Should the Austrian Empire exist, and continue to exist? If so, in what form?

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Asithema of the Balkans, 13th Century Era
Asithema is a portmanteau of the Greek words for Urban Theme, it encompasses the idea that Romanos had for it at its inception; to dilute the power of the nobility by giving it to the people, and keeping said people in check through a managed systems of checks and balances that rebuilt the economy and army.

Here is the map of the Astithema of the Balkans, circa Romanos' death (which hasn't happened yet and is a decent while's away);

As a description for each;

Constantinople; I think this one is fairly obvious; it's the capital 'province' of the Empire--with enough sway in West and East to be the central point of the whole Empire. It's built around the major cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, Nicaea and Nicomedia and can muster an impressive Synomata (levy) force by itself. While the whole Empire is considered the property of the Emperor, the Astithema of Constantinople herself--the province of the Queen of Cities--is considered the God-Given Jewel housed in the Imperial Crown.

Normandia; In basic terms it's Greek for 'Normanland' (which I found rather amusing in its simplicity). Its the area that the surviving Imperial Crusaders would settle in, at the forceful edict of Romanos; with these Frankish peoples dubbing themselves as 'Normans' to differentiate themselves from their Frankish 'cousins' to the west. It was founded when Boniface of Montferrat converted to Orthodoxy following the victories against the Turks in the Campaigns of the 1205's-1206's, and was gifted the then Astithema of Strymon; becoming its Governor and later Dux. In a ceremony in its capital of Trajanople (Traianoupolis), Romanos and Boniface would swear an eternal oath to each other, through their families, with Romanos redubbing Strymon as Normandia. It effectively, through this, becomes the home of the loyal Greco-Frankish minority in the Empire known as the Normandos, or simply Normans.

Voulgas; The central 'hub' of Bulgarian culture in the Empire, Voulgas is one of 3 large buffer Astithema that press right up against the Haemus; acting as large wall-blocs to deter invasion. It's a large producer of grains and fish, as its skilled Bulgar population has access to 'black' soil and good coastline to produce for the Empire. These Bulgars have been under the Empire's control for roughly a century and a half, and noticeable Romanization has occurred; resulting in Kaloyan, in a letter to Romanos in the 1209, calling them 'Romagos' in a disparaging 'tone'. Much of the areas most fertile zones were taken by Romanos from Kaloyan and Bulgaria following the Prefect of the West, Michael, defeating Kaloyan and his forces in the Battle of Skopje.

Macedonia; Often called the 'Second Province of the Empire', in a semi-cheeky manner, Macedonia itself holds the vital cities of Thessaloniki--the beautiful Second City of the Empire and Macedonia's capital--and Kastoria, which is the foundation of a long line of fortresses built through edicts by the Grypads as a 'last line' should the Haemus be broken through. Macedonia itself produces hardy native soldiers due to its mountainous climate. It would become the first major province to 'join' the Senate in 1238 when John III ratified its governors Senatorial Status.

Ohrid; An important area historically for Romanos, and his descendants, Ohrid was where Kaloyan of Bulgaria broke through during the reign of the Angeloi, and terrorized the Empire. It would, fittingly, be the area were Kaloyan would be defeated twice; breaking his will to attempt conquest south of the Haemus; giving rise to Romanos' first hints of legitimacy as well as giving 'stars' to notable generals such as Klephos and Michael. Ohrid itself is also a bastion of non-Romanized Bulgars, as historically the Greek Orthodox clergy of the area championed Slavonic Orthodoxy and its teachings over Greek Orthodoxy. The capital of the Ohrid region is Ohrid itself.

Dyrrachium; An important province through sheer functionality, Dyrrachium is named for its capital of the same name--also called Durres by the natives--and is the starting point of the Via Ignatia road network that crisscrosses the Balkans. It is a major trading zone between the Empire and the Italian and Illyrian areas; being a point throughout history for major events such as Caesar's Civil War, and the Norman Invasion led by Robert and his son Bohemond during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos. It's mountainous terrain, and skilled warrior natives, make for a good militarized zone that feeds the Empire skilled troops and building supplies. In recent years there has been a call to redub it Alvania, after the population.

Hellas; The 'homeland' of the Greeks, those not content to be Roman, Hellas is an important cultural and economic area of the Empire in terms of naval operations; having many efficient shipyards in the Demetrias area that funnel into the Aegean Sea. The capital of the area is the growing city of Glifa that sits centrally between the Thessalia and Attica regions. Glifa became a major city due to Romanos' reliance on it for the production and management of the Demetrias shipyards as well as its noted coastal-local for trading. Functionally, Glifa outstrips the backwater of Athens as a major city in population and production (as, historically, Athens was a tiny backwater during the Roman Period all the way up until Greece as we know it was founded and Athens was made into the capital we know it as today). Functionally, besides ships and trade, Hellas produces well-liked wine within the Empire; however foreigners still claim it contains disgusting ingredients such as pitch and resin.

Morea; The 'Land of Silk', Morea as an area was once the largest producer of Silk in the west following its settling in Corinth. This declined following the Norman theft of supplies and manpower to Sicily. However, the various wars and squabbling between the HRE and its states would see this industry destroyed; and with the Empire's changing fortunes Corinth is once more the largest producer of worth-price Silk outside of China--as far as anyone knows in the west. The capital of Morea is Corinth itself, but functionally the actual administrative capital is Nikli in the Acadia region due to its central location.

