What does Ottoman success really say about a possible Byzantine renewal?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by NolanFoster, Oct 26, 2019.

  1. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    Wondering if any AH writer lurking on thus sub got some ideas from this paragraph. It might amount to an interesting timeline, although it may not be too realistic.
    Now, maybe if the Almogaver question has better handled by the Palailogoi in the 14th century and the latter were fully integrated in the Roman forces, the Bizantines may have got their own Ghazi momentum.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
    Wendell and Fabius Maximus like this.
  2. NolanFoster Hobbes Fan Club

    Jul 8, 2015
    United States
    Would this essentially be creating a knightly class in the Byzantine Empire? What about importing western European knights and their traditions with promises of land?
    Fabius Maximus likes this.
  3. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    It would take way more than a Knightly class a la early Normans to achieve this: it would take a much more significant portion of the Byzantine population to create an equivalent to the Ghazi culture. It would still require the influx of more Latin and Turkish mercenaries at first to teach them the know how, then a reasonable percentage of the locals would have to adopt a lifestyle that frees them to train for war almost exclusively. That may be achieved in a few different ways:

    A- They go the Frankish way, using the abundant pastures of central Anatolia to keep thousands of war horses, but use them mostly as troop transport for chevauchee raids, not necessarily in combat. They may fight the Hussar way if mounted, but mostly dismounted. Most of the warriors are also part time herders.

    B-They adopt the nomad turkish lifestyle and become a kind of Byzantine Cossacks. They fight mostly as horse archers.

    C-This is the least likely, but still somewhat viable depending on how realistic the timeline is. That is, the Byzantine emperors enslave or force a significant amount of people (muslims and POW maybe?) into serfdom and constantly harass them to supress any rebellion. A more humane option would be to make that serfdom an equivalent of Jizya tax and leave them in peace. What the latter produce would be used to fund an army of citizens. This would be similar to the Spartan Helot system. Sounds ASB, but it may be a very interesting timeline

    That's why I suggested turning the Great Catalan Company into the founding stone of this new warrior culture as the fist step: those nasty motherf****** lived for war and booty only, specially the Almogaver infantry, and consistently destroyed turkish after turkish army. The timelime might then proceed like this:

    Their commander, Mega Dux Roger de Flor is not assassinated thanks to listening to his wife and advisors. Instead, he finds a way to bring down his political enemies. He might not overthrone the Palailogoi. If he does, he can enthrone the former (and succesful) commander Alexios Philantropenos as the new emperor, or the Cantacuzenoi for that matter.
    Together, they reform the political system in order to give Mega Dux De Flor power similar to a kind of Generalissimo or Shogun who can oversee the stability of imperial sucession and act as a counterbalance to the nobility. They bring in more Iberian warriors, including more Iight Jinetes that can train the new armies the way to go in the following wars, imbuing the populace with an Eastern Reconquista spirit. On occupied territory, allowing most nomadic tribes to fight for them without necessarily converting and learning from them too would be the next step. Any further conquest means land grants for the succesful commanders, similar to the Timariot ottoman system.

    From then, the rock starts rolling. Depending on the length of the timeline and the level of WANK the author wants to implement, this new empire might grow to a size that may rival the old Roman Republic (but not necessarily the same territories).
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
  4. AdamNeuser Active Member

    Sep 17, 2019
    I think you might be over-estimating the role of the notion og 'ghazi' here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaza_thesis
    Beacon and Fabius Maximus like this.
  5. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

    Apr 3, 2013
    Perfidious Albion
    IDK, sounds pretty similar to OTL feudalism to me.
  6. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    I don't really see how the article contradicts me: the Ghaza Thesis claimed that the main reason behing early Ottoman expansion was religious Jihad. Modern historians, on the other side, say that cultural factors inherent to turkic tribes (what I said) were a way more bigger factor, although there's no real consensus around it.
    My argument revolves about Ghazw as a cultural trait, not as Jihad.
  7. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

    Aug 23, 2007
    The Byzantine had a long heavy cavalry tradition as well. Of course when the Byzantines did begin to rely on Norman knights these same Normans would instead turn on the Byzantines and carve out domains of their own
  8. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    More like Russian serfdom or Helot slavery. I had in mind something similar to what Gemisthus Pletho proposed.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  9. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    I would add a few things.

