Imperator Maximus


                                                   by Demetrios Rammos


Imperator Maximus, part 1


The Western Roman Empire. When the empire was divided it would be difficult to believe the western part of it was doomed to destruction and the eastern part destined to survive to the 15th century. It is true that the east had started with advantages over the west. It had one and a half times the population of the west and probably a more vigorous economy on a per capita basis. It didn't have t deal with the amount of barbarian pressure the west had. And Asia Minor and Greece proved a coherent defensible core for the empire.

And yet not all was in favour of the East. Barbarian pressure might have been higher on the west but the western emperors did not have to deal with a great power like Sassanid Persia either. Italy was potentially as secure and homogenous as Asia Minor should the western empire was to be reduced to a surviving core. And the Rhine border was kept largely intact to the early 5th century while Aetius was able of successfully defending it for over a quarter of a century after it had been broken post 406. Almost as notably the western empire was in a position to beat back the Huns in 451 a mere 25 years before her final end and at a time Visigoths and Vandals to name but two had effectively taken over considerable chunks of its territory.

Where the western empire was not as lucky as her eastern counterpart was in her leadership. Emperors tended to be weak; many did not prove particularly capable and worse yet after about 390 most emperors weren't but puppets for people, usually generals, running the empire behind the scenes. Added with worse strife for the purple than in the east it left the empire gradually weakening till it finally came to an end both de jure as well as de facto in 476 AD.

Magnus Maximus holds the dubious privilege of being the last powerful, probably also the last capable, western emperor. A Spanish Celt with connections to the family of Eastern emperor Theodosius he rose to the rank of comes Britanniae in 380. In 383 he declared himself emperor and invaded Gaul.  Defeating and killing Gratian in August the next year he was officially recognized by Theodosius and de facto recognized by Valentinian II.

The situation remained static to 387 with Maximus ruling effectively the whole western empire sans Italy from his court in Trier. Then in 387 Maximus effectively invaded Italy deposing Trier but not before Valentinian II could flee to Theodosius. What followed was disaster for Maximus as Theodosius crossed west the next year repeatedly defeated Maximus and executed him in Aquileia on 28 August 388. With Maximus went the last strong and efficient emperor of the west.

So say Maximus captures and executes Valentinian II when he takes Italy and after some initial tension Theodosius without Valentinian to prop decides to accept the new status qwo, after all he has already recognized Maximus and the latter is a former client of his family. Maximus at an age of about 48 has come to rule the whole western empire.


Imperator Maximus, part 2


We have left Magnus Maximus as the sole surviving emperor of the west in 387 and Theodosius recognizing him probably with some reluctance to his position afterwards.

Maximus was by all accounts a capable man. He rose through the ranks in a turbulent period from non commissioned officer to emperor. With the exception of his last campaign against Theodosius he won every other campaign he fought. In the 5 years of his reign he proved a strong efficient ruler reorganizing Gaul's provincial system, keeping the Rhine border secure, probably to no small extend due to his connections among Goths, and becoming the first emperor to come to conflict with the pope in a foreshadow of things to come.

The ATL Maximus has Italy to draw upon for manpower and resources in addition to his OTL domain. This affords him way more manpower and revenue. The army of the western empire is built upon the same organization with that of the eastern empire and theoretically similar tactics with that of the east, after all at least in paper the imperial army is still a single force. The west is fielding an army roughly similar in size with the east. On the other hand there are considerable differences in the composition of the two halves of the imperial army. The majority of the clibanarii and catafractii heavy cavalry units are in the east. Lanciarii and ballistarii, heavy infantry and catapult troops respectively are almost exclusively in the east. The army of the west has the majority of the mobile units, the army of the east the majority of heavy mobile units and specialist troops. Essentially both halves reflect what their respective parts of the empire consider the most dangerous security threat. In the case of the Eastern Empire this is Persia in the case of the Western empire its barbarian neighbours.

With the Huns pressing from the east German pressure to levels almost unseen before in the late 390s. After Theodosius death in 395 the Visigoths invade Thrace in 396. Maximus comes to the aid of his eastern counterpart the same year and the Visigoths are temporarily settled around Epirus before in 400 they set themselves again on the move this time with the aim of launching an invasion of Italy.  In 402-403 the invasion comes but Maximus is able to drive it back. [1]

In the winter of 406 with the Rhine frozen the tribes to the east of it invade en masse. Unlike OTL the western empire has been under strong rule for a bit over 2 decades. The Rhine border has not been denuded of troops to the same extend under Maximus but has been still weakened as Maximus has had to move troops to meet the Visigoth threat against Italy. With Alaric launching a second invasion of Italy Maximus has to concentrate his efforts on defending Rome itself from the Visigoths. And the surge across the river as Alans, Suave, Saxons, Franks & Burgundians is just too strong for the Roman defenders to stop.

It may be too strong to completely hold but not for Roman armies to contain at least to some extend and perhaps more importantly survive as an organized military force despite the onslaught. Diplomacy comes to aid of insufficient military power. Maximus has kept for a long time good relations with the Goths. Now he accepts the Franks and Burgundians as foederati breaking them from the greater mass of the invaders. In 407 the legions of Britain are moved to Gaul to help contain the invasion. [2] For the next decade Gaul turns into a battleground between Rome and barbarian armies the latter being largely Alan and Suavi.

Back in Italy Alaric's second invasion is not met by any particular success. Between 408-and 410 northern Italy becomes a battleground between the armies of Magnus Maximus and Alaric, Rome is on one occasion threatened but Alaric fails to make any permanent gain. When in 410 Alaric dies the Visigoths now under Athaulf are driven out of Italy by Magnus Maximus son and co-emperor Victor and settle into Gaul by 413.  Magnus Maximus dies late in 410 the throne passes to victor with relatively little trouble.

Victor isn't facing a particularly easy task. For a decade after he ascends to the throne he has to continue the fighting. By 417 between the Romans and their foederati the Alans have suffered heavily enough for them to be mostly absorbed into the Vandals much like the Suave. The Visigoths have established an independent kingdom in Gaul and for every practical purpose so have done the Vandals.

As of 425 the western Roman empire and her administrative structure and armies are still standing. Italy has survived the Visigoth invasion relatively unscathed and Rome with a population of about half a million is the largest city of the west and one of the largest in the world. Africa has kept on being a secure place, one where the empire's Burgundian foederati finally settled. Iberia hasn't been reached by the barbarian invasions but has become home for Frank foederati. Britain has been effectively lost to the empire. Gaul has been the hardest hit of all imperial holdings being a battleground for over a decade and to a large extend beyond direct imperial control with Visigoth and Vandal kingdoms established on its soil.

Victor sets upon re-establishing control over Gaul post 425. In 427 the count of Africa revolts in Carthage only for loyal troops and Victor's Burgundian foederati to destroy the rebel in short order. In 435 a Hun mercenary army instigated by Victor's magister militum Flavius Aetius [2] invades and destroys the Vandal kingdom. Unfortunately for Rome the Huns then turn their eyes upon the empire. By the time of Flavius death in 445 the empire has been subject to a constant Hun threat. Fortunately for the western empire the Huns concentrate their efforts against the eastern bemire. Faced against the massive walls of Constantinople and eastern armies the Huns force the eastern empire to pay tribute but leave the western empire on its own.

Things change with the death of Victor in 447. Aetius efficiently secures the succession of Victor's son to the throne. The Huns find it an n opportunity to turn upon the western empire. In 451 the Huns invade Gaul only for the Roman and Visigoth armies working for the first time together to defeat them in Chalons. The next year the Huns invade Italy only to be defeated again by an imperial army. Only two years later the Ostrogoths and the Gepidae revolt against the Huns bringing their threat to an end.

[1] Pretty much the same with OTL. If Stelicho could check the Visigoths in real life so can together with Maximus now. Or so can Maximus on his own for that matter.

[2] Obviously not the OTL Aetius as he was born in 396 but a character generally similar to the OTL one.

[2] One might recall that Maximus has started out on his path to the purple as comes Britannia and thus still commands the loyalty of the troops of Britain. The results are ironically the same for Britain itself.


Imperator Maximus, part 3


By 450 the worst of the barbarian invasions has passed for the western empire. The Visigoths hit hard from the Hun invasion are not an immediate danger for the empire. Further east the Hun empire is crumbling as the Ostrogoths and the Gepids revolt against the Hun. The empire maintains reasonably good relations with the Alamani and the other major German tribes, the Saxons the Thuringian kingdom and Bavaria are not directly bordering the empire to be a threat. The Franks and Burgundians have become foederati of the empire since the time of Magnus Maximus. This hasn't created trouble in the case of the Burgundians which are being absorbed, more or less peacefully by the population of Roman Africa. The Franks much more numerous are not that easy to absorb causing trouble for imperial administration in Iberia and Aquitaine.

Thus in the generation after the battle of Chalons the western empire gets a peaceful respite from the near constant warfare of the first part of the fifth century. The economy starts growing once more, and with it grow the revenues and the capacity of the western empire to wage war. By the time Magnus Maximus grandson dies in 485 the empire has recovered to a large extent and can hope to further growth.

The problems for the empire come from inside. After Magnus Maximus seized the throne the western empire saw power passing to his son and grandson with relative ease. Things don't keep on going smoothly in the imperial succession of 485 as two younger sons of the late emperor claim part of the empire for their own. The concept, alien to Roman custom shows the extend of Goth influence inside the western empire. By 486 the legitimate emperor is at war with both his brothers with one of them calling upon the Ostrogoths for support and another finding support among the Salian Franks, one of the Frank foederati tribes.

The western imperial army in 486 consists of the limitanei, largely static forces tasked with guarding the imperial borders and the Comitatences which constitute the primary field armies of the empire. There are 4 armies of the latter each under a magister militum, the armies of Italy, Gaul, Iberia and the Presentum. Of these the last is the western empire's strategic reserve stationed mostly in Italy, the army of Gaul is the largest and the army of Iberia is also covering North Africa. Heavy infantry is still playing an important role although it is supplemented by heavy cavalry, numerous fast mobile units mostly consisting of light cavalry and some units of horse archers. Heavy cavalry units are not as important as their Eastern Roman counterparts, for one thing the West does not have the economic resources of the East so can't afford the specialist troops the armies of the eastern empire can call upon. For another the enemies the western emperors are facing are not as sophisticated as the East's Sassanid enemies.

The army of Iberia suffers a defeat to the Franks in 487 that allows their chief Childeric to unite the other Frank tribes under him and post 489 to declare himself king of the Franks in direct opposition to imperial authority. In the 25 years to his death in 512 the Frankish kingdom manages to secure control first of Aquitaine and then a significant part of Iberia but fails to dislodge imperial troops from either Gaul nor Iberia. After his death the kingdom is divided between his three sons. Between Roman diplomacy and personal ambition the 3 successor states find themselves at odds between each other by 520. Quite ironically the establishment of the Frankish kingdom fails to stop the continued Latinization of the Franks.

The future of Gaul is determined in 488 in the battle of Soissons as the emperor brings against the Visigoths the army of the Pesentum the army of Gaul and part of the army of Italy decisively defeating them. The empire fails to take immediate advantage of her victory having also to fight the Franks and the Ostrogoths but nevertheless the Visigothic threat is removed from Gaul. The cost of the victory is paid further east as the Ostrogoths capture Illyricum in the same year and invade Italy afterwards. The invasion of Italy is beaten back before the gates of Ravenna in 493 with imperial armies forcing the Ostrogoths out of northern Italy in the aftermath but Illyricum remains in Ostrogoth hands.

