The Turul on the Bosporus

The Turul on the Bosporus



1169



Constantinople



The Avtokrator had desired a son for his adult life, and been denied again and again. For all of that he had mentored a boy, raised him up right, a smart lad. A lad engaged to his daughter Maria Porphyrogennete, a keen and dangerous woman by the measure of women. A lad son of Arpad King, the ruler of the sometimes-friend and sometimes-enemy, the Hungarian Kingdom of the north. Between them the Balkans were gripped like a vice and only in their disagreements did other lords prosper.


After his beloved first wife had died, Manuel had married again, to Maria of Antioch, and it was this woman who was now in her apartments, giving birth. His daughter had excused herself to go to the family chapel to pray for the health of her mother in law. Manuel suspected, as he paced, that his daughter was like as not holding in her heart the desire to have a younger sister. She was strong-willed and dangerous, and saw in Béla-Alexios a path to the Throne which her sex would otherwise deny. In a stroke a son would erase that. In fairness, Manuel would be perfectly willing to give the throne to his eldest if she had but been a son; in all respects except sex she had the certain measure of ambition and ruthlessness needed to sit the throne at the Blachernae, but in a woman that was an undoing.


Alexios was an unusually suited as a husband for Maria. He was decisive, temperate, and understood the importance of a ruler’s word without letting it hinder his practical administration. He was not the kind of cruel man who would cause problems for an ambitious and literate woman, but he was, crucially, intelligent and capable enough to match her and prevent her schemes from causing problems with his rule, to direct her into utility for the Dynasty. It had been a good match, with immense political advantage, but it was nothing compared to a true-born son.


One of the palace eunuchs approached. Manuel was familiar enough with them that the essential discomfort of their effiminancy did not disturb him. His posture of submission already conveyed a great deal to Manuel.


“Speak.”


“O Emperor, the Empress has given birth to a daughter.”


Manuel made the smallest of noises. Perhaps this had always been God’s plan. He did not allow anger to cross his face, for only the Almighty had made this decision and he would not presume to quarrel with the Almighty God so. He would accept the daughter he had been given.


Should I try for another? Yes, of course, that was obvious. He was old, his wife was not. He had had sons before. Illegitimate ones. God might well be settling accounts for that. For now, nothing would change, as was proper. He was daughter was only seventeen; she could wait a while longer to be married, and Alexios’ maturity only improved with the passing of each year. There was no need to confirm things quite yet.


1171



Constantinople


A second child with his wife Maria. A second daughter. After the initial frustration had faded, the course forward for Manuel was becoming clear. The problem was simple. Unless he committed to his daughter Maria and her husband early, and took measures to make sure the succession was regularised, there would be problems. He was no fool. Alexios had been living now for years in Constantinople and learned well the administration of the Empire, his Greek was flawless and his manner and conduct judicious. That was only the very first step, though. He had to legitimise and regularise the conduct of the succession.


That path was laid through his daughter, and that was why he was alone in his apartments with his eldest daughter. “Maria.”


“My Lord Father,” she acknowledged, a nineteen year old going on twenty, pretty enough in her own way but with a dangerous glint of intelligence in her eyes; the most dangerous part of this remained that Maria was, simply, ambitious.


“Make yourself at ease,” he allowed. In Byzantine court politics this was not necessarily guaranteed.


She relaxed with a soft smile. “All is well?”


“In a certain measure,” he replied. “The King of Jerusalem is properly subordinated to the Empire, and you know that. Unfortunately, this another matter. Your younger half-sisters Anna and Theodora present me a challenge, child. The succession must be stabilised, and I must be humble before the Lord God about the course he has laid out for me. I am going to crown you as Co-Ruler.”


Her eyes flared wide in sincere surprise. Even if she had wanted it, she had not expected it. “Father...”


“It is necessary. The Empire must become used to you. They must become comfortable with the fact that you are the representative of their traditions and faith and heir to our line. Your wedding to Alexios will come immediately after the coronation. I cannot wait any longer. When you are wed and the timing is auspicious, he will also be crowned co-ruler, so that when the Lord God has appointed the end of my time on this Earth, we will have let the people grow used to the idea of you and your husband as Co-Rulers of the Empire.”


