I generally support Ebulhayr Pasha's side in the Civil War, since Mehmed winning would practically mean the end of the Ottoman Empire anyways as he has to gut much of the Greek bureaucracy loyal to the Vizier while much of the Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian/Hungarian factions would literally feast on the Empire before our very eyes in the chaos. At least with Ebulhayr and the end of the House of Osman, there's the possibility of maintaining the realm as a staunch opponent to Hungarian domination of the Balkans and the Karamanids/Trapezuntines in Anatolia.

Speaking of which, how are the Karamanids right now in terms of politics and culture? Are they Hellenized or are they sticking closely to their Turkish roots? I have a feeling that they would not be as kind towards their remaining Anatolian Greek subjects after what Ebulhayr has done in Constantinople.
 
I generally support Ebulhayr Pasha's side in the Civil War, since Mehmed winning would practically mean the end of the Ottoman Empire anyways as he has to gut much of the Greek bureaucracy loyal to the Vizier while much of the Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian/Hungarian factions would literally feast on the Empire before our very eyes in the chaos. At least with Ebulhayr and the end of the House of Osman, there's the possibility of maintaining the realm as a staunch opponent to Hungarian domination of the Balkans and the Karamanids/Trapezuntines in Anatolia.

Speaking of which, how are the Karamanids right now in terms of politics and culture? Are they Hellenized or are they sticking closely to their Turkish roots? I have a feeling that they would not be as kind towards their remaining Anatolian Greek subjects after what Ebulhayr has done in Constantinople.
Sorry for not responding earlier, I got distracted.

Even if Ebulhayr is victorious, the Ottomans will still remain as the ruling dynasty. Mehmed has several brothers who Ebulhayr can use as puppets, and there's no way he would give up such an advantage to a rebel.

The Karamanids are in somewhat of a Golden Age, actually. The death of Pir Ahmet in 1492 caused them to reunify (I might be a little off here, I don't have my notes in front of me) and they've been slowly centralizing, essentially becoming Rum 2.0. The current sultan, Khayqubad I (although he numbers himself Khayqubad IV) is the most powerful Karman ruler to date, and he's taken a leaf from his claimed ancestor Alexios I (there was a Komnenos who got exiled to Rum who every Turkish dynasty and their mother claims descent from) in keeping his court orderly and well-managed. They're actually the first Muslim state to adopt the printing press, and are currently in the midst of a flowering of the arts. They're definitely leaning away from Hellenization, supporting a culture modeled after the Turko-Persian complex of the Seljuks and a borderline theocratic government, with ulema holding a great deal of influence. They're not the most friendly to Greeks, true, but have surprisingly good relations with the Armenians, who make up somewhere between a fifth and a sixth of their total population.
 
It seems a little unlikely that Angelović Paşa would have been able to push through all these reforms without triggering a major reactionary uprising. I guess a combination of the old guard being gutted in the War of the First Holy League and Angelović gaining a bunch of prestige by winning the Nostaras War gave him basically an unprecedented level of control.

I wonder how Ebülhayr Paşa is going to justify fighting against the Sultan. He’ll probably go with the old reliable removing him from the influence of harmful advisers shtick.

Well that can only mean good things for Trebizond.
Your first point is entirely on point (heh). Angelovic was pushing the upper limit of his power and likely would have had to deal with an uprising of some sort if not for his death.

Ebulhayr is probably going to cite Angelovic's deposition of Mustafa II (fun fact, OTL Mustafa had Angelovic deposed from the vizierdom) as legal basis, and also champion himself as the true supporter of Islam by making noise about Mehmed being under the influence of occultists or dervishes. It sounds strange, but this happened to the early Ottomans OTL.
oh god i hope the sultan looses unless the ottomans will probably be lost
The Ottoman state will stick around for a while, don't worry.
Greek Ottoman Empire? That's of course unlikely, but still.
Stranger things have happened. With the Greek orthodox states still kicking around, I think it will have been easier to convert some of the locals without having to worry about militant fanatics in every village, so there will be more Greek Muslims around TTL.
Mmm the Ottoman Ortodox Church... interesting
In the Chinese sense, definitely.
don't worry take your time !
Thanks for the continued support.
I think the idea is to have the Sultan have a very messy win so that the Greeks experience extreme whiplash in losing their privileges and experiencing extreme repression, regardless of if they're Orthodox or Muslim. Angelovic Pasa being a Greek Muslim and favoring Greeks is something the Sultan's well aware of and his response was to embrace Turkish reactionary elements. This can only lead to revolts. Without Greeks to prop it up and with most of Anatolia's Turks lost to them the Ottomans are screwed as a functioning state unless the Sultan's victory is crushing.