The empire is luckier in Gaul where a series of campaigns after the end of the Ostrogothic war recovers the territories to the west of the Rhine in a series of campaigns thus re-establishing the old Rhine frontier and putting enough pressure to the Franks to contain losses. And in the meantime the economic recovery of the empire more or less continues as Italy, Africa, most of Gaul and a part of Iberia are left more or less unscathed from the renewed wars.

The late 5th century becomes also notable for another trend. The Germanic kingdoms on the borders of the empire have absorbed some deal of imperial civilization and organization as well as Christianity. Now for the first time in centuries states expand towards the east instead of the other way round. The Visigothic kingdom despite its defeat in Soissons is strong enough to absorb the Alamani by 495. This is followed by the division of Bavaria between the Ostrogoths to the South and the Visigoths to the west and finally the conquest of the Thuringian kingdom by the Visigoths in 531.

The division of the Franks is the western emperor's advantage after the death of Childeric's death. In 521 imperial armies invade the kingdom of Aquitaine perhaps the weakest of the three Frankish states destroying it by 525 at the same time the other two Frankish kingdoms spend their energies in a civil war leaving a single Frankish kingdom of Iberia in its aftermath. In 530 it is the turn of Iberia as the empire goes to war with the Franks. The reconquest of Frankish Iberia will prove far harder taking some 13 years and devastating a considerable part of Iberia but in the end by 543 all of old Roman Iberia is again firmly in imperial hands.


Imperator Maximus, part 4


For the Eastern empire the survival of its western counterpart doesn't significantly affect the international situation till the middle 5th century. The ties between the two parts of the empire are close throughout the period and Rome and Constantinople usually keep on friendly terms as well as cooperating wherever an opportunity presents itself. This state of affairs though doesn't change the fact that each half of the empire is practically fighting for survival by is own. A cynic might also observe that the friendship between western and eastern emperors may well be more a result of both having more immediate problems elsewhere than anything else. Still whatever the reasons a precedence of peaceful cooperation between east and west is taking hold by the early 6th century and should it continue would have interesting effects for the future.

Church policies are a notable area of cooperation between western and eastern emperors as both have a vented interest in having the authority of the church under firm imperial control. Of the 5 major patriarchates of the Christian church 4 lie within the boundaries of the east and are more or less under the influence of Constantinople. The exception, that of Rome, attempts in the late 4th and early 5th century to become the dominant influence in the politics of the western empire as well as exert a similar influence in the church as a whole.

Unlike OTL though, the emperors of the west are too strong for the influence of the church to become dominant. Magnus Maximus is the first emperor to clash with the papacy. Under his successors the clash gets more serious and ends with the papacy finding itself into the same position vis a vis imperial authority as the patriarchates of the east. The western emperors with cooperation from Constantinople also take care to upgrade a number of western bishops to patriarchates to further break the power of the popes. By the start of the 6th century there are 7 patriarchates as the bishopics of Carthage and Orleans are accepted as patriarchates in the first and the second half of the 5th century respectively. Rome and Constantinople are the most influential of the 7 patriarchates with that of Alexandria a close third. The changes inevitably affect the evolution of Christian doctrine both in east and west.

>From the eastern point of view the first significant external change the existence of the west creates is that the Vandal fail to materialize as a threat as they never reach North Africa to establish a largely successful piratical kingdom. In OTL both the east and the west had gone to great lengths to try to neutralize the threat the eastern empire launching under Leo a massive effort with over 1000 ships to bring the Vandals down. In the ATL the same resources go towards reinforcing the imperial borders in the Balkans and Persia instead.

The east still carefully breaks the Goth influence in the high command of the imperial army by strengthening native army elements and recruiting large numbers of Isaurians troops from Asia Minor in the second part of the 5th century. "Zeno", an Isaurian himself rises to the throne as successor of "Leo I" and in the 15 years of his reign completes the breaking of Goth power inside the army, not without clashing with the Ostrogoths as well as introducing the Henoticon a first attempt to reconcile competing dogmas inside the church. His son Leo II fights the Persians to a standstill in 502-505 and fights back successfully against the first Slav incursions in the Balkans. [1] Married to a sister of his western counterpart his is succeeded in turn by their son Constantine III rises to the throne in 525.

Constantine III much like OTL Justinian inherits a resurgent empire with considerable financial reserves. Unlike Justinian he isn't looking west, after all the west is ruled by his fellow emperor and relative. There is Persia and the Balkan border to deal with. When the near constant wars with Persia restart in 527 Constantine is determined to bring a decisive result in the empire's favour instead of the usual costly draws.

In OTL Justinian's Persian policy cost something in the order of 4.8 million solidi. The reconquest of north Africa alone cost 8 million solidi and the war in Italy 21.5 million solidi. Of the Persian costs about 3 million were the actual cost of military operations was around 3 million with the rest spent on buying truces off Chosroes and the rebuilding of Antioch. Of the imperial army at a time that the magister militum of the east had under his command a field army of some 25,000 men Belissarius brought 18,000 men to the invasion of the Vandal kingdom and Narses had an army of 25,000 in Italy.

Constantine's eastern war sees no truces and the armies that would had gone west fighting mostly in the east [2]. At an average annual cost of about 800,000 solidi a year it is twice as costly as Justinian's operations in 540-544. For 36 years between 527 and the centennial peace of 562 the Eastern empire and Persia are in constant war. Ironically the financial burden of the Persian war is lower overall than the financial cost of Justinian's wars at least for the eastern empire. For Persia though the burden is far more severe. In what is largely a war of attrition the Persia has to fight for twice as long as in OTL, against an enemy that in a 36 year period devotes several times the resources it committed in OTL and without the benefit of over a million solidi in Byzantine subsidies. In 562 Persia may still be standing with relatively little territorial loss, Armenia excepted, but it has been utterly exhausted from the fighting. Of no smaller importance is that in the midst of war Persia is unable to implement most of the internal reforms Khusro I.

In the Balkans Constantine maintains a strictly defensive policy. Despite the ongoing war with Persia the empire can afford to put significant resources [3] in the defence of the Balkans. Slav and Bulgar raids beyond the Danube are frequent but the defence setup Constantine establishes is too strong for the Slavs to break. The potential Ostrogoth threat is neutralized when the empire machinates first a war between them and the Longobardi, an abject failure from Constantinople's point of view as the Longobardi end up conquered by the Ostrogoths and then a war between the Avars and the Ostrogoths.

After a 15 year respite the Persian war restarts in 577 over conflicts between the two empires over Yemen and Armenia. In 577 a Persian army launches a successful surprise invasion of Armenia only to be decisively defeated in the battle of Melitene the next year. The death of the Persian emperor in 579 brings internal trouble for the Persians of which Leo III takes advantage to gain a second major victory in Constantina of Osraene in 580. This is followed by a successful invasion of Atropatene [4] in 583 and four years later in the field of Arbela the war is decided when Leo defeats for the third time the Persians. Ctesiphon falls to the Byzantine army in 588 and by the 590 when the war officially ends the Sassanids have been forced beyond the Zagros.

[1] Leo II is a rough counterpart to Anastasius. He doesn't have to fight an Isaurian war being alt Zeno's son and has also more resources due to the lack of the Vandal three. Both give him more resources to deal with the Slav incursions.

[2] Although part is being used in defending the Balkans. Still call it the field army of the east rising to a permanent strength of about 40,000.
[3] What remains from subtracting the cost of the Persian wars from Justinian's expenditures. Which is 5.5 million solidi. More than what Justinian spent against he Persians.



Imperator Maximus, part 5


Since the time of Constantine the Roman empire both in west and east has become a Christian empire even if Christianity is by no means the sole religion exercised by its subjects. When Constantine made the conversion, Christianity was still a minority religion inside the empire. Given official support from the state it keeps growing in numbers but still there are considerable enclaves of the old religion in the 6th century. Most emperors are somewhat adverse to outright persecution of pagans, people like Theodosius I being rather the exception than the rule. As pagans are of some importance during the 5th century both as part of the imperial administration and as part of the army the emperors f the period are quite willing to let them be.

Constantine III unlike Justinian sees little reason to closing the schools of Athens or for that matter launching a wave of persecution against the pagans that in OTL would continue beyond the time of Justinian. Zeno the founder of the Isaurian dynasty was a former pagan who didn't take his orthodoxy altogether seriously in person. His successors while undeniably Christians retain a willingness to leave their pagan subjects alone as long as they keep loyal and two not trouble them in the same way with the various Christian groups inside the empire. It may not be the best possible world for pagans but it isn't the worst possible world either. By the time Leo's conquest of Mesopotamia paganism despite a constant loss of ground to Christianity is still a going concern.

The Christian church of the 5th and 6th centuries is facing major trouble from the variety of heresies that spring up in the period. Early in the 5th century Arianism is still going strong especially among the Goths. But the 2 new heresies that spring in the east Nestorianism and Monophysitism prove in relatively short order more important. Or more troublesome as far as imperial authority is concerned. Nestorianism is the less troublesome of the two especially as its adherents are mainly concentrated beyond the boundaries of the empire. But monophysitism which spreads widely throughout the provinces of the eastern empire, especially in Syria and Egypt turns into a major problem.

It is a problem the Isaurian emperors are determined to tackle. Zeno makes a first attempt when he issues the henotikon, a compromise formula created by the patriarch of Constantinople. The heavy handed tactics of Zeno who failed to call upon a synodical council before issuing is decree are one of the reasons of its failure. Opposition from the pope of Rome who excommunicates his Constantinopolitan counterpart another. But still henotikon is important both in showing the empire's monophysite subjects that the imperial authority is willing to reconcile them and to the role in plays in the future of the papacy.

Since the time of Magnus Maximus the western emperors are waging a battle with the popes for the control of the Christian church in the western part of the empire. The creation of the patriarchate of Carthage was a first only partially successful effort on the imperial part to break the power of the papacy. The papal disagreement to the Henoticon is to say the least not well taken in Constantinople. One of the clauses of the marriage of future Leo II to a western princess is that the imperator does something about his troublesome bishop of Rome. The western emperor is anything but adverse to comply. The struggle that follows ends with the creation of the patriarchate of Orleans and the passing of church jurisdiction over Greece to the patriarch of Constantinople. With some 9 million followers the pope of Rome is still the most important in the empire but his influence has been severely undermined.

At the time Constantine III rises to the throne in 525 the balance of power inside the church has seen considerable change. The patriarch of Constantinople has been accepted as an equal to the pope. And so has become...the other patriarch to claim the name of pope that of Alexandria. Alexandria had been already an important see of the church. The undermined authority of the papacy meant that the patriarch of Constantinople was also weaker vis a vis the eastern emperor than he would have been otherwise. The vacuum of power inside the church has been covered by the patriarch of Alexandria creating a tripolar Christian war. And also importantly the church of Alexandria tends to be rather closer to monophyshite views than either Rome or Constantinople.

