TLIGGT: A Giant Leap For Mankind


This is quite an ambitious project, and I like what you've written so far. Guyuk Khan sounds terrible!
Sorry I didn't see your reply sooner! Glad you've liked what I've had thus far!

The project is certainly ambitious, yes; hopefully I'll be able to follow through (Hell, I'm still on pre-TL updates as a matter of fleshing things out).

As for Guyuk, I imagined him as OTL Hulagu on steroids (TTL Hulagu ends up in Russia, where he manages to be less brutal than OTL himself and OTL Batu). I also wanted to explore the ramifications of a Mongol conquest of Egypt and the aftereffects on the Muslim world; Egypt will look a lot different TTL ethnicity wise, especially with Copts surviving as a distinctly non-Arab identity (spoiler: the language survives as a spoken/written language).

Guyuk is pretty awful, especially to Muslims (who know less about the other Mongol rulers) and his reputation will be equal to that of Attila or Ashurbanipal or other conquerors in the Arabo-Muslim world. In terms of Mongol conquerors, he comes in second, right behind TTL's conquest of northern China and in front of the conquest of northeastern India. And now for some it-came-to-my-mind elaboration!

Genghis' conquests of China TTL last longer; the Minyak/Western Xia/Tanguts have different internal politics in the 1210s, and so they assist in the conquests of Khwarazm and in the further conquests of Jin (they still lose their westernmost lands, but thems the breaks). By the time Genghis dies in 1234, the Mongols have almost reached the Yangtze. These conquests, over the course of over two decades, are even worse than OTL; the only major cities to survive in any true capacity are Chang'an/Xi'an, Kaifeng, and Luoyang, and the northernmost cities (OTL's Beijing, Xijing, Zhongjing, Yanan) are completely razed, with much of northern China down to the banks of the Yellow River converted to mostly-empty grassland. Furthermore, Genghis and his son Jochi destroyed the Grand Canal, thereby furthering the depopulation of northern China- those lands and cities near the Yellow River were alright, but further north was largely deprived of the help afforded by the former Grand Canal. The lands between the Huai and Yellow Rivers was also devastated, as the destruction of the canal and the Mongols led to flooding and widespread death.

Jochi would conquer the cities of the Yangtze river, although most of his efforts were directed at controlling the various khanates and ordering the conquests of farther-flung places. By the time Jochi died in 1246, only Guangdong, Guizhou and Guangxi remained out of Mongol control; the major cities razed under Jochi were Changde, Changsha, and Chengdu; most other cities were "merely" sacked.

During the Jochid Civil War, the collapsing Southern Song state was overthrown from within; the golpistas in control of Guangdong and eastern Guangxi bent the knee to Batu in exchange for mercy, and Batu (really Subotai, in the last campaigns of his life) conquered Guizhou and the rest of Guangxi, with the help of the Mongol vassals in Dali (which never becomes Yunnan; avoiding Mongol death really helps avoid outright incorporation into China). Batu declares the Yuan dynasty, with capital at Xi'an; Xixia and Dali are the most "integrated" vassal states, and Batu's conquest of Vietnam restores the Chinese yoke.

One may ask- why Xi'an and not someplace north? Well, Batu is definitely more Chinese OTL, Chang'an was already the "capital" of Jochi on campaign, and honestly the Yuan Emperor (retroactively made third; Genghis and Jochi being the first two Yuan emperors) really just does what he wants. Batu dies in 1261, succeeded by his son Tekuder, who would himself rule until 1276.
Genghis' conquests of China TTL last longer;
These conquests, over the course of over two decades, are even worse than OTL; the only major cities to survive in any true capacity are Chang'an/Xi'an, Kaifeng, and Luoyang, and the northernmost cities (OTL's Beijing, Xijing, Zhongjing, Yanan) are completely razed, with much of northern China down to the banks of the Yellow River converted to mostly-empty grassland.
In relation to that scenario, what would happen to the Northern (Han) Chinese population?
They'd survive; there are just so many more of them, even with the level of destruction TTL.