“My Lord Father, your confidence in my union with Alexios will not be misplaced. I will make myself ready for the ceremony.”


“You well should,” he replied. “The late conspiracy of Andronikos shows that you will face opposition. Even with your husband to bear the bulk of it, you will soon find yourself learning this burden before the Lord God being less desirable than you should think.”


------


The ceremony had evolved over more than a thousand years from the simple matter of the Roman Princips to the current affair of the Avtokrator of the Roman Empire. The great processions, the chanting and the priests in their blessings, compelled by the strength of Manuel. Many did not like this step, many knew where it was leading. There was opposition. But the Empire was strong again, as it had not been since the disaster of Manzikert. And at the centre was Manuel, and he was making sure it was done.


Formally, his daughter Maria Porphyrogennete was crowned as his Co-Ruler. Of course, Manuel would continue to exercise full discretionary authority. While in ceremony she was now his equal, in the actual power over the Empire, she had none, yet. The act of elevating her before her marriage was calculated and explicit. He wanted the people to be reassured that the next reign would be a Roman one, not an imposition of a foreign power. Maria’s power would represent the continuity of the values and traditions of the Empire, just as Alexios provided the authority and strength of a man hale of form and wise of countenance. But the Empire came first.


When the Lords and Notables of the Empire assembled to do homage and swear fidelity, first in their rank was Alexios, behaving with great courtliness toward his wife-to-be. He knew what the step meant, and that his remarkable opportunity to be elevated to the Roman throne was dependent on the alliance with the woman to be his wife.


--------


The marriage ceremony was held three months later. It was late in the year, but the festivals and bells were grand as the Empress Co-Regnant was married to the Despot Alexios. Manuel granted them the old Bucoleon Palace as a residence to underscore their right to their own ceremonial court and the seriousness of Maria’s elevation.


1172



Sardica



The Emperor and his son-in-law were traveling in the Balkans. When the delegation arrived, Alexios had just been holding a letter from his wife Maria; she was pregnant with their first child. The man born as Béla of Hungary saw from their banners, standards and dress that they were men of his birth Kingdom. Manuel had received them, and they presented themselves by the usual formalities before the Emperor.


“O Emperor, we have come because Stephen King, our Liege Lord and Sovereign, has died without heirs. By the laws and customs of our realm, it is the foremost right of his brother Béla to take the throne of Hungary. We beg that he be sent forth, that the principle of justice be observed.”


And all of this, only six months after I set my course in stone. Truly the Lord God is unfathomable in his intents that I am confronted with this. “The Despot Alexios is the heir of my body through his union with his daughter,” Manuel replied.


“He is your heir by adoption and marriage, O Emperor. He is our Rightful Lord, by Blood entire. He should be the King of Hungary, O Emperor,” the delegation replied. “We beseech you to send him forth.”


When the audience was over, and it was not much more than that, Manuel retired immediately with Alexios in the manor they were occupying in Sardica to a private room. There was no-one present except for the two men. Not one single court scribe or recorder was permitted for this most frank of conversations. Manuel wanted the words that he said in that room to die with him and Alexios, and never be spoken beyond it.


“Choose,” he began. “My daughter and the Empire or your birthright and patrimony.”


“I cannot choose,” Alexios answered, having composed himself and put together his words carefully, and presented the letter from Maria.


Manuel read it, and read it again. “I will pray to the Lord God that she is with a son as my wives have not been,” he finally answered. “The Empire it must be, then. I will not create a crisis by having a fruitful marriage annulled.”


“Why choose, O Emperor?” Alexios asked. “For centuries the northern frontier of the Empire has been threatened by raids and dissensions. Hungary has distracted our armies from regaining all Anatolia and crushing the Turks in Iconium. Hungary encourages the Serbs to revolt and prevents us from dealing with nomads beyond the Danube. My Lord, let me go to Hungary and be acclaimed King. In one stroke the entire northern frontier would be made secure.”


