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

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Quick Note

Zoroastrianism, and a Zoroastrian Persian state aren't dead; they will return in this timeline. If anyone can guess where it will originate from you get to make a character for the TL.
The Parsis in India? If that’s not specific enough, then the Parsis of Surat.
Quick Note

Zoroastrianism, and a Zoroastrian Persian state aren't dead; they will return in this timeline. If anyone can guess where it will originate from you get to make a character for the TL.
They're coming from India. Khorasan (the historical region) is in the middle of the steppe nomads and is about to be invaded by the Mongols (IIRC they already converted by this point too), Yazd and Kerman are so deep in Persia that if they try to do anything local lords will crush them, there's also the mongols. All that's left is the Zoroastrians in India.
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They're coming from India. Khorasan (the historical region) is in the middle of the steppe nomads and is about to be invaded by the Mongols (IIRC they already converted by this point too), Yazd and Kerman are so deep in Persia that if they try to do anything local lords will crush them, there's also the mongols. All that's left is the Zoroastrians in India.
The parsis were nearly non existent as a geo-political force on the subcontinent. They didn't even have the traditional soldier caste.
Even so, at some point (possibly shortly after their arrival in India), the Zoroastrians – perhaps determining that the social stratification that they had brought with them was unsustainable in the small community – did away with all but the hereditary priesthood (called the asronih in Sassanid Iran). The remaining estates – the (r)atheshtarih (nobility, soldiers, and civil servants), vastaryoshih (farmers and herdsmen), hutokshih (artisans and labourers) – were folded into an all-comprehensive class today known as the behdini ("followers of daena", for which "good religion" is one translation).
I would also point out that zoroastrians of Yazd customarily paid a levy which allowed them to practice their religion without persecution. Parsis of Gujarat infact looked to them for religious guidance.

Also due to its remote desert location it pretty much avoided the destruction of the mongol invasion, and was considered a safe haven. Even Marco Polo remarked on the prosperity of the town when he visited in in 1274.
They're coming from India. Khorasan (the historical region) is in the middle of the steppe nomads and is about to be invaded by the Mongols (IIRC they already converted by this point too), Yazd and Kerman are so deep in Persia that if they try to do anything local lords will crush them, there's also the mongols. All that's left is the Zoroastrians in India.
The parsis were nearly non existent as a geo-political force on the subcontinent. They didn't even have the traditional soldier caste.

I would also point out that zoroastrians of Yazd customarily paid a levy which allowed them to practice their religion without persecution. Parsis of Gujarat infact looked to them for religious guidance.

Also due to its remote desert location it pretty much avoided the destruction of the mongol invasion, and was considered a safe haven. Even Marco Polo remarked on the prosperity of the town when he visited in in 1274.
It will probably be Yazd.
I’m surprised people have forgotten about Mazandaran, or Tabaristan. While the nobility officially converted to Islam following it’s fall in the 8th century, due to it’s position it maintained a large Zoroastrian population until around the 15th century.

The following chaos caused by the Mongols arriving will allow a charismatic leader to arise and reform a state in Persia that holds Zoroastrianism as its religion. Although, obviously, the religion will need major reforms to survive against Christianity and Islam.
Part 1; 1214-1215
1214 - Following the continued efforts of Philip II of France to centralise his domain, as well as the continuing mess that was brewing between the blocs of England, France and the Holy Roman Empire, a large web of alliances would be formed around a firm core of Papal support (this was due to the fact that backdoor dealing in the on-again-off-again battles between England and France over territorial disputes saw England and its domains in Ireland put as Papal Fiefs, thus causing a domino affect). In the following war that King John Lackland of England, alongside his ally, Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, would persecute against Philip II. In the ensuing war, one that lasted the rest of the year, France would put a firm end to English attempts to retake major lands in France--with the decisive Battle of Bouvines utterly decimating the coalition forces against France. In the aftermath the political dynamics of the entirety of Western Europe changed; as John Lackland was forced to hand over his ancestral patrimony of Anjou; weakning him firmly, as well as crushing any hopes that the Flemish--an ally in the war--had of regaining their lands. The darkest note of it though was that Otto IV, after all his efforts to curtail the Papacy and firmly establish himself as a centralising Holy Roman Emperor, would see his legitimacy vanish into thin air--the Emperor looking for anything in radius to replenish his standing. As if to add more fire to this though; Innocent III and thus the following Popes of the Papacy would now look to a stronger France for support.