Constantine III follows on the path of his father and grandfather in trying to reconcile "Chalcedonian" and monophysitye Christianity. The solution patriarch Peter IV of Alexandria comes of with and Constantine adopts is called monoenergism namely that Christ has two natures as per Chalcedonian doctrine but one "will" as per Monophysite doctrine. Constantine taking the lessons from the earlier failure of the henoticon calls up the 6th ecumenical synod in Antioch in 540. Monoenergism is accepted by all the patriarchs of the east sans that of Jerusalem, with some arms twisting from the patriarchs of Jerusalem as well as the two Monophysite churches of Armenia and Axum. It will still take time for Monoenergism to prevail reuniting monophysites and "Chalcedonians" but the start in reconciling the two doctrines and rather more importantly for the emperors in reconciling the grand majority of their subjects with imperial authority has been made. Leo III has behind him a united empire when he drives Persian armies of Mesopotamia.

Obtaining Mesopotamia creates a whole new short of religious problem for Leo of course. Mesopotamia is at least as populous as Egypt if not more and the grand majority of its population is anything but Christian. Worse yet what Christians there are are mostly Nestorians a group generally accepted as heretics by everyone else in the Christian world. If the empire is to hold onto Mesopotamia as Leo has every intention of doing and if the land is not to become a constant hotbed for revolts against imperial authority something has to be done. Leo quite pragmatically, or perhaps just because he can't do otherwise, brings out of the dust the edict of Mediolanum from the time of Constantine pointing out that Constantine was after all a saint and an isapostle so he couldn't be wrong in tolerance. At least for the time freedom of religion or some semblance of it has returned to the Roman world.



Imperator Maximus, part 6


When Magnus Maximus pulls out of Britain the last Roman regular forces in 407 in an attempt to keep at bay the great invasion of Gaul in the previous year Roman Britain is left to fend for itself with whatever forces remain at hand. Romano-Britons do not expel civilian administrators as they had done in OTL given the close relationship between the Maximian emperors and Britain but these administrators are first mostly, later nearly completely local in their origins.

It takes no more than a year between the removal of the Roman army and the first invasion of the Saxons in Britain in 408. The Britons are able to drive back the invasion by their own and in 410 Victor, son of Magnus Maximus has to admit that they are effectively on their own in a communiqué with Londinium. And yet Victor is not entirely cut off from what still proclaims itself to be Roman Britain. Considerable numbers of Britons followed Magnus to Rome when he became emperor. The troubled situation of Britain means that thousands more are liable to immigrate if they have a place to go. In OTL that place Armorica was settled by British refugees thus ending up with the name of Brittany. And if the Welsh traditions are to be held true the first settlements in Armorica were created by Conan Meriadoc, cousin to Magnus Maximus. With a Maximian dynasty ruling Rome there is no colonization of Armorica at least on a large scale. Instead the refugees are settled as military colonists in Italy where the Maximian emperors use them as a recruiting ground for their own imperial guard. The Comites Britaniae, recruited from British refugees and colonists, become under Victor the backbone of the Western empire's imperial guard.

Back to Britain the Romano-Britons have to face trouble from the Picts in the north, the Irish in the west and the German tribes in the east. Despite the failure of the Germanic invasion of 408 Saxon raids continue virtually unhindered and on occasion coordinate with Pictish raids. Roman Britain holds on by itself. In 429 a Roman-British army under Victor's general Germain of Trier [1] defeats a joint Pictish and Saxon force. Three years later Victor who cannot spare troops or any significant amount of money to reinforce the Britons sends Christian missionaries to Ireland and Scotland in the hope that if the Irish and the Picts get proselytized they are going to be less of a danger.

When in 442 Anglosaxon mercenaries revolt the result is the first permanent foothold of the Anglosaxons in Britain. Over the next decade the Anglosaxons expand their control through Britain, causing a desperate letter for help to Rome in 447. Help fails to come immediately, Victor has far more troubling problems with the Huns but finally some little aid shows up, the first direct imperial involvement in Britain in half a century when a small Roman fleet reappears in the north coast of Gaul hindering Anglosaxon movement between Britain and the German coast and a handful of small Roman specialist units and engineers find their way to Roman Britain. Coupled with veterans of the empire's Briton units and the gold such veterans bring back Roman Britain puts up stiff resistance to the Anglosaxon advance.

The imperial crisis of the late 5th century threatens to destroy the delicate balance established in the years after the defeat of the Huns. But the Roman victory against the Visigoths in Soissons brings he coast of Gaul opposite to Britain firmly in imperial hands and in a move considered somewhere between the daring and the foolhardy emperor Victor II follows it with crossing the channel at the head of the Comites Britaniae and a handful of other units of the army of the presentum in 491. The first emperor to set foot on Britain since his great-grandfather Victor leads a Romano-British army to a decisive victory against the Anglosaxons in Mons Badonicus before being forced to return to the continent to continue his war with the Franks. Foolhardy or not Victor's action stops on its tracks the Anglosaxon expansion for 2 generations and strengthens the nominal allegiance of Britain to Rome.

Two generations later it is too late for the Anglosaxons. By 543 the western empire has brought to heel its opponents regaining full control of all its domains sans Britain. Ten years afterwards an imperial army is landed in Britain to bring it back in the empire. Roman Britain is brought back quite willingly and without much resistance. The Anglosaxon kingdoms are a different matter by they are too weak for the might of an imperial army that in 7 years destroys them one by one. By 560 Britain is once more Roman in substance as well as name.

[1] Who would have been Germain of Auxerre.



Imperator Maximus, part 7


At the start of the 6th century the Ostrogoths have established a considerable state to the north of the 2 Roman empires. Initially centred in Pannonia the Ostrogoths took over from the western empire Illyricum during the crisis of the west in the late 5th century.  "Theuderic" follows his conquest of Illyricum by moving his court to the old palace of Diocletian on the Dalmatian coast and not only keeps Roman administration going in Illyricum but actually expands it to Pannonia. During his reign the Ostrogoth kingdom prospers considerably and urbanization spreads into the Pannonian areas of the kingdom. Relations both with the western and the eastern empire are tolerably good.

Then Theuderic dies and his successor looks to Roman lands for possible further expansion. Constantine III interested in his Persian war does not want additional trouble from the north. A liberal application of gold brings a Longobard invasion of Ostrogoth lands. It backfires to the extend of the Ostrogoths conquering the Longobards by 550 but Constantine is able to find yet more enemies for the Ostrogoth kingdom from the east. The Avars and a variety of Slav tribes are on the move for some time. With the Danubian border strongly held against raids and Byzantine diplomacy in action their movement gets directed west. The Gepids are decisively defeated in 540 and in 555 the Avars invade the Ostrogoth kingdom.  Initially with the Ostrogoths still weakened from the Longobard war the Avars make considerable headway into the Ostrogoth domains. But the tides of the war turn around. The Avars are a common enemy both for Ostrogoths and the previously defeated Longobards furthering integration between the two German tribes and the kingdom Theuderic left behind proves too well organized to go down with a single stroke. In 570 the Avars are decisively defeated on the banks of the Danube around the area of modern Budapest.

It takes two more generations for the Ostrogoths to absorb the Avar state but by 630 it has been incorporated into the Ostrogoth kingdom. Quite fortunately for the Ostrogoths both the Eastern and the western Roman empires have their own issues to deal with in the same period. The Eastern empire is too deeply involved first in defeating Persia and following absorbing Mesopotamia to start with and post 600 it has other major concerns as well for it to interfere with doings north of the Danube if there are no pressing security reasons to do so. The Western empire has its own troubles as well.

By the time the Avars are brought down the expanded area of the Ostrogoth kingdom has seen a century of wars and population movements. The original populations have heavily intermingled with German, Slav and Avar populations. The end result is not quite anything of the four. Gothia as the Ostrogoth kingdom comes to be known in the 7th century has a culture loosely based on the Roman model but with heavy Germanic and Slav elements with the language moved to the same direction. Coupled with it's Arian Christianity Gothia is the first distinctive civilized state to arise in Europe post the Roman empire. It will not be the last.

Despite the wars most of the period between the start of the Longobard war and the completion of the conquest of the Avars is a period of steady if slow economic growth for what is to become Gothia. The more advanced areas of the old Ostrogoth kingdom are left more or less intact for most of the period with the exception of the early phase of the Avar wars it is the Ostrogoths that are on the offensive. In addition with the partial exception of Illyricum the rest of the Gothian kingdom is relatively thinly populated so Slav and German settlers do not displace the older populations but instead bring an increase in agricultural production. Towns follow in the wake of the increased production and the need to better administer the newly incorporated lands. By the mid 7th century they are still a far cry from the Mediterranean world in size and development but still there.



Imperator Maximus, part 8


At the start of the 6th century Aksum is widely recognized as one of the "civilized" states of the world by its peers in Constantinople, Rome and Ctesiphon. Christian since king Ezana adopted Christianity at about the time of Constantine the Great, with a long literary tradition in Ge'ez, a local Semitic language, and Greek, with widespread trade throughout the Indian Ocean Aksum is one of the great powers of its day. A maritime power Aksum has under a not particularly strong hold modern Yemen.

Aksumite expansion into South Arabia has been hindered by Sassanid  influence. Persia has her own rivaling interests in Arabia and Aksum is friendly to Byzantium as well. Early in the 6th century the Aksumites have re-established their control in Yemen once more.

This time though the Sassanids are hardly in a position to interfere with the Aksumite doings in Arabia. Post 527 the Sassanids have been entangled into 36 years of constant war against Constantine III's Byzantium. It takes to 577 for Persia to recover enough to start meddling in Yemen but its meddling in Armenia at the same time bring a restart of the war with Byzantium with catastrophic results for the Sassanids. By 588 the armies of Leo III are in Ctesiphon and by 590 the Sassanids have been forced behind the Zagros.

Aksum takes advantage of the Persian, as well as the Byzantine troubles, to secure and expand its control over Arabia. Aksumite armies and fleets bring the Yemeni coast under firm Ethiopian control, Christianity in its Aksumite form spreads in the cities of the region and perhaps as importantly the Yemeni cities prosper from the Aksumite rule and the increasing trade it bring in the region.

As the century progresses Aksumite influence and control spreads further in the peninsula following the caravan routes. By the start of the 7th century the cities of Mecca and Medina have been brought under the rule of the Negusa Negest.

Arabia at the time the Aksumites for all practical purposes conquered it was suffering from not inconsiderable demographic pressure. The Aksumite conquest ironically brings a solution to the Arabian problems as it opens to the Arabs the lands of the empire. In the decades following large numbers of Arabs move to Ethiopia proper, especially Adulis while the Monophysite Christianity practiced by the Ethiopians comes to dominate Arabia.

The Arab influx coupled with the increasing volume of trade over the Indian ocean as the economy of the Mediterranean basin and Europe in general enters into a new phase of growth by the 7th century conspire to bring to new highs Aksum. Adulis with a population well over 100,000 people and increasing is second only to Alexandria and comparable to Carthage as one of the greatest cities of Africa. Aksumite influence overland steadily grows both by military means and through cultural and religious influence and by the start of the 8th century Aksum is directly
bordering Roman Egypt.