Epirus; An important area to the Roman peoples for what it represents as the homeland of Pyrrhus of Eprius, Epirus has always been a region with more autonomy and 'fire' than the others near it. Its a rather simple region though, a land of histories, culture and well... mountains. It has a few major population centers, such as the populous and important Arta which also acts as its capital. In recent years there has been an attempt by the Strategos' to build a base of knowledge and learning in Arta, as well as Ioannina to the north through school and university projects. Aside from this, Epirus is a major player in Ionian and Adriatic Seas; being charged with policing Venetian efforts especially--as well as acting as a deterrent to Sicily; who's area has a history of invading the Empire through the Normans two-time attempts.

Krete; Formed around its namesake, the Island of Krete, or Crete, by Romanos--the Astithema of Krete is a vital naval Astithema that holds the southern-to-central Aegean Islands under is sway, and is charged with protecting the Empire from incursions into the Aegean. Krete itself is a major naval center, as well as the site of an important victory against Islam by Nikephoros II Phokas. Its capital is the port city of Heraklion; a major trading and military hub that effectively controls all southern Aegean trade. Notably the first Strategos of Krete was the famed Shipmaster, Bardas Isandos; who's efforts during the 4th Crusade and its aftermath events aided in the recovery of much of the Empire's military strength. His friendship with Romanos V Grypas, and his insistence on the "Xýlinos Toíchos", or "Wooden Wall" doctrine saw to it that the Empire's naval might was reclaimed.
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Information Drop on Dragases I Grypas
While working on the posts that I've worked out today the whole timeline of Dragases that I'd worked out seemed to come to life for me; and while I'm working on the next installment in the current timeline I've got this energy, I suppose, to 'gush' on about Dragases I Grypas; the 3rd Emperor of the Grypad line and grandson of Romanos V Grypas.

Dragases as a character, at least for me, came about because I didn't want an utterly clear line of succession, with him breaking the male line by being unable to bring himself to remarry after he and his wife failed to conceive children in their long 60 year marriage. I also wanted a true warrior who could face off against the Seljuks, and Mongols, and be remembered for it. He's in many ways a reference to Basil II and Nikephoros II Phokas; a general who struck fear into his enemies after years of hard lessons that allowed him to get to that point. You don't get to be the 'Bulgarslayer,' and 'Pale Death of the Saracens' without such hard lessons.

Dragases is known by two epitaphs by his enemies; as "the Axe" by the Seljuks--in reference to his blunt yet utter efficient way of warfare that hacked away at their possessions in Anatolia. His other? That is from the Mongols; in which he's simply called "Whitebeard"--as when the Mongols truly arrive to threaten the Middle East and Anatolia he's an aged warrior with pure white features, something that strikes a cord with the Mongols and their ideals.

In Christian circles, especially in the Empire and those remaining groups in the Middle East, they look upon the title of "Whitebeard" in a manner of reverence; as white is the colour of piety and thus God's Favour. In many ways he represents the 'Voice' of the Empire as it lashes out at long last at the greatest enemies its known since the incursions of Islam.

I think what truly inspired me with his character, in the way I've envisioned it, is a quote--and if you can get where it came from without Google you get a cookie;

"Stand in the ashes of a trillion dead souls and ask the ghosts if honor matters. The silence is your answer."
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Love what you have done with this, waiting patiently for the next update.

That I got to say, with so many good emperors it is (very sadly) time for some mediocre to bad emperors for the good old stagnation chaos and rebirth circle of the ERE.
Love what you have done with this, waiting patiently for the next update.

That I got to say, with so many good emperors it is (very sadly) time for some mediocre to bad emperors for the good old stagnation chaos and rebirth circle of the ERE.
The main thing to note with the Empire is that it was at this point the Empire’s fortunes turned in that one regard, at least historically. The Laskarid Emperor’s in exile, save for the final one, were all genuinely good Emperors. The same with the first Palaiologi, Michael.

While there will be good and bad Emperor’s to come, in my mind a ‘bad’ Roman Emperor within the Grypad dynasty itself would be a mediocre one; as the major events that brought down the Empire, such as with the Angeloi, were down to lacking legitimacy. If the Grypads keeps a constant ‘regal’ presence they’ll never truly have to drop the ball. In this scenario the worst that could happen is someone else taking over, and treating them as a figurehead (which is what will happen to the 4th Grypad Emperor, Michael, until he crushes his oppressors at age 25).

It’ll be interesting to write out mediocre Emperors, over bad ones, as the thing with mediocre Roman Emperors is that they’re actually not terrible people, or bad Emperors per say, they’re just not good enough. An example to look at as one such ruler, even if it isn’t within the ‘Roman’ sphere, would be Louis XVI.

Historically Louis is often exaggerated as a bad King, but inherently he was a good King when France needed a great one. That was his only flaw, in functionality. The struggle of a good King, who can’t quite be great, is an interesting story for me.
I’d like to put a question to those reading the TL; what do you think on this idea I have for Osman and the Ottomans thus far?

I’ve already effectively planned to have them become their own decent-sized state in the Middle East, as first the Ottoman Emirate of Aleppo and then the Ottoman Sultanate of Syria. The main thing worth asking however is how I approach their expansion, as well as their beginning.

