The Eternal Empire: Emperor Maurice dies before being overthrown

Manual II is as big a focus here as Justinian is in the OTL Byzantine history podcast.

...Does he get an entire update for his impact IU? (And he also seems similiar in being a figure of extreme competence and being the sort of apogee of the empire of the period like Basil II).
Manual II is as big a focus here as Justinian is in the OTL Byzantine history podcast.

...Does he get an entire update for his impact IU? (And he also seems similiar in being a figure of extreme competence and being the sort of apogee of the empire of the period like Basil II).
In terms of Imperial competence, and power yeah he's the apogee. The Empire is definitely at its height compared to its neighbors. Like Augustus and other great Emperors though Manuel's great advantage lay in an ability to pick out people who were both good at their jobs and loyal. He's a people person and a really good one at his core, while not being incompetent in other areas. Had he not had Maria, Abbasios, Gregorios, and now his children, he never would have accomplished much. Even now if his kids were, say Constantius II and his family things would probably go south even now as Manuel enters his long withdrawal. But (largely thanks to Maria), his kids aren't sociopathic assholes who hate one another. They're on good terms, friendly, and willing to work together. The late Thalassans will more or less be continuing on from this trend. Right up until their not and the whole thing falls apart.
Are most "Armenians" ITTL what we'd call Georgians or are most Armenians ITTL still what we'd call Armenians?
Eh, I'm not really sure the distinction really exists at this point to draw a hard line between them.

What is its closest OTL equivalent location-wise?
I don't have a specific location picked out yet. Somewhere along the coastline, since quick Black Sea communication to the West is super important to the organization of the Exarchs.
Did the Byzantium Empire in this time line reintroduce Bathing house to cities not just for nobles but also for commoners, and also better aqueducts? I hope they did considering the big Deference in Time lines.
I have another question actually, since the Rhomania ITTL never went through the same decline that it did IOTL, are the sea walls closer in quality of defenses as Theodoros Walls compared to OTL? I'm not asking exactly equal since Theodoros Walls are amongst the greatest defenses for a city ever but perhaps closer compared to OTL due to the general higher quality of material, finances and knowledge base that Rhomania ITTL has due to it keeping the entirety of the easter half outside of a century or so of the lost provinces of Syria and Palestine and regaining the Italian peninsula.
I have another question actually, since the Rhomania ITTL never went through the same decline that it did IOTL, are the sea walls closer in quality of defenses as Theodoros Walls compared to OTL? I'm not asking exactly equal since Theodoros Walls are amongst the greatest defenses for a city ever but perhaps closer compared to OTL due to the general higher quality of material, finances and knowledge base that Rhomania ITTL has due to it keeping the entirety of the easter half outside of a century or so of the lost provinces of Syria and Palestine and regaining the Italian peninsula.
Not really. While the money and knowhow would be there what's lacking is a reason. There's no naval threat that would require such defenses, and never really has been. Constantinople has only been threatened twice since the Avars fell, by the Rus and the Pechenegs. Of those the Rus are...friendly isn't the right word, but certainly not actively hostile. The Pechenegs meanwhile don't use ships.
never went away or just forgotten due to all the wars or disrepair....
I mean that they never stopped being used. A lot of the public baths are kind of run down at this point because basically nothing has been spent on keeping them up them for fifty years (especially in the capital), but that's because everyone was busy dealing with stuff elsewhere, and then catching up on more important projects that needed funding badly. But they are still operational.
Part 68: The Exarchs
Part LXVIII: The Exarchs​

We’ve seen exarchs before. Both Africa and Italy had once been exarchates, to reinforce the Roman control of the region. The exarchate of Ravenna had of course been functionally ended when the Lombards were defeated, even if the title had technically lasted a while longer. Africa’s exarch had survived longer, but was dissolved completely when its holder was on the losing side of a civil war.