“You would rule two thrones at once. Leaving Maria in Constantinople alone would cause a revolt by the people. You must be Alexios, first, foremost, only, Alexios, if you are in foreign lands and foreign ways they will never respect you!”


“O Emperor, the Hungarian people, ruled according to their laws and traditions, will be more willing to accept an absent sovereign. I will arrange a Viceroy, perhaps my youngest sister who is unmarried. Allow me to make a procession to Hungary.”


“You will probably face a revolt from your younger brother, even so.” Manuel thought the matter over. There was real, legitimate virtue in what Alexios said. It was also wildly ambitious. “You will need troops, but not foreign ones.”


“They will come to me. I must go alone. If I am undone and slain, it is best to see it done now, My Lord. You can see Maria re-married when she is still young and has been proved fecund. But if I am triumphant...”


“Yes. All of Europe will be secure for us. I know, I understand.” He shook his head. “May the Lord have mercy upon us. I would not have presumed to think of this myself. Very well. Take your supporters and retainers. Go, and go quickly, with my blessing. Before you leave I will ask you to swear only two oaths. The first is that you shall not give Hungary to a younger son and make quarrels between us again. If we are to take this risk, Alexios, I would have it last. Let your eldest son and heir be Master of both Realms. Let him command, by the laws and customs of the Hungarians, Illyria, Pannonia and Dacia as he does Rome, as you shall do. And swear to me that you will lead a Hungarian Army at my side when the time is right for us to re-take Iconium. On those terms, I will permit you to go.”


------


Esztergom



The acclamation in the streets of Esztergom was splendid, indeed. The shining prince who had gone away as a boy was a romantic story. The nobility assembled were those who were his supporters, and had elected him by acclamation as well. The Rightful King of the lands of St. Stephen had returned to bring order and rightness to the realm.


But all was not well. There was grumbling, a grumbling that would not have been there if he was not married to the Co-Ruler of Rome, the Empress of the Romans, his wife Maria; and the heir, the Despot, Alexios, equal to his name as Béla. His brother Géza was the centre of the intrigues that tapped into this grumbling, and behind him, priests who had turned against him and had their fears redoubled by the prospect of his schismatic tendencies they assumed would be linked to the time he had spent in the Orthodox Catholic court, under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople.


And there was only one way to deal with that, the way of the Romans, quickly and decisively. Soon after his arrival, Béla called his banners. He would separate the wheat from the chaff and remove the one main obstacle to his reign.


1173



Gyor



Géza had called on the priests for support, and on Henry, the Duke of Austria. He assembled troops to the number of five thousand at Gyor. Béla reached the city first and, on a chill day in early spring where the fog hung low from still-melting snow, formed his battles across the plains to the west of the town, eight thousand men.


The clash of arms lasted only an hour and a half as the uncrowned King cleaved through his younger brother’s army and pivoted right, cutting off his brother’s left. It was a single field engagement that decided the action, for Géza was captured trying to flee, and imprisoned in Esztergom fortress. There, in the most comfortable of confinement, he joined their mother, who had been part of the conspiracy as the fiercest of Géza’s partisans.


He had won a victory after being acclaimed King, but he had not received the sacred Crown of Hungary in the proper and traditional way. The Church still stood in his way.


Esztergom


Fall came, gentle and pleasant to Esztergom. The city prospered with a decent harvest in the countryside, and the fortress and the church gleamed in the evening’s autumn sun, in hews of red and bronze. Shopkeepers sold their wares, and the walls of the fortress were bathed in the light, over the low-slung buildings below it in the Water-town athwarts the river.


Under the banners of his fortress, the city, a town by the standards of the Rome of the East, prospered. But all was not right with the rule of Béla, for he had to plan for an eventuality that none had forseen a decade ago. The matter of his brother had been resolved.


The matter of the Archbishop of Esztergom was another one entirely; accusations of Simony had held up his formal coronation after his acclamation by the notables of the Kingdom. The Archbishop privately feared the rise of schismatic influences under Béla-Alexios; his continued opposition forced Béla into negotiations with the Pope. The Pope saw his main objective in this the union of the churches; in exchange for commanding the Archbishop Lucas of Esztergom to crown Béla he wanted Béla’s secret commitment to a reunification of the Churches on the grounds of the Papal supremacy when he was crowned Emperor of the East.


