Byzantine Empire, 1071
In 1071, the Seljuk Turks mounted a huge campaign against Byzantine Anatolia. One attack was aimed at the city of Antioch, while the other was aimed at Manzikert. Antioch was lost despite attempts to relieve the city, but Byzantine forces won a decisive victory over the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. Subsequent skirmishes between Byzantine forces and Seljuk forces ensured that the Seljuk Turks would not pose a significant threat to Byzantium for a significant amount of time. However, they failed to retake Antioch due to the Turks being too strong there. Romanos IV Diogenes won great fame for his success in battle, but his failure to retake Antioch however, doomed the continuation of his political future. Court intrigue, resulted in his son being Emperor but for one day before he was unseated by John Doukas,
The Seljuk Sultan Malik Shah however was furious at the heavy losses incurred in the campaign, and the horrendous defeats his armies suffered at the hands of the Byzantine army. He ordered the massacre of all the Orthodox Catholics and Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. Tales of the bloody killings brought by fleeing refugees reached far and wide and shocked all of Christendom. This gave Pope Urban II, in 1095, an opportunity to rouse up to fires of the masses, and to proclaimed a Crusade against the Heathen Muslims. The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos however declined as the Empire had wounds to lick, and the Seljuk Turks had lots of fight left in them. Regardless, the Pope Urban II garnered the support of many princes and knights, who would then lead an expedition to the east.
This was regarded with scorn by Alexios I Komnenos, who barely managed to hold onto his Southern Italian provinces, and now had to contend with armies from the West. Neither had he forgotten Urban II's refusal to lend him aid during the Seljuk invasions. Alexios did his best to escort the Western armies out of his territory in the most expedient way possible, but the initial Crusading expedition, the People's Crusade, had to be manhandled out of the territory because of the random sackings of various towns. The subsequent Princes expedition required a good portion of the Byzantine military escorting them out of the territory. Alexios even extracted oaths or pledges of loyalty from each one of the princes that they would not pose significant trouble to the Byzantine realm. The unnecessary deaths of many of a Byzantine did not endear the westerners to the populace, who regarded them as uncouth, violent and vulgar. This led to further estrangement between the Eastern Orthodox Catholics and their Western Catholic brethren.
While the fracturing of the Seljuk Sultanate allowed the Crusaders to gain victory, their failure to return Antioch to Byzantine hands as promised further infuriated Alexios I, who wrote a strongly worded letter to the Pope accusing him of authorizing a land grab from fellow Christians. However, Alexios held his armies back, and refused to help the Crusaders any more than required. The Seljuk Turks were doing a fine job decimating themselves as well. Jerusalem was subsequently captured by the victorious Crusaders, and they establish four realms between themselves: The Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Alexios and the subsequent son and heir, John II Komnenos chose to bide his time while regenerating the forces lost during the Seljuk invasions.
John II, in particular, instituted a major reform to the Imperial court system, making the Komnenos family the supreme Imperial family of the land, and that eldest sons (and subsequently daughters a century or two later) of the Komnenos would be Emperors. He then proceeded to award titles to men whom he felt were worth of trust and of quality to take on the role of civilian governors of the various themes, and also a separate post of High Strategos who would be the military commander for the themes. He also abolished many irrelevant posts and instituted a thorough reform of the Imperial Government such that it was more efficient and increased centralised control of the Empire. He also expanded the Varangian Guards, and they were appointed to be the guards of the various High Strategos, and civilian governors, ostensibly to provide protection for the well-being of their charges. The truth of course, was that the Varangian guard was strictly in the pay of the Emperor, and they were the Emperor's assurance that his governors would obey his every wish and command. Under Manuel I Komnenos, more reforms were instituted. The Senate was granted more power to make laws, though the final decision still lay with the Byzantine Emperor. The Senators were also made more liable to the populace through election, rather than in the past where the Senate was largely composed of the aristocracy. These reforms began the slow but arduous march towards a form of senatorial democracy that would determine the way the Empire was governed in the 19th century.
Manuel I Komnenos refused to march to the Crusaders' aid when they tried to take Damascus and Egypt. Instead, his son, Alexios II Komnenos signed an agreement with Saladin in which they would aid each other in expelling the hated European barbarians. In a joint assault on the Crusaders, the a Byzantine Army led by Alexios II Komnenos himself marched and took Antioch by storm. This however, sealed forever the schism between the East and West and never again would the schism be healed.
