Posted by Powee Celdran
DISCLAIMER: Although this is almost entirely a work of fiction, it is based on true events and characters. This story alters events that transpired in the 5th century using real historical figures but having a totally different story altogether.
READ BYZANTINE ALTERNATE HISTORY CHAPTER II FIRST BEFORE READING THIS!
Welcome to the second part of the spin-off stories to the Byzantine Alternate History series by the Byzantium Blogger! The previous article was a sequel story to Byzantine Alternate History Chapter I wherein almost the entire story was fictional, while this one on the other hand would be the spin-off sequel to chapter II, in which before reading this you must read that first in order to get the premise for this current story. Again, these spin-off stories in which I will make for chapters III and XII as well will be almost entirely fictional ones based on the alternate history outcomes of these said chapters wherein their endings are not what happened in reality, thus there will be no longer a need to explain the historical context of their stories, as I have already done it in the main chapters themselves. Instead, in these spin-off stories, we will just discuss what happened following these fictional outcomes that happened in these said chapters, as it would already be implied that you already know how these said chapters ended wherein history had been altered, but if not then it is best you read the respective chapters of these spin-offs first, in this case being chapter II. These spin-off stories too by further expanding on the alternate history stories will thus be the stories that will discuss further the chain reaction of events if this said event from the alternate history stories happened and how history will be totally different as the years progress.
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Note: Since this story is set in the 5th century before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine characters here will be referred to as Romans, not Byzantines.
This spin-off story now will be a continuation of Byzantine Alternate History Chapter II, which if you remember discussed a what if of the Western Roman Empire not falling in 476 like it did in real history. In chapter II, we discussed one crucial moment in the year 472 wherein if the Western Roman emperor then Procopius Anthemius survived his assassination attempt, which thus could enable the Western Roman Empire to continue living on rather than falling 4 years later when its last emperor Romulus Augustus was overthrown by his barbarian general Odoacer who refused to rule as emperor and instead make what was left of the Western Roman Empire as his own “Kingdom of Italy”. For this spin-off story’s case, now that the Western Roman Empire would still survive, we would go with a fictional scenario of what would be a “world war” in the 5th century happening more than a thousand year since the first world war began in 1914, and this world war in the late 5th century would be between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires against the newly formed barbarian kingdoms in Europe and North Africa. Now the cause for this world war to break out would basically be Western Rome surviving which would thus lead to more conflicts to hatch out when the Romans of both the east and west would begin reconquering lands they have lost to these barbarians which would then create these new barbarian kingdoms forming alliances against the Romans that would escalate into wars all over the Roman world in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This spin-off story will start after the fictional fall and deaths of Ricimer and Odoacer which was the climax of chapter II, and following that the death of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor Leo I in 474. However, despite both the evil and scheming barbarian puppet master generals Aspar (of the east) and Ricimer (of the west) finished off in 471 and 472 respectively, the Roman emperors being Zeno- Leo’s successor- in the east and Anthemius in the west would still have to face the consequences for their actions in killing these powerful men when the barbarian kingdoms in an act of avenging the deaths of Aspar and Ricimer ally with each other against both Romans of the east and west when the Eastern and Western Romans too would begin counter-attacking the barbarians. What will then be the result will be as I mentioned the first world war about 1,500 years before World War I broke out. The world war in this story would thus feature a war between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires that would be forced to ally with other barbarian kingdoms and tribes such as the Franks against the barbarian kingdoms of the Vandals, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Suebi, Huns and more. With this story being one about a world war, most of you would already immediately think that this story will be purely about battles and nothing more, but in truth the battles will just be half of the story and the other half would include the politics of the time, forging alliances, a bit of family drama, and so much geography as this story features so many locations from North Africa to Italy, Gaul, Spain, Asia Minor, Thrace, Syria, and the Balkans, while also featuring an unlikely angle of the Sassanid Persian Empire being involved in the war as well. Basically, whatever will happen in this story will just seem so absurd especially with so much wars going in such a fast pace that it may already not seem like a possibility in the 5th century, but since this story is mostly fantasy, I will make it that way. Now, if you finished reading chapter II, you may remember that I already hinted the possibility of this late 5th century world war happening at the end of it together with a summary of this said world war and how I think it will play out, however I did not really go into detail discussing it in chapter II, thus this story will be the one to discuss it in a more detailed way. Here however, we will discuss not only about how the battles will be fought but how things will change for both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires because of the wars as well as the shifting of alliances and betrayals all because of this unforeseen war breaking out. Additionally, I would like to give a shoutout here to Byzansimp and Maiorianus, two new channels I discovered which do a great job in retelling the Eastern and Western Roman stories summarizing it through detailed animation, and here the video by Byzansimp on the Leonid Dynasty does have a major role in creating this story and so do many videos from Maiorianus. Other than that, I would also like to mention the several artists whose works featuring scenes from the late Roman era which will appear here and these include, Aureliokos, HistoryGold777, Ediacar, Giuseppe Rava, Spatharokandidatos, Ossihiekkala, CannicusPalentine, Amelianvs, Simulyaton, and Omid Goudarzi.
The Leonid Dynasty (Byzansimp)
The Fall of Rome: Unbiased History- Rome XIX (Dovahhatty)
The Byzantine Empire: Unbiased History- Byzantium I (Dovahhatty)
The Fall of Rome and its Impact (Kings and Generals)
The Story of Emperor Zeno (Animated History)
Additionally I also had the honor of writing an article about Emperor Zeno for another history blog site, check it out here!
The Leading Characters:
Zeno- Eastern Roman emperor since 474
Procopius Anthemius- Western Roman emperor since 467
Basiliscus- Eastern Roman general and Zeno’s rival
Leo II- Son of Zeno and Eastern Roman co-emperor
Ariadne- Eastern Roman empress, wife of Zeno and mother of Leo II
Illus- Eastern Roman general
Julius Nepos- Western Roman governor of Dalmatia
Theodoric the Amal- King of the Ostrogoths
Cyriacus- Western Roman general
Syagrius- Western Roman governor of Gaul
Clovis I- King of the Franks
Theodoric Strabo- Eastern Roman rogue mercenary general
Huneric- King of the Vandals
Euric- King of the Visigoths
Verina- Eastern Roman empress, mother of Ariadne
Marcian- Son of Anthemius and Western Roman co-emperor
Trocundes- Eastern Roman general, brother of Illus
Longinus- Eastern Roman general, brother of Zeno
Alaric II- King of the Visigoths since 484, son of Euric
Marcus- Son of Basiliscus
Feletheus- King of the Rugii
Balash- Shah of the Sassanid Empire
Recap of Chapter II and the Events in Real History
In chapter II of Byzantine Alternate History, we began with the event of the permanent division of the Roman Empire between east and west in 395, followed by the massive migration and invasion of several barbarian tribes crossing the Rhine in 406, the collapse of Roman authority in the west, the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, and the establishment of new barbarian kingdoms in the Western Roman Empire’s lands in Western Europe and North Africa.
From the 410-430s, the geography of the Western Roman Empire began to drastically change now that control of a lot of their territories had slipped away and thus fell to several barbarian tribes that would establish their own kingdoms there. These barbarian tribes that settled in the lands of the Western Roman Empire included the Visigoths, Burgundians, Suebi, Alans, Vandals, and Franks wherein at first, they settled down as Foederati or allied federate troops under their own leaders within the empire’s borders. However, over time as Roman military presence had diminished these barbarians living under “federate” status declared independence and formed their own kingdoms wherein the Visigoths took over most of Gaul and Spain forming their kingdom there, the Burgundians in Eastern Gaul, the Suebi in Spain, while Britain at this time which was previously a Roman province was abandoned by the Roman forces and left defenseless making it an easy target for Saxon pirates to invade it, thus afterwards Britain would disappear from history and again become a mysterious island in the north. The Vandals led by their king Genseric on the other hand joined forces with the Alans in Spain and invaded North Africa in 439 eventually establishing their kingdom there in 442. In the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire meanwhile, things were much more stable whereas their borders still remained intact while barbarians too had not taken over their lands, however in the 440s both Eastern and Western empires would face near extinction when the Huns that had for years been pushing these previously mentioned barbarian tribes into the Roman Empire had finally arrived and invaded the Roman borders themselves from the north. The Huns led by Attila first attacked the Eastern Roman Empire and even attempted in attacking its capital Constantinople only to be stopped by its newly constructed massive land walls, thus Attila retreated after being paid off by the Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II (r. 408-450).
Attila however instead chose to invade Gaul which was still held by the Western Roman Empire together with his new subjugated barbarian allies including the Ostrogoths, however Attila was defeated at the Battle of Chalons in 451 by the army of the Western Romans led by the general Flavius Aetius together with their temporary Visigoth and Burgundian allies who had the Huns as a common enemy with the Romans. In 452, Attila was forced to return to his base in Central Europe after the new Eastern Roman emperor Marcian (r. 450-457) sent an army to invade it while Attila was away, and in the following year Attila suddenly died thus relieving the world from the threat of the Huns who after Attila’s death fled back east after their Germanic barbarian subjects rebelled against them. Though the threat of the Huns disappeared, the Western Roman Empire’s days were already numbered as in 454 Aetius who was holding the empire together was assassinated by the jealous Western emperor Valentinian III (r. 425-455) who in the following year was himself assassinated, and in 455 as well the Vandals from North Africa led by Genseric attacked Rome making this the 2nd time Rome was attacked in the 5th century. The Vandals however did not capture Rome but instead stole its treasures, but this event would give rise to the Vandals as a new threat especially to the Eastern Roman Empire. In 457, both the east and west received a new emperor respectively Majorian in the west and Leo I the Thracian in the east, however both were installed in power by powerful Germanic descended barbarian puppet masters whereas Ricimer installed Majorian in power and Aspar installed Leo I.
In the east, Leo I in the first years of his reign just played along being Aspar’s puppet emperor as he was after all made emperor only because of his old age that made him seem to be someone easy to manipulate, while in the west Majorian was the opposite as he bravely reconquered what was once Roman territory in Gaul and Spain from the new barbarian kingdoms, though despite his efforts, he still failed when being betrayed and murdered by his puppet master Ricimer in 461 who started to believe Majorian was becoming far too independent and not the puppet he intended to have. In the next 6 years, Ricimer would be basically in charge of the Western Roman Empire all while both Northern Gaul and Illyria which were under Roman generals that opposed Ricimer declared independence from the Western Roman Empire and instead recognized Leo I in the east as their emperor, thus Western Roman control at this point was only limited to Italy and parts of Spain. In 467 meanwhile as the Western Roman throne in Ravenna was vacant, the Vandal king Genseric laid his eyes on it pressuring both Ricimer in the Western Empire and Leo I in the Eastern Empire to make Olybrius, a Roman of his own choice as the Western Roman emperor who was to be Genseric’s puppet, however Leo I countered it by sending his friend and former rival to the eastern throne Procopius Anthemius to the west and making him be crowned as his western co-emperor. In the following year 468, Leo I and Anthemius joined forces in launching a massive naval invasion of Genseric’s Vandal Kingdom of North Africa, however the mission was sabotaged at the naval Battle of Cape Bon when Genseric lured Leo’s fleet into a trap sending off fire ships which destroyed half of Leo I’s fleet.
Anthemius meanwhile like Majorian was beginning to behave too independently as the Western Roman emperor and again not as the puppet Ricimer intended to have, thus leading to a rift between both of them that would eventually escalate into a civil war. Leo I on the other hand being tired of being Aspar’s puppet organized a plot to eliminate Aspar, thus in 471 Aspar was assassinated, and the army in the east was free of Germanic barbarian influence. Leo I then replaced Aspar and his Germanic barbarians that made up most of the Eastern Roman army with a new group of people which were the Isaurians, a fierce and warlike people from the mountains of Asia Minor who despite being Roman citizens were still seen as “semi-barbarian” as they did not speak Greek or Latin and still lived in tribal societies, and the leader of these people who Leo chose as his right-hand man was Zeno, originally known as Tarasikodisa in his native Isaurian language. In 472 then, as a small civil war between Anthemius and Ricimer broke out in the west, Leo feeling pressured by Genseric again to make Olybrius the Western emperor came up with a trick by sending Olybrius from Constantinople to Italy claiming he was there to assassinate Anthemius and be replaced as the new emperor who would be a puppet not only of Ricimer but of Leo and Genseric as well, however Leo had actually sent secret orders to Anthemius to kill Olybrius and Ricimer as well, as Leo hoped that he and Anthemius would rule together as emperors free from their barbarian puppet masters. In real history however, Ricimer intercepted the letter from Leo thus making Olybrius his new puppet emperor while besieging Anthemius at Rome making this the 3rd time Rome was attacked in the 5th century, this time by Ricimer and his disorganized savage army which were mostly made up of barbarian Foederati allies.
Anthemius in real history was defeated in 472 and when found was executed under Ricimer’s orders, although later that year both Ricimer and Olybrius died. In chapter II however, the major difference which altered history was that Anthemius managed to get the letter and immediately after reading it, he pulled out his sword and killed Olybrius on the spot afterwards dueling with Ricimer wherein Anthemius won and ordered the soldiers sent by Leo to execute Ricimer. However, the execution of Ricimer in chapter II led to Ricimer’s Foederati troops to rebel and continue attacking Rome until Leo I sent a reinforcement army to Rome led by his most trusted general Zeno and the Western Roman governor of Dalmatia Julius Nepos to attack Ricimer’s forces outside Rome. In chapter II’s climax, both Zeno and Nepos were able to relieve Rome as well as killing two of Ricimer’s top commanders the Burgundian Gundobad and the Ostrogoth Odoacer, and true enough both men played an important part later on as Gundobad succeeded Ricimer as the new puppet master in the west while Odoacer 4 years later in 476 was the one who toppled the Western Roman Empire itself by deposing the last emperor Romulus Augustus (r. 475-476). Chapter II then ended with the Eastern and Western Romans victorious at the Battle of Rome in 472, Anthemius continuing his reign as the Western Roman Emperor, and Leo I doing as he did in real history dying in 474 wherein Zeno succeeded him as emperor.
In real history, Anthemius’ forces lost to Ricimer who then captured and beheaded Anthemius on July 11 of 472, thus Olybrius became Ricimer’s new puppet emperor but later that year both Olybrius and Ricimer died. Ricimer was then succeeded as the puppet master of the Western Roman Empire by his nephew the Burgundian Foederati commander Gundobad who in 473 proclaimed the commander of the Palatini or palace guard forces in Ravenna Glycerius as his puppet emperor, however Gundobad was not there to stay as shortly after making Glycerius emperor, Gundobad had to return to his Burgundian Kingdom in Gaul to rule it as his father the Burgundian king Gondioc had died leaving Glycerius to rule alone. In the east meanwhile, Leo I still lived and after the deaths of both Anthemius and Olybrius, Leo not recognizing Glycerius as emperor appointed the same Governor of Dalmatia Julius Nepos as the new Western emperor sending him to Italy, and when arriving in Italy in 474, Glycerius surrendered to Nepos without a fight as Glycerius never wanted to be emperor anyway. As Nepos became the new Western Roman emperor recognized by the Eastern emperor Leo I, Glycerius was sent over to Nepos’ base in Dalmatia and made its bishop while Nepos as emperor somewhat succeeded in launching a naval invasion that temporarily recaptured the Southern coast of Gaul from the Visigoths but while in the middle of doing this in 475, Nepos was out of the blue overthrown by his general Orestes, a Roman citizen of barbarian origins who previously served Attila as a secretary.
