TLIGGT: A Giant Leap For Mankind


For most of the Middle Ages, Italy had been divided between a number of states, especially after the fall of the organized Kingdom of Italy and the Byzantine remnants in the south.

Beyond the north-south division that separated the Neapolitans from the rest of Italy, there was also a general trend towards political disunity, city-states, and the avoidance of both feudal and clerical dominance. Control over Italy was often decentralized; if rule got too powerful, temporary alliances like the Lombard League would organize to ensure the liberties of Italy were respected.

As infamous political theorist Brizio Machiavelli noted in his best-known work, The Sovereign , this Italian disunity also made it possible for the outside powers to play Italian states against each other, keeping the heart of the peninsula weak through constant low-level wars. By his time, of course, Italian geopolitics had transformed greatly from the days of the Middle Ages. Technology had improved, and the old factions had largely fallen away or transformed into other parties.

The great factional dispute of Medieval Italy--and one Machiavelli wrote about in his other works--was that of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The rise of the House of Hohenstaufen in Germany and more importantly Sicily had introduced a greater deal of Imperial control and domination over the restive polities of northern Italy. The Guelphs were initially anti-Imperial, while the Ghibellines, taking their name from a castle the Hohenstaufens held in Germany, were more supportive of Imperial policy.

The initial conflict between the two parties came because of Frederick I Hohenstaufen's wars in Italy. His military campaigns led directly to the formation of the Lombard League, which supported the Papacy and fought for the liberties of the Italian states. The League would defeat Frederick I Barbarossa, as he was known, at Legnano in 1176, largely achieving their aims. Their rights were respected, and Frederick remained their nominal suzerain.

The early years of the 13th century saw the reignition of this rivalry. Otto of the House of Welf (Guelph) had become Holy Roman Emperor in 1208. The deaths, in quick succession, of Philip of Swabia and Innocent III allowed for this Emperor Otto IV to consolidate massive holdings in Germany and in Italy; the new Pope was much less politically saavy than Innocent had been, and the Papacy only regained Spoleto and the Pentapolis, with Ravenna remaining out of its grasp.

Otto then marched into Italy, consolidating Imperial (Guelph) control over the peninsula. He had initially been called to help southern Italian barons against Frederick II of Sicily. Instead, he made a deal with Frederick--that Swabia be recognized as Welf in exchange for Frederick having a largely free hand in consolidating Sicily. This is in part due to grumblings from the German lords; an abortive council at Nuremberg would attempt to elect Frederick II as Emperor, but the victory of English and Imperial forces at Bouvines gave Otto enough strength to quash the dissenters.

Frederick would instead bide his time; the young king focused on cultural and scholastic matters, continuing the old Norman policies of toleration for Greeks and Arabs. Although he continued to have a tangential connection to Imperial politics during Otto's reign, he did not attempt to seize the Imperial throne himself.

The rule of Otto would see a shift in the strict definitions of what it meant to be Guelph or Ghibelline; the power of the Guelphs made them the pro-German, Imperial party (albeit one still in favor of Italy's privileges), while the Ghibellines were close to Sicily and used the Papacy as a political counterweight, particularly after the election of Ugolino de Conti as Pope Gregory IX in 1216.

Although Gregory disliked Otto IV, the Papacy was also mad at Frederick for not going on the Fifth Crusade, which saw the Kingdom of Jerusalem temporarily restored by al-Kamil in return for the Christian surrender of Damietta. Frederick's failure to go on Crusade would continue to be a political issue for years.

Otto IV would himself die in 1220, having made the House of Welf incredibly rich and powerful. His victories at Wassenberg in 1206 and Bouvines in 1212 had entrenched his own personal power in Germany; his successor, nephew Otto V, would come to power with vast amounts of land and political capital.

Otto V, however, had less of the ambitious inclinations that had driven Henry the Lion and Otto IV. His powerbase was thoroughly German, and Pope Gregory exploited this by scheming with Frederick. The Papacy, as was typical for the period, consistently played opposing factions off of each other in order to accrue land and political power, and this was no different. Frederick II came into contact with a new group of anti-Otto nobles, and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in late 1221.