Byzantine Empire, the Third Crusade and the Fourth Crusade
The Western Catholics had not forgotten Byzantine treachery in the taking of Antioch and sought to punish both the Byzantines and the Saracens and retake Jerusalem, and in early 1189, Pope Gregory VIII called for a Third Crusade against Byzantium and the Saracens. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa invaded Byzantium from the Balkans and was intercepted at Sirmium with the bulk of the Imperial Tagmata, and the Thracesian theme troops. In a battle that hearkened back to the glorious Battle of Nineveh, Byzantine forces clashed fiercely with Holy Roman Emperor troops, and at the climax of the battle, Emperor Alexios II Komnenos, and his elite force of Krataphrateoi troops clashed into Frederick I Barbarossa's retinue. Such was the skill of Byzantine cavalry that Frederick Barbarossa's horse was terrified and and fled to the nearby river, only to have the Emperor thrown off, and drowning in the river itself. With the death of their leader, the Holy Roman Empire's troops were routed from the field of battle.
Alexios II then turned his attention to the East. His son, Adronikos Komnenos, was appointed the leader of the Eastern armies, and he led the joint Ayyubid-Byzantine campaign against Richard III the Lionheart. The battles were fierce, with some setbacks, but in the end, Richard III was forced to abandon his positions in the Middle East, and to flee with what forces he had left.
In 1204 however, another crusade was launched. This time, the Papal authorized combined Venetian and Genoan navy, carrying troops from Italy and Spain, led an assault upon the Byzantine island of Crete. For the Venetians and Genoans, this was a chance to wrest control of the eastern Mediterranean from their Byzantine rivals, and to dominate the eastern Mediterranean trade they so coveted. They were met by the Byzantine Navy, and the use of Greek Fire and skilled tactics drove off and decimated the Venetian and Genoan navy. This cemented the control of the Byzantine Empire over the Eastern Mediterranean, and it would be decades before the Venetians and their allies attempted to wrest control of the Eastern Mediterranean again with a force of this size. In the aftermath of the attack, the Venetians and the Genoans agreed to a cease fire treaty with the Byzantine Empire, which was poised to launch a raid on Italian territories along the coast in retaliation for the attack. Few in Europe desired to contest Byzantine supremacy in the east for a while.
In 1394, mass revolt in the Bulgaria, resulted in a complete secession of the territories. Attempts to deal with the revolts were unsuccessful. Instead, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Komnenos negotiated with the rebel leaders, and in exchange for holding the northern frontier secure, he would grant them control over their lands. One of the Emperor's nieces was married off to the Rebel King. In that time, the Byzantine Empire formed a network of alliances with Hungary, the Russian Princes, and even with Austria, which though was Catholic, was eager to claim a share of Byzantine trade.
In 1453, endless tussles over trade between the Byzantine Empire and Venice, and the rise of Spain led to repeated clashes between the Spanish and the Byzantine Empires. This cummulated to the Fifth Crusade, which was declared at the instigation of the Pope. When news of the crusade was declared, Byzantium and Egypt renewed their old alliance, and massed a large fleet to face down the Spanish/Venetian armada. Both sides knew that a victorious Spanish and Venetian armada would be disastrous for the East, and no one wanted to give the Venetian trading Empire too much control over trade. Troops were also sent to southern Italy, to deter any would-be aggressors from marching down south. The fleets met at Lepanto, and in the last great Galley battle, the Spanish and Venetian navies were driven from the field with great loss, and the lack of intermittent resupply points meant many ships never made it home.
In the 16th century, the race for America began. However, Byzantium looked East instead. Small foot holds gained in Persia allowed it to set up a shipyard there to allow it to build ships that would sail east, while other ships sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to the East. Among the first trading posts it established, were in the Riau islands, as the natives called it, and Java. These later grew into full fledged colonies ruled by an Imperial Governor appointed by the Emperor.
During the Reformation crises in the Western Church, the Roman Empire did not get involved in any of the armed warfare, though it clashed with some Protestant factions from the Holy Roman Empire, who thought the southern Italian provinces were easy pickings, only to be met with force by the appointed High Strategos of the Taranto theme. The Empire stood on the sidelines of the Thirty Years war, not wishing to be too involved in a rather messy war.