The main ramifications take longer to appear; northern China repopulates naturally in the countryside, and some new cities are built/rebuilt by the Yuan as a matter of statecraft and prestige, but that area of China will be devastated for centuries.

Rather than having Chinese colonizing Manchuria, expect Chinese migration up north from the more-crowded south; I expect northern China will have larger populations of religious minorities (from merchants) and other groups moved as part of government policy- the Zhuang, Miao, boat people and others are all prime candidates during the Yuan dynasty, although I wouldn't undersell Han growth either; after all, that area is the birthing ground of Chinese civilization.

China's northern border will ultimately be much farther south; Beijing will either stay a Mongol city, or will be the border city in the north. Not being capital helps with that; Xi'an is farther south, and the Yuan will have to rebuild the Grand Canal at some point.

Generally, Northern China will be one of the least-urbanized areas of China for centuries; a lot of pastoralism, small farming, and then the major cities. Eventually the population will fully recover, but this will switch the center of Chinese power from the Yellow River to the Yangtze and more generally to southernmost China (Canton was never sacked; that survival by *Cantonese people is bound to have huge impacts vis-a-vis influence; the Mongol ethnic hierarchy will be different as well- northern and central Han, then southern Han, then ethnic minorities, then Koreans, Tibetans, Dalinese and Tanguts, then Arabs/Persians/Indians etc, then other steppe peoples, and on top the Mongols. The system eventually blurs completely, and is abolished after the Black Plagues, but the descendants of those groups have varying access to capital; it'll take a new dynasty for ethnic Han to be back in control.


Feudal politics breeds dynastic conflict, or conflict between nobles: the wars between the Capetians and Angevins, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and the Anscarid Wars, the Wars of Lions and Castles. Castille and Leon, united before and disunited based on gavelkind inheritance, would spend almost three decades fighting over each other, as the internal politics of each was shaped by the perils of child-kings.

Although the official beginning of their sporadic dynastic disputes began well before the 13th century, historians date the beginning of the Anscarid War between Leon and Castille to the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

Although Castille had nearly began their war against the Almohads without Leonese or Portuguese support, some late diplomacy brought both of those powers into the conflict as well (of the Iberian kingdoms, only Aragon stayed out of the conflict). The battle was, by all accounts, a glorious victory: the Navarrese captured the Miramolin's chains, the Portuguese imprisoned the Almohad sultan, and the Almohad forces were decisively beaten. Portugal (which had seen the heir-apparent Afonso die in battle) would continue its portion of the Reconquista under Sancho I.

The Castillian and Leonese kingdoms, related by blood, suffered more grievous losses. Alfonso IX of Leon and his son Ferdinand (by Theresa of Portugal) would both die in the battle, as would Alfonso VIII of Castille (and his son Ferdinand of Castille. Both kingdoms were left with new rulers, and were largely unable to capitalize on the gains made against the Almohads; instead, the Portuguese, with the Almohad sultan captive, went under Sancho I to retake Silves and then, after military campaigns in the area, ransom the sultan back in exchange for Badajoz and Merida.

The Leonese succession was further complicated by the earlier loss of Alfonso IX's second son Ferdinand (this son by Berengaria of Castille, daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castille) to a fever in 1210. The regency for his brother, the new king Alfonso X, was also undetermined; his mother, Berengaria, had died in childbirth in 1204.

The Castillian succession, by comparison, was much smoother; Alvaro Nunez de Lara would become regent for King Henry I. The early years of Henry's reign would largely be dominated by the de Lara family; later, Henry would favor the Haro family, leading to internal strife even as he feuded with the Leonese.

The early years of both of these kings were largely peaceful; fragile regencies didn't want to jeopardize their power with foreign wars, and the kings themselves were 10 (Alfonso X, Leon) and 8 (Henry I, Castille) respectively.