    Avoid Constantine IX and Manzikert and its aftermath.

    The Ottomans don't arise from the Byzantine state they are a successor to the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia, more directly to the Byzantines in Europe but by then game over.

    The Byzantines from the 8th ( late) and certainly 9th -11th century are generally both successfully defending themselves and pushing the muslims back Their reaction to local muslim populations is at least in part because they are actually or are descendants of Christian apostates who chose to keep worldly goods rather than save their souls. Or the Byzantine forces include people who lost their lands to the muslims and want them back. Also the Byzantine version of Orthodoxy does seem to have a harder time dealing with religious minorities than others but for the era not so much. The Russian analogy applies to a later period.

    There is a knightly class later on but too late with too little land to give out and too much cash expenditure on other things anyway.

    A big military change is from the Thematic armies to the Tagmatic which are just as successful or not but the Tagmatic tend to be better as an offensive army. In the aftermath of Manzikert Anatolia is lost along with both the recruiting grounds and tax revenues.

    Arguably the key issue is the loss of the Thematic army concept of a local militia forces able to deal with low intensity warfare and provide defence in depth and the destruction of the system in the Ducates of the East in order to raise cash for armies and fripperies by Constantine IX.

    You can make an argument that not going all in on the Tagmata armies, having a more defensive strategy and keeping the themes militias at least in Ducates avoids the Seljuk war ( which is caused by the non Seljuk raids against now undefended lands) and the sudden loss of Anatolia. The Tagmata of professional soldiers will still provide a solid core - Jannisary like with recruitment of good orthodox barbarians like the Rus but never enough to bankrupt the state. The combination of fortresses, local militias and leadership and a solid and loyal Imperial army looks a lot like the Ottomans in the 16th/17th centuries. So the Themes ( Ducates) of the East and presumably along the western borders as well serve a military frontier, recruiting ground and buffer zone.

    If you want a POD, No Constantine IX, George Maniakes wins, establishes a dynasty does not disestablish the Iberian Army but rather gives lands to his mate William Iron Arm ( son of Tancred De Hautville) who brings his brothers over on the grounds its even further from William the Bastard than Italy. The Abbasids still get screwed over by the Seljuks but then the raiders are being countered by local militias and Norman Knights. Bonus points for Harold Hardrada sacking rebellious Venice. The Seljuks themselves were more interested in dealing with Shiite Fatimids than the Byzantines.

    I think someone must have done that POD so a link would be nice.

    But you really need to keep Anatolia and Manzikert and the aftermath is the reason for the loss.

    You still have the succession problem referred to but then so do the Muslim states.
  10. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

    Dec 30, 2014
    Feudalism is simply that system whereby there is a relation between a liege lord and his subjects that amounts to a distribution of power, especially to the nobles. It is reasoned that the king or the Pope, depending upon whom you ask, is the origin of power upon earth and this person then distributes power to this or that person, who then has duties to that king and likewise the king has loyalties to him. It is a decentralized system that nonetheless derives from a model of centralized governance. It is different from other sorts of systems such as dyanstism as it existed in the Sassanid empire and differs from centralized bureaucratic states such as Tang China, the Roman Empire and the Assyrian empire outside of Mesopotamia.

    So, int he case of taking a large amount of the populace and forcing them into servitude of sorts, does not imply feudalism. The only thing that implies feudalism is the relation of the king to his subjects. In otl, the Emperor of Byzantium was an autocratic ruler who was absolute and despite varied factions, was firmly the focal point of power. Likewise, power of the entire empire emitted from a central bureaucratic capital. Further, at a metaphysical level, the Emperors of the East after Zeno and Justinian I, claimed to be 'divine mediators' and claimed roles to dictate all things in politics and religion. In fact, the ideal state according to Byzantine era political thinkers lay within the realm of the Platonic model of an emperor ruling through an ideology and mimicking god upon earth. The factional nature of Byzantine politics though, is not indicative of feudalism. The fractious relations between the monarch, the nobles and Papacy were hallmarks of feudalism and disputes over who was the true liege lord in feudalism. While in Byzantine factionalism, the disputes were never of who the true authority was, but only who or what would guide the ship if you will....
    Lampiao, UoBLoyalist, Beacon and 3 others like this.
  11. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    Or to put it another way ' do we beat Him ninety and nine times he is still the King' vs ' Do we beat him but once and he dies of infection after the blinding and I am Equal of the Apostles and Gerent on Earth obey me minor Patriarch of Rome.'