For everything to line up, Osman has to be born slightly earlier, likely a decade after Dragases I Grypas, making him around 27 years younger than he would be historically. Inherent to this is that he’s intended to be the force that poses the most threat to Dragases as the Turkish general that Dragases has to face down to finally push the Turks out of Anatolia.

Even aside from this he then needs to lead a large exodus of Turks to take over chunks of Syria. I can, honestly, easily see the Turks being able to outbreed and effectively wipe out the Syrian identity and replace it with their own, as they did the Anatolian Romans. This would be made easier by the fact that the Ottomans aren’t Islamic Heretics, like the Seljuks who fused Turkish tribalism with Islam, they’re traditionalist Muslims like the population of much of Syria at this point.

I’m weighing my options with their expansions though; perhaps they’ll effectively replace the Ayyubids as they stand now, and take Mesopotamia on top of that. I don’t see them holding all this territory as time goes on though; as the unlike the Romans the domains of the Ottomans would still fracture away firmly into states such as Egypt and Arabia—while the Ottoman Empire, as I suppose it’d be at this point, would only retain it’s core in the now Turkish Syria and become what we’d consider Turkey; only with its territories in Syria.

As an interesting note; it was the Turks who pioneered our modern marching bands—and I intend to have Rome piggyback off of this with their Lakonoi troops—so it’ll be interesting to see how a Syrian-based Turkish state moves forward on that front.

No Siege of Vienna though; much sad.
well, one way ot another the turks will leave their mark, dunno if a single central state (ottoman empire) is certain to last. I totally see it fragmenting in the future.
well, one way ot another the turks will leave their mark, dunno if a single central state (ottoman empire) is certain to last. I totally see it fragmenting in the future.
I personally don't see it lasting as long as the Ottoman Empire in OTL did; but I do see it existing as a force for a decent period of time.

The inherent thing with the Turks, the Ottomans especially, is that when things are going great they're really going great--the Turkish peoples have a unique ability to keep up with the momentum and flourish from it. Once that's interrupted however you get decline, slow and simple.

Whether Jerusalem and the other Crusader States fall to the Ottomans, or not, is something we'll have to see.
I personally don't see it lasting as long as the Ottoman Empire in OTL did; but I do see it existing as a force for a decent period of time.

The inherent thing with the Turks, the Ottomans especially, is that when things are going great they're really going great--the Turkish peoples have a unique ability to keep up with the momentum and flourish from it. Once that's interrupted however you get decline, slow and simple.

Whether Jerusalem and the other Crusader States fall to the Ottomans, or not, is something we'll have to see.
They could certainly take Palestine, Mesopotamia and maybe even Egypt, then after this mini-empire falls it could become a roman vassal. The exodus of Turks to Syria could be something Dragases and Osman agree to do, Osman would have the benefit of surviving and Dragases would gain a buffer state and push the Turks out of Anatolia. From what you said Dragases's conquest of Anatolia would probably end in the 1250s/1260s, this means that the Ottomans wouldn't be seriously threatened by the Mongols. That also means they can use the collapse of the Ayyubid caliphate to conquer Syria and Palestine. They could then use the Ilkhanate's collapse to expand into Mesopotamia. All in all, this would be the perfect time for such a state to rise, without much foreign threat and with a lot of opportunities for expansion.
Part 1; August 1204-1205
"Lenience the Insult, Piety the Sin. We have been bested, and yet allowed quarter; is this not proof of God's Will?" - Pietro Ziani, 42nd Doge of Venice.

1204 - Following the victories against Kaloyan, and the ending of hostilities between the Bulgars and Romans--as well as the beginnings of what would come to be known as the 'Hammerblow' in Anatolia--events in the Adriatic would occur with notice. Following the death of Enrico Dandolo from a chill during his flight back to Venice on the conclusion of the disaster that was the Siege of Constantinople, the Venetian Council would see that Pietro Ziani was placed as the new Doge in August of 1204; the noted son of the 'planner' Doge Sebastian Ziani, and a rich member of the Venetian upperclass.

Ziani was a skilled thinker, and saw the hurdles coming for him and his people a mile away following his election. His efforts themselves were firmly rooted in repentance; looking to please the 'Greeks' and regain the favour of Innocent III. This was attempted through various letter campaigns to the still healing Emperor Romanos V, as well as the Patriarch of Constantinople at this time; Mathew I in the late August period of 1204. Romanos and Mathew were of one mind in the matter; Venice was not a problem that could be dealt with now--and would only be a distraction. The response from the Romans was simple; the Golden Bull put into place by Alexios I Komnenos was null and void; the Venetians would firmly lose their merchant quarters in Constantinople--which would be reclaimed by the state--and their tolls would be reformed into a 5% toll (which while still lower than the standard 10% placed on most other trading peoples, was still a bitter pill to swallow). This would become the first major Golden Bull Romanos would put into place himself, but not the last.

Ziani was surprised by this; expecting the Romans to be blunt and attempt to utterly curb the Venetian peoples; possibly even forcing them into vassalage. Instead, the Romans had 'chastised' them. The mixture of piety and pragmatism, obvious in the handling of the matter, irked Ziani--as the crumbling Empire described by Dandolo was clearly dead and buried before the Siege of Constantinople if such a measure was taken.