1215 - The disaster that was the war against France, an event which weakened John Lackland massively in his home Kingdom of England, saw the influential Barons of said Kingdom force John to sign what would become an important document in the history of England; the Magna Carta, limiting John's powers massively. Within the HRE however things were little better, yet Otto IV had finally found a justification, if a little shaky, in Frederick of Sicily. Frederick caused genuine fear in his own territories and even Northern Italy for many reasons; he was a prodigy--having learned several languages, amongst them Arabic and Greek, and tempered his mind with mathematics and philosophy in a manner that made him a uniquely centralising force in his domains. Frederick had cut his teeth as a ruler firmly crushing the independent Barons, Counts and Adventurers who'd run amuck in his Kingdom during his minority--such a thing scared the decentralised nobles both within his own Kingdom and in Northern Italy. Claiming to be the champion of the downtrodden Otto IV marched into Italy to put a firm end to Frederick and attempt to regain his legitimacy; this would prove to be his downfall. Upon hearing the news, Innocent III was livid at the invasion--more so when Otto IV began simply walking through Papal-held Italy. In the following confusion, Innocent III firmly excommunicated Otto IV--forcing him to pull back to Germany to reaffirm his power as rebellious factions backed by the Papacy rose up overnight to crown Frederick as King of Germany in absentia.

In the time given, Frederick would quickly march into the Papal States at the insistence of Innocent III--and be crowned firmly as King of the Romans--firmly starting a Civil War within the HRE. At this task though, Frederick would prove himself energetic--if a little hamstrung. His forces weren't as large as Otto's, and he lacked supplylines in the North; thus he was forced to turn to a beaten power for aid. Venice had lost much of its prestige and military capacity following the debacle of the 4th Crusade; notably being persona non grata in all but name throughout Italy--yet its extensive trade network still allowed it to sustain itself and gradually lick its wounds. When Frederick found it the Republic was just getting back on its feet militarily; with warships once more being built in noticeable numbers--and Frederick needed their aid for his plans. His offer was simple; provide supplies and military aid to him in his time of need and he would transfer ownership of the Otto-supporting lands in Istria to Venice--effectively giving them control of the whole peninsula and a significant population influx as well as territorial economic wealth. The ever pragmatic Doge Ziani jumped at this; with the alliance proving fruitful as Frederick would spent the months of May to September prowling Northern Italy; crushing almost the entire breadth of the nobility and their territories south of the Alps. By late September Frederick had amassed a sizable demesne which he centered around Milan; at which time Otto IV finally pushed through the Alps at the head of a massive army--intent on putting an end to Frederick.

The following Battle of Milan; a siege-battle that took place primarily with Frederick defending the city against Otto's attempts to take it--would drag on for a full month as the supplies in the city began to dwindle. Frederick was at a knife's edge; ready to curse the 'traitorous' Venetians for failing to arrive after he'd sent several summons to them for aid--yet their sudden arrival on the 29th of October 1215 would firmly destroy Otto's army--as the Emperor was killed in the sudden confusion of an attack from the flanks by the Venetians while the Germans had been focused on Milan's siege. In the aftermath the rest of the year was spent marching throughout Northern Italy first to crush the last dregs of resistance--and then to Istria to carve away what the HRE had once held; handing it to the Venetians to repay his debt to them quickly and firmly by mid-November.

By early December the Thrice-Titled King took the last major city within the HRE's Italian domains; Ravenna. It is said that once the city capitulated he held back his men for a full day and night as he toured the city with a minor personal guard. His final stop would be the Basilica of San Vitale; it being said that the sight of the church, its structures, and mosaics striking a cord with the Sicilian-German King as he would spent the rest of the month in Ravenna for Christmas; centralising his Northern Italian holdings around Ravenna due to its defensible position officially, but many could tell it was for other reasons.
Part 1; 1216-1217
1216 - Tensions were rising in the Anatolia once more; as the fact that the Seljuk Sultan, Arslan III, had effectively broken the release-valve that was the immigration of Turks and Islamic Romans into his territories would begin to bear fruit. Without a place to flee to those who found themselves opposed to the policies and hegemony of the Romans had begin to agitate; slowly at first, until there were obvious issues forming in central and eastern Anatolia. John Grypas, the Prefect of the East, was quick to try and calm it down--using his skilled lieutenants such as Theodore Laskaris and David Komnenos to put down localised rebellions before they truly formed; these rebellions forming the 'schooling grounds' for the young (23 year old) Manuel Kantakouzenos; a figure who would have a marked influence in the following decades.