Both of those are almost always forgotten however when compared to the exarchates of Manuel, which will last for most of the next two hundred years. And after they were also dissolved by Julius II his subsequent return to the diocese was on mostly the same lines as Manuel’s borders. Indeed, even to the modern day many of the internal divisions of Imperial administration rely on the exarchates of Manuel II.

The first question to address though, is why the positions were created. The first and most obvious reason was that Manuel was increasingly withdrawing from Imperial life. He will maintain strict control over the law, the military, and administration, but these will be conducted almost entirely through intermediaries for the remainder of his life. These intermediaries were the exarchs.

Beyond the need to delegate however Manuel’s long years on campaign had convinced him that the theme system was hopelessly outdated. The thematic armies had been an answer to a very specific problem, the annual Arab raids while the First Caliphate ruled Syria and the Empire had too few soldiers and too little cash to go on the offensive. The idea had been to let the enemy penetrate Roman defenses, then ambush them while they left and recapture much of the plunder. This had worked, and indeed had worked very well. But the Caliphate was gone.

The armies were too scattered and divided to present a solid front to attack, particularly against powerful foes like the Turks, and…well really just the Turks. The Pechengs were powerful, but they were no match for a concentrated Roman army. The Bulgars were strong and unified, but they are constantly distracted by endless fighting with pagans to their north, and the occasional bit of warfare on the now divided, and hence weak, Franks.

Markuria was powerful in its turn, but any war against that kingdom would have to be fought on a very specific front, and along a route easily controlled by the Romans, the Nile. The Turks though were different. They had already overrun Anatolia and Mesopotamia once, and indeed still held the latter. And that was when their Empire was newly formed, as their hold on Persia solidified Manuel could only see trouble coming from that direction, could a new and resurgent Persia once again be an unsolvable problem for the Roman East?

As we know the answer turned out to be…no not really. There will of course be periods of intense fighting along the Syrian border, but much like the Bulgars the Turks are eternally distracted by wars on their other border. In this case in India and on the steppe. But in large part credit for the general peace in the East needs to be given to the strong Imperial forces in the area, with a combined seventy-thousand men in Syria and Armenia by the time the Huns blow through the region.

The first exarchate created though was in 1059, when Manuel created the Exarchate of Italy, including all of Sicily, as well as all of southern Italy, to the end of Latium. This was mostly just an administrative post, combining the taxation efforts in the most economically prosperous areas of the peninsula. Venice was also included as the city had more in common with the southern merchant cities than the more militarized north. We’ll talk a lot more about the Italian exarchate in future of course, as the constant need to balance the interests of the Emperor, the Exarch, and the wealthy merchants will heavily inform Imperial governance after the 1240s.

He then added the Exarchate of Ravenna, named for the old military posting. But, the name is something of a misnomer. The actual capital was at Mediolanium, and Ravenna itself would eventually shift into the Exarchate of Italy as the priorities of the merchant city diverged from the heavily fortified northern command. Ravenna was run by a military officer on five-year terms. While a commander could hold more than one exarchate throughout his life he could never hold the same one more than twice, and not with less than a ten year break. Since the military staff were attached to the office, and were usually locals, rather than the person, who never was, Manuel aimed to prevent long-term loyalties forming that might incite rebellion. While he was correct and no military exarch was able to secure support for a revolt this did have the side effect of leaving the Exarchate of Ravenna heavily influenced by their southern neighbor.

When the Julius II put the shattered Empire back together, he will be leading the army of Ravenna and the fleet of Italy.

The second Exarchate was in Syria, and was granted to the Emperor’s second son Matthios. He was appointed Strategos of Syria in 1058 on the death of the childless office holder, marrying the man’s niece, who had no siblings, to quell muttering about Imperial consolidation. Matthios was little interested in administration, but he was a talented and capable officer. This was needed on the tenuous Eastern border. The office itself was created in 1062, and included more or less the entire old Diocese of the East, including Palaestina.