In a letter--which arrived in late September of 1204-- would arrive in the city of Rome, addressed to Innocent III, co-signed between Romanos and Mathew. The Empire would ask that the Pope, in his capacity as the effective head of Western Christianity, rescind his excommunication of the Venetian people. The letter was simple in that, pious in dealings and manner--as the Romans had other things to handle. Innocent, surprised by this turn of events, jumped at this chance to regain his footing following the debacle of the 4th Crusade as well as the humiliation suffered at the hands of Otto IV. In a large word-campaign Innocent III would remove the excommunication of the Venetian people, save those who directly led those Crusaders against the 'Greeks'. In such a manner, the Pope earned both the 'happy' gaze of Venice and Constantinople, a chit he would attempt to cash in later.

On the 3rd of October 1204, an interesting letter would arrive for Romanos, written by his brother John in Anatolia. The namesake of his son had not even seen his nephew, or his own brother, in essentially 2 years; constantly campaigning in the name of Romanos and the Empire. Romanos had awarded his brother the title of Sebastokrator, one created by Alexios I Komnenos himself for his own brother Isaac, to show how important John was to him.

John was an utter pragmatist, and inherently cared little for political or economic power; he wanted to lead men in battle--that is what pleased him. It was thus, after the whole affair with several members of the European Roman nobility siding with the Latins during the invasion, that John renounced his title--wanting to assure fidelity and family ties to the brother he loved so much; in turn only asking for the inverse of what Michael, the Prefect of the West, had received; effective command over the Eastern Armies.

Romanos was surprised by this; this notion further deepening the bond between the siblings even at this distance. In turn, Romanos gave his brother what he asked for, creating him as Prefect of the East--and specifying that he pick his senior staff. To add to this, Romanos sent his brother an icon of the Virgin Mary, a mimic of the greatest icon itself in Constantinople, to carry into battle.

John himself, upon receiving these things on the 14th of October, while prepping his forces for war would remark to his close friend Theodore Laskaris--who was also himself a friend of Romanos--how family was important above all else. Theodore was placed as his second-in-command, with Boniface notably being given what was effectively 3rd position within the Anatolian army as John had measured him up in the previous months of preparations; and he trusted the man he saw.

The near-half-year period would follow onwards, ending following Christmas of 1204--as supplies were gathered, siege engines were built, and men were drilled. All together the Army of the East numbered roughly 13,000 men--including the roughly 4,000 Crusaders who'd joined the army. The battles against the Seljuks previously, such as John's final battle against the now dead Suleiman II, had depleted much of the base that had allowed them an effective 'conquest' army. It had taken this long, roughly 2 years, to rebuild a force of near-equal strength. In contrast, despite of--and due to--the Seljuk Civil War, the Turks could uphold an army of roughly 15,000 when put together, but functionally this was fragmented between the two claimants; the surprisingly skilled but young Kilij Arslan III, and the tried and tested Kaykhusraw I. Kaykhusraw had the larger army, of roughly 8,000 men--but Arslan had the more trained and well-organized force.

Following the Christmas Celebrations, just before the new year, John and his forces would march--pressing right into the ongoing Civil War, but they would not face down Turks until the new year itself.

1205 - Kaykhusraw was dangerous. He was a skilled general, but one with big ambitions that did not match his status as a disputed ruler. Upon the news that the Romans had begun invading, told to him through the wary population of central Anatolia as he passed through to gather supplies for his next campaign against his entrenched nephew, who had built a new Seljuk 'capital' in Tzamandos. Kaykhusraw saw this as the perfect opportunity to gain what he had always envisioned for his people; a port in the Mediterranean.

He measured that, were he to attack and take Attalea, the Romans would be too busy pressing eastward to be able to stop him. He would prove wrong in this; as Romanos' scout network--a thing built through years of hard fighting with the Turks even before he'd become Emperor, and vital to his previous victory against them--would continue to function; allowing John to be informed of this ongoing event.

Riding south, the Romans barely managed to catch Kaykhusraw in the back around the town of Mistheia, as he had attempted to cross through the territory taken by John in the previous Roman invasion. The coming battles, at least the first 3--over a period of 2 weeks--would mean little, as Kaykhusraw would always skillfully pull back before any major losses were gained. What did happen in this time though, that he did not expect, was the gradual fusion of the morals of the former Crusaders and their Roman fellows in the Army of the East.

Through these battles, and the ordeals they had to face in them, the Romans and Crusaders effectively became one--a simple force of fellow Romans. It was Louis of Blois that proved the most ardent convert; becoming an avid friend of John and Theodore when the two had shifted gears during the 2nd battle to relieve him and his embattled fellow knights.

On the 18th of January, 1205, the Romans and Turks would come to blows firmly--as John had forced them against Lake Karalis (Beyşehir). In the coming battle, blood was firmly spilt, as the Romans and Turks crashed against each other; the unique capabilities of the mounted knights of the Crusaders--alongside their infantry--proving decisive in the battle as it forced Kaykhusraw onto the backfoot. In turn, the Turks pressed in as only they knew; offering a hail of arrows that the Crusaders themselves were no longer used to, as they had not fought the Turks as a group for over a century.

