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King of Men
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:49:28 AM
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King of Men
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:49:51 AM
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November 22nd, 1391
Nicaea, Imperium Romaion

"What of the Croatians?" The tension in Emperor Alexandros's voice left unspoken the thought the expensively-bought Croatians, whom you insisted would be our salvation. His chancellor was stony-faced as he reported: "They have won several battles, and recovered Herakleia and Ephesos to our obedience. And... they are withdrawing to deal with the al-Andalusi invasion of their Italian domains, and promise to return in force as soon as they may."

The Emperor sat back with an air of finality. "So... the Persians remind us that two can play at the game of bribing allies." Seeing those who had spoken in favour of the Croatian intervention flinch, he waved his hand irritably: "Oh, relax. It was our best move at the time. And besides, fairly shortly all the little games of who does or doesn't have the favour of the Throne are going to be interrupted by Persian swords. You might as well drop it and concentrate on who is sleeping with whom. In two years the favour of the Throne is going to be worth rather less than a fast horse."

There were shocked breaths, but no immediate protestations of loyalty and of nothing being more valuable than the regard of the one who wore the Purple; itself a sign that the Emperor's words were accurate. The silence stretched; the meeting held almost two dozen Komnenoi, representing every department of State as well as most of the peacetime wealth and influence within the Empire, none of whom had anything to say. At length the sound of breathing was broken by a near-wail: "But then what are we going to do?"

Alexandros sighed, and counted on his fingers. "Our armies in the field are outnumbered three to one. We have lost the passes, and can expect the Persians to strike for the coastal plain as soon as the weather clears. The Croatians are out of it. Our city walls cannot stand against their necromantic weaponry. And the Persians have sent no demands, only the heads of our envoys to them, packed in salt. They won't be satisfied with a moved border, or concessions in the Holy Land, or even the gain of large provinces; they are in this to finish Rome as a power in the land, to avenge the campaigns of Alexander and Julian and end the millennial strife of Greek and Persian. And they are succeeding; I am the last Emperor of Rome. So what is there to do? Only to face the end with dignity, as citizens of Rome should." He straightened his shoulders, and the others in the room could see him accepting his own apocalyptic reasoning, and his role in it. "As for me, I will take a sword, and lead the defense of Nicaea's walls; and that will be a fate suited to the Last Emperor. Let it not be said that Rome could not face disaster as well as triumph; if all else is lost, we shall make many Persians pay the price, and leave a lasting monument to our two millennia."

"Bravely spoken, my lord." The Komnenoi jumped in unison at the harsh, grating voice. The speaker had just entered the room; he was dressed in the uniform of a captain of Cossacks, and his spurs jangled on the marble floor as he advanced towards the conference table. "Strong words! To face death with dignity, to remain unbowed in the face of the destruction of two thousand years... indeed, let it not be said that the Komnenoi are unworthy of their ancestors. But in the face of death, men concentrate too much on defying the Reaper. I would offer another way."

Alexandros's face was closed, uninterested; but he gestured permission. "Speak then."

The Cossack took a deep breath, and spoke, not in Greek but in the original Latin, accented but clear. "I sing of war, and the man who, forced by fate, And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate, Exiled, first left the Trojan shore. Long labours, by sea and by land, he bore, And uncertain war, before he won The Latian realm, and built the destined town."

Alexandros spoke dismissively; but none could miss the spark of hope in his eyes, the return of energy to his movements. Here was a man who hoped to be persuaded, but who could not, quite, bear the pain of dragging himself from resignation. "Myth. Legend."

The Cossack shrugged. "Perhaps so. But a powerful myth; and who's to say it could not be made real? And besides, think of this. Aeneas fled a doomed city, with enemies inside the wall; he escaped with his weapons and what he could carry. Nicaea is doomed, too; but the enemy is yet a long month's march away, and there is a deal of ruin in a nation. We need not flee helter-skelter in a few leaky boats; we can gather all the gold and steel of many rich cities, and all the good families, the ones who will lose everything when the Persians come. Let them conquer a desert. The Persians are not seafarers. Gather ships and men, gold and steel, and flee; all over Anatolia is Chaos and Old Night, sufficient to cover our escape."

"Aye..." Alexandros spoke thoughtfully, once again the Emperor who had led Rome through a decade of war and disaster, responding to every fresh catastrophe with measured calm and triage. "But wait. Aeneas could escape to Italy and create a new realm, because civilisation had not yet spread far from the Levant. He and his warband moved into emptiness, opposed only by a few scattered villages that they could easily subjugate. But where shall we go, the few hundred or few thousand Romans that we could gather for an exodus? All of Europe is held by strong kings ruling broad lands. Where can we settle, to rebuild our city in peace until the time comes for a triumphant return?"

The Cossack smiled. "Once, the Emperor Konstantinos broke the Don; and then he gave us new homes, and a place in the Empire, and honourable work. Let us return the favour. The steppes are still empty of great realms; who can hold together a hundred different tribes, all of which can be on the horizon with their herds and their tents at a moment's notice?"

"Who, indeed?" asked Alexandros. "The steppes are empty of great realms for a reason. How shall we build one, where all others have failed?"

"By abandoning cities, and living as the nomads do. I have heard it said that Rome is not a city, nor a place, but an idea: An ideal of citizenship and manhood. Cossack and Roman, cavalry and infantry, citizen and nomad: The opposites come full circle in this, and meet, in the ideal that men are of equal worth who bear arms. Carry that idea to the open plains, and let it find its fullest expression, unfettered by walls. And the horsetail banners shall flock to the Eagle."

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OrangeYoshi
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 5:18:01 AM
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King of Men wrote:

"What of the Croatians?" The tension in Emperor Alexandros's voice left unspoken the thought the expensively-bought Croatians, whom you insisted would be our salvation. His chancellor was stony-faced as he reported: "They have won several battles, and recovered Herakleia and Ephesos to our obedience. And... they are withdrawing to deal with the al-Andalusi invasion of their Italian domains, and promise to return in force as soon as they may."


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oddman
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 3:19:41 PM
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Nice. I like.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
-Bertrand Russell
King of Men
Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 6:25:59 AM
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Thus we sailed from doomed Nicaea across the wine-dark water, and came to the mountainous land whence Jason fetched the Golden Fleece; and we left our ships, and burned them lest they should fall into the hands of the Persians. Here began our true travails, and many who had complained bitterly of the hard life they had suffered on shipboard now looked back on the sea journey as a golden age of ease. Strategos Alexandros - who refused, now, to be addressed as 'Autokrator' or 'Emperor', saying that those titles had been left behind with the throne in Nicaea, and that none should bear them again until the lost City itself was recovered - decreed that neither horses nor mules were to be ridden, in the first case to save them for battle, and in the second so that they might carry provisions. An exception was made for the sick, and for women more than five months pregnant, and it is true that a child's rest on horseback was often winked at; but for the most part we marched on our own feet, the men bearing their arms, the women carrying grain and dried fruit. The smallest children rode on their parents' backs, and the jest ran that to have a young child was to have an easy life, for if the parent carried the child, they did not weigh much; and the child would carry the supplies. But those above five years walked, and grew lean and sinewy; if at first our marches were short, by the end of summer the girls of six years' age were united in contempt for anyone who did not regard a day of twelve miles as a disappointment.

Although we were marching through a Georgian kingdom subject to the Shahanshah, we were not at first opposed, for two reasons. First, the military vassals who might have brought their fighting tails to hold the roads against us had answered the call to arms, and were even then descending towards the coastal plains west in Anatolia. Second, the ordinary people did not hold their distant overlords in great regard, and were quite prepared to wink at a host of refugee Romans - especially since we made sure to establish a market wherever we went, and pay well for our grain and meat. For before leaving, we had stripped the coastal cities, unsacked within living memory, down to the very churches; the accumulated hoards of centuries had gone aboard our ships, leaving nothing for the Persians. Indeed our chief difficulty had been to find mules enough to carry our gold and jewels. Although we owned no great estates, fine clothing, or broad acres - nothing, in short, of real wealth, except good soldiers and the horses to mount them - our mules' packs overflowed with useless, precious metals, and we left behind us a trail of villages that sparkled with riches they could not eat. This served the strategy of Alexandros in two ways: In addition to winning the good will of the people we passed, it ensured that a pursuing army would find nothing to eat. But day after day vanguard and rearguard alike reported no enemies; the Persians, it seemed, were unaware of our passing, or perhaps were content that we should escape into, as they thought, obscurity and nothingness.

As soon as the snow began to retreat toward the peaks, however, we left off our passage up the Kolkheti lowlands, keeping the Greater Caucasus to our left, and instead turned north, avoiding the garrison at Tblisi, into the heart of the mountains. This is a wild region where the writ of Persia runs but lightly, or not at all, whatever colours the mapmakers in Baghdad might use. If the war-arrow had passed into these lands at all, it had been roundly ignored, and the wild tribesmen had all their fighting men at home, ready to resist our passing. Nor did they fail to do so; for, ignorant of both the Greek and the Persian tongues, and suspicious of anyone outside their clans, they would not hear our explanations or offers of tribute in exchange for safe passage, but closed the passes against us lest our numbers - in those mountains a thousand men is commonly thought a great host - should come too close to their settlements. Time after time Alexandros marched us around a peak to avoid an uphill battle, only to find that the next valley was likewise lined with warriors ready to fill us with arrows from the cover of a hundred stone-built sangars. Nor was he willing to spend irreplaceable fighting men to force our way through; for although any one tribe might have been overcome by a stout charge, there were hundreds of ridges between us and the steppes on the other side. Worse, the tribes were for the most part content to leave us alone once they saw that we would not try to force their pass; but to settle the issue by battle would have been to provoke a hundred blood feuds, and then they would not only have mustered to hold the ridges, but harassed our camps at night and our marches by day, and bled us to death in a thousand tiny skirmishes.

Here was the first great difficulty of our Long March, and there was considerable grumbling in the ranks; we could no longer rely on markets to bring in fresh fruit and meat, and subsisted instead on our stores of oatmeal, which holds body and soul together but is a miserable meal after a days' hard march on mountain trails. Many blamed Alexandros for his decision to land at Ureki, instead of going further north and avoiding the Greater Caucasus altogether; but as he pointed out, that would have meant forcing our way through the domains of the Czar, who (bribed to neutrality by promises of the return of the trans-Volga) had not called out ban and arriere-ban, and could have easily mustered a real army to stop us, if he or his governors chose to take exception to a foreign host within his realm. Still, as day followed unsuccessful day and we were no further north, but drifted ever westward, discontent grew. At last, when Shota Rustaveli was well behind our left shoulders and yet another tribe had passed the flaming axe against us, Alexandros decided that the mountains could not be forced, and that there was no choice but to go through the Jvris Ugheltekhili, keeping Gora Dzhimara on our left.

Such a course meant confronting the Persian garrisons we had been hoping to avoid; although the lowlands had been stripped of fighting men, the Shahanshah was not going to weaken the forts enforcing his control over the single military road to his trans-Caucasian domains. Still, patrols against marauding tribesmen and bandits are one thing, and enough troops to stop a determined Roman army quite another. We were twenty thousand in all, five thousand regular soldiers of the kataphrakts - the last remnant of the thematic armies that had ground themselves to dust trying to stop the Persians in the Anatolian highlands - and another seven thousand men of fighting age, who could at least carry a spear. And we did not need to take the forts, as in a conventional military campaign; for we had no lines of supply or retreat to be cut. The risk was, rather, that an enterprising commander might mobilise all the garrisons and meet us in some defensible spot; or, still worse, call out the veterans of the military colonies on either side of the pass, which the Shahanshah had planted there for precisely such events. Speed, therefore, was essential. We needed to be halfway through the pass before the Persians could collect themselves to resist us; and if there was confusion and dissent among their leaders, so much the better. But there were limits to our ability to force our march; children of five, no matter how tough and strong for their age - and after all we had only been on the road two months - can go only so fast. Nor could we very well put them on horseback, when our cavalry had to be held ready for battle.

Alexandros decided, therefore, that if neither simple speed nor iron weaponry would serve us, golden arrows might. It is an ancient truism that of ten Persians, eight will sell you their sister, the ninth will prefer to rent her out, and the tenth will cry because his father has already taken another offer; and in truth, when garrisoning such an empire as the Shahanshah rules, it is not easy to find rigidly honest men for every little backwater fort, even among the proud Aryans. Even better for our cause, we did not need to bribe men into abandoning their posts, an impaling offense which the most greedy and dishonest men might yet balk at from simple self-preservation. No, all we wanted was that they should be slow in mobilising to meet us in the field, that none among them should be able to take the initiative, establish command over his brother officers, and climb to a better posting on a pyramid of Roman skulls. We asked for no treason, but merely a stiff-necked refusal to take orders from officers of the same rank, a great concern over abandoning the fort that was one's sacred charge from the Shahanshah himself, and a quarrelsome attitude; and, to speak truthfully, when dealing with Aryan nobles this happy outcome did not require a great deal of gold.

In this manner the important fortresses of Gognauri and Sioni were neutralised, their garrisons manning the walls but not opposing our passage; better still, although the military colonies of the southern end of the pass were raised, the call to muster did not go out in time and a strong force was left to straggle up the pass many days behind us. Even so, this would have been a disaster if anything had delayed us; we might have been trapped between two armies in the narrow pass, and forced at best to scatter into the mountains and abandon our baggage train, at worst to actual surrender and slavery on Persian estates. Knowing this, every one of us pushed our limbs to the limit, gasping and struggling in the thin air. Many, especially among the women and the young, fell by the wayside; but none were left behind. I saw men bent almost double under the weight of three children; but they kept going, onward and upward.

On the fifth day we reached the summit and began to descend more often than we climbed; but now, at last, the Persians came to meet us. The fortress commander of Daryalskoye had proved more susceptible to dreams of glory than to our bribes; although he had been unable to convince his brother officers to take the field in his support, he had mustered a considerable force from his own garrison and from the military colony of the northern end of the pass, perhaps eight thousand men in all. Although it is true that we outnumbered them, it must be remembered that the Persians were all trained veterans in formed units, while many of our men were new to soldiering. Moreover, for us delay would be catastrophic, while the Persians needed only to take position on a ridge and dare us to attack.

