The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

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?
There are local garrisons, as well as marines who serve on ships going into and out of Italian cities plus militias. The pope also maintains a force as a guard, and Italy does have decent fortifications around its cities. All together no one has gotten a solid plan to actually invade yet. That's not to say the Franks invading is going to be the first time Italy is going to be attacked/raided. We just haven't gotten to that point yet. The Vikings OTL raiding Italy in the 860s, and that's when Constantine VI comes to power. ITTL's Vikings aren't going to reach the peninsula for a while longer, as Italy is still far stronger than it was OTL during this time period, but they'll be showing up soon enough.
 
There are local garrisons, as well as marines who serve on ships going into and out of Italian cities plus militias. The pope also maintains a force as a guard, and Italy does have decent fortifications around its cities. All together no one has gotten a solid plan to actually invade yet. That's not to say the Franks invading is going to be the first time Italy is going to be attacked/raided. We just haven't gotten to that point yet.
Will the upcoming invasion lead to the Pope crowning the invading monarch as "Holy Roman Emperor"?
 
Part 37: The Second Pax Romana
Part XXXVII: The Second Pax Romana​

There are three periods that historians look back on and call the Pax Romanas. From Octavianus to Antoninus, from Leo V to John II, and from Manuel II to Andronikos III. Each period was marked by general peace across the known world, while Rome was supreme in its power compared to its neighbors, and ruled by Emperors who were not expansionist. Trajan excepted of course. Each period was marked by increased economic productivity, general increases in wealth (though as noted, much was concentrated in the hands of the already wealthy elites), and an interest in arts and learning.

I will start by noting, I have perhaps been giving Constantine VI too little credit, because in Constantinople he actually did a number of things. To begin with, he began a full remodel of the Hagia Sophia. The building was now 300 years old and had often been neglected during times of crisis and monetary shortfall. That was no longer the case and the Emperor felt the great church’s decorations needed updating and repair. The rework began in 865, and would last for the next twelve years. Longer than the initial construction of the great basilica. In addition to the repairs and reworks done to the building Constantine also commissioned a number of paintings that would decorate the redone building. Mostly these were just retouches on the existing works, but large numbers were entirely new, including a massive gallery featuring portraits of all the saints, leading up to a large illustration covering an entire wall of the Apostles, Mary, and above them all Christ and God the Father. Additionally, golden statues were erected bearing famous scenes from the Bible, as well as from the Torah.

As for what scenes were depicted, and what the paintings and statues looked like? We don’t knew beyond these descritpions. Because when Manuel’s Council ratified the doctrine of iconoatheism they were all destroyed. Today the room has been redesigned, with scenes from one of the four seasons upon each wall, and a stylized depiction of the Gates of Heaven painted upon the ceiling.

In conjunction with this project Constantine began a major expansion to the University of Constantinople. The ancient facility nearly doubled in size over the next eight years. In addition to the already existing 31 chairs nineteen more were added, with a focus on mathematics and Aristotelian philosophy. Interestingly, we can pinpoint this expansion to the adoption of Indian numerals by the Roman court. These are the numbers we still use today of course, and had been adopted in the East already when trading with the Orient, and had slowly drifted West. The Church in Rome had officially adopted the numerals for their own use in 832, and the Imperial Court seems to have begun using them about a decade after that.

But the adoption was ad hoc. The majority of the populace didn’t know the system, but in 870 Constantine issued an order that from now on Indian numerals were to be used for all government business. The chaos from the switchover lasted a few years, but soon bureaucrats were being trained who had used the new system for virtually all their lives.

Three of the chairs were also reserved for military training. Officers looking to serve in the Imperial army were expected to attend classes where they studied the history of warfare, with emphasis on the campaigns of Alexander and the Caesars. This I should also note is the flip-side of the Tagmata’s decline. While generally weakened over the course of the coming century the army did retain one key advantage, it had a core of highly trained and competent officers. Some of these officers would return to their home provinces, but those who didn’t already have posts in the provinces stayed in the Tagmata, where the pay was good and the duty was easy. If nothing else then the Tagmata retained a core of the best trained officers in the Empire.

Finally, the Emperor turned his eye toward a long-neglected project. The Aqueduct of Valens had long stood damaged and ignored, but Constantine ordered it repaired for two reasons. First, supplying the city with fresh water was always important, and the cisterns could not be expected to always be full. Second, the destroyed Aqueduct was a weakness of the city’s defenses. Andronikos had snuck into the city through the system, and another enemy could do the same, regardless of how many guards might be posted.

