The Roman-Gothic War- Byzantine Alternate History Spin-off Part I

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 4th century using real historical figures but having a totally different story altogether.

READ BYZANTINE ALTERNATE HISTORY CHAPTER I FIRST BEFORE READING THIS!

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Welcome to our first article for this year 2022! Since I have completed a 12-chapter series last year featuring 12 different alternate history scenarios in Byzantine history with one chapter set in each of its 12 centuries (4th-15th centuries), for this year I have suddenly decided to further expand on some of these chapters by creating smaller spin-off stories to them. Although I’ve done 12 entire chapters which cover the entire history of the Byzantine Empire with each having their own twist, this time I will only do 4 spin-off stories for 4 chapters of the series, which are namely chapters I, II, III, and XII (the finale), while one chapter in the series on the other hand too this year will get its own Lego film for my channel No Budget Films, and out of the 12 it turned out to be chapter IX set in the 12th century. These spin-off stories now will be almost entirely fictional ones, as they will be based on the alternate history outcomes of these said chapters wherein their endings are not what actually happened in reality, thus there will be no longer a need to explain the historical context of their stories, which I did in the main chapters themselves. Instead, in these spin-off stories, we will just discuss what did happen 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 I. 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. On the other hand, these spin-off stories beginning with this one will be shared first to my Patreon page before it is made fully public when all the other spin-off stories would be completed.

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Flag of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, 4th century

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Note: Since this story is set in the 4th century before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine characters will be referred to as Romans, not Byzantines.

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Map of the Western (red) and Eastern (yellow) Roman Empires in the 4th century

Now as this particular one here will be the spin-off of Chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History taking place in the 4th century with its main story on the Roman-Gothic War (376-382) which centered on a fictional Roman victory over the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 whereas in real history the Romans suffered a crushing defeat to the Goths here, and only a few years later was this Gothic threat taken care of when the invading Goths were settled into the Roman Empire as allied soldiers or Foederati. For this spin-off, we will start off where chapter I ended having a Roman victory over the Goths at Adrianople, and here we will discuss what would happen next following this, and although again things will be almost entirely fictional, there will still be a bit of real history mentioned just to explain a bit on what happened in real history. As we discuss further what would happen over the next couple of years following 378 if the Romans defeated the Goths at Adrianople, we will see how things would turn out for both the Romans and Goths in the aftermath of this fatal battle. In this story, we will basically start off with the Romans victorious and what they would do in the next couple of years to strengthen their empire in case another Gothic invasion comes while we will also see how the Goths would react to their defeat, thus most of the same characters from chapter I who survived the events of it will all be here with the addition of new characters as well most being real historical figures whose stories will be altered to fit in this alternate retelling of events in the late 4th century with only a few being entirely fictional ones made up only for this story, thus for the real characters their stories will totally be different from what it was in real history due to the events of history turning out to be totally different. To further make this story complex as one not only about battles with lots of blood and gore, it will be highly fictionalized with a lot of family drama in the Roman imperial family ruling both eastern and western halves, religious tensions in the Roman Empire where the people and the co-emperors are torn between Nicene and Arian Christianity, a lot of betrayals and shifting loyalties, schemes, revenge plots, explorations to unknown lands in Eastern Europe hardly mentioned in Ancient records as well as the people living in them, and even scenarios that would seem highly impossible if they happened in real history. In its climax, this story will feature a scenario wherein the defeated Goths back across the Roman Empire’s northern border come back with a vengeance now having expanded their territory and uniting with and subjugating more people including the Huns that have been threatening them for the longest time in order to launch a massive invasion on the Roman Empire like never before. Here, we shall see if the Romans would put aside their political and religious differences to face the return and revenge of the Goths and also if the Goths are actually willing to unite to build an empire and strike back at Rome. Now before we move on to the main story itself, first of all the story will begin with a recap of what happened in chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History as well as what actually happened in real history, then we proceed to the main story itself on what will happen after the Romans won over the Goths in 378. Now this story too features a large collection of artworks featuring scenes and characters from the late Roman era from artists whose works I’ve already featured in past articles and new artists in which this article will be the first time I will be featuring their works and these include Giuseppe Rava, Amelianvs, Ediacar, CannicusPalentine, Thehoundofulster, R-ninja, Youngcavalier, LordMatini, Giulia Valentini, and Amdanielito.

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Map of all Barbarian invasions into the Roman Empire, 100-500AD
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Guide to the late Roman army’s structure, positions in the late Roman army will feature a lot here; art by myself 

The Leading Characters (Recurring Characters from Chapter I):

Valens- Eastern Roman emperor

Gratian- Western Roman emperor, nephew of Valens

Theodosius the Younger- Eastern Roman traitor general turned Goth general

Fritigern- King of the Thervingi Goths

Athanaric- Co-ruler of the Thervingi Goths with Fritigern

Alatheus- Former Goth commander turned Roman allied commander

*Valdis- Female Greuthungi Goth leader (fictional character made up for this story)

Flavius Stilicho- Western Roman officer

Valentinian II- Western Roman co-emperor, half-brother of Gratian

Richomeres- Western Roman general

Lupicinus- Eastern Roman general

Justina- Western Roman empress, mother of Valentinian II

Arbogast- Western Roman officer

Flavius Anthemius- Eastern Roman officer

Bauto- Western Roman general

Theodosius the Elder- Retired Western Roman general, father of Theodosius the Younger

New Leading Characters Introduced for this Story:

Magnus Maximus- Roman general in Britain

Alaric- Thervingi Goth commander

Ambrose- Bishop of Milan

Vithericus- Young ruler of the Greuthungi Goths, nephew of Valdis

Timasius- Eastern Roman general

Rufinus- Eastern Roman general


Recap of Chapter I and the Events in Real History         

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In Chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History, we went over a what if of the Western Roman emperor Valentinian I the Great (r. 364-375) surviving his death in 375 as in real history we know that in 375, he suffered a stroke after being so enraged following a failed negotiation with Germanic envoys which thus led to his death on the spot, however in chapter I Valentinian instead survived as his guards and staff stopped him from further being enraged as they couldn’t afford to let him die for they needed a strong emperor like him considering that they were living in a difficult time in which little did they know would become even more difficult. In the meantime, just like in real history Valentinian I’s younger brother Valens had been ruling the Roman Empire’s eastern half from Constantinople since 364 ever since Valentinian gave him control of the east then while he took control of the west, but in 376 everything would change especially for Valens’ eastern half when a massive horde of Goths numbering up to 90,000 including women and children amassed outside the Danube border seeking refuge in Roman territory in fear of a new and mysterious expanding enemy from the north and east, which were the Huns. Valens believing these Gothic migrants from the Thervingi tribe (later Visigoths) coming from across their borders in what was once the Roman province of Dacia (today’s Romania) could be settled into the empire peacefully as they had no choice as their homeland would soon be destroyed by these said Huns.

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Goths from across the Danube led travel into Roman lands, 376

Although the Goths were let into the empire’s borders, the moment they came in they meant trouble as the Romans did not have enough food supply to feed them that these Goths had to sell off their children to buy dog meat, and when Roman authorities in the Balkans thought of dispersing these Goths before they would mean trouble, the Goths led by their ruler Fritigern rebelled, and when the Roman general in Moesia tried to lure Fritigern and his men in order to kill him off once and for all, Fritigern escaped and out of revenge brutally crushed the Roman army sent to stop him, while the victorious Goths too stole the better quality weapons of the slain Roman soldiers which then made the Goths much stronger in battle. In the meantime, another Gothic horde being warriors from the Greuthungi tribe (later Ostrogoths) which were the Thervingi’s eastern neighbor from what is today’s Ukraine also fled into the Roman Empire’s Danube border as their lands too had been devastated by the Huns, and when arriving they easily slaughtered the Roman border guards allowing them to storm into the empire and devastate it eventually joining with the Thervingi Goths pillaging their way through Roman Thrace in an act of revenge against the Romans for mistreating them.

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Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

Hearing of the Goths devastating the Roman Balkans, Valens who was all the way in Antioch had no choice but to declare war on the Goths to push them out of the empire’s borders, thus he sent his troops back to the Balkans while an army from the western half also arrived to contain the Goths. The forces of the Eastern and Western Romans then clashed with the Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths in battle in 377 at the mouth of the Danube into the Black Sea, but at the end, both sides never achieved anything, thus resulting in the battle being abandoned allowing the Goths to again continue pillaging through the Balkans. As the Goths continued pillaging- in the case of chapter I only but not in real history- the Roman general in Moesia being Theodosius the Younger attempted to stop the Goths but in the story’s case was captured and when captured, he was successfully convinced by Fritigern to join them as Fritigern believed that to beat the Romans, they needed a Roman traitor with them to share with them all of the Romans’ battle tactics. Theodosius would however only be fully convinced to join the Goths after helping the Goth leaders break into a Roman fort in Thrace and steal Roman siege weapons while Theodosius too convinced the entire fort’s garrison to join him and the Goths. Valens meanwhile returned to the eastern half’s capital Constantinople in 378 only to immediately be forced to lead the army himself against the troublesome Goths that were already nearby as Valens felt that he needed to win a victory for the glory as he seemed to be losing his popularity, and before confronting the Goths in battle, in the case of chapter I, the still alive Valentinian I- who in real history had already been dead since 375- arrived with a large army to join forces with Valens against the Goths seeing his younger brother Valens again after 14 years as the last time they saw each other in person was in 364 when both were made co-emperors.

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Roman legionnaires at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

For several hours, the Eastern and Western Roman troops marched in the heat of summer arriving at the site of battle outside the city of Adrianople greatly exhausted, however when arriving the battle did not immediately begin as Fritigern waited for all his men to assemble thus making him buy time by faking a negotiation, though out of impatience a unit from the Eastern Roman army charged at Fritigern’s camp above the hill only to be ambushed as the entire Gothic army now with allied Alan and Hun mercenaries arrived encircling the Roman troops below. Like in real history, the battle here went in favor of the Goths who came to the point of encircling the Romans on all sides while by stealing Roman weapons including siege engines, the Goths were gaining the upper hand, however what was different in the case of chapter I was that Valentinian was alive to be in the battle and being a much stronger emperor and commander compared to his younger brothers Valens, he was able to inspire his troops to not give up, thus Roman troops continued fighting rather than losing to fear as was the case in real history. What was different in the case of chapter I too was that the Gothic commander Alatheus and his division including Alan cavalry feeling conflicted defected to the side of the Romans killing his own fellow Goths as well as he could see that if he joined the Romans, he would have a better future, however this case did not happen in real history, but in chapter I’s case Alatheus switching sides was a major factor that turned the tide of war to the side of the Romans leading to many defeated Goths to flee the battle. Now as the Romans and Goths battled below the hill, both Valentinian and Valens in the case of chapter I charged up the hill attacking Fritigern’s camp and even breaking into Fritigern’s tent when in the story’s case, the enraged Valentinian attacked Fritigern himself when seeing Theodosius there now as Fritigern’s loyal servant, and after both Valentinian and Valens together defeated Fritigern in the duel, Valentinian showed his full wrath to the point of frightening Fritigern, though shortly after, Valentinian’s anger still led to his death due to it, as what happened to him in real history in 375. Fritigern then surrendered and together with Theodosius and the defeated Goths decided to retreat back across the Danube while Valens now came out victorious despite winning a pyrrhic victory with 2/3 of the Roman army lost, and as Valens together with the victorious Romans and Alatheus who now joined forces with them returned to Constantinople for Valentinian’s funeral, victory celebrations followed.

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Goths enter the Roman Empire, 376
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Roman legionnaires battling the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

         

In real history however, the Roman forces lost to the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 not only because Valentinian I did not live long enough to assist Valens and the east then, but because Valens listened to the bad advice of his generals to attack without waiting for western reinforcements while in battle the Romans being exhausted after marching for hours easily lost to fear the moment the Goths surrounded them.

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Roman defeat to the Goths and death of Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

In real history, Alatheus never defected to the Romans and in fact together with Fritigern after winning the battle continued to pillage through the Roman countryside while Theodosius too never betrayed Rome in real history, as in reality Theodosius was not even present in the Balkans in 378 at the time of the battle, while in real history as well when the Romans lost the Battle of Adrianople, the emperor Valens himself was killed in battle by the Goths when after being wounded sought refuge inside a farmhouse which the Goths fired flaming arrows at without knowing who was in there. With Valens and most of his generals killed in battle, the Goths then freely pillaged their way through Thrace, Macedonia, and even into Northern Greece while another division of them too tried to attack Constantinople later in 378 only to be repelled as they lacked siege weapons, though despite losing the Goths still continued their pillaging spree. In the meantime, since Valentinian I’s death in real history, the empire’s western half was ruled by his son Gratian as its senior emperor or Augustus who only in early 379 managed to contain the Goths by appointing the same Theodosius the Younger who had returned to the Balkans as the eastern emperor considering that after Valens’ death there was no eastern emperor, and out of everyone to be appointed it had to be Theodosius as he was the only skilled general around as shortly after the Roman defeat at Adrianople, he returned to commanding the army in the Balkans.

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Emperor Theodosius I the Great (r. 379-395)

Right when arriving in Constantinople in 379, Theodosius I immediately began the second phase of the Gothic war using the city of Thessaloniki as his base, however his campaigns against the still pillaging Goths of Fritigern began out terribly as lacking an army considering that 2/3 of it was lost in Adrianople, Theodosius had to recruit old veterans that had not fought in decades and inexperienced young men who even cut themselves to avoid being recruited but still ended up recruited anyway while Theodosius too hired Gothic mercenaries which at the end only tuned on them by defecting to their fellow Goths. It was only in 381 however when the Romans began gaining the upper hand against the Goths as here the western armies sent by Gratian managed to push them out of Pannonia (today’s Hungary) back to Thrace, and in 382 with the Gothic army severely reduced, they surrendered to Theodosius ending the Gothic War while Theodosius too decided it was no longer worth it to continue battling them as they would just continue to lose soldiers, thus Theodosius settled peace with the Goths allowing them to live within the Roman Empire as allied Foederati soldiers fighting under their own leaders. In real history, both Fritigern and Alatheus would disappear from the picture after 382 while in 381, Theodosius too granted asylum to Fritigern’s rival Gothic king Athanaric allowing him to live in Constantinople and at Athanaric’s death in 382, he was given the same kind of funeral given to a Roman emperor by Theodosius. Now having Gothic allied troops in the Roman army, they would soon prove to be effective in battle as they helped Theodosius win his future wars.

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Defeat of the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

The Spin-off- The Aftermath of Adrianople (378-384)            

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In Constantinople, 3 weeks after the Eastern and Western Roman forces won the Battle of Adrianople despite losing 2/3 of their troops sent there, a large triumphal procession took place in Constantinople’s main street the Mese, and here the eastern half’s capital despite being a metropolis for just 48 years since it was founded by Emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337) in 330 was already a thriving imperial metropolis with a large population all cheering as they have finally defeated the troublesome Goths despite losing a lot of men in the process. Leading the triumphal procession was the victorious emperor Valens on a horse in full imperial armor who here did not seem thrilled at all but instead tired as he just came out of a battle that he was sure to lose but still won while he was also saddened as his older brother the Western Augustus Valentinian I died as a result of his own anger after battling the Gothic king Fritigern. The triumphal procession then ended in Constantinople’s Hippodrome, a structure that dates back to the late 2nd century predating Constantinople itself, and with the triumphal procession over, Valens had the body of Valentinian in display for the public to see and when back in Constantinople, Valens was greeted first by his wife the empress Albia Dominica.

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Western Roman emperor Valentinian I (r. 364-378), died in 378 in this story’s case

Some 2 weeks later was Valentinian I’s actual funeral at the Church of the Holy Apostles, the mausoleum built to bury the emperors beginning with Constantinople’s founder Constantine I, and here Valentinian I’s son now the senior western Augustus Gratian arrived by ship in Constantinople together with his general and top advisor Theodosius the Elder or simply Count Theodosius- who in real history had died in 376 being executed by his rivals following Valentinian I’s death- although in this story’s case he is still alive and still in military service, however little did he know that his son Theodosius the Younger betrayed Rome and joined the Goths. Valentinian would then be buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles with both Valens and Gratian present to see his body be laid, and while burying Valentinian, Valens here would tell Gratian that he learned his lesson as when almost losing he realized that he should have always cooperated with the west and also that he should not let his insecurities get the best of him as Valens after all impulsively chose to attack the Goths earlier on without thinking believing he would win a victory as he really needed one considering that he was very unpopular with his people, mostly because he was an Arian Christian while most of the empire’s people were Nicene Christians.

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Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, burial site of Roman emperors since 337

Now with Valens victorious over the Goths’ in this story’s case, he gained a lot of popularity, thus when he and Gratian came to announce their plans, Valens was greatly cheered by the people of Constantinople. Before Gratian and Valens would make their speeches, both would congratulate the heroic Roman commanders both from the empire’s eastern and western halves that survived Adrianople and were now lined up at the Hippodrome’s front row seats and these included the Frankish descended western Magister Militum or “Master of Soldiers” Richomeres and his nephew the junior commander Arbogast, the Western empire’s junior infantry commander Flavius Stilicho who was a half-Roman half-Vandal, the west’s cavalry commander of Frankish descent Bauto, the eastern general of Greek descent Lupicinus, eastern junior commander Flavius Anthemius who was also of Greek descent, the city prefect or Mayor of Constantinople Trajan who however had no part in the battle, and lastly their new Gothic ally Alatheus who now defected to the side of the Romans, and before making their speeches both Valens and Gratian called out their names congratulating them for helping them win a victory while Gratian personally congratulated Alatheus for defecting to Rome seeing Alatheus will be a valuable ally in the future due to his fearlessness in battle as Gratian had heard. Gratian would first begin making his speech saying that he too had won a victory early that year (378) himself by pushing the Alemanni Germanic tribe away from the western half’s Rhine border with the help of his general Theodosius the Elder- though in real history Gratian really won a victory in 378 over the Alemanni except without Theodosius the Elder who had already died in 376- thus this victory would gain Gratian a lot of popularity, while it also shaped him into an adult and a stronger emperor like his father Valentinian I.

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Bust of Emperor Valens, Eastern Roman emperor since 364

Valens however would then butt in speaking up to the people saying that with them almost losing to the Goths at Adrianople it taught them that both east and west should cooperate together at all times but Gratian butts in again speaking up saying that he vows to be the same kind of strong and ruthless emperor his father Valentinian was, but Valens again says that they as Romans must prioritize caution first as this is what his experience in the recent Battle of Adrianople taught him. The people and soldiers in the audience however would end up becoming confused on what both Gratian and Valens were saying until Valens spoke up announcing his succession plan saying that since Gratian was now the senior emperor in the west, Valens would still rule as the most senior of the emperors as he was the oldest but since Valens had no sons as his only son died back in 370 at only 4-years-old, the east following Valens’ death in the future would be inherited by Gratian’s younger half-brother Valentinian II who here was back in Milan and only 7-years-old. When both emperors finished their speeches, both would meet up with Count Theodosius who would then ask what the hell had ever happened to his son Theodosius the Younger, and Valens here would speak the truth saying that Fritigern corrupted his mind making him join the Goths back to their homeland, and when hearing this Count Theodosius was extremely upset and sad, thus he would not show up later for Gratian’s coronation. Although Valentinian I already named his eldest son Gratian his co-Augustus in 367, here Gratian would be crowned again as he was now the senior Augustus of the west following his father’s death, and at Constantinople’s Hippodrome, Gratian dressed in golden robes with a purple cloak over it stood above a large shield lifted by the soldiers whereas people around him shouted “God save the emperor!”. With his coronation over, Gratian would return west by ship together with the western commanders Richomeres, Arbogast, Stilicho, Bauto, and Alatheus who now chose to settle in Western Roman territory while Lupicinus, Trajan, and Anthemius would remain in their original positions in the east with Valens.

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Hippodrome of Constantinople

           

Meanwhile, Fritigern with what survived of his Gothic army as well as Theodosius the Younger after weeks since losing the Battle of Adrianople retreated back across the Danube to Dacia returning to their old homeland seeing it completely abandoned and desolated considering that thousands of Goths fled into Roman territory while the Huns too have greatly devastated their lands.

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Fritigern, King of the Thervingi Goths (Visigoths)

Fritigern’s rival King of the Thervingi Goths Athanaric who after being defeated by the Huns years ago lost support causing many of his men to defect to Fritigern instead, now- in this story’s case- retired to an old Roman villa in the Carpathian Mountains located in Dacia (today’s Romania) as Dacia was once true enough a Roman province and a major source of gold export due to its rich mines with the mountains before Roman troops pulled out from it in the 270s. In real history, Athanaric after losing most of his power and influence in 376 too retired to the Carpathian Mountains though here, Athanaric was living comfortably and when seeing Fritigern come at his doorstep, he was in great shock as true enough Fritigern wanted to flee to Roman territory not only because he wanted to escape the Huns but to escape his rival Athanaric, and for Athanaric the best thing that has ever happened to him was Fritigern who had always been a pain on his side leaving. With Fritigern back in Gothic lands and seeing Athanaric again, Athanaric would ask him why he returned and Fritigern would say that he attempted to settle in Roman lands but was mistreated and at the end defeated, though Athanaric would at first not buy Fritigern’s story and still choose to stay away from him. Fritigern however would tell Athanaric that they have no more choice but to stand united as for one they have no chance of standing against the Romans as Fritigern’s Goths failed to migrate to Roman territory and on the other hand, the Huns were still a threat that could wipe them out, thus for the Goths to survive they have to be united. Athanaric on the other hand was at odds with Fritigern and many other Goths for years mostly because of religion as Athanaric was a devout Gothic Pagan while Fritigern and his faction were Arian Christians which made Athanaric believe this spread of Arian Christianity among the Goths would destroy Gothic culture thus leading to Athanaric persecuting his Arian and other Christian subjects which also caused Fritigern to escape the Goth lands.

Meanwhile, Fritigern’s army including Greuthungi Goth allies and Theodosius after leaving Roman territory in this story’s case chose to settle in the ruins of Sarmizegetusa which was once the Roman capital of the province of Dacia which the Goths previously destroyed about a century earlier when the Romans abandoned the province of Dacia, and now the Goths originally being a people without any permanent capital or settlements here chose this place which they here in this case at first built makeshift huts and training grounds to live in.

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Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths, 4th century

While basing themselves in the old Dacian capital, the Goth leaders of both the Greuthungi and Thervingi that survived the Battle of Adrianople would bicker negatively amongst themselves especially about losing the battle and a lot of their men, and the one most bitter about their defeat would be Valdis– the fictional female Greuthungi Goth commander made specifically for chapter I- who when setting up camp in this said location would constantly slash her sword on a wooden mannequin remembering how she was defeated in a duel at the Battle of Adrianople to the Roman general Richomeres and thinking about it would further fuel her rage. The other Gothic leaders of both tribes as well had been nonstop complaining and voicing out their rage about how half of their army including their best warriors were slain, about how Alatheus who was one of their toughest leaders betrayed them and joined forces with the Romans which surely was a major factor for the Goths’ defeat, and about how his partner in battle Saphrax was beaten and slain by younger inexperienced Roman soldiers being Stilicho and Arbogast- however in real history Saphrax survived the battle and continued with Alatheus and Fritigern in pillaging the Roman Balkans. Meanwhile, Theodosius who had been resting in one of the Goths’ makeshift tents in the ruins of Sarmizegetusa came out but is not warmly received by the Goth leaders who still see him as an outsider for being a Roman despite Theodosius contributing a lot in helping the Goths such as in helping them steal Roman siege weapons from a fort in Thrace.

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Theodosius the Younger

As Theodosius still dressed in his Roman general’s uniform of a scaled cuirass armor with his Roman tunic and trousers underneath walks past the Goths acting as if he were their leader simply because Fritigern was away, they soon begin jumping on him and attacking him to prove his strength in battle, but here the much smaller and thinner Theodosius who was several inches smaller than the average large sized Goths in height surprisingly takes down 10 Gothic warriors with his bare hands knocking them out into the ground including Valdis who however when down on the ground kicks Theodosius in the stomach. Theodosius after defeating the Goth warriors expresses his intention to leave them and return to Roman territory and apologize to the emperor Valens for betraying them as he now started coming to think he was wrong in joining the Goths as he only wanted to do it to gain glory in battle but at the end did not, however Valdis when getting up convinces Theodosius to stay. Valdis herself now had a duty to fulfil which was to be the regent of her nephew the Greuthungi tribe’s very young king Vithericus who here was only 4- in this story’s case- as originally both Alatheus and Saphrax were his regents but with both gone as Alatheus defected to Rome and Saphrax was slain in battle by the Romans, it was in this story’s case only Valdis being the sister of the boy’s late father Vithimiris, the former King of the Greuthungi that died battling the Huns in 376 only left to be the boy’s regent which she could not do alone, thus she needed someone to join her in that duty, and that someone here was no other than Theodosius who had a lot of military experience himself while Fritigern could not fill in the role due to him ruling another tribe entirely. Theodosius then reluctantly agreed to stay with the Goths as long as the boy Vithericus who was somewhere else at this point came to them at Sarmizegetusa in which Valdis agrees to sending a letter to the boy’s mother to come over there. In the following day, Fritigern himself returns to Sarmizegetusa except alone as Athanaric refused his offer to join forces with him and when entering the ruined city’s old and half-broken short Roman stone wall, a number of Goth warriors rush to him asking why he allowed the Roman Theodosius to live with them as they still had not trusted him yet. Fritigern then calls all the Goths in the settlement to assemble at what was once this settlement’s old Roman forum wherein he announces to everyone that Theodosius who is standing next to him is not an enemy or a Roman spy but is simply there because in order to defeat the Romans and other enemies like the Huns, the Goths need to know the Romans’ superior fighting styles. Theodosius at first tells Fritigern what he really thinks that now serving the Goths he does not want to feel being used as a pawn, however Fritigern tells Theodosius that he does not really see him as a pawn but as a king as Theodosius could provide a lot of valuable information to the Goths in defeating the Romans while Fritigern too could see that Theodosius had a lot of potential as a tough and ruthless soldier with all the determination he had. Theodosius then speaks up and walks observing the Goth warriors of both the Greuthungi and Thervingi tribes being able to speak well to them in Latin as true enough many of the Goths understood the Roman Empire’s languages of Latin and Greek and here Theodosius tells them that their traditional way of fighting by just simply showing aggression, using heavy attacks, jumping on enemies, as well as using wagon forts or laagers as their only form of defense is worthless, and that they must learn the more organized battle tactics of the Romans rather than just charging straight into battle in order for they as Goths to finally defeat the Romans in battle. Other than that, Theodosius tells the Goths that he will give them the secrets to making the more superior Roman weapons of longswords and spears telling them too that by having the same strength as the Roman army, they could face their ultimate terror, the Huns.

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Sarmizegetusa, former Roman capital of Dacia, turned into the Goths’ base in this story

           

2 years have now passed, and now in the year 380 back in the Roman Empire, the senior Western Augustus Gratian is now fully grown up at age 21, and now learning that the number one lesson to ruling the empire was to cooperate with the eastern half, here he maintains endlessly good relations with the eastern half ruled by his uncle Valens, and here in this story with Gratian’s general Count Theodosius now old and saddened about his son defecting to the Goths, he retires to his personal estate in his homeland Hispania whereas one of the previous Gothic war’s hero Richomeres replaces Count Theodosius as Gratian’s top general or Magister Militum.

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Emperor Gratian, son of Valentinian I, Emperor of the west

By this point, Gratian like in real history following his father Valentinian I’s death had based himself in the city of Augusta Treverorum (Trier) along the Rhine border and in 380 as well like in real history, the Rhine border near Trier would be attacked by the Germanic Alemanni and Vandal tribes who were pushed west by the Goths and Huns into Roman borders, however like in real history Gratian and his forces would easily defeat these invading Alemanni and Vandals. Though winning a victory here, Gratian would later in 381 get word that the same tribes being pressured by both Goths and Huns had turned south and invaded the western half’s Danube border, thus forcing Gratian to decide to move his seat of power from Trier to Mediolanum (Milan) where his younger half-brother and co-emperor Valentinian II was at all this time. Although in this story, Gratian in 381 with the assistance of eastern troops sent by his uncle Valens in this story’s case led by the once cowardly and now brave Greek Lupicinus as well as with the help of their new Gothic ally Alatheus and his men, they would manage to successfully repel this Alemanni and Vandal invasion of the Danube in Germany and when capturing the Vandal and Alemanni leaders they would reveal to the Romans that the Goths and Huns were pushing them into the empire saying that the Goths- in this story’s case- were now coming back with a vengeance but slowly.

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Germanic Alemanni warriors

In Milan, Gratian would then meet with his uncle Valens who had in this story’s case travelled there all the way from Constantinople to discuss about what Gratian had heard from his prisoners of war about the Gothic threat returning; Valens here while dining with Gratian would not believe it as his part of the Danube border remained stable for the past 3 years since 378. Later on, Gratian would have a dinner in Milan together with his uncle Valens, his younger co-emperor and half-brother Valentinian II and his mother Justina, the western generals Richomeres and Bauto, and the Bishop of Milan Ambrose who was once a government official of the city before being made a bishop in 374 in order to fill in a power vacuum as the city’s former bishop back then had died. Now Ambrose was born to a Roman patrician family from Trier and had grown up to be a highly educated and cultured man, although when unexpectedly becoming the Bishop of Milan in 374 after just settling a dispute between Church leaders there after the death of the previous bishop which in turn made these people choose Ambrose to succeed the late bishop despite having no religious experience, he suddenly became a Nicene Christian extremist.

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Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

In real history, Gratian would be heavily influenced by Ambrose’s extremist ways causing him to severely crack down on Paganism and Arian Christianity in the empire, though in real history the major difference was that Theodosius since 379 had ruled the east from Constantinople and he too was heavily influenced by Ambrose which therefore made him together with his co-emperors Gratian and Valentinian II make Nicene Christianity the empire’s official religion in 380. In this story’s case with Theodosius not around as the emperor in the east but instead the Arian Valens, Ambrose here would successfully begin turning the Nicene Gratian against his Arian uncle Valens thus ruining the good relations between both halves of the empire, and in this story it would already be evident here in this dinner whereas Valens would keep suggesting to maintain peace with the defeated Goths despite knowing about them coming back again as a threat as both Valens and most of the Goths were Arian, but here Gratian acting under Ambrose’s influence would strongly object to his uncle telling him there is no other way but to deal with these Goths with such aggression, but really Ambrose was convincing Gratian to object to his uncle as a way to make Gratian believe that Valens being an Arian sympathized with the Goths. The arguments between Gratian and Valens would soon later on lead to both of them almost getting into a fistfight before Justina, Gratian’s stepmother would stop them, thus Gratian would apologize to his uncle Valens telling him that he is clearly not used to the burdens of being an emperor as after all Gratian was never ready as back in 367 when he was only around 8 his father Valentinian I who here was gravely ill and close to death named Gratian who was his only son then as his co-Augustus as a safety measure, however Valentinian soon enough recovered, and it was also at around this time when Count Theodosius and his son Theodosius the Younger defeated the Great Conspiracy led by barbarian tribes in Britain putting all of Britain back again under Roman control.

