The Eagle of the East, Rhomania: An Eastern Roman Timeline (1196 - Onwards)

Part 1
"Let none say that God's Chosen People have not struggled; yet in His Wisdom, we endure through greatness held aloft by our Basileus," - Attributed to Mathew I Psenas, Patriarch of Constantinople, successor of George II, 1204.
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Hello everyone! I've had a timeline of this sort swirling around in my head for roughly 2 months now. In that time I've worked out a basis to work off of. The main point of divergence is that Alexios III is deposed in 1198 in response to his multiple failures (which will be specified during the timeline) by 'custom' characters; the brothers Romanos and Ioannes (John) Grypas--who are Anatolian Pronoia holders prior to Romanos obtaining the Purple. Hopefully the timeline will be interesting, and I'm more than open to criticism and suggestions!
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1196 - Over a year into his reign, Alexios III Angelos is threatened by Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who demands 5,000 pounds of gold or the Romans will face invasion (This is due to a convoluted system of dynastic claims due to Henry VI gaining control of Alexios' daughter; Irene). The amount is, later, negotiated down to 1,600 pounds of gold--with Alexios III plundering the Imperial Tombs within the Church of the Holy Apostles as well as levying a heavy, and unpopular, tax known as the "Alamanikon", or "German Tax".

1197 - In Henry VI dies in September, with the gold effectively pocketed by Alexios III. Alexios' wife, the able, and willful, Empress Euphrosyne, attempts to sustain the court and Alexio's credit via her most able supporter, Vatatzes, who would be assassinated later on the Emperor's orders. To compound these issues the Empire is beset on all sides by Bulgarians, Vlachs and Seljuks; with the former two raiding as far as Greece and the latter essentially rolling up the entire east of the Empire. Alexios III further bankrupts the treasury, in a similar fashion to how he had when coronated, spending lavishly on his palace and its gardens in an attempt to make use of them for diplomacy. This fails. As a last ditched effort the Emperor gives more power to the Pronoia holders within the Empire; which, while it helps sustain the Roman's territories, leaves the Empire's authority massively weakened.

1198 Pt1- Empowered via the Emperor's grants to the Pronoia holders, the brothers Romanos and Ioannes (here after known as John for ease) Grypas, 26 and 22 respectively, begin collecting support against Alexios and his regime from those troops and those fellow Pronoia holders battered by the raids into the Empire the previous year. By July Romanos and John had gathered together enough of a force to viably threaten Constantinople, and thus Alexios, numbering roughly 9,000 men--over half of which had served with Romanos and John directly in Anatolia, the other half being drawn from the Grypas estates in Sakarya. On July 25th Romanos, in a mimic of old Roman traditions, is raised on the shields of his and John's combined men and declared Emperor. Romanos specifies, to all that can hear, that he rejects the title of Emperor of the Romans until he had captured Constantinople and received a true coronation. In his capacity as 'Emperor' though, Romanos declares his brother John as Sebastokrator, his right-hand and effective co-Emperor.

1198 Pt2 - Romanos and John, knowing well the situations within Anatolia--and the threat the Seljuks pose to the territories of Rome, elect mutually for John to stay behind and lead the forces of Roman Anatolia while Romanos leads the collected 9,000 men to Constantinople. By this point, August of 1198, Roman Anatolia is effectively behind Romanos and John; considering what they've suffered at the hands of Alexios' own incompetence and later unwillingness to strike back--with one of the notable allies of the Grypas being Theodore Laskaris, who swore to uphold Anatolia alongside John. On the 15th of September Romanos and his forces reach the Hellespont, resupplying in Nicaea, before using a cobbled together fleet to pass across the Bosporus during the night of the 18th. Alexios III would wake up on the 19th of September to the news that 4,500 men, and a man claiming Imperium, were outside the Theodosian Walls.