The repairs lasted until 890, more due to lack of funds because of the Emperor’s other projects than significant difficulty, but when they were finished fresh water flowed into the city once again.

Construction and education were not the only ongoing events however. For in 880 the bishop of Antioch published the first volume of his eventual twelve book epic poem the Constantinius, a clear follow-up to the poems of the ancients but framed in a Christian outlook rather than a pagan one. The poem follows the life of Constantine as he is converted to Christianity early in life and sets out to change the Empire he is destined to rule so that his own faith can be instituted across the Empire. Its not a particularly accurate version of Constantine’s life; for example the Emperor Maxentius is changed to be one of the key proponents behind the Great Persecution, while Constantius is held up as the only man to refuse its implementation, and is forced to stand firm against the attacks on him from his three co-rulers; but it is certainly an entertaining read, and anyone interested in the history of literature in Europe should do so at least once.

And for those of you interested in plays, yes those are coming. But it will have to wait until Alexios. Because there is one series of events during Constantine’s reign we need to shift our focus toward.

Those of you who have been waiting patientiy for our talk of events in Italy, your patience is now rewarded. I hear all of you ask, how could there be peace after what happened in Italy in the 870s. Which I’m going to go into now because as I said there are two major black marks on the Second Pax Romana. So we are returning to the first of those, the Varangians.

You will recall there are two geographic areas that the Varangians emerged from. The Notos Varangians, who we’ve already introduced came down the rivers flowing into the Black Sea and we know as the Rus. They will be a nuisance going forward, but it is not them we now need to focus on. But rather the Boreus Varangians, and in particular the Danes. Now those of you familiar with history are already aware that by 875 the Danes had invaded Brittani. They conquered the northern kingdom quickly, and then used it as a base to invade the south. But while large groups of Danes were trying to conquer a new homeland other were simply up for plundering. The northern Frankish Coast was a regular target, but as time went on the Danish fleets began venturing further afield. In the 860s they began making regular raids on the Goths.

Mostly these were initially aimed at Asturi and Lusitani on the West Coast. But as the raids progressed the Danes grew bolder, until in 865 a fleet penetrated the Straight and sacked towns along the Eastern Coast. They also began raiding the African coast, but found the local Roman armies to be a far greater opposition force than they would like, and so pulled back.

But the lure of Roman gold was strong, and while Africa was militarized a second target wasn’t, Italy. Italy was rich, its cities were focused on the coast, and unlike in Africa there was no field army. The Danes gathered under a warlord named Aric Ragnarson gathered fifty ships and penetrated the Straights, and sailed straight for Italy. They avoided detection until arriving near Ostia. The raiders landed and looted the country-side, then learned just how close they were to the near mythical city of Rome, and all the gold the Pope had inside. The fleet sailed up the Tiber, and landed just south of the city. On August 2, 870 Aric led his men against what was once the greatest city in the world.

Rome as I’ve said was a shadow of its former self. The population had plummeted to less than twenty thousand, but as the Varangians approached the populace in the surrounding countryside fled behind the walls. These were the Vitelian Walls, constructed by Pope Vitellius I in the early 700s. They had been built on the remnants of the Aurelian Walls, largely destroyed by the Lombards and the Goths centuries before. The walls had however been extended to also defend the Basilica of Saint Peter upon the Vatican.

While not up to Aurelian’s standards Vitelians walls were still a formidable barrier, and upon seeing them Aric famously despaired of fighting Roman power. How could anyone overcome such a defensive obstacle? He couldn’t give up however, and so the Danes began probing at the defenses. The attacks were unable to penetrate the defenses however, and Aric was forced to retreat after a week of inconclusive fighting, leaving five hundred men dead on the field. His fleet retreated, but as they exited the Tiber the force was set upon by the fleet of Syracuse and the fleet of Naples. A brief skirmish ensued, but the smaller Danish longships were unable to overcome the larger vessels of the Italians. Sixteen longships were destroyed and the rest were scattered.

Aric returned to his homeland in defeat, though not without significant plunder. This plunder would be a key in the far larger attack Aric would organize a decade later.

In the aftermath of Aric’s raid however towns began building their own, smaller, walls and organizing additional militia forces, as well as requesting Imperial garrisons be put in place. The Emperor refused. Small scale attacks, even on Italy, didn’t merit an Imperial response.