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Empress Justina, wife of former emperor Valentinian I

Justina here acting as the voice of reason between Gratian and Valens would also tell both of them that she too never thought she would be an empress one day but fate made her into one as back when she was a young girl at only 10-years-old in 350 she was forced to marry the much older usurper emperor Magnentius as a way to secure his legitimacy as Justina was related to the ruling Constantinian Dynasty back then while Magnentius being a general only rose up the ranks and became emperor only after murdering the legitimate emperor Constans (r. 337-350), the son of Constantine the Great, however in 353 Magnentius lost the throne after being defeated in battle by the forces of Constans’ older brother the eastern emperor Constantius II (r. 337-361) leading to the defeated Magnentius to commit suicide. Justina then disappeared from public life since then until sometime in the 360s when meeting Gratian’s mother Marina Severa who back then was still alive as the ruling Western emperor Valentinian I’s wife and later on Justina discovered that Marina was attracted to her especially towards her body and its perfect shape as Marina would frequently bathe together with Justina in Milan seeing the full physique of her body, and true enough the historian of this time Socrates of Constantinople (380-439) says exactly that Marina fell in love with Justina’s beautiful body which possessed such symmetry and form that Marina ended up convincing her husband Valentinian to make polygamy legal only for him to marry Justina while already married to Marina just so that Marina could stay close to Justina. Following this, polygamy was never legal again in the Roman Empire while Marina had already died sometime before 375 when Valentinian I actually died in real history, while Justina after marrying Valentinian in 370 had 4 children with him with only one son being Valentinian II born in 371 and following him 3 daughters namely Galla, Grata, and Justa all born before 375 too. By this point in 381 in this story’s case, Justina now over 40 still had the same attractive physique and beauty, although one secret she had but kept all this time was that like Valens, she was also an Arian Christian, but since her former husband Valentinian was a Nicene Christian but not a devoted one, she still kept her support for Arianism low-key, but now with Valentinian dead she strongly supported Milan’s Arian faction causing a rift between her and the bishop Ambrose like in real history as well.

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Coin of Western Roman emperor Gratian

Now following this meet-up between Gratian and Valens in Milan that went nowhere, Valens shortly after returned to Constantinople while Gratian now ruling from Milan continued ruling beginning to act as the same kind of strong emperor his father was but over time kept falling for the advice and manipulation of the bishop Ambrose who further made Gratian more and more of an extremist Nicene Christian that in 382 like in real history, Gratian being convinced by Ambrose ordered the statue of the winged Roman goddess of victory removed from the Roman Forum in Rome despite it having been there for centuries while also declaring that all the wealth from Pagan temples be confiscated to fund the state administration which then made Gratian more and more unpopular among the Pagans of the empire in which there was still a significant population of. On the other hand, Gratian in this story like in real history as well had been married since 374 to Flavia Maxima Constantia, the daughter of the former emperor Constantius II who was a posthumous daughter being born after her father’s sudden death in 361, although in this story like in real history Constantia did not produce any children with Gratian, and like in real history as well she here also died in 383 leaving Gratian to now marry another woman named Laeta. In this story as it also happened in real history, Gratian in the summer of 383 would be fighting a war again against the Alemanni at the Roman Danube border in Raetia (today’s Southern Germany) and like in real history as well, Gratian here would begin showing favoritism towards his Alan allied army preferring them over his real Roman troops which began making his professional Roman army start feeling more alienated by him, although here in this story Gratian would start relying more heavily not only on Alans but on Alatheus and his allied army of Goths and Alans as here in this campaign in this story’s case, Alatheus and his men had joined Gratian in this campaign wherein these allied Foederati soldiers showed more participation in battle than the professional Roman legions. Due to Alatheus proving his skill in battle more and his loyalty to Gratian as well, he would start becoming Gratian’s chance of scoring victories as here they were successful at repelling the Alemanni, though the professional legion soldiers were again more and more angered by this. In 383 as well just like in real history, the same Roman-Spanish general based in Britain Magnus Maximus after winning a victory against the invading Picts from the north (Scotland) in 382 raised the standard of revolt with his army against Gratian for rather unclear reasons. Now in real history, Magnus Maximus revolted against Gratian mainly because he wanted to rule the empire together with his old friend Theodosius I who in real history since 379 ruled the east making his long-time friend and fellow Roman-Spaniard who previously joined Theodosius and his father in the campaign against rebels and barbarians in Britain back in 367 want to rule the west while Theodosius ruled the east. In this story with Theodosius no longer in the Roman Empire, Magnus in Britain would still rebel as he saw that Britain needed more military protection and attention from the emperor as Gratian neglected Britain seeing it as too far away, thus in 383 as well Magnus together with his army crossed the channel into Gaul now declaring war on Gratian.          

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Late Roman era Augusta Treverorum (Trier)
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Late Roman era Mediolanum (Milan)

Meanwhile, as of 382 the Goths back in Dacia have now continued to regroup and thrive with both Thervingi and Greuthungi tribes living together under the rule of Fritigern while Theodosius after 4 years of living with the Goths had now grown accustomed to the Goth way of life, thus he began dressing up in the more unkempt clothes of the Goths that included fur and animal skins as well as styling himself like a Goth with long hair and a beard, while years of having to survive in the much colder climate across the Danube wherein Theodosius had to chop wood and carry heavy items himself made him gain more muscle though made him more and more ruthless as well. Since 378 as well, the young ruler Vithericus who became the Greuthungi’s ruler at only 2-years-old- at least in this story’s case- back in 376 had arrived in Sarmizegetusa with his unnamed mother and protector, and now in 382 he had already matured now being 8, and although Vithericus never really remembered his original regents Alatheus and Saphrax much since he was only 2 when he last saw them, all he knew when growing up was that the Romans killed Saphrax while Alatheus defected to them which then made Vithericus keep asking his new regents Theodosius and Valdis to have revenge on Alatheus for leaving them.

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Late Roman legionnaire’s weapons and equipment

Theodosius however still keeping his cautious approach to things which he learned from years of serving in the Roman army would here keep telling young Vithericus that they will only have revenge on Rome when the time is right. In the meantime for the past 4 years, Theodosius had succeeded in teaching the Goth warriors all fighting styles of the Romans though with such difficulty as it seemed to be difficult at first for the Goths to start adapting to the Roman fighting styles, though at the same time Theodosius ordered thousands of late Roman style spears, shields, swords, darts, bows, and arrows manufactured for the Goth warriors, and one thing too that he educated the Goths in was in fighting in the same way as the Roman heavy cavalry or Cataphracts did by using long and heavy spears when riding a horse, though this cavalry unit the Romans used as well as their fighting styles was heavily influenced by the cavalry of the Goths and Rome’s traditional eastern enemy, the Sassanid Empire.

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Athanaric, King of the Thervingi Goths (Visigoths)

Only 4 years later in 382 since the Goths returned across the Danube however would Athanaric finally change his mind and agree to join forces with Fritigern, thus Athanaric here in 382 would show up in Sarmizegetusa which now transformed from an old ruin the Goths squatted on to becoming a thriving settlement with many standing clay and straw houses wherein he would ask to meet Fritigern himself, and when meeting each other Fritigern would at first think Athanaric was only feeling guilty for turning him down 4 years earlier but when Athanaric would demonstrate his skill with a sword despite being here over 50, Fritigern would now let him in but also ask why he suddenly showed up. Athanric here would say his reason to now change his mind and help Fritigern despite being rivals in the past was because he knew that the Huns could one day return to destroy them all while the rest of the Goth lands in Eastern Europe too fell into ruin, thus it was about time to put aside their differences as Athanaric did not have enough men to stop the advance of the Huns from the east and put most of Eastern Europe back under their hands, but only with Fritigern whose men now have begun training in the more advanced Roman battle tactics could they stand against the Huns and build a “Gothic Empire”; ironically not to mention, it was in 382 in real history when Athanaric died in Constantinople, but here in this story he would be alive and well and ready for battle again in 382.

Back in the Roman Empire meanwhile, as Magnus Maximus’ now invaded Gaul in 383, here like in real history many of Gratian’s professional soldiers would defect to Maximus due to Gratian’s favoritism over barbarian allied troops, and here Magnus would track Gratian and his men to Paris just like in real history, although in real history Magnus captured Paris forcing Gratian to flee to Lugdunum (Lyon) where Magnus’ men found Gratian killing him there making Magnus proceed south to Italy attempting to overthrow Gratian’s younger half-brother and co-emperor Valentinian II but before reaching Italy, Magnus’ army was stopped at the Alps by a Roman army led by the same general Bauto.

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Magnus Maximus, self-proclaimed Roman emperor from Britain in 383, art by YoungCavalier

In this story however, when Gratian still remained in Paris, he here summoned Alatheus and his Goths from the Rhine area once again to strike back against Magnus together with Bauto, Arbogast, and Stilicho with their troops as well and before Magnus had tracked him down, the troops of Stilicho and Arbogast had already cornered and encircled Magnus and his army right in time for Alatheus and his Goths to charge straight at them in a fury. In real history though, Magnus after having been proclaimed emperor by his troops in Britain had also made his teenage son with his local native Briton wife Victor his co-emperor as well against Gratian thus bringing Victor along with him too, though in this story when Magnus and his men were ambushed outside Paris by Gratian’s forces, Victor here would be slain personally by the Goth Alatheus who would suddenly jump on Victor then tear Victor into pieces himself while Magnus terrified at the sight of the fearsome looking Alatheus and his son torn apart to death would at least escape the battle alive, though Magnus would still lose his claim to the throne when escaping. Now in real history again, after the death of Gratian in 383 and Magnus attempting to attack Italy, the Bishop of Milan Ambrose was left to deal with Magnus by negotiating with him which was successful at first. For the next 4 years then in real history from 384 to 388, Magnus would rule over the provinces of Gaul, Hispania, North Africa, and Britain from Trier, though in 387 Magnus broke his word and invaded Italy forcing Valentinian II now the senior Western emperor since Gratian’s death in 383 together with mother Justina and 3 sisters out of Milan to flee east to Theodosius I’s eastern half. After being convinced by Justina in 388, Theodosius personally led the army together with Arbogast and Richomeres west to finally confront his old friend Magnus and his forces as Theodosius at first did not do anything about Magnus since they were friends for years. In real history, Magnus’ forces were then defeated in battle near the city of Aquileia in Northern Italy by Richomeres, although Magnus fled to Aquileia but was found there and executed at the age of 53 while his son Victor on the other hand who was in Trier then was strangled to death shortly afterwards by Arbogast under Theodosius’ orders. In this story however with Gratian surviving and Theodosius not around in Roman territory but instead Valens still ruling the east, the defeated Magnus would flee east to Roman occupied Germania where he would somehow receive word from his old friend Theodosius who now lived with the Goths to come over and join the Goths to further train their armies in the Roman fighting styles.

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Flavius Stilicho, half-Vandal half-Roman general, art by thehoundofulster

Another person who in real history rose to prominence too beginning 383 was the half-Roman half-Vandal general Flavius Stilicho who although in real history rose under Theodosius I in the east, but in this story with Theodosius not around Stilicho would rise under Gratian in the west, and like in real history in 383 as well, Stilicho would be sent east to the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon to negotiate peace with the Sassanid emperor (shah) Shapur III. By around 384 in this story’s case, Magnus Maximus after losing his claim to the throne would then arrive reuniting with his old friend Theodosius who was in fact a full 12 years younger than Magnus in the Goth’s base Sarmizegetusa wherein Magnus would tell Theodosius about everything that happened including about how one Goth terrified him by tearing his son into pieces. When hearing Magnus’ story, both Theodosius and Valdis would show a lot of interest especially in asking who this particular Goth was, although Magnus not knowing his name only said this said Goth was very pale in skin, had red hair in the form of a mohawk, and had a beard, and would also say that this Goth seemed to be the Western emperor Gratian’s lethal weapon, and now both Valdis and Theodosius would immediately recognize this Goth as Alatheus, although they did not recognize the beard as back then when they last saw him in 378 Alatheus was still a young man in his 20s without a beard, though Valdis here would agree with Magnus that Alatheus surely needs payback the moment they invade Roman territory. In the next few weeks with Magnus now settling in Sarmizegetusa, both he and Theodosius would continue drilling the Goths more in the Roman ways of fighting and eventually teaching them all about Roman culture and administration as well, as both Theodosius and Magnus then came to realize that to defeat an enemy like the Romans it does not only help to learn their battle tactics but to know their mind and culture as well.     

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Soldiers in a late Roman era fort, art by Giuseppe Rava

The spin-off continued- The Revenge of the Goths (385-388)          

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By 385, Stilicho after a successful negotiation with the Sassanid ruler Shapur III retuned to the Roman Empire first to the east passing by Antioch first and later Constantinople to report his success to Valens, thus Valens would send a letter to his nephew Gratian in Milan about Stilicho’s success which then gave Stilicho a promotion in the Roman army, here in this case to the rank of Magister Equitum which was the late Roman rank for cavalry general, however Gratian when hearing this would feel jealous and in a way betrayed as Stilicho served the western half and it was the eastern emperor Valens that would be the one to promote him and not Gratian. Despite feeling jealous that Stilicho was now being favored by Valens, Gratian would receive word of the Danube border in Pannonia being attacked by an army Goths which had managed to break through killing off the Roman Limitanei (border guard army), thus Gratian would immediately deploy an army led by his general Richomeres together with Arbogast as well as no other than Alatheus and his allied Foederati troops that Gratian now highly favored. Valens when hearing of this attack keeping his word to cooperate with the western half at all times then would send Stilicho as well as Anthemius who too rose up the ranks to becoming a senior officer and the general Lupicinus to the area that the Goths attacked.

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Sample 4th century Goth warrior

Meanwhile, a large army of the Goths now equipped with Roman weapons led by Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus have already departed Sarmizegetusa, and they then had happened to be the ones to attack Roman Pannonia that Gratian had just heard of just to test their skills in using Roman battle tactics against the Romans themselves, and in Sarmizegetusa both Fritigern and Athanaric would then meet at the former Roman governor’s headquarters which both rulers of the Thervingi now turned into their headquarters, and here both old men agreed that they will be co-rulers with equal power over the Goths, while Athanaric too proposed that the Greuthungi should now unite with the Thervingi considering the Greuthungi have no leader except for the young boy Vithericus who lives among them in Sarmizegetusa and is already proving to be a liability to them while the Greuthungi homeland in today’s Ukraine was now fully taken over by the Huns, thus they would have no choice but to submit to the Thervingi. Fritigern thus agreed to Athanaric’s proposal but on the condition that Theodosius would be their junior ruler and so would Valdis as having Valdis in power would still show that the Greuthungi people are still represented as she belongs to them, Athanaric thus agrees but also tells Fritigern he has an addition to their army, a man very strong in battle as a result of being full of anger and hate.

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4th century Roman Comitatenses soldier

Back in Roman Pannonia not too far away from the Goths’ base, the Gothic army under Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus have now crossed the Danube, although soon enough they are confronted with thousands of the more elite Roman infantry soldiers or Comitatenses, and although the Goths now using Roman weapons and fighting with Roman tactics push them back, the Goths under Magnus flee to a nearby swamp, though at the swamp Magnus and his Goths are suddenly ambushed by no other than Alatheus again and seeing the same man with the large red mohawk that tore his son into pieces, Magnus would run in fear back to Theodosius, Valdis, and their men. When returning to them, Magnus would notice that they have been surrounded by Roman troops led by Richomeres, Arbogast, Anthemius, and Stilicho mounted on horses, while the 5th commander Lupicinus later rides in asking out of the blue what happened. Theodosius and Valdis here attempt to strike back and kill all the Roman commanders most especially the traitor Alatheus by themselves while Anthemius too remembering Theodosius’ face- as in the case of this alternate history story and prior to the events of chapter I, Anthemius once served under Theodosius years ago- plainly and boldly calls him a traitor to Rome that needs to face execution, however Richomeres prevents a full bloody battle here from happening by asking them to head to a nearby ravine to the east where they will battle it out.

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Richomeres, Western Roman Magister Militum

By the time night falls, the Goths with Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus arrive at this said ravine but rather than seeing these Romans face them off, they are suddenly ambushed from above by boulders, and as Theodosius is first to look up, he sees the Roman Comitatenses soldiers being the ones rolling the boulders down at them while seeing Richomeres, Stilicho, Alatheus, and Lupicinus too laughing as Theodosius and his men easily fell for this trap. Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus though escape alive despite losing a number of men to the falling boulders, but with such determination Theodosius tells Valdis and Magnus that these Romans will sure soon enough, most especially the Goth traitor Alatheus will get the revenge they so need. Days later, as Lupicinus and Anthemius being part of the eastern army return to their bases in the eastern half while Richomeres, Stilicho, Arbogast, and Alatheus return to their bases in the western half, the surviving Goths including Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus return east to Sarmizegetusa where both Fritigern and Athanaric welcome them by introducing a new member to join their ranks, and this would be Athanaric’s young nephew Alaric. Now in real history we know Alaric being a Goth only joined the Roman forces and came into the picture in the 390s, and though he was from the Balti Dynasty which Athanaric was also part of, it is not known how Alaric and Athanaric were related, but here we would simply say for this story that Alaric is Athanaric’s nephew. Now, Alaric was one young man with extreme anger and hate as grew up hearing of how his people the Goths were bullied and mistreated by the Romans for so long whereas so many Goths were enslaved by the Romans while so many innocent Goth women and children too were massacred by the Romans for so long, and Alaric could not let this continue happening thus giving him such anger and hatred towards the Romans which he simply stored inside him as he would use it all one day when facing off the Romans in battle. When returning to Sarmizegetusa though, Athanaric would inform Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus that both he and Fritigern decided that in the meantime they should not attack the Romans as they should first focus on driving the Huns away in the north and further increase the strength of their Gothic army. Valdis however is disappointed hearing that they cannot attack the Roman Empire for the meantime leaving the Romans to backstab them all they want, but her superior Athanaric tells her that they will eventually one day, assured that they would win against the full might of the Romans especially if they the Goths manage to defeat the Huns and incorporate these terrifying Hun horsemen into their army in order to invade the Roman Empire.           

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Goths charge at Roman Comitatenses legionnaires, art by Giuseppe Rava

Back in the Roman Empire, the western emperor Gratian still based in Milan would continue to more and more fall under the influence of the bishop Ambrose who would further convince Gratian to not trust his uncle Valens and believe Valens is a Goth sympathizer despite having no clear evidence on it except that Valens was an Arian Christian like most Goths. Gratian would then be deeply troubled by this and so in 387 in this story, Gratian together with Ambrose as well as his half-brother Valentinian II, 3 half-sisters, and their mother Justina would journey to Constantinople by ship to pay Valens a visit, though for Gratian he really came there to see if his uncle was really secretly conspiring with the Goths or not.

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Valens, Eastern Roman emperor

To keep their discussion private from their family members, Gratian and Valens would meet at a private room at a high-end tavern near Constantinople’s Hippodrome and here Gratian would simply ask his uncle if he has in any way been writing or receiving letters from the Goths but Valens says he has not except that he has only heard of both Theodosius and Magnus now training the Goths in Roman battle styles as told to him by spies. Gratian would then ask his uncle about the whole Stilicho incident 2 years earlier wherein it was Valens that promoted Stilicho and not Gratian as Stilicho serving the western half was supposed to receive his promotion by Gratian, however Valens would feel this question was useless and would tell Gratian to simply man up, stop falling for the manipulation of the bishop Ambrose, and lastly stop fixating too much on religion and religious issues as Valens already knew that this is what could cause such disunity in the empire especially in such bad times considering that the Goths would one day return for revenge.

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Coin of the co-emperor brothers Valentinian I and Valens

Gratian meanwhile feeling belittled by his uncle would suddenly show the same wrath his father Valentinian I had by simply saying to his uncle “shut the hell up!”, though Valens would in return simply tell Gratian that he has too much of his late father’s anger, but Gratian still having such anger would go as far as reminding Valens that Valens began out as a loser having done nothing until he was already 36 when he was appointed by his older and more accomplished brother Valentinian I as his co-emperor in 364 after the sudden death of the unexpected short-reigned emperor Jovian (r. 363-364) wherein both Valentinian and Valens ordered the blinding of Jovian’s infant son to prevent a succession crisis causing the late emperor’s wife to live in fear for her entire life. Seeing Valens becoming enraged, Gratian would then straight out challenge his uncle Valens to a fight to the death at Constantinople’s Hippodrome in 2 weeks wherein either one of them dies or is severely injured, and the one who wins will decide everything for the empire and choose whether Arian or Nicene Christianity is the official religion so that disunity would not continue to grow as only one religion would be followed, thus if Gratian wins it’s the Nicene faith and if Valens, the Arian faith. For the next 2 weeks, both Gratian and Valens would train in different fighting forms including those used by Roman gladiators in the past, and here Gratian would seem more agile as he was only 28 while Valens already being 59 here would have to further practice his fighting skills.

In the meantime, Alatheus with a few of his allied Goth and Alans would here be stationed at the Roman fort of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade) along the Danube border, and in one early morning here in 387 as well, as Alatheus was sleeping he would hear some noise sounding like the fortress was under attack, thus he woke up and without having any time to put on his armor but instead only grab his sword, he saw the same Goths of Theodosius and Valdis attacking the fort after having crossed the Danube again thus killing off his men considering now that the Goths led by Theodosius and Valdis were now fighting with Roman weapons and shields.

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Goth warriors with complete weapons set

The attacking Goths too set fire to the fortress using flaming arrows leaving Alatheus to question why the Goths suddenly attacked again and out of all locations why his base, making him later believe they were there to get back at him for betraying while spies possibly told them he was there in Singidunum. Before Alatheus could put on his armor, a group of 20 Gothic warriors together with Theodosius, Valdis, and Magnus stormed into the armory as they now took over the fortress thus cornering Alatheus, and although they were told by Fritigern and Athanaric to not attack the Romans for now, they simply broke their word and ignored it as they really did not come here to attack the Roman Empire but to just simply attack Alatheus to get back at him as for so many years when having the chance to do so they never got it, and only here they finally did with Alatheus caught off-guard. Now being cornered and having no time to put on his armor, Alatheus with just his sword fought off these Goths armed with large axes cornering him killing 5 of them but before being able to kill the 6th Goth, Magnus pulled out a metal chain strangling Alatheus with it with such intensity out of anger for Alatheus killing his son Victor earlier on, although Magnus used the chain to drag Alatheus down to the fortress’ dungeon with Theodosius showing them the way to it as in the past he had once been there as part of his military tours in the Balkans being the commander or Dux of Moesia then.

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Ancient/ medieval style torture chamber

While in the fortress’ dungeon area, Alatheus is brought to the torture chamber there where the Romans in the past used it to torture prisoners of war, and here they chained Alatheus to the torture table as if crucifying him in an x-shape while the metal chain is put around his neck and nailed to the table in order for him to not move his head as the Goths wanting revenge on him wanted to make his death slow, and here Alatheus found out that they not only came for revenge on him but because by destroying him they would further weaken Gratian and his army due to Gratian heavily relying on Alatheus and his strength. As the Goths that were once Alatheus’ fellow soldiers before he defected to Rome 9 years earlier in 378 savagely beat him with clubs, tore off his clothes, and broke most of his teeth, Theodosius said he will give Alatheus what he really deserves, as Theodosius here was informed by Valdis and the other Goths that the young Alatheus similar to Fritigern before becoming a leader of the Goths was once a weak child afraid of everything but only learned to be a tough fighter when deciding to one day fight while Alatheus- in this story’s case only- also shaped his hair into that distinct mohawk he has to boost his confidence and authority, thus to break Alatheus’ confidence and humiliate him, Theodosius knew that to do it, he must cut off his hair and beard which Alatheus recently grew. The now beaten Alatheus without much freedom of movement due to being chained on all sides to the table would now face the worst humiliation of his mohawk being shaved off by Theodosius using a razor blade, while following that Theodosius would shave off his beard as well and later continue to slash his face and body to further disfigure it. With the torturing done, Theodosius then kicked Alatheus in the stomach and spat at him while he as well as Valdis, Magnus, and the other Goths left laughing after releasing Alatheus as he was brutally beaten with his hair all shaved off. Hours later, the humiliated Alatheus got up, put on a new set of clothes and ran out of the fortress in which now was half-burned with all his men that survived captured and enslaved by Theodosius, and ran towards the Danube River which was below the fortress. Looking at his reflection on the river, Alatheus would see for himself how reduced he became with his mohawk that he took such pride in completely cut off, thus when seeing himself he would be in tears, afterwards writing a note about what happened, then following that he would stab himself in the chest with his sword leading to his death as clearly, he thought that mohawk and nothing else gave him a purpose to live.

Now back in Constantinople 2 weeks later, the grand fight between Gratian and Valens had begun with both emperors entering the Hippodrome as if they were fighting a gladiator match to the death whereas the entire family including Justina, Valentinian II and his 3 sisters, Gratian’s wife Laeta, Ambrose, Valens’ wife Albia Dominica and a number of commanders including Lupicinus, Anthemius, Constantinople’s prefect Trajan, and Stilicho as well as hundreds of other civilians in attendance as word got to them that both Valens and Gratian agreed to battle each other to decide which emperor shall fully rule the empire. The fight would then first just be the emperors fighting with their bare hands despite both in full armor, and first the fight would be in favor of Gratian who being faster due to being much younger pinned down his uncle Valens twice kicking him in the face, however Valens would manage to grab Gratian in the leg, pull him down and punch his face. Gratian however would get up, grab the sand below and throw it at is uncle’s eyes causing Valens to spin out of control, and with Valens falling Gratian then kicked him hard, thus the first part of the fight was over with Gratian winning.

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Late Roman Spatha sword

The soldiers of the imperial guard force or Palatini would then come in from one of the Hippodrome’s entrances giving Gratian and Valens their respective longswords or Spatha, thus both uncle and nephew would duel each other with swords to the point of either killing or severely wounding each other. Using these swords, Gratian would first manage to slash his uncle’s arm while Valens in return would stab Gratian in the stomach, although Gratian in full metal armor would be barely wounded as the armor simply protected him with it only being dented. Afterwards, both swords would hit each other, but following that, Valens would kick Gratian’s leg causing him to fall but before he fell, Gratian grabbed his uncle by the neck causing them both to fall, and when down Gratian got up pointing his sword at his uncle’s neck saying he won, however the fight would be interrupted when 3 soldiers from the Limitanei legions saying they came all the way from the Danubian Limes (Danube border) bringing them something saying the Goths sent them a message.

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Late Roman Limitanei soldier, art by Amelianvs

Gratian would then rush to these soldiers asking them what they brought, and from one horse they dropped down a bag and when Gratian opened it, he saw no other than the dead body of a severely beaten Alatheus with his hair shaved off which would shock Gratian when seeing it, and sensing something was wrong Valens including others like Ambrose, Stilicho, Anthemius, and Justina would rush to see it also seeing the dead Alatheus. Gratian would then read the note that came with the body that Alatheus wrote before killing himself which said that the Goths have now returned to have revenge with Theodosius leading them, and Gratian would then see it as an act of war but as Valens saw the note, he would not agree to returning to war as he could tell that if they fight the Goths now that they trained themselves to fight like Roman as the letter said so, they would have a sure chance of winning. Ambrose here would tell Gratian that they should surely have war on the Goths especially since the Goths may want to spread Arian Christianity when they invade, thus Gratian would simply tell his uncle it’s final that they will now cut ties for good and that if ever the Goths invade, Valens and the eastern half shall be on their own as Gratian would not send any troops from the west to help. Gratian would then leave Valens alone in the Hippodrome as together with Ambrose, Laeta, Justina, Valentinian II and his 3 sisters, and the rest of the western troops they would depart the Hippodrome while the eastern commanders being Lupicinus, Trajan, Anthemius, and surprisingly Stilicho who began to see eye to eye more with Valens would stay behind with their emperor Valens. Though before returning to Italy, Gratian would give Alatheus a proper burial outside Constantinople’s walls and here Gratian would be in great mourning as Alatheus was really his best and toughest soldier and his best chance of winning despite being a Goth, thus Gratian and his entourage would return home all disappointed.

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Late Roman era Singidunum (Belgrade)
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Hippodrome of Constantinople, art by Ediacar

        
Back in the Goths’ base Sarmizegetusa, Athanaric then received word that Alatheus was fully dealt with while the Romans had now been weakened as Gratian and the western half had now cut ties with Valens’ eastern half, and hearing this Athanaric was more than glad as he saw this now as a perfect opportunity to attack the Romans as they are now divided while the Goths have unified. Fritigern however would remind Athanaric that they must prioritize consolidating their rule over their old homeland in Eastern Europe first before fully invading the Roman Empire again while also suggesting to Athanaric that Theodosius must marry Valdis in order to be part of the Goths’ ruling dynasty.

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Flavius Anthemius, Prefect of Constantinople

Now a year later in 388, many changes had happened both with the Goths and Romans and back in the Roman Empire’s eastern half under Valens, the Prefect of Constantinople Trajan- in this story’s case only- had died, thus he was succeeded as the Prefect of the east by no other than Flavius Anthemius- although in real history Anthemius only became the Prefect of Constantinople later on in 405- but here Anthemius who was quite young was already in charge of the eastern capital Constantinople itself. It also happened that this year 388 had already been 10 years since the Roman victory over the Goths at Adrianople, though many of the officers who fought at Adrianople and survived it had now become top generals in the empire whereas in the east Lupicinus who was already a general back then still remained as the cavalry general or Magister Equitum in Moesia while Stilicho in this story’s case became the Magister Equitum in Thrace, although two new generals in the east rose to prominence at this time which included the Aquitanian (Western Gaul) born Rufinus now serving as a commander in the imperial guard and the Roman-Spanish infantry general or Magister Peditum Timasius, in which the latter was a common soldier 10 years earlier that fought in the eastern army under Valens in Adrianople. In real history, both Timasius and Rufinus had also risen to prominence in 388 as well, but in this story too like in real history both Rufinus and Timasius would also come to distrust each other for really petty reasons as Rufinus was scheming and ambitious to the point of wanting to be emperor himself one day. In the west on the other hand, Bauto being already quite old had already died by this point thus he was succeeded in his position as Magister Peditum there by Arbogast like what happened in real history as well while Richomeres still remained as the west’s Magister Militum, and though in real history the western emperor Gratian had no children as he died in 383 before having any, here in this story’s case he would have his first child which was a daughter with his wife Laeta here in 388. In real history, the west’s general Count Theodosius the father of Theodosius had already been dead since 376, but here in this story we would put his death at 388 wherein he would die in retirement in Hispania from old age, though news of his death in this story would reach as far as to his son Theodosius living with the Goths across the Danube, and when hearing of this Theodosius would feel the need to return to the Roman Empire just to attend his father’s funeral, though it would be impossible as he had already been made a true enemy of Rome.

Theodosius would however tell Fritigern and Athanaric that he would have to return to the Roman Empire just to bury his father and pay respects and Athanaric here would agree to it by joining Theodosius in travelling to Constantinople as after all Athanaric came up with a plan to fake a peace negotiation with Valens as a way to allow the Goths to focus on consolidating their rule to the north. Athanaric joined by Theodosius and a number of Goth troops escorting them would then head to the Danube along Dacia and from there sail to Constantinople down the Danube and into the Black Sea, and before arriving, Athanaric had already sent word to Valens saying that he would come to negotiate peace, thus when arriving, Athanaric together with Theodosius would be immediately escorted to the imperial palace by the Palatini troops. Theodosius meanwhile would wander around Constantinople’s streets as he true enough never saw the city his entire life despite serving in the eastern army, though he would not yet be recognized by anyone due to his complete appearance change now that he grew his hair long and grew a beard as well, although some especially those who served under him in the army before and had now retired after looking at him carefully would recognize his face and begin throwing rotten food and eggs at him yelling at him “traitor”, although not wanting to cause any trouble Theodosius would simply run away and hide in a church.