Of no less importance is maritime expansion. Already at the start of the 6th century Indian Ocean trade was dominated by Byzantium, Persia and Aksum. With Persia removed as an important player the trade mostly comes under Byzantium and Aksum. With Aksumite ships an ever increasing presence in Indian ports some inevitably venture further afar with small numbers of Aksumite traders and missionaries reaching as far as Indonesia while a handful of Aksumite ships reach as far as China,
the first western ships to do so since the 3rd century. Aksumite ships also move south setting up trading posts in the African coast all the way to Zanzibar.

Relations with the Eastern Roman empire to the north are generally good during the 6th century but grow more perplexed as the 7th century progresses. Byzantium has been a source of trade and ideas for a long time. But by the 7th century Axum is alongside Armenia the world's sole monophysite states. The Eastern Roman empire were Monophysitism came to being is under the Isaurian emperors relatively tolerant [1] and post 540 the Monoenergism doctrine adopted by the 6th ecumenical synod of
Antioch is supposed to reconcile Chalcedonians and Monophysites. The Aksumite church has officially accepted Monoenergism but nevertheless as the new doctrine spreads through the Eastern Mediterranean basin the more extreme adherents of the two older ones increasingly find themselves marginalized. By 600 numbers of "pure" Monophysites are emigrating to Aksum. Ethiopia certainly benefits from this influx of
usually skilled immigrants but as a result the Aksumite church ends being much closer to original Monophysitism. Couples with increasing trade antagonism in the Indian ocean and an ever increasing volume of trade with the Mediterranean by the end of the 7th century the Basileus and the Negusa Negest have found themselves into a delicate balance as neither side is really willing to end in an open confrontation with the other. [2] Aksumite churches in Jerusalem as well as Alexandria and Constantinople are only one sign of the value Constantinople places on its relations with Adulis. It is also de facto admittance that the Aksumite church while officially Monoenergist is actually different than the Byzantine one.

[1] The emphasis being on relatively.
[2] Besides the ...technical difficulties a war would entail for both sides.



Imperator Maximus, part 9


Taking a tour in the imperator Maximus world of year 700.

The Western Roman Empire.

The recovery of Britain in the 560s by the Western empire is often seen as the end  of the period of Germanic threat and invasion. After more than a century and a half of wars the empire stands holding largely the same borders with it held back in 400 the only loss of note being Illyricum. Italy and Africa managed to get over the whole period more or less unscathed. The worse that happened to Italy was relatively short lived invasions to her north that never made any permanent gains. Africa saw the settlement of large numbers of Burgundian foederati in it but her peace was not interrupted at all.

France and Iberia were far more severely affected by the invasions and for long periods of time were a battleground. On the other hand Roman imperial authority never broke down in them and large numbers of the German tribes were actually peacefully settled and gradually absorbed. The end result has been leaving both Gaul and Iberia still as urbanized regions with a working monetary economy and state apparatus.  In OTL the population of Gaul went from about 5 million people in 400 AD to some 3 million by 650 before doubling back  to some 6 million by 1000. The population of Maximian Gaul is down to some 3.75 million by the mid 6th century. Iberia whose population had gone from 4 million to about 3.5 in the same period doesn't see any population loss of note by 550. Britain left largely to her own devices in the same time suffers worse. Back in 400 population was perhaps 750,000 people. By 500 it had dropped to something like half a million and would keep the same to 650. Recovered Britain of 560 is no different in that regard. Overall when Magnus Maximus took the throne the Western empire had a population of around 22 millions. A century and a half later when the crisis comes to its end the empire still has some 17.5 million subjects.

The century between 550 and 650 sees a return to peace for the western empire. After the early half of the 6th century destruction of the Franks and re-incorporation of Britain it takes the western empire at least a generation or two to recover its breath and fully absorb the newly re-incorporated areas before seriously contemplating new conquests. The imperial border keeps largely quiet in the same period. Relations with the eastern empire remain good, especially as Constantinople can't afford a confrontation with Rome any more than Rome could. Gothia which could be seen in Rome as the most immediate threat given it hold over Illyricum is to weak to threaten the empire by itself and two strong for the empire to take on deliberately. The same more or less holds truth for the Visigoth kingdom in Germany proper.

Post 600 the picture doesn't much chance. Continuing Roman influence has found its way in Germany proper, leading to its evolution even faster than was the case in OTL. By 600 with Germany as advanced as it was by roughly 900 in OTL the Western Romans find themselves bordering what they call Germania, a more or less centralized state evolving from the old Visigoth kingdom. Roman and German armies clash often enough in the century after 600 over the Roman control of the Rhineland but the wars are hardly decisive enough to come to threaten the existence of either state. Clashes with Gothia besides seeing the return of naval warfare in the Mediterranean after several centuries aren't any different.

The empire still expands her borders in the same period. Modern Holland comes under firm Roman control during the 7th century as Roman fleets and armies move to destroy any surviving Anglosaxon threat towards Britain, or rather more practically to secure sea trade in the region. In Britain modern Scotland and Ireland are the last border of the empire not bordering a recognized civilized state and quite ironically the introduction of Christianity has turned both to worthwhile targets for Roman conquest. A century of low scale warfare brings Scotland to the empire and turns the Scottish highlands to one of the imperial armies prime recruiting grounds. Ireland is invaded by a Roman army in 605 and conquered by 620.

One and a half century of relative peace and stability, at least by medieval standards does quite a lot to bring back prosperity in the empire. By 700 the population of the empire has increased to a quite impressive 24.5 million ( 8 million in Italy, 5 million in each of Iberia and Gaul, 4 million in Africa, 1.5 million in the British islands and 1 million in Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia) with revenues in the range of 6 million solidi. With prosperity comes both resurgence of arts and culture and of the size of towns though the empire.

While both the Western and the Eastern Roman empires claim to be Roman and recognize each other as such in practice there is an ever increasing cultural drift between the two parts of the empire. The Eastern part is ever increasingly becoming a Greek empire in all but name and the western part evolves further apart from its own Roman roots increasing the cultural gap with the east. Religious differences are also accumulating. Technically both the west and the east are Monoenergist Orthodox. But in practice the western churches started out with the more fanatically Chalcedonian elements and the same process that saw Monophysites moving to Axum sees Chalcedonians moving to the west. By 700 counting on the area of the empire, you can find orthodox, Chalcedonian and for good measure Celtic versions of Christianity, the last an unexpected side effect of the conquest of Ireland. The Chalcedonian version is the most popular through the west.

The other problem the empire faces is regionalism. Even if all western empire citizens would consider themselves Roman in practice there are ever increasing differences in language and to a lesser extend culture from region to region and the influx of German foederati accelerates this trend. As of 700 you have Gallic, Brittanic, African, Iberian and Italian  dialects,  to name but the most significant increasingly, diverging from the original Latin and ever less mutually comprehensive.
With diverging dialects come diverging cultures. A Briton and an Italian of 700 may well both claim to be Roman. It isn't necessarily the same question whether they are actually part of the same culture. Ironically the economic and population growth of the 7th century makes things worse in that aspect. In 500 it would be questionable if separate Gaulish, Italian or Iberian states would be feasible by their own and their governors at least surviving ones. By 700 the case may well be different.

Then in summer 702 Maximus IV the last of the Maximian emperors dies without successors.


Imperator Maximus, part 10


The Eastern Roman empire.

For the Eastern empire the 6th century has been one of unprecented political success. Under the Isaurian emperors the Sassanid empire is decisively defeated with Ctesiphon taken in 588 and the Persians forced to concede defeat and control over Mesopotamia 2 year later. The northern border has been kept impregnable, ironically aided by the rise of Gothia north of it which places a barrier between Byzantine areas and the tribes further afar.

The Isaurians have also managed to bring the Monophysite problem to what appears to be an end between the introduction of the Monoenergist doctrine by the 6th ecumenical synod and de facto religious tolerance. After the conquest of Mesopotamia, Leo III officially brings back the edict of Mediolanum in order to keep his new subjects reasonably quiet.

Taking advantage of its victories of the 6th century the eastern empire can have a much needed respite during the 7th century. External threats for most of the century are minimal. The relationship with the Western empire remains friendly. Persia deprived of something in the order of 40% of her revenue by the loss of Mesopotamia is suffering from serious domestic trouble after her defeat and even after it puts her internal problems under control it can't mount any serious effort at reconquest.
The empire and Persia do clash a number of times in the second part of the 7th century but these are merely border wars and not particularly costly from the point of view of the empire. In the north newly emergent Gothia is recovering from the wars that brought it to being to be much of a threat either and besides has troubles with both the eastern and the western empires to be a major threat to neither.

The Bulgars appearing in the second part of the 7th century are a different matter. After defeating an imperial army the Bulgarians manage to mount a large scale incursion south of the Danube in the 660s. But the imperial answer is immediate and massive. Under emperor Constantine V the empire launches a 2 decade war against the Bulgars with the weight of the greater empire behind him. In 678 the Bulgars are decisively defeated with their remnants forced north of the Danube again. Constantine follows this with successive campaigns north of the Danube into OTL Romania. While the empire fails to actually conquer the area the Bulgar kingdom in the area is forced to become a client of the empire. Constantine ends up known as Bulgaroktonos, the slayer of Bulgars for his successes against the Bulgars.

The relative peace not only in the empire but also neighbouring states doesn't fail to bring economic and population growth at levels uprecented since the late antiquity. The imperial "nomisma" the gold coin of the empire is the medium of exchange of choice all over the area from the Atlantic to India. The Western imperial coinage is following the same pattern but is struck in hardly the same quantities with its eastern counterpart. The economy of the Eastern empire is comparable to 10th century Byzantium on the per capita level and that of the Western empire not much behind.

Manufacturing sees considerable growth in the period. The area of the Eastern empire  is the leading producer of precise machinery such as it exists since the Hellenistic era. Visitors of the imperial palace of Constantinople are often stunned by the mechanical animals in the throne room. Then in 630 Philomachus of Rhodes comes with a more practical application of gear mechanisms when he invents the world's first mechanical clock leading to the development of considerable clock manufacturing centres in Constantinople, Alexandria and the Western imperial city of Syracuse. Silk finds its way to the empire already in the 6th century, by way of imperial spies reaching to China if contemporary historians are to be believed, with a significant silk producing industry established in Greece and the Ionian coast by 700.

Trade with India and by extension China sees a major surge at the same time. In part this is due to the new period of economic growth in the Mediterranean world and increasingly central Europe. But not least it is due to two political factors. The first is the growth of Axum during the 6th and 7th centuries and its expansion to Arabia. Already at the start of the 6th century Ethiopia was playing an important role in the trade with India. By the start of the 8th century the involvement of Axumites in the trade has far increased in absolute terms and not inconsiderably increased in relative terms.

The second is no other but the conquest of Mesopotamia by the Eastern empire. Greek commercial interests have been playing a major role in the Indian trade since the time of Alexander. With the conquest of Mesopotamia the empire gains ports in the Persian gulf. Charax Spasini the port on the head of the Persian gulf sees new growth as its role in the trade with India further increases. Ships can get from the Indian ports to Charax. From there through the two rivers, the system of canals and in the last end of the route caravans trade reaches Antioch on the Mediterranean coast.