Béla-Alexios refused to commit even in secret, and instead made the Pope settle for a promise to resume meetings of the elders of the Church for the purpose of negotiating the terms of the reunification, and a sacred oath not to permit the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople to be expanded beyond its existing places and Sees in Europe. In exchange the Pope finally permitted the Archbishop of Kalocsa to formally crown Béla King, late in the year.


So was the work done, and with his brother and mother held imprisoned in apartments in Esztergom and Throne confirmed, however tenuously, by the Church. The heir apparent of the Roman Empire of the East was now also the King of Hungary. The Emperor had prospered from the result, bringing the Grand Prince of Serbia to his knees as a defeated barbarian in Constantinople before restoring him as a tributary vassal.


His wife had prospered, too. She had given birth to a son, who in honour of the AIMA prophecy re-starting with the expected succession of her husband, she had, perhaps a touch immodestly, named Alexandros. He now had a son and heir, who was far from him, in Constantinople, being raised by his wife and his father-in-law. Béla issued a royal decree declaring him his heir to Hungary as well, using the name Árpád, and in a letter his wife accepted and confirmed this appelation as part of his name.


And he had a sister, unmarried, in his palace. It was that evening, while the lights burned in autumn, that he summoned her. “Helen, it will only be a matter of time now until the Emperor expects me to keep my promise and return to Constantinople to prepare for a war against the Turks in Iconium. I intend to find for you a husband in the Roman lands, who will help you hold the throne here for me when I go. You are the only one who agrees with my policy, and I will not see you married to a man of the west to help along our mother’s plots. You must stand in my stead by ties of marriage and blood between both Hungary and the Empire.”


“Then you will need to send a husband for me from Constantinople when you return to the city, brother. I will trust that God will guide you with wisdom in the matter; but I am confident I can hold the realm for you, My Lord, if you send me a husband who is fit to the task.”


1175



Constantinople



As promised by the secret agreement at Sardica, Béla-Alexios had come when called by his Father-in-law, to prepare for the invasion of Anatolia. He had, however, struck a hard bargain. He had insisted on compensation for his army in the land of the infidel. They would be allowed to settle, with special privileges as a military class, on land recaptured from the infidel in Anatolia, on the condition of swearing fealty to the Emperor, and military service to the Roman throne.


He had arrived with an Army of ten thousand, in the company of three thousand from the Grand Principality of Serbia. This great host would be assembled with the vast concentration of the Roman forces for the advance into Anatolia. Béla’s letters had secured for those who went with him, beyond the promise of land in Anatolia, also the promise of absolution; the expedition, to the westerners, would count as and have the character of a Crusade.


The Hungarians, unlike past Crusader armies, were welcomed into the city. They were welcomed because when Béla arrived, he did so proclaimed as Alexios, Despot of the Empire, with the standards of the Empire arriving before him as well as those of himself as King of Hungary. He was met outside of the Palace of Blacharnae by the Emperor, and knelt to him before the assembled. Together they marched in procession to the Bucoleon, repaired for the purposes of being the residence of the Empress Maria and now also his son.


For the first time in the life of the little lad, Árpád-Alexandros met his father. He was about three and a half years old. The Hungarian troops were quartered around the Bucoleon, since the vast expanse of the Palace was much greater than what was required for the abbreviated court that Maria maintained. Around them was the deritus of what must be thousands of years of history, wrought in grandeur and old stone. Winter had come to the Golden Horn, and they would be wintering over here in the City, before proceeding on to the campaign. Still, the weather was fine enough for chariot races and jousts in the Hippodrome to celebrate the occasion.


In the evening, Alexios was finally alone with his wife again. She had arranged for many Hungarians, her own grandmother was a Hungarian, the Emperor’s mother, to help educate her son, already growing up fluent in both the tongues of the Greeks and the Magyars, and he would begin to learn Latin as well.


“He seems as hale and hearty as one could hope,” Alexios reflected, watching his son play. “I have no complaints with his upbringing.”