The third Exarchate was formed in Egypt, and was not held by one man but two. One would handle the civil affairs of the region, while the second handled Egypt’s defenses. These were primarily erected along the Nile and Egypt maintained a significant fleet that patrolled the river. As with all the temporary Exarchates Egypt will fall under the influence of one of the permanent offices, in this case the Exarch of Syria.

Fourth was the Exarchate of Africa, centered around Carthage, but extending both to the border with Egypt in the East, and to Tingi in the West. Africa was another temporary posting, and like Ravenna will fall under the influence of the Italian Exarch as time goes on.

Fifth was the Exarchate of Armenia, created initially as a temporary position the title will eventually be passed to Manuel, son of the current Emperor. In doing so the border of Armenia permanently shifted Eastward, leaving all of the old Theme of Paphlagonia to Anatolia, including the key cities of Theodosiopolis and Trapezous. Armenia would instead consist of essentially all of the Caucuses, and would control the mountain passes into the Anatolian heartland of the Empire. The headquarters would be placed at Manueliopolis, a new city founded on the Black Sea coast. The creation of the Exarchate of Armenia begins the decline in relevance of Armenia to our narrative. For centuries now the region has been home to many of the best soldiers of the Empire, but as the mass infantry armies supported by a core of powerful heavy cavalry made up of Greeks from Anatolia or Greece itself Armenians will stay at home more and more often. It will not be until the discovery of picis in the region to compete with Arabian sources that Armenia will undergo a major reemergence on the Imperial stage.

Last is of course the Exarchate of Spania, given to Manuel’s youngest child George in 1075. Spania is a topic there is little to talk about, as it was always the black sheep in Manuel’s empire, and will ultimately be held for only about two hundred years. When the Thalassans fall George’s descendants will permanently break away from Roman control, and independent Spania will emerge. For now however, Spania consists only of the Baetica, as the other regions of Spain retained their local power bases, and only some control could be exercised on them. Any hopes for a reunited Gothic kingdom arising in the future likely ended here.

To ensure loyalty two key points were used. First, the exarchs were required to spend six months of each year in the capital, with the possibility of exceptions for emergencies. These were normally the winter months, as summer was expected to be spent vigilantly watching the border and keeping the army in shape. Second, the exarch’s children, and sometimes their spouse, would remain in the capital all year round. The children were well-provided out of the Imperial treasury, and received top-rate educations from only the finest private tutors. But the underlying point was clear, the Emperor has your family, and he can do away with them if you make trouble. This was not an issue during Manuel’s reign, nor in Leo’s, but as might be imagined it will be a major source of tension in future.

To defend the exarchates the army was completely reorganized. While elements of the thematic armies were retained for garrison and fortress defense the key element of the army going forward would be the tagma, not to be confused with the Imperial Tagmata even though the names were identical. The latter also was reorganized, but we will cover that in a moment.

Each tagma was made up of twelve Soma each of five hundred men. Of these seven would be pikemen, three would be crossbowmen and two would be light cavalry. The total number of men were six thousand, in deliberate mimicry of the legions of a millennium before. In theory at least. In truth the actual organization of the tagma varied with region. In Moesia the Magyar provided twice the number of light cavalry, as well as a soma of heavy cavalry while the infantry were reduced in number. In Armenia, an additional Soma of crossbowmen replaced one Soma of light cavalry in most cases.

Organization also drifted during the two centuries the formation as in use.

Critical to understanding the tagmas however is that they were, by design, an almost purely defensive force. The soldiers were supposed to hold their ground, and let the crossbowmen inflict heavy casualties on the lightly armored steppe warriors, while the pikemen kept them safe. The block of men was extremely unwieldy, and relied heavily on their comrades staying in position. As well will see, a surrounded tagma was a doomed tagma. The tagmas were in turn often organized into full field armies, for the first time since Theodosius III.