Romanos V however wasn't blind to the events happening in his Empire; his reign of 18 years having tempered him from the young and energetic 28 year old who had taken the throne into the witty, well-minded, Emperor of 46 years that everyone now knew him as in the capital. His 12 years, after his near-maiming during the Siege of Constantinople, had seen him make considerable efforts to tow the line economically and culturally--having to keep a lid on both the nobility as well as the newly forming 'middle-class' of the Empire that had begun to take shape following his reinstatement of the allelengyon, as well as quality minted coinage. The truest sign of his reign however was the gradual growth of Constantinople in terms of bureaucracy and population; having numbered roughly 230,000 at the start of his reign and having rebounded to 250,000 by now. Such a growth had necessitated several expansions to Sykai and the northern portion of the city proper. The largest issue with this however was functionality of the Theodosian Walls; something made more obvious as Romanos was informed of the rising tensions in Anatolia.

The Theodosian Walls had been the great bulwark that had protected Constantinople for a near millennia--yet modifications made to them to ensure they properly protected the now stripped Palace of the Blachernae had left them inherently weakened; something shown quite well to Romanos during the Siege of Constantinople by the Latins. He well-knew that now, while the Empire was still able to draw resources after its expansions, could possibly be his last chance at hedging the bets of the City of the World's Desire. In mid-February of 1216, the Emperor released the order to disassemble the whole section of the Theodosian Walls that had been modified to encircle the Blachernae--draining the last of his personal provincial wealth to pay for work crews to go about this. Notably however, Andronikos Romanos--the Romano-Turkish Captain of the Lakonoi, would offer himself and 5,000 'brothers' to aid in this great effort. By April of 1216 the refurbishments would be complete; with Romanos, his wife, and three children arriving in a semi-parade to gaze upon the Walls. Romanos would, apparently, remark; "Anthemius, I have outdone you,".

Throughout the year though, following this, several notions would appear as the state began to prepare for what was genuinely looking to be a full-scale uprising; despite the efforts of John and his lieutenants to hold the line. In the backdrop with this however was the beginnings of what would come to be known as the 'Epanasyndéthike' movement, or the 'Reconnected' movement--or simply the Psenas movement--within the highest annals of the Church itself. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Psenas had come upon this philosophy himself during a night of pondering, in which he apparently had a moment of religious 'connectivity'. The basis of this new philosophy was that the Church itself should be divorced from the true internals of the state; instead looking to people for those who need help--the maxim that Michael himself would often note was simply; "We receive, and give,"--the inherent truth of which that the Church gained funds from its efforts, and in turn should use those funds to push further efforts for the good of the people; putting an emphasis on the propagation of self-sufficient monasteries over other Church 'constructs' such as new Basilicas or Temples.

Romanos himself was an advocate of this view, if a little silent on the matter of it considering how dangerous it would be to attempt a shift of policies within the Church; yet it went further than that. An ever pious Emperor, Romanos and Michael would go into the late hours of the night; discussing doctrine and intricacies that were unconsidered by many. By December the Emperor had made his decision to make this a genuine matter; spurred on by the major Fourth Council of the Lateran the previous year.

1217 - Throughout 1217 the Emperor and Patriarch began preperations for a great council, like those of old, within Constantinople itself. It was a massive undertaking; requiring months of sheer planning between the two friends--only aided by the Empress Maria Komnene and the rising Churchman Methodius of Thessaly in the major phases. By April of 1217 thousands of Churchmen and women funneled into the Hagia Sophia for the greatest council in centuries. Nobly the Catholics of the west were not invited, as those of east hadn't been invited to their previous Lateran Council. Over the whole breadth of the year doctrine and policies were discussed back and forth, with the fact that Romanos--the known 'conquering-hero Emperor'--was heavily involved eventually leaning heavily towards the acceptance of several changes to the way things were done; despite the efforts of the major opposition leader of George of Nicomedia.