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Procopius proclaimed Eastern Roman emperor in 365 against Valens, art by Amelianvs

Back in Constantinople’s palace, Athanaric would personally meet Valens and when seeing Athanaric, Valens would clearly recognize him as 19 years ago back in 369, Valens concluded a truce with the Goths following Valens’ victory over a short Gothic invasion of the Roman Balkans at a boat in the middle of the Danube with no other than the same Athanaric. Back then from 367-369, a large army of Goths attacked the Roman Balkans as they originally supported Procopius, a general that tried to usurp power from Valens between 365 and 366, however the Goths that were supposed to support Procopius arrived too late as Procopius had already been executed by Valens’ troops thus forcing Valens to deal with the Goths. Back then, Valens had managed to push them back across the Danube leading to a peace treaty concluded with Athanaric, however Valens knew Athanaric and his Goths would not keep their word as true enough in 376 the Goths invaded the Roman Balkans again. Here in 388, Valens when seeing Athanaric again would without even greeting him first say to him the he surely broke his word believing Athanaric sent Fritigern and his Goths to invade the empire back in 376 but Athanaric here would tell Valens that he had nothing to do with that invasion in 376 and it was all Fritigern’s idea as he did in fact wanted to migrate to Roman territory to escape Athanaric, though Valens here would ask what ever happened to Fritigern, and Athanaric would say that Fritigern had died although lying about it thus making Valens here fall for Athanaric’s peace proposal. With the Goths and Eastern Romans making a sort of “peace” again, the funeral of Theodosius the Elder whose body was brought to Constantinople all the way from Hispania would happen at another church in the city as the Church of the Holy Apostles was only reserved for emperors and members of the imperial family whereas Theodosius and his family were not part of any imperial family, while Valens, Athanaric, and Theodosius the Younger would be present for the funeral. At the funeral, Theodosius would so happen to run into Valens and here Valens when seeing his old subordinate general who he met in person only a few times before- including after the Battle of Adrianople in 378 in this case- turned traitor Theodosius now looking completely like a Goth would offer him another chance to return to serving Rome as a general while also reminding Theodosius as well on what he did to Alatheus which was by leading to the latter committing suicide but Theodosius whose mind has now been corrupted by both Athanaric and Fritigern would decline Valens’ offer saying that he has now gained all the power and glory he so wanted now being already as something like a co-ruler of the Goths. Valens would lastly remind Theodosius that based on what Valens knows about Athanaric, there would come one day that Athanaric would betray Theodosius and possibly kill him when Athanaric and the Goths would get what they want from Theodosius, thus Valens would then confront Athanaric one more time telling Athanaric that if he just simply launches a small raid on the Danube border, Valens would immediately declare war on the Goths.

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Empress Albia Dominica, wife of Valens

Following this, Valens’ wife Empress Albia Dominica who in this story would still be alive at this point would tell her husband that she had a vision wherein she saw that there was still some light in Theodosius wherein he would seem like that he would one day renounce his loyalty to the Goths. Valens now partially listening to his wife’s advice would then allow Theodosius and Athanaric to leave Constantinople unharmed simply as a way to further make Theodosius feel guilty for betraying his emperor. About a month later now that Athanaric and Theodosius had returned again to their base at Sarmizegetusa which now even upgraded to an actual trading and mining town like it was under the Romans, its Goth population would now be preparing for the upcoming event of Theodosius’ and Valdis’ wedding which would further secure Theodosius’ legitimacy as one of the Goths’ rulers as Valdis here was the last surviving ruler of the Greuthungi as she was their young ruler Vithericus’ regent, however at this point the young Vithericus who was already fully grown at 16 would no longer be needed.

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Theodosius in Roman imperial armor (wedding attire), art by myself

The wedding ceremony would then be an Arian Christian one as Valdis as well as many other Goths were Arian despite Theodosius still being a Nicene Christian, and for the wedding the now 41-year-old Roman-Spaniard Theodosius would wear a complete Roman general’s uniform consisting of a new perfectly shaped general’s gold breastplate armor with purple and white tassels or Pteruges and a purple cloak over it as if he were an emperor while the beautiful blonde Valdis- who would be around 35 here- would look completely different from her usual battle attire of a simple fur band around her chest and fur cloak and skirt now in a long-sleeved white dress and a flower crown. Now Arian Christianity seemed to be the perfect religion for the Goths as in the Arian faith they were free to worship God outdoors similar to how the Goths when they were still Pagan worshiped their old gods, and not strictly only inside a church the way the Nicene Christians did, thus the wedding ceremony of Valdis and Theodosius would take place outdoors in a hill outside Sarmizegetusa with an Arian priest marrying them and in attendance would be everyone on the side of the Goths including Athanaric, Alaric, Magnus, and the teenage Vithericus together with his mother while Fritigern would be the one here to walk Valdis down. In the wedding feast following the celebration, Theodosius and Valdis would then plot to eliminate Vithericus by serving him endless glasses of wine to the point of getting extremely drunk and passing out, and when passed out they would drag him to his bed. That night with the celebrations all over, Valdis would then enter young Vithericus’ room giving him this time a wine glass but rather than wine it was poison inside it, thus the drunk Vithericus would drink from it, and in the next morning he would be found dead on his bed. With Vithericus dead, everyone would think he died after drinking too much when being underaged without knowing Theodosius and Valdis really plotted to poison him to get rid of him as he was no longer needed and he too would become a threat to their power one day, and when the newlyweds Theodosius and Valdis knew their plot was successful, they would laugh and kiss each other in private. Not too long after, Athanaric would remind all his Goths including Theodosius, Valdis, Magnus, and Alaric that the time has come that they head north and consolidate their rule there, as now with the Thervingi and Greuthungi Goths united and now having a more superior style of fighting after adopting Roman battle strategies and using Roman style weapons, they could now have a better chance of standing against the invincible Huns.

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Emperor Valens and the Gothic king Athanaric settle peace at the Danube, 369
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Sarmizegetusa stone circle, location of Theodosius’ and Valdis’ wedding in 388

The spin-off’s Climax- The Gothic Empire and Showdown with Rome (389-395)         

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In the meantime, as both halves of the Roman Empire: the east under Valens and west under Gratian continue to be fully separate from each other with both rulers no longer in contact with each other and their armies as their own without sharing them with each other as it was intended to be, the Goths would now gain ground expanding though not south into the Roman Empire but north into their old homeland in what is today’s Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania. As for the Goths’ co-rulers Athanaric and Fritigern despite having their differences especially in religion and styles of ruling, what they here had in common was the goal to expand north and reclaim their old homeland that had been devastated by several Hun invasions in the past years. However, in order for the Goths to maintain their lands and not be forced to migrate again due to the Huns, they had to do adopt systems and practices from the Romans which Theodosius in the past 10 years when living with the Goths had taught them which are namely:

  • Have defined borders, in this case natural ones such as rivers and mountains.
  • Have an army permanently stationed at the borders to defend it just as the Romans do having the Limitanei as an entire army itself assigned to guarding the empire’s borders.
  • Have a major source of income from trade and exports.
  • Centralize the state administration by having a capital where its ruler resides.
  • Pay the army regular wages and supply them with food.

Now the Goths had basically followed these 5 tips as for one both Fritigern and Athanric had concluded that their empire’s borders would be at rivers which they would station their own troops to defend it, for their economy they have now come to rely on using the rivers to trade with other barbarian tribes selling them off the resources from their land including gold and iron, for their government they have now established themselves at the old Roman settlement of Sarmizegetusa in Dacia where their co-rulers Fritigern and Athanaric now reside, and lastly Theodosius using his Roman way of thinking set a rule that every Goth soldier would be equipped with standardized Roman style weapons and shields and would be supplied with food as well by the newly formed Gothic “government”. However, the one thing the Goths had not yet adopted here was having a standard currency the way the Romans here did by having the gold Solidus as it would take time to actually settle on having a currency, though having gold mines in Dacia would surely mean the Goths would mint their own coins soon.

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Fritigern, ruler of the Thervingi Goths on a horse

Now in 389, the Goths now numbering up to 50,000 with Theodosius, Valdis, Alaric, and Magnus Maximus led by both Fritigern and Athanaric who despite both being already old with Fritigern already 67 and Athanaric already 58 but both still very agile and strong in fighting would march north from Sarmizegetusa crossing the Carpathian Mountains into what would be the mainland of Scythia also known as Oium which was the old homeland of the Greuthungi Goths in today’s Ukraine, and when arriving there they would meet little resistance and luckily at this point the Huns were not around for the meantime as they retreated back to their mysterious homeland in the eastern steppes, but instead they would only find the same old scattered Sarmatian and Alan tribes, although the land had been severely burned due to the Hun invasions over the years. When arriving here at the old Greuthungi homeland, Valdis would feel a sense of nostalgia as she grew up there and had not fully said goodbye to it as she and her people which included Alatheus and Saphrax were forced to flee it when the Huns arrived, and here in this place Valdis would tell her husband Theodosius all about her time growing up there while Alaric in his usual rage especially in battle would simply lead his Goths charging at the Alans and Sarmatians easily decimating them.

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Sarmatian horsemen warriors

The defeated Alan and Sarmatian tribes would thus submit to the Goths and would in fact even agree to join forces with them in battle against the Huns and later against the Roman Empire itself. With the old Greuthungi homeland all the way down to the northern shores of the Black Sea secured and now put back under the Goths, Athanaric and Fritigern would thus lead their men now with their newly gained Alan and Sarmatian allies which even included Sarmatian women warriors east to what would be the Dnieper River in today’s Ukraine that flows out to the Black Sea, and when at the Dnieper both Fritigern and Athanaric would conclude that this exact river would be their empire’s eastern border thus both rulers would assign a number of their soldiers to permanently guard it in order to preempt the Huns if ever they showed up again east across the river. At this point however, tensions would already rise between Fritigern and Athanaric especially over their new empire’s borders as Athanaric was clearly more ambitious wanting to expand further east to unknown territory while Fritigern was happy with what they would soon gain. While at the Dnieper, both Fritigern and Athanaric would announce that they both would return to Sarmizegetusa as the capital needed to be defended in case the Romans would invade it by any chance considering that the Goth leaders have left leaving only a small garrison to defend it while both rulers were quite old for an intense journey across the cold and wild lands of Eastern Europe, but little did Theodosius and Valdis know that tensions were already rising between Fritigern and Athanaric. Theodosius would now be the one completely in charge of the Goths’ expedition up north while Valdis, Alaric, and Magnus would join them as they headed north sailing up the Dnieper River in small boats. For weeks, the Goths would sail up the river across the Scythian heartland to the point of encountering a new race people mostly with blonde hair and mostly dressed in white which were mostly farmers and hunters settling in small villages in the woodlands of this area, and these were the Venedi or the predecessors of the Slavs (originally from today’s Ukraine and Belarus).

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Venedi (proto-Slav) warrior

Theodosius and Magnus being Romans were unfamiliar with these new lands they found and these Slavic people that lived there but Valdis being a Goth had known of them telling Theodosius that they are fierce warriors but choose to just search for land to farm and settle to grow their families, and though Theodosius was thinking of annihilating this people seeing them as a threat, Valdis would advise him not too as they could be useful slaves and infantry soldiers whereas they specialized in fighting with axes. Now the Romans would not encounter the Slavs until the late 6th century when the Romans as the Byzantine Empire faced multiple waves of migrations of Slavic tribes from the north across the Danube into the Balkans, but in this story’s case only set in the late 4th century, Theodosius and Magnus would be most likely the first Romans to encounter the Slavs in large numbers 2 centuries before the Romans actually did.

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Concept art of Valdis (female Goth warrior)

As the Goths sailed further up the Dnieper, they would encounter more Slavs and capture them as slaves turning the males into their slave infantry troops and women and children as prisoners having some of their weaker infantry Goths escort them back to Sarmizegetusa, while Theodosius being in charge of the expedition would also agree that the Dnieper would be set as their eastern border, thus he would continue to establish a Goth garrison there similar again to the Roman Limitanei force. The Goths would then continue all the way up to the source of the Dnieper which would be all the way north in the lakes of what is the Valdai Hills in today’s Russia where for the Romans Theodosius and Magnus, this new land they came across would seem so alien as no Roman has ever set foot this far north while the vegetation of thick dense forests, lakes, and rolling hills was something Theodosius and Magnus found totally alien too and so was its much colder climate as not even the woods in Germany or the highlands of Britain that they set foot in before were as cold and dense as this. This area they have come across too at the Valdai Hills were uninhabited but Theodosius also decided not to settle in them as the land was so far away from everything and the climate too cold while there were wild animals such as bears and wolves everywhere that could easily overpower them. While here at the Valdai Hills, the Goths would then find the next river which happened to flow horizontally, and this here would be today’s Daugava River, and after chopping trees in this area and turning them into new boats, the Goths now with their Slav, Sarmatian, and Alan allies would then sail west across this river for about a week eventually coming out in the Baltic Sea in today’s Latvia. Theodosius being this expedition’s leader would then conclude as well that the Daugava River together with the Baltic Sea would be their new empire’s northern border. A number of Goths and Sarmatians would thus be assigned to guard the Daugava as if it would be attacked anyway by invaders from the north as it was never known to these Goths or Romans here if any people ever lived north of the Daugava except for a few scattered groups of not so hostile people known as Finns living across the Daugava in these frozen lands.

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Aestii tribe member, art by R-ninja

When arriving at the Baltic Sea, Theodosius would remember hearing of a sea up north as well as a cold but sparsely populated land that was rich in a resource that could be made into translucent jewellery known as amber (Glaesum) and a group of people that were known to manufacture it known as the Aestii (today’s Estonians) from Greek and Roman history books he read when growing up in his large estate in Hispania, however he knew that no Roman or Greek has ever set foot this far north before except only hearing of this place from barbarians they encountered while also acquiring the amber there by trading with these said barbarians.

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Ermanaric, King of the Greuthungi Goths (r. 296-375)

Valdis however would tell Theodosius that this place up north here by the Baltic was nothing new to her people the Greuthungi Goths as back when she was a young child their ruler then which was her uncle Ermanaric, a brave warrior king despite being very old conquered lands all the way up to the Baltic, however his territory was stretched too far with limited troops defending it allowing the Huns to storm into Eastern Europe conquering the lands he once conquered which thus led to the over 80-year-old Ermanaric committing suicide in 375 while not too long after his successor and Valdis’ brother Vithimiris died in battle against the Huns in 376 leading to both Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths to decide to migrate to Roman territory. For Theodosius and Magnus on the other hand, being what they would think as the first Romans to set foot this far north would come to call this place along the Baltic shore as Hyperborea, the Ancient Greek term used for the somewhat mythical cold land far up north where no one has ever set foot in before, though Theodosius when seeing the amber from here would exactly remember it as he knew that back in the Roman Empire this kind of resource imported all the way from this distant land was crafted into expensive jewellery making Theodosius also remember his mother seeing the amber as when she was still alive years ago she collected and wore a lot of it- in this story’s case only- which somewhat happened to cause Theodosius despite all his newly gained fearlessness and ruthlessness to tear up a bit remembering his mother.

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Necklace made of Baltic amber

At this point now being the year 390 with Theodosius having been with the Goths for 12 years now became more barbarian than Roman in traits as having been living in the cold climate north of the Danube shaped him into the ideal barbarian ruthless killer-warrior but with the same intelligence and practicality of the Roman military man that he grew up to be while his marriage to Valdis helped him understand the Goth and the general Germanic barbarian mind even more that he would come to forget his Roman heritage. After settling along the Baltic for months and gathering as much amber they needed over the months from the rather peaceful Aestii tribes living there, they would load them to their boats docked along the Baltic coast, and from here Theodosius with his Goths and allied troops- except for the Aestii who chose to remain peaceful with the Goths and not join them in battle- then sailed along the rugged Baltic shore line with scenic cliffs and islands down to another river which would be the Vistula River in today’s Poland, and it was where the Vistula River met the Baltic Sea where the Goths were said to have originated in.

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Hun warrior, 4th century

When sailing down the Vistula into what is the heartland of Poland, here they would encounter a horde of Huns that have broken in earlier on and made their way west across the Dnieper, and when encountering the Huns, Alaric again with his Goths would charge at them with such fury, however the Huns who were known to be swift horsemen able to obliterate anything in their path killed a large number of Alaric’s Goths with their speed and arrows fired as they rode in their horses with such full speed. With most of Alaric’s men destroyed by the Huns, Theodosius together with his fellow Roman and friend Magnus and Valdis would lead their own Goths against the Huns and by using the disciplined battle tactics of the Romans such as fighting in formation, they would manage to defeat these Huns and at the end take in the survivors as their allies making the Goths now conclude that the Huns were not as deadly as they thought as just with a bit more discipline in battle, the Huns could in fact be beaten. Now having defeated this band of Huns, the Goths and their allies including the newly gained Huns would travel south again down the Vistula arriving back at the Carpathian Mountains in Dacia and later once again to familiar territory at the Tisza River (in today’s Hungary) which Theodosius would also decide to mark it as their other eastern border, and finally after 2 years away, here in 391 they would arrive back in Sarmizegetusa with their newly gained Hun, Alan, Sarmatian, and Slav allies now forming what would be a coalition against Rome. When arriving back, both Fritigern and Athanaric would congratulate Theodosius personally for managing to define their new Gothic Empire’s borders, stationing troops to further protect them, and managing to gain new allies of different races for their future attack on Rome. At this point the new Gothic Empire of Fritigern and Athanaric would consist of all lands north to south from the Baltic Sea and Daugava River to the Danube River and Black Sea and west to east from the Vistula and Tisza Rivers to the Dnieper River with all people within it whether Huns, Slavs, Sarmatians, Alans, Aestii, and other Germanic people as Goth subjects, and now with the Dnieper River in the east fully guarded with fortresses now built, future Hun invasions from the east of it could now be checked. For the next years following 391, the new Gothic Empire and its borders would continue to stabilize as the Gothic troops now learned to fight like Romans and while the Goths thanks to Theodosius and Magnus had now adopted Roman governing systems while at the same time more Gothic troops would be sent to guard all these said borders as well as to subdue the people within their borders still unconquered, the leaders of the Hun, Sarmatian, Alan, Aestii, and Slav tribes would come over to Sarmizegetusa submitting to the authority of Fritigern and Athanaric bowing down to them, although these leaders would as well keep their authority as long as they paid tribute to the Goths. Meanwhile, nothing new would happen within the Roman Empire except for a few Alemanni and Vandal raids into the Rhine border of the Western half, but in early 395 in this story the eastern emperor Valens would die in Constantinople at the age of 67 while his wife Empress Albia Dominica in this story’s case had already died 3 years earlier in 392 and after the death of their only child which was their son Valentinus Galates back in 370, they would not have any children anymore, thus without anyone to succeed Valens as emperor in the east, Gratian who here was still alive as the western emperor based in Milan now at age 36 would appoint his now 24-year-old half-brother and co-emperor Valentinian II who would still have not much experience in running an empire as the senior eastern emperor to fill in the power vacuum.

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Emperor Valentinian II, made Eastern Roman emperor in 395 in this story

Here, Gratian’s advisor Ambrose immediately asked Gratian to make Valentinian II his eastern co-emperor as Ambrose true enough felt guilty for leading to Gratian cutting ties with the eastern half, thus here by putting Valentinian II on the eastern throne, Ambrose felt that their unity with the east could once again be restored, although Ambrose only thought of uniting the empire again as Valentinian II unlike Valens before him was a Nicene Christian and not Arian. Ironically, 395 in real history was the same year Theodosius I after ruling the entire Roman Empire alone had died, although in this story Theodosius now 48 here in 395 would still be alive and well and when hearing that Valens had died, he would come to think that the Eastern Roman throne was vacant, therefore giving him the opportunity to seize the throne with his Goth army and if he does, he would now unite the Eastern half of the Roman Empire with the new Gothic Empire, and following that he would have all it would take to invade the west. Hearing of Valens’ death filled Theodosius as well as the Goths with such joy seeing this as an opportunity to invade Roman territory and still thinking that the eastern and western halves were still no longer friendly with each other, they believed it was now the perfect time to invade Roman territory believing too that the eastern and western armies would not help each other, but little did they know that Valentinian II filled in the role as the eastern emperor succeeding Valens, however the Goths and even Theodosius- in this story’s case- never knew Valentinian I’s a son and Gratian’s half-brother which was Valentinian II ever existed, and because they never even heard of Valentinian II, Fritigern and Athanaric then ordered that they should now invade the Roman Empire for the right time had come after 17 years of waiting since the Goths’ defeat in 378.

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Goth warriors charge into battle
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Dnieper River at the Valdai Hills in today’s Russia
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Vistula River, Western border of the Gothic Empire in this story
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Hun attacking Alan and Sarmatian with a lasso
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Map of the Gothic Empire of Athanaric and Fritigern in this story (in red)

In the spring of 395, the Goths now numbering up to 200,000 including Hun, Alan, Sarmatian, and Slav allied forces departed Sarmizegetusa marching back into Roman territory, however Athanaric here decided to divide the invasion wherein he and Fritigern would march west across the Tisza River to invade the Romans from Pannonia while Theodosius, Valdis, Magnus, and Alaric were to march south to invade the Roman Balkans using the exact same route the Goths used when trying to migrate to Roman territory in 376.

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Late Roman Limitanei troops along the Danube border, art by Amelianvs

Theodosius leading his force of about 100,000 Goths and allies would then easily wipe out the Roman Limitanei along the Danube border in Moesia considering now that the Goths were able to beat the Romans by fighting the same way as they do while using the same weapons as well while the Huns and Sarmatians being more savage in battle brutally annihilated the Roman border troops and burned the river forts to the ground. When arriving in Roman Moesia, Theodosius once having been the general assigned there knew exactly the routes around and how to get to Thrace and eventually to Constantinople, thus here he would show his true Goth side and anger at Rome by ordering the massacre of thousands of Roman civilian citizens living in the area and it did not matter too if they were women or children. The one here however to carry out such atrocities on the civilians here would be no other than Alaric who conserving all his anger and hatred towards Rome for mistreating his people the Goths would full on ravage Moesia and later Thrace having everyone he saw that was not with them either stabbed to death, beheaded, torn to pieces, impaled, or burned and again these included men, women, children, the elderly, and even unborn babies while for those whose heads were decapitated, Alaric would then collect them as trophies carrying them with him as they proceeded south.

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Alaric the Thervingi Goth, art by thehoundofulster

Just 2 weeks since the Goths crossed the Danube, both Moesia and Thrace had turned into a depopulated wasteland as 100,000 Goths and their allies have ravaged it while the Huns as said of them “uprooted everything in their path”, though when arriving in Thrace Theodosius would order his men to camp there to wait if ever any Roman general would ask for a truce which Theodosius knew he would refuse anyway for he no longer trusted any Roman, except for of course Magnus who was with him here. Some 3 days after setting up camp in Thrace (today’s Bulgaria), he would be approached by an Eastern Roman delegation led by no other than the new Eastern emperor the 24-year-old Valentinian II himself and joining him would be his generals Timasius and Rufinus and mother Justina who despite being over 50 here still remained attractive- however in real history Justina had already died in 388, but here we would still keep her alive in 395.

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Theodosius in full armor with a beard, art by thehoundofulster

Theodosius here at 48 looking completely different from how he looked like before now with long hair, a full beard in the style of the Goths, and his body almost entirely made of muscle would be shocked seeing Valentinian II who he never had even heard of before, and being young Valentinian II would not properly negotiate with Theodosius whereas Theodosius putting his Roman heritage all aside would just plainly ignore everything Valentinian II was trying to offer whether paying tribute money or allowing Goths to settle more in the empire as Theodosius now with his anger against Rome all conserved for years only had one objective in mind which was to kill Romans. Valentinian II would then leave Theodosius’ tent upset but the one to have the guts to face him without any fight would be Justina here reminding Theodosius that he is still a Roman overall, that his father Count Theodosius would really be disappointed in him, and that really there is still some light in Theodosius, and although Justina saw there was still hope that Theodosius would still come back to the light of Rome, Theodosius yelled at her asking her to leave or be executed but before Justina left, Valdis who was in her quarters in the same tent behind the curtain came out right in time to meet the empress Justina. Here Justina would be further disappointed that the once proud and loyal Roman Theodosius married one of the cruelest Goths that pained their empire all these years ago but when looking at Valdis despite her looking all tough in full body-hugging golden scale armor with a large tight leather belt over her waist this time, Justina would sense that even in Valdis there was some conflict for some reason as plainly Valdis and Theodosius were just ordered by their rulers Fritigern and Athanaric to just simply invade and kill everyone that stood at their path. Before Justina would leave the tent, she would tell Valdis directly that Valdis herself despite being a savage Goth could still redeem herself by submitting to Rome and be made a Roman citizen of patrician status herself considering that she was married to the once patrician Theodosius and came from the Greuthungi Goth ruling class, however Valdis would also simply ignore Justina.

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Sarmatian woman warrior

Now in the following day, Theodosius together with Alaric and about 20,000 of their Goths, Hun allies, and Sarmatian women warriors would leave their camp in Thrace to meet a Roman force in battle hearing that one was heading their way thus leaving Valdis and Magnus to watch over the camp while Valentinian II on the other hand when retreating to a nearby still Roman held town had already written to his half-brother and Western co-emperor Gratian to come to his aid with all the army he has now showing that the east and west have again reconciled with each other. As for Theodosius and his army, he would this time meet the Romans face-to-face in battle in one of the Thracian hills and leading this Roman army here of mostly highly trained Comitatenses legionnaires would be the same old general of Thrace the Greek Lupicinus, who in this story was a veteran of the Gothic War and had come a long way from being the incompetent and cowardly general that tried to settle peace with Fritigern’s Goths by feeding the Goths with dog meat in exchange for the Goths selling off their children as salves only for Lupicinus to suffer a humiliating to Fritigern in 376 getting his arm broken in the process, to now becoming a brave and cunning general with the position of Magister Militum.

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Late Roman “Pedes” legionnaire, art by CannicusPalentine

Here, before going to battle the Roman troops Lupicinus would gather up in prayer as was the custom for the Christian Romans before battle, and following that he would order his soldiers to march in formation with their large round shields, however they would still stand no chance against the Goths now that they have fought in the same way as the Romans with such discipline allowing the Goths to break into Lupicinus’ troops while the Huns on their horses meanwhile would savagely cut down the Romans one after the other, and Theodosius here with so much strength too would kill all Roman soldiers on his path with such ease as if they were like ants. At the end, the Goths and Huns as well as a very furious Alaric would totally obliterate this Roman army of 2,000 considering that the Goths and Huns too had more, however here they would only leave 5 Romans alive as well as their general Lupicinus, though not wanting to surrender Lupicinus would personally challenge Theodosius who he once served under before 376 to a duel, but despite Lupicinus being taller than Theodosius he would still lose, as Theodosius here would sweep Lupicinus’ legs with his leg, and with Lupicinus down, Theodosius without having said anything in the entire battle would behead his old fellow subordinate commander Lupicinus with one blow of his sword. With Theodosius and Alaric victorious here, they would return to their camp not knowing that Valentinian II had already asked for Gratian to lead almost his entire army west to assist them.

Now on the other hand, Fritigern and Athanaric with their army also consisting of 100,000 with Huns and Slavs would then head west across the Tisza River sailing through it south arriving once again in the fortress of Singidunum which was now abandoned and half destroyed ever since the attack on the Goth traitor Alatheus back in 387. At Singidunum, Fritigern and Athanaric with their army would then get off their boats and head west into Roman Pannonia where they would set up camp, however when arriving at Pannonia a Western Roman force which happened to be here at this time led by the same Western general Arbogast who was also a Gothic war veteran would face off the Goths here only for his much smaller army to also be annihilated by the Goths who would also surprise the Romans by fighting like them and using the same weapons.

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Concept art of Arbogast by Giuseppe Rava

Arbogast however would be spared but Athanaric after setting up camp in Pannonia would have his men brutally torture the Frankish-Roman general Arbogast for information on how to get into the heart of Italy which was Athanaric’s main objective here, however Fritigern would disagree with it as Italy was really out of the way as Fritigern here just really wanted to invade Roman Germania and Gaul which was more practical for the Goths as land to settle in. Athanaric though being drunk here would simply ignore Fritigern and would instead torture Arbogast himself to the point that Arbogast would admit he was never really loyal to his emperor Gratian and that he would even switch sides to the Goths if he were still allowed to keep his position, and true enough in real history Arbogast was never really loyal to Rome or the emperor but just to himself. Now Athanaric here would simply let Arbogast live the moment Arbogast revealed a way into Italy from Pannonia using the mountain passes in the Alps, though when getting the information Athanaric would knock Arbogast so hard to the point of almost killing him. Later that night, as Fritigern and Athanaric would stare at the stars sitting around the campfire drinking Goth mead, Fritigern would remind Athanaric that he was doing the opposite of what Fritigern wanted, however Athanaric would respond saying that he only wants to lead the Goths to a golden age ruling almost the entire Europe, but Fritigern in return would be angry telling Athanaric that he is disobeying Fritigern’s orders as Fritigern simply just wanted to conquer land for their Goths to settle in as well as to have revenge against Rome. Athanaric however would now happen to be so fed up with having to blindly follow Fritigern as if Fritigern owned him simply because Fritigern was the older one, thus Athanaric now would here remind Fritigern that Fritigern was simply nothing before and was only chosen to be their people’s king when these said people rebelled against Athanaric before 376 when deciding to migrate into the Roman Empire whereas Athanaric was really of the royal line of the Thervingi. Athanaric too would tell Fritigern that he was never really true to his word in allowing the Arian Christian Goths to practice their faith as Athanaric was really without question a devout Pagan Goth who seeing that if Fritigern had his way, his ways would destroy Goth culture altogether, thus further angering Fritigern who opposed Athanaric’s objectives to persecute Christians. Athanaric too would remind Fritigern that his (Athanaric’s) father was once the king of the Thervingi Aoric that the Roman emperor Constantine the Great back in 332 captured when Athanaric was only a year old which thus gave Athanaric the common hatred with Fritigern against Rome whereas Athanaric afterwards was looking for every opportunity to destroy Rome as seen when taking sides with the usurper emperor Procopius in 365 only to later surrender to Valens, thus Athanaric would once again tell Fritigern that he ruined his life and aims when Fritigern rebelled against him and was proclaimed king by his loyalists who wanted to remain as Arian Christians, thus Athanaric at this moment would proclaim that their joint rulership over the Goths is at an end. An enraged Fritigern here would however try to attack Athanaric but before grabbing his knife, Athanaric already pulled out a knife from his sleeve using it to slit Fritigern’s throat, and a few minutes later the 73-year-old fearsome Fritigern with just one cut of a knife in his throat dropped dead whereas the 64-year-old younger Athanaric ordered his men in the camp to celebrate only to later hear the battle horns of Roman troops in the distance and looking west, they would see several Roman dragon banners and the Western Roman emperor Gratian himself with his most trusted top general Richomeres commanding thousands of men headed their way as back in Milan when Gratian got word from Valentinian II, his advisor Bishop Ambrose too advised him to come to his half-brother’s aid and more importantly to save the empire.

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Late Roman Comitatenses soldiers in battle
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Huns charge into battle

       

In the meantime, back in the Eastern Roman Empire, another Roman army this time led by the eastern generals Timasius and the half-Vandal half-Roman Stilicho too charged directly at Theodosius’ Goth camp but unsurprisingly Theodosius and his men were more than prepared for this Roman surprise attack. Theodosius then together with Valdis and Magnus would lead their men in an organized fashion like the Roman troops against the Romans while Alaric and his force of Goths would as usual mindlessly attack the legions of Stilicho and Timasius jumping over them and biting their flesh while Alaric himself would do the same that in fact Alaric in this battle would manage to take down the general Timasius with his bare hands and stab him with his sword in the heart while the Huns on the other hand would with such speed annihilate more Roman troops as if again, they were like ants but what the Huns here would use to overpower the Romans would be their lassos wherein they would manage to trap many Roman soldiers with it and eventually cut them to pieces when captured.