So what I think this'll lead to is other nearby states all jumping in to fill the political void left by the Ottomans as they crash and burn unable to do much to stop it, already spent. Bulgaria will revolt, the Karaminids will get opportunistic, the remaining Greeks will revolt, the Hungarians try to finish the deed, and Trebizond is likely to jump on the chance to get revenge for the last war. This'll leave Trebizond as the premiere Greek state by the end and could end in a lot of ways. Worst-case scenario for the Ottomans, everything goes wrong and Trebizond rides the Great Greek Revolt all the way into Constantinople and most of Asia Minor's Aegan coast while Bulgaria north of Thrace and northern Macedonia get annexed by the Hungarians, and the Karamanids take most of the Anatolian interior.

Best-case scenario for the Ottomans, the opportunists largely fail and only cede marginal lands bar Trebizond which has been portrayed as being by far the readiest to wage war out of all of their neighbors. So marginal losses everywhere but on the Black Sea coast, where Trebizond ends up taking most to all of historical Paphlagonia or something. Either way, I don't see them escaping Trebizond coming out as the champion of the Greeks and as a big refugee magnet as the Ottomans dial up their worst behavior to 11 under the victorious Sultan.

In my head, this Trebizond period is largely serving as one giant case study into how to revitalize and Hellenify what's to be annexed in the future, and this is going to be the case study on Hellenification and demographic management.
You put forth a very interesting proposal, and I'd lie if I said it hadn't caused me to change some things. Can I DM you about plans for the TL's future?
My guess here is that the traditionalist could make off with a breakaway state in Northern Bulgaria with the more conservative elements of the army or the remnants if they can't win the civil war. The rest of the Ottoman domains will continue to pivot towards the Vizier's policies or transition to a vizierate once the successful policies really start to take effect.

What's interesting here is that the concept of deemphasizing or decoupling religious affiliation with service to the state, a lighter touch on the domestic population, and encouraging Greek as an administrative language. Instead of Turkification, we're seeing a reverse in the trend. Actual policy is more pro-Greek, which is huge after going on since at least the 1470s.

I think the traditionalists will get a surprise about how much leverage they really have here and how much has been lost.

I foresee Osmanli identity for the elites being weakened in favor of Rum.
The potential in a Greek Muslim state--more accurately a Muslim Byzantine Empire--has always been fascinating to me. Many of the things you outline will happen, I can promise you that.
 
Part XXXII: The Death of Princes (1510-1514)
Alright, I got ahead of myself by more than a little bit. I'm going to put in this and another update on Trebizond's internal affairs before I jump back to the civil war. Sorry.

Part XXXII: The Death of Princes (1510-1514)

The court of Alexios V was a place ruled by fear. The aftokrator was a deeply paranoid man who leapt at shadows, both real and imagined. He was known for killing and mutilating anyone who slighted him[1]--once again, both real and imagined--and because of this, not a second went by when the formerly bright and colorful court of Alexandros II’s reign was not covered in a layer of shadow. As time drew on, Alexios’ rule became increasingly manic and draconian, as he feared conspiracies against him, seeded in all corners of the realm. Resentment began to build against him as he sent hundreds of innocent(ish) men and women to their deaths on baseless claims, or had them horrifically mutilated or exiled upon similar grounds. In time, this would spur the growth of just such a thing, and like Aesop’s eagle, Alexios would give his enemies the means of his own destruction….

Anastasia Katsarina has been described by several contemporary historians as the ‘anti-Theodora’[2], a woman of lowly status, to say the least, who was catapulted into the highest halls of power but retained many of her previous attributes and character. This is doubtless true in many ways, but it was most openly expressed in how the aftokratorissa wielded--or, more accurately, clung to--power. After all, it was her network of connections and spies that had allowed her to make the leap from literal scheming whore to left hand of the aftokrator himself, and only a fool would not use this network to further their hold on power once they had seized it. Katsarina made a great show of giving over the entirety of her ‘organization’ to her husband, allowing him a level of access to the dark world of courtly access that few contemporary rulers possessed. Of course, she held some things in reserve, names of agents and informants struck from the rolls that Alexios knew of, hoards of coin and weapons concealed amongst the twisting passages that stretched beneath the Great Hill[3]. This network allowed her to exercise her power through both soft and hard means, once again in a manner unusual for the empress, and in some aspects she was more powerful than her husband, as her secret network allowed her a degree of secrecy and knowledgeable unavailable to those who worked through legal means.

