story fragments recorded b the Arian churchman Luivigild in the 8th century, as well as the History of the Goths written down by Bishop Witteric of Bern. The Theodemir which emerges from these stories is of a just and noble king who was a defender of the Arian church; many of these tales are based upon the King’s military exploits and can usually be verified by the historical record.

    The second tradition are the magical stories of Theodemir. These tales often show the King’s battles against different mythological beings, such as Giants, the undead, and other creatures. For many years, academia has largely ignored these stories, although they continue to be popular amongst the people, as seen by the recent best-seller “The King and the Druigan” which retells the story of Theodemir’s victory over an army of undead Druigan raised by his mother and sister, early in his reign. In these stories, Theodemir is able to breath fire when angry, an ability inherited from his Father who may be a descendent of the Devil (and, here, we see the influence of Roman Orthodox traditions which largely denigrated the Amali line for their Arianism).

    Finally, we have the third tradition, which surrounds the Fall of the Merovings. These stories likely started in Frankland in the decades following the collapse of Meroving power. Although some scholars argue that they should not be included in the cycle of Theodemir and the Amalings, due to their primary focus upon the Meroving Kings, and their House’s fall, I find this argument to be foolish. Not only does Theodemir appear as a constant force in many of the stories of the cycle, he is one of the main characters of the Merovingleid; the most popular work of this body of legend and myth!

    It is in these stories that we are greeted by a far different Theodemir than appears in the rest of the body of legends. The Theodemir which emerges in the Fall of the Merovings in a vicious king, often described as “wolf-like” and “a beast.” In many ways, the character which emerges is much more nuanced than that in the other traditions. Although still seen as a great King, he is often driven solely by revenge and a desire to destroy the Franks at all costs. Certainly, the historical record backs up the facts, of not the interpretation, of these stories. The tales of the Meroving cycle eventually passed into Scandinavia, likely prior to the Theutist Era, and greatly colored the image of Theodemir which would emerge over the next several centuries.

    The Spill of Germany can largely be divided into four different segments; the Fall of the House of Burgundy, the Tales of Theoderic of Bern, the Cycle of Theodemir, and the Fall of the Merovings. Although certain differences in the stories do exist, one can piece together a generally agreed upon chronology of events. It is important to remember that this do not always reflect the historic record, as it has come down to us.

    The Fall of Burgundy

    The tale of the Fall of Burgundy follows the story of the princess Hildico, and her Father Gunther. Gunther is a great King who has managed to create a Kingdom around the city of Worms within the Roman Empire. In order to secure his own power, he has made allied with the Huns led by Etzel (Atilla) who helped him in his wars against Rome. Gunther then promises his daughter, Hildico, to the King of the Huns in order to secure peace. Unfortunately for him, Hildico is already in love with another warrior, Alaric, who has helped Gunther in his wars, and was instrumental in the Burgundian taking o Worms.

    Gunther, under the guise of friendship, offers to marry Hildico and Alaric. However, at the wedding, he betrays his daughter and her chosen love, and has Alaric murdered, and vows to marry his daughter to the King of the Huns, instead. Unfortunately, Hildico is already pregnant with Alaric’s child. She gives birth and places the child in a basket, which she sends down the Rhine. This child, Alabert, is found and raised by a family of kindly Goth peasants who only know that he is a prince because of a broach that they found in his basket. Upon reaching manhood, Alabert is given three tasks by his foster-parents (to dive to the bottom of a local pond to retrieve a golden apple, to slay a prominent Roman bandit, and to win the love of the princess Brunhilda.), only after he has completed all three is he told of his true heritage.

    Upon discovering his true parentage, Alabert travels to the Hunnish Court, disguised as a lowly peasant. After arriving, he saves the life of Atilla from a Roman assassin, and is made a Reik in the Hunnish Army. It is then that he turns the King’s ear against the Burgundians, encouraging him to war against his allies, claiming they possess a great treasure. Attila agrees, and he declares war against the Burgundians, eventually capturing Gunther in battle. Alabert asks for the honor to execute the King and, only then, reveals his heritage to Gunther and his mother, Hildico. Alabert executes his grandfather by throwing him into a pit of vipers. [FN3]