What would become known as the 4th Council of Constantinople would come to an end, in a symbolic manner, on the planned day of Christmas Eve 1217--with several things hammered out;

1 - The Church, as an institution, would distance itself from the secular world of governance as was the purview of the Emperor and his administrative bodies.

2 - The propagation of Monasteries over other major constructions would be a major notion of the Church; as one of the major pillars of the Orthodox Church was its storied history of charity; providing bread and wine to millions of Romans for near a thousand years. The Monasteries would act as hubs of production; producing fine-goods as well as producing their own food; making them self-sustaining pillars of the communities they were built in.

3 - The reintroduction of a baseline education function via the use of the Monasteries; as it was agreed and noted that the Church itself had the largest ballot of resources for the education of the 'masses'. The system of education itself would be managed by overhead by the Kanikleios, the royal inkwell bearer--a title which had become honorific by now but would now be granted overview on this important matter. Functionally though the Church would largely be autonomous in the education of their new charges.

4 - The propagation of the silver Aspron coinage over the gold Hyperpyron coinage by the Church; a move--as said by the Patriarch Michael--to "distance those of God from the worldly temptations of such a metal,"

Functionally, aside from these same points, several things were reaffirmed--such as the fact that the Latins were false in their interpretation of how the bread and wine, thus body and blood of Christ, were to be prepared and reserved. The Council as it stood then, was a milestone more for the fact that it had occurred in the first place; bringing together thousands of Church peoples for the first time since the Iconoclast issue had been dealt with, and fostering a sense of interconnection that had not been felt in centuries.

In the long run the introduction of these policies would have wide-ranging consequences for the Empire; not all of them good.
Part 1; 1218-1220
1218 - In April, after years of fermentation despite the efforts of John Grypas and his skilled lieutenants, a largescale revolt would begin in Caesarea following the accidental killing of a Turkish merchant by the city garrison following a scuffle between several merchants over goods that the garrison had tried to break up. The leader of the revolt was declared as Isaac Gabras, a proclaimed member of the Gabras family that had been denounced long before the area had been reintegrated into the Empire.

During the outset David Komnenos, passing through the city for resupply, was brutally butchered by the inhabitants; having been caught off-guard by the seemingly sudden nature of the revolt. His troops would react firmly, in turn brutally purging the entire cities population in retribution for the death of their beloved commander--leaving Caesarea as a near empty ghost-town for the following near-decade--however Isaac Gabras had escaped with a core of semi-trained Turkish irregulars before David's troops had fully attacked.

What would follow, throughout the rest of the year, was a widescale uprising as it spread outward from Caesarea; Gabras acting as a sort of central figure for Roman oppression that incited more and more Turks and Islamic Romans to rise up against the Empire--the hope being that they could depose Romanos himself and reform the Empire's entire polity around Gabras as its new Emperor. John Grypas would be energetic in his response; collecting together what men he could muster to himself safely while delegating a functional amount to Theodore Laskaris as his effective second-in-command once more. Throughout the year the day Romanos himself had feared would be fought against by his loyalists; even as the widespread nature of the revolt spread further and further west.

A legend would emerge around this time of a Bulgarian colonist in Anatolia; a former prisoner that Romanos had settled following the victory against Kaloyan in the aftermath of the 4th Crusade. As the story went the honest, Romanised, Bulgarian was cutting wood for the benefit of continued construction within his settlement when a band of Turkish riders appeared demanding tribute and conscripts to fight against the 'Tyrant Romanos'; in response the Bulgarian told them to leave--and never return. When these Turkish riders refused, as the legend goes, the Bulgarian took up his axe and hacked all 40 of them to death for daring to speak ill of the Emperor in his presence. While the legend itself is likely hyperbole; it would be the first recorded incident of Romano-Bulgarian 'nationalism'; easing relations between Bulgarian and Roman citizens.