Orestes then successfully drove Nepos away from Italy sending him back to Dalmatia to be together with Glycerius, though rather than making himself emperor, Orestes proclaimed his 15-year-old son Romulus Augustus as his puppet emperor showing that the position of the Western Roman emperor had become a joke and that anyone including weak children like Romulus could be made emperor. Orestes’ authority too however would be challenged and his was by the Ostrogoth Foederati commander Odoacer who was also once a servant of Attila before serving Ricimer, and here Odoacer demanded Orestes give him a third of land in Italy as a reward for helping Orestes depose Nepos, however Orestes refused but he was eventually captured and executed by Odoacer. In September of 476 then, Odoacer marched into Ravenna and easily forced Romulus to surrender to him in exchange for being spared and exiled to a fortress in Southern Italy, although Odoacer when taking over the Western empire chose to not make himself emperor anymore but instead just “King of Italy” as there was no more need for the title of “emperor” considering that for the past years the emperors have all become puppets to barbarian generals while the Western Roman Empire too by 476 only consisted of Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and parts of Dalmatia (Croatia) which were although semi-independent under Nepos.
Odoacer then sent the crown and imperial robes of Romulus to Constantinople which were received by the new emperor Zeno who since Leo I’s death in 474 came to power while in Ravenna, Odoacer as the new king of his own Kingdom of Italy still chose to keep the Roman senate as they after all recognized him as king, however Zeno on the other hand only recognized Odoacer as his vassal King of Italy. Julius Nepos meanwhile still survived in Dalmatia and still had a claim to the Western throne, thus he asked Zeno for money and military aid to retake the west, though Zeno instead chose to just recognize Nepos as the Western Roman emperor in name only. Nepos would thus never be able to retake the Western throne as in 480 he was assassinated leading Odoacer to annex Nepos’ territory in Dalmatia to his Kingdom of Italy. Although both the Western Roman Empire in Ravenna and Nepos’ holdings in Dalmatia had fallen, there was still one more Western Roman state still existing, and this was Northern Gaul which then evolved into the Kingdom of Soissons after declaring independence from the Western empire in 461 following Majorian’s death, however the Kingdom of Soissons would not last long as in 486 it fell under the rule of the new Frankish kingdom that had established its rule in Northern Gaul. The Eastern Roman Empire- better known as the Byzantine Empire- then became the only existing Roman Empire and its emperor Zeno as the first emperor to be the first sole Roman emperor since 395.
The Reigns of Zeno, Basiliscus, and Anthemius, and the Beginnings of the World War (472-477)
In the case of this story now that Anthemius survived the attempt on his life and the Battle of Rome in 472 and with his puppet master Ricimer dead, he was his own emperor with no puppet master to answer to except of course to his eastern co-emperor Leo I who was more senior to him in rank as ever since the full division of the Roman Empire in 395, the Eastern Roman emperor had become the more senior emperor of the two thus the Western emperor answered to him and got his recognition from the Eastern emperor as the west was basically the east’s satellite state, and if the Western emperor did not have the recognition of the Eastern emperor he would be seen as a usurper.
With Ricimer as well as Gundobad and Odoacer dead, Anthemius would thus continue to rule the west alone following his victory in the Battle of Rome- in this story’s case- in 472, however his Western empire would basically just be Italy and parts of Illyria as Northern Gaul was still independent while the Romans had already completely lost control of Spain. Now with Anthemius continuing his reign, Olybrius would not succeed him like in real history as he was already killed before the battle began, and so would Glycerius, as with Gundobad no longer around he would not be proclaimed emperor and instead just be a random palace guard commander in Ravenna, while Leo I too would not have to appoint Julius Nepos as his Western co-emperor due to his ally Anthemius still being around, and of course Romulus Augustus would still never be emperor as with Anthemius still around there would basically be no need while Romulus too would not be deposed in 476 due to Odoacer having already been killed earlier on in the Battle of Rome. Instead, both Romulus and his father Orestes will not appear in this story, and instead would end up living quiet lives away from the action. Now with Anthemius still alive here in 472, the moment he returned to the west’s capital Ravenna from Rome where the battle against Ricimer’s Foederati forces took place, he would first reunite with his wife Empress Marcia, but would also get news that the independent Roman king of Soissons in Northern Gaul which was Syagrius– who had ruled it since 464 after his father the general Aegidius who back in 461 declared the land independent after Majorian’s death was assassinated under Ricimer’s orders- had decided to renounce his rebellion and return his lands to Anthemius’ control with Syagrius now renouncing his title as “king” and instead just asking to return to being its governor as the emperor Anthemius was someone he could trust unlike Ricimer. However, despite Syagrius’ Kingdom of Soissons returning to the Western Roman Empire, it was still cut off by land to it as the Visigoth and Burgundian kingdoms were located between Soissons and the main Western empire. Anthemius though would not immediately return to war after just surviving one and almost getting killed, thus throughout the latter part of 472 and for the rest of 473, he would stay in Ravenna and plan out his future goals for the empire together with his new general the Isaurian Cyriacus– the fictional character introduced in chapter II- who personally killed Aspar back in 471 and in 472 beheaded Ricimer after Ricimer lost to Anthemius in a duel who now after the battle took the place of Ricimer as the new Magister Militum or “Master of Soldiers” in Italy, while Anthemius too would exchange letters with Syagrius in Soissons discussing their plan to recapture the rest of Gaul from the Visigoths and Burgundians in order to reconnect Soissons to the empire. In the meantime, following the 472 Battle of Rome and the victory of Anthemius and his allies, Anthemius’ daughter Alypia who was previously married to Ricimer was now engaged to the Western Roman governor of Dalmatia Julius Nepos who now returned his loyalty to Anthemius and the Western empire, and as Anthemius returned to Ravenna his daughter Alypia would return with Nepos to his base which was the former Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace in Spalatum (in today’s Split, Croatia) in Dalmatia. Here they would now get married despite the large age gap as Alypia was only 19 here and Nepos already 42, however Alypia in this case would get along with Nepos more compared to her previous husband Ricimer who was at most times abusive and even older than Nepos was whereas Nepos by 472 was 42 and Ricimer who died in this year was already 54 and Nepos too was more respectful and better off with her as he was a Roman with a Roman mind like her unlike Ricimer who was a full barbarian in a Roman disguise.
Back in Constantinople meanwhile, Leo I would still be in power in 473 although already aging and weak, and due to Leo organizing Aspar’s assassination in 471, the Ostrogoth Foederati commander Theodoric Strabo and his Foederati troops in Thrace rose up in rebellion against Leo I to avenge Aspar who was Strabo’s close ally and brother-in-law. In 472, Leo I’s generals which was his right-hand-man the Isaurian Zeno and Leo’s brother-in-law Basiliscus defeated Strabo in battle before Zeno departed for Italy to assist Anthemius- in the case of chapter II- however the defeated Strabo only agreed to put an end to causing trouble for the empire only if Leo granted him all of Aspar’s properties, for his Goth troops to be formally allowed to settle in Thrace, and to be appointed to the position of Magister Militum, however Leo refused all the terms and instead only made Theodoric Strabo Magister Militum, though Leo still had to suffer the headache of paying Strabo an annual tribute of 2000 gold pounds. Leo however would not pay tribute to Strabo for long as in January of 474, he died of dysentery at the age of 73, and in this story’s case Leo’s death was a long and painful one as for 5 days straight he had strong diarrhea attacks flushing his waste out at least 14 times a day to the point of dying, however in his last days he still remained in touch with his long-time friend and ally the Western emperor Anthemius in this story’s case as in real history Leo I outlived Anthemius by 2 years considering Anthemius in reality was killed in 472. Now, in this story just like in real history, Leo I would also die in 474 due to dysentery, however there would be one major difference, and in this story, it would be that Leo would be immediately succeeded by Zeno, his son-in-law who was married to Leo’s daughter Ariadne since 466, while in real history Leo I named his grandson also named Leo who was Zeno and Ariadne’s son as his co-emperor in 473, thus following Leo I’s death, his grandson Leo II succeeded him as emperor.
In this story however, Zeno would immediately succeed Leo I as everyone in the ruling family, the Leonid Dynasty would still think Leo II being only 7 was still too young to rule while Zeno who being already 49 here had all the experience he needed in running an empire, however to secure his legitimacy as emperor as he was only Leo I’s son-in-law and had no blood of his, he would make young Leo II his co-emperor though only making him a Caesar or junior emperor in title and not an Augustus or senior emperor. At Zeno’s coronation as the new Eastern Roman Augustus in 474, Anthemius himself would surprisingly travel back to Constantinople- where he was originally from before being appointed as the Western Roman emperor in 467- to attend Zeno’s coronation and congratulate him as after all Anthemius owed a lot to Zeno in saving his life by killing off Odoacer and his forces who were besieging Anthemius at Rome following the death of Ricimer. Other than Anthemius, Julius Nepos from Dalmatia together with his new wife and Anthemius’ daughter Alypia would travel to Constantinople too also to congratulate Zeno. Anthemius as well as Nepos would then stay in Constantinople longer to discuss with Zeno their future plans and during one dinner wherein Zeno would say that he has to first prioritize dealing with the troublesome Ostrogoth rogue general Theodoric Strabo in Thrace, Anthemius would suggest to Zeno here that he must make peace with the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa in order to fix his own problems within the empire as after all the Vandals have now become a major and deadly naval power in the Mediterranean while their king Genseric who had the ambition to expand his empire across the Mediterranean considering that it was all under him when the Vandals grew from being a small Germanic tribe that migrated into Roman territory to being the naval power of the Mediterranean that sacked Rome in 455 and defeated the Eastern and Western Romans’ massive fleet back in 468 was still alive although already in his 80s.
In real history too, Zeno in 474 sent envoys to Genseric in Carthage and did succeed in making peace with the very old Genseric, although in this story Zeno did just that but being advised by Anthemius while Genseric agreed to it anyway as he was already very old and did not want to continue fighting the Romans anymore knowing that his end was almost near. In this story the new emperor Zeno from here on too would begin growing closer to the Western emperor Anthemius wherein eventually both will advise each other on how to run their respective empires. What happened in real history but would not happen here was Zeno’s son Leo II ruling as emperor in 474 as here it would be Zeno that would be the co-emperor while Leo II just stayed in the side beginning his training to one day be emperor, though in real history Leo II was only emperor in name whereas his father Zeno was appointed as his co-emperor to basically run the show as Leo II in fact being too young could not even sign documents himself. Now what really happened in history was that Leo II only ruled in 474 as before the year ended, he died at only 7 due to an outbreak of a plague in Constantinople, and despite being an imperial child having the best medical care in the palace, child mortality rate was very high back then, thus children were always the first to die from a plague no matter what their class in society was.
In real history, Leo II’s parents Zeno and Ariadne may have not really been saddened about his death as back then parents expected their children to die at a young age as it was normal back then for it to happen, however in this story’s case Zeno and Ariadne would not let their only child Leo II die as he was the only direct descendant of Leo I by blood making him very crucial in continuing the Leonid Dynasty, and so the moment this plague broke out in Constantinople, Zeno and Ariadne would immediately get Leo II away to the suburbs in the Asian side across the Bosporus strait where it was more spacious and had less people, and thus with Leo being there he would not suffer the same fate he did in reality. Although Leo II in this story would be spared from death, the one who would be threatened here is Zeno and despite being already the emperor, his Isaurian origins made him highly unpopular among the elites of Constantinople as being Isaurian, they saw him as a primitive mountain-man that did not deserve the throne while they too saw him as a power-hungry opportunist who married into the imperial family only to be emperor. The elites of Constantinople too were not content with Zeno appointing his fellow Isaurians to high government and military positions and these included his younger brother by 12 years Longinus, and two other Isaurian warriors Illus and Trocundes who were both brothers too, as these Constantinople elites could not accept the fact that these rough mountain-men after just being recruited into the Excubitors, the newly created imperial guard force by Leo I were now the ones running the empire believing they now replaced the Germans which made up most of the army before Apsar was killed in 471.
Most people in Constantinople too could not stand the unruly and drunk behavior of the Isaurian troops in the city that beat up people in the streets when drunk and even looted precious items from the homes of others, though many of the rich families of Constantinople started hiring these Isaurian thugs as their bodyguards being impressed with their fierceness. The one however who hated Zeno most was his mother-in-law Verina, the wife of the late Leo I and Ariadne’s mother who was not content with being a widow and therefore wanted to continue being in power while also seeing Zeno as an outsider, and so in early 475 she together with her new lover Patricius, her brother the general Basiliscus, and the Ostrogoth Theodoric Strabo who was still out there causing trouble despite already losing one eye in a battle previously- especially more so since his position as Magister Militum had just been stripped by Zeno- hatched a plot to overthrow Zeno, which happened in real history as well. One day as Zeno was presiding over the chariot races in Constantinople’s Hippodrome, a large riot broke out and was soon directed against him, though right when the riots began, Zeno received a note telling him to flee the city or he would be killed. At the dead of night, Zeno together with Ariadne, and a few of his loyal Isaurian troops as well as his brother Longinus and mother Lallis managed to flee Constantinople taking the imperial treasury with them escaping east to Zeno’s homeland of the Isaurian mountains in Southern Asia Minor. With Zeno gone, the one to take the throne was Basiliscus who despite working with Zeno before as both were generals serving Leo I hated Zeno who Basiliscus felt was arrogant towards him, and the moment Zeno left, Basiliscus had his sister Verina’s new lover Patricius executed, although in this story Basiliscus when taking the throne would leave young Leo II unharmed as he was a relative, and instead would still keep Leo II as his co-emperor.
Basiliscus being the brother-in-law of the late emperor Leo I and the younger brother of Leo’s wife Verina by 2 years in 475 was around 53- in this story’s case- just 3 years older than Zeno, and ever since Leo came to power as emperor in 457 when being installed by Aspar, Basiliscus due to his family ties to Leo I quickly rose up the ranks to becoming a general in the Eastern Roman Empire despite his humble origins coming from the Balkans, and his first significant battle was in 466 where together with Aspar and Anthemius when the latter was still living in Constantinople defeated a combined army of invading Huns and Ostrogoths in the Balkans. In 468, Basiliscus led the disastrous 1,000 fleet expedition against the Vandals at the Battle of Cape Bon wherein Basiliscus himself was responsible for the failure as he accepted a bribe from Aspar to sabotage Leo I’s reputation by agreeing to a truce with the Vandals which allowed Genseric to buy some time to launch fire ships and destroy half of the fleet. Basiliscus though returned back to Constantinople and sought refuge in the Hagia Sophia where he was found by a very angry Leo who however spared him when Verina intervened convincing her husband to just let Basiliscus live in exile somewhere in Thrace. Basiliscus however returned to the picture in 471 where together with Zeno took part in the plot to murder Aspar and following that he and Zeno put down the rebellion of the Ostrogoth Theodoric Strabo, and despite them working together here, they still despised each other as basically Basiliscus was condescending towards Zeno due to Zeno’s semi-barbarian Isaurian origins while Zeno despised the arrogance and stupidity of Basiliscus.