While this angered the Italian population it also wasn’t exactly surprising. So instead the great cities strengthened their defenses more, and readied forces that could hold out until Imperial reinforcements could arrive should serious attacks begin.

And those attacks did come. Over the next several years Danish raiders repeatedly struck the Western Coast of Italy, as well as Sicily and carried off looted wealth. But the populace could retreat into the fortified towns and cities and wait out the attacks. Additionally, ransoms were paid to free captives. These were paid into as an offering given to the Church which soon developed a pattern of sending men to negotiate with raiders, offering to pay them to go away. This normally amounted to a few gold coins per raider. In cases where the Danes refused and captured loot and captives the gold would be paid to get the captives released. Since the gold was easier to carry on the long trip back to the North warlords usually accepted.

And if no raids came to that part of Italy the money was put toward Church causes.

In May 879 though, Aric returned. This time not with fifty ships, but five hundred. And with him were nearly twenty-thousand warriors. Almost none of them would escape alive.

Aric was determined to sack Rome, and loot the city mythical city that was still often thought of in the West as one of the preeminent cities in the world, even as its status within the Empire it had founded had declined precipitously, until only the pope kept the city as anything more than a minor Italian backwater. That said, the city was still rich due to the pope living there, and it was still the recipient of the wealth of Campania, and the primary point of route between southern and northern Italy for travel and trade overland.

Since the earlier raid the pope had maintained a stronger garrison for the city of Rome, of about two thousand men, along with a militia force of about six thousand. These men were mostly volunteers who drilled once a month, when they felt like it, but they could at least man the walls which was all they really needed to do anyway. Once again, the raiders landed their ships south of the city and swarmed out to pillage the countryside. Farmers fled to safety inside the Roman walls, and the city sent messengers north and south to call for help.

The plan was simply to hide behind the Vitelian walls and wait for either the attackers to leave, or for help to arrive. But that plan was strained when it became clear just how huge the attacking force was. The Danes set about construction of siege weapons, and made it quite clear that they were there to stay. The pope sent out emissaries trying to bribe the Danes to leave, but these offers were refused, as the pope could not offer enough treasure to satisfy them.

Ditches were dug around the city, and catapults and mangonels were put into place to bombard Rome, while the ground before the walls was flattened to allow the siege towers forward. On June 7 the Danes made a massive effort against the city. This attack was repelled with heavy losses. During this fighting the pope himself grabbed a spear and heroically led the defense of one of the cities gates after Danish forces succeeded in achieving a foothold on the nearby wall. If you are ever in Rome you can see the famous painting by the Frankian artist Gabriel Couture depicting the pope in battle. Its probably a load of nonsense, but the painting itself is amazing so you should go see it if you are ever in the Eternal City.

Over the course of June the Danes tried twice more to take the city, but each time were thrown back by the defenders. But on the second of July the Danish forces successfully overran the Porta Sanctus Pancratti, and then the entire city west of the Tiber, including the Vatican. In the subsequent destruction the basilica of Saint Peter was burned, the holy relics destroyed, and the treasures looted. The tomb of Saint Peter himself was wrecked. Aric is said to have sworn an oath to sacrifice pope in his own basilica to avenge Christian destruction of pagan sites in northern Europe. In desperation the defenders retreated, tearing down the bridges behind them to prevent the Danes crossing. This was of little matter to the raiders however, who brought their ships up and prepared to sack the entire city. Their initial strikes against the Seven Hills however were thrown back.

Word of the siege meanwhile had flown up and down the Italian peninsula, and then on to Constantinople, where Constantine did actually respond pretty quickly. He ordered the Tagmata to gather at the capital and ready themselves to travel to Italy. He then sent messengers out to Moesia, Anatolia, and Greece ordering soldiers to be sent to the Capital. In total Constantine gathered about twenty-five thousand men. The fifteen thousand strong Tagmata and ten thousand infantry. These soldiers were ferried over to Italy on a large fleet of merchant vessels, landing at Tarentum in early-July 879. They gathered more soldiers from southern Italy, and began marching north.

Meanwhile the Imperial fleet had been dispatched and swept around Italy, and successfully blockaded the entrance to the Tiber. The Danes were trapped. Word of the Imperial army’s arrival was greeted with some hesitation by the Danes, who weren’t actually expecting a significant response yet. But as August began the Imperial army emerged on the Via Appia, and the Danes were forced to leave Rome and move south to meet them. Aric led his men personally, while the Romans were led by a eunuch named Paulos.