Although, as a general, our Strategos had won a great reputation through avoiding frontal assaults, it was now a question of breaking through or perishing; the Persians had us in precisely that dilemma a good officer strives to inflict on his foes. The enemy had no vulnerable flanks, he did not lack for time or for supplies; and we had a desperate need to take his position. In the wars in the Levant, Alexandros had destroyed three separate Caliphate armies through precisely such a maneuver; now, with no good options, he grimly ordered readiness for a general assault.

Our care to keep the horses ready for battle proved to be a waste, for the enemy commander - whose name was Arsalan; that means 'Lion', and his parents had made no empty boast - had chosen his position well. The Persians stood on a barren ridge, the slope lightly scattered with loose gravel; even the mules would have to step carefully, and a mounted charge into the Persian line was out of the question. It would be an infantry struggle, then; and with this decided, Alexandros wasted no time. The youngest children and old women were told off to hold the horses. A screen of skirmishers armed with light crossbows went forward to harass the Persian lines, consisting of those who wanted to fight but did not have the muscle needed to stand against men grown in the line of battle; beardless boys and a surprisingly large number of the adult women. Later I asked my wife what she had been thinking, to go into battle as though she were a man. She replied rather sharply - and to my shame, I did not discipline her - that if we had lost, she would rather have had the mercy that victors give to fighting men, not to helpless women. There were many who felt the same, and such was our desperation that few among the men objected, and those were soon silenced by their fellows. In the narrow passage there is neither brother nor friend, and we were come to a narrow pass indeed, with eight thousand armoured Persians between us and freedom, and only death and disgrace behind. In such a strait it was well, at least, to have a wife with a stout crossbow.

While the skirmishers exchanged shots with the Persians, the kataphrakts formed up in a tight wedge, with our remaining fighting men behind them to follow up and lend weight to their punch. As though he were a hero out of legend, Alexandros himself stood at the head of the formation, with his chief officers and the eagle banner. The nine horsetails below the golden Eagle flew bravely in the eternal wind that blows through the pass; and though in my heart I knew that if Alexandros fell we were all lost, still I felt heartened by his gesture. Nor do I think I was the only one who felt thus.

Soon the cornicens blew, and we went forward at a steady pace, no hurried run but the slow, measured tread that fills the heart with determination and makes the earth shake. As we came into range Persian arrows began to fall on us; but now at last the heavy armour of the kataphrakts, a dreadful burden on our journey, came into its own, and not many fell. As we walked we unconsciously fell into step, and the sound of our boots hitting the ground all together was like the world ending. I had never felt anything like it; it felt as though my own footfalls were making the earth tremble, as though I were invincible, unstoppable. In response the Persians began to beat their shields with their swords; but this backfired, for their rhythm in doing so soon matched ours, and thus they merely added to the thunder of our advance. If you have never been in an army of many thousands of men, marching shoulder to shoulder towards victory or death, you cannot be told what it is like. Even among those who have, the memory of exaltation slips and slides; like the moment of orgasm, it cannot be held in the mind. But I would share my last crust of bread with any man who marched with me at Jvris Ugheltekhili.

Because of the slope, Alexandros made no attempt to pick up the pace as the two lines drew close; the kataphrakts kept their measured, hieratic tread to the very moment of impact. And in that phrase lay our victory; for it is rare that lines of fighting men actually collide. Usually one side or the other will stop, a short distance away from their foes, and attempt to thrust their spears into the enemy ranks, or to use their swords. To deliberately step into arms' range of a grown man wielding edged steel takes unusual courage, even among trained soldiers; few officers can force their men to it. But we were desperate; we had no line of retreat, nowhere to go but forward. And Alexandros was leading us. The kataphrakts attempted no swordplay. They raised their shields and plowed forward.

I believe the Persians were surprised; they were experienced soldiers, who had stood in a line of battle before, and perhaps that was weakness, for there is no surprise so deadly as the one that comes when a man thinks he knows what to expect. But surprised or not they were no cowards, and no fools; they knew that whoever gave way was lost. They stood their ground, and shoved back. They were well fed, and numerous, and stood on higher ground; they had not marched fifty miles uphill in five days; they were ranked shoulder to shoulder with comrades who depended on them for their lives, and would see their courage or their shame. And yet, in the end, they were fighting for king and country, and we were fighting for our lives.

It was a contest of endurance. Nobody who has not experienced the awful draining terror of close combat can know what it is like. In the maelstrom of shouting, glaring faces and edged metal, time disappears. The heart beats faster then than at any other time; the limbs fill with strength, but you know that it will not last. With every second you can feel the draining of that precious, temporary power, and the urgent need for the struggle to end - one way or another - fills your mind to the brim. There is perhaps no primal instinct more powerful than the urge to end a dominance contest that is not going well. That ancient terror fought in our minds with the intellectual knowledge that this was no struggle for position within a tribe, that surrender here did not mean accepting lower status and trying again in a year.

But if we were terrified, what of the Persians? They, too, were initiates in the mystery of death. They, too, stood at the narrow passage. But they were not fighting for the lives of their children and wives. Glory, comradeship, the gaze of an officer, the feel of the cloth - these are powerful motivators. But they were not enough, when facing men who could not retreat. My mouth was dry with fear and I could not find air; but I thought of my wife lying in a ditch with her throat slit, or worse, and I dug my feet in and pushed forward, and around me ten thousand of my comrades did the same. And, grudgingly, the Persian line gave way - and then shattered with the suddenness of a dam bursting.

We yelled! We shouted with the triumph and the glory as we pounded forward in pursuit; the Persian line unravelled on either side of the breach, men throwing away their shields and spears to run faster. We screamed our victory at their backs, and for a mile we cut them down from behind, until our arms were weary with slaughter and we could run no more; but the Persians kept going, sobbing their fear and despair. If not for the awful terrain that kept us from having a cavalry reserve, not a man would have escaped. As it was, during the next days there were many Persian soldiers in the pass, enough to have troubled us greatly; but there was no Persian army, and we marched freely.

On the third day after the battle, we crossed a last ridge and saw before us the unbroken steppe. Someone, meaning it perhaps for a jest, shouted "Thalassa! Thalassa!", and we all took it up; for if this was not the wine-dark water that carries Greeks in foreign lands home, still it was deliverance. On the steppe, as trackless as the sea, we could disappear. Neither Shahanshah nor Czar would pursue us into the wastes where no man's writ runs. And one day, we would come back; or our sons, or our sons' sons. And the Eagle would fly again over the City of Men's Desire.

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Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
King of Men
Posted: Wednesday, June 01, 2011 6:59:32 AM
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To understand how the Komnenoi united the steppe tribes they passed on their Long March, it is first necessary to understand the nature of what they built, and in particular, what it was not. Specifically, it was not a territorial state as understood in the rest of Eurasia. Mapmakers in China and India might bring our their biggest brushes, and paint a vast swathe of Asia - up to a twelfth of the land surface of the Earth - in Roman purple. But this did not indicate, as to-all-appearances-similar expanses of dye did in other places, the existence of the heavy infrastructure of civilisation: Roads, canals, fortresses, walled cities. Nor yet did it indicate the less visible parts of an empire: There were no tax collectors, garrisons of regular soldiers, official records of ownership or marriage or inheritance, or state church. Of the four armies that other nations considered essential to stability - a standing army of soldiers, a sitting army of bureaucrats, a kneeling army of priests, and a crawling army of informers - the Komnenoi kept only the first; and even then, since that army in effect consisted of every Roman male of fighting age, it was not a regular army as that term is understood in countries based on the ownership of land.

The new Roman state, then, was in one sense the most fragile of constructs: It existed only in the minds of men. In particular, the state consisted of the continuing choice of a thousand tribal chieftains, in consultation with their foremost warriors, to remain loyal. Now to an extent this is true of all states; even the worst tyrant must, at a minimum, keep the loyalty of his inmost circle, at least to the extent that they do not draw their weapons and kill him while discussing the fate of a million peasants. But in the Komnenos Khanate this fact was exaggerated to absurd lengths. Any chieftain, if he found a yearly tribute onerous, or a levy of horses or fighting men inconvenient, or even if he merely disliked the manners of the envoy sent to treat with him, might simply remove himself a thousand miles, or ten thousand, into the trackless steppe, bringing his herds and fighting men with him; and what then was a central authority to do? True, good grazing and fertile oases are not found everywhere on the steppe, and most tribes recognise at least a rough division into traditional ranges; so the power of the chiefs to resist unwelcome demands of the state was not completely without limit. But it was far greater than that possessed by anyone whose wealth and power depended on farmland. Even a great feudal magnate, who behind strong castle walls could defy - for years on end - the armies of his king, could still have his fields burned or confiscated, and find himself impoverished even though plague or invasion might lift the siege and force a reconciliation.

How, then, did the Komnenoi build a state from the disparate and fractious steppe nomads, and a state, at that, which militarily was a match for anciently civilised and densely settled powers such as China? First, we must note that humans habitually form hierarchies, and the nomad tribes were no exception; by long-standing custom the chief of one tribe or another was recognised as Khagan, and thus exercised at least nominal hegemony. The office was rarely hereditary, shifting with fluctuations in the herds and the fighting tails of each tribe, and there was not always complete agreement on just which leader was Khagan; but there existed, at any rate, the rudiments of a supertribal framework; it was not necessary to introduce the very concept of hegemony - Genghis and Tamerlane, although defeated in their European campaigns, had managed at least that much.

Second, although they had fled Anatolia with only what they could carry, in nomad terms the Romans were actually quite wealthy. Specifically, they owned several thousand excellent horses, in addition to a great quantity of iron weaponry, armour - and cookpots! True, these goods were effectively irreplaceable, and in using them the Romans were expending capital, not income - but the point remains that they had a great deal of capital, by the impoverished standards of the steppes. The five thousand trained kataphrakts that were all that remained of the legions were an immense advance in striking power and even tactical mobility over what an average nomad tribe, or even a dozen tribes together, could muster. Iron weaponry and armour against bone and leather; immense grain-fed cavalry horses * against scrubby ponies; and a system of discipline that did not rely on the bonds of family and clan - these all added up to make the Komnenoi a formidable force, easily capable of overcoming any tribe or any coalition of tribes that could be mustered quickly. Of course it is ridiculous to suppose, as some writers have done, that five thousand cavalrymen might have overcome the combined forces of the steppe tribes; but now the lack of state infrastructure cut the other way, for who was going to raise such a coalition? There was always some line of fracture, some blood feud or grudge or vendetta, for the single most powerful military force to take advantage of.

Third, and perhaps most powerful (for this war of unification, ultimately, was waged in the hearts of men more than on the field of battle) the Romans offered a unifying ideology. The nomad tribes had always practiced a rough egalitarianism as far as adult males were concerned; but Roman propaganda - and it must be remembered that the practice of organised propaganda for state purposes was also new on the steppes, and the tribes had no acquired immunity to it - raised the equality of fighting men to the level of an overarching claim to superiority over the settled peoples. The Komnenoi claimed that Rome had been destroyed because it espoused the equal freedom of all citizens, which was to say all men able to bear arms; that the nomads were now the last bastion of this ancient principle; and that it was the duty of all to keep alive the fragile flame of liberty against the slave empires that would impose feudalism or, worse, bureaucracy on everyone. This brilliant piece of manipulation was carefully calculated to appeal to every faction on the steppes, from the Cossacks of the Russian border, whose founding myth involved fleeing from serfdom, to the half-sinicized Mongols of the far east, who had a long and resentful history of Chinese scholar-poet-officials attempting to impose Confucian ideals upon them. To assert the brotherhood of Rome - the epitome of agricultural empires, and the home of mass chattel slavery! - with the nomads who had sacked so many of its cities was, in the words of one historian, "too awesomely mendacious to fail"; however that may be, the nomads united almost as fast as Alexandros could march his refugees past their territories.

This is not to say that the feat was accomplished entirely without fighting; some tribal federations did resist, and some indeed maintained their resistance for decades and centuries, on the marginal subarctic edges of the steppe - tolerated by the Komnenoi partly as a demonstration that fighting men really did have freedom, not merely the freedom to submit to Rome; and partly because subduing them would be more trouble than it was worth. After all there is steppe and steppe; the Komnenoi and their network of tributary allies commanded the best grazing, the fertile oases, the convenient caravan routes - in short, such sedentary wealth as the steppe offers. Reducing every last marginal borderland to formal obedience was quite unnecessary.

The travails of the Long March rapidly became a founding legend of the new Rome, told - even while the marchers were alive, in some cases - in the same tones used for recounting the story of Romulus and Remus. But it is worth noting that the legend does not, with a few exceptions, focus on battles; the Romans overcome hostile weather, mountain ranges, endless distances, and internal dissent, but after Jvris Ugheltekhili, few external enemies.

So much for the unification itself; we may also ask, how was the fragile structure of loyalty maintained? As noted, the heavy cavalry horses and iron weaponry of the Komnenoi were capital, to be husbanded carefully and expended reluctantly. Like any successful and wealthy warband, they attracted recruits from other tribes, mounted and armed more traditionally, and thus rapidly constructed their own swarm of light cavalry to supplement the kataphrakts and infantry. But while this was a welcome addition to their strength, it was, ultimately, the same means that previous Khagans had used to maintain their hegemony - in other words, if the heavy cavalry were allowed to attrite away, the Romans would become just another pony-mounted tribe, susceptible to the usual generational shifts in the Khaganate. To introduce a unifying ideology was one thing, but to make unification under the Komnenoi stick, it was necessary to maintain a strong military advantage against any likely combination of tribes.

To do so, the Romans took for their territory the doubtful lands surrounding the Great Wall of China, where nomad and farmer had pushed the frontier of settlement back and forth for millennia. This area does not offer the best sweet grazing, and the climate is atrocious even by the hard standards of the steppe, and thus no tribe was mortally offended by its seizure. However, the main concern was access to the two crucial goods the Romans needed to maintain their military edge: Iron and grain. With China split by dynastic revolt, the Romans could offer a bargain to the northmost tier of cities: Protection from nomad raids, in exchange for a tribute of the products of civilisation - in particular, the iron weapons and the feed required to keep the kataphrakt tradition alive.