Now in 475 with Zeno and his Isaurians fleeing back to the mountains of Isauria, Basiliscus took the throne, and though he was initially popular among the Constantinople elites, he would actually turn out to be even more unpopular than Zeno among the common people as no matter how much the people hated Zeno for being an outsider, Basiliscus was even more hated as he lacked the brains to run an empire while his policies were more or less idiotic. First of all, ever since Zeno escaped with the imperial treasury, the empire was near bankrupt forcing Basiliscus to levy heavy taxes on the people only to use the money to host lavish parties and decorate the palace, while to raise money he too resorted to selling government positions to whoever could buy them, and being known to have a bad temper Basiliscus when rising to the throne allowed the people angry at the Isaurians to freely massacre the Isaurian population in Constantinople which eventually further alienated him from the majority as even though many hated the Isaurians, they saw this massacre as already a bit too much. At the same time, Basiliscus also further lost his popularity when he chose to support the Monophysite Christians who were declared heretical ever since 451 over the empire’s Orthodox population which was the majority, while in his free time Basiliscus walked around the palace dressed as the Ancient Greek mythological hero Achilles believing too that he was Achilles reborn. In this story’s case with Zeno’s son Leo II being still alive and remaining in Constantinople while his father and mother fled to Isauria, Basiliscus would go as far as getting his hands on his young nephew Leo and slowly turning him against his father making him believe Zeno was not worthy of being emperor, but being too young Leo would not fully understand what his uncle was making him believe. The downfall of Basiliscus though would happen not too long after as in early 476- in this story’s case- a great fire broke out in Constantinople as it also did in real history which went as far as destroying the city’s main library burning as far as 120,000 books, thus this event was said to have been a divine sign that his days as emperor was numbered. Additionally, Basiliscus appointed his friend Armatus to the position of Magister Militum Praesentalis or commander of the praesental army, the position Theodoric Strabo held before, thus this action also turned Strabo who was still out there against Basiliscus despite Strabo initially supporting Basiliscus against Zeno.
In the meantime, the senate in Constantinople too had already been conspiring to bring back Zeno and overthrow Basiliscus and when Basiliscus sent his supposed Isaurian ally generals the brothers Illus and Trocundes to hunt down Zeno in Isauria, they secretly received orders from the senate to switch their support to Zeno behind Basiliscus’ back. When arriving in Isauria, Illus and Trocundes at first acted as if they were following Basiliscus’ orders when besieging Zeno and his loyal forces at a hill in Isuaria that locals ironically called “Constantinople”, and here the brothers were able to capture Zeno’s brother Longinus and keep him as a hostage before eventually stopping the attack and switching their support to Zeno. Once Illus and Trocundes joined forces with Zeno and his Isaurians, they together with Ariadne and Longinus as well as the imperial treasury marched back to Constantinople, however Zeno’s mother Lallis in this story’s case chose to remain in her native Isauria to live out her life back there as she was already very old, and thus she would no longer be mentioned after this. Illus and Trocundes also had many reasons to return their support to Zeno as first of all they together with Zeno were Isaurians while the brothers too were angered by how Basiliscus ordered the massacre of the Isaurians in the capital, though the brothers too only agreed to fully support Zeno again if they were to keep Longinus as their hostage and basically someone serving as their blindly loyal hitman, as if Zeno would get into a disagreement with them, they would kill Longinus.
On the return march to Constantinople, Zeno and his forces would encounter the forces loyal to Basiliscus led by Armatus outside the city of Nicaea near Constantinople, though they would not get into any battle as here Zeno had promised to allow Armatus to keep his position of Magister Militum for life, thus Armatus too betrayed Basiliscus and switched sides to Zeno. When arriving outside the walls of Constantinople in August of 476, the gates were already opened by the locals for Zeno allowing him to once again enter the city with his forces while Basiliscus losing all support even from his sister Verina once again did as he did back in 468 hiding in the Church of the Hagia Sophia together with his wife Zenonis and son Marcus. Like in real history, here Zeno would find Basiliscus together with his wife and son inside the church and would agree to not shed any blood of his or his family members as they were inside a church, however in real history Zeno despite agreeing to spare them afterwards had them exiled to Cappadocia in Asia Minor where he had them 3 locked up in a cistern and starved to death, wherein the 3 of them all died by early 477. In this story though, Basiliscus when found would be imprisoned by Zeno while his wife and son were put under house arrest all while Zeno would decide on what to do with them, and here Zeno would remember Anthemius in the west while Ariadne too would convince him to spare her uncle Basiliscus as with the Western empire still around with Anthemius as its emperor, Basiliscus may still have a use in the battlefield especially against Theodoric Strabo in Thrace who was still rogue, and in assisting Anthemius as Zeno knew here that Anthemius despite being able to continue ruling the west was still threatened by the Visigoths and Burgundians in Gaul. Now the one major difference here in 476 in this story is that when Zeno returned to power, he would not receive the news of the fall of the Western Roman Empire to Odoacer as well as the crown and robes of the last Western emperor Romulus Augustus, as here in this case Odoacer had already died back in the battle of Rome in 472 and in fact killed by Zeno himself while Anthemius was still ruling the west, and Julius Nepos in Dalmatia too would not ask money from Zeno to retake Italy as the Western empire was still standing. Instead, Zeno when back in power in 476 would receive word from Anthemius congratulating him on returning to power while Anthemius in his letter knowing about Basiliscus’ rebellion would convince Zeno to spare Basiliscus believing he would have a use in the future. After being in prison for 2 months, Zeno thus freed Basiliscus as long as he renounced his rebellion and kept his word in being fully loyal to Zeno to the point of following every order otherwise Zeno would kill him with his bare hands, and considering Basiliscus’ lack of brains, he immediately agreed to the terms and was allowed to rejoin the ranks of the Eastern Roman Empire. With Zeno now back in power, he would then begin training his son and co-emperor Leo II to one day run the empire while also having him study together with Basiliscus’ son Marcus in order to strengthen ties between the rivals Basiliscus and Zeno.
Though Zeno returned to power and despite being initially backed by the people, he still remained unpopular again because of his Isaurian origins, though it was not only Zeno that was unpopular because of his origins but Anthemius in the west too. Anthemius meanwhile was still unpopular among the people in the west mostly because of his Greek origins being originally from Constantinople, as his Greek origins and more enlightened way of thinking being someone educated in Greek philosophy at Alexandria when he was younger made the more conservative people of the Western empire see him as a Pagan, thus for Anthemius to gain some popularity he saw that the only way was by winning military victories over the Visigoths and Burgundians in Gaul. In 476, Anthemius exchanging letters with the Roman governor of Soissons in Northern Gaul Syagrius would discuss their joint invasion of Visigoth Gaul wherein Anthemius and his forces would attack from the south and Syagrius from the north.
At this point, the King of the Visigoths Euric who had been in power for already 10 years had been a major threat to the Western Romans especially in expanding his kingdom as under his reign the Visigoth Kingdom covered a large portion of Gaul as well as Spain while Anthemius too had held a strong personal grudge against Euric and the Visigoths as in 471, Anthemius’ son Anthemiolus who was only 16 and training to be a general was ambushed and killed in battle in Gaul by Euric’s forces whereas the 3 generals accompanying him escaped to the hills of Gaul becoming bandits there. Anthemius at this point too wondered about whatever happened to Riothamus, the mysterious king of the civilized Britons who he asked for assistance from against the Visigoths in Gaul prior to Anthemiolus’ death who managed to cross over to Gaul from the mysterious island of Britain in 469 but was eventually defeated by the Visigoths leading him to flee east into Burgundian territory never to be heard from again as he may have possibly been killed by the Burgundians. Now in 476 as well, Anthemius would launch an invasion of Visigoth Gaul from the south, although this time not personally leading the army, instead it would be led by his new Isaurian general Cyriacus- who saved his life back in 472 from Ricimer after giving him the letter from Leo I- and here Cyriacus with his army would confront Euric’s Visigoths allied with Burgundians from Eastern Gaul and former Roman citizens from the area turned insurgents and bandits known as the Bagaudae in the Rhone valley in Gaul.
Here, Cyriacus would somehow manage to defeat the weaker and less organized Bagaude troops killing the same 3 generals who accompanied Anthemiolus back in 471 only to later desert to the Bagaudae, however his forces would still lose to the Visigoths and Burgundians led by Euric himself, thus Cyriacus would flee back to Italy with most of his army wiped out. Syagrius on the other hand who was in Northern Gaul however being cut off from the main empire ruled by Anthemius would come late attacking the Visigoths from the north only after Cyriacus and his men fled back to Italy, however even Syagrius would not score a victory over the Visigoths as the Visigoths were more in number. Anthemius meanwhile back in Ravenna would begin training his now 21-year-old son and co-emperor in the west Marcian, the twin brother of the late Anthemiolus to be a strong and intelligent emperor the way his father was, as at this point the young Marcian was rather still lazy and irresponsible while Anthemius’ 2 younger sons Flavius and Romulus who were only 17 and 14 respectively at this point were living in Constantinople being educated there, in this story’s case together with Leo II and Basiliscus’ son Marcus. Back in Constantinople, Basiliscus a year after his rebellion failed had come to regret his stupid decision in rebelling though he would put all the blame on his older sister Verina who Zeno would now target despite his wife Ariadne pleading to keep her mother unharmed, although the one thing that would trouble Zeno here in 477 was the same old Theodoric Strabo who was still rebelling in Thrace and threatening the local farmers there by burning their land.
For Zeno, the only solution he had when it came to taking care of Strabo was by getting Theodoric the Amal the new King of the Ostrogoths from the Northern Balkans (based in the former Roman province of Pannonia being today’s Croatia and Hungary) to assist in defeating Strabo by marching south to Thrace. Now the Ostrogoths (East Goths) ever since the 4th century were already a different group of Goths from the Visigoths (West Goths) going their own ways as the Visigoths also known as the Thervingi Goths after their victory over the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 settled within the Roman Empire eventually establishing their kingdom in Gaul after a long migration while the Ostrogoths being the Goths originally from today’s Ukraine back then known as the Greuthungi Goths were defeated and subjugated by Attila and his Huns, but following Attila’s death in 453 the Ostrogoths were their own people again eventually establishing their kingdom in what was Roman Pannonia in the Northern Balkans, and in 475 the young Theodoric the Amal became the King of the Ostrogoths. Theodoric Strabo on the other hand was a lowborn Ostrogoth who made a name for himself commanding Ostrogoth allied forces for the Eastern Romans and despite ironically having the same first name as the Amal, Strabo was from a different tribe from the Amal, while the Amal on the other hand being an Ostrogoth royal of the Amal Dynasty was in his younger years educated in Constantinople by no other than Aspar himself when the latter was still alive. Now back in 477 just like in real history, Zeno here as the Eastern emperor would have Theodoric Strabo and Theodoric the Amal battle each other, however things would only backfire when the Amal would fail to attack Strabo due to Strabo managing to escape, thus the Amal would instead end up pillaging his way down to Greece where Zeno too would fail to stop him. In 477 as well just like in real history, news reached both Zeno and Anthemius from the Vandal Kingdom that their great and ambitious king Genseric that built up the Vandal Kingdom from scratch had died at the age of 88, and in his last years with Genseric already very old he no longer had the ambition to attack the Eastern and Western Romans, also considering that he and Zeno already sealed an “eternal peace”. However, the new king that came to the Vandal throne which was Genseric’s son Huneric– in this story’s case- was still intent to continue his father’s expansionist policies which thus began troubling both Zeno and Anthemius when he came to power.
The First Phase of the World War (477-484)
In 477, in the Eastern Roman Empire the threat of the rogue Ostrogoth Theodoric Strabo in Thrace was still at large especially since Strabo was not yet given back his position of Magister Militum which is primarily the reason why he was rebelling. The man to take Strabo’s position was Armatus who was mentioned earlier, although despite Armatus assisting Zeno earlier on in taking back the throne from Basiliscus after betraying Basiliscus, Zeno eventually grew suspicious of him. In real history, Zeno in 477 had Armatus killed, and same will be said as well in this story, though here in this story Zeno tasked the Isaurian general Trocundes, the brother of Illus to do the job, and so here Zeno sent Trocundes to Armatus’ house in Constantinople where he stabbed Armatus to death in his sleep. Just like in real history with Armatus killed, the people of Constantinople rejoiced as he had proven to be such a headache to them, thus Zeno had all of Armatus’ property confiscated and made a property of the empire.
In the meantime, Zeno was still busy dealing with the rebellious Theodoric Strabo in Thrace and every time he sent troops to stop him, Strabo kept on evading and fleeing to the mountains of Thrace while even Zeno’s best generals Illus and Trocundes in this story too failed to deal with Strabo while Theodoric the Amal, the Ostrogoth king and the ally Zeno originally wanted to deal with Strabo never listened to Zeno anyway. At the same time, when hearing of the death of the Vandal king Genseric and his son Huneric becoming the new Vandal king who Zeno felt would break the “eternal peace”, Zeno already began making preparations for war against the Vandals once again. Again, Zeno was still not popular among his subjects especially among the aristocrats of Constantinople, again because of his Isaurian origins but also because of his rather thuggish and unrefined personality as a mountain-man, while the elites of Constantinople too could not accept the more unrefined and thuggish rulers of the reigning Leonid Dynasty first being Leo I who was originally a lowborn and uneducated Thracian peasant and his successor Zeno who was an Isaurian as compared to the previous ruling Theodosian Dynasty (395-457) in which its rulers came from aristocratic backgrounds and were more refined gentlemen. Zeno now was the complete opposite of a refined gentleman as not only was he a violent mountain-man who was fond of picking fights but he did not resemble an emperor in appearance as most of the elites pictured their emperor as a good-looking man with fine features but Zeno was rough and swarthy in appearance with a rough provincial voice as well while his wife Empress Ariadne too was not the elegant empress in the people’s imagination as she too was somewhat unattractive and not also of aristocratic background as both her parents Leo I and Verina were both of low birth. Another reason to why Zeno was not accepted by his people was because of him just like Basiliscus in his short-term as emperor sympathizing with the heretical Monophysite Christians in the east, and Zeno favoring the Monophysites was also because of his Isaurian origins as being from the east, he understood the Monophysite view more. However, in real history Zeno was even more unpopular because it was in his reign that the Western Roman Empire fell which also caused unrest in the Eastern Empire, although what would remain unchanged in this story just like in real history would be that Zeno’s reign would see a riot in Constantinople taking place every week.
Zeno here facing so much trouble would consult with the one man he always turned to for advice, and this was the somewhat insane ascetic monk Daniel the Stylite who ever since Leo I’s reign chose to isolate himself above a pillar in Constantinople, and here Zeno would stand below Daniel’s column asking what should be done for him to be accepted by his people. Daniel would tell Zeno here to try to appear more approachable to his people, listen to them more, and do at least something that will make him popular. Zeno now taking the advice decided that in order to make himself accepted by his people, he must finish off where Leo I had failed and once again rebuild the navy and plan an invasion of Huneric’s Vandal Kingdom of North Africa before Huneric himself begins threatening the empire, and so Zeno believed it was time to break the “eternal peace” he made earlier with the Vandals. Throughout 478 and 479, Zeno ordered the other half of Leo I’s fleet that was lost in the failed 468 invasion of North Africa rebuilt while also recruiting thousands into the army training them for the ultimate objective to once and for all destroy the Vandal Kingdom and take back North Africa.