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Magnus Maximus in armor

As Magnus Maximus would be engaged in this fierce battle despite being already in his 50s, he would still manage to slay many Romans with just his sword and Goth axes he would pick up from time to time throwing it directly at the heads of the Roman troops. Theodosius on the other hand would also be charging straight at the legionnaires in battle again slaying them like ants without even getting the slightest scars himself while Valdis in full armor too wielding a large two-handed broadsword would use her flexibility to kill as many Romans as she can whereas at certain points Theodosius would carry her by the waist allowing her to assault Roman soldiers by jumping over them and knocking them out to the ground by kicking them with her long and strong legs whereas beneath the soles of her boots were spikes which was also effective in taking down the Romans.

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Concept art of Valdis in armor, art by amdanielito

Both Valdis and Theodosius here would also manage to disarm many Roman legionnaires grabbing their round shields with the mark of Christ the chi-rho (Px) on it against them by smashing their skulls with it whereas they two together with the Goths would grab the darts found inside these shields throwing it back at the Romans while their Slav allies too would berserk charge at the Romans with their large axes. Eventually, Theodosius himself would confront Stilicho who was still standing thus leading to a duel between them wherein Theodosius would strike first cutting a part of Stilicho’s armor with his sword making Stilicho attempt to escape while Theodosius would taunt him saying “come on baby, show me what you got!”, however Stilicho here had another tactic in mind to plan a feigned retreat whereas he would later return with more reinforcements. Stilicho now seeing the Goths using Roman battle tactics decided it was time that he and his forces do the opposite by attacking these barbarians with more aggressive barbarian fighting styles considering that Stilicho being half-barbarian knew how to fight their way too.

Meanwhile back in Pannonia, the Western Roman troops also mostly consisting of the Comitatenses legionnaires and elite Palatini guardsmen led by Gratian and Richomeres would directly attack Athanaric and his camp, however Athanaric now also knowing the Roman way of fighting would manage to hold off well against so many Roman troops while his Goths and Huns would savagely attack the legionnaires as well with the additional use of flaming arrows causing many Romans to flee the site of battle.

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4th century Palatini elite imperial guardsman, art by Giuseppe Rava

Gratian and Richomeres with their Palatini troops however would still manage to hold off against the Goths and make their way into Athanaric’s camp leaving Athanaric slightly wounded himself, however Athanaric would still get up and kill as many Roman by himself while Richomeres would rush straight into one of the tents seeing no other than his nephew Arbogast in there badly tortured thus carrying him away to a haystack. With the Roman troops now surrounding Athanaric’s camp, Richomeres from inside would then send them a signal to open fire at the wooden camp with flaming arrows, however Athanaric would still not be distracted despite his camp being burned. Back in Thrace, Theodosius together with Valdis, Magnus, Alaric, and their remaining troops would then march south burning a number of villages along the way whereas Alaric himself would continue to slaughter Roman citizen civilians to the point that Theodosius himself would start disapproving of all this violence before they would march into one of the passes in the Haemus Mountains in search for Stilicho, though when marching straight into the pass, they would so happen to run into an ambush ordered by Stilicho who faked his retreat 2 days earlier.

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Flavius Stilicho, Eastern Roman general in this story

Here, Stilicho would like before back in Pannonia in 385 throw boulders down at the Goths while ordering his archers mostly being Armenian and Georgian mercenaries to fire at them from above knowing he has more of an advantage being on the high ground. Theodosius however would have his archers including Huns fire back at Stilicho’s men managing to kill a number of them with some falling off the ravine to their deaths, though when the arrows would no longer prove effective, Theodosius would instead have his Goths now wielding Roman spears throw them at Stilicho’s men above but Stilicho would still fight back by having his men throw spears down at the Goths, Huns, and Slavs. Seeing not much can be done, Theodosius here would simply ride his horse up the mountain through a narrow pass to deal with Stilicho leaving Alaric and Magnus to head across the mountain pass to the other side of the mountains while Valdis headed the other direction to attack another division of Stilicho’s men which mostly consisted of different barbarian warriors from different tribes as Foederati troops. Theodosius then would reach the top of the ravine where Stilicho and his remaining men were and here Theodosius would end up demonstrating how invincible he became by dodging all spears and arrows thrown at him as well as the large bolts fired by the ballistae. After managing to slay all of the remaining troops of Stilicho by himself like ants again, Theodosius would then confront Stilicho himself to another one-on-one duel, however this time both men would use not only their swords but the weapons of the slain soldiers in which both would throw at each other. Stilicho when grabbing a long Roman spear would then use it to hit Theodosius right at his armor damaging it causing Theodosius to use his sword to cut his armor off, thus now fighting Stilicho just wearing a tunic, though Theodosius too would manage to cut Stilicho’s armor open making Stilicho as well throw off his armor leaving both to battle each other using their swords when just wearing their tunics. As both would duel each other, they would soon reach the point where they would slash each other’s tunics causing both to fight with their clothes off. Theodosius though would soon enough gain the upper hand disarming Stilicho of his sword and knocking Stilicho to the ground; however, Theodosius would be distracted allowing Stilicho to reach for his sword with difficulty using it to slash Theodosius’ pants causing a few small amber stones to fall off, and when seeing it Theodosius too would be distracted as seeing the amber again reminded him of his late mother, thus Stilicho would kick Theodosius in the chest knocking him out.

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Western Roman legionnaires in battle, art by LordMatini

Back in Athanaric’s camp again, though Gratian and Richomeres managed to rescue a wounded Abogast putting him at the back of Richomeres’ horse, the camp still burned to the ground whereas the slain Fritigern’s body too started to burn as a result of the flames spreading while Athanaric still did not care causing him to kill tens of Romans as well as their allied Alemanni and Frankish troops by himself. Eventually, Athanaric’s army would successfully rout the Roman forces and emerge victorious despite their camp burning to the ground, though Gratian, Richomeres, and Arbogast would manage to escape alive by riding off the other direction being east before Athanaric’s men won the battle and continued marching west. As Gratian and Richomeres with Arbogast would ride with such speed east across the Pannonian plains intending to seek refuge east believing it hadn’t yet fallen to the Goths as Gratian here believed it was best to just give up his western half and maybe one day come back to defeat Athanaric and his army with eastern troops, Athanaric and his men on the other hand continued west pillaging their way intending to march south to Italy through the Alps, although when Athanaric found a new place to stop and rest, there he thought of sending word to Theodosius, Alaric, Valdis, and Magnus to give up their attacks on the east and instead head west knowing that they would very soon enough conquer the whole western half of the empire. Back in the Haemus Mountains again with Theodosius being beaten by Stilicho in this hard-fought duel due to simply being distracted seeing the amber fall off his pockets, Stilicho would then grab his sword attempting to kill Theodosius only to be suddenly ambushed from behind by no other than Valdis herself who with a few Slav allies managed to kill the rest of Stilicho’s men, however by the time Valdis was already holding her dagger to Stilicho’s neck, Theodosius would suddenly here having a change of heart ordered Valdis to drop her sword and let Stilicho leave. Valdis thus followed her husband’s orders leading to Stilicho leaving the site humiliated while Theodosius and Valdis on the other hand would be stuck above the mountain very confused on whether they won this battle or not.

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Goths and Late Roman legionnaires battle each other, art by Giuseppe Rava
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Roman legionnaires slain by the Goths, art by Giuseppe Rava
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Haemus Mountains, the Balkans

          

In the Haemus Mountains in Thrace as the defeated and humiliated Stilicho was allowed to leave the mountain freely, Theodosius and Valdis stayed above the mountain for a few hours to rest after the long battle whereas Magnus and Alaric made it to the other side of the pass with the remains of their Goth, Hun, Alan, Sarmatian, and Slav troops and there they would encounter a Goth messenger from Athanaric a few days later who here ordered that all their troops sent to the east should abandon their campaign and retreat west to the Western half of the empire as Athanaric had basically already conquered it for the Goths considering that the Western emperor Gratian had already fled east.

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Concept art of Alaric by Giulia Valentini

Alaric and Magnus would thus decide to ride all the way east across the Roman road there, the Via Egnatia to reach the Adriatic Sea in Illyria and from there sail across it to Italy whereas Magnus being a Roman and familiar with these lands would lead the Goth army down the road all while totally forgetting about Theodosius and Valdis and not even thinking of finding them and letting them join their advance to Italy. Along the Via Engnatia, Magnus and Alaric would then terrify and slaughter all remaining and now disorganized and frightened Roman troops before successfully reaching the Adriatic and sailing across it to Italy. By this time on the other hand, another Roman army this time commanded by the young eastern emperor Valentinian II himself together with his remaining generals Rufinus and Constantinople’s prefect Anthemius would already march out of Constantinople heading out to Thrace hearing of Theodosius’ attack there. As the army led by Valentinian II would arrive at the foot of the Haemus Mountains days later in Northern Thrace, they would destroy the last remains of Theodosius’ Goths, Slavs, Huns, and other allies due to them now being reduced in number, and there as well they would encounter the defeated Stilicho living in a tent like a homeless man whereas he would inform the emperor that he had spotted Theodosius in the mountains. In the meantime, Theodosius too had been wandering off in the Haemus Mountains for days where he began to start realizing all his faults especially in betraying Rome and joining the Goths only to bring such destruction to the empire he came from whereas Valdis would go her own way too in search for Magnus and Alaric wherein she too would begin to feel that they had just out of the blue betrayed her, and Theodosius thinking also that Athanaric and Fritigern at the end never really cared for them but just wanted to use them, however little did Theodosius and Valdis know that Athanaric had already killed off Fritigern.

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Bust of Emperor Valentinian II

Now the army led by Valentinian II and guided by Stilicho would thus reach one of the passes in the mountains wherein they would encounter Theodosius himself dressed down to old and worn-out clothes with his long hair and beard wandering aimlessly, however neither Anthemius nor Rufinus would recognize this strange looking man wandering around until Stilicho and Valentinian II who saw Theodosius looking like this weeks ago at the camp would tell them that this was exactly the traitor Theodosius. When now seeing Theodosius alone, Anthemius would shout out “you are under arrest for treason against Rome”, and though Theodosius would surrender he would reason with them but neither Anthemius, nor Stilicho, nor Rufinus would fall for him until Valentinian II himself would step up as originally, he intended to negotiate with Theodosius. However, this time Theodosius would act totally different from the last time he saw Valentinian II as here he would be completely remorseful and breaking down in tears apologizing for everything he has done against Rome just out of plain anger and hatred for feeling betrayed and ignored by Rome, thus he would say that he only joined the Goths thinking that he could gain power that way and show the Romans what he was capable of only to make him realize that leading the Goths only turned him into an evil monster which he was really not. Valentinian II here would have no idea on how to reason with Theodosius, although he would fall for it as again he as well his mother Justina originally intended to negotiate with Theodosius to bring him back while Theodosius would further elaborate his life and all the pain he felt ever since as here in this story’s case his mother died when he was only 10 and despite growing up wealthy in Hispania he was forced by his father to join him in military campaigns at such a young age whereas the young Theodosius was not even sure if he wanted that life while when becoming a general he was just ordered around and not given any credit by the emperors then being Valentinian I and Valens, thus he thought that by joining the Goths he would achieve more of a life than he had under Rome but at the end it turned out it too was not the life Theodosius wanted to lead while he also felt that he could not keep the Goths under control despite him leading them especially seen with Alaric who savagely killed everyone in his path which Theodosius despite being above him in command could not even stop. Now feeling horrible especially when it came to Alaric who he failed to stop from committing such atrocities which Theodosius did not want to see happen, this gave Theodosius every reason to consider returning his loyalty to Rome and renouncing his loyalty to the Goths while Valentinian II falling for Theodosius’ reasoning and guilt thus allowed Theodosius back considering giving him a second chance although he told him to join them to Thessaloniki which was somewhat the closest major city wherein they would decide what to do with Theodosius.

When Theodosius would arrive in Thessaloniki together with Valentinian II, Stilicho, Anthemius, and Rufinus, he would feel very troubled especially wondering whatever happened to his wife Valdis, and there they would already see Richomeres and the now recovered Arbogast who had already arrived there before they did as here the defeated Richomeres with his nephew Arbogast made their way from Pannonia south to the port of Pula (in Croatia) and from there sailed by ship to Thessaloniki when hearing Athanaric and his Goths have already marched into the Western half of the empire victorious. Richomeres would then tell Valentinian II that Athanaric and his Goths were victorious in the west defeating their army, while the shocked Valentinian II would ask what happened to his half-brother Emperor Gratian, but Richomeres would tell him that when they reached Pula, there Gratian decided to separate from them sending Richomeres and Arbogast to sail to either Thessaloniki or Constantinople while Gratian decided to go his own way and sail south across the Mediterranean, possibly to Egypt though Gratian never said where but rather he said that because of their defeat to Athanaric, he needed to get away from the public eye for the meantime and go somewhere very distant just to rethink everything while Richomeres chose to dock in Thessaloniki not Constantinople as it was nearer. Valentinian II here would be very concerned thinking that Gratian would possibly never come back by getting lost in Egypt and possibly dying there putting the Western half of the empire in chaos at such a bad time now that the Goths have invaded while Gratian too had no sons, however Richomeres would tell Valentinian II that there is simply no more western half as Athanaric could have already possibly taken over all of Italy as well as Pannonia and parts of Roman Germania. Now in Thessaloniki, the recovered Arbogast would in this case get drunk on one occasion to celebrate being fully recovered and when drunk he would reveal to Richomeres and Valentinian II that he revealed to Athanaric and his Goths the way to Italy from Pannonia as Arbogast never really had any loyalty to Rome but just wanted to be spared by Athanaric who captured and tortured him thinking too he could possibly have a life of more importance under Athanaric which however never came to be. Richomeres would thus be very disappointed with his nephew Arbogast and thus in the following day after Arbogast got drunk revealing what he really did, he would be tried in public in Thessaloniki, proven guilty, and executed by Valentinian II’s orders at the city’s Hippodrome. Theodosius meanwhile who would also be tried for treason together with Arbogast here would be proven innocent as well as being given a second chance and the position in the Roman army he so wanted which was Magister Militum or top commander of the infantry, cavalry, and navy by Valentinian II as Theodosius renounced all his loyalty to Athanaric and his Gothic Empire and said he had nothing to do with Alaric’s atrocities that in fact Theodosius even condemned it seeing it as just too much that even he would not do such things like that no matter how much he wanted revenge on Rome, and here as the Eastern Romans true enough desperately needed another powerful and experienced commander to retake the west from the Goths, Theodosius thus rejoined the ranks of the Roman army loyal once again to Rome. Meanwhile when returning to Constantinople, the young emperor Valentinian II would write a rather mysterious letter, but as it would turn out this letter was to the Sassanid Empire and its king Bahram IV as the Romans now could not stand against the now ultra-powerful Goths alone, thus it would mean taking extreme measures to once and for all defeat the Goths even if it would mean allying with the Sassanids, their longest mortal enemy.

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The Hippodrome of Late Roman Thessaloniki

The Conclusion       

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At the end of this story in the year 395, the map of the Roman Empire and in fact of the whole Europe itself would totally alter. First of all, since Athanaric and his Goths succeeded in invading the Western half of the Roman Empire despite the Goths losing to the Romans in the Eastern half, only the Eastern half of the empire would still be left alive similar to how it would be in real history 81 years later in 476 when the whole Western Roman Empire fell leaving only the east with Constantinople as its capital alive. As for Athanaric’s empire, it would have a rather odd shape as his original Gothic Empire included almost all of Eastern Europe west to east from the Tisza and Vistula Rivers to the Dnieper River and north to south from the Daugava River and Baltic Sea to the Danube River and Black Sea, but with the addition now of almost all western provinces of the Roman Empire, there would only be a thin strip of land in what is today’s Serbia and Hungary that would connect the mainland of Athanaric’s empire to Italy and the Western provinces without yet even any access to the Adriatic Sea in the south. However, at the end of this story, Athanaric had not yet fully conquered all of Italy and the Western provinces, but if he does, he would as well conquer the Adriatic coast including the coast of Illyria and Istria (Croatia), while to the west he would end up conquering all of Italy, Roman Germania, Gaul, and Hispania leaving only Britain and Northwest Africa as the only lands in the west still left under Roman rule. With Athanaric now ruling all these lands covering more than half of Europe, he would be the world’s most powerful ruler, and as this powerful ruler he would be a very well-respected one especially by his Goth subjects but a very cruel one too especially towards his Roman subjects and most especially Christians as his goal was really to persecute Christians to keep the old Gothic religion and traditions alive. With Athanaric taking over the Western half of the Roman Empire, his army would thus continue to multiply with more Roman traitors joining him in which Magnus Maximus would be no exception, and so with Magnus and Alaric serving him, Athanaric would reign terror over his newly conquered Roman lands, but on the other hand his reign may not last long as most of his subjects within once Roman lands were strongly devout Christians whether Nicene or Arian and their devotion to their faith could be a factor of bringing Athanaric down, thus with both rival Christian sects now under attack by the fanatical Pagan Athanaric, they could possibly put aside their religious differences with Athanaric and his Goths as their common enemy or instead they would just let Christianity in the Roman Empire be so divided making them such an easy target for Athanaric to rule over. On the other hand, Valentinian II ruling the east at such a young age would already have to face a major crisis like no other emperor before him had especially since at any time the Goths could destroy the Eastern half too while at his age, he wouldn’t yet be able to handle an empire this troubled especially since he is the only emperor left standing considering that Gratian had disappeared in the meantime. What could happen next is that Valentinian II when seeking aid from the Sassanid Empire could ally with them not only to fight against the Goths and retake the Western half but to search for Gratian as he could have possibly ended up in Sassanid territory. As for Theodosius who now returned his loyalty to Rome, he would give valuable information about Athanaric and his Goths to Valentinian II while Valdis who happened to disappear in the Balkans would end up being found and arrested by Roman troops, brought to Thessaloniki, and tried, but Theodosius could possibly save her from being executed so long as Valdis too renounces her loyalty to the Goths and joins Roman society as Theodosius’ wife. Theodosius together with Valdis and possibly Stilicho who he would now reconcile with would all agree on a common objective to find Gratian as he is the only hope for saving the empire being the oldest emperor alive while possibly the last remains of Roman troops in Britain and Northwest Africa would mount a resistance against Athanaric and his Goths joined together with local Britons in Britain and local Berbers in North Africa, and in this case a Roman general possibly being Richomeres would travel to either places to train the resistance troops and later lead them against the Goths. With Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho travelling to Egypt or rather to the Middle East, they would possibly find Gratian there and maybe even gather an army of people from these said places to strike back against the Goths, while the Sassanids too would join at this point in the mission to retake the west, which would all thus lead into a major war like no other seen in those days.    

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King Athanaric of the “Gothic Empire” in this story
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Map of Athanaric’s “Gothic Empire” (in red) by 395 in this story

          

And now this is all for the first spin-off sequel to the Byzantine Alternate History series being the spin-off for chapter I. Now in this case, chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History would no longer be a standalone story now that we have this story that follows it, and following this story too would be another one which would thus be the third and final part of the series expanding on chapter I. As this story covered in detail what would happen if we followed the course of events in chapter I wherein the Romans defeated the Goths in 378- rather than following the course of events in real history wherein the Romans actually lost to the Goths in 378 but eventually managed to end the conflict with the Goths years later- the follow up story to this one would then discuss what would happen now that the Goths took over most of the Western half of the Roman Empire leading to an eventual large-scale war like no other wherein the last of the Romans joined by the Sassanids and many other people strike back at the Goths once and for all. As this story featured so much action, blood and gore, emotional moments, betrayals, shifting loyalties, travelling to far off places deep into Eastern Europe never recorded much in Roman history together with more fictional twists than actual events that happened in real history that ended up seeming so impossible especially things concerning the Goths, the follow-up story to this will then just be like this one except with so much more action whereas despite it being set in actual years in the real history of the late 4th century, none of the same events that took place would actually happen. However, the next post following this would not yet be the follow-up to this exact one as chapters II, III, and XII will still get their own follow-ups, thus the 3rd installment for chapter I and the follow up to this one would come a few months later, however it would only be chapter I that would have its own 3-part series as the other 3 chapters that would have a follow-up would just have one follow-up. Anyway, this is all for the first of the Byzantine Alternate History spin-off stories, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveler… Thank you for your time!   

Learnings and Discoveries in my 2021 Byzantine History Journey- Year End Post

Posted by Powee Celdran

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Byzantine Time Traveller logo

Welcome back to the Byzantium Blogger! This is going to be my final post for this year. Another special edition article where I finish with a unique and more personal article about my own experience with Byzantine history. This year-ender post is about what I really did in 2021, which was creating an ambitious campaign on social media sites to raise more awareness on the still lesser-known history of Byzantium. Of course, for this year my biggest project was undoubtedly my 12-part Byzantine Alternate history series which I did from February to September. I also made a special edition article for it specifically about the behind-the-scenes of my alternate history chapters (read it here). Since I already discussed how I made my alternate history series there as well as what inspired me to do it, and how I created the stories, this article is about the other things I did for Byzantine history, mainly how I used social media. In this article I will briefly discuss my progress in creating awareness for Byzantine history on social media, discuss a few lessons I learned from it, including my own discoveries and tips to success. Other highlights include interviews on other Byzantine history sites and works I’ve done for other sites other than my own, plus a few quick reviews on the Byzantine history social media groups I’m part of.  Lastly, some updates for what I will do as I continue my Byzantine history journey in 2022.

I began doing this entire Byzantine history social media campaign this year by creating a Byzantine history Instagram account at the very beginning of the year, followed by a Facebook page, and so on. I also use these sites to promote my blog. The great thing is that it helped me meet so many people from across the world with the same interests as me. Another new thing I have begun doing and developing this year were my Byzantine themed artworks. I recreated historical figures in my style including Byzantine era manuscripts. Other than that, I also used this year to continue producing more Byzantine history content on my Youtube channel No Budget Films, specifically retelling the entire story of the Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos Dynasty (1261-1453), its last ruling dynasty in the form of an audio epic entitled The Last Roman Dynasty, which I began back in February and have recently finished and uploaded the last episode a few weeks ago.

I’d also like to show the progress of my Byzantine journey this year, therefore I will be posting my artworks in chronological form from the earliest ones I made this year to the most recent ones to show its development. The 12 chapters of the Byzantine Alternate History series, in which I recently updated all with so much toil will be linked as well as the 9 episodes of my audio-epic series. Take note that this article will not be too informative, rather it is more personal in nature, therefore I would just be speaking everything that comes out of my mind. Literally, as a year ender article, this article will be a throwback to everything I’ve done in 2021 Byzantine related while at the end, I will credit all those who have supported me and played a major role throughout my Byzantine journey this year.

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Flag of the Byzantine Empire

To get to know more about Byzantium, follow me the Byzantium Blogger on social media:

Instagram: @Byzantine_Time_Traveller

Facebook: Byzantine Time Traveller

Twitter: @ByzantineTime

Youtube: No Budget Films

Deviantart: Byzantium-blogger55

Art Station: Powee Celdran Porphyrogennetos

Patreon: Byzantine Time Traveller

Read the 12 Chapters of Byzantine Alternate History Here:

Chapter I- Roman Victory over the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, 378, 4th Century

Chapter II- Preventing the Fall of the Western Roman Empire 2 Years in Advance, 5th Century

Chapter III- Justinian the Great Personally Joins his Campaigns and Saves his Empire from the Plague, 6th Century

Chapter IV- Constans II Relocates the Imperial Capital to Sicily, 7th Century

Chapter V- Emperor Artavasdos, the Unlikely Hero, 8th Century

Chapter VI- Irene and Charlemagne, the Wedding of the Century, 9th Century

Chapter VII- A Retelling of the Bizarre Byzantine Renaissance and the Macedonian (Amorian) Dynasty, 10th Century

Chapter VIII- A Byzantine Victory at the 1071 Battle of Manzikert and its Impact on the Empire, 11th Century

Chapter IX- Preventing the Catastrophic 4th Crusade in Advance, 12th Century

Chapter X- The 2nd Bulgarian Empire Captures Constantinople in 1235, 13th Century

Chapter XI- The Serbian Empire Takes Over and Saves a Dying Byzantium, 14th Century

Chapter XII- Constantinople Surrenders to the Ottomans in 1453 in Order to Buy Time to Start a Crusade to Recapture it, 15th Century

Other 2021 Byzantine Articles from the Byzantium Blogger

My 2019-2020 Byzantine History Journey

A Review, analysis, and fan casting for graphic novel Theophano: A Byzantine Tale

5 Everyday Modern People React to Byzantine History Quotes

My Personal Ranking of the 15 Centuries of Byzantine History

A Review and Reaction to Byzantine historical novel The Usurper

The Legacy of the Byzantine Empire- Epilogue to the Alternate History Series

The Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection and What to Expect

10 Inventions from the Byzantine Empire


 

My 2021 Byzantine History Social Media Journey and Lessons Learned From It

           

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Exactly a year ago on December 31 of 2020, shortly before welcoming 2021, I created the Byzantine history Instagram account Byzantine_Time_Traveller.  When I  created it, I clearly had no idea where it would go, whether if it would last a full year or just die out after a month. Little did I know back then that it would actually have a following. When I began the account together with the Facebook page created a month later, it had quite a slow start. I started out in the first few weeks by just posting Byzantine era destinations that I have travelled to in the past for my IG account. Although likes and followers were few, I still had a lot of hope, excitement and optimism to post new content which is the feeling you have when starting something new. In the beginning my IG would seem like another Byzantine history or general history IG that would just die when its creator loses interest, but it was not the case. Like I said I had quite a slow start only reaching over 100 followers at the end of the first month and only over 300 followers by the 3rd month, not to mention many challenges along the way. It seemed like my posts were not going in any direction, but I chose to not give up but persevere and continue to grow the account. Eventually without really expecting it, I got over 1,000 followers and then 2,000, and now as the year ends over 6,000 followers with some posts getting up to 3,000 likes, over 30 comments, and multiple tags from other accounts. My Facebook page of the same name now has over 1,300 page likes considering that it has only been a year since I started these sites. These may not seem like big numbers in the social media universe, but considering how specialized Byzantine history is, for me these are substantial numbers and more importantly, an engaged audience.

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Complete map of the Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent in 565 (purple), and in 1180 (dotted lines) with coins found in certain locations; from the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection, Washington DC

Here are some of my tips on how I reached this far in my Byzantine history social media sites as well as some discoveries I made in posting content:

Always set a goal and a plan out your posts. When I started out my Byzantine history IG, I honestly did not know where it would take me. I just started by posting whatever was “Byzantine” in my mind, whether they were photos I took of Byzantine landmarks from my previous trips to Constantinople or Ravenna or my old Byzantine inspired drawings from years ago. However, I  started becoming more and more hooked in posting Byzantine related content that I would end up just posting and posting, although as I kept posting, I started realizing that I needed to have a plan on what to post. In my case, my plan was to post things in chronological fashion beginning with the founding of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th century and finishing off with the 15th century. There were some exceptions which included posting events that happened on a certain date no matter what century in Byzantine history, which were my “On This Day” posts, although these posts were planned out carefully as well. This trick of having a plan, whether posting events that happened in Byzantine history on a specific date, posting in chronological order, or having a specific date on when to post would help a lot to not confuse your followers. On the other hand, it is also fun to go spontaneous and just post something randomly without having much of a plan, and this has happened to me a lot, especially after completing my alternate history series. However, by the time October came, I had completed the entire 12-part series, thus the posts would no longer follow any timeline. One post would be set in the 7th century, then the next one in the 12th. Although some of my posts especially these days are basically just thought of a few hours before posting, I still use the same formula for the sake of consistency.

Another major part of planning out all your posts is to set a mission and vision to your own account as a way to make it clear to your viewers not only about your content but how you intend to post your content and what kind of people you want to reach. In my case I try to make my posts highly informative and understandable yet light. One that targets not only hardcore scholars and historians but a wider audience including those hardly familiar with Byzantine history in order to get more and more people from around the world to know about it. Part of this tip in planning out your posts is to also choose the content you are going to share.  I made mine an account to share Byzantine related content whether it is historical trivia, on this day events, Byzantine themed artworks, Byzantine travel destinations around the world, and once in a while Byzantium in Lego as part of the films I make for my channel No Budget Films.

Lastly, another tip I have to mention in posting content is to post them on a regular basis which is a sure way to get people more engaged. I recommend posting every 2-4 days as this kind of interval could get your viewers hooked giving them the right amount of time to expect a new post. Sometimes posting things irregularly like just once a week or every other week may cause a loss of interest among viewers considering that they would have to wait too long for a new post while posting too often like every day or even more than one post a day can be tiring, which I have noticed from other accounts. After all, when it comes to posting social media content, it is not like producing a movie which takes time, in fact things are very instant, but when it comes to posting about history the trick is to give some waiting time especially if your posts are very well planned. When posting history related content you have to be very thorough about the facts which is why you can’t just post things too instantly unless you are just simply describing a historical image.    

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Map of the Byzantine Empire at 3 different eras; greatest extent in the 6th century (red line), in 1025 (pink), and by 1360 (red)

Create original content and develop your own style of posting. Of course, when it comes to Instagram accounts, Facebook pages, and Youtube channels that post historical content, those that post Byzantine history content are still not too common, however if you do have a Byzantine account just like my own, you still have to be original as there are other accounts that post Byzantine related content. What I mean by original content does not necessarily mean creating your own Byzantine themed artworks- although in my case I do – rather this would mean looking for certain topics that other accounts have not posted yet. In my case, how I developed my own personal style other than creating Byzantine themed artworks was by using a series of emojis in the captions, having rather long and informative captions to explain my posts clearly, the use of filters to add some more color and life to the images I post, and having a signature trademark at the beginning of every post – a specific diamond emoji with a dot.  When it comes to the post itself and not just the image or the format I use for the caption, I try to post something in Byzantine history that is interesting and not talked about as much. It could be something to do with a lesser known emperor, a lesser known but very interesting battle, a lesser known Byzantine location, or something no one would really know about such as Byzantine relations with other foreign lands like India, China, or Scandinavia rather. I try to avoid the usual things that many others who are familiar with Byzantium would already know about like Emperor Justinian I and the mosaics depicting him, the Hagia Sophia, or the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Of course, posting about the more popular things in Byzantine history works too as these posts get a lot of engagement due to how significant they are in history, but in order to make posts more engaging I post things that no others have posted yet. These posts based on my experience happen to spark a lot of interest especially in the comments. Part of posting your own original content too is to post something that you wrote yourself rather than just reposting another post or worse copy pasting some information from the internet. On the other hand, when it comes to posting original content, I strongly suggest posting your own original artworks. This very much applies to those content creators who are already artistic in nature, but if not, it is best also to be in another way original by collaborating with another artist who would do the artwork while you as the creator write the caption, and I have also done this a couple of times. Another way of posting something original and unique that I highly suggest is to post real Byzantine objects such as artifacts or landmarks if ever you come across them. This usually helps in making viewers take you seriously as by actually travelling to see these landmarks or artifacts, they will see that you are really the real deal. They will appreciate that you saw these things with your own eyes rather than just seeing them online without actually knowing what they truly look like and what they are truly made of. Other ways you can be original in posting in this case Byzantine history content would be in following trends such as creating Instagram reels on Byzantine history or doing a series on a certain topic about Byzantine history. For example Justinian I’s long Italy campaign (535-553) which could not be done in just one post but rather in a series. I notice other historical Instagram accounts do this if they want to explain a certain event in history in full detail, and I too have done this a few times. Basically, the key in posting is to let your creativity and inspiration flow and lead you wherever it takes you, and this way you would end up creating countless original works.