“Thank you, my husband,” Maria smiled. “It has been long. I think Father intends to make you a hero on this campaign, and crown you when you return. It shall be my own first test; it is the first time that Father expects to be gone long enough to place the government especially in my hands while he is gone. I admit I relish the chance.”


“Be cautious,” Alexios rebuked, gently. “You have relatives who will take a moment of an absent Emperor as licence to scheme against your father. You may be sorely tried.”


“I was born to hold this city,” Maria sighed. “And now I have the utmost motivation to do it,” she added, gesturing to her son. “Your future Empire will be safe. Go, and bring us back Anatolia, my husband.” A smile. “But first, there is this winter. I am thankful you have returned, that we have been married so many years, and seen each other so little.”


1176



Myriokephalon



The advance of forty thousand troops through the Anatolian highlands was hardly a thing of stealth, and as they marched, Alexios grew concerned with the countenance of his father in law, who did not seem well to the task. He had to throw out his own outriders from the Hungarian light cavalry that accompanied him, and was riding aggressively about the column on a daily basis to keep it tight and the guards well-posted. This Army was as it had been in days of old for the Empire, but Alexios knew that there were dangerous weaknesses concealed within it.


Due to the roughness of the terrain around Mistheia and the Lake, the infantry was advancing first as they approached the narrow place, comprising the leading divisions of the Army. It was in this configuration that the first rider came galloping back to Alexios. “Highness! The Turks are in the Hills! They are starting to form up on both flanks.”


A shudder went through Alexios’ body as he looked at the narrow and treacherous pass ahead. “Good work, man,” he said, and with his Hungarian knights around him as a personal guard, turned back and galloped for the Emperor’s standard, the harsh dust of bitter, war-torn Anatolia, once so fertile and grand a land, whipping across them. In the sky above the clouds were unruly and temptestuous. The wind was going to pick up.


“O Emperor, the Turks are forming up in the hills. They have a force on both flanks of the pass!” Alexios said urgently as he reined up in front of the Emperor’s party. “They are in strength, but they haven’t finished making their deployments.”


Manuel reined his horse in alongside his son-in-law and looked to the heights ahead. He seemed sallow and tired and his eyes were shock wide. “They can block us for days here,” he muttered, “or worse. We must forge on.”


“The Army is strung out across ten miles, we won’t be able to get it through the pass before the Turks have occupied the high ground, Father.”


“What would you have us do then!? Is this offensive to end before it has even begun?”


Alexios turned back and pointed with a mailled fist toward the rugged lines of hills. “There’s a dust storm coming up, I’m sure of it. The wind is picking up. We turn out the first two divisions, the first to the left, the second to the right. They’re the infantry, they scale those heights there, and there, and bring it to close quarters with the Turks on the flanks. The rest of the divisions press straight forward in a cordon around the artillery and the camp, letting the wagons set the pace. Even if our infantry does not win, they will keep the Turks from getting to positions to loose arrows down on the column as it passes and we will get safely through to the fresh water and good positions for our horse beyond. But, I think we will do more, O Emperor. I believe the dust coming will work to our advantage and conceal the infantry advancing up the heights from Turkish arrows until they are in the press, where our men will have the advantage. We don’t have much time, though, we need to give the orders to turn the lead divisions out with the utmost alacrity!”


Manuel followed his gaze, and his eyes seemed hollow with a dozen battles. Then he snapped back to look at Alexios. “All right. Take the Vanguard to the left, Alexios, do it yourself. Take the orders to the main body, it is now the right.” He turned back to his attendants. “Get General Kontostephanos up quickly and form his troops in close order with the baggage, we press on now as fast as we can. Baldwin shall lead through the pass. On it!”


With a strong guard of 200 Hungarian knights, Béla-Alexios led the Vanguard, comprised of infantry, up the high rocks on the left. They were forced to dismount and proceed afoot with their men. The Turks were racing to gain their positions; what had been the centre division was thrusting its way up on the right.


The Turks made haste under the sun to assume their positions and to bring their reserves and archers, fighting afoot, into position to shower arrows down on the Imperial foot driving themselves up the rock and scrub. The dust was kicked up by their advance, and yet as it was kicked up, it seemed to grow worse and worse.


