The Darling of the World

So, we're going to see a surviving Rome, yet significantly reduced, Rome? I really like that idea. Im also a supporter of any timeline with a surviving Gothic state (since that's kinda my current 'thing' :p )

Also, it looks as if Christianity is still going to become somewhat entrenched, based on the reference to St. Crispin (actually considering the damage Rome is taking during this alternate Crisis of the Third Century, I'm wondering if the Christianization of the Empire might be accelerated. It's obvious that Rome has lost the protection and support of the Gods)
 
I was thinking about just killing him off, but he's just too cool for that. As for Zenobia, I don't know what I'll do with her since I haven't planned that far ahead just yet. And since Vaballathus won't take the throne as an infant, I don't know what to do with her just yet.
Suggestion: assuming her descent from Cleopatra via the Priest-Kings of Emesa was fact (though even if it wasn't, her claim would be enough, it's not like they could test it), you could have Odaenathus conquer Egypt and claim it by right of his wife. As a matter of fact, Zenobia could become queen regnant of Egypt in her own right (this could also work as a solution to get her out of the capital, if she was as much of a schemer as some sources claim).
 
Sucks to be Rome right now. First the Persians give them a good beating, then another rival power rises and proceeds to take their stuff, and then the barbarians come and raid as they please. From a certain point of view, the world is indeed ending.
 
Are there any significant Roman holdouts left in the East? You mentioned Tyre successfully resisting Shapur; did it resist Odainat too? What about Byzantion?
 
Are there any significant Roman holdouts left in the East? You mentioned Tyre successfully resisting Shapur; did it resist Odainat too? What about Byzantion?
Tyre resisted Shapur's control in the 240s, but fell to Odainat's troops as the Roman Empire fell apart after the capture of emperor Decius. The king of Palmyra inevitably managed to create a fleet for himself after his conquest of Anatolia and Egypt, which have him excellent ports. As for Byzantium, it is currently under the control of the Goths.
 
With Odainat controlling the whole of Anatolia and Egypt, he could move the capital of his kingdom from Palmyra to another great city of his domains, like Antiochia or Alexandria.

Edit: Will Postumus stablish the Gallic Empire as IOTL?
 
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Part 8: Reunited
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Part 8: Reunited

Ever since the collapse of the Han dynasty, which started in the 190s, China was stuck in a period of warlordism and division, where competing generals carved new dominions for themselves and constantly battled each other, bringing much destruction to what was once without a doubt one of the largest, most advanced and powerful civilizations in the world at its peak, certainly a match and quitle possibly surpassing the Roman Empire. At the height of the upheaval, there were as many as nineteen warlords all controlling a different portion of the country, their endless clashes destroying villages and cities, crops and livestock (which obviously led to famines), and years upon years of knowledge and state building were burned by the flames of civil war. As these fiefdoms defeated their foes and expanded their territories, by the 220s all of China was in the hands of three kingdoms, all of them claiming to be the great nation's legitimate ruler.



For the following decades, the three states would fight each other to control all of the Middle Kingdom, as China was known, and with Cao Wei and Eastern Wu being the stronger ones while Shu Han, the weakest, kept the balance and prevented one from completely overcoming the other, often allying with Wu against Wei, the most powerful and populous of the Three Kingdoms. However, while the forces involved were quite balanced and definitely looked like such in a map like the one shown above, such a division couldn't be kept forever, and since none of these states were immune to internal turmoil that could be taken advantage of, one state would inevitably rise up, dominate its enemies and unify China once more.

The big event that finally changed everything took place on February 5, 249 at Luoyang, the capital of Wei. That day, the respected general Sima Yi, who was also regent for the seventeen year old emperor Cao Fang, launched a coup d'état against his fellow regent Cao Shuang, who was visiting the Gaoping Tombs with the emperor, and took control of Luoyang. Han Fan, minister of finance of Wei and an opponent of the Sima clan and its attempt to take power, evaded capture and warned Cao Shuang of what was going on, advising him to flee with the emperor to Xuchang, denounce Sima Yi as a traitor and call upon all troops of Wei to move against the conspirators. To the surprise of the chief plotter, the regent agreed to this plan, and suddenly what was supposed to be a quick takeover instead turned into a brutal and very confusing civil war between the loyalists and the supporters of the Sima clan (1).