By July the revolt would be stonewalled by a collection of Asithematic troops drawn from Komnenon and Bithynia; led by the young and eccentric John Komnenos; son of Alexios Komnenos--and nephew of the now deceased David Komnenos. John earned himself the colourful epitaph 'Nekrópótis', or 'Dead Drinker' for his habit of indulging in wines while surrounded by the corpses of his defeated foes. His unorthodox way of warfare; described as an odd mixture of delegated and controlled command, would see the Rebels refuse to push while against him--as his 'tale' became more and more outlandish, eventually being one of a 'demonic blood drinker'.

While Gabras himself had been a poor administrator and a grating personality, the months spent on the road leading a force of cobbled together troops saw him shift into a surprisingly competent commander; being uniquely skilled in battlefield-macro that allowed his forces the ability to hit hard and pull back before being majorly damaged by either John Grypas or Theodore Laskaris; although he would be handed a firm defeat by John on the fields of Coron in early September, this was softened by his following crushing victory against a section of troops that had once belonged to David Komnenos in late September; however Manuel Kantakouzeno's presence as a mid-level officer allowed him to reform those who were left and produce an orderly retreat.

By early October though both groups had run out of supplies; as central-eastern Anatolia had been picked clean by the constantly moving armies--the continued 'parrying' between the Loyalists and Rebels had gotten nowhere. This was compounded by the fact that Arslan III outright refused to aid Gabras as he didn't want to risk the fragile stability he was building up with another war--as well as Armenian Cilicia being unable to provide aid to its suzerain of New Rome due to the recent death of Levon I, and the institution of a regency council for his young daughter.

1219 - It would take a quarter-year for the battlefield to be met again by either side; as the Loyalists and Rebels both had to cobble together supplies. John Grypas relied heavily on Theodore Laskaris for this; as John himself lacked a head for administrative duties, but Theodore delivered in a timely manner; allowing the Romans to begin campaigning against the Rebels in force by May of 1219. Throughout the early year the Rebellion had grown, but into fragmented groups of medium size; leaving the notably hard-pressing task of tracking them all down and tugging them out root and stem--the loss of David Komnenos the year earlier being felt even more firmly now as the Romans had to stretch themselves thin to deal with the problem.

This would prove fatal down the line, as the city of Trebizond--long a trading core of the Empire--would suddenly be taken by treachery in late July of 1219 by the mid-level officer Andronikos Diocretes. Diocretes had been in-charge of a decent portion of the Chaldian Astithematic army that had been left behind to ensure the defense of the important area; but his ambition got the better of him when the realisation hit that John Grypas and Theodore Laskaris were much too focused on the Rebels to control him. The officer simply marched into the city, then barred the gates and declared himself as Despote of Trebizond; beheading the Astithematic bureaucrat Manuel Hulanos when he criticized this move.

In a move that would show the effects of Romanos' efforts with the 4th Council of Constantinople, the Churchman of the city, Michael of Trebizond, decried Diocretes and his efforts as a disunifying factor for the Empire in a time where it could not risk it. At first Diocretes tolerated Michael, but as the old Churchman continued to press the issue, day after day, the traitor eventually lost his temper and struck Michael across the face with the butt of his sword; causing him to break his neck as he fell against a nearby table.

The outrage of this was well-felt, as several troops deserted Diocretes to Theodore Laskaris' banner; allowing the skilled general to finally crush the last of the secondary revolts; while John Grypas abandoned his efforts in pacifying the Rebels to turn on and lay siege to Trebizond by October. Theodore would take over John's duties; campaigning against Gabras; producing minor victory after victory as he pushed back the Rebels as far as Podando in the south. By the end of the year both rebellions looked to be on the end of their ropes; but an early chill in late October as opposed to December forced both groups to break off their efforts and retreat to winter quarters. John himself was utterly frustrated.

1220 - As soon as winter broke in May the Romans were back on the march; both John and Theodore swearing to each other and themselves that this year would be the end of it; especially since the loss of Trebizond was beginning to show signs in the Imperial Treasury; although Romanos himself trusted John to handle the situation. The situation would worsen further though as Arslan III was left unable to, or perhaps unwilling to, stop the raiding committed by low-groups within his Empire against Rome; causing damage to the supplylines that had only recently been set up and forcing Laskaris to outright ignore Gabras and his Rebels in order to make battle with the Turkish raiders for a full month; compounded when Gabras took the city of Caesarea by force simply due to its lacking population and major garrison.

