The Third Rome - A Byzantine Timeline

The Siege of Constantinople: Part One

Antigonos' arrival on Naxos went almost unnoticed -- there were no public laudations or cheering crowds lining the streets, only a somber committee of well-dressed noblemen and women who inquired of Constantinople and the Emperor of the Romans worriedly.

Command of Antigonos' escort had fallen to a distant kinsman, Theophilos Palaiologos -- a noted scholar who was more comfortable in his books than he was in a shirt of mail. Theophilos had the soft hands of a scribe. His portraits show a kindly man; bearded, his hair curling about his ears, the ghost of a smile upon his lips. In the years that followed, he would endear himself to Antigonos -- the boy, in the twilight of his own life, would remember Theophilos as Pater Secundus -- 'Second Father,' -- and ordered a great statue of the man erected in his gardens.

Upon meeting with the Duke of the Archipelago, Giacomo II Crispo and his wife Ginevra, Theophilos launched into an impassioned plea for aid.

Giacomo was so moved, we're told, that he immediately pledged to support Constantinople against the Ottomans; he provisioned three ships and seven hundred men, drawn across the Archipelago. Although Giacomo would not lead the expedition personally -- he had, some years past, suffered from an illness and never truly recovered -- his uncle, William, would represent the Duke.

A further five hundred men, under the command of one Niccoló Gattilusio, sailed out of Mytilene. The Gattilusio family would not let the Romans stand alone.

These reinforcements arrived in Constantinople on the 13th of March and the 21st, respectively, to much celebration. The Emperor Constantine publicly lauded both men; embracing them as brothers-in-arms, promising them that, upon the defeat of the Turk, they would receive bounteous rewards. In order to embolden the mood of his subjects, Constantine had the two contingents march through the streets in their full panoply, as he had done so with Giovanni Giustiniani Longo's men in January.

On the second of April, less than a fortnight after Niccoló Gattilusio's ships had sailed into Constantinople's port, the Ottoman army was sighted beyond the city's walls and the gates were sealed.

What followed was one of history's greatest sieges. The Ottomans strained against the Romans and their allies; first a tremendous bombardment hammered the walls, then the mass charges of Mehmed's irregular and crack infantry -- But both were repulsed by the impassioned, resolute defenders at much cost.

On the 18th of April, both the Ottoman army and fleet -- an impressive one hundred and forty vessels against the Emperor's forty -- made their first major effort to seize the city, working in unison with one another. At Saint Romanus Gate, the weakest link in Constantinople's long walls, the Janissaries advanced under the heart-beat thrum of drums, the clashing of cymbals and the skirl of pipes. The Emperor, alarmed at such an assault, ordered the city's many church bells to ring in response.

Under a bright man, the feared Janissaries and their opponents hacked and slashed at one another -- blood running through the ruined stonework, men crying out in agony as their guts spilled into their laps, or toppling soundlessly as they were run-through with blade and lance. The land assault was beaten back, but the defenders, after six days of continuous skirmishing and bombardment, collapsed where they stood, exhausted.

Meanwhile, Mehmed's admiral -- Baltaoglu -- sailed against the city's chain boom. The defenders' ships, anchored so that their prow-borne cannons faced the Ottoman fleets, came under an assault as tremendous as that faced by the men at Saint Romanus Gate. Turks swarmed up the sides of the ships -- largely Genoese and Venetian -- and were met with pikes, handguns and blades. The defenders were professional seamen all; incendiaries were snuffed out, missiles were hurled from their higher decks down onto the Ottoman longboats and, by the morning of the 19th, they were beaten off to the terrible embarrassment of Baltaoglu.

And then, on the 20th, four ships appeared: racing for the Queen of Cities, three bearing the flag of Genoa -- a red cross on white -- and the fourth, an Imperial vessel, carrying within its hold a great amount of corn purchased from Sicily.

Now Baltaoglu saw his chance for redemption. Once again, the Ottoman fleet sallied forth from their port: oarsmen straining to outdo their allies on the neighbouring ships. The Genoese ships, caught in a dead wind, floundered and found themselves surrounded. Again, Turks attempted to climb the sides of the higher ships, and found themselves beaten back from above.

The day drew on. Surely, the Ottomans must have told themselves, the Christian missiles would run out? Their men would grow too tired to swing a sword or pierce with a lance? The merchantman would surely be captured, the experienced Geneose captains knew, so drew their own vessels up close and lashed them together into an indomitable tower.

And then, God Himself intervened. The wind picked up. The Christian vessels fought their way through the Ottoman fleet, tooth and claw, their hulls smoking, hacked to raggedness by axes, sluicing blood.

Mehmed, having rode his horse into the tumbling waves on the shore, tore at his garments in rage, cursing Baltaoglu and his sailors.