The borders of the two kingdoms were a flurry of activity themselves. The Almohads had been replaced with the rule of Ibn Hud in al-Andalus; in Portugal, Sancho's namesake, grandson and heir apparent Sancho died of fever, leaving his other grandson Afonso as heir.

When Sancho himself died in 1217, the kingdom of Portugal, gorged on success, convulsed as Sancho's two daughters Mafalda and Sancha supported Afonso's right to succeed, opposing their third sister Theresa and brother Peter. Peter and Theresa would lose the squabble; Peter would go to fight as a mercenary for the Almohad Sultan Yusuf II, and Theresa, formerly queen of Leon, would join a nunnery. Sancha would become regent and Princess-Queen (as accorded to her by Sancho I's will) with the support of parts of the Portuguese nobility; Mafalda would marry Alfonso X of Leon in 1218.

The main benefactor of this chaos was Ibn Hud, who had time to slowly recover from the grievous losses of the Almohads. He wasn't able to regain any Portuguese territories, or al-Mansha, but otherwise they held their own against the Aragonese and against internal forces looking to become independent.

In 1219, Henry I of Castille would marry Beatrix of Savoy. The two were an interesting mix; Henry was weak-willed and politically disengaged, and was still a tool of the Lara family at the time of the marriage. Beatrix, on the other hand, was politically engaged, shrewd, and power-hungry, a total contrast to Henry. She would quickly align herself with the out-of-power Haro faction at court, and would exert her own influence on Henry in the typical manner.

The great feud between the kingdoms would be started by Alfonso X. He was more independent than Henry I; his regents had struggled between each other, and Alfonso had learned how to manipulate his nobility so as to afford his person more power in his kingdom's politics. Alfonso would claim Castille as his own, on the advice of his wife Mafalda, in 1221, and would thereafter march to war. This is the beginning of the armed combat of the wars between the kingdoms.

Henry, for his part, sent his nobles, under the command of a Lara, to battle, all the while claiming Leon as his own patrimony in response to Alfonso. This first war was by all accounts inconclusive; neither side particularly dominated their battles in northern Spain, but the wounding of Castille's de Lara general further weakened that party at court, and strengthened the party of the Haros and Queen Beatrix.

All the while, both kings, still teenagers, were beginning to have children; Mafalda had her son Ferdinand in 1223, and Beatrix would have her daughter Berengaria in 1222.

Across the border, Portugal was undergoing more turmoil of its own. Although Ibn Hud stayed focused on Aragon and Castille, the kingdom's internal politics were once again disrupted by a death.

The death of King Afonso II in 1224 would lead his uncle Peter to come from Morocco to claim the throne once again, this time against his other nephew, Vicente. Leon would get drawn in, as Mafalda convinced Alfonso X to intervene on Vicente's behalf.

The intervention did not go well; the nobles had tired of Sancha's rule in Lisbon, and Peter was at the head of a battle-hardened group of mercenaries who he had fought with as an adventurer serving Yusuf II. Alfonso X would try and seize Badajoz, but Peter would relieve the city on his way to Lisbon; a battle between the two saw Alfonso fall off of his horse. Alfonso's injuries in battle would see him lose his left eye and right leg; capable medical work by a Muslim surgeon would prevent the wound from killing him, and Alfonso would thereafter be notorious for his ornately-carved wood leg, decorated with ivory and gold, and his eyepatch.

While Alfonso recovered, Castille and Leon were at peace. Each king proceeded to have more children: Alfonso had his second son, Sancho, and a daughter, Constanza; Henry saw the birth of his son Alfonso in 1225, and a number of bastard children. That would be another distinguishing difference between the two "Young Kings" as they would come to be known: Alfonso largely stayed faithful to Mafalda, but Henry, eventually known as "the Lecher", would father a number of bastards.

The late 1220s would be dominated by Castille's wars with Ibn Hud; Alfonso, a family man, wanted to raise his children and recover from his wounds, and furthermore had no border with the Ibn Hud thanks to the Portuguese, who had made peace with Ibn Hud for the time being.