An artist's idea of what Sima Yi might have looked like. This drawing was made well over a thousand years after the Three Kingdoms period.

Sima Yi's ambition ultimately doomed Wei. Upon hearing news of what was happening in the north, the emperor of Wu, Sun He, who took power shortly before the coup in Luoyang took place (2), immediately ordered general Zhuge Ke, a notorious advocate of war against Cao Wei, to prepare Wu's troops for exactly that. The Wu armies marched to war in 251, and Wei was by then suffering from the damages of two years of infighting and was unable to mount an effective resistance against the southern invaders, and as if that wasn't enough, Shu Han launched an offensive from the west at the same time, forcing the mighty northern kingdom to divide its troops to defend the borders. The two warring parties of Wei even agreed to bury the hatchet (for now) and combine their forces against the external threats, but by then it was too late to do anything other than delay the inevitable.

The Wu armies captured Shouchun after a short battle, and from there made a beeline towards the banks the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, and proceeded from there to lay siege to Luoyang, which resisted their first assault. Meanwhile, Shu Han advanced through the west almost unopposed, its troops capturing the great jewel of Chang'an (the capital of the Han dynasty bak in its glory days) and even managing to occupy the Yumen Pass, the gateway to the Tarim Basin and a critical point of the Silk Road. Little did they know, however, that they were exhausting their meager resources and severely overextending their territory. The once proud empire of Cao Wei finally ceased to exist in 254, when Luoyang was stormed by Wu troops after a brutal three year long siege that would never ever be forgotten by Chinese historians and bureaucrats.

The same artist's idea of Zhuge Ke, the man who reunified China.

In 261 came Shu's turn to be conquered. The western kingdom, the weakest of them all, was brought to bankruptcy after the long years of war, and was easily brought to its knees after just a year of campaigning by Zhuge Ke, who captured Chengdu, the Shu capital, after a brief siege. Sun He, by now better known by his regnal name, emperor Wen of Wu, became the first monarch since emperor Ling of Han to control all of China, and he immediately moved to solidify his power and consolidate the foundations of the reunited Chinese state.

A capable and dedicated ruler (3), emperor Wen was more concerned with administrative matters than military ones, leaving those on the hands of his generals. Accordingly, he began a widespread reform of the imperial bureaucracy, combating corruption and loopholes within the system, something that he intended to do since his days as crown prince under his father Sun Quan. These reforms greatly increased imperial revenues and laid the foundations for what would become China's famous examination system as a method to select and elevate bureaucrats, rather than patronage and inheritance, something that would be put in place by his successors (4).

The Wu dynasty would ultimately prove itself to be vastly different from its Han predecessor, including but not limited to the location of its core region. The new Chinese capital, Jianye, was much further to the south and east of its older counterparts, Luoyang and especially Chang'an, and was also much closer to the coast, with the Yangtze providing easy access to the outside world. This not only meant that the traditionally underdeveloped southern provinces began to receive special attention and an influx of Han Chinese people from the north, it also ensured that maritime trade was given a special focus by the empire, with ports like Jianye itself, Fuzhou and Guangzhou exporting and importing goods to and from places as far away as Southeast Asia, India, Arabia, Iran, Egypt and East Africa. To protect these vital routes, the Wu dynasty was forced to develop what would soon become the most powerful maritime force in the world, a navy that supposedly counted with thousands of ships of all shapes and sizes (5).


It is believed that the junk, by far the most famous of China's ships, began to be developed during the Wu dynasty.