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Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine jewellery collection
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Emperor John V Palaiologos (r. 1341-1391), art by Justinianus the Great (collaboration project)

Stick to historical facts but write your posts in your own unique way. When it comes to posting things especially where historical facts are involved, the number one rule is to stick to the facts, as a lack of sources that verify what you posted could trigger tensions especially if it has a lot to do with ethnicity, national identity, and religion, although this does not necessarily mean citing your sources. In this case when it comes to posting content in Byzantine history, always double check and cross check the facts as there is always a possibility someone would comment noticing that there is something off about the facts. However, when creating a post, use your own words and do not copy paste it from the source. Most importantly do not ever copy another user’s post and share it by just pasting exactly everything it has on your feed, otherwise this would all be considered plagiarism. Now as for verifying the facts you wrote in your post, my trick here rather than citing the entire source in a very scholarly way is to mention the historian who wrote about a said emperor or a said race of people. For example when I posted something about Emperor Justin II (r. 565-574), I still mentioned the historian John Ephesus that mentioned that the emperor went insane in 572. When posting images, I usually also cite the source of the image especially if it’s another person’s artwork, while I also make sure to credit the the artist as I want to let my audience know who the artist is. So using your own unique way of writing while citing historical sources is also part of the last point on being original when posting content. I like to present my content in a more entertaining way such as by writing a historical post in a fun and light manner while still being historically accurate.

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The 1261 Byzantine Reconquest of Constantinople, art by FaisalHashemi
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Imperial court of the mentally insane Justin II (seated) with Empress Sophia (left) and Tiberius II as Caesar (right), art by Amelianvs

Know your audience and have your own way of posting for a particular audience. The major thing I learned when creating Byzantine history content is that your way of posting content cannot please everyone and it has a particular and very defined audience. As I mentioned earlier about posting your own original content in your own unique way, know that it will not catch the attention of everyone, even if the audience interested in Byzantine history is quite small, you still will not get them all. In the audience of the Byzantine history enthusiasts online, there are usually two groups one being the authorities mostly being scholars, historians, and established historical sites with a large following and the other group being Byzantine history fans including history buffs and artists that do historical related art. In my case, my content focuses on Byzantine history trivia or my own fan art. I post things in a generally light and entertaining yet still smart and factual way and end up pleasing more Byzantine history fans than authorities, as usually the enthusiasts enjoy seeing something lighter and more creative. On the other hand, more serious content like those on actual Byzantine era artifacts would please the authorities more. In my case the posts I made that actually managed to catch the attention of the authorities were those that showed more serious content such as my post on the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection as these showed actual Byzantine era artifacts. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who you are pleasing, as long as it is content that makes you happy. I won’t deny that it also feels great to get recognized or noticed by the global authorities on Byzantine history, but of course it is also great to please the fans as they are much greater in number and they are the ones too that keep the spirit of Byzantium alive. Posting things to please your fans is also a way to get them to know more and more about Byzantine history. Remember that you shouldn’t dumb down your posts and you shouldn’t underestimate your viewers, for all you know, they may know as much or more than you when it comes to Byzantine history. Having said that, I have definitely come to realize that my posts please the fans more than they do the authorities, as after all my content was really envisioned to spread knowledge about Byzantine history not just to scholars and historians but to literally everyone whether they are familiar with it or not. Another thing too that I have to mention is that now when it comes to doing posts, I always have my audience in mind. It’s natural to want to keep them engaged and this can sometimes be stressful but it’s still worth it.

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Ivory panel with an emperor, fragment of the panel with Archangel St. Gabriel, and the Pyxis box; Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection, Washington DC

Engage more in other posts and share your content. One of the things I learned very early on when starting my Byzantine history IG account was that to get others to know who you are and what you post, it is not as simple as people finding you, rather you have to interact with similar accounts. In this case, this would mean following other accounts similar to yours which in my case were other Byzantine as well as ancient, medieval, and general history accounts, liking their posts, dropping a few comments, sharing their posts to your stories, and tagging them in some of your posts which surely boosted my followers and got a lot of others to know about my account. When it comes to sharing your content to a wider audience, the best way to do it in my case was to share it to other Byzantine history Facebook groups. It is for this reason I created a Facebook page mirroring the content on my Instagram. I noticed that my Facebook page usually gets a different set of audience and less engagement so my Instagram site is still my primary account. I also use my Facebook page as a platform to share things I also do not share on my Instagram, and this includes content by other Byzantine history creators, Byzantine history videos from other Youtube channels including my own, and links to other blogs.

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Byzantine Time Traveller FB page

Once in a while post something that has a controversial angle and be prepared for a heated argument in the comments. It is not always guaranteed that every post you make will get tons of likes, comments, and shares. If you really want to post something that has a sure chance of getting plenty of engagement, you have to take the red pill. By this I mean taking the risk of posting something that may be controversial. Based on my experience, there were some posts I just posted to my feed basically because I thought it would be a great idea, little did I know that it would spark such great controversy. For other posts I already knew there would be a lot of controversy, but I still chose to post them anyway for the sake of engagement. Just recently, I’ve had 3 posts that I first shared on my Instagram and later on my Facebook which sparked a lot of controversy, but still got a lot of likes, comments, and shares. For a content creator, genuine engagement is everything. These controversial posts included one on the Byzantine victory over the Sassanids at the Battle of Nineveh in 627, the Byzantine defeat to the Seljuks at the Battle of Myriokephalon in 1176, and very recently one I made about the consecration of the Hagia Sophia in 537. The controversy these posts raised mostly had to do with national identity and ethnic origins which led to numerous comments and heated debates about these said topics. It would be too lengthy to go into detail about what exactly was debated in the comments, but the comments on the post never stopped and so did the likes. In fact there were already too many comments to reply to. The main thing I am trying to point out here is that no matter how much of a headache it can give you when you post something rather controversial, these posts will no doubt get a lot of interaction and feedback, thus this could help grow your account and its following. The same thing could be said as well when I shared these posts to my Facebook page, as there these same posts did get a lot of likes and shares, thus boosting my page likes and following. Now when it comes to posting things that are rather controversial especially when you get a lot of comments in which some may be critical or even negative or sometimes plainly silly, the trick is to read them carefully to understand what they mean and do not take them personally. You can simply reply to these comments saying that you did not mean to offend anyone with the post, or you could simply ignore the negative comments and delete them from your feed if you want to avoid this kind of headache, and personally I do both. On the other hand, I would say that having comments no matter how negative they are is a sure sign that your posts are on the right track as it is better to get negative feedback rather than having none or half-hearted ones.

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The Hagia Sophia, completed in 537 under Emperor Justinian I
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Emperor Heraclius and his Byzantine forces defeat the Sassanids at the Battle of Nineveh, 627
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Seljuks ambush the Byzantines at the Battle of Myriokephalon, 1176

Sometimes the most popular posts are those that you least expect to be popular. Based on my 1-year experience of posting Byzantine related content, it so happens that the posts that you least expect to have the most interactions are the ones that do rather than the posts that you expect a lot of interactions from. An example of this is just recently when I posted something about the consecration of the Hagia Sophia in 537 and at first, I thought it would just be an ordinary post, however it wasn’t. The same too could be said about the Battle of Myriokephalon post as well as one I did on the Byzantine history of Thessaloniki, another one on the 11th century Viking Harald Hardrada who famously served in Byzantium’s Varangian Guard unit, and one about how the Byzantines saw the Slavs in which I posted months ago. I first thought they would just be rather ordinary posts but in the end they turned out to be posts that just kept on getting likes, comments, and shares. The point you can’t really tell which post will get a lot of likes no matter how well-planned it is or how much analyzing you make before posting it because it is hard to predict human behavior and their reactions.

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Slavs attack Byzantine Sirmium, 582; my post on the Slavs according to the Byzantines

Stick to what you know and what you are good at but also be open to exploring other things that are related. This means that for example if your account or page is really focused on Byzantine history which happens to be your specialty, then stick to it in order to improve your knowledge of it. The moment you post something else, your viewers may either get confused thinking you are not really serious about what you are posting about or this could also mean that you don’t really care but rather just want to post something because it is popular. On the other hand, posting things you may not know too much about just because you want to experiment can be very risky especially if those new topics such as for example Ottoman history, British history, or World War II history are not your specialty, thus you could get into more trouble that way when posting the wrong facts especially since you are not familiar with them. However, if you are a general history enthusiast, this would all be fine especially if you already know the facts. Now, the one thing I suggest when it comes to experimenting to go a bit off-topic just to try out new things and to be open-minded about it is to post something related to what you do but not exactly the same old kind of things you do, and in my case, it would mean posting something that is not entirely about Byzantium but has a Byzantium related angle to it. I have done these kinds of posts a number of times such as when I posted an artwork of mine depicting the famous 13th century Crusader ruler Jean de Brienne whose story was not entirely about Byzantium but about a Western Latin and there just happened to be a Byzantine angle to his story. Keep an open mind in exploring other things to post as sometimes it could end up becoming boring to just stick to the same range of topics, however I suggest that you experiment in doing this kind of trick only if you feel comfortable in doing so, as if not then it would seem either awkward, confusing, or that you posted something without knowing anything much about it as after all it is always important to get your information right and know what you are posting very well before posting it.    

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Jean de Brienne, King of Jerusalem (1210-1225), Latin emperor of Constantinople (1229-1237), original art by myself

Enjoy what you do and let your passions flow. Last but not the least, this is the most important lesson I’ve learned when it comes to creating online content. It is after all my passion for Byzantine history and posting things about it that kept my sites going on and growing. Surely, there were times when there was little progress in my sites such as a slow growth of followers and interactions, but this still did not stop me from continuing to post content, in fact all these setbacks made me rethink how to post my content and what I should post. It was through persistence and determination that kept me going on, thus at the end I never stopped creating posts. In just a year I have posts with hundreds and some with even thousands of likes as well as over 6000 followers, and this is certainly why I should keep moving forward. If Byzantine history was not really a real passion but just a short-lived interest, then I would have possibly given up on posting just a few months later. Of course, other than passion, it is also vision that keeps me going as after all I do not just post because I want to or out of money but because I want to continue sharing more and more about the endless world of Byzantine history to others. Surely, success does come with time especially when you do something like mine that is passion driven, so basically you just have to wait and one day things will just fall in to place as in my case, it really did take time for my account to grow.      

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Byzantine Time Traveller IG as of now

 

2021 Byzantine History Videos from No Budget Films and Byzantine Themed Artworks     

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For the past 2 years now, I have been doing Byzantine Lego films for my channel No Budget Films, however for this year rather than doing a full-feature Lego film or Lego short-films on Byzantine history, I did a 9-episode mixed-media audio-epic series on the last years of the Byzantine Empire from when the Byzantines gained back Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 ending with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. This 9-part series was a follow-up to the previous 3-part audio-epic series I made last year The 57 Years: Byzantium in Exile (2020) wherein the previous one discussed the 57 years between 1204 and 1261 wherein Constantinople was under the Latin Empire ever since the 4th Crusade captured it in 1204 ending when the Byzantines recaptured it in 1261. The follow-up series I made this year which was The Last Roman Dynasty now focuses on the Palaiologos Dynasty which was the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire beginning with its founder Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282) and ending with the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos (r. 1449-1453). Each episode of the series discusses a set of years between 1261 and 1453 and all episodes were narrated by myself while the visuals were either artworks by other online artists and myself, photographs of real locations, historical images, and maps of the era, and only in the last episodes was there dramatization wherein I role-played as the last emperor Constantine XI voicing over as him while 3 of my friends voiced over 3 other characters in the 1453 Fall of Constantinople story mainly the conquering sultan Mehmed II, the Byzantine-allied Genoese general Giovanni Giustiniani, and the Byzantine emperor’s top advisor Loukas Notaras. All 9 episodes of this series will be linked below including what years these particular episodes were set in.

Part I- Michael Palaiologos’ Imperial Restoration (1261-1274)

Part II- Michael VIII Palaiologos’ Redemption (1274-1283)

Part III- The Beginning of the Decline (1283-1320)

Part IV- Andronikos III: The Last Revival (1320-1341)

Part V- Double Disaster: Civil War and Black Death (1341-1354)

Part VI- The Tragedy of John V Palaiologos (1355-1391)

Part VII- Byzantium’s Last Respite (1391-1425)

Part VIII- Schisms at the Verge of Extinction (1425-1451)

Part IX- 1453: The Fall of Constantinople (1451-1453, finale)

           

Apart from creating articles and videos on Byzantine history, another major highlight of 2021 for me was undoubtedly creating a vast set of Byzantine themed artworks wherein I’ve experimented using different art styles and subjects whether they were acrylic paintings on canvas, black and white art, purely traditional art, a mix of traditional and digital art, Byzantine-Star Wars crossovers, miniature character portraits, genealogies of dynasties, and recreations of historical manuscripts from the Byzantine era. For my colored artworks, I manually drew the characters by hand while I used Photoshop to polish and add more details to it including the colored backgrounds, and Greek pattern frame in which some of my colored drawings use for design purposes. One artwork here which happened to be the first one I did for this year which happened to be very memorable as well as successful online was my own visual structure of the Late Roman army with its ranks illustrated by myself. Other kinds of art styles I experimented with as well included one I did quite recently in the form of an intricate medieval stained-glass which here was my own artwork depicting the Latin emperor Jean de Brienne (r. 1229-1237)- which was already mentioned and seen earlier, thus I would no longer include it in this part- and one kind of style I have also done for the first time which was in illustrating a woman’s dress as well as the female physique considering that it was quite a revealing fashion piece wherein I did this artwork as a Byzantine inspired fashion concept for today’s fashion scene. Not to mention, another unique style I once experimented on was in the Portuguese blue and white style azulejo tiles wherein I made a portrait of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI in this said style. These said artworks of mine this year will be displayed below in chronological form with a quick description of what they are, although first I will go with my colored artworks this year. The miniature character portraits on the other hand will not make any appearance here as they are too many in number, however some of them will appear in the dynasty genealogies I’ve made which will be displayed here as well, while if you want to see the other miniature character portraits I’ve made, you can check the rest of the 12-chapters of my alternate history series which were linked above.

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Guide to the late Roman army’s structure, mixed media, art by myself (created January 2021)
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Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos of Byzantium (r. 1261-1282), acrylic painting by myself (created March 2021)
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The 5th century Theodosian Land Walls of Constantinople, hand drawn and colored, art by myself (created April 2021)
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The Mandalorian in Byzantine armor, mixed media, art by myself (created April 2021)
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Empress Irene at the palace, hand drawn and colored, art by myself (created May 2021)
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Emperor Leo VI and his 4 wives, mixed media, art by myself (created June 2021)
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Harald III Sigurdsson “Harald Hardrada”, King of Norway (r. 1046-1066), former Varangian Guard commander in the service of Byzantium, mixed media, art by myself (created June 2021)
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Byzantine Cataphract cavalry soldier in the 11th century, mixed media, art by myself (created June 2021)
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Acrylic painting of Emperor Basil II of Byzantium (r. 976-1025), art by myself (created July 2021)
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Left to right: Byzantine emperors Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185-1195), Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195-1203), and Alexios IV Angelos (r. 1203-1204), said to be the worst Byzantine emperors, mixed media, art by myself (created July 2021)
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Emperor Justinian I the Great of Byzantium (r. 527-565), acrylic painting, art by myself (created August 2021)
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Emperor Theodosius I of the Eastern Roman Empire (r. 379-395), mixed media, art by myself (created August 2021)
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Alexios Philanthropenos, late 13th century Byzantine general, mixed media, art by myself (created September 2021)
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The last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI in the Portuguese blue and white tile art style, art by myself (created September 2021)
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Byzantine soldier (left) battles a Norman soldier (right) at the Battle of Demetritzes in 1185, hand drawn and colored, art by myself (created October 2021)
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Byzantine purple silk dress fashion concept, mixed media, art by myself (created December 2021)

Another new art style I’ve experimented on this year was in doing black and white drawings wherein 4 were portraits of Byzantine emperors namely Zeno (r. 474-475/ 476-491), Constans II (r. 641-668), Constantine VII (r. 913-959), and John III Vatatzes (r. 1222-1254) wherein the emperors appear as the central object surrounded by a black and white frame with an intricate pattern which was honestly very complicated in the process of sketching it. This kind of art style however was not my own creation, but rather it was inspired by another artist who I follow, and other than doing portraits of Byzantine emperors in this kind of style, I also experimented in doing a Byzantine-Star Wars crossover in this kind of style by making a portrait of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) dressed as a Byzantine emperor in a Byzantine throne but on Death Star II as in the movie. Another black and white artwork I’ve done was one of the 6 emperors of the 22-year anarchy period (695-717) and an architectural sketch of the 12th century Pantokrator monastery in Constantinople which also happens to be the only architectural artwork I’ve done for this year.

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Zeno the Isaurian, Eastern Roman emperor (r. 474-475/ 476-491), black and white art by myself (created March 2021)
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Emperor Constans II of Byzantium (r. 641-668), black and white art by myself (created April 2021)
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The 6 emperors of the Byzantine 22-year-Anarchy (695-717)- Leontios (top-left, r. 695-698), Tiberius III (top-middle, r. 698-705), Justinian II Rhinotmetos (top-right, r. 705-711), Philippikos Bardanes (bottom-left, r. 711-713), Anastasius II (bottom-middle, r. 713-715), Theodosius III (bottom-right, r. 715-717), black and white art by myself (created April 2021)
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Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos of Byzantium (r. 913-959), black and white art by myself (created May 2021)
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Byzantine- Star Wars crossover, Emperor Palpatine as a Byzantine emperor on Death Star II, black and white art by myself (created June 2021)
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John III Doukas Vatatzes, Byzantine emperor in Nicaea (r. 1222-1254), black and white art by myself (created August 2021)
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12th century Pantokrator Monastery and Hospital in Constantinople built under John II Komnenos, black and white art by myself (created October 2021)

Now one of the most memorable things this year when it came to doing Byzantine themed art was experimenting by recreating historical Byzantine era manuscripts depicting emperors and other historical figures in their history. Clearly, I had no idea at first about recreating historical manuscripts in my own style until just out of boredom I experimented on recreating the one-dimensional and partially faded 14th century manuscript depicting the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (r. 1328-1341) and his wife the empress Anna of Savoy seen next to him, and at first I honestly thought I was just doodling, however I ended up deciding to recreate the entire manuscript itself wherein I drew the emperor and empress on their respective frames and afterwards colored it, then following it after about a week of drawing I filled in the background using photoshop, thus recreating my first Byzantine era manuscript. This first Byzantine era manuscript I recreated may have been quite accidental, but up to this point it happens to be one of my most notable works which I in fact even still use as the cover photo for my Facebook page and when asked to present an artwork of my own I choose that one. Now following the creation of my first recreated Byzantine era manuscript, I did another one recreating the 1301 Chrysobull or golden bull of Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282-1328) which is actually the front page of a 4-page imperial document where the emperor Andronikos II is depicted presenting this document to Christ, however my recreation of this may have not been exactly accurate to the original but it was really my take on it. Another Byzantine era manuscript I recreated was one depicting the historian Niketas Choniates (1155-1217) and another one showing the imperial Komnenos family wherein you see the emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) with his wife Empress Irene Doukaina and in the middle their son and the future emperor John II Komnenos (r. 1118-1143) crowned by angels with Christ enthroned above them. These 4 recreated manuscripts right next to the original one they were based on will then appear below.

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My recreated 14th century manuscript of Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (left) and Empress Anna of Savoy (right), created February 2021; original manuscript below
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My recreated 1301 Chrysobull of Andronikos II Palaiologos, created April 2021; original one on the right
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My recreated manuscript depicting historian Niketas Choniates, created July 2021; original one on the right
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My recreated Komnenos imperial family manuscript, created November 2021; original one on the right

Lastly, another form of art I have also tried and made a number of this year was in creating visual genealogies of some Byzantine imperial dynasties in which this required more digital skills than manual drawing as this required a lot of photoshop skills to create in order to make it a systematic chart with equal measures while the only part drawn by hand were the miniature images of the people on the chart, and so far, I have made 4 of these. The first genealogy I made this year was of the Justinian Dynasty (518-602) which however included a mash-up of my own miniature drawings of members of the dynasty while others were already existing portraits of these emperors. Following this I made a visual genealogy of the Isaurian Dynasty (717-802), and later one of the Doukas Dynasty (1059-1081), and just right now one of the Heraclian Dynasty (610-711), and to add more depth to it rather than making it appear as simple as a plain white chart seen in schools, I chose to add a faded texture over the charts to give it a bit of a historical touch. On the other hand, I included some imperial symbols such as the double-headed eagle and Byzantine flags to add more of a historical touch to them as well. Now, the 4 imperial genealogies of 4 different dynasties I made over the course of this year will appear below.

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Guide to the Justinian Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 518-602; art and layout by myself (created March 2021)
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Guide to the Isaurian Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 717-802; art and layout by myself (created May 2021)
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Guide to the Doukas Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 1059-1081; art and layout by myself (created June 2021)
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Guide to the Heraclian Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, 610-711; art and layout by myself (created December 2021)    

 

Interviews and Works on Other Byzantine Sites and Quick Reviews on Byzantine History Groups on Facebook     

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Of course, I have to mention that as of this year, my greatest milestones were not only creating the 12 chapters of my Byzantine Alternate History series, creating 9 episodes for a Byzantine audio-epic series, or creating numerous works of Byzantine Themed art, rather the greatest milestones for me were the interviews I had by other Byzantine history content creators and writing an article for another Byzantine history site. Truly it was such an honor to do these things as this year was the first time for me to actually be asked to do an interview on my passion for Byzantine history and my first time to be a co-author for another Byzantine history site which was surely something I have long been dreaming to do. In June of this year, I experienced a truly great and memorable moment as this was my first ever interview on my Byzantine history enthusiasm and about the things I create for the history of Byzantium, and this here was a simple 3 question interview for the site of Byzantine Tales, the creators of the graphic novel Theophano: A Byzantine Tale and just recently they too have created a new graphic novel on Emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025). This first interview of mine was truly a very proud moment for me as I really wanted to let others know what I think of Byzantine history and what got me into it which are exactly the questions asked of me there. My next interview then came in November of this year and this was for the site of Associzione Culturale Byzantion by the author of the other Byzantine era novel The Usurper in which I have also made a review on (read it here), and now this interview happened to be more complex than the first one as it not only asked me 3 but 10 questions and not only were they questions about what got me into Byzantium or what I think about it but more specifically about the Byzantine content I create including my alternate history series and my favorite and least favorite emperors. Again, it was truly an honor to do this interview as here I got to explain more to others my thoughts about Byzantium and what it means to me. However, the biggest milestone for me this year was really writing an article for the Byzantine Real History site as ever since the beginning of this year it was my dream as it was really this site that taught me a lot on Byzantine history especially about the lesser-known things, thus it became really my dream to write for it. Now the process to write for this site was surely a challenge, and if not even an ordeal as first of all I had to step out of my comfort zone by writing something more scholarly and historically accurate instead of in the more loose and creative way I write my blogs as after all this would be an article scholars would read, while writing for that site needed intense research as well and to write about my topic which was about the failed 1235-36 attempt of the exiled Byzantine Empire of Nicaea and the Second Bulgarian Empire to besiege Constantinople from the Latin Empire, I had to go as far as buying a rare book to do the research. Writing the article was a major challenge too especially since it was for another site and not to mention it was quite stressful too especially on whether the article will actually be posted or not, however at the end it all fell into place and thus this article was true enough published, and the medieval stained-glass style artwork I made of the Latin emperor Jean de Brienne as well as the black and white artwork of the Emperor of Nicaea John III Vatatzes as mentioned earlier were part of this article. Now, the two interviews as well as the article I made for the Byzantine Real History site which was therefore my ultimate achievements for this year will all be linked below.

Interview with Byzantine Tales

Interview with Associazione Culturale Byzantion

Byzantine Real History Article- The Failed 1235-36 Siege of Constantinople

Reviews on 6 Different Byzantine History Facebook Groups:

Here, I will be reviewing some of the Byzantine history Facebook groups I am part of wherein I share my posts to, although I have joined a lot of them, I will only be mentioning 6 here in which all of these are the ones I am most active in as for the other groups, I hardly share posts to it. Take note that my reviews on these groups are all based on my experiences as others may have had different thoughts on these groups and different experiences in them. The titles of each group will also serve as links if you want to check these groups out.

Byzantine Real History (BRH)- If there is any group where I like to share my Byzantine history content to the most, it is definitely this one Byzantine Real History (BRH). This group is possibly where I learned the most especially on new information on Byzantine history while this group among all other groups offers the most detailed content posted by other group members as after all this group is made to show what Byzantium really is as a great and sophisticated empire rather than the stereotyped corrupt, decadent, and treacherous empire Westerners describe it as. Members in this group too happen to be very enthusiastic about Byzantine history and are eager to learn new things about it, and not to mention the page that runs it Byzantine Real History does offer very informative posts on Byzantine history and in fact their way of posting served as an inspiration for the way I post my content on Instagram and Facebook. A lot of what I know about Byzantine history especially when it comes to lesser-known elements of it was mostly due to the BRH site and it is for this reason as I mentioned earlier that it was very much my dream to write for their site in which I finally accomplished before finishing off the year. Now back to the group, what I like most again is the passion for Byzantium shown by its members that when I share something to it, it is in this group where the content I share gets quite a lot of interactions, at least most of the time; thus overall, I would say this group is really the most hard-core when it comes to groups on Byzantine history which is why I would suggest that you should not be a beginner but already know a bit about Byzantium to be in this group. However, when posting to this group, sometimes it does take time for the admins to approve a post but it is still a good sign in a way as it shows that the group admins would really thoroughly examine what you share to make it fit everything with what is shared in the group and to make sure it is factual. On the other hand, something both positive and negative about sharing content to this group is that you have to make an extra effort to share something, meaning you have to be a bit more serious as a lot of the members here are authorities in Byzantine history whether they are professors or authors, the positive part here though is that in this group you could actually get the attention of these authorities if you are lucky. Overall, this group no matter how much rules and restrictions it has when it comes to sharing content is really what I would call the gold standard of online Byzantine communities as it is in this group based on my experience where you can get the most valuable information on Byzantine history, and the perfect thing here is that this group is focused on the entire history of Byzantium as a whole and all aspects of it not just certain elements of Byzantine society or a certain period of it, thus making it certainly the gold standard Byzantine history group.   

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Illustration of Byzantine era Constantinople

Roman and Byzantine History- Now this was in fact the first ever history Facebook group I joined all the way back in 2018 and basically, I joined this group because back then I was very much into Roman history, and it was in fact through this group where my interest for Byzantine history started, as after all if not for my interest in Roman history, I would’ve not really been interested in Byzantine history. Now the previous group I mentioned being Byzantine Real History happens to be a more hard-core one that I would not really suggest for beginners in Byzantine history, thus for beginners in both Roman and Byzantine history, this group here is THE group. The reason to why I recommend this group for beginners in Roman and Byzantine history is that this group generally is made up of students and beginners in this kind of history while the environment too is mostly relaxed meaning that posts do not get much interactions and there are usually not so much heated debates in the comments, thus this group with its chill nature is a good starting point to get to know others who share a common interest in this kind of history while the lack of heated arguments in the comments also makes it a good start as you would not really want to start an interest already getting into arguments. What this group lacks however is enthusiasm and insider knowledge as usually the content shared here are things those very familiar with Rome and Byzantium already know very well, but again if you just want to chill and learn a few things here and there, this is the perfect group. On the other hand, this group’s name is also misleading as “Roman” and “Byzantine” were the same thing as after all Byzantium was really the Eastern Roman Empire, thus the old Roman Empire itself continued, but other than that I still think this is also a very good group to share information on Roman and Byzantine history especially more general information. This group although specializes more on Roman history before the founding of Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire in 330AD based on my experience as from what I’ve noticed here, most things that members share here are about the Roman Republic and empire with less being on Byzantium, but really I would say this group is the most general of all as here you can post things from the founding of Rome in 753BC all the way up to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

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The Pantheon of Rome

Byzantine Army- Now this group is what I would call something rather very specific when it comes to interests as not only does it specialize in the history of Byzantium but more specifically on Byzantine military history, thus I strongly suggest that you join this group if you are very much more into Byzantine weapons, soldiers, battle tactics, armor, and military structures, while when it comes to sharing posts to this group, it is always best to share it if it has to do a lot about Byzantine warfare, thus it is usually the posts I make that have to do with warfare or my drawings of Byzantine soldiers and generals, or posts about battles that I share to this group. Overall, I highly recommend this group especially if you want to know more about the arms and armor of the Byzantines or if you even want to buy them, though for me I basically follow this group when I want to know more exactly about Byzantine arms and armor. Now when it comes to sharing posts to this group, usually members are often enthusiastic and interact a lot with your posts especially since this group has a very specific interest, thus its members which would generally be a more specific group of people more specifically interested in Byzantine warfare and the military would more or less be more enthusiastic seeing your posts. Overall, I would suggest this group for beginners as it is easy to reach and posts are usually easy to understand, however it is for those who are more specifically interested in historical warfare that I suggest this group to.

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Harbor of Byzantine Constantinople (cover photo of the Byzantine Army group)

The Late Roman Group- If you are looking for a group that is very specific about a certain era in history, I suggest joining the Late Roman Group especially if your main interest is Roman history from the 3rd to 7th centuries which includes the early phase of Byzantine history. Now I wouldn’t say this group is a good starting point for beginners as the content shared here is usually a bit too insider and more niche as it is basically all about late Roman/ early Byzantine history rather than Roman history as a whole, but if you are really into this era, this is the best group. If you like reenactments or if you are a reenactor especially when it comes to late Roman military, this is definitely the perfect group. Since from my experience this group is very insider, the interests are in many ways very narrowed down but surely the members here are really enthusiastic especially if you share anything most especially about the late Roman army, thus certainly sharing this kind of content will get a lot of interactions as very early this year when I shared my visual chart of the late Roman army structure, it was in this group where this post got the most interactions, most especially passionate comments and the same thing could be said here about my drawing of Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395) as when I shared it here, it received a lot of likes and comments in which the comments were true enough very honest ones wherein members really spoke out their opinions about the historical context and about the emperor Theodosius I himself rather than simply comments praising your work. On the other hand, the members in this group as I can say are very dedicated to what they do which in this case is anything about late Roman history and just like the previous group I mentioned, this is another perfect one if you are very interested in historical warfare.

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Training process of the late Roman army, art by Amelianvs

Rome and Constantinople (New Rome). The Roman (and Byzantine) Empire- This group would be in many ways similar to the Roman and Byzantine History group I mentioned earlier as the subject matter here is very general that you can discuss anything about Roman and Byzantine history from the founding of Rome in 753BC to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, thus I would say this group with it being most general and not very specific about anything in Roman and Byzantine history, it is another good group for beginners. However, although this group has the same kind of relatively chill environment as the previously mentioned Roman and Byzantine History group, this one has a lot more enthusiasm in the likes and comments, but the major difference between this group and the previously mentioned one is that this one has more Byzantine content shared whereas the previous one mentioned has more Ancient Roman content shared. However, unlike the other group previously mentioned in which content is mostly general knowledge of Roman and Byzantine history, this one has more insider knowledge, although still very general when it comes to history.