Zeno together with his brother Longinus, Illus, Trocundes, and Basiliscus as well who returned his loyalty to Zeno oversaw the training of the army and the construction of the fleet. Now 479 was a major year for Zeno’s reign in real history, as here Anthemius’ son Marcian who was in Constantinople in real history rebelled against Zeno attempting to claim the throne as Marcian felt he deserved it more than Zeno because for one he was the son of the former Western Roman emperor Anthemius and was also a grandson of the former Eastern Roman emperor Marcian who he was named after whereas Zeno and Leo I before him had no ties to the previous dynasty (Theodosian Dynasty), however Marcian’s rebellion failed as the Isaurian troops commanded by Illus put down Marcian’s rebellion in Constantinople resulting in Marcian banished and made into a monk. In this story however with Anthemius still being alive and the reigning Western emperor and his son Marcian with him in Ravenna as his co-emperor, Marcian here would have no reason to rebel against Zeno while he too just like in real history had already married Ariadne’s sister and Zeno’s sister-in-law Leontia making him a brother-in-law of Zeno too, though the one thing that will happen in this story in 479 just like in real history would be the 479 Constantinople earthquake that damaged a great portion of the city and ruined Zeno’s reputation as well.
In the west meanwhile, Anthemius after concluding a temporary truce with Euric and the Visigoths would do as Zeno did in constructing a large fleet as well in the bay outside Ravenna and overseeing the operations with Anthemius would be his son Marcian as part of his training to succeed his father one day while Anthemius too at the same time here would send word to his son-in-law the Magister Militum of Illyria Julius Nepos who was still answering to him to gather his troops as well, as together with Zeno they agreed to once again finish off where both the former Western emperor Majorian and Leo I failed in invading Vandal North Africa, respectively in 460 and 468. Back in 468, Leo had 1000 ships built with an army of about 100,000 on board as he fully intended to destroy the Vandal Kingdom but at the end the invasion still failed as a result of treachery, however despite it failing because of Basiliscus accepting a bribe from both Aspar and Genseric, Zeno and Anthemius believed that their fleet and army should be doubled if they are to take back North Africa for good. Before the invasion would be put into motion, Anthemius himself would travel to Constantinople once again in 479, here to discuss the plan with Zeno wherein they both agreed that if they take back North Africa, the land would be split wherein its capital Carthage would fall under the Eastern empire and everything west of Carthage which was once the Roman province of Mauretania would be under the west. In the meantime, the aristocratic and refined Anthemius during his stay in Constantinople would help Zeno get more used to the aristocratic way of living the same way Anthemius helped Leo I before, and here just as Anthemius did with Leo he would introduce Zeno to playing Tzykanion (polo) and to expensive food and wine, and Anthemius on the other hand was all willing to help Zeno feeling he owes Zeno a lot for saving his life back in 472. Now in 480, both the fleets constructed by Zeno and Anthemius in the past 2 years was completed and so the joint Eastern and Western Roman invasion of Vandal North Africa began whereas Anthemius’ fleet of 1000 carrying 100,000 men too set sail from the harbor of Ravenna while Zeno’s fleet also carrying 100,000 men set sail from Constantinople wherein it was agreed that they would meet off the coast of Carthage. The one put in charge of the Eastern fleet here was again the same Basiliscus who also commanded it in the failed expedition back in 468, however here Basiliscus promised to Zeno that he will make sure he would not screw up, while Zeno here too asked Trocundes to join Basiliscus in leading the invasion just to make sure Basiliscus was under control, while the Western fleet on the other hand was commanded by Anthemius’ most trusted general the Isaurian Cyriacus.
Now back in 468, the joint Eastern-Western Roman invasion of Vandal North Africa was led by Basiliscus commanding the Eastern fleet, the Governor of Illyria Marcellinus who was Julius Nepos’ uncle in charge of the Western fleet, and another Eastern Roman general named Heraclius in charge of the land invasion of Vandal North Africa from Egypt, however with Basiliscus ruining the invasion, Marcellinus who never made it to the battle was found in Sicily and killed under Ricimer’s orders while Heraclius too never made it to the Vandal Kingdom and instead disappeared into the Libyan Desert; and as Basiliscus fled the battle after leading the mission to failure, a brave Eastern Roman commander named Joannes made a last stand fighting off the Vandals by himself despite his ship being the last one captured by the Vandals causing him to jump into the sea as he preferred that to a shameful surrender to barbarians. This time however, everything seemed to be going as planned for the Romans as both Eastern and Western fleets met up, and once they met up, they sailed directly with full force to the harbor of Carthage. Here, Basiliscus unlike before when agreeing to a fake truce with the Vandals would dock 200 of his ships east of Carthage in order to lay siege to the city by land while 200 of the Western ships under Cyriacus docked west of Carthage in order to besiege the city from both sides. Out of the remaining 1,600 ships that did not go to either side of Carthage, half of them then sailed directly to the harbor of Carthage while the other half remained in place just in case reinforcements were needed.
The one now leading the charge directly into Carthage’s harbor here was the Isaurian Trocundes, and when seeing 800 ships sailing directly into Carthage’s circular-shaped harbor, the people of Carthage would be in panic, although those who were Romans within the city living under Vandal rule would rejoice as they were finally going to be rescued from the corrupt and intolerant rule of the Vandals. When seeing the Roman fleet headed directly into Carthage, Huneric here would order his ships to stop them and despite destroying a large part of the Roman fleet, the Romans still managed to break Huneric’s blockade and enter Carthage’s circular harbor which was surrounded by walls on all sides. Once inside the harbor, a number of the Roman ships docked and unloaded thousands of men storming into Carthage while Huneric would fight off the Romans himself until his men would be outnumbered, thus when night fell Huneric and a large number of his Vandal soldiers would escape Carthage into the deserts of what is now Tunisia. With Huneric escaping, Trocundes in charge of the invasion from the sea proclaimed Carthage liberated from the Vandals planting the Eastern Roman flag above one of the towers in its walls while the Western Roman forces of Cyriacus would after battling the Vandals guarding Carthage’s west gate storm into the city from the west while Basiliscus and his forces too would do the same storming into the city from the east. Huneric meanwhile was still around possibly gathering an army of reinforcements to recapture Carthage, thus to prepare for the event that Huneric shows up again, Basiliscus ordered the walls of Carthage to be defended by both Eastern and Western Roman troops, however Carthage as agreed still fell under the rule of the Eastern Romans.
Following the Romans’ capture of Carthage, Basiliscus at last did not seem stupid after all as he actually managed to chase Huneric away, thus following the capture of Carthage, the Western fleet succeeded in capturing Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands which had also been under the Vandals later in 480.
Although as agreed earlier on, these recently conquered islands would fall under the rule of the Western Roman Empire, however Huneric was still around and still in control of some parts of what was once the Roman province of Mauretania. The capture of Carthage thus signaled the beginning of this world war and with Huneric fleeing Carthage, he now turned to asking for an alliance with the other barbarian kings of Europe including Euric of the Visigoth Kingdom of Gaul and Spain, the small Suebi kingdom in Northwest Spain, and the Burgundians in Eastern Gaul ruled by the brothers Chilperic II and Godegisel. Although this said “world war” broke out, over in Constantinople things seemed to be going on as normal especially for the younger generation wherein Zeno’s son Leo II was part of. Here in 481, Leo II already at 14 was doing well in his studies in Greek and Roman history, the Greek and Latin language, philosophy and geometry, oratory skills, and Roman law, however due to Leo not really spending time with his parents or family members as his parents Zeno and Ariadne were mostly busy running the empire without having any time for him, Leo would more and more be heavily influenced by the older kids he was studying with and these included his cousin and Basiliscus’ son Marcus who here was 17 and Anthemius’ sons Flavius and Romulus who were 22 and 19 respectively and already in the latter part of their studies (basically in college). Flavius and Romulus being of Greek aristocratic background and the sons of Anthemius grew up to be snobs who looked down on those they saw as primitive including Isaurians, and they being the older kids would influence the minds of Marcus and Leo II who were younger than them, and although Leo was an Isaurian in his father’s side he would be convinced by Flavius and Romulus to look down on his Isaurian origins and his father and to pick on the Isaurian students studying along with them despite these students being sons of Isaurian nobles. To impress his snobbish friends, Leo would soon enough join them in picking on the other Isaurian kids without Zeno yet knowing about it.
Zeno meanwhile in 481 was too busy again dealing with the rebellious Theodoric Strabo who Zeno was now intent to finish off that here when hearing of a new wild nomadic people north of the Danube known as the Bulgars, he hired them and asked them to hunt down and defeat Strabo. However, since Strabo knew the geography of Thrace a lot better than Zeno and the Bulgars did, he defeated these Bulgar horse warriors and following this he and his Ostrogoth Foederati marched straight to Constantinople intending to overthrow Zeno, although before making it to Constantinople Strabo unexpectedly slipped off his horse, fell into a spear, and died. With Strabo dead, his Ostrogoth Foederati would end up joining forces with the Bulgars Zeno sent against them, and later on with the Ostrogoths of Theodoric the Amal, thus Theodoric the Amal would here declare war on Zeno. In real history, when Strabo’s forces joined the Amal, Zeno offered the Amal the position of Magister Militum to settle him down as he did not want to battle the Amal, but in this story the King of the Ostrogoths Theodoric the Amal would in no way agree to peace with Zeno as here he would receive word from the exiled Vandal king Huneric, the Visigoth king Euric, and the Burgundian kings Chilperic II and Godegisel in which all were asking to join him in a barbarian alliance to take over Europe and destroy the Roman Empire.
Theodoric now was all for this alliance especially since he knew he would be its leader while he also truly had the ambition to capture Constantinople but could not achieve it as he lacked an army large in number while his Ostrogoth kingdom in the Balkans was also quite small, although Theodoric possessed a lot of cunning and intelligence especially in battle and diplomacy which was taught to him by Aspar back when he was educated in Constantinople as back in 461 when he was only 7 he was sent to Constantinople as a hostage by his father the previous Ostrogoth king Theodemir who back then concluded peace with Leo I. Theodoric was thus educated in both Roman politics and warfare under Aspar and other of the best Roman administrators receiving the best education, then in 470 with Theodoric already grown up he returned to his Ostrogoth kingdom in the Northern Balkans, and following his father Theodemir’s death in 475, Theodoric became the new Ostrogoth king. Knowing that Aspar, the teacher he looked up to a lot was killed by the Roman emperor which at that time was Leo I, Theodoric began holding a strong grudge against the Romans and even with Leo I having died back in 474, Theodoric transferred his hatred to Leo’s successor Zeno while his main purpose to declare war on the Romans was to avenge Aspar whereas the Visigoths, Suebi, and Burgundians too wanted to fight the Western Romans who were allied with the east to avenge Ricimer and Gundobad as Ricimer belonged to both the Visigoths and Suebi and Gundobad who in the case of chapter II died in battle against the Romans in 472 was the brother of the Burgundian kings Chilperic II and Godegisel, and in real history Gundobad too ruled the Burgundians together with his brothers beginning 473, and basically it would be the Burgundian kings Chilperic II and Godegisel that would really call for war against Rome to avenge not only their slain brother Gundobad but Ricimer who was their uncle. Theodoric here agreed to this “Barbarian Alliance” as long as he had more allies, thus he would also send word to the Suebi in Northwest Spain, the Alemanni tribes east of Gaul, and the peasant insurgents in Gaul known as the Bagaudae asking them to join his alliance. Now in 482, Zeno as well as Anthemius would hear that the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Alemanni, Suebi, and Bagaudae had formed a “Barbarian Alliance” against both Eastern and Western Roman Empires which caused great shock to them. It would also happen here in 482 that Theodoric the Amal would begin his attack on the Romans and as his Ostrogoth Kingdom was just to the northeast of Julius Nepos’ Dalmatia which was under the Western empire, he would easily attack Nepos’ territory with his Ostrogoths and Bulgar allies. Nepos however would manage to repel Theodoric’s invasion of Dalmatia though with difficulty as he did not have enough troops, thus Nepos would turn to making an alliance with the Rugii, another Germanic tribe that had just settled to the north of him (in today’s Austria) sending money to their king Feletheus in exchange for attacking the Ostrogoths from the north.
The Rugii though would manage to weaken Theodoric and his Ostrogoths, however having many tricks up his sleeves Theodoric would defeat the Rugii and their king Feletheus making them settle in his Ostrogoth kingdom as his own Foederati allies with Feletheus as their leader and vassal to Theodoric, thus turning Feletheus against Nepos. Eventually later on in 482, the Ostrogoths and their Rugii allies would conquer most of Nepos’ territory in Dalmatia leaving only the city of Spalatum which was Nepos’ base under his control. Seeing his position was in trouble, Nepos in late 482 would travel to Constantinople to ask for reinforcement troops from Zeno, although when arriving in Constantinople by sea, Nepos would already see that Anthemius came ahead of him. Anthemius meanwhile was facing the same situation as in 482 as well, the Visigoth king Euric now allying with the Burgundians and Alemanni as well as with the Bagaudae insurgents resumed war on the Western Romans threatening both the borders of Italy with Gaul and Syagrius’ cut-off province in Northern Gaul.
As Syagrius was under attack by the Visigoths from the south, he heard that another Germanic barbarian people known as the Franks which were for centuries either at war or peace with the Romans could assist them, particularly a young leader the Romans knew as Clovis– the son of the late Frankish ruler and Roman ally Childeric I (r. 458-481) from the Merovingian Dynasty- who known as Chlodovec in his native Frankish language led the Frankish tribe to the northeast of Syagrius’ province known as the Salians based in what is now Tournai in Belgium, and Clovis who had just began ruling the Franks a year earlier as Syagrius heard was someone willing to ally with the Romans (only in this story) despite being a barbarian. In Constantinople, Anthemius would report to Zeno about what he heard from Syagrius about this potential ally being Clovis and his Franks while also telling Zeno that a barbarian alliance had formed against them which Zeno had already known about also knowing that Theodoric the Amal was its leader. Meanwhile in 482, Zeno here in this story would also do as he did in real history in issuing a decree known as the Henotikon which was a comprise made to settle peace with the Monophysite Christians, however this totally angered the Patriarch of Rome Pope Felix III as the pope never approved of this compromise, and just like that leading to the first schism between the Patriarch of Constantinople- who at this time was Acacius– wherein the pope excommunicated the patriarch for agreeing to make peace with heretics, although Zeno was not excommunicated here. Now in Constantinople, Anthemius and Zeno would continue to bond while at the same time Basiliscus too had already returned from Carthage together with Trocundes reporting their success to Zeno saying that the Western general Cyriacus had stayed behind in North Africa to continue the conquests for the Western empire. Seeing that Basiliscus after all followed orders and was able to make up for his failure back in 468 by succeeding in capturing Carthage, Zeno would now end up getting along with him better despite them being enemies before, while in the following year 483- in this story’s case only- Zeno would appoint Basiliscus as consul, although by the 5th century the position of consul was only ceremonial with no more real function except to preside over parades and chariot races in Constantinople’s Hippodrome.