While all look bright in the exterior not everything is as bright underneath as well. Understandably the return to the edict of Mediolanum doesn't survive indefinitely even if it replace by a reasonable level of tolerance towards to Zoroastrian population of Mesopotamia. In the meantime Monoenergist orthodoxy and tolerance doesn't altogether succeed and in one occasion backfires. Syria and lower Egypt go largely monoenergist both in name and essence. Upper Egypt while technically Monoenergist in practice is closer to Axumite doctrines than the doctrine preached forth from Alexandria and Constantinople. And Mesopotamia goes... Nestorian much to the horror of the 7 patriarchates.
Nestorianism was the primary Christian creed at the time of the conquest of Mesopotamia. Understandably the number of Christians increases under Christian rule. And almost as understandably the combination of relative tolerance and Nestorianism being predominant among the Mesopotamian Christians leads to the new converts becoming predominantly Nestorian with the exception of enclaves around major army camps and Charax that are largely Monoenergist.

Ethnic lines short of follow the religious lines. Anatolia and the part of the Balkans under Byzantine rule are mostly Hellenized with the level of Hellenization deepening with every successive year. Greek influence is rather less pronounced in Syria and Egypt but there to Hellenization is making inroads, particularly in Syria, after the religious schism between Chalcedonean orthodoxy and Monophysitism is melded. But with the exception of the Syrian coast and parts of lower Egypt, like the delta and Alexandria,Greeks are very much a minority both in Syria and Egypt and insignificant in Mesopotamia.

Then when in 702 the last of the Maximian emperors dies in Rome with no successors emperor Leo IV as sole emperor of a theoretically single empire that has been ruled as two separate entities for the past 3 centuries has to decide what to do over it. Especially given how due to the not infrequent marriages between Constantinople and Rome he can make a reasonable claim on the western throne even solely on dynastic grounds...



Imperator Maximus, part 11


Persia's woes.

For Persia the late 5th century and the 6th century have hardly been good and the 7th century hardly starts any better. First had come crushing defeat at the hands of the Ephthalites also known as the White Huns. Coupled with the rise of the power of the nobility Persian social troubles led to the rise of the Mazdakite movement civil war with the overthrow of emperor Kavadh in 496 and his restoration with Ephthalite help in 499. Kavadh's successor Khusro I would had proven one of the greatest Sassanid emperor's in OTL,  fully restructuring the empire in  more centralized lines,  waging war, generally successfully, against the Byzantines in the west and breaking the power of both the Mazdakites and the Ephthalites by the end of his reign.

In the ATL Khusro is faced with a rather different situation in the west. Instead of having Justinian wasting most of his efforts in his temporary reconquest of Italy, North Africa and part of Spain ,  Constantine III throws most of the empire's resources in the struggle against Persia. Faced with about two times the force he'd had faced in OTL in a 36 years war Khusro is forced to peace in 562 conceding the Byzantine control over Armenia but otherwise keeping the western border intact. In the east Khusro still manages to bring down the Ephthalites. The cost besides the obvious exhaustion of the  Persian state is  in Khusro failing to institute most of the internal reforms that he would have had in OTL and to leave the Mazdakites relatively untouched as means of counterbalancing the power of the nobles.

Things go much worse after the death of of Khusro. War with Byzantium starts again with catastrophic results in 577. By 588 Byzantine armies have forced Persia to the Zagros and internal strife among the the noble families and inside the imperial family start to go out of hand. Between 588 and 620 over a dozen emperors rise to the Sassanid throne. The great nobles are increasingly more powerful gradually turning Persia into a loose feudal state. Popular reaction in the form of the Mazdakite move grows in popularity increasing social tensions.

Then in 623 the Khazar's invade Persia through the somewhat unlikely route of Azerbeizan. Under khan Ziebel Khazar armies enter Atropatene, defeat a first Persian army sent against then and in 625 a second army this time under emperor Khusro II is again defeated by Ziebel's army. Then  Ziebel changes the nature of the war in a single stroke.  So far the Khazar's are following a form of shamanism with the Tengri sky god as the main figure of their pantheon, the ruling Ashina clan being supposedly the favorites of the god. It is a religion somewhat influenced by Confucianism and not particularly kind on Khazar rulers that fail. Failure being considered a sign of the lack of Tengri's failure and ritualistic execution of Khazar rulers on religious grounds in not unheard of. The Khazar invasion of Persia despite the victories over Persian armies on the field is hardly an all ssuccesfull enterprise and Ziebel is facing troubles inside the tribe. His solution is quite inspired. Ziebel converts to the Mazdakite version of Zoroastrianism in 630. His move does split the Khazars but gets him fanatical adherents inside Persia itself. It takes one more generation for all of the remaining Sassanid realms to fall to Ziebel's armies and by then the said armies are largely Persian in composition even if their core is still Khazar. When the last of the Sassanid emperors is killed in battle in 659 the Ziebelids remain sole rulers of the Persian empire.

The Ziebelid dynasty starts out fundamentally differently from the preceding Sassanids. It is not just that they are foreign to Persia. After all  by the time the Sassanids are brought down what part of the Khazar's have not converted to Zoroastrianism are back in the steppe and not neccesarily in the best of terms with their Persian brethren. The differences are twofold. First most of the nobility has been killed during the war and by Mazdakite rebels. This allows the emperors to concentrate power in their hands far more easily than the late Sassanid emperors could hope. Second Mazdakite reforms do break up the large estates in favor of peasant communities and smaller landholders. The Persian armies and state organization of the second part of the 7th century come to reflect the reorganization of the Persian economy alongside Mazdakite lines.

First comes the satrapy system. One of the few reforms Khusro I managed to bring forward was establishing 4 main regions in Persia each with its own regional army. The satrapy system is an outgrowth of this with Persia divided into 25 satrapies each of which furnishes her own army contingent in campaign and has a ready army force to defend. The army in terms of tactics and organization is no much different than that of the Sassanids. There is a central army in the capital with full time heavy cavalry regiments. This in turn is supplemented by heavy cavalry from the provinces and infantry militia. The difference is more in the composition of these troops. The Dehlgans are now recruited from small landholders given their holdings in exchange for military service. The infantry militia mostly archers with a leavening of spearmen come from the poorer members of the class.

The system proves robust enough for the Persian state to survive the pressure on its eastern and northern borders as well as clashes with the Eastern empire in the second part of the century.  Internally the new Persian state is rather healthier economically and more centralized than it was under the old regime and so has become its army. With the border secure and internal peace after 660 Persian economy and population start recovering. By the start of the 8th century Ziebelid Persia is still too weak to be able to challenge the Eastern empire. But it's not too weak for emperor Khusro III to lead his armies east in the first serious Persian attempt to expand their holdings in that direction since the 4th century.



Imperator Maximus, part 12


When Maximus IV dies in 702 it throws the Roman empire in a crisis not seen in centuries. Emperor Leo IV of the east, a nephew of Maximus IV on his mother's side has the best claim to the western imperial throne. But in 702 the last time the two parts of the empire were under the same ruler is over 3 centuries in the past. With no serious external threats, Persia being still too weak to take on the Eastern empire and Germania and Gothia while formidable nowhere near a match for either west and east there is little to restrain the two parts of the empire for clashing with each other.

The overall economic and population balance is clearly favouring the eastern empire. With the addition of Mesopotamia the Eastern empire has over one and a half times the population of the western empire and that population is more productive to boot. That the western empire is divided to boot as each army commander and provincial governor decides for himself which side to join makes things quite worse. When in May 703 emperor Leo IV crosses to Italy at the head of 40,000 strong army Sicily and South Italy, still largely Greek speaking at the time declare for him. Soon enough they are followed by the Magister Militum of Italy. Leo enters Rome without resistance and is declared there an emperor by senate and army alike. The pope severely weakened by his clashes with the western emperors can't but accept.

Things are more problematic further west. North Africa declares for Leo. The magister militum of Gaul declares himself emperor itself and Iberia declares from himself. The army and fleet of Britain declare their own emperor but make no move to get involved in the "civil" war between the Gallic emperor and Leo, a prudent move leaving them untouched for the time being. Corsica and Sardinia quickly come under Leo's control nearly all of the Imperial fleet is under Le's control. A Gallic invasion of north Italy is defeated by Leo. Finally in 705 imperial armies go to the attack. As the army of north Africa passes the pillars invading Iberia,  the army of Italy combined with Leo's Eastern troops invade Gaul itself.
The imperials may have the upper hand but subduing Gaul and Iberia doesn't prove particularly easy. The Gallic emperor manages to get Gothia on his side, not difficult when presenting it with the concept of having to face a combined empire, thus forcing Leo with most of his troops to turn back to the Balkans. But this hardly proves enough to save the Gallic empire. First it it hardly only the Gallic emperor that can play the diplomatic game and Leo's with the resources of all the Eastern and half the western empire in his hands finds it relatively easy to buy the Germans services. Post that the British emperor accepts becoming exarch , a new title created by Leo, in exchange of accepting Leo as emperor. In exchange as exarch he is to stay virtually independent from Italy and Rome and  a good chunk of the coast of northern Gaul is to be  part of the exarchate.

It takes 5 years for Leo to force a peace on the Gothians. It takes 10 more years of fighting for the Gallic empire to be brought to heel, a task made that easy only by both sides seeing it as a civil war, one were changing sides, usually for the imperials isn't particularly rare. The Gallic emperor having to fight on four fronts, against the Germans in the east, the imperials in Iberia and southern Gaul and the exarchate of Britain's troop in the East is finally forced to surrender in christmas of 719.

In 720 Leo IV can claim for the first time since the fourth century to be the sole emperor of Rome. The cost has been 17 years of war and spending the imperial monetary and military resources in a war that in terms of scope isn't much different to the Roman-Persian wars of the 6th century and that doesn't leave a necessarily loyal population in Gaul and Iberia. Right afterwards he is forced to embark in a costly campaign to drive the Germans beyond the Rhine that soon turns into all out war with an alliance between Gothia and Germania that takes till 730 to beat.

Administration of the reunified empire isn't necessarily any easier task. Two more exarchs are created one in north Africa and one in Gaul with Iberia divided between them and Italy under direct control from Constantinople. Neither of the two exarchate's such created are as independent as the British exarchate but they are still an admission on the emperors part that directly managing everything from Constantinople is not feasible.

Is the reunification of the empire a good thing? Only time will tell. The only certain thing is that it has taken 30 years of wars and a heavy burden on both men and treasure. And that burden has been mostly taken up by the provinces of the former Eastern Empire.



Imperator Maximus, part 13


Leo IV dies in 735 only 5 years after the wars are brought to an end. Constantine VI who succeeds him has relatively little trouble with keeping to the throne and relatively little inclination for more war after the generation of wars his father launched to bring the two parts of the empire under the same throne. He places most of his efforts in
keeping together a state extending from the Zagros mountains in the east to the Atlantic in the west and he seems to be doing a good job at it. The Germans and the Goths are in no shape to threaten the empire. The Bulgars have been reduced to  imperial clients back during the time of Constantine V. And Persia seems to be having her own problems or at least not to be looking west, a situation that Constantine is content to let be.