This new, open conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines would inflame Northern Italy. The two factions had once again been redefined, hewing more closely to their names as supporters of rival German factions in the struggle for the Empire. At the outset, the Ghibellines were the "Papal" faction, fighting alongside Gregory IX and Frederick II. Otto, for his trouble, was excommunicated.

This war was a success for Frederick, who defeated young Otto's forces in the field. The resulting peace consolidated Frederick's technical titles as King of the Romans, and returned Swabia to the House of Hohenstaufen; otherwise, Otto retained Saxony, Bavaria, and a large number of other German lands. The Welfs would largely focus on foreign alliances at this time.

Frederick, in his five years in Germany, would focus mainly on establishing control and on ensuring security with the empire's frontiers. The Teutonic Knights were still based in the Holy Land, and had considered decamping to Hungary's frontier or the Baltics; Frederick pre-empted these considerations by giving official Imperial support to the Livonian Brethren of the Sword, who had been granted Papal sanction in 1202. The Golden Bull of Palermo made the Livonian Order's ownership of their Baltic lands official The remnants of the former Teutonic Order would join them in the 1230s, after a particularly grievous defeat in the Holy Land.

Frederick then returned to Italy in 1226, which was to be the primary focus of his life's work along with Sicily. Sicily, for its part, became one of Europe's first centralized kingdoms, ruled from Frederick's court in Palermo. Frederick also founded universities at Naples and Palermo, with the latter becoming known in later decades for its particular collection of Arabic texts.

Frederick's rule in Italy would be constantly beset by Papal intrigues. Gregory IX and the Guelphs were always hungering for more freedoms, and Frederick's inclinations towards centralization cut harshly against the trends of Italian decentralization. The German princes were also very attentive to these power struggles; Otto Welf in particular used Frederick's preoccupation with Italy to try and gain further powers for the nobles in Germany.

The lull in Crusades further complicated Italian politics; Gregory had no real casus belli to declare one, as the House of Brienne had a period of stability and victory in their wars against the Muslims. Without Frederick going on crusade, Gregory couldn't attempt to invade Sicily, so instead the Pope stirred up the Guelph party, which had once again assumed Papal favor.

Frederick II would, true to form, end up being victorious in his struggles against the Guelphs, with a great victory struck outside Ravenna in 1234. The Second Lombard League had failed in imitating the first, and so Frederick's power was further centralized in Italy. The conflicts between the two parties would be largely muted for the rest of Frederick's reign; this period is considered the height of Ghibelline power in Italy.

In order to gain this victory, Frederick had had to make concessions to the German nobility. These concessions of power and privilege largely reversed the centralizing trends of the Welfs, even though they were largely spearheaded by Otto; the split between Italy and Germany was made especially stark. Henry, Duke of Swabia and Frederick's son, was a large part of this ceding of authority; he had become close with Otto and other enemies of Frederick within Germany. Sources note that he had even planned to rebel with the Lombards, but abstained due to a bout of disease.

The Pope did not take this lying down; he excommunicated Frederick and attempted to bring Germany into the conflict. The Welfs and their allies, however, were unwilling to risk their new gains for the Papacy; they had essentially been bought off by the Hohenstaufens. The Pope's war against Frederick would not go well, even with the assistance of Genoa; Gregory would be defeated by 1236, at which point the man died of stress.

Frederick's reign thereafter would be marked by total dominance over Italy, and aloofness in Germany. By the time Frederick died in 1258, the Hohenstaufens had more power in Italy than any other noble house had possessed in centuries. Southern Italy had become the undisputed center of Italian commercial and intellectual life, and even the Papacy had remained pliant in part thanks to Frederick's limited involvement in the Sixth Crusade in the 1240s.

Frederick's death, however, also spelled the beginning of the end for Hohenstaufen fortunes. Frederick's surviving son Conrad would fight against the Papacy and his German nobles in the immediate war after Frederick's death. Conrad managed to prevail in Italy, but the Welfs, lead by Otto's son Albert, usurped power in Germany. Albert I would rule thereafter as King of Germany.