However, the good relations between Zeno and Basiliscus would not be doing too well as in this case, Basiliscus’ sister Verina who would again begin convincing Basiliscus to again turn on Zeno to the point that Zeno had already found out about it, however seeing that Basiliscus would still continue proving to be useful, he would instead decide to banish his mother-in-law Verina to a fortress in the mountains of Isauria known as Papurius, although Ariadne would object to sending her mother away. However, since the empire was at war and there would be no time for fighting among each other, Ariadne eventually agreed to having her mother banished in order to keep Basiliscus on track and not rebel against Zeno, basically for the good of the empire. In real history too, Zeno true enough did banish Verina to Isauria for her part in conspiring to overthrow him twice, and here in this story just like in real history Zeno would have his trusted general Illus guard Verina in prison as a high-profile prisoner, though Zeno’s brother Longinus who would return to the picture here would also be in charge of guarding the prison basically because he was still Illus’ hostage. Anthemius on the other hand remained in Constantinople for much longer as he already put his son Marcian in charge of Ravenna while he was away as Italy too was still safe despite its Western border with Gaul being attacked by the Visigoths and Burgundians. However, in 483 Zeno would somehow discover that his son Leo II was trying to somehow rebel against him by looking down on his father’s Isaurian origins and joining the elites that hated the Isaurians in picking on the Isaurian kids. When returning to the palace one day, the teenage Leo II would see his father Zeno, mother Ariadne, Basiliscus, and Anthemius all in one room as if they were going to lecture him, and true enough they did but not entirely to scold him for picking on his fellow Isaurians but because all 4 of them planned to make Leo gain some military and imperial experience by taking part in the ongoing war against the barbarians, while Basiliscus and Zeno too agreed that Basiliscus’ son Marcus was also to be trained in the ways of battle, thus Leo II here would join his father in one campaign which Zeno decided to lead himself while Marcus was to join his father in defending the Balkans from Theodoric the Amal.
In 483, Zeno himself would face 4 major problems all at the same time, first being the great war against Theodoric the Amal’s barbarian alliance, next his compromise he made with the Monophysite heretics the previous year which led to a schism with the pope, then his scheming mother-in-law Verina who he had imprisoned, and lastly his son Leo II who Zeno feared would one day turn against him due to Leo growing distant from his father and beginning to look down on his Isaurian roots. Here in 483, Zeno would decide to bring his now 16-year-old son Leo to his homeland, the mountains of Isauria to know about his past and to show him that the world is not just Constantinople and its surroundings. Leo here would be completely uninterested to visit the mountains of Isauria with his father and instead just wanting to stay in Constantinople with his friends, however his father who was a tough and strict soldier would not dare allow his son to grow up becoming a spoiled rich aristocrat, thus Zeno forced Leo to join him in his trip to Isauria. Here in Isauria, Zeno would show Leo II a structure he built high up in the mountains which was a 5-building monastery complex known as the Alahan Monastery, which still exists today in ruins.
When seeing this large monastery complex of 5 buildings built above high mountains, the teenage Leo would turn out to be in awe of it and the ability of his father to build something this grand that being all the way up in the mountains it had chambers built into the rock of the mountain, 2 churches including a cave church, gardens, terraces, a bathhouse, and living spaces for monks. Zeno and Leo II as well as their Excubitor bodyguards would thus spend a couple of days here to reconnect with nature and find clarity whereas the young Leo would soon enough find his purpose in life which was to serve his empire after enjoying the views from above and the place itself in general. Zeno here too would tell his son Leo all about his Isaurian origins and life growing up in the Isaurian mountains wherein life was hard up there where despite the young Zeno back then as Tarasikodisa even as the son of the war-chief Kodisa– who he was named after- had to learn to fight, hunt animals, chop wood, and cook out in the open ever since he was a child. However, while Zeno was away here in this monastery, little did he know that- in this story’s case- Theodoric the Amal had again some tricks up his sleeve, and here despite being all the way in his base in the Northern Balkans, he would somehow gain intelligence about Zeno’s personal life and how to destroy him from the inside. Theodoric here would hear that Zeno had a brother named Longinus who was a hostage of the Isaurian generals Illus and Trocundes in which the latter who in this case helped in capturing Carthage back for the Romans, in 482 returned to Isauria to guard Zeno’s mother-in-law in prison, thus here in this story only Theodoric managed to get word to Longinus asking him to ask Zeno to release him from being Illus’ hostage, although in real history it was really Zeno who asked Illus to release Longinus in which Illus refused.
Theodoric too in this case would go even further by somehow getting Zeno’s wife Ariadne involved in his plot by tricking her into sending over an assassin to her to kill Illus knowing that Ariadne wanted Illus to release her mother in which Illus refused, although in real history Ariadne really hired an assassin to kill Illus after Illus refused to release Verina. In this story though, Theodoric masterminded the whole plot in order to try getting Illus killed just so that Illus could blame it on Zeno and later turn on Zeno while also trying to get Longinus to break free, again so that Illus could go against Zeno as Theodoric here really wanted Zeno to be defeated from the inside as Theodoric knew he could not defeat Zeno personally, and knowing that Zeno would be defeated, Theodoric saw that Illus could be his puppet emperor in the future. The assassin sent by Theodoric now would be someone from the barbarian Alan people of Eastern Europe, and when arriving at the fortress of Papurius in Isauria where Illus was guarding Verina in prison, he would pretend to be acting on Ariadne’s orders, and one night he would spot Illus in the area and jump on him from above a ledge. The assassin however had only managed to injure Illus by cutting off one of his ears, while Illus in retaliation managed to break the assassin’s arm and hold his sword to his chest. Illus then would ask who sent the assassin, and although in this story Theodoric sent him, the assassin as instructed by Theodoric said Zeno sent him. Illus after getting what he needed to know then stabbed the assassin in his chest to death and believing Zeno sent the assassin, he was convinced Zeno betrayed him.
Zeno meanwhile would only hear of the trouble that had just stirred when returning to Constantinople with Leo from Isauria some months later and first he would receive word from Longinus who wanted to be released from Illus’ control, and later he would hear of Illus almost getting killed and worse than that Illus blaming Zeno for getting the assassin to kill him thus triggering Illus to rise up in rebellion against Zeno together with his brother Trocundes in which the latter due to helping in the recapture of Carthage gained a lot of popularity among his troops. In real history though when Illus raised the standard of rebellion against Zeno, Zeno from Constantinople sent an army to defeat Illus in Isauria led by a general named Leontius who was instead convinced to join Illus that Illus even crowned him as his puppet emperor as Illus being an Isaurian knew he would not have a lot of public support as emperor whereas Leontius would have more support as he was Syrian and seen as more civilized. In this story however, Illus in late 483 and early 484 would seize parts of Eastern Asia Minor and Syria including the city of Antioch for himself while Leontius like in real history would also be sent by Zeno to defeat Illus and his forces, although here Illus’ forces would kill Leontius in battle. In this story however, Illus would not need Leontius as his puppet emperor as he already knew he would be Theodoric the Amal’s puppet emperor in the future. In this story too just like in real history, Illus would capture the fortress of Papurius as well and turn it into his bastion while Illus too like in real history would also release Verina as an act of spite against Zeno. Verina however just like in real history would not have much longer to live and would die in 484 as well at the fortress of Papurius. As for Zeno, he would be really upset about Illus rebelling against him especially since they were supposed to be together in fighting this great war against the barbarian alliance, however Zeno would soon be convinced that it was no other than Theodoric the Amal that schemed to make Illus rise up in rebellion as a way to destroy Zeno. Now feeling that the world was against him, Zeno here would put aside all the advice he got in the past from both Daniel the Stylite and Anthemius to act more reasonable and instead go back to being the violent Isaurian he was born to be as long as it was for the good of the empire and ridding it from rebellions and barbarians interfering. Here in 484, Leo II would finally be on board in joining his father to crush Illus’ and Trocundes’ rebellion once and for all, thus Zeno in this case who would leave Julius Nepos behind to watch over Constantinople as he still remained there waiting for more reinforcements while Basiliscus and his son Marcus were away defending the Balkans from Theodoric.
Zeno together with Leo II would thus get their armor on and return to Isauria, this time to Illus’ stronghold the fortress of Papurius wherein even Zeno came to realize that it was impregnable. Despite knowing the terrain of Isauria so well as it was his homeland, Zeno would still besiege Papurius with such difficulty even when using all kinds of siege weapons available at his disposal including onagers, ballistae, and flaming arrows. After laying siege to Papurius for 2 months, reinforcements from the Ostrogoth Theodoric would arrive all the way in Isauria and these would include some Ostrogoth troops as well as their Rugii Foederati led by the Rugii’s ruler Feletheus while the sight alone of Feletheus with his height and large mohawk would scare both Zeno and Leo II to the point of making them flee wondering how in the world did barbarians from deep inside Europe get to the mountains of Asia Minor, while the surviving troops of Zeno would be massacred by Feletheus and his troops and those who survived taken into the fortress where Illus had them all executed. Though despite Zeno losing here, he now came to realize that he was still capable of leading his troops in battle as the emperor making him realize too that he was the first emperor to lead his troops in battle since Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395), although since he was defeated Zeno and his son Leo retreated again to the Alahan Monastery which was not too far away.
In the meantime, back in North Africa, the Western Roman forces led by Cyriacus following the capture of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands from the Vandals, they would begin conquering the rest of North Africa west of Carthage from the Vandals beginning 481.
By 482, the Western Romans here aided by the local Berber tribes of North Africa that had resented being ruled by the corrupt Vandals would chase Huneric and his Vandals all the way to the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco, and following that Huneric would lose his army and have no choice but to flee across the strait to Spain whereas Huneric lost the throne as well, thus basically putting an end to the Vandal kingdom. Now losing his throne, Huneric would have no choice here but to flee to the court of the Visigoth king Euric in Gaul as that was his closest ally, and there Huneric would convince Euric to give him troops in order to recapture North Africa. Huneric however would not have enough time to raise an army of Vandals and Visigoths to recapture North Africa as in 483 in this story, Visigoth territory in Eastern Spain would be attacked from the sea led by a portion of the same Western Roman fleet that recaptured Carthage back in 480, thus forcing Euric to send troops together with Huneric to defend the coast against the Western Roman fleet. Here, the Western Roman fleet and army would turn out to defeat Huneric’s Vandals and their Visigoth allies, and thus recapture the Eastern coast of Spain wherein the Western Romans would then establish the city of Carthago Nova (Cartagena) as their base there.
Now in 484, the Western Roman emperor Anthemius would decide to lead the army himself despite him now becoming old being already 64 here, overweight and swarthy, and bald above his head with long hair flowing down at the back, but at the end he still needed to do what had to be done, and being a general in his younger years he still knew what it was like to battle barbarians. In 484, Anthemius then had planned a 3-sided invasion of Visigoth Gaul wherein he would invade south from Italy, Syagrius again from his territory in Northern Gaul, and their new ally the young Frankish king Clovis from the east, and here Anthemius would finally get into contact with this Clovis he has always been hearing of. Clovis on the other hand despite being only 20 here in 484 had already possessed great skills in battle being trained how to fight with the Franks’ main weapons being the spear and sword ever since he was a young child in his capital Tournai, and although he was a barbarian Frank and still a Pagan, he was more fascinated with the Roman civilization and was more willing to be an ally of the Romans unlike the other barbarian kings which is why the Romans here would want to ally with the Franks as the Franks did true enough have more in common with the Romans than with their other fellow Germanic barbarians.
In this story, Clovis would be the one to be the most successful in battling the Visigoths and Burgundians in Gaul invading from the east, although he still would not entirely crush them as there was another smaller barbarian kingdom to the south of his Frankish kingdom, and this was the Alemanni. However, Clovis in this story would easily defeat and subjugate the Alemanni all in one swift campaign in 484 thus incorporating the small Alemanni kingdom to his Frankish kingdom and using the defeated Alemanni soldiers as his own Foederati troops, as after all the Foederati were all in all defeated barbarians made into allied soldiers by the ones who defeated them. Now having the Alemanni as Foederati in his army, Clovis’ army had doubled and thus would have more power to finally destroy the Visigoths and Burgundians, and with Clovis now gaining the upper hand against them, Anthemius now had more of a chance of winning and so did Syagrius. Due to Clovis now having weakened the Visigoths and Burgundians in Gaul by attacking from the north, this allowed Anthemius to now gain advantage over the Visigoths in the south thus allowing him to lead his troops west to the Rhone Valley returning this part of Gaul to the Western Roman Empire. Later in 484, the Visigoth king Euric after suffering a number of defeats to both Anthemius and Clovis would die of depression, although in real history Euric also died in 484 though not from sadness.
Following Euric’s death in late 484, he would like in real history also be succeeded by his son Alaric II who although inheriting a much-weakened Visigoth kingdom after Clovis crushed them in battle earlier that year, Alaric in this story would choose to submit to the much more powerful Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Amal as a full vassal despite Theodoric being too far away and cut off by land from the Visigoth kingdom of Gaul. In the meantime, in 484 as well, Theodoric the Amal’s forces had succeeded in capturing Nepos’ base of Spalatum in Dalmatia thus putting all of Dalmatia and Illyria under Theodoric’s Ostrogoth kingdom, although Nepos and his wife Anthemius’ daughter Alypia had happened to remain in Constantinople all this time when Spalatum had fallen to the Ostrogoths. With most of Illyria and Dalmatia now having fallen to the Ostrogoths, the Eastern Roman Empire was now fully cut off from the Western Roman Empire by land, thus Nepos being in Constantinople here would really need a fleet and army in order to take back his territory in Dalmatia. Another event that happened at the end of 484 just like in real history was the death of Huneric, the Vandal king; however here, the exiled Vandal king would die not in Carthage like in real history, but in Toulouse in Gaul which was the Visigoth capital while living in exile in the Visigoth court. Huneric here however would die the same way he did in real history by vomiting out blood, thus his death here gave the Romans one major relief which was that the Vandal Kingdom was no more as with Huneric dead, no one had a claim to the Vandal throne anymore and despite him being married to Eudocia, the daughter of the former Western Roman emperor Valentinian III (d. 455) and having a son together named Hilderic, Eudocia and Hilderic were found by the Western and Eastern Roman forces back in 480 when capturing Carthage and sent back to Ravenna where Anthemius allowed them to live freely as long as Hilderic renounced his claim to the Vandal throne.
The Final Phase of the World War and the Arrival of the Sassanids, Franks, and Saxons (484-488)
In the eastern part of the world on the other hand, the Eastern Roman Empire for almost the entire 5th century had been in peaceful terms with their eastern neighbor, the Sassanid Persian Empire basically because both back then had a common enemy which were the deadly Huns that could have ended the existence of both empires. The threat of the Huns however just simply vanished after Attila died in 453 followed by the Huns’ Ostrogoth and other Germanic subjects rebelling against their rule and succeeding thus forcing the Huns out of Europe to flee east and disappear. Although everyone thought the Huns had disappeared, in 459 they returned this time being a group of the Huns from Central Asia known as the Hephthalites or “White Huns” attacking the Sassanid Empire’s northeast border in which they continued doing so for years while the Eastern Romans throughout these years after 459 continued sending a few auxiliary troops to assist the Sassanids against the Huns.
At this time in 459 as well when the Huns began threatening the Sassanids, the reigning Sassanid emperor or shah Hormizd III was killed by his brother Peroz who apparently made a pact with the Huns in order to be made the new Sassanid shah. The pact Peroz I made with the Huns however did not last and soon enough both began battling each other again that at one point, Peroz was even taken prisoner by the Huns in 481 only to be released if he gave his son Kavad as a hostage for the Huns for 3 years. When Kavad was released 3 years later in 484, Peroz decided to cancel the treaty with the Huns and thus attacked them marching north to the Northeastern Sassanid province of Khorasan to confront the Huns where he established a base and rejected all peace offers from the Huns. The Huns thus ambushed Peroz and his army by surprise and at the end completely wiped out Peroz’ army killing the shah Peroz himself whose body was never found while a large number of Sassanid cities in that region fell to the Huns. With Peroz dead as well as his remaining sons and brothers who had also been killed in this battle, the Sassanid nobles particularly their own powerful kingmaker Sukhra– who was the Sassanid equivalent to Aspar for the Eastern Romans and Ricimer for the Western Romans though a Persian and not a barbarian like them- chose to elect Balash, the last of Peroz’s brothers as the new Sassanid shah. As the new “King of Kings” of the Sassanids, Balash lacking the ability and troops as a lot were killed in the ambush where Peroz was killed, he instead turned to negotiating with the Huns by paying a heavy tribute, which however was not even all that successful.