The decisive moment came when Kaykusraw himself broke through the lines with his personal retinue; beating John from his horse with a maceblow to the Prefect's chest, his shield being crumpled by the blow before it connected with his chest. The moment dizzied him, yet he still held onto the Icon of the Virgin Mary as Kaykusraw prepared to kill the brother of the Emperor. It was only through the intervention of Louis of Blois, leading a contingent of mounted knights to John's aid from the left, that saw John spared. As it was, sadly, when Louis leaned down to pull John up onto his own horse he was caught in the neck by a heavy blow from the recollected Kaykusraw--crushing his windpipe. As Louis fell from his horse, choking for air, John tore a dart from his broken shield and drove it through Kaykusraw's left eye through a close-range throw.

The death of the disputed Sultan quickly broke the Turks, as one of Louis' knights decapitated his corpse; placing the Turks head on his lance--displaying it with the dart embedded inside for all to see.

It was not a pretty endeavour, but without Kaykusraw's leadership for a rival claim, and thus forced to retreat, Arslan found himself met with an extra 6,500 or so troops who'd survived the Battle of Karalis. The effects of such a thing were great though; as without a center of gravity to uphold the center of Anatolia for the Turks it was viciously attacked by John and his surviving force of 12,000 or so men.

By October of 1205, despite Arslan's best efforts (as he was forced to contend with rebuilding his supplylines around a larger army; as well as his own fear of facing the Romans head on himself after two Sultans had been killed in combat against them within the last decade alone), Ankyra, Pessinos and Laranda, alongside their territories, had fallen. All that remained was Konya--the now former capital of the Sultanate since Arslan had officially moved it to Tzamandos following his uncle's death.

In a brutal siege that lasted the next month, dragged on by the intermittent aid of the battered Turks to the east, the army of John was reduced down further to 10,000--in a collective cumulative set of damages from the whole year. While reinforcements were being trained by his skilled Anatolian sub-officers back in the Grypas estates in Sakarya, they would be a while's yet from ready.

It would be a fluke, a lucky hit by a counterweight trebuchet that brought down a tower's weakest corner, that saw the city finally taken.

Of the land taken, the toll was similar, the Mosques were sacked and stripped down--those Turks who could be identified were either brutally killed or had their children taken to be trained as Lakonoi. Those Muslim Romans who were found however were offered one chance; reconvert or die. By this point many of these Romans had been under the Seljuks for over a century, and had preferred their tax system and Tribalistic Islam to the Orthodoxy of Nova Roma. Many, enough to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Army of the East--especially the Roman leadership of John and Theodore--would be executed for staying true to Allah.

As November came to an end, Arslan was at a knife's-edge. While he was a skilled logistical mind he was only tested in battle against his fellow Turks--and the moral breaking news that a second Sultan had died to the Romans in the last decade was its own debacle. However, in the east of Anatolia the Turkish presence was truly strong, and conquests made against Cilicia by his predecessors--as well as Arslan's own minor conquests of lands to the east, such as Harput, from break-away governors from the Ayyubids--fed his state further.

The young Sultan though, in his usual way of thought, couldn't help but note that his people were being pushed eastward. He was not sure if he could hold onto his Anatolian land. It was quite possible, if push came to shove, that he'd need to dispatch with his eastern Turkish neighbour, Taron, for the survival of his people and crown.
Roman Aristocratic Families, 13th Century
Due to the chaos of the Angeloi's reign, as well as Romanos' effective purges of much of the upperclass of the Empire during his first 3 years in power (added to by the functional dissolvement of the Pronoia), very few 'major' families are left in the Roman sphere; as many have been replaced in their capacities as landholders and people of importance by bureaucrats by 1205, 7 years into Romanos' reign.

Notably however, the roster is still expanding, as events such as the introduction of Latin nobles and warriors into the Empire--as well as 'newmen' making their mark. As it stands, the most notable 'major' families in the Empire in this time period are;

House Grypas - Founded by an Armenian mercenary who served New Rome in the 11th century under Basil II, the Grypads were named for the Griffon, a mighty beast with the reality of an eagle and the courage of a lion. For much of their history they would serve as minor landholders in Anatolia, aiding the Komnenoi and later Angeloi in retaining power in their purview region of Sakarya; having become Pronoia holders during the reign of Manuel I Komnenos. They would gain further privileges during Alexios III's attempts to hold onto Anatolia from Turkish raids; using this power base to raise a rebellion and quickly crush the Angeloi before taking power. The founder of the Imperial Household is Romanos V Grypas.

House Komnenos - Founded by Manuel Komnenos, a soldier and general during the reign of Basil II. It would be risen to an Imperial House by Isaac I Komnenos, son of Manuel and would fully retain power for the next century following the great Alexios I Komnenos' rise to the Imperial Purple. The Komnenoi produced premiere Emperor's such as Alexios I and John II, as well as saving the Empire from collapse following the disaster of the Seljuk Invasion. They are currently led by the maimed Alexios Komnenos, Dux of Komnenon and friend of Romanos and John Grypas, but most of the day to day operations are run by his brother, David Komnenos.

House Laskaris - A House built up over time, the Laskarids started out as simple peasants but eventually, through skilled trading and military endeavours, rose to become a major Pronoia family in Anatolia following Alexios III's need for more 'bodies' against the Turks. They retain marriage ties to the Komnenoi, being proud of his heritage. The family would gain further power due to its friendship with the Grypads, with the current head Theodore Komnenos Laskaris serving several command positions under the Sebastokrator, later Prefect of the East, John Grypas. Theodore Komnenos Laskaris would be named Godfather of Romanos V Grypas' 3rd born child, Theodore Grypas.