But this was a double-edged sword, as the increasingly paranoid nature of her husband meant these precautions made her a potential target were he to discover what she had been hiding from him. As shown in previous chapters, Alexios had always been twitchy, to say the least, and how much of this was legitimate and how much a carefully-maintained piece of political theater is unknown even to present researchers. However, the bouts of Justinian II-esque mental anguish only truly began in 1511. In that year, Katsarina detected a brewing plot against the emperor’s throne and his life. The madness and pettiness displayed during the intervention in Kartvelia had angered a sizable faction of the army, as several of the commanders which he had summarily executed were well-regarded by their men and all-around successful commanders. The nephew of one of these generals, one Gabriel Papadopoulos, had enlisted the help of several other officers to depose Alexios in a military coup and install Andreas Megalokomnenos, his first cousin, in his stead. Papadopoulos was smart enough to recognize that the eleutheroi would almost certainly be unswayed by any attempts to subvert them, and so he had directed his efforts at the regular forces garrisoning Trapezous, managing to form a force of eighty or so willing soldiers. Unfortunately for him and Andreas, one of these men happened to frequent a prostitute who reported to one of the aftokratorissa’s minions, and the rest is history. Alexios ordered the eleutheroi to storm the barracks of the disloyal soldiers, and in the process Papadopoulos and several others were killed. They were the lucky ones. Alexios had the other conspirators flayed alive and tried to do the same to Andreas, who managed to escape only by sheer luck; he was an insomniac, and happened to notice the eleutheroi mustering that night and decided it was time to leave. Andreas fled by ship to Constantinople, where he took up residence in the Sublime Porte.

The discovery of Papadopoulos’ conspiracy shook Alexios to his core, validating his many paranoid fantasies in the form of a concrete threat from the army. Katsarina encouraged this, seeing an opportunity to remove a potential threat--she had never been able to worm her way as thoroughly into the army as she had into the court or the bureaucracy--and increase her own control over her husband at the same time. The papiai were further strengthened, becoming the 16th century equivalent of the secret police, charged with arresting and torturing anyone who even looked at Alexios funny. For a time, this was a rather effective method of securing his reign, as far as the aftokrator was concerned. The courtiers already hated him, he was sure of that, and so the only way to keep them in line was with fear. If an innocent bystander happened to be rubbered, it was no great loss--after all, no-one was innocent in court politics--and every potential enemy caught or killed was one less who could threaten him. Of course, this approach was self-defeating, as nearly every innocent (and many guilty) person who was killed had a family who would be ever so slightly upset that one of their relatives had been sent to the great beyond because of the emperor’s insane delusions. The Alexiac Problem, a dilemma common across most internal security forces, is named after him and the situation the aftokrator thrust himself into. Every revealed and executed conspirator or potential conspirator had relatives, and eventually one of these relatives would get pissed enough to start plotting against him, and eventually some of these would be discovered, which would cause another round of persecutions, which would just anger more people, and so on and so forth. Between 1511 and 1514, Alexios had more than three hundred courtiers, monks and bureaucrats executed and hundreds of others brutally mutilated--primarily having their arms or hands chopped off and blinded, but sometimes even worse--and sent into exile. Among these were many of his own cousins, both male and female. The smart members of the House of Komnenos and the House of Mgeli[4] ran after Andreas was forced into exile, most going to Morea, the Ottomans or the Qutlughids[5]. Alexios believed that all of this was necessary to secure his God-given throne, and that all of these punishments were carried out in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s will, who spoke to him regularly. This was probably a piece of political theater--probably. There were also a number of minor military revolts, as moirarkhs attempted to dethrone the aftokrator, but most of these went nowhere due to internal factionalism and the skill of the emperor’s assassins. The most troubling of these was the Revolt of 1513, which saw soldiers in the Lykos valley rise against the capital and briefly establish a breakaway state before they were driven out by loyalist soldiers and fled across the border to the Qutlughids. Alexios was crazy but he wasn’t stupid, and he knew that he needed the army on his side to stay in power. He paid his soldiers handsomely--especially the eleutheroi--using money gained from increased taxes on the nobility and tariffs imposed on Italian and Ottoman trade.

Throughout this bloodbath, Katsarina retained most of her power, but she could not help but grow increasingly uneasy as her husband’s madness swelled. She too bore a healthy dose of paranoia, and began to fear that Alexios only retained her as aftokratorissa because of her influence of the court. As he was currently undertaking what was effectively a purging of the court, soon she would be useless to him and discarded, executed or sent off into exile. The butchering of the many courtiers had an outsized effect on her clients--after all, intriguers would be fingered by their rivals for disposal on behalf of the papiai, and they naturally hung around with shady crowds--and as the purges drew on she began to fear that her worst fears were coming true.