A howling wind cut down from the heights of the range. The beating of the drums and the howl of eastern wind instruments and trumpets was alternately drowned and magnified by the roar of the wind. The dust tore across the peaks.


Come on, lads! It’s cover for us. Up, just up! Victory for Christ!


Pressing on through the scrub in the complete lack of visibility of the howling dust, the knights swirled their way to the top through the hopeless mire of the dust, the Imperial infantry following them behind and forming up with them. They passed unseen and mostly un-hit by the Turkish arrows, to gain the tops and bring them to battle with sword and spear. The great din of onset sounded and Alexios found himself hard pressed with his picked men around him by a great number of Turks, but here in close quarters his armoured retainers had the advantage and they pressed it through the rock on the heights.


Down in the valley below, Manuel had finally formed his troops in a dense body around the artillery and pressed forward into the pass. Now the Turks were fully engaged on both flanks by the infantry that had scaled the heights and they were not under covering fire, with their flanks drawn up to defend them, the greater bulk of the Hungarian horse was drawn up around the Emperor of Rome and his picked men Manuel seemed, in this mass of knights, to regain his own fire, and he pressed on right behind Baldwin.


The Antiochans led: through the narrow defile, the horses packed and men cheek to jowl, reins slapping and lances and maces out, they pounded through the Turkish elements which had reached the foot of the pass, while overhead on either flank, the Imperial infantry gained the heights. As the Turks tried to turn in against them again, Manuel split the remaining Hungarians into two groups and sent them to strike on the flanks, glancing to the left where his son in law fought high above them under the Royal Standard of Hungary. Then he summoned his own picked cavalry and followed behind Baldwin.


Baldwin burst through in array of battle-main, hammering the Turks and creating a breach in the lines. Manuel followed, but the Emperor paused here and drew up, driving back in disorder two more attacks by the Turks. As he did, the artillery passed through, while above them, the ambuscade was wreck, ruined, men plunging and dashed against the rocks in mortal combat, sent down from above in the close fight.


Suddenly, the struggle which even with those preparations had seemed doubtful eased. The din of fighting quieted. Over the next two hours, the Army reconstituted itself beyond the pass from the relative disorder of the combat it had engaged in. The infantry, coming down from the heights, was led by the Royal Standard of Hungary.


Manuel rode out, and circled the exhausted knot of men, where caked with dust and sweat, his son in law stood, an immense man by any measure. “This land will be your’s in God’s time,” he remarked, simply, and turned back. The remnants of the Turkish force, rent in two, disintegrated across the landscape.


-------


Iconium



The siege engines working, the troops laid out, the hour had come. The troops surged forward in assault, Manuel and Alexios together observing. Baldwin in the first rank, the Serbs redeeming themselves as subjects of the Empire with manful conduct storming the heights of the city.


After the shattering of the Sultan’s Army, it might be a detail only; but here, it was no detail. The people of Rome, who had lived in this land since time immemorial, who had been an essential part of the Greek culture of the Empire, had been for a century subjected to the rule of a foreign power, growing down roots as deep as taproots into the soil of the Anatolian plateau.


On this day, on this hour, it ended. The Turul and the Eagle stormed the city and took it, in the service of Christ and Empire. Iconium rang with the sounds of voices, Greek, Latin and Magyar, in combat against the Turk. The capital of the Seljuks fell.


As they marched through the streets of the city, the Greek population turning out to make homage to the Caesar returned, the Avtokrator of Rome, Alexios saw in his father in law’s eyes the weight of the years abruptly lifted. For a moment, he was a young man again. This had been a true object of his policy for his entire reign.


He had finally accomplished it. Anatolia was their’s. And true to his word, more than seven thousand Hungarians accepted offers of Pronoia estates in the heart of Anatolia to replace the Turks who had taken the good grazing land before them. Christians, to rule and rebuild the heart of the war-torn Empire. There would be many minor campaigns, doubtless, to be left to lesser armies. They had accomplished their work.