1198 Pt3 - Romanos and his men settle in for a Siege, preparing a fortress-site as the various other besiegers of Constantinople, throughout its history, had. All throughout the following days Romanos, and his men, offer those guarding the gates amnesty if they simply turn against the 'tyrant' Alexios III. Such attempts are shrugged off, considering the Theodosian Walls stand between them and Romanos. This was to continue on for a month, as Romanos was running out of time--fearing that reinforcements from the European half of the Empire had perhaps heard of his Siege by now. On the 17th of October 1198 Constantinople is put under a firmer blockade by the makeshift fleet of Romanos, tightening the noose firmly around the cities neck. In an attempt to break the blockade several fireships are launched against the Grypas fleet; yet due to the bad status of these ships, all of them with worm-eaten hulls, several of these fireships fail to detonate on their targets, leaving the blockade mostly intact--yet it has given confidence to the defenders none the less. On the 20th, Alexios III has finally worked up the courage to lead a sally-forth of 17 divisions from the St. Romanus Gate.

1198 Pt4 - Battle is commenced with rapid pace, as Romanos' veteran soldiers hold their ground, awaiting the clash between the two forces. Only, once Alexios III and his divisions have cleared the Theodosian Wall's range, for Romanos' 4,500 strong cavalry arm, detached during the night and hid throughout the entire Siege, to smash into the right flank of Alexios's forces. In due time, Alexios' nerve gives out and his sudden retreat alongside his personal guard causes a mass panic; sending the defenders scurrying back into the city. Nonetheless, the defenders have sustained 521 casualties, and Romanos' cavalry have suffered their own at 397. Alexios, when questioned on his cowardice, swore to fight the following day against Romanos and his forces--yet, during the night he and one of his daughters, Eirene, would attempt to escape across the Bosporus with 1,000 pounds of gold. They would be caught by men guarding the Seawalls, the resulting scuffle between these men and the Emperor trying to desert them, saw both Alexios and his daughter cut down and the gold stolen.

1198 Pt5 - On the morning of the 21st, the forces loyal to the Patriarch George II play pragmatism, and open the gates for Romanos and his soldiers on the conditions that the claimant-Emperor hold his men back from looting; something upheld due to the respect the men hold for their commander (although it is noted that men from the garrison and members of Romanos' army almost came to blows on the path towards the Hagia Sophia). Midday, the 21st of October, Romanos would be crowned as Romanos V, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans.

His work was only just beginning.
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Around six years by 1198 since that happened in 1204.

It’s also before Alexios III’s rot truly set in. While the treasury being drained is outright horrific, the Empire has a consistent income of hundreds of thousands of Hyperpyron, the gold coins in use since Alexios I Komnenos’ reforms.

Given enough breathing room the Empire should be able to get back it’s momentum.
 
Part 2
"I endeavour to learn, and plan, for every battle and war ahead of us. I refuse to be schooled again," Attributed, semi-historically, to the Emperor Basil II 'the Bulgarslayer'.

1198 Pt6 - Following his successful coronation Romanos was left with much on his plate. Functionally he was usurper, lacking legitimacy in the eyes of several members of both the court and Empire--something he refused to let continue for long. Even aside from that issues in the capital would need his attention; namely the imprisonment of Isaac II Angelos, the brother of Alexios III who was blinded and imprisoned on said Alexios' orders when he forcibly took control--alongside Alexios' widow Euphrosyne. The solutions to both were rather simple, although Romanos had to outright deny Euphrosyne's attempts to offer herself up in marriage to him--since, while he in his own way respected her political prowess, her domineering tendencies ran against his nature. On the 23rd of October Isaac II was released, and treated well for the day, but by the end of it both he and the Widow-Empress would be stripped of their vestments and spread out amongst the Aegean Islands in a church exile as a monk and nun respectively. The court would be purged of the remaining rot of the Angeloi, the officials and internal bureaucracies refilled by men of skill drawn from the Grypas estates in Anatolia, Sakarya. By Christmas 1198 Romanos had a firm grasp on the Imperial Court, yet this would not be enough forever.