With the Sultanate, troubles started appearing in the late 17th century. Relations reached a new low as the Sultan Hasim accussed John IX Komnenos of conspiring against him. This led to a war, with the Egyptian armies bursting pass Byzantine defences around Antioch. The armies avoided Antioch, but went rampaging through Anatolia. The Strategos of the Antioch theme massed his Akritoi and Pronoiars together with reinforcements from the surrounding lands, his large detachment of troops and retaliated with superior tactics and technology, driving the Egyptian armies from the field. John XI Komnenus, sensing an opportunity, led the Imperial Tagmata into an invasion of Syria and lay siege to Damascus. The siege was short and swift, for the population was wary of the paranoid sultan, and pledged their allegiance to their new Byzantine masters. The Imperial Tagmata next marched down into Iraq and took control of Baghdad. This signaled the end for Sultan Hasim, and led to another round of infighting within the Sultanate, while the Byzantine Imperial Army consolidated their control over Syria and much of Iraq.
The Industrial Age
In the 18th and 19th century, Byzantium's premier trade economy and its already bustling late Medieval age industry allowed it to leap onto the Industrial Revolution with great fervor. Industrialization took place briskly, and in this time, more political reforms were tabled and moved. Modern forms of government came into being, as the Byzantine Imperial Government began reforming its own bureaucracy to enable the Government to run more efficiently. The government bureaucracy had grown labyrinthine and the Emperor was determined to streamline it. Also, this time, the Senate was given more power to administer many of the newly formed ministries. Political parties were slowly being formed as a reflection of the citizenry's desire to have more say in government. A High Senator post was created, where the High Senator would form a cabinet to run these ministries. Most of the government, except the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, were handed to the High Senator and his cabinet colleagues. This created a potentially antagonistic relationship between the Emperor and the High Senator, for the High Senator held control of the treasury, which pays the troops, while the Emperor held control of the Imperial Armed Forces. Two main parties were formed: One was the Monarchists, who largely consisted of the old aristocracy which though had lost much power, still commanded substantial influence. The other was the Moderates, who championed the rights of the people and the reduction of the rich-poor gap.
These reforms were completed under Emperor Gregorios II Komnenos in 1801, one of the most enlightened Emperors to come into power since John II Komnenos. These reforms became known as the Political Compact of 1801. It was also during this time where the Imperium Romanum reconciled with their Egyptian allies, and sign a treaty of friendship which would last to this day. There were still matters of contention, for the Byzantine Empire held tightly on its possessions which were in the heart of Muslim territory. The Empire had also set up many colonies and re-establish old cities within Persia in a bid to mine for resources to feed the growing the growing Byzantine Industry.
Between the 18th and 19th century, the first steam engines were built and the first rail networks were built. The Byzantine Imperial Navy evolved continuously, building more ships of the line to defend its sea lanes and ensure that the Byzantine Imperial Navy remained the dominant power of the Eastern and Central Mediterranean. During Napoleonic wars, attempts by Napoleon Bonaparte to wrestle control of the Eastern Mediterranean resulted in many defeats, both at the hands of the Byzantine Imperial Navy, as well as the British Royal Navy.
Byzantine outposts in the Riau islands and in Java grew in strength as well. Fertile crops and some raw material mined and sold to various parts of the world. Control of the Riau islands allowed Byzantium to command a central position in South East Asia. With Singapore, it was shared with the Royal Navy who co-administered the island.
The 20th Century
In more recent times, relations with the Russian Empire plunged after the collapse of the Imperial Russian government due to the Bolshevik revolution. Trade between the two nations plunged and resulted in a hiccup in the economy. Russia had long been regarded as a major economic hinterland for Byzantium, and now the Empire had to find new markets to export its goods to. Within the Empire itself, the Communist Party grew in strength, and while it was tolerated, a watchful eye was placed on the party to ensure that they do not subvert the workings of the Empire, and that they do not attempt to topple the Imperial Government. In reaction to the Communists, the Monarchist Party took a harder line against the Communists and were their most ardent foes. The Moderates continue to tread lightly between the two antagonistic parties. The current Emperor is Alexios IV Komnenos, and his son, Doukas Komnenos is the High Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy, and is the heir to the throne.
STGOD: Byzantine Empire
Your spirit, diseased as it is, refuses to allow you to give up, no matter what threats you face... and whatever wreckage you leave behind you.