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Notes:

(1) IOTL, Cao Shuang decided to surrender, believing that he would still live a life of luxury. In the end, he was executed for treason and the Sima family assumed complete control, eventually proclaiming the Jin dynasty and reunifying China in 280 AD. This reunion didn't last long, however, and the Jin were expelled from the north in the Uprising of the Five Barbarians just a few decades later.

(2) IOTL, Sun He was taken off the succession line by Sun Quan in 250 AD thanks to intrigue. Here, the old man dies (he died in 252 at 69 IOTL) before that can happen.

(3) If his Wikipedia entry is to be trusted, Sun He was an intelligent prince who saw problems within the Wu bureaucracy, such as abusing certain loopholes to screw rivals over, and intended to fix them.

(4) IOTL, the imperial examination began to be used in this way during the Tang dynasty, which took power during the 7th century.

(5) IOTL, Eastern Wu traded with places such as India and the Middle East, so this doesn't seem so implausible.
 
With Odainat controlling the whole of Anatolia and Egypt, he could move the capital of his kingdom from Palmyra to another great city of his domains, like Antiochia or Alexandria.

Edit: Will Postumus stablish the Gallic Empire as IOTL?
Odainat likes Palmyra too much to truly change his kingdom's capital, but he spends a lot of time in Antioch. Queen Zenobia, as a supposed descendant of Cleopatra, rules Egypt from Alexandria on her husband's behalf.

As for Postumus, I can't say anything or I'll end up spoiling something important.
 
So, we're going to see a surviving Rome, yet significantly reduced, Rome? I really like that idea. Im also a supporter of any timeline with a surviving Gothic state (since that's kinda my current 'thing' :p )

Also, it looks as if Christianity is still going to become somewhat entrenched, based on the reference to St. Crispin (actually considering the damage Rome is taking during this alternate Crisis of the Third Century, I'm wondering if the Christianization of the Empire might be accelerated. It's obvious that Rome has lost the protection and support of the Gods)
To be honest, I only stayed with the OTL name (Plague of Cyprian) because I had absolutely no idea what other guy I should have put on it. Looking back, I probably should have named it Plague of Valerian...
 
If you see anything that seems remotely implausible, please voice your opinion.
Careful what you wish for ;)

he intended to completely expel the Romans from the Diocese of Oriens
This first one is a very minor nitpick. The administrative "diocese" were part of the political reforms of Diocletianus, and before his reign, the province was still the basic unit of imperial administration with each province being wholly autonomous and only subject to the emperor (which was a big causal factor in the actual crisis). A more appropriate name would simply by "Syria", which roughly corresponds to the Diocese of the Oriens which was later established.

An artist's impression of Roman soldiers at the Battle of Seleucia Pieria.
Also minor, but this picture appears to be of the Milvian Bridge. Normally I wouldn't nitpick something like that since I use images depicting IOTL events to portray ATL events all the time, but it is very significant in this picture because the soldier's shields prominently feature the Chi Rho, which Constantine allegedly saw in a dream prophesying his victory against Maxentius. Not sure if anyone else minds; that's just something that stuck out to me.

After him came his brother Hostilian, and then Licinianus, Regalianus, Aemilianus and Gallienus, sometimes ruling at the same time, all in the span of three to four years (1).
On some level, a parallel of the events of OTL's crisis makes sense. After all, imperial usurpers were typically powerful, wealthy men, and this isn't likely to change drastically this quickly after the POD. However, I feel compelled to point out that the rise of several of these men was highly contingent on previous events. For example, Aemilianus was a prominent general in Moesia after the disastrous Battle of Abrittus, and the lackluster response of the reigning emperor Gallus instigated the Moesian army to declare Aemilianus emperor. Without Decius dying at Abrittus and the Gothic host being accommodated by Gallus thereafter, I have my doubts as to whether Aemilianus would have the opportunity to become emperor. The same can be said of Gallienus. Without his father's fortuitous control of the Rhine legions at the time of Aemilianus' usurpation, I have my doubts as to whether or not he would be enough of a political force on his own to become emperor. That's just my opinion though, take it or leave it.