By July things sat on a knife's edge, as Laskaris had barely enough supplies to trek back to handle Gabras (and surely not enough for a siege), and John himself had been repulsed during the Siege of Trebizond twice already. It was in this moment that Cilicia proved its loyalties, as Adam of Baghras, regent of the young Isabella of Cilica, would funnel supplies up to Laskaris for use against the rebels; allowing the general to conduct a protracted siege against Gabras in waves as supplies came and went.

This state of affairs would drag on for another 3 months--the effects of the occupation of Trebizond really felt now; forcing John to open up his own estates purse to bail out the shortfalls of the treasury by the end of October. By December however Theodore had finally beaten Gabras; the exhausted and starved Rebels opening the gates to the Romans in the hopes that they would be amenable to a peace. They weren't; with Laskaris having every single one of them killed by his angry army--and stripped of what little they had as loot.

As if God seemed to smile on the Romans, the traitor Diocretes was forced to come to terms with John--as the people of Trebizond had simply gotten angrier and angrier as the months had dragged on--pushing Diocretes to open the gates for John and a small retinue to come and talk peace. The two had dinner, seemingly becoming friendly as they exchanged words for hours--before Diocretes unceremoniously had John stabbed through the throat by the server before his retinue could even react. The Prefect of the East died choking on his own blood as his men rushed to pull him from the city; many dying to defend their beloved general's body long enough for it to be pulled through the gates by Manuel Kantekouzenos.

It would be on Christmas day, during celebrations, that the Emperor would hear news of his brother's death. As he had been at the death of Klephos the Emperor was silent for a moment--but that moment passed as he suddenly stood up and smashed his chair against a nearby pillar; breaking both and working his old wound handed to him by Baldwin 17 years prior; coughing up blood. It is said that the cold look given from the Emperor's grey-blue eyes as he wiped away the blood from his mouth with his thumb caused his now 14 year old daughter, Sophia, to burst into tears.
Wait, wouldn't the Imperial Fleet blockade Trebizond? And also I'm not seeing how Dioceretes wouldn't get slaughter by the citizens of Trebizond before the year is out.
Wait, wouldn't the Imperial Fleet blockade Trebizond? And also I'm not seeing how Dioceretes wouldn't get slaughter by the citizens of Trebizond before the year is out.
The Imperial Fleet isn't large enough yet to break off from managing the Aegean; because as you can recall prior to Romanos the Empire effectively neglected its navy for over a century (roughly 107 years). The Empire has to hedge its bets in the Aegean most of all; as if they simply transplant their fleet into the notoriously stormy Black Sea they could lose what they've built up.

As for Diocretes? His decisions will have consequences very soon. The main reason he has been able to keep a lid on Trebizond is that historically, as indicated by the way travelers described Trebizond at this point as a city, the population weren't the kind to fight. They were traders; more inclined to pay off their enemies than otherwise. The fact that Diocretes has a decently trained Astithematic force, even a reduced one, is keeping the people in line.

Although, Manuel Kantakouzenos won't let him get away with what he's done without a serious mauling.
John Grypas; Brother and Soldier - 1174-1220
As will become a trend upon the death of major characters such as John, and later Romanos, there will be a post such as this giving detail and meaning to the recently deceased character.
John Grypas, alongside his brother Romanos--two years his senior--had been born in Roman-held Anatolia. Considering their appearance they were likely of Bulgarian ancestry, but by the point of their birth their family had been thoroughly Romanised. John himself lacked the administrative and overarching-thinking tendencies of his elder brother; instead he became a gregarious and loving soldier who fought in a manner that inspired all seemingly without effort.

His greatest contribution to the Empire as its premiere General for over 20 years was his unique dislike of personal political power; he cared only for the military and thus provided a center of gravity that allowed Romanos to delegate power to his beloved brother without fear of usurpation. The two functioned well on concert; as it was John who held the line in Anatolia while his brother held the line in Europe--and in the Empire's political thunderdome.