The Komnenoi were, for a short period, something altogether new in the world: A nomad tribe with some of the trappings of civilisation, in particular a splendid heavy cavalry. Under the leadership of Alexandros, they exploited this uniqueness ruthlessly: They positioned themselves perfectly between nomad and settler, gaining strength from both sides - nomad light cavalry for scouting and skirmishing, and settler grain and iron to maintain a core of heavy cavalry that allowed them to overawe the nomads. Thus each part of their strength supported the other, a closed virtuous cycle. No other tribe could have done it, because no other tribe had the initial capital of horses and heavy-cavalry training (a very different set of skills from light-cavalry skirmishing) required; and no other band of settlers would have done it, because it required abandoning homes and cities for the harsh life of a nomadic tribe. When Alexandros announced that his winter camp would lie in the shadow of the Great Wall that separates and unites nomad and farmer, the symbolism was clear to all.




* These were something of a double-edged sword, for unlike nomad ponies they could not survive by grazing alone; the Romans dealt with this by marching along the southern border of the steppes, where they could buy grain from the edge of cultivation.

Read my blog.
Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
King of Men
Posted: Friday, June 10, 2011 1:15:27 AM
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Joined: 11/23/2007
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Can you see them, in your mind's eye?

Do you see the young men, in their thousands and tens of thousands, the thunder of their horses' hooves shaking the steppe?

Do you see the horsetail banners streaming in the wind of their passage, under the golden Eagles?

Can you hear them singing? Do you hear their songs of war, and of love left behind?

If you can, then hold them thus, in your mind's eye; and do not let them go. For they will not come back to us, the young men.

It is easy to laugh, or to sneer. The question comes readily to the lips, "Did they think it would be easy?" Had they thought, perhaps, that their grandparents fled mere shadows and night-fears? Perhaps they had imagined themselves as heroes out of stories, had thought that all that went before, all the millennial history of Rome, had existed only so they themselves could exist, and could win glory by defying the Shahanshah. It is necessary, in a story, that the villain seem victorious in the first half, so the hero may overcome a true threat; and the greater the villainy, the darker the gloom at the halfway point, the better the story. But history is not a narrative; or if it is, it is not given to any man to know that he is its protagonist. The men who held the walls of doomed Carthage, and for three years defied the power of Rome at arms, they thought themselves heroes too; but for them there was no rescue and no relief. Their walls were torn down and the place where their city had stood was sown with salt. For though Calliope loves the beleaguered garrison, and often sends unexpected allies to their aid, her sister Clio has a heart of stone, and loves only the big battalions.

It is easy to be cynical; easy, and wrong. They were young men; of course they thought themselves equal to any task they undertook. Of course they believed that their grandparents had exaggerated, that hard-won victory at Jvris Ugheltekili had been inevitable, that if only they themselves had been there, Anatolia could have been held and the Persians driven from the Holy Land. When have young men believed the war stories of their elders? They see men who move with the caution of aged bones and creaking joints, and think, down in their marrow where beliefs form, that the Persians need not have been so formidable as all that, to overcome these shriveled ancients. They look around, and see young men like themselves, moving with easy muscular grace, faster and smoother than any grandfather. And so they come to believe that an empire older even than Rome will be cast down at the first storm from the steppes, that they have merely to ride west and all will collapse before them.

Young men will always believe in easy victories; that is not the yardstick to measure them by. The mettle of a man is found in what he does when his easy victory recedes into the distant horizon; when the enemy shows that he is indeed formidable, and comrades fall on every side.

Perhaps you did not see these soldiers before; perhaps you have yourself born arms, and no longer believe in glory and the dramatic dash of ten thousand lances. Perhaps your sight is blurred by the ghosts of your own fallen. Well then: Do you see them now? Do you see the host riding slowly eastward through winter winds? Do you see the men, not so young now, leading strings of horses with empty saddles? Do you see the trail of shallow graves they leave behind, each with a lance thrust into the ground to mark the place? You cannot hear them singing, now; they are too tired. Perhaps, if you listen, you can hear the howl of wolves drifting through the snow that blows in their east-turned faces. But if you see them thus, turn away; do not cherish that image, in your mind's eye. For it is not the true one; and these men, too, shall not return to us, though they yet live.

Still a third time: Do you see them, the soldiers of Rome? Do you see them transformed by the hard alchemy of defeat, no longer cobbled-together tribal militias but disciplined legions? Do you see them, turning at bay against the pursuit that snaps at their heels, and sending the veteran troops of the Shahanshah reeling back in defeat? Do you hear the sound of twenty thousand men shouting together, "Victory!"?



If you do, then there is no need to hold on to the image, in your mind's eye. For these men shall return to us, no longer young, but grown to full adulthood in the harsh school of war. And winged Nika shall ensure that their memory lives while Rome stands.

Read my blog.
Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
Darth_Ballz
Posted: Friday, June 10, 2011 2:26:24 AM
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If the Komgols hold steady and stay the course, the Persian northern wing will break rather easily, and the civilized horde shall pour into the Persian frontiers.

King of Men
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 4:40:55 AM
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Joined: 11/23/2007
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So as an addition to Oddman's statistics and commentary, I thought it would be interesting to see where people are getting their trade income, or to put it differently, who is screwing exploiting enlightening through the free exchange of goods and ideas whom.

Ahem. Each row in this table shows the sources of the trade income of one human tag. For example, Croatia is getting 259 yearly from trade within Croatia itself; 69 from English COTs; 578 from Spanish COTs; and so on. So, if you wanted to find out which countries could do you the most damage by an embargo, you would look down the left side until you found your tag, then go along the row looking for high numbers. Conversely, if you wanted to see which nations you have by the short hairs in the sense of being able to damage their income, you look along the top row until you find your tag, then look down your column for high numbers. So we see that the Khanate, for example, is effectively invulnerable to embargos, which should not surprise anyone since I have practically no trade income anyway. My main trading partner is my own COT at Jasagdu, closely followed by my ally Qin. Conversely the nation I could do most damage to is Tibet, which gains 152 ducats yearly from my single COT; not a huge amount, as Tibet is well diversified.

Some general observations:

[list]
  • Europeans trade mainly with Europeans and Asians with Asians, but there is more exploitation enlightenment going from Europe to Asia than vice-versa, as is only to be expected.
  • If Croatia were cut off from all European trade (except its own COT) it would lose 802 ducats, or about half its trading income; if cut off from all Asian COTs, it would lose 592 ducats, about one-third.
  • The biggest traders are the most powerful nations, Germany and Spain; no surprises there.
  • In absolute terms, the shortest and curliest hairs are possessed by Spain, which could lose a whopping 758 ducats yearly if Bavaria cuts it off; it could retaliate almost as effectively, by embargoing 720 ducats' income for Bavaria. However, in each case this represents only one-fifth of the total trading revenue of each state; in relative terms, USA has a better grip on Quebec, with almost half the latter state's trading revenue coming from US COTs. If we stick to major traders, the best relative grips are Spain's on Croatia, about one-third; and Bavaria's on England, another third-or-so.
  • Persia does surprisingly badly on trade, worse even than Novgorod, which is ignoring trade as a deliberate strategy, the better to concentrate on the army. Gujarat also seems surprisingly backward on this point. When the likes of the Khanate, with the worst trade tech in the game, has four times your trading income, you know you're Doing It Wrong.
  • Khmer, Punjab, and Malaysia are all artifically suppressed by being subbed/ghosted this past session.
  • Tibet does very well, best among the ROTW nations, and is also very diversified, getting no more than one-sixth of its income from any one nation.
  • The Caliphate (TRP) has a reasonable trade income overall, but almost all of it is from domestic COTs.
    [/list]

    Code:

          ETH   TIB   QUE   PUN   TRP   USA   JAP   KON   QIN   CRO   ENG   BAV   CAT   NOV   PER   KHA   KHM   MSA   GUJ   TOT 
    ETH   171     0     0    51   100     0     0    44     0     0     0     0     0     0    63     0     0     0     0   428  ETH 
    TIB   165   172     0    83   164     0    35     0   191     0     0     0     0     0    20   152   107   118     0  1209  TIB 
    QUE     0     0   168     0     0   144     0     0     0     0     0    19     0     0     0     0     0     0     0   332  QUE 
    PUN     0     0     0    31     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0    31  PUN 
    TRP    84     0     0     0   435     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0   519  TRP 
    USA     0     0   159     0     0   228     0     0     0     0     0   214   239     0     0     0     0     0     0   840  USA 
    JAP     0    10     0     0     0     0    88     0    38     0     0     0     0     0     0     0    21     0     0   157  JAP 
    KON   216     0     0     0   127     0     0   217     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0   128   688  KON 
    QIN     0   131     0     0     0     0     0     0   255     0     0     0     0     0     0    23    82     0     0   491  QIN 
    CRO     0   111     0     0    57     0   151     0    70   259    69     0   578    98     0   131    23     0   106  1652  CRO 
    ENG     0     0   109     0   194   188     0     0   154    73   147   629   257   208     0     0     0   216     0  2174  ENG 
    BAV     0     0   296     0   262     0   174     0   214   198   159   783   720   225   101     0     0   293    98  3521  BAV 
    CAT   291     0   329     0   292   340   194     0     0    88   177   758   962     0     0     0     0   326     0  3759  CAT 
    NOV     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0   184     0     0     0     0     0   184  NOV 
    PER     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0    74     0     0     0     0    74  PER 
    KHA     0    46     0    44     0     0     0     0    95     0     0     0     0     0     0   101     0     0     0   285  KHA 
    KHM     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0    47     0     0    47  KHM 
    MSA     0     0     0    14     0     0     0     0    20   154     0   237    86     0     0   131     0   204     0   846  MSA 
    GUJ     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0     0    70    70  GUJ 
    TOT   928   470  1062   224  1631   900   642   261  1036   771   552  2640  2842   714   259   538   280  1157   401     0  TOT 


    Read my blog.
    Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
  • King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, June 25, 2011 1:15:01 AM
     Legatus legionis

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    Joined: 11/23/2007
    Posts: 8,470
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    Children of the fertile lands often think of the Khanate in terms of steppe, of grassland: A featureless plain, stretching boringly empty to the horizon, with only the occasional herd of horses to lend it interest. And it is true, even in a land that stretches from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific, that much of it is taken up by such plateaus; and it is not unknown for outsiders to find the sight of them disorienting to the point of dizziness - even to fall down in vertigo at the complete lack of any reference point, and to cry out in joy at the tiniest stunted tree or the most minor rise in the ground.

    Georgos of the Komnenoi knows better. In his twenty years, he has thrice ridden the circuit from New Byzantium to the Caspian Sea; he has seen all that the Khanate has to offer. Mountains to rival any in the world, deep forests that stretch for hundreds of miles, lakes larger than some bodies of water that the untravelled call 'seas', and, yes, miles upon miles of steppe and taiga. And even within the steppe proper, as he would point out if anyone asked, there is endless variety, and no lack of feature: The tiny changes of hue that signal water nearby, the little dust-puffs that herald a storm, the fields of gopher holes that riders must avoid lest a horse's leg be broken. The idea of a featureless plain would be incomprehensible to him, who has lived in it all his years.

    If the endless stretch of dry grass is a false image, what then of the other thing that most outsiders know about the Khanate: That its rulers, the Komnenoi, burn for vengeance and a return to Rome? Is that also a mirage, an unfair simplification? A fair question; but in turning from geography and biology to the motivations of men, we enter the realms of the subtle, the labyrinthine, and the hard-to-answer. Turning again to Georgos, we find that, of a certainty, he hates the Persians with a passion, and will gladly tell you so if you ask him. Along with the others of his tribe, he cries full-throatedly "Death to Persia" at the yearly recital of the wrongs done to the Romans and not yet repaid; is not this the custom? (And is it not a rare man who will break the custom of his tribe, whatever the strength of his own feelings?) And yet - it is also true that Georgos has never in his life seen a Persian, and that, if he should meet one, he is too much the warrior - conscious always of the nearness of death - to draw his weapons and kill without provocation, as his ritual shouts might imply.

    For, if the truth were told, the Komnenoi have closer enemies, these days, than far-off Persia. There is no Roman now living whose grandfathers fought at Jvris Ugheltekhili, though a few grey-bearded ancients can recall hearing tales of the Long March from men who spent their childhoods on the trail. As for doomed Nicaea, or the still-more-distant towers of the City of Men's Desire, they are as well remembered and as much thought of as lost Troy and seven-hilled Rome. Over such a gulf of time - a single century! - human purpose flows like water. The men who fled Anatolia shone with diamond-edged, flame-forged will; in them the single dominant urge was to return to their lost estates, and their every effort bent to that all-consuming idea. Their sons were willing enough to conquer a steppe realm, to become a power in the land, "for the purpose of defeating Persia"; when have men been unwilling to fight for wealth and fame? And their sons, in turn... proved willing to administer what they had won, to work as judges and soldiers and advisors to the tribes that acknowledge Komnenoi sovereignty, and to build upon their fathers' legacy. And to shout "Death to Persia" once a year is no great trouble, and men need rituals almost as much as they need bread and salt; if ritual is all that remains of the once-heartfelt outpouring of hate... well, there is nobody now alive to remember the terror of fleeing from Persian armies with only what you could carry on your back, and notice the difference.

    Georgos of the Komnenoi claims, with pride, to be a citizen of Rome, and he is well suited to his station. Can he not ride and shoot and wield the lance with the best of his generation? Has he not thrice ridden the circuit, and given judgements in the disputes of the tribes that have been upheld even in the High Court at New Byzantium? Has he not learned by heart the text of the Three Great Grievances, and recited them to shouting crowds at the yearly celebrations? These are the not the accomplishments of a common tribesman, of the merely equestrian ranks; Georgos is the son of a Senator, and will himself become a Senator in turn. The forms are observed at New Byzantium, the traditions of millennia are maintained, although the content is changed nearly beyond recognition. But as for riding to war with Persia to avenge the Long March, it is not likely. The Khanate has no border with Persia, and a grudge cannot be kept burning for a hundred years, when there is no source of fresh oppression to keep it hot.

