The Bulgar-Slayer campaigns in Italy; Sicily

Lets say Basil II lives another 10 years (instead of dying in 1025) and personally leads his armies while campaigning in Italy and Sicily.

He would be the first Roman Emperor to personally command an army in Italy since Constans II in the 660's.

His presence could have solidified morale and concentrated imperial resources on a badly needed front.
 
He would be facing either Conrad II or Henry III, both very competent emperors would would conceivably be at least a match for Basil. And assuming he is at all successful in Italy, the Seljuks are about to show up in Anatolia. So the question remains as to whether the Byzantines would successfully be able to maintain any Italian conquests while facing Turkish incursions into Anatolia.
 
There's a factor to consider - the age of Basil II. In OTL he lived to 67. Ten more years of life are not impossible, but it could be difficult, and he could just get too weak in his final years to run the campaign in person.

Furthermore, there's that little problem he never got around to sort out properly: the succession. A few extra years could mean he survives his incompetent brother and successor, Constantine VIII, and that could be good; but anything after that is up in the air. I briefly played with the idea of suggesting the adoption of a competent general as heir, but by that time I don't think Basil could pull the stunt that Nerva and Trajan pulled off. There would be a civil war in the best case, and this could allow the Bulgars to break away; and once they're loose, the Empire is going to have problems holding on to any additional territories Basil II could manage to conquer.
 
I always wondered how a figure so obviously competent as Basil II could have left such inept people around to succeed him.

Why he didn't adopt a half-decent general of his as Caesar and 'bring him in' to the family as it were is beyond me.

He had to have known how terribly his nieces and brother would rule..
 
I always wondered how a figure so obviously competent as Basil II could have left such inept people around to succeed him.
Absolutely. I have also wondered why a man with such a good grasp of long range planning didn't do anything about his succession. I think he was quite the religious fanatic; maybe he thought everything was in the hands of God?

Why he didn't adopt a half-decent general of his as Caesar and 'bring him in' to the family as it were is beyond me.
One thing that could work for Basil II is to have a trusted lieutenant marry one of his nieces (let's say Theodora, who was younger), but I was not able to find any names of suitable candidates. This successor would have his own succession problems. First of all, having children: good ole Basil has to plan the marriage early enough (let's say, around the year 1000), as Theodora was 41 when the emperor died in OTL, and she was the youngest. Furthermore, if Zoe, the other niece, marries an ambitious man, as she did many times over in OTL, there could be civil war at some time in the future.
 
There's a factor to consider - the age of Basil II. In OTL he lived to 67. Ten more years of life are not impossible, but it could be difficult, and he could just get too weak in his final years to run the campaign in person.



Furthermore, there's that little problem he never got around to sort out properly: the succession. A few extra years could mean he survives his incompetent brother and successor, Constantine VIII, and that could be good; but anything after that is up in the air. I briefly played with the idea of suggesting the adoption of a competent general as heir, but by that time I don't think Basil could pull the stunt that Nerva and Trajan pulled off. There would be a civil war in the best case, and this could allow the Bulgars to break away; and once they're loose, the Empire is going to have problems holding on to any additional territories Basil II could manage to conquer.

Could that be a benefit in disguise? That might led to a de-facto resolution of the problem of the succession. That would be a much bigger bonus than any gains in Italy/Sicily. If it forced Basil to delegate command of the army used for the mission to a potential successor who gains the support of a sizeable proportion of the armed forces. If you can avoid the terrible succession problem that Basil left behind so there's a decently lead empire in 1055 when the Seljuks turn up they will probably not reach past the Eurphates other than occasional raids.

Also, I'm not sure that Basil was that good a commander was he? Think the only time he led an army into battle against the Bulgars he got badly mauled. It was more a war of attriction and gradually wearing the Bulgars down. He inherited a very good professional army but the previous decades of generals usrping the throne meant that he didn't trust any of the traditional aristocracy and sought to keep them from positions of political or military power.

Steve
 
Also, I'm not sure that Basil was that good a commander was he?
While it certainly is very debatable if Basil was anywhere near as skilled a commander as his predecessors (Nicephorus, John), he did seem to make up for it with his commanding personality and the 'image' he built for himself as a mighty warrior-emperor.

If his army had a strong officer corps, it would seem that it didn't suffer much by Basil being any less militarily capable than his forebears.
 
Basil's biggest forte was strategy, not tactics. He was excellent at logistics and had a good grasp of the political situation and how to take advantage of it.
 
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