1199 - A large letter campaign is undertaken by Romanos, who sends hundreds of letters across the Empire to connect with the various Pronoia holders, alongside the soldiers within the Empire. The letters he receives back horrify him as he begins to truly understand the degeneration the Empire was under; it's armies in Europe growing weaker and less-skilled even while raided by the Bulgarians under Tsar Kaloyan. To his relief though, his efforts in Anatolia have borne fruit; with John and Theodore notably working together to defend the Empire's eastern-flank from Seljuk raids into Bithynium; notably forming a friendship after Theodore apparently took the head off of a mounted Turk before he could cut down John. It is clear to Romanos that he made the right choice leaving the east in the hands of the two, as while they are only in their 20's they've already proven able and willing to lead in Romanos' name. On the 11th of January 1199, Romanos resurrects the functionally dead office of Hypatos (equivalent to the old Roman Consulship), giving it to Theodore in honour of his loyalty and achievements.

In order to sure up his north-western flank, Romanos writes to Stefan II of Raska, a Prince of Serbia married to Eudokia Angelos; daughter of Alexios III. Stefan had been a firm ally of the Empire, given the court title of Sebastokrator and its accompanying salaries, yet now that he had taken control Romanos had to reevaluate the situation. Stefan was instead offered the position of Sebastos, a position given to firm friends and allies of the Imperial Household, alongside a generous donative of the salaries he missed out on while Constantinople was under siege--in combination of the salary given to the Sebastos. The only condition was that Stefan refrain from the use of his wife as a vector to attack the Empire via claim, as the Holy Roman Empire had attempted. Due to factors happening in Serbia, namely rising tensions with Hungary and proddings from the Papacy for Serbia to shift itself back under the Catholic banner, Stefan is happy for the cash, and the confirmation of a sort of alliance with the Romans--yet it is clear that once the issues that plague him and his people are over that such a relationship might change. These letters are concluded on the 21st of January.

On the 25th of January, Romanos would awake to news of further Bulgarian raids under Kaloyan as far in as Thessaloniki, the Second City of the Empire. It was clear to Romanos that such a relationship, continued wars against the Bulgarians and Romans, would be untenable if he was to pull the Empire back together. First however, he had to play his choices right, and he had one in mind. The Komnenoi had survived their loss of the throne under Andronikos I Komnenos, with the two grandsons of Andronikos; Alexios and David Komnenos, while young being already noted as able administrators and warriors. On the 3rd of February, after much lettering, the two brothers would be transplanted further into Anatolia; given their supposed ancestral home of Kastra Komnenon in Paphlagonia--forming further support for Romanos within Anatolia, with the notice that the two would fight alongside John and Theodore in their efforts to uphold the Empire. Romanos, even now, noted Alexios' maturity and skill with writing in the letters given back and forth.

The true purpose behind playing 'nice' with the Komnenoi however was a push for legitimacy. Maria Komnene, daughter of Andronikos himself, would be drawn out of hiding on the 9th of February. She was a woman of wit, while also charitable and patient, a good match for Romanos. The two would hit it off shortly after her arrival at the Imperial Court in Constantinople and in the following week, on the 16th of February, the two would be wed as Emperor and Empress of the Romans in order to ensure closer ties between the current Imperial Grypas, and the former Imperial Komnenoi. The two would spend the next near-two-months together, Maria proving an able study in military matters, much to the surprise of Romanos, with the two working out a plan of action against the Bulgarian raids--and forming a closer bond.

On the 1st of April, after much planning, Romanos would leave Constantinople in the hands of his wife, her status as a Komnenoi--combined with her general nature--leaving her well-position to hold down the fort for her husband while he went out to deal with Kayolan and his Bulgarians. Romanos would leave with roughly 8,000 men, all of them the veterans who'd served with him in Anatolia and during the Siege of Constantinople--the army moving at a managed pace as Romanos fettered out scouts across the Haemus to ensure he would not walk into a trap as several Emperor's before him had. It was standard policy in Anatolia, the management of scouts--with who controlled the most information generally being the victor between the constant Roman-Seljuk tug of war.