    And yet men do not like to be inconsistent, to have their deeds not match their words. True, Georgos bears no personal animosity towards any Aryan noble, however much his mother frightened him as a child with those terrible bogeymen. He has fought Russians, Germans, and rebel tribes; for these he can muster a healthy sense of vengeance, of desiring retribution for dead comrades and hard days. If you asked him to list the reasons he might go to war, the slow, steady push of Russian settlements from the west would come up in his mind before the long-ago conquest of Anatolia. But a man who shouts "Death to Persia" and can recite the Three Great Grievances does not need much of an excuse for war, if even a slight opportunity presents itself - he already has one ready made. Georgos does not feel such hatred for Persia as his great-grandfather did, that he would make war for its own sake, as a point of vengeance. But his ritual is not empty; it cannot be. Let there be even a small thing to be gained from such a war, and Georgos will go to with a will.

    The pure flame of vengeance cannot burn for centuries. But even its ashes are poisonous seeds for war.

    Read my blog.
    Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, July 09, 2011 2:07:23 AM
     Legatus legionis

    One Year Membership MedalTwo Year Membership Medal

    Joined: 11/23/2007
    Posts: 8,470
    Location: Nowhere
    Gameplay notes: The Khanate is currently a Noble Republic. I am not getting much income from trade, due partly to terrible prestige, partly to low tech, and partly to military-focused national ideas. My two manufactories are both weapons; land-tech is the only field in which I am reasonably up to date. I still got hammered in my recent war with Tibet, but it was due to serious tactical errors on my part, not to inferior armies.

    -----------------------


    Excerpted from "Journeys of the Merchant Ieremias":

    After several months of travelling thus, we arrived at the optimistically-named New Byzantium. I had expected that a city which rules so vast a hinterland, even though most of it is nomadic waste rather than the agricultural territory that makes for true strength, would be grandly built, or at least of considerable size; but here I was disappointed. The capital of the realm which styles itself the Third Rome has as many inhabitants as would, in Europe, make a harbour town of moderate importance. As for comparing it with the vast cities of China and India, New Byzantium might be dropped into any one of them without making more than a new neighbourhood - and an inconspicuous neighbourhood at that, for the Komnenoi do not count their wealth in stately buildings. The mercantile wealth of their realm, such as it is, is concentrated in nearby Beijing. But for political power, there is no doubt that New Byzantium is the place to be; and it is true that their Forum, where the Citizens meet to debate matters of policy, compares favourably with the one in Rome, which for the last century has been used as a marshalling-ground for Spanish cavalry, and smells rather strongly of horse. The Citizens themselves will tell you that the drabness of their city is a deliberate choice; "when Rome was built in brick it conquered the world, when Augustus covered it in marble the Fall began", they say. Perhaps they make a virtue of necessity, for the site of New Byzantium was chosen with an eye to strategy and symbolism rather than the convenience of importing marble and timber. Still, this low-slung mix of one-story houses and, in some cases, literal tents, does give shelter to a people who rule from the Aral to the Pacific Sea; so perhaps there is something to their approach.

    During my first week in the city I was something of a novelty. Although there is trade across the caravan routes, it is handled mostly by middlemen; not many merchants personally make the journey from Europe, and I was probably the only man in the city who had with his own eyes seen the Greek cities of Anatolia. Thus I was invited into the houses of several important people, and asked about my views on everything from the Trinity to the feasibility of Reconquest, which I gave freely: I am Orthodox regarding the dual nature of Christ, and Reconquest will happen when Persia has three Shahs in a year that also sees a mad Czar. In return I learned as much as I could about the power structures of New Byzantium, which after all was the purpose of my journey. "Make friends with the rulers, learn about their dreams and their intrigues", my father had told me before I set off; "thus we will know what disturbances to expect, what goods will fetch the best profit, and who can impose the highest tolls on our competitors". Thus I found that, although all the Citizens have a voice in the Forum if they choose to exercise it, some can shout louder than others; among the thousand-or-so distinct lineages or gens that New Byzantium recognises, perhaps fifty are considered to have Senatorial honour, and these in practice make the decisions. Each Senatorial family is supported by an entourage of equestrians, who by hereditary right send their sons to the heavy cavalry on which, in the final analysis, Komnenos rule of the steppe tribes rests. The Senators spend much of their time intriguing to draw away equestrian families aligned with other Senators, and to strengthen the loyalty of their own; the ability to bring a large retinue to the Forum is the mark of a powerful and respected statesman - the presumption being that those who support a man in debate would, if necessary, support him in battle. This custom, it seems to me, may be considered representative of all the politics of the Third Rome: The Komnenoi teach their children never to lose sight of the reality of power, but also that government directly by raw force is not workable in the long run. They strive for a compromise, clothing their actual military strength in swathes of custom, respect, and formality, but never losing track of the underlying iron. Such, at any rate, is their ideal; like all men, the Komnenoi do sometimes fail to practice what they preach.

    At first I thought I might trade on the connection of our family to the old Komnenos dynasty; in the homeland, of course, we usually find it politic to emphasize the cadet nature of our branch, thus avoiding the negative attention of the Shah's officers looking for possible disloyalty. (I do not blame them for this: If the Greeks were to rise in revolt against the Shah, perhaps supported by Croatian or Russian gold, who can doubt that some figurehead Komnenos would be found to lead the rebellion? The Shah has as good a right to enforce the safety and obedience of his subjects as any other king.) In New Byzantium I thought I might promote some second cousins and younger sons among my ancestors, and gain in prestige thereby. Alas, I was soon disabused. The Citizens use 'Roman' and 'Komnenos' interchangeably, but the meaning has changed: Anyone whose ancestors took part in the Long March is considered a Komnenos and a Roman, whether or not his bloodline has any connection to the noble dynasty. Conversely, 'stay-behinds' such as myself, whatever our ancestry, have no claim on any such honourable title; shared hardship, purpose, and myth define the Komnenoi now, rather than any ties of blood. Even so, I think I was accepted, more than any other outsider would have been, partly because of that ancestry: For the Komnenoi look has bred true, and many of the Romans shared my own features: The straight thin eyebrows, hooked nose, and sharp chin that is shown in so many mosaics of the Old Empire. I believe, therefore, that the Romans saw me somewhat as one of their own, and treated me accordingly.

    I said that the Komnenoi do not count their wealth in stately buildings; like the tribes they rule, they think a man wealthy if he has a large herd of good horses (and the grazing rights to support them), many sons, and a powerful fighting tail. But even by this standard, there are not many Romans who have vastly more wealth than their compatriots; there are rich families and poor families, but there are no men who could buy and sell twenty or thirty others out of their sons' pocket money. Partly this is because much wealth is publicly held; the kataphrakt horses that mount the equestrian order, for example, are owned by the state, and no stallions or mares of that breed are ever sold, in spite of the high prices that the geldings command. It is also because the steppe offers very little in the way of capital, as we understand the term in Europe: Arable land, high government office, and shares in trade all make money which can be used to purchase more of the same, and a fortune can thus accumulate. But grazing rights will support only so many horses, there are limits to how many sons one can have, and fighting men do not pay dividends except in wartime. The wealth of the Komnenoi, therefore, is all in consumption, not in investment. And this is not unintentional; for the Komnenoi believe that the accumulation of vast personal fortunes led to the Fall of Rome, that men who are allowed to compete for the distinction of being the wealthiest will forget to compete for the distinction of being the most honourable, or the best servant of the state. Hence they have revived the ancient sumptuary laws of Rome, and the women of Senatorial rank take pride in wearing ornaments no larger than those of the meanest equestrian's daughter. But, alas, human nature is not to be overcome. If the Komnenoi intended, by these measures, to suppress competition and one-upsmanship among themselves, it must be said that they have failed dismally. When competition in the display of precious metals and jewels is forbidden, the women instead turn to displaying their inborn beauty to the best advantage; at times, indeed, it seemed to me that women and men alike competed aggressively to see who could dress the most plainly, and wear the most understated jewelry, and still look the best. The effort that New Byzantium expends on 'artless' coiffures and 'natural' complexions has on occasion made me long for Baghdad, where a woman's jewelry tells you all you need to know about her husband's rank, and a man knows where he stands! Still there is no denying that the Romans know how to display a woman to advantage. Even those not well-favoured by nature can be turned by the beautician's art into a jewel of femininity, and as for those whom God has blessed with good looks, their slightest glance can take a man's breath away.

    If, in these pages, it seems that I often admire the Komnenoi more than my own people, that is partly true. They are the descendants of those Greeks who would rather die than submit to the ancient enemy; who fled into darkness and obscurity rather than make peace, and who built a great nation out of nothing but ruin and sheer determination. My own ancestors, the stay-behinds, were undoubtedly more pragmatic, more sensible even: The Persians, after all, know the difference between fleecing a sheep and butchering it, and their rule lies no heavier on us than that of any other realm. My own family, merchants of no particular account, command greater wealth and comfort than the richest Komnenos Senator. And yet I cannot help but be drawn to the defiance and bortherhood of their saga; and I admire their pragmatism, the way they organise their public life in accordance with their professed beliefs and goals. Many a nation whose rulers are nominally Christian would do well to heed that example. But, with all that said, I would never choose to replace the Shah's rule of Anatolia with that of these Romans, although nominally we share language, ties of blood, and religion; and I was secretly glad when word came that Tibet had thrown back their invasion. For the qualities that they cultivate in themselves, in order to prepare for Reconquest, are the virtues of a warrior polity; their every law and custom is deliberately designed to subordinate the individual to the state in the name of military strength. And that is very well for a people at war. But what will they do if they ever win their Protracted Struggle? I fear that, having changed themselves out of all recognition to retake what once they had, they will find that they do not want it in the form that their fathers possessed it: And in trying to remake the cities of their long desire in their own image, they will create a desert where they meant to remake an empire.

    Nomadic tribes have come out of the steppes before, to make war on their settled neighbours: Scythian, Magyar, Hun, Mongol. But although they sometimes conquered and became the rulers of wide lands, they never tried to remake the inhabitants of those lands; they took tribute and women, and were satisfied. In the Komnenoi, I fear that the world faces something new: They have married the Republican virtue of Rome, an ideal of manhood and service, to the barbarian vigour and ruthlessness of the steppes. Neither component is compatible with the wealth and freedom of modern civilisation. The word itself means "the art of living in cities"; and it is precisely this art that the Romans have deliberately destroyed in themselves. They have taken the customs of nomadic tribes from the steppe part of their inheritance, and those customs are well suited to making a nation of conquerors. But then they have imposed those customs as laws, which is something else entirely: From their civilised ancestors comes the concept of written law, which applies equally in all circumstances. And thus, if they win, they will not be able to do as their predecessors did, and bend with the tide of victory: They will adhere rigidly to the laws that brought them strength to conquer, and they will fail completely to build.

    There have been barbarian victories in the past; but in every such disaster, tribal custom could bend, and the nation of conquerors could become a nation of builders and lawmakers. The Romans already have a law; they cannot readily make another. And their law forbids trade, forbids the accumulation of wealth, forbids all that does not support the life of a soldier, or servant of the state. What then will they do, if ever they have no more need to be soldiers?

    I trust the Shah's armies will prevent us from ever finding the answer. But sometimes I dream of cities burning under the pitiless gaze of men on horseback. And when I wake, I realise that every horseman had the same look: The features of the Komnenoi dynasty, endlessly repeated. My own face.

    Editor's note: It is worth noting that Ieremias was a moderately-prominent Greek subject of the Shah, with (as he says) some distant connections to the deposed dynasty. Some of his words may be intended for the consumption of the Shah's bureaucracy, to assure them of his loyalty. On the other hand, his account was originally meant to be seen only by his immediate family, to aid them in their caravan trade across the steppe; it is difficult to see how he could have anticipated the printing and widespread publication of his book after his death. Perhaps, then, his warning was heartfelt. Who but God knows the inmost minds of men? We have given his words as he wrote them, and leave the reader to form his own judgement.

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 2:12:45 AM
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    We must continue to study and make use of foreign methods; for among settled nations the scholarship of their officers constitutes the most important part of their military preparations. If new cannon are considered necessary we must, at any cost, build them; if the organization of our Legions is inadequate we must start rectifying it from now; if need be our entire military system must be changed. We must build ironworks to provide us with guns and munitions; we must educate the people to provide us with obedient soldiers.

    At present Rome must keep calm and sit tight, so as to lull suspicions nurtured against her; during this time the foundations of her national power must be consolidated; and we must watch and wait for the opportunity that will surely come one day. When this day arrives Rome will decide her own fate; and she will be able not only to put into their place the powers who seek to meddle in her affairs; she will even be able, should this be necessary, to meddle in their affairs.


    - Speech of Senator Achilles Komnenus, given at the Forum Romanum in New Byzantium on May 29th, 1559.


    ------------------


    To be pushed back from the Urals by the steady encroachment of Russian settlers and Cossacks was one thing; there was precedent for that, in the loss of the Crimea and, for that matter, in the persistent raiding across the Black Sea that had triggered the Breaking of the Don. To be defeated by Russian troops was cause for concern, but not for anger and shame; the military power of the Rus was a well-established fact. But when, twice in a row, Legions sent into the Tibetan highlands returned defeated, the Komnenoi were dismayed, and more than dismayed; they were outraged and incredulous. The Third Rome, defeated by a hbunch of yak-herders notoriously so lazy that they had automated the process of prayer? It was not to be borne; the generals responsible were summarily beheaded, and a process of carefully examining everything that might possibly prevent future defeats was begun. New Byzantium, after all, was a constructed society; the Citizens had carefully modelled themselves on what they thought were the best traits of ancient Rome. The possibility that the wrong traits might have been selected, or that the construction was subtly wrong, was not unthinkable to men who had consciously chosen what to emulate.

    The outcome of the re-examination process was not in any sense socially radical; after all it was being conducted by men who fully intended to stay in power, at least as a class, after any necessary reforms were made. But in terms of the daily activity of the Komnenoi, the purposes for which they organised themselves as state actors (and it should be remembered that New Byzantium quite deliberately tried to reduce the Citizens' private lives to a minimum, and keep most of their actions public) the change was considerable: The Komnenoi turned themselves, in the space of a few years, from being chiefly judges, statesmen, and soldiers, to being, in effect, spies and industrial organisers. Previously the first part of the cursus honorum had consisted of riding the Great Circuit, enforcing the law (and reminding the chieftains that it existed) all through the Komenoi domains; this had been done by the men of twenty to twenty-five years of age. Now, the age for riding the Circuit was moved up by two years, and the men of seventeen to twenty-two were sent out into the world, where before they had stayed at home to finish memorising the laws in preparation for the Circuit. They went as traders, at first chiefly in horses, and were expected to make at least a minimal profit; the Komnenoi could not afford to pay for mere tourism. But their chief task was to ask questions, to look not at how foreigners did things, but why; and if the reasons seemed good, to consider how they might apply to Rome. For, of course, not everything that the settled nations did was immediately applicable to a realm inhabited chiefly by nomads.