Now most sources say Balash was a tolerant ruler that he did not persecute Christians the way most Sassanid rulers did, while he also maintained good relations with the Eastern Roman Empire. In this story, considering that Balash in his reign maintained good relations with the Eastern Romans and their emperor Zeno, here he would immediately write to Zeno asking for him to be his ally against the Huns. Now the Romans and Sassanid Persians have been enemies for the longest time and were from totally different worlds believing in totally different things as the 5th century Romans were Christian and believed in a kind of government where an emperor ruled but its ancient republican traditions still continued to exist thus making the emperor despite being appointed by God not someone with divine rights whereas the Sassanids were Zoroastrians and believed their shah was an absolute ruler with divine rights, however they still had common ground in a lot of ways and this was that they were for one civilized powers with a central government, had professional armies, and had sophisticated cultures unlike the barbarian tribes that were decentralized and did not really have a system of administration and currency the way the Romans and Sassanids did.
Finding common ground with Zeno by having the Huns as a common enemy and being both rulers of civilized empires, Balash then would write to Zeno asking for more troops to help him fight off the Huns in the north. As for Zeno by the end of 484, he would be in Palestine together with his son Leo II having just finished brutally crushing a local revolt there of the Samaritan people, which were a sect of the Jewish faith as previously Zeno tried to convert them from Judaism to Christianity, however the Samaritans refused and revolted only to be brutally suppressed with many killed by Eastern Roman troops. In real history though, Zeno was not present in Palestine suppressing the revolt, but in this story he would be together with his son Leo II wherein Zeno here would instruct Leo that to be an emperor you need ruthlessness especially when dealing with uprisings to save your position.
However, as Zeno finished suppressing the Samaritan revolt here in this story, he would get word from the east coming from the new Sassanid shah Balash asking Zeno to provide him troops to deal with the Huns. Zeno at first would laugh at Balash’s request but would soon enough agree to it writing back to Balash congratulating him in coming to power while also sending him up to 7000 of the stronger Eastern Roman Comitatenses soldiers from Syria as in the past years the Eastern Romans only sent the Sassanids their weaker border troops or the Limitanei, however Zeno when writing to Balash would ask for Balash to send him troops as well, as Zeno was lacking in troops and had so many battles to fight all at once. Here, Zeno would also tell his son all about who the Huns were and that it was in fact an Isaurian also named Zeno who was actually Zeno the emperor’s uncle- in this story’s case- who in 447 during the reign of Theodosius II successfully defended the walls of Constantinople against Attila’s invasion, although Zeno the emperor himself despite being already born when Attila was a threat never really knew about Attila back then as he was still living in the mountains of Isauria which was very far away from the action of Attila. Now by early 485, Balash would then receive the Comitatenses legionnaires from Zeno and when being impressed with the much stronger and more equipped troops Zeno lent him, Balash immediately sent about 5000 Sassanid troops to the Eastern Roman Empire writing to Zeno in advance too to let them in as the Limitanei troops guarding Eastern Rome’s Syrian border might mistake them for invading Sassanid soldiers.
Zeno then by early 485 would have already taken back the city of Antioch in Syria from the forces loyal to Illus- in which Antioch supported ever since Illus began his rebellion in 484- by forcing Illus’ loyalist troops to surrender back to him. When in Antioch together with Leo II, Zeno here would receive the Sassanid troops sent to him by Balash which would include mostly cavalry, and for the infantry a large number of archers which was very much needed in continuing the siege of Illus’ stronghold of Papurius. Zeno at the same time too would receive reinforcement troops from the Eastern Roman client states being the small Kingdom of Lazica in Georgia along the Black Sea whose army was mostly made up of archers, and from the Ghassanid people to the southeast of the Eastern empire in the Arabian Desert whose army was mostly made up of skirmishers. Zeno together with Leo, a few Eastern Roman troops under the command of a new general named John the Scythian, and their Sassanid allies would then march west from Antioch to the mountains of Isauria which was not too far away, and again they would return to Illus’ stronghold, the Fortress of Papurius. In real history, Zeno in 485 also sent an army to attack Illus at Papurius, although in real history it was Theodoric the Amal that Zeno sent to attack Illus together with the same John the Scythian which at the end did not really result in much. In this story though, Zeno himself would personally lead the 485 Siege of Papurius, and here his Sassanid allies would prove successful by firing flaming arrows burning a large portion of the fortress while Zeno too had ordered some of his men to dig beneath which however only caused the earth they dug to collapse on them. This siege in 485 would thus play out the same way as it did in real history wherein here, the forces of Zeno would manage to break into a part of the fortress and capture and kill Illus’ brother Trocundes by surrounding him and stabbing him several times with spears while liberating Zeno’s brother Longinus too who would thus join forces with Zeno. Illus however led a sudden counter-attack against the attackers driving them away from the fortress once again, thus continuing his hold on the fortress again.
Although Zeno here managed to get his brother Longinus free from captivity under Illus, he still failed to recover the body of his mother-in-law Verina who died there in the previous year. Zeno would however not continue the siege, instead in 485 he would return to Constantinople together with his Sassanid allies as well, as he would also have to check on what was going on with Basiliscus and Julius Nepos. In the meantime, as Zeno allied with the Sassanids and battled Illus again, Basiliscus together with his son Marcus and a large number of the weaker Limitanei troops were defending the province of Moesia (today’s Serbia) from Theodoric the Amal’s Ostrogoth kingdom which was to the northwest of it. Basiliscus however would battle Theodoric’s Ostrogoths and Rugii Foederati with such difficulty, thus he would for once use diplomacy here by asking the Germanic tribe known as the Gepids living across the Danube from the Ostrogoth Kingdom (in today’s Hungary) to attack the Ostrogoths from there while also asking for help from another people beyond the Danube which were the Slavs to also attack the Ostrogoths from the north as a way to focus their attention there and pull their troops out from the south which Basiliscus had been battling.
The fact that the Vandal Kingdom had been completely wiped off the map in North Africa whereas the western part of North Africa once again returned to Western Roman hands while Carthage and everything east of it under Eastern Roman hands as well as the Vandal king Huneric and the Visigoth king Euric dying as 484 came to an end made 485 begin with a good sign for the Romans that they were winning this great war.
In 485, Anthemius would decide to spend the rest of the year leading the troops in battle himself against the Visigoths and Burgundians in Gaul while again continuing his alliance with Clovis and the Franks who would after just subjugating the Alemanni would now attack the Burgundian kingdom from the north while Anthemius would attack from the south. Anthemius now would still remain unpopular among his Western Roman subjects again because they do not understand his more enlightened way of thinking making them still think he was a Pagan while due to his aristocratic origins he also lived a very lavish lifestyle which his people did not like. Anthemius though did not want to ruin his reputation and name as his name “Anthemius” which was actually his last name was one with such prestige as his grandfather Flavius Anthemius was the architect of Constantinople’s walls built back in the early part of this century, thus to honor his name he would confidently march his army north to the Burgundian capital Lugdunum (today’s Lyon, France) whereas Clovis and his Franks as well as his subjugated Alemanni would head that way too, and here before marching on Lugdunum, Anthemius would for the first time see Clovis in person seeing Clovis as a very large man with red hair and a thick red beard, and despite Clovis being only 21 here he already had a very smart trick in mind rather than simply laying siege to the city for months, and this was to make the Burgundian kings the brothers Chilperic II and Godegisel surrender to him and Anthemius.
Clovis would thus inform the Burgundian troops guarding Lugdunum’s once Roman city walls through a letter telling them to open the gates lying that their kings want to peacefully surrender the city to Clovis’ Franks who were already surrounding the walls. These Burgundian troops falling for this thus opened the gates for Clovis and his Franks and Anthemius and his Western Romans who then stormed into Lugdunum reaching the palace where the kings Chilperic and Godegisel were. The Burgundian kings now felt that it was better to surrender and possibly become Roman Foederati again as now having limited troops, they began to think that they would stand no more chance against both the Western Romans and Franks who had twice more troops than them. When both Clovis and Anthemius entered the Burgundian kings’ palace, both kings surrendered to them, although Anthemius believing that these kings would not be true to their word and one day rise up again as based on his past experience in dealing with barbarians and knowing too that these kings were the nephews of his old enemy and puppet master Ricimer and sons of the former Burgundian king Gondioc being brothers of Anthemius’ old enemy Gundobad too, he would convince Clovis that it would be better to execute them.
Clovis thus would have both Chilperic II and Godegisel dragged to the forum of Lugdunum where he would personally behead both kings in public with his sword. With both the Burgundian kings dead, Lugdunum had now surrendered to Clovis and Anthemius wherein the surviving Burgundian troops too would surrender and become Foederati to either the Franks or Western Romans, and now with the Burgundian kingdom finished off, another obstacle was dealt with for the Romans in particular. Now, the Burgundian kingdom in Gaul would be divided between Anthemius’ Western empire taking back Lugdunum and everything south of it while Clovis and his Franks would thus take over everything in the Burgundian kingdom north of Lugdunum, although in real history the Franks really annexed the Burgundian kingdom except only by 532 in real history long after Clovis’ death (511) unlike here where already in 485 the Burgundians were wiped off the map. Now hearing of the total defeat of the Burgundians, both the Visigoth king Alaric II and the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Amal who were the Burgundians’ allies would be enraged and both would be writing to each other agreeing to punish the Western Roman Empire.
For Alaric II’s part, he would ask the Saxon tribes in Britain and in the North Sea coast of Northern Germany and Denmark- which were the same pirates that have taken over the island of Britain for decades- to attack the coast of Soissons along the English Channel, the Roman province in Northern Gaul still disconnected by land to the main Western empire which here was still held by Syagrius. Later in 485, countless of Saxon ships loaded with Saxon pirates would burn and devastate the coast of Northern Gaul to the point that Syagrius himself would run out of troops to defend his coasts, and the worst part was that at the same time, Alaric II resumed his attacks on Soissons from the south. Facing the pillaging Saxons at the north and the Visigoths in the south, Syagrius here would begin to consider giving up his control over Soissons and just let it fall to either the Saxons or Visigoths wherein he would just return to the Western Roman Empire and be the governor of another province, possibly the retaken southern parts of Gaul since Syagrius after all was a native of Gaul.
The Saxons now had happened to be much deadlier warriors than the other barbarians such as the Goths and Franks as the Saxons wielded large axes and shields and had intimidating appearances with helmets covering their faces while they too fought drunk which scared their enemies away more than with their weapons and strength, thus making them difficult for Syagrius and his limited legionnaires in Soissons to face them off. Now for Theodoric the Amal’s part, considering that his Ostrogoth kingdom was also close to Italy which was just southwest of it, here in 485 too he would unexpectedly order a raid into Western Roman held Italy to be led by his now closest allied commander the Rugii Feletheus with an army consisting of both Ostrogoths and Rugii. The attack ordered by Theodoric on Italy would then be very unexpected that when waking up one morning, the people of Ravenna would see an army of barbarians from the distance when standing above the city’s walls. Here, the Ostrogoths and Rugii led by Feletheus had already captured a number of towns and cities in Northeast Italy including Aquileia as they marched west from the Ostrogoth kingdom in the Balkans.
The Western Roman capital Ravenna now being attacked by surprise without much troops to defend them and its emperor Anthemius away- as he was still in Gaul at this point- would have to be defended by Anthemius’ son and co-emperor Marcian. Surprisingly, Marcian who had always seemed to be lazy, uninterested in ruling and battle, and over-excessive had led the defense of Ravenna well even personally leading a cavalry charge out of the walls into the Ostrogoths and Rugii, however Feletheus would eventually order his men to retreat as the marshes around Ravenna made it difficult for them to successfully besiege the city. After failing to besiege Ravenna, Feletheus would then retreat back to the Balkans to continue attacking the Eastern Romans, and for successfully leading the defense of Ravenna, Marcian would be popular among the people and when word of his success got to his father Anthemius in Gaul, he would for once be very proud of his son who for the longest time he thought was not capable of doing anything. Anthemius though would spend the rest of 485 and early 486 in the former Burgundian kingdom in Gaul reestablishing Western Roman rule over the southern portion of it while Clovis would establish his rule over the north. When touring the area, Anthemius would eventually come to discover a cave wherein he would see the corpse of Riothamus, the same mysterious civilized Briton king who he asked for aid from many years ago against the Visigoths, and seeing it he would see it as such a shame, as this mysterious king may have actually helped him in this war, and had he lived instead of being killed by the Burgundians, the war may have already been over. However, Anthemius was still glad the Frankish king Clovis was there to assist him as Clovis really helped in turning the tide of the war against the barbarian alliance.
In the Eastern Roman Empire meanwhile as of 486, Basiliscus who still leading the defense of the Balkans against Theodoric the Amal’s Ostrogoths would now begin falling out with Zeno again mainly because Zeno was focusing his attention too much on the east while he also kept his Sassanid allies for himself without giving any to Basiliscus who was in a more difficult position than Zeno was.
However, rather than revolting against Zeno as Basiliscus did before, here he would instead simply abandon his position and return to Constantinople, though leaving his son Marcus to continue the defense with the weaker Limitanei troops. Basiliscus too at this point was already in his 60s and thus was already growing too old and tired to continue fighting, however Zeno would still be upset with Basiliscus giving up as Zeno was just 3 years younger than Basiliscus and was still continuing to lead the battles even if he was already feeling too old to do it, but he still believed that he must do whatever it takes to finish off the war. Though upset about Basiliscus quitting, Ariadne would come back again to advise her husband Zeno to just let Basiliscus take a break for the meantime and that Zeno instead together with their son Leo II should now be the ones to campaign against the Ostrogoths in the Balkans while Zeno’s brother Longinus should instead handle besieging Illus at the Fortress of Papurius in Isauria which Illus was still holding on to. Zeno would thus agree to take Basiliscus’ place in campaigning in the Balkans, although first agreeing to assist Julius Nepos who was still in Constantinople in recapturing the rest of Dalmatia from the Ostrogoths.
Here in 486, Zeno in Constantinople would also receive reinforcement Western Roman troops from Italy sent by Anthemius with the message to help Julius Nepos take back Dalmatia, and so Nepos together with his wife and Anthemius’ daughter Alypia as well as Zeno and Leo II set sail from Constantinople to Dalmatia arriving at the coast right outside Spalatum which had just fallen to the Ostrogoths two months earlier. With Nepos knowing the city of Spalatum very well, which was basically just built over a large palace, he would easily recapture it from the Ostrogoths, and following that the rest of the troops led by Zeno would put the entire Dalmatia back under Roman control again, although Zeno here would not put it under his rule but return it to Western Roman rule promising Anthemius he would do so. As Nepos and Alypia returned to Spalatum making it theirs again, Zeno together with his son Leo headed east to fortify Theodoric’s Ostrogoth kingdom’s border with Eastern Roman troops, while to further surround Theodoric on all sides, Zeno again continued what Basiliscus did in paying off the Gepids and Slavs across the Danube to attack Theodoric’s Ostrogoth kingdom from the north.