Such standard policy would bare fruit on the 3rd of April, as Romanos would receive news of Kayolan's raid, and sack, of the city of Strumica, leaving the area laden with loot and prisoners. With further calculations, and scouting, Romanos would be left with a number that put him at a disadvantage; Kayolan had roughly 7,000 Bulgarians and 3,000 Cuman allies. If Romanos wanted to inflict damage he had to, now, while they were slowed by their pillage. If he failed, and lost his army, the Empire's west would effectively be without a functional army--as those 'soldiers' who were not his own in the West weren't up to par with the task at hand. He had to win this.

On the 5th of April arrows would come down from the side-pass hills against Kayolan and his forces as they passed through the Kyustendil area--with Romanos having dismounted most of his Turcopole horsearchers to act as skilled bowmen against the passing Bulgar-Cuman army. This army didn't break however, Kayolan's sheer presence and ability to rally them forming them into a cohesive force as they pushed to get out of the ambush zone; many still falling to the arrows of the Romans in the hills. This cohesive force would be met suddenly by a smashing blow, as the bulk of Romanos' force, numbering roughly 5,000, would crash into the side of Kayolan's forces after appearing, as if at God's Own Will, from the eastern passage of Kyustendil--crumpling the Bulgar-Cuman lines inwards as the veteran soldiers of Anatolia took to the heavy work of beating down the hardy forces before them. Several times Romanos and Kayolan themselves would apparently come to blows as the tide of battle brought them and their retinues together, and pulled them apart, again and again. Within an hour of fighting the core of the Bulgar-Cuman force was able to force their way out, Kayolan leading them away back into more firmly held Bulgaria. Over 6,000 men had died all together, with Romanos loosing just under half of that--a sure blow to his forces. Yet, he'd obtained victory--with Kayolan and his forces forced to leave behind their spoils and prisoners. In a moment of temperance, while his soldiers were dividing up the loot, Romanos gave his 'share' to the prisoners taken by Kayolan--before having them escorted home by a contingent of Turcopoles on horseback.

The battle, known thereafter as the Battle of the Pass, would leave Romanos with roughly a thousand Bulgarian-Cuman prisoners. As a move to open diplomacy, the Emperor let the Bulgarians go to rejoin their Tsar--yet he kept the Cumans under arrest. They would later be resettled in Anatolia; along the Mysian-Dorylaeum border, proving a valid investment as they would aid the forces in Anatolia greatly in holding the lands in years to come. In the following lull, Romanos would be able to push the borders back up to the near-Haemus by retaking Pernik in Kyustendil and Serdica in Sredets within a half-months effort--forced to leave behind roughly 3,000 of his Anatolian veterans to hold the land taken. Romanos, after inspecting the lands taken, would move to return to Constantinople; but not before pulling several of the unused Tagma in Roman Europe to his banner. He had plans for them.

On the 21st of April the Emperor would return to Constantinople in triumph, enamoring many with the first true military victory since the death of Manuel I Komnenos roughly two decades prior. Romanos had firmly cemented his reputation as legitimate in the eyes of many, yet even now he knew things were utterly precarious--as any wrong move would see everything he'd worked for in the last 2 years turned to dust.
 
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Oh this is good for the true heirs of Rome. Romanos V seems to be doing well. Quick suggestion maybe threadmark your updates?

I'm glad you're enjoying it thus far! He is, although if he commits a mismanaged move at all during the following 5 years the Empire might well slump back despite all his efforts.

I'll keep that in mind! I'm new to this, to be honest. It's nice to get good advice :)
 
Part 3
"Information is Victory," - the maxim used by Romanos V Grypas throughout his life.

1199 - Romanos V, upon returning to Constantinople, and indulging in his triumph, by now had a unique view on the Empire and its situation. He had fought in Anatolia, and now Europe--and was even further informed by his previous letter campaigns of the state of the Empire. It was a hollowed out husk, held together as if by God's Own Grace, and even that seemed to be fading. In comparison to this mess Romanos' own victories seemed paltry nothingness.