    Hildico agrees with Alabert’s motives, and encourages her sons through Atilla to attack the newcomer, knowing that they would be easily illed by her trueborn son. After slaying all of Atilla’s sons, Alabert declares his true heritage in court, and challenges Atilla to battle. However, Atilla overcomes his younger opponent and kills him. This drives HIldico to the point of madness, and upon seeing her son’s body, she tales Atilla back to their marriage bed and stabs him multiple times. The next morning, upon the discovery of the King’s body,she is killed by Theodoric of Bern. [FN4]

    Theodoric of Bern

    The stories of Theodoric of Bern begin in the ancient Gothic capital of Athahaimin the kingdom of Aujum. There, Aírmanareiks has built a great Kingdom. However, in his lust for power, at an old age, he marries the Swedish princess Sunhilda. However, Sunhilda comes to love Aírmanareiks’ son Randver, and has a son by him, Theodoric. The King discovers the infidelity and has Sunhilda tied to four horses and town apart. His own son, he has drowned in the sea. In revenge, her sisters make an alliance with the Huns and Alans, Aírmanareiks meets his foes in battle, but suffers a horrible loss. Rather than be captured, he chooses to die by his own hand and commits suicide.

    The Gothic leader Vithimirus is then elected to rule the Kingdom, and carries out a great war against the Huns. At the same time, Sunhilda and Valamir’s son Theodoric is discovered by the Huns, and is raised by the King’s son Attila. The two become like brothers, and, with the help of the Huns, Theodoric is able to defeat the usurper and take control of the Goths, ruling then as a vassal of Attila. With Attila’s death, however, he joins the Goths in a war against Attila’s successor Bleda, who has previously feuded with Theodoric over the spoils of war.

    Theodoric then moves into Italy where he sets up his own kingdom, and rules to a vast age, dispensing justice throughout the land.

    Theodemir the Great and the Fall of the Merovings

    Theodemir’s life is continually intertwined with that of the Merovings who are represented as former allies of Theodoric in his wars against Belda. According to the stories, Theodoric married Clovis’ sister in order to seal their alliance. However, the bonds of friendship between the two Kings began to be strained as each began to claim more and more of the Roman Empire. Eventually, Clovis invades Aquitaine after a perceived insult, when Theodoric refused to accept an embassy from Clovis (in fact, Theodoric’s wife, and Clovis’ sister had conspired to create a war in order to gain the Hunnish treasure which Clovis had uncovered in the Rhine.)

    In the war, Theodemir, much like his historical counterpart, kills Clovis in rage, and begins the enmity between the Goths and Franks. As recorded in the Merovingleid and other tales, the conflict between the two peoples remains largely historically accurate, except for certain embellishments. The sons of Clovis declare war and kill Theodemir’s nephew and, later, his son in a scene which is highly reminiscent (and likely inspired) the death of Alaric in the Burgundian court. The final war has been immortalized in Germanic folklore and mythology to this day; countless pieces of literature and art portray the siege of Paris, the burning of the city, and Theodemir’s execution of the Merovings.

    The attention then turns away from Theodemir, and focuses upon the last two heirs of the Merovings, Theudoric and Clovis. After Theudeoric murders his own father on a hunting expedition, in vengeance for his own uncles, his younger brother Clovis rises up in revolt. The two finally meet in combat, at the Battle of Metz and slay one another, thereby ending the Meroving line once and for all.

    However, other stories persist of Theodemir and the Emperor Germanus who acts as his faithful friend and ally. Although these stories do have basis in historical fact; Germanus proved to be a staunch friend of Theodemir, even sending funds to help build a tomb for the Western Emperor, many of the tales seem to express the political reality of a century later as both Roman Empires struggles for dominance in the Mediterranean and likely belong to a later tradition.

    Finally, on the eve of a war against the Seubi, Theodemir falls ill and dies. However, it is prophesied they he was not dead, but dreaming, and would return again to lead the Goths to glory when they needed him most. [FN5]

    [FN1] This is an attempt to come up with an alternate name for the Romance term “Matter”, I.e. The Matter of Britain, the Matter of France and the Matter of Rome. In this timeline, the Germanic traditions remain even stronger, and so they are given their true due in European literary thought. In OTL, the Gothic term “Spill” means story and, I think, maybe be related to the word Spiel.

    [FN2] Aujum and Athahaim are my efforts to reconstruct the Gothic name for the old Kingdom of the Goths and its capital (which means River Home). I am no linguist, and my efforts may be off, but it’s the best I could do  Both of these words were recorded, through translation, in OTL, with Athahaim appearing in Old Norse Sagas (see my previous posts!)