Maybe you explained this and I missed it, but I have my doubts as to whether or not any Gothic state would be equipped with the institutions or resources to permanently occupy the Roman empire at this time. Even after Adrianople a century and a half later, the Goths were not able to establish such a state and it would be another few decades before Alaric could leverage that sort of concession. So how exactly were the Goths able to do this so early ITTL?
 
Careful what you wish for ;)



This first one is a very minor nitpick. The administrative "diocese" were part of the political reforms of Diocletianus, and before his reign, the province was still the basic unit of imperial administration with each province being wholly autonomous and only subject to the emperor (which was a big causal factor in the actual crisis). A more appropriate name would simply by "Syria", which roughly corresponds to the Diocese of the Oriens which was later established.

Yeah, I later found that out, but I was afraid to repeat the word "Syria" too much.

Also minor, but this picture appears to be of the Milvian Bridge. Normally I wouldn't nitpick something like that since I use images depicting IOTL events to portray ATL events all the time, but it is very significant in this picture because the soldier's shields prominently feature the Chi Rho, which Constantine allegedly saw in a dream prophesying his victory against Maxentius. Not sure if anyone else minds; that's just something that stuck out to me.

I found this picture by looking up the words "Late Roman Army" on Google. It was made by a deviantart user, and I found it pretty cool. I can change it if it's too jarring for you.

On some level, a parallel of the events of OTL's crisis makes sense. After all, imperial usurpers were typically powerful, wealthy men, and this isn't likely to change drastically this quickly after the POD. However, I feel compelled to point out that the rise of several of these men was highly contingent on previous events. For example, Aemilianus was a prominent general in Moesia after the disastrous Battle of Abrittus, and the lackluster response of the reigning emperor Gallus instigated the Moesian army to declare Aemilianus emperor. Without Decius dying at Abrittus and the Gothic host being accommodated by Gallus thereafter, I have my doubts as to whether Aemilianus would have the opportunity to become emperor. The same can be said of Gallienus. Without his father's fortuitous control of the Rhine legions at the time of Aemilianus' usurpation, I have my doubts as to whether or not he would be enough of a political force on his own to become emperor. That's just my opinion though, take it or leave it.

I confess that my knowledge of this area is quite lacking, but as you said, many of these men were wealthy and powerful in their own right, and they would have a chance to take power and hold it for at least a few months. However, if you have any suggestions, I can edit the bits in question. It's not like any of the men cited there (other than Gallienus) will play a big role in the story.

Maybe you explained this and I missed it, but I have my doubts as to whether or not any Gothic state would be equipped with the institutions or resources to permanently occupy the Roman empire at this time. Even after Adrianople a century and a half later, the Goths were not able to establish such a state and it would be another few decades before Alaric could leverage that sort of concession. So how exactly were the Goths able to do this so early ITTL?

This "Gothic Kingdom" is less an organized state and more a tenuous confederation (united under a charismatic king) that is currently occupying a bunch of territory with a few cities. It'll take some time to consolidate -- if it is given that chance. It'll fall apart the moment Rome gets its stuff together -- if it manages to survive the apocalyptic situation it is in. The Goths are also lucky enough that Odaenathus is currently too busy consolidating his kingdom and interfering in Iranian politics to attack them.
 
Part 9: The Worst Kind of War
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Part 9: The Worst Kind of War

"An empire's worst enemy is itself." -- Darius of Spahan, Iranian historian from the seventh century, on the Crisis of the Third Century and the War of Division (1).

The knives came out immediately after the death of Shahanshah Shapur I, and Narseh, king of Armenia and youngest son of the deceased monarch, raised an army to deal with his older brother and marched to Ctesiphon to secure his coronation in great splendor. It seems that he was unaware that, despite his high birth, something that improved his legitimacy when compared to Bahram, his sibling and rival too had a great many allies among the nobility and especially the clergy, whose high priest, Kartir, hoped to strengthen Zoroastrianism at the expense of other religions, especially Manichaeism and, to a lesser extent, Christianity. That would explain why he was shocked to find out that the gates of the capital were closed to him and his troops, forcing him to mount a ragtag siege with the supporters that he already had, while Bahram's allies were quickly closing in on his position.