So Constantine's main efforts are towards economic recovery, reincorporating the two halves of the empire and bringing the more independent minded of the exarchs closer to Constantinople. He early on officially declares both Rome and Constantinople as imperial capitals, something that Leo IV had let be de facto but failed to declare or
perhaps didn't even thought it needed declaring.  He ties the exarchs by marriage to the imperial throne, in the belief this will make them more loyal to the dynasty. Economic recovery proves less illusive to bring. Constantine cuts back on the size of the imperial armies to about 300,000 troops all over in addition to the navy, down from the nearly twice this size Roman armies had swelled during the war. The taxes are returned to their prewar levels. Prosperity does not take long to return. Most of the east and a good chunk of the west had seen little to no fighting to start with and the imperial economy quickly recovers. Learning and the arts had seen a rennaisance during the 7th century one one halted during Leo IV's reign. Under Constantine it is back with a revenge. Dying in 763 Constantine's reign comes to be remembered as a
golden era of peace and prosperity. With the exception of a clash with Persia in 749 it is nearly entirely free from any serious war.

But even if unseen the cost is there. The peace survived more due to the reputation of the imperial armies than anything else. Constantine has cut down imperial armies and fleets well beyond what the western and eastern empires kept combined at the start of the 8th century and this army has been somewhat neglected. Monoenergist Orthodoxy and Hellenization have kept growing roots in the empire but this has come at a cost as the reaction from both sides of the spectrum, what once would be described as pure monophysite and Chalkedonian are distancing themselves by the day. Partly this is due to developments inside orthodoxy itself. The growth in prosperity and learning during the 7th century has brought a backlash inside the church over certain practices.
Extreme iconolatry is increasingly coming at task and so are doing the extremities of monasticism or perhaps more accurately the wealth being accumulated by it. The first problem is dealt with when the 7th ecumenical synod declares that it is the persons depicted in the icons honoured and not the icons themselves, while condemning such extremities like using the paint of icons for healing pots. But putting limits to
monasticism and taxing the monasteries properties, both practices Leo introduces during his wars and Constantine maintains isn't received as well. By the time of Constantine's death Monophysitism in the Axumite form and "Gallic" catholicism, both rejecting the 6th and 7th ecumenical synods are openly apart from the official mainstream orthodoxy and while imperial authorities avoid persecution riots between fanatics and monks from all three sides are again a different matter.

To the east of the empire the Ziebelids of Persia launched their own effort of expanding east at the same time Leo launched his western wars. For two generations Persia keeps the peace on her western border because it is most of the time at war in her eastern border. Persian expeditions out of Sogdiana steadily expand Ziebelid rule over Central Asia and area with considerable ties to Persia already. This causes reaction on the part of China which under the Tangs is expanding it influence westwards at the same time the Persians are expanding their own influence eastwards. In 746 a Tang army some 30,000 strong clashes at Talas with a slightly smaller Ziebelid army. The superiority of Persian cavalry and treason among the Tang's mercenaries decide the day in Persian favour leaving central Asia to the Persians and their client states. An accidental, but no less important, result of the battle is paper making making it to Persia. By 760 paper making is an important Persian industry with large exports of paper both to India and the Roman empire. Inevitably the secret spreads further and by 800 paper has reached the Mediterranean world with the paper being made in Alexandria, Constantinople and Rome. Less accidental is the increasing influence of Buddhism to Persian Zoroastrianism, helped to no small extend by the long interaction between Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in the region and the earlier Mazdakite victory in Persia.

The Persian expansion in central Asia is something of a side project though. In 700-710 Khusro III secures modern Afghanistan and in 713 leads an army of some 40,000 men, half the overall Persian army of his time, in an invasion of India, the first since the time of the Sassanid campaigns against the Kushans. North West India at the time
dominated by a number of mostly Rajput kingdoms proves surprisingly easy to conquer. Khusro defeats a Rajput army in 714 and reaches the banks of the Indus. By 716 his army has pushed all the way to the border of the Kashmir and the victorious shah returns triumphantly to Persia. A backlash comes almost immediately with the Persians driven out of everything sans modern Sind and southern Punjab by the rallied Rajputs. But Khusro is back in 720 retaking the lost areas and consolidating Persian rule over them. Persian expansion is checked and temporarily driven back by Bappa Rawal of the Mawar kingdom and Nagabhata I of the Pratihara dynasty. But after both die Persian armies take advantage of the weakness of Nagabhata's successors and the ability to accommodate Rajputs inside the Persian system to bring the Pratihara's down by 780.

To the north of the Danube Gothia and Germania turn their drive to expansion on other directions. By 750 Gothia extends from the Carpathians to the east to the eastern half of Bavaria in the west having incorporated the whole of modern Czechia and Slovakia in the process. Germania likewise controls the area between the Elbe and the
imperial border. There are varying degrees in centralization between the 2 states despite their common German ancestry. Gothia, no more German by this point even if Gothic is a largely Germanic language a heavy influx of Slavic words is following a system roughly similar to that of the Roman western empire. Germania is more feudal in organization but still the German kaiser has considerable powers.  Gothia is again the more urbanized of the two not in the least due to inheriting  Roman Illyricum
back at the time of the creation of the kingdom. The borders of both states slowly but inexorably keeps driving to the east hand in hand with Arianism.

In 763 the same year with the death of Constantine VI a Scottish monastery is destroyed by raiders from the sea. It won't be the last as Norse raids increase in frequency and severity in the coming years. But this will prove only on of the problems Roman Europe has to face.



Imperator Maximus, part 14


When Constantine VI  dies in 767 the imperial throne goes to his second son Tiberius as the elder Leo has already died before Constantine. Michael on the outside is heir to the strongest polity on Earth, especially given the troubles China is facing at the same time. This while true is not the whole picture. Imperial armies have been cut back
in size under Constantine a move that while making sense at his time is not necessarily good in the longer term as new challenges start rising in the imperial border. And second for the imperial system, including the exarchates to work smoothly it requires at the throne a strong emperor, with considerable diplomatic ability and tolerance towards the variety of religions and Christian denominations of his subjects.

Tiberius is definitely not the man to be that. So far the Isaurians have been the longest lived dynasty on the imperial throne in either the west and the east. Partly this has been a matter of good luck on their part. Partly it has also been the succession going to the more capable relative as opposed to the closest relative. Future historians often differientate between the Isaurians and the Isaurian-Antiochenes of the 7th and 8th centuries. But Tiberius is not a particularly capable army commander, too haughty to be a good diplomat; after all he has been raised as a member of the family ruling most of Europe and not one intended for the throne and too much of a true believer not to meddle in his subjects religions.

It doesn't take long for the effects to show. In 768 Tiberius fishes from the dust the laws from the time of Theodosius against paganism. The ancient religion is still surviving in the background of the empire's life even if a small group and sometimes mixed up with Christian notions. But the non Christian population of Mesopotamia is still anything but small despite nearly two centuries of imperial rule. This is coupled with a marked decline in the tolerance of the imperial throne against the non orthodox and with attempting to pack imperial administration and the upper clergy with men following the emperor's decrees to the letter as early on provincial administrations prove rather resistant to actually implementing as opposed to giving lip service to the decrees coming to them from Constantinople.

But by 773 things start coming to a head. The King of Kings is not willing to tolerate, persecution against his fellow Zoroastrians, confident in his own power after the Persian conquests in India and Central Asia and in possession of a huge well led army. After Tiberius ignores his demands for the pressure on Zoroastrians to stop a Persian army 150,000 strong crashes onto the Zagros overwhelms the imperial
defenses and invades Mesopotamia. Imperial armies while outnumbered put up strong resistance and despite support from the population the Persian advance is initially slow. The Persians capture Charax in 773 and bring Ctesiphon under siege in 775.

This brings an imperial response although not perhaps the best of all possible response. The Imperial army of the east in the late 8th century is still organized largely along its earlier system with armies under Magister Militum. There are 7 of the latter, these of Thrace, Illyricum, Mesopotamia, East, Armenia as well as the 2 armies of the Presentum kept as a strategic reserve.  Tiberius takes one of the two armies of the presentum, leaving the other to keep an eye to the west and the Danube
border, strips Egypt and Syria from all units of the Magister Militum of the east, adds to that the army of Armenia and what contingents of the western armies are ready at hand and moves to contest the Persian advance in Mesopotamia. It is not a wrong move. It is just that Tiberius is not capable enough to lead the army he massed. The battle of the Tigris a bit to the north of Ctesiphon ends with Tiberius falling on the
field the first emperor since Adrianople and over half of his army destroyed.

The throne passes to a 7 year old with a regency proclaimed under the fallen's emperors advisors. It doesn't prove particularly effective while continuing the fallen emperor's policies. Ctesiphon falls late in 775 and by the end of 776 the Persians control all of Mesopotamia. In 777 they move to invade Armenia which falls by 780. In Europe the Bulgars break their vassalage and invade across the Danube while the
Gothians invade Italy and the Balkans and the Germans attack Gaul. Norse raids intensify in the same period.

It is hardly surprising under the circumstances that central authority effectively collapses. The exarchate of Gaul is largely Gallic catholic, unsurprising given how the practice has risen in Gaul itself. With a population of some 5 million in Gaul itself in addition to some 2 million people in Iberia the exarchate has over twice the population of Germany. The exarch simply ignores the calls for troops from Constantinople in 778 in order to defend Gaul and in the summer of the next year he destroys an invading German army in front of the exarchate capital of Orleans. A mere two weeks later his soldiers raise him on a shield and the patriarch of Orleans crowns him amid the genuine enthusiasm of the populace. The Gallic empire is born. For the third time since the 2nd century AD.

News from Gaul bring set up a domino in other areas of the empire. In Memphis the Monophysites rise in revolt joined by most surviving units of the army of Egypt. A monophysite officer, Arsenius is proclaimed emperor and takes control of most of Egypt with the initial exception of  the delta and  Alexandria. The delta falls soon enough. Alexandria with its largely Greek population , massively fortified since the time of the Ptolemies and with open access to the see is put under siege but
Arsenius fails to take it. It doesn't quite matter. An Egyptian expedition against Cyrenaica fails but early in 780 Arsenius invades Judea and Syria capturing Damascus and Jerusalem.

News of the fall of Jerusalem coupled with the loss of Armenia bring revolt at the very core of the empire. The past 5 years have been a string of disasters for the imperial armies more often than not when led by appointees of the regents but inevitably some of the commanders do show out as either luckier or more capable than the rest. Michael Ainian is one of them. Born in Eurytania, one of the least developed parts of Aetolia in central Greece, Michael follows the usual outlet for people that want to escape the life of the mountains joining the imperial army. By a mix of luck and competence he quickly rises through the ranks to second in command of the army of Thrace when the latter is sent to meet an invading Bulgarian army in 780. When the Magister Militum dies in an accidental skirmish with the Bulgarians it is Michael that takes command of the army and the man that traps and annihilates the invaders in the battle of Dorystolum 2 weeks later.

This doesn't stand very well for some of the regents. The mountains of central Greece are one of the last strongholds of paganism inside the empire and while Michael is a Christian he is suspect in that account. Post that he is not a character making himself very popular among the regents. News of taking command of an imperial army without waiting for orders from Constantinople and his subsequent victory make him both suspect and potentially dangerous.  Michael is ordered to come to Constantinople while a loyal replacement is sent to take over the army.