    [FN3] The “pit of Vipers” appears to be a particularly strong motif in Germanic myth, as Gunther dies this way in the Volsung Saga, and Ragnar Lothbrok dies similarly in Northumbria. I figured that this may have been a story which was attached to the Burgundians early on, and would likely be continued.

    [FN4] So ends the ATL version of the Nibelunenlied. It’s a bit less developed in the ATL, as the rise of the Amalings and the Fall of the Merovings eclipse it. Its important to note that the bridge of Attila mentioned in the story is the real name o Attila’s last bride in OTL. I purposely kept the themes of revenge and self destruction in the tale, but did not expand upon them as much as in OTL. I also did not include the character of Brunhilda of Gundrun(Kreimhild) under the theory that those characters appeared in the story at a later date.

    [FN5] The stories of Theodemir are not fully explained in this section. However, I felt that they would be truer to real life, as there are better written sources to describe his reign. In much the same way, the stories of Charlemagne deviate from real life at certain points, but the main facts of his reign are still held onto.


    Okay; this post was very difficult to write. As I mentioned above, I struggled to find the 'roots' of those Germanic stories we known in OTL. I did the best I could, and plan to return to this post as I continue my reading to make changes.

    I really hate to do this, because it sounds so childish, but could my readers please make a comment or two on this post? First of all, I'd love to hear from your collective knowledge. Second of all, I know that this post is a bit esoteric, and may not fall within the realm of expertise of many of my readers. Despite that, it marks an advancement of certain topics I've been wanting to explore since the beginning and, as a mythology geek, is one which is very important to me. I'd value any confirmation that people have read it and appreciated it, and I'd value any constructive criticism even more! :)
    Chapter 18 The Periphery
  • Chapter 18

    The Periphery

    The Barbarians Triumphant: a History of the Early Vandalic Kingdom
    By: Valamir Wulfsháubiþ
    [University of Carthage, Vandalia, 2009]

    The revolt of Gelimer against Hilderic 530 sent shockwaves throughout the country of Vandalia. Since the death of the great king Genseric, the Vandals had largely been in retreat against the forces of the Goths to the North and the Berbers to the South. The entire Kingdom had long lived under the threat of Rhomanian intervention, and had few strong allies in which to solidify their position. [FN1]

    The Kingdom of the Vandals had been weakened by years of internal and external strife. The imprisonment of the Gothic Queen Amalfrida nearly led to war between the two Germanic kingdoms; a disaster that was only adverted by the death of Theodoric the Great, and his son and heir, Theodemir’s negotiation of a peace, which saw his aunt returned to freedom. [FN2]

    In an effort to protect his Kingdom, Hilderic entered into close relations with the Rhomanian Emperor Justianian, and the two became quite close. Hilderic allowed an Orthodox bishop to be restated in the capital of Carthage, and his reign apparently saw the conversion of many Vandals to the Orthodox faith, much to the fear of the Vandal Arian population. Unfortunately, due to his own old age, he left military affairs to his nephew Hoamer, who proved a less than competent general, and saw the defeat of the Vandals a several battles against their Moorish and Berber foes.

    It was to be his military defeats, and religious policies, which were to instigate the rebellion of Gelimer and the later’s taking of the Vandal throne. Gelimer immediately restored Arianism as the main doctrine of the land, and launched a persecution against the Orthodox citizens of his nation. This policy, normally, would have seen war come with the Rhomanians, as they were zealous protectors of the Orthodox population of the old Roman Empire, in both East and West. Luckily, the overthrow of Justinian, who was planning just such an intervention, and the resulting decades of civil war, effectively minimized the strength of the Empire of the East and allowed Gelimer to consolidate his power within Carthage and the surrounding lands. [FN3]

    Gelimer would reign until 553, dying five years short of the newly claimed Western Emperor Theodemir I, and was succeeded by his son Gelibert. During this time, Gelimer made several important decisions which would secure the continued rule of the Vandals over North Africa. Primarily, he realigned the states diplomacy; whereas before they had continued to react against the forces of the East, the civil wars in that region, gave them a chance to secure new alliances and strengthen themselves. During 544, an embassy to Ravenna secured Gothic control of Sicily in exchange for an alliance of marriage between Theodemir’s son Alamir and Gelimer’s daughter Brunhilde.