The two forces met south of Aricia, among a set of hills. The Danes formed into their standard formation of a shieldwall, against which the Romans deployed ten thousand infantry in a phalanx between two hill. Paulos also deployed three thousand cavalry on each flank, on the two hills. They were slightly outnumbered by the Danes with their eighteen thousand remaining men, against this force, and planned to smash through the Roman phalanx and annihilate their army.

As the Danish shield wall advanced on the Roman phalanx this force was held in reserve, while the Danish line was pelted with darts and arrows from the Roman lines. These were returned of course, and soon the two lines were engaged in the a match to try and push through one another’s lines.

Realistically the Danes were the superior force here, and had these two armies been alone they probably would have won the day. But Paulos didn’t have six thousand cavalry. He had fifteen thousand. His nine thousand remaining horsemen were concealed behind the nearby hills, and a signal was sent out for them to move forward. The hidden Roman cavalry, as well as five thousand light infantry, circled behind the Danish shieldwall, and suddenly emerged from hiding, loosing their own darts and arrows into the rear of the Danish line. As the Danes tried to turn to meet this new threat the Roman cavalry lowered their spears and charged. Panic swept through the Danish ranks as they realized the trap, and men began to flee back north. In the subsequent slaughter twelve thousand Danes were killed, and four thousand taken prisoner. Only about two thousand made it back to their boats and fled back down the Tiber.

But as the Tiber’s mouth they were met by the Imperial fleet. In the subsequent naval battle another eighteen hundred Danes were killed. Of the five hundred ships that had set out to sack Rome only eight returned home. The captured Danes were brought back to Constantinople, where they were forced to kneel before the Emperor, who was impressed with their abilities, and ordered them to serve as solders for a term of ten years before they would be allowed to depart the Empire. Thus, quite accidentally, the Pedinoi Tagma was established. This would be the first proper infantry segment of the Tagmata. The Danes who initially had been conscripted would largely remain in Imperial service the rest of their lives, passing positions on to their children when these men converted to Christianity over the coming years, and settled inside the Empire.

But far more famously, the Pedinoi Tagma would draw in soldiers from across the north, particularly the Rus who eventually put limitations on the number of men who could travel south to seek Imperial service. The Pedinoi Tagma would be a key part of the later Imperial army, though it was sadly destroyed at Tanais along with the rest of the Tagmata when the Emperor Nikephorus III, last of his dynasty, marched out to meet his doom.

Back in Italy meanwhile the citizens of Rome tried to pick up the pieces of their devastated city. Raids would continue, but nothing of similar scale would ever be attempted again. Invoking full Imperial wrath was not something another Danish leader would attempt. Especially not when the far easier fields of Saxeland were ripe for the taking.

Next time we will be turning south, to focus on the other big problem that cropped up during the second Pax Romana, the Nubians. But moving forward to the 890s requires saying farewell to our current Emperor. So, in 893 Consantine V suffered a stroke and died. He was sixty years old, and had been Emperor for thirty-two years. Constantine V, as I hope I’ve made clear was a complete non-entity during his reign. He did some decent construction work, brought about a revitalization of culture and education in the Empire, and even financed major art projects. But in his actual jobs as ruler he was woefully inadequate. The structural problems that would plague the Empire until Manuel went to work with the executioner’s axe really started in the reign of Constantine, and any hope of nipping the problem in the bud was lost when he just couldn’t be bothered.

The Imperial army was in decline, Imperial finances were in decline, and central authority was in decline.

Frankly, the best thing Constantine did for the Empire was die before a major crisis that couldn’t be solved by pointing a better man at the problem and then hoping it went away happened. His son, Alexios I will turn out to be a far more capable ruler than his father, but sadly will spend his entire reign focused on pressing military issues rather than working on the real problems of the state.
 
question will Rome itself be fully restored as it its ruined temples/buildings and what not rebuilt
 
If Italy has been hardened by constant Viking raids, perhaps the Franks won’t be able to easily roll over them when the time comes.
 
question will Rome itself be fully restored as it its ruined temples/buildings and what not rebuilt
Not a chance in at least the medium term, and not throughout the plans I have for the TL. The Romans are firmly Christian and have no reason to want the old pagan places rebuilt.
If Italy has been hardened by constant Viking raids, perhaps the Franks won’t be able to easily roll over them when the time comes.
One point of the raid is to demonstrate that Italy needs Imperial forces to be able to swoop in and bail them out of a large force tries to attack. But if Imperial forces are...say completely tied down trying desperately to stop a group of invaders from completely overrunning the East yet again...
 
