WI: Syracuse as Byzantine capital in the 660s

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Iserlohn, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. Iserlohn Amateur Cartographer

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    I'm currently reading a book titled "The Formation of Christendom" by Judith Herrin and in it she describes how in the 660s (East) Roman Emperor Constans II, father of Constantine IV, chose Syracuse as his imperial residence and even considered making it the formal capital of the Empire (pp. 264). This move occurred because of his expeditions to the Italian peninsula, and it was only limited in its permanence due to his family remaining in Constantinople in order to not fully abandon the main Byzantine power center in the east.

    But what if Constans II brings his family to Syracuse, thus turning Sicily into the main point of focus for the Byzantine Empire?

    I was actually inspired to make this thread because she then suggests that if the capital had been moved to Syracuse, that Constantinople might've fallen to Muslim invaders about 800 years earlier than it did IOTL (pp. 274), and it's relatively rare to see proposed counterfactuals in published historical non-fiction.

    So what do y'all think? What would the consequences of such a move be? Would it be beneficial for the Empire or would it spell an early doom for Christian rule in Asia Minor and possibly even Balkans like Herrin suggests?

    Addendum:
    I wanted to add an illustrative map for this but couldn't find anything better than this one for presumably 650 AD, but it should give some idea on what the Byzantine looked like around that time.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  2. Sertorius126 Badass guerrilla fighter

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    Constans II would likely still leave Constantine IV in Constantinople to oversee things in the East, thus granting it the proper defenses to sustain the Arab’s assault. Whether he makes Syracuse his administrative center or not, Constantinople would still remanin the spiritual capital of the empire, and Constans couldn’t seriously disregard it, along with the whole Eastern frontier, or else his OTL fate would be just the same ITTL.
     
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  3. ImperialxWarlord Well-Known Member

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    I don’t think that Constantinople would’ve fallen earlier, it was the most important city in the empire and wouldn’t have fallen anytime soon. And it would be interesting to see the Byzantine hold onto their western possessions longer. I wonder what a Christian North Africa would be like, what language would they speak?

    And why does this map show large amounts of Greece not in control of the empire?
     
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  4. cmakk1012 Well-Known Member

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    Christian North Africa would have already spoken African Romance and Berber languages, ITTL supplemented by Greek.

    As for Greece, in the time period the Slavic migrations made Byzantine control over much of the Balkans very nominal.
     
  5. ImperialxWarlord Well-Known Member

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    I did not know they lost control of Europe, I knew they lost control of the Balkans but not Greece itself.
     
  6. cmakk1012 Well-Known Member

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    Yep, the Slavs went well into Greece—lots of placenames of Slavic origin all the way to the Peloponnese existed until the 19th century “Greekification” of said names
     
  7. ImperialxWarlord Well-Known Member

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    The more you know.

    Did they ever regain these lands? Most maps of the Byzantine empire shows those lands in there control.
     
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  8. Viralworld Éirí Amach an Ghealach Donor

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    Imperial control started to be reasserted in Greece and the Balkans in the 9th century, and although they struggled with the Bulgars in particular, by the reign of Basileios II “Boulgaroktonos” the Byzantines had restored their control over what we traditionally consider to be Byzantine Balkan territories. So basically Byzantine control lapsed in the 7th and 8th centuries, but was restored throughout the 9th and 10th centuries until the early 11th century when it was pretty thoroughly pacified. They’d lose their control again with the collapse of Imperial authority in 1204, but in short yes they did regain the land.
     
  9. Flavius Iulius Nepos Emperor with the support of the East

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    Constans II left his sons Constantine Heraclius and Tiberius in the east. Even with their father campaigning in the west I think they would be able to handle the Arab threat, like Constantine did OTL. The Romans could better handle the Bulgarian, considering that the factors that brought to defeat could be easily butterflied here. About Constans and his western campaign I think that an earlier council of Constantinople, were the emperor renounce Monothelitism in favour of Calcedonia, could improve his relations with the western Latin population, possibly avoiding his assassination and giving him some successes in southern Italy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018