The eagle's left head

Peter was proclaimed king of Sicily. In his first acts as king he promised to observe the rights and liberties of the Sicilians and then called all men who could bear arms in western Sicily to join his army as he marched east to lift the siege of Syracuse.
@Lascaris surely you mean the siege of Messina, instead of Syracuse.
 
Perhaps, Alexander could use/take advantage of the Peter's translation mistake avoiding to have to battle with the Aragonese army until it could be done in his terms, in the time and place that would suit him better...
At the moment Peter has Charles to be concerned about and Alexander is much weaker than Peter (or Charles for that matter). Neither would want a fight. Further in the future...
Well now with Peter on the island a complete takeover is rather improbable. That Dukas-Duke mistranslation could go on to mean that Alexander gets a duchy on Syracuse which is better than nothing really. Maybe he can grab Bari as well when Naples is invaded due to the orthodox Greek population there. But on the other hand he traded Manuel for Peter and who knows how that will go?
He's certainly much better off than he was six months earlier when he had no land or power of his own. And a duchy... or despotate of Syracuse if well developed has a fair bit of potential as seen in ancient times. Granted compared to the times of Agathocles it's rather worse off at the moment.

Excellent update !

Now Alexander has his duchy and will soon become much more powerful than any other individual Sicilian magnate. When Peter dies in 1285 and the Sicilians realize that the Catalans have bigger fish to fry and Alfonso doesn't really care... Well at the same time Andronikos will dismantle one of the biggest fleets of the Mediterranean.
If Peter dies James would be becoming king of Sicily and Alfonso of Aragon....
Sicily is becoming crowded, and the plot thickens. Love the little OTL analogy of the name being misinterpreted as a title...
It's... convenient. Despot is not exactly known as a title in western Europe of the time...
 
Part 8
Messina, September 14th, 1282

Under other circumstances Charles I of Anjou might had delayed his assault on the city till the siege had further progressed. But circumstances were far from ideal. Peter had landed in Sicily, been proclaimed king by the local traitors and was marching to the aid of Messina he even had the temerity to dispatch two ambassadors Peter of Queralt and Roderick of Luna to Charles to demand that he evacuate the island. The ambassadors had not reached him yet, some friars had met them in Nicosia and rushed back with the news. Closer to Messina some Greek schismatic who claimed to be the son of one of the so called emperors of the Greeks and Frederick's II daughter had somehow managed to seize control of Syracuse and was making a nuisance out of himself attacking his foraging parties and patrols. The siege had to end before Peter showed up. A full scale assault was launched. It was thrown back by the Messinese with heavy casualties. Then Charles tried to convince Alaimo to surrender the city on particularly lenient terms. He failed again.

Messina, September 24th, 1282


When Charles had met Peter's ambassadors he had refused to accept the Aragonese claim to Sicily, had nevertheless left open the possibility of leaving Sicily as well as re-invading it when it struck his fancy. Not unexpectedly the Aragonese army had continued to slowly advance. With Messina still defiant Charles start pulling his army back to mainland Italy, he would not take the risk of putting his army between hammer and anvil and possibly cut off if the Aragonese fleet defeated his own. At least Peter was apparently not in such of a hurry to reach Messina. After all if the Angevins were leaving without a fight what was the point to rush things?

Messina, October 2nd, 1282

Peter, king of Aragon and Sicily finally reached the city, to be treated to the sight of the burned out remains of the French camp. He might had not been in a hurry to engage the French, but not anyone shared his opinion. The Messinese upon receiving definite news of his landing in Sicily and seeing the French leaving had launched several sorties out of the city. Then Alexandros Vatatzes and his Syracusans had descended at night upon the French camp, instead of waiting for the advance elements of the Aragonese army. The French somehow had been taken by surprise and Alaimo had sortied out of Messina to seal the victory. Charles and most of his army were already across the straits at that moment but the remaining French forces had been destroyed and all their baggage lost. Vatatzes and Alaimo had been left overnight with a huge quantity of arms, siege machines and other loot. Peter was not entirely certain how his wife's cousin had managed the feat. Was it luck? Skill? Both? After all his army apart from a core of Sicilian cavalry and crossbowmen and Greek marines appeared to be mostly lightly armed infantrymen. And a unit of Calabrians that had apparently switched sides when Alexander had attacked the French camp. It wasn't the only of his problems. He had already been warned not to trust Alaimo would had already betrayed first Manfred for Charles and now Charles. And to make matters worse Alaimo's wife Machalda had already tried to seduce him...

Syracuse, October 26th, 1282

Over the past 6 months Syracuse had been turned overnight from a provincial town to what amounted to capital of what? Peter of Aragon was not entirely certain as he entered it with Alexander by his side. He suspected neither Alexander was. He had called him a duke. The Greeks were calling him a despot which apparently was a rank like duke or maybe even prince. He had more immediate concerns. Alexander could be at least a nuisance if not an outright threat if he so wanted. He was a nephew of Manfred and cousin of his own wife. He was personally charming, had the loyalty of his followers and was very wily for his age, he supposed this had been necessary to survive Constantinople. And of course he probably had the backing of Constantinople. If his cousin offered his fealty he would be stupid not to pay the price to secure it. A duke had to have a duchy. An acceptable price to secure Sicily. After all how could a king not have lords under him?