In comparison to Romanos, who became homebody for decades after being severely wounded by the Crusader Baldwin during the Latin Siege of Constantinople, John only returned to the City of the World's Desire sparingly, and even spent many years on fulltime military deployment. Even aside from this; his general personality proved a model for his nephew Theodore Grypas; who would refine himself into the next premiere General of the Empire.

John's unique military style; leaning heavily on specifically equipped infantry (as the Empire's reduced economic state disallowed it from fielding the heavy cavalry it was known for) would prove well-placed in Anatolia; as the 'Conquest' army John built and trained--alongside the skilled Generals he fostered such as Theodore Laskaris, David Komnenos and Manuel Kantakouzenos--would allow the reconquest of much of Anatolia by the Romans within a short period of time. After his death he would widely be considered a new Saint George; the father of the reborn Roman military.

His death by itself; caused by his attempts to put an end to a rebellion propagated by a Roman using the troops he'd effectively created, would have lasting consequences--as it would push Theodore Laskaris to the forefront as the new premiere General of the Empire; as well as unshackling Manuel Kantakouzenos who would become a major player in the politics of the Empire, and later the Balkans. The stress it put on his brother however would bear its own fruit in the overarching policies that followed when Romanos took to handling the issues in Anatolia on a more personal level.
End of Part 1; 1221-1229, the last years of Romanos V Grypas; The Wall King.
1221 - Romanos had not left the confines of Constantinople in almost 20 years; time enough to have grown soft and decadent--yet, his beloved wife Maria Komnene had not let him. She had challenged him every day with love, and temperament, her efforts allowing Romanos to journey from the capital with his 5,000 strong Lakonoi Guard alongside his now 20 year old son. John, no longer little, was a tall if lanky figure--his height above that of his aging father, yet not by much. The young Prince was often looked at differently to that of his father; as while Romanos kept a clean-shaven and regal bearing to himself matched only by his still powerful body, his son carried with him a philosophers beard and body, the only indication that he was his father's son being the same cold ice-blue eyes that made Romanos himself so intimidating.

John dearly loved his wife, the 17 year old Theodora Asen, the frail yet utterly kind Bulgarian Princess having meshed well with the sensibilities of the young Prince; leaving it a painful moment when he was to part with her as his father pulled him out into the world of the Empire upon their journey from Constantinople in late February of 1221. The two men had never quite seen eye to eye, as Romanos had for much of John's life attempted to steer him in the direction of the 'Warrior-Emperor' that he foresaw the Empire needing; however this had dissipated when his own brother John had proven himself up to the task of Generaling the Empire. Now that John was dead however there was no turning back; 'little' John was who he was now.

Throughout the early year, as the Imperial Retinue marched towards Trebizond, the newly risen Prefect of the East; Theodore Laskaris, had been managing the complex matter of dealing with the remaining pockets of rebellion that seemed to crop up at a moments notice--the practices of the Romans previously having left each revolt weaker and weaker; even still it took time away. Such a thing would force Theodore to rely on Manuel Kanatakouzenos; who skillfully handled the Siege of Trebizond--the only things keeping it ongoing were the fear of the cities population over what the Roman army would do once it got inside, and what Diocretes would do to them should they buckle now.

This would come to down to something rather simple; as Romanos arrived outside Trebizond in very early April, the news of this rippling through the city. Romanos' actions leading the Empire's armies early in his reign still had weight; the way he handled sacking and looting by his troops giving hope enough to the population that during one of Diocretes' marches throughout the city with his by-now dwindling Astithematic force, that they would throw open the gates--with the mixed forces of Romanos and Manuel carving through what soldiers remained in the city until a surrender was forced.

It is said that when Diocretes tried to flee to the docks that the merchants, who had been forced to give up funds again and again to uphold the unlawful occupation, beat him to near-death in a collective mob; only stayed from killing him by a particularly intelligent merchant who saw a chance for them to get rich by handing the beaten Diocretes over to Romanos.

In the aftermath Romanos' actions would prove schooling for both his son, and Manuel Kantakouzenos; as the Emperor ordered every traitor soldier stripped of their equipment and whatever wealth they had on them--the same said for Diocretes--before every man was then to be blinded in both eyes by pokers and spread throughout the Empire as new Churchmen.