    The most obvious effects were in the Legions: The introduction of corned powder, to take just one example, made practical lightweight guns that could keep up with supply trains over long distances. But, as so often happens, the unintended side effects were far larger in the long run. The Komnenoi had learned, in the hard school of combat, that they could no longer maintain themselves as an isolated enclave of rulers over a vast steppe domain: Distance, archery, and horsemanship was no longer sufficient even for defense against settled kingdoms which could now give every conscript a firearm. They therefore broke their isolation just enough, as they saw it, to reform the Legions. But to expose the youngest Citizens to outside ideas in search of means, necessarily meant that they might become corrupted in the realm of ends - might lose the devotion to the idea of a restored Rome that, as the elder generations saw it, was the purpose of having a New Byzantium in the first place. To avoid this danger it was necessary to make their upbringing much more regimented - in fact, to encroach on one of the few remaining private spaces in Roman life, the raising of young children. The young had to be taught a nearly schizophrenic division of means and ends: They had to apply a questioning, skeptical attitude to everything that was done to further some particular goal, but at the same time believe unquestioningly in the correctness of the goal itself. The effects of such an attitude were not always optimal.

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:19:30 AM
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    2 g 17 CB, Alexandros read from his hastily-scratched notes, and began to painstakingly transcribe the information into his ciphered report. Two new guns delivered to Seventeenth Caucasian Borderers; but the words lay emptily in his mind, powerless, as though the cipher had robbed them of conviction. They did not speak of the cheers of the conscripts who had dragged the guns into their regimental compound, stripped to the waist in the harsh sun, smelling of gunpowder and oil and sweat even a hundred meters away where Alexander had stood with the civilians. The spiky marks of the code could not convey the power of five hundred men marching in snappy new uniforms, taking pride in thumping their heels down in a precise cadence, drumming out their discipline and courage. The Senators in distant New Byzantium would read his report, and think to themselves, "dull-eyed peasant conscripts", and take comfort in the thought of the horsetail banners and a hundred thousand warriors riding free across the steppes. They did not understand. They had not been there the day before, when the officers were executed for keeping dead men on the rolls of their regiment; had not heard the deep snarl of five hundred men growling their satisfaction at seeing justice done.

    The signs were there for those with eyes to see, and Alexandros could make that clear enough to his masters: The crackdown on corruption, the delivery of new weapons and fresh supplies, the increased pace of drill and marching. All that was obvious, and no Komnenos would miss the implication: Russia was arming for war. But he could not make them feel the power of it, the crushing force of a settled realm awakening to the possibilities of gunpowder. They were right, in a sense: The conscripts really were dull-eyed peasants, not impressive if you spoke to them as individuals. Alexandros would match himself against any two of them, or any four, if he had a horse and a good bow, and they had muskets; or even in close combat, sabre and lance against bayonets. But the number of them! And worse, the way they were brutalised into acting like a single man, marching and shouting and firing in unison, like a waterwheel, mindlessly turning and breaking anything in its way. It was inhuman; but how could he convey that to the Senate?

    Perhaps it did not matter, in the end. The Senate would base its decisions on a cold calculus of numbers and weight of metal. The romance of the free horseman might appear in the rhetoric of the Forum, but in the back rooms where decisions were made, they would count forges and mines, muskets and fodder. Wouldn't they? But even so, the point remained, that their calculation would be wrong: For they had not felt the earth shake to the trampling of a thousand iron-heeled boots; they had not seen cloddish peasants lifted by conscription and drill into a single great beast that moved like the fingers of a man's hand.

    But, after all, perhaps it was better so; for when would the matter improve? The Russians sensed only dimly what was so clear in Alexandros's mind: They did not see that in their conscript infantry they had made a new thing under the sun, and that it would shatter kingdoms and thrones and sweep mere courage and skill before it, irresistible as the tide. And perhaps, if it was fought here, in its infancy, it need not be so: Perhaps the Russians could be forced to give up their experiment, to fight with the savage dash of their Cossacks as they had done before. Bad enough, for the Cossacks were numerous and fierce; but that was a warfare men could understand, and excel at; and there was glory in it. In the unison trampling of a thousand brow-beaten peasants there was no glory; only efficiency and death.

    Alexandros bent again to his report. The next item was 11th Georgian Infantry moved to the Persian border; but the true message needed no cipher.

    Russia arms for war.

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    King of Men
    Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011 6:39:26 AM
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    "How long, O Mikael, will you abuse our patience? How long shall we wait for victory? How long shall we send our sons to die on distant frontiers, and bury them for the quarrels of dead men?" Thus begin the Mikaeline Orations, hurled by Ioannes Angelidis at his rival Mikael Konstandis. (*) In so doing Ioannes was venting the feelings of a rising generation of Romans, who chafed at the sumptuary laws, the military discipline, and the austere customs of New Byzantium. They felt, not unreasonably, that if these generations-long sacrifices had failed to bring the long-sought Day of Victory, in which Rome would finally triumph over its enemies, then the Victory was probably not achievable. And if that were so, they asked, what was the use of each succeeding generation shouldering increasingly intolerable burdens?

    In this rebellion against the fanatical devotion of previous years, the Hedonist faction (as their opponents, who came in contrast to be called Ascetics, labelled them) was aided by the widespread sense of disillusionment after the War of the Continents (1572-1580). There is a certain amount of irony in this, for the legions had in fact acquitted themselves well, advancing far into the Tibetan highlands and even scoring victories over the dreaded Russian armies. The Komnenoi, who had uncomplainingly borne a century of bitter defeats and ever-increasing preparations for the Next War, now lost their balance precisely when it seemed that all their hard work was being rewarded. Yet it is easy to understand why: For the Siberian and Tibetan fronts, into which the Romans yet again poured blood and treasure, were secondary theatres on the scale of the War of Continents; and when Bavarian resistance on the distant Oder collapsed, New Byzantium - victories or no victories - was forced to make peace.

    Defeat was not new to the Roman people, and might have been met by renewed determination to resist, to sacrifice, and to struggle. But to win, to see sons and fathers come home safe and bringing with them the captured weapons of their foes, and then nevertheless be forced to make concessions at the peace table, because of battles lost by foreign peoples on the other side of the world - this, finally, was unbearable. The human spirit will take only so much; and the Roman state was not a dictatorship, with sacrifice and austerity enforced by secret police and informers. Its discipline rested on consensus and peer pressure, in keeping with its own self-image as a society of free citizens who just happened all to be fanatically devoted to the same goal. Now, at last, that dam broke. The extreme 'consensus' the Romans had maintained proved, in the end, to be brittle as glass. A few dissenters willing to brave the disapproving looks and the hushes were sufficient. In the end, the Romans really were free citizens of a republic: Once each one realised that they were not alone in resentment, once it was shown that such things could be spoken in public without the sky falling, established custom broke like a mirror under a sledgehammer. Bereaved parents openly admitted that they would rather have their sons back than public honour; veterans spoke of their outrage at seeing their sacrifices wasted.

    The sumptuary laws were the first to go; it was impossible to enforce laws that half the population deliberately flouted. Their actual repeal was spearheaded by Ascetics who realised that restrictions on clothing and jewelry as such had become purely symbolic, and willing to sacrifice the symbol in exchange for maintaining the substance of respect for the law. But this was just the initial skirmish. Next, a substantial body of young men refused to volunteer for military service. Here was a substantive issue, and one that could not be fought on the principle of written law; for the Komnenoi had made a point of not formally conscripting anyone. Military service was theoretically voluntary; it was enforced by custom, expectation, and the fact that no respectable family would marry its daughters to a man who had not served. But this line, too, fell with the instantness of ice cracking in the spring melt: When half a dozen families of equestrian rank announced the military strike together (some of them, it should be noted, quite ignoring that their sons actually wished to serve!) they could not all be ostracised - if nothing else, there were enough of them that they could simply intermarry among themselves, thus avoiding the final sanction. Again, the Ascetics yielded what they could not hold: They realised that they could not afford to split the Komnenoi into those whose sons served, and those who didn't. Thus they retreated to the higher ground of Roman unity and one rule for all, hoping that in time the bitterest disappointment would fade and military service would regain its near-compulsory character.

    In this they were not to be wholly disappointed; for the fact remained that the Roman Khanate was surrounded on all sides by aggressive powers, and that Roman rule was in the final analysis maintained by force. A state which included a crumbling frontier with such a power as Russia, which had to defend against raids out of the Tibetan highlands, and whose own subject peoples regarded horse-stealing as a cross between national pastime and the only proper way to make a living, could not become pacifist. But neither could the high tension of previous decades, the instant readiness to drop everything and wage total war with every man, horse, and speck of gunpowder, be recaptured. The Komnenoi had asked too much of themselves, and the younger generation repudiated the aim of vengeance against Persia (and Russia, and Tibet...) with an almost audible sigh of relief.

    Yet it was one thing to end the custom of public fanaticism; it was quite another to decide what was actually to be done. The Roman state still faced intractable border problems and powerful enemies; when even victory in the field was insufficient, what course should the state take? In these circumstances, combined with the sudden loosening of all the old austere customs, it is not surprising that many in New Byzantium turned to the opposite end of the spectrum; as always in times of great uncertainty, "eat and drink and be merry" was a popular slogan, "for tomorrow we may die". True decadence was not to be achieved in a few short years, but by the standards of 1560, New Byzantium in 1580 was one with Sodom and Gomorrah - nor did there lack Ascetics to predict that it would soon be one with Nineveh and Tyre.

    Nor, perhaps, were their predictions entirely unjustified. What would be the fate of a second-rank power in the face of Russian expansion and Tibetan imperialism? Militarism had failed to provide an answer; but those who rebelled against complete submission to the State had no positive policy to put in its place. Not for nothing did the peace treaty, formally the Treaty of Jaipur, come to be known in New Byzantium as the Death of Hope.


    (*) Since the Greek population at New Byzantium are all considered 'Komnenoi' whatever their actual bloodline (and through interbreeding they are most of them descended in part from one of the male Komnenoi who joined the Long March), they have taken up patronymics to distinguish men of the same given name.

    -----------------------------------------------------------


    Some battles of the War of the Continents. First, Roman legions crushing Russian armies. Roman victoglory, yeah!



    Then, Tibet. Terrain malus be damned!



    It worked, too. Tibet lacks the manpower to really fight a war of attrition.



    Tibet's armies were collapsing at this stage. Unfortunately Bavaria surrendered first.



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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, August 06, 2011 6:05:28 AM
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    May 13th, 1597
    East of the Urals
    Ortai tribal lands

    "If you like, I will ride with you."

    "What good is that?" The Ortai chieftain spat. "The Cossacks come twenty thousand strong! Do you think yourself a hero out of legend, to conquer such a host alone?"

    Akhilleus sighed. "No," he said softly. "I was offering to ride for the honour of the Komnenoi. Not for victory."

    "That for the honour of the Komnenoi. Where are the kataphrakts?"

    The kataphrakts were in New Byzantium, ready to fight if the latent civil war should break out into the real thing; but the tribes could not be allowed to know that. Akhilleus went on the offensive. "Where are the Ortag riders? You live near the border; you are expected to deal with raids. For this reason we remit your tribute and send you weapons and horses. Riding in I saw a hundred great glossy beasts fresh from the Komnenoi stud. Cossack raids are no new thing in this land; have you not dealt with them before?"

    "Yes. We have fought the Cossacks. We have fought the Ostyaks who lick Russian spittle. We have fought the gelded Voguls. All this is true; the Ortai are the finest warriors on the steppe, and we can deal with all these foes. But we cannot deal with the regular infantry of the Czar! The Cossacks are not alone; they brought artillery on their last raid. For the third time I ask you, man of the Komnenoi: Where are the kataphrakts? Where is the protection due to a loyal vassal?"

    Akhilleus dropped his gaze. "I do not know, chief of the Ortai. I have not been told." It would not do to speak truth: To say that New Byzantium had given up on fighting Russia, and had abandoned this western borderland to the eternal Cossack pressure. The Cossacks were pushed in turn by the Russian settlers and forts behind them, and they again were driven by the will of the Czar and the desire of second sons for estates and serfs of their own. Akhilleus thought that the Cossacks might not hold the trans-Ural for long after taking it from the Ortai; the steppes were wide, but there was no room in them for both settler and nomad. But to convince the Cossacks of such a thing was futile; and it would be thin comfort for the Ortai. So he said nothing, and did not meet the chief's eyes.

    "I see." The chieftain straightened his back and took a deep breath. "Then the Komnenoi have failed in their obligations, and our treaty is broken. And I will act as I must, to save my people. Andrei! Come forth."

    A man stepped out of the darkness behind the chief's chair; he smirked at Akhilleus, but spoke softly. "Yes? You will accept our offer, then?"

    "I will. We will give bread and salt to you, the Czar's envoy; and will hold our range of the Czar's grace, and fight the Czar's enemies. And we will hope that the Czar's grace lasts, and does not turn to his settlers, when they have done with what were Cossack lands ten years past." Akhilleus snorted mentally through his despair; the Ortai was no fool, just a man with no good choices. "But needs must when the Devil's grandmother drives; and perhaps the horse will learn to sing. I renounce the service of the Komnenoi, and accept the yoke of the Czar. And therefore: Go hence, Komnenos envoy; you are no longer welcome in the lands of the Ortai."

    Akhilleus nodded silently, and turned to leave - then turned again, drawing his dagger as he moved with the blinding speed of the agoge. The weapon flew with unerring accuracy, landing in the Russian envoy's eye; the envoy fell with the instant limpness that comes from massive brain trauma. For a long moment the chieftain stood frozen in surprise, staring wide-eyed at Akhilleus, who smiled bitterly. "Go on, chief of the Ortai. Explain to your new master how his envoy came to be dead, in your tent, after you had given him bread and salt and taken the Czar's yoke. Who knows? Perhaps you will find him as forgiving as the Senate and the People of Rome. I wish you luck of the explanation, and joy of your new service."