    Its even more pronounced at the lower levels. where there is no equivalent to the great Duchies of the West.

    But can it survive, why not the Ottomans did and their system has a lot in common with the Byzantine system they conquered/inherited.
    Fabius Maximus likes this.
  12. fasquardon Cosmonaut

    Sep 24, 2012
    What the heck? The generals and troops that Rome recruited in Syria seem to have performed just fine. And weren't Syria and Egypt plagued with sectarian revolts in the late Byzantine period?

    I think it is under-appreciated how much of a continuation of the Roman Empire the Ottomans were. But neither were the Ottomans Romans. As outsiders, especially as Muslim outsiders, the Ottomans could more easily re-invent the failing institutions of the past and could more easily access the trade routes coming from the Steppes and across Persia. (And eventually the trade of the Indian Ocean.)

    I think it is possible to imagine the Romans reforming to the point that they could be as successful as the Ottomans, but I think it would be very, very hard for them.

    For example, the Ottomans had a far more stable government that Rome ever did. And that meant economic stability and (relative) prosperity for ordinary people for the bulk of Ottoman history. And that of course also led to greater military strength of the Ottoman state.

    Also, the Ottomans were not so vulnerable to turbulence over religious sectarianism. The religious differences between between the Byzantine core and Syria and Egypt were a major factor in weakening the Romans in the decades before the Islamic invasions. By contrast, not only were the Ottomans better able to handle the different flavours of Christian, they did a better job of handling other Muslim groups (not that either of these histories are without their stupidities and tragedies - the point is the Ottomans were better than the late-era Romans).

    I'd also say that the Ottoman military machine played a part in success. Especially the Ghazi system, as others have mentioned. It did a pretty effective job of spreading the burden of the army broadly. The ghazis were also a pretty effective element of local governance for the Ottomans. Also, their logistical chops are worth mentioning. During the period when ghazis were militarily relevant and after, the Ottoman bureaucracy did an excellent job of organizing military industries, sourcing supplies and getting them to the army without placing undue strain on the Empire's economy or the local economies that the army had to march through (though an army marching past your village was still ruinous for ordinary peasants, it was far better than anything in Christian Europe until the 18th Century).

    I have wondered if the Nicean Empire had not reclaimed Constantinople when they did, and instead focused on expanding into more economically productive land before a later taking of the capital, would they have faired better and led to a resurgence of the Roman empire? Quite possibly. Though I doubt it would expand as greatly as the Ottomans did, with a bit of skill and some luck there's no reason for me to think it's impossible for them to take the Balkan and Anatolian core area. But after such an empire consolidated its hold on Greece and coastal Anatolia, I think that how it behaved in its geopolitical context would be very different from how the Ottomans behaved.

    Fabius Maximus and Beacon like this.
  13. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

    Dec 30, 2014

    The soldiery from these areas were conscripted and given military training. They were not as the Arabs were who battled frequently and constantly and developed an internal martial culture, that was itself separate from state actors. Likewise, Iranian nobles and their levies were constantly training, without need for state actors to enforce upon them conscription. One requires an existing imperial and state bureaucratic structure to give them military skills and weapons. While the other exists primordially.

    This is the reason some steppe hordes, who without only fractions upon fractions of sedentary peoples, could totally outnumber that society in trained warriors and at rapid instances.
    kholieken and Melkart Baal Sur like this.
  14. darthfanta Offline

    Feb 15, 2015
    Doesn’t really say much. By the Early 1300s,the ERE was already a rotting corpse, they can barely raise over several thousand troops for any particular campaign, and much of these troops weren’t even natives.They were short term mercenaries who often caused more trouble than they were worth because of the ERE’s inability to pay them.It says a lot about the quality of the ERE military-political establishment at this point in time. The Ottomans prevailed largely because it was a new entity that’s got a streak of really competent rulers. Trying to reform the ERE is much more difficult than creating a totally new entity that feasts upon a corpse.
  15. Cryostorm Monthly Donor

    Jan 9, 2012
    Charleston, SC United States of America
    That's essentially the direction Age of Miracles takes to help reverse the Empire's trajectory.
    Fabius Maximus likes this.
  16. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    although the decisive victory is 800 Ottomans vs 70,000 serbs in a night raid not featuring Steppe archers.