Manuel formed four official field armies which he posted in what he deemed the most important regions of the Empire: Ravenna, Egypt, Syria, and Moesia. The armies were spread out in a number of camps in each region, close enough to the border to respond to attack, but far enough away to not fall immediately when attack came. In Egypt that meant Lower Egypt, and in particular the old fortresses around Babylon. In Syria it meant Edessa, with garrison troops holding the border fortresses of Dara and Nisibis. In Ravenna it meant Tuscany. And in Moesia it meant just north of the Hemus mountains.

Additionally, a series of beacons were build from the border to the headquarters of the field armies, and from the headquarters back to Constantinople. The system meant that if the border came under attack the Emperor would know of it within twenty-four hours, and could begin preparing a response if additional soldiers were needed.

A field army was made up of at least four tagmas, sometimes more. In Syria a full nine tagmas were in place, with three more in Armenia. Manuel was deeply concerned about the East after all, and being so far away meant the army in the East might well simply have to hold the border of weeks, or months, before the Emperor could arrive.

Ravenna had the smallest force, only four tagmas, though Italy had a fifth, and Africa had two more. Egypt had the second largest, a full seven tagmas, representing Egypt’s still overriding importance to Imperial policy. Moesia had only five tagmas, but was supplemented both by a single tagma in Dacia and another in Greece, but by the tagmata itself, still headquartered around Constantinople.

The tagmata was the crown jewel of the Imperial army. It had no light cavalry, nor crossbows or pikes. Rather the tagmata, now expanded to twenty-five thousand, was made up of twenty thousand of the heaviest cavalry in Europe. Fully armored in chain from head to toe, and riding horses that by the end of Manuel’s reign were equally well armored these Roman knights were virtually invincible on the field. Arrows, darts, bolts, and swords were useless against the Roman knight. Armed as he was with a lance, mace, sword, and shield there was no finer soldier in all of Europe. For over a hundred years this man ruled the battlefields of Europe. Where he went Turk, Pecheneg, Cuman, Rus, Nubian, and Bulgar fled.

And when his reign ended it did so in a field of fire.

The remaining five thousand men of the tagmata were the Pedinoi, heavy infantry armored just as heavily as their mounted counterpart, but armed with battleaxe, sword, dart, and shield. The main improvement of the Pedinoi during this time period however was not their increased armor, but the provision that each man have a horse. Not to fight on, but to ride to battle on. By mounting all of his soldiers Manuel planned to have the fastest responding Imperial army in history. And he succeeded. The Tagamata could race across the Empire in only a few weeks, resulting in maximum Imperial power presented at any time.

Another key point to remember about the Tagmata, is that it was quite capable of taking apart a full field army of four tagmas if needed. The heavy armor and shield of the pedinoi could withstand crossbow bolts with little significant risk to the men, and they could pin pikemen in position while the heavy cavalry routed their light coutnerparts, and then fell on the flanks and rear of the exposed tagmas. A surrounded tagma was a doomed tagma. Manuel was taking no chances.

And he would need this army, because as the centuries wore on and the Pechenegs declined in power they were rapidly being replaced by another foe from the steppe, the Cumans.

Next time we will cover the First Cuman War, and Manuel’s final years as Emperor.
So, how much was the decision to make field armies defensive and easy for tagmatas to defeat done for political reasons?

A lot I imagine. Since Manuel (and future emperors) seem to think that the Empire will not need to expand much more, defensive armies are all that it's needed for defense.

Strong enough to hold the line and weak enough to be routed against the core tagmata.

And then gunpowder came XD
So, how much was the decision to make field armies defensive and easy for tagmatas to defeat done for political reasons?
Quite a bit. Manuel is confident that the Roman army can thrash any external force that comes against it. Horse archer armies will be picked apart by crossbows, while heavy cavalry based armies can't deal with the phalanx. And infantry based armies can be pinned by the phalanx and then annihilated by cavalry. Overaggression should be avoided since the Romans can outlast their opponents, so long as they don't suffer catastrophic defeats like Dara or OTL Manzikert. For that reason, battles should be fought defensively, and when sufficient Roman numbers are present to be (he hopes overwhelmng). The weakness of course is a heavy cavalry based army that is both almost invulnerable to crossbows (including the horses), and has reliable enough infantry to send against the phalanx without worrying about failure on that front. Hence, the tagmata.
Part 69: The latter 11th century New
Part LXIX: The Later Eleventh Century​