    This realignment was to prove important over the next few decades. As the Goths continued to secure their hold over the Western lands, and the eventual elevation of Theodemir to the title of Emperor of the West, the lands of North Africa fell out of the attention of the Rhomanians of he West. Part of this was due to simple political realities; after decades of bitter civil war, the Empire of the East was in no position to extend its power throughout Africa. However, philosophically, Germanus I and his successors were unwilling to turn their eyes to North Africa, following the crowning of Theodemir. In their minds, the reestablishment of the Western Empire left the territory of North Africa under the auspice of Ravenna, rather than Constantinople, and the Vandals thereby become a Western problem, o do with as they wished. Although Vandal pirate attacks would continue to cause problems between the two Emperors, as did religious divides in the region, no longer would Constantinople attempt to force its influence upon the Vandals directly.

    An immediate effect of the alliance with the Wes was e reentrenchment of the Arian church in North Africa. Whereas, jus a decade before, Vandal nobility had shown themselves to be willing to convert to Orthodoxy, the reign of Gelimer saw a strengthening of the Arian church within the region. Part of this stemmed from thee newly won prestige o f the faith, in opposition to Orthodoxy, following the Gothic vanquishing of the Orthodox Franks, as well as by Arian missionaries sent by Ravenna to North Africa. The result, was that the Vandal Kingship become inherently Arian, and Gelimer proceeded to renew the suppression of the Orthodox clergy which begun under his predecessor. [FN4]

    Unfortunately, a renewed appreciation for domination religion amongst the Germanic peoples did no secure military glory. Although Gelimer won several striking victories over the Berbers, and temporarily secured the borders of his kingdom, such victories would prove to be short lived, and the Vandals would lose much of the land outside of ancient Libya during the reign of his successor Gelibert [modern Gilbert].

    It would be left up to a future Vandal King to secure the lands of Vandalia, and create a lasting Kingdom in North Africa.

    The Birth of Lombardy: The Story of the Early Lombards
    By Luitprand Leinenkugel
    [University of Lombardy – Dornpurg, Dornpurg, 2003] [OTL, Split, Croatia] [FN5]

    From the early 6th century, the Lombards have come to dwell in the Carpathian basin, a land shared with them by their fellow Germanic tribe, the Gepids. However, relations between the two remained tense, and the slightest disturbance within the power of either was liable to lead to an all out war as the other attempted to maximize his own power at the expense of the other.

    In 510, the Lombard King Tato, after having decisively defeated the Herulish king Rodulf, was murdered by his own nephew, Wacho. Ildichis, the son of Tato fought a long war against his father’s slayer and eventually defeated him in battle, but Wacho fled to the Gepid court. It is likely that Ildchis requested that his neighbors turn over the usurper, and we have a references in Wulida Strabo that Theodemir the Great sent an embassy to the Gepids asking that Wacho be turned over to the Lombards, but such requests were in vain.

    Ildichis enjoyed strong relations with the Goths, and married Amahilda, the daughter of a prominent Gothic Reik in order to secure further relations between the two people. However, outside forces were acting against the Lombard kingdom. As allies with the Goths and Germanus I in the War for the Rhomanian Crown, the Lombard occupied Sirmium and, following the conclusion of peace, they refused to give up the territory, claiming it was their price for their support.

    Germanus I could not allow himself to be seen as giving up Rhoman territory to the barbarians in exchange for the crown. The Rhomanians sent word o the Gepids that they would support that nation’s consolidation of the Carpathian basin in exchange for driving the Lombards out of Sirmium.

    Elemung, the King of the Gepids also faced a problem; he had come to power after overthrowing the Ardaricings, who had previously held power over the Gepids. Feeling that a victory over the Lombards, would secure his own legitimacy, Elemung agreed to the Rhomanian offer. Further, he currently holsted Wachmung, the heir of Wacho, who held a claim upon the Lombard throne.

    At the Battle of Sirmium, the Lombards were routed. Elemung captured the Lombard King Illdichis and had his head made into a golden mug for the drinking of mead. Elemung also married Illdichis’ eldest daughter to his son, Thurisund in the aftermath. [FN5]

    The victory of the Gepids over the Lombards would secure Gepid power in the Carpathian basin, and also drive out the Lombards. Although many Lombards chose to stay with their land, many others chose to seek asylum within the Gothic territory.