Conrad's power wasn't secure in Italy either; the Guelph cities and the Pope conspired to see Albert I made Holy Roman Emperor, a title which was still vacant without a Papal coronation. Conrad's war against the Third Lombard League ended in failure, as defeats inflicted by the Guelph Milanese and Florentines sapped Hohenstaufen power north of Sicily.

Excommunication by the Pope would see a failed attempt at giving Sicily to the Wittelsbachs; Conrad had to negotiate with the Pope to even retain his birth-kingdom. Conrad's death from malaria in 1264 would see his young son Philip take the throne. By this time, Hohenstaufen power was dying out, and Albert I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1264. Sicily, for its part, was still prosperous, but the glory days of Hohenstaufen rule were done.

Albert was, contra Frederick II, largely focused on German politics; both the Guelphs and Ghibellines, despite their own conflicts, largely remained at peace. The Papacy, once again free of Imperial domination, was content to support nominal Welf rule in Italy so long as Albert didn't try and follow up on his power with force.

Philip, for his part, was no more successful than his father. He attempted to restore Frederick II's position in Italy; he had all of the confidence, but none of the skill many had termed "stupor mundi". Philip would be excommunicated in wars against the Pope in 1275.

This last Guelph-Ghibelline war would see the Fourth Lombard League, this one all Ghibelline, rebel along with a few German families to install Philip as Holy Roman Emperor. The Emperor and the Papacy, still cooperating together, easily dispatched the rebel forces over the course of a few years. Philip would be captured and executed in 1288, after 15 years of sporadic war with the Papacy. His kingdom would be split between the Angevins and Aragonese. The island of Sicily was given to Prince Alfonso of Sicily, while the Neapolitan portion went to the House of Anjou. Alfonso, known as the Just, would rule Sicily ably; the man already knew Arabic and continued the pro-tolerance policy within the island. The Angevins, on the other hand, would face the Neapolitan Vespers; the Kingdom of Naples would fracture for a generation, eventually reunited under incredibly decentralized rule.

The Welfs would rule as Holy Roman Emperors until 1327. After that point, the German nobles would launch the Interregnum, and the German portion of the empire would begin its long slide away from political centralization. In Italy, the division between the Guelphs and Ghibellines was still extant, and would in fact be finally reignited by the beginning of the Cahors Papacy.

The period of Welf rule, from 1264-1327, was also the period of unquestioned Guelph military supremacy in Italy. The Papacy had its occasional intrigues with the Ghibellines, but the German focus and light hand of the Welfs largely removed the impetus for the Italian cities to rebel against nominal Imperial authority. Once that light hand was removed, the legal basis on which Guelph peace was founded largely collapsed; without guaranteed imperial support, the Guelph position was much more fragile.

That isn't to say there weren't internal political intrigues within many Italian cities, or that there wasn't a great deal of warfare or instability--Nardo Mazarini alone gives up innumerable examples of Italy's best and worst in his Divine Comedies. The predominance of the Guelphs was largely military and diplomatic; Imperial support often depended on the state of German politics at the time.

The removal of the Papacy to Cahors, at the insistence of the Plantagenets, would quickly coincide with the German collapse and the Black Death. The decade from 1327-1337 saw all three events occur or begin, which introduced a great deal of instability into Italian politics.

By this point, neither faction had much connection to their original factions. The Welfs had lost a great deal of power in Germany, losing Bavaria and largely removing themselves to dominance in northern Germany. The Hohenstaufens were gone. And so, the factionalism of Italy instead became a justification in and of itself, as the labels of Guelph and Ghibelline transformed into two factions fighting not for an outside power, but because the cities were always fighting. This factionalism became more pervasive and more violent, as each faction had a presence in most cities; individual guilds and city factions would often adopt allegiance to either larger groupings, leading to coup attempts and rioting.