    Its actually confusing to think of them as a horde of horse archers, they never are

    The Ottomans are not a Steppe Horde. They are a Turkish fragment rising in Western Anatolia from 1299. In the Period from then to say Ankara 1402 they have 4 Sultans. then the interregnum then two longish lived Sultans who are stuck with internal rebellions then Mehmed II. That gets us to 1481 and an Ottoman army beating up on Turkmen horse archers with handguns and suchlike.

    In the early period while the Byzantine armies are small so are the Ottoman but the Ottomans control the countryside and the food supply of the Byzantine towns, its only after the migration into Europe that the numerical disparity arises and that's largely the Yahya infantry who are the same local peasants s the Byzantines had and are semi regular and allows for large siege forces, or Balkan vassals as well as the Timars and Janissary. Later for sure the Balkan Sipahi did not carry bows, and the early period armies are primarily Balkan. Turkish Anatolia is already broken up by the Mongols and Mameluke prior to the rise of the Ottomans. The post Constantinople Ottoman Expansion is a major power beating up on a series of small not terribly well organised statelets.

    And starting from a point with less territory than the Byzantines either pre Manzikert or the Komnenoi (who also provide a century of good military rulers) , or even nominally in the 1260s with a military and bureaucratic system not terribly dissimilar from the Byzantine the Ottomans end up with an empire deep into the Balkans and Anatolia with another spasm of expansion under Selim and Suleiman. The biggest difference is probably the House of Osman, which limits the pool of potential Sultans although the rivalry is probably later transferred to the Viziers as the Sultan becomes less involved in day to day administration.

    Its the later period that shows up the same issues as the Byzantines had. Multi Front wars impoverish the empire, the tax system and recruitment system are the same so while certain provinces do provide the logistics the mechanism precludes them also being used as recruiting grounds and turning them into recruiting grounds also removes them from the tax/logistical system. But the fortress and frontier defences remain extremely resilient and as long as they do resist the system allows for large scale mobilisations and the governors tend towards being semi independent monarchs in too much of the empire for too long. But the Ottomans are able to just about keep on top of things, helped by having a France to counter their local Christian enemies and being on the majority side of the Shia Sunni divide in the east.
    Fabius Maximus likes this.
  17. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    The early Ottomans were not a Stepoe Horde, but if I'm not mistaken, the mounted troops of semi regular akinjis and other horse archers (along with azaps) were more numerous than the yayas.
  18. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    The Akinjis are not at all semi regular they may be full time plunderers ( or more likely part time farmers wit a plundering bent) in part but by definition they are not regular. Azaps are infantry not especially being paid and Yaya are any infantry being paid other than janissaries at this point.

    There basically are no accessible muster rolls ( and can't be for irregulars) so the composition of the armies is moot. But very early on they are less than 10,000 strong, and probably a lot less. The great Akinji lordly families are at least as likely to be of greek of slav descent and from the European side as any kind of Turkish. Which says nothing about the men but does suggest. Are they more numerous, depends.

    In everyday life along the borders, yes. But that's like saying the Croats of the Ban are more numerous than the Emperors whitecoats. They are the border force. In sieges, no, no plunder, on campaign, probably not, horses eat a lot and every akinji nag munching oats is a Sipahi warhorse going hungry. Somewhere ahead of the campaign plundering and raping for God and Sultan, oh yes.

    Later on Akinji is used for tartars and other steppe Turkmen but that's 16th century after the earlier types tried to cross the wrong river and felt the Lords Righteous Justice in the form of a Szekler sabre. These being the Christian version plundering and raping for God and Emperor.

    They do however have a much better literature than the other types.
  19. Melkart Baal Sur Member

    Oct 23, 2019
    As far as I know, most Yaya were actually mercenaries. The standing army remained quite small at first, but the irregular nomads, akinjis and azaps were far more numerous and constantly weakened enemies by harassing them. My original argument still stands, then.