While Bahram's comparatively low states forced him to spend more time in Ctesiphon (while his brothers were either governors or sub-kings), something that ironically allowed him to court quite a few allies, Narseh wasn't exactly on his own either. The Seven Great Houses of Iran preferred to back him over some (in their eyes) lowborn usurper, and he likely promised some sort of concession to them to secure their support, but they were far away from Mesopotamia at the moment (Shapur's death was quite unexpected) and it would take some time for any troops they mustered to help the young prince. Narseh's most important ally, however, was Mani, who was in the capital while all of these events were unfolding, and also knew that Kartir would likely try to have him killed and persecute his followers (2). The large Manichean community in Ctesiphon proved itself to be a valuable fifth column to Narseh, opening the gates of the great city to his forces and allowing him to capture it by surprise.

Bahram disappeared in the chaos and was presumed dead. In triumph after this victory, Narseh was crowned King of Kings of Iran and set about purging the nobility and clergy of Bahram's supporters, starting with Kartir. This attitude naturally started all sorts of uprisings and conspiracies both in the capital and several provinces, and the new monarch would have to dedicate quite a bit of his time and energy to consolidate his own rule, preventing him from launching any foreign adventures or ambitious building projects in the next few years.

A coin of Narseh I, minted in 266.

Little did the young king know, but his rival was still alive, supposedly disguised as a merchant if the sources are to be believed, and still eager to take his rightful place on the imperial throne. However, although he likely aware that there were revolts sprouting against Narseh all over the place, he thought they weren't anywhere near close to deposing him. No, if he was going to defeat his younger brother and ensure that he didn't get the same kind of luck he did, he was going to need a powerful new army to replace the one that was being purged of his supporters at this very moment. Thus, he did something that would ruin the very name he was given for centuries.

He sold his soul to the devil.

Appearing in Palmyra right before Odainat, he revealed his true identity and predicament, stating that the throne of Iran had been illegaly by a man who was clearly illegitimate thanks to the fact that he was much younger than him, and who was nothing more than a puppet of Mani and the Seven Great Houses. Some sources state that he even kneeled before the Palmyrene king and kissed his hand, but these should be obviously dismissed as propaganda. It is, however, clear that Bahram promised great concessions in exchange for Odainat's support, likely in the form of territories such as Armenia and northern Mesopotamia. In 267, right after this deal was made, an enormous army of around 70.000 men captured Nisibis and from there marched towards the capital, which was completely unprepared to face hold such a large force at its gates.

Upon hearing of this, Narseh was understantably infuriated, and gathered all of his soldiers, valuables and entourage and evacuated Ctesiphon a few days before Odainat and his new puppet arrived and captured it without any resistance whatsoever. The king and his supporters fled south, to the province of Meshan, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, and from there marched to the east, crossing the Zagros Mountains and from there made a beeline to Pars, intending to turn Istakhr, Ardashir's first capital, into his new seat of power. Unfortunately, he was closely pursued by the Palmyrene army, and they finally caught up to his ragtag force at Hormozdgan, the same place where the father of Iran as we know it defeated the last of the Arsacids, Artabanus IV.


The mighty Zagros Mountains.

The first battle of what became known as the War of Division wasn't really a battle at all, but rather an oversized skirmish between Odainat's vanguard and the Iranian rearguard, which fought with a kind of courage that was clearly born from desperation. Although the aftermath of this confrontation was surely a draw, it was enough to convince the lord of Palmyra to cease his pursuit of Narseh and return to Mesopotamia and consolidate his new holdings, and although Bahram was outraged and strongly protested this decision, his words were unheeded, something that showed who really held the power in this very unequal relationship. The main reason for this probably wasn't the "battle", but rather the simple fact that the Palmyrene army never marched so far to the east before, and it was entering unknown terrain.

