The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

question as I am confused about something but is an system of Feudalism forming within the empire
 
question as I am confused about something but is an system of Feudalism forming within the empire
Sort of. What's happening is a similar process to what happened in the OTL Byzantine Empire from over the course of the 900s. As the frontier themes, the Anatolicon, the Armeniacon, etc. stopped being raided annually by the Arabs the wealthy upper class used their Imperial salaries to buy up land that had been used by families or villages to expand their own holdings, taking the former owners as tenants instead. Which got the former owners out of military service. Meanwhile in other areas expansion into Mesopotamia and Syria gave the Roman military aristocracy more land as well, which often wasn't added to Imperial records in anything approaching a timely fashion.

The result was a big decline in native soldiers, and in preparedness of Anatolia to external attack.
 
Sort of. What's happening is a similar process to what happened in the OTL Byzantine Empire from over the course of the 900s. As the frontier themes, the Anatolicon, the Armeniacon, etc. stopped being raided annually by the Arabs the wealthy upper class used their Imperial salaries to buy up land that had been used by families or villages to expand their own holdings, taking the former owners as tenants instead. Which got the former owners out of military service. Meanwhile in other areas expansion into Mesopotamia and Syria gave the Roman military aristocracy more land as well, which often wasn't added to Imperial records in anything approaching a timely fashion.

The result was a big decline in native soldiers, and in preparedness of Anatolia to external attack.
oh I see thank you
 
one last question will the Byzantine romans start building Castles once they learn of them being built across Europe
 
Seems pretty obvious hear and in other timelines that an empire center around the Near East is bound to experience an era of unbelievable prosperity.
 
Part 36: The Changing Roman Army
Part XXXVI: The Changing Roman Army​

Last time we discussed the changing economics of the Empire as the major landowners began consolidating more and more of the growing eastern wealth under their own control. A similar process played out in other parts of the Empire, though to a lesser extent. Far-seeing ministers in the Imperial Court clearly saw the incredible danger in the consolidation of theme power and pressed the Emperor to pass laws halting, or at least slowing down the consolidation. But Constantine refused, or more accurately he didn’t care.

It didn’t matter one bit to him who owned what piece of land, so long as the money for his own pampered lifestyle continued to roll in, which it did. So long as the Empire was mostly at peace the stagnant revenues being collected were enough. Even decline revenues were fine so long as they still matched the expenditures. And decline the revenues did. Because while the property values being taxed were, slowly, being increased, the actual payments was going down.

The wealthy magnates were simply bribing local officials to look the other way when they didn’t pay the proper amount of tax. And these local officials by now hadn’t seen a raise in years from the disinterested government in the capital, so they took the bribes. You might wonder how this escaped the notice of the higher ups, and largely it was because this was a long-term process. Revenues started declining around 870, and would wind up at six million nomismata by 950, shortly before this little house of cards really began to unravel.

To lead up to that though we will need to turn our attention to the Roman army. You will recall that after the devastation of plague, constant warfare in the 500s, and then the devastating Roman defeats at the hands of the Arabs that the old system of five field armies had been replaced by a single field army that moved as needed to trouble spots to support local garrisons against invaders. To facilitate this provinces likely to become battlegrounds had been organized into the theme system, where citizens would be part time soldiers and part time farmers, under the theory that they would fight harder for their own lands.

Well, that system is now officially obsolete. The wealth of the magnates had grown to the point that it was more efficient for them to hire mercenary soldiers to do the jobs the theme soldiers had once done. Not all of it I should note. Garrison troops were still largely locals, but these were usually little more than police forces.

The magnates looked outward for mercenaries. For infantry the Eastern magnates hired Daylamites from inside Persia, around the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, and Turkish mercenaries as cavalry from the steppe beyond Persia’s old territory. They also began hiring Bedawi, who not long before had been raiding Roman territory, to now defend their own lands.

In the West, specifically in North Africa, Berber raids were becoming more frequent as the tribes began to unify, beginning a process similar to what had happened in Arabia two hundred years before. While they will of course never reach that level of threat, the Berber menace did lead to Goths being recruited en masse from Hispani. This flood of experienced soldiers being offered better pay by the Romans would drain the already weak Gothic kingdom of valuable military skill, and this process will continue for the next century and a half. Between 850 and 950 something like one hundred thousand men will leave the peninsula and travel to Africa to serve as soldiers, either settling there or moving on to an easier life on the bustling island of Sicily when their terms of service were up. Many of them wound up bringing along wives and children when they left, causing a massive drain on the Gothic population they left behind.

If you want to know why Gothi is going to collapse at the beginning of the one thousands, well there is the final piece of the answer. The economic and demographic blow of this exodus would take a long time to be worked through, by which time any idea of a unified Gothic state was dead, dead, dead.

As for Italy, well there the process was a bit different. Italy didn’t have the sort of incredibly wealthy land-owners that the East had. What it had were powerful merchant cities, which invested their wealth not in land, but in ships. More ships, and bigger ships to outcompete their rivals. This left the poor farmers largely independent, except for one thing, the monasteries. Italy, as the home of the pope, was home to the largest monasterial population in the Empire. For a long time now men who had died without heirs had been leaving their land to the church, which was steadily expanding its control over the peninsula, sometimes through less than godly means.

Pressure on farmers to not marry and instead join a monastery were intense, and may followed through. Not all, and not most, but a significant amount. Large church estates began to dwarf the farmers who remained, and it was these estates that then began the consolidation of smaller farms under the umbrella of abbots. By 950 something like a tenth of all the land in Italy was controlled directly by the Church, and this was in addition to the pope already holding onto all of Latium and Campania.