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Mosaic of Empress Theodora and her court in Ravenna (cover photo of the Rome and Constantinople group)

Love Letters to Greece- Now this group would simply be an honorable mention in this list of groups as I do not really share things that much to this group but I just want to mention it because a lot of my content was shared to it as true enough it is managed by my friend and fellow Byzantine history enthusiast. This group now is not overall a Byzantine history group but rather is something generally about Greece and Greek history, thus when I share content to this group it is usually things in Byzantine history that have a lot to do with Greece as Greece true enough had always been part of the Byzantine world. Byzantine history now is just one of the many things you can share to this group as really you can share literally anything about Greek history from Ancient Greece all the way to modern day Greece as well as Greek entertainment and sports, and anything about Orthodoxy and the Orthodox world including things about Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Ethiopia, etc. Now if you are really passionate about Greece and its Byzantine heritage, this is the perfect group to share your posts to while if you are here, you will also discover a lot of new information about Greek culture.

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Love Letters to Greece group cover photo

 

What’s in Store for 2022 and Conclusion       

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To put it simply, 2021 was a hell of a ride when it came to creating Byzantine history content and I sure went a really long way starting all the way from the bottom and now rising up to actually creating content that does have a following. Now as 2021 comes to an end, it is time to briefly discuss what I will do in 2022 and basically, I will continue whatever I did this year except expand more on it. For next year, I will continue posting the same Byzantine themed artworks and trivia as well as in experimenting on posting contemporary style art portraying Byzantine characters, but also to post things others don’t know much about yet including lesser known battles in Byzantine history, more about the Byzantine army, lesser known emperors and their stories, and again I will do the same trick of experimenting with posting things that are in a way related to Byzantium but not exactly about Byzantium, and in this case I will do a series on pre-Constantinople Byzantium meaning more on the history of the city of Byzantium before it became Constantinople in 330. Of course, for next year I will follow the same tips I just shared with you, thus I will continue to post original content as well as keeping the posts factual and informative but at the same time fun and engaging, and of course once a while I would still take the risk of posting something that may spark controversy as I just learned this would help in boosting your posts. Now other than the posts I make, I also have other much bigger plans when it comes to anything Byzantine related next year and although I would not really be doing an alternate history series anymore except for maybe a few extra chapters, I still plan to publish all 12 chapters into a sort of book; now, the articles I have in mind for next year would be again more interactive ones like the ones I did this year wherein I had some interviewing other Byzantine history enthusiasts, and one of them would be an article about how Byzantine history can be popular and why it does surprisingly happen to have a following these days. Of course, there is a lot more in store for 2022 that I have no idea yet as of now but for my channel I am in fact now in the process of creating the script for a new Lego film set in the 12th century that is fact inspired by chapter IX of my alternate history series in which filming will begin very soon. Lastly, for 2022 the biggest project I have in mind is to finally launch my own Byzantine related business wherein I will launch my Byzantine themed board game as well as card games with my art in them, but of course it is just the beginning of it as this will be a whole long process altogether while my Instagram account as well as my Facebook page will be channels to promote and sell my Byzantine themed products. Another thing too that I will hope to achieve in 2022 is to write more articles for other history sites in which I have already made plans of doing but of course my other ultimate goal for the new year is to again travel to another Byzantine era destination whether Greece, somewhere in Turkey, the Balkans, or possibly even Armenia or Egypt, but to simply put it short I really see the new year will be another great one when it comes to my Byzantine journey.               

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The Byzantine Imperial Palace Complex of Constantinople, art by Ediacar

Again 2021 was one hell of a ride, one with many ups and downs, great achievements and great defeats, there were times I have been so optimistic and enthusiastic especially about posting things and some moments wherein I was very down and defeated, but at the end all I can say is that it ended well. I was able to accomplish many things that I have set my goals on at the early part of the year. Sometimes at this point, I still feel like it was just yesterday when I started my account and all that, but when looking back at everything I accomplished in the year, I just have to say that I’ve done so much. Sure 2021 wasn’t entirely all full of highlights and adventure that at some times I did not nothing else but write blogs and create videos to the point that everything just kept feeling the same, but it was truly a year where I got deeper and deeper into my passion for Byzantine history. It was the first time I created content for a much wider audience. I am truly grateful to have met many others who share the same interests as me from different parts of the world and also to get the chance to see actual Byzantine era artifacts when travelling to New York and Washington DC, and before I finish off this post, I would like to thank them all for playing a major part in my 2021 Byzantine journey. Really what 2021 taught me especially when it came to creating online content is that you are not really going to get everything your way that easily, you have to fight for it but of course in a smart and friendly and not aggressive way but this definitely means you have to show some persistence and determination as well a competitive streak especially when it comes to getting yourself recognized. Of course, the most important thing is still your passion for what you do and, in my case, the real reason to why I am here now with a much larger following and more interactions yet still more and more posts coming in is all because of how passionate I am with Byzantium and how I want to keep on sharing its interesting history. Anyway, I guess this is all for now, and so it is time to close my 2021 Byzantine journey, and again I want to thank you all viewers as it is because of you why my posts just keep on going, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveler signing off, have a great year ahead thank you all and goodbye!   

Thanks to all those that supported me and had a major role in my Byzantine Journey this year, IG accounts will be linked with their names:

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10 Inventions You Should Know That Came From the Byzantine Empire

Posted by Powee Celdran

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Byzantine Time Traveller logo

Welcome back to another article from the Byzantium Blogger! This time, it is time again for a bit of break from extremely long and highly researched articles and stories spanning the entire 1,100-year history of the Byzantine Empire (330-1453), therefore time for a quick yet entertaining top 10 list, this time on Byzantine inventions. Now, the Byzantine Empire among the many things it was known for, was known to have come up with a series of spectacular inventions including items we know very well up to this day, however not many know these items date back to the Byzantine era and were created by the Byzantines themselves. Some inventions in the Middle Ages including Greek Fire would immediately be associated with Byzantium when first hearing about especially when one is familiar with Byzantine history, however there is more than just Greek Fire when it comes to items the Byzantines created throughout the existence of their empire. These spectacular creations include larger than life architectural styles such as the pendentive dome and simple everyday items like the fork, and other than that, a lot of civil laws, scientific theories like the Theory of Impetus and that of the round earth and time zones, religious doctrines and icons, and the Cyrillic Alphabet can be attributed to Byzantium too. This article however will be only limited to the material inventions of the Byzantine Empire whether they were for architectural, warfare, or daily life purposes, therefore we will not include Justinian I’s Corpus Juris Civilis or “Body of Civil Laws”, spiritual innovations of the Byzantines which would include religious icons, political innovations like the Thematic System, and scientific theories despite them being of great importance even up to this day. Now if you remember from 2 years ago, I did a similar article to this (check out Forgotten but Significant Byzantine Science and Technology), however this previous one was more related to science as it included not only inventions but scientific theories made by the Byzantines in their history, while this one will basically be limited only to material inventions. Although just like that previous article, this one will also be heavily inspired by the book A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities by Anthony Kaldellis, and since a lot of these inventions were discussed in the 12 chapters of my recent Byzantine Alternate History series, these chapters will be linked as well in the list of these inventions. Before starting off, I would like to remind you all that this article would seem rather amateur and less researched than the previous ones I made, mainly because this one was just a spontaneous piece I just suddenly thought of writing for now.

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Map of the Byzantine Empire at 3 different eras; greatest extent in the 6th century (red line), in 1025 (pink), and by 1360 (red)

I. Pendentive Dome         

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Pendentive dome of the Hagia Sophia from the interior

Possibly the most famous landmark from the Byzantine Empire which still exists up to this day is the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople which is famous for its massive and high dome, and this type of dome design is known as the Pendentive Dome.

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Pendentive dome design of the Hagia Sophia

The pendentive dome now is a construction solution that allows a circular dome to be built above a rectangular floor plan, and although the Romans before the rise of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople in 4th century had already come up with a number of early designs of this kind of construction plan in which known examples of this include the Pantheon in Rome built in the 1st century, these Ancient Roman pendentive domes were only prototypes and not as high and large as the dome of the Hagia Sophia itself. Shortly after Constantinople’s founding in 330, the original structure of the Hagia Sophia was already present, however it was a much smaller church without a dome and following the Nika Riot of 532 during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565), most of the city including the original Hagia Sophia was burned down, thus Justinian sought to rebuild it from scratch into a much larger structure with a dome higher than everything else.

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Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus, architects of the Hagia Sophia

To build this cathedral, Justinian left the job to two brilliant architects being Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus, and in only less than 6 years (532-537), the entire church with the dome included was completed due to having thousands of workers constructing the building day and night and lots of wealth brought back to Constantinople as war spoils from the Byzantine conquest of the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa (533-534). The dome of the Hagia Sophia looked as if it was suspended in midair without any pillar to support it by connecting its middle part to the ground, instead its architects used a solution of building 4 semi-domes or pendentives on the 4 corners below the main dome in order to hold it up. Though no matter how impressive the structure was, the dome itself when completed was unstable that the historian of the 6th century Procopius of Caesarea who saw the cathedral built with his own eyes writes “the piers on top of which the structure was being built, unable to bear the mass that was pressing down on them, somehow or suddenly started to break away and seemed to be on the point of collapsing”.

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Emperor Justinian I the Great of Byzantium (r. 527-565), acrylic painting, art by myself

True enough, following the great earthquake in Constantinople in 557 when the Justinian I was still ruling, the foundation of the Hagia Sophia was weakened, and in the following year (558), the dome itself collapsed. In 563, the dome was rebuilt by the architect Isidore the Younger who was a nephew of its original architect Isidore, and by the time Justinian I died in 565, he at least saw the dome of his cathedral that he put a lot of attention into making completed. Back in the Byzantine era, the dome itself was not only impressive from the outside but from the inside as well, as its interiors were filled with gold mosaics while its base had 40 windows forming a circle that let light in, and the dome was in fact so impressive that people from all over the world were in awe when coming to Constantinople basically because of it. In the 10th century, ambassadors from the Kievan Rus’ Empire (includes today’s Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia) sent by their Grand Prince Vladimir I the Great (r. 980-1015) when seeing the dome, suggested to Vladimir that he and his people must convert to Orthodox Christianity as it was their faith that had the most spectacular place of worship being the Hagia Sophia with its dome. The dome meanwhile had a diameter of 33m and a height of 55m from the ground, and for about a thousand years until the 15th century, it would be the world’s largest dome until the one of the Cathedral of Florence which is the Santa Maria de Fiore was completed in the 1430s. The style of the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople’s dome meanwhile would also be the basis for the architectural plans for many Greek Orthodox churches in the centuries to come, and after the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople from the Byzantines and took over the Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sophia with its pendentive dome would be the basis for the architectural plans for many of their mosques as well.

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Cross-section of Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, interior and exterior
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The Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century under Emperor Justinian I

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter III- 6th Century.

II. Cross-in-Square         

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Cross-in-square Byzantine church plan

Other than the pendentive dome, another architectural style especially used for churches that can be attributed to the Byzantines was the Cross-in-Square plan, in which many Orthodoxy churches use this kind of style. This kind of plan consisted of a basic square shape with 4 halls in the middle of it being the naves intersecting each other forming a cross while above the intersection area at the middle was the church’s main dome, while the 4 different corners of the square sometimes had their own domes as well, thus this kind of church architecture would usually have 5 domes in total, however there are many variations to this design, therefore not all churches in this cross-in-square plan have this said plan, but this said plan was the standard design for these churches. This kind of style was developed by the Byzantines from the 9th to 10th centuries which took the place of the former long Basilica style of churches which consisted of a great hall with an apse at the end, and as I recall from the History of Byzantium Podcast by Robin Pierson, in one of its earlier episodes it is said that this kind of compact style of churches was more preferred in the Eastern Roman Empire as a lot of their churches were built over tombs of early Christian martyrs, therefore it had this kind of style while churches in the western world such as in Italy and other parts of Western Europe used the long rectangular Basilica as they were based on the Ancient Roman Basilica structures as the western world on the other hand too did not have that much tombs of early Christian martyrs compared to the east. In the Byzantine world, the cross-in-square style of church was first introduced with the Church of the Nea Ekklesia built between 876 and 880 by Emperor Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867-886) which was part of the Imperial Palace Complex of Constantinople, however this structure does not exist anymore today as in 1490 when Constantinople was under the Ottomans who used this former church as a gunpowder storage room, it exploded when it was struck by lightning. However, the earliest cross-in-square style church in Constantinople that still exists up to this day is the Church of the Theotokos dating back to 907/908 constructed under Basil I’s son and successor Emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 886-912). At this day, this kind of plan can be seen in many Orthodox churches whether dating back to the Middle Ages or to more recent times all over the Orthodox world especially in countries like Greece, Macedonia Serbia, and Bulgaria.      

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Example of a Middle Byzantine era cross-in-square style church
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Church of the Theotokos, Constantinople

III. Pointed Arch Bridge          

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Byzantine era Karamagara Bridge, Turkey, built in either the 5th or 6th centuries

When it comes to bridge building, the Byzantines too apparently had made innovations to it as well, and one style they had created for bridges was the pointed arch bridge, which as basically a long bridge over a river or other kind of body of water with arches supporting it that are not just a regular semi-circle arches, but arches that narrow at the top forming a point. Now the reason why we conclude that the pointed arch bridge was invented by the Byzantines is because the earliest known pointed arch bridge is in the region of Cappadocia dating back to either the 5th or 6th century where Cappadocia at that time was under the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. This bridge in Cappadocia was the Karamagara Bridge which however unfortunately became submerged with the completion of the Keban Dam in 1975, but before that, it was an impressive bridge crossing the Euphrates River with just a single pointed arch over the river spanning 17m yet holding up the entire bridge without any mortar between the stones that was used in creating the arch. When this bridge was completed in either the 5th or 6th century as part of the Roman road to the city of Melitene in Asia Minor, an inscription was written on the eastern edge of the arch in Greek which is a passage from Psalm 21, verse 8 from the Bible which says “The Lord may guard your entrance and your exit from now and unto all time, amen, amen, amen”, and although this inscription may have nothing really to do with the bridge, it shows that in this part of the empire, Greek was the mainly spoken language. Of course, in the centuries to come, the pointed arch bridge style would become more and more common, and there are many notable ones you can find that still exist such as the Mostar Bridge in Bosnia built by the Ottomans, and apparently the pointed arch design for bridges had happened to be one of the many things the Ottomans had carried over from the Byzantines before them.

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Example of a Byzantine era pointed arch stone bridge

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter II- 5th Century.

IV. Ship Mill          

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Medieval ship mills, original one created by the Byzantines during the 536-537 Siege of Rome

The ship mill, as a means to create milled wheat for flour in order to make bread by the use of a boat on a body of water is credited to the 6th century Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius (505-565) as recorded by the same historian Procopius mentioned earlier who was a secretary of Belisarius.

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Flavius Belisarius (505-565), Byzantine general in Justinian I’s reign, art by Amelianvs

Now Belisarius who was the famous general that served Emperor Justinian I was a military genius not only in the battlefield but in coming up with creative means in order to win including digging trenches to slow down the enemy cavalry as seen with him during the Battle of Dara in 530 against the Sassanid Empire, lighting up campfires across the hills to scare off the enemy to make it seem the Byzantines had a larger army as seen in his campaigns against the Ostrogoths in Italy in the late 530s, and by beating trees in order to release giant gas clouds to scare off the enemy as well in his last battle in 559 fought against the Kutrigur Huns. Another genius solution Belisarius came up with was the ship mill in which he created in 537 after taking over Rome from the Ostrogoths, however the Ostrogoth army led by their king Vitiges attempted to recapture Rome while Belisarius and his army were within, and in order to starve out Rome’s population and Belisarius’ Byzantine army, the Ostrogoths cut off the aqueducts supplying water to Rome, which not only cut the water supply but disabled the mills to create flour as the water from the aqueducts powered the mills too.

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Belisarius and his army

To not make the people starve and to keep his troops strong, Belisarius had the mill wheels of Rome moved to where the current of the Tiber River was the strongest, and here he stretched two ropes across the river as tight as possible attaching them to many boats with the wheels attached to them. This invention then proved successful as the river’s current was strong enough to power the wheels in order to grind the wheat creating flour, and thus the population of Rome and the army had a sufficient food supply despite the city being blocked off by the Ostrogoths’ siege. The Ostrogoths however fought back by tossing logs and the bodies of their dead soldiers into the river which made it into the walls of Rome jamming the mill wheels. Belisarius in return hung chains stretched tightly across the arches of a bridge which then proved successful in stopping the debris and dead bodies thrown by the Ostrogoths, thus resuming the operations of the mills allowing the population to continue being fed, and by late 537, the Ostrogoths lifted their siege of Rome as Belisarius and his army chased them away to the north. Following the success of the ship mill used in Rome, this invention would later spread across Europe as a new way for creating flour that not too long after it reached Paris in 556, Geneva in 563, and Dijon in 575. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, ship mills too became a popular means of milling wheat in the Arab world and common in the rest of Europe as well, although little did they know that this effective means of milling wheat came from the mind of a brilliant Byzantine general.

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Belisarius at the 536-537 Siege of Rome, art by Amelianvs

V. Greek Fire         

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Byzantine navy using Greek Fire against the Arab fleet, 717-718 Siege of Constantinople

When hearing of the Byzantine Empire, usually the naval superweapon of Greek Fire would be one of the first things that comes into a lot of people’s minds, and true enough this was one of the most cutting-edge innovative things the Byzantines had created that only they, and no one else had made, as true enough this weapon was a heavily guarded state secret as it was the secret weapon that saved the empire from ultimate destruction a number of times.

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Emperor Constantine IV of Byzantium (r. 668-685)

Greek Fire (Hygron Pyr in Greek) first came into use during the 674-678 Umayyad Arab Siege of Constantinople where the Syrian refugee Kallinikos made it right in time for the event during the reign of Emperor Constantine IV (668-685), and although this Arab siege basically consisted of on-and-off attacks by the Arab army and fleet, it was with Greek Fire used for the first time on the ship of the emperor Constantine IV himself that was able to relieve Constantinople from the siege. Greek Fire was basically an incendiary weapon that served as a kind of flame-thrower blowing out a sticky kind of fire that could even stick to the water which is why some Byzantine chroniclers call it “sea fire” or “liquid fire”. This weapon not only destroyed enemy ships by burning them but struck fear into the enemies that the enemy armies fighting against the Byzantines at sea when seeing Greek Fire would jump to the sea in fear and would not die really from the fire but by drowning. The fire then came from a liquid mixture which was heated in a brazier, pressurized by a pump, and lastly ejected through a large siphon against the enemy. The Greek Fire now wasn’t entirely this mechanism but the liquid fire formula the mechanism used, however the formula of Greek Fire being kept as a heavily guarded secret remains to be a mystery, but it is most probably a mixture of petroleum, pitch, sulfur, pine or cedar resin, lime, and bitumen, while some even speculate that it even had gunpowder in it due to how the fire could explode.

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Greek Fire operated by the Byzantine navy

The operators of this weapon would then be a very elite force of the imperial guard and only this unit could operate it as the weapon was overall meant to be a secret, however the operation process was a difficult one as the cannon that fired the liquid fire was heavy and unwieldy while the range of the fire was very short, therefore when the weapon was mounted on a ship it needed to be up close to the enemy ship in order for it to be fully effective, and at the same time the weapon was only very effective when being used on a ship when the sea was calm and the wind blew from behind the ship. Although the weapon may have been difficult to use, it defended Constantinople a number of times including against the more massive Umayyad Arab siege from 717-718 and in a massive naval battle near Constantinople against the fleet of the Kievan Rus’ navy in 941. On the other hand, there were many variations of the Greek Fire weapon as well, as long as it used the same formula, and these included Greek Fire that could be stored in grenade jars and thrown at the enemy or hand-held cannons ejecting the same kind of fire known as a Cheirosiphon which was mostly used during sieges as a medieval version of the modern flamethrower. Now it is unclear when the Byzantines discontinued the use of Greek Fire or if they never discontinued it at all, although one theory says that the secret of Greek Fire was lost before the 4th Crusade captured Constantinople in 1204, though Greek Fire could have also been used in 1453 in the defense of the city before it fell to the Ottomans.

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Operation process of Greek Fire
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Greek Fire used for the first time at the 674-678 Arab Siege of Constantinople
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Byzantine navy using Greek Fire against the Rus’ fleet outside Constantinople’s Walls, 941
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Hand-held Greek Fire (Cheirosiphon), art by Amelianvs

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter IV- 7th Century.

VI. Incendiary Grenades           

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Surviving evidence of Byzantine era grenades

Other than using a large cannon as an incendiary weapon, the Byzantines too had used grenades as another means of using Greek Fire, and shortly after the successful defense of Constantinople against the Umayyad Caliphate Arabs from 717-718 during the reign of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717-741), the soldiers who had defended the city had come to realize that Greek Fire could not be only be projected by flamethrowers, but could be thrown in stone and ceramic jars as well, thus leading to the creation of grenades.

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Sample of a Byzantine era grenade

Over the years, the Byzantines had developed different versions of this exploding weapon such as in storing the flammable substance that Greek Fire was made of into small or large clay jars and pouches used as grenade shells that could be hurled at the enemy, and over time Byzantine soldiers developed a tactic by loading their catapults with these grenades as a way to besiege walled cities, which true enough proved to be effective. Other than using flammable substance, these grenades also dispersed sharp objects or shrapnel as well as smoke when exploding, and in the following centuries, this kind of weapon was adopted by armies of the Islamic world who also developed different forms of these incendiary grenades, and archaeological evidence as well shows that in the 13th century there was a grenade workshop in Syria showing that by this time, the use of grenades became popular in the Islamic world. Even in the video game Assassin’s Creed Revelations– which I said a number of times was one of the many things that introduced me to Byzantine history- which is set in 16th century Constantinople under the Ottomans, you have the option to craft a large variety of these kinds of grenades when playing it, while in one mission you actually get to operate the superweapon of Greek Fire from a ship.

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Arab armies using the Byzantine warfare tactic of throwing grenades

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter V- 8th Century.

VII. The Fork         

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Byzantine era forks

Now if the Byzantines could create larger than life inventions from large domes without any central support to superweapons that could not be rivalled by anything in its time such as Greek Fire, the Byzantines too had made inventions very small and simple yet very important to our daily lives, and such inventions like this include the fork. Now for those who aren’t familiar with the fork and its origins, it certainly does date back to the Byzantine Empire, and although I’ve written about the fork and its Byzantine origins a number of times, I would like to discuss it again here, as recently I have made new discoveries about the fork’s Byzantine origins. Just recently, I had posted on my Facebook page my photos of the Byzantine Collection of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington DC, and part of this collection included a Byzantine fork, and in the comments of this post someone asked if the fork was really a Byzantine invention as it only first appeared in France in 1315 at the royal court, while someone here replied saying that the Byzantines have been eating using a fork ever since the 4th century, thus it took a full thousand years for an item as simple as this to be adopted in other parts of the world. Now the fork has been a utensil used by the Byzantines ever since the beginning while the rest of Europe had no idea about it, thus for a long time everyone else but the Byzantines had been eating with their bare hands and a knife, that also recently I have just heard a saying from Serbia which was also part of the Byzantine sphere of influence that “while a German would still use his fingers to eat, in the middle ages, a Serb picks his food with the fork”. For the longest time- such as in Ancient Rome- the fork was only used to serve dishes, while it was only in the Byzantine era after the 4th century when it became a personal utensil for eating, and it was only in the 10th century when the Byzantines first introduced this item to Western Europe.

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Theophano Sklerina, niece of John I Tzimiskes and wife of the future Holy Roman emperor Otto II

This happened in 972 when the Byzantine princess Theophano Sklerina, the niece of the Byzantine emperor at that time John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976) married the future Holy Roman emperor in Germany Otto II, and the people of the imperial court in Germany when seeing the fork for the first time being used by Theophano did not get the idea of it, thinking it was all useless as they already had their hands to do the job of picking up the food and bringing it to their mouths. Another story of the Byzantines introducing the fork to Western Europe happens in 1004 when another Byzantine princess being Maria Argyropoulina married Giovanni Orseolo, the son of the Doge of Venice Pietro II Orseolo, and during their wedding feast Maria used a two-pronged golden fork to eat the food. The Venetians meanwhile who saw her eating with it also did not get its concept thinking it was in fact blasphemous while some members of the clergy there had said “God had provided humans with natural forks being their fingers, therefore it was an insult to substitute them with artificial metal ones for eating”. In 1007, just 3 years after their marriage, both Maria and Giovanni died from a plague in which the Venetians claimed that Maria’s early death was a result of her disrespecting God by eating with a fork. Nowadays, we cannot imagine eating certain things without a fork, and to this we have to thank these Byzantine marriages to rulers in different parts of Europe as over time, these marriages with Byzantium would lead to the spread of the fork across Europe, and from there to the rest of the world.

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Byzantine spoons and a fork, Dumbarton Oaks collection

Read about my take on the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection here.

VIII. Hand-Trebuchet and Counterweight Trebuchet         

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Byzantine army using a trebuchet, Madrid Skylitzes

The Byzantines themselves were adept at siege warfare with weapons like Greek Fire and incendiary grenades, but the other kind of siege weapons they have developed as well and were skilled at were trebuchets, which was a type of catapult used for hurling large stones and missiles during sieges. The unique catapult design of the hand-trebuchet first appeared in the Byzantine Empire during the 10th century, which was Byzantium’s golden age of warfare when they had turned the tide of war against the Arabs from the defensive to the offensive.

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Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas of Byzantium (r. 963-969)

This hand-trebuchet (Cheiromangana in Greek) was basically a staff sling mounted on a pole using a lever mechanism to propel projectiles which could be operated by only one man and was first advocated as a siege engine in an open battlefield by the military emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969) in 965 during his campaigns against the Arabs in Asia Minor and Syria. This weapon too had been mentioned in the Taktika or military manual of the Byzantine general Nikephoros Ouranos in around 1000. Aside from this small single-man operated trebuchet, the Byzantines not too long after this weapon was invented had also been apparently the first ones to use the much larger and more complex counterweight Trebuchet, which was basically a massive catapult with a heavy weight on the opposite side of the projectile to balance it.

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Niketas Choniates, Byzantine historian (1155-1217), recreation of the original manuscript depicting Choniates, art by myself

This weapon is first recorded in the work of the 12th century Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates (1155-1217) who first mentions the use of this weapon during a siege in 1165 taking place in the area of the Danube River border, and that this weapon here was equipped with a windlass, which was an apparatus used for moving heavy weights that earlier trebuchets such as the traction or hybrid ones did not use when launching missiles. However, this counterweight trebuchet was also said to have appeared even before 1165 being introduced at the Byzantine-Crusader Siege of Nicaea in 1097 during the First Crusade against the Seljuk Empire wherein the Byzantine emperor then Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) was credited for having invented it together with other artillery weapons, and with this weapon he made a deep impression on everyone whether Byzantine or Crusader.

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Counterweight trebuchet, first recorded in Byzantium in 1165

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter VII- 10th Century.

IX. Hospitals          

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Medicine in the Byzantine era

Apparently, even the concept of a hospital was created by the Byzantines, however even way longer before the birth of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th centuries, hospitals were already existent in Ancient Greece, Rome, and in other civilizations, although hospitals back then were only mere places for people to die or for soldiers wounded from battle to be treated. The Byzantines now came up with the concept of hospitals being an institution to offer medical care and possible cures for patients due to the ideals of Christian charity which played a very important role in Byzantine society. In Byzantine Constantinople itself, there were a number of functioning hospitals with one such example being a structure found between the two important churches of the Hagia Sophia and Hagia Eirene that connected them, and this here was the Hospital of St. Sampson in which its structure however does not exist anymore today. Hospitals in Byzantium meanwhile were mostly associated with monasteries; thus, hospitals were usually found within monastery structures with another notable one being the 12th century Pantokrator Monastery in Constantinople (today the Zeyrek Mosque) which was founded in 1136 by Emperor John II Komnenos (r. 1118-1143) and his wife Empress Irene of Hungary, and back then it was one of the most impressive structures of its time with possibly the best medical services in the empire, if not the entire world. This structure contained not only a monastery but a church, library, hospital, and mausoleum for the Komnenos emperors. Its hospital meanwhile had 50 beds and 5 wards with one for women, 2 doctors per ward with a number of assistants, a chief pharmacist, and a female doctor with female nurses for the female ward. Salaries for male and female nurses here were equal, but for doctors the salary for the female ones was half of their male counterparts. The Pantokrator hospital too had a complete set of medical equipment including lancets, cauterizing irons, catheters, forceps, tonsil knives, tooth files, scalpels, rectal speculums, uterine dilators, rib saws, clysters, tweezers, needles, and something called a “skull-breaker” used possibly to break a dead fetus in order to make its extraction easier. With all these kinds of medical equipment as well as in having female doctors, the Byzantines too were an advanced society in medical matters, but one major innovation the Byzantines too had in medical matters was that they were the first to successfully carry out the operation of separating conjoined twins where the first known case of it took place in the 10th century. In this case, a pair of conjoined twins lived in Constantinople for many years and when one twin died, surgeons removed the dead one and its result was partially successful as the one that was alive still continued living for 3 more days, while the next known case of separating conjoined twins happened so many centuries later in 1689 in Germany.

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Recreation of the Hospital of St. Sampson between the Hagia Sophia and Hagia Eirene, Constantinople
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12th century Pantokrator Monastery and Hospital in Constantinople, art by myself
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Separation of the conjoined twins in 10th century Byzantium, Madrid Skylitzes

Read Byzantine Alternate History Chapter IX- 12th Century.

X. Mechanical Throne, Lions, and Tree          

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Constantine VII on his throne with the mechanical lions and singing tree, art by Byzantine Tales

The type of self-operating mechanism known as an Automaton had already existed a lot earlier before in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and China, but it was in Byzantium where this mechanism was the most impressive as it was used to elevate a throne, while the lion sculptures that flanked the throne as well as the golden tree were able to operate on its own. Now before writing this article, I asked for suggestions on Byzantine inventions, and apparently someone mentioned the mechanical throne, and so I decided to put it here. The Byzantine automaton being the mechanical throne was mentioned in 949 when the Italian ambassador Liutprand, the Bishop of Cremona visited the imperial court of Constantinople wherein the Byzantine Empire here was ruled by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 913-959).

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Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos of Byzantium (r. 913-959), art by myself

Here, Liutprand when meeting the emperor Constantine VII had mentioned “lions, made either of bronze or wood covered with gold, which struck the ground with their tails and roared with open mouth and quivering tongue, a tree of gilded bronze, it’s branches filled with birds, likewise made of bronze gilded over, and these emitted cries appropriate to their species, and the emperor’s throne itself which was made in such a cunning manner that at one moment it was down on the ground, while at another it rose higher and was to be seen up in the air”. What Liutprand here said was that the lion statues on both sides of the emperor’s throne made a roar by itself with the actual sound of the lion, while the birds on the artificial tree next to it sang with the actual sounds of birds, but what was most impressive was that the throne of the emperor itself actually rose up to the air with the emperor as well. This same emperor Constantine VII too confirms in the book he wrote being De Ceremoniis that these mechanical items were present in his throne room at the Imperial Palace in Constantinople. An Ancient Jewish legend however says that King Solomon of Israel using his wisdom designed his throne room to look exactly like this with mechanical animals and a throne that could be elevated, however there is not much proof about this unlike how we have written evidence about Constantine VII’s mechanical throne and sculptures in which its design was definitely inspired by Solomon’s throne room. Now, the big mystery is how the Byzantines were actually able to record the sounds of these animals to make it so exact to fit the artificial animals in the said throne room.