House Gabras - A family known for their suitability, the Gabrads is well-known for attempts at rebellion, as well as their tenure as a family of import within the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. However, by the time Romanos V took power they'd migrated back into the Empire to serve as skilled administrators, but their prestige has fallen low as of late; with the use of 'servant adoption' acting as one of the principle ways to keep their family name and possessions alive. Their current head is Michael Gabras, who ingratiated himself with Romanos V by proving himself a skilled hand with economics--although he is notably kept in check by Romanos' shrewd wife Maria Komnene.

House Raoul - A family formed by exiled Normans, its founding history is a confusion of different claimants and motives; but what is true is that the first major member of the Household, Humbert Raoul, served as a skilled councilor to Alexios I Komnenos. While they've been Romanized throughout their centuries of service, the main branch itself still makes an effort to retain their 'Norman' identity; having notably migrated to Normandia when it was effectively formed for Boniface of Montferrat. They're a major military family, producing skilled officers for the armies of the Romans, however their secondary branch in Constantinople is noted for its scholarly practices. The current head is Roger Raoul, Domestikos of Boniface.

House Doukas - Noted as shrewd generals, and traitors, the Doukas 'clan' as they are often called are one of the few families in the Empire that remain that have a detailed history going back before Basil II took to the throne. Due to their history, and the affects of Romanos' 'purges' following his own coronation, the Doukai are a very small family in the modern era--having been forced to denounce many 'second name' Doukai such as the Komnenos Doukas claimants when they rose against Romanos with the Latins during the Crusader invasion of 1203. They would regain some favour when Alexios Doukas fought on the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople during the Siege of Constantinople in 1203, despite his age. Alexios Doukas was given the title of Captain of the Constantinople Garrison following this, and while currently head of the family he is an old man of 65 years, making it likely that his son Constantine Doukas will take the reigns of the family soon.

House Vatatzes - Able soldiers with a pension for kindness and piety, the Vatatzes family have close ties to the Grypads, Laskarids and Komnenoi as a minor soldiering family in Anatolia that helped hold together much of the frontier as Romanos moved to take the throne. Their current head, Basil Vatatzes, is a noted sympathizer of Bulgarian efforts, but his loyalties to Romanos and New Rome itself see him serve as a bridge between the Romans and Bulgarians from his estates in Adrianople, while his active son John Vatatzes serves on the frontlines in Anatolia.

House Bloua - Formed by the young son of Louis of Blois, Theobald, the name 'Bloua' is the Greco-Romanized version of his original name. The 17 year old Frenchman would arrive in Constantinople just before his father left with his fellow Crusaders to fight in Anatolia alongside the Romans, being left fatherless and listless following Louis' death defending John Grypas at the Battle of Karalis. To return the efforts of Louis back, John campaigned successfully for Theobald to be given titles in the Empire--with the young noble being gifted lands in what would become Normandia and becoming one of the focal points of the new Greco-'Norman' culture of the area once Boniface was named its Dux. The current head is thus Theobald Bloua.

House Trainos - Formed following the foundation of Normandia by the then Boniface of Montferrat; following a falling out between him and his eldest son William of Montferrat; who took Boniface's lands and titles when the news of reached the west that these Crusaders would join New Rome. Boniface effectively cut ties with his eldest son, and old 'sinful' life following his conversion to Orthodoxy--marrying the former Roman Empress, and now divorcee of the tonsured Isaac II Angelos, Margaret of Hungary. The name comes from the Frankish tradition of naming ones House after their premiere lands, with Trajanople being the seat of his power as Dux of Normandia Boniface effectively took on the last name of 'Trajan' for his new Household. Boniface Trainos is the current head.
Good Stuff as usual @Averious

One Question-
They are currently led by the maimed Alexios Komnenos, Dux of Komnenon and friend of Romanos and John Grypas, but most of the day to day operations are run by his brother, David Komnenos.
I think originally Komnenon was some village in Thrace right? With the families ancestral holdings in Kastamon, paphlagonia. So what region does Komnenon correspond to ITTL?
Good Stuff as usual @Averious

One Question-

I think originally Komnenon was some village in Thrace right? With the families ancestral holdings in Kastamon, paphlagonia. So what region does Komnenon correspond to ITTL?

To note, ITTL Alexios Komnenos (who we know as Emperor Alexios Megas Komnenos historically) was maimed in battle against the Turks during the first wave of Roman counterattacks into Anatolia. Following this Romanos returned the ancestral home of the Komnenoi; Kastra Komnenon (Castle of the Komnenoi) to Alexios for use. David Komnenos, his brother, would return 'home' with Alexios to look after him (this is based on his behaviour historically).

When Anatolia was carved up into Astithema by Romanos and the Roman Administration the city-castle of Kastra Komnenon was made the capital of the Astithema of Komnenon, which roughly corresponds to Paphlagonia--with Alexios Komnenos being named Dux of this new territory.
Wait, what happened to the Kantakouzenos? Were they killed in the purge of the Angeloi supporters or something?
The Kantakouzenos would still be a young noble House by the standards of most of the ones obvious here (save for the Houses founded following the 4th Crusade), as they were founded by a soldier during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos who helped combat the Cumans.