Henry's wars against Ibn Hud did not go well; Moorish forces retook the al-Mansha and bested him personally in battle. A quick peace treaty was signed between Ibn Hud and Henry; internal events in Castille had reached a boiling point.

With the assistance of Queen Beatrix, the de Haro family increased their influence at court, in part by scheming to have the de Lara's expelled from Toledo while Henry was on campaign. These schemes worked: Henry returned to the capital to find his old regents and allies largely defeated. Henry, always a weak-willed man, buried himself in women to forget his losses in war; he never retaliated against the de Haro, in part due to the bedside influence of his wife.

Henry, however, was not content to wallow in sex and wine forever--he wanted his God-given rule to extend to Leon. By this point, the political antagonism between the two men had developed into a personal grudge, that of the calmer, sober Alfonso and the hotheaded Henry I. Henry, at the behest of Beatrix (who wanted the wealth of Leon for her son) would restart the war in 1234, and would largely lose the war by 1237; although he did not lose the throne of Castille, he did lose a number of border lands to the Leonese, along with a great deal of money.

Henry, for all that he had saved his crown, would not rule much longer. In 1238, he died under suspicious circumstances while hunting. The 15 year old Alfonso IX of Castille would rise to the throne, dominated by his mother Beatrix and a coterie of assorted nobles. Beatrix would quickly work to sideline her former Haro allies; by 1240, they had lost all power at court.

Beatrix thought herself secure: the de Haro had been left in the cold, yes, but they had the de Lara to fight with. In this, the normally astute woman was wrong. Not only did the two families reconcile with a marriage, but they also called in outside help: King Alfonso X of Leon. All the while, the Almohads looked to conquer Toledo, hoping to break the Castillian threat for at least a generation.

The last war would be swift: Alfonso had promised the nobles of Castille the same rights afforded to them as those afforded to the Leonese, and was seen as a wise, capable king as opposed to yet another child king. By 1242, Alfonso X of Leon was also Alfonso X of Castille. In victory, he unified the two kingdoms as one; the old practice of giving Castille to the second sons was abolished. The capital of the now-unified kingdom was moved to Toledo, as was the Cortes, and Alfonso marched south against the Muslims.

Alfonso IX, for his trouble, originally fled to Savoy with his mother; upon her death in 1248, he traveled to Acre, becoming a crusader and minor lord. He had renounced his claim on Castille and Leon upon losing the war, and none of his descendants would ever claim the throne of Castille.

In his campaigns, Alfonso X was assisted by James of Aragon, who had been fighting the Muslims for years. Alfonso quickly retook the disputed lands of al-Mansha, while James reconquered Valencia and Alicante in 1244. At the same time, Peter I of Portugal was fighting his own war with the Almohads; Portugal would take Seville and Carmona in 1246, before making peace.

The Almohad armies in al-Andalus were essentially crumbling; the short period of recovery had been largely undone by the combined military prowess of the three Christian kings- the best parts of the Andalusi hosts were slaughtered by Peter at the Battle of Alcala do Rio. Ibn Hud, for his part, also faced insurrection from the Hafsids in Granada.
In 1248, Cordoba fell to Alfonso, a prelude to the fall of Baghdad 2 years later. The war would end in 1252- Castille had crossed the Guadalquivir as far as Arjona and Porcuna, Portugal held Seville and Carmona, and Aragon extended all the way to Almeria.

Castille would not fight the Moors again in Alfonso X's lifetime; the realm was strained from years of fighting, new conquests, and a crisis of manpower. Portugal, although this was unknowable at the time, had finished its portion of the Reconquista entirely. The civil war in the rest of al-Andalus ended in 1254; Ibn Hud would be executed by the new Hafsid Emir of Granada. The Reconquista would largely pause for a few decades at this point; James wanted to conquer the Balearics and expand elsewhere in the Mediterranean (including his nominal overlordship over the Nasrids in Tunis).