He knew he needed to reform the Empire, and to do that would require some bitter pills to be swallowed. The Pronoia system was a hamper on the Empire, drawing away land and revenue from the treasury and gradually pulling out the guts of the Empire until it was naught but a spent carcass surrounded by always-hovering vultures. The system had worked during the reign of the Komnenoi because their efforts to turn the Empire into a dynastic project kept a tight leash on it, lessening the issues to near nothingness. The Angeloi however had botched the job, horrifically, giving more and more power to the Pronoia holders to the point that Romanos and John, former Pronoia holders themselves, had been able to take the throne. In a classic case of; "Lets not let it happen twice," Romanos knew the system had to be done away with. But that would come in time.

The first of the bitter pills to be swallowed was the outright destruction of dozens of palaces, and the like along the Bosporus--not even the Blachernae Palace in Constantinople was spared; Romanos having a particular disdain for the structure following its habitation by the Angeloi--as well as its general position in the City of the World's Desire. Each of these palaces are reduced down to their foundations, with the stone and fittings carted off back to Constantinople for use in specified projects. Much of the nobility that had once lived in such palaces had been purged during Romanos' first few months--but those that remained were in no real position to strike out at the Emperor considering his current position. Within the next 2 months, by the 25th of June, these palaces were naught but recollected resources.

For the first time in over a century the Imperial residence was moved back to the Grand Palace of Constantinople; the former Seat of Constantine himself. It was in large disrepair, many sections having fallen into disuse and others entirely collapsed. Roughly a 6th of the materials gathered were used to renovate the palace to livability; but uniquely the Emperor ordered it be done tastefully; having an inherent asceticism due to his time in Anatolia. What resulted from this was the start of the later known White Palace, with the areas functionally rubble being essentially disused permanently. When the palace's new boundaries were drawn on the 3rd of July it was roughly 3/4's it's previous size.

The other remaining materials drawn from the various palaces were put to use refurbishing the Queen of Cities, as the Hagia Sophia itself was graced with further silver fittings, and the Forum's of Constantine and Theodosius refurbished with new stone. Out of this was still a sizable tally of metals; notably gold, which remained. This would play into Romanos' next phase of planning; rebuilding the coinage system.

The Komnenoi had managed to resurrect the Empire's financial stability via the use of a complex rework of the economy, part of which was a rework of the coinage. This system, as it stood at the time of the Komnenoi, was a vital position to get back to--as the idiocies of the Angeloi had debased the economy to near ruin. Romanos' following policy, aided by his wife Maria's own skilled mind for functional numbers, would see coinage recalled across the Empire and melted down. The first new Hyperpyron were struck, uniquely bearing the visages of both Romanos and Maria together, on the 29th of August 1199; accommodated by revalued silver (Aspron) and copper (Stamenon) coins.

It would take several years for this new coinage method to aid in the economy, but Romanos intended to ensure it did. The Christmas of 1199 was celebrated well within the Grand Palace.

1200 - On the dawn of the 13th century, the Empire was at a point of both crumbling, and reforming. The eastern front against the Seljuks was held by the forces led by the collective, and skilled, leaderships of John Grypas, Theodore Laskaris, and Alexios and David Komnenos--yet a particularly bloody Seljuk raid managed to push as far as Nicaea on the 2nd of February of 1200, bringing to Romanos' mind that Anatolia was in need of firm aid.

Yet, in the west, the Bulgarians and their Vlach allies would continue to raid into Roman Europe--notably being unable to shove the borders back considering the troops Romanos had left behind to guard the reconquered land south of the Haemus--these troops led by a rising-star officer John Klephos. The entire war between the Romans and Vlach-Bulgarians was a rebellion, of sorts. Following Basil II's annexation of Bulgaria the Bulgarians, and Vlachs that lived within as well, were slowly Romanizing--efforts under the Komnenoi speeding up the process (namely under John II). Yet, the Bulgarians and Vlachs had still held onto their character by the time Isaac II Angelos came to power, the Emperor having deposed Andronikos I Komnenos, levying a heavy tax burden on the Empire--namely those north of the Haemus. It was Isaac's failure to play diplomat, and his utter mishandling of the Bulgarian-Vlach representatives that resulted in the declaration of rebellion by Kayolan's forebears roughly 15 years ago.