Factions for the Second Period of the Guelphs and Ghibellines:

Variable allegiance: Genoa, Venice, Siena, Pavia, Ancona, Rome (1337-1414)

Ghibellines: Mantua, Pisa, Bologna, Spoleto, Terni, Arezzo, Como, Padua, Fabriano, Foligno, Forli, Grosseto, Pistoia, Gubbio, Vicenza, Piacenza, Prato, Alessandria, Crema, Faenza, Lecco, Lodi

Guelph: Florence, Milan, Treviso, Perugia, Cremona, Modena, Parma, Bergamo, Asti, Ferrara, Verona, Urbino, Lucca, Orvieto, Brescia

Historians normally split the history of the Guelphs and Ghibellines into two parts: the "proper" half from the First Lombard League to 1327, and the latter half, from 1327 to 1441.

The first period is referred to as the "proper" half due to the involvement of the houses of Welf and Hohenstaufen. The first sets of conflicts between the city-states and outside powers revolved not around independent Italian concerns but around imperial politics and the union between the crowns of Germany and Italy within the empire. This period is also marked by the heavy involvement of the Pope in Rome.

The second period is characterized instead by the preservation of the factions despite the loss of German backing; the original political alliances became an identitarian cause for guilds, cities and people across northern Italy. The second period is also noted for coinciding directly with the various crises of the 14th century, and for being shaped by plague, famine, and the breakdown within the wider European economy during the period.

By 1337, the factions had mostly crystallized; the formerly fluid membership in each grouping was now hardened, set in stone--identitarian. Although coups could flip cities, the people of each city were often disinclined to let their elites change their city's allegiance. The tribalism of the second period of the Guelphs and Ghibellines almost matched that of the old Hippodrome demes in Constantinople.

The first big event of the period was the formation of the Second Commune of Rome. The flight of the Papacy to Cahors had left a void in the city's politics, and when the plague hit, instability and anger at the Pope led the people to overthrow the caretaker government and reinstall a Roman republic of sorts, aping the first attempt at a Roman commune in the late 12th century. Benebon was present for the great instability and social collapse that presaged the Commune; he condemned both sides, but was otherwise not all that sympathetic to the burghers who led the new state.

The Papacy, distracted by the plague, would largely fail to respond. The commune, despite its origins in anti-Papacy, would actually be one of the few flexible cities during the period.

The early decades of this period were characterized by the total independence of the Italian states in their warring and affairs. Imperial power didn't extend below the Alps anymore (in part due to constant warfare in Germany), and the Papacy had relocated to France. The Ghibellines were fairly successful in partially restoring their fortunes, even in the midst of the plague. The Ghibellines had more cities on their side by far, and the occasional inclusion of one of the more variable cities increased their numbers even further. These earliest wars also helped further evolve the condottiere, who were a common presence in most of Europe's conflicts. These Italian mercenaries cut their teeth on Italian warfare, but also served in wars elsewhere.

Although Germany eventually reunited (under the short-lived Premsylid Imperial dynasty, and then the Wittelsbachs), attempts at restoring Imperial prestige in Italy would rely largely on courting one of the two blocs. The 1370s would see the beginnings of foreign allegiances returning to the two sides.

The Guelphs largely became the Papal party once again, backed up by the French (who also owned Britain), who had inherited Savoy and Piedmont thanks to good marriages, military intervention and plague. The Guelphs were still the smaller party, but they overall had the stronger coalition thanks to heavyweights like Milan and Florence, and the backing of the Plantagenet Empire.

The Ghibellines, in turn, gravitated towards Germany and their nominal liege, the Holy Roman Emperor. The German hand was light enough, and the smaller Ghibelline cities hoped to use German influence to prevent the encroachments of their larger neighbors.

These respective alignments presaged later internal division in Italian politics, wherein Italians turned either to France or Germany for political guidance and assistance in Italian struggles.

The wars of the period became more brutal after these respective shifts in allegiance; French involvement in Italy and the taxes involved eventually led to the British revolt that saw Britain regain independence. The Guelphs had, overall, the stronger patron; Germany was prone to instability, internal intrigues by German nobles, and supply problems, whereas France could march down the Po valley or otherwise supply their clients by ship.