On the death of Maria, Emperor Manuel became increasingly withdrawn from public life. He took mass privately, stopped meeting with petitioners, and sent his oldest son to represent him at public functions. Almost no one saw the Emperor. There was concern at first, but as the years passed and nothing else really seemed to have changed most people accepted this state of affairs and simply carried on.

Taxes were collected, soldiers were paid, mass was held, games were thrown, life went on. One of the payments that began during this time was of the Chalcedon palace, a large estate constructed about five miles outside Chalcedon on newly acquired Imperial land. The complex was a fortress, though one with luxurious furnishings and amenities. An aqueduct brought water, and a new road was build from Chalcedon to the site. Construction began in 1059, and was completed a full decade later in 1070. In 1065 though Manuel had deemed the palace sufficiently complete, and left Constantinople to dwell there for the remainder of his life.

During his self-imposed exile from Constantinople John took over most functions of government, and began to share responsibility with his young son Leo. Once a week the pair would ride to the Chalcedon palace, and remain there for two or three days, while Manuel signed documents that required specifically his approval, made appointments to be carried back, and held councils. By the time the palace was completed in 1070 all of the Exarchs and various other officials were staying at the palace at least a few months of the year.

While the capital remained at Constantinople, the real center of power was now the palace outside Chalcedon. This had two benefits. First, the palace was a very tightly controlled environment. Few were allowed in, fewer still could spend significant time there, and only a small few could remain more than a single day. Not a day and a night, only one day. All other guests had to be out of the gates before sunset. Failing to leave on time resulted in a not inconsiderate fine, which the Emperor waived for all but his wealthiest guests under most circumstances.

During his time here Manuel also began his great History of the Roman Emperors, a selection of men he felt deserved special attention, including virtually every Emperor of both his own dynasty, and the previous; as far back as Justin I. In addition to these men he also wrote extensively of Julius I Caesar and Augustus Caesar. A handful of other names were discussed, including Aurelian whom Manuel argued was a closet Christian aiming to do what Constantine did decades later (a claim with no historical merit). One surprising name is the Emperor Domitian. Now basically a footnote Emperor of a footnote family, Domitian was a figure with whom Manuel shared a sort of imagined kinship.

He wrote a full biography of the ancient Emperor, rehabilitating the reputation of the last Flavian, and demonizing the Senators who first assassinated, and then damned, him. Special scorn was heaped on Nerva and Trajan for conspiring to usurp the rightful Emperor’s throne (a charge Trajan is probably innocent of and Nerva is definitely guilty of). Sadly, in Manuel’s scorn for these figures his son sent orders for Trajan’s column, our only source for much of his reign, to be destroyed.

Pieces survived and were eventually rediscovered in Church archives a few decades ago, but the vast majority is lost. As for what drove Manuel to these conclusions? I have no idea. But it might simply be that one ancient autocrat appealed to his even more autocratic successor. Manuel would leave his work unfinished, but with hundreds of pages of notes and reference material that Leo would use to finish the last volumes. Today most of Manuel’s history survives, as copies were kept in several exarch palaces down the centuries. The original was lost when the Chalcedon palace was completely destroyed in 1248, along with the city it was named for, but the copy of the Caesarii was mostly intact, save only a few decades of prior centuries.

The work will be steadily expanded upon however by future Emperors, until the Chronicles of the Romans spanned almost a full thousand years of Emperors, plus a few others. It is one of the primary sources for this particular series, alongside more modern scholarship.