    In truth it wasn't that likely to cause trouble for the chief; the Czar had other envoys, after all, and would probably accept any explanation that involved a perfidious Komnenos killer. But it was the best Akhilleus had been able to come up with; and anyway it had wiped the damnable smug smirk off the Russian's face. In the circumstances, Akhilleus felt quite pleased with that accomplishment; it might be his last, but by the God it was a satisfying one!

    He turned again to run as the chief fumbled for a weapon and shouted for his warriors; if he could get to his horses he had a reasonable chance of making it out onto the vastness of the steppe, where a man could disappear. There were other tribes to be talked into futile resistance.

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011 6:34:51 AM
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    February 13th, 1610
    New Byzantium, Roman Khanate
    Home of Achilles Peleides

    Sweet oblivion beckoned, but there was a ritual to be observed. He might be down on his luck, but he was still a Komnenos of a Senatorial house. Gulping wine straight from the bottle simply would not do; Achilles poured carefully into a goblet (wooden, but it was an actual serving utensil), sniffed to judge the quality of the wine (horse piss, but the point was that one did not just pour it down the throat), and then sipped rather than quaffing. Consequently he was startled when his mother walked into his apartment, but he did not feel any urge to hide the bottle behind his back; instead he was able to raise his eyebrows in a perfectly civilised manner and say quite unashamedly, "Good evening, mother. Would you care for some wine?"

    "Not just now, thank you."

    "As you like. But have a seat! If I had known I would have such a distinguished guest, I would have laid in food, flutists, a philosopher to engage us in discussion, dancing girls - but alas, I fear you find me unprepared. To what do I owe such an honour?"

    She regarded him steadily. "You do not entertain the possibility that I simply wished to see my son?"

    "Your disgraced son, the black sheep of the family? The one whose actions had to be disavowed, and an apology given to the Czar? The son whom you have not seen in three years, and who was turned away from the gates of the family estate, and left to support himself by menial labour? No, actually, I do not think it very likely that you have simply come for a chat. What do you want, mother?"

    "That was not my doing. I think your father would have been less angry if he had not secretly agreed with you. If he'd listened to me instead of the Senate... well, that is all wind over the steppe now. I have finally been able to cool his anger enough that he's agreed to offer you a century in the army that will invade Tibet."

    "A century? Rather a comedown for a man who has been envoy to the Orkut tribes, isn't it? By seniority I should have a cohort, at an absolute minimum. And really, for a house that commands as many equestrians as ours, anything but a full Legion is an insult." Even so, Achilles felt a tug of temptation. To have an official position, even a lowly one; and even more, to serve, to work for something more than enough food to get up the next morning and do it all over again - he squashed the treacherous thought firmly. He had gone down that path before, and what had it got him? Disgrace, an apartment whose door didn't lock, and cheap wine.

    "You're right," his mother said, "it is a step down. That can't be helped. If you had kept your mouth shut and eaten the rage like the rest of us had to - well, wind over the steppe. Now it's all I can do to give you a chance to redeem yourself. To show that you're good for more than raging about appeasement and dishonour, and drowning your sorrows in cheap drink. Are you a Komnenos or a whiner?"

    Achilles felt a flash of anger. "I was right, dammit! Giving up Siberia was a shameful act. And we call ourselves the heirs of Alexandros? The men of the Long March rolled over in their graves. And the Senate knows it, and the People know it too! They couldn't face truth, so they sent me to this - exile, to hide from the only one who'd tell them truth. Better if we'd gone down fighting!"

    His mother leaned back in her chair, which creaked alarmingly but did not collapse. She nodded slowly. "There's some truth in what you say, yes. Once I felt as you do; and acted similarly. I was there in the Forum, you know, when the Death of Hope was announced. I lost a brother in that war, but I hadn't cried; for the news from Tibet was good, we were winning. Ajaxz hadn't died in vain, I thought. And then came word of the Treaty, and I went home and wept. And when I was done weeping I gave up; I decided that if all our sacrifice couldn't give us victory even when we held the field, what was the use? So I discarded the modest life of a proper Komnenoi maiden; and my father turned me out of the house. You look shocked, Achilles; did you think you were the only one in all of history to quarrel with his parents over a matter of principle?"

    Achilles felt shock and fascination overtake his anger; here was a side of his mother he'd never seen before. "Then - what happened? How did you live?"

    Her lips twitched. "Don't worry, Achilles, I didn't have to dance on tables. I went to your father's family, and for his sake they took me in. As you might have gone to Aglaia's family, and perhaps you'd be married now - eh, no matter. She wasn't really up to your level, anyway. I lived in rebellion against House and custom for five years; drinking, dancing, wearing all the jewelry I could afford - it was a wild time. All the old traditions collapsed; we didn't see the point anymore."

    "But - you must have reconsidered."

    "Well, yes and no. The old sumptuary laws are gone beyond recall." She gestured to the heavy bracelets decorating her arms, the gold headband that held her hair. "But in the end, we found that rebellion was no answer either. We had to have some purpose beyond being right, dammit. There are no easy answers, Achilles. We couldn't give up Siberia, it would be dishonourable; we couldn't fight Russia, it would be futile. What would you have us do? Yes - " she held up a hand, forestalling his hot response. "I know, I know. Fight to the death, rather than accept dishonour. Easy for you to say, who have no children. For myself, and your father too even if he would die before admitting it... dishonour passes. There is life after defeat; that's what I learned, when I was your age. I was surprised, I remember that, but it's true. If I have any wisdom, that's all of it in a nutshell: There is life after defeat. Won't you take up that challenge, Achilles? Live, lead, win? This half-death, suicide by wine, it was fine as a gesture but it can't be very satisfying. How about showing the Tibetans that Rome is not to be trifled with?"

    "And if the disgraced son happens not to come back from the war in which he found redemption..." Achilles suggested cynically. His mother looked down. "Your father, perhaps, is making that calculation. On some level. He can't help it. But I'm not. They don't issue shields to the Legions any more, you know; and you can do anything with a bayonet except use it to carry the glorious dead. So you'd better come back alive."

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, August 27, 2011 6:08:28 AM
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    August 19th, 1528
    Tibetan highlands
    Midday

    Achilles watched impassively as the endless column of prisoners trudged past on their way to the Siberian mines. Some still wore scraps of orange; the Buddhist monks were the core of the resistance. Otherwise the Tibetans all looked much alike: Flat brownish-yellow faces, brown eyes lined with creases from squinting against the eternal dusty wind of the highlands, hair shaved in token of taking the Path of War against the Roman invaders. Except for the shaven heads they looked much like his own troops, very unlike the aquiline features and gray eyes of the Komnenoi cohorts; but after ten years in Tibet Achilles had lost his desire to command Roman troops. The elite kataphrakt cohorts, recruited from their own sons, were the capital assets of the Komnenoi, committed to battle only when great issues were at stake. And since every ambitious young Roman hungered for a kataphrakt command, promotion was glacial and fiercely contested. In the auxilia legions that did most of the actual fighting, even a man recovering from a youthful mis-step could advance.

    There was no particular military purpose to Achilles' inspection of the column; but Achilles felt he owed it to his enemies. They had fought bravely, and not many would return from distant Siberia. Nine in ten would be leaving their bones in the deep pits of the iron mines. Achilles did not object to the policy; raids by these brave men and their fathers had been a scourge of the fertile lowlands for decades, and the threat of Tibetan armies on the southern flank had hamstrung Rome in its quarrels with Russia. But he felt it cowardice to send men to their deaths in the mines without looking them in the face at least once; and so whenever he had no pressing business, he came out to watch the columns passing by.

    It was, nonetheless, a depressing sight; and so he was relieved when his aide rode up and saluted. No doubt there was some new disaster in Qamdo, and he would be required to comb out his half-strength centuries yet again to reinforce them; but no matter, that was better than watching men whose lives were at an end through his skill.

    "Legate, there is another Senator to see you."

    "Very well; I come." Still another who wanted to shine in reflected glory. Well, in the end they were all Komnenoi, and not everyone could be an officer in time of war; the course of honour moved older men into civilian ranks for good reasons. He returned to his tent without too much resentment. The Senator - tall and lean in the manner admired by Komnenoi for older men, but moving with the stiffness of injury or illness - rose to greet him, and Achilles flinched in shock. It had been fifteen years since he saw his father, and then their quarrel had ended with Achilles being thrown into the streets. Even when his mother had won a measure of forgiveness and enough influence had been exerted on his behalf to win him a century in the auxilia, his father had not deigned to speak to him face to face.

    An inchoate anger rose up in him, and a confused longing to reconcile; he sought refuge from emotion in sere formality, raising his right hand in salute. "Ave, Senator".

    "Ave, Legate," his father replied dryly.

    They stood silent for a moment, while Achilles sought for a polite way of asking what do you want; then his father took pity on him. "You've done well, son; to rise from centurion to Legate without exerting influence is not easy." In spite of himself Achilles felt his shoulders straighten; estranged or not, those spare words of praise meant more than he would have thought possible. "So now it is time for you to come home."

    So that's it, Achilles thought; it was almost a relief, to know that his father hadn't made the long journey to Tibet just out of a desire to reconcile with his son.

    To be continued

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 8:27:41 AM
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    December 11th, 1645
    New Byzantium, Roman Khanate
    Midmorning

    The air was a dismal grey that promised pneumonia for anyone out in it for long; but the Forum Romanum blazed with the heat of three thousand close-packed bodies, keeping the winter at bay. Or perhaps, Achilles thought mordantly, it's the heated rhetoric. A minor tribal dispute over who should have grazing rights in a particular oasis would not usually have packed the Forum; but that was when the tribes all gave loyalty to Rome. When the Cossack Host of the Urals clashed with the Oroteg, that was something else again. For behind the Cossacks loomed the Czar; and the Czar did not give offense by accident. The skirmishes were a clear challenge to the authority of Rome. If the Komnenoi backed down, they would look weak... but the last five decades had demonstrated all too clearly the sheer weight of metal that the settled lands could bring to bear. The debate had raged for hours, lurching between fear and aggression; there was an ugly undertone to the crowd noise as adrenaline sought an outlet.

    Achilles waited for the current speaker - Ioannes was a young Senator like himself, heir to an ancient House, but new to his position of power - to finish fulminating against the machinations of the Czar with the formal invocation "I thank the Forum for allowing me to speak". Then he rose, catching the eye of the Consul Honorius who was presiding. Honorius had been expecting it, but - consummate politican that he was - managed to make it look not the least premeditated when he ignored three Senators senior to Achilles. "The Forum will now hear the advice of the Senator Achilles, son of Peleus," he announced, and Achilles walked up to the podium, keeping his face carefully under control. The Forum was a lot like the Tibetans, or the Russians, or the various tribesmen under Khanate rule - well, like any humans, really. It was never a good idea to let them see you sweat.

    "I thank the Forum for its courtesy; my words have been long considered," he began formally. Then he was out of the shelter of ritual and custom, and had to carry through on his own words. "I agree with my honoured colleague. The Czar is testing the waters. He has no intention of stopping until he reaches the Pacific. If we do not fight him now, we will fight him later, on worse terms. Therefore, I request that the Forum issue the Ultimate Decree; and I nominate myself for the position of Dictator."

    There was silence, more of confusion than of shock. At length Honorius spoke. "Achilles," he said gently. "Yours is an honoured House. But you have not gained the support of one-third of the Equestrian order; you may not call for the Ultimate Decree."

    Achilles took a deep breath. This was the moment when he passed beyond the safe boundaries of law, debate, and order, and into the debatable uplands between coup and legalism. "Ah, but I have, honoured Consul. Look there."

    Honorius followed his pointing finger to the edges of the Forum, where a hundred men were in the process of donning armour and raising an Eagle. His lips tightened, but he gave no other sign of distress. "Those are men of the twelfth Legion, Senator; the Victrix, not the Komnenoi. They bear arms in the service of Rome; but they are not Equestrians, with the right to give weight to words spoken in the Forum."

    "That is old law, Consul. I remind you of the reason for the law: So that words should not be too far removed from the reality of power. But our fathers wrote in the days when there was only one Legion on the steppes; one Legion, and a hundred thousand skirmishing auxilia. To fight the Czar, and to cconquer Tibet, we have raised eighteen Legions. Eighteen Eagles, led by one! The word of the Equestrians does not carry the weight it once did, honoured Consul. I propose that we remedy that imbalance. Declare these men to be Equestrians, and announce that every man who has served his twenty years shall have the same privilege, whatever his birth. Unite the tribes behind the Eagles, by giving them a voice in its councils. And fulfil the destiny of Rome: For is not every man a citizen?"

    Honorius's face was grey, but he spoke calmly. "Once Rome ruled from Hadrian's wall to the Euphrates. Then came a year in which an ambitious Legate crossed the Rubicon, in defiance of written law. Caesar had good reasons for his act; he, too, thought of the spirit and not the letter of the law. But when the letter was broken by the threat of force, the spirit died. Your suggestion is not without merit, Achilles. But the Forum cannot, cannot, allow itself to be threatened into any decree, no matter how good the reason. The law must stand supreme. If that legitimacy is once lost, the year will inevitably come when four Legions each declare their Legate emperor; and the Czar will fight the Chinese for the mouth of the Amur. Don't do this, Achilles. Once the Senate made a mistake, and Rome was dishonoured; and you wish to ensure that we avoid repeating that mistake. I agree with you. But please, I beg as one who has seen what misplaced cleverness can lead to, please do not do it this way. Act within the law; and if Rome falls, let it at least fall to barbarians outside our gates."

    Achilles bowed his head, drawing his sword. Honorius had not become Consul of a fractious people by being indecisive; he drew breath to speak, and Achilles knew he had only seconds before the order to kill was given, and blood spilled in the Forum. "You are right, Honorius," he near-shouted; and knelt. Honorius froze in surprise.

    "You are right," Achilles repeated, more quietly. There was utter silence in the Forum. "I intended no coup; I make no threat of force. But I call for a necessary measure." He flipped his sword, holding it out to Honorius hilt first. "I call again for the vote: Let the veterans of the Auxilia be declared Equestrians, able to support me in the Forum. And while the vote is taken, hold this sword to my throat; and if you still think I have gone too far, drive it home."