One point of the raid is to demonstrate that Italy needs Imperial forces to be able to swoop in and bail them out of a large force tries to attack. But if Imperial forces are...say completely tied down trying desperately to stop a group of invaders from completely overrunning the East yet again...
Which will be the upcoming Turks and Nubians.
Just wondering but will you create a new map of the Second Pax Romana?
 
Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, I’m in the middle of moving and haven’t had time to write.

Damn, the Vikings are ranging far TTL. How are the raids on England and the Franks, will there be a siege of Paris?
It’s similar to the OTL raids, but the Straits are nowhere nearly as heavily patrolled due to a lack of conflict in the Mediterranean and Roman attention ever East and North.


Which will be the upcoming Turks and Nubians.
Just wondering but will you create a new map of the Second Pax Romana?
I will be posting one at the end of the reign of Alexios II, which will be in about one hundred years and will be the next set of bigger picture updates. As of now things haven’t changed that much particularly in the Roman world. Biggest points are that Khorasan is in the middle of conquering the other breakaway Persian states, the Khazars have collapsed, and the Franks are further East.
 
It’s similar to the OTL raids, but the Straits are nowhere nearly as heavily patrolled due to a lack of conflict in the Mediterranean and Roman attention ever East and North.
I'm assuming the easier access and relatively higher levels of wealth (especially in Italy) will make the Mediterranean a much more attractive raiding target than OTL.
 
though it was sadly destroyed at Tanais along with the rest of the Tagmata when the Emperor Nikephorus III, last of his dynasty, marched out to meet his doom.
Given that Nikephoros means bringer of victories it’s so ironic that he’ll lead the Romans to what I assume will be their greatest defeat ever. Will this be Cannae or Adrianople level? Or worse?
 
Given that Nikephoros means bringer of victories it’s so ironic that he’ll lead the Romans to what I assume will be their greatest defeat ever. Will this be Cannae or Adrianople level? Or worse?
Think Cannae more than Adrianople.

Not least because the people he loses to are a hell of a lot better than the Goths at sieges. Though tbf to him, it really wasn’t a battle he wanted to fight in a war he didn’t start.
 
I wonder do they still retain the knowledge base from the old roman empire and if so can they improve upon old roman Architecture and engineering
 
Part 38: The First Nubian War I
Part XXXVIII: The First Nubian War I​

The oldest son of Constantine VI was crowned Alexios I in 893, ushering in one of the few effective Emperors of this period. Not in terms of civil affairs, but Alexios did at least have a talent for military campaigns, which was good considering he would spend most of his life on campaign.

Alexios was 32 when Constantine died, and while he was married he had no children. As he wouldn’t have any for many years this is also a good time to introduce Alexios’s sole sibling, a sister named Anastasia who was married to the Vicar of Pontus, John. We will of course have cause to deal with the two of them later.

Alexios is remembered today, to the extent Emperors of this period are remembered, as a rugged soldier with contempt for civilian life and who would go out again and again to fight in battles that seemingly had no purpose, all in pursuit of a decisive victory that never really came. Yet, looking at Alexios’s early life this characterization appears to be ridiculous. Alexios was fond of drinking, feasting, and games just as much as his father and grandfather, he had never served in the army, and indeed had barely been in an army camp.

In short Alexios looked to be yet another Emperor who never left the capital.

Before we get to that however Alexios did actually have four years at peace at the beginning of his reign. During this time, he was a firm promoter of the arts, and personally commissioned a series of plays focused on the life of Saint Paul, with the actor specifically chosen to look like the Emperor playing the part of Christ in Paul’s conversion. He also commissioned a number of murals and paintings depicting the lives of his predecessors, focusing on their achievements and projects primarily.

Most famously was a massive tapestry woven showing every Emperor since Manuel, sitting arrayed around a golden cross representing Christ, with empty seats stretching into the background as far as the eye could see. The message was clear, the dynasty were the ordained representatives of God on Earth, and only they could serve in that capacity. The tapestry was allowed to survive the great destruction of icons, and currently sits on display in the old Imperial palace in Rome, where it has been since the Caesarii.

But we must leave Alexios’s cultural pursuits to look south.