Narseh set up shop in Istakhr sometime between late 267 and early 268, and immediately began to raise a proper army to defend what was left of his dominions. Although he was deprived of Armenia and most importantly Mesopotamia, the richest region in Iran, his older sibling's decision to call for foreign help alienated almost all of his remaining supporters, and although many still disagreed with the young Sasanian on many things, they weren't going to put themselves under the service of some excessively powerful king who they hated ever since his great conquests after the Battle of the Euphrates. He also had the full support of the Seven Great Houses, who controlled large estates and could equip many thousands of people.

Narseh would need all of them if he was to resist Odainat's next attempt to take over Iran, which began when he crossed the Zagros in early 269 and marched in a very clear direction towards Istakhr. Both sides were confident enough to give battle at the Persian Gates, the same place where Alexander the Great destroyed the last bits of resistance to his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire centuries ago.


The Persian Gates in the modern day.

The ensuing battle, much like its predecessor, was a disaster for the defenders. Narseh was forced to flee even further to the east, towards Khorasan, abandoning Istakhr to Bahram and Odainat, who entered the city in question with great splendor. From now on, it seemed that all further actions in the war would be mop up operations to clear the Iranian Plateau of opponents to the new order.

But before the lord of Palmyra and his puppet could truly drive their enemy out of Iran, there was one last place they needed to capture.

The great citadel of Bam.

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Notes:

(1) This is a fictional character, and since I have no idea how the Persian language works, I probably butchered the name. If you have a better suggestion, please tell me.

(2) IOTL, Kartir had Mani executed with the approval of Bahram I (TTL's puppet).
 
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@Vinization

If Wu united China then the capital will most likely be moved north. Governing China from the South is REALLY inconvenient.
Aw, I had hoped to have a Nanjing (that's what Jianye/Jiankang is today) centered China since the 260s. Such a country would be more southern (and therefore more maritime) oriented.

But you're right, since the North is still much more developed than the South, despite emperor Wen's tireless efforts to change that. And as if that weren't enough, China still has a lot of barbarians to deal with in the north.

Here's what I'll do: after emperor Wen's death, his successor, emperor Yuanzong, will move the capital north. I'll see if I can find a city that is not Chang'an or Luoyang.

EDIT: Eh, I'll just put it in Luoyang anyway.
 
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Aw, I had hoped to have a Nanjing (that's what Jianye/Jiankang is today) centered China since the 260s. Such a country would be more southern (and therefore more maritime) oriented.

But you're right, since the North is still much more developed than the South, despite emperor Wen's tireless efforts to change that. And as if that weren't enough, China still has a lot of barbarians to deal with in the north.

Here's what I'll do: after emperor Wen's death, his successor, emperor Yuanzong, will move the capital north. I'll see if I can find a city that is not Chang'an or Luoyang.

EDIT: Eh, I'll just put it in Luoyang anyway.
what is the current situation in india?
 
Part 10: Ironic
New map!
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Part 10: Ironic

By 268 Odainat was, according to historians, sure that he was the reincarnation of Alexander The Great. The parallels were just too obvious to ignore: he was born in an obscure kingdom that was eclipsed by its two giant neighbors and turned said kingdom into a world power that mixed several different cultures together. He conquered and ruled Egypt (granted, that was the doing of his wife Zenobia, but still) and even brought an emperor to his knees thanks to his audacity, and with his western front now secured, it was time that he conquered the vast lands to the east and secure an immortal legacy for himself and his son Vaballathus. That effort began with little difficulty, for he had a reliable puppet, Bahram, who gave him a perfect pretext to start a war with his nominal Iranian overlord, and he won a magnificent victory at the Persian Gates just like the Macedonian king of old.