While in the Balkans, Zeno and Leo II would reunite with Basiliscus’ son Marcus who still remained there with the troops, and when being there they would order the construction of several wooden forts along the border of Theodoric’s kingdom with the Eastern Empire to contain Theodoric within. By the end of 486 now, Theodoric the Amal would be surrounded by enemies on all sides, though he was still far from being finished off as he still had tricks up his sleeves. Zeno on the other hand would return to Constantinople together with Leo II and Marcus by the end of 486 where he would receive word from Anthemius to send Eastern troops to the Western empire as over in Spain, Anthemius’ top general the Isaurian Cyriacus who comes back into the picture again was in dire need of more troops as he was coming very close to retaking the entire Iberian Peninsula for the Western Romans but at the same time was being attacked from the north by Alaric II’s Visigoths. Zeno thus would have no choice but to recall his brother Longinus who was still busy besieging Illus at Isauria to go over to the west and assist Cyriacus in recapturing the rest of Spain. However, Zeno here would ask the same general from before John the Scythian to take Longinus’ place in leading the siege of Papurius while also writing to the Sassanid shah and his new ally Balash to send more reinforcements to assist in besieging Papurius.
Back in the west in 486, the Saxon pirates continued harassing the coast of Soissons causing more pain to Syagrius who here would finally agree to give up his hold on Soissons to Clovis in exchange for being allowed to be the Western Roman governor of the recently reconquered lands from the Burgundians in Southern and Eastern Gaul. Now in real history, it was also in 486 when Syagrius’ Soissons fell to Clovis’ Franks, except in real history Syagrius and Clovis were enemies who clashed with each other in battle also in 486 wherein Syagrius lost while his entire territory of Soissons in Northern Gaul too fell to Clovis making this the last Western Roman state to fall. Syagrius in real history however fled to the Visigoth capital Toulouse to the court of Alaric II where Alaric surrendered him to Clovis who later on secretly killed Syagrius.
In this story however, Syagrius would peacefully surrender his entire province to Clovis’ Franks and would thus end up in the still Western Roman held Southern Gaul passing through Clovis’ lands peacefully where Anthemius would make him its governor all while Clovis here with a much larger army after taking all of Soissons would make the Roman city of Lutetia (today’s Paris) as his capital relocating from the original Franks’ capital of Tournai (in today’s Belgium), which he also did in real history. Though Clovis annexed the entire Northern Gaul into his kingdom, the region of Armorica (Brittany) in the Western edge of Gaul would as usual be untouched and allowed to be its own independent Celtic state as long as they paid tribute to Clovis. However, when taking over Soissons, Clovis would manage to successfully defend its coasts against the Saxon pirates fully expelling them before preparing for the ultimate campaign to once and for all destroy the Visigoths to his south in 487. In the meantime, in late 486, Zeno’s brother Longinus would arrive with Eastern Roman troops in the part of Spain that had now fallen back under Western Roman rule meeting Cyriacus the Western Roman general and a fellow Isaurian too wherein both would discuss their plan of attack. Here, Cyriacus had already taken back all of Spain from the Visigoths pushing them back north, however the other barbarian kingdom of the Suebi was still existing in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, and as Cyriacus was to attack the Visigoths from the south and push them north, Longinus with his troops were to attack the smaller Suebi kingdom in the northwest. Anthemius on the other hand in 487 would consider joining what he would see as the final phase of the war heading to Gaul again to this time attack the Visigoths from the east from his recently conquered territory there together with Syagrius and his forces.
At this point, the tide of the war would totally turn for the Western Romans as the only major enemy they had to face together with Clovis’ Franks as their ally was the Visigoth kingdom of Alaric II that still held a large portion of Western Gaul, and here the Western Romans and Clovis in 487 would launch a 3-sided invasion of the Visigoth Kingdom. Anthemius and Syagrius would at first invade from the east just making raids deep into Aquitaine whereas Cyriacus would attack from the south coming from Spain to weaken the southern defense of the Visigoths. Although Anthemius, Syagrius, and Cyriacus would be successful in battling the Visigoths, it would really be Clovis here that would really deliver the death blow to them as he would be the one invading from the north marching straight to Toulouse, the Visigoth’s capital where he would personally battle Alaric II himself and his forces outside Toulouse. Here, Alaric II despite lacking troops would lead a cavalry charge into Clovis’ Frankish and Burgundian cavalry, however one Frankish warrior on a horse would swing his large spear directly hitting Alaric and knocking him off his horse, and when falling to the ground, another Frankish warrior with one blow of his axe would decapitate Alaric.
Now the Visigoth soldiers of Alaric would immediately recognize that the decapitated head shown to them was that of their king Alaric II as he had the distinct look of a fat head with long red hair, a fat beard, and a hideous face, and when seeing it they would all panic and either flee or surrender to the Franks that had now emerged victorious. Now in real history, Clovis and his Franks really did defeat the Visigoths in battle while killing Alaric II as well, however in real history it was only 20 years after 487 (507) when this said battle took place which thus resulted in forcing the Visigoths out of Gaul and down to Spain and Clovis putting the entire Gaul under his rule. In this story however, Clovis would win this said victory 20 years before he actually did in real history, and here rather than pushing the Visigoths down to Spain, the Visigoths would surrender to both the Franks and Western Romans as here Alaric II died without any heirs as he was still a young ruler unlike in real history where even though Alaric was slain, he still had sons to continue ruling the Visigoth kingdom.
In this story, with Alaric II dead the Visigoth kingdom in 487 would thus be wiped off the map falling to Clovis’ Frankish kingdom, and so making practically all of Gaul- except for the southern coast and southeastern regions which fell under the Western Romans- under the Frankish Kingdom which now consisted of what is today France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and parts of Germany. The defeated Visigoths now either surrendered to Clovis thus further enlarging his army, surrendered to the Western Romans as Foederati, escaped to the woods of Gaul and Spain and became Bagaudae, or fled east back to the woods of Germany. Meanwhile in Spain, Longinus would continue scoring more victories over more Visigoths, Suebi, and Bagaudae but still staying true to his word in returning the lands he recaptured back to the Western Romans rather than taking it as his own or placing it under Eastern Roman rule.
As Longinus and his troops would head west into what is now Portugal which was once the sparse Roman province of Lusitania, they would thus contain the Suebi to the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula leaving them no choice but to either surrender or be completely decimated. Back in Gaul, Anthemius would once again meet with Clovis in Lugdunum which now was back under Western Roman hands, and here an impressed Anthemius would congratulate Clovis for his victory and would even give Clovis the honorary title of consul for his recent victory over the Visigoths, thus fully recognizing Clovis and the Franks as a Roman ally the way Clovis’ father and grandfather were before him. Anthemius here would now come to believe he was wrong before in thinking all barbarians meant trouble as after all Clovis was also a barbarian but proved to be a very loyal and effective ally in helping turn the tide of the war to the side of the Romans. Now other than Clovis who here was made consul in the Western empire and the first foreign king to receive this title, in the Eastern empire it would be Leo II’s turn now being 20 here to have his time as consul of the year appointed to it by his father Emperor Zeno. Now here in 487, in the west Anthemius’ popularity would grow to such great heights due to helping in finishing off the Visigoths, but in the east Zeno’s popularity as emperor would again drop due to him now spending too much of his people’s tax money on fighting wars too much that he would no longer do anything in return for them. Zeno would thus further disappoint his people when a chariot race would be held at the Hippodrome hosted by his son performing his duty as consul, and here Zeno would announce that this would be the last race in a long time which would greatly anger the people, but Zeno would tell them too that they will get so much more fun activities in the future assuring them that he will be the one to personally finish the war against the last king in the barbarian alliance, Theodoric the Amal. Zeno too again would consult with his most trusted spiritual advisor the mystic Daniel the Stylite who was still around, and even Daniel too who usually does not convince Zeno to go to war here would tell Zeno that he must personally confront Theodoric and the Ostrogoths as it is his destiny.
Now in 488, Illus was still around at the Fortress of Papurius in Isauria still holding on to it while the Sassanid forces allied with Zeno were still outside laying siege to it. Back in Constantinople, Zeno together with his son Leo would prepare for the final campaign of the ages against Theodoric the Amal, who here by 488 broke out of his containment zone destroying the fortresses Zeno built along his border with the Eastern Roman Empire.
Before once again marching north to confront Theodoric, Zeno here would write again to the Sassanid shah Balash asking him this time to be the one to assist him by leading the attack on Papurius as Zeno too wanted Illus finished off once and for all. After 2 months, Zeno had fully amassed an army intended to crush the Ostrogoths while at the same time, he received more Sassanid reinforcements from Balash to assist him against Theodoric, while Balash on the other hand had actually did as he was told and marched into the Eastern Roman Empire himself in order to attack Illus’ fortress as Balash really intended to be away from his empire as he turned out to be unpopular there. In Constantinople, as Zeno was prepared to lead the campaign of his lifetime, the now much older Basilsicus being already 66 here would come out of retirement apologizing one more time to Zeno for everything wrong he has done and that now is the time to make up for all of it and join this campaign in the name of the Eastern Roman Empire. Zeno then together with Basiliscus, Leo II, and Marcus as well as an army of over 20,000 Eastern Roman troops and some 5,000 Sassanids would then march north across the Balkans to directly invade Theodoric’s kingdom, while at the same time Zeno had also informed the Western Roman governor of Dalmatia Julius Nepos who had just taken it back to attack Theodoric’s kingdom from the west as he was right next to it. When arriving at the border with Theodoric’s kingdom and seeing all the Eastern fortresses that had just been built all burned down and the Limitanei legions guarding it all decimated, Zeno would be so enraged and thus he would order all his troops including Sassanids to simply give it their all and show no mercy when it comes to battling Theodoric’s Ostrogoths. At the same time, not only Zeno would bring out his full Isaurian fury, but his son Leo being the “little Zeno” would as well finally break out of his soft aristocratic city boy personality and becoming a full Isaurian warrior like his father in temperament as he too would convince everyone with him to march into the Ostrogoth kingdom with no mercy wherein he would show them an example of what it is like to fight that way.
In the meantime, over in Asia Minor, a large Sassanid army of over 15,000 had arrived led by their shah Balash himself not to invade but to take care of Illus’ problem as Zeno and most of his troops were away dealing with the Ostrogoths in the Balkans. When arriving in the mountains of Isauria, Balash and his forces would then completely surround Illus’ fortress of Papurius on all sides with top grade siege engines and over 2000 archers firing flaming arrows. Back in the Balkans, Zeno and his army would already march into Theodoric’s kingdom, however they would only realize here that it was so much larger than they thought it was as Theodoric’s base was not even nearby. Now, Theodoric’s Ostrogoth kingdom in the Northern Balkans did not really have a capital, instead its capital was wherever he was, and this time he was holding himself up in an old Roman fortress beside a lake in what was once the Roman province of Pannonia. Before reaching Theodoric’s fortress, Zeno’s forces would be suddenly stopped by Theodoric’s Rugii and Bulgar allies led by no other than his allied commander the Rugii ruler with a mohawk Feletheus who would then order the Bulgars to perform a shock cavalry charge on Zeno’s troops.
However, the Comitatenses legions of Zeno would immediately form a shield wall and phalanx of spears that would be successful in stopping the Bulgars’ cavalry charge all while the Sassanid cavalry would rout the Bulgars. With the Bulgar cavalry routed, the remaining troops of Zeno and Basiliscus as well as the Sassanid horse archers and lancers would obliterate the remaining Rugii warriors of Feletheus, while Feletheus himself would be thrown off his horse as a spear thrown by a Sassanid cavalryman hit him directly in the chest. Feletheus would thus fall off his horse and die slowly by bleeding to death on the ground, and once he died his remaining soldiers including Bulgars would have no choice but to surrender to Zeno, and thus they would reveal to the Eastern Romans where Theodoric was holding himself in. Back in Isauria, Balash and his forces would begin gaining the upper hand in besieging Papurius when his archers located several oil barrels within the fortress walls in which these archers would fire flaming arrows at resulting in this part of the fortress’ walls exploding allowing the Sassanid attackers to storm it. As the Sassanids stormed the fortress, Illus would lead a desperate counter attack only to be surrounded by the Sassanids. Back to Zeno again, he would after another week of marching arrive at Theodoric’s fortress in Pannonia, but Theodoric despite losing all his allies and a lot of his soldiers would still not yet give up, and so he too would order a desperate counter-attack using what was left of his men against the Eastern Roman forces.
Seeing that the Eastern Roman forces with their Sassanid allies were much larger in number compared to his, Theodoric would again pull out another trick and this was by weakening Zeno, and here he would see Zeno’s son Leo fighting in battle, and thus to weaken Zeno, Theodoric thought it would be best to kill Leo first. Theodoric thus would grab a bow and fire an arrow himself directly at Leo from above one of the towers of his fortress intending to kill Leo with it. Leo however would immediately dodge the arrow when seeing it, and rather it would just hit his knee, although still injuring him severely causing him to fall on the ground. Theodoric would thus fire another arrow this time aiming it at the wounded Leo’s head, however before the arrow would hit Leo, Leo’s Excubitor bodyguard the Illyrian Justin– who makes a cameo in this story as this is the same Justin who in real history becomes emperor in 518 and the uncle of the future emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565)- would take the arrow for Leo and be killed on the spot, and for this story we would kill off Justin as neither he nor his nephew Justinian would be emperor in the future anyway in this case. Before Theodoric could fire another arrow again, there would still be enough time for Leo to be dragged away, and here it would be Marcus the son of Basiliscus that would drag Leo away to safety.
Zeno meanwhile would be very enraged seeing his son injured by an arrow fired by Theodoric, and so he together with Basiliscus beside him who would fight imitating his hero Achilles would kill tens of Theodoric’s Ostrogoths themselves before breaking into the fortress with the use of a battering ram. As the Eastern Romans and Sassanids would storm into the fortress, Zeno and Basiliscus would head up to Theodoric’s tower to confront Theodoric himself. Back in Isauria, Balash and his forces would then successfully capture the fortress of Papurius and capture Illus as well, however Balash would trick Illus into sparing him and making him a general in the Sassanid army just to prevent Illus from fleeing. Illus would thus fall for the trick, but a few minutes later Balash would have one of his elite soldiers execute Illus by having him beheaded, and thus the threat of Illus was over whereas his fortress had been taken over by the Sassanids. In the meantime, Zeno and Basiliscus would then confront Theodoric personally wherein Zeno would order Theodoric to surrender as all his allies namely Huneric of the Vandals, Euric and Alaric II of the Visigoths, the Burgundians, Alemanni, Saxons, Feletheus and the Rugii, and even Illus have been finished off, but not willing to surrender Theodoric would pull out his large sword and personally duel both Basiliscus and Zeno. Now Zeno being furious at Theodoric for injuring his son and Basiliscus just plainly angry would attack Theodoric with such full force, however Theodoric would still manage to parry all of Zeno’s and Basiliscus’ attacks. Basiliscus would still however continue attacking, although when leaving his stomach exposed, Theodoric would easily take advantage of it and stab Basiliscus there penetrating his armor, thus critically wounding him.