The chain of events that saw the ultimate downfall of Alexios V began in the winter of 1513. The papiai had just arrested nearly two dozen plotters for treason against him, and most disturbingly a great number of them were clergymen, especially monks. Alexios began to fear that the church was conspiring against him, hoping to overthrow him in place of someone more pliant. He didn’t dare arrest the patriarch, Konstantinos II, directly, but he could still reduce the opportunity they had to undermine him. He had Romanos, his long-suffering brother, dragged out of his cell in Tmutarakan and executed, finally putting an end to the poor bastard’s suffering. The ramifications of this were immense; he had arrested and mutilated many of his cousin previously, but to execute your own brother required a level of true madness that went beyond any political theater. Katsarina was now sure that she must either strike first or be killed. The marriage between Alexios and Anastasia had been far from a happy one, for obvious reasons, but they had produced exactly one child, the young prince David, in 1508. Katsarina was sure the best way for her to stay in power was for Alexios to have an unfortunate accident so that she could rule as regent for David for however long it took for him to become mature enough to rule.

The aftokratorissa began making plans as soon as possible. While the purges had wrecked her once magnificent network of spies and contacts, she still had a number of loyalists scattered across the court. Amongst these was one Alexios Francesco Skaramagos. Skaramagos was the son of Antonio Scaramanga, the last Genoese governor of Ghazaria, and while he had been born in Genoese territory he had rapidly Hellenized, becoming a minor player in the Trapezuntine court during the reign of Alexandros II. He was a notoriously skilled assassin, supposedly able to kill a cow with a quarrel through the eye at a thousand paces, and Katsarina had sheltered him from Alexios’ purges because of these skills. Now, the aftokratorissa charged Skaramagos with killing her husband, promising him protection and a million neahyperpyra under her new regime. Skaramagos was quite reluctant to do so for obvious reasons, and it was only by threatening to kill his brother Nikolaos that he was coerced into doing it.

On the night of 28 May 1514, Skaramagos snuck up onto the roof of the rebuilt Church of Saint Eugenios, which lay across a broad chasm from the palace on the Great Hill. Lying silent in the morning mists, the assassin waited for more than six hours as the sun rose and the fog burned off. Alexios paced in his study, passing back and forth between a narrow gap in the palace’s masonry no more than an inch wide, a memory of the siege thirty years before. Skaramagos counted the seconds between each passing of the hole, the difference between two passings of the whole as the tyrant moved about oblivious. Then, with a short breath, he squeezed the trigger. The quarrel whistled across the gap, falling more than twenty feet from its trajectory before slotting through the tiny hole. Alexios V fell, mortally wounded by a shot to the stomach.

However, he was not yet dead. Even as Skaramagos fled from his roost, the aftokrator cried out for his guards. He knew he was dying, that he had a day or two left at best before Death claimed him at last. He needed to make the best of what time he had left, for himself and for his dynasty. Alexios had long suspected that his wife was plotting against him--he was crazy, but he wasn’t stupid--but had been afraid to move against her given the potentially vast number of potential assassins that she could have in her employ. Now, however, he no longer had to fear the assassin’s blade. Katsarina had prepared for a failed assassination and was ready to play the part of the shocked and grieving widow or the appaled but caring wife in equal measure, but she had not prepared for Alexios’ sudden wrath. The emperor was unable to move, but had the papiai arrest his wife and drag her before him, so he could have her strangled in front of him. With Katsarina dead, he then turned the papiai and the eleutheroi loose on the unsuspecting Trapezuntines, hoping to purge any potential threats to his son in one last orgy of violence. No-one was safe; the patriarch was dragged out of the Hagia Sophia and beheaded, the eparkhos and his wife were killed in their beds; the heads of the city’s three chief merchant families were hacked down by the eleutheroi in the center of the market; the grand notary[6] was killed in a brothel; the grand domestic was trapped in a closet and burned alive. The few remaining prominent noblemen were all killed, effectively throwing any future court into anarchy with all of their leaders dead or blinded. As his soldiers were drenching the streets of the city in blood, Alexios sent for two men in particular to be brought before him. Basileios Mgeli, who had just returned from a diplomatic mission to the Qutlughids and so was caught completely flat-footed, and Basileios Davidopoulos, Alexios’ mentor, were marched into the palace, no doubt expecting to face their imminent demise. Instead, the aftokrator thanked them for their long and loyal service and asked them to stand as regents for his young son, alongside the captain of the eleutheroi, Basileios the Scythian[7]. They hurriedly agreed, and Alexios dispatched them to obtain all the relevant records and books on the legal manner of succession. Once they returned, Alexios had the eleutheroi muster outside the palace, recognize the men as co-regents, and abdicated in favor of his son. With a crossbow bolt still lodged in his sternum, the ex-emperor was then carried across the city to the Church of Saint Eugenios, where he retired into prayer. Early the next morning, he finally died after a day of agonizing pain, at the age of 37.