It seemed that the only thing that stood in the way of his quest for world domination were the walls of Bam. If he took the great fortress, then the path to Khorasan and India would be open and ripe for conquest. The enormous amount of prestige that he would acquire would be enough for him to discard Bahram and his children completely, bringing an end to the young Sasanian dynasty.

The mighty Citadel of Bam.

He had no idea just how utterly massive Bam's fortifications were, and his artillery train was far away from the main core of his army thanks to his mad dash straight into the heart of Iran after the Battle of the Persian Gates. There was no way in hell that he was going to take by assault a fortress that had been built and constantly upgraded since the days of the Achaemenids without quite a few siege towers and catapults, so the ambitious Palmyrene king had no choice but to order his men to surround Bam and prevent the garrison from acquiring new supplies. Little did he know that Narseh invested all of his remaining resources into ensuring that the citadel did not fall, meaning that it was stored with many years worth of food, water and weapons.

Odainat's problems didn't end there. Isolated from any allies and surrounded by a hostile population (the fact that a good bit of Pars was plundered by his soldiers certainly didn't help), he had to dedicate a sizable percentage of his men to protect his long supply train which would otherwise be vulnerable to hit-and-run attacks from local nobles and peasants alike. That didn't mean that Narseh's position was ideal either, for although he probably had a larger army on paper, especially considering that, as previously said, the wannabe Alexander had to guard his own supply lines so he didn't starve, his own men were demoralized thanks to the crushing defeat at the Persian Gates and the sheer aura of invincibility that Odainat gathered around himself thanks to his many victories against several opponents over the length his long reign.

After three or four weeks that felt like an eternity, the Palmyrene siege train finally arrived, and preparations were made to bombard a part of Bam's walls and climb another one with the towers and ladders they had, and after some tense days and nights, the first assault began. It was a failure: the walls weren't damaged enough to collapse just yet, and the siege towers took longer than expected to be deployed appropriately thanks to the fact that the citadel was located on the top of a hill. This gave the defenders plenty of time to figure out what particular spots would be attacked and protect them appropriately.


An artist's idea of an onager similar to the ones used during the Siege of Bam.

Although disappointed, Odainat was not surprised at all. This initial assault was more a probe into the citadel's defenses with the purpose of finding weak points and test the resolve of the Iranian garrison, and both sides knew that. Didn't keep the defenders from having a short lived boost to their morale, though. This little victory was replaced by months and months of relentless bombardment by the Palmyrene onagers that slowly eroded the walls despite the defenders' best efforts to repair all the damage they found. Though he was confident enough of his own position, the Iranian spahbed (general), a certain Cyaxares of House Ispahbudhan (1), knew that unless his men were relieved by an outside force, preferably one led by the true King of Kings, they would eventually be forced to surrender.

The second assault took place four months after the first one and six after the beginning of the siege. By then, exhaustion and disease had thinned out the Iranians' numbers and lowered their morale, combined with the seemingly endless rain of large rocks right over their heads and their walls. This new attack was also much better planned and coordinated than the one that preceded it, and it showed as it progressed. After days of savage hand to hand fighting, the Palmyrene army took over Bam's outer defenses, despite the fanatical and seemingly suicidal resistance of the Iranian defenders, and from now on it was clear that the siege would be decided by swords and not by arrows and catapults. This didn't mean that Odainat's task got any easier, oh no, it honestly probably got much harder and more brutal, but at least he could foresee a feasible future where he could return to Palmyra as a worthy successor to Alexander.


The empire of Alexander the Great, the entity that Odainat desired to recreate.

Those dreams were completely shattered when the worst thing that could possibly happen occurred. A large relief army personally commanded by Narseh appeared on the horizon, and the invaders were forced to retreat from the citadel lest they be surrounded and crushed by the two enemy forces. A fierce battle took place on the outskirts of Bam, and although the Iranians were by this point far more numerous than the army of Odainat, they were unable to completely defeat them and reconquer their lost territories to the west. Although the confrontation led to a stalemate, it gave the Bam garrison some few critical days of rest and, most importantly, new men and supplies, since Odainat didn't have enough men left to completely surround the great citadel.