Whether Michael was willing to comply or not remains subject of conflicting accounts. What is certain is that his soldiers revolt in the news, kill his replacement and declare himself emperor. The army of Illyricum joins them and Michael marches to Constantinople. Resistance is negligible. The regency does manage to bring together an army in Adrianople to stop Michael only for it to disperse in the face of
Michael's troops, the part not changing sides that is. When Michael reaches Constantinople the Demoi and some of the army units stationed in the City rise up. The unfortunate Leo VI dies by a stray arrow as the imperial palace is stormed. The next day the gates of the City are thrown open and Michael enters in triumph and is crowned emperor in the cathedral of St George. [1] Asia Minor and the parts of Syria out of Egyptian control declare for him. Michael buys an one year truce from the Persians at a rather heavy 1000 nomismata a day [2] and moves to deal with the Gothians defeating an Gothian army in Sirmium in Sirmium early in the summer of 781. This doesn't end the Gothian threat, after all the bulk of Gothian armies are in Italy but is enough to bring the hard pressed Italy to Michael's camp.

This leaves the exarchs of North Africa and Brittania. Both can claim a relationship to the old dynasty, the exarch of Africa being married to a sister of Tiberius and that of Brittania being a cousin of him. And both declare themselves the legitimate emperors. The empire has found itself with 5 rivaling emperors in addition to having to fight off a multitude of foreign enemies.

[1] Which would be the equivalent of St Sophia in this TL. But given how we do not have a Nika revolt to destroy the original St Sophia nor Justinian for that matter some other cathedral will come to being. Couple this with the military successes of the empire at the time and St George being the protector saint of the army...

[2] In addition to the truce not covering the areas controlled by Arsenius army. Essentially Michael pays the Persians to invade Egyptian held Syria instead of Asia Minor.



Imperator Maximus, part 15


And before we return to the flames of the Roman war a short look to the brave new world of the Norse.

The survival of the western empire in Imperator Maximus has had substantial effects to the development of European lands beyond the old Roman frontier. The survival of the west has left in place a literate state with a considerably larger population than OTL and a much larger monetarized economy than OTL as well. The first result of this is that knowledge from, usually, the Roman lands spreads faster than OTL. The second is that the volume of trade the imperial economy can support is greater by far in volume and intensity. The result is that by 600 the population of Europe has stabilized, at a level higher than it would have had in OTL.

The Norse lands are no exception to this. By the late 7th century the population and economy of them are comparable to these at the start of the Viking era of OTL. As it happens no raids materialize though, as far as the greater Roman world is concerned. The western empire of the late 7th century is too strong to make a good target for raids. The war of imperial unification leaves an opening but raids are short lived in the face of the fleet the future exarch of Britain establishes during the war, while working as mercenaries in the armies of the combatants tends to be more profitable for the ones interested in fighting.

But if raids don't happen in the imperial lands the Norse are not merely trading beyond the borders of the empire. The German coast is subject to raiding and the Baltic is subject to quite more. The Norse penetrate through the river system with traders and mercenaries reaching all the way down to Constantinople. Known as Rus by the Slavic populations they set up Novgorod [1] in 747 while in 725 a Rus contingent is part of the imperial army sent to deal with the Germans. The first Rus state follows in 755 and quickly expands to the south from there. "Kiev" is established sometime in the period and in 800 the Rus make an abortive attack against Constantinople itself. Utterly failing before the massive defences of the imperial capital and the rapidly expanding imperial fleet of the period the Rus still make enough of an impression for Constantinople to sign a trade treaty with them in 804. Bordering with the Bulgars to the west and the Magyars in the east the Rus principality will prove stronger than both of them.

In the west with colonization in the British islands and Gaul out of the question, Norse colonization is directed beyond the borders of the empire. The Faeroe islands are colonized starting around 727 and annexed to "Norway" by around 763. By about the same year the Norse have grown confident enough on their own power and Roman defences weak enough to raid Roman held Caledonia in the last years of Constantine's VI reign. In the following decade with the Persian war and the death of Tiberius throwing the empire to chaos Norse raids intensify reaching all the way to the western Mediterranean basin. As the empire breaks up and the local exarchs declare themselves emperors one after the other in the aftermath of the fall of the Isaurian dynasty the wars provide a handy opportunity both for raiding and for work as mercenaries. What they do not provide is an opportunity to secure land from any of the combatants. All the successor states besides a claim to the imperial throne have inherited well working local administrations as well as organized armies and at least some little naval power usually from the fleets present to keep piracy at bay. These forces expand fast under the pressure of the wars and are simply too powerful for the Norse to make any permanent gains in what was imperial territories.

Thus the Shetlands or rather Hjaltland islands become part of the Norwegian kingdom by 766 and are colonized some time before. Iceland is first settled in 767. With few if any settler going to the British islands and northern Gaul, Iceland the Hjaland's and the Faroes all see rather more intensive colonization than would have been the case otherwise. The results spill further away. Within little more than 2 generations of the colonization of Iceland, Greenland is discovered and colonized in 845. But Greenland itself is in no position to support much of a colony. The two Norse settlements come to hold some 5,000 people at their peak but are more important in a different fashion. Some 14 years after the discovery of Greenland, Norse ships reach  Helluland (Baffin island?), Markland (Labrador) and Vinland by 859. A small Greenlander settlement in the 860s fails between internal conflict and pressure from the Native Americans. But with a growing population in Iceland and news describing Vinland and Markland as at least as good as Iceland and certainly better than Greenland a second much larger expedition this time directly from Iceland is sent to Vinland in 892. The survivors of the voyage are numerous enough to bring cowpox to north America...

[1] I believe the name "New City" is as good as any to be chosen in an ATL. And the position of the cities would be largely dictated by the geography of the region.


Imperator Maximus, part 16


At the start of 782, the Roman empire has seen better days. Nearly a decade has passed since the start of the Persian war and 7 years since Tiberius and half his army fell in the battle of Seleukeia on the Tigris. The empire is under 5 rivalling emperors, the Persians have driven Rome out of Mesopotamia and are advancing in Syria. The other of the empire's neighbours, Germans, Goths and Bulgars have taken advantage of the situation to invade the empire with varying degrees of success. And in what is perhaps the clearest show of imperial weakness the empire finds itself subject to considerable Viking raids, something largely unheard of before Tiberius.

For the western parts of the empire things are not so troubling as in the east. It is true that they are the areas most affected by Viking raiding. It is also true that there are 3 rival emperors and the Goths and Germans to contend with. But the exarch and future emperor of Gaul brings the German invasion to a halt in the battle of Orleans in the summer of 779, the Persians are too far and the Vikings more of a nuisance than a serious threat. As for the Gothians with Italy declaring for the emperor of Constantinople they cease to be a problem the Gallic emperor has to contend with. By 780 the main problem of the west is the civil war between the 3 emperors.

The Gallic emperor is pined between the emperors of Britannia and Africa and also facing the Germans. But on the other hand he has strategic advantages and Flavius Antonius I, victorious exarch turned emperor is quick to put them to use. Re-establishing the Rhine defences in the aftermath of his victory in Orleans he stands on the defensive against the emperor of Africa and throws his weight in the fight against the Briton emperor. It does not prove particularly successful in the sense of the Germans gaining solid control of the eastern bank of the Rhine and the African armies slowly expanding their hold in Iberia from about two thirds of the country to about 75% of it but Gallic armies drive the Britons out of the holdings the exarchate had in the mainland by 785 freeing up the troops operating against them for the Rhine and Iberian fronts. These reinforcements stop cold the African advance in Iberia and force the Germans to terms but that is the limit of Antonius successes. At sea the Gallic empire has to maintain 2 completely separate navies one operating against Britannia and one against Africa. This geographic separation coupled with the strong Britannic navy, a result of the Viking raids and Britannia's own position lead to a Gallic failure to gain control of the seas in either front. Thus the British islands stand safe from invasion behind the sea and the sea lanes between Africa and Iberia that keep the African army in Iberia strong enough to take on the Gallic armies on an equal footing remain open.

In the east things are rather more complicated especially as the two eastern emperors have to deal with the Persian juggernaut are fighting among themselves and in the case of the emperor of Constantinople he also has to deal with trouble in the north. Michael I is quick to take advantage of his victory over the Bulgars right before the short civil war that made him emperor and buys himself a peace with them. A costly 1 year truce with the Persians gives him some time to organize his defence of Asia minor as well as deal with the Gothians. His victory against the latter in Sirmium in 781 gains him Italy and a respite in the Balkans but with the war with the Persians starting again the next year the emperor is not able to send more than token support to Italy. With the African, Egyptian and Briton emperors hostile, Michael makes a deal with Antonius I by which they recognize each other as emperors of the east and the west respectively.

Arsenius, proclaimed emperor of Egypt, has his own problems. His drive into Syria while easy in the sense of monophysite populations declaring for him thus easing his advance brings him facing the Persian army and the encounter proves hardly to the Egyptian benefit. Arsenius is a capable general, his troops highly motivated not to say edging on fanatic as the Persians advance comes to threaten Jerusalem. But a good chunk of the expeditionary units stationed in Egypt before the war died with Tiberius and the remaining suffered yet more in the years afterwards. Arsenius army is well trained and often enough experienced when coming to units of former limitanei but is lacking in certain skills most notably heavy cavalry against the veteran Persian armies. Worse yet it has to fight against a numerically superior opponent as Michael buys his truce and Persian armies turn south to Syria in force.

What ensues can be hardly described as positive for Egyptian arms. Any attempt to hold back the Persian tide on the field fails. Arsenius answers by applying a scorched earth policy while he tries to hold the forts in Syria and his army harasses the enemy to the extend possible. It does not manage to stop the Persian advance, the Persians are just too strong at this point and in the aftermath of the conquest of Mesopotamia and Armenia too well versed in siege warfare. But it does manage to gain time and to attrit the Persian army at the cost of significant loss of ground. By the end of 781 the Persian armies have cut their way to the coast of the Mediterranean and are threatening Damascus. The end of the truce with Michael further slows down the Persian advance as they divert forces north but this is not enough to stop them. Damascus falls in 782 and Jerusalem follows in 783. By the next year a Persian army is about to invade Egypt.

Neccesity now brings Michael and Arsenius together. Michael's armies failed to make any inroads into Persian held areas since the end of the truce in 781 but have held their own fairly well. Michael is controlling the primary recruiting grounds of the old Eastern empire, has inherited the surviving expeditionary armies of the East and has relatively easy ground to defend. But Michael isn't inclined to see Egypt also falling to Persian hands when he fears that this would inevitably lead to his Asia Minor defensed crumbling under the pressure of a Persia fighting only him and also having the resources of Egypt to draw upon. Arsenius under increasing pressure is in no position to keep fighting both Persians and Michael. The holy or unholy, counting on who is asked, between the two emperors comes to being. Michael recognizes Arsenius as Augustus, Arsenius recognizes Michael as basileus as well as the imperial hold on Cyrenaica and Alexandria. The last becomes a free port.

Thus in the spring of 784 the army of the shah of shahs moves to take Gaza and open the road to Egypt. Arsenius with the imperial army moves to intercept him. And Michael sails to join his fellow emperor. In a stroke still argued among historians over being either complete accident or great generalship Michael lands his army behind the Persians trapping them between his own army and that of Arsenius. The battle of Gaza is nearly as disastrous for the invading Persian army as that of Seleukeia was for Tiberius. The tidal wave of Persian victories and conquests is brought to a stop.