There was a three-day interregnum, as the business of selecting a new patriarch was decided by the regents. Eventually, Davidopoulos was elevated as Patriarch Basileios III, and David was crowned as emperor on 1 June, at the young age of 6. Alexios’ paranoid reign and his final massacre had gutted the city of Trapezous and the empire of large of most of their competent officials and the bureaucrats who usually keep the state running, but it had also slain or driven out the fractious courtiers and noblemen who trouble most regencies. Ironically, one of the most tumultuous reigns in Trapezuntine history would be followed by one of its most peaceful regents, as the Three Basils would be free to reshape the kingdom to fit the upcoming monarch and the upcoming old empire….

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] This was the last period of widespread executions during this era of Trapezuntine history; under Alexios’ successors, the milder punishment of blinding would return to vogue.
[2] Credit to @CastilloVerde for this description.
[3] The palace and citadel of Trapezous were located south-east of OTL Trabzon, atop the Çukurçayır Hill.
[4] By this point, the Mgeli were considered a cadet branch of the Megalokomnenoi, as Alexandros had formally adopted Basileios Mgeli and his other half-siblings as his children. It’s quite weird when phrased like that, but I assure you, it makes sense.
[5] The problem posed to Trapezous by this should be obvious, but the diaspora of claimants to the surrounding realms of these rival states posed a serious threat, as this was essentially a casus belli served to them on a silver platter.
[6] The grand notary is roughly equivalent to the grand secretary of previous eras.
[7] Basileios the Scythian was not actually a Scythian but rather a Turkic of some sort, probably a Mongol, Turk or a Kipchak.
 
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Even if Ebulhayr is victorious, the Ottomans will still remain as the ruling dynasty. Mehmed has several brothers who Ebulhayr can use as puppets, and there's no way he would give up such an advantage to a rebel.
Ah, I see, so the House of Osman won't die if Ebulhayr wins the war. Honestly that makes me support the Vizier even more since the Ottomans have more to lose with Mehmed's purge of the majority Greek bureaucracy than keeping the Ottoman sultans as puppets for the Grand Vizier.

Still, I do have to recognize that Ebulhayr's position isn't the strongest even after the war, since this can easily devolve into an Almanzor situation where the strongman dies and his successors can't keep up the pace, leading to a breakdown between the remaining Turkish nobility and the Greeks, possibly turning into another civil war. Assuming that he does win, the Grand Vizier has a tough road ahead of him trying to maintain power while propping up puppets in the throne.

As for the Karamanids, thank you for the rundown as it was a joy to read. They're probably the biggest threat to the Trapezuntines once this war has passed so it'll be interesting to see how they will contend with the rising Beylik.

The potential in a Greek Muslim state--more accurately a Muslim Byzantine Empire--has always been fascinating to me. Many of the things you outline will happen, I can promise you that.
*looks at the Bataids longingly*
BataidEmpireFlag.png

Planet of Hats really awakened the tantalizing possibilities of what a Muslim Roman Empire could bring to the table for me in Moonlight in a Jar, and to see it possibly happen in The Undying Empire, albeit done in their own way, is just simply too interesting to ignore. I'll be looking at the Ottoman Empire with great interest.

Reason being that it's more likely to arise under the Ottomans than the Trapezuntines though due to the rise of Hellenization and the decline of the existing Turkish nobility. Mehmed II already declared himself as Kayser-i-Rum before, so who knows if the next Sultan claims the title again to rob the Trapezuntines of further prestige and glory as the Emperor of the Romans.

Alexios really was a mixed bag, wasn't he? Although he basically forced all of the capable nobles and bureaucrats towards their enemies, especially Constantinople out of all places, he did purge the scheming dynatoi to essentially allow David to be able to recover the Trapezuntine Empire without any problems.

Still, seeing what he was capable of during his last days was very depressing as he basically engaged in an orgy of violence and insanity before he died. Not a good look but what matters is how will the Three Basils shape the Empire once the dust has been settled. Taking advantage of the Civil War is an interesting possibility but I don't know if they are even able to if the purges have devastated the army's command.
 
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Well.....
.....
.....
Alexios V was.....something.

Great job on the whole chapter. This was nicely done and I really liked seeing the emperor go cuckoo.
 
You put forth a very interesting proposal, and I'd lie if I said it hadn't caused me to change some things. Can I DM you about plans for the TL's future?
Sure, feel free. Happy to have you bounce ideas off me
 
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pls don't ban me

Monthly Donor
Alright, I got ahead of myself by more than a little bit. I'm going to put in this and another update on Trebizond's internal affairs before I jump back to the civil war. Sorry.