Basiliscus would then fall to the ground and slowly bleed to death while Zeno still having such anger would continue attacking Theodoric until they would hear the sounds of Roman war horns, and when looking outside the window they would see a Western Roman army headed their way with their dragon banners waving, and this here would be the army from Dalmatia led by Julius Nepos himself. As Theodoric would be distracted when seeing Nepos’ troops marching, Zeno would take advantage of the situation and strike his sword at Theodoric’s arm severing his hand, and thus Zeno would point his sword at Theodoric’s neck though not to kill him but to tell him he is under arrest. Meanwhile, below the fortress the troops of Nepos as well as another wave of Slav and Gepid warriors from the north would arrive to assist in wiping out the Ostrogoths to the point of routing the entire Ostrogoth army of Theodoric. In the tower, as Theodoric would be put in chains and taken away by Zeno’s imperial Excubitor bodyguards, Basiliscus would apologize to Zeno for everything wrong he has done to him and would congratulate him too for helping in finishing off the war, and shortly after the 66-year-old Basiliscus would die whereas Zeno too would thank him for helping him finish off Theodoric and the war itself. When Zeno went down from the tower, Julius Nepos and his troops would greet him while Theodoric would be handed over to the Eastern Roman troops and sent to Constantinople, although before being brought to Constantinople, Zeno would order that Theodoric should be executed the moment he gets there while Leo who now slightly recovered from being shot in the knee too would reunite with his father, however Zeno would instruct Leo as well as Marcus to both return to Constantinople.
Now some weeks later, Leo back in Constantinople would recover from his injury but would still remain disabled in one leg from the arrow while Marcus would bury his father Basilicus in the Church of the Holy Apostles where all imperial family members since the first Eastern Roman emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337) were buried in, as after all Basiliscus was part of the imperial family and now a war hero for his efforts. In Constantinople as well, Theodoric the Amal would be sentenced to death by being hanged at the Theodosian Walls for everyone to see while everyone in the city would cheer now that Theodoric had fallen and the war was over. Zeno however would not be in Constantinople at this time to see this all happen, as here following the defeat of Theodoric he would go with Julius Nepos to Dalmatia to reunite with the Western emperor Anthemius and their ally the Frankish king Clovis in Nepos’ base Spalatum. Here, Clovis and Zeno would meet for the first time and both would be impressed with each other over their victories in the war, however Zeno, Clovis, Anthemius, and Nepos came over to Spalatum to discuss how they will divide the territories among themselves and to also seal a permanent alliance between both the Eastern and Western Roman empires and Clovis’ Frankish kingdom. When these rulers would meet, they would all agree that Julius Nepos would be the semi-independent Western Roman governor in charge of Dalmatia and the parts of Illyria that was previously under Theodoric’s Ostrogoths, while the Eastern Roman Empire would acquire parts of Theodoric’s lands in the Balkans too, and in the west all of Southern and Southeastern Gaul would be under the Western Roman Empire with Syagrius as the governor and military commander or Magister Militum in Western Roman Gaul whereas Spain too would return to Western Roman hands with Cyriacus as its governor and Magister Militum, whereas Clovis’ Frankish kingdom on the other hand would have all of Northern and Western Gaul which Clovis had just conquered from the Alemanni, Burgundians, and Visigoths. On the other hand, to further seal an alliance with Clovis’ Franks, Clovis here agreed that his younger sister Audofleda was to marry Leo II who was the same age as her, which was to secure strong ties between Clovis’ Franks and Zeno’s Eastern Roman Empire. As for Zeno, when returning to Constantinople later in 488, he would immediately receive the head of the slain Illus from Sassanid ambassadors, thus for him this was the sure sign that the great war had ended.
Epilogue and Conclusion
In the case of this story wherein the Western Roman Empire did not fall in 476 but a great war still happened with the barbarian kingdoms of Europe, Italy as well as Spain, North Africa, Southern Gaul, and parts of Illyria still remained under the Western Roman Empire, the real endgame for this great war however would not be the defeat and execution of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Amal or the defeat of Illus by the Sassanids allied with Zeno, but rather it would be the complete Western Roman conquest of the Suebi in Northwest Spain by the end of 488.
With the Suebi cornered to Northwest Spain by the Eastern Roman forces of Zeno’s brother Longinus and some Western Roman troops, the Suebi will eventually surrender and thus their small kingdom would fall under the Western Romans again. Although it was the Eastern Roman troops that took back the lands the Suebi had held, it would still be returned to Western Roman rule whereas Longinus would return east back to Constantinople and all of Western Roman Spain would be under the general Cyriacus who would be its governor answering to the emperor Anthemius in Ravenna. The Western Romans too would after 488 be also in control of everything in North Africa west of Carthage whereas Carthage would be under the Eastern Romans, while the entire southern coast of Gaul would also be under Western Roman rule as a way to connect Italy to Spain by land, while all of Spain too would return to Western Roman rule, and since it was agreed that Southeast Gaul would return to Western Roman hands, Syagrius who was once in Soissons in Northern Gaul cut off from the empire itself would now be connected by land to the Western empire as he from here on would be in charge of Southern and Southeast Gaul. As for Clovis here after 488, his Frankish kingdom would now consist of more than half of Gaul including his original Frankish lands in the east in what is now Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Western Germany. The defeated Suebi, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Alemanni, and Ostrogoths on the other hand who did not surrender to either the Romans or Franks and joined forces with them would thus be banished back to their original homeland in the German woods where they came from to restart their lives back there again. With all the barbarian powers in the west gone for now except for of course the Franks which were Roman allies, the only immediate threat that would remain would be the insurgent Bagaudae, however with them now mostly being contained to Gaul and Spain, they would remain a threat basically only to Clovis in Gaul and Cyriacus in Spain, though they would still not be as potent as the recently defeated barbarian kingdoms.
As for Zeno in the east, he would thus agree to peace with the Sassanid Empire allowing the Sassanids to have control over Armenia while also surrendering the easternmost territories of the Eastern Romans in Asia Minor east of the Euphrates River to the Sassanids in exchange for helping him deal with Illus, while the fortress of Papurius on the other hand would be given to the Sassanid troops to be used as their base within Eastern Roman territory, again as a reward for helping Zeno defeat Illus. Balash however just like in real history here in 488 would also lose the throne being unpopular and would thus be replaced as the Sassanid ruler by his nephew Kavad- the same son of the late shah Peroz that was a hostage of the Huns earlier on before Peroz was slain by them- who would be again put in power by the Sassanid Empire’s own kingmaker general Sukhra who would also depose Balash.
In real history, Balash disappeared from history after being deposed and replaced by his nephew Kavad in 488, but here in this story when Balash would be overthrown, he would instead seek refuge in the Eastern Roman Empire wherein Zeno being his ally would allow him to live in a large estate in Asia Minor in retirement, while Zeno too would continue to maintain peaceful relations with the new Sassanid ruler Kavad especially since the Huns from the north still remained a threat to the Sassanids, therefore Zeno here would still continue to provide troops to assist the Sassanids against the Huns. In this story’s case, Zeno would be ever more popular after his victory over Theodoric in 488 compared to how he was like earlier on in his reign, thus Zeno would be hailed as a hero which was something he had never thought would happen. Now in real history, in the last years of Zeno’s reign he had also defeated Illus and his rebellion in 488 resulting in Illus executed as well, however what was different in real history was that Theodoric the Amal was still around and up in arms against Zeno making Zeno send Theodoric to attack Italy instead and claim it for himself, but here in this story all of Italy would still be Western Roman. Although just like in real history, the latter part of Zeno’s reign here would be much more stable and peaceful, however in this story with the Eastern Romans just coming out of a war they would be very much exhausted and lacking in troops, and so would be the still surviving Western Roman Empire under Anthemius. In this story it would then be in 489 when Zeno and Clovis would fully seal an alliance with each other when Zeno’s son and co-emperor Leo would marry Clovis’ younger sister Audofleda in Constantinople whereas Audofleda who was originally a Pagan would convert to Orthodox Christianity, however in real history Clovis married off Audofleda not to an Eastern Roman ruler but to Theodoric the Amal to form an alliance with him.
What would also happen in this story just like in real history would be Clovis finally converting from his old Germanic Pagan religion to Orthodox Christianity by being baptized while he too would have many of his soldiers baptized, and here he would be basically doing it as a favor to the Orthodox Eastern and Western Romans to show that he was willing to be a full Roman ally by being an Orthodox Christian in which most Romans were unlike the other barbarians like the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Vandals who chose to be Arian instead of Orthodox. Clovis on the other hand despite destroying the Alemanni, Burgundians, and Visigoths would still here have to deal with internal problems in his own Frankish kingdom like in real history as well, as here no matter how much territory he conquered, he still had not united his Frankish people for there was still another group of Franks known as the Ripuarians which were from Western Germany that still challenged his rule, thus Clovis’ next task would be to deal with them. In 489 as well in this story, Anthemius would die peacefully in his sleep in Ravenna from a heart attack at the age of 69, and thus he would be immediately succeeded as the Western Roman emperor by his son and co-emperor Marcian who would then be immediately recognized by Zeno as his co-emperor in the west while Marcian too would continue the alliance with Clovis and Zeno. Back in the Eastern Roman Empire, with Zeno being more popular than ever, he would continue to pacify the Balkans after defeating Theodoric and the Ostrogoths while also agreeing that what was once Theodoric’s kingdom there would be split between him and Julius Nepos who would hold the western part of it as part of his province of Dalmatia under the Western Roman Empire.
Zeno too would pay off the Slavs and Gepids to stay away from Eastern and Western Roman territory and not cross the Danube as with the Ostrogoths defeated, the Slavs and Gepids thought they could now attack the Eastern and Western Romans. Other than pacifying the Balkans, Zeno in his latter reign now that he was no longer facing external threats would together with his brother Longinus develop their homeland of Isauria by establishing more settlements, roads, fortresses, churches, monasteries, and places of education there as for the longest time Isauria was a wild land that lacked these kinds of institutions, while also the Alahan Monastery there would be further developed into a major pilgrimage site. Like in real history too, Zeno would meet his end as well in 491 after suffering an epileptic seizure thus dying at the age of 66 in Constantinople, however what would be different in this story was that Zeno would be popular by the time he died unlike in real history where he was still unpopular at death that the people of Constantinople shouted demanding that their new emperor should be someone “Orthodox” and “Roman” as they saw Zeno as neither for sympathizing with the heretical Monophysites and being an Isaurian, thus in real history Zeno’s wife Ariadne married the imperial finance minister Anastasius who the people saw as “Orthodox” and “Roman”, and thus he became the new emperor.
In this story however, there would be no need for Ariadne to marry Anastasius as in real history she had to do so to let her dynasty live on as her and Zeno’s son Leo had already died back in 474 while they too had no children after his death, and as emperor Anastasius would be a great change as unlike Zeno, Basiliscus, and Leo I before him he was not a violent man but a cultured financial genius. However, in this story with Leo II continuing to live, he would immediately succeed his father Zeno after his death, although his mother Ariadne would continue to be around to advise him, and so would the old hermit Daniel the Stylite who in this story just like in real history would continue to live on until 493. Now here in 491, Leo II at age 24 would be crowned as the new Augustus (senior emperor) of the Eastern Roman Empire whereas his new Frankish wife Audofleda would be his empress, and as the new Eastern Augustus, Leo II would be co-rulers with his Western co-Augustus Marican, the son of Anthemius. As the new emperors of west and east respectively, Marcian and Leo II would work well together and would balance each other out well with Marcian as the softer aristocrat emperor in the west and Leo II after gaining experience in the war fighting under his father Zeno would happen to be the same kind of tough and at some points ruthless soldier emperor the way his father was except more cultured and reasonable than his father. Now, the reigns of Leo II in the east and Marcian in the west and their styles of ruling would be a completely different story altogether, but one thing I would say Leo II would achieve just a year later in 492 would be in fixing the schism with the pope that his father started back in 482. Basically under these new emperors, the Western Roman Empire would be revived once again now having all of Italy, parts of Illyria, Southern Gaul, all of Spain and west of North Africa and the east having almost all of the Balkans, Greece, Thrace, Asia Minor, the Eastern provinces of Syria and Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa all the way west to Carthage, however some parts that were once Roman would never return to their rule such as most of Gaul which now fell under Clovis’ Frankish kingdom as part of the alliance terms with him, while Britain on the other hand would continue to be abandoned by Roman authorities leaving it to be continued to be bothered by the Saxons. The major difference now in this story aside from of course the Western Roman Empire still surviving is that in the Eastern Roman Empire, with Leo II being the new emperor, the course of real history would not take place wherein Anastasius I becomes emperor in 491 succeeding Zeno, as well as Justin I succeeding Anastasius I following the latter’s death in 518, and Justinian I succeeding Justin I following the latter’s death in 527. Instead, Leo II would continue the Leonid Dynasty for the Eastern Roman Empire after having sons with Audofleda, however all of these events from 492 onwards would be a totally different story altogether. On the other hand, the East and West will still remain their own separate empires never to be one under one emperor again like it was before 395, but at least both would still remain as close inseparable allies.
And now this is all for the second spin-off sequel to the Byzantine Alternate History series being the spin-off for Chapter II. As for chapter II, this will be its continuation story and only this, as unlike the previous spin-off I made which was for chapter I that will even have its own sequel, this one will not and will just end here with both Eastern and Western Roman Empires still surviving as the turbulent and highly climactic 5th century comes to an end. Now in real history, the 5th century was really so eventful and climactic for so many powers from the Romans to the Germanic barbarian kingdoms, from the Sassanids to the Huns with endless wars, shifting alliances, the establishment of new kingdoms, betrayals, invasions, and so much more, but in this story, it was even double all that considering that it had featured a great “world war” way back in the 5th century. Of course, whatever was mentioned in this story will just have to stay in this story as my speculation which this story was basically all about wherein the Eastern and Western Roman Empires would go into a large scale world war with all the newly established Germanic barbarian kingdoms is simply an absurd idea that would be very unlikely to happen back then especially having that kind of war with that kind of pace I described where everything just moves so fast each year wherein every year a new power is conquered and territory changes, while emperors too themselves travel across the empire in such a short matter of time. When writing this story, I wrote the battles going in such a fast-paced manner wherein every year new territorial changes are made as I was basing it on how things went in the actual world wars in the 20th century while I also wanted to feature every corner of the Roman world whether in Europe, Africa, or Asia; however if I were to write this kind of story of a world war in the 5th century pace, this story would go on forever as the war could end up going on for 20 years or more wherein two generations would go through the war, unlike here where it only lasted for some 8 years (480-488). With everything that had happened in this story including the larger-than-life battles, the Sassanids themselves assisting the Eastern Romans by even going to their empire, how quickly things moved, and even the fact that the Western Roman Empire lived beyond 476 here, I honestly too think that it is all just plain fantasy, and this is actually why I wrote this story as it was all just for fantasy purposes as we all know the Western Roman Empire fell in 476, and so the story goes. However, since I have been making alternate history stories wherein I change something that had happened in history and see how things will play out for the future if that happened, and honestly whatever I wrote here is what I would think would happen if Western Rome did not fall in 476, but it is hard to tell if these events as mentioned here would happen as Western Rome did really fall in 476. Well, as everything in this story will just stay here, I will no longer make a continuation story wherein the 6th century would play out differently wherein Leo II and his successors would continue ruling the Eastern Roman Empire rather than Anastasius I, Justin I, and Justinian I like in real history, as instead the next article and next spin-off story to my Byzantine Alternate History series will be something more factual but with fictional twists. The next spin-off story then would be focusing on the early years of Emperor Justinian I the Great before he would rule the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 527, and so to tell that story whatever happened here will not happen there as we will have to go with what happened in the real historical timeline to tell his story, but the difference is that I will be adding fictional elements to his time growing up as nothing much is recorded about Justinian’s early years. Anyway, this is all for the second part of the Byzantine Alternate History spin-off stories, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveller… Thank you for your time!
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