Thrace, December 11th, 1282


Michael VIII, Faithful to Christ the God, basileus of the Romans, was once more on campaign despite being increasingly ill and the admonishments of his wife to leave the campaign and try to recover. The needs of the empire had to take precedence. And thus he died. He had ruled for 24 years since the coup that had brought him to the throne. His legacy was mixed. He had gained the purple by coup and then blinded Ioannes IV after vowing to protect him. He had recovered Constantinople. He had brought the empire almost to the verge of civil war by accepting the union of the churches. He had saved the empire in the West and eliminated the threat of Charles of Anzou. He had denuded the East of troops and alienated it by his actions against the Lascarids. He had built up an army and navy worthy of the empire. He nearly bankrupted the empire. For all his successes at the time of his death he was so hated his son Andronikus did not dare to bury him to Constantinople. Perhaps he deserved better. Or perhaps not.

Syracuse, December 25th, 1282

Simon de Leontino, the brother of Alaimo had been bishop of Syracuse from 1270 to 1280. His French replacement had been kicked out at the time of the revolution. Alexandros Doukas Vatatzes, despot of Syracuse if you were Greek, duke of Syracuse if you were Aragonese needed a bishop. Under the Normans the local Greeks had priests but the bishops were habitually chosen upon Latins even though the Normans had let the 32 Greek Sicilian monasteries be and even let more to be founded by St Bartholomeus of Simeri. It was to these Basilian monks that Alexandros had turned. The monastery of Santissimo Salvatore of Messina, monastery of the Soter for the Greeks had been the most important of the Basilian monasteries since 1132, its abbot was an archimandrite controlling the other Greek monasteries. And thus the monk Barnabas became bishop of Syracuse in Christmas 1282...
 
Charles and most of his army were already across the straits at that moment but the remaining French forces had been destroyed and all their baggage lost. Vatatzes and Alaimo had been left overnight with a huge quantity of arms, siege machines and other loot.
Is it a worse defeat for the French? Or the same as in OTl but with Vatatzes and Alaimo capturing rhe baggage train instead of the Catalans and Alaimo?

Vatatzes now has the means to properly equip a fair number of men and become the most important "local" magnate.

The monastery of Santissimo Salvatore of Messina, monastery of the Soter for the Greeks had been the most important of the Basilian monasteries since 1132, its abbot was an archimandrite controlling the other Greek monasteries. And thus the monk Barnabas became bishop of Syracuse in Christmas 1282...
By getting these monks at his side, he gets a lot of soft power over both Sicily and Calabria.

And a unit of Calabrians that had apparently switched sides when Alexander had attacked the French camp

I am under the impression that at least until the early 13th century, greek-speakers constituted the majority of the calabrian population. And they were not restricted in southern Calabria as in later centuries. After all, in 1168 the Normans established the greek archimandrite of St. Elia di Carbone at the border between Calabria and Basilicata.

Vatatzes can tap at another source of potential support: the local elites that fell out of favor post-1231. Until then, there was a local Italo-Greek educated elite that were mostly notaries. Establishing the laws of "good King Roger" that was apparently a popular demand, would mean that the Italo-Greek notaries would be back in business and would have evey incentive to support Vatatzes in the hope of being promoted to administrators.

Source: Brill's Companion to Byzantine Italy
 
Is it a worse defeat for the French? Or the same as in OTl but with Vatatzes and Alaimo capturing rhe baggage train instead of the Catalans and Alaimo?
How bad was the OTL defeat in the first place? I'm certain we accurately know. Roughly on par with OTL, probably somewhat worse, seems a reasonable estimate.
Vatatzes now has the means to properly equip a fair number of men and become the most important "local" magnate.
The loot is going to be certainly useful. And Alexander's hold on Val de Noto is certainly stronger than Alaimo's hold on the north...

By getting these monks at his side, he gets a lot of soft power over both Sicily and Calabria.
There is still a very strong Greek presence in Eastern Sicily and South Italy, which to put it bluntly was getting oppressed as time went on, less so by the Normans. Making one of them bishop of Syracuse instead of either a Lombard or importing a bishop from Greece cements their support... and for the beauty of it does not even alienate the catholic population. After all the Basilians are technically in communion with Rome... but not that close to the papacy at the very time the Sicilians are excommunicated and burning effigies of the pope..

I am under the impression that at least until the early 13th century, greek-speakers constituted the majority of the calabrian population. And they were not restricted in southern Calabria as in later centuries. After all, in 1168 the Normans established the greek archimandrite of St. Elia di Carbone at the border between Calabria and Basilicata.
If someone reads between the lines Alexander got into the French camp by getting the Calabrians to switch sides...

Vatatzes can tap at another source of potential support: the local elites that fell out of favor post-1231. Until then, there was a local Italo-Greek educated elite that were mostly notaries. Establishing the laws of "good King Roger" that was apparently a popular demand, would mean that the Italo-Greek notaries would be back in business and would have evey incentive to support Vatatzes in the hope of being promoted to administrators.
Alexander is at the moment cultivating the support of the local Greeks for uhm... obvious reasons?
 
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