Furious after seeing what seemed to be an inevitable victory slip from his grasp, Odainat refused to believe that he had been defeated, and stayed on for an additional month even as more and more angry Iranians gathered in his surroundings, eager to crush what was left of his forces. In the end, he was forced to retreat back to Ctesiphon in humiliation, but not before his soldiers looted all the cities and every possible inch of farmland they could touch during their long journey back. His problems didn't end there: as he entered Mesopotamia, he was greeted with the news that Bahram, his puppet, had suddenly died, and his two sons, Bahram and Hormizd, had disappeared. Thus, Ctesiphon was bereft of a credible figure of authority that could maintain order for a few days.

The puppet sovereign's fate is something that is still much discussed to this day, since contemporary and posterior sources endlessly contradict each other when describing what really happened. What is clear is that his children not only refused to replace their father as Odainat's puppets, but they actually moved to the east and defected to Narseh, since records that were recently discovered show that they actually submitted themselves to their uncle and were allowed to hold own estates in his greatly reduced kingdom.

At the same time, word traveled quickly of what had happened in Bam even before the wannabe Alexander had crossed the Zagros Mountains on his way back home, and what were a series of riots and other minor disturbances escalated into a full-blown revolt against the Palmyrene occupation. The returning king put down this rebellion with great brutality, no doubt a sign that he was yet to get over his defeat in the east. The Manichean community of Ctesiphon, which eagerly supported Narseh thanks to their prophet, who by now lived somewhere in the east, was prohibited from practicing its religion, and many of its members were publicly executed for inciting others to rise up against public order.

In spite of Odainat's humiliating defeat, Narseh couldn't march to the west and expel the invader from the imperial capital. The lands under his control were thoroughly devastated by the war, and he had spent almost all of his resources and men in the defense of the Citadel of Bam. It was a cruel twist of fate: a few years ago, he had a good chance to inherit an empire that was well in its way to replace Rome as a world power, only for this upstart to rise up, steal Roman lands that rightfully belonged to his father Shapur I, and rip Iran in half thanks to his ambition to rule the world.

The Age of Division had begun. It would outlive all of its instigators.

mapa persia (1).png


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Notes:

(1) Another fictional character.
 
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How do the Seven Great Houses of Iran feel about all this? The Karenids and the Surenids were certainly a thing by this point, not sure about the others. I could see them trying to carve kingdoms out of the dying Sassanid Empire. Whether they support Odainat is a whole matter entirely.

Also, thanks for including my idea about Zenobia as ruler in Egypt. Is she only governing under her husband's name, or co-queen in her own right? Also, is Egypt integrated into the *Palmyrene Empire, or is it a separate country under the rule of Odainat?
 
How do the Seven Great Houses of Iran feel about all this? The Karenids and the Surenids were certainly a thing by this point, not sure about the others. I could see them trying to carve kingdoms out of the dying Sassanid Empire. Whether they support Odainat is a whole matter entirely.

Also, thanks for including my idea about Zenobia as ruler in Egypt. Is she only governing under her husband's name, or co-queen in her own right? Also, is Egypt integrated into the *Palmyrene Empire, or is it a separate country under the rule of Odainat?
Egypt a de facto autonomous kingdom, although one that is very closely linked with Palmyra. In fact, a good part of the soldiers that took part in Odainat's siege of the Arg e Bam were Egyptians.

As for the Seven Great Houses, the current situation ironically makes them extremely loyal to the Sassanid dynasty. They know that any kind of serious dissent now will make a future Palmyrene attack much easier to succeed, so even though they aren't exactly fans of the Sasanians, they hate Odainat and his descendants infinitely more. This won't prevent them from pulling all sorts of shenanigans against Narseh and his successors if for whatever reason they start to act like Hormizd IV or Khosrau II.
 
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