The Muslim mood at the time was apocalyptic. The Hafsids only held the general regions of Malaga, Granada and Cadiz/La Frontera under their control. Guyuk Khan had conquered as far as Tripoli, and word was that Louis IX was going to launch a crusade himself for Africa (he would manage to assemble his forces in Marseille by 1260, only to die of dysentery while in port).

Granada, protected by the Sierra Nevada mountains, would end up becoming a regional entrepot in the decades after the major Reconquista campaigns. The peace would not last overall past the death of Alfonso X in 1269, and the "front lines" became fluid as skirmishes, raids, and the occasional taking of minor cities became normal. Granada and Cadiz swelled with fleeing Muslims and Jews, who helped contribute to the flowering of arts and culture in Granada in the early 14th century.

The first of the three major kings to die was Peter of Portugal, who was a member of the generation of rulers directly preceding (Saint) Alfonso X and James the Conqueror. His death in 1258 would permanently end the era of Portuguese expansion in Iberia. Alfonso X died in 1269, having lived most of his life with one leg and one eye, all the while spending years on campaigns against the Moors. He would be canonized in 1579. James would be the last of the great rulers to pass away, dying an old man in 1281.

The peninsula would remain largely peaceful, outside of skirmishes with the Hafsids, until the Aragonese Crusade...
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A veritable whirlwind! I liked how you did the intrigues , was an otl Henry a weak willed party guy? And Beatrix sounds as evil as Queen Cersei!
Thanks! I didn't mean to make Beatrix "evil" per se, but undoubtedly her reputation in TTL will be of a grasping, lusty virago hungry for power, never mind that she helped Henry preserve his reign despite his whoring and incompetence.

Henry OTL died in late childhood after being struck by a falling roof tile; maybe its just me but that sounds like assassination. I extrapolated him as weak- as dominated by the Lara and then by the Haro and his wife, who ordered the assassination because a) she kinda despised Henry by that point and b) to dominate her son, alone.

She miscalculated in a position where miscalculation is fatal- as an ambitious woman in the Middle Ages, with a son too weak to defend her. Thus, her fall.
Interesting! I do hope that all these Chinese and Arabs (and Indians?) have not died to wank Europe _further_ than OTL, in the long run [1]: it would seem a bit gratuitous. :p

Minor suggested correction: in your post about the Abyssinians vs the Mongols, you suggest that the Japanese also successfully humiliated the Mongols, but a post or two earlier you said: The Mongols never bother with Japan TTL

Does Abyssinia retain sea access in this TL?

A northern border around Beijing would indicate that a. the Mongols and their heirs have established a settled agricultural society capable of withstanding early modern gunpowder empires or b. someone else got the jump on the Chinese for overrunning them. Is this Need to Know information at this point?


[1] No objection to a more wanked Europe in the short-to-middle run, if things return to the median, so to speak, in the long run.
Interesting! I do hope that all these Chinese and Arabs (and Indians?) have not died to wank Europe _further_ than OTL, in the long run: it would seem a bit gratuitous. :p

Oh I have the same concerns myself; this is more a Europe wank in the way that OTL was a Europe-wank, and the European empires will, like all empires, decline eventually. And yes Indians; the conquest of northeastern India is the third great brutal conquest of TTL's Mongols (the Russian conquests, in addition to being later, are less violent).

Minor suggested correction: in your post about the Abyssinians vs the Mongols, you suggest that the Japanese also successfully humiliated the Mongols, but a post or two earlier you said: The Mongols never bother with Japan TTL

Meum culpa; part of the problem of writing these supplemental updates on the fly is that you end up contradicting yourself. I consider whatever is in the updates to be canon over the non-update posts.

Does Abyssinia retain sea access in this TL?

Yes they do- through Massawa, Tajura, Hargeisa and the tip of the Bab el-Mandeb. They won't be a major naval power, but they will have access to the sea.