Now what about the army of Italy? Well, what army of Italy. It had now been two hundred years since soldiers had done battle on Italian soil. There was no army. There were small garrisons that dealt with local issues, and occasional banditry, but that was it. There were no theme armies, no mercenaries at all really. Good thing Italy was completely defended on three sides by sea and to the north by the friendly Frankish Empire. What’s that, in a hundred and fifty years the Franks are going to not be so friendly anymore? Well, that can’t be good. Sure hope Italy doesn’t fold like a wet bag when that happens.

The remaining field army, the tagmata was in better shape than the former thematic armies, but not by that much. They were still deployed occasionally under the Domestic to trouble spots, but these were as noted growing fewer. And as such the quality of the soldiers began to decline. Particularly in the area of heavy cavalry. Yes, the legendary kataphractoi you likely imagined being a staple of the Imperial army all through this period. They’re gone. These soldiers were extremely specialized shock troops, with intense training, expensive equipment, and even more expensive pay.

The kataphractoi had been in decline since before the Bulgar War, but that conflict really was what drove the nail into their coffin. In the skirmishes and sporadic fighting against the Bulgars the kataphractoi had fallen by the wayside. They were too slow to act as raiders, or to catch the nomadic horse archers. That’s not even getting into the death of so many at the hands of the Bulgars in the war’s early years. The tagmata remained the Empire’s key striking force, but now it was made up primarily of light cavalry and horse archers. This was fine for the tasks ahead, but if the tagmata ever needed to be deployed as a force to oppose a major heavy cavalry force well…you get Beneventum.

All of that out of the way, was there any exception to these rules? Well, yes. The Armenian army was as solid as ever. Armenia still produced excellent soldiers, and they were perfectly willing to join up with the local army. The mountainous local terrain made the concentration of land into a single family’s hands difficult, and these soldiers likely would have mutinied had the local top family, the Phokai, tried it.

Moesia and Dacia meanwhile retained most of their edge as well. The Danube border was quiet, but the Bulgars were not destroyed, and now raids from Magyars were beginning to penetrate the regions north of the Danube. It seemed only a matter of time before they were called on to fight against nomads from the north.

And of course, there was the eternally troublesome Egypt. Egypt had a garrison at this point of about twenty-thousand. The number fluctuated through the years, but the twenty-thousand were generally enough to keep insubordinate locals in line, and make them go back in line if they started causing trouble. But we are approaching 880 now, and those of you who know your African history know what that means. For the rest of you, will will be covering the events in Nubia soon, as for the first time the Romans will face not a northern or eastern foe, but a southern foe. And this one will directly threaten the still enormously valuable Egypt.

But that will have to wait, because next time I will be addressing something that I probably have convinced you wasn’t actually happening. The Second Pax Romana, the new golden age we all think of when this time is mentioned. Because, despite my doom and gloom about the future, there really was a period of peace, prosperity, and general peace across most of the Empire.
 
one last question will the Byzantine romans start building Castles once they learn of them being built across Europe
The phrourions in Moesia are basically Motte and Bailey castles but being used a strongpoints for the Imperial army to conduct operations from when enemies enter their territory.
 
In the West, specifically in North Africa, Berber raids were becoming more frequent as the tribes began to unify, beginning a process similar to what had happened in Arabia two hundred years before. While they will of course never reach that level of threat, the Berber menace did lead to Goths being recruited en masse from Hispani. This flood of experienced soldiers being offered better pay by the Romans would drain the already weak Gothic kingdom of valuable military skill, and this process will continue for the next century and a half. Between 850 and 950 something like one hundred thousand men will leave the peninsula and travel to Africa to serve as soldiers, either settling there or moving on to an easier life on the bustling island of Sicily when their terms of service were up. Many of them wound up bringing along wives and children when they left, causing a massive drain on the Gothic population they left behind.
If you want to know why Gothi is going to collapse at the beginning of the one thousands, well there is the final piece of the answer. The economic and demographic blow of this exodus would take a long time to be worked through, by which time any idea of a unified Gothic state was dead, dead, dead.
Wouldn't this mean the Gothic Kingdom will become a prime target of plunder and conquest by the Varangians or whatever there west european counterparts are called.
 
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Sounda like the rot and decay of the army that occurred post Basil II OTL is occurring now. Hopefully once another crisis hits the Empire and the system proves useless they can reform and have a native Roman army again.
 
Sounda like the rot and decay of the army that occurred post Basil II OTL is occurring now. Hopefully once another crisis hits the Empire and the system proves useless they can reform and have a native Roman army again.
I think it's best to compare the Roman Empire to a Meat Pie that is about to be sliced up by the region powers for dinner.
Although I am most curious to see how Turkish culture has and will develop without Islam.
 
Wouldn't this mean the Gothic Kingdom will become a prime target of plunder and conquest by the Varangians or whatever there west european counterparts are called.
Yep. Good thing the kingdom isn’t internally divided with locals resenting the central government after a couple centuries of division and neglect huh?



Sounda like the rot and decay of the army that occurred post Basil II OTL is occurring now. Hopefully once another crisis hits the Empire and the system proves useless they can reform and have a native Roman army again.
Basically yes. Though really it had set in earlier in the Makedon dynasty, Basil I passed multiple laws trying to stop the process (unsuccessfully) IIRC. Basil just managed to make it still work.
 
There were no theme armies, no mercenaries at all really. Good thing Italy was completely defended on three sides by sea and to the north by the friendly Frankish Empire. What’s that, in a hundred and fifty years the Franks are going to not be so friendly anymore? Well, that can’t be good. Sure hope Italy doesn’t fold like a wet bag when that happens.
Rich and weak, what could possibly go wrong? In that state I'm surprised it takes as long for someone to invade, why not some enterprising adventurers?
 
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