    These Lombards, ruled by their king, Agiluf, would petition the Gothic King Amalric to be settled within the borders of the Gothic-Roman Empire. Continuing the policies of his Father, begun with the Breton settlers, and later expanded to the Seubi, Amalaric granted their request. The Lombards were settled in the old provinces of Dalmatia, which had been depopulated by plague, famine, and the invasion by Photius in the opening stages of the War for the Rhoman crown.

    At this point, we may mark the true beginning of the history of Lombardy. Granted the lands by the Emperor Amalaric, the Lombards under Agiluf, moved in to secure the territory. Under their agreement with Ravenna, they were to supply soldiers, and minimal taxes, to the Gothic-Roman crown and, in exchange, would likely be left in peace. These terms were largely the same as those granted the Bretons and Seubi, and Agiluf quickly moved to express his loyalty to the Emperor.

    Of course, as history would show, the relations between the Lombards and the Emperor in Ravenna would proved strained, at best. But, during the reign of Agiluf I, he Lombards would do their best to act as the first line of defense of the Empire against the Rhomans, Avars and Gepids. [FN6]

    [FN1] Much of this occurs as in OTL. Although butterflies would certainly exist, I don’t believe the position of the Vandals would be greatly strengthened. They were, after all, a foreign people ruling over a largely hostile native population and, historically, most of their actions were dictated by a strong fear of the Byzantines.

    [FN2] This is all as in OTL, except for the eventual peace deal reached by Theodemir. My opinion is that, new to the throne, Theodemir could not be seen as abandoning a relation, especially to a king who was showing himself open to the forces of Orthodoxy. The eventual peace deal results in the release of his aunt, and the Vandal king backing away from being to friendly to the East.

    [FN3] All of this is OTL up until the overthrow of Justinian, which effectively stops the Byzantines from sending forces out to deal with the Vandals; they have their own problems to deal with.

    [FN4] The reestablishment of the Empire in the West has some immediate consequences. First of all, the Goths become the defacto ‘big guys’ to deal with in the West. Their court, their religion, and culture become a force to be dealt with in the West. Secondly, the recreation of the Empire of the West, means that North Africa suddenly falls under the jurisdiction of the Emperor of Ravenna. The notion is that there is still a single Empire ruled by two Emperors (this notion may break down in the future, of course), and North Africa is the province of the West. Thereby, it is not the trouble of Constantinople any more.

    This effectively shifts responsibility of the region to Ravenna. As long as the Vandals don’t cause too many problems, this is fine; should they start preying on shipping again, is means that Constantinople is going to vie Ravenna as responsible for their actions.

    For the time being, however, it gives the Vandals an Arian ally, tied to them by blood, on which to lean on. Although the Vandals are, currently suffering from military defeats by the Berbers, they now have another power to play against Constantinople, and they plan on playing that hand for all it is worth.

    [FN5] Once again, I've tried my best to come up with a good ATL name for a modern city. In OTL,the city of Split gets its name from the thorny plant which is present in the region. The Old High German word for thorn was Dorn. Lombarish was a High Germanic Language, but, we also know they often translated the 'b' sound for 'p'. Therefore, we have a name of Dornpurg or, in English 'Thornburg'. As usual, if we ahve any actual linguists out there, please feel free to tell me that I'm wrong!!

    [FN6] Since these are Germanics we are dealing with, you can imagine that this is going to have a happy ending. Or, you could, at least, if you knew absolutely nothing about Germanic history! 

    [FN7] I’ve foreshadowed this a number of times. The costs of Dalmatia and Illyrium were badly damaged by Photius, and also suffered badly from the plague ,as did all trading regions. The Lombards are the perfect solution; they were recently defeated, meaning they will be loyal to the Emperor who saved them, and can act as a bulwark against the many forces in he East that might want to invade the Empire (Rhomania being one, but also the Avars, Gepids, and anyone else who shows up).

    Furthermore, the pure extent of Gotland, as I will deal with in later posts, was too large for the Goths to deal with effectively. This cuts down of their own territory, allows them to concentrate their population more, and also create a loyalty ‘buffer state’ (and I put it that way, because its still technically part of the Empire) between them and their foes. Also, the land is actually pretty good, meaning the Lombards will likely grow and prosper there, depending on the darts history throws at them.

    Okay, so this was a shorter entry, but should satisfy a bit of curiosity about what is going on in the wider world of Europe. I still, of course, need to deal with what is going on in Britain, as well as the Avars, needless to say. These, along with the first few years of the reign of Amalaric I (and they be bumpy, let me tell you!), will be dealt with soon.