A northern border around Beijing would indicate that a. the Mongols and their heirs have established a settled agricultural society capable of withstanding early modern gunpowder empires or b. someone else got the jump on the Chinese for overrunning them. Is this Need to Know information at this point?


Essentially, northern China is so devastated that Dadu doesn't attract Chinese because the Chinese have other places to resettle (and Yuan-era restrictions on migrations that far north).

Maybe a small but growing Chinese population after the end of the Yuan, but the post-Yuan dynasty won't control Dadu (it's permanent name) either, and so Dadu remains Mongolian (despite the eventual vassal-subjugation of the Mongols by an outside power that isn't China).

Thanks for reading- glad you've enjoyed it!
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Well, the Chinese OTL filled up Manchuria Pretty Darn Quick once the immigration restrictions were lifted. Chinese peasants don't need infrastructure, they just need arable land. My point was that the only reason the Chinese wouldn't quickly expand at least as far north as Beijing would be a militarily formidable foe with a presence _south_ of Beijing. Need some sort of *Manchus to keep the Chinese out of the NE: I don't think a traditional-type Mongol khante will be up to it for long [1]

I'm not arguing here against a Chinese border around Beijing on principle, but I don't think "north China more Mongol-depopulated than OTL" automatically gets you there on its own. Do the Yuan hang on rather longer than OTL?

[1] Indeed, given the success of the Japanese in creating a modern gunpowder army in the 16th century, Ming China OTLs poor performance vs the Manchu in spite of their massively superior population and resources does not strike me as a historically inevitable outcome of "alt Ming vs alt Manchu" battles.
The Yuan hang around well into the 16th century, I'll say that much; Dadu is really close to tue border precisely because resettled people and whatnot come for the arable land. Dadu is annexed into Mongolian provinces under Batu; the Yuan are successful in keeping the Chinese out of Inner Mongolia, but the rest of northern China does bounce back.

After the fall of the Yuan, the Northern Yuan control Mongolia from Shangdu; by the time the successors have the time to go conquer Dadu, the situation is no longer conducive to such a campaign. Hence, Dadu stays Mongol.
Anyone have any other inputs on China? I may write a China update so as to establish the official canon on China; very little is settled yet except the pattern of conquest and Chang'an as capital.

Also, if anyone has input on any of the other updates, it'd be much appreciated.
How it would affect the development of Standard Mandarin/Northern Chinese language, as well as its dialects?

Well, Mandarin may have a slight bit more "minority" influence; the major Yuan repopulation efforts use Zhuang and Miao alongside the survivors in northern China to undo Genghis's destruction. Northern China is going to be really diverse; the Zhuang were not treated well by Subotai in the last campaign, and neither were the Miao in his campaigns before that. Many of those survivors are coerced up north, and Northern China, particularly the Yuan capital of Chang'an, is the natural terminus for the Mongol Silk Road. I'd expect the Zhuang and Miao to assimilate quickly, but perhaps maintain a separate dialect amongst themselves. The major cities in the region will in all likelihood be religiously eclectic, as the descendants of various merchants and converts become Hui-esque populations.

As for the dialect as a whole, what we would call Mandarin will not end up becoming the prestige dialect of China. Even as northern China recovers demographically, the political center has shifted more to a wide swathe of Central China. It really depends on where I put the Yuan-successor's capital--I'm leaning on Hangzhou, which means Wu Chinese ends up being the prestige dialect TTL.


The West, as a whole, never quite had to deal with Mongols. The Poles and Hungarians who spent much of the 13th and 14th centuries being raided and dominated by the Russified Mongols in Tver would disagree, but the major core of Western Europe was never really affected negatively by the Mongol invasions.

Whereas the invasions of Guyuk Khan would be the seminal event for the self-perception and internal dynamics of the Sunni Arab cultural world for the next few centuries, the West's main transformative event came not as war, but rather as plague. The Black Death, as it came to be known two centuries after the first outbreaks, would, in sync with climate change, economic breakdowns and major politicking in the Church, completely shatter the medieval world order.