1177



Constantinople



On his return from the front, Alexios was greeted at the Bucoleon by his wife. Maria had deftly twisted the levers of power in the Imperial capital, appealing to religion and working with her father’s loyalists to forestall the expected plot of the Nobles who opposed her husband’s reign. She had also been with child when he left, from their winter together at the Bucoleon.


A second son, named Constantine, was there with the nursemaids, and his eldest boy Árpád growing healthy and strong. Maria reported on the intrigues and the measures she had taken against them to her father, and again Alexios was impressed with the strong-willed intelligence of his wife, which in another circumstance might have led her to ill. It was dangerous, but sons had tempered her well. She knew exactly what her objective was for her eldest: The Two Crowns. Nothing else would do.


And that was exactly how Béla-Alexios wanted it. After Manuel had played with his grandchildren and pronounced their upbringing well and fit, the two men had let Maria and her servants retire for the evening, and retreated to the Emperor’s apartments.


“I am of a mind to send another fleet against Egypt. We could afford a hundred and fifty sail. Jerusalem can supply the men,” Manuel remarked.


“O Emperor,” Alexios replied, “I would counsel against it. The last expedition proved for naught, the Muhammadans have long been established in that land, and we have no guarantee of support. Better would be to take such a fleet and send it to the Euxine Sea. We should insist the Georgians recognise you their suzerain and so extend the borders in Anatolia to those of Basil.”


“I will take your counsel to consideration. There is something to be said for refusing to give up on the job of our reconquest until we have obtained the old limits, even if we must tolerate some vassals where once the administration ruled instead. But there is also another matter for us to discuss, Alexios.”


“O Emperor?”


“Your crowning as a Co-Ruler. You have returned a triumph, shining knight and hero to the people. Now, before the moment fades, you must stand as an equal at your wife’s side and prepare yourself for the day when God calls me to my judgement.”


1178



Constantinople



The mood in the streets was festive for the handsome and tall King who would be also an Emperor. The forms were observed, the priests did their part. Maria was shining and brilliant in what was her triumph as Alexios’ wife. It was now a given, barring a revolt.


But revolts there might be, and lurking in the shadows was the deep discontent with Manuel’s policy. For while his supporters and loyal Generals felt strongly that the man before them had become as a Greek in all the necessary respects, the suitable man to lead at their liege-lord’s daughter’s side, many feared the imposition of Latin and Barbarian customs and were incensed that this tall and noble prince held the Emperor’s daughter’s hand in marriage, when he was a barbarian from a foreign land, and now the King thereof also.


The work had been done, and the Empire was stronger than it had been since Manzikert. But these internal threats could be far more dangerous than the Turk.


Notes:


I use possibly anachronistic modes of address to emphasize the emotional feel of a scene rather than absolute perfection in historical authenticity.


Please note this timeline was based directly on discussions in this thread:
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/bela-alexios-manuel-i-succeeded-by-son-in-law.446579/page-2
 
So, to summarize the territorial situation of 1178, the major cities of western-central Anatolia are back in the control of the Empire, and the land seized by the Seljuks for grazing has been redistributed to Hungarian Pranoia. There would still be resistance in the eastern part of the Seljuk domains. In the Balkans the frontier follows the line of 1170 between Hungary and the Empire. Wallachia-Moldavia is probably still under technical Cuman influence at this point, but Béla-Alexios sees obviously that trade into Transylvania from the Danube must be controlled and this open land of Dacia placed under control. Nothing noteworthy has changed with the course of Halych in regard to Hungary in the east; or in regard to the limited Imperial presence in Ancona and the developments in Italy. Antioch stands to prosper from the fall of the Seljuks and resurgence of Byzantine power, but the situation viz. Cilician Armenia is rather more complicated.

I'm going to work on a map next, I'll make a series of decade snapshots like that. Does anyone have a good, easily edited 12th century base map of the region? That would make this go much more quickly.
 