In Romanos' mind the Empire had no future north of the Haemus, Greece, Thrace and Anatolia were to be what the Empire held--a view he held due to himself being of Anatolian birth, while also being able to see a larger perspective than most. On the 19th of February the Tsar Kayolan would receive a letter from the Emperor of the Romans--one that had a drastic effect on the future of the Balkans, and the Empire.

The two people were to come to peace, with Romanos acknowledging Kayolan's title as Tsar of the Bulgarians and Vlachs, as well as his sovereignty. To add to this, Constantinople would release primacy over Bulgaria; allowing it to once more declare it's own Patriarch and manage its own religious affairs (although this wasn't anything new, as even under Constantinople the Bulgarians retained functional autonomy). To sweeten the pot, the Emperor offered 5,000 Hyperpyron (drawn from his own accumulated wealth, effectively emptying his personal treasury). In return? The Bulgarians and Vlachs were to return to the north of the Haemus, and the Empire's borders would level out based on the mountains; Sofia being the major border city between the two (Romanos going to great lengths to stress that the Bulgarians should keep it). In effect, the Empire would gain back the surrounding areas of the old Thracian and Macedonian Thema from Basil II's era. This was to be combined with a 15 year truce between the two, and a formal apology for the mistreatment under Isaac II--alongside the decommissioned lead seal of the Angeloi.

Kayolan accepted, after much deliberation, due to several reasons. The war with the Romans hadn't gone anywhere viable, and aside from that his efforts to get recognition from the west, in the form of being crowned under the recognition of the Pope in Rome, Innocent III, had fallen through as Innocent--while receptive--had taken his time with the movements and seemed unwilling to offer the Bulgarian a title above 'King'. Romanos on the other hand was effectively offering everything Kayolan wanted--on top of 15 years to get his state in order. It was an opportunity he could not pass up; especially since it came from an Emperor he'd grown to respect after his defeat at the Battle of the Passes, and Romanos' following clemency to his Bulgarian prisoners.

Thus, on the 28th of February Romanos would receive back the acceptance, and breathe a sigh of relief. Only, this relief wasn't to last long--as he was quickly informed, within the week, of a small-scale revolt by the Tagma troops he'd left stationed in Prilep who stood against his seemingly generous terms. It was a moment of peace however when Romanos would find out, the following day, that John Klephos had taken it upon himself to put it down--and had succeeded, proving his loyalty.

The revolt had shown to Romanos that he couldn't rest on his laurels forever, he had to cement his legitimacy with further action. This was put to action, as Romanos learnt that his wife Maria was pregnant with their firstborn child--likely conceived during their time together upon his return from the Battle of the Pass (as she appeared five months pregnant). On the 15th of April 1200, after viable preparations, Romanos V would embark with roughly 10,000 men (6,000 of which were his loyal, veteran Anatolian troops--the others being drawn from the Tagma in Europe that could be viably drawn away), once more leaving Constantinople in the capable hands of his wife as he moved to join his brother, and friends, in Anatolia.

He would ensure the stabilization of the east, and the furthering of the borders. Failure was not an option.
 
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-Map; Post-Roman-Bulgarian Treaty-
A map I’ve drawn of the borders of the current TTL;
AD86348D-BBFB-42AB-89EF-C0F53D2ADFD3.png
 
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Part 4
"Follow the standard, do not out run it. Stand firm, stand righteous. Bring us victory, and help us, O God," - a passage from the Strategikon of Maurice on a Roman pre-battle cant.

1200 - Romanos, and his force of roughly 10,000 men, would embark across the Bosporus on a transport fleet, taking roughly 2 days for everyone to get across. The fleet of the Empire at this point stood at roughly 70 galleys, and near the same amount of transport ships, a considerable increase considering the state the fleet had been in during the Angeloi. Thankfully for the Empire, Romanos had taken control before the Empire had firmly decline fully within its navy. Romanos intended to end the relations the Empire held with the Venetians once he returned from Anatolia--yet he did not know how long his efforts would take.