Although feudalism's main institutions took centuries to finally wither away, the economic centrality of the feudal system was essentially undone by the Black Death. The severe labor shortage and breakdown in social order put paid to the days of absolute serfdom in Western Europe; that same feudal order would survive in Eastern Europe, becoming increasingly central to the social order as time went on.

As a cultural event, the Black Death became central to the European experience. The old cultural styles, of romances and songs and high medieval culture, began to fall away. In Italy, the aftermath of the plague and the wars it inspired fed directly into the Renaissance, as did the flow of texts out of the Crusader state into Italy and the rest of Europe.

Some of these works predate the plague period; the legendary Florentine-Sicilian writer Nardo Mazarini would die well before the coming of the plague, for example. But the first great flowering of the cultural revival in Italy would come only after the shock of plague crushed the medieval worldview.

The greatest "plague work" comes, however, not from Italy but rather from the city of Tyre. Benedict ibn Ebbon, or Benebon as he has come to be known, was a Levantine in the truest sense, firmly acculturated to the Arabic world while still retaining a firm Christian faith and a connection to the European cultural sphere. The Crusader state was the first place to be struck with the plague, and was also the place to transmit it to the rest of Europe.

Ibn Ebbon, or Benebon, as he has come to be known, traveled to Europe as a merchant and doctor in the midst of their plague epidemic, and notably survived the Roman riots and the formation of the Second Roman Commune during the Cahors Papacy. His return from Italy would give him time to start his great work on the plague, one which has lived on in the Euro-Mediterranean cultural memory in both Latin and Arabic.

Benebon, as a fluent speaker of Arabic and Greek, had access to references that would only reach Italy in the century after the plague. Benebon's work was largely based in human affairs, unlike Mazarin's Divine Comedy; it focused on the societal collapse and great suffering of the plague itself, through the lense of both his experiences and the referential lenses of Muslim literature and Thucydides' accounts of the Peloponessian War.

It was in his work that Yaqub Khan was compared to Pericles, that medieval Rome was compared to Corcyra and Athens, and that the overall social decay under plague was compared to the previously-praised brutality of Guyuk Khan. Benebon had visited Cairo before writing about Yaqub Khan; the breakdown in order after his death is what inspired the comparison.

The first portion of Benebon's magnum opus was a description of the plague, in explicit detail, and an accurate hypothesis on how the plague left Acre and Tyre and reached Europe. Benebon did not make it farther than Rome; he left Europe early due to the exacerbation of the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict by the plague, and due to fears that he himself might also catch the illness.

Guyuk Khan, who had barely been present in the Comedy, was fully and totally condemned. Benebon largely adopted the Sunni perspective on the conqueror, attacking Khan for his ruination of the cities, his desecration of holy places, his burning of knowledge and the omnicidal viciousness which marked his campaigns. Benebon compared the plague to Khan; as a source of divine wrath and as a source of great suffering for the afflicted. The image of Khan also proved very powerful; he was seen as a sort of apocalyptic horsemen delivering death to the settled world, via war and plague. This image of Khan-as-plague would prove to be the dominant depiction in the Middle East, Italy, and Spain; northern Europe used other images, and the use of skeletons or death in general as a motif was also common.

Benebon also offered full accounts, from other Arabic sources, of exactly what had been destroyed by Guyuk Khan. The work would play well into the apocalyptic mood of Europe at the time: that both civilizations were facing world-ending travails, and that society and religion were under siege because of it. Benebon also presaged the later theory that the state allows for society to exist; he condemns the Cahors Popes and the Plantagenets more than he does Guyuk Khan, for leaving Rome and allowing it to devolve into the riots and hedonism that he saw during his visit there as a young physician.

Benebon also described the apocalypticism sweeping Europe. He wrote of the flagellants and Muslim rigorists with almost a bemused eye, as death consumed society around them. Benebon would finish the work in 1345; his other works are of a more poetic stripe, combining the Arabic poetic tradition with that of the medieval troubadours.