    Honorius took the sword, and Achilles held his breath. It was quite possible that the old man would decide to kill him. He locked gazes with the Consul, fighting not to flinch. They stood thus for minutes, until Achilles thought he would scream from the tension of it. At length Honorius nodded, once, and took the blade off Achilles's throat.

    "Very well," he said. "The Senator has made submission to the State, as all citizens must; he makes no threat. This being so, we may consider his proposal on the merits."

    December 12th, 1645
    New Byzantium, Roman Khanate
    Noon

    "Ave, Achilles! Ave, Achilles, Imperator!" The deep-throated chant shook the Forum, and Achilles smiled grimly as he took the podium again.

    "My people," he began.

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011 1:36:02 AM
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    May 12th, 1655
    Ortai tribal lands, east of the Urals
    Afternoon

    It wasn't customary for men nearing seventy to ride with the armies; but Achilles was, after all, Dictator, with twelve men carrying literal fasces for summary execution of anyone who displeased him, and so his will had triumphed. Now at last they neared his actual goal, the meeting for which the "need to direct the armies from close at hand" was a cover; and he found that he had no idea what he was going to say. It had been fifty years since he rode two horses to death, fleeing the vengeance of the Ortai for the murder of the Czar's envoy; the boy of seventeen who had been disowned by his State and his parents for that deed was as dead as if the tribesmen had caught him. And yet, the boy's white-hot rage at betrayal had become the passion and fixed purpose of the man. If not for that ancient murder and the soiled acts of statecraft that had led to it, Achilles would not have climbed to the pinnacle of the Roman state, and would not have led the armies of Rome west in an effort to appease the ghost of the boy he had been. He almost had to laugh at himself: Half a million armoured kataphrakts and auxiliaries were on the move, tens of thousands of tons of iron and horseflesh, and why? Because as a teenager he had disagreed with something his father had done!

    They crossed a tiny swell in the land and came into sight of the Ortai camp. Achilles did a quick count-and-multiply, and frowned; only five hundred tents? The Ortai had numbered well over six thousand when he last spoke to their chief - but then, much could happen in five decades of Russian rule. They were alert, though; pickets rode to meet Achilles's party, and he could see saddled mares in the camp. It wasn't possible to surprise a nomad tribe over the open steppe, at least when the weather was reasonably clear. The Ortai were ready to fight, as hopeless as it would be for them.

    Achilles held up his hand, and his escort stopped and stabbed their lances into the ground in formal politeness; it wasn't done to keep riding towards an encampment that had sent men to greet you. When the pickets had reached conversational range, he drew a breath and spoke, not in Greek but in the Turkic koine that was the common language of the steppes: "I am Achilles, son of Peleus. I would have speech with Bakhyt, who was chief of the Ortai when I last met him, if he yet lives."

    "Bakhyt lives, but his grandson is chief." Achilles nodded; it was Ortai custom for chiefs to retire when their sons reached manhood. "You are well known to the Ortai, Achilles son of Peleus, and not welcome in our camp. Wait here, then, and I will ask whether Bakhyt will speak with you." Achilles pressed his lips together, but nodded again. He could force his way in, and the Ortai must know it; but they were proud men, and did not give hospitality lightly, especially not for the mere threat of death. Besides, he had come to right a wrong, not to commit another; he would have to swallow the insult.

    He waited patiently in the hot May sun, not yet strong enough to threaten heatstroke, as it would in high summer, but pleasant for old bones. At last men again rode out from the camp; reaching the Roman party, their leader spoke without ceremony.

    "I have come as you requested, Roman. Speak, then."

    The words came to him without forethought: "Once you asked me, `Where are the kataphrakts?', and I had no answer for you. It took me a while to find them. But I have brought the kataphrakts to ride against the Czar, as you desired, in accordance with the ancient treaty between our peoples."

    Bakhyt stared incredulously. The years had not been kind to him; most tribesmen had an ageless look from their twentieth year to their deaths, sturdy weathered frames that neither storm nor sun could bend; but Bakhyt was unambiguously old, with hunched shoulders and thin arms. He might not see another spring. But the black eyes were still penetrating, and Achilles had to make an effort to meet them steadily, until at length Bakhyt threw back his head and laughed.

    "Do you think," he asked when he had got his breath back, "that the world revolves around you? It's been fifty years, man! It's all wind over the steppe, now. The Ortai have been subjects of the Czar for five decades; you can't repair that now!"

    Achilles shrugged. "Indeed, what's past is past. But tell me this: Have you prospered, then, under the Czar? You had more tents than this, when last we spoke. Better horses, too. Have the Cossacks left you alone, since you gave bread and salt to their lord?"

    Bakhyt spat. "Of course not. Do you take me for a fool? It wasn't because I thought the Czar a loyal overlord that I took his oath; it was because all my other choices were worse. The Ortai are grain between two stones; the Roman grinds as fine as the Russian. So you've brought the kataphrakts to grind us finer yet; what is that to me? I am no chief to the Ortai, and no friend of yours. Speak to my grandson of fealty and loyalty and treaty, if you will; but leave me alone."

    Achilles sighed. "Very well; let it be as you say. I have done what I could. Bring me the chief of the Ortai, then; and we shall speak of how treaties may be renewed, and vengeance against the Ural Cossacks."

    They were riding away with the newly-signed treaty when Ajax, Achilles's son, spoke for the first time. "You don't seem dissatisfied, Father. But you hardly needed to come here in person for a treaty with a minor tribe like the Ortai. Did you get what you wanted from that old man, then? I saw him offer you only insult."

    "Insult, yes; but also truth. He was right, you know: The Ortai are being ground to powder between the empires, like all the borderland tribes. So..." Achilles shrugged. "I'm not quite sure what I came for, really. Forgiveness? Friendship? Too much to hope for; and really, Bakhyt was never my friend, even in the days when I was the Komnenos spokesman to the Ortai. But I suppose in the end we should all be happy for a day that gives us a new insight."

    "And what is the insight, then?"

    "Better to be the grindstone, than the grain."

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    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, September 24, 2011 7:09:13 AM
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    It is, as the tired old cliche has it, no joke to fight in Siberia, whether in winter or summer. That the Russian and Mongolian armies nevertheless managed, not only to fight, but to maintain in the field forces of the same order of magnitude as those which might settle affairs in a European campaign, and keep them supplied over an area ten times that of Europe, calls for explanation.

    To some extent the feat is explained by the nature of the armies; both sides still recruited extensively among allied and subject nomads - on the steppe, the boundaries of loyalty, sovereignty, and alliance were, like the borders of nations, hard to delineate exactly - and the nomad ponies were capable surviving on forage even in winter, digging under the snow for the last bits of grass. Nevertheless, both sides also fielded regular heavy cavalry and infantry, and these required formal logistics in the European style. Why, then, did the combatants choose such a costly form of war, when light cavalry were effectively free and much better suited to the terrain?

    The treeless steppe, offering neither strategic bottlenecks, easily defensible lines, or territory productive enough to force an enemy to fight for it, made clearer than ever the strategic maxim that the proper objective of war is the enemy's army. However, skirmishing light cavalry was unable to inflict decisive defeat on a similarly armed opponent backed by a powerful state; although Genghis and Timurlane - and Alexandros Komnenos - had forced enemy tribes to submit, they did so by threatening herds and grazing grounds. This strategy was unavailable to either the Khanate or the Russians, who could move an allied tribe's animals and noncombatants into secure territory and feed them from the surplus of their settled lands, at least for the duration of the war. With the capital assets of the tribes thus out of harm's way, no amount of skirmishing could force a decision; the casualties of such combat were simply not high enough.

    To overcome this besetting indecisiveness, both sides attempted to use their heavy cavalry as a hammer, to smash the enemy's light cavalry and destroy a tribe's ability to fight by inflicting massive casualties. This, of course, required an anvil, or the nomads would simply scatter and evade the blow; in settled lands the anvil is traditionally supplied by an obstacle such as a river or a narrow pass, but the featureless steppe offered no such. The cherta lines of fortifications, used in peacetime as bases for punitive expeditions to keep the tribes under control, were nowhere near concentrated enough to act as barriers. Nor could more forts be built quickly when every beam had to be imported from forests hundreds of miles away; enough to have built forts in supporting distance of each other over a fighting front that stretched for 500 miles would in any case have been a project for years or perhaps decades. Hence the final element in the armies: Regiments of regular infantry, armed with muskets and often fighting from laagered wagons, who could act as mobile forts against which the light cavalry, if outmanouvred or otherwise forced to retreat, might be crushed.

    However, since both sides possessed regular troops, such success was rare. Infantry dispersed to act as a linear obstacle could not resist the attack of enemy infantry; infantry gathered together to fight their own kind could not cover a long enough front to prevent light cavalry from escaping. As is common when enemies of roughly equal capability meet, therefore, victory became a matter of local superiority. In the nature of things, the heavy infantry could not concentrate rapidly, and any attempt to gather an overwhelming force gave the enemy plenty of time to react. The war therefore became a struggle of attrition, with something like a recognised front line, permeable to raiding parties but not to regular troops. The regular troops had been brought onto the steppe in an effort to destroy the light cavalry; now, inverting that purpose, the light cavalry tried to drive the regulars out by raiding the endless supply columns that snaked their way across each side's territory. But to slip a large party through the lines invited the concentration of heavy cavalry and supporting infantry to destroy them, in accordance with the analysis above; and small parties proved unable to inflict a serious check on the flow of supplies. The war therefore became a stalemate, in which the Khanate had some advantage because it could commit a larger force to the steppe front; the Russians, although their overall force was greater, had to keep substantial forces in Europe against rebellion and the risk of another Power intervening at a vulnerable moment. They also had to keep their southern border defended against the armies of Rome's ally Qin; a combination of bribes and threats had allowed the Chinese armies to pass through ostensibly-neutral Punjab and Persia in what is certainly the most ambitious flanking operation in history. Although the maneuver looked brilliant on paper, its execution foundered in the face of a thousand miles of mountainous terrain and bad roads; nevertheless, in drawing off a large part of Russia's armed strength, it enabled the Roman army to win local successes on the Siberian front by sheer force of numbers, moving the front line west by hundreds of miles.

    Hundreds of miles, however, did not suffice to reach even the Urals, whose fortified passes would be a formidable challenge; and the brute fact remained that no amount of territory or men lost east of the Urals could force Russia to the peace table. Recognition of this fact, rather than any perceived need to shift troops south against already-overmatched Ethiopia, led Rome to cut its losses and negotiate a treaty leaving the borders essentially unchanged. The point had nevertheless been made, that the Khanate was now able to defy Russia without a European ally: There would be no more cessions of territory caused by disasters on the distant Oder. Henceforth Rome would stand or fall on events in Asia; the Komnenos state had thus again become master of its own destiny.

    Read my blog.
    Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
    King of Men
    Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 11:04:50 PM
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    Having finished with Achilles's spirit-quest to become Dictator of Rome and repair the wrongs that were done in his youth, I feel like looking at some dry, unemotional statistics. In particular, how are the players using their magistrates; what fields do they prioritise?

    There are two ways of looking at this. One is to consider all buildings, and count how many magistrates have been spent in each field. Another is to consider only the level-5 and level-6 buildings; since there can be only one level-5 building in a province, finding a level-5 is strong evidence of commitment to a given area. Provinces, after all, are perhaps the ultimate limited resource in the game; there will be another magistrate coming along, but gaining provinces is (now that everything is colonised) completely zero-sum.

    So, let's start with a table summarising all the information we're looking at. The columns are the number of provinces, total magistrates spent, magistrates spent per province (which is an indicator of economic development; contrast densely-built-up Croatia with the howling wilderness of English North America), total basetax, magistrates per basetax, the percentage of provinces with a level-5 building, and, for each field, (government-army-navy-forts-production-trade) the magistrates-per-province used on that field, and the percentage of provinces with a level-5 building in that field.

    Code:

    TAG    Provs    Mags    M/P    Base    M/B    Max    Govt  GovtMax    Army  ArmyMax    Navy  NavyMax    Fort  FortMax    Prod  ProdMax    Trad  TradMax
    CRO:    50    791    15.82    273    2.90    0.92    0.28    0.00    5.54    0.80    0.70    0.00    1.64    0.00    3.96    0.02    3.00    0.10    
    ENG:    117    774    6.62    453    1.71    0.32    0.05    0.00    0.59    0.03    1.40    0.18    1.14    0.00    1.99    0.00    1.30    0.11    
    USA:    80    830    10.38    255    3.25    0.59    1.50    0.19    1.51    0.07    1.29    0.06    1.51    0.00    2.11    0.11    1.95    0.15    
    BAV:    118    1231    10.43    638    1.93    0.69    0.16    0.01    3.26    0.49    0.27    0.00    1.41    0.00    2.50    0.03    2.53    0.16    
    CAT:    152    1071    7.05    650    1.65    0.48    0.32    0.05    1.18    0.13    1.30    0.14    1.14    0.00    1.50    0.00    1.41    0.16    
    NOV:    106    1297    12.24    580    2.24    0.79    1.49    0.20    4.38    0.56    0.18    0.00    1.85    0.00    2.68    0.02    1.25    0.02    
    TRP:    60    559    9.32    236    2.37    0.50    1.12    0.03    2.43    0.32    0.77    0.02    1.25    0.00    2.80    0.12    0.78    0.02    
    PER:    59    697    11.81    334    2.09    0.68    1.54    0.00    4.20    0.66    0.47    0.00    1.85    0.00    2.47    0.02    1.00    0.00    
    ETH:    98    1035    10.56    433    2.39    0.88    0.71    0.10    2.33    0.22    2.38    0.30    1.05    0.00    2.39    0.12    1.52    0.13    
    KON:    76    1126    14.82    318    3.54    0.89    3.04    0.36    4.01    0.41    1.43    0.09    1.07    0.00    3.13    0.03    1.41    0.01    
    KHA:    71    783    11.03    238    3.29    0.41    1.25    0.01    2.96    0.39    0.45    0.00    1.61    0.00    2.51    0.00    1.82    0.00    
    KHM:    34    483    14.21    158    3.06    0.88    0.91    0.00    2.18    0.26    1.74    0.12    1.53    0.00    4.29    0.26    3.15    0.24    
    QIN:    52    727    13.98    272    2.67    0.96    0.50    0.00    4.77    0.67    0.33    0.00    2.04    0.00    3.02    0.06    2.83    0.23    
    PUN:    37    455    12.30    150    3.03    0.68    1.08    0.00    3.54    0.49    0.03    0.00    2.05    0.00    3.81    0.19    1.38    0.00    
    MSA:    91    772    8.48    399    1.93    0.64    0.20    0.00    1.84    0.19    2.16    0.29    1.10    0.00    1.07    0.01    1.71    0.15    


    It may be worth recalling that when provinces change hands, the buildings disappear unless the conqueror has a core; so nations with land that has changed hands many times will have fewer total magistrates because of it. However, the dominant effect is probably integrated magistrate gain; thus we see Bavaria and Novgorod, with their many vassals, leading the total-magistrates count. But we can also note that never-invaded Ethiopia and Kongo, and Catalunya with its ocean-protected domain in America, are not far behind. Then there's a bit of a jump down to the middle-rank (by this measure, not necessarily overall) powers of about 700-800 magistrates: Croatia, England, USA, Khanate, Qin, Malaya, Persia. Finally there's a rag-tag and bob-tail of minors ranging from 400 to 600: Tripoli, Punjab, Khmer.