You know the famous double headed eagle emblem of the ERE?Might one of the eagles be turned into a Turul?
I don't think so. Based in the prevailing standards of the time both monarchies would presumptively continue to use their existing insignia separately. The dynasty might quarter the symbols of its two lineages--but Komnenian practice makes it a bit difficult to figure out what that would look like. If the putative Dynastic Union lasts any length of time it's likely that the symbols will be quartered in banners and standards. Of course, that's a bit ahead of where we are now seeing that, properly, full authority is not unified in a single person yet. The current situation is somewhat analogous to Castile and Aragon during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.
 
Here's a 1200 AD worlda map - https://hadaril.github.io/nextgen/1200.png
and an 1115 AD one - https://hadaril.github.io/nextgen/1115.png

Useful for reference but they're both not very detailed, of course.
Looking at all the available options I actually decided to take these maps as a base, scale them up by a factor of 500 (for the European-Islamic world only) and then start detailing them myself by adding cities and rivers and correcting the boundary sizes. I have in the past used layers in google earth to construct maps but I do that at work so it can be a bit tedious for fun.
 
Huh, looks like someone's made a map of basically this timeline's exact scenario, on reddit.

https://www.reddit.com/r/imaginarymaps/comments/adhmfq/apparently_this_was_an_actual_possibility_until/
I'm sure that's the same Fehérvári as was posting in the original thread and whom I talked to, just taking a somewhat more conservative approach. I think the Rum Sultanate was actually very weak, as demonstrated by the occupation of Iconium by the Crusaders less than 15 years after Myriokephalon and by the Sultan's own cautious response to his victory which indicated he had little reserves of strength for continued fighting. And, in regards to Alexios being Emperor after being King of Hungary, I think it's possible if Manuel sees the course through with a very steady hand on the tiller, expecting that as Béla he would, though, face (but be likely to defeat) an outright insurrection by his brother. Maria's portrayal is likewise based on her failed coup d'état. As the wife of Béla instead of some nobody from northern Italy, she would be an immensely dangerous woman.
 
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I just got from the thread about "Bela-Alexios" that inspired you to rewrite this TL. Very nice work here, @mitfrc, the style is captivating (I liked the Battle of Myriokephalon very much) and the potential is immense. Hungary is somewhat forgotten in this Forum, so it's good for a change.
 
I just got from the thread about "Bela-Alexios" that inspired you to rewrite this TL. Very nice work here, @mitfrc, the style is captivating (I liked the Battle of Myriokephalon very much) and the potential is immense. Hungary is somewhat forgotten in this Forum, so it's good for a change.

Thank you very much. The Byzanto-Hungarian (Hungaro-Byzantine? I'm not sure which would be preferred) Empire has always been a favourite of mine since I thought about that anecdote about Béla way back in 2002. I'll be supplementing the style with maps, lots of them, I just need to get my base map right first. I decided to go with a different template because of the difficulties with scaling, one that actually includes rivers and has more detailed and smaller islands as well because of the larger scale. Ultimately I'll get it fully updated to the 1178 borders using several maps for reference, and add cities, and then issuing decadal updates will be very easy. The original timeline ran to about 1512 before it stopped, but I think I can keep this going to the present, though with my other projects and my never quiet work life, that will certainly take a few years.
 

trajen777

Banned
It's really a great tl.. If u look at what this woul bring to the reconquest of Anatolia plus you gain,
1 Hungarian mounted archers and hc .. The balance of additional force would go hard in the byz favor
2 a stable gov , as long as bela lives,
3 Serbs under control
4 manuel left a very large fleet so if this is maintained Venice and the itialian cities could be kept at bay
5 per treadgood byz in 1200 was at a peak of its wealth with a unstable gov, here u have the wealth plus stability.
6 after Anatolia reconquest do u regain a weakening southern state in italy , also putting pressure on the pope
7 or propping up and formalizing the crusader state dependence ?
Anyway reestablish the Anatolian border in the Taurus mrns. And you would see a cascadeing wealth. The western Anatolian areas would not have raiders, the central areas would have livestock, and the final borders would have hardened warriors. The increased forces, wealth, and navy would give the byz great opportunities for the future. Now figure out a way to raise the sea walls, thicken the walls ( to hold off cannons in the future), keep up the fleet ( keep trade going) and you are powerful.
 
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