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King Solomon’s throne room with mechanical lions

           

Now with all these fascinating cutting-edge inventions, it truly does show that the Byzantines had a lot of creativity as well as the ability to come up with solutions at difficult times, and usually these difficult situations allowed the Byzantines to create powerful inventions like no other including weapons like Greek Fire and incendiary grenades. On other occasions, the Byzantines created such inventions including the pendentive dome and the mechanical throne as a way to assert the power of their empire and Orthodox faith as these domes were built for their churches to emphasize the power of the Orthodox Church, and the mechanical throne for the imperial throne room to assert the authority of its emperor. Other times, the Byzantines created these innovations out of necessity such as the ship mills, other times out of charity such as the concept of hospitals as a place to recover and not plainly to just die, while other times they created such things to make life easier such as the fork. Now no matter how much the Byzantines have created in their empire’s existence and no matter how great these inventions were, Byzantium does not really get the credit they deserve for coming up with these brilliant inventions, and it is for this reason why I suddenly came up with this short article. These days, we usually eat with forks, have hospitals, and have buildings with domes that seem to be floating in the air, but little do most of us know that the Byzantines played a major part in making these things possible, therefore again this article was made to let you viewers know more about Byzantium’s role in these items in which some are still relevant up to this day. On the other hand as well, there could possibly be more inventions made by the Byzantines that we don’t know much about including the beacon system and so much more, and so it is up to you viewers to comment if I missed out on any other inventions. Anyway, this article was rather quick as this was just a spontaneous article wherein an idea to do this just popped out in my head, which is why I just said whatever came to my mind when writing this without much thought or heavy research in the process. Before finishing off, I would like to greet you all viewers Happy Holidays in advance, and again this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveler… Thank you for viewing!       

The Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection and What to Expect

Posted by Powee Celdran

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Welcome to another special edition article by the Byzantium Blogger! It has been about 2 years since I published an article on places to travel to in the Byzantine world, but now after 2 years of not travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am back again with another article after writing all the alternate history chapters and Byzantine history in general. However, this article will not be focusing on a travel destination in the Byzantine world like Constantinople, Asia Minor, Greece, or Ravenna which I have done before, instead this one will be focusing on the Byzantine Gallery of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Georgetown, Washington DC, USA and what to expect from it. (check out their site here).

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Just recently, I got the chance to see the Byzantine collection of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, and in the 1 hour I was there, I spent the entirety of it at the Byzantine collection alone. Now the collection may just be a single room with a bit more outside, but don’t let the size fool you, especially if you are an enthusiast of Byzantine history. You could get carried away looking at the items and their descriptions that you may never want to leave! As Dumbarton Oaks features specialized collections, the Byzantine collection does indeed have some of the best artifacts from the Byzantine world from the 4th to 15th centuries- basically their entire history. It is not really the quantity of their collection that is impressive, but rather its quality as the Dumbarton collection features premium Byzantine items including pieces that belonged to emperors. For this article, I will first give a little overview of the Dumbarton Oaks museum and its history before moving on to the Byzantine collection, then I will also discuss my favorite finds in the entire collection in which I have a lot of. Before beginning the rest of the article, I would also like to remind you all that I will not list the name of every single item found in the collection as it would just go on forever if I did, rather I will stick to talking about the pieces in the collection I find the most interesting and impressive.   

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Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Georgetown, Washington DC

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Photos of the collections’ items are taken by myself.


When thinking of the capital of the United States of America, Washington DC, the first thing that would come into everyone’s minds would be its world famous landmarks like the White House, US Capitol, and the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials, or if not these important landmarks in US history, Washington DC would best be remembered for its museums such as the Smithsonian and National Gallery. However in the western part of the city which is the neighborhood of Georgetown, there is another great museum in the form of a historical mansion worth seeing, and this is Dumbarton Oaks. If you wonder about its name “Dumbarton”, this comes from the name of its location as the location this mansion was built in was known as the “Rock of Dumbarton” as it is in an elevated area, and in 1702- when America was still a British colony- this piece of land was granted by Queen Anne of Great Britain to the British army officer Colonel Ninian Beall. Fast-forward to 1801, many years have passed since the USA became a country declaring independence from Great Britain (1776), and here was when the first house which included an orangery was built on this property by William Hammond Dorsey, and between 1822 and 1829, this house became the Washington residence of the US Senator and later the 7th Vice President John Calhoun. In 1846, this small house was bought by Edward Linthicum who then enlarged it and renamed it “The Oaks”, which is possibly a reference to its environment of being full of oak trees, then in 1891 The Oaks was bought by Henry Blount. In 1920, the couple Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss bought the property including The Oaks and in 1933 they renamed it “Dumbarton Oaks” combining its two historic names, and now owning the house they continued to enlarge and restructure the house itself by adding a music room and a Renaissance style room to display their European furniture, tapestries, and other belongings, which would also be used as a space for music performances and scholarly gatherings.

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Robert and Mildred Bliss, founders of Dumbarton Oaks

To give a background of the couple, they were both enthusiastic collectors and patrons of scholarships and the arts whereas Robert who was a graduate of the Harvard University pursued a distinguished career as an officer and diplomat in foreign service, while his wife Mildred had the funds to acquire this property after inheriting a fortune from her family’s investment in the patent medicine Fletcher’s Castoria. Part of the items the couple enthusiastically collected were Byzantine artifacts which included entire mosaic floors taken from Syria, and from 1936 to 1940, they invested heavily on collecting Byzantine art and artifacts as in 1940 they opened the house’s Byzantine gallery to the public envisioning it to be one of the world’s greatest collections of Byzantine art. Aside from their interest in Byzantine history and its artifacts, the couple too had an interest in Pre-Columbian America and its art and artifacts, thus in 1963, 2 decades after opening their Byzantine collection, they added another wing to the house to be used as a gallery showcasing their collection of Pre-Columbian American art and artifacts from different parts of the American continent. Though in 1962, just a year before the Pre-Columbian gallery opened to the public, Robert Woods Bliss had died, and in 1969 it was his wife Mildred’s turn to die. However, long before the death of Robert and Mildred, the Dumbarton Oaks collection as well as its research library was already transferred legally to Harvard University, while in 1987 the courtyard gallery of the museum was constructed. Today, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum may best be remembered for its gardens, but if you are a Byzantine, Pre-Columbian American, Medieval European, or Ancient Roman history enthusiast, this place would be a lot more than just the gardens.

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Dumbarton Oaks House in the early 20th century
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Floor plan of the Dumbarton Oaks museum

          

When getting into the museum’s room containing the Byzantine collection, the first thing you may notice is a massive display of a map of the Byzantine Empire at its height of territorial extent in 565- marked in purple- the year its most influential emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565) had died, wherein the empire stretched west to east from Southern Spain to Syria and north to south from the Crimea (Ukraine) to Egypt. If you look more carefully, this map also shows the greatest extent of the Byzantine Empire in 1180 at the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180)- marked in dotted lines- wherein the empire occupied almost all of the Balkans and east to Central Asia Minor (Turkey). This map however is not just a map to make viewers see how large the Byzantine Empire was in size, but rather it is a display of coins of different Byzantine rulers from different eras of Byzantine history found all across lands once under the Byzantine Empire. These coins are displayed on the specific area on the map that they were found in. In the tour of this wall map of the Byzantine world, we would start at their westernmost province which was Southern Spain, and this map displays a Tremissis or a small gold coin of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641) that was found there as it was during his reign when Byzantine control of Southern Spain in which they gained in the 550s under Justinian I was lost. The map then shows 2 coins of Emperor Justinian I with one found at Carthage in North Africa which is the Byzantine standard gold Solidus coin and the other being a copper coin or Follis of Justinian I found in Ravenna, Italy.

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Map of Byzantine Italy with coins found there

As you look below Ravenna on the map, you will then see a Solidus gold coin of Emperor Constantine V of the Isaurian Dynasty (r. 741-775) found in Rome and a half-follis coin of Emperor Constans II of the Heraclian Dynasty (r. 641-668) found in Naples, as in both their reigns the Byzantines were still in control of most of Italy despite their authority over it already greatly challenged by the Germanic Lombards. In the portion of the southern tip of mainland Italy and Sicily on the map, you will then see a Follis of Emperor Basil II of the Macedonian Dynasty (r. 976-1025) found there as in his reign Byzantium still had Southern Italy, then over in Sicily you will see two coins of Emperor Maurice of the Justinian Dynasty (r. 582-602) found there both being Dekanoummion coins, which are a variety of copper coins, then also in the Sicily part of the map you would see a gold Nomisma coin of Emperor Theophilos of the Amorian Dynasty (r. 829-842) found in Syracuse, as it was during his reign when Byzantine rule over Sicily began falling to the Arabs of North Africa. Now heading east in the map, we proceed to Thessaloniki, Greece where the map shows a 13th century Hyperpyron coin found there of Theodore Komnenos Doukas Angelos (r. 1215-1230), who was both Despot of Epirus and Emperor of Thessaloniki since 1224 in years when Constantinople had fallen to the 4th Crusade (1204-1261), and Theodore Doukas here was one of the many claimants to the lost Byzantine throne, though he never got his chance to take back Constantinople as he was defeated and blinded by the Bulgarians in 1230.

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Map of the Byzantine Balkans, Asia Minor, and the Crimea with coins found there

When looking at the Byzantine capital Constantinople at the map there, you would then see two coins found there with one of them being a copper Follis of Justinian I and the other one being a gold Solidus of his nephew and successor Emperor Justin II (r. 565-578), then while heading across the Marmara Sea from Constantinople on the map you will see two other coins of Justin II found there in which both are copper Follis coins with one found at the city of Nicomedia just across the water from Constantinople and the other one at Kyzikos. The map then also shows a coin found in Nicaea and Magnesia in Asia Minor, the one found at Nicaea being a Hyperpyron of the first emperor and founder of the exiled Byzantine Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261) Theodore I Laskaris (r. 1205-1221), and the found at Magnesia being also a Hyperpyron, except this is one of Theodore I’s grandson Emperor Theodore II Laskaris (r. 1254-1258). Now moving north up the map to the Byzantine colony of Cherson in the Crimea in Ukraine north of the Black Sea, you would then see a copper Follis of Maurice that was found there, and directly south from there at the city of Trebizond at the northeastern corner of Asia Minor along the Black Sea you will then see a Hyperpyron found there of Manuel I Megas Komnenos (r. 1237-1263) who was an emperor of the Empire of Trebizond, the breakaway Byzantine Empire based there since Constantinople fell to the 4th Crusade in 1204. When looking at the regions of Seleukeia and Isauria in Asia Minor on the map you will then see copper Follis coins of Heraclius with one found in Seleukeia and the other in Isauria, then when looking at Cyprus you will also see another copper Follis of the same Heraclius found there as well. Now lastly when proceeding to the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire on the map, when looking at Antioch you will then see a copper Follis coin of Emperor Justin I (r. 518-527) who was the uncle and predecessor of Justinian I found there, then in Jerusalem you will see another copper Follis of Heraclius found there, and lastly at Alexandria in Egypt you will see a copper coin of Justinian I found there.          

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Complete map of the Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent in 565 (purple), and in 1180 (dotted lines) with coins found in certain locations

Aside from the massive map displaying coins found all over the Byzantine world, the collection also displays another portion focusing on the evolution of the images of Byzantine emperors shown on their coins, mainly about the Byzantine imperial uniform known as the Loros which was a 16ft long heavy jewelled scarf wrapped in a cross shape over the emperor’s body and draped over the left arm, which was then introduced as an imperial uniform by the late 7th century. This imperial garment was then something that evolved from the Ancient Roman togas, and in the Late Roman era, the consuls in the Roman/ Byzantine Senate began wearing a robe wrapped around the body like a scarf instead of a large sheet being the toga worn before, and in the 7th century with the office of consul being abolished, the Byzantine emperor who now had the powers of the consul began wearing the consul’s robe, which then became the standard uniform of Byzantine emperors in official ceremonies until the fall of the empire in 1453, although over the centuries the style of the imperial Loros kept evolving. Now the coins at this part of the collection first shows images of Late Roman emperors minted in their respective coins dressed in the consular robe known as the Trabea Triumphalis which was an elaborate toga with a decorative border and sometimes even encrusted with jewels.

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Top to bottom: coins of Roman/ Byzantine emperors Numerian, Constantius II, Julian, and Arcadius

The 4 coins here showing the emperors in the Trabea Triumphalis include a copper one of the Roman emperor Numerian (r. 283-284) found in Rome, a double gold Solidus of the second Byzantine emperor Constantius II (r. 337-361) found in Trier in Germany, a gold Solidus of Emperor Julian (r. 361-363) found in Antioch, and a Gold Solidus of Emperor Arcadius (r. 395-408) found in Constantinople. The next set of two coins to the right of these 4 then show the first ones depicting emperors in the early version of the Loros now holding an imperial scepter using the symbol of the Christian cross now replacing the old Roman symbol of the eagle, and these coins include a gold Solidus of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408-450) found in Constantinople and the other one being a copper Follis of Emperor Tiberius II Constantine of the Justinian Dynasty (r. 578-582) also found in Constantinople.

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Top to bottom: Coins of Byzantine emperors Theodosius II and Tiberius II

To the right of these 2 coins, the next 4 coins you will see show how the coins beginning in the 7th century have evolved into ones having more Christian symbols such as crosses and these include a gold Solidus found in Constantinople of Justinian II during his first reign (685-695) who is said to be the emperor credited for introducing the Loros as the standard uniform for Byzantine emperors, then below his coin is a gold Solidus of Constantine V found in Constantinople. Below the coin of Constantine V is a copper Follis of Emperor Basil I (r. 867-886) who was the peasant turned imperial bodyguard that founded the famous and long reigning Macedonian Dynasty (867-1056) found in Constantinople, and below the coin of Basil I is a very important and rare Byzantine lead seal which is that of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920-944) who was the Armenian admiral that took over the throne at that time, in which there are not that many coins that depict him, and this one here shows not only Romanos I but him with his two sons and co-emperors Stephen and Constantine Lekapenos.

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1st column, top to bottom: Coins of emperors Constantine VII, Theodora (2&3), and Theodore I; 2nd column, top to bottom: Coins of emperors Andronikos II and Michael IX, Basil II, and Nikephoros III

The next 7 coins on display to the right of the last 4 ones I mentioned then show coins from the 10th century onward showing how the imperial Loros evolved into becoming more simplified, whereas the design of the coins too have been simplified to the point where the emperor’s image became more and more unrecognizable, whereas as some depict the full body of the emperor and the others just the emperor’s bust. The first of the 7 shown here is a gold Solidus of the same Romanos I mentioned earlier except this one with his co-emperor and son-in-law Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos of the Macedonian Dynasty as a child (r. 913-959) beside him, found in Constantinople. Below this is a gold Solidus of Empress Theodora (r. 1055-1056) who was a sole woman ruler of the empire and the last of the Macedonian Dynasty, while below her gold Solidus is another coin of her, except this one being a gold Histamenon Nomisma which is slightly lighter than the standard gold Solidus, and both these coins of Theodora were found in Constantinople.

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Top to bottom: Coins of emperors Justinian II, Constantine V, Basil I, and Romanos I

The coin seen below the ones of Theodora is a Byzantine Hyperpyron coin which in the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) replaced the standard gold Solidus that had been devalued in the mid-11th century, and the Hyperpyron seen here is of the first Emperor Nicaea Theodore I Laskaris who had been mentioned earlier, and just like the coin of Theodore I on the map mentioned earlier, the one here was also found in Nicaea which he chose as the base for his exiled Byzantine Empire. The next 3 coins to the right include a Basilikon which was a variation of a silver coin in the late Byzantine Empire in which this one here is of Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282-1328) wherein it shows a rather crude full-body image of him next to his son and co-emperor Michael IX Palaiologos (r. 1294-1320) found in Constantinople, then below this is a lead seal with the bust of Emperor Basil II of the Macedonian Dynasty, and below this is a full-body lead seal of Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates (r. 1078-1081).

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Ivory triptych panel with Emperor St. Constantine I the Great

Next to all these coins to the right is a precious Byzantine artifact, which here is a piece of a 10th century ivory triptych, and this piece shows the Roman emperor and first Byzantine emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-330) dressed in the 10th century Byzantine imperial Loros. Above this part of the collection containing the coins is a large marble roundel from the 12th century depicting the Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos (r. 1118-1143) dressed again in the imperial Loros, however based on certain studies the identity of the emperor on the marble roundel is not clear, meaning that it could not exactly be John II but could possibly be any other 12th century Byzantine emperor, but whoever the emperor on the roundel is, this roundel is something I would like to recreate as part of my artworks recreating Byzantine era images.                  

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Marble roundel with the image of John II Komnenos in the imperial Loros (disputed)

The other most noticeable items in the collection include a number of intricately carved marble pillars, arches, niches, and sarcophagi. The one you cannot miss is the marble “Seasons Sarcophagus” which was found in Rome dating back to around 330, the same year Constantinople was founded by Emperor Constantine I, and this piece being from the 4th century still shows some Pagan elements considering that by this time Roman Paganism was still strong despite Christianity already rising to becoming a dominant faith, although it was only by the 380s when Christianity became the empire’s official religion under Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395).

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Byzantine marble chancel barrier

Another piece similar to this sarcophagus that you will find in the collection is a 6th-7th century fragment of a marble Byzantine chancel barrier showing that this piece could have been much larger than how you see back in its day. Something similar to the chancel barrier that you will also find is a 5th-6th century marble reliquary box designed to look like a miniature sarcophagus which was found in Syria. Another of the more notable large sized sculptures from the collection that you will see is an 11th century marble slab known as the Hagiosoritissa depicting the Mother of God and suggesting that it could have been part of a larger relief part of a pillar from a church with an identical one opposite it, except with a sculpture depicting St. John the Baptist, however its twin slab is missing, though this piece is definitely a rare one that shows some evidence of Byzantine sculpture art from the 11th century.

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Byzantine marble slab with the Hagiosoritissa

In another of the smaller vertical display cases is a set of 3 items in which I consider it to be some of my finest pieces in the whole collection and this includes a 10th century ivory slab with a cross, and at the center of it a bust of a Byzantine emperor, while the borders of this ivory slab show some sockets suggesting that they were once used for placing jewels to border it. Next to this slab is a fragment of another ivory slab which just like this has an arched top, except this one has a sculpture of St. Gabriel the Archangel dressed in the Byzantine imperial Loros, and below it is a small but very intricately carved ivory round box known as a pyxis.

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Consular diptych of Philoxenus, 6th century

Now one of the larger pieces in the entire collection I find very interesting is the 6th century consular diptych of the consul Philoxenus as it shows inscriptions in both Latin as seen at the center showing the name of the consul, and in Greek as seen in the 4 circles surrounding it, thus showing the transition of Latin to Greek in language which already began taking place in the 6th century where Greek had already slowly been becoming used as an official language in the government, rather than just the everyday language. Additionally, 3 other impressive ivory pieces include a late 10th century triptych of the Virgin Mary and the child Christ at the center with 3 saints on each of the 2 sides flanking it making it have a total of 6 saints, another one being a late 10th century ivory sculpture of the Virgin Hodegetria (mother and child icon), and one made from between the 7th-8th centuries depicting the Nativity. When it comes to the famous Byzantine boxes and caskets, Dumbarton Oaks too features some of the finest examples of it such as the very intricate and symmetrical rosette casket with carvings of warriors and animals which is made of wood and clad with bone plaques, it dates back to either the 10th or 11th centuries and is a lockable piece intended to store valuables such as spices, perfumes, and coins. Another intricate rosette casket you will find in the collection is a long rectangular one made also of wood with bone plaques dating back to the late 10th century, and this one here has religious images carved into it.                   

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Ivory panel with an emperor, fragment of the panel with Archangel St. Gabriel, and the pyxis box
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Seasons Sarcophagus, 4th century
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Rosette casket with warriors and animals
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Rosette casket with religious figures

Now when it comes to Byzantine jewellery, the collection features a wide variety of it spanning across the different centuries of Byzantine history, thus you can see the evolution in the designs Byzantine jewellery had over the centuries. In the jewellery collection, one of the most noticeable is something known as the “Marriage Belt” dating back to either the 5th or 6th centuries featuring 23 golden medallions forming a circle which features both Christian and Pagan symbols minted on the golden medallions showing that the ancient Pagan faith and its traces were not yet totally wiped out by then.

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10th century Byzantine earrings

One of the impressive pieces of jewellery also includes an early 10th century golden ring surrounded by a circle of pearls, which still looks very much intact even up to this day. Aside from this ring, the same case as the ring and marriage belt also features an early 10th century pair of earrings made of gold with pearls as well, two golden marriage rings from the early 7th century, and a series of golden necklaces and earrings with gemstones dating all the way back to the early 5th century too. However, the item from this case that I find the most interesting is the early 7th century golden necklace with the image of the Ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite at its pendant, thus showing that even up until the 7th century when Orthodox Christianity was not only already the official faith of the empire but one that already dominated over society, their Pagan Greek roots were still not yet forgotten.

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7th century gold and lapis lazuli Aphrodite necklace

Additionally, this necklace’s pendant does in fact stay true to how art was like in Ancient Greece showing the golden sculpture Ancient Greek goddess in her full beauty exposing most of her body’s physique with only her lower part covered, while the blue lapis lazuli background is meant to represent the sea, while the necklace itself features an alternating pattern of gold and lapis lazuli pieces. As part of the golden necklaces, one of them that I really found interesting was a large one with the bust of Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491-518) at its pendant while the two clasps of this necklace feature two coins with one of Anastasius I and the other one of his predecessor Emperor Zeno the Isaurian (r. 474-491), and next to this necklace are two golden coins with the image of Emperor Justinian I used as a clasp for either a belt or necklace. One thing that you will notice here that has a very interesting appearance is a set of 2 golden medallion bracelets dating back to the 6th century but still looking very intact except for the top-left corner of the left medallion chipped off while the rest of it still looks very much of good quality after all these centuries.

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4th century gold and jewelled bracelet

Next to these 2 golden medallions would then be another interesting piece being another golden bracelet as well, except this one still has 4 out of 9 jewels still in place, and the more impressive part is that this bracelet being from the 4th century is 2 centuries older than the previous one I mentioned yet looks even more intact than the former. Another interesting and very intact piece you would also see in this part of the collection is a pair of 2 early 7th century bracelets worn by certain Byzantine governor generals in which this one contains not only the image of one emperor but 3, which include emperors Maurice, Heraclius, and the emperor between them which was Phocas (r. 602-610) who was the emperor that overthrew Maurice and was overthrown by Heraclius.

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Cameo of Caesars Galerius and Constantius I

In this part of the collection, you will also see one of the oldest pieces in the Byzantine collection, which is in fact something that even predates the founding of the Byzantine Empire (330), and this is an Ancient Roman pendant known as a cameo dating back to the year 300 made of chalcedony and gold depicting the busts of the emperors Galerius (r. 293-311) and Constantius I (r. 293-306) when they were Caesars or junior emperors of the Roman Tetrarchy- when the Roman Empire was divided into 4 parts- with the latter one (Constantius I) being the father of Byzantium’s founder Constantine I.

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Circular and hexagonal pendants with medallions of Constantine I, 4th century

Other than this cameo, the collection does in fact feature even earlier pieces such as gold pendants with the coins of Roman emperors Caracalla (r. 211-217) and Elagabalus (r. 218-222) of the Severan Dynasty and a coin of Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). Something else here that would be of great interest is a pair of 2 pendants of Constantine I from the 4th century, with one being circular and its pair a hexagonal one, and here Constantine I is depicted as the Roman god Apollo as he true enough went back-and-forth in his images from Christian to Pagan.              

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Golden necklace with Anastasius I, coins with Justinian I below
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Marriage Belt with 23 golden medallions
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Golden medallion bracelets, 6th century
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Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine jewellery collection
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Golden bracelets with emperors Maurice, Phocas, and Heraclius

Another impressive collection at Dumbarton Oaks are the crosses from the Byzantine era which were used as reliquaries or cases to store holy relics, and apparently these containers used to store pieces of the True Cross came in the form of crosses, and considering the importance of the relic of True Cross, the containers holding them too had to be of high quality with very impressive and intricate art on them. The case containing the collection of reliquary crosses then shows a large number of them coming in different forms and designs together with 2 other reliquary items and 4 different rings.

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Cloissone enamel reliquary cross with golden box, 12th-13th century

In this collection of reliquary crosses, the one that I find the most impressive is the gold and Coisonne enamel one made from the late 12th to early 13th centuries that is still fully intact as it not only has its cross but the gold box in the shape of a cross underneath it, and to display both items still intact, this piece is seen with the golden box turned over beneath the painted cross above it. Another piece here that is very impressive is although now seen in 3 fragments coming from the 11th century made of silver, niello, and gilding showing that they once belonged to one piece, although these surviving fragments are pieces coming exactly from 3 edges of this cross- except for the bottom one- wherein the fragment of the upper edge shows the emperor Constantine I the Great in the Byzantine imperial Loros with Pope St. Sylvester, the one on the left edge shows the archangel St. Michael at the location of Chonae in Asia Minor, and the one on the right showing the Old Testament figure Joshua- although only half of him is seen- prostrating himself before an Archangel.

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11th century reliquary cross fragments

One of the other crosses you will easily notice is the bronze one from either the 11th or 12th centuries which is still highly intact that it even still has its base hanging from it, and not to mention you will also see crosses from as early as the 6th and 7th centuries here still mostly intact with one being a necklace with a cross pendant from the 7th century and another one being a series of 4 small pendant crosses made as early as the 6th century. Aside from the reliquary crosses and cross pendant necklaces, this same case that contains them also contains 3 small, but very intricate Byzantine rings and the most impressive of these 3 rings happens not be the most detailed and colorful one but the simplest of the 3 from the 11th century as this ring is a rare one of great value belonging to an important historical figure of that time which was the historian Michael Attaleiates (1021-1080).

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Byzantine rings, Michael Attaleiates’ ring (leftmost)
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Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine reliquary crosses collection

            

Now as icons have played such a major role in the history of Byzantium, the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection does in fact feature a few valuable and very stunning icons, and the one here that I find the most impressive is the one of the late 4th and early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople St. John Chrysostom made in around 1325, and this piece is not just a hand-painted icon but a miniature mosaic made of several tiny tesserae or painted tiles assembled to form the image of the saint in a very realistic way as if it were a hand-painted icon.

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Miniature mosaic of St. John Chrysostom, 1325

Other than the miniature mosaic icon of St. John Chrysostom, this collection also features another impressive miniature mosaic in which the other one here also made in the 14th century depicts not one character but 40! The 40 figures in this miniature mosaic are the 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia, which were Christian Roman soldiers from the 4th century who were sentenced to death by the Roman authorities during the early 4th century Christian persecutions by being forced to march to death in the dead of winter with their clothes stripped off. The collection too features another icon of the same subject being the 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia, although the second one with the same subject is a post-Byzantine era piece made in the 17th century using tempera and gilding on wood, and this one here is a triptych icon with the central panel showing the same 40 martyrs except this one with one of them finding a warm bathhouse as the legend about them says, while the panels left and right of the central one show different saints painted on them.

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Golden frame with 8 Cloissone medallions, 11th century

Another thing you will find here is a golden icon frame from the mid-11th century containing 8 Cloisonne medallions around it depicting religious images. The largest one and perhaps the most noticeable of the icons in the collection happens to be the 14th century icon of St. Peter made of tempera and gilding on a large wooden slab which shows him with such strong emotion and depth, in which became the style of icons in the late Byzantine era, compared to the more emotionless way saints were depicted in earlier Byzantine eras. Other than icons, you will also find Byzantine era illuminated manuscripts made on sheets of vellum, and here you will see one displayed on a page of an opened book and 2 others as hanging sheets.

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Miniature mosaic of the 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia, 14th century
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Triptych of the 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia, 17th century
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Icon of St. Peter painted on a large wooden slab, 14th century
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Byzantine illuminated manuscripts on vellum

Of course, the collection not only features larger than life treasures from the Byzantine world belonging to larger-than-life figures like emperors or items that depict them, but rather the collection also features several objects of everyday life in Byzantium including plates, utensils, chalices, and a lot more.

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5th century silver plate with a hunting scene

Although no matter how ordinary these items may seem, a lot of them are of great historical value with some even having a story to tell, and this could be said about the silver plate from the 5th century depicting a hunting scene here which shows that hunting had a major role in Byzantine society especially among the elites, while the same too can be said with a large silver chalice you will see which actually belonged to the important Ardaburius family of 5th century Constantinople.

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Byzantine spoons and a fork

Now one thing you cannot miss in the collection is the display of Byzantine era utensils as here among the several serving spoons, you will see an actual Byzantine era fork, and when looking at it, it may at first seem very ordinary to see a simple silver fork, but if you know the history of Byzantium you will know it is a very important object as the fork was in fact an item the Byzantines had developed as a utensil for eating in which they have introduced to the Western world, and at this day we have the Byzantines to thank for introducing it to us. Among the other silver housewares in the collection, you will find a series of silver plates, chalices, incense burners, candlesticks, ewers, intricate bronze lampstands, small oil lamps in the form of animals, and even trading instruments such a weight for a scale in the form of the bust of a 5th century Byzantine empress.

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Weight in the form of a 5th century Byzantine empress’ bust

Outside the room of the collection, you will then find a large pot made of the purple stone porphyry, in which the Byzantines used in order to make the room the imperial heirs were born in purple to legitimize their claim to the throne. Other than that, you will also find a series of tiled mosaics found in floors from different parts of the Byzantine era like Asia Minor and Syria wherein one shows an interesting green one with red and white lines and another one looking like a maze of different patterns made of green and red porphyry stones laid into marble, this piece is thus an amazing geometric mix of a tiled mosaic and a checkerboard which was found in a church in Southern Italy.

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Byzantine lamps in animal designs and lampstands
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Porphyry jar
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Floor mosaic pattern with red and green porphyry stones laid into the marble

That’s about it for my article on the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection. To sum it up, the collection does feature very valuable treasures, though not very large, its size does not really matter as you would in fact spend endless minutes staring at these valuable items. Prepare to be immersed in the fascinating history and culture of Byzantium. The Dumbarton Oaks collection has some of the rarest and most well-preserved Byzantine treasures as well as the most important ones that are not only treasures found all over the Byzantine world but those that belonged to important people in the Byzantine era. This is what makes this collection very special, and it was such a great pleasure for me to see this collection. Of course, the entire Dumbarton Oaks museum has a lot more to show than its Byzantine collection, but since my site only features the history of Byzantium, I only chose to cover it. Also, if you all noticed I did not mention every item you would see since if I did, then I would go forever with this article, so for the sake of making this post short and simple, I chose to just stick with my best finds in the collection. Anyway, this is all for now on this special edition article on the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine collection, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveler… thank you all for reading!       