Part XXXIII: The Death of Princes (1510-1514)

The court of Alexios V was a place ruled by fear. The aftokrator was a deeply paranoid man who leapt at shadows, both real and imagined. He was known for killing and mutilating anyone who slighted him[1]--once again, both real and imagined--and because of this, not a second went by when the formerly bright and colorful court of Alexandros II’s reign was not covered in a layer of shadow. As time drew on, Alexios’ rule became increasingly manic and draconian, as he feared conspiracies against him, seeded in all corners of the realm. Resentment began to build against him as he sent hundreds of innocent(ish) men and women to their deaths on baseless claims, or had them horrifically mutilated or exiled upon similar grounds. In time, this would spur the growth of just such a thing, and like Aesop’s eagle, Alexios would give his enemies the means of his own destruction….

Anastasia Katsarina has been described by several contemporary historians as the ‘anti-Theodora’[2], a woman of lowly status, to say the least, who was catapulted into the highest halls of power but retained many of her previous attributes and character. This is doubtless true in many ways, but it was most openly expressed in how the aftokratorissa wielded--or, more accurately, clung to--power. After all, it was her network of connections and spies that had allowed her to make the leap from literal scheming whore to left hand of the aftokrator himself, and only a fool would not use this network to further their hold on power once they had seized it. Katsarina made a great show of giving over the entirety of her ‘organization’ to her husband, allowing him a level of access to the dark world of courtly access that few contemporary rulers possessed. Of course, she held some things in reserve, names of agents and informants struck from the rolls that Alexios knew of, hoards of coin and weapons concealed amongst the twisting passages that stretched beneath the Great Hill[3]. This network allowed her to exercise her power through both soft and hard means, once again in a manner unusual for the empress, and in some aspects she was more powerful than her husband, as her secret network allowed her a degree of secrecy and knowledgeable unavailable to those who worked through legal means.

But this was a double-edged sword, as the increasingly paranoid nature of her husband meant these precautions made her a potential target were he to discover what she had been hiding from him. As shown in previous chapters, Alexios had always been twitchy, to say the least, and how much of this was legitimate and how much a carefully-maintained piece of political theater is unknown even to present researchers. However, the bouts of Justinian II-esque mental anguish only truly began in 1511. In that year, Katsarina detected a brewing plot against the emperor’s throne and his life. The madness and pettiness displayed during the intervention in Kartvelia had angered a sizable faction of the army, as several of the commanders which he had summarily executed were well-regarded by their men and all-around successful commanders. The nephew of one of these generals, one Gabriel Papadopoulos, had enlisted the help of several other officers to depose Alexios in a military coup and install Andreas Megalokomnenos, his first cousin, in his stead. Papadopoulos was smart enough to recognize that the eleutheroi would almost certainly be unswayed by any attempts to subvert them, and so he had directed his efforts at the regular forces garrisoning Trapezous, managing to form a force of eighty or so willing soldiers. Unfortunately for him and Andreas, one of these men happened to frequent a prostitute who reported to one of the aftokratorissa’s minions, and the rest is history. Alexios ordered the eleutheroi to storm the barracks of the disloyal soldiers, and in the process Papadopoulos and several others were killed. They were the lucky ones. Alexios had the other conspirators flayed alive and tried to do the same to Andreas, who managed to escape only by sheer luck; he was an insomniac, and happened to notice the eleutheroi mustering that night and decided it was time to leave. Andreas fled by ship to Constantinople, where he took up residence in the Sublime Porte.

The discovery of Papadopoulos’ conspiracy shook Alexios to his core, validating his many paranoid fantasies in the form of a concrete threat from the army. Katsarina encouraged this, seeing an opportunity to remove a potential threat--she had never been able to worm her way as thoroughly into the army as she had into the court or the bureaucracy--and increase her own control over her husband at the same time. The papiai were further strengthened, becoming the 16th century equivalent of the secret police, charged with arresting and torturing anyone who even looked at Alexios funny. For a time, this was a rather effective method of securing his reign, as far as the aftokrator was concerned. The courtiers already hated him, he was sure of that, and so the only way to keep them in line was with fear. If an innocent bystander happened to be rubbered, it was no great loss--after all, no-one was innocent in court politics--and every potential enemy caught or killed was one less who could threaten him. Of course, this approach was self-defeating, as nearly every innocent (and many guilty) person who was killed had a family who would be ever so slightly upset that one of their relatives had been sent to the great beyond because of the emperor’s insane delusions. The Alexiac Problem, a dilemma common across most internal security forces, is named after him and the situation the aftokrator thrust himself into. Every revealed and executed conspirator or potential conspirator had relatives, and eventually one of these relatives would get pissed enough to start plotting against him, and eventually some of these would be discovered, which would cause another round of persecutions, which would just anger more people, and so on and so forth. Between 1511 and 1514, Alexios had more than three hundred courtiers, monks and bureaucrats executed and hundreds of others brutally mutilated--primarily having their arms or hands chopped off and blinded, but sometimes even worse--and sent into exile. Among these were many of his own cousins, both male and female. The smart members of the House of Komnenos and the House of Mgeli[4] ran after Andreas was forced into exile, most going to Morea, the Ottomans or the Qutlughids[5]. Alexios believed that all of this was necessary to secure his God-given throne, and that all of these punishments were carried out in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s will, who spoke to him regularly. This was probably a piece of political theater--probably. There were also a number of minor military revolts, as moirarkhs attempted to dethrone the aftokrator, but most of these went nowhere due to internal factionalism and the skill of the emperor’s assassins. The most troubling of these was the Revolt of 1513, which saw soldiers in the Lykos valley rise against the capital and briefly establish a breakaway state before they were driven out by loyalist soldiers and fled across the border to the Qutlughids. Alexios was crazy but he wasn’t stupid, and he knew that he needed the army on his side to stay in power. He paid his soldiers handsomely--especially the eleutheroi--using money gained from increased taxes on the nobility and tariffs imposed on Italian and Ottoman trade.