By the time of the 4th Crusade however they were a major landholding family, which would have put them at odds with Romanos and his efforts to centralize the Empire. Due to their temperament however I don't see them being wiped out as the 'Komnenos Doukai' were, but they were reduced down to a few holdings.

I intend for them to become a major player in the 14th century; following the shattering of the male line of the Grypads which would force the 'Grypas Laskarids' to look for Houses to raise up as allies.
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Do we have a map of the Empire’s current borders? Is it still just the Balkans, Greece, and western Anatolia or have they pushed further east to the borders of Colonia/Armenia?
Do we have a map of the Empire’s current borders? Is it still just the Balkans, Greece, and western Anatolia or have they pushed further east to the borders of Colonia/Armenia?
I'm currently writing out the post on the Empire's Anatolian Astithema. It currently holds effectively most of Anatolia--but this will be the Status Quo for the next long while.

That post will be ready in the next 10 minutes, so be prepared for it.
Asithema of Asia, 1205-1261
What is unique about this map is that its essentially only the map of the Empire's holdings in Anatolia for a period of 56 years; which coincides with the reign of 2 Emperors (Romanos and his son John III)--which verses the previous Astithema map which will remain unchanged for the entire 13th Century period.

The Anatolia shown here, following the victories of Rome against the Turks in the 'Hammerblow' period of 1205-1206, is effectively the greatest extent of the Empire until Dragases I begins his 'final effort' against the Turks and Armenians in Eastern Anatolia in his 5th year of Emperorship, at the age of 30, in 1261. The borders won't change much if at all due to the fact that Romanos hunkers down to rebuild the Empire's new gains and deal with the various disparities--and his successor, John III isn't a military in any capacity Emperor--instead focusing on improving the law, economy and beginning to 'rebuild' the Roman identity in order to crush the Hellenic one that had begun to rise after the fall of Anatolia after Manzikert.

Also, 100th post!

So, for all intents and purposes, this will be your map for the next 56 years;


As a description for each (not including those already described in the previous map)

Opsikion - A name with a storied history, the Opsikion Thema itself was one of the original Thema that the Empire was divided into following the losses the Empire suffered against the early Rashidun Caliphate--and was one of the principle locations for powerful generals to rebel from until the Thema were cut down in size to be more accommodating to New Rome's needs. As it stands the Opsikion that currently populates western Anatolia is a different beast to its previous incarnations, and lacks Nicaea as an important city as it is now a part of the Astithema of Constantinople. Instead, the Opsikion's capital is at the growing coastal settlement of Cizica on the Marmara--which is the most used transitional point between Europe and Asia for the Empire's armies. Opsikion is thus a semi-demilitarized province; because while it has enough soldiers levied to functionally defend itself it can never truly match the forces of its surrounding neighbour Astithema; instead its designed as a hub of military activity for troops to funnel into, get equipped and supplied, before marching off into Anatolia. Such an existence is only possible because the Opsikion holds much of the wealthy Western Anatolian coast cities, as well as good land to produce grain for quick resupplies.

Samos - A naval Astithema like Krete, Samos was designed as the final line of 'naval' defense against possible invasion in the Aegean and has multiple ports in Western Anatolia for producing ships of various makes. The main difference between Samos and Krete however is that Samos--like the Opsikion--is a supply point between the various other major military operations in the Aegean, although unlike the Opsikion it has its own considerable navy, and land-based military. The capital is, funnily enough, not Samos itself but the important port city of Smyrna--which has a unique position as one of the most functional and defensible ports in the Aegean.

Bithynia - One of the oldest names used in Anatolia for a given region, Bithynia as an Asithema holds very little of its historic territory--and is instead a fortified point from which Anatolia can be reclaimed should the reconquests fall through. Romanos designed it for this redundancy based around its capital, the important port city of Heraclea Pontica, but it is to also work on concert with the Komnenon Asithema to ensure the continued presence of Romans in Anatolia; because as long as such a thing is upheld Rome will never truly lose Anatolia. It is a major trading hub between the various Black Sea ports--although not as noted as Sinope in Komnenon. Militarily the area is heavily fortified and purposefully kept desolate at its edges to ensure it is hard to take. Bithynia includes the Grypas estates, which is still owned by the Imperial House of Grypas.

Komnenon - An area roughly prescribing to what was once Paphlagonia, Komnenon is a fortified Astithema held by House Komnenos in the name of the Emperor and Empire from its capital of Kastra Komnenon. Its mountainous terrain makes it uniquely positioned for defense--and its major port city of Sinope provides a steady stream of funds to keep its levies one of the most well-equipped in the Empire. However, its size is tailored to ensure that the Komnenoi never have the chance to build an army large enough to threaten the capital of Constantinople, or attempt to retake the throne. Komnenon, alongside Bithynia, are the effective hard points that serve as a functional base to retake Anatolia from if the reconquests are lost.