And then he rode away in silence, fuming, as the defenders cheered the arrival of the four ships until their throats were sore and hoarse.
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So begins the final fall of the Roman Empire. God bless her last defenders and the faithful allies that stand by her in the last storm against the coming darkness
That would certainly be a fair assumption. Much of Antigonos' early years will be spent on the move.
I am interested where Antigonos would be pulling a Babur then, considering that the TL being called "The Third Rome" implies he pulls a Mughal Empire.
It does. There's two possible locations for that appellation -- but one will only come into fruition during his sons and grandsons time.

They'll be revealed soon enough.
The Siege of Constantinople: Part Two

Mehmed's wrath was now turned to his luckless admiral, Baltaoglu. He rode to the naval camp at a place called the Double Columns. Here, the Sultan launched into a vicious diatribe against Baltaoglu; lamenting the man's failures, insulting his manhood, questioning his bravery. When he was done, Baltaoglu was seized by Mehmed's Janissaries and ordered put to death by impalement.

The Sultan's advisors, however, indicated the admiral's missing eye -- lost during the engagement with the reinforcing Geneose -- as evidence of Baltaoglu's bravery. He had fought until the last, never once giving up. Mehmed relented. He ordered Baltaoglu stripped of his command, his titles and his wealth and then, before the entirety of the assembled sailors, the man received one hundred lashes. Command returned to Hamza Bey, who had first rose to prominence in the service of Murad II, Mehmed's father.

Baltaoglu, thus humiliated, disappeared into the hinterlands of Anatolia and drank himself to death within a year.

Meanwhile, in the city, Constantine's mood was hopeful. He sent a delegation -- led by another of his distant kinsmen, Nicephorus -- to deliver terms to the Sultan. The terms have been lost to the annals of history, but they were, undoubtedly, favourable and designed to save Mehmed some face. The Sultan nonetheless refused, swayed by the more warmongering of his advisors, and offered to grant Constantine rule of the Peloponnese if the Queen of Cities surrendered to the Ottomans.

The siege continued.

Mehmed, still sulking over the loss at the boom, now turned his mind -- remembered as sharp, analytical and secretive -- to destroying it or circumventing it. The boom was secured within the walls of Galata, a Geneose colony that sat opposite Constantinople, and so that option was quickly discarded.

In a feat of military genus, some seventy ships of the Ottoman fleet -- smaller biremes and triremes -- were hefted overland and refloated within the Golden Horn, under the careful, protective watch of a battery of cannons.

Constantinople was stricken with panic. The Golden Horn was now claustrophobic with ships, both Christian and Muslim. An urgent war council was conducted -- attended by the Venetian commanders of the Christian fleet, the Emperor himself and Giovanni Giustiniani.

A long, fierce discussion ensued. Some argued that a head-on attack by the entirety of the defending fleet, Venetian, Imperial and Genoese ships all, should be launched at once. Some suggested that a land attack against the battery of cannons and then setting the ships afire would be the better option; this, too, was rejected on the ground that every loss dealt to the defenders was bitterly felt.

Giacomo Coco now stepped forwards with a plan. He had, some time before, tricked his way past the Throat-cutter and was a man of few words. He convinced the assembled council that a small, night-time raid against the Ottoman fleet within the Horn was the most sound action. Under the cover of darkness, the force -- led by Coco and numbering only a small amount of vessels and Venetians -- would strike hard against the enemy ships and burn them.

The council agreed after a short vote.

The Geneose, however, caught wind of the plan and now demanded to be included. The attack -- initially to begin on the 24th of April -- was now delayed as the Genoese readied their own ships and forces. Two hours before dawn, when the skies were pregnant with stars and the moon was hidden behind a cover of clouds, the attack force slipped their moorings and started to cross the still waters.

Giacomo Coco, hungry for glory, urged his vessel on quicker and quicker.

Cannon fire illuminated the dark waters. Coco's ship was struck and, in a very short amount of time, yawed sideways and rolled beneath the surf, pitching her crewmen and armoured raiders into the water.

The attack, disastrous as it was, was abandoned.

As it would transpire, not all of the men aboard Coco's vessel were drowned. Some forty had survived and swam to shore. Mehmed would make an example of them.

These forty were impaled in view of Constantinople's walls.

On orders of the Emperor himself, the Turkish prisoners within the Queen of Cities were hauled to the walls and there, with much adulation from the defenders, were hanged over the edge.

The delay had proven a terrible mistake. Someone within the walls had gotten word to the Sultan. Paranoia now begun to take root.

The Venetians and the Genoese now accused one another of treachery. Constantine himself had to mediate between the quarrelsome Italians.

Already, inside the walls, strife threatened to topple the Christian cause.
Damn, things aren’t looking good for Rome right now. Also, I find it funny that the Venetians, the people who caused the fall of the Roman Empire, are the ones now trying to prevent her fall
Constantinople will, sadly, still fall.