Throughout this bloodbath, Katsarina retained most of her power, but she could not help but grow increasingly uneasy as her husband’s madness swelled. She too bore a healthy dose of paranoia, and began to fear that Alexios only retained her as aftokratorissa because of her influence of the court. As he was currently undertaking what was effectively a purging of the court, soon she would be useless to him and discarded, executed or sent off into exile. The butchering of the many courtiers had an outsized effect on her clients--after all, intriguers would be fingered by their rivals for disposal on behalf of the papiai, and they naturally hung around with shady crowds--and as the purges drew on she began to fear that her worst fears were coming true.

The chain of events that saw the ultimate downfall of Alexios V began in the winter of 1513. The papiai had just arrested nearly two dozen plotters for treason against him, and most disturbingly a great number of them were clergymen, especially monks. Alexios began to fear that the church was conspiring against him, hoping to overthrow him in place of someone more pliant. He didn’t dare arrest the patriarch, Konstantinos II, directly, but he could still reduce the opportunity they had to undermine him. He had Romanos, his long-suffering brother, dragged out of his cell in Tmutarakan and executed, finally putting an end to the poor bastard’s suffering. The ramifications of this were immense; he had arrested and mutilated many of his cousin previously, but to execute your own brother required a level of true madness that went beyond any political theater. Katsarina was now sure that she must either strike first or be killed. The marriage between Alexios and Anastasia had been far from a happy one, for obvious reasons, but they had produced exactly one child, the young prince David, in 1508. Katsarina was sure the best way for her to stay in power was for Alexios to have an unfortunate accident so that she could rule as regent for David for however long it took for him to become mature enough to rule.

The aftokratorissa began making plans as soon as possible. While the purges had wrecked her once magnificent network of spies and contacts, she still had a number of loyalists scattered across the court. Amongst these was one Alexios Francesco Skaramagos. Skaramagos was the son of Antonio Scaramanga, the last Genoese governor of Ghazaria, and while he had been born in Genoese territory he had rapidly Hellenized, becoming a minor player in the Trapezuntine court during the reign of Alexandros II. He was a notoriously skilled assassin, supposedly able to kill a cow with a quarrel through the eye at a thousand paces, and Katsarina had sheltered him from Alexios’ purges because of these skills. Now, the aftokratorissa charged Skaramagos with killing her husband, promising him protection and a million neahyperpyra under her new regime. Skaramagos was quite reluctant to do so for obvious reasons, and it was only by threatening to kill his brother Nikolaos that he was coerced into doing it.

On the night of 28 May 1514, Skaramagos snuck up onto the roof of the rebuilt Church of Saint Eugenios, which lay across a broad chasm from the palace on the Great Hill. Lying silent in the morning mists, the assassin waited for more than six hours as the sun rose and the fog burned off. Alexios paced in his study, passing back and forth between a narrow gap in the palace’s masonry no more than an inch wide, a memory of the siege thirty years before. Skaramagos counted the seconds between each passing of the hole, the difference between two passings of the whole as the tyrant moved about oblivious. Then, with a short breath, he squeezed the trigger. The quarrel whistled across the gap, falling more than twenty feet from its trajectory before slotting through the tiny hole. Alexios V fell, mortally wounded by a shot to the stomach.