The 1060s thus passed peacefully, only occasional skirmishes in the East and North disturbing the Third Pax Romana. In 1072 however that period of peace ended. The Pechenegs had been licking their wounds north of the Danube after a series of Roman victories (and rather larger and more significant Rus victories, but this isn’t their series), but now came under pressure from a new nomad group, the Cumans. In August 1071 the Pecheneg khagan met the Cuman khagan in battle somewhere near the Caspian Sea, and in that fight the Pechenegs were routed, their khagan killed. His entire family was captured, and the Cumans began flooding into the lands south of the Rus. In so doing they disrupted Roman trade in the area, and also drove the still free Pecheneg groups toward the Roman border on the Danube.

The Bulgar king seeing all of this prudently withdrew his men behind the Carpathi Mountains and let the Pechenegs once again overrun the territory to the Black Sea. Into this picture comes Yazi, a Pecheneg noble who had served in the Roman army for much of his youth. He led a large group of nomads, and as the Cumans advanced he ran to the Danube and started making noise. The local strategos, a Magyar you will remember, was extremely leery about letting a group of Pechenegs past the river, but was also unsure if he should be turning back a Roman officer.

He sent for instructions to Constantinople. John received word, consulted with his father, and led the entire Tagmata north to deal with the situation. Manuel absolutely, positively did not want any Pechenegs crossing the Danube without overwhelming Roman force there to greet them. In total the Romans mustered nearly fifty thousand men on the river to deal with the situation. As John arrived however the situation spiraled out of control. A Cuman force of some ten thousand cross the Tyras River, and began advancing on the Pecheneg position.

In a fateful decision John decided that with the Cumans already here he needed to demonstrate immediately that the Romans did not tolerate incursions so near its borders. He gathered a large army, and crossed the river. He only took about fifteen thousand men with him, ten thousand infantry, three thousand light cavalry, and two thousand knights of the tagmata, but he hoped that the numbers would be enough to intimidate the Cumans into withdrawing. They were not. The Cumans instead attacked.

They fell on John’s camp at dawn, and the Romans were forced to fight on the walls against the oncoming assault. Wave after wave of arrows rained down among the Romans, many of whom hadn’t had time to don their armor and many were injured. As the day wore on however and more Romans were able to pull back and equip themselves properly the tide shifted decisively in John’s favor, until in the early afternoon he led a sally of eight thousand against the Cumans. Fierce fighting ensured, but the Roman heavy cavalry decisively proved their worth as the Cumans, who had not yet been acquainted with such horsemen, failed to understand the threat they were under and let the knights, partially hidden by Roman light cavalry, in close. Slaughter followed, and the surviving Cumans fled back across the Tyras River. They left four thousand dead behind, as well as eight hundred Roman dead.

Among the Romans was John himself. He had apparently been struck by a lucky arrow through his helmet as the Cumans fled. Caesar John was 53 years old, and had been heir to the Imperial throne all his life. John is a critical figure in Manuel’s life. It was his competence, loyalty, and personableness that let Manuel’s extended exile from the capital not bring down the Emperor’s reign the way it so easily could have. His closeness with his siblings, and the subsequent closeness of their children are on the prince as much as, or more than, anyone else.

Manuel’s history dwells little on his oldest son, but privately he was extremely grieved by his oldest son’s death. It is claimed he wept to God, demanding to know why the Lord had taken his first-born rather than himself. John was the third of Manuel’s children to predecease their father. He will not be the last.

Publicly Manuel was completely and utterly furious at the result of the battle. He ordered another ten thousand men to the Danube, and for the army already there to march into the region between the Danube and Tyras rivers and permanently occupy it, adding it to Moesia. The Romans began construction of Phrourions, and dared the Cumans to try again.

The Cumans took the dare. In 1076 a large group of raiders crossed the Tyras river and struck at Roman positions, looking for plunder and captives for ransom. They successfully withdrew before the Romans could catch them, and came again the next year in even larger numbers. A running battle began between the field army stationed in the area and the Cumans, and the tagmata’s arrival in 1078 did little to tilt the balance in the Roman favor. Manuel’s third son however did. Matthios Amyroi led a large contingent of soldiers beyond the Tyras river into Cuman territory, destroying and sacking a number of camps, and carrying back several hundred women and children as captives. These pagans were rapidly sold off, and subsequently a large Cuman force seeking revenge was defeated just across the river, leaving some two thousand of the nomads dead alongside three hundred Roman losses.