Romanos and his forces would be met in Nicaea by Alexios Komnenos, and a small elite retinue of Turcopoles, on the 17th of April. It was the first time the two had met in person; the two men getting on well as they found they shared similar views on how to rule. It wasn't along before Romanos was informed of the situation in Anatolia.

Functionally Anatolia had been a hotbed since 1196, following the various raids under Suleiman II Selcuklar, the Sultan of Rum, which had seen Alexios III empower the Pronoia holders, and put the Grypas family--and thus the Empire--on its current path. In the Taurus Mountains the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia had broken away from the Orthodox Church and had communed with Rome; turning more and more Latin as its leader, Prince Levon II, moved to model himself and his nation off the Crusader States in the Holy Land--having notably aided the 3rd Crusade with supplies and the like. In an effort to push his greatness forwards Levon had dug out a sizable chunk of former Cappadocia; Tyana, from the backside of the Seljuks--all the while expanding eastward after the now deceased, and legendary, Saladin had abandoned forts outside of the Taurus.

Due to the fact that Suleiman had been stonewalled from further major raids, save a few exceptions, the Sultan had turned his vengeful gaze on the Armenians, and had begun his assaults on them around the same time as Romanos had arrived in Anatolia. The Grypas scouts well-informed them of the on-going bouts between the Turks and Armenians. The Emperor, and his Empire, would not get a better time to drive their blades through the Turks backside and regain the lands lost before the stabilization of the Empire under the efforts of John, Theodore and the Komnenoi brothers.

After much preparation (including the building of viable siege engines), Romanos and his forces, alongside Alexios, would make the trek from Nicaea to Sakarya, meeting up with his brother, Theodore and David Komnenos. The group took a half-day to get caught up, and plan. Romanos and Theodore would take the 10,000 men, alongside some Cuman Turcopoles drawn from the former prisoners settled in Anatolia after the Battle of the Pass, and push the boundaries of the Empire into Dorylaeum, and upper Phrygia. John and Alexios on the other hand would take their roughly equal number of veteran troops, each of them having faced Turkish raids for a near half-decade or more, to take Pisidia and lower Phrygia. David opted to stay behind to hold down the frontline with the various militia of the area--most of them men he'd trained himself.

On the 20th of April the forces would depart from Sakarya. They would not see each other again for over a month.
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Romanos' and Theodore's army

The men under Romanos and Theodore would keep a measured pace, always making use of the scout network that had been built up in Anatolia in order to ensure they avoided ambushes; the Battle of Myriokephalon always in the back of Romanos' mind as he endeavoured to be a better general, and Emperor, than Manuel I had been in Anatolia. It would take another 4 days before the army reached any settlements worth note; the trek increased considering the fact that Romanos and Theodore made sure the army avoided undefendable passes and the like to avoid being ambushed, or taken by surprise at all. On the 24th of April they could come upon Kotyaion, a barely defended 'city' that was closer to a functional hamlet than a defensible location.

The army would push through Koyaion, Romanos and Theodore ordering the sacking the city for 3 days, thoroughly tearing it apart. Yet, Romanos showed surprising anger when he found that several soldiers under his command had raped both women and girls. His command that followed; the castration and imprisonment of those men responsible, would set the tone for his soldiers. Never again would they act thoroughly unchristian while under his command. To ensure the city was not built up into a defensible location in the rear, Romanos had the surviving population pushed to settle in Sakarya, within the Empire, many of their belongings being returned, before Romanos and company marched on.

It would be another half-month of constant campaigning, destroying settlement after settlement along the border, before deporting the population into the Empire--a practice that was becoming standardized by Romanos, before they finally came upon the walls of Dorylaeum. The city was famous for two reasons, neither of them well-fitting in the mind of Romanos; Crusade. The city was in semi-disrepair, the well-built fortifications from Manuel's day having since fallen into major disrepair as the Seljuks hadn't needed to maintain them on account of the Empire's lacking offensive capabilities during the Angeloi period.