Nubia you will recall had once been divided in three kingdoms: Alodia, Markuria, and Nobata. Nobata had been conquered many years ago by now, but Alodia and Markuria had remained intact, equally strong and prosperous. But by 890 things had changed. The king of Alodia died without an heir in the 870s, and the Markurian King who was closely related to the king of Alodia marched his army in.

They occupied the capital and declared that the two kingdoms were unified as the single Kingdom of Markuria. A short revolt broke out by independent-minded nobles, but this was crushed by the Markurian army, helped along by the significant number of local nobles who didn’t mind the Markurian King ruling over their homeland as well. In 885 the rebel army had been defeated, and many of its leaders fled north to Roman Egypt. The local governor had no interest in conflict with Markuria, and so he sent them all back south.

This decision was ultimately pointless, and possibly removed a key Roman trump card.

In 890 the old king, Abraham, died and his nephew Simeon inherited. Simeon was an aggressive young man, who had served in his predecessor’s army from his youth. He was a popular officer among the upper core of the army, but had little interest in or connections with his soldiers. He did however pay them well, and so long as this was true he would be firmly entrenched in his position.

Simeon knew he wanted to expand, and had three options. The first was to move south, conquering the dying Aksumite Empire and securing a position as the great southern neighbor of Rome. The second was to cross the Red Sea and conquer southern Arabia, Arabia Felix in particular. Holding this region would have given Markuria a solid revenue stream as control of the Red Sea would let them levy taxes on the lucrative Roman trade routes to Indi. Given the local kingdom’s piracy on Roman trade this route would also have had the benefit of local allies in the Hejaz, and likely money sent from Constantinople to assist in the campaign.

Instead however Simeon, chose the third option. He looked not toward the relatively easy conquests to the East or South, but North. Roman Egypt was still the greatest center of wealth in the known world, and while it was heavily garrisoned those soldiers were concentrated in the north, as were the Roman fortresses.

In the south only small garrisons were in place. Simeon believed that the Romans were now a paper tiger, a not entirely inaccurate view as the rot of the Imperial army was well underway by now. Furthermore, he believed that a rapid campaign up the Nile could secure all of Thebais and Arcadia before an Imperial reaction could be dispatched. From there the Emperor, a weak and untested boy, would have to either send a large army to reinforce Egypt, and risk either a rebellious general or come himself.

In either case Simeon was confident he would be victorious. As noted, Alexios had never left Constantinople, and so the odds of him coming were slim. If he dispatched a general Simeon believed that man would be easily persuaded to claim the purple for himself. If Alexios did come, then he was completely inexperienced and would likely be easily defeated in the field.

Simeon was wrong on both counts. First, Alexios might have been untested, but he turned out to be made of far sterner stuff than anyone, himself included, had ever guessed. Second, the days of Roman usurpations were long over, for now at least. The Thalassans had been in place for 250 years, and the dynasty’s legitimacy was firmly entrenched in the mind of every Roman. Furthermore, due to Thalassan propaganda the citizens viewed them as an extension of the prior Justinian dynasty, which extended their heritage a further century. The last civil war was now over a century in the past as well.

Literally no one remembered when the Thalassans weren’t in power. None of them had even known someone who remembered the time before the Thalassans. The dynasty was the ruling force within the Empire, and this was viewed as perfectly natural by their subjects. Overthrowing them would have been unthinkable. That isn’t to say that everyone was perfectly loyal to the Thalassan dynasty, nor that everyone would work for the good of the ruler. Just that those who might have tried to take the purple in previous centuries instead amassed power and wealth inside the Empire as well.

This system worked fairly well to keep mutinies down. All of the strategoi and generals were at the top of the ladder within the Empire, equal to one another, and subservient only to the Emperor. So long as each other man was also subservient to the Emperor none wanted to upset the balance of power too much. Though, as we will see when the opportunity came to attain a special place within the dynasty many would try to grab it. But they would do so still within the existing Thalassan power structure.

None of this was apparent however, in on March 22, 897 Simeon’s army marched into southern Egypt, and began pushing north. They reached the city of Syene rapidly and Simeon sent a demand for surrender. The local leaders were completely shocked. Southern Egypt had never been attacked in entire history of the Empire. The city had no defenses at all, and indeed none of southern Egypt was defended. There were small scattered garrisons, but they had never seen action. Even small bandit raids were virtually unknown in this part of Egypt. The city gave up without a fight less than a day after Simeon arrived. It was a harbinger of what was to come. The strategos of Thebais took one look at the southern army and fled north, first to Arcadia, and then to Aegyptus.