The Legacy of the Byzantine Empire- An Epilogue to the Byzantine Alternate History Series; Featuring Interviews with 3 Byzantine History Enthusiasts

Posted by Powee Celdran

Pewton Foundation copy
Byzantine Time Traveller logo

Welcome back to the Byzantium Blogger! It’s now been over 2 weeks since I finished the final chapter of my 12-part Byzantine Alternate History series that had been going on for almost 8 months! Now since I have just finished the finale (chapter XII) of my 12-part Byzantine Alternate History series, I thought that it would be a great idea to do an extra special edition article to share my thoughts on the entire series I made (beginning in February and finishing in September of this year), how it taught me more about the very fascinating history of Byzantium and enriched the passion I had for it for over 2 years now. If you have been following my site, then perhaps you would recall that almost a year ago I came up with a similar special article like this when finishing off 2020 (read it here) wherein I discussed my personal story with Byzantine history and what it meant to me, as well as my learnings from it wherein I also announced that I would be doing an alternate history series for Byzantium for 2021. Now, this article will be something similar to that, except this one would be simply limited to my journey in writing the 12-part Byzantine Alternate History series, and since I am very much tired as of now considering that I completed writing all chapters, this article itself will not be as articulate in words as the chapters of the series, basically this article you will read is just me talking regularly. On the other hand, as we also finish off another quarter of this year 2021, I decided once again to do it with another special edition article, whereas this year I have already come up with two previous end of quarter articles, the first one being an interview with 5 friends on their thoughts on quotes from the Byzantine era despite them not being really familiar with it, and the next one being my own personal ranking of the 12 centuries of Byzantine history from my own personal best to least. This special edition article would then be as I said a reflection on all the 12 chapters I have previously written which covered the 12 centuries of Byzantium’s history with one chapter per century from the 4th to the 15th. By having over 1,100 years of history, the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) surely had gone through so much ups and downs, colorful characters that defined it, encountering all sorts of people from beyond, and so many changes both in territory and culture that would make it look like their empire’s history had gone such a long way that with about a thousand years going by, its history a thousand years earlier may have in fact seemed like that of a totally different country’s history altogether! Just as the Byzantine Empire and its history kept on evolving over these 12 centuries, the same can be said with my journey through these 12 centuries when putting all of them into 12 different stories over the months. From February to September of this year, I have gone through a very amazing yet challenging journey of writing 12 different alternate history scenarios for each of the 12 centuries of Byzantine history, and throughout these months I have somewhat gone through the same kind of ups and downs the Byzantines had gone through in their history, and in my case of writing this 12 part series, I have simultaneously been doing a social media campaign to spread awareness on the history of Byzantium where I have come across many groups on Facebook to share and gain new knowledge on Byzantine history, posted numerous posts on my Instagram to share some bits and pieces of Byzantine history, and as I always did since before create some videos in which I have shared on my Youtube channel No Budget Films. At the same time as I have written my 12-part series, I have created several artworks on historical figures and locations from the Byzantine era, and additionally throughout these past months that I have been sharing new information on Byzantium through Instagram and creating my alternate history series, I have also come across many channels and podcasts that made me learn more about the rich history and met so many interesting people along the way through social media who share similar interests as I do, especially in the very rich and complex history of Byzantium. As this article will be something to do about discussing the great legacy of the very colorful Byzantine Empire that still lives on up to this day, I will be interviewing 3 different people that I have come across over the past months on their thoughts about Byzantine history and how they can still see its legacy up to this day by asking each of them the same 3 questions, although each of them will be asked a separate 4th question after answering the 3. Much like the post I made several months ago wherein I interviewed different people on the history of Byzantium, this post would be something similar, although unlike the last one wherein I was asking people their thoughts on Byzantium despite knowing very little of it, for this one I will be interviewing those who are not only very familiar with it but passionate about it the way I am, thus the questions I will ask will be quite complex ones that only those who know Byzantine history very well can answer. This article will then begin off with my interviews on these 3 different Byzantine history enthusiasts and their thoughts about Byzantium’s history and legacy, then I will move on to my own personal journey throughout the time I wrote my 12-part series wherein I would like to share a behind-the scenes story of writing the 12 chapters including all the ups and downs I went through while immersing myself deeper into Byzantium’s history together with a bit about what other things I have been up to as I wrote my 12-part series, as well as the Byzantine themed artworks I made throughout the months. Afterwards, I would then move on to the lessons I learned from both the 12 centuries of Byzantine history and from my personal journey in creating content on Byzantium which for me was a very new experience as even though I have been into Byzantine history for the past 2 years and have posted articles about it, it was only this year when I began making myself public in sharing the history of Byzantium through social media. Lastly, this article will also have my thoughts on how I see the legacy of Byzantium living on up to this day, and then some updates on what I would do next now that I have completed my 12-part series, as after all my Byzantine journey is still continuing to go on.

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Flag of the Byzantine Empire

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Read the 12 chapters of Byzantine Alternate History Here:

Chapter I- Roman Victory at the Gothic War (376-382), 4th Century

Chapter II- Preventing the Fall of the Western Roman Empire 4 Years in Advance, 5th Century

Chapter III- Justinian the Great Saves his Empire from the Plague and Personally Joins his Campaigns, 6th Century

Chapter IV- Constans II Relocates the Imperial Capital to Sicily, 7th Century

Chapter V- Emperor Artavasdos, the Unlikely Hero, 8th Century

Chapter VI- Irene and Charlemagne, the Wedding of the Century, 9th Century

Chapter VII- A Retelling of the Bizarre Byzantine Renaissance and the Macedonian (Amorian) Dynasty, 10th Century

Chapter VIII- A Byzantine Victory at the 1071 Battle of Manzikert and its Impact on the Empire, 11th Century

Chapter IX- Preventing the Catastrophic 4th Crusade in Advance, 12th Century

Chapter X- The 2nd Bulgarian Empire Captures Constantinople in 1235, 13th Century

Chapter XI- The Serbian Empire Takes Over and Saves a Dying Byzantium, 14th Century

Chapter XII- Constantinople Surrenders to the Ottomans in 1453 in Order to Buy Time to Buy Time to Start a Crusade and Recapture it, 15th Century


The Interviews         

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First of all, I shall introduce the 3 different interesting individuals that will be interviewed for this article, and although they may come from different parts of the world with their own different stories and world-views especially on how they see and want to share this rich history, they share a common passion for Byzantine history. The first of the interviewees is Flavian the Historian, a young Byzantine history enthusiast, artist, and influencer who had sharing and promoting knowledge on Byzantine history through his Instagram account (follow him on Instagram @flavianthehistorian) for more than a year now, and earlier on this year when I just started out with my own Byzantine history account similar to his, he was one of the first ones I followed and in return followed me due to having similar ideas, and on the other hand other he also shares engaging Q&As on his stories while he too has a number of interesting artworks on Byzantine historical figures which includes his drawing of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI in which I included in chapter XII, the grand finale of my series.

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Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos, art by Flavian the Historian

The second of the interviewees is Akitku (follow him on Instagram @akitku), another artist who does a lot of medieval era including Byzantine themed artworks and has also published the Crusades era fan fiction comic book Brothers’ Keepers’, and for many months I have also followed him on Instagram as he never fails to come up with interesting artwork whether medieval Western European or Byzantine, while I have also included some of his artworks in chapters III, VII, and VIII of my series such as his illustration of Constantinople’s Hippodrome and the chariot racing factions, his Emperor Justinian I the Great illustration, and General Bardas Phokas illustration.

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Chariot racing at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, art by Akitku

The 3rd and final of the interviewees is no other than the illustrator of both the recent Byzantine era graphic novel Theophano: A Byzantine Tale and 1821: The Beginning of a Revolution Chrysavgi Sakel (follow her on Instagram @chrysasakel). Although she says she isn’t very much knowledgeable about Byzantine history, she comes from a country where the Byzantine legacy is very strong which is Greece, while she has also done many Byzantine themed illustrations both for her graphic novels and for the Youtube channel Eastern Roman History.

Now, as for how the interviews will work, I will post each question separately and below them will be each of their own responses to the respective 3 questions, and once these 3 questions and each of their answers are done, I will move on to the bonus question in which each of the 3 interviewees will be given their own different question.

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The Hagia Sophia’s interiors from Theophano: A Byzantine Tale, art by Chrysa Sakel

The Questions

1) In our present day, where can you still see the influence of the Byzantine Empire?

Flavian: In our present day we can still see the influence of the Byzantine Empire on the territories that it once ruled over, and especially in the region of Southeastern Europe. With the castles, the great walls around cities like Constantinople or Thessaloniki, and also the Byzantine churches and monasteries. These are the direct material heritage from the Byzantine Empire, but we have also immaterial heritage like the famous Byzantine chants that are still sung in the Orthodox Church. There is also the Byzantine art that is preserved by the Orthodox. There are a lot of things that are coming from the Byzantine Empire and I can’t cite all of them. The Byzantine Empire conserved and passed on the rich Greco-Roman culture, which had a very important influence on the Western civilization. Indeed, with the fall of the empire, the savants fearing the Ottomans fled to the west with the knowledge that the Byzantines had preserved and thus they participated to the Renaissance. As the Empire of Christ, Byzantium evangelized the Slavs, who are indebted to it for the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, and the Orthodox faith is still present today. In Italy, Ravenna owes to Byzantium its famous basilicas with their sparkling mosaics, while Genoa and Venice have inherited Byzantium’s diplomatic genius.   

Akitku: To me, the Byzantine influence can be seen in historic architecture in many countries around the Mediterranean: Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Southern Italy, Israel, and Syria. Byzantine architecture also influenced the art and architecture of other cultures. The Cyrillic alphabet is another Byzantine legacy and is still used in much of Eastern Europe. Also, many public institutions such as state-funded public hospitals, universities, bureaucratic records, and attempts at legal transparency took place in Byzantium earlier than they did in Europe, and I think they might have been a strong influence for Western states, which is completely unknown or ignored.  

Chrysa: It can be seen almost everywhere around me since I live in a country with a heavy “Byzantine” legacy. The vernacular Romaic written in the Epic poem “Digenes Akrites” isn’t much different from the modern Greek spoken today in my country. Most of the religious celebrations like Easter are celebrated in the same manner as centuries ago. Our traditional Greek dances and music have a lot of influences from the “Byzantine” period. Many traditional Greek recipes come from that time too.

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The Byzantine Legacy- The Land Walls of Constantinople

2) Do you think the history of Byzantium deserves more attention and awareness all over the world such as in being made into popular movies or series?

Flavian: I think that yes, the Byzantine Empire deserves way more attention, because of its big role and influence on the Western civilization. Now, making movies and series about it, I am not opposed, I would really like to see a movie about Justinian, or Basil II for example! But now, I’m fearing that there could be some derivatives where they are historical inaccuracies, or that the movie will be objectively bad and thus making a bad advertising on Byzantium. But I hope that something like that will not happen, and I would really like to see a good series about this topic!    

Akitku: I think it would be great if people learned more about the Byzantine Empire, especially about its developments and culture, not just its start and fall.

Chrysa: Definitely. I think right now Byzantium is on a steady path towards getting more and more historical attention. It’s very important to communicate the idea of the Roman legacy. To make a wider audience understand that the Romans actually survived and have a long medieval history that ends in the 15th century. This could make Byzantine history more catchy to a wider audience. Maybe then, we’ll be able to watch some really exceptional movies and series set in the medieval Roman era.

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The Byzantine Imperial Palace Complex of Constantinople, art by Ediacar

3) What are the greatest life lessons you have learned from the history of Byzantium?

Flavian: In the history of Byzantium, we can find all the different lessons in life. Because of course of its long history, and so there is a big variety of life lessons. Now, if I have to cite some of them when I think specifically about Byzantium, I would say that you must know how to combine strength and spirit. The mastery of letters with the mastery of weapons. You must have one same coin with two faces. The one face is the material domain, and the other the spiritual domain. You can’t have the one without the other, unless you want to become a monk, where you have to be entirely devoted to the spiritual domain. But on a greater scale, you can see that those two characteristics are present, especially on the Byzantine Empire! And I think that’s one of the reasons for its great longevity. 

Akitku: I think one of the main lessons from Byzantium is that internal divisions and corruption can lead to the destruction of great and culturally advanced communities. I think that it also shows that an advanced culture provides protection and help to its weakest members (the poor, orphans, etc.), in many ways I think this made the Byzantine Empire rather unique.

Chrysa: I wouldn’t say I am knowledgeable of Byzantine history. But one thing that comes to mind about the history of Byzantium is that whenever a person wants to achieve something, it doesn’t matter who they are, they will achieve it. Someone may say that the political system allowed it but still we have seen peasants becoming emperors, eunuchs controlling the empire, and women taking charge of a male dominated empire. So in our much evolved today’s society I believe it’s up to everyone to legally follow their dreams and make them true.

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Byzantine court life from Theophano: A Byzantine Tale, art by Chrysa Sakel

Bonus Questions

How do you feel about young people such as yourself being fascinated with and promoting the history of Byzantium?

Flavian: I am very glad to see that the Byzantine Empire is still fascinating those young people, and that we are not alone! Especially on our times, where sadly the majority of young people pass their time to do things that are useless, that doesn’t improve them culturally and intellectually. That’s why I’m very proud of those young historians who are being fascinated with the Eastern Roman Empire and are promoting it! They are transmitting this rich and precious knowledge to others, and in this way, they are keeping the flame of the Byzantine Empire burning, as if it had not been extinguished since the fall of Constantinople on the tragic day of May 29, 1453.

If the Byzantine Empire survived up to this day, how would things be like?

Akitku: This is something I wonder about quite a lot. I think it sort of depends on how it would survive, for example how much of it would survive in terms of geography. But overall, I think it would maintain its character as a blend of East/ West. I assume that Orthodox religion would still play an important role in its identity though I don’t think it would be a religious state. More like modern Greece, I think it would be a secular state in which the Orthodox Church would still be significant culturally. I imagine it would be advanced but also quite classical in terms of art and education.    

If there was one thing you would want to change in Byzantine history, what would it be?

Chrysa: I would probably try to stop the beginning of the Iconoclasm. So many invaluable works of art were lost during that time just like after the 4th Crusade. I think if Iconoclasm did not happen, everything that came later would be totally different, including the Crusades.


 

Behind the Chapters- My Personal Journey Writing the 12-Part Series       

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Since early 2019 I have already been writing Byzantine era articles for my own site which is this one, however I have never come across writing an alternate history story relating to Byzantine history the entire time I have been doing blogs on Byzantine history. From 2019 to 2020 I have written numerous articles on Byzantine emperors, culture, society, warfare, fashion, travel destinations such as Constantinople and Ravenna, and even cuisine, however it was when I came across writing all these said topics when I began thinking of doing something different, thus I thought of coming up with what if kinds of stories for Byzantine history. Now, even before I have started becoming passionate about Byzantine history in 2019, I have already been fascinated with what if kinds of stories especially if it had to do with history like Roman history, as before getting into the history of Byzantium, I was very much interested in its predecessor the Roman Empire. Additionally, in 2020 I have discovered the Youtube channel Dovahhatty and his series the Unbiased History of Rome, in which its name is very misleading and it is true enough a very biased but still very fun series of Roman history from Rome’s founding in 753BC up to the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century told through memes and animation, and it was through this series that I was soon enough inspired to write an alternate history series for the history of Byzantium.

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Icon of Dovahhatty

It was in December of 2020 when the idea first came into my head to do an entire alternate history series, though not for the history of Rome, but for the history of its successor the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, although it was particularly one of Dovahhatty’s videos which was Episode XVII- Imperial Wrath of his Unbiased History of Rome that got me inspired to do a kind of alternate history fan fiction. This particular episode was set in the 4th century history of the Roman Empire, which I would already consider part of Byzantine history, as I would mark the history of Byzantium’s beginning with the establishment of Constantinople by Roman emperor Constantine I the Great in 330, while this video took place after Constantine I’s death in 337 thus focusing on the following events with its climax being the death of the Western Roman emperor Valentinian I in 375 from a stroke caused by his own anger followed by a massive migration of the Goths from the north resulting in war with the Romans leading to a catastrophic Roman defeat at the Battle of Adrianople in 378.

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Roman defeat to the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

When carefully watching this video over and over again, it made me come to think that if the emperor Valentinian I in 375 did not die out of his own anger, then perhaps he would have been around to defeat the Gothic invasion of the Roman Empire that happened after his death in reality, as true enough Valentinian I was a strong and capable warrior emperor who would have enough experience in fighting barbarians in order to fully beat the Gothic invasion unlike his brother Emperor Valens who in real history tried to crush the Goth’s invasion but failed dying at the Battle of Adrianople. After thinking of this particular what if scenario, I eventually came to think that there would be a lot of others in the following centuries after the 4th that I could do what if stories on, thus I eventually came to conceptualize two other what if kinds of stories in Byzantine history with one being in the 5th right after the first story, and the other in the 13th century.

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Logo of my channel- No Budget Films

In addition, from October to December of 2020, I have also been doing a 3-part Byzantine history audio epic for my Youtube channel No Budget Films which was the 57 Years: Byzantium in Exile set in the 13th century during the 57 years (1204-1261) when the Byzantine Empire temporarily vanished as the 4th Crusade took over Constantinople, and when doing this audio epic series (watch episodes here), I also came to conceptualize an alternate history scenario taking place in that era. Before 2020 came to an end, I then finally came to decide that for 2021 I would do a series wherein each of the 15 centuries of Byzantine history gets its own alternate history story, and since there are 12 centuries in Byzantine history (4th to 15th), I had decided to come up with 12 different stories, as after all I came to realize that the best way to tell the story of Byzantium is to tell it per century, while each century in Byzantine history too is a story of a different ruling dynasty. It was then in January of this year when I finally decided what each of the 12 stories would be including the what if scenario, and in addition it was also right when this year began when I launched my Byzantine history Instagram account Byzantine Time Traveler wherein I was at first reluctant to start one, but when starting it I got the hang of it to the point of already putting my life into it, and though I had quite a steady although hopeful start with quite a small following and a lot to expect in the next months to come, I just began with posting old photos of different Byzantine era travel destinations that I have been to including Constantinople (Istanbul) and Ravenna with very short and simple captions. However, the moment I launched my Byzantine history Instagram and began writing for the first chapter for my new series, everything changed, and thus there was no going back as for the next 8 months, I would experience a very interesting and meaningful although very challenging journey especially when it came to promoting my Byzantine history content online and trying to get the people I am close to be aware of it. On the other hand, from January of this year onwards I would also come across many things I would call external elements beyond the chapters I wrote and this would include movies and series I have watched, places I have travelled to, people I met whether physically or online, and so much more which added to the inspiration in writing the 12 chapters of my series. Not to mention, as I was in the process of writing my 12-part alternate history series, I was also doing an additional project which was the continuation of my Youtube audio epic from last year, in which this year’s continuation series The Last Roman Dynasty would also cover Byzantine history from the 13th to 15th centuries although not told as an alternate history story, but still it was also quite a challenge as my mind would be on two different eras of Byzantine history at the same time until my alternate history series which I worked on much faster would catch up with the era my audio epics were set in.  

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Constantinople in the Byzantine era artwork, artist unknown

           

For my 12-part alternate history series, I thought it would be the best choice to write it in chronological form meaning that it would begin with the origins of Byzantium’s history in the 4th century and end with its fall in the 15th, thus I would chronologically go over 12 centuries in a span of 7 months. Now although the first chapter of my 12-part series was published on February 11 this year, the conceptualizing and writing process for it began about a month prior to that in January, however I still waited for an entire month to publish it as even though I fully wrote the story itself, I was still thinking of how to systemize the rest of my alternate history series while at the same time I was also busy laying the foundations for my Byzantine history account which was progressing quite slowly only reaching 100 followers by the end of January, then at the beginning of February I also created my own Facebook page for my Byzantine history Instagram account.

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Theophano: A Byzantine Tale graphic novel by Spyros Theocharis

On the other hand, for the first 3 weeks of this year I was reading the new Byzantine era graphic novel Theophano: A Byzantine Tale (2020) that I was so excited about, which was true enough a very fascinating read that I even made a review on for my site (read it here) which included my own fan casting for the novel’s characters, and luckily for me the creators even shared it on their Instagram and Facebook page. The article that I made reviewing the graphic novel was then the very first one I published for this year, even before publishing the first chapter of my alternate history series, and at the same time I also created my first Byzantine history themed artwork by the end of January which was a chart of the structure of the late Roman military from the late 3rd to 6th centuries, which was surprisingly a very great hit on the Facebook groups I shared it to that it in fact got hundreds of shares which I only discovered months after I first shared it, and true enough this drawing of mine is one of the first results you see on Google images when searching “Late Roman Military Structure”. This drawing would then also be used as a guiding illustration for the first 3 chapters of my alternate history series as these first 3 chapters prominently featured the late Roman army which is the drawing’s main subject. What then took long for me to publish the first chapter happened to be the system of my alternate history series, but at the end I still finalized how the system would be like wherein each story has its own alternate history scenario wherein they do not continue to the next chapter, but rather each chapter begins with events that took place in real history and will only be altered as the story progresses.

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The Byzantine chi-rho symbol

The first chapter would then already begin the system I would use for the next 12 ones wherein each chapter and its sections begin with the Byzantine Empire’s chi-rho symbol, a disclaimer at the beginning, optionally a quote from the era the respective chapter is set in, the Byzantine Empire’s flag and maps at the intro section, links to my social media accounts and other related articles, related videos, and images wrapped into the texts of the paragraphs as well as features of artworks relating to the respective century the chapter was set in by various online artists in which already began in chapter I. Another thing I have done for my series’ first chapter that would then be a standard for the next 11 chapters would be my own illustrations of the leading characters for each story- in which I was inspired by the Theophano graphic novel which begins the story with illustrations of the story’s leading characters- though the one for the first chapter featured a total of 27 character illustrations as true enough the story featured so many characters including Western and Eastern Romans and Greuthungi and Thervingi Goths wherein the characters’ background colors depended on the country/ empire they came from.

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Sample of the Byzantine Alternate History chapters’ character illustrations

As for the first chapter’s story, I would say it was quite simple to write it as most of it basically just featured battle sequences while its setting being the 4th century was not a really complicated one considering that the century’s story basically only focuses on the Roman Empire and its neighbors in which they never really had much of except for the powerful Sassanid Persian Empire to its east and the Germanic tribes such as the Goths in the north which here were being chased west into migrating into the Roman Empire’s borders by the westward expansion of a new mysterious enemy, the Huns. When writing the first chapter, I also set a standard for my series which was in giving a background and context to the story’s setting, although for the first chapter I wrote the background in a very simple way just to mention Constantinople’s and therefore the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire’s establishment by Emperor Constantine I the Great in 330, the aftermath of his death in 337, the origins of the Goths in Central Europe and the spread of the Arian Christian faith from the Roman Empire to the land of the Goths, and the rise to power of the general Valentinian in 364 who then became emperor of the western half of the Roman Empire appointing his brother Valens as the emperor of the eastern half based in Constantinople.

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Western Roman emperor Valentinian I (r. 364-375)

Now the main premise for the first chapter’s story wherein I was inspired by Dovahhatty’s video was to have the western emperor Valentinian I who in real history died in 375 from a stroke caused by his own anger escape death and live long enough to see the massive Gothic migration into the Roman Empire in the following year (376) in which he was not alive to see happen and possibly stop it and save the empire from breaking apart. True enough for the story’s climax I had Valentinian survive 375 although only meet up with his brother and eastern co-emperor Valens in 378 when the war between the Roman Empire and the invading Goths was already in full-scale. For chapter I however, the main highlight I really put a lot of attention to in writing was really the action scenes wherein I wrote its climax being the 378 Battle of Adrianople as a massive epic battle in this story with both brothers Emperors Valentinian and Valens teaming up together with their respective Eastern and Western Roman armies against the hordes of the Gothic king Fritigern and his toughest warriors. At the same time, I also included as many named characters as I could for this chapter’s epic battle and these included notable Romans of this time including Arbogast, Stilicho, and Theodosius despite them not yet rising to prominence by the time of the Battle of Adrianople in 378, while another thing I did here for experimenting was in blending in an entirely fictional character into the historical setting which here was the female Gothic warrior Valdis.

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Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395), last emperor of a united Roman Empire, art by myself

Although chapter I was more or less plainly an action epic story without much depth, I also thought of adding a few elements of drama and betrayal such as an entirely fictional scenario of the future Roman emperor Theodosius I- who in real history came to power in 379- betray Rome and join forces with the Goths feeling he would gain greater power with the Goths, while also since I began writing this chapter shortly after season 3 of the Netflix series Cobra Kai was released, I put in a few references to the show in the story considering that both had the same kind of action epic genre in common. Now for the endings, I always end each chapter with the side of the Romans (Byzantines) winning despite them losing in real history, thus chapter I ended with a Roman victory at the Battle of Adrianople, although I ended the story discussing possible outcomes from this Roman victory in which I just chose to keep the question hanging. When the entire article was finished and published on February 11, I immediately shared it on social media considering that this era where the story was set in which is the Late Roman era is a popular one more so compared to later centuries in Byzantine history, thus it received quite positive feedback especially in the Late Roman Group on Facebook where one commented saying the idea of Valentinian surviving and living up to 378 to beat the Goths was a good and interesting idea no one has ever thought of considering that Valentinian was a strong warrior emperor that rarely lost battles against barbarians, however chapter I also got some mixed feedback as when I shared it in the comments of the channel Eastern Roman History in his video about the Valentinian Dynasty, someone commented saying that in a way my article was not professional enough as it quoted the rather comedic parody historian Dovahhatty, which was quite hilarious. With the first chapter completed, I then felt that there was no more going back and so the rest of my Byzantine journey continued, both in social media and my blogs.

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Visual guide to the Late Roman army’s structure, art by myself
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Goths settling in the Roman Empire, 376
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Late Roman era legionnaires in battle
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Defeat of the Romans to the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople, 378

Right when conceptualizing chapter I’s story, I was already conceptualizing what I would write for chapter II, and even before writing the series I already knew what story the 2nd chapter would feature, again thanks to Dovahhatty. Chapter II’s what if scenario was then inspired by Dovahhatty’s finale The Fall of Rome which was Episode XIX of his Unbiased History of Rome series, which was a rather unknown scenario in the 5th century history of Rome regarding a secret letter which in real history was discovered thus leading to the death of the dying Western Roman Empire’s last strong and competent emperor Anthemius in 472, and afterwards leading to the collapse of Western Rome just 4 years later (476), an event everyone who basically does not know about Byzantium remembers as the fall of Rome. Although between the completion of chapter I and the beginning of writing chapter II, I had another Byzantine history project ongoing which was the first video for my new 2021 series The Last Roman Dynasty for my Youtube channel, thus the challenge here was shifting my mind between the 5th century where the 2nd chapter of my alternate history series was set in and the late 13th century where this video (Part I: Michael Palaiologos’ Imperial Restoration) was set in, although luckily I have already written the script for this video back in January before even writing the first chapter, and thus between publishing chapter I and II, I uploaded this 43-minute video being the first for this audio epic series which is still ongoing up to now.

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Flag of the Western Roman Empire, 395-476

When writing the second chapter, true enough I wrote its background and most of the story’s main part with such great speed as I already knew the history of the 5th century Roman Empire very well due to both taking notes in advance based on other videos of this era including time-lapse videos on the fall of Western Rome in the 5th century and of course memorizing it after watching Dovahhatty’s Fall of Rome over and over again. It was also here when doing Chapter II wherein I first came across the history related Youtube channel Thersites the Historian which I would then use as a reference for the rest of the entire series up to the end, as his videos do indeed explain the complicated parts of history including the reigns of each and every Byzantine emperor up to the 11th century in complete detail, thus for chapter II it proved to be such a great help.

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Western Roman and Foederati (barbarian allied) soldiers, 5th century

For chapter II, it was also easier as I just used the same formula I used for chapter I, while I again did the individual character illustrations for the story’s main characters, although unlike in chapter I wherein I did a complete set of 27 character illustrations, for chapter II I only did 20 which was still a lot, as unlike in the previous chapter, chapter II did not have all these characters all have a big role at the same time but rather in different time settings, as chapter I’s story basically just focused on a time setting from 375 to 378, whereas chapter II covered the entire 5th century up to the 460s in its background section to establish the rise of the Germanic barbarians and the rapid decay of the Roman Empire due to the barbarian migrations and invasions, the permanent split of the Western and Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empires in 395 after the death of Theodosius I who was the last emperor of a united Roman Empire, political instability in the Western empire, the apocalypse being the invasion of Attila the Hun and how it just faded away, and the last days of Western Rome wherein the Germanic barbarians basically just won and sought to destroy the empire both from within and beyond. On the other hand, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire was at relative peace for most of the 5th century that they managed to survive the threat of Attila; thus, the Byzantines do not have much of an exciting story until the latter part of the 5th century. For me, I personally find the 5th century one of the most interesting in Byzantine history which is why I ranked it as 2nd place in my article of ranking the centuries- with the 10th century as first place- and due to my strong interest in this century which is however not a very much popular one in Byzantine history, I put a lot of attention into writing chapter II.

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Emperor Leo I (Leo Marcellus) of the Eastern Roman Empire (r. 457-474)

Chapter II was then another action-packed epic story where its main part then took place beginning the 460s when both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires are controlled by powerful barbarian generals acting as kingmakers wherein the emperors are just puppets to them whereas the east is practically ruled by the Gothic general Aspar who was the power behind the 3 consecutive eastern emperors Theodosius II (r. 408-450), Marcian (450-457), and Leo I (457-474) while the west is ruled by the Gothic general Ricimer, the undefeatable puppet-master. However, in the east, Aspar’s puppet Leo I turns out to have no desire of being a puppet and while he sent his friend and once rival, the Eastern Roman Anthemius to the west to rule it as his puppet emperor, Anthemius still falls under the influence of the powerful Ricimer in which both become each other’s enemy. This chapter too features the unexpected rise of the Germanic Vandals from a small tribe to the masters of the Mediterranean in only a few decades under their king Genseric that they were in fact able to seize the Roman fleet, sack Rome in 455, control most of the Mediterranean, and defeat the combined fleet of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires numbering up to 1,000 in 468.

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Emperor Anthemius of the Western Roman Empire (r. 467-472)

At this very chaotic time, the Vandal king Genseric also acts as a kingmaker to the failed state of the Western Roman Empire, and as Genseric pressures Leo I of the east to recognize his own Roman puppet Olybrius as Western emperor, as the Eastern emperor had the power to make a Western emperor being his puppet a legitimate one, Leo soon enough breaks free from Aspar’s influence and kills Aspar finally becoming an independent emperor and thus saving the Eastern Roman Empire from falling to barbarian influence and allowing it to survive, while he also encouraged his Western puppet Anthemius to do the same, thus Leo pretends to accept Genseric’s demands to make Olybrius the western emperor, though in fact Leo had happened to send a secret letter to kill both Olybrius and Ricimer and thus save Anthemius and the Western Roman Empire. In real history, Ricimer intercepts the letter in advance, proclaims Olybrius as his new puppet emperor, and murders Anthemius who he began to believe was too independent and could not be controlled. In this alternate history story however, Anthemius gets the letter in advance and kills both Ricimer and Olybrius, thus the Western Roman Empire continues to live on but at a cost, as my alternate history story would discuss a possibility of a world war before it was even a thing to erupt between the Eastern and Western Romans against a united coalition of barbarian tribes considering that the 5th century was the era of the rise of the barbarian powers.

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Zeno the Isaurian, Byzantine emperor (r. 474-475/ 476-491), art by myself

Chapter II did also feature interesting characters of this era including the Isaurian general Zeno who was Leo I’s successor who may have been unpopular due to his heritage of coming from a mountain tribe in Asia Minor but at the end in real history saves the Eastern Empire from falling to barbarians like the west did in 476, while in the alternate history version Zeno too succeeds Leo and takes part in the fictitious world war all while the Western Roman Empire too lives beyond 476 in the story. Now I also have to admit that it was chapter II that I enjoyed writing a lot that when writing it, I got so immersed into the world of the Late Roman Empire, although on the negative side the era this chapter was set in barely had online images relating to it making this chapter be the one in the entire series with the least images, however this made me immerse more into the time setting as without the images, I basically had to imagine life back then, while also the what if I chose was a very obscure one compared to maybe writing an alternate history story in this era wherein Rome does not get sacked by the Vandals in 455, however the more obscure what if story made me enjoy writing it even more. Chapter II was then completed and published on February 28 and shared on social media 2 days later, and the most memorable part was that I completed and shared this chapter not at home or nearby but while I was on a road trip at a very remote place which then lasted for more than a week, and because of finishing this chapter while on a trip, my mind throughout the trip was still in the 5th century setting.  

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Map of all Barbarian invasions into the Roman Empire, 100-500AD
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Roman Empire 5th century map, dissolution of the west (red).