Benebon's work would reach Europe in the 1350s; his Muslim-derived explanations for plague helped avert some of the malpractice and Jew-killing in southern Europe. Northern Europe remained largely in the dark, and pogroms in Germany, France and infamously in Poland continued.

The common literary and visual tropes of the mid-to-late 14th century all revolved around death. Death became a much more omnipresent force as Europe's major and minor population centers all lost the majority of their populations to plague. Rural peasants flooded the cities, drastically affecting the labor market but also reinforcing the collective memory of death via plague.

The major cultural trope was, of course, death and the skeleton. Ossuaries and the skeletal motif became popular to emphasize the universal nature of death. There was a perverse sort of fatal equality in the plague; few Europeans had access to proper medicine (and even then, that medicine was administered mainly by Muslims and Jews). Although the royals of Europe were mostly spared (only two kings died), the nobility and clergy which were drawn from their stock and class were completely ravaged, dying along with the the burghers and the peasants in mostly equal number.

The Danse Macabre became a popular visual trope in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, as skeletons dancing with all sorts and leading people, from beggars and whores to kings and popes, into Hell. The death motif had two major trends: towards hedonism and civil dissolution, as seen in Paris, Rome and a few other cities, or more commonly towards religiosity and the promise of life after Earth. That latter trend also played into the apocalypticism of the times; religiously-inspired rioting engulfed southern England in 1339, and flagellants became a common sight during what people thought was the End of Days. People were sure that the apocalypse was nigh: war, famine and pestilence were all omnipresent, and so four horsemen motifs, often mounted by four skeletons, also became common during the period, most famously in the surreal painting of the Greco-Portuguese artist Jeronimo Contoblagas The Four Horsemen. That painting set the four skeletal horsemen amid a feverish, almost hallucinatory backdrop of fire.

Another common religious trend was the revival of reformism and heresy. Although both trends had more to do with the institutional corruption of the Cahors Papacy and the subjugation of Papal supremacy to the whims of their Plantagenet hosts, the visceral imagery and personal experiences of plague did influence the proto-reformers of Europe.

The Waldensians were among the most vibrant; dating from the late 12th century themselves, they exploded across the religious scene in southern Germany. When the Plantagenets brutally exterminated them in their territories in the late 14th century, most of them removed themselves to the Schwarzwald, where they largely lived a secret Waldensian life until the Reformation proper allowed them to re-emerge. Their beliefs began to deviate more and more during the plague; it is at this time that their sola scriptura beliefs, and most importantly their replacement of the Holy Spirit with Mary within the Trinity, began to take shape. Unlike later reformers, they also rejected most of the Old Testament as a "book of the Jews", in part due to the intense anti-Semitism circulating in Europe at the same time.

Other reformers across Europe, from the partners Chester and Bulloch in the British Isles to Wotjyla in Poland and Bohemia, would also pick up on the plague as a God-delivered event. This would give their institutional and religious critiques of the Church a fire-and-brimstone edge; that the Papacy was steeped itself in sin, and that reform, and the end of Popes, was necessary to save Christianity from itself. These heresies would not survive long enough, even in secret, to reach the Reformation proper; the cultural folk memory, however, endured. Much of the early 15th century was occupied with exterminating and extirpating these heretics, while also dealing with the lingering aftershocks of the Cahors period.

The idea of death, beyond its imminent imagery and its centrality to religion, also became a potent cultural concept due to the coming of the Black Death. The idea of the Good Death, and of "memento mori", both evolved into their popular form around the time the plague began in 1337. The transience of human life, and of all material achievements, in the face of Death and God became an obsession for artists and writers.

Death did not stay the sole pre-occupation for long; it tended to become popular as a theme during years of recurring plague, before ceding ground to religious motifs and the neoclassical and humanist trends of the coming rebirth.

In the new, urbanizing European world, plague would continue to recur and recur, a constant pain for its peoples, a constant reminder that, in the words of Horace, "Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas regumque turres".