However, he was not yet dead. Even as Skaramagos fled from his roost, the aftokrator cried out for his guards. He knew he was dying, that he had a day or two left at best before Death claimed him at last. He needed to make the best of what time he had left, for himself and for his dynasty. Alexios had long suspected that his wife was plotting against him--he was crazy, but he wasn’t stupid--but had been afraid to move against her given the potentially vast number of potential assassins that she could have in her employ. Now, however, he no longer had to fear the assassin’s blade. Katsarina had prepared for a failed assassination and was ready to play the part of the shocked and grieving widow or the appaled but caring wife in equal measure, but she had not prepared for Alexios’ sudden wrath. The emperor was unable to move, but had the papiai arrest his wife and drag her before him, so he could have her strangled in front of him. With Katsarina dead, he then turned the papiai and the eleutheroi loose on the unsuspecting Trapezuntines, hoping to purge any potential threats to his son in one last orgy of violence. No-one was safe; the patriarch was dragged out of the Hagia Sophia and beheaded, the eparkhos and his wife were killed in their beds; the heads of the city’s three chief merchant families were hacked down by the eleutheroi in the center of the market; the grand notary[6] was killed in a brothel; the grand domestic was trapped in a closet and burned alive. The few remaining prominent noblemen were all killed, effectively throwing any future court into anarchy with all of their leaders dead or blinded. As his soldiers were drenching the streets of the city in blood, Alexios sent for two men in particular to be brought before him. Basileios Mgeli, who had just returned from a diplomatic mission to the Qutlughids and so was caught completely flat-footed, and Basileios Davidopoulos, Alexios’ mentor, were marched into the palace, no doubt expecting to face their imminent demise. Instead, the aftokrator thanked them for their long and loyal service and asked them to stand as regents for his young son, alongside the captain of the eleutheroi, Basileios the Scythian[7]. They hurriedly agreed, and Alexios dispatched them to obtain all the relevant records and books on the legal manner of succession. Once they returned, Alexios had the eleutheroi muster outside the palace, recognize the men as co-regents, and abdicated in favor of his son. With a crossbow bolt still lodged in his sternum, the ex-emperor was then carried across the city to the Church of Saint Eugenios, where he retired into prayer. Early the next morning, he finally died after a day of agonizing pain, at the age of 37.

There was a three-day interregnum, as the business of selecting a new patriarch was decided by the regents. Eventually, Davidopoulos was elevated as Patriarch Basileios III, and David was crowned as emperor on 1 June, at the young age of 6. Alexios’ paranoid reign and his final massacre had gutted the city of Trapezous and the empire of large of most of their competent officials and the bureaucrats who usually keep the state running, but it had also slain or driven out the fractious courtiers and noblemen who trouble most regencies. Ironically, one of the most tumultuous reigns in Trapezuntine history would be followed by one of its most peaceful regents, as the Three Basils would be free to reshape the kingdom to fit the upcoming monarch and the upcoming old empire….

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[1] This was the last period of widespread executions during this era of Trapezuntine history; under Alexios’ successors, the milder punishment of blinding would return to vogue.
[2] Credit to @CastilloVerde for this description.
[3] The palace and citadel of Trapezous were located south-east of OTL Trabzon, atop the Çukurçayır Hill.
[4] By this point, the Mgeli were considered a cadet branch of the Megalokomnenoi, as Alexandros had formally adopted Basileios Mgeli and his other half-siblings as his children. It’s quite weird when phrased like that, but I assure you, it makes sense.
[5] The problem posed to Trapezous by this should be obvious, but the diaspora of claimants to the surrounding realms of these rival states posed a serious threat, as this was essentially a casus belli served to them on a silver platter.
[6] The grand notary is roughly equivalent to the grand secretary of previous eras.
[7] Basileios the Scythian was not actually a Scythian but rather a Turkic of some sort, probably a Mongol, Turk or a Kipchak.
so basically there the trapezuntine nobility is almost estinguished, if this can be mantained, trebzion has resolved forever the nobility problem like england after the war of roses
 
If you guys know any could you recommend me some Byzantine or Roman history books? (excluding "Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood" and "Restorer of the World")
 
The Turtledove polls have opened and I ask all of you, from the bottom of my heart, to Pokemon Go to the polls.

Seriously, though, I think we have a good shot at runner-up this year. Please vote.
 

pls don't ban me

Monthly Donor
The Turtledove polls have opened and I ask all of you, from the bottom of my heart, to Pokemon Go to the polls.

Seriously, though, I think we have a good shot at runner-up this year. Please vote.
Pokemon go? i would like to hit you with a stick at the moment after that joke. XD
 
Hey Eparkhos, out of curiosity what is the population of the Trapezuntine Empire around 1510-1514? I'm guessing its around 600,000 to 650,000 people total.
 

pls don't ban me

Monthly Donor
Hey Eparkhos, out of curiosity what is the population of the Trapezuntine Empire around 1510-1514? I'm guessing its around 600,000 to 650,000 people total.
isn't more than half a million a bit too much for an "empire" that is basically the european version of Chile? i would say between 400k and 500k
 
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