The war is hardly over or won with the battle of Gaza. The Persian advance may be blunted by defeat and attrition but their ability to hold back Roman counterattacks is a different matter. For one thing Michael and Arsenius might have cooperated enough for the victory of Gaza but from there to coordinating a counterthrust against the Persians there is a distance. Post that even after the Gaza defeat Persia holds everything from the Mediterranean to India to draw upon for men and resources. The war goes on for 4 more years of thrust and counterthrust till Persia in the face of mounting casualties and troubles with the Turkish tribes in her northern border and Indian rulers in her Eastern border, instigated from Constantinople and Memphis respectively [1] agrees to peace in the treaty of Nisibis in 788. Under the terms Mesopotamia, Armenia and most of Syria pass to Persia. The empire had started the war as the one undisputed power west of China. It ends it shattered in 5 states and with Persia in its former position of power.

[1] With a stronger economy on the Mediterranean trade with India keeps rising ever sinse the 6th century. Given Persia looking to this direction, to some extend a side effect of India's economy increasing in turn due to the trade with the west , I presume our alt Byzantines of the eastern empire have been throwing their diplomatic nets to India. The contacts with the nomad states to the north of Persia are an older thing, take Justin's II alliance with the Turks in OTL for example.



Imperator Maximus, part 17


In 800 Persia has won nearly as spectacular a victory over its Roman enemy as that won by the Eastern empire some two centuries ago against the Sassanids. With holdings extending from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Indus the empire ruled by the Ziebelids is the second most populous on Earth with only China holding a larger population. This is coupled with a generally positive external situation. The various Indian kingdoms in the east of Persia are hardly in a position of threatening it. The Turks to the north can be a problem but Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are spreading among them, alongside increased Persian influence after the Ziebelid expansion in Central Asia. Although both China and to a lesser extend Constantinople  raise trouble there for the time being Persia is relatively secure in that direction.

In the west Persia is facing two of the Roman successor states. The "Greek" empire views itself as the continuation of the Eastern empire with its Gallic ally the continuation of the Western empire. [1]  A formidable enemy extending from north Syria to Italy and containing some of the most densely populated and developed areas of Europe it is nevertheless beset with enemies on nearly all sides. Egypt under its first independent dynasty since the 4th century BC, is populous and rich in absolute terms...and much too weak in relative terms to hold indefinitely against both of its major neighbours. The country survives for about a generation after the peace of Nisibis as all sides are mostly recovering from the previous war to be involved in large scale military operations but when war starts again in 820 the Persian advance proves irresistible and the Persians conquer Egypt by 833.

Making further advances west proves more problematic for the Persians though. Michael I and has invested the generation of relative peace in preparation of the inevitable resumption of hostilities with the Persians. Alexandria and Antioch have been thoroughly fortified with fortifications comparable in power to the Theodosian walls of Constantinople. As long as the empire holds the sea lanes open it is near impossible to bring either of the two cities down. Persia while not having the best relation with sea establishes a sizable navy using its new Syrian subjects. But that navy is nowhere near sufficient in size and quality to wrestle control of the seas from its Greek opponent for the time being. The Persian advance stalls before Alexandria and Antioch for the next two generations as as Greek and Persian fleets struggle for mastery of the eastern Mediterranean once more.

In the east things prove easier. India is broken up into rival dynasties and the Persians have breached the Indus since the early 8th century. While Persia was still fighting in the west against the Egyptian and Greek emperors, Persian armies were bringing the  Pratiharas down in India. For the next 2 generations Persian kings of kings keep looking west with their efforts in the east concentrated on solidifying their control over the parts of India already under their rule. When Bahram IX decides in 858 that expanding in India is more profitable than the endless fights on his western border he has a loyal base to launch his campaign further east. Massing an army in Abisind [2] he successfully invades Gujarat capturing the Maitraka [3] capital of Vallabhi in 860 and Anhilwara the capital of the Rajput Chavda dynasty in 868 breaking organized Indian resistance in the area. It takes  nearly as long to complete the conquest of Gujarat but by 880 it is over and Persian probes are being launched further east.

Successes abroad are matched by internal success and prosperity. By 900 Ctesiphon again the capital of the empire is the largest city on Earth outside China with nearly 1 million citizens and architectural work to match its size. It is hardly the sole major city of the empire. Susa the ancient Achaemenid capital and the Sassanids winter residence has about a quarter million citizens a number comparable to that of Damascus in the west but far behind the 500,000 citizens of  Aspadana [4].  On the eve of the 10th century Persia is one of the world's most  urbanized cultures.

Part of the Persian wealth finds its way to the sciences. The academy of Gundishapur is in place since 271. Post 800 it becomes the world's largest institute for higher learning and with a fame to match, bringing together teachers and visitors from places as far away as Roman Iberia and China. Indian, Greek and Latin philoshofers, religious thinkers and scientists all find their way to the  academy, which by 870 has the largest library in the world, an unrivalled medical department, a translator department busy taking advantage of the earlier introduction of paper and large numbers of astronomers and mathematicians. Indian numerals may have already reached the Mediterranean through the sea trading routes. But it is due to Persian influence that they find widespread use. Gundishapur and by extension Persia are the cultural centre of the world and its Greek counterparts in Constantinople and Rome while significant are not as important as the academy. Greek scientists do manage to hold their own in some fields, like mathematics, but  overall both they and the other Roman successor states play a secondary role.

By 900 the rivalry between the mathematicians of Constantinople and Gundishapur has become something of a legend. Ironically it is Constantinople that takes first advantage of "Persian" numerals when in 840 Theodore of Ephessos couples mathematical notation based on them with Diophantos Arithmetica creating modern "Arithmetic" [5] . For the rest of the century Greek mathematicians while behind in trigonometry will be ahead in algebra and the solution of the 3rd degree equation turn to the new holy grail of medieval mathematicians.

In 848 the Jade Sutra, the world's oldest known printed text comes to being in China. A generation later typing on the Chinese style has reached informed people in the academy and the Persian alphabet is notably easier  to deal with than Chinese ideograms. Thus when Mark of Beirut, a Syrian in Gundishapur and former goldsmith comes in contact with the system makes the next logical connection and creates movable type using bronze letters. Continuing experimentation he follows it with replacing it with lead... and in the end by 897 producing molds for his movable type making its widespread use possible. The era of the printing press has come.

But Mark will not be the sole late 9th century Persian to leave his distinct mark on world history...

[1] Neither Greek nor Gallic empire actually call them officially Greek or Gallic respectively, but everyone else outside commonly refers to them this way. We'll do the same for simplicity shake.

[2] Modern Sind.

[3] Who with the Rajput troubles and no Arabs are still a going concern.

[4] Isfahan.

[5] Algebra.

[6] After all when they were about to convert they converted to a version of Zoroastrianism that was willing to accept their conversion. And if one can be converted...


Imperator Maximus, part 18


The Gallic empire. The western empire if you ask its own people. The Gallic empire if you ask anyone outside. At the eve of the 9th century Orleans controls all Roman lands to the west of the Rhine, a part of northern Italy and northern Iberia. Flavius Antonius I once exarch now emperor  is  the ruler of the second largest and most powerful of the Roman states while allied to the  first.

Not all is well for the Gallic empire though. The external situation looks generally bleak for it. To the south it faces the former exarchate of Africa, now under an emperor of itself controlling North Africa and the grand majority of Iberia. To the east it is facing Germania. In Italy it has to deal with the Gothians. In the north besides the Norse which are little more than a nuisance Britannia is forming one more Roman successor state with Londinium allied with Carthage. The only imperial ally the Greek empire, the Eastern Roman one according to the basileus proclamations, has its own problems in the east namely keeping at bay an ever increasing Persian collosus. It is useful to the extend of its navy keeping that of the African emperors at bay and confronting the Gothians in Italy the Adriatic and the Danube but both are distinctly secondary concerns as far as Constantinople is concerned.

Beset with enemies on all sides the Gallic empire does not fare particularly well during the first half of the 9th century. It manages to hold at bay Britons, Germans and Gothians as well as seaborne African attacks. It fares rather worse in Iberia. While large battles are uncommon the African emperors slowly gain ground with every passing year. By 850 nearly 9 tenths of Iberia is being ruled from Carthage. Increasing population and economic strength in Gaul proper allows the imperator to keep the size of his armies and fleets nearly as in the early 800s despite his territorial losses. By the same token though, his opponents are yet more powerful than they were back in 800.

The turn of Persian interest east post 859 gives a respite to the Eastern emperor, one that he takes  advantage in trying to secure  his northern borders. This in turn gives something of a  respite to the Gallic emperor as the Gothians have to turn more of their efforts to face off Greek armies but not much of a respite. From the point of view of Constantinople the Bulgar kingdom [1] is much more of a nuisance than a Gothia that was being "Romanized" since the early 5th century and that by now politically is not much different than the Roman states. Two centuries of intermittent warfare have created a more or less stable frontier between the two powers in the Balkans with their main differences by now lying in northern Italy. Thus the Greek land efforts mostly concentrate on breaking the Bulgars once and for all. At sea though in the face of increasing African and British naval power and the ever present Norse the Gallic emperor is largely dependent on Greek fleets out of Sicily to maintain the balance against against the African fleets. By 900 Gallic armies have been driven out of their last strongholds south of the Pyrenees but the remaining imperial holdings are largely intact.

Culturally the Gallic empire is to a large extend in the shadow of Persia and and the Eastern empire but this hardly means it does not have an active cultural life of its own. The empire is home to its own rather active branch of theology, Gallic Christianity has some not inconsiderable differences from the orthodoxy prevailing in the east, while polemics against the Arianism that is dominant in Germany and Gothia are quite common, as well as home to a very popular poetry and literature taking its themes mostly from the ancient world and the wars of the empire. Gaul is also home to no less than 4 universities in Massilia, Orleans, Trier and Lutetsia.

To the north of the Gallic empire the British isles are forming the smallest of the British successor states. Largely Romano-Celtic especially after the defeat of the Anglosaxon invasions back in the 5th and the 6th century and the incorporation of Ireland and Caledonia afterwards, the islands are prospering despite wars with Gaul and the occasional troubles with the Norse. To a large extend this can be attributed to the relative security of them. The British imperator is maintaining a navy that while small by Mediterranean standards is the most powerful in its own region making Britannia secure from anything but the occasional Norse or Gallic raid. At the same time Britain is a center of trade exporting mostly wool and iron products as far away as Constantinople and Persia.

Britannia has a single university in Londinium, which is somewhat provincial compared to the larger Gallic, African and  Greek  universities. But it can claim a role in history far more important than most of them. It is in Londinium that future saint Olaf studies to become the "apostle to the Norse" upon his return to Scandinavia at the head of a missionaries paid and supported by the British emperor. And it is again the scholars of Londinium that collect the stories of the Norse explorations in the north Atlantic thus making the rest of the Roman world aware both of the accuracy of the older Greek accounts on Thule [2] and of the presence of Greenland, Markland, Helluland and Vinland apparently beyond the ocean. Coupled with prevailing British myths of Hy-Brazil, they prove sufficient to launch several north Atlantic expeditions post 880, establishing trade links with the Norse colonies. Then in 897 a British expedition reaches Markland and after passing the winter in the newly establish Norse colony in Vinland discovers Saint Patrick's island (Prince Edward's island) and Caledonia Nova (Nova Scotia) before returning to Hibernia late in the same year.

[1] Centered in modern Romania.
[2] Iceland.