No Roman response arrived by the end of the year, and Simeon occupied all of Thebais and Arcadia by the end of the year. The thematic armies either withdrew north with their commanders, or switched sides. Simeon settled his army into Memphis to organize his new conquests. The strategos of Aegyptus sent messages to Constantinople for help, and began gathering his own army. The garrisons of northern Egypt were far stronger than the south, and was able to gather an army of fifteen thousand. This force was distributed to the garrisons in place along the Nile, with the goal of holding out until Imperial help arrived.

Alexios dispatched his Domestic south with ten thousand of the Tagmata, while the Emperor remained in the capital. His intention was likely to end the war in a quick victory, take the credit, and hopefully reign in peace. It was not to be. Instead the Domestic led his men into an ambush the next April, and four thousand Romans were killed, including the Domestic himself.

Deeply embarrassed by the defeat Alexios raised more men and sailed for Alexandria where he could oversee, but not execute, the campaign. His replacement commander did no better however, and in June he was also killed, and the Markurians had advanced as far north as Babylon by August. This left all of southern Egypt under foreign control. The grain supply plummeted, and Alexios was forced to send orders back to Constantinople that the grain dole be slashed. First by a third, and by the end of the war by nearly three-quarters.

The early defeats of this round of the Nubian Wars were enough to make Alexios take a drastic step, he would leave the comfort of Alexandria and lead the army personally. He hired another four thousand Arab fighters, and departed Alexandria at the head of fifteen thousand men, marching south and picking up small contingents of soldiers along the way. Arriving outside Babylon in late August a short and indecisive battle was fought, with neither side managing a decisive victry. In this fight about six hundred Romans were killed to about three hundred Markurians. Believing that remaining would result in too many casualties Simeon abandoned the siege and retreated south, back into Arcadia, setting up a headquarters at Memphis.

Believing victory was his for the taking Alexios pursued, and the two armies again met near the capital of Arcadia. This battle was a harder fought affair. Taking place on the West bank of the Nile the two armies used the river to guard on flank. The Romans posted the Arabs on their left flank, while Abyssinian mercenaries held the Markurian right. The battle opened with a clash of light cavalry, the Roman horse were more numerous but less experienced, and were ultimately pushed back into the safety of their light infantry. As the battle continued the sun rose higher, and the temperature rose with it. The Roman soldiers, more heavily armored than their counterparts, grew hot in the sun and began suffering the effects as the day wore on. By mid-afternoon soldiers were too exhausted to continue, and realizing what was happening Alexios’s subordinate commanders began ordering a retreat. The Emperor gave his assent, and the Roman army withdrew from the field. Twenty-five hundred Romans were killed to about fifteen hundred Markurians.

Alexios withdrew back to Babylon to lick his wounds and prepare for the next round. Simeon, realizing this might not be as easy as he had hoped however sent an envoy suggesting peace terms. The Romans would recognize Markurian control over Upper Egypt, and in exchange the king would pay half of the region’s taxes to the Romans for the next twenty years. Alexios soundly rejected any such deal. Peace would only come after a Roman victory. He would spend the rest of his life chasing it.
 
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Part XXXVIII: The First Nubian Wars I​
Snip
And so Alexios takes the route of a warrior king and spends the rest of his life chasing victory in Egypt is seems. The real question to me is how much of the treasury is lost? because I would imagine that this war will be in the Roman's favour considering you mentioned that the Markurians only followed Simeon because he had money to pay them and the Romans should have a lot more money than the Markurians. Which of course will course problems down the line as the Roman empire slowly rots in decay.
 
I wonder do they still retain the knowledge base from the old roman empire and if so can they improve upon old roman Architecture and engineering
Somewhat. The Romans are still using concrete for instance, and both the Franks and Goths have gotten their hands on the stuff at this point too (or at least the materials through trade). They are capable of maintaining most of what the older Romans built, though money is sometimes an issue (which it also was in the old Empire). Newer buildings do tend to be smaller and less ornate.

The real question to me is how much of the treasury is lost?
A not insignificant amount is going to be spent on Alexios's unending war. But that said, it does mean holding Egypt and it could be argued any expense in such a venture should pay for itself in the long run. So long as Alexios doesn't wait too long to have an heir the Empire should be fine in the aftermath.
 
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