Anatolikon - One of three large effective occupation zones, alongside the Bukellarion and Iconia, the Anatolikon was the first major region to be reclaimed from the Turks--and is unique in that it was the sight of the death of Seljuk Sultan Suleiman II during his great defeat at the hands of John Grypas. The Anatolikon is a semi-desolate lands due to the efforts of the Romans during its recapture; with dozens of minor towns and cities put to the torch as well as the massive destruction of the outer regions put into place to make it hard for any Turkish resistance to form. Following Romanos' Lakonoi formation the area's Turkish population would begin to migrate eastward to escape the conscription of their children into the new Imperial Household Guard. The upside, as much as one can be found, is that through the desolation and constant marching the standard practice of clearing and rebuilding old roads has taken place--leaving the Anatolikon an area easily crisscrossed by the Roman armies; which aided in the reconquest of what is now the Iconia Asithema. From its capital of the noted city of Dorylaeum, several plans have been drawn up for rebuilding efforts of the large swath of territory.

Attalaeon - Named for the city of Attaleia, it's capital, the Attalaeon is a major trading Astithema that was formed in order to protect New Rome's trade interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is noted as the region where the disputed Sultan of the Seljuks Kaykusraw was killed in battle against the Roman Army of the East; his death effectively serving as the catalyst point for much of the reconquest of Central Anatolia from the Turks. Attalaeon's militarized position as a naval and land-based power in southern Anatolia is seen, often, as a direct threat to both the Kingdom of Cyprus and the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia--even if Romanos is publicly peaceful on the matter it is clear that those areas would be the next targets of expansion should New Rome hold a vice-grip on Eastern Anatolia in the near future.

Bukellarion - Like the Opsikion, the Bukellarion is named for an original Thematic province; however unlike the Opsikion it largely keeps its original purpose as a fully militarized province in its Astithema form; and even keeps its historic capital of Ankyra. Functionally though, the Bukellarion--like the Anatolikon and Iconia are functionally desolate and heavily militarized to keep the populations of the area in check; because these areas had once formed the core of the Seljuk Sultanate previously. There is regular brutality; with the Roman troops in the area running the rounds of the Asithema, in a rather darkly skillful manner, crushing the Turkish and Islamic identities of the peoples there--many of which arrived following their flight from the captured Anatolikon just a few years prior. This bed of peoples is a fertile recruiting ground for the Lakonoi--which helped swell its number to that of the old Varangian Guard; 5,000 men. The gradual destruction of the areas resources, and the flight of its people even further east is effectively setting up an area of Status Quo--as the remaining areas of the Seljuk Sultanate are getting more and more bodies into the centralized areas of its new Eastern Anatolian core. To ensure that the Turks can never set up shop in this area again Romanos ordered the brutal destruction of the Central Steppe of Anatolia which had allowed the Turks to so easily settle in and outbreed the population of the area during the Turkish invasions in the 11th century.

Iconia - Named for the important city of Iconium, which is also its capital, Iconia was once the core province of the Seljuk Sultanate; this was until the first Roman reconquest efforts in which the Sultanate was split in two between West and East--which would allow it to survive when the West was effectively destroyed and conquered by New Rome in a unique mimic of the destruction of the Western Roman Empire and the survival of the East. Iconia mimics Bukellarion in many ways, as the areas of Central Steppe that it encompasses are destroyed further and further as the days go on--however unlike those unwilling to continue living in the Bukellarion, those in Iconia have no easy route out--as to their east is the hostile Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. This has forced those living in Iconia to either 'get with the program' or die; leaving a brutal existence in an area that was ravaged by the sieges and battles that occurred upon the death of Kaykusraw.

Chaldia - A name used for the longest time, Chaldia is unique in that its one of two old Thematic provinces that has been left effectively unchanged in borders--and capital, which is still the powerful port city of Trebizond. Uniquely however, Chaldia is also the only old Thematic province to also attempt to break away previously under the Gabras family; as well as being uniquely defensible due to its southern mountains. To combat its flaws, and build up its strengths, Trebizond itself has a unique trade charter within the Empire's cities on the Black Sea--and acts as a trading hub between Georgia and other Kingdoms/States in the area; as well as being unique in that its government is shifted in and out every 5 years to ensure that they have enough time to learn and solve problems but not enough to build a stable powerbase to rebel or become independent. Chaldia is the Empire's 'frontier' in Anatolia; and has many refurbished forts along its mountains to ensure that the landlocked Seljuks don't have the capacity to take it from the Romans. The area contributes a large percentage of the overall 'GDP' of the Empire.

Cherson - A 'colonial' area of the Empire, Cherson is unique in its demographics and terrain; being the area that most of the integral ingredients for Greek Fire are drawn from as well as being a bastion of the surviving 'Gothic' culture. Much like Chaldia, Cherson is built on its nearby mountains--which are northward and form its border with the rest of the Crimea. Also like Chaldia is the fact that in its conversion to an Astithema its remained largely unchanged--although its ruling body is now made up of Romanized Crimean Goths; notably the skilled general Theolon of Cherson. To ensure it doesn't break away it is also handicapped similarly to Chaldia--however its government is effectively made up of many major cities leaders that report directly to the Imperial Bureaucracy; such a thing breeding a need for the Empire's guidance into the population of the Crimean 'colony'. The Gothic population has been growing in the last half-decade, as Theolon of Cherson has been at the forefront of leading colonization efforts of the unclaimed areas; as Cherson is essentially just major cities on the coast and major forts in the mountains; leaving a large open space in its 'interior' for new colonies to be formed. Due to its position it contributes massively to the Black Sea trade of the Empire--and is often called the 'Little Jewel' of the Black Sea in literature written in this era.
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