The Hungarians will make an appearance at some point though. Matthias Corvinus and Antigonos are just a few years apart in age.
Sicily seems a good place to rebuild Roman power base.
But what I am really hoping for is Tunis/Carthage. I mean just the absolute irony! And you can just imagine Cato the Elder rolling in his grave XD.
Damn, things aren’t looking good for Rome right now. Also, I find it funny that the Venetians, the people who caused the fall of the Roman Empire, are the ones now trying to prevent her fall

Interestingly enough, Constantine XI is actually descended from Enrico Dandolo via his mother.
The Siege of Constantinople: Part Three

Constantine, Emperor of the Romans, wept. All in the grand hall had fallen silent and watched the soldierly Palaiologos, now; stricken by the man's passion. All those gathered -- commanders, churchmen, dignitaries -- were now moved to tears themselves.

An attempt had been made, by those assembled, to convince Constantine XI to flee the city. The Genoese had offered their galleys in the effort. Constantine could flee to his brothers in the Morea and regroup; but the Emperor, determined to make a stand, unwilling to abandon his city or his people, refused.

His words had been foreboding. 'I will die here with you,' Constantine had said, stiffly.

It was the 3rd of May. The situation within the Queen of Cities were growing steadily worse as the Ottoman noose tightened. Food was growing scarce. An argument between the Venetians and the Genoese had nearly ended in the drawing of steel and blood -- only Constantine's own intervention, lambasting the quarreling parties and shaming them, had prevented such an end.

Three days later, on the 6th, a tremendous bombardment opened up against the walls. Stonework was powdered by the fire. The Ottoman army watched, hands tight upon their weapons, as the walls were breached.

And then, as the sun started to dip, they charged. The fighting within the breach was barbaric. Giovanni Giustiniani and Niccoló Gattilusio commanded the defence, fighting spiritedly, hacking and slashing, spilling blood -- both that of the Turk and their own -- on the uneven ground beneath their feet. For three hours, both sides groaned and strained, spat and wept, screamed and died.

But the defenders proved themselves capable once more and the Ottomans were forced back. Under the cover of darkness, the Christian commanders -- Giustiniani and Gattilusio, the latter wounded badly in his arm -- directed their men to reinforce the breached wall.

The days continued. It was almost mundane; the Turk would bombard, the Turk would charge, the Turk would retreat. Those defending the walls were exhausted. They were hard men, grown distant-eyed and thin, grim in their bearing. They had, over the past few weeks, witnessed their brothers-in-arms and their kinsmen slaughtered by Ottoman blades.

In order to reinforce Saint Romanus Gate, one of the hot-spots of the continuous brawl, Gabriel Trevisano -- one of the Venetian galley captains, a capable man who had fought during the failed attack against the Ottoman fleet in the Horn -- agreed to lead four hundred of his men to the walls.

On the 12th of May, a section of the Theodosian wall collapsed with a great crash. Mehmed, watching with all the eagerness of a hungry hawk, ordered a midnight assault. The Ottomans overpowered the defenders and routed them. Panic spread like wildfire.

Once again, Constantine himself intervened. He galloped through the streets, instilling his men with a sense of fierce hope, and the Ottoman assault was again battered back. Under the stars, in the city's labyrinthine streets and lanes, blood gurgled along the cobbles.

The city was almost lost.

The next morning, Constantine -- unwashed, bespattered with the gore and grime of battle -- met once again with his commanders. He suggested a night time sally against the enemy camp; others preferred to wait and hope that the Italians or the Hungarians would come to relieve the Queen of Cities. Others crowed, once more, that the Emperor should take flight. Again, he refused.

In the middle of May, the sound of pickaxes striking stone was heard, almost by chance. The Ottomans -- using conscripted Serbian, or Saxon depending upon the source, miners had dug a tunnel beneath the walls. The defenders scrambled into action and, led by the Scotsman John Grant, dug a counter tunnel and beneath the earth fought another fierce, claustrophobic battle.

The tunnel war was intense and murderous. Some of the enemy miners were killed with smoke, others drowned or set alight with Greek Fire or, worse still, engaged in hand to hand combat with knives and bare hands.

Towards the end of May, Niccoló Gattilusio approached his sister, the Empress Caterina, and begged her to take leave. It now seemed that the city was doomed. Ill portents and omens haunted the streets. The Sultan had again offered terms -- disagreeable terms, but terms nonetheless -- and the Emperor had again refused.

Caterina was as resolute, or as stubborn, as her husband. She refused to flee; 'My duties, as a wife and the Empress of the Romans,' she reportedly told her brother, 'Remain here, at my husband's side.'

Niccoló passionately implored Caterina to reconsider, invoking her son and her kinsmen. If -- when -- Constantinople fell, her fate would be unkind. A life in the harem if she was lucky. A soldier's prize or a blade in the stomach if she was not.

Caterina accused her brother of being self-serving, cruelly, and an argument between the pair echoed throughout the Blachernae Palace. In the end, Niccoló stormed away.

It was the last conversation that he would ever have with his sister.
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