The event had reminded Romanos of the truth that he'd almost forgotten while homebodying in Constantinople; that the Emperor of the Romans had to be seen and heard; to be a known in the Empire. Throughout the rest of the year, and intermittently for the rest of his life, he would 'campaign' throughout the Empire; making himself known--all the while dragging along his near-unwilling heir John. He would return home by Christmas, experiencing a moment of catharsis with his dear family and court.

1222-1229 - Throughout the remaining 7 years of Romanos' life he would be busy; moving throughout the Empire to monitor the progress of integration within the taken territories as well as using it as a chance to school his son John. While John would never be a great conqueror he could be tempered into a skilled Emperor who appreciated the suffering of his people throughout this time.

During this period letters would begin to circle back and forth between the venerable Emperor and his 'opposite' in the west in Frederick II.

Frederick had been forced to pacify Germany before the Papacy had been willing to crown him truly; with Honorius III--the successor of Innocent III--in particular pushing this in order to ensure a united Holy Roman Empire. By 1220 Frederick had accomplished this, and had been crowned in Rome. Notably however he would not spend much time in Germany proper--his last major action in the area in recent years being the stripping of much of Aachen of its 'stolen' Ravennan relics and returning them to Ravenna itself--the city having become the seat of his power (although he still traveled between his Northern Italian lands, and his Kingdom of Sicily).

Frederick had written to Romanos on a whim, the mosaics of Ravenna inspiring him to at least make an attempt to speak to the 'Emperor of the Greeks' to the east; with Frederick's impressive grasp of the Greek language allowing easy conversations between the two. Romanos soon became a source of inspiration of the young Frederick; who looked to him as a mentor even as things went on; with Romanos' direct words on how he had commanded the Empire in his early years inspiring Frederick's continued centralization of Northern Italy. It was through these letters however that Frederick eventually pressed the question in 1225; would he be allowed to journey to Constantinople itself?

Romanos was utterly indulgent; and the two Emperors would meet face to face for the first time in early December--the now 31 year old Frederick touring the great city with his friend in a manner that saw many a tongue wag in the capital. As Christmas approached the two would spent more and more time inside the Great Palace; it was at this point that Frederick would meet the young Sophia Grypaina, now 19 years old. Her wit and sheer personality charmed Frederick--who had yet to marry due to the constant efforts he'd made as King and later Emperor--his mixture of scholarly charm and military pedigree charming her in turn.

It would be a sudden thing when Frederick pressed Romanos for the hand of his daughter, the aged Emperor needing much convincing over the next near-month before he finally agreed to it just before the Christmas celebrations began following Sophia's own requests on the matter. On the 29th of December the two were married in the Hagia Sophia, a moment that would mark a turning point in the relations of the two Empires. By the following year of 1226, the now 20 year old Sophia would give birth to her first child with Frederick; the boy Constantine Hohenstaufen; a name which carried dual meanings, as Frederick's own birth name had been Constantine--as had the name of the city he'd likely been conceived in.

The last 3 years of Romanos' life were a book-ending moment; as the great Emperor became more and more sickly throughout the year of 1227. In this year Romanos and John would constantly break out into fights, arguing over the simplest semantics and basics until one day, in a moment of overexertion, the Emperor collapsed. He would be bedridden for his last 2 years--but not addled; the time allowing him to firmly bond with both his sons now--with his warrior-son Theodore proving a balancing act between the two.

Romanos indulged in the writing and planning of new laws, as well as commissioning repairs to the New Church in Constantinople. This would be added to by the writing of the unique poetry piece; 'Agapité louloúdi', or 'Dearest Flower', a blatant love letter to his beloved wife. Sadly, as he got sicker, he would be unable to pass the backlog of laws he and his sons had worked on together himself; instead making John promise that he would pursue them when he became Emperor.

Thus it was, on the 25th of June 1229, that the great Emperor Romanos V Grypas--the Hero of Constantinople, the Restorer of Anatolia... the Wall of the Empire, would die in his bed--surrounded by a family he beloved above all things. His last words was a muttering question to his son John, and his wife Maria, as he held each of their hands in his own weak grasp;

Have I done enough?