Eventually, the period of intense Franco-German involvement also ended in the face of other military concerns and in the face of public discontent with such brutal warfare. By 1400, the Guelphs had achieved total victory, so much so that they themselves had begun fighting amongst each other for dominance. The Milanese and Florentines are the biggest winners out of the former Guelph bloc, gaining land and tribute from other cities.

Although both factions are still extant in 1400, both in geopolitics and within cities, the time of the Guelphs and Ghibellines is reaching its endpoint, as Ghibelline cities change allegiance and as new fractures and fissures in Italian politics emerge.
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Two questions, I might have missed it but how did France come to Rule Britain? and how is the ERE doing?

Britain came to rule France; Philip Augustus died at an earlier Bouvines, France had a worse 13th century, and in the first decade of the 1300s Britain--which had been united by the marriage of an alt-Maid of Norway to the eldest surviving son of one of England's Plantagenet kings--seized upon the end of the Capetians to take the throne of France from their bases in Aquitaine and Normandy.

The ERE managed to hold off the abortive Fourth Crusade, but the fall of the Angeloi and the Latin seizure of parts of Greece led to Kaloyan of Bulgaria seizing the Roman Imperial throne.
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Gone Fishin'
Well, this is what I get for not hanging around in Before 1900 more: I miss excellent timelines like this. Shall be following.

Before we get into the main timeline (which I'm assuming will be Western Europe and colonisation-centric) any word on the goings on in Central Europe, specifically Hungary, Austria, and Bohemia? You mention that the Premyslids become Emperors briefly in the mid-14th century, so it seems that they've lasted a mite longer than OTL. Germany seems to be a bit more chaotic than OTL, so perhaps families like the Hapsburgs are not quite as lucky in their rise to power, possibly allowing Bohemia and Hungary to remain independent longer.

I dunno, just ignore me, I'm throwing random ideas out now.
Well, this is what I get for not hanging around in Before 1900 more: I miss excellent timelines like this. Shall be following.

Before we get into the main timeline (which I'm assuming will be Western Europe and colonisation-centric) any word on the goings on in Central Europe, specifically Hungary, Austria, and Bohemia? You mention that the Premyslids become Emperors briefly in the mid-14th century, so it seems that they've lasted a mite longer than OTL. Germany seems to be a bit more chaotic than OTL, so perhaps families like the Hapsburgs are not quite as lucky in their rise to power, possibly allowing Bohemia and Hungary to remain independent longer.

I dunno, just ignore me, I'm throwing random ideas out now.

Glad you enjoy it!

The main TL will be colonization-centric, but in a way that does allow for insights into what is happening internally in Africa, Asia, and the New World. I don't want to have, to paraphrase another poster elsewhere, the Cape-to-Cairo inevitably built but have nothing happen--or nothing explained--in India.

There will be updates on Western Europe as well; a lot of the early action takes place abroad because Portugal, the first exploratory power, is and was very aloof from European affairs, and that will remain true here.

The Premyslids have around 25 more years OTL, before they die out again and are replaced by one of the minor German dynasties.

The Habsburgs have not done nearly as well yet OTL; they currently control Frankfurt-am-Main and Mainz, and a bit of the surrounding areas, but nothing like their OTL Austrian patrimony. I have plans for them.

The Poles were reunited by the Russified Mongols in Tver; Poland has only just slipped out of Russian vassalage by the time the TL starts. They are lead by the one of the Piast offshoots, although the nobles, especially the Gryfta in Pomerania, are especially powerful.

Lithuania/Latvia/Prussia/Osel is controlled wholly by the Livonian Order; unlike OTL, the Order is physically isolated from Germany by Poland and spent years under Russian rule; the nobility is mixed German-Lithuanian-Latvian, as a result of the piecemeal manner in which never-united Lithuania was conquered. Although the top crust of the order is German, Lithuanian has already become an important literary language, and with the crusades largely finished, the actual impetus for the order to exist is gone. Although there is the theoretical idea of converting Russia, the obvious strength of the Red Horde--and the years of loose Russian overlordship--have largely made that a moot point.

I'll cover Hungary later.
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