    There seems to be a sweet spot for maximum province development somewhere around 50 provinces; larger nations can't build up all their provinces (at least not without concentrating exclusively on one area), smaller ones don't have the money (or so I conjecture). Thus we see Qin and Croatia, both around that size, with the highest full-development fractions.

    Looking at tables is illuminating but sometimes strains the eyes, so I made some histograms. We can start by showing the total number of magistrates in this form:



    Notice that within each bin, the nations in that bin are sorted so the highest flag has the most magistrates. Now we can more clearly see the division into a favoured group with more than a thousand magistrates, a middle rank about 750, and minors with four or five hundred. If we look instead at magistrates per province, however:



    we see that Croatia, near the top of the middle ranks by the previous statistic, jumps to first place; Qin makes a similar evolution; and of the former top group, only Kongo retains its high position. Catalunya, formerly ranked fourth, drops to 14th! That said, it is of course a nice question which of these two indices is more important. Density is good, but quantity also has a quality all its own. Indeed, if we look at sheer number of provinces, Catalunya is in a class of its own:



    which will, no doubt, spark cries of "Death to perfidious Spain!" Oddman is also king of the hill in terms of total basetax, although the difference is not quite so large:



    Finally, in terms of magistrates per basetax, the distribution of nations is rather uniform, with no strong standout, although Kongo is at the top and, perhaps surprisingly, Catalunya at the bottom:



    So far I've been considering totals and rankings; now let's have a look at how the nations use what they've got. A small magistrate number is nothing to be ashamed of, it's all in how you prioritise it!

    Let us first consider how the nations have used their level-5 buildings; to build such a thing is, in effect, to commit that province to army, navy, government, or economy for the rest of the game. It is of course possible to lose a province and regain it, but I assume nobody builds a high-level building with such a thing in mind. Indeed, my own high-level buildings are well away from the border with Russia, although not everyone has such a luxury. At any rate; as a first cut consider the priorities of army (ie conscription centers), navy (naval bases), and non-military - stock exchange, customs house, cathedral. (Although I've been speaking of level-5 buildings, I list the level-6 ones as the priorities, since it would be pretty silly to build a level-5 and not go for the level-6.)



    We see from the clustering along the left-hand edge that the continental nations are very heavily army-oriented, while ignoring their navies. They differ only in how much they feel able to divert from army to economy - ranging from the Khanate and Persia, completely focused on their armies, down to Tripoli which splits itself about evenly between army and other. The exceptions are more interesting. We see Malaya and, especially, England, being much more navy-focused (as one might expect); Ethiopia and Catalunya apparently not specialising at all; and the USA focusing very heavily on 'other'. Khmer, too, has apparently given up on competing militarily with its heavyweight neighbours, and is trying to maximise its non-military power.

    Now, 'other' is rather an amorphous category, consisting of the sum of government, production, and trade. Let's combine army and navy and split government off from production and trade; then we find this:



    Everyone hates the underpowered government buildings, except Novgorod, Kongo, and the US. I theorise that Kongo is trying to increase its literacy for Victoria by building lots of colleges; possibly the US is doing the same. I'm not sure about Novgorod.

    Now let's throw out the military entirely and concentrate on the three non-military branches; we know that people hate government, but how do they prioritise between trade and production?



    First a note: The Persian, Punjabi, and English focuses are quite misleading here. The Khanate, for example, has exactly one province with high-level buildings that are not military; I needed a college in my capital for some national decision or other. So my apparent complete focus on government is an artifact of having only one building that's not army! Similarly for Punjab and England. Otherwise we see that most people prefer trade, Tripoli is apparently focusing on production, and Ethiopia and the US are either unfocused or balanced - take your choice of adjective.

    The Khanate having so few non-army buildings brings up another point; how committed are we to these strategies? Let's see how things divide between military, nonmilitary, and not committed - which can of course be used later for moving about in the other triangles.



    We see Qin and Croatia pretty heavily committed to their respective strategies - they'll need to double in size to change what they're doing. At the other extreme, England has huge amounts of free land that can be used for anything, as does the Khanate - strategic options, yay! We see again that most people lean pretty strongly military. I wonder if anyone will be inspired by the pacific focus of the US to invade? Take the nice rich provinces from the decadently unmilitary people!

    Finally, I repeat the three focus triangles using all buildings, instead of just high-level ones:







    and find a cluster of army states and a cluster of 'navy' states who are actually not so much navy-focused in the sense that the others are army-focused, as balanced between army and navy. Ruling the waves is, apparently, not sufficient by itself. We also see even more strongly that everyone hates the government buildings, but Kongo hates them the least. In the low-level buildings we're more balanced between trade and production, perhaps due to the widespread perception that the low-level trade buildings are rather underpowered, so people only buy them as stepping stones to the high-level ones.

    Word count 1400, and I thought this was going to be a not-much-writing, heavy-on-the-pictures AAR... Anyway, let me know if there's any other statistics you'd like to see in a similar format.

    Read my blog.
    Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
    el_zilcho321
    Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 11:40:02 PM
     General

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    Nice graph thingys KoM. It would be cool if you could make one with calculated wealth so: yearly income divided by number of provinces or something similar, it would be nice to see how economically developed each country is, despite its size.

    padre
    danomite
    Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 11:53:06 PM
     Tribunus laticlavius

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    Some nice information, Thanks.

    Along with zils idea, maybe some sort of economic comparison between eu3 and vic conversions to see how peoples respective nations hold up. Might reveal some hidden imbalances.

    It is said that the future is always born in pain. The history of war is the history of pain.
    If we are wise, what is born of that pain matures into the promise of a better world,
    because we learn that we can no longer afford the mistakes of the past.
    King of Men
    Posted: Saturday, October 15, 2011 7:46:44 AM
     Legatus legionis

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    If the Komnenoi were organised into a pyramid, that pyramid was still the very tippy-top of their society, resting on a flat desert of non-citizens. These residents of the Roman state had, of course, their own internal hierarchies. Although the tribes were fairly egalitarian as humans go, they still observed a distinction between free warriors and slaves, and between warriors and chiefs. As for the settled peoples under Komnenoi rule, with their much greater economic specialisation, they naturally fell into an ordinary pattern of stratification by some combination of wealth, birth, and education - which of course tended here as elsewhere to go together. No such distinctions, however, were known to Roman law, which, when it was done outlining the privileges of the different ranks of citizens, consigned everyone else to a single category marked `Other'. After the reforms of Achilles, it was possible for non-citizens to join the Equestrian order through military service, but since the privilege was not hereditary, this did not greatly expand the citizen class.

    Such a system might have bred resentment, if it were flaunted. But apart from exacting tribute and levies, the Komnenoi kept themselves to themselves, leaving their subjects to manage their own affairs. Each tribe and each city kept its own law, and even a limited amount of horse-stealing and skirmishing for grazing rights were tolerated, as long as it did not cut deeply into productive capital. In effect, New Byzantium had set itself up as simply a pre-eminent tribe, which did not interfere in the internal affairs of others provided the tribute was paid; a truly minimal night-watch government. Nevertheless, one cannot run an empire without some sort of government; subjects who are allowed to forget that their government exists might decide to forget about their tribute payments as well. Thus each tribe and each city in the Roman Khanate had assigned to it a single Envoy, representative and sole functionary of the government. In practice the Envoys, at least in the settled lands, tended to acquire a small staff; but on the steppes many tribes did indeed have a single man as their only contact with their nominal government. Such service was the first step in the ladder of the Cursus Honorum, the Career of Honour by which ambitious Komnenoi men advanced to, ultimately, the Senate. After serving as Envoy for a few years - three was the minimum, but promotion after such a short period wasrare in peacetime - the budding politician (sometimes still shy of twenty years) would be posted to a Legion. After at least five years in the military, he would become eligible for transfer to the civil service in New Byzantium; but in practice most Komnenoi served in the Legions for at least ten years, and twenty was not unusual. The reasons were twofold: First, military service was the prestige posting, the raison d'etre of the entire citizen class; and second, a short military service was a liability in New Byzantium's politics. Finally, after ten years in the Administratum a civil servant could be elected Senator. In theory, then, the minimum age was 34, but in fact the youngest Senator on record is Telemakhos son of Hercules, who achieved election at the unheard-of age of 44.

    The powers of the Envoy were theoretically vast and practically constrained. As the sole holder of Imperium, right-to-command, in his region, he could in principle order his subjects flogged and (in time of war) beheaded; hence the Fasces badge of his office. In practice this right was almost never exercised against civilians, for the good and simple reason that the Envoy could not very well act as his own lictor against any sort of resistance; to enforce a flogging he needed the cooperation of the locals, and that was usually only forthcoming when some local law had been broken - in which case the Envoy's right did not need to be invoked. An exception to this rule was when someone had behaved in such a way as to scandalise his neighbours, but without strictly speaking breaking any law, as in the famous Xian Lu Incident, where the eponymous Xian Lu was driven to suicide by her schoolmates. There was no law against mockery and bullying; but Ioannes son of Alexandros, the local Envoy, ordered the guilty parties flogged, to widespread satisfaction. Exceptions could also occur when a faction in local politics managed to suborn an Envoy and have their opponents whipped; but this usually led to the recall in disgrace of the Envoy, and was therefore rare.

    Likewise, in principle an Envoy could call for military support - up to and including the entire thirty-Legion armed force of the Roman Khanate - to deal with threats ranging from bandits through rebellion up to invasions by Great Powers. Again, however, most threats were dealt with at the local level; no city benefited from having bandits nearby, and New Byzantium's policy of crucifying liberally after any rebellion that required Legion intervention meant that neighbouring cities were often willing to send their militia to crack heads if a riot got out of hand. Thus the enormous army that an Envoy could in theory call upon served mainly as a deterrent, ensuring that the velvet glove could usually be kept on the mailed fist.

    To load such responsibility on boys not yet out of their teens tended to produce a binary outcome set: The Envoy either cracked under the pressure or grew up very rapidly - which was, of course, the intention. The Komnenoi were (and are) not a numerous people, and loved by none; they had no room for deadwood. Hence, for example, the famed coolness under pressure, expressed in laconic wit, of those who had served their time as Envoys. The response to the invasion of Bengal, for example, is classic; the panicked Bengalese, faced with expeditionary forces outnumbering their armies three times over, had begged for ten Legions as well as invoking their alliance with Qin. The actual Roman response was rather smaller; as their leader said: "Of course the Senate knows that Kongo is invading with a hundred thousand men, that all of India is on the march, and that the situation is very serious. That's why they sent two Komnenoi."

    In this case, laconicism was reinforced, presumably, by the knowledge that New Byzantium was bound by treaty to make no war on Kongo, had only a minor interest in the exact location of the Indian border, and in any case could not have supplied any ten Legions across the Himalayas. Still, by all accounts the response to the Russian invasion in 1714 was similar: The various Envoys reported an aggregate of a quarter-million men coming across the border, and calmly retreated their tribes eastwards, poisoning wells and setting grass fires as they went. When the Khanate's armies eventually met the Russians in battle, the peasant conscripts of the latter were exhausted and hungry, easy prey for the well-fed kataphrakts; the initial invasion was turned back almost without loss to the Khanate, leaving tens of thousands of dead behind along with a hundred guns.

    The enormous manpower of Russia enabled it to absorb such a blow where a smaller state would have been forced to sue for peace. Nonetheless, the point remains that perhaps three dozen young men, none of them above the age of twenty-three, had by their collective decision moved a hundred thousand nomads, at least a million head of cattle, and many millions of horses and sheep; had rendered hundreds of square miles impassable to formed units; and had, in effect, defeated the foremost, or at any rate largest, army of the day - long before the Khanate's regular troops closed with the starving remnants of the Russian regiments.

    The particular circumstances of the Russian Vengeance War were rare, and not many Envoys actually had to make such weighty decisions in their few years of service; but they were all required to be ready for them, and in the pinch, the Komnenos ethos of firm decision came through. The entire government of the Khanate was composed of such men, and indeed any lesser mortals might well have found it impossible to impose the will of thirty thousand men over one-fifteenth of the land surface of the Earth. One shudders to think what they might have accomplished, had they been numerous enough to send two Komnenoi to each tribe.


    From Ever the Twain Shall Meet: Custom and Law in the Roman Khanate,
    Thomas Mattson,
    Oxford University Press, (c) 1972.


    Read my blog.
    Norway Rome The Khanate Scotland Scotinavia Christendie the Serene Republic has always been at war with the Bretons False Empire Caliphate Persians Russians English Hungarians Oceanians Saracen Jackal! Death, death, death to the Frogs barbarians infidels necromancers vodka-drinking hegemonists Sassenach nomad menace Yellow Menace heathen Great Old One!
    oddman
    Posted: Saturday, October 15, 2011 1:44:02 PM
     Admiral

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    King of Men wrote:
    <Komneniad snippage>

    From Ever the Twain Shall Meet: Custom and Law in the Roman Khanate,
    Thomas Mattson,
    Oxford University Press, (c) 1972.


    *like*

    "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
    -Bertrand Russell
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