Among the captives of the battle however was the oldest son of the Cuman Khagan, sold out by his own people for better treatment. The man was dragged to Constantinople and burned alive, punishment to the Cuman leader for the death of Manuel’s own son. The remainder of the captives were sold into slavery. This is of course a rather severe departure from previous Roman policy with the nomads, who typically were simply conscripted into the Roman army after being captured. But neither Manuel nor Matthios were feeling particularly forgiving.

For the next three years Matthios led counterraids across the Tyras, while his army remained behind to hold the river itself. Finally however in 1080 the khagan himself was hunted down (by the Rus), and a joint Roman-Rus force caught up with him. In a short battle the khagan was killed, and his body sent back to Constantinople to put on display.

His successor asked for peace, and was granted it. The Romans would pay two hundred pounds of gold to the Cumans per year and in exchange the Cumans would serve as soldiers in the Roman army. All Roman captives were to be returned. No Cumans were returned. The Cuman slaves were mostly sent to Italy, where a large number of their descendants still dwell.

So ended the First Cuman war. Overall a rather small affair. There were only about twelve thousand dead in over five years of fighting, plus the initial battle, and as such is often forgotten by even those familiar with the period, save for John’s death. And Matthios’s, though the Cumans can hardly be blamed for that. Eager to see his family again Matthios bordered a ship at the mouth of the Danube and set sail for Constantinople. But on the way south the ship hit rough seas, and in a sudden swell Matthios was swept overboard. His body was never recovered. He was the fourth of Manuel’s children to predecease his father.

On the death of a fourth child Manuel withdrew fully from Imperial life, seeing only servants and Leo, his grandson whom he instructed and groomed for the position of Emperor. When he felt the young man was ready he crowned him co-Augustus and prepared to die. But death would not come for him. Instead it struck another child. Maria Minor, the mother of the Caesarii came down with a fever in 1082, and three weeks later she died. She was soon followed by Helena, the daughter who had entered a convent.

Manuel himself lived on however, wishing for death that just seemed to never come. He still issued orders and edicts, but these came less and less often. Finally on his birthday in 1092 however he fell while struggling to rise from his bed, struck his head, and died. Only a few servants were present.

His last words were supposedly, “George yet lives.” Word had not yet come that four days earlier George had slipped from a horse, and broken his neck in the mountains of Spain, the last of Manuel’s children to predecease their father.

Manuel was exactly ninety years old, and had been Emperor for an utterly astounding 76 years. No one matches his reign, no one even comes close. The only man who even comes close is Caesar Augustfus, at 57 years. As such, the extent of Manuel’s influence on the Empire is almost incalculable. During his long, long reign he went through dizzying highs, dreadful lows, and was forced to watch as one by one his loved ones died around him.

His administrative, financial, military, and legal policies are enormous. His cultural impact from the remodeled Hagia Sophia, to sponsorsip of the arts that we didn’t even cover were huge. Across the Empire roads, aqueducts, churches, fortresses, and etc. bore his name. He left a solid financial footing, a powerful military, and a strong administratve system in place. Most importantly he left a qualified and strong successor in place in Leo, who will largely continue the policies of his grandfather.

Manuel II is widely regarded as the greatest Emperor the Romans have ever had. And despite a number of questionable decisions, failures in judgement, terrible precedents, hostility with neighbors, and long-term issues left in place, I see no reason to question historical judgement on the man. He was ultimately a product of his time, as are we all, and no other Emperor can claim to have had more of an impact, save perhaps Constantine.

Leo's reign however will have to wait, as there are a number of developments in the wider world we need to address before moving on.