Such a thing would prove itself detrimental, as after two days of managed bombardment of the east-walls by counter-weight trebuchets would see large section of the wall opened up, and the populous subjected to the same, standardized, happens as the others in the area. Romanos and Theodore would leave behind a garrison of 600 men, staying behind long enough (4 days) to see the walls brought back up to functionality--and to press the populous westward to be settled as the others before them.

In 22 days the Empire had reclaimed a large chunk of territory, yet Theodore and Romanos both knew that there needed to be a functional front pressed--the two splitting up the collected army into halves before marching onward to clear a functional new border. In Romanos' mind everything had to be accounted for, including the counter-attack of Suleiman II, which he expected any day now. On the 16th May 1200 the area surrounding Dorylaeum had been pacified--yet, something had begun to flower in the mind of Romanos. He'd seen how measured, and duteous the young Turks had been in the villages he'd forcibly taken the populations from--an idea coming to mind that would forever change the Empire's army.
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John and Alexios' army

John and Alexios, in contrast to Romanos and Theodore, functioned on an action by action basis. The two men, and their collective 7,000 man force, were always on the move--always energetic. They had faith in their ability to face all that come before them, yet did not neglect the use of the Anatolian scouts to plot a functional way through the conditions of lower Phrygia and Pisida, which have notably less settlements and more fortresses considering its proximity to the Seljuk capital of Konya. It is such a proximity that sees harder conditions for the John and Alexios alongside their soldiers.

It takes the pair and their forces roughly 15 days to break the fortress of Baris with their siege equipment; loosing 357 men taking it. They would not get a chance to leave it, as on the 5th of May the army gets warnings from the scouts.

The Turks are coming.

By now Suleiman had well-heard of the Roman incursions, detaching a force of 12,000 Turkmen under the command of the loyal Tugrul Turel , one of his many officers. It had taken the forces under Tugrul roughly 4 days, at full speed, to come bearing down on the captured Baris. The fortress itself was still in ruins, unusable as a defensive structure, forcing John and Alexios to think on the fly. By the scouts accounts they had a day, at most.

The two ordered the men to dig trenches against the breaches in Baris' walls, these would need to be held by the infantry while the horsearchers dismounted, as they had at the Battle of the Pass, to fire from the battlements. The work was barely done by the time the beat of the hooves, and the fanning of the dust, hit the scene on the early morning of the 6th of May.

What would follow was the costly Battle Baris, as both John and Alexios had to channel Bohemond in their efforts; rallying their respective infantries on either side of the battered fortress to hold the line during what would become a hours long bombardment of arrows. Thousands died, as even with their shields raised high--and the protection from the trenches and battlement-holding horsearchers--the sheer volume of fire proved too much for many.

Alexios would be maimed by an arrow to the leg while providing leadership to his section of men, the arrow would leave him lame in his right leg. Had this been it, the last shift of the tide in this battle, the Romans would have lost--yet, as if by chance, Tugrel was caught in the eye by an arrow--likely fired by a Romanized Turkmen--and sent flying from his horse.

The Turkish forces would hold on for another hour, attempting to push at and break the Roman's lines--even as the panic of the loss of Tugrel filled their ranks. It would be John's sudden and coordinated speartip charge, at the head of his entire contingent, that would break the Turks--sending them fleeing.

The Battle of Baris was costly, 4,000 Romans lay dead--and Alexios was maimed, yet the Empire held the lands of Pisidia and lower Phrygia--and had cut down a skilled officer of Suleiman's forces. The battle, as seemed common in this Anatolian campaign, would be remembered--and would impact Rome forever more.
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By the 16th of May effective control over the goal areas of Anatolia had been achieved, but it was a pyrrhic victory at best, with thousands of skilled Romans dying and the area taken being devastated by the efforts of the Romans. Yet, despite that it was a brilliant campaign, overall the first major victory against the Turks since Manuel I Komnenos had attempted to face them and had largely failed.

Yet, even still, it would need to be seen if the Empire could hold onto the new lands taken at all, or would Suleiman II--who had just concluded a functional peace with Levon II that saw the return of Tyana (after battering Tarsus for a near month)--destroy the control the Romans had achieved on his return?
 
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